Meet Alchemist Accelerator’s latest demo day cohort

An IoT-enabled lab for cannabis farmers, a system for catching drones mid-flight and the Internet of Cows are a few of the 17 startups exhibiting today at Alchemist Accelerator’s 18th demo day. The event, which will be streamed live here, focuses on big data and AI startups with an enterprise bent.

The startups are showing their stuff at Juniper’s Aspiration Dome in Sunnyvale, California at 3pm today, but you can catch the whole event online if you want to see just what computers and cows have in common. Here are the startups pitching onstage.

Tarsier – Tarsier has built AI computer vision to detect drones. The founders discovered the need while getting their MBAs at Stanford, after one had completed a PhD in aeronautics. Drones are proliferating. And getting into places they shouldn’t — prisons, R&D centers, public spaces. Securing these spaces today requires antiquated military gear that’s clunky and expensive. Tarsier is all software. And cheap, allowing them to serve markets the others can’t touch.

Lightbox – Retail 3D is sexy — think virtual try-ons, VR immersion, ARKit stores. But creating these experiences means creating 3D models of thousands of products. Today, artists slog through this process, outputting a few models per day. Lightbox wants to eliminate the humans. This duo of recent UPenn and Stanford Computer Science grads claim their approach to 3D scanning is pixel perfect without needing artists. They have booked $40,000 to date and want to digitize all of the world’s products.

Vorga – Cannabis is big business — more than $7 billion in revenue today and growing fast. The crop’s quality — and a farmer’s income — is highly sensitive to a few chemicals in it. Farmers today test the chemical composition of their crops through outsourced labs. Vorga’s bringing the lab in-house to the cannabis farmer via their IoT platform. The CEO has a PhD in chemical physics, and formerly helped the Department of Defense keep weapons of mass destruction out of the hands of terrorists. She’s now helping cannabis farmers get high… revenue.

Neulogic – Neulogic is founded by a duo of Computer Science PhDs that led key parts of Walmart.com product search. They now want to solve two major problems facing the online apparel industry: the need to provide curated inspiration to shoppers and the need to offset rising customer acquisition costs by selling more per order. Their solution combines AI with a fashion knowledge graph to generate outfits on demand.

Intensivate – Life used to be simple. Enterprises would use servers primarily for function-driven applications like billing. Today, servers are all about big data, analytics and insight. Intensivate thinks servers need a new chip upgrade to reflect that change. They are building a new CPU they claim gets 12x the performance for the same cost. Hardware plays like this are hard to pull off, but this might be the team to do it. It includes the former co-founder and CEO of CPU startup QED, which was acquired for $2.3 billion, and a PhD in parallel computation who was on the design team for the Alpha CPU from DEC.

Integry – SaaS companies put a lot of effort into building out integrations. Integry provides app creators their own integrations marketplace with pre-boarded partners so they can have apps working with theirs from the get go. The vision is to enable app creators to mimic their own Slack app directory without spending the years or the millions. Because these integrations sit inside their app, Integry claims setup rates are significantly better and churn is reduced by as much as 40 percent.

Cattle Care – AI video analytics applied to cows! Cattle Care wants to increase dairy farmers’ revenue by more than $1 million per year and make cows healthier at the same time. The product identifies cows in the barn by their unique black and white patterns. Algorithms collect parameters such as walking distance, interactions with other cows, feeding patterns and other variables to detect diseases early. Then the system sends alerts to farm employees when they need to take action, and confirms the problem has been solved afterwards.

VadR – VR/AR is grappling with a lack of engaging content. VadR thinks the cause is a broken feedback loop of analytics to the creators. This trio of IIT-Delhi engineers has built machine learning algorithms that get smarter over time and deliver actionable insights on how to modify content to increase engagement.

Tika – This duo of ex-Googlers wants to help engineering managers manage their teams better. Managers use Tika as an AI-powered assistant over Slack to facilitate personalized conversations with engineering teams. The goal is to quickly uncover and resolve employee engagement issues, and prevent talent churn.

GridRaster – GridRaster wants to bring AR/VR to mobile devices. The problem? AR/VR is compute-intensive. Latency, bandwidth and poor load balancing kill AR/VR on mobile networks. The solution? For this trio of systems engineers from Broadcom, Qualcomm and Texas Instruments, it’s about starting with enterprise use cases and building edge clouds to offload the work. They have 12 patents.

AitoeLabs – Despite the buzz around AI video analytics for security, AitoeLabs claims solutions today are plagued with hundreds of thousands of false alarms, requiring lots of human involvement. The engineering trio founding team combines a secret sauce of contextual data with their own deep models to solve this problem. They claim a 6x reduction in human monitoring needs with their tech. They’re at $240,000 ARR with $1 million of LOIs.

Ubiquios – Companies building wireless IoT devices waste more than $1.8 billion because of inadequate embedded software options making products late to market and exposing them to security and interoperability issues. The Ubiquios wireless stack wants to simplify the development of wireless IoT devices. The company claims their stack results in up to 90 percent lower cost and up to 50 percent faster time to market. Qualcomm is a partner.

4me, Inc. – 4me helps companies organize and track their IT outsourcing projects. They have 16 employees, 92 customers and generate several million in revenue annually. Storm Ventures led a $1.65 million investment into the company.

TorchFi – You know the pop-up screen you see when you log into a Wi-Fi hotspot? TorchFi thinks it’s a digital gold mine in the waiting. Their goal is to convert that into a sales channel for hotspot owners. Their first product is a digital menu that transforms the login screen into a food ordering screen for hotels and restaurants. Cisco has selected them as one of 20 apps to be distributed on their Meraki hotspots.

Cogitai – This team of 16 PhDs wants to usher in a more powerful type of AI called continual learning. The founders are the fathers of the field — and include professors in computer science from UT Austin and U Michigan. Unlike what we commonly think of as AI, Cogitai’s AI is built to acquire new skills and knowledge from experience, much like a child does. They have closed $2 million in bookings this year, and have $5 million in funding.

LoadTap – On-demand trucking apps are in vogue. LoadTap explicitly calls out that it is not one. This team, which includes an Apple software architect and founder with a family background in trucking, is an enterprise SaaS-only solution for shippers who prefer to work with their pre-vetted trucking companies in a closed loop. LoadTap automates matching between the shippers and trucking companies using AI and predictive analytics. They’re at $90,000 ARR and growing revenue 50 percent month over month.

Ondaka – Ondaka has built a VR-like 3D platform to render industrial information visually, starting with the oil and gas industry. For these industrial customers, the platform provides a better way to understand real-time IoT data, operational and job site safety issues and how reliable their systems are. The product launched two months ago, they have closed three customers already and are projecting ARR in the six figures. They have raised $350,000 in funding.

Hear from the executives of Innoviz and Oryx Vision about the eyes and ears of the new automobile in Tel Aviv

The success of the autonomous vehicle revolution relies on complicated systems of sophisticated sensors working in harmony to provide the magic of sight to machines.

OmerKeilaf, chief executive, Innoviz

In Tel Aviv, we’ll hear from experts in the field as they discuss the technological marvels that are the driving force behind the transformation of mobility in the modern world.

Omer David Keilaf, the chief executive of Innoviz, comes to us with some significant recent wins under his company’s belt. The Innoviz LIDAR technology has been selected by BMW to power its Level 3 to Level 5 autonomous vehicle systems.

The company’s solid-state LiDAR sensor, available as a built-in device beginning next year, is much smaller than traditional LIDAR and is stationary.

Before founding Innoviz, Keilaf led the system and product definition efforts at the world’s first handheld molecular sensor for mobile devices with ConsumerPhysics. Previous roles include leading the system architecture and engineering teams at bTendo (acquired by ST Micro) and Anobit (acquired by Apple) .

Rani Wellingstein, chief executive, Oryx Vision

No less impressive is the work of fellow panelist Rani Wellingstein of Oryx Vision, whose company is developing its own novel LIDAR technology. Oryx’s LiDAR uses antennas in place of photodetectors to retrieve both range and velocity information for the points of light in its high-resolution scans of its surroundings. The company claims that its technology is a million times more sensitive than existing LiDAR systems, and is better able to deal with interference from sunlight, and from other LiDARs in operation on the road.

A serial entrepreneur, Wellingstein’s last company, Intucell, was sold to Cisco for $475 million in 2013. At Cisco, Wellingstein served as the vice president and business unit manager of Cisco’s self optimized networks business unit.

 

Israel is driving autonomous innovation and we’re excited to talk to the folks behind the wheel of the nation’s innovative companies. Join us. You have just 48 hours left to score the early-bird ticket price — 265 ILS. So buy your tickets now.

Cisco is acquiring business intelligence startup Accompany for $270M

Cisco just announced an agreement to acquire Accompany, which uses artificial intelligence to build databases of people and relationships at companies.

Founder and CEO Amy Chang has compared the product to a digital chief of staff or personal assistant, giving executives the context they need before conversations and meetings. Cisco plans to incorporate Accompany technology into its collaboration products, for example by introducing company and individual profiles into Webex meetings.

Cisco says it will pay $270 million in cash and stock in the deal.

The company probably didn’t have to search too hard to find Accompany, since Chang (who previously served as the head of product for Google’s ad measurement and reporting) has been on Cisco’s board of directors since October 2016. As part of the transaction, she’s resigning from the board, effective immediately.

In addition, Chang will be taking over the company’s Collaboration Technology Group. Rowan Trollope, who currently leads the collaboration group, is departing to become CEO at cloud software company Five9.

“Amy has proven to be an effective and innovative leader through her years as an entrepreneur, an engineer, and CEO, and I couldn’t be more pleased to have her and the Accompany team join Cisco,” said Cisco chairman and CEO Chuck Robbins in the announcement. “Together, we have a tremendous opportunity to further enhance AI and machine learning capabilities in our collaboration portfolio and continue to create amazing collaboration experiences for customers.”

According to Crunchbase, Accompany has raised around $40 million in funding from investors including CRV, Cowboy Ventures, Iconiq Capital and Ignition Partners.

Cisco also announced today that it’s selling off some of its NDS video assets.

ICOs like to move fast and break (lots of) things

Startup life is full of quick, lateral thinking. “Move fast and break things” is the mantra. However, with the rise of token sales – essentially vehicles for untested startups to raise millions in a few minutes – lots of stuff gets broken and little gets fixed.

Take BCT – the Blockchain Terminal – for example. This frothy project led by Bob Bonomo, a former hedge fund guy turned Blockchain guru, features some interesting breakages.

Yesterday at about 3pm Eastern Time the company’s FAQ – which has since been updated but is still hidden here – read something like this:

While this sort of techno greeking is fine if you’re sending mock-ups back and forth, the token sale had been running since April 1st, a fact that was baffling to me and another reporter. Was this an April Fool’s joke? No, because when I visited the sale’s Telegram room I found a group of happy buyers asking questions about their future tokens.

Ever the reporter, I asked if anyone had seen the terminals and a community manager sent me this:

Interesting… blank screens at a demo event. The other CM, quicker on the draw, sent this:

Fair enough. In fact, crypto needs a product like this to legitimize it with Wall Street. But clearly they were moving so fast that the wheels were falling off.

Finally I did the obvious thing: visit the white paper. There we find that the Terminal is being built in conjunction with FactSet, a venerable research company that has seen all the vicissitudes of financial data. In fact, the paper is a tour-de-force on par with the best of the white papers I’ve seen. But we also discover that the white paper is a draft.

In short, BCT wouldn’t pass the average human investor sniff test but is definitely well on the way to completing its token sale. This is a problem.

BCT is not alone. I’ve spoken to development houses working with founders who barely understand cryptocurrency let alone understand their own token sales. I’ve seen founders’ eyes light up like the Big Bad Wolf eyeing Porky Pig when they talk about all the capital they will unlock. And I spoke to a founder on stage who said he would be very careful with the $80 million they raised for a company designed to raise money for ICOs. Greed is clouding this market in ways that are at once dangerous and comical.

There is precedent for this. In the early days of the Internet and even the frothiest dot-com days you could see the avarice in the eyes of Pets.com and Cisco executives who knew that big money was just around the corner. And we can’t begrudge these founders their excitement. What founder wouldn’t want the sweet feeling of being fully funded for, we presume, the next decade?

I’ve been following token sales with great interest over the past few months for a few reasons. First, I understand the hype cycle. I’ve seen tactics used by token sellers used before by hardware sellers, most notably with flops like the Phantom gaming console and the Notion Ink Adam, and there is a stink that permeates projects that are, at best, half-baked.

I want token sales to thrive as a method to raise capital. I want small startups to be able to turn on a spigot previously available to the well-connected and well-heeled. But the exact opposite seems true. Bankers are moving into a technology space that they little understand while carpetbaggers – lawyers, PR folks, advisors – are working hard to extract cash out of these windfalls. In the end the token sale industry should formalize itself and become as boring as the VC industry. I just hope it survives long enough to get there.

Cisco commits $50 million to end homelessness in Silicon Valley

Homelessness in Santa Clara County has gotten worse, with the overall homeless population increasing 13 percent to 7,394 in 2017 over the course of two years. That puts Santa Clara’s homelessness crisis in the same ballpark as San Francisco’s, which has a homeless population of 7,499, according to a 2017 homeless census and survey. Santa Clara also has the third highest rate of chronic homelessness in the entire country.

Today, Cisco announced a $50 million donation to Destination: Home over the next five years. The idea is to help put an end to homelessness in Santa Clara County — an area of Northern California that is home to the tech industry’s Silicon Valley. This area consists of cities like Cupertino (home to Apple’s headquarters), Mountain View (home to Google/Alphabet), Palo Alto (home to Facebook), San Jose and Sunnyvale.

“We have said for a long time that it is up to all of us to end homelessness in our community,” Destination: Home CEO Jennifer Loving said in a statement. “Cisco has fully embraced that concept, and is stepping up in a big way to provide the type of critical private sector leadership and substantial funding that is necessary to address this crisis head on. We couldn’t be more thrilled or grateful to have Chuck Robbins and the Cisco team at the table.”

Cisco has donated an initial $20 million chunk to Destination: Home through its Cisco Fund. The plan is for this money to invigorate Destination: Home’s efforts to achieve its five-year plan to end homelessness, which entails disrupting and transforming homeless response systems, building new housing opportunities and deploying client-centered solutions.

Since implementing the plan in 2015, Santa Clara County has been able to permanently house 5,154 people, according to Destination: Home’s March 2018 progress report.

Click to enlarge

“I believe that this commitment is a smart, long-term investment in the work that Destination: Home does, allowing them to buy land and build additional housing, pioneer technology solutions around homelessness, enhance data collection capabilities, and test promising social service intervention model,” Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins (pictured above) wrote in a blog post. “This is also an investment in the place that has been so good to us as a company – the place where so many of us are fortunate not just to work, but to have a home.”

As tech companies grapple with their roles in the displacement of non-tech workers, it’s promising to see some of them try to tackle the problems they helped exacerbate. It’s worth noting Cisco is not the only tech company putting money behind social good efforts. In October, Google committed $1 billion in grants to train U.S. workers for jobs in the high-tech industry.

That mega-vulnerability Cisco dropped is now under exploit

Hackers are actively trying to exploit a high-severity vulnerability in widely used Cisco networking software that can give complete control over protected networks and access to all traffic passing over them, the company has warned.

When Cisco officials disclosed the bug last week in a range of Adaptive Security Appliance products, they said they had no evidence anyone was actively exploiting it. Earlier this week, the officials updated their advisory to indicate that was no longer the case.

“The Cisco Product Security Incident Response Team (PSIRT) is aware of public knowledge of the vulnerability that is described in this advisory,” the officials wrote. “Cisco PSIRT is aware of attempted malicious use of the vulnerability described in this advisory.”

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Businesses with Apple and Cisco products may now pay less for cybersecurity insurance

 Apple and Cisco announced this morning a new deal with insurer Allianz that will allow businesses with their technology products to receive better terms on their cyber insurance coverage, including lower deductibles – or even no deductibles, in some cases. Allianz said it made the decision to offer these better terms after evaluating the technical foundation of Apple and… Read More

Apple Partners With Cisco and Others to Make Businesses ‘More Resilient’ With Cyber Risk Management Solution

Apple today announced a new cyber risk management solution aimed at the enterprise market and launching with partners Cisco, Aon, and Allianz. Each company is adding their own expertise into the solution, including cyber resilience evaluation services from Aon, the “most secure” technology from Apple and Cisco, and options for enhanced cyber insurance coverage from Allianz.



The goal is said to help businesses better manage and protect themselves from the risk of cyber attacks, like ransomware and other malware-related threats. In the announcement, Apple said that the “low adoption” of cyber insurance amid an increased risk of attacks led to the new partnership, which ultimately aims to help businesses become “more resilient” to these threats.



Businesses taking part in the solution will potentially qualify for lower, “or even no,” deductibles in some cases, as well as gain access to “market leading” policy coverage terms. The key elements of the solution include:

Cyber Resilience Evaluation: Aon cyber security professionals will assess interested customers’ cyber security posture and recommend ways to help improve their cyber security defenses.

Cyber Insurance: Customers using Cisco Ransomware Defense, and/or qualified Apple products can be eligible for the Allianz-developed enhanced cyber insurance offering, acknowledging the superior level of security afforded to businesses by Cisco and Apple technology.

Incident Response Services: Organizations will have access to Cisco and Aon’s Incident Response teams in the event of a malware attack.

Apple CEO Tim Cook said that the partnership will help make cyber insurance “more accessible” for the businesses that partake in the solution. In total, Apple’s iPhone, iPad, and Mac devices are said to be the tools supported under the new insurance.

“The choice of technology providers plays a critical role in any company’s defense against cyber attacks. That’s why, from the beginning, Apple has built products from the ground up with security in mind, and one of the many reasons why businesses around the world are choosing our products to power their enterprise,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO.

“iPhone, iPad and Mac are the best tools for work, offering the world’s best user experience and the strongest security. We’re thrilled that insurance industry leaders recognize that Apple products provide superior cyber protection, and that we have the opportunity to help make enhanced cyber insurance more accessible to our customers.”

Cisco has launched a new website with more information about the cyber risk solution. For business interested, Apple said that the solution is available starting today.

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