We’ve all probably heard of containers and virtual machines by now. Virtualization enabled IT to break down a single server into multiple machines. Containers allowed you take that concept and make it even smaller. DeferPanic wants to take another step with a technology called Unikernels. Today, the company announced its $1.5 million seed round.
The round was led by Initialized Capital. Other Investors included Hack.VC, Ron Gula, Ray Rothrock, Justin Label, Liquid2 and BloomBerg Beta. The round was funded on a post valuation of $6 million, founder and CEO Ian Eyberg told TechCrunch.
Unikernels are a kind of container, but Eyberg is careful to distinguish them from the kinds of containers we are talking about when we are looking at Docker and Kubernetes. They are a specialized, very light-weight form of virtualization with some key features that should make them extremely attractive to companies trying to build at speed while avoiding being hacked (just about everyone).
First of all, you can put just about any application in a unikernal, even your older legacy ones and enjoy some big advantages. The biggest perhaps is a unikernal is by design a single isolated entity. It only runs the application inside it and nothing more. That means, you can’t execute any other code against it, which effectively eliminates any form of attack.
The unikernel itself is so efficient, you can pack 100-200 per host, as opposed to 5-6 VMs. “We spin up 1000s of unikernels on crappy servers in seconds. There is a lot of room for growth,” Eyberg explained.
While Eyberg says this technology has been around for some time with bigger companies like Ericsson and NEC working on them, up until now, they have been confined to geeks who were willing to put in the sweat to make them work. Just as it took some time for containers to really take hold before the commercialization of Kubernetes as an orchestration layer, Eyberg sees his company bringing a similar dynamic to unikernels.
“Up until now been a real pain in the ass to manage [unikernels]. The orchestration side is its own ball of craziness. If you don’t have a low level background you probably aren’t playing with them. We are one of the only ones to build a platform, allowing you to click a button and you are off to the races,” he said.
You may be wondering how the company abstracts the unikernel down to such a small size, but Eyberg says it’s because the operating system, typically Linux when it comes to virtualization, has always been bigger than it has to be.
He sees finding a way of eliminating this OS bloat as a key to the unikernal platform success. Instead of placing the entire OS in the unikernel container, he puts the absolute bare minimum, which usually only includes a network and disk drivers. That greatly reduces the size and feeds into the other benefits.
The company, which is launching out of the Alchemist Accelerator, is announcing its unikernel orchestration tool and the funding this week at the RSA security conference.
This weekend, former Apple engineer and consumer gadget legend Tony Fadell penned an op-ed for Wired. In it, he argued that smartphone manufacturers need to do a better job of educating users about how often they use their mobile phones, and the resulting dangers that overuse might bring about.
Take healthy eating as an analogy: we have advice from scientists and nutritionists on how much protein and carbohydrate we should include in our diet; we have standardised scales to measure our weight against; and we have norms for how much we should exercise.
But when it comes to digital “nourishment”, we don’t know what a “vegetable”, a “protein” or a “fat” is. What is “overweight” or “underweight”? What does a healthy, moderate digital life look like? I think that manufacturers and app developers need to take on this responsibility, before government regulators decide to step in – as with nutritional labelling. Interestingly, we already have digital-detox clinics in the US. I have friends who have sent their children to them. But we need basic tools to help us before it comes to that.
Plenty of studies have shown that too much screen time and internet/smartphone addiction can be damaging to our health, both physically and psychologically. And while there are other players involved in our growing dependence on our phones (yes, I’m talking to you, Facebook), the folks who actually build those screens have ample opportunity to make users more aware of their usage.
In his article, Fadell brings up ways that companies like Apple could build out features for this:
You should be able to see exactly how you spend your time and, if you wish, moderate your behaviour accordingly. We need a “scale” for our digital weight, like we have for our physical weight. Our digital consumption data could look like a calendar with our historical activity. It should be itemised like a credit-card bill, so people can easily see how much time they spend each day on email, for example, or scrolling through posts. Imagine it’s like a health app which tracks metrics such as step count, heart rate and sleep quality.
With this usage information, people could then set their own targets – like they might have a goal for steps to walk each day. Apple could also let users set their device to a “listen-only” or “read-only” mode, without having to crawl through a settings menu, so that you can enjoy reading an e-book without a constant buzz of notifications.
9to5Mac brought up a Bloomberg piece from February that not only shows Apple’s capability to build out this feature, but their willingness to do so for young people, with a reported new feature that would let parents see how much time their kids are staring at their screens.
Unlike Facebook, which has tweaked its algorithm to prioritize meaningful connection over time spent on the platform, Apple’s revenue is not dependent on how much you use your phone. So, maybe we’ll see a digital health feature added to Apple products in the future.
Just like Nintendo before it, Sega is releasing a mini version of its iconic Mega Drive game system. The system is supposed to be available sometime in 2018 and the company also announced at least 15 classic Sega games will hit the Switch this summer to celebrate the system’s 30th anniversary.
Sega turned to AtGames to build the hardware according to this Facebook post. AtGames had previously built the shoddy Sega Genesis Flashback so hopefully this system will be better than that version. Nintendo paid attention to the details in its retro systems and it showed. The mini NES and SNES are lovely throwbacks that bring the best of past to the present — I just wish the controllers had longer cords.
思い出の名作ゲームの数々が、これ1台で楽しめます！#セガフェス #メガドライブ #メガドライブ30周年https://t.co/HWj6NFL96y pic.twitter.com/0C9QH1l5Mr
— セガ公式アカウント (@SEGA_OFFICIAL) April 14, 2018
Growing up I had an SNES because my parents thought Sega games were too violent. Basically, Killer Instinct instead of Mortal Kombat. I hope I can handle Scorpion’s finishing moves now.
If that’s not enough nostalgia, Sega Ages series producer Kagasei Shimomura hints Sega Dreamcast games could also hit the Switch, which if happens, could bring Phantasy Star Online or Jet Set Radio to Nintendo’s system.
Also, Bryce, our all-star illustrator, didn’t know the Genesis was called Mega Drive outside of North America. He can’t be alone.
Ted Schlein, a general partner at venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, focuses on early-stage technology companies in the enterprise software and infrastructure markets, including ventures within the networking and consumer security arenas.
More posts by this contributor
What Silicon Valley can do about cyber threats
The Entrepreneur’s Guide To Surviving A Tech Bubble
This week more than 40,000 security professionals will attend RSA in San Francisco to see the latest cyber technologies on display and discuss key issues. No topic will be higher on the agenda than the Russian-sponsored hack of the American 2016 election, with debate about why the country has done so little to respond and what measures should be taken to deter future attempts at subverting our democracy.
For good reason. There is now clear evidence of Russian interference in the election with Special Counsel Mueller’s 37-page indictment of 13 Russians, yet the attack on U.S. sovereignty and stability has gone largely unanswered. The $120 million set aside by Congress to address the Russian attacks remains unspent. We expelled Russian diplomats, but only under international pressure after the poisoning of a former Russian spy and his daughter.
Recent sanctions are unlikely to change the behavior of the Putin administration. To put it bluntly, we have done nothing of substance to address our vulnerability to foreign cyberattacks. Meanwhile, our enemies gain in technological capability, sophistication and impact.
Along with the Russians, the Chinese, North Koreans, Iranians and newly derived nation states use cyber techniques on a daily basis to further their efforts to gain advantage on the geopolitical stage. It is a conscious decision by these governments that a proactive cyber program advances their goals while limiting the United States.
Krisztian Bocsi/Bloomberg via Getty Images
We were once dominant in this realm, both technically and with our knowledge and skill sets. That playing field has been leveled, and we sit idly by without the will or focus to try to regain the advantage. This is unacceptable, untenable and will ultimately lead to potentially dire consequences.
In March of this year, the US Cyber Command released a vision paper called “Achieve and Maintain Cyberspace Superiority.” It is a call to action to unleash the country’s cyber warriors to fight for our national security in concert with all other diplomatic and economic powers available to the United States.
It’s a start but, a vision statement is not enough. Without a proper organizational structure, the United States will never achieve operational excellence in its cyber endeavors. Today we are organized to fail. Our capabilities are distributed across so many different parts of the government that they are overwhelmed with bureaucracy, inefficiency and dilution of talent.
The Department of Homeland Security is responsible for national protection, including prevention, mitigation and recovery from cyberattacks. The FBI, under the umbrella of the Department of Justice, has lead responsibility for investigation and enforcement. The Department of Defense, including US Cyber Command, is in charge of national defense. In addition, each of the various military branches have their own cyber units. No one who wanted to win would organize a critical capability in such a distributed and disbursed manner.
How could our law makers know what policy to pass? How do we recruit and train the best of the best in an organization, when it might just be a rotation through a military branch? How can we instantly share knowledge that benefits all when these groups don’t even talk to one another? Our current approach does not and cannot work.
Image courtesy of Colin Anderson
What is needed is a sixteenth branch of the Executive — a Department of Cybersecurity — that would assemble the country’s best talent and resources to operate under a single umbrella and a single coherent policy. By uniting our cyber efforts we would make the best use of limited resources and ensure seamless communications across all elements dealing in cyberspace. The department would act on behalf of the government and the private sector to protect against cyberthreats and, when needed, go on offense.
As with physical defense, sometimes that means diplomacy or sanctions, and sometimes it means executing missions to cripple an enemy’s cyber operations. We have the technological capabilities, we have the talent, we know what to do — but unless all of this firepower is unified and aimed at the enemy, we might as well have nothing.
When a Department of Cybersecurity is discussed in Washington, it is usually rejected because of the number of agencies and departments affected. This is code for loss of budget and personnel. We must rise above turf battles if we are to have a shot at waging an effective cyber war. There are some who have raised concerns about coordination on offensive actions, but they can be addressed by a clear chain of command with the Defense Department to avoid the potential of a larger conflict.
We must also not be thrown by comparisons to the Department of Homeland Security and conclude a Cybersecurity department would face the same challenges. DHS was 22 different agencies thrust into one. A Department of Cybersecurity would be built around a common set of skills, people and know-how all working on a common issue and goal. Very different.
Strengthening our cyberdefense is as vital as having a powerful standing army to defend ourselves and our allies. Russia, China and others have invested in their cyberwar capabilities to exploit our systems almost at will.
Counterpunching those efforts requires our own national mandate executed with cabinet-level authority. If we don’t bestow this level of importance to the fight and set ourselves up to win, interference in U.S. elections will not only be repeated, such acts will seem trivial in comparison to what could and is likely to happen.
Mixcloud, the London startup that offers an audio streaming platform designed for long-form content, has closed its first-ever funding round, TechCrunch has learned. According to a regulatory filing and since confirmed by co-founder Nico Perez, the ten-year old company has raised approximately $11.5 million led by WndrCo, the media and technology holding company based in Los Angeles and San Francisco.
As part of the investment, WndrCo partners Ann Daly (former president of DreamWorks Animation) and Anthony Saleh (an investor and artist manager of hiphop stars Nas and Future) have joined the Mixcloud board. The injection of capital will be used to scale the service globally and for product development, says the company.
This will include doubling down on the U.S., hence Mixcloud’s new backers, and growing the company’s 22-person team, both in London and New York (where Perez is now based). On the product side, I understand the plan is to “diversify the platform,” which would appear to point to a recent licensing deal with Warner and new paid Mixcloud consumer offerings, making the company less reliant on display advertising and other types of brand sponsorship alone.
That Mixcloud has raised a decent sized funding round isn’t surprising in itself. The music streaming site, which originally wanted to be something akin to ‘YouTube for long-form audio’, has carved out a decent following as a place to house archived radio shows and DJ mixes, and counts more than 1 million “curators” uploading content to the platform. However, aside from a couple of U.K. government grants in its formative years, the fact that the company hasn’t taken any outside funding since being founded in 2008 is no-less than remarkable. As is, perhaps, its survival. The history of consumer-facing music startups is littered with companies that raise significant venture capital, before ultimately crashing and burning or being litigated out of existence.
“We are fairly rare, if not unique,” Perez tells me, in his understated way. “We quit our jobs and incorporated the company in 2008 and then the next two years was the challenge of starting any new company, around building the team, trying to raise funding, and in our case doing these innovate types of [music] licenses. And, being straight up honest with you, we couldn’t fundraise. We couldn’t find anybody to put in money. It was a very different time back then”.
To put that period in context, the term ‘Silicon Roundabout,’ used to describe the emerging tech cluster in East London where Mixcloud would eventually relocate, only entered the public domain in July 2008. And although Spotify was founded the same year, it remained very much under the radar. Meanwhile, the spectacular rise and fall of Napster over the previous decade was still fresh in the memories of investors.
“There had been several major collapses — Napster being the largest but also other services like imeem — that had grown and ultimately failed. Investors were very, very wary of the space, or maybe we were just not very good at pitching. Either way we didn’t manage to raise in the early days… For better or worse, we had to figure out how to survive by ourselves”.
This saw Mixcloud initially set up home in a warehouse in an industrial estate near Wembley, a much less fashionable part of London, in a bid to keep costs low. The team also took on “small jobs on the side,” ploughing any surplus money they earned into keeping the service alive. Aside from bootstrapping and those early government grants, the key to survival was growing Mixcloud’s users at roughly the same speed as advertising revenue, alongside pioneering new content licenses and fingerprinting technology to ensure rights-holders were paid.
“Slowly, over the next few years, it started to get traction amongst users and listeners. Then we started to make a little bit of money from Google Adsense and a few different brand partnerships. And then it took a good five or six years until we could support a small team, and we never raised investment along the way”.
That journey instilled a culture at Mixcloud of “being lean and not splashing out huge amounts of money on launch parties”. This not only ensured the lights could be kept on, but in recent years and somewhat ironically, the same financial discipline and non-reliance on venture capital started to attract the attention of investors. As did the latent potential for Mixcloud to go international.
“The next step for us — and actually part of the fund-raise — is how do we move from bringing this very U.K.-centric streaming platform to being a global player,” adds Perez. “We looked at the wider marketplace and the time we’re in right now… and we kinda felt like if we really wanna go for it then we’re gonna need some firepower behind us. So that’s why we did the deal”.
More devices are coming onto the Internet every single day, and that’s especially true within organizations that have a fleet of devices with access to sensitive data — which means there are even more holes for potential security breaches.
That’s the goal of Kolide. The aim is to ensure that companies have access to tools that give them the ability to get a thorough analysis of every bit of data they have — and where they have it. The Kolide Cloud, its initial major rollout for Mac and Linux devices, turns an entire fleet of apps and devices into what’s basically a table that anyone can query to get an up-to-date look at what’s happening within their business. Kolide looks to provide a robust set of tools that help analyze that data. By doing that, companies may have a better shot at detecting security breaches that might come from even mundane miscalculations or employees being careless about the security of that data. The company said today it has raised $8 million in new venture financing in a round led by Matrix Partners.
“It’s not just an independent event,” Kolide CEO Jason Meller said. “The way I think about it, if you look at any organization, there’s a pathway to a massive security incident, and the pathway is rather innocuous. Let’s say I’m a developer that works at one of these organizations and I need to fix a bug, and pull the production database. Now I have a laptop with this data on this, and I did this and didn’t realize my disk wasn’t encrypted. I went from these innocuous activities to something existentially concerning which could have been prevented if you knew which devices weren’t encrypted and had customer data. A lot of organizations are focused on these very rare events, but the reality is the risk that they face is mishandling of customer data or sensitive information and not thinking about the basics.”
Kolide is built on top of Osquery, a toolkit that allows organizations to essentially view all their devices or operations as if it were a single database. That means that companies can query all of these incidents or any changes in the way employees use data or the way that data is structured. You could run a simple select query for, say, apps and see what is installed where. It allows for a level of granularity that could help drill down into those little innocuous incidents Meller talks about, but all that still needs some simpler approach or interface for larger companies that are frantically trying to handle edge cases but may be overlooking the basics.
Like other companies looking to build a business on top of open source technology, the company looks to offer ways to calibrate those tools for a company’s niche needs that they necessarily don’t actively cover. The argument here is that by basing the company and tools on open source software, they’ll be able to lean on that community to rapidly adapt to a changing environment when it comes to security, and that will allow them to be more agile and have a better sales pitch to larger companies.
There’s going to be a lot of competition in terms of application monitoring and management, especially as companies adopt more and more devices in order to handle their operations. That opens up more and more holes for potential breaches, and in the end, Kolide hopes to create a more granular bird’s-eye view of what’s happening rather than just creating a flagging system without actually explaining what’s happening. There are some startups attacking device management tools, like Fleetsmith does for Apple devices (which raised $7.7 million), and to be sure provisioning and management is one part of the equation. But Kolide hopes to provide a strong toolkit that eventually creates a powerful monitoring system for organizations as they get bigger and bigger.
“We believe data collection is an absolute commodity,” Meller said. “That’s a fundamentally different approach, they believe the actual collection tools are proprietary. We feel this is a solved problem. Our goal isn’t to take info and regurgitate it in a fancy user interface. We believe we should be paid based on the insights and help manage their fleet better. We can tell the whole industry is swinging this way due to the traction OSQuery had. It’s not a new trend, it’s really the end point as a result of companies that have suffered from this black box situation.”
Peer-to-peer car-sharing marketplace Turo has officially closed a $104 million Series D round. This comes following a $12 million investment from Sumitomo Corporation and American Express Ventures, on top of a $92 million raise earlier this year.
“As a company that is intensely focused on enabling its customers to have unique travel experiences, American Express’ strategic investment positions us well within the travel ecosystem,” Turo wrote in a blog post. “Sumitomo Corporation will help provide guidance as we look to expand to Asia, particularly Japan. We welcome and expect to learn from their expertise in global marketing and customer service as Turo continues to make a huge impact in the automotive and travel industries.”
Turo has also unveiled a new program called Commercial Host. The idea is to enable independent car rental businesses — ones that can offer commercial rental insurance — the ability to offer their cars via Turo. Currently, Turo has six million people on board its platform sharing more than 230,000 cars worldwide.
Carpooling app Scoop, which recently raised $10 million in funding, is expanding into its fourth market, Portland.
Scoop is a corporate carpooling service that works with companies like LinkedIn, Workday, T-Mobile and Symantec. In conjunction with its launch in Portland, Scoop is bringing on Oregon Health Science University as a customer.
“OHSU is continually striving to make getting to and from work as easy as possible for our employees,” OHSU Campus Services VP Scott Page said in a statement. “Our Transportation Demand Management team is pleased to add this service to our menu of options aimed at making the commute easier.”
With Scoop, trips are pre-scheduled, so you can select from one or more times you’d be willing to leave in the morning and afternoon, and have up until 9pm the night before for morning trips and 3:30pm the day of for afternoon trips to schedule your ride. After the deadline, Scoop’s algorithms work to automatically create the most efficient carpools based on routes, detours, company preference, favorites and more.
To date, Scoop has facilitated more than two million carpool rides. In addition to the SF Bay Area and Portland, Scoop operates in Seattle and Reno.
Scoop is not the only, nor the first company to do carpooling. Lyft, for example, began as a carpooling service called Zimride, which is now owned by Enterprise. There’s also Carma, which partners with federal and state transportation agencies.
Scoop has raised a total of $46 million in funding from investors like BMW iVentures, Signia, Index Ventures and others.
This week on Technotopia I talked to Osama Hashmi, founder of Mocha 7 and a deep thinker on the topics of AI, blockchain, and the future. Hashmi was a bit of a downer in my optimistic view of the future but he had plenty to say, especially on the topic of human growth and improvement.
“There are many Exponential Social Impact challenges ahead and a positive future that can come from that,” he said. “We can put together an innovation ecosystem to solve this in a very positive way – but we have to start thinking about this.”
Take a listen and see what this positive – if wary – founder has to say about our collective futures. You can also read his book, Innovation Thinking.
Technotopia is a podcast by John Biggs about a better future. You can subscribe in Stitcher, RSS, or iTunes and listen the MP3 here.
Online coursework is exploding across all kinds of verticals and fields of expertise — but those courses inevitably end up on platforms like Udemy, and for Ankur Nagpal, that’s really not a way to build a true business.
That’s why Nagpal started Teachable, a platform for experts that want to create a business around their coursework that helps them build an entire online education suite beyond just platforms like Coursera or Udemy. Niche expertise can be way too valuable for just a simple marketplace like Coursera, Nagpal says, and experts in those areas — even seminars on mindfulness or Feng Shui — should be able to make more than just a few thousand dollars a year off that coursework. Nagpal said the company has raised an additional $4 million in equity from existing investors Accomplice Ventures and AngelList co-founder Naval Ravikant.
“In the past, if you wanted to teach courses, you could either put it in the marketplace or have it on your own website — with your brand and domain name and full control of everything — but there’s no easy way to do it,” Nagpal said. “It’s the difference between listing a physical good on Amazon and having your own storefront. While you could make a few thousand dollars on Udemy, you couldn’t build a sustainable business selling courses for $10 to $15.”
That fundraise, however, comes with a whopping $134 million valuation in the end as the company expects to be profitable by the end of Q4 this year. Teachable has around 10 million students across 125,000 courses, with 12,000 paying customers on the platform. Nagpal says it is aiming for a business that will generate more than $200 million in sales this year, which might not be so far off given the speed at which it has ramped up from just $5 million in 2015 to around $90 million in 2017.
In Teachable’s earliest days, instructors focused on marketing or programming, which is where a lot of online coursework got its start when the value of knowledge skills like Ruby or Python skyrocketed. But since then, Teachable has grown into a platform where users with niche skill sets can create robust coursework, and if they already have content ready to go like videos, can get their domain up and running in just a few hours. Teachable has a multi-tier pricing structure ranging from taking small transaction fees to a paid subscription of nearly $299 a month in order to manage its online domains, which is designed to appeal to a wide variety of potential instructors looking to get their start.
“If you look at our top 10 or 20 instructors, there’s virtually no pattern of verticals that are successful,” Nagpal said. “[The popular courses are based on] professional skills, or learning to play a musical instrument, or fly a drone, or even financial empowerment. There’s almost an anti-pattern.”
And again, these aren’t supposed to be courses that get wrapped up into a $49 per-month subscription. Courses in highly specific verticals — like something like Feng shui — can cost up to a hundred dollars or more. But the idea is that these seminars have so much value that students who are looking to dive deep into them are willing to go beyond the cost of just a Udemy in order to get the most valuable content. Teachable aims to make it easy to port the kind of content instructors might post on one of those marketplaces to quickly get them up and running with their own independent online course.
That free plan with a transaction fee is ultimately what at least piques the interest of potential instructors, and Teachable also hosts workshops to try to get them more excited about the opportunity — and then get them to start paying as they look to attract more and more students and need a more robust toolkit, like advanced reporting. or priority product support. The company doesn’t really focus on paid marketing because Nagpal says it’s “not very good at it,” as it primarily leans on word of mouth and affiliates.
“Courses on marketplaces are effectively commoditized,” he said. “I would buy the top-rated courses, but the first course is as valuable as the second or third. On our platform, if people are buying the Ruby on Rails course, it’s probably because they’ve followed an expert on that for a year. What I’m buying is not commoditized, I have a relationship with that person. Their content is much more valuable. All the sales are generated through an instructor.”
Nagpal said he got his start building a bunch of, well, bad Facebook apps like personality quizzes and really simple flash games in the early days of the Facebook Platform. Getting such an early glimpse at that behavior on the Facebook Platform is pretty controversial today with the massive privacy scandal Facebook faces after Cambridge Analytica, a political research firm, ended up with personal data of up to 87 million people through a simple app on the Facebook Platform. Nagpal, however, said what now seems like a treasure trove of data was at the time not really all that useful for that business.
“We got some of that data, but to us it was junk and we never stored it,” he said. “It just seemed like noise.”
The biggest challenge for Teachable, Nagpal says, is making sure instructors actually want to remain instructors. The free tier might attract them to getting started, but instructors might just get burnt out from being instructors in general — whether that’s on Teachable or a marketplace like Udemy. The real competition, he says, are platforms like YouTube and other time sinks for content creators. To keep them on board, Teachable hopes to expand to other verticals of content like coaching and services. That, too, might keep it ahead of marketplaces like Coursera and eventually woo instructors with the opportunity to build an entire online business on Teachable.
“Every month we have 50 people getting more [than the top paid instructor on a platform like Skillshare],” he said. “The sustainability of the business is very different. It’s really hard to make a living selling $10 courses. On our platform, the average price point is closer to $100, which in turn gets reinvested to create actually good content. We’re finding most of the instructors don’t just sell courses, and they have multiple income streams. We’re trying to see if we can get our checkout product powering all that. That creates network lock-in.”
Teachable also took on a few smaller investors including Shopify founder Tobias Lutke, Weebly founder Chris Fanini, Lynda.com CEO Eric Robison, and Getty Images founder Jonathan Klein.
Skagen is a well-know maker of thin and uniquely Danish watches. Founded in 1989, the company is now part of the Fossil group and, as such, has begin dabbling in both the analog with the Hagen and now Android Wear with the Falster. The Falster is unique in that it stuffs all of the power of a standard Android Wear device into a watch that mimics the chromed aesthetic of Skagen’s austere design while offering just enough features to make you a fashionable smartwatch wearer.
The Falster, which costs $275 and is available now, has a fully round digital OLED face which means you can read the time at all times. When the watch wakes up you can see an ultra bright white on black time-telling color scheme and then tap the crown to jump into the various features including Android Fit and the always clever Translate feature that lets you record a sentence and then show it the person in front of you.
You can buy it with a leather or metal band and the mesh steel model costs $20 extra.
Sadly, in order stuff the electronics into such a small case, Skagen did away with GPS, LTE connectivity, and even a heart-rate monitor. In other words if you were expecting a workout companion then the Falster isn’t the Android you’re looking for. However, if you’re looking for a bare-bones fashion smartwatch, Skagen ticks all the boxes.
What you get from the Flasterou do get, however, is a low-cost, high-style Android Wear watch with most of the trimmings. I’ve worn this watch off and on few a few weeks now and, although I do definitely miss the heart rate monitor for workouts, the fact that this thing looks and acts like a normal watch 99% of the time makes it quite interesting. If obvious brand recognition nee ostentation are your goal, the Apple Watch or any of the Samsung Gear line are more your style. This watch, made by a company famous for its Danish understatement, offers the opposite of that.
Skagen offers a few very basic watch faces with the Skagen branding at various points on the dial. I particularly like the list face which includes world time or temperature in various spots around the world, offering you an at-a-glance view of timezones. Like most Android Wear systems you can change the display by pressing and holding on the face.
It lasts about a day on one charge although busy days may run down the battery sooner as notifications flood the screen. The notification system – essentially a little icon that appears over the watch face – sometimes fails and instead shows a baffling grey square. This is the single annoyance I noticed, UI-wise, when it came to the Falster. It works with both Android smartphones and iOS.
What this watch boils down to is an improved fitness tracker and notification system. If you’re wearing, say, a Fitbit, something like the Skagen Falster offers a superior experience in a very chic package. Because the watch is fairly compact (at 42mm I won’t say it’s small but it would work on a thinner wrist) it takes away a lot of the bulk of other smartwatches and, more important, doesn’t look like a smartwatch. Those of use who don’t want to look like we’re wearing robotic egg sacs on our wrists will enjoy that aspect of Skagen’s effort, even without all the trimmings we expect from a modern smartwatch.
Skagen, like so many other watch manufacturers, decided if it couldn’t been the digital revolution it would join it. The result is the Falster and, to a lesser degree, their analog collections. Whether or not traditional watchmakers will survive the 21st century is still up in the air but, as evidenced by this handsome and well-made watch, they’re at least giving it the old Danish try.
Sword Health, a startup operating out of Portugal that has developed a digital physiotherapy solution to enable patients to be treated remotely in their own homes, has raised $4.6 million in seed funding. Backing the round is Green Innovations, Vesalius Biocapital III, and other unnamed investors in the U.S. and Europe.
The company says it will use the new capital, which adds to an earlier ~$1.2 million grant from the European Commission, to accelerate the development of new digital therapies and drive global growth.
Using what it describes as a combination of “high-precision motion tracking sensors” and the latest advances in AI, the Sword Health solution aims to make the delivery of physiotherapy infinitely more scalable, in recognition that there is a worldwide shortage of physiotherapists. Its flagship product “Sword Phoenix” provides patients with interactive physical rehabilitation exercises from the comfort of their own home, supervised by remote physiotherapists.
“Twenty years ago my brother had a car accident. What I realised then (and this is still true now) is that there is a huge gap between the demand for physical therapy and our ability, as a developed society, to deliver that therapy,” Sword Health co-founder and CEO Virgílio Bento tells me.
“The problem is that the physical rehabilitation industry has not changed in the last 50 years. We’re still very much dependent on the one-to-one patient-therapist interaction, which is the gold standard, but it is not a scalable model and is actually very costly for both patients and healthcare providers”.
To remedy this, Bento and the Sword team began work on what he calls a “digital physical therapist” concept. The idea is that by using motion sensors attached to the appropriate places of a patient’s body, combined with an AI-driven user interface that can take that motion data and give instant feedback, some of what a physiotherapist does can be augmented by machines.
“With Sword Phoenix, clinical teams extend their therapeutic footprint to each patient’s home, scale their reach and are able to devote more time to delivering the human touch,” he says.
To date, Bento says Sword is working with insurance companies, national health services, health maintenance organisations and providers in the U.S., Canada, Australia, Norway, and the startup’s home country, Portugal.
“These customers are able to provide higher quality physical therapy services directly in the patient’s home and decrease operational costs at the same time – an accomplishment that is only possible in healthcare through enlightened use of data analysis and technology,” he adds.
In terms of competitors, Bento argues that the majority of health tech companies are focused on developing technologies that improve the one-to-one patient therapist interaction (e.g., Tyromotion, Hocoma). “This incremental improvement is not the solution because it does not result in a paradigm shift,” he says.
With that said, Bento does conceded that there are other startups trying to create a digital therapist. One I’ve covered in detail is Atomico-backed Hinge Health, which has developed a digital solution for musculoskeletal (MSK) disorders.