Portfolio companies of startup studio eFounders have raised $148M this year

European startup studio eFounders has looked back at the first half of 2020 to share some metrics about its portfolio companies. The startup studio that is focused on building software-as-a-service enterprise startups has now launched 25 companies in total. Those startups have raised $148 million in 2020 alone.

You may remember that the portfolio of eFounders reached a total valuation of $1 billion late last year. After those new funding rounds, the consolidated valuation of eFounders companies is now at $1.5 billion.

And because we’re talking about SaaS, the monthly recurring revenue has also doubled year over year compared to the first half of 2019. Overall, those companies now generate around $10 million in monthly recurring revenue.

Of course, some companies are doing better than others. In particular, Front and Aircall have raised $59 million and $65 million respectively. Back when I wrote about those stories, Front said its valuation had quadrupled compared to its previous funding round, while Aircall said it had done more than 3x on the valuation.

Slite, Bonjour, Folk, Cycle and Equify have also raised smaller funding rounds. Yousign, an e-signature startup, has also experienced an important growth bump with demand exploding.

eFounders seems particularly well-positioned for the current situation. Due to lockdowns around the world, many companies have been looking at tools that help them work remotely and work more efficiently. “We build the future of work,” eFounders writes on its website.

“The changes that were naturally, but slowly, occurring in companies for a decade have accelerated in a matter of months. We’ve certainly gained a few years of digitalisation in the space of a quarter,” eFounders co-founder Thibaud Elziere said in a statement.

If you’re not familiar with eFounders, the company first comes up with an idea for a new company and hires a founding team. The core team works alongside the founders for a year or two to define product-market fit, and eFounders keeps a stake in those startups.

After that initial launch, portfolio companies usually raise a seed round, which helps them build a solid team. eFounders can switch their focus and start working on new startups.

Read the original post: Portfolio companies of startup studio eFounders have raised 8M this year

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TransferWise to offer investment products but has ‘no plans’ to become a bank

TransferWise, the London-headquartered international money transfer service recently valued at $3.5 billion, has secured an additional license with U.K. regulators to enable it to offer investment products in the future.

This will mean that U.K. customers who have money deposited in a TransferWise multi-currency or so-called “borderless” account will be given the option to make that money work harder on their behalf. Total deposits currently sit at £2 billion, so there is quite a lot of customer cash potentially idle.

However, the company isn’t revealing much detail on its future investments product, except to say that it will initially offer “simple, affordable funds from reputable providers” so that customers can earn a return on their balances. Up to £85,000 of money held as investments within a TransferWise account per customer will be protected under the Financial Services Compensation Scheme. The new offering is still in development and will launch “in the next 12 months.”

Zooming out further, TransferWise says an increasing number of its 8 million customers are using the borderless account as an international banking solution. Around one million TransferWise debit cards have been issued since 2018, and the TransferWise account now also supports direct debits, instant international payments to friends, and Apple and Google Pay. With the addition of savings and investments, TransferWise says its vision is for the borderless account to replace “expensive, old-world international banking” for expats, freelancers and travelers.

“You and I have been talking since 2011, when you first reported that TransferWise was going live, and I think you’ll appreciate that over time we’ve expanded the features that TransferWise offers our customers, for sure,” co-founder and current CEO Kristo Käärmann tells me on a call. “We launched the borderless account to let people receive money in-roads and to hold money. We added the debit cards so that they can use that money that they hold in places where they can use the card. And this is, in some ways, no different.”

Sticking to broad brush strokes rather than specific product details (despite my persistent questioning), Käärmann says that after listening to customers TransferWise wants to help them hold their balance in a smarter way.

“Clearly they’ve already figured out that TransferWise works for them,” he says. “And not merely as a medium of sending money from one country to another but also to get paid internationally, to kind of run their international part of banking, if you like. For businesses, for freelancers, for ex-pats, for people that have just moved countries. So this is another feature along the same string of things that people want us to do for them.”

That, of course, begs the question: Does TransferWise have any plans to become an actual bank, with a full banking license, further adding to its existing permissions from regulators. Käärmann gives a pretty emphatic answer.

“No, we don’t have any plans to apply for a banking license,” he says. “We haven’t applied for any banking licenses anywhere in the world… The only thing that the banking license in Europe lets banks do is lend out the deposits that customers give them, and that’s not what our customers are asking for. They’re not asking us, you know, can you please lend out our deposits?”

In fact, Käärmann confesses to not being a huge fan of the predominant current account business model, which he believes serves the interests of banks, not account-holding customers. “I do think the way current accounts work with banks is not sustainable in the long term. That the money we keep in banks is being lent out to mortgages and business loans and overdrafts and so on, yet the customers holding that money, they’re not really getting much benefit from it. So why do it?” he asks, somewhat rhetorically.

Returning to the forthcoming investment product — and after a little more prodding from me — he says to expect it to have the same transparency as the company’s core money exchange offering, with clear pricing and working as hard for customers as possible. In line with TransferWise’s existing modus operandi, I would also expect it to be financially sustainable, rather than being cross-subsidised in order to pull customers in or grab easy headlines, which is common practice amongst many investments and savings products.

Adds the TransferWise CEO: “We want to be clear what the problem is we’re solving. [It] comes back to giving people a choice of where and how they hold their balances. And that might give you a hint of the product that we’re building. I can say now that we’re not building an active trading product, that’s not the goal. Our customers aren’t asking how can they speculate on the markets. There are tools for this, and they are increasingly [getting] better for this purpose. What we’re solving with the investments product is going to be a much more passive way of choosing where your balances sit.”

Read the original post: TransferWise to offer investment products but has ‘no plans’ to become a bank

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Dfinity demonstrates its TikTok clone, opens up its ‘Internet Computer’ to outside developers

Dfinity appeared in 2018, amid the flurry of investments in the blockchain space. It raised $102 million in funding at a $2 billion valuation in a round jointly led by Andreessen Horowitz and Polychain Capital, along with other investors, including KR1. I must admit that at the time it appeared for all intents and purposes as if it would be yet another attempt to replace Ethereum. Or at least something similar. But then something odd happened. It started behaving like an actual software company.

In January this year it didn’t talk about blockchain at all, but instead demonstrated an open social network called “LinkedUp,” sort of open version of LinkedIn. The demonstration didn’t go live, and technically speaking it was under-whelming — until you realized it wasn’t running on any server, and performed faster than a native mobile app. Dfinity, it turned out, wasn’t a traditional blockchain startup, but was taking a leaf out of that world’s championing of the move toward decentralization.

In fact, it was building its so-called “Internet Computer”: a decentralized and non-proprietary network to run the next generation of “mega-applications.”

Today it announced that the “Internet Computer” is now open to third-party developers and entrepreneurs to build that next generation. The vision is to “reboot” the internet in a way that destroys the ability to create virtual monopolies like Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and WhatsApp.

As its next technical demonstration, it launched “CanCan”, a TikTok-like app that will run in a browser (though it is not publicly available as such) and which is not owned by a company. The idea is that anyone could build their own TikTok.

The tantalizing part of Dfinity’s ideas is that because of the nature of the architecture, apps like CanCan can be built with less than 1,000 lines of code. Facebook, to take an example, contains more than 62 million lines of code.

To achieve this, Dfinity is drawing on the work of Andreas Rossberg, co-creator of WebAssembly, who has now created Motoko, a new programming language optimized for Dfinity’s Internet Computer.

The Internet Computer’s serverless architecture allows the internet to natively host software and services, eliminating — claims Dfinity — the need for proprietary cloud services. Without web servers, databases and firewalls, developers can create powerful software much more quickly, and that software then runs far faster than normal.

Dominic Williams, founder and chief scientist at Dfinity, said in a statement: “One of the biggest problems emerging in technology is the monopolization of the internet by Big Tech — companies that have consolidated near-total control over our technologies. They collect vast amounts of information about us that they sell for profit and leverage to amass greater market share, and acquire or bulldoze rivals at an alarming rate… The Internet Computer provides a means to reboot the internet — creating a public alternative to proprietary cloud infrastructure. It will empower the next-generation of developers and entrepreneurs to take on Big Tech with open internet services. It aims to bring the internet back to its free and open roots — not dominated by a handful of corporations.”

This “Tungsten” release of the Internet Computer means third-party developers and entrepreneurs will be able to start kicking the tyres on this platform and start spitting out web apps and even smartphone apps.

Projects currently being built include a decentralized payment application and a “pan-industry platform for luxury goods,” whatever that is. Successful and promising applications may also benefit from Beacon Fund, an ecosystem fund stewarded by the Dfinity Foundation and Polychain Capital that aims to support ‘DeFi’ apps and open internet services built on the Internet Computer.

Interested developers and enterprises can submit an application to access the Internet Computer starting July 1, 2020, via dfinity.org.

Read the original post: Dfinity demonstrates its TikTok clone, opens up its ‘Internet Computer’ to outside developers

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E-scooter firms get the green light to start trials of up to one year on UK streets

In light of COVID-19 and social distancing regulations, the U.K. has been working on making it easier for people to get from point A to B in cities without resorting to buses and trains or bringing more cars to congested roads, and today that strategy took an interesting leap forward.

The country’s Department for Transport today announced that it would start allowing e-scooters, by way of e-scooter rental companies, to legally operate across the country initially in a trial phase starting no later than August. Councils and other authorities, including across London and other major cities, are working on putting together trials that could run for as long as 12 months under guidelines provided by the government.

The regulations come into force on July 4, the DfT said, with the first trials expected to begin a week later.

“As we emerge from lockdown, we have a unique opportunity in transport to build back in a greener, more sustainable way that could lead to cleaner air and healthier communities across Great Britain,” said Transport Minister Rachel Maclean in a statement. “E-scooters may offer the potential for convenient, clean and cost-effective travel that may also help ease the burden on the transport network, provide another green alternative to get around and allow for social distancing. The trials will allow us to test whether they do these things.”

There are some restrictions in place: E-scooters will not be able to go faster than 15.5 miles per hour, and they will only be able to use roads and cycle lanes, not sidewalks or other areas reserved for pedestrians. Users will need a drivers license (full or provisional). The scooters themselves will not need to be registered as vehicles but will need insurance. As with bicycles, users will be recommended — but not required — to wear helmets.

It seems that privately owned e-scooters will not be included in the rule relaxation, but it’s not clear what steps regulators will take — if any — to avoid the cluttering that we have seen in some cities overrun with too many dockless scooters crowding sidewalks.

The list of e-scooter hopefuls is long. From the word go, those that are looking to operate in the U.K. include Bird, Bolt (the ridesharing startup out of Estonia), Tier, Neuron Mobility, Lime, Voi and Zipp Mobility.

We’re contacting the DfT with our questions and will update this post as we learn more.

Electric scooters will now join the ranks of other shared transportation options that include bikes and e-bikes, as a complement to mass transit and of course walking or using your own nonautomotive wheels as an alternative to using cars. E-scooters have been seen both as an alternative for short distances (between 1 and 5 miles) but also as a last-mile solution in combination with other transport modes aimed at longer distances, like buses and trains.

The news today lifts restrictions that had previously been in place that classified e-scooters as motor vehicles and therefore required the e-scooters to be licensed and taxed, and for operators to have licenses to use them.

Those rules also meant that the e-scooters were illegal to use on sidewalks, with the only exception to all that being legal usage across select (and very limited) campuses on private land.

The moves come on the heels of a consultation in March to pilot e-scooter use in three regions of the U.K., along with a number of other initiatives including e-cargo carriers and using drones to transport medical supplies — the aim being to explore in quick order a number of new technologies to expand transportation options available to consumers, as well as essential businesses and the people who work in them.

The bigger trend has seen other cities also looking to relax rules to improve transportation options to people who wish to socially distance but still need to get around urban areas in ways that are quicker than walking. New York City is also expected to unveil its own roadmap for e-scooter pilots in the near future.

The news made official today had been something of a badly kept secret, specifically among transportation startups whose businesses have been in a holding pattern waiting for the regulator to ease up on restrictions that had been in place.

Just about all of those startups have been sending out alerts to journalists for over a week now with comments on the government’s widely expected announcements.

“We welcome the DfT’s announcement and are excited to be one step closer to the starting of e-scooter trials,” said Zachary Wang, CEO of Neuron Mobility, in a statement. “We are already in discussions with quite a few councils, as no two towns or cities are the same we look forward to partnering with them to safely introduce e-scooters in a way that best suits their individual needs. COVID-19 has led to a fundamental rethink of the way we travel and e-scooters have the potential to radically improve how we get around our towns and cities. We are delighted that people in the U.K. will soon be able to benefit from shared e-scooters. They will allow people to continue social distancing while also providing a more efficient travel option than gas-guzzling alternatives.”

Some have been waiting for a chance to operate for some time.

“We welcome today’s announcement from the government as it looks to get cities moving again safely and in an environmentally friendly way,” said Roger Hassan, COO of TIER Mobility, in a statement. “We already have more than 1,000 of our industry leading scooters in our U.K. warehouse, ready to be deployed and we will be shipping more over very soon. Everyone at TIER is looking forward to working with the government and with local authorities to make e-scooters in the U.K. a huge success story.”

While there had been restrictions in place before now, I should point out that they were often badly enforced: In London there have always been some private e-scooter owners zooming around alongside bikes and cars on the roads, and I’ve even stopped at red lights on my bike, with an e-scooter on one side of me and a police officer on the other, and not a word gets exchanged, just a simple shrug of “What can you do?” So decriminalising, as it has done in other industries, will hopefully mean better oversight, alongside better choice for users.

Read the original post: E-scooter firms get the green light to start trials of up to one year on UK streets

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Berlin’s DeepSpin raises seed funding for its ‘portable, ultra-low-cost’ MRI system

DeepSpin, a Berlin-based startup that is developing what it describes as a “next-generation, AI-powered MRI imaging machine”, has raised €600,000 in seed funding.

Backing the round is APEX Digital Health, with participation from existing investors Entrepreneur First (EF) and SOSV, along with a number of unnamed angel investors. Including grants and earlier investment, it brings the total raised to €1 million pre-launch.

DeepSpin is a graduate of EF’s company builder programme, where its two founders — Clemens Tepel, a former McKinsey consultant, and Pedro Freire Silva, a PhD researcher from KIT — decided to partner in September 2019. Freire Silva drew on his research into small-scale, mass-manufacturable MRI systems and pitched the idea to his future co-founder.

“From the beginning I found the idea very intriguing and so we directly jumped into attempting to prove its feasibility,” says Tepel. “Within 4 weeks we were able to prove it in simulation, get industry-leading advisors on board and get first LOIs [letter of intent] from interested clinicians”.

Yet-to-launch and still in the development phase, DeepSpin aims to build a new type of MRI system at a “fraction of the cost, weight and size” of existing systems. To make this possible, the startup is has developed a new antenna technology combined with AI-controlled operation, which the startup is currently patenting.

“The problem we are solving is that MRI, the most advanced medical imaging method, is currently not easily accessible because it is incredibly expensive, requires specialised operators and needs specifically shielded rooms,” explains Tepel. “We are removing all of these constraints based on our proprietary technology, making MRI universally accessible for any patient, anywhere in the world”.

Adds Freire Silva: “Instead of combining highly expensive hardware with standard software, as it is done on conventional MRI scanners, we will be able to obtain the same clinical information by applying very sophisticated algorithms on simplified hardware, thereby reducing our system’s cost by orders of magnitude”.

Tepel tells me this approach has not been taken before because both key enablers — highly capable AI-algorithms and the specific antenna design – were only available very recently.

Having proven DeepSpin’s methods in simulation, the next step and the team’s current focus is to develop a first fully AI-driven prototype. “Based on that, we will develop an initial product version, aimed at pre-clinical applications, before going into medical certification, which then will allow us to sell our product for clinical use across a range of medical domains and to new geographies that can’t afford conventional systems,” says Tepel.

Read the original post: Berlin’s DeepSpin raises seed funding for its ‘portable, ultra-low-cost’ MRI system

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Banking platform solarisBank raises $67.5 million at $360 million valuation

Despite the Wirecard fallout, German fintech startup solarisBank has raised a Series C funding round of $67.5 million (€60 million). Following today’s funding round, solarisBank is now valued at $360 million (€320 million). solarisBank doesn't have any consumer product directly. Instead, it offers financial services to other fintech companies through a set of APIs.

With solarisBank, you can build a fintech startup and leverage solarisBank’s line of products to do the heavy lifting. It’s an infrastructure company in the banking space.

While solarisBank might not be a familiar name, some of its clients have become quite popular. They include challenger banks, such as Tomorrow, Insha and a newcomer called Vivid, business banking startups, such as Penta and Kontist, trading app Trade Republic, cryptocurrency startups Bison and Bitwala, etc.

Overall, solarisBank works with 70 companies that have attracted 400,000 clients in total.

HV Holtzbrinck Ventures is leading the round with existing investor yabeo committing a substantial follow-on investment. Other new investors include Vulcan Capital, Samsung Catalyst Fund and Storm Ventures. Existing investors BBVA, SBI Group, ABN AMRO Ventures, Global Brain, Hegus and Lakestar are investing again.

The company started the fundraising process back in December. Due to the economic prospects, it has been a mixed process. “A lot of investors looked at their portfolio companies and the appetite to look at something new was not there,” solarisBank CEO Roland Folz told me. But everything worked out eventually as around half of the funding comes from existing investors.

“We originally were looking for €40 million but we were overwhelmed by the interest of investors in spite of Covid,” solarisBank Head of Strategy and Shareholder Relations Layla Qassim told me.

solarisBank’s vision could be summed up in two words — regulation and modularity. The company is a fully licensed bank, which means that its clients don’t have to apply to a banking license themselves.

And the startup lets you pick the modules that you want to use for your product. Maybe you’re building a mobile cryptocurrency wallet and you just want to be able to give an IBAN and a debit card to your users. Maybe you’re building a used car marketplace like CarNext and you want to offer credit. Maybe you want to build a challenger bank but address a specific vertical.

With solarisBank, you can open bank accounts and issue payment cards attached to those accounts. You can also issue cards and attach them to a different account in case you’re integrating with existing bank accounts. The startup also offers various services around payments, vouchers, cross-border transactions and more.

More recently, the company launched a new feature called Splitpay with American Express. When customers check out on an e-commerce platform in Germany, American Express customers will be able to choose a repayment plan to pay over multiple months.

solarisBank generates revenue from its clients as they pay to use the company’s APIs and enable accounts and cards. solarisBank also collects the interchange fees on card transactions and share revenue with its clients. Similarly, solarisBank can offer to share revenue on credit interests with its clients.

In the future, solarisBank plans to make its portfolio of financial services even more compelling by introducing local IBANs in the most important European markets. It should make it easier to convince potential clients outside of Germany to use solarisBank as their banking infrastructure.

Read the original post: Banking platform solarisBank raises .5 million at 0 million valuation

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Exclusive: Survey finds startups drifting away from offices, post COVID-19

Early-stage startups are confident of re-opening their offices in the wake of the COVID-19 within the next six months. But there will be changes.

An exclusive survey compiled by Founders Forum, with TechCrunch, found 63% of those surveyed said they would only re-open in either 1-3 months or 3-6 months — even if the government advises that it is safe to do so before then. A minority have re-opened their offices, while 10% have closed their office permanently.

However, there will clearly be long-term impact on the model of office working, with a majority of those surveyed saying they would now move to either a flexible remote working model (some with permanent offices, some without), but only a small number plan a “normal” return to work. A very small number plan to go fully “remote.” Many cited the continuing benefits of face-to-face interaction when trying to build the team culture so crucial with early-stage companies.

Massive office closures during pandemic
Of the 328 that answered the survey, 84% said they had closed their office during the COVID-19 pandemic; 5% said they had not; and 8% said it was not applicable (i.e. no office to close). The majority of those answering were at seed or pre-seed stage, with a minority past Series A stage.

Crucially, a clear majority of respondents (66%) said the need to return to the office was not “business critical,” while 33% thought it was. Right now, startups are closely divided over feeling the need to return to the office, with 46% saying they did feel a need, while 53% said they did not.

The survey was launched by TechCrunch and U.K. nonprofit Founders Forum in order to assess how startups will work in the future, in the wake of the global COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on office working and the shift to “Work From Home” policies. Of the 328 answers, 61% were from the U.K., 20% from the U.S. and the rest from other countries.

“Missing the power of face to face problem solving and building teams”

Founders Forum’s Brent Hoberman, who initiated the study, commented on the results: “The results prove both that early-stage tech founders are adaptable and that entrepreneurship is one of the best-suited professions to remote work. The majority of early-stage founders haven’t seen productivity take a hit during this period, but it remains to be seen what happens to creative output, team culture and training over the longer term. Furthermore, there are clearly opportunities for new types of even more flexible shared social workspaces with a vast majority of those surveyed still seeing value in face-to-face interaction.”

Remote working ups productivity, but impacts culture
Remote working during COVID-19 appears not to have impacted output, with 55% of startups saying they had worked more than normal, 30% the same hours, and 13% fewer hours.

In answer to the question: “Are you going to permanently change how and where your team works together?”: 48% said they would adopt a more flexible working arrangement (e.g. remote work days); 33% will adopt a remote-first setup (e.g. rented space for key meetings/workshops); 13% plan a normal return to work; and just 4% will adopt a fully remote configuration.

In terms of plans to re-open offices, 36% planned to re-open in 1-3 months “as soon as government advises that it is safe to do so”; 27% in 3-6 months “even if the government advises that it is safe to do so before then”; 16% answered “It’s already open – employees have been visiting if they feel comfortable”; 10% said “We have closed the office permanently”; and 9% said they planned to re-open in 6-12 months “even if the government advises that it is safe to do so before then.”

Given a full choice in the matter, 81% of those surveyed said they would prefer a hybrid of office and remote work, with only 11% wanting to go remote full time and 8% returning to an office full time. And 83% wanted to have set days when the whole team is in the office together.

Commenting on why they thought re-opening an office — in some form — was business-critical, comments from respondents included:

• “My employees are looking to return to work given wanting space from home confinement”

• “Need for top management sessions where in-person is much more productive than remote video calls”

• “Missing the power of face to face problem solving and building teams”

• “Ability to support early-career employees and bring on new ones”

• “I believe either fully remote or fully in-person setups are effective. A halfway house is ineffective.”

• “Too difficult to achieve the cross-pollination and high-velocity communication needed at our early stage.”

• “Culture. Younger team members can’t work from home all the time (shared accommodation). Some parents need the office to focus.”

• “We’re a biotech company and need to work from our labs”

• “We do order fulfillment from our warehouse.”

• “Team members ask for it as they cannot stand anymore working alone in their apartment”

Most startups are offering remote work options either to “some” employees (52%) or to all employees (31%). Some 16% offered no remote working at all, especially in areas like biotech where remote working from a lab is not possible.

Office spaces still adapting
There were mixed results when startups were asked if they had renegotiated their lease as a result of COVID-19, with 16% of those on a short lease saying they had and were successful, but 16% saying they had, but had not been able to renegotiate. Some 14% on a long lease were successful in the renegotiation, 14% said they were still in negotiation and 11% had canceled the membership of their co-working space.

Some 41% of startups or their landlords had not performed a workplace risk assessment, 25% had, while 33% still planned to.

Offices appear to be responding well, with either 40% having already introduced measures to improve the safety of workplaces or 34% planning to, while 25% had not, probably because they do not have an office or use co-working spaces.

Most people (58%) said they felt the work they perform remotely is “trusted and respected equally to the work I perform in the workplace.” Most (50%) said their home setup was “OK, but not ideal.”

WFH impacts working practices
When asked “What remote productivity tools or processes have become your secret weapon during COVID-19?” notable answers included:

• Miro, trello, zoom, Asana, Airtable, Slack, Microsoft Teams (among many others).

• “Two screens.”

• “Dedicated office space at home”

• “Routine. Shutting off at 5.30pm and going for a run/walk”

• “Saying hello and prioritizing chit chat on video calls every time, even though we all have work to do, observing social graciousness remotely is even more important. “

• “Company instituted ‘Summer Fridays’ urging to not work after 1pm on Fridays – less pressure to be ‘always-on’ ”

• “Being able to step away and recharge through engaging with the family when needed during the day.”

• “Old school phone calls”

Mental health impact 
Almost 80% said there had been no significant change to their mental health as a result of working remotely during COVID-19, with a slim number experiencing either a negative impact or positive.

 

 

 

 

 

Read the original post: Exclusive: Survey finds startups drifting away from offices, post COVID-19

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Extra Crunch expands into Romania

Extra Crunch is now live in Romania. That adds to our existing support in Europe in Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain, and U.K..

There’s been reason to be bullish on Romania’s technology sector for some time. A TechCrunch op-ed called the country the “Silicon Valley of Transylvania” in 2016, noting that the number of startups in the country had grown by 20% from 250 to 300 in a year. 

The country’s rich pool of developer talent (bullish notes on that matter here) has also led to rising investor interest. Crunchbase data, for example, said that known venture round counts rose by 26% in the country in 2019, compared to 2018. And from a 2015-era trough, the country’s GDP has risen sharply, along with its GDP per-capita

It’s no surprise, then, that Romania has been one of the most requested countries for Extra Crunch support in recent months. We’re happy to add the country to the list.

You can sign up here.

Extra Crunch is a membership program from TechCrunch that features market analysis, weekly investor surveys and how-tos and interviews on growth, fundraising, monetization and other work topics. Members can save time with access to an exclusive newsletter, no banner ads or video pre-rolls on TechCrunch.com, Rapid Read mode and our List Builder tool.

Committing to an annual and two-year plan will save you a few bucks on the membership price and unlock access to TechCrunch event discounts and Partner Perks. The Partner Perks program features discounts and savings on services from AWS, DocSend, Typeform, Zoom and more.

Thanks to everyone that voted on where to expand next. If you haven’t voted and you want to see Extra Crunch in your local country, let us know here.

You can sign up or learn more about Extra Crunch here.

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Here are the winners of The Europas Awards 2020 – Even a pandemic can’t stop these startups

Last year The Europas Awards for European Tech Startups was held at a sunny garden party next to a historic museum in London. Last night, because of the global Coronavirus pandemic, it was held over Zoom. But the enthusiasm and success of Europe’s tech startup industry still shone through the list of finalists and winners.

After 11 years of identifying the most innovative tech startups in Europe (past winners have included Spotify, Transferwise, Soundcloud, and Babylon Health) The Europas has shown itself capable of finding Europe’s hottest startups and remains the only independent and editorially-curated event to recognize the European tech startup scene. The winners have been featured in Reuters, Bloomberg, VentureBeat, Forbes, CNET, many other media outlets — and of course, TechCrunch which was the exclusive media sponsor of the awards, alongside the to-be-launched “impact innovation” title The Pathfounder.

The awards cover 20 categories, including new additions such as AgTech / FoodTech, SpaceTech and GovTech. After a record number of awards entries, an intense round of public voting and judges’ deliberations, then 13 deep-dive online workshops (which ticket holders are still able to watch here) the awards reached their conclusion. The all-star panel of judges (see below) were drawn from a diverse range of European tech founders, investors and journalists and their picks for the winners were combined with the results of the online public voting, as they have done for the last 11 years.

The live stream of the awards – which also featured two panels on addressing racial diversity in the tech industry and the future for environmental innovation – on Zoom is available here (Password: 2v*34=^f), although due to a technical hitch recording started a few minutes into the first panel, before the start of the awards themselves. You can sign up to get news of next year’s awards and similar events here.

This year the physical event was replaced by 13 live workshops built around the awards categories, where shortlisted companies were able to pitch live on the platform. In addition, the “Pathfounder Sessions” offered exclusive workshops with specially invited guests, aimed at European startups raising money at this time. Attendees networked on the dedicated Slack community.

Sponsors of The Europas Awards:
1. FieldHouse Associates
2. The Royal Academy of Engineering
3. Burlington CC
4. The Telecom Infra Project
5. Potter Clarkson
6. PlayFair Capital
7. TechCrunch
8. Bizzabo
9. iHorizon

The winners are listed both here and below:

There were two, panel, discussions. The first was on “Black Founders: The State of Black Tech Entrepreneurship and Increasing Access to Funding”. Featuring: Tom Adeyoola, co-founder at Extend Ventures and former founder and CEO of Metail; Andy Davis, Venture Partner, Backstage Capital, and Angel Programme Atomico 2020; and Yvonne Bajela, of Impact X Capital (pictured below).

The second panel was on Sustainability. “Here comes the next crisis: can green startups save the planet?”. This featured Greg Jackson, CEO and Founder, Octopus Energy; Lubomila Jordanova, CEO and Founder, PlanA.Earth; and Ana Avaliani, Associate Director, Enterprise, Royal Academy of Engineering.

At the end of the awards, attendees were entertained by DJ MAX, broadcasting live from Munich.

So, the winners of The Europas Awards 2020 are:

Hottest Ag/FoodTech Startup

ConstellR, Germany, monitoring our planet’s temperature down to the fraction of a degree through a constellation of satellites

Earth Rover, UK, AI Powered crop agronomy service for high-value crops.

iFarm, Finland, Building indoor farming tech including automated vertical farms

Planted, Switzerland, Turning all-natural ingredients into plant-based meat, including chicken.

Winner: iFarm
With sales across 21 countries, iFarm is seeing steadily growing revenues from its indoor farming tech that can be installed in stores, restaurants, warehouses, and homes for a more sustainable way of growing some 120 crops.

Hottest Climate/GreenTech Startup
Finalists:
Cervest, UK, Building climate security tools to empower optimal, informed decisions about climate.

GreyParrot, UK, Waste recognition software to monitor, audit & sort waste at scale

Hawa Dawa, Germany, transforming data on air pollution into real insights for greener cities & future-oriented companies

Solytic, Germany, Maximizing the all-round performance of PV plants.

Winner: GreyParrot – The startup has gained early, significant traction amongst waste recycling plants not just in the UK, but in Italy and South Korea. They also recently won a global tender to help an airline monitor the waste going to landfill to support the airline’s sustainability goals. Serving a massive market, that, since the pandemic, is getting worse.

Hottest Cyber Startup

Aloha Browser, Cyprus, Private browser with free unlimited VPN for not so tech savvy users

Buguroo, Spain, anti-fraud solution founded in behavioural biometrics.

Picus Security, a cybersecutiry breach and attack platform

SwIDch, United Kingdom, generate OTAC (One Time Authentication Code) on your own device for each transaction without a network connection.

Winner: SwIDch has built dynamic virtual PAN (primary account number) technology for businesses offering a numberless cards solution. It’s recently scored two massive contracts within Indondesia that will secure revenues across a guaranteed 100m transactions.

Hottest EdTech Startup

Blackbullion, UK, financial education platform for university students

CoachHub, Germany, digital coaching platform for companies available globally.

Life Based Value, Italy, Transforming life experiences into sustainable training grounds for soft skills development.

Lingoda, Germany, building the one-stop language learning ecosystem centered around the live classroom.

SoSafe Cyber Security Awareness, Germany, building an awareness platform that offers employees effective and engaging training on IT security topics with a lasting impact

Winner: Blackbullion, with a growing number of university partners, Blackbullion is educating students on financial skills by teaching them how to manage financing and budgeting for their university education.

Hottest Fintech Startup

FintechOS, is the technology as a service platform that makes fast, plug and play digital transformation for financial services possible.

Funding Options, the UK’s marketplace for business finance

Holvi, the business account for sole traders and the self-employed.

TaxScouts, your Self Assessment sorted online by a certified accountant, fast,

WeVat, helping travellers get their tax refunds on their UK shopping

YuLife, life insurance that rewards your team for living well.

Winner: Fintech OS, Helping banks and insurers build digital products in weeks rather than months. In 24 months, onboarded 30 clients across the world, with $25bn under management, and opened offices in London, Amsterdam, Vienna and Bucharest.

Hottest HealthTech Startup

Axial3D, enabling surgeons to create surgical plans in the form of high-quality, patient-specific 3D anatomical models.

Foodmarble, Using breath analysis to measure the foods individuals can digest most successfully

Fundamental Surgery, the flight simulator for surgeons.

Joint Academy, connects patients with physical therapists to deliver an online treatment for chronic joint pain

Patchwork Health, digital platform helping hospitals fill vacant shifts more cost-effectively whilst stemming the tide of clinicians leaving the health service due to poor work-life balance.

Medshr, the secure and easy way to discuss cases by specialty with verified medical colleagues.

Siilo,a secure medical messenger platform designed for healthcare professionals
Winner: Joint Academy – combining the best of both worlds, access to physical therapists along with digital tracking and reminders to change outcomes for the better for chronic joint pain.

Hottest Mobility Startup

Cake, Sweden, Light, clean and silent. CAKE develops high performance electric off-road motorbikes.

Dott, Netherlands. offering our dockless, shared electrical scooters and bikes as alternatives for short-distance travel.

Einride, Sweden. Building both autonomous and driver operated electric trucks
Tier Mobile, Germany, sustainable micro-mobility sharing-solutions, including electric scooters.

Winner: Einride, Helping drive road freight to a more sustainable future with all-electric trucks. Growing number of partnerships with known corporates like Lidl and Oatly.

Hottest Proptech Startup

GoodMonday, a digital Workspace Management Platform for office managers and employees

Home.ht

MQube – UK

Tiko – Spain,

Winner: GoodMonday, In Covid-challenged times, those companies that must maintain offices need more than ever an easy, efficient way to manage them. GoodMonday does this through their platform

Hottest PubTech, GovTech, RegTech, CivTech Startup

Apiax, Germany, a platform making it radically simple for companies to comply with global regulations.

Apolitical, UK, the global learning platform for government

Cyan Forensics, UK, software to help law enforcement, social media and cloud companies find and block harmful content

Parlia, UK, building an encyclopaedia of all the world’s opinions
Seed Legals, UK, platform leveraging big data and automation to give startups the exact legals they need in minutes.

Winner: Seed Legals, Helping launch UK startups by giving them a quick, fast, digital way to sort the legals.

Anthony Rose, CEO and Founder, CONFIRMED

Hottest RetailTech / eCommerce Startup

Trouva, UK. Taking the world’s best independent retail online

Typology, France, vegan, ethically sourced and manufactured, skin care range

Ave + Edam, Germany, a new generation of skincare: personalized by advanced technology and powered by the cleanest, high-performance ingredients.

Winner: Typology, The under £15 skin care range packaged in flat, rectangular bottles that post through the letterbox has tapped into the lockdown, self care zeitgeist

Hottest Sustainability Tech Startup
SPONSORED BY THE ROYAL ACADEMY OF ENGINEERING

Infinited Fiber Company, transforming pre- and post-consumer textile waste, cellulose rich agricultural waste and cardboard into high quality, cotton-like fibers

Little Black Door, social wardrobe sharing application that lets users play, share, borrow and sell to rethink and retrain our relationship with fashion.

Otrium: an online fashion marketplace that helps independent clothing brands sell end-of-season collections

Peelpioneers: turning citrus peel waste into valuable resources

Winner: Infinited Fiber Company – For a more sustainable fashion industry -Infinited Fiber Company has created tech that allows textile waste to be used again and again, preserving 100% quality – this isn’t just recycling, but creating a new fiber.

Hottest Social Innovation Startup

Aidonic, a social fundraising and last mile aid distribution technology for humanitarian and development programs, powered by blockchain technology.

Amicable, building a kinder, better and affordable way to divorce, separate and co-parent.

DataSwift, enables everyone to benefit from the ethical data economy, by providing the essential tools to give, take and use data responsibly.

Farewill, Services that make death easier

Winner: Farewill – The easiest way to sort your will – and more importantly, for destigmatizing death and making it simple for people to take care of a bureaucratic process typically fraught with emotion.

Hottest SpaceTech Startup

Angoka, managing cybersecurity risks inherent in machine-to-machine communication (M2M) networks.

FocalPoint, transforming the capability of all GNSS systems worldwide.

SatelliteVu, High frequency thermal imagery for better decisions in the trading, environmental and insurance markets.

Winner: FocalPoint, just in time for contact tracing, Focalpoint increases the accuracy of the positioning ability of mobiles, wearables and vehicles in urban environments.

Hottest SaaS/B2B Startup

Akur8, AI-based insurance pricing solution that automates risk modeling for insurance companies while keeping full transparency and control on the models created, as required by regulators worldwide.

AnyDesk, fastest and most seamless remote desktop offering for today’s workforce

Chattermill, helping companies understand and improve customer experience, by taking unstructured customer feedback and generating clear and actionable customer experience insights.

Dixa, a customer service platform that unifies channels and data to create exceptional experiences for agents and customers alike

Funnel, helping businesses become fully data-driven and answer all their marketing and business questions easily with the help of the data they have.

Huub, an integrated logistics platform which is fully dedicated to fashion brands
Keylight, platform for managing and selling subscriptions

Polystream, the world’s most scalable 3D interactive cloud streaming platform

Winner: Funnel – Funnel collects and normalizes data from all digital marketing channels that then allows it to be analysed. With digital marketing still leading the spend, Funnel continues to grow with it.

Hottest AI Startup

Builder.ai, Platform builds, runs and scales just about anything you can think of.

Monolith AI, the first AI Platform for Engineers to enable companies to build better products, dramatically faster

Mostly AI, A Synthetic Data platform, leveraging generative AI, that allows organizations to balance their need for AI & Big Data Innovation with privacy protection.

Papercup, A tool which translates voices, allowing all audio and video content to be watched in other languages.

Sonantic, The world’s most expressive and realistic artificial voices

Speechly, Developer tool for next-generation voice user interfaces

Veriff, building an AI driven tool to verify a person’s identity online.

Winner: Builder.ai, At a time when every business needs to be digital, Builder.AI giving them an easy way to go live fast.

Hottest Blockchain Startup

Fireblocks, a Secure Asset Transfer Network that enables financial institutions to move, store and issue digital assets on-chain, without compromising speed or security.

Trustology, A custodial wallet for individuals and businesses

Ubirch, Enabling New Data Driven Business Models, by Making Data Trustworthy and Verifiable Through Blockchain Technology.

Nexus Mutual, uses the power of blockchain technology and Ethereum to allow people from all over the world to share insurance risk together without the need for an insurance company.

Winner: Fireblocks, As digital assets are increasingly held by mainstream banks, a secure and fast way for them to hold and move them.

Hottest Quantum Startup

IQM, builds useful quantum computers to generate value for the society using faster quantum processors designed hand-in-hand with their applications.

Oxford Quantum Circuits, building quantum computers, to help solve some of humanity’s most pressing challenges, from the discovery of new drugs to the development of secure communications.

Phasecraft, developing fundamental quantum theory and software for quantum computers. aims to design quantum algorithms to solve problems beyond the capacity of classical computation

Rahko, building the capability to model the behaviour of drugs and chemical reactions, and design advanced materials with vastly greater speed and accuracy than what is currently possible, at greatly reduced cost.

Winner: Rahko – building “quantum discovery” capabilities for chemical simulation, which could enable groundbreaking advances in batteries, chemicals, advanced materials and drugs.

Hottest European Accelerator

ATI Boeing
Entrepreneur First
Founders Factory
Seraphim Space Camp
SetSquared Bristol
Startup Wise Guys

Winner: SetSquared Bristol, This regional player has helped propel some of the UK’s leading startups to success, including Immersive Labs and Ultraleap (ultrahaptics).

Hottest European Seed Investor

Cavalry Ventures, an early stage venture fund based in Berlin with true value-add for founders.

Entrepreneur First, an international Talent Investor, which supports individuals to build technology companies. It has offices in seven locations; Toronto, London, Berlin, Paris, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Bangalore.

Forward Partners, a venture fund meets startup studio, investing capital, craft and capability from day one…UK

Kima Ventures, Paris based – Kima Ventures is one of the world’s most active early-stage investors, investing in 2 to 3 startups per week all over the world; providing founders with funding, network, and support for them to reach the next steps of their journey.

Playfair Capital, an early-stage fund that commits to companies early and with conviction. Based in London, Playfair combines the best aspects of angel investing with a focused fund, to invest in truly ambitious founders, wherever they are in the world

Winner: Playfair Capital, Based in London, Playfair combines the best aspects of angel investing with a focused fund, to invest in truly ambitious founders, wherever they are in the world. Playfair takes a sector-agnostic approach and investments span deep tech, SaaS, marketplaces and B2B companies. We’ve backed the founders of more than 50 companies including CryptoFacilities, Mapillary, Ravelin, Stripe, Thought Machine and Trouva. Recent exit, Mapilliary sold to FB.

Hottest European VC

Accel
Balderton
EQT Ventures
Draper Esprit
IDInvest
Joyance
Northzone
Target Global

Winner: EQT Ventures, founded and run by the founders who built and scaled King, Spotify, Booking.com, Hotels.com, Huddle, and Lithium to name but a few. Building a global success story takes more than just money. It takes a whole ecosystem of expertise and support from people who’ve done it before, made plenty of mistakes along the way and learnt from them.

Hottest European Unicorn

Bolt, the European transportation platform providing ride-hailing and scooter sharing services.

DoctoLib, the online booking platform and management software provider for doctors in Europe

Klarna, the e-commerce payment solutions platform for merchants and shoppers.

Meero, the world’s leading on-demand photography platform

Winner: Bolt raised €100 million from Naya Capital Management, pushing its valuation to €1.7 billion. The Estonian business will use the funds to increase its market share by investing in its ridehailing, food delivery and e-scooter segments. The investment comes as many ridehailing companies are struggling amid the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. Europe’s third fastest growing company in FT 1000 for the second year in a row.

The “Pathfounder” Of The Year award

Dom Hallas, Coadec, UK
Kinga Staniilawska, Poland
Richard Godfrey, UK, CEO of Rocketmakers

Taavet Hinrikus, Estonia, UK

Winner: Taavet Hinrikus

 

This year’s judges were:

Anne Boden
CEO
Starling Bank

Bernhard Niesner
CEO and c-founder
busuu

Chris Morton
CEO and founder
Lyst

Claire Novorol
Co-Founder & Chief Medical Officer
Ada Health

Clare Jones
Chief Commercial Officer
what3words

Emily Orton
Co-founder & Chief Marketing Officer
Darktrace

Holly Jacobus
Investment Partner
Joyance Partners, New York

Husayn Kassai
CEO and co-founder
Onfido

Julia Bosch
Founder and CEO
Outfittery

Julia Hawkins
Partner
LocalGlobe

Kieran O’Neill
CEO and co-founder
Thread

Leanne Kemp
Founder & CEO
Everledger

Lina Wenner
Principal
Firstminute Capital

Luca Bocchio
Principal
Accel

Nate Lanxon (Speaker)
Editor and Tech Correspondent
Bloomberg

Tania Boler
CEO and founder
Elvie

Raph Crouan
Venture Partner
C4 Ventures

Mike Butcher (Chair)
Editor-at-large
TechCrunch

Read the original post: Here are the winners of The Europas Awards 2020 – Even a pandemic can’t stop these startups

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Amsterdam ejects Airbnb et al from three central districts in latest P2P platform limits

Another brick in the wall for vacation rental platforms: Amsterdam is booting Airbnb and other such platforms from three districts in the city’s old center from July 1, further tightening its rules for such services.

In other districts in the famous city of canals, vacation rentals will only be permitted with a permit from next Wednesday, still for a maximum of 30 nights per year.

The latest tightening of the city’s rules on Airbnb and similar platforms comes after a period of consultation with residents and organizations which city authorities say drew 780 responses — a full 75% of which supported banning the platforms from operating in the three central districts.

The three districts where vacation rentals on platforms such as Airbnb are prohibited from next Wednesday are: Burgwallen-Oude Zijde, Burgwallen-Nieuwe Zijde and the Grachtengordel-Zuid.

“This [consultation] indicates that the subject is very much alive among Amsterdammers. What is striking is that no less than 75% are in favor of a ban on holiday rentals in the three districts, said deputy mayor Laurens Ivens in a press release [translated from Dutch using DeepL].

Furthermore, Ivens said the consultation exercise showed some support for a citywide ban on such platforms. However current pan-EU rules — notably the European Services Directive — limit how cities can respond to public sentiment against such services. Hence Amsterdam applying the ban to specific districts where it has been able to confirm tourism leads to major disruption.

The legal cover afforded to vacation platforms operating in the region by the European Services Directive has shown itself to be robust to challenge, after Europe’s top court ruled in December that Airbnb is an online intermediation service. A French tourism association had sought to argue the platform should rather be required to comply with real estate regulations.

Ivens said Amsterdam will conduct another tourism review in two years — and may add more districts to the ban list if it finds similar problems have migrated there.

These are by no means the first restrictions the city has put on vacation rental platforms. Back in 2018 it tightened a cap on the number of nights properties can be rented, squeezing it from 60 nights to 30 per year.

Yet despite such restrictions city authorities note tourist rental of homes has experienced “strong growth” in recent years, with 1 in 15 homes in Amsterdam being offered online. It also said that the supply of homes on the various platforms has increased five-fold — amounting to around 25,000 advertisements per month.

Due to this increase, tourist rental has an increasingly negative impact on the quality of life in various Amsterdam neighborhoods, the council writes in a press release.

The permit system being brought in is intended to aid enforcement of tighter rules — with stipulations that a house must be inhabited; and that the maximum of 30 nights per year can only be rented to a maximum of four people. The council has also made it mandatory for those renting homes on vacation rental platforms to report to the municipality every time the house is rented, so will be building up its own data set on how these platforms are being used.

Additional changes to Amsterdam’s housing regulations also include higher fines for repeat offender landlords, such as if they rent a property without a permit or violate the maximum number of nights for holiday rentals.

The city has also put limits on conversions, stipulating that only properties larger than 100 m2 may be converted into two or more smaller homes — a provision that seems aimed at landlords who try to maximize holiday rental income by turning a single larger property into two or more smaller flats, and thereby reducing suitable housing stock for larger families.

After early skirmishes between cities and vacation rental platforms related to the collection of tourist taxes, access to data remains an ongoing bone of contention — with cities pressing platforms to share data in order that they can enforce tighter regulations. Platforms, meanwhile, have a clear commercial incentive to avoid such transparency.

In 2018, for example, city officials in Amsterdam called for Airbnb to share “specific rental data with authorities — who is renting out for how long, and to how many people.”

We’ve asked Airbnb to confirm what data it shares with the city now.

The European Commission has sought to play a mediating role here, announcing earlier this year it had secured agreement with P2P rental platforms Airbnb, Booking.com, Expedia Group and Tripadvisor to share limited pan-EU data — and saying it wanted to encourage “balanced” development of the sector while noting concerns that such platforms put unsustainable pressure on local communities.

The initial pan-EU data points the platforms agreed to share are number of nights booked and number of guests, aggregated at the level of “municipalities.” A second phase of the arrangement will see platforms share data on the number of properties rented and the proportion that are full property rentals versus rooms in occupied properties.

However, the Commission is also in the process of updating the rules around digital services, via the forthcoming Digital Services Act. So it’s possible it could propose specific data access obligations on vacation rental platforms.

We reached out to the Commission to ask if it’s considering updates in this area and will update this report with any response.

Ten EU cities — including Amsterdam — penned an open letter last year, calling on the Commission to introduce “strong legal obligations for platforms to cooperate with us in registration-schemes and in supplying rental-data per house that is advertised on their platforms.” So the regional pressure for better platform governance is loud and clear.

Read the original post: Amsterdam ejects Airbnb et al from three central districts in latest P2P platform limits

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