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Shuttl is winning over office workers in India with safer bus commute option

Posted by | Amazon, amit singh, Android, Apps, Asia, Ather Energy, BankBazaar, Emvantage, Facebook, Google, housejoy, india, meesho, Shuttl, starbucks, TC, Transportation, Uber | No Comments

Miles away from the fancy parts of Gurgaon, where a cohort of Uber and Ola cars race all day to dot the surrounding, hundreds of people are working on a different solution to contribute to India’s push for improved mobility.

When Uber entered India six years ago, and its local rival Ola began to expand in the nation, many thought the two cab services will be able to meet the needs of most Indians. To be sure, the heavily discounted cab rides in the early days meant that the two companies were able to quickly scale their businesses to dozens of cities and were clocking about three million rides a day.

But in the years since, it has become clear that Ola and Uber alone can’t serve the masses — a significant portion of which lacks the means to book a cab ride — or magically circumvent through India’s alarmingly congested roads. This has resulted in the emergence of a growing number of electric bike makers such as Yulu — which partnered with Uber last month, Vogo — which is backed by Ola,  Bounce, and Ather Energy that are both showing promising growth and attracting big bucks from investors.

For four years, another startup has been quietly working on expanding its platform. But unlike the bike startups and cab aggressors, it is betting on buses. Shuttl operates over 1,300 buses in more than 300 routes in five cities of India. The platform serves more than 65,000 customers each day.

Shuttl, too, hasn’t had much difficulty in attracting capital. It has raised about $48.5 million to date. TechCrunch recently learned that the startup was in talks with investors to raise an additional $50 million. Amit Singh, cofounder and CEO of Shuttl, declined to comment on the upcoming funding round. But he sat with us to explain his business and the challenges it comes with.

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Reality Check: The marvel of computer vision technology in today’s camera-based AR systems

Posted by | animation, AR, ar/vr, artificial intelligence, augmented reality, Column, Computer Vision, computing, Developer, digital media, Gaming, gif, Global Positioning System, gps, mobile phones, neural network, starbucks, TC, Virtual reality, VR | No Comments
Alex Chuang
Contributor

Alex Chuang is the Managing Partner of Shape Immersive, a boutique studio that helps enterprise and brands transform their businesses by incorporating VR/AR solutions into their strategies.

British science fiction writer, Sir Arther C. Clark, once said, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

Augmented reality has the potential to instill awe and wonder in us just as magic would. For the very first time in the history of computing, we now have the ability to blur the line between the physical world and the virtual world. AR promises to bring forth the dawn of a new creative economy, where digital media can be brought to life and given the ability to interact with the real world.

AR experiences can seem magical but what exactly is happening behind the curtain? To answer this, we must look at the three basic foundations of a camera-based AR system like our smartphone.

  1. How do computers know where it is in the world? (Localization + Mapping)
  2. How do computers understand what the world looks like? (Geometry)
  3. How do computers understand the world as we do? (Semantics)

Part 1: How do computers know where it is in the world? (Localization)

Mars Rover Curiosity taking a selfie on Mars. Source: https://www.nasa.gov/jpl/msl/pia19808/looking-up-at-mars-rover-curiosity-in-buckskin-selfie/

When NASA scientists put the rover onto Mars, they needed a way for the robot to navigate itself on a different planet without the use of a global positioning system (GPS). They came up with a technique called Visual Inertial Odometry (VIO) to track the rover’s movement over time without GPS. This is the same technique that our smartphones use to track their spatial position and orientation.

A VIO system is made out of two parts.

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Where top VCs are investing in media, entertainment & gaming

Posted by | Apple, BetaWorks, charles hudson, Electronic Arts, Entertainment, epic games, Eric Hippeau, esports, Facebook, fortnite, founders fund, funding, Fundings & Exits, Gaming, Google, GV, HQ Trivia, instagram, interactive media, lerer hippeau ventures, lightspeed venture partners, Luminary Media, matt hartman, Media, mg siegler, Netflix, new media, precursor ventures, Roblox, scooter braun, sequoia capital, Sports, Spotify, starbucks, Startups, sweet capital, TC, Twitch, Venture Capital, Video, Virtual reality | No Comments

Most of the strategy discussions and news coverage in the media and entertainment industry is concerned with the unfolding corporate mega-mergers and the political implications of social media platforms.

These are important conversations, but they’re largely a story of twentieth-century media (and broader society) finally responding to the dominance Web 2.0 companies have achieved.

To entrepreneurs and VCs, the more pressing focus is on what the next generation of companies to transform entertainment will look like. Like other sectors, the underlying force is advances in artificial intelligence and computing power.

In this context, that results in a merging of gaming and linear storytelling into new interactive media. To highlight the opportunities here, I asked nine top VCs to share where they are putting their money.

Here are the media investment theses of: Cyan Banister (Founders Fund), Alex Taussig (Lightspeed), Matt Hartman (betaworks), Stephanie Zhan (Sequoia), Jordan Fudge (Sinai), Christian Dorffer (Sweet Capital), Charles Hudson (Precursor), MG Siegler (GV), and Eric Hippeau (Lerer Hippeau).

Cyan Banister, Partner at Founders Fund

In 2018 I was obsessed with the idea of how you can bring AI and entertainment together. Having made early investments in Brud, A.I. Foundation, Artie and Fable, it became clear that the missing piece behind most AR experiences was a lack of memory.

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First China, now Starbucks gets an ambitious VC-funded rival in Indonesia

Posted by | alibaba, alibaba group, Android, Apps, Asia, carsharing, China, East Ventures, funding, Fundings & Exits, go-jek, Google, grab, Indonesia, Insignia Ventures Partners, internet access, Jakarta, JD.com, managing partner, mcdonalds, online food ordering, online marketplaces, pizza hut, Singapore, Southeast Asia, starbucks, temasek, Tencent, United States, WeWork | No Comments

Asia’s venture capital-backed startups are gunning for Starbucks .

In China, the U.S. coffee giant is being pushed by Luckin Coffee, a $2.2 billion challenger surfing China’s on-demand wave, and on the real estate side, where WeWork China has just unveiled an on-demand product that could tempt people who go to Starbucks to work or kill time.

That trend is picking up in Indonesia, the world’s fourth largest country and Southeast Asia’s largest economy, where an on-demand challenger named Fore Coffee has fueled up for a fight after it raised $8.5 million.

Fore was started in August 2018 when associates at East Ventures, a prolific early-stage investor in Indonesia, decided to test how robust the country’s new digital infrastructure can be. That means it taps into unicorn companies like Grab, Go-Jek and Traveloka and their army of scooter-based delivery people to get a hot brew out to customers. Incidentally, the name “Fore” comes from “forest” — “we aim to grow fast, strong, tall and bring life to our surrounding” — rather than in front of… or a shout heard on the golf course.

The company has adopted a similar hybrid approach to Luckin, and Starbucks thanks to its alliance with Alibaba. Fore operates 15 outlets in Jakarta, which range from “grab and go” kiosks for workers in a hurry, to shops with space to sit and delivery-only locations, Fore co-founder Elisa Suteja told TechCrunch. On the digital side, it offers its own app (delivery is handled via Go-Jek’s Go-Send service) and is available via Go-Jek and Grab’s apps.

So far, Fore has jumped to 100,000 deliveries per month and its app is top of the F&B category for iOS and Android in Indonesia — ahead of Starbucks, McDonald’s and Pizza Hut .

It’s early times for the venture — which is not a touch on Starbuck’s $85 billion business; it does break out figures for Indonesia — but it is a sign of where consumption is moving to Indonesia, which has become a coveted beachhead for global companies, and especially Chinese, moving into Southeast Asia. Chinese trio Tencent, Alibaba and JD.com and Singapore’s Grab are among the outsiders who have each spent hundreds of millions to build or invest in services that tap growing internet access among Indonesia’s population of more than 260 million.

There’s a lot at stake. A recent Google-Temasek report forecast that Indonesia alone will account for over 40 percent of Southeast Asia’s digital economy by 2025, which is predicted to triple to reach $240 billion.

As one founder recently told TechCrunch anonymously: “There is no such thing as winning Southeast Asia but losing Indonesia. The number one priority for any Southeast Asian business must be to win Indonesia.”

Forecasts from a recent Google-Temasek report suggest that Indonesia is the key market in Southeast Asia

This new money comes from East Ventures — which incubated the project — SMDV, Pavilion Capital, Agaeti Venture Capital and Insignia Ventures Partners, with participation from undisclosed angel backers. The plan is to continue to invest in growing the business.

“Fore is our model for ‘super-SME’ — SME done right in leveraging technology and digital ecosystem,” Willson Cuaca, a managing partner at East Ventures, said in a statement.

There’s clearly a long way to go before Fore reaches the size of Luckin, which has said it lost 850 million yuan, or $124 million, inside the first nine months in 2018.

The Chinese coffee challenger recently declared that money is no object for its strategy to dethrone Starbucks. The U.S. firm is currently the largest player in China’s coffee market, with 3,300 stores as of last May and a goal of topping 6,000 outlets by 2022, but Luckin said it will more than double its locations to more than 4,500 by the end of this year.

By comparison, Indonesia’s coffee battle is only just getting started.

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Miles gives you reward miles for almost everything

Posted by | Android, Apps, ceo, customer relationship management, fontinalis partners, Gabe Klein, gas station, Gautam Gupta, iOS App Store, Jigar Shah, Keith Teare, loyalty program, Lyft, Marketing, miles, NatureBox, Porsche, Pricing, san jose, Silvercar, starbucks, Startups, TC, Uber, whole foods | No Comments

Reward miles are nice if you fly a lot but what if you bike or take Lyfts or just like to wander around town? A new app called Miles aims to give you rewards for all of those things, bringing the concept of rewards out of the air and onto the ground.

Miles, co-founded by Jigar Shah, Paresh Jain and Parin Shah, is a San Jose-based company that looked at the problem of reward miles outside of airlines as well as the problems associated with city planning and traffic data generation. The app, which is now in the iOS App Store, can see when you walk, ride a bike, take the bus, drive yourself, or even hop in a Lyft or an Uber. It then rewards you on a sliding scale depending on how eco-friendly your trip is. Biking, for example, is worth more than driving or even taking the bus.

“Mobility today is a universal behavior that goes largely unrewarded,” said Jigar Shah. “To date, travel rewards have been siloed and limited to one form of travel – with consumers facing exclusions when comes to earning and redeeming rewards. Miles solves for this gap in market by allowing anyone to earn rewards – simply by traveling and commuting how they do every day.”

What can you get with your miles? Just for signing up you can get 2,000 miles which is enough for a $5 Starbucks, Target, or Whole Foods gift card, among others. There are also “nearby” that bring up deals from merchants in your area but right now most of the deals are online. More miles gets you better deals.

“In contrast to rewards programs in the market today, Miles delivers value for every mile traveled, across every mode of travel, anywhere in the world. Whether by car (as a driver, passenger or rideshare), plane, train, subway, bus, boat, bicycle, or on foot, the Miles app effortlessly awards users’ travel – regardless of where their journey takes them. Miles can be saved or redeemed at any time – with the value increasing every month as more merchants accept them as a form of payment,” said Shah.

Because the app tracks your movement on multiple types of transport the Miles team foresees connecting with city governments to supply traffic and usage data for various forms of transport. Further, because miles can be redeemed locally, they could also increase foot traffic.

The company raised $3 million from Porsche Digital, Scrum Ventures, and others. Former TechCruncher Keith Teare also worked with the team on the raise.

Interestingly, the platform can also work to create predictive recommendations based on your position and past likes and dislikes.

“By leveraging the Miles’ predictive AI platform, business and brands can deliver value to customers by offering to meet their near future needs as they travel, such as when someone needs a meal, a fill-up at the gas station, or a ride,” wrote the team. “Annoying marketing can become true customer service by enabling hyper-targeted rewards related to immediate need. This not only leads to increased customer loyalty and repeat visits, but also increased sales.”

“We saw an opportunity to deliver more value to people as transportation continued to evolve,” said Shah.

Multiple city governments are looking to implement the technology locally and the Contra Costa Transportation Authority will “offer rewards as an incentive to promote alternative and sustainable mode of transportation through the Miles platform.” Seattle is next and maybe some day soon you’ll be earning miles for walking and driving in your home town. At least it will get us out of the house.

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The food revolution may have just needed a cup of Blue Bottle

Posted by | blue bottle, CircleUp, Coffee, Collaborative Fund, Mobile, Philz Coffee, starbucks, Startups, TC | No Comments

 Each massive exit in the tech ecosystem usually follows the same cycle: an upstart becomes a huge business, it goes public or sells for a huge sum of money, many of the best people that built it take off and then they use their newfound wealth to start companies. But in addition to tech, the venture community has its own pet project: coffee. Read More

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The wireless chargers at Starbucks will get updated to support iPhone X and 8

Posted by | hardware, iPhone 8, iPhone X, Mobile, powermat, starbucks, TC, Wireless Charging | No Comments

 Yes, you should be able to charge your new iPhone X or iPhone 8 at Starbucks. Apple announced earlier this week that its new iPhones will include support for wireless charging through the Qi standard. But as far as charging in Starbucks is concerned, there seemed to be a catch: Starbucks’ charging pads from Powermat support a different standard, PMA. This is a solvable problem, according… Read More

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Starbucks is going to try out a mobile order-only store

Posted by | Apps, food and drink, Mobile, Software, starbucks, TC, telephony | No Comments

 Starbucks introduced its mobile ordering system in 2015, and it’s been a victim of its own success in some ways. Customers at popular spots are eager to use the mobile ordering system to choose their selection and pay in advance, in the hopes of avoiding a line – but they’re having to wait anyway, thanks to a virtual queue that’s as large or larger than the real one… Read More

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Pokémon GO is officially teaming with Starbucks for 7,800 new Gyms and PokéStops

Posted by | Apps, augmented reality, Gaming, Mobile, Pokémon Go, starbucks, TC | No Comments

starbucks_pokestop_gym Pokémon GO’s next big sponsor partner in the U.S. is Starbucks, which is going to host new gyms and PokéStops at 7,800 company-run Starbucks stores in the U.S. In addition to the new in-game locales, Starbucks is also making a Pokémon GO edition Frappuccino to celebrate the tie-up. What does Pokémon GO taste like in sugared coffee drink form? I have no idea, but I will definitely… Read More

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Starbucks starts selling Ember mugs, which keep your drink at a steady temp for hours

Posted by | Celebrity investors, Clay Alexaner, consume electronics, consumer hardware, demi lovato, Ember, Ember Technologies, food, Gadgets, hardware, mug, Nick and Joe Jonas, starbucks, Startups, TC, temperature controlled mug | No Comments

The Ember temperature control mug. Last year, Ember Technologies, Inc. ran a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo to build a mug that keeps hot drinks at the perfect sipping temperature. By now, it’s sold 4,000 of these devices. And in something of a coup for the startup, Starbucks Corp. has begun selling Ember Temperature Control Mugs in its stores across most of the U.S. and online for $149.95. Whether it’s… Read More

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