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Satellite Vu’s $5M seed round will fuel the launch of its thermal imaging satellites

By Devin Coldewey

Earth imaging is an increasingly crowded space, but Satellite Vu is taking a different approach by focusing on infrared and heat emissions, which are crucial for industry and climate change monitoring. Fresh from TechCrunch’s Startup Battlefield, the company has raised a £3.6M ($5M) seed round and is on its way to launching its first satellite in 2022.

The nuts and bolts of Satellite Vu’s tech and master plan are described in our original profile of the company, but the gist is this: while companies like Planet have made near-real-time views of the Earth’s surface into a thriving business, other niches are relatively unexplored — like thermal imaging.

The heat coming off a building, geological feature, or even a crowd of people is an enormously interesting data point. It can tell you whether an office building or warehouse is in use or empty, and whether it’s heated or cooled, and how efficient that process is. It can find warmer or cooler areas that suggest underground water, power lines, or other heat-affecting objects. It could even make a fair guess at how many people attended a concert, or perhaps an inauguration. And of course it works at night.

An aerial image side by side with a thermal image of the same area.

You could verify, for instance, which parts of a power plant are active, when.

Pollution and other emissions are also easily spotted and tracked, making infrared observation of the planet an important part of any plan to monitor industry in the context of climate change. That’s what attracted Satellite Vu’s first big piece of cash, a grant from the U.K. government for £1.4M, part of a £500M infrastructure fund.

CEO and founder Anthony Baker said that they began construction of their first satellite with that money, “so we knew we got our sums right,” he said, then began the process of closing additional capital.

Seraphim Capital, a space-focused VC firm whose most relevant venture is probably synthetic aperture satellite startup Iceye, matched the grant funds, and with subsequent grant the total money raised is in excess of the $5M target (the extra is set aside in a convertible note).

“What attracted us to Satellite Vu is several things. We published some research about this last year: there are more than 180 companies with plans to launch smallsat constellations,” said Seraphim managing partner James Bruegger. But very few, they noted, were looking at the infrared or thermal space. “That intrigued us, because we always thought infrared had a lot of potential. And we already knew Anthony and Satellite Vu from having put them through our space accelerator in 2019.”

They’re going to need every penny. Though the satellites themselves are looking to be remarkably cheap, as satellites go — $14-15M all told — and only seven will be needed to provide global coverage, that still adds up to over $100M over the next couple years.

Simulated image of a Satellite Vu imaging satellite.

Image Credits: Satellite Vu

Seraphim isn’t daunted, however: “As a specialist space investor, we understand the value of patience,” said Bruegger. Satellite Vu, he added, is a “poster child” for their approach, which is to shuttle early stage companies through their accelerator and then support them to an exit.

It helps that Baker has lined up about as much potential income from interested customers as they’ll need to finance the whole thing, soup to nuts. “Commercial traction has improved since we last spoke,” said Baker, which was just before he presented at TechCrunch’s Disrupt 2020 Startup Battlefield:

The company now has 26 letters of intent and other leads that amount to, in his estimation, about a hundred million dollars worth of business — if he can provide the services they’re asking for, of course. To that end the company has been flying its future orbital cameras on ordinary planes and modifying the output to resemble what they expect from the satellite network.

Companies interested in the latter can buy into the former for now, and the transition to the “real” product should be relatively painless. It also helps create a pipeline on Satellite Vu’s side, so there’s no need for a test satellite and service.

An aerial image side by side with a thermal image of the same area.

Another example of the simulated satellite imagery – same camera as will be in orbit, but degraded to resemble shots from that far up.

“We call it pseudo-satellite data — it’s almost a minimum viable product.We work with the companies about the formats and stuff they need,” Baker said. “The next stage is, we’re planning on taking a whole city, like Glasgow, and mapping the whole city in thermal. We think there will be many parties interested in that.”

With investment, tentative income, and potential customers lining up, Satellite Vu seems poised to make a splash, though its operations and launches are small compared with those of Planet, Starlink, and very soon Amazon’s Kuiper. After the first launch, tentatively scheduled for 2022, Baker said the company would only need two more to put the remaining six satellites in orbit, three at a time on a rideshare launch vehicle.

Before that, though, we can expect further fundraising, perhaps as soon as a few months from now — after all, however thrifty the company is, tens of millions in cash will still be needed to get off the ground.

Before yesterdayYour RSS feeds

1Doc3, a Colombian telemedicine startup, raises $3 million

By Marcella McCarthy

The pandemic has made telemedicine video visits in the U.S. almost commonplace, but in Latin America, where broadband isn’t widely available, 1Doc3 is using text and chat to provide access to care. Today, the Colombia-based company announced a $3 million pre-Series A led by MatterScale Ventures and Kayyak Ventures.

“I’m on a nice MacBook for this interview, but that’s not the case of most people in LatAm,” said Javier Cardona, co-founder and CEO of 1Doc3. The company’s name is a play on the phonetics of 1, 2, 3 in Spanish.

Reaching your primary care doctor when you’re not feeling well is getting harder and harder, and 1Doc3 aims to solve that problem in LatAm by offering a telemedicine platform powered by AI that does symptom assessment, triage and pre-diagnosis before connecting the patient to a doctor.

“In 97% of our consultations, you’re connected to a doctor in a matter of minutes,” Cardona said.

After seeing the doctor, the patient can also get their prescriptions delivered to their home through 1Doc3. The startup, like others in the space, is trying to close the loop so patients can get care quickly without having to leave their homes.

In addition to Colombia, the company already has operations in Mexico and plans to use part of the funding to expand further in the region as well as building out a marketing and sales team, which it hasn’t had thus far. 

1Doc3 reaches customers directly and by establishing corporate partnerships where the companies themselves pay for their employees’ medical care through the startup. One of Cardona’s goals is to bring the unit economics down so that smaller businesses can also afford 1Doc3, which for corporates, now charges between $3-4 a month/employee.

“For big companies, the money isn’t an issue, but our region is comprised of small to medium-sized businesses,” Cardona said.

The company, which was founded in 2013 and was a finalist in TechCrunch’s Latin American Battlefield in 2018, experienced massive growth in 2020, going from 2,500 to 35,000 consultations per month from February to December 2020, respectively, which led the company to be cashflow positive last year. In March of 2021, the company had $120,000 in MRR.

Like many startups, the jolt to found 1Doc3 came from a personal experience faced by the founder.  

“When I was in Tanzania I had a medical need and I was definitely not going to go to a doctor in Tanzania, and I couldn’t reach any doctor online, not even in the U.S., and I became a little obsessed with this problem,” said Cardona, who was working in the Middle East and Africa at the time. 

This round brings the total raised by 1Doc3 to $5 million. Other investors that participated in the round include Swanhill Capital, Simma Capital and existing investors The Venture City, EWA capital (previously Mountain Nazca Colombia) and Startup Health.

Challenger bank N26 to offer insurance products

By Romain Dillet

Fintech startup N26 is launching N26 Insurance as it plans to offer insurance products that you can access from the company’s mobile app and website. The first insurance product is a smartphone insurance plan for German customers.

But the startup doesn’t plan to stop there. N26 says it is also working on private liability insurance, home insurance, life insurance, pet insurance and coverage for bikes, electronics and large purchases.

The idea is that you’ll be able to purchase coverage, manage your plans and initiate claims within the N26 app. As N26 already has your personal information, it should be easier to sign up to a new insurance product through N26 compared to creating a new account in a separate app.

The challenger bank isn’t becoming an insurtech company overnight. Instead, it is partnering with other companies, such as Simplesurance, for those products.

“The big thing we’re doing in Q1 and Q2 is a big focus on the marketplace,” co-founder and CEO Valentin Stalf told me a few months ago. “Early on we always tried to integrate the full experience.”

N26 Insurance is the first release of this new API-driven strategy. Partners will be able to integrate their products on their own and N26 will make it easy to share KYC files (‘know your customer’), transfer money between N26 and partners, etc.

“Most fintech startups are super low frequency,” Stalf said. He mentioned mortgage as one financial product that you set up once and never touch again. These companies have high customer acquisition costs, so N26 can help on that front. For instance, if you purchase a bike online, N26 could recommend a bike insurance product after your purchase.

As for phone insurance launching today, prices will vary depending on your phone. If you spent a lot of money on your phone, your insurance plan is going to be more expensive. N26 lets you opt for annual plans to save a bit of money.

Phone insurance also contributes to the freemium strategy of N26. The company offers free and paid accounts that start at €4.90 per month. The most expensive plan, N26 Metal, costs €16.90 per month and includes phone insurance.

Some customers who might want to insure their phone might be tempted to switch to N26 Metal to insure their phone and get more features, such as travel insurance.

N26 started revamping its plans in November 2020 by introducing a new mid-tier plan called N26 You. In Germany, N26 no longer sends you a plastic debit card if you create a free account. You have to pay €4.90 per month.

Offering new products in the app and pushing users toward paid subscriptions should definitely help N26 when it comes to profitability. The startup has grown tremendously over the past few years and the company is focused on consolidating the business as much as possible now.

Beat the deadline: Apply to compete in Startup Battlefield at TC Disrupt 2021

By Neesha A. Tambe

Startup Battlefield — the matriarch of all pitch competitions — is the stuff of tech legend. Heck, it even played a role in the HBO show, “Silicon Valley,” and its influence touches early-stage startups around the globe. Under no circumstance will you find a bigger, better platform for launching your startup to the world.

Battlefield has a long history of producing notable names. Need an example? A little startup by the name of Dropbox competed in the Battlefield at TC50 (the precursor to Disrupt) way back in 2008.

TechCrunch is on the hunt for innovative, game-changing startups to take the Startup Battlefield challenge and wrangle with the best-of-the-best at TC Disrupt 2021 in September. Are you game?

Apply to compete in Startup Battlefield before the deadline closes on May 13 11:59 pm (PT).

The stakes: A shot at $100,000 in equity-free prize money. Major exposure for all competing startups — think investors eager to find and fund the next big thing, journalists in search of exciting, game-changing startups to cover and potential customers and partners who can help take your business to new levels of success.

The investment: Your time. Yup, that’s it. Applying to and participating in Startup Battlefield is 100 percent free. No fees, no equity cut. You simply invest your time — all participating founders receive several weeks of training with the Startup Battlefield team. Your demo and presentation will be, well, pitch perfect when you deliver it to panels of top VC judges. And you’ll be thoroughly prepped to handle the Q&A that follows.

The perks: In addition to the massive interest from just about all Disrupt attendees, competing startups get exhibition space in the Startup Alley expo area, free passes to future TechCrunch events, a free membership to Extra Crunch and invitations to private events like the Startup Battlefield reception.

You’ll meet members of the Startup Battlefield alumni community — we’re talking about 922 companies (like Vurb, Mint, Yammer and, yes, Dropbox) that have collectively raised $9.5 billion and produced 117 exits. Once Disrupt ends, you’re part of this phenomenal community — just imagine the networking possibilities.

The details: Read more about how Startup Battlefield works.

TC Disrupt 2021 takes place September 21-23. If you’ve got an innovative, game-changing startup, apply to compete in Startup Battlefield. Make sure you submit your completed application before the deadline expires on May 13 11:59 pm (PT).

Is your company interested in sponsoring or exhibiting at Disrupt 2021? Contact our sponsorship sales team by filling out this form.

GV partner Terri Burns is joining us to judge the Startup Battlefield

By Anthony Ha

One of the best parts of TechCrunch Disrupt is the Startup Battlefield competition, and one of the most important pieces of the Startup Battlefield is our lineup of expert judges — they’re the ones the founders are trying to impress. Once the demos and presentations are done, the judges need to think quickly and ask probing questions about each startup. And then, of course, they choose the winner who gets to take home $100k and the Disrupt Cup.

This year, at our second virtual Startup Battlefield, GV partner Terri Burns will be joining us as one of our judges. Burns joined the firm (formerly known as Google Ventures) in 2017 as a principal, then was promoted to partner last year — making her the first Black female partner at GV, and its youngest partner as well.

Burns previously worked as a developer evangelist and front-end engineer at Venmo and an associate product manager at Twitter. At GV, she’s invested in high school social app HAGS and social audio app Locker Room.

During an interview about her role last fall, Burns told us she’s interested in backing Gen Z founders, and she pointed to HAGS as a good example of a product that was “built by and for Gen Z.”

“That generation is coming to an age where they are building and they are creating and they are at the forefront of the cultural landscape,” she said. “So to find founders and builders and engineers, and designers who are part of that generation and building for their own demographic, I think it’s just a new wave of entrepreneurship and builders that are coming into technology and in Silicon Valley.”

Disrupt 2021 runs September 21-23 and will be 100% virtual this year. Get your pass to attend with the rest of the TechCrunch community for less than $100 if you secure your seat before next month. Applications to compete in the Startup Battlefield are also open now until May 13.

Apply to Startup Battlefield at TechCrunch Disrupt 2021

By Neesha A. Tambe

Do you have what it takes to be a Startup Battlefield champion? All you need is a killer pitch, an MVP, nerves of steel and the drive and determination to take on all comers to claim the coveted Disrupt Cup.

If you fit the description, apply to compete in Startup Battlefield at TC Disrupt 2021 on September 21-23.

Top early-stage startups from around the world — from any country and industry — will compete for a shot at $100,000 in equity-free prize money. That’s a huge bottom-line boost, and it also comes with global exposure, massive media attention and invaluable investor interest. Oh, and let’s not forget the bragging rights associated with winning the Disrupt Cup.

Here’s a quick run-down on how it all works. First and foremost: applying to and participating in Startup Battlefield is free — no fees, no equity cut. The TechCrunch editorial team reviews all applications and will choose roughly 25 stand-out startups to participate in tech’s top pitch competition.

Competing founders receive several weeks of intense training with the Startup Battlefield team — again at no cost. Your presentation skills, pitch and business models will be honed and burnished to perfection. You’ll be more than ready to virtually step onto the tech world’s most famous stage.

You’ll face a panel of judges consisting of leading VCs and have six minutes to pitch and demo. The judges will then put you through your paces with a Q&A. If you make the first cut, you’ll repeat the experience in round two with a fresh set of judges. In round three — a.k.a. the finals — another set of judges will hear the pitches and then declare the Startup Battlefield champion.

If you’re wondering how Startup Battlefield plays out as a virtual competition, here’s a perspective that Rachael Wilcox, a creative producer at Volvo Cars, shared with us after watching last year’s competition.

“The Startup Battlefield translated easily to the virtual format. You could see the excitement, enthusiasm and possibility of the young founders, and I loved that. You could also ask questions through the chat feature, and you don’t always have time for questions at a live event.”

Here’s another important aspect of competing in Startup Battlefield. Every team receives a VIP experience at Disrupt. What’s that look like? Global exposure to for starters — to journalists hungry to cover game-changing startups and VCs eager to expand their portfolios with top talent.

Then there’s free exhibition space on the virtual show floor, access to the CrunchMatch networking platform, complimentary tickets to future TC events and a free subscription to Extra Crunch. You’ll also receive invitations to private events — like the Startup Battlefield reception with members of the Startup Battlefield alumni community.

That’s an impressive group of 922 companies — including Vurb, Dropbox, Mint, Yammer and many others that have collectively raised $9.5 billion and generated 117 exits. It’s rarified territory and a prime networking opportunity.

TC Disrupt 2021 takes place September 21-23, and there are just two questions you need to ask yourself. Are you ready? Do you have what it takes? Alrighty then — apply to Startup Battlefield and prepare to take your startup to a new level of success. We can wait to see you bring the heat!

Is your company interested in sponsoring or exhibiting at Disrupt 2021? Contact our sponsorship sales team by filling out this form.

Applications for Startup Battlefield at TC Disrupt 2021 are now open

By Neesha A. Tambe

Applications for Startup Battlefield are now open! Founders, this past year has been challenging in ways words can’t encompass. But you are persevering and now is the time to show the world what you have been working on. TechCrunch is on the hunt for game-changing and ground breaking startups from around the globe, to feature in Startup Battlefield during TechCrunch Disrupt 2021 this fall. Startups will be competing for a $100,000 equity-free prize, the eyes of investors from around the world and global media coverage on the most famous stage in tech media.

Eligibility & Application. Startup Battlefield highlights early stage companies from all geographies, in any industry. Startups should have an MVP. Founders simply need to apply here. Every application is reviewed by a member of the TechCrunch editorial team. TechCrunch takes ZERO fees – the application and participation/training program for selected companies is free. TC does not take equity any company.

Training. Startups selected to pitch will engage in an intensive training over several weeks with the Startup Battlefield team. Founders will perfect their pitches, finesse their business models and hone their presentation skills. Founders will have access to masterclasses from experts on how to build, market and scale the startups.

Pitch. About 25 startups will be selected to pitch on the main stage at TechCrunch Disrupt 2021. Each founder will present for six minutes, with a live demo, followed by a Q&A with our esteemed panel of judges. Judges like Kristin Green, Aileen Lee, Alfred Lin, Susan Lyne and more. After the first round, the top set of companies will pitch again in the final round in front of a fresh panel of judges. The judges will pick the winner who will receive the Disrupt cup and the $100,000 equity-free prize money.

Disrupt. Startup Battlefield founders are the VIPs of TC Disrupt. Founders get access to private events, complimentary event tickets, exhibition space on the virtual show floor, access to CrunchMatch, and a private Startup Battlefield Reception with members of the Startup Battlefield Alumni community. Battlefield founders will also get access to future TC events and a free subscription to Extra Crunch.

Launch your startup this September. Step into the spotlight. Apply now.

Everlywell acquires two healthcare companies and forms parent Everly Health

By Darrell Etherington

Austin-based home lab testing kit startup Everlywell is expanding its scope considerably with two acquisitions, and a transformation that includes the establishment of a new parent company led by Everlywell CEO and co-founder Julia Cheek. The new entity, called Everly Health, will now offer services including at-home lab testing kits and education, population-scale testing through a U.S.-wide clinician network, telehealth and a payer-supported/enterprise self-collected lab test.

This is a big move for Everlywell, which was founded in 2015 (and which was a finalist in TechCrunch’s 2016 Disrupt SF Battlefield completion). The company has steadily iterated on its offerings, expanding its at-home testing from fertility products to food sensitivities and allergies, and last year, to at-home COVID-19 test collection.

Everly Health’s business now includes not only that kind of at-home consumer diagnostic and personal health education, but also many relationships through PWNHealth, which will rebrand to Everly Health Solutions, with health plans, employers and labs across the U.S.

Everlywell itself was actually a longtime partner of PNWHealth, which is what Cheek told me an in interview actually helped make the acquisition make so much sense to both companies. They’d been working together for years, and that collaboration had only deepened in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“What we found over the last year was we were collaborating on all these different enterprise partnerships to offer solutions, and so our cultures are really well aligned, and our teams have worked closely together,” she said. “And we both share this common ethos that we felt the urgent need to help people and to save lives, but also this discipline around consumer-friendly and enabled care, grounded in diagnostics.”

Overall, Cheek said that the decision to go out and acquire the pieces of the puzzle needed to deliver a more comprehensive care offering was partly driven by the pandemic, but that really just drove an acceleration of what Everlywell was already beginning to see before COVID-19. Freshly capitalized with the $175 million it raised last December, the startup was in a position to make some bold moves in order to make the most of the moment.

“Before the pandemic, but especially during and looking out to post-pandemic, we have just seen this massive acceleration of the need for consumer friendly testing services,” she said. “Our business has continued to grow exponentially, even since normal doctor’s appointments resumed, orders of magnitude, 300% growth. We sat back and said, since we believe healthcare is in a watershed moment post-pandemic, where do we think we need to actually be able to offer a full-service diagnostic solution as this entire space grows. So it’s Everlywell as a consumer-friendly brand, but it’s also this massive enterprise need for home testing, and broader consumer diagnostics.”

The new acquisitions do add some complexity to Everly Health’s business, since its Everly Health Solutions also serves a number of customers that would be considered competitive with Everlywell. Cheek points out that both businesses have a demonstrated track record of security and data integrity, compliant with HIPAA standards, and says that they’re setting up a strict firewall that will result in “complete data independence” of Everly Health Solutions to ensure there’s no possibility of anti-competitive behavior.

The companies will however share customer experience, design and product resources, however, and the plan is to build a unified brand focused on high-quality customer engagement across the board.

Everly Health hasn’t released the financial details of the transaction, but it has shared shared that PWNHealth CEO Sanjay Pingle will be acting in a transitional role in the combined company for the time being, and will serve on the board of Everly Health. Investors in PWNHealth, including Spectrum Equity, and Blue Cross/Blue Shield corporate VC Blue Venture Fund will also retain an ownership stake in Everly Health.

Math learning app Photomath raises $23 million as it reaches 220 million downloads

By Romain Dillet

Photomath, the popular mobile app that helps you solve equations, has raised a $23 million Series B funding round led by Menlo Ventures. The app is a massive consumer success, and chances are you might already know about it if you have a teenager in your household.

The app lets you point your phone’s camera at a math problem. It recognizes what’s written and gives you a step-by-step explanation to solve the problem. You might think that it’s the perfect app for lazy students.

But there are many different use cases for Photomath. For instance, you can write an equation in your notebook and use Photomath to draw a graph.

Typing an equation on a keyboard is quite difficult. That’s why bridging the gap between the physical world and your smartphone is key to Photomath’s success. You can just grab a pen and write something down on a piece of paper. Essentially, it’s an AR calculator.

GSV Ventures, Learn Capital, Cherubic Ventures and Goodwater Capital are also participating in today’s funding round.

Behind the app’s success, there’s an interesting story. Photomath was originally designed as a demo app for another company called MicroBlink. At the time, the team was working on text recognition technology. It planned to sell its core technology to other companies that might find it useful.

In 2014, they pitched MicroBlink at TechCrunch Disrupt in London. And things changed drastically overnight as Photomath reached the first spot of the iOS App Store.

Photomath has now attracted over 220 million downloads. As of this writing, it is still #59 in the U.S. App Store, one rank above Tinder. Other companies tried to build competitors, but it seems like they didn’t manage to crush the tiny European startup.

The app seems even more relevant as many kids are spending more time studying at home. They can’t simply raise their hand to call the teacher for some help.

Photomath is free and users can optionally pay for Photomath Plus, a premium version with more features, such as dynamic illustrations and animated tutorials.

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