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Approaching commercialization for its autonomous radar nav system, Lunewave raises $7 million

By Jonathan Shieber

Lunewave, the Arizona-based startup developing a novel technology for radars for autonomous vehicles, has raised $7 million in financing as it gets ready for the commercial rollout of its systems.

The company’s latest financing came from Proeza entures, Blue 9 Capital, Tsingyuan Ventures and Intact Ventures, the company said.

With the latest funding Lunewave will continue to work with Tier 1 suppliers to establish strategic partnerships and jointly manufacture the company’s radar sensor, according to chief executive and co-founder John Xin.

The 3D printed Luneburg lens pitches features like broad bandwidth, high gain, and a capacity for forming multiple high-quality beams in all directions. The company said two of its sensors could replace 20 radar sensros used today.

The Lunewave radar has already gone through several pre-development projects with original equipment manufacturers and with ride hailing companies. “We’re very close to establishing a formal contractual partnership to commercialize our product,” said Xin. “By the end of the first quarter we will be able to announce a strategic partnership with a global tier 1 supplier.”

For Xin, the big pillars within sensors are cameras, lidar and radar, and he says that radar is the only one that works well in inclement weather conditions. “In the industry these days it’s becoming a philosophical discussion,” said Xin. “But we believe in sensor fusion. The more safety the better. Our job is to be the vendor choice for radar solutions.”

Xin said the new financing would go to staff up the company’s product development and sales teams as it looks to continue to refine its technology. The company’s product development currently operates on two tracks. One is a pure “a-dash” system and the other is geared toward level three, four, and five autonomy in vehicles.

The company is also hoping to continue its penetration of the industrial vehicle market — another area where Xin says the Lunewave is beginning to see real traction.

“We believe that ADAS and AV systems will continue to make their way into vehicles, leading to a strong growth in radars as they are a core component of both systems,” said Rodolfo Elias Dieck, managing director, Proeza Ventures. 

The company boasts that its technology offers 180-degree field of view in the horizontal plane and can detect objects surrounding a car with 6 times the resolution available today — even at long range and in poor weather.

As part of the funding, former BMW director Peter Schwarzenbacher and former Delphi executive James Zizelman will be taking seats on the company’s board of directors. Zizelman, who currently serves as the president of Stoneridge Contro Devices, was previous the vice president of engineering for Aptiv and an exec at Delphi Automotive.

“The technology that Lunewave is bringing to market provides the ultimate in value proposition,” said Zizelman. “Not only does this innovation bring truly superior technical capability in field of view, resolution, and other attributes, it also offers the opportunity to replace multiple radar units with a single Lunewave device—better and more cost effective.”

 

Render raises $4.5M for its DevOps platform

By Frederic Lardinois

Render, the winner of our Disrupt SF 2019 Startup Battlefield, today announced that it has added another $4.5 million onto its existing seed funding round, bringing total investment into the company to $6.75 million.

The round was led by General Catalyst, with participation from previous investors South Park Commons Fund and a group of angels that includes Lee Fixel, Elad Gil and GitHub CTO (and former VP of Engineering at Heroku) Jason Warner.

The company, which describes itself as a “Zero DevOps alternative to AWS, Azure and Google Cloud,” originally raised a $2.25 million seed round in April 2019, but it got a lot of inbound interest after winning the Disrupt Battlefield. In the end, though, the team decided to simply raise more money from its existing investors.

Current Render users include Cypress.io, Mux, Bloomscape, Zelos, 99designs and Stripe.

“We spoke to a bunch of people after Disrupt, including Ashton Kutcher’s firm, because he was one of the judges,” Render co-founder and CEO Anurag Goel explained. “In the end, we decided that we would just raise more money from our existing investors because we like them and it helped us get a better deal from our existing investors. And they were all super interested in continuing to invest.”

What makes Render stand out is that it fulfills many of the promises of Heroku and maybe Google Cloud’s App Engine. You simply tell it what kind of service you are going to deploy and it handles the deployment and manages the infrastructure for you.

“Our customers are all people who are writing code. And they just want to deploy this code really easily without having to worry about servers, or maintenance, or depending on DevOps teams — or, in many cases, hiring DevOps teams,” Goel said. “DevOps engineers are extremely expensive to hire and extremely hard to find, especially good ones. Our goal is to eliminate all of that work that DevOps people do at every company, because it’s very similar at every company.”

Image Credits: Render

One new feature the company is launching today is preview environments. You can think of them as disposable staging or development environments that developers can spin up to test their code — and Render promises that the testing environment will look the same as your production environment (or you can specify changes, too). Developers can then test their updates collaboratively with QA or their product and sales teams in this environment.

Development teams on Render specify their infrastructure environments in a YAML file and turning on these new preview environments is as easy as setting a flag in that file.

Image Credits: Render

“Once they do that, then for every pull request — because we’re integrated with GitHub and GitLab — we automatically spin up a copy of that environment. That can include anything you have in production, or things like a Redis instance, or managed Postgres database, or Elasticsearch instance, or obviously APIs and web services and static sites,” Goel said. Every time you push a change to that branch or pull request, the environment is automatically updated, too. Once the pull request is closed or merged, Render destroys the environment automatically.

The company will use the new funding to grow its team and build out its service. The plan, Goel tells me, is to raise a larger Series A round next year.

Flair’s Smart Vent system is a big improvement for anyone looking to improve their home HVAC

By Darrell Etherington

Smart thermostats are fairly ubiquitous these days, but depending on which one you’re using, you could be getting a lot more from your home heating and cooling – with relatively simple DIY upgrades. The Flair Smart Vent system is one such upgrade, and though it costs a bit upfront to get going (each register is $79 to start depending on size), you won’t have to call an HVAC contractor or break down any walls to take advantage of what it offers.

The basics

Flair’s system is designed around a simple idea: Controlling the airflow across individual rooms can help you be more efficient about where you direct your heating and cooling, and when. The basic ingredients Flair uses to make this happen are its Smart Vents, which fit into existing floor and wall register slots in standard sizes. The Flair designs are low profile, with all the electronics contained in casing that rests under floor level. They can be hardwired for power, but they also ship with two C batteries the provide “years” of power before they require replacement.

Flair advises three different approaches to determining how many Smart Vents you need to complement your existing system: If you have one room that’s too cold when cooling and too hot when heating, just get a Smart Vent and Flair Puck for that room. If you have just one room that gets too little cooling, and too little heating, equip all your other rooms with Smart Vents and Pucks (or Ecobee sensors if you have an Ecobee thermostat, but we’ll get to that later). If your HVAC is already pretty even, but you just want more control and efficiency gains, then equip the whole house as a third option.

Each room will require a Puck, which is a small round device that includes temperature control and monitoring. The first of these needs to be hardwired to power via the included USB cable, since it acts a bridge connecting the Flair system to your home network. All the others can be powered by included AAA batteries, and they’re very power efficient thanks in part to the e-Ink display.

Flair works in a number of modes, including one that’s compatible with any thermostat where you simply set the temperature for any room, and the associated vent(s) will open or close depending on whether the temperature in that room matches up. It can also work directly with Ecobee and Honeywell smart thermostats for a much more intelligent mode where they receive or send the temperature to the smart unit, and coordinate their open/shut status depending on that. Google has changed the Nest API, so Flair is working on supporting similar features on Nest systems through that in future, but for now it works with Nest installations the same way it would with ‘dumb’ thermostats.

Design and features

Image Credits: Flair

Flair’s Smart Vents themselves are attractive, well-made hardware. The vent covers themselves are made of metal, with an attractive grill design that will go with most decors. They’re exclusively white, which could be an issue for dark flooring, but they’re definitely a step up from your average registers. One one side, they have an LED light strip that is used during setup for identifying which is which, and underneath, the have the battery housing, louvres and the motors that control their open and shut status.

As mentioned, the Smart Vents can be associated with a Puck, which will provide them the ambient temp information, as well as target temp, in order to set them open or shut. They can also use an Ecobee sensor to get their marching orders when set up for software integration with an Ecobee system. I installed my review units and first tried them with the Flair app providing target temp info to the Ecobee, but then switched it around so that the Ecobee determined the desired temperature, and the Flair units all inherited that info and set their open/close status accordingly.

At first, I found the Flair app a bit intimidating just because with a multi-vent system it presents a lot of information, and some degree of logic to initially set up. But once I got the Ecobee integration working, the whole Flair system just worked – and worked like magic.

In this configuration, you never even have to think about the fact that the vents are Smart; they just do whatever they need to in order to equalize the temperature and keep heating and cooling routing intelligently. It made an impressive difference in the amount of airflow circulating around my nearly 100-year old house – and my setup isn’t necessarily ideal because there are a few non-standard, larger registers around that can’t yet be Flair-equipped.

The Pucks themselves are well designed, with magnetic, stick-up and screw-in installation options, and readible, power-efficient e-Ink displays. Their bezel turns for temperature control, and they can also be placed out of sight if you really just want to use them as remote sensors.

Bottom line

You might think that whether a register is open or closed wouldn’t make much difference to the efficacy of a house-wide HVAC system, but in my experience, the before-and-after of Flair was dramatically different. I started out with one problem spot primarily (the master bedroom) and afterwards it got to target temp much more quickly, both in heating and cooling modes.

Even if you find your central air and heating are already pretty effective, Flair seems like a wise upgrade that will provide lasting benefits in terms of consistency and power efficiency. Plus, if you use Flair as the controller, you can set different target temps for different rooms depending on individual occupant preferences.

True zoned HVAC systems can cost thousands – especially if you’re replacing existing ducting in walls. Flair’s solution is a lot more affordable by comparison, and provides effective results with DIY installation that takes just minutes to set up.

Jam raises $3.5 million to Figma-tize product collaboration

By Lucas Matney

The web of collaboration apps invading remote work toolkits have led to plenty of messy workflows for teams that communicate in a language of desktop screenshots and DMs. Tracing a suggestion or flagging a bug in a company’s website forces engineers or designers to make sense of the mess themselves.  While task management software has given teams a funnel for the clutter, the folks at Jam question why this functionality isn’t just built straight into the product.

Jam co-founders Dani Grant and Mohd Irtefa tell TechCrunch they’ve closed on $3.5 million in seed funding and are ready to launch a public beta of their collaboration platform which builds chat, comments and task management directly onto a website, allowing developers and designers to track issues and make suggestions quickly and simply

The seed round was led by Union Square Ventures, where co-founder Dani Grant previously worked as an analyst. Version One Ventures, BoxGroup and Village Global also participated alongside some noteworthy angels including GitHub CTO Jason Warner, Cloudflare CEO Matthew Prince, Gumroad CEO Sahil Lavingia, and former Robinhood VP Josh Elman.

Like most modern productivity suites, Jam is heavy on integrations so users aren’t forced to upend their toolkits just to add one more product into the mix. The platform supports Slack, Jira, GitHub, Asana, Loom and Figma, with a few more in the immediate pipeline. Data syncs from one platform to the other bidirectionally so information is always fresh, Grant says. It’s all built into a tidy sidebar.

Grant and Irtefa met as product managers at Cloudflare, where they started brainstorming better ways to communicate feedback in a way that felt like “leaving digital sticky notes all over a product,” Grant says. That thinking ultimately pushed the duo to leave their jobs this past May and start building Jam.

The startup, like so many conceived during this period, has a remote founding story. Grant and Irtefa have only spent four days together in-person since the company was started, they raised their seed round remotely and most of the employees have never met each other in-person.

The remote team hopes their software can help other remote teams declutter their workflows and focus on what they’re building.

“On a product team, the product is the first tab everyone opens and closes,” Grant says. “So we’re on top of your product instead of on some other platform”

Jam’s interface

Cruise Will Soon Hit San Francisco With No Hands on the Wheel

By Aarian Marshall
The GM subsidiary wins approval from California to offer driverless passenger service.

Twentyeight Health is a telemedicine company expanding access to women’s health and reproductive care

By Jonathan Shieber

New York’s Twentyeight Health is taking the wildly telemedicine services for women’s health popularized by companies like Nurx and bringing them to a patient population that previously hadn’t had access. 

The mission to provide women who are Medicaid or underinsured should not be deprived of the same kinds of care that patients who have more income security or better healthcare coverage enjoy, according to the company’s founder, Amy Fan.

The mission, and the company’s technology, have managed to convince a slew of investors who have poured $5.1 million in seed funding into the new startup. Third Prime led the round, which included investments from Town Hall Ventures, SteelSky Ventures, Aglaé Ventures, GingerBread Capital, Rucker Park Capital, Predictive VC, and angel investors like Stu Libby, Zoe Barry, and Wan Li Zhu.

“Women who are on Medicaid, who are underinsured or without health insurance often struggle to find access to reproductive health services, and these struggles have only increased with COVID-19 pandemic limiting access to in-person appointments,” said Amy Fan, co-founder of Twentyeight Health, in a statement. “We are fighting for healthcare equity, ensuring that all women, particularly BIPOC women and women from low-income backgrounds, can access high quality, dignified and convenient care.”

To ensure that its catering to underserved communities, the company works with Bottomless Closet, a workforce entry program for women, and the 8 colleges in the City University of New York ecosystem including LaGuardia College, which has 45,000 students with 70% coming from families making less than $30,000 in annual income.

The company’s services are currently available across Florida, Maryland, New York, New Jersey, North Carolina and Pennsylvania and it’s the only telemedicine company focused on contraception services to accept Medicaid.

In another example of how awesome this company is, it’s also working to provide free birth control for women who aren’t able to pay out of pocket and are uninsured through a partnership with Bedsider’s Contraceptive Access Fund. The company also donates 2% of its revenue to Bedsider and the National Institute for Reproductive Health. (Y’all, this company is amaze.)

To sign up for the service, new customers fill out a medical questionnaire online. Once the questionnaire is reviewed by a US board-certified doctor within 24 hours customers can access over 100 FDA-approved brands of birth control pills, patches, rings, shots, and emergency contraception and receive a shipment within three days.

Twentyeight Health provides ongoing care through online audio consultations and doctor follow up messages to discuss issues around updating prescriptions or addressing side effects, the company said.

“Today, low-income women are three times more likely to have an unintended pregnancy than the average woman in the U.S., and nearly one-third of physicians nationwide aren’t accepting new Medicaid patients,” said Bruno Van Tuykom, co-founder of Twentyeight Health, in a statement. “This underscores why offering high-quality reproductive care that is inclusive of people across race, income bracket, or health insurance status is more important than ever.”

Launched in 2018, Twentyeight Health said it would use the new cash to continue to expand its services across the U.S.

 

A Literal Child and His Mom Sue Nintendo Over ‘Joy-Con Drift’

By Cecilia D'Anastasio
The class action lawsuit alleges that the video game company hasn't done enough to address a known problem with its controllers.

Ring to offer opt-in end-to-end encryption for videos beginning later this year

By Darrell Etherington

Ring will be stepping up its efforts to make its security products secure for users by enabling end-to-end video encryption later this year. The company will be providing this toggle in a new page in tits app’s Control Center, which will provide more information about Ring’s current encryption practices, and measures to keep user video secure, until the end-to-end encryption feature goes live. Ring is also taking the covers off a range of new devices todayincluding its first drone – but Ring CEO and founder Jamie Siminoff says that this new security measure could actually make the biggest difference to its customers.

“[End-to-end encryption] could be our most important product that we’re sort of putting out there, because security and privacy, and user control are foundational to Ring, and continuing to push those further than even the industry, and really even pushing the res of the industry, is something I think that we have a responsibility to do.”

Siminoff also points to Ring’s introduction of mandatory two-factor authentication earlier this year as something that’s above and beyond the standard across the industry. I asked him them why not make end-to-end encryption for video on by default, with an opt-out option instead if users feel strongly that they don’t want to take part.

“Privacy, as you know, is really individualized – we see people have different needs,” he said. Just one example for end-to-end, is thatwhen you enable it, you cannot use your Alexa to say ‘Show me who’s at the front door,’ because of the physics of locking down to an end-to-end key. As soon as you do something like that, it would actually break what you’re trying to achieve. So it really is something that is optional, because it doesn’t fit every user in terms of the way in which they want to use the product. But there are some users  that really do want this type of security – so I think what you’re going to see from us in the future, and I hope the industry as well, is just really allowing people to dial in the security that they want, and having transparency, which is also with the Video Control Center that we’ve launched today to provide you with the knowledge of what’s happening with your data, in this case with Ring videos.”

Overall, Siminoff said that the company hopes through all of its products, to be able to provide its users to build the system that they want to use, its the way that they want to use it. The Alway Home Cam drone, he points out, is another expression of that, since it provides the potential to monitor every room in your home – but also the ability to be selective about when and where.

“I think it’s just about building the options to allow people to use technology – but use it comfortably, understand it, and control it,” he said.

JupiterOne raises $19M Series A to automate cyber asset management

By Zack Whittaker

Asset management might not be the most exciting talking topic, but it’s often an overlooked area of cyber-defenses. By knowing exactly what assets your company has makes it easier to know where the security weak spots are.

That’s the problem JupiterOne is trying to fix.

“We built JupiterOne because we saw a gap in how organizations manage the security and compliance of their cyber assets day to day,” said Erkang Zheng, the company’s founder and chief executive.

The Morrisville, N.C.-based startup, which spun out from healthcare cloud firm LifeOmic in 2018, helps companies see all of their digital and cloud assets by integrating with dozens of services and tools, including Amazon Web Services, Cloudflare, and GitLab, and centralizing the results into a single monitoring tool.

JupiterOne says it makes it easier for companies to spot security issues and maintain compliance, with an aim of helping companies prevent security lapses and data breaches by catching issues early on.

The company already has Reddit, Databricks and Auth0 as customers, and just secured $19 million in its Series A, led by Bain Capital Ventures and with participation from Rain Capital and its parent company LifeOmic.

As part of the deal, Bain partner Enrique Salem will join JupiterOne’s board. “We see a large multibillion dollar market opportunity for this technology across mid-market and enterprise customers,” he said. Asset management is slated to be a $8.5 billion market by 2024.

Zheng told TechCrunch the company plans to use the funds to accelerate its engineering efforts and its go-to-market strategy, with new product features to come.

Update: Closing on $75 million in new cash, Truepill plans at-home testing service as it nears $200 million in annual revenue

By Jonathan Shieber

Truepill, the white-label healthcare services company that provides telehealth and pharmacy fulfillment services, is adding at-home medical testing as the third branch of its services powering the offerings of companies like Hims and Hers, Nurx, GoodRx, and Ro (a former customer). 

Financing this expansion of services is a new $75 million round of financing from investors led by Oak HC/FT, with participation from Optum Ventures, TI Platform Management, Sound Ventures and Y Combinator.

“With the change in reimbursement for telemedicine, it changed the trajectory of the direct to consumer companies,” said Annie Lamot, the co-founder and managing director of new lead investors Oak HC/FT. “When we talked to every one of them they all seemed to be using Truepill .”

With its expansion into lab testing, Truepill can provide a full suite of services that used to be confined to the doctor’s office remotely. As more patients adjust to remote delivery of care, these kinds of options will become more attractive.

The move to telemedicine isn’t just something for new entrants either. Incumbents are also finding that they need to provide the same care as their direct to consumer competition, especially as the priority shifts to value-based care rather than fees for services on the reimbursement side — and consumers start demanding lower cost options on the direct pay side.

“I think it enables health plans to provide better care in targeted programs,” said Lamont, a longtime investor in healthcare.

Truepill’s executives certainly hope so.

The two co-founders, Umar Afridi and Sid Viswanathan met over LinkedIn where Viswanathan cold-emailed Afridi. At the time, Afridi was working as a pharmacist filling prescriptions at a Fred Meyer near Seattle).

Initially, Truepill’s growth came from acting as the pharmacist to companies like Hims, Nurx, and other direct-to-consumer healthcare companies focused on serving the elective health needs of people who wanted hair loss treatments, erectile dysfunction medication, and birth control.

Image Credits: Truepill

As the company has grown, so have its ambitions. By the end of the year, Truepill expects to book up to $200 million in revenue, according to Viswanathan, and that revenue will come from a more evenly distributed mix of customers among direct to consumer companies, insurance companies, and healthcare providers.

“Everything we do is white labeled from our pharmacy to the lab testing component. You can go to teladoc and use that service. What we like to think early. 80 percent of healthcare is going to happen on a digital channel.. We’re in a perfect position to build the platform company in that space,” Viswanathan said. 

At-home testing is a critical component of that platform. Expected to launch before the end of the year, Truepill is working with lab testing providers to offer hundreds of at-home tests. The company said it will focus on tests to manage chronic conditions like diabetes, heart disease, chronic kidney disease. Incidentally these are areas which have attracted a lot of interest from investors who are backing companies that provide direct to consumer or digital therapeutic solutions to treat or help address these conditions.

“To create a comprehensive, effective digital healthcare experience, there are three essential pillars: pharmacy with extensive insurance coverage, at-home lab testing and telehealth,” said Viswanathan, in a statement. “By adding diagnostics to our suite of solutions, we’ll be able to deliver direct-to-patient healthcare at scale through one platform – Truepill. We envision a future where 80% of healthcare is digital. With diagnostics, telehealth and pharmacy built on our foundation of API-connected infrastructure, Truepill will power that reality.” 

*This story has been updated to indicate that Ro was a customer of Truepill, but no longer works with the service and that the company expects to reach $200 million in revenue not $175 million as the company’s President indicated in an interview.

Spirit Airlines starts testing biometric check-ins

By Frederic Lardinois

Discount carrier Spirit Airlines today announced that it is introducing biometric check-ins in its ticket lobby at Chicago’s O’Hare airport to streamline the check-in process and reduce face-to-face interactions between its employees and passengers during the pandemic.

The new process is straightforward, though it still involves one customer service agent at the beginning, who will check the flier’s ID before approaching the new check-in/bag drop units. If passengers opt in to the biometric procedure — and this remains optional — they scan their ID and the system will compare the photo with a facial scan captured by the machine.

Over time, Spirits hopes to do away with the first step of having an agent check the ID, but it is waiting for TSA approval to do so.

If everything works according to plan, the passenger can then drop of their bags and go their merry way (until they hit the TSA checkpoint, but that’s not the airline’s fault).

Image Credits: Spirit / Getty Images

“We started looking at ways to improve the check-in experience in 2019 as part of our pledge to invest in the Guest,” Spirit President and CEO Ted Christie explained in today’s announcement. “We knew early on that automation and biometric photo-matching would make the check-in process smoother. Now in 2020, we’re realizing those same elements are just as valuable when it comes to helping people feel comfortable flying. Limiting touchpoints and unnecessary face-to-face interactions will change the way airports operate.”

Before the pandemic, this would have looked like an obvious effort to save money by reducing the number of employees needed to run the check-in counters (with self-service bag drops having already become somewhat of a standard procedure). Now, it feels like just the right move, even as the number of travelers remains at record lows.

Image Credits: Spirit Airlines

Currently, 600 passengers use Spirit’s bag drop at O’Hare. In its tests, the airline found that the new process drops the average processing time by 70 seconds.

Spirit stresses that none of the data is transmitted to the government and that it doesn’t leave Spirit’s possession. Biometrics and especially facial recognition have long been good for controversy at airports, at least in the U.S., with Homeland security testing biometric scans before boarding international flights, for example, and the TSA now testing self-service checkpoints to get passengers through its security lines. And while a lot of fliers now feel comfortable using CLEAR to get through security with only their fingerprints or a facial scan, there is still a large chunk of the flying public that will feel somewhat uncomfortable with this, even during a pandemic and despite the airline’s argument that it doesn’t share data with the government.

Image Credits: Spirit Airlines

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