Japanese startup Nature launches Remo 3, its home appliance smart remote, in the U.S. and Canada

Nature, a Japanese hardware startup that focuses on IoT home devices, announced the launch Remo 3, its home appliance smart remote, in the United States and Canada today. Priced at $ 129, the Bluetooth-enabled Remo 3 allows people to control multiple appliances that uses an infrared remote, including air conditioners, TVs, robot vacuum cleaners and fans, with their smartphones or smart speakers.

Nature claims that its Remo series is Japan’s top smart remote, with over 200,000 units sold so far. The Remo 3, designed to be mounted on a wall, also has sensors for temperature, humidity, lighting and movement, allowing users to create customized settings for when they want devices to turn on or shut off. Remo 3’s app also has a GPS location feature, so appliances can turn on automatically as users get closer to their homes.

As COVID-19 forces people to spend more time at home than usual, many are embarking on home improvement projects.

Even though people may be reluctant to purchase new appliances because of the economic downturn, relatively inexpensive products like the Remo 3 may still attract buyers because it can help reduce energy consumed by devices they already own. The Remo 3 also adds another layer of functionality to smart speakers and before the pandemic, global smart speaker sales hit a record high last year with 146.9 million units shipped. The Remo 3 is compatible with Amazon smart speakers like the Echo Dot, as well as Google Home and Apple HomePod speakers.

Nature founder and chief executive Haruumi Shiode told TechCrunch that Nature conducted a pilot with Kansai Electric, one of the largest utility providers in Japan, to prove that it can lower the amount of electricity used by air conditioners. He added that the pandemic actually accelerated sales of Nature Remo devices in Japan and prompted the company’s decision to launch in the U.S.

The COVID-19 pandemic made mass-producing the Remo 3 more challenging because Nature’s team was no longer able to make monthly trips to Shenzhen, Shiode said. But the Remo 3 is the sixth product Nature has launched so far, so it was able to figure out how to work with factories remotely on production and quality assurance.

“I read that since the pandemic started, 70% of Americans are tackling home improvement projects,” Shiode added. “Similarly, people around the world have been looking for ways to make their shelter-in-place less mundane and more convenient. With the Nature Remo 3, we hope to offer the same convenience and efficiencies to the American market as we have in Japan.”

Startups – TechCrunch

Mailchimp launches new AI tools as it continues its transformation to marketing platform

Mailchimp may have started out as an easy to use newsletter tool, but that was almost 20 years ago. Today’s company still does email, but at its core, it is now a marketing automation platform for small businesses that also offers a website builder, basic online stores, digital ad support and analytics to make sense of it all. Like before, though, the company’s main goal is to make all these features easy to use for small business users.

Image Credits: Mailchimp

Today, Mailchimp, which has never taken outside funding, is taking the next step in its own transformation with the launch of a set of AI-based tools that give small businesses easy access to the same kind of capabilities that their larger competitors now use. That includes personalized product recommendations for shoppers and forecasting tools for behavioral targeting to see which users are most likely to buy something, for example. But there’s now also a new AI-backed tool to help business owners design their own visual asset (based in part on its acquisition of Sawa), as well as a tool to help them write better email subject lines.

There’s also a new tool that helps businesses choose the next best action. It looks at all of the data the service aggregates and gives users actionable recommendations for how to improve their email campaign performance.

Image Credits: Mailchimp

“The journey to get here started about four years ago,” Mailchimp’s founding CEO Ben Chestnut told me. “We were riding high. Email was doing amazing for us. And things look so good. And I had a choice, I felt I could sell the business and make a lot of money. I had some offers. Or I could just coast, honestly. I could just be a hero in email and keep it simple and just keep raking in the money. Or I could take on another really tough challenge, which would be act two of  MailChimp. And I honestly didn’t know what that would be. To be honest with you, that was four years ago, it could have been anything really.”

But after talking to the team, including John Foreman, the head of data analytics at the time and now Mailchimp’s CPO, Chestnut put the company on this new path to go after the marketing automation space. In part, he told me, he did so because he noted that the email space was getting increasingly crowded. “You know how that ends. I mean, you can’t stay there forever with this many competitors. So I knew that we had to up our game,” he said.

And that meant going well beyond email and building numerous new products.

Image Credits: Mailchimp

“It was a huge transformation for us,” Chestnut acknowledged. “We had to get good at building for other customer segments at the time, like e-commerce customers and others. And that was new for us, too. It’s all kinds of new disciplines for us. To inflict that kind of change on your employees is very, very rough. I just can’t help but look back with gratitude that my employees were willing to go on this journey with me. And they actually had faith in me and this release — this fall release — is really the culmination of everything we’ve been working on for four years to me.”

One thing that helped was that Mailchimp already had e-commerce customers — and as Chestnut noted, they were pushing the system to its limit. Only a few years ago, the culture at Mailchimp looked at them as somewhat annoying, though, Chestnut admitted, because they were quite demanding. They didn’t even make the company a lot of money either. At the time, non-profits were Mailchimp’s best customers, but they weren’t pushing the technology to its limits.

Despite this transformation, Mailchimp hasn’t made a lot of acquisitions to accelerate this process. Chestnut argues that a lot of what it is doing — say adding direct mail — is something that was more or less and extension of what it was already good at. But it did make some small AI and ML acquisitions to bring the right expertise in-house, as well as two e-commerce acquisitions, including Lemonstand. Most recently, Mailchimp acquired Courier, a British magazine, newsletter and podcast, marking its first move into the print business.

With this new set of products and services, Mailchimp is now aiming to give small businesses access to the same capabilities the larger e-commerce players have long had, but without the complexity.

To build tools based on machine learning, one needs data — and that’s something Mailchimp already had.

“We’ve been doing marketing for decades,” Mailchimp CPO Foreman said. “And we have millions of small businesses on the platform. And so not only do we build all these tools ourselves, which allows us to integrate them from a visual design perspective — they’re not necessarily acquisitions — but we have this common data set from years and years of doing marketing across millions of businesses, billions of customers we’re talking to, and so we thought, how can we use intelligence — artificial intelligence, machine learning, etc. — to also sand down how all of these tools connect.”

Chestnut says he isn’t likely to put the company on a similar transformation anytime soon. “I really believe you can only take on one major transformation per decade,” he said. “And so you better pick the right one and you better invest it. We’re all in on this all-in-one marketing platform that’s e-commerce enabled. That is unique enough. And now what I’m trying to get my company to do is go deep.”

Startups – TechCrunch

Point Nine launches a new €99,999,999 seed fund for B2B SaaS and B2B marketplace startups

Today Point Nine, the Pan-European early stage venture capital firm focused on SaaS and digital marketplaces, launches its fifth fund called ‘P9 V’, a €99,999,999 seed fund. With ‘P9 V’, Point Nine will double down on its strategy to back seed-stage B2B SaaS and B2B marketplace startups anywhere in the world. The new fund will…

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Compliance Firm Launches E-Learning Courses for SEC Compliance

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Compliance firm RQC Group has launched e-learning training courses to help users learn about SEC compliance, or the rules and regulations that the Securities and Exchange Commission makes and enforces.

These courses have been designed specifically to make learning about SEC compliance as straightforward and easy to understand as possible, with each course providing content that meets the training needs of individuals efficiently.

These online training courses are a breath of fresh air to the SEC compliance learning experience. Previously, individuals have had to take physical courses, or speak to professional consultancy practices in order to gain the knowledge and understanding necessary for SEC compliance.

RQC Group’s new online training helps to provide this important regulatory information in a way that’s easy to understand, and in a socially distanced way – especially useful in light of the current coronavirus pandemic.

The three SEC Compliance courses offered by the RQC Group include:

  • Induction Training for SEC Registered Investment Advisers
  • Refresher Training for SEC Registered Investment Advisers
  • Compliance Issues from SEC Examinations

All three of the courses are 60-minutes long and are designed to provide users with a sound knowledge of vital SEC compliance concepts.

What is SEC?

SEC, The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, is an independent regulatory agency of the U.S. federal government. The agency was created in 1934 by Congress, being the first of its kind as a federal regulator to the securities markets.

The SEC aims to protect investors from immoral market practices, including those that are fraudulent and manipulative. It also monitors corporate takeover actions within the U.S. and approves bookrunners registration statements.

The SEC’s mission is “to protect investors, maintain fair, orderly, and efficient markets, and facilitate capital formation.”

An understanding of SEC, and further SEC compliance, is essential if you work in the U.S. in financial services, including offering advice for investments and hedge funds.

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RQC Group’s online courses

RQC Group’s SEC Compliance online courses are incredibly useful for individuals looking to gain a deeper understanding of the area’s essential concepts. However, they are not the only e-learning courses the compliance firm offers. RQC also offers specialist, interactive training courses relating to FCA, SEC and CFTC/NFA compliance.

Below is a list of the online courses the firm offers:

U.K. Courses

  • SMCR
  • Compliance
  • Financial crime
  • Cybersecurity (coming soon)

U.S. Courses

  • SEC compliance
  • NFA compliance (coming soon)
  • Cybersecurity (coming soon)

The consultancy firm has extensive expertise covering both the U.K. and the U.S. markets, with all online training courses written by senior compliance consultants.

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Finnish game studio Metacore secures €25 million in financing; undergoes rebranding and launches new game

The gaming industry is bigger than the music and movie industry combined and the sector is only going to grow bigger. With lockdown and social distancing in effect, people turned to gaming as an activity for unwinding and having fun at home. Additionally, game creator studios too reported significantly increased sales during this period. The Finnish mobile game company Metacore has also reinvented itself and it landed a notable €25M in fresh financing, all while launching a new gaming title.

Metacore raises €25M in equity and additional funding 

Metacore was previously known as Everywear Games. The company has rebranded itself and also raised a €15M investment and a €10M credit line from Supercell, which is another Finnish game developer with notable mobile games titles under its belt, including Clash of Clans. The latest investment will help Metacore fuel the global release of its first title, Merge Mansion. 

“Most companies will start with the core loop or gameplay mechanic. Our approach is to lead with the metagame – the core elements and experiences of a game that make a player jump back in over and over again. This was a key factor in how we designed Merge Mansion, and will continue to define our approach to game development,” says CEO and Co-Founder Mika Tammenkoski.

As per the company, its approach to game development seems to be working as Merge Mansion’s player’s 30-day retention rate is apparently around 24% among beta testers. 

“These metrics are very impressive, the kind we see when we have a hit game on our hands,” Supercell’s Developer Relations Lead Jaakko Harlas says. 

Merge Mansion for the masses

Metacore will now focus on rolling out its first title, Merge Mansion, for a wider audience. Furthermore, it will explore and develop new “metagames.” The company is also aiming at growing its existing team of 15 employees and says it will add at least 10 new hires across functions, including marketing, game design and back-end development.

“Although we’re seeking aggressive growth, our strategy is to keep our teams compact and nimble so they have the freedom to try out new things and run with what works best,” COO and Co-Founder Aki Järvilehto notes.

Image credits: Metacore

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Startups – Silicon Canals

Delivery Hero launches online food delivery and quick commerce in Japan under its brand foodpanda

Today Delivery Hero, one of the world’s leading local delivery platforms, is launching operations in Japan, further expanding its leadership position in Asia. Delivery Hero’s regional brand foodpanda will roll-out its service to six inaugural cities – Kobe, Yokohama, Nagoya, Sapporo, Fukuoka, and Hiroshima – with plans to keep expanding its footprint in Japan continuously….

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OTP Bank Launches OTP Startup Partner Program Seeking Later-Stage Startups

Operating in 12 countries and with over 19 million clients, OTP Bank is one of the largest financial providers in Central and Eastern Europe. The bank sees innovation as one of its strategic pillars and its novel initiatives are supported by its innovation hub, OTP LAB. OTP LAB brings together industry and vertical experts, startups, businesses, and educational institutions to develop the banking products and services of the future.

The OTP Startup Partner Program coordinated by OTP LAB supports and collaborates with later-stage startups globally to implement product and operational innovations at the Group’s Hungarian headquarters and across its wide network of subsidiaries in CEE.

Why Your Startup Should Apply

OTP Bank is seeking post-product or -market fit startups and scaleups from all over the world to build goal-oriented, business-focused, and mutually beneficial partnerships. Some benefits of applying to the program include:

  • Opportunity to perform a results-oriented pilot based on real business needs
  • Dedicated support from piloting to live collaboration
  • Connection to key decision-makers within OTP
  • Business development acceleration & potential customer base of 19+ million within the CEE region
  • Customized mentorship from dedicated experts
  • Opportunity for product innovation and development
  • Possibility to receive funding

OPT Bank will validate the best submissions in a 3-month pilot focused on collaboration with OTP Group’s business units. In the case of a successful pilot, OTP Bank fosters the launch and live adoption of the tested solution over a 6-month rollout.

“The pilot period of our previous program coincided with the European outbreak of the coronavirus. OTP Group’s commitment to innovation is clearly proven by the fact that despite this situation, we were able to complete all previously commenced pilots successfully. There was enormous interest in the program: for example, our online Demo Day was followed by over 1100 viewers. I am proud to see that the OTP Startup Partner Program has grown into an innovation initiative that mobilizes the entire Group. Besides this, year after year, we are able to convert an increasing number of cohort companies into long-term partners,” said András Fischer, head of OTP LAB.

Key Innovation Opportunities With OTP Bank

Announced for the fourth time, OTP Group is looking for innovative startup partners as part of the OTP Startup Partner Program. The program is a superb acceleration track for later-stage innovative companies that wish to test the applicability of their developments in the Central and Eastern European banking sector.

Applications for the OTP Startup Partner Program can be submitted by later-stage startups and scaleups from any location until 23 October 2020. OTP especially encourages women-led companies and startups with gender-diverse founding teams to apply.

Specifically, OTP is looking for applicants in the following 5+1 categories:

  • Advanced Data Analytics: including solutions such as customer profiling, Artificial Intelligence-supported trading models, big data-based HR analytics, real-time monitoring tools for the real estate market, and more
  • Customer Experience & Customer Servicing: from visual remote assistance and voice-based banking to gamified investment & money management training and advanced anti-fraud solutions
  • Internal Efficiency: wanted solutions range from on-the-job training solutions, self-service digital HR platforms, performance marketing optimization tools, and intelligence sales support assistants to meeting optimization tools
  • Product Innovations in Retail Banking: including white label lending-as-a-service solutions, non-financial, value-added services for real estate agents, utility payment aggregator solutions for digital banking, family banking solutions
  • Product Innovations in SME and Corporate Banking: covers solutions including non-financial, value-added services for agricultural clients, online wholesale marketplaces for agricultural production, e-invoicing, accounting, and financial management services for SMEs
  • OTP is also looking for entirely innovative and disruptive solutions which do not fall under any of the above-listed categories but are related to the banking sector

Building On A Successful Track Record

Over the last four years, the OTP Startup Partner Program has witnessed a growing number of participants, with the last edition receiving 370 applications. At the same time, the number of OTP subsidiaries participating in the program has also significantly increased, with 32 different business units taking part in the last edition. Some collaborating partners arising from the previous batches include:

  • Batch 2018-19: Alyne is working closely with OTP Bank Hungary to provide cutting-edge solutions to strengthen their cybersecurity measures, especially with reference to the ISO and NIST frameworks, and local and European banking regulations.
  • Batch 2019-20: Neticle collaborated with OTP Bank Albania to localize its online media monitoring and sentiment analysis platform in Albanian, thus introducing the first such service available in the Albanian market.
  • Batch 2019-20: After a successful pilot, Scolvo is developing a corporate sales support application for Vojvođanska banka to streamline client meetings and deliver significant efficiency gains in the overall sales process.

To learn more about the OTP Startup Partner Program, sign up for online information sessions on 25 September and 13 October and to apply, visit the OTP Startup Partner Program website today!



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