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NelsonG

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Everything posted by NelsonG

  1. Tandem Bank, the U.K. challenger bank, is launching a new savings account powered by its “Autosavings” feature designed to make it easier to save. Paying 0.5 percent interest, the Tandem Autosavings account is effectively a flexible savings bank account built on top of Tandem’s existing bank account aggregation app and the various credit cards it offers. Based on a number of rules, it will automatically put money aside based on your spending habits and what its algorithm deems you can afford. The first rule, known as “Round Ups,” will move the change from small purchases to your Tandem Autosavings account, enabling you to round-up to the next pound across spending on all of your connected bank accounts. The second rule, dubbed “Safe To Save,” claims to use machine learning to calculate how much you can save based on the income and outgoings of your connected accounts. Within the Tandem app you can set your saving level using a slider from minimum to maximum savings, which aims to save between 5 and 15 percent of your income. Outside of these rules, you can also choose to top up your Tandem Autosavings account at anytime. Money moved across to your Tandem Autosavings account is pulled via the debit card you have added to the app and transactions are processed by Stripe, as we previously reported. “We spend a huge amount of time speaking with our users, understanding the challenges they face with their money, and what we can do to help,” Tandem’s Matt Ford tells me. “A consistent theme which arose for many of our users was the need to save. People either felt like they were unable to save at all (as they battle through to the end of the month), or were trying to save, but spending got in the way and they were unable to reach their goals fast enough”. Ford says that Autosavings aims to solve these problems by drawing on “behavioural economics principles”. The idea is that by helping customers save small amounts each time they spend, Tandem is initiating a savings behaviour for customers who may have previously felt unable to save. “Similarly, for those who need an extra boost, we have a rule called ‘safe to save’ which, based on a forecast of upcoming spending and bills, helps sweep any spare cash automatically aside into an interest-bearing Tandem savings account… We’re planning to roll out additional rules over time to find new ways to help customers kickstart and accelerate their savings behaviour”. Perhaps crucially, Ford says that Tandem doesn’t “sweep” money immediately. Instead, savings are first added to a “virtual pot” that builds throughout the week, before moving across into your Tandem account. “With a quick swipe, customers can remove any savings items added to the pot before it leaves their current account, and they get a push notification before the money movement occurs so they can ensure that they are comfortable with the saving amount,” he explains. “Also, for people who have aggregated their current account and have the safe to save rule activated, we’re continually monitoring on a day-to-day basis how much a customer can afford to save based on their sending and account balance”. Meanwhile, Tandem has picked up pace over the last 18 months. Most recently the company launched a credit card for people who find it hard to quality for one. It followed the launch of a competitive fixed savings product, pitting it against a whole host of incumbent and challenger banks, and the original Tandem credit card offering cash-back and low FX rates. All of Tandem’s products are managed via the Tandem mobile app, which also acts as a Personal Finance Manager (PFM), including letting you aggregate your non-Tandem bank account data from other bank accounts or credit cards you might have. Like a plethora of fintechs, Tandem’s broader strategy is to become your financial control centre and connect you to and offer various financial services. These are either products of its own or through partnerships with other fintech startups and more established providers. View the full article
  2. Anyone running an enterprise business is worshipping at the feet of Amazon Web Services. But in the midst of all the hubbub surrounding AWS, what about other options? Microsoft’s platform Azure flies under the radar when it comes to fast and reliable cloud computing services, but pound for pound it easily keeps up with its more widely touted competitors. As with other cloud computing platforms, Azure enables users to store and process their data on remotely accessible servers maintained by a third party (in other words, the "cloud"). Cloud adoption has accelerated over the past few years, as companies increasingly outsource the expensive task of maintaining in-house IT infrastructure — and Azure continues to quietly gobble up market share with an unparalleled 154 percent yearly growth rate. In fact, Microsoft itself estimates that 95 percent of all Fortune 500 companies are already utilizing Azure as a cloud computing solution, including Mercedes-Benz parent company Daimler AG and online fashion retailer ASOS. Read more... More about Microsoft, Cloud Computing, Aws, Mashable Shopping, and Shopping StackcommerceView the full article
  3. The news has been pretty divisive recently (to put it mildly). But no matter what you believe, what you stand for, what you fight for, there’s one thing on which we can all agree: it’s great to just shut everyone out sometimes and listen to some music. Or an audiobook. Or a nice, relaxing murder mystery podcast — anything that isn’t other people. It’s in that spirit that we put together a collection of special deals on noise-canceling headphones that we think will make this world more tolerable. Plus, if you enter code MADNESS15 at checkout, you'll get an extra 15% off. It’s the least we can do. Read more... More about Headphones, Mashable Shopping, Shopping Stackcommerce, Tech, and Consumer TechView the full article
  4. Google is widely expected to be handed a third antitrust fine in Europe this week, with reports suggesting the European Commission’s decision in its long-running investigation of AdSense could land later today. Right on cue the search giant has PRed another Android product tweak — which it bills as “supporting choice and competition in Europe”. In the coming months Google says it will start prompting users of existing and new Android devices in Europe to ask which browser and search apps they would like to use. This follows licensing changes for Android in Europe which Google announced last fall, following the Commission’s $5BN antitrust fine for anti-competitive behavior related to how it operates the dominant smartphone OS. tl;dr competition regulation can shift policy and product. Albeit, the devil will be in the detail of Google’s self-imposed ‘remedy’ for Android browser and search apps. Which means how exactly the user is prompted will be key — given tech giants are well-versed in the manipulative arts of dark pattern design, enabling them to create ‘consent’ flows that deliver their desired outcome. A ‘choice’ designed in such a way — based on wording, button/text size and color, timing of prompt and so on — to promote Google’s preferred browser and search app choice by subtly encouraging Android users to stick with its default apps may not actually end up being much of a ‘choice’. According to Reuters the prompt will surface to Android users via the Play Store. (Though the version of Google’s blog post we read did not include that detail.) Using the Play Store for the prompt would require an Android device to have Google’s app store pre-loaded — and licensing tweaks made to the OS in Europe last year were supposedly intended to enable OEMs to choose to unbundle Google apps from Android forks. Ergo making only the Play Store the route for enabling choice would be rather contradictory. (As well as spotlighting Google’s continued grip on Android.) Add to that Google has the advantage of massive brand dominance here, thanks to its kingpin position in search, browsers and smartphone platforms. So again the consumer decision is weighted in its favor. Or, to put it another way: ‘This is Google; it can afford to offer a ‘choice’.’ In its blog post getting out ahead of the Commission’s looming AdSense ruling, Google’s SVP of global affairs, Kent Walker, writes that the company has been “listening carefully to the feedback we’re getting” vis-a-vis competition. Though the search giant is actually appealing both antitrust decisions. (The other being a $2.7BN fine it got slapped with two years ago for promoting its own shopping comparison service and demoting rivals’.) “After the Commission’s July 2018 decision, we changed the licensing model for the Google apps we build for use on Android phones, creating new, separate licenses for Google Play, the Google Chrome browser, and for Google Search,” Walker continues. “In doing so, we maintained the freedom for phone makers to install any alternative app alongside a Google app.” Other opinions are available on those changes too. Such as French pro-privacy Google search rival Qwant, which last year told us how those licensing changes still make it essentially impossible for smartphone makers to profit off of devices that don’t bake in Google apps by default. (More recently Qwant’s founder condensed the situation to “it’s a joke“.) Qwant and another European startup Jolla, which leads development of an Android alternative smartphone platform called Sailfish — and is also a competition complainant against Google in Europe — want regulators to step in and do more. The Commission has said it is closely monitoring changes made by Google to determine whether or not the company has complied with its orders to stop anti-competitive behavior. So the jury is still out on whether any of its tweaks sum to compliance. (Google says so but that’s as you’d expect — and certainly doesn’t mean the Commission will agree.) In its Android decision last summer the Commission judged that Google’s practices harmed competition and “further innovation” in the wider mobile space, i.e. beyond Internet search — because it prevented other mobile browsers from competing effectively with its pre-installed Chrome browser. So browser choice is a key component here. And ‘effective competition’ is the bar Google’s homebrew ‘remedies’ will have to meet. Still, the company will be hoping its latest Android tweaks steer off further Commission antitrust action. Or at least generate more fuzz and fuel for its long-game legal appeal. Current EU competition commissioner, Margrethe Vestager, has flagged for years that the division is also fielding complaints about other Google products, including travel search, image search and maps. So Google could face fresh antitrust investigations in future, even as the last of the first batch is about to wrap up. The FT reports that Android users in the European economic area last week started seeing links to rival websites appearing above Google’s answer box for searches for products, jobs or businesses — with the rival links appearing above paid results links to Google’s own services. The newspaper points out that tweak is similar to a change promoted by Google in 2013, when it was trying to resolve EU antitrust concerns under the prior commissioner, Joaquín Almunia. However rivals at the time complained the tweak was insufficient. The Commission subsequently agreed — and under Vestager’s tenure went on to hit Google with antitrust fines. Walker doesn’t mention these any of additional antitrust complaints swirling around Google’s business in Europe, choosing to focus on highlighting changes it’s made in response to the two extant Commission antitrust rulings. “After the Commission’s July 2018 decision, we changed the licensing model for the Google apps we build for use on Android phones, creating new, separate licenses for Google Play, the Google Chrome browser, and for Google Search. In doing so, we maintained the freedom for phone makers to install any alternative app alongside a Google app,” he writes. Nor does he make mention of a recent change Google quietly made to the lists of default search engine choices in its Chrome browser — which expanded the “choice” he claims the company offers by surfacing more rivals. (The biggest beneficiary of that tweak is privacy search rival DuckDuckGo, which suddenly got added to the Chrome search engine lists in around 60 markets. Qwant also got added as a default choice in France.) Talking about Android specifically Walker instead takes a subtle indirect swipe at iOS maker Apple — which now finds itself the target of competition complaints in Europe, via music streaming rival Spotify, and is potentially facing a Commission probe of its own (albeit, iOS’ marketshare in Europe is tiny vs Android). So top deflecting Google. “On Android phones, you’ve always been able to install any search engine or browser you want, irrespective of what came pre-installed on the phone when you bought it. In fact, a typical Android phone user will usually install around 50 additional apps on their phone,” Walker writes, drawing attention to the fact that Apple does not offer iOS users as much of a literal choice as Google does. “Now we’ll also do more to ensure that Android phone owners know about the wide choice of browsers and search engines available to download to their phones,” he adds, saying: “This will involve asking users of existing and new Android devices in Europe which browser and search apps they would like to use.” We’ve reached out to Commission for comment, and to Google with questions about the design of its incoming browser and search app prompts in Europe and will update this report with any response. View the full article
  5. Opera had a couple of tumultuous years behind it, but it looks like the Norwegian browser maker (now in the hands of a Chinese consortium) is finding its stride again and refocusing its efforts on its flagship mobile and desktop browsers. Before the sale, Opera offered a useful stand-alone and built-in VPN service. Somehow, the built-in VPN stopped working after the acquisition. My understanding is that this had something to do with the company being split into multiple parts, with the VPN service ending up on the wrong side of that divide. Today, it’s officially bringing this service back as part of its Android app. The promise of the new Opera VPN in Opera for Android 51 is that it will give you more control over your privacy and improve your online security, especially on unsecured public WiFi networks. Opera says it uses 256-bit encryption and doesn’t keep a log or retain any activity data. Since Opera now has Chinese owners, though, not everybody is going to feel comfortable using this service, though. When I asked the Opera team about this earlier this year at MWC in Barcelona, the company stressed that it is still based in Norway and operates under that country’s privacy laws. The message being that it may be owned by a Chinese consortium but that it’s still very much a Norwegian company. If you do feel comfortable using the VPN, though, then getting started is pretty easy (I’ve been testing in the beta version of Opera for Android for a while). Simply head to the setting menu, flip the switch, and you are good to go. “Young people are being very concerned about their online privacy as they increasingly live their lives online, said Wallman. “We want to make VPN adoption easy and user-friendly, especially for those who want to feel more secure on the Web but are not aware on how to do it. This is a free solution for them that works.” What’s important to note here is that the point of the VPN is to protect your privacy, not to give you a way to route around geo-restrictions (though you can do that, too). That means you can’t choose a specific country as an endpoint, only ‘America,’ ‘Asia,’ and ‘Europe.’ View the full article
  6. Welcome Pickups, an Athens-based startup offering a range of “in-destination” travel services from the point of pickup onwards, has raised €3.3 million in Series A funding. The backing comes from VentureFriends, MarketOne, Howzat, Jabbar, and Openfund. Also participating is Alejandro Artacho, who founded Spotahome, and John Tsioris, founder of Instashop. Launched in Greece in 2015, Welcome Pickups believes it has spotted an opportunity that moves local travel services beyond a “commoditized transfer service” to a more holistic in-destination travel experience. The idea is that from the moment you arrive at a new destination and until departure, Welcome Pickups will be able to accommodate all of your travel needs, spanning transfers, travel products, things to do, and travel information. “The travel experience after the flight and hotel booking step is broken,” says Welcome Pickups co-founder and CEO Alex Trimis. “[The] in-destination vertical is a multi-billion dollar opportunity that remains fragmented and offline. Welcome, starting from transportation, will become its leader while assisting players in the other two segments to offer a better and more complete service”. Trimis says the startup turns airport transfer into a travel experience by using this first step as a gateway to cover all other in-destination needs. To achieve this, Welcome Pickups claims to be creating the most robust and complete in-destination travel data-set in existence. “Apart from the traveler’s problems, we are also sorting out a number of partner problems,” adds Trimis. This includes helping hotels and other short stay providers personalise their guest experience and optimise operations through the use of Welcome Pickups’ data. More broadly, the draw is that by “safeguarding” the travel experience at destination, return bookings and recommendations are a lot more likely to happen. To that end, Welcome Pickups says that in 2018 the company serviced over 400,000 travellers in 32 destinations. It estimates that it will welcome over 1 million travellers in 2019, and says it now employs a team of 60 people, mainly in Athens and Barcelona. Meanwhile, the Greek startup will use the new funding to expand its product offerings, strengthen the core team and increase the Welcome Pickups destination network. This will include adding more travel industry partners, such as cruise lines and airlines, and also enhance customer experience with a traveller app. View the full article
  7. In the aftermath of the Christchurch terror attack, a reimagined version of a famous New Zealand symbol has garnered plenty of online attention. Australian cartoonist Pat Campbell, who works for newspaper The Canberra Times, drew an illustration of the silver fern showing Muslims in different stages of prayer for the publication. SEE ALSO: New Zealand bikers perform Haka dance in honor of Christchurch victims Campbell first drew the image on Saturday morning, which instead of fern fronds, depicted 49 figures to represent the people who died in the attack. On Tuesday he added another figure to the illustration, to mark the death toll rising to 50. Read more... More about Art, New Zealand, Muslim, Christchurch, and Culture View the full article
  8. Tencent Music Entertainment Group, the Chinese answer to Spotify that Tencent spun out and floated on the New York Stock Exchange in December, reported a net loss of 876 million yuan ($127 million) in its first set of quarterly results since going public. The loss, which TME forecasted in its prospectus filed ahead of the IPO, is mainly due to a one-off 1.52 billion yuan ($221 million) share-based charge related to equity issuance to label partners Warner Music Group and Sony Music Entertainment. In a similar move back in August, Warner Music sold all its shares in Spotify, the Swedish music streaming startup that has swapped shares with Tencent. Sony also cashed in half of its Spotify shares in July. Barring the share-based charge, TME’s non-IFRS net profit attributable to equity holders was 916 million yuan ($133 million) for the fourth quarter. Revenue from the period grew 50 percent year-over-year to 5.4 billion yuan ($785 million). According to a note in TME’s IPO prospectus, Warner and Sony had acquired its shares for an aggregate cash consideration of approximately $200 million to deepen “strategic cooperation.” In return, the two investors divided 68 million total shares in TME between them. The deal is telling of TME’s ongoing licensing spree in recent years. The group claims to own the largest music library in China with 20 million licensed tracks from over 200 domestic music label partners such as China Record Group and international allies including Sony, Warner and Universal Music Group. These content tie-ups give the Chinese firm a significant lead over its local rivals NetEase Music and Alibaba’s music app Xiami. As of February, TME owns China’s top four music apps by user number, according to app ranking data collected by iResearch. TME isn’t the only music app busy teaming up with music label giants. Beijing-based TikTok, which doesn’t compete directly with TME but is making waves around the world with its music video app, has nailed licensing deals with Warner, Universal and other major labels to secure music and sound bites for its video creators. TME’s differentiated model has made it a more lucrative business compared to many of its peers. The group, which runs a suite of music streaming, karaoke and live streaming apps, generated 71 percent of its fourth-quarter revenue from “internet services” such as virtual gifts that users reward influencers on its karaoke and live streaming apps. About 28 percent of TME’s quarterly revenue came from more conventional forms of monetization for music streaming businesses, including user subscriptions, sales of digital albums and sub-licensing to third-party music platforms. While TME has focused mainly on the China market, Reuters reported citing sources last month that it was mulling acquisition bids for Universal, with which TME has an existing licensing deal. A partial acquisition can potentially strengthen the partner’s collaboration, said the sources. Meanwhile, once nailed, owning stakes in Universal could also boost TME’s sub-licensing income in western countries. View the full article
  9. Tim Armstrong will leave Verizon Communications with an awards and benefits package worth more than $60 million. The Wall Street Journal calculated the total amount based on a securities filing from last Monday by combining Armstrong’s compensation in 2018, severance and a special incentive package he was given by Verizon when it acquired AOL in 2015. Armstrong was head of Oath (now called Verizon Media), which took a write down of $4.5 billion last year and laid off seven percent of its workforce as it struggled to compete with other digital media companies. Oath, the company’s digital media unit, was created in 2017 by merging AOL and Yahoo, two companies acquired by Verizon Communications. (Disclosure: TechCrunch was part of AOL, then Oath and now Verizon Media). Verizon Communications announced Oath’s $4.5 billion after-tax write down at the end of last year. It said the sum, which basically cancelled out the benefits of the merger, was due to increased competition in digital advertising and other market pressures last year had resulted in lower-than-expected 2018 results and that it expected those issues to continue. The business unit also announced in late January that it would lay off seven percent of its workforce, or about 800 employees. After months of rumors, Verizon Communications announced that Armstrong would be succeeded as CEO of Oath by Guru Gowrappan last September. Armstrong formally left the company at the end of 2018. TechCrunch has contacted Verizon for comment. View the full article
  10. French startup Doctolib has raised a new round of funding of $170 million (€150 million). The round is led by General Atlantic, with existing investors Accel, Eurazeo, Kernel and Bpifrance also participating. Some German healthcare entrepreneurs are also joining the round — the company isn’t detailing the names of those investors. But Doctolib is detailing an important metric — its valuation. Based on this new round, Doctolib now has a post-money valuation of $1.13 billion (€1 billion). There’s a new unicorn in town. Doctolib first started with a scheduling service for health practitioners. For €109 per month ($124), you can replace your calendar with Doctolib and let the startup take care of your week. Patients can book an appointment on Doctolib’s website and everything stays in sync between your own calendar and your public calendar. More recently, Doctolib expanded to new countries and new types of practitioners. The company is now live in Germany and now also works with hospitals. Some hospitals have completely switched their scheduling system to Doctolib. Doctolib essentially became the leading cloud service for healthcare scheduling. There are currently 75,000 practitioners and 1,400 healthcare facilities using Doctolib. The company works with 750 people and has offices in 40 different cities — it sounds like you need to have a local team in order to convince doctors in a specific area. And now, the startup wants to expand to new services. In January, the company launched its telemedicine service. Existing Doctolib customers can now flip a switch and start accepting remote appointments. This is a natural extension of Doctolib’s booking service. In addition to finding the right doctor and booking an appointment, you can now have a video consultation with a healthcare professional and get a digital prescription in your account. Doctolib has focused on a limited feature set for years. But the company now has a shot at becoming a sort of Salesforce for the healthcare industry — a software-as-a-service company with a range of services to help practitioners switch from traditional software suites to browser-based applications. For instance, Doctolib could expand beyond patient-to-doctor relationships and facilitate doctor-to-doctor collaboration as well. With today’s funding round, the company will double the size of the team within the next three years across the board. In addition to sales people, the company will also double the size of the technology, product and design teams in order to launch new products. And finally, Doctolib will also expand to new countries. View the full article
  11. All your Fox are belong to us. At the strike of 12:02 a.m. ET on Wednesday, Disney officially completed its takeover of 21st Century Fox. SEE ALSO: Disney announces opening dates for 'Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge' attraction The mammoth $71 billion acquisition includes Fox's film and television units, plus its 60 percent stake in streaming giant Hulu, among interests in other businesses. As the acquisition kicked in, Marvel star Ryan Reynolds celebrated the Disney-Fox merger on Twitter. "Feels like the first day of 'Pool," he wrote, with an image of his onscreen counterpart Deadpool sitting in a Disney-labelled school bus. Read more... More about Entertainment, Disney, Deadpool, Fox, and The SimpsonsView the full article
  12. NelsonG

    Hotties 2.0

    Yovanna Ventura:
  13. NelsonG

    Hotties 2.0

    Jo (Johana) Gomez:
  14. The now famous teen who cracked an egg on the head of an Australian politician certainly has some high profile fans. Philadelphia 76ers star Ben Simmons paid tribute to the 17-year-old kid known as "egg boy," by writing the teen's name on his yellow shoes before the game against the Charlotte Hornets on Tuesday. SEE ALSO: Teen eggs politician. Now he’s being offered free tickets to concerts for life. The team's mental performance coach, Paddy Steinfort, posted the image of Simmons' sneakers in his Instagram story. That's a pretty awesome shout out. Ben Simmons giving a shout out to Egg Boy on court for the 76ers tonight (via @pjsteinfort) pic.twitter.com/zPJMEZ7zwn — Tom Steinfort (@tomsteinfort) March 19, 2019 Read more... More about Sports, Australia, Nba, Basketball, and New ZealandView the full article
  15. Her upcoming record is “a concept album about the anthropomorphic Goddess of climate Change” View the full article
  16. Today was the second half of Y Combinator’s two-day Demo Day for its Winter 2019 class. Over 85 startups pitched on stage yesterday, and another huge batch launched today. Previously held at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, this YC Demo Day instead took over a massive warehouse in San Francisco. Like yesterday’s pitches, today’s were split across two stages (“Pioneer” and “Mission”) running in parallel — so even if you were there, you couldn’t see everything alone. Here are all of the companies that launched today, and our notes from their presentations. Pioneer Stage: YSplit: Splitting utility bills and other recurring payments with roommates or loved ones is a huge pain where one person has to front the money and then nag the others to get paid back. YSplit offers virtual debit cards that make it easy to automatically split bills and collect cash from users’ bank accounts. By charging a 2 percent interchange fee to merchants, YSplit could build a solid business from the 26 million shared homes in the US alone. The Juggernaut: A subscription publication focusing on South Asian stories. They hire freelance writers, publish one story per day, and charge users $5 a month. We wrote about The Juggernaut here. Searchlight: Reference checks can screen out bad hires, yet many businesses wait until the very end of the interview cycle or don’t do extensive checks. Searchlight offers reference checks as a service. Job candidates invite their references to submit testimonials, which Searchlight collects and organizes into reports about someone’s work style, ideal environment, and skillset. Searchlight earns an average of $250 per job hopes to investigate all 30 million skilled hires in the US per year. Allo: Connects local parents and helps them help each other with things like babysitting and errand-running through a “Karma” point system. Average user returns 12x per week. Coursedog: Universities employ full time scheduling administrators to place faculty into courses and rooms. Coursedog automates this process by plugging into a school’s data to eliminate this busy work. Coursedog already has 8 university clients paying over $100,000 for a three-year contract. Next it wants to move into modernizing the process of booking spaces on campus as well as instructor and tuition payments. AI Insurance: Cloud-based software for insurance claims. By moving things to the cloud rather than filing cabinets, the founders say they can save “thousands of hours per claim”. Their goal, once they’ve got enough claim data, is to use AI to determine things like how much a claim might ultimately cost. Nebullam: Growing crops indoors can produce more food per acre that’s not dependent on weather, but the problems are the high labor costs and payback times for expensive equipment. Nebullam wants to be the John Deere of indoor farming. It sells a vertical farming cube and other equipment that can maximize yield and minimize costs. With a CEO who grew up on a farm, it’s already managed a 3 year payback time for its equipment vs an industry standard for 7 years. Pronto: Ride-sharing for smaller cities in Latin America. Co-founder Miguel Martinez Cano says that the Uber model doesn’t work in these cities, as would-be riders don’t have credit cards and instead want to pay cash. Drivers pay a subscription fee of $59-99 per month. Currently doing 62,000 trips per month. LEAH Labs: People spend $500 million per year on chemotherapy for their dogs, even though the treatment only extends their life temporarily without curing their disease. LEAH Labs wants to cure B-cell lymphoma cancer in dogs using Car T cells, a powerful new treatment method. There have been $20 billion in recent Car T cell company exits, but none of the big players are focused on dogs. LEAH Labs falls under the USDA instead of the FDA, so it requires less investment to get approved, which translate into $5,000 treatments. Balto: A platform for fantasy sports league managers to make money from their work. As fantasy sports betting moves toward legality in more states, they want to capture the audience already making bets through other means. Visly: Developers waste a ton of time rebuilding the same product for iOS, Android, and web and Visly says only 15 percent of developers use tools to simplify this. Visly’s cross-platform UI development suite makes it quick and easy to create consistent apps for different devices. The CEO worked on Facebook’s version called Yoga, but it always failed. Visly has fixed those problems so developers can focus on their invention, not porting it to other operating systems. Mudrex: Lets people do algorithmic trading without programming knowledge, beginning with cryptocurrency. Last week, they saw a trading volume of $150,000. They charge users $300 a year for access to a drag and drop interface for building trading models, which the user can then test against historical trading data. Brain Key: Diagnosis for brain diseases using 3D MRI data. Whereas many doctors use 2D slices from MRIs for diagnosis, Brain Key says they’re able to analyze data in 3D to do things like identify Parkinsons subtypes 35% more accurately than experts. They’re aiming to be in hospitals worldwide within 2 years. Switchboard: It’s tough to efficiently match available trucks with freight needing to be shipped if you don’t know where the trucks are. Switchboard’s on-board truck sensors collect real time data on a truck’s location, destination, and more. Switchboard’s trucking freight marketplace launched three months ago and is already gathering data that could unlock more revenue streams. Shef: Two months ago, California passed the first law in the country legalizing the sale of home cooked food. Shef creates a marketplace where home chefs can find nearby customers. Shef’s meals cost around $6.50 compared to $20 per meal for traditional food delivery, and the startup takes a 22 percent cut of every transaction. It’s been growing 50 percent month over month thanks to deals with large property management companies that offer the marketplace as a perk to their residents. Shef wants to be the Airbnb of home cooked food. Qwest: Lets people pay money to skip lines at venues like clubs and bars. They’re currently at 10 venues in 2 cities, and say they should be at 100 venues in 6 cities this year. They aim to expand to events like music festivals and sporting events. Circumvent Pharmaceuticals: Brain disease Batten, the Alzheimer’s of children, has no adequate treatment. Circumvent says its treatment can replace the missing enzyme at the root of the disease and has already been shown to be effective in mice. If it can get through expedited approval thanks to incentives for treating rare diseases, Circumvent wants to sell its medicine for $100,000 which is covered by insurance. Once it clears that hurdle, Circumvent will be much closer to working on Alzheimer’s treatments which could be hugely lucrative and a big win for humanity. Withfriends: Membership programs for small businesses like bars, theaters, and barbershops. So far they have 80 small businesses on the platform, with over 5000 members working out to $400,000 in revenue. By integrating right into PoS machines, they say 15% of customers convert into members. Askdata: Non-technical employees rarely use company data because it’s difficult to find and understand. Askdata offers a natural language search engine for internal data that translates words into SQL queries. Making data conveniently accessible could help businesses make better decisions. Modern Labor: Pays people $10,000 to learn to code in exchange for 15% of their income for 2 years thereafter. Founder Francis Larson says Modern Labor’s first group of students is going through the program now, with 10,000 students on a waiting list. NALA: Making mobile payments in Africa can require an internet connection and typing in a complex 46-digit code like the one above. NALA makes a mobile money app for easily paying friends and merchants as well as buying Internet airtime to capture the $300 billion in yearly mobile payments in Africa. Co-founder Benjamin Fernandes says NALA is 7X faster than competitors and has 5,000 active users. NALA earns money off commissions on airtime and bill payments, interest on savings, sending leads to insurance companies and other services. Vice Lotteries: A lottery platform that’s trying to “take the loss” out of lotteries. Amongst other things, they limit the bets users are allowed to make based on their wealth to prevent betting too much. Founder Matthew Curtis notes that their model is currently not legal, but they’re actively trying to change that. GoLinks: Long, complex URLs make it tough to access internal company tools. GoLinks makes links short and easy to remember for clients like Reddit and Lyft. Its tool can programmatically generate URLs that are single sign-on compliant, and teams get a dashboard of analytics. Whether employees are setting up a new computer or working while traveling, GoLinks means they won’t be locked out. Allure Systems: Fashion brands spend $8 billion per year on models and photographers. Allure Systems uses AI to programatically produce apparel images for shopping sites. The technology can take one photo of a jacket and show it in a variety of poses on a range of models across different sizes. By increasing shopping conversion rates by 14 percent, the team has already racked up $1.4 million in annual recurring revenue with an average SAAS contract costing over $200,000 per year. Spiral Genetics: Software built to compare large sets of human genome data to help cure diseases. Founder Adina Mangubat says existing software can’t analyze genome data at the massive scale it’ll be at in the coming years. They’ve generated $250K in revenue so far, with $1M in Letters of Intent. Rune: Voice chat and automated friend/squad finder for players on mobile games (like Fortnite, PUBG.) In 10 days since launch, the company says it’s got 5,000 users who spend an average of 30 minutes per day on the platform. Friendships are handled within Rune, allowing users to switch from game to game. Truora: Truora offers fast and reliable background checks for Latin America at $3 per check. Truora also collects reports of fraud by workers from its clients to create a valuable database employers will pay to access. It already has Uber, Rappi, and other top regional marketplaces using their service. Aura Vision: Like Google Analytics for physical stores. By pulling a video feed from “any camera” in a store, Aura provides customer age, gender, and how long customers have lingered with a method they say is anonymous and doesn’t require facial recognition. The company founders say they’ll charge stores an average of $9,600 per year. GeoPredict: GeoPredict aims to remove the middlemen from oil and gas real estate sales, and use AI and historical data to help evaluate acreage. They transacted roughly $100,000 last week, and charge a 5% fee. Union Apartment: It’s hard for international students to find housing if they don’t speak the language, don’t have local friends, and might not even have a bank account. Union Apartment offers furnished co-living apartments for international students starting with those from China. Beyond dwellings, Union Apartment provides events like karaoke nights and services like help with banking. It’s already profitable with $130,000 in gross profit in February which makes this a $24 billion gross profit potential business. jet.law: Charges flat legal fees for employment litigation, using court records to predict the workload and how much they should charge up front (rather than charging by billable hours). Co-founder Jesse Unruh previously worked in big business litigation, while co-founder Kyle Harris was a manufacturing design engineer at Apple. Friendshop: Friendshop lets you recruit friends to buy with you to get deals. Friendshop wants to be the US version of Pinduoduo, a $24 billion Chinese group buying company. And after its virality helps Friendshop grow in beauty, it plans to move into other consumer goods businesses. Pulse Active Stations Network: Health kiosks for India, meant to be installed in train stations. Co-founder Joginder Tanikella says that there are 600,000 preventable deaths in India as many in the region don’t get regular doctor checkups. “But everyone takes train,” he says. Their in-station kiosk measures 21 health parameters. The company made $28,000 in revenue last month. Charging $1 per test, Tanikella says each machine pays for itself within 3 months. In the future, the kiosks will allow them to sell insurance and refer users to doctors. Pyxai: Employers don’t have scalable ways to screen for soft skills and culture fit. Pyxai gives job applicants a 30 minute quiz that it analyzes with natural language processing to assess what they can do and if they’ll mesh with existing staff. Deemphasizing resumes could decrease discrimination in hiring. Pyxai charges $6 per screening and wants to be part of how all 36 million knowledge job openings get filled. Mage: An app built specifically for buying and selling cards from Magic: The Gathering — the largest trading card game in the world. Aiming to do for Magic what GOAT did for shoe resales, their app scans, recognizes, and prices cards and helps users to list them. The company says their average customer spends $120 per month on Magic cards. Geosite: Businesses that need satellite imagery have to piece it together from 40 providers, manually download the content, and upload it to their system. Geosite is a marketplace for immediately usable spatial imagery. Clients pay an annual fee, and Geosite already has $3 million in contracts with the US Air Force. Community Phone: Community Phone aims to be a friendlier wireless carrier, aggregating three existing wireless networks behind a company focused on a positive customer service experience. Co-Founder James Graham says they’re currently seeing $230k in annual recurring revenue, and are profitable with a 45% margin. Superb AI: To build artificial intelligence, you need accurately labeled training data, but services like Mechanical Turk can be slow and inaccurate. Superb AI has built an AI that assists in the labeling process to speed it up 10X, and creates its own in-house AI algorithms. Superb AI has already done $1 million in revenue in the past 7 months. For most businesses to keep up with the AIs from Google, Facebook, and the other tech giants, they’ll need help generating training data that Superb can provide. Termius: Termius makes an SSH client that works on desktop and mobile and already has 11,000 paying customers including employees at Disney and NASA. The freemium business model is propelled by its #1 ranking in app stores for “SSH”. Next, Termius wants to expand to teams to become a full collaboration platform. Verto FX: Helps businesses in Africa obtain foreign currencies needed to work with international companies. They currently support the exchange of 18 currencies. The company has seen $26M transaction volume in 5 months of private beta, with $30k monthly revenue. Co-founders Anthony Oduwole and Ola Oyetayo both have backgrounds in building technology platforms for large banks. Inito: This app lets you measure fertility hormones using a hardware dongle that plugs into your phone. Inito can perform a hormone test and use that data to diagnose and treat conditions, and aid in planning procedures like IVF and IUI. Inito claims it can help people get pregnant faster while earning a 65 percent margin on its hardware, and that its data could help diagnose illnesses earlier. Woke: Finances ad campaigns for budding eCommerce brands and helps them grow in exchange for a cut of the profits. In one month, they’ve onboarded 4 merchants who are giving them 50% of profits on each sale. PNOE: They’ve built a compact breath analysis device for fitness facilities, to provide athletes with information about their cardiac/metabolic health. It’s $6,000, and is meant to replace massive $60,000 alternatives. Revenue is growing 40% per month. After fitness facilities, they aim to bring the device into healthcare centers to help with heart disease, obesity. and breathing problems. Mission Stage: WeatherCheck: Measures weather damage for insurance companies. The company has secured 4.7 million in annual bookings in the five months since it launched to help insurance carriers reduce their overall claims expense. To use the service, insurers upload data about their properties. WeatherCheck then monitors the weather and sends notifications to insurance companies, if, for example, a property has been damaged by hail. EatGeek: After selling their last startup to GrubHub, the co-founders of Eatgeek are looking to help restaurants pull in more large-scale catering orders. Most restaurants aren’t focused on courting those looking to cater events; EatGeek opens them up to an audience of people looking specifically for these larger orders. The company takes a 20 percent commission on every order that moves through their systems, but they don’t have to worry about dealing with the food preparation or delivery. Avo: Prevents human error when implementing analytics. The company says humans suck at implementing analytics. Their team of engineers and data scientists previously built QuizUp, a startup backed by Sequoia Capital that garnered 100 million users. Avo is currently being used by Skip Scooters, among other businesses. Adventurous Co: Adventurous is building an augmented reality scavenger hunt that partners live actors with a mobile app that can create an interactive family activity that’s a lot more engaging than regular “screen time.” They’re launching in San Francisco with 45-60min experiences that cost $15 per person. We previously wrote about Adventurous here. Globe: The startup, which has dubbed itself the “Coinbase for derivatives,” has built a cryptocurrency-derivative exchange that supports high-frequency trading. The platform allows crypto holders to trade global markets with bitcoin and grants users the same access to data leveraged by institutional investors. XGenomes: XGenomes is aiming to revolutionize DNA sequencing with a low-cost, high-efficiency solution that saves time and money. The company’s solution involves laying out samples on glass slides, identifying individual sequences and using machine learning to stitch together the high resolution photos and turn these images into a full DNA sequence. The team from Oxford and Harvard say that the market XGenomes is targeting is now larger than $6.5 billion. Habitat Logistics: A food delivery startup that doesn’t have a consumer mobile app but helps restaurants make deliveries. What sets them apart from competitors? The company only delivers to restaurants that are within 10 minutes of a customer’s home, saving them time on long deliveries. Restaurants ping Habitat when they have delivery needs and the company sends a driver to complete the delivery. Habitat says they are growing 17 percent month over month, currently collecting $110,000 monthly revenue by charging restaurants per delivery. WorkClout: WorkClout is building software to help manufacturers manage their operations in a cohesive product. The team says 56 percent of all manufacturers still manage their software on paper and Excel, WorkClout makes it much easier to spot inefficiencies and improve workflows. The team is focusing on customers in the packaging manufacturing space first, and is looking to tackle food and beverage companies and textile manufacturers next. PadPiper: A marketplace for finding monthly housing and compatible roommates. The company helps interns find the right place to live, with the right roommates, partnering with big companies who need to help their interns navigate the housing market. The founders say they had to move 35 times in five years for academic reasons and were disappointed by Craigslist and other options. PadPiper has $10,000 in monthly revenue and says it’s growing 37 percent week-over-week. DevFlight: DevFlight wants to revamp the business model for open-source software. They’re building a marketplace to pair open-sourced developer with companies. DevFlight works with the company and developers to create a plan that helps both parties understand the scope of the project. DevFlight takes a 25 percent transaction on the deals. Handle.com: Automates the collection process of unpaid construction invoices. Construction companies are often forced to pay for their own jobs when customers are late on payments. According to Handle, there are $104 billion in unpaid construction invoices every year. Handle launched six weeks ago and is currently collecting $22,800 in monthly revenue. The founders previously launched an Andreessen Horowitz-backed company called Tenfold. Gerostate Alpha: Gerostate Alpha is tackling human aging, an ambitious goal. The three co-founders are all academics at the Buck Institute where they’ve spent years researching aging. They’ve used their proprietary platform for drug discovery to quickly parse 90,000 compounds and identify 150 hits for further research. Trestle: Founded by a former employee of Stripe, a fellow Y Combinator grad, Trestle provides companies a home page/easy-to-use intranet with profiles of each employee. The company is already working with Brex, Plaid and others to help employees feel less isolated and work more productively amongst each other. Green Energy Exchange: Green Energy Exchange wants to give consumers a choice in where they get their energy. The virtual utility co. plans to let consumers choose where their renewable energy comes from — at least in the 12 states where that’s legal. The founder previously ran a large multi-billion dollar energy company and now wants to make choosing your energy supplier as easy as paying for Netflix by partnering directly with solar and wind generators. The startup is launching in Texas next month. rct studio: Led by a team of YC alums behind Raven, an AI startup acquired by Baidu in 2017, rct studio is a creative studio for immersive and interactive film. The platform provides a real time “text to render “engine (so the text “A man sits on a sofa” would generate 3D imagery of a man sitting on a sofa) that supports mainstream 3D engines like Unity and Unreal, as well as a creative tool for film professionals to craft immersive and open-ended entertainment experiences called Morpheus Engine. CredPal: CredPal is building a credit card company for Africa that looks to help the 200 million in Africa’s neglected middle class that lack access to formal credit, the startup says. The company hopes to become the next American Express and bring African consumers more convenience and freedom in how they purchase goods. Calii: The company helps consumers in Latin America save money by directly connecting them to producers of fruits and vegetables. Cutting out the middlemen saves consumers lots of cash, say the founders. The Latin American companies are taking Chinese behemoth Pinduoduo’s business model and applying it to a different geography, like Rappi and Grin have done before them. Nabis: Nabis is tackling the cannabis shipping and logistics business, working with suppliers to ship out goods to retailers reliably. It’s illegal for FedEx to ship weed so Nabis has swooped in and is helping ship and connect while taking cuts of the proceeds, a price the suppliers are willing to pay due to their 98 percent on-time shipping record. Nettrons: A no-human-in-the-loop AI talent sourcer meant to make the recruiting process more efficient. The company has three paying companies who they’ve helped make six hires to date. Nettrons, founded by a pair of engineers, says their target market is worth $1 billion. Fuzzbuzz: Fuzzing is the process of throwing mountains of invalid data at code to find bugs. Fuzzbuzz is looking to simplify the process of fuzzing for developers, taking a long complicated setup and turning it into a 30 minute process that automates the easy parts and connects with existing services like Jira, Github and Slack. Interprime: Provides “Apple level” treasury services to startups. Startups are raising a lot of money with no way to manage it, says Interprime. They want to help these businesses by managing these big investments. They take a .25 percent advisory fee for all the investment they oversee. So far, they have $10 million in investment capital they are servicing. Taali Foods: Taali Foods is looking to create a new healthy snack food, starting off with a popcorn replacement made from popped water lily seeds. The snacks ditch artificial flavoring, ingredients or preservatives and delivers serial snackers a healthier option with 67% less fat and 20% less calories than regular popcorn. Gordian Software: An API for travel booking companies to sell seat selection and checked bags. Right now, Gordian is profitable and earning $65,000 per month offering online travel agencies tools to help them sell seating, baggage and other ancillary products. Gordian has three major pilots in the works, including one with lastminute.com. Shiok Meats: A cell-based clean shrimp meat provider founded by a team of scientists. Compared to other shrimp on the market, Shiok says their cell-based shrimp meat is more sustainable and taste the same as regular shrimp. The shrimp meat is grown in bioreactors, similar to brewing beer. The startup is targeting the Asia-Pacific shrimp market, which it says is worth $25 billion. Hatch: Hatch is looking to keep the conversations between franchise businesses and their customers moving along and driving sales all the while. The team is focusing on text, email and voice automation to push revenue at their customers which includes Jeep, Ashley Homestore and Rent-A-Center. The company is profitable and earning $119,000 per month. Bot Orange: A customer communication system built on WeChat that integrates sales, marketing and more. WeChat currently offers no tools to companies to manage customers. Bot Orange will be that customer management tool within the app, helping businesses manage various channels without having to navigate another third-party tool. Postscript: Postscript is working with online commerce brands to contact customers on smartphones via SMS. The startup wants to be a Mailchimp for texts, automating conversations between mobile-savvy millennial consumers and companies that are increasingly focused on direct-to-consumer and subscription models. We wrote about Postscript on TechCrunch here. Tailor-ED: Launched by a pair of Stanford grads, the startup helps teachers create tailored lesson plans by sending short quizzes to groups of students to figure out the best lesson plans for those students. In the last four weeks, 2,500 students have received lessons from Tailor-ED. Operating under a freemium model, the company says they are targeting a $1.5 billion market. Wallets Africa: African debit cards often don’t let users pay for international services like Netflix. Wallets Africa is building a digital bank that brings support to many of these online purchases via a partnership with Visa. The team is currently processing $3.5 million in purchases every month. AuroraQ: A developer of a “practical” quantum computer. The founder has a Ph.D. in quantum physics and says AuroraQ will be the “Dell of quantum computing,” building integrated computers from quantum components, which is must less costly. Probably Genetic: Probably Genetic is selling direct-to-consumer DNA tests, aiming to help Americans diagnose whether they are one of the 15 million undiagnosed people in the country that have a rare genetic disease. The co-founders say that on average it takes people more than 7 years to get diagnosed, and Probably Genetic hopes to change that with their $1,200 test which they will be launching in 12 weeks. Viosera Therapeutics: Uses AI to predict and block drug resistance in cancer and bacteria. The startup has treated its solution with mice infected with MRSA and were able to cure 100 percent of the infected mice. The company is targeting MRSA patients initially with its drug discovery platform. Viosera says it is beginning clinical trials in the next six months. Upsolve: Upsolve wants to helps low-income individuals file for bankruptcy more easily. The non-profit service gets referral fees from pointing non low-income families to bankruptcy lawyers and is able to offer the service for free. The company says that medical bills, layoffs and predatory loans can leave low-income families in dire situations and that in the last 6 months, their non-profit has alleviated customers from $24 million in debt. AllSome: Virtual warehouses and fulfillment for online sellers in Southeast Asia. How it works: customers ship their inventory to AllSome’s warehouse space, and AllSome handles quality assurance, storage, labelling, packaging and shipping. AllSome’s founders say the company is profitable. BearBuzz: BearBuzz is building an influencer marketplace that moves things along much more quickly than today’s negotiation slog. They’ve standardized ad formats and can automatically verify the video ads via image and voice recognition. The team plans to make money by facilitating these quicker connections and taking 25 percent of adspend. Point: A digital bank offering a debit card with rewards and a better user experience. The company is going live with virtual debit cards and checking accounts next month. MyScoot: MyScoot wants to help urban millennials make friends in India with their platform for home-hosted social events. Users can search the service and pay to attend events. MyScoot looks to keep things safe for attendees through background checks, peer reviews and what they’re calling a “social trust scoring algorithm.” They have had more than 1000 bookings through their app, with 60% of users returning after booking their first event. Memfault: A developer of tools for engineers at embedded hardware companies that they say are as good as tools available for mobile engineers. Memfault is used for deployment, monitoring and analytics. So far, they have four customers and $5,500 in monthly recurring revenue. Board: Board is a mortgage company that lets home buyers lock down a house with an all-cash offer. Cash buyers are 4 times more likely to win in a bidding war and often save tens of thousands off of a property’s purchase price compared to those with mortgages. They’re looking to be a cash buyer for the 80 percent of people who need a mortgage, by approving people for these massive loans and then making 2 percent off the mortgage. Portal Entryways: Portal automatically opens doors for wheelchair users and keeps them open until they’ve gone through. Many existing accessibility buttons are out of reach, or too far from doors to be helpful; Portal uses a smartphone app on the user’s phone to control these existing buttons (modified with Portal’s hardware), effectively hitting the button for them. Portal is focusing on public places with many doors at first, like universities and malls. We wrote about Portal Entryways on TechCrunch here. Blueberry Medical: A pediatric telemedicine company that provides medical care instantly to families. Blueberry provides constant contact, the ability to talk to a pediatrician 24/7 and at-home testing kits for a total of $8 per month. They’ve just completed a paid consumer pilot and were able to resolve 50 percent of issues without in-person care. They’ve partnered with insurance providers to reduce ER visits. Maitian.ai: Maitian is building the next generation of vending machines, taking notes from the hotel mini-bar fridge and allowing businesses to sell food in a way that’s friendlier than the average vending machine. Users swipe their credit card, open the door to the machine and pick out what they want. The team is focusing on South East Asia and has launched in 2 locations. Emi Labs: Is developing a virtual assistant for human resources workers that automates the hiring process for low-skilled jobs. The startup counts Burger King and PwC as customers, with a total market size of $2.4 billion. Emi Labs improves the candidate experience by making the hiring process more personalized to them using AI. Latchel: Latchel is building a maintenance platform for property managements that helps them free up their time by processing requests and dispatching contractors to fix the issues. Latchel makes up to $10 per unit per month for property managers and charges a 10 percent referral fee to contractors when they source them for jobs. Alpaca: Is developing an API for free stock trading to replace legacy software. The founders say Alpaca’s commission-free stock trading API is the first and only broker dealer that understands developers, and it allows customers to build and trade with real-time market data free of cost. View the full article
  17. Mike Duda comes from the world of advertising. In fact, he spent 13 years at the renowned ad agency Deutsch, becoming the youngest partner in the company’s history until another creative, Brent Vartan, came along and stole the title. Little wonder that in 2010, when Duda struck out on his own to create Bullish (formerly known as Consigliere Brand Capital), he stole Vartan, later making him the firm’s second managing partner. It isn’t that the two wanted to outgun their former employer exactly. Instead, the idea from the outset was to create an ad agency that also happens to be an investment firm. In a way, they stole a page from many Silicon Valley service firms that, beginning in the go-go dot com era of twenty years ago, worked for pay and, when the right opportunities arose, for equity. It’s turned out to be a pretty good approach. Bullish, which is based in New York and works on a pay-for-performance compensation model, has managed to sneak checks into some of the biggest consumer new brands out there, including Warby Parker and Peloton and Harry’s and Casper, companies that have happily agreed to include Bullish as a syndicate partner including because of its advertising know-how. In the meantime, to keep the lights on as those privately held companies have continued to operate privately, Bullish has also managed to land more traditional big-league clients, including Anheuser-Busch, Pepsi, Nike and Walmart. It also counted GNC as a client and reportedly turned heads when it dropped it in order to invest $250,000 in the three-and-a-half-year-old vitamin supplement startup Care/of. With Bullish now contemplating fund two, we decided to sit down with Duda last week to learn more about how the whole things operates, and where he and Vartan are shopping now. TC: You’d spent your career in advertising. What circles were you traveling in that you were also seeing seed-stage startups — good ones — in need of funding? MD: It was through outlier circles. Like, Peloton struggled to raise money, so it got104 angels to invest, including high-net worths, and us, who looked institutional, though I laugh at that now. [Founder and CEO John Foley] didn’t know how to play the VC game. He’d been the president of Barnes & Noble and he had this idea that people thought was crazy. He had a PPM for his fundraise — he didn’t have the [traditional] ten-page PowerPoint. So a lot of people in New York passed, and those same people now funding the Mirrors of the world and Tonals of the world. It was a similar situation with Birchbox. It trouble raising money because its founders are women, and most of the guys they were talking to were like, ‘Well, my wife would get bored of this after a couple of months.’ But the target audience doesn’t have a seven-car garage in Palo Alto. It’s a mom of two in Cleveland who subscribes to the New Yorker. On the agency side, we worked on Revlon for two years, so we get that a consumer doesn’t have to be like just someone we know. It isn’t, ‘Oh, it’s a product for women; let me ask my wife.’ We actually do focus groups to [find] consumer insights. TC: So the pitch is that it isn’t just money you’re bringing but a full marketing group, too. MD: A marketing group with people from places like Deloitte and A.T. Kearney and Goldman Sachs and RBC who try to understand what’s really going on among the says 330 million Americans out there – – not just in New York, San Francisco, L.A. or Boston, which are the hotbeds for consumer investment in VC. We look at stuff that could be disruptive for the normals, which is sometimes unsexy stuff like a stationary bike with a TV. TC: A $3,000 stationary bike is for normal people? MD: There were 1.6 million stationary bikes being sold in the U.S. every year [when Foley first began pitching investors]. Harry’s taking on Gillette before Dollar Shave Club came along [is another example]. The jeans I’m wearing are from a company called Revtown in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, founded by Henry Stafford, who was the North American president of Under Amour and [previously worked for both] American Eagle and Gap. So this was a first-time entrepreneur who had corporate experience was paranoid about raising too much money and promising investors too much too soon. And we’re attracted to entrepreneurs who don’t want to raise tons of capital before they build a profitable business. That’s not the case with all of our investments, obviously. Casper and Peloton have both raised a fair amount of money, but their growth kind of followed suit. TC: Why jeans? MD: I think [Stafford[ was kind of ticked off and wondering why do people have to choose from either the Gap or a $200 pair of jeans. He wanted to build a great pair of jeans that sell for under $100 and that he can sell through great advertising. The pair I’m wearing right now is $75 and it’s a great pair of jeans. Not that I have the ability to stretch, but if I could put my foot over my head without them on, I could do it with them on, too, because they’re stretchy and durable and well-made. Also, from an operations from business standpoint, this is an adult who has built up businesses before and brings that sensibility so that we can get the scale right. Though a direct-to-consumer brand, it’s not too precious to go into physical retail earlier, either. TC: Most direct-to-consumer brands are showing up in the offline world faster. MD: DTC 2.0 is definitely going to be more about going where your customers are. When Harry’s went into Target, it was a genius move, because there are people in Overland Park, Kansas who may not see its digital banners, but they’re in a Target, and they’re like, ‘That’s new, that’s interesting.’ So it’s another form of marketing. TC: What about social media? All the platforms are already saturated. Who’s doing really novel things out there, in your view? MD: I’ll maybe start with the stuff that just annoys us. First, I think a lot of VCs and other people involved with early-stage companies think marketing is a customer acquisition cost and it’s not. If you have to rely on Facebook and Google, you’ll never grow because your [costs] never go down. When we think of DTC companies, we’re looking for is, what can you do that gets talk value, not just at your initial PR launch but that [produces] advocates in a kind of flywheel talking about you. People do talk about this stuff. People like to be the one to discover something before anyone else and like to talk about it. TC: What about TV spend? I’m always astonished to see fairly new brands spending what I’d guess is a lot of money on television ads. MD: With digital marketing, the accountability is not there as much as people thought. And that’s why about a year ago, you started see the [men’s wellness company] Hims start spending $6 million or $7 million a month on TV advertising during March Madness. Was that a flawed strategy? No. TV works. That’s why you see companies that reach a certain size go to TV; it’s like some sort of validation that this a real company. TV is a storefront for companies that may not have one. TC: I do wonder how these brands, many of which are great, deal with fickle customers. There are some brands that I will always love, like Patagonia, but a lot of newer brands that I buy but I will throw over in two seconds for a newer, shinier brand when it also has a compelling product. MD: It’s more like someone is probably not serving you well enough. They’re letting you forget about them. Is it Amazon’s fault that RadioShack and JC Penny are going out business? Probably not. They weren’t serving the customer. If you build a relationship with your consumer rather than advertising to her, you have a much better chance of keeping that person as a customer longer term. Patagonia makes great stuff, but so do other people. It’s that the company’s values are bigger than the product itself [that keeps people coming back]. TC: You’re going to start raising a fund later this year. How it will it be different than what you put together the first time around? MD: We undershot our proposition the first time around. Being an executive at an ad agency, I wanted to be more conservative rather than sell the dream and not achieve it. It was actually harder to raise $10 million than what I was told it would have been if I’d been raising $25 million or $30 million. But we wanted to show proof of concept. Now, a lot of people have left the seed and pre-seed area as investors have raised bigger funds and we see a great opportunity, in a world where there is literally trillions of dollars in play, to get in as early as possible, then play pro rata defense [to maintain our stake]. And in our case, we’ll probably offer up later rounds to the [limited partners] who support us. TC: A lot of seed and pre-seed deal flow comes to investors from Series A investors. Which are those firms in your universe? MD: By and far, the most helpful firm to us was First Round Capital. Without their time, we wouldn’t be where we are. I’m dating myself, but back in 2009, they did office hours. They were commercializing this angel VC investing thing. And I went to one of their office hours and [firm founder] Josh [Koppelman] spent 10 minutes with me and gave me his card and it was like a ‘Dumb and Dumber’ moment. I called my wife, and I was like, ‘He’s saying I have a chance!’ Then I flew to San Francisco to do another office hours . . . TC: You flew cross country expressly for another of these office hours? MD: Yes. And 78 people showed up. And it was like the land of broken toys. There were older gentlemen in three-piece suits, and a 19-year-old guy who showed up with a Rock’em Sock’em Robot and people who flew in from San Diego and Portland. And they just gave every one 10 minutes and I was like, ‘Here’s our proposition. It’s a marketing agency with a fund.’ And 75 of of the 78 people got 10 minutes, and two got 30 minutes, and one of them — me — got an hour and a half with Chris Fralic and Kent Goldman, who were kind enough to spend time with someone who kind of wanted to do what they do in a different way. Really, they’re the ones who gave me the confidence that this could work. Photo above, left to right: Mike Duda, Brent Vartan. Courtesy of Mike Duda. View the full article
  18. Radiohead’s Ed O’Brien and Phil Selway, Holly Herndon, Peaches, and many others joined in calling out changes to BBC Radio 3 View the full article
  19. On Tuesday, Google unveiled its new video game streaming platform, Google Stadia. The tech behemoth stepping into the fairly new cloud gaming ring is certainly a big deal, but the effects it will have on YouTube’s ecosystem may be just as big. With the Stadia announcement, Google revealed heavy YouTube integrations with the gaming platform. Cloud gaming services existed long before Google’s gaming platform, but they didn’t have the help of a massively popular video platform — nor did they exist at a time when internet speeds could handle video game streaming. YouTube users watching a gaming stream will be able to launch right into playing the very game they were viewing thanks to a button which will be embedded on Stadia-based livestreams. While we don’t yet know if users will have to purchase each game a la carte or subscribe to an open library with Stadia, which games get the most play will almost certainly depend on who's streaming them. Developers already promote games via popular streamers; Stadia could carry that to the next level. Read more... More about Google, Youtube, Gaming, Video Games, and LivestreamingView the full article
  20. Check out “Yellowbrick” and “Dan Ryan” View the full article
  21. Eclipse Foods may be the company that finally takes milk out of the dairy business. Ever since the acquisition of WhiteWave Foods by the French dairy giant Danone for over $10 billion investors have been thirsting for a technology that would give consumers a better tasting, more milky (for lack of a better word), milk substitute than the highly valuable (but not very tasty) almond, soy, and other plant based dairy alternatives. There are at least $37.5 billion worth of other reasons for investors’ interest in the milk alternative category. That’s how much money will be spent on dairy alternatives by 2025, according to a newly released study by the market research firm Global Market Insights. Enter Eclipse Foods. Founded by two veterans of the alternative sugars and proteins business, the company is going after the whole dairy industry, starting with a line of spreads and select additives for restaurants around San Francisco. “We had an oh shit moment when we got our plant based milk to act just like the real thing,” says Thomas Beaumon, Eclipse Foods co-founder and the former director of product development at Hampton Creek (now known as Just Foods). “We’re not pureeing nuts or seeds or legumes. We asked, ‘What are the properties of milk?’ and built this dairy base of the exact amino acids and fat profile.” Thomas Beaumon in the kitchen (Courtesy Eclipse Foods) Joining Beaumon on the journey to create the perfect milk substitute is Aylon Steinhart, a former specialist working with the Y Combinator aligned food technology incubator and think tank, the Good Food Institute. The two men met at the launch event for Just Egg, the fourth product to debut from Just after the release of the company’s mayonnaise alternative, cookie dough, and porridge. “We started talking about ideas and landed on this dairy platform,” recalls Steinhart. “It’s a place where we can make a big change very fast given the technological breakthroughs that we solved for early on.” The demand is certainly coming on strong. According to Steinhart about 80% of millennials are consuming dairy replacements at least once a week. Aylon Steinhart (Courtesy Eclipse Foods) Humans didn’t start out drinking milk. Over the 300,000 odd years that some form of homo sapien has been stalking the planet, it has only been in the past 10,000 odd years that people decided to squirt the liquid out of a cow’s udders to consume it. At first, humans couldn’t even consume the stuff without getting at least a little nauseous. They needed to develop a genetic mutation to even process the lactose sugars properly. “The first time that we see the lactase persistence allele in Europe arising is around 5,000 years BP [before present] in southern Europe, and then it starts to kick in in central Europe around 3,000 years ago,” assistant professor Laure Ségurel of the Museum of Humankind in Paris, told the BBC earlier this year. Segurel speculates that the health benefits of consuming milk might have been related to the exposure (and potential inoculation) to various diseases that may have otherwise spread from the animals to the humans that were raising them. If that was the rationale, it’s increasingly unnecessary for modern living, and may indeed be more of a hazard to human health. Global meat and dairy producers could count among the largest contributors to climate change if their growth remains unchecked, according to a report from the non-profit Grain. They estimate that meat and dairy consumption should be reduced by 81 percent in order to meet global emissions reduction targets. With the production of Eclipse’s dairy alternative, there’s no animal required. “We have an off-the-shelf platform right now. The only additive will be water,” says Beaumon. And unlike other alternative dairy products, Beaumon and Steinhart claim that theirs actually tastes good. And, as a Michelin starred chef, Beaumon should know. The company’s first line of products will be a line of cream cheeses, including one for the bagel-and-schmear loving crowd. However, the majority will be more millennial focused, according to Steinhart. “There will be various unique flavors that are culinarily focused,” he said. Expect the first products to debut in an exclusive pilot with Wise Sons and through the ice cream maker Humphry Slochombe, a leader in high end ice cream in SF. However companies decide to label their Eclipse-based products, they certainly shouldn’t call them vegan, according to Beaumon. “Vegan cheese is gross,” he says. View the full article
  22. A look into the making of 2017’s Rest with Gainsbourg’s photographs, writing, and more View the full article
  23. People trampled California's poppies for the 'gram, and ruined it for the rest of us. Fields of fiery "super bloom" poppies are lighting up the hills of Walker Canyon in Lake Elsinore, a city about halfway between Los Angeles and San Diego. Thanks to uncommonly heavy rains this winter, much of Southern California is seeing a massive burst of wildflower blooms across the state. The poppies in Walker Canyon are so lush, they can be seen from space. #Superbloom visible from space - California poppies (orange) near Lake Elsinore, CA [15 March 2019; Sentinel-2 satellite; https://t.co/fy8NaGcTwN] pic.twitter.com/ZdSqCvjbuY — Zack Labe (@ZLabe) March 18, 2019 Read more... More about Instagram, California, Super Bloom, Culture, and Web Culture View the full article
  24. Sturgill Simpson, the Raconteurs, the Killers, Run the Jewels, Santana, and Courtney Barnett set for the classic festival’s 50th anniversary View the full article
  25. Waymo is opening another technical service center in the Phoenix area, an expansion that will allow the autonomous-vehicle technology startup to double its capacity in the area as it prepares to grow its commercial fleet. The new 85,000-square-foot center will be located in Mesa and is expected to open sometime in the second half of the year. The company’s existing 60,000-square-foot facility in the Phoenix suburb of Chandler will remain. The former Google self-driving project that spun out to become a business under Alphabet opened its first location in Chandler, Arizona in 2016. Since then the company has ramped up its testing, launched an early rider program and slowly crept toward commercial deployment. The early rider program, which launched in April 2017, had more than 400 participants the last time Waymo shared figures on the program. In December, the company launched Waymo One, a commercial self-driving car service and accompanying app. The service isn’t widely available yet and Waymo-trained test drivers are still behind the wheel. (Waymo does have driverless vehicles on public roads in Phoenix.) This latest announcement signals that Waymo is still committed to its initial plan to eventually cover a large portion of the sprawling metropolis of Phoenix, which is about 600 square miles. Waymo currently operates in Chandler, Tempe, Gilbert and Mesa. It also means local residents will likely encounter more Waymo self-driving vehicles on public roads — an experience that hasn’t exactly sparked joy for some. (There have been several reports recounting fits of road rage directed at these autonomous vehicles.) Waymo’s global fleet is about 600 cars, the large majority of which are in the Phoenix area. The new technical center will act as a second dispatch center as well as a place to maintain, clean and manage the fleet, according to the company. It also means Waymo will hire more people in the months ahead. As Waymo noted in a blog posted Tuesday, this is not the first time it has grown its operations in Phoenix. Waymo expanded its full-service center in Chandler last year to 60,000 square feet, a facility that houses its operations and support teams, including fleet technicians, fleet dispatch, fleet response and rider support. View the full article
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