Numer.ai is a crowdsourced hedge fund for machine learning experts

robot, technology, future, futuristic, business, economy, business, money, dollar, bill, high tech, cyber, cyber technology, data, artificial intelligence, 3D, metal, blue background, studio, science, sci fi, hand, gesture, robotic, tech, illustration, innovation, shiny, chrome, silver, wires, concept, creative Richard Craib believes that some of the best stock pickers aren’t on Wall Street. The former hedge funder came to the realization that tech’s machine learning experts may be able to build better predictive models than those with finance backgrounds. Craib carried this thesis forward when he launched Numer.ai last year, a crowdsourced hedge fund. The startup hopes to attract the… Read More

Abra: Innovation in Remittance

I’m really pleased to announce First Round Capital’s investment in Abra, the first global peer to peer cash money transfer network using the Blockchain/Bitcoin technology for secure low cost transfers.  As their founder, Bill Barhydt says “our mission is to replace bank driven financial inclusion with consumer driven financial inclusion.”

We have been looking at the Bitcoin space for a number of years, and trying to find the right models to invest in.  Better security and useful applications will be the key to widespread adoption.  Abra has found an important space in the $500 Billion remitted globally each year, mostly with very high fees paid by those who can ill afford it. By storing digital cash directly in the phones  of Abra Tellers ™ (via a Bitcoin wallet), which lets them take cash from workers and empowering the tellers to transfer it Abra Tellers™  who can dispense cash in the recipients home country, Abra creates a peer to peer global network of players for moving money around the world.  The tellers can charge a fee, and abra gets a small portion of that fee.  Because of the easy liquidity of Bitcoin, even amounts of less than $10 can be remitted, with most of the remittance going to the intended party, rather than being lost in high fees.

Another innovation is that while the value of Bitcoin in the teller wallets will fluctuate, Abra can guarantee the home currency value for the first 72 hours, making the transaction free of Bitcoin fluctuations  in dollars or other local currencies.

Bill has assembled a great team with experience at Boom, Opera, Goldman Sachs, Netscape, Verisign, eBay and other great companies.  And we’re thrilled to be partners with RRE, Lerer Hippeau Ventures, Mesa+ and other great investors.  We believe that Abra will finally show the world how the Bitcoin/blockchain infrastructure can help solve real problems in the financial world.

Here's a picture of how it works, you can get in line for the beta at http://goabra.com

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Abra: Innovation in Remittance

I’m really pleased to announce First Round Capital’s investment in Abra, the first global peer to peer cash money transfer network using the Blockchain/Bitcoin technology for secure low cost transfers.  As their founder, Bill Barhydt says “our mission is to replace bank driven financial inclusion with consumer driven financial inclusion.”

We have been looking at the Bitcoin space for a number of years, and trying to find the right models to invest in.  Better security and useful applications will be the key to widespread adoption.  Abra has found an important space in the $500 Billion remitted globally each year, mostly with very high fees paid by those who can ill afford it. By storing digital cash directly in the phones  of Abra Tellers ™ (via a Bitcoin wallet), which lets them take cash from workers and empowering the tellers to transfer it Abra Tellers™  who can dispense cash in the recipients home country, Abra creates a peer to peer global network of players for moving money around the world.  The tellers can charge a fee, and abra gets a small portion of that fee.  Because of the easy liquidity of Bitcoin, even amounts of less than $10 can be remitted, with most of the remittance going to the intended party, rather than being lost in high fees.

Another innovation is that while the value of Bitcoin in the teller wallets will fluctuate, Abra can guarantee the home currency value for the first 72 hours, making the transaction free of Bitcoin fluctuations  in dollars or other local currencies.

Bill has assembled a great team with experience at Boom, Opera, Goldman Sachs, Netscape, Verisign, eBay and other great companies.  And we’re thrilled to be partners with RRE, Lerer Hippeau Ventures, Mesa+ and other great investors.  We believe that Abra will finally show the world how the Bitcoin/blockchain infrastructure can help solve real problems in the financial world.

Here's a picture of how it works, you can get in line for the beta at http://goabra.com

Abra1

 

Abra2

Abra3

Abra: Innovation in Remittance

I’m really pleased to announce First Round Capital’s investment in Abra, the first global peer to peer cash money transfer network using the Blockchain/Bitcoin technology for secure low cost transfers.  As their founder, Bill Barhydt says “our mission is to replace bank driven financial inclusion with consumer driven financial inclusion.”

We have been looking at the Bitcoin space for a number of years, and trying to find the right models to invest in.  Better security and useful applications will be the key to widespread adoption.  Abra has found an important space in the $500 Billion remitted globally each year, mostly with very high fees paid by those who can ill afford it. By storing digital cash directly in the phones  of Abra Tellers ™ (via a Bitcoin wallet), which lets them take cash from workers and empowering the tellers to transfer it Abra Tellers™  who can dispense cash in the recipients home country, Abra creates a peer to peer global network of players for moving money around the world.  The tellers can charge a fee, and abra gets a small portion of that fee.  Because of the easy liquidity of Bitcoin, even amounts of less than $10 can be remitted, with most of the remittance going to the intended party, rather than being lost in high fees.

Another innovation is that while the value of Bitcoin in the teller wallets will fluctuate, Abra can guarantee the home currency value for the first 72 hours, making the transaction free of Bitcoin fluctuations  in dollars or other local currencies.

Bill has assembled a great team with experience at Boom, Opera, Goldman Sachs, Netscape, Verisign, eBay and other great companies.  And we’re thrilled to be partners with RRE, Lerer Hippeau Ventures, Mesa+ and other great investors.  We believe that Abra will finally show the world how the Bitcoin/blockchain infrastructure can help solve real problems in the financial world.

Here's a picture of how it works, you can get in line for the beta at http://goabra.com

Abra1

 

Abra2

Abra3

When Machines Talk, Augury Listens

There has been lots of excitement about the Internet of Things, - where devices communicate with humans and one another.  But machines talk in many ways, not just digitally, but through the sounds their motors, gears, belts, etc. all make.  Our newest investment, Augury Systems, actually listens to these sounds and uses AI technology to do predictive maintenance on the machinery. We call it DaaS – Diagnostics as a Service.

While there have been vibration monitors for years, they have been extremely expensive to purchase, and require lots of expertise to analyze the results.  Augury’s cofounders, Saar Yoskovitz and Gal Shaul, have brought an inexpensive sensor, coupled with smart phone technology to the task of collecting the data and uploading to the cloud. 

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Once in their cloud, it can be analyzed with their specialized algorithms to determine, for example, that there is a hairline crack in a fan blade, or that a gear is slightly off round.  Finding these conditions early permits preventive maintenance to be performed, potentially saving tens of thousands of dollars of repair it that fan blade broke off and hit other parts of the machine.  And the user interfaces and dashboards provide a great view of the health of a building’s systems through time.

As any of you who’ve been on a power boat know, your ears become acutely tuned to the sounds of the engine.  When it speeds up, slows down, or hopefully rarely, starts to make grinding noises, everyone knows there’s been a change that may need looking at.  The Augury team, which includes former Naval personnel, took this idea and found a way to implement it, initially for industrial machinery.  This is a giant market, and they have pilots in several countries with major building and equipment maintenance businesses.

While good preventive maintenance can save money for building owners and others, Augury has found that Predictive Maintenance can increase these savings by 8-12% over just preventive. And the US Department of Energy says that building owners can save $1/sq ft/year by implementing Predictive Maintenance, which amounts to real money for even modest sized buildings.

In the longer run, their sensors could be put on every washing machine, refrigerator, etc. uploading baseline data to the cloud, and warning the owners before expensive repairs are needed. Prognostics is this new science of predicting the future, while helping keep that internet of things running.

First Round Capital is thrilled to have led the investment in Augury, joined by Orfin Ventures, Lerer-Hippeau, and a number of others.  We have no doubt that eventually, all of our machines will have embedded sensors that report this type of vibration and acoustic data, and that using the big data and AI methods in the cloud will radically reduce the amount of down time we have to endure.  And we believe that Augury Systems is leading the way.

CloudHelix: Understanding and Managing Network Infrastructure

I’m thrilled to announce that First Round has led the seed financing round for CloudHelix, which is helping web and network operators to easily and more fully understand and manage their infrastructure. This new, scalable platform allows for the collection, fast visualization and querying of network traffic and performance. Developed by veteran leaders in networking, site operations and content delivery networks, CloudHelix already counts some of the largest infrastructure operators in the world as customers.

Led by Avi Freedman, a top network pro with more than 20 years of experience (he was my first ISP in the Philadelphia area in 1993 and later ran Abovenet’s engineering and Akamai’s network groups), along with Co-founders Ian Applegate, Ian Pye, and Justin Biegel, the team has run large networks and service operations for decades. Dan Ellis, who recently joined as CTO, is also seasoned at running major, scalable networks. While some players in this space have created tools to monitor and manage their huge packet flows, the vast majority still run things manually — tuning routers, logging into multiple systems from multiple vendors, and getting incomplete information from peers with no easy ability to share.

Companies using CloudHelix’s single scalable system can easily collect routing, detailed traffic utilization, and performance data from all infrastructure elements. This data is also funneled into an open system with an SQL interface, allowing for ad hoc analysis and integration with external tools. It quickly performs detailed traffic forensics and makes dDoS attacks and performance issues visible. Over the next year, the platform will be extended to allow opt-in, community-based sharing of aggregated data in real time to further extend customers’ capabilities. No longer will they need to fight performance and network attack issues in isolation.

If this all sounds like rocket science, it is. While I had a very early machine on the ARPANET in 1973, I recently took the Stanford online course on networks. As it turns out, taking characters smoothly and reliably from Typepad to your screen is a massive, daunting task. It’s difficult for even net ops and dev ops engineers to obtain the visibility necessary to diagnose and fix problems. On top of that, customers see outages before site and network operators.  CloudHelix is making that task simpler and faster, with setup and time to initial visibility taking mere minutes.

 

We’re excited to be joined in this investment by Data Collective Venture Capital, The Webb Investment Network, Tahoma Ventures and Orfin Ventures, as well as a who’s who of angels that really understand large networks. If you’re running one, you should know CloudHelix.

Privacy Policies for Mobile Applications

Privacy is a crucial issue for most of the advertising driven companies we invest in.  Many of our companies have been in the forefront of ensuring that not only do they take the proper care of the data, they also make their policies transparent to interested users.

As mobile apps become increasingly relevant, what happens to consumer data from these devices becomes equally important. A solid, updated privacy policy is crucial to control the risk of mismanaging data, especially considering the recent regulatory developments. While many developers want to do right by their users, there are not a lot of resources out there to help them figure out how.

Now, First Round portfolio company Docracy presents an open-source privacy policy for mobile apps: http://www.docracy.com/mobileprivacy/  As with all the legal documents on Docracy, it’s Github like structure lets developers branch the document (i.e., make a public copy that will maintain a relationship with the original, and publicly show what’s changed) to customize it for their application.

I like Docracy’s initiative because offers a practical solution: three different versions covering the most common types of policies to provide a sensible, fair starting point for app developers. Like a Github of legal documents, Docracy’s founders have 6 years of experience in building mobile apps, and they know how much easier life would be for app creators if public standards could be established.

I’d encourage developers to take a look, and incorporate some form of privacy policy in their mobile applications.  The gatekeepers are starting to enforce standards that will make all that necessary, and Docracy is trying to make it simple.