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.

Startups from Croatia

Croatia has been unending marveled for its Adriatic coastlines, distant islands, and moody seaside castles. Yet, nowadays primal and historic wonders are playing second role compared to a growing number of young, talented tech professionals trying to put up the country out of recession. Many startups have successfully raised funds and every year more and more projects contribute to the growing prominence of the region’s young ecosystem. Below are the  brightest Croatian tech startups worth to know about:

Memgraph is a scalable and enterprise ready graph database that comprehends the connection between its data points, provoking meaning just like a human brain. It contains import, data processing and visualization tools. The startup offers complete ecosystem for technology innovators to tackle the future challenges of big data. The company was launched in 2016 and it successfully participated in the renowned Techstars accelerator in London.

Adopto is an applicant tracking system and recruiting software created to support users find and hire the best tech candidates faster and more efficiently and make their recruiting process better. The recruiters simply set up their careers page, publish a job accouchement, search for the best people, and gain candidate info with a single click through one interface. The startup was launched in 2015.

BabyWatch enhances the prenatal experience with technology. Thanks to the specially-designed device and app, future mothers can hear and visualize their child’s heartbeat 24/7 and share the memorable experience with friends and family.

Locodels is a service for small e-commerce, online sellers and individuals. It offers the easiest way to ship your items. The startup manages a network of drivers and senders via a phone and web application so that it assures options and varieties in the transportation service. The idea is that everyone can send stuff and everyone can deliver stuff. The startup was launched in 2015 and in December 2016 it secured $600K in seed funding.

Visiobike makes high tech electric bicycle with carbon fiber frame. The startup has developed technology that lets integration of every smartphone with components on the Visiobike. On the application the rider can track speed, battery level, change electric motor assistance level and plan the route on the navigation screen. Small HD camera placed under the seat sends the image to the application which changes the smartphone screen into the most advanced rear view mirror ever seen on a bicycle.

Vollo offers the simplest way to search, compare and book bus tickets in Croatia. It analyses hundreds of lines, routes and connections to provide users with the best solution for their travel. Vollo is Croatia’s leading online retailer of bus tickets. The company was launched in 2016.

Canelio offers a smart device (clicker) and a mobile app, that can change your dog’s training into a mobile game. It works like a universal communication tool between you and your dog. It is based entirely on positive training methods. It includes a great number of videos and a personalized training guide. The startup was launched in 2015 and it successfully participated in the most recent phase of the ABC Accelerator.

Innovative startups from Romania

Romania’s most valuable asset is its tech talent force and it is still quite easy to find and hire a good developer here. Yet, funding is insufficient and propitious startups usually move their teams abroad in order to have more chances in raising capital. Romania has a progressive tech ecosystem which does not get enough coverage. Therefore, here is a rank of a few startups from this Eastern European country which should leave you with no hesitancy whether Bucharest may really play a significant role in the tech world.

DeviceHub provides cloud services for the Internet of Things communication. It can be linked to any hardware and is meant for smart metering, fleet management, medical industry, home automation, IoT makers, automotive, wearables. The app lets users to transfer data between devices equipped with Windows or Android. The company received a EUR 80,000 funding from hub:raum Krakow, Deutsche Telekom’s Innovation Hub for the CEE region. This startup is already the second Romanian startup that has been given funds from hub:raum. The first one was OmniPaste in 2013.

Vector Watch promotes itself with 30-day strong battery for smart watches. The company has two product lines pushing a stainless steel frame with a fancy style. They also opened offices in American, British, Swiss and Hong Kong markets. The startup received a $5 million investment led by the GECAD group in 2015.

Skobbler produces navigation apps which have its digital mapping technology, which is based partially on OpenStreetMap. Their series of consumer apps include hybrid online/offline maps app, ForeverMaps2, as well as licensing its mapping engine technology to other companies which plug OSM data into their apps as an alternative to paying for Google Maps. The startup was purchased by the German subsidiary of California-based Telenav for $24M.

SkinVision is a mobile app which reveals mistrustful moles on
people’s skin, advising a doctor appointment or not. The startup states the accuracy of their system is 81%, which is the same as a dermatologist’s eyes. The startup moved to Amsterdam in 2012 following an investment round. It raised about €4.5 million in 5 years. The company currently participates in several research and data-gathering projects. It has collaborated with the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, a partnership which resulted in a paper published in the European Journal of Dermatology.

Pocketo  is a hardware platform which helps you develop Internet of Things projects with or without using physical components (like sensors, buttons, leds etc.) by providing a Bluetooth and WiFi development board. The app simulates those physical components, which would fit neatly into your design when you are finished. Then, the physical components fall right into place with your code, no adjustment needed.

123ContactForm provides web forms and surveys for different companies and NGOs worldwide. The company offers fast, easy and cost effective way of creating an online form which users can publish on Facebook, on their blog or on their website. They can link their web forms with 3rd party services, such as Google Docs, MailChimp, SalesForce and Twitter, with only one mouse click. The startup has raised €1 million from 3TS Catalyst Romania, the leading private equity growth and venture capital fund dedicated to Romania.

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.

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