Wes Blackwell joins Scout Ventures to invest in early-stage, veteran-led startups

This post was written by Anthony Ha (TechCrunch) and originally posted here

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We haven’t written much about Scout Ventures, but the New York City-based firm has built up a big portfolio over nearly a decade of investing, with exits like Olapic (acquired by Monotype for $130 million) and Kanvas (acquired by TechCrunch’s parent company AOL).

And, it’s done all of this with just one full-time partner, Bradley C. Harrison — until recently, when the firm brought on Wes Blackwell as partner.

Blackwell is an advisor to Washington, D.C. startup studio DataTribe and previously led enterprise implementation, account management and tech support at LiveSafe. And like Harrison (who graduated from West Point and served in the Army for five years), Blackwell is a veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces, having spent more than a decade flying helicopters in the Navy.

“If you’d asked me five years ago if I would have partnered with an Annapolis Navy brat, the answer would have been an unequivocal no,” Harrison said. But he said that as he and Blackwell started spending more time together, he realized that their backgrounds were complementary: “It made all the sense in the world.”

And the Armed Forces background isn’t just another line in their bios — Harrison said that about half of the companies that Scout has invested in were founded by veterans.

“We don’t find a lot of competition in this stuff,” he explained. “It’s a pretty tight community.”

Scout typically writes initial checks of between $500,000 and $750,000 and aims to take a stake of around 10 percent. And while Harrison has been the only full-time partner until now, the firm has a team that also includes several venture partners and Principal Brendan Syron.

“Like any good investors, our thesis evolves over time,” Syron told me. He said the firm has become increasingly interested in frontier technology, with investments in its “core sectors” of AI, machine learning, autonomy and mobility, and “a big focus” on data and cybersecurity — an area where Blackwell has strong connections.

“Some of folks in this industry, by their nature, they’re not very trusting,” Blackwell said. “So by virtue of Brad and I’s background and character, there’s a trust factor there.”

Blackwell has already made his first investment as part of Scout, leading a $1.5 million round in DeepSig, a startup working to improve wireless technology by applying deep learning to radio signal data.

Wes Blackwell joins Scout Ventures to invest in early-stage, veteran-led startups

Where will all the flying cars park?

This post was written by Nisa Amoils (Venture Partner) and originally posted here.

Yesterday Lilium jet became the latest to announce their flying car $90 million funding round for “airplane as a service” businesses. Add to the giants like Tesla and Nvidia that are already working on this. The promise of the 5 seater all-electric vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) jet is that it is 5 times faster than cars and with significantly less environmental impact. There are a number of other startups that are focused on the electric aircraft market, including Kitty Hawk and Zee.aero, both backed by Larry Page; and Vahana, backed by Airbus.

The Lilium VTOL jet is solely electric-powered which has left some aviation experts skeptical that the startup can reach its goal of speeds up to 300 kph and a distance of 300 km. However, the company claims that they have optimized the battery and the design (no tail). They have also made it 4 times less noisy than a helicopter so you can only hear it on takeoff and landing.

This all sounds great but if the ultimate vision is that you can own one as a luxury, where is everyone going to park them? They are not going to fit in the garage and probably require a hangar for protection and insulation. I assume you need to keep them at a certain temperature so that they don’t freeze when they hit the cold air. Is everyone going to have their own de-icing machine? We just invested in a new de-ice technology TBA — that could work. But on the parking side, it raises the question of a vision for a new type of community as we move into a Jetson-like world.

I just visited the Refuge Alpine Air Park in Wyoming https://alpineairpark.com/airport/ and believe this could be the vision for how our communities will look! Built by aviation enthusiasts and only 45 minutes from Jackson Hole, it is a community of houses with their own hangars to house helicopters, planes and other aerial machines. so they are really “personal air machine garages”! Imagine that when you land there, you land on a street that is a runway and then taxi to your house. You pass people walking their dogs as you taxi by! Because of personal aviation, you have a community where there would have been none. Granted, this is real luxury in that it is in the middle of the mountains with spectacular views, but imagine if costs could come down and the concept could be applied everywhere. I am lucky to have visited the Refuge and caught that vision. I can’t wait to see the innovation that continues to come in these machines, how we house them, and how it impacts humanity.

Where will all the flying cars park?

Gratitude

Some thoughts about how to have a happier future.

Be Happy

I find myself in one of the most grounded, healthy and happy places I think I’ve ever been.

While the constant ups and downs of life still continue, I have found an internal compass magnetized by gratitude and pointing me in the direction of happiness.

This has not been an easy or short path.

It has not been without obstacles especially those self-imposed.

But as of now, I am in tune.

Much love.

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Gratitude

ID.me closes $19M led by FTV Capital

This article originally appeared on the Washington Post and can be found here

Signing into web pages is almost universally known as one of the most annoying parts of the Internet.

Most people either have keep a separate list of every password needed to log into each different platform, or use one or two passwords for everything, something that security experts say emboldens identity thieves.

A number of gigantic technology companies are trying to find a simpler way.

Companies like Facebook and Google let users log into multiple products with the same username and password. And a growing pool of companies is gunning to create a system that works across numerous products. Providing this sort of identity verification across various web pages requires certain certifications, attracting a limited pool of mostly large technology companies including Verizon and Symantec.

But alongside these big companies, a little start-up called ID.me is betting on the the idea of an all-encompassing electronic sign-in. Originally founded as a sort of military-focused daily deals company, then named TroopSwap, the company now has a $19 million war chest to focus singularly on managing people’s identities.

“We think it’s a fundamental problem that digital identity is in the hands of two advertising companies, Facebook and Google. That clearly is not OK,” said chief executive Blake Hall.

“What we really want to do is create a ubiquitous ID network whether its ID.me or somebody else.”

ID.Me said Wednesday it has raised $19 million from FTV Capital, a San Francisco-based private equity firm, with another $21 million planned for later. Financial details were not disclosed, but Hall says the company making the investment would not have a controlling stake in the business.

Blake’s company is building an online network where people — or the businesses that ID.me contracts with — can upload specific forms of credentials needed to identify an individual for a specific purpose. For most problems, that involves a relatively limited pool of identifying factors, minimizing the amount of sensitive data that might be exposed.

ID.me embarked on this new line of business in 2013 after experimenting with other business models in its early days. After the TroopSwap daily deals business sputtered, the company re-branded as TroopID, with a new plan to make it easier for troops to identify themselves online to claim things like medical benefits.

That toe-hold in the market for online authentication services preceded the broader market the company is now targeting.

Hall says the new funding will be used to build out a sales and marketing force that went largely ignored in the company’s early days.

The young company has 253 customers, most of whom are large e-commerce sites that use ID.me’s technology to identify millions of users. Hall declined to disclose financial details, but said the company’s revenue more than quadrupled last year and is projected to be “in the eight figures for sure.”

ID.me closes $19M led by FTV Capital

Brad Harrison on Venture Studio

Brad Harrison recently had the opportunity to sit down with Dave Lerner on Venture Studio, where the two discussed investment philosophy, NY tech, Olapic, and much more. We highly recommend giving it a listen (37 minutes).

Dave is a serial entrepreneur with 3 exits, angel investor in 70+ companies and the host of Venture Studio, a popular podcast where I interview some of the most interesting investors and personalities in NYC tech and beyond. He is also the Director of Entrepreneurship at Columbia University, Adjunct Professor of Entrepreneurship at Columbia Business School and was the Director of Columbia’s Venture Lab for seven years where he spun-out 70+ technology start-ups based on university research.

 

Brad Harrison on Venture Studio

Digi International Acquires IoT Cold Chain Provider FreshTemp

Original post can be found here.
Acquisition Broadens Temperature Monitoring and Adds Digital Task Management Solutions for the Cold Chain and Food Industry

MINNETONKA, Minn., Nov. 2,  2016  –  Digi International®, (NASDAQ: DGII, www.digi.com), a leading global provider of machine-to-machine (M2M) and Internet of Things (IoT) connectivity products and services, today announced the purchase of FreshTemp, a provider of  temperature monitoring and task management solutions for the food industry. The acquired technology will continue to be supported, as well as leveraged within the Digi HoneycombTM solution, to create an advanced portfolio of products for the cold chain market. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

Founded in 2011 by CEO Jeff Rieger, FreshTemp has been a pioneering company in creating technology, services and domain expertise in complete food safety and operations management for commercial kitchens. With this acquisition, Digi Cold Chain Solutions will expand its temperature monitoring solutions to incorporate digital task management capabilities to replace traditional manual logbooks and simplify daily restaurant tasks. Organizations will be able to streamline manual operational checklists and provide insight to managers on how well their teams are adhering to restaurant guidelines. As part of the acquisition, Mr. Rieger and FreshTemp employees will become part of the Digi Cold Chain Solutions team.

“Our solution sets are extremely compatible and I’m excited to be able to leverage the market presence and scale that Digi offers our customers,” said Jeff Rieger, founder and chief executive officer of FreshTemp. “Together, we’ll be able to accelerate the adoption of our solutions and support the growing demand for technology that ensures businesses are serving safe and quality food.”

“We believe the cold chain market represents a large underserved market that can take greater advantage of wireless sensor networking and IoT capabilities,” said Ron Konezny, president and chief executive officer, Digi International. “We’re going to leverage all avenues – organic growth, partnerships, and acquisitions – to further establish Digi as the expert in providing easy to use and ROI generating cold chain solutions.

Since its introduction, Digi Honeycomb has been deployed in a number of leading quick service restaurants, and has established itself as a leading solution through partnerships such as those with TELUS, Canada’s fastest-growing national telecommunications company.

Digi Honeycomb is an automated food temperature monitoring service that encompasses front-of-house and back-of-house environments to alert users if the proper temperature is not maintained. FreshTemp’s core product line as well as task management capabilities will be made available through Digi Cold Chain Solutions.  As a result, organizations in the food industry will be able to address major operational challenges. For more information visit: http://www.digi.com/cold-chain-solutions.

About Digi International 
Digi International (NASDAQ: DGII) is a leading global provider of business and mission-critical machine-to-machine (M2M) and Internet of Things (IoT) connectivity products and services. We help our customers create next-generation connected products and deploy and manage critical communications infrastructures in demanding environments with high levels of security, relentless reliability and bulletproof performance. Founded in 1985, we’ve helped our customers connect over 100 million things, and growing.

Digi International Acquires IoT Cold Chain Provider FreshTemp

Beyonce Invests in Sidestep

This post originally appeared on TechCrunch and can be found here

Joining celebrity investors like Snoop Dogg, Ashton Kutcher, and Justin Bieber, Queen Bey is bringing her supreme business skills to the tech world. Beyoncé and the management company she started called Parkwood Entertainment have invested $150,000 into Sidestep, an app for buying concert merchandise and skipping the line to pick it up at the show.

Sidestep originally started selling t-shirts and posters for Beyoncé on her Formation World Tour. But after two weeks of seeing its success, Beyoncé and Parkwood invested in Sidestep’s seed round of funding.

Sidestep CEO Eric Jones tells me they “wanted Beyoncé’s tour to be very focused on tech”, and liked the idea of “a tiny scrappy startup doing the biggest tour in the world.”

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Beyoncé previously invested in WTRMLN WTR, a watermelon beverage company. She’s believed to have ties to juicing machine maker Juicero, though that company refuses to talk about their relationship. [Update: Beyonce helped start vegan food company 22 Day Nutritionas well.] She’s also a stakeholder in streaming service Tidal thanks to her agreement to give it early access to her music. With her investment in Sidestep, though, she could directly help artists earn more money.

Musicians hoping to get rich off skimpy streaming royalties are kidding themselves. The real money is in using streaming to get famous and then selling concert tickets and merchandise.

But due to long lines and, you know, wanting to actually see the show, many people avoid buying t-shirts and other merch at concerts. That’s where Sidestep steps in.

The startup lets you order tour merchandise before, during, or even after the show from its smartphone app. You can then Sidestep the merch booth line, flash a QR code at the dedicated pickup spot, and grab your items in seconds. Or you can have them delivered to your home. This way you can be sure to get whatever stuff you want in the right size with no fear of wasting time or it selling out.

Along with Beyoncé gear, you can buy merch from artists like Guns N’ Roses, Fall Out Boy, Selena Gomez, and Weezer via Sidestep. The startup gives artists a ton of data about who’s buying, and keeps a 10% service fee charged to the customer.

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Sidestep has raised a total of $1.7 million from Beyoncé and other investors including actor Jared Leto, former Lady Gaga manager Troy Carter and Cross Culture Ventures, and the previous CEO of the LA Dodgers. The app has done over $2 million in sales, up 10X from last year. The company competed in TechCrunch’s 1st And Future sports startup hackathonearlier this year. 

Sidestep will have to compete with other merchandise startups like Merchbar, an Amazon-like webstore, and Yoshirt, which lets fans design custom items with a band’s logos and photos. and some people might rather stand in line than pay 10% extra. But with streaming royalties still unable to make up for the drop in album sales, artists will do whatever they can to sell more shirts, and these startups could flourish.

Meanwhile, top performers like Beyoncé who invest will start stackin’ money in Silicon Valley, not just Hollywood.

Beyonce Invests in Sidestep