Category Archives: Startups

Why community is at the heart of every tech hub

Image Credit: Shannon Ramos / EyeEm / Getty Images

By Kyle York, Guest Author (VentureBeat) and VP of Product Strategy, Oracle Cloud Infrastructure  @KYORK20          April 7, 2019 4:44 PM


When people think of technology, they often think in general terms like “the cloud” or “artificial intelligence.” But technology is physical. It is cables and servers and the mobile device in your pocket. Technology is also human.

I don’t mean this in some philosophical sense. I mean that the physical components that make up technology are built by human beings. And human beings vary, as do the communities in which they live.

Technology may be flattening the world, but we are still in many ways reflections of our local communities and their histories — particularly in less transient communities where people have established deep roots. These communities aren’t usually what we have in mind when talking about great startup ecosystems, but they can actually become thriving tech hotbeds.

I saw great examples of this — and the ways that large companies can help foster these communities — at the VentureBeat BLUEPRINT 2019 event in York, Pennsylvania.

York, Pennsylvania

The York Plan of the 1940s allowed different industries within York County to come together and build the parts needed to help the United States win World War II. Today, John McElligott, Founder and CEO of York Exponential, is heading a York Plan 2.0 and wants the area to become the robot mechanic capital of the world. He said he was not authentic with his first startup and tried to turn York into a new Silicon Valley. He realized that wasn’t playing to the community’s strength. So instead he tapped into the community’s roots — hard-working people who are good with their hands and machines — to come up with the idea of repairing robots.

Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota

Matt Lewis, Director of Make It. MSP, an organization that works with more than 100 local companies on strategies to retain talent, shared an interesting fact about Minneapolis/St. Paul: It has the largest collection of Fortune 500 headquarters per capita of any place in the United States. He discussed a variety of reasons for why that was the case, but regardless of how it happened, entrepreneurs are using that to their advantage now. That is why enterprise tech is a huge market within this area: There is a need, and startups are popping up to fill that need.

Manchester, New Hampshire

My own city, Manchester, was once a booming textile manufacturing mecca but struggled with hard economic times for decades. The city has now reinvented itself as a hot bed for entrepreneurial activity in technology, biomedical, and higher ed innovation (led by Southern New Hampshire University and Alumni Ventures Group). These are three industries that lend themselves to the types of hard-working, mission-driven folks who occupy southern New Hampshire.

The role of large companies

During the event, I participated on a panel in which we discussed the effects that large companies can have on helping these types of ecosystems. Shelley McKinley, Head of Technology & Corp. Responsibility Group, Microsoft, said large companies can use their influence to work with governments, both federal and local, on laws and regulations that help startups and industries grow.

Kate Kaufman, Director of Account Operations, Uber Freight, discussed the amount of data that a company like Uber has access to. Their focus is to put that data in the hands of small businesses, allowing them access to information they historically didn’t have, which can help their businesses compete.

Startups rarely succeed on their own. They often need the collective resources of their communities. Embrace your community. Don’t try to change it. If you can find a niche that makes sense for the talent that already exists in your community, then both your startup and your whole entrepreneurial ecosystem have a chance to do something great.

Kyle York is VP of Product Strategy for Oracle Cloud Infrastructure.


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The Hot New Thing in Dockless Electric Scooters: Docks

If you love me, you’d dock your scooter properly. Courtesy of Swiftmile


Laura Bliss
Laura Bliss, Staff Writer at CityLab (Transportation and Technology)   Mar 13, 2019

Cities are desperate to tame the sidewalk chaos of the e-scooter industry. One startup offers a solar-powered parking solution.


To understand the promise and peril of dockless scooters, look at Austin, Texas. This week, at least 9,000 of the zippy rentables are scattered on the capital city’s streets during this year’s South by Southwest festival. Nine different operators are vending cheap car-free transportation for the roughly 200,000 festivalgoers that have descended upon the city.That might be great in theory, but mixed with big crowds, car traffic, a general lack of bike lanes, and a ton of free booze, the reality is cluttered sidewalks, tripping pedestrians, and some brutal scooter crashes.Austin, in other words, is experiencing a Class 5 scoot-nado—a particularly intense variation on the shared-mobility disruption that cities nationwide have seen over the last two years. Which is why there’s a growing demand to bring scooter-sharing back to its roots, at least partly: Cities want docks for the dockless.“We’ve all seen the problems associated with these things,” Colin Roche, the co-founder and CEO of Swiftmile, told me as he packed up his company’s booth at the National Shared Mobility Summit in Chicago last week. “But we also know the promise. In high-impact areas, they need to bring some order to the chaos.”
Swiftmile makes parking stations for e-scooters and bikes in support of what it calls a “semi-dockless” operating model. Their docks can pack in up to 24 Birds, Limes, Spins, and Skips in a space the size of a standard parking spot, using individual holsters equipped with anti-theft locks. More than glorified bike racks, the stations also use solar power to charge scooters while they’re tethered. They accommodate virtually all scooter models, and can gather data about vehicle use and condition.The idea isn’t necessarily to bring all dockless scooters in from the wild. In high-scooting cities, Roche thinks the sweet spot is making parking available for about 25 percent of the total fleet, especially in areas with heavy foot traffic where sidewalk space is limited and vehicles tend to get carelessly dumped. With the rest roaming untethered, providers can still reap what are seen as the economic advantages of a dockless system, Roche explained: When rentables are freed from their expensive docking infrastructure, companies can invest in the volume and scale that may be needed to grow ridership. For the sake of comparison, docked bikesharing programs generally cost about $4,000 to $5,000 per bike; electric scooters retail for between $100 and $500.

               Lyft shows off its low-fi docking solution in Arlington, Virginia. (Andrew Small/CityLab)

Roche also maintains that Swiftmile’s charging docks mean vehicles can spend more time in use and require less human labor and resources to get recharged. An analysis by Quartz recently estimated that scooters in Louisville have a lifespan of just 28 days, and that Bird, the largest scooter company in the field, loses $293 per vehicle in the Kentucky metro. “The companies spend 50 percent of their operating costs on getting these things charged,” Roche said. Though he didn’t offer numbers, Swiftmile’s website explains that the pricing model is based per charge, and is designed for savings.

Other brains in the business are starting to advocate for more of a semi-dockless model, too. Kyle Rowe, the head of government partnerships at Spin, said he expects to see more dockless-scooter docks emerge in the congested corridors of the country’s scooter capitals, with the majority of the vehicles still ranging freely in residential areas. And Caroline Samponaro, the head of bike, scooter, and pedestrian policy at Lyft, believes that docks should be available for entire fleets of shared scooters and bikes. “What a dock does is mimic that idea of a public transit station,” she said. “It creates a predictable way for people to engage with this mode.”

Lyft, which owns Motivate, the country’s largest docked bikeshare operator, also rents dockless scooters in several cities, and is demoing its own parking racks outside a barbershop at SXSW and at the National Bike Summit in Washington, D.C., this week. Lyft’s racks don’t offer charging, and aren’t formally deployed in any city yet. But they create an opportunity for Lyft to talk about the benefits with interested parties, Samponaro said.

They also offer a way to address the safety concerns and injury lawsuits that have beset the nascent industry. The Washington Post reported this week that an 87-year-old woman in Santa Monica is considering suing Lyft after suffering a fall over a wayward scooter lying in the sidewalk. Some cities, including Santa Monica, Seattle, and Austin, have already tried other ways to contain the devices, such as spray-painted sidewalk “bird cages” and coned-off street “corrals.”

It’s too soon to say if such cosmetic interventions are quantifiably helping with safety and clutter, but anecdotally, at least, “they’re not hurting,” said Francie Stefan, Santa Monica’s acting chief mobility officer. “It’s helpful to have some sense of order and give people an idea of where the devices belong.”

Not everyone believes that the future of shared mobility involves re-embracing the dock. A parking and charging station might sound simple enough to install, Stefan said, but the devil may be in the details: Can solar batteries hold enough charge to keep scooters in action? Who will pay for the electrical bills if not, once the stations are wired into the street?And others believe that additional costs of adding all these smart charging docks will make the already-dodgy road to profitability for the scooter industry even more challenging to negotiate. “Docks look pretty, but they’re really costly and hard to adapt,” said Dawn Goodyear, a community engagement specialist for the dockless mobility startup VeoRide. “The ridership won’t be there if we go back the way we came.”

About the Author

Laura Bliss

Laura Bliss  @mslaurabliss  Feed

Laura Bliss is a staff writer at CityLab, covering transportation and technology. She also authors MapLab, a biweekly newsletter about maps (subscribe here). Her work has appeared in the New York Times, The Atlantic, Los Angeles magazine, and beyond.


The Race For AI: Google, Intel, Apple In A Rush To Grab Artificial Intelligence Startups



Research Briefs from – February 27, 2018

Around 42% of the AI companies acquired since 2013 have had VC backing.

Big corporations across every industry, from retail to agriculture, are trying to integrate machine learning into their products. At the same time, there is an acute shortage of AI talent.

A combination of these factors is fueling a heated race to scoop up top AI startups, many of which are still in their early stages of research and funding.

Nearly 120 AI startups exited for the first time last year, of which 115 were acquired.

Already this year, there have been 8 acquisitions. Amazon acquired AI cybersecurity startup Sqrrl. Oracle followed suit by acquiring cybersecurity company Zenedge.

AI startups are acquisition targets not only for big tech companies, but also for traditional insurance, retail, and healthcare incumbents.

In one of the largest M&A deals in artificial intelligence, Roche Holding acquired NY-based Flatiron Health for $1.9B in Feb’18. The only other disclosed $1B+ AI exit was Ford’s acquisition of auto tech startup Argo AI in 2017.

Google is the top acquirer of AI startups, with 14 acquisitions under its belt (excluding Kaggle, a data science community that hosts machine learning competitions).

The timeline below shows the M&A activity of corporations that have made 4 or more acquisitions since 2010. (Note: The exact dates for Apple’s Novauris and Amazon’s Orbeus acquisitions are not known. They are plotted on approximate dates of acquisition.)

In 2013, Google picked up deep learning and neural network startup DNNresearch from the computer science department at the University of Toronto. This acquisition reportedly helped Google make major upgrades to its image search feature.

In 2014 Google acquired British company DeepMind Technologies for some $600M (Google’s DeepMind program recently beat a human world champion in the board game “Go”).

It also recently acquired conversational commerce platform Banter. Google previously made another major acquisition in natural language processing — startup — in 2016, powering some of Google Assistant’s capabilities.

Apple is close behind with 13 acquisitions.

Apple was one of the earliest players in the space. It acquired Siri in 2010, popularizing AI assistants. For comparison, the technology behind Amazon’s Alexa can be tied back to the startup Evi Technologies, which Amazon acquired in 2013.

Apple’s M&A activity slowed down for several years following the Siri acquisition, before picking up in 2016. Apple has been rather secretive about how it plans to integrate the AI startups it has acquired into its products. Its most recent acquisition was Pop Up Archive, which could be a potential addition to iTunes. Prior to the acquisition, the startup was developing tools to search and organize audio files. It used machine learning to convert speech to text, and crowdsourced the task of fixing transcription errors.

A notable exception in the big-tech-dominated top acquirers chart above is the Meltwater Group, a social media monitoring company. It is also the only private company on the chart.

Meltwater is strategically using AI to monitor digital media and analyze brand sentiment and competitor activity.

AI acquisitions (2012-2017) YTD
Company Country M&A Date United States 1/9/2017 United States 9/20/2016
Orbeus United States 10/1/2015
Evi Technologies United Kingdom 4/17/2013
Sqrrl United States 1/23/2018
Siri United States 4/9/2010
SensoMotoric Germany 6/27/2017
Regaind France 9/29/2017 United States 10/5/2017
Pop Up Archive United States 12/5/2017
Lattice United States 5/15/2017
RealFace Israel 2/20/2017
tuplejump India 9/22/2016
Turi United States 8/5/2016
Emotient United States 1/7/2016
Perceptio United States 10/6/2015
Vocal IQ United Kingdom 10/2/2015
Novauris Technolgies United Kingdom 4/3/2014
Ozlo United States 7/31/2017
Zurich Eye Switzerland 11/10/2016
Masquerade Technologies Belarus 3/9/2016 United States 1/5/2015
Mobile Technologies United States 8/13/2013 United States 5/29/2012
AIMatter Belarus 8/16/2017
Banter United States 11/1/2017
Halli Labs India 7/12/2017 United States 9/19/2016
Moodstocks France 7/6/2016
Timeful United States 5/4/2015
Granata Decision Systems Canada 1/23/2015
Jetpac United States 8/16/2014
Emu United States 8/6/2014
DeepMind Technologies United Kingdom 1/27/2014
DNNresearch Canada 3/13/2013
CleverSense United States  12/14/2011
Vision Factory United Kingdom 10/23/2014
Dark Blue Labs United Kingdom 10/23/2014
Movidius United States 9/6/2016
Nervana Systems United States 8/9/2016
Itseez United States 5/27/2016
Saffron Technology United States 10/26/2015
Indisys Spain 9/13/2013
Cosmify United States 8/15/2017
Algo Norway 8/29/2017
Wrapidity United Kingdom 2/21/2017
Encore Alert United States 3/29/2016
OCULUSai Sweden 3/18/2013
Maluuba Canada 1/13/2017
Genee United States 8/22/2016
SwiftKey United Kingdom 2/19/2016
Equivio Israel 1/20/2015
Netbreeze Switzerland 3/20/2013
MetaMind United States 4/4/2016
PredictionIO United States 2/19/2016
MinHash United States 12/14/2015
Tempo AI United States 5/29/2015
Magic Pony United Kingdom 6/20/2016
Whetlab United States 6/17/2015
TellApart United States 4/28/2015
Madbits United States 7/30/2014


Below you can see the timeline as of last publication in July 2017. In the previous timeline, we included all acquirers with at least 2 AI acquisitions.


The timeline as of 10/16 is included below.