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Tag Archives: europe

Next Insurance, an insurtech targeting small businesses, scores $83M Series B led by Redpoint

Next Insurance , the Israeli digital insurance startup that helps small businesses get cover, has raised a significant new funding round, adding another $83 million to its balance sheet. The Series B round is led by Silicon Valley’s Redpoint Ventures, and will be used by the company to continue expanding across the U.S., where it now operates as a full service insurance carrier. It will also increase headcount in both its Israel and U.S. offices. Founded in 2016 with the aim of becoming a one-stop insurance shop for micro and small business insurance needs, Next Insurance designs insurance plans for business sectors that are often overlooked by more general insurers. Small business owners often rely on price comparison websites to figure out what kind of coverage they need and where to buy it, though that means the plans they get don’t always cover all their needs. The other option is to use a broker but that also adds another middle person. “The complexity of the small business insurance market is very significant and this leads to a situation where even the largest insurance providers own less than 10 percent of the small business market,” founder and CEO Guy Goldstein told TechCrunch when the company raised its Series A. “This offers us huge growth potential as we aim to specialize in and become a market leader in each small business vertical”. The small business sectors where Next Insurance offers general and professional liability insurance currently includes contractors, fitness, cleaning, beauty, therapy, entertainment, and education. It lets you buy insurance instantly at what it claims is very competitive prices and with no hidden fees. In addition, now that Next Insurance is a licensed carrier, it is able to write policies independently, with what it says is more freedom over underwriting, setting prices, and configuring policies.

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Facebook under fresh political pressure as UK watchdog calls for “ethical pause” of ad ops

The UK’s privacy watchdog revealed yesterday that it intends to fine Facebook the maximum possible  (£500k) under the country’s 1998 data protection regime for breaches related to the Cambridge Analytica data misuse scandal. But that’s just the tip of the regulatory missiles now being directed at the platform and its ad-targeting methods — and indeed, at the wider big data economy’s corrosive undermining of individuals’ rights. Alongside yesterday’s  update on its investigation into the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica data scandal, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has published a policy  report  — entitled Democracy Disrupted? Personal information and political influence — in which it sets out a series of policy recommendations related to how personal information is used in modern political campaigns. In the report it calls directly for an “ethical pause” around the use of microtargeting ad tools for political campaigning — to “allow the key players — government, parliament, regulators, political parties, online platforms and citizens — to reflect on their responsibilities in respect of the use of personal information in the era of big data before there is a greater expansion in the use of new technologies”. The watchdog writes emphasis ours: Rapid social and technological developments in the use of big data mean that there is limited knowledge of – or transparency around – the ‘behind the scenes’ data processing techniques (including algorithms, analysis, data matching and profiling) being used by organisations and businesses to micro-target individuals. What is clear is that these tools can have a significant impact on people’s privacy. It is important that there is greater and genuine transparency about the use of such techniques to ensure that people have control over their own data and that the law is upheld. When the purpose for using these techniques is related to the democratic process, the case for high standards of transparency is very strong. Engagement with the electorate is vital to the democratic process; it is therefore understandable that political campaigns are exploring the potential of advanced data analysis tools to help win votes. The public have the right to expect that this takes place in accordance with the law as it relates to data protection and electronic marketing. Without a high level of transparency – and therefore trust amongst citizens that their data is being used appropriately – we are at risk of developing a system of voter surveillance by default

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Olio, the app that lets you share unwanted food items with your neighbours, picks up £6M Series A

Olio , the hyperlocal food sharing app that wants to help tackle the world’s food waste epidemic, has picked up $6 million in Series A funding. The U.K. startup offers a location-based app and website that lets you list and post a photo of unwanted food items to be shared with other people in the same neighbourhood. That is, food that you might otherwise throw away. The company, Olio co-founder and CEO Tessa Clarke told me in a call earlier this week, was born out of the idea that a bottom-up, community approach — driven by individual behaviour — is the most scalable way to cut down on the amount of food households typically waste. She says about a third of food production is thrown away and/or allowed to perish, which mostly ends up in landfill, and that food in the home represents about half of this. The startup helps businesses tackle the problem, too. Dubbed the “Food Waste Heroes Programme,” Olio is enabling companies, such as retailers or those operating events and corporate canteens, to utilise the Olio platform and community to become “zero food waste” organisations. This sees companies charged a fee and in return Olio will dispatch its thousands of volunteers, who have been vetted and are trained in food hygiene, to come to their stores or outlets and collect unwanted food items. The volunteers then photograph and list the items on the app and offer themselves up as hyperlocal collection points. Most items are made available for sharing and picked up/distributed in just a few hours. Clarke says the startup is also exploring the possibility of moving to a premium model, where the most active users of the platform pay for a subscription that gives them access to additional value-add features.

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Ledger finally has a good app for its crypto wallet

French startup Ledger has been working for a while on a brand new app to manage your crypto assets on your computer. The company is designing and manufacturing one of the most secure hardware wallets out there. While it’s clear that security has always been the first focus of the company, the user experience has been lacking, especially on the software front. The company launched a new app called Ledger Live to handle everything you used to do with Chrome apps before. That’s right, before today, the company relied on Google Chrome for its desktop apps. You had to install the browser first, and then install a new app for each cryptocurrency. There was also a main app to update the firmware. It could quickly become a mess. Now, everything is centralized in a single app. After downloading and installing the app on Windows, macOS or Linux, you can either configure the app with an existing Ledger device or configure a new Ledger wallet. The app first checks the integrity of your device and then lets you manage the device. You can upgrade the firmware and install apps on your Ledger Nano S or Ledger Blue from the “Manager” tab. More interestingly, you can now add all your wallets to the Ledger Live app.

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Lodgify, the SaaS for vacation rentals, books $5M in Series A funding

Lodgify , the Barcelona-based SaaS for property owners to manage vacation rentals, today announced it has secured $5 million in Series A funding. Existing backers Nauta Capital, Howzat Partners, and a number of angels participated, in addition to new investor Intermedia Vermögensverwaltung. It brings total funding for the Spanish startup to $7.3 million yo date. Primary pitched as a way for property owners to grow their direct vacation rental bookings, as opposed to solely relying on platforms like Airbnb or Booking.com, the Lodgify SaaS enables the creation of a mobile-friendly website for each property. Crucially, this includes the ability to accept online bookings and take payment. “Just like Shopify became the decentralised platform for businesses by democratizing access to e-commerce technology, Lodgify is empowering lodging operators with direct channel technology,” the company’s co-founder and CEO Dennis Klett tells me. “That allows them to build their own booking channel to generate more direct bookings”. To help support this, Lodgify is attempting to fully automate the booking workflow for hosts: from booking management, to guest communication, to payment scheduling and refunding in case of refundable cancellations. “All these steps basically run on autopilot, empowering our hosts to be instantly bookable and eliminating time-consuming tasks for them,” Klett says. As part of these efforts, the company is keeping an eye on the development of crypto currencies and “smart contracts. Perhaps somewhat optimistically, Klett says this would allow for “self-executing and risk-free bookings”. He is also bullish on the potential for direct bookings to continually grow, noting that a number of vacation booking sites, such as Housetrip, Roomoroma and 9flats, have either consolidated or disappeared over the the last couple of years.

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The Great British Hack-Off summer festival hackathon will aim at Brexit

It’s very hard to know what the effects of Brexit are “on the ground”. Local news no longer has much of a business model to concentrate on specific subjects or campaigns. Social media is a mess of local facebook groups which only locals can see. MPs often ignore email / online campaigns from constituents. The Great British Hack-Off aims to address this. In a 2-day intensive, overnight “hackathon” it aims to get a groundswell of interest in helping to improve local communities and economies and connect people with their decision makers. It will be held by Tech For UK ( Twitter , Hashtag:#GBhackoff , Instagram , Facebook ) the tech industry body calling for a meaningful people’s vote on Brexit, with the option to Remain, and anti-Brexit group Best For Britain . Anyone interested can apply to attend the event via this form . The Great British Hack-Off will ask a number of questions and try to build products to address the answers. Are local community projects, some formerly funded by the EU, still going? Are they being replaced? What about local factories, businesses? What about health Services

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Index Ventures closes 2 funds, $1B for growth rounds and $650M for early-stage investing

Make way for more money into the startup investing pool. Today, Index Ventures announced that it has closed a total of $1.65 billion in new funds — $1 billion that it plans to invest in later-stage, growth rounds, and $650 million that it plans to put into earlier rounds for smaller startups. The venture fund is Index’s ninth; the growth round is its fourth since it was founded in 1996. The funding is significant for a couple of reasons. Index is one of Europe’s (and America’s) more prominent venture capital firms, backing recent hits like  Adyen ,  Dropbox ,  iZettle , and  Zuora  (all of which have now either gone public or, in the case of iZettle, been acquired), so its backing has become something of a signal for companies to watch (similar to a number of others, it should be noted), as well as setting a pace for investing choices (including who is doing the investing). The funding is also notable because of the size of the funds. Index has raised  $7.25 billion over the years, using that money to seed and grow hundreds of startups, and helping to fuel — alongside the growth of the internet and technologies like mobile — what has become a veritable tech boom over the last couple of decades.  But even within that longer trend, more recent years have seen an even bigger infusion of venture funding into the tech ecosystem, with outsized backers like Softbank bringing together syndicates of tech titans to bring in tens (and even hundreds) of billions of dollars into the mix. The strong returns that the very biggest startups deliver — the world’s most valuable companies today are dominated by tech names — has led to even more money pouring into the sector. This latest $1.65 billion from Index is a leap on its previous growth and venture fund close: in 2016 it raised $1.25 billion ($550 million for venture and $700 million for growth), which at the time seemed huge and now seems almost modest. “The reason why it’s a larger amoung is because companies are raising more money earlier. There is more capital, but also the opportunities are larger,” said Martin Mignot, and investing partner with Index, in an interview with TechCrunch. “Startups are going after larger sectors and a greater percentage of the GDP, and we believe that the size of outcome will get larger.” “Operating thousands of scooters would not have been thought of as a venture-backed opportunity in the past,” added Mike Volpi, another investing partner at Index, in reference to Index’s investment in the scooter startup Bird. “It is now.” “We are still in the very early innings of this,” Mignot said of the wave of transportation startups. This is also leading to a big shift in how startups are evolving.

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Timehop discloses July 4 data breach affecting 21 million

Timehop  has disclosed a security breach that has compromised the personal data (names and emails) of 21 million users. Around a fifth of the affected users — or 4.7M — have also had a phone number that was attached to their account breached in the attack. The startup, whose service plugs into users’ social media accounts to resurface posts and photos they may have forgotten about, says it discovered the attack while it was in progress, at 2:04 US Eastern Time on July 4, and was able to shut it down two hours, 19 minutes later — albeit, not before millions of people’s data had been breached. According to its preliminary investigation of the incident, the attacker first accessed Timehop’s cloud environment in December — using compromised admin credentials, and apparently conducting reconnaissance for a few days that month, and again for another day in March and one in June, before going on to launch the attack on July 4, during a US holiday. Timehop publicly disclosed the breach in a blog post  on Saturday, several days after discovering the attack. It says no social media content, financial data or Timehop data was affected by the breach — and its blog post emphasizes that none of the content its service routinely lifts from third party social networks in order to present back to users as digital “memories” was affected. However the keys that allow it to read and show users their social media content were compromised — so it has all keys deactivated, meaning Timehop users will have to re-authenticate to its App to continue using the service. “If you have noticed any content not loading, it is because Timehop deactivated these proactively,” it writes, adding: “We have no evidence that any accounts were accessed without authorization.” It does also admit that the tokens could “theoretically” have been used for unauthorized users to access Timehop users’ own social media posts during “a short time window” — although again it emphasizes “we have no evidence that this actually happened”. “We want to be clear that these tokens do not give anyone (including Timehop) access to Facebook Messenger, or Direct Messages on Twitter or Instagram, or things that your friends post to your Facebook wall. In general, Timehop only has access to social media posts you post yourself to your profile,” it adds. In terms of how its network was accessed, it appears that the attacker was able to compromise Timehop’s cloud computing environment by targeting an account that had not been protected by multifactor authentication. That’s very clearly a major security failure — but one Timehop does not explicitly explain, writing only that: “We have now taken steps that include multifactor authentication to secure our authorization and access controls on all accounts.” Part of its formal incident response, which it says began on July 5, was also to add multifactor authentication to “all accounts that did not already have them for all cloud-based services (not just in our Cloud Computing Provider)”. So evidently there was more than one vulnerable account for attackers to target. Its exec team will certainly have questions to answer about why multifactor authentication was not universally enforced for all its cloud accounts. For now, by way of explanation, it writes: “There is no such thing as perfect when it comes to cyber security but we are committed to protecting user data.

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Huawei Doesn’t Expect To Be Hit By US Sanctions – Ubergizmo

Ubergizmo Huawei Doesn't Expect To Be Hit By US Sanctions Ubergizmo Huawei has had a difficult time breaking into the U.S. market. Federal agencies continue to view the company with concern and raise alarm about security issues. Huawei has long maintained that the charge about its products facilitating spying by the ... and more »

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Sonos files for an IPO, with plans to raise $100M, and reports a net loss of $14.2M on revenue of $992.5M in the year ending September 30, 2017 (Chaim…

Chaim Gartenberg / The Verge : Sonos files for an IPO, with plans to raise $100M, and reports a net loss of $14.2M on revenue of $992.5M in the year ending September 30, 2017   —  The popular speaker company has announced plans for an IPO  —  Sonos officially filed for an initial public offering today …

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Booksy, the worldwide booking system, raises $13.2 million

Booksy , a Poland-based booking application for the beauty business, has raised $13.2 million in a series B effort to drive global growth. The company, founded in 2014 by Stefan Batory and Konrad Howard, is currently seeing 2.5 million bookings per month. The company raised from Piton Capital, OpenOcean, Kulczyk Investments, and Zach Coelius. Batory, an ultramarathoner, also co-founded iTaxi, Poland’s popular taxi hailing app. Booksy came about when he was trying to schedule physiotherapy appointments after long runs. He would come home sore and plan on calling his physiotherapist but it was always too late. “I didn’t want to bother him after I was done with my workout late night, and it was virtually impossible to contact him during day time as his hands were busy massaging people and he did not answer my calls,” he said. Booksy launched in the US in 2017 and “rapidly become the number one booking app in the world,” said Batory. “We will use the funding to drive global growth, recruit high profile talent and develop proprietary technologies that will further support beauty businesses,” he said. “That includes the implementation of one-click booking, a feature that uses machine learning and AI technologies, to determine each user’s buying pattern and offer them the best dates with their favorite stylists, thus simplifying user experience for both merchants and their customers.”

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Crypto Visa card company Monaco just spent millions to buy Crypto.com

Highly-prized domain name Crypto.com has been sold! Registered in 1993 by Matt Blaze , a professor of computer and information science at the University of Pennsylvania who sits on the board of directors of the Tor Project, the domain has attracted a vast amount of interest as you’d expect given the explosion of crypto in recent years. However, Blaze has turned down all offers. In January, Blaze repeated that the domain was “not for sale” and that people shouldn’t both to contact him — as The Verge noted —  however fast forward to July and he has parted with it after Monaco, a crypto project best-known for developing a crypto debit card, bought the domain in an undisclosed deal. Experts told The Verge that Crypto.com could have attracted as much as $10 million, however Monaco CEO Kris Marszalek declined to go into the specifics. “If it was only about money he’d have sold it a long time ago,” he told TechCrunch in an interview. Hong Kong-based Monaco’s ICO finished in June 2017 with the company raising what was then worth $25 million in crypto. Fast forward today and Marszalek said the firm has close to $200 million on its balance sheet thanks to a surge in the valuation of cryptocurrencies like Ether, but he suggested that, more than money, the sale was about finding the right home for the domain. “This is a very powerful identity that we are taking on. It’s representative of the entire category so it comes with a huge responsibility on us to carry the torch. We don’t take it lightly and this is one of the things that I think we conveyed successfully, that, as a company, we do have a higher purpose,” he said. “Fundamentally, blockchain and crypto will enable the next generation to control their money, to control their data and to control their identity, these are the three fundamental things that weave the fabric of society. For us this is the purpose, we want to acceleration the world’s adoption of cryptocurrency,” he added. The splashy purchase of the domain is part of a rebrand for Monaco that will see the parent company become Crypto.com and its Monaco services — which the upcoming Visa card, peer-to-peer transfer and a wallet app — become MCO, the same name as the company’s cryptocurrency. The Monaco card itself just entered testing for a small group of users, primarily the MCO team, and Marszalek said it will be available for all customers in Singapore and Europe this summer, with a rollout for those in the U.S.

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