EV startup Byton expands US foothold with LA facility

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New auto company Byton made a splash at CES when it debuted its autonomous EV SUV concept with a cutting-edge entertaining passenger experience. After effectively launching the company at the trade show in January, it's opening a new 'Future Lab' fac…
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Enterprise-IoT platform Particle acquires IoT hardware startup RedBear for an undisclosed sum

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Particle, a company providing IoT hardware, software, and connectivity solutions bought Shenzhen and Hong Kong-based IoT hardware firm RedBear Labs, makers of RedBear Duo and a variety of other connectivity boards. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.


Buying RedBear marks Particle’s first acquisition. Particle has deployed IoT connectivity solutions in various industries from industrial and municipal IoT applications to manufacturing facilities. It implies the San Francisco-based company has focused on ‘enterprise market’ and entering the enterprise IoT market in China may prove to be a huge win for the company in coming years. And, what best way than to acquire a thriving local startup.

The company’s partnership goes back to Particle’s launch of three meshed devices, i.e. Argon, Boron, and Xenon as RedBear helped the company in product development of meshed devices for IoT connectivity.

RedBear started out by launching Particle-powered product, the RedBear Duo, a thumb-size development board for IoT projects on Kickstarter in November 2015. It got an overwhelming support from backers and delivered the product in the promised time of three months. Now the startup is set to contribute its hardware development experience to Particle’s Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) and Wi-Fi-enabled IoT hardware.

“Particle is committed to building the best team in the business to enable anyone to create IoT solutions that produce real value. The RedBear team impressed us with their track record of enabling IoT makers to bring their ideas to life in a third of the time and a tenth of the cost as in the past. This acquisition enables Particle to bring new products to market faster and scale to meet soaring demands for IoT connectivity, adding valuable expertise from the heart of the electronics industry in Shenzhen.”Zach Supalla, Particle co-founder, and CEO.

The enthusiasm of sharing a company already serving 8500+ clients in North America and elsewhere was evident from the statement by RedBear’s CEO.

“Particle and RedBear share the same laser focus on creating connected solutions that help product creators at any stage create value with IoT.” Chi-Hung Ma, CEO of RedBear and Particle Director of New Product Development.

It appears Particle will also benefit from RedBear’s existing network of customers and the reseller network the latter has developed in Asia, Europe, North- and South-America.

Postscapes: Tracking the Internet of Things

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This startup could make predictive inventory possible

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Pulsa designed the dashboard for its sensor tracking app to be easy for anyone to use. Image courtesy of Pulsa.

The world of industrial IoT is rarely sexy, but it can be exciting. And right now I am really excited about a startup from San Francisco called Pulsa which is making sensors that measure pressure in gas tanks and the general weight of items in inventory. Formed in June 2016, the startup first created sensors that measure the pressure of gasses in those big cylinders sold to everyone from industrial manufacturers to restaurants that use CO2 in their soda machines.

The sensors communicate with a Pulsa-supplied gateway to let companies keep track of their gas inventory without having to send a person around to manually check it. Pulsa has also built predictive algorithms to anticipate the need for more gas and help companies keep it in stock without buying excess inventory, just in case.

Dave Wiens, the CEO and co-founder of Pulsa, says that the company’s pressure sensors for gas cylinders are already in customer trials and the weight sensors should be ready for trials by the end of April. Customers buy the sensors and receive an accompanying gateway. Today’s gateways use Wi-Fi, but Wiens says that later this year they will have a gateway with Wi-Fi and cellular backup. Those gateways will have NB-IoT, LTE-CatM 1, and 2G fallback, which should enable them to work anywhere in the world.

The sensor hardware costs $ 79 for the current pressure sensors which includes the gateway and cloud services for the app. Afterward, the app costs $ 48 a year per sensor.

As for the return on investment, one of Pulsa’s trial customers manages about 200 gas cylinders and has sensors on 50 of them. So far that customer estimates that it has saved $ 1,000 a month on easy-to-measure things, such as the gas in its tanks. Eliminating the need for an employee to check those levels at the end of each day saves the customer roughly $ 200 a month alone.

More impressive is how the ability to check the actual amount of gas left over and predict when it will run out saves the customer $ 1,500 every other month when a tank unexpectedly runs out in the middle of a manufacturing process.

Plus, the customer gets to use more of the gas. That’s because historically the company would toss a tank at the end of the day if it reached 200 psi due to worries it would run out overnight, costing precious production time. Ahead of weekends and holidays engineers would toss the cylinders if they had less than 300 or 400 psi. But the predictive algorithms that Pulsa provides let the managers of the process feel more comfortable using up more of the gas without worrying about running out. The customer estimates this saves it about $ 750 in what would otherwise be wasted gas.

The customer also plans to look at how to reduce its backup inventory by 10% since it will now have a more accurate sense of which gases it needs and when. In other words, the sensors on gas cylinders and the coming weight sensors will hopefully do for inventory what predictive maintenance is currently doing for production.

Wiens says that Pulsa is ready to sell the pressure sensors for gas cylinders and has received a lot of inquires about the weight sensor product. Potential customers for that product include grocery stores that want to track produce inventory, building management companies that want to measure the amount of cleaning products they have left, and more. Heck, I’d love to have something like it for my fridge so I know when my milk is running low.

But Pulsa isn’t aiming for the consumer market. So far, the enterprise and industrial market is plenty for it to handle.

Stacey on IoT | Internet of Things news and analysis

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Self-care startup Shine raises $5 million Series A

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Shine, an early arrival in market now teeming with self-care apps and services, has closed on $ 5 million in Series A funding, the company announced today, alongside the milestone of hitting 2 million active users. The round was led by existing investor by Comcast Ventures with betaworks, Felix Capital and The New York Times also participating.

The investment comes roughly two years after Shine launched its free service, a messaging bot aimed at younger users that doles out life advice and positive reinforcement on a daily basis through SMS texts or Facebook’s Messenger.

At the time, the idea that self-help could be put into an app or bot-like format was still a relatively novel concept. But today, digital wellness has become far more common with apps for everything from meditation to self-help to talk therapy.

“We’re proud that we were part of the catalyst to make well-being as am industry something that is so much more top-of-mind. We really sensed where the world was going and we were ahead of it,” says co-founder Naomi Hirabayashi, who built Shine along with her former DoSomething.org co-worker Marah Lidey. The founders had wanted to offer others something akin to the personal support system they had with each other, as close friends.

“Marah and I are both women of color, and we created this company from a very non-traditional background from an entrepreneurship standpoint – we didn’t go to business school,” Hirabayashi explains. “We saw there was something missing in the market because wellbeing companies didn’t really reach us – they didn’t speak to us. We didn’t see people that looked like us. We didn’t feel like the way they shared content sounded like how we spoke about the different wellbeing issues in our lives,” she says.

The company’s free messaging product, Shine Text, was the result of their frustrations with existing products. It tackles a timely theme every day in areas like confidence, productivity, mental health, happiness and more. And it isn’t just some sort of life-affirming text – Shine converses with you on the topic at hand using research-backed materials to help you better understand the information. It’s also presented in a style that makes Shine feel more like a friend chatting with you.

The service has grown to 2 million users across 189 countries, despite not being localized in other languages. 88 percent of users are under the age of 35, and 70 percent are female.

Shine attempted to generate revenue in the past with a life-coaching subscription, but users wanted to talk to a real person and the subscription was fairly steep at $ 15.99 per week. That product never emerged from testing, and the founders now refer to it as an “experiment.”

The company gave subscriptions another shot this past December, with the launch of a freemium (free with paid upgrades) app on iOS. The new app offers meditations, affirmations, and something called “Shine Stories.”

The meditations are short audio tracks voiced by influencers that help you with various challenges. There are quick hit meditations for recentering and relaxing, those where you can focus on handling a specific situation – like toxic friendships or online dating – and seven-day challenges that deal with a particular issue like burnout or productivity.

Affirmations are quick pep talks and Shine Stories are slightly longer – around five minutes-long, and also voiced by influencers.

“The biggest thing is that we want to meet the user where they are – and we know people are on the go,” says Hirabayashi. “You can expect a lot more to come in the future around how we combine this really exciting time that’s happening for audio consumption and the hunger that there is for audio content that’s motivational and makes you feel better.”

Asked specifically if the company was considering a voice-first app, like an Alexa skill, or perhaps a more traditional podcast, Hirabayashi said they weren’t yet sure, but didn’t plan on limiting the Shine Stories to a single platform indefinitely. But one thing they weren’t interested in doing in the near-term was introducing ads into Shine’s audio content.

The Shine app for iOS is a free download with some selection of its audio available to free users. Users can unlock the full library for $ 4.99 per month, billed as an annual subscription of $ 59.99, or $ 7.99 per month if paid monthly.

The founders declined to offer specifics on their conversions from free to paid members, but said it was “on par with industry standards.”

With the Series A now under its belt, Shine plans to double its 8-person team this year, launch the app on Android, continue to grow the business, including potentially launching new products.

Now the question is whether the millennials are actually so into self-care that they’ll pay. There are some signs that could be true – the top ten self-care apps pulled in $ 15 million last quarter, with meditation apps leading the way.

“We’re dominating the self-care routine of millennial women right now and we want to keep doing that,” Hirabayashi says.


Mobile – TechCrunch

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Honey — the under-the-radar coupon startup — has held talks to raise around $100 million in a new investment

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Honey co-founder Ryan Hudson

The Los Angeles-based startup operates an unsexy but lucrative business.

Online coupons may sound so 2008, but they are still big business in 2018.

Honey, a startup whose internet tool tells online shoppers whether there is an eligible coupon for their purchase, has held talks to raise somewhere around $ 100 million in new investment money, according to multiple sources.

Honey co-founder Ryan Hudson confirmed the talks to Recode in February, but at the time said his company had discontinued the discussions to focus on new product development. But after another inquiry last week, Hudson confirmed that the talks had restarted.

“Something came inbound that we’re seriously considering but not closed so nothing to announce yet,” he wrote in an email. He declined to provide more details.

Honey, based in Los Angeles, was founded in 2012 and makes technology that scours the web for available digital coupons and sales. Its website browser extension then displays those coupons or sale codes to shoppers right when they reach the checkout page on thousands of partnering retail sites. The tool is designed to help shoppers feel confident about going ahead with their purchase — coupon or no coupon — without leaving the page.

The funding discussions come at a time when investors have shown renewed interest in digital-native consumer brands that have the potential for mass appeal, and especially those that can grow fast without losing massive amounts of money.

Hudson said in February that Honey was basically running at “cash-flow neutral” and would only raise money if the terms were too good to pass up. The startup generates revenue by earning a commission on transactions at some partnering merchants since it says its tool increases purchase conversion rates. Honey also makes money from a cash-back program similar to that of Ebates, the unsexy online shopping site that is nonetheless a cash cow; Rakuten bought it for $ 1 billion in 2014.

Over the past year, Honey has beefed up its staff from 30-something people to north of 120 as it quietly builds the next version of the company. Honey has raised around $ 40 million in venture capital from Anthos Capital and others to date.

“If we plan to just do what we do today, we would do that with a much smaller team and be generating a lot of cash,” Hudson said.

He declined to provide details of what the company is working on other than saying it will be “a mobile version of the Honey shopping experience” that will likely launch before the holidays.

“If people think of us as a coupon extension a year or two from now,” he said, “we will have failed at execution.”

Recode – All

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The co-founder of self-driving trucking startup Otto has left Uber

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Lior Ron co-founded Otto with Anthony Levandowski before selling the company to Uber.

A top self-driving tech executive at Uber has left the company.

Lior Ron, who co-founded trucking startup Otto, has left the company a little less than two years after Uber acquired his startup.

Ron headed up the business development side of Uber’s trucking business, Uber Freight. Uber Freight is a logistics platform that connects companies or people with payloads that need to be shipped with long-haul truckers. The company is also working on self-driving trucks that will eventually leverage that platform.

“We remain fully invested in and excited about the future of Uber Freight,” an Uber spokesperson said in a statement. “Since launching in Texas, we have introduced Freight to all states in the continental U.S. We believe it will continue to grow as we use our network and technology to transform the trucking industry.”

Nonetheless, the departure comes at an inopportune time for Uber, as the company faces questions over its self-driving technology and fallout after a recent fatal self-driving crash in Tempe, Ariz.

However, in the last year there has been a bit of controversy surrounding Ron, who used to work at Google Maps.

Ron was a central figure in his former employer’s recent lawsuit against Uber. Alphabet sued Uber over trade-secret misappropriation after the ride-hail company acquired Otto. Alphabet alleged that Anthony Levandowski, Ron’s co-founder, had stolen proprietary files about self-driving sensors to bring to Uber.

Alphabet and Uber have since agreed to settle the suit. As part of the settlement, Uber’s new CEO, Dara Khosrowshahi — who was not at the company when the deal was brokered — conceded that the company could have handled the acquisition better, but denied that there were any stolen files at Uber.

During the lawsuit, it was revealed that both Levandowski and Ron had proprietary files on their personal devices. Neither Ron nor Levandowski were named in the suit, however.

But Ron’s desire to sell Otto to Uber was fueled by a desire to commercialize self-driving trucks, he testified during the Alphabet trial.That’s why he chose to sell to Uber instead of Lyft or stay at Alphabet, he said.

Even before Alphabet filed the suit against Uber over its purchase of Otto, the acquisition caused some internal tension within the company’s self-driving department. Part of that stemmed from confusion about whether the priority for Uber’s development efforts should be the trucks or the cars.

That tension is partially what led to stalled technological progress with the technology, several sources told Recode in March 2017.

The company had seemingly made progress — at least on the trucking front. Uber’s self-driving trucks began delivering freight in Arizona earlier this month. In the wake of the fatal Tempe crash, however, all of Uber’s self-driving operations have been halted in the state.

Recode – All

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On-demand shipping startup Shyp is shutting down

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After rocketing to a $ 250 million valuation in 2015 amid a massive hype cycle for on-demand companies, on-demand startup Shyp is shutting down today.

CEO Kevin Gibbon announced that the company would be shutting down in a blog post this afternoon. The company is ending operations immediately after, like many on-demand companies, struggling to find a scalable model beyond its launching point in San Francisco. Shyp missed targets for expanding to cities beyond its core base as well as pulled back from Miami. In July, Shyp said it would be reducing its headcount and shutting down all operations beyond San Francisco.

The company raised $ 50 million in a deal led by John Doerr at Kleiner Perkins back in 2015, one of his last huge checks as a variety of firms jumped onto the on-demand space. The thesis at the time was pretty sound: look at a strip mall, and see which businesses can come to you first. Shipping was a natural one, but there was also food, and eventually groceries. Today, there are only a few left standing, with Postmates, Instacart and DoorDash among the most prominent ones. Even then, Instacart is now under threat from Amazon, which is ramping up its own two-hour delivery after buying Whole Foods.

“At the time, I approached everything I did as an engineer,” Gibbon wrote. “Rather than change direction, I tasked the team with expanding geographically and dreaming up innovative features and growth tactics to further penetrate the consumer market. To this day, I’m in awe of the vigor the team possessed in tackling a 200-year-old industry. But, growth at all costs is a dangerous trap that many startups fall into, mine included.”

Shyp is now a casualty of the delivery space. Where it originally sought to make up the cost of delivery in the form of cheaper bulk costs for those deliveries, Shyp’s one-size-fits-all delivery — where you could deliver a computer or a bike — eventually ended up being one of the most challenging and frustrating elements of its business. It began adding fees to its online returns business and changing prices for its bulk shipments. As it turns out, a $ 5 carte blanche for delivery was not a model that really made sense.

Indeed, that growth-at-all-costs directive has cost many startups, with companies like Sprig shutting down and many companies getting slapped on the wrist for aggressive growth tactics like text spamming. It also meant that startups had to very quickly develop an effective playbook that, in the end, might not actually translate to markets beyond their core competency. Shyp pivoted to focusing on businesses toward the tail end of its lifetime, including a big deal with eBay, which we had heard at the time was doing well.

“We decided to keep the popular-but-unprofitable parts of our business running, with small teams of their own behind them,” he wrote. “This was a mistake—my mistake. While large, established companies have the financial freedom to explore new product categories for the sake of exploring, for startups it can be irresponsible.”

But Gibbon said the company kept parts of its popular but challenged models online – which may have also contributed to its eventual shut-down. The company expected to be in cities like Boston, Seattle and Philadelphia in early 2016, but that didn’t end up panning out. And Shyp increasingly felt the challenges of an on-demand model, trying to push the cost to the consumer as low as possible while handling the overheads and logistical headaches of a delivery business.

“My early mistakes in Shyp’s business ended up being prohibitive to our survival,” Gibbon wrote. “For that, I am sorry.”

Mobile – TechCrunch

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Original creator of the Mac startup chime talks its demise & more in new interview [Video]

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A fun piece from CNBC this morning highlights Jim Reekes, a former Apple employee who created numerous sound effects for the Mac during his time at Apple. Reekes left Apple in the 1990s, but you’ll probably recognize some of his sound effects…



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Creator of Mac startup & iPhone camera sounds talks Apple sound history

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In a newly-published interview, former Apple sound designer Jim Reekes discusses the history of the sound cues he created for the company’s devices, such as the famous Mac "beep" and startup chords, and the camera shutter used on devices like the iPhone.
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Former Apple Sound Designer Discusses History Behind ‘Sosumi’, Mac Startup Tone, and Camera Click

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In the late 1980s Jim Reekes began working as a sound designer for Apple, creating some of the Mac’s most iconic sounds like the “Sosumi” beep, startup chord, and camera/screenshot click. In a new interview with CNBC, Reekes discussed the origins behind each of these sound creations, and what he thinks about the current audio design of Apple devices. Reekes has touched upon these topics before, but they remain interesting for anyone who might not have heard about this part of Apple’s history.

Reekes explained that the reason for the name “Sosumi” began with a lawsuit from The Beatles’ record label, also named Apple. At the time, Steve Jobs promised that his company would stay focused on computers and not get involved with music, so that the two similarly named companies could coexist.

After Macs added support for audio recording and MIDI (a standard that connects musical instruments to computers), The Beatles sued and forced Reekes to rename any sound effect that had a “musical-sounding name.”

Reekes’ frustration with the lawsuit eventually led him to the name “Sosumi,” because it sounded like “so sue me.” Today, Sosumi is still available as an alert sound in the Mac System Preferences.

One of his beeps, originally called “Xylophone,” needed a new name. “I actually said I’m gonna call it ‘let it beep’ and of course you can’t do anything like that, but I thought yeah, ‘so sue me.’ And then I thought that’s actually the right name,” Reekes said. “I’ll just have to spell it funny, so I spelled it Sosumi.”

He told the lawyers it was a Japanese word that didn’t mean anything musical. “That’s how that Sosumi beep came around,” Reekes explained. “It was really me making fun of lawyers.”

Reekes also looked back on the Mac’s original startup tone, which annoyed him “immensely” because the Mac crashed so many times that it was easy to equate the tone with a frustrating situation. Although he didn’t have permission to change it, he recorded a new c-major chord in his living room and used The Beatles song “A Day in the Life” as inspiration.

Jim Reekes and the keyboard he used to record the original Mac startup sound via CNBC

Eventually, Reekes managed to sneak the sound into the original Macintosh Quadra computer.

Some engineers at Apple were not happy with the change. “Our excuse was it’s too risky to take it back out at this point because something could crash,” he said. “We just made up some bulls—.”

It stuck, and years later Apple even trademarked the start-up sound. It’s one of the few sounds that’s trademarked, along with the NBC chimes and the Intel signature sound. “Kind of silly right?” Reekes smirked. “I’m playing a c-major chord and it’s famous and it’s a copyright.”

On the topic of startup sounds, Reekes voiced his disappointment in the lack of any startup chimes on most Macs today, and gave his opinion on the company’s current overall sound design. “I haven’t really seen much interesting audio coming out of Apple for a while,” he said. Reekes left Apple in the late 1990s and is now a consultant and “out of the sound design business.”

There are plenty of other tidbits from Apple’s sound design history in the interview, including the origins of the camera click heard on Mac screenshots and in the iPhone’s camera app, taken from Reekes’ old 1970s Canon AE-1. To read more from the interview, visit CNBC‘s website.

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