Press "Enter" to skip to content

Posts published in “Startups”

Auto Added by WPeMatico

Uber fires up its own traffic estimates to fuel demand beyond cars

If the whole map is red and it’s a short ride, maybe you’d prefer taking an Uber JUMP Bike instead of an UberX. Or at least if you do end up stuck bumper-to-bumper, the warning could make you less likely to get mad mid-ride and take it out on the driver’s rating. This week TechCrunch spotted Uber overlaying blue, yellow, and red traffic condition bars on your route map before you hail. Responding to TechCrunch’s inquiry, Uber confirmed that traffic estimates have been quietly testing for riders on Android over the past few months and the pilot program recently expanded to a subset of iOS users. It’s already live for all drivers. The congestion indicators are based on Uber’s own traffic information pulled from its historic trip data about 10 billion rides plus real-time data from its drivers’ phones, rather than estimates from Google that already power Uber’s maps. If traffic estimates do roll out, they could make users more tolerant of longer ETAs and less likely to check a competing app since they’ll know their driver might take longer to pick them up because congestion is to blame rather than Uber’s algorithm. During the ride they might be more patient amidst the clogged streets. Uber’s research into traffic in India But most interestingly, seeing traffic conditions could help users choose when it’s time to take one of Uber’s non-car choices. They could sail past traffic in one of Uber’s new electric JUMP Bikes, or buy a public transportation ticket from inside Uber thanks to its new partnership with Masabi for access to New York’s MTA plus buses and trains in other cities. Cheaper and less labor intensive for Uber, these options make more sense to riders the more traffic there is. It’s to the company’s advantage to steer users towards the most satisfying mode of transportation, and traffic info could point them in the right direction. Through a program called Uber Movement, the company began sharing its traffic data with city governments early last year. The goal was to give urban planners the proof they need to make their streets more…

In Bad Blood, a pedestrian tale of heuristics and lies

In a world where thousands and thousands of startups are started in the Bay Area every year, becoming a name that everyone recognizes is no small feat. Theranos reached that summit, and it all came crashing down. The story of the fraudulent rise and precipitous fall of the company and its entrepreneur, Elizabeth Holmes, is also the singular story of the journalist who chronicled the company. John Carreyrou’s tenacious and intrepid reporting at the Wall Street Journal would ultimately expose one of the largest frauds ever perpetrated in Silicon Valley. Bad Blood is the culmination of that investigative reporting. The swift decline of Theranos and its protective legal apparatus has done this story a lot of good: many of the anonymous sources that underpinned Carreyrou’s WSJ coverage are now public and visible, allowing the author to weave together the various articles he published into a holistic and complete story. And yet, what I found in the book was not all that thrilling or shocking, but rather astonishingly pedestrian. Part of the challenge is Carreyrou’s laconic WSJ tone, with its “just the facts” attitude that is punctuated only occasionally by brief interludes on the motivations and psychology of its characters. That style is appreciated by this subscriber of the paper daily, but the book-length treatment suffers a bit from a lack of charisma. The real challenge though is that the raw story — for all of its fraud — lacks the sort of verve that makes business thrillers like Barbarians at the Gate or Red Notice so engaging. The characters that Carreyrou has to work with just aren’t all that interesting. One could argue that perhaps the book is too early — with criminal charges filed and court trials coming, we may well learn much more about the conspiracy and its participants. But I don’t think so, mostly because the fraud seems so simple in its premise. At the heart of this story is the use of heuristics by investors and customers to make their largest decisions. Theranos is a story of the snowball effect blown up to an avalanche: a…

Kegel trainer startup Elvie is launching a smaller, smarter, hands-free breast pump

Elvie, a London-based startup known best for its connected Kegel trainer, is jumping into the breast pump business with a new $480 hands-free system you can slip into your bra. Even with all the innovation in baby gear, breast pumps have mostly sucked (pun intended) for new moms for the past half a century. My first experience with a pump required me to stay near a wall socket and hunch over for a good 20 to 30 minutes for fear the milk collected might spill all over the place (which it did anyway, frequently). It was awful! Next I tried the Willow Pump, an egg-shaped, connected pump meant to liberate women everywhere with its small and mobile design. It received glowing reviews, though my experience with it was less than stellar. The proprietary bags were hard to fit in the device, filled up with air, cost 50 cents each (on top of the $500 pump that insurance did not cover), wasted many a golden drop of precious milk in the transfer and I had to reconfigure placement several times before it would start working. So I’ve been tentatively excited about the announcement of Elvie’s new cordless (and silent??) double breast pump. Displayed: a single Elvie pump with accompanying app Elvie tells TechCrunch its aim all along has been to make health tech for women and that it has been working on this pump for the past three years. The Elvie Pump is a cordless, hands-free, closed-system, rechargeable electric pump designed by former Dyson engineers. It can hold up to 5 oz. from each breast in a single use. It’s most obvious and direct competition is the Willow pump, another “wearable” pump moms can put right in their bra and walk around in, hands-free. However, unlike the Willow, Elvie’s pump does not need proprietary bags. You just pump right into the device and the pump’s smartphone app will tell you when each side is full. It’s also half the size and weight of a Willow and saves every precious drop it can by pumping right into the attached bottle so you just pump…

3DHubs, once a community 3D printing service, is now sourcing all 3D prints internally

3D Hubs, like MakeXYZ, was a community-based 3D printing service that let anyone with a printer sell their prints online. Founded in the heyday of the 3D printing revolution, the service let thousands of makers gather a little cash for making and mailing prints on their home 3D printers. Now, however, the company has moved to a model in which its high-end partners will be manufacturing plastic, metal, and injection molded parts for customers willing to pay extra for a professional print. “Indeed, more focus on high end printers run by professional companies,” said founder Brian Garret. “So a smaller pool of manufacturing locations (still hundreds around the world), but with more control on standardized quality and repeatability. Our software takes care of the sourcing, so companies order with 3D Hubs directly.” Not everyone is happy with the decision. 3DPrint.come editor Joris Peels saw the value in a solid, dedicated community of hobbyists in the 3D space. The decision to move away from hobbyist printers, wrote Peels, “has confused many.” “The value of 3DHubs is in its community; the community gives it granular local presence and a barrier to entry. Now it is just like any 3D printing service upstart and will lose its community entirely. I’ve always liked 3DHubs, although I have been very skeptical of their Trends Report I like the company and what they’re doing. I liked the idealism coupled with business,” he wrote. The community, for its part, is angry. A big F you to @3DHubs today! Switching over from “Locally sourced 3D prints” to the “Closed manufacturing program” basically… This was a big reason for me to own a 3d printer… now it’s all gone! — 2lol555 (@2lol555) September 12, 2018 Why? Don’t you plan on screwing over the 3d printing community due to greed? — MikByte (@viperz28) September 12, 2018 Sad news! @3DHubs is closing normal hubs (non Manufacturing Partners/Fulfilled by 3D Hubs). I’ve been pushing for months to get into the Fulfilled by 3D Hubs program, hope they give me one last change to join pic.twitter.com/R6W51rLEeH — Diego Trapero (@diegotrap) September 12, 2018…

Crypto’s second bubble, Juul has 60 days and three Chinese IPOs

Hello and welcome back to Equity, TechCrunch’s venture capital-focused podcast where we unpack the numbers behind the headlines. After a long run of having guests climb aboard each week, we took a pause on that front, bringing together three of our regular hosts instead: Connie Loizos, Danny Chrichton, and myself. Despite the fact that there were just three of us instead of the usual four, we got through a mountain of stuff. Which was good as it was a surprisingly busy week, and we didn’t want to leave too much behind. Up top we dug into the latest in the land of crypto, which Danny had politely summarized for us in an article. The gist of his argument is that the analogies relating crypto as an industry to the Internet may work, but most people have their timelines wrong: Crypto isn’t like the Internet in the 90s, perhaps. More like the 80s. On the same topic, crypto companies formed a team lobbying effort, and a high-flying crypto fund is struggling to once again post strong profit figures. Moving along, Juul is back in the news. Not, however, for raising more money or posting quick growth. Well, sort of the latter, as the government is after it. The Food and Drug Administration has put Juul on a countdown to get its act together regarding teens and smoking. That the financially impressive unicorn is in as much trouble as it is, is nearly surprising. Finally, we ran through the three most recent Chinese IPOs that hit our radar. Here they are: Meituan Dianping: The Tencent-backed group buying, delivery, and everything company raised over $4 billion in its debut, which was impressive, but also short of expectations. The firm won’t begin trading until the 20th, but it’s one more massive deal that got done in 2018. 111: We spent a minute on the show discussing what counts as a technology company thanks to 111. We voted that the Chinese online-to-offline pharmacy startup did in fact count. So, it’s in our list. Some notes on its debut can be found here. NIO: Finally on our list…

The funding mirage: How to secure international investment from emerging markets

Jose Deustua Contributor Jose Deustua is the managing director of Peruvian accelerator UTEC Ventures, the organization behind Peru’s largest investor event, the Peru Venture Capital Conference. Looking for funding as a startup in Latin America is a lot like looking for a watering hole in the middle of the desert. You know it’s out there, but finding it in time is a life or death situation. Granted, venture capital investment in the region is at an all-time high, with leading firms like Andreessen Horowitz, Sequoia Capital and Accel Partners having made inaugural investments in markets like Colombia, Brazil and Mexico, respectively. But, at the same time, while startup founders might be tantalized by the news of big investments happening around them, as many of them get closer to the funding stage themselves, they often realize it’s nothing but a mirage. And this isn’t just a problem in Latin America. All over the world, startups are struggling to find investment, as VCs are investing more money in fewer deals in the endless search for the next unicorn. Due to a dwindling number of VC deals in both the United States and Europe, even entrepreneurs in established ecosystems are having to look further afield for the resources they need to build their businesses, bringing many of them to emerging markets like Latin America. Fortunately, whether you’re a local or foreign founder in an emerging market, there is a way to quench your thirst for the international investment that you need to scale your company. Here’s what we recommend to the startups that are part of our UTEC Ventures accelerator program in Peru, and what we’d recommend to you, too. Find local seed money first As a startup in an emerging market, the prospect of finding local investment can seem challenging. In fact, this is probably why you’re looking for international investment in the first place. But the truth is, finding local seed money to get started is really the first prerequisite for securing international funding later on. Last year in Peru, for example, US$7.2 million of seed capital was invested in the…

It’s the end of crypto as we know it and I feel fine

Watching the current price madness is scary. Bitcoin is falling and rising in $500 increments with regularity and Ethereum and its attendant ICOs are in a seeming freefall with a few “dead cat bounces” to keep things lively. What this signals is not that crypto is dead, however. It signals that the early, elated period of trading whose milestones including the launch of Coinbase and the growth of a vibrant (if often shady) professional ecosystem is over. Crypto still runs on hype. Gemini announcing a stablecoin, the World Economic Forum saying something hopeful, someone else saying something less hopeful – all of these things and more are helping define the current market. However, something else is happening behind the scenes that is far more important. As I’ve written before, the socialization and general acceptance of entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial pursuits is a very recent thing. In the old days – circa 2000 – building your own business was considered somehow sordid. Chancers who gave it a go were considered get-rich-quick schemers and worth of little more than derision. As the dot-com market exploded, however, building your own business wasn’t so wacky. But to do it required the imprimaturs and resources of major corporations – Microsoft, Sun, HP, Sybase, etc. – or a connection to academia – Google, Netscape, Yahoo, etc. You didn’t just quit school, buy a laptop, and start Snapchat. It took a full decade of steady change to make the revolutionary thought that school wasn’t so great and that money was available for all good ideas to take hold. And take hold it did. We owe the success of TechCrunch and Disrupt to that idea and I’ve always said that TC was career pornography for the cubicle dweller, a guilty pleasure for folks who knew there was something better out there and, with the right prodding, they knew they could achieve it. So in looking at the crypto markets currently we must look at the dot-com markets circa 1999. Massive infrastructure changes, some brought about by Y2K, had computerized nearly every industry. GenXers born in the late 70s and…

Microsoft acquires Lobe, a drag-and-drop AI tool

Microsoft today announced that is has acquired Lobe, a startup that lets you build machine learning models with the help of a simple drag-and-drop interface. Microsoft plans to use Lobe, which only launched into beta earlier this year, to build upon its own efforts to make building AI models easier, though, for the time being, Lobe will operate as before. “As part of Microsoft, Lobe will be able to leverage world-class AI research, global infrastructure, and decades of experience building developer tools,” the team writes. “We plan to continue developing Lobe as a standalone service, supporting open source standards and multiple platforms.” Lobe was co-founded by Mike Matas, who previously worked on the iPhone and iPad, as well as Facebook’s Paper and Instant Articles products. The other co-founders are Adam Menges and Markus Beissinger. In addition to Lobe, Microsoft also recently bought Bonsai.ai, a deep reinforcement learning platform, and Semantic Machines, a conversational AI platform. Last year, it acquired Disrupt Battlefield participant Maluuba. It’s no secret that machine learning talent is hard to come by, so it’s no surprise that all of the major tech firms are acquiring as much talent and technology as they can. “In many ways though, we’re only just beginning to tap into the full potential AI can provide,” Microsoft’s EVP and CTO Kevin Scott writes in today’s announcement. “This in large part is because AI development and building deep learning models are slow and complex processes even for experienced data scientists and developers. To date, many people have been at a disadvantage when it comes to accessing AI, and we’re committed to changing that.” It’s worth noting that Lobe’s approach complements Microsoft’s existing Azure ML Studio platform, which also offers a drag-and-drop interface for building machine learning models, though with a more utilitarian design than the slick interface that the Lobe team built. Both Lobe and Azure ML Studio aim to make machine learning easy to use for anybody, without having to know the ins and outs of TensorFlow, Keras or PyTorch. Those approaches always come with some limitations, but just like low-code tools, they…

Online used car startup Shift raises $140 million

Shift Technologies, an online marketplace for used cars, has closed a Series D financing round of more than $140 million in equity and debt. The round, which consists of about $70 million in debt and $71 million in equity, was led by automotive retailer Lithia Motors. Bryan DeBoer, CEO and president of Lithia, will join Shift’s board of directors. Previous investors Alliance Ventures, BMW iVentures, DCM, DFJ, G2VP, Goldman Sachs Investment Partners and Highland Capital also participated. This new capital brings Shift’s total financing of equity and debt to $265 million. Shift, which is based in San Francisco, serves car buyers and sellers. The company, founded in 2013, has built a software platform that lets customers shop for cars, get financing and schedule test drives. Car owners can use the platform to sell their vehicle, as well. Shift says any car it buys must pass a “rigorous” 150+ point inspection. The company plans to invest in its technology platform and scale its engineering staff from 35 to more than 80 people by the end of 2019, CEO George Arison noted to TechCrunch in an email.  Shift employs 380 people. The company’s platform has focused on scaling in California; it covers about 80 percent of that market. But the company has long had its sights set on expanding beyond the Golden State. Shift is focused on, and is heavily investing in, its peer-to-peer business, in which the company acquires cars from individuals and then sells them. Buying, refurbishing and then selling cars online is a logistics-heavy business pursuit, and one that has seen a number of competitors come and go in the past several years. But Arison says the company has not just survived; it has grown.  Shift didn’t provide revenue numbers. But Arison cited the company’s more than 70 percent revenue growth in the past six months as an example of the company’s success. The company did have a partnership with rental giant Hertz, but that has since ended. At the time, Shift was going to feature vehicles from Hertz’s fleet inventory. It was meant to be a win-win: Hertz gets access to a new…

Economist Tyler Cowen launches a fellowship and grant program for moon shot ideas

Tyler Cowen, who I interviewed here, is a fascinating economist. Part pragmatist and part dreamer, he has been researching and writing about the future for a long time in books and his blog, Marginal Revolution. Now he and his university, George Mason, are putting some money where his mouth is. Cowen and the team at GMU are working on Emergent Ventures, a fellowship and grant program for moon shots. The goal is to give people with big ideas a little capital to help them build out their dreams. “It has long been my view that risk-takers are not sufficiently rewarded in the world of ideas and that academic incentives are too conservative,” he said. “The intellectual scene should learn something from Silicon Valley and venture capital.” Cowen is raising $4 million for the first fund. He announced the fund in a podcast on the Mercatus website. “People such as Satoshi and Jordan Peterson have had huge impacts (regardless of one’s degree of enthusiasm for their ideas), and yet in terms of philanthropic funding the world just isn’t geared to seed their ambitions,” said Cowen. The project is part of the GMU Mercatus Center, a “source for market-oriented ideas—bridging the gap between academic ideas and real-world problems.” The fund has just opened applications and the amounts granted depend on the project and creator. Cowen, for his part, is optimistic about the prospects of the future-focused fund. “I expect to produce a better and freer world, some degree of human self-realization, a better climate for public intellectuals and other creators of ideas, more innovation, and to bring the intellectual side of America more in touch with the entrepreneurial side,” said Cowen.

Cookies help us deliver our services. By using our services, you agree to our use of cookies. More Info | Close