Category Archives for "NEWS"

Social commerce startup Goxip lands $1.4M investment to add flexible payments

Social e-commerce startup Goxip raised $5 million in January, and now the Hong Kong-based business has brought in more cash with a strategic $1.4 million investment from financial services company Convoy. Existing backers including Chinese photo app company Meitu also took part.

Convoy offers a range of services that include asset management, insurance and other investment options. Hong Kong’s largest financial advisory with over 100,000 customers, Convoy isn’t in great shape now. It has been in crisis over legal action and a corruption investigation that is centered around a former company director.

The company’s shares remain suspended on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange although it recently made appointments aimed at modernizing its business and this deal is likely another part of that strategy. Convoy’s portfolio of strategic investments includes Nutmeg in the UK and Ireland’s Currencyfair, which bought up Convoy’s payments arm.

Goxip said it will use the capital and the new relationship with Convoy to offer more installment-based financing options on its service, which is akin to a ‘shoppable Instagram’ that has a focus on high-end fashion.

The company already counts major retailers like Net-a-Porter, Harrods, and ASOS and brands that include like Nike, Alexander McQueen and Topshop. To date, Goxip has helped customers find outfits and buy them but now, with Convoy, it wants to offer payment plans using a virtual credit card, Goxip co-founder and CEO Juliette Gimenez told TechCrunch.

With 600,000 monthly users and average orders of $300, Goxip is getting close to breaking even, Gimenez said, but she is hopeful that offering staggered payment options over varying periods such as 6-12 months will serve Goxip well as it expands in Southeast Asia where typical consumers spend less. That’ll happen soon after the company opened an office in Bangkok ahead of an imminent launch in Thailand, its second expansion after Malaysia.

Goxip has just opened an office in Bangkok ahead of an upcoming launch in Thailand

Beyond geographical additions, Goxip has also branched out into influencer marking this year with its soon-to-launch RewardSnap service. Similar to Rewardstyle in the U.S, it will enable internet influencers — and particularly those on Instagram — to partner with brands and make money through referrals to their audience. Gimenez said that 150 influencers have signed up, including Elly Lam who has 14 million followers across all platforms.

Instagram is beefing up its commerce focus — with the addition of a shopping tab and new management at the wheel — but Gimenez said she isn’t phased. She points to the fact that Facebook, which owns Instagram, hasn’t been able to make e-commerce work in Asia, while the simplicity of Rewardsnap and its connection to the Goxip service, makes it highly defensible even as Instagram ups its shopping game.

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At long last, pet portraits with background blur are possible on the iPhone XR

The new iPhones have some great new photography features, but the XR lacks a couple, for instance portrait mode for non-people subjects, owing to its sadly having only the one camera. So last year! Fortunately third party camera app Halide is here to help you get that professional-looking bokeh in your doggo shots.

There’s more to this than simply the lack of a second camera. As you know, since you read my article, the future of photography is code — and the present too, really. What’s great about this is that features that might otherwise rely on specific hardware, a chip or sensor, can often be added in software. Not always, but sometimes.

In the case of the iPhone XR, the lack of a second camera means depth data is very limited, meaning the slack has to be taken up with code. The problem was that Apple’s machine learning systems on there are only trained to recognize and create high quality depth maps of people. Not dogs, cats, plants, or toy robots.

People would be frustrated if the artificial background blur inexplicably got way worse when it was pointed at something that wasn’t a person, so the effect just doesn’t trigger unless someone’s in the shot.

The Halide team, not bound by Apple’s qualms, added the capability back in by essentially taking the raw depth data produced by the XR’s “focus pixels,” and applying their own processing and blur effect to make sure it doesn’t do weird things. It works on anything that can realistically be separated from the background — pets, toy robots, etc — because it isn’t a system specific to human faces.

As they write in a blog post explaining some of this at length, the effect isn’t perfect and because of how depth data is sent from the camera to the OS, you can’t preview the function. But it’s better than nothing at all, and maybe people on Instagram will think you shelled out for the XS instead of the XR (though you probably made the right choice).

The update (1.11) is awaiting Apple approval and should be available soon. If you don’t already own Halide, it costs $6. Small price to pay for a velvety background blur in your chinchilla pics.

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Naspers announces $300 million initiative to support startups and tech in South Africa

Naspers announced a $100 million Naspers Foundry fund to support South African tech startups. This is part of a $300 million (1.4 billion rand) commitment by the South African media and investment company to support South Africa’s tech sector overall. Naspers Foundry will launch in 2019.

The initiatives lend more weight to Naspers’ venture activities in Africa as the company has received greater attention for investments off the continent (namely Europe, India and China).

“Naspers Foundry will help talented and ambitious South African technology entrepreneurs to develop and grow their businesses,” said a company release.

“Technology innovation is transforming the world,” said Naspers chief executive Bob van Dijk. “The Naspers Foundry aims to both encourage and back South African entrepreneurs to create businesses which ensure South Africa benefits from this technology innovation.”

After the $100 million earmarked for the Foundry, Naspers will invest ≈ $200 million over the next three years to “the development of its existing technology businesses, including OLX, Takealot, and Mr D Food…” according to a release.

In context, the scale of this announcement is fairly massive for Africa. According to Crunchbase data recently summarized in this TechCrunch feature, the $100 million Naspers Foundry commitment dwarfs any known African corporate venture activity by roughly 95x, when compared to Safaricom’s Spark Venture Fund, Interswitch’s E-Growth Fund, and Standard Bank’s several million dollar commitment to Founder Factory.

Naspers is one of the largest companies in the world—85th by its $108 billion market cap, just after Nike—and one of the world’s largest tech investors.

Aside from operating notable internet, video, and entertainment platforms, the company has made significant investments in the Europe, India, Asia, and South America. In 2018 Naspers invested $775 million in Germany’s Delivery Hero, $124 million in Brazilian e-commerce company Movile, and added $100 million to its funding to Indian food delivery site Swiggy.

Naspers was also an early investor in Chinese tech group Tencent, selling $10 billion in shares this year after a $32 million investment in 2001.

The South African media group has invested less in (and been less successful) in Africa, though that comparison comes largely by contrast to Naspers’ robust global activities.

One of Naspers early Africa investments, Nigerian e-commerce startup Konga, was sold in a distressed acquisition earlier this year.

The company recently added to around $70 million to its commitment to South African e-commerce site Takealot. And in perhaps a preview the company was shifting some focus back to Africa, Naspers made one of the largest acquisitions in Africa this September, buying South Africa’s Webuycars for $94 million.

The $300 million commitment to South Africa’s tech ecosystem signals a strong commitment by Naspers to its home market. Naspers wasn’t ready to comment on if or when it could extend this commitment outside of South Africa (TechCrunch did inquire).

If Naspers does increase its startup and ecosystem funding to wider Africa— given its size compared to others—that would be a primo development for the continent’s tech sector.

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Here are the 20 games shipping with the PlayStation Classic

The PlayStation Classic already has a release date (December 3) and price ($100), but before today, Sony’s neglected to announce one key bit of information: games. The electronics giant has finally seen fit to reveal the full list of 20 titles for its answer to the wildly popular NES Classic edition.

It’s a pretty solid list, all told, including some of the console’s truly classic titles and representing a wide range of genres, from fighting to racing to RPG to, well, carjacking. The miniature console is available for preorder now, hitting the U.S. and Canada on December 3. The system also ships with two controllers.

Here’s the full list of titles.

  • Battle Arena Toshinden
  • Cool Boarders 2
  • Destruction Derby
  • Final Fantasy VII
  • Grand Theft Auto
  • Intelligent Qube
  • Jumping Flash
  • Metal Gear Solid
  • Mr Driller
  • Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee
  • Rayman
  • Resident Evil Director’s Cut
  • Revelations: Persona
  • Ridge Racer Type 4
  • Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo
  • Syphon Filter
  • Tekken 3
  • Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six
  • Twisted Metal
  • Wild Arms

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AnyMind, which uses AI for advertising, marketing and HR, raises $13.4M

AnyMind Group, a Singapore-based company that uses AI in online advertising, HR and marketing, has pulled in a strategic $13.4 million investment to go after growth in Japan and other Asian markets.

This Series B round was led by Line, the Japanese messaging app firm, and Mirai Creation Fund, which is backed by Toyota among others. Previous backers JAFCO and Dream Incubator also took part.

AnyMind Group is a holding group formed this year to manage its initial venture AdAsia — which uses AI to offer ad solutions to publishers and advertisers — and its newer businesses TalentMind (HR) and CastingAsia, influencer marketing. AdAsia previously raised $12 million last year before it added a strategic investment from Japanese news app Gunosy three months later.

The business was founded in April 2016 by Japanese duo CEO Kosuke Sogo, the former managing director of Japan’s MicroAd in APAC, and COO Otohiko Kozutsumi, who had been with MicroAd Vietnam — and both men are ambitious with their plans to grow.

Indeed, despite being less than three years old, AnyMind says it has been profitable since early 2017. It said total revenue for 2017 was $26 million, up from $12.9 million one year previous.

Today, the company has 12 offices — including a product development center in Vietnam — and its services are present in 11 markets across Asia. It has some 330 staff, up from 90 just 18 months ago.

AnyMind founders Kosuke Sogo (left) and Otohiko Koztusumi (right)

While it doesn’t appear to need the money, AnyMind said it is keen on the connections that this investment can bring. That will include working with Line — which is Japan’s largest messaging app and popular across Southeast Asia — on digital advertising opportunities, and tapping into the Mirai fund’s portfolio companies to offer advertising and marketing programs.

“We have experienced great growth in the past 2.5 years, and are now looking to enter our next phase of progress — expanding market share in the geographies and industries we’re in. As we’ve been operating at a profit since January 2017, our focus for this round was to select investors that could take us to that next level,” Sogo, AnyMind’s CEO, said in a statement.

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Walmart’s test store for new technology, Sam’s Club Now, opens next week in Dallas

Walmart’s warehouse club, Sam’s Club is preparing to open the doors at a new Dallas area store that will serve as a testbed for the latest in retail technology. Specifically, the retailer will test out new concepts like mobile checkout, an Amazon Go-like camera system for inventory management, electronic shelf labels, wayfinding technology for in-store navigation, augmented reality, and artificial intelligence-infused shopping, among other things.

The retailer first announced its plans to launch a concept store in Dallas back in June, which was then said to be a real-world test lab for technology-driven shopping experiences.

Today, the company is taking the wraps off the project and is detailing what it has planned for the new location, which goes by the name “Sam’s Club Now.”

Like other Sam’s Club stores, consumers will need a membership to shop at Sam’s Club Now. But how they shop will be remarkably different.

Instead of cashiers, the store is staffed with “Member Hosts,” who will act more like concierges, the company says.

And instead of scanning items at a point-of-sale cashier stand, customers will use a specialized Sam’s Club Now mobile app.

The app leverages Sam’s Club existing “Scan & Go” technology, which is used today across its retail locations to help speed up checkout. With the current Scan & Go mobile app, shoppers can opt to scan items as they place them in their cart, then pay right on their phone. At Sam’s Club Now, however, the use of mobile scan-and-pay is required, not optional.

The Sam’s Club Now app will also be infused with other features the company wants to try out, including an integrated wayfinding and navigation system, augmented reality features, an A.I.-powered shopping list and more.

At launch the app will offer a built-in map for finding the right aisle for a given product, but over time, this mapping system will be upgraded to use beacon technology and will be tied to the customer’s shopping list to map their best route through the store.

The shopping list will also be powered by A.I. Using a combination of machine learning and customer purchase history, the list will be pre-populated with customers’ frequent purchases. Those items can be removed from the list, if not needed.

This way, customers won’t forget things they usually need to buy, the retailer says.

Meanwhile, the app will allow Sam’s Club to test augmented reality as a way of highlighting “stories’ about the products being sold and their features, as well as providing a way to find out how items are sourced. This seems more gimmicky, though, as it’s unlikely that customers are interested in this sort of “infotainment” when just trying to get their shopping done.

But at very least, the test store gives the retailer a chance to confirm that supposition with real world data.

The app will also allow members to place pickup orders that will be ready in just an hour, or place same-day delivery orders.

The lack of cashiers won’t be the only difference between this Sam’s Club Now and other locations. The store will also be just a quarter of the size of an average club, at 32,000 square feet. That means it will feature, in some cases, smaller pack sizes than at the other warehouse club locations.

Because of the smaller size, it will also feature a quarter of the usual staff at 44 associates. But the goal is not to eliminate staff and replace them with technology, the retailer claims.

“Eliminating friction doesn’t mean replacing exceptional member service with a digital experience,” said John Furner, Sam’s Club President and CEO. “We know our members expect both.”

The company says it will include a range of products like meats, fresh foods, frozen items, beer and wine and meal solutions.

More importantly, it will also include a new inventory management and tracking technology. Down the road, a system of over 700 cameras will be used to help the retailer manage the inventory and optimize the store layout.

On the shelves, it’s also testing electronic shelf labels that will instantly update prices, eliminating the need to print out paper signage.

These are not third-party systems, the retailer says.

“The vast majority of technologies that we’re building here are technologies that we’ve developed in house. There may be pieces of modules of things that we’re using from third parties. But the majority are systems that are building on the technology that we’ve developed here,” said Jamie Iannone, CEO of and EVP of Membership & Technology. “That allows us to iterate and move pretty quickly with it,” he noted. 

By “quickly,” the retailer means things can change in a matter of weeks. The store plans to rapidly iterate on new and different experiences across computer vision, A.I., A.R., machine learning, and robotics.

The winners will then be rolled out to other Sam’s Club locations across the U.S.

The retailer says Dallas was selected as a test market because it’s an easy trip from Walmart’s headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas, and because of Dallas’ tech talent and the recruiting potential. The company today has over 100 engineers in the area, and it plans to hire more in the areas of machine learning, A.I. and computer vision.

It’s worth noting, too, that Sam’s Club Now has been set up, developed and made ready for opening in just five months.

The store will officially open to on an invite basis to local members for testing as soon as next week. The grand opening to the public is tentatively scheduled for a couple weeks out.

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Silicon Valley’s sovereign wealth problem

It’s time to bring the conversation about where Silicon Valley gets its money from out into the open. Following recent revelations into Saudi Arabia’s extensive reach and influence in the US technology sector, the willful ignorance that has defined the relationship between venture capital firms and the limited partnerships (LPs) that fund them for years now isn’t going to cut it anymore.

According to the latest reports from the Wall Street Journal, Saudi Arabia is now the single-largest source of funding for US-based tech companies. Since 2016, the Saudi royal family has invested at least $11 billion into US startups directly, and in August, the Saudi Arabian government committed $45 billion to Softbank’s $92 billion Vision Fund. To put that into context, the total amount of funding deployed across all VC deals so far in 2018 is $84.3 billion — a record for the industry, but a paltry sum relative to the wealth of the Saudi Kingdom.

Backlash is rising — and that’s a good thing. With tech companies now capturing the lion’s share of global wealth creation, we should absolutely want to know where that money is going. For one, it’s a matter of ethics. The US tech industry generates billions of dollars in returns annually for investors. When that money is being funneled into the coffers of a country with a total lack of respect for basic human rights, that’s a problem. It’s not good for Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and it’s not good for the country as a whole.

That’s not to say all sovereign wealth is at issue. Not in the least bit. But when it comes to funds that support nation states with questionable track records on human rights, there’s no debate.

This is a critical moment for Silicon Valley. It’s a wake up call to venture capitalists and entrepreneurs alike to start being more mindful about their sources of funding. There are plenty of better institutions and more impactful causes you can be helping to enrich – research initiatives at top public children’s hospitals, financial aid programs at historically black colleges and universities, public pension funds, and the list goes on – you just have to make the effort and be intentional about it. As an industry, we can and should be doing more to support these groups. If fact, it’s one of the very reasons why Jyoti Bansal and I founded Unusual Ventures and raised our entire fund from a diverse set of LPs.

If history is any guide, however, it will take more than the better nature of entrepreneurs and their investors to make a real impact.

Gender parity in the tech industry is a fitting example: While advocates have been calling for greater gender diversity in senior leadership positions at tech companies for decades, gender inequality continues to pervade the entire sector. In September, California took steps to remedy the issue by passing a law requiring public companies to have at least two female directors on the executive board. Since then, we’ve seen some improvements – although there is still far, far more that needs to happen.

Similarly, what’s likely needed to move the needle on transparency in venture funding is common sense regulation. For instance, we should consider a law that requires – at a minimum – transparency around how much funding VC firms raise from foreign sources.

This already exists for VC funding raised from public US institutions. When VCs raise capital from public universities, endowments, pension funds and others, they are required to report it under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Ironically, this mandate has contributed to the rise of sovereign wealth funds in the tech sector. That is, the additional reporting requirements that come along with raising money from public institutions drives VCs to “easier” sources of funding, such as sovereign wealth and billionaire family offices. Translation: transparency isn’t just common sense – it’s effective too – so let’s level the playing field.

Just like with any society-level issue though, fixing Silicon Valley’s sovereign wealth problem won’t happen overnight. For one, drafting legislation and enacting it into law takes time. It’s also extremely difficult for VCs to make changes around their investment base in the short term. If change is going to take root, the big moments to watch will be the start of the next funding cycle (ie. when VCs are out raising their next fund) and future legislative sessions, especially in the California state legislature.

In the meantime, entrepreneurs need to start asking VCs about where their money comes from. Nothing is going to happen without the industry’s best entrepreneurs stepping up and putting the pressure on VCs. So long as they are willing to accept funding without asking where it comes from, there is little incentive for the VC industry to change.

But if the entrepreneur community in Silicon Valley takes a stand on transparency in VC and starts asking the right questions, there is nothing stopping this moment from becoming more than just another news cycle. It will become a movement the VC industry cannot ignore.

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Original Content podcast: There’s spooky fun in Netflix’s ‘Haunting of Hill House’

The new Netflix series “The Haunting of Hill House” is based on the classic Shirley Jackson novel of the same name, but fans will probably have a better time if they put the book out of their mind.

Yes, the show opens with the same famous passage that begins the novel, and show and book characters have some similarities. But what writer-director Mike Flanagan has really done is use Jackson’s sinister house as the setting for a new story, focused the Crain family — driven from the house by mysterious events back in 1992, and drawn back there due to present-day tragedy.

On this episode of the Original Content podcast, we’re joined (just in time for Halloween) by Devin Coldewey just in time to offer our initial impressions of the show. While we had some reservations (get ready for the most extensive discussion of fill lights that you’ll ever hear on this podcast), it’s clear that “The Haunting of Hill House” managed to scare the heck out of all of us, and we were also impressed by the fact that each of the five Crain children becomes a distinct, memorable character in their own right.

If that’s not enough to convince you, it’s also worth watching the show for all the hidden ghosts, and for the formal ambition of episode six, with its long, single-take scenes that span the past and the present.

In addition to our review, we discuss the release of “Red Dead Redemption 2” and the announcement that WarnerMedia will be shutting down its FilmStruck service for classic films.

You can listen in the player below, subscribe using Apple Podcasts or find us in your podcast player of choice. If you like the show, please let us know by leaving a review on Apple. You also can send us feedback directly. (Or suggest shows and movies for us to review!)

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Here are 25 of the most innovative new projects using tech to help refugees and NGOs

From humble beginnings as a simple Facebook group I posted in September 2015, Techfugees has come a long way. It was conceived as a vehicle to enthuse technologists about the plight of refugees by waking them up to the idea that their innovation, startup mentality and design-led thinking could potentially bring new, scalable new solutions to the plight of displaced people. Today, Techfugees is an international non-profit with its own CEO, Joséphine Goube and a team based between London and Paris. Not bad for a handful of posts on social media…

What’s fascinating about the project as it’s developed is that, at the time, it was considered quite radical, perhaps even odd, to bring tech people into the equation. But simply watching the footage of refugees clutching smartphones as they fled war-torn regions and natural disasters made the tech world realize it can be part of the solution to many of the seemingly intractable problems refugees face.

Techfugees has grown into a community of around 18,000 innovators all over the world, supporting by way of their own projects or companies, via social media and taking part in hundreds of dedicated events around the world. This includes more than 30 hackathons and an annual Global Summit, the second of which happened over the last two days in Paris. The Summit had over 500 participants, such as social entrepreneurs, engineers, designers, humanitarians, policymakers, researchers or impact investors, a large number of whom who have a refugee background. Speakers discussed and debate the different uses of technology for displaced people during the time of migration until arrival to their new host societies.

The impact of climate change will cause the migration of 143 million people by 2050

This year’s program looked at four main topics: Access to Rights and Information; Data Ethics; Social Inclusion; and Climate Migration. The last issue is now of even greater urgency in 2018. According to a study by the World Bank published earlier this year, the impact of climate change will cause the migration of 143 million people by 2050, bringing with it looming humanitarian challenges.

Just like at your typical tech startup conference, Techfugees has a similar programme: The Techfugees Global Challenges Competition. This showcases projects responding to the needs of displaced populations and building technological products or services for them, based on Techfugees’ 8 guiding principles and addressing one of Techfugees’ five focus area: access to rights and information, health, education, employment and social inclusion. The applications went through an international Jury of experts who selected the 25 finalists from hundreds of applications, from 52 countries across the world, which pitched their project in front of an international Jury and Summit attendees.

The 5 winners (described in their own words) were:

Integreat (Germany)

“Integreat is an information app and website tailored to the specific needs of both newcomers as the users of the app and municipal administrations as the content providers. It’s a mobile guide for newcomers. Multilingual. Offline. Free. Can we provide the people arriving in our city with all relevant information in their native language as quickly as possible? Even without internet access and without confusing red tape? The result is an app called Integreat which passes on all relevant information in multiple languages to the newcomers. It is a holistic service ecosystem for cities, districts and organizations for the integration of people with a flight or migration background.”

Australia / USA
“Shifra is not only a life-saving mHealth intervention, it is also a research project which aims to explore the social, cultural and geographic barriers to quality healthcare access many refugees experience, as cited by the refugees themselves. The Shifra web app is designed to improve access to quality sexual and reproductive health care. It provides local, evidence-based health information in multiple languages for communities with varying levels of language and health literacy. Shifra also directs users to trusted clinics where they can access respectful and safe care. We work with local health networks to improve their existing services based on the self-identified health needs found in Shifra’s anonymous user trend data.”

Antura and the Letters
(Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt)
“Antura and the Letters is an engaging mobile game that helps Syrian children learn how to read in Arabic and improve their psychosocial well-being. Considering that most refugees have old smartphones and connectivity is always a challenge for them, the game runs on old devices (from 2010/2011), it’s very small to download (less than 80Mb on Android) and it does not require internet connection. Antura and the Letters is completely free and open source… and it has been designed in order to be easily adaptable to other languages! That’s exactly what we want to do next with the goal to reach and help as many children as possible around the world.”

“In the era of machine learning and artificial intelligence, the data workers and annotators are the new programmers. From robots, drones, self-driving cars or e-commerce, the markets need for vision technology for artificial intelligence is extraordinary. One of the major building blocks of such AI-powered recognition systems is image annotation delivered with a human input – data training. Today’s data is driving tomorrow’s AI products. To be competitive in AI, innovation depends on having data-edge often more than a technology-edge, but 80% of data engineers’ time is spent on sourcing and preparing quality image data for AI models. TaQadam optimizes image annotation for data-driven companies with visual AI and delivers on-demand, vertical-specific, high-quality image annotation. With an API and a cloud architecture, we ensure a simple and secure way to build image data set with a high accuracy and precision, while simplifying the process of sourcing human insights from dedicated and trained teams of TaQadam. TaQadam is a unique service on the market that brings a specialized on use case teams that are building AI together with the client. With gamification and mobile accessible work on TaQadam Android App, we transform the experience of annotation to fit the younger generations. We create work of the future: accessible, flexible, allowing fluidity, community building and fun.”

Refugees Are
“Refugees Are map the public opinion around refugees in the news by:
1- Extracting daily news related to refugees from GDELT (open source news dataset)
2- Extracting location from the article
3- Applying sentiment analysis to classify it as positive, negative or neutral article
4- Extracting topics related to refugees using LSA (Latent Semantic Analysis)
5- Extracting most common words occurring with refugees
6- Visualizing it in an easy way for the public to understand
7- Let the public help identify negative news around refugees”

And finally The Mohajer App won a special jury prize for its outstanding work assisting Afghan refugees in Iran in incredibly difficult circumstances:

The Mohajer App
Android / IOS
Iran, US, Canada and UK
“The Mohajer App was created with the support of Afghan communities inside Iran to address their needs. The app was completed with a group of paid and voluntary refugee-rights attorneys, advocates and technologists. Mohajer has two features: – The “Get Informed” section provides information for users concerning Iran’s immigration policy, the rights of Afghans in Iran, and resources that are available for concerns such as health, education, combatting from discrimination and more; the list continues to expand as users share their needs. The section also provides a list of support groups that our team has verified directly. The “Submit Report” feature enables users to share their everyday experiences as Afghans in Iran and support the larger community in addressing challenges by sharing information on events and experiences. The information on the app is also accessible offline, so as to support those without regular internet access.”

Here’s a run down of the rest of the 25 that pitched, in their own words:

Challenge #1 – Access to rights & information

TikkTalk (Norway)
“Tikk Talk is an open marketplace for interpretation services for everyone who is in need for interpretation assistance. So far the platform handles 80% of all assignments automatically, limiting the overhead costs which traditional agencies have. The platform also gives all parties full transparency which empowers them to make better decisions. Because of the tech, interpreters are in the forefront deciding on their wage and which assignments they would like to take. Before, Helse Førde (Hospital partner) switched to TikkTalk they only received 24% qualified interpreters now they receive 99% qualified interpreters.”

Refugee Info Bus
(United Kingdom, France, Greece)

“Refugee Info Bus’s mission is simple. Operating at the frontlines of Europe’s ongoing refugee crisis, we provide good quality multilingual legal information and free Wifi to refugees on the move in, or having just arrived, in Northern France and in Greece. Our first Refugee Info Bus began life as an old horsebox, purchased, stripped-out, cleaned-up, and converted into a mobile office and Wi-Fi hotspot for refugees and asylum seekers living in northern France. Within a year, we facilitated over 91,000 Wi-Fi logins and delivered more than 1,000 workshops to 50,000+ individuals on the UK and French asylum systems.”

(Greece, Bulgaria, Hungary, Serbia

“In mid-2016, Refugee.Info pivoted to focus on social media to better serve the needs and preferences of users, which had drastically changed after borders closed in Europe in March of that year. hired local journalists to obtain and verify news and other up-to-date information about the context, as well as content professionals to optimize the information for social media, applying private sector content marketing principles to increase ROI. Now, refugees in Greece, Italy and the Balkans can message the page and receive a quick answer from a moderator who will work with the journalists and lawyers to provide accurate information, often sourced from their website or blog.”

Challenge #2 – Health

Connect 2 Drs
The platform of Connect2Drs was initially built to strive the private sector as a target market, and it still is. However, with the injustice and lack of a good health insurance for mexicans – deported or refugees – people with disabilities and people who need medical attention at home with palliatives became their main goal.

“Doctor-X is a multi-language medical history mobile application and website with, for each refugee, a private account that the doctor can update when he does an operation on the refugee, in the language the doctor speaks. The program will make it available in 5 languages in case the refugee goes to a new country and needs medical help.”

“Until now, medical workers in camps used Excel spreadsheets to make notes about patients. On top of that, medical workforce turnover is high, bringing additional confusion and inconsistency to Excel records. Iryo enables accurate medical history recording. Because data storage is decentralized with a copy on a local server, a second one on the patients mobile phone and a third one in the Iryo cloud, even if a patient arrives at a new refugee camp where the Iryo system is already in place, the doctor there will be able to access the patient’s record.”

“MedShr has been developed to enable doctors and healthcare professionals to share and discuss clinical cases for peer-to-peer learning and medical education. It is a private, professional, verified network for clinical case discussion between medical professionals. No patient information is visible, all cases are anonymous and members can use the mobile app to get consent from patients to share images. Beyond that, all images and media are securely cloud stored with no images stored on the user’s device. Importantly, MedShr members are also able determine who can see and discuss their cases.”

Challenge #3 – Education

(United States, Gaza, Lebanon)
“Edseed is about narrating stories of youth and bringing them closer to donors in the USA; participating in networking; and building a network for higher education of refugees to address policy issues, mentor students.”

Paper Airplanes
(United States / Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, KSA, Egypt, Iraq, Palestine)
“Paper Airplanes (PA) is a nonprofit that uses video conferencing technology to provide free, peer-to-peer language and professional skills instruction to young adults and teens affected by conflict in the Middle East and North Africa. PA works to support these individuals to pursue their educational and employment goals and ultimately rebuild their lives. PA teaches English and Turkish to youth and adults, journalism to citizen journalists, and beginners’ coding skills to women. By using virtual communication technology to provide live instruction, PA is able to reach internally displaced and refugee youth as well as underserved populations who may be otherwise difficult to reach, including those inside Syria (approximately 50% of our students), young women and girls, and individuals in rural areas across the MENA region. Additionally, PA supplies computer tablets for select Youth Exchange Program participant recipients and scholarships to defray the cost of the IELTS and TOEFL exams for qualified PA graduates.”

“Powercoders’ solution is to offer intensive computer programming classes to refugees over a three month period and then place them in an IT internship. As a result of the comprehensive training and subsequent placement, within a little less than a year our refugee graduates are exponentially better positioned to find and keep an IT job in Switzerland, and many do just that. The program is fully customized to address the challenges and issues that refugees may face when trying to integrate professionally and the courses enjoy an almost 100% internship placement success rate and subsequent 80% integration rate.”

RefugeeEd.Hub is an open source online database that promotes promising practice in refugee education globally. RefugeeEd.Hub aims to raise the quality of education for refugees and displaced people by generating knowledge and fostering collaboration among global and local stakeholders working to provide education to refugees. RefugeeEd.Hub will support education innovators, multilateral institutions, global development actors, education funders and government and policymakers to inform practice on the ground.

Challenge #4 – Employment
Bitae Technologies
(United States, Jordan)

“Bitae Technologies aims to help global, mobile talent, like refugees and migrants, carry their skills and experience with them in a secure, verified digital CV, addressing the lack of access to formal education and employment faced by refugees and other vulnerable populations. Bitae transforms non-formal learning and achievements into opportunities for refugees. We provide a platform to track, store and verify refugees’ non-formal learning and skills, creating a “digital backpack” of classes, workshops, internships and skills that together, can help a refugee move forward with education and employment. Bitae leverages mobile and blockchain technology to ensure that governments, international organizations, NGOs, educational institutions and employers are able to document non-formal learning and skills in the most inclusive, secure and transparent way. The Digital Backpack focuses on four key functions: creating badges and verifying skills, requesting and sending references, skills matching and skills assessment. Using existing tools, the platform makes it possible to create blockchain-backed credential badges that can be stored and shared.”

Human in the loop
Bulgaria – 2017
“Human in the Loop is a social enterprise which employs and trains refugees to provide image annotation services to computer vision companies. It is a niche market that currently requires manual human input in order to train ML models to recognize images in a way that a human would, and Human in the Loop is part of a growing community of “impact sourcing” enterprises that is dedicated to providing employment to vulnerable groups in this sector. The opportunity they are seizing is that image annotation is a very accessible type of labor that does not require previous education or professional skills, but which can open the door to more advanced tech jobs and freelancing skills, which are especially useful for migrants. In this way, they are empowering refugees to earn a living in a dignified way and gain skills, and they are turning them in “digital nomads” who are able to make use of the opportunities that remote digital work provides to people who are on the move. Human in the Loop works as an outsourcing business with B2B sales. Their clients are companies from the computer vision, self-driving cars, drones, and satellite imager industry, which are training machine learning models.”

(United Kingdom, Germany, Jordan)
“Rafiqi is a matching tool that leverages artificial intelligence to connect refugees in real-time and in a customized way to the opportunities that are the most suitable to his/her profile and that would lead to lifelong employment. Currently, there is no single platform where resettled refugees can access and filter the wide range of opportunities available to them, including jobs, trainings, mentorships and degrees, and where any organization (company/NGO/university) can seamlessly access and filter refugee talent. Refugees lack of knowledge of opportunities and of the right opportunities is resulting in them being unemployed or being overqualified for what they are actually doing. Despite the existence of some refugee to jobs matching programs supported by governments and NGOs in countries like Germany and the Netherlands, these matchings remain largely manual and limited in terms of intelligence. These matching efforts cannot scale well given the high number of refugees and the diversity of their profiles, as well as the diversity of opportunities available to them.”

Transformify Rebuild Lives Program
(Worldwide / EU, Iraq)
“The Rebuild Lives Program by Transformify exists to provide access to jobs and secure payment to displaced people as well as access to targeted eLearning to improve their skills by using recruitment CRM leveraging HR-tech, fintech and AI to connect refugees with employers and provide access to secure payment even if the refugees have no permanent address or a bank account.”

Challenge #5 – Social inclusion

(France, Germany, United Kingdom)
“PLACE runs Innovation Labs for migrants and refugees in Europe. These labs transform the people from migrants and refugees into Innovators – creators of solutions for European societies. The labs are 1 to 3-day immersive experiences that apply design thinking methodology to enable Innovators to identify problems, understand their users, develop solutions and then rapidly test and prototype these solutions with a diverse community of local stakeholders. Beyond the Labs, the Innovators have the opportunity to develop their projects through the network of the PLACE collective – actors in the private, public and civil society that see the value of diversity in migrant-led innovation and who want to be a part of it. In addition to innovative solutions, the labs also produce a new leadership model for Europe. Innovators who demonstrate motivation and willingness to take on a role as a leader in migrant-led innovation are trained to be PLACE Catalysts. The Catalysts are trained in interculturality, sourcing, public speaking, networking and lab facilitation. They are then given the opportunity to apply these learnings as facilitators in Labs throughout Europe.”

Register of Pledges
“The Register of Pledges project workstream are: Humanitarian Database of Pledges (Accommodation, Goods and Services) administered by Red Cross with back-office capabilities for pledge management and workflow and reporting capabilities; Open-source version of the technology is available on Github, a humanitarian data capture system with APIs and a translation interface; Evolve and open-source our Case Management System, to optimize Service User outcomes.”

“SchoolX envision a shared economy model with volunteer teachers which include university students, educated refugees, retired teachers and other local volunteers, who will teach refugee students. Due to the challenge of limited access to education that these displaced people face, our solution is to recruit teachers within the refugee community and local community, and connect them with refugee students who are eager to learn. The talents of these teachers are then harnessed to deliver rigorous and certified education to the students. Through this, volunteers, including refugee teachers, will also receive an allowance for their efforts as well. The solution, in a form of an online platform, will provide training packages that involve not only fundamental tenets of teaching, but also pedagogical and psycho-social training for the volunteers to prepare them to approach refugee children in the most appropriate and empowering manner, The online platform will also serve as a database which will be utilized to match teachers and students based on their needs, skills, availability, and geographical proximity in order to arrange flexible, face-to-face lessons.”

(Portugal, Spain, Italy, Germany)
SPEAK is a crowdsourced language and culture exchange network, based on an Online2Offline model. All processes are managed online, through a platform developed in-house, while the learning and sharing experience happens offline, allowing participants to establish a close relationship with one another. This model ensures a greater efficiency and minimization of fixed costs, allowing SPEAK to be sustainable at scale while charging only a symbolic fee for its program. SPEAK empowers its participants by expanding their language and cultural skills, all the while becoming part of mutual support networks. Through a language and culture exchange, SPEAK connects migrants, refugees and locals living in the same city. In creating bridges between migrants and locals, members often help each other with job offers or renting their first house in a new city thanks to the power of SPEAK communities. These networks are home to a multicultural community, based on equality and where cultural heritage is validated. In other words, SPEAK’s networks nurture unity in diversity.
SPEAK’s volunteer Buddy system empowers anyone with the willingness to share their language and culture, allowing for an “everyone a changemaker” attitude, which encourages an even greater participation in local public life. he sustainability of the initiative relies on the community and willingness to promote SPEAK’s values of an integrated and inclusive society.”

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The Venture Twins

Justine and Olivia Moore like to introduce themselves together, otherwise, it can be a little confusing.

They live together in an apartment in Menlo Park. They share clothes. They both wear Rothy’s sustainable ballet flats and are big fans of Glossier. Their desks are only inches apart, because yes, they work together too — and because they share a space heater.

The 24-year-old identical twins are venture investors at CRV, a Palo Alto-based venture capital firm they joined a little over a year ago. They call themselves The Venture Twins and they may just be the nearly 50-year-old firm’s secret weapon.

CRV hired Justine and Olivia to work under Saar Gur, a general partner responsible for leading deals in Bird, DoorDash, Patreon, Dropbox and ClassPass, in 2017. He was looking to expand CRV’s consumer team when he found Justine, a recent Stanford economics graduate who was finishing a year-long stint at Goldman Sachs.

It wasn’t long before Justine’s references were urging Saar to hire her twin sister, too. “They are such a good team;” “You should hire both of them;” “They work great together,” they’d tell him.

The Portland natives have an impressive resume. At Stanford, they launched Cardinal Ventures, a first-of-its-kind on-campus startup incubator. Plus, one might say they were bred for venture capital. Their mother, Darcy Moore, was also a VC. She retired when they were just five years old, but the pair remember walking into pitch meetings and observing demo days before starting kindergarten.

“The cool thing to say is ‘oh, I never wanted to be in venture; I stumbled into it,’ but we have always wanted to be in venture,” Justine told TechCrunch. 

Breaking in

Despite long-held ambitions to become venture capitalists, Justine and Olivia enrolled at Stanford in 2012 to study journalism. After some time on The Stanford Daily covering the entrepreneurship beat, they realized journalism wasn’t going to quench their thirst for innovation.

Their junior year, they created Cardinal Ventures. The program gives two cohorts of 12 to 20 startups per year $5,000 in non-dilutive capital and supports them with 10 weeks of mentorship and programming. For the twins, Cardinal granted them access to some of Silicon Valley’s best investors.

Justine (left) and her twin sister Olivia are venture investors at CRV.

By their senior year, they were fielding internship offers from those top-notch VCs. Olivia accepted an internship at First Round Capital, while Justine went to work at Cowboy Ventures. After graduation, they both went to work as analysts at Goldman.

After one year on the public equities team for Olivia and the private equities team for Justine, the twins were ready to transition into venture for good. They had met with CRV’s partners during their Cardinal Ventures days and felt the opportunity to work with Gur on consumer tech investing was something they couldn’t pass up. That, and the firm was willing to give them the freedom they needed to build their personal brand.

Building a brand

In addition to their Twitter account, @VentureTwins, and a very active Medium page, Justine and Olivia have a weekly newsletter called Accelerated that’s racked up some 5,200 subscribers since it launched one year ago.

The newsletter is written for college students. It provides the week’s biggest news in tech, notable internship and job openings, recommended reads and surveys on industry topics and trends for readers to complete.

We are from Oregon and we weren’t engineering majors, so I think the problem we had and part of the reason we went to Goldman was because it’s really hard if you aren’t from here to understand how it works,” Justine said. “Our full-time job is keeping up to date on Silicon Valley, what the hot trends are, who’s hiring, so we decided, why don’t we spend a couple of hours a week creating a newsletter that is the resource we wish we had when we were in college.”

Accelerated has a team of 120 campus ambassadors who Justine and Olivia can text at any time to ask about various topics. “Do you like this company?” “Have you ever heard of this product?” Things like that. So far, the Accelerated network has helped the twins source five potential deals, two of which became CRV portfolio companies. That’s Harper Wilde, a direct-to-consumer bra retailer, and Uppercase, which helps D2C companies open brick-and-mortar stores.

“I think we really underestimated what it would be,” Olivia said. “But being in someone’s inbox every week is this really fun and cool connection.”

CRV isn’t known for its D2C investments; in fact, Harper Wilde was its first ever. With their instincts, youth and network, the twins have quickly proved their value to the firm.

Better together

At this point, you’re probably wondering how two 24-year-old siblings can live and work together and not want to kill each other. And it may sound too cutesy and convenient, but they think they’re better together.

“Honestly, we’ve gotten closer over time,” Olivia said. “Going to Stanford together and as we’ve moved into the professional world, we’ve found we are able to communicate really effectively as a team and get things done because there is less worry about stepping on toes or hurting someone else’s feelings.”

The twins plan to stick together, though it’s not necessarily a requirement. For now, they’ll be keeping their residence in Menlo Park, where they have the space to dog-sit former 23andMe president Andy Page’s Bernedoodle.

In 20 years, who knows, maybe Justine and Olivia will be known as some of the greatest consumer VCs the industry has ever seen. They are smart, refreshingly modest and they seem to know their stuff.

“We’d love to be doing this in the long term if we’re good at it,” Justine said.

Olivia agreed.

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