Wij willen met u aan tafel zitten en in een openhartig gesprek uitvinden welke uitdagingen en vragen er bij u spelen om zo, gezamelijk, tot een beste oplossing te komen. Oftewel, hoe kan de techniek u ondersteunen in plaats van dat u de techniek moet ondersteunen.

Modern agriculture involves fields of mind-boggling size, and spraying them efficiently is a serious operational challenge. Pyka is taking on the largely human-powered spray business with an autonomous winged craft and, crucially, regulatory approval.

Just as we’ve seen with DroneSeed, this type of flying is risky for pilots, who must fly very close to the ground and other obstacles, yet also highly susceptible to automation; That’s because it involves lots of repetitive flight patterns that must be executed perfectly, over and over.

Pyka’s approach is unlike that of many in the drone industry, which has tended to use multirotor craft for their maneuverability and easy take-off and landing. But those drones can’t carry the weight and volume of pesticides and other chemicals that (unfortunately) need to be deployed at large scales.

The craft Pyka has built is more traditional, resembling a traditional one-seater crop dusting plane but lacking the cockpit. It’s driven by a trio of propellers, and most of the interior is given over to payload (it can carry about 450 pounds) and batteries. Of course, there is also a sensing suite and onboard computer to handle the immediate demands of automated flight.

Pyka can take off or land on a 150-foot stretch of flat land, so you don’t have to worry about setting up a runway and wasting energy getting to the target area. Of course, it’ll eventually need to swap out batteries, which is part of the ground crew’s responsibilities. They’ll also be designing the overall course for the craft, though the actual flight path and moment-to-moment decisions are handled by the flight computer.

Example of a flight path accounting for obstacles without human input

All this means the plane, apparently called the Egret, can spray about a hundred acres per hour, about the same as a helicopter. But the autonomous craft provides improved precision (it flies lower) and safety (no human pulling difficult maneuvers every minute or two).

Perhaps more importantly, the feds don’t mind it. Pyka claims to be the only company in the world with a commercially approved large autonomous electric aircraft. Small ones like drones have been approved left and right, but the Egret is approaching the size of a traditional “small aircraft,” like a Piper Cub.

Of course, that’s just the craft — other regulatory hurdles hinder wide deployment, like communicating with air traffic management and other craft; certification of the craft in other ways; a more robust long-range sense and avoid system and so on. But Pyka’s Egret has already flown thousands of miles at test farms that pay for the privilege. (Pyka declined to comment on its business model, customers or revenues.)

The company’s founding team — Michael Norcia, Chuma Ogunwole, Kyle Moore and Nathan White — comes from a variety of well-known companies working in adjacent spaces: Cora, Kittyhawk, Joby Aviation, Google X, Waymo and Morgan Stanley (that’s the COO).

The $ 11 million seed round was led by Prime Movers Lab, with participation from Y Combinator, Greycroft, Data Collective and Bold Capital Partners.


TechCrunch

Salv, an anti-money laundering (AML) startup founded by former TransferWise and Skype employees, has raised $ 2 million in seed funding.

The round is led by Fly Ventures, alongside Passion Capital and Seedcamp. Angel investors also participating include N26 founder Maximilian Tayenthal (who seems to be doing quite a bit of angel investing), Twilio CTO Ott Kaukver, and Taavi Kotka, former CIO for Estonia (the actual country!).

Founded in June 2018 and initially offering consultancy, Estonia-based Salv has built a software platform that helps banks find and stop financial crime. The idea, says co-founder and CEO Taavi Tamkivi, is to move AML beyond just compliance to something more proactive that actually does defeat crime. That’s quite the promise, although he and his co-founders have a lot experience to draw from, both within fast-growing startups and AML.

Tamkivi built the AML, fraud, and Know Your Customer (KYC) teams at TransferWise and Skype. COO Scott McClelland also worked in the anti-fraud team at Skype, followed by a stint at TransferWise, first as an analyst and then in HR. And CTO Sergei Rumjantsev was also formerly at TransferWise, leading the engineering team responsible for KYC and verification.

“This was a highly demanding role, especially given how fast TransferWise was growing, how many new markets were coming online, and how central user verification is for compliance,” Tamkivi tells me. “Under Sergei’s leadership, the team made the verification process incredibly smooth over time for genuine customers. But also robust enough to protect TransferWise from on-boarding bad actors”.

Bad actors within financial services are aplenty, of course. Yet, despite the European banking sector spending billions tackling the problem, it is estimated that only 1-2% of global money-laundering is detected.

“AML should be all about stopping money laundering but, particularly in the last decade, layer upon layer of regulations have been added for banks to comply with,” says Tamkivi. “This would be great if that meant that there was no more money laundering, but sadly, that’s a long way off. Today, between $ 1-2 trillion a year is still laundered. But the excessive regulations mean that nearly all of a bank’s compliance team’s effort goes into compliance. They have very little energy left to actually focus on improving their financial crime-fighting abilities. The software they’re using is similar, focused almost wholly on compliance, not crime-fighting”.

That is where Salv wants to step in, and Tamkivi says the main difference between the startup’s AML software and other existing solutions is a much greater emphasis on crime-fighting rather than a box-ticking compliance exercise.

“We’re aiming to create a transformation similar to what’s happened in virus scanning,” he says. “10-15 years ago virus scanners on everyone’s PCs were an enormous hassle, consumed tons of resources and stopped you from getting work done. The same is true in financial institutions today. They’re using outdated, heavy software and processes to handle AML. But today, virus scanning still happens, but nobody’s worried about it. It happens in the background, with few resources. We’ll do the same in the AML world”.

In addition, the Salv CEO claims that the company’s software is faster than competitors’ offerings, both in terms of set up time and integration, and making changes to the rules the system adheres to.

“Our system, by contrast, takes a month or less to set up and minutes to modify the rules,” he says. “As a result, our customers can take everything they learn today from new criminal patterns, encode it in automated rules tomorrow, and repeat that cycle every day to protect their bank. Moving fast is the only way to keep up with the innovative organised criminals moving millions or billions around the world”.

To that end, Salv already counts Estonian bank LHV as its first customer. “They offer a full suite of banking products across Estonia,” says Tamkivi. “They’re also active in London, in particular, supporting fintechs. We have another couple of customers in the Lithuanian fintech scene. One of those is DeVere e-Money”.

More generally, Salv’s product is said to be suitable for Tier 2 and Tier 3 banks, as well as regulated fintechs and challenger banks.

Meanwhile, the business model is straightforward enough. Salv charges a monthly subscription, while the price varies based on the number of active customers a bank or fintech has.


TechCrunch

Toggle, a Brooklyn-based robotics startup, announced today that it scored $ 3 million in seed funding. The early-stage round was led by Point72 Ventures’ AI Group, with participation from Mark Cuban and VC Twenty Seven Ventures. The series follows a 2018 pre-seed round of $ 570,000 from its Urban-X accelerator, Urban Us, Accelerate NY / Empire State Development and Perl Street Capital.

The 15-person startup creates robotics that fabricate and assemble rebar. It’s designed to work in tandem with existing robotics and steel fabrication technologies, while speeding up the process up to 15 times, by the company’s count.

Toggle has already begun a soft launch “for a wide range of projects in New York City and the surrounding area,” according to the company. It expects to ramp up toward commercial production over the course of the next year and a half. CEO Daniel Blank tells TechCrunch that the seed round will be used toward R&D and growing the Toggle team.

“This funding will be used to further develop our technology — both the hardware and software — around assembly and fabrication automation, as well as grow the engineering team that supports this development,” Blank tells TechCrunch. “The funding also provides us with a strong foundation for our manufacturing operation which is already supplying services and materials to customers in New York City and the surrounding region.”


TechCrunch

Manila-based financial tech startup PayMongo has raised $ 2.7 million in seed funding to give merchants in the Philippines and other Southeast Asian markets simple ways to set up online payments. Investors included Founders Fund, Peter Thiel and Stripe, with participation from Y Combinator (PayMongo is the first Philippine fintech company it has funded), Global Founders Capital, Soma Capital, Tinder co-founder Justin Mateen and other angel investors.

PayMongo was launched in June by a founding team that includes CEO Francis Plaza, COO Edwin Lacierda, CTO Jamie Hing and chief growth officer Luis Sia. Since then, more than 1,000 businesses have started using its platform and the startup says its total transaction value processed is growing at an average of 117% week over week. PayMongo’s seed round will be used for hiring, product development, business acquisitions and strategic partnerships.

paymongo founders

PayMongo founders

The startup will focus on the Philippines first, where the country’s central bank has set a target of increasing the rate of cashless payments to 20%. Plaza says PayMongo’s goal is to become the largest payment service provider in the country before expanding to other markets in Southeast Asia.

Prior to launching PayMongo, its team spent several years working on other projects. During that time, they realized payments were the hardest feature to integrate into products and services. Even though the Philippines’ Internet economy is growing quickly (a report from Google expects it to increase from $ 5 billion in 2018 to $ 21 billion by 2025) and more people are using e-commerce, online payments have lagged behind the rest of the world, Plaza says.

“When you want to launch something online for a payment gateway, you have to deal with banks and many different financial institutions. It takes months, we tried it ourselves, from negotiating rates to submitting paperwork. It takes a long time, and then in the end you are charged high fees,” he tells TechCrunch.

Even after businesses finish dealing with banks, they need to figure out payment gateways that are often difficult for people with little tech experience to start using.

PayMongo has already partnered with several financial institutions and its technology, including a payments API that Plaza says can be set up in minutes, is designed to be user friendly. Since many online merchants in the Philippines sell through social media platforms and messaging apps, like Facebook, Instagram, Viber and WhatsApp, PayMongo also provides customizable payment links that they can send to customers.

The credit card penetration rate in the Philippines is only about 6%, Plaza says, so PayMongo also supports e-wallets like GCash and PayMaya and services that allow people to pay for online purchases in cash at convenience stores. PayMongo’s products for micro-entrepreneurs, like freelancers and people who sell items through social media, help it differentiate from competitors like Paynamics, Dragonpay and PesoPay that typically focus on serving larger businesses (though Plaza says PayMongo has also been adopted by large retail chains).

In a statement, Y Combinator partner Kevin Hale said “At YC, we love companies who build services that empower startups. We believe PayMongo will provide the infrastructure that is needed for more Filipinos to become founders who are in charge of their own destiny.”


TechCrunch

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