We’re all familiar with the bill shock associated with roaming abroad with our cellphones. There are plenty of players that allow you to swap out your SIM card and use cheaper traffic, including Cubic Telecom. However, that process is tedious. So Cubic has secured new funding to enable a range of tablets and notebooks to have their technology built into partner devices. To do this they’ve raised a further $5.2 million in funding from Enterprise Ireland, Qualcomm Incorporated, ACT Venture Capital and TPS Investments.
The money will be used to expand globally, and invest in the technology which essentially allows Cubic to operate like its own global mobile phone carrier, not an MVNO. As a licensed mobile network operator (MNO), Cubic Telecom partners with Tier 1 mobile operators to provide coverage in 230 countries. Its Software Defined Network (SDN) works across multiple technologies (3G, 4G-LTE, CDMA and WiFi).
The Dublin based company has also secured contracts with a number of leading Fortune 100 tablet and notebook manufacturers to be in-built into their devices, though these partners have yet to be announced.
The embedded nature of the service means any changes to the internal SIM can be Over The Air (OTA).
Barry Napier, CEO of Cubic Telecom, says they will “enable the latest devices and applications to be always connected anytime anywhere.”
In plain English, that means Cubic Telecom devices can integrate with content and apps. Thus, imagine a world where an app provider asked Cubic to allow its use to be free on Cubic dvices. All it would require would be a simple OTA update from Cubic to its customers. That could be a very powerful place to be.
The company also announced that it will create a total of more than 70 new jobs over the next 3 years, as part of an investment supported by the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation through Enterprise Ireland.
A new report commissioned from research giant GfK claims that the growth of the high density cluster of technology companies in East London (dubbed Tech City by the UK government) is being “stunted” by a talent shortage and lack of access to capital. The ‘Tech Futures Report’ – commissioned by publishing company TechCityInsider and sponsored by accountant Grant Thornton, recruitment firm Vitamin T, City University London and the Digital Shoreditch conference is based on 141 interviews of ‘tech’ company senior management. In fact, less than half of these admitted to developing technology products and platforms. It’s simply the latest in a long line of reports that conflate consultants and digital advertising agencies (who charge on the basis of billable clients) with genuine technology companies (that have a Saas or consumer product and often raise venture funding), leading to yet more confusion about the state of the cluster.
When quizzed by TechCrunch, the reports authors admitted that only 41% of those surveyed made “apps” (this was not defined), while 21% did social networking, 17% retailing/ecommerce, 12% publishing, 12% IT consulting and services, 8% data processing/management and 7% were in gaming – though it’s not clear whether than meant games or gambling. And of those 141, only 77% of respondents were the CEO or Founder of the business they represented.
As a result of this over-sight, an important opportunity has been missed to find out more about the needs of genuine high-growth technology companies in the cluster, rather than normal growth advertising agencies that rely on face to face client growth.
But for what it’s worth we present the rest of the reports findings below. Make of them what you will.
Among the report’s key findings:
• Nearly a half of those surveyed (44%) find a shortage of skilled workers is the biggest challenge they face.
• Over three quarters (77%) say a lack of skilled workers is restricting their growth.
• A third (33%) believe a lack of access to capital is hindering their business.
• In terms of the businesses represented, 30% had an annual turnover of <£200k, 34% £200,000-£999,000, 17% £1-£5m, 7% £5-£10m and 12% over £10m. 24% said their main location of business was London, 44% UK, 17% Europe 14% North America and 1% ROW.
The report says the 141 executives surveyed had "mixed feelings" about the the effectiveness of government support, with some liking it, others not. So not exactly ground breaking news then. Tech City has a government-backed PR outfit called the Tech City Investment Organisation which is aimed externally and abroad, and is not designed to represent the local community, even though everyone seems confused by this.
Clearly, despite the 'glass half empty' tone, the situtation is in flux. Ryan Garner, Research Director for GfK said: "Our research shows Tech City is at a tipping point, and hopefully this report will help it find its way in spearheading that economic growth." Indeed, the reports authors could equally have spun the situation as a 'tech hiring boom'.
Unfortunately, the report struggles with some of the common terms of the technology world. The top skills most in demand are said to be "coders and developers" and something called "research and development" leading one to wonder if the report’s authors could possibly be more vague. The others skills said to be in short supply (again, not news) are marketing and PR, business development, web design and user experience specialists. Someone is hiring. Hold the front page…
The report claims that staff retention remains a challenge, though is not clear on whether that is because it's a booming startup market generating more spin-out startups, or if people are leaving for big corporate jobs. It’s just a “challenge”, ok?
As for accessing capital, a third of those surveyed said their businesses are hindered by a lack of capital, whether sourced from investors or banks. Once again, because the report conflates technology businesses that might be fundraising with digital agencies that might just want a bank loan, the picture here is vague. Of course, it's common knowledge that most startups fail to raise external funding anyway.
If there is a gem of new information here it's in the finding – which has been largely anecdotal till now – that there is a growing gap for businesses requiring investment of £500,000 to £2 million. The "Series A gap".
However, the report mistakenly thinks that all startups which can't raise a Series A in London will skip of to bag "the Silicon Valley dollar" when doing so is far from simply buying a plane ticket to SF.
As a result of yet another inept attempt to garner meaningless PR around which is – in fact – a genuinely interesting cluster, TechCrunch is hereby placing a ban on all reports about London's Tech City from now on unless they actually talk to 100% tech companies with an actual product or platform. Not guys coming up with a new hip flash site for Coca Cola or selling ‘switch it on, switch it off again’ tech support to banks.
While the world goes gaga for Google Glass, a small startup has come up with an intriguing new take on a device which can display information before your eyes. Instabeat is head-up display unit which attaches to swimming goggles and monitors your heart rate, calories, laps and turns during your swim. It’s been live on crowd funding platform Indiegogo for a few days and is already poised to reach its modest funding target ($29,326 raised, with $35,000 being the goal), meaning the product will almost certainly ship.
While runners have Runkeeper and many other similar apps to track their goals, swimmers have until now been left out of the tracking game. Instabeat scratches that itch with a streamlined device which reads your heart rate via a (patent-pending) optical sensor that can accurately read the heart rate from the temporal artery on the side of your head, without the need for the annoying chest belt. The device has gone through several prototypes and the finished product can be backed for $139, and slated for shipping (to people who backed) it in October.
The sensor automatically turns on when the device is placed on your head and projects a color onto your lenses in real-time to know how close you are from your target zone. Each color has three levels to indicate whether you are in the beginning, middle or upper limit of the zone. It also measures your calories, number of laps and flip turns and syncs with a personal online dashboard to track progress over time. Right now that’s via USB port, but later models are planned which will sync wirelessly.
Competing products include Aqua Pulse from FINIS, which reads your heart rate out loud to you – but this does not store data and has no other features. Then there is PoolmateHR from Swimovate, a watch that reads the heart rate with a chest belt and counts laps – but again you have to wear the chest belt which many swimmers don’t enjoy doing.
Ironically Instabeat has been developed out of the Middle East – a region not normally known for its watersports. The sports technology startup is based in Lebanon, and was founded in 2011 by Hind Hobeika out of her personal need for a heart rate monitoring device for her swimming practice.
And as far as we can tell, this is the first crowd-funding campaign out of the Arab world for a physical product.
ShapeUp Club is a startup out of Stockholm which has been making waves recently with a lot of under-the-radar growth. Originally built back in 2008 as a side project, it’s morphed into an interactive calorie counter on iPhone, Android, and web. You get a personal weight loss plan, can track nutrition, exercise and weight. Ok, so it might not sound original set against the likes of bigger players like MyFitnessPal… but… the app has registered 4 million downloads, with 450,000 monthly active users and a growth rate of more than 10,000 new installs per day (they claim). So not bad with very little active promotion, and for a startup that is entirely bootstrapped.
While developers Tove Westlund and Martin Wählby founded the company in 2008, now two seasoned executives have joined up to take the company to the next level.
Henrik Torstensson, formerly a senior exec with global music service Spotify, and Marcus Gners, from at teen girl gaming giant Stardoll, are now joining the company in the roles of CEO and Deputy CEO. Both have a history as advisors to the company, with Gners having been involved for over 3 years.
The startup claims the average users loses about 9 lbs after using the app regularly.
Their claimed ‘secret sauce’ is that after taking weight, height, age and daily activity level, ShapeUp Club calculates a personal weight loss plan for each user. The user then tracks what they eat and how much they exercise, using a calorie bar to view how many more or fewer calories they should eat each day to reach their target weight.
ShapeUp Club is also connected to the Runkeeper Health Graph API and allows users to import their RunKeeper and Withings data into ShapeUp Club, as well as upload their nutrition information from ShapeUp Club into the Health Graph.
One of Stockholm’s more buzzy startups, ShapeUp Club in the same new wave of companies such as Tictail and others.
Last week we reported that Facebook is in advanced talks to buy Israel-born social traffic and mapping app Waze for up to $1 billion, but that there were still some questions over whether Waze’s R&D efforts would remain in their home country, or move to Facebook’s HQ in California. Haaretz has now advanced the story, saying that the current deal has it that Waze’s R&D will stay in Israel, where it will also continue to be a registered, tax-paying company, while Waze’s Palo Alto office will move over to Facebook and Menlo Park. While reports are now swirling that Apple could still come into the negotiating room again (if you believe Apple was ever there in the first place), the deal raises some interesting details and debate about what is happening in the Israeli startup scene currently.
In a country more renowned for its B2B and technical exits — Cisco’s $5 billion NDS deal being one example from last year, but so are Facebook’s two previous Israeli acquisitions, feature phone interface designer Snaptu and facial recognition company Face.com — this is one of the first big consumer tech exits in Israel. Yaron Samid, founder of the Israeli tech startup network TechAviv and himself a serial entrepreneur, notes that this is in fact the first $1 billion exit for such a company. Waze’s rapid rise over the last couple of years, he notes, has already been having an impact on the community, with the exit being the final flourish.
“The inspiration has already taken hold like wildfire among the countless Israeli founders who’ve been told that they can’t produce a billion-dollar consumer Internet/Mobile company – and now know that they all can,” he writes. (He also takes the opportunity for a little self promotion, claiming that he’d been one of those suggesting current CEO Noam Bardin after he couldn’t take the job himself.)
There are numerous Israeli Startups that could get a lift from the ‘new order’ where consumer startups, not just B2B and enterprise, can emerge from the country. These could include Wix, GetTaxi, Fiverr, Bizzabo, MyHeritage, Wishi and Mobli, among others.
Facebook Israel foothold
The other interesting development here is that this could give Facebook a foothold into the Israeli tech world. Unlike Google, Facebook does not have an operation in Israel, which could well create useful ‘boots on the ground’ in a nation renowned for its engineering talent. This would make it the second Facebook development arm outside the U.S., after London.
But the suggestion so far is that Waze will remain an independent company operating in Israel, with R&D staying in Israel, while the business side, including CEO Noam Bardin, is expected to move over to Facebook U.S. HQ.
But, there is a cultural clash on the horizon here.
Some local players are already coming out against this idea. Local VC and TechCrunch contributor Roi Carthy says he would like to see Facebook shutter Waze’s local presence, and relocate the tech personnel to Palo Alto.
Because, he says, although the Waze R&D center could be a beach-head for a full-blown Facebook R&D shop, and thus good for Facebook, “it could have catastrophic effects upon local early stage startups’ ability to compete on salaries and benefits.”
His argument is that if a big company like Facebook stays away, then the Israeli tech ecosystem is more likely to be able to “push more innovation” towards Silicon Valley, which would be in the “best interest of both the local startup industry and Facebook.”
Certainly, such a large acquisition inside such a relatively small country could well change the successful dynamics of the Israeli eco-system. If it became a mere engineering centre for Facebook, Apple and Google, the implication is that we might not see quite the same levels of startup activity as we’ve seen emerge in the past from Israel.
That is almost certainly overstating the ‘problem’. It’s more likely that the experience of being inside these big tech companies in Israel is more likely to create a virtuous circle of new entrepreneurs, spin-outs and new projects. Plus, more eyes and ears on the ground for potential acquisitions.
Haaretz is also reporting some details about the financial terms of the deal. Anywhere from 40 percent to 60 percent of the $1 billion price (the current offer) will be in Facebook shares, with the rest in cash. Israeli investors woud prefer more cash; others prefer Facebook shares. Specific investors like Li Ka-Shing will land $116 million from the deal after investing $30 million via the Horizon Ventures Fund along with Kleiner Perkins less than two years ago. Microsoft will pull in $102 million after investing of $25 million in December 2010.