Consumers get another digital home health offering as Tyto Care and Best Buy launch TytoHome

Best Buy is partnering with the Israeli technology Tyto Care to become the official retailer for the company’s all-in-one digital diagnostics kit through its physical stores in California, the Dakotas, Ohio and Minnesota and through its online store.

Tyto previously sold its technology through healthcare plans, making its handheld examination device with attachments that act as a thermometer, a stethoscope, an otoscope and a tongue depressor available to families with insurance that wanted to reduce the cost of checkups through remote monitoring. The company’s handheld device comes with an exam camera so it can prompt users on where to position the device to get the most accurate readings.

 

Now, through Best Buy, consumers can buy the company’s kit for $299.99. Through a partnership with American Well, users of the TytoHome kit have access to the company’s LiveHealth Online consultation service (if they live outside of Minnesota or the Dakotas). Which means patients can use the device to perform a medical exam and send the information to a physician for a diagnosis any time of the day or night.

As part of the deal, Tyto Care is partnering with additional regional health care systems to provide medical care to consumers throughout the country. The first is Sanford Health, a Minnesota-based not-for-profit health system operating in Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota. 

For Best Buy the move builds on the company’s attempts to move quickly into providing digital healthcare services just like it provides technical support through its Geek Squad.

Last year the company bought GreatCall, which sells connected health and emergency response services to the AARP crowd.

“We’re excited to partner with Best Buy, LiveHealth Online, American Well and regional health systems to extend our on-demand telehealth platform across the U.S., enhancing primary care delivery,” said Dedi Gilad, the chief executive and co-founder of Tyto Care, in a statement.

The company, based in Herzliya, Israel, has raised $56.7 million to date from investors including Sanford Health, the Japanese Itochu Corp., Shenzhen Capital Group, Ping An, LionBird, Fosun Group, Orbimed and Walgreens.

The company said at the time that it would use the cash to expand in the U.S. and to other international markets in Asia and Europe.

“These strategic partnerships will enable us to gain further momentum and accelerate our growth, deepening our foothold in the U.S. and other new strategic markets,” said GiladTyto Care said in a statement at the time.

The Exit: an AI startup’s McPivot

Five years ago, Dynamic Yield was courting an investment from The New York Times as it looked to shift how publishers paywalled their content. Last month, Chicago-based fast food king McDonald’s bought the Israeli company for $300 million, a source told TechCrunch, with the purpose of rethinking how people order drive-thru chicken nuggets.

The pivot from courting the grey lady to the golden arches isn’t as drastic as it sounds. In a lot of ways, it’s the result of the company learning to say “no” to certain customers. At least, that’s what Bessemer’s Adam Fisher tells us.

The Exit is a new series at TechCrunch. It’s an exit interview of sorts with a VC who was in the right place at the right time but made the right call on an investment that paid off. 

Fisher

Fisher was Dynamic Yield founder Liad Agmon’s first call when he started looking for funds from institutional investors. Bessemer bankrolled the bulk of a $1.7 million funding round which valued the startup at $5 million pre-money back in 2013. The firm ended up putting about $15 million into Dynamic Yield, which raised ~$85 million in total from backers including Marker Capital, Union Tech Ventures, Baidu and The New York Times.

Fisher and I chatted at length about the company’s challenging rise and how Israel’s tech scene is still being underestimated. Fisher has 11 years at Bessemer under his belt and 14 exits including Wix, Intucell, Ravello and Leaba.

The interview has been edited for length and clarity. 


Saying “No”

Lucas Matney: So, right off the bat, how exactly did this tool initially built for publishers end up becoming something that McDonalds wanted?

Adam Fisher: I mean, the story of Dynamic Yield is unique. Liad, the founder and CEO, he was an entrepreneur in residence in our Herzliya office back in 2011. I’d identified him earlier from his previous company, and I just said, ‘Well, that’s the kind of guy I’d love to work with.’ I didn’t like his previous company, but there was something about his charisma, his technology background, his youth, which I just felt like “Wow, he’s going to do something interesting.” And so when he sold his previous company, coincidentally to another Chicago based company called Sears, I invited him and I think he found it very flattering, so he joined us as an EIR.

After its first attempt botched the landing, SpaceIL commits to second Beresheet lunar mission

The minds behind Israel’s SpaceIL attempted lunar landing convened today to begin planning for a second lunar mission.

In an announcement yesterday, the chairman of SpaceIL, Morris Kahn, said that the leaders of the group behind the Beresheet launch would begin meeting to find a new group of donors for another run at a lunar landing.

On Thursday the first Israeli mission to the moon ended in failure when the organization’s spacecraft Beresheet (which means Genesis in Hebrew) crashed on the lunar surface.

“This is part of my message to the younger generation: Even if you do not succeed, you get up again and try,” Kahn said in a statement.

At a cost of $200 million the Beresheet mission would have been among the cheapest lunar landings ever attempted — and the first legitimate attempt by a private organization to make it to the moon (even though the SpaceIL organization had significant backing from the Israeli government).

The project started as an attempt to claim the Google Lunar Xprize, which was announced over ten years ago and was not awarded because no team could make an attempt at a landing within the timeframe specified. But, Beresheet’s developers labored on with help from Israel Aerospace Industries — the country’s state-owned aviation business.

In part, the cost of the lunar landing was defrayed by using existing launch technologies. Beresheet started its voyage by hitching a ride on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.

After spiraling out of earth’s orbit for a month and a half, the Beresheet spacecraft entered lunar orbit just over a week ago before making its attempted landing last Thursday.

The final maneuver was an engine burn that would slow the spacecraft’s descent onto the lunar surface so that it could park on the Moon’s Sea of Serenity.

The vehicle made it most of the way to the moon. It took a picture of the blue marble from about 22 kilometers above the lunar surface and — a few minutes later — was lost.

Both Peter Diamandis, the founder of XPrize, and Anousheh Ansari, the foundation’s current chief executive, spoke to TechCrunch about the landing last week.

“What I’m seeing here is an incredible ‘Who’s Who’ from science, education and government who have gathered to watch this miracle take place,” Diamandis said. “We launched this competition now 11 years ago to inspire and educate engineers, and despite the fact that it ran out of time it has achieved 100 percent of its goal. Even if it doesn’t make it onto the ground fully intact it has ignited a level of electricity and excitement that reminds me of the Ansari Xprize 15 years ago.”

Meanwhile, Ansari emphasized the potential to reinvigorate commercial interest in lunar exploration and experimentation that the landing could evoke.

“Imagine, over the last 50 years only 500 people out of seven billion have been to space — that number will be thousands soon,” she said. “We believe there’s so much more that can be done in this area of technology, a lot of real business opportunities that benefit civilization but also humanity.”

Naspers-owned PayU doubles down on India with $70M deal to buy Wibmo

PayU, the Naspers-owned payments company that competes with the likes of PayPal but focuses mainly on emerging markets, has made an acquisition to expand its business in India. It has acquired Wibmo, a startup based out of the US (Cupertino, to exact) that mostly operates in India. PayU is paying $70 million for the startup, bringing the total its invested in building its business to $500 million in the last two months.

Wibmo offers a range of payment processing services that cover security, risk and fraud, authentication, SME disbursements, mobile payments, QR codes and prepaid cards. It works with banks, merchants and offers consumer-facing services, too. The appeal to PayU appears to be an opportunity to own touchpoints across the payment process, a bridge to develop its own ecosystem, although Wibmo will keep its branding and run as a wholly-owned subsidiary.

The deal had previously been reported by Economic Times last month, and it speaks to ongoing consolidation.

“This is a strategic acquisition for PayU that combines our merchant network and Wibmo’s leadership in digital security,” Aakash Moondhra, Chief Financial Officer at PayU Global, told TechCrunch in an interview. “PayU is very bullish on India as a market.”

A Citi report issued late last year valued PayU’s India unit at $2.5 billion, and that’s no accident given the level of investment that the company has made.

PayU acquired Citrus for $130 million in 2016, and it has also made investments in Indian fintech startups that include PaySense and Zest Money. Elsewhere in the world, its deal-making has included investments in Creditas in Brazil, Germany’s Kreditech, U.S-based Remitly — which operates remittance worldwide — and Zooz in Israel.

Another key area for the business in India has been a move away from a wallet-based approach to financial services. PayU shuttered one of its wallet apps in India at the beginning of last year, and instead went after services that include credit and deferred payment options, via its LazyPay service. The business also has its core payment gateway service, which will be boosted by the addition of Wibmo.

Naspers itself is doubling down on India, where it has backed unicorns Swiggy, food delivery service that recently raised a $1 billion round, and education service Byju’s, which pulled in $540 million, with major deals announced in recent months.

The company, which is still best known for its early investment in Tencent, has reportedly set aside $1 billion for fintech-related M&A in India, according to a Bloomberg report published last month.

Israel’s Beresheet spacecraft is lost during historic lunar landing attempt

Israel’s SpaceIL almost made history today as its Beresheet spacecraft came within an ace of landing on the surface of the Moon, but suffered a last minute failure during descent. Israel missed out on the chance to be the fourth country to make a controlled lunar landing, but getting 99 percent of the way there is still an extraordinary achievement for private spaceflight.

Beresheet (“Genesis”) launched in February as secondary payload aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, and after a month and a half spiraling outward, entered lunar orbit a week ago. Today’s final maneuver was an engine burn meant to bring down its relative velocity to the Moon, then brake to a soft landing in the Mare Serenitatis, or Sea of Serenity.

Everything was working fine up until the final moments, as is often the case in space. The craft, having made it perfectly to its intended point of descent, determined that all systems were ready and the landing process would go ahead as planned.

They lost telemetry for a bit, and had to reset the craft to get the main engine back online… and then communication dropped while only a handful of kilometers from the surface. The “selfie” image above was taken from 22 km above the surface, just a few minutes that. The spacecraft was announced as lost shortly afterwards.

Clearly disappointed but also exhilarated, the team quickly recovered its composure, saying “the achievement of getting to where we got is tremendous and we can be proud,” and of course, “if at first you don’t succeed… try, try again.”

The project began as an attempt to claim the Google Lunar Xprize, announced more than a decade ago, but which proved too difficult for teams to attempt in the timeframe specified. Although the challenge and its prize money lapsed, Israel’s SpaceIL team continued its work, bolstered by the support of Israel Aerospace Industries, the state-owned aviation concern there.

It’s worth noting that Beresheet did enjoy considerable government support in this way, it’s a far cry from any other large-scale government-run mission, and can safely be considered “private” for all intents and purposes. The ~50-person team and $200 million budget are laughably small compared to practically any serious mission, let alone a lunar landing.

I spoke with Xprize’s Founder and CEO, Peter Diamandis and Anousheh Ansari respectively, just before the landing attempt. Both were extremely excited and made it clear that the mission was already considered a huge success.

“What I’m seeing here is an incredible who’s who from science, education, and government who have gathered to watch this miracle take place,” Diamandis said. “We launched this competition now 11 years ago to inspire and educate engineers, and despite the fact that it ran out of time it has achieved 100 percent of its goal. Even if it doesn’t make it onto the ground fully intact it has ignited a level of electricity and excitement that reminds me of the Ansari Xprize 15 years ago.”

He’s not the only one. Ansari, who funded the famous spaceflight Xprize that bore her name, and who has herself visited space as one of the first tourist-astronauts above the International Space Station, felt a similar vibe.

“It’s an amazing moment, bringing so many great memories up,” she told me. “It reminds me of when we were all out in the Mojave waiting for the launch of Spaceship One.”

Ansari emphasized the feeling the landing evoked of moving forward as a people.

“Imagine, over the last 50 years only 500 people out of seven billion have been to space — that number will be thousands soon,” she said. “We believe there’s so much more that can be done in this area of technology, a lot of real business opportunities that benefit civilization but also humanity.”

Congratulations to the SpaceIL team for their achievement, and here’s hoping the next attempt makes it all the way down.

Israel’s Beresheet spacecraft enters lunar orbit and prepares for landing

Beresheet, Israel’s privately funded, engineered and launched mission to the Moon’s surface, has successfully entered lunar orbit after a month and a half in transit. The craft will now adjust its orbit in preparation for landing on April 11.

The craft was launched on February 21 aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9, accelerating toward the moon in an ever-widening Earth orbit. In a testament to the exactitude of the engineers at SpaceIL, the organization that created the craft, Beresheet finished its burn and entered an elliptical lunar orbit within 9 minutes of the time it was predicted to do so before launch. That’s some rocket science!

The next step in the plan is to reduce the size of the craft’s lunar orbit with successive burns, to the point where it can safely make a single final burn and drop to the surface.

“The lunar capture is an historic event in and of itself — but it also joins Israel in a seven-nation club that has entered the moon’s orbit,” said SpaceIL’s Morris Kahn in a statement. “A week from today, we’ll make more history by landing on the moon, joining three superpowers who have done so.”

Those superpowers are of course the U.S., Russia and China, the latter of which touched down on the moon just earlier this year, on the far (not “dark”) side of the moon, to boot.

But Beresheet would be the first private concern to have a soft landing on the moon — and not just privately conceived and funded, but engineered and launched by private industry as well. It’s a powerful indication of the strength of the global space community. At less than $100 million, it’s been quite cheap, as well.

Assuming all goes well, the lander will land in the Mare Serenitatis, or Sea of Serenity, and poke around for a few days. It’s equipped with some experimental instruments, but as the lander will cease operating after a short time, it isn’t anything crucial or long-term.

Science, however, is only the secondary goal of the mission. It is primarily for national pride and the advancement of the Israeli space community that Beresheet was launched, and to that end it has already been a success. Stay tuned a week from today when the lander descends to the surface.

Alibaba acquires Israeli VR startup Infinity Augmented Reality

Infinity Augmented Reality, an Israeli virtual reality startup, has been acquired by Alibaba, the companies announced this weekend. The deal’s terms were not disclosed. Alibaba and InfinityAR have had a strategic partnership since 2016, when Alibaba Group led InfinityAR’s Series C. Since then, the two have collaborated on augmented reality, computer vision and artificial intelligence projects.

Founded in 2013, the startup’s augmented glasses platform enables developers in a wide range of industries (retail, gaming, medical, etc.) to integrate AR into their apps. InfinityAR’s products include software for ODMs and OEMs and a SDK plug-in for 3D engines.

Alibaba’s foray into virtual reality started three years ago, when it invested in Magic Leap and then announced a new research lab in China to develop ways of incorporating virtual reality into its e-commerce platform.

InfinityAR’s research and development team will begin working out of Alibaba’s Israel Machine Laboratory, part of Alibaba DAMO Academy, the R&D initiative it is pouring $15 billion into with the goal of eventually serving two billion customers and creating 100 million jobs by 2036. DAMO Academy collaborates with universities around the world and Alibaba’s Israel Machine Laboratory has a partnership with Tel Aviv University focused on video analysis and machine learning.

In a press statement, the laboratory’s head, Lihi Zelnik-Manor, said “Alibaba is delighted to be working with InfinityAR as one team after three years of partnership. The talented team brings unique knowhow in sensor fusion, computer vision and navigation technologies. We look forward to exploring these leading technologies and offering additional benefits to customers, partners and developers.”

Transportation Weekly: Uber’s spending habits, Tesla Model Y, scooters and AVs in Austin

Welcome back to Transportation Weekly; I’m your host Kirsten Korosec, senior transportation reporter at TechCrunch. We love the reader feedback. Keep it coming.

Never heard of TechCrunch’s Transportation Weekly? Catch up by reading the first edition here or check out last week’s edition, which offered the gamut of mobility news from Lyft and Bird to Waymo’s laser bears and cybersecurity.

As I’ve written before, consider this a soft launch. Follow me on Twitter @kirstenkorosec to ensure you see it each week. An email subscription is coming!

This week we’ll focus on the city of Austin, gain insight into Uber’s spending habits, do a little scooter number crunching, the Tesla Model Y, and the so-called “race” — an overused and inaccurate term — to develop autonomous vehicles.


ONM …

There are OEMs in the automotive world. And here, (wait for it) there are ONMs — original news manufacturers. (Cymbal clash!) This is where investigative reporting, enterprise pieces and analysis on transportation lives.uber atg pittsburgh office

Mark Harris is back with new details on Uber’s autonomous vehicle technology program. The upshot: Uber was spending $20 million a month to develop self-driving technologies.

The new information, gleaned from recently unsealed court documents, provides new insight into the company’s past activities and what that might mean for its upcoming IPO.

Harris writes: “The figures, dating back to 2016, paint a picture of a company desperate to meet over-ambitious autonomy targets and one that is willing to spend freely, even recklessly, to get there. As Uber prepares for its IPO later this year, the new details could prove an embarrassing reminder that the company is still trailing in its efforts to develop technology that founder Travis Kalanick called “existential” to Uber’s future.”

This historical look at Uber and its self-driving tech unit, Uber ATG, should be considered alongside more recent news, including that it’s in negotiations with investors, including the SoftBank Vision Fund, to secure an investment as large as $1 billion for its autonomous vehicles unit.


Dig In

After five days in Austin for SXSW, I headed to Los Angeles, actually Hawthorne, for Tesla’s Model Y unveiling. In many ways, this was like all the other Tesla events I’ve attended: the pumpy music and mood lighting, the designed-to-inspire kick off video, the Tesla superfans (pictured below), and the long lines for a brief test ride.

Tesla Model y unveiling

And yet, something was different. The Model Y unveil reminded me of other more traditional automaker reveals. There were mutterings at the event, and wild cries on Twitter, of disappointment (there were plenty of platitudes as well). Many expected something more exciting than this Model 3 doppelganger.

The Model Y is the kind of next act one might expect from an established and more cautious automaker. And while the market’s reaction was negative, there were folks who noted that the Model Y’s likeness to the 3 meant it was getting serious about selling vehicles.

And that’s not a bad thing — accept for two niggling details. First, the Model Y is so similar to the 3 that it could suffer from buyer malaise or cannibalization of one of the two vehicles. Secondly, even if everyone loved this vehicle and Tesla was poised to take advantage of these perceived efficiencies gained from sharing at least 75 percent of the parts with the Model 3, the Y isn’t coming until fall 2020.

That lengthy timeline raises a lot of questions that we’ll be (and surely others) digging into in the coming weeks and months. Where Tesla chooses to produce the Model Y is perhaps the most important, unanswered question.

Tesla Model Y prototype

 


A little bird …

We hear a lot. But we’re not selfish. Let’s share.

blinky-cat-bird

Welp, we didn’t anticipate this happening. Two tips turned into stories this week: Ford expanding its autonomous vehicle program to Austin and GM Cruise ramping up its hiring machine with plans to hire at least 1,000 more engineers by the end of the year.

What else are we hearing? There’s a new autonomous trucking company coming out of stealth. We’ll share more soon.

Got a tip or overheard something in the world of transportation? Email me or send a direct message to @kirstenkorosec.


Deal of the week

It’s not a done deal, yet. But it’s just an intriguing. Uber is in talks with Softbank Vision Fund and Toyota to raise $1 billion for its self-driving unit Uber ATG. This investment would give Uber ATG a valuation of between $5 billion and $10 billion, WSJ reported. The talks are fluid and could still fall apart, these people warned.

There is a lot of behind-the-scenes investment and partnership activity in the autonomous vehicle space these days. In short, these relationships are getting messy and hard to follow.

Let’s not forget that Softbank’s Vision Fund already has a nearly 20 percent stake in GM’s self-driving subsidiary GM Cruise following its $2.2 billion investment in 2018.

Then there’s Volkswagen AG, which is in continued talks with Ford to partner on self-driving car technologies. The framework of the agreement is expected to include VW making an investment into Ford-backed autonomous vehicle startup Argo AI.

VW already has other partnerships. VW Group, Intel’s  computer vision subsidiary Mobileye  and Champion Motors said in November they plan to deploy Israel’s first self-driving ride-hailing service in 2019 through a joint venture called New Mobility in Israel. VW also has a partnership with AV startup Aurora to integrate self-driving systems in custom-designed electric shuttles for VW’s new Moia brand.

Other deals:

  • Flight-hailing startup Blackbird raises $10 million
  • Drivezy, India’s vehicle-sharing startup is raising more than $100 million
  • BMW i Ventures invested in Bright Machines, a San Francisco-based company that has combined software and robotics to help automotive, computer and electronic brands improve product quality, throughput, and factory optimization.
  • Toyota Motor, DENSO Corporation, and Toyota Tsusho Corporation made a $15 million investment into connected vehicle services startup Airbiquity. The four parties will collaborate to accelerate the development and commercialization of an automotive grade over-the-air (OTA) system enabling remote vehicle software updates and management.

  • Freight railroad owner Genesee & Wyoming is considering a sale of all or part of itself, Bloomberg reported

Snapshot

I spent the week in Austin to participate in a number of SXSW-related events, including a couple of panels. As MRD notes in the micromobility section below, scooters were everywhere. And I used them a lot.

Here’s what many might not have considered as they zipped along the streets, and sidewalks of Austin. The new new new thing often kills off something else, or at least forces it to change.

Which brings me to pedicabs. The snapshot below is a long lineup of empty pedicabs in downtown Austin. I saw these pedicabs-sans-riders everywhere in Austin. I remember SXSW just one year ago and the pedicabs were full; I took them several times that week. But now, scooters and bike share are here, and the pedicabs seem to be the ones suffering the most. I hired a pedicab during my stay and the driver confirmed my observations: they’re waiting much longer for customers now.

Sometimes that disruption can hit the new new thing too. Take bike share. The Austin City Council on approved in February 2018 the creation of a “dockless” bike share pilot program. Some companies were already operating these services; this action created a regulatory framework. But then scooters came en masse.

City officials and one dockless mobility executive told me that scooters upended bike share, and prompted companies to take some of their bikes off the streets do to lack of demand.


Tiny but mighty micromobility

It seems like everyone is riding scooters now. Case in point, Austin during SXSW. MRD weighs in on what went down.

I wasn’t in Austin this week for SXSW. And it’s a good thing I wasn’t because there were reports of a tornado! Well, a tornado of scooters. According to The Verge, scooters and bikes were out and about, enabling the hundreds of thousands of conference goers to get from one bar to the next — and from one session to the other.

“Some of the astounding sights I’ve seen in the past few days include multiple vicious-looking wipeouts, a man cranking the accelerator and doing donuts in a crowded parking lot, and scooters littering the gutters of East 6th Street while throngs of people avoid tripping over them,” The Verge’s Nick Statt wrote. “At one point, I read that a man was found riding one down the shoulder of an Austin highway. Riders here are disregarding all manner of street signage and traffic lights; some people flagrantly speed the wrong way down streets.”

In other micromobility news

Micromobility data platform Populus raised some skrillz — $3.1 million, to be exact. That’s in part because, while cities are down for this new era of transportation and operators are down to share their data, cities still have to find out what to do with this data and how to extract learnings from it.

This is where Populus comes in. Populus raised the seed round from Precursor Ventures, Relay Ventures and others to help cities make sense of the influx of transportation data. This brings the startup’s total funding to $3.85 million.

And  … just because scooters are hot right now, doesn’t mean companies aren’t facing headwinds. The Information reported that Bird has laid off between 4 to 5 percent of its workforce.

Megan Rose Dickey


Notable reads

Navigant Research released its annual, and often controversial autonomous vehicle leaderboard report, by principal analyst Sam Abuelsamid. The Navigant Research Leaderboard examines the strategy and execution of 20 leading automated driving system companies and rates them based on 10 criteria, including vision; go-to market strategy; partners; production strategy; technology; sales, marketing, and distribution; product capability; product quality and reliability; product portfolio; and staying power.

The leaders, in Navigant’s view are:

  1. Waymo
  2. GM Cruise
  3. Ford autonomous vehicles
  4. Aptiv
  5. Intel-Mobileye
  6. Volkswagen Group
  7. Daimler-Bosch
  8. Baidu
  9. Toyota
  10. . Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance

Other quotable notables:

With the rise of autonomous delivery bots — or at least news of all the capital they’re raising — it’s worth revisiting a white paper that KPMG put out in November called Autonomy Delivers: An oncoming revolution in the movement of goods. The report notes how e-commerce is pushing this delivery phenomenon forward. Two forecasts worth noting:

  • expecting no acceleration in e-commerce adoption trends, KMPG estimates that by 2040 e-commerce will reduce shopping trips in the U.S. by 30 percent. It could be as high as 50 percent.
  • as a result, delivery vehicle miles traveled will skyrocket from 23 billion annual miles to more than 78 billion by 2040.

Testing and deployments


Ford continues to expand its autonomous vehicle program. This time, the automaker is
setting up shop in Austin. During my week in Austin for SXSW, I had heard rumors that Ford was preparing to open an autonomous vehicle program there. A number of Ford executives were on the ground in Austin during SXSW to participate in panels and other events including one I moderated at the Smart Mobility Summit.

That chatter was confirmed by a new job listing for an autonomous vehicles “market specialist” based in Austin. Austin is the fifth city to join the automaker’s testing program, which already includes Detroit, Miami, Pittsburgh and Washington D.C.

Meanwhile, Los Angeles is getting ready for a widespread deployment of scooters. About seven companies already have permission to operate on a conditional basis, according to Los Angeles Department of Transportation’s general manager Seleta Reynolds. Now it’s about to get bigger.

The city recently launched a one-year dockless on-demand personal mobility program. As part of that program, the LADOT accepted applications from companies seeking one-year permits. Eleven companies applied for permission to operate about 38,000 dockless devices. The city is prepping for coming deluge by creating designated parking areas and other signage.

That sounds like a lot; and it is. But it could have been a much higher number. If these companies had maxed out the total number allowed under the permit, it could have meant 160,000 scooters in Los Angeles.

Why wouldn’t Bird, Lime, Spin and others max out the allowable 10,500 scooters per permit? Here’s one thought: cost and supply.

The annual permit application fee is a non-refundable $20,000. Companies also most pay $130 fee per vehicle annually if they’re operating in non-disadvantage communities (DAC). LADOT is allowing companies a maximum of 3,000 scooters in non-DAC areas, 5,000 in DACs in San Fernando Valley and up to 2,500 in DACs in outside of San Fernando Valley. Permits for scooters in DACs are $39 per vehicle, a 70 percent reduction in that fee.

That means if a company could max out and hit the 10,500 scooter limit, which includes DACs, it would be looking at more than $700,000 in permitting fees to operate for a year.

Two car things

  • Gridwise, a mobile app designed to increases rideshare drivers’ hourly earnings by helping them find more rides and track their performance, launched in a number of cities, including Austin, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, and Phoenix. Gridwise app is already available in numberous U.S. cities such as Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, New York City, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and Washington DC.
  • And Citymobil, one of the largest Russian taxi aggregators, has teamed up with Gazprom to launch a taxi runs on natural gas. About 500 taxi cars that participate with Citymobil have already been converted to work on methane. By the end of the year, their number is expected to reach 10,000.

On our radar

There is a lot of transportation-related activity this month.

Nvidia GTC

TechCrunch will be at Nvidia’s annual GPU Technology Conference from March 18 to 21 in San Jose.

The 4th annualADAS Sensors 2019 conference and expo held March 20 to 21 in Detroit Michigan. See the full conference agenda at: http://www.adassensors.com/agenda.html

Self Racing Cars

The annual Self Racing Car eventwill be held March 23 and March 24 at Thunderhill Raceway near Willows, California. Sign up to participate or drop them a line at [email protected].

Thanks for reading. There might be content you like or something you hate. Feel free to reach out to me at [email protected] to share those thoughts, opinions or tips. 

Nos vemos la próxima vez.

A healthcare investment fund has become one of Israel’s largest with a $660 million close

One of Israel’s single largest venture capital funds is a new later stage vehicle focused on healthcare.

The aMoon investment firm launched its second vehicle in April 2018 and it just announced its final close with $660 million in assets under management — making it one of the largest (if not the largest) firm in the country.

“We plan to leverage Israel’s ecosystem of breakthrough science and disruptive tech innovation to accelerate cure and reshape global healthcare.” said Dr. Yair Schindel MD, Co-Founder & Managing Partner of aMoon, in a statement. “This raise is a vote of confidence for the Israeli HealthTech ecosystem that extends beyond Israel’s borders, to include the sizable community of Israeli entrepreneurs and researchers in global hubs, such as Silicon Valley and Boston.”

The firm’s second fund will have a strategy focused on later stage, lower risk companies in which aMoon will invest larger checks, according to an email from the firm’s co-founder and managing director, Dr. Schindel.

Ticket size for deals will range anywhere from $10 million to $20 million on the low end with the potential for follow-on investments ranging from $40 million to $50 million, Dr. Schindel said.

This larger check size is a function of the fund’s expansion. While the first aMoon fund was a $200 million, fund from a single limited partner (Marius Nacht, the co-founder and chairman of Check Point Software), the new fund counts 50 investors globally, including Credit Suisse which committed $250 million from their asset management and private banking groups. Goldman Sachs, also participated alongside an undisclosed Israeli investment firm.

Since its launch, aMoon 2 has made five investments in companies like Zebra Medical Vision, Cartiheal, Ayala Pharmaceuticals, Biolojic Design, and a still-in-stealth mode fifth company.

Broadly speaking, those deals align with the firm’s broader investment strategy which Schindel described as tackling diseases that are “either the worst killers or the largest cost-drivers of healthcare such as: cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and infectious diseases.”

For Schindel and his colleagues at the firm, Israel represents an incredibly fertile market for developing new healthcare technologies.

The country boasts highly curated electronic medical records for nearly the entire population dating back more than 20 years. That means Israel has one of the most complete electronic pictures of its national population health extant in the world today.

And the Israeli government recently launched a $272 million investment scheme into digital health projects over the next five years

“The biggest opportunity today lies in the convergence of technology and biology and the shift from care which is reactive to care which is predictive, preventive and personalized,” says Schindel in a statement.

And the presence of large consumer tech companies in the healthcare market these days, means good things to come for startup companies, according to Schindel.

:Their presence means a larger universe of buyers as well as a much faster pace of development in a relatively conservative industry which is currently undergoing a massive digital transformation,” he wrote in an email.

 

Watch SpaceX launch the first private moon landing mission (Update: Success!)

Update: Success! All payloads deployed successfully. Now we just have to wait on that moon landing…

Calling all lunatics — the first fully private moon landing mission is about to take off from Cape Canaveral. A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying SpaceIL’s Beresheet lander is set to take off about an hour from now, at 5:45 Pacific time. Watch it right here!

The launch isn’t just the lander — in fact, the lander is only a small part of the payload. The primary passenger is Nusantara Satu, an Indian communications satellite that will provide connectivity to rural areas in the country difficult to reach by ordinary means. Once it gets to its geosynchronous orbit it will deploy the U.S. Air Force Research Lab’s S5 experimental satellite, which will track objects and debris around that altitude.

But by the time those deploy (about 44 minutes after launch), Beresheet will be well on its way; it’s entering a transfer orbit with an eye to lunar insertion and touchdown on the surface there in April.

Should it accomplish its task, the Israeli satellite will be the first private mission to land on the moon. So far it’s just been us, Russia and China — others have passed by or orbited, to be sure, but no one has made a soft landing and taken pictures, as Beresheet intends to do.

It was originally planned to do this for Google’s ill-fated Lunar Xprize, which went unclaimed despite serious interest — the truth is it was just a bit too ambitious for its own good. But several of the companies and teams that entered are still going strong, moving forward at their own paces.

At around $100 million, Beresheet will be the cheapest moon landing mission by far, and as the first to do so on a privately engineered and built (not to mention previously flown) rocket, as a secondary payload and with a private launch coordinator… let’s just say that it’s likely to set records all over the place if all goes well.

The first thing that needs to happen, of course, is takeoff. So tune in below at 5:45: