Labstep wants to fix the way science experiments are recorded and reproduced

Labstep, an app and online platform to help scientists record and reproduce experiments, has raised £1 million in new funding, including from existing investors. The company, whose team has a background in commercial R&D and academic research, including at Oxford University, is backed by Seedcamp and says it plans to use the new capital to double its team to 12, and for further product development.

This will include the launch of a marketplace for lab supplies, and is one of the ways Labstep plans to generate revenue. The startup will also add features to its app that streamline how scientists outsource elements of their research.

First conceived of in late 2013 and soft launched in 2015, Labstep has set out to digitise the lab experiment tracking and sharing process, and in turn give scientific research a major leg up.

As explained by CEO and co-founder Jake Schofield, science experiments are often recorded in an archaic way, relying on a mixture of pen and paper or entering resulting data into legacy software. Not only is this cumbersome but it also means that experiments are prone to mistakes and can be especially hard to replicate and therefore validate, either by a team working together internally or when sharing and cross-checking with the wider scientific and research community.

Enter: Labstep. The platform and app enables scientists to build libraries of experimental procedures — a bit like recipes — and then easily record progress when following a procedure in the lab, including building a timeline of the experiment. Procedures can also be shared with teams or more broadly, as well as deviated from in a transparent way. In fact, Schofield says one way to think about Labstep is as a ‘Github for lab experiments’. Procedures can be made public or private and can be optionally forked.

“Rather than following paper printouts, when actually carrying out your experimentation you can walk through these procedures step by step on a mobile device at the bench,” Schofield tells me. “Interactive features streamline and make it much easier to capture, comment, and record when you deviate from these processes”.

“Our API allows you to connect all the devices in your lab and automate the upload of results,” he explains. “Every action creates a timeline post, this automatic audit trail increases accuracy and saves the huge amounts of time normally spent writing a progress diary after the fact. You can form lab groups, like internal slack channels, that allow you to share these protocol libraries and real-time updates to see how your colleagues are progressing, this is massive as people are often collaborating and working in different geographical locations”.

In addition, the record of the steps that lead to a scientific conclusion can be attached to academic papers in the form of a URL so that other scientists can attempt to replicate the findings. This feature alone could go some way to tackling what the Labstep founder says is “a global reproducibility crisis,” estimated to cost billions per year in wasted research.

“At the point you publish your results, the competitive emphasis on keeping your research private shifts as you now want others to reproduce and validate your findings. We generate unique IDs that can be put in your publications and methods sections to link the protocols and the process that lead to these results,” he says.

As a route to monetisation, in the coming months Labstep will roll out a marketplace to make it easier to source the lab supplies needed to reproduce findings. It also plans to harness the real-time data that the Labstep app captures on how supplies in the lab are used, and Schofield says that by streamlining the ordering process, the reproducibility problem can be further addressed.

In another nod to collaboration, Labstep will also launch cloud features that allow users to outsource elements of the experimental process. I’m told that although outsourcing of research is commonly done in commercial R&D, it is used much less in academia.

Meanwhile, Labstep says it has users from over 600 universities globally including Stanford, Harvard and MIT in the U.S., and Oxford, University College London, Imperial College, King’s College and the Crick Institute in the U.K. It’s also not the only startup in this space to have got the attention of investors. Benchling, a graduate of Silicon Valley’s Y Combinator, raised a $14.5 million funding round a couple of weeks ago.

Announcing the agenda for The Europas Unconference, July 3, London

There are only 10 more days until The Europas where the winners of this year’s startup awards will be announced at our gala dinner, in association with TechCrunch!

The Europas half-day “Unconference” will have a fantastic lineup of panels taking place in the afternoon before the awards. This year, we’ve done away with mainstage lectures, and we’ve created a series of more tightly focused discussion panels that give you a front-row seat to the biggest investors, founders and thought leaders in tech. No more seeing a huge investor or founder on stage and not even getting to talk to them! Our goal at The Europas is to break down the barriers between speakers and audience and to get the discussion going!

This year our panels are focused around three themes: Tech + Society; Start Up Central, and The Crypto Zone. You can see the complete agenda here along with the panel speakers.

In Tech + Society, we’ll be debating and discussing:

— What happens to the tech community post Brexit?

— The Disinfoconomy panel will dive into what’s next after Facebook’s data debacle for both companies, essentially trading in personal data and for user privacy.

— Mapping the Future of Transportation and Cities: a startup that’s just emerging from stealth mode will talk about how AVs can co-exist in today’s cities.

In the Startup Central, our zone dedicated to startup life, we’ll be covering everything from seed funding to Series B and beyond. Expect to meet many investors here, as many of them will be heading up the discussion (as well as attending the awards dinner), including investors from Accel, Passion Capital, Connect Ventures, LocalGlobe, Seedcamp and many more. We’ll also be diving into startup life itself, asking if a work life balance can ever exist, and what exactly is “cultural fit”? And our most popular panel is back – Meet the Press – where you can ask top tech reporters what about exactly “makes” a tech startup story.

Finally – if you haven’t noticed recently, we’ve fallen headlong into the crypto rabbit hole. By popular demand, we’ve got two blockchain tracks dedicated to exploring the opportunities and challenges in the space. One track is dedicated to the ins and outs of investing, and the other track to the number of industries and existing business practices that blockchain is disrupting.

Agenda so far (more speakers to be confirmed):

Tech + Society Zone

• Should We Stay or Should We Go Now?
Saul Klein, LocalGlobe
Eloise Todd, CEO, Best For Britain (& other panelists to be announced)

•  The Disinformation Economy
Dhruv Ghulati of factmata.com

• Get Mapping, the Future of Transportation in an Autonomous Age:
Steve Gledden, AiPod

• AI + Startups – A Non Starter?
Paul Dowling, Deeptech Mondays

Startup Central Zone

• The New World Order of Early Stage Investment
Tina Baker, JAG Shaw Baker
Scott Sage, VC

• Crossing the Chasm to Series B and Beyond
(Speakers TBA)

• The Future of Funding: ICOs, Crowdfunding and VC
Michael Jackson, Mangrove Capital
Ali Ganjavian

• Meet the Press
Featuring Journalists from Business Insider, WSJ and more

• This Startup Life – from work/life balance to cultural fit
Brett, Forsyth Group

Crypto Zone 1

• Investing in Crypto: What’s Hot and What’s Not
Richard Muirhead, Fabric Ventures
Damir Bandalo, Columbus Capital
George McDonagh, KR1
Nancy Fechnay, blockchain Angel

• The Highs and Lows of ICOs: 3 Blockchain Projects, 3 ICOs
Linda Wang, Lending Block

•  Tokenize It! Understanding Token Economics
Lee Pruitt, Instasupply;

• Smart Contracts, Smarter Businesses: What Smart Contracts Can Enable

• The Most Crypto Friendly Jurisdictions
Diana Rotaru, Blockchip
Keld Van Shreven, KR1

Crypto Zone 2

• The State of Blockchain in Europe
Sasha Ivanov, Waves
Lexi Willets, Coinweb
Peter Wilson, Blockchain

• Blockchain for Social Impact: Where is Blockchain Making a Difference
Min Teo, Consensys

• Fixing Media, the Creative Industries and Visual Arts with Blockchain
Maria Tanjala, FilmChain
Robert Norton, Verisart
Christine Mohan, Civil

• We Don’t Need No Thought Control: Digital Identity and Blockchain – Pelle Braendgaard, uPort

Twitter ‘smytes’ customers

Twitter today announced it was acquiring the “trust and safety as a service” startup Smyte to help it better address issues related to online abuse, harassment, spam, and security on its platform. But it also decided to immediately shut down access to Smyte’s API without warning, leaving Smyte’s existing customers no time to transition to a new service provider.

The change left Smyte’s current customer base stranded, with production issues related to the safety of their own platforms.

Needless to say, many were not happy about this situation and took to Twitter to register their complaints.

According to Smyte’s website, its clients included Indiegogo, GoFundMe, npm, Musical.ly, TaskRabbit, Meetup, OLX, ThredUp, YouNow, 99 Designs, Carousell, and Zendesk – big name brands that used Smyte’s feature set in a variety of ways to combat fraud, abuse, harassment, scams, spam, and other security issues.

While Twitter had earlier told TechCrunch that it would be “winding down” Smyte’s business with existing clients, what that apparently meant was that it was going to announce the acquisition, then effectively shut off the lights over at Smyte and leave everyone in the lurch.

According to reports from those affected, Smyte disabled access to its API with very little warning to clients, and without giving them time to prepare. Customers got a phone call, and then – boom – the service was gone. Clients had multi-year contracts in some cases.

And again, to reiterate, Smyte is a provider of anti-abuse and anti-fraud protections – not something any business would shut off overnight.

In npm’s case, it even led to a production outage.

Twitter declined to comment, but we understand it was making phone calls to affected Smyte customers today to match them with new service providers.

The decision to smite smyte an existing customer base the minute the startup joined Twitter isn’t a good look for either company, and is especially ironic in light of Twitter’s promises of “trust and safety” improvements in the months to come.

Trust, huh?

That’s how it works?

Exclusive: Tesla to close a dozen solar facilities in nine states – documents

Exclusive: Tesla to close a dozen solar facilities in nine states - documentsLOS ANGELES/SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Electric car maker Tesla Inc's move last week to cut 9 percent of its workforce will sharply downsize the residential solar business it bought two years ago in a controversial $2.6 billion deal, according to three internal company documents and seven current and former Tesla solar employees. The latest cuts to the division that was once SolarCity - a sales and installation company founded by two cousins of Tesla CEO Elon Musk - include closing about a dozen installation facilities, according to internal company documents, and ending a retail partnership with Home Depot Inc that the current and former employees said generated about half of its sales.


Bag Week 2018: Mission Workshop’s Radian rolltop starts simple but grows piece by piece

Welcome to Bag Week 2018. Every year your faithful friends at TechCrunch spend an entire week looking at bags. Why? Because bags — often ignored but full of our important electronics — are the outward representations of our techie styles, and we put far too little thought into where we keep our most prized possessions.

I’ve always been wary of modular, rail-based bag systems. They’ve always struck me as rather military and imposing, which I suppose is kind of the point. Even Mission Workshop, whose other bags I have always enjoyed, put out one that seemed to me excessive. But they’ve tempered their style a bit and put out the Radian, a solid middle ground between their one-piece and modular systems.

The Radian is clearly aimed at the choosy, pack-loving traveler who eschews roller bags for aesthetic — which describes me to a tee. Strictly rolltop bags (originating in cyclist and outdoors circles) end up feeling restrictive in where you can stow gear, and rollers are boxy and unrefined. So the Radian takes a bit from both, with the added ability to add bits and pieces according to your needs.

What it is: Adaptable, waterproof, well-designed and not attention-grabbing

What it isn’t: Simple or lightweight

The core pack is quite streamlined, with no protruding external pockets whatsoever. There’s the main compartment — 42 liters, if you’re curious — and a cleverly hidden laptop compartment between the main one and the back pads. Both are independently lined with waterproof material (in addition to the water-resistant outer layer) and the zippers are similarly sealed. There’s also a mesh pouch hidden like the laptop area that you can pop out or stow at will.

You can roll up the rolltop and secure it with Velcro, or treat it as a big flap and snap it to a strap attached to the bottom of the bag — the straps themselves are attached with strong Velcro, so you can take them off if you’re going roll style. The “Cobra” buckle upgrade is cool but the standard plastic buckles are well made enough that you shouldn’t feel any pressure to pay the $65 to upgrade.

[gallery ids="1661276,1661280,1661279,1661282,1661283,1661278,1661277,1661272"]

Access is where things begin to diverge. Unlike most rolltop packs, you can lay the bag on the ground and unzip the top as if it were a roller, letting you access the whole space from somewhere other than the top. The flap also has its own mesh enclosure. This is extremely handy and addresses the main ergonomic issue I’ve always had with strictly top-loading bags.

In a further assimilation of rolltop qualities, there’s a secret pocket at the bottom of the bag that houses a large cloth cover that seals up the pack straps and so on, making the bag much more stowable and preventing TSA or baggage handlers from having to negotiate all that junk or bag it up themselves.

Of course, a single large compartment is rarely enough when you’re doing real traveling and need to access this document or that gadget in a hurry. So the Radian joins the Mission Workshop Arkiv modular system, which lets you add on a variety of extra pockets of various sizes and types. Just be careful that you don’t push it over the carry-on size limit (though you can always stuff the extra pockets inside temporarily).

There are six rails — two on each side and two on the back — and a handful of accessories that go on each, sliding on with sturdy metal clips. The pack I tested had two zippered side pockets, the “mini folio” and the “horizontal zip” on the back, plus a cell phone pocket for the front strap.

They’re nice but the rear ones I tried are a bit small — you’d have trouble fitting anything but a pocket paperback and a couple of energy bars in either. If I had my choice I would go with the full-size folio, one zippered and one rolltop side pocket. Then you can do away with the cell pocket, which is a bit much, and have several stowage options within reach. Plus the folio has its own rails to stick one of the small ones onto.

There’s really no need to get the separate laptop case, since the laptop compartment would honestly fit two or three. It’s a great place to store dress shirts and other items that need to stay folded up and straight.

[gallery ids="1661272,1661278,1661275,1661281,1661284,1661271"]

As far as room, the 42 liters are enough on my estimation to pack for a five-day trip — that is to say, I easily fit in five pairs of socks and underwear, five t-shirts, a sweater or two, a dress shirt, some shorts and a pair of jeans. More than that would be kind of a stretch if you were also planning on bringing things like a camera, a book or two and all the other usual travel accessories.

The main compartment has mesh areas on the side to isolate toiletries and so on, but they’re just divisions; they don’t add space. There are places for small things in the outside pockets but again, not a lot of room for much bigger than a paperback, water bottle or snack unless you spring for the folio add-on.

As for looks — the version I tested was the black camo version, obviously, which looks a little more subdued in real life than my poorly color-balanced pictures make it look. Personally I prefer the company’s flat grey over the camo and the black. Makes it even more low-profile.

In the end I think the Radian is the best option for anyone looking at Mission Workshop bags who wants a modular option, but unless you plan on swapping out pieces a lot, I’m not personally convinced that it’s better than their all-in-one bags like the Rambler and Vandal. By all means take a look at putting a Radian system together, but don’t neglect to check if any of the pre-built ones fit your needs as well.

bag week 2018

Intel CEO resigns after probe of relationship with employee

Intel CEO resigns after probe of relationship with employeeKrzanich led Intel as rival chipmakers ate away at its dominance in the technology over several decades and he also presided over a series of high-level executive departures. The change in leadership comes as Intel expands beyond personal computers and servers into areas such as artificial intelligence and self-driving cars, where smaller competitors including Nvidia Corp (NVDA.O) are strong. The board named Chief Financial Officer Robert Swan as interim CEO and said it has begun a search for a permanent CEO, including internal and external candidates.