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Taster grabs $37 million for its native online restaurants

By Romain Dillet

French startup Taster has raised a $37 million Series B funding round from Octopus Venture, Battery Ventures, LocalGlobe, HeartCore, Rakuten, GFC and Founders Future. The company operates dozens of restaurants that only exist on food delivery platforms. You can’t book a table as there is no table.

Taster has been focusing on five street food-inspired concepts so far — Bian Dang (Taiwanese food), A Burgers (plant-based burgers), Mission Saigon (Vietnamese food), Out Fry (Korean food) and Stacksando (Japanese street food). After that, Taster has opened dozens of kitchens across 40 different cities and listed its kitchens on food delivery platforms, such as Deliveroo and Uber Eats.

Essentially, the startup wants to build new restaurant chains for the 21st century. Instead of opening brick-and-mortar restaurants, Taster focuses on food delivery as it’s still a booming segment. In Paris, Taster restaurants are the third restaurant group on Deliveroo behind McDonald’s and Burger King — it represents over 5,000 meals per day.

After operating its own kitchens, Taster now wants to partner with existing restaurants that don’t get a lot of orders on Deliveroo or Uber Eats. Taster brings its own native brands and menus as well as its tech tools.

Taster has built its own delivery app for Android and iOS. But you can still find Taster’s restaurants on third-party platforms. The startup doesn’t want to reinvent the wheel and replace food ordering platforms. But it makes sense to offer its service to end customers directly.

As Taster brands become more and more familiar, it should create demand from day one — restaurants can expect between €4,000 and €6,000 in revenue during the first week. By 2025, Taster wants to operate in 1,000 cities thanks to this partnership model.

Image Credits: Taster

Feels is a new dating app with profiles that look more personal

By Romain Dillet

Meet Feels, a new French startup that wants to change how dating apps work. According to the company, scrolling through photos and reading descriptions tend to be a boring experience. Feels want to improve profiles so that navigating the app feels more like watching TikTok videos or browsing stories.

“For the past 10 years, there’s been little innovation in the industry,” co-founder and CEO Daniel Cheaib told me. “The reason why many people uninstall dating apps is that it’s boring. Profiles all look the same and we feel like we’re browsing a catalog.”

In that case, Cheaib is thinking about Tinder, but also other dating apps that feel like Tinder but aren’t exactly Tinder, such as Bumble, Happn, etc.

Feels’ founding team has spent two years iterating on the app to find out what works and what doesn’t. Now that retention metrics are where they’re supposed to be, the company is now ready to launch more widely.

A screenshot of the app Feels

Image Credits: Feels

If you want to show interesting content to your users in a dating app, you have to rethink profiles. Arguably, this has been the most difficult part of the development phase. When you install the app, it takes around 15 minutes to create your profile.

At first, only 30% of new users finished the onboarding process. Now, around 75% of new users reach the end of the signup flow.

So what makes a profile on Feels different? In many ways, a profile looks more like a story, or TikTok posts. Users can record videos, add text and stickers, share photos, answer questions and more.

“When you’re done with the onboarding process, you have consistent profiles with people sharing content about them,” Cheaib said.

Like other dating apps, there are many options when it comes to gender identity — you’re not limited to woman or man. You can then say that you want to see all profiles or just some profiles based on various criteria.

After that, you can look at other profiles. Once again, Feels tries to change the basic interaction of dating apps. Most dating apps require you to swipe left or right, or give a thumbs up or a thumbs down. When you think about it, it’s a binary choice that requires a ton of micro decisions.

Sometimes, you don’t have any strong feelings about someone. Or maybe you just want to go to the next profile. And the fact that you have to triage profiles like this leads to a lot negativity, whether it’s conscious or subconscious — you keep rejecting people, after all.

When you’re looking at a profile on Feels, it fills up your entire screen. Videos start playing, you can see what the person likes and who they are in front of a camera. You can react on some content or you can simply move on by swiping up. There’s no heart or like button.

When the startup thought they finally were going somewhere, they raised a $1.3 million funding round (€1.1 million) from a long list of business angels, such as somebody in Atomico’s business angel program, Blaise Matuidi, Eric Besson, René Ricol, Ricardo Pereira , Yohan Benalouane, Nampalys Mendy, Jean Romain Lhomme, Julien Radic and Jean Michel Chami.

Now, Feels plans to attract new users with organic TikTok posts, some TV ads and more. The company wants to reach one million users by the end of the year with a big focus on France for now. There are 100,000 users right now.

When it comes to monetization, Feels started offering a premium subscription to unlock more features. The company is still iterating on that part.

Feels is just getting started in a crowded and competitive industry. Unlike other companies, Feels has invested heavily in its own product before working on user acquisition and paid installs. It’s an ambitious strategy but it has a lot of potential as it could lead to a truly different dating app.

Sunday raises $24 million seed round to build a fast restaurant checkout flow

By Romain Dillet

Meet Sunday, a new startup that is going to attract some headlines as it has raised a $24 million seed round at a $140 million post-money valuation. That’s a lot of money for a company that started just a few months ago but that’s because Sunday wants to move quickly.

Sunday is getting noticed because it is founded by Victor Lugger, Tigrane Seydoux and Christine de Wendel — Lugger and Tigrane have been working together for several years as they’re the founders of Big Mamma. Christine de Wendel headed Zalando in France before joining ManoMano as COO.

If you’re not familiar with Big Mamma, they’ve launched a dozen Italian restaurants in France. They also manage La Felicità, the food court at Station F.

Some people love those restaurants because the food is good and it’s relatively affordable. Some people hate it because Big Mamma is also particularly well known for its long queues and the fact that you always feel like you have to eat quickly for the next group. But it’s clear that it’s been working well for the past few years.

Managing Big Mamma during a pandemic led to Sunday, a spin-off company incorporated in the U.S. The restaurant company wanted to offer a way to check the menu and pay without touching anything. Like many restaurants, they put QR codes on the tables to that customers can scan them with their phones and load a website.

But Sunday didn’t stop at the menu as it also connects directly to the cash register system. Sunday supports Oracle Micros, Brinks, Tiller, Zelty, Revo, CashPad, etc. This way, clients can also scan the QR code, check their tab and pay directly from their phone. When they’re done eating, they can pay by themselves, stand up and leave.

After trying Sunday in Big Mamma restaurants, the company saw some encouraging results. 80% of customers chose to pay using the QR code, which means that restaurants saved 15 minutes in wait time on average leading to a better table turnover rate.

And this is key to understanding Sunday. It’s easy to sell a new payment system to a restaurant if it leads to more revenue. Popular restaurants that feel like they’re always looking for empty tables could greatly benefit from Sunday.

It also opens up some new possibilities. For instance, guests can split the bill directly at the table — everyone loads up Sunday and pay. Sunday is based on QR codes right now, but the company isn’t attached to QR codes specifically. You could imagine loading your bill using RFID chips, a tablet, etc.

The vision is clear — Sunday wants to build the Fast Checkout of restaurants. The startup thinks online checkout is going to merge with offline, brick-and-mortar checkout.

Sunday customers don’t pay any monthly subscription fee or setup fee. You only pay processing fees based on usage. And those fees tend to be lower than the card machine you’re currently using.

The startup’s seed round was led by Coatue with New Wave participating. New Wave is a new European seed fund led by Pia d’Iribarne and backed by Xavier Niel. Multiple hospitality and tech investors are also participating.

The idea is to raise a lot of money, sign up a lot of restaurants and take over the market right now while there’s an opportunity during the pandemic. They have hired 40 people already and they’re signing deals with restaurants even though most of them are still closed in Europe.

Sunday isn’t a tech achievement per se — it’s an execution play. The company that can roll out this kind of checkout experience faster than the others is going to take over the market.

When restaurants are going to be open again, you may notice Sunday QR codes in France at Eataly, PNY, Paris Society, Eric Frechon, Groupe Bertrand’s restaurants (Burger King France, Hippopotamus, Groupe Flo…). Similarly, in the U.K., Sunday is partnering with JKS Group (Hoppers, Brigadiers, Gymkhana…), Corbin & King and others. Sunday is also talking with companies in the U.S. and Spain.

Overall, there are more than a thousand restaurants currently adopting Sunday.

“We follow the same model as the one we used when launching restaurants with Big Mamma. Seven years ago, we invested three times more than the others to compress fixed costs and deliver a better product,” Sunday co-founder and CEO Victor Lugger told me.

The startup already has an ambitious product roadmap. Eventually, you could imagine having your own Sunday account that remembers your past bills, tracks your allergies, saves your favorite payment method, etc. Once again, it’ll come down to execution.

Willo launches its tooth-brushing robot for kids

By Romain Dillet

Are you 100% sure that your children are brushing their teeth properly? A New York-based startup called Willo has been working for several years on a device that should transform the tooth-brushing experience for children.

Willo isn’t a new toothbrush — electric or not. It’s an oral care device that doesn’t look like a toothbrush at all. The startup has worked with dental professionals to start from scratch with oral care in mind.

The device can be quite intimidating when you don’t see it in action as it takes quite a bit of shelf space and you don’t know what you’re supposed to do. But when you see it in action, it looks easier than expected. Willo specifically targets children because they tend to struggle to reach every tooth and brush properly.

Kids are supposed to grab the handle and put the mouthpiece in their mouth. They can start brushing by pressing the button and that’s it. They don’t have to do anything else. The silicone-based mouthpiece also features soft bristles. It starts vibrating in your kid’s mouth when they press the button.

The handle is connected to a bigger home station that contains a water tank with a special rinse liquid. Kids don’t have to use toothpaste and don’t have to rinse their mouth. Everything is handled by the device.

Finally, Willo is a connected device, which means that parents can track oral care in a mobile app. You can also set up multiple users — your kids will have to swap the mouthpiece before using the device.

Image Credits: Willo

If you’re thinking about buying a device for your children, Willo costs $199. You then have to pay $13 per month to receive rinse pods as well as new mouthpieces that always fit.

While the product is going live today, the startup has already tested it with real families. These children rated the device 4.73/5 and parents gave an NPS of 70+. They’ve all kept using Willo after the testing phase.

Behind this product, there’s a team of 33 people in France and the U.S. They have filed over 50 patents over the past 7 years — 30 of them have been granted so far. The company has raised $17 million in total funding from Kleiner Perkins, Bpifrance and Matt Rogers’ fund Incite.

It’s true that the concept of a toothbrush hasn’t changed at all. Making a device that changes the way you brush your teeth is an ambitious bet. But it’s clear that the startup has made a lot of efforts to tackle this challenge. Now let’s see if they manage to convince parents.

Image Credits: Willo

On-demand pediatrics app Biloba adds prescriptions and raises $1.7 million

By Romain Dillet

French startup Biloba has raised a $1.7 million funding round (€1.4 million) a few months after launching its pediatrics app that lets you chat with a doctor whenever you have a question. In addition to raising some money, the startup also recently added in-app prescriptions.

Biloba’s concept is surprisingly simple. It’s a mobile app that lets you reach a general practitioner and a nurse whenever you have a medical question about your child. The service is available from 8 AM to 10 PM.

When you start a conversation, it looks like a messaging app. You can send and receive messages but also send photos and videos. There’s no real-time video conversation, no appointment. The company says that you usually get an answer in less than 10 minutes.

Last year, Biloba raised a €1.2 million pre-seed round. This year’s €1.4 million’s seed round is led by Aglaé Ventures and ID4. Existing investors Calm/Storm Ventures, Inventures, Acequia Capital and several business angels are also participating once again.

A text conversation will never replace a visit to the pediatrician. And there are many medical interactions and milestones after a baby is born. But you may have questions and you don’t want to wait for the next appointment.

And if it’s a relatively harmless issue that doesn’t need an in-person appointment, Biloba can now issue prescriptions. You receive the prescriptions in the app and it is accepted in all French pharmacies. The startup uses Ordoclic for that feature.

Biloba thinks people shouldn’t pay per consultation — even though people are particularly well covered by the French national healthcare system and private health insurance. Instead, the startup has opted for a subscription model.

Parents pay €12.99 per month, €24.99 for a three-month subscription or €79.99 per year. After that, you can start as many conversations as you want. Biloba subscriptions aren’t covered by the French national healthcare system.

Basically, if you can afford a subscription, Biloba can increase the frequency of interactions with doctors, which should lead to better medical advice.

Image Credits: Biloba

Vybe raises $2.9 million for its challenger bank for teens

By Romain Dillet

French startup Vybe has raised a $2.9 million funding round (€2.4 million) to build a challenger bank for teens. The company is currently testing its product with a soft launch. Users get a Mastercard payment card paired with an e-wallet.

Each Vybe account comes with its own IBAN so that users can send and receive money. If you want to open an account and you are less than 18 years old, you have to go through the KYC process (know your identity) with your parent.

As for parents, they can set up some limits on card payments or even block the card. Parents can also view transactions. The startup plans to generate revenue from interchange fees as well as partnership with brands and a reward system.

While Vybe isn’t technically live, the company has attracted 375,000 downloads. Overall, 260,000 teens have pre-ordered a card already. Thousands of cards have been delivered and the first metrics are encouraging. Early adopters tend to use their card once every two days.

Today’s fund is a round extension from existing investors. Investors include Ronan Le Moal (the former CEO of Crédit Mutuel Arkéa), Kick Club and Manoel Amorim.

Banking products for teenagers are a lucrative segment. In France, there are several companies trying to position themselves on this segment, such as Kard, PixPay and Xaalys. Most of these companies charge a subscription fee to access the service.

Other fintech companies that aren’t specifically targeting young people could also work well with teenagers. For instance, young users can open a Revolut Junior or Lydia account and receive money from their parents.

In the U.S., startups offering debit cards for children are about to reach unicorn status. As The Information’s Kate Clark reported, Greenlight, Current and Step are all raising new funding rounds with a valuation between $1 billion and $2 billion.

Image Credits: Vybe

Nabla is building a healthcare super app for women

By Romain Dillet

Meet Nabla, a French startup launching a new app today focused on women’s health. On Nabla, you’ll find several services that should all contribute to helping you stay on top of your health. In short, Nabla lets you chat with practitioners, offers community content, helps you centralize all your medical data and will soon offer telemedicine appointments.

Nabla’s key feature right now is the ability to start a conversation with health professionals. You can send a message to a general practitioner, a gynecologist, a midwife, a nurse, a nutritionist, or a physiotherapist.

While text discussions are not going to replace in-person appointments altogether, they can definitely be helpful. By increasing the number of interactions with health professionals, chances are you’ll be healthier and you may even end up booking more in-person appointments.

Other French startups have been providing text conversations with practitioners. For instance, health insurance company Alan lets you message a general practitioner — but you have to be insured by Alan. Biloba also lets you chat with a doctor — but the company has been focusing on pediatrics.

Nabla has a different positioning and offers this feature for free — there’s a limit as you can only send a handful of questions per month though. If it’s a common question, you may find the answer from the community. Nabla’s doctors will curate community content as well.

Using a free product to talk about your health feels suspicious. But that’s because the startup is well-funded and plans to launch premium features.

Image Credits: Nabla

The startup has raised $20.2 million (€17 million) and is already working with a team of doctors who are ready to answer questions from the company’s first users — or patients. Investors in the company include Xavier Niel, Artemis, Rachel Delacour, Julie Pellet, Marc Simoncini and Firstminute Capital.

One of the reasons why Nabla could raise so much money before releasing its app is that the three co-founders have a track record in the tech ecosystem.

Co-founder and CEO Alexandre Lebrun previously founded VirtuOz, which was acquired by Nuance, and Wit.ai, which was acquired by Facebook. More recently, he’s worked for Facebook’s AI research team (FAIR).

Co-founder and COO Delphine Groll has been heading business development and communications for two major media groups Aufeminin and My Little Paris. And Nabla’s co-founder and CTO Martin Raison has worked with Alexandre Lebrun at both Wit.ai and Facebook.

In addition to text conversations, Nabla shows all your past interactions in a personal log. You can connect that log with other apps and services, such as Apple’s Health app, Clue and Withings. This way, you can see all your data from the same app.

As you may have guessed, the startup truly believes that machine learning can help when it comes to preventive and holistic care. By default, nothing is shared with Nabla for machine learning purposes. But users can opt in and share data to improve processes, personalization and more.

Eventually, Nabla wants to optimize the interactions with doctors as much as possible. The startup says it doesn’t want to replace doctors altogether — it wants to enhance medical interactions so that doctors can focus on the human and empathetic part.

Nabla plans to launch a telemedicine service so that you can interact with doctors in real time as well as a premium offering with more features. That’s an ambitious roadmap, and it’s going to be interesting to track Nabla over the long run to see if they stick to their original vision and find a loyal user base.

Leeway is a contract workflow service for your legal team

By Romain Dillet

Meet Leeway, a French startup that is building an end-to-end software-as-a-service solution for your contracts. Leeway lets you centralize all your contracts in a single repository, go through multiple negotiation steps and trigger a DocuSign event for the signature.

The company raised a $4.2 million seed round from HenQ, Kima Ventures as well as several business angels, such as the founders of Algolia, Eventbrite, Spendesk, MeilleursAgents, Livestorm and Luko.

If you’re working for the legal department of your company, you’re probably working with multiple tools. Chances are you’re using Microsoft Word to write a contract, a cloud service to store and share the contract with your teammates and business partners, an e-signature and archival service.

Leeway is optimizing this worklfow at every step. First, you can store all your contracts on Leeway. In addition to making it easier to find a contract later down the road, you can get reminders when a contract is about to expire so that you can renew a contract.

Second, you can edit your contract from Leeway directly. For instance, a manager can review a contract and write changes in Leeway’s interface. The employee can then start a revision and save a new version of the contract.

After that, you can send the contract from the same interface. Administrators can set up approval workflows so that several people need to approve a contract before it is signed. As everything is centralized, you can get an overview of all your contracts that are currently in the pipeline.

Image Credits: Leeway

Up next, Leeway is thinking about integrating conditional clauses within the product. Usually, big companies have several versions of the same clause — very favorable, favorable, not so favorable, etc. When a client is negotiating, Leeway customers could switch the clause from very favorable to favorable for instance.

Right now, around 30 companies are using Leeway to manage their contracts. Clients include Voodoo, Evaneos, Ifop and Fitness Park. “We have a very specific customer base — the legal department of companies with 100 to 500 employees,” co-founder and CEO Antoine Fabre told me.

It doesn’t mean that smaller and bigger companies shouldn’t be using Leeway. But companies with less than 100 employees don’t necessarily have a full-fledged legal department. The sales team or the finance department could act as the legal-ish team. But Leeway still has a lot of room to grow.

Image Credits: Leeway

Stockly lets e-commerce websites sell out-of-stock items from a shared inventory

By Romain Dillet

Meet Stockly, a French startup that keeps the inventory of various e-commerce websites in sync. When you see an out-of-stock item on an e-commerce website, chances are you leave that website and try to find the same item on another site.

If you operate an e-commerce website, Stockly lets you sell items even when they’re currently out of stock. The startup automatically finds a third-party Stockly supplier with that specific item.

The order will go through and be sent by that supplier directly. Stockly tells its partners to use neutral packaging so that the end consumer isn’t confused.

This could be particularly useful for small scale e-commerce companies that don’t have a healthy marketplace of third-party retailers. For instance, Amazon can already sell you an out-of-stock item if a supplier has listed that specific item on Amazon’s own marketplace. But that’s not the case for most e-commerce websites.

The main challenge for Stockly is that it has to sort through various catalog formats and match the different inventories of different retailers. It is focusing on clothing items at first. When an order is routed through Stockly, it selects a specific supplier based on different criteria, such as logistics, delivery time and historical data.

So far, Stockly has been working with Galeries Lafayette, Go Sport, Foot Shop and others. The startup has recently raised a $6 million (€5.1 million) funding round from Idinvest Partners, Daphni, Techstars, Checkout.com CEO Guillaume Pousaz and various business angels.

With this funding round, the company plans to expand its team to 20 people, add new clients and iterate on its product.

Google promises better 3D maps

By Frederic Lardinois

Google is announcing a handful of major updates to Google Maps today that range from bringing its Live View AR directions indoors to adding weather data to its maps, but the most tantalizing news — which in typical Google fashion doesn’t have an ETA just yet — is that Google plans to bring a vastly improved 3D layer to Google maps.

Using photogrammetry, the same technology that also allows Microsoft’s Flight Simulator to render large swaths of the world in detail, Google is also building a model of the world for its Maps service.

“We’re going to continue to improve that technology that helps us fuse together the billions of aerials, StreetView and satellite images that we have to really help us move from that flat 2D map to a more accurate 3D model than we’ve ever had. And be able to do that more quickly. And to bring more detail to it than we’ve ever been able to do before,” Dane Glasgow, Google’s VP for Geo Product Experience, said in a press event ahead of today’s announcement. He noted that this 3D layer will allow the company to visualize all its data in new and interesting ways.

Image Credits: Google

How exactly this will play out in reality remains to be seen, but Glasgow showed off a new 3D route preview, for example, with all of the typically mapping data overlayed on top of the 3D map.

Glasgow also noted that this technology will allow Google to parse out small features like stoplights and building addresses, which in turn will result in better directions.

“We also think that the 3D imagery will allow us to visualize a lot of new information and data overlaid on top, you know, everything from helpful information like traffic or accidents, transit delays, crowdedness — there’s lots of potential here to bring new information,” he explained.

Image Credits: Google

As for the more immediate future, Google announced a handful of new features today that are all going to roll out in the coming months. Indoor Live View is the flashiest of these. Google’s existing AR Live View walking directions currently only work outdoors, but thanks to some advances in its technology to recognize where exactly you are (even without a good GPS signal), the company is now able to bring this indoors. This feature is already live in some malls in the U.S. in Chicago, Long Island, Los Angeles, Newark, San Francisco, San Jose, and Seattle, but in the coming months, it’ll come to select airports, malls and transit stations in Tokyo and Zurich as well (just in time for vaccines to arrive and travel to — maybe — rebound). Because Google is able to locate you by comparing the images around you to its database, it can also tell what floor you are on and hence guide you to your gate at the Zurich airport, for example (though in my experience, there are few places with better signage than airports…).

Also new are layers for weather data (but not weather radar) and air quality in Google Maps. The weather layer will be available globally on Android and iOS in the coming months, with the air quality layer only launching for Australia, India and the U.S. at first.

Image Credits: Google

Talking about air quality, Google Maps will also get a new eco-friendly routing option that lets you pick the driving route that produces the least CO2 (coming to Android and iOS later this year), and it will finally feature support for low emission zones, a feature of many a European City. Low emission zones on Google Maps will launch in June in Germany, France, Spain and the UK on Android and iOS. More countries will follow later.

And to bring this all together, Google will update its directions interface to show you all of the possible modes of transportations and routing options, prioritized based on your own preferences, as well as based on what’s popular in the city you are in (think he subway in NYC or bike-sharing in Portland).

Also new are more integrated options for curbside grocery pickups in partnership with Instacart and Albertsons, if that’s your thing.

And there you have it. As is so often the case with Google’s announcement, the most exciting new features the company showed off don’t have an ETA and may never launch, but until then you can hold yourself over by getting your weather forecasts on Google Maps.

French VC firm Breega raises $130 million fund

By Romain Dillet

Breega, a VC firm based in Paris, has announced the final closing of its third fund. The firm has managed to raise $130 million (€110 million).

This is Breega’s third fund and is officially called Breega Capital Venture 3. The firm’s previous fund launched in 2015 with €45 million ($53 million at today’s exchange rate).

Breega doesn’t focus on a vertical in particular. It says it can invest across many different categories, such as marketplaces, SaaS, agtech, HR tech, robotics, etc.

The investment team has already deployed some of the capital of Breega’s new fund. Portfolio startups include Stations-e, Trustpair, IoTerop, BeOp, Otodo, Humanity, Alice&Bob, Neobrain, Didomi, Ubble, Ponicode and reciTAL. They all have received some funding at the seed or Series A stage.

Breega believes it can support its portfolio companies with some operational help. The firm has its own team of experts when it comes to HR, business development, communications, legal and finance.

Some of the fund’s limited partners include entrepreneurs-turned-business-angles. For instance, Patrick Asdaghi, the co-founder of FoodChéri, has invested in the new fund. FoodChéri received some funding from Breega before getting acquired by Sodexo.

Other limited partners include Bpifrance, the European Investment Fund, Isomer Capital and several banks and insurance companies.

Private equity firm Marlin snatches up e-commerce optimization platform Lengow

By Romain Dillet

French startup Lengow has a new landlord as Marlin Equity Partners has acquired a majority stake in the company. Lengow operates a softare-as-a-service platform to optimize e-commerce listings. Terms of the deal are undisclosed.

In particular, many sellers now list their items on multiple e-commerce websites at once. For instance, a company could have its own e-commerce website and also sell products on Amazon, eBay, etc. And you may have noticed the same third-party sellers on different marketplaces.

Manually listing items across multiple e-commerce platforms would be extremely tedious. Behind the scenes, Lengow tries to automate as many steps as possible. First, you can import your products by connecting Lengow with your product information management system (PIM) or your e-commerce back end — it can run on Akeneo, Shopify, Magento, WooCommerce, etc.

You can then publish your products on multiple sales channels at once. It can be a marketplace, a price comparison website, a social network or an adtech platform. Examples include Amazon, Google Shopping, Criteo, Instagram, etc.

Lengow also helps you track orders, create rules when you’re running low on stock and manage your advertising strategy. Essentially, it’s the glue that makes all the moving parts of e-commerce stick together. There are 4,600 merchants using Lengow globally.

Marlin describes the deal as a growth investment. The firm plans to increase the value of Lengow in the coming years as it hasn’t reached its full potential yet. “We are looking forward to leveraging our operational and financial resources to support Lengow’s growth trajectory and continued international expansion,” Marlin principal Roland Pezzutto said in a statement.

Google slapped in France over misleading hotel star ratings

By Natasha Lomas

Google has agreed to pay a €1.1 million fine over misleading star-ratings for hotels in France.

The tech giant had been applying its own (algorithmic) system of ratings for hotels applied via its search engine and on Google Maps. But back in 2019, following a number of complaints by hoteliers, the French national competition and consumer watchdog (DGCCRF) instigated an investigation into this propriety rating system.

The probe revealed that the tech giant had replaced the standard classification system of the public tourist board (Atout France) with a star rating system powered by its own criteria — and which it had applied to more than 7,500 establishments.

Safe to say Google’s concept of a ‘five star’ hotel was not the same as the Atout France version. And the consumer watchdog found that Google’s presentation for classifying tourist accommodation — including identical use of the term “stars” on the same scale from 1 to 5 — to be confusing for consumers.

“This practice was particularly damaging for consumers, misled about the level of services what they could expect when booking accommodation. It also resulted in prejudice for hoteliers whose establishments were wrongly presented as lower ranked than in the official ranking of Atout France,” the watchdog writes in a press release on the sanction (which we’ve translated from French).

The DGCCRF concluded that Google had engaged in a deceptive business practice — and, with the public prosecutor, it proposed the sanction announced today on Google Ireland (the tech giant’s European HQ) and Google France.

As well as agreeing to pay the fine, Google has changed hotel star ratings in France — agreeing to display the official Atout France ratings. So tourists in France can be confident that a five star hotel they see on Google Maps has an official standard attached to it which can’t be influenced by any of the usual online growth hacking tactics.

A spokesperson for Google confirmed the conclusion of the DGCCRF’s action, telling TechCrunch: “We have now settled with the DGCCRF and made the necessary changes to only reflect the official French star rating for hotels on Google Maps and Search.”

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