Maison Me nabs $1M from Google’s Assistant fund and more for made-to-order clothes

Amazon’s focus on using its camera-enabled Echo devices to help you figure out what to wear everyday has highlighted how the tech world sees a big opportunity in building fashion-related tools and services beyond the now-ubiquitous but still quite basic business of e-commerce, where clothes are displayed on websites, and ordered for delivery to your home. Now one of the latest startups in the space has raised a seed round from an interesting group of investors. Maison Me, a startup that has built a platform that lets people provide either a few clues, or very specific detail, of a piece of clothing that they would like, and then makes it to order, has raised $1 million to build out its business from backers that include Founders Fund, the new Google Assistant investment program, Gagarin Capital and others that are not being named for now. Maison Me’s co-founder and CEO Anastasia Sartan said
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Zumper raises $46M more to take on Zillow and the rest with its apartment rental platform

While the property market in the US appears headed for a slowdown, a startup that’s honing in on rentals is doubling down on growth. Zumper, a San Francisco-based startup that has built an end-to-end platform to source, rent out and help service apartments across the US, has raised another $46 million in funding — money it plans to use to continue enhancing the services it offers to renters and landlords; and to continue its growth nationally. The funding comes on the back of a strong period of growth for the company, which has around 1 million listings on offer and sees 8 million visitors in an average month, with one-quarter of a million landlords using Zumper to connect to them. (Zumper doesn’t disclose revenues, whether it is profitable, or any financials for that matter.) This Series C was led by media giant Axel Springer and growth-stage investor 
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WayRay raises $80M at a $500M valuation led by Porsche for its holographic AR display tech

The large, legacy car industry has pinned a lot of hopes and dreams on innovative startups to build the next generation of automotive technology, and today the latest chapter in that story was revealed. WayRay, a Zurich-based developer of holographic augmented reality technology and hardware — used in head-up displays that project images into a driver’s field of vision — has raised $80 million of funding, a Series C led by Porsche, with Hyundai Motor, previous investor Alibaba Group, China Merchants Capital, JVCKENWOOD, and several sovereign wealth funds also participating. WayRay says it will be using the funds to bring its display technology to market by way of OEM deals with carmakers, projected for next year, with longer term plans including building tech for other kinds of displays like windows: WayRay has been around for five years and its products are still only in the prototype stage — albeit being widely
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PayPal’s one-touch, localised payment options go global

E-commerce in the US is synonymous with using credit or other payment cards to pay for goods, but the story outside the US is very different. A fragmented mix of different options — such as cash on delivery, bank transfers, mobile phone accounts and more — are used in different combinations, depending on the country where an online sale is being made. Today, PayPal — the payments business with 250 million global active customer accounts — is making a move to try to address that problem, with the global launch of Checkout with Smart Payment Buttons, which let merchants in different countries customise payment options and create instant buying buttons and OneTouch checkout, without having to integrate with a number of different payment services. As has fast become the norm with payment solutions in today’s market, the feature can be added into a checkout process with a few lines of
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Amazon taps Getty to provide images for visual searches on the Echo Show and Echo Spot

On the heels of the Getty family regaining control of Getty Images, reportedly for about $3 billion, the company is announcing a move to expand use of its images to a wider set of eyeballs. It will now work with Amazon to provide images from its catalog of 200 million digital images to populate searches on its screen-based Echo Show and Echo Spot devices. The deal also comes amid rumors of a supposed launch of a screen-based Google Home device (made by the king of search, Google) to compete with the Echo Show, ahead of the holiday season. It’s not clear if the Getty deal will mean that those building skills for the Echo devices will also be able to tap the Getty catalog, or if this is just for Amazon’s basic search feature — or something in between. We have contacted Amazon and Getty to ask and will update
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LendInvest raises $39.5M to grow its P2P property finance platform

A cloud hangs over the UK housing market as the UK government stumbles slowly through its negotiations to leave the European Union. But startups that are bringing innovative twists to housing finance seem to be singing a different tune.

Today, LendInvest, a peer-to-peer platform that connects property buyers in the UK with people willing to finance those purchases (bypassing traditional mortgage lending infrastructure in the process), announced that it has raised around $39.5 million (around £30.5 million) in a Series C round of funding led by existing investor Atomico, which participation also from GP Bullhound and Tiger Management (founded by hedge fund investor Julian Robertson).

The plan will be to use this funding to continue to develop its technology and grow business into more the traditional (and bigger) mortgage business. A spokesperson for the company says there are no plans to extend beyond the UK market for now.

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Amazon launches Storefronts to give 20K small businesses a bigger spotlight

Amazon has had a complicated relationship with small businesses over the years: on one hand, it’s long been a channel for them to sell goods online to a wider audience; but on the other, some have lamented giving over too much customer “ownership” to it in the name of sales, and not being able to stand out and present their brand and products in anything other than Amazon’s format. But today, Amazon made a move to counterbalance some of that criticism: it launched a new portal it’s calling Storefronts to celebrate mom-and-pop shops and other smaller merchants that sell through the platform. Amazon is starting this first in the US, focussing on some 20,000 merchants “from all 50 states” (note: none from other parts of the world). For some context, there are around 300,000 small businesses from the US selling on Amazon.com today. The idea is to bring a
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Hybrid cloud data specialist Datrium nabs $60M led by Samsung at a $282M valuation

Cloud services — where our data, apps and computing power are all being managed in servers owned by others, many miles from where we are sitting — have taken off like a rocket in the decade with the rise of smaller devices, but in the business world, hybrid solutions — mixing cloud with on-premise architectures — remains the order of the day. And today, a provider of hybrid cloud services has raised a round of funding to capitalise on that. Datrium, a provider of back-up and other services for businesses that store and use data in hybrid environments, has raised $60 million in a Series D round of funding. The company is not disclosing its valuation — we’re asking — but PitchBook estimates that it was at $222 million pre-money, putting it at $282 million post-money. This was an upround compared to previous raises, but it’s also playing on
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Google Street View rival Mapillary collaborates with Amazon to read text in its 350M image database

Mapillary, the Swedish startup that wants to take on Google and others in mapping the world by way of a crowdsourced database of street-level imagery, is taking an interesting step in the development of its platform. The company is now working with Amazon, and specifically its Rekognition API, to detect and read text in Mapillary’s database of 350 million images. The first application resulting from the new feature will come from a large US city (that Mapillary will not name right now), which plans to use the information that will now be “readable” from parking signs to build a parking app. “Parking is a super hot space and [parking information] is one of the most asked-for pieces of data that people want to use Mapillary for,” said Jan Erik Solem, CEO and co-founder of the Malmo, Sweden-based startup. He said that while parking will be the first application and one
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PayPal debuts Funds Now, instant payouts for sellers on its platform

PayPal, now with 19.5 million businesses and 250 million customers using its payment rails to sell and buy goods and services, is today taking the wraps off a new feature that it hopes will bring more transactions to its platform. The company is launching Funds Now, instant payouts to businesses using PayPal for their transactions. The feature will come as standard to all companies in good standing with PayPal — that is, with no complaints or fraud flags on their accounts. It’s eventually going to be rolled out globally, although at first it will go live in the US, UK and Australia, where PayPal has already rolled out a pilot of the service to 1 million customers. There is no upper or lower limit on FundsNow payouts, and they will apply to any payments made via PayPal, mobile or otherwise. FundsNow and its instant fund availability is a
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Mobile broadband users will hit 4.4B by the end of 2018, says ITU

The gap between those who are able to go online and those who can’t continues to shrink globally, thanks to the boost from smartphones and wireless networks and an effort to bring down the cost of services in the least developed markets. According to a new report published today by the International Telecommuncation Union, the United Nations agency that oversees communications standards, teledensity and connectivity initiatives — there will be 4.4 billion mobile broadband users globally by the end of this year, a rise of 1.1 billion since it last measured figures three years ago. Here’s the full overview of how mobile and fixed broadband use have evolved over the last three years, and looking to develop over the next three: Behind those numbers, there are some interesting trends underway. While fixed broadband services do continue to increase — we’re now approaching 1 billion fixed broadband users —
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Hoodline raises $10M for its hyper-local, automated data newswire

While many lament the death of local news, a small army of tech startups have been developing a new set of tools to figure out how to save it. In one of the latest developments, Hoodline — which has built a platform to ingest and analyse hundreds of terabytes of data to find and then write local news stories — has raised $10 million in a Series A round to help take its effort nationwide. “We want to cover the news deserts that no one else is covering,” said Hoodline’s founder and CEO Razmig Hovaghimian. “It’s filling a gap. It’s filling a need.” The San Francisco startup had once been called Ripple News (in reference to the news that “ripples out” from one event) but then took the name of a hyperlocal news blog network that it acquired in 2016 after another Ripple began to make waves. It is
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Intel acquires NetSpeed Systems to boost its system-on-a-chip business

Intel today is announcing another acquisition as it continues to pick up talent and IP to bolster its next generation of computing chips beyond legacy PCs. The company has acquired NetSpeed Systems, a startup that makes system-on-chip (SoC) design tools and interconnect fabric intellectual property (IP). The company will be joining Intel’s Silicon Engineering Group, and its co-founder and CEO, Sundari Mitra, herself an Intel vet, will be coming on as a VP at Intel where she will continue to lead her team. Terms of the deal are not being disclosed, but for some context, during NetSpeed’s last fundraise in 2016 (a $10 million Series C) it had a post-money valuation of $60 million, according to data from PitchBook. SoC is a central part of how newer connected devices are being made. Moving away from traditional motherboards to create all-in-one chips that include processing, memory, input/output and storage is an
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Imran Khan is leaving his role as strategy head at Snap to start his own investment firm

Earlier today, Snap made some waves when it announced that Imran Khan, its chief strategy officer, was stepping down from his role to pursue other opportunities. We have now confirmed with sources close to the matter that he’s leaving the company to start his own investment fund. Khan, who had been an early investor in Alibaba when still at J.P. Morgan & Chase, wants to put together a firm that will span the range of funding opportunities in the tech sector, with a focus on startups and other companies that are disrupting non-tech areas. Targets will include both private and public businesses, as well as private equity, buyouts and long-term stakes. And given his crossover experience between the US and Asia — he was known for helping introduce US investors to soon-to-be-huge Chinese companies like Alibaba, Baidu and Sohu — you can expect interest to play on the global
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Snap shares drop in pre-market trading on news of departing strategy chief, Imran Khan

Another day, and another departure at Snapchat’s parent, Snap. The company has announced in an SEC filing that Imran Khan will be stepping down as chief strategy officer, a role he has held since 2014. This is the latest in a series of executive moves at the company since it went public last year. The latest news has sent Snap’s stock down in pre-market trading to as low as $9.75 — around one-third of the value of the stock when it first listed in March 2017. The company said that Khan informed Snap on September 6, and he did not give a specific reason except to pursue other opportunities and that “Mr. Khan has confirmed that this transition is not related to any disagreement with us on any matter relating to our accounting, strategy, management, operations, policies, or practices (financial or otherwise).” Khan will stay on as CSO for a
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Goldman CTO: the story about us dropping Bitcoin trading was ‘fake news’

It sometimes feels like the price of Bitcoin rises and falls on the turn of a speculative dime, and yesterday we saw one such moment come to pass, when it was reported that Goldman Sachs was planning to drop a plan to build a Bitcoin trading platform, causing the price of the cryptocurrency to crash. But today, at TechCrunch Disrupt, the CTO of Goldman Sachs described the story as “fake news,” and said that in fact the bank is still considering how to offer services that involved physical Bitcoin, but that it has not yet set a timeline for it. “I was in New York yesterday and I was co-chairing our risk committee, and I saw the news article,” said CTO Marty Chavez, referring to the report yesterday. “It wasn’t like we announced anything or that anything had changed for us… I never thought I’d hear myself actually use this
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Alex Jones and Infowars permanently suspended from Twitter and Periscope after new content violations

Twitter has finally put an end to the ongoing controversy over how it has refused to completely shut down the accounts of Alex Jones and his online media site Infowars after a number of people complained about abusive content posted by both: it has finally banned both, on Twitter and its video platform Periscope.

“Today, we permanently suspended @realalexjones and @infowars from Twitter and Periscope,” the Twitter Safety account Tweeted moments ago. “We took this action based on new reports of Tweets and videos posted yesterday that violate our abusive behavior policy, in addition to the accounts’ past violations. “As we continue to increase transparency around our rules and enforcement actions, we wanted to be open about this action given the broad interest in this case. We do not typically comment on enforcement actions we take against individual accounts, for their privacy. “We will continue to evaluate reports we receive
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Dating app Bumble says buzz off to Facebook, plans Hive space expansion next year

Whitney Wolfe Herd, the founder and CEO of social and dating app Bumble, said today that Facebook’s move into dating is a “huge validation, the best thing that could happen to the dating space, maybe ever.” But all the same, the profitable service — which is notable for how it puts women into the driver’s seat for all interactions — has been taking some significant steps in asserting its independence as a multi-faceted social platform in its own right. That has included not only building its own social graph, but rebuffing acquisitions for now while it continues to grow, and exploring a new wave of online and offline services, such as its Hive networking pop-ups. One of the big problems with a lot of apps that rely on people tapping networks of people they know to grow and be used is that many of them are built on
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Freelance marketplace Upwork files to go public on Nasdaq as UPWK

Another tech IPO is coming around the corner in what has been a strong year for startups taking the plunge and going public. Upwork — a marketplace connecting 375,000 freelance developers, writers, marketers and others  with close to half a million clients — announced a plan to list on the Nasdaq exchange to trade under the ticker UPWK, filing an S-1 form with the SEC with initial financials and other details about the company. Upwork’s IPO is yet another mark of the bigger swing we’ve seen of privately-backed tech companies turning to the public markets for their next cash infusions for growth, this week alone seeing listings for Elastic and another freelancer behemoth, Meituan in China. The double-whammy of not one but two freelancer marketplaces (Meituan is more focused on services and tradespeople) underscores also the continuing growth of contractors as a key part of the labor force. There have
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Kegg tracks your fertility by measuring vaginal mucus with a kegel ball

The fertility market is projected to be worth more than $30 billion by 2025, and today on the Disrupt Startup Battlefield stage, a new device called the Kegg, a Bluetooth-connected silicone kegel ball that monitors mucus to help determine a woman’s fertility by being inserted for no more than two minutes every day, is launching a device it hopes will make some waves in it — literally and figuratively. The device, when shipped in the near future, will sell for less than $200. For the uninitiated, a kegel ball is an object that a woman places in her vaginal passage. Designed to be held in place by a woman’s kegel muscles (also known as the pelvic floor), holding a kegel ball in place helps to exercise those muscles and strengthen them — which can be useful to help recover after you’ve given birth, to keep yourself from involuntarily
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