Another high-flying, heavily funded AR headset startup is shutting down – gpgmail


While Apple and Microsoft strain to sell augmented reality as the next major computing platform, many of the startups aiming to beat them to the punch are crashing and burning.

Daqri, which built enterprise-grade AR headsets, has shuttered its HQ, laid off many of its employees and is selling off assets ahead of a shutdown, former employees and sources close to the company tell gpgmail.

In an email obtained by gpgmail, the nearly 10-year-old company told its customers that it was pursuing an asset sale and was shutting down its cloud and smart-glasses hardware platforms by the end of September.

“I think the large majority of people who worked [at Daqri] are sad to see it closing down,” a former employee told gpgmail. “[I] wish the end result was different.”

The company’s 18,000+ square foot Los Angeles headquarters (above) is currently listed as “available” by real estate firm Newmark Knight Frank. The company’s Sunnyvale offices appear to have been shuttered sometime prior to 2019.

Daqri’s shutdown is only the latest among heavily funded augmented reality startups seeking to court enterprise customers.

Earlier this year, Osterhout Design Group unloaded its AR glasses patents after acquisition talks with Magic Leap, Facebook and others stalled. Meta, an AR headset startup that raised $73 million from VCs including Tencent, also sold its assets earlier this year after the company ran out of cash.

Daqri faced substantial challenges from competing headset makers, including Magic Leap and Microsoft, who were backed by more expansive war chests and institutional partnerships. While the headset company struggled to compete for enterprise customers, Daqri benefitted from investor excitement surrounding the broader space. That is, until the investment climate for AR startups cooled.

Daqri was, at one point, speaking with a large private-equity firm about financing ahead of a potential IPO, but as the technical realities facing other AR companies came to light, the firm backed out and the deal crumbled, we are told.

As of mid-2017, a Wall Street Journal report detailed that Daqri had raised $275 million in funding. You won’t find many details on the sources of that funding, other than references to Tarsadia Investments, a private-equity firm in Los Angeles that took part in the company’s sole disclosed funding round. We’re told Tarsadia had taken controlling ownership of the firm after subsequent investments.

In early 2016, Daqri acquired Two Trees Photonics, a small UK startup that was building holographic display technologies for automotive customers. The UK division soon comprised a substantial portion of the entire company’s revenues, sources tell us. By early 2018, the division was spun out from Daqri as a separate company called Envisics, leaving the Daqri team to focus wholly on bringing augmented reality to enterprise customers.

The remaining head-worn AR division failed to gain momentum after prolonged setbacks in adoption of its AR smart glasses, including difficulties in training workers to use the futuristic hardware, a source told gpgmail.

All the while, the company’s leadership put on a brave face as the startup sputtered. In an interview this year with Cornell Enterprise Magazine, Daqri CEO Roy Ashok told the publication that the startup was forecasting shipments of “tens of thousands” of pairs of its AR glasses in 2020.

Daqri, its founder and several executives did not respond to requests for comment.


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How to stop vanity marketing from killing your startup – gpgmail


In 2014, I got in on the ground floor of what I thought was a rocket ship. Fling was the fastest-growing app in 2014, and I was pulled in as their chief growth officer, with a handsome compensation package — one that in retrospect should have given me pause. Within 24 hours of arriving in London, I was greeted at the door by a Fling-branded Humvee, which wouldn’t even turn out to be the worst use of the company’s money.

Fling’s marketing team consisted of 20 people, or about 30% of the company. Skeptical that any startup needed a marketing team remotely close to that size, I sat down with each one of them to learn about each individual’s expertise, role and what value they added. Each focused on a particular area — online user acquisition, brand, partnerships, metrics, to name a few. Surprisingly, I found myself impressed with their skill sets, at least on paper.

Nevertheless, my spidey sense was tingling. It’s not that they were lazy or shirked responsibilities; in fact, each seemed like they tried to create value in earnest. But everyone on the team lacked a sense of urgency — the one that drives truly great startups to be thoughtful and careful about understanding why and how things work.

And when resources are seemingly infinite, any expenditure — whether time, money or both — seems like a good idea, so long as the return is net positive. And in isolation, perhaps many (or all of them) yield a positive ROI. The result was a constant cash-burn, despite “doing everything right” — everything was working, but it wasn’t working in a sustainable, manageable way, and I’d ended up buying into the hype. I’d been concerned about marketing bloat, and I was right. The company would eventually go under after burning $21 million.

I knew I was part of it. I could have stopped the bleed. But everything I was doing had a positive outcome — not one I could necessarily quantify or describe, but I knew it was there. We had all the money and time in the world — right up until we didn’t.

Before Fling I’d been scrappy, constantly brushing arms with death running one of the most popular fitness apps in the world perpetually from the end of our runway. After Fling, I’d developed bad habits — by my own hand — and had to force myself through a series of less glamorous but more fulfilling jobs wherein all that really mattered was results.

For me — and I’d say for any marketer — to develop resourcefulness, I needed to have spent significant time in an environment of scarcity, not abundance. This environment is the difference between whether or not a marketer ends up cutting their teeth and growing in their abilities or forever sucking on the teat provided by your friendly neighborhood VC.

And the word  “resourcefulness” is a misnomer, containing a beautiful irony of sorts: it’s a trait that only develops when resources are running on empty.

It’s time for you to understand a new term — vanity marketing.

We had all the money and time in the world — right up until we didn’t.

Vanity marketing is a tempting investment for a company. It’s got some vague, ephemeral yet satisfying results — you’ve got a big party, you’ve got a wrapped Humvee, you’ve got something cool to point at, and perhaps you’ll achieve the mythical “virality” that gets a particular thing 10,000 shares or retweets.

You’re popular — a non-specific yet incredibly sexy thing that theoretically would mean that investors would talk to you, or reporters would speak to you, or that you’ve “made it.” It’s a result of the fact that many markets don’t have the level of scrutiny of, say, a sales team applied to them — marketing’s this big, powerful juggernaut where many people survive just by not getting fired.

If premature scaling is the leading killer of startups, marketing is the symptomless cancer that leads to its demise. Marketers with abundance ingrained into their mindset will spend until those resources are no longer there. It’s easy to succeed in marketing by burning capital to grow.

You know how there are some people who are entrepreneurs just so they can say they’re entrepreneurs? I’ve noticed a similar pattern in marketing. Everyone wants to call themselves a “growth hacker,” but no one wants to learn to write SQL or Python.

Why? Because it’s not sexy. Neither is obsessing over metrics like CPM, Average Order Value and cost per unique “add to cart.” What is sexy, though, is spending (other people’s) money to reach new audiences, and pointing at increasingly bigger numbers. The problem is that unless you get your hands dirty, you won’t actually be able to understand whether your marketing efforts command a return. I’ve seen marketers waste hundreds of thousands of dollars with no repercussions. Could you imagine if a salesperson expensed that same amount in sales trips without landing a single client?

Almost every single major startup flameout you’ve seen has had some form of major Vanity Marketing Spend, one totally divorced from, say, the cost of acquiring a single user. If you’re reading this and saying that you’re not one of these marketers, then I’m proud, yet suspicious, of you. It’s fine if you’ve dabbled — a happy hour here, a CES party there — and understood that those were brief attempts to get something that’s unquantifiable. And it’s even stupider if you’ve spent this money “just because everybody else is doing it.”

But the dark truth is that many, many marketing expenditures are totally unquantifiable — they have little to no grounding in reality beyond telling people you’ve spent money.

The boring, consistent marketing you can do — that you can analyze, that you can truly understand the effect of — is so much less interesting than the big, shiny objects. It might not look as impressive, but it’ll work. And it’ll teach you to succeed anywhere.


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Max Levchin’s Affirm seeks capital amid surge in fintech funding – gpgmail


Another consumer finance business is lining up investors for its largest cash infusion yet.

Affirm, founded by PayPal’s Max Levchin, is said to be raising as much as $1.5 billion in a combination of debt and equity, according to people with knowledge of the company’s fundraising activities. Josh Kushner’s New York venture capital firm Thrive Capital is said to be leading the financing, with participation from the San Francisco outfit Spark Capital.

Affirm declined to comment. Representatives of Thrive and Spark, existing Affirm investors, have not responded to a request for comment.

Sources familiar with Affirm, which gives consumers an alternative to personal loans and credit by financing online purchases at point-of-sale, presume the round will be made up largely of a line of credit from a large financial institution, known as a warehouse facility.

Affirm recently raised a $300 million Thrive-led Series F round in April at a valuation of $3 billion. Fintech companies focused on payments and lending, however, require a vast amount of capital to sustain operations. Those capital requirements coupled with the frothiness of the venture capital market justify this additional cash infusion.

To date, Affirm has raised $1.03 billion in funding from Ribbit Capital, Founders Fund, Andreessen Horowitz, Khosla Ventures, Lightspeed Venture Partners and more, according to PitchBook. Fellow fintech ‘unicorns’ Brex, Stripe, SoFi and Kabbage, for context, have collectively raised roughly $5 billion in debt and equity to date.

Affirm offers installment plans to online shoppers, a method of delayed payment historically reserved for large purchase like vehicles or luxury electronics. Using Affirm, consumers can create personalized installment plans for purchases as small as a pair of sneakers sold by StockX or as large as a diamond engagement ring from Diamond Nexus, for example.

Affirm, serving as an alternative to a credit card charge, requires no paperwork, minimum credit score or income. The company, however, makes money the same way as a credit card provider, with interest rates for Affirm’s loans falling between 10% and 30%.

Affirm’s fundraising efforts come as more and more companies are devoting ample resources to consumer and B2B lending. Affirm, doubling down on the opportunity in B2B, spun out a new financial services business focused entirely on business lending earlier this year. The company, Resolve, provides a “buy now, pay later” option tailored to B2B sales flow.

“Traditional B2B financing is slow, inaccurate and limits a business’s potential for growth because of an over reliance on email, call centers, faxes and manual invoicing processes,” Resolve wrote in an April press release. “Today, many companies offer a standard net 30-day payment plan only to their best and longest tenured customers, leaving others in need of financing to rely on credit cards or installment loans.”

Meanwhile, companies like Stripe and Square are making a concerted effort to explore other financial frontiers, with the former launching a lending tool as well as a corporate credit card this month. Square, for its part, recently introduced a new debit card, called the Square Card, allowing businesses to withdraw and spend money they’ve collected through Square payments.

Venture investment in fintech companies headquartered in the U.S. is poised to reach new highs this year. In the first eight months of 2019, $10.5 billion was funneled into the sector, following a record high of $11.6 billion in 2018. Globally, fintech investment is increasing, too, with nearly $20 billion deployed this year, per PitchBook.

Competition in the fintech space has accelerated growth and innovation, as consumer-friendly, frictionless tools permeate the conservative and highly-regulated finance industry.

Following a year of fintech mega-rounds, we expect to seem a series of fintech initial public offerings as soon as next year. Affirm, Robinhood, Stripe, SoFi, Coinbase, we’re looking at you.


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Voyage raises $31 million to bring driverless taxis to communities – gpgmail


Voyage, the autonomous vehicle startup that spun out of Udacity, announced Thursday it has raised $31 million in a round led by Franklin Templeton.

Khosla Ventures, Jaguar Land Rover’s InMotion Ventures and Chevron Technology Ventures also participated in the round. The company, which operates a ride-hailing service in retirement communities using self-driving cars supported by human safety drivers, has raised a total of $52 million since launching in 2017. The new funding includes a $3 million convertible note.

Voyage CEO Oliver Cameron has big plans for the fresh injection of capital, including hiring and expanding its fleet of self-driving Chrysler Pacifica minivans, which always have a human safety driver behind the wheel.

Ultimately, the expanded G2 fleet and staff are just the means toward Cameron’s grander mission to turn Voyage into a truly driverless and profitable ride-hailing company.

“It’s not just about solving self-driving technology,” Cameron told gpgmail in a recent interview, explaining that a cost-effective vehicle designed to be driverless is the essential piece required to make this a profitable business.

The company is in the midst of a hiring campaign that Cameron hopes will take its 55-person staff to more than 150 over the next year. Voyage has had some success attracting high-profile people to fill executive-level positions, including CTO Drew Gray, who previously worked at Uber ATG, Otto, Cruise and Tesla, as well as former NIO and Tesla employee Davide Bacchet as director of autonomy.

Funds will also be used to increase its fleet of second-generation self-driving cars (called G2) that are currently being used in a 4,000-resident retirement community in San Jose, Calif., as well as The Villages, a 40-square-mile, 125,000-resident retirement city in Florida. Voyage’s G2 fleet has 12 vehicles. Cameron didn’t provide details on how many vehicles it will add to its G2 fleet, only describing it as a “nice jump that will allow us to serve consumers.”

Voyage used the G2 vehicles to create a template of sorts for its eventual driverless vehicle. This driverless product — a term Cameron has used in a previous post on Medium — will initially be limited to 25 miles per hour, which is the driving speed within the two retirement communities in which Voyage currently tests and operates. The vehicle might operate at a low speed, but they are capable of handling complex traffic interactions, he wrote.

“It won’t be the most cost-effective vehicle ever made because the industry still is in its infancy, but it will be a huge, huge, huge improvement over our G2 vehicle in terms of being be able to scale out a commercial service and make money on each ride,” Cameron said. 

Voyage initially used modified Ford Fusion vehicles to test its autonomous vehicle technology, then introduced in July 2018 Chrysler Pacifica minivans, its second generation of autonomous vehicles. But the end goal has always been a driverless product.

gpgmail previously reported that the company has partnered with an automaker to provide this next-generation vehicle that has been designed specifically for autonomous driving. Cameron wouldn’t name the automaker. The vehicle will be electric and it won’t be a retrofit like the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid vehicles Voyage currently uses or its first-generation vehicle, a Ford Fusion.

Most importantly, and a detail Cameron did share with gpgmail, is that the vehicle it uses for its driverless service will have redundancies and safety-critical applications built into it.

Voyage also has deals in place with Enterprise rental cars and Intact insurance company to help it scale.

“You can imagine leasing is much more optimal than purchasing and owning vehicles on your balance sheet,” Cameron said. “We have those deals in place that will allow us to not only get the vehicle costs down, but other aspects of the vehicle into the right place as well.”


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Shape Security hits $1B valuation with $51M Series F – gpgmail


Anti-fraud startup Shape Security has tipped over the $1 billion valuation mark following its latest Series F round of $51 million.

The Mountain View, Calif.-based company announced the fundraise Thursday, bringing the total amount of outside investment to $183 million since the company debuted in 2011.

C5 Capital led the round, along with several other new and returning investors, including Kleiner Perkins, HPE Growth and Norwest Ventures Partners.

Shape Security protects companies against automated and imitation attacks, which often employ bots to break into networks using stolen or reused credentials. Shape uses artificial intelligence to discern bots from ordinary users by comparing known information such as a user’s location, and collected data, like mouse movements, to shut down attempted automated logins in real time.

The company said it now protects against two billion fraudulent logins daily.

C5 managing partner André Pienaar said he believes Shape will become the “definitive” anti-fraud platform for the world’s largest companies.

“While we expect a strong financial return, we also believe that we can bring Shape’s platform into many of the leading companies in Europe who look to us for strategic ideas that benefit the entire value-chain where B2C applications are used,” Pienaar told gpgmail.

Shape’s chief executive Derek Smith said the $51 million injection will go toward the company’s international expansion and product development — particularly the capabilities of its AI system.

He added that Shape was preparing for an IPO.

Correction: A draft of the company’s funding news said Shape had raised $173 million to date. The company said this was a typo and has in fact raised $183 million.


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Sidewalk Labs spins out urban data-gathering tool Replica into a company – gpgmail


Replica, the data-gathering tool created within Sidewalk Labs that maps the movement of people in cities, is now a company.

The newly formed company, which is headed by Nick Bowden, also announced Thursday it has raised $11 million in a Series A funding round from investors Innovation Endeavors, Firebrand Ventures and Revolution’s Rise of the Rest Seed Fund. The capital will be used to accelerate Replica’s growth through new hires beyond its existing 13-person staff, expansion to new cities and investment in its technology.

Replica will remain connected to Sidewalk Labs, the smart city technology firm owned by Google’s parent company Alphabet. Both Sidewalk Labs and Innovation Endeavors will be on the company’s board.

Replica, which is headquartered in Kansas City, with an engineering office in San Francisco, plans to launch in several new regions. Replica is already working with Kansas City, Portland, Chicago and Sacramento, with more cities to come this year.

The Replica tool, which has drawn the ire of some privacy advocates, grew out of Model Lab, a project  started two years ago to investigate modeling as a way to address urban problems. Early work focused on meeting with public agencies throughout the world to learn more about the data, processes and other tools they used.

The Replica planning tool was born out what they discovered: Public agencies don’t have all the information needed to understand the link and interdependence between transportation and land use. The upshot is an incomplete picture of how people move within cities, leaving public agencies ill-equipped to make decisions about how land is used and what transportation is needed and where, the company says.

“Answering questions like who uses the street, in which way and why, are critical for city planners as they work to make transit and land use more efficient and sustainable,” Bowden wrote. “But current resources available to city planners to analyze people’s travel in urban areas are less than satisfactory.”

The Replica modeling tool uses de-identified mobile location data to give public agencies a comprehensive portrait of how, when and why people travel. Movement models are matched to a synthetic population, which has been created using samples of census demographic data to create a broad new data set that is statistically representative of the actual population. The result, Bowden says, is a model that is both privacy-sensitive and extremely useful for public agencies.

Bowden tried to quell privacy worries Thursday in a blog post, emphasizing that the data has been “de-identified,” meaning that an individual’s location data would be identifiable. The company says it’s not interested in the movement of individuals. Instead, the modeling tool is used to see and understand patterns of movement.

“For this reason, we only start with data that has been de-identified,” Bowden wrote Thursday. “This data is then used to train a travel behavior model — basically, a set of rules to represent the movement in a particular place.”


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SmileDirectClub makes its debut on the public market – gpgmail


SmileDirectClub rang the opening bell earlier today, marking its first day of trading as a public company. The teeth-straightening company is now trading on the Nasdaq under the symbol “SDC.”

Already, the stock is trading down 11% at $20.36 per share.

SmileDirectClub kicked off its IPO hoping to raise up to $1.3 billion at an offering price of $23 per share, with an expected market cap of around $10 billion. The company originally intended to set its price between $19 and $22 per share.

“We are focused on long term shareholder value – the next 12, 24, 36 months and beyond,” SmileDirectClub CFO Kyle Wailes said in a statement to gpgmail. “Today’s IPO allows us to reinvest in innovation in product, process, international growth and customer experience. We are just getting started but our commitment to our mission, our 5,500+ team members, our customers and now our shareholders is stronger than ever.”

The company plans to use money raised from the IPO for international expansion and developing new dental products. SmileDirectClub filed to go public back in August amid concerns from national dental associations.

Prior to this, SmileDirectClub reached a $3.2 billion valuation following a $380 million funding round last October. Investors from Clayton, Dubilier & Rice led the round, which featured participation from Kleiner Perkins and Spark Capital. This funding came on top of Invisalign maker Align Technology’s $46.7 million investment in SmileDirectClub in 2016, and another $12.8 million investment in 2017 to own a total of 19% of the company.

In 2018, SmileDirectClub’s revenues came in at $432.2 million, a significant uptick from just $147 million the year prior.

The company ships invisible aligners directly to customers, and licensed dental professionals (either orthodontists or general dentists) remotely monitor the progress of the patient. Before shipping the aligners, patients either take their dental impressions at home and send them to SmileDirectClub or visit one of the company’s “SmileShops” to be scanned in person.

SmileDirectClub says it costs 60% less than other types of teeth-straightening treatments, with the length of treatments ranging from four to 14 months. Upfront, SmileDirectClub costs $1,895, with the average treatment lasting six months.

Though, members of the American Association of Orthodontists have taken issue with SmileDirectClub, previously asserting that SmileDirectClub violates the law because its methods of allowing people to skip in-person visits and X-rays is “illegal and creates medical risks.” The organization has also filed complaints against SmileDirectClub in 36 states, alleging violations of statutes and regulations governing the practice of dentistry. Those complaints were filed with the regulatory boards that oversee dentistry practices and with the attorneys general of each state.

SmileDirectClub explicitly calls out those issues in its S-1 as potential risk factors. Here’s a key nugget:

A number of dental and orthodontic professionals believe that clear aligners are appropriate for only a limited percentage of their patients. National and state dental associations have issued statements discouraging use of orthodontics using a teledentistry platform. Increased market acceptance of our remote clear aligner treatment may depend, in part, upon the recommendations of dental and orthodontic professionals and associations, as well as other factors including effectiveness, safety, ease of use, reliability, aesthetics, and price compared to competing products.

Furthermore, our ability to conduct business in each state is dependent, in part, upon that particular state’s treatment of remote healthcare and that state dental board’s regulation of the practice of dentistry, each which are subject to changing political, regulatory, and other influences. There is a risk that state authorities may find that our contractual relationships with our doctors violate laws and regulations prohibiting the corporate practice of dentistry, which generally bar the practice of dentistry by entities. Two state dental boards have established new rules or interpreted existing rules in a manner that purports to limit or restrict our ability to conduct our business as currently conducted.

Additionally, as the S-1 notes, a national dental association recently filed a petition with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration claiming that SmileDirectClub’s manufacturing violates “prescription only” requirements. While no regulations or laws have been passed that would affect SmileDirectClub to date, it’s a possible scenario that would greatly impact the company’s core business.


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Stock content service Storyblocks evolves with new partner program – gpgmail


Storyblocks, the subscription-based stock audio, imagery and video service formerly known as Videoblocks, today announced the launch of its new Member Library Partner Program. The company has also shuttered its pay-per-download marketplace and is now fully invested in its all-inclusive subscription program.

The reason for this move, the company says, it to better align its offerings with the needs of both its subscribers and contributors. The company also says that less than 5% of its members every purchased anything from the old marketplace.

With the new program, subscribers get access to a wide range of royalty free stock imagery without restrictions. That, of course, is not all that different from how the company’s program worked before. Unlimited access to the company’s video library starts at $39/month (though you get a 50% discount if you pre-pay for a year). At that price, the service is clearly going after YouTubers and others who need regular access to stock video. Access to its audio and image library is significantly cheaper.

Contributors get paid for every download, sharing in the pool of total revenue Storyblocks gains from its subscribers, and the service provides them with detailed analytics about how their content performs on the platform.

“For contributors, the Partner Program is uniquely designed to prioritize sustainable revenue growth alongside subscription growth: as the market grows, contributor earnings grow,” the company explains.

For now, the company will work with a targeted group of contributors to build the library and will add additional contributors over time. The company agues that this new program will triple contributors’ earnings, but that obviously remains to be seen.

“The Member Library Partner Program puts us in the unique position to provide diverse, high-quality stock media that the mass creative class demands while providing an earnings boost for our contributor community, and allowing them to better share in our success over the long run,” said Storyblocks CEO TJ Leonard. “We believe you cannot pivot an old approach to meet the needs of a new audience, and so we have created a fresh approach to stock media access that reflects the freedom, flexibility and choice required by today’s digital storytellers.”

 


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Zyl raises $1.1 million to resurface old memories from your photos – gpgmail


French startup Zyl has raised $1 million (€1 million) in a round led by OneRagtime. The company has developed an app that uses artificial intelligence to find the most interesting photos and videos in your photo library.

Now that smartphones have been around for a while, many people have thousands of unsorted photos on their iPhone or Android device. And chances are you don’t often scroll back to look at past vacations and important life events.

Zyl is well aware of that. That’s why the company does the heavy lifting for you. The app scans your photo library to find important memories and photos you may have forgotten. It has even registered patents for some of its algorithms.

But identifying photos and videos is just one thing. In order to turn that process into a fun, nostalgia-powered experience, the app sends you a notification every day to tell you that Zyl has identified a new memory — they call it a Zyl. When you tap on it, the app reveals that memory and you can share it with your friends and family.

You then have to wait another 24 hours to unlock another Zyl. That slow-paced approach is key as you spend more time looking at Zyls and sharing them with loved ones.

It’s also worth noting that Zyl processes your photo library on your iPhone or Android device directly. Photos aren’t sent to the company’s server.

Up next, Zyl plans to enrich your collection of Zyls with more photos and videos from your friends and family. You could imagine a way to seamlessly share photos of the same life event with your loved ones, even if they are currently spread out over multiple smartphones.

With today’s funding round, the company wants to improve the app and reach millions of users. Zyl already has impressive retention rates with 38% of users opening the app regularly during 5 weeks or more.


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Akeneo raises $45 million for its product information management service – gpgmail


French startup Akeneo has raised a $45 million Series C round led by Summit Partners, with existing investors Alven, Partech, Salesforce Ventures and Stephan Dietrich also participating. The company develops a popular product information management (PIM) service to manage all information about products in your stores, online and in paper catalogs.

Akeneo started as a sort of CRM for product information. Instead of managing your catalog using Excel spreadsheets or an outdated ERP, Akeneo provides a service that works across all your communication channels. You can also collaborate in Akeneo directly.

Akeneo started as an open source PIM application. Today, thousands companies actively use that open source version. But Akeneo also offers an enterprise edition with a more traditional software-as-a-service approach. The startup has managed to attract 300 clients, such as Sephora, Fossil and Auchan.

“With the open source edition, we have 60,000 companies actively using Akeneo. It means that we are the most used PIM solution in the world,” co-founder and CEO Frédéric de Gombert told me.

Over the years, Akeneo has expanded beyond product information management. The company acquired Sigmento, a startup that collects public data about millions of products in order to automatically generate descriptions, specifications, keywords and more.

Akeneo has integrated Sigmento into its core product and now has a database of 50 million different products. Akeneo uses machine learning to clean up that data set. For Akeneo customers, it lets you automate several tasks and fix mistakes in specifications for instance.

“Investing in this technology is one of the goals of this funding round,” Frédéric de Gombert said.

With today’s funding round, the company also wants to hire more people and focus even more on the U.S. — it currently has 180 employees and they will be 300 by the end of 2020. 75% of its revenue is coming from abroad, and the company generates 20% of its revenue in the U.S.


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