Fundings & Exits

DoubleDown is going public: Why isn’t its IPO worth more?

Posted by | agora, Extra Crunch, Fundings & Exits, Gaming, IPO, Market Analysis, Mobile, Startups, TC, The Exchange | No Comments

Agora isn’t the only company headquartered outside the United States aiming to go public domestically this quarter. After catching up on Agora’s F-1 filing, the China-and-U.S.-based, API-powered tech company that went public last week, today we’re parsing DoubleDown Interactive’s IPO document.


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The mobile gaming company is targeting the NASDAQ and wants to trade under the ticker symbol “DDI.”

As with Agora, DoubleDown filed an F-1, instead of an S-1. That’s because it’s based in South Korea, but it’s slightly more complicated than that. DoubleDown was founded in Seattle, according to Crunchbase, before selling itself to DoubleU Games, which is based in South Korea. So, yes, the company is filing an F-1 and will remain majority-held by its South Korean parent company post-IPO, but this offering is more a local affair than it might at first seem.

Even more, with a $17 to $19 per-share IPO price range, the company could be worth up to nearly $1 billion when it debuts. Does that pricing make sense? We want to find out.

So let’s quickly explore the company this morning. We’ll see what this mobile, social gaming company looks like under the hood in an effort to understand why it is being sent to the public markets right now. Let’s go!

Fundamentals

Any gaming company has to have its fun-damentals in place so that it can have solid financial results, right? Right?

Anyway, DoubleDown is a nicely profitable company. In 2019 its revenue only grew a hair to $273.6 million from $266.9 million the year before (a mere 2.5% gain), but the company’s net income rose from $25.1 million to $36.3 million, and its adjusted EBITDA rose from $85.1 million to $101.7 million over the same period.

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Privacy assistant Jumbo raises $8 million and releases major update

Posted by | Apps, Balderton Capital, Fundings & Exits, Jumbo Privacy, Mobile, privacy, Recent Funding, Startups | No Comments

A year after its initial release, Jumbo has two important pieces of news to announce. First, the company has released a major update of its app that protects your privacy on online services. Second, the company has raised an $8 million Series A funding round.

If you’re not familiar with Jumbo, the app wants to fix what’s broken with online privacy today. Complicated terms of services combined with customer-hostile default settings have made it really hard to understand what personal information is out there. Due to recent regulatory changes, it’s now possible to change privacy settings on many services.

While it is possible, it doesn’t mean it is easy. If you’ve tried to adjust your privacy settings on Facebook or LinkedIn, you know that it’s a convoluted process with a lot of sub-menus and non-descriptive text.

Similarly, social networks have been around for more than a decade. While you were comfortable sharing photos and public messages with a small group of friends 10 years ago, you don’t necessarily want to leave this content accessible to hundreds or even thousands of “friends” today.

The result is an iPhone and Android app that puts you in charge of your privacy. It’s essentially a dashboard that lets you control your privacy on the web. You first connect the app to various online services and you can then control those services from Jumbo. Jumbo doesn’t limit itself to what you can do with APIs, as it can mimic JavaScript calls on web pages that are unaccessible to the APIs.

For instance, if you connect your Facebook account, you can remove your profile from advertising lists, delete past searches, change the visibility of posts you’re tagged in and more. On Google, you can delete your history across multiple services — web searches, Chrome history, YouTube searches, Google Map activities, location history, etc.

More fundamentally, Jumbo challenges the fact that everything should remain online forever. Conversations you had six months ago might not be relevant today, so why can’t you delete those conversations?

Jumbo lets you delete and archive old tweets, Messenger conversations and old Facebook posts. The app can regularly scan your accounts and delete everything that is older than a certain threshold — it can be a month, a year or whatever you want.

While your friends will no longer be able to see that content, Jumbo archives everything in a tab called Vault.

With today’s update, everything has been refined. The main tab has been redesigned to inform you of what Jumbo has been doing over the past week. The company now uses background notifications to perform some tasks even if you’re not launching the app every day.

The data-breach monitoring has been improved. Jumbo now uses SpyCloud to tell you exactly what has been leaked in a data breach — your phone number, your email address, your password, your address, etc.

It’s also much easier to understand the settings you can change for each service thanks to simple toggles and recommendations that you can accept or ignore.

Image Credits: Jumbo

A clear business model

Jumbo’s basic features are free, but you’ll need to buy a subscription to access the most advanced features. Jumbo Plus lets you scan and archive your Instagram account, delete your Alexa voice recordings, manage your Reddit and Dropbox accounts and track more than one email address for data breaches.

Jumbo Pro lets you manage your LinkedIn account (and you know that LinkedIn’s privacy settings are a mess). You can also track more information as part of the data breach feature — your ID, your credit card number and your Social Security number. It also lets you activate a tracker blocker.

This new feature in the second version of Jumbo replaces default DNS settings on your phone. All DNS requests are routed through a Jumbo-managed networking profile on your phone. If you’re trying to access a tracker, the request is blocked; if you’re trying to access some legit content, the request goes through. It works in the browser and in native apps.

You can pay what you want for Jumbo Plus, from $3 per month to $8 per month. Similarly, you can pick what you want to pay for Jumbo Pro, between $9 per month and $15 per month.

You might think that you’re giving a ton of personal information to a small startup. Jumbo is well aware of that and tries to reassure its user base with radical design choices, transparency and a clear business model.

Jumbo doesn’t want to mine your data. Your archived data isn’t stored on Jumbo’s servers. It remains on your phone and optionally on your iCloud or Dropbox account as a backup.

Jumbo doesn’t even have user accounts. When you first open the app, the app assigns you a unique ID in order to send you push notifications, but that’s about it. The company has also hired companies for security audits.

“We don’t store email addresses so we don’t know why people subscribe,” Jumbo CEO Pierre Valade told me.

Profitable by 2022

Jumbo has raised an $8 million funding round. It had previously raised a $3.5 million seed round. This time, Balderton Capital is leading the round. The firm had already invested in Valade’s previous startup, Sunrise.

A lot of business angels participated in the round as well, and Jumbo is listing them all on its website. This is all about being transparent again.

Interestingly, Jumbo isn’t betting on explosive growth and eyeballs. The company says it has enough funding until February 2022. By then, the startup hopes it can attract 100,000 subscribers to reach profitability.

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Admix raises $7M to bring more ads to games, VR and AR

Posted by | Admix, Advertising Tech, force over mass capital, funding, Fundings & Exits, Gaming, Recent Funding, Startups | No Comments

Adtech startup Admix is announcing that it has raised $7 million in Series A funding.

The London-based company was founded by CEO Samuel Huber (previously owner of an indie gaming studio) and COO Joe Bachle-Morris (who previously worked in the ad agency world). The company is working to bring ads to games, esports, virtual reality and augmented reality.

In-game advertising is already a huge market, but Admix says it’s differentiated by focusing on building a product that supports game advertising at scale, where advertisers can bid programmatically through traditional ad-buying platforms, rather than relying on an ad agency model.

For developers, Admix offers an SDK for the Unity and Unreal game engines, allowing them to drag and drop into their games ad formats like billboards, posters and 3D spaces. The startup says it’s working with more than 200 developers and is running campaigns from more than 500 advertisers each month, with past advertisers including National Geographic, Uber and State Farm.

“The concept of putting ads in games is obviously not new, but the scalability of our solution is what is revolutionary, delivering instant and consistent revenue to game makers, or streaming platforms,” Huber said in a statement. “This coupled with the fact that 1.5B people play games globally every day, means that gaming is becoming a truly mainstream advertising channel.”

Admix previously raised $2.1 million, according to Crunchbase. The Series A was led by U.K.-based Force Over Mass, with the participation from Speedinvest, Sure Valley Ventures and Nigel Morris (a former Dentsu Aegis executive), as well as other angel investors.

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Square acquires European peer-to-peer payment app Verse

Posted by | Apps, cash app, Europe, fintech, Fundings & Exits, Mobile, Square, Startups, Verse | No Comments

Square acquired Verse, a Spanish peer-to-peer payment app that works across Europe. Terms of the deal are undisclosed. According to Crunchbase, Verse had raised $37.6 million from Spark Capital, eVentures, Greycroft Partners and others.

Square has attracted a ton of users with Cash App, its peer-to-peer payment app that lets you easily send and receive money from your phone. But Cash App has only been available in the U.S. and the U.K.

Acquiring Verse seems like a good fit to expand Square’s presence in Europe. Verse’s team will join the Cash App division within Square.

There are many similarities between Cash App and Verse. Verse’s main feature is that it lets you send and receive money from a mobile app. Users don’t pay any fees and transfers occur in just a few seconds.

Verse users sign up with their phone numbers, which means that you can send money to other users as long as you have their phone numbers in your address book. If you don’t have enough money on your Verse account, the app can charge your debit card directly. And if you want to withdraw money from your Verse account, you can transfer your balance to your bank account.

You can also track group expenses from the app (like Splitwise), create money pots and organize events with a basic ticketing feature.

More recently, Verse launched a Visa debit card in Spain, which lets you spend money on your Verse account directly. You don’t pay any foreign exchange fees and you get two free ATM withdrawals per month. Verse uses Visa’s exchange rate.

While the startup hasn’t shared usage numbers for a while, according to App Annie, it is currently the No. 247 most downloaded app in the App Store in Spain across all categories. Peer-to-peer payment is a fragmented market. For instance, French startup Lydia has 3 million users in France.

“At this point, our main priority is enabling Verse to continue their successful growth in Europe. Verse will continue to operate as an independent business, working out of their offices with no immediate changes to their existing products, customers, or business operations,” Square wrote in the announcement.

The three most important words in this statement are “at this point.” Square doesn’t want to fix what isn’t broken. But I wouldn’t be surprised if Verse slowly evolves to become Cash App in Europe.

Image credits: Square

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Monzo confirms £60M down round, with a new pre-money valuation of £1.24B

Posted by | challenger bank, Europe, Fundings & Exits, Mobile, monzo, TC, valuation | No Comments

Monzo, the U.K. challenger bank with more than 4 million customers, has confirmed it has closed £60 million in top-up funding.

Backing the round are existing investors Y Combinator, General Catalyst, Accel, Stripe, Goodwater, Orange, Thrive and Passion Capital, along with new investors Reference Capital and Vanderbilt University.

One of fintech’s worst-kept secrets, the down round sees the bank take a 40% hit in its paper pre-money valuation compared to its previous round, now priced at £1.24 billion.

That’s likely a reflection of the current funding climate amidst the coronavirus crisis, with Monzo having to raise a bridge round at quite possibly the worst time.

I also understand from sources that a number of Monzo’s later-stage investors played hardball, in a bid to force down the challenger bank’s ticket price, perhaps after investing at the height of the funding market pre-COVID-19. What is also interesting about the new round is that the share price is the same as the bank’s last equity crowdfund, meaning that the most recent armchair investors haven’t seen a paper loss.

Monzo is also disclosing that its business banking product has now reached 25,000 signups. Launched officially in March, the business bank account is aimed at sold traders and SMEs, with both free and premium paid-for versions available, offering various feature sets.

Meanwhile, it has been a turbulent time for Monzo, as it, along with many other fintech companies, tries to insulate itself from the coronavirus crisis and resulting economic downturn.

Planned layoffs in the U.K. were communicated internally earlier this month — up to 120, but now thought to be around 80. It followed earlier U.S. layoffs and the shuttering of its Las Vegas-based customer support office, and almost 300 U.K. staff being furloughed.

Like other banks and fintechs, the coronavirus crisis has resulted in Monzo seeing customer card spend reduce at home and (of course) abroad, meaning it is generating significantly less revenue from interchange fees. The bank has also postponed the launch of premium paid-for consumer accounts, one of only a handful of known planned revenue streams, alongside lending, of course, and the more recent business banking.

Separately, in May, Monzo co-founder Tom Blomfield announced internally that he was stepping down as CEO of the U.K. challenger bank to take up the newly created role of president. His replacement is current U.S. CEO TS Anil, who now also holds the title of “Monzo UK Bank CEO,” subject to regulatory approval.

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Sinch to buy India’s ACL Mobile for $70 million

Posted by | ACL Mobile, Apps, Asia, deutsche telekom, Flipkart, funding, Fundings & Exits, M&A, MakeMyTrip, Mobile, OLX, sinch, T-Mobile, Wavy, WhatsApp | No Comments

Sinch said on Monday it has agreed to buy Indian firm ACL Mobile for £56 million (roughly $70 million) in what is the fourth acquisition deal the Swedish mobile voice and messaging firm has entered into at the height of a global pandemic.

The Swedish firm said acquiring ACL Mobile will enable it to leverage the Indian firm’s connections with local mobile operators in the world’s second largest internet market, as well as in Malaysia and UAE, to expand its end-to-end connectivity without working with a third-party firm.

Twenty-year-old ACL Mobile, which has headquarters in Delhi, Dubai and Kuala Lumpur, enables businesses to interact with their customers through SMS, email, WhatsApp and other channels. In a press statement, the Indian firm said it serves more than 500 enterprise customers, including Flipkart, OLX, MakeMyTrip, HDFC Bank and ICICI Bank.

“With ACL we gain critical scale in the world’s second-largest mobile market. We gain customers, expertise and technology and we further strengthen our global messaging product for discerning businesses with global needs,” said Sinch chief executive Oscar Werner.

The Indian firm, which employs 288 people, reported gross profits of $14.2 million on sales of about $65 million in the financial year that ended in March. During the same period, ACL Mobile claims it delivered 47 billion messages on behalf of its enterprise customers.

“Although the long-term growth outlook is favorable, lower commercial activity in India due to the COVID-19 pandemic means that the near-term growth outlook is less predictable,” Sinch said of ACL Mobile’s future outlook.

ACL Mobile is the fourth acquisition Sinch has unveiled since March this year. Last month the company said it was buying SAP’s Digital Interconnect for $250 million. In March, it announced deals to buy Wavy and Chatlayer.

Sinch, founded in 2008, employs more than 700 people in over 40 locations worldwide and is increasingly expanding to more markets. Last month it said acquiring SAP’s Digital Interconnect will help it expand in the U.S. market. The company says it is profitable.

“Together with Sinch we are scaling up to become one of the leading global players in our industry. I’m excited about this next chapter and the many new opportunities that we can pursue together,” said Sanjay K Goyal, founder and chief executive of ACL Mobile.

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BeeHero smartens up hives to provide ‘pollination as a service’ with $4M seed round

Posted by | agriculture, beehero, bees, funding, Fundings & Exits, Gadgets, GreenTech, hardware, Recent Funding, Startups, TC | No Comments

Vast monoculture farms outstripped the ability of bee populations to pollinate them naturally long ago, but the techniques that have arisen to fill that gap are neither precise nor modern. Israeli startup BeeHero aims to change that by treating hives both as living things and IoT devices, tracking health and pollination progress practically in real time. It just raised a $4 million seed round that should help expand its operations into U.S. agriculture.

Honeybees are used around the world to pollinate crops, and there has been growing demand for beekeepers who can provide lots of hives on short notice and move them wherever they need to be. But the process has been hamstrung by the threat of colony collapse, an increasingly common end to hives, often as the result of mite infestation.

Hives must be deployed and checked manually and regularly, entailing a great deal of labor by the beekeepers — it’s not something just anyone can do. They can only cover so much land over a given period, meaning a hive may go weeks between inspections — during which time it could have succumbed to colony collapse, perhaps dooming the acres it was intended to pollinate to a poor yield. It’s costly, time-consuming, and decidedly last-century.

So what’s the solution? As in so many other industries, it’s the so-called Internet of Things. But the way CEO and founder Omer Davidi explains it, it makes a lot of sense.

“This is a math game, a probabilistic game,” he said. “We’ve modeled the problem, and the main factors that affect it are, one, how do you get more efficient bees into the field, and two, what is the most efficient way to deploy them?”

Normally this would be determined ahead of time and monitored with the aforementioned manual checks. But off-the-shelf sensors can provide a window into the behavior and condition of a hive, monitoring both health and efficiency. You might say it puts the API in apiculture.

“We collect temperature, humidity, sound, there’s an accelerometer. For pollination, we use pollen traps and computer vision to check the amount of pollen brought to the colony,” he said. “We combine this with microclimate stuff and other info, and the behaviors and patterns we see inside the hives correlate with other things. The stress level of the queen, for instance. We’ve tested this on thousands of hives; it’s almost like the bees are telling us, ‘we have a queen problem.’ ”

All this information goes straight to an online dashboard where trends can be assessed, dangerous conditions identified early and plans made for things like replacing or shifting less or more efficient hives.

The company claims that its readings are within a few percentage points of ground truth measurements made by beekeepers, but of course it can be done instantly and from home, saving everyone a lot of time, hassle and cost.

The results of better hive deployment and monitoring can be quite remarkable, though Davidi was quick to add that his company is building on a growing foundation of work in this increasingly important domain.

“We didn’t invent this process, it’s been researched for years by people much smarter than us. But we’ve seen increases in yield of 30-35% in soybeans, 70-100% in apples and cashews in South America,” he said. It may boggle the mind that such immense improvements can come from just better bee management, but the case studies they’ve run have borne it out. Even “self-pollinating” (i.e. by the wind or other measures) crops that don’t need pollinators show serious improvements.

The platform is more than a growth aid and labor saver. Colony collapse is killing honeybees at enormous rates, but if it can be detected early, it can be mitigated and the hive potentially saved. That’s hard to do when time from infection to collapse is a matter of days and you’re inspecting biweekly. BeeHero’s metrics can give early warning of mite infestations, giving beekeepers a head start on keeping their hives alive.

“We’ve seen cases where you can lower mortality by 20-25%,” said Davidi. “It’s good for the farmer to improve pollination, and it’s good for the beekeeper to lose less hives.”

That’s part of the company’s aim to provide value up and down the chain, not just a tool for beekeepers to check the temperatures of their hives. “Helping the bees is good, but it doesn’t solve the whole problem. You want to help whole operations,” Davidi said. The aim is “to provide insights rather than raw data: whether the queen is in danger, if the quality of the pollination is different.”

Other startups have similar ideas, but Davidi noted that they’re generally working on a smaller scale, some focused on hobbyists who want to monitor honey production, or small businesses looking to monitor a few dozen hives versus his company’s nearly 20,000. BeeHero aims for scale both with robust but off-the-shelf hardware to keep costs low, and by focusing on an increasingly tech-savvy agriculture sector here in the States.

“The reason we’re focused on the U.S. is the adoption of precision agriculture is very high in this market, and I must say it’s a huge market,” Davidi said. “Eighty percent of the world’s almonds are grown in California, so you have a small area where you can have a big impact.”

The $4 million seed round’s investors include Rabo Food and Agri Innovation Fund, UpWest, iAngels, Plug and Play, and J-Ventures.

BeeHero is still very much also working on R&D, exploring other crops, improved metrics and partnerships with universities to use the hive data in academic studies. Expect to hear more as the market grows and the need for smart bee management starts sounding a little less weird and a lot more like a necessity for modern agriculture.

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Scandit raises $80M as COVID-19 drives demand for contactless deliveries

Posted by | 7-eleven, Alaska airlines, arkansas, barcode, Carrefour, Enterprise, Europe, fedex, Fundings & Exits, G2VP, hardware, healthcare, Instacart, inventory management, latin america, machine learning, Mobile, NGP capital, north america, ocr, Salesforce Ventures, Samuel Mueller, scandit, smartphones, swisscom ventures, Toyota, Wearables, zurich | No Comments

Enterprise barcode scanner company Scandit has closed an $80 million Series C round, led by Silicon Valley VC firm G2VP. Atomico, GV, Kreos, NGP Capital, Salesforce Ventures and Swisscom Ventures also participated in the round — which brings its total raised to date to $123M.

The Zurich-based firm offers a platform that combines computer vision and machine learning tech with barcode scanning, text recognition (OCR), object recognition and augmented reality which is designed for any camera-equipped smart device — from smartphones to drones, wearables (e.g. AR glasses for warehouse workers) and even robots.

Use-cases include mobile apps or websites for mobile shopping; self checkout; inventory management; proof of delivery; asset tracking and maintenance — including in healthcare where its tech can be used to power the scanning of patient IDs, samples, medication and supplies.

It bills its software as “unmatched” in terms of speed and accuracy, as well as the ability to scan in bad light; at any angle; and with damaged labels. Target industries include retail, healthcare, industrial/manufacturing, travel, transport & logistics and more.

The latest funding injection follows a $30M Series B round back in 2018. Since then Scandit says it’s tripled recurring revenues, more than doubling the number of blue-chip enterprise customers, and doubling the size of its global team.

Global customers for its tech include the likes of 7-Eleven, Alaska Airlines, Carrefour, DPD, FedEx, Instacart, Johns Hopkins Hospital, La Poste, Levi Strauss & Co, Mount Sinai Hospital and Toyota — with the company touting “tens of billions of scans” per year on 100+ million active devices at this stage of its business.

It says the new funding will go on further pressing on the gas to grow in new markets, including APAC and Latin America, as well as building out its footprint and ops in North America and Europe. Also on the slate: Funding more R&D to devise new ways for enterprises to transform their core business processes using computer vision and AR.

The need for social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic has also accelerated demand for mobile computer vision on personal smart devices, according to Scandit, which says customers are looking for ways to enable more contactless interactions.

Another demand spike it’s seeing is coming from the pandemic-related boom in ‘Click & Collect’ retail and “millions” of extra home deliveries — something its tech is well positioned to cater to because its scanning apps support BYOD (bring your own device), rather than requiring proprietary hardware.

“COVID-19 has shone a spotlight on the need for rapid digital transformation in these uncertain times, and the need to blend the physical and digital plays a crucial role,” said CEO Samuel Mueller in a statement. “Our new funding makes it possible for us to help even more enterprises to quickly adapt to the new demand for ‘contactless business’, and be better positioned to succeed, whatever the new normal is.”

Also commenting on the funding in a supporting statement, Ben Kortlang, general partner at G2VP, added: “Scandit’s platform puts an enterprise-grade scanning solution in the pocket of every employee and customer without requiring legacy hardware. This bridge between the physical and digital worlds will be increasingly critical as the world accelerates its shift to online purchasing and delivery, distributed supply chains and cashierless retail.”

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Buzzy Ethereum wallet app Argent comes out of stealth

Posted by | Apps, Argent, blockchain, cryptocurrency, Distributed Ledger, ethereum, Europe, Fundings & Exits, Mobile, Startups | No Comments

Argent is launching the first public version of its Ethereum wallet for iOS and Android. The company has been available as a limited beta for a few months with a few thousand users. But it has already raised a seed and a Series A round with notable investors, such as Paradigm, Index Ventures, Creandum and Firstminute Capital. Overall, the company has raised $16 million.

I managed to get an invitation to the beta a few months ago and have been playing around with it. It’s a well-designed Ethereum wallet with some innovative security features. It also integrates really well with DeFi projects.

Many people leave their crypto assets on a cryptocurrency exchange, such as Coinbase or Binance. But it’s a centralized model — you don’t own the keys, which means that an exchange could get hacked and you’d lose all your crypto assets. Similarly, if there’s a vulnerability in the exchange API or login system, somebody could transfer all your crypto assets to their own wallets.

At heart, Argent is a non-custodial Ethereum wallet, like Coinbase Wallet or Trust Wallet. You’re in control of the keys. Argent can’t initiate a transaction without your authorization for instance.

But that level of control brings a lot of complexities. Hardware wallets, such as Ledger wallets, ask you to write down a seed phrase so that you can recover your wallet if you lose your device. It requires some discipline and it’s hard to understand if you’re not familiar with the concept of seed phrases.

Even Coinbase Wallet tells you to back up your seed phrase when you first create a wallet. “We see them as advanced tools for developers,” Argent co-founder and CEO Itamar Lesuisse told me.

That’s why a new generation of wallets tries to hide the complexity from the end user, such as ZenGo and Argent. Creating a wallet on Argent is one of the best experiences in the cryptocurrency space. Your wallet is secured by something called ‘guardians’.

Trust your friends

A guardian can be someone you know and trust, a hardware wallet (or another phone) or a MetaMask account. Argent also provides a guardian service, which requires you to confirm your identity with a text message and an email. If you lose your phone and you want to recover your wallet on another phone, you need to speak to your guardians and get a majority of confirmations. If they can all confirm that, yes, indeed, your phone doesn’t work anymore and you want to recover your crypto assets, the recovery process starts.

Let’s take an example. Here’s your list of guardians:

  • Argent’s own guardian service
  • Two friends who are also using Argent
  • A Ledger Nano S hardware wallet

In total, there are five different factors involved, you including. If you lose your phone, you can recover your wallet by downloading Argent on another phone (factor #1), asking Argent’s guardian service to send you a text and an email to confirm your identity (factor #2) and confirming your identity with the Ledger Nano S (factor #3).

You have reached a majority and the recovery process starts. You’ll get your funds in 36 hours so that you have enough time to cancel it it’s a hijacking attempt.

But you could also have downloaded the Argent app on another phone (factor #1) and pinged your two friends (factor #2 and #3) directly. If they can confirm the same sequence of characters (emojis in that case), the recovery process would start as well.

“I’m interested in social recovery, multi-key schemes,” Ethereum creator Vitalik Buterin said in a TechCrunch interview in July 2018. It’s not a new concept as social media apps already use social recovery systems. On WeChat, if you lose your password, WeChat asks you to select people in your contact list within a big list of names.

In Argent’s case, social recovery adds an element of virality as well. The experience gets better as more people around you start using Argent.

In addition to wallet recovery, Argent uses guardians to put some limits. Just like you have some limits on your bank account, you can set a daily transaction limit to prevent attackers from grabbing all your crypto assets. You can ask your guardians to waive transactions above your daily limits.

Similarly, you can ask your guardians to lock your account for 5 days in case your phone gets stolen.

Betting on Ethereum

Argent is focused on the Ethereum blockchain and plans to support everything that Ethereum offers. Of course, you can send and receive ETH. And the startup wants to hide the complexity on this front as well as it covers transaction fees (gas) for you and gives you usernames. This way, you don’t have to set the transaction fees to make sure that it’ll go through.

The startup plans to integrate DeFi projects directly in the app. DeFi stands for decentralized finance. As the name suggests, DeFi aims to bridge the gap between decentralized blockchains and financial services. It looks like traditional financial services, but everything is coded in smart contracts.

There are dozens of DeFi projects. Some of them let you lend and borrow money — you can earn interest by locking some crypto assets in a lending pool for instance. Some of them let you exchange crypto assets in a decentralized way, with other users directly.

Argent lets you access TokenSets, Compound, Maker DSR, Aave, Uniswap V2 Liquidity, Kyber and Pool Together. And the company already has plans to roll out more DeFi features soon.

Overall, Argent is a polished app that manages to find the right balance between security and simplicity. Many cryptocurrency startups want to build the ‘Revolut of crypto’. And it feels like Argent has a real shot at doing just that with such a promising start.

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E-bike startup Angell partners with SEB for manufacturing and investment

Posted by | Angell, Europe, France Newsletter, Fundings & Exits, Gadgets, Marc Simoncini, Startups | No Comments

French startup Angell has signed a wide-ranging partnership with SEB, the French industrial company behind All-Clad, Krups, Moulinex, Rowenta, Tefal and others. As part of the deal, SEB will manufacture Angell’s electric bikes in a factory in Is-sur-Tille near Dijon, France.

SEB’s investment arm, SEB Alliance, is also investing in Angell . The terms of the deal are undisclosed, but Angell says it plans to raise between $7.6 and $21.7 million (between €7 and €20 million) with a group of investors that include SEB.

“We originally planned to manufacture 1,500 bikes in 2020,” Angell founder Marc Simoncini told me. “We realized that we were selling more bikes than expected. We now expect to sell 10,000 bikes.”

Angell has accepted 2,000 pre-orders over the past six months — 75% in France and 25% from the rest of the world. But pre-orders accelerated drastically with the lockdown in France. During the month of May, Angell expects to sell three times more bikes than during an average month.

Originally, Angell planned to build its own factory and assemble bikes itself. SEB is allocating 25 employees on the production line and production should start at the end of May. It should definitely make things move faster and reduce potential delays.

Angell unveiled its smart electric bike in November 2019. It has a 2.4-inch touch screen, an aluminum frame, integrated lights and a removable battery.

Like other connected bikes from Cowboy and VanMoof, it pairs with your phone using Bluetooth. This way, the Angell bike has an integrated lock and alarm system. There are also an integrated GPS chip and cellular modem to track it if it ever gets stolen.

But Angell is going one step further with the integrated display. You can select the level of assistance and display information on the screen, such as speed, calories, battery level and distance. It can also display turn-by-turn directions. Your handlebar also vibrates to indicate when you’re supposed to turn left or right.

The company is also announcing a second model this week, the Angell/S. It is a smaller, lighter version of the bike with a step-through frame. Both models feature the same battery, same motor and same electronics. They also both cost €2,690 ($2,900).

Angell now expects to deliver the first batch of bikes in July. By the end of the summer, new customers should be able to order a bike and get delivered within 10 days. Eventually, the company will also roll out a full line of accessories, such as fenders, baskets and mirrors.

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