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The head of Citi Ventures on how, and why, to leverage corporate venture arms like his

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At our recent Early Stage event, we had the opportunity to talk at length with Arvind Purushotham, the managing director and global head of Citi Ventures, about how startups should think about corporate venture arms, including what a check from an enterprise like Citi can mean, and how to leverage that kind of Goliath once it’s already a financial partner.

For founders trying to understand the benefits and potential pitfalls of working with a corporate venture arm versus a more traditional venture team, it’s very much worth zipping through this discussion.

Among the many topics addressed, Purushotham gave us insight into how corporates have altered the way they work in some cases, driven by necessity. The bottom line at Citi Ventures, he said, is that they’ve had to move faster in order to remain competitive. Still, owing to its internal systems already in place, involving risk and compliance teams and senior management, moving faster mostly hasn’t been a problem.

Said Purushotham: “We have not had to wait for a second close or we’ve not had to request the company to do a second close. We’ve been able to close along with the rest of the the syndicate.”

PlatoAi. Web3 Reimagined. Data Intelligence Amplified.
Click here to access.

Source: https://techcrunch.com/2021/07/16/the-head-of-citi-ventures-on-how-and-why-to-leverage-corporate-venture-arms-like-his/

Techcrunch

Brain Technologies raises $50M+ for the launch of Natural, a natural language search engine and ‘super app’

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Voice-based and other personal assistant apps — which use natural language and hefty AI engines in the backend to source information to address your various questions, do your e-commerce bidding, or control one electronic device or another in your home — have been around for years, but too often they have come up short when it comes to user experience, failing to nail the right solutions to your queries. Today a new app is launching from a startup that has largely been in stealth mode up to now to try to address that disparity. Brain Technologies is today announcing $50 million in funding, and along with that is releasing Natural, an iOS app, in the US market.

The $50 million (which is actually described as “over $50 million” by the company, with an exact number undisclosed), meanwhile, is coming from a very interesting mix of investors — backers include Laurene Powell Jobs’ Emerson Collective, Goodwater Capital, Scott Cook and WTT Investment, a list that underscores some of the attention that Brain has been getting, even before having released a single product.

Prior to this round, Brain had raised $1.5 million back in 2016 from an unnamed investor while still in stealth mode.

Jerry Yue, the young founder and CEO of Brain — a repeat entrepreneur and robotics enthusiast whose last company, a grocery delivery service in China called Benlai, is still going strong — said in an interview that he does not like to call Natural a “personal assistant” app, not because of the shortcomings of so many of these in the past, but because of the voice association many have with the concept.

“We don’t position ourselves as a voice assistant because we don’t think the future is voice only,” he said. “It should be the right combination of voice and native app experience.”

Instead, he describes what Natural is as the world’s first “generative computer interface”, the logical progression in digital information search.

That progression, in his view, started with the web, progressed to search engines, and then apps, before landing where he sees it today. Natural brings all of these together in some degree. Currently, you speak or type any kind of question or command into the app, which then provides a solution that might be in the form of links to other apps you might have.

For example, “I’d like sushi tonight,” will bring back options (in theory) for ordering sushi, and possibly your most favored dishes, from a selection of restaurants by way of food ordering apps that you use, or places to go eat it, as well as options for making that sushi yourself (and buying the ingredients online to do so, as well as a method).

Similarly, travel searches return results that dip into multiple silos from, say, airlines and airline aggregators that are easily editable and that you can buy directly from those results, if you already have payment details on your device. (While Google provides this to some degree, you eventually have to navigate to sites to buy tickets, which might end up significantly more expensive when you actually visit said sites.)

The more you use the app, the theory is that it will learn more about what you might want from your questions.

AI that anticipates what we are trying to say or do is something that has been attempted before, of course, but the difference here, Yue said, is in Brain’s approach, which is based on the concept of “one shot” learning, which he described as a kind of general purpose AI, “a tool that learns to use other tools.”

The alternative is a more labor-intensive approach that AI-based systems are typically built on today, largely based around keywords. “AIs from Google or Amazon are based on thousands of people and human coding to connect services,” he said. “This approach treats natural language processing as a classification problem.” In contrast, the breakthrough system he and his team have devised, he said, “has learned more than 4 million functions on its own.” Ironically, the end result of a successful AI like this is not to make us feel more technologically powerful, but to get us away from our devices, and spending time fussing on them, and into the world.

Given that this is a consumer app, it will be interesting to see how and if there is mass takeup of Natural, and whether the right combination of anticipatory AI with natural language and design come together to pique collective attention. The team and what they’ve built in any case will be a hot property, given that AI will continue to be a strong and growing presence in the tech landscape for years to come.

“What Jerry and his team are developing is incredibly special. I’m not aware of anyone doing more interesting work to demonstrate how fundamentally AI can enhance our everyday lives,” said investor Scott Cook, who was also the founder of financial software giant Intuit, in a statement.

“Many of us remember the first time we used an iPhone. The software felt magical, and every animation felt dynamic yet subtle,” said Tom Goodwin, a Natural beta customer. “Experiencing this app is the closest thing I’ve felt to that for a long time. I love the idea of one place to go for everything.”

PlatoAi. Web3 Reimagined. Data Intelligence Amplified.
Click here to access.

Source: https://techcrunch.com/2021/07/28/brain-technologies-raises-50m-for-the-launch-of-natural-a-natural-language-search-engine-and-super-app/

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Techcrunch

Brain Technologies raises $50M+ for the launch of Natural, a natural language search engine and ‘super app’

Published

on

Voice-based and other personal assistant apps — which use natural language and hefty AI engines in the backend to source information to address your various questions, do your e-commerce bidding, or control one electronic device or another in your home — have been around for years, but too often they have come up short when it comes to user experience, failing to nail the right solutions to your queries. Today a new app is launching from a startup that has largely been in stealth mode up to now to try to address that disparity. Brain Technologies is today announcing $50 million in funding, and along with that is releasing Natural, an iOS app, in the US market.

The $50 million (which is actually described as “over $50 million” by the company, with an exact number undisclosed), meanwhile, is coming from a very interesting mix of investors — backers include Laurene Powell Jobs’ Emerson Collective, Goodwater Capital, Scott Cook and WTT Investment, a list that underscores some of the attention that Brain has been getting, even before having released a single product.

Prior to this round, Brain had raised $1.5 million back in 2016 from an unnamed investor while still in stealth mode.

Jerry Yue, the young founder and CEO of Brain — a repeat entrepreneur and robotics enthusiast whose last company, a grocery delivery service in China called Benlai, is still going strong — said in an interview that he does not like to call Natural a “personal assistant” app, not because of the shortcomings of so many of these in the past, but because of the voice association many have with the concept.

“We don’t position ourselves as a voice assistant because we don’t think the future is voice only,” he said. “It should be the right combination of voice and native app experience.”

Instead, he describes what Natural is as the world’s first “generative computer interface”, the logical progression in digital information search.

That progression, in his view, started with the web, progressed to search engines, and then apps, before landing where he sees it today. Natural brings all of these together in some degree. Currently, you speak or type any kind of question or command into the app, which then provides a solution that might be in the form of links to other apps you might have.

For example, “I’d like sushi tonight,” will bring back options (in theory) for ordering sushi, and possibly your most favored dishes, from a selection of restaurants by way of food ordering apps that you use, or places to go eat it, as well as options for making that sushi yourself (and buying the ingredients online to do so, as well as a method).

Similarly, travel searches return results that dip into multiple silos from, say, airlines and airline aggregators that are easily editable and that you can buy directly from those results, if you already have payment details on your device. (While Google provides this to some degree, you eventually have to navigate to sites to buy tickets, which might end up significantly more expensive when you actually visit said sites.)

The more you use the app, the theory is that it will learn more about what you might want from your questions.

AI that anticipates what we are trying to say or do is something that has been attempted before, of course, but the difference here, Yue said, is in Brain’s approach, which is based on the concept of “one shot” learning, which he described as a kind of general purpose AI, “a tool that learns to use other tools.”

The alternative is a more labor-intensive approach that AI-based systems are typically built on today, largely based around keywords. “AIs from Google or Amazon are based on thousands of people and human coding to connect services,” he said. “This approach treats natural language processing as a classification problem.” In contrast, the breakthrough system he and his team have devised, he said, “has learned more than 4 million functions on its own.” Ironically, the end result of a successful AI like this is not to make us feel more technologically powerful, but to get us away from our devices, and spending time fussing on them, and into the world.

Given that this is a consumer app, it will be interesting to see how and if there is mass takeup of Natural, and whether the right combination of anticipatory AI with natural language and design come together to pique collective attention. The team and what they’ve built in any case will be a hot property, given that AI will continue to be a strong and growing presence in the tech landscape for years to come.

“What Jerry and his team are developing is incredibly special. I’m not aware of anyone doing more interesting work to demonstrate how fundamentally AI can enhance our everyday lives,” said investor Scott Cook, who was also the founder of financial software giant Intuit, in a statement.

“Many of us remember the first time we used an iPhone. The software felt magical, and every animation felt dynamic yet subtle,” said Tom Goodwin, a Natural beta customer. “Experiencing this app is the closest thing I’ve felt to that for a long time. I love the idea of one place to go for everything.”

PlatoAi. Web3 Reimagined. Data Intelligence Amplified.
Click here to access.

Source: https://techcrunch.com/2021/07/28/brain-technologies-raises-50m-for-the-launch-of-natural-a-natural-language-search-engine-and-super-app/

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Automotive

Redwood Materials raises $700M to expand its battery recycling operation

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Redwood Materials CEO JB Straubel shared his aspirations last year to turn the startup he co-founded in 2017 into one of the world’s major battery recycling companies. Now, the former Tesla co-founder and CTO has the money to accelerate those plans.

Redwood Materials said Wednesday it raised $700 million from high-profile institutional investors and venture firms, providing the capital needed to expand its existing operations well beyond its Carson City, Nevada, home base to locations throughout North America and even into Europe.

The Series C round was led by funds and accounts advised by T. Rowe Price Associates and included Goldman Sachs Asset Management, Baillie Gifford, Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, and Fidelity. Previous investors — Capricorn’s Technology Impact Fund, Bill Gates’ Breakthrough Energy Ventures and Amazon’s Climate Pledge Fund — returned to put more capital into Redwood. Valor Equity Partners, Emerson Collective and Franklin Templeton also participated, the company said.

Redwood previously raised $40 million in a Series B and some seed money, which brings its total raise under $800 million, according to the company.

The company’s post-funding valuation is $3.7 billion, according to a source familiar with the investment round. Redwood declined to comment on the figure.

Redwood Materials is aiming to create a circular supply chain. This closed-loop system, Straubel said, will be essential if the world’s battery cell producers hope to have the supply needed for consumer electronics and the coming wave of electric vehicles.

Redwood recycles scrap from battery cell production and consumer electronics like cell phone batteries, laptop computers, power tools, power banks, scooters and electric bicycles. It then processes these discarded goods, extracting materials like cobalt, nickel and lithium that are typically mined, and then supplies those back to its customers, which today includes Panasonic at the Gigafactory in Nevada that it operates with Tesla and Envision AESC’s battery plant in Tennessee. Redwood has also partnered with Amazon to recycle EV and other lithium-ion batteries and e-waste from parts of their businesses.

“In our view, the need for these materials will grow exponentially over time as we enter the era of de-carbonization,” Joe Fath, portfolio manager of the T. Rowe Price Growth Stock Fund, said in a statement, adding that “Redwood is well-positioned to be at the forefront of tackling this emerging and critically important problem.”

Straubel sees a bottleneck coming as the whole supply chain seeks to access critical materials. That will affect the growth rate and challenge automakers like Ford, GM and Volkswagen that have laid out ambitious plans to electrify their portfolios.

That problem is likely to compound as more automakers go down the electric path. Last week, Mercedes-Benz said it will spend €40 billion ($47 billion) to become an electric-only automaker by the end of the decade. The German automaker determined it will need battery capacity of more than 200 gigawatt-hours. To meet those needs, Mercedes plans to set up eight battery factories with existing partners and one new partner to produce cells.

Straubel said it’s time for Redwood to scale more aggressively.

Those plans were already well underway even before it closed the $700 million round, Straubel noted. The company announced in June it had purchased 100 acres of land near the Gigafactory that Panasonic operates with Tesla in Sparks, Nevada. Redwood now has some operations at the site.

Redwood is also in the process of nearly tripling the size of its existing 150,000-square-foot facility in Carson City, Nevada. The new 400,000-square-foot addition onto the recycling facility is expected to be operational by the end of the year.

To support the growth, Redwood started hiring more employees, with plans to add more than 500 jobs over the next two years. Redwood employs more than 130 people today.

The company has expanded in other ways as well, including the launch of a program that allows consumers to send in personal electronics such as smartphones to be recycled.

“This additional equity to some extent helps us finish all those things, but it’s not really the primary purpose for all of it,” Straubel said.

PlatoAi. Web3 Reimagined. Data Intelligence Amplified.
Click here to access.

Source: https://techcrunch.com/2021/07/28/redwood-materials-raises-700m-to-expand-its-battery-recycling-operation/

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Automotive

Redwood Materials raises $700M to expand its battery recycling operation

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on

Redwood Materials CEO JB Straubel shared his aspirations last year to turn the startup he co-founded in 2017 into one of the world’s major battery recycling companies. Now, the former Tesla co-founder and CTO has the money to accelerate those plans.

Redwood Materials said Wednesday it raised $700 million from high-profile institutional investors and venture firms, providing the capital needed to expand its existing operations well beyond its Carson City, Nevada, home base to locations throughout North America and even into Europe.

The Series C round was led by funds and accounts advised by T. Rowe Price Associates and included Goldman Sachs Asset Management, Baillie Gifford, Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, and Fidelity. Previous investors — Capricorn’s Technology Impact Fund, Bill Gates’ Breakthrough Energy Ventures and Amazon’s Climate Pledge Fund — returned to put more capital into Redwood. Valor Equity Partners, Emerson Collective and Franklin Templeton also participated, the company said.

Redwood previously raised $40 million in a Series B and some seed money, which brings its total raise under $800 million, according to the company.

The company’s post-funding valuation is $3.7 billion, according to a source familiar with the investment round. Redwood declined to comment on the figure.

Redwood Materials is aiming to create a circular supply chain. This closed-loop system, Straubel said, will be essential if the world’s battery cell producers hope to have the supply needed for consumer electronics and the coming wave of electric vehicles.

Redwood recycles scrap from battery cell production and consumer electronics like cell phone batteries, laptop computers, power tools, power banks, scooters and electric bicycles. It then processes these discarded goods, extracting materials like cobalt, nickel and lithium that are typically mined, and then supplies those back to its customers, which today includes Panasonic at the Gigafactory in Nevada that it operates with Tesla and Envision AESC’s battery plant in Tennessee. Redwood has also partnered with Amazon to recycle EV and other lithium-ion batteries and e-waste from parts of their businesses.

“In our view, the need for these materials will grow exponentially over time as we enter the era of de-carbonization,” Joe Fath, portfolio manager of the T. Rowe Price Growth Stock Fund, said in a statement, adding that “Redwood is well-positioned to be at the forefront of tackling this emerging and critically important problem.”

Straubel sees a bottleneck coming as the whole supply chain seeks to access critical materials. That will affect the growth rate and challenge automakers like Ford, GM and Volkswagen that have laid out ambitious plans to electrify their portfolios.

That problem is likely to compound as more automakers go down the electric path. Last week, Mercedes-Benz said it will spend €40 billion ($47 billion) to become an electric-only automaker by the end of the decade. The German automaker determined it will need battery capacity of more than 200 gigawatt-hours. To meet those needs, Mercedes plans to set up eight battery factories with existing partners and one new partner to produce cells.

Straubel said it’s time for Redwood to scale more aggressively.

Those plans were already well underway even before it closed the $700 million round, Straubel noted. The company announced in June it had purchased 100 acres of land near the Gigafactory that Panasonic operates with Tesla in Sparks, Nevada. Redwood now has some operations at the site.

Redwood is also in the process of nearly tripling the size of its existing 150,000-square-foot facility in Carson City, Nevada. The new 400,000-square-foot addition onto the recycling facility is expected to be operational by the end of the year.

To support the growth, Redwood started hiring more employees, with plans to add more than 500 jobs over the next two years. Redwood employs more than 130 people today.

The company has expanded in other ways as well, including the launch of a program that allows consumers to send in personal electronics such as smartphones to be recycled.

“This additional equity to some extent helps us finish all those things, but it’s not really the primary purpose for all of it,” Straubel said.

PlatoAi. Web3 Reimagined. Data Intelligence Amplified.
Click here to access.

Source: https://techcrunch.com/2021/07/28/redwood-materials-raises-700m-to-expand-its-battery-recycling-operation/

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