June 2017


Funding Announcements

Merlon Intelligence, an AI fintech company that enables banks to mitigate risk and stop money laundering, announced a $7.6 million Series Seed financing round. Promus Ventures invested in the round, which was led by Data Collective with participation from Fenway Summer, Nyca and Work-Bench.

The Merlon Intelligence platform flags and ranks risky transactions for banks by using a top level prediction models and a robust data extraction and enhancement pipeline. Merlon crawls through unstructured data to create a graph of financial and contextual knowledge.

Bradford Cross, Merlon 
Founder and CEO, was recently interviewed by ARCHITECHT on subjects such as AI, fintech automation, bot overload and how to build a startup that won’t crash and burn. 

Other coverage of Merlon's funding round included: CNBC, PE HUB, FinSMEs, Fortune, American Banker, News Center and Axios.



Rocket Lab Launches Its First Rocket Into Space

Rocket Lab successfully launched its first Electron test rocket into space on May 25, 2017 from its Launch Complex 1 on the Mahia Peninsula in New Zealand. It was the first orbital-class rocket launched from a private launch site in the world. The launch was the first of three test flights scheduled for this year. Watch the launch video here. Peter Beck, Rocket Lab's Founder and CEO, was interviewed on CNBC and Fox Business in June.

More Rocket Lab launch coverage: Bloomberg, TechCrunch, BBC, Venture Beat, Popular MechanicsSpace Flight NowSpace NewsCNBCLA TimesWired, ABC NewsMashable, CNETVergeNew Zealand Herald, TV New Zealand, StuffNeowin, Enterprise Leader, Gizmodo, NY Post, Space.com and Engadget.

CrowdFlower announced a $1 million "AI for Everyone" challenge to help advance cutting-edge artificial intelligence projects. CrowdFlower will make eight awards to companies, organizations or individuals solving important problems with AI. The awards will be made on a quarterly basis throughout the next four quarters to two organizations or individuals each quarter.

CrowdFlower's Train AI event in May hosted over 500 industry professionals and 20 speakers. CrowdFlower attendees included AI and machine learning experts, executives, and product and engineering innovators. Speakers included AI executives from Kaggle, Google, IBM Watson, Salesforce, Bloomberg, Microsoft, Descartes Labs, Amazon and CrowdFlower.
Navdy was highlighted in TechCrunch as a solution to distracted driving: "after a few months of continuous, in-depth use, the accessory’s appeal becomes even more apparent. . . Navdy has proven reliable and worthwhile over months of testing, and it’s a big step up even compared to using CarPlay. . . It definitely feels less distracting, and more user-friendly for doing things like skipping tracks or taking hands-free calls while on the road. . . It’s a great alternative to buying a new car for people who want what a HUD can offer in their existing ride."

Other new Navdy reviews: Digital Trends, San Francisco Business Times, PC Magazine, Stuff, Technabob, T3, Today OnlineBusiness Insider, Cars.com, Autoweek, TechRadar, GizmodoPopular Mechanic, FortuneUSA Today, EntrepreneurMacRumorsMen's Health and Gadget Flow.
Purchase Navdy directly from their website, at Amazon, or at Best Buy.

Nvidia designs processors for the AI, graphics, mobile computing and automotive markets. Nvidia recently hosted a contest, Nvidia Inception, and screened more than 600 entrants to identify the best AI startups of which Cape Analytics was named as one of Nvidia's five most disruptive AI startups. Cape Analytics leverages computer vision and machine learning to generate structured real estate data allowing home insurance companies to quickly create quotes, assess damage and reveal risks.

TechCrunch interviewed AngelList Cofounder and CEO Naval Ravikant to talk about the company's new Angel Funds product, enabling select proven “angel-operators” the ability to raise capital from AngelList and outside VCs to invest in startups.

Other coverage of the launch includes TechCrunch, Quartz, PE Hub and CrowdFund Insider.
Cobalt Robotics uses machine learning, semantic mapping, and neural networks combined with over 60 sensors, including LiDAR, ultrasound, thermal, depth sensors and cameras. Their robots can detect and flag security-relevant conditions or anomalies that allow human security guards or building managers to remotely interact with anyone the robot approaches.

Travis Deyle, Cobalt Cofounder and CEO states, "We’re finally at a time where robots entering everyday life and not just factories and warehouses is a real possibility, and so we’re excited to be at the forefront of that and pushing our humble vision of what the future involving robots could be.”
The Climate Corporation, a subsidiary of Monsanto Company, announced the integration of imagery from TerrAvion that will deliver valuable, high-resolution imagery to farmers through The Climate Corporation’s digital agriculture platform.

TerrAvaion also has expanded to Midwest regions of Iowa, Nebraska and Colorado, and Mid-South regions of Arkansas, Missouri, Tennessee and Kentucky. TerrAvion provides high-quality, subscription aerial imagery to help growers spot plant health issues and irrigation problems so they can take action and avoid adverse impacts to the bottom line. The aerial imagery service provides bird’s-eye views of a farm that cannot be seen from the ground. TerrAvion provides images on a regular schedule across the growing season within 24 hours of flights.
The Economist highlighted how Spire is helping track boats that engage in illegal fishing. The International Maritime Organisation requires ships over 300 tons to have an Automatic Identification System (AIS), a radio transmitter which identifies the vicinity of a boat’s position, speed and name. Spire's constellation of satellites gathers data on AIS transmissions to track ships. Governments are using Spire's data to mitigate illegal fishing. Spire hopes to log 10 million AIS transmissions every day by the end of this year.

In June, Spire successfully deployed four additional CubeSats to its growing constellation.

The Economist discusses how Mapbox and other digital mapping companies compete to develop human and machine-readable maps. These digital cartography companies use networks of sensors, processors, machine learning, and digital cartographers to produce real-time simulations of the physical world which are important to many developing technologies including autonomous cars.

Mapbox's software-development kit is now in approximately 250 million phones and gathers enough data in the San Francisco Bay Area alone to redraw every road there ten times a day. The company has 750,000 registered developers using the software, including large clients like National Geographic, The Weather Channel, Pinterest and others. 

Kurbo is a mobile health coaching program for kids, teens and adults and recently launched a new Parent Coaching service to help parents talk to their children about weight and create a healthier home environment. The new offering provides parents with a personal coach via video chat to help set goals and keep them on track. In addition to the weekly video coaching sessions, parents can receive helpful tips and guidance throughout the week via text or email.

WHOOP's wristband and sensors measure physiological data such as an athlete’s heart rate during exercise and rest, body movements and surrounding temperature. Sports Illustrated wrote about how NFL Players use WHOOP to stay in peak condition. CEO Will Ahmed was interviewed on BloombergTV and ABC Boston. WHOOP was also named to The Boston Globe's 2017 Game Changers.
Purchase WHOOP on its website.
Behavox Founder and CEO, Erkin Adylov, was highlighted in the Financial News of London. Behavox's artificial intelligence financial compliance software can link seemingly unrelated things to help compliance staff within financial organizations find rogue traders by recognizing behavior that strays from the norm. Its clients include hedge fund Marshall Wace who has used Behavox for over a year.

More Behavox news:
Wylie Dufresne, chef and owner of the popular wd~50 restaurant in Manhattan and   leading American proponent of molecular gastronomy, reviewed the June Oven in Popular Mechanics: "The oven. . . is impressive: six carbon-fiber heating elements get the thing up to temperature in no time, and it's able to hold that temperature or switch to a new one quickly. The oven also comes with top-notch accessories, including a durable, easy-to-clean sheet tray, a precise probe thermometer, and a built-in digital scale. . . It's a beautiful, impeccably designed machine, and the interface is flawless."

Purchase the June Intelligent Oven on its website or on Amazon.

San Francisco-based Gigster has created a platform and marketplace for freelance developers to link up with companies in need of engineering talent. Gigster builds freelance teams of developers led by a project manager who takes the daily management out of the customer’s hands. Companies including PepsiCo, MasterCard and Airbus have employed Gigster to help with development needs.

Tulip Retail, a developer of a mobile application platform for retail stores and sales associates, announced a new management suite and mobile app enhancements. These improvements aim to help retail stores increase productivity for store managers and associates, create a stronger employee community across stores and enable managers to operate a more efficient store.

The software introduces management functions for operations, district, regional and store managers to drive store manager agility, efficiency and effectiveness. Users can manage e-mail and SMS client communication templates and manage shared document files and folders for store associates. New document management capabilities help managers organize, access and share files in real time with store associates.
Bellabeat, a women's wellness platform, launched its new Spring product, a smart water bottle that tracks and calculates users' hydration needs. Spring connects to a user's smartphone and Bellabeat's Leaf fitness trackers.
Spring automatically logs water intake as users drink throughout the day and calculates users' hydration needs based on activity, sleep, monthly cycle and stress sensitivity. Users also receive drinking reminders when it’s time to drink based on their tailored intake goal. 

Join the Spring waitlist here.

Virool has created a vertical video marketplace for programmatic ads that lets brands and agencies buy space with publishers. Through a partnership with BidSwitch, brands can directly connect to 150 demand-side platforms and trading desks such as Google and AOL. Brands such as Burberry, Lexus and Delta have already started buying ad space through the vertical video exchange, which Virool said is providing an average cost per impression of around $15. According to Virool, ads are guaranteed 100 percent viewability, with ads pausing if less than 50 percent of the pixels are in view. The news comes nearly a year after Virool first launched vertical video for publishers when it debuted the format with ads from Chinese drone-maker DJI.

Threadloom recently released a Google Analytics-like report for Internet forums. Threadloom is a fast, powerful and lightweight forum search engine available for vBulletin and XenForo forums. Its powerful search technology makes it easy for users to quickly find the most relevant content on forums. Customers include Tesla Motors ClubBaby BargainsWDWMAGICJapan ReferenceJazzFanz and more.

Threadloom Founder and CEO, Paul Lee, was recently interviewed on The Admin Zone.
YourMechanic, a mobile car repair network, launched a pre-paid maintenance service for independent auto dealers. The service package allows auto dealers to add a service plan with warranty options. The basic plan includes a Castrol oil change and 50-point safety inspection. Premium packages, designed as complete car care for one or two years of service, include additional oil changes, tire rotations and discounts for services such as satellite radio and auto related products from YourMechanic partners.

The company also launched a fleet repair service for government, rental, rideshare and corporate customers. 
Airware has announced several new additions to its executive team and board of directors. The company has also added Martin Casado, co-founder of Nicira Networks and general partner at Andreessen Horowitz, to its board of directors.

In addition, Luck Stone, the nation’s largest family-owned producer of crushed stone, sand and gravel, has partnered with Airware to better user Airware’s software and analytics platforms specifically for the mining and aggregate industry.

Airware Founder and CEO, Jonathan Downey, was recently interviewed on The Twenty Minute VC.
Deako, a smart lighting control company, announced the integration of its full home smart lighting systems with voice control from Google Home. Pairing Deako Smart Lighting with the Google Home offers hands-free convenience through voice commands to control a home's lighting.

Promus Ventures News

TopBots writes: "Promus Ventures (Chicago): led by Mike Collett, this fund has a quite incredible AI portfolio: KenshoCrowdFlower, Gigster, JuneCape AnalyticsGauss Surgical, as well as other AI stealth startups. They also were investors in 4 of the top 100 on CBI’s latest top 100 AI Company list. Their investment strategy is also pretty clear (check it here)."

Promus Ventures Community Job Board - 350+ Open Positions

The Promus Ventures' Community Job Board currently has more than 350 real-time job posts from startups in the Promus Ventures Community.

Promus Ventures 2017 LP Annual Meeting

Promus Ventures hosted our 2017 LP Annual Meeting in May in Chicago. We were privileged to host Travis Deyle, Founder and CEO of San Francisco-based Cobalt Robotics (Promus Ventures-backed company), who spoke on the current state and future of the robotics industry.

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Vice President

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