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The latest news on Startups from Business Insider

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    With its techno nightclubs, hipster coffee shops, and eccentric residents, Berlin has developed a reputation for being one of Europe's coolest cities.

    The German capital — once described as "poor but sexy" by former mayor Klaus Wowereit — may be arty but it has struggled to compete with other German cities such as Frankfurt and Hamburg when it comes to economic output.

    There are signs, however, that this is starting to change, thanks in part to a surge in the number of technology companies that are now based in Berlin.

    From tech giants like Google, Apple, and Facebook to local success stories like music streaming service SoundCloud and to-do list app Wunderlist, Berlin is spawning a diverse range of technology firms that employ thousands of people across the city.

    Here are 30 of the coolest tech firms in Berlin:

    30. Daheim

    Daheim is a social startup that's aiming to help refugees across Germany to learn German. The startup's platform allows refugees from countries like Iraq and Afghanistan to have a Skype-like video call with a German-speaking person who is happy to try to help refugees to learn the language.

    Founded: 2016

    Funding: Between €60,000 (£49,000) and €70,000 (£58,000)

    Number of staff: 9 (volunteers)

    READ MORE: Daheim is on a mission to help refugees to learn German

    29. Heuro Labs

    Heuro Labs comprises a team of 10 computer scientists, quantum physicists, and mathematicians developing an artificial intelligence platform called Cognitio. The company states on its website that its mission is to make machines intelligent and autonomous so that humans can focus on other tasks.

    Founded: 2014

    Funding: Not disclosed

    Number of staff: 10

    28. Tech Open Air

    Tech Open Air is a summer festival in Berlin that aims to combine tech, music, art and science. The idea for the festival was conceived in 2014 and has since been backed by SoundCloud cofounder Alex Ljung, Wunderlist cofounder Christian Reber, and Factory cofounder Simon Schäfer. Tech Open Air also holds a series of other events in cities around the world, such as Tokyo, Cape Town, and Austin.

    Founded: 2012

    Funding: Not disclosed

    Number of staff: 10-15

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    This year has been a tough one for many young companies.

    But the problems faced by the founders, investors, and managers of companies such as Uber, Snap, and Blue Apron hasn't dissuaded other entrepreneurs from building new companies with the hope of disrupting existing industries or garnering a coveted billion-dollar unicorn valuation. 

    Among the rookies were these seven companies, all of which either raised their first round of funding or launched their first product in 2017. Each company stands out for a different reason. Some saw breakout success with consumers just months after they launched, while others proved to be such hot investments that they got massive early valuations.

    From a consumer electronics startup that's taking on Apple to a online store that's aiming at Amazon, here are seven of the hottest startups to launch in 2017 — plus one bonus entry. 

    SEE ALSO: 730,000 people interrupted their Christmas to try to win thousands of dollars from the hottest new app of the year

    A new, low-cost rival for Amazon: Brandless

    What it is: An online store that sells its own "brandless" goods — everything from salsa to toilet paper — for $3 an item. 

    Brandless, which launched in July, can sell its products cheaper than those carrying household names because it doesn't have to charge the kind of "brand tax" that comes with those products, company founders Ido Leffler and Tina Sharkey told Business Insider. As its name implies, the company sells its products online in simple packaging that's similar to that of the generic products found in grocery stores.

    The company is counting on Millennials to make it a success. Leffler and Sharkey think they'll appreciate Brandless' ability to combine the convenience of online shopping with low, flat prices. Indeed, they think its one-price model should help it stand out from Amazon,, and other big online retailers, many of which adjust prices their prices frequently.

    Funding: $50 million from investors including Cowboy Ventures, Redpoint Ventures, and Google Ventures, according to Crunchbase

    The most successful roll-out: LimeBike

    What it is: A bike-sharing network that places bicycles where commuters need them. 

    Following the lead of efforts including New York's Citi Bike and San Francisco's Ford GoBikes, LimeBike combines a convenient app with well-placed two-wheelers to handle what's known as the "first and last-mile problem"— getting commuters to and from public transportation hubs. 

    The company got its first round of funding in March and has now raised $62 million. Its $225 million valuation makes LimeBike one of the most valuable companies to launch in 2017. 

    Funding: $62 million total from investors including Andreessen Horowitz and IDG Capital, according to PitchBook.

    A standout product in a saturated market: Obsidian Security

    What it is: A cybersecurity company that focuses on a particular niche — hybrid clouds.

    Increasingly popular among enterprise companies, hybrid cloud systems allow those companies' in-house servers to interoperate with public cloud systems, such as those offered by Amazon and Google. Obsidian uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to provide security across these complex, hybrid systems. 

    It takes a lot to stand out in the cybersecurity market, but Obsidian has an all-star cast that's warmed investors to its potential. CEO Glenn Chisholm worked at the antivirus software company Cylance as its chief technology officer. CTO Ben Johnson previously founded another cybersecurity company, Carbon Black. 

    Obsidian's most recent funding round valued the company at $27 million, according to PitchBook.

    Funding: $9.5 million in a series A led by Greylock Partners, according to Pitchbook.

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    Vlad Tenev Robinhood founder CEO

    Once upon a time, a startup worth $1 billion or more was considered to be a rare, almost mythical thing — a unicorn. But in the past few years, unicorns have become far more plentiful, more like horses.

    A year ago, the venture capital industry looked like it was going to tighten its belt and bring valuations back to earth. But in 2017, venture investment continued to flow heavily and is on track to match or exceed dollars deployed in 2016, says PitchBook, a database that tracks such deals.

    Mega deals, where investors poured giant sums into one company at a high valuation, made up less than 1% of total transactions, but, by the third quarter, PitchBook says they accounted for 22% of the total deal value.

    All of that means that new unicorns were plentiful in 2017. Dozens of startups were crowned with unicorn status worldwide, including these 23 US companies, according to CB Insight's list of unicorns. (We took the valuations of these companies from Pitchbook.)

    Some of them, you've likely heard of. Others may have slipped under your radar. 

    SEE ALSO: 50 startups that will boom in 2018, according to VCs

    Rubicon Global

    $1 billion

    Select investors: 
    Goldman Sachs, Leonardo DiCaprio, Promecap

    Rubicon allows business to order trash collection from a variety of waste haulers when they need it, and helps them recycle more.

    Symphony Communication Services

    $1 billion

    Select investors:
    BNP Paribas, Goldman Sachs, Google

    Symphony is a cloud-based communications platform for the financial services sector that lets people communicate and share documents.


    $1 billion

    Selected investors: 
    Foxconn Technology Company, Khosla Ventures, Moore Capital Management

    Katerra offers software for the construction industry for building design, logistics and purchasing. It is currently working on a new round of financing seeking a $2.5 billion valuation, the WSJ reports. 

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    Katrina Lake

    • Katrina Lake is the 34-year-old founder of Stitch Fix, an online personal shopping service.
    • Stitch Fix recently went public, leaving Lake with a net worth of nearly $500 million.
    • Lake went to Stanford, planning to become a doctor, and then later attended Harvard Business School.
    • It took a few unsuccessful attempts to create the current version of Stitch Fix.

    Katrina Lake founded Stitch Fix, the online personal shopping service, out of her apartment on the back of a failed startup idea.

    Today, according to Forbes, Lake, now 34, has a 16.6% ownership in the company, which went public a month ago. And her net worth now approaching $500 million—making her one of the youngest, richest self-made women in America.

    "If Lake makes the next iteration of the Richest Self-Made Women list, she'll likely be one of the youngest women to do so," Forbes says. "At present, only pop star Taylor Swift, 27, is younger."

    How did Lake get here?

    She spent the first part of her life in San Francisco. But as Forbes reported, she got heavily into the Bay Area's rave scene as a teen, and her parents made the decision to move the family to Minnesota.

    She settled down and got into Stanford, intending to become a doctor, but became fascinated by economics.

    She ended up joining a venture capital firm as an associate after graduating, hoping to join one of the startups that came through the company's door, the L.A. Times reported. Instead it proved a clarifying experience.

    "Ultimately, I didn't quite find the company I wanted to join, but I met more than 100 entrepreneurs and realized that all these entrepreneurs were just as unqualified as I was," she said. "If I wanted to be this retailer of the future, or if I wanted to join the retailer of the future, I could just start it."

    So she decided to attend Harvard Business School. She came up with Stitch Fix, a personalized fashion box subscription service, after another retail idea, Rack Habit, flamed out. It took several lucky breaks and idea iterations for the company to rise above the box subscription fray.

    As a new parent, Lake tries to be fully present when she's at home and when she's at the office

    Today, Lake and her husband raise a toddler while she runs a company worth billions. She told Entrepreneur how she achieves balance in her life.

    "One of the things that has been an adjustment being a new mom is that the morning is some of the most valuable time I have with my son," she says. "It used to be that I would check email and Instagram first thing in bed, and now as soon as he's up, I'm up. I've really appreciated the clarity and being able to start the day in a more organic way with my son.

    She continued:

    "It's really important for me to feel present when I'm at work, that I'm totally listening and paying attention and not worrying about what my son is doing. On the flip side, I try to bring that same level of being present at home. I want to feel totally present in everything I do."

    Lake is also an avid reader, and talked about three books that have made her more successful:

    • Howard Behar, It's Not about the Coffee: Leadership Principles from a Life at Starbucks. Lake: "I read it before I started Stitch Fix. It had a really big impact on me and how I approached company culture. In Howard's book, he talks about how the company culture of Starbucks is one where he felt like he could be the same person at home and be the same person at work. And that the values were consistent in both worlds."
    • Joshua McFadden, Six Seasons: A New Way with Vegetables. Lake: "I love cooking. It's what clears my mind, since it's pretty hard to multitask when you're chopping vegetables."
    • Richard O. Prum, The Evolution of Beauty: How Darwin's Forgotten Theory of Mate Choice Shapes the Animal World – and Us . Lake: "It's talking about natural selection. We know about survival of the fittest and how the strongest animals win. But the reality is there are all these traits that evolve that don't really make sense from a natural selection standpoint. There's all these traits that have evolved because species find them to be beautiful. It was part of Darwin's original theory, but it was one that was kind of lost in history and so it kind of revisits that."

    Like most millennials, Lake is a heavy Instagram user, showing details of her life, from vacations (Stitch Fix has an "unlimited" vacation policy)…

    Bluebird days in Utah ❄️

    A post shared by Katrina Lake (@klaker) on Mar 5, 2017 at 1:51pm PST on

    To Halloween costumes.

    Wishing you a beary happy Halloween ! 🎃 photocred: @nattyrack

    A post shared by Katrina Lake (@klaker) on Oct 31, 2016 at 7:04pm PDT on

    When Lake took Stitch Fix public, she officially became the youngest female founder ever to do so, according to financial data firm FactSet.

    One of Stitch Fix's latest ventures has been a service for men to compete with rivals like Trunk Club.

    SEE ALSO: How a 34-year-old Stanford and Harvard grad built Stitch Fix into a billion-dollar company that just went public

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Why you should never throw away these bags again

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    • Venture capitalist firms invested twice as much money in cybersecurity startups in 2017 as they did in 2016.
    • Venture firms invested $7.6 billion into such companies last year via 548 deals.
    • Investors are following the money; corporations and governments are increasing their spending on cybersecurity amid growing concern about vulnerabilities and breaches.

    Cybersecurity has repeatedly been in the news of late, and startups that specialize in it are raking in investments as a result.

    Venture capitalists invested twice as much money in cybersecurity startups in 2017 as they did the year before, according to new data from CB Insights.

    Globally, venture investors put $7.6 billion in cybersecurity companies last year, which was up from $3.8 billion in 2016, according to the research firm. The number of cybersecurity-related investments jumped to 548 in 2017 from 467 deals the year before.

    Among those deals were several gigantic funding rounds.

    Rubrik, based in Palo Alto, California, raised $180 million in April, giving it a $1.3 billion valuation, according to PitchBook. That same month, Illumio raised $125 million, boosting the valuation of the Sunnyvale, California, company to an estimated $1.2 billion.

    With recent news about a security flaw that affects nearly every PC, smartphone and tablet in use and with high-profile security breaches such as those at Equifax and Uber looming over companies and consumers, it's no wonder there is a burgeoning market for cybersecurity products and growing interest in such companies among investors.

    Global spending on cybersecurity was estimated to reach $83.5 billion in 2017, and that number could hit $119.9 billion in 2021, according to an IDC report from October.

    Here's how venture investments in cybersecurity companies in 2017 compared to those of prior years:


    SEE ALSO: 22 different flashlight apps in Google Play were found to contain malicious adware

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: A mother and daughter stopped speaking after Trump was elected — here's their emotional first conversation after the long silence

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    The Insider Picks team writes about stuff we think you'll like. Business Insider has affiliate partnerships, so we get a share of the revenue from your purchase.


    • Modsy is a service that makes 3D models of the rooms you want to decorate based on pictures you send and its basic dimensions.
    • The company's interior designers will create two versions of the room, decorated with furniture from popular home stores that you can actually buy and that match your tastes and budget. 
    • For $69, you'll get the home designs and the ability to edit them on your own. For $199, you'll get more features, like a stylist who will chat with you and make adjustments and recommendations to the design for you.

    If you've ever bought a piece of furniture online and realized only after the setup that it either didn't fit the space physically or aesthetically, you can already name at least one time when you would have benefited from a service like Modsy.

    Modsy is an online company that lets you upload photos and dimensions of any room and then creates a 3D model, complete with recommendations from an interior designer on how to fill it — using furniture from popular home decor stores that you can buy after the fact at a discount through Modsy. If you've already got a nightstand or bed frame, you can pay $10 and Modsy will make a 3D model of it as well, so you truly never have to wonder about what something will look like once put together. You also don't need to crawl around your house with a tape measurer. 

    There are two pricing options, but for both, you'll receive a 3D model of your room, curated products that match your style profile, two custom designs of how to put it together, and unlimited edits to the room itself. Every furniture option is real and shoppable, and they show you which products are used in a bar at the bottom of the design. Not only can you view the room from all the angles you'd find while standing in it, you can also see it from a bird's-eye view. At $69 for the most basic pricing level, it's a lot of value (especially for those who have a tough time imagining something like that on their own) for a low cost, especially when it's for an important investment like furniture.

    In my experience, the value was definitely worth the price. The 3D designs were extremely helpful and also allowed me to be more creative with the space.

    The furniture the Modsy designers use is all chosen to fit your preferences, and if you're not sure if you like "traditional" or "urban," as I wasn't, there's also a quiz they'll direct you to which will help you discover that.

    If you love the furniture and want to shop it, you can buy directly through Modsy and you'll receive a discount on your purchase. For the first pricing option, you'll get $20 off, and for the second you'll receive $50 off. 

    Right now, get 25% off a design package when you use "FALL25" at checkout.

    Studio Image_preview

    When I used Modsy, it came as a complete relief. I was moving to a new place after college and wanted to take furniture shopping more seriously, but interior design is not a natural gift. I can appreciate when things look put-together, and I know what I like, but being on the other side of things isn’t easy, particularly the visualization (which Modsy took care of for me). While my spacial awareness allowed me to parallel park during my license exam without hitting any cones, it doesn't transfer to sofas for the living room as easily. Not being able to imagine all of the furniture, light fixtures, and rugs together also had me buying more basic furniture simply so that I would know it would go together. Modsy allowed me more freedom and creativity. 

    Modsy, like the best of services, did something I could not have done on my own — and did it very well for a moderate price. I would have been more than happy to shell out $69 for what was included in the basic package, but as I wanted to invest in furniture I could have for a while, I was also happy to part with $199 for the added style advice their second option offered.

    Even if you can't afford all the items Modsy uses to fill your space (although they do customize the selection to your budget), it's still a great way to get ideas from experts at an affordable price. I pay a lot in rent so that I can enjoy where I live, and I felt like Modsy was a valuable tool as an extension of that. 

    For me, Modsy was a great service. Their pricing seems more than fair for what you get in return, and it helped me enlist experts to do a job I knew they could do much better than me. Modsy helped me make the most out of my apartment and made sure I did so without wasting money on furniture I would later hate.

    If you’re moving and don’t have the mind of an interior designer but want to love your space, I can’t recommend the service highly enough.

    Here’s how the process works:

    SEE ALSO: This startup makes sofas that sound almost too good to be true — they’re easy to move and only take 10 minutes to build

    Getting started:

    To begin, head to the Modsy homepage and click "get started" to start the questionnaire. 

    Select which room they'll be creating a 3D model of for you.

    And select what the reason for the redesign is.

    If you're moving and looking to completely revamp your space, or just want to update your living room, Modsy will be able to help.

    Sign up to get a 3D model of your own home decorating project here.

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    The Insider Picks team writes about stuff we think you'll like. Business Insider has affiliate partnerships, so we get a share of the revenue from your purchase.


    • Direct-to-consumer business models mean startups like Everlane and Allbirds can sell luxury clothes at a fraction of the price found at big-name retailers.
    • DSTLD is the new startup to watch, offering premium denim for under $100 and essentials that nail LA cool and urban chic.
    • The startup is also the first fashion brand to offer its shoppers the opportunity to buy a stake in the company itself by an Online Public Offering.


    Thanks largely to the internet, shoppers are living in what feels like a bit of a Golden Age for anybody with some money to spend and a computer within arms reach. By allowing companies to cut out the (newly) unessential costs of brick-and-mortar stores and middlemen, emerging labels are able to produce in the same factories as big-name designers — with the same materials — but sell their clothes at a fraction of the price.

    It's a nice deal for the consumer.

    Perhaps for most of us, that direct-to-consumer model is associated with wunderkind startups like Everlane and Allbirds with reliable, cult-like fan bases.

    And for those more tuned into really nice denim, they might be thinking of LA startup DSTLD

    The company has a similar model — sell luxurious essentials people want at a third of the retail cost. And, like Everlane, they’re rising to meet the standards of their shoppers — using sustainable materials, natural dyes, and eco-friendly practices whenever they can, as well as imposing higher standards on labor conditions in their supply chain.

    All in all, DSTLD is selling cool essentials at a price, and with a supply chain, that doesn’t have to make you feel bad. 

    While they’re known for their denim, I (and according to DSTLD press photos, a healthy number of celebrities) have loved their Blanket Maxi Coat. It’s not much more than I'd spend on something similar from a fast-fashion stop like Zara, but the quality and fit feel far superior — and I don't feel anxious taking a chance on the newer label thanks to its low-risk prices. And while the company has more men's options and was indeed founded by two men, DSTLD's women's line hits a rare balance between LA cool and a tailored, urban chic that I've found hard to find, especially at this price point. 

    And if you’re looking for a way to feel more involved in your purchases (or have an itch to invest) DSTLD is offering up something far more unusual than reasonably priced black skinny jeans. Last year, they became the first fashion brand to pursue an Online Public Offering.

    The company cites the statistic that for the last 80-odd years, only the wealthiest 2% of Americans have been allowed to invest in startups in the US. But thanks to legislation in 2012, that's now possible for anyone. Like ethical production and lower, leaner pricing, this is just another way DSTLD is particularly tuned into the moment — and using new ways of doing business to promote their own growth. Instead of old-school venture capitalists being responsible for how much growth the company experiences, there's something potentially satisfying about a "by the people, for the people" rise. 

    But even if you’re looking for essentials and premium denim for under $100 rather than an investment, you're likely still going to be happy you found DSTLD. 

    You can shop DSTLD directly here, or check out some of their best pieces for both men and women below.

    SEE ALSO: This new women’s clothing brand takes all the guesswork out of shopping for work


    Available in seven color and material variations.

    Women's Leather Moto Jacket, $150 - $380

    Available in seven colors and rip variations.

    Women's High Waisted Skinny Jeans, $85 - $125

    Available in both black and grey.

    Women's Blanket Maxi Coat, $180

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    marc lore

    • Marc Lore is the CEO and president of Walmart eCommerce in the US. He sold his startup Quidsi to Amazon in 2010, for $550 million.
    • Afterward, he felt depressed and somewhat disempowered. Even the huge amount of money he made didn't help.
    • Many startup founders go through a similar experience and say they have mixed feelings about selling their company. 

    In 2010, Marc Lore sold his startup, Quidsi, to Amazon for $550 million.

    Immediately afterward, he felt terrible.

    On an episode of Business Insider's podcast, "Success! How I Did It," Lore, who is now the CEO and president of Walmart eCommerce in the US, told US editor-in-chief Alyson Shontell what it felt like after the sale.

    Here's Lore:

    "You think we would've been celebrating, like, 'Wow, we just made enough money that we never have to work again,' that sort of thing. 'Family is set, grandkids are set,' and everything. And it was this really depressing sort of moment where we didn't even want to go out for a drink.

    "It wasn't a celebration; it was sort of like mourning. That's what it felt like. And it was really weird. We were like, 'Why do we feel so bad right now?' Like, we just sold this company and made a lot of money, and we just didn't feel great."

    Lore described feeling somewhat disempowered after selling Quidsi to Amazon. He told Shontell:

    "I think a lot of entrepreneurship is about, like I said, having fun building something, being empowered to make decisions and run, build your own unique culture, hire the people you want to hire, watch them grow and develop, and go on to bigger and better things, and learn while they're there. It's, like, there's a lot of benefit of doing it that go beyond dollars and cents.

    "And I think that hit us, like, 'Hey, in this new structure, this new world, a lot of the things that made us happy are not going to exist anymore.'"

    Even the huge sum of money he'd just come into wasn't enough to fill that emptiness. Lore said: "We had a nice house, nice cars, clothes, food, like, we were living fine before. It wasn't like the money was going to suddenly bring us from poverty to sort of sustainability, right?

    "And we knew we'd always be able to make money; we had good, you know, salary earning potential outside of this. So I guess the money really just didn't do it."

    Many startup founders feel remorse after selling their company and losing control

    Lore's experience isn't unique. Shontell previously spoke to Bryan Goldberg, founder of Bleacher Report (and later, Bustle) about what it was like when Turner Media purchased the company for around $200 million in 2012.

    "When the money hit the bank account, I was just relieved that this grueling eight-month process was over," Goldberg told Shontell. "Then you realize, I don't own this [startup] anymore, which is a very powerful feeling.

    "You go on the website and it just occurs to you, 'This isn't mine and it doesn't belong to me in any way other than from a sentimental standpoint.'"

    Ben Horowitz, a general partner at venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, told The New York Times something similar about selling Opsware to Hewlett-Packard for $1.6 billion in 2007.

    "I spent eight years, all day every day, trying to build this thing, and all of a sudden it's gone, it's just over," he said. "It's a little bit like something dies."

    Lore's experience informed the way he went about the sale of his next startup — Jet — to Walmart in 2016.

    When he and Doug McMillion, the CEO of Walmart, started talking about working together, Lore said, "The one piece was I didn't want to go down this path that we did last time, which was, 'Hey, we're going to let you do your thing.' Because I learned that lesson before. And Doug said, 'No, we actually want to give you the keys, and have you, your team, take the best of both worlds and drive this thing forward.'

    He went on: "That slight difference in sort of mentality meant everything — that was the difference between being depressed and being really happy. And so when people say, 'Yeah, but you sold,' and I said, 'Well, we sold the company, but we didn't sell out, which we did the first time.'"

    SEE ALSO: A Walmart executive who sold his first startup for $6 million, 2nd for $550 million, and 3rd for $3 billion, reveals how he became wildly successful

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Zillow and Hotwire founder Spencer Rascoff led his startups through major crises to massive profits

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    school learning

    • A startup called Kiddom is in 70% of US school districts, and it's quickly enticing teachers with the "personalized learning" model.
    • Personalized learning uses technology to tailor lesson plans to individual kids' abilities and learning styles.
    • It's been endorsed by tech giants like Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg.

    If 2017 had any standout education movements, it was personalized learning, a style of instruction that uses technology to tailor instruction to individual kids.

    A Silicon Valley startup called Kiddom is banking on the trend continuing for the foreseeable future — and it's already in 70% of US school districts.

    kiddom interface

    Kiddom is a digital platform that helps teachers plan and track students' progress on an individual basis, along with giving students a way to see all their assignments and deadlines in one place. More importantly, Kiddom purports to determine students' optimal learning style and pace of instruction, in order to best-design lesson plans.

    One of its fundamental tools is the "Class Standards Mastery" function. After teachers design a lesson plan and set expectations for kids' achievement, students can log on to the app to see how they're faring in reaching goals. Each week or month, teachers and students receive detailed reports analyzing the progress in each subject area.

    Some research has found this personalized model to help kids excel in measures of reading and math, since it uses data to hold kids and teachers accountable. Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg have both celebrated the approach for boosting success rates.

    Kiddom CEO and Founder Ahsan Rizvi started the company in 2015 as a way to eliminate as much guesswork as possible from the teaching (and learning) process. Within the first couple years, Kiddom saw 30% growth across classrooms month-over-month.

    Today, a typical school where just a few teachers adopt Kiddom ends up registering 95% of the teaching staff within six months, the company said in a March 2017 statement.

    kiddom interface

    Kiddom isn't the only company looking to make a splash in personalized learning.

    In 2013, entrepreneur Matthew Gross started a similar company called Newsela. The app aims to improve kids' literacy by simplifying news articles according to particular students' reading abilities. One 4th-grader may read an article on the government shutdown at a 7th-grade level, while another reads it at a 2nd-grade level. The idea is to promote richer comprehension and class discussion no matter each child's abilities.

    Even in its limited run, Newsela has reportedly led to big jumps in achievement. When it looked at kids scoring below the 50th percentile in reading who regularly read Newsela articles and took quizzes, the startup saw an average increase of 12 percentile points — a jump equivalent to passing hundreds of thousands of kids — in a three-month period.

    Kiddom is not in quite as many schools as Newsela, but it seems to have a broader scope in mind. And with a recent $6.5 million investment from Khosla Ventures, the startup could be on its way toward capturing (and educating) even more young minds.

    SEE ALSO: This education startup you've never heard of is in 75% of American classrooms

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: We talked to Sophia — the first-ever robot citizen that once said it would 'destroy humans'

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    better capitalism header

    Daymond John

    • The Fubu founder Daymond John has invested in startups for the past nine seasons of "Shark Tank."
    • He says the experience has taught him that today's consumer demands companies have a positive societal impact.
    • The CEO of one of the companies he's invested in, Bombas, says the movement was started by millennials but transcends age demographics.
    • This post is part of Business Insider's ongoing series on Better Capitalism.

    After building a portfolio of startups over the past decade, the Fubu founder and "Shark Tank" investor Daymond John has found that his most successful investments have a positive impact on society. Beyond the obvious use of influence for good, it's simply good business.

    "Nowadays you shouldn't have a company that is not contributing in some fashion or form or sense to a cause, because the people today who buy a product, they want to know what have you done for somebody else lately,"John told Business Insider in 2017.

    John's most successful "Shark Tank" investment has been in Bombas socks, a New York-based company founded in 2013 that donates one pair of socks for every pair purchased to one of 1,100 homeless shelters across all 50 US states. Bombas' cofounder and CEO, David Heath, told us that the company had been profitable since 2016 and brought in "just under $50 million" in revenue in 2017.

    Heath and his cofounder Randy Goldberg were inspired by the apparel company Toms' "one-for-one" model, also popularized by the eyeglass maker Warby Parker, but began with the charitable component and moved on to a business next. That is, they learned that American homeless shelters' most requested item was a pair of socks, and they decided that building a premium sock company around this could alleviate the problem.

    Heath said a main reason Bombas had been successful was that "it comes down to authenticity." If you force a societal-good aspect of your growing, private business, he said, consumers will see it as a cynical marketing play. It's why, he said, rather than just donate proceeds to a random charity, he advised the owner of a coconut-ice-cream startup to fly to the startup's coconut suppliers and determine what the farmers needed in their lives.

    "Find something that means something to you as the founders," Heath said. "That will then permeate the rest of the company."

    When the company scales, he explained, the social aspect will be able to grow alongside it.

    Heath said he believed that millennials pioneered the movement to incorporate charitable acts into consumerism but that surveys he's conducted have shown his Bombas customers demand this regardless of their age.

    This is supported by a 2017 survey from Deloitte, which found that 76% of millennials surveyed thought business should and does have a positive impact on society and that this was also the majority point of view across gender, age, parental status, business sector, and size of employer.

    John agrees, and he attributes it to the combination of transparency and choice that the internet has fostered, with the maturation of millennials into society's most influential consumers.

    "At the end of the year, you don't have to give $5,000" to charity, John told us in a recent interview. "You can say, 'Every item on my body has given during the course of the year, and I keep giving.'"

    SEE ALSO: It's time for better capitalism

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    NOW WATCH: Here's what Daymond John has learned from 8 years of investing on 'Shark Tank'

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    unnamed 2As part of an ongoing series, Insider Picks features products or stores poised for big things. The subject of this spotlight is a direct-to-consumer fine jewelry company called Mejuri.

    Most women associate getting fine jewelry with special occasions, like anniversaries, engagements, and birthdays.

    But that doesn't have to, and frankly shouldn't, be the case if you ask Noura Sakkijha and Justine Lançon, the cofounders of Mejuri, a Toronto-based jewelry startup.

    Sakkijha and Lançon launched Mejuri in early 2015 with the idea that women don't need to wait for someone else to give them fine jewelry; instead, they wanted to put the purchasing power in the hands of women, giving them the opportunity to buy contemporary, fine jewelry for accessible prices.

    "We wanted to create a class of jewelry for women who shop for themselves the way they shop for their shoes and bags," Sakkijha told Business Insider. "Women don’t want to spend their whole paychecks on high-quality jewelry; they want to have a choice to buy high-quality, non-overpriced jewelry for their day-to-day lives. And we are giving them that choice."

    Women currently account for 89% of the company's transactions. As a woman, I totally get why it's resonating with the demographic so well.

    The jewelry market looks crowded, but if you pay close attention, it’s mostly divided into very classic and expensive fine jewelry or affordable costume jewelry that won’t last. Women want something in the middle, and Mejuri fills the gap with its delicate collection of rings, earrings, necklaces, and bracelets, which retails for as low as $30 for an edgy gold ear cuff to as high as $365 for solid gold and diamond flower-shaped studs.

    To that end, Sakkijha and Lançon told me Mejuri has already exceeded over $1 million dollars in year two of operation and reports 20-30% of monthly transactions are from repeat customers. "We've established a great level of loyalty with customers in a product category that is perceived as a non-frequent purchase," said Lançon.

    The company's direct-to-consumer business model, which allows it to keep price markups low, and its commitment to customer service are largely to credit. Since launching, Mejuri has relied heavily on customer feedback to improve its jewelry. 

    "We involve our customers in product feedback, since this helps in the evolution of our quality and choosing what we introduce to the market," Sakkijha and Lançon told me. "We also give them the ability to reach out to us via email and text, and will be integrating more and more technology to speed up our response times. We’re really driven to provide a luxury experience to every single customer."


    After getting to wear a few pieces from Mejuri's current fine jewelry collection for a few weeks, I'd recommend the company as one of the best places to buy fine jewelry online. Not only is Mejuri constantly putting new pieces into production (it's established a lean and quick supply chain that allows it to get products from concept to store in 3-4 weeks), its message, high quality, and transparent prices are all things I can get behind. 

    The company sent me a pair of hoop earrings ($129), choker-style necklace ($255), and ring ($175) so I could get a sense of the jewelry's overall quality, and each piece feels and looks a lot nicer than its price suggests. They're my new everyday go-tos, and I'm already eyeing a couple other pieces I want to eventually buy for myself.

    Mejuri is smart addition to the jewelry market and one that's going to be great for customers, be they women who are shopping for themselves, or people who are looking to find great gifts for the women they love that don't put a huge dent in their wallets.

    Have a closer look at some of my favorite jewelry from Mejuri below: 

    DON'T MISS: This is the work bag professional women everywhere have been looking for

    Stacking a few dainty rings together adds some extra sparkle to your outfit and looks cool. Feel free to mix metals, too — yellow, rose, and white gold all play well together. 

    Diamonds Line Ring White Gold, $195 | Solo Diamond Ring, $175 | Beaded Ring White Gold, $69 

    These elegant threader earrings don't have backs to them, so you can adjust where and how they fall.

    Edged Threader Earrings, $145 

    These hoop earrings offer women a modern, sophisticated silhouette, and they're perfect for everyday wear.

    Twist Hoops, $129

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    popular applications

    As time passes, even the biggest and most popular applications get further away from their original looks.

    Changes in consumers' aesthetic preferences and heightened expectations for app usability urge companies to invest in updates to interfaces, so that they gradually evolve to meet demand. 

    So what did some of the most popular apps look like when they first launched? Here are some vintage versions of your favorite apps and websites.

    Samantha Cooney contributed to an earlier version of this post.

    SEE ALSO: The app explosion is over


    The original homepage for Facebook (née "thefacebook") is fairly well-known, thanks to the Oscar-nominated origin story "The Social Network." The site's most famous feature was the anonymous face in the upper left hand corner, which was later revealed to be a manipulated image of actor Al Pacino. After logging in, users were taken to a welcome page with no scroll option, rather than a feed of updates from friends and companies.


    Instagram's original 2011 logo wasn't updated until the photo-sharing app unveiled a new one in 2016, but the app changed constantly. In addition to adding more filter options, the direct-messaging capability, and horizontal pictures (instead of exclusively showing pictures in squares) Instagram removed the bars from the top and the bottom of the feed and removed all of the black backgrounds from the other screens.


    When Uber debuted a new logo in 2016, many were quick to make snarky comments about the clunky design (the logo has changed again, now with a black background instead of that blue web). The first iteration of the Uber app, then known as UberCab, was far worse in terms of both logo and usability. The basics were there (enter your credit card info and location and then call a car), but it featured a bright red logo and a less refined interface.

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    Jia Yueting

    • The electric-car startup, Faraday Future is suing two former executives who left the company and started their own EV business.
    • Faraday Future is accusing former CFO Stefan Krause and ex-CTO Ulrich Kranz of stealing its intellectual property and luring top talent away from Faraday to their own company, Evelozcity.
    • The lawsuit is happening as Faraday Future continues to struggle to find stable footing in an increasingly competitive market, and as its billionaire tech CEO, Jia Yueting, faces a debt crisis.

    Struggling electric-car startup Faraday Future is suing two former executives, accusing them of luring away its top talent and stealing its trade secrets.

    The Los Angeles-area company alleges that former chief financial officer Stefan Krause and ex-chief technology officer Ulrich Kranz, who left Faraday last year and started the electric-vehicle company, Evelozcity, coaxed at least 20 former Faraday employees to their startup, and that some of Faraday's intellectual property was stolen in the process, multiple news outlets reported on Monday.

    Evelozcity denied the allegations in a statement to Business Insider on Monday: "We do not have, nor do we need, any technology from Faraday Future," the company said.

    It added: "This complaint continues Faraday’s pattern of hurling false and inflammatory accusations against us. We will respond to the many recklessly inaccurate allegations in this desperate lawsuit at the appropriate time.”

    Krause, in the few months that he worked at Faraday Future in 2017, set out to raise $1 billion for the company, which had been struggling under the weight of unpaid bills, lawsuits, and an exodus of employees as its finances dwindled.

    Despite speaking with more than two dozen potential investors, the cash-raise was largely unsuccessful, current and former employees previously told Business Insider. That shortfall was due in part to anxiety over the embattled tech entrepreneur Jia Yueting, who controls the company.

    A source with knowledge of Faraday's fundraising efforts told Business Insider in December that the company secured new investment, but the source and the amount remained unclear. Faraday cites that new investment in its lawsuit against Evelozcity — again with naming the source of the funds or the amount. It is possible that the information could be revealed if the legal proceedings run their course.

    Meanwhile, Jia faces a mounting debt crisis in China, where he started, and later stepped down from, the tech conglomerate Leshi Internet Information & Technology in May 2017. Chinese regulators have ordered him back to the country to address his debt-ridden holdings. Leshi is also pursuing Jia for equity stakes in other automotive startups in which he owns a stake.

    SEE ALSO: The billionaire who controls electric-car startup Faraday Future is being pursued by another company he founded for billions in unpaid debt

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    Hilary Schneider

    • Japanese telecom giant SoftBank has invested $300 million in dog-walking startup Wag. 
    • Additionally, Hilary Schneider, who most recently led LifeLock through its $2.3 billion sale to Symantec in 2016, is taking over as Wag's CEO.
    • Schneider is replacing Wag cofounder Josh Viner as CEO. However, Viner will stay involved with the company, as will his brother and cofounder Jon Viner.

    Dog-walking-on-demand startup Wag is getting a new CEO and a big infusion of cash. 

    On Tuesday, the company announced it's received a $300 million investment from Japanese telecom giant SoftBank. It also announced that veteran tech executive Hilary Schneider will be taking over as its CEO. 

    Schneider, who most recently served as CEO of identity protection company LifeLock and led it through its 2016 sale to Symantec, will take over from Wag cofounder Josh Viner. Viner and his brother and cofounder, Jon, will remain with the company, running its product, digital marketing, growth, and technology efforts, with all other aspects of the business reporting to Schneider.

    "We're staying on full-time and running various departments," Jon Viner told Business Insider on Tuesday.

    For her part, Schneider said she views the management of Wag as an equal partnership between herself and the two brothers.

    With the new funding, Wag will join an exclusive club of beneficiaries of SoftBank's mammoth $93 billion Vision Fund that includes Uber, WeWork, and Slack. The investment will give SoftBank a 45% stake in Wag, according to Recode.

    Wag and SoftBank declined to comment on the portion of the company SoftBank will hold after the funding round.

    The timing of the funding and Schneider's hiring were coincidental, and Wag started its search for a new CEO before starting discussions with Softbank, spokespeople for both SoftBank and Wag told Business Insider.

    With Schneider and the new funding in place, Wag plans to move on to bigger things. In the 100 US cities where Wag is available, its customers use it more frequently than Uber riders use the app-based taxi service, according to Schneider. Wag is betting that kind of customer loyalty and love will translate in other countries; the company plans a global expansion soon.

    "In the US alone, the pet services marketplace is about $70 billion," Schneider said. "The US represents less than 40% of the global marketplace. It's a very large marketplace."

    SoftBank's interest in Wag is a clear recognition of the untapped potential of the market for on-demand dog services, Jon Viner said.

    "We're excited about partnering with SoftBank," he said. "They're very smart investors, and the size of the investment is a validation of the size of the dog service marketplace and the unique position that we're in."

    SEE ALSO: SoftBank has invested €460 million into a German car startup

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    NOW WATCH: Why dog breeds look so different but cats don't

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    500 Startups

    • In a recent study by Silicon Valley Bank, startup founders said 2018 will be a promising year for new businesses. 
    • Entrepreneurs said it was easier to secure funding than ever before, especially through traditional avenues like raising venture capital.
    • Silicon Valley Bank's findings also show the top difficulty for new businesses lies in finding skilled employees to fill open positions.


    2018 is filled with potential for enterprising entrepreneurs, at least according to most startup founders. 

    On Tuesday, Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) released the findings from its Startup Outlook report which surveys startup founders around the world.

    Burgeoning companies are finding it increasingly easy to obtain funding early on, which is a sentiment that carries over from last year: A survey released in December found that entrepreneurs think it's a great time to start a company due to ease of fundraising. And despite the increasing popularity of securing funding through initial coin offerings (ICOs), founders say their top funding sources are still through venture capitalists. 

    In addition to these findings, SVB reported on other insights into the current startup climate:

    The top strain on fledgling businesses is finding great talent for their teams.

    64% of founders reported the most challenging issue affecting their companies was access to talent, and nearly all founders said they found finding workers with the appropriate skill level to be extremely difficult. Other concerns reported were healthcare costs and cybersecurity risks.

    More and more startups are putting forth efforts to place women in leading roles.

    Startup founders say they're putting forth a concerted effort to make their companies more diverse by putting programs in place to increase the roles of leadership for women. There's good reason for their efforts: Nearly three quarters of the startups surveyed have no women on their board of directors. 

    Most startups count at least one immigrant among the founding members on their teams. 

    More than half of the startups surveyed said they counted at least one immigrant among their founding team. Founders also reported an increase in US regulation has them moving their operations outside of the US. The country's increasingly stringent immigration policy has become an especially important issue for nascent businesses, which are often eager to harness overseas talent. 

    Startups are hiring at record rates.

    80% of startups say they're searching for fresh talent, which is the highest reported rate since 2013. Still, founders stress the difficulty of finding suitable skill levels required for the jobs they hope to fill.

    SEE ALSO: A 21-year-old college student invested 80% of his summer paycheck in cryptocurrencies and made an enormous profit

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    Alex Polvi CoreOS

    • Red Hat announced it will pay $250 million for CoreOS, a Google-backed developer technology startup.
    • CoreOS is one of the most visible companies in the market for Kubernetes, a Google-created technology for managing software containers. 
    • CoreOS CEO Alex Polvi tells Business Insider that not much is going to change, and they'll keep working on their existing product lines and software offerings.


    On Tuesday, Red Hat announced the $250 million purchase of CoreOS, a hot startup that competed in the market for "software containers," a trendy developer technology. 

    Since its founding in 2013, CoreOS raised $48 million in venture capital — likely making this a solid exit for its high-profile bunch of Silicon Valley investors, including Kleiner Perkins, Intel Capital, Y Combinator, and GV (formerly Google Ventures). 

    Indeed, CoreOS has a history with Google: In 2015, at the same time as it announced the investment from GV, CoreOS made a big bet on supporting Kubernetes, a Google-created developer technology. Since then, Kubernetes has become a predominant standard in the market for software containers, raising the profile of CoreOS.

    "We made the right bets along the way," CoreOS CEO Alex Polvi told Business Insider on Tuesday.

    Polvi points out that CoreOS and Red Hat have long had a business relationship, and says the acquisition will let them keep doing what they've been doing "in a bigger and better way."

    This is actually the second time Polvi has led a company to an acquisition. In 2010, he sold his company Cloudkick to Rackspace for a reported $30 million, after raising a relatively modest $2.75 million.

    CoreOS was one of the first and most visible companies in the container space, seen for a long time as the chief rival to $1.3 billion startup Docker, which basically invented the market. Indeed, in 2014, the two of them had a public falling out over the future of containers.

    Think of these "containers" as a metaphor. Shipping yards put goods into a bunch of shipping containers all the same shape and size because it makes them easy to stack onto boats. Software containers are a standard way to package up software, so it all runs the same way whether it's running on your laptop, a corporate server, or in a massive cloud like Amazon Web Services. 

    Red Hat CEO Jim Whitehurst

    In this metaphor, Kubernetes is the gantry crane that lifts and loads these containers: It helps IT departments and developer teams keep all their containers moving smoothly across their infrastructure. As containers grow in popularity, so too has Kubernetes as a way to manage them. 

    This is the root of Red Hat's interest in CoreOS. CoreOS originally rose to prominence as the developers of a custom, lightweight version of the Linux operating system designed for smart gadgetry like DVD players.

    However, it turned out that the CoreOS software was ideal for lightweight software containers, too, ultimately leading it towards Kubernetes. Now, in addition to the CoreOS software, Red Hat offers Tectonic, a Kubernetes-based container management system of its own.

    Red Hat supports Kubernetes in its own server-side software products, and offers its own Kubernetes-based container management tools. It turns out that CoreOS, in developing its own container offerings, made it super-easy to keep a Kubernetes system up to date with the latest security patches and other updates — bolstering Red Hat's play.

    "A lot of their operations have been around making things easier," Matt Hicks, a senior VP of engineering at Red Hat, told Business Insider on Tuesday. He says CoreOS technology is "kind of complementary in terms of how we work together." 

    In particular, Red Hat is excited about how CoreOS and its Linux distribution make it easier to keep a bunch of Kubernetes-managed containers up-to-date in terms of security patches and new feature updates. 

    "We think our largest customers will benefit from this," Red Hat VP and general manager Ashesh Badani told Business Insider. 

    According to Polvi, there's not going to be much change in the game-plan in the short-term. But in the long-term, expect to see deeper integrations between Red Hat's whole product suite and the CoreOS offering.

    "Over the coming months, we'll set the longer-term roadmap and figure it out," Polvi told us.

    SEE ALSO: Amazon has quietly released a game changer for its cloud: Linux software that runs on corporate servers

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    NOW WATCH: People are obsessed with this Google app that finds your fine art doppelgänger

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    aurate main

    • AUrate is a direct-to-consumer site that is making fine jewelry more accessible and transparent. 
    • Its ethically sourced and real gold rings, necklaces, bracelets, and earrings are beautifully simple and add a touch of luxury to your everyday life. 
    • You can get many of these pieces for under $500, making them a great gift option. 

    When you go jewelry shopping, you pretty much have two options. The first, fine jewelry, is way out of your price range, and you can only lust for it behind a carefully polished glass case as the boutique associate watches you from the corner of his eye.

    The second is cheap jewelry you can get at any retail store that's just painted gold or silver and that you could care less about losing. Since I don't have sensitive skin that reacts poorly to less-than-pure substances, I tend to go for the latter and have a healthy collection of Forever 21 and H&M jewelry. I really wish I could own and cherish fine jewelry, but I can't justify paying a few month's rent for a ring. 

    Sophie Kahn and Bouchra Ezzahraoui recognized this wide open gap and jumped headfirst into it by starting their affordable fine jewelry company AUrate. Just as the direct-to-consumer model has disrupted many other industries, it's proving to make total sense for the slow-to-change traditional fine jewelry industry.

    When you shop at AUrate, you're getting the fair price, no high wholesale markups attached. According to AUrate, traditional jewelry can be marked up to 20 times the cost — that's a ton of money you could be putting elsewhere.

    AUrate not only interrupts the chain to get you lower prices, but also ensures materials are sourced ethically.

    Materials are sourced in accordance with high standards of social, environmental, and human rights practices, while diamonds and pearls are purchased from conflict-free regions. It's a guilt-free buying experience, for your wallet and your conscience. 

    The jewelry itself is beautifully classic and wearable. I personally wore my solid circle necklace ($250) every day for a week because it just went with everything and was the perfect simple finishing touch. Made from real 14k and 18k gold (a couple ways you can tell is by looking for a stamp that marks the karat weight and if it's not magnetic), the rings, necklaces, bracelets, and earrings all look and feel amazing. Whether you feature it as a dainty standalone piece or layer pieces on top of each other, the jewelry is elegantly versatile. 

    As you shop for jewelry this Valentine's Day, look to AUrate for affordable luxury, gorgeous simplicity, and ethically made pieces. See some of the jewelry from AUrate for yourself below.

    SEE ALSO: This is the ultimate work bag for professional women

    Gold and black onyx necklaces

    AUrate Black Stones Necklace, $220

    AUrate Mini Charm Circle Necklace, $180

    Diamond bezel ring

    AUrate Diamond Bezel Ring, $150

    X cuff

    AUrate X Cuff, $300

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    GOAT Fight Club

    • Online footwear retailer GOAT and sneaker consignment shop Flight Club are merging, but will maintain separate brands.
    • The two companies have shaken up the footwear industry and attracted fans among sneaker enthusiasts.
    • GOAT, a Y Combinator-backed startup, also announced that it had received an additional $60 million in funding from a round led by Index Ventures.

    Online sneaker retailer GOAT announced Thursday it's merging with venerated sneaker consignment shop Flight Club and getting a $60 million cash infusion.

    The companies, which focus on coveted, hard-to-find footwear, will each maintain their own brands after the merger, they said in a press release. But GOAT will move Flight Club onto its technology systems.

    "The merger ... will allow us to significantly scale our online and retail operations to meet customer demand both domestically and internationally," Eddy Lu, GOAT's co-founder and CEO, said in a statement.  

    The deal was completed on Tuesday, a GOAT representative said. The companies did not disclose the financial terms of the deal, but a "majority" of the $60 million in new funding GOAT announced will go to purchasing Flight Club shareholders' stakes in the company, Recode reported

    The GOAT representative declined to confirm that, saying only that the deal was done with a mixture of cash and stock. 

    The two companies have shaken up the shoe wear industry. Their merger was born out of mutual admiration between the two companies, GOAT co-founder Daishin Sugano told Business Insider.

    Fight Club sneakers

    Flight Club, which sells rare and collectible footwear from its two stores in LA and New York, has attracted a cult following among "sneakerheads" since it opened in 2005. Sugano, who owns hundreds of sneakers, said that the iconic store was an inspiration to him early on as he cultivated his own personal footwear collection.

    "The reason GOAT exists at all is because Flight Club innovated the market," Sugano said.

    GOAT, too, has its share of devoted fans among sneaker enthusiasts. The company's mobile app, which launched in 2015, offers a selection of more than 400,000 unique shoes. GOAT launched its service as a direct competitor to eBay's sneaker offerings, but its goal is to transform the sneaker retail industry.

    "We're innovating the sneaker market with technology," Sugano said. By teaming up with Flight Club, "you have the future of retail," he added.

    GOAT's funding round was led by Index Ventures. According to reports by Recode, the funding round places the company at more than $200 million. 

    Other participants in the round included Upfront Ventures, Accel, Matrix Partners,
    and Web Investment Network. Previously GOAT, which has now raised a total of $97 million, had attracted funding from high-profile investors including Andreessen Horowitz and Y Combinator.

    GOAT and Flight Club have the opportunity to become leaders in the industry because of the business smarts of their teams and the broad popularity of their websites, Index Ventures partner Danny Rimer told Business Insider. Combined, their sites attract 15 million visits per month.

    "The sneaker market is ... in [its] relative infancy," Rimer said. "The opportunity is really big."

    SEE ALSO: Silicon Valley's ultimate status symbol is the sneaker — here are the rare, expensive, and goofy sneakers worn by the top tech CEOs

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    • Cotopaxi, an outdoor gear and apparel company, recently launched their Allpa 35L Travel Pack through Indiegogo. 
    • Thanks to its incredible storage space, versatility, and comfort, it has become my most valuable travel accessory.
    • While it can fit 35 liters' worth of stuff, it fits airline restrictions for a carry-on and can function easily as either a duffel or backpack.

    I spend a lot of time traveling.

    While my family home — and family — still reside in the Midwest, I’ve been living on the East Coast for the last five years, which means that I spend a good amount of time shuttling back and forth on an airplane. Until recently, my best friend also lived out of state, making trips by train or bus a monthly fixture. 

    As a frequent traveler, I’ve become particular (a nicer word might be "efficient”) regarding what does and does not work well whilst traveling.

    Cordless headphones, portable battery packscollapsible water bottles all make the best value list. And, now, thanks to outdoor gear startup Cotopaxi, so does a comfortable and seemingly bottomless carry-on.

    The company sent the Allpa 35L Travel Pack for me to test a few months back, and I haven't gone on a single trip since without using it as my primary carrier. It's so good at fitting a never-ending amount of things that it has pretty much negated my tendency to overpack, simply because it fits surplus for a carry-on-sized weekend incredibly well.

    The Allpa is easily the best travel accessory I own. It seems bottomless while I'm packing, but also somehow fits airline restrictions for a carry-on. 

    It fits a ton of stuff (35 liters' worth), which is great on its own, but its design is what makes the most of all that space. The main zipper allows the bag to splay completely open, so you don't have to dig from top to bottom the way you do with a traditional backpack. The large internal mesh compartments make it easy to see what's inside a particular layer and function as helpful organizers. The back panel unzips to helpful padded laptop and tablet sleeves to store your gadgets, with a 15-inch laptop fitting comfortably. And in case you just need to grab your phone and don't want to unzip the whole thing, there's a shallow pocket on the exterior for the essentials. There's also a shortcut zipper so you can get into the main compartment without taking the pack off. 


    It can be worn as a backpack or as a duffel thanks to its tuck-away straps, and this is one area where the background in outdoors gear comes in handy. The backpack straps are contoured for comfortable wear, the hip belt is padded and adjustable, and the low-profile harness feels like a backpacking pack, helping to evenly distribute the weight you're carrying to places in the body best equipped to handle the load. The back panel is also made out of mesh, so you won't wind up with an overly sweaty back. In other words, it's really comfortable to wear even when it feels like it shouldn't be.

    On top of great storage space and versatility, the Allpa is also rugged enough to seemingly last years.  The exterior is made from a blend of tough, TPU-coated 100D polyester and durable 1680D ballistic nylon paneling.

    For those looking to use the bag for "roughing it," there's even a highly visible rain cover that packs down within the pack, since the material may be water-resistant but the seams are not.

    As an extra security measure, all the external zippers have a pretty cool feature: theft-proof webbing sewn across the openings, so a quick pick-pocket and run isn't exactly feasible.

    After using the bag for a few months, I can say that at least as a user it feels as if Cotopaxi has thought of nearly everything while designing the pack. So if you're looking to take the bus for a weekend trip away or plan to go backpacking on a multi-city Euro trip, I can't recommend the Allpa 35L enough for either trip. 

    Buy a Cotopaxi Allpa 35L Travel Pack for $199.95

    SEE ALSO: 26 things we always pack when we travel

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    • FounderKit looked at the traits of "unicorn" startups worth over $1 billion.
    • They found that many unicorns were in software, sold directly to consumers rather than to other businesses, and in the retail sector.

    In 2017, we showed that 57 startups were able to achieve unicorn status – a rare designation that is reserved only for privately-held startups valued at $1 billion or more.

    While this number may seem high, unicorns are still quite the rarity.

    In the U.S. alone, there are currently 19,550 venture-backed startups vying for those same massive valuations. At the same time, it’s been estimated that each new startup only has a 0.00006% chance of becoming a billion dollar company.

    How to improve those odds

    No one ever said that joining the ranks of unicorns would be easy, but there is some good news for aspiring founders.

    Today’s infographic, which comes to us from FounderKit, looks at traits of existing unicorns – and analyzing this wealth of data might help entrepreneurs in shaping their own companies for future success.

    Courtesy of: Visual Capitalist

    Put together with information from Fortune and Crunchbase, this infographic gives us some clues as to how game-changing unicorns have been built in the past.

    While it’s certainly not a prescription for future success, it does provide a blueprint for what’s needed to improve your chances of beating the odds.

    Playing the red team

    If you’re an entrepreneur with billion dollar dreams, take a close look at the categories that best resemble your startup.

    For example, if your model depends on leasing hardware to the energy sector as a major revenue source, you should note that the odds are mostly against you. For starters, only 7% of unicorns are hardware companies, and energy doesn’t register high as a major business sector that has seen many unicorns. Further, companies that rent or lease their physical or intellectual assets make up just 1% of recent unicorn companies, which makes this particular model look pretty disadvantageous.

    It doesn’t mean that this idea is not feasible – maybe it’s an underappreciated sector, or the idea is completely groundbreaking. However, given the information above, it’s most likely that this will be a tough go, so it’s worth making adjustments accordingly.

    Playing the green team

    Based on the above information, what combination of startup traits could provide the most common recipe for unicorn status?

    Let’s create a hypothetical new startup:

    • It should be consumer focused, since the majority of companies are B2C (62%)
    • It should provide software, since 87% of all unicorns focus there
    • This startup should be retail/e-commerce marketplace focused, a category home to a whopping 25% of recent unicorns
    • It should have a model based on commission or brokerage fees (33% of recent unicorns)

    It’s not hard to see similarities with the above traits and recent unicorns like Shopify or Airbnb, which both serve as solid precedents for success.

    Of course, it’s far from a guarantee of future unicorn status, but it does mean that you likely have better than a 0.00006% chance.

    SEE ALSO: China's home-grown tech giants are dominating their US competitors

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