KZen, a company run by former TC editor Ouriel Ohayon, has raised $4 million in seed to build a “better wallet,” obviously the elusive Holy Grail in the crypto world. Benson Oak Ventures, Samsung Next, Elron Ventures invested. Ohayon, who has worked at Internet Lab and founded TechCrunch France and Appsfire, wanted to create an easy-to-use crypto wallet that wouldn’t confound users. The company name is a play on the Japanese word kaizen or improvement and it also points to the idea of the zero-knowledge proof. Omer Shlomovits, Tal Be’ery, and Gary Benattar are deep crypto researchers and developers and helped build the wallet of Ohayon’s dreams. “We wanted something that did not feel like a pre-AOL experience, that was incredibly superior in terms of security, and simple to use,” he said. “We wanted a solution that brings peace of mind and that did not force the user into compromising between convenience and security which is, unfortunately, the current state of affairs. We quickly realized that this mission would not be possible to achieve with the same tools and ideas other companies tried to use so far.” The app is launching this month and is being kept under wraps until then. Ohayon is well aware that the world doesn’t need another crypto wallet but he’s convinced his solution is the best one. “The market does not lack solutions,” he said. “On the contrary, there are software wallets, hardware wallets, paper wallets, vaults, hosted custody. But there is no great solution. To be able to use a crypto wallet you either need a good dose of Xanax or a master’s degree in computer science or both, unless you want to depend on a central entity, which is even worse as the news are reminding us weekly.” We’ll see as they use the cash to launch a crypto wallet that anyone – not just Xanax-eaters – can use.
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At the very beginning, there were 21 startups. After three 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 $100,000 and the coveted Disrupt Cup. After hours of deliberations, TechCrunch editors pored over the judges’ notes and narrowed the list down to five finalists: CB Therapeutics, Forethought, Mira, Origami Labs and Unbound. These startups made their way to the finale to demo in front of our final panel of judges, which included: Cyan Banister (Founders Fund), Roelof Botha (Sequoia Capital), Jeff Clavier (Uncork Capital), Kirsten Green (Forerunner Ventures), Aileen Lee (Cowboy Ventures) and Matthew Panzarino (TechCrunch). And now, meet the Startup Battlefield winner of TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2018. Winner: Forethought Forethought has a modern vision for enterprise search that uses AI to surface the content that matters most in the context of work. Its first use case involves customer service, but it has a broader ambition to work across the enterprise. Read more about Forethought in our separate post. Runner-Up: Unbound Unbound makes fashion-forward vibrators, and their latest is the Palma. The new device masquerades as a ring, offers multiple speeds, and is completely waterproof. And the team plans to add accelerometer features. Read more about Unbound in our separate post.
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…