Start-Ups Aim at Overlooked Demographic: The Unbanked

Last summer Jimmy Chen walked the streets of San Francisco trying to do simple financial transactions without a bank account, a task millions of Americans face.

It cost him $4 to cash a $20 personal check and $5 to send $30 to a relative — activities that would have been free with a bank account. When he needed to retrieve a money transfer, the process of verifying his identity took so long he almost gave up.

Ally Financial Announces Acquisition of TradeKing Group

DETROIT, April 5, 2016 — Ally Financial Inc. (NYSE: ALLY) today announced that it has signed an agreement to acquire TradeKing Group, Inc., a digital wealth management company. The transaction is expected to close in the third quarter and includes an online broker/dealer, a digital portfolio management platform, and educational content and social collaboration channels. The transaction is subject to regulatory approval from the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) and compliance with the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act, as well as satisfaction of other customary closing conditions.

“The addition of wealth management is the next key step in Ally’s digital product evolution and will create a powerful combination of segment-leading direct banking and innovative investment services in a single integrated customer experience,” said Ally Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey Brown. “This transaction presents a compelling opportunity for customers and a logical growth opportunity for Ally.”

The strongest players in carbon fiber 3D printing today

Incredible strength and stiffness, chemical and temperature resistance, electrical conductivity, and low weight on par with plastic parts: carbon fiber 3D printing has it all, and its poised to be the next major trend in industrial additive manufacturing.

While metal 3D printing has been skyrocketing in terms of popularity, market share, and high-demand applications for the past year, and will certainly continue to do so, 3D printing with carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP) offers unique properties that are increasingly sought out in the aerospace, military, motorsports, robotics, automobile, and energy sectors. Namely, carbon fiber composites, which are made of extremely thin carbon fibers measuring about 5-10 microns in diameter, have a higher strength-to-weight ratio than almost any other manufacturing material. Imagine a conductive 3D printed part that is stronger than steel yet as light as plastic, and with a beautifully smooth surface finish: that’s carbon fiber 3D printing for you.

3-D Printing Promises to Change Manufacturing

Atoms, unlike bits, are hard to manipulate. Advances in how we rearrange them come slowly, but the payoff can be enormous.

Think new, never-before-seen products mass-produced from materials that once seemed exotic. Next to microchips, there is no more powerful unlocking technology than materials science.

Not long ago I held the product of such a potentially game-changing technology in my hands—a small, intricately detailed component for a valve. It looked like the shell of a nautilus from an alien planet. With its combination of lightness, strength and finish, the component felt very much like the future. And not just the next five years, but the next 50.

The object I held was unusual for two reasons: what it was made of, and how it was made.

It was made of carbon fiber, a man-made material used in airplanes, race cars and wind turbines that is stronger, ounce for ounce, than steel or aluminum. But it is expensive, and surprisingly labor intensive to make, requiring workers to cut, layer and mold sheets of plastic infused with carbon fiber—an oddly 18th century approach to making a 21st century material.

This carbon-fiber component had been made on a 3-D printer, a gadget more often associated with spitting out plastic novelties.

Marry those two technologies, and things get interesting. The all-electric BMW i3 has a carbon-fiber frame that extends its range by making it significantly lighter. Other possibilities include light but strong parts for drones and other aircraft, as well as replacing materials in many everyday objects—from furniture to machine tools—with carbon fiber.

“We give you the strength of metal for the cost of plastics,” says Greg Mark, chief executive of MarkForged Inc., a Cambridge, Mass., company founded in 2013 that sells a machine that 3-D prints carbon-fiber composites.

The printer costs $5,000 and is being used by at least one automotive manufacturer to make parts for the machines that make cars, according to Mr. Mark. The company won’t say which, but Nissan Motor Co. is listed as a customer on MarkForged’s website. “We like to tell people we’re the parts behind the part,” says Mr. Mark.

Nissan didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Today, such parts are most often made by machinists using computerized mills to carve solid blocks of metal. (This also is, incidentally, how the body of Apple Inc.’s laptops is produced.)

By replacing milled metal parts with equally hard printed carbon fiber composite parts, MarkForged says it allows machinists and their factories to be more nimble—trying and discarding new ideas in days rather than weeks.

MarkForged’s 3-D printer works like a “traditional” 3-D printer in that it has two print heads, one that squirts plastic to build a part, and a second one that pushes out the carbon fiber to reinforce it, one layer at a time. Unlike traditional carbon fiber parts, there is no wasted material, says Mr. Mark.

A competing carbon-fiber 3D-printing technology is taking on a potentially bigger opportunity—the method for producing the overwhelming majority of plastic parts.

“Our long-term goal is to replace injection molding,” says Robert Swartz, founder and chief technical officer of Impossible Objects LLC, which recently unveiled a machine that can 3-D print composites with a huge variety of materials.

Chicago-based Impossible Objects’ process combines fabrics such as silk, polyester, Kevlar, cotton or carbon fiber with any 3-D printable plastic, including ones used for high-temperature applications.

Impossible Objects’ process differs from previous 3D-printing technologies. Instead of printing an object one layer atop the other, every layer of the object can be printed at once, in two dimensions, on a large sheet of fabric. The layers are then cut out and stacked one on top of the other, like a layer cake, and baked in an oven.

The machine operates on the same principles as an inkjet printer, spraying the plastic out of print heads as tiny droplets, at high speed. That means it eventually could be fast, says Mr. Swartz. The maturity of traditional 2-D printing, on which Mr. Swartz’s process is based, makes him think it could someday be relatively inexpensive.

Neither company will be raking in billions anytime soon. In the world of stuff, nothing moves quickly, in part because new manufacturing processes must be thoroughly vetted.

That said, Impossible Objects’ printer also could print big objects because some inkjet printers are as large as a bus. That could mean 3-D printing entire body panels for a car, for example, or maybe even the car itself. That would lead to vehicles substantially lighter than current models, which in turn could give electric cars unprecedented range.

Both men want to change how we make things—and the things we make.

The legions of cheap 3-D printers on the market now are mere toys compared with what is coming because they can’t produce parts strong enough for most uses. Once we can make things that are usable in the real world right at our desks—or at the nearest copy shop—3-D printing could have its “PC moment.”

Traditional manufacturing won’t go away—we still make glass in essentially the same way as the Romans, after all—but it may never be the same again.

One less hassle after a car accident

In the hands of motorists, smartphones can lead to car wrecks. They also can reduce the hassle of a post-accident repairs.

Using an app called SnapSheet, drivers can photograph their damaged vehicles and send the pictures to Snapsheet’s team of appraisers, who work with auto insurers including USAA, MetLife and Hartford to speed things along. Newer tools include a payment processing system, an app that helps salvage yards assess the value of totaled cars and a network of specialized appraisal photographers for insurers that prefer third-party images.

Solovis Raises $3.25M to Accelerate Growth of Institutional Portfolio Platform

Solovis, a multi-asset class portfolio management and reporting solution for foundations, endowments, pensions, OCIOs and family offices, today announced it has raised $3.25 million in equity financing led by Edison Partners and including MissionOG, OCA Ventures, Timberline Venture Partners, Northwestern University, and technology entrepreneur Jeremie Bacon. Solovis will use the funding to support continued company growth and drive product innovation.

mPulse Mobile Continues Growth with $10M in First Close of Series A Funding

mPulse Mobile, a mobile engagement solutions provider focused on consumer health and wellness, today announced it has secured $10 million in first close of Series A funding. HLM Venture Partners led the round while pre-series A round investors OCA Ventures, Merrick Ventures and Jumpstart Ventures also invested. This new funding will enable mPulse to enhance its analytics capabilities as the company builds upon its leadership position in making widespread consumer engagement in healthcare a reality.

Healthfinch Secures $7.5M in Series A Financing, Led by Adams Street Partners, to Build Out its Practice Automation Platform

Healthfinch is a healthcare IT startup that creates software and apps that automate healthcare-related tasks. Its software, called “Charlie,” automates and delegates tasks to employees through products such as Swoop, which automates prescription refills. This funding will help accelerate delivery and development of the Charlie platform.

1871 Ranks 1st in United States in Study of North American Business Incubators

TORONTO (November 3, 2015) — 1871 ranked 1st in the United States and 2nd in North America in the UBI Global list of Top University-Affiliated Business Incubators during the 2015 UBI Global benchmarking conference and award ceremony for North America. UBI Global utilizes an international research team that analyzes business incubators based on a wide range of factors, including their value to members and overall economic impact. Last year, 1871 was ranked 9th in the world on the list of Top University-Associated Business Incubators. domain check . UBI Global will announce its global rankings later this year. amazon cloud 1871 CEO Howard A. Tullman traveled to Toronto today to receive the recognition and share 1871’s progress.

WedPics Team Releases Photo, A Collaborative Photo-Sharing App For iOS, Android And Web

The makers of the popular social app for weddings, WedPics, is today launching a new app for social-photo sharing in an effort to retain customers after the big day has wrapped. The sister app, simply called “Photo,” is meant to serve as an extension or companion to the company’s flagship application, offering couples and their guests a way to continue to take and share photos related to future life events, big and small, including family gatherings, birthdays, baby showers, and more.

The idea for a second app was actually the result of user feedback, reports WedPics co-founder and CEO Justin Miller, as the company’s number one question from customers was whether or not there was a WedPics-like app for other occasions. In addition, the startup has been facing the same challenge that any of those in the weddings space also have to confront – customer churn. A few months after the wedding is over, the photos have been shared and printed, users drop off of the app. website uptime . domain check . amazon cloud