Sebastian Thrun initiates aggressive plan to transform Udacity


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“I’m a fighter. I believe in our people, I believe in our mission, and I believe that it should exist and must exist.”

Sebastian Thrun is talking animatedly about Udacity, the $1 billion online education startup that he co-founded nearly eight years ago. His tone is buoyant and hopeful. He’s encouraged, he says over an occasionally crackly phone call, about the progress the company has made in such a short time. There’s even a new interim COO, former HP and GE executive Lalit Singh, who joined just days ago to help Thrun execute this newly formed strategy.

That wasn’t the case four weeks ago.

In a lengthy email, obtained by TechCrunch, Thrun lobbed an impassioned missive to the entire company, which specializes in “nanodegrees” on a range of technical subjects that include AI, deep learning, digital marketing, VR and computer vision.

It was, at times, raw, personal and

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Daimler and BMW invest $1.1 billion in urban mobility services


This post is by Romain Dillet from TechCrunch


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Daimler AG and BMW Group officially agreed to merge their urban mobility services into a single holding company back in March 2018 with a 50 percent stake each. And now, they want to unify their services under five categories by creating five joint ventures — Reach Now, Charge Now, Park Now, Free Now and Share Now.

Both automakers plan to invest $1.1 billion (€1 billion) to foster these urban mobility services over the coming years. There are already 60 million people using one of the 14 services currently available.

Let’s go through the details. Free Now is the name of the ride-hailing company, which includes mytaxi, Kapten, Clever Taxi and Beat. Those services combined operate in 130 cities in 17 countries. Hive, a new e-scooter company, is also part of Free Now.

mytaxi, a popular app that lets you hail a taxi from your phone, already sent an

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EF raises $115M new fund, aiming to create another 300-plus startups in the next three years


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Entrepreneur First (EF), the London-headquartered “talent investor” that recruits and backs individuals pre-team and pre-idea to enable them to found startups, has raised a new fund of its own to continue scaling globally.

The $115 million first close was led by a number of leading (mostly unnamed) institutional investors across the U.S., Europe and Asia, including new anchor LP Trusted Insight. A number of well-known European entrepreneurs also invested. They include Taavet Hinrikus (co-founder of TransferWise), Alex Chesterman (co-founder of Zoopla), and EF alumnus Rob Bishop (who co-founded Magic Pony Technology which was bought by Twitter for a reported $150m in 2016).

This new fund — which EF says is one the largest pre-seed funds ever raised – will enable the talent investor to back more than 2,200 individuals who join its various programs over the next three years. EF currently operates in Bangalore, Berlin, Hong

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Twitter names first international markets to get checks on political advertisers


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Twitter has announced it’s expanding checks on political advertisers outside the U.S. to also cover Australia, India and all the member states of the European Union.

This means anyone wanting to run political ads on its platform in those regions will first need to go through its certification process to prove their identity and certify a local location via a verification letter process.

Enforcement of the policies will kick in in the three regions on March 11, Twitter said today in a blog post. “Political advertisers must apply now for certification and go through the every step of the process,” it warns.

The company’s ad guidelines, which were updated last year, are intended to make it harder for foreign entities to target elections by adding a requirement that political advertisers self-identify and certify they’re locally based.

A Twitter spokeswoman told us that advertiser identity requirements include providing a copy of a

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Senseon raises $6.4M to tackle cybersecurity threats with an AI ‘triangulation’ approach


This post is by Ingrid Lunden from TechCrunch


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Darktrace helped pave the way for using artificial intelligence to combat malicious hacking and enterprise security breaches. Now a new UK startup founded by an ex-Darktrace executive has raised some funding to take the use of AI in cybersecurity to the next level.

Senseon, which has pioneered a new model that it calls “AI triangulation” — simultaneously applying artificial intelligence algorithms to oversee, monitor and defend an organization’s network appliances, endpoints, and ‘investigator bots’ covering multiple microservices — has raised $6.4 million in seed funding.

David Atkinson — the startup’s CEO and founder who had previously been the commercial director for Darktrace and before that helped pioneer new cybersecurity techniques as an operative at the UK’s Ministry of Defense — said that Senseon will use the funding to continue to expand its business both in Europe and the US. 

The deal was co-led by MMC Ventures and Mark

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Antescofo’s Metronaut adds an orchestra when you play music


This post is by Romain Dillet from TechCrunch


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Meet Metronaut, an app for smartphones and tablets that could change the way you play classical music. The startup behind the app, Antescofo, raised a $4.5 million funding round (€4 million) and has attracted 160,000 downloads.

Daphni and OneRagTime are leading the round, with Nobuyuki Idei, Yann LeCun, Sophie Gasperment and Thibault Viort also participating.

Metronaut lets you play a music instrument with a professional orchestra playing all the other instruments with you. It isn’t just an audio player — the app leverages your device microphone to listen to your music and adjust the tempo of the other instruments.

The startup has recorded professional musicians in a studio so that you can play the flute without hearing the flute coming out of your speakers or headphones.

And if you still need to practice, you can set your own tempo while you learn your part — nothing will be

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Litho is a finger-worn controller for augmented reality, IoT and other ‘spatial’ interactions


This post is by Steve O'Hear from TechCrunch


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I first encountered the founders of Litho, a new hardware and software startup developing a new finger-worn controller, at London’s Pitch@Palace last April. The event sees startups pitch in front of the British royal family and other esteemed guests, and naturally the company’s young founders, 24-year-old Nat Martin (CEO) and 25-year-old Charlie Bruce (CTO), were a little overawed by the occasion, just like many of the other founders pitching that day. However, perhaps unbeknown to them, Litho was also one of the more notable companies, not least because, as the saying goes, hardware is hard.

Fast forward to today and the young company is ready to show the world the first publicly available iteration of what it has been building: an innovative finger-worn device that provides control over various “spatial interactions” and should find applications ranging from AR and VR to the smart home and the control of other

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Alan raises another $45 million for its health insurance product


This post is by Romain Dillet from TechCrunch


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Paris-based startup Alan has raised a Series B round of funding of $45 million (€40 million). Index Ventures is once again leading the round, with partners of DST Global also participating. The company had raised a $28 million funding round only ten months ago.

Alan is a software-as-a-service startup tackling a very specific industry — the health insurance market in France — and soon across Europe. The company wants to create a well-designed insurance product with transparent pricing and policies to make healthcare more accessible. And it isn’t just a marketplace — the startup has obtained an official health insurance license and is the first new health insurance company in France in 30 years.

In France, every employee is covered by the national healthcare system for basic reimbursements as well as a private insurance company for more expensive

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GoCardless raises $75M Series E for its recurring payments network and heads to America


This post is by Steve O'Hear from TechCrunch


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Compared to startups born into the frothy London fintech space as it exists today, 2011-founded GoCardless could well be considered a slow burner. However, in more recent years, the nearly 300 person company — headed up by co-founder and CEO Hiroki Takeuchi — has undoubtedly stepped on the gas in a bid to become the one stop shop globally for businesses that want to let customers pay via recurring bank payments.

A little over a year ago, GoCardless announced that it had raised $22.5 million in further funding, off the back of record annual growth in the U.K. and strong early traction in new markets. And today the fintech is disclosing another fresh injection of capital: $75 million in Series E funding, in part to fund new offices across EMEA, APAC and North America. In addition to its London HQ, the company already has sites in France, Australia

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UK parliament calls for antitrust, data abuse probe of Facebook


This post is by Natasha Lomas from TechCrunch


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A final report by a British parliamentary committee which spent months last year investigating online political disinformation makes very uncomfortable reading for Facebook — with the company singled out for “disingenuous” and “bad faith” responses to democratic concerns about the misuse of people’s data.

In the report, published today, the committee has also called for Facebook’s use of user data to be investigated by the UK’s data watchdog.

In an evidence session to the committee late last year, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) suggested Facebook needs to change its business model — warning the company risks burning user trust for good.

Last summer the ICO also called for an ethical pause of social media ads for election campaigning, warning of the risk of developing “a system of voter surveillance by default”.

Interrogating the distribution of ‘fake news’

The UK parliamentary enquiry looked into both Facebook’s own use of personal

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Even years later, Twitter doesn’t delete your direct messages


This post is by Zack Whittaker from TechCrunch


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When does “delete” really mean delete? Not always or even at all if you’re Twitter .

Twitter retains direct messages for years, including messages you and others have deleted, but also data sent to and from accounts that have been deactivated and suspended, according to security researcher Karan Saini.

Saini found years-old messages found in a file from an archive of his data obtained through the website from accounts that were no longer on Twitter. He also filed a similar bug, found a year earlier but not disclosed until now, that allowed him to use a since-deprecated API to retrieve direct messages even after a message was deleted from both the sender and the recipient — though, the bug wasn’t able to retrieve messages from suspended accounts.

Saini told TechCrunch that he had “concerns” that the data was retained by Twitter for so long.

Direct messages once let users to “unsend”

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ChargedUp picks up £1.2M seed to grow its mobile charging network across UK


This post is by Steve O'Hear from TechCrunch


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ChargedUp, a U.K. startup that offers a mobile charging network that takes inspiration from bike-sharing, has closed £1.2 million in seed investment. Leading the round is Sir John Hegarty’s fund The Garage, and the ex-Innocent Smoothie founders fund JamJar. The funding will be used to grow the offering across the U.K. and for international expansion.

Founded by Hugo Tilmouth, Charlie Baron, Hakeem Buge and Forrest Skerman Stevenson, ChargedUp has set out to solve the dead mobile phone battery problem with a charging network. However, rather than offer fixed charging points, the team has developed a solution that lets you rent a mobile charging pack from one destination and return it at different location if needed. That way, mobile phone use remains mobile.

“It’s annoying and inconvenient to be out and about with a dying phone battery,” says CEO Hugo Tilmouth. We’ve all been there and I

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Amazon could launch Amazon Go store in London


This post is by Romain Dillet from TechCrunch


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Amazon has secured some retail space in the heart of London, according to a report from The Grocer spotted by Reuters. This is significant, as Amazon has yet to open an Amazon Go store outside of the U.S.

There are now 10 Amazon Go stores in the U.S. — four in Seattle, four in Chicago and two in San Francisco. Based on this pattern, the company doesn’t want to spread itself too thin. When Amazon decides on a city, the company launches multiple Amazon Go stores. Let’s see if the same thing happens in London.

Amazon Go stores are a bit different from your usual grocery store. When you walk into the store, you open the Amazon app and scan a QR code on your phone. You can then pick up whatever you want in the store and leave.

Amazon has equipped its stores with a ton of

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Atrium, Justin Kan’s legal tech startup, launches a fintech and blockchain division


This post is by Jon Russell from TechCrunch


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Atrium, the legal startup co-founded by Justin Kan of Twitch fame, is jumping into the blockchain space today.

The company has raised plenty of money — including $65 million from a16z last September — so rather than an ICO or token sale, this is a consultancy business. Atrium uses machine learning to digitize legal documents and develop applications for client use, and now it is officially applying that to fintech and blockchain businesses.

The division has been operating quietly for months and the scope of work that it covers includes the legality and regulatory concerns around tokens, but also business-focused areas including token utility, tokenomics and general blockchain tech.

“We have a bunch of clients wanting to do token offerings and looking into the legality,” Kan told TechCrunch in an interview. “A lot of our advisory work is around the token offering and how it operates.”

The commitment is such

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Check out the first interior view of Honda’s Urban EV prototype


This post is by Kirsten Korosec from TechCrunch


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Honda has been teasing its all-electric urban vehicle in 2017, when the automaker showed off its vision of the future — that had a distinct 1970s first generation Civic flare.

Now, two years later a production version of the Urban EV is nearly here. And the automaker is finally giving a glimpse —albeit the tiniest of peeks — of the Urban EV’s interior.

The full reveal of the Urban EV will come next month at the 2019 Geneva Motor Show. And from there, it won’t be long before the electric vehicle hits the marketplace. The automaker has said it plans to bring the EV to the European market by late 2019.

Honda reveals first glimpse at interior of electric vehicle prototype bound for the 2019 Geneva Motor Show

The image shows a dash with a tech-forward and uncluttered feel. An expansive digital screen on the right and a digital instrument

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Audio tech supplier to Rolls Royce and Xiaomi secures another $13.2M in funding


This post is by Mike Butcher from TechCrunch


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As autonomous driving eventually transforms cars from transportation devices to mobile theaters or conference rooms we will need better audio inside them. And we’ve already seen that VCs like Andreessen Horowitz say ‘audio is the future.’

So it’s interesting that Swedish sound pioneer Dirac has completed a new $13.2 million round of financing led by current investors. Previous investors included Swedish Angel network Club Network Investments, Erik Ejerhed and Staffan Persson.

Dirac makes sophisticated audio technology for customers including BMW, OnePlus, Rolls Royce, Volvo, and Xiaomi .

Its platform is used by those firms for everything from capture to playback – regardless of device size or form factor.

“As consumer devices decrease in size and expand in complexity, digital signal processing is
the key to unlocking their full audio potential and creating premium sound experiences,” says
Dirac CEO Mathias Johansson. “With this new funding, we can take our

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Numan is a startup which aims to tackle your tackle problem: erectile dysfunction


This post is by Mike Butcher from TechCrunch


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A long-time London-based entrepreneur re-surfaces today with the launch of Numan a new kind of subscription business, with a rather unusual approach to a very old problem.

Sokratis Papafloratos (pictured) is one of the more ‘serial of serial’ European entrepreneurs. He was one of the first investors in Calm.com the mindfulness sleep and meditation site and app which recently attained Unicorn status. He also founded TrustedPlaces, the UK’s earliest and oldest local reviews site, which was Acquired by Yell Group Plc; family-photo-sharing platform, Togethera (which shuttered) and Secret Escapes, one of the UK’s first members-only travel company.

Papafloratos is now turning his attention to a tricky subject for men: erectile dysfunction (ED).

The startup is backed by, it says, a group of top-tier investors, led by Vostok New Ventures (who led the round for Voi and are significant investors in Babylon Health). ‘Health’ is where we get some

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btov Partners closes €80M for its fund aimed at industrial tech startups


This post is by Mike Butcher from TechCrunch


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European Deep-Tech and ‘industrial tech’ start-ups working in the field of industrial applications get a shot in the arm today with the news that btov Partners has closed 80 million Euros in backing for the second closing of its new btov Industrial Technologies Fund. btov Partners is a European venture capital firm with offices in Berlin, Munich, St. Gallen and Luxembourg.
The cash was raised from industry, strategic investors, family offices, foundations, a number of banks, the European Investment Fund – and the management team itself. The fund will aim to invest in European start-ups specifically aimed at industrial applications
Such as AI for industrial process optimisation, so-called Industry 4.0, IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things), cyberphysical security, electronics and photonic, power generation and storage, as well as medical and quantum technologies.
DyeMansion, a Munich-based start-up, in which the fund invested in August 2018, specializes in just these kinds of

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DJI is updating its geofencing system across Europe after Gatwick drone debacle


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Following the pre-Christmas drone debacle in the UK — which plunged thousands of people into travel misery after repeated drone sightings closed the runway at Gatwick, and later also briefly suspended departures at Heathrow — consumer drone maker DJI has announced it’s upgrading its geofencing system across Europe.

It says its Geospatial Environment Online (GEO) 2.0 system will be rolled out to the 19 European countries that did not already have the GEO system in phases — “starting later this month”.

“GEO 2.0 creates detailed three-dimensional “bow tie” safety zones surrounding runway flight paths and uses complex polygon shapes around other sensitive facilities, rather than just simple circles used in earlier geofencing versions,” it writes.

We’ve asked how long it will take for the update to be fully rolled out across the region.

A further 13 local markets that had the GEO system already will also now

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Rapyd nabs $40M led by Stripe and GC for ‘fintech as a service’, a single API for payments, money transfer and more


This post is by Ingrid Lunden from TechCrunch


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As ever more transactions move on to digital platforms, a startup that is building a swiss army knife of financial services — from payments to currency transfers, ID verifications and card issuing — for companies to use by way of a single API — is announcing funding. Rapyd, a “fintech as a service” startup akin to AWS for financial services, according to its CEO, has raised $40 million. The company plans to use the funds to continue to add more functions to its platform, more staff to build them, and to expand its customer base.

This Series B is notable because it is being co-led by Stripe, the payments giant that is now valued at $22 billion, as well as General Catalyst, one of Stripe’s biggest backers, which has for years also co-invested with it in strategic startups. Others in this round include Target Global (a previous investor) IGNIA and

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