All posts in “France Newsletter”

Whyd now helps companies create their custom voice assistant

Y Combinator-backed startup Whyd is pivoting from hardware to software. The startup had been working on a connected speaker with a voice-control interface specifically designed for music. But a couple of years later, it’s clear that subsidized voice assistant devices from Google and Amazon have taken over the market.

Whyd is only keeping its own software platform and partnering with other companies. In other words, if you’re working on an app, a website or a skill for the Amazon Echo or Google Home, you can create your own voice assistant to interact with your content.

This way, your users get the same experience across all platforms and you don’t have to rely on Amazon’s or Google’s services.

“We let you integrate with a database of millions of items, create a custom agent and release it,” Whyd co-founder and CEO Gilles Poupardin told me. You can think about it as a sort of Algolia for voice queries. Instead of limiting yourself to basic queries (“play my favorite playlist”), you can handle complicated queries (“I want to dance on electronic music”).

In particular, Whyd focuses on the cloud infrastructure behind your voice assistant. The company doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel and lets you use any speech-to-text SDK. But Whyd can then interpret your query and give you results in little time.

The startup has already worked with 8tracks on its voice assistant. You can now search for music playlists in the mobile app using a voice assistant now. Whyd has developed different models for other verticals. You can imagine a voice assistant for video on demand, e-commerce and other services.

This is what happens between your database and your front end when users interact with their voice:

Doctolib details how telemedicine appointments work

French startup Doctolib announced back in September that it would open up telemedicine appointments on its platform in 2019. The company is taking advantage of recent legal changes that finally make telemedicine legal in France.

Doctolib is a marketplace matching patients with health practitioners — 70,000 practitioners and 1,400 medical institutions use it in France and Germany. Each health professional pays €109 per month to access the service ($124).

By replacing your calendar with Doctolib, you save a ton of time. You no longer have to pick up the phone constantly and say when you’re available and not available. Everything stays in sync between the public website and your calendar.

And now, all practitioners can go beyond face-to-face appointments. If they start accepting telemedicine appointments, patients will be able to book a remote appointment. The company has been testing the new service with 500 practitioners.

After configuring the service, patients can start a video chat when it’s time to talk with their doctor. Once the call is done, patients pay on Doctolib’s website. They can then access prescriptions in their user accounts.

Doctolib won’t take a cut on each transaction. The startup is selling this services as an add-on instead. Practitioners can choose to pay €79 per month ($90) on top of their standard Doctolib plan to start accepting remote appointments.

This is a great way to boost the company’s bottom line and also a seamless experience for everyone involved. Practitioners can accept video calls from Doctolib’s interface and patients don’t have to use another service.

Those appointments comply with France’s national healthcare system. Patients get reimbursed just like a normal appointment. But there are some legal restrictions.

In particular, you can’t book a remote appointment and get reimbursed if the doctor doesn’t know you already. So Doctolib only lets you book remote appointments with practitioners you’ve physically seen over the last 12 months. But that feature could still be particularly useful to renew your prescription and other minor medical stuff.

Freelancer banking service Shine switches to paid subscriptions

French startup Shine wants to be the only professional bank account you need if you’re a freelancer. So far, 25,000 people signed up to the service and the company recently raised a $9.3 million funding round.

Shine wants to help freelancers in France all steps of the way. After signing up, the app helps you fill out all the paperwork to create your freelancer status. You then get a card and banking information.

This way, you can generate invoices, accept payments and also pay for stuff. Creating an account and basic transactions have been free so far. But starting on January 21st, freelancers will have to pay €4.90 to €7.90 per month depending on their status.

Freelancers who generate less than €70,000 (so-called “auto-entrepreneurs”) will pay €4.90 per month while others will pay more. This is still cheaper than most professional bank accounts. Existing users won’t have to pay anything.

The company mentioned premium plans in the past, but Shine now wants to create a single plan with a unified feature set for everyone. If you’re more serious about your indie lifestyle and generate a lot of revenue, you’ll pay a bit more.

In addition to that change, the startup is working on some new features. Soon, you’ll be able to generate better exports for accounting purposes. You’ll be able to deposit checks, control your account from a web browser, generate better invoices and more.

But Shine doesn’t just want to build an endless list of bullet points with as many features as possible. The company wants to create the best banking assistant for freelancers. You get notifications for admin tasks and you can ask the support team any question you have when it comes to the administrative part of your work.

It’s not just customer support for the product — it’s customer support for French paperwork. And that has some value by itself.

Ledger announces next-generation cryptocurrency hardware wallet

French startup Ledger unveiled its new hardware wallet to manage your cryptocurrencies. The Ledger Nano X is a Bluetooth-enabled wallet, which means that you’ll be able to send and receive tokens from your phone.

The previous version of the device required you to plug the key to your computer using a microUSB cable in order to execute an order. Switching to Bluetooth and opening it up to smartphones is the next logical step.

Ledger is going to launch a full-fledged mobile app called Ledger Live. You’ll find the same features as the ones in the desktop app. You’ll be able to install new apps, check your balances and manage transactions.

The app will be available on January 28th and existing Ledger users will be able to check their balances in read-only mode thanks to public addresses (in case you’re not using Spot). Ledger has sold 1.5 million Ledger Nano S so far. And it sounds like other companies will be able to build mobile apps that work with your Nano X.

The Nano X looks more or less like the Nano S. It’s a USB key-shaped device with a screen and a couple of buttons. The screen is now slightly bigger.

One of the main issues with the Nano S is that you were limited to 18 different cryptocurrencies. You can now store up to 100 different crypto assets on the Nano X — the device supports 1,100 different tokens overall.

Just like other Ledger devices, the private keys never leave your Ledger wallet. It means that even if your computer or mobile phone get hacked, hackers won’t be able to grab your crypto assets.

The company is presenting the new device at CES, I’ll try to play with it to see how it works when it comes to pairing, battery life, etc.

Netatmo announces HomeKit doorbell that doesn’t require a subscription

Netatmo is announcing its first new product following its acquisition by Legrand — and it’s a connected doorbell. The company says that it is the first Apple HomeKit compatible doorbell but other companies could still beat Netatmo by releasing their product sooner.

If you’ve been thinking about getting a connected doorbell, the main issue is that Ring, August and other brands require a subscription to store video footage and more advanced feature. Netatmo doesn’t want to get in the subscription business and lets you access all features without a subscription.

The doorbell is called the Netatmo Smart Video Doorbell — a very descriptive name that is going to work well in search engines. It requires a standard doorbell wire and connects to your Wi-Fi network. When somebody presses the button, you receive a notification on your phone and can view the video feed. You can press a button and talk to the person if you’re not home.

It also acts as an outdoor security camera by alerting you if somebody is in front of your house. You receive a “person detected” notification and can talk to the intruder. It also works in the dark using infrared. In other words, it can replace your Netatmo Presence security camera.

Video footage is stored on a microSD card on the device. The company never stores video on its servers, which is a big advantage if you care about privacy. You can optionally configure the device to automatically upload videos to your Dropbox account or a standard FTP server.

The doorbell is compatible with IFTTT and HomeKit. This way, you can view your camera from the Home app on your iPhone or Mac and you can create chained events. For instance, you can turn on your Philips Hue lights if somebody is detected outside your home.

The device will be available at some point during the second half of 2019. Pricing hasn’t been announced yet.