H1 Insights is giving the healthcare industry the ultimate professional database – TechCrunch

I want to build a business which profiles every single researcher and healthcare professional in the world and I want to sell it to industry,” says Ariel Katz, the co-founder and chief executive of H1 Insights. 

With the healthcare industry on a mission to digitize and analyze every conceivable datapoint it can to wring more efficiencies out of its incredibly fragmented and broken system, for Katz, there’s no opportunity that seems more obvious than giving the industry data on its own professionals.

The idea may sound like nothing more than creating a LinkedIn for healthcare professionals, but building an accurate account of the professional ecosystem could be a huge help to businesses as diverse as pharmaceutical companies, hospitals, insurers, and, eventually, consumers.

For Katz, it’s the continuation of a longstanding mission to create transparency for datasets that were previously opaque. Katz sold his first company, Research Connection (which became LabSpot), three years ago. That company was designed to uncover the research underway at universities around the country so students could see where they should apply for undergraduate and graduate studies.

After the sale the young entrepreneur went on a vacation to India, and it was there that he met his co-founder Ian Sax. “He backpacked there to follow his wife who was volunteering with Mother Theresa [and] ended up starting a staffing company.”

The two men became friends and collaborated on projects — including a software that would help medical school students find jobs.

Conversations between the two soon hit upon the lack of transparency around what research was happening at what universities and which clinical trials were underway at which hospitals. A visible network of experts, the two men thought, would go a long way toward solving a number of the healthcare industry’s seemingly intractable problems.

“Pharma, biotech, and medical devices spend $30 billion per year partnering with researchers and hospitals,” says Katz. “If you could allow a user sitting on the pharmaceutical side to sort and search and rank and analyze researchers… it would help reduce the cost and solve the problem.”

While Katz says the transparency can help solve a number of healthcare’s drug development and discovery problems, he’s wary about creating others. H1 Insights has built certain rules on how its database should be used, which Katz hopes will limit abuse.

“We don’t sell to sales and marketing arms at pharmaceutical companies,” he says. The risk there is that these sales and marketing arms could put undue pressure on doctors to skew research.

The data that H1 collects is already public, so there’s no need for the company to use user generated data to build out its dataset. “It’s all public. The biggest problem is de-duping it,” says Katz.

The company already has 350,000 academic researchers and 4 million healthcare professionals in its database already.

That body of knowledge was enough to attract Y Combinator, which accepted H1 Insight into its latest cohort of companies.

With the accelerator’s help, H1 Insights wants to take its business global and develop applications for the pharmaceutical industry, care providers and ultimately consumers.

The initial application for all of that data is clinical trials.

“The number one reason why clinical trials fail is recruitment,” says Katz. “If you can find a principal investigator who has done a successful clinical trial in an adjacent space,” pharma companies can improve their chances for success, according to Katz. 

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Teller raises $4M to take on Plaid in the U.S. by providing API access to bank accounts – TechCrunch

“They’re idiots, they’re really naive,” is how Stevie Graham, the co-founder of fintech Teller, once described Open Banking Limited, the body charged with delivering open banking in the U.K.

His view back in 2017 — which now looks somewhat prophetic — was that open banking wouldn’t be the competition driver it was hyped up to be. Instead, incumbent banks were incapable of change and would act in a malevolent way to stop fintechs from walking through the front door and stealing their lunch.

He, along with co-founder Dan Palmer, had spent several years building an early version of Teller that reverse engineered the APIs used by U.K. banks for their own mobile apps, and offered access to developers that wanted to create apps using banking data. It was billed as a more robust and realtime alternative to either screenscraping or waiting haplessly for PSD2 — the European directive mandating open banking — to eventually come into existence.

But this inevitably meant playing a game of Whac-A-Mole as incumbent U.K. banks tried unsuccessfully to thwart the efforts of Graham and Palmer. It was also never entirely clear who was doing the whacking.

Fast-forward to today, and Graham, who was Twillio’s first European employee, has a different incumbent in his sights. In late 2018, Teller re-incorporated in the U.S. to take on Plaid, the financial services API provider recently acquired by Visa for a chunky $5.3 billion.

The fintech startup also quietly raised $4 million in seed capital from a slew of U.S. investors: Lightspeed Venture Partners, Founders Fund, and PayPal co-founder Max Levchin’s SciFi. Teller’s U.K. product has since been shut down, and the company launched a U.S. beta of Teller in September.

“The U.S. is a better opportunity for Teller because the market is far larger with more mature, large-scale customers to serve as well as startups being created every day, [and] an incumbent with an unreliable, unpopular product and not much competition,” Graham tells me.

“PSD2 was also a factor in our decision to withdraw from the U.K. Primarily because it made practically every use-case of banking APIs a regulated activity, meaning that it’s no longer possible to quickly build and test a product without first spending thousands of pounds and 3-6 months getting FCA approval. When we checked at the end of 2018 less than 100 entities had been granted approval. We can not build the business we want with a total addressable market of 100 customers”.

On Plaid, Graham is almost as scathing as he was about the major U.K. banks three years ago, even if he chooses his words a little more carefully. Unlike Plaid, Teller’s technology is not built using screenscraping, dubbed a “creaky technique” by the Teller co-founder,  and therefore is “more reliable and performant”.

“We are also better because we have the incentive to really care about our users and mean it. Plaid has rolled up the market by buying Quovo and is now effectively a monopoly. Speaking to users we found a lot of frustrated Plaid customers that didn’t feel as if Plaid was sympathetic when things went wrong. For example their Capital One integration has been down for months. Maybe the Plaid folks genuinely can’t fix it, maybe they don’t have truly enough competition to care. Either way, our Capital One integration works great”.

Suspicious of Visa’s ability to innovate and serve developers as customers, Graham says that if he was a Plaid user he would be concerned about the future quality of the product now that it’s owned by a legacy business “not exactly renowned for … shipping successful developer products”.

The deal is also substantially all-cash, he notes, suggesting that employees may have little incentive to stay.

“The top talent at Plaid has to now be sitting there in the morning thinking ‘do I really want to work at a stodgy public company that has barely 3x’d its stock price in 5 years? This is not what I signed up for’. This is why I fear for the future of Plaid’s product. A lot of their best people will be heading for the door, and we’d love to talk to them,” Graham says unabashedly.

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Currencycloud nabs $80M from Visa, World Bank Group and more for cross-border payment APIs – TechCrunch

Sending money from one country to another — either because you are a business paying someone for a service, or a family member working abroad and sending money back home, or something in between — is a huge business, worth some $700 million annually. Today, a London startup called Currencycloud, which has built a set of remittance APIs that let any financial business integrate money transfer services into its platform, is announcing that it has raised $80 million to tap into that opportunity, and to help take on the Western Unions of the world.

To date, over $50 billion has been transferred between some 180 countries using Currencycloud’s 85 APIs, which cover areas like inbound money collection (helping clients get paid), foreign exchange, outgoing payments, and digital wallet services managing multiple currencies and more.

Mike Laven, Currencycloud’s American CEO and founder, tells TechCrunch that the company has some 350 companies using its APIs as of the end of 2019, and it employs 230 people, but you are almost certainly never going to see it, even if you’ve used it.

“No one is doing what we’re doing in terms of the model we have,” Laven said, referring to what he describes as an “embedded model” where transfer is seamlessly embedded into its customers’ platform and workflow. “I’m not competing with our customers. My brand is invisible. We think we’re still the only one that has that kind of solution.”

This round, a Series E, has a number of heavy hitters among the startup’s new strategic investors. They include Visa, the World Bank Group’s International Finance Corporation, French bank BNP Paribas, the SBI Group (the Japanese giant that was once a part, but now independent, of SoftBank) and Thailand’s Siam Commercial Bank. With that, Laven said that Asia will be a big focus for Currencycloud in the year ahead, with a new office in Singapore to tap into providing money-transfer APIs to businesses in the region.

At least one of its newest investors, Visa, is also integrating Currencycloud’s services into its own. Existing investors Sapphire Ventures, Notion Capital, GV (formerly known as Google Ventures, which led its Series D), Accomplice, and Anthemis are also participating.

As for the valuation, Laven said it was not being disclosed but he confirmed that the pre-money amount was higher than when it previously raised.

For some context, we first reported the news that Currencycloud was raising last summer, and at the time, when it had closed about $40 million of the funding, PitchBook estimated the pre-money valuation at $114 million and post-money at $184 million. That would imply that this Series E puts the London-based startup’s valuation at around $220 million (and took somewhat longer to close than originally planned). To date, Currencycloud has raised $140 million.

The startup has been around since 2012 and was early to identify the opportunity in the money-transfer market.

The trend of globalisation in the world economy has led to a sharp rise in the pace of remittances, helped by the expansion of the internet and smartphone usage — which has spelled opportunity for companies leveraging the latter to enter the market. And in terms of the companies providing money-transfer services, while there are some notable legacy names like Western Union and Moneygram, by and large it’s a fragmented market — leaving an opportunity for many more hopefuls to get involved.

But on top of all that, the system is largely expensive and inefficient — meaning there was a lucrative opportunity for a company to come along and provide an easy way to plug into the rails — say, by way of APIs — to build these services (not unlike what companies like Adyen or Stripe have done for e-commerce payments).

All roads, effectively, led to Currencycloud, and it’s seen business expand. To date, Currencycloud says that it has processed more than $50 billion in cross-border payments, with the proliferation of so-called neobanks (or challenger banks, going head-to-head with traditional institutions in the business of deposits and lending using all-digital, mobile-first platforms) helping it along. Customers include Monzo, Moneze, Starling, Revolut and Dwolla — alongside the likes of bigger players like Visa now also getting involved.

“I’m delighted to be joining the board of such an exciting technology company,” added Colleen Ostrowski, SVP and Treasurer at Visa, in a statement. “Currencycloud is re-shaping the way that the platforms of the future are moving money around the world, and there is huge potential for the company to drive further innovation in the cross-border payments industry.” 

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Apple antitrust issues come to Congress, subscription apps boom, Tencent takes on TikTok – TechCrunch

Welcome back to ThisWeek in Apps, the Extra Crunch series that recaps the latest OS news, the applications they support and the money that flows through it all.

The app industry is as hot as ever with a record 204 billion downloads in 2019 and $120 billion in consumer spending in 2019, according to App Annie’s recently released “State of Mobile” annual report. People are now spending 3 hours and 40 minutes per day using apps, rivaling TV. Apps aren’t just a way to pass idle hours — they’re a big business. In 2019, mobile-first companies had a combined $544 billion valuation, 6.5x higher than those without a mobile focus.

In this Extra Crunch series, we help you keep up with the latest news from the world of apps, delivered on a weekly basis.

This week, there was a ton of app news. We’re digging into the latest with Apple’s antitrust issues, Tencent’s plan to leverage WeChat to fend off the TikTok threat, AppsFlyer’s massive new round, the booming subscription economy, Disney’s mobile game studio sale, Pokémon GO’s boost to tourism, Match Group’s latest investment and much more. And did you see the app that lets you use your phone from within a paper envelope? Or the new AR social network? It’s Weird App Week, apparently.

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Tech layoffs spread (a bit) – TechCrunch

TechCrunch has found itself writing about layoffs at a few notable tech companies this week — and not just Softbank-backed ones. The focus is very much profits, as Alex Wilhelm summed up on Thursday, especially after the failed WeWork IPO and subsequent valuation and headcount decimation. We’ll be digging into the topic more soon but there does seem to be a certain consumery thread here. And perhaps some fears of negative macro trends bubbling up?

23andMe cut 16% or 100 people, citing slowing sales for DNA tests. Quora reduced an undisclosed number to focus on revenue. 

Plenty of tech investors have criticized Softbank’s approach to writing large check for large valuations, but they can’t avoid the same fears these days. So does Mozilla, which had to cut 70 people this month after struggling to build revenue products.

It still all seems sort of normal given the very high valuations and recent reconsiderations, at least so far. Layoffs may very well continue this year in a way that is necessary and even healthy in the long run.

More on TechCrunch, from Alex:

23andMe  and Mozilla are not alone, however. Playful Studios cut staff just this week, 2019 itself saw more than 300% more tech layoffs than in the preceding year and TechCrunch has covered a litany of layoffs at Vision Fund-backed companies over the past few months, including:

Scooter unicorns Lime and Bird have also reduced staff this year. The for-profit drive is firing on all cylinders in the wake of the failed WeWork IPO attempt. WeWork was an outlier in terms of how bad its financial results were, but the fear it introduced to the market appears pretty damn mainstream by this point. (Forsake hope, alle ye whoe require a Series H.)

Image: Bryce Durbin/TechCrunch

Fresh data sets are in on last year from Crunchbase, as well as PitchBook and the NVCA. Alex identified a few key takeaways: slightly lower early-stage fundings, a big global year overall, and some of the above WeWork-attributed drops already surfacing in the Q4 data over on TechCrunch.

I have to wonder what we really know right now, though. These are the best publicly-accessible funding databases out there, but many companies have stopped filing Form Ds with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in recent years, as Danny Crichton has been covering in this ongoing series. That was a main data source, especially about early-stage stealth companies.

The Crunchbase report goes over the global trend for the year, and that’s another confounding factor, actually — how trackable are startup funding dollars across borders these days? And how do you account for remote teams in that mix? And how do you account for crypto…?

If you are building a company now at any stage, the financial signs out now are not in my humble opinion ones to have any fear over. Especially relative to the other problems that are almost certainly in front of you.

There is a lot of money in VC now regardless of anything else, as the Pitchbook-NVCA report notes, and there will be for a long time.

As if on cue, we had a couple guest columnists provide articles about capital efficiency and recession-proofing your company. Shin Kim has a two-parter on TechCrunch and Extra Crunch, where he breaks down why most tech IPOs are not WeWork (in a good way) and how to pace your own fundraising regardless of anything else going on

Schwark Satyavolu, meanwhile, digs into the best practices for startups in the next recession for Extra Crunch, starting with this brutal real-life intro:

I founded my first startup, Yodlee,  in a strong economy with almost 20 competitors. Ten years and a painful recession later, we were the only game in town. Critical to our success was acquiring our largest competitor, something we never could have done in a strong economy because they never would have been willing to sell. The recession made it untenable for them to fundraise, enabling us not only to buy them, but to do so without cash in an all-equity deal.

Board representation is a hot topic for companies of all sizes and none other than Goldman Sachs said this week that it would only take companies public that had at least one underrepresented board member.

CEO David Solomon said that companies that had gone public in the last four years with at least one female board member did significantly better than those without, but Megan Dickey notes for Extra Crunch that’s not quite all the way towards the goal:

But the lack of people of color on boards is perhaps a more urgent issue. Late last year, a Crunchbase study found that 60% of the most funded VC-backed startups don’t have a single woman on their board of directors. But there are even fewer black people, let alone black women, on boards. A 2018 Deloitte study found that of the Fortune 100 companies, white men held 61.4% of board seats, white women held 19.1%, men of color had 13.7% of board seats and women of color had just 5.8% of board seats.

Connie Loizos, meanwhile, writes for TechCrunch that boards themselves are not all of the way towards the goal:

Let’s be real here. Directors of public companies typically meet just four times a year to review quarterly results. It’s important and necessary, sure. But beyond ensuring that strategic objectives are being met and hopefully making useful introductions to the company, these roles are assigned more importance by industry watchers than they should. (They often pay ludicrous amounts given the work involved, too.)

Even pledging that Goldman is only going to take public companies that give back — say 1% of future profits to the NAACP, as one idea — would instantly put the bank in pole position for those founders and investors who truly want to be progressive. Goldman might miss out on a lot of business in the immediate term, we realize, but we’re guessing it’s a gamble that would pay off over time.

Around the horn

Lame LPs, founder referenceability and the future of VC signaling (TC)

Why is everyone making OKR software? (EC)

Should tech giants slam the encryption door on the government? (TC)

Where top VCs are investing in adtech and martech (EC)

US mobile app subscription revenue jumped 21% in 2019 to $4.6B across the top 100 apps (TC)

Relativity Space could change the economics of private space launches (EC)

Can a time machine offer us the meaning of life? (TC)

#EquityPod

Alex and Danny are back on Equity this week, here’s a menu before you listen to the episode here (and if you haven’t subscribed yet, you can do that here).

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Samasource CEO Leila Janah passes away at 37 – TechCrunch

The startup community has lost another moral leader today.

Leila Janah, a serial entrepreneur who was the CEO and founder of machine learning training data company Samasource, passed away at the age of 37 due to complications from Epithelioid Sarcoma, a form of cancer, according to a statement from the company.

She focused her career on social and ethical entrepreneurship with the goal of ending global poverty, founding three distinct organizations over her career spanning the for-profit and non-profit worlds. She was most well-known for Samasource, which was founded a little more than a decade ago to help machine learning specialists develop better ML models through more complete and ethical training datasets.

Janah and her company were well ahead of their time, as issues related to bias in ML models have become top-of-mind for many product leaders in Silicon Valley today. My TechCrunch colleague Jake Bright had just interviewed Janah a few weeks ago, after Samasource raised more than $15 million in venture capital, according to Crunchbase.

In its statement, the company said:

We are all committed to continuing Leila’s work, and to ensuring her legacy and vision is carried out for years to come. To accomplish this, Wendy Gonzalez, longtime business partner and friend to Leila, will take the helm as interim CEO of Samasource. Previously the organization’s COO, Wendy has spent the past five years working alongside Leila to craft Samasource’s vision and strategy.

In addition to Samasource, Janah founded SF-based Samaschool, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit dedicated to helping low-income workers learn critical freelancing skills by helping them negotiate the changing dynamics in the freelance economy. The organization has built partnerships with groups like Goodwill to empower them to offer additional curricular resources within their own existing programs and initiatives.

Janah also founded LXMI, a skin-care brand that emphasized organic and fair-trade ingredients, with a focus on sourcing from low-income women’s cooperatives in East Africa. Founded three years ago, the company raised a seed round from the likes of NEA, Sherpa, and Reid Hoffman according to Crunchbase.

Across all of her initiatives, Janah consistently put the concerns of under-represented people at the forefront, and designed organizations to empower such people in their daily lives. Her entrepreneurial spirit, commitment, and integrity will be sorely missed in the startup community.

Our editor Josh Constine had this to say of Janah’s impact. “Leila was propulsive. Being around her, you’d swear there were suddenly more hours in the day just based on how much she could accomplish. Yet rather than conjuring that energy through ruthless efficiency, she carried on with grace and boundless empathy. Whether for her closest friends or a village of strangers on the other side of the world, she embraced others’ challenges as her own. Leila turned vulnerability into an advantage, making people feel so comfortable in her presence that they could unwind their personal and professional puzzles. Leila is the kind of founder we need more of, and she’ll remain an example of how to do business with heart.”

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Clayton Christensen, author of “The Innovator’s Dilemma,” has passed away at age 67 – TechCrunch

Clayton Christensen, a longtime professor at Harvard Business School who became famous worldwide after authoring the best-selling business book, “The Innovator’s Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail,” passed away last night.

The Desert News reported earlier today that the cause tied to complications from leukemia treatments that Christensen was receiving in Boston. He was 67 years old.

Clayton had suffered from ill health for years, always battling his way back. By the age of 58, Clayton — who was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at age 30 — had already suffered a heart attack, cancer, and a stroke, telling Forbes in 2011 that he tried to view such setbacks as opportunities, even, apparently, when they involved intensive speech therapy, which he was undergoing at the time.

Indeed, the entire business world came to know Christensen after Intel cofounder Andy Grove brought him into the company as an advisor, then announced to the world that “The Innovator’s Dilemma,” published in 1997, was the best book he’d read in 10 years. (This was saying something, given Grove’s own considerable writing skills.) Yet Christensen came from modest means.

According to a 2012 profile in New Yorker magazine, he grew up on the “wrong side of the tracks” in Salt Lake City, in a Mormon household, collecting paper tray liners from fast food restaurants, and stuffing his 6′ 8″ frame into a 1986 Chevy Nova that he drove around town.

According to the profile, Christensen, an excellent student and a popular one (he was student body president), “wanted to go to Harvard or Yale, and got into both, but his mother wanted him to go to Brigham Young. Not knowing what to do, he fasted and prayed, and he discovered that God agreed with his mother. That wasn’t the answer he was looking for, so he fasted and prayed some more, just to make sure he hadn’t misheard or something, but he hadn’t, so he went to Brigham Young.”

There, he studied economics before and after a two-year leave of absence to serve as a volunteer full-time missionary for the LDS Church. Then it was off to Oxford, where he earned a master’s as a Rhodes Scholar, then Harvard Business School. After receiving his MBA, he landed at Boston Consulting Group, and after a few years in the working world, headed back to Harvard for a PhD so he could teach.

Throughout the course of his career, Christensen would write 10 books, though none were as ubiquitous as “The Innovator’s Dilemma,” which was timed perfectly in retrospect. It put forth a theory why people buy products that are often cheaper and easier to use than their more sophisticated and more expensive predecessors, and resonated widely as one incumbent after another — Xerox, U.S. Steel, Digital Equipment Corp. — stumbled while other companies began rising in their dust: think Amazon, Google, Apple.

Interestingly, according to the New Yorker, one of Christensen’s rare, bad calls was his prediction that the Apple iPhone wouldn’t be widely adopted because it was too fancy.

Apple cofounder Steve Jobs was a fan nevertheless. According to the Walter Isaacson biography of Jobs published in October 2011, just weeks after Jobs’s death, “The Innovator’s Dilemma” “deeply influenced” him.

If you’re interested in learning more, you might enjoy this conversation between Christensen and investor-entrepreneur Marc Andreessen; it took place in 2016 at the Startup Grind series.

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London’s Met Police switches on live facial recognition, flying in face of human rights concerns – TechCrunch

While EU lawmakers are mulling a temporary ban on the use of facial recognition to safeguard individuals’ rights, as part of risk-focused plan to regulate AI, London’s Met Police has today forged ahead with deploying the privacy hostile technology — flipping the switch on operational use of live facial recognition in the UK capital.

The deployment comes after a multi-year period of trials by the Met and police in South Wales.

The Met says its use of the controversial technology will be targeted to “specific locations… where intelligence suggests we are most likely to locate serious offenders”.

“Each deployment will have a bespoke ‘watch list’, made up of images of wanted individuals, predominantly those wanted for serious and violent offences,” it adds.

It also claims cameras will be “clearly signposted”, adding that officers will be “deployed to the operation will hand out leaflets about the activity”.

“At a deployment, cameras will be focused on a small, targeted area to scan passers-by,” it writes. “The technology, which is a standalone system, is not linked to any other imaging system, such as CCTV, body worn video or ANPR.”

The biometric system is being provided to the Met by Japanese IT and electronics giant, NEC.

In a press statement, assistant commissioner Nick Ephgrave claimed the force is taking a balanced approach to using the controversial tech.

“We all want to live and work in a city which is safe: the public rightly expect us to use widely available technology to stop criminals. Equally I have to be sure that we have the right safeguards and transparency in place to ensure that we protect people’s privacy and human rights. I believe our careful and considered deployment of live facial recognition strikes that balance,” he said.

London has seen a rise in violent crime in recent years, with murder rates hitting a ten-year peak last year.

The surge in violent crime has been linked to cuts to policing services — although the new Conservative government has pledged to reverse cuts enacted by earlier Tory administrations.

The Met says its hope for the AI-powered tech is will help it tackle serious crime, including serious violence, gun and knife crime, child sexual exploitation and “help protect the vulnerable”.

However its phrasing is not a little ironic, given that facial recognition systems can be prone to racial bias, for example, owing to factors such as bias in data-sets used to train AI algorithms.

So in fact there’s a risk that police-use of facial recognition could further harm vulnerable groups who already face a disproportionate risk of inequality and discrimination.

Yet the Met’s PR doesn’t mention the risk of the AI tech automating bias.

Instead it makes pains to couch the technology as “additional tool” to assist its officers.

“This is not a case of technology taking over from traditional policing; this is a system which simply gives police officers a ‘prompt’, suggesting “that person over there may be the person you’re looking for”, it is always the decision of an officer whether or not to engage with someone,” it adds.

While the use of a new tech tool may start with small deployments, as is being touting here, the history of software development underlines how potential to scale is readily baked in.

A ‘targeted’ small-scale launch also prepares the ground for London’s police force to push for wider public acceptance of a highly controversial and rights-hostile technology via a gradual building out process. Aka surveillance creep.

On the flip side, the text of the draft of an EU proposal for regulating AI which leaked last week — floating the idea of a temporary ban on facial recognition in public places — noted that a ban would “safeguard the rights of individuals”. Although it’s not yet clear whether the Commission will favor such a blanket measure, even temporarily.

UK rights groups have reacted with alarm to the Met’s decision to ignore concerns about facial recognition.

Liberty accused the force of ignoring the conclusion of a report it commissioned during an earlier trial of the tech — which it says concluded the Met had failed to consider human rights impacts.

It also suggested such use would not meet key legal requirements.

“Human rights law requires that any interference with individuals’ rights be in accordance with the law, pursue a legitimate aim, and be ‘necessary in a democratic society’,” the report notes, suggesting the Met earlier trials of facial recognition tech “would be held unlawful if challenged before the courts”.

A petition set up by Liberty to demand a stop to facial recognition in public places has passed 21,000 signatures.

Discussing the legal framework around facial recognition and law enforcement last week, Dr Michael Veale, a lecturer in digital rights and regulation at UCL, told us that in his view the EU’s data protection framework, GDPR, forbids facial recognition by private companies “in a surveillance context without member states actively legislating an exemption into the law using their powers to derogate”.

A UK man who challenged a Welsh police force’s trial of facial recognition has a pending appeal after losing the first round of a human rights challenge. Although in that case the challenge pertains to police use of the tech — rather than, as in the Met’s case, a private company (NEC) providing the service to the police.



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Relativity Space could change the economics of private space launches – TechCrunch

The private launch market is an area of a lot of focus in the emerging space startup industry, not least because it unlocks the true potential of most of the rest of the market. But so far, we can count on one hand the number of new, private space launch companies that have actually transported payloads to orbit. Out of a number of firms racing to be the next to actually launch, LA-based Relativity Space is a prime contender, with a unique approach that could set it apart from the crowd.

I spoke to CEO Tim Ellis about what makes his company different and about what kind of capabilities it will bring to the launch market once it starts flying, something the company aims to do beginning next year. Fresh off a $140 million funding round in October 2019, Relativity’s model could provide another seismic shift in the economics of doing business in space, and has the potential to be as disruptive to the landscape — if not more so — as SpaceX.

“We built the largest metal 3D printers in the world, which we call a ‘Stargate,’ ” Ellis said. “It’s actually replacing a whole factory full of fixed tooling — and having all of our processes being 3D printing, we really view that as being the future because that lets us automate almost the entire rocket production, and then also reduce part count for much larger launch vehicles so our rocket can carry a 1,250-kg payload to orbit.” Because Relativity Space’s launch vehicle is nearly 10 times larger than those made by Rocket Lab or Orbex, “it’s a totally different payload class.”

That difference is crucial, and represents the paradigm shift that Relativity Space could engender once its products are introduced to the commercial market. The company knows first-hand how its approach fundamentally differs from existing launch providers like Blue Origin and SpaceX — Ellis previously worked as a propulsion engineer at Blue Origin, and co-founder and CTO Jordan Noone worked on SpaceX’s Dragon capsule program. Ellis said Relativity’s approach won’t just unlock cost savings due to automation, it will also provide clients with the ability to launch payloads that weren’t possible with previous launch vehicle design constraints.

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Lighter Capital secures $100M to grow its equity-free financing business – TechCrunch

Lighter Capital announced today that it has secured access to $100 million to lend to growing startups. The firm is best-known for its work with revenue-based financing, in which expanding companies repay borrowed funds out of future receipts. Lighter has also expanded into other, equity-free capital options for startups in the last year.

Lighter is most easily understood as part of the group of firms that provide what TechCrunch has described as “alt-VC,” forms of capital access that do not fit into the traditional venture capital model of selling shares (equity) for cash. With the VC method, venture capitalists raise funds from wealthy capital pools, disbursing the funds in pieces to various private companies for an ownership stake. Those growth-focused firms then try to scale rapidly. Those that succeed become valuable, rendering the venture investment lucrative, and, hopefully, the venture capital fund profitable.

In alt-VC, various forms of debt are put to work, tailored to companies that are growth-oriented, often existing outside of the realm of what traditional banks would consider lending-ready. Startups that are working in software-as-a-service (SaaS) or e-commerce are often considered ideal candidates for alt-VC in its various forms, as returns that can be generated with marginally deployed capital are calculable with reasonable certainty in those fields.

Got all that? Let’s turn to what Lighter Capital is up to.

Working capital

Lighter’s new $100 million access to capital (we’ll call it a fund, for lack of a better term) will allow it to accelerate its business, the firm’s CEO Thor Culverhouse told TechCrunch. Lighter has a number of “ideas about how we’re going to grow [its] business,” Culverhouse said in a phone call, and having more “access to capital is a very important element to that growth strategy.”

According to a release, Lighter has “invested” over $200 million in more than 350 companies to date; however, even though Lighter’s loans return capital and could allow for the recycling of funds, the $100 million in new funds represents a step up in capacity for the company. (Lighter is working with HCG for its capital access.)

The new funds will be disbursed in more ways than one. In June of 2019, Lighter added two more traditional forms of debt to its list of offerings: term loans and lines of credit. Culverhouse discussed the additional products with TechCrunch, connecting term loans to revenue-based financing options:

We did two things. When you think about the [revenue-based financing] function we have today, it is a term loan, it’s just that the repayment is based on whatever your monthly recurring revenue is. What we noticed is some people liked that flexibility. We [also] noticed some of our customers said, actually, I’d rather have a very predictable payment stream. And so we came out with another term loan that is like any other term loan, it’s just as a predictable payment stream throughout the year. So they’re very, very much alike. And then we came out with a line of credit, which is more traditionally used for working capital. So it’s a 12-month revolver, if you will.

Here Lighter capital describes a link between revenue-based financing and regular loans that is worth chewing on. Revenue-based financing is merely a loan, tuned modestly for the SaaS world. That’s it. It allows for recurring-revenue focused companies to vary their payments over time, but both a term loan to a growth-oriented startup and a revenue-based financing event are pretty similar at their core.

Which, naturally, makes Lighter’s move into more traditional loans pretty reasonable. With $100 million to put to work, Lighter is going to move some cash. That, in conjunction with the growing set of firms offering similar services, should help a lot of folks fund their companies’ growth without selling shares.



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