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The latest news on Startups from Business Insider

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    andy rubin android

    Andy Rubin, the man who created the Android operating system, is planning his next big thing with a new startup called Essential, according to a person familiar with the matter.

    Bloomberg first reported the news.

    Essential will focus on high-end hardware and attempt to differentiate itself from budget-friendly Android products that have flooded the market.

    The company is expected to formally announce a significant round of funding from major investors in the coming weeks, according to our source. It's unclear how much Essential has raised and the deal isn't final, we're told. 

    Bloomberg reports that one of Essential's first products will be a modular smartphone, which means you'll be able to clip on accessories like better cameras. In theory, this would extend the life of the product by keeping the hardware up to date. Bloomberg says one prototype of the phone has no bezels around the screen and a large display. It may also be made of ceramic. LG, Motorola, and Google have all experimented with modular smartphones, but none of them really took off. Google canceled its Ara modular smartphone last year.

    We've also heard the vision of Essential is to create an ecosystem of hardware products, but it will all start with the new smartphone.

    A spokesperson for Essential declined to comment.

    Rubin is the CEO of Essential, which started in his startup incubator Playground Global, our source says. Rubin worked at Google for several years after selling Android to the company. He eventually stepped down as the head of Android to lead Google's robotics projects before leaving the company in 2014 to start Playground Global.

    Essential's team includes former Magic Leap executives Brian Wallace and Andy Fouché along with Niccolo De Masi, CEO of Glu Mobile (maker of that famous Kim Kardashian mobile game), and a handful of former Apple and Google employees. (These folks aren't exactly hiding where they work, either. Just search "Andy Rubin Stealth Startup"on LinkedIn.)

    SEE ALSO: Peter Thiel says the age of Apple is over

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Forget the iPhone 7 — here are 11 reasons the next iPhone will blow everyone away


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    Bellhops

    Silicon Valley and its New York counterpart Silicon Alley have long reigned as the main coastal hubs for tech innovation. 

    Founders, venture capitalists, and tech employees flock to the Bay Area and New York City to launch and build startups, fund new ideas, and simply just live among their tech-obsessed brethren. 

    But there's a new wave of companies eschewing the Valley/Alley life in favor of building their startups in their hometowns or in less tech-focused metros. Now, places like Utah, Seattle, Boston, and Colorado are becoming hubs for enterprise and consumer startups. 

    We've compiled a list of exciting startups outside of New York and San Francisco by talking to investors, fellow journalists, and active members of the tech scene. Unless otherwise noted, all funding information comes from venture capital database PitchBook. 

    Below are some of the most exciting startups from cities across the US. 

    SEE ALSO: The 21 hottest women-founded startups to watch in 2017

    Uptake is helping to improve some of the nation's oldest industries.

    Where it's from: Chicago, Illinois

    What it is: Uptake uses analytics and predictive software to increase safety and enhance performance for companies in industries like construction, aviation, mining, and rail, according to Forbes. Uptake was founded by Groupon cofounder Brad Keywell and has the backing of construction-equipment giant Caterpillar.

    Founder: Brad Keywell 

    Funding: $51 million from Lightbank, Caterpillar, GreatPoint Ventures, and New Enterprise Associates.

     

     



    Hudl is a tech tool for sports teams.

    Where it's from: Lincoln, Nebraska

    What it is: Hudl is a key component in helping more than 100,000 sports teams nationwide win games. The startup allows coaches to record or upload video to its platform, annotate it with text, drawings, or voice, and share it with players on their mobile devices. 

    Founders: David Graff, Brian Kaiser, and John Wirtz 

    Funding: $77 million from Accel Partners, Nelnet, Nebraska Angels, and others.



    Heptio wants to take Kubernetes mainstream.

    Where it's from: Seattle, Washington

    What it is: In 2014, Google released the free software Kubernetes— a tool to manage and maintain huge piles of containers that's based on the tech it had developed for the same function. Kubernetes became a smash hit, with developers all over the world using it to get a little bit of that Google magic in their own computing infrastructures. Now two of its founding team members have launched a new startup, Heptio, to turn it into a business and make it accessible to enterprises everywhere.

    Founders: Joe Beda and Craig McLuckie

    Funding: $8.5 million from Accel and Madrona Ventures.



    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    Prince George

    The company behind the dressing gown HRH Prince George wore when meeting President Obama has secured a £5 million growth funding round.

    My 1st Years, a children’s gifts personalisation site that was founded in 2009 by childhood friends Daniel price and Jonny Sitton, said it will use the fresh capital to drive developments in operations, marketing, and international expansion into the US.

    The startup's personalised gifts for babies and children have been bought by celebrities including Dannii Minogue and Elton John, as well as the royals. Beyond dressing gowns, My 1st Years gifts include customised toys, shoes, and bedding.

    "We always had a lot of faith in the potential of this company, but we’ve really seen that come to life in the last year or so, and it’s time for us to build on the success we’ve already had. Funding is key to the next step for us," said Daniel Price, cofounder and joint managing director of My 1st Years," in a statement.

    "With this funding under our belt, we’ll be able to enhance our existing proprietary personalisation technology, as well as invest in the skills we need to do more with our data, create effective marketing campaigns and build on our international shipping by expanding into the US. We’re hugely excited to be working with investors that have a proven track record in retail, and look forward to what 2017 will bring."

    The latest funding round came was led by Beringea, and supported with funds managed by Hargreave Hale. It brings total investment in the company up to £7 million.

    "Daniel and Jonny are natural entrepreneurs," said Maria Wagner, investment director at Beringea, in a statement. "What they have achieved so far is particularly impressive given this is their first job out of university. Not only have they spotted a gap in the market and had the guts to go for it, they have also managed to secure the support of veteran ecommerce professionals, broker relationships with leading retailers in the country and create impressive buzz amongst the press and consumers.

    "Their achievements so far give me immense confidence that they can really push on to the next level with support from us. We look forward to joining them on their journey."

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Weed, crab legs, and a mermaid — inside the massive marijuana-mansion party thrown by Instagram's 'Marijuana Don'


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    Mike Brown, Win-Win Fantasy

    Mike Brown's short-lived time in the NFL made him grateful for one thing: that his mom made him keep his grades up in order to play sports.

    Thanks to that, today Brown has another dream job, as CEO of a year-old startup called Win-Win.

    But back in 2009, when the two-time all-American linebacker from Duke University got picked up as a free agent for the Indianapolis Colts, he thought his dreams of an NFL career had come true. It didn't. The Colts cut him from the roster at the end of training camp.

    He kicked around for a few years in the United Football League, best known for its fast failure and low salaries. UFL went defunct after a few years.

    "I didn’t play football for as long as I wanted to. I didn’t make it to retirement/pension. I was there for a Hollywood second, bounced around. Never able to get to big contract," he told Business Insider.

    In 2013, after four years, he was done as a pro player. He planned to go get his MBA. That's when he, quite literally, got the calling to go to Silicon Valley and do a tech startup instead.

    "I was getting ready to go to Rice University and a friend of mine in the Bay Area told me about this program that he heard about called Draper University. I didn’t know anything about Silicon Valley. All I knew that Facebook was here," he said.

    On a lark, he applied to the program but didn't think he'd really do it.

    Tim Draper comes calling

    Soon after, billionaire VC Tim Draper personally called Brown. Draper is known for his eccentric, boisterous, confident personality. He's hard to say no to.

    Tim Draper"If anyone else would have called, I probably would not have changed my plans to go back to school. But he said, “Hey, Mike, this is Tim. We loved your application. You’re in. Full scholarship. We’ll see you in March. And I was like, “Uh. I guess I’ll change my plans.”

    Draper University, as the program is called, isn't a university but a two-month boot camp for wanna-be tech entrepreneurs. It had launched the year before as Draper's brainchild to teach people leadership skills in unconventional ways.

    While other accelerator programs focus on building a product, Draper U does things like military survival training (Draper calls it "hero training") where students spend days in the wilderness foraging for food and shelter. They compete in offbeat contests too, like "to sell something embarrassing, or go to San Francisco and come back with a job offer, on paper, in 24 hours,"Draper previously told Business Insider.

    At one point, Draper even turned his university into a reality TV show, Startup U, that aired on ABC Family, though it only ran for one season.

    Brown loved it.

    "I came out of Draper very confident," he says. "Ideas are coming out Draper’s head like crazy. As wacky as the program seems to be, it changed my life."

    He vowed to himself, "I’m going to move to Silicon Valley and I’m going to start my own startup.'”

    Cold calls and working hard

    But he didn't have a job in the expensive Bay Area, so he went back to Houston, determined to return.

    "Life was also happening. I got married. We had a child," he said. "During that time, I taught myself how to code, how to design. Knowing how to code or at the very least know how to talk to developers is important. So all day, all night, laying in bed, I was cranking out HTML/CSS, Javascript, jQuery all of it."

    Brian WongBrown's wife finished up her master's degree in education (while she was pregnant) and got hired at California State University as a counselor.

    "My wife believed in me. We moved to the Bay Area the next year. My job was to get a job," he said.

    Once in the Bay Area, he contacted everyone he could think of. He sent a cold email to a guy at a startup called Kiip who graduated years after him, but remembered the star football player.

    Kiip is a mobile advertising company known in its early days for its young founder, Brian Wong, who landed $200,000 of seed funding at age 19. He was one of the youngest people to ever land funding back then, in 2010.

    Brown was offered an entry-level, cold-calls sales job. He worked his way up to a full sales job within four months and started making "good money," he says. He also had another kid on the way. "We moved to a bigger place. I became the tech guy for my friends. They started pitching me ideas. It was funny. I was in a really good place."

    While at Kiip, his co-workers talked him into joining their Fantasy Football sports league, his first time playing. They convinced him it wasn't about winning the money at the end of the season but about teasing each other all season long.

    That was the same season that FanDuel and DraftKings were smothering the airwaves with ads, which got Brown thinking. Why weren't the players tweeting about the daily fantasy?

    "I called players that I knew and they told me two things: they didn’t care enough to have an opinion or they flat out didn’t like it," he said. One player, Pierre Garcon of the Washington Redskins even sued FanDuel for using his image repeatedly on an infomercial without permission or compensation. (They settled out of court.)

    Replace gambling with charity

    It gave Brown a "light bulb moment," he said. If fans were really just playing for fun, not money, why not let the money go to the player's charity, something "that is more impactful and more important to an athlete? And in exchange you would be able to win something that money can’t buy," like hanging out with the athlete.

    Mike Brown and Arizona Cardinals Patrick PetersonHe asked the players if they would be willing to donate their time or other stuff if it raised money for their causes and "100% of the time, 'Hell, yeah' was the answer. Because they didn’t even have to do anything. They didn’t have to host a golf tournament or a benefit dinner," he said.

    Brown was laid off from Kiip in November and founded his company, Win-Win in January, just in time to attend the Fantasy Sports Trade Association (FSTA) conference in Dallas.

    That's where he pitched his startup idea to a panel that included Mark Cuban.

    Cuban didn't invest, but the exposure helped him land a bunch of other angels who put in about $1 million, he says.

    "Within nine months, I had built a small team, raised a good chunk of money for a first time founder and launched on time," Brown says. Win-Win currently employs four full-time people and three contractors, he says.

    The first tournament was launched in September at the start of football season. The prize was a trip on a private jet with Arizona Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson to watch the LSU vs. Alabama game with him. The tournament raised money for the Louisiana flood victims via the Baton Rouge Area Foundation on behalf of Peterson.

    Win-Win winners jet rideOther tournaments gave away sideline tickets to Cardinals and San Francisco 49ers games, and prizes ranging from signed jerseys to discounts at the sports retailer, Fanatics. Brown wants everyone who plays to win something.

    Currently, Win-Win makes its money by taking a small percentage of the entry fees but he says he's exploring other fees, too, perhaps on the marketing/advertising side.

    For his first year, he's attracted about 3,500 players and had over over 65 athletes express interest. He's now ramping up to launch for the NBA season and launching other ways to play, like bracket games.

    While there's no telling if Win-Win will ultimately succeed, the concept is intriguing. Because all the money goes to charity, Win-Win may not face the kind of "is-this-gambling?" scrutiny that originally plagued FanDuel.

    And Brown is living his second dream of being a tech entrepreneur.

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: How FanDuel, the billion-dollar New York City startup, launched the now-controversial daily fantasy sports craze


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    Primanti's sandwich Goldbely

    There's no shortage of food delivery startups out there, but Goldbely wants to tap into something more than nourishment: nostalgia. 

    The 4-year-old startup ships dishes from some of the best-known restaurants in the nation, like Joe's Pizza in New York, Prantl's Bakery in Pittsburgh, and Honolulu Fish Company in Hawaii. The food arrives chilled in just a couple of days, ready pop in the oven or eat straight out of the box.

    'Democratizing the food industry'

    Goldbely was founded by Joe Ariel, a serial entrepreneur who previously headed up Eats.com and Delivery.com. He founded Goldbely in 2013 inspired by what he experienced during college: While attending school at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, he got hooked on Tennessee cuisine, but was never able to replicate it after leaving the region for New York and then San Francisco.

    Baltimore Bomb Pie 1He decided to build Goldbely to help local restaurateurs and small businesses get national exposure — he calls it "democratizing the food industry."

    Goldbely is selective about which restaurants are admitted onto the platform — Ariel says only about 5% of restaurants that apply are accepted. Right now, there are about 300 vendors on Goldbely. 

    Beyond offering individual dishes, Goldbely also has 15 subscription options, including cookies, barbecue, bacon, and pizza. By opting for the pizza subscription, for example, you'll receive a pizza each month from a different restaurant. The pizza subscription costs $59 per month. 

    That brings up the issue of price, one of the common gripes with food delivery services. For $59, you could probably get at least four pizzas at your local pizzeria.

    But the costs make more sense when you break it down. I got to test three items from Goldbely, one being a Primanti Bros. sandwich kit, a staple of the Pittsburgh diet. The kit served six to eight people and came disassembled — cheese in one package, french fries (that needed to be cooked) in another, a loaf of bread, and so on. The kit costs $99, which for eight people, comes to about $12.38 per sandwich. At a Primanti's store, the sandwich costs $7.39. But with the cost of quick shipping and the Primanti's t-shirt they threw in, that doesn't seem like such an obscene price. 

    The Baltimore Bomb Pie, which I also received, costs $59 and also serves eight people, which shakes out to about $7.38 per slice — again, not outlandish if you're a huge fan of that particular pie.

    The one item offered on the site that threw me for a loop was the Anchor Bar wings — known to most as the "original Buffalo wings." On Goldbely, 50 wings cost $129, a truly staggering price if you've ever ordered 50 wings while actually in Buffalo, where they typically cost $1 per wing. But, since most cities offer terrible chicken wings, you may be willing to go above and beyond to get the real thing. 

    Muffuletta 1

    All of this is to say that the cost of some Goldbely items can be a little prohibitive for average consumers. But Goldbely isn't intended to be a Blue Apron or UberEats competitor. In fact, Ariel likens it more to Omaha Steaks or Harry & David's — rather than sending a box of generic steaks as a gift, Ariel suggests Goldbely's monthly barbecue subscription, which contains dishes like Austin’s Salt Lick BBQ Texas Brisket and Legend Central BBQ’s Dry Rub Ribs from Memphis. 

    The company banks on the premise that you'll be enticed not by the snacks themselves, really, but by the memorable experience of eating your favorite birthday cake from Milk Bar or that delicious ahi tuna steak you had on vacation in Hawaii.

    In short, Goldbely is making it easier to feed your most specific cravings — and supplying you with some fond memories in the process.

    SEE ALSO: Here's how to use Marco Polo, the video messaging app that could replace Snapchat one day

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: 9 iPhone tricks that will make your life easier in 2017


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    jetpack

    Chinese tech investor Kuang-Chi has invested $30 million (£25 million) in Dorset-based jet engine company Gilo Industries, valuing the firm at $80 million (£67 million), according to The Financial Times.

    The deal, announced on Monday, marks the investor's first foray into the UK market.

    Gilo, which makes rotary engines for jetpacks and unmanned aircraft, reported revenues of £915,000 and an operating profit of £45,562 in 2015, according to Companies House filings. It said it will use the new capital to expand and adopt new manufacturing technologies.

    Gilo Cardozo, founder of Gilo, said in a statement: "The support from Kuang-Chi is exactly what we need to continue to expand our production capabilities and embrace exciting new manufacturing technologies to help us grow and succeed in the global marketplace.

    "It is a really clear example of how international organisations look to all areas of Britain for innovation and entrepreneurship and how they can boost regional, national and global industries."

    Founded in Shenzhen in 2010, Kuang-Chi has taken a 40% stake in Gilo, according to The Financial Times.

    The tech investor is hoping to raise a $300 million (£250 million) fund over the next three years to invest in innovative companies worldwide. It said it will place a "large focus" on the UK.

    Ruopeng Liu, chairman of Kuang-Chi, said in a statement: "This is only the start of Kuang-Chi’s UK investment plans. Despite some fears surrounding Brexit, innovation is booming in the UK and Kuang-Chi has confidence in the UK market, which has a long history and a good reputation for innovation that will not fade away easily.

    "Investing in British startups and technology companies in the growth stage is a key part of our long term strategic plan to invest in the most exciting, disruptive and innovative technologies around the world."

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: 9 iPhone tricks that will make your life easier in 2017


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    Vehicles negotiate the Old Street roundabout in Shoreditch, which has been dubbed 'Silicon Roundabout' due to the number of technology companies operating from the area on March 15, 2011 in London, England. The relatively low rental rates and proximity to media and internet companies has made the area close to the roundabout a prime location for IT firms and web entrepreneurs. (Photo by )

    Fewer entrepreneurs are founding startups around London's so-called Silicon Roundabout area, according to figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.

    Silicon Roundabout, the name used to describe the startup cluster in London's EC1V postcode, saw new business openings fall by 70% last year, according to accountancy firm UHY Hacker Young, which obtained the figures from HMRC.

    The number of companies set up in the EC1V postcode — based around the Old Street gyratory system — was just 3,070 in 2016, down from 10,280 in 2015, and 15,620 in 2014. It's worth noting that the figures include startups spanning all industries, not just tech.

    Surging rents in the increasingly gentrified Silicon Roundabout area are thought to have contributed to the decline in startup activity. It's also likely that many of the properties in the area are already occupied by established companies, making it hard for new players to move in.

    Colin Jones, partner at accountancy firm UHY Hacker Young, said in a statement: "Silicon Roundabout has fallen off the top spot in terms of new business creation, it is a victim of its own success. The Silicon Roundabout area gained popularity with internet companies originally due to its historically low rents. Now that rents have soared, the area has lost its competitive advantage."

    Interestingly, City Road (postcode N1), situated immediately north of Old Street roundabout and often regarded as being part of the Silicon Roundabout cluster, saw a 75% increase in the number of new businesses founded last year. The number of new businesses forming in the area jumped from 8,400 in 2015 to 14,710 in 2016, according to UHY Hacker Young.

    Somewhat bizarrely, Leicester Square — situated in central London — saw a 142% increase in startup creation in 2016, possibly fuelled by the presence of nearby Google.

    It's not just startups that are neglecting Silicon Roundabout. Silicon Valley firms like Google, Facebook, and Apple have chosen to set up their UK headquarters in other parts of London.

    Gerard Grech, Tech City UK CEOFormer Prime Minister David Cameron endorsed Silicon Roundabout in 2010 when he created a new government quango called the Tech City Investment Organisation (TCIO), since renamed to Tech City UK, to support and promote tech companies in the neighbourhood. The organisation's remit has also been expanded to support tech hubs across the UK.

    Gerard Grech, CEO of Tech City UK, dismissed UHY Hacker Young's report, saying it's only a good thing that tech is spreading out across London and the rest of the UK.

    "Anybody trying to build a negative argument about the relative performance of a single postcode in East London is seriously missing the point and in danger of talking down one of this country’s great global strengths," he said in a statement.

    "Outside of Silicon Valley, the UK — and London in particular — plays host to one of the biggest tech scenes on the planet. We continue to dominate tech innovation in Europe, streets ahead of Berlin, Paris and Stockholm and for good reason. Tech City UK has been, is, and will continue to play a lead role in that growth."

    Join the conversation about this story »

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    Stephen Rapoport Pact Founder

    Pact Coffee, a London startup that delivers fresh coffee to people in the UK, has moved out of its trendy office in South London.

    The office was spread over two floors of an old Victorian biscuit factory, with exposed brickwork and original beams throughout. It also boasted a barista bar and enough space for cyclists to ride in straight off the street, according to TimeOut.

    Founded in 2012 by Stephen Rapoport, Pact Coffee delivers freshly roasted coffee by post. The company says that its coffee is roast, ground, and shipped all within seven days.

    The startup's office, which housed up to 75 Pact Coffee employees at one point, has been taken over by neighbour Entrepreneur First — an organisation that helps individuals form deeply-technical companies through a 12-month startup programme.

    Pact Coffee's move comes after the startup failed to hit a £1 million crowdfunding target last March. The Crowdcube campaign was terminated early, with the company raising just £190,000, less than a fifth of its overall target. Pact Coffee cut 16 jobs shortly after terminating the campaign. The company's headcount now stands at 47 people.

    "As you know, we made 16 redundancies back in May 2016 and moved office as a result as we didn't need so many desks," Rapoport told Business Insider by email, adding that Pact Coffee has been in its new office for four months.

    Rapoport added that "The Grindhouse"— home to Pact Coffee's lab, roasting, grinding, and packaging — remains next to Pact Coffee's old office. "It was only the lowly desk-jockeys like myself that moved." The new office is a short walk from the old office and The Grindhouse.

    When asked how much rent Pact Coffee is paying in the new office compared to the old one, Rapoport said he wasn't sure on the exact figures. "I know Bermondsey is in the rise," he added, before going on to say it's "still far cheaper than shoreditch."

    ripe coffee beans

    Pact Coffee has several thousand customers across the UK. When it announced the crowdfunding campaign, it said it wanted to raise more capital in order to scale-up, go international, and take advantage of a "home coffee" market that Pact Coffee believes to be worth over £1 billion.

    Prior to the crowdfunding campaign, well-known investor Robin Klein invested in the company, as did venture capital firm MMC Ventures. To date, Pact Coffee has raised a total $8.1 million (£5.6 million).

    "Pact has continued to grow steadily throughout the year," Rapoport added. "When the time comes for a larger logistics facility, it will be a complex/costly operation to move but we've never shied away from a challenge."

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: This machine solves the most time-consuming things about doing laundry


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    Station F

    Facebook COO Sherly Sandberg announced on Tuesday that Facebook is planning to open its first startup incubator in Paris.

    The incubator — known as Startup Garage — will be run out of a new €250 million (£219 million) startup campus called Station F, which is due to be the largest in the world when it opens in April.

    Roxanne Varza, the director of Station F, said that Facebook was going to move in at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in London last December but details of the arrangement are only now coming to light.

    Through the incubator, Facebook will provide 80 desks and space for 10-15 independent "data-driven" startups over a six-month period. Facebook will also give the early-stage. startups access to "experienced" Facebook employees through a number of workshops spanning areas including design and user experience, marketing, technical support or user focus groups. Facebook is inviting startups to apply via the Startup Garage Facebook page.

    The financial terms of the deal were not disclosed but Facebook described it as a "multi-million euro commitment over a number of years". Facebook will not take any equity in the businesses it chooses to support.

    "France is home to some of the most innovative technology companies in the world," said Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Facebook, in a statement. "We're excited to support a new generation of French startups with enormous potential to grow the economy and create jobs."

    Funded by French telecoms billionaire Xavier Niel, Station F is being developed in a former train station that was built in 1929. The company plans to house over 1,000 startups, who will be charged €195 a month. The 32,000 square metre space will also contain a restaurant, a bar, and a "makerspace".

    "We are thrilled that Facebook chose Station F to house its very first on-site startup initiative worldwide," said Varza, in a statement. "We see this as a true partnership, which will provide the whole campus with access to Facebook’s teams and expertise. Facebook's story continues to inspire entrepreneurs from around the world and the company is truly a great model for the thousands of young startups that will be working at Station F."

    Station F

    The incubator marks Facebook's second major investment in France. The social media giant announced an AI lab in Paris last June.

    "We chose Paris for this expansion because France is home to some of the best researchers in the world," Facebook wrote at the time. "We think the FAIR [Facebook AI Research] Paris team will bring valuable expertise and new perspectives to our work, and we plan to work openly with and invest in the AI research community in France, the EU, and beyond as we strive to make meaningful progress in these fields."

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: There's a hidden map in your iPhone of everywhere you've been


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    Verizon coworking space

    US telecoms giant Verizon has announced plans to open a coworking space for up to 200 startups in London.

    The space, based out of an existing Verizon office in Clerkenwell, is being developed in conjunction with workspace provider Work.Life and is set to open in April.

    Startups that wish to base themselves out of the new facility will be charged £250 +VAT per person, according to a Verizon spokesperson.

    Verizon said the space — set to open after a £1.2 million building refurbishment — is designed to bridge the gap between corporates and startups.

    Tony Judd, managing director for Verizon in the UK, said in a statement: "We see this coworking agreement as a great opportunity for spotting innovation and accelerating it to market, for helping individual ideas to grow, and for shaping new threads of collaboration with the residents of the space.

    "It is a great way to breathe new life into our existing site, opening its doors to a new audience and transforming it into a centre of innovation and collaboration."

    Verizon coworking space London

    Founded less than two years ago, Work.Life has already set up other spaces in Camden, London Fields, Bermondsey, and Reading. It plans to open four more in 2017.

    "There is a commonality between the two businesses that recognises the power of human connection in the new working economy," said Work.Life's founders, David Kosky and Elliot Gold, in a joint statement.

    "We already place the personal touch at the heart of what we do, so our 1000+ members can get a genuine buzz out of coming to work and actually look forward to Monday's. By providing access to a global leader in digital thinking, we are now helping to provide the high-level connections, advice and insight each of our members is looking for."

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: 9 iPhone tricks that will make your life easier in 2017


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    Deliveroo CEO William Shu

    London food delivery startup Deliveroo said on Wednesday that it is planning to hire 300 tech workers in the UK.

    The company, which allows people to order food from over 20,000 restaurants that don't typically deliver via an app, said its worldwide sales grew 650% in 2016, despite increasing competition from US heavyweights like Uber and Amazon.

    Founded in 2012 by former Morgan Stanley investment banking analyst Will Shu and software developer Greg Orlowski, Deliveroo now employs over 1,000 full-time staff worldwide (excluding couriers). Of those jobs, roughly 125 are tech roles.

    The new tech roles — to be based out of Deliveroo's new headquarters on Cannon Street, London — will include many "highly-skilled" and "experienced" jobs, according to Deliveroo. Interestingly, the app-based company said it is looking to hire both software and hardware engineers.

    The new roles will include software engineers, research scientists, product managers, user researchers, designers and data analysts, Deliveroo said.

    Will Shu, founder and CEO of Deliveroo, said in a statement: "Deliveroo is going from strength to strength and growing every single day. London is where I founded this company and it's from our headquarters here that we export our British-born technology around the world.

    "That's why we're now on the lookout for over 300 people to join our engineering team. To any young engineer wanting to be part of Britain's most exciting technology company, I'd say now's the time to join Deliveroo.

    "When so many of the success stories in the on-demand economy have been grown from America, I am particularly proud to be doing this here in Britain."Customer using Deliveroo

    In the UK, for every transaction, Deliveroo charges the customer a £2.50 delivery charge and takes a commission fee from the restaurant. Restaurants like PizzaExpress, Dishoom, and Gourmet Burger Kitchen have all signed up to the platform, as has Michelin-starred restaurant Trishna.

    The company has expanded to 130 cities across 12 countries with the help of $475 million (£386 million) in funding from venture capital funds like Accel Partners, which backed the likes of Facebook and Dropbox in their early days.

    But Deliveroo's rapid expansion hasn't come cheap. Documents filed with Companies House show that Deliveroo lost £18.1 million in 2015, up from £1.4 million in 2014.

    The company has also struggled to keep all of its couriers happy, with a series of strikes taking place outside its headquarters last summer over a new payment model that saw some drivers earning less than minimum wage.

    Phil Cox, head of EMEA and president of the UK branch of Silicon Valley Bank, said managed food delivery escalated in 2016.

    During this time, less well funded startups like Take Eat Easy struggled to compete, with the Belgian company filing for administration in July 2016.

    "Across Europe, recent deals indicate that soon only the most scalable and cost effective food delivery companies will survive," said Cox.

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    andrew jervis clickmechanic ceo mechanics startup

    LONDON — Andrew Jervis has the auto trade in his blood.

    His grandfather was a military mechanic during the second world war, and went on to create a successful mechanics and leasing company.

    His father, after leaving school at 15 to become a mechanic, now owns the biggest Kia franchise dealership in the UK.

    And his brother is a mechanic today.

    The 32-year-old former Isle of Man resident has put a twenty-first century spin on the family trade. He's cofounder and CEO of ClickMechanic — an online marketplace for car mechanics.

    It's an "exciting" time for the company, he told Business Insider. Last year, it closed a $1 million funding round (£810,000), briefly reached net profitability, and is starting to expand into the garages for the first time.

    The origins of ClickMechanic

    Jervis cofounded ClickMechanic in 2012 with Felix Kenton after finishing a research masters at the University of Manchester looking at problems in the automotive repair space. Today, it's based in West London, in the friendly but slightly ramshackle Ugli Campus workspace in White City, West London — far from London's trendy startup heart of Shoreditch and "Silicon Roundabout."

    ClickMechanic is, simply, an online marketplace for mechanics. If you need a mechanic, you go to the site, provide information about your vehicle and the details of what it needs done, and it gives you a quote for the costs. If you're happy, it'll match you up with a mechanic in the area, who will come along and work on your vehicle wherever it is.

    Unlike other rival services that let mechanics and garages bid on potential jobs, ClickMechanic sets the fees itself — and takes 20% for its trouble.

    "We're delivering [mechanics] bookings that they just have to accept ," Jervis said. "All the mechanic is doing is fixing cars and getting paid for it. They're not having to do marketing, they're not having to do accounting, they're not having to do customer service, they're not having to bid on work. So there's a lot of value we offer to each transaction, which I think the vast majority of mechanics realise."

    Available throughout England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, the startup has 1,000 mechanics on its platform, with thousands of completed bookings every month, Jervis said. The site gets a quarter of a million visits a month, with hundreds of thousands of registered users.

    It's a huge market opportunity, Jervis says: £21.1 billion is spent on service and repair every year, according to industry trade association SMNT.

    clickmechanic homepage

    ClickMechanic is on a hiring spree, and expanding its reach

    ClickMechanic has raised external funding before — in a 2015 £320,000 seed round from angel investors, including former Just Eat CEO Klaus Nyengaard.

    The funding round formally announced today, for $1 million, brings in institutional investors for the first time: Early stage investment firm Forward Partners and seed-fund-slash-startup-accelerator 500 Startups. At the time of the investment, the startup was running at a "monthly net profitable position," the CEO says, though it has since made additional hires and investment.

    Jervis is hesitant to call the (oversubscribed) round a Series A: "No, it's not, it's too small ... with this investment, the idea is to deploy the cash, deploy most of it, then raise a proper Series A." (He declined to discuss the valuation, but said it was "significantly more than it was for the last round.")

    The cash injection is being spent in a range of areas as the business grows.

    ClickMechanic is hiring heavily, "in all different areas. In operations, in tech, marketing, business development, so right across the board," Jervis says. The current headcount is around 20, but the aim is to be 40-strong by the end of 2017.

    The chief exec also aims to diversify the company's sources of customers: "We're in discussions with some of the big digital players in the automotive space about working with them."

    And — most significantly for the startup's customers — it is expanding into garages for the first time.

    mechanicHistorically, ClickMechanic has only worked with mobile mechanics — mechanics that will come to your vehicle and work on it there, wherever it is. After a pilot in the summer of 2016, it is now partnering with independent garages who will pick up customers' vehicles and take them away to their facilities to work on them — broadening the kind of work available on the platform.

    "The customer doesn't have to drive to the garage, they don't have to sit around. The user experience is very similar in so far as the mechanic comes to you, the only difference is they're recovering the vehicle to a workshop to perform the work and then returning it."

    Nic Brisbourne, managing partner at Forward Partners (which is investing £400,000 into ClickMechanic), said in an email: "I'd heard a little about ClickMechanic through industry contacts but we first met Andrew and Felix at a networking event in early 2016. I was immediately impressed with their overall vision for the business and the mission they were on to improve the experiences of UK customers in an industry ripe for disruption. "

    The family trade

    There's an interesting parallel between Andrew Jervis' business and that of his grandfather, 60-odd years ago.

    "My Granddad, in the Second World War, he was a mechanic, and he used to fix all the military vehicles," Jervis told me.

    "He went in as a really young lad, I think he was 18 or something, and learnt this trade for five years. And when he came out of the army his dad wanted him to get involved in the family haulage business, and he was like 'I kinda want to carry on fixing cars. This is quite fun.'

    "And he set up a tiny little workshop that could just fit one car in. He got fixing cars — and it just so happened that it coincided with the growth of vehicles on UK roads, kinda growing almost exponentially. The carpool in the UK was growing massively through the fourties, fifties, sixties, seventies. So his little mechanics business got a few more mechanics. Then he started buying cars, fixing, and selling them. Then he started importing cars. Then it grew into a lease company. Then he ultimately sold that in the seventies."

    Half a century later, Jervis is capitalising on a similar seismic change to the growth of personal car ownership: The internet, and the online marketplaces it has enabled.

    "Growing up a lot of my school holidays were spent in parts departments or just round that world, but I decided not to become a mechanic," Jervis says. He went to university, did business studies, got a job at a bank at the Isle of Man, and went on to set up an initial business connected to the automotive industry.

    He then decided he wanted to get off the island, took the masters at the University of Manchester — including an "85,000 word thesis on the automotive repair space problems [and] solutions"— before moving to London. He joined the Entrepreneur First accelerator, met his cofounder, and ClickMechanic was born.

    'We can offer something slightly different'

    The company is also beginning to think about expansion overseas. It'd likely be major Western European country with high car penetration like France, Germany, or Spain ("but we haven't nailed anything down"), at the end of 2017 or the start of 2018.

    But for all the optimism, hiring, and expansion plans, it's not all plain sailing. One problem Jervis identifies is the difficulty of hiring in London. There's not enough top-tier technical talent, he says — and when it exists, it's in serious demand.

    "We've seen a lot of candidates who've been okay, but maybe not the exceptional people we want. But when we find the exceptional people we want, we often find they'll have five or six offers, and you'll be competing with a Deliveroo or Carwow. And it's like 'okay, well we can offer something slightly different,' but those are the kind of sexy unicorns or startups who are in the press on a weekly basis and huge coffers of money, and they spend big."

    But what about Brexit? It's a subject of constant concern for the UK technology industry— just like everyone else — and threatens to make hiring in the tech sector even harder. "It's probably brought a little bit of uncertainty around the funding ecosystem, access to talent with migration, I think even consumer uncertainty a little bit. Those sorts of events, and Trump and so on, just make people a little bit uneasy. So I don't know what sort of material effect it has had if it hadn't happened, but I'm sure it's had some sort of effect."

    He then adds: "But ultimately, if we grow a succesful company, it's down to us ... whether it's a great economic climate to operate in or not."

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: The story of Lisa Brennan-Jobs, the daughter Steve Jobs claimed wasn't his


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    UK company money.co.uk is based out of a grade II-listed castle in Gloucestershire. The startup has given its headquarters a £3 million revamp and invested in a cinema, ice cave, and a "bored room."

    Staff working there get some enjoyable perks, including an all-expenses paid holiday each year and bonuses up to 45% of their salary.

    Watch the video to see how their HQ has been transformed.

    Produced by Claudia Romeo

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    Jinn strike

    Couriers working for delivery app Jinn have gone on strike over pay outside the company's office in East London.

    Jinn, which operates an app that allows people to get things delivered from restaurants like McDonald's and shops, told riders on Wednesday morning that it had changed its payment model.

    The company is moving from paying drivers £8 an hour plus £1.50 per delivery to paying them £7 per delivery and no hourly fee, according to two Jinn couriers.

    Leon Herrera, Jinn's cofounder, was heckled and told he was a "thief" when he confronted the protestors on the street. "You're treating us like slaves," shouted one of the protesters at Herrera.

    A security guard that manages the building Jinn is in told Business Insider around 7pm that the police had been called as drivers surrounded Herrera and tried to stop him returning to his office.

    Jinn protest

    Several drivers at the protest, which took place outside Jinn's office in Aldgate, expressed concern over the new payment model. "What happens if we don't get any orders?" said one courier, who wished to remain anonymous. Another said: "We can wait in the cold for 12 hours straight and not get paid. That’s a problem."

    Approximately 40 drivers were at the protest at 6pm (GMT) on Wednesday but some drivers expected that figure to rise to around 100. The protest has been arranged simply by word of mouth as opposed to social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, one driver said.

    This is not the first time that couriers working for so-called gig-economy platforms like Jinn have gone on strike over pay.

    Deliveroo and UberEats saw their riders go on strike last year when they started paying drivers per delivery instead of per hour.

    Jinn did not immediately respond to Business Insider's request for comment.

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: The story of Lisa Brennan-Jobs, the daughter Steve Jobs claimed wasn't his


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    Deliveroo Greg Orlowski

    The cofounder and chief technology officer of food delivery service Deliveroo has built a new startup called Peanut that is expected to launch next month, TechCrunch reports.

    Greg Orlowski, who cofounded Deliveroo in 2012 with former Morgan Stanley investment banking analyst Will Shu, quietly left Deliveroo last February.

    The reason? He "wanted to spend more time with his wife in Chicago after the birth of their daughter,"Shu told The Evening Standard.

    Now it would appear that Orlowski, who did not immediately respond to Business Insider's request for comment, is ready to get back to work and take on a new challenge.

    He's cofounded a company called Peanut — a new friend-dating app for mums and mums-to-be — with Michelle Kennedy, the former deputy CEO of dating app Badoo.

    The company was incorporated as "Peanut App Limited" on June 23 2016, according to documents filed with Companies House.

    Peanut

    Peanut's early investors reportedly include Facebook exec Julien Codorniou and venture capitalists NEA, Felix Capital, and Partech.

    The app is similar in design and appearance to other dating apps that are already out there, according to TechCrunch, which says that it is focused on chat and discovery.

    Users log in with their Facebook accounts before answering some questions relating to their due date and any other children they may have. The app uses these answers, in conjunction with location-based information, to recommend potential mummy-matches in their area.

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Airplane designers have a brilliant idea for the middle seat


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    Deliveroo Dan Warne

    Deliveroo has launched a subscription service called Deliveroo Plus in six UK cities.

    Those that sign up to the service — priced at £8.99 a month or £89 per year — won't have to pay Deliveroo's £2.50 delivery fee each time they place an order.

    The trial launched on Thursday in Manchester, Birmingham, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Brighton and York.

    Dan Warne, UK & Ireland managing director at Deliveroo, said in a statement: "Ordering great food from great restaurants on Deliveroo is an increasingly big part of many people's daily lives, and Deliveroo Plus is all about rewarding them. This new subscription service gives our customers an even better experience and even better value for money when they order with us."

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Here's the gorgeous trailer for 'Super Mario Odyssey' — the first Mario game for Nintendo Switch


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    magnises screenshot

    With the promise of access to the hottest clubs, most difficult-to-score tickets, and cultural events like Fashion Week and Art Basel, Magnises markets itself as the ultimate social group for "elite" young professionals.

    But three years after the company's launch, some members are complaining that the service hasn't delivered on what was advertised.

    Business Insider spoke with seven current and former Magnises members, all in New York City, who recounted similar stories of not receiving tickets on the timeline promised, of having to rearrange plans multiple times because of the startup's scheduling snafus, and of trips being canceled outright — sometimes the day before they were scheduled to take place. Several of the members said they received unwanted charges to their credit cards from Magnises, which in some cases took more than a month to refund their money.

    Magnises members pay a $250 annual fee that allows them to attend happy hours and other events. The company works with concierges who can arrange restaurant reservations, book travel, or make suggestions for things to do in your city.

    Members make all these arrangements through an app called Magnises NOW.

    Since its inception in 2014, the New York-based startup has expanded to Washington, DC, and San Francisco. It now has nearly 40,000 members. Though roughly 60% of those members are still in New York, it's a large increase from just 12,000 members in February 2016.

    Founder and CEO Billy McFarland said the startup has raised $3.1 million in venture capital since its founding, and it has been cash-flow positive for the past year. It has 25 employees.

    According to accounts from current and former members, Magnises' customer-service reps generally blame the company's shortcomings on its being a fast-moving startup that's constantly responding to customers' requests for new features.

    "We've hit some roadblocks along the way, and that's what happens when you grow really quickly, and that's on me," McFarland said.

    From the beginning, a place to party

    When Magnises launched in 2014, operations were based in a West Village townhouse where the company would host parties and networking events. To join, prospective members would fill out an online application that was reviewed by the Magnises team.

    "I brought friends to the townhouse for happy hours and that was really fun," said one former member, who wished to remain anonymous. "People worked all across the board — marketing and finance, or they were entrepreneurs. It was definitely a young professional crowd."

    Magnises was originally known for a black card that would be linked with a member's bank or credit card for payment purposes. By flashing your Magnises card, you could get discounts at restaurants, bars, or clubs and reserve experiences like private concerts and luxurious getaways.

    "We're building a complete platform that connects millennials with new businesses, online and offline. One thing that everyone carries with them at all times is their debit or credit card," McFarland told Business Insider in July 2015. "So we tied it to that." Since then, the company nixed the black cards in favor of the digital app.

    Magnises

    Magnises moved out of the West Village townhouse and into a penthouse at the Hotel on Rivington. Though it still uses that penthouse space for summer happy-hour events, Magnises bases most of its operations out of the Jue Lan Club in Chelsea. Over the years, the company has offered plans that give members access to everything from coworking facilities to the most exclusive nightclubs in New York.

    Last year, Magnises started to shift its focus from a club for networking and happy hours to one that could get its members tickets to the coolest events in town. It started offering hard-to-come-by tickets to concerts by artists like Rick Ross, Ja Rule, and, later, bigger names like Beyoncé, Adele, and Kanye West. Magnises would purchase these tickets from a third-party vendor and resell them to members.

    For many of those who decided to join Magnises in the spring and summer of 2016, easy access to these in-demand tickets was a major draw.

    "We've sent 5,000 of our members to concerts or shows like 'Hamilton' since May," McFarland recently told Business Insider.

    Ticket hiccups

    But it seemed as more people signed up for Magnises, it became more difficult for the startup to fulfill its ticket requests.

    One former member, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, said that they bought several tickets for several events — including Beyoncé's concert at Citi Field, one of Adele's shows at Madison Square Garden, and a performance of "Hamilton"— soon after joining Magnises in February 2016. This member claims to have had logistical issues with nearly every event for which they had purchased tickets.

    Each time, just before the show (often the day before the event or even the day of) a representative for Magnises would send an email explaining that the startup would no longer be able to provide the purchased ticket and offer to help reschedule the seat for another date.

    "They send the same email for every problem, but it's like fill-in-the-blanks for what the problem is," the person said.

    Just before Beyoncé's concert at Citi Field in June, the same member said they received the standard email explaining that Magnises would no longer be able to provide the tickets as promised and offered to switch the tickets for a show the following day. After complaining, the member did end up getting tickets to the original show they had planned for, but they were surprised to see that the tickets they were given had someone else's name on them.

    According to accounts from several Magnises members, the startup will often try to placate those affected by cancellations by offering them tickets to future events. And though the members we spoke with did say their issues were ultimately resolved, it was often only after days of rescheduling and back-and-forth with the company. Three of the former members we spoke with said they were asked to delete negative tweets by customer service reps who explained the mix-ups by saying that Magnises was still a startup working out the kinks of its business.

    Problems escalated last year when Magnises started promoting tickets to "Hamilton" online and through its concierge app.

    "Signing up for it was seamless. I bought four tickets for an October show," Pearce Delisle, a former Magnises member, told Business Insider. "I checked in [with Magnises] multiple times to confirm where the seats were and if they were together. They told me they couldn't confirm the seats until the day of. The friend who I had bought the tickets with had moved away, so they needed to fly in.

    "Two days before the show I got the email to cancel," Delisle said.

    Magnises' terms of service do warn about the possibility of cancellations: "All tickets for concerts, shows, and sporting events purchased through Magnises are subject to availability. Magnises cannot guarantee that groups of two or more will be seated together ... Magnises is not liable for the cost of travel arrangements or accommodations made as a result of ticket purchases. Tickets may be canceled and the cost refunded in full up to 10 days before the ticketed events, after which time all sales are final." 

    Several members have said that the point of paying $250 for an annual membership is to bypass the challenges that consumers sometimes face in gaining access to popular events. Some said their tickets have been rescheduled two or three times as a result of various problems Magnises encountered in planning. 

    Delisle, for example, had to reschedule his October tickets for a December showing of "Hamilton," so the friend who needed to fly in for it rescheduled his flight. The day before the show, Delisle received an email that was nearly identical to the first, saying that Magnises would no longer be able to provide the four tickets he had purchased (for a total of $1,200). 

    "The whole value proposition is providing access to these events and twice they failed to deliver," Delisle said.

    He rescheduled his tickets for a third time and made plans for his friend to visit for the show on January 6. By 3 p.m. on the day of the show, he had yet to receive his tickets from Magnises, which said it would send his tickets by email to print out. After waiting at a FedEx location for an hour, Delisle was told his tickets would be at the theater's will call. When he went to the theater, the tickets weren't there.

    The Magnises concierge then helped coordinate a drop-off at the restaurant where Delisle would be eating dinner just before the show.

    "I did have a good experience talking with the VP of customer service at that point," Delisle said. "She was very professional and sympathetic and said, 'We'll prioritize yours.'

    "It's just so stressful because once you start involving other people, the pressure is on you to deliver." 

    Delisle did end up enjoying the show, as did fellow member Victoria Reitano, the founder and CEO of the social media marketing agency CreatiVix Media

    "I will say they were a little scattered," Reitano said. "But the tickets were great seats, and it was a great experience." 

    McFarland, for his part, doesn't seem thrilled with the way the ticket service has worked out for his customers. While he said that most of the ticket sales have been a success, he still wants to make things right for those who have had a bad experience, which he said is about 5% of members.

    "Our system was amazing when we had 18,000 members or 20,000 members, but once we got up to 40,000, we ran into some roadblocks scaling with our vendor," he told Business Insider. "We need to figure out a better relationship so that we can get to what we promised. We're having growing pains and it's tough, and we have to get through it." 

    Going abroad

    At the same time customers were experiencing issues with Magnises' ticket vendors, the startup was advertising even more special deals for members.

    Two years ago it launched a feature called Magnises Air, which was primarily focused on shuttling members from New York City to the Hamptons on SR-22 planes. McFarland said that 175 of these flights between Manhattan and the East End have taken place.

    But last July, Magnises started advertising a new set of private flights, most of which would take members much farther than the Hamptons.

    "Introducing Magnises Air: All Access — serving private flights to and from six of the most exciting experiences of the year. Flights are $1,650 each or any four for $4,000," the email read. "You'll be traveling in the SR-22, aka the 'Ferrari of the Sky.' Its size and versatility allow us to access hard-to-reach locations and smaller airports closer to your destination."

    cirrus sr 22

    According to the promotional email, private flights would be offered to six destinations: New Orleans for a Ja Rule and Ashanti concert, Cuba for Columbus Day weekend, the Outer Banks for a weekend of kitesurfing, Miami for Art Basel, Lake Placid for a weekend of skiing, and a trip for NBA All-Star weekend.

    Robert Egan, a former Magnises member who works in private wealth management, decided it was a good enough deal to buy two tickets for two different trips: to Cuba in October and to Miami for Art Basel in December. The four tickets totaled $4,000. Egan said it took several months for Magnises to charge his credit card.

    "When they did finally charge me, there were no details at all about the trip — where we were flying to exactly, where we would meet, or anything like that," Egan said. "It was one week before the trip to Cuba, and I still had no information. But then we get an email that the trip was canceled because of Hurricane Matthew, and that it would be rescheduled for the same weekend as the Art Basel trip. They said it wasn't deliberate, and they refunded my $2,000 for the Miami trip within 24 hours."

    Then, a month before the trip, Egan said he received an itinerary so detailed that he stopped asking questions about the logistics of the flights. According to the itinerary, the Magnises group would visit the Parque Morro, tour Ernest Hemingway's home, and explore the Viñales Valley by Jeep. 

    But then, the day before the rescheduled Cuba trip was set to take place, Egan received another email that the trip would be rescheduled yet again, this time because Cuba was in a mourning period after Fidel Castro's death. A representative for Magnises told Egan that there was no travel allowed to Cuba at all during that period.

    "I called them out on it, since I knew people who were going to Cuba that week. I told them, 'For me to believe you that this trip was actually going to happen, send me a copy of our visas, or even our visa applications. There should be some kind paper trail,'" Egan said. "And they said, 'We'll provide you with confirmation when it's rescheduled.'"

    Around the same time, Magnises charged Egan $250 to renew his membership for the following year, even though it was December, and his membership would not have reached the one-year mark until February.

    "That's when I lost it. They said the refunding would take 10 days. I work in finance, and I know no transaction that small would take that long. I reported it to AmEx, and they immediately credited my account," Egan said.

    According to The New York Times, it's common practice for organizations planning travel to Cuba to provide those in the group with the necessary tourist cards. When asked whether the paperwork for the Magnises group to visit Cuba had indeed been completed, McFarland told Business Insider, "Yes, the visas exist. We work with a travel-guide company who gets the visas for us."

    Magnises did end up refunding all of Egan's money, though the membership-renewal charge took nearly a month to get back. The startup's website is still promoting private flights to Miami and the Bahamas for 2017.  

    magnisees

    McFarland explained that the trips are being arranged by several Magnises members who are pilots and operate their own planes.

    "The Cuba trip is going to happen," he said. "It's in the members' hands now. They just have a list of dates they have to pick."

    Early charging of renewal fees

    Another member, Elise Omaits, ended up filing a complaint with the Better Business Bureau after Magnises charged her five months early to renew her membership. She didn't receive a refund until a month after contesting the charge with Magnises. Three other former members Business Insider spoke with reported similar experiences.

    "I basically wasn't planning to renew because it wasn't really my flavor," Omaits told Business Insider. "Two hundred and fifty dollars is a lot for me — it's basically an entire month's budget of going out. Plus, this was right before Christmas. I'm mad because I didn't feel like I had the great experience that was advertised to me."

    In a follow-up call, Magnises told her that about 100 people were affected by early charges because of a problem with Stripe, the payments system that the startup uses to process its memberships. Magnises' customer-service team requested that Omaits take down her Better Business Bureau complaint and added that the startup is growing is so quickly that it didn't have the time to offer proper apologies to each of its members.

    The Better Business Bureau lists three resolved complaints on Magnises' profile from the past year.

    The startup's terms of service do include a section about membership fees. It reads: "Unless a cancellation request is made ahead of your renewal date, the annual fee, subject to change, will recur in the last week of the month prior to your renewal month. There is no year-to-year cancellation fee."

    McFarland blamed the error on technical difficulties: "We've been slowly switching our processors over the last few months since we've grown. We're growing super fast, and we fix things when they go wrong."

    What's next

    Despite the hiccups it has faced, Magnises continues to expand the perks it offers members. In December it launched SportsPass, which offers members lower-level tickets for events at the Barclays Center, including Brooklyn Nets and New York Islanders games. It recently announced a partnership with Glam & Go, which aims to give members discounted pricing on blowouts as well as other wellness perks like discounts at Cyc Fitness and personal training at Equinox.

    Its planned events in December included a shopping experience with Shinola, and McFarland said the team is working with Lululemon on what he described as a wellness kickoff to 2017.

    "Our general theme now is how we can impact the member on a daily basis," McFarland said.

    Of course not all services offered by Magnises have caused headaches for members. Reitano, for example, has attended a number of the startup's free events, and Delisle did use Magnises' concierge service to book restaurant reservations. But he said that Magnises typically uses the booking app Resy to make these reservations, and even asked Delisle for his login information so they could do it for him.

    "There's really no added value there," he said.

    If you have a story to share about Magnises, email life@businessinsider.com.

    SEE ALSO: The fabulous life of Snap CEO Evan Spiegel, the world's youngest self-made billionaire

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    Axelle Lemaire France digital minister

    France is introducing a new immigration visa for people working in the technology sector in a bid to help startups in cities like Paris take on rival firms in London and Berlin.

    The "French Tech Visa" will allow overseas developers and founders outside the EU to be fast tracked on France's "Passeport Talents" visa programme.

    The tech visa — announced last week— costs €270 (£230), and, unlike the UK equivalent that's given out by Tech City UK, there is no cap on the number of people it can be awarded to each year.

    It'll be available to skilled recent graduates, highly-skilled workers, researchers, founders, and investors, as well as anyone that's internationally or nationally renowned in the tech field.

    France's approach to immigration contrasts significantly with that of British Prime Minister Theresa May. Last January, May announced plans that will make it even harder for UK companies to hire talent. Specifically, she suggested a £1,000-a-year ($1,400), per person, tax on businesses that want to bring in high-skilled, or highly educated, workers from non-EU countries.

    May's plan, set to be introduced from April, is a response to Prime Minister David Cameron's promise to reduce immigration generally, on the theory that British companies will be forced to employ British people instead.

    Business Insider spoke to Axelle Lemaire, French Minister of state for digital affairs, to find out more about the French Tech Visa.

    This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.

    Business Insider: Why has France introduced this visa?

    Axelle Lemaire: "This visa aims to complete the supportive framework we implemented in France for innovation and startups by easing the French startups ecosystem, whether they are incubators, accelerators, startups or investors, to have access to the best talents.

    "We have the conviction that the only way to seize all growth opportunities in the 21st century is to attract as many brains and talents as we can. In the global competition for these talents, we had to boost France competitiveness.

    "This is the goal of this initiative: making the administrative path to obtain a visa simple, fast and readable in order to reinforce France attractiveness for foreign entrepreneurs, employees and investors.

    "The idea to create that visa crossed our minds when we realised the success of a similar initiative, the French Tech Ticket. In two years, this program allowed 230 entrepreneurs to come to France to launch their startup. 230 [but] over… 4,500 candidates! This gap showed us that there was a large potential for France in terms of attracting foreign talents."

    BI: Do you think the visa will help France to compete with countries like the UK, Germany and Sweden when it comes to building "unicorn" businesses?

    AL: "Well, giving a strong advantage to French innovation ecosystem in the international competition is clearly our goal with the implementation of this visa. France offers a truly supportive fiscal and legal framework for startups and we wanted to complete it with a fast track visa dedicated to those who are likely to boost French startups growth with their knowledge, capital and creativity.

    "That being said, I'm convinced that we won't build unicorns in Europe if we keep a narrow national mindset. We also need to build more and more bridges between different ecosystems to create the condition for the uptake of global digital champions in Europe. That's precisely we’ve launched initiatives like the French-tech hub London, to build bridges between French and British ecosystems; that's also why we're currently working with Germany on creating a €1 billion fund to help international development of scaleups in the EU."

    BI: Do you see a time (post-Brexit) when UK tech workers may have to apply for this visa?

    AL: "UK leaders are still unclear about the path they will follow in their adventure and we still do not know what will be the results of the negotiations with the EU, but it is a possibility. UK citizens chose, freely and democratically, to leave the EU.

    "As democrats we respect that vote, even if I, having been a French resident in London for 15 years, was personally deeply affected and disappointed by the result of the ballot. But since the question of freedom of movement will certainly be part of the discussion, there is a possibility that UK citizens might need to apply for this visa in the future if they want to come to France. And I am sure many of them will do so, and they are welcome!"

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    Jinn protest

    Couriers at delivery startup Jinn are making plans to protest in cities across the UK following an initial protest outside the startup's London office last Wednesday.

    The protests are set to take place on Monday in London, Glasgow, Leeds, Birmingham, Edinburgh, and Manchester.

    They're being planned because riders are unhappy with changes that have been made to the way they're paid.

    Jinn used to pay London couriers £8 per hour plus a delivery fee of £1.50 per delivery. But last Wednesday a decision was made by managers to shift courier wages drastically in cities across the UK.

    Now there is a more complex payment system in place where Jinn riders are paid bonuses depending on the number of deliveries they make. Essentially, it varies depending on demand for Jinn's service. Unlike UberEats and Deliveroo, — where a courier logs in anytime it's possible, thus making them self employed — Jinn's variable pay applies to contracted hours.

    One of the protest organisers in Glasgow, who wished to remain anonymous, told Business Insider: "The couriers over here are devastated to say the least. I would imagine it's not any better in other cities in UK where the change was implemented. We're facing missed rent and financial hardships."

    The courier also claimed that Jinn's local managers in Glasgow have been evading his questions. "All the important questions get dodged regardless if we ask them formally or informally, and in the response to our inquiry via email we're even getting straight up lies," he said.

    Jinn CEO Leon Herrera was heckled when he confronted angry Jinn couriers outside the company's office last Wednesday. One protestor threw a bottle at Herrera as he started walking back to the office, which narrowly missed but appeared to splash his clothes.

    This is not the first time that couriers working for so-called gig-economy platforms like Jinn have gone on strike over pay.

    Deliveroo and UberEats saw their riders go on strike last year when they started paying drivers per delivery instead of per hour.

    Jinn did not immediately respond to Business Insider's request for comment.

    Here is a letter that Jinn couriers in Glasgow sent to Jinn's management:

    Hi !!!!,

    Thanks for meeting us today. Here is a summary of our arguments against the structure change, a preferential structure and actions we will take in part/as a group should nothing be changed.

    Disagreements with new structure and transition process.

    Contracting us for a time period, e.g. when I work schedule, means that we are entitled to a minimum wage. Therefore taking away our hourly guarantee may be unlawful.
    The change in the payment structure was implemented without notice. We did not agree to these changes or were engaged in any discussion about them.
    The new payment structure gives the figure of 0.7 drops per hour. We want information about where this figure was derived from.
    Glasgow is not busy enough at this time to reflect the drop rate. We feel more time is needed to establish the service before drivers can take risks such as taking on shifts on Mon/Tues/Weds.
    Many drivers are now unable to pay rent, provide for there families or in other forms of financial hardship.

    Demands.

    We want our wages on Wednesdays guaranteed at the rate before the structure changes.
    We want information regarding drop ratio's and a meaningful dialogue on any changes made to our rate of pay.
    We want the old structure reinstated until a time the above demand can be met.
    Answers and retractions by Wednesday.

    Actions.

    Continuation of a legal enquiry into our workers rights for minimum wage and payment structure changes.
    Demonstrating against Jinn should our payments come in on Wednesday at the new, significantly reduced, rates.
    Allowing the media to run there story about our situation.

    We hope that Jinn see this as an opportunity to be a champion of workers rights and define themselves in a busy market by there ethical approach that put's driver well being and financial security first.

    Regards,

    Jinn Couriers Glasgow

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    Gerard Grech, Tech City UK CEO

    Government quango Tech City UK highlighted just how dominant it thinks London's tech sector is compared to the rest of the UK when it announced a list of its 33 British startups to watch on Thursday.

    The organisation, which receives over £2 million of taxpayer's money each year to promote and support tech companies across the UK, picked just seven early stage tech companies outside the capital to join its Upscale programme this year. That's less than two-thirds of the total cohort.

    London-based companies like digital bank Monzo and bike light creator Blaze will receive mentoring from highly successful entrepreneurs — including LoveFilm cofounder Saul Klein and Skype cofounder and ex-CEO Niklas Zennstom — as part of the programme.

    Startups outside London chosen include artificial intelligence firm Cambridge Intelligence, Liverpool-based market research tech company LivingLens, and Nottingham cloud computing company Cronofy.

    While London is home to more tech startups than any other UK city, startups in the likes of Cambridge, Oxford, Edinburgh, and Bristol are developing technology that is often more interesting and revolutionary. Cybersecurity startup Darktrace was set up in Cambridge, for example, while Oxford spawned two AI startups that were acquired by Google's AI lab DeepMind in 2014.

    "We have again seen a bias towards London-based tech firms in TechCity's Upscale programme," said Stuart Clarke, festival director of the Leeds Digital Festival, in an email to Business Insider. "Is this because we have fewer suitable firms in the North or because Tech City is inherently biased towards London? I think it's definitely the latter and there needs to be more emphasis on getting northern tech firms involved."

    Gerard Grech, chief executive of Tech City UK, seemed to be happy with the representation of startups outside London. "It’s great to see so many regions and sectors represented in the cohort, demonstrating the great diversity this country has when it comes to digital technology," he said in a statement.

    Grech was also pleased with the number of companies with female founders Tech City UK selected — four out of the 33.

    "It’s particularly great to see four fantastic female founders — Tania Boler, Tamara Rajah, Tugce Bulut and Emily Brooke — amongst the new intake but the industry needs to work harder to make sure that women are getting to senior roles in the sector," he said.

    FULL LIST OF COMPANIES:

    1. Boiler Room - online music broadcaster of live events. Six years old, it has now hosted shows in 100 cities worldwide (London)
    2. Blaze - urban mobility brand providing technology for bike sharing schemes and consumer cyclists globally (London)
    3. Bulb - an online renewable gas and electricity supplier, competing with the likes of British Gas and NPower (London)
    4. Cambridge Intelligence - an artificial intelligence company that helps companies see patterns and insights in their data (Cambridge)
    5. Chargifi - Chargifi supplies networked, wireless power to public venues like coffee shops, hotels, restaurants, sporting arenas, offices and transport hubs (London)
    6. CharlieHR - a free HR platform for small companies (London)
    7. Chiaro - a company that focuses on women’s wellness with wearable tech (London)
    8. Cronofy - a cloud computing company that allows people to check the availability of people in real time (Nottingham)
    9. Curve - allows you to combine all your credit cards into one Curve card and link with an app to monitor your spending (London)
    10. DueCourse - online invoice factoring business (Manchester)
    11. Echo - an app that takes the pain out of repeat prescriptions (London)
    12. everyLIFE Technologies - provides a mobile platform for managing social care in real time, working with the NHS and social care providers (Farnham)
    13. Firefly Learning - online tool for teachers, parents and schools to monitor pupils’ progress at school (London)
    14. GeoSpock - database technology that enables extreme-scale, real-time geo-spatial and multi-dimensional big data applications (Cambridge)
    15. Goodlord - end to end digital platform allowing letting agents, tenants and landlords to complete a rental transaction (London)
    16. Grabyo - Edit, publish and share video across mobile devices (London)
    17. Live Better With - community and marketplace for products for people living with cancer (London)
    18. LivingLens - allows companies to search hours of market research video by key word (Liverpool)
    19. Mastered - online courses for fashion professionals (London)
    20. Mixcloud - audio streaming service that allows users to listen to radio from all over the world (London)
    21. Moneyfarm - online wealth manager whose investors include Allianz, one of the world’s largest insurers (London)
    22. Monzo - one of a new breed of challenger banks. The mobile banking app receives its banking licence this year (London)
    23. Paddle - provides e-commerce and digital infrastructure for software businesses (London)
    24. pi-top - provides DIY laptop and desktop products for STEM education (London)
    25. Pockit - banking startup aimed at those excluded from mainstream banking (London)
    26. Poq - app commerce solution for major retailers (London)
    27. Signal Media - Artificial Intelligence-powered new monitoring (London)
    28. StoryStream - Live storytelling for brands: content curation and publishing (Brighton)
    29. Streetbees - market research insights from around the world, collected through artificial intelligence and geo-location (London)
    30. Trouva - curated online shopping from 150 independent boutiques (London)
    31. Trussle - the online mortgage adviser, built upon a database of thousands of mortgage products (London)
    32. Urban Massage - booking massage online (London)
    33. Wolf & Badger - global online marketplace for independent brands (London)

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