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Startup Monday: Latest tech trends & news happening in the global startup ecosystem (Issue 61)

Episode 52


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Top startups news to follow this week:

1. Private equity, venture capitals investment drops 27% in startups during April: Report

According to a report by industry grouping IVCA and EY, investments into startups by venture capital funds have halved to $1.6 billion across 82 deals in the month under review – which resulted in pulling down of the overall number.

On the other hand, the report highlighted that in April this year, investments classified as those for ‘growth’ recorded a three-fold jump from the year-ago period to $ 2.8 billion.

Also, in April, the largest deal saw Verse Innovations raise $805 million in a funding round — the second-largest in the media and entertainment sector.

As per a PTI report, the consultancy’s partner Vivek Soni acknowledged that rate tightening by the US Fed will reduce liquidity, but added that international funds are sitting on large amounts of dry powder and India can lead emerging market capital allocations because it is one of the few large economies with strong growth.

He added, “Downside risks that can temper growth expectations and PE/ VC investment activity include rising inflation, oil prices, dollar appreciation vs Indian Rupee and rising Indian interest rates.”

2. Food security & sustainability drove $2.6b in funding for Ag Biotech in 2021

Agricultural biotechnology startups raked in $2.6 billion across 209 deals in 2021 according to AgFunder’s 2022 Agrifoodtech Investment Report.

It 2020, the Ag Biotech category was one of the fastest growing in the farm tech sector, raising $1.6 billion across 173 deals. Its continued growth between then and now illustrates the rising interest in more sustainable crop and animal health solutions versus their traditional chemical-based counterparts.

Ag Biotech is an AgFunder-defined category that includes companies developing biological inputs for crops, animal health solutions, and those working with seed and animal genetics, among other areas.

3. Digital biomarkers are healthcare’s next frontier, reports TechCrunch

Blood pressure, body temperature, hemoglobin A1c levels and other biomarkers have been used for decades to track disease. While this information is essential for chronic condition management, these and many other physiological measurements are typically captured only periodically, making it difficult to reliably detect early meaningful changes.

Moreover, biomarkers extracted from blood require uncomfortable blood draws, can be expensive to analyze, and again, are not always timely.

Historically, continuous tracking of an individual’s vital signs meant they had to be in a hospital. But that’s not true anymore. Digital biomarkers, collected from wearable sensors or through a device, offer healthcare providers an abundance of traditional and new data to precisely monitor and even predict a patient’s disease trajectory.

With cloud-based servers and sophisticated, yet inexpensive, sensors both on the body and off, patients can be monitored at home more effectively than in a hospital, especially when the sensor data is analyzed with artificial intelligence (AI) and machine-learning technology.

A major opportunity for digital biomarkers is in addressing neurodegenerative diseases such as mild cognitive impairment, Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.

Neurodegenerative disease is a major target for digital biomarker development due to a lack of easily accessible indicators that can help providers diagnose and manage these conditions. A definitive diagnosis for Alzheimer’s disease today, for example, generally requires positron emission tomography (PET), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or other imaging studies, which are often expensive and not always accurate or reliable.

4. Eight Roads launches $250 million healthcare and lifescience fund in India

Eight Roads, a global investment firm backed by Fidelity, has launched its first dedicated India healthcare and life sciences fund of $250 million, making it the largest pool of capital available for the sector in the country.

“The healthcare market in India is at a tipping point. We have seen that play out in the markets such as China and the US,” Prem Pavoor, senior partner, head of India, and healthcare investments at Eight Roads Ventures, told ET.

Though the sector has been a mainstay for the firm for the last decade and a half that it has been active in India, “now was the time for a dedicated sector focused fund,” he added.

“We will make early to growth stage bets on companies and can go up to $40 million in an investment,” Pavoor said. It will look to back at around 15-20 companies in lifesciences, healthcare services, consumer health, and digital health sectors. “We are looking to deploy this capital over the next three to fo ..

5. Netherlands-based life sciences firm to set up U.S. headquarters in Keene, NH

The expansion is in partnership with the Hannah Grimes Center for Entrepreneurship and Keene State College, which will provide space for Detact to create a clinical laboratory improvement amendment (CLIA)-certified laboratories as well as an expansive internship and employment program.

“With its easily accessible networking opportunities compared to larger markets, plus its life-sciences ecosystem and the support from Hannah Grimes, New Hampshire is the ideal destination for our U.S. expansion,” said Joost Gazendam, Detact’s CEO. “From its proximity to the Manchester and Nashua areas, to its affordability, quality of life, and community connectivity, this rural region offers endless benefits that will allow us to continue to grow our company, educate a new generation of professionals and deploy life-changing technology.”

CLIA-certified laboratories are federally regulated sites that test human specimens to diagnose, prevent and treat disease. The lab space, to be developed at Keene State, will be used for Detact’s on-site bacterial-detection platforms, which enable healthcare providers and food-processing professionals to detect the presence of virus and bacteria and allow for fast, affordable and precise treatment.

By measuring the amount of light released by a specimen, the patented Detact platform technology, called VIPER (Visualization by Infrared Peptide Reaction), can determine the presence of bacteria or viruses.

6. German proptech startup Predium picks up €1.6 million for its ESG software solution

It’s reported that real estate is responsible for about 30% of Co2 emissions in Germany, causing 115 million tons of CO2. Founded in 2021, Predium wants to help companies manage their buildings in an economically and ecologically forward-thinking way, to help make this sector greener and more planet-friendly. 

The Munich-based startup has just picked up €1.6 million in pre-seed funding for its mission. The funding was led by btov Partners and 2bX. Other investors include business angels Maximilian Viessmann (Viessmann Group), Kristofer Fichtner (Thermondo and ecoworks) and Michael Wax (forto).

Predium is an all-in-one platform that brings together various process steps for sustainable real estate management in one place. This makes it easier for project developers, property managers and housing companies in particular to define ESG goals for properties, select measures and price the investment financially, practically at the push of a button. Previously, these complex process steps had to be performed individually in a time-consuming manner.

While Europe is on the road towards net-zero, all industries need to find ways to reduce carbon footprints and contribute. In the real estate world, it’s no different. Rising energy prices and legal requirements for the sustainable management of real estate are increasing the pressure on the real estate industry.

Jens Thumm, founder and CEO of Predium Technology, explained: “Often, the current CO2 balance of the buildings is missing. In addition, companies cannot refurbish all buildings in the short term. The question arises as to which measures should be implemented at what point in time and what costs and savings these entail over time. The answer to this is currently an expensive and cumbersome mix of Excel and consulting projects. We are changing that with Predium.”

7. Romanian startup Cyscale lands €3 million to make cloud security more efficient

Cybersecurity is crucial to any business – regardless of the size. In this digital world, making sure that data and cyber assets are protected is becoming more and more important yet also more and more convoluted. Romanian startup Cyscale wants to change this and has just picked up €3 million. 

The funding was led by Notion Capital, with participation from Seedcamp, GapMinder, Micha Hernandez van Leuffen, previously founder of Wercker and now Fiberplane and NP-Hard Ventures; and David Mytton, founder of Console.dev and Server Density.

Founded in 2019, Cyscale’s goal is to help companies to be more competitive due to information protection and digitalization. In 2020, the team raised €350k in just 4 hours!

Within most modern infrastructures, all cyber assets are interconnected, generating a massive digital footprint for organizations. Understanding risk is therefore of critical importance. It can make the difference between a security programme that works, and alert fatigue that burdens security and development teams.

Manuela Ticudean, co-founder of Cyscale, explained: “The cybersecurity industry needs to shift toward understanding cyber risk in context. Only then will we be able to fight the increasingly sophisticated and advanced threats targeting our organizations and our lives. Most cloud security tools analyze cloud infrastructures by running through sets of configuration best practices and verifying them against each cloud resource. This approach can be useful, but the problem is the rate of false positives. Looked at in isolation, a resource may be misconfigured, but there are other contextual factors that determine the actual danger for a business. False positives create noise and keep security engineers from focusing on the highest-risk issues. As a result, businesses waste valuable time and risk becoming the victims of cyber-attacks.”

Looking for Funding?

iFund Lab helps startups to raise non-dilutive funding through SBIR & other federal programs.

8. Flying Fish Partners Closes Fund II, a $70M Fund to Back Early-Stage Startups

Flying Fish Partners (“Flying Fish”) last week announced the final closing of its second venture fund, Flying Fish Partners II, L.P., (Fund II) with $70 million in committed capital. Flying Fish invests in the rapidly growing artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) sector.

Flying Fish makes seed-stage investments in software and mixed hardware and software companies that use AI or ML as foundations to their businesses, provide AI and ML products and services, or provide tools to AI and ML practitioners. Flying Fish has already made 10 investments in Fund II.

“When we started Flying Fish Partners, we were one of the first venture firms to recognize AI and ML as a rich investment opportunity and to leverage the Pacific Northwest’s strength in the sector,” said Geoff Harris, Flying Fish co-founder and managing director. “We believe our early confidence in the sector has proven out already and that we are still very early in the AI/ML revolution.”

Flying Fish’s team comes from a heavily operational background. Its three founders – Harris, Heather Redman and Frank Chang – have deep and complementary technical, operating and investing expertise.

9. ROUND13 LAUNCHES NEW VENTURE FUND WITH INITIAL $70 MILLION USD TO BACK BLOCKCHAIN COMPANIES PROVIDING “THE BASE” FOR WEB3

Round13 Capital has unveiled a new venture fund focused on blockchain and Web3 infrastructure companies.

The Toronto-based tech and growth-stage-focused VC firm has secured $70 million USD for its recently launched Digital Asset Fund, from a group of undisclosed investors led by a “major Canadian pension fund,” with support from other institutions, family offices, high-net-worth individuals, and members of the Round13 team.

To date, Round13 has made a name for itself backing mostly Canadian software companies, like Hubdoc and LifeSpeak. According to Round13 Founding Partner Bruce Croxon, the firm’s evergreen Digital Asset Fund hits Round13’s “sweet spot,” and comes as “a natural extension” to the software investments and sectors that it has previously played in.

“We’re not speculating on cryptocurrencies like John [Eckert] and I might have been in late 2016,” Croxon told BetaKit in an interview. “We’ve evolved to be much more interested in the underlying infrastructure that is going to be supporting the next wave of innovation and protocols.”

From this perspective, said Croxon, this fund fits right within Round13’s wheelhouse. “We are venture investors looking to back companies that are going to provide the base for which this new industry is going to grow,” Croxon said.

Round13 has set an “initial target” of $100 million USD for the open Digital Asset Fund, but Croxon said he wouldn’t be surprised if the firm soon surpasses this goal.

10. Berlin-based Zolar lands €100 million to make green energy accessible to all

The demand for green energy is soaring. Across Europe, homes are now being heated and powered by green, more sustainable energy sources and it’s something that is here to stay. Whilst we have all been aware of the benefits of green energy for quite some time, and there are many different options out there, getting access to it has remained a challenge for many and it’s still generally seen as a more expensive choice. 

On a mission to democratise access to green energy, Berlin-based zolar has just landed a massive €100 million of fresh funding. The round was led by  Energy Impact Partners and GIC as the company’s customer growth quadruples in 2022. Existing investors including Inven Capital, Heartcore Capital, Statkraft Ventures and Pirate Impact Capital also participated in the round. 

Founded in 2016 by Alex Melzer and Gregor Loukidis, zolar is a digital platform for individual solar solutions tailored to the needs of modern homeowners for green energy. With a completely digital shopping experience, the greentech startup offers easy and digital access to photovoltaics. It removes the complexity of going green and democratises access to the energy sources of the future. It means that even more people can use renewable energy in their own homes – empowering us all to become part of the journey to net-zero and protect our planet. 

Using greener energy sources is a key target for European nations as part of the fight to ensure our planet’s wellbeing for future generations. With zolar, Europeans can take some action into their own hands and contribute to fighting climate change. 

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Startup Monday: Latest tech trends & news happening in the global startup ecosystem (Issue 60)

Episode 51


To have this newsletter emailed to you, sign up hereSubscribe to your favorite podcast app, so that you don’t miss Startup Monday’s new episodes Apple Podcast | Spotify | Anchor

Top startups news to follow this week:

1. Upswing Health, Condition-Based Musculoskeletal Healthcare Eliminates Systemic Waste, Closes $5 Million Seed Round

UPSWING HEALTH, the physician-founded musculoskeletal (MSK) health care innovator, whose diagnostic, triage, treatment, and recovery platform solves the crisis of both excessive, inappropriate utilization and under-treatment of millions of orthopedic injuries, announced today that it has closed its oversubscribed seed round. This $5 million round features participation from new and existing investors – leaders in digital health, technology, and finance- including Montage Ventures, Connecticut Innovations, WTI, Ikigai Healthcare Fund, and other strategics. The new funding will be used to fuel Upswing Health’s rapid growth, attract additional key leadership, and accelerate product development, marketing, and partnership sales.

Upswing Health was founded in 2017 by Board Certified Orthopedic Surgeons Dr. Jay Kimmel and Dr. Steven Schutzer, who faced this problem daily. With more than 60 years of combined orthopedic and surgical practice, they sought to deliver convenient, equitable access to higher quality orthopedic care more efficiently and at a lower cost. An end-to-end offering — part diagnostic platform, part virtual clinic, part treatment program — Upswing Health helps people of all ages in their “ouch moments” diagnose, prevent and recover from orthopedic injuries.

 It recently hired as CEO Yenvy Truong, a seasoned healthcare executive who began her career as an analytical chemist and ascended the ranks of several corporations before embarking as the founder and catalyst of multiple successful companies in digital health, metabolic, functional, anti-aging, and regenerative medicine arenas. Throughout her career, Yenvy has embodied a passion for systemic reform and has long promoted the implementation of cutting-edge technology and other medical and scientific developments into standard patient care.

2. Global Artificial Intelligence (AI) Market to Reach US$341.4 Billion by the Year 2027

According to Reportlinker.com “Global Artificial Intelligence (AI) Industry” report the global AI market is projected to reach US$341.4 Billion by 2027, growing at a CAGR of 32.8% over the analysis period 2020-2027. The U.S. Accounts for Over 41.2% of Global Market Size in 2020, While China is Forecast to Grow at a 39.1% CAGR for the Period of 2020-2027. It’s estimated that the Artificial Intelligence market in the U.S. currently accounts for a 41.22% share in the global market. China, the world second largest economy, is forecast to reach an estimated market size of US$64.7 Billion in the year 2027 trailing a CAGR of 39.1% through 2027. Among the other noteworthy geographic markets are Japan and Canada, each forecast to grow at 27.6% and 29% respectively over the 2020-2027 period. Within Europe, Germany is forecast to grow at approximately 31.2% CAGR while Rest of European market (as defined in the study) will reach US$64.7 Billion by the year 2027.

In the global Hardware segment, USA, Canada, Japan, China and Europe will drive the 36.6% CAGR estimated for this segment. Finance.Yahoo

3. Venture capital continues to target crypto and fintech for funding, with Web3 emerging as a major trend in 2022

London-based asset manager Fasanara Capital has launched a $350 million investment fund to back fintech and cryptocurrency startups that can deliver new use cases for the emerging Web3 economy, reports CoinTelegraph

The company, which manages $3.5 billion in assets, is targeting early-stage startups in the fintech and crypto spheres. It plans to establish long-term relationships with project founders and other industry veterans. This includes potentially larger equity commitments than traditional venture capital firms.

Founded in 2011, Fasanara Capital is a fintech investment firm increasingly specialized in digital assets and lending technologies. The company is regulated by the United Kingdom’s Financial Conduct Authority and has the backing of the European Investment Fund, a Luxembourg-based financial institution that facilitates small business loans through private banks and funds.

Two of Fasanara’s portfolio companies recently achieved unicorn status: ScalaPay, an Italian payment service provider, and Grover, a German smartphone and subscription service company. In the startup world, a unicorn is a company that achieves a valuation of $1 billion or more.

4. Tiger Global, hit by $17B in hedge fund losses, has nearly depleted its latest VC fund

According to a new report from Financial Times, the low-flying-yet-seemingly-ubiquitous 21-year-old outfit has seen losses of about $17 billion during this year’s tech stock sell-off. FT notes that’s one of the biggest dollar declines for a hedge fund in history.

As shocking, per FT, according to the calculations of a fund of hedge funds run by the Edmond de Rothschild Group, Tiger Global’s hedge fund assets have been so hard hit that the outfit has in four months erased about two-thirds of its gains since its launch in 2001.

The question is whether that trouncing will impact the firm’s venture business, which — like that of many other venture businesses — has ballooned rapidly in recent years. In 2020, the firm closed its twelfth venture fund with $3.75 billion in capital commitments. Early last year, it closed its thirteenth venture fund (titled XIV for superstitious reasons) with $6.65 billion before closing its newest fund, fund XV, with a massive $12.7 billion in capital commitments in March of this year.

Yet even that new fund — which reportedly took less than six months to raise and includes $1.5 billion in commitments from Tiger Global’s own employees — is almost fully invested already, according to a source close to the firm.

5. Postmates founder banks $23 million for his new crypto startup TipTop, TechCrunch Reports

Postmates founder Bastian Lehmann’s new crypto startup TipTop was lightly teased out a few weeks ago, but now the stealth startup is sharing some info on its early funding, though there’s not much info on what they’re actually doing with that money.

Lehmann notes that the company has raised a $23 million Series A from a16z with Marc Andreessen himself joining the startup’s board. Other backers in the round include Sam Altman, Naval Ravikant, Andy McLoughlin, Jeff Clavier and Dan Romero, among others.

The startup is keeping things as vague as possible on its website and job listings with redacted graphics promising “consumer finance solutions for a changing web” and that they’re “building protocols and infrastructure” doing something “at the intersection of fiat and crypto.” It’s all publicly unclear, but investors seem eager to throw some money behind Lehmann after Postmates’ $2.65 billion exit to Uber in mid-2020.

6. Biotechnology Services Market Is Expected To Reach $267 Billion By 2026

According to The Business Research Company’s research report on the biotechnology services market, The global biotechnology services market is expected to grow from $129.14 billion in 2021 to $151.10 billion in 2022 at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 17.0%. The growth in the market is mainly due to companies rearranging their operations and recovering from the COVID-19 impact, which had earlier led to restrictive containment measures involving social distancing, remote working, and the closure of commercial activities that resulted in operational challenges. TBRC’s biotechnology services market growth analysis states that the market is expected to reach $267.29 billion in 2026 at a CAGR of 15.3%. This is mainly due to unhealthy lifestyles, a growing aging population, rising inactivity and obesity. According to the World Health Organization, chronic disease prevalence is expected to rise by 57% globally by the year 2020.  China and India together had about 193.4 million diabetic patients in 2019, and India is expected to have about 101 million diabetic patients by 2030. In the field of mental health, the World Health Organization predicts that one in every four people will be affected by a type of mental disorder such as depression, schizophrenia, or anxiety in the future. In response to this, national governments across the globe are rapidly increasing their medical research expenditure. The world’s population is also growing older with every passing year.

7. MassMutual Ventures closes $300M fund to back Asia and Europe startups

MassMutual Ventures (MMV) has launched a $300 million new fund to back early-stage companies in Asia and Europe.

The MMV Asia and Europe team’s third vehicle will invest in startups across digital health, financial technology, enterprise SaaS and cybersecurity, managing director of MMV Ryan Collins said in an interview with TechCrunch.

The third fund will write checks pre-Series A through Series B across Asia countries like India, Singapore, Indonesia and Australia (but excluding China) and Europe countries, including the U.K, Germany, France and Sweden, Collins said adding that the third fund can also invest in South Korea and Japan opportunistically.

“This fund reinforces MMV’s commitment to the Asia-Pacific region and building a global platform as we look to capitalize on attractive opportunities in Europe,” said Doug Russell, managing director and head of MassMutual Ventures. “MMV’s overall investment capital has more than doubled in size in just two years, underscoring the significant opportunity we see in backing strong founders building great businesses.”

Looking for Funding?

iFund Lab helps startups to raise non-dilutive funding through SBIR & other federal programs.

8. Barcelona-based Freeverse.io picks up €10 million to create living assets – a new innovation in the NFT market, EU-Startups reports

With the vision to fuel a faired model of digital ownership, Freeverse.io has just picked a Series A investment round of about €10 million. The funding was co-led by Earlybird and Target Global, alongside existing investors Adara Ventures and 4Founders Capital. 

NFTs might be a relatively new phenomenon, but Freeverse is already launching a new, next-generation level to this market. Founded in 2019 in Barcelona, Freeverse allows companies to build products that feature next-generation NFTs – so-called ‘living assets’. 

In 2021, NFT sales skyrocketed, reaching over $20 billion according to Freeverse, as both businesses and end-users came to understand the potential that is unlocked by blockchain-certified digital ownership. Freeverse’s core product is a platform that allows companies (such as brands, game developers, or other content creators) to add a crucial new layer to their products: the ability of NFTs to change and evolve based on how they are used by their owners. 

As a result, how the NFT is used has a greater effect on its value than merely its rarity or scarcity. The aim of Freeverse’s innovation is to tackle one main criticism amidst the digital collectables boom – the fact that the market relies on speculation. Consumers buy ‘rare’ digital assets with the sole intention of selling them on, whilst hoping for a profit. There’s little concrete knowledge, and it leaves a lot of uncertainty around the NFT space. 

CEO Alun Evans, explained: “Living Assets represent the way forward for digital ownership in the metaverse and beyond. The fact that Living Assets are valued more by how they are used, as opposed to simple speculation, means that they enable a fairer and more sustainable business model for both companies and consumers. As such, we expect our approach to become a core component within the emerging web3 sector.

9. Vienna-based byrd raises €53 million to strengthen its position in Europe’s e-commerce fulfilment market

On admission to facilitate smoother e-commerce fulfilment, byrd has just raised over €53 million in a fresh funding round led by Cambridge Capital, with participation from Speedinvest, Mouro Capital, Elevator Ventures and other existing shareholders. 

Based in Vienna, byrd operates a virtual network to provide order fulfillment services to online retailers across Europe via its proprietary software platform. Combining various OMS (Order Management Systems) with its proprietary WMS (Warehouse Management System), the startup connects more than 350 online retailers and D2C brands with fulfillment centers and shipping services across Europe.

Founded in 2016, byrd’s cloud-based logistics solution allows retailers to

optimize operations and to unlock their growth potential on a global scale – and is already used to seamlessly integrate with platforms like Shopify and Amazon in the UK, France, Germany, the Netherlands, and Austria. The company has also recently launched new warehouse locations in Italy and Spain. 

Alexander Leichter, CEO and co-founder of byrd, explained: “E-commerce retailers are under ever more pressure from consumers to deliver as fast as possible, without charging for shipping. At the same time, the global supply chain crunch is putting increasing pressure on margins and creating significant delivery issues. This means retailers must look for scalable fulfillment services that cover their core markets globally.”

10. Fintech startup TIFIN raises funds at $842 mln valuation

Fintech platform TIFIN said on Thursday it had raised $109 million in fresh capital in a late-stage funding round, with investments from Franklin Resources and J.P. Morgan Asset Management, that valued the firm at $842 million

The new series D round also saw investments from private equity firm Motive Partners and Hamilton Lane.

Even as tech valuations in public markets suffer amid volatility and rate-hike fears, several private companies have raised funds this year as venture capital and private equity firms continue to bet on the sector.

TIFIN, founded in 2018, runs an artificial intelligence powered financial platform geared towards investors to help them manage their wealth and bridge the gap with asset managers.

The company intends to use the funds from the round to fuel its growth by adding additional products and expand outside the United States into new markets.

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Startup Monday: Latest tech trends & news happening in the global startup ecosystem (Issue 56)

Episode 49


Be sure to subscribe to your favorite podcast app, so that you don’t miss Startup Monday’s new episodes. Apple Podcast | Spotify | Google Play | Pocket Cast 

Top startups news to follow this week:

1. French startup Sweep picks up €66.5 million for its leading carbon management platform, reports EU Startups

Founded in 2020, carbon management platform Sweep is helping enterprises build data-driven and science-based climate programs – a crucial part of businesses’ contribution to tackling the climate crisis. The firm has today announced an impressive raise of €66.5 million, demonstrating the promise and power of the platform. Further, this comes just months after a €19 million raise in December 2021.

Coatue has led this Series B funding round with participation from existing investors Balderton Capital, New Wave, La Famiglia and 2050. Sweep aims to empower hundreds more companies to reach carbon goals with its all-in-one tool, and this raise puts confidence and trust in the system. 

Based in Montpellier, Sweep allows organizations to accurately and seamlessly track their global emissions across their three emission scopes. Its network approach to carbon accounting empowers every carbon-emitting individual – such as employees, subsidiaries, suppliers, and business partners – to securely share their data and visualize their emissions over time.

2. SeaX Ventures (Southeast Asia Exponential Ventures), with operations in the US & Thailand, has announced the close of its second fund to help accelerate the growth of global startups throughout Southeast Asia.

The fund is dedicated to investing in companies working on truly transformational opportunities in sectors including blockchain & web3, foodtech, biotech & life science, artificial intelligence, robotics, and IoT & hardware.

Although the original fund target size was $50 million, the raise was oversubscribed, and the total was increased to $60 million. SeaX Ventures will make investments of between $500,000 – $5 million in pre-seed, seed, and Series A financings.

SeaX Ventures will tangibly add value to its portfolio companies by helping to grow their businesses. This goal will be accomplished by connecting these startups to its investors and RISE clients, thus also assisting the larger entities in their quests to pursue innovative initiatives, launch new businesses, or reduce operating costs.

“Southeast Asia is a region of 650 million people with a combined GDP of $3 trillion,” said Dr. Supachai “Kid” Parchariyanon, the Founder and Managing Partner of SeaX Ventures. “We can help innovative startups from across the world grow exponentially in this large and dynamic area through our relationship with over 400 corporates.”

3. Evok Innovations, a venture firm committed to developing and deploying cutting-edge clean energy technology, last week announced a first close of its $300 million Fund II, with half the capital committed by a group of strategic investors.

The fund will target early-stage investments across North America in key industrial decarbonization verticals, including carbon capture use and storage (CCUS), low-carbon fuels, clean energy and grid innovations, mobility, and advanced materials and circularity.

Launched in 2016 through a partnership between Suncor, Cenovus and the BC Cleantech CEO Alliance, Evok’s inaugural $100 million CAD fund aimed to accelerate the development of critical energy transition technologies across North America. The fund has made 16 investments in critical decarbonization technologies ranging from clean hydrogen and carbon-to-value to long-duration energy storage

4. London-based cleantech startup, Again, has raised a £2.55m pre seed investment, led by Eka Ventures, to develop “the worlds’ smartest system” for cleaning packaging for refill and reuse.

Again’s compact, shipping container sized CleanCell solution is said to use 76 per cent less water and 90 per cent less energy than traditional recycling methods and can efficiently process and clean thousands of packaging units each month, ready to be refilled and reused.

By 2025, Again aims to power brands to reuse their packaging for cheaper than purchasing single use packaging. The pioneering cleaning technology system already matches the cost of single-use packaging for small brands.

Bringing down the cost of reusable packaging will break down a significant barrier to its adoption as, despite commitments to eliminate single use plastic packaging, FMCG brands are restricted by the higher cost of reuse and the lack of cleaning infrastructure.

5. Porto-based Fibersail takes off with €5 million to reduce the cost of wind energy, reports EU Startups

Developing technology that is improving the prospects of wind energy, Fibersail has just raised €5 million in a round led by FORWARD.one with participation from Rockstart, Innoenergy, Caixa Capital, and, former LM Wind Power CEO, Marc de Jong. 

The Porto-based startup is behind a data-driven shape sensing technology used for the monitoring of wind turbine blades. The tech has the power the enhance the performance of wind turbines and reduce operational costs by enabling the use of blade deformation for the control of wind turbines.

Founded in 2015 by sailing experts, including Olympic Medalist Hugo Rocha, alongside Vasco Serpa and Pedro Pinto, the founders are on a mission to add intelligence to the way wind turbines are built and operated – with the aim of enhancing the potential of wind energy. 

Pedro Pinto, co-Founder and CEO, said: “With a passion for wind energy and background in high-performance sailing, my entire life was spent on understanding how to generate the best energy performance by using wind power. During the first years of Fibersail, I was amazed with the lack of information regarding the conditions and operations of wind turbine blades and the multi-billion euro cost it was generating every year. Now, together with our strong team of deep and greentech investors, we are disrupting the way these wind turbines are controlled and maintained.”

Wind energy is regarded as one of the most cost-efficient power sources worldwide – but it’s still to reach its full potential and take off. It’s reported that even with a record-breaking number of installations each year reaching over 743 GW of capacity in 2022, the world needs to triple the speed of installations to attain its carbon-neutral goals over the next decade. To achieve this, new turbines are being developed that have blades exceeding 100m in length. However, current blade monitoring solutions lack accuracy and are not prepared for tip displacements reaching more than 20 meters.

With a proprietary shape sensing technology, Fibersail is focused on the shape of the blade rather than root strain, enabling manufacturers and operators to design and operate better-performing wind turbines. The Fibersail technology enables this by precisely controlling and monitoring the behaviour of their blades, empowering in this way the EU vision to become climate neutral and energy independent.

6. Qureos raises $3M to grow its learn to earn platform, reports Tech Crunch

Qureos, a UAE-based edtech and remote work marketplace that is changing how people upskill and get jobs across the globe, plans to grow the uptake of its platform by 10 times this year in its race to create 100 million jobs over the next few years. The startup has today announced closing a $3 million pre-seed funding to accelerate this growth.

Qureos was founded in August last year by Alexander Epure, Mehrad Yaghmai and Usama Nini in a bid to make mentorship more accessible to individuals that are starting out in their careers, or are looking to switch jobs.

The startup’s user-base originates from 133 countries, with about 32% being from Africa, and mainly residing in South Africa and the North Africa region.

Epure said they are creating new learning and work opportunities for the millions of youth in the generation Z and millennial demographics, who are vastly unemployed or underemployed due to a lack of marketable skills that are often not taught in traditional curriculums. The startup was recently selected by Dubai Future Accelerators to solve the skills gap of the unemployed and those entering the job market.

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7. Warp raises $23M to build a better terminal, reports Tech Crunch

The terminal often feels like an afterthought, and there hasn’t been a lot of innovation in this space for a very long time. Warp, which is launching its public beta today and announcing $23 million in funding, is trying to change this by building a new command-line terminal that aims to make developers more productive. For now, the Warp public beta is only available on macOS, but the company promises Windows and Linux versions in the future, too.

As the company announced today, it previously raised a $6 million seed round led by GV, with participation from Neo and BoxGroup. It has now also raised a $17 million Series A round led by Dylan Field, the co-founder and CEO of Figma. Other participants in this (somewhat unusual) entrepreneur-led round include Elad Gil, former LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner and Salesforce’s co-founder and co-CEO Marc Benioff.

“I’ve been a developer now, for 20 years,” Warp co-founder and CEO Zach Lloyd, who was previously a principal engineer at Google and the interim CTO for Time, told me. “I’ve always been a terminal user. I’ve always thought it was kind of a weird app, to be honest. [ … ] But it’s an interesting app in the sense that it’s ubiquitous. You walk by any developer’s desk and they’re going to have a terminal open. There are only a couple apps like that: the terminal and the code editor. So I thought it was an interesting leverage point for doing something that would have an impact across all developers. And then, if you can get really good at it you actually get a lot of real productivity gains.”

8.ReadySet raises $29M to expedite access to enterprise-scale app data, reports Tech Crunch

ReadySet, a company providing database infrastructure to help developers build real-time applications, today announced that it raised $24 million in a Series A funding round led by Index Ventures with participation from Amplify Partners. Several angel investors also contributed, bringing ReadySet’s total raised to $28.9 million — building on a previously undisclosed $4.9 million seed round.

According to co-founder and CEO Alana Marzoev, ReadySet is tackling a major challenge in the enterprise having to do with delivering dynamic content while servicing large, distributed customers. The current standard practice is to build custom query caching systems, but Marzoev claims that this can slow down engineering teams, drive up costs and cause outages at inopportune times.

“Rather than rebuilding these same broken systems, developers need solutions that slot into their existing infrastructure and achieve limitless read scaling,” Marzoev told TechCrunch. “With ReadySet, we aim to make the process of globally caching … query results as streamlined and automated as caching images in a content delivery system.”

9. Barcelona-based Amenitiz picks up over €27 million to revolutionise the day-to-day of independent hoteliers – Spain’s biggest SaaS Series A funding round to date, reports EU Startups

Building an operating system for independent hoteliers across Europe, Amenitiz has today announced a massive funding boost of over €27 million – picking up Spain’s largest-ever SaaS Series A round. The funding, just a few months after a €6.5 million raise, was led by global VC investor Eight Roads, backer of Alibaba, Wallapop and Red Points, alongside Chalfen Ventures and existing investors: Point9, Otium and Backed. 

Based in Barcelona – a renowned tourist hotspot – Amenitiz is revolutionising processes for independent hotels and B&Bs with its all-in-one Property Management System (PMS). It’s reported by the company that in Europe, where there are over 700,000 hotels, bed & breakfast and vacation rentals, over 80% of them are independent properties with 50 rooms or less. This is a massive market that, until now, has been without such a tailored system. 

Even for small properties, managing operations has become increasingly complex over the years as the travel industry has digitised. Now, a large variety of software products have been introduced to the sector, and they are increasingly needed to ensure operations run efficiently. These small business owners are increasingly overwhelmed and frustrated with confusing and overly-complex tech.

Independent hoteliers are typically using a spaghetti of poorly maintained legacy software, mostly on-premise. As a result, many hoteliers are spending two to five hours a day on administrative tasks – taking them away from doing what they love most: welcoming guests. 

Alexandre Guinefolleau, CEO of Amenitiz, said: “As hoteliers awaken in a post-covid world, they find themselves even more reliant on their digital presence and online distribution to rebuild and grow their business. Their current tech stack -if any- is incapable of dealing with today’s challenges and guest expectations. This is why we created Amenitiz, to empower independent hoteliers to master every aspect of running their properties and allow them to build a thriving business. And we’re just getting started!”

10. Predicting building damages using AI lands €1.35 million for Frankfurt-based startup

Frankfurt-based startup that offers technology to reliably predict building damages, Preventio has raised a €1.35 million funding. The pre-seed round was led by Futury Capital, an early-stage and growth investor focusing on tech startups. Andreas Haug, founder and general partner of the venture capital firm Headline, BMH Beteiligungs-Managementgesellschaft Hessen and angel investors such as Christoph Benner, Marcus Laube and Alexander Jörger also participated in the round.

The funding will be used to expand the research and development team and enhance the predictive maintenance platform to transform the AI-based prototype into a scalable SaaS application.

Building damages, in particular tap water damages, leading to billions in damage costs and considerable water loss annually. These damages are one of the main cost drivers for the building sector and are expected to increase as properties start ageing. The platform’s solution supports insurance companies, housing associations and pipe manufacturers in identifying risks and reducing damages.

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Startup Monday: Latest tech trends & news happening in the global startup ecosystem (Issue 55)

Episode 48


Be sure to subscribe to your favorite podcast app, so that you don’t miss Startup Monday’s new episodes. Apple Podcast | Spotify | Google Play | Pocket Cast 

Top startups news to follow this week:

1. The global biopharmaceutical market size is expected to hit US$ 856.1 billion by 2030 and is expanding growth at a noteworthy CAGR of 12.5% from 2021 to 2030.

According to Precedence Research, the global biopharmaceutical market was estimated at US$ 265.4 billion in 2020. The rising prevalence of various chronic diseases, growing geriatric population, rising investments in the research and development of the new drugs, supportive regulations of the government, and rising adoption of the biopharmaceuticals among the global population are some of the important factors that drives the growth of the global biopharmaceutical market.

The biopharmaceutical market is growing at a rapid rate and it accounts for around 20% of the global pharmaceutical industry. The increasing awareness about the effectiveness and availability of the biopharmaceuticals among the population is significantly boosting the demand for the biopharmaceuticals across the globe.

2. Chris Dixon, Marc Andreessen back $30M fund exclusively investing in NFT art

The world of NFTs is never dull — as long as the money never stops. While investors continue to pour billions into the sector, albeit at a slowing pace, more crypto buyers are spinning up funds to back NFT platforms, projects and the non-fungible tokens themselves.

The $30 million fund called Curated is devoted to buying and holding NFT artwork, TechCrunch reports . The fund is backed by a who’s who of crypto investors, with LPs including a sizable chunk of a16z’s investing team (Marc Andreessen, Chris Dixon, Andrew Chen, Arianna Simpson and Jon Lai are all backers), as well as Alexis Ohanian, Justin Kan, Electric Capital’s Avichal Garg and Curtis Spencer and a host of other investors and founders in the space.

The fund plans to invest about half of the fund in so-called “blue-chip NFTs,” including popular projects like CryptoPunks, Art Blocks and Bored Apes, as well as works from popular artists selling singular NFT works. The other half of the fund is going into what Jiang and Goldberg deem as “high potential collections” from artists with smaller existing markets.

“NFT assets are what we think are going to be a really big deal over the next decade, like orders of magnitude larger than they are today, because NFTs give us a digitally native way to invest in culture at internet scale,” Goldberg tells TechCrunch in an interview. “We want to become a very high-signal collector that acquires the top assets and is also helpful to creators and builders.”

3. By 2032, the Hazardous Area Equipment Market to be worth US$ 16139.80 Billion; Growing Attention on Boosting Safety Measures Says Future Market Insights 

Hazardous area equipment is devices that may either limit or diminish the damage caused by accidents such as fires or have the capacity to work effectively in harsh settings.

They are used in hazardous locations based on the division, class, or zone and include cable glands and attachments, control panels, buttons, illumination, and strobe beacons.

The rising emphasis on industry safety measures, as well as the increased use of LED lighting solutions for hazardous and safe environments, is driving the growth of the hazardous area equipment market.

The desire for low-cost solutions is projected to present the substantial potential for hazardous area equipment market participants.

The expansion of industrial safety measures, particularly in process sectors where the operations of hazardous work equipment are required to continue, as well as rising urbanisation and population growth throughout the world, will emerge as the primary factors driving hazardous area equipment market growth.

4. Zeta Surgical comes out of stealth with a $5.2M raise for image-guided surgery

Boston-based Zeta Surgical comes out of stealth this week, with the announcement of a $5.2 million seed round. The funding, led by Innospark Ventures, follows a $250,000 pre-seed featuring Y Combinator and Plug and Play Ventures.

The company was founded by Harvard graduates Jose Maria Amich and Raahil Sha, who currently serve as CEO and CTO, respectively. Harvard Medical School Associate Professor of Neurosurgery William Gormley serves as the company’s chief medical officer. The team’s mission is delivering precise surgical imaging guidance for non-invasive surgeries performed outside the operating room.

Beginning with procedures like ventriculostomy and neuromodulation, Zeta believes its technology can help democratize such procedures by offering more precision and lowering the barrier of entry.

The Zeta system includes a mixed reality overlay designed to help a surgeon pinpoint minimally invasive neurosurgery procedures. That’s combined with an optional robotic system that utilizes an off-the-shelf Doosan robotic arm combined with proprietary tools. The team says they’ve explored headsets for imaging, but believe the technology isn’t yet accurate enough for such surgeries.

5. Autobrains nabs $19M, bringing its Series C to $120M, to take on Mobileye in autonomous driving tech

AI has been the backbone of many a technological breakthrough over the years, but one challenge it has yet to solve is that of self-driving: try as they may, engineers have yet to build a platform that can manage all the practicalities and unexpected eventualities of conducting a vehicle as well as or better than a human can do, and which has also convinced regulators and the general population of its reliability. We’re still seeing a lot of development, however, and today, Autobrains — one of the hopefuls in this space that believes it has figured out how to fix the 1% margin of error typical in self-driving with a “self-learning” approach that is hardware-agnostic (more on that below) — is announcing yet more funding to continue developing its platform.

The Israeli startup has raised $19 million, rounding out its Series C at $120 million. The first tranche of this investment was made public in November 2021, and altogether the investor list includes Temasek, previous strategic backers Continental and BMW i Ventures, and new backers Knorr-Bremse AG and VinFast. As before, the company is not disclosing its valuation, but for some context, it’s a crowded space that provides some comparable numbers.

Israel’s Mobileye, which Autobrains’ CEO and founder Igal Rachelgauz describes as his company’s biggest competitor, earlier this month filed confidentially for an IPO (owner Intel would retain a stake in the spun-out company, should this go ahead). It’s been reported that Mobileye could be valued at around $50 billion if it lists. Wayve, a UK self-driving startup, raised $200 million in January, valued in the region of $1 billion.

6. Greentech startup Tibber raises over €90 million to make energy consumption smarter

Since launching in 2016, Tibber has been on a mission to help consumers lower their energy bills and make electricity consumption smarter. Today, they have just closed over €90 million in new capital.

The Series C round is led by the European impact fund, Summa Equity. This is the first big investment of its new sustainability fund. Existing investors Balderton, Eight Roads and Schibsted Ventures have also participated.

Tibber is a Nordic-based greentech startup revolutionizing the energy industry with its innovative business model. Tibber’s unique proposition lies in that, instead of profiting from their customers’ energy consumption, the company offers their customers renewable energy for the purchase price and smart technology that helps them control and lower their energy consumption.

By providing customers with real-time analytics into energy usage and smart home devices, Tibber gives customers control over their energy usage. Additionally, the startup also offers numerous smart home devices like electric vehicle chargers, smart thermostats and energy reading devices (e.g. Tibber Pulse) through its online store. 

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7. Vienna-based startup Arkeon picks up over €6.5 million to turn CO2 into food

Arkeon Biotechnologies is on a mission to create the most sustainable, nutritious and ethical food system, turning CO2 into food. The Vienna-based startup has just cooked up more than €6.5 million in a fresh funding round which included Synthesis Capital and ReGen Ventures. 

Arkeon is the first company in the world to leverage the technology of gas fermentation with the power of archaea, an ancient microorganism with unique properties, for food applications. The company’s proprietary technology produces all 20 amino acids for the human diet in one production step. What’s more, the tech is fully independent from agricultural land and with the ability to directly convert CO2 into food ingredients, the foodtech startup holds the key to unlocking a food system without resource constraints, without geographical restrictions, and free from animal suffering.

The biotech company uses Archae as the basis of this new innovation. Archaea are one of the most ancient microorganisms in the world and are intertwined with the creation of life on earth. They are exceptional in their capabilities and evolved to thrive in extreme environments like underwater volcanoes.

8.Wavemaker Closes $136 Million Fund for Southeast Asia Startups

Wavemaker Partners LLC, an early-stage venture capital firm, closed its fourth fund at $136 million to back startups in Southeast Asia’s fast-growing technology industry.

The firm exceeded its initial target of $120 million, with existing backers Temasek Holdings Pte, Pavilion Capital, International Finance Corp. and Vulcan Capital participating, the Singapore-based company said in a statement on Tuesday.

It also drew in institutional investors, university endowment funds, funds of funds, family offices, corporates and high net worth individuals, it said. The fourth fund will bring its total assets under management to $300 million.

One of Singapore’s earliest venture firms, Wavemaker has invested in over 170 companies since 2012. About 150 of these are working on sustainable technologies, enterprise-related ventures or scientific and engineering challenges. So far, the firm has had 13 exits, including Singapore software startup TradeGecko, according to its website.

Wavemaker’s portfolio companies include laser communications startup Transcelestial, agriculture technology startup EFishery and business-to-business marketplace GudangAda. Melissa Ho, who previously served as vice president of investments, has been promoted to lead the firm’s investment team.

9. Estonian agtech startup eAgronom raises €6.4 million to tackle emissions with farming-based carbon credits

Founded in 2016, eAgronom has grown into one of the biggest agtech companies in the Baltics. Beginning as a farm management software offering, the startup is now on a mission to transform the voluntary offset market and accelerate the transition to net-zero and has just raised €6.4 million to do so. The Series A equity round was led by Yolo Investments and ZGI Capital, with participation from Trind VC, Iron Wolf Capital and United Angels VC.

Agriculture is viewed as one of the major sources of global emissions today,  it also represents a considerable opportunity for removing CO2 from the atmosphere. Soils constitute the largest carbon sink outside oceans, with scientists estimating soils can sequester over a billion additional tonnes of carbon a year.

Robin Saluoks, co-founder and CEO of eAgronom, said: “Through our experience helping farmers with technology, we are uniquely positioned to capture the global agri-carbon opportunity. We leveraged our 1 million hectare farmer portfolio to get started but can’t stop there. To fight climate change, we have to provide transparent tracking and access to capital to all nature-based companies. We believe there is an outcome that can provide a win to farmers, consumers, the environment, and businesses looking to enhance their green credentials while incorporating the most rigorous standards to measure and certify carbon sequestration. We aim to become the leading developer of high-quality carbon credits.”

10. TrueCircle scoops $5.5M to use AI to drive recycling efficiency

UK-based TrueCircle, a computer vision startup founded just last year, has nabbed $5.5 million in pre-seed funding in a bid to bring data-driven AI to the recycling industry to improve recovery rates and quality — with the overarching goal of transforming the economics of waste reuse to shrink demand for virgin materials.

So far the startup has its tech up and running in eight UK waste sorting facilities but is ramping up quickly, with more launches coming in Q2 — when it will be expanding internationally into Europe and the US.

Recycling isn’t the most glamorous topic ofc but low levels of efficiency in the waste processing industry are a pressing problem from multiple angles — not least when combined with humanity’s pressing need to radically shrink global consumption in order to cut emissions and avoid catastrophic climate change — meaning there are real, meaningful problems here that tech could help solve.

Meanwhile AI-driven efficiency gains — and the digitalization of industrial processes more generally — are being specifically looked to to address climate change, including by policymakers in the Europe Union who are pushing a combined ‘green and digital’ transformation investment strategy for the bloc to try to hit net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

““The beauty of [our approach] is if you scale it up across the tonnage that’s been processed in the world today it’s a very scalable business model — if we were to just focus on this data-as-a-service business but our ambitions don’t stop there,” says Stocker. “I think this is the thing that gets us all super excited. We have a chance here to disrupt a $20BN per year industry through a much more digitalized trading infrastructure.”

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Startup Monday: Latest tech trends & news happening in the global startup ecosystem (Issue 54)

Episode 47


Be sure to subscribe to your favorite podcast app, so that you don’t miss Startup Monday’s new episodes. Apple Podcast | Spotify | Google Play | Pocket Cast 

Top startups news to follow this week:

1. What US startup founders need to know about the R&D tax credit

The Research and Development (R&D) tax credit lets businesses deduct R&D expenses up to $250,000 per year from payroll tax, or an unlimited amount against income tax if your startup qualifies. Over several years, this credit could save you millions of dollars.

It’s important to start the review process early not only to help avoid penalties, but to take advantage of all opportunities, and to know that not all opportunities can be leveraged at the same time.

One of the requirements to qualify for this tax credit is that activity needs to be “technological in nature.” So anything to do with engineering, physics, biochemistry, medical, hard sciences, computer sciences, or mathematics will almost guarantee you qualify. If you’re in one of these industries, you’re already meeting that minimum requirement. But if you’re not operating in one of these — say you’re in clothing or food — you might still be experimenting with technology that makes your business better.

2. Facebook-Backed Indian Startup Meesho Targets Early 2023 for IPO – Source

Indian startup Meesho, which counts Facebook-owner Meta Platforms and SoftBank Group’s Vision Fund 2 as its investors, is aiming to go public in early 2023, a source familiar with the matter told Reuters.

The Bengaluru-based social commerce platform is working to be ready for a listing by the end of 2022 and is evaluating both Indian and U.S. exchanges, according to an internal document seen by Reuters.

In September, Meesho raised $570 million at a valuation of $4.9 billion in a Series F funding round led by Fidelity Management & Research Company and B Capital Group.

Resellers on the company’s platform offer a variety of unbranded products, ranging from clothes to cosmetics to household appliances, predominantly in the country’s smaller towns and cities.

Users can resell products from the supplier marketplace for a profit margin to customers, largely through Meta-owned platforms WhatsApp, Facebook and Instagram.

“Meesho is filing documents by January next year and wants to essentially be done with the IPO by the first half of 2023,” the source, who did not want to be named because he is not authorized to talk to media, said.

3. Amid biotech downturn, Atlas raises $450M to build new drug startups

TAtlas is closing this fund amid one of the most severe biotech downturns in years, a retrenchment that’s constrained the options of private drug companies seeking to make the jump to public markets. Few biotechs are now pricing initial public offerings, breaking sharply with the pattern of the past few years, which featured record numbers of early-stage startups going public at high-dollar valuations. 

“”We’re still starting new companies and they’re financing very well,” said Jason Rhodes, a partner at Atlas, in a recent interview before the fund closing announcement. “I’d say certainly for the portion of the market that we participate in, which is really creating our own companies, there really has not been reduced demand for them.” 

Atlas has formed or invested in more than 50 biotech companies since 2015, including the more recently launched Third Harmonic, Chroma Medicine and Scorpion Therapeutics. Another Atlas-backed startup, Vigil Neuroscience, recently priced an IPO, one of four that have raised more than $50 million so far this year.

4. Voltage Finance closes $3.4M private round, releases details of token launch, reports CoinTelegraph

 Voltage Finance, formerly FuseFi and a cutting-edge, all-in-one decentralized finance (DeFi) platform on Fuse Network, today announced the official launch of the Voltage DAO governance token, Volt.

A successful private fundraising round was announced in December with $2.3 million raised from major institutional investors. A final private round closed in February and brought the total to $3.4 million.

Voltage Finance has been built to tackle the mass-adoption obstacles facing DeFi head-on: 

  • The consumer-facing Fuse Cash mobile wallet integrates Voltage, allowing users to exchange crypto assets in a slick, friendly interface with zero fees.
  • Scalability and transaction-cost issues are solved using the layer-1 Ethereum Virtual Network-compatible Fuse Network blockchain. 
  • Other features include direct, mobile bank-to-crypto onboarding in 170-plus countries and interest earnings on the platform-native stablecoin, FuseDollar (fUSD), of up to 50% annually. 

5. D’Amelio family launches VC fund 444 Capital to invest up to $25M in high-growth startups, TechCrunch reports

The D’Amelio family, including TikTok stars and digital creators Charli D’Amelio and sister Dixie, are formalizing their investments in startups with the launch of a new VC fund, 444 Capital. The family is teaming up with Doug Renert of Tandem Capital and producer Jeff Beacher of Beacher Media Group on the fund, which aims to back high-growth companies with strong end-user brands, including those in the direct-to-consumer space, fintech, edtech, healthcare, insurtech and other B2B2C platforms.

The fund has a target of up to $25 million, some of which has already been raised and deployed.

The D’Amelio family said the fund will have a particular focus on women- and minority-led startups.

“Our family wants to help a new generation of female and minority entrepreneurs build great companies. We hope to play a growing role in leveling the startup playing field over time,” Dixie and Charli D’Amelio said in a joint statement.

6. MedTech CMO market valued at $53.6 billion in 2021, is growing at a healthy rate of 5% during the forecast period

MedTech Contract Manufacturing Organisations (CMO) market is growing slightly ahead of the underlying growth in MedTech market as a result of increased outsourcing by OEMs and higher growth rates in segments like Drug delivery and Minimally Invasive Surgery.

Based on our research, the MedTech CMO market can be split into various end-market related segments like Orthopaedics, MIS, Cardiovascular, Surgical instruments, IVD and other end-market segments. While segments such as Orthopaedics are mature in terms of level of outsourcing, increasing use of robotics, single-use devices are causing higher growth. In terms of geography, United States followed by Germany, UK, Ireland, China, Malaysia and Singapore are some key countries with large presence of MedTech CMO sites. Metals and Polymers contribute to over 75% of the total value of MedTech CMO while injection molding, cutting and machining are the dominant manufacturing techniques used

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7. Fetch raises $3.5M for its self-service truck rental marketplace, TechCrunch

Fetch, that helps to find a truck (or van!) nearby, reserve it through the app, walk up and unlock it from your phone, and be on your way has raised $3.5 million to help expand their team and operations.

Fetch is up and running in a handful of cities for now, but that list is starting to rapidly grow. They first rolled things out in their hometown of Atlanta, recently expanding operations to Baltimore, Philadelphia, Dallas and Washington, D.C. Fetch co-founder Adam Steinberg tells me they plan to be in “another 12 cities” by the end of this year.

The company’s business model has expanded quite a bit since the last time we wrote, as well. Previously, all trucks available on Fetch were owned by Fetch; these days, it’s a marketplace where anybody with an available truck (be it companies with fleets or individuals with a spare vehicle, as long it can be available for rental seven days a week) can rent it out.

Pricing for rentals varies a bit depending on what you’re looking for — the vehicle size, how many miles you’ll drive and, as trucks can be rented by the hour or day, how long you need it. For example, a 6′ pickup in Atlanta is currently on the site for $19 an hour, or $70 per day with 50 miles included.

8. German VC firm Capnamic closes €190 million fund to fuel startups in German-speaking countries, reports EU-Startups

Founded in 2012 with offices in Cologne, Berlin and Munich, Capnamic’s portfolio includes companies such as LeanIX, Staffbase, Adjust (exit to Applovin) parcelLab or Capmo, amongst others.

Christian Siegele, Managing Partner of Capnamic, commented: 

“Since its inception, Capnamic has been dedicated to one goal only: to support the most promising tech startups from the German-speaking region in the best possible way to grow and scale internationally. We are very pleased that Capnamic’s success to date has convinced a number of major fund investors. With our new, oversubscribed USD 215m fund, we will jointly invest in the next generation of global tech champions and accompany them on their way to success”.

Like its predecessor funds, the third fund is clearly focused on investments in startups in the early stages of their activity. In addition to investments in Seed and Series A financing rounds, with Capnamic III the VC is strongly increasing its commitments in Pre-Seed phases in order to support promising teams even earlier and help them grow. 

Capnamic III has already invested in edtech startup Cleverly, outcome management specialist Workpath, wearable tech company Nanoleq, coaching platform Sharpist and no-code startup Cedalo.

9. French startup Lisaqua picks up €4.9 million to launch sustainability-focused land-based shrimp farm, reports EU-Startups

Nantes-based Lisaqua has now secured €4.9 million to launch France’s first land-based shrimp farm. The startup is developing permaquaculture – a healthier and more sustainable aquaculture. 

The funding comprises €2.6 million of new capital from investors including Le Gouessant Agricultural Cooperative and private investors, along with historical investor Litto Invest, in addition to non-dilutive funding of €2.3 million from Bpifrance and the Crédit Maritime and CIC Ouest banks.

Founded in  2018 by Charlotte Schoelinck, PhD in Marine Biology, Caroline Madoc, an engineer from Mines de Paris and Gabriel Boneu, an entrepreneur from HEC Paris, the company aims to o revolutionize aquaculture with its low environmental impact production system.

Lisaqua has developed “permaquaculture”, a patented co-culture technology combining shrimp, micro-organisms and marine invertebrates in recirculated indoor aquaculture farms. This innovation allows the farming of shrimp without antibiotics, preserves mangroves and saves 99% of water compared to conventional shrimp farming. Shrimp effluents are treated and used for breeding marine invertebrates for animal feed.

Since 2019, the company has been marketing a pioneering fresh, local and environmentally-friendly shrimp in France that is ‘triple-zero’ guaranteed – zero antibiotics, zero km travelled and zero polluting discharge. 

Each year, 80,000 tons of frozen shrimp are imported into France, and 290,000 tons into Europe. Lisaqua plans to produce 10,000 tons of shrimp per year by 2030 in France and Europe T​​his new round of funding will allow Lisaqua to finalize the construction of the first shrimp farm in France. 

Gabriel Boneu, Lisaqua CEO and co-founder commented: 

“This funding will allow us to recruit 10 people and to structure strategic partnerships to prepare our scale-up. We plan to set up a network of farms near the main French cities from 2024 in order to make our ultra-fresh shrimp available to as many people as possible”.

10. Feroot raises $11 million to meet growing customer demand for client-side security solutions.

Feroot Security announced the closing of $11 million in seed funding led by True Ventures. The funds will be used to meet growing customer demand for client-side security solutions by accelerating product development and go-to-market initiatives.

Over the past year there has been a remarkable increase in security incidents focused on breaching client-side webpages and web applications. These webpages and web applications tend to get breached via marketing forms, known vulnerabilities in JavaScript, compromised third-party scripts, marketing trackers, and more. Examples include attacks on over 100 luxury real estate sites; an attack on a gaming PC and console controller company; an attack on over 200,000 customers of an online shopping service; and an attack on a widely adopted open-source JavaScript plugin.

“A shocking 98% of websites use forms to collect personal and financial data from customers,” said Ivan Tsarynny, Feroot co-founder and CEO. “Threat actors are starting to gain higher ROI from attacking unprotected client-side applications as compared to traditional server-side attacks. In order to meet the increased demand for our client-side security products we needed to find a great partner with deep experience in helping early-stage cybersecurity startups grow.”

Interested?

Subscribe to receive your Startup Monday in your inbox every Monday. Do not miss out on the latest tech trends, global startups news, VC weekly overview, access to 1000 + Investors, Venture Capitals, Accelerators, tech jobs at the top tech companies in the U.S., and more.

Featured

Startup Monday: Latest tech trends & news happening in the global startup ecosystem (Issue 53)

Episode 46


Be sure to subscribe to your favorite podcast app, so that you don’t miss Startup Monday’s new episodes. Apple Podcast | Spotify | Google Play | Pocket Cast 

Top startups news to follow this week:

1. As per Zion Market Research study, The Global Biotechnology Reagents Market accounted for USD 77.4 Billion in 2020 and is expected to reach USD 159.2 Billion by 2028. Biotechnology reagents are being used in a wide range of areas, including basic science, biomedical research, and therapeutics. Furthermore, biotech companies’ significant R&D budgets would fuel demand for biotechnology reagents. Various sectors, such as pharmaceutical/biopharmaceutical, agri-biotech, and food and beverages, are constantly developing new products, which is expected to help the market expand. However, that biopharmaceutical product costs, as well as significant R&D spending, are expected to obstruct the growth of the biotechnology reagents industry in the coming years.

2. Singapore-based micromobility startup Beam secures $93M Series B, enters new markets, Tech Crunch

Beam, a Singaporean shared micromobility operator, announced today that it has raised $93 million in a Series B round to accelerate growth into new countries in Asia.

The fresh capital, which brings its total funding raised to $135 million, was led by Affirma Capital with participation from Sequoia Capital India, Hana Ventures, ICT Capital, EDB Investment (EDBI), AC Ventures, RTP Global and Momentum Venture Capital. The Series B brings Beam’s valuation up into the triple digits, according to Beam CEO and co-founder Alan Jiang, who declined to provide exact numbers. 

Beam, which currently operates e-scooters and e-bikes in 35 cities across Malaysia, Thailand, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand, aims to spread into markets like Japan, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Turkey. 

In addition, the new capital will enable Beam to spur its deployment of a new fifth-generation Beam Saturn e-scooter, which the company intends to start rolling out in the second half of this year. The next-gen scooter will come with an updated version of Beam’s safety platform, dubbed Micromobility Augmented Riding Safety (MARS), which helps protect pedestrians and enhance local governments’ control over where e-vehicles can park or ride, said Jiang. 

Existing technologies within the platform include dead reckoning and on-edge geofencing, but the fifth-generation Saturns will have a feature called Beam Pedestrian Shield, “an onboard AI camera that can instantly and accurately detect pedestrians to prevent collisions and detect footpaths to automatically reduce vehicle speed or even prevent riding completely,” according to Deb Gangopadhyay, chief technology officer of Beam.

Beam says its onboard camera with computer vision will be rolling out at scale by Q3 this year. The company initially will be piloting the onboard camera technology, which is developed in collaboration with its undisclosed R&D partner, a spokesperson at Beam told TechCrunch.

3. Hack VC raises $200M fund to back early-stage crypto startups, Tech Crunch reports

The investors behind virtual hack.summit(), the world’s largest blockchain programmer event, have launched a $200 million crypto seed fund under the Hack VC umbrella, fund partner Alex Pack told TechCrunch in an interview.

Ed Roman, formerly a solo GP, invested in early-stage tech and crypto companies for over 10 years through Hack VC before partnering with Pack, who previously co-founded global crypto fund Dragonfly Capital and led Bain Capital Ventures’ foray into digital assets. Pack and Roman have each invested in several early-stage crypto companies prior to launching this fund, including DeFi platforms Compound Finance and Terra, Pack said.

Hack VC wrapped up fundraising last fall and has been quite active since — the fund has made “at least” 15 investments worth tens of millions of dollars to date, according to Pack. Its recent investments span a variety of areas within crypto — from NFT emoji startup Yat, to DeFi lending platform Goldfinch Finance, to metaverse gaming company SynCity.

Hack’s thesis is centered around investing in what Pack describes as the “scaffolding” for a digital rights system for the whole internet, with a particular emphasis on emerging markets.

“The easiest use case of a digital-native property rights system is a digital-native store of value, like Bitcoin, but honestly, that’s not very interesting to me, like building a digital gold or whatever. I think it has its place, but to me, building this property rights system that allows anyone around the world to participate in the open financial system is really big,” Pack said.

4. The Department of Defense wants to create regional innovation hubs that it hopes will kickstart the domestic development of microelectronics.

The department’s Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Research and Engineering, led by Heidi Shyu, issued a request for information Thursday seeking feedback from the domestic microelectronic community on building what it’s calling a Microelectronics Commons.

The U.S. has historically led the global development of microelectronics — circuits, chips and other small-scale electronic materials. The DOD’s development and adoption of advanced technologies and weapons systems is highly dependent on the continued development of such computer chips. But, in recent years, the DOD says in its solicitation, “the efficient domestic adoption of U.S. chip innovation has been threatened as emerging hardware technologies have become increasingly reliant on offshore sources for State of the Art (SOTA) manufacturing, prototyping, and investment.”

““There are several significant hurdles that hardware startups face, including limited or expensive access to necessary facilities and design infrastructure, high costs of design intellectual property, limited expertise with hardware engineering, and high costs of prototyping,” the RFI says. “As a result, the number of U.S. hardware startups has dropped significantly and foreign investment in U.S.-based technology startups has enabled offshore fabrication and maturation of emerging technologies.”

The initiative is a component of DOD’s requirement under the fiscal 2021 National Defense Authorization Act to establish a National Network for Microelectronics Research and Development to “enable the laboratory-to-fabrication transition of microelectronics innovations in the United States and to expand the global leadership in microelectronics of the United States.”

5. E-commerce startup Fabric, led by Amazon vets, raises $140M at $1.5B valuation to pursue ‘absurd’ market opportunity. GeekWire reports that Fabric, a Seattle-based e-commerce technology startup whose leadership team includes several former Amazon executives, announced a $140 million Series C funding round, led by SoftBank, at a valuation of about $1.5 billion.

The deal makes Fabric the Seattle area’s newest “unicorn,” a privately held startup valued at more than a billion dollars. It’s the 18th company in the region to achieve that designation. Fabric has raised a total of $293.5 million to date.

Fabric CEO Faisal Masud said in an interview that he believes the 300-person company is just starting to tap its potential market opportunity as trillions of dollars in commerce moves online.

There’s this absurd amount of growth that is just waiting to be taken,” said Masud, a veteran of Amazon, Alphabet, Groupon, Staples and eBay. “Frankly, we think we’re very small, and we’re going to keep thinking that for a very long time.”

The 300-person company offers software, APIs, and other behind-the-scenes technology used by retailers and business-to-business brands for many aspects of online commerce, including pricing/promotion, inventory management, digital storefronts, and payments/checkout.

6. Peruvian startup Leasy secures $17M in debt, equity to provide auto loans to LatAm ride-hailing drivers

Leasy, a startup that offers automobile financing to ride-hailing drivers in Latin America via a subscription model, has secured $2 million in equity and $15 million in debt, reports TechCrunch

Italian-born Gregorio Gilardini and Alejandro Garay, who hails from Spain, met in Peru several years ago and discovered they both had an interest in using technology to make a social impact and help people escape “the poverty trap.”

They founded Leasy in 2018 with the mission to help people who would like to earn incomes as ride-hailing drivers be able to afford cars, thus earning a steady income. Traditional financial institutions charge outrageous interest rates and require hefty down payments, making it nearly impossible for members of a lower-income population to afford to purchase their own car.

Lima-based Leasy is different, said Gilardini, in that its interest rates are far lower and terms much more flexible. It claims that it offers loans that are “built around the needs” of a ride-hailing driver at competitive prices that match rental market prices. It also requires a down payment of 5%, compared to the 20% to 30% required by most banks.

“That’s an amount of cash that most people don’t have,” Garay said. “A lot live day to day and drivers are like ghosts in the system.”

Looking for Funding?

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7. Odys Aviation, formerly Craft Aerospace, raises $12M for its unique VTOL passenger aircraft.

A startup hoping to reinvent regional air travel with an unusual vertical-takeoff aircraft has rebranded and raised a $12.4 million funding round. Craft Aerospace will henceforth be known as Odys Aviation, and the money will go toward, among other things, a planned demonstration flight this year with a one-passenger prototype.

The interesting “blown wing” approach to VTOL craft is characterized in detail in this post, but in brief it bends the wing in such a way that the thrust from the rotors can be directed downward as well as rearward in a minutely adjustable fashion. It’s been tried before, but not on this scale — but Odys thinks the combination of box wing and high flap makes it not just possible but uniquely suited to short-hop air travel.

The aircraft will theoretically carry nine passengers and two pilots, fly at 30,000 feet and about 345 mph, and have a range of up to 1,000 miles. That makes it potentially a good option for such frequent commutes as LA-SF, Tokyo-Osaka and NY-DC. Of course, first it’ll need a place to land and take off — currently the company is working with Mojave Air and Space Port, but there are other arrangements in the offing.

“Integration at smaller airports is already very practical,” said co-founder and CEO James Dorris. “We have collaborated with two vertiport developers to ensure our aircraft can practically land at their facilities, and we’re also in discussion with one of the U.S.’s largest airports to assess airspace integration issues.”

8. Cryptocurrency mining in Kazakhstan: Protections for Foreign Investors

In recent weeks, Kazakhstan has tightened its regulatory regime for cryptocurrency miners operating within its borders in an about-turn from previous incentives aimed at encouraging investment.

In January 2022:

• the state-run power operator KEGOC stopped providing power to registered cryptocurrency miners, in response to the electricity shortage in the country. 1 This policy is estimated to have cost miners up to US$ 1 million daily2 and it is unclear whether KEGOC has resumed providing power; and

• an amendment to the tax code implementing a tax on cryptocurrency mining – 1 tenge ($0,0023) per kilowatt-hour of electrical energy consumed – reportedly came into force. 3

On 31 January 2022, the head of the digital assets department of the State Revenue Committee of the Ministry of Finance announced that the hourly rate could increase a further five or tenfold.4 As recently as 8 February 2022, the president of Kazakhstan, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, instructed the government to increase the current tax as soon as possible.5 

The high electricity consumption of mining farms appears to have been a driving force behind this tax. Kazakhstan’s infrastructure is struggling to keep up with the rapidly rising demand for electricity, which the authorities have blamed on mining data centres.

• Kazakhstan also reportedly plans to impose a levy on mining equipment. Mining firms will be required to report the number and type of their coin mining devices and pay the new fees on a quarterly basis.6

• The deputy finance minister has announced that VAT may also be charged on imports of mining hardware, which are currently exempt from this tax. 7

Industry groups have predicted that the high levels of taxation “will kill off the crypto-mining sector in Kazakhstan.”8 Many miners have already left the country in anticipation of these measures.

LEGAL PROTECTIONS FOR FOREIGN INVESTORS

Foreign investors could benefit from seeking protection for their investments in Kazakhstan under international treaties. Kazakhstan is a signatory to several investment treaties, including bilateral investment treaties (BIT) with China, 13 the United States, 14 and Switzerland.15 

Under these BITs investors may seek to resolve disputes through international arbitration under the auspices of the International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) – of which Kazakhstan is a Member State – or other arbitral institutions.

The BITs to which Kazakhstan is a party generally provide substantive protections to qualifying foreign investors, having made investments within the territory of Kazakhstan. These protections usually include the State’s compliance with the “fair and equitable treatment” (FET) standard towards foreign investors.

9. Warsaw startup picks up €7.5 million to build fulfillment network in Europe.

Polish full-service logistics and fulfillment operation startup Omnipack has raised €7.5 million funding. The final venture debt round of €2 million was led by Flashpoint. The seed investment saw the participation of early-stage VC fund SMOK Ventures, which has jointly invested in nearly 200 startups, including unicorns such as Uber, Unity, Zappos, Niantic, and Stripe and angel investors.

The fresh capital will enable it to scale quickly enough to meet the needs of an ever-expanding e-commerce market.

The funding will also be utlilised to enable e-commerce businesses to focus on their core competencies instead of logistics and overcome the physical limits of their business growth. Founded in 2017 by Tomek Kasperski, Rafał Szcześniewski and Karol Milewski in Warsaw, the startup is on a mission to deliver logistics solutions to match the expectations of modern e-commerce.

10. Aussie e-bike startup vrooms into Europe for expansion with $20 million.

The rapid delivery market (<30 mins) continues to grow at an exponential rate globally, with consumer expectations for delivery shortening by the minute.

Cashing in on the trend, Aussie electric last-mile delivery vehicle company Zoomo, which operates in Australia, the U.S., the U.K. and Europe, has raised $20 million. The round was led by New York based VC fund Collaborative Fund, which has made investments in household names such as Lyft, Whoop and Beyond Meat. It also saw the participation of strategic investors, including the VC arm of Mitsubishi UFJ; SG Fleet, Australia’s leading provider of integrated mobility solutions; WIND Ventures, the VC arm for COPEC, one of Latin America’s most forward-leaning energy and mobility companies; and Akuna Capital, a leading trading firm with an active venture arm offering patient capital to tech and tech-enabled companies.

The additional funds bring the total funding raised to date to over $100 million, a combination of both equity and debt.

The platform will use the new funding to deepen investment in core technologies, including new vehicle products and next-generation software. Furthermore, it will help accelerate the platform’s expansion into new cities and countries and enable exciting opportunities for recruitment across the business globally.

The full-service utility micro-mobility platform founded by Mina Nada and Michael Johnson in 2017 is on a mission to turn the world’s delivery fleets electric using e-bikes.

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Startup Monday: Latest tech trends & news happening in the global startup ecosystem (Issue 52)

Episode 45


Be sure to subscribe to your favorite podcast app, so that you don’t miss Startup Monday’s new episodes. Apple Podcast | Spotify | Google Play | Pocket Cast 

Top startups news to follow this week:

1. On February 4, 2022, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the America COMPETES Act to expand immigration opportunities for foreign-born scientists and engineers. If retained during negotiations with the Senate, the measures in the bill could become the most significant on legal immigration to pass Congress in more than 30 years.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, said the bill “will ensure that America is preeminent in manufacturing, innovation and economic strength and can outcompete any nation.”

House Science Committee Chair Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Texas, told NPR that a major federal infusion in research is badly overdue — especially to help the U.S. go toe-to-toe with China.

“We’ve just got to compete. And we’ve got to hopefully feel like we’re a little step ahead. And that’s really a big goal,” Johnson told NPR. “Because as you know, our society is very different in the kind of freedom versus communism type of behaviors.”

The bill has a number of provisions, including $52 billion to make chips, $45 billion to improve supply chains for critical items and $160 billion for scientific research and innovation.

Johnson said the legislation was also aimed at developing talent in the U.S. and fostering innovations in government labs that private companies could tap into for future products. Much of the research pieces in the bill, which has been in the works for years, included input from a range of private industry, academic experts and scientists who argue the U.S. needs a long-term commitment to seeding future breakthroughs that will prevent more jobs and manufacturing from moving overseas.

2.For Black-led startups, the lack of diversity in venture capital can pose a hurdle to access funding. The Jumpstart Nova fund, launched in 2021 to invest exclusively in Black health-tech firms, has raised $55 million from investors including Eli Lilly, HCA Healthcare and Bank of America.

Dr. Derrell Porter knew he had a good idea: a company that provides a platform to help researchers develop and commercialize gene and cell therapies.

“Academic medical centers and scientific innovators — they’re not pharmaceutical companies. They tend to look for partners to help finish the development of their programs,” Porter told CNBC, who founded Cellevolve to help make it easier for those researchers to connect with biotech companies.

Getting start-up off the ground meant making his own connection with financial backers, but his timing was bad. He began talking to investors about Cellevolve in March 2020, on the eve of the pandemic shutdown. 

When things reopened, Porter found that getting venture capitalists to invest was about more than buying into an idea.  

“They’re really making a bet on you as the entrepreneur, and therefore it’s a profoundly personal decision,” said Porter, who holds a medical degree from University of Pennsylvania Medical School and an MBA from The Wharton School. He noted, “being different or in the situation where the investor may not see themselves in you, or may not find a way to connect, that makes it harder to find capital.”

The venture capital industry is among the least diverse in finance. Nearly eight out of 10 VC investment partners in 2020 were white, 15% Asian and just 3% Black, according to the VC Human Capital Survey conducted by Deloitte, in conjunction with the National Venture Capital Association and Venture Forward.

3. Employment grows at a much faster rate at venture capital-backed startup companies than other private-sector firms⁠—roughly eight times faster, a new report finds.

The analysis of employment data examines “employment dynamics” of more than 67,000 U.S. companies that received venture capital (VC) investment during the period between 1970 and 2020. It was conducted by researchers at the Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise and the National Venture Capital Association (NVCA).

“The annualized growth rate of employment at VC-backed companies in our dataset between 1990 and 2020 is 8.2%,” the report’s executive summary reads.  “For total private sector employment, the growth rate between January 1990 and February 2020 is just 1.1

4. Blockchain startups grow as global VC funding generated $25.2B in 2021.

Last year was impressive for blockchain startups, as research from CB Insights found that venture capital funding reached new heights during every quarter of 2021. According to CB Insights’ “State Of Blockchain 2021” report, $25.2 billion worth of venture capital funding went to global blockchain startups last year, demonstrating a 713% increase from $3.1 billion in 2020.

The report also found that the United States led the greatest amount of funding deals in Q4 of last year, generating $6.26 billion for 157 deals. The document notes that global growth was driven by increasing consumer and institutional demand for crypto-related products and services. 

Chris Bendtsen, a senior analyst at CB Insights, told Cointelegraph that CB Insights’ report contains data aggregated from private marketing funding from over 3,000 blockchain and crypto companies that the firm regularly tracks. Bendtsen further explained that while the title of the report references blockchain, this serves as an overarching category that includes cryptocurrency, nonfungible tokens (NFT), enterprise blockchain and decentralized finance (DeFi). Bendtsen pointed out that the majority of VC funding mentioned throughout the report was allocated to crypto-focused startups. The report states:

“Over $100M mega-rounds (worth $100m+) were the driving force behind blockchain’s record funding year. The 59 mega-rounds in 2021 accounted for just 5% of total deals but 60% of total funding. The biggest mega-round deals went to crypto exchanges, brokerages, NFTs, gaming, and payments.”

According to the report, $1 out of every $4 worth of funding went to crypto exchanges and brokerages, which also equates to a quarter of all global blockchain funding in 2021. Bendtsen remarked that while the biggest deals went to major crypto exchanges such as FTX — which ranked as the second-largest equity deal for brokerages and exchanges in Q4 of 2021 — funding for country-specific exchanges has also been on the rise. 

For instance, CoinSwitch Kuber, one of the largest crypto trading platforms in India, ranked No. 4 for top equality deals for brokerages and exchanges in Q4 of 2021, generating over $260 million in its recent Series C funding round. “Based on these findings, it’s become evident that we are seeing the globalization of crypto, as more country-specific exchanges are raising impressive rounds,” said Bendtsen.

5. Partech Shaker, the innovation division of the Paris-based VC firm Partech, has launched an accelerator program christened Chapter54 to help European startups launch in African markets. The accelerator will take in 10 technology scaleups annually over the next four years for the Chapter54 program, which will last up to eight months. Application for the inaugural cohort will open next month, and successful startups will begin the acceleration journey in April.

Chapter54 will be funded to a tune of $5.7 million (€5 million) by the KfW Development Bank on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). “Companies from all sectors are welcome – but they must have business experience, be registered in a European country and active in two European countries, and have a solid financial foundation and regular income,” said KfW. Vincent Previ, the managing director of Chapter54, told TechCrunch that startups will be taken through several preparation stages, including mentorship programs with founders running successful enterprises across the continent, and with C-suite tech or startup executives.

“We have a very good knowledge of the European tech ecosystem because we are one of the most prominent investors in European tech. We are now a major investor in African tech, and we have the capacity to run innovative projects through Partech Shaker… From KfW’s view, we were a good player to run this acceleration program,” said Previ.

6. ICON, which creates homes using 3D printing, has raised an additional $185 million in a round led by Tiger Global Management, TechCrunch has learned exclusively. The financing is said to be an extension of ICON’s $207 million Series B that was announced last August.

While the Austin-based company confirmed the latest raise, it declined to comment on its valuation or provide further details. However, sources familiar with the deal who wish to remain anonymous told TechCrunch that ICON’s valuation “is now approaching $2 billion” and that some existing investors put more money into the company. Previous backers include Norwest Venture Partners, 8VC, Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG), BOND, Citi Crosstimbers, Ensemble, Fifth Wall, LENx, Moderne Ventures and Oakhouse Partners, among others. It is not clear which of those investors also participated in this extension. With the latest financing, ICON has now raised a total of $451 million in equity.

ICON was founded in late 2017 and launched during SXSW in March 2018 with the first permitted 3D-printed home in the U.S. That 350-square-foot house took about 48 hours (at 25% speed) to print. ICON purposely chose concrete as a material because, as co-founder and CEO Jason Ballard put it, “It’s one of the most resilient materials on Earth.”

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7. This UK startup got $9M so you’ll pay it to shrink your household bills

The UK’s cost of living crisis has been making grim headlines for months — with no respite in sight. Just this week, newspapers reported that inflation had hit 5.5%, a 30-year high, further pushing up prices for everyday essentials like food. Worse is yet to come as an energy price cap will end in April, when bills are projected to rise by more than 50%. The poorest households describe a stark choice — between ‘heating or eating’. Into this grim maelstrom a new London-based startup, called Nous, is hoping to throw households a life-raft by offering a free personalized report that explains how price rises will affect their costs and gives advice on how to adapt to inflation.

Nous, which is pronounced to rhyme with ‘house’, talks in terms of building an “autopilot” for routine household decisions — which spans and scans energy, insurance, mortgages, broadband and other subscription services to monitor activity and steer households onto better deals.  The startup projects that its future subscription service will be able to save a “typical” household more than £1,000 a year. (Its own service pricing would of course need to be set well below that to convince hard hit consumers to buy in.)

8. OnlineDoctor, a leaving teledermatology provider, has acquired German-startup A.S.S.I.S.T – developer of AI for dermatology.

The startup is developing a prototype with a diagnostic accuracy of over 85% for 30 skin diseases. This new acquisition deal is part of Switzerland-based OnlineDoctor’s strategy to bring the world’s first AI-supported medical product in teledermatology to market maturity.

Founded in 2016 by dermatologist Dr. Paul Scheidegger and the two health business experts Dr. Tobias Wolf and Dr. Philipp S. F. Wustrow, OnlineDoctor is one of Europe’s leading providers of teledermatology. The company is currently active in Switzerland, Germany and Austria, working with around 600 dermatologists, used by over 300 pharmacies and hospitals in Switzerland, and cooperating with over 40 health insurance companies in Germany. 

Telemedicine is the latest innovation in the healthcare sector – aiming to improve patient experience and reduce the strain on health care providers and systems. Teledermatology is a niche sector within this, and one that OnlineDoctor has been able to grow quickly in. 

In Germany, patients wait approximately 35 days for an appointment in a dermatological practice. Via the OnlineDoctor platform, people with a skin disease can get quick help from dermatologists in their area. They answer questions about the skin problem, upload photos of the affected part of the body and choose a doctor. Within an average of seven hours, they receive a written diagnosis and specific treatment recommendations. In about 15% of cases, the dermatologist will recommend an in-person visit – massively reducing pressure on doctors. So far, more than 70k people affected have been helped.

9.German startup Liefergrün secures €3 million to roll out zero-emission delivery service across Europe.

Sustainability-focused last-mile shipping platform, Liefergrün, has just closed a €3 million funding round. The funding was led by SpeedInvest with participation from Norrsken VC.

Founded in Münster in 2017, Liefergrün has a vision to enable guilt-free online shopping by reducing the environmental impact of deliveries. As a result, it is committed to creating a fair, social, and emissions-free delivery experience with the mantra ‘we respect your shopping’.  Liefergrün delivers in freely selectable time windows and with 24/7 real-time tracking. Return deliveries are also able to be scheduled and are fully sustainable. Already present in 30 cities across Germany, the startup uses a fleet of cargo bikes and electric vehicles based at scores of micro-distribution hubs to enable emission-free delivery of goods bought online to consumers.   The young startup works with the likes of Adidas, Dyson and Every to provide a range of services including two hour and next day delivery which customers can track in real-time using an app.  

10. Denmark-based FieldSense has just raised €2.9 million for its tech that is providing farmers with actionable insights on local microclimatic conditions. The funding was led by Danish Agro, with Rockstart as co-investor alongside Pajbjergfonden.

Today, farming has gone digital. Farmers are surrounded by data from a variety of sources, utilizing this data effectively can have a massive positive impact on farmers everyday life. One thing that also massively impacts farmers everyday life is the weather. It impacts everything from harvesting to fertilising, to animal management and everything in between. 

Founded in 2015, FieldSense launched its agtech weather services in 2018. The startup provides hyper-local weather information and forecasts to help farmers monitor and act upon changes in local, microclimatic conditions. Based on weather data from in-field, solar-powered weather stations, the Danish agtech company creates user-friendly tools for farmers to help them in various important decisions. The FieldSense weather station is tailored for agro-purposes, accompanied by a farming-oriented and intuitive app. 

Every day, FieldSense collects more than 2 million weather measurements from close to 16.000 sensors that farmers can use in their day-to-day planning and operations –  a real game-changer for the industry. 

Interested?

Subscribe to receive your Startup Monday in your inbox every Monday. Do not miss out on the latest tech trends, global startups news, VC weekly overview, access to 1000 + Investors, Venture Capitals, Accelerators, tech jobs at the top tech companies in the U.S., and more.

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Startup Monday: Latest tech trends & news happening in the global startup ecosystem (Issue 51)

Episode 44


Be sure to subscribe to your favorite podcast app, so that you don’t miss Startup Monday’s new episodes. Apple Podcast | Spotify | Google Play | Pocket Cast 

Top startups news to follow this week:

1. It’s the French Presidency of the Council of the European Union right now. And the French government is taking advantage of this opportunity to make some progress on the tech startup policy front. In an interview with TechCrunch, France’s digital minister Cédric O shared some news for the European tech ecosystem.

During the Portuguese Presidency of the Council of the EU, Portugal announced that it would go one step further and create the European Startup Nations Alliance (ESNA). It’s a new entity that is in charge of the Startup Nations Standard. In addition to compiling best practices, it can provide technical support and monitor progress.

Around the same time, French President Emmanuel Macron launched a different group called Scale-Up Europe. Tech companies, investors and associations signed a manifesto with the goal of reaching 10 tech companies that are worth €100 billion or more by 2030.

“In order to structure a strong European ecosystem, financing is key. We still want to attract investments from the whole world. But we also want to enable European venture capital with European funds, European knowledge and European teams,” Cédric O told me.

“Our goal is to create 10 to 20 funds with more than €1 billion. As a reminder, today, there are two funds with more than €1 billion in Europe compared to 40 funds in the U.S. These funds are Eurazeo and EQT — a French fund and a Swedish fund.”

This new funds of funds will invest as a limited partner in large late-stage European funds. With this new mechanism, fund managers should be able to raise a new fund more easily. For instance, if the EIF says they’re willing to invest €100 million or €200 million in a fund, it should attract more institutional investors in this new fund.

Some national investment banks, such as Bpifrance, have also been backing funds in their own countries. In France, private insurance companies and public investors are also participating in the late-stage funds following the Tibi initiative.

2.The global logistics robots market size is projected to reach USD 17.82 billion by 2028, exhibiting a CAGR of 16.4% during the forecast period. According to a report by Fortune Business Insights™, titled “Logistics Robots Market, 2021-2028”, the market value was estimated to stand at USD 5.38 billion in 2020 and is expected to touch USD 6.17 billion in 2021.

Increasing Adoption of Smart Warehousing Tools to Boost the Market

Managing warehouse operations can be a tedious task and companies are eagerly adopting smart technologies, mainly artificial intelligence and robotics, to optimize warehousing activities. For example, in May 2021, Locus Robotics deployed autonomous mobile robots, equipped with dashboards and reporting capabilities, for Taylored Services, a warehousing company. After the robots were rolled out, the company reported immediate productivity gains and improved client satisfaction. Logistics robots are proving to be especially useful for e-commerce companies, which extensively utilize warehousing services. In October 2018, for instance, Alibaba-owned Cainiao inaugurated a warehouse with 700 robots operating in it in China. Similarly, in June 2018, Google invested USD 500 million in China-based JD to leverage its expertise in automated supply chain and logistics. Thus, warehousing management powered by robotics and AI will significantly augment the outlook of this market.

By type, the market’s segments include automated guided vehicles, autonomous mobile robots, robot arms, and others. Based on application, the market is divided into palletizing &de-palletizing, pick & place, transportation, and others. In terms of industry, the market is distributed into e-commerce, healthcare, retail, food & beverages, automotive, and others. Geographically, the market has been categorized into North America, Europe, Asia Pacific, the Middle East & Africa, and Latin America.

3. Specialist VC (formerly known as United Angels VC) has announced the first close of a new €50 million fund at €42 million. The main focus of the fund is on pre-seed and seed stage startups and is the first of its kind in the Baltic region to implement a dual strategy of integrating secondary transactions into a traditional venture capital fund. 

Founded in 2017 by Riivo Anton and Gerri Kodres, Specialist VC is an Estonian-based tech investor that focuses on B2B, SaaS, fintech and marketplace startups in the Baltic region. So far, the firm has invested in and built long-term relationships with over 45 tech companies. Specialist VC has unicorns such as Bolt and Veriff in its portfolio, alongside stand-out startups such as Starship, COMODULE, Monese, and NFTPort. 

Founding Partner Riivo Anton said: “We are continuing our mission to help the founders of this region build impactful global companies. The region has been a remarkably successful breeding ground for startups, with Estonian startups alone raising close to a billion euros of funding in 2021. We see Latvia and Lithuania following the same path.” 

According to EU-Startups, Specialist VC Fund II will invest in over 40 startups from Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Finland, including founders from these countries who are building their startup elsewhere in the world, and founders from Ukraine and Belarus who are building their businesses in the European  Union. The fund will focus on, but is not limited to, investing in tech startups raising pre-seed and seed rounds in B2B, SaaS, fintech, platforms, software-enabled hardware, Web3, and deep tech verticals. A third of the fund volume is reserved for opportunity investing in secondary transactions into companies beyond Series A.

4. Bloomberg reports, that South Korea’s $200 billion sovereign wealth fund plans to boost investments in Silicon Valley startups as it looks to the metaverse and artificial-intelligence to accelerate its expansion in alternative assets.

Seoungho Jin, who took over the reins of Korea Investment Corp. in mid 2021, also has his eyes on hotels, which he sees as a good play on the global recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.

Jin is looking beyond the recent downturn in listed technology stocks and the wider risks to the sector this year from the Federal Reserve driving interest rates higher. He sees alternative assets accounting for about 25% of KIC’s portfolio by 2025, versus around 17% last year, and assets under management eventually rising to $300 billion.

“Some investors say Silicon Valley is already saturated, which I have to concede is partly true, but it is still a source of global growth,” Jin, 59, said in an interview in Seoul. “There are still plenty of good opportunities, if you chase them eagerly.”

KIC has almost doubled in size over the past five years, after a slow start when it was created in 2005 to increase national wealth and contribute to the nation’s finance industry. The fund, which only invests outside of South Korea, has yet to release its results for 2021.

Jin expects to add to headcount in the fund’s San Francisco office in this year to explore investments in tech, health and green ventures in Silicon Valley. He didn’t offer details on any specific investments.

In a wide-ranging interview with Bloomberg, Jin also said:

  • KIC will continue to seek investments in real estate, including hotels, which should benefit as travel increases
  • The fund’s allocation to alternative assets, including private equity and hedge funds, will increase by about 2 percentage points in 2022
  • Fixed-income assets will be trimmed by around 3 percentage points this year as global monetary policy normalizes. Equities holdings will increase slightly
  • KIC is looking at floating-rate notes or other debt products that could hedge against rising interest rates
  • Indian bonds look attractive among emerging-market debt amid relatively firm corporate earnings and a good investment environment
  • KIC has employed more quantitative strategies recently and given its expectation for market volatility it will add more staff in this area
  • It has also created a team for ESG, which is being factored into all investment decisions, and plans to increase staff in this area

5. Tech Crunch reports, French startup Alma is trying to build a new “buy now, pay later” giant in Europe. The company has closed a $130 million Series C round (€115 million). It has also raised $109 million (€95 million) in debt financing.

Tencent, GR Capital and Roosh Ventures are investing in the startup for the first time. Some of the startup’s existing investors are investing once again, such as Cathay Innovation, Eurazeo, Bpifrance’s Large Venture fund, Seaya Ventures and Picus Capital. Overall, it has raised $211 million (€185 million) in traditional equity funding rounds.

The company has partnered with 6,000 merchants so that they offer more flexibility for expensive purchases. The main payment product is the option to pay in two, three or four installments.

But the company also offers different plans. For instance, Alma offers 10-month or 12-month plans. Those options are particularly popular with some specific purchases, such as consumer electronics devices or furniture.

Finally, Alma has a payment option that lets you buy something and pay 15 or 30 days later. This could be particularly useful for clothing items and other goods that you think you might like, but you might end up returning.

Overall, Alma processes more than €1 billion annually with its current run rate. It doesn’t charge late payment fees, as the company thinks it isn’t aligned with consumers’ interests. Some companies, such as PayPal, have dropped late fees on BNPL installments. Others generate some revenue from those late interests.

Instead, Alma charges payment processing fees. Some merchants choose to pay those fees directly, hoping that it’ll increase sales. Other merchants share those fees with the end customers. It’s up to the merchant.

6. In 2021, some 60% of Americans ordered takeout or delivery at least once a week, and 31% used a third-party delivery service. Market Study Report predicts the global restaurant management software market to grow nearly 15% annually to reach $6.95 billion by 2025.

However, we’ve all had that experience where you receive your food delivery only to find the order is wrong. Agot AI is using machine learning to develop computer vision technology, initially targeting the quick-serve restaurant (QSR) industry, so those types of errors can be avoided.

The company was founded three years ago by Evan DeSantola and Alex Litzenberger to solve that operations perspective in restaurant technology, reward employee success and improve a restaurant’s customer satisfaction.

Its product confirms order accuracy in real-time for online ordering and notifies employees if an order needs a correction; for example, they forgot to add cheese or ketchup.

Since unveiling its technology, the company has worked with a group of large food service brands to deploy it, including Yum! Brands, which Agot is partnering with to pilot the technology in about 20 restaurants (with plans to expand to 100 restaurants if the pilot is successful), CEO DeSantola told TechCrunch.

Gavin Felder, chief strategy officer at Yum! Brands, said via a written statement that the company is “always looking for innovative ways to leverage technology to empower our team members, and improve both their experience and the customer experience in our restaurants,” and that early results from the pilot program “indicate a promising potential to deliver more accurate orders to our customers across all the channels we serve.”

Yum! Brands isn’t just a customer, but one of Agot AI’s investors — it participated in Agot’s $12 million funding round that included Conti Ventures, the venture arm of strategic investor Continental Grain Co., Kitchen Fund and Grit Ventures. That brings the company’s total fundraising to date to $16 million.

Agot will deploy its new capital into growing its engineering team, securing more pilot programs with QSR brands and adding more features so restaurants can provide better overall experience both at the drive-thru and behind the counter.

Looking for Funding?

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7. There’s no denying the growth of health tech globally over the past three years thanks to the pandemic. The event has accelerated the use of telemedicine, virtual care and drug delivery, thus fuelling investor interest in the sector.

Investment has also trickled down to Africa, with large checks going into growth-stage startups. Lagos- and Texas-based digital healthcare provider Reliance Health is the latest beneficiary and is doing so in grand style, raising $40 million. The Series B round is the largest of its kind in African health tech.

Reports say health tech in Africa should reach a market value of over US$11 billion by 2025, and Reliance Health is looking to play a pivotal role in the continent reaching that capitalization.

The company was founded in 2016 by Femi Kuti, Opeyemi Olumekun and Matthew Mayaki. It uses an integrated process to provide health insurance and telemedicine via partnerships with hospitals and healthcare facilities.

Our mission is super simple. I mean, the definition is simple, but the execution is sometimes more difficult than that,” chief executive Kuti told TechCrunch on a call. “So essentially what we’re trying to do is to use technology to make quality health care accessible and affordable in emerging markets.”

8. Enterprise artificial intelligence (AI) solutions startup Mozn has raised $10 million in a Series A funding round, the Saudi company said in a news release Friday (Feb. 4).

Founded in 2017, Mozn helps enterprises to “make better mission-critical decisions through AI products and solutions that leverage its proprietary state-of-the-art Arabic Natural Language Understanding (NLU) platform, as well as its cutting-edge risk and fraud engine,” the firm said.

NLU allows machines to read and process text-allowing applications like information extraction, text summarization, text classification and question-answering, with better bandwidth and precision than manual processing.

Mozn said in a statement it will use the funds to enhance the NLU engine and unlock use cases that previously would not have been possible for the 2 billion people worldwide speaking Arabic and other related languages.

The company says it also recently launched a Focal Anti-Money Laundering suite, designed to help financial institutions and governments deal with financial crimes. Mozn says it’s an industry that represents more $200 billion worth of opportunities worldwide

9.The Australia energy storage systems market is expected to register a CAGR of greater than 10% during the forecast period of 2022 – 2027. The COVID-19 outbreak had witnessed a moderate impact on the Australian energy storage system market as the country witnessed a slight decrease in operational activities as well as delays in the ongoing industrial and commercial projects in H1 2020, which occurred due to the shutdown of the battery manufacturing/installation facilities and labor shortage in several industries.

Battery energy storage system (BESS) type is expected to witness significant growth during the forecast period, owing to the rising demand for grid-connected solutions and the increasing adoption of lithium-ion batteries in the renewable energy industry.
The development of new advance batteries along with the increasing commecilization of compressed air energy storage (CAES) technology is expected to creates several opportunities to the Australian energy storage systems (ESS) providers in the future.
The growing renewable energy sector is one of the primary drivers of energy storage systems in Australia. This is due to the increasing demand of solar and wind energy sources, accounting for over 18% of the country’s total electricity generation in 2020.

10. The “Clean Energy Technologies Market by Technology (Hydropower, Clean coal, Wind, Solar, and Others) and Geography (APAC, Europe, North America, and ROW) – Forecast and Analysis 2021-2025” report projects that the potential growth difference for the clean energy technologies market between 2020 and 2025 is USD 81.65 billion. The report also identifies the market to register an accelerating growth momentum at a CAGR of 5.22% during the forecast period.

The increase in investments in clean energy technologies and rising demand for clean energy sources are some of the key market drivers. Stringent government regulations on minimizing carbon emissions and promotion of clean energy technologies such as solar PV and wind farm across the world has increased considerably in the recent years. Furthermore, in a view to promote the usage of green technologies, there has been a rise in investments in clean energy technologies such as solar energy, nuclear energy, and energy-efficient coal-fired power generation. This will further fuel the market’s growth during the forecast period.

However, factors such as competition from other sources of energy will challenge market growth. The use of fossil fuels such as coal, oil, natural gas, and other non-renewable energy sources accounts for a significant portion of the global energy mix which is expected to impede the growth during the forecast period.  Moreover, the cost of the establishment of renewable energy farms for power generation is quite high, and the power output from renewable sources is not at par compared with the output from non-renewable sources such as coal and natural gases. Such factors are projected to negatively impact the growth of the global clean energy technologies market during the forecast period.

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Startup Monday: Latest tech trends & news happening in the global startup ecosystem (Issue 50)

Episode 43


Be sure to subscribe to your favorite podcast app, so that you don’t miss Startup Monday’s new episodes. Apple Podcast | Spotify | Google Play | Pocket Cast 

Top startups news to follow this week:

1. Rise in prevalence of chronic diseases to help Digital Health market gain Valuation of US$ 1.2 Trn by 2028, States TMR Report.

The global digital health market is estimated to expand at a CAGR of 18.3% during the forecast period from 2021 to 2028, according to a study by Transparency Market Research (TMR).

Advancements in certain segments of the healthcare industry, including electronic health records (EHRs) are projected to favor the growth of the global digital health market in the upcoming years. Several IT companies are collaborating with research & industrial systems engineering organizations in order to introduce technological advancements in EHR systems. Furthermore, government authorities of many countries around the world are incentivizing different IT firms that are working to advance EHRs.

Digital Health Market Driving Forces Are:

  • Players in the digital health market are focusing on the use of medical deep learning techniques in order to foresee potential risks of Parkinson’s disease and dementia in people. Besides, several new entrants are increasing focus on the medical artificial intelligence (AI) to diagnose potential disease patterns in patients.
  • Many healthcare organizations are collaborating with researchers in order to work on projects that are focused on the use of medical AI to study non-invasive connections between different parts of the human brain and identify mental disorders at early stage
  • Mental health doctors are depending on key data from wearable devices while studying illness of a patient. This factor is creating sizable revenue streams for enterprises operating in the global digital health market.
  • Surge in cases of cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and other chronic disorders is offering promising business prospects in the global digital health market
  • Rising trend of paid video consultations using latest technologies such as telemedicine is creating lucrative prospects in the global digital health market

The market is prognosticated to gain sizable business opportunities in America and Europe, owing to many factors such as rise in investments in the digital health market through merger & acquisitions, funding, and government funding. Moreover, technological advancements in these regions are anticipated to play a key role in market growth in these regions. The Asia Pacific digital health market is expected to observe promising growth avenues during the forecast period, owing to rise in adoption of digital health products in many developing countries such as Australia, India, and New Zealand along with increase in penetration of Internet and smartphones in the region

2. BUSINESS WIRE reports that the global market for Biorefinery estimated at US$553.7 Billion in the year 2020, is projected to reach a revised size of US$979.5 Billion by 2026, growing at a CAGR of 9.8% over the analysis period.

In the recent years, various companies have moved ahead with encouraging developments that are anticipated to shape and drive the domain. While some of the companies are looking forward to set up new biorefineries, others are coming up with innovative technologies intended to exploit biomass for desirable bio-products.

In a major development in this direction, Petron Scientech, Inc. and SBI Bioenergy, Inc. have joined hands for licensing of differentiated, sustainable, integrated and energy-efficient technologies for conversion of biomass into clean hydrogen along with production of low-carbon biofuels.

The Biorefinery market in the U.S. is estimated at US$168.6 Billion in the year 2021. The country currently accounts for a 28.3% share in the global market. China, the world’s second largest economy, is forecast to reach an estimated market size of US$155.2 Billion in the year 2026 trailing a CAGR of 11.2% through the analysis period.

Among the other noteworthy geographic markets are Japan and Canada, each forecast to grow at 7.6% and 8.6% respectively over the analysis period. Within Europe, Germany is forecast to grow at approximately 10.6% CAGR while Rest of European market (as defined in the study) will reach US$137.9 Million by the end of the analysis period. Strict government regulations, particularly in North America and Europe, that discourage the use of synthetic and chemical-based lubricants is expected to act as a demand driver.

While the US and Europe are expected to remain the key markets for biolubricants in the near future, developing regions such as Asia-Pacific and Latin America are poised to generate the fastest demand growth for these bio-based products.

Thermochemical Segment to Reach $107.2 Billion by 2026

Thermochemical biorefineries convert biomass feedstock into pyrolysis oil or synthesis gas. The thermochemical conversion process is known for high degree of complexity and uses specific operating conditions, components and configurations. The process concerts biomass into syngas that can be converted into ethanol-rich blend. In the global Thermochemical segment, USA, Canada, Japan, China and Europe will drive the 12.2% CAGR estimated for this segment.

These regional markets accounting for a combined market size of US$42.3 Billion in the year 2020 will reach a projected size of US$99.4 Billion by the close of the analysis period. China will remain among the fastest growing in this cluster of regional markets. Led by countries such as Australia, India, and South Korea, the market in Asia-Pacific is forecast to reach US$9.7 Billion by the year 2026.

3. Over the past few years, AI startups have showcased a lot of growth with various noteworthy innovations and revolutionary artificial intelligence concepts. With the emergence of Covid-19, these startups also faced several challenges along their evolutionary journeys that have even impacted their business potential. Impact-driven investors and customers look for business potential. So, AI accelerators and incubators can prove to be efficient partners for these AI startups.

Here are AI accelerators and startup incubators to follow in 2022:

Digital Catapult is highly experienced in applying AI to new emerging systems and operations. The company specializes in machine learning, edge computing, edge computing, and general adversarial networks. Digital Catapult is also known for bringing the best in businesses, accelerating new possibilities with digital technologies. 

Y Combinator provides seed funding for startups. The company’s primary goal is to enable the startups to pass through the first phase and help to get to a point where they are able to innovate something revolutionary and cutting-edge

Antler focuses on redefining future companies. The team seeks the right team that will understand early-product market fit validation and pre-seed capital because that increases the chances of a new company to make profits. 

Analytics Ventures is a venture studio fund dedicated to establishing new ventures that look forward to harnessing the power of artificial intelligence. 

AI Seed offers pre and post-investment support specialty, tailored to the unique needs of emerging artificial intelligence and machine learning startups.

AI2 Incubator is an initiative of the Allen Institute for AI. The organization helps entrepreneurs create their first AI startups through leading AI research, support, and funding. 

Hero House is an entrepreneurship hub that combines the specific potential of local leading universities with that of the expertise and network of business leaders in entertainment, aerospace, bioscience, and other advanced technologies. Hero House has also established its own in-house venture capital fund called SmartGateVC.

NextGrid’s mission is to accelerate the pace of innovation by investing in startups, talent, and ecosystems that are driven by artificial intelligence. To enhance AI acceleration facilities, the company has also launched the AI Slingshot program that enables steady growth and success of early-stage AI startups.

AIVL’s mission is to positively impact the world by accelerating cloud-based AI startups with the potential to transform and upend industries. With the help of one-of-a-kind acceleration, the company’s innovative industry labs help promising AI startups to boost growth and productivity. 

Nvidia Inception is an accelerator program that focuses on cutting-edge startups, providing critical market support, expertise, and technology. Nvidia explores the potential of global startups through enhanced computing, from the concept of reality. 

4. Cloud is the big buzzword these days, with people talking about why it’s a smart move for companies, and lots of venture-backed startups developing easy ways for companies to make the shift.

Artisanal Ventures, a Bay Area venture capital firm investing in B2B cloud startups, closed on its first fund, the oversubscribed $62 million Artisanal Ventures I. The inaugural fund is backed by more than 50 founders and senior executives from companies like Square, Atlassian, CrowdStrike, AppDynamics, Snowflake, Splunk, UiPath and MuleSoft.

The firm is led by Andy Price, general partner, and also founder of cloud-focused executive search firm Artisanal Talent. He has brought in Andrew Van Nest as a partner. Van Nest was previously a venture investor at Blumberg Capital.

Meanwhile, Price expects most of the check sizes to be between $500,000 and $1.5 million for early-stage companies and $2 million to $3.5 million in later-stage companies.

“We sit in a unique spot in the B2B software landscape as both investors and recruiters,” Van Nest said. “Our lens into the flow of great talent allows us to monitor and invest in spaces that are truly at the cutting edge. We’ve been focused on ML/NLP, cloud security and automation. We’re excited to be supporting companies leading the charge.”

5. Tech Crunch reports that a seven-month-old fintech app that is helping millions of Indians to begin their investment and saving journeys has raised $32 million in its Series A financing round, just months after securing its seed funding.

The New York-headquartered investor led the new round, with participation from scores of investors, including Rocketship.vc, Stonks, Force Ventures, Arkam Ventures, Klarna founder Victor Jacobsson, Suleman Ali of Ali Capital, Shamir Karkal of Sila Money, Byron Ling of Cannan Partners and Joel John of Ledger Prime.

Nearly a billion Indians have bank accounts today, but they have never made any investment. Part of the reason is confusion, said Nishchay Ag, co-founder and chief executive of Jar. “Their world is littered with ads of different financial instruments,” he told TechCrunch in an interview.

For decades, banks and mutual funds have been trying to tap India masses with their products. Despite the hundreds of millions of dollars they have sunk in to win the market, they have been able to court fewer than 30 million individuals.

“Manufacturing a product is one thing and being able to sell it is another. All these institutions are good at manufacturing. For selling, you have to be aligned with the individual’s persona, idiosyncrasies, insecurities, cognitive load and the cultural significance. That’s an art and science by itself,” he said.

6. EU-Startups reports that the Enterprise forensics platform Binalyze has just raised €9.1 million in its mission to enable companies to respond more efficiently to cyber threats. The funding was led by OpenOcean with participation from Earlybird Digital East which led Binalyze’s pre-seed round last year.

Cybercrime is one of the primary concerns for enterprises in the digital age. It’s claimed that over half of large companies now deal with hundreds, if not thousands, of cybersecurity alerts every day. It’s now becoming accepted that 100% breach prevention is no longer a realistic expectation for most businesses. 

Traditional digital forensic tools are slow and require technical knowledge that is in short supply – meaning it can take weeks, or even months, for an enterprise the understand the full extent of a cyber breach. Cyberthreats, though, require a speedy response. This is where Binalyze is targeting its focus – redefining how enterprises respond to cyber security breaches. 

Emre Tinaztepe, CEO and founder of Binalyze said: “100% breach prevention is no longer a realistic expectation. Forensic visibility is an integral part of an investigation. Enterprises need to be prepared with the right tools to mount an effective and quick response once a suspected breach is detected.”

“Speed is of the essence. Cybercriminals work quickly once they gain access to a corporate network. Binalyze is designed to be fast, capturing the most comprehensive forensic snapshot and creating a detailed digital forensics report in less than 10 minutes. It dramatically speeds up all stages of incident response, from identification to remediation.”

Looking for Funding?

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7. Marvel Fusion, a Munich-based fusion energy startup, has just got a €35 million funding boost to accelerate the commercialization of fusion tech, overcoming some of the hurdles of producing clean energy at scale. The Series A funding round was led by Earlybird. 

Founded in 2019, Marvel Fusion is developing a novel energy source that is based on laser-driven fusion. The fusion process releases large amounts of zero-carbon emission energy that can be converted into electricity – a timely innovation in the age of energy crises and climate change. 

 Fusion technology combines the advantages of clean energy sources with the possibility to produce baseload energy at a large scale – without having the disadvantages of traditional power generation in terms of carbon emissions or long-lived problematic waste. Marvel FUsion are completely changing the game with their solution, offering a promising approach for a truly clean and safe fusion tech that can be a global game-changer for energy production. 

Moritz von der Linden, CEO of Marvel Fusion, said: “Fusion technology has the potential to disrupt energy production at large scale and to significantly contribute to fighting climate change, one of the biggest challenges for mankind”

8. Urban mobility startup Dott has raised an extension to its Series B round. Originally announced in the spring of 2021, the company raised an $85 million Series B round — it was a mix of equity and asset-backed debt financing. And today, the company is adding another $70 million to this round —once again, it’s a mix of equity and debt.

Dott is a European micromobility startup that is better known for its scooter-sharing service. More recently, the company added an electric bike-sharing service in some cities.

Abrdn is leading the Series B extension with Dott’s existing investor Sofina. Other existing investors put more money on the table, such as EQT Ventures and Prosus Ventures.

Dott competes with several micromobility startups in Europe. Its most direct competitors are Tier, Lime and Voi. They are quite similar when it comes to pricing and scooters — most of them work with Okai to design their scooters — but they don’t necessarily operate in the same markets.

Right now, Dott covers 36 cities across nine European countries. The company manages 40,000 scooters and 10,000 bikes. While Dott isn’t sharing revenue numbers, the startup processed 130% more trips in 2021 compared to 2020.

9.A live-stream video of a 76-year-old woman pottering about her kitchen plays on Li Hong’s phone. Li is in London, 8,700km from her mother in the Chinese city of Kunming. Li has narrowed the distance between them by installing cameras in her mother’s apartment, where she lives alone. The system has built-in microphones and speakers, enabling the pair to discuss the latest readings from the blood pressure monitor of Li’s mother, who has a heart condition. “It’s like I am back in China with her. The technology is so convenient,” says Li.

China has been quick to deploy a range of new technologies to relieve the burden on hospitals, care systems and families caring for the sick and elderly. But it is in medical artificial intelligence that the country’s early adoption of new solutions has been particularly notable, says Eric Topol, a US doctor and author of Deep Medicine: How Artificial Intelligence Can Make Healthcare Human Again. China has shifted faster than the US in medical AI from research to implementation, driven in part by the availability of high-quality data, says Topol. “China has a massive data advantage when it comes to medical AI research,” he says, explaining that Chinese researchers can train AI models on data sets covering entire provinces. In contrast, their US counterparts are restricted to working with information from single hospitals — largely operated by private businesses that keep records on internal servers.

Financial Times reports that Airdoc, a Beijing-based medical AI group, recently became the first company to gain regulatory approval for its retina-scanning software to be deployed in Chinese hospitals.

10. Bitcoin mining is the process of creating new digital tokens and adding past transaction records to a public blockchain ledger. This energy-intensive process is a heavy greenhouse gas emitter.

Some startups encourage crypto miners to use clean energy sources. Texas tech startup Lancium recently raised $150 million to power bitcoin mining with renewable energy. The Houston, Texas company will create bitcoin mining sites across Texas.

Hanwha Solutions, a clean energy company, led Lancium’s latest funding round. Most of the financing round participants were power companies.

Lancium’s CEO, Michael McNamara, said “I think the fact that it’s all energy companies investing suggests that we have a shared vision of the role bitcoin mining should play in the grid.”

Lancium, founded in 2017, describes itself as a carbon neutral cloud computing company. It plans to build and operate technologically advanced data centers that will promote renewable energy growth.

Interested?

Subscribe to receive your Startup Monday in your inbox every Monday. Do not miss out on the latest tech trends, global startups news, VC weekly overview, access to 1000 + Investors, Venture Capitals, Accelerators, tech jobs at the top tech companies in the U.S., and more.

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Startup Monday: Latest tech trends & news happening in the global startup ecosystem (Issue 49)

Episode 42


Be sure to subscribe to your favorite podcast app, so that you don’t miss Startup Monday’s new episodes. Apple Podcast | Spotify | Google Play | Pocket Cast 

Top startups news to follow this week:

1. One of the most popular applications of artificial intelligence to date has been to use it to predict things, using algorithms trained with historical data to determine a future outcome. But popularity doesn’t always mean success: Predictive AI leaves out a lot of the nuance, context and cause-and-effect reasoning that goes into an outcome; and as some have pointed out (and as we have seen), this means that sometimes the “logical” answers produced by predictive AI can prove disastrous. A startup called causaLens has developed causal inference technology — presented as a no-code tool that doesn’t require a data scientist to use to introduce more nuance, reasoning and cause-and-effect sensibility into an AI-based system — which it believes can solve this problem.

CausaLens’s aim, CEO and co-founder Darko Matovski said, is for AI “to start to understand the world as humans understand it.”

“Human bodies are complex systems, and so applying basic AI paradigms you can find any pattern you want, correlations of any sort, and you are not getting anywhere,” Darko Matovski, the CEO and founder of the startup, said in an interview. “But if you apply cause and effect techniques to understand the mechanics of how different bodies work, you can understand more of the true nature of how one part has an impact on another.”

Last week, the startup is announcing $45 million in funding after seeing some early success with its approach, growing revenues 500% since coming out of stealth a year ago. This is being described as a “first close” of the round, meaning it’s still open and potentially going to grow in size.

2. Esusu becomes unicorn with SoftBank Vision Fund 2-led $130M funding. Esusu, a fintech that targets immigrant and minority groups and provides rent reporting and data solutions for credit building, said Thursday it has raised $130 million in a Series B fundraising round.

The investment gives four-year-old Esusu a valuation of $1 billion, placing it as one of the very few black-owned unicorns in the U.S. and globally. SoftBank Vision Fund 2 led the funding round, with participation from Jones Feliciano Family Office, Lauder Zinterhofer Family Office, Schusterman Foundation, SoftBank Opportunity Fund, Related Companies and Wilshire Lane Capital.

More than 100 million Americans spend an average of $1,100 (over $1.4 trillion per year) on their largest monthly household spend: rent. But reports say 90% of these people don’t get credit for paying their rent on time.

On a sub-level, over 45 million people in the U.S. don’t have credit scores, according to a 2020 report by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Most of this demography are financially marginalized due to their background and race.

Immigrants and African Americans have lower or non-existent credit scores than other populations. To a large extent, they also witness more predatory lending, putting them in a cycle of financial insecurity. So, while they need strong credit scores to build wealth, they do not have access to build credit.

Esusu co-founders and co-CEOs Nigerian-born American Abbey Wemimo and Indian American Samir Goel grew up in immigrant homes and experienced firsthand this financial exclusion. They started the company in 2018 to build the credit scores of this marginalized group and “leverage data to bridge the racial wealth gap” via rental payments.

3. Intellect, the Singapore-based mental health startup focused primarily on Asia-Pacific markets, announced today it has raised a $10 million Series A. The company’s services, including self-directed mental wellness programs in 15 languages and online therapy sessions, are available through two channels: as an employee benefit and through Intellect’s consumer app.

The round, which Intellect claims is the largest Series A ever raised by a mental health startup in Asia, was led by HOF Capital. New investors included Headline, East Ventures, MS&AD Ventures, DG Daiwa Ventures and Pioneer Fund; existing backer Insignia Ventures Partners also returned.

Co-founder and CEO Theodoric Chew told TechCrunch that Intellect differentiates from other employee wellness programs because “Intellect’s vision isn’t simply to be a self-care app or an employee benefits platform solely, but a full mental healthcare system for Asia. That drives a differentiated approach in how we build our platform which caters from the smallest of daily struggles through self-guided programs, all the way to clinical therapy for chronic issues.”

The company, a Y Combinator alum, will use the capital to increase its product, engineering and commercial teams as it continues expanding into new markets. It currently has about three million registered users, in a total of 20 countries, with a strong commercial presence in Singapore, Hong Kong and Australia, said Chew.

4. Massachusetts-based Vecna Robotics is among those firms looking to bring autonomy to pallet moving and other forklift-centric warehouse activities. As Techcrunch reportedThe firm has already raised a decent chunk of change, including a $50 million Series B back in January 2020 — just before the pandemic did its number on the U.S. That round brought its funding north of $60 million, a figure it’s more than doubled with a new Series C.

The company already used its previous round to do a fair bit of hiring, including new CEO Craig Malloy and CMO Josh Kivenko. Here’s the former on what this fresh infusing of funding will go toward:

There is huge headroom for growth in automated material handling with over 5 billion pallets in the world being moved by more than 5 million forklifts and nearly 5 million manual operators. This investment, led by such a prominent and supportive group of investors, will allow us to accelerate our roadmap and deliver solutions to the market faster in order to meet the insatiable demand for increased throughput in material handling environments like factories and warehouses.

Vecna says the money will be used for R&D on the software and hardware front, fulfilling orders and expanding operations. The company is no doubt one in a long line of robotics firms that’ve seen increased interest among investors fueled by the pandemic and a widespread inability to keep jobs filled.

5. Entertainment platform, Fever, has just raised €200 million in a round led by Goldman Sachs Asset Management’s growth investment fund. This round, which is regarded as the largest ever in the live entertainment tech category, brings Fever to unicorn status.

This big funding news also marks an exciting time for culture and live entertainment in the era of digital entertainment and the Metaverse. It seems live entertainment and cultural experiences are still at the forefront of our minds!

Other investors participating in this mega-funding include Alignment Growth, Goodwater Capital and Smash Capital. 

Founded in 2011 in Madrid by Spanish entrepreneur Pep Gomez, Fever is now co-led by fellow Spaniards Ignacio Bachiller Ströhlein, Francisco Hein and Alexandre Pérez Casares. It’s not the company’s first time breaking records with funds in the entertainment discovery market – raising $35 million in 2019. 

Fever has been on a mission to democratize access to culture and entertainment through its innovative approach to the experience economy. Fever inspires users to explore the best experiences in their cities while helping event organizers generate a very targeted demand. 

Since the pandemic has been disrupting our lives, the live entertainment, culture and experience economy has certainly been undergoing turbulent changes. Thousands of organisers such as museums, theatres and so on have had to make considerable efforts to adapt to continue to attract the mass public. Fever has been making it easier for these organizers to do so – making their experiences more accessible to a whole new audience across the world.

6. Dutch climate startup Sensorfact has just scored €13 million for its intelligent energy management and energy saving solution. Investment companies FORWARD.one, Korys and SET Ventures are all participating in the funding. 

Founded in 2016, Sensorfact has developed an Intelligent Energy Management System (IEMS). With this plug-and-play hardware and software, industrial SMEs can easily access and monitor their energy consumption in detail, reduce it with targeted actions and integrate it into increasingly strict energy reports.

In July last year, the European Commission presented the ‘fit for 55’ package, which aims to achieve a CO2 reduction of 55% in 2030 compared to levels in 1990. As a result, companies have to deal with increasingly strict regulations. Energy prices have also risen sharply in the past year, reaching a record high last December. Tech being offered by Sensorfact is going to prove indispensable in achieving carbon reduction targets and addressing price fluctuations. 

Sensorfact CEO Pieter Broekema, commented: “The energy bill is one of the largest costs that companies in the manufacturing industry are facing, especially with current energy prices. In addition, due to the wide interest in climate change, there are an increasing number of European regulations that companies have to comply with. With our technology, companies can kill these two birds with one stone.”

The climate tech startup supplies measuring equipment that can be easily installed by customers, giving insight into data around energy consumption – curial when looking at how to reduce consumption ad comply with regulations. With industry-specific algorithms, Sensorfact’s solution is then able to identify energy savings. This is complemented by energy experts who help with implementation. 

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7. As Techcrunch reported, Indian startup Moglix has more than doubled its valuation to about $2.6 billion from $1 billion just eight months ago as the Indian industrial business-to-business marketplace aggressively scales its offerings in many parts of the world.

Founded by IIT Kanpur and ISB alumnus Rahul Garg, Moglix operates a B2B marketplace and procurement platform for manufacturing goods that could be anything from a centrifugal pump to a fan to routers and pulse oximeters.

“We are happy to have the continued support and faith of our investors, customers, suppliers and team. We are excited to welcome Ward Ferry onboard. We are focused on our mission to enable creation of a $1 trillion manufacturing ecosystem in India,” said Garg in a statement.

“We will continue to invest in building technology and supply chain capabilities to enable growth of the manufacturing and infrastructure sector. Moglix will increasingly focus on growth driven by supply chain financing, acquisition of the right partners and global expansion.”

The startup says it serves 500,000 small, medium-sized businesses and enterprises.

8. Israeli Crypto Startup Fireblocks Soars With $8 Billion Valuation. In the summer of 2019, Fireblocks — headed by Shauolov and co-founded with Idan Ofrat and Pavel Berengoltz — was still a stealth startup, the clandestine phase in which startups develop under a shroud of secrecy before unveiling the product. Only then did it announce its initial, relatively modest funding round of $16 million. By last March it had become a unicorn, and in July, it completed a $310 million round on a $2.5 billion valuation. On Thursday, Fireblocks is announcing another round for a staggering $550 million at an $8 billion valuation. For those who didn’t do the math, Fireblocks’ valuation catapulted threefold within a mere six months, and it is now one of Israel’s three highest valued private companies, following Rapyd and Snyk.

The company owes its unusual quantum leap to its product: a secure digital platform for crypto transactions. The cryptocurrency market experienced a dramatic growth spurt over the past two years, hitting the $2 trillion mark before the current crash. Increasing numbers of traditional businesses are beginning to adopt cryptocurrency, and according to forecasts, this year alone a quarter of small businesses will be accepting payment in these currencies — Fireblocks is going with that flow. To date, the company’s platform boasts a 15% share of all cryptocurrency transactions. At the same time, crypto is carving itself a growing share of a broader arena: not that of private consumers but of the institutionalized financial industry. The crypto advocates dream of taking over or completely replacing these leviathan institutions, although the likes of Goldman Sachs and J. P. Morgan have recently established dedicated crypto units and are allowing clients to hold cryptocurrency and trade them. Naturally, Fireblocks is relishing these developments.

Now, in an exclusive interview with Calcalist’s supplement, Shaulov reveals what this stellar eruption looked like from within, and how it led to a total of one billion dollars in funding.

“Three things came into play here,” Shaulov explains in a series of Zoom interviews from the company’s New York offices. “Firstly, I think investors have begun to grasp that at least for now, Fireblocks is the dominant and triumphant player, or in investor lingo — ‘the one.’ An understanding that we have set the industry standard is starting to permeate the market. I’m wary of viewing us as the single solution, because we’re not, but we are the best solution in the market. The second thing was that our whole theory regarding the direction in which the market is heading with NFT, DeFi and digital payments is materializing — everything is unfolding exactly the way we said it would.

“The third thing is the fact that despite a certain inflation of prices and company valuations in the background, our value is sustained by a truly insane growth rate. We’ve had to update our annual forecast four times in the past year. Initially we adjusted our revenue forecast from $8 million to $25 million, followed by $35 million, and lastly to $45 million. We actually ended 2021 with $60 million in revenue — that’s growth of over 600% in one year, and for this year as well, we forecast a tripling of our revenue.”

9.The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) today announced $35 million in funding for diverse small businesses to pursue scientific, clean energy, and climate solutions. The funding will support 158 projects across 29 states that will aim to develop an array of clean energy technology, from climate research tools to improved batteries for electric vehicles. This investment will create good-paying jobs, build a diverse climate workforce, and help achieve President Biden’s goal of a net-zero carbon economy by 2050.  

“Supporting small businesses will ensure we are tapping into all of America’s talent to develop clean energy technologies that will help us tackle the climate crisis,” said U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm. “DOE’s investments will enable these economic engines to optimize and commercialize their breakthroughs, while developing the next generation of climate leaders and helping to build a sustainable future to benefit all Americans.” 

10. Breakthrough Energy Catalyst, a private-public fund backed by Microsoft billionaire Bill Gates, is planning to help invest up to $15 billion into clean tech projects across the U.S., the U.K. and the European Union.

But Jonah Goldman, Breakthrough Energy managing director, told the Financial Times that the fund ultimately plans to mobilize 10 times that amount, or $15 billion. The difference is expected to come from private companies and governments around the world.

In order to deploy $15 billion, Goldman told the FT that the fund plans to use innovative financial structures and partnership agreements. “We are last-mile financing and so, we will be the most risky capital in there,” Goldman said. “We’re really trying to demonstrate which of the technological pathways are going to be most effective.”

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Startup Monday: Latest tech trends & news happening in the global startup ecosystem (Issue 47)

Episode 40


Be sure to subscribe to your favorite podcast app, so that you don’t miss Startup Monday’s new episodes. Apple Podcast | Spotify | Google Play | Pocket Cast 

Top startups news to follow this week:

1. Many of us are moving around these days a lot less than we used to — because of COVID, we’re working from home instead of an office; and we are traveling and going out less. Now, as we shift back into more “normal” behavior, a startup that’s helping to better understand where and how we are getting around has picked up a significant round of funding.

Placer.ai, which has built a platform to track and understand footfall in a variety of venues, has raised $100 million, funding that it will be using to continue expanding its platform. Placer has confirmed that the round values it at $1 billion.

Today, Placer has around 1,000 customers across real estate and property, retail, consumer packaged goods and municipalities — some of the names include JLL, Regency Centers, Taubman, Planet Fitness, BJ’s Wholesale Club and Grocery Outlet — which are using it to determine anonymized crowd movement, size and sentiment to help with their decision making and strategic planning.

2. Fractal has raised $360 million from TPG in a new financing round and entered the unicorn club as the Mumbai and New York-based AI startup, which counts Google and Wells Fargo among its customers, scales its offerings and begins preparation for an IPO.

Fractal Analytics provides artificial intelligence and analytics solutions to scores of Fortune 100 firms. (A typical customer of Fractal generates at least $10 billion in revenue.) The startup’s offerings include Qure.ai, which assists radiologists in making better diagnostic decisions. Theremin.ai helps firms improve investment decisions, Eugenie.ai assists in finding anomalies in high-velocity data, Samya.ai is fuelling next-generation enterprise revenue growth management and Senseforth.ai helps automate customer interactions at scale to grow top-line and bottom-line.

3. 2021 was a record-breaking year in terms of investments in Israeli tech, and it was revealed on Sunday that Japanese investments played no small part in that. According to research conducted by the Harel-Hertz Investment House Ltd., Japanese investments in Israeli companies in 2021 reached an all-time record high of $2.945 billion, showcasing a rise of 190% compared to the year prior. The number of investments also rose dramatically, leaping from 63 in 2020 to 85 in 2021, while in 2019, that number stood at 70. Japanese investments accounted for 12% of all investments in Israeli companies, and 15.8% of all foreign investments.

An additional positive statistic was the diversity of investments across different fields. In 2015, most investments (61%) focused on telecommunications and internet, but the share of such investments dropped to 13% in 2021, with growth being seen in life sciences, medicine, foodtech, cybersecurity, fintech, cleantech, and the automotive industry.

4. A study compiled by Ilya A. Strebulaev, professor of finance at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business, shows that out of 1,078 founders across 500 US unicorns, 90 entrepreneurs were born in India, signalling the significant presence of Indian Americans in the country’s startup and tech economy.

India-born founders were followed by the ones from Israel and Canada.

5. Blockchain stocks have been gaining significant traction in the stock market lately. For better or worse, it is a technology that is gaining adoption among dozens of publicly traded companies. Some utilize the blockchain to supplement their existing businesses while others are capitalizing on the trend by supporting the technology. For instance, NVIDIA is a leading manufacturer of graphics processing units (GPUs) that play a significant role in cryptocurrency mining. GPUs are important hardware components that cryptocurrency miners use to process transactions on the blockchain. 

Here are blockchain stocks to watch in 2022

  • Block Inc 
  • Coinbase Global Inc 
  • Silvergate Capital Corp 
  • Shopify Inc 
  • CME Group Inc 

6. Singapore-based industrial robotics firm Sesto this week announced a $5.7 million raise, featuring TRIVE, WTI GmbH and SEEDS Capital (Enterprise Singapore’s VC wing). The round follows a similarly sized $4 million Series A, back in 2018.

Sesto has had a busy few years since that round — as have many in the industrial robotics category, as more companies have looked toward automation during the pandemic. In May 2020, the firm launched HealthGUARD, a disinfecting robot that was ahead of the curve of UV-C systems we’ve seen over the past few years.

Last May, Sesto expanded operations to Europe — specifically Austria, Germany and Switzerland. That no doubt explains investment interest this round from EU-based firms. Citing research from GMD, CEO Chor-Chen Ang notes of the round, “We are excited to tap into the growth of Autonomous Mobile Robots in Europe which is projected to expand at a CAGR of 11.8% over the next 4 years from US $4.40B currently.”

Funding will go toward expanding these sorts of international partnerships, market, as well as building out the company’s product offerings and the versatility of its existing robots.

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7. FinDev Canada has injected $13 million into Energy Entrepreneurs Growth Fund (EEGF), which invests in early and growth-stage energy startups in sub-Saharan Africa. Part of the funding will go toward increasing access to clean energy for off-grid households and businesses in the region.

The $120 million EEGF, which was founded in 2019 by the Shell Foundation — and co-funded by UKaid and the Dutch Entrepreneurial Development Bank FMO, extends financing in the form of debt (catalytic or mezzanine) or equity to businesses in the energy sector. The EEGF is managed by Triple Jump; an impact investment manager and advised by Persistent; and a climate venture builder.

“The pandemic has slowed down electrification in Africa, which was already behind before the health crisis. By increasing EEGF’s capacity to invest in this sector, FinDev Canada and its 2X Canada facility support energy companies committed to expanding access to clean and reliable energy for African households and businesses, leading to inclusive and sustainable growth and the improvement of millions of lives,” he said.

The fund invests in at least half of companies that explicitly address the energy needs of women consumers and entrepreneurs in Africa, and those offering renewable energy solutions to businesses and households. It is estimated that sub-Saharan Africa accounts for 75% of the world’s population without access to electricity and renewable energy solutions could be taken up to bridge that gap.

“A just and inclusive energy transition, one that alleviates energy poverty and mitigates climate change, requires an understanding of the financing needs of entrepreneurs, who we are depending on to deliver the world’s energy access goals,” said Shell Foundation’s operations director, Gareth Zahir-Bill.

8. Medtech startup from Copenhagen, Hedia, has just raised an additional €3 million for its technology to manage diabetes. The company is backed by Novo-heirs, and we reckoned it was one to watch back in 2019.

Founded in 2016 by husband-and-wife duo Peter Lucas and Christina Kildentoft, alongside business partner Andreas Jespensgaard, Hedia has developed a piece of medical software that aims to improve the management of insulin-requiring diabetes. Lucas, who is himself a type 1 diabetic, came up with the idea as a way to improve health outcomes for diabetes patients, such as stabilising blood glucose levels. 

The Hedia app contains a CE-marked insulin calculator, giving personalized insulin doses recommendations for its users. The recommendations are based on the user’s meals, physical activities, and current blood sugar level. By assisting with this difficult and time-consuming everyday task for the user, the hope is to give the user a stable blood sugar level for a longer period of time. This is a regulated medical device.

Peter Lucas said: “My father also had type1 diabetes, and I got the diagnosis in my twenties. This is a very time-consuming disease if you don’t get the right help of managing it.”

The fresh funding injection will help the company expand in its key European markets of the UK and Germany, and support work on clinical studies – these studies are crucial for the company’s future international growth plan. 

9. Globally, more than 20 million people report some kind of mobility difficulty each year. The mean age of individuals with minor, moderate, or major difficulty ranged from 59 to 67 years. However, this problem is not uncommon in young adults. People with mobility disability experience many transportation barriers, which hinders their participation in various events. Especially, a staircase is an insurmountable challenge for those who use a wheelchair.

At this juncture, using unexplored technology to great effect, the stair-climbing power wheelchair Scewo BRO has emerged as a savior for many, having won several notable design awards for its efficiency. It has already attracted a lot of users across Germany, Austria and Switzerland, among other nations. The founders of Scewo have brought this technologically sophisticated product to the market in just three years, demonstrating their outstanding talent.

From July-November, 2021, Switzerland-based company Scewo raised a total of CHF 11.5 million in Series A funding round to advance its growth and expansion. With this capital, the startup intends to accelerate company growth as well as international expansion. Verve Ventures, Rajat Khare-led European investment firm Boundary Holding and three more private investors took part in the funding round.

10. Account-Based Marketing (ABM) disruptors, Ocean.io, have just raised €6 million to fuel its US expansion. The funding was led by Peak alongside existing investors.

Founded in 2017, Ocean.io is an account-based data platform that harnesses AI to help sales and marketing teams better focus their time, money and efforts on the accounts that are most likely to buy. With fast, tailored searches, the platform carves through the plethora of information available to focus on accounts that are a perfect fit for a business’s Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) – revolutionising the process for sales and marketing teams. 

According to Salesforce, 92% of B2B marketers use an ABM programme, but, countless businesses are failing to capitalize on the potential of ABM due to inefficient processes and irrelevant prospects. Finding the ICP is a lot more complicated and time-consuming than it might seem.

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Startup Monday: Latest tech trends & news happening in the global startup ecosystem (Issue 48)

Episode 41


Be sure to subscribe to your favorite podcast app, so that you don’t miss Startup Monday’s new episodes. Apple Podcast | Spotify | Google Play | Pocket Cast 

Top startups news to follow this week:

1. French robotic exoskeleton maker Wandercraft eyes US expansion courtesy of a $45M Series C.

Wandercraft was founded in 2012, with the vision of improving mobility of wheelchair users. The company’s solution comes by way of exoskeletons, which can offer wearers the ability to walk with robotic assistance. In 2019, the Parisian firm launched Atalante, a self-balancing exoskeleton with 12 degrees of freedom that relies on walking on algorithms to determine a user’s gait.

The round was led by Quadrant Management, a U.S.-based firm, along with existing investor Bpifrance. Quadrant’s participation is particularly noteworthy here, as it finds the company expanding Atalante’s reach beyond Europe, into the United States.

“We are super excited to have attracted world-class investors from the USA and Europe to advance the development program of the company,” the company’s CEO Matthieu Masselin said in a release. “With the support of patients, medical professionals and the DeepTech community, Wandercraft’s team has created a unique technology that improves rehabilitation care and will soon enable people in wheelchairs to regain autonomy and improve their everyday health.”

2. Grocery delivery startup Calii is carving out a piece of Latin America’s $1 trillion groceries and food delivery market with its approach to cut inefficiencies in the food supply chain so it can bring produce and thousands of other grocery items to customers’ doorsteps in less than two hours.

To continue on that mission, the company announced Friday $22.5 million in Series A funding co-led by Dalus Capital and JAM Fund, with participation from backers including Forerunner Ventures, Streamlined Ventures, Y Combinator and Base10 Partners. To date, it has raised nearly $35 million.

David Eduardo Arrambide Montemayor and Maurizio Caló Caligaris, both Stanford-educated engineers, started Calii, a mobile grocery app that connects with producers and brands to automate the supply chain end-to-end and deliver more than 5,000 products, like produce, meat, seafood and prepared items, via a network of micro-fulfillment centers.

3. French startup Exotec has raised a $335 million Series D round in a new round of funding led by Goldman Sachs’ Growth Equity business. Following today’s investment, the company has reached a valuation of $2 billion.

Exotec sells a complete end-to-end solution to turn a regular warehouse into a partially automated logistics platform. It’s a hardware and software solution that replaces some human tasks.

The key component of the Exotec system is called the Skypods. These low-profile robots roam the floor autonomously. When they’re next to the right rack, they can go up the rack to pick up a bin and then go down with the right bin. This is particularly useful to increase the storage density of a warehouse as you can store products a few meters above ground.

The Skypod then caries the bin to a picking station so that human operators can pick up the right product in the bin. The robot can then go back to the racks and put back the bin on a shelf.

4. Toronto-based 1Password said on Wednesday it had raised $620 million in a funding round led by investment firm ICONIQ Growth, which more than tripled its valuation, as the cybersecurity startup aims for strategic acquisitions to boost its growth.

Hollywood stars including Ryan Reynolds, Scarlett Johansson, Robert Downey Jr and Ashton Kutcher also participated in one of the largest rounds in the security funding space that valued the company at $6.8 billion.

The funding comes at a time the pandemic-driven work-from-home trend nears two years, during which 1Password more than tripled its headcount to cater to companies’ increased data security challenges.

The company expects to double its headcount of about 570 this year, Chief Executive Officer Jeff Shiner said, as it looks to further capitalize on growing cybersecurity needs.

1Password will use the new funds to develop and scale human-centric security solutions and help people easily protect their most sensitive data and information.

5. Isralei Cybersecurity firm Anonybit announced the closing of a $3.5 million funding round last week. The financing was led by San Francisco-based Switch Ventures. Other participants included NextGen Venture Partners, Industry Ventures, Preceptor Capital, and several strategic angel investors. 

The funding will enable Anonybit to accelerate its work with embedded partners and enterprises in support of the growing need for greater data protection and enhanced digital security, a direct response to the growing threat of cybersecurity breaches such as identity theft. In the past year, the total number of cyberattack-related data breaches increased by 27% compared to 2020. Researchers expect $1.7 trillion dollars to be spent on cybersecurity and identity management over the next five years.

Anonybit has developed a breakthrough decentralized biometrics infrastructure that addresses a longstanding market need for improved management of personal data and digital assets across a wide range of use cases. 

6. Armenian-led robotics company Expper Technologies has secured $2million in seed financing to ensure the realization of their commitment to creating a state-of-the-art innovation called Robin the Robot and bringing next-generation caregiver robots to the world.

“Aside from having a presence in California, we successfully expanded our operations in Texas and Colorado, having 15 deployed units in medical facilities last year. Robin the Robot has been recognized as TIME’s Best Invention of 2021 in the Robotics category and was featured as an honoree in Fast Company’s 2021 Innovation by Design Awards in the Impact category,” Karen Khachikyan, CEO & Co-Founder at Expper Technologies, has said.

Robin the Robot is an Autonomous Care Assistant that augments front-line clinicians across a multitude of settings by supporting caregiving functions and extending care services using emotional AI and autonomous technology advances. Robin has integrated functionalities to provide emotional support and virtual care. Robin the Robot is a technology intended to provide patients and staff members with a warm and human-life interactive experience

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7. The Italian firm Genenta Science and the UK company Genflow Biosciences make up a fresh wave of European gene therapy players going public. Genenta bagged €31.4M ($36M) in its Nasdaq debut in December 2021 and Genflow Biosciences listed on the London Stock Exchange this week, raising around €4.4M (£3.7M) in the process.

One factor driving the general reluctance to go public is the continuing volatility of biotech stock markets around the world. Reasons for the stock troubles include an excess of biotech IPOs in the US in addition to concerns over inflation and regulatory uncertainty. 

According to the CEO of Genenta Science, Pierluigi Paracchi, it’s complicated for European biotech companies to enter US public markets due to an abundance of local competition.

All European companies suffer a discount compared to the US companies even if the science is comparable. In my view, it’s totally unjustified,” said Paracchi. “Therefore, European biotech companies try to land on the Nasdaq or the New York Stock Exchange when the market is high and the IPO window is wide open just to reduce the discount.

8. Dublin-based Exergyn has just raised €30 million for its novel and sustainable thermal management technology. This latest funding for the pioneering cleantech startup was led by Mercuria and Lacerta Partners with participation from McWin. 

Founded in 2012, Exergyn is on a mission to combat climate change through unique solid-state shape memory alloy technology that removes the need for destructive refrigerants. The product significantly reduces carbon emissions across a range of industries, including heating, ventilating, air-conditioning, refrigeration (HVACR), automotive, and aerospace. 

The HVACR industry alone is estimated to account for more than 10% of the global CO2 emissions. While Europe is aiming to drastically reduce carbon emissions, products such as those being developed by Exergyn could have a massive positive impact. We all are now well aware of the urgency to combat climate change, and European tech startups are certainly contributing lots of innovative solutions. 

9.With its cloud-based platform for cellular connectivity in the IoT stack EMnify has just secured a €50 million investment from One Peak. 

Founded in 2014, the Berlin-based company is a leading cloud building block for cellular communications in the IoT (Internet of Things) stack, connecting millions of IoT devices globally – from electric vehicles and energy meters to GPS trackers and health wearables. EMnify develops and operates a mobile core network infrastructure as a native cloud service, enabling connectivity in a secure, reliable and scalable way.

The EMnify API and SIM technologies connect and secure any kind of IoT deployment to its application back-end. Its cloud-native integrations and no-code workflows ensure seamless lifecycle scalability for deployments of all sizes – from local startups to global enterprises.

10. Closing its second fund, DutchFounders is making more than €62 million available for early-stage marketplaces and so-called marketplace enablers to fuel a growing European sector.

Based in Amsterdam, DutchFounders specialise in companies and marketplace with strong network effects. Since launching in 2018, the fund has helped boost 16 companies and has almost €100 million assets under management.

Founded by experienced entrepreneurs behind the likes of WeTransfer, Treatwell and Just Eat, the DutchFounders has backed the likes of digital freight forwarder Shypple and employee benefit platform YourCampus. This new fund comes just 1.5 years after the first fund, marking the extent of up-and-coming talent in European marketplaces. 

The Amsterdam-based VC noticed that many supply chains and B2B business operations remained offline. Especially in the B2B domain, many people still relied on legacy-like systems and analogue processes to manage their logistics or procurement. Now, DutchFounders has set out to back founders building marketplaces that truly disrupt these processes or companies that completely rethink supply chains.

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HyeTech Minds Journey To Know About

This is great to write about HyeTech Minds.

Episode 39

I’ve launched the HyeTech Minds podcast more than a year ago when a pandemic hit the world. HyeTech Minds is a mission-driven platform with the ultimate goal to introduce Armenian innovators and founders to the world. Through one-and-one interviews, my guests shared their success stories, gave actionable tips, and lessons learned on their road to success.

From Silicon Valley to Boston, from Yerevan to Paris, I’ve hosted 25+ technology leaders, founders, entrepreneurs, innovators, and tech professionals behind some of the most successful and innovative companies and startups in the world.

In the beginning, it was a hobby to experience the world of podcasting. With the help of the CIC Providence, a co-working space located at the heart of Rhode Island, I was able to turn the idea into a successful tool for building a like-minded community that can grow and succeeds together. 

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Why Armenians? 

The idea of HyeTech  Minds came up to me a couple of years ago. While exploring the startup community on the East Coast,  it was unexpected to see the power of the Armenian tech community in the USA. Surprisingly, in every meeting, I’ve attended I met an investor or founder of Armenian origin. 

With their unique cultural and historic heritage, the Armenians always have been known for their contribution to music, art, and cinematography.

But not many know that Armenians have been heavily contributing to technology and science development around the globe. Just recently, Armenian descendant Artem Padaputian was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for “discovering receptors for temperature and touch.” 

And I’m not only talking about those bold names, such as Alexis Ohanian, Reddit Founder, Nubar Afeyan, Moderna Co-founder, and on.

There are Armenian tech minds that we do not see or hear every day, but who are actively contributing to this global technology revolution happening in the world. 

For example, Hovhannes Avoyan, the co-founder and CEO of Picsart, has created the world’s #1 creative platform and social editing app leading the visual storytelling revolution that already is valued at 1 billion and has more than 150 million monthly active creators. 

Today, the Armenian ‘tech wave’ is taking the world,  influenced by Armenian-led companies like Service Titan, Podcastle, PicsArt, Krisp, Digitain, BetConstructCodeSignal, SuperAnnotate, Exxper Technologies, and many more. 

Having in mind the mission to help Armenian founders to rise above the noise in today’s overcrowded startup world, HyeTech Minds has been the unique platform featuring successful and inspiring Armenian tech communities around the globe.


What we talked about 

Whether you are an investor, entrepreneur, or simply tech enthusiast, this podcast is your go-to source to discover Armenian founders and investors around the globe, learn more about the Armenian innovation ecosystems, and get insights into the investment landscape in the country.

From Silicon Valley to Boston, from Yerevan to Paris, each episode, I hosted technology leaders, founders, entrepreneurs, innovators, and tech professionals behind some of the most successful and innovative companies and startups in the world as they share their success stories, give actionable tips, and lessons learned on their road to success.

Listeners were able to gain an insight into how technology helped them to transform their business and life, how they got started, how they overcame failures and challenges. 

With my guests, we also talked about the Armenian startup ecosystem, growing opportunities, and the Armenian Diaspora’s impact on it. One of the common questions I’ve asked every guest on the podcast was about the changes and improvements that need to be made in order to expand foreign investments in the country’s startup ecosystem and attract more entrepreneurs from Diaspora to launch businesses in Armenian

On one side,  it was very critical to learn insights from founders who launched businesses in Armenia. On the other hand, entrepreneurs from the Diaspora tech community look at Armenia from the lens of investors sharing their unbiased opinion on how to create more favorable conditions for investments. 

I want to share some of the interesting opinions that have been expressed during our conversations. 

Berge Ayvazyan, Senior Analyst and Consultant at Wireless 20/20 on 4G/5G Networks

 When you’re competing with India or other countries which have huge talent pools, a small country like Armenia has to have the best education system, best training programs, and the best talent.  And then we need to take that talent and rather than having it trapped inside large companies, which already view workers as a commodity rather than as an asset, to create unique companies that are on a path to develop their business and impact the global market, not just the domestic market.  So we’ve seen in the startup arena in Armenia tremendous growth, both in terms of the number of companies, but more importantly, in terms of the expansion of those companies to be able to have an impact on large markets. We already have several companies that are unicorn’s and although they’re not publicly traded, they’re highly valued. They’ve raised a lot of funds and they’re growing rapidly. They’re employing lots of people. And in fact, several of them have not just a workforce in Armenia, but may be based or at least partially based in the US or other countries. And we’re seeing that happen more and more.”

Aramayis Hovhannisyan , Founder and CEO at Quality Testing Lab

We need to pay attention to our education, to our schools, to our universities, and to do things like upgrading our university classes and models. Because not every student that is completing the university course is ready to work, or ready to go into science. We need to work on our educational system. After that work on the startup ecosystem and enterprise ecosystem here. 

Also, many Armenia startups have already built very good stories. They have raised some investments. We need to tell the world about these and tell about the success stories of our startups. And maybe this will be very good for the world to know about these startups and to know about Armenia.”

 Artavazd Yeritsyan, CEO & Founder of Podcastle Inc.  

“I cannot say what others can do, but I can say what definitely, I and people like me within the tech field can do. So the only way to do that is to try to do everything to create successful companies doesn’t matter. If you are registered in the US if you are getting funding from the US. 

If you will have the unicorn company that will even in the U.S., you still will put Armenia on the map. So that’s one of the ways I believe, like PicsArt companies like Krisp, and other big tech companies in Armenia, which are really doing getting the funding and really trying to create something that the whole world will use. 

I think having political stability and having a really growing economy, science and education, are also important to attract investments.”

Ashot Arzumanyan, Co-founder and partner with SmartGateVC

“Talking about the Diaspora, if you want to involve the tech in Armenia,  you shouldn’t hesitate to take your ticket to Yerevan. Go there and figure out what’s happening there. And, so many people followed this advice. So many interesting people and notable people come from Diaspora to explore the scene here. They are coming not only because it’s important and beneficial for Armenian entrepreneurs, but also there is a huge potential for Diaspora to involve in Armenia and build mutually beneficial businesses here.  I think there are three ways Diaspora can engage with the Armenian tech scene: 1) Mentorship, which is hands-on involvement with entrepreneurs from Armenia, helping them with their network business development with their value proposition in the United States. Basically helping them with their first steps in the US market. 2) Investments – this can be done either as Angel Investors or through Venture Capital funds and 3) Joint R&D projects – finding an Armenia-based co-founder or tech development, for more deep integration of goals and activities with people from Armenia.

Hrant Davtyan, Founder, and CEO at Pinsight

“ Many companies in Armenia are interested in hiring data scientists, but they want to hire senior people. We don’t have enough senior people in the market. What we really need to do is to have a lot of opportunities for junior specialists, and internship programs, which unfortunately are not so many. Last year when we announced our internship programs. I have only seen another internship program in the market for this year. We have to give the opportunity for more young talents to get the experience and become seniors themselves.

As for Diaspora,  I think there’s a lot of things that can be done. We have a lot of smart talent in the Diaspora who can really make a positive knowledge investment in the data science sector of the country. This year, for example, together with Hero House we were running a program called the AI Incubation program. During the program, Data Science experts, mentors, and people who are very experienced in Data Science from abroad have been mentoring Armenian university students to conduct research. Students gained huge hands-on experience from top companies in Europe, the US, and the UK.  I think this should become standard practice. 

Another thing that can be improved is the legal aspects of doing business in Armenia. Currently, we don’t have things like employee stock options that you can give to your team if you don’t have typical investment agreements that startups have.. Those things are problematic for startups to actually legally be organized in Armenia.

 So as you know, many companies are actually going out organizing themselves. In the law, they’re using clarity and stripe and similar tools. We have to improve the legal system first, and then the image of Armenia as a safe country where you can actually have a monetary investment from a nonmonetary perspective.

Mariam Gyulumyan , Co-founder and CEO at Lucky Carrot

“ I think the image of the country has a lot of things to do. Let’s say if we have several unicorns born in Armenia, that’s one thing to help with teh country’s image. Secondly, I don’t know how much we can,  but we need to work with governments to make the investment, and policies  to be more attractive to investors”

Aleksandr Simonyan, CEO and Founder Immensus 

“I believe we should be much closer to startup founders in Armenia and also Diaspora, like in the USA and other countries. We need to exchange ideas. If we build something great, we should definitely and immediately exchange it with other people. And by doing so we can interact. And by interaction, we will certainly achieve our goals, create great products, attract investments, and solve user problems. In that case, I will say, SmartGateVC helps us personally a lot because they provided me with great connections. But there are still many founders in Armenia who do not have connections.  Many of them just give up their ideas, even though they seem great to me because they do not know how to attract investments. They don’t do not know how to find people. And that’s definitely a problem. 

And I believe there are many ways for us to create connections between founders in Armenia and Diaspora. Through the Internet, we can arrange online meetings with investors, or with people who know investors in Armenia or in the US. And also, I believe, we, as the founders, have to take responsibility. Because once I have some technological progress, I also need to share my ideas. I need to share my demo versus my prototypes. 

Interview with Sona Veziryan, Deputy Director at BANA

“In the recent several years, Armenia’s startup ecosystem has been exceptionally growing in the recent several years. It all credits to our affordable and skilled tech talent, and of course, Diaspora plays a critical role in Armenia’s tech ecosystem.  

Overall, people need to know about us that there are good companies that are born in Armenia and that there is a good Armenian tech talent that they can hire to start their startups here.

That’s sad to say, but there is a lack of information. There’s a gap in information about the Armenian tech ecosystem. 

Lucy Setian, Founder of MANATEE MENTOR

“ The question is about connectivity. We are not in the best geographical space setup, as we all know, we find ourselves in probably a difficult position in being connected. If we’re better integrated internationally, we can better show the value which Armenia brings growth for the global economy. But also for us as a country, to connect our professionals with other professionals, with other investors, and the other way around. Armenia has so much to offer, it’s just a question to put it a little bit more in the spotlight. And I think, by being connected and by transmitting this value, in a neutral space, you have a huge opportunity to connect with other people from other countries to show them what Armenia really brings to the table. 

Gerasim Hovhannisyan, CEO & Co-Founder, EasyDMARC Inc.

I believe we, the most important impact can have just to show success stories. I believe in the next one, the two-year maximum we will have several very big and good success stories which can motivate others to attract new resources and new investment resources from abroad.”

 Gayane Hovhannisyan, CEO & Co-Founder of noomee

“The Armenian ecosystem offers really interesting opportunities, especially for Armenia’s core system offers very interesting opportunities for startups. And still, it’s like the opportunities are growing year by year even more. But I would say that people need to concentrate also on social impact, not social impact businesses, not doing all the voluntary work.”

Karen Kachikian, Co-Founder Exxper Technologies 

I think we need more comprehensive education in schools. It’s not only about STEM education. So this is maths, physics. We need to have more. We don’t need to do just a project. We need to really dive deep and understand the physics behind it. And only by having that comprehensive education, we can have very qualified professionals in the future.

I think the university also plays a huge role here. There is already cooperation with the companies in the industry. For example, Synopsis has its educational department in Polytechnical University. There are other companies like Microsoft that do this kind of program at universities. 

I think the main challenges are the lack of funding because most of the top VCs are located in the US. In Armenia, we have only four or five VCs and Angel Investment networks. I think having that ecosystem, and the development of that ecosystem here in Armenia will help a lot.  Having more VCs here means having more accelerators or incubators to help startups to faster, develop their idea, validate their product and go farther.

There are also a lot of places in the legal area to improve – investments and IPO. For example, a year ago, the Government has started improvement in IPO and protection structures. I think there should also be trust from the investors. For example, if a company is incorporated in the USA, you know where to invest. They invest in a company where the questions are regulated according to US laws. They are safe. I think our Government should also create a sense of safety when people invest in Armenia.”

Alex Amiryan, CEO & Co-Founder of Stingle

“First of all, we need more security in terms of border security and calmness in the region for the investors to come. War is never good for investors and people who want to spend money in the country because one day it could just be ruined by the worst. And other than that, we have really good specialists, really good developers, really good minds. And just a little involvement and incentive from the government, I think will create a spark and people will start doing it. “

Areg Vardanyan, Co-Founder of ForgeFiction

“I see a lot of positive changes in recent years. We’re connecting the Diaspora to Armenia. There are more and more programs. They are more networking places. For example, there was a program called Armenian Virtual Bridge, connecting Armenian startups to Silicon Valley tech companies and also to Armenian in Silicon Valley. And it’s also really great to see that in the last couple of years, we are not just exploring talent, but a lot of our Armenian people from all around the world return to their motherland and start companies here.”

Karen Vardanyan, Partner at Formula VC, Fund Manager at Sprint Crowdfunders’ Fund

“Obviously there is a lot of work to do towards this direction. And in terms of taking investments from outside, there are some administrative issues that need to be solved. However, there is quite a good environment in terms of regulation in terms of taxes, in terms of administration, how you’re running the firm, and how you’re being regulated.

We need to increase the awareness about what’s going on in Armenia, because a lot of peers in the Diaspora also known as Armenians, are usually not aware of what’s going on in Armenia. They usually think that Armenia needs more charity money rather than investments because they don’t see the landscape. It’s homework for us to do as well, in order to present what’s going on in the Armenian tech scene. One of our main topics that we are trying to push forward is that whenever you are investing $1, you are not just only creating the return that you are earning, but rather, you are creating much more value for the dollar. And whenever you’re just donating that $1 It is like most probably it is lost.”

Emmanuel Ghandilyan, CEO & Co-Founder of Foldink 3D Bioprinting

“First of all, we need to encourage entrepreneurship in the Biotech field and MedTech field, because the tendencies are now going in this direction. COVID-19 pandemic and war indicate the necessity of having strong biotech and MedTech companies based in Armenia, to supply medical devices or help patient care, or supply scientific devices. The main point that government can use for encouraging entrepreneurship in Biotech should be scientific grants or entrepreneurship funding opportunities to the startups and newly established companies. There should also be exchange programs that will give opportunities to young researchers to study new technologies abroad and return to their homeland to put their knowledge and skills in their own country.

Also, it may be great to have some programs, which will encourage the Diaspora tech community to come to Armenia and start companies here. Even if they launch their businesses in other countries, it would be helpful for Armenia, to have at least the headquarter in Armenia and be present in Armenia physically.

Stay up to date on the Armenian startup scene and the latest tech trends, get access to the Armenian-founded VC and Angel Investors, connect with peers ….. Join our community today


 

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Startup Monday: Latest tech trends & news happening in the global startup ecosystem (Issue 46)


Be sure to subscribe to your favorite podcast app, so that you don’t miss Startup Monday’s new episodes. Apple Podcast | Spotify | Google Play | Pocket Cast 

Top startups news to follow this week:

1. Edtech giant Byju’s — which is leading the Indian startup ecosystem with the highest valuation — has received an offer from one of Churchill Capital’s special-purpose acquisition companies (SPAC) to go public in the USA, at a valuation of $48 billion.

SPAC, also known as blank check companies, is an entity that has no commercial operations and is formed strictly to raise capital through an IPO. A source aware of the development told Business Insider that Byju’s has four to six weeks to respond to the offer. The company may choose to go for a primary initial public offering (IPO) in the US and later have a secondary public issue in India as well.

SPAC, also known as blank check companies, is an entity that has no commercial operations and is formed strictly to raise capital through an IPO.

A source aware of the development told Business Insider that Byju’s has four to six weeks to respond to the offer. The company may choose to go for a primary initial public offering (IPO) in the US and later have a secondary public issue in India as well.

2. With manufacturing and supply chain inefficiencies plaguing gift shopping, car buying, and everyday life, this week Quality Assurance Startup Elementary Raises $30 Million Series B Led By Tiger Global. Traditionally, QA has been the job of a human inspector–the final job before a product is packaged–and the step that ensures the product functions as promised by marketing. With Elementary, an AI-enabled robot inspects every product, eliminating human error and inefficiencies. 

Now with over $47 million in funding, Arye Barnehama, Elementary’s 31-year-old cofounder and CEO are doubling his company’s workforce and hoping to expand the technology’s use cases to other parts of the factory. “Companies need to manufacture faster and keep products at a higher quality than ever before,” says Barnehama. “We find the quality is the fundamental data set to help them reach their goal.”

3. The “Future Unicorns in Fintech” report analyzes the top 50 Fintech startups that have the potential to become unicorns (valuation more than US$1bn) based on the Unicorn Prediction Model. The model is based on a proprietary machine learning (ML) algorithm which analyzes millions of data points related to venture capital (VC) investment activity for startups and can predict future unicorns. The report highlights potential unicorns in the Fintech market ecosystem and covers insights on VC investments, stage of startups, Fintech regional investment activity, job analytics, company filing trends, and patenting activity. A comprehensive view of innovative Fintech startups with cutting-edge expertise spanning across sectors is predicted to become tomorrow’s unicorns.

4. Uni, an Indian startup that offers users pay-later cards, has raised $70 million in a financing round as it looks to broaden its product offerings in the South Asian market.

General Catalyst led the one-year-old startup’s Series A funding. Eight Roads Ventures, Elevation Capital, Arbor Ventures as well as existing investors Lightspeed and Accel participated in the round.

The new round, which follows last year’s $18.5 million seed funding, values Uni at about $350 million, according to two people familiar with the matter. TechCrunch reported earlier that Uni was in talks to raise around at over $300 million valuations.

Bangalore-based Uni is among a handful of startups in India that is attempting to bring the benefits of credit cards to the masses. Even as nearly a billion Indians have a bank account, only a sliver of this population is covered by the country’s young credit rating system.

Fewer than 30 million Indians have a credit card today, which has created huge whitespace for startups like Uni and Tiger Global-backed Slice to innovate on tech and reach more consumers. Uni offers its customers a pay-later card that automatically splits the bill into three parts spread across three months. If customers pay within three months, they are not charged any interest fee. If they settle the bill in one month, they get a 1% cash-back reward.

5. 90% of bitcoin’s supply has been mined and 4 other crypto updates you should know. Though it briefly popped above $50,000 on Sunday, the price of bitcoin retreated at the start of the week. The largest cryptocurrency by market value is trading at around $47,358 as of Monday afternoon, according to Coin Metrics.

Other top cryptocurrencies are also down, including ether, the second-largest cryptocurrency. Ether is currently trading at around $3,813. Along with price movement, here are five important things that happened in the cryptocurrency space last week.

On Wednesday, crypto industry executives testified before the House Financial Services Committee.

Also on Wednesday, Kickstarter announced plans to create a decentralized version of its crowdfunding platform.

“We’re supporting the development of an open-source protocol that will essentially create a decentralized version of Kickstarter’s core functionality,” the company wrote in a blog post. “This will live on a public blockchain, and be available for collaborators, independent contributors, and even Kickstarter competitors, from all over the world to build upon, connect to, or use.”

Developers activated Arrow Glacier, an upgrade to the Ethereum network, on Thursday.

The upgrade pushed back the so-called “difficulty bomb,” which could potentially slow or freeze mining on Ethereum, back to June 2022. By that time, developers hope to have transitioned Ethereum from a proof-of-work model for mining to a proof-of-stake model.

The ConstitutionDAO announced in November that it would shut down after being outbid for a rare copy of the U.S. Constitution during a Sotheby’s auction. But the DAO’s token, called PEOPLE, continues to surge.

As of Monday morning, 90% of the total bitcoin supply of 21 million has been mined, according to data from Blockchain.com. 

6. Israeli cleantech company UBQ Materials, a maker of bio-based products converted from waste, nabbed a $170 million investment to further fund its expansion and build a large-scale conversation facility in the Netherlands next year, the company said Wednesday. The investment is one of the largest in the cleantech sector to date, and the biggest in the local environmental tech industry this year.

The startup was founded in 2012 by Yehuda Pearl and Jack Bigio, both with a background in business and entrepreneurship, who were inspired by the idea that organic materials could be broken into their natural components to be later transformed into usable material. Pearl is also the founder of the Sabra hummus brand.

UBQ has existing agreements to provide its thermoplastic materials to make automotive parts with carmakers including Daimler, to replace McDonald’s famous plastic trays in Latin America, and to make hangers and trash bins.

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7. Gen Z isn’t satisfied with the social media they grew up with, so they’re building the apps that they want to use. A “social branding” app for creative teens and twenty-somethings, Tagg is announcing a $2 million seed round last week from Twitter co-founder Biz Stone, Facebook’s former VP of International Growth Ed Baker, TripAdvisor founder Stephen Kaufer, Pillar VC and more.

Founded by recent alumni of Brown University and the neighboring Rhode Island School of Design, Tagg is still in private beta with thousands of users, and thousands more on a waitlist. It’s like a link-in-bio service, but with a social element that encourages young creatives to connect, collaborate and develop friendships.

“In the digital world, the more authentic your brand, the more genuine your connections. Current social platforms fall short as they were not built for this evolving intersection of branding and connecting,” the company explains. “Tagg is building and growing an environment allowing for full creative expression of oneself — no restrictions, no stigma.”

8. The healthcare artificial intelligence market is projected to grow at a CAGR of 39.97% to reach US$36.222 billion by 2026 from US$3.441 billion in 2019.

Artificial Intelligence essentially uses machine learning algorithms and deep learning to gather and process data and furnish it to the end-user. The foremost aim of using healthcare artificial intelligence is to scrutinize relationships between prevention techniques and patient results. It is thus used to analyze a chunk of data through Electronic Health Records to prevent disease.

A major reason for the growth of this market is the increase in the number of chronic diseases and fewer health care facilities available.

According to the World Economic Forum report, “One in three adults worldwide has multiple chronic conditions: cardiovascular disease alongside diabetes, depression as well as cancer, or a combination of three, four, or even five or six diseases at the same time. NCDs represent more than half the global burden of diseases.

9. ForwardX Robotics, a Beijing-headquartered company that makes autonomous mobile robots (AMR), said Tuesday it has closed the initial tranche of its Series C funding round as it looks to expand globally.

The startup is fundraising for the rest of its Series C round at a time investors are courting warehousing and manufacturing robot makers in China, the company’s chief operating officer Yaxin Guan told TechCrunch during an interview.

The new investment lifted ForwardX’s total raise to about $100 million since Nicolas Chee, a former vice president at Oracle, founded the company in 2016. The startup declined to disclose its post-money valuation or how much it plans to rake in for the entire Series C.

10. CVS Health is tapping into Microsoft’s technologies, including cloud computing and artificial intelligence, to accelerate its “digital-first” strategy.

The pharmacy retail company announced Thursday a new strategic alliance with the tech giant focused on developing innovative solutions to provide more personalized care to consumers. The tech collaboration also will provide CVS Health’s more than 300,000 employees with tools to better serve more than 100 million people, company executives said.

Microsoft’s capabilities and the Azure cloud computing service will provide CVS with a “technology-forward, digital-first” foundation as it works to ramp up its consumer-centric digital strategy, Roshan Navagamuwa, CVS’ chief information officer, told Fierce Healthcare.

“Business services at this scale require a new level of partnership. Our collaboration with Microsoft will accelerate this work and empower our employees to provide quality care that is more personal and affordable.”  

As part of the collaboration, CVS will migrate 1,500 new and existing business applications onto Azure. The pharmacy giant also aims to leverage Microsoft’s tech muscle to provide customized care experiences by combining information across different areas of the company to deliver personalized health recommendations when and where consumers need them, company executives said.

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Featured

Startup Monday: Latest tech trends & news happening in the global startup ecosystem (Issue 45)


Be sure to subscribe to your favorite podcast app, so that you don’t miss Startup Monday’s new episodes. Apple Podcast | Spotify | Google Play | Pocket Cast 

Top startups news to follow this week:

1. BrightChamps, an Indian edtech startup that is attempting to bridge the learning gap left by K12 schools, has raised $51 million in a new financing round and $63 million since launching a year ago as the Goa-headquartered firm looks to expand its footprints in over 10 nations.

The startup, which is valued at nearly $500 million in the new financing round led by Premji Invest (the private investment office of technology billionaire Azim Premji), teaches kids programming and other skills in over 10 markets including several in Southeast Asia, as well as the U.S., and Canada, BrightChamps co-founder and chief executive Ravi Bhushan told TechCrunch in an interview.

The startup — which has amassed over a hundred thousand registered students, and achieved profitability — is “building a ‘weapon of mass instruction’ and is leading the disruptive wave which will make India one of the largest exporters of transformative digital education,” said Deborah Quazo, Managing partner at GSV Ventures, in a statement. TechCrunch reported in July that BrightChamps was engaging with investors to raise money at over $500 million valuations.

Over a thousand teachers across the globe have joined BrightChamps to teach kids, Bhushan said. “Children have the option to learn skills in any local language they prefer,” he said, adding that the startup is working to expand its offerings. It will soon add financial literacy to its curriculum, he said.

2. Indian led online used car marketplace Spinny has raised $285 million in its Series E funding round, led by Abu Dhabi-based ADQ and New York-based investment firm Tiger Global.

The round marks its entry to the unicorn club. Spinny is present in the top 15 Indian cities and is expected to expand to 25 cities by the end of the next calendar year.

3. Mobile marketing firm YellowHead and Facebook/Meta have launched the Meta Startup Hub, which is providing a variety of help to Israeli startups.

Both companies will provide dedicated teams in Israel to help startups with digital marketing, talent recruitment, and training in addition to “day-to-day care” for startups at a hub in Tel Aviv.

New York and Israel-based YellowHead provides digital marketing services, such as providing analytics for creative advertising material for mobile game companies.

Meta’s extensive activities in Israel include a series of unique training programs designed to support Israeli startups and help them acquire the tools to accelerate sales and expand into new markets. Several new programs started in the last year, such as the E-Commerce School and the B2C Bootcamp, which train dozens of businesses every cycle and are a significant step in their growth process. The Meta Startup Hub marks an evolution of these programs, offering long-term support to growing businesses.

4. Volvo Cars Tech Fund invested $2 million into optics and imaging developer Spectralics, funds it will use to accelerate the development of its optical film that the company says could make cars safer and provide a better user experience. While the investment might not seem significant, the relationship with Volvo could prove fruitful, particularly if its tech ends up in production vehicles. 

Spectralics is developing a see-through optical overlay, also known as a “multi-layered thin combiner,” that can be integrated onto a car’s windshield or windows. Spectralics says this creates a wider field of view and, crucially, a sense of distance — both necessary for a safe augmented reality overlay.

Outside of the vehicle, the tech could also be used for smart glasses, optical systems, and other head-up displays. It’s the latest sign that augmented and virtual reality are moving beyond gaming and consumer goods and into the vehicle. It’s arguably part of a wider shift of automotive OEMs distinguishing new cars not by horsepower but by user experiences and technology offerings.

5. Sales of plant-based alternatives, like dairy and meat, are surging in the global market, and Perfeggt wants to do the same for the egg.

The Berlin-based foodtech company is poised to debut its chicken-less egg product in the first quarter of 2022 in Germany, Switzerland, and Austria. Today, the company announced it raised $2.8 million in its first funding round to aid the initial launch and then expand further in Europe later in 2022.

“I really believe we deserve better food,” Bogumil told TechCrunch. “My mother’s family is from an agriculture background in small-scale farming, so I have always been conscious of where the food we eat comes from. I turned vegetarian at 12 when my uncle brought me to a slaughterhouse to show me that the sausages I ate were not made the right way. I didn’t fully get what was happening there, but it didn’t feel right or humane.”

Unlike dairy, where there is already sustainability, she believes the egg is still largely untapped. Sure, there are companies making similar plant-based alternatives, like Simply Eggless and Just Eat, which raised $200 million earlier in the summer, but worldwide, more than 1.3 trillion eggs are produced annually, meaning there is room to grow, and applications are versatile, Bogumil said.

Perfeggt’s first plant-based egg product is a protein-rich liquid alternative made from fava beans. It can be prepared as a scrambled egg or omelet in the pan. The company will initially be launching its product with food service organizations.

6. TabTrader raises $5.8M for a mobile app that aggregates crypto exchange data. Amsterdam-based startup TabTrader has been capitalizing on this search with a platform that aggregates prices and token availability across dozens of exchanges. While other platforms allow users to look at token prices across exchanges, most are desktop-optimized while TabTrader has built up a substantial presence for its mobile app on iOS and Android.

As different exchanges take different approaches toward onboarding new tokens, crypto traders are increasingly signing up for accounts on multiple exchanges and tracking prices across multiple apps with multiple notification types set for each. Many users rely on TabTrader for its cross-exchange price alert feature, notifying users when a particular token has gone above or below a certain value. While plenty of exchanges offer this functionality inside their native apps, the reliability and customizability of these push notifications have often been inconsistent.

CEO Kirill Suslov tells TechCrunch that the TabTrader app has more than 400,000 active users, with particularly strong presences in Europe and Asia.

The startup has adopted a Kayak-like model, aggregating prices for tokens and picking up rebate fees from exchanges when users make a purchase through the app. While users plug their wallet info into the app to easily make purchases through connected exchanges, Suslov says that TabTrader never has access to user funds.

Alongside these rebates, TabTrader also makes money through a $12 monthly subscription for a paid version, as well as advertising. Suslov says his 20-person team has scaled to reach their current audience without any paid marketing.

While tens of millions of users have created accounts on centralized exchanges like Coinbase and Binance, Suslov says that TabTrader’s biggest opportunity may be embracing so-called decentralized exchanges like Uniswap, which allow users to rapidly exchange tokens with other users.

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7. Kodiak Robotics, one of the last privately held autonomous truck outfits in Silicon Valley, has raised $125 million in new capital, funding that will be used to double its workforce as it pursues a path to commercialization.

Like so many startups, the funding will be used to hire more people. Kodiak is aiming to grow from the 90 people it employs today to about 170 by the end of next year.

Founder and CEO Don Burnette said the hiring is across every department in the company. The new funding will be used to expand operations, and pay for the expansion of its fleet. Kodiak plans to add a minimum of 15 new trucks, for a total of at least 25 autonomous vehicles.

“We need to scale and with scale comes growth across the entire company — more drivers, more operations folks, more engineers,” Burnette said in an interview with TechCrunch. “R&D is definitely the primary utilization of the funds. Scaling the fleet is also a really big one, obviously, as you watch the space you see that there’s an ever-growing interest in commercial traction and customers and partners and miles driven and the size of the autonomous freight network. So we’re going to be expanding all of those efforts and that all costs money.”

8. Balderton Capital based in London is a leading venture capital firm in Europe focused exclusively on backing the best technology companies in the region. Now, the company announced that it has raised its second fund of 2021 for $600 million (nearly £450 million).

This new fund is focused on early-stage companies in an attempt to support its mission and be the leading provider of venture capital to support European startups that have global ambitions. So far, the firm has raised four funds totaling close to $2 billion since 2018 and has active investments in more than 100 companies, employing more than 26,000 people in 50 countries around the world.

9. China’s startups hit by 50% drop in Series A deals due to coronavirus. As our world is shaken in the most dramatic way imaginable, it is time for our global startup community to get closer, support, and learn from each other. Some of us remember the crash of 1987 and the dot-com bubble burst of 2000, in addition to the 2007 financial crisis. Not only is its human impact horrible, but the current economic crisis is more sudden and can easily end up being worse.

China’s industrial output already dropped 13.5% in January and February while retail sales decreased by 20.5% year-on-year. Because venture capitalists invest in medium and long-term potential, the impact was much more acute.

Chinese VC deals have contracted between 50 and 57 percentage points since the onset of the crisis. If a drop like that happens globally, even for just two months, approximately $28 billion in startup investment will go missing in 2020, with a dramatic impact on startups.

If a drop like what we saw in China happens globally, approximately $28 billion in startup investment will go missing in 2020, with a dramatic impact on startups. Many startups will be unable to raise a new round of funding. The first to run out of cash will be those who had started to fundraise in the last few months, nearing the end of their runway before the crash. 

10. SoftBank Group Corp. can invest $5 billion to $10 billion in India next year if it finds valuations attractive, said Rajeev Misra, chief executive officer of SoftBank Investment Advisers.

“If we find the right companies, we could invest $5 billion to $10 billion in 2022,” Misra said on Thursday at the Bloomberg India Economic Forum. “If we find the right opportunities at the right valuation.”

India has been a bright spot for SoftBank, whose Vision Fund reported a record loss of 825.1 billion yen ($7.2 billion) for the quarter ended in September, on the decline in value of public holdings such as the Korean e-commerce giant Coupang Inc. and the Chinese ride-hailing giant Didi Global Inc. The Japanese company invested early in the Indian market, taking a stake in ride-hailing giant Ola and e-commerce leader Flipkart, before its acquisition by Walmart Inc.

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Startup Monday: Latest tech trends and startups news happening in the global startup ecosystem (Issue 44–8 November 2021)


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Top startups news to follow this week:

1. Autonomous delivery startup Nuro has raised $600 million in a fundraising round led by new investor Tiger Global Management, capital that the autonomous delivery startup will use to ramp up commercial operations. The funding has pushed Nuro’s valuation to about $8.6 billion — or some 72% higher than a year ago — according to people familiar with the round who requested anonymity because they are not authorized to speak for the company. “With the boost of this new funding, we’re turning our focus to commercializing and scaling the production of our third-generation vehicle at our new facility in Southern Nevada,” Dave Ferguson, Nuro co-founder, and the president said in an email to TechCrunch. He added that construction on its manufacturing facility will begin in December and is expected to be completed in 2022.

2. The biotech incubator behind Moderna will pool together its portfolio startups to work on new treatments for cystic fibrosis using up to $110 million in financing from a foundation dedicated to the genetic disease that ultimately derails one’s ability to breathe. The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation will dole out up to that amount to Pioneering Medicines, which brings together technologies from biotechs incubated at Flagship Pioneering. One of the outfits central to the work will be Tessera Therapeutics, which snagged its own haul of $230 million back in January. 

3. Clinical AI assistant startup Notable has closed a $100 million Series B funding round led by ICONIQ Growth. Notable’s platform takes on administration tasks for doctors and healthcare providers from updating Electronic Health Records (EHR) to scheduling and reminding patients of upcoming appointments. Notable’s platform offers AI help to healthcare providers for both internal needs and communicating with patients. The idea is to cut down on paperwork and data entry so that doctors have more time to focus on the actual medical concerns. The AI responds to both text and voice commands to help the doctor go through documents and records, integrating new information as it arrives and looking for tasks it can complete. The startup claims it cuts more than 700 hours of repetitive tasks a year for every clinician thanks to its automation.

4. WhyLabs, a machine learning startup that was spun out of the Allen Institute last year, helps data teams monitor the health of their AI models and the data pipelines that fuel them. Last year, the startup raised a $4 million seed round and today, the team announced that it has raised a $10 million Series A round co-led by Defy Partners and Andrew Ng’s AI Fund. Existing investors Madrona Venture Group and Bezos Expeditions also participated in this round.

5. Mark Cuban and former Oculus CEO back 3D e-commerce startup VNTANA, which helps e-commerce retailers show off products on their sites in glorious 3D, while also allowing users to view objects in augmented reality and try on items virtually. The startup, founded back in 2012, has had a central focus on 3D content for years but has shifted its attention from bringing holograms to live events pre-pandemic to bringing 3D content to storefronts across the web. The startup tells TechCrunch it has raised $12.5 million in Series A funding across multiple raises. Backers of the startup’s latest fundings include Mark Cuban, former Oculus CEO Brendan Iribe, Flexport, and Anorak Ventures, among others.

6. OQmented, a German pioneer in AR/VR Display and 3D Sensing Solutions, scores €8 million in funding. OQmented is a deep tech startup developing and selling the most advanced MEMS mirror and laser scanning technologies available on the market today. The fresh capital will be invested in the expansion mainly of the company’s location in Itzehoe, accelerating their Research & Development as well as fostering existing partnerships and establishing cooperations with new partners. Also, the capital will be invested to fast-track market penetration of OQmented’s MEMS mirror-based laser beam scanning (LBS) technology for AR/VR smart glasses. The tiny projection display—the industry’s first one-chip solution—gives product innovators the essential enabling technology for smart glasses that offer powerful visualization capabilities in a stylish, virtually weightless frame. The product will contribute to propel AR/VR technologies into the mainstream, smoothing the runway to the next iteration of the internet, and enabling applications like 3D cameras, LiDAR, and machine vision products.

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7. Kitman Labs, the Dublin-based sports technology and analytics company setting a new industry standard for how elite sports organizations use data and operate, just announced the close of a €45 million investment round led by Guggenheim Investments (on behalf of certain of its managed accounts), a global asset investment and advisory firm with more than $259 billion in assets under management. The latest investment brings Kitman Labs’ total outside funding to €70 million. Elite sports leagues and teams are collecting record amounts of player data from wearables, tracking systems, and legacy point solutions often used by a single department. On average, 2.5 million data points per athlete will be gathered this year. By 2025, that number is expected to increase to 230 million data points per athlete – a staggering increase of over 9,000%. With this influx, organizations around the globe are currently faced with the challenge of finding meaningful insights in this data that can be shared by the entire organization. Kitman Labs has created an operating system for sport that enables organizations to consolidate and transform data from point solutions into actionable, team-specific insights with advanced analytics that guide collaborative decisions about talent strategies, performance, health and safety, and youth development.

8. Princeton NuEnergy, Inc., an emerging growth company primarily engaged in the regeneration of Lithium-Ion Battery (LIB) material, is selected as National Grand Prize Winner to 2021 Cleantech Open. Cleantech Open is a non-profit organization that runs the world’s most extensive clean technology accelerator program for cleantech startups. This year, following a rigorous evaluation process, Princeton NuEnergy (“PNE”) has been selected as the national winner in the 2021 Cleantech Open (“CTO”). As the national winner, PNE will have exclusive access to one of the world’s only cleantech-specific expert mentors, connection to a high-level national network of influencers and entrepreneurs, visibility to the market, and a prize in the amount of $50,000. Dr. Chao Yan, CEO of PNE stated, “Cleantech Open is a great platform to support us on business development, investor engagement, and customer base establishment. This award will help us with the execution of our pilot production line in Q1 2022. Additionally, the consulting and legal support will strengthen our position in intellectual property, business strategy, and marketing.”

Each year, over 150 companies participate in one of the Cleantech Open US, Global Climate Innovation, or Global Ideas programs. Since 2005, CTO has trained over 1600 early-stage clean technology startup entrepreneurs through its annual business accelerator, raised $1.2 billion for implementation in renewable energy, energy efficiency, and clean transport, and created over 3,000 clean economy jobs.

9. Last week, Amsterdam-based Amberscript, the AI speech recognition startup, announced that it has raised €8.65 million to further its mission of making all audio accessible. The Series A funding round was led by Endeit Capital, a leading German-Dutch growth capital firm founded by former executives of the media company Endemol, validating the potential for Amberscript’s technology in the media industry. Amberscript aims to make the power of language accessible to everyone and to bring the world closer together. By combining domain-specific AI speech recognition engines with a ‘human layer’ of transcribers, Amberscript produces subtitles with the highest accuracy in the market, delivered eight times faster than traditional manual methods.

10. Climate tech investment in Europe has grown 7x in the past five years, over the global average of 4.9x. Sustainability-focused VCs in Europe have raised $1.8bn this year so far, which includes the €350m fund by Ecosia-backed VC firm World Fund.  But who are the VCs investing in sustainability in Europe? Sifted has created a list of sustainability and climate tech-focused VCs — and highlighted the active ones with big funds — so you can get to know them a bit better.

Here they are.

Astanor Ventures

HQ: Brussels

Latest fund size: $325m; tickets $1-10m

Focus: Series A-C; Europe and North America; agriculture, food and oceantech.

World Fund

HQ: Berlin

Latest fund size: €350m; tickets €1-3m (early-stage), €5-8m (late-stage)

Focus: Seed-Series B; mainly Europe, sector agnostic

2150  –

HQ: London, with offices in Copenhagen and Berlin

Latest fund size: €270m

Focus: Early-stage; Europe; cities (construction, micromobility, etc)

Norrsken VC  –

HQ: Stockholm

Latest fund size: €125m

Focus: Seed-Series A; Europe; sector agnostic

Blue Horizon

HQ: Zurich

Latest fund size: €183m

Focus: Seed-growth; global; foodtech, agritech

Emerald Technology Ventures

HQ: Zurich

Latest fund size: $100m

Focus: Europe and North America; Series A-D; energy, water, industrial IT, advanced materials, mobility, robotics and agriculture; tickets $500k-$5m.

SET Ventures –

HQ: Amsterdam

Latest fund size: €100m 

Focus: Early-stage to growth; Europe; energy

ETF Partners

HQ: London

Latest fund size: £167m 

Focus: Growth; Europe; energy, mobility, consumer, food 

Rubio Impact Ventures

HQ: Amsterdam

Latest fund size: €110m

Focus: Mainly Dutch companies; early to growth; sector agnostic; tickets €1-8m  

Pale Blue Dot –

HQ: Malmö, Sweden

Latest fund size: $87m

Focus: Pre-seed-seed; sector agnostic; tickets €200k-2m

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How AI Impacts Decision-Making Process

Hrant Davtyan, Founder and CEO at Pinsight

Episode 34

According to McKinsey Institute, AI could deliver an additional output of $13 trillion to the world economy by 2030, which would boost global GDP by nearly 1.2 percent a year. The future is big for AI. 

In this episode, Hrant Davtyan, Founder, and CEO at Pinsight joins HyeTech Minds to talk about his startup journey. Hrant shares his thoughts on the importance of AI and Data in the decision-making process. Hrant also talks about the challenges and opportunities for Armenian startups to expand AI development.

In midst of global health crisis, Hrant has started Pinsight with a mission to give every decision-maker the power of making smart, insight-driven decisions fast. Pinsight is the first AI platform that  allows product and customer experience teams to get AI-driven predictions and insights with a click of a button. Pinsight empowers company’s analysts and decision-makers with instant access to AI-powered predictions and insights. 

Hrant’s Bio

 Founded a Data science consulting agency Pinsight and scaled it to 40+ projects in 2 years
– Helped 10+ startups to create AI products
– Received Ph.D. combining Data Science with Economics
– Taught data science and business to 1000+ offline students
– Taught data science and analytics to 6000+ online students
– Consulted/Advised on 100+ AI/data science projects/products
– Helped UN (UNDP/UNFAO) as well as gov. bodies in implementing AI/data science projects
– Watched pretty much all Marvel and DC movies and TV series

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Interview Highlights

Narine: 

Narine:  Hi Hrant. Thanks for stopping by at HyeTech Minds.  How are you doing today? How is it in Yerevan? 

Hrant: Hi Narine. Thanks. I’m excited to join your podcast. I’m doing well. Yerevan is fine. The weather is a bit, it seems like it’s going to rain soon. How are you?

Narine:  I’m doing great, thanks. As long as the weather is good, I’m fine.

So, Hrant, you have been in the data science world for many years. I’m really curious to learn how you got into the tech world. I wonder if you can first start by just telling us how you got into the tech world, data science world. 

Hrant: Well, that’s an interesting story. So my background is fully in Economics. But in Economics, there is a subcomponent called Econometrics, which is fully data-driven and very quantitative. I always liked my econometrics courses. And when I was starting at the university, we had a TEA, who actually apart from TEA sessions was doing individual office hours on Data Science topics. I got excited to start to learn by myself. And that’s how I got into data science.

Narine: Wow, you’re a self-learner, super. I know you also hold a Ph.D. in Data Science. I’m curious to know how you went from academics to entrepreneurship. ’What sparked the idea to launch Metrics?

Hrant: When I was doing my Ph.D., my friends and I started a small Research Center, a nonprofit organization, where we wanted to just use Data Science for the public good, and we ran some projects. 

Afterward, we saw that this is not really sustainable. So if you really want to use Data Science for the public good, the nonprofit option is not really sustainable, at least for the resources we have. Then, given the skills and expertise I have, I decided to basically test myself in the consulting business. By ending up having some consulting clients myself and seeing that my own time is not enough to actually serve all the clients, I decided to start the company. So basically, it was a conversion from consultancy, to company consultancy, from individual to company.

We started with just me and one of my students, previous students who had already graduated University at the time at Metric.

And then the idea was to basically come up with a very strong team of data science and machine learning engineers, which are not many in Armenia and in the world, as you know. So I was lucky to teach at the university exactly the same courses that I needed to basically do the consultancy projects that Metric. So I basically started hiring from the best of my previous and current students, and by any doubt forming a strong team of data scientists for Metric. 

Narine: That’s super empowering when a professor recruits their own students.  I think this should be an example for others. So talking about your team, can you take us inside your team? How big is it now?  

Hrant: There are 21 people right now. So they are not so big, but not so small as well. So for Data Science, the Machine Learning team is actually quite big.

Narine: That’s a pretty big team for a new company. So, you founded Metric in 2019. What is Metric about? What are some of the problems you’re trying to solve?

Hrant: Our vision is to help companies make smart decisions fast, and we want to allow everybody to have instant access to insights from their own data. The main solution we provide is a product called insight, which basically helps companies to just connect their raw data to help insight what they’ve often lost and often wanted to get insight on, that can be used in marketing in customer analytics, as well as in product and politics. Typical use cases. 

For example, let’s say you want to gauge user satisfaction analysis, you just connect your data and understand which users are actually not satisfied and who are satisfied and what are the key driving factors behind. That’s basically the main product Metric provides. But you also have some other services which include web First categorization. So basically, you provide millions of websites, we have to tell you there are business categories and industries. We provide document analysis, which helps you to extract valuable, better financial information from big documents. And so far.

Narine: I was going through your website and noticed that you also offer a Machine Learning training program. Can you talk about it? 

Hrant: So we are very launched, basically, concentrated on trying to flourish the Data Science ecosystem in Armenia. So several times in a year, we are running free training programs, it’s like completely free of charge. And we don’t really have any motivation. 

Apart from contributing to the ecosystem. We are running training programs regarding not only Machine Learning, but also general data analysis, like Excel, or Python, etc. We’re people, mostly students, and early career professionals can come on the level of their skills. But most importantly, they have something called data size Summer Internship Program, which actually they’re planning to launch soon, for 2021, which helps university students who have the knowledge but not the experience, and complementary gain experience and go to the job market, there are some of them, but not everybody. So there are many job markets, talented people who are ready to go to companies and solve problems, not just people who are talented, but also talented experienced.

Narine: That’s an amazing initiative for Armenia. That’s so important to provide hands-on experience to students, To prepare them for entry-level positions. This can put Armenia in a stronger position in the global tech scene. 

Hrant: Yeah, certainly.

Narine: Hrant, we all understand that data is important. As some experts describe, nowadays data is an “oil.” But, from your expertise, how can you describe the importance of data for companies? Why do companies need to rely on Data Analytics in the decision-making process? 

Hrant: It’s basically a matter of opinion, or belief versus facts. If companies are not relying on data for decision-making, they will quickly lose the competitive edge. Because in the competitive landscape, you cannot only rely on your own, on your, on your subjective opinions or subjective beliefs many times, because just biologically, our brains are biased. We have a lot of biases in our brain, because of neurobiology, we can come up with wrong conclusions. So it’s very important to actually rely on decisions also by analyzing data. And you cannot really get insights from your data if you don’t have data, right? So it’s very important to have the correct pipeline to collect data, which can many times give you interesting insights that can be very unexpected that otherwise, you wouldn’t notice.

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Narine: I’m glad you talked about bias in the decision-making process.  Many businesses and industries are accelerating AI adoption as the most effective way to make unbiased decisions.  But, technology is not always accurate and we can not rely on AI 100%. How should companies use data analytics to reduce bias in their decision-making process? 

Hrant: That’s a great question. So many times individuals are short-sighted and kind of make conclusions on so-called small samples, for example, they see that summer in their neighborhood, a certain product is selling well enough. And they conclude that this product is highly demanded. So that could be correct about your neighborhood, doesn’t mean that product is highly demanded by the general public. 

If you make your business decisions only on the limited information that you observe yourself as a human being and make conclusions, let’s say on the information you get from neighborhoods, you can make your own decisions and go on and start to try to produce that product even more in areas that it’s completely on demand. So one bias that I typically observed in people is making decisions based on small samples. And in case I’m using data analytics, in case of having a strong data analyst and data science teams, you should probably be able to observe the real behavior that is experienced in your data, not just in your neighborhood.

Narine: As I said many industries today heavily rely on data analytics. In your practice, what industries, companies are more engaged with data analytics for the decision making process? 

Hrant: So my experience shows that when it comes to customer analytics and marketing analytics, those two sectors are very heavily relying on dates nowadays. This is very good news because marketing can be divided into components of the right kind of romantic marketing, which is not really let’s move on to analytical marketing. 

Many times you can see not only use cases, industry best practices driven by marketing analytics and marketing departments, so in my opinion are getting at customer teams are really driving most of the use cases in the data analytics world, but the other sectors like finance or even HR are growing rapidly, you can nowadays see a lot of HR tech companies that are trying to apply analytics in order to understand applicant behavior, employee behavior and make a conclusion based on that.

Narine: That’s an important topic HR. HR is one of the top industries that are noticeably accelerating AI adoption as the biased tool for workforce management. Companies use data analytics for all three stages in workforce management – recruiting, promotion, and employee engagement. 

55 percent of U.S. human resources managers already said AI would be a regular part of their work within the next five years.So, how can HR be more effective in using AI for workforce management in a way that will make the decision-making process less biased? 

Hrant: That’s a great question. So if you use AI, you can at the same time be more biased and less biased, you will be less biased. Because if you use AI and use data analytics, your conclusion will be driven by data and not your own subjective feelings or subjective opinions. 

But at the same time, your AI models your data, analytical tools are as good as the data behind right. And the data is created by nobody other than humans. And many times humans are themselves. I actually remember a very interesting situation we had last summer with some of the big-name companies, for which the face recognition system was completely biased. 

Narine: Amazon case, you mean? 

Yes. Last summer, it was Amazon that stopped providing his recognition, called recognition, the face recognition system because it was terribly biased. So we had a similar situation with Microsoft actually, who took down a big, big textual corpus, because the textile notations are racist. So many times the data can itself be a bias that if you use an AI model, the results can also be biased, which means it will get rid of the individual bias objectives, emotions, feelings that you can have, for example, in HR use cases, but at the same time, you have to be cautious not to introduce a different type of bias, something like ethical or racism, or gender bias or anything else that could potentially be observed data, because AI is learning the patterns you have in data if your data is biased, automatically a written contract as well.

Narine: You know one of the conversations recently massively discussed will AI, robots replace humans? World Economic Forum’s AI is expected to replace 85 million jobs worldwide by 2025? What is your take on how far AI will impact the workforce? 

Hrant: That’s actually a good question. So several years ago, I was participating in a conference. It was about Economists. But there is a field in economics, which is called labor economics, that observes how the labor market is changing. 

So I met one Nobel laureate in labor economics, who told me about his working paper that was trying to understand how AI will affect the labor market. What he was saying is that if he split individuals into three groups, low skilled, medium-skilled, and highly skilled individuals, then medium-skilled individuals will be affected by AI most reasoning behind was that so he was doing all mathematics behind, but the intuitive reasoning was that the low skilled people will have a competitive edge in terms of price.

 Compared to AI, the highly skilled people will have a competitive edge compared to AI in terms of quality, so that the middle-skilled people, don’t have the competitive edge in terms of quality and not in terms of price as well. So they will have the most trouble. So if you’re asking me, where are they I will replace the human or not, I think, yes, it will, for some component, but at the same time, it will introduce a lot of new jobs. For example, because of computer vision, there are a lot of human tasks that are not really done by humans anymore. Computer Vision is often difficult to cross regarding images and videos. But at the same time, in order to have this good computer vision algorithm, unit humans will label and annotate images, so it is taking some jobs, but at the same time, it is creating new jobs, which in this example is human and features. 

So yes, I think it will take some jobs, but it will certainly create new ones as well.

Narine: That’s an interesting insight. Good to know this. Another problem is data privacy. Amount of data companies accumulate is stunning. Time to time you hear stories that big companies, like LinkedIn ,yahoo had data leakage. What you think about this?  

Hrant: Well, that’s actually something really problematic. And that’s exactly why we have regulations like GDPR, etc. And I actually learned today, I don’t know how accurate it is because it feels like a rumor that I learned today that the European Union is going to introduce a big amount of fines if AI is used in certain use cases that they consider that it shouldn’t be used. 

So I think the way to actually make sure that AI is used for good reasons is to have strong but also well-sought regulations. I mean, strong is not enough, it should be well discussed with industry professionals. And also the regulations that will not really restrict the growth of the industry, but at the same time will restrict the bad so-called use cases of data, which can either introduce fake content or introduce privacy issues.

Narine: Europe has started to be more serious about data privacy. I’m all for regulations. I’m all in for more regulations. 

Hrant, talking about the data impact on decision-making, sometimes we forget to understand what are the limits of decision-making by an algorithm?

Hrant: The first and foremost limit is data. Many times when I’m telling people that I have a product that can provide you sides and recommendations, automatically, they think that it’s going to also provide some general business recommendations, like hire a new person, or change your business strategy. 

AI is limited by the data that you have, meaning that it can only provide insights into the limits of the data. And as a result, the largest challenge that I observe now is something called causality.

 So causality is something that statisticians and econometricians have studied for many years. And this is a hot topic in AI. What AI is doing is finding patterns, right, like quarterly. Patients, but if it finds patterns, it doesn’t mean that there is a causality, there’s a pattern between A and B, it doesn’t mean as causing B, right? So the biggest challenge in using AI for decision-making is that many people just use patterns followed by a claim that it is causality, which is actually a big problem because otherwise, you’re going to make wrong decisions based on that.

Narine: So what we are witnessing today is a deep impact of AI on the economy, and humans. According to McKinsey Institute, AI could deliver an additional output of $13 trillion to the world economy by 2030, which would boost global GDP by nearly 1.2 percent a year. The future is big for AI. In this sense, from your perspective what are your thoughts on the future of AI in the decision-making process? 

Hrant: That’s a great question. So I am actually for automation. So currently, AI is built by human experts, people like me, data scientists, and machine learning engineers. But unfortunately, we don’t really have enough supply of data specialists in the world, there is a big shortage gap.

 I mean, according to statistics, 70% of companies are not able to hire data scientists and they have problems in the process. And as I do, the compensation is very high, so many companies cannot really afford it. 

So I see the future of AI. In automation, I see AI creating AI, we actually already have the first steps. There’s a technology called Automental, which is actually the technology behind our product as well, which creates machine learning models itself using machine learning. So AI is creating AI. And I think that’s the future to basically come up with a solution that will cover the demand gap in the market.

Narine: AI is really becoming huge not only for business, but also for government, countries. Today, you see global superpowers like China and the USA are competing for AI dominance in the world.  Now I’m thinking about countries like Armenia, which are very small and need to be exposed to the international tech landscape.  What do you think are some of the challenges for Armenian startups to expand AI development? 

Hrant: So the main obstacle that I currently see is that companies are really interested in hiring data sciences and applying data for decision making, which is very good, but they want to hire senior people. 

And we don’t have enough senior people in the market. So what we really need to do is to have a lot of opportunities for junior people, a lot of internship programs, which unfortunately are not so many. Last year when we announced our internship programs. I have only seen another internship program in the market for this year. I have seen the third one? So I think this will become more like the standard, do you offer an internship program by leading data companies in Armenia? Otherwise, we cannot really go over the senior people because there are not so many people in Armenia who are seniors. So we have to give the opportunity for more young talents to get the experience and the good all of them inside our companies and become seniors themselves.

Narine: I understand they want to hire senior engineers. But, the question is that those entry-level engineers need the opportunity to get hands-on experience and grow experience. No one becomes senior at once.  What do you think, how can the Armenian tech Diaspora be helpful in this? 

Hrant: That’s a good point. 

So I think there’s a lot of things that a Diaspora can do. I myself have met Armenian data scientists abroad, who maybe some of them migrated from Armenia. Some of them left Armenia to study data science abroad because we didn’t have courses in the universities of the time and then stayed there. And some of them are just not from Armenia themselves, they were born outside. 

So I think we have a lot of smart talent in the Diaspora who can really make a lot of positive knowledge investment in the Data Science sector. We already experienced something like that this year. We were running a program called AI incubation program, together with Hero House. What we have is basically, data science experts, mentors, people who are very experienced in data science, from abroad, mentoring Armenia, university students to conduct research, and those people were really excited to do that. And at the end, when we had the feedback of students, it was really positive. They learned a lot of hands-on experience from top companies in Europe and the US or the UK, how scientists used to do it was very motivational. And I think it should become standard practice to kind of try moving the Diaspora and the Armenians abroad in the process of flourishing given the size and general technical system in Armenia mentorship is just one example. But I think there are many, many other cases.

Narine: I mean Armenians have always been known as talented scientists. And with the help of the right mentorship programs and tools, Armenia has a huge potential to expand its AI ecosystem. Continuing this conversation, what do you think we need to change in Armenia in order to attract more investments from abroad? 

Hrant: Oh, that’s a very difficult question. 

Many things we need to change really. Recently, the High Tech Ministry in Armenia was conducting a survey to understand whether the legal aspect is an obstacle for investment.

We don’t have things like employee stock options that you can give to your team if you don’t have typical investment agreements that startups have, like safe, etc. Those things are problematic for startups to actually legally be organized in Armenia.

 So as you know, many companies are actually going out organizing themselves. In the law, they’re using clarity and stripe and similar tools.

So as a result of the investments, monitoring, from a monetary perspective, going to these US companies, so one of the things we have to improve on is basically the legal system first, and then the image of Armenia as a safe country where you can actually have a monetary investment from non monetary perspective, we have to be able to try. The Diaspora isn’t really motivated, it’s meaningless. People come to Armenia, let’s say teach a class at the university and basically, students on 10th class systems are not the trade-offs, people will be getting motivated, right? 

So they have to make sure that there is an atmosphere where these people can come and really feel comfortable and motivated to invest not only monetary investment to invest their time of knowledge to basically help the younger generation and existing confidence in Armenia.

Narine: Great point. This is something to explore furtherly.   So, what would be the best way to learn more about Pinsight? 

Hrant: So we are actually planning to start a podcast ourselves. So that’s one approach. But generally, we have our website, y’all our Facebook page, where we are constantly providing our updates on our performance, our products https://www.pinsight.ai/ 

Soon, we’ll be more active actually on social space, so they can really learn from us on Facebook or websites. But they can also feel free to reach out to me on LinkedIn and ask questions or discuss any topic that they find interesting and that I can contribute.

Narine:  Thank you so much Hrant for your insights.  Good luck with all your initiatives and stay safe. 

Hrant: That was a great experience, super exciting to talk to you now. Thanks a lot for this podcast and for organizing this.


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Featured

How Important are Mentors to College Students?

Interview with Lucy Setian, Co-founder of Manatee Mentor

Episode 33

” 68 million young people unemployed globally. There are so many young people who are at an age they can start working. But unfortunately, either they cannot afford higher education, or they don’t have the chance; either they have single parents, or simply they don’t have the means. Mentorship plays a huge role to get navigation, inspired to enter a specific profession, and connect with experts in the industry.”

In this episode, Lucy Setian, Founder of ManateeMentor joins HyeTech Minds to talk about the importance of the mentorship for college students, making education affordable for underrepresented communities and reducing technology inequality. Lucy also stresses the importance of connectivity and networking to bridge the gap between tech communities in Armenia and abroad. 

MANATEE MENTOR is a Swiss-based startup that offers a unique AI model to predict professional success and the value of mentoring for organizations. It offers a unique AI model to predict professional success and the value of mentoring for organizations. Recently, MANATEE MENTOR joined the UNESCO Global Education Coalition.

Lucy’s Bio

 Lucy is the Co-Founder at Manatee Mentor . Since 2020, Lucy is a Deputy Director HealthTech Innovation at Novartis Foundation. She is a Computer Engineer from the German faculty program of the Technical University of Sofia & Technical University of Karlsruhe with a MSc magna cum laude degree in Communication Sciences from VUB-Brussels, and an Executive MBA with high honors from Solvay Business School in Brussels.

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Interview Highlights

Narine:  Hello Lucy.   Great to have you today at HyeTech Minds? How’re you doing? 

Lucy: Thank you, Narine, thank you so much. I’m very well, it’s great to hear your voice.

Narine: I was waiting for this interview for a while. So happy to have you today. You’re joining us from one of my favorite countries, Switzerland. How is everything going there? How is the situation with COVID? 

Lucy:  It’s slightly improved probably a couple of months ago. But still, we are trying to be careful, especially in the area where I live, in Basel.

Narine: With the vaccine out, there is the light at the end of the tunnel finally. So, this is your first stop by HyeTech Minds. Can you talk a little bit about your background, who you are, and what you do? 

Lucy:  Thanks for the invitation. First of all, it really means a lot. I’m Armenian, originally born in Sofia in Bulgaria. My name is Lucy Setian. I’ve probably spent part of my life in Belgium. And then the last decade I spent in Belgium, which also on paper makes me Belgian. As of a year and a half, I’m in Switzerland, living in Basel. And that’s in terms of international experience, mostly having spent the majority of my life in Europe by background. I’m a computer engineer with a double degree between the Technical University of Sofia and the one in Karlsruhe in Germany. And then I say Political Sciences. And recently I finalized my executive MBA. And I think this vocationally is where we stop. Professionally speaking, in my daily life, I’m living the work of the Novartis Foundation on health tech innovation for low and middle-income settings. And in my night job, I’m the founder of an ed-tech startup called Manatee Mentor, which is aiming at transforming mentorship and lifelong education as we know it.

Narine: You’re truly a citizen of Europe. On top of everything, you are also an entrepreneur, startup founder. In 2020, while the world was going through this terrible health crisis, many businesses failed, could not survive. But you launched the MANATEE MENTOR – an app that helps to mentor people to elevate their life and get greater career opportunities. I’m really curious to know what is the story behind MANATEE MENTOR? How did you really get the courage to launch a new business in such uncertain times globally? 

Lucy:  So as you said it, rightfully It was exactly in the middle of COVID. So it was last October when I was actually finishing my executive MBA. You know, usually, when you’re in the first week after an MBA program, you have a surge of free time in your life and suddenly realize you have all this time on your hands, which leads to a lot of self-reflection and thinking I suppose. I was sitting there thinking, Okay, did this MBA program interest rate, but what was the biggest value of it? And thinking about that, for me, at least the biggest value was the aspect of peer mentoring and access to very senior mentors coming out of the corporate world, specifically in terms of a business degree, to the mentoring to the MBA program, and I felt Okay, that that was it. That was it. That was the mentoring that made the most of those. The other thing was that, you know, these MBA programs, they’re super expensive. So unfortunately, not everyone can get 70 or 80, or even 150k, like probably some of the US programs to take part in and to be able to afford that and, you know, to support themselves in parallel. So I felt there is an increasing value of combining two interesting possibilities, how you bring technology and how you bring people closer together in a more sustainable way through mentorship. So that’s how this whole thing started, eight months ago.

Narine: That’s true, MBA costs a lot of money. I spent thousands of dollars on my MBA. Education is so expensive. Thousands of dollars in student loans.

Lucy, mission is very important for any startups. It defines the direction startups is going. The right mission is a valuable guidepost as you continue to grow and innovate within your startup. How would you define your mission? What drives MANATEE MENTOR to move forward? 

Lucy: You asked a very good question. When I talk about the vision, I think of it in two ways. We want to do something not only for individuals, but also for organizations. So our vision is really to build people up and to build organizations up. This is the vision of the monarchy mentor, as a whole as something we want to do in different dimensions. But in terms of mission very specifically, our mission is to be the AI-driven platform, making mentoring inclusive, affordable, and accessible to all independent where you locate yourself independently, what’s your background, you can get mentorship in an equitable way. 

Narine: So MANATEE MENTOR is a mobile app, which helps to connect mentors and mentees. Can you take us inside your team? And share some insight on your mentors? 

Lucy:  That’s a good question. Actually, we’ve started with 115 founding volunteer mentors. So I have two co-founders, one of them happens to be my husband. And the other, my other co-founders happen to be one of my alumni, colleagues from my MBA program. So since we are always extremely entrepreneurial, we decided to join forces. And so when we were starting with the first, let’s say, recruitment of volunteers, because all of them are volunteers, we looked at people from our own professional circle. And we asked them to also refer to other people who are fitting really the profile of the perfect founding volunteer mentor. And that means someone who is extremely committed to paying it forward to bringing value to the next generation or two equally to people like them through mentorship. So the common denominator for all these people was that they had a mentor at some point in their life. And so currently, we have them, and you can visit on our homepage, manateementor.com, you can see some of them. We have people from Google, from Amazon, from Novartis, from the World Health Organization, from BP, and a number of other big and small companies, public and private. Also, we have a couple of representatives from different governments, from the United Arab Arab Emirates, from Ireland, and so on. Also, the Deputy Minister of Education of Bulgaria is one of our mentors. So it’s a really eclectic group of people who helped us kick this off, and also brought the credibility of the community behind MANATEE MENTOR because the community is essential in what we’re doing. And this is how we started.

 But today, if you look at the first version of the application, I’m sure that you have downloaded it already, the better app is available on Android. And you know, when we first presented our solution, we started with the video. And so when the video went live, and when the website went live with all of our founding 100 mentors, we had somewhere like 1000 pre-sign ups. And I’m talking a month ago, okay, in terms of data, and we launched on the 30th of March, which means that our first downgrade version of the application because it’s only available for Android, had a little bit fewer users. So means part of the community went directly on the app. And now the app has 250 members who are active. And as soon as we launched the version, which is for Apple for iOS, then the rest of the community will join. So it’s very diverse, and anyone actually can sign up. It’s not only for the people who we have invited, but it’s also true for anyone.

Narine: Lucy,  mentors can be valuable in just about any stage of our lives – when we get into college, need a career change, looking for ways to grow, and on. But, you’ll probably agree with me that not all mentors are created equal. The best mentors share some important qualities. What are some of the qualities you’re looking for in mentors? 

Lucy: That’s again, a brilliant question. When we started the work on the venture, we decided to come up with a couple of principles, but also our Manifesto, what we call the Manteementor or the mentoring Manifesto.

 First of all, the startup principles for us, it was very important to think, what are the things that are driving what we do. So we always supply a couple of principles, both for our own team, but also for our partners in our community, which is our solidarity because we believe in giving back as a principle of shared value. 

So that’s the first one curiosity to be heard. Because you have to be open to being different. You have to be open to work with other people in a different way and to switch your minds every once in a while to get different ideas. But also courage and why courage because it is hard to ask for help. And it’s not an easy thing to go and just simply ask someone for mentorship and it takes courage. Also, the mentor It takes courage to admit that you do not have all the answers. You said it yourself. That means that you know, being a mentor is not an easy job. It requires certain qualities. And also it requires nurturing those qualities and also requires open-mindedness if you wish. And so these are the three main principles we apply. In addition to that, we created a manifesto, which helps our mentors and mentees equally mean the following, if you wish, the informal principles of our own community. And, you know, if you ask someone what makes a good mentor is definitely someone who realizes that this is not a job title, this is something you do because you truly believe that it brings value to you and to other people. So you have to have this internal calling if you wish. It’s sort of a personal calling that you want to do something because you believe that it brings value. So that’s number one. The second point is that mentors, especially the ones who are part of our community, know that the core values of each one of us matter, and we’re all different. And we already talked about the three core values of our community. So solidarity, courage, and curiosity. But the mentors who join us acknowledge that people have many other personal values, it’s not only those three, and that means that each one of us is unique. And we should respect the differences and we should embrace them. That means that if you’re not open-minded, and if you’re not ready to acknowledge that someone has a different opinion, different context, different personal history, filters, values, family, etc, you’re going to have a really hard time as a mentor. So that’s very important to give me the realization of other people’s values.

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Narine: You stressed so many valid points. 

Now, I can probably talk for hours about what makes a good mentor, but I will share one message, which is that in reality, anyone can be a mentor. And this is the principle of how our platform works. In fact, when you actually sign up, you have the choice, you can sign up as a mentor, you can sign up as a mentee, or you can be both things at the same time. And if you’re doing both things at the same time, you’re getting the most of the benefit, we encourage actually giving back to our virtual give back currency manner. And that means that when you mentor people, you get mana points. And then you can use these mana points to find your own mentor. And you can have many mentors, depending on which part of your life you are, what are your questions that you’re trying to answer or solve problems? And how much availability in terms of time and capacity do you have?

Narine:  So MANATEE MENTOR is a mobile app? How it works, what are the some of the key features you can share today with us. Also, is it available only on Android? 

Lucy:   MANATEE MENTOR is currently available on Android. So you can go on the Google Play Store and download it for free. Everything inside the app is free, at the core of the solution will always be free. So the principle of peer mentoring, which I just described to you, is always going to be there. And it’s always going to be totally free as long as you are ready to provide your time as a, let’s say paying back currency if you wish. In the future, we plan to also introduce more functionalities such as more premium features, such as the ability to potentially request for urgent mentorship, which is going to be a premium feature. So if you have an immediate problem right now and you need someone to help you with potentially you not disclosing your identity, because might be a very personal situation in your job, you’ll be able to request this kind of mentorship and also in the future we plan to bring on board also a special program for accredited paid mentors are a great opportunity to for people who are freelancers and who have small businesses to provide a specific type of mentorship which is sector-specific SQL specific, following our mentoring manifesto and our framework, which essentially means that anyone who can fit this framework can apply to be part of the program our partner and we will offer some of their services. Most of the time teams will require mentorship because also teams require mentorship. It’s not only individuals.

Narine: Lucy,  mentorship is all about collaboration. How do you make this collaboration happen between manatees and mentors? 

Lucy: You’ll rightfully say it’s about collaboration, it’s about shared accountability. So first of all, ultimately, the first let’s call it action and the biggest interest is in the hands of the mentee. So if the man doesn’t have a clear idea as to what they need help with, the whole experience is going to be extremely difficult. So the first question is as a mentee, you have to figure out what are you trying to solve for yourself, you know, what are you looking forward to getting help on. And once that journey starts, we do support you in several ways, both the mentors and mentees in our next version of the platform or the solution or the app, let’s call it will get access to a free AI virtual assistant. So think of it as a simple chatbot, who is going to be asking you questions, taking some of the theoretical knowledge that you took maybe out of a conversation between two people, and asking you to go and experiment with some of this knowledge to go put your theoretical? How should I say, takeaways into practice so that you have actual practical skills applicable in the real world? Also, this chatbot is going to ask for your feedback on what you can do different, or what your counterpart can be doing different, and giving you some tools and techniques and tips and tricks of how you as a mentor can be doing a better job in maybe facilitating the mentoring experience for the mentee, especially given that the context of every single monkey is different. So thanks to our AI chatbot, we are going to learn quite a lot about people about what we can do better, and how we can support their continuous development journey.

Narine: What about the limitations of the app right now? 

Lucy: I would say the biggest limitation, which is unfortunate, and which is pretty much the limitation of any digital solution is the one of connectivity. That’s, as you know, in low and middle-income countries, especially your settings, sometimes having access to broadband is not easy. The cost also of having access to this data to the mobile data is expensive. So we are looking really for partnerships, which are going to allow us to scale the technology to bring it to more people in terms of the requirement of being connected to the internet to access the app and to access the community. But other than that there are no other limitations, we are really looking to build technology in such a way that it also complies with accessibility principles. In the future, we might be able to also provide services such as a voice to text, text to voice, and so on, which are extremely helpful for people with disabilities. But these are all things on our roadmap, and we’re really working towards them. So as long as it’s in our influence, so to speak, we’re going to do our best to deliver it.

Narine: That’s fascinating we have huge technology inequality in the world. What about age limitations?

Lucy: I’ll say this is a community question. So as long as it’s a professional-oriented age, so 18 plus yes, definitely, you’re welcome to the community. It’s mostly useful for adults, for sure it is outside for the timing, the global platform is directed to the professional community, which is a requirement of you to join. So if you’re not 18 years old, you cannot be able to join that. So it’s not a community for children. However, we are working currently on something which we call the mentoring houses, and the mentoring houses are managed communities. That means if for example, a school or a university, wants to do a completely closed, mentoring house managed by them with their own membership, and so on, they can actually get a license. And this is actually part of our revenue model. They can get a license to create their own close mentoring community on top of a manatee mentor, which is invitation only. And then, of course, the limitation in terms of the audience gets removed because they decide who has access to it.

Narine: That’s awesome. Are there any interesting partnerships or collaborations going on right now you would like to share with us today? 

Lucy:  Absolutely. So just like the example that I gave you a second ago. Just this month, MANATEE MENTOR joined the UNESCO Global Education Coalition, which is one of the more relevant partnerships that we have announced. In addition, already from the start, we have been backed up by several organizations such as State CO. We also work with the young professional organization of AGBU, Yerevan in Armenia. We work closely with the Association of young entrepreneurs in Bulgaria. And we also are working with an NGO focused on young professionals development in Malawi in Africa. And the best part is that we just actually launched a huge initiative focused on supporting 1 million nurses and midwives, especially focused on low and middle-income settings. And because of that big initiative, we now just started getting the first support from partners from different countries and some of them. You can see it on our paid-for page. These are most of the time organizations in the health sector such as churches, hospitals, and so on.

Narine: It’s really exciting. Seems MANATEE MENTOR is full speed. 

Lucy,  there are probably countless moments in our lives when we really need someone to lead us, to direct us. For example, when I was at college, it was so important for me to have someone I can ask for advice, who would put me on the right track.  From your perspective, how would you describe the importance of mentorship for students particularly?

Lucy:  That’s an excellent question. And actually, this is one of the reasons why we started the paid forward challenge. So maybe I’ll illustrate that with an explanation. Probably you know, there is a huge unemployment gap right now. So there are so many young people who are at an age in which they can start working, but unfortunately, because either they cannot afford higher education, they didn’t have the chance. Or they might be, let’s say 18 plus, but single parents, or simply they don’t have the means and the access to jobs. They remain unemployed. So mentorship plays a huge role. They’re on top of everything. So just to give you a statistic on that there are 68 million young people unemployed globally. And on top of it, there are specific sectors which are suffering from the lack of professionals working in them. And this is why we actually started with the pay-for challenge for health professionals with a focus on nurses and midwives.

Because today, on the global market, there is a shortage of 9 million nurses and midwives. And if you live in a low-income setting, that means that 4000 people, so 4000 patients, you get something like two nurses, which is such a huge gap. That means there are opportunities to fill these jobs. And this is why mentorship is already an earlier age of career. University especially is so important even in higher education. Because if you don’t get this navigation, so to speak, career navigation, if nobody inspires you to enter a specific profession, and connects with you to tell you what is really the reality of that profession, you are not going to choose that job, right. So that’s why it’s important to create excitement in specific sectors that are really suffering from a lack of workforce.

Narine: So, continuing the conversation about jobs. No matter what degree you get, the hardest part is to find a job, specifically an entry-level job. So what happens after users go through this mentorship?  Do you also help your manatees to find jobs? 

Lucy:  This is something that we want to work on further on. It’s currently not yet the core of our roadmap. Because at the core, we’re trying to first bring the mentorship, bring your personal goals up to up to speed, if your personal goal is to get your next job, for sure, we are going to be able to support you in essentially empowering you to connect and get the knowledge and basically the skills you need to do that. However, in the future, we plan to also think of the next generation recruitment, which actually is more of a question of chemistry between people and organizations so that the right people and the right organizations get matched. But that’s very early for us to tackle. So for now we’re really focusing on the core of the mentorship.

Narine: In the last couple of years, you see more platforms offering mentorship. A lot of startups are out there right now creating various tools for mentorship. 

What is unique about MANATEE MENTOR ? What sets MANATEE MENTOR apart from other apps?

Lucy:  I would say the number one thing is your choice. We offer you the perfect match for you. However, ultimately, it’s your choice. Who do you want to engage with? How long do you want to engage with them for and on what topic instead of being part of just another program, which somebody else puts in, in which you have only three months to be engaged with someone who who has decided for you, you choose your mentor, you choose the topic and you choose how long can we engage with those people, it’s a mutually beneficial relationship of giving back and taking back. I think this is one of the core reasons, you know, compared to the general mentoring programs, which could be here and there. And the other thing is, at the end of the day, you might have very different goals and very different needs in different parts of your career. It’s one thing to be a young professional or a student. It’s another thing when you’re retired, let’s say a leader who just leaves their company and finds himself with all this free time. So depending on who you are, and in what moment of your life you are, we can offer you different things.

Narine: It’s exciting to see what the future holds for MANATEE MENTOR ? What is next for a MANATEE MENTOR

Lucy: Let’s say the near future as I like to be. The very realistic goal in the near future is building a slightly better version of what we already have. Because we want to relaunch it. Currently, we are in a better way successful, as I told you, we have quite a lot of active members. However, the next step is rebuilding the better with the user experience that we want to actually have. launching this mature version on Android and on iOS in about two months from now, which is the moment when I’m hoping to see some of your listeners sign up. But they can already pre-sign up on our website. And once this is all there, we’re really hoping by that time to already get closer to our goal to bring membership midwives and nurses globally, because this is our first target, our first big social impact challenge. And the sooner we can get closer to this goal, the sooner we can actually demonstrate real value.

Narine: So Lucy as you know at HyeTech Mind me and my guest also share ideas on the Armenian startup’s ecosystem, opportunities, and challenges. I know you are very much involved in the Armenian tech community and eager to help to expand tech and innovation ecosystems in the country. From your perspective, someone who represents the Armenian tech community abroad, what should be done to bridge the gap between tech communities in Armenia and abroad? 

Lucy: I suppose exactly the question of connectivity, right? We are not in the best geographical space setup, as we all know, we find ourselves in a probably a difficult position in being connected. So I think being part of a digital ecosystem enabled by two platforms, like the one we’re building right now, is a huge opportunity. Why because if we’re better integrated internationally, we can better show the value which Armenia brings growth for the global economy. But also for us as a country, to connect our professionals with other professionals, with other investors, and the other way around. Armenia has so much to offer, it’s just a question to put it a little bit more in the spotlight. And I think, by being connected and by transmitting this value, in a neutral space, such as monumental or any other platform of a similar nature, you have a huge opportunity to connect with other people from other countries to show them what really, what does Armenia really bring on the table? What is knowledge? What are the skills? What is the potential? So I hope that that’s the answer.

Narine: That’s really interesting because I talked to many Armenian founders

Lucy: Hopefully things will change now. And I think there is a new generation of thinking coming, especially even the last couple of weeks and months, unfortunately, in which people are integrating much, much better. So maybe we can help even if it is to connect the Diaspora better with other international communities, even on a small scale with multi vendors. With a couple of million people, this is already a great start.

Narine: That’s true. So Lucy, what is the best way to learn more about MANATEE MENTOR

Lucy:   Well, first of all, for sure, if you do have questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to me or to our team. All of us are very, very happy to speak to anyone who might have an interest in the topic of mentoring. And if we can support them as an organization or as an individual. You can download it by simply going to Google Play Store on your Android device and typing Maliki mentor. And there it is, it is for free. Click the cute-looking multi logo. And that’s who we are. And if you want to stay signed up and to download our free mentoring to keep as they signed up for the announcement for our iOS app that’s coming up in two months. Simply go on our website https://www.manatee-mentor.com/ 

Narine: Thank you so much, Lucy. It’s such a pleasure to have you today with me. Good luck to you with all your initiatives. Have a wonderful week and stay safe.

Lucy: Thank you and stay safe too.


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Links to the Founder and MANATEE- MENTOR 

Links to HyeTech Minds Community

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Featured

How Technology Is Improving Employee Engagement

Mariam Gyulumyan , Co-founder and CEO at Lucky Carrot

Episode 32

According to the latest Gallup report, 51% of employees are disengaged in the workplace, while 13% are actively disengaged. Another Gallup report on employee engagement shows that companies with a highly engaged workforce have 21% higher profitability. They also have 17% higher productivity than companies with a disengaged workforce.After a 24-hour hackathon, this Armenian startup came up with an effective technology solution that helps companies more engage with their employees.

Founded in 2018, Lucky Carrot is an all-in-one employee engagement platform that enhances engagement, makes employees feel recognized, and brings a thank-you culture to the workplace. t allows employees to publicly appreciate one another for their great performance by sending virtual carrots that add up to meaningful rewards.

In his episode, Mariam Gyulumyan, Co-founder and CEO at Lucky Carrot joins HyeTech Minds to talk about her startup journey, challenges overcome on her road to success and Lucky Carrot’s mission to transform employees engagement. Mariam also shares her thoughts on the Armenian startup ecosystem and ways to expand that ecosystem.

Mariam’s Bio

 Mariam Gyulumyan is a Co-founder and CEO at Lucky Carrot. She is an employee engagement expert helping companies automate employee engagement full cycle for real HR and Business ROI.

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Interview Highlights

Narine: Hi Mariam, Welcome to HyeTech Minds. I’m super excited to welcome you today. 

Mariam: I’m really happy and honored to be your guest before jumping into a conversation, can you talk about your favorite

Narine: Sure. It’s your first stop with HyeTech Minds, can you tell us who you are, how you got into the entrepreneurship world, and what you do now? 

Mariam: So after high school, I went to the American University of Armenia, doing a Bachelor’s in business, and having a track of general business, basically everything in one place like accounting, marketing, economics, etc. 

And then, in the middle of my education, I also went to Draper University for their employee training program for around five, six weeks. And then after that study, I just came and finished my bachelor’s in business. And during those times during those years, last year, we started Lucky Carrot. 

Well, also, during that time, I joined some, you know, different teams here, for example, I was also in the Crowdfunding Formula. I also learned lots of great skills there. Yes, I think at that time, I was in my first year at AUA

Narine: So, In 2018, you founded Lucky Carrot, an employee engagement platform that helps companies to increase engagement with employees.  I’m curious to hear the beginning of the story. How has everything started? 

Mariam:  Most of the co-founders and team members have worked in the same tech company here in Armenia. And before Lucky Carrot, the company had a financial reward that was, you know, choosing the employee of the month and giving that reward a financial budget to that person. 

And you know, not only the financial budget, let’s say to all of the clubs and all the good stuff to this person. How they were doing that was they were using, you know, slack. And in that Slack, they were choosing friends, they were nominating people, for example, I nominated Narine to become an employee of the month because of this, that reason. And after you’ve got like 10 nominees, let’s say, you the management chooses one person to become the employee of the month, right. 

And then, at the end of the day, after doing this for several months, we had a problem, employee disengagement. At that time, we did not know that that problem is called employee disengagement. Because you had lots of you had just one happy person that was appreciated for a good job. And then you had lots of unhappy people. Because daily, they were doing great jobs, they were having achievements that were kind of being unheard of or unnoticed. Because like, if we are sitting next to each other, you do good stuff. Maybe I’m the only one knowing about that, or several people around us, right that is noticing. And the other people did not know about that. Or it even hurts more when you are a nominee, you know, every time but never the winner. You like it hurts even more. So we did a 24-hour hackathon. And out of that hackathon you know, out of many ideas like you carry was the one and luckily cared one. And that company became like the early adopter of care. And then other communists heard about it. Several tech companies next to us were working in different offices, right. And they also learned about Lucky Carrots. And that’s how everything kind of rolled out from there.

Narine: That’s awesome. I love hackathons. They are super effective at testing ideas. What do you think so far has been the biggest challenge for you personally as an entrepreneur? 

One of the things I would say is, being able to zoom in and zoom out every time because if you are let’s say a startup and you don’t have a big team, right and as a co-founder, you are engaged in many things. And at the same time, you need to be involved in the daily tasks but at the same time, you have to zoom out and think about long-term stuff which is hard sometimes you get caught in daily routine. So it’s important to make sure that you have you know, you have your days or even months organized to be able to do that and I’m still learning.

Narine: So true, sometimes it’s so difficult to zoom out from what you do. And in reality a lot on the plate of early-stage startup founders. 

So talking about employee recognition and employee engagement, how would you describe those two things? How different are they? 

Mariam: What do we mean by employee engagement? The thing is that it’s very hard to know this employee disengagement problem, which is, you start noticing it when the problem is big. And the problem, you can see the problem when you see the change of behavior in your employees when the person who was sharing funny stuff in your company is not doing that anymore when a person was sharing his or her knowledge with the other people is not doing that anymore, when a person was putting more passion and idea and is going the extra mile for the company’s not doing that anymore, and a lot of change of behaviors that you can notice, but the thing is that what you can do, what would you do if you could be proactive and notice that beforehand, you know, before there is a shift in an employee’s behavior, right. So that is the employee disengagement is not something that you can see in numbers, it’s more for you know, for the qualitative thing that you got to be aware of, and the recognition is one of the things of components of engagement for an employee to stay engaged in your company, and stay longer with your company because engagement is directly proportional to employee turnover.

 So the important thing is to have a good relationship with peers. Good relationships with the managers, have recognition and not, and in companies, we usually see yearly or quarterly recognition and it turns out by getting Gallup status that employees need two to three recognitions a week. 

And it’s not only about the frequency, it’s also about the quality of the recognition. Am I as an employee aligned with our company vision, mission, and values? Am I an ambassador of my company? Meaning like, Am I proud of my company or hanging out with my peers on a Friday night and telling them if you don’t come to our company, it’s really bad, you know? Or it’s the personal growth – meaning “Am I having the same days as I was having like two years ago or am I growing in my company and the company notices that my special skills and can give me responsible tasks for me to grow like to have a career that’s separate.” There are like 10 things, 10 components and so, recognition is part of the engagement which makes a huge difference because it has one of the highest weights on engagement. 

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Narine: So, how exactly does Lucky Carrot help companies to expand employee engagement? What are some of the solutions you offer businesses? 

Mariam: At Lucky Carrot we are developing an end to end like all in one engagement platform, which means, we do not only solve one part of the engagement, but we are covering a full cycle which is a one we do engagement pulse surveys. And they are pulse surveys because you as a company cannot afford to learn about your problems quarterly but you know, monthly even weekly. We do engagement surveys to measure the engagement and to measure all of the components of engagement to diagnose any disengagement causes, and not only does engagement causes like which part of these 10 components you need to improve as a company, but exactly as a company in which of the teams or in which of the departments that you need to focus to save your time like as an HR manager. 

Secondly, what we do is that okay, we understand a problem. Secondly, we collect data, not only through surveys but also through peer-to-peer recognition. Lucky Carrot is a platform where employees can recognize daily, you know, their great accomplishments like I can recognize you as my team member and make everyone see that everyone in our company and make good things more visible and pop them up to the surface. And out of this, we collect data of employee relationships and interactions which helps again to see any signs of disengagement, any weakening interactions within the teams among the teams or among team members right again, which employees are in the red zone. After that, we also give additional information on which employees are your best to execute errors or like informal leaders.

Narine: Mariam, What do you mean when you’re saying red zones? 

Mariam: For example, an employee in the red zone can be having a conflict with entertaining an employee Red Zone can be disengaged or demotivated because he or she doesn’t really like any more of the project that she’s involved in, for example, or she’s working too much right now, there’s a work-life balance issue, for example.

Narine: What type of surveys are you using most of the time? What exactly are you measuring with those surveys? Do employees have the ability to see survey results at some point? 

Mariam: It’s anonymous, the surveys are anonymous, but of course, Lucky Carrot admin, which is usually the HR manager or in some other, you know, cases and company, they’re also the CEOs or someone from the management staff, right? It differs from the alarm, you know, the size of the company. 

So it’s visible to the HR managers. But in very in many companies, where they have great transparency, they share the results with the team and say, we know that for example, we have an issue with employee satisfaction, we understand, for example, that employee satisfaction, whatever means is that Do I have the everything that I need to be able to do my job, for example, a good laptop, a good internet connection, etc?

 Okay, we understand we’ve got that problem. And guys, we are solving this and we have come up with this plan. What do you think, right? We know, for example, that you don’t like, I don’t know, the laptops or the chairs in our company. Okay. Which one you want, for example, I mean, and they can be transparent and share the results. Right. And then to come back to the previous question, it’s very important to mention that aside from giving, you know, data on your showing the people in red zones HR managers is that they’re also giving actionable recommendations. 

HR manager, when you log into Lucky Carrot this is what we are building right now, do a one on one session with this person, for example, because of this, and this and that reasons that like Kara checks that he or she is in the red zone. And then measure the outcome, because we were developing because we are developing KPI and goal management right now. Now you can connect the engagement with the performance. So you did things like this, you enhanced engagement in your company, you solved the problems. And now you can see the results and the performance how the team is performing? Well, same numbers.

Narine: I know you have created an interesting rewarding mechanism – carrots Every time an employee gets recognized for his/her job, they get a carrot. Correct? Why carrots? 

Mariam: Why carrots? There is an expression in the US they say like carrots and sticks. The carrot for reward and stick for the punishment. And the new, let’s say management style, the new rewarding style, of course, you give you know, let’s say carrot, and then I mean rewards. That’s why we took only the carrot from the expression and we just made it lucky. So it became like a carrot. Regarding like, how do we make that I’m in.

 It’s just, let’s say a few clicks, like clicking on the recognize back button, choosing the person that you want to recognize, getting the feedback. For example, Thank you, Narine. Now, after researching more about email marketing due to you, we have more click rates on our websites and me as a salesperson. It’s great to see that because I’m getting more leads, for example, right? And then one of the most important things I need to match my feedback with one of the company core values, let’s say one of the company core values is self-development. So you did the self-development. So I put it there so that we can also understand how aligned the company is with the values.

Narine: So what happens next, when I get those carrots? 

Mariam:  Since the carrots carry a financial value decided by the content, let’s say yeah, $1 you will be able to redeem it into gift cards.

Narine: That’s fun. 

 Mariam, there is a lot of talk about how important employee engagement is, that recognizing employees for their work can help them to boost their full power and potential, and motivate them.

But it seems the majority of businesses and organizations do not embrace this yet. 65% of employees haven’t received any form of recognition for good work in just last year.

Why do we still have so many companies that are hesitant to adopt stronger employee recognition programs? 

Mariam:  There is just starting to shift from the old model to a new model, because like, if you think about, let’s say, Silicon Valley, the cool companies even have employee engagement scores as a KPI for their managers. 

Can you imagine engagement score for, you know, as a KPI for managers? I mean, that’s cool. And that’s, and that’s how it should be. Because engagement is not just part of HR management. I mean, it’s not only just an agent, his management style. Is something that managers should care about also. And so why is this happening? It’s just starting, like, from the US just, you know, bringing recognition culture or culture of gratitude, and just starting to kind of expand in other countries as well, you know, because they’re still in the old style of quarterly recognitions, or, you know, monthly recognitions at best. And in the best-case scenario.

Narine: HR has a pivotal role to play in employee engagement and recognition. Yes, there are specific employee engagement roles and initiatives, specific recognition programs to run but overall HR is responsible to meet the needs to think about employee engagement.

How do you help HR managers to be more effective in identifying problems in their employees and more engaging with them?

Mariam: If we start from a basic thing if we simplify and automate the process of employee engagement that’s one. 

Second, we help you be proactive in case you know problems race right, for example, you’re an HR manager sitting in your office with just several employees. There are other offices you know, offices and there are other story rooms and sitting employees right.

 And you get to know about a problem when a problem is big enough to appear in their faces, say or let’s say a conflict is in the team, etc. So, we help you be proactive to understand which person is not, which person is not communicating with others, with the person, yeah, like in with the, with the relationships and interactions, like we have analytics which shows real-time employee relationships and interactions based on a peer to peer recognition, which shows a real data like for example, I was connected with lots of people and in my first three months and then after that in the next three months, I’m getting less than you know, I’m getting less and less connected, my connections in quantity are decreasing and in quality are also decreasing. So I have a problem here. 

And before the problem rises big enough to explode, you can get to know about this, or for example, in lack of care, we also have a solution where employees can do team building activities themselves. So if there was like a team-building activity in my team and I didn’t participate as you can know about that, you know, in this in the system even not just you know, talking to me, lots of things that we get like the end with the in in the HR manager for the HR manager would tell you, your informal leaders were just a few clicks, right? 

 I would tell, or the key to keeping the player the best executor and we also show them what we call the hearts of the employee, the hearts of the company. And this employee may not be your best performance or execute errors or informal leaders, but you have some employees that, for example, connect people, they bring fun when we’re, you know, drinking cup of coffee in the kitchen, you also have this kind of people that you got to notice and retain, we show this type of people and we help in also increase employee engagement, measure it and increase it, which is the most important stuff, just diagnose any early signs of disengagement and deal with it as soon as possible. 

Narine: In Armenia, I was working for a big department. The morning coffee with my peers has been the most enjoyable moment. 

 Mariam, how do you measure employee engagement? And what exact problems are you trying to solve? 

Mariam: What we do is that we measure engagement score, and when we first put it like a carrot and the company. And so that’s kind of our starting point. 

So this is your, let’s say, situation, and engagement. So let’s start working together, so you can now see your strong sides. And you can see the sides to it for improvements. For example, right now, since the actual recommendations are in the process of development, that’s why we do it manually with our teams with the companies. And so they, you know, plan, for example, in one of the companies, they had this value of leadership, and for them, you know, with our data, it shows that people don’t recognize each other for it from the leadership value. So they don’t use it, because they don’t see that value in people. One of the management group people receive that, which is fine, because he or she must be him or her.

 And they, you know, they did some leadership courses with people, for example, they purchased some, you know, leadership courses from E-learning platforms, they were enclosed that exactly, the HR manager started manually, you know, having one on one sessions and working with them to get it and then track, for example, it helped to increase leadership, right, and then it starts to help, or, for example, one of the cases is that in the public timeline, you see that one of the very experienced project managers gives a carrot to a junior developer saying, You behaved in this case, like a senior developer? These are the things that right, you start noticing. So you see your problem. You do actions, and then you track.

Narine: You know, one of the conversations lately we’re hearing about the bias in the workforce, and it’s a huge issue. Although companies have started heavily adopting AI, Machine Learning in their workforce management to reduce bias in recruitment, this continues to be a big problem. In this sense, how does Lucky Carrot reduce the bias in your awarding system? 

Mariam: That’s a really, great question. Because the tool, let’s say, we have data that we have, like two sides, right, we have data input, and then we have output. And the input is done by everyone inside the company because all of the data is generated exactly by your employees. And you recognize people based on your you know, you know, subjective thoughts, right. And we have this kind of word we use in insurance when we had this kind of concern of care of corruption when we were building Lucky Carrots. And this is funny. 

Oh, we love that expression, although the meaning is very bad. So what if carrot corruption happens, right? Because we’re still humans, and I just can’t like someone or he wishes just the best friend of mine, I can give the carrots but what it turns out is that and this is a question during our demo meetings, most of the time that the HR manager is asked about, and what happens is that we notice that this paired corruption stuff is happening less than even 1% or Yeah, less than like 1% in companies now Why? Right? So the question is, why does is this the case because since the recognitions are public, I mean, if I give you I don’t know five carrots and then you give me five carrots back I give the other person this many carrots and then he or she gives you and then you get paid et cetera. So this is very visible. And this is very, I mean, it’s easy to understand. So this publicity of the recognition prevents people from, you know, doing this carrot corruption. Secondly, if they do, you can see that within the analytics as an HR manager, you can like, very quickly understand. And thirdly, oh, yeah, and one more thing. So when we do, when we enter lucky with a carrot and company, we do training, user training, have fun making people understand what the whole point of a lucky carrot is because it’s very important to communicate and deliver the end purpose like a carrot. And lastly, even if you have this kind of people, it’s good to know them, it’s good to learn about them, okay? Because as an HR manager, I saw this person doing carrot corruption. So I need to teach this person to come back to our culture to match with our culture and math with our thinking, and kind of to help them to level up with their mindset.

Narine: It’s always exciting to see Armenian startups coming up with innovative solutions. Armenia has such a vibrant startup ecosystem. Every day I meet interesting startups. But there’s still a lot of work to be done to expand this ecosystem and bring more investment to the country. What do you think about how we can attract more foreign investments? What do we need to do to make Armenia a promising place for investments? 

Mariam: I think the image of the country has a lot of things to do. If we have, things will get easier, for example, it’s just my opinion if we have several unicorns born in Armenia, okay, that’s one thing to help. Secondly, I don’t know how much we can, the startup ecosystem can impact this, but to work with governments invest, you know, policies or let’s say investment environment, to be more attractive to, to the investors, because I don’t know if we can impact that with the startup ecosystem

Narine: That’s a great point. We already have 2 unicorns, if we can grow this number, that can help to build a valuable brand image in the international tech scene. 

Mariam: If you have like several unicorns from here, then well, I mean, that’s going to have a huge impact and huge interest in PR for Armenia to get a lot of people focused on Armenia.

Narine: That’s true. And I’m very positive incoming 5-10 years, we will see a couple of new Armenian unicorns. 

So Mariam, what would be the best way to learn more about Luck Carrot?

Mariam: Of course, the website, which is https://luckycarrotapp.com  And there you can register there we have like Calendly with our team members you can book a demo at your preferred time. Or in case you want to get in touch with me, you can write to my email, which is mariam@luckycarrot.am And we’ll be in touch. I’m very quick with emails. 

Narine: Thank you so much Mariam for the time and great conversation. You touched on a lot of important points, I think. Good luck with Lucky Carrot and stay safe. 

Wishing you all the success, stay safe 

Mariam: Thanks a lot. Thanks a lot, Narine jan. It was very, very cool to have to be your guest.


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Featured

How Technology Is Changing The Fitness Industry

Interview with  Aleksandr Simonyan, Founder and CEO of Immensus

Episode 31

“Using computer vision technologies for mobile applications is the future. And that definitely has a very huge potential to improve the performance of users to help them achieve their fitness goals. And certainly, home fitness training will be democratized in many ways.”

This episode Aleksandr Simonyan, Founder and CEO of Immensus joins HyeTech Minds to talk about his startup journey and share his perspectives on how technology is changing fitness industry and impact on users’ fitness performance.

After doing boxing for more than 10 years, Aleksandr has developed a passion towards data science. Combining his two passions towards boxing and technology, he launched Immensus, an an AI-based fitness application for different sports that uses computer vision to detect users’ movement, analyze mistakes and suggest ways of improvement.

Aleksandr’s Bio

 Aleksandr is the Founder and CEO of Immensus. Alexandre is a Machine Learning engineer and entrepreneur with strong expertise in data science, computer vision, product management, and innovation creation. Alexandre also gives lectures on the areas of Data Science, Machine Learning, Python Programming, at upgrade. 

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Interview Highlights

Narine:  Hey Alexsandre. Welcome to HyeTech Minds.  How are you doing here in Yerevan? 

Alexandre: All night. Thank you very much for inviting me. I am great. Thank you very much.

Narine: I’m doing well. Thank you. I wonder if you could first start with just telling us who you are? And what do you do now?

Alexandre: I’m the founder and CEO of Immensus, an AI-based fitness application that uses computer vision to detect and analyze the errors of users.

Narine: I know you are also a boxer. Can you talk a little bit about how you went from being a boxer to being a startup founder?

Alexandre: Sure. So boxing is my favorite sport. I have doing boxing for more than 10 years. But once I came to university and I started doing some internships, I decided to deep dive into the data. And so I developed two passions. For me, the first one was boxing, and the other one was data. So certainly, I gave up boxing, but I became a data scientist.  I came, I ended up working in PicsArt and the impact of PicsArt, I leverage my skills, both in data science in data analysis in computer vision. And after that, I decided to launch my own company. I decided to combine my passion for sports and data science. So that’s how Immensus idea took place.

Narine: It’s really exciting to talk to founders who successfully combine their passion and profession to launch a business. But I want to dive deep into Immenus ‘s story. Really take us back to the very beginning of your startup journey. What sparks this idea? 

Alexandre: I would say the idea of creating a technology that can detect and evaluate how correct we do things emerged a very long time ago. I wouldn’t say that the concept of the mobile application was divided a long time ago. But once I deep dive into computer vision, I understood that there are already some solutions, like conventional new networks that are very powerful, and can detect and analyze very complex movements. So I decided to integrate this approach into the sport. And as I proved later, it was feasible and it was successful.

Narine: Talking about Immensus, can you unpack what it is about and how it works? 

Alexandre:  So current mobile applications are very powerful. Now they have a very high-resolution camera. And the camera can catch the movements in very high frames per second, generally 60 frames per second. So we use our front camera in our smartphones, and then we put on our smartphone, we go back and our algorithm catches the key point on your body. When you’re already in a boxing stance, there is an angle between your shoulder between your elbow, and this angle is very distinct. Once the camera sees which angle is on, the application starts. Once the application starts working, a user throws various punches, and the model detects and classifies those punches, whether it’s straight punches, who gets up or calls, whether you punch with left hand or right hand and the dented gives you feedback, how correct your punch was, we are also implementing a speech recognition system right now. So when the user will punch, our system will classify the speed as well. And once the session is over, just when the user takes his phone he sees all his statistics and all his suggestions. And as a result, a training plan for him is developed which is based on his arrows which are placed on his current performance. So the user can understand what he’s doing and what he’s doing great. And as a result, he understands how we can improve.

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Alexandre: Yes, exactly. Well, no, we are going to expand. Boxing is our first solution. I would say boxing is the most difficult sport because departures in boxing can be very very fast. Right now we are developing the same solution for fitness. There will be various exercises at first. But later we are planning to add more sophisticated movements from current standings from yoga and combine this all in one application so that the user can have the freedom to choose and how he can transition from one sport to another. We are planning to increment this. First, as I already said, fitness will be the first because it has the biggest user base at yoga, we will add a guy Hispanics, and yeah, continue its exports.

Narine: By the way, Is it going to be paid? 

Alexandre: All right now we have only the test version, it’s free. But once we launch our full, fully functional application, it will have freemium features, some of the features will be free, and others will be paid.

Narine: Alexandre, you said that Immensus’s first solution focuses on boxing. I’m curious to know who your ideal customer is. Should you be a professional boxer to use this app?   

Alexandre: Our ideal user is someone who wants to support us but does not have time to go to the gym. Because many young people do want to, they like sports but they do not have time. They work a lot. And doing very short exercise at home is not perfect, because, in most of the cases, people do not see their results. And they’re doing it wrong. But by using our application, they can adjust things, they can understand their mistakes, and they will have motivation, the most important thing because they can evaluate their own progress for application.

Narine: Valid point. It’s really difficult to find time to go to the gym.  This is specifically a huge issue in the United States. We spend so much time on the road, commuting from work to home, it takes sometimes 2-3 hours. So no time for exercise.  But also, is creating that motivation very important? 

Alexandre: Yes. I have quantitative and qualitative data that suggests that lack of time, and lack of motivation is the biggest factor. It does not allow people to train. And I believe through images we can solve it.

Narine: I’m glad you talked about motivation. I personally think it’s very important to have fitness motivation. But at the same time, all cool technology solutions make it so much fun to work out. 

There’s so much happening in the fitness space right now and in the land of technology. I’m curious to know if technology really helps people be healthier. Can we say that technology motivated us to do exercise? 

Alexandre: Yes, exactly. I am very confident that technology does help us. The problem is how to utilize the technology curriculum. Because if we do understand how we can use them efficiently, in which case, we will use it. Otherwise, many people do not know how to use technology correctly. I mean, we spend a lot of time on the Internet, on our phones, but we have to increase the utility of it. And that’s why Immensus has also solved this problem because, in essence, it is the kind of application that will help people stay healthy and fit.

Narine: What technology solutions do you offer to users that are unique? How exactly do you collect data and what type of data you need? I’m sure you collect a lot of data on user experience – let’s say punches

Alexandre: As far as I was a boxer and I do have many connections in the boxing field. I utilize this connection to generate the data. So people show their own shadow boxing. And then they sent it directly to me. Once I uploaded this data to cloud AI we created it with our team. From our capital, we created the data annotation. We labeled our data, we captured the frames, which have the clearest punches with the most distinct technique. And that’s based on this data, we trained our conversational neural network model. And as a result, we use this data to make predictions on unseen data.

Narine: What about data privacy? From the user perspective, it’s concerning how much data all those mobile apps collect about our personal lives. 

For example, I quitted a lot of apps, because they ask for so much information, data, and I’m not sure who gets them, where this data goes. 

 In this sense, How do you use your member’s data? How can you ensure your users that you use their data appropriately? 

Alexandre: Thank you for the question because it’s a very important point and we’ve thought about this a lot. How we solve this is that we do not gather user video, we do not gather it, the whole process is taking place in real-time. So once the user downloads our application, it downloads our model. And then users can use our applications even offline. When a user makes punches, the whole process takes place on his local phone. So we do not have access to his video. If a user wants to share our data with him, we just send him a pop-up notification. And if he agrees, we can access his statistics. How many times he entered our applications, and based on that, we increase the accuracy of our predictions. But it entirely depends on the user. If he wants, he will do it if he doesn’t want to.

Narine: What about measuring results. With all those fitness apps, you want to be able to measure your success. What are some of the metrics you use to measure user’s success? 

Alexandre: So regarding boxing, every punch is evaluated on a 100% scale. And there are many metrics. And we already defined the system of metrics. So we give you the comprehensive score. For example, you score in 50% of all users. And your aggregated score is 60 points out of 100. We define a path, which is especially suitable for you based on your individual goal, and your own performance. And we track how you progress when we make your suggestions based on our suggestions to try and your competitive score increases. So for example, if you punch, we measure but you punch in about 20% quicker than it was before. And that’s definitely a success for you. Or you punch like 100 punches in one minute. Now you can patch 150 punches in one minute, that’s a 50% increase in performance. And that so is just elements of the matrix. In the end, besides your individual aspects, you also receive a comprehensive score. And that’s why you can see how you train and how you progress.

Narine: That really seems fun.

Alexsandr, you’ll agree that mobile fitness apps have also taken the world by storm, and with lockdowns around the world due to the pandemic, many people have turned to these apps to make the most of their time at home. Nowadays there are hundreds of fitness apps available covering almost any aspect of fitness and health you can think of. 

Alexandre: Yes, yes, exactly.

Narine: Again, today it’s tough to be a user. So many apps to pick from. What is unique about Immensus? How do you stand out in today’s hyper-competitive market?

Alexandre: That’s a great question. You know, their whole fitness app industry is very, very interesting. And also they’re very big. There are many, many huge players. And we’ve thought about how we can differentiate ourselves. Once we began conducting market research it was identified that there is a gap in huge fitness applications between functionality and user experience. You know, they are very strong fitness applications such as Freeletics. My Fitness Pal, which is very huge, has an excellent user experience. And they are other fitness applications that do have a component. But the problem with them is that they do not have a good user experience. So we decided to combine both functionality and user experience and feel those again. And that’s how we differentiate ourselves.

Narine: Alexandre, what do you think home fitness will look like in 5 – 10 years? What is the future going to look like for the fitness world?

Alexandre: Oh, that’s a great question. I believe definitely using computer vision technologies for mobile applications is the future. And that definitely has a very huge potential to improve the performance of users to help them achieve their goals. But I believe in the more distant future, I definitely think that there will be much more comprehensive statistics. I believe there will be machine learning models that can even measure the frequency of our breathing, the heart rate of the heartbeat of our blood pressure. And I believe these suggestions And training plans will be much more personalized. And as a result is much more efficient. Much more fee variables will be taken into account before making a suggestion. And I believe in the future, I believe it will be entirely dependent on mobile applications. We do not use that we do not need any heavy equipment. Because already there is a study that suggests that training without equipment can be as efficient as training with equipment. And certainly, home fitness training will be democratized. In many ways.

Narine: As a fitness enthusiast, I’m really excited about what comes next.

Alexandre: I’m also hoping to contribute to this. 

Narine: Super.  In reality startups like Immensus distributing the industry 

Alexander, you founded Immensus in Armenia, it’s Armenian based startup. So in recent years, the Armenian startup ecosystem is exceptionally growing. But also, there are a lot of challenges still to overcome. In this sense, what do you think? What are some of the key challenges and obstacles for you, as an entrepreneur, as a founder?

Alexandre: Well, I would say, there are many obstacles. And the most important of them, I believe, is that if I do add them, we do not have access to the international market, really. I mean, we have to build a great product first. But you know, there is a problem. Because in order to build a great product, you need to engage people, you need to engage in investments. And that’s a problem for us. We are mainly restricted here. For example, when I started my own company, certainly, we do have great engineers, but we certainly have to look beyond just backends, beyond just traditional machine learning, I began to engage people abroad. And as far as I did have connections, I was fortunate enough to bring the brightest scientist to my team, he was from Russia. And I believe if we create this connection system in Armenia so that we can exchange our networks, exchange opportunities, that will help a lot. Also, I believe access to investments, access to international venture funds will help us a lot. Because even though there are many examples of Armenian startups, like why are great investments abroad, they basically acquire in round days, or in the late seed stage. But we also need to acquire, like, a decent amount of money in early-stage seed or pre-seed investment. And that’s definitely a problem. We definitely do have great bright minds in Armenia. But basically, we are all engineers. And we are currently looking for project managers abroad, we are looking for marketing specialists abroad because they do interact with the USA market. And our target market is the USA. And I believe by bringing those professionals or by just connecting us with those professionals, will help us tremendously.

Narine: Absolutely. Armenia is too small for market acquisitions. Armenian startups need to be prepared to sell their product/service internationally.  Everywhere startups are fighting to survive in today’s crowded market. 

Alexandre: Yes I agree with you. Exactly.

Narine: Continuing this conversation about investments. That’s very important to increase foreign investment flow to the Armenian startup ecosystem.  What do you think about how Armenia can stimulate investment relationships with the Diaspora in a way leading to an increase in investments from the Diaspora?

Alexandre: That’s a great question. I believe the most important solution will be to create evidence. I believe we should be much closer to startup founders in Armenia and also Diaspora in the USA or in other countries. Just to exchange ideas. If we build something great, we believe we are building something great, we should definitely and immediately exchange it with other people in our meetings. And by doing so we can interact. And by interaction, we will certainly achieve our goals, create great products, attract investments, and solve user problems. In that case, I will say, SmartGateVC helps us personally a lot because they provided me with great connections. But there are still many, many founders in Armenia, which I do know personally, but they do not have connections.  Many of them just give up their ideas, even though they seem great to me because they do not know how to attract investments. They don’t do not know how to find people. And that’s definitely a problem. We do not utilize it, I believe our potential is full.

Narine:  This is such an interesting perspective to expand idea exchanges and networking between tech communities in Armenia and the USA.  From your perspective, how do you see this networking building? 

Alexandre: I believe there are many ways for us to create connections. Through the Internet, we can arrange online meetings with investors, or with people who know investors in Armenia or in the US, and startup founders in Armenia, we can present our ideas as we present in other places. And we can always keep in touch. I believe that always keeping in touch is a crucial point. And not just in meetings, I believe through various groups like in LinkedIn or in Facebook, we always have to keep in touch. I will. I believe it will solve our problem tremendously. And also, I believe, we, as the founders, have to take responsibility. Because once I have some technological progress, I also need to share my ideas. I need to share my demo versus my prototypes. And if I know new people with whom I can share it, I will definitely do it.

Narine:  You fairly noticed that many founders are hesitant to share their ideas fearing that someone will steal it. 

Alexandre:  We definitely do not want to share it publicly. But we do want to share it with people we know. And with whom we can obviously trust. 

Narine:  Alexandre thanks for a great conversation and thank you for your insights. This is a very important conversation to have. And I’m always interested in sharing ideas on how we can expand the investment landscape in Armenia. I’m curious about what comes next for Immensus and wishing good luck with all initiatives. 

Alexandre: Thank you very much Narine jan for inviting me. 


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    Featured

    The Safest App To Protect Your Private Photos

    Interview with Alex Amiryan, CEO & Co-Founder of Stingle

    Episode 30

    “I wanted to move out from Google Photos because I had all of my lifetime photos there. I found really nothing. No other software was secure, versus as secure as I wanted. And also, there was no software that was also convenient and practical to use. So I decided to take the safe camera further and renamed it to Stringle photos,” Alex Amiryan, CEO & Co-Founder of Stingle.

    In this episode HyeTech Minds host Alex Amiryan, CEO & Co-Founder of Stingle Photos. Stingle Photos is a convenient, easy to use Gallery/Camera application with Backup and Sync functionality for your photos and videos which seamlessly provides strong security, privacy and encryption. All photos and videos are encrypted prior to being stored and backed up, so they are secure at rest, in transit and on cloud storage. App is completely free and includes free 1GB cloud storage space.

    Alex’s Bio

     Alex is a software developer and entrepreneur with +15 experience in security, encryption and privacy. Currently he is CEO and founder of Stingle Photos, a secure, end-to-end encrypted gallery and sync app.

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    Interview Highlights

    Narine:  Hello Alex, Welcome to HyeTech Minds. How’re you doing? How’s it in Yerevan? 

    Alex: Thank you very much. I’m doing well. Everything is okay. We have nice weather in your oven right now.

    Narine: Awsome 

    Alex, you’re a software engineer and have been in the industry for more than a decade. I’m sure you have an interesting story to share about how exactly you got into the startup world. 

    Alex:  I‘ve been a software developer for nearly 18 years now. And so I was working in different companies before and in 2012. I had an idea to create an app that will make your photos on your device on your mobile device secure. And it was called SafeCamera. And it had a lot of response, a lot of fans. It had nearly 150,000 downloads. And I had this app for a while and like I was working on other stuff. 

    And then in 2018, I decided to take it further. And because what was the problem for me, I got into more privacy and security fields. And so I wanted to get away from Google products like Google search, Google Keep Gmail, etc.

     And I found all kinds of alternatives for all this kind of software. And then I wanted to move out from Google Photos because I had a lot of like all of my lifetime photos there. And I found nothing, I found really nothing. So no other software was secure, versus as secure as I wanted. And also, there was no software that was also convenient and practical to use. So I decided to take the safe camera further and renamed it to Stringle photos. And started designing the staff and the cryptography behind it. And also keeping in mind that I wanted it to be very easy to use and practical and like it so it doesn’t look like it inconveniences you while using it. So I spent nearly four months designing the internals and then started developing them. And now we have a ready product, like a live product for Android. And we’re gonna have an iOS version until the end of this month. So I’m very excited about that. And we’re going forward and going strong. We have nearly 10,000 registered users right now. 

    And nearly 50 paying customers. 

    Narine: 10,000 registered users is really impressive for an entry-level startup.

    So talking about  Stingle, can you tell us what is it about, how it works, and how it exactly helps users to be more secure? 

    Alex: So at first glance, when you like to open the app, you don’t feel anything special, it is just like your ordinary gallery apps, like Google Photos or Apple iCloud Apple photos. So, you just use it as normal. So the difference is on the inside. So it does end to end encryption. What it means is that so you have the keys, cryptography keys that you encrypt with and only you can decrypt them back. 

    After you take some photos, you back them up. You can also sort them by albums you can share with your friends and you are absolutely sure that only you and the person you shared with, can open the files so neither we nor the government, not the server administrator nor hackers servers in the future. Right? So the other problem. 

    The other problem I faced was that we saw leaks and data leaks from different large companies every day, right? So like, just two weeks ago, LinkedIn leaked five 500 million records from their database.

    And if you think about it, if these large companies have billions of dollars, and they’re still failing to protect their user data, you can imagine that if, for example, one day you become big, somebody will hack you too, and steal your database. So what’s the solution? So the solution is pretty obvious. And not to keep anything on your cloud servers on your cloud infrastructure that you can share with the whole world. So it’s, it sounds crazy, but it’s really possible, thanks to the magic of cryptography, so singles are designed in such a way that if for example, right now, somebody hacks into the servers or I don’t know, the government comes in to confiscate the servers. They can, they will get nothing out of it, like plain nothing. So we hold all the data from users or the older photos and videos, but they’re heavily encrypted, and it’s impossible for them to decrypt because nobody except users has the keys.

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    Narine: By the way, are you open source?

    Alex:  Yes, it’s open-source, and all of our client apps will be open source, always. So it gives trust to people that they can look into the code, verify that we’re not lying about anything. We’re completely open on every design part. Even on our websites, Stringle.org  you can read about all the nitty-gritty details of how the encryption is done on each part, starting from registration, to sharing, to backing up, etc. And you also can verify, looking at the code.

    Narine: Seems you are offering high-end security solutions. Now the question comes how much it will cost users to use Stingle. And what is the capacity for photo storage? 

    Alex:  So the app is completely free and open-source, as I already said. And it comes with each account with one gigabyte of free Cloud Storage. And after that you have to buy if you want, you can buy more storage with monthly or yearly subscription. 

    So it goes from 300 Giga from 100 gigabytes to 20 terabytes.

    Narine:  1 GB, That’s a lot.

    Alex:  Yes. 

    Narine:  So Alex, you know, privacy is a huge problem in today’s technology-driven world. We all depend on technology devices and solutions. We use social media. Keep important documents, personal photos, videos on those devices. 

    Can you unpack security features a little bit unpack security features?

    Alex:  We offer total privacy, so nothing is revealed from your data, not the data in itself, not metadata, for example. We went to Magic streams to, for example, keep the even file type a secret. Its original filename is a secret. So we are early like many making sure that we don’t make any metadata also. Which is important. And sometimes it’s as important as the data itself. 

    Narine: What are some of the risks that someone can break into a Stingle’s account? 

    Alex:  I always say so the only valid way to break into someone’s Stingle account is to threaten them with a gun, for example, to force them to disclose the password. That’s the only practical way. For now.

    Narine: That’s a big statement 

    What if the government or judge ordered you to decrypt a certain user’s account? Would it be possible to descript information? 

    Alex: No, like, it’s impossible. So neither we nor even local apps on your device, can’t decrypt your photos, even a Stringle itself can’t decrypt it before you unlock it. So the key that is your main key that is used to decrypt your data is kept only in the ram for a small amount of time while the app is unlocked. And when you close the app, it’s deleted. And even the Stringle photos themselves can’t decrypt your data while it’s not in use. 

    And then the whole design is, like, as I said, the whole point of Stingle photos is to make your data impossible to decrypt for anyone other than you. And it’s confirmed by the cryptography that we explain on our website. And also, if you have, for example, somebody who can read the source code, they can confirm that too.

     Narine: That’s really super awesome. I think many should take advantage of this solution. I’m also curious to know if it’s possible to share my encrypted photos/videos with other devices. A person on average probably has 2-3 active devices. 

    Alex: So right now, it’s impossible. So the other party has to have the app installed and have the registered account. So you can encrypt for them so that their public key has to be available on the system so you can share it with them. But in the future, we’re planning to have a web version, which will enable us to make, like sharing with links. So you can create a link that you can send to anyone and they can open it in the browser and see what you have shared.

    Narine: So talking about the future. You know we all depend on technology and it’s becoming a huge part of our lives. 

    At the same time, cybercrime is becoming more sophisticated and targeted. From your expertise, what is next for security apps like Stingle?

    Alex: So my expectation is that these kinds of apps like security and privacy-focused will be more prevalent in the future. Because the risks are getting bigger because like, more people went online for work, for everything. And, of course, cybercriminals will take advantage of that. And people are starting to realize that they have to protect their securities, protect their privacy. And it’s this trend is, is going forward this way. So, yeah, I think we have to fight. So the problem is really that our systems, the software that we have these days are really complex. And complexity is the first enemy of security. So if you have, very, like complex software, it’s more prone to both security bugs and this kind of stuff. And hackers and cybercriminals are taking advantage of it, like every day.And that’s why also, we would try to keep Stingle as simple as possible, not to make it overly complicated and keep it very clean. And also, we’re using a very well vetted cryptographic library, which is called Lib Sodium, which is, which is agreed by many professionals and academic cryptographers, that it’s related to security and it’s tested for many years. So we’re confident in our encryption, and we keep everything nice, that’s tight.

    Narine: Alex, why should users choose Stingle? So many big names fail today in providing data privacy and security? 

    Alex: First of all, open-source and having the best in class cryptographic design. Stingle photos give you peace of mind that your data is safe.Even in case of leakage in the future, no one can see your data. 

    Narine: Alex, are you only available in the Armenian market space? 

    Alex: No, we’re global and the majority of our users are from the USA. And we’re really not famous in Armenia. We’re not targeting Armenia also, we want to conquer the global market.

    Narine: Talking about Armenia. I mean, Armenia has a very complicated geopolitical location, and securing cybersecurity cyberspace should be a high priority for today’s Armenia. 

     What do you think should be done to motivate more startups in Armenia to get into the cybersecurity ecosystem?

    Alex:  I didn’t think about this before, but I think maybe. So it’s first of all, people have to see like, financial advantage like for getting into security space, and probably government has to offer some I don’t know grants or multibyte is a way for people to start thinking about cybersecurity and making products for that will help to secure Armenian government or me and military, this kind of stuff.

    Narine: Very valid point. What do you think about how we can create more favorable conditions in Armenia, to attract investors from the diaspora to come to the country and invest in cybersecurity startups?

    Alex: So, first of all, we need more security in terms of border security and calmness in the region, for the investors to come. Because as you know, we had war recently. And war is never good for investors and people who want to spend money in the country because one day it could just be ruined by the worst. First of all, we need that. And other than that, we have really good specialists, really good developers, really good minds. And just a little involvement and incentive from the government, I think will create a spark and people will start doing it. 

    Because everybody knows the importance of the security field for the country and for individuals. But sometimes people don’t see, like, maybe great financial potential in it, or I don’t know, this kind of stuff. Maybe they think that doing something else will bring more money. I don’t know. Right?

    Narine: Political stability is important to attract investors. No one wants to invest in a country that has political or military volotaties. Let’s hope all those internal and external turbulences will be over soon. 

    So Alex, how can listeners learn more about Stingle or try the app? 

    Alex: You can go to https://stingle.org/  website to read more about it. And they’re also links for download. We’re also available on the Android market. It’s an alternative Android market that is hosting only open-source software. And they build the code apps from the source code. So you’re, you’re 100% sure that this application is built from that source code. 

    And also, you can search right now on google Playstore for Stringle photos, it’s Stringle photos, and you can download it and registration just takes email and password and nothing else. 

    And you’re ready to go.

    Narine: Right. Well Alex, thanks for the great conversation and your time. I think a lot of important points have been touched. Great insights. I’m positive Stinlge has a bright future and I’m excited to see what comes next. 

    Thanks again and stay safe 

    Alex:  Thank you very much. Thank you very much. Stay safe.


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    Featured

    Using Technology to Increase Learning Skills of Autistic Children

    Interview With  Gayane Hovhannisyan , Founder and CEO at Noomee

    Episode 26

    Did you know that 1 in 54 children actually in the United States is diagnosed with autism. 1% of the world’s population has autism spectrum disorder – over 75,000,000 people. 

    After working for more than a decade with children of special needs, Gayane Hovhannisyan, CEO & Co-Founder of noomee realised those kids who needs the most help, are struggling with shortage of materials and online learning tools. It was time when Gayane decided to combine occupational therapy and technology, to provide better educational tools for the children in needs.

    In this Episode of HyeTech Minds, I discuss with Gayane her startup journey and the reasons that brought her to the entrepreneurial world. She talks about noomee that helps children with autism and those who have difficulties in organizing their routine to become more independent in their daily life activities.

    In our conversation, we also share ideas on the Armenian startup ecosystem, and the ways it would be possible to expand investment in tech and innovation ecosystems.

    Gayane’s Bio

     Gayane is the CEO & Co-Founder at noomee. Since 2008 Gayane has worked as an occupational therapist helping children with autism and limited abilities, to manage their daily life activities. 

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    Interview Highlights

    Narine:  Hey Gayane, Welcome to HyeTech Minds. How’re you doing? How’s it in Yerevan? 

    Gayane: Hi, Narine. Thank you for hosting me. It’s good here. Very nice weather.

    Narine: It’s awesome.

     It’s your first stop at HyeTech Minds, so can you give us a little bit of an introduction of yourself, who you are, and how you got into the startup world?

    Gayane:  I’m an occupational therapist, Since 2006 working with special needs children, mostly with children with an autism spectrum disorder. That’s how I started. I became a member of a startup community.

    Narine: So, Gayane you’re the Co-founder of Noomee, which is a Mobile app that helps children with ASD(Autism Spectrum Disorder ) and those who have difficulties in organizing their routine to become more independent in their daily life activities. 

    That’s a very specific industry. 

    I’m curious to know what is the story behind Noomee? How did you come up with this idea? 

    Gayane:  Let me give you a brief intro. So it depends on the child’s needs. There are a certain amount of skills that children need to have at a certain age. It’s like cognitive, emotional, physical sight. For example, being able to take out a dress when the child is three years old, and etc. Depends on the child’s abilities and disabilities, we therapists check, if a child, let’s say four years old, but has the development of three years old, so we go back and starting to teach them to develop skills, cognitive, physical mental skills for the certain age, and, but each child’s needs individual approach, especially for autism spectrum disorder, or ASD. 

    There is the age that if you know 10 autistic kids, it means you know, 10 autistic kids, which we cannot say for the other disorders. And imagine that the therapist creates all working materials manually. 

    A couple of years ago, when I was preparing for Monday’s half an hour session, I realized that I spent all my weekends preparing those materials, I started to look for online tools. Because it’s the 21st century there should be online tools, couldn’t find and after finding out that it’s not only my problem that my colleagues all over the world as the same problem, I decided that it’s time to combine therapy, occupational therapy and technology, and which was actually also like my dream to have a professional therapy and business. 

    So that’s how Noomee was born.

    Narine:  By the way, what does Noomee mean? Is there a meaning? 

    Gayane:  Yes, it’s a new meaning, in a tad this way. Because every person has the ability and potential to develop certain skills. Just for some of them. It requires a bit longer time. So we help them to discover a new way to go. That’s how we call noomee.

    Narine: So you said you are therapists yourself? Who else is included in your team? How many therapists are currently working for Noomee?

    Gayane: Now, sure, we have a group of therapists. It’s not only me, me, and my co-founder every now we go for a professional therapist. Just Elena has off a second profession, marketing, and PR. She’s responsible on your part. 

    And we also have an advisory group of therapists who are not only professional therapists, but behavioral therapists, psychologists, speech therapists. So we try to combine all the therapies in one place. 

    But still at this point, in noomee, we highlight only a professional therapy methodology, but in long term, it should be for any type of therapist. 

    Narine: You know when you’re building a healthcare-related app, there should be research- based. Is noomee research-based? What type of research have you done before launching it?

    Gayane:  Yes, it’s based on research. So we started with research with therapies that we need to research with children, how it’s working, the illustrations, photos, the functionality, everything. 

    Then the final one we did under the program of European Master of Science in a question therapy and showed how we knew we have to develop skills for children with an autism spectrum disorder. And three, four months ago, at the end of 2020, we got scientific approval for five universities. That’s actually huge.

    Narine: For example, 1 in 54 children actually in the United States is diagnosed with autism. This means there are a lot of children with ASD.

    Providing those children with learning life skills can be critically important to continue their normal routine.

    So, what are some of the skills you’re providing children to help them to be more self-independent?

    Gayane:  So occupational therapists, first of all, concentrate on activities of daily living, because it’s the essential part for being independent, self-dependent. 

    So the first part with noomee, we teach to develop skills for daily life activities, starting for from washing hands, going to the toilet, brushing teeth, till they make like whatever we do on our daily basis, okay, then the second, it helps to develop communication and behavioral skills, another important thing that children need to communicate and behave to be able to live independently. 

    And when we concentrate on those two parts.

    Narine: Are you also working with parents or  educators? 

    Gayane:  Yes, without educators or therapists, it cannot be done. 

    Actually, like when we did research and tried to understand what type of digital tools there are in the market, most of the fillers like, let’s say, 97% of apps, digital tools are concentrated only on parents. 

    But without professional support, parents cannot continue because they don’t have that background. They don’t have enough time. They need professional support. So with noomee we connect with targets, parents, and therapists. And at this point, it is the only tool, almost the only one because maybe every day, we develop the one that concentrates on both parts, therapists, and parents.

    Narine: Gayane, is Noomee free? Or users need to pay to get access to its features? 

    Gayane: It’s free for one month. So we provide a one-month free trial and after it is a subscription-based on the country. And based on the packages, it’s from 15 to $40 per month.

    Narine:  You want to say noomee can be used in other countries, as well? 

    Gayane: So at this point, we have noomee in three languages, Armenian, Russian and English. 

    Most of the users are now from Armenia. But with zero marketing, through advertisement, we have more than 1000 users. And we already have cooperation with USA-based rehabilitation centers and therapists. 

    So we started to get users from the United States.

    Narine: Unfortunately, the United States is among the top countries with the height rate of autistic children in the world. it was estimated that around 222 per 10,000 children in the United States had autism. 

    Gayane:  Unfortunately, yes. And what is interesting, when we look at the statistics, the World Health Organization, estimated one in 160 children.

    But, in the United States, it is three times more than one in 54 children. So there are many types of research why it is like that, but still what we have? And children need support?

    Narine: Is there any explanation why the United States has the highest rate of children with ASD?  

    Gayane:  Officially No, they’re just hypotheses. 

    The diagnosis is more developed, they’re more children, just the procedure is a bit different than in other countries. This is a hypothesis. But actually, nobody knows.

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    Narine:  I think the older generation has some skepticism towards technology. And it’s probably norma

    Narine: I think they know, they just down voice it.

    Gayane:  yes, they know

    Narine:  I think technology opens new perspectives and opportunities for children with ASD to learn and get necessary skills.

     With E-Learning, gamification, virtual reality there are more opportunities for those children to get knowledge and skills, practice and get access to educational materials that they need.

    What are some of the technology tools you’re integrating into your app in order to make the learning process more effective? 

    Gayane:  The methodology behind noomee is based on occupational therapy. So we try to use technology for making more affordable therapy for children and for therapies.

     And within this technology, we use machine learning in some features of Numi to make it more useful and productive for users, doesn’t matter where users are therapists or parents, children. 

    Narine: How does noomee work? Once you downloaded noomee on your phone, what happens next?  

    Gayane:  Very good question. 

    Some people download the app from the iOS or Android platforms. They registered and after it depends on the child’s IQ level, we provide templates. But still parents or therapists can customize it. So make it more customizable for children. 

    And parents set up the function of what the child is doing on a daily basis, like waking up at eight o’clock, going to school, and so on. And then there is a parent part and child part that they provide an application to the child and they repeat what you’re saying. 

    What is interesting for kids with autism spectrum disorder, it is very essential to teach them with pictures with illustrations with visual shadows, because most of them as most of the people we learn through by watching are visual and it’s helping children with autism, because they have communication and behavioral issues. It is the first part that we have therapists helping them to develop certain skills. 

    So in noomee, we show illustrations step by step. What they need to do, like washing cans, can consist of up to 10 steps like open the door, go to the bathroom and open the door. 

    Narine: Basic life skills?

    Gayane: Yes, basic life skills. 

    But for those who already have those basic skills, we’re going to the level up and we teach them communication behavioral skills like how to behave in a market, how to go shopping if the child has negative behavior, why they should have behaved like this like we’re offering alternative behaviors.

    Narine: What about age limitations? 

    Gayane: We recommend children from three years old, up to 18. And as it’s customizable so it’s more affordable for parents or therapists or customized to each child’s needs.

    Narine: Recently I came  across the article about how the Virtual Reality experience helps children, parents, teachers, and even therapists better communicate and connect with other people and the world around them. 

    Do you have any plans to integrate VR solutions into noomee? 

    Gayane:  What is interesting, yes, we have long term plans in which there will be more cooperation with these types of organizations who have already been created. But for sure, children will benefit from it because I don’t remember who said it, “Technology is a native language for children nowadays.” They accepted mobile apps or virtual reality or any type of technology as their native language. It’s interesting. 

    During our testing, it was interesting to see when the app was only in the Armenian language. And I was outside of Armenia. I was in Luxembourg. And I tested with kids. And it was interesting to see how they react in the app when they don’t understand the language, but they understand from the pictures. So they repeated whatever the app told them as I told them, and it was amazing to see.

     I even didn’t tell them what they needed to do. They just took it and started to repeat. 

    Narine: I’m glad you talked about your Luxembourg experience. 

    I’m really curious to know if there are demographic and cultural differences between children with autism the way they perceive the information or those skills. For example, if we compare children in Armenia and the United States. 

    How do you adapt noomee to those cultural differences? 

    Gayane:  Very interesting question. 

    So the problem is global. The issue is global. The autism spectrum disorder is different. Each case is different, but there are similar things or develop certain skills. And it should be customized with illustrations, for example, breakfast in Armenia, it’s different from breakfast in France, or do you need the problem to be the same. The methodology of question therapy methodology is the same. We need to just take into consideration the cultural differences, and then adapt to different cultures, different countries.

    Narine: Gayane, what do you think the future holds for noomee? 

    Gayane: Our vision is to be a tool not only for children with autism spectrum disorder, but for kids with any type of disabilities. And we also want to provide professionals or to any type of specialist, so it will be customized to each therapy type and each special needs. That’s our vision. That’s where we are going.

    Narine: That’s an important vision. Good Luck with that.

    Gayane: Thank you

    Narine: So, Gayane, In recent years, Armenia’s startup ecosystem is growing exceptionally. And I feel so excited to see more female founders in Armenia coming to the tech scene. 

    What are some of the challenges for you as a female entrepreneur? 

    Gayane:   So maybe for me, the first challenge was because of society. It’s a social impact enterprise. Like, globally, there are up to maybe 100 investors who are ready to invest in social impact companies, and its child challenging. So it’s hard to find investors. 

    The second in some cases, I add challenging as a female founder, in some cases, no, but maybe depends on like, mentality. For example, we were hiring an engineer. And he was when he asked during the interview, who asked, okay, so your CEO is, is a woman?

    Narine: that’s funny

    So, what do you think is missing in the Armenian startup ecosystem to attract investors from the Diaspora to come to Armenia and do business? 

    Gayane: The Armenian ecosystem offers really interesting opportunities, especially for Armenia’s core system offers very interesting opportunities for startups. And still, it’s like the opportunities are growing year by year even more. But I would say that people need to concentrate also on social impact, not social impact businesses, not doing all the voluntary work.

    Narine: It’s really good to point to investing more in social enterprises. Today, many startup founders are social innovators.

    So Gayane, what is the best way to learn more about Naomi? 

    Gayane: you can visit our website https://www.noomee.me/ 

    And we are on LinkedIn, in all social platforms, where you can search noomee app you. 

    Narine: Well Gayane jan, thank you again for a great conversation. You have such an important mission to carry out. Good luck with all your endeavourment.  

    Gayane:   Thank you Narine. It was a pleasure.


    HyeTech Minds is not just a podcast; it’s a mission-driven platform aimed at fostering a community of people who are looking for inspiration to take their venture to the next level, get access to VCs and Angel Investors; and network with peers tech. Join our community today


    Links to the Founder and everything you want to know about noomee

    Website https://www.noomee.me/ 
    Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/noomeeapp/
    Twitter: https://twitter.com/noomeeapp
    LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/noomeeapp/

    Instagram https://www.instagram.com/noomeeapp/

    Links to HyeTech Minds Community

    Website https://hyetechminds.com/  

    Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/hyetechminds  
    MEDIUM: https://medium.com/@hyetechminds
    Twitter: https://twitter.com/hyetechminds
    LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/hyetechminds

     

    Featured

    Startup Monday: 10 news to follow this week in the global startup ecosystem (Issue 41–24 May 2021)


    Be sure to subscribe to your favorite podcast app, so that you don’t miss HyeTech Minds new episodes. Apple Podcast | Spotify | Google Play | Pocket Cast 

    Ten news to follow this week in the global startup ecosystem

    1. Bain Capital Ventures (BCV), the venture arm of the 37-year-old private equity firm Bain Capital, announced this morning that it has $1.3 billion more smackers to invest across two funds, a $950 million fund for seed and Series A deals and a $350 million fund for growth-stage opportunities. That amount is up slightly from late 2018, when the outfit announced $1 billion across two funds. According to partners Sarah Smith and Aaref Hilaly, the focus remains very much on enterprise startups, where the team likes to jump in early and build up a big position

    2. Forbes’ “30 Under 30” List Highlights the Future Leaders of Biotech. Across the field of science and health care, there are numerous up and coming stars all under the age of 30. In its 2020 “30 Under 30” list, Forbes highlights some of these future Movers & Shakers who are beginning to make their mark in the biopharma and healthcare industries.

    Basem Al-Shayeb – A Ph.D. candidate at the University of California, Berkeley, Basem Al-Shayeb has been working as a researcher in the laboratory of Nobel prize-winner Jennifer Doudna. 

    Amanda Chen – A scientist with Cambridge, Mass.-based startup Satellite Bio, Amanda Chen is developing first-in-class, implantable satellite organs as living therapeutic solutions of severe diseases. 

    Zibo Chen – A postdoctoral fellow at the California Institute of Technology, Zibo Chen is building molecular computers that can modify cells through the modification of proteins. Chen has already demonstrated the possibilities in T-cells and it is suspected his research can lead to the development of new therapeutics and diagnostics.

    To learn more about the rest of the founder, head to Forbes…

    3. *Snap acquires AR startup WaveOptics, which provides tech for Spectacles, for over $500M

    The deal was first reported by The Verge, and a spokesperson for Snap directly confirmed the details to TechCrunch. Snap is paying over $500 million for the startup, in a cash-and-stock deal. The first half of that will be coming in the form of stock when the deal officially closes, and the remainder will be payable in cash or stock in two years.

    It’s not clear whether WaveOptics will continue to work with other parties post-deal, but it seems that one obvious advantage for Snap would be making the startup’s technology exclusive to itself.

    4. NextBillion, a geospatial data startup that provides software-as-a-service products for enterprises, today announced it has raised $6.25 million from Microsoft venture fund M12. The firm’s investment extends NextBillion’s $7 million series A round from Lightspeed and FalconEdge in 2020 and brings the startup’s total to date to $13.25 million.

    Geospatial analysis involves gathering, displaying, and acting on imagery and other geographic information. It uses geographic coordinates and other identifiers to create models, which can include maps, graphs, and statistics. Geospatial maps can reveal historical changes, but also shifts that are currently underway and even what might happen in the future.

    5. Twilio, a communications software company with Seattle roots, is acquiring Seattle-based business-texting startup Zipwhip for approximately $850 million in a cash and stock deal, the companies announced Monday.

    Founded in 2007, Zipwhip originally targeted consumers and set out to be the “Facebook of text messaging.” But it pivoted around 2013, taking a different approach by working with wireless carriers to enable hundreds of millions of business landlines to receive and send text messages. This allowed companies to text with their customers from landline phones, VoIP services, and toll-free numbers.

    6. Vietnam has one of the fastest-growing e-commerce markets in Southeast Asia, but many major platforms still focus on large cities. This means people in smaller cities or rural areas need to deal with longer wait times for deliveries. Social commerce company Mio is taking advantage of that gap by building a reseller network and logistics infrastructure that can offer next-day delivery to tier 2 and 3 cities.

    The startup, which currently focuses on fresh groceries and plans to expand into more categories, announced today it has raised $1 million in seed funding. The round was co-led by Venturra Discovery and Golden Gate Ventures. Other participants included iSeed SEA, DoorDash executive Gokul Rajaram and Vidit Aatrey and Sanjeev Barnwal, co-founders of Indian social commerce unicorn Meesho.

    Looking for Funding?

    Download the list of 50 VCs investing in AI and Machine Learning startups!

    7. Warsaw-based 3D sport analytics startup ReSpo.Vision closes €1 million seed round.

    ReSpo.Vision is a European deeptech startup that aims to disrupt sport and bookmaking industries by using computer vision to capture detailed 3D tracking data from sporting events, and then turn those into practical insights. The team has now closed a €1 million seed round led by ffVC Tech & Gaming, with participation from RKKVC. Thanks to this investment, the company will be able to expand its sports coverage from soccer to other major sports.

    Warsaw-based ReSpo.Vision has developed a unique 3D tracking data capture technology with extremely high accuracy: its system can screen any TV broadcast, even a single camera one, and capture a continuous stream of 3D coordinates of 20 body sections of each player and the ball. Then it uses this data to create player and game analytics for sport clubs and to calculate game events probabilities, create visual game trackers and provide detailed statistics for bookmakers.

    8. Dublin-based &Open lands around €5.9 million to scale up its gifting platform in Europe and the US.

    Last week, Irish startup &Open has announced raising around €5.9 million to make it easier for brands to send carefully curated gifts to customers to boost loyalty and engagement.

    The round was led by First Round Capital and LocalGlobe, along with participation from angel investors such as Andrew Robb (Farfetch), Des Traynor (Intercom) and Liam Casey (PCH). The fresh seed funds will be used by the startup to scale up in Europe and the US.

    Launched in 2017, Dublin-based &Open was founded by Ciara Flood, former buyer at Net-a-Porter and part of the founding team at Mr Porter, together with her husband Jonathan Legge, and her and brother-in-law, Mark Legge. The two brothers are also previous founders of gift and homeware business Makers & Brothers. Currently &Open delivers more than 3,500 gifts every week and already nabbed clients such as Airbnb, Spotify, and Peloton.\

    9. Moglix, an industrial business-to-business marketplace in India, announce last week it has raised $120 million in a new financing round at $1 billion valuation, becoming the 13th firm from the world’s second largest market to attain the unicorn status this year.

    “We started six years ago with a firm belief in the untapped potential of the Indian manufacturing sector. We had the trust of stalwarts like Ratan Tata, and a mission to enable the creation of a $1 trillion manufacturing economy in India. Today, as we enter the next stage of our evolution, we feel this financing milestone is a testimony to our journey of innovation and disruption,” said Rahul Garg, founder and chief executive of Moglix, in a statement.

    10. Agnikul Cosmos Pvt Ltd, an IIT-Madras incubated spacetech startup, has raised $11 million in a Series A funding round led by venture capital firm Mayfield India.

    “In these difficult times for humanity as a whole, we are thankful to be able to find excitement, as our investors continue to reaffirm their confidence in our strategy of democratizing small satellite launches. We are thankful to have ISRO’s guidance and happy that the Government is enabling private space tech ventures. With this support from the Government and investors, we look forward to an exciting next step for our company and in the process, simplifying access to space,” said co-founder and CEO Srinath Ravichandran.

    The four-year old startup was co-founded by Ravichandran along with Moin SPM and Prof SR Chakravarthy. It is currently building the country’s first private small satellite launch vehicle, Agnibaan, a rocket that enables plug-and-play configuration and is capable of carrying up to 100 kg of payload to low earth orbits.


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    Featured

    Startup Monday Issue: 10 news to follow this week in the global startup ecosystem (Issue 38–3 May 2021)


    Listen Now Startup Monday

    Be sure to subscribe to your favorite podcast app, so that you don’t miss HyeTech Minds new episodes. Apple Podcast | Spotify | Google Play | Pocket Cast 

    1. San Jose, California-based cybersecurity startup Vectra AI today announced it has raised $130 million in a funding round that values the company at $1.2 billion. Vectra says the investment will fuel the company’s growth through expansion into new markets and countries.

    According to Markets and Markets, the security orchestration, automation, and response (SOAR) segment is expected to reach $1.68 billion in value this year, driven by a rise in security breaches and incidents and the rapid deployment and development of cloud-based solutions. Data breaches exposed 4.1 billion records in the first half of 2019, Risk Based Security found. This may be why 68% of business leaders in a recent Accenture survey said they feel their cybersecurity risks are increasing.

    2. Per a CB Insights compilation of Q1 2021 fintech venture capital data from around the world, the first three months of the year were the most valuable period for fintech investing, ever. Somewhat shockingly, the first quarter beat the infamous second quarter of 2018, when Ant Group raised a $14 billion round, so skewing the category’s longitudinal data that some analyst groups simply discount it for analytical purposes.

    It wasn’t necessary this time: The 614 tracked fintech deals in Q1 were worth a total of $22.8 billion, per the report, enough to set an all-time high, Ant Group be damned. Per CB Insights, the quarter’s fintech VC deal volume rose a modest 15% compared to the year-ago quarter, while VC dollar volume in the sector shot 98% higher over the same interval.

    3. Social media influencers have enormous power to set trends, create overnight sensations and broadly define what’s cool. Josh Richards, a 19-year-old determined to be the world’s first influencer billionaire, isn’t shy about flexing that clout. Unsatisfied with simply promoting brands on social media, Richards is now focused on buying stakes in startups — and then making them popular with his 25 million TikTok followers.

    Richards teamed up with fellow Gen-Z TikTok stars Griffin Johnson and Noah Beck, and former Goldman Sachs investment banker Marshall Sandman, to launch Animal Capital, a $15 million venture capital firm focused on backing early-stage startups in the consumer, fintech, health and media sectors.

    Animal Capital is explicitly pitching itself to investors as the first VC firm with access to more than 100 million engaged consumers — social media users who can be turned into crucial customers for startups. Not only do these influencers have their finger on the pulse of the culture, they say they help make the culture.

    4. A $1 billion crypto fund could be on its way from Andreessen Horowitz. The VC firm is looking to raise a considerable sum to put towards crypto investments.

    Building on its previous crypto involvement, VC firm Andreessen Horowitz is now reportedly gathering thunder for another fund, according to an article from the Financial Times, or FT.

    “The new fund, Andreessen’s third that is focused on cryptocurrency investments, is aiming to raise between $800m and $1bn from investors, according to four people with knowledge of the process,” FT wrote on Friday.

    The entity is active in the crypto and blockchain sector, and has invested in a number of projects. It plans to aim the new fund’s capital toward crypto industry projects and digital assets, FT reported.

    5. CVS Health Corp. CVS, +0.04% said Thursday that it will launch CVS Health Ventures, a venture fund that invests in and partners with early-stage companies focused on making healthcare more accessible and affordable.

    Starting with $100 million, the initial focus will be on tech-enabled and digital healthcare companies. CVS notes the investments it has already made through both the CVS and Aetna businesses, including Unite Us, a program that links healthcare and social service providers.

    Looking for Funding?

    Download the list of 50 VCs investing in AI and Machine Learning startups!

    6. Dutch-German growth capital firm Endeit Capital has raised a €250 million fund to invest in B-stage European startups. This is its third and largest investment fund, Endeit Capital III. The firm says it plans to support European scale-up companies that “lead to an accelerated digital transformation of the European society and economy and indeed the digital maturity of Europe.”

    Endeit was a relatively early European investor, kicking off in 2006, and investing in 35 companies. It previously raised and invested €250 million through its first two funds, in the Benelux, DACH and Nordic regions.

    7. After an unprecedented quarter of funding activity to start 2021, Chicago tech and startup companies continued their hot deal streak by raising more than $930 million in venture capital in April, according to data compiled by Chicago Inno.

    April’s fundings were led by ActiveCampaign, which raised $240 million, and Clearcover, which raised $200 million.

    According to analysis by Inno, Chicago startup funding over the first four months of 2021 has now eclipsed what local companies raised over the entirety of 2020. Data from PitchBook and the National Venture Capital Association released earlier this month showed that venture funding raised by Chicago companies in Q1 of 2021, which ended March 31, topped $2 billion. Now with an additional $930 million raised in April, Chicago startups have raised more than $2.9 billion in 2021, according to Inno’s analysis. Over the entirety of 2020, local companies raised $2.8 billion.

    8. The Global Virtual Reality Market is expected to grow at a CAGR of around 44% from 2020 to 2027 and reach the market value of over US$ 56.2 Bn by 2027.

    North America holds dominating market share for the global virtual reality market

    North America is a significant region for the virtual reality market. It has also been a pioneer in adopting innovations, giving North America a competitive advantage over other regions. Furthermore, the region has the most startups focusing on bringing innovative VR technologies to various industries. According to Tracxn Technologies, for example, there are 951 Virtual Reality startups in the United States. Orbbec, JauntVR, Dreamscape, and Sandbox VR are a few examples. Dreamscape is developing immersive virtual reality entertainment that is location-based.

    Asia Pacific, on the other hand, is expected to have the fastest growing CAGR during the forecast period. China has the largest market share in the region because it is the largest distributors of HMDs. Southeast Asian countries’ technological advancements are propelling the market’s growth even further.

    9. A new map revealed by EIT Hub Israel, ISERD, and CQ Global has revealed that there are 912 Israeli companies in the European Union, responsible for employing 24,223 people. The data was collected over several months by a team of editors, analysts, and data sources from Start-up Nation Central and other online sources. It was presented during an event honoring the 25th anniversary of the establishment of business relations between the EU and Israel.

    More than one-third of the companies belong to the information and software technology sector, with others focusing on the internet, telecommunications, biomedical, and cleantech sectors. Germany accounts for 240 companies (employing 3,135 Germans), and there are 183 in France (employing 1,985 people). If we include the UK — which technically left the EU in 2020 — these three countries account for 55% of all European workers at Israeli companies.

    10. TechCrunch reports the Indian food delivery startup Zomato on Wednesday filed for an initial public offering, ushering a new era for tech unicorn startups in the world’s second-largest internet market after years of promising growth.

    The 12-year-old Gurgaon-headquartered Indian startup, which counts Info Edge and Ant Group among its largest investors, plans to raise $1.1 billion from the IPO (about $1 billion from issuing new shares), it said in the filing to the local market regulator. The startup, which has businesses in 24 markets, intends to list on Indian stock exchanges NSE and BSE.

    Zomato, which has raised more than $2.2 billion (according to research firm Tracxn), and was valued at $5.4 billion in its most recent fundraise round, said it may consider raising an additional $200 million ahead of public listing.

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    Featured

    Why Is Software Testing and QA important for any Business?

    Interview With  Aramayis Hovhannisyan , Founder and CEO at Quality Testing Lab

    Episode 18

    In this Episode of HyeTech Minds, I sit down with Aramayis Hovhannisyan, Founder of the Armenian-based startup Quality Testing Lab.

    Founded in 2015, today Quality Testing Lab is the leading quality testing provider in Armenia, offering a full range of cost-effective software testing services to startups and long-established companies from different industries.

    I spoke with Aramayis about his startup journey, how the idea for Quality Testing Lab came about, and why he decided to launch his own company. We also talked about the issues of quality testing and assurances for businesses, and benefits businesses can gain. there was also a conversation about the challenges and opportunities for the Armenian innovation ecosystem.

    Bio

    Aramayis is the Founder of the Armenian-based startup Quality Testing Lab. Aramayis is also the Chairman of Armenian Board of Association for Software Testing (AST) which is an international non-profit professional organization with members in over 50 countries. 

    Listen Now

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    Interview Highlights

    Narine:  Hi Aramayis, Welcome to HyeTech Minds. How’re you doing? How’s there in Yerevan? Any signs of spring in the air? 

    Aramayis:  Weather is pretty good. It seems spring has started. 

    Narine: That’s good. 

    Here in  New England springs are chilly a little bit. Let’s hope we can have a good summer.

    So, you’re the founder of a startup Quality Testing Lab, one of the leading companies in Armenia offering a full range of cost effective software testing services to startups and long established companies from different industries.

    What has been your journey?  How did you start Quality Testing Lab?  

    Aramayis:  Yeah, so I was doing software testing for many years, around 12 years. And my friends were telling me so you are a person who is doing software testing and providing services. So you need to go into business and start your company.

    One day, back in 2015, with my friends, we were gathered and drinking beer. And that day I decided, now is the time that I need to establish the company and start testing as a service providing technical service company. 

    And it was not so easy to come with that idea. Because I was testing guys not in the business. And it was not so easy to come to that step to, okay, open the company and hire some people and provide services. 

    So it was if I’m not mistaken, it was in November that I had decided to open the company and somewhere else five months we were digging, what’s to name the company and with my wife with my friends. So we are choosing so many names for the company. And at the end we came to the Quality Testing Lab. It’s like quality is like testing candidates like that we are doing some things.

    It was crucial for me to use the testing word in it. And also the quality because many people are searching for quality assurance when people are searching for a software testing and I came up with the name that quality testing glog will be beneficial for this search results. It seems that it’s working.

    Narine:  So let’s dig a little bit into the deep technical part of the quality testing. What is quality testing? How does it actually work?

    Aramayis:  So, actually now we are not an outsourcing company and we are a business to business company and we are providing software testing solutions to our customers and we are working already with more than 20 companies now.

    So there is functional testing automation, manual checking, creating test cases, establishing testing strategies establishing, testing plans etc. And we are covering all these things in once you’re showing one company and we are providing all the services. So the customer is coming to us with the problem of not having resources in house or just wants to test with a fresh eye. And they’re coming to us with these painful issues. And we are trying to solve these issues for them. So we can provide them like we are, and we can give them dedicated testing engineers, or they’ll our engineers will join their team and we will do some testing for them. Or we can take the product and the project and test it on our side and give the results to our customers. And we are covering all these testing services that are in the plastic world.

    Narine:  Hi Aramayis, Welcome to HyeTech Minds. How’re you doing? How’s there in Yerevan? Any signs of spring in the air? 

    Aramayis:  Weather is pretty good. It seems spring has started. 

    Narine: That’s good. 

    Here in  New England springs are chilly a little bit. Let’s hope we can have a good summer.

    So, you’re the founder of a startup Quality Testing Lab, one of the leading companies in Armenia offering a full range of cost effective software testing services to startups and long established companies from different industries.

    What has been your journey?  How did you start Quality Testing Lab?  

    Aramayis:  Yeah, so I was doing software testing for many years, around 12 years. And my friends were telling me so you are a person who is doing software testing and providing services. So you need to go into business and start your company.

    One day, back in 2015, with my friends, we were gathered and drinking beer. And that day I decided, now is the time that I need to establish the company and start testing as a service providing technical service company. 

    And it was not so easy to come with that idea. Because I was testing guys not in the business. And it was not so easy to come to that step to, okay, open the company and hire some people and provide services. 

    So it was if I’m not mistaken, it was in November that I had decided to open the company and somewhere else five months we were digging, what’s to name the company and with my wife with my friends. So we are choosing so many names for the company. And at the end we came to the Quality Testing Lab. It’s like quality is like testing candidates like that we are doing some things.

    It was crucial for me to use the testing word in it. And also the quality because many people are searching for quality assurance when people are searching for a software testing and I came up with the name that quality testing glog will be beneficial for this search results. It seems that it’s working.

    Narine:  So let’s dig a little bit into the deep technical part of the quality testing. What is quality testing? How does it actually work?

    Aramayis:  So, actually now we are not an outsourcing company and we are a business to business company and we are providing software testing solutions to our customers and we are working already with more than 20 companies now.

    So there is functional testing automation, manual checking, creating test cases, establishing testing strategies establishing, testing plans etc. And we are covering all these things in once you’re showing one company and we are providing all the services. So the customer is coming to us with the problem of not having resources in house or just wants to test with a fresh eye. And they’re coming to us with these painful issues. And we are trying to solve these issues for them. So we can provide them like we are, and we can give them dedicated testing engineers, or they’ll our engineers will join their team and we will do some testing for them. Or we can take the product and the project and test it on our side and give the results to our customers. And we are covering all these testing services that are in the plastic world.

    Narine: Are there any specific industries you are focusing on right now?

    Aramayis: So actually, we have started with e-commerce testing at that time. We had at the beginning, we had some e commerce customers, and we’ve focused that time on only the e commerce. But for now, we have so many industries that we are covering, like we cover FinTech, we cover health tech, we cover the e commerce stuff. And so as already mentioned, we have more than 20 projects ongoing. And so it’s covering many, many things like one of the last latest projects was blockchain tech. So their project was based on blockchain technology. And it was very nice, and they’re a popular one.

    Narine: Every single business requires a unique solution. What unique problems are you trying to solve with Quality Lab? 

    Aramayis: Every business that needs testing needs testing, and every business needs these quality checks that should be done. And here we are to provide them the services. And as we are now more than 40 engineers, all of us have background in software testing and have domain knowledge in various industries. 

    And here is the benefit of the quality testing lab that we can solve the issues in every industry that business needs. So if there is some software, this software should be tested, and we are here to help them to test this software. And this is the political part that we are here a lot of people and every one came here from various industries, and they have various terminologies. 

    Narine: What are some of the quality control tools you use? Are there any unique tools that Quality Testing Lab use compared to your competitors in the industry?  

    Aramayis:  No, because all these tools that we are using are some enterprise or open source tools. And we are using it but for example, when the client needs some automation, then we are building some framework that is very suitable for them. And we are not using something that is very popular or everyone uses. We  are digging into the project and understanding the needs for this and creating the framework, this automation framework for them that will be a very good fit for their company and for their project.

    Narine:  Are You operating in Armenia? Any international partnership? 

    Aramayis: At this moment, we are operating in the United States. We have partnerships in Israel and Russian Federation.  We are now starting another cooperation with Germany. So also we have clients from Spain and clients from a small project from Singapore purposely.

    Narine:  So Aramayis, why quality testing and assurances are important for businesses?How can businesses benefit from this? 

    Aramayis: There are many stories of why businesses started using services or why they hired many testing engineers in house. So one of the painful bugs that happened previously was with Boeing Company, that airplane crashed because of the bug. This was the software bug. And because of this, they lost many humans because of this, and they lost huge amounts of money. And that was very painful for the company. 

    And that was one of the examples. And there are hundreds of examples. And this is pushing people to pay attention to the quality, pay attention to the bugs that they have, and solve these bugs as soon as possible. So in the world, there are many, many, for example, this pandemic mold, many people stay at home and use all my stores, and many online stores were open during the pandemic. And because of the bugs, many people, many businesses lost their money, because they were not catching these bugs, wild, wild transactions. And this was very painful for businesses. And they started hiring software testing engineer event engineers to find these issues. And the companies who are hiring engineers before this situation, they are winning. And the companies hiring after such situations, they can be under the risk of losing their money. And the businesses. Usually, if they understand the technology, if they understand the reason for hiring interesting engineers, they are hiring and they’re happening, the companies that don’t pay attention to bugs, and don’t pay attention to such things. And they are losing money, they’re losing their reputation, many people are starting to write bad feedback. And then they are starting searching for the companies to find the bugs or them. And here we are coming to help them.

    Narine:  That’s a great example of Boeing. This is not only about business, it can also affect human lives, like in the case of Boeing.

    So, in your conversation, you also talked about the Quality Testing Lab that has started to provide services to other industries other than manufacturing and e-commerce. 

    I’m just curious how quality testing happens in healthcare.  Digital health is becoming one of the trending ways of providing health care to customers.  But it’s not perfect. You know that?  There are a lot of challenges concerning digitalization of healthcare. 

    In this sense, how can healthcare companies use quality testing services to improve their services and/ or product .

    Aramayis: This is one of the painful parts. When you’re working for example, with the manufacturing you’ll know that because of your attention to miss some bugs and because of that, business will lose money. But when you’re coming to health tech, you’ll know that you cannot miss any bug and you cannot miss any issue and you’ll need to be very, very detail oriented here. And so there are many good certifications and good exams that you need to pass and after that, you are allowed to do this testing and allowed to work in this industry. And this is helping us a lot that we have this kind of certificate in our company. 

    And there are many other people who have the certification, the companies who are hiring, testing engineers and working in health tech, they are pushing everyone to get these certificates. And nowadays, many people are a little bit afraid of these are things that health tech is outgrowing. And this is because many people don’t trust technologies. 

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    Narine:  I think the older generation has some skepticism towards technology. And it’s probably normal.

    Aramayis: I think that it’s normal, because it’s very new. And we need to live with this where and then it will come to be a normal thing for us. Because it’s very new. For example, when we were going to the hospital, we were given some papers, and we were going from one room to another room with these papers. 

    And now all these are digital digitized. And you’re just going to give your ID and nothing more. So they are saying, go to this room, go to this room. And after you’re getting all these results on your phone. So and here comes the security issues that are very crucial that these things should be covered as well. And we are testing the healthcare applications and helping it. So we are working closely with the security guys who are working there to not miss any security bugs. But I think that in the near future, we’ll have so many health tech applications and features developed that will solve many, many issues that we have. And all these things will be for us just normal. And we’ll start using them everywhere.

    Narine: As a consumer, patient, one of the challenges that I see is that many companies don’t educate their users.  You might have the greatest app, but if the users have a lack of understanding how to use it, you won’t get many people to sign up for it. I’ve sign up myself to several apps, and deleted shortly because it’s so hard to use, no manuals and on

    And I can imagine how hard this can be for older customers, who are not so tech savvy.  It’s difficult to catch up with technology progress.

    Aramayis: So here it comes. Again, software testing, what I’m telling you to error, one way you are opening any application is act as an end user. Just understand for more this application is built and acts as an end user. For example, if this application is built for the kindergarten, children, then you need to act as a child. If this application is built for the younger generation, then you need to act like them. And here it comes these users experience that while designing well, developing these applications, our startups and enterprise companies need to think how they are end users will fail. 

    There are so many good applications that the targeted auditory is not using them. And this is very painful for businesses too and this is very bad. if they’ll act as users. If they will think as the user if they’ll develop something that will help to make life better for the target. Audience everything will be just perfect. And while testing we are doing kind of usability testing and helping The companies to understand what issues can be there.

    Narine:  What about data privacy and security aramayis? When we talk about healthcare, the first thing that comes to my mind it’s data privacy?  In fact, healthcare, it’s one of the data rich industries.

     Do you provide a security testing part? How are you managing this? 

    Aramayis: So, actually, we are not providing the security testing part because this is not connected. So it’s named as security testing, but is not so connected with the software testing and we have a different way of testing. But for example, we are following all the GDPR points that need to be followed and we are following for example, for the health tech, we are following the HIPAA points. And also, when we are, there are some issues that every testing engineer can find security and in case of finding such small things, we are telling our partner compliments, that guy’s yummy, you will need to pay attention to these security issues, because it will ruin your business. And I’m glad to say that all our partners are doing their security, very good. And they are following all these things.

    Narine:  So, Aramayis, the success of Quality Testing Lab showcases the tech potential that Armenia today has.  It’s fascinating to see how far Armenia has gone in the tech and innovation ecosystem. 

    But, there are still things to be done to help Armenia to expand its tech and innovation ecosystems. 

    What do you think is the one thing that if we change in Armenia, in your opinion, can help to expand Armenian startup ecosystem, and attract more investors to Armenia?

    Aramayis: I think that we need to pay attention to our education, to our schools, to our universities, and to do things like upgrade our university classes and models. Because not every student that is completing the university course is ready to work, or ready to go into science. And dishes are the painful part here. And I think that we need to work on our educational system. And all we after that work on the startup ecosystem and enterprise ecosystem here. But besides that, I think that now, for example, in 2020, many Armenia startups had very good stories. And they raised some investments and had many good engineering new things that they have implemented. And we need to tell the world about these and tell about the success stories of our startups. And maybe this will be very good for the world to know about these startups and to know about Armenia. You know, we know they’re very, very good engineering teams, very good engineers, who can develop many, many interesting and hard applications. And this can be kind of interesting for the investors to come to invest in Armenian companies.

    Narine: That’s a really great point to invest in education. And I think it’s also important to engage young people from other regions, invest in education in Armenian regions. 

    We need to bring STEM education to the regions, and attract youth to pursue science education. With today’s technology-driven workforce, it is possible to live in regions and work for some good company. 

    Aramayis: Yes. We are trying to push everyone to work from the place that is suitable for them. So even before the pandemic, we didn’t have this restriction that you need to work from the office. And I remember that two years ago, one of our employees was working from Dilijan for four months. So she went four whole days and stayed there for four months. And she was working from there. And at this moment, we have a guy from Gyumri who is working remotely. And I just met him once when we were finding the contract. And I was just talking with him in slack. And so he is working remotely and encourages everyone to go to other cities, to villages and work from there and try to educate others. And this will bring the quality everywhere.

    Narine: That’s a great example. It showcases all the possibilities technology provides us today. 

    So Aramayis, what would be the best way to learn more about Quality Testing Lab or get in touch with you through social media, or via email.

    Aramayis: So if anyone will be interested, you can go to our website 

    https://www.qt-lab.com/  Or on Facebook, and LinkedIn, you can search for a Quality Testing Lab, and also email me ataramayis@qt-lab.com  

    If you’re a junior engineer, you want some mentoring, I’m open to help anyone.

    Narine: Awsom, you want to dedicate your time to mentor young talents. That’s what can be critical for building a valuable workforce in the country.

    Aramayis: Trying to find that time. I think that this is a very good investment in the engineers in Armenia because not only in Armenia, but if someone is asking many questions they are learning and if they are learning their potential employees.

    Narine: Thank you so much Aramayis jan for the time and great conversation. 

    Aramayis: Thank you very much Narine jan. Have a nice day. And stay safe.

     

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    Featured

    Startup Monday: Latest tech trends and news happening in the global startup ecosystem! (Issue 32–15 March 2021)

    Venture Capitals / Blockchain / Asia / Robotics / Europe


    Episode #11

    LISTEN NOW STARTUP MONDAY

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    Weekly VC Overview

    Venture capital firm Juxtapose raises $300 million as it seeks ‘venture-like returns’ with less risky investments. Juxtapose wanted to tap into a rising consciousness around health and wellness as a lifestyle.

    Zane Venture Fund, an Atlanta early-stage investment firm, is targeting the initial close of its first, $25 million funds. The close includes investments from Calendly CEO Tope Awotona and “the Godfather of Angel Investing” Sig Mosley, who’s also a venture partner. The firm also received a seven-figure commitment from a financial institution that declined to be named. The firm is focused on investing in diverse founders who are creating technology-enabled solutions in the Southeast. Investments range from pre-seed to Series A.

    Responding to evolving Venture Capital and Private Equity market needs when evaluating the leadership teams of their portfolio company investments, Chasm Partners announced today the introduction of ChasmDILIGENCE. ChasmDILIGENCE builds on Chasm’s deep expertise in evaluating executive talent for high-growth healthcare organizations, providing insights to help investors perform human capital diligence at the deal stage.

    Eximius Ventures, a micro venture capital firm, announced the first close of its maiden fund of $10 million, which it aims to invest in early-stage startups with about $300,000 equity cheque per startup.

    Health care company Gravie has pulled in a $28 million round of venture capital, it announced Thursday. The round was led by AXA Venture Partners, the venture capital arm of the French insurance company Axa. Other participants included New York City-based FirstMark Capital, Eden Prarie-based Split Rock Ventures and San Francisco-based Revelation Partners. The cash will go to helping Gravie grow into new markets and expand its sales and marketing.

    Robotics

    Robotics safety system developer Fort Robotics last week announced a $13 million raise. Led by Prime Movers Lab, the round also features Prologis Ventures, Quiet Capital, Lemnos Labs, Creative Ventures, Ahoy Capital, Compound, FundersClub and Mark Cuban. This Philadelphia-based company is focused more on safety software, for collaborative robotics and other autonomous systems. Among the other issues being tackled by the company is cybersecurity vulnerability among these sots of workplace robotics. Other issues targeted here include broader system failure and potential human error.

    Inspired by the shell-swapping hermit crab, MIT’s HERMITS use interchangeable mechanical shells to do all sorts of creative things.

    Startup Monday: Latest tech trends & news happening in the global startup ecosystem (Issue 57- April 16) HYE TECH MINDS

    Top startups news to follow this week: – The North American digital health market is touted to reach a valuation of USD 261 billion by 2027, reports GLOBE NEWSWIRE – Aurion Biotech Raises $120 Million from Deerfield Management, Petrichor, Flying L Partners, Falcon Vision/KKR, and Visionary Ventures – Hoxton Ventures raises $215 million in funds aimed at seeding European startups, report Fortune. -Forge Health secures $11M as it aims to be a ‘one-stop-shop for mental health and substance abuse care. -Boston tops San Francisco Bay Area to lead U.S. life-sciences lab construction -Crypto investor Katie Haun raises $1.5 billion for her venture capital fund, reports Fortune. – Itilite secures $29M to automate corporate expensing workflows -Finnish fintech startup Zevoy raises €15 million and plans European roll-out of its expense management tool, report EUStartups -Binance Invests €100M in French Crypto Startups Have great news to share? or Feedback? Email at hyetechminds@gmail.com Sign up for more in  Startup Monday Newsletter — Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/hyetechminds/message
    1. Startup Monday: Latest tech trends & news happening in the global startup ecosystem (Issue 57- April 16)
    2. Startup Monday: Latest tech trends & news happening in the global startup ecosystem (Issue 56- April 9)
    3. Startup Monday: Latest tech trends & news happening in the global startup ecosystem (Issue 55- March 12)
    4. Startup Monday: Latest tech trends & news happening in the global startup ecosystem (Issue 54- March 5)
    5. Startup Monday: Latest tech trends & news happening in the global startup ecosystem (Issue 53- February 28)

     

    List of 50 VCs Investing in AI and Deep Tech

    Blockchain/Crypto

    ResearchAndMarkets.com report projects that the global blockchain IoT market size will grow from USD 258 million in 2020 to USD 2,409 million by 2026, at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 45.1% during the forecast period. The growing need for IoT security, simplified processes supported with transparency and immutability, and high adoption of blockchain-based IoT solutions using smart contracts and AI is expected to surge demand for the blockchain IoT market globally.

    Coinbase is paying the price for its earlier cryptocurrency trading practices. Coindesk and the Wall Street Journal say the Commodity Futures Trading Commission has fined Coinbase $6.5 million for allegedly providing misleading info about its trading volumes. The company’s Coinbase Pro exchange ran two programs that sometimes traded Bitcoin and Litecoin with each other between 2015 and 2018, and included those trades in data it shared with outside services — making it look like there was more trading volume than there really was.

    The9 Limited and Blockcap — have now purchased a total of 36,000 bitcoin miners worth more than $150 million from Bitmain. Specifically, The9 Limited, a Nasdaq-listed Chinese gaming company, is buying 24,000 Antminer S19j machines via its unit NBTC Limited. The total cost is estimated at around $120 million. One unit of S19j, Bitmain’s latest model of bitcoin miner, is priced at about $5,000. North American Blockcap, on the other hand, has purchased 12,000 Antminer S19 machines, according to an announcement shared with The Block exclusively. The total cost of the purchase is estimated at more than $33 million — one S19 costs around $2,800.

    Have $93 Million? You May Be Able to Boost Bitcoin’s Price by 1%. Bloomberg reports The largest cryptocurrency has doubled so far in 2021 as institutions and retail investors pour in cash, not to mention Tesla Inc’s $1.5 billion purchase and all the buying from MicroStrategy Inc. JPMorgan Chase & Co. strategists have estimated that institutional flows into Bitcoin are up 20% in dollar terms this quarter from the prior period, while retail has increased 90%. And that intake may be moving the price of Bitcoin more than it would some other assets, according to strategists at Bank of America Corp. including Francisco Blanch and Savita Subramanian

    Startups in Europe

    On-demand fulfillment startup Cubyn announces last week a €35 million round led by Eurazeo and Bpifrance Large Venture, with new participation from First Bridge Ventures and Fuse Venture Partners. Cubyn will use its new funding to double its team of 85 to 170+ employees by the end of 2021, and deploy its service internationally, starting with Spain and Portugal launching in April 2021 followed by Italy, UK and Germany. The company will also open a 25,000 sqm automated facility in the Paris area in the coming months, to increase its automation capabilities and continue to drive costs and delivery times down.

    Pollinate, the global software business that partners with banks to help them deepen and extend relationships with their business customers, last week announced it has closed an approx. €42 million Series C funding round, led by Insight Partners, the global venture capital and private equity firm. The round also includes participation from all existing investors, including NatWest Group, Mastercard, National Australia Bank (NAB), EFM Asset Management, and Motive Partners.

    Charge Ampsa Swedish GreenTech company and maker of EV (‘electric vehicle’) charging solutions, has announced that it has raised around €12.8 million in a round led by Swedbank Robur via its equity funds, Microcap and Ny Teknik. In addition, Swedbank Robur has purchased shares corresponding to approx. €1.9 million from current shareholders, bringing its total investment in Charge Amps to around €14.7 million.

    The Norwegian video meeting challenger and one of Europe’s fastest-growing startups, has raised around €10 million from Point Nine, Jason M. Lemkin’s SaaStr fund, and a group of more than 20 angel investors. Founded in 2013, the Oslo-based team has already grown a team of 75+ and offers a competitive solution for easy video meetings — with no login needed for guests, no app or installs required, and the same video link each time

    Indian-Asian Startup Ecosystem

    Pharmaceutical groups signed partnerships with Chinese biotechnology startups at a record rate last year, with China freeing up the industry. Last year, a record 271 cross-border licensing partnerships were agreed between multinational groups, which include Roche, Bayer, AbbVie, and Pfizer, as well as Chinese pharma companies, according to data from consultancy ChinaBio. These collaborations involve clinical trials, development, and commercialization, and sharing data, and they are up almost 50 percent from 2019 and more than 300 percent since 2015. In 2016, China’s healthcare industry overtook Japan, making it the world’s second-largest and, by 2024, it is expected that it will surpass the US. Pharmaceutical spending in China totaled US$137 billion in 2018 and will reach US$140–$170 billion by 2023, according to data provider IQVIA.

    Last year, a record 271 cross-border licensing partnerships were agreed between multinational groups, which include Roche, Bayer, AbbVie, and Pfizer, as well as Chinese pharma companies, according to data from consultancy ChinaBio. These collaborations involve clinical trials, development, and commercialization, and sharing data, and they are up almost 50 percent from 2019 and more than 300 percent since 2015.

    India-focused venture capital funds raised $3 billion in 2020, the highest in the last five years and around 40% more than in 2019, a report by Bain & Co. showed. Marquee investors, including Sequoia Capital, Elevation Capital, Falcon Edge, and Lightspeed Venture Partners closed funds for India investments last year, with Sequoia itself accounting for about 40% of the quantum raised, the’ India Venture Capital Report 2021′ showed.

    New Delhi India has 100 unicorns with a combined market capitalization of $240 billion, and two-thirds of them have started after 2005 because of remarkable changes in the funding, infrastructure, regulatory, and business environment, a Credit Suisse research report has said.

    Startups in Israel

    While traditional investment in the ocean technology sector has been tentative, growth in Israeli maritime innovations has been exponential in the last few years, and environmental concern has come to the forefront. As the planet’s largest ecosystem, the ocean stabilizes climatestores carbonnurtures biodiversity, and directly supports human well-being through food, energy, medicinal, cultural, and recreational services, the United Nations recently reported.

    London-based Flashpoint seeks to invest $100 million in Israeli tech. Tech investment firm plans to raise $200 million in a secondary fund, part of which will be channeled to late-stage Israeli startups; the firm has $350 million in managed assets.

    Israel launches 2-year pilot, preparing the sky for a network of delivery drones. Demonstrating the ability to fly multiple drones in single airspace, Israel hopes to become a playground for local and foreign startups to test technologies and set up rules.

    M12, Microsoft’s venture fund in Israel, announced on Sunday that veteran VC investor Irad Dor is coming on as a partner. Dor, formerly a partner at the Eight Road Ventures Fund, will focus on early-stage investments in cloud infrastructure, cybersecurity, and enterprise software in Israel and the broader EMEA region. At Eight Road, Dor led investments in Israeli companies including FireBlocks, Gloat, and ScyllaDB. Prior to that, he served as a Director at Innov8 VC, Singtel’s investment fund, and built Singtel’s innovation center from the ground up, developing the organization’s activities in Israel and throughout Europe.

    To Sign up to receive your Startup Monday newsletter in your inbox every Monday, visit our website https://hyetechminds.com/. Do not miss out on the latest tech trends in the global startup ecosystem, and lists of 1,000 + Investors, Venture Capitals, Accelerators, and Incubators for startups.

    Featured

    Startup Monday: Latest tech trends and news happening in the global startup ecosystem! (Issue 31–15 March 2021)

    Venture Capitals / Blockchain / Asia / Robotics / Europe


    Episode #10

    LISTEN NOW STARTUP MONDAY

    Subscribe:Apple Podcast | Spotify | Google Play | RSS |

    Venture Capitals

    Last week LO3 Energy announced the first close of its $11 million Series B led by existing investor Shell Ventures. The funding will be used to further develop Pando, the solution that uses blockchain to create a community renewable energy marketplace for distributed energy resources (DERs) such as solar panels.

    Flatfile, the groundbreaking data onboarding software company, last week announced $35 million in Series A funding. The round was led by Scale Venture Partners, with participation from Workday Venturesand previous investors including Afore Capital, Google’s AI-focused venture fund, Gradient Ventures, and Two Sigma Ventures. Among a list of powerful angels investing in this round you’ll find founders of Box, Looker, and Segment. This brings the company’s total funding to nearly $45 million, $42.6 million of which has been raised in just the last year. This latest infusion of capital will be used to accelerate the company’s expansion of its all-remote workforce, along with continued product development.

    AeroPay, a Chicago-based digital payments platform powering bank transfer payments for businesses, announced last week the closing of a $5+ million Venture Round. The round was led by Chicago Ventures, a firm that leads investments in early-stage startups. The Chicago Ventures portfolio includes online financial services company M1 Finance, celebrity video-sharing website Cameo, digital parking marketplace SpotHero, and peer-to-peer review site G2.

    Ascension Ventures, the healthcare venture arm of St. Louis-based Ascensionclosed a $285 million strategic venture capital fund, bringing the firm’s total assets to more than $1 billion, according to a March 5 news release. The new fund is backed by 13 health system partners and is Ascension Ventures’ fifth venture capital fund. Since launching in 2001, Ascension Ventures has invested in almost 80 software, services, and medical device and diagnostic companies.

    CEI Ventures announced Thursday it closed its fifth venture capital fund, the Good Jobs Fund, at $14.8 million. The fund was sourced from 32 investors made up of nine individuals, two foundations, four community economic development entities and 17 banks and is similar to the previous four funds, but has a sharper focus on high-quality jobs.

    BUSINESS WIREreports that High Alpha Capital, one of the largest software venture firms in the Midwest, announced today the closing of their new $110 million fund to fuel the next generation of enterprise cloud companies. With this new fund, High Alpha will continue to invest in Pre-Seed, Seed and Series A rounds across all geographies. “High Alpha Capital III provides us with an incredible opportunity to further our mission of supporting early-stage software entrepreneurs who are shaping the future through technology,” said High Alpha Managing Partner Scott Dorsey.

    LA-based Fashion B2B merchandising platform NuOrder Inc raised $45 million in a new round of funding led by venture capital firms Brighton Park Capital and Imaginary Ventures, Bloomberg reports. NuOrder was valued at $800 million.

    Startup Monday: Latest tech trends & news happening in the global startup ecosystem (Issue 57- April 16) HYE TECH MINDS

    Top startups news to follow this week: – The North American digital health market is touted to reach a valuation of USD 261 billion by 2027, reports GLOBE NEWSWIRE – Aurion Biotech Raises $120 Million from Deerfield Management, Petrichor, Flying L Partners, Falcon Vision/KKR, and Visionary Ventures – Hoxton Ventures raises $215 million in funds aimed at seeding European startups, report Fortune. -Forge Health secures $11M as it aims to be a ‘one-stop-shop for mental health and substance abuse care. -Boston tops San Francisco Bay Area to lead U.S. life-sciences lab construction -Crypto investor Katie Haun raises $1.5 billion for her venture capital fund, reports Fortune. – Itilite secures $29M to automate corporate expensing workflows -Finnish fintech startup Zevoy raises €15 million and plans European roll-out of its expense management tool, report EUStartups -Binance Invests €100M in French Crypto Startups Have great news to share? or Feedback? Email at hyetechminds@gmail.com Sign up for more in  Startup Monday Newsletter — Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/hyetechminds/message
    1. Startup Monday: Latest tech trends & news happening in the global startup ecosystem (Issue 57- April 16)
    2. Startup Monday: Latest tech trends & news happening in the global startup ecosystem (Issue 56- April 9)
    3. Startup Monday: Latest tech trends & news happening in the global startup ecosystem (Issue 55- March 12)
    4. Startup Monday: Latest tech trends & news happening in the global startup ecosystem (Issue 54- March 5)
    5. Startup Monday: Latest tech trends & news happening in the global startup ecosystem (Issue 53- February 28)

    Robotics

    Robotics investments boomed during the pandemic. Over the latest 12 months (through March 11), venture firms poured $6.3 billion into robotics companies, up nearly 50% from the $4.3 billion they invested in the comparable 12-month period a year earlier, according to an analysis by venture-capital database PitchBook for Forbes.

    Tech Crunch reports that Warehouse automation company Nimble Robotics announced about raising a $50 million Series A. Led by DNS Capital and GSR Ventures and featuring Accel and Reinvent Capital, the round will go toward helping the company essentially double its headcount this year. Founded by former Stanford PhD student Simon Kalouche, the system utilizes deep imitation learning — a popular concept in robotics research that helps systems map and improve through imitation.

     

    List of 50 VCs Investing in AI and Deep Tech

    Blockchain/Crypto

    Blockchain technology was mentioned for the first time ever in a draft of China’s national five-year policy plan, the final version of which was approved by lawmakers and advisers at the end of an annual political meeting on Thursday in Beijing. China’s 14th five-year plan outlines the country’s economic priorities and stressed that technology will play an increasingly important large role in the country’s top-down planning. Although China has banned the trading of cryptocurrencies, blockchain will play a key role in the country’s digital economy under President Xi Jinping, the SCMP reported.

    Meten EdtechX Education Group Ltd. a leading omnichannel English language training service provider in China, last week announced its strategy to make full use of blockchain technology in the education industry. The Company believes that the ongoing experimentations and innovations of applying blockchain technology in the education industry are promising. As a distributed ledger technology, blockchain promotes consensus since it acts a record-keeping platform. it is transparent because participants in the chain can download and validate individual ledgers and it is permanent because those ledgers cannot be altered. The Company expects to apply these characteristics to the education sector.

    Crypto venture capital firm Pluto Digital Assets has raised a $40 million fund with U.K.-listed Argo Blockchain (LON: ARB) as its lead investor. In an announcement Wednesday, Pluto said it now has $50 million in assets under management after launching earlier this year. Argo Blockchain will be maintaining a 25% stake in the new fund with an investment of $10 million.

    Startups in Europe

    European gaming studios Happy Volcano and Snowprint nab €6.8 million in funding.

    Switzerland-based alt-protein startup Planted has raised $18 million in Series A funding, according to TechCrunch. The round was co-led by Vorwerk Ventures and Blue Horizon Ventures, with participation from soccer player Yann Sommer as well as previous investors. Zurich-based Planted makes meat alternatives from pea protein and other plant-based ingredients, such as sunflower and oats. Currently, the company’s lineup includes chicken, kebab, and pulled-pork products. A steak analog is also on the way.

    Rohlik, a Czech startup that has built an online grocery ordering and delivery business combining your usual grocery fare — which it procures itself wholesale, or offers in concert with established businesses like Marks & Spencer — with items sourced from local small businesses, has picked up €190 million ($230 million at today’s rates).

    Statice GmbH, the AI startup specializing in privacy-preserving synthetic data, and PwC Germany, one of the leading auditing and consulting services organizations in Germany, have today announced cooperation. PwC Germany has acquired a significant minority stake of nearly 50% in Statice and will support the Berlin-based technology company’s continued expansion.

    Startups Asia

    Alibaba Group Holding Ltd backed Megvii Technology Ltd is set to become the first major Chinese artificial intelligence (AI) start-up to go public after filing for a Chinese Depositary Receipt (CDR) offering on the Shanghai’s Star board on Friday, Bloomberg reports. The start-up plans to issue up to 253 million Class B shares to raise at least $925 million (6 billion yuan) after fees, which would be utilized to fund R&D in robotics, visual IoT, and infuse capital.

    China’s cosmetics startup Yatsen to buy 35-year-old skincare brand Eve Lom. Yatsen impressed the capital market with a $617 million initial public offering on NYSE in November. Its flagship brand Perfect Diary consistently ranks among the top makeup brands by online sales next to giants like L’Oréal and Shiseido. In China’s cosmetics world, where foreign brands were historically revered, indigenous startups are increasingly winning over Gen Z consumers with cheaper, more localized options. One of the rising stars is the direct-to-consumer brand Perfect Diary, which is owned by five-year-old startup Yatsen.

    Stamped, a Singapore-based startup known for software that lets online sellers implement loyalty programs and manage customer reviews, will be acquired for up to US$110 million by eCommerce, a listed Canadian company worth over US$700 million that owns a number of Shopify-related services and software, the latter announced in a press release.

    Cashify raises $15 million for its second-hand smartphone business in India. Cashify operates an eponymous platform — both online and physical stores and kiosks — for users to sell and buy used smartphones, tablets, smartwatches, laptops, desktops and gaming consoles. Tens of millions of people each year purchase a second-hand smartphone in India, the world’s second-largest market. Phone makers and giant online sellers such as Amazon and Flipkart are aware of it, but it’s too much of a hassle for them to inspect, repair and resell used phones. But these firms also know that customers are more likely to buy a smartphone if they are offered the ability to trade-in their existing handsets.

    Startups in Israel

    PayPal has announced that it plans to acquire Curv, a cryptocurrency startup based in Tel Aviv, Israel. Israeli newspaper Calcalist originally reported the move. And PayPal has now made an official announcement. Curv is a cryptocurrency security company that helps you store your crypto assets securely. The company operates a cloud-based service that lets you access your crypto wallets without any hardware device.

    The First Digital Bank, the only new lender in over 40 years in Israel, hopes to compete with incumbents; services will be extended to the wider public later this year. Israel’s first new bank in more than 40 years has started trial operations, opening accounts and providing services for a small, closed number of clients, The First Digital Bank said in a statement.

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    Hye Tech Minds is a new podcast that features successful and inspiring Armenian tech communities around the globe. The ultimate goal of this project is to unlock the Armenian disruptive minds arounds the globe, help Armenian foudners and entrperuners raise above the noise, and increase awareness abvout the

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    Hello there and 

    Welcome to “Hye Tech Minds” – an exclusive podcast featuring successful and inspiring Armenian tech communities around the globe.  My name is Narine and I’ll be your host for this new show.

    From Silicon Valley to Boston, from Yerevan to Paris, each episode, I will host technology leaders, founders, entrepreneurs, innovators, and tech professionals behind some of the most successful and innovative companies and startups in the world as they share their success stories, give actionable tips, and lessons learned on their road to success.

    You will gain an insight into how technology helped them to transform their business and life, how they got started, how they overcome failures and challenges. 

    Whether you are an investor, entrepreneur, or simply tech enthusiast, this podcast is your go-to source to discover Armenian founders and investors around the globe, learn more about the Armenian innovation ecosystems, and get insights into the investment landscape in the country.

    So buckle up and join me on this journey.

    Once again, I’m Narine and I will be your host for “Hye Tech Minds” 

    Let’s connect, grow and succeed together 

    Startup Monday: Latest tech trends & news happening in the global startup ecosystem (Issue 57)

    Episode 50


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    Top startups news to follow this week:

    1. North American digital health market is touted to reach a valuation of USD 261 billion by 2027, reports GLOBE NEWSWIRE

    The adoption of IT solutions in healthcare, and the demand for advanced treatments is increasing among patients which are creating a positive industry outlook. Also, the high prevalence of chronic diseases like diabetes and heart diseases, increasing incidence of obesity, surging demand for remote patient monitoring services, and growing patient engagement & connectivity are aiding the industry growth.

    In addition, increasing awareness about preventive healthcare and the availability of funds in various mHealth startups are further boosting market growth. Moreover, a marked surge in the number of patients suffering from ailments requiring long-term care (LTC) such as cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, and CVDs is also propelling industry growth.

    Based on the technology gamut, the market is divided into mHealth, [wearable {glucose meters, neurological monitors, pulse oximeters, BP monitors, sleep apnea monitors}, apps {fitness, medical}], telehealthcare [telecare {remote monitoring management, LTC monitoring, activity monitoring, video consultation}] digital health systems [e-prescribing system, EHR] and health analytics. Moving on to component type, the digital health industry is arrayed into software, hardware, and services.

    2. Aurion Biotech Raises $120 Million from Deerfield Management, Petrichor, Flying L Partners, Falcon Vision/KKR, and Visionary Ventures

    Aurion Biotech, whose mission is to restore vision to millions of patients with its life-changing regenerative therapies, the last week announced it has secured a $120 million financing with top-tier biotech and ophthalmology investors. The financing was led by Deerfield Management and included existing investors Petrichor Healthcare Capital Management, Flying L Partners, Falcon Vision, an ophthalmology-focused investment platform supported by KKR, and Visionary Ventures, a leading ophthalmology-focused venture fund creating value with better insight. Alcon also participated in the financing. Funds will be disbursed to the Company based on the achievement of key clinical and operational milestones.

    “Andrew ElBardissi, M.D. and partner at Deerfield Management, and Patrick Lally, partner at Petrichor, will join Aurion Biotech’s board of directors.

    “We invest in experienced entrepreneurs, brilliant scientists and clinicians, and disruptive technologies that address significant unmet patient needs,” said Dr. ElBardissi. “We believe that Aurion Biotech possesses each of those key success factors and we look forward to supporting the Company’s next phase of growth and innovation.”

    3. Hoxton Ventures raises $215 million in funds aimed at seeding European startups, report Fortune.

    Hoxton Ventures, a London-based venture capital firm that specializes in seed and early-stage financing for European companies that hope to make it big in the U.S., has raised a new $215 million fund. The firm has previously backed a number of successful startups, including three companies—food delivery app Deliveroo, cybersecurity firm Darktrace, and telemedicine and medical A.I. company Babylon Health—that went public in the past year. The new fund, the third it has raised since the firm was founded in 2013, is more than double the size of its last fund, which was raised just two years ago.

    4. Forge Health secures $11M as it aims to be a ‘one-stop-shop for mental health and substance abuse care.

    Forge Health, a company that integrates digital health services and in-person care for behavioral health and substance abuse care, picked up $11 million in new financing to build out its tech capabilities and expand its value-based partnerships.

    The White Plains, a New York-based company operates clinics in New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire that provide both in-person and digital mental health and substance use treatment. Forge Health plans to use the funding to expand its brick-and-mortar clinics in both existing and new markets, Eric Frieman, co-founder, and CEO of Forge Health told Fierce Healthcare.

    “We are drowning in demand so we need to accelerate our growth and our expansion rapidly,” he said. The current behavioral health delivery system is “broken,” Frieman said, as care is extremely fragmented, emphasizes point solutions and fails to properly address the whole person. 

    “Our mission is to address that significant unmet need for effective, affordable and accessible addiction and mental health treatment. We want to provide effective ‘one-stop-shop’ care to individuals, families and communities in need, especially those with moderate to severe conditions,” he said.

    5. Boston tops San Francisco Bay Area to lead U.S. life-sciences lab construction

    Boston, with more lab space under construction than anywhere else in the U.S., is poised to surpass the San Francisco Bay Area as the country’s biggest hub for life sciences.

    For now, the Boston metropolitan area, including Cambridge, is slightly smaller with about 32 million square feet (3 million square meters) of life-sciences space, compared with almost 34 million in the Bay Area, according to Colliers. But Boston has 62 million square feet under construction or proposed — far more than the 18 million square feet in the West Coast metro, a report by the brokerage shows.

    The Boston area, with a talent pool fed by dozens of colleges and universities, is pulling in more venture capital money, bolstering its ecosystem of big pharmaceutical companies, hospitals, and biotech startups. To meet demand, landlords are busy converting offices, hotels, and retail space into labs, and building projects from the ground up.

    Among recent deals, Eli Lilly & Co. said it plans to invest about $700 million to establish a genetic-medicine research center in Boston’s Seaport district. The company is leasing space at a 12-story building being developed by Alexandria Real Estate Equities Inc., set to be completed in 2024.

    “Boston will clearly define itself as the No. 1 hub for biosciences,” said Jeff Myers, a research director for Colliers. “If there is any doubt, the next couple years will clear that doubt away.”

    6. Crypto investor Katie Haun raises $1.5 billion for her venture capital fund, reports Fortune.

    Former federal prosecutor Katie Haun is proving she’s a force to be reckoned with in crypto investing after her new venture capital firm raised $1.5 billion. Haun Ventures on Tuesday announced a $500 million early-stage fund and another $1 billion for more mature startups focusing on Web3, a more decentralized vision of the internet powered by blockchain technology, cryptocurrencies, and nonfungible tokens.

    The firm’s launch comes during a challenging time for the cryptocurrency industry. After a meteoritic surge that drove Bitcoin to an all-time high in early November, digital tokens have tumbled as the Federal Reserve has started to increase interest rates amid surging inflation. 

    Still, Haun said in an interview that “it’s not a bad time to deploy a crypto fund” despite those challenges. “The extreme volatility is reminiscent of the first two crypto funds I deployed. What I learned from those funds is that great founders and great projects are going to be built in every cycle,” added Haun, who until recently was a partner at Andreessen Horowitz.

    Looking for Funding?

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    7. Itilite secures $29M to automate corporate expensing workflows

    Itilite, a Bengaluru, India-based company developing T&E software, last week announced that it raised $29 million in a Series C round co-led by Tiger Global and existing investor Dharana Capital with participation from Matrix Partners and Tenacity Ventures.

    In an interview with TechCrunch, CEO Mayank Kukreja said that the proceeds will be put toward “aggressively expand[ing] in North America via product innovation, sales and marketing and partnership development.”

    Itilite also features built-in fraud prevention tools that leverage AI to spot submission errors. That’s a requisite feature, depending on which survey data you believe. T&E expense firm Certify found in a 2014 analysis that businesses lost $30,000 each because of expense fraud reports, like mischaracterized expenses, fictitious expenses, overstated expenses, and multiple reimbursements.

    The T&E space — which could be worth $17.4 billion by 2027, according to Grand View Research — is rife with competitors, including Concur, TripActions and Expensify. (IDC recently estimated that, as of 2018, Concur held onto over half of the overall T&E market.) But Kukreja claims that Itilite has over 300 customers ranging from Fortune 500 companies to startups in the U.S. and India. While he declined to share revenue numbers, he said that trip bookings on Itilite’s service increased 200% over pre-pandemic numbers while the company’s customer acquisition rate tripled.

    8. Speckle snags $5.5M seed to build an open-source platform for 3D drawings, report TechCrunch

    The founders of Speckle, an early-stage startup based in London, are both trained architects and engineers, probably a rare combination. It enabled them to see and understand firsthand the issues associated with exchanging large proprietary 3D files from vendors like Autodesk and Trimble. They wanted to make it easier by building an open-source platform to exchange and collaborate on these files.

    As engineers, Dimitrie Stefanescu and Matteo Cominetti had the skill to start building something themselves, so they set out to develop a solution that solved a long-standing problem in the construction industry around sharing proprietary files among the various parties involved in a design and building project.

    “Stefanescu said the goal is to provide a platform to open up the process and make it easier for companies to exchange information in 3D formats. “It’s very inaccessible from both a human point of view, as well as a machine point of view. So it’s very difficult to extract information from proprietary file formats,” he explained. The companies that dominate this space have existed for many years, and Stefanescu said they have had little motivation to innovate around file-sharing or open source. “When it comes to open sourcing, it’s just something that the architecture, engineering and construction industry completely missed until now.”

    9. Finnish fintech startup Zevoy raises €15 million and plans European roll-out of its expense management tool, report EUStartups

    With the goal to build the future of expense management for companies, fintech startup Zevoy has just bagged €15 million in a Series A round led by Blossom Capital. Investors Maki.vc and Brightly Ventures also took part. 

    Founded in August 2020, Zevoy wants to shake up the expense management sector, bringing something to the market that is simple, smart, seamless and efficient. The Finnish startup offers an all-in-one expense management solution that links smart payment cards to efficient expense management software, saving companies time and money and improving employee satisfaction. 

    Christoffer Rosqvist, CEO of Zevoy, explained: “Expense management is a big pain point for many companies and their employees: it’s time-consuming and the processes are often frustrating. To solve this, Zevoy offers All-In-One business card (virtual or physical) with which you can scan receipts, match purchases with receipts, manage and forward expenses digitally into accounting. Zevoy focuses on underserved markets and especially growing companies have proven to be a sweet spot for Zevoy meaning companies that have high creditworthiness and profitability.”

    10. Binance Invests €100M in French Crypto Startups

    Binance has partnered with Station F, the world’s largest startup campus based in Paris, to help the French crypto startup scene grow.

    Binance has invested €100 million (around $108 million) in the French crypto scene in a bid to help grow the pie for everyone.

    Speaking at Paris Blockchain Week Summit Wednesday, Binance CEO Changpeng “CZ” Zhao announced that the firm had partnered with the world’s biggest startup incubator Station F and invested €100 million to help incubate French crypto startups. Zhao said that the aim of the investment is to grow the entire industry by supporting France’s crypto scene. “France is uniquely positioned to be the leader of this industry in Europe,” Zhao said at the conference, adding that the government’s attitude toward business and crypto “has been phenomenal.” He added that the French government was one of the most “progressive” and “open-minded” governments in the world.  

    Besides pouring millions into the country’s Web3 startup scene, Zhao said that Binance plans to have people on the ground in Paris to advise and provide extensive support to French crypto startups. “We’ll invest in them, advise them on token economics, we’ll hopefully help them do their initial sells if their product gets traction, and then hopefully give them liquidity by listing them,” he said.

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