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Helsinki just misses top 20, Stockholm ranks 14th in global startup city rankings report

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The Nordics got a good grade on startup development late Tuesday when Startup Genome released its 2017 startup ecosystem rankings, with the Swedish capital breaking the top 20 for the first time and Helsinki appearing among the top eight runners-up.

The upgraded assessment is no surprise for people familiar with Sweden and Finland. Both cities are similar in terms of outlook, the influence of telecoms on the local economy, and ambition of local organizers to play a major role in the European technology economy overall. Finland plays host to Slush every year, the continent’s biggest tech confab. Stockholm hosts its own events but is also double the size of Helsinki and thus has double the startup volume.

Stockholm was rated 8th in market reach among the top 20, just behind Vancouver (15th overall) and ahead of Paris (9th overall). The Swedish capital also ranked 12th in startup experience behind Los Angeles (9th overall) and ahead of Shanghai (8th overall). Stockholm is last in the index for funding however, and in the bottom four for talent.

“The biggest upward movement was Stockholm, which entered the top 20 with an impressive 14th place, thanks to its high Market Reach and amazing ability to create unicorns despite its small size,” the report’s authors wrote, which included Genome CEO and Co-Founder Bjoern Lasse Herrmann, CFO J-F Gauthier, Project Manager Danny Holtschke, Dr. Ron Berman, and Founder Emeritus Max Marmer.

Visitors make a day of it at King Digital Entertainment's studios in Stockholm, Sweden. Photo Credit: King
Visitors make a day of it at King Digital Entertainment’s studios in Stockholm, Sweden. (Photo Credit: King)

Both cities scored high for their share of foreign customers. Stockholm is 5th in the world; Helsinki is 9th. The authors thought the best reason to explain why the Nordic cities were doing so well making their brands global was to compare it to a more influential ecosystem: Israel’s.

“In Stockholm, Berlin, and Helsinki startups have an incentive to go global — beyond Europe — if they want to grow faster. The best examples of this are Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Because of its small economy and thanks to their global community, Israeli startups have successfully executed go-global strategies for years.”

Big Finn: Helsinki moves up the ranks

Space Nation and Cohu Experience CEO Kalle Vähä-Jaakkola on stage at Slush 2016 in Helsinki, Finland (courtesy)

The Finnish capital missed the top 20, but was included in a list of seven other cities as “runners-up.” Those were Jerusalem, Altanta, Delhi, Denver-Boulder (Colorado), Moscow, Mumbai, and Salt Lake-Provo (Utah). They were also noted for their relatively high funding for being outside the top 20 alongside Seoul. The city also got top marks for “startup connectedness” along with Estonia and Lisbon, as well as “startup experience” next to Atlanta and Houston.

“Because of its small community, Helsinki has the ability, as well as the momentum, to develop a position of influence and to produce the connective tissue that is needed to build and grow a robust startup community.”

Their $358,000 in average early stage funding is extremely impressive for an ecosystem weighed at a relatively low valuation of $1.5 billion.

Stockholm reigns supreme in the north

The city has an estimated 600-900 startups, low by global standards, but they make up for quantity in terms of quality.

“Stockholm ranks second in Europe when it comes to producing unicorns,1 outpaced only by London,” the report notes, complimenting Spotify and Klarna for as top European startup colossuses. They also commend engineering taught at KTH and the Stockholm School of Economics for the venture surge. “Both institutions encourage entrepreneurship through incubation programs, in addition to the Stockholm School of Entrepreneurship providing everything else you need to know.”

As noted earlier, the city actually lags in terms of funding. Average early stage funding is only $325,000, more than $30,000 lower than friendly rival Helsinki. Yet, the ecosystem’s overall value is nearer to the mean at $15 billion.

This reporter in action at the annual SLUSH Conference in Helsinki, Finland. The photo was taken with a Nokia OZO 360° camera. Photo Credit: Geektime
Geektime reporter Gabriel Avner in action at Slush 2015 in Helsinki, Finland. The photo was taken with a Nokia OZO 360° camera. (Gabriel Avner / Geektime)

The two ecosystems are very similar: Swedes saw their big bump in entrepreneurship after major layoffs at Ericsson, Finns after Nokia; both have top-notch schools; both have incredible gaming economies; both have strong government support. Both countries exchange large expat populations as well.

It would be fair to say the big difference comes in real numbers, but not proportionately. Startup Helsinki told Geektime last year there were about 500 startups in the capital area (the majority of Finland’s small tech companies). It’s plausible that the number estimated for Sweden is actually conservative and that Swedes probably have twice as many startups as Finns. But that wouldn’t be a knock against Helsinki — Sweden has twice as large a population.

Maria Rankka, CEO of the Stockholm Chamber of Commerce, visited Israel in 2016 to make startup ecosystem connections (photo: chamber.se)

If one took volume out of the equation, the argument that Helsinki is better would be very strong, similarly if one were to say Waterloo, Ontario was a “better” ecosystem than Toronto based on entrepreneur population density. Expect the two ecosystems to continue tussling for position in the future. Helsinki is well-positioned to breach the top 20 should Genome wait two years between reports again.

One major wild card in Finland’s ability to eclipse Sweden is the latter’s ongoing discussion about immigration access. Similar to recent H-1B visa orders by the Trump Administration in the US, Sweden has seen its own South Asian developer community impacted by bureaucracy and increased protectionism in local politics.

Tayyab Shabab, a developer at Dynamo in Stockholm, was at the center of a national debate over professional immigration in Sweden (courtesy)

Should the environment get more restrictive and Finland is able to stave off that trend itself, Finns could see a windfall in new immigrants who might have otherwise chosen Stockholm as a landing pad.

For now Sweden has the Nordic crown, but they shouldn’t sit on their hands when they’re on the throne.

Jerusalem just misses top 20, Tel Aviv ranks 6th in global startup city rankings report

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Startup Genome released Tuesday its 2017 report on the world’s top startup economies, including some interesting additions and changes. Tel Aviv ranked high (6th) but dropped a spot relative to the previous report two years ago, while Jerusalem got an honorable runners-up mention, placing it in the top 28 startup ecosystems worldwide.

“In Israel, Tel Aviv has been a top-performing startup ecosystem for several years, and in our 2017 rankings, Jerusalem was a close runner-up, scoring strong in Talent and Market Reach,” the report’s authors wrote, which included Genome CEO and Co-Founder Bjoern Lasse Herrmann, CFO J-F Gauthier, Project Manager Danny Holtschke, Dr. Ron Berman, and Founder Emeritus Max Marmer.

But that TL;DR undersells how strong the holy city really is in the rankings. It comes in 3rd for percentage of customers who are based internationally, behind 1st place Tel Aviv and 2nd place New Zealand. Silicon Valley ranked 4th. That both cities rank so high is indicative of a critical and successful world-first strategy by startups from the Jewish State.

“In Stockholm, Berlin, and Helsinki startups have an incentive to go global — beyond Europe — if they want to grow faster. The best examples of this are Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Because of its small economy and thanks to their global community, Israeli startups have successfully executed go-global strategies for years.”

Jerusalem: city of gold, hub of silicon

Jerusalem was listed among seven other runners-up that included Atlanta, Delhi, Denver-Boulder, Helsinki, Moscow, Mumbai, and Salt Lake-Provo. It made a strong case to break the top 20 though, coming in 5th worldwide in terms of exit value per share (over 5 percent) and ranked extremely high on global connectedness.

HappyHourJLM, Made in Jerusalem’s monthly meetup, February 22, 2017 (Roy Munin via Facebook)

It was one of the eight technology clusters in the European region that got special mention next to Lisbon, Estonia, Barcelona, and the burgeoning startup scene in Frankfurt. But it is safe to say Jerusalem outpaces all those tech economies. Genome estimates 500-700 startups are in the Israeli capital and mentions Mobileye’s $890 million IPO as a boon for the city (the report was clearly completed just before Intel’s $15.3 billion acquisition of Mobileye announced yesterday).

“With a population of almost one million—one-third of which is Muslim—Jerusalem’s startup ecosystem thrives on diversity and the actions of a helpful city government. The city boasts a number of recent startup successes in cutting-edge realms like computer vision (image processing, virtual reality), machine learning, and artificial intelligence.”

Glide and OrCam get special mention. There were plenty of examples to cite for its strength, but the report did critique the city of gold as well.

“Jerusalem is a top contender that narrowly fell outside of this year’s top 20 ecosystem index overall. The city’s weakest factor is performance, where interestingly its exit value is very strong but the total value of the pre-exit startups is weak, indicating strong outlier performance with weaker fundamentals,” the report reads.

Tel Aviv still reigns

Tel Aviv Photo Credit: Ilan Shacham / Getty Images Israel

The Tel Aviv metropolitan area is still the center of Israel’s tech world. The report mentions over 250 Israeli companies have IPO’ed on the NASDAQ exchange in the last 40 years, only outnumbered by the US and China. Early-stage funding averages around $509,000 per startup, more than double the global average. The metro’s ecosystem value is worth a colossal $22 billion. Even the average $63,000 software engineer salary beats the global average ($49,000).

“Tiny Tel Aviv has all the characteristics of a global tech giant: technology, education, government support, a global mindset, and a staggering 300 multinational R&D centers operating in Israel.”

The report notes military is the primary factor in Tel Aviv’s strength and the main conduit for many developers and cyber security entrepreneurs currently driving Israel’s overall startup economy. It’s worth noting, this report aside, that Silicon Valley also has its roots in military development.

Convexum Co-Founder and CEO Gilad Sahar (C) demos his company’s drone-jamming tech to Cologne Mayor Henriette Reker (L) in Tel Aviv at SOSA on February 21, 2017 (Image: Gedalyah Reback/Geektime)

Tel Aviv’s immigrant founder percentage is shockingly low at 16 percent (below the 19 percent worldwide average), this despite the fact Israel has high and steady immigration of Jews with college degrees from around the Western world. Its female entrepreneurial numbers are also low, down at 8 percent.

On the other hand, 34 percent of Jerusalem’s founders are not native-born and 16 percent of the more religious city’s startup entrepreneurs are women, double that of secular Tel Aviv.

Jerusalem is growing, but then again so is the whole country

Jerusalem’s YMCA during the INTV conference on March 7, 2017 (Gedalyah Reback / Geektime)

What is important to note here is how much of an advantage seed stage startups have in coastal Tel Aviv versus mountain-high Jerusalem. The average amount of early stage funding in Jerusalem is only $254,000, about average, meaning Tel Aviv beats the city out by about 100 percent. Jerusalem’s ecosystem value is only (“only”) $6 billion, a quarter that of Tel Aviv.

Jerusalem has produced exits. As Ben Wiener notes, Jerusalem is responsible for Israel’s two largest (NDS and Mobileye, three if you include Mobileye twice for IPO and sale to Intel). The proximity of the city to Tel Aviv makes it inexcusable more investors from the Big Orange don’t make the 45-minute trip to the nation’s capital to look for investments.

In all likelihood, considering Jerusalem was ranked high two years ago in this index, the city will probably broach the top 20 the next time this report comes around.

OurCrowd Founder and CEO Jon Medved opens the Global Investor Summit in Jerusalem on February 16, 2017 (courtesy)

The report does not mention technology clusters in other parts of the country: Haifa, Beer Sheva, and Arab tech hub Nazareth. It’s not clear if data from those cities is somewhat included in the Tel Aviv section of the report or if their numbers were judged independently. It can be difficult to assess in which ecosystem some startups should be placed: Modi’in-based IT Central Station is located at the precise midpoint between Israel’s two main cities.

Tel Aviv likely dropped in the rankings from 5th to 6th for a couple main reasons: 1) Chinese cities were included in this report unlike the 2015 analysis and 2) data on Jerusalem was likely separated more thoroughly. The research does not consider a possible shortage in home-grown talent being discussed in the Israeli ecosystem, which might otherwise have weighed down on both cities in the assessment. Should Israel take steps to correct that problem, there should be no issue in getting Jerusalem’s share of the global startup economy to grow in the next couple of years, plus seeing other Israeli metros start battling for their own rightful place atop the startup world.

Montreal falls, Vancouver passes Toronto & Waterloo in global startup city rankings

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Canada has a new startup champion according to a report released Tuesday. Vancouver ranks 15th on the planet, ahead of the 16th place scene in Toronto and tech-heavy Waterloo, Ontario while Montreal dropped out of the top 20 index. That is according to the 2017 Startup Genome report ranking the world’s strongest startup ecosystems, its first such index in two years. Silicon Valley predictably ranks in the top spot, followed closely by New York, Boston, Tel Aviv, and China’s big cities. But there were changes in the rankings for Canada’s major cities.

The shift is a major surprise considering Waterloo (in conjunction with sister towns Kitchener and Cambridge) has the highest density of startups of any North American city outside Silicon Valley. Vancouver is estimated to have only 800-1,100 startups compared to Toronto-Waterloo’s about 2,100-2,700. Toronto ranked ahead of Canada’s two other major metros in the 2015 report in which it was considered the 17th best on the planet, ahead of 18th place Vancouver and 20th place Vancouver.

Canada actually shows improvement despite the minor shifts, as the report two years ago did not include data on startup cities in the Far East, Hong Kong, or Singapore. This one does, yet Canada’s power remains steady.

For its local population of 100,000 Waterloo is nesting 1,000 startups and deserves a lot more attention. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons
For its local population of 100,000 Waterloo is nesting 1,000 startups and deserves a lot more attention. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

“Canadian cities score particularly well on Market Reach, driven by the high share of foreign customers that startups in Toronto-Waterloo, Vancouver, and Ottawa are able to reach,” the report’s authors write, which include Genome CEO and Co-Founder Bjoern Lasse Herrmann, CFO J-F Gauthier, Project Manager Danny Holtschke, Dr. Ron Berman, and Founder Emeritus Max Marmer. They note Toronto-Waterloo ranks 5th and Vancouver 7th on that stat, right behind of Berlin (7th overall) and just ahead of 14th place Stockholm.

“This is largely because of Canadian startups’ access to the U.S. market — when we remove that from Market Reach calculations (captured in our Rest of World customer metric), Toronto-Waterloo and Vancouver both rank below the 10th position.”

Vancouver saw about a 90-percent increase in its exit growth rates between the previous report in 2015 and this edition, while Toronto easily outpaced it at about 180 percent.

Toronto skyline (CC BY-SA 3.0 Maldive via Wikimedia Commons)

Jamming Toronto and Waterloo together might raise eyebrows from Canadians — the two cities are two hours apart on a good commuting day — but it is hard to separate Waterloo from Toronto as a financial pipeline and many people do indeed make that commute in both directions.

Yet, both cities ranked near the bottom 20 in terms of talent access. Surprisingly, Vancouver came in 9th in terms of cost when it came to making new hires despite issues about the cost of living in the city. On the upside, when the talent gets to work, Canada’s western city has a big advantage.

“Focusing on Team Experience, Vancouver (ranking first) and Austin join much larger Beijing, Silicon Valley (in second place), and Boston to complete the top 5, while Stockholm places eighth. This metric showcases well the importance of tech in these three smaller cities of about one million people. This results in a concentration of experience available to startups, with tech entrepreneurship being a strong career option.”

More growth expected in Hollywood North, Ottawa, Quebec City

The report is extremely optimistic about Canada’s growth prospects, regardless of discussion about a windfall in would-be American visa holders embarking to Canada in lieu of easy access to Trump’s America.

One program not mentioned in the report is deliberately trying to lure American visa-holding entrepreneurs to Vancouver afraid they will lose their privileges, while Montreal has one of the lowest cost-of-doing-business values in North America.

The Canadian capital Ottawa, eastern Quebec City, and Montreal are considered among the top regional technology clusters in all of the Americas despite not ranking in the top 20 in 2017. Vancouver, however, stole the show.

Montreal in the snow at dusk. While all the provinces have their own separate immigration programs in addition to the national one, Quebec has extra requirements like proficiency in both English and French to move there, the rest of Canada isn’t as strict (Public domain image via Pixabay)

“A large portion of this growing success comes from ambitious incubator and accelerator collaborations between Wavefront, BC Innovation Council, Launch Academy, BC Tech Association and others – organizations that are all committed to growing the next generation of tech successes and marshalling a 100,000+ strong army of entrepreneurs over the next decade,” reads the report.

Vancouver startups raised an average of $334,000 in seed funding, far higher than the global average of $252,000. Thirty percent of its founders are immigrants, but only 12 percent are women. But the Ontario ecosystem dwarfs those stats with an average of $443,000 in seed funding and 19 percent of its founders being women.

“The Toronto-Waterloo Corridor benefits from multicultural talent drawn from sixteen academic institutions, most notably the University of Toronto and University of Waterloo, alongside generous tax credits, government grants, and favorable currency exchange.”

Ottawa from Point Champlain (public domain image via Wikimedia Commons)

Where British Columbia’s capital bests Canada’s economic capital corridor is ecosystem value: the Vancouver startup ecosystem is worth about $9 billion while Toronto-Waterloo’s $7.2 billion. Montreal took in some “impressive exit values” in the last two years and hosts 800-1,400 startups, “but their early stage funding isn’t growing very fast ($123,000 on average). Their global connectedness is pretty good, but they have a hard time accessing top talent.”

Quebec City (public domain image via Wikimedia Commons)

Shopify was the main highlight for Ottawa, which has an estimated 450-850 startups according to Genome. Besides strong rounds for companies like You.I TV and PageCloud, the news Blackberry is backing an Ottawa autonomous vehicle research center is the most indicator for the city’s near-future growth.

Quebec City only has 150-300 startups, but saw Oracle buy local company Taleo for $1.9 billion back in 2005 and some significant rounds for startups Caven ($39 million Series D) and Coveo ($70 million total).

Canada’s great technology opportunity

Should Canada truly try to take advantage of H-1B visa upheaval in the United States, all five of these urban economies would grow. There is a talent shortage for engineers in the Western world being filled mainly by Indians. Canada has both national and provincial immigration policies that can be both a headache and a shortcut for getting into the country.

While Quebec prefers to grant visas to people somewhat proficient in both English and French, no other province is so strict. Even so, Montreal and Quebec could make a killing attracting new talent based on the cost of living. If you build it, they will come; should more talent migrate to Montreal, the city’s venture capital numbers and salaries would likely grow as well based on demand.

Similar to Israel’s multi-polar ecosystem across Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Haifa, Beer Sheva, and Nazareth, Canada has a major opportunity to take advantage of poor policymaking in the United States and a high concentration of homegrown talent (especially in Ontario).

Vancouver clearly has some cost-of-living issues to work on, but they are nothing compared to challenges of living in Silicon Valley. With Vancouver certainly closer to West Coast workers than Toronto or Montreal, they would probably prefer British Columbia if they made the move.

Canada should exit the decade with tremendous multi-metro growth in the technology center with a true race between Vancouver and Toronto to be the capital of the North.

Venture Capitol: 10 Washington D.C. startups laying down the law

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It might be cliché to some to say every city has a startup. At this point in the golden era of automated technologies and abundant venture capital, it’s clear hi-tech is taking over the global economy. Some cities have fared better than others in tech growth, and one of them is policy-focused and lobbying-intensive Washington D.C. Most major businesses (including technology corporations, of course), have at least a contracted lobbyist roaming the halls of Capitol Hill. Yet, some have open full-fledged offices in the US capital. Small startups have found sure footing in the city and the high-volume business traffic has been conducive for growing a local venture capital scene.

In Q4 2016, the DC metro area scored 35 deals, ninth best in the US (when you merge the San Francisco and San Jose metros). That’s an improvement on the year before, when PricewaterhouseCoopers and the National Venture Capital Association found 29 D.C.-area startups raised $556.22 million in the fourth quarter of 2015, part of a $1.41 billion across 169 deals for the entire year. Buoyed by high traffic from all industries, it has seen its share of new incubation and acceleration projects led by 1776 and its 1776 Seed fund (which has made about 50 investments according to Crunchbase.

The city is growing, and limiting its startup prowess to only 10 companies really isn’t fair. But here they are, 10 up-and-coming startup powers to watch emerging from America’s capital city:

1. GovPredict

Founded by Emil Pitkin, GovPredict (Twitter: @govpredict) has raised $120,000 from Y Combinator for 15 products that track legislative activity, compare live bills, co-sponsorship, district intelligence, white label reports, and tools for advocacy organizations. They list six main employees plus an adviser on their website, including CTO Neal Kemp and VP Ashton Theodore Randle. They boast handling 2.3 million documents and providing 35,000 daily alerts through their various platforms.

Pitkin brings with him an impressive academic career that includes a BA in Mathematics from Harvard and a Ph.D. in statistics from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.

2. Arcadia Power

With $4 million in hand from investors like BoxGroup and Wonder Ventures, Arcadia Power is a nationwide clean energy-based utility platform. Their concept is to offset customers’ use of traditional energy with deployment of wind, solar, and electric in other locations. Many customers, primarily renters, do not have the option to install solar panels or completely rewire their local infrastructure. But investments via Arcadia support such infrastructure development.

“That’s one of the most important parts of what we’re doing,” CEO Kiran Bhatraju recently told TechCrunch. “The vast majority of Americans can’t do rooftop solar. There’s only about 8% of Americans that can.”

3. Mytonomy

More than one degree of separation shouldn’t hamper your ability to connect, especially for younger social media users. Mytonomy connects the newest generation of professionals with the current generation of high school students (so, people between ages of 14 and 25) to guide rising students on career choices, colleges, and all the other daunting things that are waiting for teens and tend to smack 20-somethings in the face unexpectedly. They’re invested in by the NewSchools Venture Fund and the University of Michigan.

4. ID DataWeb

Spooky screenshot from ID DataWeb

ID DataWeb just bagged a $3 million investment from Strategic Cyber Ventures at the end of January, their big product is a so-called Attribute eXchange Network, or AXN, that manages permissions for data access according to identity. Biometric data and device tracking factor into how they work their magic, a basic necessity for any company dealing with payment authentication and ID confirmation these days. Verifying identity might be made more difficult if DataWeb notices remote access from a previously unknown device and/or other metrics don’t match up that might indicate the person signing in is indeed the person whose data they are trying to protect.

“We offer services for identity security, it’s identity as a service,” ID DataWeb CEO David Coxe told DC Inno two months ago. “It’s an adaptive, intelligent identification control.”

5. Contactually

Contactually screenshot (Angelist)

Designed to help generate new business from existing relationships, Contactually’s CRM automates the organization of your contacts by collecting data from multiple channels. It draws info from calendars, emails, social networks, and even phone calls (perhaps with extra help from apps like Truecaller, perhaps not). It integrates with iOS and Android, has plugins for Gmail and Outlook, and provides an API.

6. ID.me

ID.me screenshot

One of the more well-funded startups on this list, ID.me links up and verifies your identity across multiple accounts -paid accounts, social media profiles, etc. — and gives you one consolidated dashboard to manage your exposure online. The primary importance here is to make authentication more seamless while of course protecting your financial data and transactions.

They have about $40 million in nine rounds from 12 investors, according to Crunchbase. That includes the Silicon Valley Bank, FTV Capital, Scout Ventures, and the National Institute of Skilled Training (NIST). They also have money from BoxGroup, an Arcadia investor.

They were originally founded as TroopSwap as a project out of the Harvard Business School with a total focus on soldiers. Renamed in July 2013, they grabbed a multimillion-dollar contract from the US Department of Commerce to verify identities during high-impact, high-rolling transactions.

ID.me screenshot 2

7. Leverege

Leverege factory interface screenshot (Leverege)

Carving out its own niche in the Internet of Things (IoT), Leverege runs simulations of large IoT sensor networks offering rapid prototyping and proofs of concept (PoC). They have a basic “Jumpstart” platform for new projects, the flagship platform for businesses and small teams, then more robust customized software programs.

8. Pantheon VR

An edtech company with a legitimate mission and a damn good plan to fulfill it, Pantheon‘s PASCAL project uses VR and AR to better teach children how to make decisions. This can be applied to average students, but they also have formats that apply to special needs diagnoses like Asperger’s Syndrome and high-functioning autism.

Pantheon VR screenshot 1

“We believe that if the proper environment is constructed, these individuals will flourish on an entirely new level.” their website reads. For now, they are working on chemistry programs to help kids better understand how atoms work, as seen from the screenshots here.

Pantheon VR screenshot 2

 

9. Dexibit

The ‘analytics for social institutions’ company. Based in Auckland, New Zealand as well as Washington D.C., Dexibit provides an analytics platform catering to the programming, fundraising, and visitation-tracking needs of non-profit institutions like national history and science museums that are commonplace across the nation’s capital. They have to juggle not just online traffic, but on-site (offline) foot traffic as well as how engaged visitors are with different exhibits. It compares those stats with other factors like time of year, weather, and major events in the area.

10. Dharma

Imagine if you could live without spreadsheets, manual task status updates, etc. That’s Dharma‘s pitch. They take in information from as many sources of data as you can find to plug into it: email chains, Excel sheets, reports in multiple languages. Data can be sucked in from desktop or mobile, iOS or Android. There is also offline access. You can also use the search tool in full question form, with search engine results gleaned solely from the data you allow Dharma to see.

“Our platform offers a one-stop shop for you to manage projects and staff, identify and collect information, and analyze and share what you learn – all in real time,” their website reads.

They have reaised $1.4 million from Bern Shen, Duncan Goldie-Scot and Sapphire Ventures in Palo Alto according to Angelist. They offer specialized versions for healthcare, logistics, and research.

Reflecting on AI’s biggest challenges for society in 2017

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You walk into a gigantic auditorium. Folding chairs are lined up in evenly spaced rows, with a cold black awning behind the stage and uniform white or yellow lights pouring down on the sea of seats below. A couple of huge screens are to either side of the stage with a third in the center in the middle of the room for those who can’t see the presentation.

What’s about to happen is one of the most important annual gatherings in tech. But there’s no glitz and glamour. There are no multi-color sets, flashy graphics or showman’s props like real flames heating up the sides of the room.

This isn’t some Lisbon internet summit, Helsinki tech confab, or San Francisco fete of disruption, but a Montreal expo (reference game on point).

This is the Neural Information Processing Systems (NIPS) Conference, one of the two biggest academic conferences in the world that cover developments in artificial intelligence aside from the International Conference of Machine Learning (ICML). And attendance has exploded.

“The conference seems to have started thinking about industry interest in a way that’s different than before,” says Katherine Gorman, the host of podcast The Talking Machines. “Previously you would have booths like any other exhibitor. The old guard who have worked in this industry and very senior and seeing this shift as something more permanent.”

For two seasons, she has had the chance to cover a range of topics including probabilistic programming, automatic translation, sparse coding, and the effects of new breakthroughs on society. Now the entire culture of AI research is changing.

Cold, gray conferences are lively and explosive. There are invites to more and more events in far-flung places. The ecosystem is evolving. Papers still get presented like a traditional academic affair, but the heads of major corporations are also wandering the show floors recruiting PhDs.

It’s kind of like Major League Baseball’s winter meetings.

THK Corp.’s Seed-noid robot, left, is demonstrated at the Robodex (Robot Development & Application Expo) trade show on January 18, 2017 in Tokyo (Photo by Tomohiro Ohsumi/Getty Images Israel)

After Donald Trump’s executive order at the beginning of his administration, engineering visas are a hot topic right now, and it couldn’t come at a more crucial time. Recruiting and acquiring small startups are elements of an AI arms race driving employee migration across North America, the hallmark of an age in which machine learning is exloding.

“People are shifting around and going to different companies, making plays for new groups of people. Amazon and Google did some big sort of shifting around in what they were doing and what they wanted to do.”

Amazon’s entrance into the game challenges some of the bigger names. Microsoft has also made some major moves to open 2017 with the acquisition of artificial general intelligence startup Maluuba, as has Baidu with their appointment of Dr. Qi Lu to head their AI division.

These rapid developments have worried many, so much so the world’s most powerful tech executives are sitting down to discuss the ramifications, particularly if this new technology and its applications are evolving more quickly than we might be able to contain it.

The Partnership on AI is the ultimate illustration of that. It’s a consortium co-founded by Amazon, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and IBM which just last month added two new members: Apple and OpenAI. The latter company, backed by Y-Combinator’s Sam Altman and SpaceX’s Elon Musk, is a company that will be at the center of machine discussion for years to come.

“We work on reinforcement learning, generative models, imitation learning, transfer learning, robotics. We do a lot of stuff,” says OpenAI Director of Communications Jack Clark, a company putting a square focus on the practical effects of new technology and so-called “SafeAI.”

“We try and build the most advanced AI systems we can and in doing so we try to find out where there needs to be safety work. How can we develop techniques we can prove mathematically will have the *right outcomes? ‘We can give you 100 percent certainty that this won’t do ‘X.'”

OpenAI joined Partnership for a pretty simple reason: to steer the conversation toward the near future.

“A philosopher taking a closer look at the ethics of AI, or economist measuring the effect on the economy. It’s this cross-industry thinking that will help do some research. It’s also a place where companies can have disagreements with each other and have some forum to discuss norms that they wouldn’t otherwise.”

But haven’t we been through all that? Discussions seem to go pretty deep about how humans and machines understand each other in Star Trek, The Matrix, and even Terminator. The popular themes of sci-fi can only go so far and exhaust so much because we haven’t lived these eras yet. But really those discussions are irrelevant because they don’t deal with practical issues.

“We haven’t yet explored the more mundane questions,” Clark explains. There is a very practical example of this.: the “Right of Explanation” that is being openly discussed in the European Union right now.

“If I’m denied a mortgage on a house and I’m told an AI/ML system made that decision, should I as an EU citizen get an explanation for why I’m not going to get that mortgage?”

“The point where AI hits a consumer, can you show those systems have some kind of responsibility? We as designers of AI have not,” yet, “made sure our algorithms can explain themselves at that level.”

How we evaluate creditworthiness is one thing, but imagine how the data a machine collects reflects humanity’s subjectivity.

“If I train a really big language model on, say, a corpus of 1 billion news articles in English, then this model will reflect biases inherent in those news articles.” That could include a racial and gender bias if it’s too focused on articles written by white males, or its understanding of language could be missing out on common slang terms or the way people speak in certain dialects.

So one of the immediate ways to correct this is to get more minorities and women in the field. As Clark so eloquently asserted in Bloomberg over the summer, AI has a “sea of dudes problem.”

“If I created a more recognition algorithm and it has some bias toward a specific type of person, do I have an ethical responsibility to address that? Am I cool to just let be that model with certain biases in it, or try to remove certain biases? Should I change that?

A brave, new, collaborative world

The need to keep society, its laws, and new technology in lockstep with each other is facilitating working relationships beyond trying to protect the world. It’s encouraging the sharing of new research.

“Open sourcing is another big trend we have seen this year. People in the industry are pushing to do that. Sharing work, sharing ideas, sharing tools. It floods the landscape. There’s so much output that if you’re not working in it, it can be really daunting.”

Apple CEO Tim Cook waves after a product launch event on October 27, 2016 in Cupertino, California. (Photo by Stephen Lam/Getty Images Israel)

A side effect to this is collaboration across fields, not just companies. An example related to but not essential to the conversation on AI is nanotechnology, where chemists have had to work with physicists to produce next-generation mobile screens out of silver and gold nanowires.

“People are moving between the silos like they never used to before, but that requires a different way of communicating, being able to communicate about the fundamentals of your work but learn and absorb the fundamentals of your collaborator’s work,” Gorman reiterates. The consequence of this rapid evolution is not just one of anxiety, but a need to work in tandem.

The big change we will see in 2017 will come from corporate reinvesting in academic research. Google, Baidu, and Microsoft have huge research operations. Apple will also begin to publish some of its AI research, deciding to throw away the lock and key on some of its proprietary work for the sake of advancing the field.

Gorman seems to back her former guest’s view though, in that as researchers and computer scientists have checked off more boxes on things like search engines and image recognition, society and even researchers begin to downplay just how ‘intelligent’ those achievements are.

“We have these lofty goals for AI, but the historical story of developing AI is setting a goal, achieving it, then looking at it as a field and society, then saying ‘That can’t be AI because we’ve achieved it.'”

Intel buys Mobileye for reported $15 billion in massive self-driving car coup

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Intel is buying Jerusalem tech giant Mobileye for $15.3 billion, the two companies announced Monday. Israeli daily Haaretz initially broke the story via its finance paper The Marker, but it was confirmed later in the day. Mobileye’s current market value is $10.5 billion. Intel has been working with Mobileye and BMW to get their own self-driving car models on the road, joining a host of manufacturers in a global autonomous vehicle race.”

“This acquisition is a great step forward for our shareholders, the automotive industry and consumers,” said Brian Krzanich, Intel CEO, in a press release. “Intel provides critical foundational technologies for autonomous driving including plotting the car’s path and making real-time driving decisions. Mobileye brings the industry’s best automotive-grade computer vision and strong momentum with automakers and suppliers. Together, we can accelerate the future of autonomous driving with improved performance in a cloud-to-car solution at a lower cost for automakers.”

Mobileye and Intel’s Automated Driving Group will now merge and headquarter their operations in Israel under the auspices of Mobileye Co-Founder, Chairman and CTO Professor Amnon Shashua. The two companies did not specify where the joint operation will be located, but given that both companies maintain national headquarters in Jerusalem it will likely be in the holy city.

Mobileye has become a quintessential element of the global technology economy since going public several years ago. The company has taken major strides into the self-driving car race. Recently ending a partnership with Tesla, they announced a deal with Delphi last August to help the latter build their own autonomous vehicle model.

“We expect the growth towards autonomous driving to be transformative. It will provide consumers with safer, more flexible, and less costly transportation options, and provide incremental business model opportunities for our automaker customers,” Mobileye Co-Founder, CEO, and President Ziv Aviram wrote in the official announcement. “By pooling together our infrastructure and resources, we can enhance and accelerate our combined know-how in the areas of mapping, virtual driving, simulators, development tool chains, hardware, data centers and high-performance computing platforms. Together, we will provide an attractive value proposition for the automotive industry.”

“The Mobileye and Delphi relationship started in 2002 with the implementation of what was one of the most advanced active safety systems of the time. Our long history together is key to the success of this ambitious endeavor,” Professor Amnon Shashua, Mobileye Co-Founder, Chairman and CTO, said upon announcing the partnership last year.

BMW had announced a tripartite deal with Mobileye and Intel to develop a fully autonomous car by 2021, but expedited that timeline in an announcement last December that foresaw BMW self-driving cars being tested in Munich this year. Intel clarified at CES that test would include 40 vehicles.

Such a massive investment could only be justified if Intel sees a way to dominate a large chunk of the autonomous vehicle market.

“This year our fleet of vehicles will already test this joint technology globally under real traffic conditions,” Klaus Fröhlich, Member of the Board of Management of BMW AG for Development, wrote in January. “This is a significant step towards the introduction of the BMW iNEXT in 2021, which will be the BMW Group’s first fully autonomous vehicle.”

This article has been updated with official statements from Intel and Mobileye.

Revival: 10 Brooklyn startups making the East Side great again

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When Hillary Clinton decided to station her campaign headquarters in Brooklyn, it might not have been obvious that her immense digital team could draw on the resources available in New York City’s legendary borough. Though the Dodgers ducked out decades ago and Brooklyn has been officially assumed a portion of greater New York City for a while, there is a distinct ecosystem and jive developing there.

Powered with rejuvenated office spaces, redeemed warehouses at places like the old Navy shipyard, and seen as a residential alternative to Manhattan, the Nets aren’t the only ones taking part in Brooklyn’s economic revival. According to technical.ly, Brooklyn startups raised $67 million in the last four months of 2016. It could also be the hottest spot for the new 3D printing industry, which could be key to growing future American manufacturing.

Here are 10 startups making a name for themselves in the city and among the prospects to watch as their businesses thrive.

1. Nanotronics Imaging

One of the cooler startups coming out of the east side, Nanotronics raised $20.5 million in September according to a filing with the SEC with a whopping 43 investors taking part in the round. They have not been so public with that news, probably because they are seeking another $5 million for their technology. Their main product is the cost-efficient but “computational super-resolution” microscope known as nSpec. They brag the accompanying software includes advanced artificial intelligence capability.

2. Futurism

Yes, that Facebook page with all the cool videos is a media startup and it just raised $6,000,652 from a single investor in December according to a filing with the SEC.

3. CARMERA

Co-founded by CEO Ro Gupta and CTO Justin Day, these guys boast they have the world’s “only 4-dimensional map of urban streets, accessible to anyone.” Unfortunately, their definition of the fourth dimension isn’t time, but a fleet of vehicles with computer vision technology monitoring street traffic in real-time, consolidated into a single index of visual data that includes vehicular traffic, presumably foot traffic, and construction. They target urban planners as customers.

4. Buildsense.io

Buildsense’s machine learning software focuses on data from HVAC systems and promises it can work with existing sensors while also consolidating automation of multiple frameworks. Their tagline is they can save buildings between 10 and 20 percent on their energy bills.

HVAC calculator (Buildsense)

5. Citiesense

Incubated at the brand new URBAN-X accelerator, Citiesense builds multilayered maps that record property-changing trends in densely urban areas. It’s one of a handful of significant real estate data startups trying to take advantage of the massive American market. They’re marketing their software to local governments, property owners, and business districts.

6. WearWorks

Also out of URBAN-X, WearWorks is a haptics design company for touch-based communication tools catering to visually impaired wearers. It’s one of the better examples of new technologies built with the handicapped in mind that will have great implications for the abled community as well. Their made method of communication is vibration, which could allow the company to develop its own miniature language based on signals with different frequency or intensity of vibrations.

7. Makr

Founded by Carnegie Mellon grad and UX designer CEO Ellen Johnston, Makr is an app-based design platform for customizing all sorts of consumer products from T-shits to wedding invitations, stationery to business cards. They went live on iPad in November 2013 and iPhone 2014.

8. Voodoo Manufacturing

Operating a massive 128-desktop 3D-printing factory, they want to make designing and American manufacturing a thing once more by working from end to end with customers: from the first prototype all the way through the “first high-volume production run” of over 10,000 units.

They boast on Angelist of working with Universal, SyFy, Autodesk, Mattel, Viacom, and Intel. “We’ve unlocked an entirely new market in the world of manufacturing — affordable high-volume 3D printing.”

Founded by CPO Jonathan Schwartz and CFO Patrick Deem, they raised $1.4 million in seed funding in January 2017 from Y Combinator and KPCB Edge. They grabbed $250,000 from LA angel investor Josh Jones in May 2015.

9. Nautilus Labs

Based out of the historic Brooklyn Navy Yard, Nautilus will track maritime operations with a full analytics platform called Autologger, which is currently in beta. It would cover things like fuel efficiency in ships, cargo data, engine RPM, navigation, speed and the slip.

Co-Founder and CEO Anthony DiMare focuses his passion on fuel though, hoping his data company can get ships to reduce emissions: “It’s our obligation as humans to try to make a meaningful attempt at reversing the damage we have already caused. It must be an industry decision with a sound and logical business choice.”

10. ConsenSys

ConsenSys refers to itself as a “blockchain venture production studio building decentralized applications,” with a predictable focus on building tools for Bitcoin and other cryptocurrency businesses. The plan is to launch businesses around each product they create.

They have over 100 employees, mainly in New York. As part of creating those different business ventures, a tandem part of their production business is seeking out acquisitions and investments for itself in different blockchain-related products.

5 resources to help you translate, read, and learn to speak Klingon (seriously)

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There is a concerted, global effort to preserve and enhance the language of Klingon. Created for fictional purposes on Star Trek, the language has evolved to have a consistent vocabulary, syntax, grammar, and so forth with a plethora of resources to help interpret Klingon texts and teach you to create your own. Often belittled but honestly underappreciated Star Trek conventions are depicted humorously as meetups for unsociable nerds to greet each other endlessly in an artificial dialect, non-stop, while cosplaying, over a long weekend.

Well, to be honest that depiction is probably true, but nevertheless the rigor and concentration some Klingon enthusiasts have is striking. That kind of eagerness would go a long way helping preserve languages in danger of extinction (hint hint, create a cult sci-fi show that uses minority languages and create a community of language loyalists).

Fostering new communities of language speakers from virtual scratch is not unprecedented. Eliezer Ben Yehuda, a 19th century Zionist who committed to speaking with family and friends only in Hebrew is credited in Israel today with turning the language back into a spoken dialect for the first time in nearly 2,000 years.

It’s doubtful that tens of thousands of trekkies will embark to create their own state with Klingon as the official language, but in the meantime mavens have teamed with linguists, developers, and machine translation experts to create a suite of tools for anyone aiming to develop skills in the language.

1. Duolingo

It’s not ready yet, but the team at Pittsburgh mega startup Duolingo is about a quarter of the way through a beginner’s course for Klingon learners. It would be one of only 27 languages offered by the app and join co-artificial language Esperanto.

Rival app Memrise, which allows users to create their own courses and thus offers many more classes than Duolingo, has several separate mini courses on things like Klingon vocabulary, the Klingon alphabet, affixes, basic grammar, shapes, days of the week, adverbs, numbers, and even a review course for the Klingon Language Certification Program (KLCP1).

2. Microsoft Translator

Forget Google Translate for a moment. Microsoft has beaten them to the punch on Klingon, adding the vile but of course beautiful-in-its-own-way tongue in May 2013.

Microsoft is not the first to work on such a project. As early as 1999, David Yarowsky lead a team building some of the first machine translation (MT) programs for languages like Nepali, Uzbek, and Bengali. The New York Times had the chance to ask him about the utility (or futility) of spending so many hours on a fictional dialect.

”If we can learn how to translate even Klingon into English, then most human languages are easy by comparison,” he told the Times then. ”All our techniques require is having texts in two languages. For example, the Klingon Language Institute translated ‘Hamlet’ and the Bible into Klingon, and our programs can automatically learn a basic Klingon-English MT system from that.”

To help pull off this feat of machine translation engineering, Microsoft needed a little help, which they got from . . .

3. KLI: The Klingon Language Institute

We shit you not. They even have their own online course for beginners (taghwl’ in Klingon, and no I don’t know how to pronounce it). The Klingon Language Institute was founded by Lawrence M. Schoen, Ph.D. in 1992. They hold annual retreats, more akin to academic conferences, every summer.

The endeavor sounds ridiculous, which gives organizers and participants extra motivation to assure people that they are extremely serious about the project.

This is definitely something that can be fun for enthusiasts, but the depth with which the community approaches the subject actually helps develop the language further. This is a truly impressive intellectual exercise and highlights how creative humans can be.

4. Klingon Bible Translation Project

Anything called the “Klingon Bible Translation Project” might seem like a novelty of a novelty on the one hand, but also something far too advanced or intimidating for a newcomer no matter how enthusiastic (if I don’t speak it, why would I try studying Biblical Klingon?).

The aforementioned Klingon Bible Translation Project led by Kevin Wilson is still a work in progress, but many experts have put in effort. Joel Anderson has worked on one. When it comes to Bible translations, you’ll find the enthusiasm to create new ones is never lacking. As the Bible has reached more and more people and the need to update for changes in vernacular is constant, translators have endeavored to get more and more precise with each work.

The interesting thing about holy texts is that in deeply religious societies they tend to be learned in a rote manner. Even though there are advanced Hebrew courses for American Jews and strong Arabic programs for Indonesian Muslims, a large part of such communities’ linguistic competence with their holy languages is matching their textbook language learning to Biblical and Quranic verses they learn to recite as children.

The same principle would work here. The advantage of the Bible is that there are so many translations available in virtually every language spoken today. This creates numerous frames of reference for enthusiastic Klingon learners. Working through translations often forces students to learn things about a target language, as would a concerted effort to find the best vocabulary and phrase choices for translating a nuanced text like the Bible.

If you’re an Orthodox Jew who is follows the traditional “שני מקרא, אחד תרגום” format (read the Hebrew version of the weekly Torah selection twice and its Aramaic translation once), then you could incorporate some Klingon Bible into your weekly routine.

Or not. I’m just a tech writer and language enthusiast, not a Rabbi (I didn’t finish the program).

There is an advantage in going to the original source for more accurate interpretation, so if you do have some Hebrew under your belt, you might be able to create a legacy for yourself as one of the people who created the first direct Klingon Bible from Hebrew.

5. English to Klingon and Klingon to English dictionaries

No adventure into a new culture would be complete without a proper dictionary. A few exist, with varying levels of depth and extensivity. https://klingonska.org/dict/ and https://glosbe.com/tlh/en/ are just a couple examples.

Glosbe brags it has its own translation memory, a technical term used by language and translation programmers to refer to a databank of previous translations machine learning programs use as reference to make later translations more accurate (the more data, the more precise).

“Our Translation Memory come mostly from parallel corpuses that were made by humans. Such translated sentences are very useful addition to dictionaries.” That is a deep advantage for any dictionary and a relevant approach for all future digital two-language dictionaries, not just for man-made languages like Klingon.

That should be enough to get you started. Keep your eyes peeled for Duolingo’s beta testing to start, get acquainted with Microsoft Translator, and at the very least figure out how to pronounce the awkward spelling. Now enjoy Klingon Style.

Opa Klingon Style lyrics

7 serious sessions at Austin’s SXSW that make Gamergate panels look like child’s play

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The biggest event in Texan technology, SXSW is promising another big year with a full schmorg of panels and speakers covering some of the most critical topics at the intersections of technology, economics, society, and of course this year politics (really makes Gamergate look kind of stupid, huh?).

That controversy dominated SXSW talk last year and exhausted many people trying to focus on other aspects of the conference. But this is a forum that covers everything and attracts everybody. SXSW hosted President Obama last year and will play host to the apparently tech-savvy Pope Francis (who knew?).

Here are just a few of the more notable sessions you should try to sample.

1. Basic Income: Can Giving Away Free Money Save Us?

Including Michael Tanner of the libertarian Cato Institute, Catherine Cheney of Devex, and Michael Faye of GiveDirectly, this will directly address the contentious sociopolitical earthquake that would be “basic income,” or a universal stipend that future unemployable citizens would receive in a world of automated labor. Sam Altman of Y-Combinator is piloting such a project in Oakland, as are some in Finland. On the other hand, former President Barack Obama advised against the idea despite saying it was an important conversation. This should garner a large crowd and if it doesn’t it would be a shame.

2. A Conversation with Buzz Aldrin and Jeff Kluger

MAR 14, 2017 | 3:30PM – 4:30PM

Jeff Kluger of Time Magazine will interview former astronaut Buzz Aldrin, whose Apollo 11 moonwalk has made him legendary. He has become the most notable advocate for human exploration of space, especially getting astronauts to Mars. Expect the conversation to focus on that, but to also reference updates in pursuit of that goal as SpaceX, Blue Origin, and others continue to make new announcements.

It’s definitely hard to oversell this one.

3. Covering POTUS: A Conversation with the Failing NYT

MAR 12, 2017 | 9:30AM – 10:30AM

First off: what a title. Featuring Dean Baquet of the Times, the conversation will discuss the proliferation of misleading fake news, the disparaging of the press, and how those things add pressure to an already squeezed business model facing competition from microblogs and social media.

4. DARK DAYS: AI and the Rise of Fascism

MAR 12, 2017 | 5:00PM – 6:00PM

Kate Crawford of Microsoft Research will explore the possible misapplication of new technologies for oppressive means.

“As recent investigations have shown, there are hard problems of bias, discrimination and privacy when we deploy these systems with human populations. Just as we are reaching a crucial inflection point in the deployment of AI into everyday life, we are seeing the rise of white nationalism and right-wing authoritarianism in Europe, the US and beyond.”

5. Disrupted: Ending Bro Culture and Bias in Startup-Land

MAR 10, 2017 | 3:30PM – 4:30PM

This is actually a keynote by Dan Lyons, the author of Disrupted: My Misadventures in the Start-Up Bubble. There is always controversy when a panel relevant to the inclusion or treatment of women in the workplace is dominated by men, but if it’s a single speaker. That being said, Lyons has strong views on workplace culture in Silicon Valley that have once again entered headlines thanks to a month of awful PR for Uber.

6. How Technology is Improving Human Performance

Featuring the NFL’s Demarcus Ware and Nike’s Ryan Flaherty, this will be a showcase of applying new analytics technologies to sports performance and coaching. That will also cover the advances in sports medicine.

7. Imgur’s Fight to Keep the Social Internet Authentic

Featuring the brother-sister duo of Alan and Sarah Schaaf, the title somewhat sugarcoats Imgur’s anonymous social platform as “a mission to democratize entertainment.” The brief description does not allude to any tough questions, particularly over the proliferation of (mostly political) spam on Imgur’s platform and how that might be influencing attitudes among users.

10 Pittsburgh startups painting the tech world yellow and black

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Pittsburgh is rising, led mainly be the strong robotics department at Carnegie Mellon University and the school’s accelerated pace of producing highly qualified entrepreneurs. Uber’s purchase of Geometric Intelligence late in 2016 is the most prominent example. The company’s moves there, continued recruitment, and choice to use the city as its first testing ground for autonomous vehicles have brought attention to the diversity of startups Pittsburgh is producing relevant to education (edtech), app development, and even baseball technology.

“Pittsburgh-area venture capital firms invested $217.4 million into 35 deals in 2015, a 35 percent increase from 2014 and the fourth highest investment total since 2001,” The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wrote just this week.

With exits like Geometric Intelligence’s come angels, and with angels come seed money for a new generation of companies. Post-Geometric, these are the companies likely to make the next big splash.

1. Argo AI

Ford made a splash in February 2017 with a massive $1 billion investment in Argo AI. Committed to providing the money in installments over the course of five years, Ford is lining up those payments with a goal to have SAE level 4 self-driving vehicles on the market by 2021, according to the automaker’s press release. That sure seems like the payments are conditioned on benchmarks, but it sounds like a reasonable condition considering the amount of cash they have put down.

“We are at an inflection point in using artificial intelligence in a wide range of applications, and the successful deployment of self-driving cars will fundamentally change how people and goods move,” said Argo AI CEO and Co-Founder Bryan Salesky of the deal. Salesky and his co-founder COO Peter Rander are both alums of the Carnegie Mellon National Robotics Engineering Center, an institution that will likely produce as many big names as Stanford University has as we enter the next decade. Salesky also has time with Google under his belt and Rander a stint with Uber.

The funding will help Argo grow to 200 people with offices in Silicon Valley and southern Michigan in addition to its Pittsburgh headquarters. Ford has its own internal squad working on a virtual driving system which will apparently work in tandem with Argo’s team.

2. Identified Technologies

Founded in 2013, Identified Technologies pitches itself as an “eeDaas” (end-to-end Drone as a Service) company that manages and even automates surveying for construction sites.

“It means we offer a fully managed commercial drone solution. We do everything but push the start button on the drone,” Identified Founder and CEO Dick Zhang recently told Geektime. “Our integrated software and services includes everything from FAA compliance and flight planning, to data capture and advanced analytics.”

3. Diamond Kinetics

Hire these guys and the Pirates might actually win for a change. Diamond Kineticshas built a suite of apps to help baseball players improve their play. SwingTracker measures the swpeed of your hands and bat separately and builds an infographic of average performance. There are 11 metrics in all that include control, power, and quickness. There is also reference data to national averages. They have modes for both baseball and softball.

Jokes aside, the Pirates have actually used Diamond Kinetics’ technology, as have the Louisville Cardinals and Vanderbilt. They claim other MLB teams have signed up, as well. They are partnered with two other sports startups called HitTrax and Axon Sports building a more comprehensive batting training program called Hitter’s Revolution.

4. Conversant Labs

Founder Chris Murray has been working for a while on technology to help himself and others with degenerative eye disease to rely less on their vision to get things done. Conversant‘s first product was called Say Shopping that allowed voice recognition to register a shopping list and then make door-to-door grocery orders. They already have $575,000 in seed funding from AlphaLab and Innovation Works according to Crunchbase.

They have recently released a cooking-specific app dubbed Yes, Chef! and are beta testing a tool for Amazon Alexa developers called TinCan.ai. Yes, Chef! walks you through recipes rather than constantly breaking between ingredients to check the instructions. Obviously that isn’t designed for the visually impaired, but Conversant is a great example of how new technologies often are born from real needs and not simply designed to create more modern conveniences.

5. ForAllSecure

Picking cyber security startups to highlight can be tough even for a seasoned writer. The craft changes every week. But it’s a safe bet to highlight a company that wins the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Cyber Grand Challenge in August 2016. ForAllSecure pledged after winning $2 million in the DARPA competition “to continue its mission to automatically check the world’s software for exploitable bugs.”

“To achieve the scale needed to tackle the ever growing volume of software being written, we are pioneering autonomous cyber security tools for developers, enterprise IT, and end-users that automatically find and fix vulnerabilities in run-time executable software,” their website tells visitors. They also run HackCenter, a cyber security training “to teach anyone the actionable skills needed to be effective in cyber security.”

6. IAM Robotics

Based out of nearby Sewickly, IAM Robotics is putting their Swift robots to work in warehouses moving loads that weigh up to 50 pounds. They inked a deal last year to provide Swifts to the Rochester Drug Corporation to help handle stock for their 1,200+ pharmacies in the US.

7. Expii

Founded by Carnegie Mellon math professor Po-Shen Loh, Expii is an online storehouse for different lessons on topics in math and science. Their mission guides them to find teachers who take different approaches to the same topic so that studets with different learning styles, strengths, and weaknesses can find the tutoring materials right for them. Loh is also the coach for the national US International Math Olympiad team.

8. Zulama

Zulama uses game design to hook kids on deeper, more sophisticated computer science education. It targets middle schoolers and high schoolers hoping that by using something interesting like games, students will develop a greater appreciation for the industry and seek to know more (and not just about gaming).

They were incubated at LearnLaunchX in New England and are backed by angels like Amit Shah, Thomas Barber, and Jodi Navta.

9. Gridwise

Co-founded by Brian Finamore and Ryan Green, Gridwise provides real-time predictive insights for rideshare drivers. Being located in Pittsburgh might be fortuitous for them considering how much the likes of Uber and other companies are investing into the city’s AI scene. They also count a prominent Pittsburgh founder on their thus-far slim list of funders: Severin Hacker.

Hacker co-founded this startup:

10. Duolingo

Duolingo is the best funded language-learning startup in the world, with 27 different language programs at different stages of development. They cover the most common (German, French, Spanish) to the artificial (Klingon, Esperanto). They have stiff competition from UK-based Memrise, which allows independent language course creation from users and thus covers more dialects. But Duolingo has its fingers on the pulse and is professionally developing all the courses on its platform.

English speakers have the most courses to choose from.Spanish has about 82.8 million registered students, French 49.1 million, and German 30.7 million. Some languages that are seldom spoken but are huge points of heritage for some communities are also on the platform; Irish and Welsh have 2.74 million and 500,000 learners respectively. Beta languages include Hebrew (812,000 learners), Hungarian (326,000), and Swahili (26,500).

What differentiates them and the very good reason they haven’t broken the 30-language mark yet is because they are building courses for native speakers outside the English-speaking world. They are building English-as-a-second-language (ESL) courses in a couple dozen dialects. Larger language communities like Russian speakers and Hispanohablantes also have access to German, French, and other options.

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