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Comcast NBCUniversal believes its can access startup innovation while supporting future Olympic gold-medalists.

The American mass media company launched its new SportsTech accelerator today, based in part, on that impetus.

TechCrunch attended a briefing with Comcast execs at 30 Rock NYC to learn more about the initiative.

The SportsTech accelerator is a partnership across Comcast NBCUniversal’s sports media brands: NBC Sports, Sky Sports and the Golf Channel.

The program brings in industry partners NASCAR, U.S. Ski & Snowboard and USA Swimming — all of whose sports broadcast on Comcast NBC channels.

Starting today, pre-Series A sports technology startups can apply to become part of a 10-company cohort.

Accepted ventures will gain $ 50,000 in equity-based funding and enter SportsTech’s three-month accelerator boot camp — with sports industry support and mentorship — to kick off at Comcast’s Atlanta offices August 2020.

Boomtown Accelerators will join Comcast in managing the SportsTech program, with both sharing a minimum of 6% equity in selected startups.

Industry partners, such as NASCAR and U.S. Ski & Snowboard, will play an advisory role in startup selection, but won’t add capital.

An overarching objective for SportsTech emerged during conversations with execs and Jenna Kurath, Comcast’s VP for Startup Partner Development, who will run the new accelerator.

Comcast and partners aim to access innovation that could advance the business and competitive aspects of each organization.

From McDonald’s McD Tech Labs to Mastercard’s Start Path, corporate incubators and accelerators have become common in large cap America, where companies look to tap startup ingenuity and deal-flow to adapt and hedge disruption.

Toward its own goals, SportsTech has designated several preferred startup categories. They include Business of Sports, Team and Coach Success and Athlete and Player Performance.

SportsTech partners, such as NASCAR, hope to access innovation to drive greater audience engagement. The motorsport series (and its advertising-base) has become more device-distributed, and NASCAR streams more race-day data live, from the pits to the driver’s seat.

“The focus has grown into what are we going to do to introduce more technology in the competition side of the sport…the fan experience side and how we operate as a business,” said NASCAR Chief Innovation Officer Craig Neeb.

“We’re confident we’re going to get access to some incredibly strong and innovative companies,” he said of NASCAR’s SportsTech participation.

U.S. Ski & Snowboard — the nonprofit that manages America’s snowsport competition teams  — has an eye on performance and medical tech for its athletes.

“Wearable technology [to measure performance]…is an area of interest…and things like computer vision and artificial intelligence for us to better understand technical elements, are quite interesting,” said Troy Taylor, U.S. Ski & Snowboard’s Director of High Performance.

US Ski Team

Credit: U.S. Ski & Snowboard

Some of that technology could boost prospects of U.S. athletes, such as alpine skiers Tommy Ford and Mikaela Shiffrin, at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.

In a $ 7.75 billion deal inked in 2014, Comcast NBCUniversal purchased the U.S. broadcast rights for Olympic competition —  summer and winter —  through 2032.

“We asked ourselves, ‘could we do more?’ The notion of an innovation engine that runs before, during and after the Olympics. Could that give our Team USA a competitive edge in their pursuit for gold?,” said Jenna Kurath.

The answer came up in the affirmative and led to the formation of Comcast’s SportsTech accelerator.

Beyond supporting Olympic achievement, there is a strategic business motivation for Comcast and its new organization.

“The early insights we gain from these companies could lead to other commercial relationships, whether that’s licensing or even acquisition,” Will McIntosh, EVP for NBC Sports Digital and Consumer Business, told TechCrunch.

SportsTech is Comcast’s third accelerator, and the organization has a VC fund, San Francisco-based Comcast Ventures — which has invested in the likes of Lyft, Vimeo and Slack and racked up 67 exits, per Crunchbase data.

After completing the SportsTech accelerator, cohort startups could receive series-level investment or purchase offers from Comcast, its venture arm or industry partners, such as NASCAR.

“Our natural discipline right now is…to have early deliverables. But overtime, with our existing partners, we’ll have conversations about who else could be a logical value-add to bring into this ecosystem,” said Bill Connors, Comcast Central Division President.


TechCrunch

One Medical, a San Francisco-based primary care startup with tech-infused, concierge services filed for an IPO with the Securities and Exchange Commission today.

Internal medicine doctor Tom Lee founded the startup, now valued at well-over $ 1 billion dollars, in 2007. Lee exited his company in 2017, leaving it in the hands of former UnitedHealth group executive Amir Rubin.

The startup currently operates 72 health clinics in nine major cities throughout the U.S., with three more markets expected to open in 2020 and has raised just over $ 500 in venture capital from it’s biggest investor, the Carlyle Group (which owns just over a quarter of shares), Alphabet’s GV, J.P. Morgan and others. Google also incorporates One Medical into its campuses and accounts for about 10% of the company revenue, according to the SEC filing. The filing also mentions the company, which is officially incorporated as 1Life Healthcare Inc. ONEM, now plans to raise about $ 100 million.

Presumably, this money will help the company improve upon its technology and expand to more markets. We’ve reached out to One Medical for more and so far have only been referred to its wire statement.

According to that statement, One Medical has applied for a listing as ticker symbol, ONEM under its common stock on the Nasdaq Global Select Market. We’ll be sure to update you if and when we hear more.

 


TechCrunch

TypingDNA, a four-year-old startup that was founded in Bucharest, Romania and more recently moved its headquarters to Brooklyn, New York, looks to be raising $ 7 million in funding for something interesting: AI-driven technology that it says can recognize people based on the way they type, both on their laptops and mobile devices.

A new SEC filing that says the company — which graduated from Techstars NYC in late 2018 and early last year closed on €1.3 million in seed funding — has so far raised $ 5.25 million toward that goal.

Typing biometrics — the detailed timing information that describes exactly when each key is pressed and released as way to identify the unique person at the keyboard — is apparently not brand new. A two-year-old, PCWorld article says research in the field dates back 20 years. It also says that inaccuracies have kept the technology from being used as a widespread way to authenticate individuals. TypingDNA meanwhile asserts that the typing pattern recognition technology it has developed has an accuracy rate of between 99% and upwards of 99.9%.

The company’s previous backers include GapMinder Venture Partners, a venture outfit based in Amsterdam. We’ve reached out to cofounder and CEO Raul Popa to learn more, but judging by the filing, the fund backing this new round is Gradient Ventures, which is Google’s nearly three-year-old, AI-focused venture group.

When TypingDNA raised its seed round roughly 11 months ago, it said it planned to use the money to improve its tech and expand its presence in both the financial and enterprise sectors, where it’s been trying to strike partnerships with more companies that are focused on identity and fraud prevention.

According to the startup’s site, it has also been working with educational organizations to help ensure they’re giving the right students credit for the work they receive.


TechCrunch

Risk and compliance startup Osano, which earlier this year debuted on the Battlefield stage at TechCrunch Disrupt SF, has raised $ 5.4 million in its Series A round.

The company told TechCrunch that the round was led by LiveOak Venture Partners and Next Coast Ventures, both of which invested in the company’s seed round. Its Series A fundraise also included participation from several individual investors, putting Osano’s total amount raised to date at $ 8.4 million.

The Austin, Texas-based startup bills itself as a privacy platform that helps businesses understand and address their compliance with state and international privacy laws, like Europe’s GDPR and California’s new statewide privacy law, set to take effect on January 1. One of the company’s flagship features is providing cookie and consent management on customer websites, allowing users to choose their privacy settings in their own language.

To date, the turnkey platform is used by more than 750,000 companies — including some Fortune 500 companies — to secure over 3.5 million websites.

Osano plans to use the new funds to further invest in research and development, marketing, and hiring to meet “growing demand” for its service, the company said.

“We are proud to continue into the next round with our original investors,” said Arlo Gilbert, Osano’s co-founder and chief executive. “Heading into 2020, we are moving quickly to add talent to our growing team and to deepen Osano’s position as a leading data privacy platform.”

“There is a definitive need to bring transparency to the process of how companies deal with privacy, and we are very excited about taking on this challenge to empower both individuals and organizations,” said Gilbert.


TechCrunch

Singapore’s fashion startup Zilingo has acquired Sri Lanka’s SaaS startup nCinga in a $ 15.5 cash and stock deal, the two said today.

nCinga, founded in 2014, offers an IoT platform to enable real-time production monitoring on factory floors and data analytics tools. Its acquisition is one of Sri Lanka’s largest tech exits in recent times, the two said.

Zilingo, which has built several pieces of supply chain — manufacturing, logistics, payments, etc for retailers and brands, said it will deploy the Sri Lankan startup’s Manufacturing Execution System (MES) software across its network of 6,000 factories and 75,000 businesses.

Ankiti Bose, co-founder and chief executive of Zilingo, said, nCinga’s product has helped the startup “drastically improve” efficiency and drive insights by digitizing the shop floor. “Their work has been crucial to our mission of creating a transparent, sustainable, economically viable and socially responsible apparel supply chain,” she said.

Zilingo “has long” been a client of nCinga, she said.

Retailers continue to struggle with meeting consumer demand for fast, responsibly produced products due to inefficiencies and information asymmetry, said Zilingo, which is steps away from becoming the latest Southeast Asian unicorn. The acquisition will enable it to help customers in the United States, Europe and Australia, where brands traditionally lack transparency over supply chain and manufacturing processes, it said.

Zilingo will also help to expand the reach of nCinga’s software to core fashion manufacturing markets such as Bangladesh, India, Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand and Turkey. In a statement, nCinga chief executive Imal Kalutotage said the startup “hopes to do great things together.”

The announcement today comes weeks after Zilingo said it planned to invest $ 100 million to expand its supply chain in the U.S.

It’s unclear how much capital nCinga had raised prior to today’s announcement. According to Crunchbase, nCinga’s last financing was its seed round five years ago.


TechCrunch

Reliance Industries, one of India’s largest industrial houses, has acquired a majority stake in NowFloats, an Indian startup that helps businesses and individuals build online presence without any web developing skills.

In a regulatory filing on Thursday, Reliance Strategic Business Ventures Limited said (PDF) it has acquired an 85% stake in NowFloats for 1.4 billion Indian rupees ($ 20 million).

Seven-and-a-half-year old, Hyderabad-headquartered NowFloats operates an eponymous platform that allows individuals and businesses to easily build an online presence. Using NowFloats’ services, a mom and pop store, for instance, can build a website, publish their catalog, as well as engage with their customers on WhatsApp.

The startup, which has raised about 12 million in equity financing prior to today’s announcement, claims to have helped over 300,000 participating retail partners. NowFloats counts Blume Ventures, Omidyar Network, Iron Pillar, IIFL Wealth Management, and Hyderabad Angels among its investors.

Last year, NowFloats acquired LookUp, an India-based chat service that connects consumers to local business — and is backed by Vinod Khosla’s personal fund Khosla Impact, Twitter co-founder Biz Stone, Narayana Murthy’s Catamaran Ventures and Global Founders Capital.

Reliance Strategic Business Ventures Limited, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Reliance Industries, said that it would invest up to 750 million Indian rupees ($ 10.6 million) of additional capital into the startup, and raise its stake to about 89.66%, if NowFloats achieves certain unspecified goals by the end of next year.

In a statement, Reliance Industries said the investment will “further enable the group’s digital and new commerce initiatives.” NowFloats is the latest acquisition Reliance has made in the country this year. In August, the conglomerate said it was buying a majority stake in Google-backed Fynd for $ 42.3 million. In April, it bought a majority stake in Haptik in a deal worth $ 100 million.

There are about 60 million small and medium-sized businesses in India. Like hundreds of millions of Indians, many in small towns and cities, who have come online in recent years thanks to world’s cheapest mobile data plans and inexpensive Android smartphones, businesses are increasingly building online presence as well.

But vast majority of them are still offline, a fact that has created immense opportunities for startups — and VCs looking into this space — and major technology giants. New Delhi-based BharatPe, which helps merchants accept online payments and provides them with working capital, raised $ 50 million in August. Khatabook and OkCredit, two digital bookkeeping apps for merchants, have also raised significant amount of money this year.

In recent years, Google has also looked into the space. It has launched tools — and offered guidance — to help neighborhood stores establish some presence on the web. In September, the company announced that its Google Pay service, which is used by more than 67 million users in India, will now enable businesses to accept digital payments and reach their customers online.


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.


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