Timesdelhi.com

September 21, 2018
Category archive

Startups

Cleo, the ‘digital assistant’ that replaces your banking apps, picks up $10M Series A led by Balderton

in Cleo/Delhi/Europe/Fundings & Exits/India/Politics/Startups/TC by

When Cleo, the London-based ‘digital assistant’ that wants to replace your banking apps, quietly entered the U.S., the company couldn’t have expected to be an instant hit. Many better funded British startups have failed to ‘break America’. However, just four months later, the fintech upstart counts 350,000 users across the pond — claiming more than 600,000 active users in the U.K., U.S. and Canada in total — and says it is adding 30,000 new signups each week. All of which hasn’t gone unnoticed by investors.

Already backed by some of the biggest VC names in the London tech scene — including Entrepreneur First, Moonfruit founder Wendy Tan White, Skype founder Niklas Zennström, Wonga founder Errol Damelin, TransferWise founder Taavet Hinrikus, and LocalGlobe — Cleo is adding Balderton Capital to the list.

The European venture capital firm, which has previously invested in fintech unicorn Revolut and the well-established GoCardless, has led Cleo’s $10 million Series A round, in which I understand most early backers, including Zennström, also followed on. One source told me the Series A gives the hot London startup a post-money valuation of around £30 million (~$39.7m), although Cleo declined to comment.

In a call with co-founder and CEO Barney Hussey-Yeo, he explained that the new capital will be used to continue scaling the company, with further international expansion the name of the game. Hussey-Yeo says Cleo will be targeting Western Europe, the Americas, and Australasia, aiming to launch in a whopping 22 countries in the next 12 months, as Cleo bids to become the “default interface” for millennials interacting and managing their money.

Primarily accessed via Facebook Messenger, the AI-powered chatbot gives insights into your spending across multiple accounts and credit cards, broken down by transaction, category or merchant. In addition, Cleo lets you take a number of actions based on the financial data it has gleaned. You can choose to put money aside for a rainy day or specific goal, send money to your Facebook Messenger contacts, donate to charity, set spending alerts, and more.

However, in the context of traction and Cleo’s broader global ambitions, it is the decision not to become a bank in its own right, that Hussey-Yeo feels is really beginning to bear fruit. His argument has always been that you don’t need to be a bank to become the primary way users interface with their finances, and that without the regulatory and capital burden that becoming a fully licensed bank brings, you can scale much more quickly. I have a feeling that strategy — and its pros and cons — has a long way to play out just yet.

News Source = techcrunch.com

uBeam wireless power’s CEO Meredith Perry steps aside amidst B2B pivot

in Delhi/energous/Hardware/India/Meredith Perry/Ossia/Personnel/Politics/Science/Startups/talent/TC/uBeam/Wireless Charging by

After repeatedly missing self-imposed deadlines for progress on its wireless charging-at-a-distance phone case, uBeam’s CEO Meredith Perry has decided to shift out of the CEO position and into a board member and senior advisor role. She’d founded the company in 2011 from her dorm room and brought in over $40 million in funding by selling a wide range of elite investors on her vision for a cordless future, including Andreessen Horowitz, Founders Fund, CrunchFund (disclosure: started by TechCrunch’s founder), Marissa Mayer, and Mark Cuban.

Now rather than trying to build its own consumer products like wireless power transmitters and receivers that could charge your phone from across the room using ultrasound frequencies, uBeam is pivoting to licensing its technology for use in other companies’ products.

“Meredith made the decision to step down as CEO. She wanted the company to hire a CEO who had experience in overseeing the rollout of a b2b electronics product” tweeted one of the startup’s lead investors, Mark Suster of Upfront Capital. Axios’ Dan Primack reported the news earlier today. TechCrunch spoke to Perry but she declined to comment on the record.

For the interim, uBeam’s head of HR and finance Jacqueline McCauley who joined in 2016 will lead the company. In a blog post today, she announced that “Meredith felt it was time to bring on a seasoned executive in the electronics field to lead the company through its commercialization phase. The company has begun a search for this new CEO.”

uBeam had wowed investors and AllThingsD conference attendees in 2011 with a demo showing it could deliver at least some power over a distance of few feet. A source at one point said uBeam was holding talks with top retail and dining chains, and insinuated one of the world’s top phone makers might build on its technology.

But the startup made big promises about public demonstrations and the efficiency of its technology it couldn’t keep. In 2015 Perry had told TechCrunch real-life public demos would be ready the next year, which came and went.

In 2016, things started to fall apart. The startup’s former VP of Engineering Paul Reynolds wrote a series of blog posts accusing uBeam’s technology of not working, and noted that “When I left it was an ugly departure, but was reported to the investors as ‘the VP Engineering left for personal reasons’ — personal reasons being ‘sick of putting up with this bullshit’.” He also revealed that uBeam’s original CTO and new CFO had left the company, and that Perry’s co-founder Nora Dweck had sued her over an unfair equity split and settled.

It wasn’t until 2017 that uBeam gave a two limited public demonstrations at the Upfront Ventures conference and to USA Today. It proved that an impractically large uBeam transmitter could deliver enough power over the distance of four to ten feet to make multiple phones signal they were charging. But the company never opened itself up to more scrutiny regarding just how much power it was delivering, how fast a phone would actually charge, and whether the tech could surmount practical issues like phones moving or being blocked by clothing.

Questions began to mount about whether uBeam’s approach could produce a marketable product in a palatable form factor with real utility. In the meantime, larger competitors like WattUp-maker Energous and COTA-maker Ossia have started to make real progress on over the air wireless charging. A recent deep-dive by PC Mag revealed how these two companies are starting to be able to deliver 1 watt of power across a room. But Energous and Ossia executives were careful to be realistic in their predictions about the hurdles to delivering rapid phone charging at a distance and how many years they’d need to get there.

Now with Perry stepping down, uBeam will shift gears and move to the same B2B licensing model Energous and Ossia use. They’ll now be directly competing to get their wireless power transmitters and receivers built into other products such as televisions, sound bar speakers, phone cases, and more. But the industry is taking a while to mature. Energous, a public company that had raised $117 million, is trading at $10.62 down from a peak above $22 earlier this year and $15 in mid-2017. Ossia has only raised $25 million.

A bulky early uBeam transmitter prototype

Apple last year announced it was building a less ambitious AirPower near-field wireless charging pad that could juice up an AirPods case sitting on it. That was supposed to arrive in “early 2018” but there was no mention of it onstage at the recent iPhone XS launch event. Today’s Qi-standard wireless charging pads require direct contact with devices and some fidgeting to get them to connect.

uBeam’s stumbles may make it tough to hire or retain talent, and the organizational disruption amidst direct competition could cost it valuable time as it strives to get its tech ready for licensing. The startup’s audacious idea for a world without wires may still one day come to fruition. There remains big potential in the more technically feasible over the air charging of Internet Of Things devices that don’t need much power. But uBeam could serve as a reminder to fellow startups that grand visions might make it easier to secure funding, but can raise expectations that are much harder to fulfill.

News Source = techcrunch.com

Hear about the keys to local investing at Startup Battlefield Africa with Omobola Johnson and Lexi Novitske

in africa/Battlefield/Delhi/India/Lagos/Lexi Novitske/Nigeria/Omobola Johnson/Politics/Startup Battlefield Africa 2018/Startups/TC by

Omobola Johnson (Image: Flickr/World Economic Forum under a CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

TechCrunch Startup Battlefield is returning to Africa in December, this time in Lagos, Nigeria. We will have a day-long program full of our flagship Battlefield competition highlighting the best startups that Africa has to offer.

Not only that, we’ll have panel discussions designed to explore the continent’s rapidly developing technological infrastructure on the continent. To wit, I’m excited to announce the first two speakers who will don our stage with direct knowledge about investing Silicon Valley money in the local ecosystem.

Omobola Johnson is a senior partner at TLcom Capital and the former minister of communication technology for Nigeria. Her vast knowledge about the startup investing landscape comes from her 25-year tenure at Accenture where she served as the managing director.

As ICT minister, she focused on the execution of the National Broadband Plan, as well as promoting government interest in local venture capital through the development of a fund and a network of startup incubators. And at Accenture, she advised numerous startups in various industries on how to become competitive and help to strengthen the tech landscape.

Lexi Novitske

Lexi Novitske is the principal investment officer for Singularity Investments where she is responsible for managing investments in the firm’s Africa portfolio.

Novitske moved to Africa from the United States, having identified a unique approach to providing African startups with the capital necessary to thrive. Big surprise: It’s not just about writing a check and hoping for returns. It’s about understanding the complexities of the environment, modifying Western attitudes about business and working hard with your companies to ensure the best outcomes.

Johnson and Novitske are just the beginning of what we have to offer at Battlefield Africa technology. Stay tuned for more announcements of great speakers and get your tickets before they sell out.

News Source = techcrunch.com

Lime hits 11.5 million bike and scooter rides

in Delhi/electric scooters/India/lime/Politics/Startups/TC/Transportation by

Bike and scooter company Lime recently hit 11.5 million rides, a couple of months after it surpassed six million rides. This milestone comes just 14 months after Lime deployed its first bikes.

Today, Lime is in more than 100 markets throughout the U.S. and Europe. Last December, Lime brought its bikes to a number of European cities and in June, Lime brought its scooters to Paris. By the end of this year, Lime plans to launch in an additional 50 cities.

The rise of shared personal electric vehicles has also led to a new type of side hustle for some people. Through Lime’s Juicer program, which enables anyone to make money from charging scooters overnight, the company has paid out millions of dollars to those workers.

Lime has raised $467 million in funding, with its most recent round coming in at $335 million. The round, led by GV, included participation from Uber.

News Source = techcrunch.com

Fresh out of Y Combinator, Leena AI scores $2M seed round

in Artificial Intelligence/chatbots/Delhi/Enterprise/funding/hr/India/Leena AI/natural language processing/Politics/Startups/TC/Y Combinator by

Leena AI, a recent Y Combinator graduate focusing on HR chatbots to help employees answer questions like how much vacation time they have left, announced a $2 million seed round today from a variety of investors.

Company co-founder and CEO Adit Jain says the seed money is about scaling the company and gaining customers. They hope to have 50 enterprise customers within the next 12-18 months. They currently have 16.

We wrote about the company in June when it was part of the Y Combinator Summer 2018 class. At the time Jain explained that they began in 2015 in India as a company called Chatteron. The original idea was to help others build chatbots, but like many startups, they realized there was a need not being addressed, in this case around HR, and they started Leena AI last year to focus specifically on that.

As they delved deeper into the HR problem, they found most employees had trouble getting answers to basic questions like how much vacation time they had or how to get a new baby on their health insurance. This forced a call to a help desk when the information was available online, but not always easy to find.

Jain pointed out that most HR policies are defined in policy documents, but employees don’t always know where they are. They felt a chatbot would be a good way to solve this problem and save a lot of time searching or calling for answers that should be easily found. What’s more, they learned that the vast majority of questions are fairly common and therefore easier for a system to learn.

Employees can access the Leena chatbot in Slack, Workplace by Facebook, Outlook, Skype for Business, Microsoft Teams and Cisco Spark. They also offer Web and mobile access to their service independent of these other tools.

Photo: Leena AI

What’s more, since most companies use a common set of backend HR systems like those from Oracle, SAP and NetSuite (also owned by Oracle), they have been able to build a set of standard integrators that are available out of the box with their solution.

The customer provides Leena with a handbook or a set of policy documents and they put their machine learning to work on that. Jain says, armed with this information, they can convert these documents into a structured set of questions and answers and feed that to the chatbot. They apply Natural Language Processing (NLP) to understand the question being asked and provide the correct answer.

They see room to move beyond HR and expand into other departments such as sales or customer service that could also take advantage of bots to answer a set of common questions. For now, as a recent YC graduate, they have their first bit of significant funding and they will concentrate on building HR chatbots and see where that takes them.

News Source = techcrunch.com

1 2 3 157
Go to Top