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The latest news on Startups from Business Insider

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    Herdsmen from the Kyrgyz ethnic group hold their falcons as they ride on horses during a hunting competition in Akqi county, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous February 1, 2015. Picture taken February 1, 2015.

    Tech startups around the world are awash with cash right now, thanks to hedge funds, traditional investment firms, and billionaires piling in alongside VCs to back businesses.

    Europe is no different, with €3.47 billion (£2.5 billion, $3.92 billion) invested in tech startups here in the second quarter of the year, according to Tech EU. The UK took the biggest share of that, accounting for €992.9 million (£725.7 million, $1.12 billion).

    As a result, tech startups have an insane amount of buying power right now, particularly when it comes to hiring top talent.

    Gordon & Eden is an executive hire firm based in London that specialises in bridging the gap between tech startups and big businesses, with hires going both ways. 

    Founders Sophie Eden and Sam Gordon tell Business Insider that on several occasions they've seen startups poach executives who were in line to take top jobs at traditional "big corporates."

    Most of the poachers had only raised Series A or even seed funding rounds — meaning these are really, really early stage businesses. Real startups.

    On one notable occasion a stock market listed big corporate had offered a candidate an executive role with a base salary of over £100,000 ($154,000), plus pension and bonus.

    Then a startup swooped in, matched the salary, and dangled a big carrot of shares in the business. The candidate joined the startup.

    The key, Gordon says, is that startups are realising they have to pay for top talent rather than just offer equity, as startups would have done a few years ago. 

    Gordon says: "Startups no longer expect people to sweat for equity. And if they do, they're limiting their talent pool."

    Startups are laying out six-figure salaries for executives even if the company is just starting out.

    That's because tech businesses are realising that in some cases it's worth getting experienced people from the corporate world to help them grow. 

    But the key to all this, Gordon & Eden say, is the money. It's all very well to realise top corporate talent if worth it but if you haven't got the cash to tempt them you're stuck.

    A few years ago most startups in London wouldn't have been able to match the salary of a huge corporation. Now they can, thanks to the tonne of investors who are more than happy to stump up the money.

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: All the incredibly useful things you didn't know your iPhone headphones could do


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    Shift Car enthusiast

    Selling your car is annoying, especially if you want to sell to a person and not be ripped off by a dealer. It's about trust and money, and it's hard to have a transaction that doesn't make you miserable.

    Venture capitalists have noticed and have started writing large checks to solve the problem. Online used car dealer Beepi has raised more than $79 million. New York-based online dealer Vroom most recently took in a $54 million round in July, raising its total to $108 million.

    These aren't competitors says George Arison, CEO and founder of Shift.

    The key to Shift's future, Arrison said, is the fact that the company doesn't own a single car. While Vroom and Beepi both buy the cars and then sell them online, Shift doesn't keep any inventory.

    "We believe we can build the largest car company in the United States without actually owning any vehicle, similar to Airbnb having built the largest hotel company in the United States without owning any hotel rooms and Facebook owning the largest media company in the country without producing any content," Arison told Business Insider.

    The company plans to announce today a $50 million Series B round led by Goldman Sachs, bringing its total to $73.8 million.

    "For us, it's awesome to have this branch institution, that like you said, normally invests later, and come in and pick the winner early and pick the model early in the space," Arison said.

    How it works

    Shift works by taking over the selling process, making it easier for sellers, and working directly with the buyers.

    Shift first dispatches a "car enthusiast" to a car owner's house to give it a quick inspection and a guaranteed price quote. If it sells above that, Shift splits the proceeds 50-50.

    Minnie in hubOnce the car owner is ready to sell it, one of Shift's car enthusiasts will drive it to a Shift "Hub," or warehouse, where the startup does an inspection and any repairs needed to get the car up to sellable condition. The car is also professionally photographed before it's listed on websites like Autotrader.

    On the other side, Shift promises buyers a test-drive in 45 minutes or less. It also tracks the data on comparable cars in the area and presents it in a graph for transparency — getting rid of the dealer mark-ups, Arrison said. The car enthusiasts aren't paid on commission either, so there are no used car salesman tricks. 

    Right now, Shift only operates in San Francisco and Los Angeles, but it's planning on expanding to 20 cities by the end of 2016. That also goes for expanding their sales. Arrison said that the company plans to sell $150 million in gross merchandise value by the end of the year and cross the $1 billion mark in merchandise value next year.

    This is just the beginning though, and one reason why Goldman Sachs invested so early. Shift is starting with one headache — the act of selling or buying a car — but it will work its way through all of the inconviences that come with car ownership.

    "Shift isn't just about buying a car, it's about owning a car,"Arrison said. "Imagine a world in which one day Shift knows — if you let us know this — that it's time to change the oil, and a car enthusiast comes to your house or office, picks up the car, changes the oil, and drops it back off."

     

    SEE ALSO: Social is dead: What 146 startup pitches showed me about the next wave of tech companies

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Floyd Mayweather just spent $4.8 million on one of the fastest cars in the world


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    bill gurley benchmarkIn the 1990s, a tech bubble emerged — and then burst — in the public market. Now, there could be one in the private market, too. 

    In a new piece for Vanity Fair, Nick Bilton reports on what could burst Silicon Valley's next tech bubble.

    It's an illuminating story — Bilton talks about overly optimistic venture capitalists pumping money into startups, a culture of FOMO ("fear of missing out") among investors, and over-inflated valuations.

    In part, Bilton says, venture capital investment in recent years has been fueled by investors chasing unicorns — billion-dollar private tech companies — scared of missing out on funding the next Uber. The valuations commanded by private companies aren't verified or fact-checked by the SEC or the public market. 

    Several venture capitalists have made mention of the current state of VC funding in Silicon Valley, noting the crazy amount of money being pumped into startups today. Some — even those with unicorn companies in their portfolios — have said that we're in a bubble, and it could be close to bursting.

    “Arguing we aren’t in a bubble because it’s not as bad as 1999,” Benchmark partner Bill Gurley tweeted last year, “is like saying that Kim Jong-un is fine because he’s not as bad as Hitler.”

    Gurley, whose firm's portfolio includes companies like $51 billion Uber and $16 billion Snapchat, has been sounding the alarm about an impending bubble for a while now. In a tweetstorm last month, he said he believes a recent downturn in tech stocks is a sign that Silicon Valley's golden age could soon be over.

    We're at an "inflection point," Gurley says, and bad things are happening "quickly." In other words: winter is coming for Silicon Valley.  

    In his story for Vanity Fair, Bilton also says that in some cases, startups are over-inflating or even completely fabricating their valuations when talking to investors.

    "One successful venture capitalist told me that he recently met with a unicorn that was seeking a new round of funding," Bilton says. "When he asked the C.E.O. why he had valued his company at $1 billion, he was told, 'We need to be worth a billion dollars to be able to recruit new engineers. So we decided that was our valuation.'"

    You can read Bilton's whole report over at Vanity Fair.

    SEE ALSO: A billion-dollar tech 'unicorn' was born every week this year, but winter is coming

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Having blown it on Uber, investor Gary Vaynerchuk shares his lessons on how to spot the next "unicorn"


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    Switzerland Swiss Flag

    Switzerland probably isn't the first country you think of when it comes to startups in Europe. The country's high cost of living has probably put off some tech startups, but there's a surprisingly vibrant startup scene in Zürich and other cities.

    We collected some of Switzerland's most exciting technology startups and ranked them by the amount raised, headcount, and how cool and original they are. 

     

     

    12. Gamaya helps farmers check their crops using drones.

    Gamaya is a Lausanne-based startup which fits drones with a hyperspectral imaging system. This type of imaging can give scientists information about the type of ground, vegetation, and even building materials used.

    Drones are then flown over fields and industrial farmers can accurately measure the health of crops and their environment.

    The company was started in 2014, but their devices are already being used by farmers across Europe.

    Total amount raised: $800,000 (£521,000)

    Headcount: 7



    11. Gbanga makes video games that use real-world location data.

    Gbanga is a Swiss video game developer founded in 2007. It has worked with larger companies to create promotional apps, including "IKEA PAX Packer" and "Gross. Stadt. Jagd" with Mercedes-Benz. 

    Gbanga makes many of its apps using a core technology that matches social gaming with real-world environments. Players can even make their own games using Gbanga's "Puppetmaster" API.

    Total amount raised: Unknown

    Headcount: 8



    10. TrekkSoft helps tour providers and activity companies get digital.

    TrekkSoft is a website builder and booking application which helps tour guides and activity holiday providers start running their businesses online.

    Companies using TrekkSoft can take bookings through smartphones, and can also use the platform to accept payments, making the entire process quicker and easier.

    The company was founded in 2010 and now has over 200 businesses using its software.

    Total amount raised: $3.4 million (£2.2 million)

    Headcount: 24



    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    orion hindawi large

    The recent barrage of high profile hacks has created a bubble in security startups, as investors pour money into companies that promise to help stop the next attack. 

    But the cofounder of one of those startups thinks that bubble's about to pop.

    "A few months ago," says Tanium's CTO Orion Hindawi, "investors were fixating on growth at the expense of anything else. They didn't care if companies were profitable or not profitable, cash flow positive, or sustainable in any way."

    That's starting to change, which is one reason why Tanium was able to raise $120 million a mere five months after raising $52 million— with a valuation that's doubled to $3.5 billion since then.

    Hindawi says that Tanium is cash-flow positive, growing at more than 250% per year ("billings, bookings, and revenue"), and has dozens of customers with 20,000 or more seats, including 7 of the 10 biggest banks, 3 of the 5 biggest retailers, and "an enormous surge in interest out of the federal government" following the hack of the Office of Personnel Management last spring. 

    "Probably most common question we're being asked is, 'we're spending more and more on security every year, but it's not getting better. Why?' The simple answer is people keep buying on a prayer instead of buying real solid technology." He says many security startups are focusing on "useless" things that companies don't care about, like "which building in Shanghai" originated attacks.

    Tanium's technology solves a more pressing problem: It gives IT administrators a single console that tells them everything that's happening on all the computers in an organization. That's easy to explain, but very hard to do, which is why Tanium's technology sells itself. The company spends no money on sales and marketing, but gets all its customers through word of mouth in the IT community.

    A father and son team

    The company was founded by Orion and his father David. They also worked together at David's last company, BigFix, which IBM bought for a reported $400 million in 2007.

    Tanium started as a pure security play, but instead of trying to harden a company's perimeter against attacks (which is  like a game of ever-escalating cat-and-mouse), it instead showed companies when suspicious routines that might indicate a hack or malware were running on particular computers, then gave them an easy way to shut those machines down before they could do much damage.

    Since then, Tanium has branched into other related areas. One of the most valuable has been software license management — a way to scan all the machines in a company to tell them exactly what software is being used, so they don't have to overpay for software they're not using. This can save literally millions of dollars in a weeks.

    goldman trading floor

    "One hotel chain — literally on the first day they deployed Tanium, they found 500 cores of SQL [Microsoft's database software] with no databases, or that had not been connected to in last 90 days, or were not even running." By detecting all that useless software, the hotel chain got enough return on investment to justify their purchase on the first day. 

    Hindawi says Tanium wil use the new round to expand into other areas, so it can replace the dozens of pieces of software that perform a single function, like managing security patches. It will also expand beyond PCs — its traditional focus — to cover mobile devices and the millions of tiny connected devices like sensors, which are sometimes called the "Internet of things."

    One thing that's not going to change, however, is Tanium's focus on companies and government agencies with 20,000 or more computers. "We've focused on getting 250 out of the Global 2000. I want other 1,750."

    This investment was led by TPG, Institutional Venture Partners (IVP), and T Rowe Price. Andreessen Horowitz, which has invested in Tanium's last two rounds, also participated. 

    SEE ALSO: 10 months ago, ex-Microsoft star Steven Sinofsky backed this startup — now it's worth $1.75 billion

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: These guys remotely hacked a Jeep — here's how to prevent it from happening to you


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    zoolander gas

    The gas station is an institution that has remained largely unchanged and unchallenged for the past 50 years, but if Bruno Uzzan gets his way, it will eventually become a thing of the past.

    Purple, Uzzan’s new mobile app which is available on iOS and Android, lets you order gas straight to your location — if you are in its pilot city of Los Angeles. Right now, the app functions on demand, with options to deliver to you in one hour or three hours. This functionality has gained Purple 15,000 users since its launch in May, and the support of early investors like Oscar Salazar, veteran of Uber and Ride.

    Screen Shot 2015 09 02 at 9.30.27 AMBut in a few weeks, Purple will roll out what feels like its most attractive and natural option: overnight filling. Simply tell Purple where your car is parked, go to bed, and wake up the next day with your tank filled.

    “Convenience is the first motivation,” Uzzan says, though he realizes that for some the annoyance of going to the gas station might not outweigh the added cost of delivery.

    But the pricing is competitive. In Los Angeles, Purple charges $3.79 per gallon for octane 87 and $3.99 per gallon for octane 91. For reference, the average price of a gallon of gasoline in the Los Angeles area is $3.56, according to The Los Angeles Times.

    To allow Purple to fill you car, you pick from two options: either 10 gallons or 15 gallons. Uzzan says that due to regulations on measuring gas, for now Purple's couriers are only allowed to fill your tanks in round numbers. Uzzan does promise that Purple will eventually offer a five-gallon option. Once you've chosen, you leave your gas tank door unlocked (or open), and Purple comes over to fill it.

    Uzzan says the early adopters of his service have mostly been those with luxury cars — around 80% — in the wealthy neighborhoods of Beverly Hills, Santa Monica, and West Hollywood. 

    Now he wants to expand outside of that market, and up the coast to the San Francisco Bay Area.


    Screen Shot 2015 09 02 at 9.30.43 AMTo facilitate this expansion, Purple recently closed a small seed round, with backers like the aforementioned Oscar Salazar. 
    And like Uber with a long bet on self-driving cars, Salazar and Uzzan are thinking one step ahead with Purple.

    “Cars are more and more connected, and there is the vision that one day you won’t have to go to the gas station, or even order Purple. The car itself will automatically order gas. All the technical aspects are there,” Uzzan insists. It’s just a matter of putting everything together.

    And Uzzan doesn't just want to stop with gas. He thinks of Purple as an on-demand energy company, and has been brainstorming how the company could give a boost to electric cars, which would be especially useful in places where there’s not a good charging infrastructure.

    But for now, Uzzan’s focus is on capturing a piece of the gas market. "40 million people stop into a gas station every day," he explains. “Even if we have only 0.1% of them, that would be 40 thousand users per day.”

    Purple isn't the first gas-filling startup to market. Filld, based in Palo Alto, also lets you hail tanks of gas like an Uber from your smart phone. And vale parking startup Luxe has mulled the idea of filling gas for its users too.

    The market is huge, and the gas station is certainly not the ideal consumer experience. But the question is whether Purple can create a better one, and whether it can continue to keep its (almost certainly subsidized) rates low if its funding begins to run dry.

    SEE ALSO: The 25 hottest under-the-radar startups in America

    Join the conversation about this story »

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    Zirx

    The worst thing about driving in a city is not the traffic. It's finding a place to park your car that's safe and doesn't empty your wallet.

    It's a challenge of owning a car, and the luxury-car maker BMW has noticed. Its venture arm, BMW i Ventures, has announced an investment in Zirx, a San Francisco-based on-demand parking startup that wants to change the worst thing about city driving.

    Neither company specified the amount raised, but Zirx CEO and founder Sean Behr characterized BMW's strategic investment as "multiple millions." BMW's money influx adds to the $36.4 million Zirx had previously raised.

    The investment from the luxury-car maker doesn't mean each Bimmer will come with a valet service, and there are no concrete plans in the works right now, Behr told Business Insider. In the future, though, it's not out of the question that the two companies with a mutual interest in making car ownership easy would work together. One possibility would be a Zirx app in a BMW dashboard or a valet service for its Getaround rental car competitor, for example.

    "With its combination of service and technology that makes it easier for drivers to park and take care of their cars, Zirx has the potential to be a central component of on-demand services," Ulrich Quay, managing director of BMW's venture arm, said in a press release.

    This isn't street parking

    To change how car owners park in a city, the 18-month-old startup rents spaces in numerous strategically located garages — they're not just circling the block on your behalf. Instead, both Zirx and its biggest on-demand parking rival, Luxe, ask car owners to input their destination via an app and then use their GPS location to track the driver's arrival. A valet then meets the driver and takes the car to a secure lot leased by the company.

    When the owner is ready to return home, a few taps of the app will have the car returned to the owner's location — and it doesn't have to be the same place where the car was dropped off. To make car owning easier, each company also offers a bevy of perks including oil changes, car washes, and gas fill-ups.

    ZIRX founder and CEO Sean Behr

    Where Zirx is focusin on now is on the enterprise business and in turning on-demand parking into a company job perk. The entertainment-events company Live Nation started using the valet service three months ago when it ran out of parking spots in its garage. Other companies are using it as a perk in a talent war to attract employees who may live out of the city and need a reasonably priced, safe place to leave their car, Behr said.

    It can be hard to persuade a recruit to shell out $400 a month for parking when it's free at companies like Google and Facebook.

    "It's clearly an HR issue," Behr said.

    Zirx estimates that one-fourth of its business comes from relationships with companies, though it declined to discuss other metrics. Luxe has seen the same signals and launched its own enterpirse arm, Luxe for Business, in December 2014.

    Otherwise, the parking startup is focused on growing its operations as it tries to alleviate parking pains in more cities, Behr said. Zirx is in six cities now, compared with Luxe's nine markets, and it will need to carve out its territory as parking spots are a fixed (and dwindling) supply in dense cities.

    Parking the car isn't the profitable part of the business either, though Behr insists that the company is getting close. The company recently changed its pricing structure from a flat fee to a cost based on zone. Parking spaces in certain spots of the city naturally cost more, so the prices reflect that, Behr said, though its monthly subscription remains the same.

    Instead, it's the add-ons like a car wash that help Zirx's margins and that are where the company will look to expand through partnerships. The competition and venture-backed business necessity already eliminated the pink-blazered Carbon valets from the parking wars as it too tries to pivot to adding delivery into its parking model.

    "The barrier to entry is low, but the barrier to success is still really high," Behr said.

    SEE ALSO: The parking startup whose valets wore pink blazers has shut down as it moves to a new delivery idea

    Join the conversation about this story »

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    Rock Band

    Wednesdays are especially quirky at the education startup Udacity.

    Over the past few years, the company has had meditation sessions, K-pop dance routines, and puppy tricks punctuate its weekly, Wednesday-afternoon meeting.

    Employees have also ratted off the first 100 digits of Pi from memory, taught a Zumba routine, and shared home-made cheesecake, thanks to a tradition that dates back nearly to the company's founding. 

    Udacity CEO Sebastian Thrun, who also launched Google's secretive hardware lab Google X, came up with the idea that the employees should get to know each other better as real people, not just as coworkers, in 2012. 

    So, each time a new person has started since, they're given a few minutes at the Wednesday all-hands meeting to introduce themselves to the rest of the staff by showing off one of their talents or favorite hobbies. 

    Here's Dathan Bennett, Udacity's new senior full-stack engineer, playing the folk tune "Deep River Blues" on guitar while his manager, Art Gillespie, holds the microphone:

    Udacity

    Since the tradition started, it's become something that team members remember and look forward to. There's something fun and funny about watching your peers do one-armed pushups, remix Taylor Swift, or play Rock Band blindfolded.

    "If you spend more time at work than at home, it's helpful to see your colleague as more than just a developer or marketer or finance person," Shernaz Daver, Udacity's global business and marketing advisor, tells Business Insider. "It give people the ability to learn more about each person outside of their work and find other connections that they may not have discovered before."

    After all, learning is hard-wired into the company's culture. Udacity's goal is to help people learn new, high-demand skills through a series of online programs it calls "nanodegrees."

    "There's definitely a culture of education," says Niji Mashruwala, Udacity's dev-ops engineer, "And a certain whimsical joy." 

    The company, which has raised $55 million, hit profitability for the first time in August and has about 130 employees. 

    udacity

     

    SEE ALSO: The founder of Google's top secret project lab has a new plan to double the world's GDP

    Join the conversation about this story »

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    unicorns

    If you follow tech, you know that Silicon Valley cannot stop talking about unicorns -- shorthand for the growing herd of startups valued at $1 billion or more.

    Dow Jones counts 77 of them in the U.S. alone and 106 worldwide, including Uber ($50 billion), Palantir ($20 billion), Snapchat ($16 billion) and SpaceX ($12 billion).

    Whether or not the stunning growth of this group (increasing from 34 in 2013) constitutes a bubble is open for debate.

    What isn't is who ascribed the name of a mythical creature to the world's most promising and valuable startups. All credit, or blame, goes to Aileen Lee.

    Lee, a longtime tech venture capitalist and the founder of Cowboy Ventures, wanted to know how realistic it is to discover and invest in one of these companies, so she did some research in 2013 and found that 0.07 percent of venture-backed companies attained valuations of more than $1 billion (although that figure has since grown to 0.14 percent, which some say is a sign the tech industry may once again be in a bubble). Lee decided she wanted to share her findings, but not before coming up with a term that could properly describe these kinds of companies.

    “I was trying to come up with a word that would make it easier to use over and over again,” Lee said in an interview. “I played with different words like ‘home run,’ ‘megahit,’ and they just all sounded kind of ‘blah.’ So I put in ‘unicorn’ because they are -- these are very rare companies in the sense that there are thousands of startups in tech every year, and only a handful will wind up becoming a unicorn company. They’re really rare.”

    Besides describing the rarity of these startups, "unicorn" for Lee carried a mythical and playful feeling, which she said captures the essence of many of these companies. “A lot of the entrepreneurs and founders have big dreams and are on a mission to build things that the world has never seen before,” she said. “‘Home run’ or something like that doesn’t really capture that spirit.”

    That the term itself is laden with elements of fantasy and sci-fi -- popular genres among techies -- has no doubt helped solidify its place in Silicon Valley business-speak. "In a way, the term romanticizes techno-companies: takes them from the remote and unintelligible to the magical and even lovable, while also being rare and powerful," said Robin Lakoff, professor of linguistics at the University of California, Berkeley. "I certainly would feel nicer toward megarich tech startups if I could think of them as unicornlike."

    Aileen LeeAfter Lee settled on the right terminology, her findings were published on TechCrunch as “Welcome To The Unicorn Club: Learning From Billion-Dollar Startups” on Nov. 2, 2013, and the story immediately took off. The piece has been shared more than 19,000 times. The next day, Business Insider published a piece that referenced unicorns, and a few days later, other influences in the tech industry, like venture capitalist Hunter Walk, began making references to unicorns. “I honestly didn’t think anyone was going to read it,” Lee said. “I had no idea it was going to be of interest to anyone.”

    Since then, usage of the term in the press has see a compounded annual growth rate of 775 percent, according to Quid, a business analytics startup. There have been more than 1,700 stories published featuring the words "unicorn,""tech" and "valuation" since August 2013, Quid said. Unicorn is often applied to companies like Square ($6 billion) and Pinterest ($11 billion), and individuals like Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel and Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield are often associated with it.

    For many in tech, Lee’s article has changed their vocabulary. Manny Fernandez, CEO and co-founder of San Francisco angel investment platform Dreamfunded and a self-described “unicorn hunter,” said there isn’t a day that he doesn’t hear talk of unicorns. “We are in the era of the unicorns,” Fernandez said.

    unicorn graphBut Lee’s article isn’t the only reason the term has become so popular. Over the past decade, two major changes in the tech industry have created the need for a term that could quickly describe private billion-dollar tech companies. The first is is that these days, there's no real math to startup valuations -- the numbers are based mostly on a company’s potential, and they are essentially just made up. This has made it easier for companies to earn billion-dollar valuations.

    The other tectonic change is that venture-backed companies are staying private much longer than in the past. In 2000, the median time to an initial public offering was 3.1 years, according to the National Venture Capital Association.

    That number increased to 7.4 years in 2013, in part because many startups want to take advantage of the friendly valuation environment before they go public. Additionally, the emergence of private markets has made it easy for unicorn shareholders to cash out their investments without forcing their startups to go public and under the microscope of Wall Street’s unforgiving eyes.

    This is why companies like Dropbox ($10 billion) and Airbnb ($25.5 billion) remain private despite both being more than seven years old.

    Combined, these two changes have lead to there being more unicorns than ever before. Lee, whorevisited her findings in July, saw the number of U.S. public and private unicorns go from 39 in 2013 to 84 in 2015, a whopping 115 percent increase in the span of 20 months.

    Though unicorns are still rare, there are now so many that they “warrant a special term that captures the mythical/aspirational quality and yet is light-hearted enough to be shared rapidly,” said Bob Goodson, co-founder of Quid.

    So if you’re ever around San Francisco or hanging out with a techie, don’t be alarmed if you hear talk of unicorns -- it’s probably a reference to a tech company, and not “My Little Pony.” As for Lee, she and Cowboy Ventures are still on the lookout for a few unicorns of their own, but for now, well, she’s just “happy that people read the piece.”

    Join the conversation about this story »

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    Switzerland Swiss Flag

    Switzerland probably isn't the first country you think of when it comes to startups in Europe. The country's high cost of living has probably put off some tech startups, but there's a surprisingly vibrant startup scene in Zürich and other cities.

    We collected some of Switzerland's most exciting technology startups and ranked them by the amount raised, headcount, and how cool and original they are. 

     

     

    12. Gamaya helps farmers check their crops using drones.

    Gamaya is a Lausanne-based startup which fits drones with a hyperspectral imaging system. This type of imaging can give scientists information about the type of ground, vegetation, and even building materials used.

    Drones are then flown over fields and industrial farmers can accurately measure the health of crops and their environment.

    The company was started in 2014, but their devices are already being used by farmers across Europe.

    Total amount raised: $800,000 (£521,000)

    Headcount: 7



    11. Gbanga makes video games that use real-world location data.

    Gbanga is a Swiss video game developer founded in 2007. It has worked with larger companies to create promotional apps, including "IKEA PAX Packer" and "Gross. Stadt. Jagd" with Mercedes-Benz. 

    Gbanga makes many of its apps using a core technology that matches social gaming with real-world environments. Players can even make their own games using Gbanga's "Puppetmaster" API.

    Total amount raised: Unknown

    Headcount: 8



    10. TrekkSoft helps tour providers and activity companies get digital.

    TrekkSoft is a website builder and booking application which helps tour guides and activity holiday providers start running their businesses online.

    Companies using TrekkSoft can take bookings through smartphones, and can also use the platform to accept payments, making the entire process quicker and easier.

    The company was founded in 2010 and now has over 200 businesses using its software.

    Total amount raised: $3.4 million (£2.2 million)

    Headcount: 24



    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    ellen rubin ClearSky Data

    Ellen Rubin's first startup, built in the height of the dot-com era, failed miserably. Then she hit success after success after success — without writing a line of code herself.

    The three-time startup founder has a liberal arts degree and an MBA from Harvard. Her only computer science education was an intro class as an undergrad.

    It hasn't stopped her from becoming a serial entrepreneur — and one of few women CEOs — in an area of enterprise computing that is highly technical.

    "I’m not misled about what I’m actually good at. I’m the market, the product, the customers. I’m not the engineering vision or how to build the engineering team," Rubin told Business Insider. "In a less heavily technical area, if you’re building something that’s more webby or appy, it’s easier to blur that line because the technical skills you need aren’t so specific and deep."

    Rubin, though, has gone deep into the layers of data warehouses, cloud storage and enterprise software — not just built another photo-sharing app.

    After her failed dotcom venture in Israel, Rubin joined data warehouse startup Netezza as employee number one, serving as VP of marketing. The company went public in 2007 before eventually being sold to IBM in 2010 for a whopping $1.8 billion — more than Facebook paid for Instagram.

    After it had gone public, Rubin got the entrepreneurial itch again to found a new company.

    "I wanted to go build something. I knew what I needed was a technical cofounder. That’s always been a thing for me to have that person who is the other half of the team," Rubin said.

    Her next startup the she cofounded, CloudSwitch, was quickly acquired in 2011 by Verizon for a large, albeit undisclosed, sum. Now she's cofounded her third startup, ClearSky Data, and is deep in the weeds of enterprise storage and infrastructure — a subject matter the liberal arts major is now highly specialized in. 

    “Nobody is more surprised than my family,” Rubin said of the path she took to get here.

    Now that Rubin has done it several times and successfully, here's her advice on how to find the right person to be the technical other half of a startup:

    1. Work your network, whether it's big or small. To get to the point where she had multiple startups under her belt, Rubin had to work whatever connections she had. Her experience with other startups led to introductions from those CEOs to venture capitalists to other people in the industry. "People know people that are interested in that thing," Rubin said. "And then they’ll introduce to three more people." 
    2. Know what you want to work on, but don't make it narrow."Basically what I did was said 'Here’s the areas of the types of customer and types of issues that I’m interested in.' I wanted to meet people who are interested in those same problems, but would be able to come up with a technical idea to solve those problems. It wasn’t so narrow," Rubin said. A cofounder should be equally interested and passionate about issues and want to be part of a solution.
    3. Be willing to take some time, but set aside a period you can afford."I had breakfast, lunch, and dinner and coffee and drinks. It’s a lot of sitting in a room together and saying ‘What do you think about this? Where do you think this is going?’” Rubin said. Some people will get frustrated with how iterative it is, so it's better to pick a timeline you can afford to spend looking for your cofounder.
    4. Don't be formulaic. Checking off items on a list won't cut it because you don’t always know who is going to consider starting something, Rubin said. "Some of it is just, you sit down with each other and say, 'Would you be able to spend the next five to 10 years working on something really hard together?' It’s not a short-term thing," Rubin said.
    5. It's like speed dating, but with a different outcome. There may be lots of open-ended coffee meetings, but finding a match isn't like going on a date. Instead, you're going forward with starting a company and always looking for signs on when to pull the plug on the person or on the product you're developing. "That process, which is like what you’d be doing starting a company, shows you what it’s like. You’re on the road, you’re under pressure to make things happen, and you're not wasting time because your time is important in all of this," Rubin said.

    The other thing Rubin would caution: a cofounder doesn't mean you've found a product or a market fit.

    Rubin and her ClearSky Data cofounder Lazarus Veriakides first started working on something else, taking it on the road and showing customers, but both realized they weren't truly in love with the product or ready to devote 10 years of their life to it. So they killed it.

    "That was hard. That was a really good test of how it works together," Rubin said."Laz kinda went and sat in a room by himself and came back with what became ClearSky Data." While the process of finding a technical cofounder may mean a longer path to get there, the company they cofounded has now raised $12 million in a Series A and emerged from stealth last month.

    "Customers want to talk technology but even more they want to talk about what kind of problems they’re having,
     Rubin said. "You don’t need an engineering degree to understand some of that stuff.”

    SEE ALSO: Twitter wants to hire more women, but only 1% more in the next year

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    Blablacar CEO Frédéric Mazzella

    Ride-sharing startup BlaBlaCar has raised $160 million (£104 million) from Insight Venture Partners, TechCrunch reports.

    The Series D round of funding apparently values the business at $1.2 billion (£780 million). That means that BlaBlaCar is now a European "unicorn" (a startup valued above $1 billion).

    TechCrunch reports that BlaBlaCar's Series D round will be led by Insight Venture Partners, but with participation from business angels.

    BlaBlaCar confirmed to Business Insider that its founders are speaking with investors, but the company did not confirm any of the funding details reported by TechCrunch.

    BlaBlaCar doesn't work like other ride-sharing services. It's designed for longer trips between cities, not for travel within them.

    Riders book trips between cities and destinations in advance with drivers who already traveling the route. Customers pay a small fee for the journey, and BlaBlaCar takes around a 10% cut of the price. There's also a system that controls how much you want to talk to your driver. Select "bla" if you're not feeling talkative, but you can also choose "bla bla" if you're a little chatty, or "bla bla bla" if you're keen to make conversation.

    BlaBlaCar has been expanding rapidly around Europe and the rest of the world. It acquired competitors Carpooling.com and AutoHop in April. That brought the total number of BlaBlaCar members to around 20 million. The company previously raised $100 million (£64.9 million) in 2014.

    The service currently operated in India and Mexico as well as Europe. It entered the Indian market in January, shortly after Uber was forced to suspend services in Delhi following the alleged rape of a passenger by one of its drivers in the country. BlaBlaCar offers a "ladies only" mode which lets female passengers select a female driver for their journey.

    Join the conversation about this story »

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    BlaBlaCar CEO Frederic Mazzella

    French ridesharing startup BlaBlaCar has reportedly raised $160 million (£104 million) in new funding, which brings its valuation to $1.2 billion (£780 million). 

    How could a hitchhiking app be worth so much? Hardly anyone uses it. It has only 2 million monthly active users. For comparison, Whatsapp has 900 million.

    But some back-of-the-envelope calculations show that BlaBlaCar could actually already be generating surprisingly robust revenues.

    The model that BlaBlaCar follows is similar to Uber and other ridesharing services, but the way the service works is slightly different.

    BlaBlaCar riders pay their driver a fee, and the company takes around a 12% cut from that amount (which is similar to how Uber works). But what's different about the service is that BlaBlaCar doesn't operate within cities — instead it's all about travel between long-distance destinations. Need a ride from Paris to Brussels, but don't want to pay the expensive train or plane fare? BlaBlaCar is your solution.

    Let's take a look at some of BlaBlaCar's numbers to figure out how much money it's bringing in. 

    BlaBlaCar COO and cofounder Nicolas Brusson told The Financial Times in December that the company has 2 million people who use its services every month. And the company said earlier last year that the average ride charge was around $25 (£16). Factor in BlaBlaCar's 12% cut and it's bringing in around $72 million (£46.8 million) every year, assuming that its users take one trip every month.

    Here's the sum:

    • 2 million rides
    • x $25 each
    • x 12 months of the year
    • x 12% cut for BlaBlaCar
    • = $72 million in revenues 

    We used old, conservative numbers to generate that estimate.

    An annual revenue of $72 million is no small figure, but if it were recurring annual revenue it would make a one-time investment of $160 million look reasonable. 

    It pales in comparison to Uber's predicted revenue figures. Uber is expected to hit an annual revenue run rate of $10 billion (£6.5 billion) by the end of 2015. Uber takes a larger cut than BlaBlaCar, keeping 20% instead of 12%, so it's expected to keep $2 billion (£1.3 billion) of that total. It also does many more rides.

    BlaBlaCar doesn't yet operate in the US, and doesn't appear to have any plans to head there and compete with Uber. COO Nicolas Brusson told The Financial Times in a December 2014 interview that "the US is not the best market for us in many ways." Instead, BlaBlaCar is focusing on other international markets like India, Turkey, Brazil, and Russia.

    It can be tricky for European ridesharing companies to expand to the US and attempt to take on the bigger players. British ridesharing company Hailo expanded to New York in 2013, but ended its operations there in 2014. Hailo's CEO, Jay Bregman, also departed the company shortly afterwards. 

    Join the conversation about this story »

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    Troy Carter

    Troy Carter knows how to pick talent, but his own spark is turning that talent into a cultural phenomenon.

    Carter managed Lady Gaga from early into her career to worldwide stardom until he was fired in 2013. These days, Carter and his talent agency, Atom Factory, manage the next frontier of pop stars, including Meghan Trainor and John Legend.

    That's not all he's known for, though. Carter is the rare bridge between Silicon Valley and the Los Angeles entertainment industry. Uber, Lyft, Dropbox, Spotify, theSkimm, and Warby Parker are just a few of his tech investments.

    His expertise at picking talented musicians and founders has more overlap than one would think. 

    "One makes hit records and one makes hit products, but you gotta have a hit," Carter said in an exclusive interview with Business Insider.

    While pop culture has validated two of his biggest hits (Lady Gaga and Uber), Carter decided to try his hand at a new venture: a startup accelerator.

    Getting SMASHD

    Carter and the Atom Factory announced their new startup accelerator, SMASHD Labs, in July. The 10-week program, starting September 14, is designed to find companies that are at the center of technology, entertainment and culture — areas traditional venture capitalists have shied away from post-Napster. 

    When Carter first started investing, he met with Paul Graham from Y Combinator about music startups. Graham told Carter at the time that his famous and prestigious startup accelerator wouldn't accept music startups because of the litigious nature of the music industry, Carter said, recounting the conversation.

    "I was so disappointed just because there’s such lack of technological innovation in music right now and for companies to be able to come in and really revolutionize music, they’re going to need to be financially backed, supported, and be able to get the rights," Carter said.

    "We want to be able to open the door to companies to come into our network where we can actually invest money, put a network of investors around them, and put mentors in the room that can help them build a great company."

    Carter first got the idea to build SMASHD Labs, his new accelerator, after he started working with Everdream, a trio of filmmakers straight out of University of Southern California. He tore out the gym at the Atom Factory to give the founders room to work and plugged them into his network.

    After a good trial experience with Everdream, Carter's Smashd Labs will make its first run with its 10-week program, which kicks off September 14. After 200 applications came in, the batch was narrowed down to six:

    • WeTransferwhich is a way to transfer large files, and is used widely in the music industry. Carter describes meeting the founding team of WeTransfer like when he met Daniel Ek, founder of Spotify. "Here you have this humble founder who is building this incredible business and whose looking to scale it around the world," Carter said. The Amsterdam-based company is not only hot in Europe for its file transfer speed and security, but it's also gained traction in the US within the music industry. "All of our clients on the music side use WeTransfer, so here we have this opportunity to reach 70 million people per month through advertising," Carter said.
    • Trakfire: Similar to a Product Hunt for music, Trakfire wants to surface new music and make finding talent much easier. Right now the industry relies on several data sources like Spotify or iHeart Radio lists to make predictions, but none of that is running through one system, Carter explained. "Without giving too much away about what they’re working on, it’s the most well-thought out and efficient way of discovering new music I’ve seen so far. And with the right product road map, they can build something that could be revolutionary in the music business," Carter said.
    • Sidestep: Super fans want to collect merchandise from concerts, but those are the same fans who don't want miss a single song of the concert having to wait for in lengthy lines, Carter said. "You go into the venues and there’s a huge drop-off rate in the merch lines. People don’t want to miss parts of the concert," Carter said. Sidestep lets fans skip the lines and order T-shirts and other fan gear directly to their seats or their house. After successfully piloting its line-saving system with a few acts like Train and Fall Out Boy, Sidestep has shown it can relieve an industry pain point while gaining valuable data on a musician's fan base, Carter said.

    Smashd Labs Garage Wide

    • Throne: One of Carter's favorite companies, Throne is an "eBay for streetwear" that pairs sneakers with thought-out articles and culture pieces. Carter first saw the company at a demo day and said he knew that he wanted to be in on their product. He's been urging the company to join SMASHD since. "The problem with when you look at eBay is that you can put a pair of Jordans next to a frying pan. It’s an altogether different experience compared to having some editorial around it and well-curated experience," Carter said.
    • Podium: Remember those TV screens in the back of taxi cabs? Podium wants to do the same, but to help Lyft and Uber drivers. The startup gives tablets to drivers for the ride-hailing companies and then splits the revenue it gets from advertisers. "When you think about brands and movie studios and everybody who is trying to reach millennials, having a captive audience in the back of Lyft or an Uber is a pretty great place," Carter said. Podium already did a pilot program in New York City that was funded by social media mogul Gary Vaynerchuk, and, as an investor in both Uber and Lyft, Carter wants to plug Podium into his connections. Podium may need the help since Uber has discouraged third-party advertisers before.
    • Enrou: The least entertainment-related of the startups, Enrou is a marketplace where buyers can support both the individuals and communities that they buy from. Carter first spotted its founders on the Forbes 30 under 30 list and wanted the company to apply for SMASHD. "This was a company that really checked a box that we were looking for in how can we combine social impact around global culture. With what Enrou was doing with helping women and taking products from local marketplaces, we thought it was really great," Carter said.

    Here’s an introduction to the inaugural SMASHD labs startups:

    SEE ALSO: How non-technical startup founders can find their technical 'other half'

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    Canal Ring Amsterdam

    As of today, university students in the Netherlands will be able to apply for a new educational program centered around 'growth hacking', a lean marketing technique often employed by tech startups.

    Appropriately called the ‘Growth Tribe Academy’, the program welcomes applicants eager to become well-versed in a combination of marketing, data and product expertise in order to sell products and gain exposure. 

    The first of its kind in Europe, according to its instigators, the Growth Tribe Academy is a full-time, three-month program held at the University of Amsterdam, one of the partners of the project.

    Also worth noting: it's completely free of charge for selected participants.

    Other partners include the Amsterdam Center for Entrepreneurship (ACE), Dutch VC firm Peak Capitaland Catawiki, a Dutch startup that recently closed a $82 million Series C growth funding round. The lead organiser of the program is 'growth hacking agency' Growth Tribe, which was recently started by a team of field experts, as they noticed a mismatch between the startups hungry for growth hacking talent, and the people available to full such roles.

    growth hacking

    The inaugural 'Growth Tribe Academy' class kicks off November 2nd, 2015 with the program ending late January 2016. Up to 24 selected participants will take part in workshops and work in teams on existing growth hacking projects from startups such as The Cloakroom, Usabilla and BloomOn.

    The municipality of Amsterdam is supporting the program via its StartupAmsterdam initiative, which aims to position Amsterdam as one of Europe's top startup hubs.

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    leap outside

    Leap Transit, the startup that served fresh-pressed juice to commuters on its luxury buses, has filed for bankruptcy. The rest of its buses are now up for sale, starting at $5 each.

    Signs that Leap was headed toward a shut down started in May. The company suspended its service, although at the time it was supposed to be temporary.

    In June, two of its buses were up for auction. More buses were auctioned off in July. Now there are two left, up for sale in an October auction.

    The company officially filed for bankruptcy July 15, but the filing wasn't spotted until Tuesday by the San Francisco Examiner. In the filing, Leap estimated that it had between $100,000 and $500,000 of debt, as well as $100,000 to $500,000 in assets. The company could identify more than $129,000 in owed back wages and other claims, but it had a long list of creditors and investors that it had to notify about its bankruptcy.

    In contrast, its gross income in 2015 was only $20,748, according to the bankruptcy records.

    Rocky from the start

    When Leap relaunched in March, it was heralded and blasted for its private-bus approach. The critics in San Francisco claimed it was just another way for rich techies to get to work — the city already has an extensive network of commuter shuttles. One headline said "San Francisco gets the ridiculous luxury bus it deserves." A city supervisor reportedly called it a "crock of s---" and criticized it for creating a two-tier transit system in the city when it first launched in 2013.

    Leap's proponents, though, saw it as a problem-solver and a way to get more cars off the street. The high-end line of buses were equipped with Wi-Fi, coffee, snacks, power outlets, and leather seats. It unabashedly catered to those who could afford its $6 ticket each way.

    Kyle Kirchhoff PortraitThe company attracted money from some of the top venture capital firms in Silicon Valley, including Andreessen Horowitz, SV Angel, and Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff.

    Despite being the second-largest shareholder after Leap's CEO, Kyle Kirchhoff, Andreessen Horowitz no longer lists Leap as a portfolio company.

    Kirchhoff and Leap did not return requests for comment.

    Its debut in 2013 was a test run, and the company profited $13,567 from its trial period, according to the bankruptcy documents.

    Leap Transit took some time off to get its permits, but then ran into problems from the state, which denied it a permit since it only operated in San Francisco. The city, in turn, did not require it to have a permit either, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

    The company relaunched in March 2015 without any permits from the city or state, a problem that continued to dog it. It was told it needed to add wheelchair accessibility after it purposely yanked the gear out during the bus remodelling.

    The startup also ran into complaints from its launch. When Business Insider reporter Matt Weinberger rode it during the first week, the Leap "attendant" on the bus said that it had already changed its stop locations twice after the bus blocked a homeowner's driveway and then a convenience store.

    A look back at luxury

    After it took what was supposed to be a temporary break in May, the startup never rolled again.

    Here's a look back at when Weinberger took his first and only trip on a Leap bus:

    SEE ALSO: California regulators continue to put pressure on transportation startups

    From the outside, Leap looks like your normal, everyday city bus, just in a bright shade of blue. Before you get on the bus, you have to pull up the app, which provides a real-time arrival estimate as well as a number for how many seats were left. You can either check in with a QR code or activate an "express" check-in option, which uses Bluetooth to check you in automatically. I went with the second option.



    Leap stops were demarcated by blue-and-white poles with the Leap rabbit icon on top.



    I was skeptical, but as soon as I stepped onto the bus, my phone buzzed, and Richard, the Leap "attendant" on duty, confirmed that I was checked in. True to expectation, it was just me and Richard on this bus. Given free rein to choose my seat, I sat down at what looked like the counter at your everyday coffee shop and sat on the leather stool, facing the window so I could watch the masses not on a private bus go by. On the other side of the bus were rows of black leather armchairs.



    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    Hello Fresh box No. 2

    German food delivery startup HelloFresh has raised €75 million (£54 million) in funding from Scottish investment firm Baille Gifford, Bloomberg reports.

    The latest injection of funding has lifted the company's valuation to €2.6 billion (£1.8 billion) from just €600 million (£438 million), after a €126 million (£103 million) Series E round in February. HelloFresh is backed by the Samwer brothers' Rocket Internet, although the deal will see Rocket's share in the company drop from 58.9% to 57.2%.

    HelloFresh delivers weekly meal kits — a kind of gourmet grocery service that makes it easier for people to make fresh food at home. The boxes are packed full of fresh fruit or vegetables, and other ingredients. It already has 250,000 regular subscribers, and serves over four million meals a month in the US, UK, the Netherlands, Austria, Australia, Germany, and Belgium. HelloFresh hasn't offered up profits for this year so far, but said it was earning revenues of €70 million (£51 million) in 2014.

    It isn't the only company serving up fresh ingredients that you can cook at home. London-based Shuttlecook texts users a daily recipe, and delivers the exact ingredients to their workplace. US competitor Blue Apron has also been valued at $2 billion (£1.2 billion).

    The company is thought to be considering an IPO, Reuters reports, but has yet to give an exact time frame for it.

    Business Insider has reached out to HelloFresh and will update this article with any response.

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    Typeform

    Typeform is looking to reinvent online forms, an area that has barely changed at all since the invention of the web.

    In order to do this, the company has raised a $15 million (£9.7m, €13.3m) Series A round from Index Ventures, Point Nine Capital, and Anthony Casalena, CEO of Squarespace, and, most curiously, two Facebook execs: Javier Olivan, VP of growth and Jay Parikh, global head of engineering and infrastructure. 

    The Barcelona-based company has received a total of $2.2 million (£1.4m, €1.9m) in funding from two rounds prior to its Series A, making the new cash injection a step up that CEO David Okuniev says will go toward "scaling the team in Barcelona and expanding operations to the US."

    The company's genesis came from a high-end toilet design company that asked the team to create a lead generation form, exposing just how bad forms had become on the web. According to Typeform, the average completion rate of legacy forms sits at 13%. The company's forms, in contrast, sit at 55%. 

    The company is seeing over 4 million answers a month (roughly 130,000 answers per day) across a broad range of partners. This number is likely to increase, Okubiev said, as Typeform expands in other areas beyond online forms. "Payments is quite a popular use case for us," he told Business Insider. "We currently process over $500k a month for our customers in collected payments." 

    In terms of competition, Typeform has a clear plan. "User experience is our main differentiator," Okubiev says. "[And] as far as the forms go, the way you build forms is also a differentiator." Going forward, Typeform plan to introduce a collaborative team-based version that will become "part of business workflows."

    In addition to being a good feature, collaborative forms also work well with the business model of the company — freemium with a "Pro" plan for $25/month (£16/month) — paving a way for growth that can be subsidised by the new round of funding. 

    Join the conversation about this story »

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    lucky clover

    First Round Capital has made small bets on companies that have paid off in big ways. It led Uber's seed round of founding. It's got money in Warby Parker, Uber, and Square. 

    However, the average investment for the venture capital firm is around $500,000. In the first time in the firm's decade-long history, First Round has gone above the mark and invested $4M in a company. 

    Partner Josh Kopelman and First Round are leading a $100 million Series A round in Clover Health, a company that's until now flown under the radar. Its closest competition is Oscar Health, an insurance company geared at millennials, that attracted money from Google.

    It's a bet on the broken market of health insurance and startup that wants to fix Medicare Advantage, said Kopelman, a partner at First Round.

    "We're a seed stage fund and for the last 10 years we've been pretty strongly disciplined toward focusing on seed stage," Kopelman told Business Insider. "This really is an exception for us, and it required an exceptional company."

    Rather than going after that demographic, Clover is focused on Medicare Advantage, a plan that attracts the elderly and the disabled. Medicare Advantage is a Medicare plan, but can be offered by private companies, like Clover.

    What sets Clover apart is its use of software on every level of care: it builds a team that maintains users profiles and can dispatch nurses on home visits, after a surgery for example, to make sure patients are following through on their instructions and feeling better.

    The goal is to decrease hospital admissions and readmissions among the elderly by having your insurance company care about following up, and it's already had success lowering hospital admissions by nearly 50 percent, according to the company.

    It's a hard area for venture capitalists to understand, and one that Kopelman felt comfortable betting big on once he realized what Clover was doing.

    "It's a contrarian bet on insurance, and the more we got to understand the insurance company and specifically the Medicare Advantage space, we just realized that this is going to be a Fortune 50 company," Kopelman said.

    There's a lot of money in startups these days, too, and Kopelman acknowledged part of the high round price was because of the "frothy" market conditions.

    "We're definitely players in the market and the market is frothy right now. That said, this company has been around for two years," Kopelman said. "It's one thing to see a company that's three months old and steps off the stage at Demo Day and raises money at a premium price. This is clearly a premium round at a premium price but they also had demonstrable traction, results, and scale."

    First Round Capital will be sticking to investing only in seed stage companies (and likely at a lower price tag) so it's not a permanent departure — although Kopelman admits the company also owns SecondRound.Com.

    "It was a larger check than anything I've written before," Kopelman said.

    SEE ALSO: Billionaire VC: Startups are spending too much on useless 'window dressing'

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    Florian Meissner

    German photo-sharing app EyeEm is launching an advanced new photo search tool that will allow companies to search for thousands of different objects and categories contained within images through the use of artificial intelligence and computer vision technology.

    For years EyeEm has been seen as a European rival to Instagram. Users can take and share photos within the app, as well as editing them with filters.

    The biggest difference between EyeEm and Instagram, though, is that EyeEm can be used to sell photographs to companies and advertisers. 

    Now, EyeEm is launching a new feature called EyeVision which is a powerful search engine for photos. EyeVision can "see" inside photos to find out what they contain, meaning that you can find a photo of a boat even if the photo isn't tagged or captioned with "boat." That's going to be useful for companies that pay to license photographs taken by EyeEm users.

    EyeEm EyeVision

    EyeEm CTO Ramzi Rizk showed Business Insider EyeVision ahead of its official launch. He explained that users will be able to use EyeVision to generate tags for their photos on EyeEm. That's not just a time-saving feature — the system can suggest tags that will be useful to brands and agencies searching for photos, so users could earn more money from the site.

    EyeEm EyeVision

    EyeVision also ranks photos according to their aesthetic rank, meaning that brands searching for photos to license can see the most beautiful photos for any search. Rizk explained that EyeVision will launch on desktop first, but will eventually roll out across EyeEm's apps.

    The development of EyeVision began in 2014 when EyeEm acquired computer vision and machine learning startup Sight.io. Sight.io had developed technology which improved the way people search for photos, and TechCrunch reported that stock photo sites were interested in the company. EyeEm also hired data scientists from Yahoo to join the team working on EyeVision.

    A photo taken at an EyeEm meetup in SingaporeRizk explained that EyeEm's first test for its new photo search engine was whether it could recognise dogs. Once it could reliably identify different breeds of dogs, they moved onto other subjects. Now the system can see 500,000 measurements per photo. 

    EyeEm has been beta testing EyeVision with a group of active photographers who regularly use the app in order to make sure that they like the experience. Clearly, EyeVision is a boost for users, as well as a handy tool for brands wanting to find photos to use. Will EyeEm consider licensing the technology out to other companies? Rizk told Business Insider that EyeEm "isn't opposed" to it, but only as long as the use of the technology would add value to photographers.

    Join the conversation about this story »

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