Fisker raises $50 million to bring its all-electric Ocean SUV to market in 2022

Electric vehicle startup Fisker Inc. said Wednesday it has raised $ 50 million, much needed capital that will go toward funding the next phase of engineering work on the company’s all-electric luxury SUV.

The startup is aiming to launch the Fisker Ocean SUV in 2022.

The Series C funding round was led by Moore Strategic Ventures LLC, the private investment vehicle of Louis M. Bacon, the billionaire hedge fund manager.

“Since we first showed the car at CES earlier this year, reaction from customers and investors has been extremely positive,” Fisker Inc. Chairman and CEO Henrik Fisker said in a statement. “We are radically challenging the conventional industry thinking around developing and selling cars and this capital will allow us to execute our planned timeline to start producing vehicles in 2022.”

The company is also beefing up its executive lineup to help push the project along. Fisker said it has hired Burkhard Huhnke as its CTO. Huhnke was the former vice president of e-mobility for Volkswagen America and vice president of automotive at chipmaker Synopses.

As CTO, Huhnke will spread his time between the company’s R&D work in Los Angeles and its new Fisker Innovation Lab in Silicon Valley.

Building a car company isn’t easy. Just ask Fisker. The well-known automotive designer, who was behind the Aston Martin V8 Vantage, Aston Martin DB9 and BMW Z8 among others, launched a startup called Fisker Automotive that aimed to produce a luxury plug-in hybrid electric vehicles. The flagship vehicle, the Fisker Karma, debuted at the 2008 North American International Auto Show, and first deliveries were in 2011. But the company ran into numerous challenges and production was suspended in November 2012 and ended in bankruptcy a year later.

China’s Wanxiang Group purchased what was left of Fisker in 2014 and launched a new company called Karma Automotive . On a side note: Karma, which has had its own financial struggles, also announced Wednesday it had raised $ 100 million.

This time around, Fisker is focused on an SUV. The Fisker Ocean, which was officially revealed in January at CES 2020, starts at $ 37,499 before applying any federal income tax credit or state incentives.

Startups – TechCrunch

Colvin raises $15M to rethink the flower supply chain

At first glance, Colvin — which recently announced that it has raised a $ 15 million Series B — might look like just another flower and plant delivery company, but co-founder and CEO Andres Cester said the startup has a much grander vision.

“We were born with the ambition the company that would redesign global flower trade,” he said.

Apparently, when Cester and his co-founder/COO Sergi Bastardas started researching the flower supply chain, they found an industry that was both “fragmented” in terms of growsers and sellers, but also surprisingly centralized, with the Aalsmeer Flower Auction in the Netherlands accounting for 77% of all flower bulbs sold globally.

With all the middlemen, Cester said flowers end up being more expensive (with the growers getting a smaller share of the overall payment), and it takes longer for the flowers to reach the consumer.

So the startup created a marketplace where consumers are buying flowers from straight the growers, with Colvin as the only intermediary. That results in average savings of 50% to 100% compared to online competitors, Cester said. (For example, the bouquets featured on the Colvin homepage all cost about €33 or €34).

And while the flower business is hurting overall due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Bastardas said consumers are turning to online options, with Colvin seeing a fourfold sales increase year-over-year, and delivery volumes worth $ 1 million in a single day. The challenge, he said, has been making sure to deliver those flowers within the promised time window.

Colvin founders

Image Credits: Colvin

Cester said Colvin started by selling directly to consumers because it was a good way to build the supply from growers, and that consumer sales should a become a profitable, “cash-generating business.” However, the company’s big focus moving forward is building out its sales to flower wholesalers, who in turn sell to the retailers.

“We’re envisioning the B2B part of the business is going to drive most of the returns and valuation,” Bastardas added.

Colvin was founded in Spain and currently operates in Spain, Italy, Germany and Portugal. There are no plans to come to the U.S. anytime soon, but Cester said, “We believe that if we really want to … redesign how the flower industry works, we’re going to have to land in U.S. sooner or later.”

The startup has now raised a total of $ 27 million. The new round was led by Italian investment fund Milano Investment Partners, with participation from P101 sgr and Samaipata.

And if you’re wondering about the name, Bastardas said the company was named for civil rights pioneer Claudette Colvin, who was arrested in several months before Rosa Parks in Montgomery, Alabama for refusing to give up her bus seat to a white person.

It’s an incongruous choice for a flower startup, but Bastardas said the founders took inspiration from Colvin’s story and the idea that “from several small actions, we can really change an industry.”

Startups – TechCrunch

PQShield raises $7M for quantum-ready cryptographic security solutions

A deep tech startup building cryptographic solutions to secure hardware, software, and communications systems for a future when quantum computers may render many current cybersecurity approaches useless is today emerging out of stealth mode with $ 7 million in funding and a mission to make cryptographic security something that cannot be hackable, even with the most sophisticated systems, by building systems today that will continue to be usable in a post-quantum future.

PQShield (PQ being short for “post-quantum”), a spin out from Oxford University, is being backed in a seed round led by Kindred Capital, with participation also Crane Venture Partners, Oxford Sciences Innovation and various angel investors, including Andre Crawford-Brunt, Deutsche Bank’s former global head of equities.

PQShield was founded in 2018, and its time in stealth has not been in vain.

The startup claims to have the UK’s highest concentration of cryptography PhDs outside academia and classified agencies, and it is one of the biggest contributors to the NIST cybersecurity framework (alongside academic institutions and huge tech companies), which is working on creating new cryptographic standards, which take into account the fact that quantum computing will likely make quick work of breaking down the standards that are currently in place.

“The scale is massive,” Dr Ali El Kaafarani, a research fellow at Oxford’s Mathematical Institute and former engineer at Hewlett-Packard Labs, who is the founder and CEO of PQShield said of that project. “For the first time we are changing the whole of public key infrastructure.”

And according to El Kaafarani, the startup has customers — companies that build hardware and software services, or run communications systems that deal with sensitive information and run the biggest risks from being hacked.

They include entities in the financial and government sectors that it’s not naming, as well as its first OEM customer, Bosch. El Kaafarani said in an interview that it is also in talks with at least one major communications and messaging provider exploring more security for end-to-end encryption on messaging networks. Other target applications could include keyless cars, connected IoT devices, and cloud services.

The gap in the market the PQShield is aiming to address is the fact that while there are already a number of companies exploring the cutting edge of cryptographic security in the market — they include large tech companies like Amazon and MicrosoftHub Security, Duality, another startup out of the UK focused on post-quantum cryptography called Post Quantum and a number of others — the concern is that quantum computing will be utilised to crack even the most sophisticated cryptography such as the RSA and Elliptic Curve cryptographic standards.

This has not been much of a threat so far since quantum computers are still not widely available and used, but there have been a number of signs of a breakthrough on the horizon.

El Kaafarani says that PQShield is the first startup to approach that predicament with a multi-pronged solution aimed at a variety of use cases, including solutions that encompass current cryptographic standards and provide a migration path the next generation of how they will look — meaning, they can be commercially deployed today, even without quantum computers being a commercial reality, but in preparation for that.

“Whatever we encrypt now can be harvested, and once we have a fully functioning quantum computer people can use that to get back to the data and the sensitive information,” he said.

For hardware applications, it’s designed a System on Chip (SoC) solution that will be licensed to hardware manufacturers (Bosch being the first OEM). For software applications, there is an SDK that secures messaging and is protected by “post-quantum algorithms” based on a secure, Signal-derived protocol.

Thinking about and building for the full spectrum of applications is central to PQShield’s approach, he added. “In security it’s important to understand the whole ecosystem since everything is about connected components.”

Some sectors in the tech world have been especially negatively impacted by the coronavirus and its consequences, a predicament that has been exacerbated by uncertainties over the future of the global economy.

I asked El Kaafarani if that translated to a particularly tricky time to raise money as a deep tech startup, given that deep tech companies so often work on long-term problems that may not have immediate commercial outcomes.

Interestingly, he said that wasn’t the case.

“We talked to VCs that were interested in deep tech to begin with, which made the discussion a lot easier,” he said. “And the fact is that we’re a security company, and that is one of the areas that is doing well. Everything has become digitised, and we have all become more heavily reliant on our digital connections. We ultimately help make the digital world more secure. There are people who understand that, and so it wasn’t too difficult to talk to them and understand the importance of this company.”

Indeed, Chrysanthos Chrysanthou, partner at Kindred Capital, echoed that sentiment:

“With some of the brightest minds in cryptography, mathematics and engineering, and boasting world-class software and hardware solutions, PQShield is uniquely positioned to lead the charge in protecting businesses from one of the most profound threats to their future,” he said. “We couldn’t be happier to support the team as it works to set a new standard for information security and defuse risks resulting from the rise of quantum.”

Startups – TechCrunch

TARA Biosystems Raises $10M to Grow Human Tissue Outside of the Body to Aid in the Development of New Drugs

The average time to get a drug to market, crossing FDA hurdles, is 12 years and costs in excess of $ 1B. And in those twelve years, there is animal testing, human trials, and dozens of other steps that a company needs to go through. TARA Biosystems has found a way to generate human tissue OUTSIDE of the body that can be used in the drug development process to test safety and effectiveness without harming animals or risking human life. CEO Misti Ushio shares some insight on the potential of in vitro biology for drug development, TARA Biosystem’s different lines of business, and recent funding round from investors that include OMX Ventures, Merieux Equity Partners, Partnership Fund for New York City, Trancos Ventures, DEFTA Partners, and Tachyon Ventures.
AlleyWatch

This startup wants to transform UK’s over-priced death industry using technology, raises €22.1M funding

Farewill, the UK’s startup which claims to be best-rated death experts and also winner of the 2019 National Will Writing Firm of the Year has announced that it has raised £20 million (€22.1 million), led by growth-stage experts Highland Europe. 

Founded in 2015, Farewill is transforming the outdated death industry and its expensive, complex processes – many of which haven’t changed for more than 150 years – using technology and design. 

Inspired by experiences at the Royal College of Art, CEO Dan Garrett set out to make death – a topic that’s long been taboo – easier for people to tackle. Alongside Co-founder Tom Rogers, previously of Boomf, the pair have overhauled the way people write a will, deal with probate and arrange a funeral. 

Rather than using technology for technology’s sake, their team thinks of customers first. The platform simplifies complex processes, avoids legal jargon, and does away with hidden fees – removing unnecessary friction at a time when people feel at their most vulnerable. Users are guided through a series of questions, all navigated online at their convenience, and a team of in-house specialists are available seven days a week when customers need to speak directly. The cost and time benefits are clear: 

  • With Farewill it takes just 15 minutes to write a will, an average of 24 hours to get the document checked (versus weeks with a traditional solicitor), and it costs from £90 – half the UK average. 
  • On the probate side, instead of hitting people with spiralling costs – which can be as much as 5% of an estate’s value, plus £800+ to get the grant of probate – Farewill charges a single, fixed fee starting at £595. An application takes seven days, compared to the UK average of three weeks. 
  • Farewill direct cremations start from £980, whereas the average UK cremation costs £3,250. When combined with other fees, the total cost of dying typically soars above £10,000 in the UK, forcing 1 in 8 families into funeral poverty.

As a result of these benefits, Farewill is now the highest-rated death expert in the UK with a five-star, Excellent TrustPilot rating of 4.9, taken from more than 6,000 reviews. (Please see the notes section for examples of customer testimonials.)

The organisation is the largest will writer in the UK, responsible for 1 in 10 wills, and became National Will Writer of the Year at the 2019 British Wills and Probate Awards. After launching its direct cremation service last year, it helped more families within two months than the average funeral home serves in a year, becoming the UK’s fastest-growing funeral provider. More recently it won ‘best social innovation’ at the 2020 Europas, joining the ranks of previous award winners including Spotify, Babylon Health, TransferWise and Soundcloud.  

The existing issues around the cost and complex, outdated processes surrounding death have been thrown into sharp relief in the wake of COVID-19. Farewill data shows 94% of people who have lost a loved one to coronavirus found administrative tasks negatively affected during recent times. 40% found it difficult to register the event due to lockdown restrictions, and 39% said that dealing with pensions, tax and probate was almost impossible. Almost a third (27%) reported that the companies they needed to speak to were closed, and 24% were told services were ‘on hold’.

This latest round of funding sees Highland Europe, alongside Keen Ventures, Rich Pierson of Headspace, Broadhaven Ventures, and Venture Founders join previous investors – among them Augmentum Fintech, Taavet Hinrikus (TransferWise) and Kindred Capital. It takes the total raised so far to £30m.

Dan said, “Dealing with death is one of the hardest parts of life, and we started Farewill to take some of the pain out of the process. The latest investment from Highland Europe shows their conviction in our vision for fairer, more transparent services in this space. It means we can build on what we’ve started, growing our world-class team and designing easy-to-use tools that help people during incredibly tough times. We’ll also carry on raising millions in pledged legacy income for the third sector, and we’re aiming to get to £1 billion by 2023. There’s a real need for change in this industry and we’re really proud to be leading it.” 

“How about entirely removing the administrative pain for those grieving for their loved ones? How about providing an affordable, effortless and considerate service? That’s what the Farewill team is doing – with an extraordinary blend of compassion and tech-fueled efficiency,” said Stan Laurent, Partner at Highland Europe and previous Chief Executive of PhotoBox, the photo-printing consumer company that also owned Moonpig. 

“For too long, the wills and funeral industry has been largely geared towards profit over purpose. Since our first meeting with Dan, we knew that Farewill had the ingredients to radically disrupt the industry. We’re excited to back them as they broaden their ambition.”

Tim Levene, CEO of Augmentum Fintech, said, “Farewill has made phenomenal progress since our initial investment 18 months ago. They have grown by 10x and launched a suite of successful new products. This additional capital will provide further opportunity for the company to innovate an archaic industry, and become the leading digital platform in death services.”

Tracy Doree, Chair of the Board at Farewill, added “This latest achievement is testament to the calibre of the team, the culture they’re building, and the approach they’re taking. In an industry that’s still relatively untouched by technology, the opportunity to drive meaningful change and fix problems remains vast. It’s exciting to see the first consumer brand in this space take off. ”

The investment will be used to fund expansion in the UK, as well as ongoing service improvement and product innovation.

— Press release

Main image credits: Farewill

The post This startup wants to transform UK’s over-priced death industry using technology, raises €22.1M funding appeared first on Silicon Canals .

Startups – Silicon Canals

Permutive raises $18.5M to help publishers target ads in a new privacy landscape

Permutive is announcing that it has raised $ 18.5 million in Series B funding, as the London-based startup works to help online publishers make money in a changing privacy landscape.

CEO Joe Root, who co-founded the company with CTO Tim Spratt, noted that publishers are facing increasing regulation while web browsers are phasing out support for third-party cookies — all good news for privacy advocates, but with a real downside for publisher ad revenue (blocking cookies causes an average 52% decline in ad revenue, according to a Google study last year).

Permutive tries to address this issues by allowing publishers to utilize their own first-party data more effectively.  Root estimated that without cookies, web visitors break down to 10% who are logged in and authenticated, while 90% are anonymous, and he said, “We use the insight and understanding from that 10% to make predictions about that 90%.”

So from a single anonymous pageview, Permutive can collect 20 or 30 data points about visitor behavior, which it then uses to try to project who that visitor might be and what they might be interested in. Root also noted that the company’s technology relies on edge computing, allowing it to process data more quickly, which is crucial for publishers who may only have a few seconds in which to show a visitor an ad.

If you’re wondering whether this approach has any privacy or regulatory implications of its own, Root suggested Permutive spends “a lot of time making sure we are ideologically aligned with [European privacy regulation] GDPR and ideologically aligned with the browsers.”

Joe Root - Permutive

Joe Root – Permutive

For one thing, “We don’t believe data should be portable across applications,” which is why Permutive is focused on helping publishers use their own data. For another, Root said Permutive is committed to “the destruction of identity in the adtech ecosystem.”

“Using data isn’t a problem — it’s when you attach data to an identity,” he added. So without identity, “Instead of saying, ‘Here is an ad for Anthony, look up everything you know from Anthony,’ we say, ‘Here is an ad for a user interested in tech media.’ One model leaks data and the other doesn’t.”

Root also suggested that these shifts will allow ad dollars to move back to the premium publishers who have more engagement with and data from their readers — publishers who he argued have “up until now funded the long tail” with their cookie-based data.

This approach is reflected in the publishers Permutive already works with, including BuzzFeed, Penske, The Financial Times, The Guardian, Business Insider, The Daily Telegraph, The Economist, Bell Media, News UK and MailOnline.

Founded in 2014, Permutive previously raised $ 11.5 million, according to Crunchbase. The Series B was led by Octopus Ventures with participation from EQT Ventures and previous investors.

“Today, Permutive is the UK category leader in its field and is beating billion-dollar global businesses on a consistent basis in trial processes,” said Will Gibbs of Octopus Ventures in a statement. “The team has hired many incredible people and is now ready to replicate the success seen in the U.K. in the U.S. Given the evolving regulatory and customer priorities, Permutive’s technology could be genuinely pioneering in its field.”

The startup is also announcing that it has hired Aly Nurmohamed (former global managing director for publisher partners at Criteo) as its general manager for publishing and Steve Francolla (former head of global publisher strategy at LiveRamp) as head of partnerships.

Startups – TechCrunch

London-based Permutive raises €16.4 million Series B funding to help publishers increase advertising revenues

Permutive, the publisher-focused data management platform, today announced it has raised €16.5 million Series B funding, led by Octopus Ventures with participation from EQT Ventures and earlier investors. The London-based startup, which works with global publishers, tripled revenue growth last year. The fresh capital will be used for international expansion, as the company continues to grow market share in North America.

The funding announcement comes at an unprecedented time for publishers, as web traffic spiked due to coronavirus while many publishers struggle to monetize their readership. At the same time, Permutive is making significant hires to further enhance the experience and expertise in its senior team. Also, the young company continues to invest in research and development to help publishers monetize their data more successfully.

Founded in 2015 in the UK by Joe Root (CEO) and Tim Spratt (CTO), Permutive is rebuilding data on the edge to protect user privacy. Its first product is a SaaS data management platform that allows publishers to increase their targetable advertising and deliver significant ROI – up to 291%, according to Permutive.

With impending US regulations and browser changes, privacy is reshaping the ad industry at the expense of the third-party cookie. Existing data cloud solutions cannot function in this world. Unlike cloud-focused data providers, by using edge computing and processing user data on device, Permutive’s technology is built for privacy, protecting publishers from any browser changes by not relying on the third-party cookie. Its SDK is now already running on 350 million devices and the platform sees 15 billion ad impressions globally, which has seen a 5.5x annual increase.

Customers include BuzzFeed, Penske, The Financial Times, The Guardian, Business Insider, The Daily Telegraph, The Economist, Bell Media, News UK, and MailOnline. By harnessing edge computing, Permutive has enabled these publishers to maximize their targeted users, increase advertising yield, and grow rebooking values.

Joe Root, CEO at Permutive, stated: “We’re really excited to announce this new milestone, which will help us to continue the momentum of helping publishers to understand and monetize their audiences. It’s our mission to reset advertising and to protect privacy while making data useful, and this funding will help us towards working for this goal.”

He continued: “Too many organizations are blind to the huge change the advertising industry is undergoing. Yet, in just the last few years legislators have introduced privacy measures such as GDPR and CCPA, which has changed the way businesses can sort, use and store data. Coupled with this, platforms such as Firefox and Safari have excluded third-party cookies, while Google has announced Chrome will go the same way in less than two years time. However, with the right combination of privacy, trust, and scale, publishers have the opportunity to capitalize on their direct relationship with their customers and use their first-party data to help rebuild a new advertising ecosystem from the ground up.”

Will Gibbs of Octopus Ventures commented: “When we first invested, board meetings were held in kitchens and the strategy had to be agile in order to refine the product and vision. Today, Permutive is the UK category leader in its field and is beating billion-dollar global businesses on a consistent basis in trial processes. The team has hired many incredible people and is now ready to replicate the success seen in the UK in the US. Given the evolving regulatory and customer priorities, Permutive’s technology could be genuinely pioneering in its field.”

EU-Startups

UK startup NumberEight raises a €2 million seed round to predict consumer behaviour

UK-based NumberEight, a contextual intelligence platform for mobile devices that predicts consumer context to deliver the right content at the right time, has closed a €2 million seed round led by Nauta Capital.

NumberEight leverages advanced context recognition, artificial intelligence, and signal processing techniques to produce over 100 contextual insights such as “travelling to work on a bicycle” to provide mobile apps with real-time behavioural and situational consumer insights.

Their online dashboard takes these real-time events, anonymises and correlates them with in-app activity to empower its customers to deliver context-driven, real-time personalised experiences to the user.

Founded in 2016, the UK-based company was founded on the back of co-founder and CEO Abhishek Sen’s research into signal processing and recommender systems at TU Delft and after working in mobile companies including Apple, Palm, and BlackBerry.

CEO Abhishek said: ”The idea of NumberEight started by asking a simple question: why can’t my sophisticated smartphone automatically recommend music to me based on my current mood and activity?

For technology to truly be transformative, machines need to become more like humans, and not vice-versa. As we interact with more devices around us, empowering devices with the cognitive ability to think for themselves, without compromising our privacy, is paramount. This is what contextual intelligence is. It unlocks the ability for companies to deliver hyper-personalised and relevant experiences across all devices.”

“User privacy was at the heart of our decisions from day one. The common approach of collecting bulk user data for analysis in the cloud introduces difficult consent issues, so instead, we researched new algorithms that allow this advanced technology to work on humble consumer phone hardware. The hard-earned result is a platform where sensor data never leaves the user’s device, and privacy is preserved,” explains Chris Watts, NumberEight’s CTO and co-founder.

Context-based personalisation is an emerging concept within mobile computing – driven by the need to have frictionless and tailored interactions with mobile devices on one hand, while on the other anticipating user actions and behaviour when delivering content at an individual level.

NumberEight’s technology can power the entire mobile app ecosystem across various sectors, however, the company is currently focused on the €132 billion Media and Entertainment market– from music streaming and online radio to mobile gaming and advertising. Furthermore, the cash injection comes as the global COVID-19 pandemic has led to a significant increase in media consumption across all generations as revealed by Global Web Report.

The round will support NumberEight’s enhancement of its patent-pending technology, hire new engineering and commercial talent, and accelerate their business growth.

As part of the round, Nauta Capital’s General Partner, Carles Ferrer, will join NumberEight’s board. Commenting on the investment, Carles said: “NumberEight’s ability to apply edge AI and mobile sensor data to truly power real-time user context is a highly compelling proposition. Abhishek and Chris have built a best-in-class solution providing powerful consumer insights while putting privacy first. We are thrilled to join the team as they go on to scale their context-as-a service offering.”

EU-Startups

Oxford-based PQShield raises €6.12 million to secure sensitive information for the quantum era

The post-quantum cryptography startup PQShield today announced a significant seed investment of €6.12 million from Kindred Capital, Crane Venture Partners, Oxford Sciences Innovation and angel investors including Andre Crawford-Brunt, Deutsche Bank’s former global head of equities.

With tech giants and startups racing to develop full-scale quantum computers, the question is no longer if, but when they will arrive. These super-powerful machines promise an unprecedented problem for security, since they will be able to smash through traditional public-key encryption and threaten the security of all sensitive information, past and present.

The RSA and Elliptic Curve cryptographic standards of today are very easily breakable by quantum computers, completely undermining the confidentiality and integrity of sensitive information held by businesses, governments and even intelligence agencies. So severe is the problem that the US National Security Agency warned in 2015 it must ‘act now’ to safeguard its systems from the quantum threat, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) initiated a process to define new, quantum-ready cryptographic standards. Unlike older standards, post-quantum cryptography algorithms rely on computational problems that are hard even for quantum computers to solve.

Founded in 2018, PQShield is a spin-out from the University of Oxford, helping businesses prepare for this threat. Its team is pioneering the development and commercial roll-out of quantum-secure cryptography – advanced cryptographic solutions for hardware, software and communications that will protect information from the quantum threat, yet can be implemented using today’s technology and are interoperable with companies’ legacy systems.

Dr Ali El Kaafarani, a research fellow at Oxford’s Mathematical Institute and former engineer at Hewlett-Packard Labs, founded PQShield in 2018 after observing the disconnect between the scale of the quantum threat and the level of information security seen at most businesses today. PQShield’s team is made up of researchers with hundreds of publications between them, and has one of the UK’s highest concentrations of cryptography PhDs outside academia and the classified sector. The company is a leading contributor to NIST’s ongoing effort to define future encryption standards.

PQShield’s team says they are the only cybersecurity company to provide a full suite of quantum-secure solutions for software, hardware, and data in transit. Its System on Chip (SoC) solution, built fully in-house, will be licensed to hardware manufacturers, while the company’s software development kit enables the creation of secure messaging solutions protected by post-quantum algorithms that leverage a provably secure, Signal-derived protocol.

In practice, this means that PQShield can secure everything from keyless cars and other connected devices, to data moving to and from cloud servers. As post-quantum cryptography cannot be retrospectively implemented, the need to do so is especially urgent for banks, governments and OEMs, which face a combination of high compliance, long life cycles, and lasting confidentiality and performance requirements. Bosch, a leading global supplier of technology and services, is already using PQShield’s suite of quantum-secure solutions.

PQShield’s founder and CEO, Dr El Kaafarani, commented: “Too often, we see a huge gulf between academic theory and commercial reality. Cryptographers know that quantum computers pose a real and devastating threat, yet most businesses fail to recognise the need to protect their information beyond today’s security challenges. Whether cars, planes or other connected devices, many of the products designed and sold today are going to be used for decades. Their hardware may be built to last, but right now, their security certainly isn’t. Future-proofing is an imperative, just as it is for the banks and agencies that hold so much of our sensitive data. At PQShield, our team of researchers and engineers is bringing cutting-edge cryptography solutions out of the research lab and into today’s businesses, so they can confidently face the security threats of today and tomorrow. We are delighted to partner with Kindred Capital and our other investors to help realise our vision of a world in which quantum computers pose no threat to information security.”

EU-Startups

UK’s Farewill raises $25M for its new approach online will writing, funerals and other death services

The daily updates on COVID-19 outbreaks, tragic stories of related fatalities, and our narrowed scope of life due to lockdown have all put the concept of mortality — and for some the sad business of actually dealing with a death — squarely into focus for many people. Today, a startup that’s building out a suite of services related to that is announcing a round of funding on the back of a boost of growth in business.

Farewill, a UK startup that provides a platform for people write online wills, organise probate services (such as sorting out death duties and taxes on a person’s property) and order cremations, has raised £20 million ($ 25 million) in funding — money that it hopes will not only help the company grow its business but also to help in the process of coping with our own deaths and those of our loved ones.

“We want to help by destigmatising death,” said Farewill CEO Dan Garrett in an interview about the complexity of the proposition. “We all have to face death. It lives inside everyone. But for most of us, we are psychologically hardwired not to think about it, and as a process people have been largely at the behest of an industry that doesn’t think about its customers.”

The name is, as you may have guessed, a play on farewell. “Think of the pun, and you can start the company,” Garrett said with the hint of wryness in his voice that I’m not sure you can avoid at the moment, especially given the subject.

The round is being led by Highland Europe, with Keen Ventures, Rich Pierson of Headspace, Broadhaven Ventures, Venture Founders and previous investors Augmentum Fintech, Taavet Hinrikus of TransferWise and Kindred Capital also participating. It’s being described as a venture round — a Series A of just under $ 10 million was closed in January 2019 — and brings the total raised by Farewill to £30 million.

Farewill is currently only live in the UK but longer term has plans to expand to more. In its home market, Garrett (who co-founded the company with university friend Dan Rogers, who is the CTO and CPO) says that in the five years that Farewill has been operational, it’s become the biggest will writer in the country in what is a quite fragmented market: the startup accounts for one out of every 10 wills written, or a 10% market share.

The cremation funeral and probate services are more recent launches from December 2019. But even so, given the current state of play with lockdown, social distancing and sadly the rise in actual deaths, they too have seen a lot of activity. Garrett said that Farewill’s cremation service, where the order for cremation and other details are all carried out online and costs on average one-fifth of the typical funeral — the idea being that families can then choose how to memorialise after that process, bypassing that more traditional funeral option — is now the third/fourth-biggest cremation provider in the country. It’s not all about the last few months, however: overall growth for the startup, he added, was 800% last year (before COVID-19) on a revenue basis.

Death by design

Just as death is not an easy topic for most people, it’s a complicated one to pinpoint as a target industry for a startup to “disrupt.” Farewill’s origin story, in that context, is an interesting one.

Garrett — who studied engineering at Oxford as an undergraduate — said the the idea came to him while doing postgraduate work on a joint degree between Imperial College and the Royal College of Art on design and innovation.

He came into the degree with a lot of big ideas, inspired by companies like Airbnb. “There is just so much potential for design-led companies,” he said of his thinking at the time.

One of the remits that the course cohort was given, he said, was to think about the broader concept of aging and services to address that. As part of the course, he travelled to Japan — which has its own specific reverence for ageing and the death process — and based himself at an old people’s home in Tokyo for six months along with “a team of enthnographers and anthropologists.”

He came out of that with an insight he didn’t expect, he recalled. “I felt that at the end of my six months there, I’d failed in my role as a designer,” he said. “All we focused was on the superficiality of ageing: how can we make better cutlery, or beds or seating that helped them move around? It was all about mobility and the physical aspects. But why we didn’t get close to talking about was that most of these people were facing their mortality. And in care homes, you don’t have friends or family around.” In other words, physical details and making life more manageable or enjoyable are fine, but Garrett didn’t feel that they got to the heart of the matter.

“To my mind, if you’re a designer, your responsibility is to get to the bottom of whatever the issue is,” he said. His dissertation, about dementia care, raised questions not about cutlery per se but person-centered approaches. “So much of it is about physical amelioration, not psychological aspects.”

So when he returned to the UK, he set to work trying to understand “the death industry.” He spent two months doing what he described as “mystery shopping”, regularly visiting funeral directors, and saying he was coming to discuss a death (a hypothetical one, not a real one) to understand what process people went through when they walked through the door for a real funeral. “I made sure I didn’t waste too much of their time,” he said.

He then also got a qualification in will writing and started offering services to his friends (free) who needed help to go through the probate process — which involves sorting out death duties, organising personal effects and the estate and so on. He — and Farewill — have also tried to embody a transparent and ethical approach in the work throughout, which has also included making it easier to designate pledged legacy income in wills (that is donations to causes). The aim is to reach £1 billion in pledged legacy income by 2023, with over £200 million raised so far and the numbers accelerating.

All that hands-on experience was important, he said, to get to grips with what he wanted to build. “I may have three masters degrees, but I am terrible at learning without actually doing something,” he said.

One big conclusion Garrett found was that not only was the death industry large and complicated, not least because of the subject matter, but because it had no technical innovation at all around it.

“There is this profound human aversion to dealing with death, and that is a brilliant design challenge,” he said.

Indeed, like it or not, death is always around us, and perhaps particularly right now. In the US — itself home to a number of startups focusing on death-related services — will writing companies have seen huge spikes in their business in the last several months. And even with the economic slowdown much of the globe is now seeing as a result of COVID-19, death care services (which don’t include will writing but everything after death), is projected to be a $ 102 billion industry this year.

It’s numbers like that, and Farewill’s execution in what it is doing, that has attracted investors.

“How about entirely removing the administrative pain for those grieving for their loved ones? How about providing an affordable, effortless and considerate service? That’s what the Farewill team is doing – with an extraordinary blend of compassion and tech-fueled efficiency,” said Stan Laurent, Partner at Highland Europe in a statement. “For too long, the wills and funeral industry has been largely geared towards profit over purpose. Since our first meeting with Dan, we knew that Farewill had the ingredients to radically disrupt the industry. We’re excited to back them as they broaden their ambition.”

“Farewill has made phenomenal progress since our initial investment 18 months ago,” added Tim Levene, CEO of Augmentum Fintech, in a statement. “They have grown by 10x and launched a suite of successful new products. This additional capital will provide further opportunity for the company to innovate an archaic industry, and become the leading digital platform in death services.”

(Farewill also recently won a Europa award for its contribution to social innovation.)

Startups – TechCrunch