African incubator MEST has a new MD and 11 fresh startup investments

Pan-African incubator MEST announced investments in 11 startups from its 2019 cohort that will each receive $100,000 in financing.

The $1.1 million backing for a graduating class is the largest to date for the Accra-based organization — which operates as a training program and seed fund for African innovators to build successful commercial tech companies.

By country presence and membership, MEST is one of Africa’s largest tech hubs, and has a new managing director — Ashwin Ravichandran — who succeeded Aaron Fu in July.

This year’s investment recipients come from four countries: Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana and South Africa. The startups offer goods and services across diverse sectors, from agtech to fintech to beauty and entertainment (see full list below).

Ghanaian fintech startup Bezo Money will use the funding from MEST to launch its app aimed at formalizing and digitizing West Africa’s traditional savings groups, founder Mubarak Sumaila told TechCrunch on a call from MEST’s Accra offices.

MEST 2019 cohort graduate and investment recipient Zuri has created a platform to organize, review and connect beauty services and professionals to clients online. “The global beauty services industry is worth over $100 billion and the African market is worth over $30 billion,” said Zuri founder Onyinye Nnedolisa. The company will use its investment funds on product development and business development.

Zuri Mest Startup Africa

MEST takes equity in its portfolio startups, which have 18 months of incubation support from the organization, including the option to work out of MEST incubators in multiple African markets, MEST’s new MD Ashwin Ravichandran told TechCrunch.

On future focus, MEST is looking to expand to additional countries. It currently has incubator spaces in Ghana, South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya and has a strong eye on setting up shop in Cote d’Ivoire, according to Ravichandran.

MEST will continue its entrepreneurial training programs, aimed at shaping founders who can launch companies, and maintain a strong focus on developing and investing in Africa’s early-stage startups.

MEST is funded primarily by Norwegian entrepreneur and philanthropist Jorn Lyseggen’s Meltwater Foundation. For several years, the incubator has discussed forming a full on VC fund.

That could be imminent. “We have all the pieces in place right now, I think Jorn’s just figuring out the last steps before announcing it,” said Ashwin. The VC fund would have more capital and go beyond MEST’s seed-stage investments to consider Series stage rounds to African startups.

Africa has seen a boom in tech hubs over the last decade that have become focal points for startup formation, digital skills building, events and IT activity.

A joint GSMA, Briter Bridges report tallied 618 tech hubs across the continent. Like MEST, many of the hubs got their start from grant funding, and there’s an ongoing conversation about viability and sustainability for these spaces going forward.

TechHubsinAfricain2019 Briter BridgesIncreasingly, some of the largest African hubs — such as MEST, Nigeria’s CcHub and Kenya’s iHub — have moved toward more fee-based services and investment activities to generate greater operating revenue. On whether this is a future model for Africa’s tech hubs, “Yes, it definitely is,” Ravichandran said.

Startups interested in joining MEST’s 2020 cohort, and potentially gaining investment upon graduation, can get recruitment updates online.

Here’s MEST’s list and description of the 11 ventures from its 2019 class that earned $100K seed rounds:

  • Massira: a social support network and healthcare service aggregator for women,
    launching in Ghana
  • BezoMoney: a digital savings platform for traditional savings groups, launching in Ghana
  • Farmula: a web and USSD platform to create a direct connection between farmers and businesses using an automated process to increase order efficiency, launching in Kenya
  • CoFundie: a platform for crowd-sourcing funds for the development of buildings using cost efficient and time-saving techniques, launching in Nigeria
  • Niqao: a financing platform that connects merchants and lenders to enable them to offer customers the option of paying in installments, launching in Ghana
  • Saada: a messaging and mobile money ticketing services for increasing digital sales and data collection, launching in Kenya
  • Nadia: a personalized automated health companion that provides quick medical attention and prescriptions, launching in Kenya
  • Kweza: a service that enables informal retailers to order products at the best price and receive deliveries directly to their stores, launching in South Africa
  • CoVibes: a platform that pairs verified studios and producers, allowing them to list their profiles and manage bookings while enabling artists to find and collaborate with them and each other, launching in Nigeria
  • Adi+Bolga: a platform using the power of technology and community to gather data and create conversations around the black skin and black skincare, launching in Ghana
  • Zuri: a platform that helps beauty professionals manage their customers and provides an easy way for people to find and book beauty services, launching in Nigeria

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Xiaomi launches Mi A3 Android One smartphone with 48MP rear camera in India for $181

Google has found a committed partner for Android One in Xiaomi. The Chinese electronics giant today announced the launch of Mi A3, an Android One smartphone, in India as the company looks to expand its handset offering in its most important market.

The Mi A3, which is the third Android One handset from Xiaomi, features mid to high-end hardware modules at an affordable price point. It sports a 6.088-inch HD+ (1560X720 pixels) AMOLED display, a trio of 48MP, 8MP and 2MP camera sensors on the back to take detailed and sharp photos, and a 32MP selfie shooter.

The Mi A3 comes in two variants: one that bundles 4GB RAM and 64GB of storage that is priced at Rs 12,999 ($181). The second variant, which features 4GB RAM and 64GB of storage, is priced at Rs 15,999 ($223). Both of them are powered by Qualcomm Snapdragon 660 processor.

A lot about Android One’s future is riding on the Mi A3, which was first unveiled by Xiaomi in Spain last month. Xiaomi said the Mi A1 and Mi A2 handsets that it launched in last two years remain the most popular Android One handsets. For Android One, phone vendors work closely with Google to get faster software updates and offer a “stock” Android experience without the bells and whistles that phone makers and carriers pre-install on their handsets.

xiaomi androidone

Xiaomi has tried to not cut any corners to appease users, Manu Jain, the India head and Xiaomi VP of Global operations, said at a media conference today.

The Mi A3 handset houses a fairly large 4030mAh battery, a 3.5mm headphone jack, and supports external microSD card should you need more storage — three things that are too often too much to ask for.

Xiaomi says it has also incorporated a fingerprint sensor into the display to allow users to quickly unlock the phone. (It also supports unlocking via facial recognition.) You can check rest of the specs here.

For Xiaomi, India has emerged as its most important market. The company has been the top smartphone vendor in India for eight straight quarters.

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Fresh out of Y Combinator, Tandem lands millions from Andreessen Horowitz

Tandem, one of the most sought after companies to graduate from Y Combinator’s summer batch, will emerge from the accelerator program with a supersized seed round and an uncharacteristically high valuation.

The months-old business, which is developing communication software for remote teams after pivoting from crypto, is raising a $7.5 million seed financing at a valuation north of $30 million, sources tell TechCrunch. Airbnb investor Andreessen Horowitz is leading the round.

Tandem and a16z declined to comment for this story. The round has yet to close, which means the deal size is subject to change. Y Combinator startups raise capital using SAFE agreements, or simple agreements for future equity, which allow investors to buy shares in a future priced round at a previously agreed-upon valuation.

We’re told several top venture capital firms were vying for a stake in Tandem. One firm even gifted the founders a tandem bike, sources tell TechCrunch, resorting to amusing measures to sway the Tandem team. But it was a16z — which has an established interest in the growing future of work sector, evidenced by its recent investment in the popular email app Superhuman — that ultimately won the coveted lead investor spot.

Tandem provides a virtual office for remote teams, complete with video-chatting and messaging capabilities, as well as integrations with top enterprise tools including Notion, GitHub and Trello. The service launched one month ago and has signed contracts with Airbnb, Dropbox and others. The company claims to be growing 50% week-over-week.

“Every company is a remote company,” Tandem chief executive officer Rajiv Ayyangar said during his pitch to investors on day two of Y Combinator Demo Days this week. “You have salespeople in the field, [companies with] multiple offices, people working from home. Tandem isn’t just building the future of remote work, it’s building the future of work.”

Ayyangar was previously a data scientist at Yahoo before joining Yakit, a startup seeking to simplify ecommerce delivery, as the director of product. Co-founders Bernat Fortet Unanue and Tim Su are also Yahoo alums.

We’re told Tandem’s fundraise was nearly complete before it pitched to investors Tuesday afternoon. Startups that participate in YC are often flooded with offers from VCs throughout the three-month program. Firms are hungry for the batch’s Airbnb, Dropbox or Stripe — graduates of the program — and will pay premiums on startup equity for their chance to invest in a future ‘unicorn.’

As a result, the median seed deal for U.S. startups in 2018 was roughly $2 million — a record high — with typical pre-money valuations hovering north of $10 million. Tandem’s seed financing represents both a trend of swelling seed deals and valuations, as well as a tendency for VCs to dole out more cash to fresh-from-YC companies amid heightened competition amongst their peers.

The previous YC batch, which wrapped up in March, included ZeroDown, Overview.AI and Catch, a trio of companies that pocketed venture capital ahead of demo day. ZeroDown, a financing solution for real estate purchases in the Bay Area, raised upwards of $10 million at a $75 million valuation before demo day, sources told TechCrunch at the time (months after demo day, Zero Down announced a whopping $30 million financing). ZeroDown was an outlier, of course, as the company’s founders had previously co-founded the billion-dollar HR software company Zenefits.

As for the summer batch, we’re told Actiondesk, Taskade and Tandem are amongst the startups to garner the most hype from investors. Some even forwent the demo day pitch altogether. BraveCare, which is creating urgent care clinics intended just for kids, raised $4.1 million ahead of demo day, we’re told. The company opted not to pitch to additional investors this week.

You can read about all the company’s that pitched during demo day one here and demo day two here.

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Here are the 82 startups from day 2 of Y Combinator’s S19 Demo Days

Team TechCrunch was back for Day 2 of Y Combinator’s Summer 2019 Demo Days where we heard from another massive chunk of startups that are taking disruption very seriously, even if they’re aiming to upend companies that only launched in Y Combinator a few classes ago.

The total class of on-record Demo Days launches came to 166 startups, after 82 presentations today. If you missed out on our tireless coverage yesterday, check that out too. We also picked our 11 favorites from yesterday’s batch here.

Here’s what we all saw today:

  • Asher Bio: Starting off YC Day 2, this startup is trying to help your body stave off cancer. Asher Bio is building immuno-therapy drugs that ramp up your immune system to take on cancer cells. Existing therapies can lead to severe side effects, but the ex-Pfizer co-founders claim their early tests on mice have shown that they are “close to solving” the problem with 1,000x more precision than existing solutions.

demoday talar

  • Talar: No more grocery shopping or grocery placing — Talar delivers grocery and meal-kits directly to customers. Dubbing itself a “last-meter delivery” business, the company actually delivers groceries directly into customer’s fridges. The company charges a $10 delivery fee as well as a 10% mark-up on each product it delivers. Talar has launched in San Francisco and has 90 customers today.
  • spotLESS Materials: This startup created a liquid-infused coating designed to keep surfaces clean and repel anything, from water to poop. The coating itself is a super slippery surface that virtually nothing can attach to. spotLESS launched just two weeks ago and already has contracts and pilots in place worth $166,000. Some partners include the U.S. Navy and Pennsylvania State, which is using it in their bathrooms.
  • With so many SaaS companies saturating Silicon Valley, there’s a need for another SaaS company that will manage your other SaaS subscriptions. Purchasing software is a broken system, in that different customers pay different prices for the same software. Vendr created a self-serve process to help companies purchase, renew and manage their software subscriptions, and they’re targeting high-growth early-stage companies as early customers in what they say is a $10 billion market. 
  • Trella: Trella connects shippers to truck drivers in the Middle East to improve efficiency and increase transparency. The company says that shipping costs 3x as much in the Middle East as it does in the U.S.
  • Business Score: Business Score is helping companies automate background checks on other businesses. The startup is looking to stamp out tired manual processes that largely mean picking up the phone and scouring documents. The single API taps data sources across the web to build out real-time profiles that can help customers scan businesses in an effort to prevent fraud, qualify leads and onboard new clients.
  • Fit to Form: For women that struggle to find clothes that fit, Fit to Form has created an online shopping platform for locating clothes that fit women according to their exact measurements. The startup, like many in the batch, is founded and led by a pair of Stanford computer science graduates. Fit to Form says there are 52 million women in the U.S. that spend $660 per year online shopping — a big opportunity to solve the “online shopping industry’s biggest challenge.” 

demoday shiru

  • Shiru: Shiru creates protein designed to replace dairy and eggs. Shiru leverages computational design to make new versions of the core ingredients that go into the food products we consume daily. Already, Shiru has identified seven viable protein candidates and has three letters of intent from major food and ingredient companies. 
  • Coco: Most money transferred from Venezuelan migrants back to their families goes toward food. Coco allows Venezuelan migrants to send food home rather than money. Coco says it is already making $10,000 in monthly revenue. The startup partners with mini markets to make food purchases and takes a 20% cut of their sales, allowing a commission-free outcome for customers. Coco’s founding team built the first bitcoin exchange in Venezuela. 
  • Arpeggio Bio: This startup provides an RNA-profiling technology for watching how medications work within the body. They call it a “debugger for cell biology.” With $750K in revenue this year, the company says they’re working with four of the top 10 pharma companies, including Novartis. 
  • Canix: The cannabis industry is growing rapidly, but unsurprisingly the farmers and government regulators are still figuring out how to navigate compliance smoothly. Today, farmers are having to manually tag every single marijuana plant they grow. Canix is building compliance software that helps farmers easily scan bar codes and send data to the government.
  • Gen1E Lifesciences: One of several biotech startups to pitch Tuesday morning, Gen1E claims to cure inflammatory diseases. The company uses computational chemistry to identify drugs that work for specific illnesses. The company is launching with a focus on ARDS, which currently has no treatment. Gen1E says they are targeting a $100 billion market for inflammatory and age-related diseases. 
  • Embrace: Designed to help developers push better code, Embrace makes it easy for mobile developers to identify bad code and fix bugs faster. Already, companies like Wish, Goat, OkCupid, Headspace and Boxed use Embrace. The company has grown to $1 million in annual recurring revenue. 
  • Microverse: This company calls itself a Lambda school for software developers in emerging countries. The Microverse model doesn’t employ teachers, but uses a peer-to-peer learning model to prepare its student-engineers for the professional world. The company makes money with an income-share agreement, in which students pay 15% of their salary to the startup (although it did not specify for how long). The founder says that 50,000 people have applied to Microverse since it launched in January 2019, and 100% of its first cohort graduated with a job and is now paying them back. Microverse says it’s making an average of $6,000 per student. Because there are no teachers to pay, the founders are claiming 90% margins. 
  • Wingman: Wingman is a bot for phone sales representatives. It listens to sales calls and generates cue cards in real time to suggest possible answers/responses. Charging $80-$100 per month per rep, they’re currently seeing $5K in monthly recurring revenue, with 55% month-over-month growth.

demoday kraftful

  • Kraftful: Kraftful is aiming to help the companies making smart home devices make apps that are less awful. The startup was founded by former IFTTT team members and is looking to makes “white label” apps that can offer uniform UIs with regular updates. They are working with IoT companies on a SaaS pricing model and say they already have a $300K LOI from one firm.
  • Encellin: This biotech startup has developed what it calls a “shark cage” to protect sells. The company, led by two PhD founders, will enter the clinic next year with a human trial focused initially on diabetes treatment. Ultimately, Encellin will go after all chronic disease with technology that treats missing, damaged or diseased cells with next generation cell transplants.
  • Proof Trading: This is an institutional equities broker that aims to get investors better prices. Already, Proof has letters of intent from six top-tier funds. The total addressable market is $7.4 billion per year.
  • Mudafy: This tech-enabled real estate startup considers itself the “Compass for Latin America.” In LatAm, selling and renting homes is a broken system, and an innovative solution could prove to be a $20 billion opportunity. Buyers and renters are hindered by bureaucratic policies that enforce high interest fees and expensive deposits. Mudafy wants to improve the renting and buying process with its software operations platform. 
  • Globe: Globe provides Airbnb-style home rentals, done by the hour. As an example use case, they mention traveling professionals that need private/quiet locations to work or take calls. The company says its current customers book an average of 2x a week.
  • Cuboh: Restaurants have kind of been bombarded by the app-ordering economy and have a handful of tablets dedicated to each delivery app. Cuboh is building an app that integrates the order volumes from these apps into a single experience so that restaurants don’t need multiple employees approving multiple orders on multiple tablets. 

demoday LUCID

  • Lucid Drone Technologies: Lucid builds drones that spray buildings with cleaning liquids and leases them out to cleaning companies for around $3K per month. They’ve currently signed contracts worth about $33K in monthly recurring revenue.
  • MyPetrolPump: This refueling service delivers gas to cars, trucks and generators for B2B customers in India. Since launch, MyPetrolPump has become profitable and grown to a monthly gross merchandise volume of $500K across its 1,400 B2B customers. 
  • Narrator: Narrator is a full-service data team for startups of any size. The team behind Narrator built WeWork’s data infrastructure, and wants to target more startups as early customers. The company says they’re generating $91,000 per month with this business model, but they aren’t stopping there. Narrator wants to build as a cross-company universal standard for data and grow out this library of shared analyses. This strategy allows the company to repurpose the analyses they produce and offer it to new customers. 
  • GitStart: GitStart allows you to send small coding tasks (from JIRA, etc.) to its global network of developers. They charge a fee for each task — but if the developer does a good enough job that you’d like to hire them more permanently, GitStart also makes a commission.
  • Hey Healthcare: More and more Americans are gaining insurance coverage for mental health services, but nearly half of therapist offices don’t take insurance, according to the team at Hey Healthcare, which is building automated medical billing software for therapists. The startup helps therapists get registered and bill insurers, they have already helped process $100K in insurance claims with early customers.

demoday paymongo

  • PayMongo: This FinTech startup targets the Philippines. Specifically, the company is bringing innovation to the payments infrastructure in the country, where the technology is years behind. Companies integrate directly to PayMongo’s APIs or, they can use their pre-built checkout forms, shareable via URLs. The company has signed up 900 merchants since it launched in June.
  • KubeSail: This cloud-hosting provider wants to be as powerful as AWS and as easy as Heroku. KubeSail is a deployment platform built on top of Kubernetes that’s experiencing 23% month-over-month growth. Today, about 3,200 developers have launched cloud applications on KubeSail. 
  • Zenith: This company is building a new virtual world that blends AI, VR and its backend tech to immerse users in new lives online. Zenith, which raised $120,000 on Kickstarter in one week, is the first cross platform world to exist on VR desktop and console. Essentially every screen you own is a window into their world. The company plans to monetize by taking cuts of every item bought or sold on their platform, like property and clothing. The founders have worked at Google and Unity, and co-produced with Oculus.
  • Multis: Multis is a bank to help companies use cryptocurrencies (for things like recurring payments to remote workers) and earn interest on their savings. Twelve weeks after launch, the company says they’re managing more than $2.8 million in crypto. They charge a 1% fee on every transaction, and $900 per year.
  • Vahan: The competing entities of the on-demand economy have some pretty major recruitment needs. Vahan is tackling the issue in India, helping companies like Uber and Zomato reach out to potential recruits via a WhatsApp bot. The startup is earning $20 per successful hire they recruit for their customers.

demoday draftbit

  • Draftbit: This tool is for building apps that are high quality and built from scratch, the company said. Using Draftbit you can build apps visually with production-ready source code. The tool entered beta in February and has worked with 5,000 teams since. The idea is that by using Draftbit, software developers can build apps more collaboratively. 
  • Rejuvenation Technologies: If this startup gets its way, it’ll make it so we all live longer. Through extending the protective cap of DNA that functions as an aging clock, called telomeres, Rejuvenation Technologies aims to reverse aging. Rejuvenation’s drug extends telomeres and is already testing in animals, and says that one dose given to a mouse appeared to turn back the clock the equivalent of five years in humans. The founders envision a world where people take the drug to extend their healthspan and lifespans. 
  • Carve: Carve is a marketplace where people rent cars from dealerships. Right now, 12 million cars are idly sitting at dealerships, depreciating in value. Car sales have declined by 30% since 2014, and if dealerships want to stay alive, they’ll need to find new creative ways to make money. Carve’s founders also believe the rental car industry as it stands doesn’t need to exist, creating a $12 billion opportunity. 
  • Apurata: Apurata provides small loans for Latin America. They did 1,488 loans in July, earning an average of $21 per loan. The company’s founders say that banks in Latin America approve only 9% of loans, whereas Apurata is currently approving around 26% of applicants. 
  • TrustedFor: LinkedIn is just such an awful platform that there’s space for a startup to disrupt it by just remaking it. TrustedFor is building “LinkedIn 2.0,” a platform for professional profiles that is centered around recommendations from people that the users have actually worked alongside. The startup is leveraging the YC network pretty heavily to get associated companies on board.
  • Data Mechanics: Claiming to be “the new Hadoop,” Data Mechanics is a tool for engineers. Their solutions automate performance tuning and other maintenance work for Apache Spark, an open-source computing framework. Ultimately, they plan to expand to provide an end-to-end platform in which data engineers write code and they run it for them. The service is currently live.

demoday Listle

  • Listle: Listle is a platform to listen to audio versions of stories on the internet. Listle, which launched in July 2019, has created a library of 900 audio articles. For customers, it costs $8.99 per month.
  • Digi-Prex: This monthly medication delivery platform says it is up to 15% cheaper than local pharmacies. The company is targeting patients with chronic diseases in India and using WhatsApp to acquire its customers, of which it now has 5,000. With 60 million Indians spending $150 per month on prescription medications, the company identifies a $9 billion opportunity. 
  • Cloosiv: A Starbucks-style mobile ordering experience for smaller coffee shops, aggregating many indie shops into one app, Cloosiv currently has more than 250 coffee shops, and is adding roughly three new shops per day. We wrote about Cloosiv here.

demoday figments

  • Figments: Figments is looking to take the eSports market by storm with a network of virtual influencers that the team hopes can become the “WWE for eSports.” The team is creating characters with fictional storylines and is bringing custom voice acting to tailor the characters to different users around the globe.
  • Vouch: Vouch provides business insurance to startups because “bad things happen to good startups,” the founder explained. Using Vouch, the insurance process starts at $200 per year which is apparently much cheaper than most products available on the market. Vouch also has risk management tools so companies can focus on company-building. Vouch has launched in Utah and will be in 10 states by the end of the year.
  • Tandem: Tandem is a virtual office for remote teams that lets people see who is online, what they’re working on and who is available to talk. The software takes a Discord-like approach to letting users see what work apps their co-workers are in. Currently, Tandem has more than 450 active teams using the product and is seeing 50% weekly growth. Already, companies like Airbnb, Spotify, Dropbox and WeWork use Tandem. 
  • The Custom Movement: This company wants to make custom sneakers at more accessible price points. “If you’re rich or poor, you should be able to afford cool sneakers that you love,” says the founder. The Custom Movement wants to build out the world’s first marketplace for custom sneakers made by independent artists, following the assertion that “Nike is evil.” Within a few weeks of launch, Custom Movement has 70 artists selling 7,000 sneakers on its platform, and has brought in $26,000 in sales.

demoday lazy lantern

  • Lazy Lantern: The startup analyzes your historical web app analytics and uses that knowledge to alert you if something unexpected happens (like traffic to a certain page suddenly spiking). You plug it into your existing analytics systems, and it’ll notify you via Slack if it detects an abnormality. They’re currently working 40 companies, and say they’ve received a letter of intent from Snap.
  • Vitau: The online pharmacy craze is still in its infancy even after high profile M&A in the space, and Vitau is looking to get at the forefront of that market in Mexico. The startup is launching a subscription pharmacy for patients with chronic diseases. Just by approaching their first target market of those prescribed diabetes medications, they say they’re entering what could be a $12B market.
  • Wren: This greentech startup helps people take action against climate change. Here’s how it works: users sign up on Wren and begin tracking their carbon footprint. Then, the company plants trees to make up for its users’ carbon footprint on a monthly basis. The company launched two months ago and has recently launched Wren as an employee benefit.
  • Sequence Bio: Sequence Bio is a genome project looking to leverage genetic data to discover new drugs. The company says the best data comes from genetically isolated populations and those with uniform medical records — Newfoundland has both. So far, Sequence Bio has collected over 800 samples and is working with pharma and biotech companies to license data for drug development. 
  • Curtsy: Curtsy is targeting Gen Z clothing buyers with its mobile marketplace for resale items. The founder says that Gen Z shoppers have different buying habits than previous generations, in that they seek fashion built for rotation. Buyers want to sell last week’s outfit to fund next week’s outfit, and need a marketplace to rotate out items. Cutsy believes it can offer this service and eventually make $2 billion in the U.S. 
  • Refinery Labs: The startup is building a drag-and-drop interface system for deploying new features using linkable code blocks. Refinery says the functionality it adds is automatically scalable, secure, and stable. 2 weeks after launching, they have 43 paying companies onboard. 
  • TradeID: Yesterday, we saw a Robinhood clone for India, today we’re seeing that same model built for Indonesia. It’s also using fractional shares so that people can get skin in the game with minimal buy-in. The team says they’re live and compliant in Indonesia and have logged $500k in transactions since launch.
  • Lofty AI Lofty AI is building what they claim to be the first reliable method for tracking neighborhood demand to help real estate investors make more informed investment decisions. Lofty AI recommends properties to investors and if the investors decide to purchase, they enter into a contract that gives them 20% of the profit. However, if the value of a property goes down, Lofty says they will cover all of the investors losses.

demoday Z Imaging

  • Z Imaging: This startup is creating augmented reality guided tools for surgical procedures. The aim is to make surgery easier and more accurate by providing surgeons with an internal view of the body. So far, Z Imaging has received letters of intent from leading hospitals worth about $360,000. For hospitals, Z Imaging charges $15,000 per month. Z Imaging is in the pre-FDA submission phase but expects to conduct a clinical study this January, and hopes to receive FDA approval by the end of next year. 
  • Tensil: This startup turns machine learning models into custom chips that can replace GPUs. AI companies depend on machine learning, and are spending $3 billion on GPUs. This company produces auto-generated chips that it says are 50% smaller, 10 times faster and 20 times more energy efficient than GPUs. 
  • FeaturePeek: FeaturePeek is working on a tool to help developers/designers get feedback earlier in the development cycle. They build a test environment for every GitHub branch/pull request. Users can comment directly on the page, and use the built-in tools to take screenshots. They are looking to charge users $16-19 per user per month. We wrote about FeaturePeek here.
  • Khabri: The podcast platform wave has washed over plenty of internet-immersed markets, but platforms like Apple Podcasts and Spotify lack traction in India. Many users are stuck with YouTube audio but Khabri is looking to build up a network of exclusive podcasts with 2,500 creators. The team already has 60,000 DAUs who use the app an average of 20 minutes per day.
  • Mindset Health: This startup founded built by two brothers is seeking to treat IBS using hypnotherapy. Mindset Health says they’ve already helped over 280 people improve their IBS, earning $5,600 in monthly recurring revenue. They claim IBS is a $3 billion market in the U.S. Mindset plans to scale its service to provide treatments for other issues, including anxiety and chronic pain.

demoday carry

  • Carry: Carry is a corporate travel assistant that helps you plan, book and offer support — all via Slack, but using real humans. This month, Carry has booked $160,000 worth of corporate travel. Current customers include Segment, Orthly, Stanford Graduate School of Business and others.
  • A customer support platform that lets companies get feedback from users through SMS and WhatsApp. The company describes itself as similar to Qualtrics and Zendesk, but with one big difference: Qualtrics and Zendesk were built for desktop web and email. Treble is built for mobile-first, chat-based communication. Treble says there are 100,000 companies that serve their users through mobile apps, and it wants to be the startup that manages their customer support. The startup scored Colombian logistics unicorn Rappi as their largest customer, and is seeing $16,000 in MRR. 
  • AudioFocus: This team helps users hear their friends in noisy environments like restaurants and conferences. Their app builds a fingerprint of your friend’s voice (or “voice prints” as they call them) based on a few minutes of recorded speech, then filters out other sounds and voices that don’t match this fingerprint and plays this edited audio stream to the user through headphones.
  • Mighty Health: Mighty Health is creating an app that replicates some of the experiences of cardiac rehab centers. Insurance companies are paying for people who have suffered from heart problems to get healthier and avoid further hospital trips, but many patients complain about the cardiac rehab programs being too far away or too inconvenient to access. There’s an app for that.
  • Asayer: Asayer’s software shows video of everything a company’s customers do on its software to identify bugs. It’s like looking over your user’s shoulder, the company’s founder explains, making it much easier for teams to instantly identify where the problems in their code are. Asayer’s vision is to go after the $10 billion market of people developing web apps. Asayer launched in June and says it has tripled its revenue since then.
  • Gmelius: Gmelius is a Gmail tool built to help teams manage projects, operate a help desk and automate daily processes. The team aims to replace Mailchimp, Asana, Trello, Zendex and many more by integrating with your Gmail inbox. Gmelius currently has 100,000 daily active users taking with $180,000 of monthly recurring revenue. 
  • This team is building a restaurant operating system for Latin America-based businesses. The Latin America point-of-sale market for businesses is worth $2 billion. Online ordering apps represent 20% of restaurant sales in Latin America, but restaurants don’t have passable hardware or software options to manage this growing demand. Multiple tablets are needed for multiple services and there’s no centralized software to help businesses manage online ordering. mipOS wants to be a one-stop-shop management system for restaurants. 

demoday voyage

  • Voyage Biomedical: (IMAGE) Voyage Biomedical is creating a system which the company says limits brain damage during an ischemic stroke — where a clot prevents blood flow to the brain — by quickly cooling the brain until doctors are able to remove the blockage. They’ve tested the device on a pig while stopping blood flow to the brain; they say the pig survived, and made a full recovery. Co-founder Robert Schultz is a cardiac surgeon.
  • LineLeap: What OpenTable is for restaurants, LineLeap wants to be for bars and nightclubs. The company is the app experience for alcohol, people can pre-order drinks or pay to skip the line at a particularly packed bar. The teams says that they’ve amassed $30k in MRR and helped 1 customer earn an extra $25k per month just by letting customers pay to skip lines.
  • ReverCare: This company has created a platform for helping people care for their aging parents. ReverCare connects families to social workers, who in turn connect them to eldercare services and help with senior living and care logistics. The company says they are going after a $13 billion market. 
  • Hutsy: Hutsy is a real estate brokerage that aims to make it easier to buy houses through an online experience. Since launching four weeks ago, Hutsy has closed on three homes. Instead of hiring more real estate agents, Hutsy scales through its automation software. 
  • Eden Farm: Eden Farm delivers fruits and vegetables to restaurants in Indonesia. Restaurants are still purchasing poor-quality produce, and Eden Farm thinks it can replace the local middle-man in this equation while simultaneously helping local farmers. The platform provides a way for farmers to forecast the market demand for their produce. This isn’t a new idea; EdenFarm wants to be the Sysco for Indonesia and eventually expand to neighboring areas in Asia. Eden Farms pegs the market opportunity at $30 billion. 
  • Beacons AI: Beacons AI is letting users further monetize their fandom. It’s a payments platform for influencers that allows users to pay to ask these influencers questions and receive short video responses. Beacons takes 25% of every transaction. 

demoday monaru

  • Monaru (IMAGE) People are lightly connected to lots of people on Facebook, Monaru is aiming to help customers foster closer bonds with a few close friends or family members. Monaru is building a virtual assistant for people’s personal relationships. The company’s app prompts people to connect with their closest friends and helps them reach their personal goals for their friendships. 

Shift HealthSubscription-based revenue cycle technology tailored for the healthcare industry. The business is the second from the founders, who claim to have built the best accounts receivable software for hospitals and clinics.

DirectShifts: Connects doctors to hospitals for short-term shift work, with 51 hospitals on board so far. DirectShifts uses technology to decrease the hiring onboarding process to two weeks and makes $5,000 per doctor per month. DirectShifts currently brings in $65,000 in net revenue per month and has a GMV of $435,000. 

Flux This startup enables Latin America-based merchants to accept payments with mobile wallets. Rappi gives people digital wallets, Flux makes it possible for merchants to accept these payments. They are able to process payments without intermediaries like Visa or MasterCard, signifying its intention to grow into not only a service, but a payments network. Flux’s tech is live in 32 restaurants a few weeks after its launch, and the founders say that 800 more are about to go live.

Midtype: Midtype is building backend engineering as a service, meant to allow frontend developers build more without the need for backend engineers. The founders say that 80% of backend features needed by most apps (the databases, payment systems, etc) are the same, so they provide it or make it easily addable.

Waves: Waves is creating a dating app with a focus on matching users with specific sexual fetishes. The company launched a few days ago and already has signed up 750 users. The company says that their market opportunity could be 15 times the size of Grindr.

demoday symplex

Symplex:  The team is developing an AI-based doctor that can diagnose you using your smartphone. The startup says they’ve signed up 15 doctors in the first few weeks, with a goal of expanding into a $2.6 billion market. Here’s how it works: first, you tell Symplex how you’re feeling, then, the company’s machine learning algorithm gauges your condition and provides a detailed initial diagnosis, which is then stored and saved.

Boost Biomes: Boost Biomes has a spray treatment for crops that prevents mold for up to 11 days. Currently, Boost Biomes has more than $1 million worth of letters of intent with customers who will be able to either use the product in the field or after harvest.

Percept.AI: This startup is creating an AI support agent that immediately resolves common customer support tickets. Other solutions can take over 3 weeks of onboarding, quality is often insufficient and the AIs only end up resolving between 10-30% of tickets. Percept.AI says their tech could work to identify 1.2 billion support tickets that go outstanding. They say they can immediately resolve up to 50% of tickets without human intervention, what it describes as an exciting $22 billion market. 

Covela: Covela is an online insurance broker for small/medium businesses in Latin America. The company says it saves customers 40% over competition in the region. 

Stoic: Stoic is an emotional tracking app that checks in with users twice per day to better understand how they are feeling and what obstacles they’re up against. The app guides its “thousands” of users on how to de-stress, feel less angry and improve relationships. Stoic, which charges $70 upfront for an entire year, says its revenue is growing 52% month over month, citing 40% retention rates.

Dover: Dover is a hiring platform that is entirely automated. The software is designed to understand the skillsets your company is looking for and then engages in outbound recruiting. Dover’s candidate sourcing tech has cut humans out of the process, which the company says improves margins. Dover currently has 18 paying customers and is doing $68,000 a month in revenue. 

And that’s a wrap!

Thanks for reading through the full list, we’ll be scouring through our top picks for a post coming soon and we’ll be back at Y Combinator Demo Days next year for their winter 2020 class.

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Why are revenue-based VCs investing in so many women and underrepresented founders?

This guest post was written by David Teten, Venture Partner, HOF Capital. You can follow him at and @dteten. This is part of an ongoing series on revenue-based investing VC that will hit on:

A new wave of revenue-based investors are emerging who are using creative investing structures with some of the upside of traditional VC, but some of the downside protection of debt.

I’ve been a traditional equity VC for 8 years, and I’m researching new business models in venture capital. As I’ve learned about this model, I’ve been impressed by how these venture capitalists are accomplishing a major social impact goal… without even trying to.

Many are reporting that they’re seeing a more diverse pool of applicants than traditional equity VCs — even though virtually none have a particular focus on women or underrepresented founders. In addition, their portfolios look far more diverse than VC industry norms.

For context, revenue-based investing (“RBI”) is a new form of VC financing, distinct from the preferred equity structure most VCs use. RBI normally requires founders to pay back their investors with a fixed percentage of revenue until they have finished providing the investor with a fixed return on capital, which they agree upon in advance. For more background, see “Revenue-based investing: A new option for founders who care about control“.

I contacted every RBI venture capital investor I could identify, and learned:

  • John Borchers, Co-founder and Managing Partner of Decathlon Capital, reports that “37% of our portfolio companies would be considered ‘impact’ qualified companies. This includes companies that would meet most institutional definitions for impact investing (women, minority, and veteran owned/run businesses, including LMI (“Low to Moderate Income”) and CRA (“Community Reinvestment Act”) qualified companies. While we do lots of work in these areas due to the attractive opportunity set, we are not an impact investor, and impact qualification is not a criterion that we use in evaluating or funding companies. On an organic basis, 13% of our portfolio companies are women-owned or run businesses, while 19% of the companies we work with are minority-owned or run. When you look at the composition of the entire founding or executive teams, the number of companies with either a woman or minority in management jumps even higher and is north of 50%.”
  • Indie.VC reports, “…50% of the teams we’ve funded are led by female founders and nearly 20% are led by black founders.”
  • Lighter Capital reports that they’ve funded companies in 30 states, including well established startup hubs and less mature ecosystems.
  • According to Derek Manuge, CEO of Corl, in the past 12 months, 500+ companies have applied to Corl for funding. Of the ones who received capital, “30% were led by women, and 40% were led by executives of non-Caucasian or of mixed ethnic origin.”
  • Feenix Partners reports that “35% of our portfolio companies have either a female or minority (non-Caucasian) CEO or Owner.”
  • Michelle Romanow, co-founder and CEO of Clearbanc, says that “We have funded eight times more women than the venture capital industry average – probably because we’re not doing meetings, which is an amazing accomplishment, and that’s not because we do different sourcing or anything else. It was just because we looked at data.” (Note that Clearbanc has a somewhat different business model than the RBI VCs I list here.)
  • Founders First Capital is the only RBI VC I’ve identified with a specific focus on underrepresented founders. Kim Folsom, Co-Founder, reports that as of August 2019, Founders First’s portfolio was 80% women and 55% women of color; 70% people of color; 20% military veterans; and 71% located in low/moderate income areas. 85% of their companies have under $1m in annual revenues. I can also announce exclusively that according to Kim Folsom, “Founders First Capital Partner (F1stcp) has just secured a $100M credit facility commitment from a major institutional impact investor. This positions F1stcp to be the largest revenue-based investor platform addressing the funding gap for service-based, small businesses led by underserved and underrepresented founders.”

By contrast, according to PitchBook Data, since the beginning of 2016, companies with women founders have received only 4.4% of venture capital deals. Those companies have garnered only about 2% of all capital invested. This is despite the fact that the data says that in fact you’re better off investing in women.

Paul Graham href=””> observes, “many suspect that venture capital firms are biased against female founders. This would be easy to detect: among their portfolio companies, do startups with female founders outperform those without?

A couple months ago, one VC firm (almost certainly unintentionally) published a study showing bias of this type. First Round Capital found that among its portfolio companies, startups with female founders outperformed those without by 63%.”

Image via Getty Images / runeer

Why are RBI investors investing disproportionately in women & underrepresented founders, and vice versa: why do these founders approach RBI investors? 

I’d argue it’s not that RBI is so unbiased and attractive; it’s that traditional equity VC is biased structurally against some women and underrepresented founders.

The Boston Consulting Group and MassChallenge, a US-based global network of accelerators, partnered to study why “women-owned startups are a better bet”. Through their analysis and interviews, BCG identified three primary reasons why female founders are less likely to receive VC funds.

The study used multivariate regression analysis to control for education levels and pitch quality to conclude that gender was a statistically significant factor. I argue that these 3 reasons are much less applicable for RBI investors than for conventional VCs.

  1. Less need for a belief in breakthrough technology. From the study: “More than men, women founders and their presentations are subject to challenges and pushback. For example, more women report being asked during their presentations to establish that they understand basic technical knowledge. And often, investors simply presume that the women founders don’t have that knowledge.” However, companies with a focus on early profitability are less likely to require an investor to believe in complex, hard-to-predict new technology which is hard to diligence. Instead, the company can pitch itself based on a credible financial projection.
  2. Realistic projections. “Male founders are more likely to make bold projections and assumptions in their pitches,” BCG observes, while, “Women, by contrast, are generally more conservative in their projections and may simply be asking for less than men.” However, to raise RBI a woman founder does not need to promise a valuation of $1 billion within 5 years. Rent the Runway co-founder and CEO Jennifer Hyman said in a recent interview with CNBC’s Julia Boorstin, “I haven’t been given the permission or privilege to lose a billion every quarter… I’ve had to bring my company towards profitability…”
  3. Concentration in consumer/branded products startups. BCG reports that, “Many male investors have little familiarity with the products and services that women-founded businesses market to other women”—especially in categories such as childcare or beauty. However, RBI investors report that they see a lot of proposals for ecommerce and consumer packaged goods geared to mothers. Meghan Cross Breeden, Cofounder of Amplifyher Ventures, observes, “Personal customer attachment shouldn’t be a factor in investing; the early investors in Snapchat and Facebook weren’t the Gen Z target demo. Rather, I would imagine that one explanation of women garnering rev-share modes of financing is the prevalence of women-led companies in the consumer/branded goods field, which systemically is more tangible and revenue driven. Therefore, there’s more revenue to share – as opposed to the typical venture business, which requires capital upfront before a J curve of growth.”

Traditional equity VCs are looking for high-risk, high-reward, “swing for the fences” models. The founders of such companies inherently are taking financial risk, reputational risk, and career risk.

Paul Graham, co-founder of Y Combinator, said, “few successful founders grew up desperately poor.” Ricky Yean, a serial founder, agrees: “building and sustaining a company that is “designed to grow fast” is especially hard if you grew up desperately poor”.

Most of the founders of the paradigmatic VC home runs were privileged: male, cisgender, well-educated, from affluent families, etc. Think Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg .

That privilege makes it easier for them to take very high risk. The average person, worried about students loans and long term employability, quite rationally is less likely to take the huge risk of founding a company. It’s far safer to just get a job.

Investors who back diverse teams can win much higher returns than the industry norm. Both RBI investors and the founders they back will hopefully benefit from this pattern.

For further reading

Note that none of the lawyers quoted or I are rendering legal advice in this article, and you should not rely on our counsel herein for your own decisions. I am not a lawyer. Thanks to the experts quoted for their thoughtful feedback.

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Should your new VC fund use revenue-based investing?

You’re working on launching a new VC fund; congratulations! I’ve been a traditional equity VC for 8 years, and I’m now researching revenue-vased investing and other new approaches to VC. The question I’m asking myself: should a new VC fund use revenue-based investing, traditional equity VC, or possibly both (likely from two separate pools of capital)?

Revenue-based investing (“RBI”) is a new form of VC financing, distinct from the preferred equity structure most VCs use. RBI normally requires founders to pay back their investors with a fixed percentage of revenue until they have finished providing the investor with a fixed return on capital, which they agree upon in advance.

This guest post was written by David Teten, Venture Partner, HOF Capital. You can follow him at and @dteten. This is part of an ongoing series on Revenue-based investing VC that will hit on:

From the investors’ point of view, the advantages of the RBI models are manifold. In fact, the Kauffman Foundation has launched an initiative specifically to support VCs focused on this model. The major advantages to investors are:

DoorDash acquires autonomous driving startup Scotty Labs

DoorDash has been on an acquisition tear of late with Scotty Labs as its latest target. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but this comes after DoorDash acquired Caviar in a deal worth $410 million.

Scotty Labs, a tele-operations company that is working on technology to enable people to remotely control self-driving cars, raised a $6 million seed round from Gradient Ventures with participation from Horizon Ventures and Hemi Ventures last March. The startup had previously worked with Voyage for its self-driving cars in retirement communities.

“Our core belief at Scotty has always been that Autonomy + Remote Assistance is the future,” Scotty CEO Tobenna Arodiogbu wrote on Medium. “We have intentionally always considered ourselves to be the anti-hype company and focused intensely on developing core infrastructure and algorithms to ensure the safe deployment of autonomous vehicles.”

Meanwhile, DoorDash quietly brought on the two co-founders from Lvl5, another company that had built tech to create high solution maps for autonomous driving using crowdsourced imagery and computer vision to merge and process the images. In April, Lvl5 announced it was shutting down after the acquisition.

Details of how Scotty Labs and Lvl5 will fit into DoorDash’s business are nonexistent, but you could imagine DoorDash using Scotty’s technologies to remotely control delivery robots or other types of autonomous vehicles.

“We’ll share more updates in the near future but for now, we’re really excited to be part of the amazing DoorDash family and looking forward to building something magical together,” Scotty Labs co-founder Tobenna Arodiogbu wrote on Medium.

From what we understand, the Lvl5 deal was more of an acquihire and did not include any of the maps that were built using the company’s technology. Instead, startup Mapillary obtained that trove of hundreds of millions of images.

DoorDash would not comment on what the new hires are working on, but through its robot pilots and partnership with GM, the startup has made no secret of its interest in exploring autonomous technology, specifically looking at how it can improve the cost and efficiency of deliveries, and it would make sense that it would also want to have in-house expertise to own and manage those projects

DoorDash has experimented with delivery robots before. In 2017, DoorDash partnered with both Starship Technologies and Marble to test food delivery via robot. More recently, DoorDash announced a partnership with GM’s Cruise to test self-driving food delivery cars. DoorDash is also beefing up its in-house team of autonomous and navigation specialists.

This investment in autonomous through its acquisition of Scotty Labs and acquihire of the team from Lvl5 comes at a time when DoorDash says it is revamping its policies around driver wages.

The enthusiasm and potential of autonomous had led to startups creating literally dozens of interesting products that focus on different aspects of this field. But it will take a village to get this tech off the ground, which means that consolidation is inevitable.

DoorDash — operating on the principle of economies of scale — has been pretty aggressive in positioning itself as one of those consolidators. We have heard it tried to merge with Postmates. It bought Caviar this summer. And it has raised an absolute ton of money. In May, DoorDash raised a $400 million round valuing it at $12.6 billion. Meanwhile, DoorDash’s main competitor, Postmates, is gearing up to go public this quarter.

As technology becomes a key way for the crowded arena of delivery startups to differentiate themselves, investing in its own autonomous tech R&D — by way of picking up some of these disparate startups that may have struggled to survive on their own — is one way for DoorDash to build out that tech cred.

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Timbuk2’s Parker is a commuter backpack made for the long haul

It’s finally Bag Week again! The most wonderful week of the year at TechCrunch. Just in time for back to school, we’re bringing you reviews of bags of all varieties: from backpacks to rollers to messengers to fanny packs.

Honestly, I’d thought I’d have grown out of backpacks by this point in my life. I had a year or two flirtation with messengers, but all roads eventually led back to the over-the-shoulder satchel. As a subway commuter who carries around a laptop at all times, it just works for me.

Until recently, however, I never really had much allegiance to any bag companies. I’ve used JanSport and Crumpler and Herschel and have a closet full of promotional bags I’ve accumulated over the years, but any semblance of brand loyalty has been fleeting at best.

Last year, however, I fell pretty hard for Timbuk2’s Never Check (as hard as a man can fall for a travel backpack). The carry-on backpack joined me for two weeks in Asia, traveling to a handful of different TechCrunch events. It addressed my travel needs better than any bag I’ve used, and when I returned to the States, I purchased the company’s Authority Pack for my day to day commute.


I like the bag just fine. It’s got a nice assortment of internal pockets, but lacks the kind of versatility I’d gotten used to with the Never Check. Hoping to split the difference, I asked the company to send its new Parker Commuter Backpack to take for a spin. So far, so good. The bag does a good job delivering much of the Never Check’s amenities on a scale that works for the nearly two or so hours a day I spend commuting in and out of Manhattan.

Waterproofing was key to the choice, as well. I’d recently lost use of a work MiFi in a freak torrential downpour. It was stowed away in a zipped-up pocked I thought was sufficiently insulated against the elements. Turns out, however, that a little water behind the display is a dangerous thing when it comes to a portable Wi-Fi device.

The Parker has that part covered with a wax canvas front, including a couple of external pockets with covered zippers. I was a bit surprised how much of the storage space was monopolized by the trio of out-facing pockets. It’s a 180 from the two slim ones on the Authority.

Here there are zippers on the top and bottom pouches, with the center and largest pocket snapping together with a magnet. It’s an interesting touch and one I’ve not seen much of in backpacks. It does seem to lack the relative security of a zipper, so you might want to skip storing valuables in there, but it makes for easy access, which is great for things like keys. I’ve also not had any issue with the three after getting caught in the rain a couple of times.


On either side there’s a narrow, but expandable slot for an umbrella and/or water bottle. And like the Never Check, the primary zipper expands the bag for additional storage. That’s nice for overnights, or those days when you’re bringing groceries back to the apartment.

Also, like the Never Check, there’s a nearly hidden zipper on the side rear for slipping a 15-inch laptop in and out. Interestingly, that panel can also be accessed through the main compartment. I’m not in love with that part. I do like the way the Never Check keeps the laptop hidden.


There’s plenty of space inside — more than I generally need day to day. There’s plenty of space for my camera, gym shoes and all of the other crap I lug around, day to day. I could, however, have done with additional pockets inside — spots devoted to things like pens. That’s a point for the Authority, which also incorporates a mesh net for loose objects.

The Airmesh back panel is a nice touch, keeping the wearer’s back a bit cooler, especially during this brutal East Coast August. There are plenty of security straps, as well, for cyclists, though those thankfully remove easily for day to day usage.

At $219, the Parker is considerably pricier than the Authority ($129), but it’s got more than enough space and is built to last.

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Walmart sues Tesla for negligence after multiple solar panel fires

Walmart is suing Tesla for breach of contract and gross negligence after rooftop solar panel systems on seven of the retailer’s stores caught fire, according to a filing.

Walmart said the lawsuit, which was filed Tuesday in New York state court, arose from years of gross negligence and failure to live up to industry standards by Tesla and the solar panels it designed, installed and promised to promised to operate and maintain safely on the roofs of hundreds of Walmart stores.”

Bloomberg was the first to report on the court filing. The lawsuit is aimed at Tesla Energy Operations, a division within the clean energy and electric vehicle automaker that was formerly known as SolarCity .

Tesla did not return a request for comment. A Walmart spokesperson said there was nothing else to add beyond the lawsuit filed Tuesday. TechCrunch will update the article if Tesla responds.

Walmart has asked Tesla to remove solar panels from all 240 locations where they have been installed as well as pay for damages related to fires that the retailer alleges stem from the panels. The lawsuit points to several fires on the retailer’s rooftops that allegedly stem from Tesla solar panels.

The lawsuit states:

To state the obvious, properly designed, installed, inspected, and maintained solar systems do not spontaneously combust, and the occurrence of multiple fires involving Tesla’s solar systems is but one unmistakable sign of negligence by Tesla. To this day, Tesla has not provided Walmart with the complete set of final “root cause” analyses needed to identify the precise defects in its systems that caused all of the fires described above. The number of defects, however, is overwhelming and plainly indicative of systemic, widespread failures by Tesla to meet the standard of care, as set forth in the governing contracts, as to the solar systems installed at Walmart’s stores.

Unsatisfied with Tesla’s actions, Walmart requested in May 2018 that the company disconnect all of the solar panel systems, according to the lawsuit. Tesla complied. However, Walmart alleges that another fire erupted even after the systems were disconnected.


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YC-backed Stoic is a journaling app with a focus on understanding your feelings

The process of using the Stoic journaling app is simple: You open the app in the morning and the evening, when you’ll prompted to answer a couple questions and perform a few simple exercises.

For example, this evening the app asked me to rate my current level of fulfillment and to identify what made me smile today, while also pointing me to guided exercises like journaling and breathing.

Stoic is part of the current batch of startups at Y Combinator (it’s taking the stage today at Demo Day). Founder Maciej Lobodzinski told me that his goal is to help users understand the different factors influencing their mental and emotional state.

“The core of the app is: We have this insight and we see what influences your mood and what you feel,” Lobodzinski said. He suggested that this is very different from the “super transactional” idea embedded in my other mental health and wellness apps, where “you pay for my app and you feel better.” In his view, “You should feel how you feel. It’s okay, how you feel, but you should know why you are feeling this way.”

So once there are a couple weeks of data in the app, you should be able to look back and see how you were feeling on a certain day, and if there were activities that made you feel more or less fulfilled. Over time, Lobodzinski hopes to add more insights about “what influenced you, why you feel this way, why you are productive.”

Stoic screen shots

As the name implies, Stoic is inspired by Lobodzinski’s interest in classical Stoic philosophy (he’s not the first to suggest that the approach has direct applications in the tech industry), and the app even includes quotes from Stoic philosophers.

“It’s an extremely practical framework,” he said. “When I talk to users, there are entrepreneurs, investors, traders — people who found out about the app because they were looking for how to deal with their stress …
If you are stressed with your everyday life and you can get the advice of the emperor of Rome, who dealt with much more serious things, it’s amazing how much better you can feel after that.”

At the same time, users have the option to receive quotes from different schools of thought — not just Stoicism but also Buddhism, Taoism and Catholicism. For some users, their app experience won’t be explicitly focused on Stoicism, but Lobodzinski said that even then, it forms the “spine” of the app’s approach.

The basic app is free, but Stoic charges $27.99 per year for a premium version that includes iCloud syncing and additional content.

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