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The latest news on Startups from Business Insider

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    European tech is getting organised: Some of the biggest startups on the continent are teaming up to launch a new lobby group to promote their political interests.

    Music streaming service Spotify, mobile games company King, and ride-sharing app BlaBlaCar are among the startups that have come together to form the European Tech Alliance, the new organisation announced on Tuesday morning.

    We first saw the news on

    In a statement, the Alliance says it "aims to close the gap in terms of European representation for scale ups and contribute to the Commission's Digital Single Market strategy."

    It's being headed up by Niklas Zennström — a cofounder of Skype, who is now CEO of venture capital firm Atomico. "We have formed an alliance to share our collective experience with policymakers and challenge mindsets about Europe, technology, and the Internet," he said in a statement. "There are so many European tech company success stories. We think we will be able to help European leaders understand that Europe is good at tech and show how policymakers can clear the way for the tech industry to grow further."

    As well as King, Spotify, and BlaBlaCar, other members include Rovio, SwitkKey,, and Supercell.

    "The next 12 to 18 months will be particularly critical,"Zennström added, "because the European Commission is writing rules to carry out its Digital Single Market strategy, aimed at clearing the way for all tech players – from the EU and beyond - to invest, grow, and prosper in Europe.”

    Here are all the members:

    european tech alliance

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: A random guy bought for $12

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    Of course there's a card game about Silicon Valley's hottest startups. 

    A freshly launched game called MJOM Cards pits hot tech startups like Uber, Pinterest, and Airbnb against other tech giants like Netflix and Amazon in a game of "top trump." Players randomly draw cards which will then compete in a variety of different categories like "hipster factor," number of Facebook "likes" the company has, and homepage size.

    The 32 different company cards are brightly colored and packed with info:

    MJOM Cards

    We spotted the Austrian game on Product Hunt — the site that's like Reddit for techie apps and companies — and apparently the orders are flowing in. 

    "Only 30 mins after our silent beta launch we got informed that we were added to ProductHunt," co-creator Johannes Nagl wrote on the Product Hunt feed. "Although we wanted to wait for this step to happen, we're super excited about the feedback so far."

    MJOM Card

    It's a fun concept, but we imagine the actual answers on the cards in categories like "Twitter followers" will already be out-dated shortly after they've been printed. 

    SEE ALSO: There are two kinds of tech people — which one are you?

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: China’s fake Apple stores look so real, some employees don’t even know they're fake

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    Getting your startup off the ground is the hardest part. 

    But once you gain traction, you have to start thinking about more complex issues, like building a payment processing system and deciding what data centers you're going to use.

    Some companies build those kind of products from scratch. Having it all in house is referred to as a "full-stack startup."

    But for many companies, building these kinds of products from scratch takes too long and requires too many resources. So startups outsource needs to other companies like Stripe for payment collection and processing and Amazon Web Services for web servers and hosting.

    A new startup called Localize wants to help companies outsource their international efforts. Specifically, Localize helps translate apps and websites into other languages, and it just raised $1.1 million to accomplish that mission. It's similar to a service offered by language learning company Duolingo, which translates websites like Buzzfeed and CNN into other languages.

    "Companies need to go international  and they need to translate their products, but focusing on building that infrastructure is not a great use of their resources," Localize CEO Brandon Paton says. "We'd rather have companies outsourcing so they can focus on their core product."

    Localize's investors include FG Angels Kima, zPark, and Matchstick Ventures, and the money it raised will be used to grow Localize's five-person team and scale its platform.

    "At the end of the day, companies are really good at building products to solve a problem that they're solving. They're not really good  at doing stuff around that; they don't want to build a payment processing system. They don't want to build their own data centers," Paton says. "They just want to focus on building their core value proposition. Services like Stripe and AWS let companies outsource their core infrastructure so they can focus on their main product. That's where we see Localize fitting in."

    Localize started in 2012 as a small side project for Paton, who was working at another language learning company, Verbling. Paton later quit his job and started Localize with Johnny Wu and Joshua Berk. The three took Localize through the TechStars accelerator program in New York City earlier this year, then moved to San Francisco.

    Localize has 300 clients, including fast-growing startups like Uber and WeWork, who rely on its services. Uber uses Localize for driver recruitment throughout Europe; WeWork, which is expanding its international footprint, is another Localize customer. Microsoft uses Localize for its gaming systems in other countries.

    SEE ALSO: A former Groupon exec and a Top Chef contestant just raised $2 million to turn vegetables into passable pasta

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    NOW WATCH: We drove the fastest Tesla you can buy

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    Homejoy, the dead cleaning startup that shuttered its doors in August, has apparently awoken from the grave to email its customers about a new partner: Fly Maids.

    But, it turns out Fly Maids just isn't a new partner to fill in the gaps.

    It's apparently a new startup that Homejoy co-founder Aaron Cheung is launching, according to an apparent comment from Cheung on Hacker News

    Cheung confirmed that he was behind the startup after a Homejoy user found his credit card and profile information on the Fly Maid site — without even signing up.

    We've reached out to Cheung for additional comment and will update when we hear back.

    The weird tale begins with an email that John Salzarulo received Tuesday afternoon. A Los Angeles based user, Salzarulo received an email from Cheung that "$20 cleaning is back!" thanks to its local partner.

    "I wanted to reach out personally today to invite you to join a private house cleaning trial with our Los Angeles partner, Fly Maids," Cheung wrote, not disclosing his connection to the company. 

    When Salzarulo clicked the email link, the Fly Maids' site logged him into his Homejoy account, which still had his credit card number and notes about where to find the trash can. 

    In a detailed Medium post, Salzarulo detailed how the site looked identical to Homejoy's competitor, Handy.

    After the story was posted on Hacker News, Cheung responded and apologized for using the data he claims to have acquired from Homejoy.

    "I'm one of the founders of Homejoy. I'm still very passionate about the home service space. After leaving Homejoy, I started FlyMaids, where we're exploring a few different angles on the space.

    We recently acquired the customer and service provider data from Homejoy.

    We're a small team that has been focused on moving quickly while bootstraping. We tried to quickly test different approaches, but we realize now that we did so in an unclear manner. We recognize the need to use the data we acquired responsibily. As a result, we're taking the site down, and we're going to do a better job with our testing moving forward."

    Cheung makes no mention to two other sites that have been linked to Fly Maids, though. Although the site has now been taken down, an initial examination of the source code linked the site to Homeaglow. The two shared the same privacy policy, including the same European registration number. According to a UK government website, the company registered with that number is actually Homejoy Europe Limited

    Another website, Cleanr.Ca, has the same European registration number and is listed as being headquartered at Homejoy's old headquarters. 

    A profile for an "Aaron Cheung" on LiquidSpace, a network for people looking for offices, shows that Cheung was in search of a space for Homeaglow, a 1-4 person startup in San Francisco.

    Aaron Cheung

    Fly Maids has since been taken down, but the other sites are still up. In another Hacker News comment, Cheung reportedly said that the service has deleted all credit card information as of October 28. Cheung also apologized for not being upfront about his connection to Fly Maids. 

    "When we contacted customers, we didn’t tell them we were Homejoy relaunching because we wanted to gauge reception to our new model without the influence of Homejoy’s brand,"Cheung allegedly wrote. "As a result, we scared many customers, who expected the worst had happened to their data. We should have told customers upfront who we were, what we were testing, and used original content."

    Business Insider asked Salzarulo to check whether his information was available on either. Cleanr didn't have an account for him, but a password reset option on Homeaglow sent him an email, even though he had never signed up for it.

    SEE ALSO: Homejoy shuts down

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: You should never wash your jeans — here's how to clean them

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    Skyscanner CEO

    Scotland is one of the biggest UK hubs for tech startups outside of London.

    Skyscanner is a star, but the country's startup scene extends far beyond that. Scottish companies are launching famous games, and even creating biofuel from whisky byproducts.

    We collected some of Scotland's top technology startups and ranked them by headcount, how much funding they've raised, and how exciting and original they are.

    13. Twig

    Twig is an education company that creates digital learning materials (mostly in the form of short, three-minute videos) for seven to 16 year olds. 

    Twig World is free to state schools in Scotland thanks to a partnership with Education Scotland, but its materials are offered through a subscription service to the rest of the UK. It is also available to some schools in the US, Japan, Spain, Peru, Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Australia, South Africa, Korea and Brazil.

    Total amount raised: Unknown

    Headcount: 50

    12. Clear Returns

    According to Scottish startup Clear Returns, up to one-third of all online orders are returned, and processing them can be expensive. First-time buyers can also be seriously put off by an item that doesn't really match its online description, and might never shop with that retailer again.

    Clear Returns uses data analytics to establish which products are consistently being sent back, and why. CEO Vicky Brock calls these "toxic items," as some of them raise the likelihood of a customer's entire order being returned. 

    Some customers are "serial returners" too, taking advantage of free returns to order products that they rarely keep.

    British fashion retailer M&Co saved £415,000 after it stopped actively promoting the top 10% of frequently returned items, thanks to data provided by Clear Returns. The company partnered with IBM in July to use its big data and analytics to help out even more retailers.

    Total amount raised: $134,260 (£86,878)

    Headcount: 15


    11. Administrate

    Administrate is a Scottish success story because it's doing particularly well outside its home market. Its software helps training companies and training departments manage their admin, deliver e-learning, and keep their websites up to date and take online bookings.

    It doubled its staff last month after winning lots of overseas contracts with companies like Boston Whaler, Ag Leader, and NSF. Now, 50% of its revenue comes from overseas. Adminstrate says it has served over 2 million students, and other customers include PwC, Elsevier, Scania, Becker, and learndirect.

    Total amount raised: $1.54 million (£997,000)

    Headcount: 32

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    Elizabeth Holmes, founder and CEO of Theranos, speaks at the Wall Street Journal Digital Live (WSJDLive) conference at the Montage hotel in Laguna Beach, California, October 21, 2015. REUTERS/Mike Blake

    $9 billion Theranos, the controversial blood-test startup, may be raising another $200 million, Fortune's Dan Primack reports.

    Theranos has raised an undisclosed total sum of venture capital funding, though multiple reports indicate that the company has raised somewhere around $400 million since its 2003 founding.

    According to Fortune, Theranos filed new paperwork in Delaware, just days before an explosive Wall Street Journal was published earlier this month. Theranos' board of directors approved the Series C-3 stock authorization filing back in September.

    Theranos has few investors whose identities have been made public; those include Draper Fisher Jurvetson, Larry Ellison, and ATA Ventures. Thanks to Fortune, however, we now know of several more previously undisclosed Theranos investors, including BlueCross BlueShield Venture Partners, Continental Properties Co., Esoom Enterprise (Taiwan), Jupiter Partners, Palmieri Trust, Partner Fund Management, Dixon Doll, Ray Bingham and B.J. Cassin.

    Theranos may have raised as much as $750 million in total, and that's before even taking into account any capital it could raise from the new share authorization.

    From Fortune:

    It is important to note that authorized shares have not necessarily been issued or sold. For example, other filings show that Theranos authorized the sale of 11.7 million “Series C-2” shares at $17 a piece back in February 2014. It then increased that amount this past January to a whopping 58.8 million shares at the same $17 per share price. But shortly thereafter, Theranos said in a different filing that it only had issued a total of 32.2 million of the authorized Series C-2 stock. [...]

    The Journal's initial report alleged that Theranos is struggling to make its 'revolutionary' in-house technology actually work, and reports that only about 10% of Theranos' blood tests use its technology, with the rest of the tests being carried out using traditional blood-testing tech. Even the company's own employees have concerns about Theranos' blood tests.

    Since the report came out, Theranos has defended itself both onstage at the WSJ's WSJDLive Conference, as well as in a slightly more thorough report on its website.

    Earlier this week, the FDA released some heavily redacted notes from a visit it took to Theranos' labs earlier this year. They don't look great — investigators essentially concluded from their visit that there wasn't strong enough evidence that Theranos' device was doing what it was supposed to. Founder and CEO Elizabeth Holmes also recently announced she'd share the company's data by opening it up to peer review, but has yet to reveal when that will happen.

    There has also been a shakeup of Theranos' board of directors, which was composed of high-profile individuals — like Henry A. Kissinger and George P. Shultz — but few medical experts. All the members of Theranos' former board of directors have been moved to a new group which will continue to advise the startup, called a "board of counselors," according to the Times. In addition to its board of directors and board of counselors, Theranos has also created an another board "to give medical advice." Holmes told the Times that all these changes happened this summer, though its website listed both Kissinger and Shultz as on its board of directors as of yesterday, though it was updated on Thursday.

    We've reached out to Theranos for comment on this story and will update if we hear back.

    SEE ALSO: Theranos just shook up its board of directors, but not much actually changed

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    NOW WATCH: Clever ways to reuse your old iPod

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    What if there were a way to text anyone around you without needing a person's phone number — or even without Wi-Fi or cell-phone service?

    That's the goal of a new messaging app called Sochat, which relies on Bluetooth technology to connect you with other people nearby.

    Sochat CEO Lukens Orthwein is no stranger to messaging apps; he worked for WeChat, the Chinese messaging giant, for a couple of years, assisting with the four-year-old company's international expansion.

    Orthwein left WeChat just over a year ago to start Sochat in Hong Kong. He has since relocated to San Francisco with his team.

    Since launching several weeks ago, Sochat has been targeting college campuses and high schools. It is a fairly simple service to use — you walk into a room and pull up the app, and you're shown a bunch of pictures and the first names of other people in the room. Individuals must have Bluetooth enabled and must have the Sochat app downloaded to show up in the app.

    In this way it seems similar to apps like Highlight, which launched a few years ago to a lot of fanfare and showed information about strangers who were nearby for networking purposes. But after raising millions of dollars, Highlight and its competitors lost traction.

    Since Sochat runs on Bluetooth technology, you don't even need Wi-Fi or a cell signal to message other people. This lets you do things like send messages on airplanes, Orthwein tells Business Insider. Users' phone numbers are kept hidden on Sochat.

    Orthwein compares Sochat's Bluetooth technology to beacons, the hardware that uses Bluetooth connections to transmit messages to smartphones and is used by retailers and event organizers to communicate with people indoors. Sochat works to detect people around you within 100 feet indoors or up to 250 feet in bigger spaces.

    "A lot of kids in high schools don't have a data connection or access to Wi-Fi throughout the day," Orthwein says. "There's a really cool level of experience you get to when you can expect to pull out your phone and see who's around you."

    For example, you could pull out your phone in a lecture hall and see who is in your class, or open Sochat at a party to see who else is there. Orthwein says Sochat works best for group messages or for a tight-knit community like a sports team.

    This week Sochat announced it had raised $2 million in seed funding, and its group of investors reads like a who's who of Silicon Valley. The round was led by Eniac Ventures. WeChat creator Allen Zhang, New Enterprise Associates, Greylock Partners, Slow Ventures, Foundation Capital, Betaworks, Maiden Lane, and Steven Sinofsky of Andreessen Horowitz also participated in the round, which will be used to bolster the Sochat team.

    Phone numbers are obsolete, Sochat's argument goes. The app wants you to connect with people around you without exchanging numbers. Orthwein says Sochat's biggest client is Harvard University. Sochat's pool of early adopters has grown 40% every week since the beginning of the semester about two months ago.

    SEE ALSO: Localize, a startup Uber and Microsoft use to translate their websites, just raised $1.1 million

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Clever ways to reuse your old iPod

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    Oculus Rift

    The Securities and Exchange Commission just signed off on a proposal that will make it easier for small startups to raise funds.

    The regulation allows companies to raise up to $1 million by selling stock to small investors.

    "There's been a lot of pent-up demand for this," said Ryan Feit, CEO of crowfunding platform SeedInvest. 

    These so-called unaccredited investors will be able to buy $2,000 of a startup's shares through crowdfunding platforms.

    Previously, the SEC restricted those kinds of investments only to high-net worth investors. Instead, startups had to rely on crowdfunding that involved selling a product or service before the company got off the ground.

    The new SEC rules allow startups raising less than $2 million are not required to submit formal audit paperwork, which would be excessively costly to small companies, Feit said. 

    For example, virtual reality headset maker Oculus got its start on Kickstarter by offering backers everything from t-shirts and posters, to the chance to spend a day at the company. 

    The JOBS act, which stands for Jump start our Business Startups, is meant to foster the growth of smaller companies, by making it easier for them to raise funds. Its best-known provision allows companies with less than $1 billion in revenue to secretly file for initial public offerings with the SEC, in order to have their filings reviewed outside of the public eye.

    There will be limitations on the crowdfunding: Startups would have to be based in the US and provide disclosures to investors and the SEC alike.

    But the new regulations will substantially alter how startups are raising money in early stages.

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: 6 shortcuts in Excel that will save you a ton of time

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    Thread CEO Kieran O'Neill

    I hate clothes shopping.

    Walking around shops, trying on clothes, glancing at price tags  — I don't enjoy any of that. The closest I have come to enjoying a shopping experience happened after I downed a few champagne cocktails beforehand. 

    But I've found a better solution that doesn't require alcohol. It's called Thread, a London startup that gives men an online stylist for free.

    Thread is not a monthly subscription service. Instead, it allows users to buy clothes from different retailers through the Thread site and then takes a cut of the profits. 

    Scroll down to see what happened when I decided to give it a go.

    I made an account on Thread and was given a stylist named Sophie to help me out. She's an actual person who works for Thread and gives suggestions over the site. The company has eight full-time stylists.

    There's a section on the site filled with outfit ideas. Select the ones you like and your stylist will be able to understand what you wear.

    I told my stylist how much I normally spend on clothes. That meant she was able to send me suggestions that I could afford.

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    handy founders

    On-demand home cleaning has not exactly proven itself to be the easiest business. Earlier this year, Homejoy shuttered, and one European cleaning service, Hassle, was acquired by another, Helpling. In the wake of Homejoy closing down, some of its former customers were funneled to a copycat startup's website.

    But Handy, the New York-based startup that connects cleaners, plumbers, and handymen with potential customers and provides on-demand house cleaning and home repair services, just raised a $50 million round of funding to add to its war chest. 

    Earlier this year, Handy announced it would expand beyond just offering home cleaning and repair to include furniture delivery and assembly. The new funding values the three-year-old startup at $500 million, according to TechCrunch.

    The startup operates in 28 cities, and has 10,000 independent contractors. When Homejoy shut down this summer, Handy offered $1,000 bonuses to Homejoy's contractors to sign up with the service for the first-time.

    Handy received a ringing endorsement from Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida) at a speech last month in New York. "In the last century, my mother worked as a maid in hotels. She had no control over her schedule, no influence over how much she earned, and few opportunities to set herself apart, yet she still achieved the American Dream,"Rubio said. "Just think what she could have achieved cleaning homes through a company like Handy. She would have had total control over her own financial life."

    The startup, which hires its cleaners and repair people as contractors, has also been the target of a couple lawsuits. One, filed about a year ago by two of Handy's California-based independent contractors, alleged that Handy — just one of many companies like Lyft, Uber, and Postmates that hire independent contractors instead of employees — is deliberately mis-classifying its employees as independent contractors.

    But CEO Oisin Hanrahan tells TechCrunch the “vast majority” of Handy contractors work less than 20 hours a week. Many contractors also “dip in and out” of working for Handy. According to TechCrunch, a typical Handy customer pays about $70 per job on the platform, and the startup takes about a 20% cut of that. 

    Handy's new funding was led by Fidelity Management and Research Company and other current investors, TPG Ventures, General Catalyst, Highland Capital, and Revolution Growth. The startup plans to use the new funding to invest in the cities where it currently operates, and then to expand to new markets (and more countries) by the end of next year. 

    SEE ALSO: Customers of dead house-cleaning startup Homejoy are being funneled to a copycat site

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Meet the founders of Warby Parker, the eyewear company disrupting the highly secretive Luxottica monopoly

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    More and more startups have realized that benefits like creative equity plans and favorable parental-leave policies increase employee satisfaction better than pool tables and endless supplies of free food.

    That's why the folks over at Luminary Labs put together a presentation of tech-based startups pushing the envelope.

    We selected the most compelling perks companies are giving employees.

    You can read the rest of Luminary Labs' "Human Company Playbook" and see why its founder thinks that "high-growth and human-friendly are not mutually exclusive" here.

    SEE ALSO: 25 entrepreneurs reveal what they wish they'd known before their first startup

    This internet service provider pays for its employees to attend a conference that they believe will encourage their personal development and also gives them free Amazon Kindles loaded up with inspiring books recommended by the founders.

    Employees at Next Jump actually *vote* on who the management team should be every year.

    This beauty-box subscription service celebrates employees' three-year anniversaries in a big way: With extra paid vacation, more equity, and a one-on-one dinner with the CEO.

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    wework founders

    WeWork is raising a $750 million round of debt financing, according to The New York Times.

    The super-hot office rental company, which has raised $969 million in funding at a $10 billion valuation, is the 11th most valuable startup in the world

    Debt financing is structured like a loan to be paid back later, while equity means the lender gets a piece of the company. 

    Late-stage private companies often raise debt as a way to get more cash to fund continuing operations and expansion without diluting existing shareholders' stake. It's sometimes seen as a substitute for filing to go public, which companies used to do much earlier.

    WeWork first opened its doors to New York City entrepreneurs in April 2011. 

    The new round of financing comes from Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, and Deutsche Bank, according to the Times.

    In total, WeWork now has 54 coworking spaces in New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Washington DC, Miami, Chicago, Austin, Berkeley, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Portland, and Seattle, with additional international locations in London and Amsterdam, along with new locations in Tel Aviv and Herzliya in Israel.

    WeWork's 30,000 clients range from startups — Business Insider uses a WeWork space out in San Francisco — to big companies like Merck and American Express.  Individuals can also buy packages starting at $45 and rent a desk for a day.

    WeWork also has its its critics; the company recently settled a dispute over its custodial services. And though WeWork became profitable as of this summer, some skeptics believe its financials may not support its valuation, suggesting it could be part of a new technology bubble.

    And there are basic concerns about the sustainability of its business model. WeWork, of course, is an alternative to real estate companies for freelancers and companies. And the real estate business can be risky.

    By the end of 2015, WeWork plans to have 58 locations open. "We want to be everywhere and serve everyone, so as we expand globally we are welcoming more and more WeWork Commons members to our community—members who don't always need dedicated physical space, but who stay connected digitally through our app and have access to our services," WeWork CEO Adam Neumann told Business Insider last month.

    Read the full New York Times report here >>

    SEE ALSO: How WeWork became the most valuable startup in New York City

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Meet the founders of Warby Parker, the eyewear company disrupting the highly secretive Luxottica monopoly

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    Spencer Rascoff Zillow

    Goldman Sachs mints millionaires, but some of the bank's employees achieve career highs only once they've left Wall Street.

    Just ask Spencer Rascoff: the former Goldman banker spent years working at various startups before joining Zillow Group's founding team.

    He ascended through the ranks, beginning in 2005, before becoming CEO of the home-sales site.

    Business Insider tracked down 29 other men and women who worked at Goldman Sachs and later went on to launch new companies, or took on leadership roles with hot startups, after leaving the big bank. 

    Not all of them were at the bank for very long. Christopher Altchek was at the bank just a year before he launched news website On the other hand, Patrick de Nonneville spent more than seven years with the bank, working as co-head of European interest rates products, until the allure of startup life lured him away this year.

    The businesses range from bond-trading platforms to speech therapy apps. There's one bakery in the mix. Some have been sold to tech giants like Twitter, while others are still in their early stages.

    If you are, or know of, bankers who've started up their own firms after checking out of Goldman Sachs, please let us know

    Before he was a big public company CEO, Spencer Rascoff was a Goldman banker

    Spencer Rascoff had a lengthy career across virtually all segments of finance: as a banker and a private equity pro.

    He joined real estate website Zillow Group at its founding in 2005, and served in various roles, becoming CEO in 2010. Earlier this year the company completed the integration of Trulia, its biggest competitor that it acquired for $2.5 billion. 

    Kristen Koh Goldstein launched a site for women like her

    After more than a decade in finance, one Goldman Sachs alumnus decided working and raising a family wasn’t a zero-sum game. Kristen Koh Goldstein would go on to launch BackOps, a startup that puts stay-at-home moms and others in touch with companies that need to outsource back-office functions such as bookkeeping, payroll and talent management.

    In a recent interview with Business Insider, Koh said her company is now profitable. 


    Nick Sedlet launched a hiring startup

    Nick Sedlet spent more than three years working at Goldman Sachs as a quantitative analyst before he launched HireArt in 2011. 

    The job applicant screening service would go on to secure seed funding from YCombinator. Already, he's racked up $1.4 million in funding. He said in an interview with Inc.:

    "I felt like there was a lot more to me than what I was doing at work. Starting a company sounded exciting and was something I always wanted to try. It wasn't easy to leave a job I had worked so hard to get, but it was now or never.”

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    Uber might be the most valuable private company in the world, but a slew of Chinese companies are right behind it. 

    The Chinese startup space is largely dominated by investments from two behemoths: Amazon equivalent Alibaba and internet giant Tencent. The two have driven up valuations of Chinese companies, many of which are similar to startups on the list of American unicorns. 

    Here are some of the most valuable and powerful startups in China:


    SEE ALSO: Larry Page says Google's China plans are no longer his decision

    Xiaomi: valued at $46 billion, raised $2.45 billion


    China's largest smartphone maker is the second most-valuable private tech company in the world, trailing only behind Uber. Xiaomi, which means "little rice," has a fervent fan base although its competitor Huawei Technologies has been gaining on the tech startup. Xiaomi is now expanding its cell phone sales outside of China and into emerging markets like Africa, India, and Brazil.

    Source: PitchBook

    Meituan-Dianping: valuation rumored at $20 billion, funding of at least $2.51 billion

    In a mega-merger in October, Groupon-like startup Meituan merged with Yelp clone Dianping. Meituan had raised about $1 billion, while Dianping raised $1.51 billion.

    Chinese startups are fighting over who will control the online to offline experience, and the two companies are going to be working in tandem to help Chinese users book restaurants or local deals.

    In November, the WSJ reported that Chinese internet giant Tencent is rumored to be investing $1 billion into the newly merged company, valuing it at $20B.

    Source: WSJ

    Didi Kuaidi: valuation $16.5 billion, total funding of $4 million

    Valuation: $16.5B

    Total funding: $4B

    In another merger, Uber's largest Chinese competitor was created in February after two competing apps, Didi Dache and Kuaidi Dache, united in their fight against Uber China. Didi Kuaidi has since made subsequent investments and partnerships in Uber's US rival, Lyft, bringing the fight to two continents.

    Source: PitchBook

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    Marc Andreessen

    In Silicon Valley, you can't escape bubble talk.

    On one side of the ring, Benchmark investor Bill Gurley, who was an investor during the dot-com bubble, has been sounding the alarm that companies are overvalued.

    In a few years, Gurley has predicted that we'll have a lot of dead unicorns on our hands. "Unicorn" is the current Silicon Valley term for a startup valued at more than $1 billion.

    On the other side is Netscape founder Marc Andreessen, who cofounded his venture firm, Andreessen Horowitz, in 2009, right after the bursting of the debt bubble sent the economy into a tailspin.

    In an appearance at the Fortune Global Forum, Andreessen reiterated that tech is not in a bubble. Rather, these valuations are still startlingly low for the potential of some of these companies.

    "I think we're in a bust. We're in a long-term technology bust. I think technology has been undervalued since 2000, and we're still undervalued," Andreessen said. "The entire basket of unicorns is worth half of Microsoft."

    In Silicon Valley, people are excited about new tech companies, whereas outsiders — especially the stock market — are still depressed, following the equity bust and then the economic downturn, according to Andreessen.

    "The public market just doesn't like tech," Andreessen said.

    That's created the situation we see now, Andreessen said, where we have a lot of companies staying private.

    For one, there's no incentives to go public because a lot of shareholder bases don't allow companies to continue innovating and evolving who they are. The exceptions are companies like Google — or Alphabet — and Facebook.

    The lack of a warm embrace from the public markets has created three paths to exit. Some will go public, some will get acquired, but some will create more inventive private trading so investors can cash out and other investors can come in.

    "The innovation is going to have to come from the private side," Andreessen said.

    Andreessen is not the only tech investor calling the current situation a tech bust rather than a tech bubble. Y Combinator President Sam Altman made a similar argument in his own blog post on the tech bust.

    Altman's argument is similar— just ask Box or Twitter if there's a tech bubble and they'll laugh you out of the room. He also said these humongous late-stage rounds are really more like debt dressed up as equity, so the valuations can become a recruitment tool.

    SEE ALSO: Here's the dirty secret that's inflating the tech bubble

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    founders airbnb Joe Gebbia Brian Chesky

    Airbnb appears to have survived what could have been a huge blow to its business in San Francisco.

    Proposition F, a local ballot measure that was seen as a threat to Airbnb in its hometown, looks to have failed.

    The measure would have curbed the number of days a host can rent on the Airbnb platform — capping both hosted and unhosted rentals at 75 days per year.

    Preliminary results out Tuesday night show San Francisco voters rejecting Prop F by a wide margin — more than 57 percent against, and about 42 percent in favor, according to the city's Department of Elections.

    The measure was largely seen as a threat to Airbnb's overall growth, and a costly one, too. The passage of Prop F would have cost Airbnb $6 million in revenue per year, as reported by Business Insider's Biz Carson.

    Airbnb has spent $8 million fighting the measure.

    SEE ALSO: Airbnb is fighting a critical war in its own back yard this week

    SEE ALSO: The two faces of Airbnb

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    Marc, the e-commerce startup that is trying to take on Amazon, is raising a $500 million round led by Fidelity, Fortune reports.

    The round gives the Hoboken-based startup a $1.5 billion post-money valuation.

    Fortune says the round isn't closed yet, so the company could raise more money from additional investors.

    Jet previously raised $225 million at a $600 million valuation to take on Amazonthe most equity funding ever raised in the first 12 months by a US commerce company.

    Jet founder Marc Lore sold his first company, Quidsi, to Amazon for $540 million in 2010. Lore has been frank about the fact that Jet will need to raise a ton of money to achieve scale.

    He told The Wall Street Journal's Rolfe Winkler that Jet would have to spend about $300 million on its outside-merchandise-buying program over the next five years. Jet doesn't plan on reaching scale or profitability until 2020, when it projects to have 15 million paying customers and $20 billion in sales

    Like Amazon, Jet wants to be a one-stop shop for everything you buy online. But unlike Amazon, Jet offers additional discounts when shoppers can combine multiple orders into a single shipment, waive the ability to return something, or use debit cards instead of credit cards. Jet also promises prices that are 10% to 15% lower than Amazon's, and it lists Amazon's prices on every item, so you know exactly what you're saving.

    Jet hit over $1 million in sales on its first day after opening in July. It was the No. 4 marketplace in terms of sales just a month after launching, beating out Sears and Best Buy. The company promises to offer prices that are up to 15% lower than anywhere else on the web, and it developed an exclusive technology that adjusts prices in real time based on what users put in their carts

    But in October — less than three months after its launch — Jet changed its business model and dropped its $50 membership fee it once said would be its sole source of profit. The startup switched from its Costco-like model to instead try to make profit on each sale.

    Lore told Re/code's Jason Del Rey at the time that the company switched business models because Jet noticed people were buying more per visit than anticipated, and dropping its membership fee could actually help widen the startup's appeal.

    SEE ALSO: SILICON ALLEY 100: Meet the most inspiring and influential people in New York tech right now

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    HassanEducation startup Macat wants to use the power of Cambridge to make you a better critical thinker, and it has raised $30 million to help boost its online learning platform out of the beta testing phase.

    There are plenty of startups that have promised to disrupt education using technology, and an almost equal number that have crashed and burned, unable to either get users to finish their courses or provide them any tangible value. In particular, MOOCs, “massively open online courses” that bring university classes online, have seen a sharp drop from the hype of saving our college system to the reality of completion rates in the single digits.

    But Macat CEO Hassan Abdou tells Business Insider his platform is different, and lives in a sweet spot between the academic rigor of online courses by universities like MIT and Harvard, and the easier-to-digest lessons of places like Khan Academy.

    Here is what Macat does.

    The company takes some of history’s most famous books and thinkers, and has a stable of 600 young professors and PhD candidates "translate" them into engaging lessons. These modules are designed not only to impart knowledge, but to improve critical thinking. They aren't simply lectures. Macat currently has 75 texts completed and plans to have 200 by the middle of 2016, according to Abdou.

    Imagined communities

    This emphasis on critical thinking is, Abdou says, a pillar of Macat — and it seems to be what will make or break the platform.

    The big promise of Macat is that its Cambridge-approved teaching method can actually make you a better thinker. And one of the ways Abdou has convinced a set of angel investors to place $30 million into his venture is because, in a preliminary way, the system has already been proven to work.

    Cambridge did a small study last year on Macat’s teaching modules, and found that using them caused improvement in both discipline-specific and general critical thinking skills in just 8 hours.

    For Abdou, this is a start, but Macat is now launching the next phase, which he describes as the “largest ever international critical thinking study." It starts in January. The study will encompass 1000 universities, 750 businesses, and 250 schools. Its goal is to map out how good we all are at thinking critically, and understand where the gap is between that and what employers are looking for.

    TALEB BLACK SWANThis is a place where Abdou wants to build concrete value into Macat. He says the US is graduating students, even from prestigious universities, whose skills are misaligned with those employers want. Sure, some of that has to do with a lack of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education, but Macat’s focus is on what we lack in critical thinking.

    If Abdou can go to a student and say, “These are the specific critical thinking areas you need to improve to get a job in the field you want,” and then use Macat to make up the gap in schooling, this is when the money could start to flow in. Macat’s pricing model, which right now is a freemium model with main functionality costing $120 a year (or $30 if you choose monthly), seems reasonable.

    But to be able to say that, Abdou will have to prove Macat works beyond a narrow trial at Cambridge. And this requires a heavy investment in content, he says. Abdou explains that some education technology companies, particularly those involved in STEM, can lean on the “technology” facets of their company. It is easier to distill this type of knowledge into a teachable formula.

    But the humanities is harder to automate, he says, and if you simply throw dry material up on the web, you’ll see the same abysmal completion rates MOOCs have.

    “There really is no shortcut to this,” Abdou says, at least, not that anyone seems to have found.

    SEE ALSO: A startup called Filld just raised $3.25 million to make sure you'll never have to pump your own gas again

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    Screen Shot 2015 11 04 at 9.10.11 AMFor anyone who has had to suffer through a spotty WiFi signal in their home, hardware startup Eero has an intoxicating promise: to fix that once and for all.

    The trick to the Eero dream is using multiple units to blanket your entire home with a smooth WiFi signal that is both fast and reliable.

    “You would never try to cover your home with one light bulb,” Eero CEO Nick Weaver tells Business Insider. “And the farther away you get from your WiFi router, the more the signal degrades.” This is inevitable, he says, unless you have a completely clear space, or employ multiple units (like Eero).

    Though you'll be able to buy a single Eero device, Weaver says the standard deal is a three-pack, which will cover an average home using mesh networking. But this purportedly flawless WiFi won't come cheap. The retail price (on Amazon) will be $199 for a single unit and $499 for three.

    But there is demand. The company launched a successful crowdfunding campaign earlier this year, which snagged over $1 million in preorders in days. But since then, Eero has had to push the release date back from this summer to February of next year.

    This demonstrated demand is part of the reason Eero has been able to raise $40 million from investors like Shasta Ventures, Redpoint Ventures, and Andy Rubin’s Playground, Weaver says. Shasta and Redpoint have experience investing in the space, and were involved with Nest and Sonos respectively.

    Screen Shot 2015 11 04 at 9.11.00 AMWeaver says a main reason for the shipping delay is that testing the system has proved to be more strenuous than the company had initially anticipated. Every unit has to go through 225 separate tests, according to Weaver.

    Weaver is trying to build a company around the concept of "reliability" (specifically in WiFi), and shipping a product that doesn’t quite work would probably be far more damaging than a shipping delay. This is especially true because of the premium prices Eero is charging.

    Weaver says he has been “Mr. Fix It” his whole life, fixing people’s networks and computers. But part of what prompted him to leave venture capital and create Eero was a shift he saw in the importance of WiFi to people’s lives.

    “A couple years ago when someone would say ‘my internet is broken,’ it actually wasn’t a huge problem,” he explains. It was annoying, but we didn’t have such a reliance on things like Netflix, Spotify, and YouTube, which need consistent WiFi to function. Seamless internet is now as important as electricity in our homes, he says.

    While that may be a bit of an exaggeration, there is no denying that the reliability of our home wireless networks has not improved to the same degree that we have signed our entertainment lives over to streaming services.

    And Eero’s blockbuster preorder numbers show that Weaver isn't the only one who has noticed this problem. Now we'll just have to see whether Weaver’s device will deliver on the dream.

    SEE ALSO: Netflix is just too powerful for cable companies to snub — as much as they want to

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    Marc lore

    Jet, the Amazon-killer startup that is raising a new round of funding, is running out of cash, the Wall Street Journal's Rolfe Winkler reports.

    An earlier report from Fortune indicated that Jet was raising a $500 million round led by Fidelity. 

    The Journal reports that Jet hasn't closed the round of funding, which could be as much as $550 million when it's finally complete. Fidelity is in talks to contribute a $90 million investment, leading the round.

    And it sounds like Jet needs the new cash infusion.

    The startup is bleeding money. Last month, Jet had $63 million in cash on hand according to financial documents reviewed by the Journal, which indicated that the company is expecting a $76 million cash drain in November and December, mostly due to marketing costs. (If you live in New York City, you've no doubt seen Jet's advertising plastered atop taxi cabs and inside of subway cars.) A spokesperson for Jet told the Journal that the company is planning to cut down on marketing during the holidays.

    Fortune had previously reported that the new round of funding would bring Jet's pre-money valuation to $1 billion.

    The Journal says that when it's all said and done, the new round of funding will bring Jet's post-money valuation to $1.55 billion. But when Jet started fundraising last month, it was seeking a $2 billion valuation, and earlier this year, the company had talked with investors about a $3 billion valuation, the Journal said.

    Jet previously raised $225 million at a $600 million valuation to take on Amazonthe most equity funding ever raised in the first 12 months by a US commerce company.

    Jet founder Marc Lore sold his first company, Quidsi, to Amazon for $540 million in 2010. Lore has been frank about the fact that Jet will need to raise a ton of money to achieve scale.

    Jet hit over $1 million in sales on its first day after opening in July. It was the No. 4 marketplace in terms of sales just a month after launching, beating out Sears and Best Buy. The company promises to offer prices that are up to 15% lower than anywhere else on the web, and it developed an exclusive technology that adjusts prices in real time based on what users put in their carts

    But in October — less than three months after its launch — Jet changed its business model and dropped its $50 membership fee it once said would be its sole source of profit. The startup switched from its Costco-like model to instead try to make profit on each sale. 

    We've reached out to Jet for comment.

    SEE ALSO: Investors just poured $500 million into, the buzzy Amazon-killer that's now worth $1.5 billion

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