Bose acquires Andrew Mason’s walking tour startup, Detour

Groupon founder Andrew Mason’s audio tour startup Detour has been sold to Bose. The acquisition, which involves only the software and tour content – not the team – was quietly announced on Detour’s blog a few days ago, followed by an email to customers. Bose, initially, seems like an unlikely acquirer for an app designed to help people discover a city through narrated walking tours. But its interest in the product has to do with its upcoming AR platform, which involves audio experiences delivered through a pair of sensor-laden glasses.

Bose is now “actively looking for a partner to host the Detour content,” and make it available to its customers, including those on Bose AR.  The Detour app itself will soon shut down.

Mason says he may help Bose a bit in the process of finding that third party, but his focus is on his new company, Descript.

Detour had launched a few years ago, and was entirely self-funded by Mason. Its goal was to offer tourists and locals alike a way to discover a city’s hidden gems, like its off-the-beaten-track shops and alleys – things other tours would overlook. The service arrived to the public with tours in San Francisco starting in 2015, before later expanding to other markets, including international destinations, all available as in-app purchases.

The app, at the time of sale, had around 120 available tours.

A tour of the Marina’s sweets shops in Detour, narrated by a German philosopher

As part of the creation of its tours, Detour had also developed some interesting technology – like a tool to transcribe audio that lets you edit the audio file by editing the written transcription, and a way to add music and sound to a narrative by adding it to the transcription.

This technology has now been spun off as a new startup, Descript. The Detour team, including Mason, have been working on Descript for around six months now. Descript, which aims to make editing sound files as easy as editing a Word document, launched in December with $5 million in funding from Andreessen Horowitz.

Given Mason’s current focus, it’s not surprising that Detour was shutting down. But it is a little surprising it found an acquirer.

The app was never able to gain a sizable following on the scale of other travel guides. (It had been ranking in the 400’s to 700’s in the App Store’s “Travel” category as of late – meaning, practically invisible.) However, its tours were unique and interesting and had been designed with features others at the time lacked – like location awareness or the ability to sync with multiple people in a group, for example.

The Detour app will remain available until May 31, 2018, and all tours will be free through then. Afterwards, the app will be removed from the App Store.

“Thank you to the producers, engineers, designers, and storytellers that made Detour what it is over the last four years. I’m excited to see where Bose takes it,” wrote Mason, on Detour’s blog.

Pitchbook claims Detour had raised funding, but Mason says that’s incorrect.

“Detour is self-funded (by me) and we never disclosed how much,” he says. But he did confirm that Mihir Shah, a friend, had invested a “some token number of thousands of dollars in the very beginning,” which is why the investment is listed on Shah’s LinkedIn.

Deal terms were not available, but it was likely a small exit.

It’s unclear when Detour would arrive on Bose AR, as Bose is still in the process of finding a third party to continue with Detour, and hasn’t yet shipped test builds of its AR glasses to developers.

Andreessen Horowitz is planning to launch a dedicated crypto fund

The SEC may be firing off subpoenas to crypto investment funds and ICO projects left, right and center — apparently over 80 — but that isn’t stopping Andreessen Horowitz, the influential Silicon Valley firm known as A16z, from starting its own crypto-based fund.

The rumor has been going around for a while — not a huge surprise since the firm has invested in the likes of Coinbase, Earn.com and CryptoKitties and co-founder Marc Andreessen (pic above) is a big crypto advocate — but it now appears there is genuine substance to it. Recode spotted a couple of A16z job vacancies that seem to confirm that the wheels are in motion.

One for a ‘Finance and Operations Manager, Crypto Assets‘ and another for a ‘Legal Counsel, Crypto Assets‘ explicitly detail that the firm is planning “a separately managed fund focusing on crypto assets.” The legal role itself includes “compliance with appropriate SEC regulations,” and in particular “managing the firm’s/fund compliance with all SEC/other regulations,” while the operations manager is tasked with the challenging job of valuing crypto assets among other responsibilities.

Some of the responsibilities A16z has for its legal counsel job role

A number of traditional VC funds have invested in crypto companies and, in a few cases, joined initial coin offerings (ICOs), but there hasn’t been a stampede. The more prolific crypto investors have been dedicated funds like Pantera Capital, Polychain Capital and Sparkchain Capital. Those firms hold crypto assets — most of which is in Ethereum — in order to invest and divest in company tokens and cryptocurrencies as part of ICOs or just generally as retail investors do.

Despite the potential for big gains and the ability to liquidate an investment at any time, crypto is in a legal grey area and that has put many U.S. investors off, even if some have dabbled on the side through personal investments. If it goes ahead, A16z’s fund might blaze a trail for others to follow.

Disclosure: The author owns a small amount of cryptocurrency. Enough to gain an understanding, not enough to change a life.

Pivotal CEO talks IPO and balancing life in Dell family of companies

Pivotal has kind of a strange role for a company. On one hand its part of the EMC federation companies that Dell acquired in 2016 for a cool $67 billion, but it’s also an independently operated entity within that broader Dell family of companies — and that has to be a fine line to walk.

Whatever the challenges, the company went public yesterday and joined VMware as a  separately traded company within Dell. CEO Rob Mee says the company took the step of IPOing because it wanted additional capital.

“I think we can definitely use the capital to invest in marketing and R&D. The wider technology ecosystem is moving quickly. It does take additional investment to keep up,” Mee told TechCrunch just a few hours after his company rang the bell at the New York Stock Exchange.

As for that relationship of being a Dell company, he said that Michael Dell let him know early on after the EMC acquisition that he understood the company’s position. “From the time Dell acquired EMC, Michael was clear with me: You run the company. I’m just here to help. Dell is our largest shareholder, but we run independently. There have been opportunities to test that [since the acquisition] and it has held true,” Mee said.

Mee says that independence is essential because Pivotal has to remain technology-agnostic and it can’t favor Dell products and services over that mission. “It’s necessary because our core product is a cloud-agnostic platform. Our core value proposition is independence from any provider — and Dell and VMware are infrastructure providers,” he said.

That said, Mee also can play both sides because he can build products and services that do align with Dell and VMware offerings. “Certainly the companies inside the Dell family are customers of ours. Michael Dell has encouraged the IT group to adopt our methods and they are doing so,” he said. They have also started working more closely with VMware, announcing a container partnership last year.

Photo: Ron Miller

Overall though he sees his company’s mission in much broader terms, doing nothing less than helping the world’s largest companies transform their organizations. “Our mission is to transform how the world builds software. We are focused on the largest organizations in the world. What is a tailwind for us is that the reality is these large companies are at a tipping point of adopting how they digitize and develop software for strategic advantage,” Mee said.

The stock closed up 5 percent last night, but Mee says this isn’t about a single day. “We do very much focus on the long term. We have been executing to a quarterly cadence and have behaved like a public company inside Pivotal [even before the IPO]. We know how to do that while keeping an eye on the long term,” he said.

Pivotal Software closed up 5% following IPO, raised $555 million

Stock market investors showed lukewarm enthusiasm for Pivotal Software’s debut on Friday. After pricing the IPO at $15, the company closed the day at $15.73.

Although it didn’t “pop” for new investors, pricing at the midpoint of its proposed range allowed Pivotal to raise $555 million. Its public company market cap exceeded $3 billion.

The enterprise cloud computing company has been majority-owned by Dell, which came about after its merger with EMC in 2016. It was spun off from Dell, EMC and VMware in April 2013.

After that, it raised $1.7 billion in funding from Microsoft, Ford and General Electric.

Here’s how it describes its business in the S-1 filing:

Pivotal looks to “provide a leading cloud-native platform that makes software development and IT operations a strategic advantage for our customers. Our cloud-native platform, Pivotal  Cloud Foundry (‘PCF’), accelerates and streamlines software development by reducing the complexity of building, deploying and operating new cloud-native applications and modernizing legacy applications.”

According to the filing, Pivotal brought in $509.4 million in revenue for its fiscal year ending in February. This is up from $416.3 million in revenue for 2017 and $280.9 million in revenue the year before.

The company is still losing a lot of money, however. Losses for fiscal 2018 stood at $163.5 million, improved from the than the negative $232.5 million seen in 2017 and $282.5 million in 2016.

“We have incurred substantial losses and may not be able to generate sufficient revenue to achieve and sustain profitability,” the company warned in the requisite “risk factors” section of its IPO filing.

Pivotal also acknowledged that it faces competition from “legacy application infrastructure and middleware form vendors” like IBM and Oracle. The company says it additionally competes with “open-source based offerings supported by vendors” like RedHat. Pivotal also faces challenges from SAP Cloud Platform, Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure.

The company says it believes it will stand out from the pack because of its strong security and easy-to-use platform. Pivotal also claims to have strong brand awareness and a good reputation. It has 118 U.S. patents and 73 pending and is betting that it will remain innovative.

Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs served as lead underwriters. Davis Polk and Fenwick & West worked as counsel.

The company listed on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker “PVTL.”

It has been an active spring for tech IPOs, after a slow winter. Dropbox, Spotify and Zuora are amongst the companies that have gone public in recent weeks. DocuSign, Smartsheet, Carbon Black and Pluralsight are all expected to debut within the next month.

Square acquires corporate catering startup Zesty

Square has acquired elements of corporate catering startup Zesty . Square, which already owns on-demand food delivery service Caviar, plans to use Zesty’s assets to strengthen Caviar’s corporate ordering business, Caviar for Teams.

Neither company disclosed financial terms of the deal, but the plan is for Caviar and Zesty to operate independently in the short term.

“Restaurants turn to Caviar to reach more diners and grow their businesses,” Square Caviar Lead Gokul Rajaram said in a press release. “Expanding our corporate catering product with Zesty enables us to offer our restaurant partners another way to boost sales through higher-margin, large-format catering orders,” said Gokul Rajaram, Caviar Lead at Square. “Caviar is thriving, and we’re excited to supercharge its success with Zesty and double down on an area with great opportunity to drive more growth for our business.”

Since its acquisition of Caviar in 2014, Square has acquired OrderAhead’s pickup business to launch Caviar Pickup and Entrees On-Trays to expand its footprint in the Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas area.

Zesty currently partners with about 150 restaurants in San Francisco, which is the only operate in which it operates. Some of Zesty’s customers include Snap, Splunk and TechCrunch. Zesty, which first launched in 2013 under a different name, had previously raised $20.7 million in venture funding.

“Adding Zesty’s offerings, like sophisticated menu-planning tools and algorithms, white-glove catering services, and nutrition and allergen customization, will help us expand our catering offering and even better serve companies of all sizes,” the Caviar team wrote on Medium. “Plus, it provides our restaurant partners with more opportunities to reach new corporate customers.”

Genetics testing startup Prenetics buys UK’s DNAFit to move into consumer services

Prenetics, a Hong Kong-based startup that offers genetic testing services for patients, is expanding outside of Asia and into the consumer space after it acquired London-based company DNAFit.

The deal — which a source told TechCrunch is worth $10 million — not only sees Prenetics enter new geographies, but also expand the scope of its services. Prenetics, which includes Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba among its backers, works directly with insurance firms and physicians who use its testing service for their customers and patients, but DNAFit goes straight to consumers themselves.

Five-year-old DNAFit sells a test that profiles an individual’s DNA to help them to figure out the fitness and nutrition setup that is best suited to them. DNAFit’s kits — which cost up to £249 ($350) and take 10 days for results — are sold online and via employee packages.

The company said it has sold its product to “several hundred thousand” people. High-profile backers include Olympic gold medal-winning British athlete Greg Rutherford, who said the results helped him make “clear, informed decisions” on his training regime.

Prenetics has been considering global expansion options for some time, and this acquisition gets its foot in the door in new markets while also tackling the consumer health market, too.

“We definitely plan on investing and growing our reach in Europe for the DNAFit business. In addition, Prenetics International will be focused on a B2B with insurers and for corporates,” Prenetics CEO Danny Yeung told TechCrunch via email.

“At the same time, DNAFit is a partner for [fitness company] Helix in the U.S., thus we plan on investing further on customer acquisition and growing our reach in the U.S.,” Yeung added. “We are extremely excited at the potential to bring DNA testing to a global market, making an impact on the lives of many.”

Also in the U.S., an offer for 23andMe customers allows them to use their results and pay $79 for DNAFit.

The deal sees DNAFit CEO Avi Lasarow becomes CEO of Prenetics International, a newly formed business unit, with Yeung CEO of parent company Prenetics Group. DNAFit itself will continue to run under its existing brand, both companies confirmed.

This marks the first piece of acquisition for Prenetics, which last year closed a $40 million Series B funding round led by Beyond Ventures and Alibaba Hong Kong Entrepreneurs Fund. Yeung told us at the time that a portion of that capital would be reserved for meaningful acquisitions as the startup aims to go beyond its early focus on China, Hong Kong and Southeast Asia. At the time of that funding, which happened in October, Yeung said Prenetics had processed 200,000 DNA samples.

Prenetics started out as ‘Multigene’ in 2009 when it span out from Hong Kong’s City University. Yeung joined the firm as CEO in 2014, after leaving Groupon following its acquisition of his Hong Kong startup uBuyiBuy, and it has been in startup mode since then. Prenetics has raised over $52 million from investors which, aside from Alibaba, include 500 Startups, Venturra Capital and Chinese insurance giant Ping An.

Another day, another $50 million ICO exit scam

Savedroid, a German company that purportedly raised $50 million in ICO and direct funding, has exited with a bang. The site is currently displaying the above image and the founder — one Dr. Yassin Hankir — has posted a tweet thanking investors and saying “Over and out.”

A reverse image search found Hankir’s photo on this page for Founder Institute, and he has pitched his product at multiple events, including this one in German:

Savedroid was originally supposed to use AI to manage user investments and promised a crypto-backed credit card, a claim that CCN notes is popular with scam ICOs. It ran for a number of months and was clearly well-managed as the group was able to open an office and appear at multiple events.

One Reddit user visit SaveDroid’s offices and recorded this desolate scene:

Still another wrote: “The CEO on their twitter feed posted this several times ‘contribute now to participate in our #Airdrop and become a #Crypto Millionaire.’ Not about technology, its all about GIVE US MONEY AND WE WILL MAKE YOU A MILLIONAIRE. Anyone who fell for this despite all the warning signs can blame no one but themselves.”

The beer Hankir is holding in that image is Egyptian, and one can assume that the backdrop is easily recognizable and designed to throw pursuers off the trail… for good reason.

Voicera scoops up AI note-taking app Wrappup

Voicera wants to be the company that eliminates the need for human note taking once and for all. Their vision is an AI-driven voice recognition system that not only takes notes, but identifies speakers and summarizes key points and action items. Today, the company announced it had acquired a similar startup, Wrappup, an AI-fueled note taking app that fits in nicely with that vision.

The Wrappup team is joining Voicera immediately. Terms were not disclosed.

Voicera CEO Omar Tawakol certainly saw the fit. “Both companies approached the problem with meetings in synergistic ways. Wrappup’s mobile-first, in-person meeting product complements and extends Voicera’s initial focus on conference calls,” he said in a statement.

Wrappup’s special strength it turns out it is identifying the salient points in a meeting in a mobile context. To that end, the company also announced the launch of a new mobile app. Chances are this combining of these two companies has been in the works for some time, and is just being made official today.

Photo: Voicera

Wrappup CEO Rami Salman says joining forces with Voicera creates a more compelling and powerful solution for customers. “Our combined tech stack and AI algorithms more accurately identify and summarize important moments from all your meetings, regardless of where they are held,” he said in a statement.

Voicera’s voice recognition tool is a cloud service called Eva. It is designed to remove the task of note taking from the meeting experience. The company got a $13.5 million Series A last month from some big-time investors including e.ventures, Battery Ventures, GGV Capital and Greycroft. They also got some attention from enterprise corporate venture investors including GV (the investment firm affiliated with Google), Microsoft Ventures, Salesforce Ventures and Workday Ventures. The level of these investors shows the company is attacking a real pain point for meeting attendees.

Wrappup is based in Dubai and was founded in 2015. Its raised $800,000 to date. It works with existing meeting tools including GoToMeeting from Citrix, WebEx from Cisco, UberConference and Zoom.