Google renames Home Hub to the Nest Hub and releases a 10-inch Nest Hub Max

The Home Hub has been a hit for Google, eclipsed only by the Mini in its smart home hardware line. That’s for good reason, of course. The device is the ideal size and priced well, making it a minimally invasive device for a living room or kitchen. Among other things, it marked a great alternative to the bulky Echo Show. And now it’s called the Nest Hub.

Today at Google I/O, Google announced a shift in its smart home device brands. Everything will be under a Nest banner, starting with renaming the Google Home Hub to the Nest Hub.

For those looking for something a little heartier, Google just announced the Nest Hub Max. Part of the rebranded Nest Displays, the product offers up a 10-inch display. Even more interesting, however, is the addition of a camera — something that was notably missing from the 7-inch Home. It initially seemed like a strange thing to overlook, but in a time when everyone’s on edge about personal privacy, it was honestly a bit refreshing.

As its name implied, smart home control was always a key focus for the Home Hub. The newfound association with the Nest line, coupled with a built-in Nest security camera, finds Google doubling down on that functionality. The Nest name certainly makes sense from the standpoint of the company’s home security and automation features, while also helping Google reassert its commitment to the company it purchased in 2014. The Max also features an improved speaker set with a rear-facing subwoofer.

Hub Max is designed to be used by everyone in the home and personalizes the responses based off the user’s voice or face detection. This allows the device to display information most relevant to the user.

Last year, Google moved away from letting Nest operate independently, instead rolling it up into its hardware division. The launch of the Nest Hub Max represents a key step toward that hardware synergy.

With this rebranding, the Nest Hub gets a lower price of $129 (though the Home Hub can be readily purchased for much less) and the Nest Hub Max will cost $229.

As concerns over medical device security rise, MedCrypt raises $5.3 million

As medical devices move to networked technologies, securing those devices becomes increasingly important.

Regulators, seemingly late to the threat that unsecured medical devices posed, only began requiring protections for medical devices like pacemakers and insulin pumps two years ago, and since then new technology companies have leapt into the breach to begin providing security services for the healthcare industry.

Most recently, MedCrypt, a graduate from the most recent batch of Y Combinator companies, raised $5.3 million in a new round of funding, from investors led by Section 32, the investment firm founded by former Google Ventures partner Bill Maris.

Joining Maris’ firm were previous investors Eniac Ventures and Y Combinator itself.

“Internet-connected medical technology is entering the market at light speed, calling for devices to be secure by design, which leads to a heightened level of patient safety at all times,” said MedCrypt chief executive Mike Kijewski in a statement.

Securing patient data has been a longtime requirement for health technology companies, but both patient records and hospital networks are dangerously vulnerable to cyberattacks.

In 2018, more than 6 million patient records in the U.S. were exposed thanks to network intrusions and cyberattacks, according to the publication Health IT Security. And those were just in the 10 largest security breaches.

The healthcare industry has only managed to achieve 72% compliance with the HIPAA Security Rule for protecting patient data, according to an April report from CynergisTek.

Investors have recognized the problem and are investing more into companies focused on the healthcare market specifically. MedCrypt’s competition for these security dollars include companies like Medigate, which raised $15 million earlier this year.

While Medigate focuses on network security, MedCrypt is focused on securing devices themselves. Both security functions are critical, according to investors.

“With regulators appropriately taking a hard look at medical device security and the sheer growth in the number of devices being added to already complex clinical networks,” there is a significant opportunity for companies tackling medical device security, according to a statement from Dr. Jonathan Root, who has led several IT-enabled healthcare investments for USVP.

Shape Security’s latest product protects smaller businesses from credential stuffing

Shape Security has been helping big companies stay safe from fraudulent activities like password reuse and bot traffic on their publicly facing websites and apps. The company now wants to help smaller companies have that same type of protection, and today it announced a new cloud service called Connect aimed at that market.

“We’re an enterprise-focused company that protects the majority of large U.S. banks, the majority of the largest airlines, similar kinds of profiles with major retailers, hotel chains, government agencies and so on. We specifically protect them against automated fraud and abuse on their consumer-facing applications — their websites and their mobile apps,” Shuman Ghosemajumder, Shape Security CTO explained.

The company has taken that same type of protection and packaged it for smaller businesses. “What we’re doing with the new product, which is called Connect, is automating those aspects which we have provided with the high-end [product], and are making it easier to deploy and run,” Ghosemajumder said.

He said that they get protection against the same kind of high-end, automated fraud that the large enterprise customers get, as well as protection against DDoS attacks, scraping and so on.

The company is best known for stopping the act of credential stuffing, a sophisticated kind of strike where attackers continually try to get onto a website or app using stolen usernames and passwords. In addition, they tend to use a variety of computers and IP addresses to mask the attack. In fact, Sumit Agarwal, who is co-founder and chief operating officer at Shape, coined the term when he was working at the Department of Defense in a previous position before he helped launch the company.

A product like Connect can help expand Shape’s market by moving beyond the large enterprises that have been its primary target up until now. While it provides a similar level of service, it delivers it in a way that makes it easier for these smaller organizations to consume, while still enabling them to take advantage of the advanced security techniques that would typically be out of their reach.

Shape Security was founded in 2011, but spent several years developing the core product before emerging from Stealth in 2014. It currently has 300 employees and has raised $132 million, according to Crunchbase data. The most recent round was $26 million in November.

Verified Expert Brand Designer: Kristine Arth

After spending a decade working at international design and branding agencies, Kristine Arth launched her own independent branding agency called Lobster Phone last April. Since then, she’s launched 22 brands under her unofficial tagline “I don’t sleep.” Lobster Phone, however, is all about creating iconic brands with bold personality, which Kristine passionately delivers to her clients. We spoke to Kristine about her branding philosophy, the story behind the name Lobster Phone, and why she loves working with founders.

On working with founders:

“My specialty is people, honestly. I don’t find that I focus in any category, field, or particular segment of an industry is my focus. My specialty is working with people and understanding their background because entrepreneurs have a very different outlook on life. They will climb that mountain at all costs, and I feel very similarly. My sign is Capricorn, I’m a goat. So I will always climb to the top of that mountain. I feel very in line with entrepreneurs in that way because I want to help them do their best work.”

“Kristine is what every person dreams of in a design partner to give your brand a soul and heart.” Julián Ríos Cantú, México City, Mexico, Co-founder and CEO, Eva Tech

On common startup mistakes:

“Entrepreneurs will come to me and say, “I want a logo, I want a campaign, I want this.” And I will say, you need a brand, you need strategy, you need a foundational promise to sell to your clients. And with that foundational brand strategy and a flexible brand, we’ll get what you want. The common mistake is to come with a solution versus coming in with the problem.”

Below, you’ll find the rest of the founder reviews, the full interview, and more details like pricing and fee structures. This profile is part of our ongoing series covering startup brand designers and agencies with whom founders love to work, based on this survey and our own research. The survey is open indefinitely, so please fill it out if you haven’t already.


The Interview

Yvonne Leow: Can you tell me a little bit about yourself and how you got into branding?

Kristine Arth: I originally thought I was going to be a ceramist. I went to school at Columbia in Chicago, and studied ceramics for about half a semester before I discovered the computer lab, and was like “Oh my God, everything is happening so fast there, this is amazing. It’s for me.” So I quickly moved into graphic design and never looked back. I started in advertising and marketing, and worked in Chicago for about 10 years at Leo Burnett, Wunderman, and then moved out to San Francisco to start fresh. Fuseproject, a top industrial design and branding agency, reached out to me, had me come in for an interview and the rest is history.

OnePlus CEO Pete Lau will discuss the future of mobile at Disrupt SF

Founded in late 2013, OnePlus did the impossible, coming seemingly out of nowhere to take on some of the biggest players in mobile. The company has made a name by embracing a fawning fan base and offering premium smartphone features at budget pricing, even as the likes of Samsung and Apple routinely crack the $1,000 barrier on their own flagships.

OnePlus’ history is awash with clever promotions and fan service, all while exceeding expectations in markets like the U.S., where fellow Chinese smartphone makers have run afoul of U.S. regulations. The company’s measured approach to embracing new features has won a devoted fan base among Android users.

Over the past year, however, the company has looked to bleeding-edge technology as a way forward. OnePlus was one of the first to embrace In-Display fingerprint sensors with last year’s 6T, and has promised to be among the first to offer 5G on its handsets later this year.

CEO Pete Lau formed the company with fellow Oppo employee Carl Pei. The pair have turned the company into arguably the most exciting smartphone manufacturer in the past decade. OnePlus has big plans on the horizon, too, including further expansion into the Indian market and the arrival of its first TV set in the coming year.

At Disrupt SF (which runs October 2 to October 4), Lau will discuss OnePlus’ rapid accent and its plans for the future.

Tickets are available here.


Fli Charge Technology acquired by Birch Lake to accelerate a wireless future

Fli Charge Technology is today announcing it was acquired by an affiliate of Birch Lake Associates. As part of the purchase, industry veteran Khalid Zitouni is taking the chief executive position as the company looks to expand its reach for Fli Charge’s clever power delivery technology.

TechCrunch first spied Fli Charge at CES 2018 when the company demonstrated its tech with Craftsman power tools. Once a Fli Charge device is placed on the strip, charging starts immediately at the same rate as if it was plugged into an outlet. Four small conductive nubs make contact with the pad and serve up power as needed. The system is capable of simultaneously charging batteries of different voltages. One strip can charge a smartphone, power tool and laptop at the same time, even though each device has different power requirements.

Fli Charge tech could bring the convenience of wireless charging to new industries. That’s where Birch Lake comes in.

“The FLI Charge technology is a clear outlier in the power and charging space,” said FLI Charge’s incoming chief executive officer, Khalid Zitouni. “While it resembles wireless charging solutions on the market today, it is not constrained by the limitations that have held back those technologies from garnering significant market adoption or expanding into new product categories. We are excited to rapidly expand our consumer product offerings and continue to develop a robust licensing platform for all portable products, including power tools, IOT devices, drones, audio products and small appliances, among others.”

Zitouni is taking over for former Fli Charge CEO Cliff Weinstein, who is staying on as a company consultant. In 2017, Weinstein led a management buyout to take Fli Charge private after the debut of an early version of the product on Indiegogo in 2016.

When I spoke to Weinstein at CES 2018, he was optimistic about a future where Fli Charge’s technology was built into desks and tool boxes, allowing office workers and construction workers alike to live a cord-free life. Now, with Birch Lake taking the company forward, that future could be nearer than ever. Fli Charge’s implementation of wireless power delivery is impressive and if adopted by the market, could lead to a truly wireless future.

Fli Charge demonstration at CES 2018

Marshall continues to impress with new retro portable speakers

Marshall, the headphone company and not the loudspeaker company of the same vintage, today announced two new portable speakers. Like the company’s previous offerings, these speakers ooze a retro vibe. The two new speakers, the Stockwell II and Tufton, join the Kilburn II, but stand tall, literally and figuratively, apart from the rest of Marshall’s speakers as portable models with a vertical orientation, internal batteries, wireless capabilities and a rugged casing that should survive a trip outside.

The large Tufton impresses with clear, powerful sound even when on battery. The highs carry over a solid low-end. It’s heavy. This isn’t a speaker you want to take backpacking, but, if you did, the casing has an IPX4 water-resistant rating, so it’s tough enough to handle most weather. Marshall says the battery lasts up to six hours.

The smaller Stockwell II is much smaller. The little speaker is about the size of an iPad Mini, though as thick as a phone book. The internal battery is good for four hours and the casing is still tough, though sports an IPX2 rating, so it’s not as durable as the Tufton. The speaker is a bit smaller and the music quality is as well. The Stockwell II is a great personal speaker, but it doesn’t produce a pounding sound like the Tufton. Use the Stockwell II for a quiet campfire and the Tufton for a backwoods bonfire.

Sadly, these speakers lack Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa integration. Users either have to connect a device through a 3.5mm port or Bluetooth.

I’ve been a fan of every Marshall speaker I’ve tried. For my money, they feature a great balance of sound and classic design. Each one I’ve tried lives up to the Marshall name and these two new speakers are no different. Portability doesn’t come cheap. These speakers cost a bit more than their stationary counterparts. The small Stockwell II retails for $249 while the large Tufton is $399.