The rise of blockchain and artificial intelligence (AI) are two of the biggest technology trends this year. For us, our requests could include understanding the weather or finding out about a song, setting up for appointments, etc. However, I’m sure you already know that it powers innovation across almost every industry, and is yet capable of so much more.
Sale of VAI Tokens
In layman’s terms, Artificial Intelligence (AI) are machines built to perform intelligent tasks that have traditionally been accomplished by humans. As for Blockchain, it is essentially a technology that allows for the encrypted storage of data on a distributed ledger.
A Valletta-based startup, VAIOT, that combines AI and blockchain to digitise business processes across industries, has raised €5M in its seed round of funding through a private sale of its VAI Tokens.
VAIOT’s seed and private sale have allocated close to 30% of the VAI Tokens to investors who support the project long-term. VAI Token is the digital currency of the VAIOT platform, set to incentivise the users to utilise the company’s solutions. VAI Tokens will initially use the Ethereum token standard and eventually be mirrored on a proprietary blockchain.
VAIOT develops purpose-built Intelligent Virtual Assistants (IVA) to help companies to move processes to AI-powered channels, as well as VAIOT-labeled IVA delivered directly to consumers. It combines AI and blockchain to create new ways of digitally accessing services and securely concluding legal agreements.
Christoph Surgowt, CEO of VAIOT says, “With this funding, we are equipped to deliver a product that can transform how businesses conduct their processes, and be of tremendous value to consumers. Putting the competency of AI into the hands of businesses and consumers will boost digital transformation across the board.”
The startup ultimately plans to take the concept of a smart personal assistant and combine it with the unique skillset and knowledge possessed by lawyers. It aims to build an AI legal assistant for consumers and enterprises, providing legal services, including digital, blockchain-based contracts.
VAIOT’s first assistant will service the car insurance industry and is projected to be presented by Q3 2020. It also aims to expand its technology into the broader market. The solution is built to be customised and adjusted to suit almost any industry and a wide set of business processes.
Image credits: TippaPat/Shutterstock
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The COVD-19 pandemic has severely impacted the global travel and tourism industry. According to the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), the COVID-19 pandemic has caused a 22% fall in international tourist arrivals during the first quarter of 2020. It also predicts that the crisis could lead to an annual decline of between 60% and 80% when compared with 2019 figures. In spite of this devastating effect of the pandemic, Holidu turned profitable in May and since then generated seven-digit positive EBIT figures. It just raised funding from Kees Koolen – former CEO of Booking.com.
Profitable Amid Pandemic
Holidu has announced that Koolen has invested more than €4M into the company from his personal fund, as part of a €5M extension to the €40M Series C round of the previous year.
Headquartered in Munich, Holidu is a global price comparison platform that lets people find, compare, and book vacation rentals all over the world. According to the company, the funding follows a period of accelerated growth for Holidu, despite the raging pandemic’s impact on the global travel market.
The company claims that in July alone, more than 27 million users visited the Holidu website. This resulted in a 2.6x growth in year-on-year bookings and more than €130M of newly generated bookings that month.
Kees Koolen is a Dutch businessman and investor. He was the COO, CEO, and chairman of Booking.com from 2002-2014. Booking.com was acquired in 2005 by a US-based travel booking company called Priceline Group – later changed its name to Booking Holdings Inc. in 2018.
He was an early Uber investor and helped Uber roll out internationally. Moreover, he was a founding partner at EQT ventures, and now he is active in driving the transition towards clean energy with his clean energy conglomerate Koolen Industries.
Koolen has been an active board member in Holidu since 2016, both during his time as a partner at EQT Ventures and later in his role as advisor to EQT Ventures.
“The COVID-19 pandemic is reshuffling the cards in the travel industry and Holidu is clearly one of the winners of the accelerated trend towards alternative accommodation”, says Koolen.
Pandemic pushes domestic
The company believes that this pandemic has caused a shift in users’ travel behaviour, with many preferring domestic travel. According to Holidu’s internal data comparing July 2020 with the same month of the previous year, users chose domestic travels, made more last-minute bookings, and preferred more premium accommodation choices.
“People had been locked in their apartments due to COVID-19 for a long time and we saw that once it was allowed again, people just wanted to travel. Many of them looked for safer nearby travel options, for which vacation rentals are ideal. We have focused on this segment of the travel market since our foundation and it makes us beyond happy that we have been able to help millions of travelers to have a great summer vacation this year.” explains Johannes Siebers, Co-founder and CEO at Holidu.
“At one point, we almost got overwhelmed by the large demand. Fortunately, we were able to react quickly thanks to the strong work of our team and the internal technology tools,” he adds.
Hoildu was founded in 2014 brothers Johannes and Michael Siebers. It was founded by the duo following a frustrating experience while booking a vacation rental for a surfing trip to Portugal. According to the company, they spent hours browsing through dozens of websites to find the right accommodation and realised that some of the rentals were offered on multiple sites for different prices.
Holidu, currently, has a team of more than 200 people and closed its €40M Series C round led by Prime Ventures in 2019.
Image credits: Holidu
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As we all know, the impact of the coronavirus pandemic is growing day by day due to which there is a high rise in demand for fresh foods. It has put a global spotlight on the agricultural side of the economy. However, agritech startups are constantly trying to succeed, despite all the challenges, with the help of indoor farming to help cities become self-sufficient in their food production while improving the safety, quality, and environmental footprint of the food.
One such startup, Infarm, aims to share the goodness of own-grown produce with everyone. The startup has developed a smart modular farming system, that allows the distribution of farms throughout the urban environment, growing fresh produce in any available space and fulfilling any demand.
The Berlin-based startup has raised €144 M in the “first close” of a Series C round of funding; the round is expected to reach about €168 M. LGT Lightstone led this round of investment in a mix of equity and debt financing.
Besides existing investors Atomico, TriplePoint Capital, Mons Capital, and Astanor Ventures; Hanaco, Bonnier, Haniel, and Latitude have also invested in this round.
Utilisation of the Investment
The funding will be used to strengthen the regional and local penetration of Infarm’s global farming network. Besides, the startup is also looking to develop its vertical cloud-connected farms to help generate the crop-equivalent of acres of farmland to increase the diversity of produce through vertical farming.
What does Infarm do?
Founded in 2013 by Osnat Michaeli, and brothers Erez and Guy Galonska, Infarm uses cloud-computing to manage the cultivation of produce that is grown close to consumers, to minimise its environmental impact.
With a team of 600 people globally, Infarm has partnered with more than 30 major food retailers.
The startup also claims to have deployed more than 1000 farms in stores and distribution centres, saved more than 7,000,000 gallons of water, and 400,000 square feet of land, while harvesting over 500,000 plants monthly and growing.
To help contribute to a more sustainable food system, Infarm is looking to integrate its advanced engineering and software & farming technology, to help save labour, land, water, energy, and food-miles.
By 2025, Infarm’s farming network is expected to reach more than 5,000,000 square feet.
Speaking about the development, Erez Galonska, co-founder & CEO of Infarm, said: “We believe in increasing access to fresh, pure, sustainable produce, grown as close as possible to people. As we scale to 5,000,000 sq ft in farming facilities across Europe, North American and Asia by 2025, this investment will help us make a truly global impact through our network, preserving the thousands of acres of land, millions of liters of water, and ultimately change the way people grow, eat and think about food.”
Image credits: InFarm
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Helsinki-based medtech company Disior specialises in converting CT and MRI images into mathematical models and numerical analysis. The company has developed a cloud-based 3D analytics software for doctors. This software automatically analyses, quantifies, and parameterises medical images. It quickly provides objective data for both patient diagnosis and treatment outcome assessment.
Raises €1.7M funding
In a recent development, Disior announced that it has raised €1.7M funding from Maki.vc and Tesi alongside existing investors. This investment will support the commercialisation of its newly CE-marked product Bonelogic Ortho Foot and Ankle. The 3D analytics software of Disior will be used by doctors across the world to improve patient care and outcome from medical images.
The fresh round of funds will be used to facilitate further development of the existing products of Disior along with new ones. This will open up new use cases within orthopedics and automated surgery planning. The company develops a product with neurosurgery applications via an existing collaboration with Augmedit, a Dutch company that specialises in the creation of AR/VR tools meant for surgeons.
“The diagnostic imaging market is a huge one, as medical images account for up to 90% of all medical data. Despite significant improvements in X-ray, MRI, and CT scan technologies, doctors still analyze these images using 2D slices – we like to say it’s like doctors examining medical images with one eye only,” Disior CEO Anna-Maria Henell explains.
“The new normal affects many industries, but medtech for sure is one that calls for more efficient and scalable solutions. Disior brings major technological advancements to medical verticals that have thus far been underserved,” says Ilkka Kivimäki, Managing Partner at Maki.vc.
Disior scales rapidly
Founded by Anna-Maria Henell, Sakari Soini, Risto Kontio, and Goncalo Barreto in 2016, Disior has scaled rapidly and its technologies are used in several leading hospitals across the world. It has nearly doubled its customer count by working with institutions such as the University of Iowa, the Federal University of Rio Grande do Norte, UPMC Pittsburgh, and Turku University Hospital.
The growth of this medtech startup has been further accelerated by its product that is CE-marked. The Bonelogic Ortho Foot and Ankle product was launched in June this year. The continued growth of the company seems likely as they struck a distribution deal with Planmed, a global medical imaging equipment provider. The company is in the process of securing FDA approval to help them bring their technology to the US markets.
Image credits: Disior
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