Greyparrot bags $2.2M seed to scale its AI for waste management

London-based Greyparrot, which uses computer vision AI to scale efficient processing of recycling, has bagged £1.825 million (~$ 2.2M) in seed funding, topping up the $ 1.2M in pre-seed funding it had raised previously. The latest round is led by early stage European industrial tech investor Speedinvest, with participation from UK-based early stage b2b investor, Force Over Mass.

The 2019 founded startup — and TechCrunch Disrupt SF battlefield alum — has trained a series of machine learning models to recognize different types of waste, such as glass, paper, cardboard, newspapers, cans and different types of plastics, in order to make sorting recycling more efficient, applying digitization and automation to the waste management industry.

Greyparrot points out that some 60% of the 2BN tonnes of solid waste produced globally each year ends up in open dumps and landfill, causing major environmental impact. While global recycling rates are just 14% — a consequence of inefficient recycling systems, rising labour costs, and strict quality requirements imposed on recycled material. Hence the major opportunity the team has lit on for applying waste recognition software to boost recycling efficiency, reduce impurities and support scalability.

By embedding their hardware agnostic software into industrial recycling processes Greyparrot says it can offer real-time analysis on all waste flows, thereby increasing efficiency while enabling a facility to provide quality guarantee to buyers, mitigating against risk.

Currently less than 1% of waste is monitored and audited, per the startup, given the expensive involved in doing those tasks manually. So this is an application of AI that’s not so much taking over a human job as doing something humans mostly don’t bother with, to the detriment of the environment and its resources.

Greyparrot’s first product is an Automated Waste Monitoring System which is currently deployed on moving conveyor belts in sorting facilities to measure large waste flows — automating the identification of different types of waste, as well as providing composition information and analytics to help facilities increase recycling rates.

It partnered with ACI, the largest recycling system integrator in South Korea, to work on early product-market fit. It says the new funding will be used to further develop its product and scale across global markets. It’s also collaborating with suppliers of next-gen systems such as smart bins and sorting robots to integrate its software.

“One of the key problems we are solving is the lack of data,” said Mikela Druckman, co-founder & CEO of Greyparrot in a statement. “We see increasing demand from consumers, brands, governments and waste managers for better insights to transition to a more circular economy. There is an urgent opportunity to optimise waste management with further digitisation and automation using deep learning.”

“Waste is not only a massive market — it builds up to a global crisis. With an increase in both world population and per capita consumption, waste management is critical to sustaining our way of living. Greyparrot’s solution has proven to bring down recycling costs and help plants recover more waste. Ultimately it unlocks the value of waste and creates a measurable impact for the environment,” added Marie-Hélène Ametsreiter, lead partner at Speedinvest Industry, in another statement.

Greyparrot is sitting pretty in another aspect — aligning with several strategic areas of focus for the European Union, which has made digitization of legacy industries, industrial data sharing, investment in AI, plus a green transition to a circular economy core planks of its policy plan for the next five+ years. Just yesterday the Commission announced a €750BN pan-EU support proposal to feed such transitions as part of a wider coronavirus recovery plan for the trading bloc. 

Startups – TechCrunch

Ready to scale up in South Korea and Asia? Join the K-Startup Grand Challenge (Sponsored)

If you’re thinking of scaling up your startup in South Korea or the Asian region in general, then this programme could be your foot in the door.

The K-Startup Grand Challenge is a 3-month startup inbounding programme organised and financed by the South Korean government, now in its 5th year. If you’re an innovative startup interested in expanding into Asia, the programme will help you settle and scale up in South Korea. 

Addressing startups considering an expansion despite during the current crisis, Eunyoung Park, Deputy Director of NIPA, and KSGC Europe & Africa lead, stated: “Being able to pivot your business and adjust to periods of uncertainty is crucial and even more so for startups. We definitely understand people’s concerns regarding COVID-19 and whether it is good or even necessary to expand the horizon in this uncertain time. However, we can say with confidence that South Korea has all necessary preventative protocols when it comes to social gatherings and opening businesses. While COVID-19 has been sweeping over the world, leaving vast economic aftermath, starting a business in Korea would be an opportunity to scale up your startup.”

K-Startup Grand Challenge is mostly looking for startups working in the following sectors: AI, big data, cloud computing, networking (5G), IoT, Robotics, autotech, AR/VR/MR, smart city, health, semiconductor, green, 3D printing, blockchain, fintech, information security, e-commerce, 020, logistics, media, ETC.

A total of 60 teams will be selected to participate in the 3-month acceleration programme (Sept 1 – Nov 30, 2020) at the Startup Campus located in Pangyo (just a 14-minute subway ride away from the Gangnam district of Seoul). The programme includes 1-on-1 mentoring, information sessions, office space, coaching on South Korean and Asian business culture, seminars (e.g. patents, accounting regulations, tax laws), regular networking sessions and opportunities to meet with large South Korean conglomerates, as well as 1-2 Korean interns joining your team. Startups will also be awarded living expenses for the 3-month programme.

At the end of the programme on the final Demo Day, the top 30 teams will be chosen for an additional Settlement Programme, which includes funding for an extra 3.5 months (Jan 15 – April 30, 2021) and opportunities to attract investments from various venture capital firms in South Korea. Plus, the top 5 startups overall will be eligible for extra grant money.

Eunyoung Park added: “The K-Startup Grand Challenge is particularly suited to those who have been preparing to do business in Asia and within the Korean market. Along with the outstanding startup ecosystem, I would like to highlight the government’s wider support for startups. In addition to a total of $ 240k as cash prize, the KSGC program also guarantees additional investment from the government to help with establishing a new business venture in Korea.

Additionally, the co-working community in this program will be borderless. The startups are from everywhere in the world – North America, Europe, Asia, and you name it! Ideas and inspirations will be shared freely and openly. Moreover, the startups get to have a partnership with Korean-based big conglomerates such as Samsung, LG, and Kakao. As many people know, also the geographical epicentre of venture capital is shifting. Those venture capital funds founded by giant Asian tech companies (e.g., Samsung NEXT, Kakao Ventures) are big-game players and the K-Startup Grand Challenge can be a door-opener here.”

More information on eligibility and the programme can be found on the website of the K-Startup Grand Challenge 2020 and on the KSGC Facebook page. The application deadline is on June 25, 2020.

EU-Startups

[CyberMDX in Verdict] The hacker will see you now: the vast scale of medical device cyber insecurity

Medical devices connected to a hospital network are extremely vulnerable to cybersecurity attacks, according to a report by CyberMDX.

Read more here.

The post [CyberMDX in Verdict] The hacker will see you now: the vast scale of medical device cyber insecurity appeared first on OurCrowd.

OurCrowd

Spruce is eliminating the drudgery of real estate, and has $29M more from Scale to make sales easy

Real estate is one of those classic industries we always talk about in Silicon Valley: multi-trillion dollars in scale in terms of assets and transaction volume, but still relying on good ole’ pen and paper to get anything actually done. A huge number of companies have launched to digitize all aspects of real estate, from calculating valuations to monitoring operational costs and underwriting mortgages.

 

One of those companies is New York City-based Spruce, which was founded back in 2016 to digitize the prodigious paperwork that must be completed during a real estate transaction, including handling title, ensuring all closing docs are completed, and monitoring compliance in every geographical jurisdiction they operate in. The company raised a cumulative $ 19.1 million in Series A funding across two tranches (my colleague Jon Shieber covered the first tranche back in 2017), and now it is poised for even more growth.

The company is announcing today that it has added $ 29 million in growth capital led by Alex Niehenke at Scale Venture Partners, with Zigg Capital and Bessemer participating. Niehenke has previously funded companies like Root Insurance, which is focused on offering more competitive car insurance based on realistic data from drivers.

That seems to be roughly the same thesis here with Spruce — better data and digitalization can massively improve the quality and efficiency of legacy industries.

“Instead of using local offices with manual communication and manual processes, we provide [our clients] with API’s that allow them to scale effectively and to provide great digital experiences to their customers,” said Patrick Burns, the cofounder and CEO of the company. Burns had previously done product at wealth management startup Betterment, where he also met his cofounder Andrew Weisgall.

It can be bewildering how all the startups in real estate tech fit together, but this one is simple. Spruce wants to be the workflow tool for real estate transactions, which means that they don’t underwrite mortgages or handle valuations themselves directly. Rather, the platforms wants to be the central nervous system between buyers, sellers, lenders, and all the coterie of other services required to get a transaction closed. The company handles all kinds of transactions from new home purchases by families to investor-to-investor sales.

What’s interesting is that they have two streams of revenue according to Burns. First, they take a closing fee, which is customary in real estate transactions. Spruce argues that its efficiency cuts the price of closing a transaction, ultimately saving its clients money. Second, the company earns a premium as the agent of record for the title insurance policy agreed to in the transaction, which provides a continual stream of revenue from its clients. Similar to closing fees, title insurance broker fees are customary in the industry.

It’s a pretty clear value proposition, and that’s helped it grow transaction volume dramatically. According to the company, it has processed $ 1.25 billion of transactions on its platform, and its revenue has grown 400% annually. With roughly five million existing homes sold in the U.S. each month, that’s still an exiguous chunk of the market.

The global pandemic underway right now has taken a massive bite out of real estate transactions, particularly for homes, since buyers mostly can’t attend showings due to social distancing policies. The upshot is that those same social distancing policies have also scrambled the traditional real estate closing, which required passels of attorneys and others to work together to get all documents signed. Spruce — and other digitalization startups in the space — are poised to transition more of that legacy paperwork onto their platforms as industry players look for online approaches.

Burns says the capital will be used to expand Spruce’s product and client partnerships. The company currently has three operations “hubs” in New York, Texas, and California.

Startups – TechCrunch

Autonomous aviation startup Xwing raises $10M to scale its software for pilotless flights

Autonomous aviation startup Xwing locked in a $ 10 million funding round before COVID-19 hit. Now the San Francisco-based startup is using the capital to hire talent and scale the development of its software stack as it aims for commercial operations later this year — pending FAA approvals.

The company announced Wednesday its Series A funding round, which was led by R7 Partners, with participation from early-stage VC Alven, Eniac Ventures and Thales Corporate Ventures. Xwing has already hired several key executives with that fresh injection of capital, including Terrafugia’s former co-founder and COO Anna Dietrich, and Ed Lim, a Lockheed Martin and Aurora Flight Sciences veteran who more recently led guidance navigation and control for Uber’s autonomous car division as well as Zipline’s AV delivery drone.

Xwing is different from some of the other autonomous aviation startups that have popped up in recent years. The startup isn’t building autonomous helicopters and planes. Instead, it’s focused on the software stack that will enable pilotless flight of small passenger aircraft.

Xwing is also aircraft agnostic. The company’s engineers are focused on the key functions of autonomous flight, such as sensing, reasoning and control. The software stack, which is designed to work across different kinds of aircraft, is integrated into existing aerospace systems. That strategy of retrofitting existing aircraft will speed up deployment, while maintaining safety and keeping costs in check, according to founder and CEO Marc Piette. It also is a straighter path toward regulatory approval.

“It’s more effective for us to not constrain ourselves to a given vehicle and to develop technology that is considered more of an enabler— from a marketing perspective — than going full stack, Piette said when asked if Xwing would ever try to build an autonomous aircraft from the ground up.

Since Xwing’s last funding round — $ 4 million in summer 2018 — the company has been developing its tech and working with the FAA to receive flight certification for pilotless aircraft. Once approved, the company will seek to commercialize pilotless flights.

The startup hasn’t named any commercial partners yet. And Piette hasn’t provided details about its commercial strategy either, although he said to expect more announcements this year.

Xwing is already working with Bell for NASA’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS in the NAS) program, an initiative meant to mature the key remaining technologies that are needed to integrate unmanned aircraft in U.S. airspace. The program plans to hold demonstration flights this summer.

Startups – TechCrunch

Wise locks down $5.7 million to scale its challenger bank designed for small businesses

Stripe and Shopify have transformed the face of commerce for small business users, yet when it comes to putting that cash somewhere, SMBs have found that the banking options aren’t quite as transformative.

Wise is a new challenger bank built specifically for small businesses. The startup is aiming to insert itself as an essential service in the small business repertoire by bundling banking with payment services powered by Stripe. Customers can receive payments, manage their cash and pay employees all via Wise’s app.

CEO Arjun Thyagarajan tells TechCrunch that his company has closed a $ 5.7 million seed round led by Base10 Partners . Abstract Ventures, Backend Capital, The Fund and Two Culture Capital also participated in the round.

While the advent of challenger banks has helped drive plenty of innovation on the consumer banking side, says Rexhi Dollaku, a principal at Base10 who led the Wise deal, “very little of that innovation has happened in the business banking context.”

Thyagarajan and his investors hope that the startup can keep churn low by embedding a wider scope of financial services products inside its core product, expanding beyond the traditional scope of banking features by offering functionality to power things like payroll and accounting.

Rather than plunging into direct customer sales, Wise is partnering with behemoth platforms like Shopify to onboard small businesses where they already are. “If you look at other [banking] options out there, they’re going direct to the customer; what we’ve learned is that it is better to partner,” Thyagarajan says. “They’re signing up inside these ecosystems so we want to partner with these ecosystems.”

The small team has already built up a customer base of 1,000 businesses. The average Wise customer has between 2-10 employees and is pulling in somewhere between $ 500,000 and $ 5 million in ARR, the company tells us. Bank accounts on Wise’s platform are FDIC-insured up to $ 250,000 through the startup’s partnership with banking partner BBVA USA.

While Thyagarajan says they’ve seen online spend increasing, the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted plenty of Wise’s potential customers, and has pushed the company to stay flexible in the businesses they cater to. “I think a lot of industries are going to get accelerated and fast-forwarded,” he says. “The customers we want to cater to are rapidly modernizing.”

Alongside the funding announcement, the startup shared that Raghav Lal, a former general manager of Small Business at Visa, will be joining the startup as its president.

Startups – TechCrunch

Grow & Scale Your Gaming Startup With Global Cybersecurity Company Kaspersky

Through its Innovation Hub (IHub), the leading cybersecurity company Kaspersky fosters collaboration with innovative tech startups.

For its third Global Startup Call, the industry leader is looking for startup teams and individuals who develop disruptive solutions on the edge of cybersecurity and gaming.

Validating, Growing & Scaling Innovative Solutions

“It is our pleasure to announce the next call for innovative startups and to support the growth of new business activities by providing them with an opportunity to validate, grow and scale their solutions with such a global leading company as Kaspersky. By joining forces, we can enhance our technologies and together address security needs with higher accuracy and efficiency, as well as support the essence of cyber-immunity”, states Vitaly Mzokov, Head of the Innovation Hub at Kaspersky.

To validate, grow, and scale the solutions of participating startups, Kaspersky builds on three pillars:

Technical Validation

  • Technical and business mentoring for product development
  • Technical integrations for a joint proof of concept
  • Invitation to the Online Streaming Selection Day on 30 June

Business Development

  • Business partnerships for commercial growth
  • Direct access to Kaspersky’s channel partners (including distributors and resellers)
  • Access to Kaspersky’s regional and HQ offices, business development and technical resources & expertise

Piloting, Global Exposure & Outreach

  • The best selected projects will be invited to run joined pilot projects with Kaspersky
  • Dedicated professional support for global product sales and market boost
  • Participation in global partner conferences and other events (with careful consideration of the current coronavirus situation)
  • Engagement and exposure via Kaspersky’s dedicated channels and media partners

Looking For Gaming Startups With A Track Record

Kaspersky is looking for innovative products or services with working MVPs that aim to make the gaming industry more cyber immune. This means you should provide a product or service beyond the functional prototype phase, ideally already launched on the market, and preferably already with clients.

More precisely, Kaspersky is interested in the following solutions, among others:

  • Protection tools to detect players, their loot, as well as their whole gaming experience
  • Anti-cheat – online security solution for developers and leagues
  • Matchmaking services to simplify how you find best partners to play with Chat, voice communications, and community tools across different platforms
  • Gaming after-match video search and analysis tools that feature neural networks
  • Voice assistant and VR/AR-control tools to open new ways to handle devices and gaming controls
  • Game mode and settings for hardware and software environment, as well as ‘Do Not Disturb’ mode to help keep focus on the game
  • Secure mobile broadcast and streaming tools, safe sharing and content creation services
  • Digital rights management to protect digital content and in-game loot
  • Other innovative ideas that make the gaming industry more cyber immune

Building On Last Year’s Success

2019’s winners had the opportunity to collaborate on joint business cases with Kaspersky and launch their products with the support of a globally recognized cybersecurity brand. The newly developed products are also included in the company’s portfolio, driving a synergetic approach to innovative solutions development.

If you develop an innovative solution on the edge of cybersecurity and gaming, apply by 31 May 2020!

 

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The post Grow & Scale Your Gaming Startup With Global Cybersecurity Company Kaspersky appeared first on StartUs Magazine.

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Everee raises a $10M Series A to scale its worker-friendly payroll software service

This morning Everee, a Utah-based software as a service (SaaS) startup focused on payroll, announced that it has closed a $ 10 million Series A. The funding event was led by Origin Ventures and Signal Peak Ventures. Previously, Everee had raised a $ 3.7 million Seed round in mid-2019.

The company is therefore as well capitalized as it has been in its life, right as the economy enters a rough patch. TechCrunch spoke with one of the company’s founders, Ron Ross, and its new CEO Brett Barlow (formerly of Utah unicorn Pluralsight), about the new capital and what it plans on doing with it.

Payroll

According to Ross, the company was founded out of a problem he saw in the market. When his daughter went to college and started working she earned enough to cover her expenses, but her income timing didn’t match her cash flow needs, so she had to ask her parents for occasional loans. Ross wasn’t stoked by the situation, until he dug into it more closely and found that the payroll system of today doesn’t always match well with the cash needs of workers.

And thus Everee was born, a SaaS tool that handles payroll with a neat twist. Instead of paying workers merely every two weeks, the service offers more flexible payout options. Its lower-cost service lets workers select twice-weekly, every two weeks or monthly payouts. Its more expensive service lets workers cash out their earnings on a daily or weekly basis, as well.

This might sound odd, but it makes sense; why should workers’ wages be tied up for weeks until they receive them? That’s stupid as heck. If you work, you should get paid right away. That would be more worker-friendly and sensible, and with modern banking, it should be common.

Everee also does what you’d expect from a payroll service, like onboarding, timecard management and the rest. I was a little surprised by its price point, which starts at $ 15 per worker per month for its cheaper service ($ 10 per month with more employees), but the company told me that it’s priced largely in line with competition.

Before we close, a financial wrinkle. Everee doesn’t change a company’s cash flow if its workers decide to cash out earnings more rapidly than what’s normal. Instead, it covers the cash flow changes itself, using a credit facility. The firm then eats that cost of capital as cost of revenue (COGS), meaning that to offer its pay-when-you-want-to-get-paid it takes a gross margin hit. Why does that matter? It means that Everee is changing its revenue quality to offer a neat service. This isn’t a knock, more of a note. Everee is, to a degree, shaving about 5 points off its gross margins, according to its executives, so that workers can get paid more promptly.

To be clear, Everee is a SaaS business with likely attractive economics, but I’m a sucker for tooling that helps working people, and thus wanted to highlight how the system works.

Finally, how will Everee approach growth in a market where hourly workers are being laid off around the nation? When TechCrunch spoke to the company, it noted there are a host of workers still employed, including folks working at grocery stores and other critical pieces of infrastructure. It will still have a market to grow into, or at least the cash to float itself until the employment market comes back.

Startups – TechCrunch