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    • Fast food billionaire Jack Cowin has partnered with the CSIRO’s innovation fund to create a plant-based burger
    • The JV business, v2food, has been tasked with developing the ‘v2whopper’.  
  • Fast food meat alternatives are expected to generate $7.5 billion in revenue by 2025.

Jack Cowin became a billionaire selling burgers through his Hungry Jacks fast food chain.

But in a sign of the times, the entrepreneur is now turning his attention to the vegetarian market, partnering with the CSIRO’s innovation fund, Main Sequence Ventures (MSV), in a joint-venture business to develop a plant-based burger they’ve dubbed the ‘v2whopper’.

The business, v2food, was founded by former Mars and PepsiCo research director Nick Hazell, and is being backed by Cowin’s private company, Competitive Foods Australia, alongside MSV. The respective investments in the business are undisclosed.

The CSIRO’s expertise in food science, manufacturing and sustainability will be used in developing the product.

Cowin, said he wants to create an alternative version of the classic Whopper at an affordable price “to answer to the environmentally sustainable movement that we’re now seeing.”

“v2food will draw on the world-leading food science expertise of CSIRO to help pave an eco-friendly future, and we’re proud that Competitive Foods will play an active role in bringing the future of food to the mass consumer market,” he said.

v2foods CEO & founder Nick Hazell. Source: supplied

“With Main Sequence Ventures bringing together the right partners to make this happen, we have no doubt this product development will be a unique and exciting market opportunity for Australians which will mirror the popularity overseas.”

Cowin is following in the footsteps of Silicon Valley’s Impossible Foods, backed by the likes of Google Ventures, Bill Gates, Hong Kong billionare Li Ka-shing and Singapore government fund Temasek Holdings. Its plant-based “Impossible burger”, which mimics the smells, taste and texture of beef, has become a mainstream hit, served in more than 2500 restaurants across the US, while Air New Zealand began serving it on its flights last year.

If Australian fast food fans embrace the fake meat patty, Cowin stands to make billions more with the global meat alternative market predicted to be worth $7.5 billion by 2025.

And while there’s already no shortage of soy-based vegetarian alternatives, existing products such as tempeh retail at more than $10 a kilo, costing more than beef mince.

v2food CEO Nick Hazell acknowledges Australia’s love affair with meat but argues that ultimately global meat consumption is unsustainable and diners want more eco-friendly options.

“Sustainability of our food supply is our primary goal. With the global population set to hit 9.8 billion by 2050, our current food production and delivery model is not going to be able to scale to the challenge,” he said.

“We need a ‘version two’ of food, and this starts with our planned ‘v2whopper’. The v2whopper is the Australian bid to answer the demand in the mass consumer market today for an eco-friendly and affordable burger, which will lay the groundwork for us to tackle the massive challenge ahead of us.”

CSIRO Deputy Director of Agriculture and Food, Professor Martin Cole said food security and quality is one of the greatest challenges CSIRO is looking to solve.

“The rapid growth of our population is straining our environment and putting food security at risk, and at the same time, our eating habits are less healthy than ever before. The industry needs to be part of the solution to developing innovative new foods that are healthier and more sustainable,” he said.

Meanwhile, several ventures are working towards artificial beef created in the laboratory after scientists at Dutch startup Mosa Meat produced meat in a petri dish in 2013.

San Francisco-based Just Inc. which has already produced plant-based faux egg products, is among the US attempts, although it’s now running behind schedule on a promise to produce a consumer product by late 2018, and earlier this year went looking for another US$200 million in funding.

Another California-based startup, Memphis Meats, has set itself a deadline of 2021 for retail lab meat production.

v2foods has not announced a deadline for the production of the v2whopper.

Cowin’s investments in fast food franchises also extends to a stake of more than $1 billion in the Domino’s pizza chain.

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The CSIRO’s Data61 says around half of the internet’s most popular websites are at risk of malicious activity because of their dependence on third party services for ads, tracking and analytics.

The problem is so profound, it’s now at the point where “the trust model of today’s World Wide Web is fundamentally broken”, experts from the data arm of Australia’s national science agency argue.

Professor Dali Kaafar, Information Security and Privacy research leader at Data61, who is also Scientific Director of Optus Macquarie University Cyber Security Hub, presented the findings of a research paper “The Chain of Implicit Trust: An Analysis of the Web Third-party Resources Loading” at a conference in the US last week.

The tracking services used by leading websites can be so varied, without property scrutiny of security and privacy, that they ultimately undermine the implicit trust the original website holds with users, he argues.

“Almost all websites today are heavily embedded with tracking components. For every website you visit, you could be unknowingly loading content from potentially malicious parties and leaving a trail of your internet activity,” Professor Kaafar said.

The research from Prof. Kaafar and his team found that 1.2% of third parties linked to the top 200,000 websites were suspicious.

Popular web resource Javascript, generally used to improve the user experience of the web, represents the greatest risk of malicious activity as they are designed to be executed undetected.

“The potential threat should not be underestimated, as suspicious content loaded on browsers can open the way to further exploits including Distributed Denial of Service attacks which disrupt traffic to websites, and ransomware campaigns which cost the world more than US$8 billion in 2018,” Professor Kaafar said.

“Worryingly, the original or ‘first party’ websites have little to no visibility of where these resources originate. This points to a lack of ‘trustability’ of content on the web, and the need to better regulate the web by introducing standardised security measures and the notion of explicit trust.”

The research found that while a majority (84.91%) of websites have short chains (with levels of third-party dependencies below 3), others sites had chains with more than 30.

“Of course, the most commonly implicitly trusted third-parties are well known operators (e.g., doubleclick.net), but we also observed various less known implicit third-parties,” the paper concludes.

They performed sandbox (computer security) experiments on the suspicious JavaScript they found.

“We witnessed extensive download activities, much of which consisted of dropper files and malware, which was being installed on the machine. It was particularly worrying to see that JavaScript resources loaded at level ≥ 2 in the dependency chain tended to have more aggressive properties, particularly as exhibited by their higher VTscore,” the paper said.

“This exposes the need to tighten the loose control over indirect resource loading and implicit trust: it creates exposure to risks such as malware distribution, SEO poisoning, malvertising and exploit kits redirection. We argue that ameliorating this can only be achieved through transparency mechanisms that allow web developers to better understand the resources on their webpages (and the related risks).”

Resolving the security issue created by dependency chains will require additional research, Prof. Kaafar said, and the support of the World Wide Web Consortium, the predominant organisation focused on developing web standards, as well as web ‘hypergiants’.

To protect yourself in the meantime, he suggests installing simple web browser extensions such as ad- and JavaScript-blockers to limit exposure to malicious activity.

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 The Kogan.com promotion the ACCC alleges was misleading.
Internet entrepreneur Ruslan Kogan’s online retail empire has fallen foul of consumer watchdog the ACCC (Australian Competition and Consumer Commission), which is suing the business over false or misleading conduct claims, saying Kogan increased prices ahead of a discount sale.

The ACCC has launched Federal Court action against Kogan Australia Pty Ltd and its Hong Kong arm, accusing the retailer of breaching Australian Consumer Law by increasing prices on 621 products, in most cases by at least 10%, just before it offered a 10% discount in June 2018.

The prices then dropped by 10% or more again on July 2 after the sale ended, the ACCC alleges in court documents.

ACCC Commissioner Sarah Court said said her organisation alleges the Kogan advertisements deceived consumers into thinking they were getting products below the usual prices.

“In fact, Kogan had inflated product prices which we say created a false impression of the effective discount,” she said.

The end of financial year sale ran between 27 and 30 June 2018, offering the discount with the code “taxtime”.

The promotion appeared on the website, in text messages to nearly 1 million customers and emails to another 25.7 million people.

Towards the end of the promotion, Kogan’s email advertisements used statements such as “48 hours left!” and “Ends midnight tonight!”, which the ACCC alleges gave the impression that consumers only had a limited time to purchase at the “discounted” prices.

Kogan.com Ltd (ASX:KGN) has more than 1.4 million active customers.

The business listed on the ASX in 20 at $1.80 a share.  A short time ago, Kogan shares were down 4.32% to $5.98 on news of the ACCC action.

The Kogan.com empire has expanded its portfolio beyond retail since listing to include insurance, health, pets, travel, mobile phones, and internet services.

The online retail arm sells everything from consumer electronics to whitegoods, office equipment, furniture and toys.

Last year, Kogan.com posted a 277% increase in full year profit to $14.11 million on revenue of $412.31 million, up 42.4%.

The ACCC is seeking penalties, injunctions, declarations, corrective notices and costs from Kogan.

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Ajero’s David McLeod, Farzan Marfatia and Peter Walton

While concerns about Australia’s energy mix has been focussed on the closure of old coal-fired power stations, especially among politicians, there’s a $35 billion problem sitting off the coastline that a new Perth startup is hoping to tackle.

Just as power station reach the end of their productive life after 50 years, around 80 offshore oil and gas plants are also in a similar predicament and so far, only a handful have been decommissioned.

The total cost to decommission Australia’s fields over the next three decades is an estimated US$24 billion (AU$35bn)

 A new startup, Ajero, the brainchild of three former energy sector executives, believes it has part of the solution.

Ajero’s software-as-a-service (SaaS) platform aims facilitate the decommissioning to clear oceans of abandoned offshore rigs.

Founder Farzan Marfatia said the current processes to decommission a rig are ambiguous at best, with a minefield of government regulation adding to the difficulties.

“We’re striving to bring consistency and logic to the planning and decommissioning process, while keeping the industry up to date with the latest technologies and methods available,” he said.

 “Legislation calls for complete removal and rehabilitation. Literally, it means oil and gas companies must leave the title area how they received it.”

But Marfatia says that’s not always the best solution, with new environmental research suggesting sub-sea equipment turned into an artificial reef or marine habitat may benefit the environment, while excavation to remove the equipment can potentially cause more damage to the seabeds and marine habitats.

“There is some evidence fish stocks improve around pipelines and infrastructure. So, the question is whether complete removal is really the best solution,” the former project engineer said.

 He enlisted two former colleagues, Peter Walton, now Ajero’s managing director, and David McLeod, CFO/finance manager, to help develop the software, which assesses each project against a range of regulatory and environmental issues in a fraction of the time it would normally take a consultancy – and at considerably less cost.

“If an operator wants to leave some structures in place when decommissioning, there are questions,” Marfatia said.

“What do they leave? What do they remove? And how likely is it to be accepted by the regulator? The Ajero software platform can provide the solutions.”

Ajero’s approach to tackling regulatory frameworks has also attracted interest from other industries with the company recently signing agreements with two global management consulting firms to explore its use in legal and insurance sectors.

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TRAVLR co-founders Lani and Simon te Hennepe.

  • Travel website TRAVLR has signed a strategic alliance with ASX-listed 8common Ltd targeting the ‘bleisure’ market
  • The deal gives gives TRAVLR access to corporate clients such as Woolworths and Amcor and more than 100 government departments. 
Travel website TRAVLR, which lets people plan and book trips in the Pacific and Indonesia, has formed an alliance with listed software solutions company 8common Ltd (ASX:8CO) to incorporate its employee travel and expense management system Benefits8 in travel planning.

8common Ltd’s client base includes major corporate clients such as Woolworths, Mitre 10, Boral, Rabobank and Amcor, along with state and federal government agencies including the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet and the NSW Department of Education.

Based on research that more than two-thirds of people away on a business trip want to extend their time away to incorporate a leisure component, TRAVLR co-founder Simon te Hennepe is keen to target what’s been dubbed the “bleisure” market.

TRAVLR was launched by te Hennepe and his wife Lani a decade ago after they had initial success with The Bali Bible. The site focuses specifically on New Zealand, Fiji, the Pacific Islands and Indonesia. 

“In 2019, bleisure travel – adding a leisure portion of travel to a business trip – will become a hugely popular way to make the most out of business travel, with 68% of business travellers globally taking at least one bleisure trip per year,” te Hennepe said.

“It’s great to be partnering with 8common and Benefits8 who have recognised the need for innovation and a new technology platform that powers and allows the whole experience of booking and planning travel to be effortless and enjoyable whilst also maintaining the highest compliance standards.”

The Expense8 Corporate Travel module features an easy and secure approval process for both managers and employees to meet strict government and corporate compliance requirements, including a pre-trip approval function to let employees easily plan and book corporate travel.

8Common Executive Chairman Nic Lim said the benefit of his company’s software is it keeps the lines clear between business and leisure travel,

“Benefits8 customers will have access to an enhanced travel booking experience through TRAVLR featuring an industry leading network of flights, hotels and resorts, Agoda homes inventory, cruising, as well as more than 200,000-plus experiences and activities from across the globe,” he said.

The deal comes 18 months after TRAVLR raised $5 million from New Zealand investors to develop its services.

The one-stop site incorporates other platforms such as Airbnb, Booking.com, Agoda and airlines.

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Business leaders are ignoring the ethical challenges of emerging technologies according to the latest Trendlines report. In doing so, they risk losing the trust of both their customers and employees.

 The survey conducted by Avanade canvassed 1,200 C-suite, senior-level IT and business decision makers in 12 countries to reveal that while most respondents (82%) agreed digital ethics is the foundation of any successful artificial intelligence (AI) program, an almost equal number (81%) said they lack confidence that their organisations are prepared to address ethical issues related to AI, robotics and similar technologies.

Aaron Reich, Avanade Senior Director, Emerging Technologies and one of the report’s authors, said digital ethics is one of the fastest growing concerns for many businesses; accelerating up the boardroom agenda even faster than security.

“Increasingly, clients are coming to us to have business-critical discussions which reinforce the central role a robust, digital ethics framework has in building long-term trusted relationships with customers, employees and other stakeholders,” Reich said.

While many large companies already have compliance officers, Avanade predicts a significant increase in senior digital ethics positions over the next one-to-three years.

These roles could have broad-ranging scopes across the business areas impacted by digital ethics, including compliance, risk management, product development, marketing, brand and reputation management, corporate citizenship and more.

“While digital ethics is fast becoming a boardroom discussion item, it’s everyone’s responsibility to ensure that their company is considering the ethical consequences of their actions,” says Reich.

“Taking action means establishing guiding principles and making them transparent internally and externally, creating playbooks, providing training, engaging ethics hackers to identify potential ethics issues, and participating in public discussion and advocacy.

“Most importantly, it means enabling employees with best practices and tools to build ethics-by-design into their work.”

  • This story first appeared on Kochie’s Business Builders as Digital ethics, yes it’s a thing, and you shouldn’t ignore it! You can read the original here
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Founders are encouraged to take on the world when building a startup and a new software-as-a-service business launched this week aims to do just that by capturing a large slice of Australia’s $7 trillion property market.

Propic is targeting the real estate agents, developers and property managers in an all-in-one enterprise technology platform featuring cloud computing, big data and artificial intelligence.

And it could deliver the biggest disruption to how property is sold and managed in the sector’s history, replacing hundreds, if not thousands of agents with AI, bots and smart device interactions.

Propic CEO Jeff Gray

The business has hit the ground running with former Domain commercial director and big data expert Jeff Gray as CEO, and another former Domain GM and telco exec Fatek Chamma, as chief experience officer, alongside COO Peter Hutchinson.

Their pitch to agents running several different software programs in their business is that Propic does it all in one license

Propic claims to solve four key industry problems, including giving agents the ability to scale with fewer people and allow customers to interact with the agent in real-time, globally, 24/7.

Jeff Gray isn’t holding back on the company’s ambitions, as it kicks off with seed funding from private investors and a staff of 40 in its Sydney HQ and Melbourne office. He’s already looking towards a Series A round to scale internationally.

“Even by conservative estimates, we forecast significant market share and revenue growth in the initial couple of years from our Australian operations, exclusive of how advanced our international expansion plans have progressed by this time,”  he said.

“We are aiming for 10% market share in Australia by 2021.”

There are six aspects to Propic: a customer engagement platform, SIGNIFI, which offers predictive analytics, voice enablement, app building capacity and a personalised user interface to agents; Enliven – a customer guidance platform with an AI user interface using machine learning that turns sales, property management, assistant and marketing functions into virtual interactions; Reveal – predictive business intelligence that tracks transactions, merges data, and augments CRM data; Sorted – a customer lifecycle app to deliver services automatically for properties; Outfit – a mass personalisation customer contact base; and finally Handled, which they hope to launch as an Internet of Things link between agents and a property’s connected devices in 2020.

Propic trialled machine learning chatbot technology during Canberra development The Grounds, declaring it a success because the chatbot succeeded in understanding context in real-time conversations with buyers to the point where some apartments were sold with no human interaction until it was time to sign a contract.

The AI and big data analysis also give agents the ability to predict customer needs and deliver the services when required. It can automatically book repairs, collect rents, prospect, follow up enquiries, provide information and refer customers to third parties.

The vision for Propic is that it will also enable consumers to connect and manage the services that run their homes, including monitoring energy consumption.

While the software doesn’t bode well for the future employment prospects of agents who’ve done well out of the nation’s property boom over the last decade, Propic’s ability to enlist AI virtual assistants could be just the solution troubled agencies such as the ASX-listed McGrath group needs as it looks to cut costs and compete in the current property downturn.

Peter Hutchinson’s pitch to the market at a time when investment in proptech in the Asia-Pacific region is predicted to hit $5.87 billion annually by 2021 is simple.

“Most real estate businesses recognise they need to look at buying new software if they are to survive, on the basis that they must lower their costs and make smarter decisions in order to meet evolving customer expectations. Why would you buy six or seven programs or licences when you can use one?” he said.

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The veteran tech-driven Sydney visual content business Curiious – best known for its Vivid Opera House projection and the stunning visuals during the opening ceremony at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games – has raised $2 million from sophisticated investors to help scale its VR education and training platform globally.

Founder Brett Heil wants to revolutionise training and education via technology, and has launched a virtual reality platform, Curiious IQ, he says is set to change the way businesses, institutions and individuals learn and collaborate.

Curiious IQ can stream live to groups on up to 50 VR headsets simultaneously. Users see each other as avatars in the virtual space allowing for interaction and collaboration on tasks and challenges. The platform  works on any VR device.

Heil said the idea has attracted strong interest in the education and corporate training sectors in Australia and the US.

“While traditional VR technology created a powerful and personal experience, the user experience of the technology was isolating, difficult to manage and honestly impractical when working in group settings. That’s what we set out to solve and what lead us to create Curiious IQ,” he said.

“Technological advances in staff training, education and effective remote collaboration are enabling competitive advantages across many industries, and VR in particular is taking off in these areas.”

Curiious IQ lets a facilitator control, manipulate and annotate live into the virtual space from a single device such as a tablet or a smart screen.

Curiious general manager Michelle Schuberg said the company is working closely with education departments, corporate clients and healthcare organisations to create content for virtual learning and collaboration.

“One of the main benefits of the IQ platform is that the educator is able to see and determine in real-time how a student or staff member is faring. From there they can change the environment and identify individuals or teams which need greater assistance,” he said.

“For any organisation that needs to train staff or students, Curiious IQ can provide higher engagement, better retention and ultimately a faster path to proficiency. An offering that is proving very attractive to clients and investors alike.”

Curiious, formerly known as The Pulse, has been around for 20 years and has offices in Sydney, Hong Kong, Los Angeles and New York, with a focus on creating story-driven immersive experiences, including Bangarra’s Dark Emu videos screened on the Sydney Harbour Bridge during Vivid.

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Melbourne-based Pencil, an application management system that allows businesses to easily submit credit applications digitally, with immediate approvals, is the only Australian business chosen to take part in Startupbootcamp’s next fintech accelerator.

Two social impact startups, Youthful Savings, a learning marketplace offering the next generation the tools of financial education and entrepreneurship; and ZigWay, a mobile app that helps low income families access nano loans of less than $200 quickly and cheaply, will also join the cohort, which includes startups from India, Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, Myanmar, the UK and the US.

Startupbootcamp received nearly 900 applications globally from 59 countries for the program and the final 10 were chosen from a shortlist of 20 companies after a recent two-day screening and mentoring event in Melbourne.

Businesses with a focus on back office efficiency comprised the majority of total applications, followed by those in the areas of asset and wealth management, financial inclusion and RegTech, financial wellbeing and open banking.

The program, backed by the likes of NAB, Bupa, Deloitte, Capgemini, DiUS and Amazon Web Service, will kick off on June 3, climaxing with a Demo Day on August 29.

Each company receives free co-working space at Startupbootcamp’s Melbourne CBD offices, $25,000 for living expenses, more than $1 million worth of partner deals, including support from DiUS, KHQ Lawyers and Pitcher Partner.

Startupbootcamp Australia CEO Trevor Townsend  said the global fintech sector was booming with VC-backed companies raising US$6.3B in the first quarter of 2019.

“The Asia-Pacific region is the fastest growing and we’ve seen tremendous interest in this program across the financial sector in Australia. The calibre of startup applications is the best and most we’ve ever seen for a first year program,” he said

“The next three months will be transformational for the 10 startups selected. They’ll be pushed to breaking point and will need to quickly focus on their greatest opportunity as a result of the hundred plus meetings, workshops and mentoring sessions with industry leaders. It’s why when we select, the most important thing we look for is the strength of their team, how coachable they are and their ability to execute.”

Startupbootcamp FinTech Australia MD Brian Collins said it was exciting to have an Australian startup in the top 10 from among 900 global applications.

“Pencil is changing the way that smaller businesses interact with their vendors and its founders, Tim and Greg, are seasoned entrepreneurs who have a track record of building successful businesses here in Australia,” he said.

“Collectively, these 10 startups have the ability to make a real impact on the Australian financial industry at large.”

Startupbootcamp Australia accelerated 20 startups since 2018, which have gone on to raise a combined total of AU$61.3M, create 44 jobs and work on 25 POCs with local commercial partners.

The 10 teams selected for the FinTech Accelerator program are:

  • ZScore Technologies: an AI-powered platform that enables organisations to understand and extract value from their data through advanced data profiling.

  • Emotics: a RegTech company that analyses user engagement with online compliance training, using a suite of analytics, including facial recognition and facial micro-expression analysis.

  • ChintaMoney: a mobile app that digitises Jam Jar budgeting, which allows users to split their income into different categories (bills, travel, savings, etc) for better financial health.

  • InsureVite: a NLP chatbot that includes advanced features, like smart contracts and optical image processing, for applications in industries like insurance, banking, e-commerce, and airlines.

  • TradingValley: a wealth management solution powered by machine learning that helps users build the right investment portfolio to suit their life needs.

  • InfoVera: an online marketplace that gives business owners an industry benchmark score and recommendations to increase the value of their company.

  • Youthful Savings: a learning marketplace that empowers the next generation with the tools of financial education and entrepreneurship necessary to thrive.

  • Pencil: an application management system that allows businesses to easily submit credit applications digitally by auto collating an accurate ASIC-verified business record for immediate approvals.

  • ZigWay: a mobile app that helps low income families access nano loans of less than $200 quickly and cheaply.

  • Fractal: an API suite that provides a data aggregation and intelligence platform where banks and other financial institutions can provide value adding services to SMEs.

Startupbootcamp is one of the world’s largest fintech innovation networks, running programs in more than 10 cities around the globe.

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Australians have embraced GoFundMe at astonishing levels, with more than two million Australians donating more than $200 million in the three years since its local launch in 2016.

And now the US-based online fundraising platform has made its first Australian hire with Nicola Britton, previously with tech-focused PR firm Sling & Stone, signing on as Regional Manager.

GoFundME CEO, Rob Solomon, said his organisation had seen “huge momentum” in Australia, calling 2019 “a defining year for GoFundMe Down Under” after it dropped the platform fee to offer free fundraising.

Last month it launched GoFundMe’s charity fundraising feature with PayPal Giving Fund, making charity fundraising easier and faster.

GoFundMe new Australian manager, Nicola Britton

“GoFundMe has become the internet’s ‘take action’ button, and we continue to rapidly innovate to ensure that we have the safest, most efficient platform to make the social fundraising experience for both individuals and charitable organisations seamless,” he said.

“We’re only just getting started and Nicola’s background in supporting innovative tech businesses, campaigning and policy will help us fast-track our ambitions in the market.”

Britton, a former Change.org campaigner, said that after seeing the potential in tech, she’s excited to be part of GoFundMe’s approach.

“The nature of giving is shifting globally. I have been particularly impressed with GoFundMe’s commitment to trust and safety, putting us at the forefront of this social fundraising revolution,” she said.

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