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The latest news on Startups from Business Insider

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    bryce galen zero

    Credit card companies want you to fall behind and start racking up debt, Zero CEO Bryce Galen tells Business Insider.

    That’s how they make their money.

    That can, however, be brutal for the consumer, and it’s one reason millennials have drifted toward debit cards.

    People spend 12% less simply by putting it on a debit card versus a credit card, Galen says. It makes curbing spending easier. And among 18 to 24 year olds, the difference between debit (73%) and credit (27%) is particularly striking. Part of this is a lack of credit history, but part is preference.

    “There’s a behavioral shift in credit cards,” Hans Morris, Nyca Partners managing partner and former president of Visa, explains. Younger people prefer debit.

    But while debit cards help you manage your spending, they have a big drawback: a lack of good rewards. That’s what Galen set out to fix with his startup, Zero.

    Debit + Credit

    Galen's basic goal with Zero is to create a card that feels like a debit card in terms of control, but gives you credit card rewards.

    Zero, which launches in 2017, will link a 1% to 3% cash-back credit card to a checking account, providing you with a unified view of your finances similar to what a debit card gives you. (One note: getting to a higher tier than 1% cash back will require significant yearly spending of over $25,000). Zero will also alert you if your checking account in dwindling.

    The goal is to stop you from going over, instead of the other way around. 

    Galen’s solution to the debit/credit problem proved compelling to Morris, who invested in the company as part of a $2.5 million seed round, and also to over 50,000 people who signed up to its waitlist in a month.

    Credit card companies make money in two ways: processing fees and charging interest when you get behind on payments. Zero is trying to cut out the latter, but make up the difference on a lean operation and digital marketing.

    unnamed 1

    The fine print

    Because Zero’s card is a credit card, there technically might be circumstances where you could charge a small amount more to your card than you have in your checking account balance. The rules governing bank cards are complicated, and Zero has to walk a fine line to stay on the right side of regulations. It can't completely duplicate debit card functionality.

    But Zero has tried to help you control your spending without breaking the rules.

    Galen’s knowledge of those rules was actually one big thing that attracted Morris to the investment, Morris says. “It’s like he has a PhD in bank card regulations,” Morris and his Nyca Partners colleagues said to each other.

    That's a big asset for Zero.

    Morris is usually skeptical of startup founders that come in and pitch him innovative innovative financial products. “That’s great, but it’s illegal,” Morris laughs when recounting what he usually has to say. But Galen isn’t naive, according to Morris. He found a system that could work within the regulation.

    Galen’s next big test will be in marketing the card to customers. His thesis is that using a $100 referral bonus and the power of social media can reduce, significantly, the cost of marketing.

    So far, it seems to be going well. Zero has signed up over 56,000 people on its waitlist to date.

    Check out Zero for yourself here.

    SEE ALSO: Hot investing app Acorns just snagged Airbnb to give its customers 'free money'

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: 7 hidden messages you may have missed in company logos


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    Here East 8

    A huge new innovation centre in London's Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park has been named Plexal.

    The £15 million space, which sits within the larger Here East complex and is being hailed as one of Europe's largest innovation centre, held a "soft launch" on Thursday.

    However, the doors won't officially open until May 2017 — at least five months later than was initially planned.

    Plexal has been developed by technology consultancy firm Entiq and British property developer Delancey, who bought the Olympic Village with the Qatari ruling family in 2011.

    The startup hub has been designed to resemble a "mini city" and comes with a "high street," as well as "civic spaces" and "private spaces."

    Those behind it say that it will go beyond what other startup hubs like WeWork and TechHub offer by providing access to lawyers, PR specialists, accountants, and recruiters. It will also offer equipment such as 3D printers and laser cutters.

    Claire Cockerton, the CEO of Entiq, gave Business Insider a tour of Plexal ahead of the launch.

    Plexal sits within the larger Here East complex, which is a £150 million development being built on the western fringe of the Olympic Park.



    Here East (originally called iCity) is a short walk from several train stations including Hackney Wick, Stratford International, and Stratford Underground.



    The Here East project, which was announced in 2013, involves turning the former Olympic press and broadcast centres into new spaces for technology companies, universities, startups, and creatives.



    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    wish Peter Szulczewski

    Wish, the stealthy e-commerce company that's challenging Amazon, has filed to raise a new round of funding, according to a Delaware filing posted by research firm CB Insights

    According to the Oct. 24 filing for its parent company ContextLogic, the company has authorized new shares to be sold, although the size of the round, investors, and valuation are not disclosed. 

    A person familiar with the round told Business Insider that's the round is almost closed and could be announced within the next few months. The capital will be going toward shortening delivery times and improving discovery on the Pinterest-like site. 

    The Delaware filing does include a nice deal sweetener, however.

    A provision in the Delaware filing cites that investors in the current get special liquidation preferences. That means if Wish sells for less than it's valued in this round, the latest investors will get all of their investment back before any earlier investors see a penny. It basically limits the downside for this round of investors. 

    These types of preferences are not uncommon, but are a concession by the company — Wish wouldn't offer these terms if it didn't think it was necessary to raise these funds.

    The filing also sets conditions on an IPO, saying that preferred shares held by investors only convert to common shares if the company raises at least $500 million at a $6 billion valuation.

    Wish has been described as the e-commerce company Fab was supposed to be. It sells cheap but stylish products by optimizing social channels like Facebook and Instagram. The result is super cheap products, like $9 dress shirts or a $15 smartwatch, that often take weeks to deliver. 

    The company has reportedly previously raised close to $600 million and been valued at $3 billion or more by investors. But it hasn't gotten much press because CEO Peter Szulczewski doesn't want or need any. When we first reached out to Szulczewski, in December 2014, he wrote that he was "humbled and a bit surprised" to find himself on Business Insider's radar, since he and the company "try to keep a very low profile." Last year, Recode reported that the company was spending over $100 million on Facebook ads, making it one of the social network's largest advertising customers.

    SEE ALSO: This 55-year-old woman made history and $140 million by taking her tech company public on Friday

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Here's what's inside the new Google pop-up shop where nothing's for sale


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    Alex Chung Giphy

    Giphy just raised $72 million in funding despite the fact that it currently brings in no revenue.

    The New York-based startup announced the Series D round on Monday, which was led by Draper Fisher Jurvetson along with Institutional Venture Partners, CMC Capital, and existing backers.

    The Wall Street Journal's Rolfe Winkler first reported the funding news and said it brings Giphy's valuation to $600 million. Giphy last raised $55 million in February and has amassed $151 million in private funding to date.

    Giphy just recently started partnering with advertisers like Nike and McDonalds to create branded GIFs out of its Giphy Studios ad agency in Los Angeles. Revenue could eventually come from selling ads alongside relevant GIFs or by letting GIF creators integrate their mini moving pictures with popular franchises.

    The three-year-old startup says its GIFs are seen by over 100 million people per day and that it serves one billion GIFs per day through its search engine, apps, and partnership deals.

    COO Adam Leibsohn told the Journal on Monday that, "We want to be the YouTube of GIFs, where you’d come to create them, see them, share them."

    SEE ALSO: Giphy built the world's best GIF keyboard for the iPhone

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: How to turn your Facebook profile photo into a GIF


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    marijuana plant

    Entrepreneurs are seeing green when it comes to the legal marijuana industry.

    Pot sales could hit $20 billion by 2020, with help from the chief executives, founders, and product gurus abandoning the technology sector for the fast-paced and ever-changing business of selling bud. More entrepreneurs are making the leap than ever.

    We rounded up the 11 Silicon Valley players-turned-"ganjapreneurs" worth watching.

    SEE ALSO: The best marijuana vaporizer for every type of person

    Eric Eslao spent six years as a senior producer working on iTunes marketing at Apple before giving the pot-infused chocolate bar the makeover it desperately needed.

    His new company, Défoncé Chocolatier, delivers one of the most beautiful and user-friendly lines of marijuana edibles we've seen. Each bar features a three-dimensional design that divides doses into small increments, making them more approachable for beginners.

    "Working at Apple, you're constantly just revving new versions [of products]," Eslao told Business Insider earlier this year. "We want that to be part of the culture at this company. Something might be awesome, but you have to keep on pushing to make it better and better."



    Keith McCarty was the fourth employee at Yammer, an enterprise-focused social network that Microsoft bought for $1.2 billion, and founded an on-demand pot delivery service.

    These days, medical marijuana patients in nearly 100 California cities can get their bud delivered to their door faster than most Postmates orders. That's in part thanks to Eaze, an on-demand delivery and telemedicine app that's been dubbed the "Uber of weed."

    Eaze has raised more than $25 million in funding from 500 Startups, Snoop Dogg, and the Winklevoss brothers of Facebook fame, making it one of the best funded marijuana startups.



    A two-year stint on Facebook's risk management team taught Jake Heimark how to build a great product. He's the brains behind Plus, a startup that makes medicated gum.

    Heimark wants to take a bite out of the $5.4 billion legal marijuana industry with a marijuana-infused chewing gum. Plus products take effect faster than most edibles because they're absorbed through the lining of the mouth, which might help users avoid uncomfortable highs.

    "What I love about this industry is that it is brand-new and growing. It's so exciting and changing every day," Heimark told Business Insider. "I was part of tech, and I've seen what that felt like. I can tell you this feels the same, if not even faster growing."



    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    Alan Schaaf imgur

    Imgur, home to "the most awesome images on the internet," has had a tough year. 

    In late May, Reddit ditched Imgur after making its own photo-uploading tool, even though Imgur had long been the popular repository for the funny images that make up Reddit.

    A few months later in August, the company laid off 15% of its workforce, including a large part of its data engineering team as it shifted direction, Business Insider learned. The layoffs have not been previously reported.

    Imgur spokeswoman Michelle Masek confirmed the layoffs, but said it wasn't a direct result of the Reddit's move.

    "We have a great relationship with Reddit and their decision to roll out their own image-uploader wasn’t a surprise; tools for uploading images are a required part of any platform these days," Masek said in an email to Business Insider. "Our decision to eliminate positions wasn’t at all connected to anything Reddit did, it was to better align our resources against our mission of surfacing the world’s most entertaining content and our vision of lifting the world’s spirits for a few moments every day."

    Boot-strapping to boom

    The file-sharing site was famous for bootstrapping, or not raising any external money for the company at first.

    Alan Schaaf founded the company in his junior year at Ohio University in 2009 and ran it entirely off donations for the first six months. As the site took off, the bills also grew so it started selling pro accounts, but continued to not seek venture capital. Imgur's (pronounced image-er) prolific boot-strapping won it the Best Bootstrapped Startup award two years in a row at the Crunchies, a tech awards show. 

    It wasn't until 2014, five years after Imgur's launch, that the startup raised $40 million from famed Valley venture firm Andreessen Horowitz. Also in the round was Reddit: "an appropriate nod to founder Alan Schaaf originally building Imgur as a 'simple image sharer' for the Reddit community,"the press release said at the time.  Imgur's connection to Reddit was always informal — the Reddit community had long embraced Imgur as a way to upload photos but there was never any technical partnership between the two companies. 

    With fresh venture capital, the team expanded from the dozen people it had in 2014 to nearly 70 people in 2016. In a Product Hunt Live session, its CEO, Schaaf, said that "2016 is all about building the team". However, the layoffs to the data engineering side of the company cut around 10 people or 15%. The company insists its still hiring aggressively as it shifts focus.

    "Several months ago we did eliminate a small number of positions that no longer match our long-term strategy. We’re continuing to grow our headcount, and we’re actively hiring across several departments including engineering, sales, account management, and creative strategy," Imgur's spokeswoman Masek said in an email.

    The few open jobs available at the company today largely evolve around advertising and its mobile apps. The company is working to make Imgur ubiquitous on mobile, but by accepting venture capital money, it also to work on driving returns for its investors. The 2014 funding round valued the company at $200 million, so the startup has to work on growing its revenue to match investor expectations.

    "Mobile platforms are our major focus, and we already see the majority of our community engagement coming from Imgur’s mobile platforms. We’re also helping brands authentically connect with our massive community of millennials, and we’re continuing to scale up our efforts with advertisers," Masek said.

    SEE ALSO: As Silicon Valley vilifies Peter Thiel for his support of Trump, one group of techies is defending him

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: The internet went crazy with a photo of Jeb Bush in front of a green screen


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    Daniel Karhoo

    Taxi startup Karhoo announced on its website yesterday that it was shutting down after running out of money.

    The company, which claimed to be bigger than Uber, reportedly raised $250 million (£201 million) from investors last October, in addition to an undisclosed funding round in January.

    Several sources have claimed that Karhoo never actually received anything like $250 million, saying the figure is more likely to be somewhere between $10 million (£8 million) and $20 million (£16 million), with the promise of further follow-on funding from investors if the company did well. Karhoo declined to comment.

    Either way, the company has still burnt through millions of dollars in little over a year. Naturally many people are asking where all the money went.

    A large portion of it appears to have gone towards giving people free rides, with several Karhoo users claiming they received hundreds of pounds worth of journeys from the company as a result of reusable coupons and generous refunds.

    Karhoo

    A US Karhoo employee, who wishes to remain anonymous, told Business Insider on Tuesday that there was "a lot" of money lost from "offering a lot of free rides."

    They added: "There were many promo codes out, and we ended up having to deal with a lot of fraud prevention in our app. They were usually $40 (£32) promo codes per ride, so people would take a $39 (£31) dollar ride over a $28 (£23), for example."

    Following the news that Karhoo was shutting down, Karhoo user Alastair Budge wrote on the London Startups Facebook group: "I think I must have taken >£500 of free karhoo rides. Going to miss free taxis...."

    Karhoo user Omar Nawaz wrote in the same group: "I got at least 120 of free cabs then stopped using it. Constant promotions does not build retention or habitual behaviour." Another Karhoo user, Karen Ho, said she was given £50 credit after a cab she booked through Karhoo cancelled on her. "They [Karhoo] let me break it down into £20+£20+£10 vouchers for three use, totally insane."

    The US Karhoo employee said the company also spent a significant amount of money on consulting from Ernst and Young.

    Founded in London just 18 months ago before relocating its HQ to New York, Karhoo worked by connecting to the fleet dispatch system of black taxi, minicab and executive car operators, allowing passengers to choose and book their ride based on price, arrival time, vehicle style and cab firm.

    The company employs somewhere between 180 and 200 staff across London, Israel, New York, and Singapore, with approximately 100 of those jobs in London.

    "We have had a whole 'doom and gloom' in the air for the past week, starting at Halloween when we found out UK and Israel did not make payroll," said the US Karhoo employee.

    Here is the full statement from Karhoo:

    "It is with much regret that we have to announce that Karhoo has had to close its service and is now looking at the next steps for the business.

    The Karhoo staff around the world in London, New York, Singapore and Tel Aviv have, over the past 18-months, worked tirelessly to make Karhoo a success. Many of them have worked unpaid for the last six weeks in an effort to get the business to a better place.

    Unfortunately, by the time the new management team took control last week, it was clear that the financial situation was pretty dire, and Karhoo was not able to find a backer.

    We would like to thank our staff, our partners, the fleets around the world that shared our vision, and the hundreds of thousands of people who downloaded the app and supported what we were trying to do.

    The world needs a Karhoo."

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: This Lego-style home can be built in a few weeks with just a screwdriver


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    I got this tweet around 11pm last night:

    Clearly the news that Trump will be the next President of the US is creating all sorts of financial jitters in the US and around the world this morning. There is a ton of uncertainty right now as many investors, me included, were not expecting this outcome. If there is anything that investors hate, it is uncertainty.

    For me the best framework I have is Brexit. I feel that the economic and societal unease that has been brewing in much of the developed world over the past decade is coming home to roost and I believe that we will see more “brexits” in the coming months and years.

    I wrote this right after Brexit:

    But more than that, going into a foxhole right now seems like the wrong idea. Some of the best companies have been created in times of great economic turmoil. And, because of that, some of the best venture capital investments have been made in times when everyone was risk averse. I am not for getting too excited when times are good and I am not for getting too conservative when times feel bad. I am all for looking for opportunity at every turn.

    I am certain that USV will continue to invest capital in interesting startups. While the financial markets may be in for a tough time, possibly a prolonged tough time, there is no correlation between startup success and strong financial markets. And those investors who understand that will act accordingly and be rewarded over the long term for doing so.

    For entrepreneurs, this means be cautious and maybe even a bit conservative while all of this shakes out but don’t panic and don’t confuse uncertain times with a lack of opportunity. If you were excited about your business yesterday, you should be excited about your business today. But don’t be blind about the macro environment you are operating in. It’s going to be choppy for a bit here.

    SEE ALSO: Peter Thiel on Trump's win: 'He has an awesomely difficult task'

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: NASA recorded moving clouds on Titan — and it's amazing


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    Job Today

    Job Today, an app that aims to help people find casual jobs quickly and easily, has raised $20 million (£16 million), bringing total investment in the company up to $30 million (£24 million).

    The Luxembourg startup, which operates in London and Spain, is essentially a jobs marketplace. It helps employers — predominantly in retail and hospitality — to find staff and prospective employees to find jobs.

    It secured the funding from a host of sources including Facebook investor Accel Partners, Skype investor Mangrove Capital Partners, and Channel 4's Commercial Growth Fund. The round was led by venture capital firm Flint Capital, which was founded in Tel Aviv, Israel, in 2013. 

    The company, which employs around 50 people across Luxembourg, London, and Barcelona, claims to have attracted 2 million job candidates and 150,000 businesses since launching last May. Businesses that have used the platform to hire people include McDonald's, Starbucks, Subway, Pizza Hut, and Holiday Inn.

    Job Today cofounder and CEO Eugene Mizin told Business Insider that the money will be used to hire more staff, develop the platform, and expand into new markets. "We’re looking to bring it to other European markets including Germany," said Mizin. "We also are very keen to launch in the US in 2017."

    Polina Montano, Job Today cofounder and COO, claimed that Job Today is effectively replacing window job ads and helping people to find work in less than 24 hours. "We are truly changing the way people are searching and finding jobs," she said.

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Scientists have discovered why American honey bees are turning into zombies


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    Karhoo_Founder,_Daniel_Ishag

    Last year, taxi price comparison app Karhoo's CEO Daniel Ishag was trying to convince investors in Silicon Valley and London to back his taxi app idea with their millions.

    The startup, which shut down this week, managed to close a funding round in October 2015. It never confirmed how much it raised but The Financial Times reported that it was $250 million (£197 million), and Karhoo founder and CEO Daniel Ishag happily went along with this figure.

    The fact that Karhoo never denied that amount caused many of its 200 employees to believe the company had a cash surplus in the bank.

    The reality is, however, that Karhoo never raised anywhere near that much, and it never set out to either.

    A venture capitalist told Business Insider on Friday that Karhoo chairman David Ishag (Daniel's cousin) emailed him in January 2015 asking for $10 million (£7.9 million) at a $50 million (£39.5 million) valuation. In the email, Ishag wrote: "Our goal is that there won't be a city, town or village anywhere in the world that Karhoo won’t be able to help you in."

    The investor said there's a chance that Karhoo went on to raise more than $10 million but they refused to accept the company raised anything like the $250 million.

    "I'm shocked anyone would give them ten not to say more than that with such a rubbish product," said the investor. "But it's plausible. I guess they found bigger suckers. They're well connected in the finance world so high net worth bankers are a possibility if you're posh and went to school with them. Those guys often are the dumbest money in London venture capital."

    Ishag admitted to the FT this week: "We did not raise $250 million, that was a misconception." Albeit a misconception that he didn't seek to address.

    So how much did Karhoo really burn through in less than a year? "Since inception, $52 million (£41 million) has gone into the business," said Ishag. "If you look at the Lyfts and Ubers of this world, they had spent in the region of half a billion dollars to get 200,000 drivers, so it just goes to show our efficiencies."

    karhoo

    Karhoo was giving individuals in London, New York, and Singapore hundreds of pounds worth of free rides as it looked to tempt them away from platforms like Uber. A Karhoo employee, who found out he no longer had a job at Karhoo via Slack, told Business Insider: "There were many promo codes out, and we ended up having to deal with a lot of fraud prevention in our app. They were usually $40 promo codes per ride, so people would take a $39 dollar ride over a $28, for example."

    Bloomberg reports that Ishag put things like designer shoes and clothing, along with veterinarian’s bills for a pet dog, on a corporate credit card. First-class flights, Cuban cigars, and a "blow out" in Vegas were also put on the company accounts. Then there were the offices in London, Singapore, and New York, with a £12,000-a-month apartment in the latter.

    Karhoo's debts stand at $30 million (£23 million), according to a Silicon Valley investor with knowledge of the company. They added that the company's employees have not received any redundancy pay and that they are owed at least a months wages.

    Daniel Ishag could not be reached for comment.

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: A mysterious cloud moving 700,000 mph is going to collide with our galaxy — here's what will happen


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    Daniel Karhoo

    A London-based minicab company is claiming failed startup Karhoo owes it thousands of pounds.

    Swift Cars wrote in a tweet last week that Karhoo owes the company and its drivers approximately £12,000.

    Karhoo allowed people in London, New York, and Singapore to find and compare taxi fares but the Uber rival announced last week that it is shutting down.

    The company allowed people to claim free rides with a variety of taxi companies by simply entering a promotional code. Multiple Karhoo users said they received hundreds of pounds in free rides as a result of these promo codes and other referral deals that Karhoo offered.

    Karhoo has debts of approximately $30 million (£24 million), according to a Silicon Valley venture capitalist with knowledge of the company. The source, who wished to remain anonymous, claims that the company's employees have not received any redundancy pay and that they are owed at least a month's wages.

    Media reports suggested that the company raised $250 million (£199 million) from investors but Daniel Ishag, the founder and CEO of Karhoo, told The Financial Times last week that this was a "misconception." Albeit one that he never sought to address.

    Bloomberg reports that Ishag put things like designer shoes and clothing, along with veterinarian’s bills for a pet dog, on a corporate credit card. First-class flights, Cuban cigars, and a "blow out" in Vegas were also put on the company accounts. Then there were the offices in London, Singapore, and New York, with a £12,000-a-month apartment in the latter.

    Ishag could not be reached for comment.

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Here's how Donald Trump can function on barely any sleep — and why you shouldn't copy him


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    car dealership dealers

    A former Tesla executive who oversaw finance operations in Germany and the founder and former CEO of the internet auto resource TrueCar.com have partnered to launch a new car-financing startup, Fair.

    The Tesla exec is Georg Bauer, and the former TrueCar CEO is Scott Painter, an influential but at-times controversial pioneer of a transparent-pricing approach to generating online sales leads for car dealers. 

    Details on Fair are currently modest. According to public-relations firm representing the new company, Fair will concentrate on auto "micro-ownership," presumably developing new ways of buying or leasing vehicles without committing to traditional terms — a sort of car fractional-ownership idea, the automotive equivalent of what some customers do with private jets, but at a much less costly scale.

    The startup has raised $16 million in what its representatives termed a "seed round."

    For the moment, Fair is just a website. 

    Painter has extensive experience with online auto companies, but he also has suffered the ire of dealers. TrueCar arrived in 2007, but by 2011 it was in trouble, facing a dealer revolt after it touched the third-rail of auto-dealer relations, pricing. TrueCar was paid $299 for dealer leads that were converted into sales, but its analytics were driving down sticker prices to unacceptable levels. (Forbes' Joann Muller recounted the problems, which nearly destroyed TrueCar, at Forbes.)

    Bauer is less well known, but he has spent time at both BMW and Mercedes, on the financing side.

    Aside from extending loan terms and providing affordable leasing deals, there hasn't been a huge amount on innovation in how cars are financed. It will be interesting to see what Fair comes up with.

    SEE ALSO: Elon Musk has finally figured out how Tesla can deal with Uber

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: There’s a concept car that shrinks and drives sideways to fit into any parking space


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    Stephen Bourke and Dr Sai Lakshmi

    Former Apple exec Dr Sai Lakshmi and former LloydsPharmacy exec Stephen Bourke has launched a healthcare startup called Echo.

    The startup, which has been backed with £1.8 million, has built an app that aims to help patients on long-term medication to manage their prescriptions.

    Echo allows its users to make medication requests through the app which are sent to their existing NHS GP for approval. Once approved, prescriptions are sent to Echo’s partner pharmacies for dispensing, and dispatched by Royal Mail. The service is free, meaning users only pay the standard prescription charge of £8.40 per item, while those that are entitled to free prescriptions pay nothing.

    The idea has been funded by LocalGlobe, the venture capital company set up by prominent father and son investors Robin Klein and Saul Klein, as well as Global Founders Capital, which is funded by Rocket Internet founder Oliver Samwer.

    The Echo app launched on Tuesday alongside new study from research firm Aurora (albeit commissioned by Echo) which found that people in full-time employment are least likely to follow GP guidelines, with a fifth regularly running out of medicine.

    The study, which surveyed 1,000 people across the UK, also found that patients aged 25-34 years are the worst at making sure they take their medicine, with 37% admitting they occasionally forget to request a repeat subscription in time. Of those surveyed, 27% admitted that they'd had to book an emergency GP appointment in order to obtain a repeat prescription, while 7% had to go to A&E.

    The Aurora study also found that men are twice as likely as women to require an emergency appointment as a result of not having the medication they need.

    Lakshmi, who worked as a business development manager at Apple for three years, said the research confirmed what he and Bourke believed. "Half of all under 65s now take a repeat prescription but the pressures of juggling kids and careers means many are not taking their medication properly," he said. "This is a huge drain on the NHS."

    When asked how Echo intends to make money, Lakshmi told Business Insider: "At present, we have a Deliveroo/Uber style model where we take a cut of the gross profit from our pharmacy partners.

    "Going forward, our aim is to become the only platform that a patient needs to manage their health, so we’ll be rolling out a number of other products and services for enhanced condition management. It’s unlikely that the NHS would pay for these but they’ll be offered as optional extras for end-consumers."

    Echo app

    Lakshmi added that forgetfulness is the number one reason for not adhering to a medication plan. "With UK smartphone penetration passing 80%, there’s a huge opportunity to use mobile technology to nudge people towards better health," he said. "We want to make adherence the path of least resistance, significantly improving health outcomes and reducing waste."

    Bourke added in a statement: "We both take repeat medication so Echo was born out of our shared frustration with a system that’s confusing and has yet to properly take advantage of mobile technology.

    "There are too many barriers to obtaining a repeat prescription, from having to take time off work to attend a GP appointment, to the pharmacy not having enough medication in stock. Echo brings the whole process to your smartphone, with delivery to your door. Our goal is to simplify things, maximising medication possession, minimising fuss."

    Ophelia Brown, an investor at LocalGlobe, told Business Insider: "The NHS desperately needs solutions like Echo that will save it millions of pounds a year from reduced wastage and enabling doctors to spend time treating patients rather than on pointless admin."

    She added: "We're honoured to be able to support the Echo team on their mission."

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Here's how Donald Trump can function on barely any sleep — and why you shouldn't copy him


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    Seven Mile Beach, Jamaica

    Starting a business is never easy or stress-free.

    But there are places you can go to start your dream company with fewer restrictions than others.

    The World Bank compiled a report on the best and worst places to be an entrepreneur, measuring regulations affecting 10 areas of a business.

    These include access to electricity, registering property, and getting credit.

    The study is huge, gathering data and analysing activity from entrepreneurs in more than 130,000 firms in 139 economies.

    Here are the countries that came out top:

    17. Belgium: 94.49 — While Belgium ranks highly for starting a business, the country suffers when it comes to registering property, where it ranks 131st. The process is time-consuming, taking an average of 56 days.



    16. United Kingdom: 94.58 — The UK's tax regime for businesses comes in at number 10, while the country also has the sixth best protections for minority investors, according to the World Bank.



    15. Sweden: 94.64 — Sweden got a boost when it made it easier to transfer a property and introduced a mechanism for reporting errors on maps.



    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    Vinaya Kate Unsworth

    The UK's technology scene is filled with some seriously creative people. Whether designers who have come up with innovative branding, inventors behind new hardware, or markets, we've collected them all together.

    We ranked people by how creative their approach to technology is, the scale of the projects they're working on, and whether they're making or designing something new.

    Scroll down to see our ranking of the most creative people in UK tech, sorted by just how innovative they are:

    39. Claire Cockerton of Plexal

    Claire Cockerton is the CEO and chairwoman of technology consultancy firm Entiq.

    Having previously led the Level39 startup accelerator in Canary Wharf, Cockerton is now heading up a new project in London's Olympic Park.

    The project involves turning the former press centre into what she claims will be Europe's largest innovation centre.



    38. Sagi Shorrer of Peak

    Former Googler Sagi Shorrer cofounded brain training app Peak in 2012 with ex-employees of Amazon and EA Games.

    The mobile app, which uses a series of games to test your focus, memory, and problem solving abilities, has been downloaded over 15 million times.

    This summer, Peak launched a "Coach," which it described as a personal trainer for your brain. Coach is an adaptive learning engine that analyses a user’s performance and tailors workouts with selected games to challenge a user further.



    37. Nick Beighton of ASOS

    Nick Beighton took over as the CEO of online fashion retailer ASOS last September, having previously been the company’s chief operating officer.  

    The online fashion retailer stocks a wide variety of youth-focused fashion labels and is popular with 20-somethings on a budget.  

    Beighton has a financial background and was an accountant at KPMG before joining ASOS.



    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    William Tunstall-Pedoe

    "Sorry, I knew this was going to happen," says British entrepreneur William Tunstall-Pedoe shortly after I start interviewing him at his home in Cambridge.

    We've just been interrupted by Alexa — the AI-powered personal assistant that sits inside Amazon's Echo device, which launched in the UK in September.

    Alexa burst into life after she heard me say her name while asking the entrepreneur turned angel investor about his role in her development.

    The 47-year-old — who sold his voice recognition company Evi Technologies to Amazon in 2012 for what was reported to be around $26 million (£21 million)— has five Echo devices scattered across his quirky home, which spans several narrow floors, contains artwork that was dreamt up by a computer, and happens to be where Peter Fluck and Rodger Law first made the puppets seen in British satirical TV show "Spitting Image."

    One of the Echo devices in Tunstall-Pedoe's house has been programmed to wake up when he says "Alexa," while the other two respond to "Amazon" and "Echo." 

    When I tell Tunstall-Pedoe that I haven't actually witnessed Alexa in action — partly because the Echo device wasn't on sale in the UK when I spoke to him — he seems shocked and instantly starts demoing the voice recognition technology to me.

    “Amazon," he says to a device in the corner of the room. No response. "Amazon!" he repeats louder and more assertively. "What are you?"

    Around a second or so later, the Amazon-built machine responds: "I’m an Amazon Echo."

    But in a bid to show off the range of the Echo device, he then tries to communicate with another device on a floor below: "Alexa, what are you?"

    "Sorry, I can’t find the answer to your question," calls out an American-sounding woman from an Echo device downstairs.

    "Alexa, what are you?" repeats Tunstall-Pedoe, who left Amazon in February.

    "I’m an Amazon Echo," Alexa quickly responds. "Ok," says Tunstall-Pedoe, seemingly satisfied. "Doing it from a distance is a real challenge. There’s all sorts of proprietary technology in it [Echo] that allows you to just talk to the device across the room and it works. That’s really hard. It’s one of the things that Amazon’s done very, very well."

    Following the interview, Amazon added a fix that enabled only one device to respond when the wakeword is the same. As a result, Tunstall-Pedoe now uses Alexa as the wakeword for all of the devices.  

    amazon echo

    Tunstall-Pedoe has been interested in computers and intelligence since an early age. Born into a family of medical professionals in Dulwich, the entrepreneur went to the High School of Dundee in Scotland, where he spent some of his time developing software for his teacher's IT company. "I had a substantial income from software when I was 13," says Tunstall-Pedoe. "My high school had a technical college next to it. And they had a big mainframe. I used to go in there before school and write software and I got addicted I guess."

    Following in his father's and grandfather's footsteps, Tunstall-Pedoe earned himself a place at the University of Cambridge where he graduated with a first class degree in computer science in 1991. "That was largely me pulling my socks up in the final year," he admits. "I worked very, very hard in the last three months."

    After university, Tunstall-Pedoe went on to work for the likes of Acorn Computers and the Isaac Newton Institute. He also did what he describes as "some more niche AI things" off his own back. "I wrote a commercial chess playing program for example and I wrote what remains the only software that can solve and explain cryptic crossword clues. I also wrote a product called Anagram Genius which uses AI techniques to create weird and wonderful anagrams of any subject. That work was really hot." This software was used by Dan Brown to make the anagrams that appeared in the Da Vinci code book and movie. Tunstall-Pedoe is credited in the acknowledgements of all 80 million copies.

    Evi was Tunstall-Pedoe's biggest success

    Evi Technologies True KnowledgeBut it was the Evi app that proved to be Tunstall-Pedoe's most successful venture. "I wanted to tackle a really big problem and the biggest problem I could find then was search," says Tunstall-Pedoe. "The vision was people being able to ask computers completely naturally for what they want, be understood and have the computer do it. No guessing keywords or browsing links and no custom interfaces.

    "Bizarrely that vision has stayed absolutely the same for the entire history of the business.

    "The way we’ve applied it and the products we’ve applied it to have changed but if you look at Echo, and Alexa, that is precisely that vision coming true. For me, that’s one of the most remarkable things about this adventure. The vision has been exactly the same, and it’s coming true. It’s coming true at scale."

    Evi was essentially an AI-powered app that allowed people to search for things and find answers either by typing a question into a search box or asking a question out loud. The app also supported a number of actions, including calling people and other phone functions. 

    The origins of Evi can be traced back to September 2005 when Tunstall-Pedoe founded a company called True Knowledge, which was a search engine designed to help people find the information they needed in a more natural way.

    In 2011, True Knowledge began working on a new AI called Evi, which it released in a smartphone app. The Evi AI was launched publicly in January 2012 to massive acclaim, gaining over 1 million users within four months of launch. In May 2012, True Knowledge was officially rebranded as Evi to reflect the focus on the ongoing development of the Evi AI.

    "We had an office on the ground floor of Poseidon House in Castle Park but we moved out and then when Amazon was looking for a place to have their dev centre, they actually ended up taking the entire building," says Tunstall-Pedoe. "So we ended up moving back into it."

    He continues: "We had multiple offices [during True Knowledge and Evi's life time]. We had a much more prominent office on Hills Road for a long time, which was very, very visible. It was right next to a main road and the outside of the building was decorated with questions and answers and True Knowledge. People were very confused by this building. They thought it was some kind of religious establishment."

    Tunstall-Pedoe raised several million pounds for his startup from investors including the likes of Octopus Ventures and a fund set up by ARM founder Hermann Hauser (the exact amount was never disclosed). He sold his business to Amazon in October 2012 when it had around 30 staff and Evi is now part of the Amazon group of companies. "I can tell you that Amazon has invested very, very heavily in the team subsequently," says Tunstall-Pedoe.

    True Knowledge Evi

    Other Silicon Valley firms were interested in Evi

    Amazon wasn't the only company bidding for Evi, according to Tunstall-Pedoe. "We had another couple of acquisition offers," he says, adding that there was also further funding on the table from investors. "So we could have taken the financing and continued on or we could have gone for one of the other two.

    "One of the acquirers would have moved us over to the Bay Area and they would have shed half of the team in the process. Amazon wanted to invest in the UK, to keep the team where it was and grow it in Cambridge. That made them a much more attractive acquisition from our perspective.

    Tunstall-Pedoe admits that he didn't know exactly what Amazon had planned for Evi at the time of the acquisition. "The project was highly secret," he says. "Obviously we understood the full vision after we were acquired but it wasn't necessarily fully disclosed as part of the discussions. There was a lot of secrecy on the project [Echo]. "We managed to keep it a secret" says Tunstall-Pedoe. "All of that concern about confidentiality was quite important."

    Following Evi's acquisition, the company's technology, platform, and team became an integral part of Alexa, according to Tunstall-Pedoe, who held a senior product role at Amazon in the team that designed, built, and launched Alexa and the Amazon Echo product for more than three years.

    True Knowledge

    Amazon staff are forbidden from revealing company secrets

    Tunstall-Pedoe is heavily restricted on what he can say about Evi, Alexa, and his time at Amazon. As one of several large technology companies currently in the so-called AI race, Amazon is keen to keep a lot of its intellectual property under wraps and it makes sure that all of its 268,900 current employees (as of April 2016) know what they can and can't say.

    Tunstall-Pedoe can't say, for example, exactly how Evi's technology was integrated into Alexa or how big the Evi team inside Amazon has grown to.

    But Amazon is pumping millions of pounds into the Evi operation, according to the latest Companies House filings. Abbreviated accounts filed with Companies House on July 14 show that Evi had £4.8 million in fixed assets and £9 million in current assets as at 31 December 2015. That's up from £3.5 million and £8 million respectively for 2014.

    While Amazon has never publicly said exactly how it uses Evi's technology, there have been one or two hints that have slipped out in job descriptions and other reports.

    "Within Amazon Alexa, the Evi team’s mission is to answer any question in any language," reads a job description on Amazon's website for an "Applied Scientist" role in Cambridge. "We develop technology that combines natural language understanding, acquiring large volumes of structured knowledge, and machine reasoning to allow our customers to get answers to their questions in the most natural way possible. We play a key role in the development of Alexa; Amazon’s cloud based voice service which delights customers on products such as Echo and Fire TV."

    Amazon CambridgeAmazon office Cambridge

    Echo can be used to play music, get traffic updates, and set alarms

    The £149 Amazon Echo device performs a variety of functions when you tell Alexa to do something or ask Alexa a question. It will, for example, play music from a certain decade or provide you with traffic updates.

    Some Amazon reviewers have said they use Echo for timers and alarms but not much else. Tunstall-Pedoe, however, insists Echo is "amazingly useful." When I ask him what he uses Echo for, he replies: "Loads of stuff," before going on to instruct the device to get the local weather for Cambridge.

    "Right now in Cambridge, United Kingdom, it’s 17 degrees with showers and partly cloudy skies," Alexa responds. "Today’s forecast is rainy weather with a high of 19 degrees and a low of 13 degrees." He goes on to play "Call Me Maybe" by Canadian singer-songwriter Carly Rae Jepsen on Spotify and a "trance" music playlist on Pandora.

    Concluding his demo, and showing off Alexa's intelligence, Tunstall-Pedoe asks: "Amazon, who was president of the US when Barack Obama was a teenager?" The device replies: "Ronald Reagen, Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford were the US presidents when Barack Obama was a teenager." This is the very same question and answer that Evi used to show off in screenshots of the company's app.

    In terms of who developed Evi's core technology, Tunstall-Pedoe doesn't hold back when it comes to taking some of the credit. "The technology is actually largely a result of me," he says. "There have been some additions to the technology since. And obviously there’s been a huge amounts of work engineering it, creating a platform that massively scales very fast. But the actual core IP all came out my head. So the original patents are all mine."

    He goes on to explain how Evi's abilities have been significantly expanded since the early days. "What I wrote took many seconds to do stuff and the knowledge base was very small and the knowledge base is much, much much, bigger and runs many orders of magnitude faster and that's credit to the team of engineers that joined me."

    The entrepreneur is now backing the next generation of founders

    Peterhouse College, Cambridge University

    Since leaving Amazon, Tunstall-Pedoe has been angel investing, backing a total of 21 companies, including Magic Pony Technology, which was acquired by Twitter earlier this year for a reported $150 million (£120 million).

    On departing the ecommerce behemoth, Tunstall-Pedoe admits: "That was really difficult. I really love Amazon. It’s a very good business. It’s obviously very successful. A few milestones happened at the same time: 10th anniversary of the business was quite a big psychological one. September last year I realised I’d been doing this 120% for 10 years.

    "The launch of the Echo Alexa had been a big success. The project is being heavily invested in. Jeff Bezos is on record recently saying there’s more than a thousand people working in Alexa across all the sites.

    "Do I want to do what I’ve been doing for another 10 years? Or do I want to do one or two other things for the rest of my career? It wasn’t an easy decision but I decided it was the right time to move on."

    Join the conversation about this story »

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    New York City

    The New York tech scene is on the rise. 

    In just the last few months, we've seen the $3 billion-dollar acquisition of Jet and talks of IPOs on the horizon for Blue Apron and Pinterest. Silicon Valley giants like Google continue to hire in the region, and West Coast giants like Uber and Lyft are expanding their presence and fighting for turf in New York City. 

    But there are also tons of early-stage companies just getting off the ground, armed with the lessons from their successful predecessors and the guidance of experienced New York venture capitalists and operators. 

    We've compiled a list of 15 hot New York startups to watch by talking to investors, employees, fellow journalists, and active members of the New York tech scene:

    SEE ALSO: This program gives hot startups free office space in New York City for a year — meet this year's winners

    Amino Apps

    What it is:

    Amino's business model harkens back to the days of chat rooms, where people with specific interests could find like-minded individuals to talk to online. But instead of messaging via chatrooms, Amino uses apps to create communities around different topics. Anyone can create an app on any topic through Amino — examples so far include anime and the HBO show "Westworld"— and launch it through the Amino platform. Once it becomes popular enough to have a dedicated following, it becomes a standalone app in the App store. 

    Amino relocated from Boston to New York City earlier this year after raising a $6.5 million Series A. Venrock's David Pakman serves on Amino's board. 

    Founders: 

    Ben Anderson and Yin Wang

    Total funding:

    $8.3 million from Venrock, Bantam Group, GV, Slow Ventures, Union Square Ventures, and more.

    Website: 

    www.aminoapps.com



    Slice

    What it is:

    Slice — formerly MyPizza — is a mobile app that lets you order pizza from local pizzerias. Much like Seamless, users log on to the app and place an order at their local pizza place rather than calling it in. Founder Ilir Sela, an Albanian immigrant, created the company after watching friends and family struggle to create online ordering for their pizzerias.

    Though Sela has been growing the business on his own for years, 2016 has been a major revamp year for the company. In less than 12 months, Sela has added more than 100 employees without any recruiting. It counts more physical pizzerias as partners than there are Domino's locations in the US.

    Founder: 

    Ilir Sela

    Total funding:

    $3.32 million from Primary Venture Partners

    Website: 

    slicelife.com



    Dia&Co

    What it is:

    Dia&Co is a clothing subscription service for women who wear size 14 and up. Founded by two Harvard Business School graduates, the company was founded in 2014 to try to tackle a multimillion-dollar problem: most traditional retailers don't cater to plus-size women. While more than 65% of US women wear a size 14 and up, those sizes are rarely carried in stores. 

    Women who sign up for Dia take a survey to determine what styles and fits they like, then are assigned a stylist who works with them to curate five selections that are mailed to their home. Dia has clients in all 50 states and says its revenue has grown 35X over the last year.  

    Founders: 

    Nadia Boujarwah and Lydia Gilbert

    Total funding:

    $25.01 million from Sequoia Capital, Lerer Hippeau Ventures, Binary Capital, and more.

    Website: 

    www.dia.co



    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    Dyn Jeremy Hitchcock

    On Monday, Oracle announced that it bought Dyn.

    Dyn is one of those old-fashioned Silicon Valley startup stories, particularly for its 35-year-old former CEO and founder Jeremy Hitchcock — only this tale took place in Manchester, New Hampshire, rather than Silicon Valley.

    While Oracle didn't announce the terms of the deal, former Fortune editor Dan Primack is reporting that Oracle paid "just north of $600 million" for the company. (Oracle declined to comment on the sale price.)

    That sounds like a healthy but not outlandish price — and Oracle isn't known for paying outlandishly high acquisition prices.

    In May, Dyn said it was on track to exceed $100 million in billing run rate this year, Kyle York, Dyn's chief strategy officer, told BostInno. That's not the same thing as achieving $100 million in annual revenue. It means that if the current billing rate continues at the same pace for 12 months, the company will have brought in $100 million over that period.

    After it raised its second round of $50 million in May, investors valued the company at $356 million, according to PitchBook. Overall, it has raised more than $100 million.

    From 'donate button' to real business

    Dyn offers something called Domain Name Servers services. DNS maps the web address you type into your browser, like "www.businessinsider.com"— easier for humans to remember — into the IP address numbers that computers use.

    Hitchcock and his cofounder, Tom Daly, started this company in their early 20s as a free, open-source project while attending college at the Worcester Polytechnic Institute.

    It began as a server in their dorm room. They almost shut it down when they ran out of money.

    "We put up a 'donate' button, but there was not much money coming in, and so we said to our users if you don't give us $25,000 in the next week we're shutting down," Hitchcock told Business Insider in 2012. "We got $40,000."

    Jeremy Hitchcock DynHitchcock and Daly were stunned. They realized they were now on the hook to make Dyn into a real business.

    Hitchcock called up York, an acquaintance from high school living in LA, and asked him to move home to help them do marketing.

    They then ran their business for 11 years without taking a dime of VC cash.

    And during that time, Dyn blossomed. Today it has more than 450 people and 3,500 enterprise customers, including big names like Netflix, Twitter, Pfizer, and CNBC.

    Dyn took its first VC funding, $38 million, in 2012, and Daly left the company soon after that. After raising the $50 million in VC funds in May, Hitchcock stepped down, although he retained a board seat. (Hitchcock and other Dyn executives told TechCrunch he wasn't forced out.) York is still with the company.

    Hitchcock also helped establish Manchester's startup community, becoming a big angel investor and backing 17 startups, according to AngelList.

    Dyn was in the spotlight last month when a massive "denial of service" attack took it down for a while, bringing down big chunks of the internet with it. Hackers didn't break into Dyn — they threw so much traffic at it that it temporarily overwhelmed Dyn.

    But this attack didn't hurt its acquisition discussions with Oracle, which began before the attack, Primack reports.

    Oracle plans to integrate Dyn with its cloud computing services.

    Oracle likely wants Dyn for a similar reason Google spent $625 million to acquire Apigee, which had $92 million in revenue.

    Oracle is far behind market leader Amazon Web Services in the infrastructure cloud computing market. Dyn gives Oracle 3,500 cloud customers to try to upsell to its other cloud services.

    SEE ALSO: Programmers are having a huge discussion about the unethical and illegal things they’ve been asked to do

    Join the conversation about this story »

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    jared kushner

    When it came to helping Donald Trump's campaign, Jared Kushner tapped the tech world for help and inspiration.

    Kushner, who is Trump's son-in-law and the older brother of New York venture capitalist Josh Kushner, used techniques from the tech startup world to build Trump's campaign strategy almost from nothing, according to a new profile by Steven Bertoni of Forbes.

    "I called some of my friends from Silicon Valley, some of the best digital marketers in the world, and asked how you scale this stuff," Kushner told Forbes. "They gave me their subcontractors."

    But Kushner's work extended beyond calling in Silicon Valley's top talent — he began testing tools well known to the tech community but not as well to the world of politics, and he ran the campaign with a "lean startup" mentality.

    That ended up working to the campaign's advantage.

    Targeted advertising over traditional spending

    The campaign's approach took basic ideas common in the lean startup movement promoted by Silicon Valley gurus such as Steve Blank and Eric Ries in which young companies try a lot of ideas in an attempt to find product-market fit and quickly discard ideas that aren't working. This philosophy is often encapsulated in Facebook's early motto: "Move fast and break things."

    "We weren't afraid to make changes. We weren't afraid to fail. We tried to do things very cheaply, very quickly. And if it wasn't working, we would kill it quickly," Kushner told Forbes. "It meant making quick decisions, fixing things that were broken, and scaling things that worked."

    The campaign also used the kinds of technical tools that lean startups use to attract customers.

    Early on, it avoided spending heavily on traditional (and expensive) advertising like TV and internet spots, instead going after social media audiences and using machine learning to fuel its fundraising efforts and send targeted ads. Among other things, Kushner built a geolocation tool using Google Maps API to plot location density for different types of voters, such as those worried about immigration or healthcare.

    Kushner also tested Facebook's ad targeting tools, which show promotions to specific audiences, to help sell campaign merchandise like the "Make America Great Again" hats or promote videos of Trump talking to the camera.

    "We played moneyball, asking ourselves which states will get the best ROI"— return on investment — "for the electoral vote," Kushner said. "I asked, 'How can we get Trump's message to that consumer for the least amount of cost?'"

    In the final days of the campaign, Kushner said he had spent so little money and relied so heavily on data that the campaign was able to unleash one last rallying cry in the form of on-the-ground volunteers and new targeted TV ads.

    It makes sense that Kushner adopted Silicon Valley tactics, as he has ties to several notable tech investors and CEOs, including his younger brother; Peter Thiel, a billionaire investor and Trump transition team member; and Jack Ma, CEO of Alibaba and an investor in Kushner's real-estate startup, Cadre.

    Read the full interview with Kushner on Forbes »

    SEE ALSO: Ivanka Trump's husband, Jared Kushner, is a major player in the Trump campaign — here are 12 things to know about him

    Join the conversation about this story »

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    Old airplanes, including Boeing 747-400s, are stored in the desert in Victorville, California March 13, 2015.  REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

    Skyscanner, a travel search engine, is being acquired for a whopping £1.4 billion.

    It's a big exit for the Scottish company, which is selling itself to Chinese company Ctrip.com — reportedly the biggest European travel acquisition ever.

    It was founded in 2003, born out of cofounder Gareth Williams' frustrations trying to find the cheapest flights and travel deals. He built a spreadsheet with friends Barry Smith and Bonamy Grimes, which turned into a search engine that compares the costs of flights across various airlines.

    It got a £2.5 million venture capital injection from Scottish Capital Partners in 2007 — giving the firm 40% of its equity in return. It had annual revenues at the time of less than £1 million.

    In 2012, it opened its first office in China as part of its international expansion — four years before it would ultimately sell itself to a Chinese company. It operates in the country using the name Tianxun ("scan the skies"), and today it has offices in Beijing and Shenzhen.

    It expanded into the US in 2013, launching its office in Miami. At the time, the BBC reported, it has annual revenues of £33 million.

    Also that year, Silicon Valley venture capital firm Sequoia invested an undisclosed sum, which valued Skyscanner at $800 million (£640 million).

    In 2014, it consolidated its position in China, acquiring Youbibi — a local rival that offered a meta-search tool focused on travel, and subsequently rolling it into an all-in-one app.

    In the January of 2016, it raised £128 million in venture capital from a number of investors, at a reported valuation of $1.6 billion (£1.29 billion at today's exchange rate) — making it a rare British "unicorn," a startup valued at more than $1 billion.

    The company had been angling for either an IPO in 2017 or a sale, ultimately opting for a sale to Ctrip. Launched in 1999, Ctrip is China's biggest online travel company. Its shares are traded publicly, and jumped more than 9% on the news.

    In a video statement, Williams said Skyscanner will retain "operational independence."

    Today, it has 60 million monthly users. It continues to be headquartered in Edinburgh, is available in 30 languages, and has 10 offices around the world, including Barcelona, Miami, Singapore, and Sofia. It employs more than 700 people. It reportedly has annual revenues of around than £100 million.

    And it doesn't just offer flights — it also lets users compare hotel and car hire prices, from 1,200 partners.

    The deal is expected to close by the end of the year.

    Here's the video statement from Williams confirming the sale:

    Join the conversation about this story »

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