With its goofy video loops, YC backed Splish wants to be the ‘anti-Instagram’

Is there any space on kids’ homescreens for another social sharing app to poke in? Y Combinator backed Splish wants to have a splash at it (😊) — with a super-short-form video and photo sharing app aimed at the under-25s. The SF-based startup began bootstrapping out of their college dorm rooms last July, playing around with app ideas before settling on goofy video loops to be their social sharing steed of choice. The Splish app pops content into video loops of between 1-5 seconds. Photos can be uploaded too but motion must be added in the form of an animated effect of your choice. So basically nothing on Splish stays still. (Hence its watery name.) But while wobbly, content on Splish is intended to stick around — rather than ephemerally pass away (a la snaps). Here are a few examples of Splishes (embedded below as GIFs… but you can
Continue reading "With its goofy video loops, YC backed Splish wants to be the ‘anti-Instagram’"

Landbot gets $2.2M for its on-message ‘anti-AI’ chatbot

Who needs AI to have a good conversation? Spanish startup Landbot has bagged a $2.2 million seed round for a ‘dumb’ chatbot that doesn’t use AI at all but offers something closer to an old school ‘choose your adventure’ interaction by using a conversational choice interface to engage potential customers when they land on a website. The rampant popularity of consumer messaging apps has long been influencing product development decisions, and plenty of fusty business tools have been consumerized in recent years, including by having messaging-style interfaces applied to simplify all kinds of digital interactions. In the case of Landbot, the team is deploying a familiar rich texting interface as a website navigation tool — meaning site visitors aren’t left to figure out where to click to find stuff on their own. Instead they’re pro-actively met with an interactive, adaptive messaging thread that uses conversational choice prompts to get
Continue reading "Landbot gets $2.2M for its on-message ‘anti-AI’ chatbot"

Sweden’s Engaging Care raises $800,000 for its digital healthcare SaaS

Engaging Care, a Swedish heathtech startup co-founded by Charlotta Tönsgård, who was previously CEO of online doctor app Min Doktor before being asked to step down, has raised $800,000 in “pre-seed” funding to continue building out its digital healthcare SaaS. Backing the burgeoning company are a host of well-established angel investors in the region. They include Hampus Jakobsson (venture partner at BlueYard Capital and co-founder of TAT, which sold to Blackberry for $150 million), Sophia Bendz (EIR at Atomico and the former Global Marketing Director at Spotify), Erik Byrenius (founder of OnlinePizza, an online food ordering company sold to Delivery Hero) and Neil Murray’s The Nordic Web Ventures. With the aim of dragging healthcare into the digital age, but in a more patient-friendly and patient-centred way than tradition electronic medical record systems, Engaging Care is developing a SaaS and accompanying apps to bring together patients, healthcare providers
Continue reading "Sweden’s Engaging Care raises $800,000 for its digital healthcare SaaS"

India’s BookMyShow pulls in $100M to grow its online ticketing business

BookMyShow, an online ticketing service for cinemas, theatres and sports in India, has pulled in $100 million in new capital for growth. The Series D round was led by private investment firm TPG Growth and it included participation from undisclosed existing investors. BookMyShow, which is headquartered in Mumbai, has now raised a total of $225 million from a range of backers that include Accel, SAIF and New York’s Stripes Group. When reached by TechCrunch via investors, the company declined to discuss details of the funding or the plans to utilize it. “[TPG Growth] brings with them extensive wealth of experience across the global media and entertainment sector which would be instrumental as we look to accelerate our growth plans in this space. The strategic value that all our investors continue to provide us will also be of immense importance as we begin a new chapter of our standout story,” said BookMyShow
Continue reading "India’s BookMyShow pulls in $100M to grow its online ticketing business"

Alibaba boosts its offline reach with $2B+ investment in outdoor digital marketing firm

Alibaba is investing big bucks into offline distribution. The Chinese e-commerce giant has forked out $2.23 billion in exchange for a sizeable piece of Focus Media, a Shanghai-based company that operates outdoor digital advertising screens across China, Singapore and Hong Kong, according to a U.S. filing. The deal itself is broken up into a few pieces. Alibaba itself is paying $1.43 billion for a 6.62 percent share of Focus Media, which is listed in Shanghai, It is also spending $504.7 million to buy 10 percent of an entity (managed by Focus Media founder and chairman Jason Nanchun Jiang) which controls 23.34 percent of Focus Media. In addition, an Alibaba-aligned fund called ‘New Retail Strategic Opportunities’ is buying 1.37 percent of Focus Media, while Alibaba itself is planning to exercise an option to buy five percent more of the business over the next twelve months. That additional
Continue reading "Alibaba boosts its offline reach with $2B+ investment in outdoor digital marketing firm"

With eyes on Europe, Open Banking API provider TrueLayer raises $7.5M

TrueLayer, the London startup that’s built a developer platform to make it easy for fintech and other adjacent companies, such as retailers, to access bank APIs — and ride the Open Banking and PSD2 gravy train — has picked up further $7.5 million in funding. Leading the round is venture capital fund Northzone. It follows a $3 million Series A in June last year, and will be used for European expansion, starting with Germany and France. The new capital will also be invested in growing the TrueLayer team and to develop new products to help companies and consumers make the most of Open Banking and PSD2, where co-founder Francesco Simoneschi tells me the opportunities are huge, even if they remain largely untapped, thus far. “I think the first quarters of 2018 have been about working and educating companies on Open Banking and how to build propositions on
Continue reading "With eyes on Europe, Open Banking API provider TrueLayer raises $7.5M"

InkHunter heads to YC to build a try-and-buy tattoo marketplace

InkHunter, an augmented reality tattoo try-on app that was born out of a 48-hour hackathon back in the altogether gentler days of 2014 has bagged a place in Y Combinator’s summer 2018 batch, scoring itself the seed accelerator’s standard $120,000 deal in exchange for 7% equity. We first covered InkHunter in April 2016 when it had just launched an MVP on iOS and was toying with building a marketplace for tattoo artists. Several months and 2.5 million downloads later InkHunter launched its Android app, having spent summer 2016 going through the ERA accelerator program in New York. At that time the team was considering a b2b business model pivot, based on licensing their core AR tech to ecommerce apps and other developers. Though they wanted to keep the tattoo try on app ticking over as a showcase. Fast forward two years and it’s the SDK idea on
Continue reading "InkHunter heads to YC to build a try-and-buy tattoo marketplace"

Okta nabs ScaleFT to build out ‘Zero Trust’ security framework

Okta, the cloud identity management company, announced today it has purchased a startup called ScaleFT to bring the Zero Trust concept to the Okta platform. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. While Zero Trust isn’t exactly new to a cloud identity management company like Okta, acquiring ScaleFT gives them a solid cloud-based Zero Trust foundation on which to continue to develop the concept internally. “To help our customers increase security while also meeting the demands of the modern workforce, we’re acquiring ScaleFT to further our contextual access management vision — and ensure the right people get access to the right resources for the shortest amount of time,” Okta co-founder and COO Frederic Kerrest said in a statement. Zero Trust is a security framework that acknowledges work no longer happens behind the friendly confines of a firewall. In the old days before mobile and cloud, you could be pretty
Continue reading "Okta nabs ScaleFT to build out ‘Zero Trust’ security framework"

Light raises $121M led by SoftBank as it prepares to bring its camera tech to smartphones

Camera technology company Light is the latest to do the money dance with SoftBank’s massive Vision Fund after it raised a $121 million Series D round. The funding round was led by Vision Fund, the near-$100 billion fund anchored by SoftBank, with participation from consumer camera giant Leica Camera AG. Today’s announcement takes Light to around $186 million raised from investors to date. Light is best known for its futuristic camera technology and shooters. The company first introduced the $1,950 L16 camera back in 2015, which then began shipping in 2017. The camera uses 16 lenses to capture 52 megapixel imagery which produces impressive results. Perhaps most notably, the L16 is tiny which makes it hugely portable and convenient. Given the small form factor and the rise of mobile photography, it was with little surprise that earlier this month Light teased its first smartphone camera product. Exact details of what that product
Continue reading "Light raises $121M led by SoftBank as it prepares to bring its camera tech to smartphones"

The Ken raises $1.5M to grow its subscription journalism business in India

The Ken, a subscription news startup from India, is moving through the gears after it raised $1.5 million in fresh funding to build out its media business. We first profiled the company in March 2017 and now, nearly 18 months later, the startup has raised its Series A round led by Omidyar Networks, which has invested in new media companies such as Rappler in the Philippines. Other investors included Yuj Kutumb, the Family Foundation headed by Xander Group founder Sid Yog, and existing and new angel investors. Rohin Dharmakumar, co-founder and CEO of The Ken, told TechCrunch that the company still has more than half of its $400,000 seed round in the bank, but it has raised this additional cash to go after new opportunities. The Ken has made its mark by publishing one thoughtfully-reported long-form story each day. An annual subscription is priced at Rs 2750 (around $43)
Continue reading "The Ken raises $1.5M to grow its subscription journalism business in India"

Swim.ai raises $11M to bring real-time analytics to the edge

Once upon a time, it looked like cloud-based serviced would become the central hub for analyzing all IoT data. But it didn’t quite turn out that way because most IoT solutions simply generate too much data to do this effectively and the round-trip to the data center doesn’t work for applications that have to react in real time. Hence the advent of edge computing, which is spawing its own ecosystem of startups. Among those is Swim.ai, which today announced that it has raised an $11 million Series B funding round let by Cambridge Innovation Capital, with participation from Silver Creek Ventures and Harris Barton Asset Management. The round also included a strategic investment from Arm, the chip design firm you may still remember as ARM (but don’t write it like that or their PR department will promptly email you). This brings the company’s total funding to about $18 million. Swim.
Continue reading "Swim.ai raises $11M to bring real-time analytics to the edge"

Glovo gets $134M to beef up its on-demand delivery business

Spanish startup Glovo, whose platform lets app users summon a gig economy worker to shop on their behalf, be it for a takeaway burger or a multi-bag supermarket shop, has bagged a €115 million (~$134M) Series C round of funding. Spanish press are reporting the round values Glovo’s business at more than €300M. The lead investors in the Series C are Rakuten, Seaya and Cathay, which had also invested in its Series B. Also investing is AmRest — a publicly listed restaurant operator in Central Europe — as well as European funds Idinvest Partners and GR Capital, plus some other minor investments. AmRest controls more than 1,650 restaurants in more than 16 countries — with brands such as KFC, La Tagliatella, Pizza Hut, Starbucks and Burger King, Blue Frog and KABB under its belt. So the strategic opportunities it’s spying to ply fast food fans with on-demand food at
Continue reading "Glovo gets $134M to beef up its on-demand delivery business"

Ultimate Software is acquiring PeopleDoc for $300 million

Public company Ultimate Software is acquiring French startup PeopleDoc for $300 million in cash and stock. The transaction is expected to close in the third quarter of 2018. These two companies both make HR solutions. Ultimate Software has been around for a while. It went public in 1998 and switched to a software-as-a-service solution in 2002 — this solution is called UltiPro. It lets you manage all things HR, from payroll to benefits, time management, onboarding, performance management and more. PeopleDoc is a younger French startup that has raised over $50 million. As the name suggests, PeopleDoc lets you centralized all HR documents related to you in a single location. They can come from multiple sources and systems, they’ll all be there. The startup has also worked on an onboarding solution and other tools to automate HR processes as much as possible. For instance, you can use PeopleDoc to communicate
Continue reading "Ultimate Software is acquiring PeopleDoc for $300 million"

An app that uses AI to help you improve your basketball shot just raised $4 million

Let’s be real: you are most certainly never going to be as good as Steve Nash, Chris Paul, James Harden — or really any professional NBA player. But it probably won’t stop you from trying to practice or model your game around your favorite players, and spend hours upon hours figuring out how to get better. And while there are going to be plenty of attempts to smash image recognition and AI into that problem, a company called NEX Team is hoping to soften the blow a bit by helping casual players figure out their game, rather than trying to be as good as a professional NBA player. Using phone cameras and image recognition on the back end, its primary app HomeCourt will measure a variety of variables like shot trajectory, jump height, and body position, and help understand how to improve a player’s shooting form. It’s not designed to
Continue reading "An app that uses AI to help you improve your basketball shot just raised $4 million"

Standard Cognition raises another $5.5M to create a cashier-less checkout experience

As Amazon looks to increasingly expand its cashier-less grocery stories — called Amazon Go – across different regions, there’s at least one startup hoping to end up everywhere else beyond Amazon’s empire. Standard Cognition aims to help businesses create that kind of checkout experience based on machine vision, using image recognition to figure out that a specific person is picking up and walking out the door with a bag of Cheetos. The company said it’s raised an additional $5.5 million in a round in what the company is calling a seed round extension from CRV. The play here is, like many startups, to create something that a massive company is going after — like image recognition for cashier-less checkouts — for the long tail businesses rather than locking them into a single ecosystem. Standard Cognition works with security cameras that have a bit more power than typical cameras to
Continue reading "Standard Cognition raises another $5.5M to create a cashier-less checkout experience"

Certify acquires real-time expense management startup and YC alum Abacus

Expense management software provider Certify is beefing up its artillery against rival Concur with the acquisition of Abacus, which enables companies to deal with expenses in real time. The deal’s financial terms were not disclosed. The addition of Abacus will help Certify, which includes other expense management solutions like Nexonia and ExpenseWatch under one umbrella, become a stronger rival to SAP-owned Concur by reaching new customer segments. Founded by Omar Qari, Josh Halickman and Ted Power, Abacus says it was the first real-time expense reporting solution on the market when it launched in 2013. The Y Combinator alum, whose investors included General Catalyst, Bessemer Venture Partners, Google Ventures and Salesforce Ventures, currently counts 1,000 customers. Its team will join Certify and the Abacus product will continue to be independent. Expenses are a bane for everyone involved: the employees who need to turn in receipts, the managers who have to
Continue reading "Certify acquires real-time expense management startup and YC alum Abacus"

Travel giant Booking invests $500M in Chinese ride-hailing firm Didi Chuxing

Didi Chuxing, China’s largest ride-hailing company, has pulled in some strategic capital after Booking Holdings invested $500 million into its business. The deal will see Booking Holdings — which was formerly known as Priceline — work closely with Didi to offer its on-demand car services through its Booking.com apps via an integration. Likewise, Didi customers will have the option to book hotels through Booking.com and its sister site Agoda. The deal isn’t about money. Didi has said publicly that it has multiple billions of US dollars on its balance sheet, thanks to a gigantic $4 billion funding round that closed at the end of 2017 and a history of raising big in recent years. Instead, the tie-in helps on a strategic level. Besides Booking.com and Agoda, Booking also operates Kayak, Priceline.com, Rentacars.com and OpenTable, all of which makes it a powerful ally for Didi. That’s particularly
Continue reading "Travel giant Booking invests $500M in Chinese ride-hailing firm Didi Chuxing"

Mention Me, the referral marketing platform, raises $7M led by Eight Roads Ventures

Mention Me, the London-headquartered referral marketing platform, has raised $7 million in further funding. The round is led by Eight Roads Ventures and is the first time the five and a half year old company has raised venture capital, having only ever done a small angel round in 2015. That’s noteworthy given the company’s two founders: Andy Cockburn and Tim Boughton, who met at Homeaway where they were U.K. MD and European CTO respectively before its $3 billion IPO on the Nasdaq. Counting over 300 customers — including FarFetch, Ovo Energy, Ted Baker and ZipCar — Mention Me offers a marketing platform to make it easy and effective for companies to conduct referral marketing. The platform supports referral programs in 16 languages, but its biggest draw is the ability to A/B test, iterate and measure campaigns so that they work best for the cohort they target. Another feature that
Continue reading "Mention Me, the referral marketing platform, raises $7M led by Eight Roads Ventures"

Online learning platform Unacademy gets $21M Series C from Sequoia India, SAIF and Nexus

Unacademy founders Roman Saini, Gaurav Munjal and Hemesh Singh

Bangalore-based Unacademy will add more educators to its online learning platform, which claims to be India’s largest, after closing a $21 million Series C. The funding comes from Sequoia India, SAIF Partners and Nexus Venture Partners, with participation from Blume Ventures (all four firms are returning from Unacademy’s Series B last year). Originally a YouTube channel created in 2010 by Gaurav Munjal, Unacademy was officially launched as a startup in 2015 by founders Munjal, Roman Saini and Hemesh Singh. It has now raised $38.6 million in total. While Unacademy offers a wide range of courses, its most popular offerings include preparation for important exams in India. Its platform includes two apps: one that lets educators create lessons and another that allows users to access them. Unacademy says it has 10,000 registered educators and three million users. Last month, the
Continue reading "Online learning platform Unacademy gets $21M Series C from Sequoia India, SAIF and Nexus"

Fastly raises another $40 million before an IPO

Last round before the IPO. That’s how Fastly frames its new $40 million Series F round. It means that the company has raised $219 million over the past few years. The funding round was led by Deutsche Telekom Capital Partners with participation from Sozo Ventures, Swisscom Ventures, and existing investors. Fastly operates a content delivery network to speed up web requests. Let’s say you type nytimes.com in your browser. In the early days of the internet, your computer would send a request to one of The New York Times’ servers in a data center. The server would receive the request and send back the page to the reader. But the web has grown immensely, and this kind of architecture is no longer sustainable. The New York Times use Fastly to cache its homepage, media and articles on Fastly’s servers. This way, when somebody types nytimes.com, Fastly already has
Continue reading "Fastly raises another $40 million before an IPO"