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“Social selling” startup Meesho lands $11.5M Series B led by Sequoia India

Y Combinator alum Meesho, one of several “social selling” startups gaining speed in India, will add more features to its e-commerce platform after closing a $11.5 million Series B led by Sequoia India. Existing investors SAIF Partners, Y Combinator and Venture Highway also returned for the round, which brings the Bangalore-based startup’s total funding so far to $15 million. Its last round of funding, a $3.4 million Series A, was announced last October.

Like social selling competitors including GlowRoad and Zepo, Meesho’s model combines dropshipping from its wholesale partners with a comprehensive suite of e-commerce tools and services. This reduces overhead while making it easy for sellers, who Meesho says includes many housewives, students and retirees, to set up an online business through WhatsApp, Facebook and other social media.

Meesho’s tools include an online platform that allows sellers to manage purchases and process payments, as well as a network of wholesale suppliers (its main categories are currently fashion and lifestyle items) and logistics providers. In other words, it offers almost everything its vendors need to start selling online. This leaves vendors responsible for customer acquisition, picking what items they want to include in their online shops and marketing them.

This reselling model appeals to small stores, as well as individuals, who want to make more money but don’t want the expense of setting up an e-commerce business from scratch and carrying inventory. Meesho’s rivals include e-commerce startups like GlowRoad, Shopmatic and Zepo, which have also recently raised large funding rounds. All of these companies attract sellers by offering a significant amount of help with order management, payment processing, fulfillment and logistics.

In order to differentiate, chief executive officer Vidit Aatrey, who co-founded Meesho in 2015 with Sanjeev Barnwal, its chief technology officer, tells TechCrunch it focuses on product quality, pricing and personalization to help resellers improve their sales and customer service. Meesho claims that more than 800,000 resellers have used its platform and that a “typical” reseller earns between 20,000 to 25,000 rupees per month (about $298 to $373).

In a press statement about the funding, Sequoia India managing director Mohit Bhatnagar said “Social commerce is the future of e-commerce in India. People buy from people they trust, and that’s what Meesho enables.  Entrepreneurs, many of them women, use the Meesho platform to recommend, customize and sell to their family and friends. Social selling is a huge trend and Sequoia India is excited to partner with Meesho, which is the early leader in this space.”

Aatrey says Meesho’s Series B capital will be used to hire more people for its tech and product teams in order to build a suite of new customer acquisition and selling tools. The startup also plans to add more personalization options for its resellers and product categories.

Microsoft acquires conversational AI startup Semantic Machines to help bots sound more lifelike

Microsoft announced today that it has acquired Semantic Machines, a Berkeley-based startup that wants to solve one of the biggest challenges in conversational AI: making chatbots sound more human and less like, well, bots.

In a blog post, Microsoft AI & Research chief technology officer David Ku wrote that “with the acquisition of Semantic Machines, we will establish a conversational AI center of excellence in Berkeley to push forward the boundaries of what is possible in language interfaces.”

According to Crunchbase, Semantic Machines was founded in 2014 and raised about $20.9 million in funding from investors including General Catalyst and Bain Capital Ventures.

In a 2016 profile, co-founder and chief scientist Dan Klein told TechCrunch that “today’s dialog technology is mostly orthogonal. You want a conversational system to be contextual so when you interpret a sentence things don’t stand in isolation.” By focusing on memory, Semantic Machines’ AI can produce conversations that not only answer or predict questions more accurately, but also flow naturally.

Instead of building its own consumer products, Semantic Machines focused on enterprise customers. This means it will fit in well with Microsoft’s conversational AI-based products, including Microsoft Cognitive Services and Azure Bot Service, which are used by one million and 300,000 developers, respectively, and virtual assistants Cortana and Xiaolce.

Munchery shuts down operations in LA, New York and Seattle

Munchery, the on-demand food delivery startup, has shut down its operations in Los Angeles, New York and Seattle, the company announced on its blog today. That means the teams from those cities are also being let go. In total, 257 people (about 30 percent of workforce) were let go, according to a Munchery spokesperson.

“We recognize the impact this will have on the members of our team in those regions,” Munchery CEO James Beriker wrote on the company blog. “Our teams in each city have built their businesses from scratch and worked tirelessly to serve our customers and their communities. I am grateful for their unwavering commitment to Munchery’s mission and success. I truly wish that the outcome would have been different.”

With LA, New York and Seattle off the table, Munchery says it’s going to focus more on its business in San Francisco, its first and largest market. This shift in operations will also enable Munchery to “achieve profitability on the near term, and build a long-term, sustainable business.”

The last couple of years for Munchery has not gone very well, between scathing reports of the company wasting an average of 16 percent of the food it makes, laying off 30 employees and burning through most of the money it raised.

During that time, Munchery tried a number of different strategies. Munchery, which began as a ready-to-heat meal delivery service, in 2015 started delivering meal recipes and ingredients for people who want to cook. Then, Munchery launched an $8.95 a month subscription plan for people who order several times a month. In late 2016, Munchery opened up a shop inside a San Francisco BART station to try to bring in new business.

But it’s not just Munchery that has struggled. The on-demand food delivery business is tough in general. Over the last couple of years, a number of companies have shuttered due to the now well-known fact that the on-demand business is tough when it comes to margins. The most recent casualty was Sprig, which shut down last May, after raising $56.7 million in funding. Other casualties include Maple, Spoonrocket and India’s Ola.

Munchery has raised more than $120 million in capital from Menlo Ventures, Sherpa Capital and others. In March, the company was reportedly seeking $15 million in funding to help keep its head above water.

Pivotal CEO talks IPO and balancing life in Dell family of companies

Pivotal has kind of a strange role for a company. On one hand its part of the EMC federation companies that Dell acquired in 2016 for a cool $67 billion, but it’s also an independently operated entity within that broader Dell family of companies — and that has to be a fine line to walk.

Whatever the challenges, the company went public yesterday and joined VMware as a  separately traded company within Dell. CEO Rob Mee says the company took the step of IPOing because it wanted additional capital.

“I think we can definitely use the capital to invest in marketing and R&D. The wider technology ecosystem is moving quickly. It does take additional investment to keep up,” Mee told TechCrunch just a few hours after his company rang the bell at the New York Stock Exchange.

As for that relationship of being a Dell company, he said that Michael Dell let him know early on after the EMC acquisition that he understood the company’s position. “From the time Dell acquired EMC, Michael was clear with me: You run the company. I’m just here to help. Dell is our largest shareholder, but we run independently. There have been opportunities to test that [since the acquisition] and it has held true,” Mee said.

Mee says that independence is essential because Pivotal has to remain technology-agnostic and it can’t favor Dell products and services over that mission. “It’s necessary because our core product is a cloud-agnostic platform. Our core value proposition is independence from any provider — and Dell and VMware are infrastructure providers,” he said.

That said, Mee also can play both sides because he can build products and services that do align with Dell and VMware offerings. “Certainly the companies inside the Dell family are customers of ours. Michael Dell has encouraged the IT group to adopt our methods and they are doing so,” he said. They have also started working more closely with VMware, announcing a container partnership last year.

Photo: Ron Miller

Overall though he sees his company’s mission in much broader terms, doing nothing less than helping the world’s largest companies transform their organizations. “Our mission is to transform how the world builds software. We are focused on the largest organizations in the world. What is a tailwind for us is that the reality is these large companies are at a tipping point of adopting how they digitize and develop software for strategic advantage,” Mee said.

The stock closed up 5 percent last night, but Mee says this isn’t about a single day. “We do very much focus on the long term. We have been executing to a quarterly cadence and have behaved like a public company inside Pivotal [even before the IPO]. We know how to do that while keeping an eye on the long term,” he said.

Minds aims to decentralize the social network

Decentralization is the buzzword du jour. Everything – from our currencies to our databases – are supposed to exist, immutably, in this strange new world. And Bill Ottman wants to add our social media to the mix.

Ottman, an intense young man with a passion to fix the world, is the founder of Minds.com, a New York-based startup that has been receiving waves of new users as zealots and the the not-so-zealous have been leaving other networks. In fact, Zuckerberg’s bad news is music to Ottman’s ears.

Ottman started Minds in 2011 “with the goal of bringing a free, open source and sustainable social network to the world,” he said. He and his CTO, Mark Harding, have worked in various non-profits including Code To Inspire, a group that teaches Afghani women to code. He said his vision is to get us out from under social media’s thumb.

“We started Minds in my basement after being disillusioned by user abuse on Facebook and other big tech services. We saw spying, data mining, algorithm manipulation, and no revenue sharing,” he said. “To us, it’s inevitable that an open source social network becomes dominant, as was the case with Wikipedia and proprietary encyclopedias.”

His efforts have paid off. The team now has over 1 million registered users and over 105,000 monthly active users. They are working on a number of initiatives, including an ICO, and the site makes money through “boosting” – essentially the ability to pay to have a piece of content float higher in the feed.

The company raised $350K in 2013 and then a little over a million dollars in a Reg CF Equity Crowdfunding raise.

Unlike Facebook, Minds is built on almost radical transparency. The code is entirely open source and it includes encrypted messenger services and optional anonymity for users. The goal, ultimately, is to have the data be decentralized and any user should be able to remove his or her data. It’s also non-partisan, a fact that Ottman emphasized.

“We are not pushing a political agenda, but are more concerned with transparency, Internet freedom and giving control back to the user,” he said. “It’s a sad state of affairs when every network that cares about free speech gets lumped in with extremists.”

He was disappointed, for example, when people read that Reddit’s choice to shut down toxic sub-Reddits was a success. It wasn’t, he said. Instead, those users just flocked to other, more permissive sites. However, he doesn’t think those sites have be cesspools of hate.

“We are a community-owned social network dedicated to transparency, privacy and rewarding people for their contributions. We are called Minds because it’s meant to be a representation of the network itself,” he said. “Our mission is Internet freedom with privacy, transparency, free speech within the law and user control. Additionally, we want to provide our users with revenue opportunity and the ability to truly expand their reach and earn rewards for their contributions to the network.”

Tribe combines arcade games with group video chat

Sick of chatting but want to stay connected? Tribe‘s app lets you play clones of Space Invaders, Flappy Bird, Fruit Ninja, Name That Tune and more while video chatting with up to seven friends or strangers. Originally a video messaging app, Tribe failed to gain traction in the face of Snapchat and Facebook Messenger. But thanks to a $3 million funding round led by Kleiner Perkins in June, Tribe had the runway to pivot into video chat gaming that could prove popular, even if not in its app.

“As we all know, Messaging is a super-crowded area,” says Tribe co-founder Cyril Paglino. “If you look closely, very few communication products have been blowing up in the past three years.” Now, he says “we’re building a ‘Social Game Boy.’”

A former breakdancer, Paglino formed his team in France before renting a “hacker house” and moving to San Francisco. They saw traction in late 2016, hitting 500,000 downloads. Tribe’s most innovative feature was speech recognition that could turn a mention of “coffee” into a pre-made calendar request, a celebrity’s name into a link to their social media accounts, locations into maps and even offer Spotify links to songs playing in the background.

The promise of being the next hit teen app secured Tribe a $500,000 pre-seed from Kima and Ludlow Ventures in 2015, a $2.5 million seed in 2016 led by prestigious fund Sequoia Capital and then the June 2017 $3 million bridge from KPCB and others. But that $6 million couldn’t change the fact that people didn’t want to sign up for a new chat app when their friends were already established on others.

Luckily, Tribe saw a new trend emerging. Between HQ Trivia’s rise, the Apple App Store adding a Gaming tab, celebrities like Drake streaming their gameplay and Snapchat acquiring 3D gaming engine PlayCanvas, the Tribe team believed there was demand for a new way to play.

Tribe’s rebuilt iOS and Android apps let you rally a crew of friends or join in with strangers to play one of its old-school games. You’ll hear their voices and see their faces in the corner of the screen as everyone in your squad vies for first place. It’s like Houseparty’s group video chat, but with something to do. Facebook Messenger has its own gaming platform, but the games are largely asynchronous. That means you play separately and merely compare scores. That’s a lot less fun than laughing it up together as one of your buddies runs their race car off the road or gets attacked by an alien.

The only problem is that since your friends probably aren’t on Tribe already, the app is vulnerable to cloning by its bigger competitors. Paglino cited technical challenges his team has overcome, its young demographic and lessons learned from 18 months of iterations as what could keep Tribe from being easily co-opted. But as even public companies like Snapchat have learned, it can be tough to stay ahead of tech giants like Facebook with huge development teams, plenty of cash and apps that are already popular.
Tribe’s games are legitimately fun, and the video chat makes them feel a lot more like hanging out with friends and less like a waste of time. Even if Tribe isn’t the one to make mobile group video chat gaming ubiquitous, it could see its idea entertain millions… just in someone else’s app.

Alibaba to buy all remaining outstanding shares of local delivery service Ele.me

As expected since February, Alibaba will buy all outstanding shares of Ele.me that it doesn’t already own. Best-known for food deliveries, Ele.me claims to be China’s biggest online delivery and local services platform. In an announcement, Alibaba said the deal values Ele.me at $9.5 billion. Alibaba, which first invested in Ele.me two years ago, and its affiliate Ant Small and Micro Financial Services Group currently hold about 43% of the company’s outstanding voting shares.

This is the latest in a string of investments and acquisitions by Alibaba to expand its physical retail presence as part of its so-called “new retail” strategy to combine e-commerce and offline retail. The company’s goal is to make it easier for users to move (and spend money) between brick-and-mortar stores and Alibaba businesses like Tmall and Taobao. For example, they may view products at pop-up stores and then order them on their smartphones for almost-immediate home delivery.

Ele.me, which will continue to operate under its own brand, is at its heart a logistics technology company. Founded in 2008, it utilizes its logistics system to provide services like Fengniao, an express courier for local deliveries. After the deal is finalized, Alibaba said that founder and chief executive officer Zhang Zhuhao (also known as Mark Zhang) will become chairman of Ele.me and special advisor to Alibaba Group CEO Daniel Zhang on its new retail strategy. Wang Lei, currently vice president of Alibaba Group, will take over as Ele.me’s CEO.

In a press release, Zhang said “Under the leadership of its founder and management team, Ele.me has achieved leading market share in China’s online food delivery and local services sector. Our shared belief that New Retail will create more value for customers and merchants has brought us together. Looking forward, Ele.me can leverage Alibaba’s infrastructure in commerce and
find new synergies with Alibaba’s diverse businesses to add further momentum to the New Retail initiative.”

Bloomberg reported at the end of February that Alibaba planned to buy the rest of Ele.me’s shares from its other investors, including Baidu.

The deal deepens Alibaba’s competition with Tencent, in particular its own local services and delivery platform, Meituan Dianping, which was formed by a merger in 2015. Alibaba previously owned shares in Meituan Dianping, thanks to its investment in Meituan, but began offloading them soon after the merger with Dianping.

In a statement, Alibaba said Ele.me complements its affiliate Koubei, a platform that gives restaurants and stores a way to go online and reach more local customers.

“By combining Ele.me’s online home delivery services with Koubei’s consumer acquisition and engagement capability for a range of restaurants and service establishments, Alibaba will be able to offer an integrated experiences to customers both online and offline,” said the company.

Monarch is a new platform from surgical robot pioneer Frederic Moll

Auris Health (née Auris Surgical Robots) has done a pretty good job flying under the radar, in spite of raising a massive amount of capital and listing one of the key people behind the da Vinci surgical robot among its founders. With FDA clearance finally out of the way, however, the Redwood City-based startup medical startup is ready to start talking.

This week, Auris revealed the Monarch Platform, which swaps the da Vinci’s surgical approach for something far less invasive. The system utilizes the common endoscopy procedure to a insert a flexible robot into hard to reach places inside the human body. A doctor trained on the system uses a video game-style controller to navigate inside, with help from 3D models.

Monarch’s first target is lung cancer, the which tops the list of deadliest cancers. More deaths could be stopped, if doctors were able to catch the disease in its early stages, but the lung’s complex structures, combined with current techniques, make the process difficult. According to the company,  “More than 90-percent of people diagnosed with lung cancer do not survive, in part because it is often found at an advanced stage.”

“A CT scan shows a mass or a lesion,” CEO Frederic Moll tells TechCrunch. “It doesn’t tell you what it is. Then you have to get a piece of lung, and if it’s a small lesion. It isn’t that easy — it can be quite a traumatic procedure. So you’d like to do it a very systematic and minimally invasive fashion. Currently it’s difficult with manual techniques and 40-percent of the time, there is no diagnosis. This is has been a problem for many years and [inhibits] the ability of a clinician to diagnose and treat early-stage cancer.

Auris was founded half a dozen years ago, in which time the company has managed to raise a jaw-dropping $500 million, courtesy of Mithril Capital Management, Lux Capital, Coatue Management and Highland Capital. The company says the large VC raise and long runway were necessary factors in building its robust platform.

“We are incredibly fortunate to have an investor base that is supportive of our vision and committed to us for the long-term,” CSO Josh DeFonzo tells TechCrunch. “The investments that have been made in Auris are to support both the development of a very robust product pipeline, as well as successful clinical adoption of our technology to improve patient outcomes.”

With that funding and FDA approval for Monarch out of the way, the company has an aggressive timeline. Moll says Auris is hoping to bring the system to hospitals and outpatient centers by the end of the year. And once it’s out in the wild, Monarch’s disease detecting capabilities will eventually extend beyond lung cancer.

“We have developed what we call a platform technology,” says Moll. “Bronchoscopy is the first application, but this platform will do other robotic endoscopies.”

Tinder owner Match is suing Bumble over patents

Drama is heating up between the dating apps.

Tinder, which is owned by Match Group, is suing rival Bumble, alleging patent infringement and misuse of intellectual property.

The suit alleges that Bumble “copied Tinder’s world-changing, card-swipe-based, mutual opt-in premise.” The lawsuit also accuses Tinder-turned-Bumble employees Chris Gulczynski and Sarah Mick of copying elements of the design. “Bumble has released at least two features that its co-founders learned of and developed confidentially while at Tinder in violation of confidentiality agreements.”

It’s complicated because Bumble was founded by CEO Whitney Wolfe, who was also a co-founder at Tinder. She wound up suing Tinder for sexual harassment. 

Yet Match hasn’t let the history stop it from trying to buy hotter-than-hot Bumble anyway. As Axios’s Dan Primack pointed out, this lawsuit may actually try to force the hand for a deal. Bumble is majority-owned by Badoo, a dating company based in London and Moscow.

(It wouldn’t be the first time a dating site sued another and then bought it. JDate did this with JSwipe.)

Match provided the following statement:

Match Group has invested significant resources and creative expertise in the development of our industry-leading suite of products. We are committed to protecting the intellectual property and proprietary data that defines our business. Accordingly, we are prepared when necessary to enforce our patents and other intellectual property rights against any operator in the dating space who infringes upon those rights.

I have, um, tested out both Tinder and Bumble and they are similar. Both let you swipe on nearby users with limited information like photos, age, school and employer. And users can only chat if both opt-in.

However, Tinder has developed more of the reputation as a “hookup” app and Bumble doesn’t seem to have quite the same image, largely because it requires women to initiate the conversation, thus setting the tone.

As TechCrunch’s Sarah Perez pointed out recently, “according to App Annie, Tinder is more than 10x bigger in terms of monthly users and 7x bigger in terms of downloads in the last 12 months, versus Bumble.”

We’ve reached out to Bumble for comment.

Revolut broke even in December, now has 1.5 million customers

 Fintech startup Revolut can’t stop and won’t stop growing. The company has had an amazing month of December with a huge increase in the total volume of transactions and signups. Because of that, Revolut broke even in December for the first time ever. The company told me that it wasn’t just a lucky month and January is looking good as well. Revolut announced that it had reached… Read More

The Rise of the Rest seed fund announces its first group of investments

 The Rise of the Rest seed fund’s first round of startup investments cover eight states that are usually overlooked by tech investors, including Kentucky, South Carolina and Ohio. The $150 million fund was launched in December by Steve Case and J.D. Vance, with backing from many of America’s most influential businesspeople, to support tech ecosystems outside of Silicon Valley, New… Read More

Sodexo acquires majority stake in French online restaurant FoodChéri

 Sodexo, a French publicly-listed food services and facilities management company, has acquired a majority stake in Paris-based online restaurant and food delivery startup FoodChéri. Terms of the deal remain undisclosed, though François Paulus of Breega Capital, which backed the company’s €6 million Series A, tells me he is “happy with the return”. Read More

Online graphic design startup Canva is now worth $1 billion

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Canva is Australia’s first unicorn of 2018, after raising $40 million (AUD$50.9 million) to push the design startup’s value over $1 billion.

Now available in 190 countries, with over 10 million users, the online design and publishing platform was launched in 2012 by CEO and co-founder Melanie Perkins — now the youngest female entrepreneur to have reached unicorn status. 

“It’s still extremely early days for us yet, and we feel like we’ve done one percent of what we believe is possible but it’s quite exciting to get to this point in time, and it’s been a huge journey,” Perkins told Mashable. Read more…

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Wonderschool gets $2.1M to bring its early childhood programs to New York City

 Wonderschool, a network of in-home daycare and preschools, plans to open 150 programs in New York City after raising $2.1 million in new funding. The capital comes from non-profit investment firm Omidyar Network, Be Curious Partners, Rethink Education, Edelweiss Partners and Learn Capital and brings the startup’s total raised so far to more than $4 million, including a seed round… Read More

What were your best nine Instagram photos from 2017?

 You might have noticed a new end-of-year trend on Instagram the past few days. If so, you can thank 2017bestnine.com, a website that lets you automatically collect and collage your most-liked photos of 2017. Best Nine has been around for a while, so many of you may be familiar with the tool already. But for those of you who are new to that Best Nine game, here’s how it works. First of… Read More

Flowspace is AWS for warehouses

 Got too much Internet traffic? Get servers on-demand from Amazon Web Services. Got too many pallets of physical goods? Well now you can get on-demand warehousing from Flowspace. The startup aims to become the next critical logistics service by making atoms as easy to store and ship as bits. “We want to introduce flexibility and fluidity into a warehousing market defined by long-term… Read More

WeWork has big plans for Alexa for Business

 Amazon is soon to announce Alexa for Business, and WeWork is one of the first partners to have hopped on the platform. WeWork’s vision is to use technology to help businesses make the most out of their physical space, all while customizing that space to each individual’s personal needs. The co-working giant has been on the Alexa for Business platform for about a month now, as part… Read More

Pronoun, an ebook service for writers, shuts down

 Pronoun, a self-publishing service for authors, is shutting down after promising free ebook distribution for authors. The company, which raised millions in funding and ended up being sold to Macmillan announced the shutdown in an email to authors and on its website. Two years ago Pronoun set out to create a one-of-a-kind publishing tool that truly put authors first. We believed that the power… Read More

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Primer helps governments and corporations monitor and understand the world’s information

 When Google was founded in 1998, its goal was to organize the world’s information. And for the most part, mission accomplished — but in 19 years the goal post has moved forward and indexing and usefully presenting information isn’t enough. As machine learning matures, it’s becoming feasible for the first time to actually summarize and contextualize the world’s… Read More

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Countingup, a startup from founder of Clear Books, raises ​$750K to merge banking and accounting

 Countingup, a new fintech startup from Tim Fouracre, who previously founded cloud accounting software Clear Books, wants to simplify the life of sole traders by reinventing the business bank account. Specifically, Fouracre’s vision is that for one-person enterprises, business banking and accounting software should be merged so that book keeping and filing accounts can be automated. Read More

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BuddyGuard raises €3.4M for its home security camera powered by AI

 BuddyGuard, the Berlin startup behind the Flare AI-powered home security camera, has raised €3.4 million in new funding, money it plans to use to ramp up marketing of the newly-launched device. Leading the round is German electrical specialist Bachmann Group, with participation from over 20 unnamed angel investors across Europe. Read More

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The keys to your house belong to startups

 Silicon Valley may be the techiest place on earth, but even here, the way people open the front door hasn’t changed much in a century. Most of us still get in by turning a flat metal key in a lock. Visitors ring doorbells, and we peep at them through peepholes. If we’re out, keyless guests are out of luck. If investors have their way, that status quo will look quite primitive in a… Read More

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Kudos wants to be a gentle introduction to social media sharing for kids

 Just as pre-teens in the 1990s were warned away from dialing 1-900 numbers, kids now need to learn how to navigate social media responsibly. Kudos, an app for kids aged eight to 13 with around-the-clock moderation, positions itself as a safe introduction to social media that also teaches its young users, some of whom were born before the first iPhone was released, how to be “good… Read More

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Digital wealth manager Moneyfarm acquires tech behind fintech chatbot Ernest

 Moneyfarm, the U.K.-headquartered “digital wealth manager” has acquired the technology behind personal finance chatbot Ernest. Terms of the deal aren’t being disclosed, though I understand that, along with the tech, this is an acqui-hire of sorts, seeing London-based Ernest’s CTO Lorenzo Sicilia join Moneyfarm to oversee technology integration. Read More

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LocalGlobe backs augmented and virtual reality content startup Curiscope

 Curiscope, a U.K. augmented and virtual reality content startup, has raised a $1 million seed round led by LocalGlobe, the seed VC firm founded by Saul and Robin Klein. Ascension Ventures, Force over Mass, ustwo Adventure, and Richard Fearn also participated. The backing follows crowdfunding campaigns on Kickstarter and Indiegogo last year for the company’s The Virtuali-Tee product,… Read More

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DogBuddy, the European dog sitting marketplace, scores €5M Series A

 DogBuddy, a pan-European online marketplace for dog sitting, has closed €5 million in Series A funding, money it plans for further expansion. Backing the London-headquartered startup in this round is existing investor Sweet Capital, the investment fund started by the founders of King.com, and a number of new unnamed private investors. It brings total raised by DogBuddy to €10 million. Read More

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Pointy, a startup that lets local retailers easily put stock online with a simple gadget, raises​ ​$6M

 Pointy​,​ ​an Irish start​ ​startup​ ​that​ lets ​local​ ​retailers put their stock online so that they can be discovered via search engines, has raised $6 million in Series A funding. The round is being led by Frontline Ventures, alongside Paul Allen’s Vulcan Capital, Draper Associates and a number of notable angel investors. Read More

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New startup lets you take out interest-free loans to buy art on the spot

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Ever been to an art exhibition, spied something you like, wanted to snap it up immediately, but didn’t have the coin? Don’t ask your bank, ask Art Money.

Launched in 2015, Australian startup Art Money is designed to help regular folks buy art on the spot in local galleries — and now it’s going worldwide. Started with a handful of Sydney galleries by 10 Group, Art Money is now available in 350 galleries worldwide, from Auckland to Singapore to New York. 

Art Money has sold more than 1,000 artworks through its interest-free loan program — and one quarter of customers were first-time art buyers. The team says they’ve seen more than $2 million spent in Sydney galleries with their program — and now, 90 percent of galleries in inner city Sydney offer Art Money. Read more…

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SparkLabs launches $50M fund for promising early-stage startups in Korea

 SparkLabs Group started in 2012 with a Seoul-based accelerator dedicated to boosting South Korea’s then-nascent startup ecosystem. Now it’s going back to its roots with the launch of a $50 million fund for early-stage Korean startups that want to expand globally. Read More

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Here is Uber’s first pitch deck

 On the ninth anniversary of the founding of Uber, its co-founder Garrett Camp shared the company’s initial pitch deck via a personal Medium post. The deck, and the short post, comes off quite sentimental because of how much has happened to the company since it was created.
But company growth and drama aside, there’s a lot to be learned from Uber’s 25 slide deck. Enjoy the… Read More

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Acasa is building a platform for ‘Generation Rent’ to manage their homes

 London-based startup Acasa has come a long way since late 2015. The company, then called Splittable, offered a way to manage and share household expenses with multiple house members. However, the bigger vision was to build a platform for ‘Generation Rent’ that makes moving from one houseshare to another as easy as logging in and out of the Acasa app. Read More

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Former GE CEO Jeff Immelt close to becoming Uber’s CEO

 The long and dramatic process for naming a new Uber CEO may be coming closer to an end.
First reported by Kara Swisher, our sources are also telling us that former General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt is still being seriously considered and the board vote is expected to happen soon. The talks were first reported several weeks ago.
Co-founder and CEO Travis Kalanick was asked to resign in June… Read More

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Travis Kalanick reportedly sought to reassert control at Uber after ouster

 Just under two months after resigning from Uber, former CEO Travis Kalanick has reportedly asked some former colleagues if they would support him in a potential shareholder battle, according to a new report by The Information. You’ll periodically find these kinds of proxy fights happening at public companies, but after his ouster, it appears that Kalanick still may want to try to gain… Read More

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Carspring, a London and Berlin startup that lets you buy a used car online, raises £5M Series B

 Carspring, the London and Berlin used car buying platform founded by Rocket Internet, has picked up £5 million in Series B funding. Backing the round are Rocket Internet itself, along with Channel 4’s Commercial Growth Fund, which offers media in the form of TV advertising in return for equity. Read More

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New border wall bill draws on Palmer Luckey’s new defense company

 After being ousted from the VR empire he built, Oculus founder Palmer Luckey is wasting no time on his next project: building the wall. As CNN reports, Luckey’s newfound interest in defense is evident in the Secure Miles with All Resources and Technology (SMART) Act, proposed by Texas Representative Will Hurd. Hurd partnered with other Republican representatives from border states… Read More

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The dream of Polish tech entrepreneurship is almost over

 Poland has worked diligently over the past decade to become an entrepreneurial powerhouse. Once home to businesses focused primarily on app design and outsourcing, social, societal, and economic pressures forced the country’s brightest to start building for themselves. And they did. I’ve covered Polish startups for almost a decade, first on TechCrunch and then on a new blog I… Read More

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Inside Station F, the startup megacampus that just opened in Paris

 Station F is the world’s biggest startup campus. Thousands of entrepreneurs are currently moving into the new building here in Paris. But if you’re still wondering what it actually looks like, we visited Station F and interviewed the two persons behind it — Roxanne Varza and Xavier Niel. Station F is a massive building that has been completely renovated and now features… Read More

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