B2B travel startup Distribusion raises $8.7 million in series A funding


Berlin-based travel tech startup Distribusion has raised €6 million (about $8.7 million) in a series A funding round from Northzone, Creandum, and HR Ventures.

Travel industry-focused angels Thomas Döring, Chris Hitchen, Richard Chen, Bo Mattsson, and Marc Mogalle as well as existing investor Frühphasenfonds Brandenburg also participated in the round.

The startup develops a B2B global distribution system (GDS) for intercity bus rides, connecting bus operators with travel resellers. It claims to have provided two million bookable rides for more than 60 bus operators in 25 countries.

It plans to use the funding to further develop its technology and triple its teams at its Berlin and Bonn offices to drive expansion into South America and Southeast Asia.

“Distribusion is revolutionizing intercity bus travel. With its innovative technology and business model serving both bus operators and travel agents, the company in a strong position to take on the fragmented intercity bus market globally,” said Tim He from Northzone.

“I have been hugely impressed with what they have achieved to date, and I am delighted to be partnering with their ambitious management team.”

“Considering the high interest in this round, with Creandum and Northzone we are excited to win two of Europe’s most successful investors for our mission. With their support, we will be able to grow our team and to roll out our business on a global scale,” added Julian Hauck, Distribusion CEO.

The startup previously raised a seven figure seed round last August.

This post originally appeared on tech.eu.

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Picture with stolen police sign gets man arrested

Blenheim police discovered the photograph on Boyce's public Facebook page, and found the sign in a search of his Redwoodtown home on Wednesday. "Recent posts of property we recovered during search warrants have resulted in several people being reunited with goods taken in burglaries, which is always very satisfying," Feltham said.

Why I’m opting out of Twitter’s algorithmic timeline

Twitter's algorithmic timeline on iOS.

I read the news today, oh boy, that Twitter is turning on its algorithmic timeline by default.

I pulled up Twitter.com and opened up the settings page. There it was, “Show me the best Tweets first.” Sure enough, the checkbox was checked. A few hours later I was checking Twitter on my iPhone when I saw the effect of this change for the first time. A few older tweets I really didn’t care about all that much showed up above a newly posted tweet that quoted a tweet that seemed interesting. I was surprised — and frustrated, really. The Twitter I have come to know and love since 2008 was suddenly and gut-wrenchingly gone.

This is what Twitter shows me?

Above: This is what Twitter shows me?

Image Credit: Screenshot

“Tweets you are likely to care about most will show up first in your timeline,” Twitter explains on its support page for the Twitter timeline. “We choose them based on accounts you interact with most, Tweets you engage with, and much more.”

But I’ve carefully tweaked my list of followers for years. Every few days I add or delete someone from the list, and I care about what these people say. I’m not going to pretend that I don’t miss a single post — like Katie Drummond of Gizmodo, who complained yesterday about Instagram’s plans to roll out an algorithmic feed — but I do try hard to keep up with the people I follow.

“You can opt out of it,” my colleague Ken Yeung reminded me today when we were talking about the subject.

“That’s not the point,” I told him.

The point is that, even if Twitter thinks the algorithmic timeline will be better in the long term, hundreds of millions of people around the world signed up for the Twitter that existed yesterday. Perhaps a few want a Twitter that looks more like Facebook, with content selected by a recommendation system. But the new Twitter might not go over very well with every single one of Twitter’s longtime users.

I have written a lot about big data software that stores the complex data reflecting what people do on Twitter and other Web services. Besides the retweets and favorites — er, likes — many of these systems can remember what people are hovering on and clicking on. This data is rich, sure. And many of the data scientists who help build applications that make recommendations using this data are smart and highly sought after. But that doesn’t make a difference if people don’t care for the recommendations they get.

Take Netflix, for example. Netflix uses the Hadoop and Spark open-source tools and has even built its own software to more effectively use them. But I have never been impressed with Netflix’s suggestions about what to watch. This is a very subjective subject, to be fair. Still, for a long time I’ve relied more on my friends and family members to give me excellent recommendations. And sure enough, I don’t find myself using Netflix in the same obsessive way that some other people do.

My preference for human recommendations over computer-generated ones isn’t universal. I like Spotify’s Discover Weekly. I’ve consistently been into the songs it’s placed in the weekly playlist. As a result, I listen to entire albums from the artists behind the songs. The recommendations are so good that I’m using Spotify more — and more likely to recommend it to friends.

But Discover Weekly isn’t something Spotify forces on users. It’s just there for you to turn on, just as Facebook for years allowed users to scroll through the “Top News” in the News Feed, rather than just the “Most Recent” events in reverse chronological order — until Facebook started blending the two in 2011.

Fortunately, the algorithmic timeline isn’t (yet) appearing in TweetDeck, my tool of choice on desktop. But now that we know TweetDeck for Windows is going away, who knows how much longer TweetDeck will be around.

I’m not saying it’s bad for Twitter to experiment with the algorithmic timeline. When it comes to experimenting, few companies do it more, and Twitter should keep that up. How else can it see what users like?

The point I’m trying to make is Twitter should let users try this experimental algorithmic timeline and see if they like it. If they don’t, they can turn it off. Turning it on by default and then expecting people to turn it off if they don’t like it takes away the very thing that made Twitter more appealing than Facebook for some people — you could control what you were exposed to.

But hey, at least Twitter is allowing you opt out. And that’s what I just did.

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Lucky’s Tale sometimes feels like the Big Bad Wolf is coming at you in virtual reality

Do you want this guy up in your face?

Virtual reality gives people the chance to enter incredible make-believe worlds … but the results of that are often unsettling instead of wondrous.

Playful, the studio behind the working on the 3D platformer Lucky’s Tale for the Oculus Rift headset, revealed that even the cutest game characters can turn scary inside of VR. Lucky’s Tale comes bundled with the Rift, and it launches March 28. It stars a cute wolf that players guide around colorful levels that feel like throwbacks to Super Mario 64, one of Nintendo’s most groundbreaking games, or Banjo-Kazooie. This might sound pleasant, but the problem is that if Lucky is the same size as you in VR, Lucky’s presence can feel ominous.

“Seeing a human-sized Lucky is actually really creepy,” Playful designer Dan Hurd said during a presentation at the Game Developers Conference this week. “It’s not something you want to experience.”

Most VR games happen from a first-person perspective — and a lot of studios have used this to throw enemies right into players’ faces. PlayStation VR’s Until Dawn: Rise of Blood, for example, doesn’t hesitate to throw some serious gruesomeness right in front of your eyeballs. But Lucky’s Tale is not supposed to produce that sensation — and it’s even worse because your role in Playful’s game is really that of a mostly stationary camera. So if you use a gamepad to guide a large Lucky right at your position, it can start to feel like this giant cartoon fox is coming to get you.

“Yeah, it’s vaguely threatening,” Playful designer Evan Reidland said. “You begin to wonder ‘who is the real person here?’ And we didn’t want to feel that way with Lucky.”

Playful was able to solve this problem by playing around with the size of the world as well as the size of the virtual camera.

“We discovered the joy of scaling the camera,” said Hurd. “Whenever we would pull up the camera, it messed with the world scaling and made it feel a lot smaller and more toylike. Things that are further across the room begin to look flat and lose their depth cues. But whenever you scale up the size of the camera, it brings more of the world into this comfortable sweet spot in about arm’s reach. It really adds to the 3D effect.”

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16373018746_ed3b7e9f79_k After years of hearing the private sector in the U.S. complain about the inefficiencies of government, investors are beginning to marshall their resources to help solve the problem. And no organization exemplifies that notion of harnessing private industry tools for public good more than mRelief, a non-profit launching in the latest Y-Combinator batch of companies. Read More

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Quora now has 100 million monthly visitors, up from 80 million in January


Quora revealed today that it is seeing 100 million monthly unique visitors to its Q&A social network, an increase of 22 percent from January when it acknowledged having 80 million.

The company declined to comment on where most of the growth is coming from, but it could be attributed to the release of new products, including its “Ask Me Anything” service called Writing Sessions, Knowledge Prizes which are incentives for experts to answer questions, a new editor to enable users to create more visible and organized answers, and more.

A social network centered around the idea of promoting ideas and knowledge, it has seen some renowned individuals participate in conversations, including venture capitalists Vinod Khosla and Keith Rabois, Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg, former Secretary of State and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, and President Barack Obama.

Quora chief executive Adam D’Angelo said that he’s not paying much attention to the monthly unique visitors: “We usually optimize for quality and that comes with a tradeoff against volume.” Even so, the fact that more people are visiting the site each month indicates that people’s growing interest with the discussions taking place on it. But the question still remains about how active are people on Quora? Are there more people asking and responding to questions or are most simply reading answers?

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