Tag Archives: Mobile Trends

SoundHound raises $75M to bring its voice-enabled AI everywhere

hound SoundHound has been around for 10 years and, before today, had raised around $40 million in financing as its worked to build a massive conversational AI platform.

But today, the company is adding an even more cash to that pile, nearly doubling the amount that it’s already raised with a $75 million round including strategic investors like NVIDIA and Samsung Catalyst Fund, among others. Read More

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Seedcamp cut its TransferWise stake just as Andreessen Horowitz upped its shares

taavet hinrikus transferwise ceo

Seedcamp has sold part of its stake in TransferWise, shortly after US investor Andreessen Horowitz reportedly upped its own investment.

According to TechCrunch, Seedcamp has sold a minority part of its stake in the money transfer firm, in an exit that sees 80% of its €5 million (£4.3 million) fund return to investors.

That follows on from a Sky News report claiming Andreessen Horowitz increased its existing investment in TransferWise by buying shares from existing, unspecified angel investors.

Seedcamp retains the bulk of its stake in TransferWise and the fund’s cofounder Reshma Sohoni said the return might encourage angel investors to take bigger risks in Europe.

“As the first seed fund in Europe (set up back when it wasn’t really a thing), made up mostly of Angels and VCs, we wanted to show that you can have unicorn exits and bring liquidity to a highly illiquid stage of investing,” she told TechCrunch. “Getting money back into the hands of our Angels and VCs so fast should inspire them to take even bigger risks. 100 million or 200 million exits are great but billion dollar and 10 billion dollar exits just became possible!”

TransferWise’s other early investors include Index Ventures, IA Ventures, and Valar Ventures. The company was valued at $1.1 billion (£884 million) after a $26 million (£20 million) funding round in May, making it a rare British unicorn. TransferWise has also recently expanded its business offering to the US.

The company remains unprofitable, according to its latest Companies House filings, reporting a loss of £17.4 million on revenues of £27.9 million in the year to March 2016.

Sohoni remained bullish on the startup’s prospects, saying it was “just getting started”.

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Meteor JavaScript reworks PaaS, data layer connection

Meteor, a JavaScript Web framework for quick app-building, will gain faster build tools and features like per-module code-splitting this year. The company Meteor will also rework the relationship among the Meteor framework, Meteor’s Galaxy platform as a service, and Meteor’s Apollo data layer project.

The Meteor team will focus on improvements designed to work well across the two products, including the addition of IP whitelisting to the Galaxy platform as a service. Meteor wants Galaxy-based developers to spend less time on “plumbing” and more time on features, said Meteor vice president of product Matt DeBergalis.

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The world's largest tech fund is considering a $1 billion plus investment in WeWork

Softbank CEO Masayoshi Son

(Reuters) – Japanese technology giant SoftBank is considering an investment of more than $1 billion (£800 million) in coworking space provider WeWork, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter.

The deal could be among the first from SoftBank’s $100 billion (£80 billion) technology fund, which was announced last October and is being described as the largest fund of its kind in the world.

SoftBank and WeWork declined to comment.

WeWork is currently valued at nearly $17 billion (£14 billion) and SoftBank’s valuation of the company is expected to be at or above this figure, the WSJ said, citing the sources.

SoftBank previously discussed an investment in WeWork before pulling out, the Journal reported, citing two people familiar with the matter, and added talks may not result in a deal this time.

Some SoftBank executives have raised questions whether the WeWork deal is over-valued, saying a company in the business of office space is far afield from tech-focused investments, the newspaper reported.

SoftBank also recently held discussions with Uber, though it isn’t clear if an investment is in the pipeline, the WSJ reported.

Masayoshi Son, the CEO and chairman of SoftBank, told President Donald Trump that he will create 50,000 new jobs in the US as a result of his investment activities in the country. Half of the $100 billion (£800 million) is going to go to US companies, according to a Tweet from Trump last December.

When the fund was announced, SoftBank said it will be made up with $45 billion (£37 billion) from Saudi Arabia via the Kingdom’s Public Investment Fund, $25 billion (£20 billion) from SoftBank, and $35 billion (£28 billion) from other global investors.

A number of tech giants have confirmed that they intend to contribute to the fund. Apple, for example, confirmed earlier this month that it plans to invest $1 billion (£800 million) in the fund. Other investors include Oracle founder Larry Ellison and chipmakers Foxconn and Qualcomm. Mubadala, a holding company established and owned by the government of Abu Dhabi, is planning to invest $10 billion.

(Reporting by Sangameswaran S and Bhanu Pratap in Bengaluru; Editing by Sunil Nair)

SEE ALSO: Abu Dhabi’s government is going to invest $10 billion in the world’s largest VC fund

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Peter Capaldi is leaving 'Doctor Who' — and here's who could replace him

Peter Capaldi

LONDON — Peter Capaldi is to leave “Doctor Who” this December after four years as the Time Lord in the BBC’s iconic sci-fi franchise.

Capaldi will retire from the Tardis after the 2017 Christmas special. He first took on the role in 2013, replacing Matt Smith, who has gone on to star in Netflix drama “The Crown.”

Capaldi announced his decision on BBC Radio 2 on Monday evening. He said:

“One of the greatest privileges of being Doctor Who is to see the world at its best. From our brilliant crew and creative team working for the best broadcaster on the planet, to the viewers and fans whose endless creativity, generosity and inclusiveness points to a brighter future ahead. I can’t thank everyone enough. It’s been cosmic.”

The actor’s departure will coincide with that of showrunner Steven Moffat. Moffat will be replaced by “Broadchurch” creator Chris Chibnall next year.

Capaldi’s final series as the Doctor will begin in April, followed by the Christmas special when the “Doctor Who” regeneration will take place. Bookmakers are already speculating on who could replace him as the Time Lord.

Ladbrokes has made “James Bond” star Ben Whishaw the favourite to take over the time-hopping drama, according to the Daily Mirror. Other candidates include Richard Ayoade, Rory Kinnear, Miranda Hart, and David Harewood.

“Fingers are firmly pointing at Ben Whishaw,” Ladbrokes’ Jessica Bridge said. “He’s favourite to swap MI6 for the Tardis sooner rather than later.”

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We need startups to build democracy tech

i-want-you-to-build-democracy-tech It’s time to actually make the world a better place.
Silicon Valley was birthed from an existential threat to the world. Nazi radar defense technology was decimating the Allied air forces. But American engineers heeded the call, and in a Harvard lab led by Stanford professor Frederick Terman, invented radar jammers that helped win the war.
Terman brought the engineering talent back to… Read More

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Razer acquires Nextbit, the startup behind the Robin smartphone

_n9r1935-1_fl Three months after acquiring iconic audio tech company THX, Razer is making another move to expand its business beyond hardware and software for the gaming community. The company has acquired Nextbit, the startup behind the Robin smartphone, founded by Android veterans who had set out with high hopes (and some decent funding) to rethink how to build a mobile phone that leaned on cloud… Read More

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Google's Sergey Brin and Sundar Pichai speak at company immigration ban rally, while thousands of Googlers take to the streets (GOOG, GOOGL)

Google

Google CEO Sundar Pichai and cofounder Sergey Brin addressed crowds of employees rallying against President Trump’s immigration ban on Monday, as about 2,000 Google staffers in offices worldwide took to the streets with signs. 

At least one hundred people outside Google’s downtown San Francisco offices took to the streets on Monday afternoon, carrying signs and chanting. “You build a wall, we’ll tear it down,” was one such chant.

Google employees are sharing photos from this rally on Twitter, under the hashtag “#GooglersUnite.” Executives like Nest CEO Marian Fawaz are visible addressing the crowds in these pictures.

It was not immediately clear if the protests were officially sanctioned or organized by Google, the world’s largest internet company, or were organized by employees. One person familiar with the matter described it as a “company-supported rally by employees.”

Pichai, who was born and raised in India, told the crowd assembled at Google’s Silicon Valley headquarters that “the fight will continue,” according to New York Times reporter Daisuke Wakabayshi, who tweeted photos from the scene:

 And Sergey Brin told the crowd that he would not have the life he does today if this “wasn’t a brave country”:

Google is among numerous tech companies that have decried Trump’s order on immigration. Many tech companies count foreign-born workers among their rank and file employees as well as at the highest leadership levels.  

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings has described the immigration ban as “un-American” while Apple CEO Tim Cook has said it is “not a policy we support.”

Still, Google’s criticisms come even as the company has sought to forge stronger ties with the new Republican administration

Here are some pictures from Monday’s Googler march along the San Francisco waterfront:

SEE ALSO: ‘So un-American it pains us all’ – How tech titans are responding to Trump’s immigration ban

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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Tesla's new Powerpack battery storage project in Southern California is the largest on Earth (TSLA)

Tesla Powerpack

MIRA LOMA, California — Tesla cut the ribbon on a massive battery storage facility in the Southern California desert, 60 miles east of Los Angeles on Monday.

The Powerpack project, a joint venture with local electricity provider, Southern California Edison (SCE), will support grid operation during peak hours and improve the integration of renewable energy resources.

“This project is exactly in line with our mission to accelerate sustainable technology and sustainable energy broadly for the world,” Tesla Chief Technology Officer, JB Straubel, said.

“Storage is a piece that’s been missing on the grid since the grid was invented, so thanks to these technologies, we’re right at the turning point of being able to deliver storage and use renewables — solar, wind, and others — that can power people’s needs for longer parts of the day,” Straubel said.

The Powerpack is a commercial-scale variation of Tesla’s consumer-level Powerwall battery product. It loads up on energy from the sun and from the electric grid during off-peak hours. One Powerpack pod at the Mira Loma site contains 16,000 lithium-ion battery cells each, providing more than 210 kWh per pack.

Noting that this type of technology was not possible five or 10 years ago, Straubel said the amount of storage the Powerpacks at Mira Loma provide is unprecedented considering its relatively small footprint.

Tesla Powerpack

“The Mira Loma site can provide the equivalent energy storage of several hundred acres of solar panels,” Straubel said, adding that the facility “is able to to fit into this tight footprint right next to existing substations, and doesn’t really take up any substantial new land.”

“And every piece of this product — the battery, the battery modules, the power electronics, the inverters — was assembled by Tesla workers right here in the US,” Straubel said, seeming to nod to President Donald Trump, who has made examples of US companies that have sent manufacturing jobs overseas.

The Powerpacks are manufactured at Tesla’s massive Gigafactory in Sparks, Nevada.

SCE awarded Tesla the contract for the Mira Loma project last fall, but Tesla has been plugging away at building its energy business for some time. To date, 300 megawatt-hours worth of Tesla batteries have been deployed in 18 countries.

SEE ALSO: Elon Musk really isn’t as aligned with Trump on manufacturing as it seems

DON’T MISS: One of American, Delta, and United’s most feared rivals may be in trouble

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The next unicorn may not come from Silicon Valley

CITY OF DETROIT FROM THE LARGEST ABANDONED FACTORY IN THE WORLDPeruse the headlines, and you’ll find hundreds of articles predicting the “next Silicon Valley.”  Pundits claim that the growing cost of living in the Bay Area is driving businesses away to more affordable regions that are rich in tech talent such as Austin, Phoenix, Boulder, and Miami.

But try as they might, these “hubs” won’t ever beat Northern California at its own game – the area will continue to dominate information technology because of its unique arbitrage of thought, culture and research.

But that’s okay, because striving to replicate the success of the Bay Area limits us by imposing an arbitrary constraint on our imagination.  After all, does Silicon Valley represent the pinnacle of success in human innovation, or are there regions that have the potential to evolve into something even greater?  

“Tech” is Dead

There’s a strong argument to be made that the rate of innovation in the traditional “high-tech” space (e.g. ecommerce, social media, computer hardware, and telecommunications) is slowing.  

Much of this is due to the fact that we are arguably reaching a point of saturation in the consumer internet. According to TechCrunch, smartphone users spend 84% of their time on just five apps.  Moreover, almost two-thirds of consumers fail to download any apps in a given month.  

Screen Shot 2017 01 30 at 5.44.10 PM

This problem has been confounded by a disturbing trend that Tim Wu pointed out almost five years ago in his book The Master Switch.  In essence, Mr. Wu analyzed long-term trends in information technology and found that disruptive technologies tend to become closed and consolidated over time.  

Indeed, it’s helpful to remember that AT&T was once considered a scrappy startup challenging the entrenched Western Union telegraph monopoly.  So while Google, Amazon, Apple and Facebook may have once been agitators to the ancien régime, they’re now incumbents with the capability to crush or control potential threats to their business models.  

With the exception of the blockchain, companies touting even seemingly transformative technologies such as mixed reality or chat bots may find it hard to achieve escape velocity from an orbit made ever tighter by the increasing influence that incumbents have over digital distribution.  

That’s not to say that many great companies won’t continue to come out of Silicon Valley, but we may need to look elsewhere if we’re expecting to see the same level of disruption that accompanied the late 90s and early aughts.   

Long Live Tech

In his book The Third Wave, Steve Case argued that we’re reaching an inflection point where “the term ‘tech-enabled’ will start to sound as ludicrous as the term ‘electricity-enabled.’”

Indeed, the next big thing in “tech” probably isn’t “tech,” but rather the application of intelligence to the broader marketplace.

A handful of developments seem on pace to create the framework for our connected future; areas such as artificial intelligence, big data and IoT are likely to be a cornerstone in every industry.  To the chagrin of George Orwell, in fifty years much of our work may be done by robots that can think and learn, and are connected to each other.  

As such, disruption is no longer limited to ecommerce, software, the consumer internet, or social media, and looking for the next “Unicorn” may be myopic.  Instead, we might want to ponder the next TRILLION dollar company.  

After all, if Amazon disrupted retail, and Facebook disrupted media, who is going to disrupt energy, manufacturing, agriculture, healthcare and finance?  In other words, why look for the next Uber when we should be looking for the next Apple?

How Detroit Could Beat Silicon Valley at Its Own Game (Seriously)

In one frontier technology, Detroit may hold several competitive advantages over Silicon Valley.

Although predictions range significantly, many research organizations forecast that autonomous cars will be the first place that the public sees true Artificial Intelligence, with widespread adoption by 2030.  

This has led to a burgeoning war between Silicon Valley and Detroit, with many assuming the city that personifies urban blight can’t compete with the likes of Elon Musk and Larry Page.

But critics may be missing several distinct advantages that the motor city holds over Silicon Valley.  In particular:  it’s becoming a highly-attractive location for STEM talent, it has a rapidly expanding (and hungry) tech scene and it has a localized industry cluster that may be difficult for Silicon Valley to replicate.

Paris of the MidwestParis.Smog thumb01

Silicon Valley owed much of its initial success to three factors:  a highly-educated population, relatively low cost of living and large pool of talent in STEM fields.  

Like the Bay Area in the 70s, contemporary Detroit shares many of the same advantages.

First, the Detroit-Ann Arbor area boasts a highly-educated population.  According to WalletHub, nearby Ann Arbor is ranked #1 on the list of most educated cities, ahead of both San Jose (#3) and San Francisco (#7).  

Second, the cost of living in the area is below the national average and significantly below Silicon Valley.

Finally, Detroit is becoming much more attractive for STEM talent.  Not only has STEM job growth outpaced traditional by 6x, the city is midst of the kind of cultural revival that serves as catnip for millennial technologists.    

Once known as the “Paris of the Midwest” – Detroit is intent on regaining its former glory with a hip new culinary scene bolstered by a combination of cheap housing and an influx of restaurateurs and chefs, and a revitalization of the local fashion industry led by entrepreneurs such as Tom Kartsotis (founder of the uber-chic Shinola).  As one resident noted in the New York Times  “it feels like TriBeCa back in the early days, before double strollers, sidewalk cafes and Whole Foods…there is a buzz here that is real, and the kids drip with talent and commitment, and aren’t spoiled.”  

Indeed, although Detroit’s population declined over the last 10 years, the city also saw a 59% increase in the number of young, college-educated residents in the same time period.  

In addition, the startup scene is Michigan is much more diverse than the nation as a whole.  According to Forbes, 28% of the VCs in Michigan are women, people of color or LGBT.  

“Detroit Hustles Harder”

In 2008, fashion entrepreneurs Joseph “J.P.” O’Grady and Brendan Blumentritt of Aptemal Clothing LLC released a t-shirt line with the phrase “Detroit Hustles Harder” proudly emblazoned across the front.  The slogan caught on like wildfire because it captured an underlying entrepreneurial spirit  – one pioneered by original Detroit-based disruptors such as Henry Ford.

Indeed, Detroit is hustling.  bRANSON Virgin Detroit

It’s startup scene has seen remarkable growth over the last 10 years:    According to the Michigan Venture Capital Association Annual Report , there were 36 VC firms in the Detroit area in 2015 with $5.3 billion in AUM, an increase of over 100% in the last five years.  In addition, the amount of investment and the number of startups receiving investment has been steadily climbing.    

On top of the local VC scene, Detroit also has a thriving tech startup scene.  According to a ReCode series written last February, there are 100 tech startups in Detroit alone, and 248 tech companies were started in Michigan in 2014.  In fact, 2014 represented the first time that startup activity in Detroit outpaced that in nearby Ann Arbor.

These developments have been bolstered by billionaire and Detroit native Dan Gilbert, founder of Quicken Loans, who has invested heavily in the local startup scene in an effort to rebuild Detroit’s blight into a trendy, bustling movement.

Finally, Motor City has seen significant interest from the Silicon Valley elite.  For example, Amazon, Alphabet and Facebook all have offices in Detroit.  In an article in CIO magazine, Peter Faricy of Amazon explained that “Michigan is a rapidly growing technology corridor and we’re eager to bring the incredible local Detroit talent to Amazon.”  

Revenge of the Big Three?

Much of Silicon Valley’s success can be traced to its industry cluster in information technology.  Research and funding from Stanford and Berkeley combined with local giants such as HP, AMD, Intel, Xerox, Cisco and Apple to form a synergistic  “melting pot” for information technology.  

As many experts predict that autonomous cars may be the first instance of widespread adoption of Artificial Intelligence, an argument can be made that Detroit has a similar advantage with both the University of Michigan and the “Big Three” automakers.

The Wolverines, in particular, are taking a strong interest in artificial intelligence.  The school boasts the second highest R&D expenditure in the nation, and its research is boasted by the Artificial Intelligent Lab, which houses ten distinct research groups.  In addition, Toyota recently launched a multi-million dollar partnership with the University of Michigan to develop AI.

Perhaps more important, however, is the influence of Ford, GM and Chrysler on the development of the field.

Often misjudged as anachronistic, the leadership in today’s Detroit is anything but – all three CEOs are relatively young and two have held the post for fewer than three years.   As GM CEO Mary Barra recently declared to Business Insider, “We are trying to disrupt ourselves; we’re not trying to preserve a model of yesterday.”  

mary barraThis zeitgeist has manifested in an infatuation with being the first to develop autonomous vehicles.  General Motors recently paid over $1 billion to acquire Cruise Automation, a startup dedicated to creating the sensors and technology necessary to build an autonomous vehicle.  The company also invested $500 million for a 9% stake in Lyft, perhaps due to Lyft’s (and Uber’s) vision of eventually replacing their independent contract-based workforce with autonomous transport.  

Ford, meanwhile, recently announced a $75 million investment in Velodyne, whose LiDAR technology is helpful for the 3D mapping, sensing, and security that autonomous vehicles will require.  The company has also acquired SAIPS, an Israeli machine learning firm, and in July Ford announced that would provide $6.6 million in seed funding for Civil Maps.

Meanwhile, Alphabet and Fiat Chrysler have announced a partnership to jointly test autonomous technology in minivans, and Alphabet is opening a 53,000 square foot self-driving car development center near Detroit in Novi, MI.

Finally, it seems like the “Big Three” have the backing of “Big Government” – in Michigan at least.  In December, Governor Rick Snyder signed four bills to regulate the development and sales of autonomous vehicles, making it the first state to do so.  Ironically, this news was announced days before San Francisco shut down Uber’s self-driving service.   

Predicting the Future

Due to the limited scope of this article, we chose to focus only on Detroit as an emerging hub of innovation.  That said, our research has identified several additional geographies with the potential for exponential growth including Baltimore, Pittsburgh and the former “Rust Belt”.

Furthermore, while we’ve tried to use data to identify cities that have the potential for progress, it’s helpful to remember that these are, at best, guesstimates plagued by numerous uncertainties.  

As such, we’d love to hear your thoughts as well:  

Are we completely missing some additional element –a ‘secret sauce’ held by Silicon Valley – that will continue its dominance in all things well into the future?

How will the media, finance and energy clusters in Los Angeles, New York and Houston play into all of this?  Can they overcome their high relatively cost of living?

Can the relationship between IoT and industry revitalize the former “rust belt”?

Are there other “hidden gems” that we’ve missed?  For example: could the research triangle dominate healthcare? Who will win the agricultural race, Silicon Prairie or Stockton? Could Madison, WI solve the water problem?  

Would love to hear your thoughts!

Tory Green is a Principal at Tiller Partners, a Los Angeles-based VC (www.tillerpartnersllc.com).  Special thanks to Csaba Konkoly for advice, input and guidance and Trevar Kolodny for in-depth research and analysis.  

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