Porsche’s venture arm has acquired a minority stake in TriEye, an Israeli startup that’s working on a sensor technology to help vehicle driver-assistance and self-driving systems see better in poor weather conditions like dust, fog and rain.
The strategic investment is part of a Series A financing round that has been expanded to $19 million. The round was initially led by Intel Capital and Israeli venture fund Grove Ventures. Porsche has held shares in Grove Ventures since 2017.
TriEye has raised $22 million to date. Terms of Porsche’s investment were not disclosed.
The additional funding will be used for ongoing product development, operations and hiring talent, according to TriEye.
The advanced driver-assistance systems found in most new vehicles today typically rely on a combination of cameras and radar to “see.” Autonomous vehicle systems, which are being developed and tested by dozens of companies such as Argo AI, Aptiv, Aurora, Cruise and Waymo, have a more robust suite of sensors that include light detection and ranging radar (lidar) along with cameras and ultrasonic sensors.
For either of these systems to function properly, they need to be able to see in all conditions. This pursuit of sensor technology has sparked a boom in startups hoping to tap into demand from automakers and companies working on self-driving car systems.
TriEye is one of them. The premise of TriEye is to solve the low visibility problem created by poor weather conditions. The startup’s co-founders argue that fusing existing sensors such as radar, lidar and standard cameras don’t solve this problem.
TriEye, which was founded in 2017, believes the answer is through short-wave infrared (SWIR) sensors. The startup said it has developed an HD SWIR camera that is a smaller size, higher resolution and cheaper than other technologies. The camera is due to launch in 2020.
The technology is based on advanced nano-photonics research by Uriel Levy, a TriEye co-founder and CTO who is also a professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
The company says its secret sauce is its “unique” semiconductor design that will make it possible to manufacture SWIR HD cameras at a “fraction of their current cost.”
TriEye’s technology was apparently good enough to get Porsche’s attention.
Michael Steiner, a Porsche AG board member focused on R&D, said the technology was promising, as was the team, which is comprised of people with expertise in deep learning, nano-photonics and semiconductor components.
“We see great potential in this sensor technology that paves the way for the next generation of driver assistance systems and autonomous driving functions,” Steiner said in a statement. “SWIR can be a key element: it offers enhanced safety at a competitive price.”
Nearly 200 startups have just graduated from the prestigious San Francisco startup accelerator Y Combinator . The flock of companies are now free to proceed company-building with a fresh $150,000 check and three-months full of tips and tricks from industry experts.
As usual, we sent several reporters to YC’s latest demo day to take notes on each company and pick our favorites. But there were many updates to the YC structure this time around and new trends we spotted from the ground that we’ve yet to share.
[Update: the Music tab has been relocated] Google’s Play Store has gotten a big visual makeover, the company announced today, with changes that include a cleaner look-and-feel, new navigation, an easier way to to see app information and more. Most notably, however, is that Google has taken a page from Apple’s playbook with the priority given to its two distinct sections for apps and games. It has also removed the “Music” tab from the top-level navigation, likely ahead of planned changes to Google Play Music and YouTube Music.
Though the redesign is in keeping with Google’s Material Design philosophy, it’s hard to miss Apple’s influence here — from the brighter, whiter and cleaner layout to the new navigation and updated app detail page layouts, among other things.
With Apple’s huge App Store revamp in 2017, the company made several changes to refocus user attention away from top charts and rankings to editorial content, stories and tips, recommendations and curated collections. As a part of this redesign, it created two separate tabs for Apps and Games in the App Store app’s main navigation to better direct users to the type of app content they wanted to browse.
The Play Store had already broken out Apps and Games before today, but they had been part of a much larger navigational element at the top of the home page.
The new design now relocates the Play Store’s main navigation to the bottom of the screen, just like on the iOS App Store. It also distills navigation to just four tabs: Games, Apps, Movies & TV and Books. (Music is gone).
Google says its decision to create two main tabs for apps and games will help it to “better serve users the right kind of content.”
Within the Games and Apps sections, users can browse into other sections, including Google’s personalized “For You” suggestions and Top Charts, and more. Here, you’ll find the same sections the Play Store had before (like “New,” “Events,” “Premium,” etc.) — they’ve just been relocated within the new tabs instead of existing as a second-level navigation bar on the Play Store homepage.
When the user finds an app or game they’re interested in, the updated store listing page layout will now surface richer app information at the top of the page and a bigger call-to-action button (e.g. “Install”).
This, too, is similar to iOS, where key details about the app or game — like its rating or age range — are at the top of this app detail page.
The store also features Google’s new icon system, where apps have a uniform rounded square shape. Apple has always enforced standardized app icons.
The Play Store makeover had already leaked earlier this year, thanks to enterprising developers who got their hands on Google’s tests and published screenshots.
Some more screenshots of the new Google Play UI, this time with working reviews and music store. Only UI bug is the toolbar disappearing (that I can see), and it's *fairly* stable (but still crashes a fair amount), might be something at I/O next week? pic.twitter.com/7TmTH2TYMb
— Kieron Quinn (@Quinny898) May 2, 2019
As for the Music tab’s relocation, Google already confirmed it was planning to replace Google Play Music with YouTube Music, and shut down Google Play’s artist hub this April in preparation for that. With the removal of the Music tab from the new Play Store, the completion of this merger appears to be imminent.
Update: The Music tab has been relocated, says Google… it’s a bit buried now
Attention fans: The music section has moved, but don’t fret, it should only make your jam sesh easier. pic.twitter.com/9x7WpHAp6k
— Google Play (@GooglePlay) August 21, 2019
In Google’s announcement today about the redesign, it showed off the new look with a photo (see top photo above).
It’s pretty odd that the app being showcased in Google’s photo, Alto’s Odyssey, is an Apple Design Winner that launched on iOS first — as did its precursor, Alto’s Adventure. When coming to Android, the game development company worked with Android publisher Noodlecake on its Android ports.
In other words, not only is this a non-exclusive game, it comes from an iOS-first shop. Sure, it’s a great game. But that’s also a pretty weird pick on Google’s part.
The Google Play Store has more than two billion monthly active users, Google said in its announcement. The new version of the Play Store is rolling out now.
After two days of founders tirelessly pitching, we’ve reached the end of YC’s Summer 2019 Demo Days. TechCrunch witnessed more than 160 on-the-record startup pitches coming out of Y Combinator, spanning healthcare, B2B services, augmented reality and life-extending.
The full list is worth a gander, you can read about the 84 startups from Day 1 and the 82 companies from Day 2 in the linked posts. You can also check out our votes for the best of the best from day 1.
After conferring on the dozens of startups we saw yesterday, here are our favorites from the second day of Y Combinator pitches.
Multiple reports this week claimed Google had quietly rolled out a more in-depth app review process to all developers — changes designed to keep the Play Store safer from spam, malware and copycat apps. Those reports are inaccurate, Google tells TechCrunch. Instead, the company is giving itself more time to review apps from new, unestablished developers on the Play Store, as previously announced, but this hasn’t been extended to all developers.
Concerns about these so-called “unannounced changes” stemmed from a blog post by Choice of Games, which wrote that “all new apps” would be getting an additional review, slowing down app approvals. It claimed new apps would require at least three days for review, and this now included existing developers.
The post cited a conversation with Google Support as the source for its claims.
This led to a ton of confusion, as the development shop behind the post was well-established, having been on the Play Store since 2010 and would have been exempt from Google’s policy of increased reviews for new developers.
As it turns out, it appears there was miscommunication between Google Play Store developer support and the developer, according to the chat transcript that was published. The support person, “Liz,” was alerting the developer to the new policy Google announced in April, which detailed increased review times for Play Store newcomers. She didn’t appear to understand that she was speaking with a developer who had published on Google Play for nearly a decade.
Android Police also picked up the news, writing that Google had “quietly instigated a more involved review process that impacts every app and update.”
Reddit and Hacker News also weighed in. In addition to the reported changes, developers were concerned there was now no way to schedule new app releases through the Timed Publishing feature. (That’s also not true — developers can publish to a closed testing track, then use Timed Publishing to go live to the public.)
A Google Developer Relations team member stepped in to clear things up on Reddit, and we’ve confirmed with Google that his responses were accurate.
Google’s updated app review process, first announced in April, hasn’t changed.
At the time, Google said:
“We will soon be taking more time (days, not weeks) to review apps by developers that don’t yet have a track record with us. This will allow us to do more thorough checks before approving apps to go live in the store and will help us make even fewer inaccurate decisions on developer accounts.”
Google began notifying developers directly in the Play Console in June that new apps by developers without a track record will take a couple of days longer to review. Google says that, since this change, it’s already seen a meaningful increase in the number of harmful apps blocked by Play even before they are published.
It’s not clear why the developer relations support person miscommunicated this information to the developer in question, but it points to a training issue on Google’s part.
It’s also unclear why the established developer’s app was held up in app review, beyond it just being a mistake on Google’s part.
Unfortunately for Google, Play Store developers have come to expect a speedy review process, so any delays feel like unnecessary friction.
Unlike Apple, which employs a large team to carefully review app submissions and make hard calls on controversial apps, Google has more heavily relied on automation over the years. The company disclosed in the past how it uses software to pre-analyze apps for viruses, malware and other content and copyright violations.
That process doesn’t always work, though. Only days ago, dozens of Android apps disguised as harmless photo editors and games were discovered to actually be adware. This follows similar news from January, when 85 apps were found to contain adware… and in May, when adware was discovered in some 200 apps totaling 150+ million installs… and, news from last November, when malware was found across more than a dozen apps with half a million installs… and so on.
While it would make sense for Google to increase its review of all apps, given its inability to address this problem, that was not the case here.
Susan Prescott, Apple’s vice president of markets, apps and services, has been at Apple since 2003. She worked with the company’s co-founder Steve Jobs, and has witnessed such milestones as the launch of the iPhone and the iPad. Prescott will be coming to TechCrunch Sessions: Enterprise in San Francisco on September 5 to discuss Apple’s enterprise strategy.
Prescott has been closely involved in that from the earliest days of the iPhone, and as she told TechCrunch in a 2018 article on Apple’s enterprise strategy, the company was thinking about the enterprise as a potential market from the start. “Early on we engaged with businesses and IT to understand their needs, and have added enterprise features with every major software release,” she said at the time.
When you think about it, it was in fact the iPhone and the iPad that led to the Consumerization of IT and Bring Your Own Device movements, two huge trends in enterprise IT that began in the 2011 timeframe. Later the company helped grow the business further by partnering with such enterprise stalwarts as IBM, SAP, Cisco, GE and most recently Salesforce along with systems integrators like Deloitte and Accenture. Today, the company offers a range of business tools including Apple Business Chat and Apple Business Manager, an IT management tool for managing Macs, iPhones and iPads and the apps that run on them.
All of that adds up to robust enterprise strategy, and Prescott will discuss all of that and more with TechCrunch editors. We’ll dive into Apple’s history in the enterprise and what it’s doing today to enhance that part of its business.
In all, Prescott has over 25 years of technology industry experience. Before joining Apple in 2003, she worked for Adobe where she had a range of engineering, marketing and management roles. Her last position before joining Apple in 2003 was Vice President of product management and marketing in Adobe’s Creative Professional Solutions group.
It’s that time of year, Silicon Valley’s investor technocrati and advice-giving Twitter celebrities descended upon Pier 48 in San Francisco to judge the latest summer batch of Y Combinator startups. TechCrunch was there, as well, and we were tapping away feverishly as co-founders pitched to woo investors.
There are 197 companies in total in the summer YC batch, we heard from 84 of them today — in addition to a few off-the-record pitches which we agreed to hold off publicizing as they remain in stealth. We’ll hear from another chunk of them tomorrow, so check back tomorrow for even more startup blurbs.
Demo Day used to be the debut for many of these companies, but as Y Combinator’s prestige has grown so has the likelihood that the batch’s best will be closing rounds at outsized valuations before the first pitches have been made.
We’ll undoubtedly be reporting on some of these rounds moving forward, but for now here are the 84 companies whose founders pitched onstage today at Y Combinator Demo Days – Day 1.
That’s all for Day 1, we’ll be posting our favorites from today’s batch soon and we’ll be back tomorrow with the rest of the batch.
The announcement illustrates the latest efforts by Porsche to focus on digital entertainment in its vehicles as well as its further alignment with Apple.
The Apple Music integration will begin with the hotly anticipated Taycan. However, the relationship between Apple and Porsche won’t end at there, Porsche North America CEO Klaus Zellmer told TechCrunch.
Apple CarPlay, an app that brings the look and feel of an iPhone to the vehicle’s central screen, is already offered in new Porsche models, a list that will include the Taycan. And like the rollout of Apple CarPlay, a fully integrated Apple Music app will eventually make its way into the rest of the Porsche lineup.
The intention is to give all Porsche customers the “same bandwidth of services,” he said, adding that Apple Music will be introduced into new vehicles that have the technology to integrate the streaming services. It was a sentiment echoed in a statement by Porsche AG board member Detlev von Platen.
For now, the partnership between the two companies will give Taycan owners access to Apple Music — and its 50 million songs, Beats 1 live streamed radio station and curated playlists — through the vehicle’s touchscreen display or its voice assistant. Apple Music, which costs $9.99 for an individual membership, recently surpassed 60 million subscribers.
The integration means more than an Apple Music app icon popping up on the Taycan’s digital touchscreen. The company wanted the experience to be seamless, meaning no wonky sign-ins, phone pairing or separate accounts. Instead, Porsche is linking an owner’s Apple ID with their Porsche Taycan ID. Apple Music content in the Taycan will be identical to what’s on the user’s iPhone app.
Apple Music in the Taycan can also be accessed via Porsche’s voice assistant, which will let users request songs, albums, playlists, or radio stations.
New and existing Porsche owners will be given a free six-month subscription to Apple Music, another hint that the integration will eventually reach other vehicles in the German automaker’s portfolio.
Once that period expires, owners will have to pay for the streaming service. Although if Taycan owners reflect Porsche’s larger U.S. customer base, it’s possible that many already have a subscription. More than 80% of the U.S. Porsche customers also have iPhone, Zellmer told TechCrunch.
Porsche said it will also give Taycan owners three years of free in-car internet.
“None of our customers will have to worry about data consumption while streaming,” Lars Buchwald, director of sales and marketing at Porsche Connect for Porsche AG, said during an event Monday at Porsche’s North America headquarters in Atlanta.
Apple is a natural fit for Porsche, Zellmer said, noting that the brands of the two companies are closely aligned with their parallel focus on design, technology and innovation.
Both brands also share a closed system ethos. For instance, Porsche doesn’t support open source-based Android Auto, the competitor to Apple CarPlay. And while that doesn’t mean Apple Music will be the only app ever integrated into the Taycan or other Porsche vehicles, they will likely be few and far between.
“Generally speaking, we always want to be in control of that system for privacy reasons,” Zellmer said. “We don’t want our customers to be approached with marketing or advertising messages that are not relevant or adequate. We will always be very cautious about whom we grant access to our digital ecosystem in our cars. Another reason why Apple is our partner is because they have exactly the same attitude.”
There are niche startups and then there are VR companies going after fans of the “cyberpunk fantasy anime aesthetic.”
Ramen VR is one of only a few virtual reality startups that Y Combinator has bet on in the past few years and is only one of two in the company’s most recent batch of bets. It has a niche approach but it’s hoping to build an MMO that can leanly grow alongside the slow-but-steady virtual reality market. Like any content play that’s hoping for VC dollars, Ramen VR wants to eventually be a platform.
“Long-term, our goal isn’t just to create a game, but we’ve seen the issues of VR platforms that tried to be platforms before they had a meaningful use case. If you’re just trying to be a chat room or platform without any users, that doesn’t work,” CEO Andy Tsen tells TechCrunch.
The company’s first title is called Zenith, and it’s an anime-inspired fantasy title that plays with cyberpunk themes as well. The founders are really aiming to give VR geeks the game that they want, one that taps into the 80s futuristic aesthetic with gameplay that pays tribute to popular sci-fi books, movies and games of the era.
MMOs are attracting quite a bit of inbound interest in the venture-backed startup world, part of the reasoning has been because of people seeing the scope a title like Fortnite was able to achieve so quickly after going viral, the other part is the prevalence of developer tools that gaming startups are able to easily plug into their tech stacks. Ramen VR is using Improbable’s Spatial OS to bring persistent online gameplay to its users.
The company just rolled out a Kickstarter to gauge interest for Zenith, they launched a week ago and have raised $132k in the crowdfunding campaign thus far. Backers get access to a VR version of the title as well as a desktop PC copy. The startup plans to roll out across VR devices including PC systems, PlayStation VR and Oculus Quest.
“The whole point is that it’s not just on one device, it’s a world, it’s literally the Upside Down from Stranger Things layered on top of your entire world. At any point, no matter what screen you’re on, you can access that,” CTO Lauren Frazier tells us.
The startup still has a bit of development ahead of them, but the current plan is to launch an Alpha in six months, a beta in nine months and to go live broadly a year from now.
TikTok, the short-form video platform favored by young adults and teens, has launched a new feature that allows users to shop for products associated with a sponsored Hashtag Challenge, without leaving its app. These sponsored challenges are Gen Z-friendly marketing campaigns where users are prompted to post videos of them using a product — like showing off favorite outfits from Uniqlo or Guess, for example. Or they might participate in some sort of manufactured viral trend, like singing favorite Disney songs ahead of a Disney-themed episode of American Idol.
The new e-commerce feature, called Hashtag Challenge Plus, adds a shoppable component to the hashtag.
In addition to creating and viewing videos featuring the brand’s sponsored hashtag, a separate tab features an in-app experience where products from the campaign can be purchased within TikTok itself.
While not exactly a company that exudes youth appeal, Kroger found a way to reach TikTok’s young adult audience through their hashtag campaign.
In partnership with four TikTok influencers — Joey Klaasen, Cosette Rinab, Mia Finney and Victoria Bachlet — Kroger prompted TikTok viewers to post videos of their dorm makeovers using the hashtag #TransformUrDorm. Digital agency i360 was involved in the videos’ creation.
What made Kroger’s challenge unique was that it also introduced a dedicated brand page where viewers could actually shop for products, too.
Kroger paid for its sponsored hashtag to be given placement on TikTok’s Discover page for a week’s time. The tag can still be found via search, even though the campaign has wrapped.
Of course, many of its intended viewers found it by way of their favorite TikTok influencer’s profile, much like how Instagram ad campaigns work.
Since launch, the hashtag has since grown to around 477 million views across hundreds of videos — some labeled “Official,” if from the influencers. The rest is user-generated content from other TikTok users hoping to capitalize on the trend to gain a little TikTok fame for themselves.
On the hashtag’s landing page, there’s a separate tab also labeled “Discover,” but not to be confused with TikTok’s main Discover section. This directs viewers to the new shopping experience.
Here, Kroger shows off a scrollable row of featured products, including things like a popcorn maker, a box of snack bars, a toaster and other items.
Tapping the “Shop Now” link then opens up Kroger’s website, where users can add items to their cart and check out online.
This shoppable experience is really just a mobile-optimized Kroger website pointing to a special search term (btscollege19). It isn’t a TikTok creation, nor built with TikTok’s help. On the mobile site, you can scroll down through a random list of items — from shampoos to coffee filters to toothpaste to hangers and more — or you can filter by category or enter a search term.
It’s unclear if such an offering will actually significantly impact e-commerce sales.
If anything, a hashtag campaign like this is better utilized to remind viewers that Kroger’s grocery store is also a place to shop for back-to-school needs, as an alternative to big-box stores like Target or Walmart or online retailers like Amazon.
TikTok confirmed to TechCrunch that Kroger was the first to put it into action last week. A spokesperson declined to say if other campaigns using the new product were in the works, adding that the company couldn’t talk about any plans ahead of their launch.
Sponsored Hashtag Challenges are only one way TikTok is experimenting with generating revenue from its roughly 500 million monthly users, the majority who are younger than 30. The company has also tried out full-screen ads at launch, in-feed ads, 3D/AR lenses, stickers and more.
Facebook is expanding its data abuse bug bounty to Instagram.
The social media giant, which owns Instagram, first rolled out its data abuse bounty in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, which saw tens of millions of Facebook profiles scraped to help swing undecided voters in favor of the Trump campaign during the U.S. presidential election in 2016.
The idea was that security researchers and platform users alike could report instances of third-party apps or companies that were scraping, collecting and selling Facebook data for other purposes, such as to create voter profiles or build vast marketing lists.
Instagram wasn’t immune either. Just this month Instagram booted a “trusted” marketing partner off its platform after it was caught scraping millions of users’ stories, locations and other data points on millions of users, forcing Instagram to make product changes to prevent future scraping efforts. That came after two other incidents earlier this year where a security researcher found 14 million scraped Instagram profiles sitting on an exposed database — without a password — for anyone to access. Another incident saw another company platform scrape the profile data — including email addresses and phone numbers — of Instagram influencers.
Last year Instagram also choked developers’ access as the company tried to rebuild its privacy image in the aftermath of the Cambridge Analytica scandal.
Dan Gurfinkel, security engineering manager at Instagram, said its new and expanded data abuse bug bounty aims to “encourage” security researchers to report potential abuse.
Instagram said it’s also inviting a select group of trusted security researchers to find flaws in its Checkout service ahead of its international rollout, who will also be eligible for bounty payouts.
There has long been a stigma associated with therapy and mental health coaching, a stigma that is even more pronounced in the business world, despite considerable evidence of the efficacy of these services. One of the organizations that has set out to change this negative association is Torch, a startup that combines the therapeutic benefits of executive coaching with data-driven analytics to track outcomes.
Yet, as Torch co-founder and CEO Cameron Yarbrough explains in this Breaking Into Startups episode, the startup wasn’t initially a tech-oriented enterprise. At first, Yarbrough drew on his years of experience as a marriage and family counselor as he made the transition into executive coaching, even referring to the early iterations of Torch as little more than “a matchmaking service between coaches and professionals.”
In time, Yarbrough identified a virtually untapped market for executive coaching — one that, by his estimate, could amount to a $15 billion industry. To demonstrate to investors the great potential of this growing market, he first built up a clientele that provided Torch with sufficient recurring revenue and low churn rate.
Only then was Yarbrough able to raise a $2.4 million seed round from Initialized Capital, Y Combinator, and other investors, convincing them that data analytics software could enhance the coaching process — as well as coach recruitment — enough to effectively “productize feedback,” as he puts it.
For Yarbrough and Torch, “productizing feedback” involves certain well-known business strategies that complement traditional coaching methods. For instance, Torch’s coaching procedure includes a “360 review,” a performance review system that incorporates feedback from all angles, including an employee’s manager, peers, and other people within an organization who have knowledge of the employee’s work.
The 360 review is coupled with an OKR platform, which provides HR departments and other interested parties with the metrics and analytics to track employee progress through the program. This combination is designed to promote the development of soft skills, which in turn drive leadership.
Torch has achieved considerable success, landing several influential clients in the tech sector through its B2B approach. But Yarbrough is clear that his goal with the company is to “democratize” access to professional coaching, in hopes of providing the same kind of mental health counseling and support to employees in all levels of an organization.
In this episode, Yarbrough discusses the history and trajectory of Torch, his experience scaling a company many considered unscalable, and the methods he uses to manage his own emotional and mental health as the CEO of an expanding startup. Yarbrough offers insights into the feelings of anxiety and dread common among entrepreneurs and provides a close look at how he has found business and personal success with Torch.
Breaking Into Startups: There’s a difference between a mentor and a coach. Today, I want to talk about that difference and in addition to the intersection between business and psychology, What Cameron Yarbrough, CEO of Torch and Founder of Well Clinic.
If you’re someone that is looking for a mentor or a coach as you break into tech, or if you just want to be surrounded by peers, make sure you download the Career Karma app by going to www.breakingintostartups.com/download.
On today’s episode, you’re going to understand the importance of therapy, mental health and coaches, as well as how historically, it has been inaccessible to people and how Cameron is using his background to democratize this for the world.
If this is your first time listening to the Breaking Startups Podcast, make sure you leave a review on iTunes and tell your friends. Listen to it on Soundcloud and talk about it on Spotify. If you have any feedback for us, positive or negative, please let us know. Without further ado, let’s break-in.
Cameron Yarbrough is the CEO of Torch. He’s one of the best executive coaches in the world. Not only are we going to be talking about coaching and mentoring for executives, but we’ll also be talking about coaching in general for everyone. We’re going to go into how he created his company.
Royal Dutch Shell, the energy giant known for its fossil fuel production and hundreds of Shell gas stations, is creeping into the electric vehicle-power business.
The company’s first DC fast charger from its newly acquired company Greenlots launched Monday at a Shell gas station in Singapore. Greenlots, an EV charging startup acquired by Shell in January, installed the charger. This is the first of 10 DC fast chargers that Greenlots plans to bring to Shell service stations in Singapore over the next several months.
The decision to target Singapore is part of Greenlots’ broader strategy to provide EV charging solutions across all applications throughout Asia and North America, the company said. Both Shell and Greenlots have a presence in Singapore. Greenlots, which is based in Los Angeles, was founded in Singapore; and Shell is one of Singapore’s largest foreign investors.
Singapore has been promoting the use of electric vehicles, particularly for car-sharing and ride-hailing platforms. The island city-state has been building up its EV infrastructure to meet anticipated demand as ride-hailing drivers and commercial fleets switch to electric vehicles.
Greenlots was backed by Energy Impact Partners, a cleantech investment firm, before it was acquired by Shell. The company, which combines its management software with the EV charging hardware, has landed some significant customers in recent years, notably Volkswagen. Greenlots is the sole software provider to Electrify America, the entity set up by Volkswagen as part of its settlement with U.S. regulators over its diesel emissions cheating scandal.
Clarification: Shell has other EV chargers. These are the first through its newly acquired company Greenlots.
The vast enterprise tech category is Silicon Valley’s richest, and today it’s poised to change faster than ever before. That’s probably the biggest reason to come to TechCrunch’s first-ever show focused entirely on enterprise. But here are five more reasons to commit to joining TechCrunch’s editors on September 5 at San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Center for an outstanding day (agenda here) addressing the tech tsunami sweeping through enterprise.
#1 Artificial Intelligence.
At once the most consequential and most hyped technology, no one doubts that AI will change business software and increase productivity like few if any, technologies before it. To peek ahead into that future, TechCrunch will interview Andrew Ng, arguably the world’s most experienced AI practitioner at huge companies (Baidu, Google) as well as at startups. AI will be a theme across every session, but we’ll address again it head-on in a panel with investor Jocelyn Goldfein (Zetta), founder Bindu Reddy (Reality Engines) and executive John Ball (Salesforce / Einstein).
#2. Data, The Cloud and Kubernetes.
If AI is at the dawn of tomorrow, cloud transformation is the high noon of today. 90% of the world’s data was created in the past two years, and no enterprise can keep its data hoard on-prem forever. Azure’s CTO Mark Russinovitch (CTO) will discuss Microsft’s vision for the cloud. Leaders in the open-source Kubernetes revolution, Joe Beda (VMWare) and Aparna Sinha (Google) and others will dig into what Kubernetes means to companies making the move to cloud. And last, there is the question of how to find signal in all the data – which will bring three visionary founders to the stage: Benoit Dageville (Snowflake), Ali Ghodsi (Databricks), Murli Thirumale (Portworx).
#3 Everything else on the main stage!
Let’s start with a fireside chat with SAP CEO Bill McDermott and Qualtrics Chief Experience Officer Julie Larson-Green. We have top investors talking where they are making their bets, and security experts talking data and privacy. And then there is quantum, the technology revolution waiting on the other side of AI: Jay Gambetta, the principal theoretical scientist behind IBM’s quantum computing effort, Jim Clarke, the director of quantum hardware at Intel Labs, and Krysta Svore, style="font-weight: 400;"> who leads the Microsoft’s quantum effort.
All told, there are 21 programming sessions.
#4 Network and get your questions answered.
There will be two Q&A breakout sessions with top enterprise investors for founders (and anyone else) to query investors directly. Plus, TechCrunch’s unbeatable CrunchMatch app makes it really easy to set up meetings with the other attendees, an incredible array of folks, plus the 20 early-stage startups exhibiting on the expo floor.
Enterprise giant SAP is our sponsor for the show, and they are not only bringing a squad of top executives, they are producing four parallel track sessions featuring key SAP Chief Innovation Officer Max Wessel, SAP Chief Designer and Futurist Martin Wezowski and SAP.IO’s managing director Ram Jambunathan (SAP.iO) in sessions including, how to scale-up an enterprise startup, how startups win large enterprise customers, and what the enterprise future looks like.
Check out the complete agenda. Don’t miss this show! This line-up is a view into the future like none other.
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Depending on your connection and the size of your household, video streaming can get downright post-apocalyptic — bandwidth is the key resource, and everyone is fighting to get the most and avoid a nasty, pixelated picture. But a new way to control how bandwidth is distributed across multiple, simultaneous streams could mean peace across the land — even when a ton of devices are sharing the same connection and all are streaming video at the same time.
Researchers at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab created a system they call “Minerva” that minimizes stutters due to buffering, and pixelation due to downgraded stream, which it believes could have huge potential benefits for streaming services like Netflix and Hulu that increasingly serve multiple members of a household at once. The underlying technology could be applied to larger areas, too, extending beyond the house and into neighborhoods or even whole regions to mitigate the effects of less than ideal streaming conditions.
Minerva works by taking into account the varying needs of different delivery devices streaming on a network — so it doesn’t treat a 4K Apple TV the same as an older smartphone with a display that can’t even show full HD output, for instance. It also considers the nature of the content, which is important because live-action sports require a heck of a lot more bandwidth to display in high quality when compared to say a children’s animated TV show.
Video is then served to viewers based on its actual needs, instead of just being allocated more or less evenly across devices, and the Minerva system continually optimizes delivery speeds in accordance with their changing needs as the stream continues.
In real-world testing, Minerva was able to provide a quality jump equivalent to going from 720p to 1080p as much as a third of the time, and eliminated the need for rebuffing by almost 50%, which is a massive improvement when it comes to actually being able to seamlessly stream video content continuously. Plus, it can do all this without requiring any fundamental changes to network infrastructure, meaning a streaming provider could roll it out without having to require any changes on the part of users.
As businesses use an increasing variety of marketing software solutions, the goal around collecting all of that data is to improve customer experience. Simon Data announced a $30 million Series C round today to help.
The round was led by Polaris Partners . Previous investors .406 Ventures and F-Prime Capital also participated. Today’s investment brings the total raised to $59 million, according to the company.
Jason Davis, co-founder and CEO, says his company is trying to pull together a lot of complex data from a variety of sources, while driving actions to improve customer experience. “It’s about taking the data, and then building complex triggers that target the right customer at the right time,” Davis told TechCrunch. He added, “This can be in the context of any sort of customer transaction, or any sort of interaction with the business.”
Companies tend to use a variety of marketing tools, and Simon Data takes on the job of understanding the data and activities going on in each one. Then based on certain actions — such as, say, an abandoned shopping cart — it delivers a consistent message to the customer, regardless of the source of the data that triggered the action.
They see this ability to pull together data as a customer data platform (CDP). In fact, part of its job is to aggregate data and use it as the basis of other activities. In this case, it involves activating actions you define based on what you know about the customer at any given moment in the process.
As the company collects this data, it also sees an opportunity to use machine learning to create more automated and complex types of interactions. “There are a tremendous number of super complex problems we have to solve. Those include core platform or infrastructure, and we also have a tremendous opportunity in front of us on the predictive and data science side as well,” Davis said. He said that is one of the areas where they will put today’s money to work.
The company, which launched in 2014, is based in NYC. The company currently has 87 employees in total, and that number is expected to grow with today’s announcement. Customers include Equinox, Venmo and WeWork. The company’s most recent funding round was a $20 million in July 2018.
Binance, the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange, announced today that it will launch an open blockchain project called Venus to develop regional stablecoins pegged to fiat currencies (or traditional currencies usually issued and backed by a government).
Based in Malta, Binance launched its decentralized trading service, Binance Chain, earlier this year, and since then has issued stablecoins pegged to Bitcoin and the British pound.
In its English-language announcement, Binance said Venus’ goal is “to empower developed and developing countries to spur new currencies,” but did not mention Libra, Facebook’s cryptocurrency project. In the Chinese-language version of its announcement, however, Binance went into more detail, stating that Venus is intended to be an “independent and autonomous, regional version of Libra.”
While Libra’s goal is to create a global digital currency that allows people to avoid the fees associated with credit cards and remittance services, Binance says Venus’ objective is to enable developing countries to “have more financial autonomy” and “protect their financial security” by helping them create new digital currencies.
But on Twitter, Binance founder and CEO Changpeng Zhao clarified that the exchange is not positioning Venus as a rival to Libra. In response to a tweet that said “Binance is ready to dominate the world by launching Project ‘Venus’ and rival Facebook’s Libra by developing localized stablecoins worldwide,” Zhao wrote “Pushing adoption, yes. Domination, no. Always happy to co-exist. In fact, this should help Libra, if you think about it. Will leave it at that.”
Pushing adoption, yes. Domination, no. Always happy to co-exist.
In fact, this should help Libra, if you think about it. Will leave it at that. https://t.co/HLSywLb2mi
— CZ Binance (@cz_binance) August 19, 2019
Facebook is partnering with 27 companies to launch Libra, including PayPal, Visa, Coinbase, Uber and Mastercard, but Binance has not announced partners for Venus yet. Instead, the company’s announcement said it is “looking to create new alliances and partnerships with governments, corporations, technology companies and other cryptocurrency companies and projects involved in the larger blockchain ecosystem, to empower developed and developing countries to spur new currencies.”
Discovering and drilling for the important minerals used for industry and the technology sector remains incredibly important as existing mines are becoming depleted. If the mining industry can’t become more efficient at finding these important deposits, then more unnecessary, harmful drilling and exploration takes place. Applying AI to this problem would seem like a no-brainer for the environment.
Joining this field is now Earth AI, a mineral targeting startup which is using AI to predict the location of new ore bodies far more cheaply, faster, and with more precision (it claims) than previous methods.
It’s now closed a funding round of ‘up to’ $2.5 million from Gagarin Capital, A VC firm specializing in AI, and Y Combinator, in the latter’s latest cohort announced this week. Previously, Earth AI had raised $1.7 million in two seed rounds from Australian VCs, AirTree Ventures and Blackbird Ventures and angel investors.
The startup uses machine learning techniques on global data, including remote sensing, radiometry, geophysical and geochemical datasets, to learn the data signatures related to industrial metal deposits (from gold, copper, and lead to rare earth elements), train a neural network, and predict where high-value mineral prospects will be.
In particular, it was used to discover a deposit of Vanadium, which is used to build Vanadium Redox Batteries that are used in large industrial applications. Finding these deposits faster using AI means the planet will thus benefit faster from battery technology.
In 2018, Earth AI field-tested remote unexplored areas and claims to have generated a 50X better success rate than traditional exploration methods, while spending on average $11,000 per prospect discovery. In Australia, for instance, companies often spend several million dollars to arrive at the same result.
Jared Friedman, YCombinator partner comented in a statement: “The possibility of discovering new mineral deposits with AI is a fascinating and thought-provoking idea. Earth AI has the potential not just to become an incredibly profitable company, but to reduce the cost of the metals we need to build our civilization, and that has huge implications for the world.”
“Earth AI is taking a novel approach to a large and important industry — and that approach is already showing tremendous promise”, Mikhail Taver, partner at Gagarin Capital said.
Earth AI was founded by Roman Tesyluk, a geoscientist with eight years of mineral exploration and academic experience. Prior to starting Earth AI, he was a PhD Candidate at The University of Sydney, Australia and obtained a Master’s degree in Geology from Ivan Franko University, Ukraine. “EARTH AI has huge ambitions, and this funding round will supercharge us towards reaching our milestones,” he said.
This latest investment from Gagarin Capital joins a line of other AI-based products and services and investments it’s made into YC companies, such as Wallarm, Gosu.AI and CureSkin. Gagarin’s exits include MSQRD (acquired by Facebook), and AIMatter (acquired by Google).
Sonos has an event coming up at the end of the month to reveal something new, but leaks have pretty much given away what’s likely to be the highlight announcement at the event: A new, Bluetooth-enabled speaker that has a built-in battery for portable power.
The speaker originally leaked earlier this month, with Dave Zatz showing off a very official-looking image, and The Verge reporting some additional details, including a toggle switch for moving between Bluetooth and Wi-Fi modes, and a USB-C port for charging, along with rough dimensions that peg it as a little bit bigger than the existing Sonos One.
Now, another leak from Win Future has revealed yet more official-looking images, including a photo of the device with its apparent dock, which provides contact charging. The site also says the new speaker will be called the Sonos Move, which makes a lot of sense, given it’ll be the only one that can actually move around and still maintain functionality while portable.
Here’s the TL;DR of what we know so far, across all the existing leaks:
No word yet on official availability or pricing, but it’s reasonable to expect that it’ll arrive sometime this fall, following that late August announcement.
The Bugatti Centodieci is the French automaker’s most powerful supercar yet — coming in a skosh above the Chiron at 1,600 horsepower. But it’s not just the power — or the $8.9 million price tag — that makes the Centodieci stand out.
The angular supercar, still dotted with the signature Bugatti design elements, tips its hat to the mid-engine EB110 supercar that debuted in 1991 when the company was owned by Romano Artioli.
One look at the Bugatti Centodieci, which had its world debut at the Quail Gathering during Monterey Car Week, and it’s clear that the early 1990s supercar was an inspiration.
But the Centodieci isn’t a copycat of the wedge-shaped, seemingly two-dimensional EB110. Instead, Bugatti designers aimed to bring the EB110 into the modern era.
“Transporting this classic look into the new millennium without copying it was technically complex, to say the least,” Bugatti head designer Achim Anscheidt said in a statement. “We had to create a new way of combining the complex aerothermal requirements of the underlying Chiron technology with a completely different aesthetic appearance.”
The Centodieci, which means 110 in Italian to commemorate the 110th anniversary of the company’s founding, has a newly developed, deep-seated front spoiler along with three-section air intakes. The iconic Bugatti horseshoe is smaller than its counterparts — a decision made to fit in with the car’s the low-dropping front. The Centodieci also has new, very narrow headlamps with integrated LED daytime running lights and five round air inserts to ensure sufficient air intake for its 16-cylinder engine.
The nod to the 1990s ends inside the Centodieci. In here, it’s all modern-day engineering. The 8.0-liter W16 engine produces 1,600 horsepower and can accelerate from 0 to 62 miles per hour in 2.4 seconds. The top speed has been electronically limited to 236 mph.
Here’s a 360-degree view of the vehicle.
Bugatti will only produce 10 of the Centodieci and they’re already sold, Pierre Rommelfanger, Bugatti’s head of exterior and structure development confirmed to TechCrunch. Typically, supercars such as these can be highly customized to meet the desires of their owners.
And the Bugatti Centodieci will be no different — to a point. “There are limits in order to reduce complexity,” Rommelfanger said.
Deliveries to the first Centodieci customers will begin in 2022. Bugatti has other orders to fill besides the Centodieci. The company is also producing 40 of the Bugatti Divo and just one La Voiture Noire, which is the world’s most expensive new car ever sold at $18.68 million. The company also plans to produce 500 Bugatti Chiron cars.
If president Stephan Winkelmann sticks to his plan to introduce two new products each year, more Bugatti models will soon join the Centodieci, Chiron, Divo and La Voiture Noire.