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Archivo del Autor: Belen De Leon

Divvy, an interesting new fractional home ownership startup, just raised a Series A round led by Andreessen Horowitz

Tech startups have found all kinds of ways to lend money to those hampered by either too little or not very good credit.

The approach of a nearly two-year-old, 15-person San Francisco-based startup called Divvy Homes is among the more creative we’ve seen, even while we question (for now) whether it’s good over the long term for potential customers.

How it works: In Cleveland, Atlanta and Memphis, where Zillow estimates median home prices are $52,000, $82,00, and $242,000, respectively, Divvy will enable a person or family to select a home they’d like to someday own, then to buy that home with Divvy’s help. The family chips in at least two percent for a down payment. Divvy pays for the rest, then it collects a monthly amount that includes both market-rate rent and an equity payment.

It does this until the newly installed residents have amassed a 10 percent stake in the home. The reason, says the company: By partnering with Divvy, tenants — some of whom have credit scores as low as 550, which is considered “very poor” by the consumer credit ratings agency Experian — can build their credit scores and eventually land a mortgage insured by the Federal Housing Administration, which requires a credit score of at least 580.

According to CEO Brian Ma — who co-founded the startup at the company creation studio HVF Labs — the idea is for this to happen within three years, at which point Divvy will sell and transfer the property over to them.

It’s easy to appreciate why this might be attractive to potential homebuyers who can’t secure a traditional mortgage in the current market — not all of whom suffer from poor credit but who are sometimes contract and self-employed workers without months of salary stubs to show nervous bankers. For example, Divvy says that it charges less in rent as a buyer’s equity begins to add up. That equity, it insists, can later turn into the person or family’s first mortgage payment.

For largely self-serving reasons, Divvy does what it can to ensure that the house isn’t a dud, too. As Ma describes it, Divvy uses data science and algorithms to ensure that a property makes sense financially, meaning that it will likely appreciate and that the tenants aren’t paying so much that they can’t simultaneously build equity in their homes.

Divvy also works with inspectors to make doubly certain each home is “move-in ready and won’t have large unforeseen expenses during the lease, like major roof, structural, pest, or foundation issues,” says Ma, who previously co-founded three startups, as well as spent several years as a program manager with Zillow.

Still, it’s also easy to imagine that some of Divvy’s aspiring homeowners will never actually own their homes. Consider: While Divvy may help some percentage of them improve their credit score, roughly 62 percent of consumers with credit scores under 579 are “likely to become seriously delinquent (i.e. go more than 90 days past due on a debt payment) in the future,” says Experian.

Naturally, like any other property owner, Divvy will evict tenants who don’t pay, even if it does so reluctantly.

“If a rent payment is missed, we will follow up to see how we can help,” says Ma. “Most of the time, it’s immediately curable or curable within a couple days. If it’s been longer than a week and we believe the tenant is going through some hardship, we will work our best to offer alternatives, including allowing them to purely rent the property by dropping the equity payments to lower their monthly payment. If we can’t find a way to cure the situation, we will go through an eviction procedure.”

Divvy also establishes the buyback price at the time that it’s buying the home — which can work for, or against, the tenants who hope to own it someday.

Adena Hefets, another Divvy co-founder who worked previously in both VC and private equity, recently explained to us that Divvy has a back-end model that projects where the house would price three years down the line and it allows tenants to “buy it back at that price at any time.” Yet buying it back early would invariably mean overpaying. Moreover, in the cities where Divvy is operating, housing prices don’t move around a lot, so a tenant could be overpaying at any buyback price that’s north of where the home sells today. (Home prices in Northeast Ohio were rising as of last spring, but they were still at 2004 levels.)

With the broader housing market poised for a slowdown, tenants wanting to buy their homes might decide it’s cheaper in the end to just move out of them and find something else. Where would that leave Divvy? We’d guess it would leave it looking more like a modern residential real estate investment trust than a “rent-to-own innovator.”

That’s not a terrible thing for Divvy, even if it sounds a little less glamorous. In fact, the company — which says it’s already buying one home a day — is today disclosing that it has raised $30 million in equity and debt from Andreessen Horowitz (a16z) and a commercial bank called Cross River Bank that notably is backed by a16z.

Ma declines to say how much of the round is equity and how much is debt. But he says that Alex Rampell, an a16z investor whose other real estate-related bets include a different fractional ownership startup, Point, has joined the company’s board.

Pictured above (at TC headquarters), left to right: Divvy founders Nicholas Clark, Brian Ma and Adena Hefets.

Source: TechCrunch

Google Pixel’s product directors on single cameras and notches

Google hardware launches are never spec-fests. The search giant would rather just sit on the sideline while companies like Apple and Samsung battle it out on that front. In fact, numbers like screen resolution, processor speed and battery capacity were conspicuously absent from today’s presentation.

Instead, the company seems more content to have hardware serve the product’s software — it’s a strategy that certainly makes sense given the company’s background. That often means that products like the Pixel don’t offer major spec upgrades year over year, instead relying on breakthroughs in AI, ML and the like to take them to the next level.

As such, the company regularly tosses out words like “pragmatic” and “practical” when discussing the decisions made in service of producing the Pixel 3. One such move was the continued reliance on a single rear-facing camera, when the competition is adding two or three to get the job done.

“We look at all of the different configurations we can get,” VP of Product Management Brian Rakowski tells TechCrunch. “If we would have added another lens, it would have given us no benefit over what we get with one really good lens.”

The simple answer is that the company was able to accomplish most of what it set out to do with a combination of “one really good camera” and software tricks like digital zoom, ultra low-light shooting and depth perception. That last bit is doubly important both for creating the bokeh effect in portrait mode and helping deliver augmented reality experiences through ARCore.

Senior Director of Product Management Sabrina Ellis says the company did consider a wide-angle lens for the rear of the device, but ultimately, “it wasn’t as much of a pain point.” It was, however, enough of an issue to warrant its addition to the front of the device.

That decision is what lead to the mismatched notches on the Google Pixel 3 (no notch) and Pixel 3 XL (giant notch). While the company has happily embraced hashtag notch life in Android Pie, the smaller Pixel’s slim profile wouldn’t have benefited from the addition of a notch.

“With the small one,” Rakowski explains, “it turns out the space is just too small when you put the wide-angle lens in. It’s a narrower phone, so you have room for an icon or two, whereas on the bigger phone everything you need for the status icons is up there, and it’s a very good use of the space.”

When I suggested the company was “notch agnostic,” both execs laughed in agreement. The hardware, Rakowski explained, is secondary to the overall experience. “We’re not obsessed with the specs,” he says. “We’re obsessed with the features and experiences.”

more Google Event 2018 coverage

Source: TechCrunch

Jennifer Garner’s baby food company Once Upon a Farm raises $20M Series B

CAVU Venture Partners has led the $20 million Series B for Once Upon a Farm, which sells organic, cold-pressed baby food in 8,500 grocery stores in the U.S.

The Berkeley-based startup was originally founded in 2015 by serial entrepreneurs Cassandra Curtis and Ari Raz. Today, it lists actress Jennifer Garner and former General Mills president John Foraker as co-founders, too.

Both Garner and Foraker — who was the chief executive officer of the popular organic mac & cheese brand Annie’s Homegrown for more than a decade — joined the company in September 2017. Foraker had been an angel investor in Once Upon a Farm and, after conversations with Garner, decided to accept the role of CEO. Garner, widely known for her roles in Alias, 13 Going on 30 and the upcoming HBO original series Camping, was already somewhat of a Once Upon a Farm evangelist when she signed on as chief brand officer a little over a year ago.

“I am proud of the innovative business that we have built,” Garner said in a statement. “It is incredibly exciting to see so many families embracing our products. This latest round of funding allows us to continue to help busy parents give their children the most nutritious foods possible and make life a little bit easier for families across the country.”

Foraker told TechCrunch that since he and Garner joined, the business has grown 10x. Last fall, the company’s products were for sale in 300 stores; today, as mentioned, they are available in more than 8,000.

“Because she has global celebrity, the power of that, she can really help us get the message out and help lots of moms and dads find [Once Upon a Farm],” Foraker said.

Once Upon a Farm sells smoothies and applesauce for kids up to age 12 directly to consumers through its online marketplace and in stores. Pouches of its signature baby food, smoothies and applesauce are $2.99 each.

As part of the deal, CAVU’s co-founder and managing partner Brett Thomas, along with CAVU investor Jared Jacobs, will join the company’s board. S2G Ventures and Beechwood Capital also participated in the round for the startup, which raised a $4 million Series A in June 2017.

The company plans to use the funds to expand its direct to consumer business, partner with more U.S. grocers and build out a wider assortment of baby products.

“You can buy fresh pet food now in almost 20,000 stores in the U.S.,” Foraker said. “We think fresh baby food has a long way to go.”

Source: TechCrunch

Brazil’s healthtech sector is new hot spot

Solving big problems for many people is the kind of opportunity that both entrepreneurs and investors love. Like recent Brazilian investment booms focused on fintech innovation and new on-demand business models, there’s been a recent explosion in healthtech startups in Brazil. With tens of millions of the country’s people impacted by gigantic inequities in access to health services, some serious quality problems, burdensome costs and inefficiencies on all sides, entrepreneurs’ plates are full in bringing healthtech innovations to the market.

In a recent study by Liga Ventures, there are now more than 250 health-focused startups in Brazil, the world’s seventh-largest health market with more than $42 billion spent annually on private healthcare. Yet, with more than $18 billion wasted due to inefficiencies, and health-related costs doubling in the country during the last five years (with accumulated inflation at 38 percent), Brazilian healthcare is ripe for disruption. Healthtech startups are one of the five featured verticals at Cubo Itaú, one of world’s largest entrepreneurial hubs based in Vila Olímpia, in the southern zone of São Paulo.

Last year, healthtech was the second-fastest growing tech sector in Latin America, according to “Inside Latin America’s Breakout Year in Tech” published by LAVCA. There was a 250 percent increase in the number of healthtech deals compared to 2016. A $50 million investment in Dr. Consulta, a network of brick-and-mortar clinics in Brazil offering top-quality healthcare at an affordable price, was among the top venture capital deals for 2017.

The healthcare sector is a complex market that connects people, processes and products between patients, intermediaries, care providers, distributors and suppliers. Based on tech innovation in Brazil that’s having the biggest impact, here are some of the key categories and players bringing new business models to market.

Healthcare on demand

About 75 percent of Brazil’s population (approximately 150 million people) only have access to the public healthcare system, which is poorly managed and inefficient. Often times, to schedule a single consultation or exam, a patient needs to wait weeks or even months to see a care provider. Technology-driven startups are springing up to address better, more efficient access to healthcare for a large and aging population.

For example, Dr. Consulta’s chain of low-cost medical clinics have expanded in three years from one to 51 branches and now claim to have the country’s largest clinical data set drawn from more than one million patients. In comparison to other private-sector clinics that cost at least $90, consultations with doctors at Dr. Consulta cost $25. Others offering similar clinical services on demand in Brazil today include Clínica SimDr. Sem FilasDocway and GlobalMed.

Telehealth and mobile health apps

To help make healthcare advice, diagnosis and monitoring more accessible, telehealth services in Brazil are expanding. Brazil Telemedicine (Brasil Telemedicina), for example, provides a variety of services around the clock that include medical exams and doctor consultations, a remote monitoring system and psychological counseling.

Startups with B2B telehealth services to improve patient care include Telelaudo, which provides 24/7 radiology imaging analysis, and Ventrix, which provides specialty devices to monitor heart health, treat vacuum wounds and monitor babies’ breathing and well-being. Another São Paulo-based startup called NEO MED has launched a marketplace to make it easier and faster to generate medical reports for ECG and EEG exams, facilitate improved collaboration between clinics, laboratories and hospitals and support physicians seeking more income and flexibility in where they choose to work.

The key ingredients to create another boom sector like fintech in the region are abundant.

Mobile health apps have grown in popularity in Brazil, in part due to a high prevalence of diseases like diabetes and hypertension and a large number of internet users in the country. For example, a mobile app and online program called Diet and Health (Dieta e Saude) has helped more than 1,600,000 users make better nutrition choices and motivate them to exercise regularly. Youper, founded in Brazil and now based in San Francisco, is a virtual emotional health assistant that helps overcome social anxiety. It helps its users re-formulate thought patterns and arrive at healthier states of mind.

AI and data analytics

Like many industries, AI and data analytics are transforming healthcare in Brazil and beyond from improving the speed of patient diagnoses to managing healthcare costs.

Gesto is one such emerging innovator that’s using machine learning to sift through and make sense of a lot of data on more than 4.5 million patients in its database to help select better insurance plans for corporations that optimize patient care while controlling costs. Intensicare, the largest specialist in intensive care unit management in Brazil, uses AI to speed diagnosis and reduce patient stay time and mortality rates. Epitrack is a Recife-based startup that uses crowdsourced data, AI and predictive analysis to combat outbreaks and epidemics through computational epidemiology.

Electronic medical records

Last year, the Brazilian government launched a project to modernize patient records for more than 42,000 public health clinics across the country by the end of 2018. This digitization of records is estimated to save the federal government about $6.8 billion according to The World Bank. As of late last year, only 30 million Brazilians (out of 208 million) had electronic medical records (EMR), and nearly two-thirds of the family clinics in Brazil didn’t have any way of recording digital information about their patients.

iClinic, a SaaS EMR platform, is one of the top Brazilian startups that has made a big impact on modernizing healthcare. It helps health professionals organize patient records electronically, store all that data in the cloud and retrieve it from any device. iClinic provides an extremely easy-to-use system to make healthcare more efficient, reduce costs and improve the quality of patient care. It’s now used in many parts of Brazil and has begun to spread its usage outside Brazil in more than 20 countries.

Digitizing prescriptions

Another major issue caused by a lack of digitization is that close to 70 percent of medical prescriptions in Brazil have potential for errors, according to the World Health Organization. As a result, Brazil has thousands of deaths per year linked to medication errors. A good number of them could be avoided by scanning. In the U.S., more than 77 percent of prescriptions are already done digitally.

To address this life-and-death issue, Memed has emerged as a key player for managing e-prescriptions in Brazil. Its platform, now used by more than 55,000 doctors from all medical specialties in the country, helps cross-check for allergies and drug interactions, makes treatment adherence easier and improves health outcomes. It’s developed the most complete, reliable and updated drug database in Brazil.

Certainly, healthtech startups in Brazil have emerged as a sector to watch, and we’re only at the tip of the iceberg in terms of problems in the country to be addressed by healthtech innovation. The key ingredients to create another boom sector like fintech in the region are abundant. Healthtech in Brazil will surely remain a hot spot for entrepreneurs, and the investors who believe in them, for many years to come.

Disclosure: Redpoint eventures is an investor in Memed.  

Source: TechCrunch

Este sistema es más preciso que el GPS y resiste desastres espaciales

Una colisión en cadena en la órbita terrestre podría destruir la tecnología con la que la humanidad se orienta en el siglo XXI. Para evitar un apagón en caso de fallo, un equipo ha descubierto un sencillo enfoque que solo requiere drones o globlos equipados con un reloj 
Source: MIT

Mazazo a la robótica: una de las empresas pioneras cierra sus puertas

Rethink Robotics ha modernizado el sector con sus cobots, una nueva generación de autómatas más seguros y fáciles de entrenar, y cuenta con apoyos de prestigio. ¿Qué ha pasado para que esta compañía líder se esté viendo obligada a cerrar?
Source: MIT

Indie farm-em-up Stardew Valley is coming to iOS and Android

Stardew Valley, the hit indie farming game made by one guy in his spare time, is coming to mobile. I’ve dropped dozens of hours into this charming little spiritual successor to Harvest Moon, and now I know how I’m going to spend my next few plane rides.

In case you’re not aware, Stardew Valley is a game where you inherit a farm near a lovely little town and must restore it, befriend (and romance) the locals, fish, fight your way through caverns, forage for spring onions and wild horseradish, mine ore, and… well, there’s a lot. Amazingly, it was created entirely by one person, Eric Barone, who taught himself to code, make pixel art, compose music and do literally everything. And yes, it took a long time. (GQ of all things wrote an interesting profile recently.)

Fortunately it was a huge hit, to Barone’s great surprise and no doubt pleasure, and deservedly so.

Originally released for the PC, Stardew Valley has since expanded (with the help of non-Barone teams) to the major consoles and is now coming to iOS — undiminished, Barone was careful to point out in a blog post. This game is big, but nothing is left out from the mobile port.

“It’s the full game, not a cut down version, and plays almost identically to all other versions,” he wrote. “The main difference is that it has been rebuilt for touch-screen gameplay on iOS (new UI, menu systems and controls).”

Barone has added a lot to the game since its release in early 2016, and the mobile version will include those updates up to 1.3 — meaning you’ll have several additional areas and features but not the multiplayer options most recently added. Those are planned, however, so if you want to do a co-op farm you’ll just have to wait a bit. No mods will be supported, alas.

In a rare treat for mobile ports, you can take your progress from the PC version and transfer it to iOS via iTunes. No need to start over again, which, fun as it is, can be a bit daunting when you realize how much time you’ve put into the game to start with.

I can’t recommend Stardew Valley enough, and the controls should be more than adequate for the laid-back gameplay it offers (combat is fairly forgiving). It’ll cost $8 in the App Store starting October 24 (Android version coming soon), half off the original $15 price — which I must say was amazingly generous to begin with. You can’t go wrong here, trust me.

Source: TechCrunch

Pixel 3, Home Hub, and Pixel Slate — our first look at all Google’s new devices

Google has taken the wraps off of a slew of new devices, including the Pixel 3 smartphones, Google Home Hub smart display, Google Pixel Slate tablet, and more. We were at the event, and took a ton of photos of all of Google’s new products.

The post Pixel 3, Home Hub, and Pixel Slate — our first look at all Google’s new devices appeared first on Digital Trends.

Source: Digital trends

Google Pixel Slate vs. Apple iPad Pro

The iPad Pro and the Google Pixel Slate are similar looking on the surface, but with the fresh release of the Google Pixel Slate considered, we’re diving a bit deeper to compare the two devices.

The post Google Pixel Slate vs. Apple iPad Pro appeared first on Digital Trends.

Source: Digital trends

What Is Voldemorting? The Ultimate SEO Dis

When writers swap Trump for Cheeto and 45, it’s not just a put-down. Removing a keyword is the anti-SEO—transforming your subject into a slippery, ungraspable, swarm.
Source: Wired