E-scooters on British roads: Slough partners with Singapore-based Neuron Mobility to launch first e-scooter trial

The pandemic has severely impacted the ride-hailing services as well as the public transportation services s. It has made us rethink our daily transportation mode. E-scooters are becoming increasingly popular as it’s one of the safest, socially-distanced, and sustainable ways to move around. 

Keeping this in mind, the Singapore-based safety-leading e-scooter operator – Neuron Mobility is all set to expand its services to Slough’s street, UK. The 12-month trial period, due to start in the mid-month of October, will see 250 purpose-built e-scooters deployed across Slough to help get the town moving again.

Test Ride

Founded in Singapore in 2016, Neuron is a shared electric scooter operator and micro mobility technology developer. It also offers e-scooter battery swapping, geofencing control, and integrated helmets.

As part of Neuron’s investment into the town, the company will create around 25 skilled jobs which will be recruited locally. Slough riders will benefit from Neuron’s latest N3 e-scooters which have been purpose-built for renting and rider safety.

“Safety is our top priority, it dictates our e-scooter design and also the way we operate them. Our N3 e-scooters are jam-packed with cutting-edge safety features and our safety course and riding guidelines have been co-developed with the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA), the UK’s leading accident prevention charity,” says Zachary Wang, CEO of Neuron Mobility. 

Earlier this month, the Singapore-based operator entered into a partnership with RoSPA . This partnership allowed the company to bring the best practice in shared e-scooter safety to Britain.

Cllr Rob Anderson, Slough Borough Council Cabinet Member for Transport and Environmental Services, said, “The town’s bus lanes, including the current experimental lanes on the A4, will be able to be used by the rental scooters leading to them being an attractive and sustainable way to travel in the borough.”

Safety is priority 

Neuron and the Council will be using geofencing technology to create ‘slow zones’, ‘no parking zones’ and ‘no go zones’ in specific areas across the town, in order to improve safety. Each e-scooter is also fitted with a unique license plate number for easy identification and to promote responsible use.

The company will be deploying a dedicated safety team, working 24×7, responsible for safety and sanitisation. Armed with hospital-grade disinfectants, they will help to keep the e-scooters and their helmets clean and germ-free.

Besides, the startup will also help move the e-scooters to the areas where they are needed by the commuters the most. Riders, who are over 18 and hold a full or provisional driving license, will be able to book and use the e-scooters through Neuron’s app.

Cost & features

Single trips will cost £1 to unlock the e-scooter and 18 pence per minute thereafter. More frequent users have the option to purchase Neuron Passes, a subscription service, available in three-day (about €16), weekly (about €24), or monthly (€39) options.

The packages will allow users to ride as many times as they want for up to 90 minutes per day for a fixed affordable price. This will result in no additional unlocking fees and savings of up to 90%.

Speed will be capped at 15.5 mph and they will share the same road space as bicycles including low-speed roads, cycleways, and tracks. 

Riding rental e-scooters became legal on the UK’s roads on 4 July 2020. Currently, privately-owned electric scooters remain outlawed for use on public land in the UK.

Neuron was selected due to its strong track record of partnering with councils and because of their leadership when it comes to safety and innovation.

Some of the features offered by the e-scooter are: 

  • Geofencing technology to control where e-scooters are ridden and parked, and how fast they can travel in certain areas
  • An app-controlled helmet lock that secures a safety helmet to the e-scooters between trips to benefit safety-conscious riders
  • A topple detection feature that can detect if an e-scooter has been left on its side which then alerts an operations team to reposition it safely
  • A 999 emergency button which can tell if someone has had a fall and helps the rider call the emergency services
  • Voice guidance to educate and warn riders 
  • A “Follow My Ride” feature that allows the rider’s friends and family to track an e-scooter trip in real-time for added safety and peace of mind.

Currently, the startup operates in eight locations in Australia and New Zealand including Brisbane, Darwin, Adelaide and Auckland, and soon Canberra.

Image credit: Neuron Mobility

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Startups – Silicon Canals

New research shows European startups are spending drastically less on a US launch, for the same gains

It used to be the case that in order to scale globally, European companies needed to spend big on launching in the U.S. to achieve the kind of growth they wanted. That usually meant relocating large swathes of the team to the San Francisco Bay Area, or New York. New research suggests that is no longer the case, as the U.S. has become more expensive, and as the opportunity in Europe has improved. This means European startups are committing much less of their team and resources to a U.S. launch, but still getting decent results. That said, European startups will still look to the U.S. for exits, as European corporates remain laggards in innovation.

New research by Index Ventures today reveals that less than 1 in 5 (50 out of 275) European tech firms are choosing to relocate their engineering base as they expand to the U.S., in stark contrast with the general strategy 10 years ago. Instead, says Index, Europe’s top tech startups are managing to get the growth gains they need out of the U.S. with a much smaller “on the ground” footprint.

The survey of 275 European startups over the last decade (including an in-depth survey of more than 100 firms) indicates that creating U.S.-based engineering, tech and R&D teams has fallen out of favor, and they are staying in Europe for longer, taking advantage of Europe’s much-improved availability of talent and funding.

Between 2008-2014, almost two-thirds (59%) of European startups expanded, or moved entirely, to the U.S. ahead of Series A funding rounds. However, between 2015-2019, this number decreased to a third (33%).

This chimes with research from StackOverflow, which has found that the European tech scene has lifted, with more than 6 million professional developers residing in Europe, compared to just 4.3 million in the U.S. Tightened U.S. immigration rules, and demand outstripping supply, have inflated U.S. tech salaries, which are 42% higher in San Francisco compared to London, making it more expensive and less cost-efficient for European startups to double down in the U.S. — especially when they can achieve similar growth from home.

European founders are also now raising more, with rounds growing from $ 15.3 billion to $ 34.3 billion over the past four years.

Danny Rimer, partner at Index Ventures, said in a statement: “While for some founders, and certainly once a business reaches certain milestones, establishing a US base is a good decision, it is becoming increasingly costly and challenging.”

At the same time, however, Index found that European corporates invest three-quarters (76%) less than their U.S. counterparts on software, and this is normally on compliance rather than innovation. This means European startups are likely to continue to look to the U.S. for exits to corporates.

The research findings are revealed in Expanding to the US, Index Ventures’ third handbook for tech founders seeking domestic and international growth. It also includes a “personality test” for startups to figure out at what stage they need to prepare for a U.S. launch.

As well as analysis of 353 European (275) and Israeli (78) VC-backed startups that have expanded into the U.S. over the last 10 years it includes U.S. expansion strategies and interviews with founders who’ve done it.

Startups – TechCrunch

Latch, a smart lock company, looks to become a platform with the launch of LatchOS

Tech that powers physical spaces is in the midst of a growth spurt. One company in the mix, Latch, is today announcing the next phase of the company with the launch of LatchOS.

Latch was founded back in 2014 with the mission of creating a vertically integrated hardware/software solution for door access in apartment buildings. Unlike some smart home locks that replace the lock on the door, Latch looked at the different locks that exist in apartment buildings and created solutions that work with each.

This allows building managers and apartment renters/owners to manage their doors and who has access, including the maintenance staff, deliveries, etc.

With the launch of LatchOS, the company is getting even deeper into the buildings, giving users the ability to manage more than just the door but integrate the app with other devices in a building. These integrations include Sonos speakers, Honeywell and ecobee thermostats, and Jaso and Leviton light switches all from their Latch app.

This is just the start. LatchOS was built to become the backbone of the platform, allowing more integrations to be implemented or built out based on the needs of the buildings and users.

Though the company has flown somewhat under the radar, it’s raised more than $ 150 million and says it did more than $ 100 million in sales in 2019, with one of every ten buildings in the United States being built with Latch products.

Latch makes money by selling hardware to building owners and then charging a monthly software fee, allowing the service to be free to renters and apartment owners. With the launch of LatchOS, the company can now build out integrations to earn revenue off of end users, as well, should they choose to upgrade to new features or purchase services through the platform.

The company, helmed by former Apple employees Luke Schoenfelder and Thomas Meyerhoffer, as well as full stack hardware engineer Brian Jones, has more than 230 employees and declined to share any information around the diversity of its staff.

“People have always seen us as a lock company and they wonder why a lock company is doing this other stuff,” said Schoenfelder. The reality is that we’ve never wanted to be a lock company. We just needed to build the locks to make the rest of the system work. That’s why we built our own hardware. We’ve always been focused on building the system that makes the building better for everybody.”

Startups – TechCrunch

Fintech AERA & Holland FinTech launch European Fintech Navigator – European fintech ecosystem guide

To draw attention to the active fintech scene of the Dutch capital, Holland FinTech – a financial technology hub, has set up Amsterdam FinTech Week. It’s a week-long event that takes place every year focusing on key themes for the fintech industry. This year, at the launch party of the Amsterdam Fintech Week (XFW20), Fintech AERA and Holland Fintech launched the European Fintech Navigator – a guide to the European fintech ecosystem. 

From print to website

This year, the European Fintech Navigator (EFN) has moved from a traditional softcover book to an interactive website. According to Fintech ÆRA, the interactive website covers Europe in country profiles, industry expert insights, regulators and supervisors, investors, company, as well as profiles covered. 

It also covers topics for banking and payments to insurance and pensions, and looks at all the underlying technologies and trends that allow startups to enter the market as well as the transformation the incumbent industry is going through. 

The new digital version of European FinTech Navigator also has a unique focus on sustainable and social finance and highlights trends in European fintech and the various regional ecosystems. 

The aim is to create an educational platform to serve the European market and policy makers. For this aim, Fintech ÆRA works with various intermediary institutions – fintech hubs, like associations and incubators – across Europe. Holland Fintech was one of the foundation’s first partners, with whom the print version of the European Fintech Navigator was produced. Partnerships with other regions across Europe are expected to expand coverage across the whole of Europe soon, claims the foundation. 

All about fintech 

Founded in 2014, Amsterdam-based Holland FinTech is an independent ecosystem. It brings together various stakeholders in finance, technology, and the supporting ecosystem to share knowledge and do business with one another.

It offers global fintech news, events, and research as well as hosts, organises, and supports events and partners with international organisations to match startups working with large corporates.

Holland FinTech has more than 500 members, ranging from incumbent financial institutions to innovative start-ups. 

As for FinTech Aera Foundation, it is a European Think Tank founded in 2017. It is dedicated to the advancement of the global FinTech ecosystem for the purpose of furthering financial and digital inclusion.

Image credits: Jirsak/Shutterstock

This article is produced in collaboration with StartupAmsterdam. Read more about our partnering opportunities.

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Startups – Silicon Canals

Israeli startup Varada secures €10M funding to launch New ML-based data virtualisation platform

Varada, a Tel Aviv-based big data query acceleration company, recently announced a $ 12M (approx €10M) Series A round of funding led by MizMaa Ventures, an early-stage VC venture capital firm, with participation by Gefen Capital. 

The existing investors including Lightspeed, StageOne Ventures, and F2 Venture Capital also participated in the round. The funding comes as the Israeli startup is preparing to launch its data virtualisation platform in general availability. 

What problem does Varada solve?

Right now, the data space is driven by two emerging technologies: data lake and data virtualisation. Notably, the data lake enables organisations to avoid extensive, pre-consumption ETLs (Extract, Transform, Load) and significantly cut down on time-to-market. 

With data virtualisation, disparate data sources are unified and data consumers can now query any data from a single end-point. This eliminates the heavy IT operations burden of configuration, modeling, and movement of data. However, the current data virtualisation options are hamstrung by scaling limitations and this is the problem Varada aims to solve.

“Varada is solving the biggest headaches of data infrastructure teams while giving business units the tools to quickly and cost-effectively turn their priceless data assets into value for customers,” says Eran Vanounou, CEO of Varada. “I know this problem firsthand, as I was the CTO of LivePerson before joining Varada. When I met the founding team, I was blown away at their vision for how to solve one of the thorniest problems in big data. The platform we’re building enables revolutionary ease-of-use, fast time-to-market, and cost control. This round of Series A funding will accelerate the progress of our solution and allow us to quickly scale our plans to deliver the new standard for data virtualisation.”

 “Zero data-ops” solution

According to Varada, it is building a platform to revolutionise data virtualisation by offering an agile, “zero data-ops” solution. The company’s patented indexing technology uses machine learning to accelerate relevant and high-priority queries automatically without any overhead to query processing or any data maintenance. As per the company, the indexing works transparently for users, and indexes are managed automatically by Varada’s proprietary cost-based optimiser.

Varada was founded by David Krakov, Roman Vainbrand, and Tal Ben Moshe, veterans of the Dell EMC XtremIO core team, and is dedicated to leveraging new architecture to take on the challenge of data and business agility. The company has headquarters in Tel Aviv, with U.S. offices in San Mateo, California. 

Main image credits: Varada

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Startups – Silicon Canals

Rocket startup Astra’s first orbital launch attempt ends early due to first-stage burn failure

Alameda-based rocket launch startup Astra finally got the chance to launch its first orbital test mission from its Alaska-based facility on Saturday, after the attempt had been delayed multiple times due to weather and other issues. The 8:19 PM PT lift-off of Astra’s ‘Rocket 3.1’ test vehicle went well – but the flight ended relatively shortly after that, during the first-stage engine burn and long before reaching orbit.

Astra wasn’t expecting to actually reach orbit on this particular flight – it has always said that its goal is to reach orbit within three test flights of Rocket, and prior to this first mission, said that the main goal was to have a good first-stage burn on this one specifically. This wasn’t a nominal first-stage burn, of course, since that’s when the failure occurred, but the company still noted in a blog post that “the rocket performed very well” according to their first reviews of the data.

The mission ended early because of what appears to be a bit of unwanted back-and-forth wobbling in the rocket as it ascended, Astra said, which caused an engine shutdown by the vehicle’s automated safety system. That’s actually also good news, since it means the steps Astra has taken to ensure safe failures are also working as designed. You can see in the video above that the light of the rocket’s engines simply go out during flight, and then some time later there’s a fireball from its impact on the ground.

It’s worth noting that most first flights of entirely new rockets don’t go entirely as planned – including those by SpaceX, whose founder and CEO Elon Musk expressed his encouragement to the Astra team on Twitter. Likewise, Rocket Lab’s Peter Beck also chimed in with support. Not to mention that Astra has been operating under extreme conditions, with just a six-person team on the ground in Alaska to deploy the launch system, which was set up in under a week, due to the COVID-19 crisis.

Astra will definitely be able to get a lot of valuable data out of this launch that it can use to put towards improving the chances of its next try going well. The company notes that it expects to review said data “over the next several weeks” as it proceeds towards the second flight in this series of three attempts. Rocket 3.2, the test article for that mission, is already completed and awaiting that try.

Startups – TechCrunch

London VCs launch joint initiative to expand funding opportunities for underrepresented founders

A group of U.K.-based VCs have come together to create a new virtual pitching event designed to address the problems with the current startup ecosystem that can lead to inequalities and “warm intros” made only between privileged classes and ethnicities.

Held on the 30th of September, “Access All” will be a new virtual event geared toward founders from underrepresented groups.

Participating founders will be invited to pitch their startups to a number of London’s leading VCs and companies, including Downing Ventures, Playfair Capital, SpeedInvest and SoftBank, as well as Microsoft, Amazon, Accenture and O2.

The joint initiative has been put together by Floww, Force Over Mass and Wayra UK, with the mission to create more opportunity for BAME founders, based on merit, reducing bias and addressing the problems of the “the old boys network” of venture capital deal flow.

According to some figures, startups with all-male founding teams raise 91% of the venture capital in the U.K., but the stats around ethnic minority founders are harder to find. In the U.S. for example, 0.02% of venture capital is allocated to Black female founders.

Martijn de Wever, CEO and founder of Floww, which is coordinating the event, said: “With Access All, we rallied together in the startup community because we believe that the system needs change. Black, Asian and other ethnic minority founders, need to have fair access.”

Floww’s team of accountants and content writers will work with applicants for free to review their business plans and get them ready to pitch to the participating investors. TechCrunch and Forbes journalists will be joining the panel as judges.

Founders can register here.

Startups – TechCrunch

Carbon Health to launch 100 pop-up COVID-19 testing clinics across the U.S.

Primary care health tech startup Carbon Health has added a new element to its “omnichannel” healthcare approach with the launch of a new pop-up clinic model that is already live in San Francisco, LA, Seattle, Brooklyn and Manhattan, with Detroit to follow soon – and that will be rolling out over the next weeks and months across a variety of major markets in the U.S., ultimately resulting in 100 new COVID-19 testing sites that will add testing capacity on the order of around an additional 100,000 patients per month across the country.

So far, Carbon Health has focused its COVID-19 efforts around its existing facilities in the Bay Area, and also around pop-up testing sites set up in and around San Francisco through collaboration with genomics startup Color, and municipal authorities. Now, Carbon Health CEO and co-founder Even Bali tells me in an interview that the company believes the time is right for it to take what it has learned and apply that on a more national scale, with a model that allows for flexible and rapid deployment. In fact, Bali says the they realized and began working towards this goal as early as March.

“We started working on COVID response as early as February, because we were seeing patients who are literally coming from Wuhan, China to our clinics,” Bali said. “We expected the pandemic to hit any time. And partially because of the failure of federal government control, we decided to do everything we can to be able to help out with certain things.”

That began with things that Carbon could do locally, more close to home in its existing footprint. But it was obvious early on to Bali and his team that there would be a need to scale efforts more broadly. To do that, Carbon was able to draw on its early experience.

“We have been doing on-site, we have been going to nursing homes, we have been working with companies to help them reopen,” he told me. “At this point, I think we’ve done more than 200,000 COVID tests by ourselves. And I think I do more than half of all the Bay Area, if you include that the San Francisco City initiative is also partly powered by Carbon Health, so we’re already trying to scale as much as possible, but at some point we were hitting some physical space limits, and had the idea back in March to scale with more pop-up, more mobile clinics that you can actually put up like faster than a physical location.”

Interior of one of Carbon Health’s COVID-19 testing pop-up clinics in Brooklyn.

To this end, Carbon Health also began using a mobile trailer that would travel from town to town in order to provide testing to communities that weren’t typically well-served. That ended up being a kind of prototype of this model, which employs construction trailers like you’d see at a new condo under development acting as a foreman’s office, but refurbished and equipped with everything needed for on-site COVID testing run by medical professionals. These, too, are a more temporary solution, as Carbon Health is working with a manufacturing company to create a more fit-for-purpose custom design that can be manufactured at scale to help them ramp deployment of these even faster.

Carbon Health is partnering with Reef Technologies, a SoftBank -backed startup that turns parking garage spots into locations for businesses, including foodservice, fulfilment, and now Carbon’s medical clinics. This has helped immensely with the complications of local permitting and real estate regulations, Bali says. That means that Carbon Health’s pop-up clinics can bypass a lot of the red tape that slows the process of opening more traditional, permanent locations.

While cost is one advantage of using this model, Bali says that actually it’s not nearly as inexpensive as you might think relative to opening a more traditional clinic – at least until their custom manufacturing and economies of scale kick in. But speed is the big advantage, and that’s what is helping Carbon Health look ahead from this particular moment, to how these might be used either post-pandemic, or during the eventual vaccine distribution phase of the COVID crisis. Bali points out that any approved vaccine will need administration to patients, which will require as much, if not more infrastructure than testing.

Exterior of one of Carbon Health’s COVID-19 testing pop-up clinics in Brooklyn.

Meanwhile, Carbon Health’s pop-up model could bridge the gap between traditional primary care and telehealth, for ongoing care needs unrelated to COVID.

“A lot of the problems that telemedicine is not a good solution for, are the things where a video check-in with a doctor is nearly enough, but you do need some diagnostic tests – maybe you might you may need some administration, or you may need like a really simple physical examination that nursing staff can do with the instructions of the doctor. So if you think about those cases, pretty much 90% of all visits can actually be done with a doctor on video, and nursing staff in person.”

COVID testing is an imminent, important need nationwide – and COVID vaccine administration will hopefully soon replace it, with just as much urgency. But even after the pandemic has passed, healthcare in general will change dramatically, and Carbon Health’s model could be a more permanent and scalable way to address the needs of distributed care everywhere.

Startups – TechCrunch