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Autonomous-aviation startup Xwing takes flight with $4 million in funding

Marc Piette had a revelation as he buzzed in and out of the Palo Alto Airport in pursuit of his pilot’s license. Instead of freedom, he saw restraint. He also saw potential. “It became pretty apparent that there were major issues with the general aviation industry with smaller aircraft,” Piette said in a recent interview with TechCrunch. “And yet it had enormous potential to change the way people moved around.” Now, Piette’s two-year-old autonomous-aviation startup Xwing is ramping up to unlock that potential. The company isn’t building autonomous helicopters and planes. Instead, it’s focused on the software stack that will enable pilotless flight of small passenger aircraft. The company announced Tuesday that it has raised $4 million in a se...

CallPage lets you call your website visitors

Poland-based CallPage offers something other customer interaction apps don’t: the ability to call your website visitors as soon as they click on your page. In a world where the difference between a sale and a click past your site onto Facebook, this is a pretty cool little feature. CallPage began in 2015 when the founders, Ross Knap, Sergey Butko, and Andrew Tkachiv, tried to figure out why website visitors would leave their sites. They started out as a consultancy and the product was born out of some after-hours tinkering by the team. Instead of messaging users, they thought, why not let managers talk to them on the phone? “Our widget analyzes user behavior on your website,” said CEO Knap. “Then when it sees an interested visitor, it offers him a free callback in 2...

Discord’s Jason Citron to chat it up at Disrupt SF

In September of 2013, Jason Citron hopped on to the Disrupt Startup Battlefield stage to pitch Fates Forever, a multiplayer online battle arena game for the iPad. Now, five years later, Citron is gearing up to join us once again on the Disrupt stage to discuss the stellar growth of Discord. Though Fates Forever had all the components to be a great mobile game, users simply never took much interest. The company struggled to monetize, and like any good startup, the team began to reassess its own situation. The conversation turned to communication, where the space contained a few players with lack-luster products. “Can we make a 10X project?,” said CMO Eros Resmini, relaying the tale of the company’s pivot to TechCrunch. “Low-friction usage, no renting servers, beautiful des...

Skyline AI raises $18M Series A for its machine learning-based real estate investment tech

Skyline AI founders Iri Amirav, Or Hiltch, Guy Zipori and Amir Leitersdorf A mere four months after coming out of stealth mode with $3 million in seed funding, real estate investment startup Skyline AI announced that it has raised an $18 million Series A. The round was led by Sequoia Capital, a returning investor, and TLV Partners, with participation from JLL Spark, a division of real estate investment management firm JLL. The strategic funding will allow Skyline AI to add more asset classes to its platform, which uses data science and machine learning algorithms to help institutional investors make better decisions about properties. Skyline AI says its technology is trained on what it claims is the most comprehensive data set in the industry, drawing from more than 100 sources, with marke...

Athena Club offers a cheaper way to prepare for your next period

For those of us unlucky enough to be forced to accommodate mother nature’s whims on a monthly basis, you know that — in addition to cramps, headaches and mood swings — it can be a challenge to find time in your schedule to buy the period products you need. Desperate trips to the pharmacy when disaster hits can suffice, but the co-founders of the tampon subscription service Athena Club, Maria Markina and Allie Griswold, thought there had to be a better way to provide women the products they need in a cheap and empowering way. “We’ve both had our fair share of tampon war stories,” Griswold told TechCrunch. “It’s something that every woman goes through at some point in her life and it’s a universal problem that we wanted to make easier. Th...

Tractable is applying AI to accident and disaster appraisal

“Happy to spend 10 minutes on our vision and the journey we’re on, but then, really, 15 minutes on what we’ve got today, what it is we’ve achieved, what it is our AI does,” says Tractable co-founder and CEO Alexandre Dalyac when I video called him a couple of weeks ago. “You can probably speed up all of that,” I quip back. The resulting conversation, lasting well over an hour, spanned all of the above and more, including what is required to build a successful AI business and why he and his team think they can help prevent another “AI winter.” Founded in 2014 by Dalyac, Adrien Cohen and Razvan Ranca after going through company builder Entrepreneur First, London-based Tractable is applying artificial intelligence to accident and disaster ...

Optoro raises $75 million more to make it easier for brands to manage and resell returned and excess inventory

As the economy has chugged along, so have retail sales, which last year capped their strongest year since 2014. Online sales have been especially brisk, growing 16 percent between 2016 and 2017 alone, according to the U.S. Commerce Department, which estimates that consumers spent $453.5 billion online last year. Of course, with every booming market comes supporting cast members that benefit. Such is the case with eight-year-old, Washington, D.C.-based Optoro, which itself just rang up $75 million in new funding. A logistics company, Optoro’s software helps retailers — both online and off — more easily re-sell inventory that has been returned by customers. That’s a big number. The overall amount of merchandise returned as a percent of total sales last year was 10 per...

A pickaxe for the AI gold rush, Labelbox sells training data software

Every artificial intelligence startup or corporate R&D lab has to reinvent the wheel when it comes to how humans annotate training data to teach algorithms what to look for. Whether its doctors assessing the size of cancer from a scan or drivers circling street signs in self-driving car footage, all this labeling has to happen somewhere. Often that means wasting six months and as much as a million dollars just developing a training data system. With nearly every type of business racing to adopt AI, that spend in cash and time adds up. LabelBox builds artificial intelligence training data labeling software so nobody else has to. What Salesforce is to a sales team, LabelBox is to an AI engineering team. The software-as-a-service acts as the interface for human experts or crowdsourced lab...

Body scanning app 3DLOOK raises $1 million to measure your corpus

3D body scanning systems have hit the big time after years of stops and starts. Hot on the heels of Original Stitch’s Bodygram, another 3D scanner, 3DLOOK, has entered into the fray with a $1 million investment to measure bodies around the world. The founders, Vadim Rogovskiy, Ivan Makeev, and Alex Arapovd, created 3DLOOK when they found that they could measure a human body using just a smartphone. The team found that other solutions couldn’t let them measure fits with any precision and depended on expensive hardware. “After more than six years of building companies in the ad tech industry I wanted to build something new which was not a commodity,” said Rogovskiy. “I wanted to overcome growth obstacles and I learned that the apparel industry had mounting retur...

Interior Define, the custom furniture startup, opens new location in SF

The direct-to-consumer space has some stand-out players, both in newcomers like Brooklinen and old-timers like Warby Parker. But one company, Interior Define, has maintained a low profile over the four years of its existence. The company offers fully customizable furniture, including couches, dining sets and bed frames, to customers through an online showroom. But ID also has guide shops in Chicago (its home market), LA, New York, and Austin. Interior Define has also just opened up its biggest retail location yet, right in the middle of Hayes Valley in San Francisco. And this time, the store has a twist. In the back of the showroom, Interior Define has built out a fully furnished two-story home called Studio ID. Alongside its own pieces, Studio ID includes pieces and products from other di...

Fabric offers an alternative to Facebook sharing with a private timeline of personal moments

Fabric, a personal journaling app that emerged from Y Combinator’s 2016 batch of startups, is relaunching itself as a Facebook alternative. The app is giving itself a makeover in the wake of Facebook’s closure of the Moves location tracker, by offering its own tool to record your activities, photos, memories and other moments shared with friends and family. But unlike on Facebook, everything in Fabric is private by default and data isn’t shared with marketers. Instead, the startup hopes to build something users will eventually pay for, via premium features or subscriptions. The idea for the startup came from two people who helped create Facebook’s core features. Co-founders Arun Vijayvergiya and Nikolay Valtchanov worked for several years at the social network, wher...

Serverless, Inc. lands $10 M Series A to build serverless developers platform

Serverless, Inc came to the serverless game early, creating an open source framework for developers back in 2015. Today, they want to build on that earlier product to give developers more control over deployment and delivery of serverless applications. To that end, they announced a $10 million Series A round led by Lightspeed Ventures. They have now raised a total of $13 million, according to the company. The company also announced the release of the Serverless Platform, which include the Serverless Framework, Serverless Dashboard and Serverless Gateway. The Framework lets developers set up their serverless code across different cloud platforms and set conditions on the deployment such as function rules and infrastructure dependencies. The dashboard gives visibility and information about t...

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