With many countries once again – or still – in lockdown to battle the spread of the novel coronavirus, event organisers are in a tough spot. Bringing many people together to shake hands in one venue is something that seems ancient history. But instead of cancelling the whole thing, these events with strong ties to Amsterdam decided to pack up their stuff and move to another world: the virtual one.
VRDays now (partly) in VR
VRDays Europe is an event about immersive technology in business, science and the arts. Last year over 2000 professional attendees came from 60 different countries for its conferences, trade show, art exhibition, funding market and matchmaking—all under one roof.
When the pandemic hit, that became unthinkable. So Benjamin de Wit, founder of VRDays, and his team had to rethink a way to deliver on their mission to unite, inspire and drive forward the XR Community. “What we are doing today is organising the first decentralised festival. VRDays Europe, held from 4 till 6 November, is taking place all over the world. The physical world and the virtual world. “
The result is a mix of events, both on- and offline, to immerse visitors in the world of XR. A festival map leads them passed a paper magazine, over 20 offline satellite events around the globe, live streams of conferences and digital platforms. As one can expect from VRDays, virtual reality is an essential component.
De Wit: “I believe that immersive technologies will help us to create valuable experiences when we come to the end of the physical possibilities. The tech we have on display at VRDays are being put to use to create new experiences. For instance, with Oculus, we were able to present the Church of VR, with a selection of the best VR works, in VR for a wider audience as ever before.” The Philosophers’ Salon, A VRDays staple that used to be displayed in an actual yurt, will also be presented in VR says de Wit.
Women in AI meet up in a virtual world
Women in AI is a nonprofit global do-tank that organises various educational and awareness-focused events to bridge the gender gap and mitigate bias in the AI domain. This year they planned an ethical leadership and business acceleration program for women entrepreneurs in the fields of AI, Data Science, and Machine Learning, consisting of 42 physical events. COVID-19 forced them to rethink those plans.
“At first, we moved to Zoom for our meet-ups,” says Eve Logunova, Women in AI Ambassador. “The main global annual event – WAI Summit – was delivered via Hopin. While the organiser can perfectly orchestrate the event in those environments, we still craved that physical touch and something more gamified for the experience.” That’s where they decided to switch to privacy-proof VR platform VirBELA.
Stay up-to-date: Read all our COVID-19 coverage here
Logunova: “Our WaiDATATHON for Sustainable Future was the first event to organise in VirBELA’s VR. It was a so-called test drive. The experience impressed the participants and guest speakers and made us sure of moving all of our events there.” The virtual world, which attendees navigate with their avatar, adds a level of immersion not found on other platforms, says Logunova: “The gamification provides an ultimate experience that takes away the pressure of ‘staring’ into a screen which in most cases, drains the energy.”
Privacy and inclusiveness built-in
The platform adds some nifty features that are important for Women in AI. First one is the ability sometimes just to shut the door and keep people out, says Logunova: “The design of VirBELA has privacy perimeters for confidential discussions. You can lock doors when you enter a room and share your content without the risk of being heard. Some of our upcoming events require privacy for discussing business and financial plans.”
Another essential feature is the inclusiveness. “When creating an avatar, you can pick from various shades of skin colour and a great number of accessories, including a hijab. It is easy to create your avatar as gender-specific or nonbinary. Giving our members and guests the choice to be who they are, creates an experience of freedom.”
Odyssey Momentum runs meetings on game-engine
Odyssey Momentum is described by founder Rutger Zuidam as an ‘online mass collaboration arena’ where complex 21st-century challenges are solved. The event, held from 13 till 15 November, features more than 2.000 participants and 105 selected teams that will work together to build solutions for 21 challenges. These challenges are tied directly to the UN Sustainable Development Goals, have a global societal and economic impact, and are set by large corporations or governmental bodies from all over Europe and the US.
Due to COVID-19, Odyssey had to find a solution for their vast get-togethers. They decided to create a new type of event that embraces the potential of the internet. By combining game design with creative meeting solutions, their event will focus on collaboration while seemingly take place in outer space. “It’s not VR,” admits Zuidam. “But it is still utilising the gaming engine Unity 3D. Anyone can run it from the browser.” No goggles needed…yet.
The immersion that Odyssey Momentum is creating this year is only the beginning, Zuidam admits. “We’re mostly interested in AR for future editions. It may enhance physical presence and blends online and offline worlds. Wouldn’t you agree every office and home should have some kind of holodeck?”
Will these events return to the real world?
Will these events ever return to the physical world and hold events in Amsterdam? Well, it’s hard to say goodbye. But if it is up to these organisers, the virtual world will be a permanent location for a large part of their events.
“These events would probably be related to the launch and the closing of a year, and some mid-seasons get-togethers,” says Logunova, who will keep welcoming visitors to Women in AI at its virtual office in VirBELA in the meantime. “We all miss that human touch and socialisation in person. VR becomes the closest to that experience, and I am confident that in a few years from now, we will see VR no longer as an innovation.”
Van Zuidam is quick to set the record straight: “The event was in Groningen.” But even so, Odyssey Momentum will not return to the city in the North of the Netherlands. “We can already see partners, teams and other participants organising their offline Odyssey events during Momentum, supporting their goals. Odyssey Momentum is the online experience that connects everyone across the globe.”
Benjamin de Wit is also not planning to say farewell to the Amsterdam canals: “We never leave. However, I think we will not go back to VRDays Europe IN Amsterdam. We are VRDays Europe FROM Amsterdam. Maybe it will be enough for some relations to see each other every year, or every five year – if in the meantime you can stay very well connected through immersive technology. The savings you can find in this scenario are tremendous. It is about finding the balance between the physical and the digital”
Featured image: VR meeting in Virbella
TechCrunch readers probably know that privacy regulations like Europe’s GDPR and California’s CCPA give them additional rights around personal data — like the ability to request that companies delete data. But how many of you have actually exercised that right?
An Israeli startup called Mine is working to make that process much simpler, and it announced this morning that it has raised $ 9.5 million in Series A funding.
Ringel explained that Mine scans users’ inboxes to help them understand who has access to their personal data.
“Every time that you do an online interaction, such as you sign up for a service or purchase a flight ticket, those companies, those services leave some clues or traces within your inbox,” he said.
Mine then cross-references that information with the data collection and privacy policies of the relevant companies, determining what data they’re likely to possess. It calculates a risk score for each company — and if the user decides they want a company to delete their data, Mine can send an automated email request from the user’s own account.
Ringel argued that this is a very different approach to data privacy and data ownership. Instead of building “fences” around your data, Mine makes you more comfortable sharing that data, knowing that you can take control when necessary.
“The product gives [consumers] the freedom to use the internet feeling more secure, because they know they can exercise their right to be forgotten,” he said.
Ringel noted that the average Mine user has a personal data footprint across 350 companies — and the number is more like 550 in the United States. I ran a Mine audit for myself and, within a few minutes, found that I’m pretty close to the U.S. average. (Ringel said the number doesn’t include email newsletters.)
Mine launched in Europe earlier this year and says it has already been used by more than 100,000 people to send 1.3 million data deletion requests.
The legal force behind those requests will differ depending on where you live and which company you are emailing, but Ringel said that most companies will comply even when they’re not legally required to do so, because it’s part of creating a better privacy experience that helps them “earn trust and credibility from consumers.” Plus, “Most of them understand that if you want to go, they’ve already lost you.”
The startup’s core service is available for free. Ringel said the company will make money with premium consumer offerings, like the ability to offload the entire conversation with a company when you want your data deleted. It will also work with businesses to create a standard interface around privacy and data deletion.
As for whether giving Mine access to your inbox creates new privacy risks, Ringel said that the startup collects the “bare minimum” of data — usually just your email address and your full name. Otherwise, it knows “the type of data, but not the actual data” that other companies have obtained.
“We would never share or sell your data,” he added.
The Series A was led by Google’s AI-focused venture fund Gradient Ventures, with participation from e.ventures, MassMutual Ventures, as well as existing investors Battery Ventures and Saban Ventures. Among other things, Ringel said the money will fund Mine’s launch in the United States.
While certifications for security management practices like SOC 2 and ISO 27001 have been around for a while, the number of companies that now request that their software vendors go through (and pass) the audits to be in compliance with these continues to increase. For a lot of companies, that’s a harrowing process, so it’s maybe no surprise that we are also seeing an increase in startups that aim to make this process easier. Earlier this month, Strike Graph, which helps automate security audits, announced its $ 3.9 million round, and today, Secureframe, which also helps businesses get and maintain their SOC 2 and ISO 27001 certifications, is announcing a $ 4.5 million round.
Secureframe’s round was co-led by Base10 Partners and Google’s AI-focused Gradient Ventures fund. BoxGroup, Village Global, Soma Capital, Liquid2, Chapter One, Worklife Ventures and Backend Capital participated. Current customers include Stream, Hasura and Benepass.
Shrav Mehta, the company’s co-founder and CEO, spent time at a number of different companies, but he tells me the idea for Secureframe was mostly born during his time at direct-mail service Lob.
“When I was at Lob, we dealt with a lot of issues around security and compliance because we were sometimes dealing with very sensitive data, and we’d hop on calls with customers, had to complete thousand-line security questionnaires, do exhaustive security reviews, and this was a lot for a startup of our size at the time. But it’s just what our customers needed. So I started to see that pain,” Mehta said.
After stints at Pilot and Scale AI after he left Lob in 2017 — and informally helping other companies manage the certification process — he co-founded Secureframe together with the company’s CTO, Natasja Nielsen.
“Because Secureframe is basically adding a lot of automation with our software — and making the process so much simpler and easier — we’re able to bring the cost down to a point where this is something that a lot more companies can afford,” Mehta explained. “This is something that everyone can get in place from day one, and not really have to worry that, ‘hey, this is going to take all of our time, it’s going to take a year, it’s going to cost a lot of money.’ […] We’re trying to solve that problem to make it super easy for every organization to be secure from day one.”
The main idea here is to make the arcane certification process more transparent and streamline the process by automating many of the more labor-intensive tasks of getting ready for an audit (and it’s virtually always the pre-audit process that takes up most of the time). Secureframe does so by integrating with the most-often used cloud and SaaS tools (it currently connects to about 25 services) and pulling in data from them to check up on your security posture.
“It feels a lot like a QuickBooks or TurboTax-like experience, where we’ll essentially ask you to enter basic details about your business. We try to autofill as much of it as possible from third-party sources — then we ask you to connect up all the integrations your business uses,” Mehta explained.
The company plans to use much of the new funding to staff up and build out these integrations. Over time, it will also add support for other certifications like PCI, HITRUST and HIPAA.
During the pandemic, many of us have relied on having goods delivered to our homes more frequently than before. But as Covid-19 spreads easily, the warehouses dotted along the world’s supply chains have become potential hubs of disease transmission, says Elliot Katz, co-founder of Phantom Auto.
Read more here.
The post [Phantom Auto in BBC] The forklift truck drivers who never leave their desks appeared first on OurCrowd Blog.
Hijacking a company’s DNS or injecting code into third-party tools are the kind of attacks that many companies aren’t equipped to handle. Cyberpion, a new security startup founded by a number of experienced security experts, aims to help enterprises identify and neutralize these kinds of risks that typically stem from connections to their infrastructure assets, especially now that most companies rely on a variety of assets that sit beyond their security perimeters.
The company today announced that it has raised an $ 8.25 million seed round, co-led by Team8 Capital and Hyperwise Ventures. The company, which already has teams in the U.S. and Israel in place, plans to use the new funding to expand its sales and marketing efforts and accelerate product development.
Cyberpion was co-founded by Nethanel Gelernter, the company’s CEO, who previously spent time at Microsoft and as a security researcher, and its CBO Ran Nahmias, the former head of cloud security at Check Point, who also spent time at Aqua Security and as director of enterprise strategy at Microsoft.
“What was mostly fascinating to me is that everything Cyberpion is doing is so different from what you think about and deal with day in, day out with the traditional security tools,” Nahmias said. “That was very refreshing for me, who likes going to new things and learning new things on the fly. And Cyberpion presented an amazing challenge, a very complicated problem and an opportunity for me to learn more about that.”
Nahmias noted that today, most companies focus on protecting and defending the environment that is directly owned and managed by them. But those companies don’t operate in a vacuum, and building their businesses involves an ecosystem of third-party suppliers. “With that comes a far-reaching ecosystem of potential benefits and potential threats that becomes the whole attack surface area — and that is not attended to by what people think about and by the tools we all have.”
What’s interesting here is that the service analyzes a company’s security stance with regard to these attacks by looking at the connections it makes across the public infrastructure of the internet — and with that it can look at how a company connects to one vendor, but also how they are connected to others, as well.
With that, Cyberpion is able to discover the inventory of known and unknown assets a company has across its ecosystem and can continuously scan for security vulnerabilities and, of course, provide alerts and recommendations for how to remedy these issues.
“Attacks on external digital assets of enterprises are becoming a prominent vector for sophisticated cyber criminals,” said Hyperwise Ventures’ managing partner, Nathan Shuchami. “In the face of hackers finding vulnerabilities in new and wider attack surfaces, Cyberpion offers unparalleled detection and protection capabilities, providing comprehensive security across the organization’s entire online ecosystem. Hyperwise Ventures is thrilled to co-lead the seed funding round in Cyberpion.”
These days when you found a startup, you don’t go out and buy a rack of servers. And you don’t build an in-house datacenter team. Instead, you farm out your infrastructure needs to the major cloud platforms, namely Amazon AWS, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud.
That’s all well and good, but over time any startup’s cloud setup will become more complex, varied and perhaps multi-provider. Throw in microservices and one can wind up with a big muddle, and an even bigger bill. That’s the problem that Yotascale wants to attack.
And there’s money backing the startup’s progress, including $ 13 million in new capital. The round, a Series B, was led by Aydin Senkut at Felicis with participation from other capital pools, including Engineering Capital, Pelion Ventures and Crosslink Capital. Yotascale has now raised $ 25 million in total.
The funding event caught my eye, as I’ve heard startup CEOs discuss their public cloud spends in somewhat bitter terms; it’s hard for most startups to change infrastructure direction after they get off the ground, which means that as they grow, so too does their outflow of dollars to the major tech companies. The same megacaps that might turn around and compete with the very same startups that are pumping up their revenues and margins.
So spending less on AWS or Azure would be nice for startups. Yotascale wants to be the helper for lots of companies to better understand and attribute that spend the correct part of their platform or service, perhaps lowering aggregate spend at the same time.
Let’s talk about how Yotascale got to where it is today.
The startup’s CEO, Asim Razzaq, talked TechCrunch through his company’s history, which didn’t get started until after he had wrapped up tenure at both another startup, and PayPal.
When he set out to found Yotascale, Razzaq didn’t fire up a deck, raise capital and then get right to building. Instead, he first went out to do customer discovery work. That effort led him to the perspective that current solutions aimed at understanding cloud spend were insufficient and led to data being used against infrastructure teams in arguments for lower spend when it wasn’t a good idea (cutting backup expenses, for example).
During that time he also determined who Yotascale’s target customer is, namely the head of platform engineering at a company.
The startup self-funded for a while, with Razzaq telling TechCrunch that he wanted to be completely sure that he had conviction concerning the project before moving ahead.
After starting to work on Yotascale in mid 2015, the company raised some capital in 2016. It set out to solve the spend attribution problem that companies with public cloud contracts deal with — including having to contend with modern architecture and its related issues — while earning the trust of engineers, according to Razzaq.
From its period of customer discovery to working on product market fit after raising funds from Engineering Capital, Yotascale raised a Series A in mid-2018. Why? Because, Razzaq, told TechCrunch, as ones gains conviction, one must scale their team. And thus more capital was required.
During our chat with the CEO, it was notable how sequential his company-building process has proven. From talking to potential customers, to working to understand who his buyer is, to waiting on scaling the startup’s go-to-market efforts until he was confident in product-market fit, Yotascale seems to follow the inverse of the “raise lots and spend fast and try to win right away” model that became quite popular during the unicorn era.
How did Yotascale know when it found product market fit? According to its CEO, when companies started pulling the startup into their operations and not the other way around.
Yotascale reported 4x year-over-year annual recurring revenue (ARR) growth at some point this year, though Razzaq was diffident about sharing specifics concerning the metric.
Sticking to the theme of reasonableness and caution, when asked about why his Series B is modest in size, Razzaq said that he was not interested in raising big rounds, and that $ 13 million is an amount of money that can move his company forward. What’s coming from the company? Yotascale wants to add support for Azure and Google Cloud in addition to its AWS work of today, to pick an example.
(You can find other hints that Yotascale is perhaps more mature than its peers at its current age. For example, in 2018 the company hired a new chief revenue officer, even putting out a release on the matter.)
That’s enough on this particular round. What will prove interesting is how far Yotascale can push its ARR up by the end of Q3 2021. And if it raises again before then.
For the 7th episode of the EU-Startups Podcast we invited European venture capital investors to come on air and to pitch their VC firm and investment focus. For further information, the links to those firms can be found in the show notes below. Show Notes New episodes of the EU-Startups Podcast are getting published in a 14-days rhythm…