Committed to privacy, Snips founder wants to take on Alexa and Google, with blockchain

Earlier this year we saw the headlines of how the users of popular voice assistants like Alexa and Siri and continue to face issues when their private data is compromised, or even sent to random people. In May it was reported that Amazon’s Alexa recorded a private conversation and sent it to a random contact. Amazon insists its Echo devices aren’t always recording, but it did confirm the audio was sent.

The story could be a harbinger of things to come when voice becomes more and more ubiquitous. After all, Amazon announced the launch of Alexa for Hospitality, its Alexa system for hotels, in June. News stories like this simply reinforce the idea that voice control is seeping into our daily lives. The French startup Snips thinks it might have an answer to the issue of security and data privacy. Its built its software to run 100% on-device, independently from
Continue reading "Committed to privacy, Snips founder wants to take on Alexa and Google, with blockchain"

Insurtech startup Setoo closes $9.3M Series A from Kamet, AXA’s accelerator

Given all the scams of the last few years, consumers are increasingly unwilling to spend money on what they see as irrelevant insurance products. That means many business have lost out on revenue. Setoo is a UK startup which solves this problem, by helping online businesses to build and integrate simple insurance products tailor-made to the customer and automatically embedded into the customer journey. Today Setoo announces it has closed an €8million ($9.3 million) Series A funding round, bringing the total amount raised to date to €10.3million ($12 million). The main investor in this and the seed round is Kamet, AXA’s ‘Insurtech’ startup studio. Co-founder Eyal Gluska says “In French ‘c’est tout’ means ‘that’s it’. My chose the name Setoo to symbolise how simple and quick it is to create effective new protections products using the platform, and the simplicity of the products created for the consumer. This
Continue reading "Insurtech startup Setoo closes $9.3M Series A from Kamet, AXA’s accelerator"

Middle East investors at our Startup Battlefield, Beirut, October 3rd – Grab your tickets now

TechCrunch will soon hold it’s first ever Startup Battlefield MENA competition dedicated to the MENA region, in Beirut, Lebanon, on October 3rd. The event will showcase the launch of 15 of the hottest startups in MENA on stage for the first time. We’ll also be joined by some of the leading investments firms in MENA. If you want to be in the same room, you’d better grab your tickets now. Here, we showcase just some of the investors sending key partners to the event:

Outlierz Ventures

Outlierz Ventures, is a seed investment fund, based out of Morocco, providing smart capital to African tech enabled startups. Founded in 2017, the fund invests in tech enabled companies solving a real problem in a key sector with an innovative approach and a scalable business model (fintech, insurtech, agritech, healthtech, B2B marketplaces, logistics, etc). The firm sees “tremendous opportunities at the intersection of tech,
Continue reading "Middle East investors at our Startup Battlefield, Beirut, October 3rd – Grab your tickets now"

ConsenSys details the first cohort of companies to enter its new accelerator, Tachyon

Tachyon, the accelerator of the blockchain powerhouse ConsenSys which launched earlier this year, has announced the first cohort for its 10 week accelerator program which is aimed at taking early stage blockchain projects from idea to a viable product. Sixteen companies were selected from around the world and will be brought together in San Francisco to participate in programming and accelerate their businesses. The projects are placed into one of three tracks:  Blockchain for-profit projects, open source and social impact. The program will culminate with a demo day for investors on November 17th. Kavita Gupta (Managing Partner, ConsenSys Ventures) said: “We launched Tachyon with the intention of finding extremely promising early-stage companies and providing them with hands on support from the get-go. Among this inaugural group, I feel confident that we’ve found the next crop of game-changing projects that will drive innovation across the blockchain ecosystem.”  Joe Lubin (Founder, ConsenSys) commented: “One thing that
Continue reading "ConsenSys details the first cohort of companies to enter its new accelerator, Tachyon"

Look out US main-street banks, the Revolut is coming

Revolut, the new-generation smartphone-based bank which is blowing up Europe right now, has confirmed its intention launch in the United States and Canada later this year, taking its interesting combination of personal banking, crypto wallet and fee-free stocks trading app to main-street North America. Co-founder and CEO Nik Storonsky said the company now has a 60,000 person waiting list for U.S customers for when it launches. Onstage at TechCrunch Disrupt San Francisco today Storonsky, said the startup, which has already passed the ‘unicorn’ stage of a billion dollar valuation, would be launching some time between October and December this year. Revolut’s app-based checking account and debit card offers customers payment notifications, built-in budgeting controls and the ability to spend and transfer money globally using the real exchange rate, thus bypassing forex fees. In the last six months, Revolut has launched a feature allowing customers to buy, hold and
Continue reading "Look out US main-street banks, the Revolut is coming"

Myki raises $4M Series A to decentralize identity management for enterprises

Myki, a startup based between Beirut and New York which offers both a consumer and enterprise identity management solution to store sensitive information offline, today announced at TechCrunch Disrupt in San Francisco that it’s raised a $4 million Series A to scale its operations. The round was led by Dubai-based VC BECO Capital with participation from Beirut-based LEAP Ventures and B&Y Venture Partners, all of which are returning investors. Myki plans to expand its U.S. operations with its “decentralised Identity Management” solution for enterprise. Priscilla Elora Sharuk, who co-founded the startup with Antoine Vincent Jabberer in 2015, said: “Online security and data privacy is not a privilege, it is a right, and that is why at Myki we empower our users with the tools to securely manage their digital identity.” Myki actually launched on the TechCrunch Disrupt Battlefield stage in September of 2016, and has since gone
Continue reading "Myki raises $4M Series A to decentralize identity management for enterprises"

Here are the speakers so far for TechCrunch Startup Battlefield MENA 2018

We’re excited to head to Beirut, Lebanon, on October 3rd for TechCrunch Startup Battlefield MENA 2018. Yes, we’re bringing our premier startup pitch competition to the Middle East / North Africa, and as well as launching 15 of the hottest startups in MENA on stage for the first time, we’ll also be joined by some leading lights of the scene. Tickets to this event — our first in this part of the world — cost $29 (including VAT), and you can buy your tickets right here. Startup Battlefield consists of three preliminary rounds with 15 teams — five startups per round — who have only six minutes to pitch and present a live demo to a panel of expert technologists and VC investors. After each pitch, the judges have six minutes to grill the team with tough questions. This is all after the free pitch-coaching they receive from TechCrunch editors.
Continue reading "Here are the speakers so far for TechCrunch Startup Battlefield MENA 2018"

YC-backed travel startup Duffel inks $4.7M round led by Blossom Capital, but stays coy on the details

A new London-based travel-industry startup is slowly coming out of stealth mode, but although it’s releasing it’s funding round, it’s keeping the actual product close to its chest. For now. Y Combinator -backed travel startup Duffel says it is working on “a new way to book travel online, aiming at the booking experience “end to end”. A hint at what this might mean is the fact that the team contains alumni from GoCardless and is objectively very experienced in the FinTech world. So far, that’s all we’re getting. But what we do know is that Duffel is today announcing an investment round of $4.7 million. Blossom Capital is the lead investor in the round and has built a syndicate with other major investors: The Crankstart Foundation and Index Ventures. Crankstart is the charitable investment vehicle of Michael Moritz . It’s also revealed that it’s currently participating in the Y Combinator
Continue reading "YC-backed travel startup Duffel inks $4.7M round led by Blossom Capital, but stays coy on the details"

Relying only on Emojis and photos, could YOBO be Generation-Z’s Foursquare?

Last month Google rolled out a Maps’ “match” feature which purported to predict how much you’d like a particular place, like a restaurant or bar. The feature uses the data it has on you, such as the backlog of places it knows you’ve visited, and what it can assess as your dining preferences. Look up Thai food restaurants regularly? Maps will show you similar places in the area with a high-match percentage attached to them. Yelp and Foursquare have been trying something similar out for years. But both the AI approach and the ‘five star rating’ approach hardly appears to this new generation of users. Now a startup out of Berlin wants to do something similar, but it wants to crowdsource that information in a simpler, easier way than other apps before it. The YOBO app (iOS/Android) takes a new approach, likely to appeal to the
Continue reading "Relying only on Emojis and photos, could YOBO be Generation-Z’s Foursquare?"

DFINITY raises $102M from a16z and Polychain for a decentralised ‘Internet Computer’ to rival AWS

Since blockchain technology appeared, there has been a persistent problem in its development: how to make it scale to billions of users. Bitcoin was famously never really designed for this, and today other platforms like Ethereum are also struggling. If you could crack this problem, the thinking goes, you’d end up with the hottest property in blockchain right now. That, a very healthy dose of ambition, and a bench of strong computer science talent are some of the big reasons why investors are gathering around DFINITY, a startup based out of Zug, Switzerland and Palo Alto that is also a foundation, and has a very lofty goal to build what it calls the “Internet Computer”: a blockchain-based, decentralised and non-proprietary network to run the next generation of mega-applications. DFINITY aims to launch an initial version of its public network — which it has also dubbed “Cloud 3.0” —
Continue reading "DFINITY raises $102M from a16z and Polychain for a decentralised ‘Internet Computer’ to rival AWS"

DiDi’s Fengmin Gong and Duo’s Mike Hanley to talk future of security at Disrupt

Cyber security has never gone away as a hot topic in the technology sphere and in 2018 it remains an enormous issue. As the next 3 billion or so of the planet’s people come online, it’s never been more important to secure their safety, their privacy and the security of their personal data. As the same time we are already in the process of building the infrastructure of the future. The smart cities and the autonomous cars-to-come will all have to be secure from cyber attack, from private or state actors. It’s therefore salient that TechCrunch Disrupt feature the work of two of the key players in this space. Machine learning can help companies better protect their networks, but it also provides attackers with new tools. DiDi Labs Security VP Fengmin Gong and Mike Hanley of Duo are both are the forefront of this sector. On stage at Disrupt they
Continue reading "DiDi’s Fengmin Gong and Duo’s Mike Hanley to talk future of security at Disrupt"

Simple Feast raises $12M from Balderton and 14W to expand its weekly meat-free meal-box deliveries

The vast majority of environmental experts say that avoiding meat and dairy is the single most important, and most impactful action, you can take to reduce your personal impact on Earth. Why? Because of the sheer amount of carbon pumped into the atmosphere from the process of meat production. Many would agree it’s also pretty good for your health. But when most of us have been brought up with animal protein in the middle of our plates, it often feels pretty hard to achieve. At the same time, fast food delivery has been taking off, but we’re still eating the same thing: meat. So a Danish startup has come along to try to solve this. Simple Feast delivers sustainable food to people’s homes in biodegradable boxes, and it’s now raised a $12 million Series A funding round led by Balderton Capital in London, with participation from 14W in New York.
Continue reading "Simple Feast raises $12M from Balderton and 14W to expand its weekly meat-free meal-box deliveries"

Elon Musk confirms his bid to take Tesla private, backed by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund

Yesterday I speculated that Elon Musk’s hints that he wanted to take Tesla private might well be possible with Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund backing it might not be as far-fetched as people think. Today Musk has published a statement claiming that he has been talking to the Saudi Arabian sovereign wealth fund (known in the country as the Public Investment Fund) about taking Tesla private for almost two years. Indeed, he says, they approached him “multiple times about taking Tesla private.” He claims the Saudi PIF first met with him at the beginning of 2017 to express this interest “because of the important need to diversify away from oil.” He also says they had several more meetings “over the next year”. Musk points out that “the Saudi sovereign fund has more than enough capital needed to execute on such a transaction.” As I said yesterday, the
Continue reading "Elon Musk confirms his bid to take Tesla private, backed by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund"

A private Tesla backed by Saudi Arabia might not be as far-fetched as you think

This week the business and tech world was stunned when Elon Musk hinted on August 7, via Twitter of course, that he wanted to take Tesla private. The estimated price tag for such a move is commonly put at up to $72 billion. Shortly after that no ‘white knights’ appeared and Tesla’s shares plummeted. But today, Bloomberg came out with a new report which might well fan the flames of speculation on Monday. Its story has sources which say that Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund (called the Public Investment Fund or PIF) was already in talks with Tesla to become a significant investor before Musk’s tweets. The timing of this revelation is important, because the PIF has already built up a stake — valued at about $2 billion — just short of 5 percent in Tesla in recent months. One could easily surmise that the world’s biggest crude
Continue reading "A private Tesla backed by Saudi Arabia might not be as far-fetched as you think"

Spotify runs test in Australia, allowing users to skip ads at any time, potentially boosting targeting and revenues

If you want to test out a feature on a large, well-known, global, platform, there’s a very simple solution: Test it in Australia. At a population of 24 million and with a predominantly Western culture, it’s a large enough test bed and small enough market, so ideal for testing new features before (maybe) rolling them out globally. And that’s exactly what Spotify appears to be doing in testing out how it can tweak its advertising platform to take the fight to the likes of Pandora and other competitors. Advertising Age reports today that it’s running a test in Australia which will let listeners skip audio and video adverts at any time while the ad is playing. This is instead of having a preset time limit to listen to or watch the advert which can’t be skipped. They’ll be able to do this any time they want, as often as they
Continue reading "Spotify runs test in Australia, allowing users to skip ads at any time, potentially boosting targeting and revenues"

OurPath raises $3M in round led by Connect Ventures to ‘reverse’ Type 2 Diabetes

There are many, many tech startups tackling the problem of diabetes. You only have to look at the TechCrunch tag to find some of the latest, and even the Apple Watch is getting in on the act. But literally ‘reversing’ Type 2 diabetes remains a tough nut to crack. That’s not prevented UK startup OurPath from convincing investors it’s on the right… path. This digital lifestyle change programme which aims to help patients with this disease, has now raised a $3m round of funding. The company says it uses the latest in behavioural science and weight tracking technology to change unhealthy lifestyles and embed healthy habits. In fact, it’s worked well enough to be commissioned nationally by the NHS in the UK, which is a huge vote of confidence in an early stage startup. The investment was led by Connect Ventures (also in Citymapper, Typeform, and CharlieHR) and had follow-on
Continue reading "OurPath raises $3M in round led by Connect Ventures to ‘reverse’ Type 2 Diabetes"

Chinese AI startup Tianrang raises a $26M funding round, launches new project to apply ML to cities

Chinese AI startup Tianrang has raised a $26 million (RMB180 million) funding round from China’s Gaorong Capital and co-lead CMB International Capital. Other investors included Ziniu Fund and Chinese fintech company Wacai. In 2016, the company raised an angel round led by Gaorong Capital and participated in by Shanghai Jindi Investment Management Ltd. Based on deep learning and other AI technology, Tianrang provides data analysis and smart solutions for enterprises. It was founded by in 2016 by Xu Guirong, former director of Alibaba’s Ali Cloud and chief scientist at Alibaba’s cloud platform Alimama. So no slouch on the AI front. Tianrang claims to be able to automatically collect and analyze marketing trends and purchase-related information on Alibaba’s e-commerce platform, allowing vendors to make better marketing decisions. Wang Hongbo, chief investment officer at CMB International Capital says: “With algorithm and AI, Tianrang lowers the requirement of complex machine decision-making and makes
Continue reading "Chinese AI startup Tianrang raises a $26M funding round, launches new project to apply ML to cities"

Lumen raises $7M and passes $1M on IndieGoGo for its breath-measuring device for weight loss

Our body is continuously storing and consuming energy to keep us alive — but understanding which fuels are being used, and why is the holy grail of things like weight loss and body hacking. Today’s weight-loss market is saturated with generic products because — guess what — trying to tailor-make a solution for an individual is usually hard and expensive. For a while now there’s been a technology around which can measure the metabolic gases found in your breath. The theory goes that if you can do that, everyone can work out what they should be eating and when. A few startups have tried but nothing really took off. Now a new startup is having a crack and has secured significant funding to go for it. Lumen is a pocket-sized device that measures the gases in your breath, and translates reading via an app into advice which gives you daily personalized meal
Continue reading "Lumen raises $7M and passes $1M on IndieGoGo for its breath-measuring device for weight loss"

MOV.AI raises $3M in seed funding to create an ‘Android for Robotics’

We all know what Android for smartphones is. A free, (almost) open source operating system for smartphones. But right now there is no equivalent of the “Android for robots.” Instead there are many, many proprietary systems. A new startup plans to address this problem in order for the robotics market to really take off, and for it to have a good slice fo the pie. MOV.AI plans to create an ecosystem where developers, integrators and manufacturers collaborate to develop the first industry-grade O/S for autonomous intelligent collaborative robots. This could potentially produce smarter robots on a large-scale for operation and production lines. It’s now raised $3M in seed funding in a round led by Israel-based Viola Ventures and SF-based NFX. MOV.AI describes itself as an ‘ROS compatible operating system’. That means it enables industry-grade deployment of fleets of autonomous robots. The idea is that this will decouple
Continue reading "MOV.AI raises $3M in seed funding to create an ‘Android for Robotics’"

FloodFlash insurance startup raises £1.9M via LocalGlobe, Pentech Ventures, InsurTech Gateway

The flood underinsurance problem is arguably the largest unsolved problem in insurance. Over the last ten years, an average of $41bn per year of flood damage has gone uncovered by insurance, leaving people, businesses and governments to pay the bill. It’s estimated that there are $50bn of losses caused by floods around the world. Currently, only $9bn of these are covered by insurance. FloodFlash, an insurtech startup that offers a way for customers to insure their property for flood risk, even in high risk areas, by employing an internet-connected water-sensor has raised £1.9m in seed funding from LocalGlobe, Pentech Ventures and InsurTech Gateway. They previously secured a pre-seed/Angel round in 2017 (Hambro Perks Insurtech Gateway and one private investor). When a flood happens, it triggers an internet-connected water-sensor and the payment is made immediately to the policy holder. A FloodFlash policy pays out a pre-agreed, fixed sum as
Continue reading "FloodFlash insurance startup raises £1.9M via LocalGlobe, Pentech Ventures, InsurTech Gateway"