Andela co-founder Christina Sass is coming to Disrupt

Andela co-founder Christina Sass is coming to Disrupt

I’m delighted to announce Andela co-founder and COO Christina Sass will be joining me on stage for a fireside chat at TechCrunch Disrupt in San Francisco next month.

Backed by Mark Zuckerberg and a slew of other Silicon Valley heavyweights, Andela is part of a wave of startups looking to increase diversity at technology companies. The team works with companies like Microsoft and IBM to identify the “top 1%” of tech talent in Africa.

Andela says it sifts through “tens of thousands of applicants” in Africa, what they consider “the largest pool of untapped talent.” With a 6 month vetting process and a .7% acceptance rate, Andela only selects people it believes are the best-of-the-best to be considered for the potentially lucrative job opportunities.

They say they vet candidates for more than just skill set, but also compatibility with the company’s values. Then once the candidates are hired, they help the developers integrate into the corporate team.

We’re excited to catch up with Christina and learn about this unique approach to sourcing talent and what’s in store for Andela’s future.

Disrupt SF is returning to Pier 48 and early bird tickets are still available though the sale ends soon.

Source: TechCrunch

AirHelp raises $12 million to deal with airline customer service for you

AirHelp raises million to deal with airline customer service for you

Few things are more dreadful than dealing with airline customer service. Fortunately, there’s a startup that wants to make those calls for you.

For hassle-free travel, AirHelp is raising $12 million in Series A funding from a group of investors including Khosla Ventures and Evan Williams. This is in addition to the $4.7 million in seed financing raised two years ago.

AirHelp promises to get you money from airlines when you deserve it. And they’ve helped 900,000 customers so far, sometimes even filing lawsuits on their behalf.

AirHelp wants to “take all that hassle and paperwork away from people,” co-founder and CEO Henrik Zillmer tells TechCrunch. We “saw an opportunity in automating the process so we could handle thousands of claims and not necessarily have to do it manually.”

This is particularly useful in Europe, where customers are legally entitled to refunds for significant delays. (In the U.S., you have to pay for travel insurance).

Data from Zirra suggests that the total addressable market for flight delay compensation in Europe for €6B. AirHelp hopes to capture a significant portion of that.

AirHelp can also help American customers, too. When flights are overbooked, AirHelp can get customers the up to $1300 that they are entitled to.

But don’t expect to get all your money back. AirHelp takes a 25% cut for its efforts. There is also a $20 annual membership for which AirHelp monitors all your flights and seeks delay claims automatically.

The company has 230 employees and is headquartered in New York.

Featured Image: Francisco Rama / EyeEm/Getty Images
Source: TechCrunch

Amazon shatters earnings expectations

Amazon shatters earnings expectations

Amazon shattered expectations when it reported second quarter earnings after the bell on Thursday. Adjusted earnings per share came in at $1.78, when Wall Street was forecasting $1.11. Amazon also beat revenue predictions, posting $30.4 billion for the quarter when analysts were expecting $29.55 billion.

The company saw a significant increase in sales and profit from the same period last year. Net sales were up 31% and net income was $857 million, a large jump from last year’s $92 million. Amazon also spent many years unprofitable, while it invested in growth.

In a statement, CEO Jeff Bezos touted the early success of their Indian business. “The team in India is inventing at a torrid pace, and we’re very grateful to our Indian customers for their welcoming response.”

The company announced that it expects its revenue for the third quarter to be between $31 billion and $33.5 billion. Operating income had a wide range, forecasting somewhere between $50 and $650 million.

Amazon tends to make a lot of experimental bets. They’ve had early traction with their Alexa voice-activated personal assistant device. And they have also built up momentum in their Amazon Web Services division, providing storage and cloud services for many large businesses.

The company has built up a robust Prime business, where users pay annual subscriptions to get faster shipping and access to content like movies and music. Notably, Amazon created its own discount holiday last year called Prime Day. The sales day generated significant traction this year and will be included in next quarter’s earnings.

The earnings release referenced this year’s Prime Day calling it “the biggest day ever for Amazon.” They said that worldwide orders grew by more than 60% when compared to last year’s inaugural day.

Amazon also touted the success of its Fire TV media player, its latest Kindle ebook reader and its Amazon Dash buttons.

Other Amazon experiments have missed the mark, however. They did not find success with their Fire Phone and the company recently shut down their Gilt Groupe competitor, MyHabit.

Going forward, the company is betting that drone deliveries will cut down on costs and improve efficiency. Amazon is also expanding its grocery delivery business.

The stock is up 43% in the past year. The company has a market cap of $355 billion.

Featured Image: Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto/Getty Images
Source: TechCrunch

Roomi raises $4 million to help you find a roommate

Roomi raises million to help you find a roommate

At first glance, Roomi looks like it’s just another rental listing app. But there’s a twist — all of these homes already have tenants.

An alternative to Craigslist, Roomi thinks it can find you a better roommate. Are you a gym rat? Do you like to throw parties? The app syncs with Facebook to give you a glimpse of prospective cohabitants.

Launched last year, Roomi has over 375,000 users across North America. They have now raised an additional $4 million in seed funding led by DCM Ventures to expand internationally. This brings their total funding to $6 million.

“There’s a whole generation of millennials leading a housing transformation — they live and rent differently than their parents did. They are moving more frequently and renting later into their lives,” David Cheng, investor at DCM Ventures explained why he sees a market opportunity. “We believe that Roomi, as a dedicated platform for rentals and co-living, caters to this generation’s housing needs.”

CEO Ajay Yadav told TechCrunch that “the goal is to build a platform people can trust.” He said that Roomi is going to be working with services to incorporate stringent background checks, to make sure that someone isn’t unwittingly moving in with someone with a criminal record.

It’s the roommate-first approach which he hopes will set Roomi apart from Trulia, Zillow and the rest of the many other housing apps. “The person is as important as the place you’re going to be living in,” he said.

But Roomi’s business is still nascent. When asked where their revenue comes from, Yadav said, “right now we don’t make any money.”

Source: TechCrunch

GoPro sales beat investor expectations but still in steep decline

GoPro sales beat investor expectations but still in steep decline

Action-camera maker GoPro reported second quarter earnings after the bell on Wednesday. Shares quickly rose 10% in after-hours trading, but then were down 3% as investors dug through the earnings release. 

The company posted revenue of $220.7 million, above analyst forecasts of $194 million. Adjusted earnings per share was negative 52 cents, when Wall Street was expecting them to be down 58 cents. But this wasn’t enough to appease investors, who are concerned about declining sales. Revenue for the same period last year was $420 million.

“GoPro is well-positioned for the second half of the year.  We now have a simple product line, a clean retail channel and clear indications of strong consumer demand,” said GoPro Founder and CEO, Nicholas Woodman, in a statement.

Investors have been skeptical of GoPro, which has seen shares down over 80% in the past year. The company has struggled to grow and has even seen sales decline in recent quarters.

Part of the issue has been that many GoPro customers don’t upgrade to the newer devices. The initial hardware purchase is enough to satisfy them for several years.

To offset these declines, GoPro has been trying to position themselves as both a media company and virtual reality company. GoPro has been encouraging customers to use the camera for livestreaming and has announced partnerships, including one with Periscope.

The company also developed a VR rig, aimed at capturing 360 footage.  

And while positioning itself as an action sports company has been great for getting professional athletes to use GoPros, many consumers feel that they don’t have a regular need for this type of camera.

Source: TechCrunch

How Facetune and Enlight became top photo apps

How Facetune and Enlight became top photo apps

Jerusalem-based Lightricks knows what it takes to stand out amongst the thousands of photo apps. They’ve done it twice — with Enlight and also Facetune, which is currently the top photo app in the U.S. according to App Annie.

We caught up with CEO Zeev Farbman for a video interview when we were in Israel. He showed us some tricks to using the Lightricks photo apps and explained why he believes they were able to cut through the noise in a very crowded app category.

Lightricks “takes the retouching capabilities of Photoshop and makes them easy to use,” said Farbman. He credits Facetune’s popularity to its simplicity.

Facetune

Facetune, which costs $3.99 on both iOS and Android, evens out skin tone, whitens teeth and erases blemishes. Although many photo apps can make similar adjustments, Facetune works by simply swiping the problem areas. In the era of “selfies,” the app quickly became a photo-enhancing favorite.

Enlight, which also costs $3.99, but is only available on iOS, is designed to make smartphone photography look professional. More than just filters, Enlight touts its precision in adjusting light and color, which can also be done by dragging one’s finger. Enlight looks best for landscape or artistic photos.

He demonstrated it for us in the above video.

The startup, which has raised over $10 million in capital from Carmel Ventures, is based in Jerusalem’s Hebrew University. Farbman also attributes the team’s early traction to the startup’s close proximity to engineering talent. “The success of such a big endeavor is building this creative ecosystem,” said Farbman. Lightricks has a “huge pool of talent to attract the best people from.”

2 Enlight

Source: TechCrunch

Tinder-owner Match up slightly on earnings

Tinder-owner Match up slightly on earnings

Match Group reported earnings after the bell on Tuesday. The owner of datings sites including Tinder, OkCupid and Match.com reported $301 million in revenue for the second quarter, above analyst expectations of $297 million. Adjusted earnings per share was 17 cents. Shares rose roughly 2% on the news.

“Q2 showed solid performance, with 23% Dating revenue growth, operating income of $74 million and total Adjusted EBITDA of over $100 million,” commented Match GroupChairman and CEO Greg Blatt, in a statement. “We continue to execute against our plan, with exceptional growth at Tinder and solid performance by Meetic, Match and PlentyOfFish.”

Investors were particularly watching PMC, the paid customer category which grew by 30% to 5.3 million.

The company is trying to offset the decline in traditional paid dating sites, by growing its Tinder subscription business. Tinder has a freemium model, where users can opt to pay for additional features.

But “it’s going to be harder in the long run to be able to sell the amount of paid memberships for Tinder that makes up for all of the loss from other brands,” warned Brandon Ross, analyst at BTIG.

There’s also a lot of competition for Tinder, particularly from Bumble, which was founded by Whitney Wolfe, a former member of the Tinder team. “Bumble will get scale throughout the rest of the country and the rest of the world eventually,” said Ross. Others in the mobile dating app space include Happn, Hinge, Coffee Meets Bagel and The League.

At Tuesday’s close of $16.64, shares were up 38.7% since the company separated from IAC last November. 

Source: TechCrunch

Gett CEO claims his ride-share company is beating Uber in Europe

Gett CEO claims his ride-share company is beating Uber in Europe

It is a very competitive landscape for on-demand rides. While Uber dominates the market in the U.S., Didi Chuxing is the leader in China.

And in Europe, there is another player that is making headways. Gett, formerly known as GetTaxi, is the “number one on-demand mobility company operating in Europe,” according to CEO Shahar Waiser. TechCrunch sat down with him for a video interview in Tel Aviv, where the company got started.

Now a unicorn with a valuation exceeding $1 billion, Gett gained early traction with corporate customers who used the service for black cars. Today, Gett is especially popular in places like London where people use it for hailing cabs.

Gett is now the European leader in terms of “volume of rides, revenues, profits,” said Waiser.  And “corporate is still responsible for a third of our income,” he maintained, saying that over 4,000 companies use Gett for transportation.

But while the service does well in Tel Aviv, London, and Moscow, the company’s expansion to the U.S. had a rough start. Gett faced some early challenges signing up enough drivers to meet demand in New York.

Gett does not offer surge pricing, something that the company feels is a selling point because customers doesn’t want to face unexpected high fares. But it also has been key to Uber’s ability to balance supply and demand.

While Uber and traditional yellow cabs still dominate the Manhattan market, “New York happens to be our fastest growing territory,” Waiser claims. Currently in over 60 cities, he says they will also be ”expanding across the rest of the countries of Europe” soon enough.

And they are getting some big help from an incumbent in the automotive space.  Volkswagen recently invested in $300 million in Gett, in a move that drew comparisons to General Motors’ investment in Lyft.

Speaking about the deal, Waiser said the “exclusive partnerships with VW Group will help us get first access to autonomous cars.” He spoke of the inevitability of self-driving vehicles and predicted that they will account for half of new car purchases by 2030.

While drivers are understandably concerned that their jobs will be eliminated, Waiser was frank about what’s to come. “It’s the elephant in the room,” he said.

Source: TechCrunch

PayPal ticks up 5% on earnings, Visa partnership

PayPal ticks up 5% on earnings, Visa partnership

PayPal reported earnings after the bell on Thursday, showing $2.65 billion in revenue for the quarter, when analysts were expecting $2.6 billion. Earnings per share was also in line with Wall Street estimates at 36 cents.

Shares quickly ticked up 5% in after-hours trading, in part because of a Visa announcement that was timed with earnings. The new partnership with Visa, emphasized that they will be collaborating more and will make it easier for customers to move money from their PayPal account to their bank accounts using their Visa debit card. The partnership also means that PayPal digital wallet payments will be accepted at retail locations that facilitate Visa transactions. 

The company returned $300 million to stockholders last quarter, by repurchasing 8 million shares of common stock.

Investors have been curious to see if PayPal is able to successfully monetize its Venmo business. A popular mobile peer-to-peer payment system with Millennials, the company does not charge for these transactions.

Venmo recently introduced merchant payments, where businesses would pay PayPal a small cut of each transaction in order to have the “pay with Venmo” option for its customers.

One of PayPal’s biggest businesses is Braintree, a white label mobile payments solution that powers transactions on everything from Uber to Airbnb. When a customer takes an Uber, PayPal makes money by taking a cut of the transaction. Braintree has developed a substantial client list and has become a force in the mobile payments space.

PayPal shares are up 13% since spinning off from eBay a year ago. The company has a market cap of $49 billion.

Featured Image: PayPal
Source: TechCrunch

Impinj soars 28% in internet-of-things IPO

Impinj soars 28% in internet-of-things IPO

It has been a very slow year for tech IPOs, but Seattle-based Impinj decided to brave the public markets and list on the Nasdaq today. The company priced at the top of the range at $14 and then saw its shares rise about 28% on its first day of trading.

A leader in developing radio frequency technology, or RFID chips, Impinj has found unique partnerships with Coca-Cola, Macy’s, McDonald’s and other corporations who embed these tiny sand-size chips in anything from receipts to product packaging.

While the company has had a low profile in the media, it has a significant customer base and a lengthy list of both private equity and venture investors. Intel Capital and Samsung Ventures are amongst the investors who poured capital into the business over the past 16 years.

“Our vision is to connect and give digital life to every item in your everyday world,” CEO Chris Diorio told TechCrunch.

The company is often profitable, but this past quarter, it saw its expenses rise, resulting in a net loss of $821,000. Revenue for the quarter was $21.5 million, an increase over last year’s $16 million in the same period.

Competitors include Zebra Technologies Corporation and Alien Technology Corporation.

Impinj listed on the Nasdaq under the ticker “PI.” A smaller IPO, Impinj raised about $67 million in its offering.

Featured Image: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/Joy Ng
Source: TechCrunch