Many expectant mothers are told that breastfeeding will come naturally, but it is often a fraught and confusing experience, especially during the first few weeks after birth. Parents often worry about if their babies are…
India’s attempt to become the first nation to soft land a robotic spacecraft at the moon’s South Pole, an unexplored region, has ended in failure, the space agency said Saturday. Less than two miles above…
Top VCs on the changing landscape for enterprise startups TechCrunch had our debut confab for enterprise types this week at Yerba Buena Center in SF, where we heard from Aaron Levie, CEO of Box, Apple…
As someone who covers Africa’s tech scene, I’m frequently asked about Andela. That’s not surprising, given the venture gets more global press (arguably) than any startup in Africa. I’ve found many Silicon Valley investors have…
Nigerian fintech firm Interswitch has been circulating in business news around a possible IPO on the London Stock Exchange. Last month Bloomberg News ran a story—based on unnamed sources—reporting the financial services firm had hired…
Platform9, the startup best known for its SaaS-based, fully managed hybrid cloud platform, today announced that it has raised a $25 million Series D round led by NGP Capital. Mubadala Ventures and existing investors Redpoint…
The hype around blockchain seems to have cooled a bit, but companies like Kadena have been working on enterprise-grade solutions for some time, and continue to push the technology forward. Today, the startup announced that…
Carbon has been a kind of shining beacon in the world of 3D printing. In June, the company raised $260 million, bringing its valuation just shy of $2.4 billion. The company’s rapid growth is thanks…
Many expectant mothers are told that breastfeeding will come naturally, but it is often a fraught and confusing experience, especially during the first few weeks after birth. Parents often worry about if their babies are getting enough nutrition or if they are producing enough milk. MyMilk Labs wants to give nursing mothers more information with Mylee, a sensor that scans a few drops of breast milk to get information about its composition and connects to a mobile app. The Israel-based company presented today at Disrupt Battlefield as one of two wild card competitors picked from Startup Alley.
The Mylee launched at Disrupt with a pre-order price of $249 (its regular retail price is $349). Based in Israel, MyMilk Labs was founded in 2014 by Ravid Schecter and Sharon Haramati, who met while working on PhDs in neuroimmunology and neurobiology, respectively, at the Weizmann Institute of Science.
During the company’s stage presentation, Schecter said the device is meant to give mothers and lactation consultants objective information about breast milk.
Breast milk changes in the first days and weeks after birth, progressing from colostrum to mature milk. Mylee scans the electrochemical properties of milk and then correlates that to data points based on MyMilk Labs’ research to calculate where the sample is on the continuum, then tells mothers if their milk is “delayed” or “advanced,” relative to the time that has passed since they gave birth.
The device’s first version is currently in a beta pilot with lactation consultants who have used them to scan milk samples from 500 mothers.
MyMilk Labs already has consumer breast milk testing kits that enable mothers to provide a small sample at home that is then sent to MyMilk Labs’ laboratories for analysis. One is a nutritional panel that gives information about the milk’s levels of vitamins B6, B12 and A, calories and fat percentage, along with dietary recommendations for the mother. Another panel focuses on what is causing breast pain, a frequent complaint for nursing mothers. It tests for bacterial or fungal infections and gives antibiotic suggestions depending on what strains are detected.
Though some doctors believe testing kits are unnecessary for the majority of nursing mothers, there is demand for more knowledge about breastfeeding, as demonstrated by the line-up of breast milk testing kits from MyMilk Labs and competitors like Lactation Labs, Everly Well and Happy Vitals. Haramati said on stage that MyMilk Labs plans to eventually transfer some of the tests’ capabilities to the Mylee.
Less than two miles above the lunar surface, the Vikram lander (named after Vikram Sarabhai, the father of India’s space program) lost communications with the mission control.
A live broadcast from ISRO, India’s equivalent of NASA, showed scientists grow tense as the control station struggled to get a signal from the lander.
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was watching the landing attempt, offered words of encouragement to the scientists and children, who had accompanied him at the ISRO campus.
“Be courageous. Our faith in ISRO has not lost. I can proudly say that the effort was worth it and so was the journey. We are full of confidence that when it comes to our space program, the best is yet to come,” he said.
Space is hard. The lunar surface is filled with debris of spacecrafts that have attempted and failed to land in one piece. Because there is little to no atmosphere on the moon, parachutes can’t be used, leaving landers to rely completely on thrusters to modulate the speed.
Chandrayaan-2, a roughly $140 million mission, is, in part, intended to study moon craters that are believed to contain water deposits, something Chandrayaan-1 found in 2008.
A successful touchdown would have made India the fourth country to successfully complete a soft landing on the lunar surface. So far, only the former Soviet Union, the U.S., and China have accomplished it.
ISRO has come a long way and specialized in low-cost space launches since the early 1960s, when components of rockets were transported by bicycles and assembled by hand in the country.
In 2013, ISRO also launched an orbiter to Mars in its maiden $74 million interplanetary mission — a fraction of the $671 million NASA spent for a Mars mission in the same year. In 2017, ISRO also deployed a record 104 satellites into space in just 18 minutes.
Keep moving forward. All other nations that do not have the same capability or opportunity as India, including Thailand, are inspired by ISRO’s achievemments to date & future achievements to come. Jai Hind! https://t.co/BKm8hXbaEs
Earlier this year, ISRO said it intends to have its own space station in the future and conduct separate missions to study the Sun and Venus. It will begin working on its space station following its first manned mission to space, called Gaganyaan (which means “space vehicle” in Sanskrit), in 2022 — just in time to commemorate 75 years of the country’s independence from Britain. The government has sanctioned Rs 10,000 crores ($1.5 billion) for the Gaganyaan mission.
Top VCs on the changing landscape for enterprise startups
TechCrunch had our debut confab for enterprise types this week at Yerba Buena Center in SF, where we heard from Aaron Levie, CEO of Box, Apple VP Susan Prescott of Apple, and Microsoft Azure CTO Mark Russinovich. We were sold out, which perhaps isn’t all that surprising given the amount of interest in enterprise these days. Expect more events to come.
Our Silicon Valley editor Connie Loizos hosted a panel with leading enterprise VCs, and she selected the most interesting points from that conversation and from her calls with them for Extra Crunch members. Hear a bit from Jason Green of Emergence Capital, Rebecca Lynn of Canvas Ventures and Maha Ibrahim of Canaan Partners and what they are investing in these days.
Maha Ibrahim: I feel like people are focusing too much on metrics and not as much on [the total addressable market]. We make money [when a startup strikes on a] huge, huge market.
But there’s [also] so much correlation between consumer and enterprise startups in that we want customers that love the product. We want customers that come back and come back and come back to us, without us having to pay for them to come back. So the equivalent in a consumer company would be me having to spend advertising dollars to acquire that customer again, as opposed to that customer just coming back because he or she loves what I’m doing. The same goes for the enterprise.
Skull cut out t-shirt. Hey okay so today I’m gonna show you how to make a skull cut out t-shirt. And all you need is a shirt, scissors and something to draw on with it. Enjoy. Okay so here’s what you need. So I have this shirt which I got a true 21 for about three dollars. It’s just plain black and it’s kind of stretchy and you have your scissors.
I recommend maybe something a little bigger but this is all I could find. And then something to draw on your shirt with so I’m using permanent marker. But chalk works well or a pencil crayon. So okay so start by laying your shirt flat trying to make sure it’s pretty centered and just start by drawing on a face. I’m gonna start at the eyes. You can start anywhere you want. All right so once you’re done it doesn’t have to be perfect. Just as long as it’s just a little guideline for you.
Okay so once your Ln is done you can start cutting. Okay so once you’re done cutting you just want to take the little strands between each cut and kind of roll them between your fingers. I’d give them a little pull and it’ll get rid of the on the any uneven edges that you have just like that. Make sure you don’t pull too or else they’ll break okay and that’s it.
The revenue-focused venture is often misread as a charity. In 2017, Andela CEO Jeremy Johnson described the organization as “a mission-driven for-profit company” ― a model for the concept “that you can actually build businesses that create real impact.”
I asked Johnson recently to clarify the objective behind Andela’s drive. “It’s the exact same mission as when we started, based around our founding principle… that brilliance and talent are distributed equally around the world, but opportunity is not,” he said.
“We’re about breaking down the walls that prevent brilliance and opportunity from connecting to each other.”
A major barrier for Africa’s software engineers, according to Johnson, is simply the fact that the continent has been totally off the network that companies look to for developer talent.
Nigerian fintech firm Interswitch has been circulating in business news around a possible IPO on the London Stock Exchange.
Last month Bloomberg News ran a story—based on unnamed sources—reporting the financial services firm had hired investment banks to go public on the LSE later in 2019. The piece spurred additional aggregated press.
That Interswitch—which provides much of Nigeria’s digital banking infrastructure—could become one of Africa’s earliest tech companies to list on a global exchange isn’t exactly news.
It’s more deja vu of a story that began several years ago.
As TechCrunch reported, Interswitch was poised to launch on the LSE in 2016. CEO and founder Mitchell Elegbe confirmed “a dual-listing on the London and Lagos stock exchange is an option on the table,” in a January 2016 call.
Two additional sources wired into Nigeria’s tech market and close to Interswitch’s investors also said the public launch would happen by the end of that year.
The IPO would have made Interswitch Africa’s first tech company to go from startup to a billion-dollar plus unicorn valuation status. Of course, it didn’t happen in 2016.
In 2017, TechCrunch checked in with Interswitch on the delay and was told the company could not comment on its pending IPO. In other public interviews, executives Mitchell Elegbe and Divisional Chief Executive Officer Akeem Lawal named Nigeria’s recession as a reason for the delay and reaffirmed a likely dual Longon-Lagos listing by the end of 2019.
After the latest round of IPO buzz, TechCrunch asked Interswitch this week about the Bloomberg reporting and an imminent public stock listing. ““Interswitch does not comment on market speculation,” was the only info a public spokesperson could offer.
So, its tough to say if or when the company could list. There are still a few reasons why the company (and its possible IPO) are worth keeping an eye on.
One is Interswitch’s growing role as a nexus for payments and financial services infrastructure in Nigeria (home of Africa’s largest economy), across Africa, and between Africa and the world. Back in 2002, the company became the pioneer for creating infrastructure to digitize Nigeria’s then predominantly paper-ledger and cash-is-king based economy.
Interswitch has since moved into high-volume personal and business finance, with its Verve payment cards and Quickteller payment app. The Nigerian company (which is now well beyond startup phase) has expanded with physical presence in Uganda, Gambia, and Kenya—the latter being home-turf of M-Pesa and Safaricom, which are largely responsible for making Kenya the mobile-money capital of Africa.
Interswitch also sells its products in 23 African countries, through bank partnerships, and has presence abroad. Through its Verve Global Card product, the company’s cardholders can now make payments in the U.S., UK, and UAE. Interswitch launched a partnership this month for Verve cardholders to make payments on Discover’s global network. The first transaction for the partnership was placed in New York, with an advertisement for the Nigerian company’s payment product flashing across Times Square. Another facet to a possible Interswitch IPO is its potential to spark more corporate venture arm and acquisition activity in African fintech, which as a sector receives the bulk of the continent’s startup capital. Interswitch launched a venture arm in 2015—called its global ePayment Growth Fund—that made two investments, but then went largely quiet.
A windfall of IPO capital and increasing competition from fintech startups could spur Interswitch to fire up its venture investing activity again. Startups such as Flutterwave and TeamAPT (formed by a former Interswitch alum) have already entered some of Interswitch’s product territory. If a public listing led Interswitch to ramp up investing in (or even acquiring) startups, the net effect would be more capital and exits in Africa’s fintech sector.
And finally, if Interswitch does IPO on the London and Lagos stock exchanges, it could provide another benchmark for global investors to gauge Africa’s tech sector beyond Jumia. This spring the e-commerce company became the first big tech firm operating in Africa to launch on a major exchange, the NYSE.
So far, Jumia’s IPO has been an up and down affair. The company gained investor and analyst confidence out of the gate, but also came under a short-sell assault and share-price volatility.
Two successful global IPOs of tech companies from Africa would and could become the best-case scenario for the continent’s startup scene. But for that to be a possibility, Interswitch will have to confirm the speculation and finally list as a publicly traded fintech firm.
Platform9, the startup best known for its SaaS-based, fully managed hybrid cloud platform, today announced that it has raised a $25 million Series D round led by NGP Capital. Mubadala Ventures and existing investors Redpoint Ventures, Menlo Ventures, Canvas Ventures and HPE Pathfinder also participated in the round.
The company’s managed services sit on top of open-source tools like Kubernetes and OpenStack and focus on providing users with solutions that go beyond the basic infrastructure and help them throughout the lifecycle of their applications. With the proliferation of cloud-native technologies, enterprises are now struggling how to put them into production. With Fission, Platform9 even supports a new serverless framework that is still very much at the cutting edge. All of this comes with a considerable degree of complexity, though, if enterprises want to adopt and deploy these technologies themselves and as Platform9 CEO and co-founder Sirish Raghuram notes in today’s announcement, they want to move fast and are looking for services to simplify these deployments.
“Simplifying the operational burden of delivering cloud-native infrastructure at scale across any environment is a key consideration for organizations going through digital transformation,” he said. “They are looking to leverage open-source modern technologies on top of their existing infrastructure and multi-cloud deployments, without crumbling under the complexity of managing technologies such as Kubernetes, monitoring, service-mesh, and more.”
Platform9 says its revenue grew 130 percent in the last year and its bookings are up 156 percent. It’s also seeing new revenue retention of 124 percent. Like most companies in this position, Platform9 plans to use the new capital to expand its salesforce, product and marketing teams. It also plans to invest in developing its core Kubernetes product, including Managed Prometheus, Managed Istio, kubevirt and others, the company tells me.
The company remains committed to OpenStack, too. “For enterprises and service providers that have many VM workloads, OpenStack remains the only open platform for IaaS and our OpenStack business is on pace to grow over 100% this year,” Raghuram tells me. “In addition to supporting OpenStack, we’re also investing in supporting VM workloads with kubevirt, which offers less functionality but could be very attractive to enterprise customers who are already committed to cloud-native with Kubernetes. However, kubevirt isn’t yet ready for production and we are guiding customers requiring production support for VMs today to choose OpenStack.”
The hype around blockchain seems to have cooled a bit, but companies like Kadena have been working on enterprise-grade solutions for some time, and continue to push the technology forward. Today, the startup announced that Kadena Scalable Permissioned Blockchain on Azure is available for free in the Azure Marketplace.
Kadena co-founder and CEO Will Martino says today’s announcement builds on the success of last year’s similar endeavor involving AWS. “Our private chain is designed for enterprise use. It’s designed for being high performance is designed for integrating with traditional back ends. And by bringing that chain to AWS marketplace, and now to Microsoft Azure, we are servicing almost all of the enterprise blockchain market that takes place in the cloud,” Martino told TechCrunch.
The free product enables companies to get comfortable with the technology and build a Proof of Concept (PoC) without making a significant investment in the tooling. The free tool provides 2000 transactions a second across 4 nodes. Once companies figure this out and want to scale, that’s when the company begins making money, but Martino recognizes that the technology is still immature and companies need to get comfortable with it, and that’s what the free versions on the cloud platforms like Azure are encouraging.
Martino says Kadena favors a hybrid approach to enterprise blockchain that combines public and private chains, and in his view, gives customers the best of both worlds. “You can run a smart contract on our public chain Web protocol that will be launching on October 30th, and that smart contract can be linked to a cluster of private permission chain nodes that are running the other half of the application. This allows you to have all of the market access and openness and transparency and ownerlessness of a public network, while also having the control and the security that you find in a private network,” he said.
Martino and co-founder Stuart Popejoy both worked at JPMorgan on early blockchain projects, but left to start Kadena in 2016. The company has raised $14.9 million to date.
Everybody wants to hire data scientists — or at least that’s what it feels like these days. Problem is, data science isn’t just a basic set of skills, but an interdisciplinary skill set that attracts engineers with a wide variety of backgrounds that are often unrelated to computer science. That makes it hard to apply a traditional recruiting process to hiring data scientists (or AI/ML engineers, depending on how you define that role).
HackerRank, which has long offered a hiring platform for engineers, today announced that it wants to solve this problem by adding a data science platform for recruiters and hiring managers who are looking to find the right data scientists for their teams.
HackerRank Projects for Data Science, as the new product is called, helps businesses test how well candidates can handle standard, real-world scenarios like data wrangling and building models based on this data, as well as their skills in visualizing data. Companies can decide which skills they are looking for and then provide all candidates with the same problem set.
“With exponential growth in big data and companies using data to better serve customers across industries — from recommendations on your TV to autonomous driving in vehicles — the demand for skilled data scientists will continue to grow,” said HackerRank CEO and co-founder Vivek Ravisankar. “HackerRank has changed the way enterprises hire software developers—now, we’re bringing the same much-needed functionality to data science. This product will help close the gap between the expectations and needs of employers, allowing them to more easily identify and recruit the data science talent they need to ship innovative products.”
What’s especially smart here is that HackerRank is using industry-standard Jupyter notebooks as the development environment. Since that’s essentially the platform that most data scientists already use, there’s no need for potential employees to learn a new platform and they get to work in a realistic environment that will likely mimic what they’ll use at work, too.
The new platform is now available for all HackerRank customers who are using its recruiting platform. In total, the company currently has about 1,500 customers and close to 6 million developers on its platform that use the service to practice their coding skills (which is what HackerRank started out with) and, potentially, get hired.
If you are a data scientists and want to give it a try, HackerRank set up a trial environment for us that lets you try your hands at a sample project.
Carbon has been a kind of shining beacon in the world of 3D printing. In June, the company raised $260 million, bringing its valuation just shy of $2.4 billion. The company’s rapid growth is thanks in no small part to some high-profile partnerships, led by big names like Adidas and Riddell.
This morning, Carbon announced another partnership that’s a no-brainer in the wake of those sneaker and helmet deals. The company is teaming up with bicycle manufacturer Specialized for a 3D-printed bike seat.
“Carbon and Specialized share a mission to challenge the acceptable, create the extraordinary, and ultimately make products that enable people to push the limits of what’s possible,” Carbon CEO Joseph DeSimone said in a release tied to the announcement. “Our partnership with Specialized represents not only a breakthrough in bike saddle technology, but also our companies’ shared commitment to drive meaningful change by making products that improve human health and well-being.”
Certainly there’s room for a 3D-printed breakthrough in the world of bike saddles. The issue may be less pressing than what the NFL is currently dealing with on the traumatic brain front, but Carbon makes a pretty compelling argument for how its technology can be put to good use here.
The S-Works Power Saddle utilizes the same lattice-structured Elastomeric Polyurethane as the Adidas FutureCraft sneakers and Riddell SpeedFlex helmet. Per Carbon:
Carbon Digital Light SynthesisTM (DLSTM) technology made it possible to develop a lattice design that enables the saddle to rebound quickly, giving riders the experience of having a ‘suspension’ for their sit bones. The saddle not only disperses pressure, but also significantly improves breathability. Ultimately, our innovation is designed to result in less pain and fewer injuries for riders, leading to better health and performance.
It’s easy to imagine the companies utilizing the technology to create a more bespoke experience, tailored to riders’ bodies. For now, however, they’re focused on more scalable manufacturing, with the seats arriving at some point next year.