Startups

Cleo, the ‘digital assistant’ that replaces your banking apps, picks up $10M Series A led by Balderton

When Cleo, the London-based ‘digital assistant’ that wants to replace your banking apps, quietly entered the U.S., the company couldn’t have expected to be an instant hit. Many better funded British startups have failed to ‘break America’. However, just four months later, the fintech upstart counts 350,000 users across the pond — claiming more than 600,000 active users in the U.K., U.S. and Canada in total — and says it is adding 30,000 new signups each week. All of which hasn’t gone unnoticed by investors. Already backed by some of the biggest VC names in the London tech scene — including Entrepreneur First, Moonfruit founder Wendy Tan White, Skype founder Niklas Zennström, Wonga founder Errol Damelin, TransferWise founder Taavet Hinrikus, and LocalGlobe — Cleo is adding Balderton Capital...

MariaDB acquires Clusterix

MariaDB, the company behind the eponymous MySQL drop-in replacement database, today announced that it has acquired Clusterix, which itself is a MySQL drop-in replacement database, but with a focus on scalability. MariaDB will integrate Clusterix’s technology into its own database, which will allow it to offer its users a more scalable database service in the long run. That by itself would be an interesting development for the popular open source database company. But there’s another angle to this story, too. In addition to the acquisition, MariaDB also today announced that cloud computing company ServiceNow is investing in MariaDB, an investment that helped it get to today’s acquisition. ServiceNow doesn’t typically make investments, though it has made a few acquisitions. It is a very larg...

Divido, the consumer finance platform, scores $15M Series A

Divido, the consumer finance platform that lets you take out credit at the point of purchase to help spread the cost of buying new things, has raised $15 million in Series A funding. Leading the round is Dawn Capital, and DN Capital, with participation from Mastercard, American Express Ventures and a number of previous investors. Renier Lemmens, who previously served as Chief Executive Officer of PayPal EMEA and was an executive at Barclays, has also been appointed as chairman. Launched in late 2015, London-based Divido currently works with over 1,000 partners to enable them to offer B2C and B2B finance to their customers at checkout. This includes being able to spread the cost of any product or service over a period of time by providing instant access to credit at the point of purchase, e...

Whill raises $45M to help people with disabilities get around airports and other large venues

Whill, the startup known for creating sleek, high-tech personal mobility devices, announced today that it has closed a $45 million Series C. The funding will be used on expanding into new international markets, as well as developing new products for large venues, including airports, and “last-mile” sidewalk transportation. The round’s lead investors were SBI Investment, Daiwa Securities Group and WHIZ Partners, with participation from returning investors INCJ, Eight Road Ventures, MSIVC, Nippon Venture Capital, DG Incubation and Mizuho Capital. This brings Whill’s total funding so far to about $80 million. Founded in Tokyo in 2012, Whill plans on opening a branch in the European Union and entering ten new European countries. It also plans to start working with partners on developing autono...

Boom’s chief test pilot on the thrill and challenge of going supersonic (again)

“There’s nothing like it out there,” says Retired Commander Bill “Doc” Shoemaker, chief test pilot for Boom Supersonic, the startup aiming to make a passenger airliner for transoceanic flights at speeds (as you might guess from the name) faster than sound. Shoemaker, a former Navy aviator, fighter pilot, and aeronautics engineer, will have the daunting privilege of being the first to fly the company’s proof of concept single-seater during tests next year. That there’s nothing like Boom is not exactly a controversial opinion — there aren’t a lot of companies out there trying to resurrect supersonic flight. The Concorde is, after all, so well known a cautionary tale of engineering ambition exceeding the constraints of reality that it verges on hackneyed. But Shoemaker isn’t a silicon valley ...

Zortrax launches a new high-speed, high-resolution printer, the Inkspire

Zortrax has launched a new printer, the Inkspire, that prints using an LCD to create objects in high-quality resin in minutes. The printer – essentially an upgrade to traditional stereolithography (SLA) printers – uses a single frame of light to create layers of 25 microns. Most SLA printers use a laser or DLP to shine a pattern on the resin. The light hardens the resin instantly, creating a layer of material that the printer then pulls up and out as the object grows. The UV LCD in the $2,699 Inkspire throws an entire layer at a time and is nine times more precise than standard SLA systems. It can print 20 to 36 millimeters per hour and the system can print objects in serial, allowing you to to print hundreds of thousands of small objects per month. “The printer is also perfect for rapid p...

Uber fires up its own traffic estimates to fuel demand beyond cars

If the whole map is red and it’s a short ride, maybe you’d prefer taking an Uber JUMP Bike instead of an UberX. Or at least if you do end up stuck bumper-to-bumper, the warning could make you less likely to get mad mid-ride and take it out on the driver’s rating. This week TechCrunch spotted Uber overlaying blue, yellow, and red traffic condition bars on your route map before you hail. Responding to TechCrunch’s inquiry, Uber confirmed that traffic estimates have been quietly testing for riders on Android over the past few months and the pilot program recently expanded to a subset of iOS users. It’s already live for all drivers. The congestion indicators are based on Uber’s own traffic information pulled from its historic trip data about 10 billion rides plus real-time data from its driver...

In Bad Blood, a pedestrian tale of heuristics and lies

In a world where thousands and thousands of startups are started in the Bay Area every year, becoming a name that everyone recognizes is no small feat. Theranos reached that summit, and it all came crashing down. The story of the fraudulent rise and precipitous fall of the company and its entrepreneur, Elizabeth Holmes, is also the singular story of the journalist who chronicled the company. John Carreyrou’s tenacious and intrepid reporting at the Wall Street Journal would ultimately expose one of the largest frauds ever perpetrated in Silicon Valley. Bad Blood is the culmination of that investigative reporting. The swift decline of Theranos and its protective legal apparatus has done this story a lot of good: many of the anonymous sources that underpinned Carreyrou’s WSJ coverage are now ...

Kegel trainer startup Elvie is launching a smaller, smarter, hands-free breast pump

Elvie, a Berlin-based startup known best for its connected Kegel trainer is jumping into the breast pump business with a new $480 hands-free system you can slip into your bra. Even with all the innovation in baby gear, breast pumps have mostly sucked (pun intended) for new moms for the past half a century. My first experience with a pump required me to stay near a wall socket and hunch over for a good twenty to thirty minutes for fear the milk collected might spill all over the place (which it did anyway, frequently). It was awful! Next I tried the Willow Pump, an egg-shaped, connected pump meant to liberate women everywhere with its small and mobile design. It received glowing reviews, though my experience with it was less than stellar. The proprietary bags were hard to fit in the device,...

Microsoft acquires Lobe, a drag-and-drop AI tool

Microsoft today announced that is has acquired Lobe, a startup that lets you build machine learning models with the help of a simple drag-and-drop interface. Microsoft plans to use Lobe, which only launched into beta earlier this year, to build upon its own efforts to make building AI models easier, though, for the time being, Lobe will operate as before. “As part of Microsoft, Lobe will be able to leverage world-class AI research, global infrastructure, and decades of experience building developer tools,” the team writes. “We plan to continue developing Lobe as a standalone service, supporting open source standards and multiple platforms.” Lobe was co-founded by Mike Matas, who previously worked on the iPhone and iPad, as well as Facebook’s Paper and Instant Articles products. The other c...

Hacera creates directory to make blockchain projects more searchable

In the 1990s when the web was young, companies like Yahoo, created directories of web pages to help make them more discoverable. Hacera wants to bring that same idea to blockchain, and today it announced the launch of the Hacera Network Registry. CEO Jonathan Levi says that blockchains being established today risk being isolated because people simply can’t find them. If you have a project like the IBM -Maersk supply chain blockchain announced last month, how does an interested party like a supplier or customs authority find it and ask to participate? Up until the creation of this registry, there was no easy way to search for projects. Early participants include heavy hitters like Microsoft, Hitachi, Huawei, IBM, SAP and Oracle, who are linking to projects being created on their platforms. ...

Grammarly now saves you from embarrassing mistakes in Google Docs, too

Grammarly now supports Google Docs. Over the course of the last few years, Grammarly has made a name for itself as one of the better grammar and spelling checkers on the market. As a Chrome extension, it neatly integrates with virtually every major online tool and social media site, but until now, Google Docs remained a blind spot. Because of its real-time collaboration features, the Google Docs editor isn’t just a straight-up text field, after all, so the Grammarly team had to do a bit of extra work to make its service work there. Once you have installed the extension, though, it’ll now work just like in any other web app. The feature has actually been available as a beta to paying premium users for a little while, but now everybody can give it a try. It’s interesting to see Grammarly com...