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Waggel launches ‘fully digital’ pet insurance

Waggel, a new ‘insurtech’ startup in the U.K., is officially launching today to offer what it describes as “fully digital” pet insurance. Founded by Andrew Leal, and Ross Fretten (a contestant of The Apprentice 2017), the company wants to offer more transparent cover for your pet, where you’ll know exactly how much you’re paying and for what provision, as well as offer rewards for improving the care of your animal. “The biggest problem in pet insurance and insurance in general is the lack of value that customers get with a policy,” says Leal. “You pay a monthly fee and get nothing in return except maybe a promise to pay out a claim in the future. On top of this, pet insurance has become extremely complicated for users with confusing policy names and jargon-rich wording. The industry is still largely paper based, slow and terrible at communicating with customers and as a result falling well short of todays consumer expectations. Insurance is very much a grudge purchase”. Leal says that Waggel is attempting to solve this by offering a fully digital solution that puts the customer experience first “to alleviate the stress that is typical of insurance”. You are able to get a quote within 30 seconds that explains in simple language what you’re getting for your money. You can also make a claim within the app and track that claim in real-time, while Waggel promises to be transparent on how much it is paying out and why. “All without having to hear another minute of hold music!” quips the Waggel founder. In addition to the startup’s core insurance product, Waggel offers a rewards programme that Leal says makes it easier and more affordable for customers to take preventative care of their pet through feeding them higher quality nutrition. This comes in the form of “discounts with our hand-picked quality pet food partners,” he says. In terms of competition, Leal says there are numerous incumbents in the pet insurance space but cites PetPlan and Animal Friends as the main two. “Pet insurance has gotten stuck in a vicious cycle,” he adds.…

Let’s meet in Poland this month

I’m heading back to Europe to run a pitch-off in Wroclaw and Warsaw, Poland. Are you ready? The Wrocwal event, called In-Ference, is happening on December 17 and you can submit to pitch here. The team will notify you if you have been chosen to pitch. The winner will receive a table at TC Disrupt in San Francisco. The Warsaw event, here, is on the 19th. You can sign up to pitch here. I’ll notify the folks I’ve chosen to pitch and the winner gets a table as well. Special thanks to Dermot Corr and Ahmad Piraiee for putting these things together. It’s always fun to get back to the stary kraj.

Contentful raises $33.5M for its headless CMS platform

Contentful, a Berlin- and San Francisco-based startup that provides content management infrastructure for companies like Spotify, Nike, Lyft and others, today announced that it has raised a $33.5 million Series D funding round led by Sapphire Ventures, with participation from OMERS Ventures and Salesforce Ventures, as well as existing investors General Catalyst, Benchmark, Balderton Capital and Hercules. In total, the company has now raised $78.3 million. It’s been less than a year since the company raised its Series C round and, as Contentful co-founder and CEO Sascha Konietzke told me, the company didn’t really need to raise right now. “We had just raised our last round about a year ago. We still had plenty of cash in our bank account and we didn’t need to raise as of now,” said Konietzke. “But we saw a lot of economic uncertainty, so we thought it might be a good moment in time to recharge. And at the same time, we already had some interesting conversations ongoing with Sapphire [formerly SAP Ventures] and Salesforce. So we saw the opportunity to add more funding and also start getting into a tight relationship with both of these players.” The original plan for Contentful was to focus almost explicitly on mobile. As it turns out, though, the company’s customers also wanted to use the service to handle its web-based applications and these days, Contentful happily supports both. “What we’re seeing is that everything is becoming an application,” he told me. “We started with native mobile application, but even the websites nowadays are often an application.” In its early days, Contentful focused only on developers. Now, however, that’s changing, and having these connections to large enterprise players like SAP and Salesforce surely isn’t going to hurt the company as it looks to bring on larger enterprise accounts. Currently, the company’s focus is very much on Europe and North America, which account for about 80 percent of its customers. For now, Contentful plans to continue to focus on these regions, though it obviously supports customers anywhere in the world. Contentful only exists as a hosted platform. As of now, the company doesn’t have…

How France wants to become a tech giant

Vive la France — that was the dominant message of the day during a tour of the French tech ecosystem. But is it time to invest in French startups? Around 40 partners of venture capital firms, as well as limited partners, came to Paris to talk about tech in France, from Andreessen Horowitz to Greylock Partners, Khosla Ventures and more. The two-day roadshow took place at Station F, the Vision Institute, iBionext and the Elysée Palace. I grew up in France and it always surprises me that the same clichés come up again and again. When Symphony founder and CEO David Gurle answered questions about what it’s like to build an engineering team in France, it could have been easy to predict the questions — labor law is not flexible enough, French people are lazy, they go on strike all the time… According to Gurle, who is great at storytelling, Symphony has been looking at around 15 countries for their next office. They first selected Singapore but couldn’t put a team together. “We went to the board and said the next step is to invest in France,” Gurle said. At first, the board was really reluctant, citing the same concerns. Chairman of Business France and Ambassador for International Investments Pascal Cagni has been dealing with those concerns for years. For instance, when it comes to labor law, he says the regulatory framework is now predictable and limited — unlike in the U.K. or Germany, for instance. You can fire people whenever you want. It means that you’ll have to pay a severance package, but everything is laid out. Silicon Valley is overheating right now. It’s become increasingly expensive and challenging to build a company — the tech industry is getting bigger and the biggest tech companies now dominate the talent market. That’s also part of the reason why Silicon Valley veterans are looking outside of their comfort zone. Speeding things up The question wasn’t about whether startups in France are a thing or not. The tone of the conversation was about pace and intensity. Is it time to invest now…

Flipdish raises €4.8M Series A to wean restaurants off takeout aggregators like Just Eat

Flipdish, the online ordering and loyalty platform for takeaways and restaurants, has closed a €4.8 million in Series A funding. The round is led by Rocket Internet’s Global Founders Capital, with participation by existing investor Elkstone. Founded in 2015, Flipdish enables restaurants to directly accept online orders and manage their online presence and operations in a bid to help wean them off over-reliance (or order hijacking) by takeout marketplaces and aggregators, such as Just Eat or Deliveroo. Specifically, the Irish startup enables individual restaurants and restaurant chains to compete with takeout aggregators by accepting online orders directly from customers with “lower costs and a higher control over the customer experience.” The proposition is similar to a crop of new startups that are helping hotels secure more direct bookings online rather than perpetually giving away a large part of their margins to the likes of Booking.com. “In the last 10 years there’s been a sudden shift in the importance of technology: people who used to phone takeaways to place orders, now will only order online,” Flipdish CEO Conor McCarthy tells me. “The largest food companies are able to facilitate this by putting huge resources into development, but small and medium businesses aren’t able to put millions of euro into developing their own software. We are levelling the playing field by making this technology available to all sized businesses and giving them the tools to compete and win online.” Those tools include an online loyalty system and ordering platform, which comes with automated re-marketing and retention features. “Ensuring that this is all automated means the restaurants and takeaways can focus on creating great food and we will take care of their online presence,” adds McCarthy. Noteworthy is that Flipdish isn’t generating revenue through a subscription-based offering. Instead, it charges a fee for each order placed through the platform. The idea is that the success of restaurants offering direct online ordering is tied to Flipdish’s own success “If they don’t receive online orders, then we don’t make any money,” quips the Flipdish CEO. “I think this structure sets us apart from our competitors.…

LeanIX, the SaaS that lets enterprises map out their software architecture, closes $30M Series C

LeanIX, the Software-as-a-Service for “Enterprise Architecture Management,” has closed $30 million in Series C funding. The round is led by Insight Venture Partners, with participation from previous investors Deutsche Telekom Capital Partners (DTCP), Capnamic Ventures and Iris Capital. It brings LeanIX’s total funding to nearly $40 million since the German company was founded in 2012. Operating in the enterprise architecture space, previously the domain of a company’s IT team only, LeanIX’s SaaS might well be described as a “Google Maps for IT architectures.” The software lets enterprises map out all of the legacy software or modern SaaS that the organisation is run on, including creating meta data on things like what business process it is used for or capable of supporting, what tech (and version) powers it, what teams are using or have access to it, who is responsible for it, as well as how the different architecture fits together. From this vantage point, enterprises can not only keep a better handle on all of the software from different vendors they are buying in, including how that differs or might be better utilised across distributed teams, but also act in a more nimble way in terms of how they adopt new solutions or decommission legacy ones. In a call with André Christ, co-founder and CEO, he described LeanIX as providing a “single source of truth” for an enterprise’s architecture. He also explained that the SaaS takes a semi-automatic approach to how it maps out that data. A lot of the initial data entry will need to be done manually, but this is designed to be done collaboratively across an organisation and supported by an “easy-to-use UX,” while LeanIX also extracts some data automatically via integrations with ServiceNow (e.g. scanning software on servers) or Signavio (e.g. how IT Systems are used in Business Processes). More broadly, Christ tells me that the need for a solution like LeanIX is only increasing, as enterprise architecture has shifted away from monolithic vendors and software to the use of a sprawling array of cloud or on-premise software where each typically does one job or business…

Floom, the online marketplace and SaaS for florists, receives $2.5M seed

Floom, the online marketplace and SaaS for independent florists, has raised $2.5 million in a seed funding. The round was round led by Firstminute Capital, and will be used by the London headquartered startup to continue to expand to the U.S., where it already operates in New York and L.A., and to further develop its software offering. Additional investors include Tom Singh (founder of New Look), Pembroke VCT, Wing Chan (CTO digital experiences of The Hut Group), and Carlos Morgado (former CTO of Just Eat). Morgado has also joined Floom’s board. Founded by 31-year-old Lana Elie in 2016, Floom bills itself as a curated marketplace for independent florists. Alongside this, the company’s technology platform gives florists the software and tools they need to create and deliver “beautifully crafted bouquets” to customers. It’s this SaaS play that Elie says sets Floom apart from competitors. “We rely on a network [of florists], like many of the bigger competitors, so that we can offer same-day delivery without the risk of holding stock ourselves,,” she tells me. “But instead of telling the florists what to create and what to hold in stock, we built them an Etsy-like UI to design and deliver beautifully crafted bouquets to our online communities themselves”. This sees florists provided with a “backend management dashboard” to create, allocate and manage inventory, and to co-ordinate with Floom’s marketplace. The software manages and tracks delivery, too. “Customers receive more bouquet options, in more areas, by vetted florists, with the ultimate convenience of a seamless check-out and what everyone really wants: confirmation of safe receipt in their loved one’s hand,” explains Elie. “If the final product doesn’t match the picture, they get their money back, something that most competitors can’t offer, but we solved this by relying on the florists to generate the bouquet catalogue themselves”. On the flower delivery front, Floom’s main competitors are Interflora in the U.K. (owned by 100-year-old conglomerate FTD in the U.S.), as well as 1-800-flowers and Teleflora. “There have been some new players in the flower space, but none solve the problem by creating better technologies,” argues…

The economics and tradeoffs of ad-funded smart city tech

In order to have innovative smart city applications, cities first need to build out the connected infrastructure, which can be a costly, lengthy, and politicized process. Third-parties are helping build infrastructure at no cost to cities by paying for projects entirely through advertising placements on the new equipment. I try to dig into the economics of ad-funded smart city projects to better understand what types of infrastructure can be built under an ad-funded model, the benefits the strategy provides to cities, and the non-obvious costs cities have to consider. Consider this an ongoing discussion about Urban Tech, its intersection with regulation, issues of public service, and other complexities that people have full PHDs on. I’m just a bitter, born-and-bred New Yorker trying to figure out why I’ve been stuck in between subway stops for the last 15 minutes, so please reach out with your take on any of these thoughts: @Arman.Tabatabai@techcrunch.com. Using ads to fund smart city infrastructure at no cost to cities When we talk about “Smart Cities”, we tend to focus on these long-term utopian visions of perfectly clean, efficient, IoT-connected cities that adjust to our environment, our movements, and our every desire. Anyone who spent hours waiting for transit the last time the weather turned south can tell you that we’ve got a long way to go. But before cities can have the snazzy applications that do things like adjust infrastructure based on real-time conditions, cities first need to build out the platform and technology-base that applications can be built on, as McKinsey’s Global Institute explained in an in-depth report released earlier this summer. This means building out the network of sensors, connected devices and infrastructure needed to track city data.  However, reaching the technological base needed for data gathering and smart communication means building out hard physical infrastructure, which can cost cities a ton and can take forever when dealing with politics and government processes. Many cities are also dealing with well-documented infrastructure crises. And with limited budgets, local governments need to spend public funds on important things like roads, schools, healthcare and nonsensical sports stadiums which are pretty much…

And the winner of Startup Battlefield at Disrupt Berlin 2018 is… Legacy

At the very beginning, there were 13 startups. After two days of incredibly fierce competition, we now have a winner. Startups participating in the Startup Battlefield have all been hand-picked to participate in our highly competitive startup competition. They all presented in front of multiple groups of VCs and tech leaders serving as judges for a chance to win $50,000 and the coveted Disrupt Cup. After hours of deliberations, TechCrunch editors pored over the judges’ notes and narrowed the list down to five finalists: Imago AI, Kalepso, Legacy, Polyteia and Spike. These startups made their way to the finale to demo in front of our final panel of judges, which included: Sophia Bendz (Atomico), Niko Bonatsos (General Catalyst), Luciana Luxandru (Accel), Ida Tin (Clue), Matt Turck (FirstMark Capital) and Matthew Panzarino (TechCrunch). And now, meet the Startup Battlefield winner of TechCrunch Disrupt Berlin 2018. Winner: Legacy Legacy is tackling an interesting problem: the reduction of sperm motility as we age. By freezing men’s sperm, this Swiss-based company promises to keep our boys safe and potent as we get older, a consideration that many find vital as we marry and have kids later. Read more about Legacy in our separate post. Runner-Up: Imago AI Imago AI is applying AI to help feed the world’s growing population by increasing crop yields and reducing food waste. To accomplish this, it’s using computer vision and machine learning technology to fully automate the laborious task of measuring crop output and quality. Read more about Imago AI in our separate post.

Legacy freezes your sperm so you don’t have to

Legacy is tackling an interesting problem: the reduction of sperm motility as we age. By freezing our sperm, this Swiss-based company promises to keep our boys safe and potent as we get older, a consideration that many find vital as we marry and have kids later. Legacy, which exhibited in Startup Alley at Disrupt Berlin 2018, was chosen as the wildcard company to present its services onstage during Startup Battlefield. How does it work? Well, the company delivers a system for grabbing sperm. The material is kept in a specially made container and shipped to a nearby clinic where they then test the sperm and place it in cryogenic storage. You can then make a withdrawal when you’re ready for babies. “Our unique at-home solution allows men to have their sperm analyzed and frozen at a clinic without leaving their home or having to meet with a physician,” said founder Khaled Kteily. “All clients receive a full fertility analysis, including personalized recommendations using our machine learning-driven technology.” Kteily ensures us that our special sauce will stay safe over the years. “Our core values of privacy, quality, and security ensure discretion, anonymity, and the highest level of quality for all our clients, including multi-site storage, whereby our clients’ deposits are stored in multiple tanks in multiple locations at high security.” The company offers three packages: Bronze, Gold and Platinum. The $1,000 Bronze package requires you to take your sperm to a clinic where it will be tested and cryogenically stored. The Platinum plan costs $10,000 and ensures the company will keep up to six samples of your swimmers indefinitely, affording your genetic material practical immortality. Kteily founded the company after a friend looked for solutions to sperm storage while facing cancer treatment. Realizing there was nothing that looked trustworthy or usable, he used his background in health and entrepreneurship to build Legacy. The company has raised $250,000 and they are profitable. Kteily sees his company as the “Swiss Bank” of sperm storage. “Male fertility has declined by 50 percent. Every 8 months, men produce a new genetic mutation that gets passed…

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