Confirmed: UK challenger bank Monzo raises £19.5M with one more £2.5M in crowdfunding planned

Monzo, one of a number of so-named “challenger” banks in the U.K. aiming to re-invent the current account, has disclosed details of its new funding round.

Confirming most of the details from our report earlier this week, the startup has raised £19.5 million from U.S.-primarily based Thrive Capital, London’s Passion Capital, and Orange Digital Ventures, the venture arm of telco Orange. They are investing £13 million, £5 million, and £1.five million, respectively.

The London-based organization is also planning to raise an extra £2.5 million via yet another equity crowdfunding campaign on Crowdcube. The combined round pegs Monzo at a pre-funds valuation of £65 million.

Given how speedily Monzo reached its earlier £1 million crowdfunding raise — which spectacularly closed in 96 seconds — it shouldn’t have any problem putting this new offering. In fact, the startup is creating distinct plans to deal with the anticipated demand:

Monzo will host a pre-registration period from February 28 – March 14 when any of its consumers can express their interest in investing. The total quantity pledged will be displayed in real-time on Monzo’s web site, followed by a ballot to randomly choose the men and women who’ll be capable to authorise their investments from March 14.

The new combined funding, which will bring total raised to £35 million, will be utilised by Monzo as it readies for a full bank launch later this year. As it exists today, Monzo’s more than one hundred,000 users get access to a pre-paid MasterCard and accompanying iOS and Android apps. It provides the ability to do issues like track your spending in true time, view geolocation-marked transactions on a map, view spending by category and get a graphical timeline of your general expenditure.

Once it has launched a fully-fledged existing account, Monzo says it will initially make cash by supplying “transparent overdrafts with no hidden fees or charges,” but plans to diversify away from conventional banking company models in the longer term. “The company will aim to give its consumers one particular-click access to a broad range of financial merchandise from third parties as part of a move towards ‘banking as a marketplace’,” it says.

Meanwhile, as we noted when TechCrunch broke this story on Monday, Monzo is not the 1st European fintech to receive backing from New York-headquartered Thrive Capital. The VC firm, founded by Josh Kushner, lately led a €30 million Series C round in German fintech Raisin, which gives pan-European savings accounts.

Nevertheless, it does leave the door open for Monzo to launch in the U.S. sometime in the future. And despite the fact that this isn’t a concrete plan or likely to come about any time quickly, co-founder and CEO Tom Blomfield has made no secret of his ambition to bring Monzo across the pond at some point, one thing he re-iterated in a very brief get in touch with last evening. He has previously spent some time living in New York, which is really how he very first came into make contact with with the folk at Thrive Capital.

Listen to TechCrunch’s recent interview with Monzo co-founder Tom Blomfield


Users spent more on apps in 2016, with games and entertainment apps major the way

The quantity of cash U.S. users are spending on iPhone apps is steadily climbing, but 1 category in certain saw important development last year: Entertainment apps. The category – home to streaming services like Netflix, Hulu and HBO NOW – saw consumers’ average spending boost by 130 percent year-over-year, according to a new report from app intelligence firm Sensor Tower.

The findings point to people’s developing interest in cord cutting and streaming Tv services – a trend which has currently observed many of these apps scoring a spot as 1 of 2016’s most significant apps by income. HBO, for example, recently announced its app for cord cutters HBO NOW had grown to more than two million subscribers – a lot more than doubling its user base from the year prior. 

Netflix also saw its iOS customer base increase because it launched an in-app subscription providing back in Q4 2015. The app contributed approximately $ 7.9 million in gross income throughout its launch quarter, and that figure grew to far more than $ 58 million by the last quarter of 2016, Sensor Tower estimates.


Subscription services impacted the development in other iOS categories as nicely, the firm found. For example, the Photo &amp Video category benefitted from the development of YouTube’s subscription service, YouTube Red. Photo &amp Video, which is YouTube’s main category, saw its U.S. App Retailer income per active iPhone grow from $ .30 to $ .70 from 2015 to 2016.

Meanwhile, the Social Networking category increased from $ 1.80 to $ 2.00. Perhaps not coincidentally, this is also exactly where you can uncover Tinder, the well-liked dating app which launched its subscription providing in early 2015. Tinder was also one particular of the top apps by revenue last year.

The Music category grew from $ three.40 to $ 3.60, likely impacted by the gains made by its own best apps Spotify and Pandora, both of which supply a selection of subscription tiers to their customers.

Nevertheless, the category that contributes the most to App Store’s bottom line continues to be games. In 2016, much more than 80 % of the U.S. App Store income was generated by the Games category, notes the report.


U.S. iPhone owners spent an average of $ 27 per device on games last year, up from $ 25 in 2015.

Even though spending enhanced, the category saw per-device installs decline last year, going from 10.five in 2015 to 9.9 in 2016. That seems to imply that customers have been spending more money in fewer games – possibly a side impact of the Pokémon Go phenomenon.

Social networking apps also saw fewer installs in 2016 (two.three on typical, down from three.three), but the remaining categories didn’t see such significant declines.

The reality that installs by category dropped across the board, nevertheless, indicates that customers are sticking with established apps, while newcomers are getting a harder time obtaining accomplishment.


On the internet Korean beauty retailer Memebox raises $60M much more to sharpen its focus on the U.S.

Memebox, a Y Combinator startup that sells Korean beauty items in the U.S. and Asia, has raised $ 60 million. The cash is an extension of the firm’s Series C round which initially closed at $ 65.95 million in August.

The company mentioned the cash will go towards continuing its operations and growing its international footprint. Korea, its home industry, remains its biggest nation for sales, but the firm is growing its concentrate on China and, in specific, the U.S.. Founder and CEO Dino Ha lately relocated to San Francisco from Seoul.

The new funds requires Memebox to much more than $ 160 million in investor funds because it was founded in 2012. The round extension was put with each other by a range of existing and new backers, which consist of Goodwater Capital, Altos Ventures, Cowboy Ventures, Mousse Partners, Formation Group, Funders Club, Pear Ventures and Cota Capital. Janet Gurwitch, a partner with Castanea Partners and former CEO of cosmetics brand Laura Mercier, also invested and will turn into a member of Memebox’s advisory board.

Memebox began as a beauty box service, delivering a selection of cosmetics and products each month for a fixed charge, but as pioneers of business model such as Birchbox struggle, it evolved into a makeup and cosmetics shop. Thanks to the rise of K-Pop and Korean drama series, the firm has been able to surf a global wave of interest in Korea to expand its client base.

Today, Memebox sells its own brand items as nicely as these from third parties and market names. It operates physical shops in Korea, but is predominantly focused on on-line. Certainly, it claims that, worldwide, an average of 88 percent of purchases come by way of its mobile — that figure rises to 94 % for Asia-based customers. It mentioned its annual revenues are more than $ one hundred million, but it is not but profitable.


VW to pour $200 million more into an anti-pollution fund

It really is not certain what will take place to the vehicles themselves, although a judge has given a December 19th deadline. VW may possibly end up acquiring back 20,000 of the three-liter cars and fixing the emissions of the remaining 60,000.

These autos (which consist of Audi and Porsche models) never violate American emissions laws really so egregiously as the 2-liter models. They “only” exceed the limits by up to nine occasions versus 40 instances on the two-liter machines. Nevertheless, it really is clear that regulators want to account for every single instance of emissions abuse, not just the most apparent examples.

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Hopper raises $61 million far more for its airfare prediction app

Airfare prediction app Hopper has grown from 1 million downloads to more than 10 million in the course of a year – a trajectory that is permitted it to pull in $ 82 million CAD (~$ 61.2 million US) in additional funding to continue to grow its company. The Series C round was led by North American pension fund manager, Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, and consists of participation from existing investors, Brightspark Ventures, Accomplice, OMERS, Investissement Québec and BDC Capital IT Venture Fund.

Hopper has now raised $ 104 million CAD (~$ 77.7 million US) to date. Its final round of $ 16 million was just this spring, when the app had just more than 3 million downloads.

The startup competes within a crowded travel market exactly where incumbent brands are consolidating, as with Priceline’s get of Kayak, and Expedia’s acquisition of Travelocity and Orbitz. This gives Hopper some hefty competition when it comes to its mobile-only airfare cost prediction and booking application application.

Nevertheless, the business says it grown its sales by 23 times over the past year, and is now promoting $ 1 million in flights per day.

Furthermore, its customers have tracked 18 million trips on its app, which is getting installed more than a million occasions per month.


Hopper’s secret sauce is its forecasting software, which the business claims can predict future flight rates with up to 95 percent accuracy a year in advance.

This information is put to use in a consumer-friendly mobile application, where consumers can track trips, learn about other travel savings, and be alerted when it’s the greatest time to book. When prices fall, Hopper sends out push notifications to convert the app’s users to airfare buyers.

The app’s use of push notifications is what’s been assisting to increase sales. These days, over 20 million notifications are sent out monthly, and 90 % of bookings are from these alerts.

With the extra funds, Hopper plans to continue its international expansion plans. Currently, the app sells tickets in 126 nations, and it’s aiming to develop further in over 20 nations across Latin America, Europe and Asia in early 2017. The firm will also use the funds to grow its group from 40 to 120 employees in Montreal and Cambridge by the finish of next year.


UK vinyl sales created far more money than music downloads last week

Figures show that for the duration of week 48 of 2016, shoppers spent £2.4 million on vinyl, although downloads took £2.1 million. Examine that to the exact same period last year when £1.two million was spent on records, with digital downloads bringing in £4.four million. The ERA puts the surge in sales down to recent buying events like Black Friday and the recognition of the format as a Christmas gift. It is also helped by the fact that Sainsbury’s and Tesco now stock records in a lot of of their branches.

It really is welcome news for vinyl lovers and the music business in common, but digital music is also going from strength to strength. As an alternative of buying music to keep, Brits are increasingly turning to streaming services like Spotify to get their music repair. Last weekend, The Weeknd broke streaming records on Spotify after his new album was streamed 40 million instances on day a single and 223 million occasions in its 1st week.

It’s also worth contemplating that vinyl albums are usually a lot more pricey than downloads. BBC News reports that last week’s biggest-selling vinyl was Kate Bush’s triple-disc live album Just before The Dawn, which expenses about £52. The same album is £13 on Amazon. Downloaded albums are nonetheless much more well-liked, although: last week saw 295,000 digital downloads versus 120,000 vinyl album sales.

Current study suggests that some people do not even get vinyl to listen to, with 7 percent of collectors admitting they don’t own a record player. It’s believed that some purchase records to support assistance artists they like, although other folks might use the sleeves to decorate their property.

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US lead on AI will shrink without much more funding and education

The hearing’s only pleasant surprise was its bipartisan support. Senators from both sides of the aisle, along with Cruz, all took the expert panel’s testimony seriously. Granted, AI still has the the new-car smell of a nascent field with great potential, which could boost US labor productivity by 40%, Cruz said in his introductory remarks. Golden bullet it might seem, but even the current experiments using AI to assist or solely could take a chunk out of the 35,000 annual vehicular deaths, 94% of which are caused by human error, committee member Senator Gary Peters noted.

Artificial intelligence could save even more lives, said the hearing’s first witness, Microsoft Research Lab’s managing director Eric Horvitz. AI could sift through vast quantities of medical data and catch things human doctors miss, as IBM’s Watson did back in August when it identified a rare form of leukemia and saved a patient’s life.

When people think of the cost benefits of AI, they think of automation. But reducing death and debilitating injury affects the overall economy, too: AI-assisted driving could also cut down on the 300,000 incapacitating vehicular injuries every year, which means more people remaining in the workforce and less time and money spent finding and training temporary or permanent replacements.

The looming fear over the hearing was China and India’s ever-greater competition in AI R&D. Logically, America’s lead on China and India could shrink simply due to how many more computer scientists they can train per their colossal populations. But letting US artificial intelligence slide could also be dangerous to national security. Back in August, the Defense Department suggested “immediate action” should be taken to boost development of AI war technology.

We can retain our lead to keep pioneering artificial intelligence by training America’s youth in AI programming as early as middle school, recommended the hearing’s second witness, Dean of the school of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University Andrew Moore. In his opinion, there’s a staggering amount of work and not enough trained computer scientists to perform it. Train a million middle school kids in AI, perhaps 1% stick with it, and even if you ended up with 400 experts at the level of Moore and his fellows at the hearing, there would still be too much work to do, Moore said. Pumping out more AI professionals won’t just be a smart move to fill a wanting workforce: for every programmer trained in artificial intelligence a tech company hires, Moore estimates, they earn $ 5 to $ 10 million more.

Collaboration could also help the US keep its lead, said the third witness, cofounder of the nonprofit OpenAI Greg Brockman. Making more AI systems open source drives innovation, Brockman said, along with unlocking datasets for anyone to use. But it’s not just amateurs and corporations working together: The tech industry, the government and academia should coordinate to establish standards of safety, security and ethics.

The last witness, senior research scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory Steve Chien, noted that the space agency put an AI-controlled spacecraft in orbit to track earthbound phenomena — which has been continuously snapping photos from the high atmosphere for a dozen years. Many of NASA’s vehicles, including its Mars rovers, rely on AI to navigate and triage environmental conditions.

With technological possibilities come dangers, and AI is no exception. Cruz’s limp Skynet joke aside, the pressing concern with creating more complex and prevalent artificial intelligence is the subsequent increase in cyber vulnerabilities. We don’t have to look farther than the last year to see government and political agencies hacked by foreign independent and state agents.

But even things as mundane as liability could get in the way of AI application progress here in the US. The prospect of AI-controlled cars getting into collisions could lead to a legal impasse between carmakers, insurance companies and citizens as fault becomes uncertain. Public uncertainty or displeasure could derail AI implementation in those applications, too.

To avoid the US slipping out of first place in the AI race, the panel of witnesses ultimately recommended more investment and collaboration. That means far more emphasis on AI programming earlier in education, as Moore points out, but also simply more money injected into research: Government investment in AI over the past year was $ 1 billion, while the tech industry spent $ 8 billion, Brockman pointed out. That funding will likely help us make the roads safer and people healthier, but as Chien stated, it will also help us discover the deep space answers to a few questions that have bothered mankind for eons — namely, how did life form along with the universe around it?

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‘Rocket League’ + Steam Workshop = more crazy stadiums

Uploading custom creations sounds straightforward enough for any person familiar with Workshop, but developer Psyonix stresses that preview pictures must be “sharp, accurate” representations of what you have developed. A Workshop section is being added to the game’s Steam Neighborhood Hub, and any levels you “subscribe” to will automatically populate the Extras section of the principal menu.

If you’ve had the ideal stadium in thoughts for awhile and wanted to show it off for the largest audience possible, this forthcoming update could be your possibility to shine.
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Two more automakers can test self-driving cars in California

Wheego Electric Automobiles sources its automobiles’ bodies from China and installs batteries and other components in the US. Valeo, on the other hand, is the North American division of a French automotive supplier of the very same name. The WSJ did not talk about the vehicles these organizations will be unleashing in California, but if every thing goes nicely, we’ll definitely hear about them soon adequate.

Given that the Golden State has turn into the go-to spot for self-driving automakers, these two are in excellent organization. They’re the latest addition to the brief list of 17 corporations with testing permits in California, which include names we’re positive you’re familiar with, like GM, Tesla, Google, Ford, Baidu, Nissan and Honda.

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Meesho desires to make promoting through WhatsApp more efficient and significantly less painful

WhatsApp may possibly have over one billion active customers each and every month but it continues to frustrate the several tiny companies that rely on it for sales but suffer for its lack of advanced features.

Messaging services like Line, WeChat and even Facebook Messenger have grow to be platforms that let organization users get dedicated usernames and accounts, manage group chats, set up retailers and use bots for communication, all while WhatsApp remains standard. The company only added a internet-based interface last year, for example. Prior to that, businesses tapping into its reputation had to actually important in all updates on a phone. That doesn’t scale when dealing with hundreds of potential buyers.

The dilemma is specifically acute in India, where WhatsApp is estimated to have more than one hundred million customers. As the country’s most common app, WhatsApp is unparalleled as a distribution channel for selling on the internet or retaining consumers, despite being largely ill-suited to the function. That’s exactly where Meesho, a startup in Y Combinator’s most recent batch, is hoping to modify factors and empower WhatsApp sellers.

The business is a ‘Shopify for mobile’ for India at the most basic level, Meesho co-founder Vidit Aatrey told me in an interview. Primarily, it adds commerce functions to WhatsApp to allow organizations to engage with clients and sell product more effectively.

“Small businesses in India use WhatsApp groups a lot, posting particulars of their items daily, and then using cash or bank transfer to gather payment” Aatrey explained.

“But the whole model has several challenges, specially for the buyer who can’t search, while the seller can not categorize products. If you’re searching for a sari, for instance, you want to preserve scrolling via chats — but there are hundreds of photos [in a group] per day — consumers are spammed to hell, images get downloaded to their device so they need to have to clean their phone often, and there is no [formalized] way to gather payment.”

Given that Facebook, the company that owns WhatsApp, is testing social commerce solutions of its own, Meesho has identified a genuine issue right here.

meesho product

Meesho aims to soothe some of the WhatsApp commerce discomfort points by moving a lot of the buying experience to its committed mobile shopping app.

There, clients can browser ‘carousels’ of solution, ask concerns to the buyer, and make an online payment through a clickable URL if they favor that to cash or bank transfer. (That is powered by Razorpay, a fellow YC graduate from India that we wrote about last year.)

Beyond the transaction itself, Meesho also alerts sellers when possible clients are viewing their store on the platform — giving them a possibility to interact — even though it condenses new product listing alerts into a single message per day which is sent by means of a Facebook Messenger bot. Yes, that is however another app, but it removes the irritating WhatsApp spam — because only a fraction of goods are relevant to a consumer — and could deliver a far more qualitative interaction and, in the end, sales.

Meesho and Messenger are also critical mechanisms for outreach, also, Aatrey said.

“Facebook is generally utilised by modest businesses for consumer acquisition, but they do not hold their clients there because they can not push messages to all users,” he explained. “If 100 folks like a Page, for instance, maybe 10 will see each message in their Timeline.”

That is critical provided that modest businesses in India which Meesho targets don’t have a tendency to invest income in Facebook advertisements, boosting their posts or fairly much any advertising and marketing activity at all.

Aatrey mentioned the sign-up method is straightforward, deliberately so because Meesho is working with people who may not be specifically tech savvy. Retailers simply provide a Facebook page URL, which the service makes use of to pull item information and pictures and create a Meesho shop automagically.

Meesho claims over 1,000 organizations on its platform appropriate now but it is not monetizing its service at this point. Aatrey mentioned there are no plans to make cash at this point, but his current pondering is that, when the time is proper, Meesho will take a commission from sales it aids facilitate. That again ties back to a reluctance to invest on the marketing side.

The company raised an undisclosed seed round final year which, in addition to the cash it took for its place at Y Combinator, gives it sufficient capital to “sustain ourselves for a extended time,” according to Aatrey.

That tends to make YC demo day, a single of the premier gatherings of investors worldwide, a much less pressured circumstance.

“We had raised prior to YC, so we have money,” Aatrey mentioned. “If something excellent comes our way that’s fine, but it isn’t like we want to raise.”

Following the finish of the YC batch, Aatrey and fellow co-founder Sanjeev Barnwal will head back to India to rejoin the six other people on the Bangalore-primarily based group. Meesho is planning a quantity of updates, which will at some point include discoverability options to allow customers inside 1 retailer to find products from other Meesho-powered retailers.

Although he admitted that becoming in the U.S. is a challenge since his business runs on India time, Aatrey hugely advised other Indian founders to contemplate a stint at YC.

“We have learned to speak to our users much better and comprehend their needs,” he mentioned of the program. “YC helps you understand a couple of habits that are crucial, for example focusing on one factor at a time and talking to customers every day. When you begin undertaking that, you will see positive results.”

“For someone who hasn’t worked in U.S., I’d undoubtedly suggest YC — even if they require to be in India for operations,” he added.