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Are You Ready to Make the Entrepreneurial Leap?

Unfortunately, starting a business can be seen as a leap of faith. It isn’t a given that you’ll be successful. It isn’t always a given that you will be producing a product or service that people are willing to purchase. However, it can be much less of an unknown if you conduct your research and […] The post Are You Ready to Make the Entrepreneurial Leap? appeared first on The Work at Home Woman.

Emptor looks to help companies more easily find contractors in the area

For any company looking to spin up some kind of operation in a new region, one of the first steps may be finding contractors in the area that can actually get the work started — but, especially as companies drift farther from cities, that can increasingly become a nightmare that’s quite familiar to Matt Velker. That led to he and his co-founder Vignesh Venkataraman starting Emptor, a network to connect companies with local contractors in order to get those local projects off the ground effectively. That can range from actual construction to janitorial work or landscaping. A platform like Emptor seeks to take a lot of the ambiguity or guesswork out of finding a set of local companies to work with in order to get construction projects off the ground. It also adds a robust audit trail — ratings or otherwise — to ensure that the best contractors surface and that everyone knows which ones they should skip. The company is coming out of Y Combinator. “Every time you’re building [projects in new regions you have to find an entirely new set of suppliers,” Velker said. “Often in rural areas when there isn’t a saturation of contractors like there is in a large metro, that discovery process within a reasonable time frame was the biggest challenge. Especially within the construction industry, there’s a huge deviation in terms of the quality of the companies you work with. We definitely had a lot of pains with unreliable contractors who weren’t getting the job done to spec or on time, or things that came close to fraud. It comes with the territory when you work with that volume of companies in a short period of time.” Companies first go to Emptor and describe the projects they want and what kinds of pricing structure they are offering. Then, kind of like Thumbtack or other marketplaces, Emptor matches those projects with qualified contractors and then compares those bids in order to select the best offer. It aims to be a replacement for the time spent searching around Yelp or Google, where there may be listings…

Instacart taps Postmates to help with deliveries in SF during peak demand

Instacart has tapped Postmates to offer better delivery services during peak hours in a San Francisco pilot. While Instacart will still handle all the shopping for its customers, it will hand off some deliveries to Postmates at times when there is high demand on the Instacart platform. Postmates, obviously, has offered delivery-as-a-service for merchants and brands since its inception, and some of those brands, such as Walmart, offer their own delivery services. But this marks the first time that Postmates has offered delivery-as-a-service to a business that itself is already a delivery service. This comes at a time when the grocery space is at an inflection point. Amazon’s nearly $14 billion acquisition of Whole Foods has spurred a race to offer quick and convenient grocery delivery from a number of the bigger players, such as Target and Walmart. On top of that, the grocery industry is highly fragmented, offering a huge opportunity for the catch-all of Instacart’s service. But quantity means almost nothing without quality, and Instacart’s pilot with Postmates is meant to ensure that delivery times don’t lag in the late morning and early afternoon, when most Instacart orders are set to be delivered. Instacart’s Northwest General Manager Michelle McRae explained that there is a load balance involved in the partnership with Postmates. “Like many on-demand services, Instacart sees demand peaks on certain days and at certain times,” said McRae. “The pilot is a way to offer delivery during peak hours and utilize Postmates delivery staff at times where Postmates would be most underutilized. Instacart users overwhelmingly prefer mid-morning and mid-afternoon, where is different from when people want hot, prepared food.” McRae also stressed that the pilot would not affect current Instacart shoppers or delivery contractors, as Postmates is simply offering delivery capacity during peak demand times. Perhaps more interesting, Postmates sees a big opportunity to work with on-demand services in offering extra delivery either at or below the cost of hiring more delivery people. “We definitely see this as a bigger part of Postmates’ future,” said Postmates SVP Dan Mosher. “Most brands are moving toward a world where…

Guru announces new AI and Sync features for knowledge sharing platform

It’s one thing to have a great business idea, but connecting all of the disparate pieces of information and people needed to build it can be a frustrating growing pain — and one that the internal knowledge sharing company Guru is trying to fix. Guru launched in 2015 as a Chrome extension to help revenue and customer service teams have easy access to all of their company’s information the moment they needed it by congregating relevant “cards” of information written by different internal teams. Since its launch, Guru has extended its company to include a web app, and Slack bot. Today, Guru unveiled a new AI, and syncing and impact analytics features aimed to improve the overall experience of the platform. “Customer facing teams want to be responsive to their customers and feel confident in knowing what they want to communicate to them,” Guru CEO and co-founder Rick Nucci told TechCrunch. “They want to respond quickly and they want to respond accurately. These features further reduce the time it takes for them to dig up information and by reducing that time they’re solving issues faster and helping the customer have a better experience with them.” With the introduction of AI Suggest to its Chrome extension, users will be able to access relevant company information without needing to search for it first. And because the extension can work wherever they work, there’s no time wasted returning to a single site. In its announcement, Guru says that this AI will learn a user’s search patterns overtime and grow to better understand their needs and improve efficiency. While AI Suggest is specific to Guru’s Chrome extension, its Sync feature is universal across the company’s several implementations. With Sync, users can easily congregate and access not only information created natively on Guru but also information stored in a wiki, intranet or web-based applications. “Companies have knowledge everywhere, and it’s not necessarily realistic that they’ll be able to move all of that into Guru,” Nucci said. “[But this allows] the team using Guru to still have one place to search.” To get a better picture…

Headout lands $10M Series A to help tourists book last-minute outings

Imagine being in a new city with a few hours to kill, but no idea what to do. Headout is a travel app that enables tourists to book outings at very short notice, in most cases on the same day. The startup announced today that it’s raised a $10 million Series A led by returning investors Nexus Venture Partners and Version One Ventures to support its ambitious growth targets. Over the next 18 months, co-founder and CEO Varun Khona says the startup wants to expand from 20 cities to 100 cities in North America, Europe and the Asia-Pacific. The app recently added French, German and Spanish in select markets and aims to have all of its inventory available in 12 languages by the end of next year. Its bookings includes sightseeing tours, museum tickets and shows. Headout’s Series A brings its total raised to $12 million. Its seed round was announced in 2015, when TechCrunch first profiled the company. The startup claims it has grown eight times over the past 12 months and is profitable. As it enters new markets, however, Headout will be up against a roster of competitors that also offer experience bookings for tourists. These include Klook, TripAdvisor-owned Viator, Get Your Guide and Airbnb’s Experiences feature. Khona says Headout’s main edge is tailoring its inventory and technology platform for “spontaneous last-minute mobile use cases.” It’s also a managed marketplace, meaning it standardizes pricing and quality, with the hope of creating a consistent experience across all outings. The startup says this focus on combining quality with unit economics means it’s enabled customers to save an average of 18% on last-minute bookings.

Octi raises $7.5M to create augmented reality that understands human movement

The team at Octi says it’s building a crucial piece of the augmented reality puzzle — the ability to understand the human body and its movement. Co-founder and CEO Justin Fuisz told me that most existing AR technologies (including Apple’s ARKit) tend to be “plane-based” — in other words, while they can make something cool appear against a real-world background, it’s usually on a flat surface, like a table or the floor. Octi, on the other hand, recognizes where people are in-camera, and it can use that understanding to apply a variety of different effects. For example, Fuisz and his team showed me how they could dance around their office while bright, squiggly lines overlaid their bodies — and then they erased their bodies entirely. They also showed me how effects could be tied to different gestures, like how a “make it rain” motion could result in dollar bills flying out of their hands. To do this, Octi says it’s built sophisticated machine learning and computer vision technology. For starters, it looks at a human being and detects key points, like eyes, nose, hips and elbows, then uses those points to construct a model of a skeleton. Fuisz suggested that the technology could be applied to a number of different industries, including fashion, fitness, entertainment and gaming. In fact, the company is announcing a partnership and strategic investment from the OneTeam Collective, the accelerator of the NFL Players Association. As a result, Octi plans to create and distribute avatars of more than 2,000 NFL players. In addition, Octi is announcing that it has raised $7.5 million in seed funding from Shasta Ventures, I2BF Ventures, Bold Capital Partners, Day One Ventures, Human Ventures, Live Nation and AB InBev, plus individuals, including former Pandora and Snap executive Tom Conrad, WeWork Chief Product Officer of Technology Shiva Rajaraman, Adobe Chief Product Officer Scott Belsky, A&E Networks Chairman Abbe Raven and Joshua Kushner. If you want to try this out for yourself, the startup has its own iOS app — Fuisz described the app as a technology showcase for potential partners, but he added,…

Robinhood CEO Baiju Bhatt to talk fintech at Disrupt SF

Robinhood has gone from being a little consumer-facing fintech app to an absolutely giant consumer-facing fintech app. The company, which launched in 2013, has ballooned to a $5.6 billion valuation on the heels of a $363 million Series D financing round led by DST Global. The app has also grown to 5 million users, as of today, with more than $150 billion in transaction volume. But the app, which lets people trade stocks and options for free, is also dabbling in the wondrous world of cryptocurrencies, setting the stage for a potential transition from “fun app” to legitimate financial institution. That’s why we’re absolutely thrilled to have Robinhood co-founder and CEO Baiju Bhatt join us on the Disrupt SF 2018 stage. The key to everything here is that Robinhood offered a simple consumer demand: free transactions on financial services. Unlike incumbents E*Trade and Scottrade, there are no trading fees on Robinhood, giving average consumers the chance to dip their toes in the market without any added barriers to entry. At Disrupt, we’ll ask Bhatt about how Robinhood Crypto is progressing and what the company has in store as we head into next year. Bhatt joins a wide array of big name speakers, from Dara Khosrowshahi to Reid Hoffman to Kirsten Green. It’s going to be an absolutely terrific show and we sincerely hope to see you there. Passes are available at the Early Bird rate until July 25 here.

Ransomware technique uses your real passwords to trick you

A few folks have reported a new ransomware technique that preys upon corporate inability to keep passwords safe. The notes – which are usually aimed at instilling fear – are simple: the hacker says “I know that your password is X. Give me a bitcoin and I won’t blackmail you.” Programmer Can Duruk reported getting the email today. Woah. This is cool. A Bitcoin ransom with using what I think is passwords from a big leak. Pretty neat since people would be legit scared when they see their password. The concealed part is actually an old password I used to use. pic.twitter.com/clEYiFqvHY — can (@can) July 11, 2018 The email reads: I’m aware that X is your password. You don’t know me and you’re thinking why you received this e mail, right? Well, I actually placed a malware on the porn website and guess what, you visited this web site to have fun (you know what I mean). While you were watching the video, your web browser acted as a RDP (Remote Desktop) and a keylogger which provided me access to your display screen and webcam. Right after that, my software gathered all your contacts from your Messenger, Facebook account, and email account. What exactly did I do? I made a split-screen video. First part recorded the video you were viewing (you’ve got a fine taste haha), and next part recorded your webcam (Yep! It’s you doing nasty things!). What should you do? Well, I believe, $1400 is a fair price for our little secret. You’ll make the payment via Bitcoin to the below address (if you don’t know this, search “how to buy bitcoin” in Google) . BTC Address: 1Dvd7Wb72JBTbAcfTrxSJCZZuf4tsT8V72 (It is cAsE sensitive, so copy and paste it) Important: You have 24 hours in order to make the payment. (I have an unique pixel within this email message, and right now I know that you have read this email). If I don’t get the payment, I will send your video to all of your contacts including relatives, coworkers, and so forth. Nonetheless, if I do get paid, I…

As product development incorporates more feedback, development toolkit productboard raises $8M

Since its debut on the TechCrunch Disrupt stage in September 2016, demand for a service like productboard, which gives companies a holistic view of product development and encourages input from across an organization, has only gotten more acute, according to company chief executive Hubert Palan. Now, with an $8 million commitment from Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, with participation from Index Ventures, Credo Ventures, Reflex Capital and Rockaway Capital, alongside a host of angel investors, the company is looking to expand its sales and marketing and product development efforts to bring the benefits of its toolkit to more companies. In the two years since TechCrunch last saw productboard, the company’s user base has grown significantly, from 100 customers in 2016 to more than 1,200 companies today, spanning a broad range of industries. For Palan, the company’s growing user base (which now includes medical device companies, academic publishers and news organizations in addition to traditional digital product developers) is proof of a new demand in the market for more inputs around product design and development. “Every company is now a digital company,” Palan said. “So every company needs to worry about digital product design.” The company’s toolkit still includes features that allow it to hoover up information from customer support tickets, emails, input from sales teams and user research, to organize and prioritize features that need to be built. But now, the company’s services allow anyone in an organization (with the proper access) to provide feedback and track the process of product development. “Product Excellence is no longer optional,” said Palan in a statement. “These days competitors arise in a matter of months, not years. Customer loyalty is declining and users will happily switch to a competing solution that offers a better product experience. It’s more critical than ever to get the right products to market faster.” As part of the financing, Kleiner Perkins’ new general partner, Ilya Fushman, will join the company’s board of directors. Fushman, who was integral in locking down productboard’s seed financing when he was at Index Ventures, has a long product history from his time at Dropbox, and…

Japanese startup Paidy raises $55M Series C to let people shop online without a credit card

Paidy, a fintech startup that enables Japanese consumers to shop online without using a credit card, announced today that it has raised a $55 million Series C. The round was led by Japanese trade conglomerate Itochu Corporation, with participation from Goldman Sachs. The Tokyo-based startup says this brings its total funding so far to $80 million, including a $15 million Series B announced two years ago. One notable fact about Paidy’s funding is that it’s raised a sizable amount for Japanese startup, especially one with non-Japanese founders (its CEO and co-founder is Canadian and Goldman Sachs alum Russell Cummer, left in the photo above with CTO and co-founder Lee Smith). Paidy was launched because even though Japan’s credit card penetration rate is high, their usage rate is relatively low, even for online purchases. Instead, shoppers pay cash on delivery or at convenience stores, which function as combination logistics/payment centers in many Japanese cities. This is convenient for buyers because they don’t have to enter a credit card online or worry about fraud, but a hassle for businesses that often need to float cash for merchandise that hasn’t been paid for yet or deal with incomplete deliveries. Paidy makes it possible for people to buy online without creating an account or using their credit cards. Instead, if a merchant uses Paidy, its customers are able to check out by entering their mobile phone numbers and email addresses. Then Paidy authenticates them with a four-digit code sent through SMS or voice. Every month, customers settle their bills, which include all transactions they made using Paidy, at a convenience store or through bank transfers or auto-debits (installment and subscription plans are also available). The value proposition for businesses is that Paidy can increase their customer base and guarantee they get paid by using machine learning algorithms to underwrite transactions. The company claims that there are now 1.4 million active Paidy accounts, with the ambitious goal of increasing that number to 11 million by 2020 by expanding to bigger merchants and offline transactions. In a press statement, Cummer said “We are extremely honored that…

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