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At the heart of parental sleep anxiety—or sweet, sweet relief—lies the baby monitor, an increasingly polarizing device nonetheless engineered to bring peace of mind. The Miku, which went on sale in January, is a tech-obsessed parent’s dream, combining sophisticated design with artificial intelligence to provide data-filled updates on the sound, motion, humidity, and temperature in the room. Notably, the $400 monitor can also track an infant’s breathing without requiring her to wear a dedicated device. It uses Wi-Fi to stream high-definition video and audio to an app on your phone.


The Competition

• The Cocoon Cam also broadcasts Wi-Fi-enabled HD video to an app, and at $150, it offers most of the high-end amenities (a breathing tracker, night vision, easy setup) in a more affordable package.


• When it comes to plug-and-play functionality, nothing beats the $200 Eufy SpaceView baby monitor. Using radio technology, which is less hack-prone than Wi-Fi, it transmits video, audio, and temperature readings to a 5-inch HD display—no app needed.


• The $300 Nanit has a premium data-driven subscription service (starting at $120 a year) that uses its sensors and the baby’s age to make personalized sleep recommendations.

The Case

Some parents prefer the all-in-one simplicity of a Nest camera, which offers HD video and a two-way talk function, even though it wasn’t designed for this use. What sets the Miku apart is its robust data set, which comes in easy-to-understand charts that put the information in context. (The device does require the sex and birthdate of the child—that may turn off those concerned with data privacy.) Built-in Ole Wolff speakers offer crisp audio, whether you’re playing its waterfall and forest sounds or using the two-way feature to talk to your tot. $400;


Doctor uses tablet in a hospital

Zebra Technologies acquires Temptime Corporation

Zebra Technologies, a company that supplies big data-centered enterprise solutions to companies in healthcare, retail, manufacturing and other industries, closed on its acquisition of the New Jersey based hardware company Temptime Corporation. Temptime manufacturers time-temperature indicators for the healthcare industry that can visually notify users of potentially harmful temperature changes in shipments of medical and biological products. The East Coast company holds 90 issued patents.

“This acquisition aligns well with our strategy to expand into high-growth areas that are a strong fit for Zebra,” said Anders Gustafsson, chief executive officer, in a press release announcing the venture. [Press release


Lightstream founder Stu Grubbs

Lightstream announces $8M Series A

Cloud-based video production company Lightstream raised an $8 million Series A to further the capabilities of its software and broaden its reach. Drive Capital led the round and MK Capital, Pritzker Group and Silicon Valley Bank also participated. Andy Jenks, general partner at Drive Capital, also joined Lightstream’s board. The funding will be used to hire around a half dozen new staff and invest in new product evolutions and market opportunities — specifically providing in-house monetization solutions for users and working with sports organizations, allowing them to capture and edit footage via the Lightstream platform at their events. [Built In Chicago


Relativity team working in a conference room

Relativity wants to make 300 hires in the next 10 months

Relativity, an e-discovery company providing cloud-based software to governments and law firms so they can analyze legal documents, announced its plans to hire 300 new team members before 2020. The company currently has 850 total staff and expanded its Chicago office by 40,000 square feet last year to accommodate the new faces it’s now welcoming. This hiring round will consist of individuals across engineering, security and customer success roles. Relativity recently made Built In Chicago’s 2019 Best Places to Worklist. 

“These new hires will allow us to further build out our capabilities as an e-discovery platform and continue our mission of bringing the industry to SaaS,” said Matt Garvey, director of talent acquisition. [Built In Chicago]


People working in 1871 office

1871 and Truss team up for startups

Startup incubator 1871 and commercial real estate listing platform Truss have partnered to help Chicago-area startups find their ideal office space as they continue to grow. The Truss platform will now allow small business owners to take 3D tours of the available space in 1871. The company will also offer consulting and real estate advice to 1871 members as they seek other office options. 


It looks like Lyft will beat Uber in the ride-sharing startups’ race to an IPO this year. The Wall Street Journal reports that Lyft will make its filing public as early as next week, and the IPO could be carried out by the end of March. The New York Times predicts Lyft will start trading in early April.

Lyft plans to list on the Nasdaq. Having raised $4.9 billion in venture capital, the company expects to be valued at $20 billion to $25 billion. Getting to the IPO finish line first is a strategic move to avoid being overshadowed by the much-bigger Uber.

Reuters reports Lyft’s IPO roadshow will begin during the week of March 18. Uber still needs a few more weeks to prepare, according to sources cited in the report. Uber has raised $24.2 billion and could seek a valuation of as much as $120 billion in its eventual IPO. While Lyft operates only in the U.S. and Canada, Uber operates in more than 60 countries around the world.

Lyft confidentially filed its IPO paperwork with the Securities and Exchange Commission in October, followed by Uber in December. While the government shutdown delayed the process somewhat, things now seem to be back on track. Sources told WSJ that since the shutdown ended, the SEC has been plowing through IPO filings in record time.



The global travel industry is flying high. In 2015, there were 1.2 billion international travelers, and this number is expected to increase to 1.8 billionby 2030, according to a United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) report.

The travel market is not only massive, but also rife with opportunities for innovation and disruption. As such, it’s no wonder that investors have been pumping money into travel-related startups. A 2017 study by market intelligence firm Phocuswright showed that US$29 billion of funding was raised for travel startups from 2016 to 2017, while only US$33 billion was raised in the decade between 2005 and 2015.

Matt James, Amadeus senior manager of corporate strategy and business development. Image credit: Amadeus

“Ten years ago, corporations were focused on having their development teams fix business problems internally. Now, it’s more about entrepreneurship and collaboration,” explains Matt James, the senior manager of corporate strategy and business development at Amadeus. Businesses are increasingly relying on startups to solve specific problems, resulting in the surge.

Among the countless emerging travel startups out there, here are five worth following.

1. Timeshifter

Screenshots of Timeshifter app. Image credit: Timeshifter

The brainchild of Danish entrepreneurs Mickey Beyer-Clausen, Tony Hanna, and Jacob Ravn, Timeshifter is an app that promises to cure jet lag. Ideal for frequent travelers, it advises you to take certain actions at specific times to adjust your body clock as you cross different time zones. For instance, it may encourage you to stay awake at times when you would normally sleep, or avoid coffee when you would typically reach for a cup.

Timeshifter comes with three settings that cater to business travelers, athletes, and casual vacationers. It also offers a “practicality” filter so each task is realistic and doable. Needless to say, the app – available on iOS and Android – works offline and is perfectly functional on flights.

2. AirBuy

AirBuy caters to airlines, online travel agents, and airports, providing a solution that optimizes duty-free purchases and revenues.

Launched in 2017, the Massachusetts-based startup solves these issues by using the passenger’s data and connecting data between the travel agent, airline, and airport to create a personalized shopping experience based on the traveler’s itinerary and profile.

Travelers then receive curated product recommendations at home/hotel or in-flight, conveniently pre-order and pay digitally, and seamlessly collect their products at the airport during pre-departure, connection, or upon arrival. This effectively enlarges the duty-free retail outreach to travelers though digital intervention, allowing for more focused marketing to interested travelers.

3. HeyCars

HeyCars is a global ride-booking app that focuses on airport transfers. It was launched in 2016 by Yuexing Travel Group, a Guangzhou-based travel service firm that operates in over 50 countries and has partnered with ticketing apps, travel management companies, and Fortune Global 500 companies.

How does it work? First, users put in their pickup, drop-off and passenger details, then select a car they’d like to ride. Different cars come with different price tags, but each booking comes with a driver that will greet them at the airport, 24/7 customer service, and free cancelation up to two days before the scheduled pickup. For customized routes, riders can request a quote and wait for the customer service team to get back to them with the price.

4. MyCash Online

MyCash Founders - Mehedi Hasan Sumon (L), Nurol Haq Shamrat (R) copy

MyCash co-founders Mehedi Hasan Sumon (L) and Nurol Haq Shamrat. Image credit: PitchIn

This Malaysian startup serves the marginalized community of migrants and foreign workers in Malaysia, Singapore, and Australia – sizable markets with millions of potential customers.

Founded in 2016 by Bangladeshi migrants Mehedi Hasan Sumon and AKM Nurol Haq, MyCash Online offers online financial services to those who have no access to banking.

The product is a closed loop e-wallet that allows migrants to top up prepaid phones, pay bills, and buy and send gift vouchers back home. The web and mobile application also allows for the purchase of bus tickets to and from Malaysia, as well as discounted flight tickets from 17 airlines. Quick, easy and secure, MyCash Online eliminates the need for a bank account or a credit or debit card.

In June 2017, the startup raised US$300,000 in an equity crowdfunding campaign within 24 hours. The main contributors were Malaysian government-backed fund Cradle and JC Management, which jointly contributed about US$280,470.

5. Qiantech

Qiantech, an emerging travel startup based in China, specializes in the use of augmented reality (AR) for tour navigation services. Partnering with a host of tourist attractions, smart cities and travel firms, it aims to provide interactive and immersive experiences for travelers when they visit a place or a city.

One example is the AR calendar created for the Beijing Palace Museum. When scanned with a smartphone, it allows users to view and experience the museum’s masterpieces on a whole new level. Such AR-enabled souvenirs complement the main activity – the AR-guided tours.

Looking forward in the travel industry

Just as the world comes to grips with advancements like AI, blockchain, augmented and virtual reality, and internet of things, James expects to see an increasing application of these technologies in the travel industry.

However, sustainability is a factor that James expects the industry will have to deal with in the near future.

“As recently reported in The Straits Times, the tourism industry accounts for 8 percent of carbon emissions. And if you think air travel is going to double in the next 20 years, it’s certainly a problem that’s worth focusing on,” says James. “We are [already] seeing governments or bodies like the UNWTO pass new standards and mandates, and corporations and businesses are adopting these to improve their carbon footprint.”

So while travel startups of today might look at solving specific problems, future entrants ought to be looking at the bigger picture.

Amadeus Next fostering the travel tech startup community in China in collaboration with Startup Grind and Innoway.

Amadeus Next builds and fosters the travel tech startup community in Asia Pacific by connecting them to Next’s ecosystem of like-minded partners and organisations. Startups will receive mentorships and partnerships to nurture and scale into full-fledged companies. Next leverages Amadeus’ technology, expertise, reach, and funding to empower entrepreneurs to challenge the status quo.



Social travel network Mapify has raised $1.3 million in seed funding.

Investment for the Berlin-based startup comes from a number of funds and angel investors including Switzerland-based Ennea VC and Los Angeles-based LayJax Ventures.

Mapify was launched in late 2017 to improve the travel experience through a social platform. The startup helps users discover and plan trips.


The funds will go towards a US launch and building out a team in L.A. 

Chief executive Patrick Haede says Mapify is the fastest growing social travel platform in Europe and is now offering global content.

It also just updated the service with nine additional languages and redesigned its mobile application experience.

Many a social travel startup has come and gone (or pivoted) all promising to improve the experience via a community of travelers. 

Social media giants such as Facebook, with more than 2.23 billion monthly active users, have often proved to be the thorn in their sides.



Fast-growing social travel app Mapify has raised $1 million in seed funding from a string of renowned funds and angel investors based in the US and Europe. The round brings the total amount raised by the Berlin startup to $1.3 million.

Launched in November 2017, Mapify lets users “visualise, find and plan” unique travel experiences. Travellers can document their experiences with text and photos, connect with other people and even collaborate on collections.

The platform has reportedly grown to a six-figure user base in just six months and is now being hailed as one of the fastest-growing social platforms on the European travel market. The investment round comes shortly after the company released a major update to its mobile apps as gears up to scale.

Patrick Haede, Mapify’s 24-year-old CEO, said:

“We are absolutely excited to be onboarding our new investors to Mapify and to be scaling the team in Berlin and LA. We want to remove the friction from today’s travel experience by creating the most engaging and seamless social travel platform on the market. We believe it is possible to unify the world of travel with a single application that connects travelers around the globe through their personal experiences.”

The funding came from a string of well-known investors including Switzerland-based Ennea VC, led by Jan Valentin, who served as senior vice president of Kayak in Europe; Dubsmash co-founder Roland Grenke; Navid Hadzaad Javaherian, former founder and CEO of GoButler and product leader at Amazon Alexa; LayJax Ventures, the investment vehicle of Pheed co-founder Phil Haus and actor Zach Avery; Niv Dror, previously of Product Hunt and AngelList; and OneFooball CEO Lucas von Cranach.

The new backers join existing investors including MIT’s Sandbox Innovation Fund; Gunnar Froh, who launched Airbnb’s international expansion; Fredrik Posse​, partnerships manager at Spotify; and Hagen Angermann​, former senior manager at Daimler in Asia.

Co-founder Sebastian Haede added:

“We are on the way of making Mapify as global as our user base. By adding nine additional languages last week and by designing an entirely new ​Explore experience for our iOS app, we shipped Mapify’s biggest update since our launch. So far, the feedback from our users around the globe has been overwhelmingly positive.”



Mapify, the Berlin startup that offers what it describes as a “social travel network,” has raised $1 million in seed funding from a mixture of U.S. and Europe-based funds and angel investors.

They include Switzerland’s Ennea VC (led by Jan Valentin, who served as Senior Vice President at Kayak in Europe), Roland Grenke (co-founder of Dubsmash), Navid Hadzaad Javaherian (former founder and CEO at GoButler ​and ​Product Leader at Amazon Alexa), L.A.-based LayJax Ventures​ (the investment vehicle of Pheed co-founder Phil Haus​ and actor Zach Avery), Niv Dror​ (previously of Product Hunt ​and AngelList​), and Lucas von Cranach​ (CEO of OneFootball).

The company had previously received investment from MIT’s Sandbox Innovation Fund​, Gunnar Froh (who launched Airbnb’s international expansion), Fredrik Posse​ (Partnerships Manager at Spotify), and Hagen Angermann​ (former Senior Manager at Daimler in Asia).

Launched in November 2017 — and a finalist in TechCrunch Battlefield​ — Mapify is a social travel app that lets you “visualize, find and plan” individual travel experiences. You can visually document past and current travel experiences, including photos, descriptions and other details, either related to an individual experience or entire trip. You can also connect with other travellers via a follow function and the ability to comment on places shared or by collaborating on “collections”.

In addition — in classic social media style — the Mapify app features a location-focused feed, which pushes personal recommendations based on travel interests as understood by the platform. You can search for countries, regions and cities on Mapify to discover spots to save to your private lists of planned trips.

“The global travel market and especially its planning and booking process is fragmented,” Mapify co-founder and CEO Patrick Häde tells TechCrunch. “People are using dozens of different sources for inspiration or planning and end up sharing Google docs with friends to create some kind of unified experience. We have designed an app unifying the travel space by pulling together inspiration, sharing and planning into a seamless mobile-first platform that is based on a social network of travelers around the globe. We are designing Mapify to be social because we believe the future of travel lies in unique and personal recommendations from friends and influencers”.

To that end, Mapify is currently most popular amongst millennials, especially those who travel frequently. “As some call it the ‘Instagram of Travel’, the platform has grown virally through re-sharings on Instagram and by word-of-mouth,” Häde says.

Rather confusingly, Instagram might also be seen as a competitor, as it too can be used for travel inspiration. However, the Mapify co-founder says Instagram’s data structure is not well-suited for a travel planning process (e.g. no exact locations). Another more obvious competitor is TripAdvisor, but it doesn’t offer personalised travel feeds, making it less efficient to navigate.

Meanwhile, Mapify currently generates revenue through in-depth partnerships with travel companies such as Airbnb. “By combining different travel services in one single mobile platform, we have seen increasing interest amongst the top players in the travel industry to become part of the Mapify platform,” adds Häde.



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Incredible ideas have come from ride-hail. Along with Uber-for-everything, there’s nearly every service and tool to improve the workaday lives of all the gigmasters hustling for all of those conveniences that can now be booked with a swipe on a phone.

On-demand dog-walkers (Wag!Rover), car washers (Spiffy), food and convenience store runners (Postmates), restaurant-to-your-home deliverers (DoorDash), kiddie carpool alternatives (KangoHopSkipDriveZūm), and of course ride-hail drivers want to earn more, save money on gas, find parking, shield themselves from liability, identify areas with the most demand, avoid accidents as they go from one client-of-the-moment to the next, get paid for a day’s work as soon as possible and take advice from other drivers about how to do all of the above.

Fortunate for this growing class of microlaborers, all of those functions exist via apps, websites, hardware and even center console-strapped vending machines. Uber drivers can make their backseats into tiny convenience stores for a captive (and hopefully hungry) clientele and take a percentage on sales.


Some ideas to maximize earnings on the road, like Mystro’s automated toggling between apps for the multigiggers, Vugo’s geotargeted backseat digital advertising on a tablet, and The Rideshare Guy’s profitable driving consultancy-on-a-blog, are the brainchildren of now-funded entrepreneurs who were once ride-hail drivers.

Even where they don’t have an idea specifically for the gig economy, many ride-hail drivers choose to live as contractors for the flexibility to pursue their bold ideas on their own time. That’s where Lyft‘s latest initiative comes in.

The pink mustachioed powerhouse positioning itself as the community-oriented total mobility solution opened a pitch competition to its drivers. Right now Lyft Pitch isn’t culling talent from its own labor pool to launch mobility concepts for integration with its own services. Not yet.  

Lyft Marketing Manager Kate Glantz, who conceived of the contest in July 2017, said, “We’re agnostic to their ideas. They don’t even need to be fully-fledged businesses. What really struck us from [our internal survey last year] is that nearly one in five drivers, or 18%, is an entrepreneur.”

Glantz, herself a former entrepreneur who’s been through the incubator experience, is in charge of the mid-Atlantic region. That is, she is outside the tech world where “we all know that pitch competitions happen every day. But in the non-tech world, this is a pretty new notion.” She expects to bring opportunity to people who would otherwise never access the exposure or the mentorship the competition will provide.

It’s part of a larger effort by Lyft to secure opportunity for drivers, rather than compete in the modern mobility niche over maximum convenience and minimum price for customers. “So much of our marketing efforts tend to focus on passengers and we’ve really been, as a company, embracing marketing on both sides,” Glantz said. “What’s something that has the impact to affect tens of thousands?”

Lyft drivers must apply for the Shark Tank-esque pitch slam by Oct. 21. If you’re not a current Lyft driver and just need a little seed cash, you can still apply to become a driver in order to enter the competition as long as your new driver application is approved before Lyft Pitch applications close.

Applicants from either camp will submit an application and elevator pitch before eight finalists are announced Nov. 1. Those finalists will then go on to Washington, D.C. as a group of eight. After a pitch clinic, they’ll present their ideas to the leadership of Lyft, Intuit, and General Assembly. External partners — not Lyft — will act as mentors. They’ll also get professional headshots. First and second place earn  $15,000 and $10,000 respectively. The audience favorite will take $5,000. All finalists will get credits from General Assembly.