Myneral.me wins the TechCrunch Hackathon at VivaTech

It’s been a long night at VivaTech. The building hosted a very special competition — the TechCrunch Hackathon in Paris.

Hundreds of engineers and designers got together to come up with something cool, something neat, something awesome. The only condition was that they only had 36 hours to work on their projects. Some of them were participating in our event for the first time, while others were regulars. Some of them slept on the floor in a corner, while others drank too much Red Bull.

We could all feel the excitement in the air when the 64 teams took the stage to present a one-minute demo to impress fellow coders and our judges. But only one team could take home the grand prize and €5,000. So, without further ado, meet the TechCrunch Hackathon winner.

Winner: Myneral.me

Current mining operations lack transparency and clarity in the way they are monitored. In order to understand how a material went from initial discovery in the mine to end product, a new tool is necessary to monitor operations. Myneral.me offers an all-encompassing platform for the metal and mining sector that showcases CSR to both industry partners and end users. Find out more on Myneral.me.

Runner-Up #1: Vyta

Vyta takes patient information and helps doctors understand which patient needs to be treated first. A simple tool like this could make things smoother for everyone at the emergency room and improve treatments.

Runner-Up #2: Scrub

SCRUB = SCRUM + BUGS. Easily track your errors across applications and fix them using our algorithmic suggestions and code samples. Our open-source bug tracker automagically collects all errors for you. Find out more on GitHub.

Runner-Up #3: Chiche

Finding the future upcoming brand depends on the set of data you are using to detect it. First, they do a simple quantification of the most famous brands on social medias to identify three newcomers. Second, they use Galerie Lafayette’s website as a personal shopping tool to propose customers the most adequate product within the three newcomers.


Judges

Dr. Aurélie Jean has been working for more than 10 years as a research scientist and an entrepreneur in computational sciences, applied to engineering, medicine, education, economy, finance and journalism. In the past, Aurélie worked at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and at Bloomberg. Today, Aurélie works and lives between USA and France to run In Silico Veritas, a consulting agency in analytics and computer simulations. Aurélie is an advisor at the Boston Consulting Group and an external collaborator for The Ministry of Education of France. Aurélie is also a science editorial contributor for Le Point, teaches algorithms in universities and conducts research.

Julien Meraud has a solid track record in e-commerce after serving international companies for several years, including eBay, PriceMinister and Rakuten. Before joining Doctolib, Julien was CMO of Rakuten Spain, where he improved brand online acquisition, retention, promotions and campaigns. Julien joined Doctolib at the very beginning (2014), becoming the company’s first CMO and quickly holding CPO functions additionally. At Doctolib, Julien also leads Strategy teams that are responsible for identifying and sizing Doctolib’s potential new markets. Julien has a Master’s degree in Marketing, Statistics and Economics from ENSAI and a specialized Master in Marketing Management from ESSEC Business School.

Laurent Perrin is the co-founder and CTO of Front, which is reinventing email for teams. Front serves more than 5,000 companies and has raised $79 million in venture funding from investors such as Sequoia Capital, DFJ and Uncork Capital. Prior to Front, Laurent was a senior engineer at various startups and helped design scalable real-time systems. He holds a Master’s in Computer Science from École Polytechnique and Télécom ParisTech.

Neesha Tambe is the head of Startup Battlefield, TechCrunch’s global startup launch competition. In this role she sources, recruits and vets thousands of early-stage startups per year while training and coaching top-tier startups to launch in the infamous Startup Battlefield competition. Additionally, she pioneered the concept and launched CrunchMatch, the networking program at TechCrunch events that has facilitated thousands of connections between founders, investors and the startup community at-large. Prior to her work with TechCrunch, Neesha ran the Sustainable Brands’ Innovation Open — a startup competition for shared value and sustainability-focused startups with judges from Fortune 50 companies.

Renaud Visage is the technical co-founder of San Francisco-based Eventbrite (NYSE: EB), the globally leading event technology platform that went public in September 2018. Renaud is also an angel investor, guiding founders that are solving challenging technical problems in realizing their global ambitions, and he works closely with seed VC firm Point Nine Capital as a board partner, representing the fund on the board of several of their portfolio companies. Renaud also serves on the board of ShareIT, the Paris-based tech for good acceleration program launched in collaboration with Ashoka, and is an advisor to the French impact investing fund, Ring for Good. In 2014, Renaud was included in Wired UK’s Top 100 digital influencers in Europe.

In addition to our judges, here’s the hackmaster who was the MC for the event:

Romain Dillet is a senior writer at TechCrunch. Originally from France, Romain attended EMLYON Business School, a leading French business school specialized in entrepreneurship. He covers many things, from mobile apps with great design to privacy, security, fintech, Apple, AI and complex tech achievements. He also speaks at major tech conferences. He likes pop culture more than anything in the world. He now lives in Paris when he’s not on the road. He used to live in New York and loved it.

Macron defends his startup-friendly policies

For the third year as president, France’s president Emmanuel Macron talked to the French tech ecosystem at VivaTech in Paris. This time, he used this opportunity to defend his policies so far and say that tech startups have nearly everything they need to succeed

Frichti’s Julia Bijaoui, TransferWise’s Flora Coleman, OpenClassrooms’ Pierre Dubuc, Vinted’s Thomas Plantenga and UiPath’s Daniel Dines shared the stage with Macron and each asked one question about funding, European regulation, talent, the digital single market, etc.

Just like last year, Macron took a strong stance when it comes to corporate taxes. “In order to compete with American giants, you need to make sure that competition is fair. You pay taxes, so the tech giant that is competing against you should pay taxes too,” Macron said.

France recently approved a tax on tech giants. If you generate more than €750 million in revenue globally and €25 million in France, you have to pay 3 percent of your French revenue in taxes, even if your company is registered in Ireland, Luxembourg or the Netherlands.

“It’s a temporary measure because we want a tax at the European level, and more generally at the OECD level,” Macron said.

When it comes to funding, things look much better now than a few years ago. There are now more than a handful of French unicorns. And Macron defended his taxation policies, such as a the flat tax on capital gain and the end of the wealth tax on your shares in public or private companies.

And yet, it’s still complicated when it comes to exits — if you want to go down the public road, you most likely have to IPO in the U.S. “We have to build a European financial capital market,” Macron said. “It’ll require some modifications and deeper European integration,” he added later.

Given that Europe is about to vote for the European Parliament, a lot of Macron’s solutions involved the European Union. It sometimes felt like Macron was campaigning for his own party by saying that he wants to go further, but you need to vote for his party first.

When it comes to talent, Macron emphasized the quality of French universities and engineering schools. “We are competitive in terms of human capital and it’s no coincidence. A few years ago, everybody was saying ‘there are a lot of French people in Silicon Valley’. French people living in France are the same, but they cost much, much less,” Macron said.

He then mentioned the French Tech Visa to attract foreign talent, a special visa for tech talent and their families. The program has been overhauled a couple of months ago.

When it comes to regulation, Macron says that the European Union should follow the GDPR model. “What we did on privacy, one regulation for all, we have to do it for other areas,” he said. “On competition, on taxation, on data, we need to regulate.”

Macron concluded by defending a third way to regulate and foster tech companies, which is different from China and the U.S. “Europe can become the tech leader of tomorrow because we are building a tech ecosystem that is compatible with democracy,” he said.

According to him, China doesn’t do enough when it comes to individual rights and human rights, which could eventually backfire for tech companies. And American companies have become too powerful and out of control for the U.S. government.

G7 countries to sign charter on tech regulation in August

Digital ministers of the Group of 7 nations are meeting today to discuss an upcoming charter on toxic content and tech regulation at large. Those countries plan to sign a charter during the annual G7 meeting in Biarritz, France in August.

“Everyone has to deal with hateful content,” France Digital Minister Cédric O said in a meeting with a few journalists. “This industry needs to reach maturity and, in order to do that, we need to rethink the accountability of those companies and the role of governments.”

You may have noticed that G7 countries also announced the Christchurch Call today. It is a nonbinding pledge asking tech companies to improve their moderation processes to prevent terrorist content from going viral.

Those two things are separate. The French government views the Christchurch Call as a way to start a discussion with tech platforms and put the spotlight on a particular issue. But the charter should be broader than the Christchurch Call and mention other issues.

And yet, it’s going to be hard to sign a common agreement between such a diverse group of countries. “There are Nordic countries that are very concerned about free speech and there are Latin countries that are pushing for more regulation,” Cédric O said.

In addition to the Group of 7 nations (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the U.K. and the U.S.), officials from Australia, India and New Zealand are participating in today’s discussions.

The charter won’t define hateful speech too precisely so that countries can interpret that phrase in their own way. But the negotiations should lead to a set of principles that each country can turn into laws.

In particular, officials want to encourage transparency when it comes to moderation processes through audits, as well as increased cooperation between tech companies, governments and civil society.

In December 2018, the Group of 7 nations announced plans to create a global panel to study the effects of AI. Ministers are discussing the implementation of this panel during today’s meeting, as well.

Sources working for the French Economy Ministry say that the U.S. might not sign the charter in August. “We won’t compromise too much — either all countries can agree on a strong stance, or some countries don’t sign the charter,” a source said.

Binance resumes trading following $40M bitcoin hack

Cryptocurrency exchange Binance has resumed trading activity. Users can now cancel open orders, deposit crypto assets into their Binance account, and of course buy and sell cryptocurrencies. You can’t withdraw crypto assets to an external wallet just yet, but the company says that this feature will be available shortly.

Last week, the company suffered from a data breach that resulted in hackers stealing the equivalent of over $40 million in bitcoin. Hackers stole API keys, two-factor codes and other information in order to transfer over 7,000 bitcoins to their own wallets. Binance covered the bitcoins lost with its own funds.

Shortly after the company noticed the hack, the company blocked some features on the platform in order to perform a security review. In particular, withdrawals and deposits have been frozen for a week so that hackers can’t steal more crypto assets.

Given that anybody can track the stolen bitcoins by looking up transactions on the bitcoin blockchain, Binance has been talking with other exchanges in order to track and freeze the stolen assets.

Binance’s own cryptocurrency BNB is currently trading up 19.6 percent against bitcoin compared to 24 hours ago.

World leaders ask tech giants to tackle toxic content with Christchurch Call

On Wednesday, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will ask tech companies to sign a pledge called the Christchurch Call, as The New York Times previously reported. Digital ministers of the Group of 7 nations are meeting tomorrow to talk about toxic content and tech regulation.

The Christchurch Call is the first result on that work and a way to start involving tech companies with a nonbinding pledge. Named after the terrorist attack in Christchurch, the agreement should ask tech platforms to increase their efforts when it comes to blocking toxic content. In other words, democracies don’t want another shooting video going viral and also don’t want to block Facebook, YouTube or Twitter altogether.

According to people working for the French Economy Ministry, the Christchurch Call doesn’t contain any specific recommendations for new regulation. Countries get to decide what they mean by violent and extremist content for instance.

“For now, it’s a focus on an event in particular that caused an issue for multiple countries,” France Digital Minister Cédric O said in a meeting with a few journalists.

Companies that sign the pledge agree to improve their moderation processes and share more information about the work they’re doing to prevent terrorist content from going viral. On the other side, governments agree to work on laws that ban toxic content from social networks.

Tomorrow, a handful of countries are expected to sign the Christchurch Call. According to French government officials, members of the Group of 7 nations should sign it but the U.S. might not sign it. New Zealand, Norway and a handful of countries that are not part of the Group of 7 nations should also sign the pledge.

After that, it’ll be up to tech companies to side with those governments and say that they have heard their plea. It’s a nonbinding agreement after all, so I’m sure many social networks will see it as gestures of goodwill.

In addition to digital ministers and government officials, the French Economy Ministry says that representatives from Microsoft, Facebook, Twitter, Snap, Mozilla, Google, Qwant, the Wikimedia Foundation and the Web Foundation will be there on Wednesday.

So you can expect that some, if not all of them, will sign the pledge. The New York Times says that Facebook, Google and Microsoft have already agreed to sign the pledge.

Coinbase expands USDC stablecoin support to 85 countries

Cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase is ramping up stablecoin support around the world. Customers can now trade USD Coin (or USDC for short) in 85 countries — USDC support was only available in the U.S. excluding NY. You can trade USDC on both Coinbase and Coinbase Pro.

The company has been aggressive when it comes to international expansion. Coinbase is currently available in over 100 countries — 85 out of 103 countries support USDC. But there’s a trick. Many countries can only exchange crypto assets for other assets — there’s no crypto-to-fiat conversions.

As the name suggests, a USDC is a token that is worth exactly 1 USD. Its value is stable against USD. That’s why people call this type of assets stablecoins. Coinbase and other USDC partners store USD in a bank account every time they issue a token.

And it’s clear that many customers living in countries suffering from inflation are going to love USDC. For instance, Argentina had a 47 inflation rate in 2018 alone. Rents, mortgages and basic goods end up costing a lot more than before. Your savings also represent a smaller sum of money if you convert it to USD.

Many people have already been using cryptocurrencies to avoid inflation. But it also creates tremendous risks as most cryptocurrencies still suffer from price fluctuation.

USDC could be part of the solution. You could use an exchange to convert some bitcoins into USDC and then store them on a secure wallet.

Here’s a list of new countries with crypto-to-crypto trading: Angola, Armenia, Aruba, Bahamas, Bahrain, Barbados, Benin, Botswana, Brazil, British Virgin Islands, Brunei, Cameroon, Cayman Islands, Costa Rica, Curaçao, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Ghana, Guatemala, Honduras, Jamaica, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kuwait, Kyrgyrsztan, Macau, Maldives, Mauritius, Mauritius, Mongolia, Montenegro, Namibia, Nepal, Nicaragua, Oman, Panama, Paraguay, Rwanda, Serbia, South Africa, Taiwan, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Turkey, Uganda, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Zambia.

Correction: A previous version of this article said USDC was already available in 35 countries and expanding to 50 additional countries. USDC was only available in the U.S. (excluding NY) and is expanding to 84 new countries.

Disclosure: I own small amounts of various cryptocurrencies.

Google announces $11.2 million grant fund for organizations working on safety

Google.org, the charitable arm of Google, just announced a new grant fund for European organizations. This fund in particular will support nonprofits, universities, research teams and for-profit social enterprises working on safety issues and combatting abuse.

Google .org has already partnered with the Institute for Strategic Dialogue to help organizations in the U.K. But they want to take this program one step further by expanding to other organizations across Europe.

Each eligible organization will receive between €50,000 and €1 million (between $56,000 and $1.12 million). Applications are open until June 28th. Google lists hate, extremism and child safety as key areas for today’s new fund.

The timing of this announcement is interesting. Last week, Google spent a lot of time talking about its efforts when it comes to privacy at its Google I/O developer conference.

Digital ministers of the G7 as well as Australia, India and New Zealand are also meeting in Paris tomorrow to discuss tech regulation. Among other things, they’ll talk about transparency on moderation processes to make sure that big online platforms remain safe.

With Google’s new fund, the company shows that it also cares about these issues and is already acting in order to make the web safer for everyone. But a grant fund doesn’t necessarily replace audit processes and legal requirements.

Wheely raises $15 million for its luxury ride-hailing app

London-based startup Wheely has raised a $15 million Series B round led by Concentric with Oleg Tscheltzoff, Misha Sokolov and other investors also participating. The company wants to build an Uber competitor focused on the luxury market.

It’s a bit ironic when you think about it as Uber started as a luxury company. But everybody knows someone with horrific Uber stories. That’s why Wheely is building a reliable and predictable ride-hailing experience.

The company is currently live in London, Moscow and St. Petersburg — Paris is coming this summer. It works with 3,500 drivers and it currently has a run rate of $80 million in gross bookings.

Wheely doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel as the company works with third-party partners and doesn’t employ its drivers. Similarly, the company takes a 20 percent cut on each ride.

But the startup insists on its strict recruitment process. For instance, you can’t become a Wheely driver from day one. The company requires at least three years of previous chauffeur driving experience. You also need to pass multiple tests including driving tests and etiquette tests. Only one in four UberBlack drivers pass the exam.

There are currently three different classes — a normal one with Mercedes-Benz E-Class cars, a fancy one with Mercedes-Benz S-Class cars and a van category with Mercedes-Benz V-Class vehicles.

Minimum rides cost £12 with the entry-level class, £16 in an S-Class and at least £40 for a van. You then pay more depending on distance traveled and time spent in the car.

And it’s been working well as Wheely now represents around 11 percent of gross bookings in London. Given that each ride is more expensive than a traditional ride-hailing ride, it makes sense that Wheely already captured a good chunk of the money pie. Now let’s see if the company can find enough cities with affluent people to scale its business.

Anton Chirkunov – Founder of Wheely.

Huawei’s P30 Pro excels on the camera front

It’s been a month since Huawei unveiled its latest flagship device — the Huawei P30 Pro. I’ve played with the P30 and P30 Pro for a few weeks and I’ve been impressed with the camera system.

The P30 Pro is the successor to the P20 Pro and features improvements across the board. It could have been a truly remarkable phone, but some issues still hold it back compared to more traditional Android phones, such as the Google Pixel 3 or OnePlus 6T.

A flagship device

The P30 Pro is by far the most premium device in the P line. It features a gigantic 6.47-inch OLED display, a small teardrop notch near the top, an integrated fingerprint sensor in the display and a lot of cameras.

Before diving into the camera system, let’s talk about the overall feel of the device. Compared to last year’s P20 Pro, the company removed the fingerprint sensor at the bottom of the screen and made the notch smaller. The fingerprint sensor doesn’t perform as well as a dedicated fingerprint sensor, but it gets the job done.

It has become hard to differentiate smartphones based on design as it looks a lot like the OnePlus 6T or the Samsung Galaxy S10. The display features a 19.5:9 aspect ratio with a 2340×1080 resolution, and it is curved around the edges.

The result is a phone with gentle curves. The industrial design is less angular, even though the top and bottom edges of the device have been flattened. Huawei uses an aluminum frame and a glass with colorful gradients on the back of the device.

Unfortunately, the curved display doesn’t work so well in practice. If you open an app with a unified white background, such as Gmail, you can see some odd-looking shadows near the edges.

Below the surface, the P30 Pro uses a Kirin 980 system-on-a-chip. Huawei’s homemade chip performs well. To be honest, smartphones have been performing well for a few years now. It’s hard to complain about performance anymore.

The phone features a headphone jack, a 40W USB-C charging port and an impressive 4,200 mAh battery. For the first time, Huawei added wireless charging to the P series (up to 15W).

You can also charge another phone or an accessory with reverse wireless charging, just like on the Samsung Galaxy S10. Unfortunately, you have to manually activate the feature in the settings every time you want to use it.

Huawei has also removed the speaker grill at the top of the display. The company now vibrates the screen in order to turn the screen into a tiny speaker for your calls. In my experience, it works well.

While the phone ships with Android Pie, Huawei still puts a lot of software customization with its EMUI user interface. There are a dozen useless Huawei apps that probably make sense in China, but don’t necessarily need to be there if you use Google apps.

For instance, the HiCare app keeps sending me notifications. The onboarding process is also quite confusing as some screens refer to Huawei features while others refer to standard Android features. It definitely won’t be a good experience for non tech-savvy people.

Four cameras to rule them all

The P20 Pro already had some great camera sensors and paved the way for night photos in recent Android devices. The P30 Pro camera system can be summed up in two words — more and better.

The P30 Pro now features not one, not two, not three but f-o-u-r sensors on the back of the device.

  • The main camera is a 40 MP 27mm sensor with an f/1.6 aperture and optical image stabilization.
  • There’s a 20 MP ultra-wide angle lens (16mm) with an f/2.2 aperture.
  • The 8 MP telephoto lens provides nearly 5x optical zoom compared to the main lens (125mm) with an f/3.4 aperture and optical image stabilization.
  • There’s a new time-of-flight sensor below the flash of the P30 Pro. The phone projects infrared light and captures the reflection with this new sensor.

It has become a sort of a meme already — yes, the zoom works incredibly well on the P30 Pro. In addition to packing a lot of megapixels in the main sensor, the company added a telephoto lens with a periscope design. The sensor features a mirror to beam the light at a right angle and put more layers of glass in the sensor without making the phone too thick.

And it works incredibly well in daylight. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to use the telephoto lens at night as it doesn’t performa as well as the main camera.

The company also combines the main camera sensor with the telephoto sensor to let you capture photos with a 10x zoom with a hybrid digital-optical zoom.

In addition to hardware improvements, Huawei has also worked on the algorithms that process your shots. Night mode performs incredibly well. You just have to hold your phone for 8 seconds so that it can capture as much light as possible. Here’s what it looks like in a completely dark room vs. an iPhone X:

Huawei has also improved HDR processing and portrait photos. That new time-of-flight sensor works well when it comes to distinguishing a face from the background for instance.

Once again, Huawei is a bit too heavy-handed with post-processing. If you use your camera with the Master AI setting, colors are too saturated. The grass appears much greener than it is in reality. Skin smoothing with the selfie camera still feels weird too. The phone also aggressively smoothes surfaces on dark shots.

When you pick a smartphone brand, you also pick a certain photography style. I’m not a fan of saturated photos, so Huawei’s bias toward unnatural colors doesn’t work in my favor.

But if you like extremely vivid shots with insanely good sensors the P30 Pro is for you. That array of lenses also opens up a lot of possibilities and gives you more flexibility.

Fine prints

The P30 Pro isn’t available in the U.S. But the company has already covered the streets of major European cities with P30 Pro ads. It costs P30 Pro for €999 ($1,130) for 128GB of storage — there are more expensive options with more storage.

Huawei also unveiled a smaller device — the P30. It’s always interesting to look at the compromises of the more affordable model.

On that front, there’s a lot to like about the P30. For €799 ($900) with 128GB, you get a solid phone. It has a 6.1-inch OLED display and shares a lot of specifications with its bigger version.

The P30 features the same system-on-a-chip, the same teardrop notch, the same fingerprint sensor in the display, the same screen resolution. Surprisingly, the P30 Pro doesn’t have a headphone jack while the P30 has one.

There are some things you won’t find on the P30, such as wireless charging or the curved display. While the edges of the device are slightly curved, the display itself is completely flat. And I think it looks better.

Cameras are slightly worse on the P30, and you won’t be able to zoom in as aggressively. Here’s the full rundown:

  • A 40 MP main sensor with an f/1.8 aperture and optical image stabilization.
  • A 16 MP ultra-wide angle lens with an f/2.2 aperture.
  • An 8 MP telephoto lens that should provide 3x optical zoom.
  • No time-of-flight sensor.

In the end, it really depends what you’re looking for. The P30 Pro definitely has the best cameras of the P series. But the P30 is also an attractive phone for those looking for a smaller device.

Huawei has once again pushed the limits of what you can pack in a smartphone when it comes to cameras. While iOS and Android are more mature than ever, it’s fascinating to see that hardware improvements are not slowing down.

Amazon expands partnership with retail company Casino Group in France

Casino Group and Amazon announced that they're expanding their partnership in France. In particular, there will be Amazon lockers in 1,000 supermarkets and smaller grocery stores across France.

Casino Group partnered with Amazon last year to launch Monoprix on Amazon Prime Now. Prime members in Paris can order groceries and other products you'd regularly find in Monoprix supermarkets and get them delivered in just a couple of hours.

And it sounds like this offering is working well as you'll find Monoprix on Prime Now in other big cities in France.

In addition to Monoprix, Casino Group is adding Casino-branded items to Amazon as well as wine sourced by Casino. It's unclear if those products will be limited to Prime Now or not.

Amazon will take advantage of Casino Group’s large network of stores to add Amazon lockers in 1,000 locations. If you live near a Monoprix, Monop’, Géant, Hyper Casino, Casino Supermarché, Leader Price, Casino shop, Vival or Spar, you can expect to see a locker pretty soon.

Surprisingly, Franprix is not part of the deal even though they have a ton of stores in dense urban areas.