Trill Project aims to be a safe community for people to express their true selves

Trill Project, founded by three high school girls, recently launched out of private beta to help people safely express themselves online. For those unfamiliar with the word “trill,” it’s a combination of “true” and “real.” An investor described it to me as a positive Yik Yak . Trill Project began as a community for teenagers, especially for transgender teens who felt like they didn’t have a safe space to be themselves. It has since expanded it to a platform for everyone to express anything from their struggles with addiction, mental illnesses to workplace issues. “We’re reinventing the narrative of social networking and we kind of elevate social media by being private and anonymous,” Trill Project co-founder Georgia Messinger told TechCrunch over the phone. On Trill Project, everything is anonymous (there are no usernames) and monitored by 50 moderators around the clock. Trill Project also has machine learning algorithms as work
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Propelling deep space flight with a new fuel source, Momentus prepares for liftoff

Mikhail Kokorich, the founder of Momentus, a new Y Combinator-backed propulsion technology developer for space flight, hadn’t always dreamed of going to the moon. A physicist who graduated from Russia’s top-ranked Novosibirsk University, Kokorich was a serial entrepreneur in who grew up in Siberia and made his name and his first fortunes in the years after the fall of the Soviet Union. The heart of Momentus’ technology is a new propulsion system that uses water as a propellant instead of chemicals.

Image courtesy Momentus

Using water has several benefits, Kokorich says. One, it’s a fuel source that’s abundant in outer space, and it’s ultimately better and more efficient fuel for flight beyond low earth orbit. “If you move something with a chemical booster stage to the moon. Chemical propulsion is good when you need to have a very high thrust,” according to Kokorich. Once a ship gets beyond gravity’s
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While tech waffles on going public, biotech IPOs boom

For people who make investment decisions based on revenues and projected earnings, biotech IPOs are kind of a non-starter. Not only are new market entrants universally unprofitable, most have zero revenue. Going public is mostly a means to raise money for clinical trials, with red ink expected for years to come. That pattern may be one reason the venture capital press, Crunchbase News included, tends to devote a disproportionately small portion of coverage to biotech IPOs. It’s more exciting to watch a big-name internet company pop in first-day trading or poke fun at an underperforming dud. But with our fixation on all things tech, we’re missing out on the big picture. There are actually a lot more biotech and healthcare startup IPOs than tech offerings. In the second quarter of this year, for instance, at least 16 U.S. venture-backed biotech and healthcare companies went public, compared to just 11 tech startups.
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CowryWise micro-savings service opens high-yield government bonds to everyday Nigerians

In emerging market countries where economic volatility is a way of life, there aren’t a lot of relatively safe options for members of the burgeoning middle class to park their money. For instance, countries like Nigeria have experienced a tremendous growth in the number of citizens entering the middle class, which now accounts for about 23 percent of the population (it’s around 50 percent in the U.S.), according to a recent article citing the African Development Bank. While Nigeria now faces some significant headwinds from a weak domestic currency (the naira), high interest rates and a manufacturing recession, there are ways that local investment can both protect the wealth that’s been created and encourage investment domestically to potentially spur development. At least, that’s the conclusion that college friends Razaq Ahmed and Edward Popoola came to while they were thinking about opportunities for new financial services options in their
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What should competitive Fortnite look like?

Last weekend, Epic Games put forth its first true effort at official competitive Fortnite Battle Royale. It was a disaster. The private hosts used for the tournament were about as laggy as could be, with pro players getting eliminated simply because they couldn’t move. This tournament was for a total prize of $250K. That’s big money, and big frustration for pro players who were essentially eliminated by the whims of the server gods. But on top of the lag, the whole thing was, well, boring. A cardinal sin in any sport. The fact is that when you put 100 pro players in a lobby together and tell them that the last man standing wins, most of them will simply sit in a fort and stay safe as long as possible. This does not generate a whole lot of action. And when there is action on the map, there was no
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Tempow’s Bluetooth stack can improve your TV setup

French startup Tempow has been working on improving the Bluetooth protocol at a low level to make it more versatile. The company is introducing a new audio profile for your TV or set-top box. TV and set-top box manufacturers can license Tempow’s software and integrate new features in their devices. It works with regular Bluetooth chips, but it opens up new possibilities. In particular, Tempow has been working on a one-to-many pairing model. You can pair multiple Bluetooth speakers with your TV to create a wireless surround system using good old Bluetooth speakers. The reason why soundbars slowly replaced 5.1 systems is that you don’t have to run cables on the floor to the back speakers. Tempow solves that, and Bluetooth speakers are much cheaper than a bunch of Sonos speakers. With Tempow’s stack, you can also stream different audio tracks to different devices. In other words, you could
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Yelp partners with event management startup Gather to make planning your next party easier

Event management software company Gather today announced the introduction of its Gather Booking Network, and inaugural partners Yelp and EVENTup. The network is designed to help party goers, venues and event planners connect more easily and start celebrating sooner. Gather was founded in 2013 by CEO and co-founder Nick Miller, Alex Lassiter (SVP of Sales) and Tom Merrihew (VP of Engineering) after their experience organizing corporate events for a consulting group led them head-first into the dark, mostly disorganized world of event planning. “We kind of fell into and uncovered what is a manual and disorganized process,” CEO and co-founder Nick Miller told TechCrunch. “On both sides of the table. For both the person planning the event but also for the folks who work at the restaurants and venues. We set out to fix the problem.” Since its creation, Gather has teamed up with more than 12,500 venues and
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Malta paves the way for a decentralized stock exchange

Malta AKA “Blockchain Island” has been making waves lately in the world of cryptocurrency and governance. Their latest move involves the crypto exchange Binance and the ICO builders at Neufund. The plan is simple: Neufund will help MSX, the Malta Stock Exchange’s skunkworks, create tokenized securities. Binance has agreed to carry these securities on its own exchange, essentially creating a straight path to regulated tokens via the already regulated Malta Stock Exchange. In short, this enables Malta to become the first country to be able to offer tokens alongside traditional equities as well as an easy way to go public in multiple ways including via ICO. The plan is still in the pilot stage. This year they will begin “the public offering of tokenized equity on Neufund’s primary market which may later be tradable on Binance and other crypto exchanges pending regulatory and listing approvals” said Neufund CEO Zoe Adamovicz.
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Ofo shuts down many international markets to focus on profitability

Chinese bike-sharing company Ofo is entering a new phase. After a period of aggressive growth, the company is looking back at its international markets and focusing on the most promising ones. A couple of weeks ago, the company issued a press release highlighting some of the priorities outside of China. As part of this move, Ofo co-founder and CEO Dai Wei is going to be directly in charge of international markets. “It’s a new strategical phase on the international front,” Ofo France General Manager and Head of EMEA Laurent Kennel told me. “The company wants to focus on the most mature and promising markets.” So it means that Ofo will stop altogether in some countries, such as Australia, Austria, Czech Republic, Germany, India and Israel. At the same time, there are some markets that work quite well. In particular, the press release highlights Singapore, the U.S., the
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Lifebit raises $3M to scale-up AI-powered analysis of DNA data

Making sense of DNA data is a two-step process, namely the biochemical-sequencing of the DNA and the analyzing and extracting insights from the sequenced DNA data. As of today in 2018, the first part of this process is now almost fully automated requiring minimal human intervention. Even sequencing costs have dropped below $1,000 and soon they will reach $100, according to the industry. The second part of the process, however, is a long way from being automated because it’s very complex, time-consuming and requires highly specialized experts to analyze the data. Now a startup plans to address this problem. London-based Lifebit is building a cloud-based cognitive system that can reason about DNA data in the same way humans do. This offers researchers and R&D professionals, with limited-to-no computational and data analysis training, and their corresponding organisations (ie. pharmaceutical companies), a highly scalable, modular and reproducible system that automates the analysis
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Uber partners with Cargo to help drivers make money by selling stuff to riders

Uber has teamed up with Cargo, a startup that makes it easy for ride-share drivers to sell goods to their passengers. Cargo works by giving drivers free boxes, filled with goods like gum, phone chargers and snacks, to sell to passengers from the center of the car console. Cargo, which has partnered with brands like Kellogg’s, Starbucks and Mars Wrigley Confectionary, provides these boxes to drivers for free. The only requirement is that drivers must have at least a 4.7 rating and be relatively active on the platform, Cargo founder and CEO Jeff Cripe told TechCrunch. Each Cargo box comes with both free samples and items for purchase. Drivers earn at least $1 per order, even if what the rider gets is free. Starting today, Uber drivers in San Francisco and Los Angeles can pick up Cargo boxes at one of Uber’s driver support locations, called Greenlight Hubs. While
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Even raises $40M to transform the working class to the savings class

The working class of the United States doesn’t get many breaks these days. It’s not just a function of low pay and long hours, but also the incredible uncertainty of income and expenses that makes surviving week-to-week so challenging. One in five Americans have a negative net wealth, even in an economy where the unemployment rate is the lowest in almost two decades. Banks, meanwhile, are actively dissuading the working class from banking with them, creating a permanent class of unbanked and underbanked citizens. For Jon Schlossberg, CEO and co-founder of Even.com, improving the plight of ordinary Americans and their finances is a deeply personal and professional mission. And now that mission has a huge new bucket of capital behind it, with Keith Rabois of Khosla Ventures leading a $40 million Series B round into the Oakland-based startup. Rabois is a return investor, having previously backed
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Printrbot has shut down

Printrbot, a popular Kickstarter-backed 3D printer company, has shut down, leaving only a barebones website and little explanation. The founder, Brook Drumm, wrote that “Low sales led to hard decisions.” “We will be forever grateful to all the people we met and served over the years,” he wrote. “Thank you all.” Printrbot’s machines costs about $200 during the Kickstarter and Drumm created multiple add-ons including a belt for printing multiple objects. Drumm also ran Vault Multimedia and appeared on Science Channel’s All-American Makers TV and a pastor. Drumm created his product after having trouble assembling an early Makerbot and finding the hardware and software difficult to use. There is no clear information on future support or parts availability for current customers. I’ve reached out to the company for comment.

Sinemia drops prices for its movie ticket subscriptions, which now start a $3.99 per month

MoviePass competitor Sinemia is lowering prices on the already low-cost movie ticket subscription plans that it introduced earlier this year. Its monthly prices are being cut by $1 across-the-board. The cheapest plan now costs $3.99 per month, which gets you one standard movie ticket for that month. The priciest one, which covers three tickets (and includes 3D, 4D and IMAX screens), now costs $13.99 per month. Sinemia says it’s also offering discounts on its family plans, and on plans in Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia. You might think that this summer promotion (which ends on September 3) seems timed to take advantage of the negative publicity around MoviePass’ new “peak pricing” for popular movies, and Sinemia’s press release doesn’t exactly deny it — the release literally begins: “At a time when MoviePass is running surge pricing …” Sinemia subscribers also benefit from being able to
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PureSec exits Beta to secure serverless code

PureSec, a startup out of Israel emerged from Beta today to provide a way to make serverless computing more secure. Serverless computing reduces programming to writing functions, so that when a certain event happens, it triggers an automated action. The cloud vendor takes care of the underlying infrastructure and developers just write the code. It may sound like Shangri La for tech, but in reality there are still security concerns. You might think that a process that lasts only milliseconds wouldn’t be subject to conventional kinds of attacks, but the fact is serverless functions are designed to take human checks and balances out of the equation, says company co-founder Ory Segal, and if you don’t set up the functions correctly you could be vulnerable. As with any type of cloud security, there is a shared security model with serverless computing. On the vendor side, they ensure their data centers
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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
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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
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The Accel team is coming to Disrupt Berlin

Every time Accel invests in a startup, it’s an instant positive sign in the startup community. The venture capital firm has a rich history with decades of investments in successful startups. That’s why we’re excited to have four partners at Accel on stage at Disrupt Berlin. Philippe Botteri, Sonali De Rycker, Luciana Lixandru and Harry Nelis will all relocate their partner meeting to our stage. Accel is a different VC firm for many reasons. First, while the firm started in Silicon Valley, the team bet early on the European startup scene, back in 2001. With an office in London, the team keeps an eye on the entire continent for investment opportunities. The firm has invested in Deliveroo, BlaBlaCar, Supercell, Spotify and so many others. With such a good track record, it’s clear that some recent investments are also going to become massive companies — nobody has realized it just yet.
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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
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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
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