Startup company

Top Gear mobile game dev Motorious Entertainment raises $894,000

Helsinki mobile game developer Motorious Entertainment said it has raised $894,000 (€800,000) in a new round of funding. That will help the company gear up for its debut mobile title, Top Gear Road Trip.

The money comes from the Finnish government’s Finnvera Venture Capital and Nordea’s Startup and Growth Services, while additional funds came from backers in an earlier round of investment. All told, the company has now raised $1.4 million (€1.3 million).

Motorious Entertainment is working on the iOS and Android mobile game based on the popular Top Gear racing show intellectual property. Top Gear has an estimated 400 million fans around the world. The game will debut this summer.

How eastern European tech entrepreneurs are drawing global interest

(Reuters) — Tech entrepreneurs in central and southeastern European, many of whom already have experience of launching their own businesses, are now having more success at enticing global investors the second time around.

Until recently, the region’s tech start-up scene was stagnant, failing to rank among Europe’s top dozen countries for investment and lagging western and northern European countries, as well as decades-old tech hub Israel.

But that’s changing fast. By last year, investment in central Europe, while still modest, had jumped more than tenfold since 2012, buoyed by a growing number of deals. And 2017 is on track for even stronger growth.

While an early wave of companies often lacked the international know-how and market savvy to develop into global businesses, their founders have absorbed lessons and are now able to generate more heavyweight investment.

“A lot of the bigger guys are now starting to take a look at the region,” said Credo Venture’s Andrej Kiska, whose Prague-based fund started in 2010 and has since co-invested with global venture capital firms Index Ventures, Accel and Baseline Ventures.

“It’s still a small market but it’s growing fast. First time founders have gained experience and are now starting their second and third companies with higher ambitions.”

Take Warsaw-based medical appointment booking platform DocPlanner, founded by serial Polish entrepreneur Mariusz Gralewski.

On Wednesday, the company said it had closed a new round of €15 million to help fund international expansion in Latin America following its merger a year ago with Spanish rival Doctoralia.

Previously, Gralewski turned a dorm-room idea into Poland’s leading business social network, GoldenLine.pl, which he sold before setting up DocPlanner.

The medical booking company now employs 300 and says it is making 340,000 appointments per month in its six core markets of Poland, Spain, Italy, Turkey, Portugal and Mexico.

The new funding underlines how entrepreneurs such as Gralewski are attracting global investment.

DocPlanner has raised $46 million to date with international investor Target Global, Germany’s ENERN Investments and London-based One Peak Partners…

Why I love the Detroit startup scene

People often ask me, “Why did you move from San Francisco to, uh, Detroit?” The answer is easy. In 10 years, San Francisco will be as good as it is today, but Detroit will be a roaring city once again, defining a new technology hub at the intersection of steel and bits.

When choosing to move to Detroit, a city that has been in a recent state of rebuild, many do so to roll up their sleeves, get to work, and make a difference. These attributes are what’s needed in an entrepreneur, which makes the city’s vibe appealing to early stage startups.

When entrepreneurs make the pilgrimage to San Francisco to change the world with their ideas, they do so for the vast amount of resources present in the Valley. Detroit, too, has immense resources at an entrepreneur’s disposal, but to build and scale in Detroit is to build and scale Detroit itself – something you can no longer do in the Valley.

And this is the reason I packed up and left San Francisco for Detroit in October of 2011. I wanted to take part in the emerging entrepreneurial gold rush in Detroit. I wanted to help fuel the startup renaissance and create a legacy. And over the last six years, I’ve seen the seeds of entrepreneurship blossom into a growing and thriving ecosystem. (Check out the documentary Generation Startup to see what it is like to build a startup in Detroit.)

Why is Detroit good for business?

The cost of living and doing business in Detroit is much lower than in coastal hubs like San Francisco and New York. You can hire a recent computer science graduate for $60K vs. $120K on the coasts. According to Numbeo, the cost of living in San Francisco is 93 percent higher than in Detroit. Your employees can afford a wonderful house in a great neighborhood, live in an amazing school district, and not break the bank. Not something you could do easily in San Francisco or New York. But across metro Detroit, you can. And that means more money to hire and scale your company. Your employees can raise a family and still live on an early stage startup salary. And your venture capital investors can see higher returns as a result of less capital needed to scale the business.

Detroit has a great talent network spanning universities, Fortune 500 companies, and business titans. Google got its seed funding as research out of the University of Michigan. A high percentage of the top venture capitalists in the United States have taken Professor David Brophy’s classes on venture capital. With 75 percent of the US automotive industry R&D investment located in Michigan, the future of self-driving cars will be built and tested across Detroit. New facilities like Mcity and the American Center for Mobility will support testing and validation of autonomous vehicles. And business titans that call Detroit home include Dan Gilbert, Roger Penske, Chris Ilitch, and Bill Ford.

There’s a hidden diamond in the Midwest that contains an economy larger…

This Startup Is Telling Everyday Investors It Will Be The Next Uber

Actor John O’Hurley appears in an ad for YayYo, a ride-sharing app that promises to compare the prices of different ride-sharing companies (that aren’t Uber or Lyft).

Ramy El-Batrawi has founded 27 companies that are now inactive or dissolved, hawking everything from relationship counseling to futures trading to van rentals to Alaskan fishing vacations, a HuffPost review of state records finds. He even ran a travel agency in Palm Beach, Florida, with a Saudi arms dealer involved in the Iran-Contra affair, and was named as a go-between for an offshore entity listed in the Panama Papers.

In 2010, the Securities and Exchange Commission barred El-Batrawi from being an executive in a publicly traded company for five years as part of the settlement over a $130 million stock fraud case against a company he led until it collapsed in 2001.

Now that his prohibition period is over, El-Batrawi has something new to sell: shares in YayYo, a price-comparing ride-sharing app that doesn’t currently work.

HuffPost

The company, with El-Batrawi as CEO, is trying to sell $50 million in stock ― which it can do thanks to newly relaxed securities laws that let speculative startups raise money from mom-and-pop investors. Proponents of the laws said they would boost the economy and create jobs, while critics said the loosened rules put people’s money at risk.

YayYo paid Master P to record a promotional track for the company and has been running TV ads on daytime cable news for weeks featuring the actor John O’Hurley, who famously played a catalog salesman peddling ordinary products and whimsical stories on “Seinfeld.”

“What if you were an early investor in Uber or Lyft — what would you be worth today?” O’Hurley asks. The answer, he says, is that you would have made “made millions, if not tens of millions.” (Uber and Lyft are valued at $62.5 billion and $7.4 billion, respectively.)

But wait, there’s more: YayYo, O’Hurley says, might just grow even faster that Uber and Lyft. When and if YayYo’s app works, it will let you compare prices from different ride-hailing companies by plugging directly into the data that companies like Uber and Lyft have made available to third-party developers.

As the old saying goes, if it sounds too good to be true, it’s probably running stock ads on Fox News at 11:45 on a random weekday morning.

Lyft has already filed a cease and desist order against YayYo and barred the company from using its data, a spokesman told HuffPost. Uber did not return HuffPost’s request for comment, but BuzzFeed’s Will Alden noted that the company’s terms don’t allow its data to be aggregated with that of its competitors.

A ride-hailing price-comparison app that can’t compare the prices of the two dominant ride-hailing services is extremely unlikely to succeed,…

How Uber and Waymo Ended Up Rivals in the Race for Driverless Cars

SAN FRANCISCO — At a technology conference in mid-2014, the Google co-founder Sergey Brin presented the company’s first prototype for a self-driving car. Watching in the audience was Travis Kalanick, chief executive of Uber, the ride-hailing start-up.

Mr. Brin’s presentation in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif. — including a video of a compact two-seater autonomously doing laps around a parking lot — jolted Mr. Kalanick, according to two people who spoke with him. Google, the search giant — long considered an Uber ally — seemed to be turning on him. And even as Uber was a growing force to be reckoned with, it was lacking in self-driving car technology, an important field of study that might affect the future of transportation.

So Mr. Kalanick spent much of 2015 raiding Google’s engineering corps. To learn about the technology, he struck up a friendship with Anthony Levandowski, a top autonomous vehicle engineer at “G-co,” Mr. Kalanick’s pet name for Google.

The two men often spoke for hours about the future of driving, meeting at the Ferry Building in San Francisco and walking five miles to the Golden Gate Bridge, according to two people familiar with the executives, who asked for anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.

The friendship developed into a partnership. Mr. Levandowski left Google last year to form Otto, a self-driving trucking start-up. Uber acquired it months later for nearly $700 million. Mr. Kalanick subsequently appointed Mr. Levandowski to run Uber’s autonomous vehicle research.

That relationship has since set off a legal morass, with Google’s self-driving vehicle business — now called Waymo — accusing Mr. Levandowski of creating Otto as a front to steal trade secrets from Google, then using the findings with Uber’s driverless cars. On Monday, a federal judge in San Francisco barred Mr. Levandowski from working on a crucial component of Uber’s self-driving car technology for the duration of the case.

The implications are set to reverberate far beyond the courtroom. Any setback for Uber will shake up the driverless car industry, which is locked in a bitter race to introduce and commercialize autonomous cars. Silicon Valley tech titans and Detroit automakers are making huge investments — bets that autonomous vehicle technology will usher in a new age of how people get around. For some companies, especially traditional carmakers, their very survival is at stake.

While Google has been developing autonomous vehicle technology for more than a decade, others have raced to catch up. General Motors, Ford, Apple, Tesla, Volkswagen, BMW and Mercedes-Benz are among those that have jumped in. All are competing — and sometimes cooperating — for a slice of a new market expected to top $77 billion over the next two decades, according to a study from Boston Consulting Group.

Uber has been ahead of many others in publicly testing autonomous vehicles. Last year, the company began a pilot program of autonomous cars in Pittsburgh; it has also done testing in San Francisco and Tempe, Ariz.

That aggressiveness has spurred an intense rivalry with Waymo. Waymo’s legal pursuit of Uber and Mr. Levandowski is out of corporate character; Google has tended to refrain from suing former employees who move to competitors. Many at Google and Waymo are incensed at Mr. Levandowski and how he may have betrayed them for a rich payday, according to current and former employees.

That has pushed Waymo to strike back. Beyond suing Uber, Waymo said on Sunday it had teamed up with Lyft, a ride-hailing rival, on driverless car initiatives.

“This is a race where every single minute seems to…

Maker Pro News: Etsy Reorganizes, Chinese Manufacturers Turn to Local Entrepreneurs, and More

You’re reading our weekly Maker Pro Newsletter, which focuses on the impact of makers in business and technology. Our coverage includes hardware startups, new products, incubators, and innovators, along with technology and market trends. Subscribe today and never miss a post.

“If you don’t have competitors…you’re either a crazy genius or you’re just crazy.” – SirenCare CEO Ran Ma

Investors to Etsy: You Can Do Better

Creative marketplace Etsy (@Etsy) is a quiet titan of the maker pro space that harbors a deep, valuable community of artisans and craftspeople — but as unrest among the company’s investors reaches a boiling point, the company may be forced to make fundamental changes in its day-to-day business.

Dissatisfied stakeholders penned a letter to the Etsy board that outlined their grievances. Since the company’s IPO, according to the letter, the company’s stock has fallen some 30 percent. On the bright side, they estimated that with new management and a renewed focus on user experience, the company could double its worth.

Thankfully, the company’s brass seem to be listening. In response to the investor concerns, the company quickly announced that it would oust CEO Chad Dickerson (@chaddickerson) in favor of eBay veteran Josh Silverman (@jgsilverman) and lay off eight percent of its staff. Big changes to the site itself are reportedly afoot — and the question may ultimately become whether the company can find success without compromising its DIY values.

Countdown to Maker Faire Bay Area

It is just two weeks until Maker Faire Bay Area (@makerfaire) on May 19–21. Do not miss our Maker Pro stage in Redwood Hall, where we are assembling an all-star lineup of entrepreneurs from every industry you read about in this newsletter.

One area we want to highlight this year: the dynamic world of maker pros who work with food and kitchenware. On the Make: blog, contributor Goli Mohammadi (@snowgoli) published a roundup of the foodtech founders you will be able to meet at the Faire, from the Future Food initiative to DIY chocolatiers and even a handful of startups selling cricket…

Backed by Andy Rubin, Lighthouse raises $17 million for its AI home assistant

Above: Lighthouse atop its mount. The device includes a camera visible in this shot. Above that is the 3D sensor and a night vision

A new intelligent assistant makes its debut today to compete with the likes of Alexa, Cortana, and Google Assistant. Lighthouse distinguishes itself from its competitors by using computer vision to detect and monitor activity within a home.

Until now, Lighthouse has operated in stealth since 2015. Today, the company also announced the close of a $17 million funding round, led by Eclipse Ventures with participation from Playground Ventures. Lighthouse and its 30 employees are based at Playground Ventures. Android co-creator Andy Rubin created the Playground Global incubator and office space for startups. Its $300 million investment fund closed in 2015.

Lighthouse can’t play you music or tell you jokes like Alexa or Cortana can. But the device’s makers explain that if other assistants are for giving you control of things when you’re home, Lighthouse is designed to deliver insights when you’re away from home.

A simple voice or text search can tell you when your kids get home, whether they’ve been running in the house, and if the cat or the kid broke a vase while you were at work. Should your teen bring their significant other over without supervision, Lighthouse can see it, alert you, and patch you in to speak with the young couple.

The device was made by cofounder Alex Teichman and CTO Hendrik Dahlkamp, two early adopters of 3D sensors and self-driving cars who met at Stanford University.

Dahlkamp was an engineer at Google X and a…

Bitcoin hits all-time high of more than $1,700

(Reuters) — Digital currency bitcoin hit a record high on Tuesday as demand for crypto-assets soared with the creation of new tokens to raise funding for start-ups using blockchain technology.

Blockchain, the underlying technology behind bitcoin, is a financial ledger maintained by a network of computers that can track the movement of any asset without the need for a central regulator

Bitcoin hit a record $1,760.40 on the BitStamp platform and was last at $1,747.89, up 6 percent on the day. So far this year, bitcoin has surged nearly 80 percent. Bitcoin’s market capitalization on Tuesday soared to $52.5 billion, according to data from coinmarketcap.com.

Aside from being an asset that can be traded on exchanges like stocks and bonds, bitcoin has become a mode of payment for some retailers, such as Overstock.com, and a way to transfer funds without the need for a third party.

“We have an influx of new capital in the space and that capital goes back and forth among crypto-assets and bitcoin,”…

Founded by former Google and Apple engineers, DeepMap is mapping the future for self-driving cars

DeepMap, a new mapping startup for the fledgling autonomous vehicle industry, has raised $25 million in a series A round led by Accel, with participation from existing seed-stage investors Andreessen Horowitz and GSR Ventures, which had previously invested around $7 million in the company.

Not a great deal was known about DeepMap prior to now, but the Palo Alto-based company, which was founded early last year, has a number of notable people at the helm, including CEO James Wu, who previously worked at Google, Apple, and Baidu on mapping products; CTO Mark Wheeler, who also worked at Google as a software engineer and Apple as a senior scientist; and COO Wei Luo, who previously served as product manager across a number of Google projects, including Maps and Earth.

Put simply, DeepMap has some experienced and knowledgeable people leading its push into the self-driving car realm.

DeepMap’s underlying technology helps automotive firms get up to speed, so to speak, in terms of bringing autonomous cars onto roads around the world. DeepMap provides the software that gives them accurate high-definition mapping and real-time localization, as well as the necessary infrastructure to support the rolling out of the technology to cars at scale. In effect, DeepMap serves as the eyes and the brain needed to make cars autonomous; it maps the environment, tells the vehicle where it is in relation to the environment, and shares this information with other vehicles on the DeepMap platform.

OverOps raises $30 million to help developers debug code

Software analytics company OverOps has raised $30 million in a Series C round of funding led by Lightspeed Venture Partners, with participation from Menlo Ventures.

Founded out of Israel in 2011 as Takipi, the Israeli startup changed its name to OverOps back in August to reflect its push into the broader DevOps realm. OverOps’ self-proclaimed mission is to “rid the world of application logs” through performing code analysis and tracking code changes to first detect bugs and then highlight the specific source code and variable state that caused the break. OverOps works on live apps in real-time, monitoring them after release.

The company had raised around $20 million before now, and with its latest cash influx said that it plans to scale its efforts in the enterprise IT operations market, including opening up support for .NET CLR.

“While the way we monitor and deploy applications improved dramatically over the years, with the move to microservices,…