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Qonto raises $23 million to improve business banking

French startup Qonto has raised a $23 million funding round for its fintech product. The company is trying to make business banking cheaper, faster and more efficient. Existing investors Valar Ventures and Alven are once again leading the round. The European Investment Bank Group is also participating. If you are running a small company or work as a freelancer, Qonto wants to replace your professional bank account. When you sign up, you get a French IBAN, one or multiple debit cards and the ability to send and receive money. And then, it works pretty much like any challenger bank. You can create virtual cards, order more cards for your team, get real time notifications and freeze cards. This is a breath of fresh air compared to traditional business banks and their time-consuming processes. You can then sync your transactions with accounting and invoicing services, and grant access to your accountant. Premium plans let you select multiple administrators and create a validation workflow to approve expensive transfers for instance. With today’s funding round, the company plans to double the size of the team and create its own payment infrastructure. Qonto currently relies heavily on Treezor for the back end. The startup also plans to expand to Germany, Italy and Spain in 2019. Qonto now has 90 employees and 25,000 clients. The company has managed $2 billion in total transaction volume so far. The fact that the same VC funds keep investing more money into Qonto is a great vote of confidence.

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Middle East’s Careem is the latest ride-sharing unicorn to get an India-based tech team

India is the new tech outsourcing destination for ride-hailing companies. Southeast Asia’s Grab and Go-Jek both have sizable engineering teams in the country, and now that duo is joined by another billion-dollar company. Careem, which is based in the Middle East and valued at over $1 billion, has entered the fray after it snapped up the talent behind bus-shuttle service Commut. The deal is a talent acquisition — ‘acquihire’ — and not Careem entry’s into India. The deal will see the team at Hyderabad-based Commut join up with Careem to work on “complex local problems” in its markets in the Middle East. Commut’s service — which the startup says served some 70,000 consumers — will be folded into rival company Shuttl . “As Careem expands across its technology platform, we will continue to acquire and invest in high impact, relevant and values driven technology businesses and start-ups that can accelerate growth,” the company said in a statement. Commut had raised just $200,000 from investors, according to Crunchbase. Shuttl, meanwhile, has pulled in over $30 million from investors that include Sequoia India and Amazon. Go-Jek first got into India through four acquisitions in 2016 that helped build out a tech and engineering team. It was rumored to be considering an India expansion, but instead it has stuck to Southeast Asia with an initial move into Vietnam. Go-Jek is rolling out its service in Thailand, with further expansions to both Singapore and the Philippines planned. Grab, meanwhile, opened an engineering center in India in 2017 and it added to its presence when it acquired Indian startup iKaaz earlier this year in a deal to grow its mobile payment chops. Grab, which is valued at $11 billion, also has engineering centers in China, the U.S, Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia. While Grab, and to a lesser extent Go-Jek, forced Uber from the Middle East, Careem has been linked with an acquisition from Uber. Despite some media reports suggesting a deal could happen, investors told TechCrunch that “everyone is talking to everyone” in the ride-hailing space. Regardless, Careem is ploughing on with plans to scale its business, it seems. Careem hasn’t raised since a $500 million round last summer, although a Bloomberg report suggested that it is considering another $500 million raise that could push its valuation past the $1.5 billion mark.

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Tile names GoPro vet CJ Prober new CEO, adds Comcast as investor and new product partner

There’s a changing of the guard, and a new strategic partnership, over at Tile, the startup that helps you keep tabs on the location of your things by way of small tracking devices. Today, the company is announcing that CJ Prober — a longtime exec at GoPro who had most recently been the COO — is taking on the role of CEO from co-founder Mike Farley. Farley will keep a seat on the board and become a strategic advisor to the company, stepping away from a day-to-day role. The leadership change coincides with another significant piece of news for the company: US media giant Comcast is taking a strategic investment in the startup that will also become the basis for a long-term product and marketing partnership. The value of the investment is not being disclosed but a source close to the deal described it as a “sizable investment” made at a higher valuation than for Tile’s previous round. (For some context, Tile last raised $25 million in 2017, at around a $167 million post-money valuation.) Prober — who had also been on the Tile board for the last seven months — would not comment on whether this is potentially the beginning of a larger round for Tile, which has disclosed some $61 million in funding, a total that is now higher with this new infusion from Comcast. “We’re well funded,” Prober said. “It doesn’t mean we won’t raise capital in the future, but the current plan doesn’t require it.” Both pieces of news come just as we start to inch into the holiday sales period, a key time of year for consumer electronics companies. Tile specifically will be looking for a turnaround after a disappointing holiday season, and subsequent layoffs, in 2017. With over 15 million of its square devices to date and accounting for some 95 percent of the market in the US (according to estimates from NPD), Tile is considered the leader in its category in key regions like North America. But after a hugely successful early entry into the market by way of a Kickstarter campaign, Tile has also faced some hard truths. There are now a number of me-too products out there — some of which have had their own struggles in hitting sales projections, which has led to some of those competitors exiting the consumer device tracking market altogether. And as we see a greater proliferation of “dumb” objects transform into a new generation of “connected hardware,” many of these devices are now coming with their own location-tracking technologies — or, for example in the case of smart locks, may no longer require users to keep track of physical items at all — making a product like Tile less essential. In an interview, Prober said that his time at GoPro — which has also had its share of struggles — “really did expose me to the opportunities and challenges that come with consumer hardware”, and he’s hoping to use some of that experience to help Tile take itself to the next level as a product business. The “primary use case” for Tile, as Prober describes it, has been finding keys — and the strength of that has helped the company establish a global community that powers Tile’s location-finding platform. (Some 4 million Tiles are active each month across 220 territories, he said.) The next steps will be to create an even stronger network of nodes that do not have to rely on active Tile users; and to start creating other kinds of tracking services that might not even rely on the Tile fob itself, or even the use-case of finding lost items. “We’d like to embed Tile technology into anything that already uses Bluetooth,” he said, citing a deal with Bose from earlier this year as a template it would like to continue to develop. And the company is also rethinking how it can use its device tracking technology to help customers with more than just locating items when they get misplaced (more on that to come next month, from what I understand). The Comcast deal is also part of that strategic continuum. When it’s not outbidding Fox to buy broadcasters in the UK, the company has been focusing on how it can build out a more central role for itself in the connected home, as a way to help differentiate itself from the rest of the pack of media and broadband providers in its home market of the US. Comcast has launched voice-controls for connected home services using its X1 Voice Remote, smart home automation, and even an early partnership with Tile. The investment will help the two build on that by putting Tile tech into its network of devices — namely remotes and set-top boxes — to create more access points to use the Tile location-tracking technology. And then two plan to co-market each other’s products. Tile currently has 100 employees.

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SiriusXM to acquire Pandora for $3.5 billion

SiriusXM and Pandora have announced acquisition plans before the stock market opens. SiriusXM is offering to acquire Pandora for $3.5 billion in stock, or $10.14 per share. Pandora would continue to exist as an independent service. For Pandora shareholders, this offer represents a 13.8 percent premium over the volume-weighted average share price of the past 30 days. Both the Pandora board and the SiriusXM board have approved the plan. But the transaction isn’t going to happen right away. As part of the deal, Pandora negotiated a "go-shop" provision, which means that Pandora’s board can still evaluate other offers. The acquisition is expected to close in the first quarter of 2019. The announcement says that SiriusXM plans to leverage both services to cross-promote the other service. For instance, you could see references to SiriusXM shows while listening to Pandora. And SiriusXM hosts could suggest downloading the Pandora mobile app. The company also plans to create subscription packages that could include SiriusXM radios as well as a Pandora premium subscription. SiriusXM also plans to make you listen to Pandora in your car as SiriusXM is already widely available in American cars. Pandora shares are currently up 8.58 percent to $10.65 in pre-market trading. SiriusXM shares are currently trading at $6.89 (down 1.29 percent) in pre-market trading. Pandora has been a public company since 2011 but has consistently lost money. The company bet very early on music streaming with an innovative interest-based smart radio format. That was before Spotify, before Apple Music, before SoundCloud, before smartphones. While Pandora currently has over 70 million monthly active listeners, the vast majority of them aren’t premium subscribers. Pandora only has around 6 million paid subscribers — Spotify has 83 million paid subscribers. Paid subscribers tend to boost the average revenue per user. But the company never quite figured out how to convert those free users into subscribers.

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Ride-hailing startup Shohoz raises $15M to build the Grab of Bangladesh

Uber may be global but it is very much the alternative in some parts of the world. One such place is Bangladesh — the South Asian country that’s home to 160 million people — where local rival Pathao is backed by Go-Jek and recently raised $10 million. Now Pathao’s closest rival, Shohoz, has also pulled in investment after it closed a $15 million funding round. Shohoz — which means ‘easy’ in Bengali — started in 2014 offering online bus ticket sales before expanding into other tickets like ferries. The startup moved into on-demand services in January when it added motorbikes and then it recently introduced private cars. CEO Maliha Quadir told TechCrunch that it is now registering one million completed rides per month as it bids to “simplify” life in capital city Dhaka, which houses over 18 million people and offers limited transport options. “Bus tickets will remain an important part of our business, [there’s] lots of synergy with ride-sharing,” she explained in an interview. “Dhaka has a super dense population with bad infrastructure, if anything there’s a better case for ride-sharing than Indonesia… there’s no subway and transport is a horrid nightmare.” Singapore-based Golden Gate Ventures — which recently closed a $100 million fund — led the new Shohoz round. Linear VC of China, 500 Startups and Singaporean-based angel investor Koh Boon Hwee also took part. The Shohoz ride-hailing app launched in January 2018 Quadir, who graduated from Havard and spent time working in finance in the U.S. and Singapore, told TechCrunch that Shohoz plans to double down on its ride-sharing business with the new round. In particular, the plan is to expand beyond Dhaka soon. Then it is also eyeing up services that’ll take it beyond point-to-point transportation and into ‘super app’ territory in the style of Go-Jek and Grab, the two Southeast Asia-based unicorns. For Shohoz, that’ll initially include food delivery, but there are also plans to add on-demand services — Go-Jek, for example, offers services like groceries, hairdressers or massages on demand. Ultimately, Quadir plans to add financial services, too, which could mean payments and financial products in the future. While the super apps of Southeast Asia have all expanded beyond their home markets, Shohoz isn’t looking to go international quite yet. “It’s in my mind but there’s so much to do in Bangladesh,” Quadir explained. “In Bangladesh, you can really make an impact — it’s a green field.” As for Uber, Quadir acknowledged that the U.S. firm has done a good job on private car vehicles but she said its Uber Moto service is dwarfed by local alternatives. It appears that Shohoz’s bet on becoming a super app is aimed at emulating the likes of Didi Chuxing in China and Grab in Southeast Asia that ultimately beat Uber using a localized strategy that went well beyond rides. Given that Pathao is pursuing the same strategy, three might well be a crowd in Bangladesh and that could spell difficulty for Uber.

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Amazon makes offline retail push in India

Amazon unleashed a flurry of new products this week at a U.S. press event, but halfway across the world, it is getting deeper into physical retail in the Indian market. The U.S. e-commerce giant is buying up 49 percent of More in a deal that sees Amazon partner and PE firm Samara Capital pick up the remaining 51 percent. Amazon and Samara have created an entity called Witzig Advisory Services Private Limited which will hold the ownership stake through the deal, which is reportedly worth around $585 million according to Indian media. Regulation prevents Amazon from owning the business entirely, hence it requires a local partner to take a majority stake. The deal is significant because it represents a major move for Amazon in brick and mortar retail in India, which is one of the up-and-coming global markets. It did, of course, jumped into offline sales in the U.S. when it gobbled up Whole Foods for some $16 billion last year and this India-based acquisition is similarly strategic. Amazon is battling Flipkart for dominance in India’s e-commerce market, which is tipped to grow four-fold to reach $150 billion by 2022, according to a recent report from PWC. The India rival got a huge boost when it was bought by Walmart, Amazon’s chief rival in the U.S, in a $17 billion deal earlier this year. That acquisition got Walmart into India’s e-commerce space and it also presents an opportunity to go further and move into other emerging markets using Flipkart’s tech and experience, which is something that Walmart has said it is keen to explore. Now, this More deal gives Amazon a strong position in Walmart’s core business — to date, Amazon operates a limited number of fulfilment centers in India. It also comes hot on the heels of another investment which saw Amazon take control of fintech startup Tapzo in a move that boosts its own payment service in India. Walmart confirms $16B Flipkart investment, giving it 77% in India’s e-commerce leader

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Cleo, the ‘digital assistant’ that replaces your banking apps, picks up $10M Series A led by Balderton

When Cleo, the London-based ‘digital assistant’ that wants to replace your banking apps, quietly entered the U.S., the company couldn’t have expected to be an instant hit. Many better funded British startups have failed to ‘break America’. However, just four months later, the fintech upstart counts 350,000 users across the pond — claiming more than 600,000 active users in the U.K., U.S. and Canada in total — and says it is adding 30,000 new signups each week. All of which hasn’t gone unnoticed by investors. Already backed by some of the biggest VC names in the London tech scene — including Entrepreneur First, Moonfruit founder Wendy Tan White, Skype founder Niklas Zennström, Wonga founder Errol Damelin, TransferWise founder Taavet Hinrikus, and LocalGlobe — Cleo is adding Balderton Capital to the list. The European venture capital firm, which has previously invested in fintech unicorn Revolut and the well-established GoCardless, has led Cleo’s $10 million Series A round, in which I understand most early backers, including Zennström, also followed on. One source told me the Series A gives the hot London startup a post-money valuation of around £30 million (~$39.7m), although Cleo declined to comment. In a call with co-founder and CEO Barney Hussey-Yeo, he explained that the new capital will be used to continue scaling the company, with further international expansion the name of the game. Hussey-Yeo says Cleo will be targeting Western Europe, the Americas, and Australasia, aiming to launch in a whopping 22 countries in the next 12 months, as Cleo bids to become the “default interface” for millennials interacting and managing their money. Primarily accessed via Facebook Messenger, the AI-powered chatbot gives insights into your spending across multiple accounts and credit cards, broken down by transaction, category or merchant. In addition, Cleo lets you take a number of actions based on the financial data it has gleaned. You can choose to put money aside for a rainy day or specific goal, send money to your Facebook Messenger contacts, donate to charity, set spending alerts, and more. However, in the context of traction and Cleo’s broader global ambitions, it is the decision not to become a bank in its own right, that Hussey-Yeo feels is really beginning to bear fruit. His argument has always been that you don’t need to be a bank to become the primary way users interface with their finances, and that without the regulatory and capital burden that becoming a fully licensed bank brings, you can scale much more quickly. I have a feeling that strategy — and its pros and cons — has a long way to play out just yet.

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Adobe gets its company, snaring Marketo for $4.75 billion

A week ago rumors were flying that Adobe would be buying Marketo, and lo and behold it announced today that it was acquiring the marketing automation company for $4.75 billion. It was a pretty nice return for Vista Equity partners, which purchased Marketo in May 2016 for $1.8 billion in cash. They held onto it for two years and hauled in a hefty $2.95 billion in profit. We published a story last week, speculating that such a deal would make sense for Adobe, which just bought Magento in May for $1.6 billion. The deal gives Adobe a strong position in enterprise marketing as it competes with Salesforce, Microsoft, Oracle and SAP. Put together with Magento, it gives them marketing and ecommerce, and all it cost was over $6 billion to get there. “The acquisition of Marketo widens Adobe’s lead in customer experience across B2C and B2B and puts Adobe Experience Cloud at the heart of all marketing,” Brad Rencher, executive vice president and general manager, Digital Experience at Adobe said in a statement. Ray Wang, principal analyst and founder at Constellation Research sees it as a way for Adobe to compete stronger with Salesforce in this space. “If Adobe takes a stand on Marketo, it means they are serious about B2B and furthering the Microsoft-Adobe vs Salesforce-Google battle ahead,” he told TechCrunch. He’s referring to the deepening relationships between these companies. Adobe reported its earnings last Thursday announcing $2.29 billion for the third quarter, which represented a 24 percent year over year increase and a new record for the company. While Adobe is well on its way to being a $10 billion company, the majority of its income continues to come from Creative Cloud, which includes Photoshop, InDesign and Illustrator, among other Adobe software stalwarts. But for a long time, the company has wanted to be much more than a creative software company. It’s wanted a piece of the enterprise marketing pie. Up until now, that part of the company, which includes marketing and analytics software, has lagged well behind the Creative Cloud business. In its last report, Digital Experience revenue, which is where Adobe counts this revenue represented $614 million of total revenue. While it continues to grow, up 21 percent year over year, there is much greater potential here for more. Adobe had less than $5 billion in cash after the Mageno acquisition, but it has seen its stock price rise dramatically in the last year rising from $149.96 last year at this time to $266.05 as of publication. The acquisition comes as there is a lot of maneuvering going on this space and the various giant companies vie for market share. Today’s acquisition gives Adobe a huge boost and provides them with not only a missing piece, but the opportunity to increase revenue in this part of their catalogue, while allowing them to compete more heavily with Salesforce, Microsoft and others deeper inside the enterprise. It’s also worth noting that the announcement comes just days before Dreamforce, Salesforce’s massive customer conference will be taking place in San Francisco, and Microsoft will be holding its Ignite conference in Orlando. While the timing may be coincidental, it does end up stealing some of their competitors’ thunder.

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Meet the startups in the latest Alchemist class

Alchemist is the Valley’s premiere enterprise accelerator and every season they feature a group of promising startups. They are also trying something new this year: they’re putting a reserve button next to each company, allowing angels to express their interest in investing immediately. It’s a clever addition to the demo day model. You can watch the livestream at 3pm PST here. Videoflow – Videoflow allows broadcasters to personalize live TV. The founding team is a duo of brothers — one from the creative side of TV as a designer, the other a computer scientist. Their SaaS product delivers personalized and targeted content on top of live video streams to viewers. Completely bootstrapped to date, they’ve landed NBC, ABC, and CBS Sports as paying customers and appear to be growing fast, having booked over $300k in revenue this year. Redbird Health Tech – Redbird is a lab-in-a-box for convenient health monitoring in emerging market pharmacies, starting with Africa. Africa has the fastest growing middle class in the world — but also the fastest growing rate of diabetes (double North America’s). Redbird supplies local pharmacies with software and rapid tests to transform them into health monitoring points – for anything from blood sugar to malaria to cholesterol. The founding team includes a Princeton Chemical Engineer, 2 Peace Corps alums, and a Pharmacist from Ghana’s top engineering school. They have 20 customers, and are growing 36% week over week. Shuttle – Shuttle is getting a head start on the future of space travel by building a commercial spaceflight booking platform. Space tourism may be coming sooner than you think. Shuttle wants to democratize access to the heavens above. Founded by a Stanford Computer Science alum active in Stanford’s Student Space Society, Shuttle has partnerships with the leading spaceflight operators, including Virgin Galactic, Space Adventures, and Zero-G. Tickets to space today will set you back a cool $250K, but Shuttle believes that prices will drop exponentially as reusable rockets and landing pads become pervasive. They have $1.6m in reservations and growing. Birdnest – Threading the needle between communal and private, Birdnest is the Goldilocks of office space for startups. Communal coworking spaces are accessible but have too many distractions. Traditional office spaces are private but inflexible on their terms. Birdnest brings the best of each without the drawbacks: finding, leasing, and operating a network of underutilized spaces inside of private offices. The cofounders, a duo of Duke and Kellogg MBA grads, are at $300K ARR with a fast-growing 50+ client waitlist. Tag.bio – Tag.bio wants to make data science actionable in healthtech. The founding team is comprised of a former Ayasdi bioinformatician and a former Honda Racing engineer with a Stanford MBA. They’ve developed a next-generation data science platform that makes it easy and fast to build data apps for end users, or as they say, “WordPress for data science.” The result they claim is lightning-fast analysis apps that can be run by end users, dramatically accelerating insight discovery. They count the UCSF Medical Center and a “large Swiss pharma company” as early customers. nCorium – They’ve built a new server architecture to handle the onslaught of AI to come with what they claim is the world’s first AI accelerator on memory to deliver 30x greater performance than the status quo. The quad founding team is intimidatingly technical — including a UCSD Professor, and former engineers from Qualcomm and Intel with 40 patents among them. They have $300K in pilots. Spiio – Software eats landscaping with Spiio, which combines cloud-driven AI with physical sensors to monitor watering and landscaping for big companies. Their smart system knows when to water and when not to. This reduces water consumption by 50%, which means their system pays for itself in less than 30 days for big companies. They want to connect every plant to the internet, and look like they are off to a good start — $100K in orders from brand name Valley tech firms, and they are doubling monthly. Element42 – Fraud is a major problem — For example, if you buy a Rolex on eBay, you run the risk of winding up with a counterfeit. Started by ex-VPs from Citibank, the founders are using risk models and technologies that banks use to help brands combat fraud and counterfeiting. Designed with token economics, they also incentivize customers to buy genuine products by serving exclusive content and promotions only to genuine product holders. Built on blockchain at the core, they claim to be the world’s first peer-to-peer authentication platform for physical assets. They have 45 customers across two industry verticals, 800K in ARR and are a member of World Economic Forum’s global initiatives against corruption. My90 – Distrust between the public and the police has rarely been more strained than it is today. My90 wants to solve that by collecting data about interactions between the police and the public—think traffic stops, service calls, etc.—and turn these into actionable intelligence via an online analytics dashboard. Users text My90 anonymously about their interactions, and My90’s dashboard analyzes the results using natural language processing. Customers include major city police departments like the San Jose Police Department and the world’s largest community policing program. They have booked $150K in pilots and are expanding aggressively across the US. Nunetz – A Stanford Computer Science grad and UCSF Neurosurgeon have come together to try to build a single unifying interface to replace the deluge of monitors and data sources in today’s clinical health environment. The goal is to prepare a daily “battle map” for physicians, nurses, and other providers, with an initial focus on the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). They have closed 3 paid pilots with hospitals through grants. When Labs – If you hate managing people, When Labs wants to unburden you. Using an AI-powered assistant that texts with employees to negotiate assignments for hourly work, WhenLabs is trying to free customers like Hilton from spending money on managers who would normally do this manually. As the system gets smarter, they claim employees will prefer interfacing with their AI bot more than a human. AI and HR is a crowded space, but this might be the team to separate from the pack: the founding team’s previous company had a 9 figure exit to IBM. FirstCut – FirstCut helps businesses put video content out at scale. Video dominates social media — it creates 10x more comments than text — and is emerging as a necessity for B2B media. But putting video out if you are a B2B marketer normally requires using agencies that charge hefty fees. FirstCut wants to disrupt the agencies with software and marketplaces. They use software automation and an on-demand talent marketplace to offer a fixed price product for video content. They are at $180k revenue, and most of it is moving to recurring subscriptions. LynxCare – LynxCare claims that 90% of healthcare data goes untapped when doctors make critical decisions about your life. Further, they claim the average person’s life could be extended by 4 years if that data can be converted into insights. Their team of clinicians and data scientists aims to do just that — building a data platform that aggregates disparate data sets and drive insight for better clinical outcomes. And it looks like their platform has fans: they are active in 9 hospitals, count Pharma companies like Pfizer as Partners, and grew 4x over the past year and now are at $800K ARR. ADIAN – Adian is a B2B SaaS product that digitizes the complex agrochemical supply chain in order to improve the sales process between manufacturers and distributors. The company claims manufacturers reduce costs by 20% and increase sales by 4% by using their online framework. $1.5 Billion and 70,000 orders have gone through the platform to date. Hardin Scientific – Hardin is building IoT-enabled, Smart Lab Equipment. The hardware becomes a gateway to become the hub for monitoring, controlling, and sharing scientific data across teams. They’ve closed over $1.5m in revenue, and raised $15m in equity and debt financing. One of their smart devices is being used to 3D print bio-tissues and human organs in space. ZaiNar – This team of 5 Stanford grads — 3 PhD’s and 2 MBAs — joined up with the Co-Founder of BlueKai to build the world’s best time synchronization technology. ZaiNar claims their ability to wirelessly synchronize and distribute time between networked devices is a thousand times better than existing technologies. This enables them to locate RF-emitting devices (i.e. phones, cars, drones, & RFID) at long distances with sub-meter accuracy. Beyond location, this technology has applications across data transmission, 5G communications, and energy grids. ZaiNar has raised a $1.7M seed from AME Cloud and Softbank, and has built an extensive patent portfolio. SMART Brain Aging – This startup claims to reduce the onset of dementia by 2.25 years with software. They are the only company approved by Medicare to get reimbursed on a preventative basis for the treatment of dementia. In conjunction with Harvard University, they have developed 20,000 exercises that are clinically proven to reduce the onset of dementia and, they claim, help build neurotransmitters. The company works with 300 patients per week ($2.2m annual revenue) and is building to a goal of helping 22,000 people in 24 months. Phoneic – Phoneic believes the data trapped in voice calls from cellphones is a gold mine waiting to be unleashed. Their app records and transcribes cell phones conversations, and the company has built an integration layer to enterprise AI and CRM systems that traditionally didn’t have access to voice data. The team is led by the co-founder of 3jam, one of the first group SMS and virtual number companies, which was acquired by Skype in 2011. He is keenly aware of the power of virality — and like Skype, the use of Phoneic spreads its adoption. The company has already raised $800,000 in seed funding. Arkose Labs – Whether or not you think Russia interfered with the 2016 election, it’s no secret that bots are having significant impact on society. Arkose Labs wants to fight fraud, without adding friction to legit users. Most fraud prevention platforms today focus on gathering info from the user and providing a probability score that the traffic is good or bad. This leaves companies with a difficult decision where they may be blocking revenue generating users. Arkose has a different approach, and uses a bilateral approach that doesn’t force this tradeoff. They claim to be the only solution to offer a 100% SLA on fraud prevention. Big companies like Singapore Airlines and Electronic Arts are customers. USVP led a $6m investment into the company.

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Meituan-Dianping’s IPO off to a good start as shares climb 7% on debut

Meituan-Dianping (3690.HK) enjoyed a strong debut today in Hong Kong, a sign that investors are confident in the Tencent-backed company’s prospects despite its cash-burning growth strategy, heavy competition and a sluggish Hong Kong stock market. During morning trading, Meituan’s shares reached a high of HKD$73.85 (about $9.41), a 7% increase over its initial public offering price of HKD$69. When Meituan reportedly set a target valuation of $55 billion for its debut, it triggered concerns that the company, which bills itself a “one-stop super app” for everything from food delivery to ticket bookings, as overconfident. While Meituan, the owner of Mobile, is the leading online marketplace for services in China, it faces formidable competition from Alibaba’s Ele.me and operating on tight margins and heavy losses as it spends money on marketing and user acquisition costs. As it prepared for its IPO, Meituan was also under the shadow of underwhelming Hong Kong debuts by Xiaomi and China Tower. Like Xiaomi, Meituan is listed under a new dual-class share structure designed to attract tech companies by allowing them to give weighted voting rights to founders. The sponsors of Meituan’s IPO are Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley.

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