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Announcing the last judges for the TC Startup Battlefield Europe at VivaTech

Announcing the last judges for the TC Startup Battlefield Europe at VivaTech

VivaTech is starting in a couple of days, which means TechCrunch’s Startup Battlefield Europe is also starting on Thursday. So let me introduce you to the last batch of judges that will come to Paris for the event.

If you haven’t been to TechCrunch Disrupt, the Startup Battlefield  is arguably the most interesting part of the show. Before everybody started doing a startup competition, there was the Startup Battlefield. Companies like Dropbox, Fitbit, N26 and Yammer all launched on the TechCrunch stage.

And we’re bringing talented investors and founders to judge the startups. Here’s the third round of judges (see part 1part 2 and part 3).

Roxanne Varza, Director, Station F

Roxanne Varza is the Director of Station F, which is the largest startup campus worldwide, backed by Xavier Niel. She is also involved in the European Commission’s European Innovation Council (EIC) and is on the board of Agence France Presse (AFP).

Prior to her current role, Roxanne was the lead for Microsoft’s start-up activities in France, running both Bizspark and Microsoft Ventures programs for 3 years. She was also Editor of TechCrunch France from 2010-2011 and has written for several publications including Business Insider and The Telegraph.

In April 2013, Business Insider listed her as one of the top 30 women under 30 in tech. She has also been listed in additional rankings by Business Insider, Vanity Fair and Le Figaro, The Evening Standard and more.

Roxanne also co-founded StartHer (ex Girls in Tech Paris) and is the co-organizer of the Failcon Paris conference. More recently, she co-founded Tech.eu, a European tech media backed by Dave McClure, Adeo Ressi, Daniel Waterhouse and more.

Prior to TechCrunch, Roxanne worked for the French government’s foreign direct investment agency helping fast-growing startups develop their activities in France. Roxanne has spoken, moderated, mentored and judged numerous startup events and programs throughout Europe and also helps European startups with content and communications.

Roxanne is trilingual and holds degrees from UCLA, Sciences Po Paris and the London School of Economics. She is also an epilepsy advocate.

Keld van Schreven, Co-Founder, KR1

Keld is co-founder of KR1, UK’s leading crypto investment public company. First investors in Melonport, Funfair, Rocketpool and Etherisc. Keld is advisor to IXLedger and previously co-founder of several web startups since 1995.

 
 
 
 
 
 

Brent Hoberman, Co-Founder, firstminute capital

Brent Hoberman is chairman and co-founder of Founders Factory, an ambitious corporate backed incubator/accelerator based in London, and also of Founders Forum, a series of intimate annual global events for the leading entrepreneurs of today and the rising stars of tomorrow. Brent is a co-founder and was founding chairman of Smartup, Grip & made.com, a leading European direct-from-factory consumer homewares retailer. Most recently, Brent co-founded firstminute capital, a London-based pan-European seed fund, backed by some of the world’s top entrepreneurs. Brent co-founded lastminute.comin April 1998, was CEO from its inception and sold it in 2005 to Sabre for $1.1bn. Technology businesses he has co-founded have raised over $500m.

Brent sits on the Advisory board for LetterOne Technology (a $16bn investment fund), the Oxford Foundry and the UK Government Digital Advisory Board. He is a board member of The Economist, a YGL and one of the Prime Minister’s Business Trade Ambassadors. Brent was awarded a CBE for services to entrepreneurship in the 2015 New Year’s Honour’s List.

Yann de Vries, Partner, Atomico

Yann is a Partner at Atomico, based in London, where he works on the sourcing, evaluation, negotiation and due diligence of new investment opportunities.

Yann focuses on technology in advertising, logistics and transportation, and healthcare, and works with several Atomico portfolio companies including Jobandtalent, Teralytics, GoEuro and Lilium.

Yann joined Atomico from Redpoint e.ventures (RPeV), one of Brazil’s leading venture capital funds in Brazil, where he was a Managing Director and co-founder, leading investments in Farfetch and Gympass. Prior to starting RPeV, he was the head of corporate development for Cisco in EMEA and Latin America, and spent five years in Silicon Valley working in a start-up and venture capital. Yann began his career in engineering and operating roles at large tech companies across Europe and emerging markets, including Hong Kong and Egypt.

Yann holds an MSEE from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETH) and an MBA from Harvard Business School. Yann is fluent in English and French, and proficient in German and Portuguese.

Sonali De Rycker, Partner, Accel

Sonali De Rycker focuses on consumer, software and financial services businesses.

She led Accel’s investments in Avito (acquired by Naspers), Lyst, Spotify, Wallapop, KupiVIP, Calastone, Catawiki, JobToday, Wonga, Shift Technology and SilverRail. She is also an independent director of Match Group (public). Prior to Accel, Sonali was with Atlas Ventures.

Sonali grew up in Mumbai and graduated from Bryn Mawr College and Harvard Business School.

Matthew Panzarino, Editor-In-Chief, TechCrunch

Matthew Panzarino has been a retail jockey, founded a professional photography business and a news blog covering the Apple ecosystem. He has served as News Editor and Managing Editor at The Next Web and is now Editor-In-Chief at TechCrunch.

He has made a name for himself in the tech media world as a writer and editor, relentlessly covering Apple and Twitter, in addition to a broad range of startups in the fields of robotics, computer vision, AI, fashion, VR, AR and more.

Announcing the last judges for the TC Startup Battlefield Europe at VivaTech
Source: TechCrunch

Whisk, the smart food platform that makes recipes shoppable, acquires competitor Avocando

Whisk, the smart food platform that makes recipes shoppable, acquires competitor Avocando

Whisk, the U.K. startup that has built a B2B data platform to power various food apps, including making online recipes ‘shoppable’, has acquired Avocando, a competitor based in Germany.

The exact financial terms of the deal remain undisclosed, although TechCrunch understands it was all-cash and that Whisk is acquiring the tech, customer base, integrations, and team. Related to this, Avocando’s founders are joining Whisk.

“The team is joining Whisk to help scale a joint global vision to help leading businesses create integrated and meaningful digital food experiences using cutting-edge technology,” says Whisk in a statement.

To that end, Whisk’s “smart food platform” enables app developers, publishers and online supermarkets/grocery stories to do a number of interesting things.

The first relates to making recipes shoppable i.e. making it incredibly easy to order the ingredients needed to cook a recipe listed online or in an app. Specifically, Whisk’s platform parses ingredients in a recipe, and matches it to products at local grocery stores based on user preferences (e.g. “50g of butter, cubed” matched to “250g Tesco Salted Butter”). It then interfaces with the store to fill the users basket with the needed items.

The second is recipe personalisation. Based on user preferences (e.g. disliked ingredients, diet, previous behaviour, deals at a favourite store, and trending recipes based on location), Whisk is able to create personalised recipe feeds, search results, and meal plans.

The third aspect is an Internet-of-Things play. This is seeing Whisk’s data power experiences that connect IoT devices with different parts of a user’s journey. Think: smart fridges connected to recipes.

“As the e-commerce grocery market quickly accelerates across Europe, players are increasingly looking for ways to connect recipe content to grocery retailers and provide consumers with personalized nutrition, planning and purchase options right from the comfort of their kitchen,” says the startup.

Whisk says its platform powers experiences for over 100,000,000 monthly users through the applications of its clients. They include retailers like Walmart, Amazon, Instacart, and Tesco who use Whisk to enable online grocery shopping via recipes. On the IoT front, Samsung is using Whisk to build smart food applications that take user preferences, what’s in their fridge, what offers are in the supermarket, and recommends recipes. Other customers include publishers, such as the BBC, and food brands like McCormick, Nestle, Unilever, and General Mills.

Meanwhile, Whisk says it is currently focused on the U.S., U.K. and Australia, and with today’s acquisition will expand services across Europe. “Together, Germany, France and Spain represent a larger e-commerce grocery market than both the U.S. and U.K. individually, with the largest online recipe usage per capita figures in the world,” adds the company.

Whisk, the smart food platform that makes recipes shoppable, acquires competitor Avocando
Source: TechCrunch

Shared housing startups are taking off

Shared housing startups are taking off

When young adults leave the parental nest, they often follow a predictable pattern. First, move in with roommates. Then graduate to a single or couple’s pad. After that comes the big purchase of a single-family home. A lawnmower might be next.

Looking at the new home construction industry, one would have good reason to presume those norms were holding steady. About two-thirds of new homes being built in the U.S. this year are single-family dwellings, complete with tidy yards and plentiful parking.

In startup-land, however, the presumptions about where housing demand is going looks a bit different. Home sharing is on the rise, along with more temporary lease options, high-touch service and smaller spaces in sought-after urban locations.

Seeking roommates and venture capital

Crunchbase News analysis of residential-focused real estate startups uncovered a raft of companies with a shared and temporary housing focus that have raised funding in the past year or so.

This isn’t a U.S.-specific phenomenon. Funded shared and short-term housing startups are cropping up across the globe, from China to Europe to Southeast Asia. For this article, however, we’ll focus on U.S. startups. In the chart below, we feature several that have raised recent rounds.

Notice any commonalities? Yes, the startups listed are all based in either New York or the San Francisco Bay Area, two metropolises associated with scarce, pricey housing. But while these two metro areas offer the bulk of startups’ living spaces, they’re also operating in other cities, including Los Angeles, Seattle and Pittsburgh.

From white picket fences to high-rise partitions

The early developers of the U.S. suburban planned communities of the 1950s and 60s weren’t just selling houses. They were selling a vision of the American Dream, complete with quarter-acre lawns, dishwashers and spacious garages.

By the same token, today’s shared housing startups are selling another vision. It’s not just about renting a room; it’s also about being part of a community, making friends and exploring a new city.

One of the slogans for HubHaus is “rent one of our rooms and find your tribe.” Founded less than three years ago, the company now manages about 80 houses in Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area, matching up roommates and planning group events.

Starcity pitches itself as an antidote to loneliness. “Social isolation is a growing epidemic—we solve this problem by bringing people together to create meaningful connections,” the company homepage states.

The San Francisco company also positions its model as a partial solution to housing shortages as it promotes high-density living. It claims to increase living capacity by three times the normal apartment building.

Costs and benefits

Shared housing startups are generally operating in the most expensive U.S. housing markets, so it’s difficult to categorize their offerings as cheap. That said, the cost is typically lower than a private apartment.

Mostly, the aim seems to be providing something affordable for working professionals willing to accept a smaller private living space in exchange for a choice location, easy move-in and a ready-made social network.

At Starcity, residents pay $2,000 to $2,300 a month, all expenses included, depending on length of stay. At HomeShare, which converts two-bedroom luxury flats to three-bedrooms with partitions, monthly rents start at about $1,000 and go up for larger spaces.

Shared and temporary housing startups also purport to offer some savings through flexible-term leases, typically with minimum stays of one to three months. Plus, they’re typically furnished, with no need to set up Wi-Fi or pay power bills.

Looking ahead

While it’s too soon to pick winners in the latest crop of shared and temporary housing startups, it’s not far-fetched to envision the broad market as one that could eventually attract much larger investment and valuations. After all, Airbnb has ascended to a $30 billion private market value for its marketplace of vacation and short-term rentals. And housing shortages in major cities indicate there’s plenty of demand for non-Airbnb options.

While we’re focusing here on residential-focused startups, it’s also worth noting that the trend toward temporary, flexible, high-service models has already gained a lot of traction for commercial spaces. Highly funded startups in this niche include Industrious, a provider of flexible-term, high-end office spaces, Knotel, a provider of customized workplaces, and Breather, which provides meeting and work rooms on demand. Collectively, those three companies have raised about $300 million to date.

At first glance, it may seem shared housing startups are scaling up at an off time. The millennial generation (born roughly 1980 to 1994) can no longer be stereotyped as a massive band of young folks new to “adulting.” The average member of the generation is 28, and older millennials are mid-to-late thirties. Many even own lawnmowers.

No worries. Gen Z, the group born after 1995, is another huge generation. So even if millennials age out of shared housing, demographic forecasts indicate there will plenty of twenty-somethings to rent those partitioned-off rooms.

Shared housing startups are taking off
Source: TechCrunch

NASA’s newest planet-hunting satellite takes a stellar first test image

NASA’s newest planet-hunting satellite takes a stellar first test image

NASA’s newest planet-hunting satellite takes a stellar first test image

TESS, the satellite launched by NASA last month that will search thousands of stars for Earth-like exoplanets, has just sent back its first test image. It’s just a quick one, not “science-quality,” but it does give you an idea of the scale of the mission: the area TESS will eventually document is 400 times the area covered by this shot.

What you see above is the star field around the constellation Centaurus; this 2-second exposure captured more than 200,000 stars. That’s just in one image from one of the four cameras on board; the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite will employ all four during its mission, watching individual regions of space for 27 days straight over the course of two orbits.

Here’s a crop from the center:

Repeated high-resolution imagery of these star fields will let the team on the ground watch for any that dim briefly, indicating that a planet may be passing in between the star and our solar system. This will let it watch far, far more stars than the otherwise similar Kepler mission, which even by looking at only dim stars with a relatively narrow field of view, found evidence of thousands of exoplanets for scientists to pore over.

TESS just yesterday received a gravity assist from the moon, putting it near its final orbit. A last engine burn on May 30 will complete that maneuver and the satellite will enter into the highly eccentric, as yet untried orbit designed by its creators.

Once that orbit is attained and all systems are go, new imagery will come in about every two weeks when TESS is at its closest point to Earth. “First light,” or the first actual fully calibrated, usable image from the satellite, is expected some time in June.

NASA’s newest planet-hunting satellite takes a stellar first test image
Source: TechCrunch