Tenor reaches incredible 2 billion GIF searches every month

David McIntosh’s startup Tenor builds a GIF keyboard — but he actually hopes you’ll spend as little time searching on it as possible.

Instead, Tenor’s aim has been to collapse the amount of time it takes you to find a GIF you like and send it to a friend. Instead of trying to get people to come to the service and browse around on the keyboard or a different website, Tenor’s goal has been to figure out what you are trying to say in some kind of a GIF and get it out the door as quickly as possible. And with that approach, Tenor says its users now search for GIFs on its keyboard more than 400 million times a day and 12 billion times a month.

“It comes down to search, fundamentally we’re a search product, unlike Facebook and Instagram and Twitter and Snap,” Tenor CEO David McIntosh said. “They succeed by grabbing more minutes, our success is getting you the right thing faster. Can we take that 25-second session time and make it 20 seconds, or even 15 or 10. There’s a viral loop in place where every time you make search a little better it’s faster.”

This more or less dovetails with an approach for some companies that are focusing on pitching engagement instead of a raw active user metric. Snap, for example, has stressed to investors that it is getting people to come back to the service more and more and spend more time on it. It’s roughly the same principle in terms of using Tenor, which McIntosh says is more of a search engine than an actual hub or portal. Basically, you want to communicate what you want to tell a friend in as few words as possible — except with something silly from Friends. Tenor works across a number of platforms, but now its sights have shifted abroad.

That might even be more true as Tenor begins to expand internationally, planting people on the ground to figure out what localized versions of the service look like. One of the appeals of GIFs is that it can compress a ton of information (McIntosh refers to it as “emotion”) into a short semi-video object in a messenger screen rather than having to type out a bunch of text. As it expands to more and more countries, Tenor is able to start picking off that low-hanging fruit, as making small tweaks in certain regions can lead to dramatic improvements in engagement and usage, McIntosh said.

“Western content is so heavily exported all over the world that these things have almost become globally recognized objects,” McIntosh said. “Often western content with a local caption will perform better. Sometimes the local content performs better. You gotta have the right set of search data, share data, community uploads, it’s the combination of all of them. It’s kind of like the chicken and egg problem; it’s a slow grind until a spark happens — you’re guessing what’s gonna work. Once the flywheel is spinning really quickly you have so much data.”

It’s also begun running its first partner campaigns internationally as it’s started to expand, with the idea that it can go to potential advertisers and tell them that because people use the keyboard so much they’ll actually share that content. That includes campaigns with companies in even India and Germany. The whole goal is to, again, figure out how to get the right GIF in front of the right person in those couple of slots when they open the app and actually want to share it.

There is, of course, a data component to that problem, as well. But with 12 billion searches every month, Tenor can start slightly tweaking each search to figure out what a person is looking for based on a wider array of parameters — and maybe figure out how to get that Tom Brady strip-sack in the expiring minutes of the Super Bowl this year in front of people more quickly. Two months ago, Tenor says it had 10 billion monthly searches monthly (around 330 million daily).

It might sound a little ridiculous now, but in retrospect there’s been a blossoming ecosystem around both creator tools for GIFs as well as ones for sharing them in messenger products or the web. Gfycat, which targets creators with more robust tools, says it has 130 million monthly active users, while Giphy says it has 300 million daily active users. Either way, it means there is both a lot of competition and a lot of interest in this space — including venture financing.

Google’s Android Assistant to Partner with SpotHero through Android Auto

Google brings its Assistant to Android Auto

It’s no secret that for Google, this year’s CES is all about the Google Assistant. One Google product where the Assistant hasn’t really made any inroads yet, though, is Android Auto. Starting this week, though, Android Auto users in the U.S. will also get full support for the Assistant in their cars.

Now you may think that the Assistant was already available in Android Auto, given that the service always responded to voice requests. But for the most part, that was still the old Google Now-style assistant, not the newer Google Assistant (yeah, I know, this is confusing). Maybe the biggest difference here is that you will be able to access all of your third-party Google Assistant services and control your smart home devices from your car now, too.

How do you know if you’ve been upgraded? If you still see the four moving bars when the voice search starts, then you’re still on the old system. After the upgrade, these will change to the Assistant logo with its circles.

 

Looking ahead, Google will also enable Assistant-based drink orders from Starbucks and parking space reservations through SpotHero.

All of this will, of course, also be available in the Android Auto app, which works even if you don’t have an Android Auto-enabled car. As Google told me ahead of today’s announcement, the company also spent a bit of extra time to optimize the Assistant for Android Auto for the in-car experience.

Google has a bit more up its sleeve here, though. It’s also working with car manufacturers to build the Assistant right into their cars without the need for a phone. In addition, Google is also now working with Kia and Fiat Chrysler to give the Assistant access to their cars fuel levels and to allow users to lock their cars with their voice, for example. That’s something a lot of manufacturers currently charge for, so it’s interesting to see them working with Google on this. These kind of features were already available on a number of Mercedes Benz and Hyundai cars.

SwipeSense raises $10.6M for Internet of Things push

SwipeSense raises $10.6 million for internet of things push

Mert Iseri and Yuri Malina

Mert Iseri and Yuri Malina

SwipeSense’s goal to get hospital staff to wash their hands more often led to something much bigger.

The company raised $10.6 million to keep building what CEO Mert Iseri calls an “indoor GPS for hospitals.” San Francisco-based Eclipse Ventures led the round, with participation from Chicago’s Sandbox Industries.

SwipeSense, which traces its roots to Northwestern University, got its start peddling hand sanitizers that tracked how often employees washed their hands. That’s a big deal to hospitals trying to cut down on infections transmitted from staff to patients.

Iseri’s team soon discovered that only about 10 percent of the staff used portable sanitizers. Most workers preferred to use wall-mounted dispensers in patient rooms. So SwipeSense went back to the drawing board and came up with a way to put a sensor in the drip trays attached to dispensers. And it put a sensor on a card that could be paired with an employee ID badge. Add in a wireless beacon plugged into a wall, and SwipeSense basically had an IoT network for a hospital.

SwipeSense began focusing more on data and analytics after a $10 million investment led by Eclipse in 2015. It took some serious engineering and reworking to come up with the sensor network, Iseri said.

In mid-2016 it launched a pilot test, rolling it out to four hospitals. Today it has signed up 20 hospitals, including MacNeal Hospital in Berwyn, Iseri says. They pay for the technology with a flat per-bed fee, which SwipeSense declines to disclose.

The technology helped solve the original problem of hygiene. He says one hospital reported a 300 percent increase in hand hygiene by staff; another saw a 49 percent drop in hospital-acquired patient infections. Customers found other uses beyond hygiene, Iseri said.

“We built a low-cost, asset-tracking solution,” he said. The company has raised $23.3 million overall, and it doubled headcount to 42 in the past year, Iseri said. He’s looking to drum up more sales for the product and build out the technology for additional uses.

A bigger market also means SwipeSense will be facing off against bigger competitors, such as Stanley Healthcare in Waltham, Mass., San Diego-based Awarepoint and Versus Technology in Traverse City, Mich. “There are a lot of people doing asset tracking,” says Jim Gagnard, former CEO of Lisle-based SmartSignal, an early internet of things company focused on manufacturing that was bought by GE in 2011. “If you try to be a platform, you better have some staying power. I don’t know if (SwipeSense is) big enough to do that.”

Solovis Strengthens Analytics Capabilities with Acquisition of Madrone Software

Solovis, a multi-asset class portfolio management, analytics and reporting platform for limited partners and asset allocators, today announced the acquisition of Madrone Software & Analytics, Inc. a provider of portfolio, risk analytics and market intelligence for the asset management industry. With the acquisition of Madrone, Solovis clients gain access to advanced fund analytics, detailed risk analysis, and operational and investment due diligence capabilities – enabling them to make better strategic portfolio decisions.

The purchase of Madrone, based in San Francisco, CA, aligns with Solovis’ strategy to deliver a single technology platform for configurable, multi-asset class reporting that factors in performance, risk, exposure, liquidity, and fund-level transparency and aggregation. Asset owners and asset managers will now be able leverage Madrone’s behavioral-based analytics within Solovis’ highly configurable platform to more accurately measure portfolio and organizational skill and risk.

 

Progentec Diagnostics Raises $1.25M to Predict Lupus Flare-ups

Lead investor i2E, along with Chicago-based OCA Ventures and Mayo Clinic Ventures, has funded the first round of investment to assist Progentec in creating the first-ever commercial test to predict the onset of lupus flares. Technology created by the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation (OMRF) is at the core of the platform being developed by Progentec.

The Lupus Foundation of America estimates that there are as many as 1.5 million lupus (systemic lupus erythematosus or SLE) patients in the U.S. alone. Seen mostly in women between the ages of 15-44, Lupus causes the immune system to recognize and attack the body’s own tissues.  Lupus sufferers have periods of flares and remission with organs typically affected including the skin, kidneys, lungs and reproductive organs, as well as the cardiovascular system.

Progentec Diagnostics, led by Sanjiv Sharma and Mohan Purushothaman, is working closely with OMRF’s Judith James, M.D., Ph.D., a world leader in lupus research and an inventor of Progentec’s technology, to further advance and refine the platform and its associated algorithms to fulfill the unmet need of advanced lupus diagnostics. The company’s technologies include highly accurate tests for early diagnosis, a score to track underlying disease activity, and a predictive score for lupus flares. With the current funding round, Progentec plans to conduct a retrospective study at OMRF and prospective studies at OMRF and Mayo Clinic to further refine these algorithms.

“The ability to predict an impending flare represents significant value to lupus patients and their physicians. This test is currently not available and is a focus area for us,” said Sanjiv Sharma, Chairman of Progentec.

“Looking beyond flare prediction, a test to track underlying disease activity will fundamentally change how lupus patients are identified for specific interventions and allows for better management decisions at all levels of the healthcare system,” said Mohan Purushothaman, CEO of Progentec.

OMRF has established a significant focus on lupus. “OMRF has been at the forefront of leading scientific research, especially in the field of lupus,” said Manu Nair, Vice President of Technology Ventures at OMRF. “Progentec is going on a trajectory that we have traversed in the past, and we believe that our science, combined with the entrepreneurial and management skills brought in by Progentec, will successfully bring these tests to the market.”

“We are pleased to work with OCA Ventures and Mayo Clinic on this promising, Oklahoma-born project,” said Scott Meacham, President and CEO of i2E Inc., “It is important to work together to identify and develop technologies like these in their early stages when they most need help.”

Mayo Clinic Ventures found Progentec’s technology aligned with their clinical interest in lupus, especially in managing patients with a diagnostic to improve patient care while potentially reducing clinical costs. “We are excited to work with Progentec and OMRF to advance this technology and hopefully bring about a change in how lupus patients are diagnosed, managed and treated,” said Andrew Danielsen, Vice Chair, Mayo Clinic Ventures.

Mayo Clinic will use any revenue it receives to support its not-for-profit mission in patient care, education and research.

Currently, no test exists that can predict when a lupus flare will occur.  Therefore, Progentec’s test could have a significant impact for patients at risk of organ damage or death caused by lupus flares that cannot otherwise be accurately predicted.

 

Regroup Therapy Uses Technology to Improve Access to Mental Health

Textbook economics teaches that, in a free market, supply rises to meet demand until price reaches an equilibrium. When it comes to mental health services, though, the supply of psychiatrists is declining despite widespread need, resulting in patients not getting treatment in a timely manner.

“Every single state suffers from a shortage,” says David Cohn, CEO of Regroup Therapy, a telepsychiatry company he founded in 2011, “and 55 percent of U.S. counties have no mental health clinicians.”

Regroup’s mission is to fill that void by supplying credentialed and fully vetted clinicians—psychiatrists, social workers and advanced practice nurses—who can “see” patients via a secure video platform that’s HIPAA-compliant. “Literally, the only difference is our clinicians are in two dimensions,” Cohn says.

The for-profit company’s customers are not the individuals themselves, but hospitals, primary care clinics, correctional institutions and community-based outpatient centers through which people access health care. In the Chicago market, clients include Sinai Health System, Oak Street Health and Metropolitan Family Services. They’re billed monthly for services rendered and reimbursed by patients’ insurers or government programs such as Medicaid and Medicare.

Cohn, 37, who grew up on the North Shore, says he always had an interest in both technology and mental health, but didn’t see himself becoming a clinician. After majoring in economics at Colorado College, spending two years in Guatemala with the Peace Corps and managing sales and services in Latin America and Europe for CEB, formerly known as Corporate Executive Board, he earned his MBA at IE Business School in Madrid, where he hatched the idea for Regroup Therapy as a class project.

He started Regroup with $60,000 from friends, family and his own savings. The company has raised $8.4 million from investors including OSF Ventures, Hyde Park Angels, OCA Ventures and Frist Cressey Ventures.

Revenue jumped from less than $500,000 last year to a projected $10 million-plus in annual recurring revenue by year-end. Regroup now employs 23 full-time staffers in its headquarters in Ravenswood, IL and serves nearly 50 health entities with a network of more than 3,000 clinicians. Roughly half of treatment hours are provided by clinicians who work full time for Regroup; the remainder are part-time contractors. Clinicians are paid $45 to $300 per hour. Full-timers also receive benefits such as health care coverage, medical malpractice insurance and a 401(k) retirement plan.

At its 2017 awards program Nov. 9 in Chicago, the Illinois Telehealth Initiative recognized Regroup with an award for Advancing Telehealth by Innovation. Nancy Kaszak, the initiative’s director, cites Regroup’s easy-to-use video platform and system integration as strengths in the telehealth field. “Hospitals are big on their records and their systems,” she says, “and if you can’t integrate into that system, it becomes an issue.”

 

Forbes Announces List of 30 Under 30: Founders of Moving Analytics Profiled

Forbes 30 under 30:  Moving Analytics co-founders, Adelanwa Adesanya & Shuo Qiao

Heart patients need help. Getting them moving can prevent costly readmissions and dire health consequences. Ade Adesanya and Shuo Qiao’s Moving Analytics partnered with Stanford to deliver cardiac rehab via a smartphone. They’ve raised $2 million from investors that include Launchpad Digital, HealthX Ventures, Blueprint Health, the National Science Foundation, Stanford University, United Talent Agency, and OCA Ventures.

Innovative 3D Printing Startup, Impossible Objects, Raises $6.4M in Funding

Impossible Objects LLC has raised a $6.4 million Series A investment round led by OCA Ventures and with participation from IDEA Fund Partners, a technology-focused early stage venture capital firm, Mason Avenue Investments, Huizenga Capital Management, and Inflection Equity Partners. With this latest round, Impossible Objects has raised a total of more than $9 million.

“We’ve seen incredible momentum as more corporations are looking to additive manufacturing for production purposes and not just prototypes or low volumes. These companies need strong parts that can be made fast,” says Robert Swartz, founder and chairman of Impossible Objects. “We’re delighted to work with our investment partners to meet this massive opportunity.”

This spring, the company debuted its pilot Model One printer and acquired its first customer, the Fortune 500 Jabil Inc., a product solutions company providing comprehensive electronics design, production and product management services to global electronics and technology companies. The Model One won the Innovation Award at the RAPID + TCT 3D Printing and Additive Manufacturing conference for the service or product that will have the greatest impact on the industry.

Impossible Objects’ composite-based additive manufacturing method (CBAM) leverages high-speed 2D graphics technologies and enables companies to use a range of composite materials, including carbon fiber, Kevlar and fiberglass together with PEEK and other high performance polymers, to build strong, lightweight parts at scale.

The Model One will be commercially available in 2018, and pilot versions of the machine are available now on a selective basis.

SpotHero Hits the Gas Pedal With $30M in New Funding

SpotHero has its foot on the gas, and it’s not slowing down.

The Chicago-based on-demand parking startup announced Tuesday that it has raised $30 million in new funding, bringing the company’s total venture capital to date to $57.5 million.

SpotHero said it will uses the Series C funding to expand into more markets in the United States and Canada, grow its B2B offerings, and invest in new technology to make its app work with autonomous vehicles. It also plans to roll out other new features like mobile payment and operations apps for parking management companies.

“We continue to see unprecedented growth, hire extremely talented individuals and have an exponentially expanding, loyal customer base who love the value we add in their daily lives,” Mark Lawrence, CEO of SpotHero, said in a statement.

Investors in the round include Insight Venture Partners, Global Founders Capital, OCA Ventures, Chicago Ventures, Levy Family Partners, Bullpen Capital, Pritzker Group Venture Capital, Draper Associates, Sam Yagan, Corazon Capital, Daniel Hoffer and Math Venture Partners.

SpotHero, founded in 2011, connects drivers to parking decks and other off-street parking. The company said revenue grew 100 percent year-over-year in 2016.

In April, SpotHero acquired competitor Parking Panda in a deal that beefed up its presence on the East Coast and Canada. Parking Panda also helped expand SpotHero’s B2B operations, as it has deals with several pro sports teams and other venues to offer on-demand parking.

Parking Panda was SpotHero’s second acquisition in two years; it bought San Francisco’s ParkPlease in 2015.

One of SpotHero’s remaining competitors is Chicago-based ParkWhiz, which has raised $36 million since it launched in 2006.

“The future of urban transportation is so exciting because of such rapid changes – from self-driving cars, to instant, cashless payments, to making cities greener by decreasing carbon footprints,” Ludwig Ensthaler, partner at GFC, added in the statement. “There’s no doubt that SpotHero is at the forefront of the evolution of parking, leading the industry with its people, marketplace, products and services.”

Read more at: https://www.americaninno.com/chicago/

 

Levyx Shatters STAC-A3 Independent Benchmark for Financial Trading Applications — Achieving 32X Performance Gain

Levyx Inc., whose high-performance, ultra-low latency data processing software dramatically reduces Big Data infrastructure costs, revealed today record shattering independent testing results performed by the Securities Technology Analysis Center (STAC®) using the STAC-A3 benchmarking suite.

Levyx broke the performance record running the benchmark on four 64-vCPU Google Cloud nodes equipped with SSDs while running Apache Spark and Levyx’s Xenon software. The net result was 32X the performance employing much less equipment in comparison to the baseline STAC-A3 benchmark which used a 14-node (24 cores each) disk-based Map-Reduce Hadoop cluster.

STAC-A3 is the industry’s primary performance benchmark suite for the infrastructure that banks, hedge funds and other trading firms use to backtest potential trading algorithms. Peter Lankford, Director of STAC, said: “Trading firms in the STAC Benchmark Council specified the STAC-A3 benchmarks in order to measure the potential of software and hardware innovations to accelerate backtesting. The competitive pressure on firms to bring smarter algorithms to market in less time, together with the increasing use of machine learning to automate development of candidate algorithms, has put backtesting on the critical path to revenue. Levyx’s use of STAC-A3 shows that the company is putting serious focus on the industry’s desire to speed up this key workload.”

Reza Sadri, CEO of Levyx, said: “Since the financial sector typically pushes the envelope for low-latency technologies, our results for this class of sophisticated backtesting validate our performance benefits in a real-world application and point to an exciting market opportunity within the financial space. Similarly, these performance benefits can also accelerate the Time-To-Value in other large markets, such as analyzing trends in insurance, credit scores and consumer sentiment, to name a few. In addition, the STAC results highlight that we drastically reduce the data center footprint and related costs (in the cloud or on-premise).”

Levyx’s Xenon™ leverages the high-performance nature of Levyx’s Helium™ core engine and extends it into a low latency, scalable data analytics solution. Xenon is designed to manage the retrieval, processing, and indexing of very large datasets, i.e., collections of billions of objects, spread across a tightly coupled cluster of servers, each with multi-terabyte persistent storage capabilities. More specifically, Xenon is a distributed database system having the following functional capabilities:

  1. Core SQL functionality: filter, projection, selection, sort, join, groupby, and aggregates on structured data, i.e., schema-based tables.
  2. Support for random lookup and neighborhood search using an index rather than scan and filter.
  3. Tightly integrate with the Apache Spark system for ease of deployment and use (also fully capable to function in native mode, or serve as an off-load layer for other big-platforms and systems).
  4. Scale with the number of cores in the cluster and use SSDs (or other high-bandwidth, low latency persistent storage) as a persistent memory layer for large, live datasets.

The efficiency with which Xenon can process massive workloads can also be applied in the processing of similar large-scale data sets in other applications within the financial sector, as well as in different vertical industries such as Government, Internet of Things (IoT), Oil and Gas, Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence, and Cybersecurity.

About Levyx Inc.
Levyx’s software solutions fundamentally disrupt the economics of Big-Data applications, bringing the benefits of high-speed Big-Data processing to the masses. No longer reserved for the largest enterprises, Levyx technology can process hundreds of millions of queries per second on commodity servers on a few nodes, making Big-Data processing much more accessible to organizations of all sizes. More information is available at www.levyx.com.

About STAC
STAC® is a technology-research firm that facilitates the STAC Benchmark™ Council (www.STACresearch.com/council), an organization of leading financial institutions and technology vendors that specifies standard ways to assess technologies used in the financial markets. The Council is active in an expanding range of low-latency, big-compute, and Big-Data workloads.

The STAC-A3 benchmark report may be downloaded for free by going to:
www.STACresearch.com/levyx

Levyx, the Levyx logo, Helium, and Xenon are trademarks of Levyx Inc. STAC and all STAC names are trademarks or registered trademarks of the Securities Technology Analysis Center, LLC. All other trademarks or brand names referred in this press release are the property of their respective owners.

http://www.globenewswire.com/news-release/2017/07/13/1044394/0/en/Levyx-Shatters-STAC-A3-Independent-Benchmark-for-Financial-Trading-Applications-Achieving-32X-Performance-Gain.html