Startups

Piano teams up with True[x] to combine advertising and paywalls

Nearly every online publisher has launched or announced a paywall — but of course, even the ones who are successful won’t convince every reader, or even the majority of readers, to sign up. Now Piano and True[x] say they’ve found more effective way to monetize the rest of the audience, without threatening crucial subscription revenue. Piano is a company that’s built a range of publisher tools, including paywall and subscription management. True[X], meanwhile, is an adtech company that was acquired by 21st Century Fox a few years ago. Piano’s global head of business development Jonas Rideout said the collaboration will allow publishers to present different messages to different audience members. This is something that Piano has been working on already, but by working with True[x] specifical...

Cloud communications platform Agora closes $70M Series C to create new developer tools

Agora, a developer of cloud communication APIs, will create products for new markets and verticals after raising a $70 million Series C led by Coatue Management. Existing investors SIG, Morningside Capital and Shunwei Capital also returned for the round, which brings Agora’s total funding so far to $125 million. The startup’s APIs are used by customers, including The Meet Group, Xiaomi, Hike Messenger and Momo, to insert voice, video and group calling or broadcasting features into their apps. Agora claims it recently surpassed two billion installations of its SDKs and routes through its 200 distributed data centers around the world an average of 10 billion minutes of live communications each month. The company is raising capital at a relatively fast pace to support its growth goals. Agora’...

HyperSurfaces turns any surface into a user interface using vibration sensors and AI

Imagine any surface, such as a wooden table, car door or glass wall, could be turned into a user interface without the need for physical buttons or a touch screen. That’s the ambition of HyperSurfaces, the London startup originally behind the Mogees line of music devices and software, which today is unveiling what it claims is a major breakthrough in UI technology. Dubbed “HyperSurfaces,” the new technology, for which the company has four related patents pending, combines vibration sensors and the latest developments in machine learning/AI to transform any object of any material, shape and size into an intelligent object able to recognise physical interactions. Equally important is that once trained for a particular object, the HyperSurfaces neural network-trained algorithms are able to ru...

iHeartMedia to acquire radio adtech company Jelli

Radio giant iHeartMedia announced today that it’s reached an agreement to acquire Jelli, a company bringing programmatic ad-buying to radio broadcasters. In fact, iHeartMedia was already working with Jelli to allow businesses to use programmatic tools to buy advertising on the company’s 850 broadcast radio stations. iHeartMedia also invested in Jelli’s most recent funding round. As a result of the deal, the Jelli team in Silicon Valley will become iHeartMedia’s main adtech operation, and it will still be led by CEO Michael Dougherty. At the same time, iHeartMedia says Expressway by Katz, the programmatic ad exchange created using Jelli technology, will be run independently by Katz Media Group. In a statement, iHeartMedia CEO Bob Pittman said: At iHeart we believe marketing is both math and...

Plastiq raises $27M at 2X+ value to let you pay for anything on credit

“I wasn’t asking to pay in Bitcoin!” Plastiq CEO and co-founder Eliot Buchanan recalls with a laugh. “I went to pay part of my tuition at Harvard and I was told that they didn’t (and never would) accept credit card. It was inconvenient and seemed odd. Credit cards had been around for 50 years.” That set off the a light bulb in his head. “Why couldn’t I use a credit card to pay for this important bill? So, I set out to solve my own problem.” Whether you’re trying to pay your rent or tuition on credit, or you have a business and want to invest in a new opportunity or get a better rate by paying vendors up front, Plastiq can help. For a flat 2.5 percent fee, you pay Plastiq through their credit card, and it issues the proper wire transfer, check, or deposit for up to $500,000 on your behalf t...

VOI Technology, the e-scooter startup from Sweden, raises $50M led by Balderton Capital

VOI Technology, an e-scooter startup headquartered in Sweden but with pan-European ambitions, has raised $50 million in Series A funding, confirming our earlier scoop. As I previously reported, London-based venture capital firm Balderton Capital has led the round, alongside LocalGlobe, Raine Ventures, and previous VOI backer Vostok New Ventures. A number of angel investors also participated. They include Cristina Stenbeck, Jeff Wilkes (Amazon), Justin Mateen (co-founder of Tinder), Nicolas Brusson (CEO and co-founder of BlaBlaCar), Sebastian Knutsson (co-founder of King), Spencer Rascoff (CEO of Zillow), and Keith Richman. A source with knowledge of VOI’s early fundraising tells me this is in actual fact two rounds effectively being announced at the same time, although both VOI and Baldert...

How cities can fix tourism hell

A steep and rapid rise in tourism has left behind a wake of economic and environmental damage in cities around the globe. In response, governments have been responding with policies that attempt to limit the number of visitors who come in. We’ve decided to spare you from any more Amazon HQ2 talk and instead focus on why cities should shy away from reactive policies and should instead utilize their growing set of technological capabilities to change how they manage tourists within city lines. Consider this an ongoing discussion about Urban Tech, its intersection with regulation, issues of public service, and other complexities that people have full PHDs on. I’m just a bitter, born-and-bred New Yorker trying to figure out why I’ve been stuck in between subway stops for the last 15 minutes, s...

Microsoft to shut down HockeyApp

Microsoft announced plans to shut down HockeyApp and replace it with Visual Studio App Center. The company acquired the startup behind HockeyApp back in 2014. And if you’re still using HockeyApp, the service will officially shut down on November 16, 2019. HockeyApp was a service that let you distribute beta versions of your app, get crash reports and analytics. There are other similar SDKs, such as Google’s Crashlytics, TestFairy, Appaloosa, DeployGate and native beta distribution channels (Apple’s TestFlight and Google Play Store’s beta feature). Microsoft hasn’t really been hiding its plans to shut down the service. Last year, the company called App Center “the future of HockeyApp”. The company has also been cloning your HockeyApp projects into App Center for a while. It doesn’t mean tha...

SparkLabs Taipei closes initial $4.25M for its first fund, adds Jeremy Lin as an advisor

SparkLabs Taipei, part of SparkLabs Group, the global network of accelerator programs and funds that works with emerging startup ecosystems, has raised $4.25 million in an initial close led by CTBC Group, along with individual investors, for its first venture capital fund. SparkLabs Taipei also announced today that it has added Atlanta Hawks player Jeremy Lin, who sparked “Linsanity” as the first player of Chinese- or Taiwanese-descent in the NBA, to its board of advisors. The funding was first disclosed in a Form D filed with the SEC this week that says SparkLabs Taipei’s ultimate goal for the fund is to raise $10 million. In a prepared statement, Lin said “SparkLabs Taipei is an innovative fund offering support and guidance for entrepreneurs in Taiwan. Being a trailblazer is challenging ...

Blockchain gaming gets a boost with Mythical Games’ $16M Series A

Fortnite, the free multi-player survival game, has earned an astonishing $1 billion from in-game virtual purchases alone. Now, others in the gaming industry are experimenting with how they too can capitalize on new trends in gaming. Mythical Games, a startup out of stealth today with $16 million in Series A funding, is embracing a future in gaming where user-generated content and intimate ties between players, content creators, brands and developers is the norm. Mythical is using its infusion of venture capital to develop a line of PC, mobile and console games on the EOSIO blockchain, which will also be open to developers to build games with “player-owned economies.” The company says an announcement regarding its initial lineup of games is on the way. Mythical is led by a group of gaming i...

CodeStream lets you collaborate and talk directly in VS Code

Adding comments to your code is nothing new. But what if you could @-mention your coworkers and start a thread about a specific part of your code? Meet CodeStream, a Y Combinator-backed startup that wants to do just that. The best way to discuss some content is right next to the content itself. That’s why Google Docs annotations, PowerPoint comments and Word revisions are so useful. Slack shouldn’t be the home to all discussions. And yet, collaboration between two developers too often start with a private conversation on Slack. CodeStream doesn’t want to replace git commits or native comments in your code. But it adds a useful conversation layer on top of your code. If you want to involve someone else, you first select a text and start a discussion. It creates a thread with your coding blo...

Musca is the winner of TechCrunch Battlefield Tokyo 2018

TechCrunch is in the heart of Japan and we’ve been hearing from some of Tokyo’s brightest entrepreneurs competing to win the Battlefield startup competition here. We’ve whittled down the group of 20 startups that have presented onstage for our judges, and we’re proud to announce the winner of TechCrunch Tokyo 2018. The winner is Musca! [embedded content] The startup is looking to leverage the simple housefly as a solution to the global food crisis, helping curve starvation by creating high-quality organic fertilizer and animal feed in a manner that’s much quicker than existing methods. The company’s secret weapon is a breed of flies that the company claims is more resilient and more effective. The larva help break down and dry out animal excrement which is used as high-grade fertilizer whi...