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July 18, 2018
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Artificial Intelligence

Reali raises $20M for its flat fee real estate platform

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Reali, a real estate platform that replaces traditional real estate transaction fees with a flat fee model, today announced that it has raised a $20 million Series B funding round led by Zeev Ventures, with participation from Signia Venture Partners and other investors. This round brings Reali’s total funding to $30 million.

The basic idea behind Reali is to do away with the current agent-centric commission model and replace it was a technology platform and agents that are paid a flat fee per transaction. To do this more efficiently in the future, Reali is looking to machine learning and artificial intelligence.

We are fusing AI with human intelligence and optimized workflows around buyer and seller journeys — all towards a superior customer experience for real estate transactions that also result in significant savings for buyers and sellers,” Reali CEO and founder Amit Haller told me.

It’s no suprise then that much of the new funding will go toward expanding the company’s expertise in this area. In addition, the service is also looking at expanding its service geographically. Currently, it’s only available in the Bay Area and Sacramento. Reali now wants to add Southern California to this list. “We are in the process of recruiting and training a team of Reali Experts and on-the-ground Brand Ambassadors, and we expect to begin servicing buyers and sellers later this summer,” said Haller. “We will be covering all of California this year, followed by out-of-state markets.”

So far, Reali says, the platform has processed “hundreds of millions of dollars in homes bought and sold.” The company boasts that its agents are far more efficient than other brokers on a per-transaction basis and that they have a Net Promotor Score of 85.2. The company’s app has only been downloaded 30,000 times since January 2017, though that number doesn’t mean much given that the service is only available in a very limited area.

News Source = techcrunch.com

Swim.ai raises $11M to bring real-time analytics to the edge

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Once upon a time, it looked like cloud-based serviced would become the central hub for analyzing all IoT data. But it didn’t quite turn out that way because most IoT solutions simply generate too much data to do this effectively and the round-trip to the data center doesn’t work for applications that have to react in real time. Hence the advent of edge computing, which is spawing its own ecosystem of startups.

Among those is Swim.ai, which today announced that it has raised an $11 million Series B funding round let by Cambridge Innovation Capital, with participation from Silver Creek Ventures and Harris Barton Asset Management. The round also included a strategic investment from Arm, the chip design firm you may still remember as ARM (but don’t write it like that or their PR department will promptly email you). This brings the company’s total funding to about $18 million.

Swim.ai has an interesting take on edge computing. The company’s SWIM EDX product combines both local data processing and analytics with local machine learning. In a traditional approach, the edge devices collect the data, maybe perform some basic operations against the data to bring down the bandwidth cost and then ship it to the cloud where the hard work is done and where, if you are doing machine learning, the models are trained. Swim.ai argues that this doesn’t work for applications that need to respond in real time. Swim.ai, however, performs the model training on the edge device itself by pulling in data from all connected devices. It then builds a digital twin for each one of these devices and uses that to self-train its models based on this data.

“Demand for the EDX software is rapidly increasing, driven by our software’s unique ability to analyze and reduce data, share new insights instantly peer-to-peer – locally at the ‘edge’ on existing equipment. Efficiently processing edge data and enabling insights to be easily created and delivered with the lowest latency are critical needs for any organization,” said Rusty Cumpston, co-founder and CEO of Swim.ai. “We are thrilled to partner with our new and existing investors who share our vision and look forward to shaping the future of real-time analytics at the edge.”

The company doesn’t disclose any current customers, but it is focusing its efforts on manufacturers, service providers and smart city solutions.

Swim.ai plans to use its new funding to launch a new R&D center in Cambridge, UK, expand its product development team and tackle new verticals and geographies with an expanded sales and marketing team.

News Source = techcrunch.com

Google launches its first WeChat mini program as its China experiments continue

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Google is continuing to test new strategies in China after the U.S. search giant released its first mini program for WeChat, the country’s hugely popular messaging app.

WeChat is used by hundreds of millions of Chinese people daily for services that stretch beyond chat to include mobile payments, bill paying, food delivery and more. Tencent, the company that operates WeChat, added mini programs last year and they effectively operate like apps that are attached to the service. That means that users bypass Google Play or Apple’s App Store and install them from WeChat.

Earlier this year, Tencent added support for games — “mini games” — and the Chinese firm recently said that over one million mini programs have been created to date. Engagement is high, with some 500 million WeChat users interacting with at least one each month.

WeChat has become the key distribution channel in China and that’s why Google is embracing it with its first mini program — 猜画小歌, a game that roughly translates to ‘Guess My Sketch.’ There’s no English announcement but the details can be found in this post on Google’s Chinese blog, which includes the QR code to scan to get the game.

The app is a take on games like Zynga’s Draw Something, which puts players into teams to guess what the other is drawing. Google, however, is adding a twist. Each player teams up with an AI and then battles against their friends and their AIs. You can find an English version of the game online here.

Google’s first WeChat mini program is a sketching game that uses AI

The main news here isn’t the game, of course, but that Google is embracing mini programs, which have been christened as a threat to the Google Play Store itself.

‘When in China… play by local rules’ and Google has taken that to heart this year.

The company recently introduced a Chinese version of its Files Go Android device management app which saw it join forces with four third-party app stores in China in order to gain distribution. This sketching game has lower ambitions but, clearly, it’ll be a learning experience for Google that might prompt it to introduce more significant apps or services via WeChat in the future.

Indeed, Google has been cozying up to Tencent lately after inking a patent deal with the Chinese internet giant, investing in its close ally JD.com and combining on investment deals together, including biotech startup XtalPi.

That’s one side of a new initiative to be more involved in China, where it has been absent since 2010 after redirecting its Chinese search service to Hong Kong in the face of government pressure. In other moves, it has opened an AI lab in Beijing and a more modest office in Shenzhen while it is bringing its startup demo day event to China for the first time with a Shanghai event in September.

Finally, in a touch of irony, Google’s embrace of WeChat’s ‘app store-killing’ mini programs platform comes just hours before the EU is expected to levy a multibillion-euro penalty onit for abusing its dominant position on mobile via Android.

News Source = techcrunch.com

Google builds its own subsea cable from the US to France

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Google, like all major internet companies, often participates in building new subsea cables because it wants to own the connectivity between its data centers around the world. Those cables are typically built and owned by a consortium of companies (and sometimes shared by competitors). Now, however, Google is building its own cable that will span from Virginia Beach in the U.S. to the Atlantic coast of France.

This marks Google’s fourth private cable. Its first two efforts spanned significantly shorter distances, though its ‘Curie’ cable connects Los Angeles and Chile. Over the course of the last few years, Google has also made significant investments in consortium-driven cables that span the Atlantic and the Pacific, and quite a few of these will go online in 2019.

The new so-called ‘Dunant’ cable (named after the first Nobel Peace Prize winner and founder of the Red Cross) will likely go online in 2020. And while it will land in France, it will actually connect Google’s North Virginia region directly to its Belgium region.

TE SubCom is the contractor for the project, which will be an almost 4000-miles long four-fiber pair system.

As Google notes, owning the cable means that it can lay it exactly where it needs it to be to connect its data centers, without having to take the needs of other consortium partners into account. Owning the cable also means that Google owns all the bandwidth for the lifetime of the cable (usually 15 to 25 years).

 

News Source = techcrunch.com

Dialpad dials up $50M Series D led by Iconiq

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Dialpad announced a $50 million Series D investment today, giving the company plenty of capital to keep expanding its business communications platform.

The round was led by Iconiq Capital with help from existing investors Andreessen Horowitz, Amasia, Scale Ventures, Section 32 and Work-Bench. With today’s round, the company has now raised $120 million.

As technology like artificial intelligence and internet of things advances, it’s giving the company an opportunity to expand its platform. Dialpad products include UberConference conferencing software and VoiceAI for voice transcription applications.

The company is competing in a crowded market that includes giants like Google and Cisco and a host of smaller companies like GoToMeeting (owned by LogMeIn), Zoom and BlueJeans. All of these companies are working to provide cloud-based meeting and communications services.

Increasingly, that involves artificial intelligence like natural language processing (NLP) to provide on the fly transcription services. While none of these services is perfect yet, they are growing increasingly accurate.

VoiceAI was launched shortly after Dialpad acquired TalkIQ in May to take this idea a step further by applying sentiment analysis and analytics to voice transcripts. The company plans to use the cash infusion to continue investing in artificial intelligence on the Dialpad platform.

Post call transcript generated by VoiceAI. Screenshot: Dialpad

CEO Craig Walker certainly sees the potential of artificial intelligence for the company moving forward. “Smart CIOs know AI isn’t just another trendy tech tool, it’s the future of work. By arming sales and support teams, and frankly everybody in the organization, with VoiceAI’s real-time artificial intelligence and insights, businesses can dramatically improve customer satisfaction and ultimately their bottom line,” Walker said in a statement.

Dialpad is also working with voice-driven devices like the Amazon Alexa and it announced Alexa integration with Dialpad in April. This allows Alexa users to make calls by saying something like, “Alexa, call Liz Green with Dialpad” and the Echo will make the phone call on your behalf using Dialpad software.

According to the company website, it has over 50,000 customers including WeWork, Stitch Fix, Uber and Reddit. The company says it has added over 10,000 new customers since its last funding round in September, 2017.

News Source = techcrunch.com

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