Tyto Care raises $50 million as it looks to buy and build new services during COVID-19 demand surge

Tyto Care, the provider of a home health diagnostic device and telemedicine consultation app, said it has raised $50 million in a new round of funding.

The round was led by Insight Partners, Olive Tree Ventures, and Qualcomm Ventures, according to a statement, and brings the startup’s total capital raised to more than $105 million.

The funding comes just as Tyto has seen a dramatic surge in demand brought on by the global response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Tyto Care’s toolkit is being used as a telehealth diagnostic solution that was already seeing three times sales growth in 2019 alone.

Last year, the company inked a deal with Best Buy and works with most of the major telemedicine providers, including American Well, Teladoc and others.

Previous investors Orbimed, Echo Health, Qure, Teuza and others also participated in the new financing, the company said in a statement.

With the financing, Tyto Care is well-positioned to both buy and build new tools based on its existing diagnostics platform, as well as expand its home health testing kit into new areas.

Companies like Scanwell Health are providing at-home diagnostic tests for things like urinary tract infections, and Tyto Care chief executive Dedi Gilad definitely sees options for new products around different kinds of at-home tests, the Tyto Care founder said in an interview.

All of this new capital comes with surging demand where Tyto Care’s telehealth technology is being used by every hospital in Israel to provide remote examinations of quarantined and isolated patients infected with COVID-19. Other hospital networks are also turning to the company’s diagnostics tools for similar applications, the company said.

The remote medical exams can protect health providers from exposure to SARS-Cov-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, and enables uninfected patients to get an examination of their basic health remotely, without needing to go to a medical facility.

“Over the past two years, Tyto Care has increased momentum faster than ever before and is playing a leading role in changing how people receive healthcare. Telehealth is heeding the call of the COVID-19 pandemic and we are proud that our unique solution is aiding health systems and consumers around the world in the fight against the virus,” said Gilad, in a statement. “This new funding comes at a pivotal moment in the evolution of telehealth and will enable us to continue to transform the global healthcare industry with the best virtual care solutions.”

Alternative tech job boards during Covid-19

Startups are getting hit hard by the economic price of Covid-19. As the New York Times reported yesterday, many companies have started laying off people already. Social distancing means that in many cases, this happens via video conferencing. As a record number of Americans filed for unemployment, this is a very stressful time for job seekers.

According to an HR survey conducted by Viola Ventures, an Israeli venture capital fund, a third of respondents reported that they are planning layoffs. Most have frozen hiring as well, in an effort to reduce cash burn and extend runway until fundraising options open up. For many, including some well capitalised startups like Bird or Airbnb, layoffs are a matter of survival.

“Around 30% of companies have already frozen or are planning on freezing talent acquisition except for key positions. It’s worth noting that two companies have already started firing people, or plan to.” – Viola Venture Blog

The number of people who filed for unemployment in the US shot up dramatically in the last two weeks, reaching over 6.6 million people (as of April 1st). In a report by the Washington Post, Economist Heidi Shierholz, who has spent her life studying the job market and said she is predicting 20 million Americans will be out of work by July — the worst unemployment situation since the Great Depression. That is her “best case” scenario if Congress does another big stimulus package to aid the economy.

Some estimate the unemployment rate in the US could reach 10%, the highest rate since the great depression. (source)

There are questions about the role of government in supporting venture backed startups. The US just announced that startups are eligible for government support as part of the $2 trillion aid package. France has announced a €4.3 billion plan to support startups. Israel treasury approved a 650 million NIS for startups and in the UK investors are lobbying for a package.

Community job boards and lists

A few crowdsourced initiatives were quickly put together to help job seekers understand who’s hiring, who’s laying off, and who’s furloughing (forced holiday with reduced pay). Sharing it here in case it’s helpful for anyone looking for a job.

Crowdsourced jobs in Israel

Techjobs Corona

(started by Fusion LA, an accelerator for Israeli startups in LA)

Pitango’s – Who’s hiring DB

(started by Pitango, an Israeli VC fund)

In the UK

Talent Tech UK

(Started by David Fogel, co-organiser of the Israeli tech parliament in the UK). submit your job openings to [email protected]

Cananda startup job board

Best of luck out there, stay safe.

Divesting from one facial recognition startup, Microsoft ends outside investments in the tech

Microsoft is pulling out of an investment in an Israeli facial recognition technology developer as part of a broader policy shift to halt any minority investments in facial recognition startups, the company announced late last week.

The decision to withdraw its investment from AnyVision, an Israeli company developing facial recognition software, came as a result of an investigation into reports that AnyVision’s technology was being used by the Israeli government to surveil residents in the West Bank.

The investigation, conducted by former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and his team at Covington & Burling, confirmed that AnyVision’s technology was used to monitor border crossings between the West Bank and Israel, but did not “power a mass surveillance program in the West Bank.”

Microsoft’s venture capital arm, M12 Ventures, backed AnyVision as part of the company’s $74 million financing round which closed in June 2019. Investors who continue to back the company include DFJ Growth and OG Technology Partners, LightSpeed Venture Partners, Robert Bosch GmbH, Qualcomm Ventures, and Eldridge Industries.

Microsoft first staked out its position on how the company would approach facial recognition technologies in 2018, when President Brad Smith issued a statement calling on government to come up with clear regulations around facial recognition in the U.S.

Smith’s calls for more regulation and oversight became more strident by the end of the year, when Microsoft issued a statement on its approach to facial recognition.

Smith wrote:

We and other tech companies need to start creating safeguards to address facial recognition technology. We believe this technology can serve our customers in important and broad ways, and increasingly we’re not just encouraged, but inspired by many of the facial recognition applications our customers are deploying. But more than with many other technologies, this technology needs to be developed and used carefully. After substantial discussion and review, we have decided to adopt six principles to manage these issues at Microsoft. We are sharing these principles now, with a commitment and plans to implement them by the end of the first quarter in 2019.

The principles that Microsoft laid out included privileging: fairness, transparency, accountability, non-discrimination, notice and consent, and lawful surveillance.

Critics took the company to task for its investment in AnyVision, saying that the decision to back a company working with the Israeli government on wide-scale surveillance ran counter to the principles it had set out for itself.

Now, after determining that controlling how facial recognition technologies are deployed by its minority investments is too difficult, the company is suspending its outside investments in the technology.

“For Microsoft, the audit process reinforced the challenges of being a minority investor in a company that sells sensitive technology, since such investments do not generally allow for the level of oversight or control that Microsoft exercises over the use of its own technology,” the company wrote in a statement on its M12 Ventures website. “Microsoft’s focus has shifted to commercial relationships that afford Microsoft greater oversight and control over the use of sensitive technologies.”

 

 

Hatzalah – A Blessing for an Entrepreneurial Hero (Guest post)

Guest post by Mark Gerson*

Eli Beer, founder of United Hatzalah

Around 20 years ago, Eli Beer identified a problem.  A very young man, he had been volunteering for two years on an ambulance near his home in Jerusalem — and never saved anyone’s life.  By the time that the ambulance arrived at the call, often pursuant to a heart attack, choking, an accident or stroke, the victim would be dead. 

He arrived at one call in his neighbourhood for a boy who had been choking on a hot dog.  When he arrived there on the ambulance, he and his fellow medics began treatment. A doctor passed by and entered the house.  He told Eli and his colleagues what they probably knew: the boy was dead. And then the doctor said something haunting. He told them that he lived down the street, and was home at the time.  Why didn’t anyone call him?  

A light went off for Eli.  He never saved anyone’s life because he always arrived too late.  This was not the fault of the Jerusalem ambulance system or anyone in particular.   There would never, and could never, be an ambulance near every victim. They were just too expensive.  And they would never, and could never, be fast enough. They would always get stuck in traffic. 

As a result, people died — all day, every day, everywhere in the world. 

But Eli had a solution.  He began to train people in his neighbourhood in the basics of life-saving.  He got a scanner that had the emergency calls. He had a relative donate some rudimentary equipment.  And he and his friends started getting to the emergency calls, minutes ahead of the ambulance, and saving lives. 

I met Eli shortly thereafter, and we worked together to grow the system in Israel.  In 2006, we established United Hatzalah — which he runs and I chair. We now have 6,000 volunteers throughout Israel, serving every community — Jews of all kinds, Muslims, Christians, Druze.  They have all completed several hundred hours of classroom and practical training, and carry (in specially designed bags, and often in specially designed vehicles) all of the equipment necessary to save a life.  All of these volunteers are connected through what is perhaps the most technologically modern dispatch center in the world. The dispatchers immediately identify the closest volunteers, and sends them to the scene equipped with specific knowledge of the case.  United Hatzalah is now answering approximately 2,000 emergency calls a day, with a response time of below three minutes nationwide and below 90 seconds in cities. Consequently, the volunteers of United Hatzalah are able to save the lives of several hundred people a day who would otherwise die waiting for an ambulance. 

Eli’s is one of the great entrepreneurial stories of this generation. 

We have learned many things from Eli — and one of them is the absolutely critical role of philanthropic donations in life-saving work, and the genuine partnership that donors to worthy causes have with those who carry out the work.  He never had to tell me that. He shows it. Eli spends hundreds of nights a year on the road, raising money. In a typical three week span from February to March, Eli was in India, London, New York, Los Angeles and Miami — raising money for the organization. 

Eli was in Miami when he started to feel ill.  Exactly one week ago today, he got himself to the hospital — with shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, a fever and a dry cough.  He was in significant pain, and the test came back on Friday afternoon confirming what everyone knew: he had Covid-19. We spoke with him on Friday morning.  Hearing Eli educated me as to what is meant by the term we had only heard and understood abstractly — difficulty breathing. Still, he told us that he was relieved that he did not have to be intubated — and put to sleep for an indefinite period of time. 

On late Friday afternoon, he had to be intubated.  Immediately before being sedated, he apparently recorded this video.  

The context in which we viewed it was through the Book of Genesis.  Jacob is on a journey to see his brother. An unnamed “man” appears and engages Jacob in a nightlong wrestling match.  Jacob is injured but emerges victorious. Still, he tells his opponent: “I will not let you go until you bless me.” 

One should always, we learn, emerge from a struggle with a blessing. 

Eli is now in a struggle. He remains sedated, and will likely be for some time — under outstanding care at the University of Miami Hospital.  There is not, as one might say in such a circumstance, “little that we can do.”  There is a lot we can do — we can enable Eli to emerge from this struggle with a blessing. 

His statement in this video shows how he would like to be blessed.  We can imagine his smile, and indeed joy, if upon waking he sees this page filled with support and supporters: https://israelrescue.org/project/coronaresponse

Updated from Eli Beer March 20 2020 before he was sedated
(Content might be disturbing for some users)

***

Mark Gerson is a private investor, and Chairman of United Hatzalah.

Israel passes emergency law to use mobile data for COVID-19 contact tracing

Israel has passed an emergency law to use mobile phone data for tracking people infected with COVID-19 including to identify and quarantine others they have come into contact with and may have infected.

The BBC reports that the emergency law was passed during an overnight sitting of the cabinet, bypassing parliamentary approval.

Israel also said it will step up testing substantially as part of its respond to the pandemic crisis.

In a statement posted to Facebook, prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu wrote: “We will dramatically increase the ability to locate and quarantine those who have been infected. Today, we started using digital technology to locate people who have been in contact with those stricken by the Corona. We will inform these people that they must go into quarantine for 14 days. These are expected to be large – even very large – numbers and we will announce this in the coming days. Going into quarantine will not be a recommendation but a requirement and we will enforce it without compromise. This is a critical step in slowing the spread of the epidemic.”

“I have instructed the Health Ministry to significantly increase the number of tests to 3,000 a day at least,” he added. “It is very likely that we will reach a higher figure, even up to 5,000 a day. To the best of my knowledge, relative to population, this is the highest number of tests in the world, even higher than South Korea. In South Korea, there are around 15,000 tests a day for a population five or six times larger than ours.”

On Monday an Israeli parliamentary subcommittee on intelligence and secret services discussed a government request to authorize Israel’s Shin Bet security service to assist in a national campaign to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus — but declined to vote on the request, arguing more time is needed to assess it.

Civil liberties campaigners have warned the move to monitor citizens’ movements sets a dangerous precedent.

According to WHO data, Israel had 200 confirmed cases of the coronavirus as of yesterday morning. Today the country’s health ministry reported cases had risen to 427.

Details of exactly how the tracking will work have not been released — but, per the BBC, the location data of people’s mobile devices will be collected from telcos by Israel’s domestic security agency and shared with health officials.

It also reports the health ministry will be involved in monitoring the location of infected people to ensure they are complying with quarantine rules — saying it can also send text messages to people who have come into contact with someone with COVID-19 to instruct them to self isolate.

In recent days Netanyahu has expressed frustration that Israel citizens have not been paying enough mind to calls to combat the spread of the virus via voluntary social distancing.

“This is not child’s play. This is not a vacation. This is a matter of life and death,” he wrote on Facebook. “There are many among you who still do not understand the magnitude of the danger. I see the crowds on the beaches, people having fun. They think this is a vacation.”

“According to the instructions that we issued yesterday, I ask you not leave your homes and stay inside as much as possible. At the moment, I say this as a recommendation. It is still not a directive but that can change,” he added.

Since the Israeli government’s intent behind the emergency mobile tracking powers is to combat the spread of COVID-19 by enabling state agencies to identify people whose movements need to be restricted to avoid them passing the virus to others, it seems likely law enforcement agencies will also be involved in enacting the measures.

That will mean citizens’ smartphones being not just a tool of mass surveillance but also a conduit for targeted containment — raising questions about the impact such intrusive measures might have on people’s willingness to carry mobile devices everywhere they go, even during a pandemic.

Yesterday the Wall Street Journal reported that the US government is considering similar location-tracking technology measures in a bid to check the spread of COVID-19 — with discussions ongoing between tech giants, startups and White House officials on measures that could be taken to monitor the disease.

Last week the UK government also held a meeting with tech companies to ask for their help in combating the coronavirus. Per Wired some tech firms offered to share data with the state to help with contact tracing — although, at the time, the government was not pursuing a strategy of mass restrictions on public movement. It has since shifted position.

Plenty of Dry powder for Europe and Israel VC funds

The markets have been taking a beating with Coronavirus and startups that were valued in the hundreds of millions have been folding at what seems like an accelerated rate, prompting journalists to post articles about the bubble being burst. Are we heading into a market correction in 2020? Who knows.

What is certain is that European venture hit a local maximum in 2019, attracting over €4 billion in Q4. The American VC funds are now coming to Europe, seeing European startups as a new asset class worth investing in. More on this from Nicolas Colin. Overall, European and Israeli venture capital funds have a lot of dry powder to fund companies in the years to come, regardless of a potential recession.

European and Israeli tech VC fundraising – source

European Funds launched in 2020 ??

The dry powder in Europe seems to go way beyond the ski slopes. This is a partial list of venture capital funds announced in Europe since the start of 2020:

The availability of capital is of course a welcome change in Europe, but can also become a double edged sword, as Ivan Farnetti points out:

Another question is around exits in Europe, and availability of late stage capital.

geo distribution of VC Capital
The UK continues to attract the most capital, followed by Germany, Sweden, France and Israel

Israeli VC funds launched in 2020 ??

In Israel there’s also been an influx of fresh capital.

The challenges is Israel are different than in Europe. Capital and exits have historically not been real constraints, but the success of the Israeli tech ecosystem, combined with a large number of multinational R&D centres have created a talent crunch.

?Thank you Yannick Roux and Stefano Bernardi for curating this resource.

Israel’s talent crunch detailed in new report

A new comprehensive report on human capital in Israel by the Israel Innovation Authority and Startup Nation Central found there’s a shortage of tech employees for Israeli startups and scale ups. What about the solutions? the reports offers a few suggestions, mainly incorporating Arabs and Orthodox jews in the high tech economy.

Israel’s high tech sector employed 321,000 people in 2019, representing 9.2% of overall employees in the Israeli economy. According to the report, there are over 18,400 unfilled positions in tech in 2019. In a way, this is a story about success – Israeli high tech did phenomenally in the past decade, with over $39 billion raised and Israeli tech M&A and IPOs reaching $111.29 billion between 2010-2019, with $21.74 billion in exits in 2019 alone.

This is a multi dimensional problem, described below.

Challenges:

  • Competition on top talent – Israeli high tech employees are in high demand from corporates (over 380 multinational R&D centres) and scale ups. Their ability to pay (above market) has the potential to starve startups from access to top talent
  • Increase of demand for talent – It’s important not to conflate demand with shortage. The study addresses this point by comparing actual recruitments with open positions.
  • High churn/voluntary departures – the shortage in talent causes employees to leave for wage premiums, ultimately hurting startups who can’t afford to pay as much.

Solutions:

  • Outsourcing – while more of a consequence rather than a solution, a large percentage of companies use outsourcing to address the talent shortage. Mainly to Eastern Europe, which is now almost an integral part of Israeli startups and scale ups.
Offshore is commonplace for Israeli tech companies and startups
  • Training is needed – the larger the company the more open it is to hire inexperienced employees as it has the resources to train them.
  • Diversification and inclusion of under represented minorities is needed – Numerous government entities and nonprofit organizations offer various training programs designed to facilitate entry to the high-tech industry, in particular for populations that are currently under-represented in this sector, but more action is needed.

Read the full report here.

Maniv Mobility General Partner Olaf Sakkers is coming to TC Sessions: Mobility

In case you haven’t heard, TC Sessions: Mobility is back for second year. This one-day event, which will be held May 14 in San Jose, promises to feature some of best and brightest engineers, policymakers, investors, entrepreneurs and innovators, all of whom are vying to be a part of this new age of transportation.

Attendees of TC Sessions: Mobility can expect interviews with founders, investors and inventors, demos of the latest tech, breakout sessions, dozens of startup exhibits and opportunities to network and recruit.

We have announced several speakers for the event, including Klaus Zellmer, the president and CEO of Porsche Cars North America, Waymo’s  href="https://techcrunch.com/2020/01/08/tc-sessions-mobility-2020-boris-sofman-of-waymo-and-nancy-sun-of-ike/">Boris Sofman, Ike Robotics co-founder and chief engineer Nancy Sun, Trucks VC general partner Reilly Brennan and Shin-pei Tsay, director of policy, cities and transportation at Uber.

And now we have another star to add to our TC Sessions: Mobility list. TechCrunch is excited to announce that Olaf Sakkers, general partner at Maniv Mobility will be joining us on stage this year. Sakkers is a founding partner at Maniv Mobility, a global fund investing in mobility.

Maniv started out with a focus on transportation and mobility-related startups in Israel, with a few in investments in the U.S. It expanded its mission to the global stage, a move buoyed by a $100 million fund that it closed last July with backing from 12 corporations, including the venture arms of Aptiv, BMW, Hyundai, Lear Corp., LG Electronics, the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance, Shell and Valeo.

Maniv’s portfolio includes vehicle security company Owlcam, peer-to-peer car-sharing company Turo, teleoperations startup Phantom Auto, autonomous vehicle-focused chipmaker Hailo, shared electric moped company Revel, Spain-based car subscription startup Bipi and in-vehicle software management firm Aurora Labs.

Stay tuned to see who we’ll announce next.

And … $250 Early-Bird tickets are now on sale — save $100 on tickets before prices go up on April 9; book today.

Students, you can grab your tickets for just $50 here.

If you’re an early-stage, mobility startup, make sure you grab an exhibitor package to get your startup in front of today’s leading mobility leaders. Packages come with 4 tickets each and are just $2000. Book yours here.

Intuition Robotics raises $36M for its empathetic digital companion

Intuition Robotics, the company best known for its ElliQ robot, a digital home companion for the elderly, today announced that it has raised a $36 million Series B round co-led by SPARX Group and OurCrowd. Toyota AI Ventures, Sompo Holdings, iRobot, Union Tech Ventures, Happiness Capital, Samsung Next, Capital Point and Bloomberg Beta also participated in this round. This brings the total funding for the company, which was founded in 2016, to $58 million.

As the company, which sees it as its mission to build digital assistants that can create emotional bonds between humans and machines, also disclosed today, it is working with the Toyota Research Institute to bring its technology to the automaker’s LQ concept. Toyota previously said that it wanted to bring an empathetic AI assistant to the LQ that could create a bond between driver and car. Intuition Robotics’s Q platform helps power this  assistant, which Toyota calls “Yui.”

Intuition Robotics CEO and co-founder Dor Skuler

Intuition Robotics CEO and co-founder Dor Skuler tells me that the company spent the last two years gathering data through ElliQ. In the process, the company spent more than 10,000 days in the homes of early users to gather data. The youngest of those users were 78 and the oldest 97.

On average, users interacted with ElliQ eight times per day and spent about six minutes on those interactions. When ElliQ made proactive suggestions, users accepted those about half the time.

“We believe that we have been able to prove that she can create an enduring relationship between humans and machines that actually influences people’s feelings and behaviors,” Skuler told me. “That she’s able to create empathy and trust — and anticipate the needs of the users. And that, to us, is the real vision behind the company.”

While Intuition Robotics is most closely identified with ElliQ, though, that’s only one area the company is focusing on. The other is automotive — and as Skuler stressed, as a small startup, focus is key, even as there are some other obvious verticals it could try to get into.

In the car, the empathetic AI assistant will adapt to the individual user and, for example, provide personalized suggestions for trying out new features in the car, or suggest that you open the window and get some fresh air into the car when it senses you are getting tired. As Skuler stressed, the car is actually a great environment for a digital assistant, as it already has plenty of built-in sensors.

“The agent gets the data feed, builds context, looks at the goals and answers three questions: Should I be proactive? Which activity should I promote? And which version to be most effective? And then it controls the outcomes,” Skuler explained. That’s the same process in the car as it would be in ElliQ — and indeed, the same code runs in both.

The Intuition team decided that in order to allow third-parties to build these interactions, it needed to develop specialized tools and a new language that would help designers — not programmers — create the outlines of these interactions for the platform.

Unlike ElliQ, though, the assistant in the car doesn’t move, of course. In Toyota’s example, the car uses lights and a small screen to provide additional interactions with the driver. As Skuler also told me, the company is already working with another automotive company to bring its Q platform to more cars, though he wasn’t ready to disclose this second automotive partner.

“Intuition Robotics is creating disruptive technology that will inspire companies to re-imagine how machines might amplify the human experience,” said Jim Adler, founding managing partner at Toyota AI Ventures, who will also join the company’s board of directors.

Intuition Robotics’ team doubled over the course of the last year and the company now has 85 employees, most of whom are engineers. The company has offices in Israel and San Francisco.

Unsurprisingly, the plans for the new funding focus on building out its assistant’s capabilities. “We’re the only company in the world that can create these context-based, nonlinear personalized interactions that we call a digital companion,” Skuler told me. “We assume people will start doing similar things. There’s a lot more work to do. […] A big part of the work is to increase our research activities and increase the tools and the performance of the runtime engine for the agent.” He also told me that the team continues to gather data about ElliQ so it can prove that it improves the quality of life of its users. And in addition to this, the company obviously also will continue to build out its work around cars.

“We cracked something nobody’s cracked before,” Skuler said. “And now we’re on the verge of getting value out of it. And it will be hard work because this is not an app. It’s really hard work but we want to capture that value.”

Israel’s maturing cybersecurity startup ecosystem

It often feels like half of the new security startups that receive funding are from Israel. As YL Ventures’ Yoav Leitersdorf and Ofer Schreiber wrote last month, investments in Israeli cybersecurity startups increased to $1.4 billion last year, with average seed rounds of $4.7 million, up 30.5% from 2018.

I spent some time on the ground at CyberTech Global in Tel Aviv a few weeks ago, and the energy in the nation’s security ecosystem was palpable. But this is also an ecosystem that has changed a bit over the last few years as its first wave of startups have been acquired, gone public or shut down. Now, these entrepreneurs are coming back for their second acts, which creates a different dynamic.

There are a lot of reasons why Israel excels in cybersecurity, but one of them is undoubtedly its talent pool, which is fed by intelligence units like 8200 and 81. Indeed, it’s exceedingly unusual to come across security startup founders in the country who did not receive their initial training in the intelligence services. This experience also gives these founders a network of potential co-founders and employees right from the get-go.

It’s worth noting, though, that while more than half of the workforce at Unit 8200 is female, that number does not translate to the same number of cybersecurity founders in the country, though that is slowly changing.

For a long time, Israeli startups had a bit of a reputation for selling early instead of trying to build a massive company. That’s changing a bit now, in large part because the founders themselves may have already sold their first company and aren’t looking for that life-changing sale anymore — and because they now have the experience that gives them the confidence to build larger companies.