Cloud gaming platform Shadow gets a new CEO and CTO

There are some changes at the helm of Blade, the French startup behind Shadow. Mike Fischer is going to work for the company and become chief executive officer. Jean-Baptiste Kempf is joining the company as chief technology officer.

Shadow is a cloud computing service for gamers. For a monthly subscription fee, you can access a gaming PC in a data center near you. Compared to other cloud gaming services, such as GeForce Now or Google’s Stadia, Shadow provides a full Windows 10 instance. You can install anything you want — Steam, Photoshop or Word.

The company has been growing rapidly over the past few years and raised more than $ 100 million in total. Last year, the company announced ambitious plans, with a wide-ranging partnership with OVHcloud and high-end configurations.

At the same time, co-founder Emmanuel Freund stepped aside as CEO, with Jérôme Arnaud taking over. There have been multiple delays with the new product offering and the company is no longer working with OVHcloud. Freund left the company in April and, as INpact Hardware reported in July, Arnaud has been on the way out for a couple of months.

All of this leads us to today’s announcement. Mike Fischer, the company’s new CEO, has been quite active in the video game industry. In the past, he has worked at Sega, Bandai Namco, Microsoft and Epic Games. He was the president and CEO of Square Enix between 2010 and 2013.

Jean-Baptiste Kempf is a well-known figure in the open-source community. For the past 14 years, he has been the president of VideoLAN, the organization behind popular media player VLC. VideoLAN has also contributed to widely used video encoding technologies. He also founded VideoLabs, a company that works on VLC-related integrations and support.

The company is still working on rolling out the new Ultra and Infinite configurations to European users who pre-ordered. It originally planned to start rolling out new tiers in the U.S. starting this summer but the company now says it expects to launch these new tiers by the end of the year.

For customers in the U.S., there are no pre-orders, there will simply be a button to upgrade in your account when it’s available. LG invested in the company earlier this year and the service will go live in South Korea later this year, as well.

Startups – TechCrunch

Indian e-commerce deals site CashKaro gets $10 million Series B led by Korea Investment Partners

CashKaro co-founders Rohan and Swati Bhargava

CashKaro co-founders Rohan and Swati Bhargava

CashKaro, one of the leading cashback and coupon sites in India, will expand its range of services for e-commerce after raising $ 10 million in Series B funding, the New Delhi-based startup announced today. The round was led by Korea Investment Partners, with participation from returning investor Kalaari Capital.

TechCrunch last covered CashKaro five years ago when it raised a $ 3.8 million Series A. The latest round brings the company’s total funding so far to $ 15 million.

Over the past five years, the company has introduced new products, including a price comparison service, and EarnKaro, a social commerce cashback app that launched about 18 months ago. Part of the Series B will be used to expand EarnKaro, which has about one million registered users. It allows social commerce sellers, or people who use social media platform and messaging apps like WhatsApp to sell items, make extra cash by creating affiliate links to major e-commerce sites like Amazon and Flipkart. The launch of EarnKaro also allowed CashKaro to reach into smaller cities and rural areas, where shoppers often prefer to order from people whose recommendations they trust (i.e. “micro-influencers”) instead of e-commerce sites.

Founded in 2013 by husband-and-wife team Swati and Rohan Bhargava, CashKaro currently claims about five million users and has partnerships with more than 1,500 e-commerce sites, including some of the biggest players in India, like Amazon, Flipkart, Myntra and Ajio. The company monetizes by charging brands a commission for transactions made through CashKaro links. The commissions are also how CashKaro is able to give cash back to shoppers, which can be deposited into their bank accounts or redeemed as gift vouchers for Flipkart and Amazon. CashKaro’s founders says it currently processes more than one million monthly transactions.

CashKaro competes for the attention of online shoppers with a bevy of other coupon and cashback services in India. Some of its rivals include CouponDunia, GrabOn and GoPaisa.

“We are the only VC-funded cashback site in India. While capital itself is not the differentiator, it is what we have been able to do with that capital which sets us apart,” Bhargava told TechCrunch, adding that CashKaro’s cashback rates are among the highest in the market.

“Given that we now drive close to a half a billion dollars in GMV through CashKaro and EarnKaro to our partner sites, we are able to get higher commission rates from partner sites, which in turn helps us pass the most benefit to our members.”

While COVID-19 has affected e-commerce businesses around the world because of sudden changes in consumer habits, the situation in India was particularly complicated in April and May because there were containment zones throughout the country, and in some zones, deliveries of non-essential items was not allowed until May.

“COVID-19 caught us by surprise and Indian e-commerce was neither prepared to handle the surge in demand, nor did we expect so many supply side and delivery issues,” said Bhargava. “Given CashKaro works with all e-commerce sites, we saw these trends as well.”

Since June, however, sales have started to recover and is seeing growth as people continue to stay home and shop online.

“Our business is growing month on month and, in fact, the pandemic spurred our expansion into new digital categories, like education, gaming and online video streaming, which have seen exponential growth,” Bhargava added. Sales of electronics, home and kitchen items, personal care and beauty have also increased over the past few months.

At the same time, the economic impact of the pandemic has prompted more people to seek cashback offers and other money-saving deals.

“We are seeing that saving consciousness has gone up amongst online shoppers and people are finding services like CashKaro and EarnKaro more useful than ever before,” Bhargava said. “On the client side, our partners, such as Amazon, Myntra and Ajio, are also working with us more closely because they are seeing that our performance marketing model is the perfect way to scale while keeping profitability in mind amidst these tough times.”

The new round of capital will be used for CashKaro’s goal of doubling its registered member base over the next 12 months from the current 5 million. Bhargava told TechCrunch that it will expand cashback offers into categories like credit cards and education, and launch new marketing campaigns focused around events like upcoming festivals and the Indian Premier League season, which starts this weekend.

The company is also “chasing aggressive growth for EarnKaro and reaching out to more influencers, resellers, housewives and students who are our primary target market for this product,” she added. Finally, part of the Series B will be used for hiring, including leadership positions.

For Korea Investment Partners, one of the largest South Korean venture capital firms, CashKaro represents a chance to tap into India’s fast-growing e-commerce market. In a statement, managing partner Hudson Kyung-sik Ho said, “We believe this is a highly scalable opportunity and both Swati and Rohan have set it on a truly exciting growth trajectory. CashKaro and EarnKaro together have shown exceptional unit metrics and we are really excited to be a part of India’s affiliate story.”

Startups – TechCrunch

Point72, the firm investing hedge fund mogul Steven A. Cohen’s personal wealth, gets into healthcare – TechCrunch

Point72, the firm investing hedge fund mogul Steven A. Cohen’s personal wealth, gets into healthcare  TechCrunch
“nigeria startups when:7d” – Google News

Hypatos gets $11.8M for a deep learning approach to document processing

Process automation startup Hypatos has raised a €10 million (~$ 11.8 million) seed round of funding from investors including Blackfin Tech, Grazia Equity, UVC Partners and Plug & Play Ventures.

The Germany and Poland-based company was spun out of AI for accounting startup Smacc at the back end of 2018 to apply deep learning tech to power a wider range of back-office automation, with a focus on industries with heavy financial document processing needs, such as the financial and insurance sectors.

Hypatos is applying language processing AI and computer vision tech to speed up financial document processing for business use cases such as invoices, travel and expense management, loan application validation and insurance claims handling via — touting a training data set of more than 10 million annotated data entities.

It says the new seed funding will go on R&D to expand its portfolio of AI models so it can automate business processing for more types of documents, as well as for fueling growth in Europe, North American and Asia. Its customer base at this point includes Fortune 500 companies, major accounting firms and more than 300 software companies.

While there are plenty of business process automation plays, Hypatos says its use of deep learning tech supports an “in-depth understanding” of document content — which in turn allows it to offer customers a “soup to nuts” automation menu that covers document classification, information capturing, content validation and data enrichment.

It dubs its approach “cognitive process automation” (CPA) versus more basic applications of business process automation with software robots (RPA), which it argues aren’t so contextually savvy — thereby claiming an edge.

As well as document processing solutions, it has developed machine learning modules for enhancing customers’ existing systems (e.g. ECM, ERP, CRM, RPA); and offers APIs for software providers to draw on its machine learning tech for their own applications.

“All offerings include machine learning pipeline software for continuous model training in the cloud or in on-premise deployments,” it notes in a press release.

“We have deep knowledge of how financial documents are processed and millions of data entities in our training data,” says chief commercial officer Cem Dilmegani, discussing where Hypatos fits in the business process automation landscape. “We get compared to RPA companies like UiPath, enterprise content management (ECM) companies like Kofax Readsoft as well as generalist ML document automation companies like Hyperscience. However, we are quite different.

“We focus on end-to-end automation, we don’t only help companies capture data, we help them process it using our deep domain understanding, enabling higher rates of automation. For example, to automate incoming invoice processing (A/P automation) we apply our document understanding AI to capture all data, classify the document, identify the specific goods and services, validate for internal/external compliance and assign financial accounts, cost centers, cost categories etc. to automate all processing tasks.

“Finally, we offer this technology as components easily accessible via APIs. This allows RPA or ECM users to leverage our technology and increase their level of automation.”

Hypatos claims it’s seeing uplift as a result of the coronavirus pandemic — noting it’s providing a service to more than a dozen Fortune 500 companies to help with in-shoring efforts, which it says are accelerating as a result of COVID-19 putting pressure on the traditional business process outsourcing model as offshore workforce productivity in lower wage regions is affected by coronavirus lockdowns.

“We believe that we are in a pivotal moment of machine learning adoption in large organizations,” adds Andreas Unseld, partner at UVC Partners, in a supporting statement. “Hypatos’ technology provides ample opportunity to transform many core business processes. We’re impressed by the Hypatos machine learning technology and see the team in a perfect position to take a leading role in the machine learning revolution to come.”

Startups – TechCrunch

Indonesian insurtech startup PasarPolis gets $54 million Series B from investors including LeapFrog and SBI

PasarPolis, the Indonesian-based startup focused on making insurance policies more accessible in Southeast Asia, announced today it has closed a Series B round totaling $ 54 million. Investors include LeapFrog Investments and SBI Investment, both firms that focus on financial services; AlphaJWC; Intudo Ventures; and Xiaomi.

Gojek’s venture capital arm, Go-Ventures, which participated in PasarPolis’ Series A two years ago, also returned for the new round.

Founded in 2015 by chief executive officer Cleosent Randing and chief operating officer Michael Saputra, PasarPolis operates in Indonesia, Thailand, and Vietnam. The company says the number of insurance policies it issues monthly has grown 80 times since August 2018, when it closed its Series A, and that it now partners with more than 30 insurance providers.

Randing said the the insurance penetration rate in the ASEAN region is currently just 3.6%, and the startup’s goal is to reach people who have never purchased insurance before through products including inexpensive “micro-policies” that cover broken device screens.

In 2019, the company says PasarPolis issued more than 650 million policies to people buying insurance for the first time, including ride-hailing drivers, delivery couriers, and online merchants. Sales continued to grow during the COVID-19 pandemic because it increased demand for insurance, while also prompting people to make more purchases online (most of PasarPolis’ policies are sold through its mobile apps). In June alone, the company claims it served more than four million new customers, and has now provided policies to more than 35 million customers in total.

Nishant Kumar, PasarPolis’ chief technology officer, told TechCrunch that the new funding will be used on its AI-based claim automation platform, which allows the company to customize insurance products for different industries.

It also plans to invest in PasarPolis Mitra, an onboarding platform for agents. Soft-launched in May 2020, PasarPolis allows people to apply to become Mitra, or insurance agents, for the company. PasarPolis currently has a network of about 10,000 agents in Indonesia, who help customers chose policies and process claims.

“We plan to invest in infrastructure to help our Mitra be able to engage with our customers more,” said Kumar. “We believe it’s important for us to implement both online and offline strategies as an insurtech player.”

Kumar added that even though technology plays a “pivotal role” in making insurance products accessible to more people, PasarPolis does not “see digital as just a medium to sell insurance. We think that technology can be used to segment risk in real-time and provide more affordable insurance to the masses.”

Two of PasarPolis’ main competitors in Southeast Asia include Qoala, another Indonesia-based insurtech startup that recently raised funding, and Grab Financial Group, which launched a new portfolio of consumer financial services last month, including expanded insurance offerings.

Randing told TechCrunch that PasarPolis’ competitive advantage is its “ability to offer highly customized and modular insurance products that are integrated with partners’ systems,” including health and accident coverage for Gojek’s drivers and passengers; insurance for small- to medium-sized businesses that cover damaged products and missing items; and policies that protect e-commerce customers.

An example of the kind of customized insurance products PasarPolis can create is a policy for Gojek drivers that covers stolen vehicles and costs less than USD $ 4 a year.

The company is also a licensed insurance broker, which is why it was able to operate PasarPolis Mitra. “The platform is so unique to Indonesians, that it enables anyone, from professional insurance Mitra, Gojek drivers, stay-at-home moms, and furloughed employees, to earn additional income, especially during the new normal,” said Randing.

Startups – TechCrunch

Cosmose, a platform that analyzes foot traffic in physical stores, gets $15 million Series A

Cosmose, a platform that tracks foot traffic in brick-and-mortar stores to help companies predict customer behavior, announced today it has raised a $ 15 million Series A. The round was by Tiga Investments, with participation from returning investors OTB Ventures and TDJ Pitango, who co-led Cosmose’s seed round last year.

The company said its valuation is now more than $ 100 million. Cosmose has offices in Shanghai, Hong Kong, New York and Warsaw, where is software engineering team is based. Most of the stores its tech is currently use in are in China and Japan, and its clients include companies like Walmart, Marriott, Samsung, and LVMH.

As companies try to recover from the impact of COVID-19, founder and chief executive officer Miron Mironiuk said Cosmose’s platform has helped clients make decisions about when to reopen stores and what kind of inventory to stock, and how to increase revenue.

For example, ‘some shops wanted to connect with customers who used to shop in their physical locations and encourage them to buy online,” he said. “Hotels in Japan were focused on promoting their in-house restaurants to local residents to make up for the lost revenue.” The company is also working with Boston Consulting Group on a report called “COVID-19 offline retail recovery traffic in China” for publication next week.

Mironiuk said that a PwC audit of the platform’s accuracy completed in December 2019 confirmed its ability to track customers within 1.6 meters of their location in a store, and that its data ecosystem now comprises of more than one billion smartphones and 360,000 stores. Cosmose’s plan is to grow that to two billion smartphones and 10 million stores by 2022.

The Series A will be used for product development and geographic expansion, starting with Southeast Asian markets this year, followed by the Middle East and India. Mironiuk, who founded Cosmose in 2014, said its goal is to break even and generate profit by 2021.

The company offers three main products: Cosmose Analytics, which tracks customers’ movements inside brick-and-mortar stores; Cosmose AI, a data analytics and prediction platform to help retailers create marketing campaigns and increase sales; and Cosmose Media, for targeting online ads.

Cosmose does not require hardware installation, which means no regular maintenance is required after Cosmose maps a store, and helps it differentiate from rivals.

There are other companies that also analyze foot traffic in brick-and-mortar stores, including RetailNext and ShopperTrak, but being tracked might alarm customers who are concerned about their privacy. Mironiuk said all of the smartphone data Cosmose AI gathers is anonymized, so the company doesn’t know who shoppers are. The platform uses alphanumeric IDs called OMNIcookies, does not collect personal data like phone MAC addresses, mobile numbers, or email addresses, and follows data privacy laws in each of the countries it operates in. It also allows shoppers to opt-out of tracking.

In a press statement about the investment, Raymond Zage, the CEO and founder of Tiga Investments, said “I was attracted by the strong results Cosmose is already achieving for some of the world’s recognizable brands, while simultaneously ensuring user privacy is protected. Cosmose team is saving stores while enhancing consumer experience.”

Startups – TechCrunch

Equity Monday: What if no one gets to buy TikTok?

Hello and welcome back to Equity, TechCrunch’s venture capital-focused podcast where we unpack the numbers behind the headlines.

This is Equity Monday, our weekly kickoff that tracks the latest big news, chats about the coming week, digs into some recent funding rounds and mulls over a larger theme or narrative from the private markets. You can follow the show on Twitter here, and myself here, and don’t forget to check out last Friday’s episode.

This weekend was a welcome reprieve from last week’s insane news cycle inside the world of technology and money. If you are still catching your breath from the Great IPO Wave of last Monday, we feel you. Here’s what we got into this morning:

  • The TikTok sale could be in trouble, this time due to China changing its rules on sales of tech firms that have certain algorithms. TikTok parent company Bytedance intends to comply with the rules, but what impact the news could have the sale of the social service is unclear as of yet, though the developments are not good if you were in favor of a deal.
  • American tech shares are set to rise once again after setting records last week.
  • Equity is back on YouTube, hell yeah!
  • From the weekend: Medium’s growth in both traffic (pageviews) and income (paying subscribers) is super impressive according to its latest reporting. And the publishing platform and media company is doubling-down on product to fend off upstarts like the popular Substack. Per a Bloomberg report, tech IPO fundraising could set a record in 2020. And, to ground us in a macro-economic sense, Chinese banks are being forced to take a profit hit to support other companies.
  • In the funding round domain, Semalytix raised €4.3 million in Series A funding according to TechCrunch for its pharmaceutical-AI service. And India-based Eruditus raised $ 113 million for its executive-focused education service. That’s a lot of money, but like we’ve been saying, edtech is hot.
  • And, finally, will there be enough horns for all these hot SaaS rounds that are getting done in a blur today? What if SaaS revenue multiples slip by 20%? Then what? When deals go so fast that due diligence suffers, the hangover can last a bit.

And that is the week’s Monday ep, thanks for sticking with through our super-busy week last week. Whew!

Equity drops every Monday at 7:00 a.m. PT and Thursday afternoon as fast as we can get it out, so subscribe to us on Apple PodcastsOvercastSpotify and all the casts.

Startups – TechCrunch

British urban mobility startup Beryl gets approval for e-scooter trials in Norwich, UK

British micro mobility provider, Beryl, has been approved by the UK’s Department for Transport and Norfolk County Council to operate an e-scooter trial in the region of Norwich. Beryl will be one of the world’s first providers of a city-wide multimodal smart fleet, including pedal bikes, e-bikes and e-scooters.

This news comes during the race between e-scooter startups to win as many trial contracts across the UK as possible. As we recently reported, the UK government had previously ruled that riding e-scooters in public areas (such as roads, cycle lanes and pavements) was illegal due to safety concerns. This summer, though, with the continued presence of COVID-19 driving the need for more ‘socially distanced’ methods of urban transport, a series of e-scooter trails were approved for acceleration across the UK’s regions. Each regional authority is now permitted to draw up contracts with the companies that they see fit, for 12 month long trials. This month Irish startup Zipp Mobility was approved in some regions, as well as Swedish startup Voi, and German startup TIER mobility is also in the race.

During the 12-month trial period, e-scooter riders will be required to provide a valid UK Driving License to participate and will be asked to provide feedback on their experiences using the vehicles. The purpose of the trial is to collect valuable data to ensure wider roll out of e-scooter services are as safe for and beneficial to the wider public as possible.

The Beryl e-Scooter has already passed vehicle approval from the DfT, ensuring it meets the highest safety standards, every scooter is fitted with a safety bell and consultations have and will continue to take place with key organisations such as Norfolk police and local disability groups. Beryl e-Scooters can be used on roads and cycle lanes, although not on pavements or shared spaces.

Beryl was brought to the city of Norwich earlier in 2020 through the Transport for Norwich partnership, having beat major international and VC backed operators to be announced as the city’s e-Scooter provider (with an initial 100 scooters). Importantly, the Beryl e-scooters will be accessible through the same platform as their pedal and e-bikes. 

Beryl has championed the ‘hybrid’ model that incentivises riders to park in geo-fenced bays, providing the city with a high level of control over vehicles, incentivising responsible parking and ensuring a service that does not impede on the city’s social infrastructure. Currently, 94% of Beryl Bike trips in the British operators city-wide scheme in Norwich end in a ‘Beryl Bay’, and the remaining 6% of bikes that are free floating are easily redistributed to bays by Beryl’s on street team via cargo bike.

The UK’s inaugural multi-vehicle scheme will give Beryl a unique opportunity to learn how choice of vehicle types can assist members of the public across a wider range of journey types and physical abilities. This data will help inform the Local Authority Partner as to how they can best implement wider sustainable transport plans by incorporating the right vehicle mix. This data-led strategy will allow Beryl to offer a full service micromobility partnership with authorities, advising them on how to implement and run systems that sit alongside long term public transport and environmental strategies.

Beryl will update existing parking infrastructure to allow the classic Beryl Bikes, Beryl e-Bikes and the new Beryl e-Scooters to be hired and parked in an orderly and secure manner, in line with the community’s needs. In a number of Beryl cities Beryl’s Bays include planters and seating; whilst there is the ability to add in additional modules like information boards and charging stations. They also carry forward the design language of the existing streetscape, by matching wood varieties and metal colourways.

Philip Ellis, CEO and co founder of Beryl said, “We’re confident this first truly multi-modal trial will provide a great example of the future for micro mobility services everywhere. Partnership between a Local Authority and exclusive operator to deliver an inclusive system. Providing the city with bikes, e-bikes and e-scooters operating citywide and including the right mix of pleasant physical parking locations and parklets across the city. We believe this mix of vehicles and infrastructure will deliver the best service possible for our local authority partner as well as the community, supporting the need for a green recovery.”

Transport Minister Rachel Maclean said, “e-scooters could offer cleaner, more efficient and more affordable travel within our towns and cities and the trials in Norfolk will allow us to assess their impact on public space alongside pedal bikes and e-bikes.

Councillor Martin Wilby, Norfolk County Council’s cabinet member for highways and infrastructure said: “Norwich is the ideal place to conduct an e-scooter trial and I am delighted that we have been successful in bringing them to the city. We already have a good working relationship with Beryl and the e-Scooters will make a fantastic addition to our current offer, bringing sustainable transport options to an even wider range of people and support our shared aims to reduce pollution across the city.”

“It’s important to note that while this is a government-backed trial, it is still illegal to use privately owned e-scooters on the highway. Safety will be of paramount importance. We’ve already put a number of measures in place and will be working closely with the police and key local stakeholders to ensure their use is appropriate and does not impact negatively on the wider community.”

EU-Startups

State-owned NTPC gets Niti Aayog, DIPAM nod to set up renewable energy business arm – ETEnergyworld.com

State-owned NTPC gets Niti Aayog, DIPAM nod to set up renewable energy business arm  ETEnergyworld.com
“nigeria startups when:7d” – Google News

Yac gets backed by Slack to bring the intimacy of voice back when remote co-workers interact

Yac, the digital voice messaging service that launched last year, has raised new money from the Slack Fund as it continues to gain ground among companies looking to give their employees new communication tools for remote working.

The Florida-based startup initially spun out of a pitch at Product Hunt’s Maker Festival. Developed by the digital agency SoFriendly, Yac’s digital voice messaging service won the startup competition at the event and attracted the interest of Boost VC and its founder, the third-generation venture capitalist Adam Draper .

Yac officially launched in March and had 900 teams sign up within the first week. The company’s product now includes one-to-many messaging, Slack integration and an improved desktop app. It also managed to attract the attention of the Slack Fund.

The investment from Slack comes two years after Yac’s founder Justin Mitchell first reached out to the company, Mitchell said.

Instead of a cold call, Mitchell found himself as the object of Slack’s attention thanks to an introduction from Jim Rand, an entrepreneur whose Synervoz Communications was also working on new voice communications applications.

Rand and Mitchell had connected through LinkedIn and bonded over the trials and tribulations of entrepreneurship. As they continued talking, Rand, whose company makes an API to connect audio applications to other services, asked if Mitchell wanted to talk to Slack about collaborating.

Slack reached out and Mitchell responded via the Yac app. Essentially all of the due diligence was conducted over a series of voice messages that Mitchell left responding to questions from the Slack team, Mitchell said.

The publicly traded messaging company came in with a small investment of $ 500,000.

Yac now has a bit over 5,000 users on its service and charges per seat, in the same way Slack does. Mitchell said he will use the funds to integrate more closely with Slack’s own messaging service. Some Yac features will automatically be integrated into Slack, where users can turn their call button into a Yac button to deliver audio messages instead of doing real-time phone calls.

 

Startups – TechCrunch