Atlan raises $2.5M to stop enterprises from being so bad at managing data

Even as much of the world is digitizing its governance, in small towns and villages of India, data about its citizens is still being largely logged on long and thick notebooks. Have they received the subsidized cooking gas cylinders? How frequent are the power cuts in the village? If these data points exist at all, they are probably stored in big paperbacks stacked in a corner of some agency’s office.

Five years ago, two young entrepreneurs — Prukalpa Sankar and Varun Banka — set out to modernize this system. They founded SocialCops, a startup that builds tools that make it easier for government officials — and anyone else — to quickly conduct surveys and maintain digital records that could be accessed from anywhere.

The Indian government was so impressed with SocialCops’ offering that it partnered with the startup on National Data Platform, a project to connect and bring more transparency within many of the state-run initiatives; and Ujjwala Yojana, a project to deliver subsidized cooking gas cylinders to poor women across the nation.

“This is a crucial step towards good governance through which we will be able to monitor everything centrally,” India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi said of National Data Platform. “It will enable us to effectively monitor every village of the country.”

Two years ago, the duo wondered if their products could find any usage in the enterprise world? The early results are in: Atlan, a sister startup of SocialCops they founded has secured more than 200 customers from over 50 nations and has raised $2.5 million in pre-Series A funding led by Waterbridge Ventures, an early stage venture fund.

The startup, which employs about 80 people, has also received backing from Ratan Tata, Chairman Emeritus of conglomerate Tata Sons, Rajan Anandan, the former head of Google Southeast Asia, and 500 Startups. On Tuesday, Singapore-headquartered Atlan moved out of stealth mode.

The premise of Atlan’s products is simple. It’s built on the assumption that the way most people in enterprises deal with data is inefficient and broken, Sankar and Banka told TechCrunch in an interview. Typically, there is no central system to keep track of all these data points that often live in their own silos. This often results in people spending days to figure out what their compliance policy is, for instance.

“Atlan wants to democratize data inside organizations,” said Sankar.

Atlan Discovery 2

Teams within a typical company currently use a number of different tools to gather and manage data. Atlan has built products — dubbed Discovery, Grid, and Workflows — that work with several popular services to fetch data points from internal and external sources to one interface. This interface can be viewed by anyone with prerequisite permission to access and edit data on a web browser. The interface also allows users to quickly sort the data points by the year of their creation and look for patterns.

Atlan’s Grid allows an organization to see all the data they have licensed or purchased from external sources. So, for instance, an organization may have teams that subscribe to data from consulting and analytics firm. Currently, they are required to visit the websites or apps of all these third-party firms to view the data. Grid brings them to the same aforementioned interface.

The startup has also built a product called Collect that allows an organization to quickly deploy apps to conduct surveys and collect granular data. These apps can collect data even when there is no internet connection and again, all of these data points then can be viewed on one interface.

Atlan intends to use the capital it has raised on product development and sign more customers. It has already won some big names including Unilever, Milkbasket, Barbeque Nation, WPP and GroupM, Mahindra Group and InMobi in India, Chuan Lim Construction in Singapore, ServeHaiti in Haiti, Swansea University in the UK, the Ministry of Environment in Costa Rica, and Varun Beverages in Zambia.

In a prepared statement, Manish Kheterpal, Managing Partner at WaterBridge Ventures, said, “companies are struggling to overcome the friction that arises when diverse individuals need to collaborate, leading to project failure. The IPOs of companies like Slack and Zoom are proof that we live in the era of consumerization of the enterprise. With its sharp focus on data democratization, Atlan is well-positioned to reimagine the future of how data teams work.”

As for SocialCops, Sankar said many companies and government agencies are using the startup’s products and it will continue to live on and pursue its signature “social good” mission.

Atlan raises $2.5M to stop enterprises from being so bad at managing data

Even as much of the world is digitizing its governance, in small towns and villages of India, data about its citizens is still being largely logged on long and thick notebooks. Have they received the subsidized cooking gas cylinders? How frequent are the power cuts in the village? If these data points exist at all, they are probably stored in big paperbacks stacked in a corner of some agency’s office.

Five years ago, two young entrepreneurs — Prukalpa Sankar and Varun Banka — set out to modernize this system. They founded SocialCops, a startup that builds tools that make it easier for government officials — and anyone else — to quickly conduct surveys and maintain digital records that could be accessed from anywhere.

The Indian government was so impressed with SocialCops’ offering that it partnered with the startup on National Data Platform, a project to connect and bring more transparency within many of the state-run initiatives; and Ujjwala Yojana, a project to deliver subsidized cooking gas cylinders to poor women across the nation.

“This is a crucial step towards good governance through which we will be able to monitor everything centrally,” India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi said of National Data Platform. “It will enable us to effectively monitor every village of the country.”

Two years ago, the duo wondered if their products could find any usage in the enterprise world? The early results are in: Atlan, a sister startup of SocialCops they founded has secured more than 200 customers from over 50 nations and has raised $2.5 million in pre-Series A funding led by Waterbridge Ventures, an early stage venture fund.

The startup, which employs about 80 people, has also received backing from Ratan Tata, Chairman Emeritus of conglomerate Tata Sons, Rajan Anandan, the former head of Google Southeast Asia, and 500 Startups. On Tuesday, Singapore-headquartered Atlan moved out of stealth mode.

The premise of Atlan’s products is simple. It’s built on the assumption that the way most people in enterprises deal with data is inefficient and broken, Sankar and Banka told TechCrunch in an interview. Typically, there is no central system to keep track of all these data points that often live in their own silos. This often results in people spending days to figure out what their compliance policy is, for instance.

“Atlan wants to democratize data inside organizations,” said Sankar.

Atlan Discovery 2

Teams within a typical company currently use a number of different tools to gather and manage data. Atlan has built products — dubbed Discovery, Grid, and Workflows — that work with several popular services to fetch data points from internal and external sources to one interface. This interface can be viewed by anyone with prerequisite permission to access and edit data on a web browser. The interface also allows users to quickly sort the data points by the year of their creation and look for patterns.

Atlan’s Grid allows an organization to see all the data they have licensed or purchased from external sources. So, for instance, an organization may have teams that subscribe to data from consulting and analytics firm. Currently, they are required to visit the websites or apps of all these third-party firms to view the data. Grid brings them to the same aforementioned interface.

The startup has also built a product called Collect that allows an organization to quickly deploy apps to conduct surveys and collect granular data. These apps can collect data even when there is no internet connection and again, all of these data points then can be viewed on one interface.

Atlan intends to use the capital it has raised on product development and sign more customers. It has already won some big names including Unilever, Milkbasket, Barbeque Nation, WPP and GroupM, Mahindra Group and InMobi in India, Chuan Lim Construction in Singapore, ServeHaiti in Haiti, Swansea University in the UK, the Ministry of Environment in Costa Rica, and Varun Beverages in Zambia.

In a prepared statement, Manish Kheterpal, Managing Partner at WaterBridge Ventures, said, “companies are struggling to overcome the friction that arises when diverse individuals need to collaborate, leading to project failure. The IPOs of companies like Slack and Zoom are proof that we live in the era of consumerization of the enterprise. With its sharp focus on data democratization, Atlan is well-positioned to reimagine the future of how data teams work.”

As for SocialCops, Sankar said many companies and government agencies are using the startup’s products and it will continue to live on and pursue its signature “social good” mission.

VCs bet on Aegis AI, a startup using computer vision to detect guns

A new startup using computer vision software to turn security cameras into gun-detecting smart cameras has raised $2.2 million in venture capital funding in a round led by Bling Capital, with participation from Upside Partnership and Tensility Venture Partners.

Aegis AI sells to U.S. corporations and school district its technology, which scans thousands of video feeds for brandished weapons and provides threat-detection alerts to customers within one second, for $30 per camera, per month. Coupling AI and cloud computing, Aegis integrates with existing camera hardware and video management software, requiring no on-site installation or maintenance.

“We can take over the role of a security guard with much higher accuracy at a much lower cost,” Aegis co-founder and chief product officer Ben Ziomek tells TechCrunch.

The financing round comes as a fresh cohort of businesses look to new technologies to protect against gun violence. AI-based gun detection is an unproven method, but investors and entrepreneurs alike are hopeful it represents a new era in threat-detection and safety. Seattle-based Virtual eForce, Israel’s AnyVision and Canadian tech startup SN Technologies are among the startups focused on improving security systems across the globe.

For Aegis co-founder and chief executive officer Sonny Tai, protecting against gun violence is personal. The first-time founder, who previously spent nearly a decade in the Marine Corps, grew up in South Africa where gun violence was all too common.

“We had a close family friend who was fatally shot in his own home 20 years ago,” Tai tells TechCrunch. “This prompted my mother to decide that we should immigrate to the U.S. On my end, it inspired a lifelong passion in me. I had to do something about the U.S. gun epidemic.”

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Aegis AI co-founders Sonny Tai (left) and Ben Ziomek

Lacking engineering expertise, Tai looked to Ziomek for technical support. Ziomek previously spent several years at Microsoft, most recently leading engineering and data science teams within the company’s AI program. Together they built Aegis, which is currently in the process of uprooting from Chicago to establish headquarters in New York City.

The pair spent 18 months building the technology they say can reliably recognize weapons in security camera footage. They had to take an “aggressive” data augmentation approach to develop the AI, Ziomek explains, as opposed to just scraping the web for images of weapons to feed to the platform.

“If you look at most of the state of the art computer vision models, they are really built specifically for the task of differentiating hundreds of different objects and the objects are very large,” Ziomek said. “We are looking for hard-to-see objects; we honed our system to look for small, dark objects in highly-complex scenes.”

“Traditionally — even if you’re working at Google or Microsoft — you scrape the internet for cats or hot dogs and you use a model based on that,” he added. “What happens when you do that same approach for weapons? You get product images, Instagram shots from people at the shooting range; all of these have no resemblance to real security camera footage.”

To teach its software to identify weapons, Aegis began by scrubbing the web for photos of weapons, then they reached out to key influencers in the personal safety space, who proved to be essential resources throughout the process. To complete the data collection process, they got their hands on real security footage and even took their own posed photos holding weapons to fill in any of the AI’s blind spots.

With a fresh bout of funding, Aegis will develop its technology to detect other threats, including bombs and vehicles.

Calm raises $27M to McConaughey you to sleep

Meditation app unicorn Calm wants you to doze off to the dulcet tones of actor Matthew McConaughey’s southern drawl or writer Stephen Fry’s english accent. Calm’s Sleep Stories feature that launched last year is a hit, with over 150 million listens from its 2 million paid subscribers and 50 million downloads. While lots of people want to meditate, they need to sleep. The 7-year-old app has finally found its must-have feature that makes it a habit rather than an aspiration.

Keen to capitalize on solving the insomnia problems plaguing people around the world, Lightspeed tells TechCrunch it has just invested $27 million into a Series B extension round in Calm alongside some celebrity angels at a $1 billion valuation. The cash will help the $70 per year subscription app further expand from guided meditations into more self-help masterclasses, stretching routines, relaxing music, breathing exercises, stories for children, and celebrity readings that lull you to sleep.

Calm App

The funding adds to Calm’s $88 million Series B led by TPG that was announced in Februay that was also at a $1 billion valuation, bringing the full B round to $115 million and it’s total funding to about $141 million. Lightspeed partner Nicole Quinn confirms the fund started talks with Calm around the same time as TPG, but took longer to finish due diligence, which is why the valuation didn’t grow despite Calm’s progress since February.

“Nicole and Lightspeed are valueable partners as we continue to double down on entertainment through our content” Calm’s head of communications Alexia Marchetti tells me. The startup plans to announce more celebrity content tie-ins later this summer.

Broadening its appeal is critical for Calm amidst a crowded meditation app market including Headspace, Simple Habit, and Insight Timer plus newer entrants like Peleton’s mindfulness sessions and Journey’s live group classes. It’s become easy to find guided meditations online for free, so Calm needs to become a holistic mental wellness hub.

While it risks diluting its message by doing so much, Calm plethora of services could make it a gateway to more of your personal health spend, including therapy, meditation retreats, and health merchandise from airy clothing to yoga mats. But subscription fees alone are powering a big business. Calm quadrupled  revenue in 2018 to reach $150 million in annual revenue and profitability.

That revenue is poised to keep up it’s rapid growth. After the launch of Sleep Stories, “it was incredible to see the engagement spike up and also the retention” says Quinn. Users can choose from having McConaughey describe the wonders of the cosmosm, John McEnroe walk you through the rules of tennis, fairy tales like The Little Mermaid, and more.

Quinn tells me “Sleep Stories is now a huge percentage of the business, and also the length of time people spend on the app has gone up dramatically.” She tells me that so many startups are “trying to invent a problem where there isn’t one.” But difficulty snoozing is so widespread and detrimental that users are eager to pay for an app instead of a sleeping pill.

AR headsets promise new enterprise productivity, but can the startups building them survive?

Just as the bluetooth headset ushered in an era of hands-free calling, AR startups are trying to convince manufacturing startups that AR headsets will bring new efficiencies with hands-free computing.

As Magic Leap and Microsoft have dropped hundreds of millions trying to spend their way into new tech modalities for enterprise customers, smaller players are relying on less ground-breaking hardware and hoping that easy-to-use software can drive new customers into their arms. One player using this approach is an AR startup based just outside of Portland called RealWear. They aren’t promising digital holograms and floating whales, but they’ve received over $100 million from investors that seem to believe in a more “conservative” approach to enterprise AR.

RealWear’s HMT-1 hardware is akin to the form factor of yesteryear’s Google Glass, but the tech is even more straightforward, it’s not a transparent display just a small screen in a worker’s line-of-site that can be pushed out of the way when not needed. When it comes to differentiating a hardware startup that isn’t relying on its own hardware advances, there are definitely risks that another deep pocketed player can replicate what they’ve done, though RealWear certainly isn’t short on investor cash for the time being.

The company announced today that they’ve pulled in about $81 million in funding since they announced their Series A early last year. About $56 million of that was Series B equity funding, while they also raised $25 million in debt. The latest round was led by Teradyne, with Bose Ventures, Qualcomm Ventures, Kopin Corporation and JPMorgan Chase Co. also participating. If that last investor draws your attention, the company tells TechCrunch they are closely eying an IPO, a unique move in an industry focused that has proven heavily reliant on VC cash.

Investors have seen major potential in the enterprise AR space, but major players have flared out in the past 12 months leaving some wary of making another bet in the space. Earlier this year, we reported that ODG, which had raised $58 million for its AR glasses, was in the midst of a fire sale or its IP. The same fate came to Meta months later, which raised $73 million. All-the-while Magic Leap has continued to dominate AR venture capital deals, but it isn’t clear what progress they are making with enterprise customers relative to their $2.6 billion raised.

RealWear has raised tens of millions yet most of that cash is going to sales rather than R&D, a benefit the company has from licensing other firms’ tech rather than trying to solve the unsolved AR optics issues. The approach has worked, at least in terms of quickly building a business on its way to being cash flow positive. The company said it had about $12 million in revenue last year, and was estimating $25-30 million this year.

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For now, the name of the game for RealWear is converting pilots into paid rollouts. CEO Andy Lowery tells me that about 95% of the company’s 2018 revenue came from paid pilots but that there have already been some big conversions. The company tells TechCrunch that they have shipped 15,000 units in the past 18 months, though a recent major deal with Turkish telecom company UROS will force them to scale much more quickly. The firm announced in April that they are ordering 10,000 of RealWear’s devices as part of a major tech push in Kazakhstan.

RealWear is also working with customers like Colgate, BMW, Walmart and Coca-Cola.

MobiTV tunes into $50M for its set-top-box-free broadcast services for pay TV providers

After raising $21 million in 2017 for a late-stage pivot from mobile TV to set-top-box-free IPTV services for the home, MobiTV is announcing another large growth round. The company — an early mover in building services to stream broadcast TV on mobile devices (it was established in 1999) — has raised $50 million more to continue building momentum, in part by expanding internationally.

MobiTV today has deals in place with 90 cable and other TV operators, covering 2 million people, with its MobiTV Connect services — providing access to 350 channels including those from A+E Networks, AMC Networks, Crown Media Family Networks, C-SPAN Networks, Disney and ESPN Media Networks, SHOWTIME, and Viacom — making it possible to add new channels by way of apps — no need for a set-top box, with customers instead either using existing streaming devices such as a Fire TV stick, Roku or Apple TV; or their smart TVs.

“Our vision of creating leading edge video experiences and technology in a unique, cost-effective manner has allowed MOBITV to win business faster than anyone else in the industry… since we first launched the platform in 2016,” said Charlie Nooney, MOBITV Chairman and CEO, in a statement. “We continue to demonstrate our ground-breaking approach to addressing operator challenges as they upgrade their pay TV offering in an increasingly competitive marketplace.”

The funding comes from existing investors Oak Investment Partners and Ally Financial, along with investment from Cedar Grove Partners. We’re trying to find out the valuation. For some context, in 2017, its valuation was  between $400 million and $500 million, according to figures from PitchBook and also what sources told us.

The set-top box has developed as a cornerstone to how many pay-TV services work today: emerging at a time when TV sets were very limited in terms of their functionality — they were not designed for hundreds of channels that could be added and removed depending on what your subscription plan offered — they took on a key role for pay TV providers in the struggle for “customer ownership”: the set-top box ensured that would-be channel owners could only connect with viewers by going through pay TV providers.

But fast forward to today, and those set-top boxes have become a millstone for anyone but the very largest providers (and maybe the biggies, too, but it’s notable that the reference customers noted by MobiTV are not the Comcasts of the world, but companies like Citizens Fiber, Windstream, and EPB).

Set-top boxes can have technical faults, they are expensive, and they go out of date in terms of their functionality. The latter is an important point, because the rise of streaming and over-the-top services have completely transformed how consumers get their TV content today. They now have options for cord-cutting — that is, bypassing pay TV providers altogether — by getting channels and on-demand content over the Internet, and linking that through to their TVs to watch.

MobiTV’s technology was originally built for mobile phones, and as such bypassed the set-top box from day one. While broadcast TV viewing on mobile never became a mass-market phenomenon (people watch on-demand on mobiles, and some might watch broadcast streams, but mainly it’s for short pockets of time rather than the main, default screen people use). Then the team, led by Nooney, spotted the opportunity to bring the same technology to larger screens.

The promise of set-top-box-free pay TV services gives the operators a wider array of channels and potentially more flexibility in how they are provisioned. At the same time, a solution like MobiTV’s potentially lowers the total cost of ownership for providers by removing the need for the set-top boxes.

That’s not to say that some of its customers are not using both. Here, they can provide a certain set of channels directly through those boxes, with another set that are offered on top of that.

“We believe in MOBITV’s superior consumer experience and know that being the only true TVaaS commercially deployed solution in North America has differentiated their positioning in the marketplace,” said Bandel Carano, Managing Partner, Oak Investment Partners, in a statement. “They have reinvented pay TV by providing operators a platform that allows consumers to use their streaming devices or SmartTV, while eliminating the requirement of a STB – without completely alienating it! This leaves room for everyone to evolve and future-proof their cable offering at a pace comfortable for both operators and consumers.”

Tara.ai, which uses machine learning to spec out and manage engineering projects, nabs $10M

Artificial intelligence has become an increasingly important component of how a lot of technology works; now it’s also being applied to how technologists themselves work. Today, one of the startups building such a tool has raised some capital, Tara.ai, a platform that uses machine learning to help an organization get engineering projects done — from identifying and predicting the work that will need to be tackled, to sourcing talent to execute that, and then monitoring the project of that project — has raised a Series A of $10 million to continue building out its platform.

The funding for the company cofounded by Iba Masood (she is now CEO) and Syed Ahmed comes from an interesting group of investors that point to Tara’s origins, as well as how it sees its product developing over time.

The round was led by Aspect Ventures (the female-led firm that puts a notable but not exclusive emphasis on female-founded startups) with participation also from Slack, by way of its Slack Fund. Previous investors Y Combinator and Moment Ventures also participated in the round. (Y Combinator provides an avenue to companies from its cohorts to help them source their Series A rounds, and Tara.ai went through this process.)

Tara.ai was originally founded as Gradberry out of Y Combinator, with its initial focus on using an AI platform for organizations to evaluate and help source engineering talent: Tara.ai was originally that name of its AI engine.

(The origin of how Masood and Ahmed identified this problem was through their own direct experience: both were engineering grads from the American University of Sharjah in the U.A.E. that had problems getting hired because no one had ever heard of their university. Even so, they had won an MIT-affiliated startup competition in Morocco and relocated to Boston. The idea with Gradberry was to cut through the big names and focus just on what people could do.)

Masood and Syed (who eventually got married) eventually realised that using that engine to evaluate the wider challenges of executing engineering projects came as a natural progression once the team started digging into the challenges and identifying what actually needed to be solved.

A study that Tara conducted across some 5,000 projects found that $66 billion dollars were identified as “lost” due to projects running past the expected completion time, lack of adequate talent and just overall poor planning.

“We realised that recruiting was actually the final decision you make, not the first, and we wanted to be involved earlier in the decision-making process,” Masood said in an interview. “We saw a much bigger opportunity looking not at the people, but the whole project.”

In action, that means that Tara.ai is used not just to scope out the nature of the problem that needed to be solved, or the goal that an organization wanted to achieve; it is also used to suggest which frameworks will need to be used to execute on that goal, and then suggest a timeline to follow.

Then, it starts to evaluate a company’s own staff expertise, along with that from other recruiting platforms, to figure out which people to source from within the company. Eventually, that will also be complemented with sourcing information from outside the organization — either contractors or new hires.

Masood noted that a large proportion of users in the tech world today use Jira and platforms like it to manage projects. While there are some tools in Jira to help plan out projects better, Tara is proposing its platform as a kind of virtual project manager, or an assistant to an existing project manager, to conceive of the whole project, not just help with the admin of getting it done.

Notably, right now she says that some 75% of Tara.ai’s users — customers include Cisco, Orange Silicon Valley and Mower Digital — are “not technical,” meaning they themselves do not ship or use code. “This helps them understand what could be considered and the dependencies that can be expected out of a project,” she notes.

Lauren Kolodny, the partner at Aspect who led the investment, said that one of the things that stood out for her, in fact, with Tara.ai, was precisely how it could be applied exactly in those kinds of scenarios.

Today, tech is such a fundamental part of how a lot of businesses operate, but that doesn’t mean that every business is natively a technology one (think here of food and beverage companies as an example, or government agencies). In those cases, these companies would have traditionally had to turn to outside consultants to identify opportunities, and then build and potentially long-term operate whatever the solutions become. Now there is an opportunity to rethink how technology is used in these kinds of organizations.

“Projects have been hacked together from multiple systems, not really built in combination,” Kolodny said of how much development happens at these traditional businesses. “We are really excited about the machine learning scoping and mapping of internal and external talent, which is looking to be particularly important as traditional enterprises are required to get level with newer businesses, and the amount of talent they need to execute on these projects becomes challenging.”

Tara.ai’s next steps will involve essentially taking the building blocks of what you can think of as a very power talent and engineering project search engine, and making it more powerful. That will include integrating databases of external consultants and figuring out how best to have these in tandem with internal teams while keeping them working well together. And soon to come also will be bug prediction: how to identify these before they arise in a project.

The Slack investment is also a notable nod to what direction Tara.ai will take. Masood said that Slack was one of three “big tech” companies interested in investing in this round, and she and Syed chose Slack because from what they could see of its existing and target customers, many were already using it and some have already started requesting closer collaboration so that events in one could come up as updates in the other.

“Our largest customers are heavy Slack users and they are already having conversations in Slack related to projects in Tara.ai,” she said. “W are tackling the scoping element and now seeing how to link up even command line interfaces between the two.”

She noted that this does not rule out closer integrations with communications and other platforms that people use on a daily basis to get their work done: the idea is to become a tool to work better overall.

With a fresh $10 million in the bank, DotLab hopes to bring endometriosis test to market

Thirty-three-year-old founder of personalized medicine company DotLab, Heather Bowerman, wants to shake up the women’s health industry with what she believes to be a better, cheaper, less painful test for endometriosis.

Her company has just completed a Yale University -led validation study and raised $10 million in Series A funding from CooperSurgical, TigerGlobal Management, Luxor Capital Group and the law firm Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati to bring a new, non-invasive diagnostic test to market.

DotEndo

Endometriosis is an often painful disorder in which tissue begins to grow outside of the uterus and into a woman’s ovaries, fallopian tubes and pelvis. The disease may affect up to one in 10 women of childbearing years and about half of all women who experience infertility, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

However, even with clear symptoms of the disease, doctors often try to test for endometriosis as a last resort. The only way currently to test for it is through an invasive laparoscopic procedure, which comes with risks like internal bleeding, infections and hernia.

Called DotEndo the new DotLab test eliminates that risk with a simple diagnostic test. “The rationale for using our test is to test as early as possible and also to use it non-invasively,” Bowerman told TechCrunch.

The CEO was also quick to point out DotEndo is not a genetic test, as there are plenty of tests out on the market helping women discover possible genetic markers around fertility. Rather, it’s a physician-ordered diagnostic test you would take through a lab to find out if you have this specific disease.

“The revolutionary technology behind DotLab’s endometriosis test could improve the lives of the hundreds of millions of women affected by this debilitating disease which has been under-researched and deprioritized for too long,” Bowerman said in a statement.

While there has been some innovation in the space lately — U.S. regulators just approved a new pill to treat endometriosis pain — Bowerman is right in that we definitely still have a long way to go in diagnosing and curing the disease and that will take a lot more capital from investors in the future.

Meanwhile, the next step for DotLab will be to get its test into the hands of physicians, with the hope they recommend DotEndo right off the bat to patients exhibiting symptoms.

Fellow raises $6.5M to help make managers better at leading teams and people

Managing people is perhaps the most challenging thing most people will have to learn in the course of their professional lives – especially because there’s no one ‘right’ way to do it. But Ottawa-based startup Fellow is hoping to ease the learning curve for new managers, and improve and reinforce the habits of experienced ones with their new people management platform software.

Fellow has raised $6.5 million in seed funding, from investors including Inovia Capital, Felicia Ventures, Garage Capital and a number of angels. The funding announcement comes alongside the announcement of their first customers, including Shopify (disclosure: I worked at Shopify when Fellow was implemented and was an early tester of this product, which is why I can can actually speak to how it works for users).

The Fellow platform is essentially a way to help team leads interact with their reports, and vice versa. It’s a feedback tool that you can use to collect insight on your team from across the company; it includes meeting supplemental suggestions and templates for one-on-ones, and even provides helpful suggestions like recommending you have a one-on-one when you haven’t in a while; and it all lives in the cloud, with integrations for other key workplace software like Slack that help it integrate with your existing flow.

Fellow co-founder and CEO Aydin Mirzaee and his co-founding team have previous experience building companies: They founded Fluidware, a survey software company, in 2008 and then sold it to SurveyMonkey in 2014. In growing the team to over 100 people, Mirzaee says they realized where there were gaps, both in his leadership team’s knowledge and in available solutions on the market.

“Starting the last company, we were in our early 20s, and like the way that we used to learn different practices was by using software, like if you use the Salesforce, and you know nothing about sales, you’ll learn some things about sales,” Mirzaee told me in an interview. “If you don’t know about marketing, use Marketo, and you’ll learn some things about marketing. And you know, from our perspective, as soon as we started actually having some traction and customers and then hired some people, we just got thrown into it. So it was ‘Okay, now, I guess we’re managers.’ And then eventually we became managers of managers.”

Fellow Team Photo 2019

Mirzaee and his team then wondered why a tool like Salesforce or Marketo didn’t exist for management. “Why is it that when you get promoted to become a manager, there isn’t an equivalent tool to help you with that?” he said.

Concept in hand, Fellow set out to build its software, and what it came up with is a smartly designed, user-friendly platform that is accessible to anyone regardless of technical expertise or experience with management practice and training. I can attest to this first-hand, since I was a first-time manager using Fellow to lead a team during my time at Shopify – part of the beta testing process that helped develop the product into something that’s ready for broader release. I was not alone in my relative lack of management knowledge, Mirzaee said, and that’s part of why they saw a clear need for this product.

“The more we did research, the more we figured out that obviously, managers are really important,” he explained. “70% of customer engagements are due to managers, for instance. And when people leave companies, they tend to leave the manager, not the company. The more we dug into it the more it was clear that there truly was this management problem –  management crisis almost, and that nobody really had built a great tool for managers and their teams like.”

Fellow’s tool is flexible enough to work with specific management methodologies like setting SMART goals or OKRs for team members, and managers can use pre-set templates or build their own for things like setting meeting talking points, or gathering feedback from the colleagues of their reports.

Right now, Fellow is live with a number of clients including Shoify, Vidyard, Tulip, North and more, and it’s adding new clients who sign up on a case-by-case basis, but increasing the pace at which it onboard new customers. Mirzaee explained that it hopes to open sign ups entirely later this year.

300M-user meme site Imgur raises $20M from Coil to pay creators

Meme creators have never gotten their fair share. Remixed and reshared across the web, their jokes props up social networks like Instagram and Twitter that pay back none of their ad revenue to artists and comedians. But 300 million monthly user meme and storytelling app Imgur wants to pioneer a way to pay creators per second that people view their content.

Today Imgur announces that it’s raised a $20 million venture equity round from Coil, a micropayment tool for creators that Imgur has agreed to build into its service. Imgur will eventually launch a premium membership with exclusive features and content reserved for Coil subscribers. Users pay Coil a fixed monthly fee, install its browser extension, the Ripple XRP cryptocurrency is used to route assets around, and then Coil pays creators per second that the subscriber spends consuming their content at a rate of 36 cents per hour. Imgur and Coil will earn a cut too, diversifying the meme network’s revenue beyond ads.

Imgur

“Imgur began in 2009 as a gift to the internet. Over the last 10 years we’ve built one of the largest, most positive online communities, based on our core value to ‘give more than we take’” says Alan Schaaf, founder and CEO of Imgur. The startup bootstrapped for its first five years before raising a $40 million Series A from Andreessen Horowitz and Reddit. It’s grown into the premier place to browse ‘meme dumps’ of 50+ funny images and GIFs, as well as art, science, and inspirational tales.

While the new round brings in fewer dollars, Schaaf explains that Imgur raised at a valuation that’s “higher than last time. Our investors are happy with the valuation. This is a really exciting strategic partnership.” Coil founder and CEO Stefan Thomas who was formerly the CTO of cryptocurrency company Ripple Labs will join Imgur’s board. Coil received the money it’s investing in Imgur from Ripple Labs’ Xpring Initiative, which aims to fund proliferation of the Ripple XRP ecosystem, though Imgur received US dollars in the funding deal.

Thomas tells me that “There’s no built in business model” as part of the web. Publishers and platforms “either make money with ads or with subscriptions. The problem is that only works when you have huge scale” that can bring along societal problems as we’ve seen with Facebook. Coil will “hopefully offer a third potential business model for the internet and offer a way for creators to get paid.”

Coil Micropayments

Founded last year, Coil’s $5 per month subscription is now in open beta, and it provides extensions for Chrome and Firefox as it tries to get baked into browsers natively. Unlike Patreon where you pick a few creators and choose how much to pay each every month, Coil lets you browse content from as many creators as you want and it pays them appropriately. Sites like Imgur can code in tags to their pages that tell Coil’s Web Monetization API who to send money to.

The challenge for Imgur will be avoiding the cannibalization of its existing content to the detriment of its non-paying users who’ve always known it to be free. “We’re in the business of making the internet better. We do not plan on taking anything away for the community” Schaaf insists. That means it will have to recruit new creators and add bonus features that are reserved for Coil subscribers without making the rest of its 300 million users feel deprived.

It’s surprising thT meme culture hasn’t spawned more dedicated apps. Decade-old Imgur precedes the explosion in popularity of bite-sized internet content. But rather than just host memes like Instagram, Imgur has built its own meme creation tools. If Imgur and Coil can prove users are willing to pay for quick hits of entertainment and creators can be fairly compensated, they could inspire more apps to help content makers turn their passion into a profession…or at least a nice side hustle.