Lydia lets you donate to hospitals and charities

Fintech startup Lydia is the dominating mobile payment app in France with most of its 3.3 million users in its home country. That’s why the startup has been working hard over the past ten days to ship a feature that was originally planned for this summer — donations to charities and hospitals.

Starting today, Lydia users can choose between 17 charities and send money to those charities using the familiar Lydia payment flow. It works like sending money to your friends and family.

Donations start at €0.50 and those are one-off payments — you can’t set up recurring payments or round up transactions for instance.

Lydia recently introduced “the market”, a marketplace of financial products, such as small credit lines, phone insurance and free credit on home insurance and utility bills. The market menu was buried under the profile tab. The company is now surfacing that screen in its own tab right next to your accounts and transaction history. You can find donations as a new button in the market.

There’s another way to donate. On the payment screen, when you tap a sum and hit next, in addition to the usual list of recipients, you can choose to send money to a charity from there as well. This feature is live on Android and will be available soon on iOS — iOS users have to go through the market for now.

The startup has selected 17 charities for now, but that list could grow over time. You’ll find public hospitals (Paris, Nantes, Strasbourg, Grenoble, Lille and Nice), charities focused on health as well as general public interest charities (Fondation de France, Fondation 101, Médecins du Monde, Epic, Action contre la Faim, La Croix Rouge française, La Fondation Abbé Pierre, La Ligue Nationale contre le Cancer, Réseau Entourage and La Maison des Femmes de Saint-Denis).

If you’re not a Lydia user, you can still use Lydia’s payment flow in your web browser with a credit or debit card. (But nothing is stopping you from donating directly on the charity websites of course.)

If you want to give a large sum of money and deduct part of your donation from your income taxes, you’ll have to ask charities directly. Lydia can’t give you a tax form directly as it only acts as an intermediary.

Eventually, Lydia will deduct processing fees from your donations before handing them over to charities. But the company is waving fees until June 30 due to the coronavirus crisis.

Zyl resurfaces old photos to create collaborative stories

French startup Zyl has released a major update of its mobile app for iOS and Android. The app is all about finding long-forgotten memories of important life events in your photo library.

Zyl scans your photo library and magically finds photos that matter. Every day, the app sends you a notification to tell you that you can unlock a new memory — a new Storyl. It instantly brings you back to that special day with an automatically generated story. All your photos are already stitched together, the app is just waiting for you.

With today’s update, Zyl lets you share your memory with your friends and family members who were part of this past event. They can contribute and add their own photos from their photo library.

Sure, each user could have created their own version of this story. But collaborative stories lead to something more powerful. Years after celebrating something, Zyl brings you closer to your friends right now.

Behind the scene, the company has been working on machine learning-powered algorithms to understand the emotions behind your photo. The company has a privacy-focused approach. It scans your photo library on your devices — your photos aren’t uploaded to Zyl’s servers. You don’t need to create a user account either.

Zyl doesn’t want to overwhelm you with a ton of content at once. You have to wait 24 hours to unlock a new Storyl. That slow-paced approach sets it apart from Instagram, where you have to frenetically tap on the screen to gobble as much content as possible.

Just like with your memories, you have to make room for new memories and cherish the most important ones. In the future, Zyl could remove some of your old Storyls to let you focus on the ones that matter most. If you haven’t shared it with a friend, chances are it wasn’t that important.

Instead of traditional comments, the startup is also working on a way to add some meaningful content on top of your photos. Again, Zyl is focused on emotions and generating a good vibe. For me, it has been a great way to forget about the news cycle for a few minutes.

Huawei announces the P40 and tries to stay relevant without Google

Huawei has unveiled new flagship phones today, the P40, P40 Pro and P40 Pro+. These are beautiful phones with great specs. But it would only take you a few minutes to realize that there’s something odd with them. There is no Gmail, no Google Maps and no Google Play Store.

Last year, the U.S. government restricted U.S. firms from maintaining a business relationship with Huawei. Even though Huawei can only release Google-free phones, the company isn’t standing still. It is still releasing flagship phones at a normal pace. Some day, Huawei might be able to leverage Google’s services again, after all.

Huawei uses the open-source version of Android without all of the core features that are tied to Google services. The company has its own store of apps and tries to compensate the lack of Google apps with Huawei-branded apps.

In China, Google services are blocked by the Great Firewall anyway. But if you don’t live in China, I wouldn’t recommend buying a P40 phone. A phone without Android or iOS leads to a ton of limitations.

But let’s talk about the new phones anyway as Huawei has released some interesting phones in the past. Like previous devices in the P series, Huawei has packed some impressive camera sensors in the device.

On the P40 Pro and P40 Pro+, the display is curved around all four edges, including the top and bottom edges of the device. Last year’s P30 featured a teardrop notch at the center of the device. This year, Huawei relies on a new hole-punch design in the top left corner. In some ways, it reminds me of recent Samsung phones.

There are three different devices — the P40, the P40 Pro and the P40 Pro+. Huawei has yet to talk about pricing and availability. The P40 has a 6.1-inch display while the two “pro” models have a 6.58-inch display. That display has a 90 Hz refresh rate.

As always, Huawei offers plenty of colorful options for the back of the device. Some finishes are matte just like on the iPhone 11 Pro. You can also get a black or white matte ceramic back on the P40 Pro+.

It is powered by Huawei’s own system on a chip, the Kirin 990, and it works on 5G networks. Compared to last year, the CPU is 23% faster and the GPU is 39% on that new system on a chip.

When it comes to cameras, the P40 Pro+ has four different camera modules and a time-of-flight sensor — an ultra-wide lens (18mm), a normal lens (23mm), a 3x lens (80mm) and a super periscope lens with a 10x optical zoom. That last camera is the equivalent of a 240mm lens.

The Huawei P40 Pro has three different camera modules and a time-of-flight sensor. In addition to the ultra-wide and normal lens, there’s a 5x camera lens (125mm equivalent).

The Huawei P40 has three camera modules — ultra-wide (17mm), normal (23mm) and 3x zoom (80mm). The main camera sensor produces 50-megapixel photos.

Smartphone cameras also require a ton of software processing to produce good shots. While I haven’t been able to play with the P40 devices due to the lockdown in Europe, Huawei is usually a bit too heavy-handed with post-processing. If you use your camera with the Master AI setting, colors are too saturated.

But Huawei says that you can expect improvements across the board when it comes to image processing — better HDR processing, better night mode, better hardware and software image stabilization, better portrait photography, etc. The P40 also tries to eliminate reflection from windows in post-processing.

The company has also added a new mode called AI Best Moment. Your phone automatically recognizes when it should capture a photo — it can be when everybody is jumping at the same time or when a basketball player is going for the slam dunk.

As you can see, Huawei has a long list of big numbers to prove that the P40 Pro+ is faster and better than the P30 Pro. Just like Samsung’s Galaxy S20 Ultra, it feels a bit like excesses. Sure, it’s good to see that smartphone manufacturers can always pack more powerful components year after year.

But the smartphone industry is at a turning point. It is no longer a race for better specs. Manufacturers have to prove that there are new use cases to justify buying new models. Manufacturers with a clear focus and vision will stand out of the crowd.

Coinbase Wallet lets you earn interest with deeper DeFi integration

Coinbase’s mobile wallet app Coinbase Wallet puts you in control of your crypto assets. The app already lets you access decentralized crypto apps (dapps) using a dapp browser. But Coinbase is going one step further with deep integrations with some of the most popular DeFi projects.

DeFi means “decentralized finance,” and it has been a hot trend in the cryptocurrency space. DeFi projects try to reproduce traditional financial products in the blockchain. For instance, you can lend and borrow money, invest in derivative assets and more.

A popular category of DeFi projects has been lending protocols, such as Compound and dYdX. Those protocols work pretty muck like LendingClub, but on the blockchain. Some users send money to a DeFi lending project to contribute to liquidity pools. Other users borrow money from that pool. Interest rates go up and down depending on supply and demand.

With today’s update, you can contribute to lending protocols much more easily. Coinbase Wallet lets you pick a cryptocurrency, compare interest rates across multiple DeFi protocols, interact with those protocols and view your balances in a unified dashboard. You don’t have to use Coinbase Wallet’s dapp browser.

Interest rates will change over time. At any time, you can check the current interest rate, see how much you’ve earned already and withdraw your crypto assets.

Those protocols rely on collateralized borrowing in order to avoid default payments. It means that borrowers have to lock crypto assets as collateral. You often have to provide a bigger collateral than what you’re trying to borrow with those DeFi protocols — that’s the downside of not relying on credit history and external financial data.

Again, this isn’t a traditional finance product. Your deposits are not insured and there could be some bugs in DeFi protocols. For instance, bZx recently suffered from a “flash loan” attack. But it’s an interesting crypto use case.

Revolut launches its neobank in the US

European fintech startup Revolut is launching its app and service in the U.S. Starting today, anybody can sign up and get a Revolut debit card. In the U.S., Revolut has partnered with Metropolitan Commercial Bank for the banking infrastructure — deposits are FDIC insured up to $250,000.

In just a few years, Revolut has managed to attract over 10 million customers by building a financial hub that lets you spend, send, receive and manage money from a single app. The company recently raised a $500 million funding round, valuing the company at $5.5 billion.

But the U.S. has been watching from the sidelines. Tens of thousands of customers have signed up to the waiting list and they’ll now be able to access all of Revolut’s core features.

Like competing challenger banks, such as Chime and N26, Revolut lets you open an account from your phone. After downloading the app, you enter personal details and send a few official documents to comply with know-your-customer regulation.

After that, you get U.S. account details and you can instantly top up your account with a bank transfer or a card transfer. A few days later, you also receive a physical debit card. You can also generate a virtual debit card from the app.

Revolut lets you control your debit card from the app directly. You can receive notifications every time you make a transaction. You can freeze and unfreeze your card, set some limits and restrict some feature, such as online payments or ATM withdrawals.

One of Revolut’s key features is that you can convert from one currency to another at a low fee — sometimes without any markup for popular currencies and small transactions (more details on foreign exchange fees here). You can hold foreign currencies in your Revolut account or send money to another Revolut user or a bank account in another country. Revolut also gives you local banking details to receive EUR or GBP.

In the U.S., Revolut offers the ability to receive your salary two days in advance if you share your Revolut banking details with your employer.

Revolut offers a ton of additional features in Europe, but the company is starting with this basic feature set in the U.S. You can expect more features in the future, such as the ability to purchase cryptocurrencies and invest on the stock market.

In Europe, Revolut also offers insurance products through premium monthly subscriptions, mobile phone insurance, savings accounts, credit, rewards and more. Many of those features require partnerships with third-party companies. But it gives you an idea of Revolut’s roadmap in the U.S.

Imatag inserts invisible watermarks to track images around the web

Meet Imatag, a French startup that has been working on a watermarking product. Watermarking is nothing new, but the company has found a way to mark images even if they are resized, cropped, edited or compressed.

Many photographers and brands watermark their photos so that you can see who’s the original source when the photo gets re-uploaded around the web and on social networks. But it’s not perfect. If you put a tiny logo in a corner, you can just crop the photo to leave the logo out of the photo.

Stock photo databases, such as Getty and Shutterstock, put a gigantic logo in the middle of the photo so that’s it’s literally unusable if you don’t have the right licensing rights.

Imatag takes a different approach. When you mark a photo, individual pixels are modified all around the image so that you can’t notice it when you compare it with the original shot. When you modify a photo, some pixels will be modified, but not all. This way, you can always find the watermark again.

“It’s not a good idea to modify colors directly. You have to start with grayscale analysis and that’s what we do,” co-founder and CEO Mathieu Desoubeaux. “We apply psychovisual masks to make sure that you can’t see it with human eyes.”

Imatag assigns a signature with each photo that it processes. By following the same process, you can just compare the signatures of multiple shots to see if they come from the similar source.

The startup goes one step further and offers a service for multiple use cases. With Imatag Monitor, the company monitors your images on the web to see where they appear.

Some clients use it to fight back against illegal use, such as photo agencies. But brands also use it to see if product shots appear on social networks for instance. They don’t want to refrain people from sharing those photos, but they want to monitor the response to a new product.

Imatag also works with smartphone manufacturers or car makers so that they can identify leaks before an official announcement. When you send photos of a new smartphone to various retailers, you can tag them with Imatag. This way, you can trace back the source of a leak in case your product shots start leaking.

Imatag lets you integrate their watermarking technology in your image flow if you’re dealing with a high volume of photos. Companies who don’t work with a lot of images can just use Imatag’s website directly.

Crowd-lending platform October hits pause on loan repayments

French startup October wants to reduce the pressure on small and medium companies going through the Coronavirus crisis. In order to give them some headroom, companies that have borrowed money on October won’t have to pay back their loans for the next three months.

October works with small companies in France, Spain, Italy, Netherlands and Germany who need a credit line. One of the company’s key advantages compared to borrowing money from a bank is that it’s much faster. You can apply to a credit line and get an answer just a few days later. Usually, companies pay back their loans over time with monthly repayments over three months to seven years.

October evaluates risk before handing out loans. It works with many institutional partners to raise funds and deploy capital in those loans. Some retail customers also invest on October directly on a company-by-company basis.

But many small European companies that have borrowed money on October won’t generate revenue for a little while. They could face cash flow issues and they could have issues repaying those loans.

That’s why October has decided with its institutional partners that it is postponing all outstanding loans for the next three months. Companies won’t have to pay a huge sum of money after that, October is also postponing the end date of the loans by three months.

October then asked retail investors to vote whether they are in favor or against postponing loans. 99.42% of retail investors who voted followed October’s move.

October is also waving its own fees for the next three months, but companies will still have to pay interests on outstanding capital.

This way, fewer companies should go bankrupt over the next three months. It should minimize the impact of the current economic crisis on the overall default rate of October loans.

Revolut launches Revolut Junior to help you manage allowance

Revolut is introducing a new product specifically targeted toward kids aged 7-17 years old — Revolut Junior. Revolut Junior is a new app and service that integrates directly with the main Revolut app on the parent’s side.

Parents or legal gardians who are also Revolut users can create a Revolut Junior account for their kid. After that, your kid can download the Revolut Junior app and get a Revolut Junior card.

The new app offers a limited set of features with an interface divided in two tabs — Account and Profile. Kids can see a list of transactions in real time in the Account tab. They can configure card settings in the Profile tab. And that’s about it.

On the other end, parents can control their kids’ spending from Revolut. They can transfer money to a Revolut Junior account instantly. Parents can also access balances and transactions as well as disable some card features, such as online payments. They can also choose to receive notifications when a child is using their card.

The reason why Revolut Junior can attract a ton of users is that Revolut itself already has over 10 million users. It’s going to be easier to convince existing Revolut customers to use Revolut Junior over a custom-made challenger bank for teens, such as Kard or Step. Arguably, the biggest competitor of challenger banks for teens is still cash.

As kids grow up, chances are they’ll switch to a full-fledged Revolut account if they’ve been using Revolut Junior for years. Revolut Junior represents a great acquisition funnel as well.

Revolut Junior is only available to Premium and Metal customers in the U.K. for now. The company will eventually roll it out to more users and more countries.

Revolut plans to add more features to Revolut Junior in the future. For instance, parents will be able to set a regular allowance and financial goals. Kids will get savings options, spending reports, spending limits and more.

Le Wagon raises $19 million to build a global coding bootcamp

French startup Le Wagon has raised its first round of funding after many years of bootstrapping. The company closed a $19 million funding round (€17 million) a few months ago. Cathay Capital is leading the round with AfricInvest also participating.

“We’ve always bootstrapped since 2013 and we’ve always been profitable since day one,” Le Wagon co-founder and COO Romain Paillard told me. “Structurally, all of our metrics are doing well but we wanted to increase our resources.”

Le Wagon is an interesting story of a slow iteration of a successful product. The company has been laser-focused on a single course for most of its lifetime — a highly rated full-stack web development course. There are now 38 campuses around the world across two dozens of countries (but not the U.S.) offering this course.

But Le Wagon wants to go one step further. With today’s funding round, the startup hopes to widen its reach with both new courses and new countries. And it starts with a new data science course. It is only available in a handful of cities for now, but Le Wagon hopes to offer the new course across all its campuses.

The company has also been working on a new format. Instead of committing to a 9-week full-time bootcamp, you can apply to a part-time course on Tuesday night, Thursday night and Saturday. It takes longer to complete the course, but it could be particularly useful if you have a family and kids — maybe you can’t afford to leave your job or take a sabbatical.

Once again, part-time courses are live in a handful of cities for now. Le Wagon hopes to replicate the same offering across all its campuses.

Le Wagon Executive is another project that has been promising but is still underdeveloped. The company started offering courses to big corporate clients to train top talent. Clients include Axa, BNP Paribas, L’Oréal or LVMH. “For now, it’s only a small part of our business because it’s still the very beginning,” Paillard said.

As you can see, Le Wagon has a ton of ideas to grow its business, but it’s hard to iterate at a fast, global pace when you’re still bootstrapped. The company will now be able to reproduce things that are working well in Paris across all other countries much more easily.

And after that, you can expect more courses and more countries. But Le Wagon still wants to build a uniformized coding school and remain in control of its courses. That’s how Le Wagon managed to reach that scale in the first place.

MWM raises $55.9 million after generating 400 million music app downloads

Popular music app publisher MWM has raised a $55.9 million (€50 million) funding round. Blisce/ is leading the round with Idinvest Partners, Bpifrance (Large Venture fund), Aglaé Ventures and Xavier Niel also participating.

Some of MWM’s apps include edjing Mix, Beat Maker Pro, Drum Machine, Beat Snap 2, TaoMix 2, Guitar and Drums. The company has slowly expanded to cover more grounds in the music space, from production to learning, gaming and utilities.

Up next, MWM wants to expand beyond music and tackle new verticals in the creative space. And the company seems well-positioned to reproduce some of its successes as MWM has attracted over 400 million app downloads over the years.

Some of those verticals are already quite busy, such as video and photo editing. But MWM hopes that it’ll be able to become a sort of Adobe for mobile creativity apps.

The startup has also launched hardware products. Its latest product Phase lets you turn good old turntables into digital DJ controllers. After plugging a receiver to your mixer, you just have to put two tiny receivers at the center of your turntables, on top of records.

MWM was founded in 2012. It has attracted $67 million (€60 million) of funding in total. The company currently has 70 employees across two offices in Paris and Bordeaux.