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Armed with $19.5M, LiveEO plots a big data course between satellite geospatial information and industry – TechCrunch

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When it comes to geospatial and mapping data and how they are leveraged by organizations, satellites continue to play a critical role when it comes to sourcing raw information.  Getting that raw data into a state that can be usable by enterprises, however, is a different story. Today, a Berlin-based startup called LiveEO, which has built a satellite analytics platform to do just that, has raised €19 million ($19.5 million) on the back of strong demand for its tech from companies working in transportation and energy infrastructure.

The rise of companies like LiveEO comes on the back of a period of rapid commercialization in infrastructure intended to be used in space, typified by companies like SpaceX but also others building, for example, a new wave of satellites themselves. As with the larger opportunity in enterprise IT, big data players like LiveEO are essentially the second wave of that development: applications built leveraging that infrastructure.

“Someone has to build applications for end users to really make it simple to use and integrate that data into processes,” explained Daniel Seidel (left), who co-founded and co-leads LiveEO with Sven Przywarra (right). “That is what we are doing at scale.”

MMC Ventures is leading the investment, which is not tied to a specific round, and in addition to €17M of venture capital, the round also includes backing from two public bodies, the European Commission and Investitionsbank Berlin. Previous backers Dieter von Holtzbrinck Ventures (DvH Ventures), Helen Ventures, Matterwave, and motu ventures, and new backers Segenia Capital and Hannover Digital Investments (HDInv), are also participating. LiveEO had previously raised €5.25 million Series A in 2021, and it said that in that time, it’s tripled revenues with customers in five continents and more than doubled its headcount to about 100, with more than half of those engineers and data scientists.

As a German startup, LiveEO is one of a small but growing group of startups in Europe capitalizing on increasing interest in space among investors in recent years, despite the wider pressures on tech finance. Relatively speaking, though, the sums are still modest compared with other areas of tech: LiveEO says that this €19 million round is one of the largest in earth observation tech in Europe. LiveEO is focused on enterprise, specifically industrial applications for its analytics — although given the geopolitical landscape, and how that is bringing a new host of interested parties playing the part of financiers to foster its growth, it will be interesting to see how that develops.

LiveEO’s platform addresses a specific gap between space tech and enterprise data. Satellites are collectively producing more data about our world than ever before, covering not just physical objects in the most minute detail, but thermal progressions, how systems are moving, and more.

Ironically, a lot of that data is very locked up when it comes to enterprises using it: given the fragmentation in the satellite industry itself, the data is not only often in very raw, formats, but coming from multiple sources, too, so getting it into forms that can be integrated into existing IT systems and specifically (and more trickily) the IT systems that integrate with the infrastructure that is the building block of a lot of industrial deployments — let alone parsing it for insights — are all tall tasks, so much so that the opportunities of doing them often go unrealized.

The core of the company’s platform brings all this together, in what LiveEO describes as an “infrastructure monitoring suite powered by satellite imagery.” This involves taking the earth observation data produced by satellites and applying AI to it to analyze it in the context of what LiveEO’s industrial clients — which include major railway companies like Deutsche Bahn, or the energy company e.on — are seeking to understand better.

That could include data on risks from vegetation on railways or other lines; ground deformation; or other physical movements or activities; and it also includes the ability for an LiveEO user to directly integrate this data to link up with its own IT management systems for its infrastructure, for example those that monitor systems to make sure they are working as they should. It also pitches its solution as greener: using satellites to source the kind of geographic data that these industrial applications need means no need to use on-the-ground teams and vehicles to source it in other ways.

“One of the great advantages of satellite data is that we don’t require hardware to be installed at the infrastructure itself,” said Przywarra.

That data, they believe, is also more complete: as Seidel describes it, the combination of terabytes of data from multiple sources means it is not just 3D, but “4D” — with thermal and other kinds of details available, “is like the difference between using an image from a smartphone, and a high-end camera with high resolution.”

All of this is also still a relatively new field, Przywarra added. “Prior to Google Earth, satellite maps were only used by experts,” he said. “We enable more non-experts to use satellite data. We make it accessible and usable.”

Lead investor MMC is one of the more prominent deep tech investors in Europe, and it’s notable that they’re putting focus in this area as an opportunity.

“We are excited to lead this round for LiveEO and it reflects MMC’s continued focus on emerging datasets and companies that develop AI analytics to power core business decisions,” said Andrei Dvornic, a principal at MMC Ventures, in a statement. “LiveEO offers a critical tool that paves the way for sustainable industry automation, and we wholeheartedly support the company’s vision of leveraging satellite technologies, big data, and the latest developments in artificial intelligence to help companies adapt to the challenges posed by climate change.”

Updated to correct that this is not a Series B



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Spotify starts selling live music tickets to fans directly – TechCrunch

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Spotify has launched a new site to sell fans tickets to live gigs directly from its platform instead of redirecting users to partners like Ticketmaster and Eventbrite. The company’s new website lists upcoming concerts and lets users purchase tickets to these shows through debit or credit card; users need to have a Spotify account to buy tickets, though.

The company hasn’t officially announced the launch of its ticketing platform, but Chris Messina first noted about the site being available for the public to book tickets earlier today.

The site lists gigs that are available to book on the home page, and under the My Events section, users can see their past and upcoming ticket bookings. Currently, the Spotify Tickets site lists gigs for artists like Limbeck, Crow, Annie DiRusso, Four Years Strong, and TOKiMONSTA that are performing in the U.S. in the coming months.

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The Spotify Tickets home page Image Credits: Spotify

The company revamped its in-app live event discovery page in June with better gig discovery for events around the user’s local area. Until now, Spotify used its ticketing partners like Ticketmaster, AXS, DICE, Eventbrite, and See Tickets to list these events; for ticket booking, it used to link out to these partners from the event page. With the launch of its ticketing platform, this may change. While currently, events listed on the Spotify Tickets site are not available on the Live events page, the company’s support page says: “Some tickets listed there [on the Live Events page] are available for purchase directly from Spotify.” Tickets directly sold through Spotify are also not currently listed on the artist page. We have asked the firm if it plans to list directly ticketed events on the Live Events page and artists’ pages.

Spotify ticketing site’s legal section says that the company only acts as a ticketing agent and takes a booking fee. It also mentions that it can be selling tickets on behalf of “third parties which can include venues, event promoters, fan clubs, and artists, as their disclosed ticketing agent”. We have asked the company for details on what cut — if any — it takes from ticket sales, and how this differs from affiliate fees it earns from its third-party ticketing partnerships.

Notably, some venues listed on the Spotify Ticket page come under the National Independent Venue Association (NIVA), a U.S.-based organization representing independent venues. So the company might be currently avoiding venues that are under Ticketmaster owner Live Nation’s distribution. Live Nation has been accused of monopolistic practices regarding ticket distribution with lawmakers asking President Joe Biden to launch an investigation into the ticket distribution firm last year.

In a blog published in June, Spotify’s product manager for Live Events Discovery Sam Sheridan said that while people were engaging with artists on the app, they left the platform to find events for their live performances. With the revamped live events feed and the ticketing platform, the company is trying to solve the discovery problem and earn some money through ticket booking directly or as an affiliate partner. Last year, the company also experimented with selling tickets to virtual pre-recorded concerts due to the pandemic. The company has been under constant scrutiny for not paying artists enough from streaming, so with this new initiative, Spotify could argue that it will drive more ticket sales for artists.

Spotify’s ticketing platform launch comes days after TikTok partnered with Ticketmaster to let users discover concerts and other live events. In February, Snap struck a similar partnership with the ticket booking platform to power event discovery through Snap Minis — third-party party programs on Snapchat.





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South Africa’s DataProphet closes $10M to scale its AI-as-a-service platform for manufacturers – TechCrunch

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Manufacturing plants or factories take raw material inputs and add value through a sequence of unit processes before shipping a product. Now, this process must follow a recipe. There are a series of instructions for products such as cars; in those instructions, a list of parameter values, specific temperature for iron melting, specific pressure for mold casting… and the list goes on.

These factories, for instance, those in the automotive space, do all of the quality inspections, in-line and end-of-line, to ensure the cars are in good shape; if not, they are scrapped or reworked, becoming lost capacity and effort for the factories. Employees hired to keep these processes in check can make mistakes; thus, such factories also rely on software to evaluate their experiences, change parameters if needed and ensure that the car reaches the end-of-line as high quality as possible.

DataProphet is one such company. The South African firm, founded by Frans Cronje and Daniel Schwartzkopff, provides AI-as-a-service software in the manufacturing sector and is announcing the completion of its $10 million Series A round.

Cronje, the company’s CEO, told TechCrunch on a call that DataProphet’s focus on providing end-to-end prescriptive AI for manufacturing plants to improve their yield started in 2017. The company provides prescriptive advice and suggested changes to manufacturers’ recipes to avoid making the defects that cause their products to be scrapped or reworked. The company said its flagship AI solution, PRESCRIBE, has helped its clients experience a significant and practical impact on the factory floor, reducing the cost of non-quality by an average of 40%.

Manufacturers use DataProphet at different points on their digitization journeys; data collation and centralization are crucial to kickstart them. The first product in DataProphet’s stack, CONNECT, enables manufacturers to augment their data infrastructure and bring data from where they’ve been using it for compliance in the manufacturing space to a point where they can use it for optimization. The company currently ingests about 100 million unique data points daily on its platform. With this data, PRESCRIBE can make informed decisions to reduce defects, scrap, or non-quality processes and improve manufacturers’ yield.

Cronje says DataProphet employs a hands-on approach, where it continuously monitors data streams and pushes advice and feedback to the operating floor, ensuring that its clients follow them. And in cases where clients don’t follow the advice DataProphet provides, the company engages with the customer to understand their concerns.

“Usually, when we talk about reducing defects, scrap or rework by an average, we do a reduction of about 40% when the customer follows our advice,” said Cronje, who has a degree in management consultancy and statistics. “It’s a wonderful application of AI and manufacturing because it’s a deep application of the theory to realize practical, meaningful impact for our customers and their yield.”

The 50-person team serves clients mainly from the automotive, semiconductor, rubber and foundry industries, deploying its solution to manufacturing plants based in Japan, China, India, Europe, South Africa, the U.S and South America. Some of its competitors — which are international, not local — include Braincube and Seebo.

“I think the way we differentiate ourselves is that we approach this from a holistic factory control where implementing our PRESCRIBE solution can enable a customer to realize this full site optimization,” commented Cronje on DataProphet’s unique selling proposition. “And there’s a second aspect: The solution we’ve got to enable customers to realize yield is an end-to-end prescriptive solution. What I mean by that is that it has the capacity to integrate some of the lowest data levels in factories. And we don’t see that in our competitors.” The chief executive also mentioned that, unlike other players, DataProphet doesn’t depend on its clients to have employees with data science capabilities, which defeats the purpose of providing an AI-as-a-service platform that thrives on organizing data infrastructure itself.

Knife Capital led the Series A round. The South African venture capital firm had initially invested in DataProphet in early 2018 via its KNF Ventures Section 12J funding vehicle. This latest round is the first investment made by Knife Fund III, the targeted $50 million fund it launched last year to support the international expansion of its portfolio companies.

“Accelerating the international expansion of DataProphet, given the leading nature of its technology, is exactly the mandate of our new Fund — and it couldn’t be more fitting for our first investment to be a follow-on investment from our existing cohort,” comments Keet van Zyl, co-founder and partner at Knife Capital on the investment.

Other investors in the round include South Africa’s IDC and Norican, one of the world’s largest metal surface preparation and finishing equipment providers. Per a statement, DataProphet says the infused capital will help it invest further in its industrial AI product set while facilitating targeted growth in selected geographies and manufacturing verticals.

“This is where we’ll be applying a lot of this fund: to support international sales,” added Cronje. “And they’ll support functions needed in markets away from the major engineering hub, South Africa. So part of the investment will be used to develop a European sales office and subsequently a U.S.-based sales office to support customers and partners abroad.”



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Elon Musk sells nearly $7 billion in Tesla shares – TechCrunch

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Tesla CEO Elon Musk is at it again selling shares of his electric vehicle company, per regulatory filings. Since Friday, the executive has sold 7.9 million shares, which totals about $6.9 billion. This is the first time Musk has sold shares in Tesla since April, when he disposed of 9.6 million shares, worth about $8.5 billion.

Musk appears to be selling the shares to stock up on cash in case he’s forced to go through on his $44 billion Twitter acquisition. The executive tweeted Tuesday evening that he was done selling for the moment.

“In the (hopefully unlikely) event that Twitter forces this deal to close and some equity partners don’t come through, it is important to avoid an emergency sale of Tesla stock,” tweeted Musk.

Last month, Musk told Twitter he’s killing the deal because he believed the social media company to be misleading in its bot calculations. However, over the weekend, the executive waffled a bit, tweeting: “If Twitter simply provides their method of sampling 100 accounts and how they’re confirmed to be real, the deal should proceed on original terms. However, if it turns out that their SEC filings are materially false, then it should not.”

Musk also tweeted Tuesday evening that if the Twitter deal doesn’t close, he’ll buy back his shares. Perhaps he’ll wait until Tesla issues its three-to-one stock split, which Tesla shareholders approved last week, so he can buy them back on the cheap.

Over the last ten months, Musk has sold around $32 billion worth of stock in Tesla.

Tesla shares were down 2.44% today but are trading relatively flat in after-hours, suggesting the stock sales are yet to have an effect on Tesla’s share price. Tesla’s stock took a hit late last year when Musk sold off more than $16 billion worth of sales after polling his Twitter fans on whether he should trim his stake, a move that got him in hot water with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

This article has been updated with confirmation from Elon Musk that the stock sales are related to his Twitter acquisition.





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