Amazon says it will add 1,000 more employees in the UK, bringing the total to 28,500, bucking the Brexit chill

A lot of uncertainty hangs over the UK as continues its slow march out of the European Union, but today one of the world’s biggest companies announced plans to expand its presence in the country. Amazon today said it would add another 1,000 workers in the UK, including establishing its first corporate and R&D office in Manchester.

Amazon said it also plans to add more people to its R&D bases in Edinburgh and Cambridge — respectively known for developing search technology as well as the AI technology that powers Alexa, among other things. The company says it currently has 27,500 “roles” in the UK.

The government is positioning Amazon’s news as a win at a time when many have been criticising how it has been handling Brexit negotiations. “Ensuring that the world’s best and brightest companies continue to invest and innovate in the UK is at the heart of our Global Britain agenda,” said Secretary of State for International Trade, Liam Fox, in a statement. “Amazon’s decision to create hundreds of highly-skilled jobs in Manchester, Edinburgh and Cambridge is an enormous vote of confidence in the UK and a signal to the world that the UK is very much open for business.”

The news was announced today as the company presented an “Innovation Day” to journalists, showcasing some of the different areas that are the focus of its R&D hubs in Austria, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Spain and the UK. I was at the event, and while I wouldn’t say that the day was strong on news announcements around that work, it’s instructive to consider what Amazon chose to show (and perhaps not show, too).

For example, in one demo the company showed off today, a new computer vision-based system Amazon is building in Berlin will allow robots to identify what produce is ripe or rotten, so that automatic pickers can select more robust fruit and vegetables to pack off to consumers; and identify what needs to be discarded. This underscores the company’s ambitions in the business of fresh food sales and delivery. Earlier this summer there were reports that Amazon was interested in bidding for a number of large retail locations that were due to be shut down by Homebase, a DIY chain, so that it could set up more delivery (or perhaps even retail) spots across key UK cities. However, so far nothing has materialised.

A walk through some of the company’s transportation work, meanwhile, focused more incremental developments rather than fundamental shifts for the company. The focus in the presentation was not on drones (which Amazon has also been building in Europe), nor on autonomous cars (which Amazon is also working on) but on its real-time street navigation services, and other tools to help delivery people make more accurate parcel drops.

While Amazon is continuing to add employees in the UK, it has also had its share of employment controversies. Warehouse workers regularly strike during the company’s busiest sales periods, to protest working conditions. And earlier this month, Reuters reported that the company had built an AI prototype to assist with finding and screening suitable candidates to help make its hiring spree more efficient. But the project had to be scrapped after it was found to be biased against women (highlighting some of the problems with “training” in machine learning). 

 

Uber is developing an on-demand staffing business

Uber is reportedly developing a short-term staffing business to offer 1099 independent contractors for events and corporate functions, the Financial Times first reported. Dubbed Uber Works, the service would provide waiters, security guards and other temporary staffers to business partners, a source close to Uber told TechCrunch.

Uber has been working on the project for several months in Chicago, after first trialing the project in Los Angeles. Uber already has a vast network of drivers — all of whom have become familiarized with the process of filing taxes as an independent contractor — who may be looking for additional work. However, Uber’s current pilot program does not include active Uber drivers.

Uber Works falls under the purview of Rachel Holt, who stepped into the role of head of new modalities in June. Holt, who has been with Uber since 2011, is tasked with ramping up and onboarding new mobility services like bikes, scooters, car rentals and public transit integration.

In a job posting for a general manager to lead special projects in Chicago, Uber says, “our business is based around providing a flexible, on-demand supply for our business partners – it’s imperative that we have intuitive and responsive account management to support for our business partners in addressing their needs promptly.”

Uber declined to comment for this story. But as the company gears up for its initial public offering next year, Uber is clearly trying to diversify its business. In the last year, Uber double-downed on multi-modal transportation with the acquisition and deployment of JUMP bike-share. And in the last month, Uber deployed electric scooters in Santa Monica, Calif.

Whether this effort launches remains to be seen, but it’s certainly something Uber is exploring and positioning as a business-to-business service. In a similar vein, Uber is also working to create a pipeline to hire some of its driver partners.

Google Maps’ ETA sharing feature hits iOS

If you’re heading out to meet someone, there are plenty of ways to inform them of your location and estimated arrival. Chat apps like WhatsApp, Messenger, LINE, and iMessage, for example, offer location sharing functionality, while navigation apps like Waze and CityMapper and even ride-sharing apps like Uber offer live updating ETAs. Now, Google Maps’ own ETA feature is at last coming to iOS. The feature also getting a few tweaks following last year’s launch on Android, the company says.

In May 2017, Google Maps first introduced its own take on location and ETA sharing.

From a “Share Location” option in the app’s main navigation bar, you’re able to pick how long you want to share your location and choose who to share it with – the latter from a set of frequent contacts or by entering in someone’s name, number or email to pull from your address book.

Then, from the navigation screen, another option called “Share trip progress” allows users to share their live ETA with others as they start their trip.

Today, Google is bringing this ETA feature to Google Maps on iOS.

To try it out, you tap on the  ˄ button once you’ve begun navigation, then tap “Share trip progress.” This will allow you to share your live location, route and your ETA with favorite contacts, as before.

However, the feature is also being improved with today’s release to allow for sharing across third-party apps like Messenger, WhatsApp, LINE, and others. That makes it easier to include in your text message threads and group chats, which are probably already underway.

The feature works for driving, walking and cycling navigation, says Google. It’s is live now on iOS and Android.

 

Why so many tech companies are creating shows

Editor’s note: Jay Acunzo is the author of the new book Break the Wheel, which explores how the world’s best creators break from conventional thinking to think for themselves. He’s a former digital media strategist at Google, head of content at HubSpot, and VP of brand at the seed VC, NextView.

The deep tones of synth music begins to play. A crackling sound emerges, as if from static electricity, followed by a single strum from an electric guitar that shatters the silence. A man’s voice booms.

“I really didn’t get fascinated with design until I learned what it was and what it could actually do.”

These are the opening moments of InVision’s “Design Disruptors,” a now-famous film within the design community. This hour-long video features some of the biggest and brightest names in software design today, hailing from companies like Google, Lyft, Netflix, Dropbox, and more. The film launched in the summer of 2016, and although it was never aired online (the company debuted the film in 1,500 offline screenings worldwide), “Design Disruptors” helped InVision generate more than 70,000 leads and double its user base in a single year, according to sources within the firm.

While this may seem like an outlier project, it’s become part of a larger marketing trend we’re seeing proliferate around the tech world today: marketers creating films and shows. Why?

“Optimistically, I’d hope it’s because marketers are realizing that impressions and pageviews are BS metrics, and it’s a lot more valuable to get a smaller group of consumers hooked on a show that they’ll watch for a really long time,” said Joe Lazauskas, executive editor and head of content strategy at the marketing tech firm Contently. A journalist by background, Lazauskas now consults clients like Microsoft, IBM, and Autodesk for Contently, and while he clings to his optimism, he knows there’s a downside to any trend. “Pessimistically, I’d say that it’s because marketers still fall in love with big vanity projects without much thought to the return on investment.”

So what’s causing this trend, anyway?

Ultimately, Lazauskas concludes that the rise in branded shows is a combination of both his optimistic and pessimistic views. On the one hand, films and series are indeed strategic for some companies, enabling them to reap certain rewards that disparate pieces of content can’t provide. On the other hand, plenty of companies continue to glom onto the trend because, well, “it’s a thing.” Those in the former group, however, have identified a fundamental shift currently affecting how companies go to market. Most of us talk about the industry’s reaction to that shift: things like content marketing, influencer marketing, and similar experience-based approaches. The shift itself, though, is far more revealing. You see, the marketing mandate has changed. The goal is no longer to acquire attention. The goal is to hold it.

It used to be sufficient for marketers to describe the value of their products in a few disconnected interruptions. Marketers would leap out in front of the content a consumer actually wanted to consume in order to grab just a few seconds of their attention and deliver the right message, with the right promotion, at the right time. Of course, we all know what happened to that old marketing playbook: (insert mushroom cloud GIF). Along came the internet. Buyers of both B2C and B2B products now face seemingly infinite choice, from content to competing products, all accessible on multiple screens, whenever and wherever they want it. Additionally, technologies whose sole purpose is to block advertising signal a larger trend: As consumers, we don’t want to be interrupted. We control what we consume because we have all the choice, and we only choose experiences that create value in our lives, like content–not advertisements, which are messages that merely describe value. (I’m painting with broad strokes, but we’re all part of the technorati after all.)

If you’re a marketer today, and you’re stuck in acquisition mode, it’s like digging a hole in dry sand. Nothing you do sticks. The very best in our world are winning on customer experience, not brute-forcing their way into customers’ lives. We need to embrace the new marketing mandate: The job isn’t to acquire attention. The job is to hold it.

“If you’re willing to make the investment in some serialized, engaging content, rather than a bunch of disconnected pieces, you can start thinking in terms of hours spent with your company as opposed to ideas like impressions,” said Dan Mills, creative director at video software company Wistia. This fall, the company announced a new documentary series called “One, Ten, One Hundred,” a partnership with video agency Sandwich, which boasts clients like Facebook, Slack, Uber, and Square. The series explores the effects of constraints on creativity when creating videos.

Said Wistia’s cofounder and CEO, Chris Savage, “What’s interesting about a more substantial project like this is that instead of just moving on to the next piece of content to push out the door, we have the time and space to really invest in exploring all of the different angles and nuances of this complex topic.” First, the company asked Sandwich to create three videos to promote the same Wistia product (a Chrome extension called Soapbox): One ad for $1,000, one for $10,000, and one for $100,000 (hence the name “One, Ten, One Hundred”). Those videos launched in mid-September. In October, Wistia will release a four-part documentary series going behind-the-scenes of the entire process to examine exactly how changes in budget alter the quality of the videos. They believe that budget is a major reason why more marketing teams don’t prioritize video (and thus, buy Wistia). More specifically, they believe this is a perception problem and that teams don’t really need more money to create better videos in most cases. But it’s a messy subject.

“A blog post or a two minute video just wasn’t going to cut it,” Savage said. “We wanted to create something that was deeper and lasting. The most valuable thing that we learned through this process, and what we explore in “One, Ten, One Hundred,” is the complex relationship between money and creativity.”

InVision’s CEO and cofounder, Clark Valberg, seems to agree that holding significant audience attention means focusing on depth, not breadth. Like Wistia, InVision used its documentary, “Design Disruptors,” as well as its newer film with IBM called “The Loop,” to illuminate a large problem facing designers in their work and to rally the community around their brand to solve it. For Wistia, their customers struggle with budget. At InVision, they realized that product designers wanted a better sense of identity as a profession, as well as a seat at the proverbial table.

“We went out and talked to our best customers,” he said. “They had a lot more to tell us than just what they were doing with our products. There was a movement [in the field of product design], and they all felt it. They all understood their role within the company and their company’s role in the formation of this new market called digital product design. It was evolving here and now, and they had a lot to say about it.”

Wistia and InVision are not alone in creating shows and trying to spark movements in doing so. Other companies creating video series include Fuze, which will partner with CBS to create a new series about tech later this year, and LinkedIn’s sales and marketing solutions team, which debuted “B2B Dinner for Five” late last year. In audio, dozens of brands are breaking from the conventional wisdom of what a podcast has to sound like (namely, Q&A with experts) to create documentary series instead. These include Zendesk’s “Repeat Customer“ (created with the agency Pacific Content), Adobe’s upcoming “Wireframe” (Gimlet Media’s branded content studio Gimlet Creative), and “Exceptions,” a series exploring why high-growth SaaS companies are betting so heavily on brand marketing (which, full disclosure, I host and produce for my client Drift).

These companies all seek benefits from their shows that the usual marketing campaign or “piece” of content doesn’t offer. By holding attention for hours on end, shows develop a level of intimacy and trust similar to a one-on-one meeting that scales far better. Shows provide endless amounts of marketing efficiencies, too, allowing marketing teams to mine each episode for excerpts, lessons learned, and new ideas, all of which can fuel company blogs, newsletters, and social media profiles. At some point soon, I expect to see a brand-sponsored book with material pulled exclusively from their company’s show, there’s that much source material bottled up in episodes. Lastly, shows create customers through both word-of-mouth and thriving subscriber lists. After all, it’s far more powerful to say to a visitor, “Get the next episode,” than, “Subscribe for alerts” or “more of our content.”

According to the Edelman Trust Barometer, an annual report measuring consumer trust in big institutions like government and business, trust in companies continues to fall. To get any individual, let alone an entire audience, to spend 10, 30, or even 60 minutes with your company each week is more powerful than ever. But that’s the benefit these companies seek.

What would cause this trend to stick?

It’s hard to ignore Lazauskas’s pessimism about brands adopting this approach. After all, most companies barely know how to market a single blog post well, let alone build and promote an entire series. For example, in many B2B niches, competing shows feel like copycat programs. They’re all effectively “Talking Topics With Experts!” (If everyone claims to have the smartest show in a niche, does anyone?) Additionally, many shows lapse after a season or two, even after a public victory lap over their first few episodes. Slack’s “Work in Progress” hasn’t aired an episode since October 2017, despite being widely loved and even syndicated to satellite radio. But while Lazauskas hints at the potential negatives, Wistia’s Savage sees it differently. His company is investing heavily in serialized content, but he believes marketers need to shift how they track results to justify doing so.

“It starts with qualitative results: Are people talking about it, are they engaging and spending time with the content? Over a longer period of time, we expect to see that content like [“One, Ten, One Hundred”] brought in totally new and different audience that helps expand our customer base.” If most marketing focuses on reach with a broad group of people, then shows are all about resonance with the right people.

Additionally, as Clark Valberg of InVision told me, it has to be a “portfolio approach.” Brands shouldn’t aim to be purely Netflix any more than they should act exclusively like Don Draper in “Mad Men.” Some things are directly measurable, some things are not. Some marketing looks like a piece of content, some like a series. Finding the right mix for your business is what matters most.

Shows have long been a vehicle for holding attention, and marketers are finally catching up to what media companies realized long ago. Call it the Curse of Conventional Wisdom. As tech companies invent the future, marketers at those very same companies need to constantly question older norms and even the most tried-and-true best practice in order to keep up. After all, we may be at the start of something positive for companies and consumers alike—that is, if you’re optimistic.

“We definitely think this is the beginning of a trend,” said Savage. “It’s clear that companies are making investments in engaging their audiences with things like podcasts. We see video series content and storytelling as the next logical step for companies to connect at a deeper level.”

I’ve been a content marketer for a decade now, which makes me a grizzled vet in a relatively new career path. (In marketing, “grizzled vet” is code for “jaded as hell.”) But for once, I’m bullish on a trend. It’s not because the hype won’t fade. It will. But, refreshingly, this is an approach to marketing that can’t be gamed. When the goal is to hold attention, not merely acquire it, there’s no faking it. You have to earn that level of attention. Trust, influence, and hours of someone’s time aren’t things you can purchase or hack. Eventually, this wave will go out, and all who will be left will be companies like InVision and Wistia who truly dug into the ground, with real foundations of creativity and customer-focus. Those merely riding the wave will be washed away. When it comes to holding long periods of our attention, the hucksters and system-gamers have no power. Because fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice—can’t get fooled again.

Amplifyher Ventures launches to fund startups led by women

Amplifyher Ventures is a new firm looking to invest in female founders.

Amplifyher was created by Tricia Black, Facebook’s former vice president of advertising sales. Since her time at Facebook (where she was the seventh employee), Black has been angel investing, and she also co-founded Victress Capital.

Black told me that Amplifyher allows her to build on her work as an individual investor and at Victress: “I really wanted to be in control, to build a team, to formally build my own brand.”

At Amplifyher, the investment team consists of Black and Meghan Cross Breeden, the former managing partner at Red Bear Angels, who also worked at director of communications at StyleCaster.

“We’re a great match,” Black said. “Meghan has done a ton of work on the operational side, I’m really engaged on the networking side … I think we’re going to find a nice balance between the two of us.”

There are other firms with a similar focus on female founders, including Female Founders Fund and BBG Ventures (which is backed by TechCrunch’s parent company Oath) . However, Cross Breeden said she was “completely enthusiastic about Tricia’s whole thesis — not just about seeding the founders, but arming them with both resources and capital to get from founder to CEO.”

Amplifyher Ventures

Tricia Black, Meghan Cross Breeden

Black and Cross Breeden pointed to stats suggested that there’s plenty more work to be done on this front — the share of female CEOs in the Fortune 500 dropped by 25 percent this year, while in 2017, only 2 percent of VC dollars are going to startups founded solely by women.

“We look at female founders not as necessarily under funded … but just an untapped opportunity,” Black said.

To that end, Amplifyher has raised what Black said is an “evergreen fund” that’s fully-financed to make 10 to 15 investments of $100,000 to $300,000 for the next three years.

Again, these should be startups led by woman — ideally with at least one female founder, but “if there’s a woman in the C-suite, that works for us,” Black said.

And while the firm isn’t focused on any specific industry, she noted, “We are … both marketers by trade, and I’ve invested in many direct-to-consumer brands.” They also expect most of their investments to be on the East Coast, particularly those in Boston and New York City (where Amplifyher is based).

“We’re building an entire ecosystem of women leaders,” Black added. “Through our personal networks, we’re not just making introductions between them, but really encouraging the sharing of ideas and expertise.”

Seva snares $2.4M seed investment to find info across cloud services

Seva, a New York City startup, that wants to help customers find content wherever it lives across SaaS products, announced a $2.4 million seed round today. Avalon Ventures led the round with participation from Studio VC and Datadog founder and CEO Olivier Pomel.

Company founder and CEO Sanjay Jain says that he started this company because he felt the frustration personally of having to hunt across different cloud services to find the information he was looking for. When he began researching the idea for the company, he found others who also complained about this fragmentation.

“Our fundamental vision is to change the way that knowledge workers acquire the information they need to do their jobs from one where they have to spend a ton of time actually seeking it out to one where the Seva platform can prescribe the right information at the right time when and where the knowledge worker actually needs it, regardless of where it lives.”

Seva, which is currently in Beta, certainly isn’t the first company to try and solve this issue. Jain believes that with a modern application of AI and machine learning and single sign-on, Seva can provide a much more user-centric approach than past solutions simply because the technology wasn’t there yet.

The way they do this is by looking across the different information types. Today they support a range of products including Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Drive,, Box, Dropbox, Slack and JIRA, Confluence. Jain says they will be adding additional services over time.

Screenshot: Seva

Customers can link Seva to these products by simply selecting one and entering the user credentials. Seva inherits all of the security and permissioning applied to each of the services, so when it begins pulling information from different sources, it doesn’t violate any internal permissioning in the process.

Jain says once connected to these services, Seva can then start making logical connections between information wherever it lives. A salesperson might have an appointment with a customer in his or her calendar, information about the customer in a CRM and a training video related to the customer visit. It can deliver all of this information as a package, which users can share with one another within the platform, giving it a collaborative element.

Seva currently has 6 employees, but with the new funding is looking to hire a couple of more engineers to add to the team. Jain hopes the money will be a bridge to a Series A round at the end of next year by which time the product will be generally available.

Take a video tour of Facebook’s election security war room

Beneath an American flag, 20 people packed tight into a beige conference room are Facebook’s, and so too the Internet’s, first line of defence for democracy. This is Facebook election security war room. Screens visualize influxes of foreign political content and voter suppression attempts as high-ranking team members from across divisions at Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp coordinate rapid responses. The hope is through face-to-face real-time collaboration in the war room, Facebook can speed up decision-making to minimize how misinformation influences how vote.

In this video, TechCrunch takes you inside the war room at Facebook’s Menlo Park headquarters. Bustling with action beneath the glow of the threat dashboards, you see what should have existed two years ago. During the U.S. presidential election, Russian government trolls and profit-driven fake news outlets polluted the social network with polarizing propaganda. Now Facebook hopes to avoid a repeat in the upcoming US midterms as well as elections across the globe. And to win the hearts, minds, and trust of the public, it’s being more transparent about its strategy.

“It’s not something you can scale to solve with just human.s And it’s not something you can solve with just technology either” says Facebook’s head of cybersecurity Nathaniel Gleicher. “I think artificial intelligence is a critical component of a solution and humans are critical component of a solution.” The two approaches combine in the war room.

Who’s In The War Room And How They Fight Back

Engineers – Facebook’s coders develop the dashboards that monitor political content, hate speech, user reports of potential false news, voter suppression content, and more. They build in alarms that warn the team of anomalies and spikes in the data, triggering investigation by…

  • Data Scientists – Once a threat is detected and visualized on the threat boards, these team members dig into who’s behind an attack, and the web of accounts executing the misinformation campaign.
  • Operations Specialists – They determine if and how the attacks violate Facebook’s community standards. If a violation is confirmed, they take down the appropriate accounts and content wherever they appear on the network.
  • Threat Intelligence Researchers and Investigators – These professional cybersecurity professionals have tons of experience in deciphering the sophisticated tactics used by Facebook’s most powerful adversaries including state actors. They also help Facebook run war games and drills to practice defense against last-minute election day attacks.
  • Instagram and WhatsApp Leaders – Facebook’s acquisitions must also be protected, so representatives from those teams join the war room to coordinate monitoring and takedowns across the company’s family of apps. Together with Facebook’s high-ups, they dispense info about election protection to Facebook’s 20,000 security staffers.
  • Local Experts – Facebook now starts working to defend an election 1.5 to 2 years ahead of time. To provide maximum context for decisions, local experts from countries with the next elections join to bring knowledge of cultural norms and idiosyncracies.
  • Policy Makers – To keep Facebook’s rules about what’s allowed up to date to bar the latest election interference tactics, legal and policy team members join to turn responses into process.

Beyond fellow Facebook employees, the team works external government, security, and tech industry partners. Facebook routinely cooperates with other social networks to pass each other information and synchronize take-downs. Facebook has to get used to this. Following the mid-terms it will evaluate whether it needs to constantly operate a war room. But after it was caught be surprise in 2016, Facebook accepts that it can never turn a blind eye again.

Facebook’s director of our global politics and government outreach team Katie Harbath concludes. “This is our new normal.”

Banksy’s rigged art frame was supposed to shred the whole thing

In the connected future will anyone truly own any thing? Banksy’s artworld shocker performance piece, earlier this month, when a canvas of his went under the hammer at Sothebys in London, suggests not.

Immediately the Girl with Balloon canvas sold — for a cool ~$1.1M (£860,000) — it proceeded to self-destruct, via a shredder built into the frame, leaving a roomful of designer glasses paired with a lot of shock and awe, before facial muscles twisted afresh as new calculations kicked in.

As we reported at the time, the anonymous artist had spent years planning this particular prank. Yet the stunt immediately inflated the value of the canvas — some suggested by as much as 50% — despite the work itself being half shredded, with just a heart-shaped balloon left in clear view.

The damaged canvas even instantly got a new title: Love Is in the Bin.

Thereby undermining what might otherwise be interpreted as a grand Banksy gesture critiquing the acquisitive, money-loving bent of the art world. After all, street art is his big thing.

However it turns out that the shredder malfunctioned. And had in fact been intended to send the whole canvas into the bin the second after it sold.

Or, at least, so the prankster says — via a ‘director’s cut’ video posted to his YouTube channel yesterday (and given the title: ‘Shred the love’, which is presumably what he wanted the resulting frame-sans-canvas to be called).

“In rehearsals it worked every time…” runs a caption towards the end of the video, before footage of a complete shredding is shown…

The video also appears shows how the canvas was triggered to get to work cutting.

After the hammer goes down the video cuts to a close-up shot of a pair of man’s hands pressing a button on a box with a blinking red LED — presumably sending a wireless signal to shreddy to get to work…

The suggestion, also from the video (which appears to show close up shots of some of the reactions of people in the room watching the shredding taking place in real time), is that the man — possibly Banksy himself — attended the auction in person and waited for the exact moment to manually trigger the self-destruct mechanism.

There are certainly lots of low power, short range radio technologies that could have been used for such a trigger scenario. Although the artwork itself was apparently gifted to its previous owner by Banksy all the way back in 2006. So the built-in shredder, batteries and radio seemingly had to sit waiting for their one-time public use for 12 years. Unless, well, Banksy stuck into the friend’s house to swap out batteries periodically.

Whatever the exact workings of the mechanism underpinning the stunt, the act is of course the point.

It’s almost as if Banksy is trying to warn us that technology is eroding ownership, concentrating power and shifting agents of control.

Emma, the money management app, rolls out cryptocurrency support

Emma, the U.K. money management app (or self-described “financial advocate”), is launching a cryptocurrency feature by integrating with a plethora of exchanges so that you can easily track your cryptocurrency balances. The idea is that a modern PFM type app should support cryptocurrency if it wants to provide insights into a user’s whole financial life, not just fiat currency sitting in traditional banks or on credit cards.

At launch, the supported cryptocurrency exchanges are Coinbase, Bittrex, Binance, Bitstamp, Kraken, Bitfinex and individual Bitcoin and Ethereum addresses. However, for now the functionality is “read-only,” meaning you can’t make transactions within Emma or buy more cryptocurrency. For that, you’ll still need to visit the individual exchanges, at least for the time being.

“We see cryptocurrency as the next emerging asset class,” Emma co-founder and CEO Edoardo Moreni tells me. “At this point, there are more than 3 million people who have bought Crypto in the U.K. It’s pretty evident that we need to start accepting this as any other type of financial product, in the same way we treat current accounts and credit cards. If Emma is able to help people control and manage a current account, she should be able to do the same for any type of financial product or service”.

On the issue of read-only access, Moreni explains that Emma’s founding goal has always been to build the best financial tracker in the market, hence why the startup hasn’t yet developed any “write-access” features for any of the bank accounts it connects to (or the newly added cryptocurrency exchanges). However, now that Emma’s read only mission is “solid and almost complete,” this will soon change.

“We are going to release several write features in both spaces, traditional and crypto,” says Moreni. “Open Banking will be extremely useful for the former. In terms of the latter, we are already talking with a few providers to introduce write transactions and also the ability to save in cryptocurrency, based on behavioural rules and risk appetite. We see this as a huge opportunity and if we are those who help people understand and invest in crypto for the first time, it fits with our core mission”.

That mission, says the Emma founder, isn’t just to design a really useful aggregator, but to use the aggregated data to help Emma users better manage their money and in the longer term improve their financial well-being.

“We see aggregation as the internet 25 years ago,” he says, “a massive playground which we can use to build technology that has an impact on people’s lives. Our main focus is financial improvement. There is no technology out there that helps you getting out of an overdraft, teaches where and how to save or makes you invest for the first time. We believe this is what Emma is all about.

“We are not trying to be the default interface for a generation or the mission control centre of our finances. We want to build a technology that helps people improve. At the end of the day, that is where the real value is and this is what we are pursuing. This is not and will never be the job of banks, whose goal is to build great financial products, which Emma can interact with”.

To that end, Emma’s list of current features includes:

  • Manage all your money in one place (current & savings accounts, credit cards and now crypto)
  • Sync budgets to payday (“this is the most requested feature in the U.K.,” says Moreni)
  • Find and track recurring payments – as well as predicting future payments and notifying when prices go up and down
  • Notify you before you go into overdraft
  • Detect hidden bank fees, such as markup on foreign transactions
  • Spending insights broken down by category or vendor
  • Smart alerts for various transactions
  • Real time currency converter

Meanwhile, Emma raised a seed round of £500,000 in July 2018 led by Kima Ventures, one of the first investors in Transferwise, and Aglaé Ventures, the early stage program of Groupe Arnault.

Get your Disrupt Berlin 2018 passes before 24 October and save big

Great news, startup fans. You still have time to save up to €500 on your pass to TechCrunch Disrupt Berlin 2018. Our premier tech conference focusing on the European startup scene takes place on 29-30 November, but the deadline for scoring passes at the best possible price arrives next week on 24 October.

What budget-minded early-startup founder, investor, marketer or job seeker wouldn’t want to reap that kind of savings? Be good to your bottom line. Buy your ticket now, and then pat yourself on the back for kicking procrastination to the curb.

Disrupt Berlin, a truly international event, draws participants — top international tech founders, innovators, influencers and investors — from more than 50 countries, including European Union members, Turkey, Russia, Egypt, India, China and South Korea. Whether you’re looking for global exposure for your startup or you’re scouting the world for your next big investment, Disrupt Berlin is where you need to be.

If you’re wondering about the professional benefits of attending Disrupt, take a gander at what these three attendees said about their experience.

“TechCrunch Disrupt is unique in how it brings everyone — all the industry touch points — together under one roof. You can meet investors and bigger players in your industry to see if there’s an opportunity to work together. It’s incredibly valuable.” — Sage Wohns, co-founder and CEO, Agolo.

“I was very pleasantly surprised at the number of early-stage startups in attendance. I spent probably 75 percent of my time having one-on-one meetings with startup founders.” — Michael Kocan, co-founder and managing partner, Trend Discovery.

“The exposure we received at TechCrunch Disrupt completely changed our trajectory and made it easier to raise funds and jump to the next stage.” — David Hall, co-founder and president, Park & Diamond.

Two action-packed days await you in Berlin. We have an incredible lineup of speakers — tech luminaries, business moguls, headline-making founders and leading investors — ready to share their experiences, expertise and perspectives on a range of hot-button topics.

The adrenaline trip that is Startup Battlefield never fails to disappoint. Be there to cheer on 15 of Europe’s top early-stage startups as they launch their dream to the world and compete for $50,000. You might just witness tech history in the making.

Take a deep dive into Startup Alley, where more than 400 early-stage startups — including companies that earned the coveted TC Top Pick designation — will exhibit their very latest technology. This is prime networking territory and an opportunity to meet your future founder, investor or technologist. A source of innovation and inspiration, Startup Alley is a must-see experience.

Of course, you’ll always find world-class networking going down in casual style at the infamous (OK, it might not be infamous, but it is wicked fun) TechCrunch After Party.

Disrupt Berlin 2018 takes place on 29-30 November. You can save up to €500, but only if you buy your pass before 24 October. Be good to your bottom line.