All posts in “Startups”

Sweatcoin lets you earn crypto for working out

Want a way to workout and earn some coin? Sweatcoin has risen to the top of the App Store for helping folks get something more than just a glow for taking those daily steps.

The startup says it has accumulated more than five million users in the past year and increased revenue by 266 percent in the last quarter. There are more than two million weekly active users on the app — and growing, making it one of the fastest growing fitness apps in the App Store and second to the top in the free apps, next only to the Google Arts & Culture app that blew up over the weekend.

It works like this: users sign up and then hook up their smartphone’s health and fitness data and GPS location to the app. The app then tracks how many steps you take in a day and rewards you a monetary “sweat” value according to your movements. For every 1,000 steps recorded, the app will pay out .95 in “sweatcoins.” Users can later trade these coins in for fitness gear, workout classes, gift cards and a number of other offerings.

The app says you can only earn these coins by walking outside so it theoretically doesn’t count if you are walking on a treadmill at the gym, though the app on my phone seems to count steps inside my apartment as well. That’s at least something.

Note: I’m in my third trimester of pregnancy so I’m not exactly going the distance (just walking up the stairs feels like I’m trying to climb Mount Everest some days). That makes it a bit hard to earn my coins — I’ve only earned .33 in sweatcoins today, for instance, so don’t feel bad if you aren’t hitting that 10,000 step stride.

Another reason you may hit a wall of motivation in the app — the free version limits you in how many coins you can earn a day to just five. However, you can earn more if you are willing to fork over some of those sweatcoins per month to get you in the upper tiers and make some real sweaty moola towards that coveted Fitbit or whatever fitness gear you’ve got your eye on.

The startup has now raised it’s own coin to the tune of $5.7 million in seed from investors such as Goodwater Capital, which led the round. Greylock also participated through its Discovery Fund, as did Rubylight, Seedcamp, SmartHub and a number of angels including Justin Kan and Rain Lohmus.

Sweatcoin founders say they plan to use the funding to now push beyond the U.S. and U.K. markets to other English-speaking countries, then on to continental Europe and Asia next.

Co-founder Anton Derlyatka also told TechCrunch he’d like to “even include the ability to pay taxes with sweatcoin” in the future. Other co-founder Oleg Fomenko also mentioned plans to develop an “open-source blockchain DLT technology that will allow Sweatcoin to be traded like any other major crypto- or fiat currency.”

“We are out to fundamentally change the value ascribed to health and fitness and provide the motivation for people to lead better lives,” Fomenko said.

Those interested in checking out the app can download it on either iOS or on Google Play and start earning their sweat equity today.

Revolut launches geolocation-powered travel insurance

Fintech startup Revolut is launching international medical and dental insurance. You can subscribe using the company’s app for £1 per day or more depending on the options.

But the best part is that you can set it up and forget about it as Revolut uses your device’s location data to automatically turn insurance coverage on and off.

By default, insurance coverage costs £1 per day for medical and dental insurance. You can add an option for winter sports and you can also cover your friends and family.

But if you’re always on the road and tend to spend weeks or even months abroad, Revolut is going to cap its travel insurance after a certain amount of time. You can also pay a fixed upfront price for an annual policy.

Revolut isn’t becoming an insurance company. Just like with its mobile device insurance product, the startup is working with third-party insurance companies. This time, Thomas Cook Money is in charge of the travel insurance product. It’s also worth noting that Revolut Premium includes travel insurance.

It’s still unclear if Revolut is going to regularly request your location when the app is in the background or if Revolut is just going to get your location when you open the app.

Revolut is slowly building an insurance hub to control all your insurance needs from the company’s app. And this is smart as Revolut just has to take a bit of money from your Revolut balance. It feels like you’re not spending any money because you don’t need to enter your card number.

The startup has been releasing new features at an impressive pace. The service is now much more than a simple prepaid MasterCard with a foreign exchange feature. You can now trade cryptocurrencies in the Revolut app, receive money on your own IBAN, ask for a credit line and more. It’s becoming a serious banking alternative.

Curve, the fintech that connects all your cards to a single card and app, gets full consumer launch

Curve, the London fintech startup that offers a platform that lets you consolidate all your bank cards into a single Curve card and app to make it easier to manage your spending, is finally launching to U.K. consumers. Up until now, the service remained in beta and was only officially available to business users.

In a call with Curve founder and CEO Shachar Bialick, he described the consumer launch as a major milestone for the company, noting that 50,000 people have signed up to its waitlist, in addition to the 100,000 or so users who joined Curve in its beta phase. Users on the waiting list will begin being activated as of today, with the usual viral loop built in that means if you invite a friend, you can skip the queue. It’s free to join, although a premium version of the Curve card is also available for £50 that offers additional perks.

A quick reminder of the Curve proposition: Like a plethora of fintech startups, Curve is building an app that essentially turns your mobile phone into a financial control center to help you manage “all things money.”

But rather than building, say, a new current account or a personal financial manager that scrapes data from your existing bank accounts — as is the case with the challenger banks such as Monzo and Starling, or chatbots Cleo and Plum, respectively — the startup’s “attack vector” (as Monzo’s Tom Blomfield calls each fintech’s entrance point) is a card and app that lets you connect all your other debit and credit cards so you only ever have to carry a single card.

Once you’ve added your cards to Curve, you use the Curve app to switch which underlying debit or credit cards you wish the Curve MasterCard to spend from, and track and see a single and consolidated view of your spending regardless of which card was charged.

Additional functionality includes being able to lock your Curve card at a touch of a button, instant spend notifications, cheaper FX fees than your bank typically charges when spending abroad or in a foreign currency and the ability to switch payment sources retroactively.

The latter is dubbed “Go Back in Time” and means if you make a purchase via Curve that gets charged to a card other than you intended, you have two weeks to change your mind (see our coverage on the feature to see why this is clever and useful).

More broadly, Bialick says Curve’s consumer launch represents a further step toward the startup’s vision for fintech convergence. The bet that the Curve founder made when he started the company in 2015 was that whenever there’s disruption — in this case, following technological and regulatory changes, a plethora of new fintech companies are unbundling various parts of the banking sector — this inevitably leads to fragmentation. What then eventually follows is convergence. Curve, like other fintechs, is seeking to fill that void with a platform that re-bundles various financial products but in a way that puts the consumer in control.

We can already see evidence of how this is playing out with Curve’s single view of your spending and the way the platform is entirely agnostic to where your money is stored. Bialick is pretty fond of saying that banks do a good job of looking after your money (just as well, as Santander Ventures is a recent backer — more on that below) and that nobody needs to become a bank in order to provide a financial control center and nobody needs to switch banks to access one.

He also believes that by offering a Curve MasterCard (a standard that is pretty much accepted everywhere and supports contactless, chip and PIN, magstripe and ATM withdrawals) that re-routes all of your spending through Curve, it has other advantages over being asked to switch banks. That’s because, argues Bialick, a sprawling fintech and financial services landscape means that we have more bank accounts and cards than ever, and while account aggregation isn’t new or unique (indeed, HSBC’s new Beta banking app lets you pull in transaction data from external bank accounts), on its own it doesn’t solve fragmentation at the point of payment.

For example, I have two current accounts with incumbent banks, a credit card, and more recently TransferWise’s multi-currency account and debit card. Three of those are already plugged into my Curve card and there is nothing stopping me from adding the likes of Revolut, Monzo, Starling or Tandem’s credit card, too. (Noteworthy, both TransferWise founder Taavet Hinrikus and Tandem founder Ricky Knox have invested in Curve).

Bialick also tells me that Curve, like just about every other fintech, plans to take advantage of Open Banking/PSD2, recent legislation in the U.K./Europe that makes it a requirement for banks to let third-party apps access a customer’s transaction data and make payments on their behalf (with permission, of course). Once this is added, probably much later in the year, Curve will be able to track all your spending, not just card transactions, giving it a much fuller picture of your financial life.

The plan then is to put that spending data to better use on your behalf through the Curve Connect platform, a kind of curated app store for financial and other related products. The idea is that Curve will connect to the best financial services, including fintechs, but also from major banks, to help you get more from your money.

It’s similar, in varying degrees, to the vision of Starling’s marketplace banking, Monzo’s upcoming curated partnerships or N26’s growing number of integrations. Then there are a long list of Personal Finance Manager apps, chatbots or even fintech startups like Bud, which is helping incumbent banks offer their own fintech marketplaces powered by your transaction data. And that’s before the likes of Amazon, Google, Apple or Facebook make their first move into Open Banking, something that the banks fear as much as any fintech.

To that end, Bialick says that, although being able to see all of your spending in a single place, many people actually find viewing their transactions and balance quite stressful. What they really want are better tools that put them in control and help with the management of their money, meaning that they need to worry about their finances less.

Meanwhile, I’m hearing that Curve is working on a partnership with multinational bank Santander (which, as noted, is a backer of Curve through Santander Ventures). This, if my sources are correct, will see a co-branded version of Curve offered to Santander customers within a couple of the regions it operates. I also understand the startup is gearing up for further fundraising in the form of a sizeable Series B later this year.

DigitalOcean gives you more RAM and storage for the same price

Cloud hosting company DigitalOcean is launching some new price offerings today. In particular, the company is also upgrading its basic $5 droplet instances with better specs for the first time in years.

Five years ago, DigitalOcean offered something quite revolutionary. Before today, you could pay $5 per month and get a server with 20GB of SSD storage, 512MB of RAM and 1 CPU core. But virtual Linux servers have become a crowded space with plenty of competitors popping up and adjusting their prices.

On Linode, you can pay $5 per month to get 1GB of RAM, 20GB of SSD storage and 1 CPU core. On Scaleway, you can pay $3.65 (€2.99) for 2GB of RAM, 50GB of SSD storage and 2 CPU cores. You get the idea, DigitalOcean is overhauling its lineup to remain competitive.

For $5 per month, you now get 1GB of RAM and 25GB of SSD storage, while CPU performance remains the same. All standard droplets now get twice as much RAM for the same price and more storage in general. The higher you pay, the more storage you get.

Starting at $40, you get more CPU virtual cores for the same price except on the $160/month model. There are two new expensive droplets, including a new top-of-the-line one. For $960 per month, you get 192GB of RAM, 32 cores and 3840GB of storage.

Interestingly, there are now more options for $15 per month. You can get 3GB of RAM with 1 core, 2GB of RAM with 2 cores, or 1GB of RAM with 3 cores. Finally, optimized droplets get 33 percent more RAM and also a storage upgrade. DigitalOcean has a new pricing page with more details.

The company also says that per-second billing is coming soon. Amazon Web Services and Google Compute Engine already offer per-second billing.

As always, you can go to your administration panel on DigitalOcean and switch to another droplet model. That flexibility has been a key feature behind DigitalOcean’s success. So if you’re a DigitalOcean customer, it’s time to take advantage of those pricing changes.

Standard and flexible droplets

Optimized droplets

Forest raises $3.7 million for its administration interface to rule them all

French startup Forest just raised a $3.7 million seed round (€3 million) from Connect Ventures and Xavier Niel, with Taavet Hinrikus also participating. Pietro Bezza and Jean de La Rochebrochard are joining the board of the company. The startup first started in the eFounders startup studio.

I already wrote about the startup back in May. The vision hasn’t changed at all. Forest still wants to build the backbone of your company by creating hooks with all the web services you use. This way, you get a single dashboard to track your data, manipulate your data and handle basic actions.

For instance, you can plug Forest with Stripe, Intercom, and Mixpanel. You can also create custom integrations and build dashboards with your company’s most important metrics. You can also dive into your data and search, save specific searches, segment your user base, get charts and more. It’s an easy way to get insights on your startup.

But Forest doesn’t want you to just look at data — you can look at Intercom messages and issue a refund on Stripe without ever leaving Forest for instance. It’s going to save you a ton of time when it comes to handling repetitive tasks with multiple services.

Forest is also a good way to manage administration rights across the board. Instead of granting access to five different services, you can add them to Forest. You can also restrict some features if your intern doesn’t need to see all past transactions.

Using Forest doesn’t mean that you have to give the startup all your data. Forest requests are all issued from your client to your application database. Nothing goes through Forest’s servers.

So far, the startup has attracted over 350 clients. Basic features are free, and you can also pay to get more features, such as permissions, smart views custom integrations and more.

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