9/02/2014: Last Week in Tech, in Tweets

1. LG, Samsung, Asus, and others compete with Apple in preparation for the next wave of smart watches.

2. Innovators are driving a shift in the way that we make payments.

3. Android TVs will have the ability to stream high-end video games.

4. This electric skateboard could change the way you look at your commute.

5. Apple’s new partnership will enable you to pay for things with your iPhone.

6. Smart dining has arrived.

7. Innovative food wrappers significantly reduce wasted material.

8. Uber opens new services, gets banned in Germany.

 

9. Ferguson police to wear body cameras following Michael Brown controversy.

Lending Club Files for $500 million IPO!

Lending Club has come a long way since its entry to Plug and Play seven years ago. When CEO and Founder Renaud Laplanche started the company in 2006, he had a clear vision of a more efficient alternative to the traditional system of loan trading. Since then, Lending Club has used technology and innovation to realize that vision and set a new industry standard.

Lending Club was initially launched as one of Facebook’s first apps, and since then has grown from a “disruptive idea to an industry leader.” Since its inception in 2006, the p2p lending platform has facilitated over $5 billion in loans and returned over $300 million in interest to investors. During its initial period of growth the company focused on securing borrowers of high-credit-quality, ensuring year after year of positive returns. Prior to the advent of Lending Club, investors and borrowers were limited to a traditional system of banks and credit unions. Lending Club has facilitated a revolution by providing a peer-to-peer lending service that is registered with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

Lending Club joined Plug and Play in 2007 where the company was introduced to Norwest Venture Partners who provided them with their initial round of funding. Since then, their growth has been exponential with a 12 million dollar Series B led by Morgenthaler in 2009 and a 25 million dollar series C led by Foundation Capital in 2010.

Plug and Play CEO Saeed Amidi stated that “his greatest joy in life is to have a front seat when these startups and these entrepreneurs build great companies that change our lives.” Lending Club is a revolutionary company, and we would like to congratulate them on their huge IPO. We could not be more pleased to have been part of their journey.

Learn more about Plug and Play by visiting us on the web!

IoT Selection Day

Carefully selecting startups to provide strategically targeted investment opportunities for our corporate partners is one of our core offerings at Plug and Play, and our first Internet of Things Selection Day was a remarkable success. The Internet of Things (“IoT”) is changing the way that we look at household devices, improving our lives by connecting the things that we use every single day to one another by leveraging the connectivity of the internet. This revolutionary technological trend has created an unprecedented amount of buzz in the startup world, and Plug and Play has decided to open up an IoT accelerator in recognition of the opportunity to connect promising entrepreneurs to investors and corporations.

Yesterday afternoon, 30 hopeful startups gathered at Plug and Play headquarters in Sunnyvale to pitch their ideas in front of a panel of venture capitalists and corporate executives. Each company was given five minutes to present, and at the end of the last presentation the judges gathered to deliberate and decide which of the companies would be accepted into the accelerator. Of the 30 entrepreneurs that pitched startup ideas, 15 will be selected to be brought on to Plug and Play by the end of the day. The corporate partners represented by the judges included Bosch, State Farm, Ericsson, Cisco, Flextronics, and BMW in addition to venture capitalists from Johnson and Johnson, our internal Executives-in-Residence (“EIR’s”), Ice Breaker Ventures, and KPCB.

Internet of Things is a very broad term that refers to a vast array of ‘smart’ internet-connected devices. Examples of use-cases include: smart plugs for conserving electricity consumption or security systems that ping consumers when an alarm is triggered. Other examples are Wearable devices, such as smart watches, which can improve overall health by providing the user with important metrics while encouraging fitness. Many of the household objects that all of us use on a daily basis are being integrated into the digital world, and this trend has provided entrepreneurs with an opportunity to innovate towards significant improvements to our everyday lives.

The creative solutions presented throughout the day fostered a great deal of excitement from the investors and corporations in attendance. Mark Platshon of BMW i-ventures described the event as “really high quality,” expressing interest in a number of the automotive related ideas. For car manufacturers, the advent of the Internet of Things promises to create a network of cars constantly in communication with one another. Startups like Smartcar, a cloud-based app for the Tesla Model S presented by founder Sahas Katta, aim to capitalize on this promise by improving the manner in which our cars adapt to our behavior on a day to day basis. According to Katta, Smartcar is an “intelligent remote control for connected cars” that improves the user’s experience by “learning a person’s driving habits and automatically pre-conditioning their vehicle.” His app actively anticipates the owner of a given car’s next commute to make sure it is fully charged and perfectly conditioned to that person’s preferences before they set foot in the vehicle.

Jeff Yu, Managing Director of Plug and Play anchor partner Bosch, expressed interest in a few of the sensor-driven startups. One startup in particular, Chemisense, is manufacturing sensors to “develop a wearable air quality monitor to help individuals better understand the air around them.” Company founder Will Hubbard recognizes that air pollution is a serious problem that demands a creative solution, and he is crowdsourcing data from all over the globe to help realize his vision. Dynosense founder Saeed Azimi also presented an exciting product employing a sensor based scanner to capture a broad range of health data in less than sixty seconds with a single action. The Dynosense scanner then uses this data to generate a Healthscore for the user, providing a detailed analysis of over thirty health indices.


There are a number of challenges inherent to the development of the Internet of Things. While an entrepreneur may have a perfect idea for a ‘smart’ device, he may not possess the technical knowledge to make his product a reality. Also, as more and more devices are connected to one another bandwidth and data security will become an increasingly prominent concern. A few of the startups represented yesterday addressed these problems, providing products that make IoT more accessible to entrepreneurs wanting to break into the space. Electric Imp founder Hugo Fiennes presented an innovative platform that uses “fully integrated hardware, software, IS, APIs, and cloud services” to “empower businesses and developers to deploy, manage, and quickly scale their connected products.” By providing entrepreneurs that have valuable ideas with the means to quickly develop products we will be able to successfully move towards an IoT reality at a much faster pace.

Plug and Play’s IoT selection day stands as the grand opening of our accelerator, and we are extremely excited to welcome these startups into our program. To learn more about our brand new IoT accelerator, visit our website.

8/25/2014 Last Week in Tech, in Tweets

1. Napa Valley’s earthquake shakes up Northern California.

2. Royal Caribbean unveils the cruise ship of the future complete with robot bartenders.

3. The iPhone 6 could help keep you healthy.

4. You will be able to buy your own drone and control it using your smartphone.

5. Hackers brought down Sony’s PlayStation Network using a DDoS attack.

6. RoboBrain will teach robots to think using the internet. Skynet, anyone?

7. LG’s first 4k OLED TV now available for pre-order in South Korea.

8. Viral Ice Bucket Challenge creates new market for merchandise.

9. One-click purchases on Twitter?

10. New exoskeleton lets you sit anywhere, anytime.

The Internet of Thursdays

IoT Internet of Thursdays Panel Discussion

The advent of the Internet of Things has ushered in a new era of innovation, and Plug and Play has remained at the forefront of this revolution in everyday connectivity. Yesterday evening, some 300 entrepreneurs gathered here at Plug and Play headquarters in Sunnyvale to hear five panelists from across the globe discuss emerging trends and challenges in IoT. The panelists included: Andrew Clark, Director of Strategy for IBM’s Venture Capital Group; Josh Bradshaw, founder of WorkTechWork.com; Stefano Marzani, CEO of DQuid; Eduardo Pinheiro, CEO and Co-Founder of Muzzley; and Ludovic Copere, Manager of Growth Ventures and Innovation for Sony. The moderator was Redgie Snodgrass, the founder of WearableWorld.com. Redgie quizzed each panelist on topics surrounding the development of a network of everyday objects in constant communication with one another.

IoT is a very general term that covers a vast array of internet connected ‘smart’ devices. Any household object made capable of connecting to a network that was previously unable to do so can be categorized as a part of the Internet of Things. When asked to offer a definition, Andrew Clark referred to the Internet of Things as “the integration of the physical and the digital world.” Josh Bradshaw also weighed in, adding “we’re going to have devices, ‘things,’ and those things will add to peoples’ lives and this will be a natural and seamless interaction.” The reality of IoT as it was discussed by the panel involves a world in which we are constantly plugged into the internet across each of the devices we use every single day. Those devices employ the data collected from an individual person to understand the manner in which their technology can improve that human’s enjoyment and quality of life.

Bosch's Marcellino Gemelli talks IoT

The challenges addressed in the panel largely dealt with current technology as it stands in relation the the promise of an IoT reality. According to Redgie, by referring to a fully realized Internet of Things we are “painting a rocketship when we are still at canoe level.” Considering this, Josh Bradshaw maintains that we need to take ‘baby steps’ to successfully move forward. He referred to the integration of automatic lane correction in today’s automobiles as an incremental step towards the widespread acceptance of cars that drive themselves entirely. When asked how he would handle customer disappointment with a slower pace of technological evolution, Bradshaw responded, “Tech does limp, but it also moves in leaps and bounds. Just because we’re limping this month, it does not mean that we won’t be moving at a breakneck speed the next.”

Another challenge inherent to IoT relates to the amount of bandwidth required to keep objects in consistent communication with one another. In order to move towards an IoT reality, innovators are going to need to devise a way to account for an unprecedented amount of data. Each of the panelists agreed that an influx in smart devices would create a traffic problem regardless of how fast the internet is. Stefano Marzani believes that one possible way to reduce the amount of bandwidth necessary would be to “form communication under the cloud.” He believes that by employing powerful computing, most of the heavy lifting can be done by the hardware within the devices. If analytics are performed at the edge of the network, less bandwidth is required to communicate among devices.

Redgie also voiced concerns about the accessibility of this IoT reality, stating that he feels it is of utmost importance to maintain an “ethos that enables poor people to participate as well.” As wearable and medical devices are connected to the internet, it is important that we allow everyone access to the technology that can enable them to be a better human being. He referred to the example of a connected heart monitor, arguing that everybody should be entitled to protection from heart problems if it is technologically possible.

These panels offer an excellent opportunity for leaders in the IoT world to call specific problems to the attention of attending entrepreneurs. Towards the end of the panel, Redgie turned to the audience and said “we hope that the solutions are in the crowd.”  It is this manner of opportunity that makes IoT so exciting, and we can look forward to another panel with similarly engaging speakers next month.

Learn more about our Internet of Things Accelerator Program by visiting us on the web.

root Systems: Adaptive Irrigation Solutions


“If you drive through any farm in America, you will see stagnant puddles of water. Often, at the same time, there are dead trees one door down. That doesn’t make sense and it needs to be fixed.”

root founders Sai and Sandeep are trying to change the way that farmers look at water using a scientific approach. Their platform analyzes data collected from soil sensors placed in a field alongside climate data available online to provide optimized irrigation schedules for farmers.

It was a summer internship spent at an automation company in an extremely hot and dry Indian climate that inspired Sai to develop the original concept for root. As he was automating solar-powered irrigation pumps in the field, he came to the conclusion that pumps would be more efficient if they were “sensor-driven rather than timer-based.” The ideological seed for their startup was then planted when the two young entrepreneurs connected at a hackathon in February of 2014. They pitched a ‘smart’ coffee machine, arguing that an internet-connected version of the appliance would increase workplace productivity. The idea behind their pitch was simple: if a coffee machine refreshes itself automatically, employees will not waste any time replenishing its supply.  Recognizing the synergy between this concept and his original idea, Sai invited Sandeep to work on another Internet of Things project, which became root. Though founded initially as a consumer product, root has developed into a solution tailored to farmers.

According to Sai, eighty percent of the world’s freshwater resources go to agriculture. In California’s current drought, there are large plots of fertile soil that go entirely untouched due to limited water resources. root’s founders feel that this should not be a problem, that we would have more than enough water if we managed the supply properly. Where current farmers use imprecise guesswork to determine when and how to water their crops, root employs a scientific process to eliminate waste and optimize yield.

root embeds sensors in the soil of individual crops to provide a comprehensive view of how to irrigate each part of a farm at any given time. Sensors above the ground monitor metrics such as humidity, soil moisture, soil temperature, and air temperature to extrapolate the rate at which crops absorb and lose water. Any change in the status of a plot of crops is communicated immediately via push notification to the farmers tending it, enabling them to adapt on the fly using the root app on a smartphone, tablet, or computer. Sandeep reasons, “a farmer might get a push notification that says ‘water for three hours in five minutes,’ he understands that as the environment changes the needs of his plants will change as well.”

root’s founders were introduced to Plug and Play managing Partner Alireza Masrour through Startup Next, a pre-accelerator program.  They were offered a spot immediately after their presentation in spite of a live demo that had some technical difficulties. He recognized that water scarcity is an ongoing issue that calls for the type of innovative solution that root’s team is working towards.

They are currently working on a prototype model, and they will be piloting with select farms at the end of August. Their web platform is currently live and allows any California farmers to view climate data from online sources for their individual crops. You can access their app at roots.farm.

Learn more about root by visiting them on the web: roots.farm

 

08/18/2014 Last Week In Tech, In Tweets

1. Tech superstars step up to raise ALS awareness.

 

2. Startups in London launch an average of twelve new crowdfunding projects each day, more than both San Francisco and New York.

3. Should law enforcement officers be required to record themselves?

4. Silicon Valley’s favorite roadster is getting a battery upgrade.

5. Minecraft is a video game that will teach your kids how to code.

6. After a slow winter the tech market is healthy for new public offerings.

7. Uber announces moving service, plans to help Atlanta students move back in to school.

 

8. Smartphone enthusiasts eagerly anticipate Apple’s next announcement.

 

9. Xbox One’s August update brings changes to interface, adds mobile purchases.

 

08/11/2014 Last Week In Tech, In Tweets

1. Google takes on yet another giant tech company in Amazon, but it can’t do it alone.

 

2. Who needs a brain when you can have IBM’s new chip that can mimic a million neurones.

 

3. Britain wants bitcoin. Can we call it Britcoin?

They seem pretty serious about it.

 

4. Have you seen Iron Man? No, I’m not talking about the movie.

 

5. The “Right to be Forgotten” law is now in effect. Is this a step towards personal privacy or freedom-encroaching censorship?

 

6. Our greatest energy source may be the same as our body’s.

 

7. We no longer need sound to hear. It almost doesn’t make sense.

 

8. So all Wikipedia needed to get donations was bitcoin? That was easy.

 

9. Twitter’s monetization strategy so far has been pretty week for being one of the largest social networks. Not anymore.

 

10. Elon Musk is scared of artificial intelligence. Or is he?

 

11. Uber and Lyft continue to battle it out with new features fuelling their rivalry.

 

12. Foursquare gets a massive overhaul, aiming to eat Yelp for breakfast.

Plug and Play at NRFtech 2014

     The NRFtech Retail Technology Leader Summit is a developing education program that addresses top-of-mind, relevant, and forward-thinking topics. Its development is supported by the NRF CIO Council, an established corps of premier retail IT leaders.

     Considered the retail industry’s most influential senior-level IT event, NRFtech offers a forum for leading retail IT executives. Bringing together leading retail CIOs, the forum promotes peer discussion, knowledge-distribution, and industry networking. The NRFtech Summit aims to educate invited participants on the latest trends in retail technology, business process innovation, and strategic alignment between business and IT.

     We recently launched Plug and Play Retail, an accelerator focused on connecting brands and retailers with early stage startups, and the program has taken off at full speed. Opportunistically located in the heart of the Silicon Valley, Plug and Play has played an integral part in the establishing of a strong network between retail and IT companies, many of which are leveraging technology to solve the biggest problems that top brands, retailers and industry players face today. Developing solutions in areas like inventory management, forecasting, augmented reality and beaconing, these startup technology companies ultimately assist retailers and brand companies in ways that make their operations more efficient and effective.

     With partners such as Kohl’s Yum! Brands and Procter & Gamble, Plug and Play utilizes tailored deal flow, themed workshops, and face-to-face interaction to enable corporations to engage with startups that may complement their respective suite of offerings or create new potential revenue streams

     Due to the success of the Plug and Play Retail Accelerator, our CEO, Saeed Amidi, and our Director of Retail, Michael Olmstead, hold a great deal of information and knowledge on the subject of strategic-relationships between IT and retail. During the event, Saeed and Michael spoke at the closing session of the last day of the NRFtech Summit, where they examined the technological take-over of today’s generation.

     With an emphasis on the fast and easy, they discussed how communication is now being condensed and expressed through technological gateways at almost every level. Additionally, Saeed and Michael introduced new trends in the startup space and technology industry, and presented participants with valuable insights on how to take advantage of and better manage the endless technologies emerging in this next fast-growing generation of digital retailing.

- Article written by Nicole Chen

7/28/2014 Last Week In Tech, In Tweets

1. Apple files a patent for its smartwatch, possibly named iTime.

Jimmy Kimmel decides to have a little fun with the news.

 

2. Shoes become the latest accessory to be turned “smart”, thanks to Indian startup Ducere Technologies.

 

3. Facebook launches a new feature, called “Save”, with a function similar to Pocket.

 

4. Is 3D printing going mainstream already? Amazon creates an online market place for 3D printed goods.

 

5. Apple aiming to step up its e-book game by acquiring e-book data startup BookLamp. Should Amazon be scared?

 

6. Amazon becomes the latest big player to take a shot at a virtual “wallet”. Can they succeed where Apple and Google couldn’t?

 

For gamers:

EA Games has announced a Netflix-for-games subscription service that gives you unlimited access to their titles for $5 a month. Excited? Just don’t forget to take a break and eat once in a while!