I’m excited to announce that is really shaping up! The awards will be held on 27 June 2019, in London, UK on the front lawn of the in Hoxton, London — creating a fantastic and fun, garden party atmosphere in the heart of London’s tech startup scene. TechCrunch is once more the exclusive media sponsor of the awards and conference, alongside new ‘tech, culture & society’ event creator . You can nominate a startup, accelerator or venture investor which you think deserves to be recognized for their achievements in the last 12 months. *** The deadline for nominations is 1 May 2019. *** For the 2019 awards, we’ve overhauled the categories to a set that we believe better reflects the range of innovation, diversity and ambition we see in the European startups being built and launched today. There are now 20 categories including new additions to cover AgTech / FoodTech, SpaceTech, GovTech and Mobility Tech. Attendees, nominees and winners will get discounts to , later this year. The Europas “Diversity Pass” We’d like to encourage more diversity in tech! That’s why, for the upcoming invitation-only “Pathfounder” event held on the afternoon before The Europas Awards, we’ve reserved a tranche of free tickets to ensure that we include more women and people of colour who are “pre-seed” or “seed stage” tech startup founders to join us. If you are awomen founder or person of colour founder, for one of the limited free diversity passes to the event. The Pathfounder event will feature premium content and invitees, designed be a ‘fast download’ into the London tech scene for European founders looking to raise money or re-locate to London. The Europas Awards The Europas Awards results are based on voting by expert judges and the industry itself. But key to it is that there are no “off-limits areas” at The Europas, so attendees can mingle easily with VIPs. The complete list of categories is here: AgTech / FoodTech CleanTech Cyber EdTech FashTech FinTech Public, Civic and GovTech HealthTech MadTech (AdTech / MarTech) Mobility Tech PropTech RetailTech Saas/Enterprise or B2B SpaceTech Tech for Good Hottest Blockchain Project Hottest Blockchain Investor Hottest VC Fund Hottest Seed Fund Grand PrixTimeline of The Europas Awards deadlines: * 6 March 2019 – Submissions open* 1 May 2019 – Submissions close* 10 May 2019 – Public voting begins* 18 June 2019 – Public voting ends* 27 June 2019 – Awards Bash Amazing networking We’re also shaking up the awards dinner itself. Instead of a sit-down gala dinner, we’ve taken on your feedback for more opportunities to network. Our awards ceremony this year will be in the setting of a garden lawn party where you’ll be able to meet and mingle more easily with free-flowing drinks and a wide-selection of street food (including vegetarian/vegan). The ceremony itself will last approximately 75 minutes, with the rest of the time dedicated to networking. If you’d like to talk about sponsoring or exhibiting, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org Instead of thousands and thousands of people, think of a great summer event with the most interesting and useful people in the industry, including key investors and leading entrepreneurs. The Europas Awards have been going for the last ten years and we’re the only independent and editorially driven event to recognise the European tech startup scene. The winners have been featured in Reuters, Bloomberg, VentureBeat, Forbes, Tech.eu, The Memo, Smart Company, Cnet, many others and of course, TechCrunch. • No secret VIP rooms, which means you get to interact with the Speakers • Key Founders and investors attending • Journalists from major tech titles, newspapers and business broadcasters Meet the first set of our 20 judges: Brent HobermanExecutive Chairman and Co-FounderFounders Factory Videesha BöckleFounding Partnersignals Venture Capital Bindi KariaInnovation Expert + Advisor, InvestorBindi Ventures Christian HernandezChristian Hernandez GallardoCo-Founder and Venture Partner at White Star Capital
Drake’s latest collaboration isn’t with Kanye or Kendrick, it’s with Marissa Mayer. The rap superstar has joined a bevy of Silicon Valley investors, including Strauss Zelnick, Comcast, Macro Ventures, Canaan, RRE, Courtside and Marissa Mayer, to fund , an esports startup looking to pit gamers against each other in their favorite titles with some friendly wagers on the line. The startup has just that it closed $3 million in funding. The company, which has been around for five years, got its start as an esports startup looking to organize real-life matches at bars in New York City to play FIFA. That’s obviously not the most scalable business of all time, but last year after joining Y Combinator, the company really dove into a new model that looked to create an online hub for gamers to battle each other in titles of their choosing, with money on the line. The company has a heavy emphasis on sports titles, like FIFA 19, NBA 2K19 and Madden 19, but there are also some heavy hitters like Fortnite, Apex Legends and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. Gamers can set a match or join one in head-to-head challenges or in massive 500-person tournaments. The wagers are often a buck or two but can swell much higher. Players’ Lounge takes 10 percent of the bets as a fee. Because it’s a game of skill, not chance, there aren’t many issues with gambling regulations, though a few states still don’t allow the service, the company says. The startup plans to use their new cash to beef up their library of playable games and add to their development team.
has just bought up the talent it needs to make talking toys a part of Siri, HomePod, and its voice strategy. Apple has reportedly acquired PullString, also known as , according to . The company , artificial intelligence to power those experiences, and toys like and Thomas The Tank Engine toys in partnership with Mattel. Founded in 2011 by former Pixar executives, PullString went on to raise . Apple’s Siri is seen as lagging far behind Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, not only in voice recognition and utility, but also in terms of developer ecosystem. Google and Amazon has built platforms to distribute Skills from tons of voice app makers, including storytelling, quizzes, and other games for kids. If Apple wants to take a real shot at becoming the center of your connected living room with Siri and HomePod, it will need to play nice with the children who spend their time there. Buying could jumpstart Apple’s in-house catalog of speech-activated toys for kids as well as beef up its tools for voice developers. PullString did catch some flack for being a “child surveillance device” back in 2015, but by detailing the security built intoHello Barbie product and saying it’d never been hacked to steal childrens’ voice recordings or other sensitive info. Privacy norms have changed since with so many people readily buying always-listening Echos and Google Homes. In 2016 it rebranded as PullString with a focus on developers tools that allow for visually mapping out conversations and publishing finished products to the Google and Amazon platforms. Given SiriKit’s complexity and lack of features, PullString’s Converse platform could pave the way for a lot more developers to jump into building voice products for Apple’s devices. We’ve reached out to Apple and PullString for more details about whether PullString and ToyTalk’s products will remain available. The startup raised its cash including Khosla Ventures, CRV, Greylock, First Round, and True Ventures, with a Series D in 2016 as its last raise that PitchBook says valued the startup at $160 million. While the voicetech space has since exploded, it can still be difficult for voice experience developers to earn money without accompanying physical products, and many enterprises still aren’t sure what to build with tools like those offered by PullString. That might have led the startup to see a brighter future with Apple, strengthening one of the most ubiquitous though also most detested voice assistants.
A screengrab from Leaftail Labs’ game, which is still in prototype. (Leaftail Labs Photo) Top venture capital firms are making an early bet on a new Seattle startup that is pushing the envelope with immersive games. Leaftail Labs CEO Jessie Quinn. (Leaftail Labs Photo) recently reeled in $1.25 million from investors including Shasta Ventures, Maveron, Vulcan Capital, micro-funds, and angels. The year-old startup is led by and . The co-founders met at HBO’s Seattle engineering office, where Quinn was a senior interactive producer and Tayrien led engineering efforts. Leaftail isn’t revealing details about its games yet, but Quinn told GeekWire that her company combines gaming technology with the real world. She said the experience is somewhat similar to Pokémon Go, but noted that “we are doing things very distinctly different.” Bay Area-based Shasta, which has made other recent Seattle-area investments in startups such as Suplari, Skilljar, FlyHomes and Highspot, invested in Leaftail via its that supports startups developing AR/VR and computer vision applications. Michael Feller, technical artist (front), and Eli Tayrien, CTO, appear in a prototype of Leaftail Labs’ game. “The team’s native camera-first approach to augmented reality and depth of creative product vision is incredibly compelling,” Jacob Mullins, partner at Shasta, told GeekWire. “I have no doubt that they will be driving to redefine the immersive gaming landscape with their work.” Leaftail plans to grow its 5-person team with the fresh cash. Last month it hired , the original artist for the hit Plants vs. Zombies franchise, to be its art director. We caught up with Quinn to learn more about Leaftail for this edition of GeekWire’s Startup Spotlight. Explain what you do so our parents can understand it: We’re building a new generation of immersive augmented reality video games that hinge on player routine, key places, and social experiences in the real world. Inspiration hit us when: In our previous job Eli and I both had the opportunity to work with really exciting storytellers and some of the most cutting-edge immersive technology and hardware available. Spending those years being hands on with new tools and innovative content really pushed us into thinking about our industry differently. We started to see new opportunities everywhere and became fixated on being able to bring something new to life. VC, Angel or Bootstrap: We ended up working with a mix of VCs, micro-funds and angels for our seed round. When we were considering the right path for fundraising, the most important thing was being able to find partners who were excited about the specific future that we see over the horizon, regardless of their investment size or structure. Our ‘secret sauce’ is: I think there are two critical ingredients. The first is on the product side: we think deeply about the player and the real world they live in as a razor for decision making. The second ingredient is internal to the team and our culture. We’re building individual accountability and an obsession with learning into the foundation of the company. We believe it encourages the non-traditional thinking that is required in order to innovate. The smartest move we’ve made so far: Talking to other founders, a lot. Each founder that you happen to know (or don’t know yet) is a wealth of super useful experiences that could mean the difference between making a great decision or stumbling through a difficult situation. We’ve been extremely lucky that our personal networks included a handful of awesome friend-founders who helped us tremendously at various stages of our development. Taking advantage of knowing these folks has been definitely a smart move for us. Even if you don’t happen to have any friend-founders in your network, joining an organization like the Female Founders Alliance (which I also did) or a similar group could give you that experienced sounding board you needed at the exact right moment. The biggest mistake we’ve made so far: Not starting our hiring process sooner. We were really focused on making improvements to our prototype, finding our new office space and closing out the fundraising round before starting the hiring process. If we could roll back time I think we would try to parallelize this process since it just takes so long to spin up and find awesome candidates. We’re extremely happy with the talent we have found now, but if I could snap my fingers and have them onboarded a couple months sooner I would 100 percent take that opportunity. Which leading entrepreneur or executive would you most want working in your corner? I’d love to have Arlan Hamilton from Backstage Capital in our corner. I saw Arlan speak at last year’s Women @ Forbes event in Boston and her professional story was extremely inspirational to me. I had come to the larger event looking to connect with other founders and to start learning about the VC world, but I didn’t expect to see too many people like me in the crowds. Seeing her on stage and hearing about how she came to the venture side of the business and was able to do something new, different and totally on her own terms was really impactful. I felt much less afraid of jumping into our fundraising while still being my authentic self, which happens to be young, female and queer. I think in any capacity she’d be an amazing asset. Would you rather have Gates, Zuckerberg or Bezos in your corner? I’d choose Bill Gates. I think he and Melinda would have an interesting perspective to bring to the table about social responsibility, impact and a global world view. I think he’s had a long, mature and diverse career that has changed over time and I’m sure we’d have a ton to learn from him across a host of different topics. Our favorite team-building activity is: Talking about things we’re really excited about as individuals and sharing that with the team. We intentionally ask teammates to tell us about the things they love doing outside of work and share their excitement with us. Topics range wildly, from in-depth gardening conversations, Magic the Gathering chats, Halloween décor tips, the best Drag shows in town, awesome books people are reading, newest board games to hilarious stories about people’s kiddos. We think people being different and excited about something is a big part of what makes being around each other energizing, so we actively try to cultivate that feeling in the office. The biggest thing we look for when hiring is: Self-awareness. Beyond the baseline skills someone needs to succeed in their role, self-awareness is the most important personal attribute. Work can be difficult, filled with hard decisions and conflicting opinions. Sometimes, a startup environment creates even more of these challenges. We’ve found that the more self-awareness a person has, the better equipped they are to learn, adapt and grow in the face of those moments. They’re more likely to lift the team up, or think about a problem from a different perspective, which we think is truly invaluable. What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to other entrepreneurs just starting out: I’d love to give two, one about process and one about self-care. Regarding process: build a prototype as soon as you can and don’t be too precious about showing it to people. We could have done this sooner, but the second we did, people understood our vision more quickly and had a deeper belief in our skills. If you had to choose, I’d take a prototype into a pitch over a fancy deck any day. And, regarding self-care: make sure you have someone in the wings who understands your business – or at least what you’re trying to do – and will help you celebrate your small incremental wins. Ideally, this person is not your significant other. They’re great, of course, but you’ll overload them if you’re constantly leaning on them for detailed feedback and cheerleading. Finding another founder or someone who you’ve worked with in the past who can take on this support role will help tremendously. To be clear, this isn’t just a typical mentor: it’s someone whose goal is to actively help you recognize positive moments and draw your attention to them. It will mean a lot more if this comes from someone who knows your business or has also walked the path you’re on.