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Tag Archives: europe

Ofo shuts down many international markets to focus on profitability

Chinese bike-sharing company Ofo is entering a new phase. After a period of aggressive growth, the company is looking back at its international markets and focusing on the most promising ones. A couple of weeks ago, the company issued a press release highlighting some of the priorities outside of China. As part of this move, Ofo co-founder and CEO Dai Wei is going to be directly in charge of international markets. “It’s a new strategical phase on the international front,” Ofo France General Manager and Head of EMEA Laurent Kennel told me. “The company wants to focus on the most mature and promising markets.” So it means that Ofo will stop altogether in some countries, such as Australia, Austria, Czech Republic, Germany, India and Israel. At the same time, there are some markets that work quite well. In particular, the press release highlights Singapore, the U.S., the U.K., France and Italy. But even if you look at a more granular level, Ofo is going to focus on some specific cities in particular going forward. As Quartz and Forbes highlighted, Ofo hasn’t been a massive success in smaller American cities. “In the U.S., some markets work better than others, and they’re going to focus on that,” Kennel said. Instead of operating in dozens of American cities, the company is going to scale back and focus on the most important ones. In France, Ofo has only been available in Paris for instance.

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Lifebit raises $3M to scale-up AI-powered analysis of DNA data

Making sense of DNA data is a two-step process, namely the biochemical-sequencing of the DNA and the analyzing and extracting insights from the sequenced DNA data. As of today in 2018, the first part of this process is now almost fully automated requiring minimal human intervention. Even sequencing costs have dropped below $1,000 and soon they will reach $100, according to the industry. The second part of the process, however, is a long way from being automated because it’s very complex, time-consuming and requires highly specialized experts to analyze the data. Now a startup plans to address this problem. London-based Lifebit is building a cloud-based cognitive system that can reason about DNA data in the same way humans do. This offers researchers and R&D professionals, with limited-to-no computational and data analysis training, and their corresponding organisations (ie. pharmaceutical companies), a highly scalable, modular and reproducible system that automates the analysis processes, learns from the data and provides actionable insights. It’s now closed a $3m (£2.25m) Seed funding round led by Pentech and Connect Ventures, with participation from Beacon Capital and Tiny VC (AngelList). The company is simultaneously announcing the launch of its first product, Deploit, what it claims is the world’s first AI-powered genomic data analysis platform, and, says the company, is already being trialled by major pharmaceutical and biotech companies. The main “competitor” for Lifebit is the DIY process of analysing and getting actionable insights out of genomics and biodata. Organisations, both in industry and research, build custom software and hardware solutions to be able to analyse the huge volumes of genomic and biodata at scale. This leads to a large waste of resources since custom software and hardware is expensive and hard to scale and maintain. A few platforms have been created like DNAnexus and SevenBridges.

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Alphabet’s Loon signs its first commercial agreement to work with Telkom Kenya to provide internet in central Kenya starting next year (Alex…

Alex Davies / Wired : Alphabet's Loon signs its first commercial agreement to work with Telkom Kenya to provide internet in central Kenya starting next year   —  IT'S BEEN A big week for Loon.  Just eight days ago, it was one of Alphabet's moonshot projects, launching antennas attached to giant balloons into the stratosphere to beam internet down to Earth.

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Europe updates its predatory pricing investigation against Qualcomm over UMTS baseband chips

On the heels of Google getting served a $5 billion fine by the EU over monopolistic practices related to its Android operating system, the European Commission today resurfaced another ongoing case in the world of large U.S. tech companies. The EC said that it has added to its investigation into Qualcomm and its predatory pricing of UMTS baseband chips. Specifically, today the Commission has sent more details relating to elements of the “price cost” test that it had applied to measure just how much below cost Qualcomm was selling UMTS baseband chips to edge out competitors. If the case is decided against Qualcomm, the company could face an additional fine of up to 10 percent of its worldwide revenues. In 2009, these were $10.4 billion , while in 2017, global turnover was over $22 billion . The original, 2015 case was based on a complaint filed by Icera — once a big player in baseband chips — and dates back to practices between 2009 and 2011 and alleged that Qualcomm used its market position to negotiate artificially low prices for UMTS chips — used in 3G phones — in order to oust out Icera. Others that made similar chips include Nvidia. Qualcomm has wasted little time in responding to the notice  posted by the EC. “This investigation, now in its ninth year, alleges harm in 2009-2011, to a competitor who chose years later to exit the market for reasons unrelated to Qualcomm,” said Don Rosenberg, general counsel and executive vice president of Qualcomm in a statement. “While the investigation has been narrowed, we are disappointed to see it continues and will immediately begin preparing our response to this supplementary statement of objections. We belief that once the Commission has reviewed our response it will find that Qualcomm’s practices are pro-competitive and fully consistent with European competition rules.” Qualcomm is already in the middle of appealing a $1.23 billion fine in the EU over LTE chip dominance in the iPhone, related to deals that were made with Apple at the expense of another big rival of Qualcomm’s, Intel. (Never mind that Apple and Qualcomm are also in the middle of a patent dispute.) This older case, as Qualcomm points out, has been narrowed since it was first announced almost exactly three years ago . And while we don’t know what the exact details of the supplementary objections are and whether they have expanded them again (we have contacted the EC to try to find out), the Commission also notes in its short statement — printed in full below — that sending an update to its calculations doesn’t necessarily imply the outcome of this case. Statement below.

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New York City passes bill to restrict short-term rentals, under which Airbnb would be required to provide detailed information on hosts every month to…

Zoe Greenberg / New York Times : New York City passes bill to restrict short-term rentals, under which Airbnb would be required to provide detailed information on hosts every month to the city   —  The New York City Council voted unanimously on Wednesday to significantly restrict Airbnb and other online home rental services …

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Leaked internal Apple document states that 2018 MacBook Pro keyboard includes a membrane to prevent debris from entering butterfly key mechanism (Joe…

Joe Rossignol / MacRumors : Leaked internal Apple document states that 2018 MacBook Pro keyboard includes a membrane to prevent debris from entering butterfly key mechanism   —  In an internal document distributed to Apple Authorized Service Providers, obtained by MacRumors from multiple reliable sources …

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Shanghai-based AI startup Yitu Technology, which focuses on machine vision and more, raises $100M in addition to the $200M Series C+ it raised in June…

Li Dongmei / China Money Network : Shanghai-based AI startup Yitu Technology, which focuses on machine vision and more, raises $100M in addition to the $200M Series C+ it raised in June   —  One month after Yitu Technology scored US$200 million, the Chinese artificial intelligence firm secured another US$100 million from China Industrial Asset Management Ltd.

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Landbot gets $2.2M for its on-message ‘anti-AI’ chatbot

Who needs AI to have a good conversation? Spanish startup Landbot has bagged a $2.2 million seed round for a ‘dumb’ chatbot that doesn’t use AI at all but offers something closer to an old school ‘choose your adventure’ interaction by using a conversational choice interface to engage potential customers when they land on a website. The rampant popularity of consumer messaging apps has long been influencing product development decisions, and plenty of fusty business tools have been consumerized in recent years, including by having messaging-style interfaces applied to simplify all kinds of digital interactions. In the case of Landbot, the team is deploying a familiar rich texting interface as a website navigation tool — meaning site visitors aren’t left to figure out where to click to find stuff on their own. Instead they’re pro-actively met with an interactive, adaptive messaging thread that uses conversational choice prompts to get them the information they need. Call it a chatty twist on the ‘lazyweb’… It’s also of course mobile first design, where constrained screen real estate is never very friendly to full fat homepages. Using a messaging thread interface plus marketing bots thus offers an alternative way to cut to the navigational chase, while simultaneously creaming off intent intelligence on potential customers. (Albeit it does risk getting old fast if your site visitors have a habit of clearing their cookies.) Landbot, which was launched just over a year ago in June 2017, started as an internal experiment after its makers got frustrated by the vagaries of their own AI chatbots. So they had the idea to create a drag-and-drop style bot-builder that doesn’t require coding to support custom conversation flows. “Since we already had a product, a business model, and some customers, we developed Landbot as an internal experiment. “What would happen with a full-screen conversation instead of the regular live-chat?,” we thought. What we got?

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Ofcom report: UK subscribers to Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Sky’s Now TV hit 15.4M in Q1, overtaking the 15.1M traditional pay-TV subscribers for the…

Stewart Clarke / Variety : Ofcom report: UK subscribers to Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Sky's Now TV hit 15.4M in Q1, overtaking the 15.1M traditional pay-TV subscribers for the first time   —  The level to which Netflix and Amazon are redefining the TV picture has hit home in the U.K. as new data from media regulator …

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For stories like the Trump-Putin summit, Google News needs to be clearer about how its algorithm works and learn to separate commentary from factual…

Rich Gordon / Nieman Lab : For stories like the Trump-Putin summit, Google News needs to be clearer about how its algorithm works and learn to separate commentary from factual reporting   —  The algorithm that ranks content can make some truly strange decisions.  What set of signals is Google News looking for?

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Sweden’s Engaging Care raises $800,000 for its digital healthcare SaaS

Engaging Care , a Swedish heathtech startup co-founded by Charlotta Tönsgård, who was previously CEO of online doctor app Min Doktor before being asked to step down , has raised $800,000 in “pre-seed” funding to continue building out its digital healthcare SaaS. Backing the burgeoning company are a host of well-established angel investors in the region. They include Hampus Jakobsson (venture partner at BlueYard Capital and co-founder of TAT, which sold to Blackberry for $150 million), Sophia Bendz ( EIR at Atomico and the former Global Marketing Director at Spotify), Erik Byrenius (founder of OnlinePizza, an online food ordering company sold to Delivery Hero) and Neil Murray’s The Nordic Web Ventures . With the aim of dragging healthcare into the digital age, but in a more patient-friendly and patient-centred way than tradition electronic medical record systems, Engaging Care is developing a SaaS and accompanying apps to bring together patients, healthcare providers and partners to be “smarter and better connected”. Unlike software and digital services that work outside existing healthcare systems, the startup’s wares are billed as being designed to work within them. It is initially targeting people with long-term health conditions. “There has been tremendous progress made in the healthcare sector over the last decade. New advanced drugs, new methods for surgery and other treatments, but how healthcare workers share important information with the patient and the interaction between caregiver and patient still basically happens the same way it did 50 years ago,” Tönsgård tells me. “The systems of today are still designed around the doctor – even though we might spend as little as 15 minutes with him or her every year, but hours, days and years alone with our condition. On top of this, most western healthcare systems are struggling financially, with an ageing population, more prevalence of chronic diseases and a shift in expectations from the public, adding to the challenges”.

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The Accel team is coming to Disrupt Berlin

Every time Accel invests in a startup, it’s an instant positive sign in the startup community. The venture capital firm has a rich history with decades of investments in successful startups. That’s why we’re excited to have four partners at Accel on stage at Disrupt Berlin . Philippe Botteri, Sonali De Rycker, Luciana Lixandru and Harry Nelis will all relocate their partner meeting to our stage. Accel is a different VC firm for many reasons. First, while the firm started in Silicon Valley, the team bet early on the European startup scene, back in 2001. With an office in London, the team keeps an eye on the entire continent for investment opportunities. The firm has invested in Deliveroo, BlaBlaCar, Supercell, Spotify and so many others . With such a good track record, it’s clear that some recent investments are also going to become massive companies — nobody has realized it just yet. In November, we will have four Accel partners on stage to discuss the firm’s investment thesis, each partner’s current obsessions and their collective thoughts on the startup scene in Europe. It’s going to be a great way to hear the granularity of a team with strong beliefs. I’m sure they don’t always agree on everything, but somehow they manage to invest together as a firm. TechCrunch is coming back to Berlin to talk with the best and brightest people in tech from Europe and the rest of the world. In addition to fireside chats and panels, new startups will participate in the Startup Battlefield Europe to win the coveted cup. Grab your ticket to Disrupt Berlin before August 1st as prices will increase after that

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With eyes on Europe, Open Banking API provider TrueLayer raises $7.5M

TrueLayer , the London startup that’s built a developer platform to make it easy for fintech and other adjacent companies, such as retailers, to access bank APIs — and ride the Open Banking and PSD2 gravy train — has picked up further $7.5 million in funding. Leading the round is venture capital fund Northzone. It follows a $3 million Series A in June last year , and will be used for European expansion, starting with Germany and France. The new capital will also be invested in growing the TrueLayer team and to develop new products to help companies and consumers make the most of Open Banking and PSD2, where co-founder Francesco Simoneschi tells me the opportunities are huge, even if they remain largely untapped, thus far. “I think the first quarters of 2018 have been about working and educating companies on Open Banking and how to build propositions on top of it,” he says. “This has seen a silent yet massive stream of inbound demand for us. To put things in context, we grew 500 percent in terms of the developer community averaging hundreds of companies a month asking how to start using TrueLayer and the services that we enable — from two people in a garage to the largest enterprise”. Since Open Banking was tentatively launched in the U.K. January, TrueLayer has secured partnerships and integrations with a number of fintech companies including challenger banks Monzo and Starling Bank, along with the likes of Zopa, ClearScore, Canopy, Plum, BitBond, Emma, Anorak, and CreditLadder. This has happened in despite of a press narrative around a “failed Big Bang kind of uptake” and incumbent banks not cooperating or meeting their minimum statutory requirements in time (which is undeniably true, in some instances). The reality on the ground, however, is quite different, argues Simoneschi. “Remember that exponential growth often looks sub-linear at the very beginnings,” he says. “Based on the view of the market that we have, contracts signed, POCs and advanced conversations, I can assure you that you will see a wealth of high street banks and retailers, financial institutions, global platforms, marketplaces, loyalty and rewards propositions, crypto exchanges, wallets and fintech applications experimenting and launching Open Banking-based propositions in the next 12 months”. To that end, TrueLayer offers a single platform/API to connect to 16 major and not so major banks and credit cards in the U.K., using a mixture of official Open Banking APIs, access to private APIs, and, at a push, screen scraping — depending on a developer’s data needs and stomach for the different kinds of official and unofficial access available

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