All posts in “Europe”

Algolia adds search analytics so that you can optimize your search results

Algolia had made a tiny acquisition to complement its product offering. The company is acquiring the technology behind SeaUrchin.IO — the team of two behind this product is not joining Algolia.

For those not familiar with Algolia, the startup has developed an impressive search engine API. In just a few lines of codes, you can boost the search box on your site with Algolia’s search.

After that, Algolia provides instant letter-by-letter search results. It feels like you’re searching for something on your local computer using Spotlight.

Integrating Algolia into your website is one part, but you also need to feed Algolia with your search data and customize your data set.

This is where SeaUrchin.IO’s technology becomes useful. Instead of blindingly reordering your search results by setting your custom ranking rules, you get insights from Algolia’s analytics feature.

From the initial idea to the actual release, it took Algolia six months to release this feature. SeaUrchin.IO’s acquisition was just a way to kick off the work more quickly.

Now, you can tie conversion rates to queries. For instance, if you’re running an e-commerce website, you see which query has a higher chance of leading to adding a product to your cart. You can track clicks and conversion events to make small changes and optimize your search flow.

This way, you can fix problematic queries, tag your search results more appropriately to resurface interesting content or add synonyms.

Customers with higher plans can start using the new analytics product now. A lighter version of the analytics feature might come later for smaller plans.

And this is just a start as analytics opens up other opportunities. For instance, Algolia customers will be able to A/B test different relevance formulas. Eventually, you could also imagine models and recommendations based on machine learning across all Algolia customers.

Algolia currently has a bit less than 5,000 customers generating over a billion searches per day. Its clients include Under Armour, Twitch, Periscope, Medium and Stripe.

Tech Will Save Us raises $4.2M for its tech-focused range of toys, partners with Disney

Tech Will Save Us, the U.K. startup getting kids excited about technology through a range of ‘hackable’ toys, has raised $4.2 million in Series A funding led by Initial Capital. The round also includes Backed VC, SaatchInvest, All Bright, Unltd-inc, and Leaf VC, along with angel investors Chris Lee (co- founder of Media Molecule), Martin McCourt (ex CEO of Dyson) and Jonathan Howell (CTO of

The London-based startup says the new capital will be used to expand its product range — which now includes a first partnership with Disney with a Marvel Avengers themed kit inviting children to help superheroes complete secret missions — and to continue its mission to “create a brighter future for kids by encouraging them to create with, rather than be fearful of or passive to, technology”.

Founded by wife and husband duo Bethany Koby and Daniel Hirschmann, over the last four and a half years Tech Will Save Us has developed a range of digital and physical toys that combine play with STEM education to help kids get on the front foot of learning the skills they’ll need in the future. It sells its products direct online and through retailers such as Amazon, John Lewis, Best Buy and Target, and claims to have reached customers in over 97 countries.

“We were just very aware that education doesn’t move fast enough to keep up with technology and it probably never will,” Koby tells me when I ask why her and Hirschmann started the company. “The other thing that really motivated us is having a child. Going into the toy department was actually slightly depressing. It didn’t really feel like there was any motivation around empowering kids with technology that was future-facing, that was about the way the world is unfolding, and in a way that is really creative and fun. It just felt like tech shoved inside of plastic”.

In contrast, the Tech Will Save Us product range is anything but. Covering multiple price points and age groups, the ‘kits’ span electronic dough products, wearables where kids have to program their own games and activities that respond to movement, all the way to gaming devices where kids build their own game consoles and invent and program their own video games. For the first few years of the company’s existence, you would have been hard pressed to find anything quite like it on toy store shelves.

“We’re creating a category, ultimately,” says Koby. “And I think creating a category, in addition to scaling and growing a business — with people, with culture, with all of the beautiful and complicated things that businesses possess — is a challenge, right. Building a category is not the same as just entering a category, and when we started, this category didn’t even exist”.

Fast-forward to today and Tech Will Save Us is benefiting from an aligning of the macro stars, with Koby noting that governments in Europe and the U.S. are pushing STEM education and computer science, and that Target now has a STEM buyer, and Walmart has a STEM section. “The challenge has been riding these macro trends and really building the category, while simultaneously building a product business,” she says.

Reaching kids also means securing buy-in from parents, which has its own challenges from a marketing but also product perspective. “Parents are really fearful of tech. They don’t understand it, they want their kids to be a part of it, they want their kids to understand it, but they themselves are fearful of it,” says Koby. To mitigate this, it was important to design products that ensure parents “are on are that journey too” and can support their kids being creators of technology.

To that end, the tie-in with Disney, in addition to today’s Series A round, feels like a major milestone for the startup. Koby says it came about after someone from Disney bought one of the startup’s products at John Lewis and contacted the company to say they were really excited about the area of STEM. This led to Tech Will Save Us meeting lots of interesting people within Disney and developing a multi-year, multi-product pipeline, launching with Marvel Avengers.

“We’ve not just taken characters and slapped them on a product, we’ve created new experiences,” explains Koby. “Our product is the first for kids to go on secret missions with the Avengers, and solve these secret missions by learning about electronics… with the Incredible Hulk, Captain America, Iron Man, using electronic dough and electronics as part of their problem solving tools to solve these missions”.

Like all of the Tech Will Save Us products, the experience mixes digital and physical, and Koby says there is the capacity to add new missions with different superheroes and different characters from the Avengers, as well as superheroes and missions that kids create.

“I’ve always believed that there is a partnership strategy in our business. We are a play experience business, we’re not a character business, and the beauty of having partnerships like Avengers and Disney is that our goal is to reach as many kids as possible and to help them see that they have the capacity to be creators of technology. But the way we do that is not by necessarily convincing them, it’s by meeting them where they’re at. Leveraging the things that kids already love and using those things to create new experiences and tell stories”.

Tandem acquires money management app Pariti

Tandem, the U.K. challenger bank co-founded by fintech veteran Ricky Knox, continues to be on a shopping spree. Following the purchase of Harrods Bank, the banking arm of the famous luxury British department store, the company is acquiring Pariti, a money management app that has garnered 95,000 users.

Terms of the deal remain undisclosed, although I’m told that Pariti CEO Matthew Ford and CTO Peter Townsend are joining Tandem. They’ll be brining their account aggregation expertise to the Tandem app team, so in that sense there’s more than a whiff of acqui-hire to this acquisition. Pariti’s investors include Index Ventures, and JamJar Investments.

Founded in 2014 by Ford, who was previously head of acquisitions for OnTrees, a personal finance app that exited to MoneySuperMarket, Pariti was billed as a mobile app that plugged into your existing bank accounts to help you keep an eye on your spending.

This included tracking how much you are paying out servicing existing debt, such as overdrafts or credit cards, and suggesting changes you could make to pay off that debt more quickly. In a bid to offer fairer rates of credit, Pariti also had integrations with lending fintechs Zopa and Lendable.

However, in a call this morning, Ford explained that Pariti had always intended on developing additional smart financial products of its own, not simply partnering with best-in-class third party providers, in order to help consumers save and avoid paying too much for their debt.

The thinking goes that a financial control centre powered by account aggregation provides access to a lot of valuable data, and that some of that value can be captured and returned to customers in the form of more bespoke and innovative products that better match their lifestyle, spending habits and credit profile. But to do this is in the most meaningful and ambitious way, you need to have greater control over the design and delivery of those products.

In other words, depending on product category, third-party integration (or, dare I say, marketplace banking) can only get you so far. And that’s where Tandem’s acquisition of Pariti comes into focus.

The challenger bank has a full banking license (meaning that it can do balance sheet lending), offers its own account aggregation app, and recently launched its first bespoke financial product in the form of a travel-friendly and generous cash-back credit card.

Although coming from two different regulatory angles — Pariti didn’t have a banking license and Ford once told me he had no intention of doing balance sheet lending — the two companies were on a similar mission, so the acquisition genuinely looks like a good fit.

It’s also fun to see the Pariti duo join forces with a bonafide challenger bank. The startup had partnered with HSBC to power the incumbent bank’s ‘SmartSave’ app, which helped customers to automatically save their spare change into their HSBC savings account. However, despite a reportedly successful trial of the app, the partnership with HSBC didn’t proceed any further.

Artland closes $1M seed for its social art marketplace

Danish startup Artland has closed $1M in seed funding for a social art marketplace app that aims to connect galleries and professional buyers. It’s also hoping to attract newcomers with an appetite to buy art but who don’t necessarily know how to go about learning about the market.

We covered the startup last fall. At the time the founders told us it had raised a small undisclosed amount of seed funding. It now says that earlier raise was rather a friends, family and fools round; this is the first official seed funding.

Investors backing Artland for this seed include professional handball player, Mikkel Hansen; Olympic dressage champion Andreas Helgstrand; musician and songwriter Shaka Loveless; and Airhelp founders, Nicolas Michaelsen and Poul Oddershede.

The new funding will be used to accelerate growth of the 2016 founded startup — focusing on product refinements and adding resources for scaling operations so it can onboard more of its main target users: Collectors and galleries.

At this point it says the Android and iOS apps have 18,000 registered users. It also has 75 gallery partners across the world.

The business model relies on taking a subscription fee from galleries in exchange for Artland offering them a channel to reach collectors. So growing an art-buying community will be key.

Users can create profiles, upload photos of their collections and connect with other art lovers and — hopefully also, from the galleries’ point of view — make a purchase or two. Artists can also use the app to showcase their work but all sales are conducted via the gallery users.

Artland names Charles Riva, Victor Benady and Rolando Jimenez as being among the collector users of its app at this stage, while gallery partners include Nils Stærk, Lyles & King and Seventeen.

Supernova promises to automatically convert Sketch mobile app designs into native UI code

Supernova, a startup operating out of Prague in the Czech Republic, is on a mission to accelerate the app development workflow of mobile designers and developers. More than three years in the making — and the brainchild of co-founder Jiří Třečák — the Supernova Studio macOS app promises to automatically convert mobile app designs created in Sketch, a popular vector design tool, into native UI code, thus bridging the gap between prototyping and design, and front-end development.

Třečák says Supernova points to a burgeoning trend where automation is being employed in code generation in order to address the increasing demand for new software and apps, coupled with a worldwide shortage of developers. He also admits the idea and early versions of Supernova was born out of his own frustration as a mobile app developer that saw every new project employ a lot of repetition.

“I want to free up developers to spend more time on the interesting stuff,” he tells me before launching into an impressive demo of Supernova Studio.

Presuming your Sketch project is relatively well organised, Supernova Studio takes your designs and converts them into native and production components such as buttons, labels, images, tables and more. However, it is Studio’s employment of what Třečák describes as “highly advanced heuristics and analytics” (he is far too straightforward to call it AI) that enables the automatic export of assets, localizations, animations, code and more, without a developer. This potentially saves a ton of work, while the Supernova founder is particularly proud of the quality of code and project organisation that Supernova spits out.

“Supernova empowers designers and developers to bring designs to life,” he says. “Today, the designer prepares an app design, hands it off to the developer who manually codes each screen. This is where the back and forth starts such as colors, responsive layouts, buttons, animations and all the tedious work which goes into front end development. In some cases, this process can take weeks or months”.

In contrast, Supernova Studio attempts to automate this transition, allowing the developer or designer to choose which components correspond to their respective design elements, before creating the code, resources and everything required for front end app development. “Studio can save up to 50 percent of dev time on every app built,” claims Třečák.

And he should know. Prior to Supernova’s recent funding round, which saw the nascent startup pick up $500,000 led by Credo Ventures (disclaimer: the VC firm that backed by defunct startup), Třečák and his company was bootstrapped for several years, relying on revenue brought in by developing mobile apps for clients, with the help of early versions of Supernova, of course.

What Supernova isn’t is a full app or website creation tool that negates the need for developers entirely, products that often have a poor reputation within the development community for their cookie cutter approach and low-quality and bloated code. In contrast, the front end code and assets that Supernova generates is designed to be handed off to a developer to write the required logic and ‘wire up’ the app to backend code and databases, but with one repetitive and laborious step less than the current designer/developer workflow.

“We’ve automated the layout, resources, localizations, animations and pretty much everything UI-wise so the user just chooses which platform (either iOS, Android or React Native) and clicks export. At that point, the production code is ready,” adds Třečák.

Alongside Supernova Studio is Supernova Cloud, a collaboration platform where designers and developers can gather feedback directly from their teams or clients, make design adjustments and repeat the process until they are satisfied. “Contrary to other collaboration solutions, Supernova Cloud allows users to review real, working apps which are ready to be immediately converted to code, without compromise,” explains Třečák.

Supernova Cloud is free enabling you to collaborate, comment and share app designs. Supernova Studio is available for a monthly or yearly subscription starting at $39/month or $396/year.

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