Thursday, July 11, 2019

Matterport acquires AI special effects startup Arraiy - TechCrunch

Matterport acquires AI special effects startup Arraiy - TechCrunch

Matterport acquires AI special effects startup Arraiy - TechCrunch

Posted: 11 Jul 2019 09:46 AM PDT

Real estate computer vision platform startup Matterport is set to acquire Arraiy, an AI startup aiming to automate special effects processing in film.

Arraiy raised $13.9 million according to Crunchbase, most recently a $10 million Series A in March of 2018. Lux Capital and SoftBank Ventures Asia led the round. Lux Capital notably also led Matterport's Series A back in 2013. In comparison, Matterport has raised about $114 million to date.

Arraiy used AI tech to more seamlessly overlay digital content on physically captured spaces. The company had been firmly focused on changing the way digital effects houses in Hollywood made films. While plenty of computer vision startups were aiming to use AI and AR technologies to bring live Snapchat-like AR functionality to different corners of the web, Arraiy was banking on the high-fidelity world of film, where special effects production is an expensive, time-intensive process.

Arraiy's founders previously started Industrial Perception, a robotics startup that Google acquired in 2013.

The startup tackling Hollywood special effects and a startup best known for digitizing real estate properties to give potential buyers 3D tours might not seem like the most idyllic pairing, but the acquisition might allow Matterport to expand its ambitions further beyond its real estate customer base.

Bitcoin Startup Brings Lightning Network Payments to Amazon, Whole Foods - Cointelegraph

Posted: 11 Jul 2019 01:44 AM PDT

United States-based payments startup Fold has made Lightning Network (LN) payments possible at Amazon, Starbucks, Uber and other big name retailers. The news was revealed in an official blog post published on July 10.

As previously reported, the Bitcoin (BTC) Lightning Network is a second-layer solution to bitcoin's scalability limitations, opening payment channels between users that keep the majority of transactions off-chain, turning to the underlying blockchain only to record the net results.

In its announcement, Fold reveals that participating selected retailers will settle users' LN payments — denominated in satoshis, or one hundred millionth of one Bitcoin — via their prepaid access programs in a currency of their choice. 

LN payments are thus processed via the Fold site, where users can select a retailer and pay the relevant invoice using their Lightning wallet. Once paid, this provides them with a gift card — at a maximum value of $25 — that is redeemable either in-store using a barcode or online via alphanumeric code. 

Beyond the evident scalability and accessibility benefits of providing LN support at major retailers, Fold underscores that its services more broadly aim to keep faith with the cornerstone principles of crypto: meaning no Know-Your-Customer (KYC) checks, a non-custodial system and — in an outburst of Bitcoin maximalism — no support for altcoins.

Beyond the aforementioned Amazon, Starbucks, and Uber, Fold's Lightning payment service is also available for REI, Home Depot, Southwest Airlines, Target, AMC, Whole Foods and others. 

Fold follows other third-party crypto payment processors aiming to provide ways for users to use Lightning at major e-commerce and retail locations. 

This April, fellow startup Moon launched a web browser extension allowing online shoppers to use their Lightning wallets for purchases on Amazon and similar sites. As Fold, Moon serves as an intermediary — meaning that household names like Amazon are for now still not handling or processing the crypto directly.

As reported, Fold had rolled out its Bitcoin payments service — this time explicitly designed as a gift card — that was available for use at retailers such as Starbucks as early as 2015.

This March, blockchain development firm Lightning Labs announced the initial release of the Lightning offramp Lightning Loop, providing a non-custodial way to receive funds via the network.

Medicare Advantage startup Clover Health launches drug development arm - MedCity News

Posted: 10 Jul 2019 02:27 PM PDT

Medicare Advantage startup Clover Health has started a biopharmaceutical division called Clover Therapeutics meant to use data on the health plan's members to help inform the development of new therapies for age-related chronic diseases.

The company has signed an initial partnership with Genentech that will focus on understanding the genetic components that are related to a person's risk of developing ocular diseases like macular degeneration.

The two organizations will work together on designing studies, collecting samples and analyzing resulting data.

Cheng Zhang, the head of Clover Therapeutics, tied his group's mission into the larger ambitions of Clover Health. Clover touts its existing lognititidual data on patients as well as its diverse patient base as contributing to its ability to run more effective and efficient clinical trials.

"We think of ourselves as being in the overall business of improving the outcomes of patients, not just being another health insurer," said Zhang, pointing to the lack of effective therapies for chronic progressive conditions like Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease.

"We're already built a long-term partnership with our members and in addition to the care we're already delivering along that journey, we're attaching additional research touchpoints."

San Francisco-based Clover Health was founded in 2014 and has grown to cover around 40,000 Medicare Advantage patients. The company has raised more than $900 million over its history, but has suffered from issues ranging from recent layoffs to conflicts with lab testing companies.

Clover Therapeutics will be initially focused on combining the clinical insights gleaned through Clover Health with new data sources including digital biomarkers, genomics and imaging collected on the company's research population.

Clover Health has already developed machine learning models that use EHR data, claims data and socio-demographic information to help identify high-risk patients. The idea is to use these same techniques (along with real-world genomic and quantitative molecular data) to build subgroups of patients that will help with targeted development of therapeutics.

"One of the major bottlenecks in drug development is our fundamental lack of understanding about the drivers of diseases. Animals models and computer models are useful, but the best way to understand how human disease works is to look at humans with diseases," said Marcel van der Brug, Clover Therapeutics' chief scientific officer.

The company has used similar techniques before to inform clinical care, launching an in-home primary care service aided by genomic testing.

While Clover Health patients will be the main research base for Clover Therapeutics, Zhang said participants will not be limited to the company's MA plan members.

"What we're looking to do is build a long term patient research community with a dynamic patient base and research touchpoints independent to the insurance business," Zhang said.

Outside of the value created by taking part in clinical research that has the potential to produce new therapeutics, Clover is pitching the benefit of better understanding about their conditions and specific health situations.

"What we're finding when we're engaging them is most have never been invited to participate in clinical research before and they are excited about the prospect to learn more about the disease they or their family members have," van der Brug said.

Clover Therapeutics will work with research collaborators as well as develop its own independent research programs for its drug discovery efforts.

"As far as we know there's no model in which an insurer has set up a drug discovery program integrating research and clinical care, which has traditionally been thought of as separate, but in reality can be quite synergistic," Zhang said.

"We want to be able to help the patients of today through Clover Health and advance the innovative treatments of tomorrow at Clover Therapeutics."

Picture: DrAfter123, Getty Images

‘General Magic’ Review: A Startup Before Its Time - The New York Times

Posted: 11 Jul 2019 04:00 AM PDT

What happens when you invent a future that remains, resolutely, in the future? Sarah Kerruish and Matt Maude's documentary "General Magic" looks at a Silicon Valley startup that in the early 1990s accurately imagined the world we'd be living in today. The developers, designers and engineers at General Magic worked on concepts like e-commerce, touch screens, animated emoticons and, most notably, a smartphone that would contain the world.

But the company, an Apple spinoff, eventually came undone because it couldn't take advantage of the present, as its visionaries overlooked things like the rise of the free internet. (One General Magic developer had a small side project that would become eBay — but was apparently laughed out of the room when he pitched the idea to his colleagues.)

Kerruish herself was hired in 1992 to produce a promotional video for General Magic, which resulted in a bounty of valuable archival footage. The film vividly portrays the company's inventive spirit, and present-day interviews with key employees — many of whom went on to important roles at Google, Adobe and elsewhere — make it clear that their time at General Magic was instrumental in their later successes.

The film does romanticize this era quite a bit, and, particularly in later scenes, leans heavily on soaring drone shots and melancholy music to convey the heartbreak of the company's failure. While aesthetically pleasing, such moments can also feel like filler. "General Magic" is engaging, but there's a tougher, tighter film in here struggling to get out.

General Magic

Not rated. Running time: 1 hour 30 minutes.

Privacy Startup OneTrust Reaches $1.3 Billion Valuation From Its First Funding Round - Forbes

Posted: 11 Jul 2019 05:00 AM PDT

When the European Union passed sweeping consumer privacy protections known as GDPR in April 2016, it sent companies scrambling to update the ways they protect people's personal data. OneTrust CEO Kabir Barday founded his company less than two months later to help those companies navigate GDPR's complicated requirements, seizing an untapped market that has since burgeoned on the heels of other data privacy laws.

Few tech companies top a $1 billion valuation after their first round of funding, but OneTrust catapulted to unicorn status Thursday after raising $200 million in a Series A funding round by New York-based Insight Partners. Richard Wells, a managing director at Insight Partners, joins OneTrust's board as part of the deal. The move bumps the Atlanta company's valuation to $1.3 billion. 

The General Data Protection Regulation, which went into effect in 2018, gives power to consumers in the EU by setting tougher standards for companies on digital privacy, including a version of the "right to be forgotten" that allows individuals to demand their personal data be deleted off a website. Any company with the personal data of EU residents must comply with these new rules about what data it can access and what data it must delete. The regulation also comes down hard on companies who fail to protect their users' data. Earlier this week, the latest and greatest of these fines were handed out: £99 million ($123 million) for Marriott and £183 million ($229 million) for British Airways.

BA's fine is unprecedented, yet regulators could have fined the airline more than double that under GDPR regulations. To safeguard from incurring such fines, companies are turning to privacy tech software. OneTrust provides a platform with features like data mapping automation that help with compliance to the growing number of privacy laws, such as the California Consumer Privacy Act. Competition comes from younger startups, but also long-established cybersecurity and enterprise companies like RSA Security and SAP. Barday says OneTrust stands out thanks to 50 patents, plus 50 more that are pending.

"I wouldn't say it's as much of a race [with competitors] as much as we've really carved out our path of leadership and, and built a really unique moat around us that has created a barrier to entry," said co-chairman Alan Dabbiere.

In three years, the company has amassed 3,000 clients, Barday said, and more than 100 of them are Fortune 500 companies. He, Dabbiere and co-chairman John Marshall have a strong track record in enterprise tech. Dabbiere and Marshall previously founded AirWatch, which was acquired by VMware in 2014 for $1.55 billion, per Pitchbook. Barday, an early employee, left the company and founded OneTrust so he could tackle privacy tech "before anybody was paying attention to it," he said. This background and OneTrust's recent momentum gave Insight Partners the appetite to put so much funding into a Series A investment. "This is not a startup with an idea and a dream. This is a company that's very much at that growth stage," Wells said.

As OneTrust grows, it faces a privacy law landscape that is becoming more complicated. After GDPR passed, similar regulations began to crop up. California became the first state to follow suit with the CCPA, effective in January. "And GDPR and CCPA are just the tip of the iceberg," Barday said. Stricter privacy laws have passed in states like Maine and Nevada, as well as other countries like Nigeria and Brazil.

"Larger organizations are finding that because all of the jurisdictions are doing things slightly different, that this problem has a little bit of the aspect that it's death by 1,000 cuts," Dabbiere said. "We are learning more about what we need to develop faster than we can actually develop it."

OneTrust plans to expand its product lines beyond privacy management software. Some of the Series A funding will go towards software to help companies identity which vendors are safe to do business with, Barday said. The investment will help expand the company's research and development capabilities, but the company has done so well that it didn't need the venture capital backing, Dabbiere said. "The really great news is we didn't even have to do this, we did not need the money. Look, if someone's going to give you $200 million on a three-year-old company, you'd be an idiot to say no."

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