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India’s Ola spins out a dedicated EV business — and it just raised $56M from investors

Posted by on Mar 1, 2019 in Ankit Jain, Asia, Automotive, Bhavish Aggarwal, carsharing, Co-founder, Collaborative Consumption, Companies, didi, Didi Chuxing, DST Global, electric vehicle, Flipkart, funding, Fundings & Exits, head, India, ola cabs, Sachin Bansal, Sequoia, Softbank, SoftBank Group, Steadview Capital, temasek, Tencent, tiger global, transport, Uber, United States | 0 comments

Ola, Uber’s key rival in India, is doubling down on electric vehicles after it span out a dedicated business, which has pulled in $56 million in early funding.

The unit is named Ola Electric Mobility and it is described as being an independent business that’s backed by Ola. TechCrunch understands Ola provided founding capital, and it has now been joined by a series of investors who have pumped Rs. 400 crore ($56 million) into Ola Electric. Notably, those backers include Tiger Global and Matrix India — two firms that were early investors in Ola itself.

While automotive companies and ride-hailing services in the U.S. are focused on bringing autonomous vehicles to the streets, India — like other parts of Asia — is more challenging thanks to diverse geographies, more sparse mapping and other factors. In India, companies have instead flocked to electric. The government had previously voiced its intention to make 30 percent of vehicles electric by 2030, but it has not formally introduced a policy to guide that initiative.

Ola has taken steps to electrify its fleet — it pledged last year to add 10,000 electric rickshaws to its fleet and has conducted other pilots with the goal of offering one million EVs by 2022 — but the challenge is such that it has spun out Ola Electric to go deeper into EVs.

That means that Ola Electric won’t just be concerned with vehicles, it has a far wider remit.

The new company has pledged to focus on areas that include charging solutions, EV batteries, and developing viable infrastructure that allows commercial EVs to operate at scale, according to an announcement. In other words, the challenge of developing electric vehicles goes beyond being a ‘ride-hailing problem’ and that is why Ola Electric has been formed and is being capitalized independently of Ola.

An electric rickshaw from Ola

Its leadership is also wholly separate.

Ola Electric is led by Ola executives Anand Shah and Ankit Jain — who led Ola’s connected car platform strategy — and the team includes former executives from carmakers such as BMW.

Already, it said it has partnered with “several” OEMs and battery makers and it “intends to work closely with the automotive industry to create seamless solutions for electric vehicle operations.” Indeed, that connected car play — Ola Play — likely already gives it warm leads to chase.

“At Ola Electric, our mission is to enable sustainable mobility for everyone. India can leapfrog problems of pollution and energy security by moving to electric mobility, create millions of new jobs and economic opportunity, and lead the world,” Ola CEO and co-founder Bhavish Aggarwal said in a statement.

“The first problem to solve in electric mobility is charging: users need a dependable, convenient, and affordable replacement for the petrol pump. By making electric easy for commercial vehicles that deliver a disproportionate share of kilometers traveled, we can jumpstart the electric vehicle revolution,” added Anand Shah, whose job title is listed as head of Ola Electric Mobility.

The new business spinout comes as Ola continues to raise new capital from investors.

Last month, Flipkart co-founder Sachin Bansal invested $92 million into the ongoing Series J round that is likely to exceed $1 billion and would value Ola at around $6 billion. Existing backer Steadview Capital earlier committed $75 million but there’s plenty more in development.

A filing — first noted by paper.vc — shows that India’s Competition Commission approved a request for a Temasek-affiliated investment vehicle’s proposed acquisition of seven percent of Ola. In addition, SoftBank offered a term sheet for a prospective $1 billion investment last month, TechCrunch understands from an industry source.

Ola is backed by the likes of SoftBank, Tencent, Sequoia India, Matrix, DST Global and Didi Chuxing. It has raised some $3.5 billion to date, according to data from Crunchbase.


Source: The Tech Crunch

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With $90 million in funding, the Ginkgo spinoff Motif joins the fight for the future of food

Posted by on Feb 26, 2019 in Amazon Web Services, bEYOND meat, Bill Gates, biotechnology, Breakthrough Energy Ventures, Chief Operating Officer, Co-founder, Food, food and drink, Ginkgo Bioworks, head, Impossible foods, jack ma, Jason Kelly, jeff bezos, John Doerr, manufacturing, Marc Benioff, Masayoshi Son, meat, meat substitutes, meg whitman, michael bloomberg, monsanto, partner, protein, Reid Hoffman, richard branson, TC, Tyson Foods, Vinod Khosla, web services | 0 comments

Continuing its quest to become the Amazon Web Services for biomanufacturing, <a href=”http://ginkgobioworks.com/”>Ginkgo Bioworks has launched a new spinoff called Motif Ingredients with $90 million in funding to develop proteins that can serve as meat and dairy replacements.

It’s the second spinout for Ginkgo since late 2017 when the company partnered with Bayer to launch Joyn Bio, a startup researching and developing bacteria that could improve crop yields.

Now, with Motif, Ginkgo is tackling the wild world of protein replacements for the food and beverage industry through the spinoff of Motif Ingredients.

It’s a move that’s likely going to send shockwaves through several of the alternative meat and dairy companies that were using Ginkgo as their manufacturing partner in their quest to reduce the demand for animal husbandry — a leading contributor to global warming — through the development of protein replacements.

“To help feed the world and meet consumers’ evolving food preferences, traditional and complementary nutritional sources need to co-exist. As a global dairy nutrition company, we see plant- and fermentation-produced nutrition as complementary to animal protein, and in particular cows’ milk,” said Judith Swales, the Chief Operating Officer, for the Global Consumer and Foodservice Business, of Fonterra, an investor in Ginkgo’s new spinout.

To ensure the success of its new endeavor Ginkgo has raised $90 million in financing from industry insiders like Fonterra and the global food processing and trading firm Louis Dreyfus Co., while also tapping the pool of deep-pocketed investors behind Breakthrough Energy Ventures, the climate focused investment fund financed by a global gaggle of billionaires including Marc Benioff, Jeff Bezos, Michael Bloomberg, Richard Branson, Bill Gates, Reid Hoffman, John Doerr, Vinod Khosla, Jack Ma, Neil Shen, Masayoshi Son, and Meg Whitman.

Leading Ginkgo’s latest spinout is a longtime veteran of the food and beverage industry, Jonathan McIntyre, the former head of research and development at another biotechnology startup focused on agriculture — Indigo Ag.

McIntyre, who left Indigo just two years after being named the company’s head of research and development, previously had stints at Monsanto, Nutrasweet, and PepsiCo (in both its beverage and snack divisions).

“There’s an opportunity to produce proteins,” says McIntyre. “Right now as population grows the protein supply is going to be challenged. Motif gives the ability to create proteins and make products from low cost available genetic material.”

Photo: paylessimages/iStock

Ginkgo, which will have a minority stake in the new company, will provide engineering and design work to Motif and provide some initial research and development work on roughly six to nine product lines.

That push, with the financing, and Ginkgo’s backing as the manufacturer of new proteins for Motif Ingredients should put the company in a comfortable position to achieve McIntyre’s goals of bringing his company’s first products into the market within the next two years. All Motif has to pay is cost plus slight overhead for the Ginkgo ingredients.

“We started putting Motif together around February or March of 2018,” says Ginkgo co-founder Jason Kelly of the company’s plans. “The germination of the business had its inception earlier though, from interacting with companies in the food and beverage scene. When we talked to these companies the strong sense we got was if there had been a trusted provider of outsourced protein development they would have loved to work with us.”

The demand from consumers for alternative sources of protein and dairy — that have the same flavor profiles as traditional dairy and meats — has reached an inflection point over the past few years. Certainly venture capital interest into the industry has soared along with the appetite from traditional protein purveyors like Danone, Tyson Foods, and others to take a bite out of the market.

Some industry insiders think it was Danone’s 2016 acquisition of WhiteWave in a $12.5 billion deal that was the signal which brought venture investors and food giants alike flocking to startups that were developing meat and dairy substitutes. The success of companies like Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods has only served to prove that a growing market exists for these substitutes.

At the same time, solving the problem of protein for a growing global population is critical if the world is going to reverse course on climate change. Agriculture and animal husbandry are huge contributors to the climate crisis and ones for which no solution has made it to market.

Investors think cultured proteins — fermented in tanks like brewing beer — could be an answer.

Photograph: David Parry/EPA

“Innovative or disruptive solutions are key to responding to changing consumer demand and to addressing the challenge of feeding a growing world population sustainably,” said Kristen Eshak Weldon, Head of Food Innovation & Downstream Strategy at Louis Dreyfus Company (LDC), a leading merchant and processor of agricultural goods. “In this sense, we are excited to partner with Motif, convinced that its next-generation ingredients will play a vital role.”

Breakthrough Energy Ventures certainly thinks so.

The investment firm has been busy placing bets across a number of different biologically based solutions to reduce the emissions associated with agriculture and cultivation. Pivot Bio is a startup competing with Ginkgo’s own Joyn Bio to create nitrogen fixing techniques for agriculture. And earlier this month, the firm invested as part of a $33 million round for Sustainable Bioproducts, which is using a proprietary bacteria found in a remote corner of Yellowstone National Park to make its own protein substitute.

For all of these companies, the goal is nothing less than providing a commercially viable technology to combat some of the causes of climate change in a way that’s appealing to the average consumer.

“Sustainability and accessible nutrition are among the biggest challenges facing the food industry today. Consumers are demanding mindful food options, but there’s a reigning myth that healthy and plant-based foods must come at a higher price, or cannot taste or function like the animal-based foods they aim to replicate,” said McIntyre, in a statement. “Biotechnology and fermentation is our answer, and Motif will be key to propelling the next food revolution with affordable, sustainable and accessible ingredients that meet the standards of chefs, food developers, and visionary brands.”


Source: The Tech Crunch

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FDA chief summons Altria and JUUL to Washington to discuss teen vaping

Posted by on Feb 8, 2019 in Altria, america, E-Cigarettes, electronic cigarettes, Food and Drug Administration, Government, head, juul, Social Media, Startups, TC, tobacco, Virginia | 0 comments

The head of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is calling Altria and Juul to meet in Washington to discuss their tie-up and how it impacts the companies’ plans to combat teen vaping. Earlier this year, Altria <a href=”https://techcrunch.com/2018/12/20/juul-labs-gets-12-8-billion-investment-from-marlboro-maker-altria-group/”>invested $12.8 billion investment in Juul.

“After Altria’s acquisition of a 35 percent ownership interest in JUUL Labs, Inc., your newly announced plans with JUUL contradict the commitments you made to the FDA,” Commissioner Scott Gottlieb wrote in a strongly worded letter addressed to Altria chairman and chief executive, Howard A. Willard III.

“When we meet, Altria should be prepared to explain how this acquisition affects the full range of representations you made to the FDA and the public regarding your plans to stop marketing e-cigarettes and to address the crisis of youth use of e-cigarettes,” Gottlieb wrote.

The commissioner sent a similarly worded message to Juul’s chief executive, Kevin Burns.

As part of that deal, Juul is getting access to Altria’s retail shelf space; the company is sending out direct communications pitching Juul to adult smokers through cigarette pack inserts and mailings to the company’s database of customers; and the two will combine the power of their respective sales and distribution backend which reaches roughly 230,000 retailers across America.

The recent deal comes only months after Juul released its plan to combat teen vaping — something the FDA had required of the company.

In the commitments it made last year, the vape manufacturer and retailer said it would expand its secret shopper program to make sure underage buyers weren’t getting access to its products; pull its campaigns from social media; and limit sales of non-traditional cigarette flavors (menthol, mint, Virginia tobacco, and “classic” tobacco) to the company’s website — which requires age verification.

Gottlieb isn’t the only one who has a problem with Juul. We’ve written about how the company has lowered the barrier to entry for nicotine addiction.

For Gottlieb, the addition of Altria’s marketing firepower and network of 230,000 retail locations likely isn’t an indicator of a company that’s willing to winnow down access to its products.

“I am aware of deeply concerning data showing that youth use of JUUL represents a significant proportion of the overall use of e-cigarette products by children. I have no reason to believe these youth patterns of use are abating in the near term, and they certainly do not appear to be reversing,” Gottlieb wrote. “Manufacturers have an independent responsibility to take action to address the epidemic of youth use of their products. My office will contact you to arrange a meeting to discuss these issues. Pursuant to your request, we intend to schedule this as a joint meeting with both Altria and JUUL.”


Source: The Tech Crunch

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Ciitizen raises $17 million to give cancer patients better control over their health records

Posted by on Jan 17, 2019 in Alphabet, andreessen, Andreessen Horowitz, Apple, Barack Obama, bill maris, California, General Partner, google ventures, head, healthcare, president, san francisco bay area, TC, United States, Vijay Pande | 0 comments

Ciitizen, the company founded by the creators of Gliimpse (an Apple acquisition that’s been incorporated into the company’s HealthKit) which is developing tools to help patients organize and share their medical records, has raised $17 million in new funding.

Ciitizen, like Gliimpse before it, is an attempt to break down the barriers that keep patients from being able to record, store, and share their healthcare information with whomever they want in their quest for treatment.

The digitization of health records — a featured element of President Barack Obama’s overhaul of the healthcare system back in 2009 — remains an obstacle to quality care and proper treatment nearly a decade later. Hospitals spend millions and the US healthcare system spends billions on Electronic Health Records annually. All with very little too show for the expense.

Those kinds of challenges are what attracted investors in the Andreessen Horowitz -led round. New investors Section 32, formed by the former head of Google Ventures, Bill Maris; and Verily, one of the healthcare subsidiaries that spun out of Google X and is a part of Google’s parent company, Alphabet.

“Ciitizen uniquely understands the challenges cancer patients face – including the intense friction patients experience when managing their medical records in our current healthcare system,” said Vijay Pande, a general partner in Andreessen Horowitz’s Bio fund, in a statement. “Using their deep insights, the Ciitizen team have developed sophisticated technology and tools that remove this friction, putting the power back in the patients’ hands and literally saving lives.”

Pande may be a little biased since Andreessen Horowitz also led the company’s seed funding last July, in what was, at the time, one of the earlier investments from the Bio fund’s latest $450 million second investment vehicle.

“The continued support from Andreessen Horowitz reaffirms the rapid progress we have already made and further validates our potential to significantly impact healthcare globally. Adding Section 32 and Verily to our effort further enhances our ability to transform the way patients engage with their health data,” said Anil Sethi, CEO and Founder of Ciitizen, in a statement.


Source: The Tech Crunch

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Contabilizei raises $20 million to ease Brazilians’ tax pain

Posted by on Jan 15, 2019 in Brazil, Contabilizei, Entrepreneur, Finance, founder, head, hedge fund, investment, Kaszek Ventures, money, TC, Technology, United States, World Bank | 0 comments

Online tax filing and accounting service, Contabilizei, has raised $20 million in a new round of financing led by Point72 Ventures, the early stage investment arm associated with hedge fund guru Steven Cohen’s Point72 Asset Management.

Smart money in both the venture and private equity space has been long Brazil for a bit, and the new investment provides even more firepower to the thesis that Brazil’s startup ecosystem is on the move.

“For the Brazilian ecosystem, the investment represents the trust and the opportunity that we have here in the Brazilian market. For quite some time it was difficult to attract this kind of investment from abroad,” says Contabilizei chief executive Vitor Torres. Even though we had a recession there are technology companies that are growing,” Torres says, saying that the company has already staved off acquisition offers and will eventually eye a potential public offering in U.S. or domestic markets.

Though it was only founded five years ago, the company already has 200 employees and more than 10,000 customers throughout Brazil.

Contabilizei has already audited more than 2 billion reals in customer revenue and saved its users over 500 million reals in taxes. For new companies, Contabilizei will also offer free business registration and formation filings. So far, the company has helped 5,000 new businesses get their paperwork done around the country.

“In Brazil, one of the greatest frictions for a small company is meeting its tax reporting requirements,” said Pete Casella, Head of Fintech & Financial Services Investments at Point72 Ventures. “By building an automated tax accounting service that can deliver services at a fraction of the cost of a traditional accountant, we believe that Contabilizei has established the high trust relationships that will enable it to serve customers in many new ways over the coming years.”

New investors also contributed to the round including the International Financial Corp., an investment arm of the The World Bank, and Quona Capital, Quadrant, and the Fintech Collective. They joined existing company backers Kaszek Ventures, e.Bricks, Endeavor Catalyst, and Curitiba Angels.

“Our goal is to simplify the entrepreneur’s routine so they can focus on their own business and not on bureaucracy. We are only at the beginning, and in three years we want to grow 15 times more,” said Vitor Torres, chief executiver and founder of Contabilizei, in a statement. “We were pioneers in the debureaucratization of accounting in the country and we managed to do it with a quality that surpasses 98% of our customers’ satisfaction.”


Source: The Tech Crunch

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Digital insurance firm Singapore Life raises $33M ahead of Southeast Asia expansion

Posted by on Jan 15, 2019 in Asia, asia pacific, Asset Management, Finance, funding, Fundings & Exits, head, Singapore, singapore life, Southeast Asia | 0 comments

Digital insurance firm Singapore Life has started 2019 with a bang after it raised $33 million across two investments as it eyes new market expansions in Southeast Asia.

The company pulled in $20 million from NYSE-listed Aflac Investment on December 31 and then it added a further $13 million via an investment from Aberdeen Standard Investments, a Scotland-based asset management firm with 50 offices worldwide. These deals take the company to $97 million to date, which included a massive $50 million Series A last year.

Singapore Life was started in 2014 by Walter de Oude, who left HSBC after seven years in charge of its insurance business in Singapore. The idea is a 100 percent digital insurance firm that removes piles of paperwork and passes the cost savings from dispensing with traditional business models on to users. The firm secured a license from the Monetary Authority of Singapore in 2017. It went live later that year and then gathered steam through the acquisition of Zurich Life Singapore’s business portfolio.

Today, its services including life insurance, family coverage, endowment plans, wealth portfolio services and more. The company has offered digital-focused products including an activity tracker and fitness program, a chatbot service and flash sales.

Singapore Life said that both deals are strategic in nature. Aflac said it has inked a reinsurance agreement with the company “on certain protection products” while Aberdeen Standard Investments is “exploring new opportunities to bring our asset management expertise to a broader client base in the region,” according to Hugh Young, its head of Asia Pacific.

With this new money in the bank, Singapore Life is planning to expand into other markets in Southeast Asia, the fast-growing digital region with over 600 million consumers. The company said it plans to begin expanding into new markets and other verticals “over the coming year,” although no further details were provided.

In addition to competing with traditional insurers, Singapore Life’s rivals include venture-backed CXA Asia. Digital insurance and financial has taken off in some Western markets and, of course, China, where internet giants like Alibaba and Tencent have jumped in. Elsewhere in Asia, Hong Kong is welcoming digital-only brands that include Bowtie and OneDegree, both of which have raised capital from VCs.


Source: The Tech Crunch

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American Express acquires Japan-based restaurant booking service Pocket Concierge

Posted by on Jan 15, 2019 in 500 startups, American Express, Asia, cake, chef, concierge, economy, Finance, funding, Fundings & Exits, head, james riney, Japan, Mezi, money, OpenTable | 0 comments

American Express has made an acquisition in Japan after it picked up restaurant booking service Pocket Concierge in an undisclosed deal.

The acquisition was announced in Japanese and in English by James Riney, the head of 500 Startups Japan which invested in Pocket Concierge as one of its first deals in the country.

The service was launched in 2013 to help book quality restaurants, including those that are Michelin-starred and others that have months-long waitlists for reservations. It currently works with 800 restaurants and is available in Japanese, English and Chinese, its closest competitors include OpenTable and local operator TableAll.

American Express said Pocket Concierge will continue as a wholly owned subsidiary. It plans to integrate the business with its card membership services.

Pocket Menu, the parent company, raised a $600,000 seed round, which included 500 Startups and others, before going on to raise an undisclosed Series A and other investments. Founder Kei Tokado is a former chef, and he was joined by co-founder and CFO Tatsuro Koyama in 2015.

“When we were just getting started, we talked about the opportunity for cross-border M&A in Japan. For foreign companies, acquiring locally is a viable way to unlock value in this country. A lot of people rightfully doubted that possibility, as it is so uncommon. Pocket Concierge not only proved that it is possible, but they also found a home at one of the world’s most well-respected companies,” Riney — the 500 Startups lead — wrote.

American Express acquisitions from last year included travel assistant Mezi and U.K-based fintech startup Cake.


Source: The Tech Crunch

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President Bolsonaro should boost Brazil’s entrepreneurial ecosystem

Posted by on Jan 12, 2019 in Amazon, Australia, Bank, Brazil, chicago, chief, Chile, Column, Congress, department of justice, executive, Finance, General Partner, head, Japan, Latin America, Ministry of Economy, petrobras, Politics, president, sao paulo, Singapore, South Korea, switzerland, The New York Times, the wall street journal, United States, University of Chicago, Venture Capital | 0 comments

In late October following a significant victory for Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil’s presidential elections, the stock market for Latin America’s largest country shot up. Financial markets reacted favorably to the news because Bolsonaro, a free-market proponent, promises to deliver broad economic reforms, fight corruption and work to reshape Brazil through a pro-business agenda. While some have dubbed him as a far-right “Trump of the Tropics” against a backdrop of many Brazilians feeling that government has failed them, the business outlook is extremely positive.

When President-elect Bolsonaro appointed Santander executive Roberto Campos as new head of Brazil’s central bank in mid-November, Brazil’s stock market cheered again with Sao Paulo’s Bovespa stocks surging as much as 2.65 percent on the day news was announced. According to Reuters, “analysts said Bolsonaro, a former army captain and lawmaker who has admitted to having scant knowledge of economics, was assembling an experienced economic team to implement his plans to slash government spending, simplify Brazil’s complex tax system and sell off state-run companies.”

Admittedly, there are some challenges as well. Most notably, pension-system reform tops the list of priorities to get on the right track quickly. A costly pension system is increasing the country’s debt and contributed to Brazil losing its investment-grade credit rating in 2015. According to the new administration, Brazil’s domestic product could grow by 3.5 percent during 2019 if Congress approves pension reform soon. The other issue that’s cropped up to tarnish the glow of Bolsonaro coming into power are suspect payments made to his son that are being examined by COAF, the financial crimes unit.

While the jury is still out on Bolsonaro’s impact on Brazilian society at large after being portrayed as the Brazilian Trump by the opposition party, he’s come across as less authoritarian during his first days in office. Since the election, his tone is calmer and he’s repeatedly said that he plans to govern for all Brazilians, not just those who voted for him. In his first speech as president, he invited his wife to speak first which has never happened before.

Still, according to The New York Times, “some Brazilians remain deeply divided on the new president, a former army captain who has hailed the country’s military dictators and made disparaging remarks about women and minority groups.”

Others have expressed concern about his environment impact with the “an assault on environmental and Amazon protections” through an executive order within hours of taking office earlier this week. However, some major press outlets have been more upbeat: “With his mix of market-friendly economic policies and social conservativism at home, Mr. Bolsonaro plans to align Brazil more closely with developed nations and particularly the U.S.,” according to the Wall Street Journal this week.

Based on his publicly stated plans, here’s why President Bolsonaro will be good for business and how his administration will help build an even stronger entrepreneurial ecosystem in Brazil:

Bolsonaro’s Ministerial Reform

President Temer leaves office with 29 government ministries. President Bolsonaro plans to reduce the number of ministries to 22, which will reduce spending and make the government smaller and run more efficiently. We expect to see more modern technology implemented to eliminate bureaucratic red tape and government inefficiencies.

Importantly, this will open up more partnerships and contracting of tech startups’ solutions. Government contacts for new technology will be used across nearly all the ministries including mobility, transportation, health, finance, management and legal administration – which will have a positive financial impact especially for the rich and booming SaaS market players in Brazil.

Government Company Privatization

Of Brazil’s 418 government-controlled companies, there are 138 of them on the federal level that could be privatized. In comparison to Brazil’s 418, Chile has 25 government-controlled companies, the U.S. has 12, Australia and Japan each have eight, and Switzerland has four. Together, Brazil-owned companies employ more than 800,000 people today, including about 500,000 federal employees. Some of the largest ones include petroleum company Petrobras, electric utilities company EletrobrasBanco do Brasil, Latin America’s largest bank in terms of its assets, and Caixa Economica Federal, the largest 100 percent government-owned financial institution in Latin America.

The process of privatizing companies is known to be cumbersome and inefficient, and the transformation from political appointments to professional management will surge the need for better management tools, especially for enterprise SaaS solutions.

STEAM Education to Boost Brazil’s Tech Talent

Based on Bolsonaro’s original plan to move the oversight of university and post-graduate education from the Education Ministry to the Science and Technology Ministry, it’s clear the new presidential administration is favoring more STEAM courses that are focused on Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Mathematics.

Previous administrations threw further support behind humanities-focused education programs. Similar STEAM-focused higher education systems from countries such as Singapore and South Korea have helped to generate a bigger pipeline of qualified engineers and technical talent badly needed by Brazilian startups and larger companies doing business in the country. The additional tech talent boost in the country will help Brazil better compete on the global stage.

The Chicago Boys’ “Super” Ministry

The merger of the Ministry of Economy with the Treasury, Planning and Industry and Foreign Trade and Services ministries will create a super ministry to be run by Dr. Paulo Guedes and his team of Chicago Boys. Trained at the Department of Economics in the University of Chicago under Milton Friedman and Arnold Harberger, the Chicago Boys are a group of prominent Chilean economists who are credited with transforming Chile into Latin America’s best performing economies and one of the world’s most business-friendly jurisdictions. Joaquim Levi, the recently appointed chief of BNDES (Brazilian Development Bank), is also a Chicago Boy and a strong believer in venture capital and startups.

Previously, Guedes was a general partner in Bozano Investimentos, a pioneering private equity firm, before accepting the invitation to take the helm of the world’s eighth-largest economy in Brazil. To have a team of economists who deeply understand the importance of rapid-growth companies is good news for Brazil’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. This group of 30,000 startup companies are responsible for 50 percent of the job openings in Brazil and they’re growing far faster than the country’s GDP.

Bolsonaro’s Pro-Business Cabinet Appointments

President Bolsonaro has appointed a majority of technical experts to be part of his new cabinet. Eight of them have strong technology backgrounds, and this deeper knowledge of the tech sector will better inform decisions and open the way to more funding for innovation.

One of those appointments, Sergio Moro, is the federal judge for the anti-corruption initiative knows as “Operation Car Wash.” With Moro’s nomination to Chief of the Justice Department and his anticipated fight against corruption could generate economic growth and help reduce unemployment in the country. Bolsonaro’s cabinet is also expected to simplify the crazy and overwhelming tax system. More than 40 different taxes could be whittled down to a dozen, making it easier for entrepreneurs to launch new companies.

In general terms, Brazil and Latin America have long suffered from deep inefficiencies. With Bolsonaro’s administration, there’s new promise that there will be an increase in long-term infrastructure investments, reforms to reduce corruption and bureaucratic red tape, and enthusiasm and support for startup investments in entrepreneurs who will lead the country’s fastest-growing companies and make significant technology advancements to “lift all boats.”


Source: The Tech Crunch

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TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2018 dives deep into artificial intelligence and machine learning

Posted by on Aug 23, 2018 in Artificial Intelligence, botiful, China, Claire Delaunay, cognitive science, colin angle, computing, Cruise Automation, CyPhy Works, dario gil, DeepMind, disrupt sf 2018, Emerging-Technologies, General Motors, Google, head, helen greiner, Horizons Ventures, IBM, iRobot, jason mars, Kai-fu Lee, machine learning, MIT, New York City, nvidia, president, quantum chips, quantum computing, Rigetti Computing, Robotics, rodney brooks, San Francisco, Sinovation Ventures, Softbank, stanford, TC, Technology, The New York Times, tim draper, United States, waze | 1 comment

As fields of research, machine learning and artificial intelligence both date back to the 50s. More than half a century later, the disciplines have graduated from the theoretical to practical, real world applications. We’ll have some of the top minds in both categories to discuss the latest advances and future of AI and ML on stage and Disrupt San Francisco in early September.

For the first time, Disrupt SF will be held in San Francisco’s Moscone Center. It’s a huge space, which meant we could dramatically increase the amount of programming offered to attendees. And we did. Here’s the agenda. Tickets are still available even though the show is less than two weeks away. Grab one here.

The show features the themes currently facing the technology world including artificial intelligence and machine learning. Some of the top minds in AI and ML are speaking on several stages and some are taking audience questions. We’re thrilled to be joined by Dr. Kai-Fu Lee, former president of Google China and current CEO of Sinovation Ventures, Colin Angle, co-founder and CEO of iRobots, Claire Delaunay, Nvidia VP of Engineering, and among others, Dario Gil, IBM VP of AI.

Dr. Kai-Fu Lee is the CEO and chairman of Sinovation, a venture firm based in the U.S. and China, and he has emerged as one of the world’s top prognosticators on artificial intelligence and how the technology will disrupt just about everything. Dr. Lee wrote in The New York Times last year that AI is “poised to bring about a wide-scale decimation of jobs — mostly lower-paying jobs, but some higher-paying ones, too.” Dr. Lee will also be on our Q&A stage (after his interview on the Main Stage) to take questions from attendees.

Colin Angle co-founded iRobot with fellow MIT grads Rod Brooks and Helen Greiner in 1990. Early on, the company provided robots for military applications, and then in 2002, introduced the consumer-focused Roomba. Angle has plenty to talk about. As the CEO and Chairman of iRobot, he led the company through the sale of its military branch in 2016 so the company can focus on robots in homes. If there’s anyone that knows how to both work with the military and manage consumers’ expectations with household robots, it’s Colin Angle and we’re excited to have him speaking at the event where he will also take questions from the audience on the Q&A stage.

Claire Delaunay is vice president of engineering at Nvidia, where she is responsible for the Isaac robotics initiative and leads a team to bring Isaac to market for roboticists and developers around the world. Prior to joining Nvidia, Delaunay was the director of engineering at Uber, after it acquired Otto, the startup she co-founded. She was also the robotics program lead at Google and founded two companies, Botiful and Robotics Valley. Delaunay will also be on our Q&A stage (after his interview on the Main Stage) to take questions from attendees.

Dario Gil, the head of IBM’s AI research efforts and quantum computing program, is coming to Disrupt Sf to talk about the current state of quantum computing. We may even see a demo or two of what’s possible today and use that to separate hype from reality. Among the large tech firms, IBM — and specifically the IBM Q lab — has long been at the forefront of the quantum revolution. Last year, the company showed off its 50-qubit quantum computer and you can already start building software for it using the company’s developer kit.

Sam Liang is the CEO/Co-Founder of AISense Inc, based in Silicon Valley. Funded by Horizons Ventures (DeepMind, Waze, Zoom, Facebook), Tim Draper, David Cheriton of Stanford (first investor in Google), etc. AISense has created Ambient Voice Intelligence™ technologies with deep learning that understands human-to-human conversations. Its Otter.ai product digitizes all voice meetings and video conferences, makes every conversation searchable and also provides speech analytics and insights. Otter.ai is the exclusive provider of automatic meeting transcription for Zoom Video Communications.

Laura Major is the Vice President of Engineering at CyPhy Works, where she leads R&D, product design and development and manages the multi-disciplinary engineering team. Prior to joining CyPhy Works, she worked at Draper Laboratory as a division lead and developed the first human-centered engineering capability and expanded it to included machine intelligence and AI. Laura also grew multiple programs and engineering teams to contribute to the development and expansion of ATAK, which is now in wide use across the military.

Dr. Jason Mars founded and runs Clinc to try to close the gap in conversational AI by emulating human intelligence to interpret unstructured, unconstrained speech. AI has the potential to change everything, but there is a fundamental disconnect between what AI is capable of and how we interface with it. Clinc is currently targeting the financial market, letting users converse with their bank account using natural language without any pre-defined templates or hierarchical voice menus. At Disrupt SF, Mars is set to debut other ways that Clinc’s conversational AI can be applied. Without ruining the surprise, let me just say that this is going to be a demo you won’t want to miss. After the demo, he will take questions on the Q&A stage.

Chad Rigetti, the namesake founder of Rigetti Computing, will join us at Disrupt SF 2018 to explain Rigetti’s approach to quantum computing. It’s two-fold: on one front, the company is working on the design and fabrication of its own quantum chips; on the other, the company is opening up access to its early quantum computers for researchers and developers by way of its cloud computing platform, Forest. Rigetti Computing has raised nearly $70 million to date according to Crunchbase, with investment from some of the biggest names around. Meanwhile, labs around the country are already using Forest to explore the possibilities ahead.

Kyle Vogt co-founded and eventually sold Cruise Automation to General Motors in 2016. He stuck around after the sale and still leads the company today. Since selling the company to GM, Cruise has scaled rapidly and seemed to maintain a scrappy startup feel though now a division of a massive corporation. The company had 30 self-driving test cars on the road in 2016 and later rolled out a high-definition mapping system. In 2017 the company started running an autonomous ride-hailing service for its employees in San Francisco, later announcing its self-driving cars would hit New York City. Recently SoftBank’s Vision Fund invested $2.25 billion in GM Cruise Holdings LLC and when the deal closes, GM will invest an additional $1.1 billion. The investments are expected to inject enough capital into Cruise for the unit to reach commercialization at scale beginning in 2019.


Source: The Tech Crunch

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