Credits Blockchain Startup Announces New Company Development Directions - newsBTC

Credits Blockchain Startup Announces New Company Development Directions - newsBTC


Credits Blockchain Startup Announces New Company Development Directions - newsBTC

Posted: 31 Mar 2020 08:56 AM PDT

The Credits project, a worldwide company engaged in the development of solutions based on blockchain technologies, has recently announced the release of a new line of products. The new developments will be released over the course of 2020 and will help in popularizing blockchain technologies.The decentralized, distributed ledger capabilities of blockchain technologies are increasingly gaining popularity across the world in a variety of industries. However, multiple economy sectors that can take advantage of the solutions offered by blockchain-based products are still reluctant to start the process of adoption, or are slow in making headway.Despite the slump in global economy forecasts, blockchain-based fintech products are proving to be the most important trend of 2020. The Credits platform is fully committed to the development of fintech products for catering to a variety of sectors operating with monetary transfers.The main products being developed by the Credits project for the fintech industry include the following:1) The Credits Wallet is a convenient and all-in-one solution with an integrated delegation and staking functions. The given features allow users to stake their native CS coins and earn passive income, while the delegation feature allows them to delegate their funds. The wallet boasts a convenient interface and is designed for the B2C market, as well as private users.2) The Bonoox platform is a specialized instrument that allows users of the Credits infrastructure to release and issue their own loyalty programs. The platform caters to businesses of any size and offers instant payouts, as well as exchange of bonus points.3) Credits also issues Cards that can be used for payments worldwide in a variety of fiat and cryptocurrencies. The cards issued by Credits can be topped up using both debit or credit cards from anywhere in the world.4) The Credits Stablecoin is a digital asset with its value pegged to the US Dollar at a 1:1 ratio in the company's bank account. The asset can be used for global remittances and allows fast transfers, as well as easy conversion to fiat."I am confident that products issued by Credits have a great future. The fast-growing e-commerce, fintech and blockchain markets are certain to be successful," as stated by Igor Chugunov, the CEO of Credits.The full line of products offered by the company are available at updated website. The development team is confident that the introduction of its new line of products will have a favorable impact on the fintech industry and will contribute to the adoption of blockchain technologies worldwide 

VR workplace training startup Strivr lands $30 million Series B - TechCrunch

Posted: 31 Mar 2020 09:22 AM PDT

Virtual reality has been two years away from mainstream adoption for the past six years. In that time, huge companies have made big VR bets only to walk away, countless VR startups have faded or flared out and investment has slowed significantly.

Building an attractive VR product for large enterprises to train employees remotely has remained one of the few major areas of opportunity, one that has been largely dominated by Strivr, which just locked down new funding, bringing their total raised to $51 million.

The VR training startup has closed a $30 million Series B round led by Georgian Partners, a Canadian firm that hasn't been very active in the AR/VR space. CEO Derek Belch says the company ended up pitching a few dozen firms in this raise, and that while the feedback was "overwhelmingly positive," there were certainly some skeptics.

"Everyone knows that VR has been slower to adopt and tougher to anticipate," Belch told TechCrunch.

While AR/VR startups seemed to be raising money left and right in 2016 when Strivr closed its seed round, the market is much sparser in 2020 after years of missed estimates and a relentless parade of shutdowns.

While consumer VR startups have almost unilaterally struggled to get off the ground in recent months, there has still been movement among enterprise offerings. Earlier this month, a competing VR training platform, Talespin, closed $15 million in funding. In late January, enterprise AR/VR teleconferencing app Spatial locked down $14 million. HaptX, which makes a high-end VR glove for enterprise use cases, nabbed $12 million in December.

Landing post-Series A funding has remained a tough challenge for VR enterprise startups, where players are often positioning themselves to be judged in relation to their VR peers rather than to a Salesforce, Box or Atlassian.

"Nobody can get beyond a pilot program," Belch said. "Investors want to know how real this market is and where the target is."

Strivr emerged from Belch's research at Stanford in 2014 as a VR application made to help football players train off the field. Belch had previously been a kicker for Stanford's football team, and his co-founder Jeremy Bailenson led the school's Virtual Human Interaction Lab, a leading research hub that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg visited while doing diligence on the Oculus deal.

As virtual reality gear was further commoditized and investment in the space grew hotter, Strivr soon pivoted from sports training toward workplace training, pitching their solution as a better way for companies to hand top-down instruction to employees. Their software offering is often a combination of interactive 360 videos and computer-generated scenarios that require more active participation from a trainee.

While other VR startups have pushed to integrate phone or tablet-based experiences, Belch says that he has pushed back on customer requests to move away from headset-only experiences toward phone-based 360-degree videos.

"Those are not our disruption, those are gimmicky and a cheap way to bring a new logo on," Belch says.

The company's customer base now includes FedEx, JetBlue, Verizon and BMW. Their biggest get was a deal with Walmart in 2017 that eventually grew into a company-wide rollout across all of their stores, a massive deal that Belch says has been a "blessing and a curse" due to the rollout's scale.

"You have to be smart in terms of what you do that's Walmart specific," Belch told TechCrunch. "They'll swallow you whole if you let them."

Alongside the company's funding news, the startup has announced that they've received a patent to use motion data to predict how effective users will be at the real-world task post-training. Strivr now has 22,000 VR headsets out in the wild, which Belch says have registered 1.6 million sessions. The hardware is all from Oculus.

Strivr is in the fortunate position of closing this deal ahead of the recent pandemic-related market uncertainty — a situation that has complicated their ability to meet with prospective customers and has raised issues with sanitation that Strivr says they have addressed. While Belch sees this Series B as a validation of the customer feedback he's gotten, he also knows that the VR industry remains fraught with challenges.

"Thirty million doesn't last very long if you're stupid; we're going to make sure we're very smart about it," Belch says.

On-demand shuttle startup Via hits $2.25 billion valuation on latest funding round led by Exor - TechCrunch

Posted: 31 Mar 2020 11:59 AM PDT

On-demand shuttle startup Via has hit a $2.25 billion valuation following a Series E funding round led by Exor, the Agnelli family holding company that owns stakes in PartnerRe, Ferrari and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.

The Series E funding round, which included other investors, totaled $400 million, according to a source familiar with the deal. Exor invested $200 million into Via as part of the round, both companies said in an announcement. Noam Ohana, who heads up Exor Seeds, the holding company's early-stage investment arm, will join Via's board.

New investors Macquarie Capital, Mori Building and Shell also participated in the round, as well as existing investors 83North, Broadscale Group, Ervington Investments, Hearst Ventures, Planven Ventures, Pitango and RiverPark Ventures.

Via, which employs about 700 people, plans to use most of these funds to expand its "partnerships," the software services piece of its business. Via has two sides to its business. The company operates consumer-facing shuttles in Chicago, Washington, D.C. and New York. But the core of its business is really its underlying software platform, which it sells to cities and transportation authorities to deploy their own shuttles.

When the company first launched in 2012, there was little interest from cities in the software platform, according to co-founder and CEO Daniel Ramot. The company started by focusing on its consumer-facing shuttles. Over time, and using the massive amounts of data it collected through these services, Via improved its dynamic, on-demand routing algorithm, which uses real-time data to route shuttles to where they're needed most.

Via landed its first city partnership with Austin in late 2017, after providing the platform to the transit authority for free. It was enough to allow Via to develop case studies and convince other cities to buy into the service. In 2019, the partnerships side of the business "took off," Ramot said in a recent interview, adding that the company was signing on two to three cities a week before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Today, the Via platform is used by more than 100 partners, including cities such as Los Angeles and Cupertino, Calif., and Arriva Bus UK, a Deutsche Bahn company that uses it for a first and last-mile service connecting commuters to a high-speed train station in Kent, U.K.

Raising funds in a pandemic

Via managed to close the funding round during an inauspicious time for startups that have found it increasingly difficult to lock in capital due to the COVID-19 pandemic. COVID-19, a disease caused by the coronavirus, has upended markets, along with every industrial and business sector, from manufacturing and transportation to energy and real estate.

Via managed to raise a sizable fund, which just closed, despite the credit tightening and uncertainty. Ramot told TechCrunch that while he was worried the round might be delayed, he noted that Exor is a long-term and patient investor that shares the company's "same vision of where transit is going."

Even now, as nearly every category within transportation — including public transit, ride-hailing, shared micromobility and airlines — has seen ridership drop or dry up altogether, Ramot and Ohana see a promising future.

Ohana said that the market is starting to understand the limits of ride-hailing — hurdles such as poor unit economics and an uncertain path to profitability. "On the other hand, the size of the market for an on-demand dynamic shuttle service is large and underappreciated," Ohana said. "When we look at public transit today, there is a significant opportunity for Via, which already has impressive experience working with municipal and public transit partners across the globe."

That doesn't mean Via is immune to the widespread tumult caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Via's consumer business has been negatively affected as ridership has dropped due to the spreading disease.

However, there has been some promise with its partnerships business, Ramot said.

Existing partners, a list that includes transit authorities in Berlin, Germany, Ohio and Malta, have worked with Via to convert or adapt the software to meet new needs during the pandemic. A city might dedicate its shuttle service to transporting goods or essential personnel. For instance, Berlin converted its 120-shuttle fleet transport to an overnight service that provides free transit to healthcare workers traveling to and from work.

"There has been a real interest in emergency services," Ramot said, adding he expects to see more demand for the software platform and the flexibility it provides as the pandemic unfolds.

Toilet Paper Startup Ramps Up And Rolls In Wake Of Coronavirus Pandemic - NPR

Posted: 31 Mar 2020 08:08 AM PDT

Local demand from individuals, senior centers, stores and the state prison system is unspooling every roll as fast as the workers at this Maine plant can wind them. Nick Woodward /Maine Public Radio hide caption

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Nick Woodward /Maine Public Radio

Local demand from individuals, senior centers, stores and the state prison system is unspooling every roll as fast as the workers at this Maine plant can wind them.

Nick Woodward /Maine Public Radio

The coronavirus pandemic has led to the panic-buying of one item in particular: toilet paper.

Stores have been rationing the goods, in some cases, doling out as little as one roll apiece. This sudden demand for what some are calling "white gold" is proving a challenge — and an opportunity — for one fledgling family business in Maine, where the paper industry has seen some hard times.

"It's been insane. I don't sleep much," says owner Marc Cooper. But he's up, overseeing the early shift anyway. It's a busy, industrial scene of forklifts and pallets, and workers hustling from machine to machine, turning out rolls of tissue. It has been this way since his toilet paper startup, Tissue Plus, was forced into sudden go mode.

"So unfortunately, we weren't quite prepared for this to happen so quickly," Cooper says, "but we're doing our best to meet the demand. We've been very fortunate that there's been a good workforce available."

Shouting over the din of some proprietary machinery that does something we're not allowed to describe, employee Jeff Clement is busy keeping the rolls on the rails.

"Try to make sure they go in there nice and straight," he explains. "If they get crooked, it'll mess everything up."

Clement spent 30 years working at a nearby mill before it closed in 2014. An abundance of skilled paper workers like Clement is one reason Cooper decided to use his life savings to launch a new toilet paper factory in Bangor, Maine — a small riverside city probably most famous for its association with several Stephen King horror stories, including as inspitation for the setting of It.

The area's paper-making heritage, coupled with an availability of raw material made sense. And the product made sense, since it was something people would need every day.

Cooper has been able to take on 20 full-time workers so far. One of them is Peter Hamel who spent decades at another mill before it closed in 2006. Hamel says he never thought he would see a new paper plant nearby, but he's hopeful.

"I think we're gonna make it," he says. "It's an opportunity and it's good for the area, [brings] employment into the area."

And right now, he's making one of hottest items on the planet. And Cooper is hearing from all over the world.

"I actually received an inquiry from the country of Iceland yesterday," he says. "Grocery store chains from Florida, distributors from around the country. The demand is insane for toilet paper."

Tissue Plus is churning out toilet tissue and paper towels 18 hours a day, but even local demand from individuals, senior centers, stores and the state prison system is unspooling every roll as fast as the workers can wind them. Cooper says the company also donates a number of rolls to help homeless shelters and pantries get through the crisis.

Cooper says it'll take another 15 to 20 workers to get the plant up to its full speed of about 80 rolls per minute, around the clock.

He's hoping that a new online toilet paper subscription service he has just launched at tissueplus.com, among other ideas, will help fund those jobs. He's also planning to donate some of the money he brings in to helping those hurt by the pandemic.

But new enterprises are notoriously unprofitable. Cooper says so far, they've only seen money "go in one direction": out.

There are signs of a turnaround. In February, Cooper says Tissue Plus almost broke even, and with demand for the most important paper in the house only increasing, he's predicting that the company will break even, and maybe even turn a small profit.

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