from Pradodesign Open-source leader Confluent raises $125m on $2.5b valuation
Confluent, the commercial company built on top of the open source Apache Kafka project, announced a $125 million Series D round this morning on an enormous $2.5 billion valuation.
The round was led by existing investor Sequoia Capital with participation from Index Ventures and Benchmark, who also participated in previous rounds. Today’s investment brings the total raised to $206 million, according the company.
The valuation soared from the previous round when the company was valued at $500 million. What’s more, the company’s bookings have scaled along with the valuation.
While CEO Jay Kreps wouldn’t comment directly on a future IPO, he hinted that it is something the company is looking to do at some point. “With our growth and momentum so far, and with the latest funding, we are in a very good position to and have a desire to build a strong, independent company…” Kreps told TechCrunch.
Confluent and Kafka have developed a streaming data technology that processes massive amounts of information in real time, something that comes in handy in today’s data-intensive environment. The base streaming database technology was developed at LinkedIn as a means of moving massive amounts of messages. The company decided to open source that technology in 2011, and Confluent launched as the commercial arm in 2014.
Kreps, writing in a company blog post announcing the funding, says the events concept encompasses the basic building blocks of businesses. “These events are the orders, sales and customer experiences, that constitute the operation of the business. Databases have long helped to store the current state of the world, but we think this is only half of the story. What is missing are the continually flowing stream of events that represents everything happening in a company, and that can act as the lifeblood of its operation,” he wrote.
Kreps pointed out that as an open source project, Confluent depends on the community. “This is not something we’re doing alone. Apache Kafka has a massive community of contributors of which we’re just one part,” he wrote.
While the base open source component remains available for free download, it doesn’t include the additional tooling the company has built to make it easier for enterprises to use Kafka.
Recent additions include a managed cloud version of the product and a marketplace, Confluent Hub, for sharing extensions to the platform.
As we watch the company’s valuation soar, it does so against a backdrop of other companies based on open source selling for big bucks in 2018 including IBM buying Red Hat for $34 billion in October and Salesforce acquiring Mulesoft in June for $6.5 billion.
The company’s most recent round was $50 million in March, 2017.
Confluent raises $50M to continue growing commercial arm of Apache Kafka
from Pradodesign pi-top’s latest edtech tool doubles down on maker culture
London-based edtech startup, pi-top, has unboxed a new flagship learn-to-code product, demoing the “go anywhere” Pi-powered computer at the Bett Show education fare in London today.
Discussing the product with TechCrunch ahead of launch, co-founder and CEO Jesse Lozano talked up the skills the company hopes students in the target 12-to-17 age range will develop and learn to apply by using sensor-based connected tech, powered by its new pi-top 4, to solve real world problems.
“When you get a pi-top 4 out of the box you’re going to start to learn how to code with it, you’re going to start to learn and understand electronic circuits, you’re going to understand sensors from our sensor library. Or components from our components library,” he told us. “So it’s not: ‘I’m going to learn how to create a robot that rolls around on wheels and doesn’t knock into things’.
“It’s more: ‘I’m going to learn how a motor works. I’m going to learn how a distance sensor works. I’m going to learn how to properly hook up power to these different sensors. I’m going to learn how to apply that knowledge… take those skills and [keep making stuff].”
The pi-top 4 is a modular computer that’s designed to be applicable, well, anywhere; up in the air, with the help of a drone attachment; powering a sensing weather balloon; acting as the brains for a rover style wheeled robot; or attached to sensors planted firmly in the ground to monitor local environmental conditions.
The startup was already dabbling in this area, via earlier products — such as a Pi-powered laptop that featured a built in rail for breadboarding electronics. But the pi-top 4 is a full step outside the usual computing box.
The device has a built-in mini OLED screen for displaying project info, along with an array of ports. It can be connected to and programmed via one of pi-top’s other Pi-powered computers, or any PC, Mac and Chromebook, with the company also saying it easily connects to existing screens, keyboards and mice. Versatility looks to be the name of the game for pi-top 4.
pi-top’s approach to computing and electronics is flexible and interoperable, meaning the pi-top 4 can be extended with standard electronics components — or even with Littlebits‘ style kits’ more manageable bits and bobs.
pi-top is also intending to sell a few accessories of its own (such as the drone add-on, pictured above) to help get kids’ creative project juices flowing — and has launched a range of accessories, cameras, motors and sensors to “allow creators of all ages to start learning by making straight out of the box”.
But Lozano emphasizes its platform play is about reaching out to a wider world, not seeking to lock teachers and kids to buying proprietary hardware. (Which would be all but impossible, in any case, given the Raspberry Pi core.)
“It’s really about giving people that breadth of ability,” says Lozano, discussing the sensor-based skills he wants the product to foster. “As you go through these different projects you’re learning these specific skills but you also start to understand how they would apply to other projects.”
He mentions various maker projects the pi-top can be used to make, like a music synth or wheeled robot, but says the point isn’t making any specific connected thing; it’s encouraging kids to come up with project ideas of their own.
“Once that sort of veil has been pierced in students and in teachers we see some of the best stuff starts to be made. People make things that we had no idea they would integrate it into,” he tells us, pointing by way of example to a solar car project from a group of U.S. schoolkids. “These fifteen year olds are building solar cars and they’re racing them from Texas to California — and they’re using pi-tops to understand how their cars are performing to make better race decisions.”
pi-top’s new device is a modular programmable computer designed for maker projects
“What you’re really learning is the base skills,” he adds, with a gentle sideswipe at the flood of STEM toys now targeting parents’ wallets. “We want to teach you real skills. And we want you to be able to create projects that are real. That it’s not block-based coding. It’s not magnetized, clipped in this into that and all of a sudden you have something. It’s about teaching you how to really make things. And how the world actually works around you.”
The pi-top 4 starts at $199 for a foundation bundle which includes a Raspberry Pi 3B+,16GB SD card, power pack, along with a selection of sensors and add-on components for starter projects.
Additional educational bundles will also launch down the line, at a higher price, including more add ons, access to premium software and a full curriculum for educators to support budding makers, according to Lozano.
The startup has certainly come a long way from its founders’ first luridly green 3D printed laptop which caught our eye back in 2015. Today it employs more than 80 people globally, with offices in the UK, US and China, while its creative learning devices are in the hands of “hundreds of thousands” of schoolkids across more than 70 countries at this stage. And Lozano says they’re gunning to pass the million mark this year.
So while the ‘learn to code’ space has erupted into a riot of noise and color over the past half decade, with all sorts of connected playthings now competing for kids’ attention, and pestering parents with quasi-educational claims, pi-top has kept its head down and focused firmly on building a serious edtech business with STEM learning as its core focus, saving it from chasing fickle consumer fads, as Lozano tells it.
“Our relentless focus on real education is something that has differentiated us,” he responds, when asked how pi-top stands out in what’s now a very crowded marketplace. “The consumer market, as we’ve seen with other startups, it can be fickle. And trying to create a hit toy all the time — I’d rather leave that to Mattel… When you’re working with schools it’s not a fickle process.”
Part of that focus includes supporting educators to acquire the necessary skills themselves to be able to teach what’s always a fast-evolving area of study. So schools signing up to pi-top’s subscription product get support materials and guides, to help them create a maker space and understand all the ins and outs of the pi-top platform. It also provides a classroom management backend system that lets teachers track students’ progress.
“If you’re a teacher that has absolutely no experience in computer science or engineering or STEM based learning or making then you’re able to bring on the pi-top platform, learn with it and with your student, and when they’re ready they can create a computer science course — or something of that ilk — in their classroom,” says Lozano.
pi-top wants kids to use tech to tackle real-world problems
“As with all good things it takes time, and you need to build up a bank of experience. One of the things we’ve really focused on is giving teachers that ability to build up that bank of experience, through an after school club, or through a special lesson plan that they might do.
“For us it’s about augmenting that teacher and helping them become a great educator with tools and with resources. There’s some edtech stuff they want to replace the teacher — they want to make the teacher obsolete. I couldn’t disagree with that viewpoint more.”
“Why aren’t teachers just buying textbooks?” he adds. “It takes 24 months to publish a textbook. So how are you supposed to teach computer science with those technology-based skills with something that’s by design two years out of date?”
Last summer pi-top took in $16M in Series B funding, led by existing founders Hambro Perks and Committed Capital. It’s been using the financing to bring pi-top 4 to market while also investing heavily in its team over the past 18 months — expanding in-house expertise in designing learning products and selling in to the education sector via a number of hires. Including the former director of learning at Apple, Dr William Rankin.
The founders’ philosophy is to combine academic expertise in education with “excellence in engineering”. “We want the learning experience to be something we’re 100% confident in,” says Lozano. “You can go into pi-top and immediately start learning with our lesson plans and the kind of framework that we provide.”
“[W]e’ve unabashedly focused on… education. It is the pedagogy,” he adds. “It is the learning outcome that you’re going to get when you use the pi-top. So one of the big changes over the last 18 months is we’ve hired a world class education team. We have over 100 years of pedagogical experience on the team now producing an enormous amount of — we call them learning experience designers.”
He reckons that focus will stand pi-top in good stead as more educators turn their attention to how to arm their pupils with the techie skills of the future.
“There’s loads of competition but now the schools are looking they’re [asking] who’s the team behind the education outcome that you’re selling me?” he suggests. “And you know what if you don’t have a really strong education team then you’re seeing schools and districts become a lot more picky — because there is so much choice. And again that’s something I’m really excited about. Everybody’s always trying to do a commercial brand partnership deal. That’s just not something that we’ve focused on and I do really think that was a smart choice on our end.”
Lozano is also excited about a video the team has produced to promote the new product — which strikes a hip, urban note as pi-top seeks to inspire the next generation of makers.
“We really enjoy working in the education sector and I really, really enjoy helping teachers and schools deliver inspirational content and learning outcomes to their students,” he adds. “It’s genuinely a great reason to wake up in the morning.”
from Pradodesign Intel announces an inside-out tracking camera for robotics and AR/VR hardware
Intel is showing off a new RealSense camera with a specific focus on enabling hardware-makers to help their products understand where they are in the world. The RealSense Tracking Camera T265 is designed to easily present robotics and AR/VR hardware with inside-out tracking tech.
The Tracking camera utilizes SLAM (simultaneous localization and mapping) tech to orient the device while producing a detailed spatial layout of whatever environment it is in traversing. The camera is unsurprisingly powered by the Movidius Myriad 2 computer vision chipset, which handles the data processing for the camera.
Inside-out tracking has been getting less and less compute-intensive, this seems to be the area where Intel is making the most strides with the T265.
The T254 will start shipping at the end of February for $199.
from Pradodesign Epic Games buys 3Lateral, maker of super-realistic ‘digital humans’
Epic Games announced this morning that they’ve acquired Serbia-based 3Lateral, a game studio focused on designing more realistic computer-generated human characters.
The team of 60+ will be continuing their work with existing partners and maintaining their presence in Serbia. 3Lateral founder Vladimir Mastilovic will lead Epic Games’ worldwide digital humans efforts, the company says.
No details on a price or specific deal terms were given.
Epic Games, which operates Fortnite as well as the Unreal Engine game development platform, has worked with 3Lateral in the past on projects to push the level of realism and detail that are possible with human avatars.
“Real-time 3D experiences are reshaping the entire entertainment industry, and digital human technology is at the forefront. Fortnite shows that 200,000,000 people can experience a 3D world together. Reaching the next level requires capturing, personalizing, and conveying individual human faces and emotions,” Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney said in a statement.
from Pradodesign Hulu drops the price for its streaming service to $6 per month, but raises prices for Live TV
While Netflix is raising prices, Hulu is lowering its own. In a move to better compete with streaming rivals – and pick up new customers who think Netflix just got too expensive – Hulu this morning announced it’s lowering the cost of its streaming service by $2.00 per month. Currently, the service is $7.99 monthly. After the price change goes into effect, it will only be $5.99.
Hulu’s changes come shortly after Netflix’s decision to raise the price for its most popular plan in the U.S. to $12.99 per month, up from $10.99. Its one-device plan is also now going up to $8.99 per month, and the four-device plan is $15.99.
Following Netflix’s announcement, various consumer surveys indicated that at least some Netflix customers may consider dropping the streaming service, as a result, or at least downgrade.
But how many people said they would actually ditch Netflix varied widely, depending on which survey you read. Streaming Observer, for example, said that 10 percent of customers were considering downgrading their plan and 65 percent would consider a discounted ad-supported plan, like Hulu. But Hub Entertainment Research said that 16 percent would downgrade, and only 9 percent said they’d leave Netflix.
In any event, if there are customers on the market now looking for a better deal on streaming, Hulu is ready to pick them up.
However, the company isn’t adjusting the price of its ad-free streaming service, which remains $11.99 per month, nor is it dropping the price of its Live TV service – in fact, that’s now going up.
To help make up for the fact that Hulu is using its core package as a loss leader, the price for Hulu with Live TV is increasing by $5, going from $39.99 to $44.99 per month. And the ad-free version of Hulu with Live TV is going up $7, from $43.99 to $50.99 per month.
These new prices are dangerously close to – and in some cases, exactly the same as – the traditional cable TV package cord cutters are aiming to replace.
That could make it more difficult for Hulu to compete with other live TV packages – especially because some have the advantage of being bundled in with wireless service, like AT&T’s DirecTV Now or WatchTV. Meanwhile, others have found ways to keep prices down, like the sports-free bundle from Philo; the cheap $25/mo base package from Sling TV; or the $40/mo YouTube TV service with all your local channels (which also just became available nationwide).
Hulu’s higher pricing, however, indicates the company believes its service is worth the premium because it not only streams live programming from over 60 channels – it additionally includes Hulu’s large on-demand library of over 85,000 TV episodes, and its original content like The Handmaid’s Tale, Marvel’s Runaways, Future Man and Castle Rock.
However, Hulu is bringing down the price of some of its Live TV add-ons to make the package price increase more palatable.
Its Unlimited Screens and Enhanced Cloud DVR will each cost $5 less per month, going from $14.99 to $9.99/mo. And subscribers can buy a bundle with both for $14.98 per month.
Hulu says the new pricing will go into effect on February 26, 2019. Existing users are not being grandfathered in to current pricing, but will rather see the changes reflected on their billing cycle after the 26th.
from Pradodesign Behold, a smartphone devoid of buttons and ports
Some call it madness. Others call it the next logical step in smartphone evolution. Meizu calls it, fitting, the “Zero.” It’s equal parts fascinating and maddening. And while being “totally seamless” with “a truly uninterrupted design” is probably not going to enough in and of itself to get people to purchase the thing, it’s hard to shake the idea that all handset manufactures are all heading in that direction anyway. So good on Meizu for getting there first, I suppose.
So, no Sim card slot, and no charging port — thank goodness for eSIM tech and wireless charging. There’s a fingerprint sensor under the front glass and the physical buttons have been replaced with virtual ones. As for the speaker grilles, those have been replaced by something the company calls “mSound 2.0,” which appears to utilize the screen for sound.
How well that will function versus a more traditional method remains to be seen. Honestly, it sound like a phone created on a dare, but an impressive feat nonetheless. Other specs include a 5.99 inch AMOLED screen and a Snapdragon 845 processor. The rest of the relevant info, like price and if/when it’s coming to the States are still very much up in the air.
Mobile World Congress next month seems as good a time as any to announce all of that.
from Pradodesign Mountainous Landforms Top Carved Book Configurations by Guy Laramée
Historia das Americas II
Guy Laramée (previously) erects topographic specimen from collections of vintage books. His carved sculptures imitate the mountains of knowledge once physically collected in books rather than compiled via digital means. In this series of new works from 2017-2018 the Montreal-based artist incorporates traditional methods of book organization as integral parts of the sculptures— such as box set containers, simple wood stands, and metal bookends reminiscent of public libraries. Laramée’s work is included in the group exhibition “Unbound” at TwoRivers Gallery in Prince George, British Columbia through March 31, 2019. You can see more of his sculptural takes on vintage anthologies on his website.
Historia das Americas II
from Pradodesign Connecting African software developers with top tech companies nets Andela $100 million
Andela, the company that connects Africa’s top software developers with technology companies from the U.S. and around the world, has raised $100 million in a new round of funding.
The new financing from Generation Investment Management (the investment fund co-founded by former Vice President Al Gore) puts the valuation of the company at somewhere between $600 million and $700 million, based on data available from Pitchbook on the company’s valuation following it’s previous $40 million funding.
Previous investors from that financing, including the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, GV, Spark Capital, and CRE Venture Capital also participated.
“It’s increasingly clear that the future of work will be distributed, in part due to the severe shortage of engineering talent,” says Jeremy Johnson, co-founder and CEO of Andela. “Given our access to incredible talent across Africa, as well as what we’ve learned from scaling hundreds of engineering teams around the world, Andela is able to provide the talent and the technology to power high-performing teams and help companies adopt the distributed model faster.”
The company now has over 200 customers paying for access to the roughly 1100 developers Andela has trained and manages.
Since its founding in 2014, Andela has seen over 130,000 applicants for those 1100 slots. Once a promising developer is onboarded goes through a 6 month training bootcamp at one of the company’s coding campuses in Nigeria, Kenya, Rwanda, or Uganda they’re placed with an Andela customer to work as a remote, full-time employee.
Andela receives anywhere from $50,000 to $120,000 per developer from a company and passes one third of that directly on to the developer with the remainder going to support the company’s operations and cover the cost of training and maintaining its facilities in Africa. Coders working with Andela sign a four year commitment (with a two year requirement to work at the company) after which they’re able to do whatever they want.
Even after the two-year period is up, Andela boasts a 98% retention rate for developers, according to a person with knowledge of the company’s operations.
With the new cash in hand, Andela says it will double in size, hiring another thousand developers, and invest in new product development and its own engineering and data resources. Part of that product development will focus on refining its performance monitoring and management toolkit for overseeing remote workforces.
“We believe Andela is a transformational model to develop software engineers and deploy them at scale into the future enterprise,” says Lilly Wollman, Co-Head of Growth Equity at Generation Investment Management, in a statement. “The global demand for software engineers far exceeds supply, and that gap is projected to widen. Andela’s leading technology enables firms to effectively build and manage distributed engineering teams.”
from Pradodesign 7 Free SVG Pattern Generators We review a brief history of vectors and explore seven of the many excellent, free resources out there for creating perfect vector patterns. The post 7 Free SVG Pattern Generators appeared first on…
Click through to read the rest of the story on the Vandelay Design Blog.
from Pradodesign Wag founders ditch dogs for bikes with $37 million in funding
Wag founders Jonathan and Joshua Viner are leaving dogs behind for bikes. Wheels, the Viner brothers’ new electric bike-share startup, is announcing $37 million in funding from Tenaya Capital, Bullpen Capital, Naval Ravikant and others.
The Viner brothers departed dog-walking startup Wag last year to start a fund focused on consumer startups. The departures came after Josh Viner was replaced as Wag CEO by Hilary Schneider, a former Yahoo executive. Now, the brothers are moving on from the fund and taking a stab at bike-share.
“We started our fund, exclusively with our own capital. Wheels quickly became a massive opportunity, and we’re now entirely focused on this business,” Josh Viner told TechCrunch via email. “We still invest passively when great opportunities present themselves.”
Wheels will join the likes of Uber’s Jump, Lyft’s Motivate and others in competing for bike-share market share. But Wheels says it’s different because of its modular design, which includes swappable parts and batteries. The company says that results in a 4x longer product life cycle compared to other bikes on the market.
“When we evaluated this market, we identified a major opportunity to better serve cities with a sustainability-first approach to dockless electric mobility,” Jonathan Viner said in a press release. “We’ve spent countless research and development hours on new manufacturing and servicing models to afford first-ever offerings such as swappable part replacements and removable batteries.”
But bike-share companies are getting privy to the fact that their unit economics will continue to be trash unless they make some changes. Back in December, JUMP unveiled its next generation of bikes with swappable batteries and on-board diagnostics.
Already, Wheels says it has surpassed competitors in daily trips in San Diego’s Gaslamp district. Wheels also says it sees more than seven rides per day, per bike. In the near-term, Wheels has plans to deploy its bikes “rapidly” throughout Southern California, while working with city officials.
Wheels has also brought on a handful of former Bird, Uber and Lyft executives. That includes Ben Shaken, former Director of Product at Lyft, and Marco McCottry, formerly of Uber and Bird.
“I’ve seen the explosion of last mile transportation first hand and understand the importance of keeping a promise of sustainability to consumers and society,” McCottry said in a press release. “And that’s why I’m so excited to be a part of Wheels. The solutions to so many issues experienced by the first wave are baked into the operational approach.”