The Casio Rangeman GPR-B1000 is a big watch for big adventures

The Casio Rangeman GPR-B1000 is comically large. That’s the first thing you notice about it. Based on the G-Shock design, this massive watch is 20.2mm thick and about 60mm in diameter, a true dinner plate of a watch. Inside the heavy case is a dense collection of features that will make your next outdoor adventure great.

GPR-B1000, which I took for an extended trip through Utah and Nevada, is an outdoor marvel. It has all of the standard hiking watch features including compass, barometer, altimeter, and solar charging, but the watch also has built-in GPS mapping, logging, and backtracking. This means you can set a destination and the watch will lead you and you can later use your GPS data to recreate your trek or even backtrack out of a sticky situation.

This is not a sports watch. It won’t track your runs or remind you to go to your yoga class. Instead it’s aimed at the backwoods hiker or off piste skier who wants to get from Point A to Point B without getting lost. The watch connects to a specialized app that lets you set the destinations, map your routes, and even change timezones when the phone wakes up after a flight. These odd features make this a traveler’s dream.

The watch design is also unique for Casio. Instead of a replaceable battery the device charges via sunlight or with an included wireless charger. It has a ceramic caseback – a first for Casio – and the charger fits on like a plastic parasite. It charges via micro USB.

It has a crown on the side that controls scrolling through various on-screen menus and the rest of the functions are accessed easily from dedicated buttons around the bezel. The watch is mud- and water-proof to 200 meters and it can survive in minus 20 degrees Celsius temperatures. It is also shock resistant.

The $800 GPR-B1000 is a beefy watch. It’s not for the faint of wrist and definitely requires a bit of dedication to wear. I loved it while hiking up and down canyons and mountains and it was an excellent travel companion. One of the coolest features is quite simply being able to trust that the timezone is correct as soon as you land in Europe from New York.

That said you should remember that this watch is for “Adventure Survival” as Casio puts it. It’s not a running watch and it’s not a fashion piece. At $800 it’s one of Casio’s most expensive G-Shocks and it’s also the most complex. If you’re an avid hiker, however, the endless battery, GPS, and trekking features make it a truly valuable asset.

Machinify raises $10 million to help businesses use AI to monetize data

Data is valuable — if you know how to access it and reap the insights from it. That’s where Machinify comes in. The artificial intelligence company just raised a $10 million Series A round led by Battery Ventures with participation from GV and Matrix Partners.

“Our core notion is that today, enterprises are collecting a ton of data,” Machinify founder and CEO Prasanna Ganesan told TechCrunch. “But if you look at how many of them are successful in turning it into smarter decision-making to drive efficiency, very few companies are succeeding.”

With Machinify, enterprise customers feed the system raw data, specify what they’re trying to optimize for — whether that be revenue or some other goal — and then the machine figures out what to do from there. Based on past decisions, the machine can figure out the right thing to do, Ganesan said.

A good example of how companies use Machinify is in the healthcare space, where businesses are using the tool to increase the accuracy and speed with which they process claims. By doing so, these companies have been able to increase revenue and reduce costs.

“Machinify is laser-focused on the critical operational issues facing the deployment of AI-driven software within enterprises,” GV general partner Adam Ghobarah sais in a statement. “This new generation of software is dynamically driven by AI models and large enterprise datasets. It requires a completely different approach, and we believe that the Machinify team and platform can help enterprises unlock more value.”

Humbition is a new fund led by the Indiegogo’s Slava Rubin

Zocdoc founder Cyrus Massoumi and Indiegogo founder Slava Rubin have created a new $30 million fund called Humbition aimed at early stage, founder-led companies in New York.

“The fund is focused on connecting startups with investors and advisors experienced in building and growing successful businesses,” said Rubin.

“We are seeking to fill a void in NYC, where the vast majority of early stage investors have no significant experience building and scaling businesses,” he said. “The fund’s main areas of investment include marketplaces, consumer and health tech. But the primary criteria for investments is high quality founders. The fund is also seeking out mission-driven businesses because the companies that are socially responsible will be the most successful in the coming decades.”

The fund has brought on ClassPass founder Payal Kadakia, Warby Parker founder Neil Blumenthal, Charity: Water CEO and founder Scott Harrison, and Casper founder and CEO Philip Krim as advisors. They have already invested some of the $30 million raise in Burrow, a couch-on-demand service.

“New York City is home to a tremendous number of mission-driven startups that are simply not receiving the same level of support as their peers in the Bay Area. This void presents a unique opportunity for humbition to reach the incredible local talent who need the funding and guidance to build and grow their businesses in New York City,” said Rubin.

With a new CEO and CTO in place, proptech startup Goodlord raises further £7M

London ‘proptech’ startup Goodlord, which offers cloud-based software to help estate agents, landlords and tenants manage the rental process, has raised £7 million in Series B funding. The round is led by Finch Capital, with participation from existing investor Rocket Internet/GFC, and is roughly equal in size to Goodlord’s Series A in 2017. However, it would be fair to say a lot has happened since then.

In January, we reported that Goodlord had let go of nearly 40 employees, and that co-founder and CEO Richard White was leaving the company (we also speculated that the company’s CTO had departed, too, which proved to be correct). In signs of a potential turnaround, Goodlord then announced a new CEO later that month: serial entrepreneur and investor William Reeve (pictured), a veteran of the London tech scene, would now head up the property technology startup.

As I wrote at the time, Reeve’s appointment could be viewed as somewhat of a coup for Goodlord and showed how seriously its backers — which, along with Rocket Internet (and now Finch), also includes LocalGlobe and Ribbit Capital — were treating their investment and the turn-around/refocus of the company. With today’s Series B and news that Reeve has appointed a new CTO, Donovan Frew, that effort seems to be paying off.

Founded in 2014, unlike other startups in the rental market space that want to essentially destroy traditional brick ‘n mortar letting agents with an online equivalent, Goodlord’s Software-as-a-Service is designed to support all stakeholders, including traditional high-street letting agents, as well as landlords and, of course, tenants.

The Goodlord SaaS enables letting agents to “digitize” the moving-in process, including utilizing e-signatures and collecting rental payments online. In addition, the company sells landlord insurance, and has been working on other related products, such as rental guarantees, and “tenant passports.”

If Goodlord can reach enough scale, it wants to let tenants easily take their rental transaction history and landlord references with them when moving from one rental property to another as proof that they are a trustworthy tenant.

Meanwhile, the company says new funding will be used to build new products, grow its customer base, and invest in the further development of its proprietary technology to continue to make “renting simple and more transparent for letting agents, tenants and landlords”.

RankScience closes $1.8M seed — and now only wants to replace human SEO staff if you don’t have any

A couple of years ago YC-backed RankScience, which offers AI-enhanced SEO split-testing, put a few SEO experts’ noses out of joint when the fledgling startup brashly talked about replacing human expertise with automation.

Two years on its pitch has mellowed, with the team saying their self-service platform is “augmenting human SEO ability rather than replacing them”.

The startup has also — finally — closed a seed round, announcing $1.8M led by Initialized Capital, along with Adam D’Angelo, Michael Seibel, BoxGroup, Liquid2 Ventures, FundersClub, and Jenny 8 Lee participating.

The new roster of investors join a list of prior backers that includes Y Combinator, 500 Startups, Christina Cacioppo, and Jack Groetzinger.

So what took them so long? Founder Ryan Bednar tells TechCrunch they wanted to take their time with the seed, rather than raise more money than they needed — a position that was possible thanks to already being profitable at YC Demo Day.

“I admit that this is unusual,” he says of the slow seed, though he also says they did raise a “small amount” after demo day, before filling out the rest this month.

“I saw many YC batchmates raising massive rounds pre product-market-fit, which can end up being a mistake,” he adds. “We probably could have raised a few million at Demo Day but ultimately didn’t feel we were ready for it. I didn’t know what I would spend the money on, and we were growing without it, so we chose not to. I wanted to raise capital when I felt we were ready to use it for growth, and now’s that time.”

Bednar also says he is “selective” when it comes to investors — and “specifically” wanted to work with Initialized, saying he’s “known Garry and Alexis personally for years, and trust that they would support us in building a long-term scalable business”.

Commenting on the funding to TechCrunch, Initialized Capital’s Alexis Ohanian tells us: “Even though so many businesses depend on traffic from search, it’s a challenge for them to be data-driven about SEO. RankScience makes it easy to test changes to your website that can lift search traffic. They also automate a growing number of technical SEO tasks, which otherwise would take engineers away from building product and infrastructure, which is really exciting.”

RankScience plans to use the fresh funding to hire more AI and machine learning engineers, with headcount growth targeted at its SF office.

While the founders have stepped back from pronouncing ‘the death of the SEO expert’, they are still touting the power of automation AI for SEO — noting how, after crawling a customer’s site/s, the software automatically proposes “SEO enhancements and experiments” to customers — for “one-click [human] approval”.

It also includes what Bednar bills as a “self-driving car mode” — where the tech will deploy the touted “enhancements and experiments” without customer approval. But he concedes it’s not for all RankScience users.

“For about half of our customers, we’re their only SEO vendor so we automate SEO services 100% for them, and for the other half, our software augments human SEO ability, either from in-house marketers or agencies,” he says, explaining how the team has evolved their thinking on automation vs human agency and expertise.

“When we launched we didn’t think hard enough about what sorts of controls SEO managers at larger websites would want, and we tried to automate everything without giving marketers enough control. This was a mistake and we’ve worked hard on correcting it.

“This should have been obvious but it turns out that SEO managers are highly selective about what sorts of HTML changes our software might make to their webpages. So we’ve spent the past year building tools to give SEO marketers complete control over everything our software does, and also advanced editors and tools so they can create their own SEO enhancements and run SEO split tests through the platform.”

For those who make use of RankScience’s ‘Self-Driving Car Mode’ the software is replacing SEO staff “completely”, but he adds: “This works especially well for startups and medium size businesses. But SEO is such a multifaceted problem, we want to give larger companies with marketing teams complete control over our platform, and so we work with both types of customers.”

As well as (finally) closing out its seed round now, RankScience is also launching a new self-service platform for startups and SMEs — touting greater controls.

On the customer front, Bednar says they have “hundreds” of sites on the platform now — and are serving “hundreds of millions of page views per month”. Cumulatively he says they’ve deployed “millions” of SEO split tests at this point.

“Our customers run the gamut from startups just getting started with SEO to publicly-traded companies,” he continues. “Our best industries are SaaS, ecommerce, marketplaces, healthcare, publishing, and location-based sites.

“We’ve recently been working with more consumer goods brands, and we’ve also launched a partnership program so that we can work with SEO and Digital Marketing Agencies and independent consultants.”

He says the vast majority of RankScience users are based in the US at this stage but adds that Europe is a “growing market”.

In terms of competition, Bednar name-checks the likes of Moz, Conductor (acquired this year by WeWork), BloomReach and BrightEdge — so it is swimming in a pool with some very big fish.

“Most of these products are more akin to advanced SEO analytics suites, and we differ in that RankScience is 100% focused on data-driven SEO automation,” he says, fleshing out the differences and RankScience’s edge, as he sees it. “Our software doesn’t just tell you what changes to make to your site to increase search traffic, it actually makes the changes for you. (Now with more controls!)”

WeWork taps Lemonade to offer insurance to WeLive members

WeWork has partnered with Lemonade to provide renters insurance to WeLive members.

WeLive is the residential offering from WeWork, offering members a fully-furnished apartment, complete with amenities like housekeeping, mailroom, and on-site laundry, on a flexible rental schedule. In other words, bicoastal workers or generally nomadic individuals can rent a short-term living space without worrying about all the extras.

As part of that package, WeLive is now referring new and existing WeLive members to Lemonade for renters insurance.

WeLive currently has two locations — one in New York and one in D.C. — collectively representing more than 400 units. WeWork says that both units are nearly at capacity. The company has plans to open a third location in Seattle Washington by Spring 2020.

Lemonade, meanwhile, is an up-and-coming insurance startup that is rethinking the centuries-old industry. The company’s first big innovation was the digitization of getting insurance. The company uses a chatbot to lead prospective customers through the process in under a minute.

The second piece of Lemoande’s strategy is rooted in the business model. Unlike incumbent insurance providers, Lemonade takes its profit up-front, raking away a percentage of customers’ monthly payments. The rest, however, is set aside to fulfill claims. Whatever goes unclaimed at the end of the year is donated to the charity of each customer’s choice.

To date, Lemonade has raised a total of $180 million. WeWork, on the other hand, has raised just over $9 billion, with a reported valuation as high as $35 billion.

Of course, part of the reason for that lofty valuation is the fact that WeWork is a real estate behemoth, with Re/Code reporting that the company is Manhattan’s second biggest private office tenant. But beyond sheer square footage, WeWork has spent the past few years filling its arsenal with various service providers for its services store.

With 175,000 members (as of end of 2017, so that number is likely much higher now), WeWork has a considerable userbase with which it can negotiate deals with service providers, from enterprise software makers to… well, insurance providers.

Lemonade is likely just the beginning of WeWork’s stretch into developing a suite of services and partnerships for its residential members.