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Tag Archives: europe

Penta, the bank account for SMEs, adds multi-card support to manage expenses

Penta , the German fintech startup that offers a digital bank account targeting SMEs , has launched multi-card support to make it easier to manage company expenses. Dubbed ‘Team Access,’ the new feature — which affords similar functionality to the likes of Pleo , Spendesk , and Soldo — lets business owners issue multiple MasterCards to employees who need to make purchases on a company’s behalf. Each card is linked to a business’ Penta account but can have custom rules and permissions per card/employee, in terms of how much money can be spent and where. More broadly, the feature is designed to cut down the time and cost of expense management for SMEs. “As business owners know, it can take weeks of daunting paperwork to get another debit card from a legacy bank. The alternative solution for a business owner is to apply for a business credit card which has a predefined credit limit. Most early stage businesses aren’t credit-worthy, and therefore can’t get a second card,” explains the company. To help with expense management, Penta already lets you categorise transactions and export them to various accounting software. On the public roadmap is “automated accounting,” which will offer the ability to sync your account to third-party accounting tools. Meanwhile, Team Access is being rolled out in two stages.

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Prisma co-founders raise $1M to build a social app called Capture

Two of the co-founders of the art filter app Prisma  have left to build a new social app. Prisma, as you may recall, had a viral moment back in 2016  when selfie takers went crazy for the fine art spin the app’s AI put on photos — in just a few seconds of processing. Downloads leapt, art selfies flooded Instagram, and similar arty effects soon found their way into all sorts of rival apps and platforms. Then, after dipping a toe into social waters with the launch of a feed of its own , the company  shifted focus to b2b developer tools  — and we understand it’s since become profitable. But two of Prisma’s co-founders, Aleksey Moiseyenkov and Aram Hardy, got itchy feet when they had an idea for another app business. And they’ve both now left to set up a new startup, called Capture Technologies . The plan is to launch the app — which will be called Capture — in Q4, with a beta planned for September or October, according to Hardy (who’s taking the CMO role). They’ve also raised a $1M seed for Capture, led by US VC firm General Catalyst . Also investing are KPCB, Social Capital, Dream Machine VC  (the seed fund of former TechCrunch co-editor, Alexia Bonatsos), Paul Heydon, and Russian Internet giant, Mail.Ru Group. Josh Elman from Greylock Partners is also involved as an advisor. Hardy says they had the luxury of being able to choose their seed investors, after getting a warmer reception for Capture than they’d perhaps expected — thinking it might be tough to raise funding for a new social app given how that very crowded space has also been monopolized by a handful of major platforms… (hi Facebook, hey Snap!) But they also believe they’ve identified overlooked territory — where they can offer something fresh to help people interact with others in real-time. They’re not disclosing further details about the idea or how the Capture app will work at this stage, as they’re busy building and Hardy says certain elements could change and evolve before launch day. What they will say is that the app will involve AI, and will put the emphasis for social interactions squarely on the smartphone camera. Speed will also be a vital ingredient, as it was with Prisma — literally fueling the app’s virality

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Oval Money app launches its investment products for millennials

Back in April Oval Money launched with the idea of combining expense tracking, saving, and investing into one app, while also adding a social element by enabling its community of users to share tips and suggestions to one another. The idea is to help users grow their savings in less time by teaching them to monitor spending habits and make saving virtually automatic. The company has raised €1.2M in funding, largely from Italian investors. The startup is launching a raft of investment products for socially-conscious savers. Beginning with three funds – supporting gender diversity in boardrooms, flexible working and the brands that millennials trust – the investments marketplace will be available to customers in the smartphone app this summer. The “Women at the Table” fund will allow investors to support companies that ensure that at least 20% of board members are women, while a “Belong but Work Remote” fund promotes the growing flexible jobs economy. “Generation Millennials” will track the leading consumer brands that millennials are into most. The three are the first of 20 cause-themed products to be released in the marketplace. Oval co-founder Benedetta Arese Lucini said: “Young people want to invest in the causes they care about. We’ve been listening to millennials for a long time, and these products will mean not only can we help people start to save towards their futures, but we can provide them with the opportunity to invest in companies which are really making a difference in the world.” Oval Money uses machine learning to review the individual spending habits of its users, and adjusts saving automatically. A beta-test of the marketplace begins today. By updating the app, Ovalers will be able to go through an initial set of questions about what type of investor they are and will be encouraged to share with friends

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WearableX’s ‘smart’ new Yoga pant is aimed at the guys

A lot has been said about the coming future of wearables, but, it turned out, not a heck of a lot took off. It seemed most of us were happy with ‘wearing’ a smartwatch and leaving it at that. In fact, Apple’s recent announcements around the Apple Watch show that ‘wearables’ are not really about just wearing something with electronics embedded, but really about health. Now, we know that the home fitness market and wellness market is not going anywhere. And yet we still have an obesity issue in the world. What if what we wore could help us with that, while we exercise? That’s the idea behind Wearable X , the New York-based startup which launched last year with the “Nadi X”. This is a collection of smart yoga apparel with woven-in technology. They claim this can identify the various yoga poses and provide users with real-time feedback via gentle vibrations. Nadi X comes with a companion iPhone app and device, called The Pulse. The Pulse is where the battery and Bluetooth module clips behind the upper left knee so as not to interfere with your yoga practice. The company is now launching a Kickstarter campaign for four new designs, including a menswear line and redesigned user-friendly app with enhanced features.

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Wearable X’s ‘smart’ new Yoga pant is aimed at the guys

A lot has been said about the coming future of wearables, but, it turned out, not a heck of a lot took off. It seemed most of us were happy with ‘wearing’ a smartwatch and leaving it at that. In fact, Apple’s recent announcements around the Apple Watch show that ‘wearables’ are not really about just wearing something with electronics embedded, but really about health. Now, we know that the home fitness market and wellness market is not going anywhere. And yet we still have an obesity issue in the world. What if what we wore could help us with that, while we exercise? That’s the idea behind Wearable X , the New York-based startup which launched last year with the “Nadi X”. This is a collection of smart yoga apparel with woven-in technology. They claim this can identify the various yoga poses and provide users with real-time feedback via gentle vibrations. Nadi X comes with a companion iPhone app and device, called The Pulse. The Pulse is where the battery and Bluetooth module clips behind the upper left knee so as not to interfere with your yoga practice. The company is now launching a Kickstarter campaign for four new designs, including a menswear line and redesigned user-friendly app with enhanced features. Founder & CEO Billie Whitehouse says: “With Nadi X you not only have convenience but haptics increase reaction time and make you feel more accountable not only through the instant reaction but also through the progress tracking. Our data is more sophisticated than most because we have 5 data points. Most only have one

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Kaspersky pulls plug on Europol joint venture after EU parliament vote to ban its software

Fresh political woes for Russian security firm Kaspersky, which has reacted angrily to a vote in the European Union Parliament last week to ban its software — on the grounds that it has been “ confirmed as malicious “. Kaspersky denies this characterization of its software, saying it’s “untrue”. It has also retaliated by pulling the plug on an existing collaboration with Europol, at least temporarily. In a statement, a company spokesperson said:  Today, the European Parliament voted on a report in which Polish representative, MEP Fotyga included an amendment referencing Kaspersky Lab which is based on untrue statements. Although this report has no legislative power it demonstrates a distinct lack of respect for the company which has been a firm friend of Europe in the fight against cybercrime. It is for that reason that Kaspersky Lab has taken the difficult decision to temporarily halt our numerous collaborative European cybercrime-fighting initiatives, including that with Europol, until we receive further official clarifications from the European Parliament . On account of this news, we will regretfully have to pause one of our successful joint initiatives  –  NoMoreRansom   project – recognised by the European Parliament Research Services as a successful case of public-private cooperation in their recent report – helped many organisations and users to decrypt files on their devices, saving them from financial losses. We hope to be able to resume this and other European collaborative efforts soon. Founder Eugene Kaspersky added that the company has been “forced to freeze” its co-operation as a result of the parliament’s vote. The way we conducted public-private partnership is unfortunately ceased until the withdraw of the European Parliament decision. — Eugene Kaspersky (@e_kaspersky) June 13, 2018 “This decision from the European Parliament welcomes cybercrime in Europe. I do not wish to do anything to further encourage the balkanization of the internet, but I feel that the decision taken in Europe leaves me with no choice but to take definitive action. Kaspersky Lab has only ever tried to rid the world of cybercrime. We have showed time and again that we disclose cyber threats regardless of origin and author, even to our own detriment.

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Plum, the fintech chatbot that helps you save, adds theme-based investing

Plum , the fintech startup co-founded by early TransferWise employee Victor Trokoudes , is continuing its mission to help you manage your finances and save money. The AI-powered Messenger chatbot already offers savings functionality, including round-ups and regular savings, and today is launching an investment tool that lets you choose fund investments based on themes, such as ethical companies or technology. Similar to competitors Cleo and Chip , Plum connects to your bank accounts and its algorithm then analyses your spending patterns to work out how much you can afford to set aside. It is able to identify things like income and bills, and can take a number of actions on your behalf. This includes ‘micro-savings’ — rounding up any purchases you make — and other forms of regular saving, in which money is moved from your bank account to a segregated Plum savings account. From there you’re able to optionally put money into RateSetter, the peer-to-peer lending platform, if you wish to earn interest. However, savings is only one pillar of Plum’s three pillar strategy. The other two are investments and spotting when you are paying too much for things like credit or utilities. Investing is getting an official launch today (having been announced in wait-list form a few months ago), and Trokoudes tells me energy switching, in partnership with green energy company Octopus, has been live for a while. If Plum detects that a user could reduce their home energy bill, it sends them a message offering to initiate the switch on their behalf. Along with letting you invest at three different risk levels, Plum’s new investment tool provides theme-based investing.

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UK report warns DeepMind Health could gain ‘excessive monopoly power’

DeepMind’s foray into digital health services continues to raise concerns . The latest worries are voiced by a panel of external reviewers appointed by the Google-owned AI company to report on its operations after its initial data-sharing arrangements with the U.K.’s National Health Service (NHS) ran into a major public controversy in 2016. The DeepMind Health Independent Reviewers’  2018 report  flags a series of risks and concerns, as they see it, including the potential for DeepMind Health to be able to “exert excessive monopoly power” as a result of the data access and streaming infrastructure that’s bundled with provision of the Streams app — and  which, contractually, positions DeepMind as the access-controlling intermediary between the structured health data and any other third parties that might, in the future, want to offer their own digital assistance solutions to the Trust. While the underlying FHIR (aka, fast healthcare interoperability resource) deployed by DeepMind for Streams uses an open API, the contract between the company and the Royal Free Trust funnels connections via DeepMind’s own servers, and prohibits connections to other FHIR servers. A commercial structure that seemingly works against the openness and interoperability DeepMind’s co-founder Mustafa Suleyman has claimed to support . “ There are many examples in the IT arena where companies lock their customers into systems that are difficult to change or replace. Such arrangements are not in the interests of  the public. And we do not want to see DeepMind Health putting itself in a position where clients, such as hospitals, find themselves forced to stay with DeepMind Health even if it is no longer financially or clinically sensible to do so;  we want DeepMind Health to compete on quality and price, not by entrenching legacy position,” the reviewers write. Though they point to  DeepMind’s “stated commitment  to interoperability of systems,” and “their adoption of the FHIR open API” as positive indications, writing: “This means that there is potential for many other SMEs to become involved, creating a diverse and innovative marketplace which works to the benefit of consumers, innovation and the economy.” “We also note DeepMind Health’s intention to implement many of the features of Streams as modules which could be easily swapped, meaning that they will have to rely on being the best to stay in business,” they add.  However, stated intentions and future potentials are clearly not the same as on-the-ground reality. And, as it stands, a technically interoperable app-delivery infrastructure is being encumbered by prohibitive clauses in a commercial contract — and by a lack of regulatory pushback against such behavior. The reviewers also raise concerns about an ongoing lack of clarity around DeepMind Health’s business model — writing: “ Given the current environment, and with no clarity about DeepMind Health’s business model, people are  likely to suspect that there must be an undisclosed profit motive or a hidden agenda. We do not believe this to be the case, but would urge DeepMind Health to be transparent about their business model, and their ability to stick to that without being overridden by Alphabet. For once an idea  of hidden agendas is fixed in people’s mind, it is hard to shift, no matter how much a company is motivated by the public good.” “ We have had detailed conversations about DeepMind Health’s evolving thoughts in this area, and are aware that some of these questions have not yet been finalised. However, we would urge DeepMind Health to set out publicly what they are proposing,” they add.  DeepMind has suggested it wants to build healthcare AIs that are capable of charging by results

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European and Indian regulators team up to defend net neutrality

Representatives of Europe’s BEREC (Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications) and India’s TRAI (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India) met up yesterday to sign a joint statement to promote an open internet. This short document describes a set of rules to guarantee net neutrality. Those are some basic rules, such as equal treatment of internet traffic, a case-by-case assessment of zero-rating practices and more. Both the European Union and India have implemented regulation to ensure net neutrality already. But they now want to go further and work together on the same set of rules. Net neutrality is always evolving and rules need to be updated regularly. This collaboration should contribute to a unification of net neutrality. Even more important than the statement itself, the timing of this announcement is interesting. The FCC officially repealed net neutrality in the U.S. on Monday . While other regulators can’t do anything about what’s happening in the U.S., they can make sure net neutrality remains intact in their own country.

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China’s Didi Chuxing continues its international expansion with Australia launch

Didi Chuxing, China’s dominant ride-hailing company, is continuing its international expansion after it announced plans to launch in Australia this month. The company — which bought Uber’s China business in 2016 — said it will begin serving customers in Melbourne from June 25 following a month-long trial period in Geelong, a neighboring city that’s 75km away. The business will be run by a Didi subsidiary in Australia and it plans to offer “a series of welcome packages to both drivers and riders” — aka discounts and promotions, no doubt. It began signing up drivers on June 1, the company added. The Australia launch will again put Didi in direct competition with Uber, but that is becoming increasingly common, and also Ola and Didi which both count Didi as an investor — more on that below. This move follows forays into Taiwan, Mexico and Brazil this year as Didi has finally expanded beyond its China-based empire. Didi raised $4 billion in December to develop AI, general technology and to fund international expansion and it has taken a variety of routes to doing the latter. This Australia launch is organic, with Didi developing its own team, while in Taiwan it has used a franchise model and it went into Brazil via acquisition, snapping up local Uber-rival 99 at a valuation of $1 billion . It is also set to enter Japan where it has teamed up with investor SoftBank on a joint-venture . “In 2018, Didi will continue to cultivate markets in Latin America, Australia and Japan. We are confident a combination of world-class transportation AI technology and deep local expertise will bring a better experience to overseas markets,” the company added in a statement. This international expansion has also brought a new level of confusion since Didi has cultivated relationships with other ride-hailing companies across the world while also expanding its own presence internationally. The Uber deal brought with it a stock swap — turning Didi and Uber from competitors into stakeholders — and the Chinese company has also backed Grab in Southeast Asia, Lyft in the U.S., Ola in India, Careem in the Middle East and — more recently — Taxify, which is primarily focused on Europe and Africa. In the case of Australia, Didi will come up against Uber, Ola — present in Melbourne, Perth and Sydney via an expansion made earlier this year  — and Taxify, too.

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Pipedrive, a CRM and sales tool, raises $50M to take on Salesforce and Microsoft

While Salesforce and Microsoft have a dominant position in the world of sales software today, there are a number of startups nipping at their heels, and today one of the more promising of them has announced a growth round to help them in the effort. Pipedrive , a startup co-headquartered in Estonia and New York that offers tools to salespeople to help them close deals that are still in their pipeline, has picked up $50 million to expand its product, develop its business globally and potentially make acquisitions in the CRM space. The Series C round was co-led by new investor Insight Venture Partners and Bessemer Venture Partners, with participation also from Rembrandt Venture Partners and Atomico (which itself has Estonian roots: Atomico’s founder, Niklas Zennstrom, was the co-founder of Skype, which developed and built the core IP voice and messaging product in the country). It brings the total raised by Pipedrive to $80 million. Timo Rein, Pipedrive’s co-founder and CEO (and a former salesman himself), would not disclose the company’s valuation, saying only that it was “a pretty good round.” For some more context, Pitchbook writes that Pipedrive’s last funding, in 2016, valued the company at $188 million. Sources very close to the company tell us that the valuation now is $300 million+. (We’re asking around and will update this as and when we learn more.) The CRM market is currently estimated to be worth over $40 billion, according to Gartner, and so unsurprisingly there are a number of startups in the fray, from those that are infusing the process with AI (such as Clari ) through to other startups that help organise leads to act on them better (such as Zoho and Hubspot ), through to those focusing on specific verticals like software companies ( Paddle out of the UK). Rein said that there was some skepticism when the company first launched that it would be possible to make a dent in landscape dominated by the likes of Salesforce and Microsoft. “When we entered the market in 2010, people asked us, ‘Why build a product in an area where Salesforce is already strong?’ But having been in sales for more than a decade ourselves, we realized that it’s not just the sheer number of features you offer users. The difference is finding the right spot on the spectrum where you are getting what you need out of a product that you can use,” Rein said. “We have proven that users are migrating from Salesforce and others and are coming to Pipedrive. We definitely have less functionality, but professional salespeople know that performance is largely about your personality.” In the case of Pipedrive, this translates to a software platform whose aim is to cut down on busywork to focus you on selling: all of your activity across emails and phone calls gets and other actions (it integrates some 100 other apps used in business, for example Google Apps, Trello, Zapier, MailChimp, Yesware and PandaDoc) is tracked without you needing to update the system, with the aim of making it easier for you to see what you might tackle next (and that gets tracked, too).

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Farmdrop picks up £10M Series B

Farmdrop , the farmer-friendly online grocery platform based in the U.K., has picked up £10 million in new funding. New investors in this Series B round include LGT Impact Ventures (described as a growth equity investor that invests in businesses making a positive contribution to society), and Belltown Ventures, a renewable energy investment specialist with an interest in agricultural technology. Previous backer Atomico also followed on. Founded by ex-city broker Ben Pugh in 2014, Farmdrop originally launched as a ‘click and collect’ service that let you order groceries online from farmer-producers to pick up at a local collection point. However, the company has since pivoted to door-to-door delivery but with the same basic idea of a marketplace that bypasses the mass supermarkets. It claims to give consumers much fresher produce, and farmer-producers a more generous share of the retail price. Large supermarkets are known for squeezing suppliers in a bid to lower prices whilst maintaining their own profits, after all. “The fundamental problem is that the supermarket’s dominance over the last fifty years has put huge amounts of downward pressure on farmgate prices,” Pugh told me when Farmdrop raised its Series A . “In this environment, the only option for producers has been to focus on yields and durability which has led to a big depreciation in the taste and nutritional quality of homegrown foods”. To that end, Farmdrop says it now sells over 2,000 products ranging from high-welfare meat, dairy, fish, organic fruit and veg, plus household supplies and larder items.

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Audit of NHS Trust’s app project with DeepMind raises more questions than it answers

A third party audit of a controversial patient data-sharing arrangement between a London NHS Trust and Google DeepMind appears to have skirted over the core issues that generated the controversy in the first place. The audit ( full report here ) — conducted by law firm Linklaters — of the Royal Free NHS Foundation Trust’s acute kidney injury detection app system, Streams, which was co-developed with Google-DeepMind (using an existing NHS algorithm for early detection of the condition), does not examine the problematic 2015 information-sharing agreement inked between the pair which allowed data to start flowing. “This Report contains an assessment of the data protection and confidentiality issues associated with the data protection arrangements between the Royal Free and DeepMind . It is limited to the current use of Streams, and any further development, functional testing or clinical testing, that is either planned or in progress. It is not a historical review,” writes Linklaters, adding that: “It includes consideration as to whether the transparency, fair processing, proportionality and information sharing concerns outlined in the Undertakings are being met.” Yet it was the original 2015 contract that triggered the controversy, after it was obtained and published by New Scientist, with the wide-ranging document  r aising questions over the broad scope of the data transfer ; the legal bases for patients information to be shared; and leading to questions over whether regulatory processes intended to safeguard patients and patient data had been sidelined  by the two main parties involved in the project. In  November 2016  the pair scrapped and replaced the initial five-year contract with a different one — which put in place additional information governance steps. They also went on to roll out the Streams app for use on patients in multiple NHS hospitals  — despite the UK’s data protection regulator, the ICO, having instigated an investigation into the original data-sharing arrangement. And just over a year ago  the ICO concluded that the Royal Free NHS Foundation Trust had failed to comply with Data Protection Law in its dealings with Google’s DeepMind. The audit of the Streams project was a requirement of the ICO. Though, notably, the regulator has not endorsed Linklaters report. On the contrary, it warns that it’s seeking legal advice and could take further action. In a statement  on its website, the ICO’s deputy commissioner for policy, Steve Wood, writes: “We cannot endorse a report from a third party audit but we have provided feedback to the Royal Free. We also reserve our position in relation to their position on medical confidentiality and the equitable duty of confidence. We are seeking legal advice on this issue and may require further action.” In a section of the report listing exclusions, Linklaters confirms the audit does not consider: “The data protection and confidentiality issues associated with the processing of personal data about the clinicians at the Royal Free using the Streams App.” So essentially the core controversy, related to the legal basis for the Royal Free to pass personally identifiable information on 1.6M patients to DeepMind when the app was being developed, and without people’s knowledge or consent, is going unaddressed here.

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