The Coronavirus is having an enormous impact on the US economy, according to an unusual source of data, but it's also been a boon to at least four startups
The coronavirus remains a concern at a big Israeli tech conference, put on the by crowdsourced VC OurCrowd. People are joking about not shaking hands. And hundreds of Chinese delegates had to cancel their physical attendance, thanks to travel bans. They have tried to attend via videoconferencing The impact of the virus on the economy is starting to be measurable and in a big way, the CMO of a freight startup, that tracks international shipping says. But the international health crises has some unexpected bright spots. At least four Israeli startups have technologies that are being adapted to help stop the spread of the illness. Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.
Over 23,000 people from 180 countries descended on Jerusalem on Thursday to attend the OurCrowd tech conference, one of the most unusual VC funds in the tech industry, founded by Israeli VC icon Jon Medved. And everyone had one nagging concern on the back on their minds: the Coronavirus. Israel is one of the countries that has banned direct travel from mainland China. So delegations of hundreds of Chinese investors were unable to attend this conference dedicated to matching Israeli startups with investors. China has been a major source of investment into Israeli startups over the years, even for OurCrowd, which is an unconventional VC. OurCrowd raises its funds — now more than $1.4 billion under management — from doctors, lawyers, anyone that qualifies as an accredited investor, in addition to institutional investors. Investors buy in at $10,000 minimum chunks and can then use the OurCrowd platform to decide which funding term sheets they want to support (or they for a $50,000 minimum, they can buy into a something that looks more like a mutual fund). In the US, accredited investors means individuals who make more than $200,000 or couples that make more than $300,000, aka people weathly enough to invest in securities that are not public and subject to all the laws that govern public companies. Medved even joked on stage about it during a Wednesday, pre-conference, invitational talk on stage to select investors. He dug up an old cartoon of the Swine virus which offered alternatives to shaking hands: the fully clothed elbow bump. Conference organizers also scrambled to add livestreaming to more of the conferences events to China, and to set up video calls between many of the startups what were hoping to use the gathering to pitch to Chinese investors. "We want to send a shoutout to all of friends in China and Asia. Our thoughts are with you. This virus will be fought in all of the world. We are disturbed today by what happened in Barcelona, where they canceled the Mobile World Congress," he said. But the truth is, the worries about the impact of the virus runs even deeper than fears of contracting it by gathering together an international crowd, fresh from airports worldwide. The impact of the virus on American business is already enormous, said Eytan Buchman, CMO of Israeli international freight and shipping startup Freightos in a press conference. Freightos is a platform that helps companies of all sizes find international shippers for the supplies they buy and products sell. The company is an Amazon shipping partner. Through the $20 trillion of exports that flows across its platform involving 1,600 logistics service providers, it has collected so much data on worldwide shipping trends, and the business trends that power the need for shipping, that the company is working on creating a derivative investment market based on its data. Here's the type of data Freightos knows: Since the Coronavirus outbreak has hampered travel to and from mainland China and sickened tens of thousands of people, US companies have been madly searching for alternative suppliers outside of China. Whereas, 3-6% of American companies of the 8,000 companies using its platform typically search for manufacturing suppliers outside China, in the past couple of weeks, close to 20% of them are trying to find suppliers outside of China.
Israeli startups to the rescue? Meanwhile, here in the Startup Nation, four startups have discovered that their technology may be help address the Coronavirus risk, Medved says. They are MeMed Diagnosis a company that has developed a test that can instantly determine if an illness is a viral infection or a bacterial infection testing. Sight Diagnosis known in Israel as the anti-Theranos, which sells an FDA-approved device that does full blood diagnosis from a few drops of blood, a device small enough and portable enough to be used in isolated, quarantined areas. "So you don't need to take the blood from potential patients and move that into [blood testing labs] in the general blood supply," Medved said. SaNOtize a company that have found a way to make an aerosol and gel with Nitric Oxide gas (NO), with its anti viral/anti-bacterial properties, to make it a practical and more affordable medicine. And the most unusual one is VocalZoom. This company is working on one of the world's most sensitive vibration sensor, "able to pick up from distance your heart rate," Medved said. The focus of it has been for IoT applications for remote monitoring in difficult industrial environments. But the companies are also working to integrate the sensor tech for airports to help detect if a traveler is ill. Medved has also applauded the government of Israel's decision to build a vaccine manufacturing facility as low-cost vaccines are the area getting the least amount of R&D funding he said. "The Coronavirus is is a world health emergency," Medved said. "It's not just about quarantined and travel bans. How do we stop this in its tracks?"Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: People are still debating the pink or grey sneaker, 2 years after it went viral. Here's the real color explained.
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It was a rough first quarter for wealth-tech, and the number of startups that nabbed new funding tumbled to the lowest since 2015
During the first quarter, venture capital firms funded the fewest number of wealth- and investment-technology firms...During the first quarter, venture capital firms funded the fewest number of wealth- and investment-technology firms since the fourth quarter of 2015, according to a new report from CB Insights. "The economic shocks stemming from the outbreak of the coronavirus have decreased investor appetite for fintech," analysts at the research and data provider wrote. Venture investors have poured billions of dollars into the wealth management space in recent years as a crop of startups challenge legacy investment managers and try to appeal to a new generation of investors. Visit BI Prime for more stories. Venture capital investors were already funding fewer and fewer wealth- and investment-tech companies. Then the coronavirus hit. During the first quarter, venture capital firms funded the fewest number of privately held wealth management startups since the fourth quarter of 2015, according to a report from CB Insights. VC investors invested in 27 different companies during the first three months of the year, the lowest level since the fourth quarter of 2015. Twenty-five deals were recorded globally that quarter to cap off a volatile year: Greece faced a debt crisis, China devalued the yuan, and global equity markets plunged. "The economic shocks stemming from the outbreak of the coronavirus have decreased investor appetite for fintech," analysts at the New York research and data provider wrote. Even with the drop-off in volume of funds raised in recent quarters — 65 companies were funded during the first quarter of 2019 — total funding amount ticked higher since late last year. $268 million was raised during the fourth quarter, and $420 million was raised in the first quarter. Still, the decline highlights the cautious posture for startups and investors alike. VCs seeking to back fintech firms are broadly backing away from early-stage rounds (seed and Series A) as they shift focuses to prep their portfolio companies for the projected economic recession this year, according to CB Insights. The first quarter also saw a drop-off in mega-rounds, which CB defines as worth at least $100 million. "From insurtech and lending to payments and infrastructure, fintech and big tech players across every vertical are accelerating product development to prepare for the downstream impacts of the coronavirus and a recession," analysts wrote. There were some notable rounds in the digital wealth and investment space raised early this year. iCapital, the New York-based alternative investing platform, said in March that it closed a $146 million raise led by the Ping An Global Voyager Fund, the Chinese conglomerate Ping An's venture arm. Before the global slowdown started tamping down the breadth of digital wealth companies funded, investors poured billions of dollars into the space as a fresh crop of startups look to challenge legacy investment managers and try to appeal to a new generation of investors. Some notable digital wealth managers and robo-advisers haven't raised new funding in years. Betterment, the New York-based robo-adviser, last publicly announced a round of funding in 2017, a $70 million round led by the Swedish investment company Kinnevik. Wealthfront, its chief rival, last announced a round of funding in 2018 led by Tiger Global Management and existing venture capital investors including Benchmark Capital and Greylock Partners. Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: Why electric planes haven't taken off yet
Company reports $58.3bn in sales as CEO says China sales ‘headed in the right direction’ despite...Company reports $58.3bn in sales as CEO says China sales ‘headed in the right direction’ despite coronavirusApple reported sales and profits that beat Wall Street expectations on Thursday despite fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, with Tim Cook saying China sales were “headed in the right direction” as that country reopens.But the CEO said it was impossible to forecast overall results for the current quarter because of uncertainty created by the virus. Continue reading...
Silicon Valley's favorite sleep tracker is being used to help detect COVID-19 symptoms early and tackle big questions about the coronavirus' aftermath
Wearable tech company Oura is partnering with the University of California, San Francisco on a study...Wearable tech company Oura is partnering with the University of California, San Francisco on a study to determine whether its smart rings can detect COVID-19 symptoms early. The $300 smart ring can measure metrics like skin temperature and heart rate, and researchers are hoping it can be used to alert users when they may be sick before symptoms appear. So far, 30,000 Oura ring owners have signed up to participate in the study. Researchers are already beginning to see trends in the data that could one day potentially help the medical community understand what happens after recovery. Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories. Harpreet Singh Rai, like many CEOs, found himself unexpectedly pivoting his company's priorities this year as the coronavirus outbreak upended daily life and business around the globe. Rai, who is CEO of the Finland-based Oura Health, had already intended to work with health institutions on medical studies. But what he didn't foresee was that his company would be distributing thousands of its $300 health tracking rings to frontline healthcare workers beginning in March as part of an effort to curb the spread of a global pandemic. "We really wanted to work with researchers to share data openly as many wearable companies don't," Rai said to Business Insider. Now, Oura is working with researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, and University of California, San Diego, on a new study to see if the smart ring can be used to detect COVID-19 symptoms early. Before, the company was probably best known as Silicon Valley's favorite sleep tracker. The Oura is comfortable to wear, but it does feel noticeably thicker than your average piece of jewelry. That being said, once you get used to it, you forget it's there. It doesn't buzz, vibrate, or light up like other wearables, and it's less cumbersome to wear to sleep than a smartwatch or fitness band. Among its most high-profile fans are Twitter and Square CEO Jack Dorsey, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, and Twitter co-founder Biz Stone, but the ring also gained attention outside of the tech sphere after it was spotted on Prince Harry's finger. It counts Michael Dell as well as co-founders of companies such as YouTube, Twitch, and Skype among its investors.. This study, which was announced in late March, aims to find a way to detect COVID-19 early by measuring a wearer's skin temperature and heart rate among other metrics. Oura has distributed 2,000 rings to medical centers across California, New York, and Massachusetts, with two hospitals in San Francisco being among the first to get them. The company is also inviting all of its approximately 150,000 Oura ring users to participate, and 30,000 people have already signed up since the initiative kicked off in March. Those participating in the study wear Oura rings to measure changes in the body and report symptoms and any diagnosis through a questionnaire. The study is ongoing and the current data is still being analyzed, meaning researchers are far from extracting meaningful conclusions about COVID-19 from the study. But they're already beginning to see early trends that may eventually help the medical community learn more about what happens after people recover from COVID-19. "One of the really interesting things that I'm seeing in this data as I start my analysis is that some people really don't recover back to their baseline," Ben Smarr, a bioengineering and data science assistant professor for UCSD working on the study, told Business Insider. While some participants who reported feeling sick look like a "textbook" case of illness — their bodies experience some changes in heart rate variability and respiration and then return to normal when they recover — a small subset of people didn't follow that usual cycle. It's unclear if this is related to COVID-19. "When you look at sort of the patterns over time, the frequencies that their hearts keep coming back to for example, those just change," Smarr said. "They just become different." But it's too soon to know precisely what that means as it relates to the coronavirus. Researchers need more time, more data, and more analysis of that data before they can begin to understand how useful the Oura ring can be useful in detecting illness early. And because the coronavirus is so new, little is known in general about whether it will impart any long-term effects. Some early studies coming out of China have suggested that the coronavirus may have lasting impacts on the body for some people. For example, after conducting blood test on 34 patients over the course of their hospitalization, scientists in China found that some biological markers, like liver function, didn't return to normal, according to the Los Angeles Times. Still, even that study is considerably small, and since the virus has been spreading for only a few months, it's impossible to know what long-term survivors may experience years from now. Smarr said the researchers are taking two important steps to help them fill in the gaps when it comes to data. They are in the process of trying to obtain COVID-19 antibody tests for all participants, and have begun sending monthly follow-up surveys to discern if respondents have any existing conditions that may influence how illness impacts their bodies. Some participants have sought out their own COVID-19 tests, but no tests have been distributed through the study yet. "What we would like to know is: not just did you feel sick around the time COVID was going around, but was this really COVID?" said Smarr. "So what we're trying to do is get as much of that context as possible." Smarr hopes that in addition to detecting symptoms, the research could be used to help those who may be eventually experience long-tail impacts from the virus, should there be any. "A lot of the focus initially remains on early detection of course," Smarr said. "But very soon a lot of people are going to have to switch to dealing with the aftermath." Oura's efforts are also another example of how tech companies large and small are putting their efforts and resources toward preventing the spread of COVID-19. Among the most high-profile examples of tech stepping in to curb the virus is Apple and Google's joint effort to launch a contact tracing program that can be executed through smartphones. Oura also isn't the only wearable tech company investigating how devices worn on the body can be used to detect illness. Smart wristband maker Whoop also announced that it's partnering with the Cleveland Clinic and Central Queensland University in Australia on a study that involves collecting data from self-identified COVID-19 cases. As for Oura, Rai says the company is refocusing some of its priorities on finding ways to better help wearers understand when they may be getting sick. That will involve refining the ring's features and participating in more health studies. As an example, Rai said the company is looking at adding more features into the Oura app that can alert users when they might be coming down with symptoms of an illness. "Probably for the next year, anytime someone gets sick they're probably going to be a little more worried than normal," Rai said. "So I think, how can we help consumers understand when to take it easy, perhaps even a day or two in advance before they feel it." There are still a lot of questions around what will come of the Oura study. But Smarr says the researchers may be close to taking a first step toward being able to detect whether people are becoming sick before they realize it. "I suspect that people will keep analyzing this data for years and keep making new improvements as new techniques come out," Smarr said. "And so while I hope we have something useful very soon, I don't think that will be the end of the story."SEE ALSO: Apple is reportedly worried that people won't have the money to buy new iPhones this year, and it's an ominous sign of what's to come for people's finances Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: A cleaning expert reveals her 3-step method for cleaning your entire home quickly