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Google Launchpad Accelerator expands to Europe and Africa

If you are trying to develop innovative business in the field of IT and telecommunications, your corporate sponsor can now be Google itself. Launched in 2015 Launchpad Accelerator, initially addressed to the countries of Asia and Latin America, is opening up to new territories to include startups from Certain European and African countries. Now, entrepreneurs from these regions can join the 47 graduates and 31 currently participating startups.

There are very few companies that could match the reach and resources of Google, and now these resources can be made available for free to all those who want, through science, to solve real problems of their city, region or country. The program is organized by a global team of Google Developers for startups with a proven history of success in the marketplace, who want to reach the next million users.

The program begins with a two-week training in San Francisco, whose main feature are mentoring sessions with engineers and product managers from 20 Google teams and an international team of external mentors. Participants will receive financial support of $ 50.000, free access to paid Google services and help of local Google teams for six months.

For the new training cycle now there can sign up startups from Central and Eastern Europe – Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic, and Africa – Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa. Of course, Google does not guarantee that it will accept all. On the contrary, the competition may be intense. In the program there also participate startups from India, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia and Mexico. Applications will be accepted until April 24. Training will begin on 17 July. More information can be found on the Launchpad Accelerator website.

Booksy raised $4.2M

Polish application for booking visits, for example hairdressers and beauty salons, has closed another round of financing. This time Booksy received more than $ 4 million. It will be allocated in further development of several functions, such as allowing in-app payments, enabling larger merchants to handle personnel through the software, and development of better reporting systems.

Many of the beauty service providers do not have time to pick up calls and make appointments after their work hours. Customers, on the other hand, want to book a visit twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Booksy helps both clients and owners of premises in solving this problem. Customers – because they have access to the platform at any time, and entrepreneurs – because it happens without them, so that they can do other things at that time. Adoption of the app has been shown to improve customer loyalty and frequency of bookings. It is partly because by using Booksy, businesses are able to accept bookings outside of working hours for the first time. In addition to scheduling, Booksy helps entrepreneurs with several other features meant to support and boost their processes, such as a CRM, marketing automation, inventory management, point-of-sales, reports, management of commission for employees, and (soon) in-app payments.

In contrast to its competitors, Booksy does not act as a marketplace or even does not charge for reservations. It operates in a SaaS model with a monthly subscription. The application has competitors in every market, for example: Treatwell from the UK, LadyTime from Poland, StyleSeat from the U.S., Vaniday from Brazil. Each of them acts as a marketplace and charges for reservations. Entrepreneurs are not content with that.

This round of financing led the Open Ocean fund with participation of the Australian company and investor Investible, as well as Polish Nomad Fund, Kai Hansen (ex-Lieferando), Apostolos Apostolakis, as well as the head of the Google Campus in Warsaw – Rafal Plutecki. In 2015 Booksy already received EUR 700 thousand, which was invested in the project. Among others, the investor was Inovo vc fund.

Kinnevik earns $220mln from partial Rocket stake sale

Shares in the German e-commerce company Rocket Internet fell 14% after its main investor sold half its stake as the two firms have been increasingly becoming competitors. Sweden’s Kinnevik, which clashed with Rocket last year over the valuations of some of their joint investments, sold a 6.6% stake in Rocket at 19.25 euros per share, netting $220 million. Rocket Internet will not receive any proceeds from the transaction.

Berlin-headquartered Rocket Internet was founded in 2007. It has built up several businesses from fashion e-commerce to food delivery, but its shares have slid in the last year because many investors have become concerned about hight losses and falling valuations for its key start-ups. The company is facing heat from its investors due to continuous losses and a decline in revenue of its portfolio companies globally. Rocket Internet’s experience in India, for example, is far from being profitable. It made bigger bets on food-tech venture Foodpanda, fashion e-tailer Jabong and furniture portal FabFurnish. Most ventures quickly expanded in the beginning, but later started to struggle to survive. Last year, Rocket Internet sold Jabong and FabFurnish in misery sales. Last year Future Group acquired FabFurnish.com in an all-cash deal and Jabong was sold to Indian e-commerce firm Flipkart’s fashion portal Myntra for $70 million.

Kinnevik was one of the first investors in Rocket and was its biggest shareholder after the Samwer brothers who founded it and who have a 37%stake. Kinnevik also owns stakes in several Rocket’s major startups. There is a very high probability that Kinnevik will sell its remaining stake in Rocket because Kinnevik and Rocket are potential competitors for new investments. There might be conflicts of interest as Rocket moves from an initial attention on setting up new online businesses to being more of an investment firm with a model identic to Kinnevik’s. Kinnevik has not invested with Rocket in its food holdings, which now justifies the enormity of its valuation after it made a big push into the sector in 2015, a shift away from its preliminary attention on ecommerce in emerging markets.

Meanwhile, even as Rocket Internet has struggled with its bets on Indian companies, it has collected $1 billion in a new fund to support Internet companies globally. The Rocket Internet Capital Partners fund is Europe’s biggest fund concentrated on the Internet sector. The new fund will make early-stage and growth-equity investments in high-growth Internet-related businesses. It plans to invest in key attention fields of the Internet sector including marketplaces, e-commerce, financial technology, software and travel. The fund gained essential support from a diverse group of global investors, including financial organizations, pension funds, asset managers, foundations and wealthy individuals.

Apple acquires Israeli startup RealFace

Apple bought Israeli startup RealFace, which specializes in technologies related to face recognition. Thanks to that, in the new iPhone Apple may use phone-unlock-system based on the appearance of the owner.RealFace is a company from Tel Aviv, which was founded in 2014. The startup page does not work anymore, but the promotional materials said that the company has developed a very unique face recognition technology which integrates artificial intelligence and human perception moves to digital processes. It is suggested that Apple paid for RealFace at least $ 2 million. Some may associate RealFace with the application Pickeez, which is based on advanced algorithms for facial recognition and helps users choose their best photos for publication on social networking profiles.

iPhone 8, except that it will be a very unique smartphone, could be the first Apple phone with implemented new solutions for AR. Probably at the top there would be a new laser sensor able to recognize the user. So it will be another solution, beside the Touch ID, to secure data stored on your phone. Everything will become clear in September. Besides, Apple invests a lot of money in the extended reality and some observers even suggest that within 2-3 years Apple becomes a giant of AR market.

EU aims to remove geoblocking of online content

Soon, when traveling in the European Union, the Europeans will be able to fully enjoy their subscriptions to websites offering movies, sport events, e-books, games or music. This will be possible thanks to the new rules package modernizing the copyright law of the EU, presented by the Commission in framework of digital single market.

Thanks to the new law when traveling in the EU, consumers will be able to use purchased online services in terms of content in the same way as they do in their home country. For example, when a resident of France buys subscription to series and movies at Canal +, he will be able to enjoy movies and series available in France while on holiday in Croatia or business trip to Denmark. Providers of online services in terms of content, such as Netflix, Spotify or MyTF1 will check in which country the subscriber lives using the details provided for payment, his contract for Internet supply or IP address.

The new rules will apply to all paid services in the field of online content. Also providers offering free content (such as public broadcasters or radio) will be able to offer its users the opportunity to move the content.

The agreed law must now be endorsed by the EU Council and the European Parliament. If these rules are adopted, they will be applied in all EU Member States since the beginning of 2018 because the regulation gives service providers and right holders nine months to prepare for application of the new law.

The next step will be to open up the digital market, enabling for instance a user living in Italy to subscribe to any service available in any EU country. Yet, this improvement is encountering strong opposition from the TV and movie industry which have long enjoyed a divided digital market in Europe where it has been allowed to negotiate rights on a country-by-country basis.