Facebook is facing calls to conduct an external investigation into its own lobbying and PR activities by an aide to billionaire George Soros.BuzzFeed reports that Michael Vachon, an advisor to the chairman at Soros Fund Management, made the call in a letter to friends and colleagues. The call follows an explosive investigation, published yesterday by the New York Times based on interviews with more than 50 sources on the company, which paints an ugly picture of how Facebook’s leadership team responded to growing pressure over election interference, in the wake of the Kremlin ads scandal of 2016, including by engaging an external firm to lobby aggressively on its behalf. The firm used smear tactics targeted at Soros, according to the NYT report, with the paper writing that: “A research document circulated by Definers [the PR firm engaged by Facebook] to reporters this summer, just a month after the House
LocalGlobe, the seed-stage venture capital firm founded by father and son duo Robin and Saul Klein, and one of the most active firms in the U.K., is gearing up to launch a new separate fund aimed at Series B.According to sources — and since confirmed by LocalGlobe — the VC firm is raising a sister fund to formally back the most promising startups in its portfolio to help them scale. It isn’t unheard for LocalGlobe to follow on after seed during later funding rounds, having done so in successful companies such as Zoopla and TransferWise. However, the thinking here is to have a separate fund to make this more common, and provide LPs a way to double down on LocalGlobe’s most promising bets. The new fund is to be called “Latitude,” whist a recent regulatory filing mistakenly and inadvertently surfaced “Senderwood,” the holding company of
Mozilla is adding a new security feature to its Firefox Quantum web browser that will alert users when they visit a website that has recently reported a data breach.When a Firefox user lands on a website with a breach in its recent past they’ll see a pop up notification informing them of the barebones details of the breach and suggesting they check to see if their information was compromised. “We’re bringing this functionality to Firefox users in recognition of the growing interest in these types of privacy- and security-centric features,” Mozilla said today. “This new functionality will gradually roll out to Firefox users over the coming weeks.” Here’s an example of what the site breach notifications look like and the kind of detail they will provide: Mozilla is tying the site breach notification feature to an email account breach notification service
Urban Massage, the London-headquartered startup that lets you book a vetted massage therapist “on-demand”, is expanding into new wellness services in addition to changing its name.Now simply called Urban, the company, which operates in several U.K. cities along with Paris, is adding the ability to book an expert nail technician, GOsC-regulated osteopath, or skin therapist. It will utilise the same logistics tech and app experience that enables therapists to be booked with as little as an hour’s notice. Founder Jack Tang tells me the move into new wellness categories forms part of a wider strategy to build Europe’s leading “holistic wellness” platform. This will see the company add fitness, yoga and other mental wellbeing-focused activities in the near future, including meditation. Further ahead, Urban has plans to integrate digital therapy services, such as counselling. Tang says that since Urban launched back in 2014,
Pirate Studios, the music technology company that operates fully automated and self-service 24 hour music studios, has secured $20 million. The investment was led by Talis Capital, the London-based VC family office.Talis was already an existing backer of Pirate Studios, with Talis’ Matus Maar also named as a co-founder of the startup. Other investors include Eric Archambeau (Spotify investor and ex-partner at Benchmark and Wellington Partners), Bart Swanson of Horizons Ventures, and partners of Gaw Capital, the $20 billion Hong Kong-headquartered proptech fund. The new funding will enable Pirate Studios to continue to expand across the U.K., Germany and the U.S., where it has been building what the startup describes as a community of musicians, DJs, producers and podcasters who need access to professional rehearsal, production and recording studios at affordable rates. The company charges as little as £4 per hour, depending on what
The shock news yesterday that Google is taking over a health app rolled out to UK hospitals over the past few years by its AI division, DeepMind, has caught the eye of the country’s data protection watchdog — which said today that it’s monitoring developments.
An ICO spokesperson told us: “An ICO investigation and an independent audit into the use of Google Deepmind’s Streams service by the Royal Free both highlighted the importance of clear and effective governance when NHS bodies use third parties to provide digital services, particularly to ensure the original purpose for processing personal data is respected.
“We expect all the measures set out in our undertaking, and in the audit, should remain in place even if the identity of the third party changes. We are continuing to monitor the situation.”We’ve reached out to DeepMind and Google for a response. The project is already well
Truecaller may already be a familiar name, but many of you probably don’t know that it’s slowly becoming a significant messaging app. That’s why I’m excited to announce that Truecaller co-founder and CEO Alan Mamedi will join us at TechCrunch Disrupt Berlin.Truecaller first started as a call screening app. Some countries are more affected than others. But it’s clear that text and call spam is the most intrusive form of spam. The Swedish company then leveraged this user base to quietly turn the app into a full-fledged messaging app with one focus in particular — India. With the acquisition of Chillr, the company shows that it wants to recreate a sort of WeChat for India. The company launched payment features — Truecaller Pay lets you pay other Truecaller users as well as pay your bills. Eventually, Truecaller wants to open up its platform to third-party services. Back in April,
Tandem, the U.K. challenger bank, is gearing up to launch a new “Auto Savings” feature — a clever way to lower the barriers for Tandem app users who want to save for a rainy day — and to power the feature the company is partnering with Stripe.The latter in itself isn’t necessarily huge news when you consider that Stripe is morphing into a payments company in the broadest sense. However, it does come at a time when other U.K. bank upstarts are attempting to wean users off making Stripe-powered card payments to top up their accounts since fees can soon add up. The new Auto Savings offering will mean that every Tandem app will effectively have a flexible savings bank account with Tandem, which they can pay money into based on various savings rules. These rules will be applied based on transaction data gleaned through third-party
Mintos, the Latvian fintech that operates a global loans marketplace to let you invest in loans from various loan originators, has raised €5 million in Series A funding. Backing the startup once again is the Riga-based venture capital firm Grumpy Investments (previously known as Skillion Ventures). More noteworthy, the new capital will be used to launch a Mintos banking account and debit card, significantly expanding the company’s offering.“Both banking account and the card in our opinion is a natural step in our journey of revolutionising financial services through technology and serving our investors and will nicely complement our current offering of investments in loans, and low-fee mid-market rate currency exchange,” Mintos co-founder and CEO Martins Sulte tells me. “This development also means that, theoretically, our investors won’t need their banks anymore”. The Mintos banking account will act like any other IBAN account. You’ll be able to receive a
DeepMind’s recent foray into providing software as a service to U.K. hospitals has reached the end of its run.The Google -owned AI division has just announced it will be stepping back from providing a clinical alerts and task management healthcare app to focus on research — handing off the team doing the day to day delivery of the Streams to its parent, Google.
Announcing the move in a blog post entitled “Scaling Streams with Google,” DeepMind’s co-founders write: “Our vision is for Streams to now become an AI-powered assistant for nurses and doctors everywhere — combining the best algorithms with intuitive design, all backed
Cognigo, a startup that aims to use AI and machine learning to help enterprises protect their data and stay in compliance with regulations like GDPR, today announced that it has raised an $8.5 million Series A round. The round was led by Israel-based crowdfunding platform OurCrowd, with participation from privacy company Prosegur and State of Mind Ventures.The company promises that it can help businesses protect their critical data assets and prevent personally identifiable information from leaking outside of the company’s network. And it says it can do so without the kind of hands-on management that’s often required in setting these kinds of systems up and managing them over time. Indeed, Cognigo says that it can help businesses achieve GDPR compliance in days instead of months. To do this, the company tells me, it’s using pre-trained language models for data classification. That model has been trained to detect
Retail tech SaaS platform Mercaux has closed a £3.5 million (~$4.5M) Series A funding round led by European VC fund Nauta Capital.The 2013 founded London-based startup sells software for retailers to tap into digital capabilities in their physical retail stores — offering a modular platform that’s intended to support digital transformations at a pace of the retailer’s choosing. “Historically offline retail was just a sales channel. But with the rise of e-commerce, and ability to communicate with clients digitally at any moment of time, offline stores (and in-store employees) have started to play multiple roles,” says founder and CEO Olga Kotsur. Physical stores are “not just a sales channel but also an e-commerce window, marketing channel, customer relationship centre” and much more, she argues. Or, well, they can be — if retailers spend to upgrade legacy IT systems that have not been designed with more expansive
Security firm Kaspersky Labs has opened its first self-styled ‘Transparency Center’ and begun processing threat-related data from European users in data centers located in Switzerland — flipping the switch on the start of a relocation commitment it announced late last year in the face of suspicion that its antivirus software had been compromised by the Russian government and used to suck up US intelligence.The first stage of its fightback strategy to reboot trust, a code review plan, was announced a year ago. Then, in May, the company announced it would be moving some core infrastructure processes to Zurich in Switzerland, saying also that it would arrange for its processes to be independently supervised by a third party qualified to conduct technical software reviews. This facility has now begun processing data, starting with European users. Although this is just the start of the reconfiguration. Software assembly will also
China’s Ucommune, the country’s largest rival to WeWork, has been on a busy acquisition spree to build out its domestic business and now it is looking at overseas opportunities after it closed a $200 million Series D funding round.The new round was led by Hong Kong-based All-Stars Investment with participation from Chinese investment bank CEC Capital and other investors. Ucommune said in a statement that the deal gives it a valuation of $3 billion, that represents a significant jump on its Series C in August which valued it at $1.8 billion. This new round takes Ucommune to around $650 million from investors to date, according to Crunchbase. Founded in 2015, Ucommune has emerged as WeWork’s main rival in China since the U.S. firm acquired Naked Hub earlier this year in a deal said to be worth $400 million. Ucommune claims to operate more than 200 co-working spaces, most
Anorak Technologies, the U.K. startup building a life insurance advice platform, has raised £5 million in Series A funding. Notably, the round is led by previous backer Kamet Ventures, the tech incubator funded by insurance giant AXA. It brings the total raised by Anorak to £9 million.In a call, co-founder and CEO David Vanek told me the startup’s mission is to build the world’s “smartest” automated life insurance advice platform. It wants to offer insurance advice at the most appropriate time and place in a person’s life, such as when buying a house or starting a family, and in turn open up life insurance cover to many more people. As it stands, life insurance, such as accidental death cover, tends to be sold through financial advisors or brokers targeting high net worth individuals. That leaves swathes of people and their dependents without any cover at all.
Fluidly, the London-based fintech that offers an “intelligent” cashflow management SaaS for SMEs, has raised £5 million in Series A funding. The round is led by New-York based Nyca Partners, with participation from other investors including Octopus Ventures, Anthemis, and angel investors Simon Murdoch, and Charlie Songhurst.Claiming to define a new software category, namely “Intelligent Cash,” Fluidly want to significantly improve small and medium-sized businesses’ cashflow management. To do this it has built machine learning-based technology to predict and optimise the future cash flows for SMEs, thus helping business owners conduct better financial decision-making. As part of this, you connect Fluidly to your business bank account via Open Banking, and to your cloud accounting software. “Fluidly is then able to access the transaction-level bank and accounting data and it uses this data to automatically forecast future cash flows by predicting when invoices will arrive, get paid or other