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These balls tell you how zen you are

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It’s all good and well to be able to sit cross-legged on a mountain top and feel at one with the universe — but how do you know if you are doing it right or not? For beginner meditators who aren’t sure how they are “meant” to feel in their bodies there’s Reflect’s Orb product, which was launched during this year’s virtual CES shenanigans. Entrapped in their home base of Israel, I spoke to the company from the bustling and — fittingly — far more laid back metropolis of Tel Aviv, rather than the one-armed-bandit-laden post-apocalyptic hellscape that is Las Vegas.

“We’re not targeting Zen Buddhist monks, or those who can sit cross-legged on top of the mountain and meditate for hours; they have their shit together,” jokes Shiri Perciger, CMO at Reflect. “They don’t need us — but we have had users try it who have never meditated before. We’ve also had expert yoga teachers and mindfulness coaches. Almost anyone who tried it finds value in our product.”

The value of Reflect’s Orb, the company says, is in the real-time biofeedback that’s shown on the device itself. As the company explains it, bio-feedback is the self-monitoring of your physiology in real time, using the company’s device. It enables you to gain insights into your internal processes and learn to regulate them. For example, if you use an Apple Watch, you may have noticed that the watch reminds you to breathe precisely at the moment you need it most. The “breathe” feature on the Apple Watch exemplifies the basic principles of biofeedback and highlights the importance of breath to improve wellness. The watch measures something (although, to my knowledge, Apple has never explicitly stated what triggers a “breathe” alert on your watch), and periodically reminds you to breathe for a bit. The goal is to bring you back to a place of peace. Orb takes biofeedback and makes the process more explicit.

“Biofeedback can be used for many things, including measuring and reporting stress and anxiety. We measure what’s going on in your body, and we show it to you in real time. The goal is to make you aware of things that usually you’re unaware of — things that happen unconsciously in your body all the time,” explains Noga Sapir, CEO at Reflect. “We are measuring things like heart rate and heart rate variability (HRV), which is a very good predictor of stress. We also measure electrodermal activity (EDA). Both change in response to stress, and the idea behind biofeedback is that we show you a dynamic, constant feed of what’s going on. From there, you can begin to influence it. First by being aware of it, and then by seeing what works in this feedback loop. We give you the tools to first be aware of what your body is going through, and then to influence it in a way that will calm you.”

The device itself is a soft, cloth-covered ball that you hold in two hands. It has six electrodes where your fingers rest, and a light ring that reports back in real time how calm you are. The idea is that by adjusting your seating position, feeling your body and adjusting your breathing patterns, you can see how your body reacts to the various calming techniques. The light ring indicates how relaxed you are.

Noga Sapir, CEO at Reflect, showing off the Orb (Image Credits: Reflect)

The device itself is independent of your phone, and doesn’t need to be connected to anything. When you are connected to a network, the orb uploads your data to the cloud and makes it available to you via a mobile app, but you can also use it offline. Take it to a literal or proverbial mountain top and breathe. When the device reconnects it phones home so you can get detailed information about how your relaxation session went.

Reflect is entering a competitive and somewhat crowded market. The Muse headband measures brain activity and gives feedback on sleep and meditation practices. Zendo Meditation also connects to your head to measure how deeply you find peace. Another product in this space is the Core meditation trainer, which has a similar form factor — a ball with electrodes — that measures HRV and other biofeedback for meditation purposes. The company maintains that it has a unique enough selling point to carve out a healthy user base, and to take on its competitors head-on.

“Muse does something similar with neurofeedback, and Core rely on their meditation library, but don’t do live biofeedback. Both of these solutions need to be connected to an app,” explains Sapir, “We want the Reflect Orb to be an experience you can take anywhere with you wherever you go. We think the real-time biofeedback approach is better, in that it really allows you to build your awareness of the body and brings your focus. For me personally, it is very important that there is a mobile app, and that it gives you all the data you need, but when you use Reflect, you just use Reflect. There are meditation apps, and there is a lot of technology built into our phones, but it’s kind of paradoxical because phones are stressful for a lot of us. I just wanted to put the phone away and just focus on this tactile and visual experience.”

The Orb is priced at $229, but the company has the product available for preorder priced at a discounted $199 for now. The team told me it is planning to start shipping in February this year.

Source: Tech

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Dashworks is a search engine for your company’s sprawling internal knowledge

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As a company grows, the amount of important information employees need to keep track of inevitably grows right along with it. And, as your tech stack gets more complicated, that information ends up split up across more places — buried in Slack threads, tucked into Jira tickets, pushed as files on Dropbox, etc.

Dashworks is a startup aiming to be the go-to place for all of that internal knowledge. Part landing page and part search engine, it hooks into dozens of different enterprise services and gives you one hub to find what you need.

On the landing page front, Dashworks is built to be your work laptop’s homepage. It’s got support for broadcasting company wide announcements, building out FAQs, and sharing bookmarks for the things you often need and can never find — your handbooks, your OKRs, your org charts, etc.

More impressive, though, is its cross-tool search. With backgrounds in natural language processing at companies like Facebook and Cresta, co-founders Prasad Kawthekar and Praty Sharma are building a tool that allow you to ask Dashworks questions and have them answered from the knowledge it’s gathered across all of those aforementioned Slack threads, or Jira tickets, or Dropbox files. It’ll give you a search results page of relevant files across the services you’ve hooked in — but if it thinks it knows the answer to your question, it’ll just bubble that answer right to the top of the page, Google Snippets style.

Image Credits: Dashworks

Right now Dashworks can hook into over 30 different popular services, including Airtable, Asana, Confluence, Dropbox, Gmail, Google Drive, Intercom, Jira, Notion, Slack, Salesforce, Trello, and a whole bunch more — with more on the way, prioritized by demand.

Giving another company access to all of those services and the knowledge within might be unsettling — something the Dashworks team seems quite aware of. Kawthekar tells me that their product is SOC-2 certified, that all respective data is wiped from their servers if you choose to disconnect a service, and that, for teams that are equipped to host the tool themselves, they offer a fully on-prem version.

This week Dashworks is announcing that it raised a $4M round led by Point72 ventures, backed by South Park Commons, Combine Fund, Garuda Ventures, GOAT Capital, Unpopular Ventures, and Starling Ventures. Also backing the round is a number of angels, including Twitch co-founder Emmett Shear and Gusto co-founders Josh Reeves and Tomer London. The company was also a part of Y Combinator’s W20 class.

Image Credits: Dashworks

Source: Tech

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Daily Crunch: Google will offer G Suite legacy edition users a ‘no-cost option’

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To get a roundup of TechCrunch’s biggest and most important stories delivered to your inbox every day at 3 p.m. PST, subscribe here.

Hello and welcome to Daily Crunch for January 28, 2022! It’s nearly blizzard o’clock where I am, so please enjoy the following newsletter as my final missive before hunkering down. In happier and better news, TechCrunch Early Stage is coming up in just a few months and not only am I hype about it, I’ll hopefully be there IRL. See you soon! – Alex

The TechCrunch Top 3

  • Google invests up to $1B in Airtel: With a $700 million investment and $300 million in “multi-year commercial agreements” with Airtel, and Indian telco, Google has made its second major bet on Indian infra. Recall that Google also put money into Jio, another Indian telco. The deal underscores the importance of the country in the future of technology revenues.
  • What’s ahead for Europe: On the heels of news that European startups had an outsized 2021 when it came to fundraising, TechCrunch explored what’s ahead for the continent. Some expect a slowdown from peak activity, while others anticipate further acceleration. Regardless of which perspective you favor, European venture investment is expected to remain elevated for some time to come.
  • Zapp raises $200M: And speaking of European startups, Zapp, the U.K.-based quick-convenience delivery startup, just raised a massive Series B. The company previously raised $100 million, meaning that this round was big in absolute and comparative terms. As we see some consolidation in the fast-delivery space, this deal caught our eye.

Startups/VC

  • Are charter cities the future for African tech growth? TechCrunch’s Tage Kene-Okafor has a great piece up on the site noting that “African cities have the fastest global urban growth rate,” which is leading to overcrowding. Some folks think that “charter cities offer a solution.” Special economic zones of all types have been tried before – will they offer African tech a faster route forward?
  • Personalized learning is hot: Our in-house edtech expert Natasah Mascarenhas has a great piece out today on personalized learning startups – Learnfully, Wayfinder, Empowerly, and others – that are taking the lessons of remote schooling to heart and working to make products that work better for our kids. It’s an encouraging, fascinating story.
  • Rise wants to remake team calendaring: There is no shortage of apps in the market to help individuals and teams work together. But we might not need as many as we have. That’s why Rise is making me think. The team calendaring app just raised a few million, and could replace a few tools that myself and friends use. I wonder if the solution to the Tool Overload of 2022 is tools that do less, intentionally.
  • Canvas wants non-tech folks to be able to squeeze answers from data: Developers are in short supply, so no-code tools that allow folks who don’t sling code to do their own building are blowing up. Similarly, a general dearth of data science talent in the market is creating space for tools like Canvas, which “is going all in with a spreadsheet-like interface for non-technical teams to access the information they need without bothering data teams,” TechCrunch reports.
  • Zigbang buys Samsung IoT business: The IoT promises of yesteryear are coming true, and not. Samsara recently went public on the back of its IoT business. That was a win for the category. That Zigbang, a South Korean proptech startup, is buying Samsung’s IoT unit feels slightly less bullish.
  • Series F-tw? Once upon a time I would have mocked a Series F as indication that the company in question had failed to go public. But that was then. Today Series Fs are not that rare. Indian B2B marketplace Moglix just raised one, which doubled its valuation to $2.6 billion. Tiger co-led the $250 million round.

And if you are looking down the barrel of a blizzard, TechCrunch’s Equity podcast has your downtime covered. Enjoy!

European, North American edtech startups see funding triple in 2021

Image Credits: Bet_Noire (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

Pre-pandemic, VCs were notoriously reluctant to invest in education-related companies. Today, edtech startups are seeing higher average deal sizes, more seed and pre-seed funding from non-VC investors, and an influx of generalists.

According to Rhys Spence, head of research at Brighteye Ventures, funding for edtech startups based in Europe and North America trebled over the last year.

“Exciting companies are spawning across geographies and verticals, and even generalist investors are building conviction that the sector is capable of producing the same kind of outsized returns generated in fintech, healthtech and other sectors,” writes Spence.

(TechCrunch+ is our membership program, which helps founders and startup teams get ahead. You can sign up here.)

Big Tech Inc.

  • Northern Light Venture Capital’s He Huang says the Chinese robotics market is overheated: Per the investor, robotics in China is “riddled with speculation and overvalued companies,” calling the situation a bubble. It’s worth noting that China’s central government is working to retool where its tech investment dollars flow.
  • Robinhood goes down, back up: This morning, in the wake of the company’s lackluster earnings report, TechCrunch dug through why Robinhood’s stock sold off in after-hours, pre-market, and early trading sessions yesterday and today. And then Robinhood turned around and gained ample ground during the rest of the day. It’s a weird market moment, but good news for the U.S. fintech all the same.
  • Google to allow legacy G Suite users to move to free accounts: After angering techies still using the “G Suite legacy free edition” by announcing that it was ending the program and requiring payment, the search giant has decided to ”offer more options to existing users,” TechCrunch reports. Somewhere inside of Google, a business decision just met the market and was flipped on its head. Makes you wonder who is calling the shots over there, and if they previously worked for McKinsey.

TechCrunch Experts

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TechCrunch wants you to recommend growth marketers who have expertise in SEO, social, content writing and more! If you’re a growth marketer, pass this survey along to your clients; we’d like to hear about why they loved working with you.

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3 experiments for early-stage founders seeking product-market fit

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At Human Ventures, we have a fund for pre-seed and seed-stage investments, a venture studio and an Entrepreneur in Residence (EIR) program.

Through this work, we’ve discovered a lot about how different founders fulfill their journey of customer discovery and product-market fit. One of the largest challenges for pre-seed and seed stage founders is determining where to start: There are a million things to do. What should you do at each stage?

We interviewed three founders from our portfolio, all of whom ran discovery experiments to find their product-market fit at different stages of their company’s development.

Here’s what they had to share:

Pre-MVP/customer discovery phase: Tiny Organics

Tiny Organics is a plant-based baby and toddler food company on a mission to shape childrens’ palates so they’ll choose and love vegetables from their earliest days. The company raised $11 million in their Series A in 2021 and is growing at over 500% annually.

Founders Sofia Laurell and Betsy Fore joined our venture studio as EIRs and went through a six-week discovery sprint. As Sofia explains, they knew they wanted to build something to make parents’ lives easier and threw a lot of initial ideas at the wall from the Finnish baby box 2.0 (Sofia is Finnish) to an easier way to create Instagrammable baby pictures.

They went through multiple exercises to test the viability of new parents’ most pressing and urgent needs:

  • Conduct a “Start with Why” exercise
  • Define the “Jobs to be Done”
  • Create a lean canvas for each (viable) concept
  • Define the user journeys
  • Conduct user surveys using platforms like pollfish.com and 1Q (instant survey tool)
  • Identify and define their customer personas
  • Conduct customer interviews and synthesize them
  • Construct concept prototypes

They also met prospective customers, conducting a focus group of 10-15 moms. When the founders asked them to text them what they were feeding their children along with pictures for a week, they realized the lack of healthy finger foods in the market, thus sparking the idea for Tiny Organics.

Source: Tech

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