YC-grad Papa raises $2.4M for its ‘grandkids-on-demand’ service

One of the latest additions to the on-demand economy is Papa, a mobile app that connects college students with adults over 60 in need of support and companionship.

The recent graduate of Y Combinator’s accelerator program has raised a $2.4 million round of funding to expand its service throughout Florida and to five additional states next year, beginning with Pennsylvania. Initialized Capital led the round, with participation from Sound Ventures.

Headquartered in Miami, the startup was founded last year by chief executive officer Andrew Parker. The idea came to him while he was juggling a full-time job at a startup and caring for his grandfather, who had early onset dementia.

“I’ve always been a connector of humans,” Parker, the former vice president of health systems at telehealth company MDLIVE, told TechCrunch. “I’ve always naturally felt comfortable with all walks of life and all age groups and have just felt human connection is really critical.”

Seniors can request a “Papa Pal” using the company’s mobile app, desktop site or by phone. The pals can pick them up and take them out for an activity or have them over to play a game, complete household chores, teach them how to use social media and other technology or simply to chat. A senior is matched with a student, who must complete a “rigorous” background check, in as little as 30 seconds.

Parker says there are 600 students working with Papa an average of 25 hours per month.

“We’ve been fortunate that this is something the students really want to be part of,” he said. “They aren’t doing this for a couple extra dollars. They are doing this to help the community.”

The service costs seniors $20 per hour, $12 of which is paid to the students and $8 is returned to Papa. It’s not a subscription-based service, but seniors can pay for a premium option that lets them choose between three Papa Pals instead of being randomly paired with one of the several hundred options. The students do not provide any personal care, like bathing or grooming. And they are not a pick-up and drop-off service, like Uber or Lyft.

“We believe the Papa team has found a unique way to combat loneliness and depression in older adults,” said Alexis Ohanian, co-founder and managing partner of Initialized Capital, in a statement. “The experience that Papa Pals bring their members make it seem like they are part of a family.”

In addition to expanding to new markets, Papa is in the process of partnering with insurance companies with a goal of allowing seniors to pay for some of its services through their Medicare plans.

“Loneliness is a crisis. It’s a disease. It’s killing people prematurely,” Parker said. “We are providing a really massive impact to these people’s lives.”

CommonSense Robotics’ first automated fulfillment center is now live

Israeli startup CommonSense Robotics is launching its first automated micro-fulfillment center in Tel Aviv. It’s a tiny 6,000 square feet warehouse that is packed from ground to ceiling with products. Robots do the heavy lifting when it comes to getting items ready to dispatch.

TechCrunch shot a video of CommonSense Robotics’ test fulfillment center. Today’s new warehouse is much bigger than that, but still much smaller than an Amazon warehouse. The company’s first client is Superpharm, Isarel’s largest drug store chain.

The startup wants to convince grocery retailers in urban areas that they can deliver orders in less than an hour. Currently, grocery retailers either leverage their stores (which is a waste of time) or have a giant warehouse outside of the big city.

With CommonSense Robotics, you could imagine a city with multiple micro-fulfillment centers so that you’re never too far. When you order something, robots instantly navigate around the warehouse and the shelves to pick up your stuff. A central server coordinates all the robots in real time to optimize the routes. This way, humans can stay at a scanning station and put together an order without having to move.

CommonSense Robotics remains in charge of the fulfillment centers. E-commerce retailers pay the startup to create and manage those fulfillment centers. This way, you can focus on your product inventory and last mile deliveries.

The company already signed a deal with Israeli grocery retailer Rami Levy for 12 centers. And CommonSense also plans to launch multiple sites in the U.S. in 2019.

SpankChain spanked

SpankChain, a cryptocurrency aimed at decentralized sex cams, has announced that a hacker stole about $38,000 from their payment channel thanks to a broken smart contract. They wrote:

At 6pm PST Saturday, an unknown attacker drained 165.38 ETH (~$38,000) from our payment channel smart contract which also resulted in $4,000 worth of BOOTY on the contract becoming immobilized. Of the stolen/immobilized ETH/BOOTY, 34.99 ETH (~$8,000) and 1271.88 BOOTY belongs to users (~$9,300 total), and the rest belonged to SpankChain.

Our immediate priority has been to provide complete reimbursements to all users who lost funds. We are preparing an ETH airdrop to cover all $9,300 worth of ETH and BOOTY that belonged to users. Funds will be sent directly to users’ SpankPay accounts, and will be available as soon as we reboot Spank.Live.

The hacker used a ‘reentrancy’ bug in which the user calls the same transfer multiple times, draining a little Ethereum each time. The bug is the same one that previously affected the DAO.

The company pointed out that a security audit on their smart contract would have cost $50,000, a bit more than the amount lost. “As we move forward and grow, we will be stepping up our security practices, and making sure to get multiple internal audits for any smart contract code we publish, as well as at least one professional external audit,” they wrote.

I’ve reached out to the company for clarification but in short it seems the spanker has become the spankee.