Dropbox finishes up 36% on first day of trading, valuing company above $11 billion

Dropbox was off to the races on its first day as a public company.

After pricing above the range at $21 per share, raising $756 million, Dropbox kicked off its first day soaring to $31.60, and closing the day at $28.48. This is up almost 36%.

It’s surely a sign of public investor enthusiasm for the cloud storage business, which had initially hoped to price its IPO between $16 and $18 and then raised it from $18 to $20.

It also means that Dropbox closed well above the $10 billion it was valued at its last private round. Its market cap is about $11.1 billion.

Dropbox brought in $1.1 billion in revenue for the last year. This compares to $845 million in revenue the year before and $604 million for 2015.

While it’s been cash flow positive since 2016, it is not yet profitable, having lost nearly $112 million last year. But it is significantly improved margins when compared to losses of $210 million for 2016 and $326 million for 2015.

Its average revenue per paying user is $111.91.

There has been a debate about whether to value Dropbox, which has a freemium model, as a consumer company or an enterprise business. It has convinced just 11 million of its 500 million registered customers to pay for its services.

Dropbox “combines the scale and virality of a consumer company with the recurring revenue of a software company,” said Bryan Schreier, a general partner at Sequoia Capital and board member at the company. He said that now was the time for Dropbox to list because “the business had reached a level of scale and also cash flow that warranted a public debut.”

He also talked about the early days of Dropbox pitching at a TechCrunch event in 2008 and how disappointed they were that the slides stopped working during the presentation. The company has come a long way.

Sequoia Capital owned 23.2% of the overall shares outstanding at the time of the IPO. They shared Dropbox’s original seed pitch from 2007. 

Accel was the next largest shareholder, owning 5% overall. Sameer Gandhi made the investment at Sequoia and then invested in Dropbox again when he went over to Accel.

Founder and CEO Drew Houston owned 25.3% of the company.

Greylock Partners also had a small stake. John Lilly, a general partner there, said he “invested in Dropbox because Drew and the team had an exceptionally clear vision of what the future of work would look like and built a product that would that meet the demands of the modern workforce.”

The prospectus warned of the competitive landscape.

“The market for content collaboration platforms is competitive and rapidly changing. Certain features of our platform compete in the cloud storage market with products offered by Amazon, Apple, Google, and Microsoft, and in the content collaboration market with products offered by Atlassian, Google, and Microsoft. We compete with Box on a more limited basis in the cloud storage market for deployments by large enterprises.”

Note that they downplayed their competition with Box, a company that’s often mentioned in the same sentence as Dropbox. While the products are similar, the two have different business models and Dropbox was hoping that this would be respected with a better revenue multiple. If the first day is any indication, it looks like that strategy worked.

The company listed on the Nasdaq, under the ticker “DBX.”

We talked about Dropbox’s first day and the outlook for upcoming public debuts like Spotify on our “Equity” podcast episode below. We were joined by Eric Kim at Goodwater Capital.

Source: Tech Crunch

How Raya’s $8/month dating app turned exclusivity into trust

The swipe is where the similarity ends. Raya is less like Tinder and more like a secret society. You need a member’s recommendations or a lot of friends inside to join, and you have to apply with an essay question. It costs a flat $7.99 for everyone, women and celebrities included. You show yourself off with a video slideshow set to music of your choice. And it’s for professional networking as well as dating, with parallel profiles for each.

Launched in March 2015, Raya has purposefully flown under the radar. No interviews. Little info about the founders. Not even a profile on Crunchbase’s startup index. In fact, in late 2016 it quietly acquired video messaging startup Chime, led by early Facebooker Jared Morgenstern, without anyone noticing. He’d become Raya’s first investor a year earlier. But Chime was fizzling out after raising $1.2 million. “I learned the not everyone who leaves Facebook, their next thing turns to gold” Morgenstern laughs. So he sold it to Raya for equity and brought four of his employees to build new experiences for the app.

Now the startup’s COO, Morgenstern has agreed to give TechCrunch the deepest look yet at Raya, where the pretty, popular, and powerful meet each other.

Temptation Via Trust

Raya COO Jared Morgenstern

“Raya is a utility for introducing you to people who can change your life. Soho House uses physical space, we’re trying to use software” says Morgenstern, referencing the global network of members-only venues.

We’re chatting in a coffee shop in San Francisco. It’s an odd place to discuss Raya, given the company has largely shunned Silicon Valley in favor of building a less nerdy community in LA, New York, London, and Paris. The exclusivity might feel discriminatory for some, even if you’re chosen based on your connections rather than your wealth or race. Though people already self-segregate based on where they go to socialize. You could argue Raya just does the same digitally

Morgenstern refuses to tell me how much Raya has raised, how it started, or anything about its co-founder Mike McGuiness who owns LA public relations company the Co-Op Agency beyond that the team is a “Humble, focused group that prefers not to be part of the story.” But he did reveal some of the core tenets that have reportedly attracted celebrities like DJs Diplo and Skrillex, actors Elijah Wood and Amy Schumer, and musicians Demi Lovato and John Mayer, plus scores of Instagram models and tattooed creative directors.

Raya’s iOS-only app isn’t a swiping game for fun and personal validation. Its interface and curated community are designed to get you from discovering someone to texting if you’re both interested to actually meeting in person as soon as possible. Like at a top-tier university or night club, there’s supposed to be an in-group sense of camaraderie that makes people more open to each other.

Then there are the rules.

“This is an intimate community with zero-tolerance for disrespect or mean-spirited behavior. Be nice to each other. Say hello like adults” says an interstitial screen that blocks use until you confirm you understand and agree every time you open the app. That means no sleazy pick-up lines or objectifying language. You’re also not allowed to screenshot, and you’ll be chastized with a numbered and filed warning if you do.

It all makes Raya feel consequential. You’re not swiping through infinite anybodies and sorting through reams of annoying messages. People act right because they don’t want to lose access. Raya recreates the feel of dating or networking in a small town, where your reputation follows you. And that sense of trust has opened a big opportunity where competitors like Tinder or LinkedIn can’t follow.

Self-Expression To First Impression

Until now, Raya showed you people in your city as well as around the world — which is a bit weird since it would be hard to ever run into each other. But to achieve its mission of getting you offline to meet people in-person, it’s now letting you see nearby people on a map when GPS says they’re at hotspots like bars, dancehalls, and cafes. The idea is that if you both swipe right, you could skip the texting and just walk up to each other.

“I’m not sure why Tinder and the other big meeting people apps aren’t doing this” says Morgenstern. But the answer seems obvious. It would be creepy on a big public dating app. Even other exclusive dating apps like The League that induct people due to their resume more than their personality might feel too unsavory for a map, since having gone to an Ivy League college doesn’t mean you’re not a jerk. Hell, it might make that more likely.

But this startup is betting that its vetted, interconnected, “cool” community will be excited to pick fellow Raya members out of the crowd to see if they have a spark or business synergy.

That brings Raya closer to the holy grail of networking apps where you can discover who you’re compatible with in the same room without risking the crash-and-burn failed come-ons. You can filter by age and gender when browsing social connections, or by “Entertainment & Culture”, “Art & Design”, and “Business & Tech” buckets for work. And through their bio and extended slideshows of photos set to their favorite song, you get a better understanding of someone than from just a few profile pics on other apps.

Users can always report people they’ve connected with if they act sketchy, though with the new map feature I was dismayed to learn they can’t yet report people they haven’t seen or rejected in the app. That could lower the consequences for finding someone you want to meet, learning a bit about them, but then approaching without prior consent. However, Morgenstern insists.”The real risk is the density challenge”.

Finding Your Tribe

Raya’s map doesn’t help much if there are no other members for 100 miles. The company doesn’t restrict the app to certain cities, or schools like Facebook originally did to beat the density problem. Instead it relies on the fact that if you’re in the middle of nowhere you probably don’t have friends on it to pull you in. Still, that makes it tough for Raya to break into new locales.

But the beauty of the business is that since all users pay $7.99 per month, it doesn’t need that many to earn plenty of money. And at less than the price of a cocktail, the subscription deters trolls without being unaffordable. Morgenstern says “The most common reason to stop your subscription: I found somebody.” That ‘success = churn’ equation drags on most dating apps. Since Raya has professional networking as well though, he says some people still continue the subscription even after they find their sweetheart.

“I’m happily in a relationship and I’m excited to use maps” Morgenstern declares. In that sense, Raya wants to expand those moments in life when you’re eager and open to meet people, like the first days of college. “At Raya we don’t think that’s something that should only happen when you’re single or when you’re twenty or when you move to a new city.”

The bottomless pits of Tinder and LinkedIn can make meeting people online feel haphazard to the point of exhaustion. We’re tribal creatures who haven’t evolved ways to deal with the decision paralysis and the anxiety caused by the paradox of choice. When there’s infinite people to choose from, we freeze up, or always wonder if the next one would have been better than the one we picked. Maybe we need Raya-like apps for all sorts of different subcultures beyond the hipsters that dominate its community, as I wrote in my 2015’s piece “Rise Of The Micro-Tinders”. But if Raya’s price and exclusivity lets people be both vulnerable and accountable, it could forge a more civil way to make a connection.

Source: Tech Crunch

Rainforest Connection enlists machine learning to listen for loggers and jaguars in the Amazon

The vastness that makes the Amazon rainforest so diverse and fertile also makes it extremely difficult to protect. Rainforest Connection is a project started back in 2014 that used solar powered second-hand phones as listening stations that could alert authorities to sounds of illegal logging. And applying machine learning has supercharged the network’s capabilities.

The original idea is still in play: modern smartphones are powerful and versatile tools, and work well as wireless sound detectors. But as founder Topher White explained in an interview, the approach is limited to what you can get the phones to detect.

Originally, he said, the phones just listened for certain harmonics indicating, for example, a chainsaw. But bringing machine learning into the mix wrings much more out of the audio stream.

“Now we’re talking about detecting species, gunshots, voices, things that are more subtle,” he said. “And these models can improve over time. We can go back into years of recordings to figure out what patterns we can pull out of this. We’re turning this into a big data problem.”

White said he realized early on that the phones couldn’t do that kind of calculation, though — even if their efficiency-focused CPUs could do it, the effort would probably drain the battery. So he began working with Google’s TensorFlow platform to perform the training and integration of new data in the cloud.

Google also helped produce a nice little documentary about one situation where Guardians could help native populations deter loggers and poachers:

That’s in the Amazon, obviously, but Rainforest Connection has also set up stations in Cameroon and Sumatra, with others on the way.

Machine learning models are particularly good at finding patterns in noisy data that sound logical but defy easy identification through other means.

For instance, White said, “We should be able to detect animals that don’t make sounds. Jaguars might not always be vocalizing, but the animals around them are, birds and things.” The presence of a big cat then, might be easier to detect by listening for alarmed bird calls than for its near-silent movement through the forest.

The listening stations can be placed as far as 25 kilometers (about 15 miles) from the nearest cell tower. And since a device can detect chainsaws a kilometer away and some species half a kilometer away, it’s not like they need to be on every tree.

But, as you may know, the Amazon is rather a big forest. He wants more people to get involved, especially students. White partnered with Google to launch a pilot program where kids can build their own “Guardian,” as the augmented phone kits are called. When I talked with him it was moments before one such workshop in LA.

Topher White and students at one of the Guardian building workshops.

“We’ve already done three schools and I think a couple hundred students, plus three more in about half an hour,” he told me. “And all these devices will be deployed in the Amazon over the next three weeks. On Earth day they’ll be able to see them, and download to app to stream the sounds. It’s to show these kids that what they do can have an immediate effect.”

“An important part is making it inclusive, proving these things can be built by anyone in the world, and showing how anyone can access the data and do something cool with it. You don’t need to be a data scientist to do it,” he continued.

Getting more people involved is the key to the project, and to that end Rainforest Connection is working on a few new tricks. One is an app you’ll be able to download this summer “where people can put their phone on their windowsill and get alerts when there’s a species in the back yard.”

The other is a more public API; currently only partners like companies and researchers can access it. But with a little help all the streams from the many online Guardians will be available for anyone to listen to, monitor, and analyze. But that’s all contingent on having money.

“If we want to keep this program going, we need to find some funding,” White said. “We’re looking at grants and at corporate sponsorship — it’s a great way to get kids involved too, in both technology and ecology.”

Donations help, but partnerships with hardware makers and local businesses are more valuable. Want to join up? You can get at Rainforest Connection here.

Source: Tech Crunch

Dropbox and Box were never competitors

As Dropbox had its IPO moment this morning, more than 10 years after launching, we can finally put one myth to rest. Dropbox and Box were never targeting the same customers.

As Anshu Sharma, founder at Prekari, a stealth startup and former partner at Storm Venture tweeted earlier today:

Same goes for investors, analysts and journalists. If you don’t believe they’re different, consider that in Dropbox’s S-1 paperwork they filed with SEC, you will note they didn’t even list Box as a primary competitor: “We compete with Box on a more limited basis in the cloud storage market for deployments by large enterprises,” the company wrote.

They had something in common, of course, but Dropbox has always been about purely about managing files in the cloud, while Box has been focused on enterprise content use case cases in the cloud — and that’s a very different approach.

As Shria Ovide pointed out in her analysis on Bloomberg after the filing, the S-1 also proved that Dropbox has always been a “a consumer software company with a side hustle.” That side hustle was the enterprise business. (She also pointed out on Twitter that they may be the first company to use a cupcake emoji in their S-1, which is actually kind of cool).

Consumer with a dash of enterprise

It turns out that vast majority of Dropbox’s revenue came from consumers. It added up to over $1 billion in combined business and consumer revenue, which isn’t too shabby, but it’s still a completely different approach. Dropbox has always offered an attractive consumer storage tool. It’s well integrated into desktop OSs and it has a nice mobile tool.

I use it and for $10 a month I get a terabyte of storage. I can back up my life there and it incorporates neatly into Finder on my Mac. When I capture screens they go automatically to Dropbox. It provides a place to back up my photos from my phone. It’s convenient and easy and it works.

It seemed that such a tool would translate nicely to business, but Alan Pelz-Sharpe, founder and principal analyst at Deep Analysis, who has been following this space for years, says Dropbox has always primarily been confined to teams on the business side. “Dropbox is primarily a consumer company with 500 million users, [with] only about 300,000 teams using their business offering,” he told TechCrunch.

That’s not to say they aren’t trying to capture more of the enterprise. In the weeks prior to the IPO, they made a pair of announcements designed to increase their enterprise credibility including one with Google to store G Suite documents natively in Dropbox and one with Salesforce to embed Dropbox folders in Salesforce Sales and Marketing clouds.

For now though, even with this business push, Pelz-Sharpe points out that most of Dropbox’s business customers are small teams of 3 or more people with a dash of larger implementations. “Nor are people building much on top of Dropbox in the way of business applications – it remains primarily a very efficient file sharing system,” he explained.

Differences with Box

This in contrast to Box, which has been working primarily with large enterprise companies for years to solve much more complex problems around content. Aaron Levie from Box said he’s absolutely rooting for Dropbox, but they have always been going after different markets, since Box decide to go enterprise about two years into its existence.

“We are fundamentally building two very different companies. Both are large markets. While there is no limit to the scale they could become, we have built a very different business around how do you serve [large companies] and deal with unstructured company data — and it’s a very different product set [from Dropbox],” Levie told TechCrunch.

Dropbox was off to a great start today with stock soaring, up nearly 40 percent in early trading, but however Dropbox ends up doing in the days and months ahead, they will do it having made their mark mostly as a consumer company — and that’s fine. If they continue to build their enterprise business over time, it will be all the better for them, but it turns out up until now, the only thing Box and Dropbox had in common was both had “box” in their names.

Source: Tech Crunch

Trump’s new national security advisor has ties to Cambridge Analytica

Trump’s third national security advisor John Bolton shares at least one thing in common with his first one, Michael Flynn: both men have ties to Cambridge Analytica, a political data firm at the center of a new Facebook privacy firestorm.

In a new story, The New York Times reports that John Bolton’s political action committee The John Bolton Super PAC hired Cambridge Analytica in August 2014, “months after the political data firm was founded and while it was still harvesting the Facebook data.”

In Cambridge Analytica’s early days, Bolton’s PAC funneled $1.2 million toward polling and “behavioral microtargeting with psychographic messaging” over the course of two years.

“To do that work, Cambridge used Facebook data, according to the documents and two former employees familiar with the work,” The New York Times reports.

That research supported candidates on the right, including Republican Thom Tillis’s 2014 bid for the Senate. According to the report, Bolton’s PAC was aware that the data came from Facebook users, though it’s not clear if Bolton knew that the data was obtained through a Facebook developer without consent.

Cambridge Analytica continues to challenge reports that it held onto data improperly obtained. In a new statement, the company’s acting CEO Alexander Tayler maintains the company’s ignorance about the apparently unlawfully obtained data its parent company licensed from a Facebook developer.

“The company believed that the data had been obtained in line with Facebook’s terms of service and data protection laws…

I became Chief Data Officer for Cambridge Analytica in October 2015. Shortly after, Facebook requested that we delete the data. We immediately deleted the raw data from our file server, and began the process of searching for and removing any of its derivatives in our system. When Facebook sought further assurances a year ago, we carried out an internal audit to make sure that all the data, all derivatives and backups had been deleted, and gave Facebook a certificate to this effect. Please can I be absolutely clear: we did not use any GSR data in the work we did in the 2016 US presidential election.”

Like Cambridge Analytica, Bolton’s PAC was a financial beneficiary of Robert Mercer, a conservative financier with considerable influence in the Trump administration.

Source: Tech Crunch

Medium is now paying partners cash bonuses for quality work

A year ago, publishing platform Medium debuted a new business model where readers could pay a monthly fee to access exclusive, curated content, and would reward participating partners by offering a revenue share based on a metrics like time spent reading and the more explicit “claps” – Medium’s form of the “Like.” Now, Medium will reward select partners with direct cash bonuses as well, doled out at the company’s discretion.

The update was first noticed by Hunter Walk, who tweeted about the change after receiving a cash bonus of $100 for his Medium story, “Giving Visionary Women Their Due.”

In an email sent to him by Medium, the company said it wanted to offer an update on how his earnings were calculated.

“In addition to earning money when Medium members engage with your work, our system added bonuses to stories that our editors designate as high quality in important topic areas,” the email read.

Until now, Medium rewarded partners based on engagement with the story from each individual subscriber. The $5 per month subscription fee is distributed to each partner who had a story or stories the individual subscriber read during the month.

It’s worth noting the stark contrast between this model and traditional social media, where publishers are rewarded on clicks and shares – something which encourages clickbait and sensational posts. Not only was Medium already rewarding time spent reading – typically, one of the ways to measure content quality – it’s now directly seeding its network by paying for the kind of work it wants to see.

Quality is something Medium has been thinking a lot about, which is why it introduced the subscription model. Without advertising, there’s less of a commercial incentive to publish and spread misinformation, Medium CEO Ev Williams (pictured above) had previously said.

While originally open only to publishers, Medium last fall expanded the partner program to any author on its platform. That means, anyone would be eligible to receive these cash rewards. Payments are deposited into partners’ bank account monthly, and can be tracked on the Partner Dashboard.

Reached for comment (as there had been no formal announcement), Meidum confirmed this is the first week the cash bonuses have been added to its partner payouts.

The subject matter Medium is looking for will vary, we’re told, but will include “deep, insightful, expert stories” that the company believes its members will enjoy. (A sample selection is here.)

To determine which stories receive a bonus, Medium curators will read all content published for members, then mark those they believe to be high-quality in an important topic area in order to reward the author.

The bonus level is currently set at $100, but that could change in the future.

“Medium Editor’s bonuses are part of our continuing effort to build a system that pays writers based on value to readers, not click value to advertisers,” a Medium spokesperson told TechCrunch. “We’re focused on quality, and on building the best subscription-based platform for reading and writing, where people can discover unique ideas and perspectives all in one place. We want to help create a path for writers that hasn’t existed before.”


Source: Tech Crunch

Introducing the TechCrunch Disrupt SF ’18 Virtual Hackathon

We’ve told you that TechCrunch Disrupt San Francisco 2018 is going to be the biggest, most ambitious Disrupt ever — and we’re serious. So serious, in fact, that we’re super-sizing the Hackathon, taking it online and making it global. Now thousands of the world’s most talented developers, programmers, hackers and tech makers can participate and submit their hacks from anywhere in the world.

If you know Disrupt, you know the Hackathon. It’s where hundreds of talented tech creators enter a 24-hour frenzied sprint to develop amazing products. Products like Quick Insurance — the easiest way to purchase an insurance product for all your valuable stuff (Disrupt Berlin ’17); Alexa Shop Assist — lets you ask Alexa where to find products in a store (Disrupt SF ‘17) and reVIVE — a VR solution that provides both a diagnostic and treatment mechanism for ADHD (Disrupt NY ‘17) — all previous Hackathon winners.

Now imagine the possibilities when thousands of highly motivated coders, hackers and programmers around the world focus their talents in a global Hackathon. Epic doesn’t even begin to describe it.

As you can imagine, an event this size requires substantially more time than 24-hours. More details will be unveiled in the coming weeks, but here’s the basic gist of how it’s all going to work. But before you read any further, be sure to sign up for any virtual Hackathon updates so you won’t miss a thing.

We’re going to ask you to show us how you’d creatively produce and apply technology to solve various challenges. A panel of judges will review all eligible submitted hacks and rate them on a scale of 1-5. The members of every team that scores a three or higher will receive Innovator Passes to TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2018.

The 30 highest-scoring teams make it to the semi-finals, where they get to demo their hack at Disrupt SF. From there, we’ll choose 10 of those teams to pitch their hack on The Next Stage in front of thousands of Disrupt SF attendees. One of those 10 teams will win the $10,000 grand prize and be the first-ever TechCrunch Disrupt Virtual Hackathon champ.

While this Hackathon is virtual, the sponsored prizes are very real — and plentiful. Be sure to sign up for updates and announcements. You’ll get the details as they become available, and we’ll let you know when you can register to participate. Hope to “see” you there!

Source: Tech Crunch

Bird adds a former Lyft VP of Government Relations as chief legal officer

Bird has made another key hire as it looks to spread its electric scooter rental business across the nation.

The company has brought on former Lyft vice president of government relations, David Estrada, to be its chief legal officer.

He’s going to take over the company’s compliance and government relations efforts just as Bird seems poised for a big, nationwide rollout following its huge $100 million raise.

Estrada will be facing similar challenges to the ones he had to deal with at Lyft as he helped grow the nation’s second largest ride-hailing service.

Bird has some unique hurdles to overcome — including pushback from local businesses that find the scooters to be more nuisance than last-mile transportation savior; local governments worried about both the traffic and safety risks that scooters may pose on streets and sidewalks; and competition from other services like LimeBike, which has rolled out a scooter service of its own.

Estrada most recently served as the chief legal officer and head of public policy for the electric aircraft company, Kitty Hawk. He served as the CLO at Lyft from 2014 to 2015 and had also worked as the legal director for Google X, working with states on legislation around autonomous vehicles, Google Glass and drone delivery.

David Estrada

Source: Tech Crunch

Ben is a chatbot that lets you learn about and buy Bitcoin

It’s generally a given that whenever a new technology takes off people rush into the space to build everything under the sun, and eventually natural selection kicks in and only the truly useful remain. For example, chatbots became trendy last year and we quickly began seeing chatbots for weather, movie recommendations, personal finance, etc. Some of these are useful, but until natural language processing improves you’re probably better just doing the task yourself.

But there are a few exceptions, with one in particular being chatbots designed for the purpose of making a very complex topic or task approachable to the average person.

Like cryptocurrencies.

Ben is a chatbot that lets anyone become familiar with cryptocurrencies via a recognizable chat interface. By talking with “Ben”, users can do things like take lessons and learn about cryptocurrency, read the latest industry news, and of course buy and sell Bitcoin.

By focusing on an underserved market (i.e people who have no idea what Bitcoin is or how to buy it) Ben has the unique advantage of not having to go head to head with established crypto titans like Coinbase or Circle.

The startup is part of Y Combinator’s Winter ’18 batch, and previously raised a $580K pre-seed from Third Kind Venture Capital and various angel investors.

After completing a KYC check (which is also done via chat) users in 21 states can buy and sell Bitcoin, with other states and support for Ethereum, Ripple, and Bitcoin Cash rolling out in the coming months. The startup charges 1% for buys and sells, which is in line or lower than most major exchanges.

The app also has a social feature where you can link with friends to see their returns (only on a percentage basis) to see who is a better investor.

User’s cryptocurrency is stored in the cloud but their private keys live only on their own personal device, which isn’t as secure as complete cold storage but does ensure that your bitcoin can’t be spent without someone having access to your phone. Ben also gives new users a backup seed to write down in case they lose their phone.

But Ben isn’t necessarily meant to support an experienced crypto user who has a high-value portfolio and needs advanced features and security.

Instead, the startup’s goal is to make buying and learning about cryptocurrency accessible to anyone, especially those without the technical knowledge or desire to spend the time learning how an exchange world. And as natural language technology evolves Ben will be able to answer more and more questions over time, making it a perfect on-ramp for people who need a little more hand holding before they open their wallet and trade their (actual) benjamins for a string of ones and zeros.

Source: Tech Crunch

Meet the startups that pitched at EF’s 9th Demo Day in London

Entrepreneur First (EF), the company builder and “talent first” investor, held its ninth London Demo Day this afternoon. Once again, the pitches took place in front of a packed crowd at King’s Place in London’s King Cross area, seeing 19 startups pitch their wares to investors, press and other actors in the European tech scene.

EF stands out from the plethora of demo days that the U.K. capital city hosts because of the way the investor backs individuals “pre-team, pre-idea” — meaning that the companies pitching only came into existence over the last 6 months and perhaps may never have done so without the founders entering the programme.

As is now a tradition, prior to the pitches, EF co-founder Matt Clifford took the chance to announce some EF news of its own. Already operating in London, Singapore and Berlin, the company builder — which last year picked up backing in a $12.4 million round led by Silicon Valley’s Greylock Partners — is expanding to Hong Kong to double down on its Asia ambitions, kicking off with a local programme in July. Heading up EF’s Hong Kong office is former Airbnb and Google exec Lavina Tien — you can read my full report here.

The themes for EF’s ninth London Demo Day continued to reflect the company builder’s focus on recruiting the best technical and domain expert talent — both recent graduates and also people already working at tech companies — where they are encouraged to try their hand at entrepreneurship. The pitches spanned AI/machine learning, automation, healthtech, legal tech, financial services, new interfaces and input devices. And, being that this is 2018, the blockchain and cryptocurrency, although, thankfully, there wasn’t an ICO in sight.

Low on sleep and therefore particularly prone to pitch-lash, my picks this time around were Limbic, which wants to bring emotional intelligence to software (and therefore hardware) by measuring changes to a part of your brain called the ‘limbic system’ via your heartbeat; nPlan, which wants to use machine learning to enable major construction work schedules to be more accurate and run on or ahead of time; and Inoviv, which is developing technology based on unique insights into proteomics to help match patients with the right drugs.

The full list of presenting teams (in their own words)

Papercup translates the voice track on videos so every creator can expand their reach to seven billion people.
CreditMint is decentralising corporate lending.
nPlan accelerates the global construction industry.
Nivoda aggregates the world’s diamonds.
Headlight AI provides intelligent sensing and mapping software for harsh environments.
Octeract solves today’s unsolvable optimization problems.
Beneficiary maps the impact of the world’s philanthropic efforts and helps charities identify the most effective ways to improve lives.
Ginie AI turns term sheets into contracts.
Prime Factor Capital is a crypto asset manager.
Panopy is a performance management platform that removes workplace bias.
Mimica builds self-learning automations for digital work.
Inoviv matches patients with the right drugs.
PolyAI is democratising conversational AI to give machines a voice.
Plural AI is building a new kind of search engine: a knowledge engine.
ArrayStream Technologies helps fund providers launch next generation AI-powered mutual funds.
Limbic provides computers with vital emotional input.
Plumerai is making small machines intelligent.
TokenAnalyst is bringing transparency to the decentralized economy.
Massless is the future of three-dimensional immersive design.

Source: Tech Crunch