Last Week in Tech, in Tweets: 9/29/14

1. Microsoft fans are gearing up for the release of Windows 9.

2. Was ‘bendgate’ blown out of proportion?

3. Bill Gates is still the richest man in the world.

4. One of the most influential gaming systems of our era, the Nintendo 64 celebrates it’s 18th birthday.

5. 4k TVs and computer monitors are the next big step for HD fanatics.

6. After almost a year, Xbox One has been launched in China.

7. Apple removes the controversial app ‘launcher’ from the iOS store.

8. The director of fight club is making his own version of Star Wars.

Congratulations to Linc!

Linc, a current Plug and Play tenant and Retail Accelerator participant will be celebrating its graduation today after two amazing years in Plug and Play’s community. Each graduation is bittersweet as we are sad to see them go but also look forward to playing an active role in their future endeavors. Linc’s team will be transitioning to a larger, private office in downtown Sunnyvale.

Linc joined Plug and Play just over two years ago under the name Proximiant. Proximiant’s platform was originally a digital solution that allowed consumers to keep track of purchases without maintaining an unwieldy stack of paper receipts. With the app, users were able to instantly send receipts straight to any smartphone by simply capturing a photo. After some time at Plug and Play the team pivoted and developed a new solution, taking on the name Linc for the new project.

Linc’s app serves as “shopping assist, messenger, and therapist” to facilitate engagement “well beyond the transaction.” They provide a personalized experience that drives customer engagement by establishing and maintaining a direct relationship between consumers and the online retailers that they frequent. Linc’s goal is to promote brand loyalty through a streamlined customer service platform that enables users to shop, ask questions and track their orders with one easy-to-use app.
According to Linc’s Head of Growth and Marketing Matt Frischer, the new name is a direct reference to the connection that they have established between customers and retailers. They chose the name Linc in their transition away from Proximiant to reflect the nature of their new retail solution.

The Plug and Play Retail Accelerator was founded to bring together an ecosystem of brands, retailers, and retail solution providers to help accelerate the growth of early stage startups in the industry. The program specializes in investing in and curating companies like Linc for exposure to our corporate partners such as Home Depot, Yum! Brands, and Proctor & Gamble.

As stated by Matt, “our time at [Plug and Play] has been great. I’ve said it before, but the access that we are afforded whether it is peer expertise, knowledge, or any other resource has been second to none.”

From the company’s entry under the name Proximiant to today’s graduation as Linc, it has been a pleasure watching this team of entrepreneurs grow and develop their ideas right here under our own roof. The future looks “big and bright” for the company with plans for expansion to satellite offices in San Francisco and New York City in place for the near future. We look forward to working with the team as they continue to flourish moving forward. To learn more about Linc, click here. To learn more about our Brand & Retail Accelerator, click here.

Last Week in Tech, in Tweets: 9/22/14

1. NASA’s latest ‘MAVEN’ spacecraft is orbiting Mars!

 

2. Another big week for Apple! iOS 8 is up and running with a variety of new features.

 

3. The burgeoning ‘sharing’ economy continues to create controversy un


4. Mountain goats are showing the way for disabled climbing enthusiasts.

4. Oculus VR releases latest prototype headset, moves us one step closer to a ‘virtual’ reality.

 

 

5. Will NFC revolutionize the way that we pay for things?

 

6. Google’s patents yet another advancement for self-driving cars.

 

7. SpaceX delivers a 3d printer for astronauts in orbit.

 

8. Alibaba’s IPO sets a new world record.

 

9. The first Videogame Museum of all time will open in Frisco, Texas.

 

Plug and Play Fall EXPO Wrap-up

This past Thursday was the third Expo Event of 2014 here at Plug and Play, and it definitely had the best turnout of the year. A mix of 800+ entrepreneurs, investors, and corporate representatives packed the auditorium at the Plug and Play Event Center in Sunnyvale yesterday for 56 pitches from the most promising startups of this year’s Brand & Retail and Startup Camp accelerators.

The day’s events were kicked off with a keynote speech from Bitpay‘s Chief Compliance officer Tim Byun. Tim has over 20 years of experience in ensuring compliance, including five years as Visa’s AML officer and 16 more as a bank examiner for the Federal Reserve and the FDIC. Tim’s speech touched on the advantage of ‘push’ transactions (such as Bitcoin) over certain traditional forms of payment as ‘pull’ transactions. Where ‘pull’ transactions such as credit and debit card payments require data about the user to initiate the process, ‘push’ transactions circumvent the need for the input of personal information. Tim’s speech was perfectly timed and particularly relevant in light of the recent security breach at Home Depot.

There was also a ‘fireside chat’ featuring our CEO Saeed Amidi alongside Plug and Play co-investors Deepak Kamra and Mohsen Moazavi, during which they discussed their respective technology investment strategies. Deepak has been with Canaan Partners for over 20 years where he has specialized in digital media as well as software investments and Mohsen is a founding partner of Columbus Nova Technology Partners which is a global, multi-stage technology investment firm. Their discussion provided strategic insight to investors searching for the right technology in addition to some sage advice for entrepreneurs working to get their ideas off of the ground.

The day was composed of three 90 minute sessions, each of which was made up of 16 to 20 five minute pitches. At the conclusion of each segment, the judges voted to select three winners for a total of six by the end of the day. The following companies pitched throughout the day:

Sightly’s award-winning TargetView platform enables brands and their agencies to dynamically personalize video ads and deliver thousands of hyper-local, micro-targeted campaigns across multiple screens through its exclusive access to YouTube’s TrueView inventory and Google’s premium content network.
Linc Care streamlines a personal and contextual self-serviced customer care experience that drives loyalty and increases LTV.
Link enabled shopper marketing and loyalty.
Pijon keeps families connected while helping college students stay happy and healthy.
WibiData’s software provides the real-time machine learning platform retailers need to build, experiment and deliver personalized experiences to their customers.
Social Music Player.
Beezy. Social at Work. Helping organizations know what they know.
A mobile app for instant recipe discovery and curated shopping.
Capillary Technologies enables retail marketers to easily and quickly manage their customer data, gain insights and personalize engagement across omni-channels, driving a significant increase in sales and loyalty.
Sparkle bridges the gap between eCommerce/Digital and legacy retail environments.
Leveraging predictive analytics to turn “Big Data” into “Retail Information.”
Grabit Inc. is poised to revolutionize the multi-billion dollar material handling market with its patented electroadhesion technology.
Airseed is an infrastructure layer of consumer insights for brands, retailers, and mobile/web developers. The Airseed platform powers ‘email connect’ single sign-on authentication, with hyper-rich user data and analytics, including online/offline transactions, interests, intent, social, demographics, and other data about authenticated users.
Try before you buy.
Sweet savings, automatically.
Browse videos about consumer products.
Placed is the leader in location-device insights and ad intelligence.
CircleUp is an online investment platform connecting high-growth consumer product & retail companies with accredited investors.
Sift turns retail email marketing into a fun, personalized virtual mall, making it easy for retailers to engage their users on the phone.
Tells you how much you will pay for healthcare before you go to the doctor.
Every cleaning service on demand.
Connect with fashionistas who shop for you.
An automated virtual assistant for Apps.
Distributed e-commerce platform for digital publishers and merchants.
Offering advanced wearable technology as the primary solution for user authentication and security.
Empowering do-it-yourself landlords.
Re-uniting lost pets with their families.
Leave your mark in space and time.
Enlarging the value chain of the hotel industry.
The easiest automation gateway helping entrepreneurs get rid of time-consuming tasks between all their online apps.
Disrupting the relation between bank and SMB.
Helping businesses (Hospitality & retail sector) to monetize free Wi-Fi, by turning it into a marketing tool.
We bring real-time Big Data Analytics to the masses by making it cost-effective.
Provides a virtual environment for over two million network professionals to design & optimize networks of any size without the need for physical hardware infrastructure.
Predictive inbox that turns emails into actionable cards.
We turn your smartphone into a 3D Scanner.
Intelligence to develop, grow and monetize loyal users.
Provides the answers to “What do people really think?” via its multifaceted software platform for publishers and brands.
The art and science of investing.
Design, make and gift exclusive “hand made” items.
Automating clinical training for medical professionals.
Artificial intelligence tech to help recruiters identify top talent.
3D print your game.
Rotating savings platform for emerging markets.
Visual search platform for products.
An easier, faster and cheaper way to resolve your immigration needs.
Your gateway to travel activities.
Democratizing payments, open payment platform on the cloud.
Offers a unified multi-retailer checkout API—delivering the best user experience to increase sales for content publishers.
Defragmenting your datacenter workloads.
Affordable crop management platform for farmers.

From our Brand & Retail accelerator, the judges voted Augmented Pixels, Grabit, and Prevedere best in show.

The winners from our Startup Camp were Statim Health, ABL Solutions, and root.  Congratulations to the winning teams!   For some additional information on the winning pitches, check out this article from the Silicon Valley Business Journal.

Last week’s turnout was a testament to the quality of the entrepreneurs that joined our Brand & Retail and Startup Camp Accelerators at with this past summer’s class. We want to thank everyone who made the trip to Sunnyvale yesterday, and we hope to have you all back for our next expo this upcoming December.

Congratulations to Healthpocket!

Plug and Play is thrilled to announce Healthpocket’s recent acquisition by Health Insurance Innovations for $30 million. The Healthpocket team has come a long way since their entry to Plug and Play just over two years ago, and we are lucky to have been host to the beginning of their journey.

According to founder and CEO Bruce Telkamp, Healthpocket is a “search and comparison shopping technology for health insurance.” Healthpocket is an all inclusive platform, covering every insurance market from Medicare to the ACA to Obamacare. They are the first company that has made it possible for the consumer to view and compare every type of health plan online in one place.

Healthpocket was founded in July of 2012, and they raised their Series A round of funding from Light Speed Venture Capital just two months later. A month after that they entered Plug and Play headquarters, and they have been in the building ever since. As stated by Bruce, “It’s been two years now at Plug and Play and it has been fantastic. The team here is incredibly helpful, and I don’t think we could have built our business as rapidly as we have without the support we received here.” In the two years since their arrival, the company has grown into one of the largest sources of information in the health care industry.

Health Insurance Innovations, a publicly traded company, develops health insurance and ancillary plan bundles through partnerships with a select group of carriers. Healthpocket has been a referral partner of Health Insurance Innovations for the past 6 months, and there has been “a lot of synergy between the two companies.” Bruce and his co-founder Sheldon Wong have been acquainted with Health Insurance Innovations for almost a decade at this point, and the merger is a natural progression for the company.

Whether it is towards an eventual acquisition or simply the next round of funding, helping companies grow is at the core of what Plug and Play does here in Silicon Valley.  We are extremely excited to work with the Healthpocket team moving forward as they continue to flourish.  To learn more about Healthpocket, check out their website.  To learn more about Health Insurance Innovations, check out their website.

9/15/2014: This Week in Tech, in Tweets

1. Bitcoins for a good cause!

2. Microsoft acquires Mojang for $2.5 billion.

3. Uber, Lyft, or Sidecar? They're all controversial, but Sidecar has got Sir Richard Branson!

4. Mountain goats are showing the way for disabled climbing enthusiasts.

5. Wikileaks releases controversial 'security' software.

6. Last Week's iPhone has set new records.

7. Android reveals three smartphones geared towards emerging markets.

8. Toyota reveals unique new concept car intended for 'tinkerers.'

Plug and Play Welcomes Cyberport Hong Kong!

This past Thursday, Plug and Play headquarters hosted a delegation from Hong Kong Cyberport for a Pitch and Networking Event. The group, led by Hong Kong Cyberport CEO Herman Lam, brought 15 of their hottest startups to present in front of a panel of judges composed of Plug and Play investors and Executives in Residence.

Cyberport, founded in 2002, is a “creative digital community with a cluster of technology and digital content tenants” that is owned by Hong Kong’s SAR Government. Their 100,000 square meter operation is host to a number of established companies in addition to an incubation program from which 15 startups presented in Sunnyvale and San Francisco yesterday afternoon. Cyberport’s startups represented a broad range of interests from retail optimization to education technology. The delegation featured entrepreneurs with innovative technology solutions across multiple verticals, each of which gave a five minute pitch detailing their idea.  Plug and Play’s panel of judges sat in attendance providing feedback while considering potential investment opportunities.

There are a host of reasons that Hong Kong is an extremely exciting place for startups. Hong Kong has the infrastructure as well as the economy to capitalize on a consistently innovative local talent base, and the citizens have a heightened global sensibility that speaks to the city’s unique history. According to Herman, “There is a lot of talent. People in Hong Kong are very international, but at the same time they know about China. We are a part of China, but we are facing the world.” As a Chinese city with a globalized community, Hong Kong stands as a perfect starting point for foreign companies looking to become acquainted with the region.

Yesterday’s Pitch and Networking Event came as a perfect opportunity for collaboration as Hong Kong is a global launchpad point for tech startups in the same way that Silicon Valley is the digital nexus of the United States. According to Leslie Yuen, the U.S. Consultant for Cyberport, Hong Kong is special because it is “a city of immigrants, very similar to Silicon Valley. If you look at the delegation today we have members from India, Europe, Australia, and China: it’s a representation of Hong Kong. It’s a very global city, and we have the same dream and the same goal as silicon valley.”

The event was a testament to the nature of Plug and Play’s relationship with Cyberport, and we hope to collaborate as much as possible moving forward. To find out more about Cyberport, check out their website.

PnP’s Weekly Bitcoin Meetup Featuring Yifu Guo

This past Tuesday, Plug and Play‘s weekly Bitcoin Meetup enjoyed its anniversary after meeting weekly since 2013 at our HQ facility. Our resident Bitcoin expert Scott Robinson took over the event a summer ago after Roger Ver (the “Bitcoin Jesus”) passed the oldest meetup in an effort to foster an ongoing discussion about emerging trends and challenges surrounding the development of crypto-currency. Since then, the event has been a huge success featuring an amazing cast of guest-speakers that have facilitated consistent engagement from the Bitcoin community.

For the most recent meet up we were lucky enough to host Yifu Guo, the man behind the first ASIC-based Bitcoin miners. Yifu first found out about Bitcoin through an RSS feed in 2011, and since then he has established himself as a major player in the space. Yifu’s company, Avalon, is credited with successfully producing the first ASIC based Bitcoin miners, which sold for up to $20,000 each at auction. He attributes his initial success to poor competition, reasoning that he was simply one of the first people to take advantage of the financial potential that crypto-currency has to offer.

However, according to Yifu, Bitcoin’s amateur hour has passed. “I was really lucky because my competitor was terrible and I was the first one to launch. But because of this I knew, after us it would be nations, states, and professionals.” He realized that this heightened level of interest would change the dynamic of the bitcoin scene drastically. With more government and professional interest, bitcoin mining will become significantly less distributed. Yifu believes that this could be a major problem, arguing that “in order to keep bitcoin the way that we know and love it, mining has to be as geographically distributed as possible.” He maintains that mining needs to remain decentralized in order to keep governments from rendering the platform financially infeasible.

Yifu’s prediction is based on what he witnessed first-hand while on a visit to China. Inner Mongolia is a region of China where there is a massive coal mining operation that produces 80% of the country’s total power. The plants there were producing an excess of power that was not being put to use, and this opportunity was recognized by a Chinese entrepreneur. According to Yifu, “this person went to the local government and essentially said ‘hey, you have all this power you’re not using. Why don’t we use it to mine bitcoins that you can convert to whatever asset you want?’” The government hastily accepted, and the largest known bitcoin mining operation in the world was started.

The problem that Yifu wants to solve surrounds the issue of individual players, such as the Chinese entrepreneur just mentioned, attempting to harness as much mining power as possible to drive everyone else out. If bitcoin mining becomes centralized, the very nature of the protocol becomes defunct and bitcoin will likely no longer be viable.

As it was presented by Yifu, the situation is best exemplified by a recent downtrend in the distribution of bitcoin nodes. At the present time, there are around 7,000 nodes currently up and running where there were 25,000 last year. In order to solve the problem, Yifu argues that we need to provide incentive for people to run nodes. He emphasizes: “if the US does not reach 25, 30% of the bitcoin market by the end of the year, it will actually become financially infeasible to compete with Asia.”

With the problem clearly outlined, the question remains as to what we can do to stop this seemingly inevitable decentralization. Yifu wants to try to put a bitcoin mining chip in every single home appliance as a potential way to help the platform stay distributed, but he believes it will not be enough.  The ball is in our court, and American citizens need to take action if they want to preserve the future of crypto-currency.

To find out more about the Silicon Valley Bitcoin Meetup taking place every Tuesday at Plug and Play headquarters, check out our website.

9/08/2014: This Week in Tech, in Tweets

1. This week’s Apple event is going to be HUGE.

2. You can now make 1-click purchases via Twitter.

3. 3d printing continues to find new applications.


4. There are going to be “different categories of Virtual Reality.”

5. Bitcoin fantasy football!

6. Telepathy via the internet?

7. Apparently the ice bucket challenge worked!

8. Driverless cars might be here a lot sooner than we think.

9. Bungie prepares gamers for the biggest MMO launch of the year.

Pademobile: Our Hottest Company of the Month!

Pademobile, Plug and Play’s Hottest Company of the Month, is the easiest way to send money anywhere in real time. With a simple text message you can send money instantly to any phone in the US or Mexico. Pademobile’s platform is compatible with any cellphone model that is SMS enabled, the only thing that you need is the ten digit telephone number of the person you want to receive money.

The idea for Pademobile was hatched around ten years ago when founder and CEO Raul Nogales was working a career in the financial sector of Spain. He had the opportunity to visit a number of smaller countries that lacked banking infrastructure, and it was during that time that he noticed the emerging problem of financial exclusivity.

When he arrived in Mexico he planned to create a platform through which locals would be able to send money from their bank accounts using their cell phones to recipients who would, in turn, be able to withdraw money from an ATM without using a card. However, he quickly realized that this idea was not nearly enough to account for the entire unbanked population of Mexico, that “the general population didn’t need the last link in the chain, they needed the whole chain.” His service was limited by the requirement of a bank account, and he needed to find a way to “democratize” the financial model. In an effort to find a solution, Raul founded Pademobile in Mexico about four and a half years ago as an alternative solution to common banks.

Pademobile is a mobile financial platform that “transforms a cell phone number into a digital wallet” that can be topped up using a prepaid balance, credit and debit cards, or Bitcoin. The entire platform is based on SMS, which makes it universally available to cell phone users rather than limited to smartphones. Since implementing the business model in Mexico, Pademobile has grown to almost 3 million users at more than 20 thousand physical points of operation.

Raul’s main goal following Pademobile’s success in Mexico has been global expansion. He has planned on an international model for his platform since its inception, and he became acquainted with Plug and Play in an effort to realize this goal. He relocated Pademobile headquarters to Plug and Play’s Silicon Valley facility to begin what he has referred to as a ‘learning phase.’ According to Raul, “Plug and Play and its team has had a fundamental role. We found the location and the environment perfect for us, where we have been able to learn and where we have found an ally at the right moment to take this significant step of moving towards an international model.”

Pademobile’s model provides a perfect solution to an emerging problem that affects millions of people across the globe. Their platform stands as an excellent model for international implementation, and at Plug and Play we are proud to play an instrumental role in the company’s imminent expansion. To find out more about Pademobile, check out their website.