Tesla resurrects long-range RWD Model 3 for the Chinese market

Tesla is now producing and selling the long-range rear-wheel drive version of its Model 3 electric vehicle at its Shanghai factory, a month after receiving approval from the Chinese government.

The move might not be a milestone, but it’s notable because Tesla discontinued production of the long-range RWD Model 3 in the U.S. and now only offers that variant as a dual-motor all-wheel drive. It also marks a shift from Tesla’s initial plan to sell a more basic version of the Model 3 in China.

The company updated its China website showing the standard range plus — the first vehicle to produced at the Shanghai factory — as well as the long range RWD and performance versions of the Model 3. Bloomberg was the first to report the change. The long range RWD version starts at 366,550 yuan, or about $52,000 after incentives. Deliveries of the long-range RWD version are expected to begin in June.

The standard-range plus Model starts at 323,800 yuan, or about $46,000, before local subsidies.

The standard-range-plus Model 3 can travel 276 miles on a single charge, according to Tesla’s China website. The same website says the long-range RWD Model 3 has 668 km, or 415-mile range. Those range estimates are based on the New European Driving Cycle, a forgiving standard that Europe replaced several years ago with the WLTP. The real-word range is likely much lower.

Tesla model 3 long range RWD china

Image Credits: Tesla/screenshot

Tesla started producing a standard-range-plus rear-wheel-drive version of the Model 3 at its Shanghai factory late last year. The first deliveries began in early January. The March approval from the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology gave Tesla permission to add another variant to its Chinese portfolio.

Eventually, Tesla plans to manufacture the Model Y electric vehicle at the China factory.

Facebook to supply free Portals to some care home residents under NHS scheme

The U.K. government is pulling in tech firms to connect family and friends with isolated residents and patients in care via video call devices and services during the COVID-19 crisis. First to join is Facebook, which is supplying up to 2,050 of its Portal video-calling devices for free to hospitals, care homes and other settings, including hospice, in-patient learning disability and autism units. The logistical rollout will be supported by Accenture.

Fifty of the devices have already been deployed to pilot sites in Surrey, with Manchester, Newcastle and London and other areas to follow.

Iain O’Neil, NHSX Digital Transformation Director, said in a statement: “Technology companies big and small continue to pledge their resources and expertise to support our NHS and social care system in these unprecedented times. We are working hard to find and develop services that meet people’s equally unprecedented needs. Technology has never been so important to providing one of life’s most essential things — the ability to communicate with the people we love regardless of where they are.”

The NHSX said it is working with “a range of technology companies to support the NHS and social care system.”

Freddy Abnousi, MD, Head of Health Technology, Facebook said in a statement: “We designed Portal to give people an easy way to connect and be more present with their loved ones…That’s why we are piloting a program with NHSX to provide Portal devices in hospitals and other care settings to support patients and help reduce social isolation.”

Additional solutions to be deployed under the scheme include enabling health and care staff to work remotely if needed; improving communication between clinical and care teams; shifting hospital outpatients to virtual appointments; and accelerating the use of online and video consultations within GP and primary care services.

Commenting, Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden said: “It is great to see Facebook giving care home residents and patients the devices they need to connect with their family and friends at such a challenging time. The technology sector is rising to the challenge at this moment of national emergency and we in government are working closely with them to help people stay home, protect the NHS and save lives.”

Facebook and NHSX have agreed that the care homes and care settings involved in the pilot will be able to keep the devices free of charge, and use as they see fit, following the pilot phase.

Where the Portal devices go will be chosen on the basis of their Wi-Fi connectivity and ability to run devices in residents’ rooms or another private location.

At the same time, NHSX said it is exploring connectivity options for care homes without Wi-Fi, including the use of 4G hotspots or data-enabled tablets.

The venues for the portals will be advised on how to set them up by the NHSX, as well as infection control and data protection. Concerns about privacy will be addressed by completing a factory reset on the portal before passing the device to a new user.

A Facebook spokesperson said: “Residents/patients will be supported by care staff to initiate calls to family/friends.” Each care home/care setting will be free to make their own decisions on how best to manage this; for example, whether to pre-arrange specific call times with families in advance. Staff will be supported with easy-to-use setup guidance, device instructions and guidance on infection control. Care homes will also be asked to assist residents who do not wish to use their own personal accounts by setting up a new, generic personal account to be used instead. Where residents or patients wish to use a personal account, the care home will complete a factory reset before passing the device to a new user.

German security firm Avira has been acquired by Investcorp at a $180M valuation

Mergers and acquisitions largely grinded to a halt at the end of March, in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic spreading around the world, but today comes news of a deal out of Europe that underscores where pockets of activity are still happening. Avira, a cybersecurity company based out of Germany that provides antivirus, identity management and other tools both to consumers and as a white-label offering from a number of big tech brands, has been snapped up by Investcorp Technology Partners, the PE division of Investcorp Bank. Investcorp’s plan is to help Avira make acquisitions in a wider security consolidation play.

The financial terms of the acquisition are not being disclosed in the companies’ joint announcement, but the CEO of Avira, Travis Witteveen, and ITP’s MD, Gilbert Kamieniecky, both said it gives Avira a total valuation of $180 million. The deal will involve ITP taking a majority ownership in the company, with Avira founder Tjark Auerbach retaining a “significant” stake of the company in the deal, Kamieniecky added.

Avira is not a tech startup, or not in the typical sense. It was founded in 1986, and has been bootstrapped, in that it seems never to have taken any outside investment as it has grown. Witteveen said that it has “tens of millions” of users today of its own-branded products — its anti-virus software has been resold by the likes of Facebook (as part of its now-dormant antivirus marketplace) — and many more via the white-label deals it makes with big names. Strategic partners today include NTT, Deutsche Telekom, IBM, Canonical, and more.

He said that the company has had many strategic approaches for acquisition from the ranks of tech companies, and also from more typical investors, but these were not routes that it has wanted to follow, since it wanted to grow as its own business, and needed more of a financial injection to do that than what it could get from more standard VC deals.

“We wanted a partnership where someone could step in and support our organic growth, and the inorganic [acquisition] opportunity,” he said.

The plan will be to make more acquisitions to expand Avira’s footprint, both in terms of products and especially to grow its geographic footprint: today the company is active in Asia, Europe and to a lesser extent in the US, while Investcorp has a business that also extends deep into the Middle East.

Cybersecurity, meanwhile, may never go out of style as an investment and growth opportunity in tech. Not only have cyber threats become more sophisticated and ubiquitous and targeted at individual consumers and businesses over the last several years, but our increasing reliance on technology and internet-connected systems will increase the demand and need to keep these safe from malicious attacks.

That has become no more apparent than in recent weeks, when much of the world’s population has been confined to shelter in place. People have in turn spent unprecedented amounts of time online using their phones, computers and other devices to read news, communicate with their families and friends, entertain themselves, and do critical work that they may have in part done in the past offline.

“In the current market you can imagine a lot are concerned about the uncertainties of the technology landscape, but this is one that continues to thrive,” said Kamieniecky. “In security we have seen companies develop quite rapidly and quickly, and here we have an opportunity to do that.”

Avira has been somewhat of a consolidator up to now, buying companies like SocialShield (which provided online security specifically for younger and social media users), while ITP, with Investcorp having some $34 billion under management, has made many acquisitions (and divestments) over the years, with some of the tech deals including Ubisense, Zeta Interactive and Dialogic.

Deliveroo, Graphcore and other big UK startups say they’re being cut out of COVID-19 lending relief

The U.K. government, like a number of other countries around the world such as the U.S., has stepped up its pace in providing relief in the form of loans for businesses being impacted by the coronavirus health crisis and the related shutdown that we’ve seen across the economy and life as we knew it. But startups in the U.K. are increasingly getting worried that they are being left behind.

An open letter to the Chancellor published today and signed by the U.K.’s biggest “scale-ups” — later-stage, highly valued, but still venture-backed (and often loss-making) startups such as Deliveroo, Benevolent AI, Citymapper, Graphcore and Bulb — urged the U.K. government to make room to provide lending options to companies like theirs.

They are specifically calling for a special task force to be created to consider how to build lending schemes for companies like theirs, as well as to alter the rules on the three big schemes that have already been announced to accommodate them, and give them the same access as other businesses.

The letter, which we’re publishing in full below, is not the first cry for help. Earlier this week, another initiative called SOS (Save Our Startups), also published an open letter asking for access to the same lending schemes that other businesses are getting. SOS includes dozens of smaller startups and a number of the VCs that back them.

The crux of the matter has been that startups backed with tens or hundreds of millions of dollars in funding from VCs to scale their growth have not been built or planned with profitability as a short-term or even medium-term goal. Many of them have so far eschewed public listings (and subsequent credit ratings, for starters) for longer in part because of the large amount of money available to them these days through the private markets — venture capital, family offices, private equity and so on — to grow.

All of that is predicated, however, on the continued health of the wider economy and consumer demand that helped nurture their businesses in the first place. The current public health crisis has thrown that model into disarray, and has meant that the growth these companies had expected will simply not be coming in the form that they expected, if it comes at all. VCs might pick up some of the slack — the biggest of these are still raising, and have in their hands already, huge funds and will step up to support their most promising portfolio companies. But we don’t know how long the effects of the coronavirus will linger, and most likely these startups, like other businesses, will need more.

Countries like France and Germany have accounted for this business disparity. They have created special provisions for lending to startups in response to the COVID-19 economic and social upheaval, and respectively there have been programs backed with $4.3 billion and $2.2 billion in government money put into place. But the three main U.K. initiatives that have been announced — Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme, the Covid Corporate Financing Facility and the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme — have basic requirements that effectively rule out scaled-up startups from applying.

These include provisions around having established credit ratings for public companies (as in the case of the bigger loan schemes), or financing that is too small (as in the case of the smaller loan schemes), or the scaled-up companies have annual revenues that are too high (both the CBILS and CLBILS schemes have respective turnover thresholds of £45 million and £500 million).

In the meantime, the U.K. government has made small moves to encourage startups to continue building in a more focused way — for example, last week it announced £50 million in grants to businesses that are building better “resiliency” products to help companies better weather crises like this in the future. But for companies that regularly see revenues (and corresponding expenses and losses) in the tens and hundreds of millions, grants in the tens of thousands of dollars are like putting drops of water into the ocean.

But with startups accounting for some 30,000 businesses and some 300,000 workers in the U.K., and significant sums toward the country’s GDP and operations, it seems like a big problem to ignore for too long.

[letter follows below]

Dear Chancellor,

We greatly appreciate the significant steps that you have taken to help British businesses through the COVID-19 crisis. But as founders and CEOs of leading UK companies we are concerned that unless urgent changes are made to the current schemes then the high-growth UK tech sector will be put at risk.

As innovative companies we build technology and systems that transform sectors. For customers, we drive costs down, standards up and for society we create whole new categories of products and services. We are vital to productivity, clean growth and UK exports.

But unfortunately, the COVID-19 lending schemes you have put in place benefit established firms and do not help companies of the future such as ours.

The businesses we run serve millions of customers across the UK, and overseas. We are stepping up to help the country at this difficult time by helping tens of thousands of small businesses to continue operating, helping vulnerable customers get essential services and using innovative technology to give the NHS better tools to tackle the pandemic.

The high-growth tech sector has introduced innovative new products that have improved the lives of millions of customers in the UK and many more around the world. We have created huge numbers of high skilled jobs and we export across the globe.

Our sector will be crucial to helping the UK economy bounce back quickly after the pandemic. The UK tech community is a world class engine for innovation and growth, however, it has not yet received Government support, unlike our competitors in France and Germany.

Our companies have all invested in technology and growth rather than short term profitability, which means that we are currently unable to access the schemes which have been designed with longer-established businesses in mind. The current schemes that you have put in place – the Covid Corporate Financing Facility (CCFF), the Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CLBILS) and the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) – are not accessible to our businesses.

We are therefore writing to ask you to urgently set up a taskforce meeting of leading tech businesses to work with you and your officials to find a way for high-growth tech companies to be able to access the lending schemes you have already established or new schemes if necessary.

As you said in your Budget speech earlier this year, to help Britain’s businesses lead the next generation of high productivity industries, we need to invest in the technologies of the future. The high-growth tech sector has a vital role to play in the future success of the UK economy, and we urge you to work with us to ensure that it is helped through the crisis and that the UK is still the best place in the world to build a tech company.

Confirmed Signatories

Ali Parsa, Babylon

Joanna Shields, BenevolentAI

Peter Smith, Blockchain

Hayden Wood, Bulb

Azmat Yusuf, Citymapper

Poppy Gustafsson, Darktrace

Will Shu, Deliveroo

Marc Warner, Faculty

Stan Boland, Five AI

Hiroki Takeuchi, GoCardless

Nigel Toon, Graphcore

Herman Narula, Improbable

Phos, the UK fintech that offers a software-only POS for smartphones, raises €1.3M

Phos, the U.K. fintech that offers a software-only PoS so that merchants can accept payments directly on their phones without the need for additional hardware, has raised €1.3 million in funding. The round was led by New Vision 3, an early-stage VC based in Bulgaria (where a part of the Phos team is based), with participation from a number of unnamed angel investors.

It brings the total raised by Phos to date to €2.5 million, and will be used to grow the development team. This will see new features introduced, such as ‘PIN on Phone’, a Software Development Kit (SDK), and a new integrated loyalty system.

Founded in 2018, Phos has developed software that turns any NFC-equipped Android device into a payments terminal, negating the need for additional hardware and reducing total cost of ownership. The startup says its solution is quick to deploy, and is “uniquely” phone and bank agnostic i.e. any bank can act as the acquirer.

“Millions of traders and merchants do not accept card payments because they find the current hardware inconvenient or expensive,” Phos co-founder Ivo Gueorguiev tells TechCrunch. “Most of the merchants who accept card payments find the cost of ownership of the hardware high, [while the] current POS hardware offers no additional value, with the exception of very expensive smart terminals like Clover”.

To remedy this, Gueorguiev says Phos’ technology accepts contactless card payments directly on Android phones and other Android devices without the need for additional hardware, as well as helping merchants make better use of data.

“We offer merchants an alternative to old and expensive technology, namely [by using] devices they already own – their phones,” he explains. “We also offer merchants the ability to use their transaction data for other business applications. This includes e-commerce tools, marketing automation, loyalty, payroll, and more.

In terms of go-to-market, Phos is focused on a B2B model, seeing the fintech work with partners to distribute the product, such as banks, acquirers, PSPs/ISOs, large direct merchants, and platform players.

“The final user of the product will be mostly merchants at the long tail of the business, who are notoriously difficult to reach in a cost effective way,” adds Gueorguiev.

He cites use cases as small merchants and market traders, where traditional POS solutions are not appropriate due to costs and maintenance issues; direct sales and multilevel marketing; couriers and delivery services (“in certain markets ‘pay on delivery’ is still a predominant payment method with over 90% in cash,” says Gueorguiev); tradespeople; taxi drivers; insurance field sales; and even large retailers that can empower sales people to close sales in the aisles and reduce queues.

Adds Konstantin Petrov, Partner at NV3: “We are very happy to lead the investment round in phos and truly believe in the high potential of the company. The all important prerequisites for success are there: a strong and visionary team with years of experience in the field, a huge under-served market of small merchants who do not accept payments other than cash and an innovative technology providing first-mover advantage. In addition, fintech is considered a strategic vertical in the investment strategy of NV3 Fund, so phos is clearly a perfect add to our portfolio.”

Cookie consent still a compliance trash-fire in latest watchdog peek

The latest confirmation of the online tracking industry’s continued flouting of EU privacy laws which — at least on paper — are supposed to protect citizens from consent-less digital surveillance comes by via Ireland’s Data Protection Commission (DPC).

The watchdog did a sweep survey of around 40 popular websites last year — covering sectors including media and publishing; retail; restaurants and food ordering services; insurance; sport and leisure; and the public sector — and in a new report, published yesterday, it found almost all failing on a number of cookie and tracking compliance issues, with breaches ranging from minor to serious.

Twenty were graded ‘amber’ by the regulator, which signals a good response and approach to compliance but with at least one serious concern identified; twelve were graded ‘red’, based on very poor quality responses and a plethora of bad practices around cookie banners, setting multiple cookies without consent, badly designed cookies policies or privacy policies, and a lack of clarity about whether they understood the purposes of the ePrivacy legislation; while a further three got a borderline ‘amber to red’ grade.

Just two of the 38 controllers got a ‘green’ rating (substantially compliance with any concerns straightforward and easily remedied); and one more got a borderline ‘green to amber’ grade.

EU law means that if a data controller is relying on consent as the legal basis for tracking a user the consent must be specific, informed and freely given. Additional court rulings last year have further finessed guidance around online tracking — clarifying pre-checked consent boxes aren’t valid, for example.

Yet the DPC still found examples of cookie banners that offer no actual choice at all. Such as those which serve a dummy banner with a cookie notice that users can only meaningless click ‘Got it!’. (‘Gotcha data’ more like.. )

In fact the watchdog writes that it found ‘implied’ consent being relied upon by around two-thirds of the controllers, based on the wording of their cookie banners (e.g. notices such as: “by continuing to browse this site you consent to the use of cookies”) — despite this no longer meeting the required legal standard.

“Some appeared to be drawing on older, but no longer extant, guidance published by the DPC that indicated consent could be obtained ‘by implication’, where such informational notices were put in place,” it writes, noting that current guidance on its website “does not make any reference to implied consent, but it also focuses more on user controls for cookies rather than on controller obligations”.

Another finding was that all but one website set cookies immediately on landing — with “many” of these found to have no legal justification for not asking first, as the DPC determined they fall outside available consent exemptions in the relevant regulations.

It also identified widespread abuse of the concept of ‘strictly necessary’ where the use of trackers are concerned. “Many controllers categorised the cookies deployed on their websites as having a ‘necessary’ or ‘strictly necessary’ function, where the stated function of the cookie appeared to meet neither of the two consent exemption criteria set down in the ePrivacy Regulations/ePrivacy Directive,” it writes in the report. “These included cookies used to establish chatbot sessions that were set prior to any request by the user to initiate a chatbot function. In some cases, it was noted that the chatbot function on the websites concerned did not work at all.

“It was clear that some controllers may either misunderstand the ‘strictly necessary’ criteria, or that their definitions of what is strictly necessary are rather more expansive than the definitions provided in Regulation 5(5),” it adds.

Another problem the report highlights is a lack of tools for users to vary or withdraw their consent choices, despite some of the reviewed sites using so called ‘consent management platforms’ (CMPs) sold by third-party vendors.

This chimes with a recent independent study of CPMs — which earlier this year found illegal practices to be widespread, with “dark patterns and implied consent… ubiquitous”, as the researchers put it.

“Badly designed — or potentially even deliberately deceptive — cookie banners and consent-management tools were also a feature on some sites,” the DPC writes in its report, detailing some examples of Quantcast’s CPM which had been implemented in such a way as to make the interface “confusing and potentially deceptive” (such as unlabelled toggles and a ‘reject all’ button that had no effect).

Pre-checked boxes/sliders were also found to be common, with the DPC finding ten of the 38 controllers used them — despite ‘consent’ collected like that not actually being valid consent.

“In the case of most of the controllers, consent was also ‘bundled’ — in other words, it was not possible for users to control consent to the different purposes for which cookies were being used,” the DPC also writes. “This is not permitted, as has been clarified in the Planet49 judgment. Consent does not need to be given for each cookie, but rather for each purpose. Where a cookie has more than one purpose requiring consent, it must be obtained for all of those purposes separately.”

In another finding, the regulator came across instances of websites that had embedded tracking technologies, such as Facebook pixels, yet their operators did not list these in responses to the survey, listing only http browser cookies instead. The DPC suggests this indicates some controllers aren’t even aware of trackers baked into their own sites.

“It was not clear, therefore, whether some controllers were aware of some of the tracking elements deployed on their websites — this was particularly the case where small controllers had outsourced their website management and development to a third-part,” it writes.

The worst sector of its targeted sweep — in terms of “poor practices and, in particular, poor understanding of the ePrivacy Regulations and their purpose” — was the restaurants and food-ordering sector, per the report. (Though the finding is clearly based on a small sampling across multiple sectors.)

Despite encountering near blanket failure to actually comply with the law, the DPC, which also happens to be the lead regulator for much of big tech in Europe, has responded by issuing, er, further guidance.

This includes specifics such as pre-checked consent boxes must be removed; cookie banners can’t be designed to ‘nudge’ users to accept and a reject option must have equal prominence; and no non-necessary cookies be set on landing. It also stipulates there must always be a way for users to withdraw consent — and doing so should be as easy as consenting.

All stuff that’s been clear and increasingly so at least since the GDPR came into application in May 2018. Nonetheless the regulator is giving the website operators in question a further six months’ grace to get their houses in order — after which it has raised the prospect of actually enforcing the EU’s ePrivacy Directive and the General Data Protection Regulation.

“Where controllers fail to voluntarily make changes to their user interfaces and/or their processing, the DPC has enforcement options available under both the ePrivacy Regulations and the GDPR and will, where necessary, examine the most appropriate enforcement options in order to bring controllers into compliance with the law,” it warns.

The report is just the latest shot across the bows of the online tracking industry in Europe.

The UK’s Information Commission’s Office (ICO) has been issuing sternly worded blog posts for months. Its own report last summer found illegal profiling of Internet users by the programmatic ad industry to be rampant — also giving the industry six months to reform.

However the ICO still hasn’t done anything about the adtech industry’s legal blackhole — leading to privacy experts to denouncing the lack of any “substantive action to end the largest data breach ever recorded in the UK”, as one put it at the start of this year.

Ireland’s DPC, meanwhile, has yet to put the decision trigger on multiple cross-border investigations into the data-mining business practices of tech giants including Facebook and Google, following scores of GDPR complaints — including several targeting their legal base to process people’s data.

A two-year review of the pan-EU regulation, set for May 2020, provides one hard deadline that might concentrate minds.

Bringg nabs $30M to expand its delivery logistics platform used by Walmart and others

Over the last several years, delivery services have become a key component of how retailers, or anyone selling or distributing products and services, do business. Now, with a global health pandemic in full swing keeping people indoors (and away from physical storefronts), delivery has become an essential must-have if you want your business to stay alive. Today, a startup called Bringg, which helps companies build and run delivery operations, is announcing a growth round of $30 million to meet expanding demand for its services.

Tel Aviv-based Bringg already counts giants like Walmart, McDonalds and Coke among its customers, and most recently introduced a last-mile delivery platform called BringgNow aimed at small and medium businesses to mobilise and manage their own and third-party fleets of delivery people.

The funding, a Series D, is being led by Viola Growth, with Next47, Salesforce, OG Tech Ventures, and GLP (all previous investors) also participating.

It brings the total raised to around $83 million, and while Bringg is not disclosing its valuation, for context, PitchBook placed its last valuation ($25 million Series C in January 2019) at $214.7 million. Its revenues have been on the rise over the last year and Guy Bloch, the CEO, said in an interview that it’s definitely an up round.

“The company is growing very fast, and closing a round in ‘corona times’ says a lot,” he said.

Indeed, Bringg’s funding is coming at a key time for the delivery and logistics sector overall.

Delivery services, and businesses based around offering them, have been on an expansion tear over the last several years fuelled by the rise of the on-demand economy. But the past several weeks — where consumers have been staying at home to slow the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, staying away from going outside; and businesses have been severely curtailing operations to limit people congregating in enclosed physical spaces — have turned all growth modelling on its head.

Those that already delivered as part of their service (for example take-out food or groceries) are seeing unprecedented levels of demand, and businesses that have never had that option now are finding that offering customers a delivery service is the only way to stay in business.

“We have been building the company on a vision of the market that we believed would come in a couple of years’ time, say between 2022 and 2025,” Bloch said. “Now it’s just happening in front of our eyes, right now. We are being pulled into a vacuum.”

Alongside businesses seeing huge demand for delivery options — with that being the only way to deliver their products and services in some cases — Bloch and Bringg’s founder Lior Sion (who had previously helped to build the tech underpinning Uber competitor Gett) both noted that another significant shift has been among consumer preferences.

Trust had been a big gating factor in the growth of delivery services, something that is now moving significantly and may never go back to the way it was before, something that will mean that Bringg’s current surge of business — growth 24% just in the last week — will be sustained even after COVID-19 (hopefully) subsides.

“Delivery will never be 100% but this is about offering a better experience,” Sion said. “Now with for groceries, restaurants, and other services, people are being exposed to using them when they hadn’t before. Or, they used to use one service, but now are realising what happens when that disappears, and they are now using more than one. They will say to themselves, I need to diversify.”

Bringg’s platform essentially gives businesses — it works with obvious customers like retailers, restaurants and grocery stores, but also large distributors, field service providers and healthcare companies — an end-to-end offering to manage their delivery operations. These include tools (AI-based or otherwise) not only to optimise and understand where and how much stock exists, but to route it in the most efficient way to sync up with online ordering platforms to make sure stock and services and people can get to who needs them. The last-mile services both work with retailers’ existing fleets of vehicles and people, but also brings in third-party services to complement that when needed.

While a lot of what Bringg is doing has been focused on for-profit businesses, the startup has been doing its own part to give something to the wider volunteer effort that we’ve seen surging throughout the tech industry. In its case, it’s working with local government organizations pro bono to help mobilise people to deliver goods to those in need, and has essentially opened its door to any and all other non-profits needing help. (Contact them if this applies to you.)

The bigger picture is that Bringg is bringing (sorry) something to everyone, at a time when we really need it, but will be relying on that model for years to come, even without a crisis hanging over us.

“We’re living in a ‘delivery economy’ and the latest market upheaval brought on by COVID-19 will only expedite this new reality in which brands won’t be able to afford to do business without this kind of solution” said Eran Westman, Partner at Viola Growth, in a statement. “Bringg enables brands to take full control of their data, increase customer satisfaction, and ultimately their revenues. We believe this market has major expansion potential and that Bringg, with its exceptional vision and execution, is ripe to take leadership, which is why we decided to lead this round.”

“Today with COVID-19 keeping consumers homebound, delivery is not a business differentiator but a critical logistics model, keeping businesses afloat. Our latest investment demonstrates our belief in the value Bringg delivers to the market, providing businesses of all sizes the capabilities to connect logistics data across different silos and optimize their operational models for rapid, convenient delivery service,”  said Matthew Cowan, General Partner at Next47, in a separate statement.

EU privacy experts push a decentralized approach to COVID-19 contacts tracing

A group of European privacy experts has proposed a decentralized system for Bluetooth-based COVID-19 contacts tracing which they argue offers greater protection against abuse and misuse of people’s data than apps which pull data into centralized pots.

The protocol — which they’re calling Decentralized Privacy-Preserving Proximity Tracing (DP-PPT) — has been designed by around 25 academics from at least seven research institutions across Europe, including the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, ETH Zurich and KU Leuven in the Netherlands.

They’ve published a White Paper detailing their approach here.

The key element is that the design entails local processing of contacts tracing and risk on the user’s device, based on devices generating and sharing ephemeral Bluetooth identifiers (referred to as EphIDs in the paper).

A backend server is used to push data out to devices — i.e. when an infected person is diagnosed with COVID-19 a health authority would sanction the upload from the person’s device of a compact representation of EphIDs over the infectious period which would be sent to other devices so they could locally compute whether there is a risk and notify the user accordingly.

Under this design there’s no requirement for pseudonymized IDs to be centralized, where the pooled data would pose a privacy risk. Which in turn should make it easier to persuade EU citizens to trust the system — and voluntarily download contacts tracing app using this protocol — given it’s architected to resist being repurposed for individual-level state surveillance.

The group does discuss some other potential threats — such as posed by tech savvy users who could eavesdrop on data exchanged locally, and decompile/recompile the app to modify elements — but the overarching contention is such risks are small and more manageable vs creating centralized pots of data that risk paving the way for ‘surveillance creep’, i.e. if states use a public health crisis as an opportunity to establish and retain citizen-level tracking infrastructure.

The DP-PPT has been designed with its own purpose-limited dismantling in mind, once the public health crisis is over.

“Our protocol is demonstrative of the fact that privacy-preserving approaches to proximity tracing are possible, and that countries or organisations do not need to accept methods that support risk and misuse,” writes professor Carmela Troncoso, of EPFL. “Where the law requires strict necessity and proportionality, and societal support is behind proximity tracing, this decentralized design provides an abuse-resistant way to carry it out.”

In recent weeks governments all over Europe have been leaning on data controllers to hand over user data for a variety of coronavirus tracking purposes. Apps are also being scrambled to market by the private sector — including symptom reporting apps that claim to help researchers fight the disease. While tech giants spy PR opportunities to repackage persistent tracking of Internet users for a claimed public healthcare cause, however vague the actual utility.

The next big coronavirus tech push looks likely to be contacts-tracing apps: Aka apps that use proximity-tracking Bluetooth technology to map contacts between infected individuals and others.

This is because without some form of contacts tracing there’s a risk that hard-won gains to reduce the rate of infections by curtailing people’s movements will be reversed, i.e. once economic and social activity is opened up again. Although whether contacts tracing apps can be as effective at helping to contain COVID-19 as policymakers and technologists hope remains an open question.

What’s crystal clear right now, though, is that without a thoughtfully designed protocol that bakes in privacy by design contacts-tracing apps present a real risk to privacy — and, where they exist, to hard-won human rights. 

Torching rights in the name of combating COVID-19 is neither good nor necessary is the message from the group backing the DP-PPT protocol.

“One of the major concerns around centralisation is that the system can be expanded, that states can reconstruct a social graph of who-has-been-close-to-who, and may then expand profiling and other provisions on that basis. The data can be co-opted and used by law enforcement and intelligence for non-public health purposes,” explains University College London’s Dr Michael Veale, another backer of the decentralized design.

“While some countries may be able to put in place effective legal safeguards against this, by setting up a centralised protocol in Europe, neighbouring countries become forced to interoperate with it, and use centralised rather than decentralised systems too. The inverse is true: A decentralised system puts hard technical limits on surveillance abuses from COVID-19 bluetooth tracking across the world, by ensuring other countries use privacy-protective approaches.”

“It is also simply not necessary,” he adds of centralizing proximity data. “Data protection by design obliges the minimisation of data to that which is necessary for the purpose. Collecting and centralising data is simply not technically necessary for Bluetooth contact tracing.”

Last week we reported on another EU effort — by a different coalition of technologists and scientists, led by by Germany’s Fraunhofer Heinrich Hertz Institute for telecoms (HHI) — which has said it’s working on a “privacy preserving” standard for Covid-19 contacts tracing which they’ve dubbed: Pan-European Privacy-Preserving Proximity Tracing (PEPP-PT).

At the time it wasn’t clear whether or not the approach was locked to a centralized model of handling the pseudoanonymized IDs. Speaking to TechCrunch today, Hans-Christian Boos, one of the PEPP-PT project’s co-initiators, confirmed the standardization effort will support both centralized and decentralized approaches to handling contacts tracing.

The effort had faced criticizm from some in the EU privacy community for appearing to favor a centralized rather than decentralized approach — thereby, its critics contend, undermining the core claim to preserve user privacy. But, per Boos, it will in fact support both approaches — in a bid to maximize uptake around the world.

He also said it will be interoperable regardless of whether data is centralized or decentralized. (In the centralized scenario, he said the hope is that the not-for-profit that’s being set up to oversee PEPP-PT will be able to manage the centralized servers itself, pending proper financing — a step intended to further shrink the risk of data centralization in regions that lacks a human rights frameworks, for example.)

“We will have both options — centralized and decentralized,” Boos told TechCrunch. “We will offer both solutions, depending on who wants to use what, and we’ll make them operable. But I’m telling you that both solutions have their merits. I know that in the crypto community there is a lot of people who want decentraliztion — and I can tell you that in the health community there’s a lot of people who hate decentralization because they’re afraid that too many people have information about infected people.”

“In a decentralized system you have the simple problem that you would broadcast the anonymous IDs of infected people to everybody — so some countries’ health legislation will absolutely forbid that. Even though you have a cryptographic method, you’re broadcasting the IDs to all over the place — that’s the only way your local phone can find out have I been in contact or no,” Boos went on.

“That’s the drawback of a decentralized solution. Other than that it’s a very good thing. On a centralized solution you have the drawback that there is a single operator, whom you can choose to trust or not to trust — has access to anonymized IDs, just the same as if they were broadcast. So the question is you can have one party with access to anonymized IDs or do you have everybody with access to anonymized IDs because in the end you’re broadcasting them over the network [because] it’s spoofable.”

“If your assumption is that someone could hack the centralized service… then you have to also assume that someone could hack a router, which stuff goes through,” he added. “Same problem.

“That’s why we offer both solutions. We’re not religious. Both solutions offer good privacy. Your question is who would you trust more and who would you un-trust more? Would you trust more a lot of users that you broadcast something to or would you trust more someone who operates a server? Or would you trust more that someone can hack a router or that someone can hack the server? Both is possible, right. Both of these options are totally valid options — and it’s a religious discussion between crypto people… but we have to balance it between what crypto wants and what healthcare wants. And because we can’t make that decision we will end up offering both solutions.

“I think there has to be choice because if we are trying to build an international standard we should try and not be part of a religious war.”

Boos also said the project aims to conduct research into the respective protocols (centralized vs decentralized) to compare and conduct risk assessments based on access to the respective data.

“From a data protection point of view that data is completely anonymized because there’s no attachment to location, there’s no attachment to time, there’s no attachment to phone number, MAC address, SIM number, any of those. The only thing you know there is a contact — a relevant contact between two anonymous IDs. That’s the only thing you have,” he said. “The question that we gave the computer scientists and the hackers is if we give you this list — or if we give you this graph, what could you derive from it? In the graph they are just numbers connected to each other, the question is how can you derive anything from it? They are trying — let’s see what’s coming out.”

“There are lots of people trying to be right about this discussion. It’s not about being right; it’s about doing the right thing — and we will supply, from the initiative, whatever good options there are. And if each of them have drawbacks we will make those drawbacks public and we will try to get as much confirmation and research in on these as we can. And we will put this out so people can make their choices which type of the system they want in their geography,” he added.

“If it turns out that one is doable and one is completely not doable then we will drop one — but so far both look doable, in terms of ‘privacy preserving’, so we will offer both. If one turns out to be not doable because it’s hackable or you could derive meta-information at an unacceptable risk then we would drop it completely and stop offering the option.”

On the interoperability point Boos described it as “a challenge” which he said boils down to how the systems calculate their respective IDs — but he emphasized it’s being worked on and is an essential piece.

“Without that the whole thing doesn’t make sense,” he told us. “It’s a challenge why the option isn’t out yet but we’re solving that challenge and it’ll definitely work… There’s multiple ideas how to make that work.”

“If every country does this by itself we won’t have open borders again,” he added. “And if in a country there’s multiple applications that don’t share data then we won’t have a large enough set of people participating who can actually make infection tracing possible — and if there’s not a single place where we can have discussions about what’s the right thing to do about privacy well then probably everybody will do something else and half of them will use phone numbers and location information.”

The PEPP-PT coalition has not yet published its protocol or any code. Which means external experts wanting to chip in with informed feedback on specific design choices related to the proposed standard haven’t been able to get their hands on the necessary data to carry out a review.

Boos said they intend to open source the code this week, under a Mozilla licence. He also said the project is willing to take on “any good suggestions” as contributions.

“Currently only beta members have access to it because those have committed to us that they will update to the newest version,” he said. “We want to make sure that when we publish the first release of code it should have gone through data privacy validation and security validation — so we are as sure as we can be that there’s no major change that someone on an open source system might skip.”

The lack of transparency around the protocol had caused concern among privacy experts — and led to calls for developers to withhold support pending more detail. And even to speculation that European governments may be intervening to push the effort towards a centralized model — and away from core EU principles of data protection by design and default.

As it stands, the EU’s long-standing data protection law bakes in principles such as data minimization. Transparency is another core requirement. And just last week the bloc’s lead privacy regulator, the EDPS, told us it’s monitoring developments around COVID-19 contacts tracing apps.

“The EDPS supports the development of technology and digital applications for the fight against the coronavirus pandemic and is monitoring these developments closely in cooperation with other national Data Protection Supervisory Authorities. It is firmly of the view that the GDPR is not an obstacle for the processing of personal data which is considered necessary by the Health Authorities to fight the pandemic,” a spokesman told us.

“All technology developers currently working on effective measures in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic should ensure data protection from the start, e.g. by applying apply data protection by design principles. The EDPS and the data protection community stand ready to assist technology developers in this collective endeavour. Guidance from data protection authorities is available here: EDPB Guidelines 4/2019 on Article 25 Data Protection by Design and by Default; and EDPS Preliminary Opinion on Privacy by Design.”

We also understand the European Commission is paying attention to the sudden crop of coronavirus apps and tools — with effectiveness and compliance with European data standards on its radar.

However, at the same time, the Commission has been pushing a big data agenda as part of a reboot of the bloc’s industrial strategy that puts digitization, data and AI at the core. And just today Euroactiv reported on leaked documents from the EU Council which say EU Member States and the Commission should “thoroughly analyse the experiences gained from the COVID-19 pandemic” in order to inform future policies across the entire spectrum of the digital domain.

So even in the EU there is a high level appetite for data that risks intersecting with the coronavirus crisis to drive developments in a direction that might undermine individual privacy rights. Hence the fierce push back from certain pro-privacy quarters for contacts tracing to be decentralized — to guard against any state data grabs.

For his part Boos argues that what counts as best practice ‘data minimization’ boils down to a point of view on who you trust more. “You could make an argument [for] both [deccentralized and centralized approaches] that they’re data minimizing — just because there’s data minimization at one point doesn’t mean you have data minimization overall in a decentralized system,” he suggests.

“It’s a question who do you trust? It’s who would you trust more — that’s the real question. I see the critical point of data as not the list of anonymized contacts — the critical data is the confirmed infected.

“A lot of this is an old, religious discussion between centralization and decentralization,” he added. “Generally IT oscillates between those tools; total distribution, total centralization… Because none of those is a perfect solution. But here in this case I think both offer valid security options, and then they have both different implications on what you’re willing to do or not willing to do with medical data. And then you’ve got to make a decision.

“What we have to do is we’ve got to make sure that the options are available. And we’ve got to make sure there’s sound research, not just conjecture, in heavyweight discussions: How does what work, how do they compare, and what are the risks?”

In terms of who’s involved in PEPP-PT discussions, beyond direct project participants, Boos said governments and health ministries are involved for the practical reason that they “have to include this in their health processes”. “A lot of countries now create their official tracing apps and of course those should be connected to the PEPP-PT,” he said.

“We also talk to the people in the health systems — whatever is the health system in the respective countries — because this needs to in the end interface with the health system, it needs to interface with testing… it should interface with infectious disease laws so people could get in touch with the local CDCs without revealing their privacy to us or their contact information to us, so that’s the conversation we’re also having.”

Developers with early (beta) access are kicking the tyres of the system already. Asked when the first apps making use of PEPP-PT technologies might be in general circulation Boos suggested it could be as soon as a couple of weeks.

“Most of them just have to put this into their tracing layer and we’ve already given them enough information so that they know how they can connect this to their health processes. I don’t think this will take long,” he said, noting the project is also providing a tracing reference app to help countries that haven’t got developer resource on tap.

“For user engagement you’ll have to do more than just tracing — you’ll have to include, for example, the information from the CDC… but we will offer the skeletal implementation of an app to make starting this as a project [easier],” he said.

“If all the people that have emailed us since last week put it in their apps [we’ll get widespread uptake],” Boos added. “Let’s say 50% do I think we get a very good start. I would say that the influx from countries and I would say companies especially who want their workforce back — there’s a high pressure especially to go on a system that allows international exchange and interoperability.”

On the wider point of whether contacts tracing apps is a useful tool to help control the spread of this novel coronavirus — which has shown itself to be highly infectious, more so than flu, for example — Boos said: “I don’t think there’s much argument that isolating infection is important, the problem with this disease is there’s zero symptoms while you’re already contagious. Which means that you can’t just go and measure the temperature of people and be fine. You actually need that look into the past. And I don’t think that can be done accurately without digital help.

“So if the theory that you need to isolate infection chains is true at all, which many diseases have shown that it is — but each disease is different, so there’s no 100% guarantee, but all the data speaks for it — then that is definitely something that we need to do… The argument [boils down to] if we have so many infected as we currently have, does this make sense — do we not end up very quickly, because the world is so interconnected, with the same type of lockdown mechanism?

“This is why it only makes sense to come out with an app like this when you have broken these R0 values [i.e how many other people one infected person can infect] — once you’ve got it under 1 and got the number of cases in your country down to a good level. And I think that in the language of an infectious disease person this means going back to the approach of containing the disease, rather than mitigating the disease — what we’re doing now.”

“The approach of contact chain evaluation allows you to put better priorities on testing — but currently people don’t have the real priority question, they have a resource question on testing,” he added. “Testing and tracing are independent of each other. You need both; because if you’re tracing contacts and you can’t get tested what’s that good for? So yes you definitely [also] need the testing infrastructure for sure.”

COVID-hit UK startups cry out for help, as UK gov trails Europe in its response

The UK government is reportedly looking at a range of options to support the startup industry, possibly involving a co-investment model involving state-owned funds (via the British Business Bank) and private VC funds. Investors have been warning that typically loss-making, early-stage startups are at risk of collapse amid the coronavirus crisis. But the moves come far later than generous packages put together by Continental European governments to support their startup sectors.

Ministers understood to be keen to support the strong UK startup and innovation sector and options allegedly being considered include convertible loans, which could either be later repaid or turned into equity stakes owned by the state. This would require matched co-investment with VCs, ensuring only existing venture-backed startups would be eligible.

The FT reports that ministers want to do this on a case-by-case basis and only after companies have first sought fresh capital from private investors.

Also being considered is additional grant funding via InnovateUK, a government body providing support to innovative businesses, and an expansion of R&D tax credits.

However, the scale of any government intervention is expected to be far more modest than the government’s previously announced support for small, medium and large companies and their workers, given investors are normally deep-pocketed and tech startups typically employ far fewer people than traditional industries. By contrast, the French and German governments committed €4bn and €2bn in relief for their respective tech startup sectors.

The proposals under consideration include ones put forward by a number of significant players in the UK tech industry, who jointly launched a campaign over the weekend to pressure the government into creating a support package to aid startups struggling to deal with the COVID-19 crisis.

The move comes in the wake of moves by other European countries, such as France and Germany, which have announced significant initiatives.

The Save Our Startups (SOS) campaign published an open letter to British prime minister Boris Johnson warning the country could “lose a generation of startups and high growth businesses to COVID-19.”

It claims more than 30,000 startups employing some 330,000 people do not qualify for existing support measures and are therefore in jeopardy if new policies are not developed to help them.

The campaign was launched by crowdfunding platform Crowdcube and industry body Coadec, and is supported by leading tech figures including Brent Hoberman, the co-founder of Lastminute.com; Alex Chesterman, the cofounder of Zoopla, LoveFilm and Cazoo; and Arnaud Massenet, cofounder of Net-a-Porter.

It is also joined by organizations including The Entrepreneurs Network, Draper Esprit, Virgin Startups, Vala Capital, Innovate Finance, UK Business Angels Association (UKBAA), EISA, Tech London Advocates, Capital Enterprise and Seedrs .

Jeff Lynn, executive chairman and co-founder of Seedrs, who was a signatory to the letter, commented: “The growth of the startup ecosystem has been one of the great successes of the UK economy over the past decade. All that work is now threatened by COVID-19, and that’s why it is essential that the government step in to help at this precarious time–just as the French and German governments are doing. The Save Our Startups campaign sets out three sensible and crucial requests that will make all the difference in ensuring that our startups can continue to be European and world leaders in the decade ahead. I am very pleased that Seedrs and Coadec, both of which I co-founded and chair, are Founding Partners of the campaign, and I hope everyone in the ecosystem will sign onto it.”

The open letter said: “These businesses are making a huge contribution to the economy but are often yet to make a profit because they are investing in their people, technology and bringing innovative products and services to market. They are highly unlikely to qualify for the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS), which was introduced to provide financial support for SMEs during this pandemic.”

The letter points out that the French and German Governments have already worked to craft support for startups.

Save Our Startups has a three-point proposal for the government, calling on it to:

• Provide an equity-based liquidity package suitable to save startups at risk. While CBILS covers a proportion of UK businesses, the majority of startups and high-growth companies will be excluded and as a result, unsupported.

• Fast track payments to startups from public funding schemes – in particular, R&D tax credits and Innovate UK funding grants. Private sector liquidity has taken a major hit during the crisis with angels and micro-funds unable to provide startups and high growth businesses with bridging money.

• Change EIS, SEIS and VCTs to stimulate private equity investment into startup and high growth businesses, since many startups are losing access to debt or equity support.

However, some investors are cool on the idea, pointing out that the government could end up owning stakes in companies that would not otherwise have raised private-sector money, and that there should be a natural falling-off of weaker companies at a time of public crisis.

Investor Robin Klein of Localglobe commented on Twitter that: “The UK Govt has done an incredible job supporting the startup ecosystem” but he called the SOS campaign a “knee jerk” reaction and although he was “100% in favour of rapid BBB and other govt support” this would be through established tools.”

Luke Lang, cofounder of Crowdcube, which initiated the campaign with Coadec, commented: “Other European countries have raced to rescue its startup and tech communities, with French and German Governments committing €6bn in funding. The UK is sluggish by comparison, and further delays are unforgivable and threaten thousands of promising startup and high-growth businesses with huge potential.”

The full letter by Save Our Startups can be read here.

Top 100 Signatories:

Darren Westlake – Co-founder & CEO, Crowdcube
Luke Lang – Co-founder, Crowdcube
Brent Hoberman – Executive Chairman, Founders Forum
Alex Chesterman – Founder & CEO, Cazoo; previously Co-founder LoveFilm and Zoopla
Arnaud Massenet – Co-founder, Net-a-porter
Mike Fuller – Co-founder, ARM
Anthony Fletcher – CEO, Graze
Tania Boler – Founder, Elvie
Giles Andrews – Co-founder, Chairman, Zopa, MarketFinance, Bethnal Green Ventures
Adam Dodds – CEO, Freetrade
Jorge Armanet – CEO Founder, HealthUnlocked
Jamie Ward – CEO, Hussle
Samuel O’Connor – CEO, Coconut
Peter Kelly – CEO, Imployable
Lee Strafford – CEO, ADV
Kirsty Ranger – CEO, IdeaSquares
Gem Misa – CEO, Fullgreen
Doug Monro – Co-founder & CEO, Adzuna
/> Jeff Lynn – Co-founder & Executive Chairman, Seedrs
Stephanie Melodia – Director, Bloom
Tugce Bulut – Founder, Streetbees
Saurav Chopra – Co-founder & CEO, Perkbox
Daniel Korski – Founder & CEO, PUBLIC
David Dunn – Chair, UK Tech Cluster Group
Philip Salter – Founder, The Entrepreneurs Network
Andrew Tibbitts, COO, TechHub Charlotte Crosswell – CEO, Innovate Finance
Robert Walsh – Managing Partner, Q Ventures
Jenny Tooth OBE – CEO, UKBAA
Jonathan Sibilia – Partner, Draper Esprit
Dom Hallas – Executive Director, The Coalition for a Digital Economy (Coadec)
John Spindler – Co-founder & CEO, Capital Enterprise
Mark Brownridge – Director General, EIS Association
Natasha Guerra – Co-founder, Runway East
Andy Fishburn – Managing Director, Virgin Startup
Russ Shaw – Founder, Tech London Advocates
Alex Davies – Founder & Chief Executive, Wealth Club
Bruce Davies – Director, UK Crowdfunding Association
Andrew Roughan – Managing Director, Plexal
Jasper Smith – Founder, Vala Capital
Gaby Hersham – Founder, Huckletree
Carlos Silva – Co-founder, Seedrs
Yacob Siadatan- CEO, Ventoura Ltd
Nazim Valimahomed – CEO, Kroo
Katie Vanneck smith – Co-founder, Tortoise Media
Adrian James – CEO, Monily
Paul Naha-Biswas – CEO, Sixley
Oliver Oram – CEO, Chainvine
Rohit Shetty – Co-Founder & CEO, ArtBrowser
Richard Cooper – Chief Executive Officer, Novosound Ltd
Sam Lehane – CEO, M.Y.O
David Murray-Hundley – Chairman, E fundamentals
Russell Quirk – Co-Founder, PropergandaPR
Silas Adekunle – CEO, Reach Industries
Matthew Bradley – CEO, Mjp technologies ltd
Charlotte Roach – CEO, Rabble
Ankush Bhatia – CFO, Hussle
Matt Latham – Co-founder, Tickr ltd
Joseph Crabtree – CEO, Additive Manufacturing Technologies (AMT)
Robert Wakeling – CEO, Wadaro Solutions Limited
Joe Sillett – CEO, The Funky Appliance Company
Mike Bristow – CEO, CrowdProperty
Mulenga Agley – CEO, Growthcurve LTD
Kim Nilsson – CEO & Founder, Pivigo
Martin Kievit – Co-founder, Metasite OpenCloud limited
Sam Ducker – Co-founder, Calling Anyone
Neha Khurana – CEO, The Legists
Matt Brooke – CEO, Meet.mba Limited
Manoj Ganapathy – CEO, SalesTrip
Adam McVicar – Co-founder, The Resilience Factor
Bikesh Kumar – CEO, Annexon
Ricky Shankar – Chairman, Clear Factor Limited
Sarah Merrick – CEO, Ripple Energy
Dan Wakerley – CEO, Pillar
Demos Demetriou- Co-founder, blazon
Eoin Cooney – CEO, ARROE Limited
Mattt Milligan – Co-founder, Uhubs
Suchit Punnose – CEO, Red Ribbon Asset Management Plc
Laurence Guy – CEO, We Are Pentagon Group
Fred Soneya – Co-Founder & Partner, Haatch
Dana Denis-Smith – CEO, Obelisk support
Neil Harmsworth – Chief Operating Officer, Hussle
Nigel Winship – Co-founder, People Matter Technology
Cathy Norbury – Co-Founder, InterAxS Global
Shadi Razak – Co-founder and CTO, CyNation
Hassan Bashir – Co-founder, HealthSteer
Dr Yusuf Vali – Co-founder, Healthsteer
Farid Haque – Co-founder, AssetVault
Brad Goodall – CEO, Banked
Dan McGuire – CEO, cube19
Gaute Juliussen – CEO, Toraphene
Mark Musson – CEO, Humn.ai Ltd
James Gupta – CEO, Synap
Mat Megens – CEO, Hyperjar
Jason Bullock – CEO, Numerous Technology
Tim Gentles – CEO, Hatriq
Marcus Greenwood – CEO, UBIO
Gary Mc Donald – CEO, Limitless Insight
Ryan Gralia – CFO, Fidel Limited
Darrell Coker – Co-founder & Head of Product, Flair
Inga Mullins – Co-founder Fluency
Ian Smith – CEO, Being Guided
Kevin Beales – CEO, Refract
Damian Goryszewski – CEO, Colossus Capital Ltd
Mark Milton – CEO, Amberlight Partners
Randel Darby – CEO, Airportr

Lydia lets you donate to hospitals and charities

Fintech startup Lydia is the dominating mobile payment app in France with most of its 3.3 million users in its home country. That’s why the startup has been working hard over the past ten days to ship a feature that was originally planned for this summer — donations to charities and hospitals.

Starting today, Lydia users can choose between 17 charities and send money to those charities using the familiar Lydia payment flow. It works like sending money to your friends and family.

Donations start at €0.50 and those are one-off payments — you can’t set up recurring payments or round up transactions for instance.

Lydia recently introduced “the market”, a marketplace of financial products, such as small credit lines, phone insurance and free credit on home insurance and utility bills. The market menu was buried under the profile tab. The company is now surfacing that screen in its own tab right next to your accounts and transaction history. You can find donations as a new button in the market.

There’s another way to donate. On the payment screen, when you tap a sum and hit next, in addition to the usual list of recipients, you can choose to send money to a charity from there as well. This feature is live on Android and will be available soon on iOS — iOS users have to go through the market for now.

The startup has selected 17 charities for now, but that list could grow over time. You’ll find public hospitals (Paris, Nantes, Strasbourg, Grenoble, Lille and Nice), charities focused on health as well as general public interest charities (Fondation de France, Fondation 101, Médecins du Monde, Epic, Action contre la Faim, La Croix Rouge française, La Fondation Abbé Pierre, La Ligue Nationale contre le Cancer, Réseau Entourage and La Maison des Femmes de Saint-Denis).

If you’re not a Lydia user, you can still use Lydia’s payment flow in your web browser with a credit or debit card. (But nothing is stopping you from donating directly on the charity websites of course.)

If you want to give a large sum of money and deduct part of your donation from your income taxes, you’ll have to ask charities directly. Lydia can’t give you a tax form directly as it only acts as an intermediary.

Eventually, Lydia will deduct processing fees from your donations before handing them over to charities. But the company is waving fees until June 30 due to the coronavirus crisis.