All posts in “Startups”

Coup launches new electric scooter service in Paris and faces off with Cityscoot


Coup is launching its second city for its electronic scooter-sharing service. You can now find hundreds of Coup scooters in Paris. The company is going to compete with Cityscoot, a similar service that has been around for a while.

While the city’s bike-sharing service has been around for a decade in Paris, scooter-sharing is something new. Coup has acquired around 600 electronic scooters from Gogoro to expand beyond Berlin. Anybody with a driver’s license can now sign up.

When you open the Coup app, you see a map with available scooters around you. You can then book and walk toward your scooter to unlock it using your smartphone. There’s a helmet in the storage space under the seat. After putting the helmet on, you’re good to go.

When you’re done, you don’t have to look for a dedicated parking space for Coup scooters. You can just park your scooter with other regular scooters and lock it for the next user.

Coup can keep an eye on the fleet of scooters as they’re all connected. When the battery level is low, the company can swap the battery for a brand new one. Coup costs €4 for the first 30 minutes and then €1 every ten minutes.

Cityscoot works more or less the same way but costs €0.20 per minute of usage if you buy a pre-paid package. It’s a different pricing strategy. Cityscoot currently has more scooters as well.

But these two services feel somewhat similar. You hunt around your neighborhood to find a scooter, you ride around the city on a silent, electric scooter and then you park it wherever you want when you’re done.

Maybe there’s enough room for two companies on this market. Uber and Chauffeur-Privé seem to be both doing well in Paris for instance. It’s always better to have more options to move around your city, so people living in Paris now have yet another transportation system.

Ripcord’s $40 million Series B will pay for more file digitizing robots and human jobs


Bay Area startup Ripcord just scored a $40 million Series B, following its successful launch earlier this year. By all accounts, the company has apparently hit the ground running with its decidedly unsexy goal of using robots to digitize paper records for large corporations and organizations.

According to CEO Alex Fielding, Ripcord already has a number of Fortune 100 companies on board, along with recent deals struck with UCLA and construction giant, Bechtel. The startup is working to distinguish itself with an end-to-end solution that includes, among other things, the aforementioned paper digitizing robots and Canopy, its consumer-facing cloud-based software, designed to actually access those records once digitized.

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“I think Ripcord is really finding our stride now as the only company is the space that’s really focused on end to end,” Fielding tells TechCrunch. “We build our own hardware and we have our own people operating our machines. It’s our own software, and we’re using AI and ML. I think it’s become really refreshing to clients who are used to paying five separate bills to manage their records.”

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The latest Icon Ventures-led round follows a $9.5 million Series A back in March, which also served as a sort of public-facing launch party for the company. The investors this time out are about half-new, and Icon General Partner Jeb Miller will also be joining the company’s board as part of the deal.

Fielding says the money will go toward the development of new robots and staff expansion. Ripcord’s current 50-person staff is expected to increase by more than 100 by the end of 2018, many of whom will be located in the company’s new Hayward, California-based production facility. The company is also exploring new markets and Fielding tells me that it’s looking to potentially license its proprietary robots to third-parties as part of the company’s future growth.

Codacy, a platform that helps developers check the quality of their code, raises $5.1M


Codacy, a startup based in Lisbon, Portugal that offers what it calls an “automated code review platform,” has raised $5.1 million in Series A funding. EQT Ventures led the round, with participation from existing investors Faber, Caixa Capital, Join Capital, and Seedcamp.

Launched in 2014, Codacy says it has been used by hundreds of companies, name-checking Paypal, Adobe, Qlik, Cancer Research UK, and Deliveroo as customers. The software can be installed on-premise or accessed in the cloud and is used by developers to check the quality of code, and implement code quality standards.

“Code review has become an essential part of any development workflow and developers now spend more than 20 per cent of their time reviewing code to catch bugs as early as possible and ensure quality,” says Codacy co-founder Jaime Jorge. “With Codacy, we estimate that we help developers optimise around 30 per cent of their code review time”.

This, claims Jorge, sees engineering teams be more efficient by 6 per cent. Or, put in more tangible terms, can correspond to delivering software two weeks ahead of plan.

“More than code reviews, our mission is to achieve developer productivity through quality at scale. We do this by centralizing the most meaningful problems, alerts and metrics and completely integrating them into your workflow,” he says.

“As an example, as you are creating a pull request we can tell you that we’ve found a security vulnerability as well as tell you that your test coverage is almost at your team’s defined objective. We’re continually developing our product to ensure it’s best-in-class at helping developers understand their code quality and make great engineering decisions”.

Codacy customers range from small digital consultancy shops to large multinational corporations, and span multiple industries and geographies.

Direct competitors are cited as Code Climate, and Sonarqube, but Jorge claims customers choose Codacy because of the way it is integrated into their workflow, to the point of automatically syncing with their favorite tools such as Github Enterprise. “This is particularly useful for our very large customers,” he adds.

Meanwhile, the new round of funding will be used to further build out the team to enable Codacy to expand its offering to a broader base of customers. The company currently employs 13 people and says it is hiring in the areas of software engineering, customer success, sales and marketing.

Digi.me and Personal merge to put you in control of the nascent ‘personal data ecosystem’


Digi.me and Personal, two companies that broadly play in the personal data space by offering apps to securely store and share various data about yourself, are announcing a merger. Terms of deal remain undisclosed, although I’m told that the combined entity will operate under the Digi.me brand and give the company a 60-person headcount who will operate out of a global HQ near London in the U.K. and a U.S. operation based in Washington, DC.

Personal’s enterprise solution TeamData will be spun off as a separate information security and productivity solution for businesses, while the broader and hugely ambitious vision for the resulting Digi.me remains to become a major player in what founder and Chair Julian Ranger calls the emerging ‘personal data ecosystem’.

The premise, Ranger told me during a call late last week, is that consumers are being enticed to hand over more and more personal data in return for better products and services, but what is still needed is a platform to put you in control of how and who that data is shared with. This needs to be done in a transparent way, and the resulting platform on which companies can build apps on top of should adhere to the principal of informed consent.

Better still, what if your data doesn’t unnecessarily leave your own device or personal cloud storage but can still be shared with businesses on a per use case basis? Nearly 7 years in the making, this is the promise of Digi.me and now combined with Personal.

The way Digi.me works is that the mobile or desktop app asks where in your personal cloud you want your data stored — currently that means Dropbox, with the other usual suspects supported soon — and then it asks you to connect the app to various personal data-points. Right now this means social (e.g. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram etc.), with financial and health data currently in various testing phases, including a country-wide ‘living lab’ project with Iceland.

When needed, data stored in your personal cloud is securely processed via your own temporary virtual machine instance sitting on Microsoft’s Azure cloud so that it is normalised and kept up to date, with the local Digi.me app essentially acting as the front end, gatekeeper (including the holder of the needed keys), and distributor for that data.

Then when a third-party app needs access to a particular subset of your data, say your transactions for the last 24 months to do a more accurate credit score, it authenticates via the Digi.me app — meaning that you have to explicitly agree to the specific data request — and the Digi.me app pulls the data from your personal cloud and grants the third-party app access to it.

“Companies and developers can… use Digi.me’s APIs to request access to integrated data sets to provide better data-driven experiences, services, and rewards, and to provide other benefits like rich personal analytics. Health, wearable and music data will also be available soon after the merger,” explains the new joint company.

One crucial point here, however, and what makes the Digi.me proposition different from other approaches to personal data sharing is that the platform has been designed so that in many instances a third-party app can also process the data locally, meaning that it doesn’t need to leave your device. Instead, sticking to the example of a credit score checking app, it only transmits and stores the resulting credit score on its own servers, not the personal financial data it was based on.

That, says Ranger, changes the game completely and should in time mean consumers become comfortable sharing more data in return for new kinds of products and services. “Do more, privately,” is the company’s mantra.

“It isn’t about privacy or sharing, but both privacy and sharing when the point of integration and ownership is the individual,” he says, arguing that this opens up individuals to sharing data that they don’t today such as health, finance, and more.

Likewise, and where Digi.me sees a potentially very large business (since it charges on a per access basis, capped at $3 per user), is that the platform allows any company to have what he quite convincingly argues can be better data than Google et al because it can be wider and deeper and should remain a lot more accurate.

However, for this to become a reality, Ranger concedes it needs two things: Users to find enough utility in Digi.me to download the app and connect it to an increasing number of personal data points, and businesses wanting to develop on the platform, who, in turn, want access to enough users to make it worth their while. The classic platform chicken and egg, you might say.

To address this, Ranger says the app has been designed to be useful first and foremost on an individual and private basis as a way for you to search and get better insights into your own personal data, which benefits from being stored in a single place not multiple silos.

And for businesses who might not see Digi.me as delivering enough users yet — it counts around 400,000 — it has signed a number of partnerships to have those businesses also become a distribution channel for Digi.me. The logic being that a business could offer new functionality in its own app or service that requires a customer to start using Digi.me.

Meanwhile, today’s merger is all about Digi.me having a foothold in North America. As part of that it sees Shane Green, co-founder and CEO of Personal, become CEO of Digi.me’s U.S. operation.

Digi.me and Personal have raised over $40 million combined. Investors include Omidyar Network (the self-styled “philanthropic investment firm” co-founded by eBay founder Pierre Omidya), SwissRe, Planetary Holdings, TCS Capital Management, Allen & Company, Revolution Ventures, Ted Leonsis, and Esther Dyson.

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Run to the rock


The past week has been a tough one for lovers of freedom. Slippery slopes have been slid down and a side of the human mind that once remained in shadow has reared its head. Charlottesville is just the first step down a dark road.

In real life, on the public square, our support of freedom of speech and public assembly – a freedom that has long helped hater and lover alike – is in question. Do we open our squares to men who will fight equality? Do we unlock our school grounds so that fear can reign? Do we simply close our windows on loudspeakers calling out for genocide or do we act? I don’t have an answer, but sunlight has always been the best antiseptic and seeing most of these groups on a bare parade ground lays bare their insignificance.

But what do you about the Internet where everything is shadow hiding inside corporate iron? The Internet is a utility, to a degree, but not one whose sanctity is guaranteed to us by some holy writ. We send bits over corporate networks onto servers housed in corporate basements. We shout into corporate megaphones and write screeds – like this one – into corporate editor windows.

On that skein of wires there is no sunlight. We, the creators of that world, must decide. Do we let hate live alongside love? What is conversation when everyone yells? What is fair when everyone has the loudest voice?

I was once a free-love kind of Internet zealot. I still agree that DRM is wrong, that media wants to be free and that good media will be paid for by someone. I still agree that sex is far less egregious than violence and that visions of both help define the lines of our personalities and ensure we do not wander too far into some puritan desert. I was angry, for example, when Pinterest pulled sexual content but know I know things have changed. Pinterest runs is own servers. It is responsible for the contents. It deserves final say.

And that’s where we are now. If you hate, says Wired in a recent profile of Instagram’s Kevin Systrom, you will be shut down.

“Insta­gram is supposed to be a place for self-expression and joy,” wrote Nicholas Thompson in the profile. “Who wants to express themselves, though, if they’re going to be mocked, harassed, and shamed in the comments below a post? Instagram is a bit like Disneyland—if every now and then the seven dwarfs hollered at Snow White for looking fat.”

Or who wants to star in a Ghostbusters reboot and be called racial slurs? And who wants to live in a world where /r/aww lives next to /r/poli?

We, the curators of the Internet, have to decide. Some of us already have. We see Cloudflare and GoDaddy pulling their services from white power site Daily Stormer. Cloudflare’s CEO Matthew Prince agonized over the decision. He, like most Internet users, expects the web to be free as in freedom.

“Our team has been thorough and have had thoughtful discussions for years about what the right policy was on censoring. Like a lot of people, we’ve felt angry at these hateful people for a long time but we have followed the law and remained content neutral as a network. We could not remain neutral after these claims of secret support by Cloudflare,” he wrote. “You, like me, may believe that the Daily Stormer’s site is vile. You may believe it should be restricted. You may think the authors of the site should be prosecuted. Reasonable people can and do believe all those things. But having the mechanism of content control be vigilante hackers launching DDoS attacks subverts any rational concept of justice.”

In the end this is where we must go. It’s folks like Rabbi Abe Cooper as well as Valley CEOs who will help us find a way forward. Freedom of speech in the public square is one right we all have. But there is no free speech in the walled garden if the gardener doesn’t will it.

Listen to Nina Simone. She sang an old spiritual and sang it beautifully.

“Oh, sinnerman, where you gonna run to? Where you gonna run to? All on that day,” she said. “We got to run to the rock. Please hide me, I run to the rock. All on that day. But the rock cried out. I can’t hide you, the rock cried out. I ain’t gonna hide you there.”

Haters are hiding. They run to the rock. The rock is cries out. It won’t hide them. They must stand, then, and face those they wronged. This is the way it has always been and always will be. We can’t let the Internet change that.