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Shoof Technologies Announces $4.3 Million
Credit: shooftech.com

Shoof Technologies Incorporated, a company that provides advanced wireless technology for industrial IoT, announced that it has raised $4.3 million in seed capital led by Kleiner Perkins and Modiva Japan.

Shoof’s technology for asset monitoring and tracking plans to overcome the unreliability of current wireless technology for logistics and supply chain management, particularly indoors. It offers a cloud platform and equipment – including base stations and tags – to track assets in motion anywhere in real time.  Shoof’s technology is applicable to a wide range of industrial markets, and the company’s initial focus will be on the manufacturing and transportation sectors.

According to Shoof, it will begin product trials with large manufacturing and logistics customers in early 2018.

 

Varo Money Closes $45 Million in Series B Financing
Credit: varomoney.com

Mobile banking startup Varo Money, Inc., announced today that it has closed a $45 million Series B funding round led by existing investor Warburg Pincus and The Rise Fund.

Varo is on a mission to change the future of banking by offering customers a “frictionless bank account” that integrates banking, saving and lending products with tools to help customers smooth cash flow and build savings— all from their mobile phones. The company aims to eliminate the unfriendly fees that traditional banks often charge, such as overdraft, minimum balance and foreign transaction fees. In addition, Varo does not charge ATM fees at a network of more than 55,000 Allpoint ATMs worldwide.

”Within financial services, which is a key sector for The Rise Fund, we see tremendous opportunity for disruption and innovation that will help more consumers save regularly, spend wisely and borrow responsibly,” said Maya Chorengel, senior partner with The Rise Fund. “We’re looking forward to working with Varo to advance its mission of creating real value and positive impact for customers in a way that is simple and intuitive.”

Techcyte Closes $4.3 Million in New Funding
Credit: techcyte.com

Digital pathology platform Techcyte, Inc., closed a $4.3 million funding round. The investors in the round include investors from previous rounds, as well as employees and strategic partners.

Techcyte was founded in 2013 as a tech transfer from the University of Utah, with a mission to lower healthcare costs using artificial intelligence. Techcyte employs the power of deep machine learning to perform image analysis of whole slide images. In addition to its digital pathology platform, Techcyte has also been working with labs, doctors and experts around the world to annotate hundreds of thousands of images to feed into the deep learning algorithms.

According to the company, the funds will be used to accelerate selling to veterinary, human and air quality labs in the United States and international markets. In addition to increasing marketing efforts and sales, the funds will also allow Techcyte to perform the clinical tests required for an FDA 510k regulatory clearance.

Arianna Huffington | Credit: Wikipedia

Today, Huffington Post, the popular news and blog site with more than 177 million monthly readers, announced that it will shut down its unpaid contributor program, effective immediately.

According to an analysis by The New York Times, the success of Arianna Huffington’s namesake media site was originally driven in large part by its 100,000-person plus blogger network, which has included aspiring journalists, citizen reporters and notable — sometimes celebrity — figures from multiple industries.

Heather DeSantis | Credit: desantispr.com

But not everyone in the HuffPo contributor program has adhered to the basic principles of journalism, including truth and objectivity. As one media and communications professional, Heather DeSantis, put it in an interview with Newscenter.io, “I have seen many contributors abuse the platform and charge people anywhere from $3,000 to $5,000 for a featured article, which is absolutely crazy.” DeSantis is a principal in a PR firm whose clients have included two NFL Players and Panera Bread Co.

DeSantis was referring to the widely known practice of an unscrupulous subset of contributors charging companies fees to write about their products and businesses via the esteemed Huffington Post. To put it simply, there have been incidents of “pay-to-play” journalism. To many companies, a piece or feature story in The Huffington Post could mean thousands of signups and surges in website traffic. But $5,000 placement fees are out of range for many growing companies — not to mention extremely frowned upon among both journalists and PR practitioners.

“Pay-to-play” has also been used in the political arena. According to the same New York Times report, one Huffington Post contributor with the byline “Waqas KH,” published an article about Felix Sater, an associate of President Trump, that he had been paid to write.

Commented DeSantis, “With the recent announcement from The Huffington Post, op-ed writers, contributors, and citizen bloggers need to ensure that their articles are timely, relevant and fact-based, if they hope to have reputable publications run them.”

As it announced the demise of its unpaid contributor program, Huffington Post simultaneously revealed the launch of “HuffPost Opinion” and “HuffPost Personal.” According to the announcement, the new Opinion section will “feature a mix of regular columnists and one-off guest writers, commissioned by our Opinion editors to produce smart, authentic, timely and rigorous op-eds.”

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Oro, Inc. founders

Frost & Sullivan, a global business consulting firm that provides market research and analysis across multiple industries, today announced that it has recognized Oro, Inc., with its 2017 New Product Innovation Award.

Each year, Frost & Sullivan presents its innovation awards to companies that have developed new products using leading-edge technologies to solve real business challenges. This year’s award recognizes the value-added features and benefits of OroCommerce and the increased return on investment it provides to customers.

OroCommerce, which officially launched in January, 2017, was specifically built for B2B ecommerce, an industry that will reach $6.7 trillion in sales by 2020, according to Frost & Sullivan forecasts. OroCommerce was recently ranked by Frost & Sullivan as the No.1 ecommerce platform in terms of pure product strengths and capabilities, compared to other enterprise vendors such as SAP Hybris, Oracle, and IBM.

OroCommerce Platform

As part of their market research efforts, the analysts at Frost & Sullivan conducted extensive surveys and phone interviews with OroCommerce’s enterprise clients. According to their report, users reported that the OroCommerce platform offered rapid implementation and ease-of-use, leading to lower total cost of ownership and accelerated time to market. Between 60 and 80 percent of the OroCommerce features and capabilities come ready-to-use out of the box, with the rest custom-built according to each customer’s needs.

“A simplified deployment process is important to potential customers,” said Melody Siefken of the North America Digital Media team at Frost & Sullivan. “Our analysis found that a complicated process is a key restraint for organizations in adopting B2B platforms. In a nutshell, the platform must be scalable, configurable, and interoperable with different systems. OroCommerce provides the market with just that while further extending its reach through technology partnerships.”

OroCommerce was created by the Los Angeles-based business technology company Oro, Inc., which was founded by three former Magento executives. They include Yoav Kutner, Jary Carter, and Dima Soroka. Magento, which was founded in 2008, is the largest B2C ecommerce platform in the world and was sold to eBay for $180 million in 2011.

After Magento’s successful exit, Yoav and his team launched Oro, Inc., in response to the the rapid growth and large market opportunity offered by B2B ecommerce.

Note: Newscenter.io is a sister company to Rosebud Communications, which works with Oro, Inc.

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Akeneo and Sigmento Team | Credit: Akeneo

French technology company Akeneo, known for its open source product information management (PIM) solutions, today announced that it has acquired Sigmento, an Israel-based technology company specializing in product data automation.

Sigmento Platform | Credit: sigmento.com

Sigmento, located just south of Tel Aviv, was founded in 2015 by ecommerce veterans Izzy Cohen, Yoav Maor and Yonatan Maor. The company previously raised $1.7 million in venture capital funding and had already made a name for itself as an innovative provider of product listing solutions. Its machine learning algorithms allow brands and ecommerce merchants to enrich structured product information with auto-suggested product descriptions, titles, and tags that improve SEO and conversions. According to Akeneo, the acquisition bolsters the company’s market-leading position among PIM providers and reinforces its mission to help retailers turn product information into powerful brand assets.

The transaction amount was not disclosed. The Sigmento purchase illustrates both the technology world’s continued interest in Israel’s startup ecosystem and the growing pace of investment in AI technologies by virtually all industry sectors. According to IDC Research, AI technology will be used by 75 percent of developer teams in at least one business application in 2018.

Akeneo and Sigmento Team

The acquisition reflects Akeneo’s ongoing effort to build its product capabilities against competition from other well known players such as Informatica and Stibo Systems. By purchasing Sigmento, Akeneo gives itself an apparent head start in AI and machine learning applications for product information management.

Fred de Gombert, CEO and co-founder of Akeneo

“The next frontier of innovation in ecommerce technology is happening at the intersection of data intelligence and automation, which is Sigmento’s core strength,” said Fred de Gombert, co-founder and CEO of Akeneo. “Having Yoav and his talented team join our #PIMforAll movement and offer best-in-class AI-driven ecommerce solutions will significantly differentiate Akeneo and allow us to enable customers to further deliver compelling product experiences.”

Israel continues to produce an impressive number of highly successful tech startups for a country with a population of only nine million people. Sometimes referred to as “Startup Nation,” the country currently has 4,300 operating startups, with about 2,900 of them located within a 10-mile radius — similar to Silicon Valley in the U.S.

Note: Newscenter.io is a sister company to Rosebud Communications, which works with Akeneo.

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Bidgely Closes $27 Million Series C Financing
Credit: bidgely.com

U.S.-based Bidgely announced today that it has closed a $27 million Series C round of financing. Investment fund Georgian Partners led the oversubscribed round. Returning investors include Khosla Ventures, E.ON, and innogy.

By combining the power of SaaS-based analytics with consumer-friendly web and mobile applications, Bidgely aims to provide personalized and actionable insights to help customers save energy and enable utilities to build enduring customer relationships. The company works with utilities serving residential customers around the world.

The new funding will be used to expand Bidgely’s Bangalore office with dedicated engineers and data scientists to deepen the company’s disaggregation technology. The money will also be applied to accelerating growth in Europe and Asia by expanding local sales and customer success teams.

OWKIN Closes $11 Million Series A Round
Credit: owkin.com

Predictive analytics company OWKIN today announced an $11 million Series A funding round, led by Otium Venture, with participation from Cathay Innovation, Plug and Play, and NJF Capital.

OWKIN’s flagship platform, OWKIN Socrates, is intended for pharmaceutical researchers at the preclinical and clinical trial phases, and it is also used by hospital physician-researchers. OWKIN Socrates uses machine learning-based modeling to analyze molecular and imaging libraries as well as patient datasets, with the goal of uncovering complex biomarker patterns that cause disease. Unlike other platforms, OWKIN Socrates uses transfer learning, a type of artificial intelligence that focuses on the ability of a machine algorithm to improve learning capacities on a given dataset through previous exposure to a different one.

OWKIN will use the funds to scale its iplatform, cultivate high-value partnerships with leading healthcare organizations, and fuel internal growth.

Centerity Systems Secures $10 Million
Credit: centerity.com

Centerity, a provider of advanced performance analytics and business services management (BSM) for complex technology environments, today announced it has received $10 million in funding from Merlin International, which creates cybersecurity solutions that help organizations protect their most critical business assets.

Centerity’s software platform can collect, combine and analyze any data metric from any IT and IoT layer, and it uses advanced visualization tools to reprepresent accurate status for each business service/process. Customers report up to 80 percent cost reduction for NOC operations, including redundant monitoring, faster response, and real-time business and operational SLA dashboards for managers.

Centerity revealed it intends to use the proceeds of the new investment to double its research and development center and expand its sales, marketing, and distribution organizations.  

FanDuel Announces New CMO

FanDuel announced today that marketing veteran Mike Raffensperger will join the company as chief marketing officer. In his new role, he will lead all marketing efforts for the company, developing new growth strategies and overseeing customer acquisition and retention channels.

Raffensperger joins FanDuel from Amazon, where he served as head of marketing for Amazon Advertising. Prior to Amazon, he was director of digital marketing and strategy for DIRECTV. Before that, he was vice president of strategy and creative development at Magnet Media, a global digital marketing firm.

“With extensive experience in digital media and marketing and a growth mindset, Mike is the right person to join our team as the sports and entertainment industry continues to evolve,” said Matt King CEO of FanDuel. “Mike’s leadership efforts in previous roles have helped reshape the digital sports media landscape and I look forward to having him on board as we continue to grow the FanDuel brand and build it into a preeminent sports entertainment destination.”

Raffensperger has been honored with multiple Webby Awards for his pioneering work in the early development of web entertainment, as well as a Sports Emmy Award nomination for his contribution to the advancement of digital sports coverage. He is a standing fellow at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism and holds a B.A in Mass Media from Messiah College.

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Autonomous Driving Startup Pony.ai Raises $112 Million

Pony.ai has closed a Series A funding round of $112 million, co-led by Morningside Venture Capital and Legend Capital. Seed round lead investor Sequoia China and investor IDG Capital also participated in the round, along with Hongtai Capital, Legend Star, Puhua Capital, Polaris Capital, DCM Ventures, Comcast Ventures, Silicon Valley Future Capital and other funding sources.

Pony.ai is building Level 4 autonomous driving technology, which specifies that vehicles can perform all driving functions for an entire trip in both suburban and urban environments as well as inclement weather conditions. Pony.ai, although founded only a year ago, has made rapid progress in deploying its technology. The company’s self-driving cars can be spotted daily on Bay Area roads, testing complex road conditions. The company has also made considerable progress in Guangzhou, China. Pony.ai established its second headquarter office in the Guangzhou last October, and it began testing its fleet of autonomous driving vehicles on public roads in December.

Ratehub, Inc., Raises $12 Million
Credit: ratehub.ca

Ratehub, Inc., has raised a $12 million Series A round led by Elephant, the venture capital firm founded by Jeremiah Daly and Andy Hunt, co-founder of Warby Parker. Simon Nixon, co-founder of U.K.-based MoneySuperMarket, also participated in the funding.

Founded in 2010, Ratehub seeks to connect Canadians with the best financial products and services on the market. It owns and operates the financial product comparison site Ratehub.ca, as well as CanWise Financial, a national mortgage brokerage that funds more than $1 billion in annual mortgage volume. Ratehub is using the funds to build a digital platform that will allow Canadians to complete the entire mortgage process online. According to the company, the new digital platform will provide efficiency and simplicity to Canadian home buyers.

The new funds will be used to invest in Ratehub’s other verticals, including credit cards, deposits and insurance. In 2018, the company will launch a new suite of tools allowing Canadians to compare home, auto, and life insurance policies.