May 23, 2019
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MultiVu raises $7M seed round for its next-gen 3D sensor

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MultiVu, a Tel Aviv-based startup that is developing a new 3D imaging solution that only relies on a single sensor and some deep learning smarts, today announced that it has raised a $7 million seed round. The round was led by crowdfunding platform OurCrowd, Cardumen Captial and Hong Kong’s Junson Capital.

Tel Aviv University’s TAU Technology Innovation Momentum Fund supported some of the earlier development of MultiVu’s core technology, which came out of Prof. David Mendlovic’s lab at the university. Mendlovic previously co-founded smartphone camera startup Corephotonics, which was recently acquired by Samsung.

The promise of MultiVu’s sensor is that it can offer 3D imaging with a single-lens camera instead of the usual two-sensor setup. This single sensor can extract depth and color data in a single shot.

This makes for a more compact setup and, by extension, a more affordable solution since it requires fewer components. All of this is powered by the company’s patented light field technology.

Currently, the team is focusing on using the sensor for face authentication in phones and other small devices. That’s obviously a growing market, but there are also plenty of other application for small 3D sensors, ranging from other security use cases to sensors for self-driving cars.

“The technology, which passed the proof-of-concept stage will bring 3D Face Authentication and affordable 3D imaging to the mobile, automotive, industrial and medical markets,” MultiVu CEO Doron Nevo said. “We are excited to be given the opportunity to commercialize this technology.”

Right now, though, the team is mostly focusing on bringing its sensor to market, though. The company will use the new funding for that, as well as new marketing and business development activities.

“We are pleased to invest in the future of 3D sensor technologies and believe that MultiVu will penetrate markets, which until now could not take advantage of costly 3D imaging solutions,” said OurCrowd Senior Investment Partner Eli Nir. “We are proud to be investing in a third company founded by Prof. David Mendlovic (who just recently sold CorePhotonics to Samsung), managed by CEO Doron Nevo – a serial entrepreneur with proven successes and a superb team they have gathered around them.”

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China’s Tesla wannabe Xpeng starts ride-hailing service

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There’re a lot of synergies between electric vehicles and ride-hailing. Drivers are able to save more steering an EV compared to a gas vehicle. Environmentally conscious consumers will choose to hire an electric car. And EVs are designed with better compatibility with autonomous driving, which is expected to hit the public road in the coming decades.

Indeed, Tesla is eyeing to launch its first robotaxis in 2020 as part of a broader ride-sharing scheme. Over in China where Tesla has a few disciples, EV startup Xpeng Motors, also known as Xiaopeng, just started offering a ride-hailing app powered by its own electric fleets.

Screenshot of Xpeng’s ride-hailing app ‘Youpeng Chuxing’

The company is the latest in a clutch of carmakers flocking to introduce their own ride-hailing platforms. Didi Chuxing’s massive loss has not deterred their ambitious plans. Rather, this may be a prime time to crack a market long dominated by Didi, which is prioritizing safety over growth following two high-profile incidents and a series of new government regulations.

Xpeng’s ride-hailing app is currently only available in a limited area within Guangzhou where it’s headquartered, shows a test conducted by TechCrunch’s on Thursday.

The company’s coffer is probably large enough to fund its newly minted venture. It’s one of the most-backed EV upstarts alongside rival Nio, which raised $1 billion from a New York initial public offering last year.

Xpeng has to date banked $1.3 billion from Alibaba, IDG Capital, Foxconn, UCAR and other big-name investors, according to disclosed funding data collected by Crunchbase. Founder He Xiaopeng, a serial entrepreneur who made a fortune selling his mobile browser company UCWeb to Alibaba, told CNBC in March that Xpeng may also try an IPO down the road but wants to focus on building the business first.

When it comes to sources of inspiration for the business, Xpeng told local media that it sees Tesla as its “benchmark”. The company has never been shy about its admiration for its American peer. In an interview with Quartz in 2018, He said one of the reasons he founded Xpeng “was because Elon Musk made Tesla’s patents available. It was so exciting.”

But the affection might have gone a little far. In March, Tesla sued an ex-employee for allegedly stealing Autopilot’s proprietary technology before taking a job at Xpeng.

Xpeng started shipping to its first owners in March and was founded five years ago against the backdrop of Beijing’s aggressive electric push in the transportation sector. The sprawling city Shenzhen, just north to Hong Kong, has turned all its public buses and almost all of its taxis electric.

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Managing the music business from a mobile phone, Jammber is making the industry sing

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The music business is littered with stories about songwriters or studio contributors and session musicians who never get the credit — or money — they’re often due for their work on hit songs.

And for every storied session musician in “The Wrecking Crew” there are perhaps hundreds of other contributors who aren’t getting their just desserts.

That’s where Jammber comes in. The five-year-old company co-founded by serial entrepreneur Marcus Cobb has developed a suite of tools to manage everything from songwriting credits and rights management to ticketing and touring all from a group of apps on a mobile phone. And has just raised $2.4 million in funding to take those tools to a broader market.

Jammber “Muse” gives collaborators a single platform to exchange lyrics and song ideas, while the company’s “Splits” app tracks ownership and credits of any eventual product from a collaboration. The company’s nStudio tracks songwriting credits to assist with chart and Grammy submission — through a partnership with Nielsen Music — and its “PinPoint” helps organize touring. The recording applications even have a presence feature so session musicians, songwriters and artists can actually be tagged in the studio while they’re working. 

“I think we need to get attribution and monetization closer to the creators,” Cobb has said. “Why aren’t we doing that? The industry is growing and thriving. Are we making sure that performers and creators of all different tiers are being equally compensated?”

The answer, sadly, for many in the music industry is no. In fact, while Cobb had originally set out to make a networking tool for creatives with Jammber he wound up shifting the service to the management toolkit after visiting the offices of a music label.

Jammber chief executive Marcus Cobb

“I saw stacks and stacks of payroll checks that were returned to sender,” Cobb, told Crain’s Chicago Business. “These checks were taking three months to two years to print, and they were wrong addresses, or there were stage names instead of legal names.”

That experience convinced Cobb of the demand, but it was Nashville that gave the serial entrepreneur the crucible within which to develop the full suite of tools that now make up Jammber’s soup-to-nuts platform.

Cobb likes to say that Jammber was conceived in Chicago (where the company spun up from the city’s massively influential 1871 entrepreneurship center) and born in Nashville — the home of the multi-billion dollar American country music industry. All of the tools in Jammber, Cobb says, were created with input from a local musician, producer, artist and repertoire person or a label executive.

In 2015, the company came down to Nashville as part of the first batch of companies in Project Music, a joint venture between the Country Music Association and the Nashville Entrepreneur Center meant to encourage the development of technology for the music industry.

For the 41-year-old Cobb, programming and entrepreneurship has literally been a life saver. Growing up in Texas and Nevada with an abusive, drug-addicted stepfather took a toll on Cobb and programming became an outlet — thanks to a particularly well-equipped computer lab at his high school. “I had moved 24 times,” Cobb said in an interview. “My stepfather was a full-blown crack addict. He would disappear with money; we got evicted a lot.”

But the experience with computers led to an early job out of high school, which launched Cobb’s tech career. He sold his first company, Eido Software in 2007 a year after launching it and has used that money to pursue other endeavors.

And while Cobb is a gifted programmer, that’s not his only interest. His next big foray into business was as the owner and lead designer of Marc Wayne Intimates, a boutique lingerie company that also provided the business-savvy Cobb with his first window into the music business — outfitting dancers in music videos for artists like Pitbull.

Cobb has invested $300,000 of his own money into Jammber and raised roughly $400,000 in early seed funding. The $2.3 million that the company raised in its most recent round came from a who’s who of music executives including former Sony Nashville, chief executive Joe Galante; Hootie and the Blowfish manager Clarence Spalding; and Kings of Leon manager Ken Levitan.

These investors know the tension at the heart of the music business better than anyone, Cobb says. Which is that the creative act of making music can often be at odds with the mundanity of organizing and running an effective business to ensure that the music getting made is actually heard by an audience that then pays the musician for their work.

“The irony about making a living in a copyright industry like the music industry is you have to be very organized to make money in a timely manner or even get credit for your work,” said Cobb. “Over 40% of the money creators are owed is tied up by bad or wrong data because it’s very difficult to be organized while you create. These tools finally change that.”

Jammber’s services are currently in a closed, invite-only beta that will be capped at 10,000 users. There’s a basic set of services that will be available for free, with pricing for “unlimited” access to the toolkit starting at $10 per month. In addition to the applications, the company also has an online platform that integrates with the mobile suite. Pricing for that service starts at $25 per month.

“This is an ecosystem play for us. I’ve been in software for a long time and the realization for me is that it’s not just mobile-first or cloud-first anymore, it’s simplicity-first. Independent artists and record labels generated $5.2 billionin revenues last year and the sector continues to grow — all while largely using paper and spreadsheets for their back office tools,” said Cobb. “This is a massive, underserved market and we believe we’ve figured out how to provide the value they’ve been waiting for.”

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Hear from the executives of Innoviz and Oryx Vision about the eyes and ears of the new automobile in Tel Aviv

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The success of the autonomous vehicle revolution relies on complicated systems of sophisticated sensors working in harmony to provide the magic of sight to machines.

OmerKeilaf, chief executive, Innoviz

In Tel Aviv, we’ll hear from experts in the field as they discuss the technological marvels that are the driving force behind the transformation of mobility in the modern world.

Omer David Keilaf, the chief executive of Innoviz, comes to us with some significant recent wins under his company’s belt. The Innoviz LIDAR technology has been selected by BMW to power its Level 3 to Level 5 autonomous vehicle systems.

The company’s solid-state LiDAR sensor, available as a built-in device beginning next year, is much smaller than traditional LIDAR and is stationary.

Before founding Innoviz, Keilaf led the system and product definition efforts at the world’s first handheld molecular sensor for mobile devices with ConsumerPhysics. Previous roles include leading the system architecture and engineering teams at bTendo (acquired by ST Micro) and Anobit (acquired by Apple) .

Rani Wellingstein, chief executive, Oryx Vision

No less impressive is the work of fellow panelist Rani Wellingstein of Oryx Vision, whose company is developing its own novel LIDAR technology. Oryx’s LiDAR uses antennas in place of photodetectors to retrieve both range and velocity information for the points of light in its high-resolution scans of its surroundings. The company claims that its technology is a million times more sensitive than existing LiDAR systems, and is better able to deal with interference from sunlight, and from other LiDARs in operation on the road.

A serial entrepreneur, Wellingstein’s last company, Intucell, was sold to Cisco for $475 million in 2013. At Cisco, Wellingstein served as the vice president and business unit manager of Cisco’s self optimized networks business unit.


Israel is driving autonomous innovation and we’re excited to talk to the folks behind the wheel of the nation’s innovative companies. Join us. You have just 48 hours left to score the early-bird ticket price — 265 ILS. So buy your tickets now.

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Vesper’s new microphone technology attracts millions from the biggest names in sound technology

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Vesper Technologies, a new microphone technology developer, has raised $23 million from some of the biggest names in audio technology to finance the commercialization of its piezoelectric microphones.

As audio technology and voice controlled devices become more ubiquitous, manufacturers are hoping to turn to higher performance MEMS (micro-electro mechanical systems) microphones that use acoustic sensors made on semiconductor production lines using silicon wafers.

The technology allows for far smaller microphones that are incredibly sensitive, but the mics themselves typically don’t withstand the wear and tear of harsh environments all that well. Enter Vesper. It’s piezoelectric microphone technology received a full-throated endorsement from Amazon last year (after the company invested through its Alexa Fund).

Traditionally, manufacturers have used arrays of MEMS microphones to pick up sound, but as systems become more complex, they’re more susceptible to breaking down thanks to the sensitivity of the microphone technology. Amazon (and others) are betting that Vesper can solve the problem thanks to its novel approach to manufacturing MEMS using piezo-electric technologies.

The innovation from Vesper basically hinges on the company’s design for a MEMS microphone that doesn’t require a back plate, which lets flexible microphone plates bend and respond to stress without degrading, according to Amazon senior sound engineer, Dave Berol.


Piezoelectric MEMS design replaces the diaphragm and back plate with flexible alternatives that result in a waterproof, dustproof, particle-resistant, and shockproof microphone that requires no workarounds to be used in high-reliability arrays.



According to Yole Developpement, the MEMS and sensor market will reach $66 billion by 2021. Vesper Technologies chief executive Matt Crowley, thinks his company can command a huge share of that market.

“Our vision is for Alexa to be everywhere, and that means devices need to be built with durable, high-quality components that stand up to the demands of many different environments, especially on-the-go scenarios that require better power efficiency,” said Paul Bernard, director of the Amazon Alexa Fund, in a statement. “Vesper has become further embedded in the Alexa community through its integrations with various development kits and integrated solutions for Amazon AVS, and this follow-on investment is a testament to their continued momentum.”

Crowley was working at a company making MEMS with quartz crystals for clocking, but the clock market wasn’t so appealing back in 2012, so the serial entrepreneur began looking at other opportunities.

“We thought the microphone was going to be a growth market back in 2012,” Crowley recalled. So he began looking for technologies that could compliment the manufacturing work his company was doing.

Through hours of online research, Crowley came across the NASA-backed work of Bobby Littrell, who had come up with an entirely new way to build commercially viable piezoelectric microphones. 

“I had these piezoelectric manufacturing expertise and i need to find a better product,” Crowley said. “I actually just started looking on the web for a piezoelectric microphone and it was like all roads led to [Littrell]… I read his doctoral thesis and then i actually read his patents and i actually contacted him through LinkedIn.”

Crowley also noted that the lower power demands of piezo electric sensors means that the microphones can enable a broader range of uses. From turning on television using nothing more than a voice command (without the need to touch a remote) to work with doorbells and security cameras and even augmented reality-based “hearables” like those designed by Bose.

Vesper raised its initial capital from Jeff Fagnan’s Accomplice fund, before getting its first strategic investment from AAC Technologies.

The most recent round was actually led by Madison, Wis.-based American Family Ventures, the investment arm of American Family Insurance, which has built quite an interesting portfolio of hardware and software services companies since its launch eight years ago. Additional institutional venture investors in the Vesper round include Hyperplane, ZZ Capital, and Accomplice.

“People have been trying to make piezoelectric microphones since the 70s,” said Crowley. “The breakthrough was making really thin layers of these piezoelectric technologies and it was Broadcom which was using this stuff… We couldn’t have started this company five years earlier. It had to be now, when the material science wasn’t right where it needs to be.”



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