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Tag Archives: africa

YC-backed Sterblue aims to enable smarter drone inspections

As government regulation for commercial drone usage seems to be trending in a very positive direction for the companies involved, there is an ever-growing opportunity for drone startups to utilize artificial intelligence to deliver insights without requiring much human effort. Sterblue , a French drone software startup that is launching out of Y Combinator’s latest class of companies, is aiming to get off-the-shelf drones inspecting large outdoor structures up close with automated insights that identify anomalies that need a second look. The startup’s software is specifically focused on enabling drones to easily inspect large power lines or wind turbines with simple automated trajectories that can get a job done much quicker and with less room for human error. The software also allows the drones to get much closer to the large structures they are scanning so the scanned images are as high-quality as possible. Compared to navigating a tight urban environment, Sterblue has the benefit of there being very few airborne anomalies around these structures, so autonomously flying along certain flight paths is as easy as having a CAD structure available and enough wiggle room to correct for things like wind condition. Operators basically just have to connect their drones to the Sterblue cloud platform where they can upload photos and view 3D models of the structures they have scanned while letting the startup’s neural net identify any issues that need further attention. All and all, Sterblue says their software can let drones get within three meters of power lines and wind turbines, which allows their AI systems to easily detect anomalies from the photos being taken. Sterblue says their system can detect defects as small as one millimeter in size. The startup was initially working on their own custom drone hardware but decided that their efforts were best spent supporting off-the-shelf devices from companies like DJI, with their software solution sitting on top. The founding team is composed of former Airbus employees that are focusing early efforts on utility companies, with some of the first customers based in Europe, Africa and Asia.

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Uber reports Q2 losses of $404 million, up 32 percent from Q1

While Uber isn’t required to disclose its financial results, Uber has done so for the past few quarters as it gears up to go public next year. In Q2 2018, Uber’s net revenue was up 8 percent quarter-over-quarter, at $2.7 billion. Year-over-year, that’s a 51 percent increase. Uber recorded gross bookings — the total taken for all of Uber’s transportation services — of $12 billion, a six percent quarter-over-quarter increase and a 41 percent year-over-year increase. But while Uber’s gross bookings increased, so did its losses. In Q2, Uber had adjusted EBITDA losses of $404 million compared to $304 million in losses in Q1. Uber’s losses added up, given its investments in Eats, India, the Middle East, bikes and scooters. This quarter, Uber expanded Eats into a number of new cities in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, acquired food delivery startup Ando ,  announced its expansion of JUMP bikes into Europe and made its scooter ambitions official . Other key stats for Uber’s Q2 2018: Adjusted EBITDA margin: 3.4 percent of gross bookings (in Q2 ’17, that was 6.3 percent) Gross cash: $7.3 billion (+1 billion quarter-over-quarter) “We had another great quarter, continuing to grow at an impressive rate for a business of our scale,” Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said in a statement. “Going forward, we’re deliberately investing in the future of our platform: big bets like Uber Eats; congestion and environmentally friendly modes of transport like Express Pool, e-bikes and scooters; emerging businesses like Freight; and high-potential markets in the Middle East and India where we are cementing our leadership position.” While Uber technically had a good quarter, it doesn’t mean that all is well.

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Apeel Sciences is combating food waste with plant-derived second peels

In a world bursting with abundances like self-driving cars and robotic personal assistants , you would think that basic needs like sustainable food sourcing and distribution would be a problem of the past. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) , every year roughly a third — 1.3 billion tons — of food grown for consumption is lost or wasted. In industrialized countries like the U.S., this results in a loss of $680 billion per year, and in countries without standardized infrastructure (such as proper cooling systems), this results in a loss of $310 billion per year. Among the billions of tons of food lost per year, the largest percentage is in vital, nutrient-rich foods like fruits and vegetables and roots and tubers (such as potatoes and carrots), each seeing about 45 percent wasted annually. There are many factors responsible for food waste, including poorly regulated “Best By” and “Sell By” dates in the U.S. that tempt fickle customers into wasting otherwise good food, and unreliable or non-existent cooling distribution systems in less-industrialized countries. But an underlying cause of both of these issues, especially for easily spoiled foods, is the inherent shelf life of the food itself. And that’s where Apeel Sciences steps in . The California-based startup is combating food waste by using plant-derived materials from food itself to create an extra protective barrier to prolong its life and stave off spoilage — essentially, creating a second peel. To create it, farmers just add water to Apeel’s protective powder and apply it to produce as a spray or wash. For founder and CEO James Rogers, who was working on a PhD in materials engineering from the University of California, Santa Barbara when he was inspired to create Apeel Sciences, the solution to the problem of quickly spoiled food could be found by looking to a problem science had already solved: rust. “Factors that cause spoilage are water loss and oxidation,” Rogers told TechCrunch.

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Study flags poor-quality working conditions for remote gig workers

An Oxford University study of remote gig economy work conducted on digital platforms has highlighted poor-quality working conditions with implications for employees’ well-being. The research comes at a time when political scrutiny is increasingly falling on algorithmically controlled platforms and their societal impacts. Policymakers are also paying greater attention to the precarious reality for workers on platforms that advertise their gig marketplaces to new recruits with shiny claims of “flexibility” and “autonomy.” Governments in some regions are also actively reassessing employment law to take account of technology-fueled shifts to work and working patterns. Earlier this year , for instance, the U.K. government announced a package of labor market reforms — and committed to being responsible for quality of work, not just quantity of jobs, for the first time. The Oxford University study, entitled  Good Gig, Bad Big: Autonomy and Algorithmic Control in the Global Gig Economy , looks at remote gig economy work, such as tasks like research, translation and programming carried out via platforms such as Freelancer.com and Fiverr (rather than gig economy platforms such as food delivery platforms, where workers must be in local proximity to the work — albeit, those platforms have their own workforce exploitation critiques ). The researchers note that an estimated 70 million workers worldwide are registered on remote work platforms. Their study methodology involved carrying out face-to-face interviews with just over 100 workers in South East Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa who had been active on one of two unnamed “leading platforms” for at least six months. They also undertook a remote survey of just over 650 additional gig platform workers, from the same regions, to supplement the interview findings. Participants for the survey portion were recruited via online job ads on the platforms themselves, and had to have completed work through one of the two platforms within the past two months, and to have worked in at least five projects or for five hours in total. Free to get the job done The study paints a mixed picture, with — on the one hand — gig workers reporting feeling they can remotely access stimulating and challenging work, and experiencing perceived autonomy and discretion over how they get a job done: A large majority (72 percent) of respondents said they felt able to choose and change the order in which they undertook online tasks, and 74 percent said they were able to choose or change their methods of work. At the same time — and here the negatives pile in — workers on the platforms lack collective bargaining so are simultaneously experiencing a hothouse of competitive marketplace and algorithmic management pressure, combined with feelings of social isolation (with most working from home), and the risk of overwork and exhaustion as a result of a lack of regulations and support systems, as well as their own economic needs to get tasks done to earn money. “Our findings demonstrate evidence that the autonomy of working in the gig economy often comes at the price of long, irregular and anti-social hours, which can lead to sleep deprivation and exhaustion,” said Dr

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Apply to compete in Startup Battlefield Africa 2018

The tech startup community across Africa is developing rapidly, and we’re beyond happy to return a second time to host TechCrunch Startup Battlefield Africa 2018 in Lagos, Nigeria on December 11. More than 300 tech hubs across Africa connect and mentor entrepreneurs, and we can’t wait to showcase 15 of the continent’s best innovators, makers and technical founders. Are you one of them? Want to compete in the Startup Battlefield? Submit your application today . The format for this Battlefield differs from the one we hosted in Nairobi last year, so here’s what you need to know before you apply. We encourage applications from any type of early-stage tech startup. The review process is competitive, and seasoned TechCrunch editors will scrutinize every application and select 15 companies to participate. They’ll base their selection on, among other things, a startup’s potential to produce an exit or IPO. Participating founders receive free pitch coaching from our editors, and they’ll be at their very best come the big day. Five startups will compete in one of three preliminary rounds, where they’ll have six minutes to pitch and present their demo to a panel of judges composed of entrepreneurs, technologists and VCs (recruited by our editors), all experts in their categories. Following each pitch, the judges have six minutes to ask probing questions. Five of the original 15 startups will be chosen to pitch a second time — to a fresh set of judges — and from that cohort the judges will choose one overall winner of  TechCrunch Startup Battlefield Africa 2018

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Bird’s electric scooters are going international

Electric scooter startup Bird, the one worth $2 billion , is going international. This does not come as a surprise given TechCrunch’s June report that Bird was looking to expand to Europe. Today, Bird is launching a pilot program in Paris to see how the electric scooter service operates in a city with more than two million people. “Paris is very forward-thinking on solving congestion issues and is one of the cities that’s dealing with the most congestion and pollution,” Bird Head of Europe, the Middle East and Africa Patrick Studener told TechCrunch. Bird is also gearing up to deploy some scooters in Tel Aviv, where the company says it’s chatting with Tel Aviv University and some municipalities about making something work in those areas, Studener said. In Tel Aviv, Bird will charge 5 shekels to start and then 50 agorot per minute. As Bird expands to international markets, it’s worth noting that competitor Lime has operated its bikes and scooters outside of the U.S. for quite some time. Last December , Lime brought its bikes to a number of European cities and then, in June, Lime brought its scooters to Paris . Lime also recently raised a $335 million round and teamed up with transportation behemoth Uber . In Paris, Bird scooters will cost €1 to start followed by €0.15 per minute, which is exactly how much Lime charges. Bird says Paris city officials know the company is planning to deploy about 100 scooters in the city

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Harley Davidson to expand EV lineup, may include scooters, bicycles

Jake Bright Contributor Jake Bright is a writer and author in New York City. He is co-author of The Next Africa . More posts by this contributor Sokowatch closes $2 million seed round to modernize Africa’s B2B retail Update: EV startups Alta, Energica, and Zero could reboot the motorcycle industry You’ll soon be able to get your battery running and head out on the highway on a variety of  Harley Davidson  EVs. That according to news the Milwaukee based motorcycle manufacture will offer “an exciting portfolio of two-wheeled electric vehicles” in the near future, including a possible e-scooter and bicycle. These EVs are an addition to Harley Davidson’s first production LiveWire e-moto—  announced earlier this year  and set hit showroom floors by August 2019. So what new tech will Harley add to its predominantly chrome and steel internal combustion stable? “A broader range of electric models that are light, nimble and ready to tackle the urban landscape…available by 2022,” was the description an HD spokesperson gave TechCrunch. Harley Davidson plans to make five production EVs in total, two by 2022, according to the spokesperson and  an interview  by Chief Operating Officer Michelle Kumbier. Harley isn’t ready to “take the full cover off” yet the spokesperson said, but did share some indicative concept photos of one lightweight electric motorcycle, an e-scooter, and an e-bicycle.” Harley’s EV development started with the  2014 Project LiveWire  concept motorcycle, which will become its full-sized electric LiveWire motorcycle by next year. The electric news came as part of a new growth plan  announced by CEO Matthew Levatich  to expand HD’s lineup of lighter motorcycles—including several  new gas bikes —and push more aggressively into emerging markets such as India and China. Levatich placed “enabling E.V. technology” squarely in Harley Davidson’s priorities. He said HD looked to “to create new riders” meet them where they are “in the cities” and give them “a cool product…that is much more twist-and-go”—a reference to  electric motorcycles’ no clutch, no gears design that also makes them easier to ride. Harley’s revised focus comes as prevailing trends have brought financial pains to many big motorcycle makers, including Harley Davidson. Since the recession, America’s motorcycle sector has been in the doldrums

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Bring your best questions for these Q&A speakers at Disrupt SF

This week we’re excited to announce another addition to the TechCrunch Disrupt SF program — the Q&A agenda. This is new for Disrupt. After chats on the Main and Next stages, select speakers will take questions from the audience in special, extended Q&A sessions. These panels will last 30-45 minutes and be open to Disrupt attendees. Talk to Kai-Fu Lee about the evolution of artificial intelligence. Dive deeper into CRISPR by posing questions to Rachel Haurwitz. Ask Avichal Garg for advice on launching an ICO. Sessions will feature speakers across all key topics and it’s your chance to ask questions to some of the greatest minds in technology. The only way to get involved is to snag a ticket to Disrupt SF. Click here to get a special early-bird discount until August 1. General admission and exhibitor packages are still available.

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Travel giant Booking invests $500M in Chinese ride-hailing firm Didi Chuxing

Didi Chuxing, China’s largest ride-hailing company, has pulled in some strategic capital after Booking Holdings invested $500 million into its business. The deal will see Booking Holdings — which was formerly known as Priceline — work closely with Didi to offer its on-demand car services through its Booking.com apps via an integration. Likewise, Didi customers will have the option to book hotels through Booking.com and its sister site Agoda. The deal isn’t about money. Didi has said publicly that it has multiple billions of US dollars on its balance sheet, thanks to a gigantic $4 billion funding round that closed at the end of 2017 and a history of raising big in recent years. Instead, the tie-in helps on a strategic level. Besides Booking.com and Agoda, Booking also operates Kayak, Priceline.com, Rentacars.com and OpenTable, all of which makes it a powerful ally for Didi. That’s particularly important since the Chinese firm is in global expansion mode, having launched services in Mexico , Australia and Taiwan this year. Beyond those three, it acquired local ride-hailing company 99 in Brazil and announced plans to roll into Japan . Beyond boosting a brand and consumer touchpoints, linking up with travel companies makes sense as ride-hailing goes from simply ride-hailing to become a de facto platform for travel between both longer haul (flights) and short distance (public transport) trips. That explains why Didi has doubled down on dock-less bikes and other transportation modes. “Building on its leadership and expertise in the global online travel market, Booking is championing a digital revolution of travel experience

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EV startups Alta, Energica, and Zero could reboot the motorcycle industry

Jake Bright Contributor Jake Bright is a writer and author in New York City. He is co-author of The Next Africa . More posts by this contributor MallforAfrica and DHL launch MarketPlace Africa global e-commerce site Nigerian logistics startup Kobo360 accepted into YC, raises $1.2 million Three e-mobility startups are accelerating into the U.S. motorcycle market. Italy’s  Energica  and California based  Alta Motors  and  Zero Motorcycles  have revved up promotion, distribution, and sales. You may see their machines zip by on American roads before the big two-wheel gas powered companies get EVs to showroom floors. These startups could reboot U.S. motorcycle sales while shifting the global motorcycle industry toward electric. The market Since the recession, America’s motorcycle sector has been in the doldrums. New bike sales have dropped roughly 50 percent since 2008—with sharp declines in ownership by everyone under 40.  Chart: MOTOSALES  Most of the market is now aging baby-boomers, whose  “Live to Ride”  days are winding down.

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MallforAfrica and DHL launch MarketPlace Africa global e-commerce site

Jake Bright Contributor Jake Bright is a writer and author in New York City. He is co-author of The Next Africa . More posts by this contributor Nigerian logistics startup Kobo360 accepted into YC, raises $1.2 million Breaking down France’s new $76M Africa startup fund MallforAfrica  and DHL are giving African merchants a global stage. This week the online retailer and delivery giant launch  MarketPlaceAfrica.com : an e-commerce site for select African artisans to sell wares to buyers in any of DHL’s 220 delivery countries. The site will prioritize fashion items—clothing, bags, jewelry, footwear, and personal care—and crafts, such as pictures and carvings. MallforAfrica is vetting sellers for MarketPlace Africa  online  and through the  Africa Made Product Standards  association (AMPS), to verify made in Africa status and merchandise quality. “We’re starting off in Nigeria and then we’ll open in Kenya, Rwanda and the rest of Africa, utilizing DHL’s massive network,” MallforAfrica CEO Chris Folayan told TechCrunch about where the goods will be sourced. “People all around the world can buy from African artisans online, that’s the goal,” said Folayan. Current listed designer products include handbags from  Chinwe Ezenwa  and Tash women’s outfits by Tasha Goodwin. In addition to DHL for shipping, MarketPlace Africa will utilize MallforAfrica’s e-commerce infrastructure. The startup was founded in 2011 to solve challenges global consumer goods companies face when entering Africa. MallforAfrica’s payment and delivery system serves as a digital broker and logistics manager for U.S. retailers, who partner with MFA to sell their goods online to African consumers. The venture has backing from UK private equity firm  Helios Investment Partners  and alliances with companies such as consumer electronics chain Best Buy and department store Macy’s.

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Apply today for Startup Battlefield Africa 2018

We’d be hard-pressed to find something we love to cover more than a rapidly evolving tech startup ecosystem. That’s one of the big reasons we’re so excited to be heading back to Africa — specifically Lagos, Nigeria — to host TechCrunch Startup Battlefield Africa 2018 on December 11. With more than 300 tech hubs across the continent connecting and mentoring entrepreneurs and innovators, it’s a prime time to be a startup in Africa — and the perfect time to launch your startup to the world. Apply right here , right now. Last year, our first Startup Battlefield Africa took place in Nairobi, Kenya and featured 15 amazing startups, with one winner in three different categories . This year, we’re tweaking the format a bit, so here’s what you need to know . Any type of tech startup may apply. Highly discerning TechCrunch editors will review the applications and choose the 15 startups they deem most likely to produce an exit or IPO. The founders of the competing teams will receive free pitch coaching from TechCrunch, and they’ll be ready to face a panel of judges (recruited by our editors), all experts in their categories. Five startups will compete in one of three preliminary rounds where they will have six minutes to pitch and present their demo. The judges will then have six minutes to ask questions. The judges will select five of the 15 startups to pitch a second time, and from that elite group of five comes one overall winner of TechCrunch Startup Battlefield Africa 2018 . In addition to an intense amount of media and investor interest, the founders of the winning startup will receive US$25,000 in no-equity cash plus a trip for two to compete in Startup Battlefield in San Francisco at our flagship event, TechCrunch Disrupt 2019 (assuming the company still qualifies to compete at the time). Are you as excited as we are

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Former head of UberEats in Europe has joined VC Atomico as Executive-In-Residence

When long time Uber employee and head of Uber’s food delivery business in Europe, Middle East and Africa, Jambu Palaniappan, quit the on-demand juggernaut, it was let slip that he planned to join a European venture capital firm, but it wasn’t clear who. Until now. TechCrunch has learned from several sources in the European early-stage investment community and from a number of portfolio companies that the former UberEats executive has joined Atomico , the London-based VC firm co-founded by Skype founder Niklas Zennström. Specifically, Palaniappan will be joining Atomico as part of its Executive-In-Residence (XiR) programme. This sees the VC firm offer former founders and senior operators 12 month contracts to help mentor the next generation of Atomico portfolio company founders while those individuals figure out what they want to do next. Sources have also told me that a senior executive from Deepmind may have also joined the European VC but the exact name is still to be confirmed. Atomico did not respond to a request for comment at the time of publishing. Meanwhile, according to Atomico’s website , another of its Executive-In-Residence is former Spotify employee number 8 Sophia Bendz, who was previously Global Director of Marketing and Communications at the music streaming giant. In addition, eRepublik Labs founder and CEO Alexis Bonte, and Rdio founder Carter Adamson, were both XiR’s but have since chosen to stay on at Atomico as Venture Partners.

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