Post Your Self

Hello Dearest readers

Its your chance to get your news, articles, reviews on board, just use the link: PYS

Thanks and Regards

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Today Crunch News, News Updates, Tech News

Today Crunch News, News Updates, Tech News

Meet MarsCat, a robot cat with lots of love to give and room to grow

Posted: 09 Jan 2020 04:41 PM PST

At CES 2020, one of the more well-represented gadget categories was definitely consumer robots – but none was more adorable than MarsCat, a new robo-pet from industrial robot startup Elephant Robotics. This robot pet is a fully autonomous companion that can respond to touch, voice and even play with toys, and it’s hard not to love the thing after spending even just a brief amount of time with it.

MarsCat’s pedigree is a bit unusual, since Elephant Robotics is focused on building what’s known as ‘cobots,’ or industrial robots that are designed to work alongside humans in settings like factories or assembly plants. Elephant, which was founded in 2016, already produces three lines of these collaborative robots and has sold them to client companies around the world, including in Korea, the U.S., Germany and more.

This new product is designed for the home, however, not the factory or the lab. MarsCat is the startup’s first consumer product, but it obviously benefits immensely from the company’s expertise and experience in their industrial robotics business. With its highly articulated legs, tail and head, it can sit up, walk play and watch your movements, all working autonomously without any additional input required.

While MarsCat provides that kind of functionality out of the box, it’s also customizable and programmable by the user. Inside, it’s powered by a Raspberry Pi, and it ships with MarsCat SDK, which is an open software development library that allows you to fully control and program all of the robots functions. This makes it an interesting gadget for STEM education and research, too.

MarsCat is currently up for crowdfunding on Kickstarter, with Elephant having already surpassed its goal of $20,000 and on track to raise at least $100,000 more than that target. Elephant Robotics CEO and co-founder Joey Song told me that it actually plans to ship its first batch of production MarsCats to users in March, too, so backers shouldn’t have to wait long to enjoy their new robotic pet.

[gallery ids="1931424,1931421,1931422,1931425,1931428,1931426"]

There are other robotic pets available on the market, but Song thinks that MarsCat has a unique blend of advanced features at a price point that’s currently unmatched by existing options. The robot can respond to a range of voice commands, and will also evolve its personality over time based on how you interact with it: Talk to it a lot, and it’ll also become ‘chatty;’ play with it frequently and it’ll be a playful kitty. That, combined with the open platform, is a lot to offer for the asking backer price of just $699 to start.

Sony’s Aibo, the canine equivalent of MarsCat, retails for $2,899 in the U.S., so it’s a bargain when considered in that light. And unlike the real thing, MarsCat definitely doesn’t shed, so it’s got that going for it, too.

CES 2020 coverage - TechCrunch

SiriusXM and Pandora test bundle discounts

Posted: 09 Jan 2020 03:59 PM PST

It’s been less than a year since SiriusXM completed its $3.5 billion acquisition of streaming music service Pandora, but the two companies have already leveraged their collective assets to boost each other’s services. For example, SiriusXM talk shows arrived on Pandora as podcasts, while a Pandora-powered station now streams popular songs for both sets of listeners. Now, the company is considering tying the two services together in a different way — by packaging them as a discounted bundle.

What that bundle deal will look like isn’t yet known.

Pandora today offers four tiers of service: a free ad-supported version, the $4.99/month Pandora Plus service, and the $9.99/month Spotify rival Pandora Premium. It also offers a multi-user Pandora Premium Family plan for $14.99/month.

SiriusXM, meanwhile, also offers its own set of packages, with the most popular being a $5/month plan for the car and home (via an Echo device), an $8.25/month plan for in and out of the car, and an $8/month plan for streaming outside the car only.

Before rolling out a bundle deal, the company wanted to know what sorts of package price points and features customers would respond to best.

The company confirmed it’s been testing different cross-promotions, including those aimed at both Pandora and SiriusXM subscribers that offered discounts if you sign up for the other service. Essentially, the company wants to know what price point makes sense for consumers when it comes to subscribing to both services.

Today, these cross-promotions are aimed only at people who already subscribe to one or the other service, so it’s not really being marketed as a “bundle” deal yet. It’s just a promotion, if you want to get technical about the terminology.

“We would email our Pandora listener base or the SiriusXM listener base — we would test it with different user bases as a promotion,” Chris Phillips, SiriusXM/Pandora Chief Product Officer & Head of Technology, told TechCrunch. “We actually have a formal study going on to do it,” he said.

SiriusXM and Pandora haven’t yet settled on what a potential bundle deal will look like, but it aims to make a decision based on its tests this year.

“The power of the Sirius brand and power of the Pandora brand are very distinct. And people see unique value in the two,” Phillips added.

One challenge, however, is that people don’t understand that SiriusXM and Pandora are now one company, so the promotional emails confused them.

Similarly, people often find the language around “Pandora-powered” stations in SiriusXM confusing, as well.

One potential solution is to pick one consumer-facing brand and merge assets, including both programming and apps.

When asked if the two apps may merge into one in the future, Phillips said the company is “looking at what those opportunities might be.”

In the meantime, the company continues to explore how it can enhance both products using assets it has from the respective products.

“We are cross-pollinating content and features…into the distinct [user interfaces],” he said.

A recent example of this includes a new button within the SiriusXM app that allows you to launch a Pandora station based on what you’re currently streaming. And this new Pandora-powered station can then play right in the SiriusXM app — you don’t have to launch Pandora separately to hear it.

Efforts like this are aided by the fact that SiriusXM immediately put the two companies’ development groups together following the acquisition.

“We’re giving listeners choice. But when we give them choice, we want them to be able to have the best of what we offer in many places,” noted Phillips, of these sorts of integrations. “In the future, the idea that there’s a single opportunity — we’re looking at what that might be,” he said.

Nothing is yet determined, so all these plans could change, of course.

SiriusXM ended 2019 with around 30 million self-pay satellite radio and a record high of 34.9 million total paid subscribers. In 2020, SiriusXM forecasts revenue of $8.1 billion and earnings of $2.5 billion (adjusted EBITA).

Combined, Pandora and SiriusXM reach 100 million U.S. listeners per month.

How Ring is rethinking privacy and security

Posted: 09 Jan 2020 01:30 PM PST

Ring is now a major player when it comes to consumer video doorbells, security cameras — and privacy protection.

Amazon acquired the company and promotes its devices heavily on its e-commerce websites. Ring has even become a cultural phenomenon with viral videos being shared on social networks and the RingTV section on the company's website.

But that massive success has come with a few growing pains; as Motherboard found out, customers don't have to use two-factor authentication, which means that anybody could connect to their security camera if they re-use the same password everywhere.

When it comes to privacy, Ring's Neighbors app has attracted a ton of controversy. Some see it as a libertarian take on neighborhood watch that empowers citizens to monitor their communities using surveillance devices.

Others have questioned partnerships between Ring and local police to help law enforcement authorities request videos from Ring users.

In a wide-ranging interview, Ring founder Jamie Siminoff looked back at the past six months, expressed some regrets and defended his company's vision. The interview was edited for clarity and brevity.

TechCrunch: Let’s talk about news first. You started mostly focused on security cameras, but you've expanded way beyond security cameras. And in particular, I think the light bulb that you introduced is pretty interesting. Do you want to go deeper in this area and go head to head against Phillips Hue for instance?

Jamie Siminoff: We try not to ever look at competition — like the company is going head to head with… we’ve always been a company that has invented around a mission of making neighborhoods safer.

Sometimes, that puts us into a place that would be competing with another company. But we try to look at the problem and then come up with a solution and not look at the market and try to come up with a competitive product.

No one was making — and I still don’t think there’s anyone making — a smart outdoor light bulb. We started doing the floodlight camera and we saw how important light was. We literally saw it through our camera. With motion detection, someone will come over a fence, see the light and jump back over. We literally could see the impact of light.

So you don’t think you would have done it if it wasn’t a light bulb that works outside as well as inside?

For sure. We’ve seen the advantage of linking all the lights around your home. When you walk up on a step light and that goes off, then everything goes off at the same time. It's helpful for your own security and safety and convenience.

The light bulbs are just an extension of the floodlight. Now again, it can be used indoor because there’s no reason why it can’t be used indoor.

Following Amazon's acquisition, do you think you have more budget, you can hire more people and you can go faster and release all these products?

It’s not a budget issue. Money was never a constraint. If you had good ideas, you could raise money — I think that’s Silicon Valley. So it’s not money. It’s knowledge and being able to reach a critical mass.

As a consumer electronics company, you need to have specialists in different areas. You can’t just get them with money, you kind of need to have a big enough thing. For example, wireless antennas. We had good wireless antennas. We did the best we thought we could do. But we get into Amazon and they have a group that’s super highly focused on each individual area of that. And we make much better antennas today.

Our reviews are up across the board, our products are more liked by our customers than they were before. Jamie Siminoff

Our reviews are up across the board, our products are more liked by our customers than they were before. To me, that’s a good measure — after Amazon, we have made more products and they’re more beloved by our customers. And I think part of that is that we can tap into resources more efficiently.

And would you say the teams are still very separate?

Amazon is kind of cool. I think it’s why a lot of companies that have been bought by Amazon stay for a long time. Amazon itself is almost an amalgamation of a lot of little startups. Internally, almost everyone is a startup CEO — there’s a lot of autonomy there.

Over two dozen encryption experts call on India to rethink changes to its intermediary liability rules

Posted: 09 Jan 2020 01:24 PM PST

Security and encryption experts from around the world are joining a number of organizations to call on India to reconsider its proposed amendments to local intermediary liability rules.

In an open letter to India's IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on Thursday, 27 security and cryptography experts warned the Indian government that if it goes ahead with its originally proposed changes to the law, it could weaken security and limit the use of strong encryption on the internet.

The Indian government proposed (PDF) a series of changes to its intermediary liability rules in late December 2018 that, if enforced, would require millions of services operated by anyone from small and medium businesses to large corporate giants such as Facebook and Google to make significant changes.

The originally proposed rules say that intermediaries — which the government defines as those services that facilitate communication between two or more users and have five million or more users in India — will have to proactively monitor and filter their users' content and be able to trace the originator of questionable content to avoid assuming full liability for their users' actions.

"By tying intermediaries' protection from liability to their ability to monitor communications being sent across their platforms or systems, the amendments would limit the use of end-to-end encryption and encourage others to weaken existing security measures," the experts wrote in the letter, coordinated by the Internet Society .

With end-to-end encryption, there is no way for the service provider to access its users' decrypted content, they said. Some of these experts include individuals who work at Google, Twitter, Access Now, Tor Project and World Wide Web Consortium.

"This means that services using end-to-end encryption cannot provide the level of monitoring required in the proposed amendments. Whether it's through putting a 'backdoor' in an encryption protocol, storing cryptographic keys in escrow, adding silent users to group messages, or some other method, there is no way to create 'exceptional access' for some without weakening the security of the system for all," they added.

Technology giants have so far enjoyed what is known as "safe harbor" laws. The laws, currently applicable in the U.S. under the Communications Decency Act and India under its 2000 Information Technology Act, say that tech platforms won't be held liable for the things their users share on the platform.

Many organizations have expressed in recent days their reservations about the proposed changes to the law. Earlier this week, Mozilla, GitHub and Cloudflare requested the Indian government to be transparent about the proposals that they have made to the intermediary liability rules. Nobody outside the Indian government has seen the current draft of the proposal, which it plans to submit to India's Supreme Court for approval by January 15.

Among the concerns raised by some is the vague definition of “intermediary” itself. Critics say the last publicly known version of the draft had an extremely broad definition of the term "intermediary," that would be applicable to a wide-range of service providers, including popular instant messaging clients, internet service providers, cyber cafes and even Wikipedia.

Amanda Keton, general counsel of Wikimedia Foundation, requested the Indian government late last month to rethink the requirement to bring "traceability" on online communication, as doing so, she warned, would interfere with the ability of Wikipedia contributors to freely participate in the project.

A senior executive with an American technology company, who requested anonymity, told TechCrunch on Wednesday that even as the proposed changes to the intermediary guidelines need major changes, it is high time that the Indian government decided to look into this at all.

"Action on social media platforms, and instant communications services is causing damage in the real world. Spread of hoax has cost us more than at least 30 lives. If tomorrow, someone’s sensitive photos and messages leak on the internet, there is currently little they can expect from their service providers. We need a law to deal with the modern internet’s challenges," he said.

Lime is laying off about 100 people and ceasing operations in 12 markets

Posted: 09 Jan 2020 11:39 AM PST

Lime is hoping to achieve profitability this year by laying off about 14% of its workforce and ceasing operations in 12 markets, Axios first reported.

"Financial independence is our goal for 2020, and we are confident that Lime will be the first next-generation mobility company to reach profitability,” Lime CEO Brad Bao said in a statement to TechCrunch. “We are immensely grateful for our team members, riders, Juicers and cities who supported us, and we hope to reintroduce Lime back into these communities when the time is right."

That means Lime is shutting down in Atlanta, Phoenix, San Diego, San Antonio, Linz, Bogotá, Buenos Aires, Montevideo, Lima, Puerto Vallarta, Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo.

This is not the first time Lime has pulled out of markets. Over the span of about a year, Lime exited at least 11 markets while it entered 69 new ones. Between 2018 and 2019, competitor Bird pulled out of 38 markets and entered 36 new ones.

And while layoffs are not fun, Lime is not alone. Last year, both Bird and Lyft laid off employees working on micromobility. In March, Bird laid off up to 5% of its workforce and then cut up to a dozen Scoot employees in December. Lyft, similarly, also laid off up to 50 people on its bikes and scooters team in March.

Following Lime’s $310 million round in February led by Bain Capital, it hit a valuation of $2.4 billion.

Zuckerberg ditches annual challenges, but needs cynics to fix 2030

Posted: 09 Jan 2020 11:35 AM PST

Mark Zuckerberg won’t be spending 2020 focused on wearing ties, learning Mandarin or just fixing Facebook. “Rather than having year-to-year challenges, I’ve tried to think about what I hope the world and my life will look in 2030,” he wrote today on Facebook. As you might have guessed, though, Zuckerberg’s vision for an improved planet involves a lot more of Facebook’s family of apps.

His biggest proclamations in today’s notes include that:

  • AR – Phones will remain the primary computing platform for most of the decade but augmented reality could get devices out from between us so we can be present together — Facebook is building AR glasses
  • VR – Better virtual reality technology could address the housing crisis by letting people work from anywhere — Facebook is building Oculus
  • Privacy – The internet has created a global community where people find it hard to establish themselves as unique, so smaller online groups could make people feel special again — Facebook is building more private groups and messaging options
  • Regulation – The big questions facing technology are too thorny for private companies to address by themselves, and governments must step in around elections, content moderation, data portability and privacy — Facebook is trying to self-regulate on these and everywhere else to deter overly onerous lawmaking

Zuckerberg Elections

These are all reasonable predictions and suggestions. However, Zuckerberg’s post does little to address how the broadening of Facebook’s services in the 2010s also contributed to a lot of the problems he presents:

  • Isolation – Constant passive feed scrolling on Facebook and Instagram has created a way to seem like you’re being social without having true back-and-forth interaction with friends
  • Gentrification – Facebook’s shuttled employees have driven up rents in cities around the world, especially the Bay Area
  • Envy – Facebook’s algorithms can make anyone without a glamorous, Instagram-worthy life look less important, while hackers can steal accounts and its moderation systems can accidentally suspend profiles with little recourse for most users
  • Negligence – The growth-first mentality led Facebook’s policies and safety to lag behind its impact, creating the kind of democracy, content, anti-competition and privacy questions it’s now asking the government to answer for it

Noticeably absent from Zuckerberg’s post are explicit mentions of some of Facebook’s more controversial products and initiatives. He writes about “decentralizing opportunity” by giving small businesses commerce tools, but never mentions cryptocurrency, blockchain or Libra directly. Instead he seems to suggest that Instagram store fronts, Messenger customer support and WhatsApp remittance might be sufficient. He also largely leaves out Portal, Facebook’s smart screen that could help distant families stay closer, but that some see as a surveillance and data collection tool.

I’m glad Zuckerberg is taking his role as a public figure and the steward of one of humanity’s fundamental utilities more seriously. His willingness to even think about some of these long-term issues instead of just quarterly profits is important. Optimism is necessary to create what doesn’t exist.

Still, if Zuckerberg wants 2030 to look better for the world, and for the world to look more kindly on Facebook, he may need to hire more skeptics and cynics that see a dystopic future instead — people who understand human impulses toward greed and vanity. Their foresight on where societal problems could arise from Facebook’s products could help temper Zuckerberg’s team of idealists to create a company that balances the potential of the future with the risks to the present.

Every new year of the last decade I set a personal challenge. My goal was to grow in new ways outside my day-to-day work…

Posted by Mark Zuckerberg on Thursday, January 9, 2020

For more on why Facebook can’t succeed on idealism alone, read:


Congratulations 23andMe users, your genes are finally helping the company make drugs

Posted: 09 Jan 2020 11:24 AM PST

All of that genetic material that 23andMe has been collecting is finally being used for commercial drug development — specifically dermatological drugs.

The company inked an agreement with Spanish pharmaceutical developer Almirall, which concentrates on medical dermatology treatments, for the development of dermatological treatments based on an antibody developed by 23andMe.

The monoclonal antibodies that 23andMe has identified from research it conducted on the genetic material of its customers block small proteins known as IL-36 cytokines, which are linked to skin conditions including psoriasis and lupus, and other inflammatory conditions like ulcerative colitis, inflammatory bowel disease, and Crohn’s disease.

As part of the agreement (whose financial terms were undisclosed), Almirall secured the rights to develop and commercialize the antibody for use in treatments worldwide.

Roughly 80% of the 10 million people who have signed up for the 23andMe service have consented to have their genetic material used for drug discovery, according to the company. And 23andMe claims that it has the largest set of genotypic information paired with phenotypic data points contributed by customers. Basically… it’s got a lot of genetic material from wealthy folks around the world.

“Working with Almirall, we’re pleased to be furthering 23andMe’s mission of helping people benefit from genetic insights,” said Kenneth Hillan, M.B., Ch.B., Head of Therapeutics at 23andMe, in a statement. “As a leader in medical dermatology, we felt Almirall was the best company to take this program forward and ultimately develop an effective therapy for patients.”

Almirall said it will continue to develop the antibody all the way through clinical trials in humans and onto the market.

The deal with Amirall marks the first successful licensing agreement between 23andMe and a drug developer and is a huge step forward for the company in its efforts to prove that it can make money beyond simply selling genealogical information to people willing to part with their entire biological identity to get it.

OrCam announces new AI-enabled device for hearing impairment

Posted: 09 Jan 2020 11:22 AM PST

OrCam is expanding its product lineup with new devices that tackle new use cases. OrCam's best-known device is the OrCam MyEye 2 — a tiny device for people with visual impairment that you clip on your glasses to help you navigate the world around you.

At CES, OrCam announced that the MyEye 2 is getting new features. In addition to being able to point at text and signs to read text aloud, recognize faces and identify objects and money notes, you'll be able to let the device guide you.

For instance, you can say "what's in front of me?" and the device could tell you that there's a door. You can then ask to be guided to that door. The MyEye 2 is also getting better at natural language processing for interactive reading sessions.

When it comes to new devices, OrCam is expanding to hearing impairment with the OrCam Hear. It can be particularly useful in loud rooms. The device helps you identify and isolate a speaker's voice so you can follow a conversation even in a public space. You pair it with your existing Bluetooth hearing aids.

Finally, OrCam is introducing the OrCam Read, a handheld AI reader. This time, you don't clip a camera to your glasses, you take the device in your hand and point it at text. The company says it could be particularly useful for people who have reading difficulties due to dyslexia.

CES 2020 coverage - TechCrunch

How gig economy giants are trying to keep workers classified as independent contractors

Posted: 09 Jan 2020 11:15 AM PST

Now that 2020 has started, Uber, DoorDash and Lyft are taking additional steps to undermine a new California law that would help more gig workers qualify as full-time employees. These moves entail product changes, lawsuits and ramped-up efforts to get a ballot initiative in front of voters that would roll back the new legislation.

Let’s start with the most recent development; yesterday, Uber sent a note to users announcing that it’s getting rid of upfront pricing in favor of estimated prices, unless they’re Uber Pool rides.

“Due to a new state law, we are making some changes to help ensure that Uber remains a dependable source of flexible work for California drivers,” Uber wrote in an email to customers. “These changes may take some getting used to, but our goal is to keep Uber available to as many qualified drivers as possible, without restricting the number of drivers who can work at a given time.”

Uber says it also has to discontinue rewards benefits like price protection on a route and flexible cancellations for trips in California. For drivers, that means they won’t see estimated earnings and drivers in surge arteas will no longer see fixed dollar amounts.

"AB5 threatens to restrict or eliminate opportunities for independent workers across a wide spectrum of industries, including trucking, freelance journalism and ridesharing,” an Uber spokesperson told TechCrunch. “As a result of AB5, we've made a number of product changes to preserve flexible work for tens of thousands of California drivers. At the same time, we've put forward a progressive package of new protections for drivers, including guaranteed minimum earnings and benefits, so voters can choose to truly improve flexible work in November.”

While Uber is essentially saying this is something the company must do, it’s worth noting that this is not some requirement of the new law; this is Uber’s attempt to beef up its case that it’s legally allowed to classify drivers as independent contractors. Since much of the rationale for determining whether or not a worker is an employee comes down to control, removing upfront fares and ditching penalties for rejecting fares could help Uber make a case that its drivers are operating on their own accord.

August Home ditches the bridge, and Yale launches a smart lock in Europe

Posted: 09 Jan 2020 10:55 AM PST

Assa Abloy, the world's largest lock maker and the parent company of August Home and Yale, announced some new products at CES this week. The company didn't talk about doorbell cameras at all — it could be related to recent Ring's controversies.

As a well-known brand when it comes to smart lock in the U.S., August Home is iterating and refining with new products without any groundbreaking change. This time, the company is introducing a new August Wi-Fi Smart Lock.

This is the fourth generation lock from the startup that got acquired by Assa Abloy. It is 45% smaller than the previous version and it features a Wi-Fi chip on the device itself. It means that you no longer need to plug a bridge that connects to your Wi-Fi network and communicates with your lock.

As a result, battery life should be a bit worse on the new device. The company says that you can expect 3 to 6 months of battery compared to 6 months with the third generation device.

Like previous versions of August devices, it integrates directly in the deadbolt so that you don't have to replace your lock altogether.

While August Home is quite popular in the U.S., the same can't be said in Europe. It turns out that the lock market is quite fragmented with different locking system depending on the country.

But Yale is releasing a smart door lock called Linus that works pretty much like August Home locks in Europe. Yves Behar has designed both the new August Home lock and the Yale Linus lock. The company has designed different mounting plates so that it fits with as many European homes as possible.

You can lock and unlock your door using your phone, temporarily hand out digital key to guests and more. The Linus lock isn't connected to the internet, so you have to get a bridge in case you're interested in that functionality. There are integrations with Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, Apple HomeKit, Airbnb and IFTTT.

When it comes to apps, the August Home and Yale apps are now identical. The company is just keeping both names for branding reasons.

Yale also took advantage of CES to announce a Smart Cabinet Lock that can lock your medicine cabinet for instance. The company has integrated that lock into a delivery box that you can put in front of your house. There's a new smart safe as well.

[gallery ids="1931302,1931298"]

CES 2020 coverage - TechCrunch

Brunswick and Sea Ray debut a boat loaded with futuristic features at CES

Posted: 09 Jan 2020 10:46 AM PST

The automobile industry has experienced considerable change when it comes to powertrain and cabin technology features in the past decade, but what about boats? They’re also getting some cutting-edge upgrades made possible by the same technologies that are improving the power and performance of smartphones, and Sea Ray debuted a new top-end outboard boat at CES 2020 that puts a lot of that on display in one big, beautiful package.

The Sea Ray SLX-R 400e has one feature in particular that’s brand new and could easily trickle down to other pleasure craft, should it catch on with boaters: The Fathom e-Power system developed by partner Brunswick, which helped Sea Ray put together the innovative SLX-R 400e. This is an electrified part of the seacraft’s powertrain, featuring a lithium-ion battery pack with a high enough storage capacity that it can handle powering all the accessory systems on board the boat, including its entertainment features.

The SLX-R 400e’s main engines are still powered by traditional fuel — and there are three 450 hp V8 Mercury outboard engines to drive the 40-foot boat. But the Fathom e-Power system means that when you’re just sitting on the water entertaining up to 21 of your closest friends, you’re not burning fuel, making it “more eco-friendly” and providing more power longer than traditional alternators.

[gallery ids="1931297,1931296,1931295,1931294"]

In addition to the e-Power system, the Sea Ray SLX-R 400e also features joystick piloting, giving you more precise control over orientation of the outboards while being user-friendly for people who don’t necessarily have a lot of experience piloting boats.

The cockpit is equally futuristic, with multiple 16-inch displays providing a comprehensive overview of the boat’s status and systems. The boat-wide audio system even boasts AirPlay support for streaming from Apple devices.

This isn’t just a concept: Sea Ray is actually going to be selling this to consumers, with availability set for sometime later this year.

CES 2020 coverage - TechCrunch

‘Hillbilly Elegy’ author J.D. Vance has raised $93 million for his own Midwestern venture fund

Posted: 09 Jan 2020 10:13 AM PST

Underserved areas are becoming hot, hot, hot, from the standpoint of venture capitalists and their own backers.

In October, Steve Case’s Revolution announced that a second Rise of the Rest Seed Fund had closed with $150 million in commitments. In November, Drive Capital, a Columbus, Ohio-based venture firm that was started by two former Sequoia Capital partners and focuses on largely Midwestern startups, revealed in SEC filings that it had raised a fresh $350 million in capital commitments across two funds. Meanwhile, last month, Hyde Park Venture Partners, a Chicago-based early-stage software-focused venture firm that’s focused on the “mid-continent,” announced on Medium that it had closed its third fund with $100 million.

Now, J.D. Vance — who rose to fame after penning a memoir (“Hillbilly Elegy”) but who has also worked as an investor, including as principal for Peter Thiel’s Mithril Capital Management and more recently as a managing director with Revolution — has swung open the doors of his own Midwest-focused venture fund, Narya Capital, based in Cincinnati, Ohio.

The outfit has so far raised $93 million in capital commitments for its debut fund, and its investors include Thiel, along with some other heavyweight names, including Marc Andreessen, Eric Schmidt and ExactTarget co-founder Scott Dorsey — who also now runs a Midwest-focused venture firm and startup studio.

Vance isn’t talking publicly yet about the fund — it’s still in fundraising mode — but judging by an SEC filing first flagged by Axios, he isn’t going it alone. Colin Greenspon, who was partner at Rise of the Rest Seed Fund and a former managing director at Mithril, is joining him as co-founder and partner.

According to the outlet Columbus Business First, the two are also joined by partner Falon Donohue, who spent more than four years as the CEO of VentureOhio, a nonprofit organization that aims to increase access to venture capital for Ohio entrepreneurs. Donohue had also started a seed-stage venture firm in Columbus called Sadie Ventures back in 2018.

The firm’s SEC filing shows a target of $125 million.

Its name — like that of Mithril — derives from the writings of J. R. R. Tolkien. While mithril is a fictional metal, Narya is a magical ring that (according to fan pages) has the power to inspire others to resist tyranny, domination and despair.

According to data from PitchBook and CB Insights in association with Hyde Park, the Midwest has seen a meaningful uptick in venture investment in recent years, jumping from $2.7 billion in 2016 to $4.3 billion by 2018.

Other funds to close in recent times include Great North Labs, which closed its first fund with $23.7 million in capital last June to invest in early-stage tech startups across the Upper Midwest in the U.S. As we reported over the weekend, a firm that invests expressly in startups from “Park City to Kansas City” just attracted more than $16 million in backing for its newest fund, too.

2019 saw a stampede of fintech unicorns

Posted: 09 Jan 2020 10:10 AM PST

Two years ago, we created the Matrix FinTech Index to highlight what we saw as the beginnings of a 10+ year mega innovation wave in financial services.

The trillion-dollar financial services industry was going to be turned on its head over the next decade, and we were just getting started. At the time, the top 10 publicly traded U.S. fintech companies had just surpassed the $100 billion mark in terms of total market capitalization, 12 unicorns had emerged in the category, and the U.S. VC industry had just poured in $6.7B — a record at the time.

As we predicted last year, the innovation cycle continues, and we are transitioning into its mid-phase. So what happened in U.S. fintech in 2019? In short, monster growth.

On the public side, fintechs delivered resoundingly. PayPal alone gained $26B in market capitalization. On a return basis, the public Matrix FinTech Index continued to crush every major equity index as well as the financial services incumbents. Nicely matching our forecasts, our Index delivered 213% returns over the last three years. The Index outperformed the financial services incumbents by 151 percentage points and the S&P 500 by 170 percentage points.

Daily Crunch: Twitter will let you limit replies

Posted: 09 Jan 2020 10:03 AM PST

The Daily Crunch is TechCrunch’s roundup of our biggest and most important stories. If you’d like to get this delivered to your inbox every day at around 9am Pacific, you can subscribe here.

1. Farewell, don't @ me. Twitter will test a way to let you limit replies to your tweets

Twitter users will soon have four options to "tailor" the replies to their tweets: anyone can reply, only those followed by the user can reply, only those tagged can reply, or setting a tweet to allow no replies at all.

At CES, Twitter’s head of conversations Suzanne Xie said the feature builds on the already launched ability to hide replies: “We thought, well, what if we could actually put more control into the author's hands before the fact? Give them really a way to control the conversation space, as they're actually composing a tweet?”

2. Quibi's Jeffrey Katzenberg and Meg Whitman offer a deeper look at the new streaming service

Quibi is using a new engineering technology it's calling "Turnstyle," which allows the viewer to move between portrait mode viewing and landscape viewing, seamlessly — and without any black bars to fill the rest of the screen when switching to landscape video.

3. IAC sells CollegeHumor to executive Sam Reich, resulting in 100+ layoffs
CollegeHumor will continue on with a new owner and a dramatically reduced team. Reich announced the move on Twitter, saying that digital media holding company IAC "made the difficult decision to no longer finance us," but that it would allow him to "run with the company."

4. Facebook won't ban political ads, prefers to keep screwing democracy

Instead of banning political ads, Facebook is announcing a few tweaks to the information it lets users see about political ads — claiming it's boosting "transparency" and "controls.” Natasha Lomas is not impressed.

5. MasterClass co-founder's new educational startup Outlier raises $11.7M

Founder and CEO Aaron Rasmussen previously helped to popularize online learning as co-founder and creative director at MasterClass. When Outlier launched last year, Rasmussen told me his goal is to address the growing cost of higher education by offering a more affordable alternative.

6. Together with portfolio company AMP Robotics, Sidewalk Labs launches recycling pilot in Toronto

Sidewalk Labs and its portfolio company AMP Robotics are working on a pilot program that would provide residents of a single apartment building of 250 units in Toronto with detailed information about their recycling habits. In other words, waste is categorized, sorted and recorded at a materials recovery facility, and Sidewalk will communicate with building residents about how they're doing in their recycling efforts.

7. Will online privacy make a comeback in 2020?

Last year was a landmark for online privacy in many ways, with consensus emerging that consumers deserve protection from the companies that sell their attention and behavior for profit. The debate now is largely around how to regulate platforms, not whether it needs to happen. (Extra Crunch membership required.)

Pokémon Sword and Shield are getting downloadable expansions this year

Posted: 09 Jan 2020 10:01 AM PST

If you’ve already completed your Pokédex and battled your way up to become the Champion of Galar, you might’ve figured you were just about done with Pokémon Sword/Shield.

Surprise! More is on the way — for a price, that is.

This morning Nintendo announced that it’s working on not one, but two downloadable expansions for Sword and Shield: The Isle of Armor (arriving June 2020) and The Crown Tundra (coming sometime “in the fall of 2020”). A $30 “Expansion Pass” that’s up for pre-order today gets you both downloads when they arrive.

While this definitely isn’t the first time Nintendo has dabbled with DLC, it is the first time they’ve done so with a main series Pokémon title. Considering that Sword/Shield is one of the best-selling Switch games of all time, it makes sense that Nintendo isn’t quite ready to be done with it.

So what’s new in the expansions?

Each pack will bring new areas to explore, along with new characters, storylines and, of course, Pokémon. Nintendo and GameFreak aren’t getting too specific about how many new Pokémon we’ll see, but do note that the expansions will include brand new monsters, Gigantamax and Galarian forms of existing ‘mon, plus support for an unspecified number of past Pokémon transferable from previous Pokémon titles.

While the expansions won’t ship for a few months, the companies are releasing what they call “a small slice” of the new stuff today via a free update.

How some founders are raising capital outside of the VC world

Posted: 09 Jan 2020 09:31 AM PST

Hello and welcome back to our regular morning look at private companies, public markets and the gray space in between.

Today, we're exploring fundraising from outside the venture world.

Founders looking to raise capital to power their growing companies have more options than ever. Traditional bank loans are an option, of course. As is venture capital. But between the two exists a growing world of firms and funds looking to put capital to work in young companies that have growing revenues and predictable economics.

Firms like Clearbanc are rising to meet demand for capital with more risk appetite than a traditional bank looking for collateral, but less than an early-stage venture firm. Clearbanc offers growth-focused capital to ecommerce and consumer SaaS companies for a flat fee, repaid out of future revenues. Such revenue-based financing is becoming increasingly popular; you could say the category has roots in the sort of venture debt that groups like Silicon Valley Bank have lent for decades, but there’s more of it than ever and in different flavors.

While revenue-based financing, speaking generally, is attractive to SaaS and ecommerce companies, other types of startups can benefit from alt-capital sources as well. And, some firms that disburse money to growing companies without an explicit equity stake are finding a way to connect capital to them.

Today, let's take a quick peek at three firms that have found interesting takes on providing alternative startup financing: Earnest Capital with its innovative SEAL agreement, RevUp Capital, which offers services along with non-equity capital, and Capital, which both invests and loans using its own proprietary rubric.

After all, selling equity in your company to fund sales and marketing costs might not be the most efficient way to finance growth; if you know you are going to get $3 out from $1 in spend, why sell forever shares to do so?

Your options

Before we dig in, there are many players in what we might call the alt-VC space. Lighter Capital came up again and again in emails from founders. has its own model that is pretty neat as well. In honor of starting somewhere, however, we're kicking off with Earnest, RevUp and Capital. We'll dive into more players in time. (As always, email me if you have something to share.)

Deciding how much equity to give your key employees

Posted: 09 Jan 2020 09:15 AM PST

Anu Shukla had found the perfect VP of Engineering to help her build her latest startup, a company called RewardsPay. By that point, she had founded or cofounded several venture-backed startups (she's up to five). The standard, she knew, was a roughly 1.5% to 2% stake for a key employee at the executive level.

But Shukla knew sometimes you need to give up more to get the right person. "At that point, there wasn't much cash in the company," Shukla says of RewardsPay, the company she founded in 2010 to help consumers convert rewards points into a commodity they could spend elsewhere. "This is the person we were asking to come in and build the technology and build our technology team," she adds. He was also someone with experience who could command a sizable salary from a more established company.

Shukla ended up giving him a 3% equity share in the company. He needed to remain motivated to stick around for the long-run, Shukla explains, "and we also knew through subsequent rounds of funding he would become diluted."

Tech's main currency is built on a range of factors

Equity, typically in the form of stock options, is the currency of the tech and startup worlds. After dividing initial stakes among themselves, founders use it to lure talent and compensate employees for the salary cut that they almost inevitably will take when joining a startup. It helps keep employees motivated with the tantalizing prospect of a big payday when the company is sold or goes public.

But how much equity should founders grant the first engineers hired to help them build their product and the new hires that follow? What about that highly coveted VP of Sales brought on once a company has a product to sell? And what about others a young startup seeks to enlist in the cause, including key advisors whose insights and connections might increase its chances of success or perhaps an outside director with the right expertise to join a nascent board of directors?

Properly parceling out equity is a challenge for first-time founders. What stake an employee deserves depends on a range of factors, from skills to seniority and employee badge number.

"Is this employee #5 we're talking about or employee #25?" asks serial entrepreneur Joe Beninato, who has founded or cofounded four startups and worked at another four. "What's the experience of the person coming over? You have to look at each situation individually."

1% or .05%? It depends on position and seniority

Yet while complex, several online guides provide compensation benchmarks that help founders think about the size of each slice of the company they give away when recruiting talent. Index Ventures, for instance, has published a handbook aimed at helping entrepreneurs figure out option grants at the seed level. At a company's earliest stages, expect to give a senior engineer as much as 1% of a company, the handbook advises, but an experienced business development employee is typically given a .35% cut. An engineer coming in at the mid-level can expect .45% versus .15% for a junior engineer. A junior biz dev person should expect .05%, which is the same for a junior person coming in as a designer or in marketing.

And just because someone gets a big title, it doesn't mean you should give away the store. "We see a lot of role and title inflation going on at the seed stage, which is best avoided," warns Reshma Sohoni, co-founder and general partner at Seedcamp, a European seed fund quoted in the Index handbook. "At this stage, you are unsure of who is going to continue the adventure with you."

Timing trumps seniority and experience

When Shukla was building her team at RewardsPay, she gave the earliest engineers joining her team an equity share of between .5% and 1%, depending on both experience and a person's salary requirements. Some were willing and able to work for a minimal salary and higher equity, whereas others asked for higher cash compensation because of their personal circumstances. Regardless, Shulka says, "the early team you put together definitely gets a lot more stock than later employees."

Indeed, in many circumstances, the timing of an employee's decision to join has a disproportionate impact on how much equity is offered. It makes sense: the earlier someone commits to your startup, the more risk the hire is taking on.

If a key hire is the third person joining a two-person team, he or she can almost be considered a co-founder and may get as much as 10% of the company. But if a head of sales or VP of marketing joins once a startup has a product to sell and promote, they may get between 1% and 2%, depending on experience.

"The percentages really vary dramatically," Beninato says. "I don't want to say it's like a decaying exponential, but it's something like that. The first people get more, and it goes down over time."

Time for an employee option pool

Eventually, founders need to think about creating an employee option pool — a more disciplined way to award equity over shaving off more shares with each new hire. "After a seed round, you want to have that employee pool at around 10% or 12%, plus or minus," says James Currier, a four-time founder who is now a managing partner at NFX, an early-stage venture capital firm. Calibrating the precise size of that option pool, Currier and others say, depends on a company's hiring ambitions over the coming 12 to 18 months — through a next funding cycle.

Again, online guides can help. The Holloway Guide to Equity Compensation, for instance, is an 80-page handbook that explains arcane terms such as "cliffs," "claw backs," "single trigger" and "double trigger" that any entrepreneur must know to even understand what their lawyers and advisors are telling them. The guide also identifies landmines to avoid and breaks down the equity ownership of a pair of sample companies whose employee pools range from 9% to 20%.

Over time, founders will need to tinker with the option pool as everyone's shares are diluted with each venture round. "After an A, you want to put it back to 10 to 15%, depending on how many managers you need," Currier says. Adds Anu Shukla, "Usually, the VCs are going to ask for a completely empty option pool where every share is available."

Prepare to negotiate

The size of the option pool must be part of the negotiations with any venture capitalist — and founders would be wise to have thought about the issue before sitting in a VC's conference room. "VCs often sneak in additional economics for themselves by increasing the amount of the option pool on a pre-money basis," warn Brad Feld and Jason Mendelson in their book, Venture Deals: Be Smarter Than Your Lawyer and Venture Capitalist. At that point, the option pool is coming from the founders' shares and those of their earliest investor so Feld and Mendelson encourage founders to push back if they feel the VCs are asking for an unduly large option pool.

"The entrepreneur can say, 'look, I strongly believe we have enough options to cover our needs,'" Feld and Mendelson advise. To protect the VCs, they say, offer full anti-dilution protection in case the founders are wrong, and they need to expand the option pool before the next financing.

No one gets everything at once

Equity awards, regardless of their form, are subject to vesting schedules. Traditionally, startups have used a four-year benchmark with a one-year cliff: no ownership until an employee has worked twelve months, and then 25% for each year worked (or an additional 1/48th for every month worked). Yet there's also the growing recognition that building a successful company usually takes a lot longer than four years, and options are about retaining people to build something great. As a result, longer vesting schedules are becoming more commonplace.

The growing time it takes companies to go public or be acquired is also affecting other stock option terms. Typically, employees have had up to 90 days after leaving a company to exercise their options, which can be costly and come with a large tax bill. Now companies are sometimes extending that period well beyond 90 days so that an employee won't end up with nothing if they leave long before they can turn their equity into cash.

Boards of advisors and directors

Equity is also suitable for drawing a different kind of talent to your company: experienced people in the field who won't come to work for you full-time but, if their interests were aligned with yours, might serve as advisors who increase your chances of success. (At this stage of a company, non-founder board members are likely to be its investors, so their equity will be commensurate with the size of their investment.)

Currier, the serial entrepreneur turned venture capitalist, says he typically offered between .1% and .3% of the company to attract an advisor to one of his companies. "What you're hoping for is that one advisor who tells you something that triples the value of your company," he says. "The problem is you don't know which one of the five or six people you'd brought in as advisors will be that person. So you pay them all .2% and hope one gives you that idea that more than pays for itself."

The takeaway: cash is limited, but so is equity

Giving out equity may feel painless. After all, it's an easy way to preserve your cash as you staff your startup with top-notch hires that can significantly increase your chances of success. But take the time to understand the value of what you're giving away, and bring discipline to the process early by creating an employee pool. Then if you have to spend a little extra to get someone really exceptional, as Shukla's RewardsPay had to do, you'll know where you stand.

BuzzFeed hires The Mighty’s Peter Wang as its new CTO

Posted: 09 Jan 2020 09:00 AM PST

BuzzFeed’s technical team has a new leader — incoming chief technology officer Peter Wang, who’s leaving his role as CTO of healthcare community The Mighty.

Wang has plenty of experience in the media industry, having served as CTO at Refinery29 and at Narrativ, a startup that helps publishers make money through commerce. He told me that he was “skeptical” when a recruiter first approached him about the position at BuzzFeed, but as he talked to the team, he was increasingly impressed by the vision and strategy.

For example, he pointed to CEO Jonah Peretti’s recent memo about his plans for 2020, in which Peretti said the company is “fighting for truth and joy, in a world where both are under threat.”

Wang acknowledged that it’s been a tough couple years for digital media, with BuzzFeed itself laying off 250 people at the beginning of 2019. However, he’s hopeful that in the last year, “that tide against publishers … started to turn around.”

Wang added, “It didn't matter what the environment has been for publishers, [BuzzFeed] has always found a way to position itself and adapt along the way.”

During our conversation, he also echoed Peretti’s recent interview with The Wall Street Journal, in which he said that BuzzFeed was slightly unprofitable in 2019 but has plans to turn a profit this year. Similarly, Wang said he wants to help BuzzFeed establish itself as a “profitable, trusted” media company.

“I’m really hoping to see that we can collectively make BuzzFeed the example in the media space — that you can make it happen and build a sustainable company in the media space by combining these components,” he said.

Wang is replacing BuzzFeed’s previous CTO, Todd Levy, who joined health startup Ro last summer. The company’s CTO role is also expanding — where it was previously limited to overseeing engineering, Wang said he’s now in charge of engineering, product, data, design and project management, and that he’ll be “a true business partner and sitting on the executive team.”

He’s scheduled to start on February 3 and will be reporting to Publisher Dao Nguyen.

"Peter's broad skillset and deep understanding of digital media make him the perfect fit to both lead our Tech team and serve as a strategic partner to our executive team," Nguyen said in a statement. "I'm confident that his entrepreneurial spirit and knack for innovation will enhance the user experience for our audience as well as drive meaningful growth for the company as we continue to strengthen and diversify our business."

Lily AI raises a $12.5M Series A led by Canaan to accelerate its e-commerce recommendation tech

Posted: 09 Jan 2020 08:00 AM PST

Lily AI, a startup focused on using deep learning to help brands better convert customers through emotionally tailored recommendations, announced this morning that it has raised a $12.5 million Series A led by Canaan Partners. Prior investors NEA, Unshackled and Fernbrook Capital also took part in the funding event.

Prior to its Series A, Lily had raised just a few million, according to Crunchbase data.

The round caught our eye for a few reasons. First, the investor leading the round — Maha Ibrahim — also led The RealReal’s Series A. That company, which also sports a focus on the sartorial, went public in 2019. (Ibrahim has also dropped by TechCrunch from time to time, including here.) To see the investor lead an early round in a company operating in a related space was notable.

And the technology that co-founders Purva Gupta (formerly Eko India and UNICEF) Sowmiya Chocka Narayanan (formerly of Box) have built is neat.

TechCrunch first covered Lily back in 2017 when it raised $2 million from NEA. At the time it had an iOS application, along with a web app and API designed to help retailers “better understand a woman's personal preferences around fashion” in their “own catalogs and digital storefronts.”

In a phone call with TechCrunch, Gupta said that she and Narayanan decided that “from a business model perspective” their technology was “better for an enterprise product.” The iOS app was eventually deprioritized (in “less than a year” after launch according to the CEO), with the company making a formal move to focus on enterprise offerings in early 2018.

So what does Lily AI do and what is it selling to large retailers? An e-commerce power-up.

How it works

Lily’s founding hypothesis came from Gupta’s time exploring fashion in New York, asking hundreds of women about what they had bought recently (more on the company’s founding story here). What came out of that exercise was the idea that every customer is “roaming around with [their own] emotional context,” how “they think about their body” and “how they react to different types of details and items.”

The CEO thought that if you could get that context into an online shop, it would probably help consumers find what they want, and help the store sell more at the same time. That’s the hypothesis behind Lily AI, according to Gupta, who wants to know the “individual emotional context” of “each customer” when they shop online.

It’s that idea that helped the company raise $12.5 million in its A, more capital by far than it had raised before in total.

The service works in three steps, starting with tech that can pull out myriad more attributes from items in a catalog; the more variables you have the more you can know about any particular product. Gupta told TechCrunch in an email that her company’s “approach captures significantly more detail on each product based on the traits customers look for when buying apparel,” including “style, fit, occasion” and the like.

Then, Lily uses “hashed customer data” that brands already collect, married to its item attribute data to “create a high-confidence prediction of each customer's affinity to every attribute of every product in the catalog,” she continued. From there it’s a recommendation game.

The result of all this work is that “100 percent” of Lily’s customers have seen a “step gain in metrics,” not “just incremental” improvements, according to Gupta. (The company’s website claims a “10x ROI” on customer spend on its products.)

Lily charges for its service on a volume basis.

And there should be lots of that. According to Canaan’s Ibrahim, e-commerce “will continue to grow between 15-20% annually and will represent ~20% of all retail spending in 2020 […] off of an enormous absolute number base of ~$4T of e-commerce spend.” That means Lily has a pretty big market to grow into, which is just what venture investors love to see.

One final thing. During our call, I asked Gupta about privacy. After all, her company is pairing consumer preferences with other information for the benefit of a brand. In our discussion about how her startup protects customer privacy, she said something interesting that I asked her to expand on. Here’s how she described how her firm is built around understanding the feelings of others, or what’s better known as empathy:

We started Lily AI with the goal of helping customers look and feel their best. And I’m so proud that we use ‘Empathy’ as the guiding principle for everything: building products, hiring, retaining talent and establishing company culture.

Not a bad place to build from.

Update: Post updated to reflect that Canaan led The RealReal’s Series A, not C.

Sisense nabs $100M at a $1B+ valuation for accessible big data business analytics

Posted: 09 Jan 2020 07:59 AM PST

Sisense, an enterprise startup that has built a business analytics business out of the premise of making big data as accessible as possible to users — whether it be through graphics on mobile or desktop apps, or spoken through Alexa — is announcing a big round of funding today and a large jump in valuation to underscore its traction. The company has picked up $100 million in a growth round of funding that catapults Sisense’s valuation to over $1 billion, funding that it plans to use to continue building out its tech, as well as for sales, marketing and development efforts.

For context, this is a huge jump: The company was valued at only around $325 million in 2016 when it raised a Series E, according to PitchBook. (It did not disclose valuation in 2018, when it raised a venture round of $80 million.) It now has some 2,000 customers, including Tinder, Philips, Nasdaq and the Salvation Army.

This latest round is being led by the high-profile enterprise investor Insight Venture Partners, with Access Industries, Bessemer Venture Partners, Battery Ventures, DFJ Growth and others also participating. The Access investment was made via Claltech in Israel, and it seems that this led to some details of this getting leaked out as rumors in recent days. Insight is in the news today for another big deal: Wearing its private equity hat, the firm acquired Veeam for $5 billion. (And that speaks to a particular kind of trajectory for enterprise companies that the firm backs: Veeam had already been a part of Insight’s venture portfolio.)

Mature enterprise startups have proven their business cases are going to be an ongoing theme in this year’s fundraising stories, and Sisense is part of that theme, with annual recurring revenues of over $100 million speaking to its stability and current strength. The company has also made some key acquisitions to boost its business, such as the acquisition of Periscope Data last year (coincidentally, also for $100 million, I understand).

Its rise also speaks to a different kind of trend in the market: In the wider world of business intelligence, there is an increasing demand for more digestible data in order to better tap advances in data analytics to use it across organizations. This was also one of the big reasons why Salesforce gobbled up Tableau last year for a slightly higher price: $15.7 billion.

Sisense, bringing in both sleek end user products but also a strong theme of harnessing the latest developments in areas like machine learning and AI to crunch the data and order it in the first place, represents a smaller and more fleet of foot alternative for its customers. "We found a way to make accessing data extremely simple, mashing it together in a logical way and embedding it in every logical place," explained CEO Amir Orad to us in 2018.

"We have enjoyed watching the Sisense momentum in the past 12 months, the traction from its customers as well as from industry leading analysts for the company’s cloud native platform and new AI capabilities. That coupled with seeing more traction and success with leading companies in our portfolio and outside, led us to want to continue and grow our relationship with the company and lead this funding round,” said Jeff Horing, managing director at Insight Venture Partners, in a statement.

To note, Access Industries is an interesting backer which might also potentially shape up to be strategic, given its ownership of Warner Music Group, Alibaba, Facebook, Square, Spotify, Deezer, Snap and Zalando.

"Given our investments in market leading companies across diverse industries, we realize the value in analytics and machine learning and we could not be more excited about Sisense's trajectory and traction in the market," added Claltech’s Daniel Shinar in a statement.