Motiv’s fitness ring can help you find a lost iPhone

I was surprisingly impressed when I tested out Motiv’s fitness ring. Honestly, I’m not a ring wearer myself, but it’s nice to see a hardware start think outside the fitness band — and produce a surprisingly capable product in the process. The company’s also done a pretty decent job continuing to add features to the little wearable.

Back in April, the ring got Alexa functionality and Android support. This week, the company announced some additional features for Amazon’s smart assistant, along with the ability to use the device to locate a lost phone. That last bit is one of the more compelling additions to the ring since launch. If the lost iPhone is within bluetooth range, a few twists of the ring will set the handset ringing and vibrating until you find the thing.

As for Alexa functionality, users can now ask the assistant for more detailed fitness information, including active minutes, calories, sleep and steps. Motiv has also added new social functionality to the ring, in the form of Circles, which lets users share activity feed with friends who also use the ring.

None are particularly earth shattering in and of themselves, but it’s nice to see the startup continuing to introduce innovative new features for the hardware.

Source: Tech Crunch

To become a public company, start operating like one early on

After their long post-financial-crisis slump, European tech IPOs are starting to rebound. Tech companies raised more money on European public markets between 2015-17 (€5.3 billion) than in the previous seven years combined. With venture capital having boomed in that time, that trend is set to continue: There is a generation of well-funded, fast-growing technology companies now eyeing the public markets as the platform for continued rapid growth. The pipeline is healthy. But what needs to be done to get ready for an IPO and, crucially, what comes next?

Money raised and market opportunity alone do not make for a public-company-in-waiting. You do not transform from a scrappy growth business into a tightly governed, transparent public company overnight. It has to be a gradual evolution, one which requires the right people, structures and mindset to be in place. Companies need to ask themselves not just if they want to pursue an IPO, but how exactly they plan to go about it, and how they will prepare for the realities of life as a public company.

Having advised three companies on their journey to an IPO, across three different geographies, I think there should be at least two years of careful planning between deciding to seek a listing and hearing the bell ring on your market open.

You have to start with bringing in the right people. A business can grow a long way on the back of an inspirational founding team, but as an aspiring public company, you need an experienced and high-performing management team as well. Do you have a CFO who has credibility with public market investors? Does the board have enough members with independent authority; will it meet the requirements of those institutional investors who now require a minimum quota of female directors?

Ultimately it comes down to one question: Can you start operating like a public company before you become one?

Your board will have to grow, not least to fulfill necessary governance functions, from audit to compensation and nomination committees. These are important and often complex hires, which can take anything from six months to a year to put in place. It also takes a while for new board members to start working well together and gain a detailed understanding of the company.

The composition of the board is just one area where a private company has to start asking itself new questions as it prepares for a listing. Another is the financial profile of the business and the trade-off between growth and profitability. Will investors give us credit for growing, say, 80 percent year over year? Should we front-load investments and associated losses, or incur them over time when required? The CEO also must think about how she is going to communicate with the market, and whether she needs others around her to give investors the full package. A very visionary and product-focused CEO, for example, will need to be complemented by a brilliant CFO who can handle detailed questions about the company’s finances.

A company thinking about going public also needs to evolve its mindset. After an IPO, you will no longer be a tight-knit group of founders, early hires and investors who know the business intimately. The relationship you have known with your private backers is going to bear no relation to the one you will experience with public market investors. As a public company, you are no longer being supportively cheered on, but independently scrutinized by investors who understand the business in less detail and are liable to react strongly to indicators whose significance they can easily misinterpret. In this environment, if you set an ambitious target, you can’t achieve only 95 percent of it and expect to be consoled and encouraged. Institutional investors are going to want to know why you didn’t exceed that target, let alone failed to meet it.

Ultimately it comes down to one question: Can you start operating like a public company before you become one? The companies that succeed post-IPO are those that have laid the foundation to make the transition from private to public as seamless as possible. There are rich rewards to be enjoyed on the public markets, but only for those who do the hard work in advance to ease into life as a public company. Europe’s fast-growing tech companies should consider not just whether an IPO is the right option for them, but if they are willing to put in the work that is necessary to make it a success.

Source: Tech Crunch

No-fees mobile bank Chime raises $70M Series C, valuing its business at $500M

Chime, the San Francisco-based challenger bank known for its consumer-friendly features and lack of fees, has raised $70 million in Series C financing, led by Menlo Ventures. The round, which also included existing investors Forerunner Ventures, Aspect Ventures, Cathay Innovation, Northwestern Mutual and Omidyar Network, brings the company to over $100 million in total funding to date and values the business at around $500 million.

The startup is one of several challenger banks gaining popularity with a younger, millennial audience who sees no need for a bank with physical branches, and who are sick of being penalized by hefty fees for things like overdrafts or dropping below a minimum balance – fees that take advantage of consumers at their most vulnerable points in their financial lives.

As Chime points out, traditional banks charged consumers over $34 billion in fees in 2017. Its service, on the other hand, drops the consumer-facing fees.

There are no monthly fees, no minimum balance fees, no overdraft fees, no international transactions fees, and it has a network of nearly 40,000 free ATMs  Instead of gouging customers, Chime generates revenue from an interchange-based business model involving its accompanying debit card, where it earns about 1.5 percent in interchange revenue from Visa.

While the no-fee structure is a huge draw for consumers, Chime is popular also for its innovative feature set. Thanks to a founding team with a combination of both startup and finance experience, the app looks like something built by a technology company, not an old-fashioned bank.

Chime’s co-founder and CEO Chris Britt previously worked at Flycast, was an early comScore employee, and did time at Visa and Green Dot; co-founder and CTO Ryan King hails from Plaxo and Comcast.

“I started this company because Green Dot was really focused on the unbanked and under-banked people who couldn’t get bank accounts because they had bad credit or bad checks – that sort of thing,” explains Britt. “It was really not a full-featured bank account. And so what I wanted to do with this company was create a product that would serve more mainstream consumers – people who actually had accounts at [Bank of America] and Wells Fargo, but just aren’t particularly satisfied with those guys for variety of reasons – probably first, and foremost, the way they structure the products are quite punitive,” he says.

Chime launched to consumers in mid-2014, but didn’t offer the suite of features that would allow people to use Chime as a primary bank account until early 2016, Britt says.

Today, that feature set includes an automatic savings option that will round up purchases, and one that socks away 10 percent of your paycheck into your Chime savings account. It also has a popular no-fee paycheck advance feature that will make your direct deposited paycheck available to you early – as soon as the deposit is initiated by the payroll provider and the bank is alerted.

This feature set and no-fee structure has attracted a number of young professionals from all over the U.S. to switch. The company passed over a million accounts a couple of weeks ago, and is now adding well over 100,000 new bank accounts per month. It has also generated over $4.5 billion in transaction volume to date, and expects to reach $10 billion by year-end.

With the additional funding, Chime plans to scale the business further, not only with marketing and new hires to expand its nearly 80-person team in San Francisco to over 100, but also in the types of products it will offer and other new features.

“We think the next phase for us is going to be helping our members manage their credit and loans more effectively,” says Britt. “We think we can play a role in providing short-term lines of credit and helping members manage their debt.” However, he declined to share product details on that front.

Chime also has some deals in the works which will see the bank working with employers more directly, but couldn’t speak to the specifics at this time.

Along with the new round, Chime has added Shawn Carolan of Menlo Ventures to its board.

“The bank account is at the center of our lives, critical to both financial and emotional well-being,” Carolan said, speaking to Menlo’s investment. “We love how Chime’s business growth aligns with helping more members save more money for themselves rather than being gouged by hidden bank fees. This business model shift in financial services is inevitable and Chime is leading the way,” he added.

Source: Tech Crunch

Google’s Area 120 incubator aims to improve your NYC subway commute with Pigeon

There’s a new app coming out of Google’s Area 120 incubator that could help New York City subway commuters navigate the ever-growing number of delays.

While the Pigeon app is already live on the Apple App store, it currently requires an invite code to access, so I wasn’t able to try it out myself.

However, the Pigeon website describes it as a way for users save their favorite routes, then get recommendations on which route to take on a given day based on delays and crowds reported by other users. It’s almost like a transit-oriented version of Google-owned navigation app Waze.

“After years of living in New York City and commuting on the subway, the Pigeon team knows first-hand that public transit can be frustratingly unpredictable,” the website says. “So when we started this project, we decided to create a product that lets subway riders help each other avoid delays, crowds, and incidents that make can make commuting so stressful.”


As a New Yorker myself, I mostly rely on Google Maps for subway navigation — it does a reasonably good job of including arrival times and information about delays provided by the MTA, but there’s definitely room for more up-to-date and accurate data. Plus, I usually don’t check the app on my normal commute, which can mean I end up late to important meetings, or missing them entirely, due to an unexpected delay.

Startups like Transit (backed by Accel Partners) and Moovit (backed by Sequoia and Intel Capital) are also trying to offer better navigation for public transit commuters.

When asked about the app, a Google spokesperson sent us the following statement:

One of the many projects that we’re working on within Area 120 is Pigeon, an iOS app that helps New York City subway goers find the best route with live alerts from other riders. Like other projects within Area 120, it’s a very early experiment so there aren’t many details to share right now.

Source: Tech Crunch

Roblox follows Minecraft into the education market

Roblox, the massively multiplayer online game favored by the under 13 crowd, is following in Minecraft’s footsteps with a move into the education market. The company this morning announced a new education initiative, Roblox Education, that will offer a free curriculum to educators, along with international summer coding camps, and a free online “Creator Challenge” in partnership with Universal Brand Development, which will see kids building Roblox games inspired by Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. 

The gaming company has been around for many years, but only recently reached a critical mass where it was ready to talk about its numbers. Today, Roblox sees over 60 million monthly active users, and its creator community building new worlds for kids to explore has doubled to 2 million this year from the year prior, it said earlier this year.

Roblox gets kids coding by hooking them on the game itself when they’re young – around elementary school age. By middle school, users are downloading Roblox Studio to build their own games and experiences. And by high school, they’ve learned to code to customize their games even further.

And the kids aren’t just building for fun – there’s money to be made, too. The top creators make two to three million a year, the company claims. The games are free, but creators monetize through the sale of virtual goods. Roblox says it paid out $30 million to its creator community last year, and is now cash-flow positive.

With Roblox Education, the aim is to get more kids coding by working with educators directly.

The new curriculum offers teachers 12 hours of step-by-step tutorials, handouts, technical setup guides, outlines, lesson guides, and more. It’s shared freely under a Creative Commons license so teachers can use or modify it as they see fit. In the future, the curriculum will be expanded to include other subjects, as well, like Physics and Design, the company says.

In addition, teaching kids how to use Roblox Studio will be the main focus of more than 500 coding camps and online programs this summer in the U.S., U.K. Hong Kong, Singapore, Canada, Spain, Brazil, and Portugal. The kids will learn how to create, publish and market their games to others.

The company will also run its 4th annual Roblox Summer Accelerator, and host 45 young developers at its HQ for the summer. The program has previously produced some of the more popular Roblox titles, like MeepCity and Lumber Tycoon.

And it will host its annual Roblox Developer Conference in San Francisco July 13-15, 2018, and in Amsterdam August 17-19, 2018. It’s doubling the number of attendees this year at both.

Finally, Roblox will host its first Creator Challenge with Universal, where kids learn tricks of game building via a Jurassic Park-themed, self-paced course.

“Roblox’s mission is to power and fuel imagination while inspiring a new generation of creators,” said Grace Francisco, VP of Developer Relations at Roblox, said in a statement about the launch. ”We are thrilled to be launching our education initiative that gives young people of all ages and backgrounds the chance to develop the crucial skills needed to be tomorrow’s entrepreneurs and creators.”

Source: Tech Crunch

Nvidia launches colossal HGX-2 cloud server to power HPC and AI

Nvida launched a monster box yesterday called the HGX-2, and it’s the stuff that geek dreams are made of. It’s a cloud server that is purported to be so powerful it combines high performance computing with artificial intelligence requirements in one exceptionally compelling package.

You know you want to know the specs, so let’s get to it: It starts with 16x NVIDIA Tesla V100 GPUs. That’s good for 2 petaFLOPS for AI with low precision, 250 teraFLOPS
for medium precision and 125 teraFLOPS for those times when you need the highest precision. It comes standard with a 1/2 a terabyte of memory and 12 Nvidia NVSwitches, which enable GPU to GPU communications at 300 GB per second. They have doubled the capacity from the HGX-1 released last year.

Chart: Nvidia

Paresh Kharya, group product marketing manager for Nvidia’s Tesla data center products says this communication speed enables them to treat the GPUs essentially as a one giant, single GPU. “And what that allows [developers] to do is not just access that massive compute power, but also access that half a terabyte of GPU memory as a single memory block in their programs,” he explained.

Graphic: Nvidia

Unfortunately you won’t be able to buy one of these boxes. In fact, Nvidia is distributing them strictly to resellers, who will likely package these babies up and sell them to hyperscale datacenters and cloud providers. The beauty of this approach for cloud resellers is that when they buy it, they have the entire range of precision in a single box, Kharya said

“The benefit of the unified platform is as companies and cloud providers are building out their infrastructure, they can standardize on a single unified architecture that supports the entire range of high performance workloads. So whether it’s AI, or whether it’s high performance simulations the entire range of workloads is now possible in just a single platform,”Kharya explained.

He points out this is particularly important in large scale datacenters. “In hyperscale companies or cloud providers, the main benefit that they’re providing is the economies of scale. If they can standardize on the fewest possible architectures, they can really maximize the operational efficiency. And what HGX allows them to do is to standardize on that single unified platform,” he added.

As for developers, they can write programs that take advantage of the underlying technologies and program in the exact level of precision they require from a single box.

The HGX-2 powered servers will be available later this year from partner resellers including Lenovo, QCT, Supermicro and Wiwynn.

Source: Tech Crunch

Stitch Fix CEO doesn’t seem worried about Amazon

Stitch Fix CEO Katarina Lake did not express much concern over Amazon and its entrance into fashion with Prime Wardrobe at the Code Conference today. Lake says that while she does think about Amazon, that Amazon offers a “fundamentally different” value proposition.

With Amazon, Lake said, the value proposition is about having a “sea of choice.” With Stitch Fix,”in a lot of ways ours is almost the opposite,” she said.

Stitch Fix is an e-commerce company that aims to figure out your personal style, and then send you a handful of items the company thinks you’ll like. As a side note, this product has worked horribly for me but quite well for some other people.

Stitch Fix went public last year and part of being public, Lake said, is having fiduciary duty to do what is best for the company and its shareholders. With that in mind, Lake said, “I can’t say never” on selling to Amazon, “but I think this is a company that has a lot of value in and of itself.”

To date, Stitch Fix has not “had any serious discussions around combining companies” with Amazon.

“Right not, we feel really confident on the path that we’re on,” Lake said.

Source: Tech Crunch

Coffee Meets Bagel raises $12M for international expansion and live events

Coffee Meets Bagel scored a $12 million Series B this week. The round, led by U.K. VC firm Atami Capital, brings the popular dating app’s total up to just under $20 million since launching back in 2012.

The San Francisco-based dating app has worked to distinguish itself from competitors like Bumble and Tinder by limiting the number of matches it offers during a 24-hour window. Late last year, it expanded its offering with a video feature, to add an extra dimension to profiles. This month, it introduced additional CMB Experiences to bring users together in the real world.

Of course, Coffee Meets Bagel is battling a juggernaut in the form of the billion-dollar Match Group, which currently owns OkCupid, Tinder, PlentyofFish and Match, among others. According to the company, this latest round will drive investments into more CMB Experiences along with international expansion for the service, along with other “product innovation.” 

Co-CEO Arum Kang also notes that the Series B brings a number of VC firms with “prominent female investors,” including Gingerbread Capital. “We’re excited for the next phase of Coffee Meets Bagel, and are pleased to have some wonderful international and female investors on board,” Kang says in a release tied to the news. “Given our focus on female experience, it was very important that we have a female perspective at the investor level.”

Source: Tech Crunch

Airbnb CEO said company will ‘be ready to IPO next year’ but might not

Airbnb brings in billions of dollars of revenue annually and is profitable on an EBITDA basis, so many wonder if and when the home-sharing company will go public. At the Code Conference today, Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky said the company will “be ready to IPO next year, but I don’t know if we will.”

He added that he wants to make sure it’s a major benefit to the company when Airbnb does go public. Following some more probing, Chesky said he has “no issues with [going public] at all. It could happen.”

Meanwhile, Airbnb has been struggling from a regulatory standpoint since at least 2010. Specifically, San Francisco and New York are two of the most difficult cities from a regulatory standpoint, Chesky said.

In New York, for example, there has been a standstill since 2010. At this point, Chesky said he expects it to take a few more years to overcome the challenge in New York.

“It doesn’t seem like the end is in sight with that challenge,” Chesky said. That challenge, Chesky said, involves the hotel industry and unions that “have galvanized people in these perpetual battles.”

Another general critique of Airbnb is its effect on rising rent costs and displacement. Chesky added that if it was simply a business decision, “it probably wouldn’t be worth it to stay there” in New York. But Chesky said there are hosts who have come to rely on Airbnb to earn income.

At Code, Chesky also touted Airbnb’s experiences product and how it’s growing 10x faster than its homes product. Airbnb Experiences sees 1.5 million bookings a year, Chesky said. Experiences, which Airbnb started testing in 2014 and officially launched in 2016, is Airbnb’s product that helps travelers find things to do in cities throughout the world.

When it first launched, Airbnb didn’t verify the experiences, but after some bad experiences, Airbnb has started verifying them.

“They’re doing incredibly well,” Chesky said. He added that the “experience economy” is growing and “there will probably be a massive economy around experiences.”

Source: Tech Crunch

Google Calendar now lets you add a message when you change an event

Google is adding a small but useful feature to Google Calendar. Starting today, when you change or delete an event, a dialog box now pops up that allows you to attach a short message to the event to explain why you are making the change and what’s changing.

Here is how this new feature will work: When you make a change, a dialog box will pop up and allow you to enter a message for your guests. On the event page in Google Calendar itself — and in the email that alerts your guests of the change — that message will then appear at the top of the event details section.

I’m guessing that at least half of the calendar invites I get change a few times before I actually get on the call. It’s generally unclear what has changed, though. The new dialog box appears automatically, so far more people will now explain their changes than before.

It’s nothing fancy and it’s actually a surprise that Google hasn’t done this before, but chances are that people will be using it all day long.

This new feature is now rolling out to all G Suite users and should be available to everybody (no matter whether their admins have them on the rapid release or schedule release schedule) within the next three days.

Source: Tech Crunch