June 30, 2016

#Startups in #Israel continue to raise the bar and set standards for tech ecosystems around the world

Startups in Israel raise US$547 million in June

Winter fails to appear in Israel; 36 startups raise $547m in June

Photo credit: Moyan Brenn .

Photo credit: Moyan Brenn .

Startups in Israel continue to raise the bar and set standards for tech ecosystems around the world. A total of 36 startups from the country raised a combined US$547 million from investors, according to data compiled by Israeli techies Nir Ben and Hillel Fuld. That's despite all the talk of an impending credit crunch and weakening VC appetite.

To give you some context, Israeli startups pocketed an average of US$300 million every month in 2015. June's figures mean they're on course to smash that record – and perhaps double the average – by the end of the year.

Here are all the funding announcements in June:

1. Walkme

Walkme helps guide people through confusing and complicated online services. It raised US$50 million at a US$400 million valuation in a series E round led by Insight Venture Partners.

2. Meta

Meta is an augmented reality startup which develops both hardware and software. It nabbed US$50 million in series B funding to expand its range of products and scale into markets like China. The round was led by Horizons Ventures.

3. Interlude

Interlude is a nifty new media and technology company that's trying to develop different kinds of videos which respond to a person's emotions and interests. It raised approximately US$50 million (exact terms were undisclosed) from Sony Pictures Entertainment.

4. Trax

Trax is headquartered in Singapore but has Israeli founders and maintains a large research and development office in Tel Aviv. The startup builds computer vision technology products for the retail and "fast-moving consumer goods" sectors, helping brands get more control over how their products are arranged on shelves. It raised US$40 million in series C at a valuation of US$220 million.

5. Weka

Weka is trying to radically simplify the way storage is deployed in datacenters. It works mainly with enterprise and cloud companies. The startup got US$22.5 million in series B led by Walden Riverwood Ventures.

6. SundaySky

SundaySky generates personalized videos based on user profiles every time they visit a website. It's trying to help businesses engage with their customers better. The startup raised US$30 million series D led by Viola Private Equity.

7. Airobotics

Airobotics is an autonomous drone startup that's trying to take humans out of the equation when it comes to piloting drones. It raised US$28.5 million in a "combined" series A and B.

8. Zimperium

Zimperium is a cybersecurity startup focusing on mobile and in-app protection. It pocketed US$25 million led by Warburg Pincus.

9. EarlySense

EarlySense is a startup developing electronic devices for remote monitoring and follow-up of patients. Its tech uses non-invasive sensors which detect things like cardiac activity and respiratory rate. EarlySense secured US$25 million in series G financing led by Pitango Venture Capital.

10. Yotpo

Yotpo helps businesses with content marketing and drives web traffic by encouraging users to post reviews and videos. It brought in US$22 million in a round led by Bessemer Venture Partners.

11. Eyeview

Eyeview is a personalized video advertisements platform that helps create thousands of variations from a single advert. It raised US$21.5 million in funding led by Qumra Capital.

12. Zerto

Zerto is a disaster recovery startup that ensures zero downtime for enterprise data storage networks. It hooked US$20 million as the second tranche of its series E funding.

13. Lightcyber

Lightcyber prevents hackers breaching your system by constantly scanning for anomalies in the network. It trousered US$20 million series B led by Access Industries.

14. Talkspace

Talkspace offers unlimited interactions between patients and therapists for US$25 per week. The startup secured US$15 million in series B funding led by Norwest Venture Partners.

15. Elastifile

Elastifile is a data storage startup that brings cloud scale capacity to large enterprise customers. It got US$15 million in series B funding from Cisco Systems.

16. Lumus

Lumus is an augmented reality startup that produces optical engines – a critical part of the AR ecosystem. The company raised US$15 million from Chinese investors Shanda Group.

17. Nexar

Nexar helps avoid traffic accidents by turning your smartphone into a dashboard camera. The app continually monitors vehicles and uses machine learning to understand how cars are moving on the road. It raised US$10.5 million led by Mosaic Ventures and True Ventures.

18. Signals

Signals is a big data and business intelligence platform that works with companies like Procter & Gamble, Pepsico, and Nestle. It raised US$10 million in series B funding led by Qumra Capital.

19. Colu

Colu is a blockchain startup that's trying to promote bitcoin in local currency issuance. It bagged US$9.6 million led by Aleph Capital.

20. Dapulse

Dapulse is a SaaS startup focusing on the project management space. It raised US$7.6 million in series A funding led by Genesis Partners.

21. Hibob

Hibob is a HR management startup which helps manage things like employee perks and pension plans. It raised US$7.5 million in funding led by Bessemer Venture Partners.

22. GamEffective

GamEffective builds real-time gamification and feedback solutions for enterprises to boost employee output. It grabbed US$7 million in funding led by Jerusalem Venture Partners.

23. Nanit

Nanit builds smart baby monitors that track things like sleep insights and nocturnal behavior. It raised US$6.6 million in seed funding lead by Mark Suster at Upfront Ventures.

24. Gong

Gong is an artificial intelligence startup that uses machine learning to help close business sales. It does so by analyzing thousands of effective sales pitches. The startup hooked US$6 million in series A funding led by Norwest Venture Partners.

25. Oribi

Oribi is an analytics tool that helps companies reach targeted audiences and acquire new customers. It raised US$5.4 million in seed funding led by Sequoia Capital.

26. Sixgill

Sixgill is a cybersecurity startup capable of scraping data and collecting information from the dark web. It uses that to warn enterprises and individuals of impending attacks. The startup raised US$5 million led by Elron Electronic Industries.

27. Nucleix

Nucleix is a startup working on early detection of cancer and related issues. It raised US$5 million in a funding round led by OrbiMed Advisors.

28. CallVU

CallVU builds mobile digital engagement platforms for inbound customer support centers. It pocketed US$3 million led by Liberty Global Ventures.

29. Kwik

Kwik is building an alternative to Amazon Dash Buttons by making it really easy for consumers to order things like pizza or beer. The startup landed US$3 million from Norwest Venture Partners.

30. Nuro

Nuro helps enterprises prevent data leaks by building secure, encrypted private environments. It nabbed US$2.6 million led by Erez Kreiner.

31. Fortvision

Fortvision helps people surfing the web view content without leaving the website they're currently on. What this means is that while surfing a news website, for example, a user can click on an icon of a pizza and view content from the manufacturer without redirecting to another site. It raised US$2.5 million from private investors.

32. Armeron

Armeron is a web application security provider. It raised US$2 million from Glilot Capital Partners.

33. DeepSense

DeepSense is an industrial Internet of Things startup that uses machine learning to minimize production downtime. It got US$2 million in a funding round led by AfterDox.

34. AppFront

AppFront helps restaurants automate bookings via Facebook Messenger bots. It also provides stores with analytics to help improve engagement and increase sales. The crew raised US$1.5 million in a funding round led by 500 Startups.

35. Moburst

Moburst is a mobile marketing startup that helps companies grow their mobile and apps business. It raised US$1.6 million in funding led by Elevator Fund.

36. Comeet

Comeet is a collaborative hiring platform for high-growth companies. It helps streamline hiring processes and uses analytics to make smart assessment decisions. The startup raised US$1.2 million in seed funding from private investors.

May 02, 2016

An #iPad Misplaced at the Airport Takes Its Own Vacation

This is fantastic! From The New York Times:

Using the Find My iPhone tracking feature, an owner follows the route of his device and goes online to post regular updates on its location.

An iPad Misplaced at the Airport Takes Its Own Vacation  
Last month, Shelby Bonnie’s iPad vanished from his carry-on bag somewhere at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport after a red-eye flight from San Francisco. He figured he would never see it again.
But sometimes our devices aren’t ready to say goodbye.

...his iPad began a strange odyssey of its own, turning Mr. Bonnie into a digital gumshoe and the narrator of a personal thriller that played out on Facebook, to the delight of his online friends.
“I said, ‘I’m definitely going to lose my iPad, but I’m going to have some fun,’” Mr. Bonnie said in a phone interview.

ead the whole article online here:

April 28, 2016

Which are The Hottest #FinTech #VC's in Europe Backing the Next Big Breakthrough

The Hottest FinTech Investors in Europe to Back the Next Big Breakthrough in FinTech

These are the main #FinTech investors in Europe.  

The Hottest FinTech Investors in Europe to Back the Next Big Breakthrough in FinTech

Big breaks across industries don’t usually happen without VCs backing them. Success stories in most cases have co-authors and in 2016, VCs are the ones to provide a financial fuel to bright entrepreneurs and ideas with a high disruptive potential.
While some VCs are operating across regions, some have a particular geographical focus. Since Europe is one of the world’s hubs of innovation, the UK and other countries in Europe and in the Nordic region have their dedicated investors. The US is also rich on FinTech-focused VCs that have a keen interest in discovering the next big thing in FinTech. 
Aside from VCs, there are also FinTech accelerators accountable for success stories, both in the US and in Europe.
This time, let’s look at some of the hottest FinTech investors in Europe that also invest in other regions along with European venture allocations.

BBVA Ventures

Description: BBVA Ventures provides funding and expertise to promising technology companies disrupting financial services. The firm works with the entrepreneurs and co-investors in the US and EU, thereby becoming a long-term partner in their success.
Stage/size of investments: Early-stage venture to later-stage venture investments
Segments: FinTech, financial services
Portfolio of payments companies: Prosper, DocuSign, Simple, Radius, Coinbase, SumUp, Personal Capital, Ribbit Capital

Santander InnoVentures

Description: The company launched its $100-million fund in July 2014 to get closer to the wave of disruptive innovation in the FinTech space. Santander InnoVentures aims to support the digital revolution to make sure its customers around the world benefit from the latest know-how and innovations across the banking group’s geographies.
Stage/size of investments: Small companies and startups
Segments: FinTech exclusive
Portfolio: iZettle, MyCheck, Ripple, Kabbage, Cyanogen

Anthemis Group

Description: Anthemis Group is the venture investment and advisory firm at the center of a vibrant ecosystem of startups and financial institutions dedicated to reinventing financial services for the digital world. The firm boasts of being committed investors, thoughtful advisors, active conveners and dedicated problem solvers who share a passion for technology and a belief in the transformative power of digital financial services.
Stage/size of investments: Seed, early-stage ventures and later-stage venture investments
Segments: Retail banking & consumer finance, business & corporate banking, payments, wealth & asset management, capital markets & trading, insurance & risk management, data, technology & infrastructure
Portfolio of payments companies: Moven, Simple, Vericash, Fidor Bank

Index Ventures

Description: Index Ventures backs the best and most ambitious entrepreneurs and help them make their ideas real and lasting. The entrepreneurs it teams up with were born to build their businesses—it is their life’s mission. Working side-by-side with these visionaries makes Index Ventures incredibly optimistic about the future. The transformative companies they’re building, include Dropbox, Etsy, Sonos, SoundCloud, Flipboard, King, BlaBlaCar, Squarespace, Just Eat, Lookout, Hortonworks, Nasty Gal, Pure Storage, Supercell, Criteo, Funding Circle and many others.
Stage/size of investments: Index invests in various multiple stages including seed, early-stage venture, later-stage venture and private equity investments.
Segments: Information technology, life sciences
Portfolio of payment companies: iZettle, Clinkle, TransferWise, Funding Circle, Xapo, Swipely, BitPay, iZettle, CrowdRise, Funding Circle

AXA Strategic Ventures

Description: AXA Strategic Ventures’ commitment to founders and teams is to enhance value and maximize impact, therefore enabling you to engage individuals, customers and businesses. The firm maintains long-term, strategic focus. In other words, AXA Strategic Ventures want to help you become real players in the sharing economy—when you succeed, they succeed.
Stage/size of investments: All stages
Segments: Alternative business models, big data, climate change, financial inclusion and health
Portfolio: FundShop, WIDMEE, FLYR, Policy Genius

April 12, 2016

Mobile is not a neutral platform

 Excellent post on the future of Mobile 

The building blocks of the desktop internet in 1995 were pages and links and that was still the case in 2005 or indeed today. ...
On mobile this is different - it's the operating system itself that's the internet services platform, far more than the browser, and the platform is not neutral. 
Smartphones are internet platforms in a way that PCs never really were, and they're not neutral - the platform owners keep reshaping them, and reshaping how user acquisition works.

Mobile is not a neutral platform

For a decade or two, for most people 'the internet' meant a web browser, a mouse and a keyboard. There were a few things around the edges, like IM, Spotify, Skype or Steam (or, for some people, email), but for most people and for almost all activities, the web was the internet. The web was the platform, not the PC operating system - people created services for the web, far more than for Windows or MacOS.
And once the browser wars died down, the browser was pretty much a neutral platform. Browser technology changed and that made new things possible (Google Maps, say), but the browser makers were not king-makers and were not creating or enabling entirely new interaction models. The building blocks of the desktop internet in 1995 were pages and links and that was still the case in 2005 or indeed today. You might never actually see a URL and the pages might start blending into each other, but everything still happens in that framework. 
On mobile this is different - it's the operating system itself that's the internet services platform, far more than the browser, and the platform is not neutral. 
The first manifestation of this (but only the first) has been messaging. As I've written before, push notifications, home screen icons and easy access to address books and photos mean it's very easy to adopt a new messaging service and very easy to use several at once, where on the desktop web it would painful. It's not just that you're running an app instead of a web page, but that the app can leverage specific APIs on the platform that never existed on the web. So the smartphone is itself a social messaging platform. Social apps plug into that platform rather like Facebook apps used to plug into the Facebook platform, or the way Facebook wants apps now to plug into Messenger. 
All of those enabling layers and APIs are consciously controlled by the platform provider, and they keep changing things. We're post-Netscape and post-PageRank - we left behind a monolithic intersection model, the web, and a near-monolithic way to find things in web search, and now we have many models and no stabilization around new ones. Apple and Google keep making decisions, enabling or disabling options and capabilities and creating or removing opportunities. This was also true of Windows or Mac for Windows or Mac applications (as competitors to Office complained) but in practice it wasn't the case on the desktop internet, because most of what mattered was happening inside the browser and not touching the OS, and the browsers themselves weren't making these kinds of moves. 
The crucial change is that Netscape or Internet Explorer did not shape which websites you visited (though toolbars tried to) and they didn't do things that changed how user acquisition or retention worked online. Apple and Google do that all the time, both consciously and unconsciously - it's inherent in what an actual operation system means. Some of this is simple evolution, and often collaborative  - the emergence of deep links is a good example of this. But some of it isn't. 
Hence, at both IO and WWDC this summer we saw moves from Apple and Google to create their own real-estate around the home screen. The 'swipe left from home' screen gains more and more capabilities, all totally under the platform owner's control. A lot of this happens to be about attempts at basic 'AI' - to watch the user in different ways and suggest something useful - but the broader point is that this is Apple's screen or Google's screen, and another content provider gets there only if Apple or Google want (and if they implement the indexing APIs that Apple and Google require). This will get bigger. 
Next, Apple and Google are exploring new ways to unbundle the content within apps into new usage models. Hence Apple's 3D Touch unbundles app content into the home screen (shades of Windows Phone) with these dynamic menus. Can there be apps where this is the main UI? Can you use them for notifications? (And of course this isn't on Android, so the fantasy of a cross-platform app gets even further away.)
Equally, Google's Now on Tap unbundles apps (and anything else) into Google's own search and suggestions. There's a nice dilemma here - when you implement the APIs to support app indexing and deep linking, you also let Google route people away from your app at a moment's notice (here a flow away from Soundcloud to YouTube, by pure co-incidence). 
Of course, all this sort of stuff is a big reason why Google bought Android in the first place - Google was afraid that Microsoft (it was that long ago) would dominate mobile operating systems and shut it out. The obvious fear was around things like preloads, and the justice of that fear was proven right with Maps, where Apple Maps now has 2-3x more users on iOS than does Google Maps, despite being a weaker product - the 'good enough' default wins and the platform owner chooses what that is. But the deeper issue is that we haven't just unbundled search from the web into apps - we're now unbundling apps, search and discovery into the OS itself. Google of course has always put a web search box on the Android home screen (and indeed one could ask why there needs to be an actual browser icon as well) but this is much more fundamental.
That is, this isn't really about what kinds of boxes slide onto your screen from where. It's about how you talk to your friends, how you discover new services and how you decide to spend money. 
This, obviously, is why Facebook keeps trying to insert its own layers into the OS (and why Amazon made a phone). I sometimes feel that every spring Facebook holds F8 and says "this is what interaction on smartphones will look like"!", and a few weeks later Apple and Google say "look, sorry kid, but...". It's not Facebook's platform to change. But if Facebook is successful in using Messenger to close the loop between its online identity platform (which both Apple and Google lack) and notification and engagement on the phone, then it it'll have managed to create its own layer at last. 
Really, what we see here is a search for another run-time. We had the web, and then we added apps, and now we look for another. Notifications? Siri/Now? Messaging (as forWeChat in China)? Something else?  But each of the previous run-times lacked search, discovery and acquisition as a fundamental part of the architecture - they had to be added later (and arguably that's still not there with apps). On Facebook's desktop platform, in contrast, both halves were there almost from the beginning. The next run-times on mobile might have both halves too. 

Read the post online here: Mobile is not a neutral platform:

February 08, 2016

Will Artificial Intelligence have an Uber Effect on Finance? -

Yea, but "On the other hand, the front office is an area where Sutton believed that human interaction is necessary as finance is an industry that is very relationship centric as people leverage financial advisors and wealth managers to provide customised advice."

This from 

Will Artificial Intelligence have an Uber Effect on Finance?

Following the recent breakthrough of artificial intelligence (AI), many have been wondering how this form of technology can be implemented in the financial services. As newer products emerge, it questions how popular the traditional legacy financial institutions will remain or perhaps, fintech startups will gain an increased number of customers, in a similar way to how Uber affected the taxi industry. bobsguide spoke to Josh Sutton, global head of artificial intelligence practice at technology company Sapient about how AI is set to transform business and finance, alongside how banks are already implementing a technology that has been around for 30+ years, but its true potential hasn't been seen until now.
According to CNBC, nearly $700 million has been invested in artificial intelligence over the past two years and Sutton explored how it is important to work with the C-suite of a company to give them a roadmap of the capabilities AI has as it provides a way to increase revenue, reduce cost and minimise risk. "Increased investment in AI has been over 30 years coming and technology has caught up to the conceptual promise of what could be done. If you look at all the products deployed by machine learning today, these are not new concepts by any means, but the processing power of the machines has finally reached a point where it is cost effective and time effective enough to generate real results from that information," Sutton highlighted.
Sutton continued to explain how AI has been extensively used by government and academic institutions, but banks have started to use it in order to monitor their risk related to illegal insider trading activities. A large global bank has already implemented AI instead of using the historical approach of having a team review trade information and police it in a human manner, Sutton revealed. "The platform that they built combined big data, machine learning and causal intelligence and that aggregates all the trade data and communication data from various traders and people they interact with across the various divisions."
Alongside this, artificial intelligence will benefit different parts of an organisation in different ways. Sutton said that leveraging AI would "systematically accelerate certain portions of the core middle and back offices to automate everything from trade processing through to KYC and AML." This ties into the long standing debate that has been occurring over the past year about whether human workers will be needed if technology becomes increasingly sophisticated. The stage that we are at the moment is that there needs to be a mixture of tasks completed by people and the rest by machine learning, but Sutton explored how the number of people required to fulfil the function of the middle and back office will eliminate the need for people.
"I think there will always be a need for people to identify and review the high priority activities but I do think that a substantial amount of work that is done today that is relatively trainable can be replaced via technology over the coming decade," Sutton said. On the other hand, the front office is an area where Sutton believed that human interaction is necessary as finance is an industry that is very relationship centric as people leverage financial advisors and wealth managers to provide customised advice. "I do believe that artificial intelligence will enable financial advisors to be much more effective in their interactions so, if you look at the job of a financial advisor, a significant portion of their time goes to understanding their individual customers, what is going on in their lives and what advice they can provide."
"What you'll see in the traditional wealth group, financial advisors will be able to take on a greater number of clients and the entire industry will expand as it becomes a cost effective tool that people can have that they haven't traditionally. If you look at a good disruptive example, like Uber, the model has changed the way that the industry works and it has dramatically increased the amount of money that gets spent." Sutton predicts that this "Uber Effect" will occur with artificial intelligence and the financial industry, especially in the retail banking industry where there will be a blur between retail banks and wealth managers.
"I think what you're starting to see is a lot of fintech players trying to nibble around the edges of that," Sutton highlighted as he went on to say that artificial intelligence will be ubiquitous in our day to day life, so much so that you are not even aware that you are using AI. However, to get to this point, there are many obstacles that must be overcome, one which concerns how the financial services industry are focusing on big data when it comes to implementing AI, rather than seeing it as a business tool.
"Artificial intelligence is not a technology solution, it is a business solution."

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