Idinvest shares some trends on European consumer tech

French VC firm Idinvest has compiled some data about the European tech ecosystem. The firm has decided to focus on consumer tech in general, and there are some interesting trends that I’m going to break out here. You can read the full report here.

The team has analyzed and surveyed 1,500 companies over multiple months. And Idinvest has identified rising stars in multiple different verticals, such as fintech, mobility, healthcare or travel. If a startup has raised more than €100 million or has been acquired, Idinvest considers them as giants already.

Lesson #1: VC funding is growing at a faster pace in Europe than in the rest of the world

Notice that jump from €4.4 billion in 2014 to €16.6 billion in 2019.

Lesson #2: The European fintech boom is real

Fintech is now the largest vertical in Europe. On average, European startups attract 16% of global VC investments. But Europe is grabbing a bigger piece of that pie with fintech as European fintech startups have attracted 26% of total VC investments in that space.

And it’s not just challenger banks, such as N26, Monzo or Revolut. There are trading startups, lending startups, API-driven companies and more.

Lesson #3: Mobility is fragmented

While mobility is a huge vertical in Europe, there are countless of players that do more or less the same thing — multiple scooter startups (Voi, Dott, Tier…), multiples ride-hailing startups (Bolt, Heetch, FreeNow, Cabify…), etc.

Some of them are thriving, but you’re not going to see any of the big names you’d expect in the list of giants as those companies are not European — Uber, Didi, Bird… In other words, Europe is mostly a fast follower in this space, and it’s been working fairly well.

Lesson #4: Health is regulated as hell

This isn’t surprising, but European healthcare startups seem to be mostly active in Europe. Similarly, American healthcare startups don’t seem to have a huge presence in Europe.

I personally think European healthcare startups have a shot at becoming global leaders for two reasons. First, it’s a privacy-sensitive industry and European startups tend to care more about privacy due to the legal framework. Second, the tech lash against big tech companies, such as Google, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft and Apple, is going to be particularly strong with healthcare products.

Lesson #5: Food startups could reshape cities

Let me quote Idinvest’s report directly here because it is spot on: “In the Middle-Age, posting houses became inns to feed and offer rest to travelers. In the 20th century, McDonald’s restaurants grew exponentially around the U.S. road infrastructure. In the past 18-24 months, we have seen the rise of dark kitchens (Keatz, Taster) and dark groceries (Glovo) which are both piggybacking this new food delivery infrastructure and adding to it a real estate layer. Dark kitchens and groceries are selling products exclusively through delivery. The customer facing location of a restaurant or a grocery shop is replaced by a cheaper real estate location optimized for order preparations.”

Lesson #6: Travel is a bigger industry in Europe than in the U.S.

Tourists spend more money in Europe than in the U.S. Given that many travel startups start with a simple marketplace to improve liquidity, pricing, listings, discovery or open up a whole new segment, it makes sense to start it from Europe.

Lesson #7: Gaming is big in Europe

Gaming, and in particular mobile gaming, has been thriving in Europe. Many casual games have emerged from European startups. There’s no European Netflix, but Minecraft, Candy Crush Saga and Angry Birds were all born in Europe.

All the rest

Idinvest’s report covers other verticals but I don’t have much to add. I’m just going to share the mapping of those verticals and you can read the report if you want to dig deeper.

Slack now strips location data from uploaded images

Slack has started to strip uploaded photos of their metadata.

What may seem like an inconsequential change to how the tech giant handles storing files on its servers, it will make it far more difficult to trace photos back to their original owners.

Almost every digital file — from documents on your computer to photos taken on your phone — contains metadata. That’s data about the file itself, such as how big the file is, when it was created, and by whom. Photos and videos often include the precise coordinates of where they were taken.

But that can be a problem for higher-risk Slack users, like journalists and activists, who have to take greater security precautions to keep their sources safe. The metadata inside photos can out sources, deanonymize whistleblowers, or otherwise make it easier for unfriendly governments to target individuals. Even if a journalist removes the metadata from a photo before publishing, a copy of the photo — with its metadata — may remain on Slack’s servers. Whether a hacker breaks in or a government demands the data, it can put sources at risk.

Slack confirmed to TechCrunch that it’s now started to strip photo metadata, including locations.

“We can confirm that we recently began stripping EXIF (exchangeable image file) metadata from images uploaded to Slack, including GPS coordinates,” said a Slack spokesperson.

TechCrunch tested this by uploading a photo containing location data to Slack, then pulling a copy of that uploaded image from the server. The copy from the server, when checked again, no longer had location data embedded in the document. Some metadata remains, like the make and model of the device that took the photo.

Slack did not say what prompted the change.

Facebook now allows users in the U.S. & Canada to export photos and videos to Google Photos

Facebook is today rolling out a tool that will allow users in the U.S. and Canada to export their Facebook photos and videos to Google Photos. This data portability tool was first introduced in Ireland in December, and has since been made available to other international markets.

To use the feature, Facebook users will need to click on “Settings,” followed by”Your Facebook Information,” then “Transfer a Copy of Your Photos and Videos.” Facebook will ask you to verify your password to confirm your identity in order to proceed. On the next screen, you’ll be able to choose “Google Photos” as the destination from the “Choose Destination” drop-down box that appears. You’ll also need your Google account information to authenticate with its service before the transfer begins.

The tool’s release comes about by way of Facebook’s participation in the Data Transfer Project, a collaborative effort with other tech giants including Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Twitter, which focuses on a building out common ways for people to transfer their data between online services.

Of course, it also serves as a way for the major tech companies to fend off potential regulation as they’ll be able to point to tools like this as a way to prove they’re not holding their users hostage — if people are unhappy, they can just take their data and leave!

Facebook’s Director of Privacy and Public Policy Steve Satterfield, in an interview with Reuters on Thursday, essentially confirmed the tool is less about Facebook being in service to its users, and more about catering to policymakers’ and regulators’ demands.

“…It really is an important part of the response to the kinds of concerns that drive antitrust regulation or competition regulation,” Satterfield told the news outlet.

The launch also arrives conveniently ahead of a Federal Trade Commission hearing on September 22 that will be focused on data portability. Facebook said it would participate in that hearing, if approached, the report noted.

In Facebook’s original announcement about the tool’s launch last year, it said it would expand the service to include more than just Google Photos in the “near future.”

The transfer tool is not the only way to get your data out of Facebook. The company has offered Download Your Information since 2010. But once you have your data, there isn’t much else you can do with it — Facebook hasn’t had any large-scale rivals since older social networks like MySpace, FriendFeed (RIP!), and Friendster died and Google+ failed.

In addition to the U.S. and Canada, the photo transfer tool has been launched in several other markets, including Europe and Latin America.

 

Free tool helps manufacturers map where COVID-19 impacts supply chain

Assent Compliance, a company that helps large manufacturers like GE and Rolls Royce manage complex supply chains through an online data exchange, announced a new tool this week that lets any company, whether they’re a customer or not, upload bills of materials and see on a map where COVID-19 is having an impact on their supply chain.

Company co-founder Matt Whitteker, says the Ottawa startup focuses on supply chain data management, which means it has the data and the tooling to develop a data-driven supply chain map based on WHO data identifying COVID hotspots. He believes that his is the only company to have done this.

“We’re the only ones that have taken supply chain data and applied it to this particular pandemic. And it’s something that’s really native to our platform. We have all that data on hand — we have location data for suppliers. So it’s just a matter of applying that with third party data sources (like the WHO data), and then extracting valuable business intelligence from it,” he said.

If you want to participate, you simply go to the company website and fill out a form. A customer success employee will contact you and walk you through the process of uploading your data to the platform. Once they have your data, they generate a map showing the parts of the world where your supply chain is most likely to be disrupted, identifying the level of risk based on your individual data.

The company captures supply chain data as part of the act of doing business with 1000 customers and 500,000 suppliers currently on their platform. “When companies are manufacturing products they have what’s called a bill of materials, kind of like a recipe. And companies upload their bill of materials that basically outlines all their parts, components and commodities, and who they get them from, which basically represents their supply chain,” Whitteker explained.

After the company uploads the bill of materials, Assent opens a portal for the companies to exchange data, which might be tax forms, proof of sourcing or any kind of information and documentation the manufacturer needs to comply with legal and regulatory rules around procurement of a given part.

They decided to start building the COVID-19 map application when they recognized that this was going to have the biggest supply chain disruption the world has seen since World War II. It took about a month to build it. It went into Beta last week with customers and over 350 signed up in the first two hours. This week, they made the tool generally available to anyone, even non-customers, for free.

The company was founded in 2016 and raised $220 million, according to Whitteker.

Datastax acquires The Last Pickle

Data management company Datastax, one of the largest contributors to the Apache Cassandra project, today announced that it has acquired The Last Pickle (and no, I don’t know what’s up with that name either), a New Zealand-based Cassandra consulting and services firm that’s behind a number of popular open-source tools for the distributed NoSQL database.

As Datastax Chief Strategy Officer Sam Ramji, who you may remember from his recent tenure at Apigee, the Cloud Foundry Foundation, Google and Autodesk, told me, The Last Pickle is one of the premier Apache Cassandra consulting and services companies. The team there has been building Cassandra-based open source solutions for the likes of Spotify, T Mobile and AT&T since it was founded back in 2012. And while The Last Pickle is based in New Zealand, the company has engineers all over the world that do the heavy lifting and help these companies successfully implement the Cassandra database technology.

It’s worth mentioning that Last Pickle CEO Aaron Morton first discovered Cassandra when he worked for WETA Digital on the special effects for Avatar, where the team used Cassandra to allow the VFX artists to store their data.

“There’s two parts to what they do,” Ramji explained. “One is the very visible consulting, which has led them to become world experts in the operation of Cassandra. So as we automate Cassandra and as we improve the operability of the project with enterprises, their embodied wisdom about how to operate and scale Apache Cassandra is as good as it gets — the best in the world.” And The Last Pickle’s experience in building systems with tens of thousands of nodes — and the challenges that its customers face — is something Datastax can then offer to its customers as well.

And Datastax, of course, also plans to productize The Last Pickle’s open-source tools like the automated repair tool Reaper and the Medusa backup and restore system.

As both Ramji and Datastax VP of Engineering Josh McKenzie stressed, Cassandra has seen a lot of commercial development in recent years, with the likes of AWS now offering a managed Cassandra service, for example, but there wasn’t all that much hype around the project anymore. But they argue that’s a good thing. Now that it is over ten years old, Cassandra has been battle-hardened. For the last ten years, Ramji argues, the industry tried to figure out what the de factor standard for scale-out computing should be. By 2019, it became clear that Kubernetes was the answer to that.

“This next decade is about what is the de facto standard for scale-out data? We think that’s got certain affordances, certain structural needs and we think that the decades that Cassandra has spent getting harden puts it in a position to be data for that wave.”

McKenzie also noted that Cassandra provides users with a number of built-in features like support for mutiple data centers and geo-replication, rolling updates and live scaling, as well as wide support across programming languages, give it a number of advantages over competing databases.

“It’s easy to forget how much Cassandra gives you for free just based on its architecture,” he said. “Losing the power in an entire datacenter, upgrading the version of the database, hardware failing every day? No problem. The cluster is 100 percent always still up and available. The tooling and expertise of The Last Pickle really help bring all this distributed and resilient power into the hands of the masses.”

The two companies did not disclose the price of the acquisition.

Art on Blockchain pioneer Verisart raises $2.5M for art and collectibles certification

A lot of talk has been made about verifying valuable items on an immutable blockchain, but the main pioneer in this space has been Verisart, which appeared a few years ago to use a blockchain to create certification for the fine art and collectibles market. But despite the blockchain hype of the last few years, Verisart eschewed the fund-raising bonanza, preferring instead to perfect its model and build partnerships.

That changes today with the news that it has raised $2.5 million in seed financing in a round led by Galaxy Digital EOS VC Fund. Further investment has come from existing investors Sinai Ventures and Rhodium. The funding will be used to expand Verisart’s commercial platform for authentication and further expand in the art world.

Co-Founder and CEO Robert Norton commented: “With this new round of funding, we’re able to scale our business and ramp up our partnership integrations. The art world is quickly realizing that blockchain provides a new standard in provenance and record-keeping and we’re looking forward to extending these services to the industry.”

The $325mm Galaxy EOS VC Fund is a partnership between Galaxy Digital, a blockchain-focused merchant bank, and Block.one, the publisher of EOSIO, the blockchain protocol.

The funding will go towards extending the product and engineering team and launching a suite of premium services aimed at artists, galleries and collectors. The company recently appointed Paul Duncan, formerly the founding CTO of Borro, the online lending platform for luxury assets, to lead the engineering team.

In 2015, Verisart was the first company to apply blockchain technology to the physical art and collectibles market. It’s also working with some of the world’s best-known artists including Ai Wei Wei and Shepard Fairey to certify their works of art. In 2018, Verisart won the ‘Hottest Blockchain DApp’ award at The Europas, the European tech startup awards.

It’s also been the first blockchain certification provider on Shopify to offer digital certification for limited editions, artworks and collectibles.

Other players are now entering this growing blockchain-for-art market. Codex Protocol is a new startup also putting art on the blockchain.

Target’s personalized loyalty program launches nationwide next month

Target today announced its new, data-driven loyalty program, Target Circle, will launch nationwide on October, 6th, following a year and a half of beta testing in select markets. The program combines a variety of features including 1% back on purchases, birthday rewards, and personalized offers and savings designed to make the program more attractive to consumers.

It also includes a way for customers to vote on Target’s community giving initiatives, which helps directs Target’s giving to around 800 nonprofits in the U.S.

Voting

The new program is designed to lure in customers who have yet to adopt Target’s store card, REDcard. While REDcard penetration today is around 23%, that number has remained fairly consistent over time — in fact, it’s down about one percentage point from a year ago.

With Target Circle, however, the retailer has another means of generating loyalty and establishing a connection with its customers on a more individualized basis.

A big part of that is the personalized aspect of the Target Circle program. In addition to the “birthday perks” (an easy way to grab some demographic data), customers will also get special discounts on the categories they “shop most often” — meaning, Target will be tapping into its treasure trove of customer purchase history to make recommendations from both in-store and online purchases along with other signals.

“As guests shop, Target leverages information about their shopping behaviors and purchases to share relevant offers that create an even more personalized, seamless shopping experience,” a company spokesperson explained, when asked for details about the data being used. “For example, a guest who frequently shops Target for baby products may receive a special offer on their next purchase of baby items.”

TargetCircle NonBeta 19 Brand RGB Logo Red

According to a recent retail study from Avionos, 78% of consumers are more likely to purchase from retailers that better personalize their experiences and 63% are more open to sharing personal information if retailers can better anticipate needs.

And as some may recall, Target is already scary good at personalization.

In one notable case, the retailer figured out a teen girl was pregnant before her father did, and sent her coupons for baby items. The dad, understandably, was angry — until he found out that Target was right.

That story was a high-profile example of the data collection and analysis big retailers are doing all the time, though. Target Circle simply formalizes this into an opt-in program instead of an opt-out experience.

As part of the changes, Target’s Cartwheel savings are rolling into Target Circle where they’ll be rebranded as Target Circle offers. 

TargetCircle inApp

Circle members will also get early access to special sales throughout the year — that is, the events people line up for, like they did for the Lilly Pulitzer fashion line or more recently, the quickly sold out Vineyard Vines collection.

Target says, in time, it will come up with “even more personalized, relevant ways” to make shopping easier for its customers.

The new program is meant to complement the REDcard, which will increase the cashback to 5% when used. But REDcard holders can still join Circle to take advantage of the other perks.

WalletRedeeming

“Our guests are at the center of everything we do, and we’re always looking for ways to create even easier, more rewarding shopping experiences that give them another reason to choose Target,” said Rick Gomez, Target executive vice president, and chief marketing and digital officer, in a statement. “We worked directly with guests to develop Target Circle, and the program includes the benefits and perks they told us were most important to them, from earning on every trip to having the opportunity to help Target make a positive impact in their local communities,” he said.

The loyalty program had been in testing in Dallas-Ft. Worth, Charlotte, Denver, Indianapolis, Kansas City and Phoenix over the past 18 months.

Though not having Amazon’s scale, Target has done well at quickly innovating to keep up with today’s pace of e-commerce. In short order, it has made over its stores to make more room for order pickups and online grocery, and has launched and expanded new services like Target Restock (next-day), Shipt (same day delivery) and Drive Up (same day pickup). The changes have been paying off with Target beating on its latest earnings with $18.42 billion in revenue and profits of $938 million.

 

Target’s personalized loyalty program launches nationwide next month

Target today announced its new, data-driven loyalty program, Target Circle, will launch nationwide on October, 6th, following a year and a half of beta testing in select markets. The program combines a variety of features including 1% back on purchases, birthday rewards, and personalized offers and savings designed to make the program more attractive to consumers.

It also includes a way for customers to vote on Target’s community giving initiatives, which helps directs Target’s giving to around 800 nonprofits in the U.S.

Voting

The new program is designed to lure in customers who have yet to adopt Target’s store card, REDcard. While REDcard penetration today is around 23%, that number has remained fairly consistent over time — in fact, it’s down about one percentage point from a year ago.

With Target Circle, however, the retailer has another means of generating loyalty and establishing a connection with its customers on a more individualized basis.

A big part of that is the personalized aspect of the Target Circle program. In addition to the “birthday perks” (an easy way to grab some demographic data), customers will also get special discounts on the categories they “shop most often” — meaning, Target will be tapping into its treasure trove of customer purchase history to make recommendations from both in-store and online purchases along with other signals.

“As guests shop, Target leverages information about their shopping behaviors and purchases to share relevant offers that create an even more personalized, seamless shopping experience,” a company spokesperson explained, when asked for details about the data being used. “For example, a guest who frequently shops Target for baby products may receive a special offer on their next purchase of baby items.”

TargetCircle NonBeta 19 Brand RGB Logo Red

According to a recent retail study from Avionos, 78% of consumers are more likely to purchase from retailers that better personalize their experiences and 63% are more open to sharing personal information if retailers can better anticipate needs.

And as some may recall, Target is already scary good at personalization.

In one notable case, the retailer figured out a teen girl was pregnant before her father did, and sent her coupons for baby items. The dad, understandably, was angry — until he found out that Target was right.

That story was a high-profile example of the data collection and analysis big retailers are doing all the time, though. Target Circle simply formalizes this into an opt-in program instead of an opt-out experience.

As part of the changes, Target’s Cartwheel savings are rolling into Target Circle where they’ll be rebranded as Target Circle offers. 

TargetCircle inApp

Circle members will also get early access to special sales throughout the year — that is, the events people line up for, like they did for the Lilly Pulitzer fashion line or more recently, the quickly sold out Vineyard Vines collection.

Target says, in time, it will come up with “even more personalized, relevant ways” to make shopping easier for its customers.

The new program is meant to complement the REDcard, which will increase the cashback to 5% when used. But REDcard holders can still join Circle to take advantage of the other perks.

WalletRedeeming

“Our guests are at the center of everything we do, and we’re always looking for ways to create even easier, more rewarding shopping experiences that give them another reason to choose Target,” said Rick Gomez, Target executive vice president, and chief marketing and digital officer, in a statement. “We worked directly with guests to develop Target Circle, and the program includes the benefits and perks they told us were most important to them, from earning on every trip to having the opportunity to help Target make a positive impact in their local communities,” he said.

The loyalty program had been in testing in Dallas-Ft. Worth, Charlotte, Denver, Indianapolis, Kansas City and Phoenix over the past 18 months.

Though not having Amazon’s scale, Target has done well at quickly innovating to keep up with today’s pace of e-commerce. In short order, it has made over its stores to make more room for order pickups and online grocery, and has launched and expanded new services like Target Restock (next-day), Shipt (same day delivery) and Drive Up (same day pickup). The changes have been paying off with Target beating on its latest earnings with $18.42 billion in revenue and profits of $938 million.

 

How early-stage startups can use data effectively

It is a commonly held belief that startups can measure their way to success. And while there are always exceptions, early-stage companies often can’t leverage data easily, at least not in the way that later stage companies can. It’s imperative that startups recognize this early on — it makes all the difference.

In this piece, I draw on my experiences using data to take Framer from seed round to Series B. More concretely, I’ll describe what to (not) focus on, and then, how to get real results.

There are good and bad ways for startups to use data. In my opinion, the bad way unfortunately is often preached on saas blogs, a/b test tool marketing pages, and especially growth hacker conferences: that by simply measuring and looking at data you’ll find simple things to do that will drive explosive growth. Silver bullets, if you will.

The good way is comparable to first principles thinking. Below the surface of your day to day results, your startup can be described by a set of numbers. It takes some work to discover these numbers, but once you have them you can use them to make predictions and spot underlying trends. If everyone in your company knows these numbers by heart, they will inevitably make better decisions.

But most importantly, using data the right way will help answer the single most important – but complex – question at any moment for a startup: how are we really doing?

Let’s start with looking at what not to do as a startup.

Table of Contents


Common pitfalls

Don’t measure too much

Technically, it’s easy to measure everything, so most startups start out that way. But when you measure everything, you learn nothing. Just the sheer noise makes it hard to discover anything useful and it can be demotivating to look at piles of numbers in general.

My advice is to carefully plan what you want to measure upfront, then implement and conclude. You should only expand your set of measurements once you’ve made the most important ones actionable. Later in this article, I provide a clear set of ways to plan what you measure.

A/B tests are anti-startup

To make decisions based on data you need volume. Without volume, the data itself is not statistically significant and is basically just noise. To detect a 3% difference with 95% confidence you would need a sample size of 12,000 visitors, signups, or sales. That sample size is generally too high for most early-stage startups and forces your product development into long cycles.

While on the subject of shipping fast and iterating later, let’s talk about A/B testing. To get reliable measurements, you should only be changing one variable at a time. During the early stages of Framer, we changed our homepage in the middle of a checkout A/B test, which skewed our results. But as a startup, it was the right decision to adjust the way we marketed our product. What you’ll find is that those two factors are often incompatible. In general, constant improvements should trump tests that block quick reactionary changes.

Understand your calculations

TikTok is being investigated in the U.K. for how it handles children’s data and safety

TikTok is being investigated in the U.K. for how it handles the safety and personal data of underage users. According to the Guardian, information commissioner Elizabeth Denham told a parliamentary committee that the probe started in February, after the U.S. Federal Trade Commission levied a $5.7 million fine against TikTok for breaking children’s privacy law.

Denham told the Guardian that the commission is examining how TikTok collects private data and concerns about the open messaging system, which may allow adult users to contact children. “We are looking at the transparency tools for children. We’re looking at the messaging system, which is completely open, we’re looking at the kind of videos that are collected and shared by children online. We do have an active investigation into TikTok right now, so watch this space,” she said.

The investigation will also examine if the popular app, owned by ByteDance, violates the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which requires companies to put special protections in place for underage users and provide them with different services than adults.

The FTC’s investigation, which began when TikTok was still known as Musical.ly, ruled that the app broke the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act by failing to seek parental consent before collecting names, email addresses and other personal information from users under 13. The ruling resulted in an age gate being added to an app that prevents users under 13 from filming and posting videos on it.

ByteDance, the Chinese media startup now valued at $75 billion, told the Guardian in a statement that “We cooperate with organizations such as the ICO to provide relevant information about our product to support their work. Ensuring data protection principles are upheld as a top priority for TikTok.”