europe

Founders Factory signs Marks & Spencer as exclusive UK retail investor

The model of building vertical market-specific accelerators is now well known, but in the UK, Founders Factory, which has emerged from Lastminute founder Brent Hoberman’s stable of projects, is poised to take it to another level. Today it launches Founders Factory Retail, a joint venture with UK retail giant Marks & Spencer’s, focused on investing and growing start-ups. M&S will become Founders Factory’s exclusive UK & European partner, and invest in a number of start-ups, sourced through Founders Factory’s network, which will expose the retail business to new “technologies, business models and entrepreneurial thinking”. M&S famously admitted it had a ‘burning platform’ recently, so it’s to be hoped this startup DNA will re-energise the company. M&S will become the majo...

What next? Oh yes, turning a luxury car into a non-fungible token

We’ve seen more than one project use the immutability of blockchain to verify important physical things. So, for instance, a pioneer in the space, Verisart, has brought blockchain certification of high art to leading galleries worldwide, and other players are now entering this growing market. Codex Protocol is a new startup also putting art on the blockchain. The benefits are obvious: reducing to near-zero the possibility that an artwork could be fake. This is an incredibly powerful idea, especially at the high end of the commercial spectrum. A relatively new idea is to take blockchain to the car market. Automakers are already starting to take an interest. BMW, Ford, Renault and General Motors recently joined a new working group of more than 30 auto companies to employ blockchain technolog...

Landbot gets $2.2M for its on-message ‘anti-AI’ chatbot

Who needs AI to have a good conversation? Spanish startup Landbot has bagged a $2.2 million seed round for a ‘dumb’ chatbot that doesn’t use AI at all but offers something closer to an old school ‘choose your adventure’ interaction by using a conversational choice interface to engage potential customers when they land on a website. The rampant popularity of consumer messaging apps has long been influencing product development decisions, and plenty of fusty business tools have been consumerized in recent years, including by having messaging-style interfaces applied to simplify all kinds of digital interactions. In the case of Landbot, the team is deploying a familiar rich texting interface as a website navigation tool — meaning site visitors aren’t left to figure out where to click to find ...

The Accel team is coming to Disrupt Berlin

Every time Accel invests in a startup, it’s an instant positive sign in the startup community. The venture capital firm has a rich history with decades of investments in successful startups. That’s why we’re excited to have four partners at Accel on stage at Disrupt Berlin. Philippe Botteri, Sonali De Rycker, Luciana Lixandru and Harry Nelis will all relocate their partner meeting to our stage. Accel is a different VC firm for many reasons. First, while the firm started in Silicon Valley, the team bet early on the European startup scene, back in 2001. With an office in London, the team keeps an eye on the entire continent for investment opportunities. The firm has invested in Deliveroo, BlaBlaCar, Supercell, Spotify and so many others. With such a good track record, it’s clear that some re...

It’s official: Brexit campaign broke the law — with social media’s help

The UK’s Electoral Commission has published the results of a near nine-month-long investigation into Brexit referendum spending and has found that the official Vote Leave campaign broke the law by breaching election campaign spending limits. Vote Leave broke the law including by channeling money to a Canadian data firm, AggregateIQ, to use for targeting political advertising on Facebook’s platform, via undeclared joint working with another Brexit campaign, BeLeave, it found. Aggregate IQ remains the subject of a separate joint investigation by privacy watchdogs in Canada and British Columbia. The Electoral Commission’s investigation found evidence that BeLeave spent more than £675,000 with AggregateIQ under a common arrangement with Vote Leave. Yet the two campaigns had failed to disclose ...

Proportunity offers ‘help to buy’ loans based on predicting future house prices

Proportunity, a London-based startup and Entrepreneur First alumni, wants to help first time buyers get on the property ladder earlier or purchase a home more to their liking. The company, which recently became an FCA authorised mortgage lender, claims to use machine learning to accurately forecast future house prices and the areas of London that will see the highest growth in the next few years. Based on confidence in this modelling, it will soon begin offering equity loans to boost your deposit when buying a first home. Specifically, once Proportunity has used its technology to help identify a property for sale that both fits your needs and offers good house price growth prospects, the startup will offer an equity loan of up to 15 percent of the property’s price. You then combine this lo...

Brexit means blockchains, lots and lots of blockchains

Does Brexit mean blockchain? The UK government has published a whitepaper — some two years in the baking — where it sets out its fuzzy thinking in an attempt to move beyond two years of Brexit fudge by squashing its warring factions behind a compromise customs arrangement to try to live up to its promise of a “future relationship with the European Union”, i.e. without lashings of fudge. Unfortunately though, for citizen sanity, business reality, and, well, anyone not happy gambling everything on fantastically functional systems that don’t exist yet, it’s still leaning heavily on undefined technological solutions to try to make its alternative customs arrangement fly. (Or, more realistically, limp towards another accusation of magical thinking by the EU.) Instead of the current Customs Unio...

Pointy raises $12M Series B to help bricks and mortar retailers fight Amazon

Pointy​,​ the​ ​startup​ ​that​ offers tech to help ​bricks and mortar​ ​retailers put their stock online so that it can be discovered via search engines, has picked up $12 million in new funding. The Series B round is led Polaris Partners and Vulcan Capital, and brings total funding for the Irish company to $19 million. Founded on the premise that people often resort to e-commerce behemoths like Amazon because they can’t find the same item locally, Pointy has developed a hardware and cloud software solution that makes it easy to create a bespoke website as means of making local stock discoverable online. Specifically, the ​”Pointy​ ​box”​ hardware ​gadget connects to a store’s barcode scanner and automatically puts scanned items on a Pointy-powered website for the store. Store pages are t...

Alan introduces Alan Blue, a high-end health insurance product

French startup Alan has been mostly focused on its main health insurance product — a standard package for companies of all sizes and shapes. The company is launching a second offering on this market with Alan Blue. Companies can now choose between two levels of insurance — Alan Green and Alan Blue. Alan Green is the existing health insurance product with a new name. It still costs the same and offers the same level of coverage. Alan Blue is a higher-end product with better coverage for companies who want to retain talent using better benefits. French employees automatically get basic coverage from the national healthcare system. But companies also need to provide a health insurance from a private company to pay for part of the health expenses. It’s a hybrid system with a strong legal frame...

Facebook under fresh political pressure as UK watchdog calls for “ethical pause” of ad ops

The UK’s privacy watchdog revealed yesterday that it intends to fine Facebook the maximum possible (£500k) under the country’s 1998 data protection regime for breaches related to the Cambridge Analytica data misuse scandal. But that’s just the tip of the regulatory missiles now being directed at the platform and its ad-targeting methods — and indeed, at the wider big data economy’s corrosive undermining of individuals’ rights. Alongside yesterday’s update on its investigation into the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica data scandal, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has published a policy report — entitled Democracy Disrupted? Personal information and political influence — in which it sets out a series of policy recommendations related to how personal information is used in modern poli...

Lodgify, the SaaS for vacation rentals, books $5M in Series A funding

Lodgify, the Barcelona-based SaaS for property owners to manage vacation rentals, today announced it has secured $5 million in Series A funding. Existing backers Nauta Capital, Howzat Partners, and a number of angels participated, in addition to new investor Intermedia Vermögensverwaltung. It brings total funding for the Spanish startup to $7.3 million yo date. Primary pitched as a way for property owners to grow their direct vacation rental bookings, as opposed to solely relying on platforms like Airbnb or Booking.com, the Lodgify SaaS enables the creation of a mobile-friendly website for each property. Crucially, this includes the ability to accept online bookings and take payment. “Just like Shopify became the decentralised platform for businesses by democratizing access to e-commerce t...

The Great British Hack-Off summer festival hackathon will aim at Brexit

It’s very hard to know what the effects of Brexit are “on the ground”. Local news no longer has much of a business model to concentrate on specific subjects or campaigns. Social media is a mess of local facebook groups which only locals can see. MPs often ignore email / online campaigns from constituents. The Great British Hack-Off aims to address this. In a 2-day intensive, overnight “hackathon” it aims to get a groundswell of interest in helping to improve local communities and economies and connect people with their decision makers. It will be held by Tech For UK (Twitter, Hashtag:#GBhackoff, Instagram,Facebook) the tech industry body calling for a meaningful people’s vote on Brexit, with the option to Remain, and anti-Brexit group Best For Britain . Anyone interested can apply to atten...