TYLT Ventures would like to congratulate our portfolio company VIDA, and their founder and CEO Umaimah Mendhro, for being featured in a phenomenal piece on Gentry! Check out her incredible story and the full article at the link below: https://gentry.goldenstate.is/artistic-impression/
Congrats to the entire team at TODAY TIX on their amazing exit!
Read more about their path to success:
TodayTix raises $73M:
TodayTix Announces $9 Million Series B Funding Co-Led By Walden Venture Capital and TYLT Ventures:
Congrats to our portfolio company CUSTOM INK on the sale to PE Firm Great Hill!
We are THRILLED to announce that VIDA, an @TYLTVentures portfolio company that offers original, high-quality apparel products designed by artists and designers around the world, was recently ACQUIRED by Cimpress. Congrats to the @shopVIDA team!
Tylt Ventures is proud to have supported Flexport since their Seed round, and congratulates them on their most recent success in achieving an $800 Million valuation.
Flexport handles the boring logistics of a trillion-dollar business: the transport of shipping containers around the world. Because the work of freight forwarding seemed so bland, it was long ignored by the tech world. But digitizing the paperwork let Flexport speed up shipping so clients keep less inventory on hand while never running out.
When you apply that optimization to how every container full of electronics, clothes or food gets from factory to store, Flexport keeps getting smarter as the value piles up. That’s why just a year after raising $65 million at a valuation of $365 million, TechCrunch has learned Flexport has just closed a huge new round of funding, according to five sources.
Initially, Flexport was receiving offers valuing it at over $1 billion, but turned those down in favor of a more manageable valuation. Multiple sources now confirm that the startup has completed a $110 million Series C at an $800 million pre-money valuation. The round is mostly filled with existing investors, including DST. Flexport declined to comment for this story.
What we’ve kept hearing is that Flexport co-founder Ryan Petersen is a favorite amongst investors. “He’s a machine,” said one of TechCrunch’s sources. After growing up buying scooters from China and fencing them online, he co-founded ImportGenius to scan and sell shipping manifest data about imports. That led him to realize how antiquated freight forwarding was, paving the way for Flexport’s start in 2013.
“They’re hiring like crazy,” one source said. Flexport appears to be trying to scale up fast enough to compete with entrenched giants in the shipping space, like FedEx, DHL and Expeditors, that can’t adapt to new technology as quickly. Meanwhile, it’s looking to box out upstart competitors picking away at parts of the freight forwarding equation, including Freightos, Haven and Fleet.
Soon after TechCrunch wrote a story about the company being “The unsexiest trillion-dollar startup,” we started receiving aggressive pitches from these competitors. Fusion’s Alexis Madrigal shined a light on how interesting the business could be with his podcast series Containers, which was sponsored by Flexport. And Flexport raised its $65 million Series B last September that brought it to $94 million in total funding. A year later, its value has more than doubled.
Now the company has over 400 employees in seven offices. It earns roughly 15 percent of the average $2,000 it costs to move a shipping container around the world, compared to 25 percent that its competitors charge. Petersen told Forbes he expects revenue of $500 million this year, yet that still makes Flexport an underdog. “There are 25 freight forwarders that each do more than $1 billion in revenue a year,” he said. “None of them was founded after Netscape.”
That’s Flexport’s advantage. Tracking everything with paper leads its older competitors to see clients individually. Flexport wholistically analyzes all its data to optimize shipping routes and simplify relationships with ports, truck drivers and anyone else that touches a container. That’s allowed it to shave off five days of travel time for moving less than a container full of goods.
Now it’s opening its own “cross docks” — warehouses where it can temporarily store clients’ goods until it can batch their transport with other shipments going to the same place. That way it’s always moving full containers with maximum efficiency. Flexport already has cross docks in Hong Kong and LA, but Petersen foresees having a global network.
The new capital could help Flexport pay for transitioning from a pure-play software company merely handling routing logistics to being an actual freight company. This shift from bits to atoms doesn’t come cheap, but with plenty of revenue waiting to be stolen from sluggish competitors, it’s having no problem finding the capital.
TechCrunch has heard that many of Flexport’s existing investors, which number at least 57, were shut out of the new round despite being interested. And while investors were happily offering it a valuation of $1 billion or more, Petersen didn’t want to get in over his head and risk a down-round later if the market stumbled.
The obvious, glamorous verticals of tech have been overrun with startups. Everyone seems to have a photo-sharing app or some “revolutionary” artificial intelligence play. There’s an old adage that the best startup ideas are often at the intersection of “seems like a bad idea” and “is a good idea,” as Peter Thiel, the leader of Flexport investor Founders Fund, has said.
But as the mainstream embraces startup culture and aspiring founders flood Silicon Valley, there seems to be no shortage of people willing to chase things that seem like a bad idea. Perhaps an addendum to the startup seeker’s mantra should be “Seems bad and boring.” That’s where there are still gold mines untapped.
It never ceases to amaze me how entrepreneurs discover innovative ways to create new marketplaces or improve upon existing ones. Take underwear for instance. Everyone wears them (or at least most), so you’d think that all of the bases would be covered by now.
But one bad underwear shopping experience for Jonathan Shokrian was the catalyst for him to launch MeUndies, a lifestyle brand who’s ethos is to produce the world’s most comfortable and sustainable underwear with a simple and fun shopping experience through their online platform.
Shokrian tells me, “Before launching MeUndies, I was working in commercial real estate and traveling a lot. I didn’t have enough underwear for a trip I was going on so I went to the department store to pick up a few pairs, but the whole shopping experience was uncomfortable and inconvenient. I was overpaying for what was deemed “premium” underwear that wasn’t even comfortable. The a-ha moment for MeUndies came when I realized this disconnect with brand and product and saw the opportunity to provide men and women with a transparently made, better quality product, sold conveniently”.
In 2011, at the age of 25 with $400,000 of start-up funds raised from friends, family, and angel investors, Shokrian set out on a mission to disrupt the way underwear is manufactured and purchased.
On track to sell 5 million units in 2017, Shokrian has tapped into a clearly underserved market. “Since launching MeUndies nearly five years ago,” he says, “Our commitment to providing a best in class product with a world class e-commerce experience has remained the same. We’ve shipped nearly 3 million pairs of undies, and we’re constantly looking for new ways to exceed our customers’ expectations.”
One area where MeUndies squarely delivers is on comfort. The fabric is luxuriously soft on your skin. Shokrian tells me, “From the start, we were in search of a premium fabric that would hold up and that was unique. When we handed out our first pair of (beechwood) underwear it was so soft people were literally rubbing it against their faces. The Micro-Modal fabric that’s made from beechwood trees is three times softer than cotton, shrink resistant, moisture wicking, and holds color better than cotton. It was an easy choice.” Another smart design choice made by Shokrian and his team is the waistbands. The material doesn’t cut into your skin (or your figure) and lays flat against the contours of your body.
MeUndies has also resonated with consumers with their focus on responsible manufacturing from start to finish. MeUndies are made from a carbon-neutral process that converts sustainably harvested beechwood pulp into fibers while simultaneously capturing excess chemicals and manufactured in some of the finest facilities in Los Angeles, Sri Lanka, and Turkey. Shokrian credits Patagonia founder, Yvon Choinard for paving the way for companies like his to design high performance apparel utilizing sustainable practices. “MeUndies are good for the earth and comfy on the bum,” jokes Shokrian.
MeUndies offers a wide variety of styles for both men and womenranging from classic colors to playful prints (like the Keith Haring Collection). The company also has expanded into loungewear with a seasonal French terry collection available now, and has some exciting new product launches lined up for 2017 and beyond. Shokrian tells me, “We chose classic cuts that are timeless to start with. We don’t want customers to feel overwhelmed with dozens of options. We’re using the latest technology and stitching to ensure our products are the highest quality so it feels good each time a customer puts them on.”
In addition to customers’ ability to order MeUndies one pair at a time or in convenience packs, the company just launched a new subscription model with three curated prints and colors (Classic, Bold & Adventurous) to make purchasing undergarments even easier and more convenient, especially for those who can get a little complacent in this area.
“The subscription model works really well for underwear because people tend to have more underwear than any other article of clothing. It’s something that we replenish frequently, though many of us avoid this due to the unenjoyable shopping experience. We also found that people didn’t have a strong brand affinity with any underwear brands and saw a huge opportunity for disruption,” shares Shokrian.
Subscribers are located in all 50 states and in 37 countries worldwide and account for roughly 25% of MeUndies’ overall business, which has grown by 188% over the past year. Shokrian tells me, “Transparency with our program has been the key to our success. Our messaging is upfront and clear and there are no confusing terms or contracts. We’ve made an opt-in program that allows customers the flexibility to skip, cancel, or change their plan directly online—no gimmicks.” You can keep your drawers fresh with new MeUndies and ditch the old ones as needed—genius.
On what he has learned on his journey to becoming the king of the most comfortable underwear in the world Shokrian tells me, “Throughout this entire process, I’ve learned the importance of humility and to never become complacent. It’s important to maintain a level head, put your business and customers first, and leave your ego at the door.”
Meggen Taylor , CONTRIBUTOR
NEW YORK—Smart Vision Labs is expanding its geographic reach into California through a new partnership with retailer Devlyn Optical, a multinational optical retailer with over 880 retail locations in Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador and the U.S.
Devlyn is rolling out a pilot program with Smart Vision Labs at three locations in the Los Angeles area where they will offer the company’s Smart Vision Exams. Smart Vision Exams pairs mobile autorefraction technology with a proprietary telemedicine platform that allows doctors to analyze vision test results and other data remotely. The doctor can write a digital eyeglass prescription for a patient or make a recommendation for a full eye health exam when appropriate.
“We are very excited to partner with Smart Vision Labs in this pilot program,” said Jesse W. Devlyn Jr., CEO of Devlyn Optical. “Their telemedicine solution is not only fast and easy to use but also provides an extremely reliable measurement of a person's refractive error and prescription for glasses and contact lenses. With Smart Vision labs, our patients will no longer have to wait to see an optometrist to update their current eyeglasses prescription. This will allow us to provide the ultimate convenience in vision care while driving incremental revenue for our stores.”
The three Devlyn stores participating in the pilot program are located in Walnut Park, Chino and Panorama City, California.
Yaopeng Zhou, co-founder and CEO of Smart Vision Labs, believes Devlyn Optical is the ideal partner to launch the company’s expansion into the Los Angeles market. “They have a great brand and optical network which is ready to evolve with our technology,” said Zhou. “They understand the value we offer to their business and validated the high quality of our prescriptions. We look forward to serving the Los Angeles community and providing easy access to vision care alongside Devlyn.”
He added that Smart Vision Labs’ telemedicine platform has the ability to scale with Devlyn’s needs to support their vision testing programs along with reducing their cost of operations.
Smart Vision Labs’ entry into the Los Angeles market follows its recent launch in New York City, where it is based. To date, the company has installed Smart Vision Exam systems in 24 optical retail stores located throughout the city.
Smart Vision Exams uses the same technology developed for LASIK to capture how light travels back and forth through a person’s eye. The data is then sent to a remote network of ophthalmologists who review the results and when necessary, provide updated eyeglass prescriptions. The vision test takes about five minutes and doesn’t require customers to wait to see an optometrist for an eyeglasses prescription.
TYLT Honored to Sponsor Event Paying Tribute to Those Who Have Dedicated Their Lives to Peace and Ending Violent Extremism
WORLD LEADERS, CULTURAL ICONS AND NGOS GATHER TO HONOR HEROES OF THE GLOBAL CAMPAIGN AGAINST VIOLENT EXTREMISM
New York, NY: Thursday, 23 September, 2016 -- A Tribute Ceremony to honor ten individuals and groups for their extraordinary contributions to the global campaign against violent extremism was held last night, September 22, at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
The event, emceed by CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, and co-hosted by a group of seven women leaders, includingSara Bloomfield, Director of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum; Irina Bokova, Director General of The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO); Ambassador Esther Coopersmith, UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador; Meera Ghandi, Founder and CEO, The Giving Back Foundation; Francine LeFrak of the Harvard Women’s Leadership Board; Deborah Lehr, Chairman and Co-founder of The Antiquities Coalition, and Catherine Reynolds, Founder and CEO of the Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation.
The event included a posthumous tribute to Elie Wiesel by Ambassador Ronald Lauder in the presence of Marion Wiesel. Other speakers and dignitaries present included President Plevneliev of Bulgaria; President Nishani of Albania; Daniel H. Weiss, President of The Metropolitan Museum of Art and his predecessor, Emily Rafferty, President Emerita of The Metropolitan Museum of Art; and jazz legend Herbie Hancock.
The important contribution of religious leaders to peace and intercultural harmony was recognized in a tribute to three outstanding leaders: Rabbi Arthur Schneier, Founder and President of the Appeal of Conscience Foundation; Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Secretary of State of the Holy See (represented by Archbishop Bernardito Auza, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations); and Dr. Ali Goma’a, Grand Mufti Emeritus of Egypt, whose special envoy Dr. Waleed El-Ansary addressed the gathering on his behalf.
The Heroes whose contribution to the global campaign to prevent and overcome violent extremism was celebrated at this event were:
Abdihafid Yussef Abdi (Kenya), for his courageous and innovative work as a co-founder of Teachers Against Violent Extremism, a network of educators fighting radicalization in Kenya.
Nicholas Kristof (USA), New York Times columnist, for his steady focus on the root causes and cultural and political ramifications of violent extremism.
Turki Al-Dakhil (Saudi Arabia), Director General of Al-Arabiya TV, for his outspoken advocacy of tolerance, freedom of the press, the rights of minorities and women in the Gulf region.
A team of students at the Rochester Institute of Technology (USA), who won the Peer-to-Peer Challenging Extremism Initiative award organized by the State Department, for their innovative approach to countering hate speech on the internet.
Nadia Murad (Iraq), a Yazidi woman who survived the massacre of her family and sexual enslavement by ISIS, for her valorous exposure of atrocities committed by terrorists against her people.
Hafsat Mohammed (Nigeria), a former radio journalist turned civil society activist, for her resilient campaign against religious intolerance in Nigerian schools and for leading a grass root multi-faith effort to denounce Boko Haram.
Serge and Beate Klarsfeld (France and Germany), for their lifetime dedication to expose and bring to justice Nazi war criminals, and their tireless efforts to use the lessons of history to denounce racism and bigotry.
Emanuel Jal (South Sudan), musician, actor, former child soldier, and political activist, for his engagement to bring peace and reconciliation to his people through music and art.
Li Yongjun (China), for his innovative leadership in preserving and promoting intangible cultural heritage in China and around the world.
This event was made possible in part through the generous support of the French telecom company Orange and the consumer products company Tylt.
For photos and a video of the event, click HERE.
VNTANA COLLABORATES WITH MICROSOFT, INTRODUCES THE HOLLAGRAM: THE FIRST INTERACTIVE AND SOCIAL MEDIA INTEGRATED HOLOGRAM SYSTEM
The HOLLAGRAM Combines Real-Time Holographic Video Capture With Interactive Gesture Control, Allowing Consumers To Have An Augmented Reality Experience Without Wearables
LOS ANGELES, CA – May 18, 2016 — VNTANA, the augmented reality company that builds the only interactive and scalable hologram systems, launched the HOLLAGRAM today, the first interactive hologram system with social media integration and data collection capabilities. The HOLLAGRAM combines Microsoft technology with VNTANA’s hardware and software platform, introducing an advanced social augmented reality experience without wearables.
The HOLLAGRAM creates a realistic holographic experience that places the digital in the real world. Consumers stand in front of VNTANA’s HOLLAGRAM and immediately see their own hologram LIVE on the display. Using gesture control, they can interact directly with holographic objects, such as a celebrity, product or any other object rendered in the digital space simply by moving their hands in front of the display. Immediately after the experience, users receive a branded email with a GIF, video or photo of the experience that they can share on social media.
The new scalable systems range in size from 32 inches up to 15 feet, and use standalone hardware so everyone can see it. The HOLLAGRAMprovides a group experience that can be shared and installed in venues ranging from sport stadiums to conferences to classrooms.
Core features include:
• Interactive Software: Real-time holographic video capture with interactive gesture control
• Social Media Integration: System captures a picture, video or GIF of the user that can be immediately shared on all major social media platforms
• Data Collection: Collects voluntary and passive data from user (captures email contacts, number of impressions, etc.)
“We built the HOLLAGRAM in response to consumers proven social behavior and expectations. User-generated content has become so powerful. It is more likely to be reposted, shared and people trust it more,” said Ashley Crowder, Co-Founder and CEO of VNTANA. “Technology is moving towards extreme personalization that will help consumers and brands improve future experiences.”
VNTANA was founded in 2012 with the goal of allowing people to be in multiple places at the same time. Microsoft’s strong entrepreneurial ecosystem played an essential role in the development of the HOLLAGRAM. In 2013, after hacking on the Microsoft Kinect, VNTANA became a part of the Microsoft Early Developer and Microsoft BizSpark programs and gained access to Azure, Microsoft’s cloud platform, and Visual Studio developer tools. These provided core capabilities for the HOLLAGRAM’s data collection needs and social media integration. “Microsoft has been a huge part of our success, both as a partner and now as a client,” added Crowder. “Their technology provided us the tools to build the next generation of our products.”
Empowering startups like VNTANA is a main driver for Microsoft. “We are always looking for startups and entrepreneurs whose vision is built around innovation of our technology,” said Larry Orecklin, Vice President, Developer Experience and Chief Evangelist of Microsoft. “VNTANA is a story of a startup that had the vision, the innovation, the passion, and we are thrilled to have partnered with them and excited to see what the future looks like for holograms.”
VNTANA’s interactive hologram technologies are applicable globally and across multiple industries including advertising, retail, business communications, sports, automotive, education, healthcare and entertainment. VNTANA has been used by many Fortune 500 brands including Pepsi, Microsoft, Mercedes-Benz, NBC, Virgin, DJI and others.
VNTANA is the leader in social augmented reality; creating sharable experiences through its interactive hologram technology. From holographic photo opportunities with your favorite celebrity to gesture controlled drone piloting, VNTANA has built the first and only interactive hologram system with social media integration and data collection capabilities that provide measurable return on investment. VNTANA’s technology is at the cutting-edge of Social Augmented Reality. Its core product, HOLLAGRAM, combines real-time holographic video capture with interactive gesture control, allowing consumers to experience augmented reality in groups and without wearables. VNTANA is headquartered in Los Angeles, CA. For more information, visit, www.vntana.com or follow us on Twitter @VNTANAlive.
Netlist to Participate in the Open Server Summit
IRVINE, CALIFORNIA, April 13, 2016 – Netlist, Inc. (NASDAQ: NLST), a leading provider of high performance and hybrid memory solutions for the cloud computing and storage markets, and Paper Battery Company, developer of innovative energy technologies, today announced a strategic alliance at the Open Server Summit in Santa Clara, California. The two companies have developed a solution that maximizes the number of Netlist Non-Volatile DIMM (NVDIMM) products that can be deployed into a single server, resolving the current challenges which arise due to cabling, space and thermal limits.
The PowerResponder supercapacitors pack more energy in a compact form factor for unique fit and function.
“Netlist has been an innovator in Non-Volatile Memory (NVM) solutions for over a decade. We are excited to continue that innovation by incorporating the revolutionary energy sources of the Paper Battery Company with our NVDIMM’s,” said Brian Peterson, Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Netlist. “Paper Battery Company’s offerings incorporated with our current NVDIMM deployments will enable customers to break new ground in application acceleration.”
“As the amount of data collected and analyzed by organizations grows exponentially, servers must expand their systems as well. This is what is so exciting about our partnership with Netlist. Our PowerResponder products can provide a superior form fit and function for critical backup power for Netlist NVM and can ultimately help our end-customers deploy large counts of NVM products inside today’s servers. Our products will fit even as broader system level deployments are considered in the near future,” said Mike Leiber, Paper Battery Company’s Director of Sales.
Netlist will be in the SNIA area of the Open Server Summit on April 13th to14th demonstrating real world application use cases for NVDIMM’s. Building on a series of use cases since the start of the year, twelve Netlist NV4 modules (NVDIMM-N) are being used to show a 300% improvement in the transactions over a leading Enterprise PCIe NVMe. In this platform, a high write intensive Sysbench workload is injected against a MySQL database that houses 32 different tables, 10 million rows per table, for a total of 320 million rows. The NVDIMM’s are energy protected by Paper Battery technology.
In previous demonstrations, each NVDIMM has been tethered to its own energy source, making server layout and cable routing a challenge with large DIMM implementations. With Paper Battery’s introduction of a 2.5” bay mounted supply – 16 NVDIMM’s can be powered from one unit. For systems where NVDIMM counts go even higher, a PCIe mounted power source from PaperBattery can supply up to 26 NVDIMM’s. Using servers such as the SuperMicro X10 based platform, it is now possible to have high concentrations of Netlist NV4’s on board while Paper Battery’s innovation in energy sources allows for reliable, high density power. These solutions can be found at booth #305.
About Netlist, Inc.
Netlist creates solutions that accelerate turning data into information. We design and manufacture controller and software-based memory solutions for our OEM and Hyperscale customers in the server and storage space. Flagship products NVvault® and EXPRESSvault™ accelerate system performance and provide mission critical fault tolerance. HyperVault®, Netlist’s next-generation architecture, expands the performance and capacity of memory channel storage. The company holds a portfolio of patents, many seminal, in the area of hybrid memory, rank multiplication and load-reduction, among others. To learn more, visit www.netlist.com.
About Paper Battery Company
The Paper Battery Company has two supercapacitor-based product lines with game changing ultrathin form factors and industry-leading performance. Its high-energy supercapacitor product can replace batteries or enable companies to use smaller batteries without compromising energy or peak performance. The Company’s patented form factor solution allows for revolutionary size changes in wearables, accessories, and mobile electronics. The company’s innovative business model and technology has garnered recognition as Startup Of The Year 2015 award from the Consumer Technology Association, an Innovation Award at CES 2015, and as TIE50 2013 awardee as well as multiple competitive grant awards from NY State Energy and Research Development Authority. For more information go to http://www.paperbatteryco.com
Safe Harbor Statement:
This news release contains forward-looking statements regarding future events and the future performance of Netlist. A forward looking statement is neither a prediction nor a guarantee of future events or circumstances and is based on currently available market, operating, financial and competitive information and assumptions. Forward-looking statements involve risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially from those expected or projected, including, among others, risks associated with the launch and commercial success of our products, programs and technologies; the success of product, joint development and licensing partnerships; continuing development, qualification and volume production of HyperVault™, EXPRESSvault™, NVvault®, HyperCloud® and VLP Planar-X RDIMM; the timing and magnitude of the continued decrease in our sales; our ability to leverage our NVvault® and EXPRESSvault™ technology in a more diverse customer base; our need to raise additional capital and our ability to obtain financing when necessary; the rapidly-changing nature of technology; risks associated with intellectual property, including patent infringement litigation against us as well as the costs and unpredictability of litigation over infringement of our intellectual property and the possibility of our patents being reexamined or reviewed by the United States Patent and Trademark office and the Patent Trial and Appeal Board; volatility in the pricing of DRAM ICs and NAND flash; changes in and uncertainty of customer acceptance of, and demand for, our existing products and products under development, including uncertainty of and/or delays in product orders and product qualifications; delays in our and our customers’ product releases and development; introductions of new products by competitors; changes in end-user demand for technology solutions; our ability to attract and retain skilled personnel; our reliance on suppliers of critical components and vendors in the supply chain; fluctuations in the market price of critical components; evolving industry standards; the political and regulatory environment in the People’s Republic of China; and general economic and market conditions. Other risks and uncertainties are described in our annual report on Form 10-K filed on March 4, 2016, and subsequent filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission we make from time to time. Except as required by law, we undertake no obligation to publicly update or revise any forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise.
Wired Island International
TodayTix Makes Inroads Into Broadway’s Ticketing Business
By MICHAEL PAULSONFEB. 23, 2016
A theater industry start-up that is trying to corner a share of the byzantine Broadway ticketing business has raised nearly $16 million in venture capital and has expanded beyond New York to four other American cities and to London.
TodayTix, which 26 months ago introduced a mobile app for selling discounted and full-price last-minute tickets, has already become a visible presence on Broadway, thanks to its red-jacketed agents (they wear red shirts in warmer weather) who deliver tickets outside theater doors. The company has made inroads into a ticketing world largely controlled by the theater owners themselves — TodayTix says it is currently selling 4 percent of all tickets to Broadway shows— and the company’s executives believe that their emphasis on mobile technology and clarity in pricing will lure younger consumers.
“We are focused on attracting a millennial audience that might find theater inaccessible,” said Brian M. Fenty, one of the company’s founders. “People think the theater industry is very small and cottage, but it’s a large business that we thought was ripe for innovation.”
Mr. Fenty and the TodayTix co-founder Merritt Baer, who met as children at the French Woods performing arts camp, said that they have completed a $9 million financing round, led by Tylt Ventures and Walden Venture Capital, bringing the overall financing for their company to $15.68 million. TodayTix has 40 employees and is currently selling theater tickets in Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington, as well as in New York and London.
TodayTix faces a variety of competitors as it continues to expand to other cities. And its innovations can be mimicked — it was the first company to offer a mobile lottery for deeply discounted last-minute tickets, but now such lotteries are widespread on Broadway.
The tight-knit world of Broadway theater owners has not welcomed TodayTix. The company has been unable to negotiate agreements to electronically access inventory at Broadway theaters, so users of the TodayTix app choose theater sections and ticket prices, but not specific seats; TodayTix then sends couriers to the theater box offices to buy the tickets in person.
In New York, the biggest players are the theater owners themselves: the Shubert Organization owns Telecharge and the Nederlander Organization has a long-term agreement with Ticketmaster. Asked about TodayTix, a spokesman for the Shubert Organization, which is the largest owner of Broadway theaters, declined to comment.
Broadway has been booming in recent years — the last season, which ended in May, saw a record audience of 13 million people, and the 40 Broadway theaters grossed $1.365 billion. But to consumers, buying theater tickets can seem complex, with a dizzying array of websites offering discounts to many shows, and heavily marked-up tickets for sold-out hits being resold on the secondary market.
Broadway has lagged behind other parts of the entertainment business in its embrace of technology such as mobile ticketing, but practices have been gradually changing. About half of all Broadway tickets are now purchased over the Internet, according to a new study of audience demographics by the Broadway League, and about 37 percent of Broadway tickets are purchased less than a week in advance. About 11 percent of Broadway tickets are sold at the TKTS booths.
Beyond Broadway, TodayTix has had more success within the industry. The company said it has agreements with most of the major New York nonprofit theaters, including the Public Theater, as well as other performing arts institutions, including the Metropolitan Opera and the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Outside New York, the company has partnerships with 157 theaters, so at many of those theaters TodayTix users can choose specific seats.
TodayTix sells tickets only within a week of a performance date. It charges a $5 fee per ticket on those purchased in the United States, and another $5 per ticket if they are hand delivered to customers at the theater; for tickets purchased at theaters that partner with TodayTix, the company charges the theaters a commission of 5 percent plus credit card fees, and the tickets can be picked up at will-call.
Among the new investors in TodayTix are Robert Fox, a British theater producer; Jeremy Zimmer, the chief executive of United Talent Agency; and Andrew Lippa, a Tony-nominated composer. The company had previously lined up financial support from Danny Meyer, the restaurateur, as well as from several venture capital firms.
“If you can use technology to democratize theater a little bit, I think that’s a great thing,” Mr. Zimmer said. Mr. Fox said he was impressed by the “very easy-to-use app,” and that “the more outlets there are for people to buy tickets, the better.”
Ken Davenport, a theater producer who is not affiliated with TodayTix and who writes often about the need for more innovation in the theater business, said the company had sold a significant number of tickets to his most recent Broadway show, a revival of “Spring Awakening.”
“They’ve been able to do something mobile, and to sell at discount,” Mr. Davenport said. “It was very successful for ‘Spring’ and for other shows I’ve done.”
CustomInk to Acquire Represent, Tech Startup That Helps Celebrities Rally Fans For Funding
Represent's Social Commerce Platform Helps Influencers Sell T-shirts and Merchandise for Charity or Profit; Investors Include Ashton Kutcher, Guy Oseary, James Franco
14:57 ET from CustomInk
FAIRFAX, Va., Feb. 4, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- CustomInk, the leader in custom apparel and accessories for groups and communities, today announced its entry into a definitive agreement to acquire Represent, a Los Angeles-based social commerce startup that helps influencers like actors, athletes, musicians, and thought leaders create and sell limited-run t-shirts and merchandise to their fans and followers. With its roots in celebrity-backed social media fundraising campaigns, Represent has attracted high-profile investors including Ashton Kutcher and Guy Oseary of Sound Ventures, James Franco, and WME/IMG.
"In the entertainment world, influence is an even more powerful force than fame," said Bryan Baum, co-founder and CEO of Represent. "Represent offers a new and innovative way for influential celebrities to mobilize and monetize their passionate and loyal fan bases. The real metric in the world of social commerce is not the number of followers but the tangible actions they take, and the influencers who use Represent have developed deep relationships with their fans who in turn are eager to show their support by buying custom t-shirts and merchandise."
Represent has created a sophisticated digital marketing and merchandising platform for influencers to sell merchandise in time-limited campaigns. Represent also works with other influencers, such as prominent YouTubers and independent entrepreneurs, to create and sell affinity-based custom t-shirts and other merchandise, as well as major sports and entertainment brands.
"Like CustomInk, Represent is really about helping people build a stronger sense of community," said Marc Katz, co-founder and CEO of CustomInk. "If you're an influential artist or athlete, or you represent one, your interaction with your supporters is precious, and so is your time, and the Represent platform makes it easy to engage in a creative and powerful way. Selling custom apparel with Represent strengthens fan communities, builds personal brands, raises awareness for important causes, and generates strong revenues. We've seen the results and talked to the influencers running campaigns, and they love it. It's exciting to have Represent join the CustomInk team."
Represent works with each influencer to design the campaign, then handles all day-to-day management, printing and fulfillment, so the influencer can simply share the campaign with his or her supporters via social media and other channels. While the campaign is running, Represent's marketing team can offer additional support through automated search and banner ads that increase the campaign's visibility and reach.
Influencer-led campaigns on Represent have included:
- Stephen Amell, star of The CW's Arrow, has run multiple Represent campaigns to benefit charities including F*** Cancer. In one year, Amell was able to sell more than 143,000 shirts to his dedicated fan base, grossing $6.4 million. "My fans love Represent because my campaigns are something we can do together," said Amell. "The videos we shoot for the campaigns deeply engage the fans—and help involve more people in every campaign. The sales count and the impact of my campaigns have proven that Represent is an amazingly effective platform."
- YouTube personality Grace Helbig has run multiple campaigns that have galvanized support among her 2.7 million subscribers. "Represent's campaign platform was built for social media," said Helbig. "I'm always looking to grow the connection I have with my audience, and that's exactly what Represent lets me do—open a whole new avenue of communication, while also allowing me to selfishly expand my personal wardrobe."
- Ronda Rousey, former UFC Women's Bantamweight Champion, ran her first Represent campaign in August 2015 to raise money for Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services. More than 57,000 fans bought Ronda's DNB [do nothing b----] shirt, grossing more than $2.3 million.
While the companies will integrate their supply chains and other aspects of their operations and technology, Represent will continue to operate as a distinct brand out of its offices in Los Angeles and Prague. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
In addition to Represent, CustomInk is developing two new businesses, Booster and Pear, which also offer innovative solutions for activating and strengthening groups and communities. Based in Boston, Booster is a fundraising platform designed to help individuals and organizations raise money and awareness by selling custom t-shirts to support charities, personal causes, or other positive purposes. Chicago-based Pear is a grassroots sponsorship platform that connects groups with national and local brands to fund their custom shirts and other group needs. CustomInk investors include Revolution Growth and SWaN & Legend Venture Partners.
Represent is a social merchandising & marketing platform that enables anyone to create and sell custom apparel & accessories with no upfront costs. Launched in May 2014, Represent removes the hurdles between having a creative idea and selling merchandise online and enables anyone with a following to generate engagement and revenue through custom merchandise sales. Represent was founded by Bryan Baum, Leo Seigal and Andrej Pancik, who met as students at Oxford University.
CustomInk is the leading provider of custom apparel and accessories for groups and occasions. CustomInk believes that t-shirts and other custom products have the power to bring people together and strengthen their sense of community. CustomInk combines an easy online Design Lab with personal care and support to help its customers create the perfect design for any club, school, business, team, or charity. CustomInk created Booster to make it easy for groups to raise money and awareness through the sale of custom products, and Pear is a platform that helps connect grassroots groups and events with national and local brand sponsors. CustomInk is based in Fairfax, Virginia with offices in Charlottesville, Virginia; Reno, Nevada; Dallas, Texas; Boston, Massachusetts; and Chicago, Illinois.
This Troy company is ready to bring its paper-thin batteries to market
Jan 20, 2016, 2:23pm EST
Chelsea Diana, Reporter Albany Business Review
Paper Battery Co. is preparing to put its ultrathin lithium batteries on the market as it heads toward full-scale production.
The Troy, New York, startup, which spun off of research at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, has been working since 2008 to get its batteries to full-scale production.
"The product is in development and ready to go on the market," said Shreefal Mehta, president and CEO of Paper Battery. "We've identified multiple customers in three or four vertical markets who are paying customers right now. We're getting ready for first volume customer orders."
Paper Battery develops ultrathin supercapacitor technology to improve batteries in cloud computing, medical technology and personal devices. Supercapacitors let companies use smaller batteries without compromising energy or performance. The paper-thin device helps lithium batteries last longer and charge quicker.
The company began selling a $400 fast charge developers kit last year so potential customers could test Paper Battery's product line. Mehta said Paper Battery is starting a fundraising round to finance that last leg needed to get to full-volume production and increase sales. After that round, he expects the company to be cash positive.
The first product on the market is used in the cloud computing and industrial and medical application industries. The second product, which was the inspiration for the company, is used in mobile, wearable and the Internet of Things devices.
The company has raised more than $7.5 million in previous funding rounds in private investment, including from angel groups in upstate New York like the Eastern New York Angels and the Seed Capital Fund of Central New York. Other investors include Caerus Ventures in West Palm Beach, Florida, and TYLT Lab in Santa Monica, California.
Chelsea Diana covers technology and money
Lending Startups Look at Borrowers’ Phone Usage to Assess Creditworthiness
Smartphones allow lenders’ apps to detect subtle patterns of behavior that correlate with repayment or default
In Kenya, Branch offers an Android app that lets users apply for a loan and get immediate approval. PHOTO: NICHOLE SOBECKI FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
Nov. 30, 2015 8:28 p.m. ET
A handful of Silicon Valley-backed startups are looking to revolutionize lending in the developing world, where banks are scarce and many would-be borrowers have no credit history.
Their strategy: Show me your smartphone, and my app will find out how creditworthy you are.
Smartphones can dramatically reduce the cost of lending, experts say, because the apps they run generate huge amounts of data—texts, emails, GPS coordinates, social-media posts, retail receipts, and so on—indicating thousands of subtle patterns of behavior that correlate with repayment or default.
Even obscure variables such as how frequently a user recharges the phone’s battery, how many incoming text messages they receive, how many miles they travel in a given day or how they enter contacts into their phone—the decision to add last name correlates with creditworthiness—can bear on a decision to extend credit.
In Kenya, Branch.co offers an Android app that lets users apply for a loan and get immediate approval and access to funds. The loans average $30, enough for a taxi driver to pay for gas or a fruit seller to stock up on produce. Branch charges between 6% and 12% interest—based on the borrower’s creditworthiness—and loans are usually repaid between three weeks and six months later.
Traditional microlending tends to be far more expensive—interest rates often exceed 25%—partly because lenders must visit borrowers in the field to assess their ability to repay. Banks have steered clear due to the high cost of building physical branches.
These app-based lending startups are backed by some of Silicon Valley’s biggest names. Branch, which was founded by microlending pioneer Matt Flannery , has received funding from Joe Lonsdale, co-founder of data miner Palantir Technologies. InVenture, based in Los Angeles, is headed by a former United Nations officer and funded by venture investors Chris Sacca and Zachary Bogue. Saida is funded by startup incubator Y Combinator. Omidyar Network—an investment firm and foundation established by eBayInc. founder Pierre Omidyar—holds a stake in Lenddo, a lender that determines creditworthiness by analyzing social networks like Facebook.
By installing these apps on their smartphones, users grant them access to any information that may help assess the borrower’s creditworthiness—from the content of their texts and emails to the duration and volume of their calls.
InVenture’s algorithms, for instance, found that users who wait until after 10 p.m. to make calls—when rates are lower—are lower-risk borrowers. Somewhat counterintuitively, Branch found that users who are known gamblers—something the app would find out by scanning messages or payments to a gambling company—are more likely to repay a loan than nongamblers.
“You’re able to get in and really understand the daily life of these customers,” said InVenture CEO Shivani Siroya. Her company’s scoring formula, or algorithm, analyzes 10,000 so-called signals per customer.
PETER AND MARIA HOEY
These lending startups build on the popularity of mobile banking in many developing countries and the rapid rise of smartphone use. A Pew Research Center report from April shows that 34% of South Africans, 27% of Nigerians and 15% of Kenyans already own a smartphone.
Customers of Branch and InVenture in Nairobi, Kenya, said they used the loans to pay for running or improving small businesses. Some had access to banks but felt the smartphone interest rates were better; others had been borrowing informally from neighbors at high interest rates.
The owner of a beauty and weight management center said small loans covered items such as skin cleansers when her bank account ran low.
Samuel Njuguna, a chef, said he bought plates, cutlery, and pots. “I’ve had to turn down a few business opportunities because of lack of equipment,” Mr. Njuguna said. Now, he says he is plowing most of the money back into his business.
“These are people that don’t have a credit score,” said Branch’s Mr. Flannery, whose earlier venture, Kiva.org, helped expand microlending. “Your digital trail can establish your financial track record.”
Lending startups like Branch could bring formal credit for the first time to between 325 million and 580 million people in emerging economies, according to a recent report by Omidyar Network.
While the smartphone lenders focus on emerging markets, their efforts to assess risk based on nontraditional data sources is part of a wider trend in Silicon Valley. Affirm, LendUp, ZestFinance and others use data from sources such as social media, online behavior and data brokers to determine the creditworthiness of tens of thousands of U.S. consumers who don’t have access to loans.
And competitors with deeper pockets are entering the field. Visa Inc. has built mobile payment applications in Rwanda and is working with International Business MachinesCorp. to use records of retail transactions or remittances to create a surrogate credit score. Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. recently launched a credit-scoring program that uses the company’s own trove of transaction data to assess risk.
Privacy advocates have complained that borrowers might be denied a loan because of a Twitter post such as “my car has broken down.” U.S. companies have wide discretion to offer loans as long as they don’t sell credit scores or discriminate against minorities, women, or people with disabilities.
The Omidyar Network surveyed dozens of individuals in developing countries about the privacy trade-offs, and most said they had no problem sharing personal details in exchange for much-needed funds.
As a former official at the U.N. Population Fund, Ms. Siroya—InVenture’s CEO—has conducted more than 3,000 in-depth interviews with small businesses in developing countries. She said borrowers in these countries are far less risky than mainstream financial institutions think they are.
Soon, she said, she will have the data to prove it.
—Heidi Vogt in Nairobi contributed to this article.
New Study Demonstrates the Clinical Utility and Accuracy of the SVOne Autorefractor for Measuring Refractive Error
In a clinical evaluation, the handheld, smartphone-based, wavefront aberrometer proved comparable with office-based technology and subjective refraction.
November 10, 2015 08:00 AM Eastern Standard Time
NEW YORK--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Smart Vision Labs, the maker of a smartphone-based autorefractor, announces the release of new data on its SVOne autorefractor being published in a leading peer-reviewed publication. In a study led by Kenneth J. Ciuffreda, OD, PhD, FAAO, FCOVD-A, FARVO, and Mark Rosenfield, MCOptom, PhD, FAAO, the smartphone-based SVOne aberrometer was shown to be comparable with subjective refraction and an office-based autorefractor when measuring refractive error under both cycloplegic and non-cycloplegic conditions in visually normal young adults. The researchers heralded the SVOne as valuable for examinations taking place both inside and outside the clinical setting.
“We have been performing subjective refraction in the clinic for years. What SVOne and other autorefractors offer is an objective measure of refractive error, which is thus less prone to investigator bias or error. What makes SVOne different, however, is its accessibility and affordability compared with an office-based platform.”Tweet this
“We are excited to see the results of this well-designed study because they help to validate the SVOne as a new clinical tool in our armamentarium for detecting refractive error in healthy eyes,” said Dr. Ciuffreda. “The smartphone-based SVOne literally puts the power to examine vision in the hands of the clinician. This can facilitate the ability to check vision both inside and outside the clinical setting, thereby addressing the need to expand the availability, efficiency, and accessibility of vision exams, for example in school screenings as well as underdeveloped and third-world countries.”
The SVOne, an FDA Class 1 exempt medical device, utilizes the iPhone’s computing power and camera to perform wavefront aberrometry and obtain the patient’s refractive error. In the published clinical testing, the spherical equivalent refractive findings measured with the SVOne were highly correlated with those obtained using subjective refraction (r = 0.96) in a sample of 50 subjects. Further, the findings for the SVOne were not significantly different from the other objective and subjective techniques tested.
“The SVOne changes the autorefraction paradigm,” said Bernard Spier, MD, FAAO, a leading ophthalmologist in New Jersey who has been using the SVOne for both clinical and overseas work. “We have been performing subjective refraction in the clinic for years. What SVOne and other autorefractors offer is an objective measure of refractive error, which is thus less prone to investigator bias or error. What makes SVOne different, however, is its accessibility and affordability compared with an office-based platform.”
The results of the study are available at http://bit.ly/EvaluationOfTheSVOne and will be published in the December issue of Optometry and Vision Science-the Journal of the American Academy of Optometry.
About Smart Vision Labs
We are a team of engineers, scientists, and problem solvers working to address the global vision crisis. Over 700 million people worldwide suffer from uncorrected refractive errors which can result in blindness and equate to hundreds of billions of dollars in lost annual global productivity. We believe that innovation can drive more accessible vision care for everyone. That’s why we launched our first product, the SVOne. The SVOne is a pocket-sized smartphone-based wavefront aberrometer and autorefractor. To date, the SVOne is used in over 250 eye clinics across the United States and in 23 countries and counting around the world.
Smart Vision Labs
Jessie Tang, 212-796-6124 x7002