Tag Archive | "chicago"

SpringCM Scores $18M In Funding; Plans To Expand Sales And Marketing

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Zoute Brings Its Real-Time Transit App To iPhone, More Markets

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Equity Firm Thoma Bravo Buys TravelClick For $930 Million

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With its $930 million acquisition of business-to-business travel software provider TravelClick, private equity firm Thoma Bravo is showing that it’s more than just venture capital firms that are interested in the travel business. The private equity firm, with offices in San Francisco and Chicago, is buying TravelClick from Genstar Capital and Bain Capital Ventures, which had put the company… Read More

Article courtesy of TechCrunch

SiNode Raises Seed Funding To Give Batteries More Juice

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Looking to develop a technology that gives batteries more capacity for energy storage and boosts the rate at which they charge, early stage company SiNode has raised new seed financing from the Chicago-based investor, Energy Foundry. Using a technology developed at Chicago’s Northwestern University, SiNode is trying to update the anode material used inside the lithium ion batteries that… Read More

Article courtesy of TechCrunch

Group Matchmaking Startup The Dating Ring Launches In San Francisco

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I haven’t online dated in a while*, but everyone I know who does it laments the current state of matchmaking technology. When being able to swipe right to express interest in a person is a major technological achievement, you know something is broken.

Y Combinator alum The Dating Ring thinks it has a better way of getting people to meet one another and hopefully start dating, by matching up users in groups of six. After several months of operating in New York City, the startup has brought its group match making service to San Francisco.

The service works like this: Users do an initial consultation with one of the Dating Ring’s matchmakers, and then the company sets them up on a series of dates with five other single people. (For now, it’s three men and three women on each date.)

Initial matchmaking consultations are $25, and each date costs $20. After the specify dates and times available, The Dating Ring sends users invites to group dates. Those dates usually last about two hours at informal meeting places — like casual bars and restaurants — where people can get to know each other better.

The hope is that by having a larger group all meet each other, there’s a higher likelihood of two people hitting it off than there would have been with just two people. (Grouper, also a YC alum, does the same thing, but without the matchmaking.)

Once the dates are done, they give feedback on the other folks who were on the date, and let the company know if there were any attendees they were interested in.

According to co-founder Lauren Kay, the company chooses matchmakers based on their emotional intelligence and receptiveness. The belief is that they are better qualified to accurately determine what users are like than those users would be in some sort of self-reporting manner.

On the back end, The Dating Ring has algorithms that use information from its matchmakers to decide who to place on dates with each other. That data only gets better as it also receives feedback from other members of the dates.

Now that The Dating Ring is in San Francisco, it’s trying to determine where to go next. Kay said it’s looking at cities like Chicago, Los Angeles, Boston, and Washington, D.C. The hope is that by connecting more people with each other, it might make dating a little more bearable everywhere.

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* See here for context

Article courtesy of TechCrunch

Fwd.us Adds A Paid Membership Model, With Access To Talks From Thiel And More

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Fwd.us, the advocacy group initially backed by tech luminaries like Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates, is adding a new paid membership model. The move is a bid to attract broader support from regular tech industry workers and people living in cities like New York and San Francisco who care about immigration reform and political issues affecting knowledge workers.

At $35 a year, members will get invited to speaker events with Silicon Valley business leaders and other policy experts. The first set of talks includes one on “The Future of the Middle class and the American Dream in the 21st Century,” with venture capitalist and PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel and MIT academic Andrew McAfee. McAfee recently published “The Second Machine Age,” on how emergent technologies like self-driving cars could change the U.S. economy.

Fwd.us president Joe Green said the new program wasn’t about raising money.

“In my last company, we sold SAAS software. It’s valuable to have the customer to pay you directly. Then in the Obama campaign, while we had extremely wealthy donors, we also used the phrase — owning a piece of the campaign. Lots of people donated $25 or $50,” Green said. “I think there’s real value in having folks who have a real stake and buy-in behind the organization.”

Last year, Fwd.us made some stumbles when it bankrolled conservative TV ads supporting projects like the Keystone XL pipeline. That prompted certain high-profile members like Elon Musk to withdraw their support.

Green said that organization has been running hackathons and has kept its entire legislative focus on immigration reform.

“We started this organization to be one that is very pragmatic politically. You need to work on both lines of the aisle. We knew that when you try and get something done in politics, not everyone agrees. Not everyone agrees with the tactics we pursued,” Green said. “But we launched quickly and had ads up by April. Since then, we’ve focused on communication and listening. Now we’re building a network out in Silicon Valley, New York, Boston, Chicago, Austin and in tech hubs around the country.”

Article courtesy of TechCrunch

Hailo Hires Former Ubiquisys CFO Fraser Park, Promotes Starbucks Alum Tom Barr To Co-CEO

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On-demand taxi startup Hailo is ready to ramp up scaling and expanding its service into new markets, both in the U.S. and internationally. To do that, it’s bolstering its senior management team by bringing on former Ubiquisys CFO Fraser Park and has promoted former Starbucks exec Tom Barr to co-CEO.

Hailo is one of the growing number of on-demand for-hire car services that is spreading around the world, providing some competition to companies like Uber and Lyft. But unlike those startups, who work with black car companies and independent contractors, Hailo provides a way for passengers to hire taxis via its mobile app.

Since being launched in November 2011, the company has expanded into a dozen major markets in five countries around the world. Service is available in London, Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Galway, Barcelona, and Madrid in Europe; Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, New York City, Toronto, Montreal, and Washington, D.C. in North America; and Tokyo and Osaka in Asia.

But Hailo has big plans to expand into even more markets over the coming year. To help provide some finance and operational support, the company hired Park as its new CFO.

Park had last served as CFO of femtocell manufacturer Ubiquisys, which sold to Cisco for $310 million in March of last year. Prior to that, the company had raised a $19 million round of funding from investors that included 5CCG / Sallfort Privatbank and NTT DoCoMo venture arm Mobile Internet Capital. Prior to that, he had also held finance roles at Psion, Tandberg Television, ViaNetworks, and RiverSoft.

The hiring of Park isn’t the only big move Hailo has made to solidify its team ahead of expansion: It’s also promoted US President & COO Tom Barr to Co-CEO, as he will be splitting the title with founder Jay Bregman.

Barr joined the company around the same time that it raised $30 million from Union Square Ventures, KDDI, and others. As the VP of Global Coffee at Starbucks, Barr oversaw more than $1 billion in revenue at the company. When he was hired, the idea was that he would take on more responsibility as time went on, eventually taking on more of the operational responsibilities as the company grew into new markets.

With the new title, Barr will be handling most of the day-to-day operations. Bregman, meanwhile, will Chairman and Co-CEO working on strategy and future vision for the company, as well as some skunkworks projects to help redefine the product, Barr told me.

The goal is to get Hailo in as many new markets as possible by the end of the year. That means targeting 50 markets in about a dozen countries around the world, according to Barr.

Of course, in many of those markets, Hailo will be launching behind one or more other for-hire services. Uber is live in about 70 cities worldwide, while Lyft is in another 20 markets in the U.S., with international plans ramping up this year. And, of course, there’s competition from others, like Gett and Rocket Internet’s Easy Taxi, in various places around the globe.

Article courtesy of TechCrunch

FindIt’s Universal Search App Closes Down

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Tough times for cross-platform personal search tools, maybe? Techstars Chicago grad FindIt, a mobile application offering universal search across your emails and files stored in the cloud, is shutting down, the company announced in an email sent out to the service’s early adopters.

The app, which allowed you to quickly connect your Gmail, Dropbox and Google Drive accounts, then search by keyword, person, time or file type, competed to some extent with other services like Younity or CloudMagic, both of which are also now exploring new areas of focus.

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Younity, for example, this week delved into photo management with added support for remote photo importing, editing and posting. Meanwhile, CloudMagic also shuttered its earlier cross-platform, cross-cloud file service in favor of a search-focused mobile email client for iOS.

According to FindIt, the company is now dedicating itself to something entirely new as well, while closing down its mobile search app for good.

Asked what the team is working on next, co-founder Levi Belnap tells us it’s an advertising technology product – a “simple solution for business owners to advertise on Facebook. We create, serve, optimize, and report back key insights on Facebook ad campaigns,” he says.

In the process of building FindIt, he says they learned how to locate users very well, using advertising. “We realized everyone wanted to advertise on Facebook but nobody knew how to start or how to do it effectively,” Belnap adds.

Full shutdown letter is below:

Dear FindIt user,

As of today, we are shutting down the FindIt application and focusing our team and resources on an entirely new product. This will not impact your files or emails in any way. Our servers will be shut down, and the FindIt application will no longer be functional.

This is a bittersweet moment for our team. Starting a company and trying to change the world is no easy task. We had a vision to empower people with simple and intuitive search on their phone. Many of our users told us incredible stories about FindIt helping them in moments of need, but in the process we learned that the majority of our users did not need FindIt often enough to justify our continued time and effort on this problem. Thank you for continuing to inspire and motivate us.

While building FindIt we faced the challenge every business faces, how to find new customers. We discovered the power of Facebook advertising in finding new users, and we developed expertise in creating, managing, and optimizing Facebook ads. As we spoke with other entrepreneurs and business owners we learned that most do not understand the potential Facebook advertising has to help grow their businesses and they have no idea how to get started. We knew we could help.

In early 2014 we began building a solution to this problem, and we already have paying customers who love our approach. If you own a business or work in a business that needs help with Facebook advertising, check out what we are working on now at adup.co

We are truly fortunate to have the support of amazing investors and a fantastic team. We continue to be driven by our passion for simplifying technology to empower people and make their lives better. We are excited to redirect this passion to help entrepreneurs grow their businesses.

All the best from the FindIt team, and may you always find what you are looking for in life :)

Levi, Alex, Ben, & Brandon

Article courtesy of TechCrunch

Groupon Product Chief Jeff Holden To Depart, Is Heading To A Bay Area Tech Company

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Groupon’s SVP, Product Jeff Holden is leaving the company, effective March 18, 2014, according to a new SEC filing. Though the exec been fairly tight-lipped about where he’s headed to next, TechCrunch has learned that Holden will be relocating from Chicago to work with “an early stage Bay Area company,” according to sources inside Groupon. This confirms Crain’s earlier report that Holden was leaving for an “unnamed tech company.”

Holden joined Groupon in 2011, after his Seattle area startup, Pelago, was acquired. For those unfamiliar, Pelago was best known for its Whrrl product, which was a Foursquare-like location-based services app that allowed people to check-in to places.

At the time of his hiring, Groupon CEO Andrew Mason praised Holden, saying “Jeff intimately gets consumer buying behavior and the importance of a great user experience, and his team is this awesome combination of data-driven creatives.”

A University of Illinois grad, Holden was also an early hire at Amazon, having worked with Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos at the New York investment-bank D.E. Shaw. At Groupon, he worked alongside several other former Amazon execs on the company’s senior leadership team, including former Amazon.com VP CEO Kal Rama, now Groupon COO, and former Amazon.com finance chief Jason Child, now Groupon CFO. In total, four of Groupon’s eight top execs hail from Amazon.

Holden is the second high-profile hire to leave the company in recent weeks, Crain’s also points out, referring to the departure of HR head and Cisco Systems veteran Brian “Skip” Schipper, who left for Twitter

As for Groupon, the company celebrated its fifth birthday not too long ago, but still has a tough road ahead. Though daily deals is still Groupon’s mainstay, the company has made progress in shifting its business into a wider marketplace for location-based and mobile commerce. In November, it announced an acquisition of Korea’s Ticket Monster, for $260 million, to build out its mobile commerce operations in Asia, for example. Earlier in 2013, Groupon reported the appointment of Eric Lefkofsky as its CEO, after letting former CEO Andrew Mason go. It also launched Groupon POS (point-of-sale) to target local merchants, and acquired HotelTonight competitor Blink, as well as SideTour to add to its local events businesses.

Groupon’s stock has doubled over the last year, getting up to over $10 per share, but word of Holden’s departure has now sent it tumbling down 8% this morning as word got out.

Article courtesy of TechCrunch

Levo Raises $7M To Connect Young Female Professionals

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Levo League, a site with career resources for young women, announced today that it has raised $7 million in angel funding from investors including Lubna Olayan, the CEO of Saudi Arabian firm Olayan Financing Co. and Véronique Morali, president of Fimalac in France, as well as CEO of Webedia/Allocine. Previous supporters have included Sheryl Sandberg, who made an angel investment in Levo in 2011 before publishing “Lean In,” and former Ning CEO Gina Bianchini.

The latest round of funding, which brings Levo League’s total raised so far to more than $8 million, will be used to create Levo 2.0, the next iteration of the startup, as well as increase its membership and launch local chapters in cities around the world. Levo already has chapters in 22 cities, including San Francisco, Dallas, Chicago, London, and Vancouver.

The company also plans to expand its existing recruitment, retention, and brand engagement services for companies such as Disney, The New York Times, AOL, Bonobos, and Southwest Airlines.

Founded by CEO Caroline Ghosn and Amanda Pouchot in 2012, Levo currently has 8 million members and its target demographic is women in the first 10 years of their career. In a statement, the company said that Levo 2.0 “will personalize the users’ experience in connecting with the opportunities, knowledge and network they need to succeed professionally.”

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Article courtesy of TechCrunch

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