GM is bringing Amazon Alexa to 2018 and newer Cadillac, Chevy, Buick and GMC vehicles – TechCrunch


General Motors is adding Amazon Alexa to the infotainment systems of its Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac vehicles in the first half of next year — one of the broadest rollouts of an embedded Alexa Auto experience, the automaker said Wednesday.

The new in-vehicle Amazon Alexa experience — as GM is calling it — will be added through a software update to model 2018 and newer cars, trucks and crossovers with compatible infotainment systems. In other words, customers don’t have to buy a new 2020 Chevy to get the Amazon Alexa feature.

The company made the announcement Wednesday in conjunction with Amazon’s Devices event.

The addition of Amazon’s Alexa follows GM’s announcement in early September that Google will provide in-vehicle voice, navigation and other apps in its Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet  and GMC vehicles starting in 2021.

GM used the Amazon announcement to highlight its ability to use vehicle connectivity and its “updateable” app framework to bring new features in its vehicles. These over-the-air software updates, first popularized by Tesla, have become increasingly important for automakers hoping to retain tech savvy customers who have become used to their constantly improving smartphones.

“GM’s updateable app framework and vehicle connectivity lets us provide customers with new technologies that enhance the ownership experience, even to customers with vehicles that are already on the road,” said Santiago Chamorro, vice president for Global Connected Services, GM. “Bringing the Alexa experience to our vehicles is an example of how we are listening to our customers’ feedback, and offering them the voice technology of their choice.”

The news also shows Amazon’s continued push into the automotive world. Amazon has been moving into the car for a few years now through the integration of Alexa and car-focused delivery services. The ecommerce company launched its Amazon Key service to let customers  give delivery drivers access to their house with the help of a compatible keypad on their door and a smart security camera. But that eventually expanded to the car with its Key by Amazon In-Car delivery service. 

GM and Volvo were the first participants in the Key by Amazon In-Car delivery service. Ford joined the in-car delivery service in April 2019.

The addition of Amazon Alexa into GM vehicles will let owners use voice commands to check the news, control smart home devices like lights or thermostats, and ask directions to points of interest or nearby restaurants. The Alexa directions feature is integrated with GM’s embedded navigation systems in the vehicle and OnStar Turn-by-Turn navigation using natural language.

GM owners will also be able to ask Alexa to play a specific song, artist, genre, or station, as well as audiobooks or podcasts. Alexa can fulfill the request by bringing up available streaming services.



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Segment’s new privacy portal helps companies comply with expanding regulations – TechCrunch


With the EU’s sweeping GDPR privacy laws and the upcoming California Consumer Privacy ACT (CCPA), companies have to figure out how to deal with keeping private data private or face massive fines. Segment announced a new Privacy Portal today, that could help companies trying to remain in compliance.

Segment CEO and co-founder Peter Reinhardt says companies have built a false dichotomy between personalization and privacy, and he says that it doesn’t have to be that way. “We’ve noticed that a lot of companies feel this tension between privacy and growth. They basically see a paradox between being either privacy-respectful versus providing a very personalized experience,” he said.

The new Privacy Portal is designed to be a central place where customers can sort their data in an automated way and create an inventory of what data they have inside the company. “By introducing a single point of collection for all the data, it creates a choke point on the data collection to allow you to actually govern that, a single place to inspect, monitor, alert and have an inventory of all the data that you’re collecting, so that you can ensure that it’s compliant, and so that you can ensure that you’ve got consent, and all of those things,” he said.

The way this works is that as the data comes into the portal, it automatically gets put into a bucket based on the level of concern about it. “We are basically giving customers monitoring and a consolidated view over all of the different data points that are coming in. So we have matches that basically look for things that might be PII, and we automatically grade most of them with green, yellow or red in terms of the level of potential concern,” Reinhardt explained.

On top of that, companies can apply policies, based on the grades, say letting anything that’s green or yellow through, but preventing any red data (PII) from being shared with other applications.

In addition, to make sure that the product can connect to as many marketing tools as possible to get the most complete data picture, the company is releasing a new feature called Functions, which lets customers build their own custom data connectors. With thousands of marketing technology tools, it’s impossible for Segment to build connectors for all of them. Functions lets companies build custom connectors in a low-code way in instances where Segment doesn’t provide it out of the box.

The two tools are available to Segment customers starting today.



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Juul names longtime tobacco exec as chief executive as Kevin Burns steps down – TechCrunch


Juul Labs chief executive Kevin Brown is stepping down from the leadership role in the company making way for a longtime tobacco executive from the company’s largest shareholder, Atria, to take the reins.

The move comes as Juul faces extreme scrutiny from U.S. regulators over the company’s marketing tactics and a possible ban on some of its best-selling products. As part of the announcement today, Juul has agreed to suspend all of its marketing, advertising, and lobbying efforts in the U.S., which were a target for criticism.

The man taking over from Burns is K.C. Crosthwaite, who previously served as the chief growth officer at Altria Group and oversaw the company’s expansion into electronic cigarettes with the launch of its IQOS brand. Crosthwaite also served on the Juul board of directors as an observer.

“I have long believed in a future where adult smokers overwhelmingly choose alternative products like JUUL . That has been this company’s mission since it was founded, and it has taken great strides in that direction,” said Crosthwaite in a statement. “Unfortunately, today that future is at risk due to unacceptable levels of youth usage and eroding public confidence in our industry. Against that backdrop, we must strive to work with regulators, policymakers and other stakeholders, and earn the trust of the societies in which we operate.”

With Burns at the helm, Juul grew from a few hundred employees to over thousands of staff members working in 20 countries around the world. The executive also advocated for raising the legal age of smoking to 21, halted the sale of non-tobacco and non-menthol-flavored Juul pods to brick and . mortar retailers, enhanced online age verification, and discontinued Facebook and Instagram accounts (in the U.S.).

The steps may not be enough to alleviate the concerns of regulators and lawmakers over Juul’s sway over underage e-cigarette users. The company commands roughly 70% of the e-cigarette market for tobacco products and remains the de-facto brand for all vaping (in the same way that Google is the brand for online search).

Juul’s role as a smoking alternative may also be challenged by startups (like Hava Health) that are developing vaporizer technologies for smoking cessation.

“Working at JUUL Labs has been an honor and I still believe the company’s mission of eliminating combustible cigarettes is vitally important. I am very proud of my team’s efforts to lead the industry toward much needed category-wide action to tackle underage usage of these products, which are intended for adult smokers only,” said Brown in a statement. “Since joining JUUL Labs, I have worked non-stop, helping turn a small firm into a worldwide business, so a few weeks ago I decided that now was the right time for me to step down. I am grateful to be able to confidently hand the reins to someone with K.C.’s skill set, which is well-suited to the next phase of the company’s journey.”



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Arceo.ai raises $37 million to expand cyber insurance coverage and access – TechCrunch


Critical cyber attacks on both businesses and individuals have been grabbing headlines at an alarming rate. Cybersecurity has moved from a background risk for enterprises to a critical day-to-day threat to business operations, forcing executive teams to pour time and hundreds of billions in capital into monitoring and prevention efforts.

Yet even as investment in security ticks up, the frequency and cost of cybercrime to businesses continues to rapidly accelerate, with the World Economic Forum estimating the economic loss due to cybercrime could reach $3 trillion by 2020.

More companies are now turning to cyber insurance as a means of mitigating financial exposure. However, for traditional insurers, cybersecurity remains a relatively nascent and unfamiliar issue, requiring risk-assessment data points and methodologies largely different from those seen in traditional insurance products. As a result, businesses often struggle to get the scale of cybersecurity coverage they require.

Arceo.ai is hoping to expand the size and scope of the cyber insurance market for both insurers and companies, by providing insurers with effective real-time data, analytics and context, necessary for safely and efficiently underwrite cyber risk.

This morning, Arceo took a major step in achieving that goal, announcing the company has raised a $37 million round of funding led by Lightspeed Venture Partners and Founders Fund with participation from CRV and  UL Ventures.

Using an expansive set of global sources across a customer’s digital footprint, Arceo.AI collects internal, external and macro cyber risk data which it uses to evaluate a company’s security and cyber risk management behavior. By automating the data collection process and connecting it with insurer underwriting processes, Arceo is able to keep its data and policy assessments up to date in real-time and enable faster, more efficient quotes.

A vital component of Arceo’s platform is its analytics offering. Using patented data science and cyber risk models, Arceo generates analytics-driven insights for insurance carriers, brokers and end-insured customers. For end-insured customers, Arceo helps companies understand whether they’re using the best mitigation strategies by providing policy recommendations and industry benchmarking to help contextualize day-to-day cyber behavior and hygiene. For underwriters, Arceo can provide specific insurance recommendations based on particular policy coverages.

Ultimately, Arceo looks to provide both insurers and the insured with actionable answers to key questions such as how one assesses cyber risk, how one determines what risks can be mitigated with technology alone, how one knows which systems are best and whether those systems are being used appropriately.

Raj Shah

Arceo.ai Chairman Raj Shah. Image via Arceo.ai

In an interview with TechCrunch, Arceo Chairman Raj Shah explained that the company’s background expertise, proprietary data systems, and deep pedigree in both the security and insurance truly differentiate Arceo from competing solutions. For starters, both Shah and Arceo co-founder and CEO Vishaal Hariprasad have spent close to the entirety of their careers in national security and cybersecurity. Hariprasad started his career in the Airforce’s first cohort of cyber warfare officers, before teaming up with Shah to start Morta Security in 2012, a security startup the two sold to Palo Alto networks in just roughly two years.

After selling the company, Shah and Hariprasad remained in the security world before realizing that there was a natural intersection between security and insurance, and a real opportunity for risk transfer solutions.

“Having studied the market, we saw that people are spending more and more dollars on cybersecurity products… There are hundreds of thousands of new vendors every year… Spend is going up, but we don’t feel any safer!” Shah told TechCrunch.

“That’s when we said ‘Hey, we need to move beyond just thinking about technology points and products, and think about holistic cyber risk management.’ And this is where insurance has historically done a great job. Putting a price on behavior and making people think and letting them take risks… From life and death and health to buyers and property and casualty. And so cyber is that next class risk… So that’s really why we started the business. We wanted to provide a real way to manage the cyber stress that they’re facing and that will impact every single one of our digital lives.”

Since the company’s founding, Raj and Vishaal have been joined by a deep network of cyber and insurance experts. Today, Arceo also announced that Hemant Shah, founder and former CEO of catastrophe risk modeling company RMS has joined Arceo’s Board of Directors. Additionally, earlier this month, the company announced that Mario Vitale, the former CEO of publically-traded insurance companies Willis Towers Watson and Zurich Insurance Group, would be joining the Arceo team as the company’s President.

The company noted that participation from high-profile industry vets like Hemant and Mario not only further advance Arceo’s competitive advantage but also acts as another major validation of the company’s future and work to date.

According to Arceo Chairman Raj Shah, after years of investing in R&D, the latest funds will be used towards expansion efforts and scaling Arceo to the broader ecosystem of insurance and brokers. Longer-term, the company hopes to offer the most complete combined cybersecurity and risk transfer solution to insurers and the insured, easing the stress around cyber threats for both enterprises and individuals and ultimately improving broader cyber resiliency.

If you’d like to hear more from Arceo’s Raj Shah, Raj will also be joining us this year on the Extra Crunch stage at TechCrunch Disrupt SF, where he’ll discuss how founders and companies should think about potential US government investment. We hope to see you there!



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Hack with these APIs at the Disrupt SF 2019 Hackathon – TechCrunch


If you’re one of the 800 code poets lucky enough to score a seat for the TechCrunch Hackathon at Disrupt San Francisco 2019 on October 2-4, congratulations! The event is completely full, so if you missed out, try your luck next time.

The TC Disrupt SF Hackathon is a week away, and we bet you can’t wait to learn about what APIs you’ll be able to build on, correct? Without further ado, check out the APIs you’ll use to breathe life into your creation.

Filestack is the number-one file handling service for developers. Upload files into your app with 100x more reliability. Take those uploads and transform images at any URL by adding a few parameters and automatically generating a fully transformed image. Filestack provides responsive, reliable and secure delivery so that your files are delivered with unparalleled speed and control. Simplify content tasks using Filestack Workflows, an easy-to-manage UI that lets you automate commands into a single API call. Add intelligence to your workflow so your content is tagged, SFW and virus free before it ever hits your app. We’ve coded in the logic so that you don’t have to. Implement all of this with just a few lines of code.

Snap: Snap Kit is a collection of developer tools that help third parties build integrations with Snapchat. This collection developer libraries and APIs lets you build exciting new features for your app that Snapchatters love. Share to Snapchat’s camera, bring a user’s Bitmoji into your app, log in with Snapchat, and more!

Intersystems: InterSystems IRIS™ is a data platform for rapidly developing and deploying applications. It includes a massively scalable multi-model database, and automated mechanisms for deployment, in a reliable, unified platform spanning data management, interoperability, transaction processing, and analytics. We are providing our FHIR server and sample patient data so that you can build a healthcare solution using a simple REST interface. InterSystems IRIS supports relational and non-relational models and can be deployed through a variety of programing languages and available for on-premises, private or public cloud-based and hybrid deployments.

Kinship

Kinship will provide data around pet nutrition, location, activity, health and genetic health, breed info and more.

Humana: Teams may use approaches, tools and emerging technologies such as:

  • Sketch, InDesign, Balsamiq, Azure, Adobe XD, etc.
  • Web experiences, tablets or smartphone apps
  • Alexa, Google Home, Siri, etc.
  • Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning
  • Natural Language Processing

Plaid will open up their libraries for use.

Plus we’ll have API information from United Airlines in the coming days.

The TechCrunch Hackathon takes place on October 2-4 at Disrupt SF 2019. Get ready to make your mark and revel in some high-pressure, exhilarating competition. We can’t wait to see what you create, and which team will take home the TechCrunch $10,000 grand prize for the best over-all hack.

Is your company interested in sponsoring the Hackathon at Disrupt SF 2019? Contact our sponsorship sales team by filling out this form.



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Become the Network Marketing Superstar You Want to Become

What is holding you back from becoming the hottest network marketing superstar today? Would you like to change some elements to improve your business and watch it grow? Most people reading this will want to achieve some new changes in their lives and businesses. So, you know that you need changes in your life. At least you recognize that you have weaknesses, but do you know your strengths? Have you written out a list of your strengths and weaknesses. This is a map to discovering your next action steps. Don't be fooled by doing it half way, be true and write out what you think is a weakness and strength. Only then will you know what areas you can change to become that superstar.

Building the Network Marketing Superstar from the ground up
This map has the potential to help you become a stronger person in life and in your network marketing business. You can use it to find tools and educational resources to help you develop the inner winner within. You are a champion already, but don't you want to take it to the next level? If and when you are serious about making life improvements, try creating the list. Be 100% honest with it and you then you can take the step of faith into making changes to yourself. The hardest part is taking the action step. Most times, people will shy away from jumping into making little changes to certain habits or pursuing their educational needs.

If you want to make your network marketing business better, you may want to consider taking serious action on your list. There may be small issues that are conflicting with your ability to connect with your audience. You may only need some additional education to overcome a slump. In other cases, some folks may need to take actual "action" and put "effort" into the business. Whatever is causing a conflict with your success needs to be found and dealt with now. If unsure about the issue, dig deeper into your activities and see what has changed and what your trainer has suggested to do. Your trainer can answer your questions and point you to some resources, but if you don't use them. You won't grow and become a stronger marketer. If you have a learning disability, you can work with it and find tools to help you understand the material and software better.



Source by David L. Feinstein

Duda nabs $25M to take on WordPress with a web development platform aimed at agencies – TechCrunch


WordPress last week secured its position as a top dog in the world of web development when its parent company Automattic announced a $300 million raise at a $3 billion valuation, just weeks after it snapped up Tumblr from Verizon. But true competition never really ends, and today brings the latest development on that front: Duda, which provides a cloud-based website building platform for developers — in its case targeting potentially non-technical builders at digital agencies and SaaS platforms — is today announcing that it has raised $25 million from a single investor, Susquehanna Growth Equity.

The funding, which brings the Palo Alto-based startup to $50 million raised to date, comes as Duda hits some strong milestones. There have been more than 560,000 websites built on its platform to date from some 6,000 web professionals — a mark of the B2B2C channel that Duda uses to grow (on an average this would work out to around 93 sites per developer or agency).

Itai Sadan, Duda’s co-founder and CEO, said in an interview that the plan will be to use the funding to continue investing in its platform — it has a team of engineers in Israel — as well as in sales and marketing, and specifically in convincing customers to make the switch to its platform from bigger competitors.

To wit: if you do a quick Google search for Duda WordPress, you’ll see that the company has already put a lot of effort into creating tools to port sites from the latter to the former, and articulating the reasons why Duda is faster to use, better for pushing updates and preferable for publishing further websites and web pages at scale. (Duda claims that those making the switch achieve a 50% reduction in site build times.)

The company began life as a mobile-first web development company, at a time when many thought that mobile web would be a viable, and potentially larger, alternative to building native apps for mobile platforms. That, of course, never quite materialised as a big business, since apps did indeed continue to boom, and responsive web design meant that it was much easier to build once for the web and have it simply work on mobile, rather than invest in a separate mobile-web-only build.

That doesn’t mean, however, that all the platforms that are on the market today have been a perfect fit for agencies or SaaS platforms that might be working on bringing dozens or hundreds of sites, or pages of sites, online simultaneously.

“We are very familiar with the frustration many web professionals experience daily due to the lack of suitable web design platforms. Our team has developed a product that integrates all of the components needed for professional-grade web design to effectively serve digital agencies and SaaS platforms and allow them to scale their business,” said Itai Sadan, Co-Founder and CEO of Duda, in a statement.

Working with agencies and others that may not be hard-coding websites, the company has build a suite of tools to help those who are non-technical designers to be able to build and update sites with minimal fuss and bugs.

The idea here is to provide something much more advanced and customizable than what you might get on a platform like Wix, but without some of the hiccups that Duda claims you are likely to encounter on WordPress (or via a provider that works on WP), in part because, as Sadan described it to me, the open source foundation on which WordPress has been built can throw up a catalog of errors that are complicated to fix, even for engineers let alone non-technical staff.

The features, for example, include something Duda calls its Widget Builder, so that a tool or action that is repeated across multiple sites can be turned into a widget to be implemented more quickly and easily. These also come with APIs to integrate other data sources into Duda sites. It also has a tool to manage site comments — not commenting by site visitors, but a way for clients to better mark requests and changes for their agencies. Asset sharing is also possible on the platform.

The pitch is that this is what customers need today.

“While the Susquehanna team and I were initially impressed with the product, it wasn’t until we started speaking with customers that we realized just how powerful the platform is for the thousands of web professionals it serves. Time and again, customers told us that Duda catalyzed the growth of their agencies,” said Noa Wolfson, Investor at SGE, in a statement. “The ability to have all site building and client management needs on a centralized, and more importantly, secure, platform saves web professionals time and money.” Noa Wolfson has also joined the company’s board.

With tens of thousands of agencies globally still to tackle, the ambitions are high at the company. “We’re just scratching the surface,” said Sadan.



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Pan-European VC fund Target Global is opening an office in Barcelona – TechCrunch


Hola Barcelona. Target Global, a pan-European VC firm with €700 million under management and a broad investment canvas spanning SaaS, marketplaces, fintech, insurtech and mobility, is opening an office in the Catalan capital.

Investor director, Lina Chong, will lead the expansion into Spain, having relocated to Barcelona from the fund’s Berlin headquarters. They’re setting up in a co-working space on Avenue Diagonal in the center of the city.

Target Global backs early and growth stages startups, as well as doing some seed investing. The firms tells us it’s expecting to do between one and three deals per year out of the Barcelona office, envisaging the same mix of investments in terms of early and growth stage.

“We’ve been seeing decent deals in both stages. Definitely. Across Spain,” says Chong. “There is just more — by numbers — way more early stage seed than A. I think that’s just the maturity of the ecosystem here.”

Dialling up a local presence across Europe means Target Global can pitch founders on being able to connect talent and expertise across key regional startup hubs, while also plugging into a wider international network. (It also has offices in London, Tel Aviv and Moscow.)

From a VC perspective opening local offices is of course about deal flow. Being on the ground to take more meetings widens the pipe, increasing the chance of an early shot at the next high growth business.

That’s important because Europe’s startups have many more options for early stage funding than in years past, and founders are getting smarter about choosing their investors. Boots on the ground means more time for all important relationship building.

Target Global describes itself as something of a startup — it was founded in 2012 — which means it’s competing for deals with VCs that have more established brands and networks. Becoming a familiar face in the room looks like a solid strategy to growth hack its own network.

“We are a global or a pan-European fund but for an entrepreneur here we want them to feel that we’re local; we understand the ecosystem; that we have deep rooted connections; that we’re committed; that we show up,” general partner Shmuel Chafets tells TechCrunch.

“It’s all a function of time and effort. Just being here and having breakfast with people, lunch with people and helping out even the people we don’t invest. You get more connected and then you start to see more deal flow.”

This is the second local office it’s opened in Europe this year, after adding a London base in April — making it a flattering pick for Barcelona. Plenty of other European hubs are being passed over in the city’s favor this time, be it Madrid, Lisbon, Paris or Stockholm.

Chafets says the firm looked at five or six other cities but settled on Barcelona for now, though he won’t rule out opening more offices in future. “Never say never,” he quips.

Having been a regular visitor to Barcelona for a number of years he talks enthusiastically about the creative energy motivating entrepreneurs — saying the city’s ecosystem reminds him of how Berlin felt a few years ago. “It looks like it’s just about to happen,” he reckons.

“From what I’ve seen Barcelona is sort of strong in creative. It’s a very creative city. It’s always pretty strong in mobile, historically. It had more mobile successes… SaaS, particular smb SaaS, is pretty good here. I think it would be harder to find enterprise sales companies and companies building these very deep tech stuff right now. But definitely in the marketplace, smb SaaS space, mobile space you see great stuff here.

“That ties into the creativity, because it’s a product driven environment — not a tech driven environment. I think Berlin is a very operationally driven environment, Tel Aviv is a very tech driven environment, this is a very product driven environment — which actually complements well our other hubs.”

“There’s some pent-up energy here,” agrees Chong, who says they’ve already come across a “surprising” amount of deal flow. “Again it’s very similar to Berlin where there’s a lot of willingness and there’s a lot of dreaming but there’s not a lot going on. So I think the younger people here they’re creating that.”

Target Global has been testing the water prior to formalizing its commitment to Barcelona, and has four local portfolio companies which it’s ploughed around €20M into over the past 12 months.

Its biggest regional investment to date is in business trip booking SaaS, TravelPerk. It’s also backed flatmate matching platform Badi; online doctor booking platform, Doc Planner (which relocated from Warsaw, Poland after merging with local startup Doctoralia); and medical chat app MediQuo.

From a wider perspective, Barcelona’s tech ecosystem has been gathering momentum for years, helped by the annual presence of the world’s biggest mobile tradeshow (MWC) — as well as more specific pull factors for startups such as a relatively low cost of living and an attractive Mediterranean location.

“It’s a great place to live and you can’t ignore that,” says Chafets. “In Europe if you’re a team and you’re an international team there are very few places you can live.”

This combination means Barcelona is now home to a growing number of high growth startups, including Target Global’s portfolio firm TravelPerk — as well as the likes of on-demand delivery platform Glovo; and RedPoints, which sells a SaaS to brands for detecting and acting against the sale of fake goods online, to name two other notable examples.

Other local startups grabbing attention and investment in recent years include 21Buttons, Holded, Housfy, Typeform and Verse. While hyper local mobile marketplace startup Wallapop — which was on a growth tear in an earlier wave of ecoystem growth — remains the go-to classified app on every local’s phone (though it merged with a US rival back in 2015).

The city even has its own youthful scooter startup (Reby) which has refused to be put off by some tough regulations controlling rentals — and has recently been applying AI to try to make like a good citizen by automatically detect poor parking.

Mobility is a major area of focus for Target Global — which last year announced a dedicated fund (with an initial raise of $100M) for startups working to disrupt transportation. Although, when it comes to stand-up e-scooters the firm is already invested in Berlin-based Circ so will presumably be looking to spend elsewhere on that front.

“Barcelona is the perfect city for scooters,” says Chafets. “Scooters can really change the way the city works. It’s also small and has relatively good public transportation from outwards in — but they need to be regulated. You need to really make sure that [they aren’t a misused nuisance].”

He notes that European regulators have been relatively quick to spot the risks of shared mobility, and close off the antisocial expansionist playbook that played out in some US cities during the first wave of scooter startups — when people trolled Bird by hanging scooters in trees (or, well, worse) — but he sees that as good news for building a sustainable future for alternative mobility.

“It’s a great challenge and it will be a huge money maker — that’s where we want to be right, multiple trillion dollar businesses!”

Away from disruptive developments on the ground in Barcelona and the other local tech hubs that Target Global is intending to explore from its new base in Catalonia, it also views Spain as a low risk gateway to opportunities on the other side of the Atlantic.

“There’s a decent local domestic market and there is a natural second market in South America,” says Chafets. “Actually in the US too — because Spanish is the second most commonly spoken language in America so when you start a company here you have that second market built in. Which is very important — you can scale it.”

“Latin America is a fascinating market right now, it’s a fascinating time,” he adds. “So in a way it’s a way for us to make a side bet on Latin America without going out of Europe and investing far.”

We’ll share a full interview with Chafets and Chong on Extra Crunch.



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BlaBlaCar to acquire online bus ticketing platform Busfor – TechCrunch


BlaBlaCar, the marketplace that matches people for long-distance ridesharing between cities, has announced plans to acquire Busfor, the leading bus ticketing platform in Russia and Ukraine.

“This is the biggest acquisition in BlaBlaCar’s history and Busfor is the region’s leading bus distribution company, with over 150 employees. Connecting our significant online demand with Busfor’s supply will help travelers and bus operators alike, so we’re incredibly excited to be joining forces,” BlaBlaCar co-founder and CEO Nicolas Brusson told me.

BlaBlaCar isn’t disclosing terms of the deal.

This is yet another move in buses for BlaBlaCar. But this is a different move when you compare it to the acquisition of Ouibus in France. BlaBlaBus, BlaBlaCar’s bus service, currently operates in France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and Italy.

This time, the company is buying a ticketing platform that partners with 7,000 bus carriers to access part of the inventory of a $4 billion market. It doesn’t plan to operate as a bus carrier in Russia, Ukraine and Poland directly. BlaBlaCar says that it has 25 million members in the region out of 80 million registered users in total.

“Busfor will retain its own brand, product offering and consumer app, but we will be integrating its supply of bus journeys into the BlaBlaCar platform to help bus carriers and stations grow their customer bases while also creating the best user experience for travelers,” Brusson said.

But buses are still an offline industry in those countries. BlaBlaCar says that online booking currently represents 10% of all tickets. There’s still a lot of room for growth.

Eventually, BlaBlaCar wants to become a carpooling and bus company, with buses for trips from one main city to another main city, and carpooling rides for trips between smaller cities.



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India’s ALTBalaji partners with Microsoft to bring online video streaming to offline users – TechCrunch


ALTBalaji, a leading video streaming service in India, has partnered with Microsoft and fintech firm Eko as it moves to expand its subscriber base in the country that is already larger than any of its local rival.

ALTBalaji, which has over 27 million paying subscribers, said it will use Microsoft’s BlendNet technology to help its users download and access more titles without consuming large amounts of cellular data.

Microsoft is providing ALTBalaji with BlendNet technology that enables videos to be disseminated through a combination of cloud-enabled metadata systems. “The file is transferred onto the recipient’s mobile using peer-to-peer local Wi-Fi. While the creation of this cloud plane might need a data network, the transfer of data will happen over local WiFi,” Microsoft said.

The idea is to move much of the downloading without relying on cellular data connectivity, which remains costly for the masses in India. ALTBalaji subscribers will be able to download files from their nearby EKO retail stores, as well as from other users who have the same files. When neither options are viable, the downloading is paused.

Nachiket Pantvaidya, CEO ALTBalaji and Group COO Balaji Telefilms, said he hopes that the new feature would help the video streaming service attract new users who don’t have access to cheap and reliable data. He said the firm also expects the feature to boost engagement for other subscribers on the platform who’re watching two to three episodes on the app each day.

“At ALTBalaji it has always been our endeavor to reach out to the masses and enhance our users’ experience through such services, while being affordable. And through this pilot feature, we aim to attract more viewers to our platform from areas with not so good internet connectivity,” said Pantvaidya.

In a statement, Meetul Patel, COO of Microsoft India, said, “Microsoft’s BlendNet is a great example of advanced technologies being used to make information and content accessible to all. It leverages the power of the cloud and intelligent edge networks to address gaps in connectivity and reduces the costs of content distribution.”

ALTBalaji, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Balaji Telefilms, has more paying subscribers in India than any other video streaming service in the nation, Nachiket told TechCrunch in a recent interview. The service is available for Rs 100 ($1.4) for three months, or comes bundled with offerings from telecom providers.

Unlike most other streaming services, ALTBalaji only serves originally produced locally relevant content on its platform. It has made 45 original TV shows to date. Each year, the firm invests about 1500 million Indian rupees ($21 million) in production of original shows, Nachiket said.

The firm, which employs about 100 people, today fights with more than three dozen companies including Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and Disney-owned Hotstar. Even has Hotstar claimed to have more than 300 million users earlier this years, it has fewer than 10 million paying subscribers, people familiar with the matter have told TechCrunch.

Netflix has fewer than 3 million subscribers in India, according to industry estimates. It recently launched a mobile-only plan in the country that is aggressively priced. A person familiar with the matter told TechCrunch that the new price tier has attracted a significant number of new subscribers to Netflix.



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