Melinda Gates: What #MeToo Meant For Venture Capitalists

[Read on Refinery29]
Several months before the first allegations against Harvey Weinstein hit the news and the #MeToo movement, started by Tarana Burke, went global, the venture capital industry was forced to begin confronting its own culture of sexual misconduct. I guess you could say VC’s moment of reckoning came early — but it would be more accurate to say it was overdue.
It’s no secret that VC has long been a boys’ club. In 2017, which was a representative year, only 2% of VC funding went to companies led by women, and about half of the top venture capital firms had exactly zero female partners.
The previously untold part of the story was that a significant number of women founders were being victimized by VC’s pervasive culture of sexual assault and harassment. Many of these women say they felt forced into silence, understandably fearing retaliation against themselves or their companies by the very people whose backing they needed most. Bad actors were able to exploit this inherently unequal power dynamic to operate with impunity.
But in June 2017, things began to shift. An explosive article detailing allegations of sexual harassment against Binary Capital’s Justin Caldbeck empowered other female founders to break their silence and speak out about the predatory behavior they’d faced. Voices across VC made clear that they were no longer willing to accept the unacceptable.
If there’s a silver lining in these painful revelations, it was that the VC industry — like so many others — has been forced to begin to address its deep-seated gender issues. Already, we’ve seen a small but significant increase in the number of women being hired and promoted by some of the most powerful VC firms. What’s more, women investors have begun to organize, creating groups like All Raise and Founders For Change that provide female investors and entrepreneurs access to networks and support. The doors to the old boys’ club haven’t exactly swung open — but there are a lot of people throwing their weight against them.
We need to keep pushing.
I asked six investors to give their perspectives on the progress VC has seen over the past year and where our efforts should focus going forward. We agree that progress will require continued action — by Limited Partners (LPs), General Partners (GPs), founders, CEOs, and all of us. I’m eager to be part of that progress, which is why I’ve begun investing in funds that over-index on companies led by women and people of color.
There are other key steps venture capital can take to transform itself from the inside, including hiring and promoting more people of color — and more women of color especially. The men who have historically held the positions of power in this industry have an opportunity to take an active role in driving these changes. I hope they seize it. It’s the right thing to do, and it’s going to yield returns.

Theresia Gouw & Jennifer Fonstad, Aspect Ventures

As we reflect on the status of women in the technology community, we see both progress and continued challenges. The ranks of great women entrepreneurs continue to swell and those bright lights play a crucial role in serving as role models for future entrepreneurs. Women like Julia Hartz from Eventbrite and Katrina Lake from Stitch Fix, whose companies are now traded publicly, as well as others like Julie Wainwright of the Real Real illustrate to the next generation what is possible.
And the ranks of women entrepreneurs is growing. For Aspect’s first fund, though we are gender-neutral in evaluating opportunities, 40% of our companies had a woman founder. As we invest our second fund, that number is 43% and growing. Industry-wide, we are seeing the number of women founders reaching 17-20% of startups (depending on which data set you consider) and on an absolute basis, the number of companies with a female founder grew five times. Yet the total amount of dollars going to women is more challenging with only $1.9 billion of a total of $85 billion in 2017.
What does this mean? For us, it means more opportunity – more women and non-traditional entrepreneurs are seeing what is possible and next-generation firms like ours are investing. It means that traditional funds don’t want to miss out on good deals and work with Aspect and other diverse funds as well as expanding their ranks. It means that smart LPs, like Melinda Gates and others, are getting access to new deals. While change takes time and dollars continue to follow old models, the smart money is on this new breed of entrepreneurs, women who are building great companies, creating jobs for the economy, and serving as a bright light for the next generation.
While the numbers are still too small, the future is bright.

Kirsten Green & Eurie Kim, Forerunner Ventures

For too long, the VC community has not reflected the diverse and colorful world around us. But we’re hopeful; this year, we have seen more voices speaking up to the injustices that have riddled Silicon Valley, as well as the growing recognition of more humane, diverse, and inclusive values.
Key initiatives like All Raise, the female-founded nonprofit dedicated to diversity in funders and founders; Built by Girls, which specifically aims to equip young women to be leaders in tech; to the Reboot Representation Tech Coalition, which has pledged more than $12 million to double the number of women of color graduating with computing degrees by 2025, have all started moving the needle in quantifiable ways on much needed work. At All Raise alone, our efforts have reached female founders delivering 550 hours of one-on-one mentoring, our jobs newsletter and networking efforts have reached over 800 interested and diverse parties, and a collective of 900+ founders who value diversity within their teams, boards, and VCs have publicly taken the Founders for Change pledge.
There is potential for greatness, and we must all work together to course correct an industry that is so innovative, yet oftentimes operates in the past. We hope the progress that’s been made this year inspires a growing pool of founders, allies, and a new wave of companies to advocate for talented women and minorities as we continue demanding a space of inclusion and acceptance. This is the positive action this industry, our world, desperately needs.

Anu Duggal, Female Founders Fund

2018 has been a year of change for Americans, and the beginning of conversations that I can only hope will move us into a stronger place for women, particularly from our vantage point in the tech and venture capital eco-system.
This year, we’ve seen the VC industry evolve in several important ways, with a universal movement towards improving the dynamic of funds with no female representation. Adding new female partners is a step in the right direction, but we also need to see these funds have more definitive standards and legal protections against harassment and discrimination both at their own firms, as well as for portfolio companies.
On the funding spectrum, 2018 has seen a very healthy rise in funding going towards companies with female leaders. In one day in July alone, we saw four female-founded companies with female leaders raise over $500M (23andMe, TheRealReal, ClassPass, and Guild Education). According to Pitchbook, in the third quarter of 2018, female founders in the U.S. have brought in a higher percentage of venture capital funding than any quarter in recent history.
From a limited partner perspective, we have started to hear more about limited partners digging deeper into accountability for their portfolio managers behavior as part of due diligence with new clauses that cover history of sexual harassment. We hope that these investors will continue to push for more diversity and inclusion in their fund managers.
Finally, we have seen a recognition of the importance of having both investors, as well as founders, more clearly reflect diversity in all different facets. Most traditional Silicon Valley venture capital funds have little if no diverse representation within both their firms and their portfolio company CEOs, and this needs to change.
Ultimately, we need to see more dollars flowing toward diverse fund managers and diverse founders to move the needle. It’s only when these leaders have access to capital that we will start to see the returns that will change the industry.

Lo Toney, Plexo Capital

At Plexo Capital, we built our model for achieving returns based off at insight from GV (Google Ventures). That insight was that women and people of color in venture capital have unique networks and a different lens for evaluating deals, which leads to uncovering interesting opportunities that mainstream VCs might miss. This is especially true at the early stage in the absence of an abundance of data.
More and more, I believe that we are going to see both venture investors and entrepreneurs better represent the demographics of our society. Of course, this is not happening nearly as fast many would like it, but it is moving in the right direction. The potential for returns is too great to underestimate where the best ideas can originate and who discovers them.
Over this past year, we have seen the rise of a new generation of investors whose portfolios better represent our society at large. In fact, the portfolios of the VCs we have invested into at Plexo Capital have 35% to 45% of their companies founded or led by women and people of color compared to 1% to 2% of the average U.S. VC. We are bullish that these trends will have a positive impact on the venture ecosystem by delivering superior returns and developing a new generation of VCs and entrepreneurs.

PredictHQ exits stealth with $10 million to help Uber and others forecast demand surges

[Read on VentureBeat]

If you’ve ever tried to hail an Uber in the midst of a major sports event or during a torrential downpour, you may have noticed that the price you’re quoted is higher than normal. That’s all down to surge pricing, a mechanism that Uber has long employed to manage supply — and, yes, charge more money — when demand is high.

Oftentimes, it is hard to know when surge pricing will kick in. Uber itself will probably not know a lot of the time, it just automatically reacts when it detects a higher-than-normal request for rides from a particular area. Drivers nearby can also receive notifications when there is a surge area within 10 miles so they can drive to support the cause (and get paid more).

But one stealth company has been setting out to help companies such as Uber predict much further in advance when there is likely to be big demand for their services.

Event intelligence

New Zealand-based PredictHQ essentially aggregates datasets from myriad sources related to events covering public holidays, observances, concerts, festivals, and more. The company then throws in other “hard to find data” that it manually curates itself, as well as its own proprietary data, and bundles all of this into a single API which it licenses to companies including Uber, Domino’s, and

Above: Visualization of the PredictHQ platform

The company wouldn’t disclose to VentureBeat which sources it uses exactly, but it did say that it ranges from commercial databases and validated open databases to “partner enrichment,” media outlets, and user-generated datasets.

“Events have a huge impact on businesses — they just don’t often realize it,” PredictHQ cofounder and CEO Campbell Brown told VentureBeat. “We empower businesses to know the catalysts of demand before they happen, so they’re not left scrambling to keep up with demand when the crowds hit.”

Citing one example, Brown said that the American Society of Hematology brings more than 25,000 people to a different U.S. city every year (it’s in San Diego next month, folks) for an exposition, which can put a great deal of pressure on local services without the proper preparations in place. Throw into the mix a major rock concert that just happens to coincide with it in the same area, and there could be real resource issues locally.

“Most people don’t even know that event [American Society of Hematology] exists, or the fact that Fleetwood Mac or a gem fair exposition are compounding the estimated 40 percent increase in demand, let alone what kind of impact it will have on travel, tourism, logistics, and hospitality in its city each year,” Brown added. “It’s impossible to prepare for huge spikes in demand you don’t see coming, but with event intelligence you can. If you run a food chain, you can ensure you’ve ordered enough ingredients to cope, or if you’re Uber, you can proactively get more cars out on the roads so you can improve pick-up times.”


Founded out of Auckland in 2015, PredictHQ officially launches out of stealth today, and revealed that it has raised $10 million in a series A round of funding led by Aspect Ventures, with participation from Lightspeed Venture Partners, Rampersand VC, and AddVenture Fund. Prior to now, the company had raised around $2 million (NZD), which is roughly around $1.4 million (USD).

Additionally, PredictHQ is upping sticks and relocating company HQ from New Zealand to San Francisco as it looks to double down on the U.S. market. In fact, one of the reasons that PredictHQ was able to secure its inaugural U.S.-based investment was that CEO Brown was willing to move his company and family to the U.S.

“We started PredictHQ because we realized that travel businesses can benefit from understanding the catalysts of human movement,” Brown said. “But we soon realized that the potential opportunity for event data intelligence goes beyond travel and one specific industry. This set us on a path to evolve from being a data intelligence feed into a new form of intelligence that can help businesses understand the needs of their customers. We plan to build up our international presence, hire a skilled team both in the U.S. and in New Zealand, and help businesses in all industries use event data as a form of intelligence.”

Above: PredictHQ team: CEO Campbell Brown is second from right

At the beginning, the bulk of PredictHQ’s employees will still be based in New Zealand, though the company anticipates this changing over time — particularly when it opens a new European office at some point in the future.

Big data

Leveraging big data to derive meaningful information is big business across a multitude of industries. In the past couple of months alone, Hopper raised $100 million to grow its big data-powered airfare prediction platform, while ZenCity raised $6 million for an AI platform that helps cities crunch data and track residents’ sentiment. Elsewhere, Launchmetrics nabbed $50 million to help brands harness big data to target influencers.

“For too long, businesses have lacked the ability to truly understand how the movement of people across the world impacts revenue, product usage, supply chain and operations,” said Aspect Ventures’ cofounder Theresia Gouw, who now joins PredictHQ’s board of directors. “PredictHQ solves this problem.”

With PredictHQ, can “optimize its pricing” for hotel rooms based on events that it knows are coming up in an area, though another way of looking at that is that it will allow to take advantage and charge more. The same goes for Uber, of course. But for a company such as Domino’s, the data can be massively helpful in terms of knowing how many drivers to have on-shift at a certain time, or how much ingredients it should allocate to a particular outlet.

Ultimately, it’s all about better understanding the supply chain, and this could potentially be used by all manner of companies, from airlines and food and drink multinationals, to clothing retailers.

“Any company selling a tangible good or service — from transportation to soft drinks to computer hardware — needs to optimize their supply chain and understand their demand,” added Lightspeed Venture Partners partner Arif Janmohamed. “With PredictHQ, those companies now have access to the necessary data to do just that.”

Aspect Ventures recruits Lugani as principal

Silicon Valley-based Aspect Ventures, a venture firm, has named Vishal Lugani as principal. Lugani joined the firm in 2016. Prior to joining Aspect, Lugani worked at Greycroft Partners.


SAN FRANCISCO, CA (October 31, 2018) – Aspect Ventures, a leading venture capital firm in Silicon Valley, today announced the appointment of Vishal Lugani to Principal of the firm. Vishal joined Aspect Ventures in 2016 and has played a significant role in several of the firm’s investments. As Principal, Vishal will lead new investments and continue to focus on identifying strategic areas of interest for the firm.

“Vishal’s steadfast commitment to our portfolio companies and strategic approach to identifying unique investment opportunities makes him a great asset to the Aspect team,” said Theresia Gouw, co-founder of Aspect Ventures. Fellow co-founder Jennifer Fonstad added, “In just two years, Vishal has added tremendous value to Aspect and has established himself as a trusted and collaborative partner not only within the firm but also to the many portfolio companies he advises.”

In addition to playing an active role in several of Aspect’s investments, Vishal works with many of the firm’s portfolio companies across a range of industries, including digital health companies Vida Health, Amino and Worklete, enterprise productivity and machine learning-powered software companies such as Astro (acquired by Slack), Integris, &, and consumer-focused businesses such as HotelTonight and BaubleBar.

“I’m excited to be part of a world-class team that seeks to back exceptional companies and entrepreneurs who are ushering in the next wave of innovation” said Vishal Lugani, Principal at Aspect Ventures. “I look forward to continuing my work at Aspect to identify new opportunities for the firm and to support our incredible management teams.”

Vishal was previously named one of Forbes 30 Under 30 for Venture Capital. Prior to Aspect, he spent several years at Greycroft Partners. While at Greycroft, Vishal invested in and supported portfolio companies including Acorns, App Annie, HopSkipDrive and Everything But the House, among others. Vishal began his career at Bain & Company in the firm’s New York and Los Angeles offices. A graduate of Harvard University, Vishal launched the school’s chapter of the Kairos Society, an organization supporting young entrepreneurs globally, and continues to advise the organization today.

Aspect recently closed its second institutional venture fund of $200 million to continue its mission of investing in early stage technology companies.

About Aspect Ventures
Aspect Ventures, a leading venture capital firm in Silicon Valley, was founded in 2014 by two Silicon Valley venture capital veterans. Aspect raised its first institutional fund of $150 million in 2015 and a second investment fund of $200 million in 2018. Aspect invests across a broad array of industries including cybersecurity, future of work, digital health, and several other emerging technology areas. Current portfolio companies include cybersecurity providers Forescout Technologies (FSCT), Cato Networks, Exabeam, ShieldX, Integris; future of work-focused companies Crew, Gusto, Chime, The Muse and Troops; and digital health startups such as Vida Health, Grokker, and Solv. Artificial intelligence serves as the foundational technological platform for several of Aspect’s investments targeting key verticals, including companies like healthcare data provider Amino, future of work focused companies such as Troops and Qordoba, and autonomous vehicle software provider Mapper. Taken together, the track record of the firm’s investment team includes 12 IPOs, 30 successful acquisitions, multiple billions in public market cap, and over 500 rounds in follow-on capital raised for portfolio companies.

All Raise Will Match Underrepresented Investors With Big-Name VCs

[Read on Fortune]

For All Raise to meet its goal of doubling the percentage of female partners at U.S. venture capital firms in 10 years, it has to start with the women already working in venture.

The organization supporting women in tech and venture capital on Thursday launched VC Champions, a mentorship program that will match women and underrepresented men with general partners—men and women—at top venture capital firms. Bessemer Venture Partners’ Byron Deeter, First Round Capital’s Josh Kopelman, Upfront Ventures’ Mark Suster, Aspect Ventures’ Theresia Gouw, and Lux Capital’s Renata Quintini are among the partners who will assist rising investors.

“We wanted to help mentor and guide the next generation of folks coming up the ranks,” says Greycroft Ventures’ Ellie Wheeler, who has spearheaded the initiative. “Given that venture is such a relationship-driven business, getting different perspectives, getting guidance, and creating pathways can be really important.”

All Raise is targeting up-and-coming investors at the principal level, just below partner. Investors who apply and are accepted to the inaugural class of about 25 will be matched with a different general partner for a one-on-one meeting each quarter.

All Raise itself launched in April, the brainchild of women in venture capital throughout Silicon Valley. In addition to reaching its target number of women in venture, its other goal is to increase the percentage of female founders in five years. This initiative will work in tandem to achieve both milestones at the same time, says Aspect Ventures’ Theresia Gouw, a mentor through the program and a founding member of All Raise.

“As we improve that side of it, the deal flow, the number of women who get seen and eventually get funded by venture capital firms will also increase,” Gouw says.

VC Champions will complement Female Founder Office Hours, an initiative connecting new female founders with women who have successfully founded companies. Both programs aim to match emerging investors and emerging founders with established counterparts in similar sectors or stages on the venture side.

The venture version, however, includes men—in a couple of ways. A cohort of underrepresented men will be part of the program’s rising stars class. Male VCs will also participate in the mentor role; perhaps not surprising given that men account for the vast majority of decision-makers in venture capital.

“Having male allies is key. The senior partner ranks are over 95% men. We need men to also be invested in the goals of All Raise,” Gouw says. “We can’t do it just in isolation. We need male partners to be alongside us.”

Future Family raises $10M to make fertility treatments more affordable

[read on TechCrunch]

Future Family,  a startup that helps families more easily afford fertility services like IVF and egg freezing, has raised $10 million in a Series A round.

Just weeks back, Future Family switched up its offerings to feel less like a loan, and more like a monthly subscription. The end results might seem pretty similar — with both, customers get the services they need without having to cough up a big pile of cash up front — but the monthly subscription approach has a big advantage: flexibility. If a customer realizes a few months in that additional fertility services are needed, the cost can just be wrapped right into the monthly plan on the fly.

The company’s fertility offerings start at $195 a month (for 60 months) for a plan that pairs you with a clinic and concierge to help you start navigating, while $250 a month (for 60 months) covers the cost of lab work, medication, clinic visits and the IVF procedure.

Future Family CEO Claire Tomkins tells me that this Series A will largely go toward expanding their monthly subscription offerings, as well as expanding the number of fertility clinics they partner with. The company had previously raised around $4.2 million.

Future Family was born out of Claire Tomkins’ own experiences with the complexities and costs of fertility treatments. After spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on treatments involved with having her first child (with much of the cost coming as a surprise only revealed once the process had begun), Claire set out to build a better way. Future Family partners with clinics to work out all the pricing ahead of time and pays the bill upfront, ensuring there are no billing surprises down the road.

This round was led by Aspect Ventures, and backed by iNovia, BBG, Ulu Ventures, LaunchCapital and Portfolia. As part of the deal, Aspect Venture’s Lauren Kolodny will join Future Family’s board of directors.

The Startup Postmates and Visa Use To Watch Their Language Just Raised $11.5 Million To Expand

[Read on Forbes]

When the startup Qordoba first met with California venture capitalists to share its software idea, its founders faced an uphill battle for attention. Its chief executive was a female ex-banker. Its chief technology officer was Syrian and had taught himself English. And their business was based in Dubai.

But Qordoba was operating in a market that resonated across geographies: translation. Initially focused on helping businesses manage local teams to translate their projects and copywriting to different languages, Qordoba had changed gears to focus on its core tech, a machine learning tool that could keep text consistent—say, a corporate name or slogan—across thousands of instances on different websites and apps. Qordoba had raised money from Middle Eastern investors years before. Now it wanted to come to Silicon Valley.

“I didn’t even have a permanent visa yet,” remembers cofounder and CEO May Habib. “And they told me, ‘Somehow this foreign guy with this thick accent and this woman an ocean away could close Visa?’ And they preempted the round.”

That investment, just over a year ago, helped Qordoba relocate to San Francisco and get on a different level of trajectory that has made it one of the faster-growing software businesses in tech’s epicenter. So much so that just a few months later, Qordoba’s raised funds again—this time a $11.5 million Series B led by Aspect Ventures, with a gaggle of other investors including Upfront Ventures, which had led the A, Rincon Ventures, Broadway Angels, The Perkins Fund and Yelp cofounder Michael Stoppelman all joining in.

“When it comes to the actual words inside products, it felt like there weren’t any teams on that product, and it could be the most important,” says Habib. “It felt like a part of the stack that had been absolutely missed.”

Qordoba’s pitch is simple: Engineers would rather spend their time coding than working with words. That’s why they’re engineers. But in practice, engineers write and rewrite corporate names, slogans and copy to live in a host of digital places; mistakes ensue. Qordoba’s software acts like a guard rail, says Habib, a side panel that can check copy for language, grammar and consistency with a company’s style guide. Customers like Marriott, the NBA, Postmates, Sephora and Visa all use Qordoba to make sure offers and brand messaging are consistent. Plus, the product is intended to simply save time.

While Qordoba’s software can help with navigating different languages, it’s not the translation tool Habib and cofounder Waseem Alshikh originally pitched. The bigger market opportunity appealed to Aspect, says firm cofounder Jennifer Fonstad, who led the new funding. “We spoke to some of our own portfolio companies, and everyone we spoke to had this problem,” she says. “The challenge was so prolific that we felt they’d hit on something.”

Though it didn’t specifically drive the deal, Aspect’s investment in Qordoba reflects one sign of hope that the VC ecosystem is becoming more open to founders who don’t fit the classic white male stereotype. Fonstad was reintroduced to Qordoba through Upfront partner Kara Nortman; both women are members of All Raise, the group of top female venture capitalists working to improve diversity among investors and entrepreneurs. With the funding, female-led Qordoba now has two female VC partners as key backers, and a board of directors that is more than half women.

Qordoba plans to hire aggressively with its new funding, adding product development, data science and sales staffers to a team that already has two Ph.D.s. Qordoba was named one of Forbes’ Cloud 100 Rising Stars in September.

Habib believes that as more businesses adopt agile or micro-service approaches to development, with small teams releasing their own features, a tool like Qordoba will only prove more important to maintain consistency over time. “You can reach users faster, but with more complexity,” she says. “Qordoba is how they can go to market with higher standards."


Shipwell Raises $10m in Series A Funding

[Read on FinSMEs]

Shipwell, an Austin, Texas-based online business freight shipping platform, raised $10m in Series A funding.

The round, which brought total funding to date to $12.1m, was led by Fifth Wall Ventures, with participation from Global Founders Capital and Aspect Ventures, and existing investors First Round Capital, Base10, and Village Global. In conjunction with the funding, Fifth Wall principal Vik Chawla will join Shipwell’s Board of Directors.

The company intends to use the funds to expand its marketing efforts, improve the product, and amplify the team.

Led by Gregory Price, CEO, Shipwell provides a platform that lets users transport freight across the country with instant quoting and booking, real-time shipment tracking.
Users can also centralize all their freight in one place across modes, carriers, documents, analytics and more.

Over 1,000 companies currently use Shipwell.

There’s no Google Maps for self-driving cars, so this startup is building it

[Read on MIT Technology Review]

In as little as 24 hours, Mapper will deliver a machine-readable map of any place on earth with public roads.

Self-driving cars navigate using both onboard sensors that spot obstacles and detailed, 3-D maps of streets, signs, and infrastructure. But building these maps, and keeping them up to date, is a huge undertaking., a San Francisco–based startup, wants to make the process simpler with a service that provides continuously updated maps on demand.

The service, which launches publicly next week, lets companies select any place in the world they want mapped, provided it has public roads. Mapper then hires local drivers to collect geographic data, converts the data into 3-D maps, and sells the maps—and subsequent updates—via a subscription service.

Mapper has been working with a small group of customers for the past year on maps for autonomous or semi-autonomous driving. The company currently has maps of places in Asia, Europe, and North America, and its eventual goal is to assemble the world’s largest repository of up-to-date, machine-readable maps of city streets and freeways. Though companies are testing autonomous vehicles in just a few cities right now, Mapper CEO and cofounder Nikhil Naikal thinks trials will expand to dozens of cities and span thousands of miles within the next year or two. “These machine maps haven’t been built on a large scale yet,” says Naikal, who has worked on autonomous-vehicle sensors and mapping for more than a decade. “We’re on a mission to create them all over the world, faster than anyone else—and because we own them, we can sell them to everyone.”

Mapper credits its broad reach and speed to its network of freelancers. Most of its drivers also drive for ride-sharing services like Uber or Lyft; they capture mapping data in the middle of the day, when few people request rides. (Mapper lures them by paying rates as high as $3 per mile, triple the $1 per mile the average Uber driver is believed to earn.)

The drivers use their own cars, and Mapper provides the mapping devices, which cost about $350 to build. Instead of designing pricey, proprietary hardware, the startup buys sensors off the Chinese e-commerce site Alibaba and adds its own software that fuses all the data together. One device model, which wraps around a car’s rear-view mirror, has four machine-vision cameras and sensors that measure linear and angular motion. Another sits on top of a car’s roof and consists of two machine-vision cameras, motion sensors, and a simple lidar. Drivers use that device to map dense city streets, because lidar is good at capturing the geometry of three-dimensional structures. The company claims its approach captures details that are accurate within five centimeters , which is on par with other technologies.

To map an area, drivers simply follow turn-by-turn audio directions that Mapper pipes through a mobile app synched to the mapping device. Once the drivers finish their assigned tasks, they upload the information to Mapper’s cloud storage facility, where it is converted automatically to what’s known as a point cloud, a 3-D representation of the world. A second team of freelancers looks at the data and adds notes about lane markings, traffic signs, and stoplights. Mapper delivers the finished maps to customers over Wi-Fi, typically 24 hours after it receives the driving data.



This distributed workforce and self-serve model enable Mapper to offer its customers updates as often as daily while guaranteeing that its maps will cover 100% of a given area. “Once we have a driver on the ground, we can do that routing as frequently as customers want,” says Neehar Garg, who leads Mapper’s product development. “Updates get easier and easier, because we only have to spend time on the things that have changed in an environment.”

A Mapper customer, who asked not to be named because he works for an automaker that is using the maps in a secret project, says he hired the startup over bigger names like HERE and TomTom. “If you’re programming a car to turn a corner, you need to know where you’re located within the map you’re using [for navigation], not where you are in the world in an absolute sense,” says the customer. “With this new type of map, you get that localization baked in, which is really important because GPS alone isn’t stable or predictable enough.”

Other startups in this industry, such as DeepMap, also make localized maps, but they ask their customers to gather the information for them. Because those companies don’t own their own mapping data, they tend to build individual maps of the same area for each customer. Naikal says that approach won’t scale once autonomous vehicles move from development to production and deployment. It makes no sense to create a map of, say, Market Street in San Francisco 20 times for 20 different customers when you can sell a single map to multiple customers and ensure it is always current, he says.

While self-driving cars haven’t yet delivered on their promise to revolutionize transportation, Naikal hopes his cartography collection can become the basis for innovation. He’s even thinking of providing maps to individual developers and engineers, similar to the way mobile-app developers use location information from Google Maps (although he hasn’t decided whether Mapper will charge for access). “Today it’s not possible for five developers to hang out in Starbucks and create an autonomous-vehicle solution,” says Naikal. “But it could be if we remove barriers and let people request and get [machine-readable] maps of any area.”

Deserve named the best student credit card in 2018 by Time's MONEY magazine

[Read on Money]

It turns out 2018 is a great time to be in the market for a new credit card. Sure, interest rates may be on the rise, but with the booming economy Americans are also spending more. That means the competition for borrowers is fierce and issuers are offering plenty of cards with consumer-friendly terms.

“Banks have still been aggressive,” says Brian Karimzad, co-founder of MagnifyMoney. “If you have a big purchase or have a balance you think is pretty close to getting paid off, there are still opportunities to save on interest.”

Beyond that, the best credit card offers today encompass an ever-expanding world out there of perks, points and credits. The trick is figuring out which combination adds up to the best credit card for you.

To do this, think about how you want to use your new credit card to figure out which features will give you the most bang for your buck, Karimzad advises. Are you trying to build credit, for yourself or your business? Do you want to rack up lots of rewards, or get perks like airline lounge access? Or are you trying to borrow strategically, either to pay down debt or make a big purchase? The best travel credit card isn’t necessarily the best rewards credit card, and neither of those would be the best credit card if you’re looking for a low APR to make a big purchase or transfer a balance.

You’ll have the greatest number of choices — and be eligible for the cards with the most tantalizing perks — if your credit is good, but there’s a card out there for everyone — and responsible use of credit is the best way to improve your credit score and your access to the cards with the most generous terms.

Whatever your reason for getting a new credit card, MONEY and MagnifyMoney have sifted through hundreds of cards to find the best in nine different categories. Here are the best credit cards of 2018, the cards that will deal a winning hand to your finances.

All credit card terms are as of Aug. 28, 2018

The Best for Students

Winner: Deserve EDU Mastercard

Slack acquires Astro to conquer email

[Read on TechCrunch]

Slack announced today that it has acquired Astro, the Bay Area startup behind email assistant, Astrobot. The deal, which marks Slack’s largest to date, will go a ways toward helping the popular enterprise chat platform achieve its vision of fully integrating workplace mainstays like email and calendars into its channels.

As Slack notes, the company hopefully predicted last year that channels would usurp other forms of business comms in the next seven or so years. Achieving that optimistic goal, however, will mean convincing business users to shift from mainstays like email.

“We’ve taken some steps to make it possible to integrate email into Slack,” the company writes, “but now we’re in a position to make that interoperability much simpler and much, much more powerful. Our goal is to make it as easy as possible to help teams shift conversations to where they would be most productive — in a channel, alongside the relevant context and software tools teams use at work, from ServiceNow and Salesforce to Workday and Box.”

Astro was founded in 2015 by Zimbra cofounders, Andy Pflaum, Roland Schemers and Ross Dargahi. Last year, it introduced Astrobot (along with $8.3 million in funding), a Slack app that integrates email and calendars directly into the chat platform. Among other things, it lets users search both at once, without leaving Slack.

“And as we explored with Slack how to bring together messaging, email and calendar,” Astro wrote in a blog post announcing the move, “it became evident that we would have the biggest impact on workplace communications and realize our original vision by joining Slack.

The standalone Mac, iOS, Android, Amazon Alexa, and Slack apps will be shut down on October, with signups for new users being disabled immediately. Existing users will still have access to changes made through the app, courtesy of syncing. Most of the company’s roughly 30 or so employees will be making the transition to Slack.