WeWork

Proxy raises $13.6M to unlock anything with Bluetooth identity

Posted by | Apps, Coatue Management, Enterprise, funding, Fundings & Exits, keyless entry, Kleiner Perkins, Mobile, proxy, Recent Funding, Startups, TC, WeWork, Y Combinator | No Comments

You know how kings used to have trumpeters heralding their arrival wherever they went? Proxy wants to do that with Bluetooth. The startup lets you instantly unlock office doors and reserve meeting rooms using Bluetooth Low Energy signal. You never even have to pull out your phone or open an app. But Proxy is gearing up to build an entire Bluetooth identity layer for the world that could invisibly hover around its users. That could allow devices around the workplace and beyond to instantly recognize your credentials and preferences to sign you into teleconferences, pay for public transit or ask the barista for your usual.

Today, Proxy emerges from stealth after piloting its keyless, badgeless office entry tech with 50 companies. It’s raised a $13.6 million Series A round led by Kleiner Perkins to turn your phone into your skeleton key. “The door is a forcing function to solve all the hard problems — everything from safety to reliability to the experience to privacy,” says Proxy co-founder and CEO Denis Mars. “If you’re gonna do this, it’s gonna have to work right, and especially if you’re going to do this in the workplace with enterprises where there’s no room to fix it.”

But rather than creepily trying to capitalize on your data, Proxy believes you should own and control it. Each interaction is powered by an encrypted one-time token so you’re not just beaming your unprotected information out into the universe. “I’ve been really worried about how the internet world spills over to the physical world. Cookies are everywhere with no control. What’s the future going to be like? Are we going to be tracked everywhere or is there a better way?” He figured the best path to the destiny he wanted was to build it himself.

Mars and his co-founder Simon Ratner, both Australian, have been best buddies for 10 years. Ratner co-founded a video annotation startup called Omnisio that was acquired by YouTube, while Mars co-founded teleconferencing company Bitplay, which was bought by Jive Software. Ratner ended up joining Jive where the pair began plotting a new startup. “We asked ourselves what we wanted to do with the next 10 or 20 years of our lives. We both had kids and it changed our perspective. What’s meaningful that’s worth working on for a long time?”

They decided to fix a real problem while also addressing their privacy concerns. As he experimented with Internet of Things devices, Mars found every fridge and light bulb wanted you to download an app, set up a profile, enter your password and then hit a button to make something happen. He became convinced this couldn’t scale and we’d need a hands-free way to tell computers who we are. The idea for Proxy emerged. Mars wanted to know, “Can we create this universal signal that anything can pick up?”

Most offices already have infrastructure for badge-based RFID entry. The problem is that employees often forget their badges, waste time fumbling to scan them and don’t get additional value from the system elsewhere.

So rather than re-invent the wheel, Proxy integrates with existing access control systems at offices. It just replaces your cards with an app authorized to constantly emit a Bluetooth Low Energy signal with an encrypted identifier of your identity. The signal is picked up by readers that fit onto the existing fixtures. Employees can then just walk up to a door with their phone within about six feet of the sensor and the door pops open. Meanwhile, their bosses can define who can go where using the same software as before, but the user still owns their credentials.

“Data is valuable, but how does the end user benefit? How do we change all that value being stuck with these big tech companies and instead give it to the user?” Mars asks. “We need to make privacy a thing that’s not exploited.”

Mars believes now’s the time for Proxy because phone battery life is finally getting good enough that people aren’t constantly worried about running out of juice. Proxy’s Bluetooth Low Energy signal doesn’t suck up much, and geofencing can wake up the app in case it shuts down while on a long stint away from the office. Proxy has even considered putting inductive charging into its sensors so you could top up until your phone turns back on and you can unlock the door.

Opening office doors isn’t super exciting, though. What comes next is. Proxy is polishing its features that auto-reserve conference rooms when you walk inside, that sign you into your teleconferencing system when you approach the screen and that personalize workstations when you arrive. It’s also working on better office guest check-in to eliminate the annoying iPad sign-in process in the lobby. Next, Mars is eyeing “Your car, your home, all your devices. All these things are going to ask ‘can I sense you and do something useful for you?’ ”

After demoing at Y Combinator, thousands of companies reached out to Proxy, from hotel chains to corporate conglomerates to theme parks. Proxy charges for its hardware, plus a monthly subscription fee per reader. Employees are eager to ditch their keycards, so Proxy sees 90 percent adoption across all its deployments. Customers only churn if something breaks, and it hasn’t lost a customer in two years, Mars claims.

The status quo of keycards, competitors like Openpath and long-standing incumbents all typically only handle doors, while Proxy wants to build an omni-device identity system. Now Proxy has the cash to challenge them, thanks to the $13.6 million from Kleiner, Y Combinator, Coatue Management and strategic investor WeWork. In fact, Proxy now counts WeWork’s headquarters and Dropbox as clients. “With Proxywe can give our employees, contractors and visitors a seamless smartphone-enabled access experience they love, while actually bolstering security,” says Christopher Bauer, Dropbox’s physical security systems architect.

The cash will help answer the question of “How do we turn this into a protocol so we don’t have to build the other side for everyone?,” Mars explains. Proxy will build out SDKs that can be integrated into any device, like a smoke detector that could recognize which people are in the vicinity and report that to first responders. Mars thinks hotel rooms that learn your climate, wake-up call and housekeeping preferences would be a no-brainer. Amazon Go-style autonomous retail could also benefit from the tech.

When asked what keeps him up at night, Mars concludes that “the biggest thing that scares me is that this requires us to be the most trustworthy company on the planet. There is no ‘move fast, break things’ here. It’s ‘move fast, do it right, don’t screw it up.’ “

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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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Daily Crunch: Well Facebook, you did it again

Posted by | Apps, Daily Crunch, Facebook, Fundings & Exits, Gadgets, Hack, hardware, Mobile, Security, Social, Startups, WeWork | No Comments

The Daily Crunch is TechCrunch’s roundup of our biggest and most important stories. If you’d like to get this delivered to your inbox every day at around 9am Pacific, you can subscribe here:

1. Facebook is the new crapware 

Well Facebook, you did it again. Fresh off its latest privacy scandal, the troubled social media giant has inked a deal with Android to pre-install its app on an undisclosed number of phones and make the software permanent. This means you won’t be able to delete Facebook from those phones. Thanks, Facebook.

2. The world’s first foldable phone is real 

Chinese company Royole has beaten Samsung to the market and has been showing off a foldable phone/tablet this week at CES. While it’s not the most fluid experience, the device definitely works at adapting to your needs.

3. CES revokes award from female-founded sex tech company
Outcries of a double-standard are pouring out of CES after the Consumer Tech Association revoked an award from a company geared toward women’s sexual health.

4. Everything Google announced at CES 2019 

Google went all in on the Assistant this year at CES. The company boasted that the voice-enabled AI will make its way onto a billion devices by the end of the month — up from 400 million last year. But what’s most exciting is the expanded capabilities of Google’s Assistant. Soon you’ll be able to check into flights and translate conversations on the fly with a simple “Hey Google.”

5. Rebranding WeWork won’t work 

The company formerly known as WeWork has rebranded to the We Company, but its new strategy has the potential to plunge the company further into debt.

6. Despite promises to stop, US cell carriers are still selling your real-time phone location data

Last year a little-known company called LocationSmart came under fire after leaking location data from AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint users to shady customers. LocationSmart quickly buckled under public scrutiny and promised to stop selling user data, but few focused on another big player in the location tracking business: Zumigo.

7. The best and worst of CES 2019 

From monster displays to VR in cars, we’re breaking down the good, the bad and the ugly from CES 2019.

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See you tomorrow in Las Vegas

Posted by | Consumer Electronics Show, Culture, Gadgets, Las Vegas, meetup, TC, WeWork | No Comments

We will be holding a small event during CES in Las Vegas and we want to see you! We’re looking to meet some cool hardware and crypto startups, so the good folks at Work In Progress have opened up their space to us and 200 of you all to hold a meetup and pitch-off.

We’ll have some pizza and beer and we can hit a bar after the event for some one on one time with the TC folks.

The event will be held at Work In Progress, 317 South 6th Street on Wednesday, January 9, 2019 between 6:00 PM – 9:00 PM PST.

The meetup is sold out but please attend if you’ve picked up a ticket. Thanks!

See you in Vegas!

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Join us in Las Vegas during CES

Posted by | cognitive science, Gadgets, Las Vegas, meetup, perception, pitch-off, Startups, TC, WeWork | No Comments

We will be holding a small event during CES in Las Vegas and we want to see you! We’re looking to meet some cool hardware and crypto startups, so the good folks at Work In Progress have opened up their space to us and 200 of you all to hold a meetup and pitch-off.

The event will be held at Work In Progress, 317 South 6th Street on Wednesday, January 9, 2019 between 6:00 PM – 9:00 PM PST.

There are only 200 tickets, so if you want to come please pick one up ASAP. The meetup is open to everyone, so head over if you’d like to talk tech. You can pick up a ticket here.

If you’d like to pitch at the event I’ll be picking 10 companies that will have three minutes to pitch without slides. Because this is a hardware event I recommend bringing a few of your items to show off. If you’d like to pitch, fill this out and I will contact those who will be coming up on stage.

See you in Vegas!

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Gjemeni puts your couch in a box

Posted by | design, furniture, Gadgets, H&M, ikea, Netflix, Smart phones, TC, WeWork | No Comments

Gjemeni, pronounced Gemini, is a new furniture-on-demand service from founder Sean Pathiratne. The company offers decidedly tech-forward furniture that comes in a single box and can be assembled by anyone in a few minutes.

Pathiratne sees his company as a fashionable and agile furniture company that brings stylish stuff to your living room in the vein of Zara or H&M.

“We can create and deliver on trends through our technology-led global supply chain with the agility and speed of ‘fast fashion.’ We are ‘fast furniture,’” said Pathiratne.

“I live and work in Silicon Valley. I spend a lot of time in WeWork and other co-working places, in the offices of start-ups, and with tech friends,” said Pathiratne . “I observed how millennials live and work. They are a restless bunch physically – which mirrors their restlessness overall. They don’t like the status quo in business or with the objects in their lives. They are constantly shifting and fidgeting on their sofas. They just couldn’t find the right positions. After all, today we are checking our smart phones one minute, leaning back and contemplating the world another minute.”

The result? A plugged-in couch for the plugged-in generation.

“So the implications were obvious: create a multi-position couch for our multi-tasking world. A couch that meets people where they are, rather than the other way around. And also make sure that the next- gen couch had connectivity for the generation that is always plugged in,” he said.

The Gjemeni flagship is a convertible couch that turns from stark seating system into a lie-flat futon. Both sides of the couch have power and USB ports and it has three resting positions.

The company also sells a chair and an ottoman. Each product, from the $999 couch to the $299 leg rest, comes in a massive box that opens to reveal the furniture and a set of legs. To build the stuff you simply snap the legs into the holes on the bottom and flip the couch upright.

I tested one of the couches and can report that it would make a great startup-office seat. The styling, the firmness, and the clever charging ports mean that you can easily make your visitors feel powered-up and comfortable. As a home couch, however, I would recommend trying before you buy. First, at 6.5 feet long, there isn’t much room on the couch for more than two people let alone a small family. Further, the two reclining options are not conducive to many traditional couch activities except, perhaps, for the aftermath of Netflix and chill. The two sides of the back of the couch move from upright to reclined. When upright it is set at almost at 90 degrees – a TV lounging nightmare – and when slightly reclined you fall into a napping position. There is no “just right” with this couch for the home user.

That said this is furniture and your experience may differ. The company offers a 60-day money back guarantee as long as you keep the massive box and at $999 it makes perfect sense to take a flyer on this one. In fact, that’s the point. Like other furniture services, Gjemeni plans to disrupt the visit to Ikea or the furniture store. Because setup is so simple there is little harm in giving it a go and sending it back if you don’t like the size, the firmness, or the fit.

After all, said Pathiratne, the company is all about self-awareness.

“We are built to harness technology in pursuit of wellness. Gjemeni meets our ergonomic needs to relieve pressure on the back and spine, and to adjust so that we can take a power nap (we all know how important sleep is to wellness) or simply meditate and ground ourselves,” said Pathiratne.

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WeWork’s Adam Neumann on how to hit $1B in revenue with a careful balance

Posted by | disrupt ny, Disrupt NY 2017, Enterprise, Mobile, Startups, TC, techcrunch disrupt ny, WeWork | No Comments

 WeWork, which is said to be raising as much as $4 billion at a valuation of more than $20 billion, is still on its way to hitting $1 billion in annual revenue this year — though CEO Adam Neumann said at TechCrunch Disrupt NY 2017 that it’s not quite as simple as betting big on enterprise deals. Neumann said that enterprise deals, which would help handle office space for larger… Read More

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