Daimler pours millions into electric bus company Proterra

Proterra has raised $155 million in a funding round co-led by Daimler and Tao Capital Partner, a deal that could transform the school bus market in North America.

Until now, Proterra has focused on producing electric buses for municipal, federal and commercial transit agencies. The company has developed a line of electric buses that can travel 350 miles on a single charge, enough range to last entire day. Proterra has sold hundreds of its all-electric buses as cities try to reduce tailpipe emissions.

This latest investment comes with a catch: Proterra will work with Daimler to possibly electrify the company’s Thomas Built Buses division, which manufactures a line of school buses. The two companies didn’t provide a lot of detail on when electric school buses might come to market.

For now, the two companies are only committing publicly to collaborating on an electric vehicle for the school bus market. Proterra, which has two factories in the U.S., will lend its battery and drive train expertise. Daimler will show Proterra how to scale its manufacturing business even further.

Proterra raised $140 million in January 2017.  The company filed a restated certificate of Incorporation authorizing $100M in new equity funding on May 18, according to the Prime Unicorn Index.

G2VP and other technology investors also participated in this latest funding round, Proterra said.

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Vezeeta, the leading MENA healthcare startup, secures $12M Series C led by STV

One of the major structural issues in the Middle East is the lack of consistent healthcare across the region. So this market was clearly waiting to be disrupted by technology.

In 2011 Vezeeta came along to change that. Launched initially in Cairo as a sort of “Uber for Ambulances”, it has since expanded to cover a wide area of the MENA population across several cities, and now provides a much wider range of health services to both patients and healthcare professionals.

By solving the ambulance problem, it reversed backwards inside the healthcare systems to provide a free of charge medical search platform for end users by integrating information about medical practices and doctors’ individual schedules. This scheduling system is provided on a paid subscription basis for medical personnel, allowing users to find a free slot in a doctor’s schedule and make appointments. And it’s gradually going well beyond that.

Vezeeta, has today announced a Series C investment of $12M led by Saudi Technology Ventures, the largest VC fund in the region. Joining the round are existing investors: BECO Capital (UAE), Vostok New Ventures (Sweden) and Silicon Badia (Jordan), along with new investor Crescent Enterprises’ CE-Ventures (UAE). Vezeeta says the financing will be used to fund its continued expansion primarily in (the increasingly more open) Saudi Arabia and for further investments in key new products.

Competition-wise Vezeeta is in a good place with only smaller players like Dabadoc in Morocco which are usually very region-locked. Vezeeta has alone succeeded in expanding across the whole region.

Amir Barsoum, founder and CEO of Vezeeta said in a statement: “We could not find a better investment team or strategic partner to help us take Vezeeta to its next stage in the region. We also welcome to our prominent investors profile, CE-Ventures, and we are proud to receive the continuous support from our current investors BECO Capital, Vostok New Ventures and Silicon Badia.”

“Upon meeting Amir and Vezeeta’s management team, it was immediately apparent to us that they are on such a mission. We believe Amir and the Vezeeta team can truly elevate the healthcare experience in the region,” said Hani Enaya, Partner at STV.

Vezeeta claims it has managed 3 million bookings in the region, served 2.5 million consumers/patients and connected more than 10,000 doctors in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan.

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IBM launches cloud tool to detect AI bias and explain automated decisions

IBM has launched a software service that scans AI systems as they work in order to detect bias and provide explanations for the automated decisions being made — a degree of transparency that may be necessary for compliance purposes not just a company’s own due diligence.

The new trust and transparency system runs on the IBM cloud and works with models built from what IBM bills as a wide variety of popular machine learning frameworks and AI-build environments — including its own Watson tech, as well as Tensorflow, SparkML, AWS SageMaker, and AzureML.

It says the service can be customized to specific organizational needs via programming to take account of the “unique decision factors of any business workflow”.

The fully automated SaaS explains decision-making and detects bias in AI models at runtime — so as decisions are being made — which means it’s capturing “potentially unfair outcomes as they occur”, as IBM puts it.

It will also automatically recommend data to add to the model to help mitigate any bias that has been detected.

Explanations of AI decisions include showing which factors weighted the decision in one direction vs another; the confidence in the recommendation; and the factors behind that confidence.

IBM also says the software keeps records of the AI model’s accuracy, performance and fairness, along with the lineage of the AI systems — meaning they can be “easily traced and recalled for customer service, regulatory or compliance reasons”.

For one example on the compliance front, the EU’s GDPR privacy framework references automated decision making, and includes a right for people to be given detailed explanations of how algorithms work in certain scenarios — meaning businesses may need to be able to audit their AIs.

The IBM AI scanner tool provides a breakdown of automated decisions via visual dashboards — an approach it bills as reducing dependency on “specialized AI skills”.

However it is also intending its own professional services staff to work with businesses to use the new software service. So it will be both selling AI, ‘a fix’ for AI’s imperfections, and experts to help smooth any wrinkles when enterprises are trying to fix their AIs… Which suggests that while AI will indeed remove some jobs, automation will be busy creating other types of work.

Nor is IBM the first professional services firm to spot a business opportunity around AI bias. A few months ago Accenture outed a fairness tool for identifying and fixing unfair AIs.

So with a major push towards automation across multiple industries there also looks to be a pretty sizeable scramble to set up and sell services to patch any problems that arise as a result of increasing use of AI.

And, indeed, to encourage more businesses to feel confident about jumping in and automating more. (On that front IBM cites research it conducted which found that while 82% of enterprises are considering AI deployments, 60% fear liability issues and 63% lack the in-house talent to confidently manage the technology.)

In additional to launching its own (paid for) AI auditing tool, IBM says its research division will be open sourcing an AI bias detection and mitigation toolkit — with the aim of encouraging “global collaboration around addressing bias in AI”.

“IBM led the industry in establishing trust and transparency principles for the development of new AI technologies. It’s time to translate principles into practice,” said David Kenny, SVP of cognitive solutions at IBM, commenting in a statement. “We are giving new transparency and control to the businesses who use AI and face the most potential risk from any flawed decision making.”

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Waitrose switches up a gear to launch two-hour grocery deliveries in London

Up market UK supermarket chain Waitrose will start trialing two-hour or same day delivery options in certain London postcodes from tomorrow.

It’s partnering with CitySprint Group courier delivery spin-out On the Dot for the deliveries which will be made by electric and hydrogen vans and push bikes and cargo bikes (billed as a zero-emission fleet).

The supermarket says the service is being launched in response to customer demand for more ‘little and often’ shopping trips rather than the traditional weekly haul.

Waitrose has long had its own online supermarket, Waitrose.com (and prior to 2010 via Ocado), but the new on-demand delivery option (which it’s calling Waitrose Rapid Delivery) looks intended to supplement that and fill in any competitive gaps opened up as a result of young shoppers not being so keen to commit to a big weekly shop — with the supermarket flagging “flexibility and convenience” as the drivers.

It cites research it commissioned which found two-thirds of UK shoppers regularly or occasionally visit a supermarket more than once a day, saying the trend is particularly prevalent among 18-to 24-year olds who it found to be twice as likely to visit a supermarket twice a day as the over-55s.

Other UK supermarkets have already made moves to cater to Brits’ changing grocery shopping habits, with Sainsbury’s first to the punch to offer a 60-minute delivery service (called Chop Chop) for small food shops in London in 2016, before extending it to additional London postcodes last year.

Tesco responded with its own one-hour delivery service in summer 2017, including in central London.

Not directly mentioned in Waitrose’s PR for the rapid delivery launch, but likely also on its mind, is additional competition from ecommerce giant Amazon — which launched its AmazonFresh grocery delivery service for Prime members in London two years ago.

Prime members must pay an additional subscription to sign up for Prime Fresh, with the subscription business model acting as a sort of double lock-in.

Waitrose’s rapid delivery option is being launched in the following London postcodes initially: SW5, SW6, SW10, WC1, WC2, EC1, CR5 and CR8 — with a wider rollout slated as “likely” next year, if the trial goes to plan. 

Customers in the trial areas can choose up to 20 items per delivery from more than 1,500 products at rapid.waitrose.comThey then get the option of receiving their shopping within two hours of placing the order or they can specify a one-hour time slot that same day.

The service has a £10 minimum spend and there is also a £5 charge applied for delivery in either two hours or the same day.

Waitrose says products will be hand-picked and prepared for delivery by Waitrose Partners — at either its London shops in Fulham and Bloomsbury or at its dot.com distribution centre in Coulsdon, Surrey.

On-demand grocery delivery may now be increasingly on offer to urban dwellers from UK supermarket giants but five years ago startups were toying with offering Instacart-style personal shopper services.

It now looks like grocery deliveries will be mostly folded into the existing supermarket mix via add-on services — depending on the size of grocery pie-slice Amazon can carve itself.

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Review: Apple Watch Series 4

Roughly two-and-half minutes into my run, the watch kicks in. There’s a haptic buzz on my wrist.

“It looks like you’re working out,” the watch face reads. That’s followed by a big, yellow button, suggesting I start an indoor run. I tap the neon button and the clock starts, comping me a reasonable approximation of the time it took for the Watch to be sure what sort of activity it was detecting.

I wasn’t actually planning to test the feature on this particular run. In all the stretching/music picking/treadmill setting pre-run ritual, I’d just forgotten to set the damn thing. It feels like a small thing, but, then, most of the updates are relatively small in the grand scheme of things. In the case of the Apple Watch, radically departure would almost certainly be a bad thing.

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You see, there are smartwatches and then there’s the Apple Watch. That’s not so much a tacit endorsement of the product, so much as an objective analysis of the numbers. Numbers from IDC earlier this year show Apple leading all wearables on the strength of its single smartwatch.

In fact, the company accounted for more than half of smartwatch shipments last year. Simply put, the Apple Watch has long represented a rare bright spot in a flagging wearables category. The device has been successful enough for long enough that analysts are once again bullish on the category going forward. That’s an impressive feat by any measure.

So what’s a market-dominating smartwatch maker to do? For Apple, the answer is two-fold. First, improve upon the overall experience without altering anything too much. With the Apple Watch Series 4, that means subtle hardware improvements like a larger screen while maintaining a similar form factor, as well as tweaks like the addition of haptic feedback to the Watch’s crown.

After all, Apple’s success doesn’t lie in any single standout feature. Rather, as with the iPhone, the company has excelled in providing an overall hardware and software experience that makes it possible to use the product mostly without thinking — as evidenced by the above workout feature.

Second, show the world precisely how committed you are to health. Even with the existence of cheaper fitness trackers, health and fitness have long been understood to be the primary drivers in smartwatch sales. For Fitbit, that means pivoting much of the company toward health care.

For Apple, it’s finding ways to have the Watch taken more seriously as a health-monitoring device. While it’s true that the product won’t be replacing medical products any time soon, the wearable has the decided advantage of constant monitoring.

That means, unlike hospital equipment and other pricier technology, it can be worn as a kind of safeguard. New features like the ECG (electrocardiogram) monitor on the rear of the device and automatic fall detection aren’t aimed at replacing doctor checkups. They’re safeguards for those times when users aren’t in a doctor’s care.

Analysts have bet much of the category’s future growth on Apple’s ability to identify and target new markets. Having cornered techies and a younger demographic, older users and those with health problems present a clear way to expand the Watch’s existing base.

Day to day

I wear a lot of smartwatches. It’s a byproduct/perk of the job. Between reviews, however, I always come back to the Apple Watch. For one thing, while I switch back and forth between Android and iOS handsets, my primary phone is an iPhone. One of Apple’s biggest appeals has been its ecosystem. The products just work well with one another to a fault — and once you’re locked in, it’s hard to get out.

That’s not the sole reason, of course. Google, Samsung and Fitbit all have iOS apps now. And while integration isn’t perfect, it’s certainly usable. The fact is that the Apple Watch is an elegant solution from both a hardware and software standpoint. It walks the key wearable line of being engaging when necessary and fading into the background the rest of the time.

Contrary to early reports (and speculation over that event invite), Apple stuck with the squircle (it’s a real geometry term, look it up) this time out. The design was a bit polarizing early on, but I suspect most users have since come to appreciate the things it affords, including the ability to fit more text on the screen.

The face of it

Of course, that’s doubly the case here. The clearest difference on the hardware side of the increased display size, which, like the iPhone X, Apple managed to increase the screen without making much of a dent in the overall footprint.

The Series 4’s case is slightly larger and wider than its predecessor, but it’s not really noticeable unless you happen to have two side-by-side. Even with the slightly larger surface area, the Apple Watch remains one of the more wearable wearables.

If you’ve used an earlier version with any regularity, on the other other hand, the increase in surface area is pretty readily apparent, especially when an email notification comes through. It also means app developers can jam in more detail and the Watch’s faces can feature additional complications (a descriptor I suspect makes Apple designers die inside a bit every time they have to utter it).

With the 30 percent larger display, you can add things like the Breathe app to the face for easy access. It’s a rare instance of the company pushing to bring more detail to a surface, but with the limited real estate afforded by a smartwatch screen, you take every precious millimeter you can get. The fact that the bezels are smaller also means app designers don’t have to lean as heavily on black backgrounds to help mask the unused space.

On the case

Apple also managed to make the new watch thinner than its predecessors. The benefit there is obvious when it comes to making a product designed to be worn on the body. And the slightly larger case size means Apple was able to accomplish this without having an impact on battery life.

It’s an interesting choice, given that much of the competition has zeroed in on battery life with recent upgrades, including, notably, the new Galaxy Watch, which Samsung rates at “several days.” With good reason — battery has long been one of the biggest issues with smartwatches.

As with earlier versions, Apple rates the Series 4’s battery at “all day,” which certainly lines up with my own testing. Even so, I would happily trade a millimeter or two of thickness for some additional mAhs. As it stands, you should be able to get through a day’s use without worrying about finding a charger, but the peace of mind of more battery life is always welcome.

I admit I didn’t think much of the digital crown when Apple mentioned it on stage. If anything, it sounded like a sort of parlor trick. When I finally had a chance to try the device on at the event the other week, however, I was surprised at how much I dug it.

Spinning the circle really feels like turning a mechanical dial. And when there’s nothing on screen to move by spinning it, the feedback simply shuts off. Again, it’s a small touch, but a nice one, nonetheless. This is still probably the one spot where Samsung really has a leg up on Apple. The Galaxy (nee Gear)’s spinning bezel is still my favorite method for interacting with smartwatch menus (and the top reason to consider a Samsung model). Though the new digital crown is a fairly close second place.

For your health

Apple devoted a good amount of the Apple Watch’s stage time to health and wellness. And understandably so. The company firmly believes that the product’s capabilities as a health monitor are the way forward for the Apple Watch. Added sophisticated tools like the ECG also go a long way toward the company continuing to position the wearable as a premium product.

After all, budget devices from companies like Xiaomi represent the other key growth area in the fitness space. Apple has also seen a surprisingly successful competitor in the form of the $200 Fitbit Versa. Sure, the company got off to a rocky start, but its latest Pebble-esque smartwatch looks to be a bonafide hit. And it’s a pretty solid solution for those looking for a low-cost or Android-friendly solution.

ECG is an interesting addition, because for most users, it’s not an everyday feature. It’s a great addition for older users and those with existing conditions. Information collected day to day can be shared with doctors via the Apple Health app. For the rest of us, the product has the potential to flag irregularities and things like atrial fibrillation.

No one is suggesting an FDA-approved feature can or should replace a doctor, but if it helps shed some light on heart issues, that’s certainly a net positive. And that’s really where the Apple Watch thrives as a health care device — it offers potential insight into larger issues. That includes the addition of things like low heart rate notifications in watchOS 5 (which joins the high heart rate notifications from its predecessor) and the irregular rhythm notifications that arrive via the ECG.

The feature won’t be available until later this year, so I wasn’t able to test the thing. And when it does arrive, it will only be available in the U.S., likely due to the intricacies of different health regulatory bodies from country to country. When it does arrive, it will work as follows, per Apple: “Simply touch the Digital Crown to generate an ECG waveform in just 30 seconds. This data can indicate whether your heart rhythm shows signs of atrial fibrillation — a serious form of irregular heart rhythm — or sinus rhythm, which means your heart is beating in a normal pattern.”

That means the crown is essentially doing double duty, serving as one of two electrodes (the other is on the rear of the watch) for measuring heart rhythms. It’s a pretty novel addition to an existing feature.

Fall detection is the other feature I’ll readily admit I wasn’t able to properly test this time out. The feature is automatically enabled for users aged 65 and over. Everyone else will have to manually enable it via the iPhone app under the Emergency SOS setting. When it detects a fall, an Emergency SOS screen will pop up — not dissimilar to those Life Alert devices from the 80s. If the wearer is unresponsive for a minute, it will send out the alert.

I can, however, attest to the fact that I didn’t register any false alerts while wearing the device. Slamming your hands on the desk or collapsing into your bed won’t set it off. Apparently stunt people and others trained at falling won’t be able to set it off, either. I tried taking a few controlled spills into my rabbit’s floor pads, with no results beyond sore hands and a confused bunny. Don’t try this at home, kids.

Watch this space

There are other fun features scattered throughout. Walkie Talkie is a cool one. It’s more of a fun novelty than an indispensable addition. It’s a quick and easy way to communicate with fellow Apple Watch owners over Wi-Fi or cellular, sending through transmissions with the push of a button. It’s also a good way to take advantage of 50 percent louder speakers.

The Series 4 isn’t the kind of refresh that justifies upgrading from the last generation, especially given the $399 and $499 starting prices for the standard and LTE models, respectively. But there’s certainly enough here to keep the Apple Watch at the top of the smartwatch heap. The addition of serious health features like ECG and fall detection further lay the groundwork for a what the device — and category — will become, going forward.

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Tandem CEO will tell you why building a bank is hard at Disrupt Berlin

Challenger banks, neobanks or digital-only banks… Whatever we choose to call them, Europe — and the U.K. in particular — has more than its fair share of bank upstarts battling it out for a slice of the growing fintech pie. One of those is Tandem, co-founded by financial technology veteran Ricky Knox, who we’re excited to announce will join us at TechCrunch Disrupt Berlin.

Tandem — or the so-called “Good Bank” — has been on quite a journey this year. Most recently the bank launched a competitive fixed savings product, pitting it against a whole host of incumbent and challenger banks. It followed the launch of the Tandem credit card in February, which competes well on cash-back and FX rates when spending abroad.

Both products are part of a wider strategy where, like many other consumer-facing fintechs, Tandem wants to become your financial control centre and connect you to and offer various financial services. These are either products of its own or through partnerships with other fintech startups and more established providers.

At the heart of this is the Tandem mobile app, which acts as a Personal Finance Manager (PFM), including letting you aggregate your non-Tandem bank account data from other bank accounts or credit cards you might have, in addition to managing any Tandem products you’ve taken out. The company recently acquired fintech startup Pariti to beef up its account aggregation features.

However, what makes Tandem’s recent progress all the more interesting is that it comes after a definite bump in the road last year. This saw the company temporarily lose its banking license and forced to make lay-offs following the partial collapse of a £35 million investment round from department store House of Fraser, due to restrictions on capital leaving China. The remedy was further investment from existing backers and the bold move to acquire Harrods Bank, the banking arm of the U.K.’s most famous luxury department store.

As you can see, there is plenty to talk about. And some. So, why not grab your ticket to Disrupt Berlin to listen to the Tandem story. The conference will take place on November 29-30.

In addition to fireside chats and panels, like this one, new startups will participate in the Startup Battlefield Europe to win the highly coveted Battlefield cup.


Ricky Knox

CEO & Co-Founder, Tandem

Ricky is a serial investor and entrepreuner. He has built five technology disruptors in fintech and telecoms, each of which also does a bit of good for the world.

Before Tandem he founded Azimo and Small World, two remittance businesses, and is managing partner of Hexagon Partners, a private equity firm. He built Tandem to be a digital bank that helps improve customers’ lives with money.

Ricky has a first class degree from Bristol University and an MBA from INSEAD.

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Twitter’s former Head of People EMEA joins VC firm Atomico as Partner

Atomico, the European venture capital firm founded by Skype’s Niklas Zennström, is announcing a number of new hires to its investment team, including new Partner Caroline Chayot, who previously led the EMEA HR team at Twitter.

I’m told she’ll be working alongside existing Atomico Partner Dan Hynes, who was formerly the Director of Global Staffing at Skype, with the pair helping meet increased demand from Atomico’s portfolio companies for talent support.

At Twitter, Chayot is said to have supported the leadership team in scaling the social media behemoth from two to six markets, growing the team from 80 based in London to 500 across the region. Prior to that she worked at Google in HR for 9 years.

In addition, Irina Haivas has joined Atomico as Principal. The former surgeon and former surgical fellow at Harvard Medical School (yes, you read that correctly) previously worked at healthcare investor GHO Capital Partners. She’ll focus on sourcing investment opportunities in machine intelligence-enabled businesses, synthetic biology, robotics and other “frontier technologies”.

The other new members of the 30-strong Atomico investment team are:

  • Senior Associate Annalise Dragic, a recent Stanford MBA graduate and who was a member of LinkedIn’s Strategy & Analytics Leadership Program’s inaugural class. She’ll be focusing on the U.K.
  • Associate Luca Eisenstecken, a German native who spent the last two years in San Francisco with Vector Capital. He’ll be covering Germany, Austria and Switzerland.
  • Associate Christina Fa, who grew up in Australia and New Zealand and joins Atomico from Google’s Corporate Finance team in Mountain View. She’ll be focusing on the Nordics and Baltic regions.
  • IR Associate Gunita Bhasin, who joins Atomico from Deutsche Bank and has lived and studied in India, Singapore, Turkey, and the U.K. She’ll support long-time Head of IR Camilla Richards in managing Atomico’s relationships with its global investor base.

Finally, it would be remiss of me not to mention Atomico’s new addition to its communications team. Eleanor Warnock, formerly with the Wall Street Journal, has joined the VC firm as Communications Manager. The hack-turned-flack will work alongside Atomico’s Head of Communications Bryce Keane to help raise the profile of the firm’s portfolio companies internationally.

Meanwhile, it’s that time of year again. Atomico has launched its latest State of European Tech survey, where it seeks your help in capturing a data-driven snapshot of the current European tech ecosystem and to confront a number of myths along the way. You can read TC’s analysis of the 2017 report here, and if you’d like to contribute, this year’s survey can be found here.

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Sony announces the PlayStation Classic, its own mini retro console

If you’re the kind of person who has two beers and regularly launches into the same 20 minute-long ode to the original PlayStation for playing a seminal role in the maturation of gaming as an art form, well, do we have some news for you. Sony just announced its intentions to give the PlayStation the (winning) Nintendo Classic treatment with a tiny to-scale version of the PS1 called the PlayStation Classic. The teeniest new console is scheduled to hit shelves on December 3, retailing for $99.99.

Like Nintendo’s wildly popular SNES and NES Classics that paved the way, Sony’s PlayStation Classic will come pre-loaded with a cache of well-loved games. The PlayStation Classic’s lineup will feature 20 classic games, including Final Fantasy VII [editor’s note: hell yeah], Jumping Flash, Ridge Racer Type 4, Tekken 3, and Wild Arms. 

“Almost 25 years ago, the original PlayStation was introduced to the world. Developed by Sony Computer Entertainment, it was the first home console in video game history to ship 100 million units worldwide, offering consumers a chance to play games with real-time 3D rendered graphics in their homes for the first time,” Sony said, waxing nostalgic in a blog post announcing the console. We’re here for it.

“Long-time fans will appreciate the nostalgia that comes with rediscovering the games they know and love, while gamers who might be new to the platform can enjoy the groundbreaking PlayStation console experience that started it all.”

According to Sony, the new mini PlayStation will be 45% smaller than a real PlayStation, complete with smaller controllers that also mimic their forebears. Each unit will ship with an HDMI and USB cable and two controllers for couch multiplayer. The consoles will be available to pre-order at some retailers in Canada and the U.S and more details (including the 15 other games) so keep an eye out — Sony will be sharing more details “in the coming months.” All games “will be playable in their original format” so expect them to look and feel just like they did in the dark ages, when things were simple and good.

Most of us can agree that this particular nostalgia baiting tactic is awesome, take our money, but have you seen this thing? It’s extra cute. Maybe it’s because the PS1 had those iconic circular buttons that echoed its game discs and round things are cute like Kirby is cute (Toad, on the other hand, is over).

I can still remember exactly how much give the original PlayStation’s buttons had when you pushed them, how the disc hood opened gracefully, almost suspensefully… sure I gave five years of my actual life to this thing — what’s a few months more?

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‘Brotopia’ inspired OODA Health to raise its $40.5M round only from firm’s with female partners

It’s never particularly easy to raise a round of venture capital — but I think most experienced founders will tell you its not quite as bad the second or third time around, when you’ve got some experience under your belt and a track record to present to VCs.

It helps if you’re male too, at least according to all the data out there on the gender funding gap in VC.

The leadership team at OODA Health, a startup developing technology to make the U.S. healthcare payment system more efficient, is both male and experienced. But unlike most companies of that nature, OODA decided to raise money for the business only from VC firms that have at least one female leader, a solution to one of tech’s greatest problems that is oft suggested and rarely executed.

“‘Brotopia’ really hit me hard,” OODA Health co-founder and CEO Giovanni Colella told TechCrunch.

Colella is the founder and former CEO of Castlight Health, which raised nearly $200 million in VC funding before going public on the NYSE in 2014. Co-founder and COO Seth Cohen is Castlight’s former VP of sales and alliances and co-founder and CTO Usama Fayyad is the former global chief data officer at Barclays and Yahoo .

The trio ultimately landed on lead investors Annie Lamont of Oak HC/FT and Emily Melton of DFJ, both of which have joined the company’s board of directors.

We have a responsibility of setting an example,” Colella said. “There is no machismo in what we’ve done. We are not better than you because we did it. We were blessed. We had more investors that wanted to invest than we could accommodate.”

Though the company’s c-suite is occupied by men, Cohen and Colella were quick to clarify that the rest of their founding team, head of operations Julie Skaff, head of product Sophie Pinkard and director of product strategy Midori Uehara, are women.

The team began working on OODA Health last year after Colella and Cohen agreed to build something that would upend the healthcare industry. Healthcare, they realized, is at least 20 years behind the advances in financial tech.

The pair said their real aha moment was when they learned even insurance companies — the real laggards — are ready to be rid of the slow, futile billing and payment methods that accompany any and every doctor and hospital visit.

“The idea of submitting a claim and not knowing when you are going to get reimbursed or get a bill, that has been the same for decades,” Cohen told TechCrunch. “Imagine, today, if you took a Visa card and you went to a restaurant … and then a month later received a bill, that’s how healthcare works.”

If OODA has their way, paying for a doctor’s visit will be more like paying for a hotel. You’re told upfront what you owe and you work exclusively with the insurance company to make that payment. And in this idyllic future, you won’t receive an “explanation of benefits” notice in the mail as well as a bill and subsequently fall into a downward spiral of confusion, stress and frustration.

Headquartered in San Francisco, OODA has teamed with several big-name insurance providers, including Anthem, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona, Blue Shield of California, Zaffre Investments, Dignity Health and Hill Physicians to make this happen.

As far as lifting up women in VC, that’s purely been a side benefit of the overall operation.

“At the end of the day, we found two of the best investors to back us,” Cohen said.

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Vegan meal delivery startup Allplants is served £7.5M Series A funding

Allplants, a London-based startup that delivers ready-made “plant-based” meals (that’s vegan, to you and me), has raised £7.5 million in Series A funding. The round is led by VC firm Octopus Ventures, which was an early backer in healthy snack delivery company Graze.

Additional investors in the round include existing backer Felix Capital (which I’m told has doubled its seed investment), Swedish VC firm Otiva, unnamed partners at VerlInvest (who are participating in a personal capacity), David Milner (ex-CEO Tyrells), Simon Nixon (founder of MoneySupermarket), and video blogger Jack Harries. Allplants reckons it is the U.K.’s largest Series A round for a vegan company.

Based on the premise that switching to a plant-based diet is the most impactful way to reduce our environmental footprint (and improve health), Allplants has developed a delivery service that wants to make it “effortlessly easy to eat more plants”. Specifically, either as a one-off or on a subscription basis, it delivers healthy, chef-made, vegan meals, for you to reheat at home.

They are “quick frozen” to lock in freshness and the idea is that you receive six meals at a time, to serve one or two people each, making the model more scalable and delivery more cost-effective. When your food is delivered you store it in your own freezer and cook/eat as needed, before your next order.

Since being founded in 2017 by brothers Jonathan and Alex Petrides, Allplants says it has served over 250,000 meals nationwide to plant-inspired foodies and built a “movement” with over 70,000 online fans. Notably, the company is a B-Corp, promising to do good by people and the planet.

Meanwhile, Allplants says it will use the investment to develop a broader range of ready-to-eat food, accelerate the growth of its community, further grow its North London-based 40-plus team, and expand the capacity of its production kitchen, which will operate on renewable and waste-created energy.

Adds Allplants’ Jonathan Petrides: “Most allplants customers aren’t veggie or vegan, they’re curious and hunting for convenient, healthy ways to boost their busy lives. This investment well help us fuel the plant-based movement forward”.

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