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Neuropathic sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL) is estimated to affect 64 million patients in the US, and 34 million in Europe, and there are currently no pharmacological treatments available for the condition.

A spin-out of Sheffield University, Rinri Therapeutics is a biotech company developing advanced stem cell-based therapeutics to restore hearing in SNHL patients by repairing the damaged cellular architecture of the inner ear.

Founded in late 2018, Rinri has now raised €1.6 million in seed funding, in a round co-led by Boehringer Ingelheim Venture Fund and UCB Ventures with support from BioCity. In connection with the financing, Detlev Mennerich, PhD, Investment Director at Boehringer Ingelheim Venture Fund; Erica Whittaker, PhD, Head of UCB Ventures; and Claire Brown, PhD, Investment Director at BioCity have joined Rinri’s Board of Directors.

Rinri is based on the pioneering work of Professor Marcelo Rivolta, a world leader in the field of sensory stem cell biology. Rinri’s technology is based on innovative stem cell research, and seeks to reverse SNHL through the repair of damage to the inner ear, which occurs when there is damage to the hair cells in the cochlear and/or the auditory nerve.

In parallel with the financing, Rinri has appointed Dr Simon Chandler as CEO. Dr Chandler has a PhD in Molecular Biology, and following commercial roles in the biotechnology industry, spent the past four years at IP Group, where he was responsible for early stage investments and company-building for UK university life science spinouts.

“I am delighted that the Board has asked me to guide Rinri as we work to transition our exciting preclinical program into the clinic, and to move closer to the realisation of an effective treatment for the many patients with SNHL,” said Dr Chandler, CEO of Rinri Therapeutics.

“We have known Marcelo and followed his ground-breaking research, which was published in Nature, for many years, and are pleased to contribute to the creation of Rinri,” commented Dr Mennerich, Investment Director at Boehringer Ingelheim Venture Fund. “If the impressive pre-clinical in vivo regeneration data translates to humans, the technology has the potential to be a game-changer in the way SNHL is being treated. We look forward to working with Rinri’s team to support its growth and help further realise the technology’s potential.”

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London-based fintech Wagestream is a flexible wage app, fighting against payday poverty to end the financial stress caused by the monthly pay cycle by allowing staff to draw down a percentage of their earned wages any day of the month for a flat fee of £1.75 – with no loans or interest.

The firm sealed its Series A round this week for a total of €46 million, led by early-stage VCs Balderton and Northzone.

Wagestream is on a mission to end in-work poverty, eradicate payday loans, and destroy the ‘Poverty Premium’, whereby people on low incomes pay more for a range of essential products and services such as insurance, energy, and credit. Wagestream is doing this by short-circuiting the monthly pay cycle — an antiquated monthly windfall that forces workers into the hands of payday lenders and other high-cost lenders when they approach the end of the month or face unexpected expenses.

Rapid adoption of the Wagestream platform by UK corporations shows that employers are willing to invest in staff financial wellness and tackle in-work poverty.

And employers benefit from the service, too. Staff have greater financial security, which breeds loyalty, and employers trying to fill overtime shifts. This is because employers can elect to give workers access to that pay as soon as their shift is over — thereby re-establishing the link between work and reward. In fact, research shows that shift workers choose to work 22% more hours on average once enrolled in Wagestream.

Wagestream is also a supporter of Finance For Good — a collective of fintech services firms committed to improving the financial wellbeing of everyday people.

“The feedback we are getting from private companies and public sector customers alike is that staff are happier, more productive and have greater financial security once they start using our service,” said Peter Briffett, CEO and Co-Founder of Wagestream.

“The antiquated monthly pay cycle inflicts huge financial damage on household finances and its days are numbered. Too many people are pushed into a corner by in-work poverty and forced into the hands of payday lenders and high-cost credit.

“Wagestream is at the point of scaling up rapidly and this historic investment is going to accelerate the pace at which companies across the country liberate their staff from payday poverty and the disastrous social consequences that stem from it.”

“We fell in love with the strong product-market fit of Wagestream,” said Rob Moffat, Partner at Balderton Capital. “We very rarely hear such universal positive feedback from all who have tried a product. Companies used to take an active role in supporting the financial health of their users but this has slowly been eroded, to the extent where employees paid at the end of the month are effectively subsidising their employer for 29 days a month. Wagestream starts to restore the right balance.”

“Fintech is delivering where the financial services industry has failed, by putting consumers’ financial wellness at the core of the industry,” added Jeppe Zink, Partner at Northzone. “This is not just a new business model, it’s a fundamentally new way of doing business. We think Wagestream can be the leading light for a consumer-led era of finance, and we are excited to partner with them on the journey.”

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Approximately 1.2 billion people in the world live without proper identification – preventing them from accessing basic services such as healthcare, jobs, housing, and bank accounts.

Based in the Hague, the startup Tykn is developing a blockchain-based digital identity management platform to verify the identities of the ‘invisible people’ worldwide who have never had an ID, or who have lost their identification due to negligent government administration, wars, or disasters.

Founded in 2016, Tykn has now received an investment of €1.2 million from Dutch IT entrepreneur Johan Mastenbroek.

Tykn’s digital identity management platform offers an innovative identity registration system for public and private institutions, with which they can efficiently share, verify and request digital identity credentials. Users are provided with an app, a digital identity wallet, that works on every mobile device and allows them to digitally access services from those institutions in a private and secure manner. It provides a self-sovereign identity to all, so that no one has to lose their legal identity ever again.

Tey Al-Rjula, Tykn’s CEO, has personally experienced what it is like to be ‘invisible’:

“My birth certificate got lost during the Gulf war in Kuwait. I lived as an ‘invisible’ man in the Netherlands when my work contract expired and I ended up in an asylum centre,” he said. “There I met many Syrian refugees who had also lost their identity and faced the same problems as I did. As without an identity you do not have access to many basic needs and therefore not to your human rights.”

The Invisible Man | Toufic El-Rjula | TEDxAmsterdam - YouTube

This personal experience gave Al-Rjula the inspiration to found Tykn, together with social entrepreneurs Khalid Maliki and Jimmy J.P. Snoek.

“With Johan Mastenbroek as investor we do not just gain a financial partner, but also an experienced one. He has essential knowledge about blockchain and digital identity cases, which helps us to further develop our platform,” said Al-Rjula. “This collaboration is an important step in getting closer to the world as we envision it: a world where identities are portable, private and secure, so that no one has to lose access to their identity ever again.”

“I strongly believe in the principles and ideas of Tykn. They work together with international organisations, with whom they can provide a solution to a global problem and create a future of opportunities instead of a future of problems,” said Mastenbroek.

“I mainly invest in IT & Innovation companies with a €3 million+ revenue and a niche market focus, focusing on management buy-outs and growth investments,” he added. “My mission is to lift these innovative enterprises to the next level market position, business model and size. As such, Tykn fits well with the other companies I invests in, such as Ledger Leopard, Loek! and Finturi.”

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Cambridge-based PROWLER.io, an AI-based platform for decision-making, has raised €21.5 million in a Series B round from new and existing investors, valuing the company at €90 million. The startup previously raised a €10.9 million Series A round in 2017, and we featured it as one of the top IoT startups to watch in 2019.

The investors involved in the round include Amadeus Capital Partners, Atlantic Bridge, Cambridge Innovation Capital, Mandatum Life, Passion Capital, Pearson, RB Capital, SGInnovate, and Tencent.

PROWLER.io’s core platform, VUKU, is ideally suited for autonomous decision-making in complex, dynamic and uncertain environments such as financial markets, resource allocation, transportation and logistics, ridesharing, smart cities, and robotics, and is developing its capabilities to expand its applications into even more verticals. The startup combines branches of mathematics, engineering and economic theory to use machine learning to problem-solve efficiently and using real-time data.

The startup was founded by mathematicians and engineers following years of research into machine intelligence, probability theory and multi-agent problems. Founded in 2016, it now has 110 employees from 29 countries.

These strategic partnerships and funds will be used to support PROWLER.io’s recent product expansion and growth, with the company continuing to expand into a wide range of industry verticals, including finance, logistics and education.

“This investment is a huge sign of confidence in our efforts to be at the forefront of how enterprises use machines,” said Vishal Chatrath, CEO of PROWLER.io. “Having initially focused on developing our AI platform, we are excited to be expanding our product offering into new verticals, underscoring the flexibility and innovative nature of our core technology. We’re excited to be supporting global corporate and financial leaders like Mandatum Life, Pearson, RB Capital and Tencent with AI tools that enable people to make better decisions.”

“RB Capital has been making a number of strategic investments in cutting edge, transformational technologies that will revolutionise how we understand consumers in the business of real estate, hospitality and retail,” said Kishin RK, CEO of Singapore based RB Capital Group. “Implementation of the VUKU engine will ensure we lead efficiency, stay relevant and remain at the helm of emerging business and consumer trends.”

“The UK is a global leader in AI and is increasingly becoming a focus for companies looking to invest in the sector,” Dr Ling Ge, Chief European Representative at Tencent. “PROWLER.io’s data-efficient approach and focus on human-machine teaming really set it apart. We are looking forward to PROWLER.io applying its AI decision platform to a broadening range of customers, potentially including some of Tencent’s affiliate companies.”

“PROWLER.io is on its way to becoming a true enterprise AI platform — successfully expanding from its initial focus on financial services and logistics to apply its core AI technology to multiple adjacent market segments,” said Lauri Vaittinen, SVP at Mandatum Life. “We are confident that the strategic partners, alongside the existing funding support, will help the company accelerate practical implementations – including hiring more engineering talent, operational managers and reinforce the product development expertise.”

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With plastics flooding the oceans at a rate of 8 million metric tons per year, threatening sea life, last October, the EU rightly voted to ban the use of single-use plastics such as cuttlery and straws by 2020 (though plastic bottles will remain legal, with the stipulation that they must be made of 90% recycled materials by 2029). Now, alternatives are being developed and beginning to receive investment.

Founded in 2017, BIO-LUTIONS is a Hamburg-based manufacturer producing ecological packaging and disposable tableware from agricultural residues, at a cost competitive to that of production from plastics. The startup has just raised €8.3 million, with Delivery Hero and the KfW subsidiary DEG as key investors.

Following the establishment of a production plant in India, BIO-LUTIONS has seen a surge in demand for its sustainable products, garnering interest from large global retailers. The green tech startup plans to use the new funds to expand globally, increasing production in India and building new production facilities in Europe and Asia.

BIO-LUTIONS has co-developed a patented technology that makes it possible to produce packaging and disposable tableware from a variety of agricultural residues without the need for additional binding agents or chemicals. The use of agricultural residues – which are globally available and until now have mostly been disposed of for a fee as waste products – significantly reduces raw material costs – enabling the products to compete with disposable plastic products in terms of price.

At its plant in India, BIO-LUTIONS also adheres to positive social and ecological practices by sourcing its raw materials such as sugar cane leaves and banana stems from local smallholders. This offers farmers an additional source of income, helping to reduce poverty among the rural population. The use of agricultural residues also reduces air pollution by providing an alternative to the incineration of crop residues.

“A partnership with two internationally operating firms such as Delivery Hero and the DEG, makes it possible for a young company like BIO-LUTIONS to realise their expansion strategy,” said Founder and CEO Eduardo Gordillo. “This important step enables BIO-LUTIONS to sustainably build our team, our production sites and our customer portfolio. It is an honour and a privilege to work with these renowned companies moving forward.”

“Participating in the financing of BIO-LUTIONS helps us to further implement our long-term strategy – with BIOLUTIONS we have a new and important addition to our portfolio which has high social and ecological value,” added Emmanuel Thomassin, the CFO of Delivery Hero.

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Estonian startup Smart Load Solutions (SLS) is developing smart energy solutions to reduce electricity consumption and bring down costs for customers, and has just announced a round of funding from the Baltic green energy focused investor Sunly Startup.

SLS’s main product, the floor heating thermostat Themo, has already been launched on the market, relying on thousands of data points to make the right decisions on when to consume electricity. Themo is mobile phone controlled, and observes electricity prices and outdoor weather, to lower electricity costs by up to 60% for consumers. On average, Themo reduces heating bills by €8 per square meter per year.

With the investment, SLS is developing a new function for its smart thermostat, which will allow consumers to rent out their extra floor heating to power grid operators.

“These are investors who have been operating in the renewable energy sector for several years already,” said Co-founder of SLS, Madis Uuemaa. “They are aiming to develop technologies that make power generation and consumption more environment-friendly. Furthermore, it’s a sign for us that Estonia is willing to contribute to the digitalisation of power grids like it has done in other sectors.”

“Future electricity grids need to find a solution for intelligently managing and storing electricity consumption. Themo thermostat developed by SLS is a good example of successful resolution of this task. Something that both electricity consumers and network operators will benefit from,” said Priit Lepasepp, Member of Board at Sunly Startup.

“The new development will allow homeowners to make their electrical heating and heat generation work for the power network, as well as decreasing their monthly electricity bill by up to 60%,” Uuemaa stated.

He added that as the flexible management of electrical heating helps smooth out the peaks in consumption and renewable energy production as well as low points in power networks, and that both consumers and network operators will benefit.

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Is your job boring, or are you tired of being micro-managed in a hierarchical work environment? Consider joining one of Europe’s growing startups, which tend to offer “flat hierarchies”, flexibility, and opportunities for creativity, learning, and growth. Check out the EU-Startups job board to reset your career, with a listing of over 400 jobs – including project managers, analysts, marketers, developers, and more – from up and coming startups across Europe. Here’s a small sample of the positions available in Europe’s exciting startup ecosystem:

BlueOptima is looking to hire a full-time Data Analytics Consultant for the UK and EMEA region. Based in London, BlueOptima provides objective software development productivity metrics based on a broad domain of static source code metrics, covering over 70 coding languages. Applicants should hold a Master’s degree in Data Analytics or Mathematics Degree or possess equivalent expertise in an analytical role, experience in project management, and basic understanding of machine learning algorithms.

London-based Procorre is a research and development focused startup that is developing a series of products using deep learning and AI in some extraordinary ways. The startup is looking for a Lead Python Developer to join its small, collaborative group of developers, working right at the forefront of cutting-edge developments in deep learning. The startup is also seeking a CTO and a Chief Marketing Officer to join its team.

Based in Berlin, AtomLeap GmbH is an AI company using big data analysis to track and analyze the latest high-impact innovations and technologies. The startup is looking for a Junior Analyst to join our growing intelligence team. The right candidate will track and analyze the latest developments in startups and technology ecosystems, and should have a university degree in engineering, business engineering, economics, econometrics, or a related degree program with an outstanding academic record.

London-based Legatics is a legal tech startup on a mission to transform the $600 billion market for legal services worldwide. The Legatics platform is an end-to-end legal deal platform focused on efficiency and client experience, transforming traditional paper and email based legal processes into simple and highly automated software that frees lawyers from administrative tasks and improves efficiency and profitability for law firms. The startup is looking for a Machine Learning Developer who has experience in rapidly taking machine learning tools from ideation into production.

By the way: If you’re a startup CEO and also looking for some rockstar employees for your company, make sure to publish a job opening with us now. While basic job ads are free, the standard option of Featured Job posts is available for just €49 and provides you with additional visibility.

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The European Investment Bank (EIB) has agreed to finance Northvolt‘s plan for the first gigafactory for lithium-ion battery cells in Europe with a €350 million loan, pending the finalisation of the due diligence process and negotiations.

Northvolt was founded in 2016 with the mission to build the world’s greenest battery cell, recyclable and with a minimal carbon footprint, to enable Europe’s transition to renewable energy. Northvolt’s team of experts is building the next generation battery cell factory focused on process innovation, scale ,and vertical integration. Once completed, it will be one of Europe’s largest battery cell factories, producing 32 GWh worth of capacity annually. The batteries from the Northvolt factory will be targeted for use in automotive, grid storage, and industrial and portable applications.

The gigafactory will be established in Skellefteå in northern Sweden – a region home to a prominent raw material and mining cluster which has a long history of process manufacturing and recycling. Noting the region’s clean power base, building the factory in northern Sweden will enable Northvolt to utilise 100% renewable energy in its production processes.

Upon the conclusion of the loan agreement, the financing will be supported by the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI), the main pillar of the Investment Plan for Europe.

“The development of a competitive and green battery value chain within Europe can not only cut greenhouse gas emissions by decarbonising power generation and transport, but can also help protect millions of well paid jobs in European industries in the face of increasing global competition,” said EIB Vice-President Andrew McDowell. “The €350 million loan to Northvolt approved in-principle today by our Board of Directors is the largest ever direct EIB financing approval for battery technology, and we look forward to working with Northvolt over the coming months to finalize contracts.”

“The EIB and the Commission are strategic partners under the EU Battery Alliance,” added Maroš Šefčovič, European Commission Vice-President for the Energy Union. “I welcome the significant support proposed by the EIB to Northvolt gigafactory as a stepping-stone towards building a competitive, sustainable and innovative value chain, with battery cells manufactured at scale, here, in Europe. Our two institutions are working closely with the industry and key Member States to put the EU on a firm path towards global leadership in this rapidly expanding sector.”

Northvolt Ett will serve as Northvolt’s primary production site, hosting active material preparation, cell assembly, recycling and auxiliaries. The construction of the first quarter of the factory will be completed in 2020.

“This EIB in principle approval is a key moment in the process of finalising our capital raise to support the establishment of Northvolt Ett,” said Peter Carlsson, co-founder and CEO of Northvolt. “Today, we are one step closer to our goal of building the greenest batteries in the world and enabling the European transition to a decarbonised future.” 

“Today’s decision by the EIB is very gratifying and a big step towards a large-scale battery production in the EU and a fossil free welfare society,” said Ibrahim Baylan, Swedish Minister for Business, Industry and Innovation. “The decision shows that there are prerequisites in Sweden for sustainable battery production, it is important for Sweden and the rest of the EU to produce battery materials and battery cells, based on green, Swedish electricity.”

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UK-based food delivery giant Deliveroo has raised a €515 million Series G funding round led by Amazon, alongside existing investors T. Rowe Price, Fidelity Management and Research Company, and Greenoaks.

This is the third mega-round raised in Europe this week, after GetYourGuide’s 433 million round yesterday, and an $800 million round in the UK financial services company Greensill on Monday, both led by Softbank.

Founded in 2012, the round takes the total raised by Deliveroo to €1.4 billion. The European unicorn has seen revenue growth of over 650% year on year, and partnering restaurants also benefit with revenue increases of up to 30%, creating more jobs in the restaurant sector.

Deliveroo’s machine learning algorithms help to determine the time it will take to prepare a meal and to optimise routes, cutting delivery times by up to 20% and thus allowing riders to complete more deliveries per hour and increase their earnings, and enabling restaurants to increase their sales.

With the funding, Deliveroo will continue to build its service—bringing customers the food they want whenever and wherever they want it, offering more work for riders, and helping restaurants to grow their businesses by reaching new customers.

Deliveroo plans to expand its engineering team based in London, and grow its delivery reach in order to offer its service to even more new customers.

It also plans to develop new innovations in the foodtech sector, for example through delivery-only super kitchens “Editions”, as well as new products for customers to offer a more personalised experience, increased support for restaurant partners, and new tools to offer riders flexible and well-paid work.

“This new investment will help Deliveroo to grow and to offer customers even more choice, tailored to their personal tastes, offer restaurants greater opportunities to grow and expand their businesses, and to create more flexible, well-paid work for riders,” said Will Shu, founder and CEO of Deliveroo,

“Amazon has been an inspiration to me personally and to the company, and we look forward to working with such a customer-obsessed organisation.

“This is great news for the tech and restaurant sectors, and it will help to create jobs in all of the countries in which we operate.”

“We’re impressed with Deliveroo’s approach, and their dedication to providing customers with an ever increasing selection of great restaurants along with convenient delivery options,” said Doug Gurr, Amazon UK Country manager. “Will and his team have built an innovative technology and service, and we’re excited to see what they do next.”

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London-based InstaDeep is building an AI-based decision-making platform for enterprises. The startup’s platform leverages deep reinforcement learning, machine learning, and predictive analytics to optimise decisions to improve efficiency in several industries, including manufacturing, logistics, mobility, and energy, thereby increasing ROI.

Instadeep has now raised €6.3 million in Series A funding led by the pan-African private equity firm AfricInvest, with participation from Endeavor Catalyst, a New York-based co-investment fund.

“Through our own cutting-edge research, we have developed a platform that goes beyond what we have seen in AI applications in the past,” said Co-Founder and CEO of InstaDeep, Karim Beguir. “It can tackle challenging optimisation and automation challenges in dynamic and complex environments such as, but not limited to, mobility, logistics, manufacturing and energy. We already see that our product is providing real value and ROI for our clients.”

The new platform marks a milestone for InstaDeep, which has seen steady growth since it was founded in Tunisia in 2014. The startup was one of the first ever African-founded AI companies to publish original AI research at the Conference on Neural Information Processing Systems in 2018. Through its strategic partnership with AfricInvest, InstaDeep aims to continue bringing advanced AI opportunities to Africa.

“We want to grow an African AI success story and are on a mission to democratise Machine Learning in Africa. By partnering with AfricInvest, we can leverage their operational expertise and strong business knowledge on the continent, and together accelerate talent and positive use of AI,” said Beguir.

“InstaDeep has managed to establish an excellent reputation for delivering solid and unique AI solutions, and we are excited to see what they can deliver next with the support from AfricInvest,” said Khaled Ben Jilani, Senior Partner at AfricInvest. “We believe the company has a bright future ahead and could lead the development of the AI sector throughout the continent and beyond.

“AfricInvest will draw on its African business expertise to support InstaDeep’s research and development, and also their talent development program. Together, our combined knowledge will help the African continent rise to the opportunities offered by AI.”

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