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This Dapper Labs-backed company is turning Dr. Seuss characters into NFT trading cards

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This Dapper Labs-backed company is turning Dr. Seuss characters into NFT trading cards

Back in 2012, a Brooklyn-based mobile apps development startup was hired to do a job by the 83-year-old trading card company Topps. For that outfit’s president, Erich Wood, a UCLA graduate who’d studied economics and loved trading cards, the opportunity not only sounded fun but would change his trajectory.

At the time, Topps had a licensing agreement with Major League Baseball, the National Football League, and Star Wars, and Wood’s tiny outfit — discovered by Topps’s then head of digital — was brought in to create the first digital trading card platforms for all three.

The cards took off immediately. In fact, things went so well, according to Wood, that he and that digital chief, Michael Bramlage, decided in 2016 to partner on their own digital collectibles company, Quidd.

Fast forward to today and Bramlage is still CEO of Quidd, which was acquired in 2019 by Animoca Brands and now operates as a standalone subsidiary. Meanwhile, Wood has quietly been building a new, 13-person business called Tibles that just raised $3 million in seed funding led by Cadenza Ventures, with participation from earlier backer Dapper Labs (whose “NBA Top Shot” took the world by storm earlier this year).

CoinFund and Warburg Serres, which along with Dapper, provided Trible with $1.19 million in seed funding earlier this year, also returned for the round.

Interestingly, Tibles seems not so unlike Quidd, though Quidd still stores its collectibles “off chain,” meaning on centralized servers, whereas Tibles is creating an NFT marketplace that runs exclusively on Flow, the blockchain developed by Dapper. (Quidd says on its homepage that it is “coming soon to the blockchain.”)

Tibles is also focusing exclusively on pop culture and entertainment brands, whereas Quidd also sells sports collectibles.

Perhaps most important of all, suggests Wood, unlike Quidd and another digital collectibles marketplaces, Tibles isn’t simply digitizing existing images and turning them into NFTs. The plan instead is to work with brands to create an ecosystem with original licensed art, a trading experience, and community. Its ultimate aim is to make the digital collecting experience as authentic as a physical one, says the company.

Whether it works out as planned remains to be seen, but as a starting point, Tibles just took the wraps off a partnership between itself, Dr. Seuss Enterprises, and Dapper Labs to create “Seussibles,” which invites fans of Theodor Geisel to own NFTs of his characters — including the Lorax, the Grinch, and Horton the Elephant — and to interact with other fans.

As Wood explains it, the NFTs come in blind five-packs that are reminiscent of Pokémon cards; these cards or “stickers” can then be viewed in a “sticker book” where other users can see each others’ collections.

There is also a clubhouse area where fans can socialize, and a trading area where they can swap holdings.

Right now, all the packs are priced the same; none are “limited edition” NFTs, but you can imagine that Tibles will be looking at what people are trading to make informed choices about which characters might be more valuable to fans than others.

As for the startup’s road map, hiring is a priority, unsurprisingly. Tibles will also be working closely with Dapper to obtain more licensing agreements so that it can generate more content. (Asked for more specifics, Wood notes the the “licensing roadmap can be a long one” and “filled with with secrecy.”)

On the development side, Wood says the plan is fairly straightforward. Tibles is just “very focused on delivering the user experience [so that] anybody can people can buy stuff as easily as they might any other Apple in-app purchase.” He also wants to make it dead simple for users to participate in the community and share things and organize them and trade them. “We’re focused on making this fun, then reproducing that [success] for a few different publishers and licenses and different experiences.”

Certainly, Wood knows by now from his years in the digital collectibles market that different fan groups tend to appreciate very different things. Dapper’s deal with Dr. Seuss Enterprises is centered around card-like stickers, but future projects for other clients could have “video or animation; they could have interactions.”

The unifying thread it that all will be web objects that are collectible. The rest depends on the property. “We spend a lot of time understanding the IP and the brand and their fans and what they like,” says Wood. “And it’s almost never one thing that works.”

Source: Tech

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Baidu’s electric car brand Jidu closes $400M Series A round

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Once an industry with long development cycles, the automotive space is being upended by China’s tech giants. One can hardly keep up with all the new electric vehicle brands that come out of the country nowadays. Jidu, an electric carmaking company founded by Baidu and its Chinese auto partner Geely only a year ago, said Wednesday it has banked nearly $400 million in a Series A funding round.

The new injection, bankrolled by Baidu and Geely, which owns Volvo, is a boost to the $300 million initiation capital that Jidu closed last March. The proceeds will speed up Jidu’s R&D and mass production process and allow it to showcase its first concept “robocar” — which it classifies as an automotive robot rather than a car — at the Beijing auto show in April. The mass-produced version of the robocar will launch in 2023.

Jidu’s chief executive Xia Yiping previously headed the connected car unit of Fiat Chrysler in the APAC region and co-founded Mobike, the Chinese bike-sharing pioneer acquired by Meituan in 2018.

The rate at which Jidu has moved forward is remarkable but could easily attract skeptics who question its tech’s viability. The speedy cycle, the carmaker explained, is thanks to its strategy of using a simulated prototype car to develop its smart cockpit and autonomous driving systems, rather than testing individual hardware parts in a mass-produced vehicle.

The carmaker said in as short as nine months, it has “tested and proven” the safety and reliability of its Level 4 (autonomous driving without human interaction in most circumstances) capabilities for urban and highway roads.

The EV startup is also putting a big emphasis on branding and fan community, something its competitor Nio is known for. In December, it started recruiting car lovers to join its “Jidu Union” to geek out about cars at online and offline events.

Moving forward, Jidu will be hiring and training talent specializing in autonomous driving, smart cockpits, smart manufacturing and other related technologies.

Source: Tech

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Resilience raises $45 million for its cancer care startup

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French startup Resilience announced yesterday that it has raised a $45 million (€40 million) Series A round led by Cathay Innovation. The startup wants to improve the treatment journey when you’re diagnosed with cancer so that you live a healthier and longer life.

In addition to Cathay Innovation, existing investor Singular is also participating. Other funds are joining the round, such as Exor Seeds, Picus Capital and Seaya Ventures. Finally some healthcare investors are rounding up the round — Fondation Santé Service, MACSF, Ramsay Santé and Vivalto Ventures.

I already profiled Resilience in March 2021 so I encourage you to read my previous article to learn more about the company. Co-founded by two serial entrepreneurs, Céline Lazorthes and Jonathan Benhamou, the company wants to help both patients and caregivers when it comes to cancer care.

On the patient side, Resilience helps you measure, understand and deal with the effects and side effects of cancer and cancer treatments. Users can track various data points in the app and find content and information about their illness.

But Resilience isn’t just an app that you use at home. It is also a software-as-a-service solution for hospitals so that they can better personalize their treatments. Resilience has been founded in partnership with Gustave Roussy, one of the leading cancer research institutes in the world.

Practitioners will be able to take advantage of all the data that patients have gathered from the app. This way, cancer treatment facilities understand the patient better and can adapt their care more quickly. Resilience has acquired Betterise to gain a head start when it comes to data-driven cancer care.

The long-term vision is even more ambitious than that. If you talk with a caregiver working for a cancer treatment facility, they’ll tell you they never have enough time.

And it’s even more difficult to keep track of new treatments that are becoming more and more specialized. Resilience doesn’t want to replace doctors. But it wants to help them overcome blindspots.

The result should be better care for patients, as well as more support through the Resilience app. Cancer care is a long and painful process, so anything that can improve this process is a good thing.

Source: Tech

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PQShield raises $20M for its quantum-ready, future-proof cryptographic security solutions

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Quantum computing promises to unlock a new wave of processing power for the most complex calculations, but that could prove to be just as harmful as it is helpful: security specialists warn that malicious hackers will be able to use quantum machines to break through today’s standards in cryptography and encryption. Today, a startup called PQShield that is working on “future-proof” cryptographic products — software and hardware solutions that not only keep data secure today, but also secure in anticipation of a computationally more sophisticated tomorrow — is announcing some funding as it finds some significant traction for its approach.

The startup, spun out of the research labs at Oxford, has raised $20 million, a Series A that it will be using to continue its research and, in conjunction with partners and customers, product development. The startup is already staffed with an impressive number of PhDs and other researchers across the UK (its base remains in Oxford), the U.S., France and the Netherlands, but it will also be using the funds to recruit more talent to the team.

Addition, the investment firm founded by Lee Fixel, is leading this round with Oxford Science Enterprises (formerly known as OSI) and Crane also participating. The latter two are previous backers from PQShield’s $7 million seed round in 2020.

If machine learning is shaping up to be one of the more popular (and perhaps most obvious) applications for quantum computing, security is perhaps that theme’s most ominous leitmotif.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology in the U.S. identified the risks of using quantum computing for malicious security intent some eight years ago and has been receiving research submissions globally in search of coming up with some standards to counteract that threat. (PQShield is one of the contributors.) Based on signals from other government bodies like the Department of Homeland Security — coupled with a memo from the White House just earlier this month mandating that the government’s intelligence and defense services make the switch to “quantum-resistant” algorithms in 180 days — it looks like the standards process will be completed this year, getting the wheels in motion for companies that are building solutions to address all this.

“One memo can change everything,” PQShield’s CEO and founder Ali El Kaafarani said in an interview.

PQShield (the PQ stands for “post-quantum”) has been working with governments, OEMs and others that are part of the customer base for this technology — adopting it to secure their systems, or building components that will be going into products that will secure their data, or in some cases, both. Its customers includes both private and public organizations impacted by the threat. Bosch is one OEM name that it has disclosed, and El Kaafarani said more will be revealed when PQShield announces its first commercially available solutions. (Other sectors it’s working with include automotive OEM, industrial IoT, and technology consulting, it says.)

PQShield’s solutions, meanwhile, are currently coming in three formats. There is a system on a chip that is designed to sit on hardware like smartcards or processors. It also is making software by way of a cryptographic SDK that can be integrated into mobile and server apps and technologies used to process data or run security operations. And thirdly, in a new addition since it raised its seed round, it’s making a toolkit aimed at communications companies designed specifically to secure messaging services. This latter is perhaps the one that might most immediately touch the consumer market, which has been fertile ground for malicious hackers, and has increasingly become a focus for regulators and ordinary people concerned about how and where their data gets used.

All of these, El Kaafarani said, are designed to work together, or separately as needed by a would-be customer, with the key being that what it is building now can be used today, as well as in a quantum computing future.

The idea of a “quantum threat” might sound remote to most people, considering that we’re still some years away from quantum computing becoming a commercial, scalable industry, but the reality is that malicious hackers have been collecting data that will help them “solve” current cryptographic keys using those machines for years at this point. Some of this data has been publicly shown off, and much has not. All of this has been leading, El Kaafarani noted, to an “inflection point where people are now ready to think about the next phase of public key infrastructure,” which he summed up in layman’s terms as the difference between “math that is still easy to solve, and math that will still be very difficult to solve, even on a quantum computer,” due to particular combinations of math problems and aspects of complexity theory.

Quantum computing, even at its still largely nascent stage, has been fueling a lot of startup and big-tech activity. Atom Computing (which designs quantum computing systems) and Terra Quantum (building quantum-computing-as-a-service, given the likely high cost of these machines) each raised $60 million earlier this month. Intel, IBM and Amazon are among those that have making significant investments in quantum servers and processors for years now. There are others also working specifically on quantum security.

In that context, PQShield groundbreaking role in helping develop standards, and its existing network of customers and partners, spells a clear opportunity and promise for investors:

“Thanks to an industry-leading team, decades of combined experience and a best-in-class product offering, PQShield has quickly emerged as a front runner and true authority in post-quantum cryptography for hardware and software, a field with enormous market potential,” said Fixel in a statement. “PQShield is already helping to define the future of information security, and we are excited to support their ongoing growth.”

Source: Tech

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