<span>Monthly Archives</span><h1>July 2021</h1>
    Startups

    E-commerce logistics startup Locad gets $4.9M seed round led by Sequoia Capital India’s Surge

    July 5, 2021

    E-commerce is booming in Southeast Asia, but in many markets, the fragmented logistics industry is struggling to catch up. This means sellers run into roadblocks when shipping to buyers, especially outside of major metropolitan areas, and managing their supply chains. Locad, a startup that wants to help with what it describes as an “end-to-end solution” for cross-border e-commerce companies, announced today it has raised a $4.9 million seed round.

    The funding was led by Sequoia Capital India’s Surge (Locad is currently a part of the program’s fifth cohort), with participation from firms like Antler, Febe Ventures, Foxmont, GFC and Hustle Fund. It also included angel investors Alessandro Duri, Alexander Friedhoff, Christian Weiss, Henry Ko, Huey Lin, Markus Bruderer, Dr. Markus Erken, Max Moldenhauer, Oliver Mickler, Paulo Campos, Stefan Mader, Thibaud Lecuyer, Tim Marbach and Tim Seithe.

    Locad was founded in Singapore and Manila by Constantin Robertz, former Zalora director of operations Jannis Dargel and Shrey Jain, previously Grab’s lead product manager of maps. It now also has offices in Australia, Hong Kong and India. The startup’s goal is to close the gap between first-mile and last-mile delivery services, enabling e-commerce companies to offer lower shipping rates and faster deliveries while freeing up more time for other parts of their operations, such as marketing and sales conversions.

    Since its founding in October 2020, Locad has been used by more than 30 brands and processed almost 600,000 items. Its clients range from startups to international brands, and include Mango, Vans, Payless Shoes, Toshiba and Landmark, a department store chain in the Philippines.

    Locad is among a growing roster of other Southeast Asia-based logistics startups that have recently raised funding, including Kargo, SiCepat, Advotics and Logisly. Locad wants to differentiate by providing a flexible solution that can work with any sales channel and is integrated with a wide range of shipping providers.

    Robertz told TechCrunch that Locad is able to keep an asset-light business model by partnering with warehouse operators and facility managers. What the startup brings to the mix is a cloud software platform that serves as a “control tower,” letting users get real-time information about inventory and orders across Locad’s network. The company currently has seven fulfillment centers, with four of its warehouses in the Philippines and the other three in Singapore, New South Wales, Australia and Hong Kong. Part of its funding will be used to expand into more Asia-Pacific markets, focusing on Southeast Asia and Australia.

    Locad’s seed round will also used to add integrations to more couriers and sales channels (it can already be used with platforms like Shopify, WooCommerce, Amazon, Shopee, Lazada and Zalora), and develop new features for its cloud platform, including more data analytics.

     

    Startups

    Tinybird turns raw data into realtime API at scale

    July 5, 2021

    Meet Tinybird, a new startup that helps developers build data products at scale without having to worry about infrastructure, query time and all those annoying issues that come up once you deal with huge data sets. The company ingests data at scale, lets you transform it using SQL and then exposes that data through API endpoints.

    Over the past few years, analytics and business intelligence products have really changed the way we interact with data. Now, many big companies store data in a data warehouse or a data lake. They try to get insights from those data sets.

    And yet, extracting and manipulating data can be costly and slow. It works great if you want to make a PowerPoint presentation for your quarterly results. But it doesn’t let you build modern web products and data products in general.

    “What we do at Tinybird is we help developers build data products at any scale. And we’re really focused on the realtime aspect,” co-founder and CEO Jorge Gómez Sancha told me.

    The team of co-founders originally met at Carto. They were already working on complex data issues. “Every year people would come with an order of magnitude more data,” Gómez Sancha said. That’s how they came up with the idea behind Tinybird.

    Image Credits: Tinybird

    The product can be divided into three parts. First, you connect your Tinybird account with your data sources. The company will then ingest data constantly from those data sources.

    Second, you can transform that data through SQL queries. In addition to the command-line interface, you can also enter your SQL queries in a web interface, divide then into multiple steps and document everything. Every time you write a query, you can see your data filtered and sorted according to your query.

    Third, you can create API endpoints based on those queries. After that, it works like a standard JSON-based API. You can use it to fetch data in your own application.

    What makes Tinybird special is that it’s so fast that it feels like you’re querying your data in realtime. “Several of our customers are reading over 1.5 trillion rows on average per day via Tinybird and ingesting around 5 billion rows per day, others are making an average of 250 requests per second to our APIs querying several billion row datasets,” Gómez Sancha wrote in an email.

    Behind the scene, the startup uses ClickHouse. But you don’t have to worry about that as Tinybird manages all the infrastructure for you.

    Right now, Tinybird has identified three promising use cases. Customers can use it to provide in-product analytics. For instance, if you operate a web hosting service and wants to give some analytics to your customers or if you manage online stores and want to surface purchasing data to your customers, Tinybird works well for that.

    Some customers also use the product for operational intelligence, such as realtime dashboards that you can share internally within a company. Your teams can react more quickly and always know if everything is running fine.

    You can also use Tinybird as the basis for some automation or complex event processing. For instance, you can leverage Tinybird to build a web application firewall that scans your traffic and reacts in realtime.

    Tinybird has raised a $3 million seed round led by Crane.vc with several business angels also participating, such as Nat Friedman (GitHub CEO), Nicholas Dessaigne (Algolia co-founder), Guillermo Rauch (Vercel CEO), Jason Warner (GitHub CTO), Adam Gross (former Heroku CEO), Stijn Christiaens (co-founder and CTO of Collibra), Matias Woloski (co-founder and CTO of Auth0) and Carsten Thoma (Hybris co-founder).

    Startups

    Meet Mighty, an e-commerce platform where kids are operating their own storefronts

    July 2, 2021

    Until children reach a certain age, enrichment programs are somewhat limited to school, sports, and camps, while money-making opportunities are largely non-existent.

    Now, a year-old, L.A.-based startup called Mighty, a kind of Shopify that invites younger kids to open a store online, aims to partly fill the void. In fact, Mighty — led by founders Ben Goldhirsh, who previously founded GOOD magazine, and Dana Mauriello, who spent nearly five years with Etsy and was most recently an advisor to Sidewalk Labs — hopes to woo families with the pitch that it operates at the center of fintech, ed tech, and entertainment.

    As often happens, the concept derived from the founders’ own experience. In this case, Goldhirsh, who has been living in Costa Rica, began worrying about his two daughters, who attend a small, six-person school. Because he feared they might fall behind their stateside peers, he began tutoring them when they arrived home, using Khan Academy among other software platforms. Yet the girls’ reaction wasn’t exactly positive.

    “They were like, “F*ck you, dad. We just finished school and now you’re going to make us do more school?’”

    Unsure of what to do, he encouraged them to sell online the bracelets they’d been making, figuring it would teach them needed math skills, as well as teach them about startup capital, business plans (he made them write one), and marketing. It worked, he says, and as he told friends about this successful “project-based learning effort,” they began to ask if he could help their kids get up and running.

    Fast forward and Goldhirsh and Mauriello — who ran a crowdfunding platform that Goldhirsh invested in before she joined Etsy — say they’re now steering a still-in-beta startup that has become home to 3,000 “CEOs” as Mighty calls them.

    The interest isn’t surprising. Kids are spending more of their time online than at any point in history. Many of the real-world type businesses that might have once employed young kids are shrinking in size. Aside from babysitting or selling cookies on the corner, it’s also challenging to find a job before high school, given the Department of Labor’s Fair Labor Standards Act, which sets 14 years old as the minimum age for employment. (Even then, many employers worry that their young employees might be more work than is worth it.)

    Investor think it’s a pretty solid idea, too. Mighty recently closed on $6.5 million in seed funding led by Animo Ventures, with participation from Maveron, Humbition, Sesame Workshop, Collaborative Fund and NaHCO3, a family office.

    Still, building out a platform for kids is tricky. For starters, not a lot of 11-year-olds have the tenacity required to sustain their own business over time. While Goldhirsh likens the business to a “21st century lemonade stand,” running a business that doesn’t dissolve at the end of the afternoon is a very different proposition.

    Goldhirsh acknowledges that no kid wants to hear they have to “grind” on their business or to follow a certain trajectory, and he says that Mighty is certainly seeing kids who show up for a weekend to make some money. Still, he insists, many others have an undeniably entrepreneurial spirit and says they tend to stick around.  In fact, says Goldhirsh, the company — aided by its new seed funding — has much to do in order to keep its hungriest young CEOs happy.

    Many are frustrated, for example, that they currently can’t sell their own homemade items through Mighty. Instead, they are invited to sell items like customizable hats, totes, and stickers made by Mighty’s current manufacturing partner, Printful, which then ships out the item to the end customer. (The Mighty user gets a percentage of the sale, as does Mighty.)

    The budding tycoons on the platform can also sell items made by global artisans through a partnership that Mighty has struck with Novica, an impact marketplace that also sells through National Geographic.

    The idea was to introduce as little friction into the process as possible at the outset, but “our customers are pissed — they want more from us,” says Goldhirsh, explaining that Mighty fully intends to one day enable its smaller entrepreneurs to sell their own items, as well as offer services (think lawn care), which the platform also does not support currently.

    As for how it makes money, in addition to collecting transaction-based revenue, Mighty plans to layer in subscription services eventually, even while it’s not prepared to discuss these publicly quite yet.

    It’s intriguing, on the whole, though the startup could need to fend off established players like Shopify should it begin to gain traction. It’s also conceivable that parents — if not children’s advocates —  could push back on what Mighty is trying to do. Entrepreneurship can be alternately exhilarating and demoralizing after all; it’s a roller coaster some might not want kids to ride from such a young age.

    Mauriello insists they haven’t had that kind of feedback to date. For one thing, she says, Mighty recently launched an online community where its young CEOs can encourage one another and trade sales tips, and she says they are actively engaging there.

    She also argues that, like sports or learning a musical instrument, there are lessons to be learned by creating a store on Mighty. Storytelling and how to sell are among them, but as critically, she says, the company’s young customers are learning that “you can fail and pick yourself back up and try again.”

    Adds Goldhirsch, “There are definitely kids who are like, ‘Oh, this is harder than I thought it was going to be. I can’t just launch the site and watch money roll in.’ But I think they like the fact that the success they are seeing they are earning, because we’re not doing it for them.”

    Tech News

    Twitter considers new features for tweeting only to friends, under different personas and more

    July 1, 2021

    Twitter has a history of sharing feature and design ideas it’s considering at very early stages of development. Earlier this month, for example, it showed off concepts around a potential “unmention” feature that would let users untag themselves from others’ tweets. Today, the company is sharing a few more of its design explorations that would allow users to better control who can see their tweets and who ends up in their replies. The new concepts include a way to tweet only to a group of trusted friends, new prompts that would ask people to reconsider the language they’re using when posting a reply, and a “personas” feature that would allow you to tweet based on your different contexts — like tweets about your work life, your hobbies and interests, and so on.

    The company says it’s thinking through these concepts and is looking to now gather feedback to inform what it may later develop.

    The first of the new ideas builds on work that began last year with the release of a feature that allows an original poster to choose who’s allowed to reply to their tweet. Today, users can choose to limit replies to only people mentioned in the tweet, only people they follow, or they can leave it defaulted to “everyone.” But even though this allows users to limit who can respond, everyone can see the tweet itself. And they can like, retweet or quote tweet the post.

    With the proposed Trusted Friends feature, users could tweet to a group of their own choosing. This could be a way to use Twitter with real-life friends, or some other small network of people you know more personally. Perhaps you could post a tweet that only your New York friends could see when you wanted to let them know you were in town. Or maybe you could post only to those who share your love of a particular TV show, sporting event or hobby.

    Image Credits: Twitter

    This ability to have private conversations alongside public ones could boost people’s Twitter usage and even encourage some people to try tweeting for the first time. But it also could be disruptive to Twitter, as it would chip away at the company’s original idea of a platform that’s a sort of public message board where everyone is invited into the conversation. Users may begin to think about whether their post is worthy of being shared in public and decide to hold more of their content back from the wider Twitter audience, which could impact Twitter engagement metrics. It also pushes Twitter closer to Facebook territory where only some posts are meant for the world, while more are shared with just friends.

    Twitter says the benefit of this private, “friends only” format is that it could save people from the workarounds they’re currently using — like juggling multiple alt accounts or toggling between public to protected tweets.

    Another new feature under consideration is Reply Language Prompts. This feature would allow Twitter users to choose phrases they don’t want to see in their replies. When someone is writing back to the original poster, these words and phrases would be highlighted and a prompt would explain why the original poster doesn’t want to see that sort of language. For instance, users could configure prompts to appear if someone is using profanity in their reply.

    Image Credits: Twitter

    The feature wouldn’t stop the poster from tweeting their reply — it’s more a gentle nudge that asks them to be more considerate.

    These “nudges” can have impact. For example, when Twitter launched a nudge that suggested users read an article before they amplify it with a retweet, it found that users opened articles before sharing them 40% more often. But in the case of someone determined to troll, it may not do that much good.

    The third, and perhaps most complicated, feature is something Twitter is calling “Facets.”

    This is an early idea about tweeting from different personas from one account. The feature would make sense for those who often tweet about different aspects of their lives, including their work life, their side hustles, their personal life or family, their passions and more.

    Image Credits: Twitter

    Unlike Trusted Friends, which would let you restrict some tweets to a more personal network, Facets would give other users the ability to choose whether they wanted to follow all your tweets, or only those about the “facet” they’re interested in. This way, you could follow someone’s tweets about tech, but ignore their stream of reactions they post when watching their favorite team play. Or you could follow your friend’s personal tweets, but ignore their work-related content. And so on.

    This is an interesting idea, as Twitter users have always worried about alienating some of their followers by posting “off-topic” so to speak. But this also puts the problem of determining what tweets to show which users on the end user themselves. Users may be better served by the algorithmic timeline that understands which content they engage with, and which they tend to ignore. (Also: “facets‽”)

    Twitter says none of the three features are in the process of being built just yet. These are only design mockups that showcase ideas the company has been considering. It also hasn’t yet made the decision whether any of the three will go under development — that’s what the user feedback it’s hoping to receive will help to determine.

    Tech News

    Google update will allow digital COVID-19 vaccination cards and test results to be stored on Android devices

    July 1, 2021

    Google is making it possible to store digital versions of either COVID-19 test results or vaccination cards on users’ Android devices. The company on Wednesday announced it’s updating its Passes API, which will give developers at healthcare organizations, government agencies, and other organizations authorized by public health authorities the ability to create digital versions of tests and vaccination cards that can then be saved directly to the user’s device. The Passes API is typically used to store things like boarding passes, loyalty cards, gift cards, tickets and more to users’ Google Pay wallet. However, the Google Pay app in this case will not be required, Google says.

    Instead, users without the Google Pay app will have the option to store the digital version of the COVID Card directly to their device, where it’s accessible from a home screen shortcut. Because Google is not retaining a copy of the card, anyone who needs to store the COVID Card on multiple devices will need to download it individually on each one from the healthcare provider or other organization’s app.

    The cards themselves show the healthcare provider or organization’s logo and branding at the top, followed by the person’s name, date of birth and other relevant information, like the vaccine manufacturer or date of shot or test. According to a support document, healthcare providers or organizations could alert users to the ability to download their card via email, text, or through a mobile website or app.

    In an example photo, Google showed the COVID-19 Vaccination Card from Healthvana, a company that serves L.A. County, However, it didn’t provide any other information about which healthcare providers are interested in or planning to adopt the new technology. Reached for comment, Google says there are some other big partners and states in the pipeline, but it doesn’t have permission to share those names at this time. Over the next few weeks, some of these names will be released, we understand.

    The Passes API update doesn’t mean Android users can immediately create digital versions of their COVID vaccination cards — something people have been taking pictures of as a means of backup or, unfortunately in some cases, laminating it. (That’s not advised, however, as the card is meant to be used again for recording booster shots.)

    Rather, the update is about giving developers the ability to begin building tools to export the data they have in their own systems about people’s COVID tests and vaccinations to a local digital card on Android devices. To what extent these digital cards will become broadly available to end users will depend on developer adoption.

    For the feature to work, the Android device needs to run Android 5 or later and it will need to be Play Protect certified, which is a licensing program that ensures the device is running real Google apps. Users will also need to set a lock screen on their device for additional security.

    Google says the update will initially roll out in the U.S., followed by other countries.

    The U.S. is behind other markets in making digital versions of vaccination cards possible. Today, the EU’s COVID certificate, which shows an individual’s vaccination status, test results or recovery status from COVID-19, went live. The certificate (EUDCC) will be recognized by all EU members and will aid with cross-border travel. Israel released a vaccine passport earlier this year that allows vaccinated people to show their “green pass” at places that require vaccinations. Japan aims to have vaccination passports ready by the end of July for international travel.

    In the U.S., only a few states have active vaccine certification apps. Many others have either outright banned vaccine passports — which has become a politically loaded term — or are considering doing so.

    Given this context, Google’s digital vaccination card is just that — a digital copy of a paper card. It’s not tied to any other government initiatives nor is it a “vaccine passport.”