BandLab​ ​Technologies​ acquires Chew.tv, a video streaming service for DJs


Chew.tv, a video streaming service for DJs to show off their mixing skills, has been acquired by BandLab Technologies, the Singapore-based ‘social’ music-making platform. Terms of the deal are undisclosed, though it was widely known that Chew.tv, which has been described as ‘Twitch for DJs,’ had been struggling financially over the last six months.

Originally a graduate of accelerator Ignite, Chew.tv launched in 2015 as an online community for aspiring and professional DJs, with an emphasis on live video. The premise being that dance music DJs are both content consumers and creators, and that Chew.tv could serve both needs, allowing DJs at different levels to learn from and be inspired by each other — not entirely dissimilar to online gamers.

That appeared to find some traction, seeing Chew garner an undoubtedly loyal and passionate user base. In July, it disclosed that the service had a community of 380,000+ users, who, since launch, have collectively created over 120,000 hours of content.

With that said, Chew.tv narrowly avoided the deadpool earlier this year after its streaming infrastructure was “heavily misused” by a nefarious hacker the previous December. “The abuse cost is more than we can afford, and the combined total of that and our regular running costs is enough to put us out of business,” the company emailed users in March.

However, in a nice turn of events, Chew’s community rallied together under the #savedchew hashtag and via £12,000 in donations and an increase in premium subscriptions, the service was saved and the startup, which was down to a single staff member in co-founder Will Benton, lived to fight another day. Which brings us to today’s acquisition.

I’m told that BandLab has acquired all technology & IP of the Chew platform. “We’re not disclosing dollar amounts for the deal. This was a privately funded deal – we worked to find a fair price that both parties were happy with,” says a BandLab spokesperson.

Meanwhile, BandLab​ ​Technologies says Chew.tv will be rebranded as “Chew by BandLab”. In addition, the startup’s live streaming technology will be integrated into BandLab’s web platform, Android and iOS apps “for use by BandLab’s existing user base of close to 2 million users”.

“I am very pleased that Chew will now be supported by the BandLab team. For the past two years I’ve been closely watching the growth and development of this great platform and community of DJs,” said Meng Ru Kuok, BandLab CEO and co-founder, in a statement. “One of the most important parts of being a musician today is performing live, and as an extension of that, it’s extremely important for us to be able to digitally support creators and musicians who want to bring their live performances to the world”.

Chatbot startup founder sees Southeast Asia potential despite slow start worldwide


Chatbots may have underwhelmed thus far, but the impact of the technology still has bags of potential in international markets where mobile messaging has been mainstream for years.

That’s the view of one startup that’s working to bring the benefit of bots to the mainstream in Indonesia, the world’s fourth most populous country and the largest economy in the growing region of Southeast Asia.

Indonesia has been recognized as a global hotspot for social networks like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram in recent years, and messaging app adoption has been equally as strong with Line, Kakao, BlackBerry BBM and WhatsApp among the top choices for the country’s 260 million population.

Kata.ai, a Jakarta-based startup that recently raised $3 million, said it sees huge potential for many industries and segments to tap into the culture of chat to advance their business and customer relations. It operates a platform that lets brands and companies to operate chatbots using the native Bahasa Indonesian language, and not English which is not widely spoken with fluency.

“We are helping brands to provide better engagement, sell stuff and open new revenue generation channels,” Irzan Raditya, CEO of parent company YesBoss Group. “Chat already has a foothold in Indonesia, but now we want to demystify AI and open up other technologies to underserved markets.”

Right now, Kata.ai operates on a number of chat platforms, which include Facebook Messenger, Line, Telegram, Slack and BBM (which is still big in Indonesia), as well as Twitter and Skype.

WhatsApp, the world’s most popular messaging app, is a conspicuous absentee because the company has not yet opened its platform. However, that could change soon with this week’s announcement of plans to integrate business services into the app soon.

YesBoss Group began as a personal assistant service, but it pivoted into chatbots when Raditya noticed that the only solutions were global — and therefore in English — which could only ever have limited impact in markets like Indonesia. He then went ahead and started the first local platform for bots.

Raditya and his team graduated Microsoft’s accelerator program in India

Mobile operator Telkomsel is one of the startup’s most visible clients today, using its platform to power its own-name chat bot that lets customers top-up their balance, change packages and check other information. The company plans to use this new funding — led by Taiwan’s Trans-Pacific Technology Fund — to push business-wise by creating its own in-house sales team. The core tech itself needs development and so a significant portion of the round will go towards hiring the AI and big data talent required.

That’s a tough ask in Indonesia where, despite a large population, there’s a lack of tech talent and particularly individuals with experience in AI and chatbot-related fields. For now, though, Raditya isn’t thinking of opening overseas offices to suck up talent, instead he’s looking locally and for those willing to move (or return) to Indonesia.

Likewise, there’s no immediate expansion plan, but he did suggest that the Kata.ai service will launch in new markets in Southeast Asia at some point next year. But with Indonesia forecast to account for half of the region’s fast-growing internet economy, the startup is at least starting out at ground zero.

Atomico promotes Tom Wehmeier, the European VC firm’s Head of Research, to Partner


Atomico, the European VC fund founded by Skype’s Niklas Zennström, has made another promotion. Tom Wehmeier, the firm’s Head of Research and already an existing member of the investment team, is making the step up to Partner. He joins a spew of recent internal promotions by Atomico, including Carolina Brochado and Teddie Wardi, who both became Partners in January.

In a call, Wehmeier, who first joined Atomico as VP of Research in May 2013 before being promoted to Principal and Head of Research less than two years later, explained that his original background was as a telecoms analyst, witnessing up close the smartphone and mobile internet revolution, with an eye on using data to understand the bigger picture and how something that disruptive could and would play out. At Atomico he has been quietly using those skills internally to help the investment team understand how technology and macro market trends interact with a potential investment.

As he described it, a big part of his job is to model these “what if” scenarios ie what if assumptions about a particular new technology, startup and market trend pan out to be true, rather than end in failure. Specifically, he is tasked with sifting through as much data as possible to model the outcomes and size of opportunity and, of course, the competitive landscape. Or, put more simply, use data and his analytical skills to try to model how the future might play out.

Externally — and not unrelated — Wehmeier authors Atomico’s annual  State of European Tech Report, which is a comprehensive attempt at taking a data-driven pulse on the entire European tech ecosystem. (You can help improve that data by taking a survey for this year’s report here). He’s also written a number of other reports published by Atomico and writes the fortnightly Need-To-Know updates with Atomico Senior Associate Stephen Thorne.

Perhaps unsurprising for a VC firm whose latest fund is $765 million in size and with the level of ambition — from flying taxis to “clean” meat — that Atomico has been displaying lately, its team size and operational support continues to grow. I understand the VC now counts 15 Partners in total.

Including newly promoted Wehmeier, ten are on the investment team, while Atomico’s Growth Acceleration Team has five Partners. In addition, the firm has four senior Executives-in-Residence on the Growth Acceleration Team who are not full time Partners but are senior operators who work with Atomico’s portfolio companies.

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Remember when WhatsApp didn’t want to make money?


WhatsApp is preparing to make money by facilitating conversations between business and consumers.

It’s a great move.

Messaging is huge, and there is vast scope for bringing brands and businesses on board. It’s a process that’s been happening for years, predominantly with Asia-based chat apps that let users follow official accounts, but enterprising business people in emerging markets have long found ways to make use of the hugely popular WhatsApp service despite no features.

Two years ago I wrote that chat apps were becoming as important as social media for brands, and that shift has only continued. So it is high time WhatsApp got on board given its insane userbase of more than one billion people.

But it wasn’t always that way.

WhatsApp once had a very strict focus on messaging only, with plenty of negative words for rival companies who dared to mix business with their chat app product.

June 18, 2012 — WhatsApp blog: Why we don’t sell ads:

No one wakes up excited to see more advertising, no one goes to sleep thinking about the ads they’ll see tomorrow. We know people go to sleep excited about who they chatted with that day (and disappointed about who they didn’t). We want WhatsApp to be the product that keeps you awake… and that you reach for in the morning. No one jumps up from a nap and runs to see an advertisement.

Advertising isn’t just the disruption of aesthetics, the insults to your intelligence and the interruption of your train of thought. At every company that sells ads, a significant portion of their engineering team spends their day tuning data mining, writing better code to collect all your personal data, upgrading the servers that hold all the data and making sure it’s all being logged and collated and sliced and packaged and shipped out… And at the end of the day the result of it all is a slightly different advertising banner in your browser or on your mobile screen.

Remember, when advertising is involved you the user are the product.

To clarify: No messaging apps serve display ads, so WhatsApp CEO Jean Koum — who wrote the post — was referring to WeChat, Line and others that allowed businesses on to their platform to connect with consumer. Back then it was a fairly alien concept.

Now, fast forward five years to this week, without forgetting to note Facebook’s $19 billion acquisition of WhatsApp in 2014

September 5, 2017 — WhatsApp blog: Building for People, and Now Businesses:

We know businesses have many different needs. For example, they want an official presence – a verified profile so people can identify a business from another person – and an easier way to respond to messages. We’re building and testing new tools via a free WhatsApp Business app for small companies and an enterprise solution for bigger companies operating at a large scale with a global base of customers, like airlines, e-commerce sites, and banks. These businesses will be able to use our solutions to provide customers with useful notifications like flight times, delivery confirmations, and other updates.

Interesting.

I also wonder what the WhatsApp team of 2012 would make of Snapchat-clone features sitting in its service today?

It’s funny how things can change over time, and with a little money.

Crunch Report | China’s Central Bank Puts a Ban on ICOs

Today’s Stories 

  1. China has banned ICOs
  2. The Lily drone is kind of back
  3. WhatsApp announces free Business app, will charge big enterprises
  4. Google parent Alphabet forms holding company, XXVI, to complete 2015 corporate reorganization

Credits

Written by: Tito Hamze, John Mannes
Hosted by: Tito Hamze
Filmed by: Tito Hamze
Edited by: Tito Hamze

Notes:

  • I don’t know what to wear on Crunch Report (It’s a hard decision and I suck at dressing myself). If you are a startup and want to me to wear something mail me an XL T-shirt and I’ll wear it in an episode. I’m not going to mention the company on the shirt in the episode but it will be there. No offensive stuff, it’s totally at my discretion if I wear it. Mail it to me. Thanks <3 Ok, bye.

TechCrunch C/O Tito Hamze
410 Townsend street
Suite 100
San Francisco Ca. 94107

The new 2018 Nissan Leaf offers 150 miles of EV range


Nissan unveiled its new 2018 all-electric Leaf at a special event on Tuesday, and the much-anticipated successor to one of the earliest production EVs had some interesting tricks up its sleeve. Most of these focused on intelligent driver assistance features, including ProPILOT semi-autonomous driving and parking capabilities.

The Leaf also had an updated body design, with a more aerodynamic look aimed at helping to make the most of its onboard electric battery. That battery provides 150 miles of range under EPA estimates (400 km or 238 miles under the less conservative Japanese rating agency standards), which is better than the just-over 100 miles of the last generation, but below some of its key rivals at the entry-level including the Tesla Model 3 and the Chevrolet Bolt for range.

The battery can be charged in 16 hours using 3 kW charger, or 8 hours using a high-output 6 kW hour charger. A quick charge option will allow it to gain back 80 percent of its charge in just 40 minutes, too. Higher range, higher power performance version will be available at additional cost in 2018.

Nissan also tried to downplay the ‘EV’ identity of the car, arguing that it’s actually just a car – they’re trying to draw equivalence between electric vehicles and vehicles that use traditional fuel-injection vehicles, as a way of signaling that this will be a much more broad-reaching focus going forward in terms of market ambitions.

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Nissan is also promoting its ProPILOT features here, which offer intelligent, hands-free parking, as well as SAE Level 2 features when driving on single-lane highways, including lane-keeping and maintaining distance between the car and vehicles ahead, with automatic acceleration and braking.

The new Leaf features regenerative braking, which allows for single-pedal driving if you’ve got the foot skills and sense of timing. It has enough friction to hold the vehicle stock still even when on an incline, according to Nissan.

On the inside, there’s a 7-inch full-color TFT touchscreen display, which provides the visuals for the new Safety Shield tech that shows you what’s going on around your car, and it also supports Apple CarPlay for iPhone users.

Further details including U.S. pricing are yet to come, but it is slated to go on sale October 2 in Japan, and deliveries in the U.S., Canada and Europe are likely to begin in January, 2018. Nissan has said that pricing will be comparable to that of the current model, and that it feels “certain” it will be able to at least double or maybe even triple sales at home in Japan.

23andMe is raising about $200 million, led by Sequoia


23andMe is raising close to $200 million in a funding round led by Sequoia, multiple sources tell us. We’re also hearing that Fidelity is looking to participate.

We’ve heard for a while the personal genetics company was looking for more money to expand its genetics research arm and develop new products. This adds to the over $230 million that the company has raised, dating back to 2007. Google, Genentech, NEA and Johnson & Johnson are amongst its prior investors.

The new cash will also allow 23andMe to continue growing its revenue, without the pressure to IPO just yet. Typically companies won’t go public until at least a year after their last financing round, and usually a little longer. While we hear co-founder and CEO Anne Wojcicki is reluctant to IPO, that is the standard path for late-stage venture-backed companies, in order to provide liquidity for early investors and employees. It’s also possible that a big pharma or other company could try to buy 23andMe.

23andMe has been leaning more on its research efforts since it was stifled in 2013 after being ordered by the Food and Drug Administration to cease sales of its personal genomics test. The FDA said at the time the company didn’t meet FDA standards. 23andMe subsequently stopped selling genetic health information to new consumers and began looking for alternative sources of revenue.

Since then it has beefed up its medical research, hiring more scientists and partnering with genetics outfits to conduct high-level studies. Celmatix, a genetics company studying fertility is currently working with the company for a study on how certain genes affect women’s ability to get pregnant.

The FDA relieved the pressure somewhat in 2015, allowing for one genetics test for Bloom syndrome. Earlier this year, 23andMe got the green light from government regulators to supply those who take the spit-tube test with health risk reports for up to 10 diseases, including late-onset Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. According to at least one source, it is also seeking approval to add genetic information on breast cancer-related genes BRCA-1 and BRCA-2, putting Color Genomics in the cross hairs.

23andMe also competes with Ancestry.com, which has been expanding its genetic testing capabilities. Though, these tests stay in the genealogical realm.

We’ve reached out to Fidelity for comment. Sequoia has declined to comment. 23andMe has declined to comment.

Only Six Days Left to Apply for Startup Battlefield Australia


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Stop what you’re doing right now, and apply now or finish that application you started. It takes less time than watching the Season Finale of Game of Thrones, and could leave your startup with an additional 25k AUD of runway. How?

Startup Battlefield is TechCrunch’s renowned startup launch competition. In partnership with ELEVACAO, TechCrunch is bringing Battlefield to Sydney to find the best early stage startup in Australia and New Zealand. On November 16th, 2017, 15 startups will compete in front of tech’s brightest investors and entrepreneurs for a $25,000 AUD cash prize and an all-expense paid trip to San Francisco for two to join TechCrunch Disrupt San Francisco 2018 — including the opportunity to exhibit and compete in TechCrunch’s Flagship Startup Battlefield at Disrupt SF — assuming the winner still qualifies as early stage. If you’ve grown up by then, we’re super proud of you!

Startups from all industries are encouraged to apply, and applying is easy. Qualified startups that apply must have at least one member of the founding team who resides in Australia or New Zealand. There are no fees for the Battlefield startups to participate and TechCrunch and Elevacao do not take equity. Participation is 100{04edb846e1f7ff5cc6c6416fdec5ab17fdb82e2b499db9aa1b216ed4709c0e5d} free!

The Startup Battlefield has placed world-class founders in the spotlight since 2007, and in the past decade nearly 700 contestants have gone on to raise nearly $7 billion in funding and rack up nearly 100 exits and IPOs. Our community of Battlefield Alumni include companies like Dropbox, Yammer, Cloudflare, Getaround, Fitbit, Mint.com and Trello – acquired by Australia’s own, Atlassian.

The event will be livestreamed from the ATP Locomotive Workshop in Sydney, which will reach hundreds of thousands of TC followers around the world across TechCrunch’s channels and feeds on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. Need a ticket? Get one here.

Featured Image: Steve Jennings/Getty Images for TechCrunch

Researchers propose Iron Man style flight for humanoid robot

The way Iron Man flies may be cool, but if we’re honest it’s also kind of impractical. Even if your core strength is off the chart, as I assume Tony Stark’s is (you’re basically planking the whole time, right?), putting jets on your hands and feet is just asking for broken bones. But the seeming foolishness of this method hasn’t stopped a handful of Italian researchers from suggesting we give it a shot… on a robot, anyway.

A flying humanoid robot may have applications of its own, such as doing repairs or inspections, or it could serve as the beginning of research toward an exoskeleton for human flight. The paper details a basic framework for how such a robot would be controlled, with the assumption that the propulsion would be from the hands and feet (of a virtual iCub humanoid bot with a baby face).

Although I mock the style for human flight, despite a guy actually having done it, it makes some sense for robots. The tiny, subtle adjustments needed to maintain stable flight are difficult for a human to do perfectly, while a robot would excel at them. Constant monitoring of even the slightest motions and thrust variations would make counteracting them or producing a desired vector pretty straightforward.

In theory, anyway. The researchers, from the Italian Institute of Technology in Genoa, haven’t tested it in real life yet. The basic set of controls had to be established first, which this paper does — now, if they or other researchers want to, the complex questions of navigating a real robot with mass and air resistance using those controls can be addressed.

Lead author Daniele Pucci answers a few questions about the project over at IEEE Spectrum; among his remarks are some suggestions for future research:

In my humble opinion, controlling a flying humanoid robot leads to a number of theoretical and practical questions. For instance, a general control framework encompassing manipulation, contact-locomotion, and flight is still missing, and the role of the auxiliary (jet?) actuation during contact locomotion of humanoid robots is not clear. For instance, what is the walking speed at which it is more energetically convenient to turn the auxiliary actuation on? How do we deal with landing impacts for smooth transitions between flight and walking?

I look forward to watching video of those tests.