All posts in “Startups”

ContractPodAi scores $55M for its ‘AI-powered’ contract management software

ContractPodAi, a London-based startup that has developed what it describes as AI-powered contract lifecycle management software, is disclosing $55 million in Series B funding. The round is led by U.S.-based Insight Partners, with participation from earlier backer Eagle Investment.

Founded in 2012, ContractPodAi offers an “end-to-end” solution spanning the three main aspects of contract management: contract generation, contract repository, and third-party review. Its AI offering, which uses IBM’s Watson, claims to streamline the contract management process and reduce the burden on corporate in-house legal teams.

“The legal profession has been historically behind the curve in technology adoption and our objective here is to support to digital transformation of legal departments via our contract management platform,” ContractPodAi co-founder and CEO Sarvarth Misra tells TechCrunch.

“Our business focusses on providing in-house counsel of corporations across the world with an easy to use, out of the box and scalable end to end contract management platform at a fixed fee SaaS licence model”.

With regards to ContractPodAi’s target customer, Misra says its solution is industry agnostic but is typically sold to large international businesses, including FTSE 500 and Fortune 2000 corporations. Customers include Bosch Siemens, Braskem, EDF Energy, Total Petroleum, Benjamin Moore and Freeview.

Armed with new capital, ContractPodAi says it plans to “significantly” scale up its product development, sales, and customer success teams globally. The company already has offices in San Francisco, New York, Glasgow and Mumbai, in addition to its London HQ.

Adds Misra: “We believe that market for contract management solutions is fragmented with providers focussing one or two aspects of contract management functionality. ContractPodAi’s objective has been to provide one contract management ecosystem which covers all aspects of contract management functionality… This, along with our fixed, transparent pricing and ability to provide full implementation as part of the annual SaaS, differentiates us the from the rest of the providers”.

Elon Musk’s Neuralink looks to begin outfitting human brains with faster input and output starting next year

Neuralink, the Elon Musk-led startup that the multi-entrepreneur founded in 2017, is working on technology that’s based around ‘threads’ which it says can be implanted in human brains with much less potential impact to the surrounding brain tissue vs. what’s currently used for today’s brain-computer interfaces. “Most people don’t realize, we can solve that with a chip,” Musk said to kick off Neuralink’s event, talking about some of the brain disorders and issues the company hopes to solve.

Musk also said that long-term Neuralink really is about figuring out a way to “achieve a sort of symbiosis with artificial intelligence.” “This is not a mandatory thing,” he added. “This is something you can choose to have if you want.”

For now, however, the aim is medical and the plan is to use a robot that Neuralink has created that operates somewhat like a “sewing machine” to implant this threads, which are incredibly thin I(like, between 4 and 6 μm, which means about one-third the diameter of the thinnest human hair), deep within a person’s brain tissue, where it will be capable of performing both read and write operations at very high data volume.

All of this sounds incredibly far-fetched, and to some extent it still is: Neuralink’s scientists told The New York Times in a briefing on Monday that the company has a “long way to go” before it can get anywhere near offering a commercial service. The main reason for breaking cover and talking more freely about what they’re working on, the paper reported, is that they’ll be better able to work out in the open and publish papers, which is definitely an easier mode of operation for something that requires as much connection with the academic and research community as this.

Neuralink1

Neuralink co-founder and president Max Hodak told the NYT that he’s optimistic Neuralink’s tech could theoretically see use somewhat soon in medical use, including potential applications enabling amputees to regain mobility via use of prosthetics and reversing vision, hearing or other sensory deficiencies. It’s hoping to actually begin working with human test subjects as early as next year, in fact, including via possible collaboration with neurosurgeons at Stanford and other institutions.

The current incarnation of Neuralink’s tech would involve drilling actual holes into a subject’s skull in order to insert the ultra thin threads, but future iterations will shift to using lasers instead to create tiny holes that are much less invasive and essentially not felt by a patient, Hodak told the paper. Working on humans next year with something that meets this description for a relatively new company might seem improbable, but Neuralink did demonstrate its technology used on a laboratory rat this week, with performance levels that exceed today’s systems in terms of data transfer. The data from the rat was gathered via a USB-C port in its head, and it provided about 10x more what the best current sensors can offer, according to Bloomberg.

Neurlalink’s advances vs. current BCI methods also include the combined thinness and flexibility of the ‘threads’ used, but one scientist wondered about their longevity when exposed to the brain, which contains a salt mix fluid that can damage and ultimately degrade plastics over time.

Elon Musk is bankrolling the majority of this endeavour as well as acting as its CEO, with $100 million of the $158 million its raised so far coming from the SpaceX and Tesla CEO. It has 90 employees thus far, and still seems to be hiring aggressively based on its minimal website (which basically only contains job ads). Elon Musk also noted at the outset of today’s presentation that the main reason for the event was in fact to recruit new talent.

CES will allow sex tech on a one-year trial bias, and finally bans booth babes

The Consumer Technology Association, the organization behind the annual Consumer Electronics Show, is slowly getting up to speed with the modern-day. Today, CTA announced it will allow sex tech startups to participate and compete for awards as part of the health and wellness category on a one-year trial basis.

This comes after the CTA royally messed up with sex tech company Lora DiCarlo last year. The CTA revoked an innovation award from the company, which is developing a hands-free device that uses biomimicry and robotics to help women achieve a blended orgasm by simultaneously stimulating the G-spot and the clitoris. In May, CTA re-awarded the company and apologized.

“CTA is committed to evolving and continuing to create an experience at CES that is inclusive and welcoming for everyone,” CES EVP Karen Chupka said in a statement. “We worked with a number of external advisors and partners to update and improve our existing CES policies.”

Additionally, CTA has banned booth babes, or, booth people, as it’s applicable to everyone, regardless of gender.

“Booth personnel may not wear clothing that is sexually revealing or that could be interpreted as undergarments,” the new policy states. “Clothing that reveals an excess of bare skin, or body-conforming clothing that hugs genitalia must not be worn.”

Final ticket release to the 14th Annual TechCrunch Summer Party

One of Silicon Valley’s most fun and enduring traditions — the 14th Annual TechCrunch Summer Party — takes place on July 25. If you don’t have a ticket yet, know this: We just released the last batch of tickets. Once they’re gone, that’s it. No party for you. Don’t miss out on a night of fun and opportunity — buy your ticket today.

The Park Chalet, San Francisco’s coastal beer garden, provides a picturesque setting (ocean views anyone?) for a casual evening celebrating the early-startup spirit. Hang out and enjoy local craft beer, cocktails, delicious food and great conversation with other fearless tech entrepreneurs.

TechCrunch parties provide a relaxed way to connect and network, and they’re known as a place where startup magic happens. Who knows? You might meet your future co-founder or funder. Aaron Levie and Dylan Smith, founders of Box, met one of their first investors at a TechCrunch party.

It shouldn’t be too difficult to chat up an investor since our lead VC partner, Merus Capital, will be in the house, along with August Capital, Battery Ventures, Cowboy Ventures, Data Collective, General Catalyst and Uncork Capital.

No TechCrunch event would be complete without exciting startups showcasing their tech and talent.

Here’s the when, where and how:

  • When: July 25 from 5:30 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.
  • Where: Park Chalet in San Francisco
  • How much: $95

As always, you have a chance to win great door prizes, including TechCrunch swag, Amazon Echos and tickets to Disrupt San Francisco 2019.

The 14th Annual TechCrunch Summer Party takes place on July 25, and this is the last ticket release. Don’t miss out on a convivial evening of food, drink, connection and possibility in the company of your entrepreneurial peers. Buy your ticket right here.


Want a free ticket to Disrupt SF?

Volunteer for the Summer Party and work with the TechCrunch team for a few hours. Sign up to volunteer here.

What seed-stage dilution tells us about changing investor expectations

A little-noticed startup financing trend has big implications for how VC firms evaluate companies raising Series A and B rounds

Round sizes are up. Valuations are up. There are more investors than ever hunting unicorns around the globe. But for all the talk about the abundance of venture funding, there is a lot less being said about what it all means for entrepreneurs raising their early funding rounds.

Take for instance Seed-stage dilution. Since 2014, enterprise-focused tech companies have given up significantly more ownership during Seed rounds. What gives?

Scale is an investor in early-in-revenue enterprise technology companies, so we wanted to better understand how this trend in Seed-stage dilution impacts companies raising Series A and Series B rounds.

Using our Scale Studio dataset of performance metrics on nearly 800 cloud and SaaS companies as well as Pitchbook fundraising records covering B2B software startups, we started connecting the dots between trends in valuations, round sizes, and winner-take-all markets.

Bottom line for founders: Don’t let all the capital in venture mislead you. There’s an important connection between higher Seed-stage dilution and increased investor expectations during Series A and Series B rounds.

These days, successful startups are growing up faster than ever.

Founders face an important trade-off decision