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Archivo del Autor: Belen De Leon

Sequoia wraps up new $695M fund for India and Southeast Asia

Sequoia has announced the close of its newest fund for India and Southeast Asia. The firm has raised $695 million for this fund, which is its fifth since it expanded into India 12 years ago.

Reports at the beginning of this year suggested that the firm was shooting for a $1 billion fund, perhaps influenced by SoftBank’s gargantuan Vision Fund, but it was later reported that the target was cut to $650-$700 million.

This new money for Asia is reflective of Sequoia’s activity elsewhere in the world, where it is piling up cash for more details. The firm is in the final stages of raising an $8 billion global fund while it is said to be preparing a China fund that could reach as high as $6 billion, with participation from e-commerce firm JD.com and state-owned Starquest Capital. It secured a $180 million seed fund in the U.S earlier this year.

With this new money, Sequoia India said it plans to “double down” on technology, consumer and healthcare startups to “unleash the potential” of the two regions, which collectively over 800 million internet users. That number is growing fast among India, population 1.3 billion, and Southeast Asia, population 650 million.

Beyond being one of the premier VCs in the U.S. and China, Sequoia also enjoys a top-tier reputation in Asia and, more recently, in Southeast Asia where it has accelerated its presence in recent years. To date, the firm has made over 200 investments in India, which include major hits like unicorn Zomato, Freshworks (which is headed to IPO), Freecharge (which was acquired by Snapdeal), Pine Labs (which recently raised from PayPal), JustDial (which went public in 2013) and OYO Rooms, which is backed by SoftBank’s Vision fund.

The firm has expanded to Southeast Asia in recent years, after first opening an office in 2012, and it said that the region accounts for 20-30 percent of portfolio value. That’s a ratio it intends to maintain going forward — which means there’s no dedicated Southeast Asia fund, for now at least.

Already, though, Sequoia has gotten itself into a number of Southeast Asia’s top startups. They include Indonesian unicorn trio Go-Jek, Tokopedia and Traveloka, Singapore’s Carousell and e-commerce startup Zilingo. The fact that Sequoia India managing director Shailendra Singh relocated to Singapore also speaks volumes about how seriously the firm is taking Southeast Asia — even though, as mentioned, there’s no standalone fund.

“As we look to the future, the menu of investment opportunities is unprecedented — from mobile internet to online brands, enterprise SaaS to AI, crypto to deep tech in healthcare, new age consumer brands and beyond,” Sequoia wrote in a blog post announcing its new fund.

“India and Southeast Asia, meanwhile, are at an inflection point, and we are witnessing incredible quality of new investment opportunities,” it added.

Finally, the firm has announced some staff changes. Most notably, managing director Abhay Pandey is leaving after an 11-year stint to focus on investment opportunities in the consumer space, according to Sequoia. Pandey joined Sequoia from Merrill Lynch in 2007 and he previously spent time with Credit Suisse and McKinsey.

Abhay Pandey is leaving his role as managing director at Sequoia’s India fund after more than 11 years

There are also promotions. Former Facebook product manager Abheek Anand is now managing director with a focus on Southeast Asia, while four VPs —  Ishaan Mittal, Sakshi Chopra, Ashish Agarwal and Harshjit Sethi — have stepped up to become principals.

Source: TechCrunch

2018 Audi RS5 Coupe review: Fast, not furious – Roadshow

Audi’s new RS5 is a potent performer, but perhaps a bit too buttoned up for its own good.
Source: CNET

Stealthy Singapore VC firm Qualgro is raising a $100M fund

Southeast Asia’s venture capital space is booming right now. Openspace Ventures just announced the close of its newest $135 million fund, Golden Gate Ventures hit the first close on its upcoming $100 million vehicle, and a third Singapore-based fund is also raising big right now: Qualgro.

Unlike others, Qualgro has operated relatively under the radar to date.

That’s been very deliberate, according to managing partner Heang Chhor, who started the firm after leaving McKinsey following a 26-year stint that spanned Europe and Asia. Cambodian by birth, Chhor grew up in France and he rose to become a member of the McKinsey Global Board, whilst also leading the business in Japan.

Prior to McKinsey, Chhor started a number of businesses — of which he says he got a modest exit but plenty of experience — and now he is turning his attention to Southeast Asia, where growing internet access among a cumulative base of 650 million consumers is opening up new opportunities for tech and internet businesses. The region’s digital economy is forecast to pass $200 billion by 2020, up from an estimated $50 billion in 2017, according to a much-cited report from Temasek and Google.

Qualgro — which stands for ‘quality’ and ‘growth,’ in case you wondered — opened its doors in 2015 with a maiden $50 million fund. Alongside Chhor is Jason Edwards, formerly with PE firm Clearwater Capital and Peter Huynh, who joined from the Singtel Innov8 VC arm. To date, Qualgro has made 19 investments, which include IP and data firm Patsnap, e-commerce startup Shopback, and lending platform Funding Societies.

The aim is to super-size that with this new fund, which this week completed a first close of $60 million. The total target is $100 million. Qualgro didn’t comment on the identity of its LPs, but it said the increased capital will see it further its efforts on Series B deals.

The firm has focused on Series A and B deals in Southeast Asia so far with a primary interest in b2b businesses, and those that use data, AI, enterprise and Sass models. Beyond that b2b specialism, the firm looks to distinguish itself by offering international growth opportunities to its portfolio. That’s to say that Chhor uses his networks across the world to help Southeast Asia-based companies expand into new geographical markets — especially on issues like setting up offices and hiring — whilst also tapping his connections within the enterprise and business worlds.

“As a Southeast Asia-based VC, we are looking for talented people that are able to grow their company regionally and potentially become a real global player. It’s a little bit difficult because as a Southeast Asian entrepreneur you need to have certain skills and be on the right business model to access the global world and compete successfully [but] we invest in this type of talent irrespective of their country in Southeast Asia,” Chhor told TechCrunch.

[Left to right] Heang Chhor, Qualgro founder and managing partner, Jason Edwards, co-founder and partner, and Peter Huynh, co-founder and partner

That’s been most visible with its efforts in Australia to date. For example, Qualgro has worked closely with Shopback to expand its service into the country. While Patsnap, too, has leveraged its investor to expand into Europe, where it has a sizeable operation in addition to its Singapore HQ.

But the strategic deals also flow the other way.

Qualgro is looking to back companies that seek the opportunities to move into Southeast Asia. To date that has seen it get active in the Australian market, where it has done more deals that other Southeast Asian VC firm. Those include Data Republic, which has expanded to Singapore with plans to go beyond that, too.

Chhor explained that, beyond its current scope on Southeast Asia and Australia, the firm is open to pursuing deals with companies in markets like Europe and Japan when there are opportunities for Qualgro to come in as a strategic investor help grow businesses and expand networks across Asia.

Indeed, Qualgro’s focus on international is reflected in its team which consists of six people in Singapore with one in Australia and an advisor in Europe.

Source: TechCrunch

Microsoft discovers new Russian hacking operation targeting US groups – CNET

Hackers linked to Russian military spoofed domains belonging to two US conservative groups.
Source: CNET

Asus gets ‘tough’ on gamers using two TUF Gaming FX laptops built for abuse

If you’re looking for a “tough” gaming laptop that won’t set your wallet on fire, Asus introduced two new solutions under its TUF Gaming FX banner. The FX505 dons a 15.6-inch screen while the FX705 sports a 17.3-inch screen.

The post Asus gets ‘tough’ on gamers using two TUF Gaming FX laptops built for abuse appeared first on Digital Trends.

Source: Digital trends

Steam.tv is live again — say hello to Valve's Twitch competitor? – CNET

Update: Steam.tv is back, after its test server was mistakenly made public last Friday.
Source: CNET

Cootek, the Chinese maker of TouchPal keyboard, files for $100M US IPO

Cootek, the Chinese mobile internet company best known for keyboard app TouchPal, has filed for a public offering in the United States. In its F-1 form, submitted last week to the Securities and Exchange Commission, Cootek said it wants to raise up to $100 million.

The Shanghai-based company began operating in 2008, when TouchPal was launched, and incorporated as CooTek in March 2012. In its SEC filing, Cootek said it currently has 132 million daily active users, with average DAUs increasing 75% year-over-year as of June. It also said it achieved 453% total ad revenue growth in the six month period before June.

While AI-based TouchPal, which offers glide typing and predictive text, is Cootek’s most popular product, it also has 15 other apps in its portfolio, including fitness apps HiFit and ManFIT and a virtual assistant called Talia. The company uses its proprietary AI and big data technology to analyze language data collected from users and the Internet. Then it uses those insights to develop lifestyle, healthcare and entertainment apps. Together, those 15 apps reached an average of 22.2 million monthly average users and 7.3 million daily average users in June.

TouchPal itself had 125.4 million daily average users in June 2018, with active users launching the app an average of 72 times a day. It currently supports 110 languages.

Most of Cootek’s revenue comes from mobile advertising. It says net revenue grew from $11 million in 2016 to $37.3 million in 2017, or 238.5% year-over-year, while its net loss dropped from $30.7 million in 2016 to $23.7 million in 2017. It achieved net income of $3.5 million for the six months ending in June, compared to a net loss of $16.2 million in the same period a year ago.

Cootek plans to be listed under the ticker symbol CTK on the New York Stock Exchange and will use the IPO’s proceeds to grow its user base, invest in AI and natural language processing tech and improve advertising performance. The offering will be underwritten by underwritten by Credit Suisse, BofA Merrill Lync and Citi.

Source: TechCrunch

Super-Earth exoplanets full of water are a good sign for extraterrestrial life – CNET

Don’t you know the poem? Water, water everywhere, so life just might exist!
Source: CNET

Cyberpunk 2077: Everything we know from Gamescom – CNET

CD Projekt Red is promising an update on Cyberpunk 2077 at Gamescom… could we finally see some gameplay?
Source: CNET

Here are the 63 startups that launched today at Y Combinator’s S18 Demo Day 1

From “cheese 2.0” to connecting flights for satellites, Y Combinator showed off a wide array of early stage startups fresh from its YC Summer 2018 batch. A total of 63 companies took to the stage in front of a full audience at the Computer History Museum today in Mountain View to pitch on-off switches for organisms, laundry detergent subscription services, gymless gyms, lab-grown palm oil and sugary sugar substitutes.

It felt like every other startup was trying to make us try vegan chicken nuggets, but from a bird’s eye view this YC batch saw startups clustered around B2B software and services (30% of companies), healthcare (28%), consumer goods and services (9%) and consumer media (7%). (Yes, blockchain companies were right behind, comprising 5% of companies).

For this batch, YC’s efforts to get more female founders on board mostly held steady, with 15% female founders, down one percent from last round’s 16%. YC’s diversity tracking around race showed a little more activity: 11% of this cohort’s founders were black or latinx, up from 9% in the previous group. A total of 19 countries were represented across the 132 companies pitching over two days, and 28% of companies were based outside the US. 

Which companies will go on to make a unicorn-sized splash? Are there really that many vegans? To figure it all out, you can read through our full list of the day’s YC S18 companies below (be sure to take a coffee break or two) or check back later for our own picks of today’s most interesting startups. Without further ado…


Public Recreation

The founders of Public Recreation want to take your workout outside. The company offers a modular system of benches, bars and smart lockers that can be installed anywhere and for a subscription price of $50/month customers get access to classes ranging from yoga to strength training and conditioning. Their first pop up is in San Francisco… literally on the corner of Octavia and Hayes.


BlueCargo is optimizing container management for ports, kind of like Jenga for shipping containers. Normally, a single move costs a port $30, but up to 50% of those moves might not even be needed at all. Due to inefficient shuffling processes, terminals waste as much as $20 billion a year, but BlueCargo would eliminate that waste with machine learning, they say. The company has one paid pilot with France’s port of Saint Nazaire to date with three more in the works around the world. BlueCargo is also about to start working with the port of Long Beach, California — one of the largest ports in the US.


HoneyLove aims to disrupt the traditional shapewear market by making an affordable, high-quality product that actually works.

The $89 product uses supportive structures inside the seams of the garment, similar to the flexible boning used in old-school corsets, and encases those structures in a soft channel of protective fabric. This simple enhancement ensures that the garment doesn’t bunch up around the legs or waistband. The company has already sold $500k in product

Read more about HoneyLove here.

C16 Biosciences

C16 Biosciences is aiming to greatly reduce greenhouse gas emissions across the globe with their lab-grown palm oil, an alternative to a product that is found in a truly massive amount of goods. C16’s alternative grown in bioreactors with yeast is 20 percent less expensive to customers but “doesn’t destroy the planet,” the company says. The startup has already begun early partnerships with a number of beauty and food distributors that together spend about $1.2 billion on palm oil annually.


Kobo360 is a Nigerian startup wants to be the Uber for logistics and trucking in Nigeria… with a twist. With $1.3 million in funding already in the bank, the startup not only has an on-demand trucking solution linking shippers with excess trucking capacity, it has also set up a crowdfunding platform called Kobo Wealth Investment Network, or KoboWIN to enable Kobo drivers to finance new trucks through citizen investors and pay them back directly (with interest) over a 60 month period.


JetLenses is taking on the major contact lens e-commerce sites and other online ordering systems. The startup’s goal is to bring down the cost of prescription products by automating the overhead associated with these businesses, then pass those savings on to consumers.

For example, it automates the process of contacting doctors to verify prescriptions by maintaining a data set of existing practices, automatically faxing the office to verify the prescription and then processing the doctor’s office response.

Read more about JetLenses here.


By monitoring thermal patterns inside a breast, the startup Higia hopes it can offer women a better, non-invasive method to detect breast cancer. The company’s wearable device, called EVA, can be placed under any sports bra, and offers a new way to fill the gaps that current screening techniques aren’t addressing — things like early breast cancer detection in women with high breast density. The company has already pre-sold 5,000 units in Mexico and will begin shipping them in the fall of 2018. 

Read more about Higia here.


Founder and head of engineering at Crunchyroll, James Lin knows all about the pain of finding and hiring talented software engineers. That’s why Lin started The Computer Science Proficiency Assessment, which is basically the SAT for software engineers. Lin and his team have created standardized exams that are held in classrooms on or near college campuses and test both practical knowledge and theoretical principles.

Students pay to take the tests and have their results shared with the over 60 companies that are now accepting the results when considering new candidates.


Sterblue is a French drone software startup aiming to get off-the-shelf drones inspecting large outdoor structures up close with automated insights that identify anomalies that need a second look.

The startup’s software is specifically focused on enabling drones to easily inspect large power lines or wind turbines with simple automated trajectories that can get a job done much quicker and with less room for human error.

Read more about Sterblue here.

Cambridge Glycoscience

Looking to bake the perfect treat with a sugar substitute that can mimic not just the sweetness, but the gooey caramelization and sticky sweetness that typically only comes from real sugar? Well YC company Cambridge Glycoscience has the sweetener for you. The company expects to produce its sugar substitutes at a cost that can make low- and no-sugar foods even more accessible for mainstream consumers. So toss that corn syrup and get ready for a new flavor revolution.

Their manufacturing process will let them produce their sugar substitute at scale and they have a patent portfolio to protect their innovation. Notably, they have signed letters of intent with five companies already, including Haribo.


Yingzhe Fu, a graduate of the University of California at Berkeley, has been developing this home sensing and automation product at least since his graduation in 2016. Togg’s product is now installed in eight assisted living centers around the U.S. and is able to capture changes in residents’ health including sleep, breathing, bathroom visits and movement speed more accurately than actual caregivers at a facility.

Given the explosion in the number of elderly in need of home care (both in the U.S. and in Fu’s native China), it seems like Fu’s Togg is a product hitting the market at the right time.  


Using smart speakers like the Amazon Alexa or Google Home, AskMyClass is bringing a deeper set of skills to elementary school classrooms. Like homes, schools are quickly picking up on the benefits of smart speaker deployment, and using AskMyClass teachers now can let those speakers handle a range of daily tasks, from vocabulary reviews to refocusing exercises — the software can even take notes and make lists for teachers on the go.

Teachers using it are reclaiming as much as 75 minutes a week in the classroom by using AskMyClass as a kind of teaching assistant. For example, AskMyClass can run math drills with one set of students while another works directly with their instructor. In five weeks, they’ve on-boarded 436 classrooms.


Making e-commerce easier across Latin America, Skydrop is focused on estimating drop-off times, buying and printing shipping labels and handling returns for its customers. Through a network of independent drivers, alongside a logistics platform recreated from the ground up, Skydrop is looking to offer shipping labels at a fraction of the cost by aggregating orders with thousands of like-minded (and like-sized) businesses. Companies simply add Skydrop’s plugin to their own online store and watch their logistics burdens take off.

Cytera CellWorks

Cytera CellWorks hopes to revolutionize the so-called “clean meat” industry through the automation of cell cultures. It uses robotic automation to configure cell cultures used in things like growing turkey meat from a petri dish or testing stem cells.

Originally, the company was going to go for general automation in the lab, but had enough interest from clients and potential business in just the cell culture automation aspect they’re focused on that for now, and changed the name for clarity.

Read more about Cytera CellWorks here.


Designing circuit boards as a service won JITX a spot in this latest batch of Y Combinator companies. Currently, every circuit board is designed manually by skilled engineers, but using JITX’s machine learning software, circuit boards can be created automatically, which can save both time and money for hardware companies.

Names & Faces

Not Facebook but not LinkedIn either, Names & Faces aims to offer any growing company a simple, fast directory of employees built specifically for that purpose alone. The company wants to solve a problem experienced by everyone at a company from its low level employees to chief executives: when your company gets bigger, it’s hard to keep track of who’s who. Names & Faces already has more than 100 customers, including L’Oreal, Uber and Fedex with sales doubling month to month.


Buttermilk offers a variety of Indian dishes at a low price that can be cooked up by simply adding hot water. Based in Seattle, Buttermilk launched in 2017 to the local market and has since expanded to serve their products across the country.

Dishes include Sambar, Daal, Khichdi, Rasam, and Upma, all of which cost $6 each. Buttermilk also sells Basmati Rice for $1.50. And there are “suites,” which pack a handful of meals into one shipment.

Read more about Buttermilk here.


Send Reality

Send Reality is looking to offer full 3D-modeling for virtual walkthroughs of real estate listings. The company sends photographers out to the listing with an iPad, a commodity depth sensor and a specialized Send Reality app. These photographers take hundreds of thousands of photos, and the Send Reality technology stitches those photos together to create a complete 3D model.

Send Reality sells directly to realtors, offering the product for $500 to $800 depending on the size and complexity of the home. In the future, the company can bring down that price point by allowing realtors to scan the home themselves from their own smartphone.

Read more about Send Reality here.

Allotrope Medical

Allotrope Medical has developed an electrical stimulation technology for smooth muscles that allows surgeons to identify critical tissue structures and distinguish functional from dysfunctional urologic and gastrointestinal issues. The Houston-based company is focused initially on decreasing the rate of injury to ureters during surgery.

With over 3 million surgeries performed in the US alone requiring identification and protection of ureters, there’s a $3.2 billion burden on healthcare systems due to injuries. The company is running an active clinical trial in Dallas and aims to be on the market by the end of 2019.

Augmented Radar Imaging 

Augmented Radar Imaging wants to address the kind of issues that have caused high profile driverless vehicle accidents. The company aims to solve two problems for current radar technologies: recognizing stationary objects and triggering false alarms.

With a team of radio engineers, physicists and data scientists, ARI has built a wide field-of-view high resolution radar system called Camdar that provides 3D spatial imaging plus velocity data and a solid state sensor with no moving parts that claims to be 300x more accurate than GPS. With 5 radar units per average in a self-driving vehicle, ARI could be looking at a $100 billion market if it can make inroads on those roads.

Canary Technologies 

The Canary Technologies co-founders have worked in the hotel industry, and have come to the conclusion that existing hotel software is awful. The company is working to tackle some of this dated software piece-by-piece starting with their far less dated programs used to handle offline booking processes. They’re getting rid of paper contracts with modern software that can make life easier for hotels.


Qurasense doesn’t think your period blood should go to waste. The company has developed a “diagnostic menstrual pad” called the Q Pad that includes an embedded collection strip that passively collects blood samples on a test strip that can be mailed for diagnostic testing which is then turned into data.

So far the company has run 5 clinical trials of a total of 500 women. It has 14 validated blood screening tests and two tests for sexually transmitted diseases and will operate on a $25 a month subscription model. Qurasense is working with Stanford Medicine to become the go-to platform for cervical cancer screening.


Inokyo wants to be the indie Amazon Go, with a cashierless autonomous retail store. Cameras track what you grab from shelves, and with a single QR scan of the app on your way in and out of the store, you’re charged for what you’ve picked up.

The first store is now open on Mountain View’s Castro Street selling an array of kombuchas, snacks, protein powders and bath products.

Read more about Inokyo here.


Based in Dubai and serving the entire Middle East and North African region, Tenderd is an on demand marketplace for heavy equipment like bulldozers and cranes. Think of it as the Uber for heavy equipment. The company began when the company’s founder left San Francisco to run the family business in the United Arab Emirates because of a family emergency. When he took the wheel, he steered the company toward what he realized was the most profitable business — renting out the heavy equipment. However, the process was so slow and cumbersome that the seasoned Bay Area launched Tenderd to solve his — and the region’s — problem.


The heart of Momentus’ propulsion technology for space flight is a new system that uses water as a propellant instead of chemicals.

Using water has several benefits, the startup says. One, it’s a fuel source that’s abundant in outer space, and it’s ultimately better and more efficient fuel for flight beyond low Earth orbit.

Read more about Momentus here.

Spero Foods

Spero Foods is joining the legion of companies trying to transform the food industry with substitutes for animal proteins based on data analytics. Founder Phaedra Randolph launched the company after experiencing the transformative benefits of transitioning to a plant-based diet. Most vegetable substitutes for animal proteins lacked the flavor, texture and nutritional heft of their animal corollaries. So Randolph used her background in bioscience and software engineering to tackle the taste issue.


InkHunter is an augmented reality tattoo try-on app. The idea is that you can see how a tattoo might like on your skin before you actually make a booking with the tattoo artist.

The app requires people to anchor the virtual design by making a few pen marks on their skin where they want the tattoo to live. It also supports taking and sharing photos.

Read more about InkHunter here.


FREY is pitching dudes a new kind of detergent for the new way they live their lives (read on a monthly subscription basis). The company bills itself as an antidote to the tired myth that only women are doing laundry with products that incorporate natural ingredients, heady fragrances and plant-derived surfactants, enzymes, and oils for stain fighting. Add that subscription model and 20% month-over-month growth in the last 12 months and product margins post 60% post-shipping, and that’s a pitch that won’t rinse out in the wash.


If you’re tired of the universal sameness of the typical Ikea, West Elm, or CB2-bedecked apartment, well look no further than Aalo, the new YC company that wants you to be your own furniture designer. With a Lego-like (not Legolas) furniture system composed of customizable, hackable and reusable parts, individuals can design their own furniture with a by-the-inch customization system for do-it-yourself designs. Founded by ex-Toyota engineer, Sejun Park, Aalo was created when an attempt to “hack” an Ikea shelf collapsed under the burden of its shoddy materials and zero weight support.


Nanopores identify molecules like DNA and Demonpore is the world’s first mechanical nanopore. Because normal, fixed nanopores require a good fit, they can only look at molecules that fit a pore well, which usually means being limited to DNA. Demonpore can change its size, making it possible to examine any kind of molecule at the nanometer scale. With a founder from Halcyon Molecular and a team of 70 scientists and engineers, Demonpore is developing a universal biomolecular sensor that can measure “virtually any type” of molecule with relevance to human health.


Imagine being the all-seeing, all-knowing lookout for all of your company’s interactions with vendors, suppliers, and customers. That’s what the YC-backed startup Savvy is looking to provide to users by bringing together all of a company’s cloud applications into a single view. “Savvy is the glue between your work applications.” Not just slang for pirates, savvy is the know-how for all external interactions and can make businesses more savvy about their communications and operations. 

Cloud Workout

Logging onto Twitch may not be the most physically active experience in the world but Cloud Workout wants to take the site’s model and build a fitness empire in its image, bringing fitness instructors to their site who can become fitness personalities and build audiences. The company’s streaming product is in private beta currently.


Genetic engineering is one of the most powerful new tools of the 21st century, but its ascendance has come with attendant fears that the technology may not be able to be controlled when it’s unleashed from a laboratory. YC-backed Synvivia is developing what amount to the kill switch for synthetic biology outside of a lab. Commercializing technology developed by UC Berkeley with grants from the NSF and DARPA, Synvivia’s genetically encoded bio-containment system engineers organisms to only live when they have access to specific, small molecules. These type of control and containment measures are critical for the development of the industry.


With a service that’s creating blockchain-based tokens for commercial real estate properties, RealtyBits is hoping to increase liquidity for investors and property owners. The goal is to let real estate funds take cryptocurrency investments from verified financiers globally while reducing transaction costs, which can amount to 10% in fund creation and investments across what the company says is a $9 trillion industry.


Taking the Highrise virtual community one step further, #ME is an avatar-based social network where users can make friends and influence virtual people through real time games and experiences. The original bootstrapped social media avatar game from which #ME evolved has already raked in $5 million in sales and attracted over 3 million registered users. At the core of that popularity is the company’s ability to create virtual identities untethered from the real world that appeals to a Gen Z audience, according to the founder’s pitch.

“We’re taking everything we learned from Highrise and building a better one,” says Anton Bernstein, the company’s chief executive. “The next Facebook will be a virtual world. And we launched it 30 days ago.”


Grabb-It turns a car’s side rear window into a full-color display, playing location-aware ads to anyone who might be standing curbside. The product’s designed for rideshare/delivery drivers, enabling them to make a bit of extra coin while doing the driving they’re already doing.

As the driver crosses town, the ads can automatically switch to focus on businesses nearby. Near the ball park? It might pitch you on tickets for tonight’s game. Over in The Mission? It could play an ad about happy hour at the bar behind you.

Read more about Grabb-It here.

Alpha Vantage

For investors seeking a new way to create alpha from financial market data, Alpha Vantage has an API toolkit to give them a leg up. Using these low-cost APIs, developers can create digital assets like iOS/Android apps and trading monitoring, management and suggestion toolkits. The company already has over 100,000 registered users making over 300 million API requests on a daily basis.


Cofounders Israel Figueroa Fontanez and Emmanuel Oquendo came up with the idea for BrainHi in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. When the devastation wrought by the hurricane made communicating with doctors offices nearly impossible on the island of Puerto Rico, the two founders thought there must be a better way to manage the process. The solution they came up with is an automated answering service that handles phone calls, texts, and Facebook messages with an automated bot that can schedule doctors visits and answer non-medical questions. The company already has 100 doctors, chiropractors, veterinarians in the U.S. and Puerto Rico.


Managing relationships with shareholders is an expensive business for public companies. Recalcitrant board members, activist shareholders and others can create problems for a management team focused on long-term growth. Using BHRD, companies can focus on targeting and engaging the investors who are aligned with their long term vision, freeing big business to focus on their business, rather than managing shareholder expectations.


Camelot is a mobile app for eSports betting… and one of the first companies to blaze a trail in the sure-to-be-lucrative business operating at the intersection of video gaming and sports betting. The company gives fans access to live updates and stats and an interface to bet against friends. In the wake of the recent Supreme Court decision there are billions of dollars to be made facilitating betting in any sport — including eSports, Camelot is rolling the dice that it can hit the right number in this emerging market. 


Using a web platform and APIs, Inscribe is pitching a service to identify digital forgeries in documents. The company’s technology uses image forensics and machine learning to check documents like bank statements, tax forms, and forms of state and national identification to look for tampered names, figures, text or signatures. The killjoys at Inscribe may finally get rid of the fake ID, but they’re also solving a billion dollar market in online fraud.


Betterment, the wildly successful automated financial management and investment platform is getting a Latin American twist with Fintual. The company offers wealth management services through low-fee mutual funds intelligently managed by the same sort of toolkit that used to be available to big banks and the quant programmers that work for them. It’s already a success in the markets it’s selling into, with week over week growth of around 10%.

Four Growers 

The robot revolution is coming for agriculture and one of the place where those robots will first raise their flag is in the hothouse. That’s the vision that Four Growers has laid out as it seeks to sell its robots to farms already squeezed by a labor shortage that shows no sign of relenting. The company pitches consistent quality of picked grape or cherry tomatoes and a “workforce” that’s dependable and efficient. Four Growers predicts that it can replace at least four human laborers with its robots representing incredible economic efficiencies for growers.

Annie Cannons

AnnieCannons is a San Francisco-based non-profit coding bootcamp aimed at transforming survivors of human trafficking into software developers or professionals in the technology industry.

Founded by Jessica Hubley and Laura Hackney, the organization aims to help the up to 18,000 people that the Justice Department believes are trafficked in the U.S. every year. The organization reaches out to after-care services organizations around legal aid and counseling services that are interested in placing survivors into a job-training program. Annie Cannons starts out with basic technical and job proficiencies and then works on giving their students into coding and development work.


BuyCoins wants to be the cryptocurrency exchange for Africa. Emerging markets are the ideal test bed and proving ground for cryptocurrencies and, in some cases, they’re the least able to take advantage of the purported efficiencies that these new platforms offer. BuyCoins is the only exchange in Nigeria that allows Nigerians to buy and sell cryptocurrencies ranging from Bitcoin and Ethereum, to Litecoin and Bitcoin Cash, directly with their local bank account or debit card. There’s already $4 billion traded in cryptocurrency in Nigeria and the market is growing quickly.


Mac’d is a build-your-own mac and cheese restaurant that lets customers choose their own adventure from the beginning. The company plans to expand through a low cost “ghost kitchen” approach, where it rents out kitchen space and sells its mac and cheese strictly through providers like UberEats, Caviar, DoorDash, Postmates.

And to quote TechCrunch’s Megan Rose Dickey: “The mac and cheese was bomb.”

Read more about Mac’d here.

Penta Medical 

For professional athletes nothing is more frightening or career damaging than an injury. And Penta Medical wants to make those fears a thing of the past. The company has developed a wearable cold laser therapy system that purports to relieve muscle and joint pain, increase circulation and relieve muscle spasms all with a tap of a button on the smartphone. Indeed, Penta also tracks injury data, provides coaches and healthcare providers with visual representations and range of motion trends.

Coaches can even track how their team compares with others in a league. It’s important to note that the company isn’t for athletes alone. People in the U.S. are already spending $6 billion and they’re the ideal market for Penta Medical’s smart hardware for chronic pain treatment and management.

Data Driven Bioscience 

The 10 times faster and 10 times cheaper cancer diagnoses that Data Driven Biosciences promises for hospitals that use its genomic diagnostic tests could transform untold numbers of lives. Dr. Sandeep Dave, the oncologist and tenured professor from Duke University who founded the company, experienced firsthand how patients and doctors are affected by delays in getting a correct diagnosis of cancer.

Using standard equipment already deployed at hospitals around the country, Data Driven Bioscience is pitching a test that connects with the company’s cloud-based machine-learning software and a database of over 10,000 tumors to diagnose cancers within 24 hours.

Rain Neuromorphics

The founders of Rain Neuromorphics found inspiration for their processor for artificial intelligence applications in the function of the human brain. The company touts its Memristive Nanowire Neural Network chip architecture as being able to train larger, more powerful neural networks than any commercial chip that’s currently on the market. Fast, fully parallel, and ultra scalable, these chips are said to be capable of both online training and low-power inference, to enable complex machine learning applications both in the cloud and directly on a device.

As neurons increase, training time increases dramatically, but the company’s neuromorphic hardware scales well in time, but take up a lot of space on a chip. The company’s new architecture creates a structure that is filled with neurons connected by nanowires, and believes it can build and train the equivalent of $1 billion. With a $2 million letter of intent from OpenAI, several patents filed, and contracts with TSMC, the company is putting its neurons where its synapses are.


The “Google Trends” for business is exactly what Spate wants to be for its users. The company is pitching a predictive engine that can let companies know what types of latte people will be drinking, the skin care products they’ll be using and the food that their dogs will be eating in the next year. It’s no surprise that the team at Spate is looking to take on Google, since that’s where the company’s founding team cut its teeth.

Their work (initially as one of the famed 20% projects) at the search giant led to a product, which drove decision-making over how to steer some of the world’s largest consumer packaged good brands. They predicted the cold brew and turmeric trends and have a bet that yellow will be the next big color in the fashion world. There’s a spate of information out there, and the company wants to be the funnel to focus that flood of information into the right decisions.


Optic gives developers a way to grab very common coding use cases that they can drop right into their code. It works by finding the sort of routine additions developers might need, like how to create a form that will add a user to a database, as well as all the ancillary parts that come with it, like tests.

It works within a developer’s IDE, so they don’t have to look externally for the code they need. Right now it works for JavaScript, with Python next on the docket.

Read more about Optic here.


Phiar is building an augmented reality navigation app for driving that shows a driver exactly where to go without taking their eyes off the wheel. With efficient AI fit into a smartphone, Phiar’s software can run at 200 fps on a dash-mounted iPhone.

With deep AI and computer vision expertise plus a team with members from Apple, Microsoft and VMware, Phiar wants to build the “killer AR application” to address the 1.7 billion people that use a navigation app each month. Phiar is counting on AR being the next meaningful evolution in driving navigation tech and a software solution that keeps a driver’s eyes on the road in front of them.

Seattle Food Tech 

Photo: James A. Guilliam/Taxi/Getty Images

At this point the notion of tastier, better, plant-based meat substitutes is no longer a fantasy. Investors have poured millions into making it a reality. The pitch from Seattle Food Tech is making that tastier, better, cheaper plant-based chicken substitute at scale. Using novel and efficient food processing equipment and facilities that can enable large scale, low-cost production that can transform the way institutional food service companies that supply the office and university cafeterias across the country deliver tasty foods to hungry breakfast, lunch, and dinner diners.

“We’re using aerospace engineering to make plant based chicken nuggets.” says chief executive Christie Lagally, a former Boeing engineer and technical project manager.

Prodigal Technologies

Prodigal Technologies wants to improve the ways that lenders collect money from borrowers. The company wants to make debt collection, if not kinder or gentler, then certainly more efficient. If a payor misses a payment, lenders can now reach out on any messaging platform and enable lenders to find borrowers where they are. The company has 11 pilots and three paying customers that handle $11 billion in origination of loans. There are $50 billion loans that aren’t paid, and with Prodigal lenders can get a 20% improvement in loan repayment.


In the U.S., trucks are moving goods across the country with roughly 35% of their available cargo space underutilized. Viopt, a software company that aims to be an Uber pool for shipping, thinks it has the solution. If the 65% of underutilized capacity could be filled it would save $30 billion for companies and remove 100 million tons of carbon emissions. By linking small and medium-sized companies with excess capacity, the company hopes to give small retailers the same logistics opportunities that were only available to the largest retailers, shippers, and logistics companies like Anheuser-Busch, Bimbo Bakeries, and Turkey Hill Farms.  


Perks for employees are becoming a big business in the tight labor market and Goodly wants to make one of the most important perks — student loan repayment — easy and accessible for employers. While the benefits of providing this benefit are universally inarguable, when you look at statistics indicating that women hold two-thirds of student debt and owe half a trillion dollars more than their male colleagues, the perk becomes more persuasive. Couple that with the statistic that African American employees hold 31% more student loan debt than their white peers, and Goodly’s offering looks even better to employers worried about improving diversity.

In all, an employer contribution of less than the cost of a cup of coffee could help the average employee pay off their debts 8.5 years faster. Talk about potentially doing well by doing good. Offers 50% higher retention for millennial employees and is tackling a $5.4 billion market.


Hoping to take a bite out of the $10 billion market for financial services regulatory compliance, Regology has developed an automated software system to ease the burden for the world’s biggest financiers. Last year companies spent $54 billion on compliance and were still fined $22 billion for compliance failures. The company claims that its software can handle the manual monitoring tasks that took companies months in a manner of hours. Working with wealth management, banking, insurance and cryptocurrency companies, the company’s machine learning software aims to take the sting out of the Security and Exchange Commission’s oversight.


Battling deforestation and child labor in manufacturers’ supply chains with software, Enveritas is helping companies secure themselves against reputational risk and increase efficiency in their operations. Initially focused on coffee companies, the platform Enveritas has built gives coffee companies a way to verify sustainability at origin for the coffee they source. While coffee may be the first industry, the work can be applied to other tropical products including cocoa, cotton, and palm oil (although if C16 — another YC company — has its way, palm oil may not be an issue).

Mylk Guys

Mylk Guys is the 100% vegan online grocery store, I’ve never wanted, but maybe you have. Undoubtedly better for the environment than a carnivorous diet, vegan options can be healthy and they may be tasty, but the foods that combine the two are few and far between. Giving a curated approach to all of the foods on the market, Mylk Guys is the online vegan grocery store aiming to make shopping “simple af”. The company bills itself as the “online vegan Trader Joe’s”. There are 21 million vegans in America that spend $54 billion on groceries. 


Simplifying machine learning on edge devices. Machine learning today lives in the cloud and it’s the biggest downside of machine learning in many systems, according to the founders of Numericcal. The solution is to move the processing down to the edge — something that can take two to six months for programmers. Numericcal has 20 billion potential devices that it can service in less time and for less money.


Breaking freelancers from the month-to-month boom-and-bust payment cycles that bind them, Oxygen provides working capital loans to freelancers who can go months without getting a paycheck. The company is more than willing to work with a group of borrowers who collectively make $1.4 trillion in 1099 income annually and who are locked out of loans. Oxygen offers flat-fee access to credit and free mobile banking, all while using machine learning to determine credit worthiness. Freelance workers of the world unite, indeed!


Hepatx is creating therapies for severely damaged livers. Chronic liver disease affects 3.9 million Americans and is the cause of death for over 40,000. The founders of Hepatx are developing a regenerative solution enabling hepatocyte production for therapeutic purposes. That means regenerating liver cells to avoid the cost and morbidity of whole organ transplant. Over 200,000 people in the U.S. need a liver transplant but only a few thousand get some. Hepatx aims to fix the liver by taking fat tissue, turns that into liver cells and introduce that into patients to regrow the liver.


Plexus is looking to create a low-cost, flexible glove for controlling augmented reality and virtual reality experiences. It’s a silicone glove, secured by velcro, that doesn’t cover your hands or fingers entirely, so it shouldn’t leave you super sweaty.

The tracking sensors grab the position of where the hands are in space via the magnetically attached tracker and, after calibrating a resting state of the user’s fingers, individual sensors communicate their position to the game engine.

Read more about Plexus here.


We’ll be back again tomorrow for the dozens of startups pitching on Day 2, check back a bit later for our top picks of Day 1 as well.

Source: TechCrunch