Pages Navigation Menu

The blog of DataDiggers

Categories Navigation Menu

Madrona Venture Labs raises $11M to build companies from the ground up

Posted by on May 15, 2019 in alpha, Amazon, Artificial Intelligence, blake irving, eBay, economy, entrepreneurship, erik blachford, Facebook, Finance, GoDaddy, madrona venture group, Microsoft, money, Private Equity, Seattle, spencer rascoff, Startup company, TC, Trinity Ventures, Venture Capital, venture capital Firms, venture capital funds, Zillow | 0 comments

In regions where would-be entrepreneurs need a little more support and encouragement before they’ll quit their day job, the startup studio model is taking off.

In Seattle, Madrona Venture Labs (MVL), a studio founded within one the city’s oldest and most-celebrated venture capital firms, Madrona Venture Group, has raised $11.3 million. The investment brings the studio’s total funding to $20 million.

Traditional venture capital funds invite founders to pitch their business idea to a line-up of partners. Sometimes that’s a founder with an idea looking for seed capital, other times it’s a more mature company looking to scale. When it comes to startup studios, the partners themselves craft startup ideas internally, recruiting entrepreneurs to lead the projects, then building them from the ground up within their own safe, protective walls. After a project passes the studio’s litmus test, i.e. shows proof of traction, product-market fit and more, it’s spun out with funding from Madrona and other VCs within its large and growing investor network.

For aspiring entrepreneurs deterred by the risk factors inherent to building venture-backed startups, it’s a highly desirable route. In the Pacific Northwest, where MVL focuses its efforts, it’s a chance to lure Microsoft and Amazon employees into the world of entrepreneurship.

“We want to be an onboard for founders in our market,” MVL managing director Mike Fridgen, who previously led the eBay-acquired business Decide.com, tells TechCrunch. “In Seattle, everyone isn’t a co-founder or an angel investor. Not everyone has been at a startup. A lot of people coming here are coming to work at Amazon, Microsoft or one of the larger satellite offices like Facebook. We want to help them fast-track learning, fundraising and everything else that comes with launching a successful company.”

Fridgen, MVL managing director Ben Elowitz, who co-founded the online jewelry marketplace Blue Nile and chief technology officer Jay Bartot, the co-founder of Hulu-acquired Vhoto, lead Madrona’s studio effort.

The investment in MVL comes in part from its parent company, Madrona, and for the first time, outside investors have acquired stakes in the practice. Alpha Edison, West River Group, Founder’s Co-op partner Rudy Gadre, Zillow co-founder Spencer Rascoff, former GoDaddy CEO Blake Irving, Trinity Ventures venture partner Gus Tai, TCV venture partner Erik Blachford and others participated.

With $1.6 billion in assets under management, Madrona is known for investments in Seattle bigwigs like Smartsheet, Rover and Redfin. The firm, which recently closed on another $100 million for an acceleration fund that will expand its geographic reach beyond the Pacific Northwest, launched its startup studio in 2014. Since then, it’s spun-out seven companies with an aggregate valuation of $140 million.

“There are some 85 VCs that have $300 million-plus funds,” Fridgen said. “In Seattle, we have two of the most valuable companies in the world and we have just one [big fund], Madrona; it’s the center of gravity for Seattle technology innovation.”

Companies created within MVL include Spruce Up, an AI-powered personal shopping platform, and Domicile, a luxury apartment rental service geared toward business travelers. Domicile was co-founded by Ross Saario, who spent the three years ahead of launching the startup as a general manager at Amazon. The company recently raised a $5 million round, while Spruce Up, co-founded by serial founder Mia Lewin, closed a $3 million round in May.

Other spin-outs include MightyAI, which was valued at $71 million in 2017; Nordstrom-acquired MessageYes, Chatitive and Rep the Squad. The latter, a jersey rental business, was a failure, shutting down in 2018 after failing to land necessary investment, according to GeekWire.

MVL’s latest fundraise will be used to invest in operations. Though MVL does provide its spin-outs with some capital, between $100,000 to $200,000 Fridgen said, it takes a back seat when it comes time to raise outside capital and doesn’t serve as the lead investor in deals.


Source: The Tech Crunch

Read More

GM Cruise snags Dropbox HR head to hire at least 1,000 engineers by end of year

Posted by on Mar 11, 2019 in Arden Hoffman, Artificial Intelligence, Automotive, autonomous vehicles, chief technology officer, cloud storage, computing, cruise, Cruise Automation, Dan Ammann, Dropbox, executive, General Motors, Google, honda, Kyle Vogt, Lidar, Personnel, San Francisco, Seattle, Softbank, Software, software engineering, strobe, Transportation | 0 comments

GM Cruise plans to hire hundreds of employees over the next nine months, doubling its engineering staff, TechCrunch has learned. It’s an aggressive move by the autonomous vehicle technology company to double its size as it pushes to deploy a robotaxi service by the end of the year. Arden Hoffman, who helped scale Dropbox, will leave the file-sharing and storage company to head up human resources at Cruise.

The GM subsidiary, which has more than 1,000 employees, is expanding its office space in San Francisco to accommodate the growth. GM Cruise will keep its headquarters at 1201 Bryant Street in San Francisco. The company will also take over Dropbox headquarters at 333 Brannan Street some time this year, a move that will triple Cruise’s office space in San Francisco.

“Arden has made a huge impact on Dropbox over the last four years. She helped build and scale our team and culture to the over 2300 person company we are today, and we‘ll miss her leadership, determination, and sense of humor. While we’re sorry to see her go, we’re excited for her and wish her all the best in this new opportunity to grow the team at Cruise,” a Dropbox spokesperson said in an emailed statement. 

Prior to joining Dropbox, Hoffman was human resources director at Google for three years.

The planned expansion and hiring of Hoffman follows a recent executive reshuffling. GM president Dan Ammann left the automaker in December and became CEO of Cruise. Ammann had been president of GM since 2014, and he was a central figure in the automaker’s 2016 acquisition of Cruise and its integration with GM.

Kyle Vogt,  a Cruise co-founder who was CEO and also unofficially handled the chief technology officer position, is now president and CTO.

Cruise has grown from a small startup with 40 employees to more than 1,000 today at its San Francisco headquarters. It has expanded to Seattle, as well, in pursuit of talent. Cruise announced plans in November to open an office in Seattle and staff it with up to 200 engineers. And with the recent investments by SoftBank and Honda, which has pushed Cruise’s valuation to $14.6 billion, it has the runway to double its staff.

The hunt for qualified people with backgrounds in software engineering, robotics and AI has heated up as companies race to develop and deploy autonomous vehicles. There are more than 60 companies that have permits from the California Department of Motor Vehicles to test autonomous vehicles in the state.

Competition over talent has led to generous, even outrageous, compensation packages and poaching of people with specific skills.

Cruise’s announcement puts more pressure on that ever-tightening pool of talent. Cruise has something that many other autonomous vehicle technology companies don’t — ready amounts of capital. In May, Cruise received a $2.25 billion investment by SoftBank’s vision fund. Honda also committed $2.75 billion as part of an exclusive agreement with GM and Cruise to develop and produce a new kind of autonomous vehicle.

As part of that agreement, Honda will invest $2 billion into the effort over the next 12 years. Honda also is making an immediate and direct equity investment of $750 million into Cruise.

Cruise will likely pursue a dual path of traditional recruitment and acquisitions to hit that 1,000-engineer mark. It’s a strategy Cruise is already pursuing. Last year, Cruise acquired Zippy.ai, which develops robots for last-mile grocery and package delivery, for an undisclosed amount of money. The deal was more of an acqui-hire and did not include any of Zippy’s product or intellectual property. Instead, it seems Cruise was more interested in the skill sets of the co-founders, Gabe Sibley, Alex Flint and Chris Broaddus, and their team.

In 2017, Cruise also acquired Strobe,  a LiDAR sensor maker. At the time, Cruise said Strobe would help it reduce by nearly 100 percent the cost of LiDAR on a per-vehicle basis.


Source: The Tech Crunch

Read More

Bottomless has a solution for lazy coffee addicts

Posted by on Mar 11, 2019 in Accelerator, Amazon, Coffee, digital assistant, drinks, Food, food and drink, funding, Google, Philz Coffee, Portland, San Francisco, Seattle, Startups, TC, Y Combinator | 0 comments

If you’re like me, you let out a heavy sigh every month or so when you reach out and unexpectedly find an empty bag of coffee. Bottomless, one of the 200-plus startups in Y Combinator’s latest batch, has a solution for us caffeine addicts.

For a $36 annual membership fee, a cost which co-founder Michael Mayer says isn’t set in stone, plus $11.29 per order depending on the blend, Bottomless will automatically restock your coffee supply before you run out. How? The startup sends its members an internet-connected scale free of charge, which members place under their bag of coffee grounds. Tracking the weight of the bag, Bottomless’ scales determine when customers are low on grounds and ensure a new bag of previously selected freshly roasted coffee is on their doorstep before they run out.

Voilà, no more coffee-less mornings.

Founded by Seattle-based husband and wife duo Mayer and Liana Herrera in 2016, Bottomless began as a passion project for Mayer, a former developer at Nike.com. Herrera kept working as a systems implementations specialist until Bottomless secured enough customers to justify the pair working on the project full-time. That was in 2018; months later, after their second attempt at applying, they were admitted into the Y Combinator accelerator program.

Bottomless’ smart scale

Bottomless today counts around 400 customers and has inked distribution deals with Four Barrel and Philz Coffee, among other roasters. Including the $150,000 investment YC provides each of its startups, Bottomless previously raised a pre-seed round from San Francisco and Seattle-area angel investors.

Before relocating to San Francisco for YC, the Bottomless founders were working feverishly out of their Seattle home.

“This whole time we’ve been 3D-printing prototypes out of our apartment and soldering them together out of our apartment,” Mayer told TechCrunch. “We kind of turned our place into this new manufacturing facility. There’s dust everywhere and it’s crazy. But we made 150 units ourselves by hand-soldering and lots of burned fingers.”

The long-term goal is to automate the restocking process of several household items, like pet food, soap and shampoo. Their challenge will be getting customers to keep multiple smart scales in their homes as opposed to just asking their digital assistant to order them some coffee or soap on Amazon .

Amazon recently announced it was doing away with its stick-on Dash buttons, IoT devices capable of self-ordering on Amazon. The devices launched in 2015 before Google Homes and Amazon Alexas hit the mainstream.

So why keep a smart scale in your kitchen as opposed to just asking a digital assistant to replenish your supply? Mayer says it’s coffee quality that keeps it competitive.

“Some of our most enthusiastic customers live out in like deep suburbs far away from city centers, but they really love fresh coffee,” Mayer said.And there’s no way to get fresh coffee if you live 20 or 30 minutes from a city center, right?”

“Or you might think in a city like San Francisco or Seattle, you can get freshly roasted coffee pretty easily because there are restaurants all over the place, right?” He added. “That’s certainly true, but it does take a little bit of extra thought to remember to grab it on the right day when you’re running low.”

Mayer and Herrera don’t consider themselves coffee experts, despite now running what is essentially a direct-to-consumer coffee marketplace out of Seattle, the coffee capital.

“I’m originally from Portland and Portlanders know a lot about coffee,” Mayer said. “I never really considered myself to be a coffee aficionado or a coffee snob in my head, but I guess compared to like the average American from anywhere in the country, I would be just a regular coffee drinker in Portland. All I really knew about coffee going into this was that it’s better fresh. That’s it.”

Bottomless is currently accepting customers in beta. The team will pitch to investors at YC Demo Days next week.


Source: The Tech Crunch

Read More

WeWork could challenge Starbucks in China with new on-demand service

Posted by on Jan 29, 2019 in Asia, China, executive, Go, Luckin Coffee, mobile payments, naked hub, operating systems, qr code, Real Estate, real-time, Seattle, shanghai, social network, starbucks, WeChat, WeWork | 0 comments

The rise of Starbucks in China, like that in the west, is closely linked to its function as a “third space” for people to hang out between home and work. In recent years, a bevy of coffee entrepreneurs are trying to topple the American giant’s dominance in China and lately, an unexpected contender — WeWork — has joined their camp.

This month, the office tenant and workplace service provider launched WeWork Go, a new feature that allows China-based users to rent a desk by the minute so they are no longer tied to long-term leases. While Starbucks provides free accommodation and charges for coffee, WeWork flips the equation to offer free coffee and paid space. Starbucks is already being squeeze in China by emerging rival Luckin Coffee, a well-funded startup that explicitly pledges to take on the Seattle-based giant with a model that focuses on coffee delivery.

WeWork Go works a bit like other shared services, with an app that lets users check the occupancy of a list of offices in real time before they travel over. Upon arrival, users scan a QR code at the gate, pop the door open, get seated in the common area and the billing begins.

wework go china

WeWork Go available through a WeChat mini program. Screenshot: TechCrunch

The firm says it monitors traffic flow closely so the common space isn’t flooded with fleeting users. Booking private rooms require additional fees. Go claims to have picked up 50,000 registered users so far after piloting for three months across an inventory of 18 locations in Shanghai, where WeWork nestles its China headquarters.

Made for China

Instead of building a native app, WeWork Go operates via a WeChat mini program, a form of a stripped-down app that works within China’s largest social network. Mini programs are an increasingly popular way for startups to trial ideas thanks to their relative ease to develop. “[Go] is a key development of our China localization,” a WeWork spokesperson told TechCrunch.

Go is tailoring to the so-called “part-time users.” “These people would not purchase the monthly membership. They would work at home or a coffee shop, restaurant, or library,” Dominic Penaloza, who heads innovation and technology at WeWork China, told TechCrunch. He first conceptualized the on-demand workplace service at Naked Hub, a smaller local rival WeWork China bought out for $400 million last year. After the merger, the executive alongside his tech team joined WeWork and continued with the project that would later become Go.

The pay-as-you-go feature is also getting rolled out stateside at a new Manhattan location last week.

Penaloza admits Go could be competing with coffee shops for it offers “an alternative type of the third space for freelancers, mobile workers, business travellers or those who want to briefly step aside from their offices for a mental break.” The obvious target is Starbucks, which commands a whopping 51 percent share of the country’s booming coffee market.

Made for WeWork

For WeWork, Go serves as a trial for those deciding whether to sign on monthly subscriptions. What they are weighing is the 1,830 yuan ($271) price tag for a hotdesk in downtown Shanghai. By comparison, Go starts at 15 yuan and goes up to 30 yuan an hour at more prime locations, offering the same perks as the full-time hotdesking plan, which includes access to common spaces, beverages and wifi.

Users can do their math. “If you started as a WeWork Go member, and if you use our service quite a lot, you will realize it’s much more economical to purchase monthly subscriptions. WeWork Go enables WeWork to reach an entirely new market segment,” suggests Penaloza.

The flexible pricing may help WeWork — which generates the bulk of its revenues from large corporations — reach a wider user base. The shared office industry in China has entered what real-estate researcher Jones Lang LaSalle calls the “second phase,” with big firms moving into premium workplaces like WeWork and local player Soho 3Q. Cash-strapped startups, on the other hand, increasingly turn to government-backed incubators for lower costs.

wework china

Photo: WeWork China

Several early users of Go told TechCrunch they found the service delivering a “quieter” and “more comfortable” vibe than most cafes, but distance is key when they are in a rush. WeWork currently has about 60 locations across a dozen major Chinese cities, whereas Starbucks reaches a dense network of 3,330 stores and is shooting for 6,000 by the end of 2022. WeWork China got a boost for locations with the Naked Hub acquisition last year and says it’s open to adding third-party spaces such as restaurants into its inventory, though it has not taken a solid step towards that vision.

“There is a very interesting opportunity in the really downtown area, where WeWork locations and Naked Hub locations are quite full starting from after lunch until 5 pm,” notes Penaloza. “What’s amazing is that restaurants around those locations are quite empty at exactly the same time, so there’s a fascinating opportunity there but we haven’t done anything about it yet.”


Source: The Tech Crunch

Read More

Tencent AI Lab loses key executive

Posted by on Jan 3, 2019 in andrew ng, Artificial Intelligence, Asia, Baidu, bytedance, computing, game publisher, machine learning, natural language processing, online games, optical character recognition, Seattle, Speech Recognition, Tencent, Toutiao, WeChat, Y Combinator | 0 comments

Chinese internet giant Tencent just lost a leading artificial intelligence figure. Zhang Tong, who previously worked at Yahoo, IBM and Baidu, has stepped down after directing Tencent’s AI Lab for nearly two years.

The scientist will return to academia and continue research in the AI field, Tencent confirmed with TechCrunch on Thursday, adding that it hasn’t appointed a successor.

”We are grateful for [Zhang]’s contributions to Tencent AI Lab and continue to explore fundamental and applied research that can make the benefits of AI accessible to everyone, everywhere,” Tencent said in a statement.

Zhang’s departure is the latest in a handful of top AI scientists quitting large Chinese tech firms. In 2017, search giant Baidu lost its chief scientist Andrew Ng who started Google’s deep learning initiative. Last year, the firm suffered another blow as renown AI expert Lu Qi resigned as chief operating officer and moved onto spearheading Y Combinator’s newly minted China program.

Talent is key to a tech firm’s AI endeavor, for a revered leader not only inspires employees but also boosts investor confidence. Baidu stocks plunged following Lu’s exit as markets weighed on the talent gap inside the company, which had poured resources into autonomous driving, smart speakers among other AI efforts. Tencent itself had poached Zhang from Baidu’s Big Data Lab to ramp up its own AI division.

Tencent is best known for its billion-user WeChat messenger and being the world’s largest video game publisher, but it’s also been doubling down on machine learning R&D to serve users and enterprise clients. It launched the AI Lab in April 2016 and opened its first U.S. research center in Seattle a year later to work on speech recognition and natural language processing (NLP).

The AI Lab dives into machine learning, computer vision, speech recognition and NLP. Meanwhile, the social and entertainment giant also works to put fundamental research to practical use, applying AI to its key businesses — content, social, online games and cloud computing.

One beneficiary has been WeChat, which applies NLP to enable seamless dialogues between users speaking different languages. Another case in point is Tencent’s news aggregator Tiantian Kuaibao, which deploys deep learning to recommend content based on readers’ past preference. Kuaibao is a direct competitor to Jinri Toutiao, the popular AI-powered news app run by TikTok’s parent company ByteDance.

To date, Tencent’s AI Lab has a team of 70 research scientists and 300 engineers, according to information on its website. Tencent operates another AI initiative called the Youtu Lab, which focuses on image understanding, face recognition, audio recognition and optical character recognition. While its sister AI Lab falls under Tencent’s research-focus Technology Engineering Group, Youtu is the brainchild of the Cloud & Smart Industries Group, a new unit that Tencent set up during its major organizational reshuffle in October to place more emphasis on enterprise businesses.


Source: The Tech Crunch

Read More

Apple plans major US expansion including a new $1 billion campus in Austin

Posted by on Dec 13, 2018 in Apple, apple inc, apple store, austin, boston, boulder, Colorado, computing, cupertino, Electronic Arts, Energy, Governor, iPhone, Los Angeles, Louisiana, New York, Oregon, pittsburgh, Portland, san diego, Seattle, Steve Jobs, TC, Technology, texas, United States | 0 comments

Apple has announced a major expansion that will see it open a new campus in North Austin and open new offices in Seattle, San Diego and Los Angeles as it bids to increase its workforce in the U.S. The firm said it intends also to significantly expand its presence in Pittsburgh, New York and Boulder, Colorado over the next three years.

The Austin campus alone will cost the company $1 billion, but Apple said that the 133-acre space will generate an initial 5,000 jobs across a broad range of roles with the potential to add 10,000 more. The company claims to have 6,200 employees in Austin — its largest enclave outside of Cupertino — and it said that the addition of these new roles will make it the largest private employer in the city.

Beyond a lot of new faces, the new campus will include more than 50 acres of open space and — as is standard with Apple’s operations these days — it will run entirely on renewable energy.

Apple already has 6,200 employees in Austin, but its new campus could add up to 15,000 more

The investment was lauded by Texas Governor Greg Abbott.

“Their decision to expand operations in our state is a testament to the high-quality workforce and unmatched economic environment that Texas offers. I thank Apple for this tremendous investment in Texas, and I look forward to building upon our strong partnership to create an even brighter future for the Lone Star State,” he said in a statement shared by Apple.

But Austin isn’t the only focal point for Apple growth in the U.S.

Outside of the Austin development, the iPhone-maker plans to expand to over 1,000 staff Seattle, San Diego and LA over the next three years, while adding “hundreds” of staff in Pittsburgh, New York, Boulder, Boston and Portland, Oregon.

More broadly, Apple said it added 6,000 jobs to its U.S. workforce this year to take its total in the country to 90,000. It said it remains on track to create 20,000 new jobs in the U.S. by 2023.


Source: The Tech Crunch

Read More

Starbucks challenger Luckin snags $200M investment on $2.2B valuation

Posted by on Dec 12, 2018 in alibaba, alibaba group, Apps, Asia, Beijing, China, Coffee, E-Commerce, Ele.me, Food, food and drink, food delivery, funding, GIC, idreamsky, luckin, managing partner, Seattle, starbucks | 0 comments

Luckin, a startup that vows to topple Starbucks’ dominance in China, announced on Wednesday that it’s lifted its valuation to $2.2 billion after raising $200 million in a series B funding round.

That came only five months after the coffee upstart, which soft-launched in January, picked up $200 million in investment. Luckin has been on a spending spree to open shop and burnt through $150 million within the first six months in operation, its founder said in July when the company had a cash reserve of 2 billion yuan, or roughly $290 million.

Luckin currently operates across 21 major Chinese cities, totaling more than 1,700 shops. For comparison, Starbucks’s footprint spanned 3,300 stores in China as of May, though one has to take into account that the Seattle coffee chain entered China nearly 20 years ago.

Different from Starbucks, Luckin’s brick-and-mortar facilities are a mix of sit-down cafes and pickup booths, which double as delivery hubs, and take-out kitchens that are solely for delivery staff to pick up caffeine-infused orders and put them in customers’ hands within 30 minutes.

As a result, Luckin managed to build a dense network targeting office workers who may be drawn to the idea of coffee delivery because they can’t leave their desk. There’s at least one Luckin location within a 500-meter radius anywhere in downtown Shanghai and Beijing, the company claimed.

The light speed at which Luckin has expanded in less than a year probably got on the nerves of Starbucks, which went on to team up with Alibaba-owned food delivery giant Ele.me in August to bring coffee to people’s doorstep. The American company aims to expand its delivery services to 30 cities in China by the end of 2018.

Luckin’s co-founder and chief executive officer Qian Zhiya, who is the former chief operating officer at one of China’s largest auto rental firms CAR Inc, said her startup will continue to invest in products, technology and business development to improve user experience following the new round.

Luckin raised the fresh capital from existing investors Singapore sovereign wealth fund GIC, Chinese government-controlled China International Capital Corporation, Joy Capital and Dazheng Capital. Liu Erhai, founding and managing partner of Joy Capital, joined Luckin’s board of directors following the close of the round. Liu’s investment portfolio includes Car Inc, Facebook’s old Chinese rival Renren and Hong Kong-listed game publisher iDreamsky.


Source: The Tech Crunch

Read More

Amazon opens its largest Amazon Go convenience store yet

Posted by on Sep 4, 2018 in Amazon, amazon go, Blue Apron, E-Commerce, eCommerce, Publishing, Seattle, TC | 0 comments

Amazon is picking up the pace when it comes to unveiling its line of “stores of the future,” today opening its second cashier-less Amazon Go convenience store in the last week. More Amazon Go locations are expected to land in other cities soon, though the company has yet to confirm any plans.

The latest location is its third overall and third in Seattle, where it’s headquartered. The 2,100 square feet store sits on the corner of Boren Ave. and Thomas St. and is its largest yet. The first iteration of the Amazon Go store was 1,800 square feet; it opened its doors to the public in a surprise opening in December 2016. The second, measuring 1,450 square feet, began doing business last Monday.

In case you’re unfamiliar, Amazon Go stores cut out the check-out process by charging customers for what the pick up in-store using the Amazon Go app. The company relies on cameras, which are mounted all over the stores, and weight sensors on the shelves to track what shoppers are picking up and to make sure they are charged correctly.

The newest store will have breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack options for sale, a stocked selection of foods, including bread, milk and locally made chocolates, as well as Amazon Meal Kits, a product the company launched in 2017 to go head-to-head with Blue Apron and other meal kit delivery services.


Source: The Tech Crunch

Read More

RideAlong is helping police officers de-escalate 911 calls with data designed for the field

Posted by on Aug 14, 2018 in america, Government, law enforcement, policing, policing tech, public health, San Francisco, Seattle, surveillance, TC, Y Combinator | 0 comments

RideAlong keeps people in mind, and that’s a good thing. The company, founded by Meredith Hitchcock (COO) and Katherine Nammacher (CEO), aims to make streets safer, not with expansive surveillance systems or high-tech weaponry but with simple software focused on the people being policed. That distinction sounds small, but it’s surprisingly revelatory. Tech so oftens forgets the people that it’s ostensibly trying to serve, but with RideAlong they’re front and center.

“The thing about law enforcement is they are interacting with individuals who have been failed by the rest of society and social support networks,” Nammacher told TechCrunch in an interview. “We want to help create a dialogue toward a more perfect future for people who are having some really rough things happen to them. Police officers also want that future.”

Ridealong is specifically focused on serving populations that have frequent interactions with law enforcement. Those individuals are often affected by complex forces that require special care — particularly chemical dependence, mental illness and homelessness.

“I think it is universally understood if someone has a severe mental illness… putting them through the criminal justice system and housing them in a jail is not the right thing to do,” Nammacher said. For RideAlong, the question is how to help those individuals obtain long-term support from a system that isn’t really designed to adequately serve them.

Made for field work, RideAlong is a mobile responsive web app that presents relevant information on individuals who frequently use emergency services. It collects data that might otherwise only live in an officer’s personal notebook or a police report, presenting it on a call so that officers can use it to determine if an individual is in crisis and if they are, the best way to de-escalate their situation and provide support. With a simple interface and a no-frills design, RideAlong works everywhere from a precinct laptop to a smartphone in the field to a patrol car’s dash computer.

Nammacher explains that any police officer could easily think of the five people they interact with most often, recalling key details about them like their dog’s name and whether they are close to a known family member. That information is very valuable for responding to a crisis but it often isn’t accessible when it needs to be.

“They’ve come up with some really smart manual workarounds for how to deal with that,” Nammacher says, but it isn’t always enough. That real-time information gap is where RideAlong comes in.

How RideAlong works

RideAlong is designed so that police officers and other first responders can search its database by name and location but also by gender, height, weight, ethnicity and age. When a search hits a result in the system, RideAlong can help officers detect subtle shifts from a known baseline behavior. The hope is that even very basic contextual information can provide clues that mean a big difference in outcomes.

So far, it seems to be working. RideAlong has been live in Seattle for a year, with the Seattle Police Department’s 1,300 sworn officers using the software every day. Over the course of six months with RideAlong, Seattle and King County saw a 35% reduction in 911 calls. That decrease, interpreted as a sign of more efficient policing, translated into $407,000 in deferred costs for the city.

“It really assists with decision making, especially when it comes to crisis calls,” Seattle Police Sergeant Daniel Nelson told TechCrunch. Officers have a lot of discretion to do what they think is best based on the information available. “There is so much gray space.”

Ridealong has also partnered with the San Francisco Department of Public Health where a street medicine team is putting it to use in a pilot. West of Seattle, Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office is looking at RideAlong for its team of 300 officers.

What this looks like in practice: An officer responds to a call involving a person they known named Suzanne. They might remember that normally if they ask her about Suzanne’s dog it calms her down, but today it makes her upset. Rather than assuming that her agitated behavior is coming out of the blue, the responding officer could address concerns around Suzanne’s dog and help de-escalate the situation.

In another example, an officer responds to someone on the street who they perceive to be yelling and agitated. Checking contextual information in RideAlong could clarify that an individual just speaks loudly because they are hard of hearing, not in crisis. If someone is actually agitated and drawing helps them calm down, RideAlong will note that.

“RideAlong visualizes that data, so when somebody is using the app they can see, ‘okay this person has 50 contacts, they’ve been depressed, sad, crying,’” Nelson said. “Cops are really good at seeing behavior and describing behavior so that’s what we’re asking of them.”

The idea is that making personalized data like this easy to see can reduce the use of force in the field, calm someone down and open the door to connecting them social services and any existing support network.

“I’ve known all along that we’ve got incredible data, but it’s not getting out to the people on the streets,” said Maria X. Martinez, Director of Whole Person Care at San Francisco Department of Public Health. RideAlong worked directly with her department’s street medicine on a pilot program that gave clinicians access to key data while providing medical care in to the city’s homeless population.

Traditionally, street medicine workers go do their work in the field and return to look up the records for the people they interacted with. Now, those processes are combined and 15 different sets of relevant data gets pulled together and presented in the field, where workers can add to and annotate it. “It’s one thing to tell people to come back and enter their data… you sort of hope that that does happen,” Martinez said. With RideAlong, “You’ve already done both things: documented and given them the info.”

Forming RideAlong

The small team at RideAlong began when the co-founders met during a Code for America fellowship in 2016. They built the app in 2016 under the banner of a data-driven justice program during the Obama administration. Interest was immediate. The next year, Nammacher and Hitchcock spun the project out into its own company, became part of Y Combinator’s summer batch of startups and by July they launched a pilot program with the entire Seattle police department.

Neither co-founder planned on starting a company, but they were inspired by what they describe as a “real-time information gap” between people experiencing mental health crises and the people dispatched to help them and the level of interest from “agencies across the country, big and small” who wanted to buy their product.

“There’s been more of a push recently for quantitative data to be a more central force for decision making,” Nammacher said. The agencies RideAlong has worked with so far like how user friendly the software is and how it surfaces the data they already collect to make it more useful.

“At the end of the day, our users are both the city staff member and the person that they’re serving. We see them as equally valid and important.”


Source: The Tech Crunch

Read More

Seattle gets its first staffed Amazon pickup delivery hub

Posted by on Jun 26, 2018 in Amazon, eCommerce, Retail, Seattle, shopping, TC | 0 comments

You’d think Seattle would be first in line for all things Amazon, but apparently the online retailer’s home city didn’t yet have a dedicated brick and mortar Amazon pickup location.

The locations function as little centralized Amazon shipping hubs for normal pickups and returns, but they also enable one-day pickup for a large selection of items available through the online retail giant. The Seattle location will serve the northern part of the city at 14333 Aurora Ave. N.

The first of these locations in the Northwest, “Amazon@DowntownPortland” opened in Amazon’s southerly neighbor city last September. Of course, Seattle does boast two AmazonFresh grocery pickup locations, Amazon Go, a futuristic no-checkout convenience store and likely whatever other future retail experiments the company delves into.

As staffed, standalone Amazon-branded storefronts, the Amazon pickup locations are distinct from the Amazon Lockers found in convenience stores and other locations in many cities. Amazon also notes that these pickup locations offer same-day or one-day pickup for Prime members, in-person assistance and packing supplies for returns. Both flavors of Amazon pickup location are open to non-Prime members, though Prime members also enjoy no order minimums for items sent to a pickup location.

Last year, Amazon targeted college students with a little flurry of college-focused “Instant Pickup points,” essentially convenience stores that functioned as an Amazon shipping center but also kept essentials like beverages, phone chargers and personal care items in stock. Those locations were opened across five U.S. college campuses, located in Berkeley, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Columbus, Ohio and Maryland.

After the student rollout, Amazon began quietly opening more staffed non-college affiliated pickup locations that offered the shipping perks without the student-friendly stocked items. While it declined to list them all out, Amazon tells TechCrunch that it now has more than 30 pickup locations across the U.S.


Source: The Tech Crunch

Read More