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Roundup of news and ideas from the world of startups – Week ending 23rd June 2019

News you can use

Facebook’s ambitious cryptocurrency Libra: Opportunity for startups? This week, the tech giant Facebook made headlines when it announced its ambitious cryptocurrency programs Libra and Calibra that would create Digital Wallet for billions. As expected, the announcement got tech analysts and digirati buzzing about the possibility of a move that could “transform the global economy.” In this article, we look at a few factoids about Libra and Calibra.

 New E-Tattoo Enables Accurate, Uninterrupted Heart Monitoring for Days – The leading cause of death in Texas is heart disease, according to the National Center for Health Statistics, accounting for more than 45,000 deaths statewide in 2017. A new wearable technology made from stretchy, lightweight material could make heart health monitoring easier and more accurate than existing electrocardiograph machines — a technology that has changed little in almost a century. Developed by engineers at The University of Texas at Austin and led by Nanshu Lu in the Cockrell School of Engineering, this is the latest incarnation of Lu’s electronic tattoo technology, a graphene-based wearable device that can be placed on the skin to measure a variety of body responses, from electrical to biomechanical signals.

Startup Merger and Acquisitions

iRobot acquires education startup Root Robotics – In a bid to expand its educational offerings, iRobot has acquired local Massachusetts-based startup, Root Robotics. The company is the creator of the eponymous coding robot, a two-wheeled device designed to draw on whiteboards and other surfaces, scanning colors, playing music and otherwise playing out coding instructions. We had the company at our CES stage last year, and it managed to stand out among a sea of educational ‘bots at the event. iRobot clearly sees a lot of value in the Wyss Institute at Harvard University spin-off, and will integrate the startup’s offering into its portfolio immediately. “The acquisition of Root Robotics allows iRobot to broaden the impact of its STEM efforts with a commercially available, educational robotic platform already being used by educators, students and parents,” iRobot CEO Colin Angle said in a press release. “Root also helps increase the reach of iRobot’s educational robot line by offering a proven system for people of all ages, including students in elementary school.”

Zomato is Unstoppable: Fifth Acquisition Of The Year – Post its recent funding of $60 Mn restaurant discovery app Zomato has acquired Italy’s leading restaurant search service Cibando for an undisclosed sum. The company now has a presence in 20 countries. A few other startups acquired by Zomato include MenuMania in New Zealand, Lunchtime in Czech Republic, Obedovat in Slovakia, and Gastronauci in Poland. Cibando hosts database for over 82,000 restaurants in Italy. Zomato plans to invest $6 Mn in Italy over the next 2 years to grow the team and the business in the country. The said acquisition is expected to be completed over the next week.

Apple Buys Nigerian entrepreneurs online mapping startup – Apple has acquired HopStop.com, an “online city transit guide” and mobile application founded in 2005 by Nigerian tech entrepreneur Chinedu Echeruo. Echeruo’s company, HotStop.com was acquired by Apple in a move to bolster the tech giant’s plan to upgrade its map offering, following Google’s recent $1.1 billion acquisition of Israeli mapping startup, Waze, which draws similarities with its new acquisition. Confirming the acquisition to ABC News, Apple spokeswoman Kristin Huguet said in a statement that the tech company “buys smaller technology companies from time to time” and it generally does not discuss its “purpose or plans”. HotStop.com is a mobile application that helps people get directions to subway stations and bus stops in over 300 cities. The company also makes apps available on iOS and Android platforms.

Startups failures

Task management startup RUSSSH shuts shop – Mumbai-based task management service startup RUSSSH recently announced that it was shutting down. Russsh.com was India’s first trusted online errand running service company and since 2012 it had grown to a workforce of 150. The only errand-running and delivery service in Mumbai, RUSSSH, began as GetMyPeon, before it rebranded as RUSSSH in 2015 and received a seed funding of $250,000 from undisclosed angels.

Amazon shuts down its food-delivery business – The hyper-competetive Food tech and delivery business is not easy to operate. A few recent shutdowns include Meal-delivery startup Munchery, Canadian FoodTech startup Food Starter, Indie Plate among others. Now, the tech giant Amazon is also discovering how tough the business segment is. Amazon sent an email on June 12th to Amazon Flex delivery drivers notifying them of the shutdown: “Amazon Restaurants will be closing later this month. After June 24th, you will no longer see offers for Restaurants deliveries,” the email reads. “You will continue to see blocks for all the other programs that Amazon Flex Delivery Partners support: Amazon.com, Prime Now, AmazonFresh, and Whole Foods.”

Another Legal Tech Startup Is Shutting Down – SupportHound, a spousal support calculator for Oregon attorneys that used real cases to calculate how much and how long a spousal support award should be. SupportHound was founded in 2016 by Julie Gentili Armbrust, an attorney and family law mediator in Oregon. The site uses data collected from actual cases to analyze the financial situations of parties going through a divorce and recommend a suggested support award. The suggestion forms a data-driven basis for negotiations with opposing counsel.In an email last week to SupportHound customers, Armbrust said that she had made the difficult decision to shut down the site.

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Mumbai-based task management service startup RUSSSH recently announced that it was shutting down.

Russsh.com was India’s first trusted online errand running service company and since 2012 it had grown to a workforce of 150. The only errand-running and delivery service in Mumbai, RUSSSH, began as GetMyPeon, before it rebranded as RUSSSH in 2015 and received a seed funding of $250,000 from undisclosed angels.

According to the startup, the average fee to perform a task on the platform was close to Rs 300 ($5), which could go up to Rs 1,500 ($15) depending on the location, travel time, value of content to be delivered, etc.

The founder of the seven-year-old Bharat Ahirwar  sent a mail sent to clients, a copy of which is posted on the company’s website

I founded this company in July 2012, the first of its kind at the time, with the simple idea of running everyday errands across Mumbai. Given that it was a self-funded business, we couldn’t offer great discounts like the other emergent players, and to achieve success in a developing service market proved daunting. Building a solid business such as ours became a heartfelt endeavor with a focus on scalability and sustainability.

Even so, we exceeded our expectations and established a database of over 50,000 loyal clients. Over the last 8 years, we set the benchmark for exceptional service and as a team, completed 5 lakh transactions. I always believed we were here to stay and to be the most innovative company in the last mile delivery segment. However, the past year hasn’t been very kind to us and it is not without regret that I’d like to inform you of the termination of our services as of June 3rd.

I earnestly thank you for being with us from the very beginning, even while we established our infrastructure. From the smallest to the largest delivery, we appreciate every task that you booked with us.

Please be assured that our Russsh client database will be cleared and that your personal information is secure.

This hasn’t been an easy decision for me, but it was truly one of the greatest chapters of my career and I will always be grateful for your support.

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This week, the tech giant Facebook made headlines when it announced its ambitious cryptocurrency programs Libra and Calibra that would create Digital Wallet for billions. As expected, the announcement got tech analysts and digirati buzzing about the possibility of a move that could “transform the global economy.” In this article, we look at a few factoids about Libra and Calibra.

Libra is not Facebook’s digital currency alone

Facebook teams played a key role in the creation of the Libra Association and the Libra Blockchain, working with the other Founding Members. While final decision-making authority rests with the association, Facebook is expected to maintain a leadership role through 2019.

Once the Libra network launches, Facebook, and its affiliates, will have the same commitments, privileges, and financial obligations as any other Founding Member. As one member among many, Facebook’s role in governance of the association will be equal to that of its peers.

The association will promote the open-sourced Libra Blockchain and developer platform with its own Move programming language, plus sign up businesses to accept Libra for payment and even give customers discounts or rewards. After the initial headlines made the rounds, technology analysts began highlighting a few facts about the digital currency and Libra organization.

  • Facebook won’t fully control Libra, but instead get just a single vote in its governance of the Libra organization
  • The Libra Association is an independent, not-for-profit membership organization headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland.
  • The founding members of the Libra association each run one of the validator nodes that form the network that operates the Libra Blockchain. One of the association’s directives will be to work with the community to research and implement the transition to a permissionless network over time.
  • This initial group of organizations will work together to finalize the Libra Association’s charter and will become the association’s Founding Members upon its completion. Besides Facebook there a number of founding members of the Libra Association that have invested at least $10 million each into the project’s operations.
Who are Libra association’s founding members?

The initial group of organizations that will work together on finalizing the association’s charter and become “Founding Members” upon its completion are, by industry:

  • Payments: Mastercard, PayPal, PayU (Naspers’ fintech arm), Stripe, Visa
  • Technology and marketplaces: Booking Holdings, eBay, Facebook/Calibra, Farfetch, Lyft, MercadoPago, Spotify AB, Uber Technologies, Inc.
  • Telecommunications: Iliad, Vodafone Group
  • Blockchain: Anchorage, Bison Trails, Coinbase, Inc., Xapo Holdings Limited
  • Venture Capital: Andreessen Horowitz, Breakthrough Initiatives, Ribbit Capital, Thrive Capital, Union Square Ventures
  • Nonprofit and multilateral organizations, and academic institutions: Creative Destruction Lab, Kiva, Mercy Corps, Women’s World Banking
How does Libra use Blockchain techniques ?

The Libra currency is built on the “Libra Blockchain” that aims to provide a simple global currency and financial infrastructure that empowers billions of people. The unit of currency is called “Libra.” Libra will need to be accepted in many places and easy to access for those who want to use it. In other words, people need to have confidence that they can use Libra and that its value will remain relatively stable over time.

Libra Blockchain is made up of three parts that will work together to create a more inclusive financial system:

  • It is built on a secure, scalable, and reliable blockchain;
  • It is backed by a reserve of assets designed to give it intrinsic value;
  • It is governed by the independent Libra Association tasked with evolving the ecosystem.

More details can be found on Libra Blockchain technical paper.

Calibra, Facebook’s Digital Wallet for the cryptocurrency

Announcing its move on Libra Blockchain, Facebook also detailed out plans to create Calibra, a regulated subsidiary, to ensure separation between social and financial data and to build and operate services on its behalf on top of the Libra network.

Today we’re sharing plans for Calibra, a newly formed Facebook subsidiary whose goal is to provide financial services that will let people access and participate in the Libra network. The first product Calibra will introduce is a digital wallet for Libra, a new global currency powered by blockchain technology. The wallet will be available in Messenger, WhatsApp and as a standalone app — and we expect to launch in 2020.

When it launches, Calibra will have strong protections in place to keep your money and your information safe. We’ll be using all the same verification and anti-fraud processes that banks and credit cards use, and we’ll have automated systems that will proactively monitor activity to detect and prevent fraudulent behavior. We’ll also offer dedicated live support to help if you lose your phone or your password — and if someone fraudulently gains access to your account and you lose some Libra as a result, we’ll offer you a refund.

Opportunities for startups and other businesses

Facebook is leading the Libra initiative and is expected to use its large user-base for the outreach. Libra project also has payment giants like Visa and Mastercard that gives it the financial muscle and outreach. A few opportunities that could evolve include

  • Payment processing and management  – Businesses that accept Visa and MasterCard payments may be able to signon for Libra payment options too.
  • Transfers – It is likely that users may be able to transfer money between and across their digital wallets. For example, some amounts may be stored as crypto-currency, while converting others to make regular payment like other currency
  • International money transfer – if one assumes that Libra is considered a crypto currency, individuals may be able to transfer from US$s to Euros or Indian rupees instantly. This will be a great boon for the global expatriate community that still relies on banks, moneygram and currency exchanges.
  • Currency for unbanked – As per some estimates, nearly 1.7 billion adults remain unbanked globally. Several NGOs including Creative Destruction Lab, Kiva, Mercy Corps and Women’s World Banking are already involved in the Libra Association,
  • Smartphone Apps – The Libra effort is also likely to target WhatsApp’s 1.5 billion active monthly users. Facebook also owns WhatsApp.
  • Getting involved – If you are a researcher or protocol developer, an early preview of the Libra testnet is available under the Apache 2.0 Open Source License, with accompanying documentation.
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AUSTIN, Texas — The leading cause of death in Texas is heart disease, according to the National Center for Health Statistics, accounting for more than 45,000 deaths statewide in 2017. A new wearable technology made from stretchy, lightweight material could make heart health monitoring easier and more accurate than existing electrocardiograph machines — a technology that has changed little in almost a century.

Developed by engineers at The University of Texas at Austin and led by Nanshu Lu in the Cockrell School of Engineering, this is the latest incarnation of Lu’s electronic tattoo technology, a graphene-based wearable device that can be placed on the skin to measure a variety of body responses, from electrical to biomechanical signals.

The research team reported on their newest e-tattoo in a recent issue of Advanced Science.

The device is so lightweight and stretchable that it can be placed over the heart for extended periods with little or no discomfort. It also measures cardiac health in two ways, taking electrocardiograph and seismocardiograph readings simultaneously. Most of us are familiar with the electrocardiogram (ECG), a method that records the rates of electrical activity produced each time the heart beats. Seismocardiography (SCG) is a measurement technique using chest vibrations associated with heartbeats. Powered remotely by a smartphone, the e-tattoo is the first ultrathin and stretchable technology to measure both ECG and SCG.

“We can get much greater insight into heart health by the synchronous collection of data from both sources,” said Lu, an associate professor in the departments of Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics and Biomedical Engineering.

ECG readings alone are not accurate enough for determining heart health, but they provide additional information when combined with SCG signal recordings. Like a form of quality control, the SCG indicates the accuracy of the ECG readings.

Although soft e-tattoos for ECG sensing are not new, other sensors, such as the SCG sensor, are still made from nonstretchable materials, making them bulky and uncomfortable to wear. Lu and her team’s e-tattoo is made of a piezoelectric polymer called polyvinylidene fluoride, capable of generating its own electric charge in response to mechanical stress. The device also includes 3D digital image correlation technology that is used to map chest vibrations in order to identify the best location on the chest to place the e‐tattoo.

The e-tattoo has another advantage over traditional methods. Usually an ECG measurement requires going into a doctor’s office, where heart health can be monitored only for a couple of minutes at a time. This device can be worn for days, providing constant heart monitoring.

Lu and her team are already working on improvements to data collection and storage for the device, as well as ways to power the e-tattoo wirelessly for longer periods. They recently developed a smartphone app that not only stores the data safely but can also show a heart beating on the screen in real time.

Lu’s team includes faculty members and students spanning multiple engineering disciplines — aerospace engineering and engineering mechanics, biomedical engineering, electrical and computer engineering, materials science and engineering, and mechanical engineering, as well as a collaborator from UT Southwestern Medical School. In addition, at the time the research was conducted, four members of the UT Austin team were undergraduate students.

The research was funded by the Office of Naval Research, the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health.

For more information, contact: John Holden, Cockrell School of Engineering, 512-529-6013.

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There is a lot of buzz about Amazon’s Flex, freelancer program in the media recently. According to media accounts, “Amazon India is hiring students, housewives and retired professionals as part-time delivery executives” and “The person needs to work for four hours a day and can earn₹120-140 an hour delivering packages. The “part time delivery partner” will be paid every Wednesday.”

This follows a buzz about other programs from the tech giant; in the past, we ran a few features about Amazon

On its Indian website, Amazon Flex advertises

Join Amazon Flex – Make ₹120 – ₹140 per hour delivering packages with Amazon. All you need is an Android phone and some free time*.
*We are currently looking for 2 wheeler riders in Bengaluru, Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad and Jaipur
Be your own boss, set your own schedule, and have more time to pursue your goals and dreams.

In this article, we follow up with an overview of Amazon’s flex program. Find below an extract  of key points from Amazon’s Flex program FAQ

What is Amazon Flex?

Amazon Flex is a program where independent contractors, called delivery partners, deliver Amazon orders. Hundreds of millions of items are available through Amazon, including electronics, household essentials, and much more. Delivery partners use their own vehicles to deliver packages to Amazon customers.

What does this mean? By signing up for Amazon Flex, you will be considered an “independent contractor,” and NOT employee of Amazon.

  • You are expected to own a 2-wheeler.
  • You’ll need to maintain a third-party liability insurance for your vehicle, or any such other insurance as may be required by the applicable law.
  • Amazon will cover all the drivers under Amazon Flex under a “Group Accident policy,” provided you have accepted to the Terms and Conditions on the Insurance Page while onboarding. This includes Accidental Death or Disability. This policy will cover you and remain valid only when you are using Amazon Flex to deliver packages to a customer or are returning to your designated location to return undelivered packages.
  • As an independent contractor, you can bring anything with you to aid in your deliveries and you are free to choose your attire while delivering with Amazon Flex. For your safety, we recommend that you wear closed shoes and do not wear any loose clothing while at the station or out on road for delivery.
When will you get paid?

You can track your pay on the Earnings screen of the Amazon Flex app. Amazon Flex processes payments on Wednesdays via direct deposit to the bank account you provided during sign up.

  • Earnings estimates are based on an estimated length of time (referred to as a block). We aim to ensure that the number of parcels you are assigned to deliver within your block is realistic, taking into account traffic congestion and the primary requirement to drive safely. However, the actual time taken per delivery may vary (because it could, occasionally, take less time or a little more time than expected).
  • The earnings over the week will be will be subject to a with-holding tax of 1% as per the Govt. regulations. The total payout will be net of taxes. For ex: If you make INR 1000 during the week, you will be receiving INR 990 into your account
  • PAN Card is mandatory for you to drive for Amazon Flex in India. You will have to provide the same in our Tax interview page. In case you do not have a PAN Card, please apply for the same.
Watch out for online ‘Amazon Flex’ fraud

Many programs rolled out by technology companies – including Facebook, Microsoft and Google – also attract fraudsters. With the Indian media running headlines stating “Amazon plans to tap students, housewives to speed up deliveries,” fly-by-night middlemen might step in offering ‘consulting‘ and ‘placement service‘ for candidates interested in the program.

Individuals are advised to directly contact Amazon’s flex  from their website and not through intermediaries.

Amazon Flex App. Made $30/ hour completing a 5 hour block in 3 hours #VLOG 15 - YouTube

In the media
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Roundup of news and ideas from the world of startups – Week ending 16th June 2019

News you can use

Why I left Microsoft to join a startup – When my eighth grade yearbook made a prediction of where each person would be in 10 years, it was no surprise to my family and friends that I was listed as working for Bill Gates. Immediately after college, this prediction came true, and I began my master class in building enterprise software. Anytime I needed a change of pace, there was another team ready to excite me; I worked in operations on MSN, in Windows as a Tester, and finally Visual Studio and Azure DevOps as a Program manager. Then, after 17 years, there I was explaining to my parents why I was handing in my blue badge to work for a startup. While they were supportive, they were also a bit shocked. I constantly bragged that I was fortunate enough to go to work every morning with a smile on my face, excited for the day ahead. So why was I throwing this all away and working for a company they’d never heard of?

How Iran’s startup sector can realize its potential – Experts agree that the promotion of knowledge-based startups would be a suitable remedy to address the intensifying unemployment in Iran. In fact, with youth unemployment at 27.5%, the Iranian authorities need to look for opportunities to create jobs for the country’s young, educated and tech-savvy population. While in recent years a considerable growth has been recorded in information technology (IT) startups and related investments, the actual level of activity is well below the potential that this sector offers.

The FAA is offering new partnership opportunities to validate key drone technologies – Is your company up for a challenge? The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will partner with qualified commercial companies who can match the agency’s $6 million pledge to perform vital drone integration safety work at the FAA’s UAS test sites. “The FAA intends to bridge the gap between industry and the test sites to tackle some of our most difficult technical and operational challenges,” said Acting FAA Administrator Dan Elwell today at the FAA UAS Symposium in Baltimore.

Startup Merger and Acquisitions

Why Bird Wants to Buy Smaller Electric Scooter Rival Scoot – Bird agreed to acquire smaller electric scooter rival Scoot, a San Francisco-based company that operates a fleet of mopeds and scooters. Financial terms weren’t disclosed, but the WSJ reports that Bird paid approximately $25 million in a cash and stock deal. That’s … not exactly great news given that Scoot was last valued at $70 million in 2017. It had raised $47 million in venture funding from investors including Maveron and Elemental Excelerator. So why Scoot? The second I saw the news, I thought “Duh, it’s about San Francisco.” Remember last year when San Francisco chose much-smaller players Skip and Scoot as its scooter launch partners, effectively shunning Bird and Lime? Yeah, Bird probably didn’t like that.

Grab Is Said to Have Discussed Buying Asia Payments Startup 2C2P – Singapore ride-hailing giant Grab held talks to acquire payments provider 2C2P Pte and was turned down, according to people familiar with the matter, a sign of the ambitions Southeast Asia’s most valuable startup has in financial services. Grab was one of multiple possible bidders interested in 2C2P with preliminary offers ranging up to about $200 million, said the people, asking not to be identified because the information is private. The payments startup, also based in Singapore, decided instead to raise additional capital to keep expanding as an independent company, they said.

Allscripts acquires specialty drug prescribing startup ZappRX – As part of its effort to bolster its Veradigm business vertical, EHR company Allscripts has decided to acquire specialty medication prescription startup Boston-based ZappRX. The startup built a cloud-based platform that helps speed up the administrative tasks like electronic prior-authorization and REMS documentation associated with prescribing speciality medication.

Startups failures

Amazon shuts down its food-delivery business – The hyper-competetive Food tech and delivery business is not easy to operate. A few recent shutdowns include Meal-delivery startup Munchery, Canadian FoodTech startup Food Starter, Indie Plate among others. Now, the tech giant Amazon is also discovering how tough the business segment is. Amazon sent an email on June 12th to Amazon Flex delivery drivers notifying them of the shutdown: “Amazon Restaurants will be closing later this month. After June 24th, you will no longer see offers for Restaurants deliveries,” the email reads. “You will continue to see blocks for all the other programs that Amazon Flex Delivery Partners support: Amazon.com, Prime Now, AmazonFresh, and Whole Foods.”

Another Legal Tech Startup Is Shutting Down – SupportHound, a spousal support calculator for Oregon attorneys that used real cases to calculate how much and how long a spousal support award should be. SupportHound was founded in 2016 by Julie Gentili Armbrust, an attorney and family law mediator in Oregon. The site uses data collected from actual cases to analyze the financial situations of parties going through a divorce and recommend a suggested support award. The suggestion forms a data-driven basis for negotiations with opposing counsel.In an email last week to SupportHound customers, Armbrust said that she had made the difficult decision to shut down the site.

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The hyper-competetive Food tech and delivery business is not easy to operate. A few recent shutdowns include Meal-delivery startup Munchery, Canadian FoodTech startup Food Starter, Indie Plate among others. Now, the tech giant Amazon is also discovering how tough the business segment is.

According to GeekWire, Amazon will shutter its Amazon Restaurants food delivery service in the U.S. later this month.

Amazon sent an email on June 12th to Amazon Flex delivery drivers notifying them of the shutdown: “Amazon Restaurants will be closing later this month. After June 24th, you will no longer see offers for Restaurants deliveries,” the email reads. “You will continue to see blocks for all the other programs that Amazon Flex Delivery Partners support: Amazon.com, Prime Now, AmazonFresh, and Whole Foods.”

Amazon Restaurants first launched in Seattle back in 2015. Amazon expanded the program across more than 20 U.S. cities and later in London. The service gave Prime members a way to get meals delivered to their door, using the Amazon Restaurants website or through the Prime Now shopping app.

The service was available to Amazon prime members, and according to Amazon,

You could search for “restaurants that deliver to me” or you could save time and go to www.amazon.com/restaurants and enter your ZIP Code–it’s the easy way to get the delicious food you’re craving delivered to your door. You’ll find all your favorite cuisines, including American, Chinese, Thai, Japanese, Greek, Vietnamese, Italian, Indian, Middle Eastern, and Mediterranean, plus vegan and vegetarian choices.

There are favorite national restaurants—like P.F. Chang’s, Denny’s, Five Guys, Applebee’s, Buca di Beppo, and Red Robin—plus much-loved neighborhood spots. You’ll find the same food—and the same prices—as you would in the restaurant, without the long lines to get in. Once you order a few times, you’ll notice your go-to orders are easily accessible for re-ordering.

According to geekwire, the competition is fierce in the food delivery market, with companies such as Uber, Grubhub, and DoorDash seeing big growth in recent years. Those three companies combined hold more than 75 percent of the U.S. food delivery market share.

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The high-tech oligipoly, Facebook continues to eye global expansion. A while ago, it took full-page advertisements in Indian newspapers and magazines to whip up some excitement for its groups.

Facebook also acquihired Bengaluru-based startup Little Eye Labs in 2014 and launched its Marketplace in India last year.

Now comes news that Facebook has invested in the Indian startup Meesho.  Meesho, is a play of words on meri shop (“my shop” in Hindi). The startup was founded in 2015 by Vidit Aatrey and Sanjeev Barnwal, who were batchmates at the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi.

The Bengaluru-based startup was incubated at Y Combinator, the top American startup accelerator in 2016. Thus far it has raised over $65 million, including a $50 million series C funding round just about seven months ago. According to its LinkedIn profile, Meesho has 478 employees.

The company’s post on its blog highlights

13 June, 2019: Today is an exciting day for Meesho! We’d like to announce that Facebook has made an investment in Meesho, which will help us further our efforts to enable independent entrepreneurs to build businesses and grow their customer base via social channels.
It has been an amazing journey for us and we cannot wait to do more, as we work towards our goal of building a bigger community and enabling millions of entrepreneurs to be successful. Over the last 4 years we’ve grown from our humble beginnings, to a community of more than 15,000 suppliers and 2,000,000 resellers throughout India. We share a common goal with Facebook – to enable the community and help small businesses grow. We’d like to thank our entrepreneur community, investors, and everyone who has had faith in us from the beginning – we can’t wait to keep building.
Financial terms of the deal and investment were not shared by facebook or Meesho.
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Roundup of news and ideas from the world of startups – Week ending 9th June 2019

News you can use

The FAA is offering new partnership opportunities to validate key drone technologies – Is your company up for a challenge? The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will partner with qualified commercial companies who can match the agency’s $6 million pledge to perform vital drone integration safety work at the FAA’s UAS test sites. “The FAA intends to bridge the gap between industry and the test sites to tackle some of our most difficult technical and operational challenges,” said Acting FAA Administrator Dan Elwell today at the FAA UAS Symposium in Baltimore.

Are Electric Motorbikes in India: likely to take off – A recent article in New York times highlights the shift in ride-sharing trends in India. (ref: Ride-Sharing’s Future? It May Sit on Electric Motorbikes). The article describes “Several start-ups — backed by big Silicon Valley venture firms and Uber’s Indian competitor, Ola — are betting that shared “two-wheelers” are better suited to wallets and transportation needs than the cars that are the heart of the ride-hailing industry.”

Startup Merger and Acquisitions

KPMG in India acqui-hires AI decision services startup Recommender Labs – KPMG in India has acqui-hired artificial intelligence (AI) decision services company Recommender Labs Pvt. Ltd, a statement by the professional services firm said. As part of the deal, KPMG said it will acquire Recommender’s trademark brand, software products and other intellectual property rights. The firm did not disclose the financial details of the deal. KPMG said it will combine its own capabilities with those of Recommender’s to build assets and capability to respond to client requests with AI-led offerings. The company said it is also planning to build its own centre of excellence specialising in decision-science and AI-driven solutions.

Bird is in talks to acquire scooter startup Scoot – If you are among those who thought that the scooter market sounded a little overhyped and overcrowded, we’ve gotten wind of a deal that could point to some impending consolidation. The on-demand scooter business Bird has agreed to acquire Scoot, a smaller two-wheeled mobility startup, sources tell TechCrunch.

Google to acquire analytics startup Looker for $2.6 billion – Looker will join Google’s cloud division after the acquisition closes later this year. Google said on Thursday that it would acquire Looker, an analytics software startup, for $2.6 billion, in an all-cash transaction to extend and improve its solutions for its cloud customers. The company said that the Looker acquisition would be completed later this year, subject to regulatory approvals. When the deal closes, Looker will join Google’s cloud division, the company said in a blog post.

Twitter acquires AI startup to help it fight fake news – Its technology has a 93 percent success rate in detecting fake news, according to ‘TechCrunch.’ Twitter has acquired London startup Fabula AI, which is working on a technology to detect fake news. On its website, Fabula says its patented technology called Geometric Deep Learning exhibits high success rates when it comes to identifying and spotting online disinformation. Twitter didn’t mention how it plans to use the technology, though, only that Fabula will give the company the ability to “analyze very large and complex datasets.” The startup’s tech and talent will serve as the social network’s “key driver” in its efforts to make people feel safe, to help them see more relevant information and “to improve the health of the conversation” on the platform.

Apple to expand its Autonomous Vehicle talent pool with Drive.ai acquisition – Now comes news that the tech giant is expanding its Autonomous Vehicle Talent pool by acquiring Drive.ai Like the rest of Tech Oligipoly, Apple has been working on autonomous driving technology too, and most of the growth in talent has come from acqui-hire. According to the industry journal patentlyapple.com, “As of June 4, 2019, the U.S. Patent Office have published 11 Project Titan patents describing various vehicle systems relating to semi or fully autonomous vehicles from advanced safety belts, to providing drivers with superior night vision lighting to motion control seating to suspension systems and more.”

Startups failures

Another Legal Tech Startup Is Shutting Down – SupportHound, a spousal support calculator for Oregon attorneys that used real cases to calculate how much and how long a spousal support award should be. SupportHound was founded in 2016 by Julie Gentili Armbrust, an attorney and family law mediator in Oregon. The site uses data collected from actual cases to analyze the financial situations of parties going through a divorce and recommend a suggested support award. The suggestion forms a data-driven basis for negotiations with opposing counsel.In an email last week to SupportHound customers, Armbrust said that she had made the difficult decision to shut down the site.

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A few days ago, Apple announced that it was acquiring asthma-monitoring startup Tueo Health. Now comes news that the tech giant is expanding its Autonomous Vehicle Talent pool by acquiring Drive.ai

Like the rest of Tech Oligipoly, Apple has been working on autonomous driving technology too, and most of the growth in talent has come from acqui-hire.

According to the industry journal patentlyapple.com, “As of June 4, 2019, the U.S. Patent Office have published 11 Project Titan patents describing various vehicle systems relating to semi or fully autonomous vehicles from advanced safety belts, to providing drivers with superior night vision lighting to motion control seating to suspension systems and more.”

Drive.ai has been for sale for a while and the startup has struggled to gain traction, according to a person familiar with the firm. It has a limited number of pilot tests. One contract with Frisco, Texas, was not renewed after the city cited high costs, VentureBeat reported in March.

The terms of the deal weren’t announced. Drive.ai had raised about $77 million in funding since it was founded in 2015, and according to Pitchbook data, it was valued at about $200 million in 2017. According to its LinkedIn profile, the company had about 158 employees who are likely to join Apple.

How a self-driving startup can compete with established companies: Carol Reiley of Drive.ai - YouTube

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