If you’re looking for sun, promising startups and investors, we’d recommend you to join this year’s EU-Startups Summit on May 2-3 in sunny Barcelona. The event will gather 1,200 of Europe’s best startup founders, VCs and business angels, has an exciting program on 2 stages, a great networking app, pitch competition, and a after-party.
EU-Startups is one of the most popular online media which covers happening in the growing European tech. Like other popular online media one of the growing segments of their business is their flagship conference. If you are a startup founder (or you plan to become one), startup enthusiast, corporate executive looking for innovative ways to deploy digital transformation, VC, business angel…you will definitely find those 2 days useful and inspiring. As a standard practice at the startup events, you will be able to see startup pitch of 15 startups (selected out of more than 1000 applicants). And, sunny Barcelona and already great weather in May, is by all means, an extra value-proposition.
Some great names from the European startup scene have already confirmed their presence. The best events have excellent networking opportunities and at the EU Startups Summit you will be able to meet people like Kaidi Ruusalepp (Founder and CEO of Funderbeam), Avi Meir (Founder and CEO of TravelPerk), Naren Sham (Founder and CEO of Omio f.k.a GoEuro), Carlos Pierre (Founder and CEO of Badi), Alejandro Artacho (Co-Founder and CEO of Spotahome) and many more…
Human resources (HR) is one of the core things that distinguishes bad companies from good ones and good companies from great ones. That is especially true when it comes to managing mobile and global talents with all the the challenges it bring.
Today we are presenting you an interview with Brynne Kennedy, CEO of Topia. Her idea for Topia stemmed from her global career in finance and researchinghow bold companies are transforming their workforces with mobility betweenlocations and roles.
What is Topia?
Topia provides a future of work platform that enables companies and
their employees to work everywhere around the globe. Our platform powers global
mobility programs at the world’s leading companies including Dell, Schneider
Electric, AXA and Equinor. Put simply, companies use us to move their
What sort of activities and functionalities are included within the Topia platform that users can take advantage of in their everyday work?
We have two experiences—one for HR teams and one for mobile employees. For HR teams, our software takes away a lot of the friction of managing a globally mobile workforce with functionality like automatically creating a cost projection for an assignment, generating and storing documents, authorizing vendors for relocation services and calculating payroll instructions and year end compensation reviews for mobile employees. These things are all incredibly manual and complicated—which makes it hard for companies to operate really globally!
For employees, we have a portal that enables them to manage there location related tasks and explore a destination, all with personalization for individual and family preferences.
Who is your target group when we speak about the company size? Or if the company size is not that important, is it more important how often they have employees from abroad or if they relocate their employees to other countries?
We typically sell to enterprise companies with 5,000 employees or more, but there are cases where the complexity of a company’s global mobility program or number would warrant the use of a system like ours even if they are not quite as large.
You offer city guide so that users more easily learn about their new city. What other helpful information can you offer for mobile workers about their new city? Do you offer options to connect with other people who recently moved in to a certain city so they can meet offline?
Our city guides provide a great deal of information about an employee’s new city and where they might like to live. The guides cover a wide range of topics—everything from how to set up utilities or registering with local authorities to the popular sports teams and weekend activities to do with your kids. We’re pulling hundreds of live data points and combining that with curated content to deliver an experience akin to an interactive digital magazine. One feature we’re really excited about is our Neighborhood Planner which enables you to find the right neighborhood based on metrics like commute time or costs. Today, we don’t offer options in the employee product to connectwith other people who have recently moved to a new city, although in major expat hubs there are separate third party web communities for people to connect.
Moving to another city can be stressful for employees but also often requires a lot of work for HR people. What are those things that you think consume the most time, for newcomers and for HR people,and how Topia helps in reducing that needed time?
For a lot of folks in HR and Global Mobility the process of moving an employee involves a lot of logistical administration—projecting costs, filling out forms to authorize vendors, chasing approvals from necessary stakeholders, managing spreadsheets to track costs, ensuring visa renewal dates are met and similar administrative activities. It ends up being an inefficient and poor use of the HR team’s time. By using technology to manage your program we’re able to automate nearly all of these types of activities. For example, when you initiate a move, instead of having to fill out roughly the same information multiple times to initiate different vendors, the Topia system is able to pull all the necessary employee information from your HRIS system like Workday, SAP SuccessFactors or Oracle and then automatically authorize the necessary relocation vendors based on the approved policy and benefits. That alone saves real time for the HR team.
Employees face different challenges. They’re worrying “Where am I going to live? How will my stuff get there? What do I need to know about my new office/role? How do I setup my mobile phone, setup internet, get groceries, etc.” Inevitably your employees end up spending working hours thinking or managing through these questions. By providing them the information and tools to manage their relocation in a single place we’re able to drastically simplify the process for a relocating employee.
This time we are presenting you an innovative startup Anzu which is trying to connect advertisers seamlessly with gamers while they do what they love the most – play games. As you can see from the interview, based on the different stats, it is very un-saturated market with the huge growth potential.
What is Anzu?
Anzu has built a new advertising ecosystem that enables to create meaningful connections between people and brands using games. We call it blended in-game advertising because ads fully blend into the game world and become part of it. You can see it in action below.
Reaching hard-to-reach audience in AAA titles is a huge advertising possibility if done right. Compared to TV advertising it is almost un-saturated market. What is your unique selling proposition compared to similar products?
The thing is that there’re no similar platforms that operate across the whole digital space. And that’s an issue since each year advertisers invest more and more into digital and they are always looking for new audience types and wider reach. At the same time, AAA publishers don’t have a scalable solution to bring ad monetization into their games, as the existing solutions and ad formats are very intrusive. We connected the dots and developed a cross-platform solution that enables top-tier game studios to make their game world more realistic with fully blended in-game ads that don’t block user sessions. We cover VR, AR, mobile, PC, console, connected TV and eSports verticals and operate on both Unity and Unreal.
Talking about other differentiators, we have also developed an in-house 3D ad tracking engine that measures ad viewability in real time. It gives advertisers full control over game environment they appear in, specific ad placements and ad quality in general. Our tracking system is compatible with 3rd party brand safety tools which means double protection, and brand safety.
Esports is getting more and more popular. With growing Esports it is logical that in-game advertising will follow the similar growth trend. What is some current in-game advertising market in size at the moment and what can be expected in the nearest future like 2020?
You’re right! We do expect in-game advertising to blossom within the next few years.
According to eMarketer, advertisers invested about $232B into digital space in 2017. However, only $5.6B was generated by in-game ads. The gap is huge for a number of reasons – lack of a scalable tech solution on both the publisher and advertiser sides, as I mentioned above; and lack of knowledge/education on what audiences the current games can offer. The gamer profile has changed a lot, but advertisers are still cautious and think that they can target only teenagers playing games. It’s challenging, but we hope to bridge this gap by developing innovative technologies and investing time and effort into the market education. Having talks with AAA game studios and Fortune 500 brands, we see their interest in in-game ads, which makes us think that in-game revenues have a good chance to boost within 2-3 years.
How easy is for brands to have ads in games and virtual worlds and how easily developers can integrate your solution?
As veterans in the AdTech and gaming worlds, we did our best to make the platform easy to use. Developers can integrate our SDK in a matter of minutes with a drag-&-drop integration available for both Unity and Unreal engines.
People often mention so called banner-blindness as users often don’t even notice banners. What is your experience when it comes to in-game advertising? What are the reactions of the users, advertisers and game producers?
We took care of the advertisers as well. Our optimization engine transforms conventional ad formats into immersive in-game ads in real time. It means that advertisers do not need to build specific in-game creatives and can launch a campaign right away. This, combined with our ability to serve ads dynamically, also enables advertisers to work with us via the existing media buying channels they use – DSPs, Ad exchanges, PMPs, etc.
In-game advertising is the ultimate solution to fight banner blindness. Why? Ads fully blend into the game play and become an integral part of it. On the one hand, it’s difficult to miss them, but on the other hand, they don’t disrupt user experience which creates a win-win-win situation for the users, game developers and advertisers.
We’ve had a lot of discussions with the US gamers at E3 and GDC this year and were delighted to hear only positive feedback about the demos we showed.
The majority of gamers state that they have wondered why games do not have any billboards/logos and other ads we’re used to in real life. They also notice that in-game ads make the game world more realistic and vivid. On the economy level, we understand that the in-game advertising ecosystem can bring a free-to-play monetization model to the PC and console worlds that was not available up to date, or at least reduce the game price.
But it takes much more time to “turn” advertisers into the new technology adopters. Evidently, since it’s a matter of reputation, budget, prestige, a chain of decision makers…
When do you expect that VR and AR gaming will become wide-spread?
VR and AR are very different by nature, and we assume that their applications will differ too. In terms of VR, its main blockers are technology and cost at the moment. The more advanced technologies we see – device size, connection type, mobility, stability – and the cheaper devices cost, the more people are willing to give it a try. VR has a bright gaming future, but for now developers do not want to invest time and money into this space due to high costs and pretty poor user base. We believe that the situation might change by 2020-2022. AR is among the hottest gaming trends of 2018 and we believe that next year its worldwide adoption will boost.
Please tell us about your future plans (if you can share it with our readers)?
We’ve perfected the product, have gone through the beta stage and are now fully available to the public. We have ambitious plans and hope 2019 to be a breakthrough year, full of productive events and long-term fruitful partnerships.
After a longer hiatus, we are back! Sorry for this delay, but we can promise you that from now on you can expect from us regular updates from the region of Southern and Eastern Europe Middle East and Africa (SEEMEA) with the focus on interviews with people who lead companies which have been established or have connection with this fantastic and emerging region.
We have that pleasure that the first, in the series of interviews, is with Dr. Zvi Schreiber, CEO of Freightos. Freightos is creating an international online freight marketplace and freight automation technology making global shipping easier. With the headquarter in Jerusalem, they offer one of the leading global SaaS called Freightos AcceleRate for logistics companies. So far they have raised 55.9m USD.
After several companies and exits you have decided to launch an online freight marketplace. What was the reason which influenced your decision to launch Freightos?
The core driver was my own personal pain with the import/export process. It was through some trial and error (but mostly error) in importing goods from China to the US and EU in a previous company that I understood just how sorely the freight industry needed an upgrade – it used to take us upwards of 72 hours just to get a single freight quote. Global trade, worth $19 trillion and absolutely integral to nearly everything we consume, has remained virtually untouched by technology. I decided to change this by founding Freightos.
Freightos helps freight forwarders, carriers, importers and exporters. Do freight forwarders (or anyone else) have ever perceived you as enemies or competitors for their old-school way of doing business, frenemies similar like OTA-hotels or taxi companies-ride-hailing apps relations, or you haven’t experienced such obstacles and they all perceive you as partner that will help grow their businesses?
Change is always difficult and there will always be companies that are averse to evolution. However most forwarders now understand that the industry is changing and recognize Freightos as a lifeboat. A new generation of tech-enabled forwarders are emerging and targeting current forwarder markets; Freightos provides leading forwarders with the digital tools they need to better service their customers, as well as access to on-demand global freight index data. As a result, over one thousand forwarders work with us to automate freight sales. On the Freightos marketplace, we actually serve as another means to drive sales for freight forwarders. As an example, one of our smaller forwarders recently hit the one million dollars mark in online sales, a sizeable achievement for a small business.
What is the value proposition of Freightos you are most proud of?
We are tremendously proud our efforts to move global trade online, and particularly with last year’s launch of the online freight marketplace. Global trade has been the driving force of the economy from the time of ancient civilizations through today and many see it as a major contributor to world peace; it’s now time for it to join the Netflix and Amazon generation. The transparency and accessibility provided to small and midsize importers is a huge value and one that we’re incredibly proud of.
You offer rates for all type of shipments, so for land, ocean and air. Which area has the biggest demand on your platform and which one has the biggest growth?
International importing and exporting, especially among smaller and midsize businesses is on the rise. Air and ocean certainly drive the majority of our bookings with more shipments by ocean but more spend on air. Trucking, especially in the US, has had a head-start on automation, so our real differentiation is on the international air and ocean side.
You connect forwarders and carriers on one side and importers and exporters on the other side. Do you feel that Freightos is at the moment more popular by the representatives of one side and that you need to improve the interest of other side or you are satisfied with the activities of the all key stakeholders? What has been more challenging for you – to increase the demand or supply?
The trick about marketplaces is balancing both supply and demand. Since we’ve spent five years creating technology that helps freight forwarders stay relevant in a changing world, we already have a strong supply side and now at the stage of aggressively ramping up demand. Of course, more demand translates into even more forwarders interested in selling on our marketplace so the balancing act never really ends. That said, our core focus today is scaling up increasingly larger marketplace buyers.
We are witnesses that on-demand platforms are usually very-well funded in order to achieve their global goals. Do you think that online freight marketplace is a winner-takes-all business, or that there will be place for several platforms like yours, or you believe that in the years that come many of the current providers will also remain in the business?
International freight is one of largest markets in the world so there is room for a handful of winners. In the air travel world, there are dozens of major OTAs and online booking sites that are successful have valued in the billions. That said, international freight is much more complex with bigger barriers to competitors. The Freightos Marketplace is uniquely positioned, given our unprecedented supply side access, powerful technology, and market traction.
You have extensive entrepreneurial experience on different markets. Can you please tell us the main differences in growing a company in Israel, Europe, Asia and elsewhere? Are there actually some geo-defined differences or everything comes down to good idea, good timing and good execution?
Certainly there are reasons for growing a company in one region over the other, but in my experience I have found that it is far more important to focus on the mission of the company and the talent within the company than what country it is located in. Wherever the company is located you have to see the whole worlds as your market. I attribute much of my current success to date to assembling the right team that knows how to get things done. I’ve continued working with the some of the same people from my first company through today – we’re a good team and we don’t want to lose that chemistry!
You are also the author of the book Fizz: Nothing Is as it Seems where you wrote about universe, time travel and how science and technology redefine the human experience. As we all know, technology and inventions can do as good and harm, depending on the usage. Do you believe that science and technology will help to shape the better world and to benefit the humankind? What do you think when the online freight marketplaces will have rates for space shipment, as well? And at the end – do you think that eventually time travel will be possible and if you do, whether it will be possible to travel only in the future, in the past or in both directions :)?
Wow, interesting set of questions. I will say briefly that time travel into the future is definitely possible, time travel to the past remains science fiction. I guess you’ll have to read Fizz to learn more! There is no doubt that science and technology do help to shape a better world but there are also some big risks from the rapid development of artificial intelligence not to mention not so new risks from nuclear weapons which are back in the headlines. And yes I could see Freightos having rates for shipments to space – there is already a competitive market for delivering payloads to low earth orbit and room for a marketplace.
For several years France has been trying to become one of the most important startup basins in the world. The country offers Europe’s largest tax discount for research and development. There are 71 innovative clusters combining universities, private enterprises and research centers.
France already has several success stories. Among the most spectacular ones are BlaBlaCar, a service linking drivers having free seats in their vehicles with people looking for transportation, streaming service Deezer or manufacturer of thermostats Nest, bought by Google for an impressive sum of $3.2 billion. The below list presents these small French companies which are still not well known but deserve special attention for their innovation:
Happn – An application which uses current location of your phone to find and show you persons with whom your paths have crossed and potentially liked us. Of course, to be in the timeline presenting the people we passed, both persons have to use Happn. This is to be the solution for situations when our attention is drawn to the person sitting opposite us on the bus, but before we get the courage to speak to her, she gets off. Or when we liked someone we passed on the street. The idea appealed to the investors – in December 2014 the company managed to raise $8 million in the first round of financing.
Cookening – An American Airbnb-like platform which connects residents of a given city with tourists who would like to taste real local food. These “host” users create their own profiles on the site, where they publish photos of meals they have prepared to encourage potential visitors. Importantly, Cookening offers not only unique culinary experiences but also the possibility to engage in social interaction.
StarOfService – The platform connects local service providers with customers and allows them to adapt to their needs – price range, location or preferred time. After submitting an inquiry, the customer gets an email and he chooses which offer he wants to use. The service is available to users looking for local services tailored to their specific needs – from wedding photographers, plumbers, language teachers, DJs, to Pokemon Go trainers to hire. Last year, the startup raised $10 million from investors for further development.
Mention – The image of our company is built, among others, by the type of relationships we have with our clients. The faster we are able to react to consumer feedback, the better. The tool created by Mention startup not only informs users in real time about their company being mentioned on the internet, but also allows an immediate response to an article or post in social media. This ultra-fast media monitoring is already used by companies such as: Microsoft, Spotify and GitHub.