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Bella is a new challenger bank with a text-based interface

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Meet Bella, a new challenger bank launching on November 30th. The company is trying to differentiate itself with two distinctive features. First, you can interact with the app using keywords and text commands. Second, Bella is trying to build a community that helps each other to differentiate its product from soulless monolithic banking services.

Let’s start with the basics. When you open a Bella account, you receive a rainbow debit card that works on the Visa network. You get a checking account as well as the ability to create savings accounts. Behind the sene, Bella works with nbkc bank for the banking infrastructure. Accounts are FDIC insured up to $5 million.

Your card works with Apple Pay, Google Pay and Samsung Pay. There are no foreign transaction fees and Bella reimburses all ATM fees. There are no account minimums and service fees either.

Image Credits: Bella

But the app doesn’t look like your average banking app. There’s a text field at the bottom of the screen at all times. If you tap that field and enter a keyword, you can do all the interactions you’d expect to do. That feature is called Socratex.

This isn’t a chatbot, it’s more like a command line interface. For instance, if you type “Send”, it’ll suggest “Send money”. You can then enter an amount and hit next. After that, you can type the name of a contact, or add a contact, and then hit send.

You don’t have to find the right menu and hit the right button. The app tries to guide you so that you can construct a full sentence describing your intent. Bella uses LivePerson for that text-based interface. LivePerson is also Bella’s strategic backer.

Image Credits: Bella

And then, there is the Karma account. Over a hundred years ago in Naples, people started ordering two espressos and drinking just one. The second one would be a caffè sospeso. A poor person could ask for a caffè sospeso later that day and get a free coffee.

Bella is basically doing the same thing with its Karma account. Users can deposit up to $20 into a personal Karma account. Another user could use its Bella card and get a notification saying that their purchase is covered by someone else’s Karma account.

Similarly, Bella is introducing a randomized cashback program. The company randomly picks purchases and sends you back 5 to 200% in cashback.

When it comes to savings accounts, you can open as many savings accounts as you want and set some unconventional rules. For instance, you can set up a rule that puts some money aside when it’s sunny, when your sports team is winning, etc.

As you can see, Bella wants to introduce some randomized events so that you get surprised by your own bank account. The company wants to give back $1 million in cashback over the first four weeks on the market. Let’s see if that could turn the financial service into a viral experience.

Lyron Foster is a Hawaii based African American Musician, Author, Actor, Blogger, Filmmaker, Philanthropist and Multinational Serial Tech Entrepreneur.

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Teardown of “Dishy McFlatface,” the SpaceX Starlink user terminal

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The outer part of

Enlarge / Ken Keiter gets ready to tear apart the SpaceX Starlink user terminal, “Dishy McFlatface.” (credit: Ken Keiter)

Engineer Ken Keiter recently came into possession of one SpaceX Starlink user terminal, the satellite dish that SpaceX nicknamed “Dishy McFlatface.” But instead of plugging it in and getting Internet access from SpaceX’s low Earth orbit (LEO) satellites, Keiter decided to take Dishy apart to see what’s inside.

The teardown process destroyed portions of the device. “I would love to actually test out the [Starlink] service and clearly I didn’t get a chance to, as this went a little bit further than I was intending,” Keiter said toward the end of the 55-minute teardown video he posted on YouTube last week.

Keiter, who lives in Portland, Oregon, was impressed by the Starlink team’s work. “It’s rare to see something of this complexity in a consumer product,” he said in reference to the device’s printed circuit board (PCB), which he measured at 19.75″ by 21.5″.

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Salesforce applies AI to workflow with Einstein Automate

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While Salesforce made a big splash yesterday with the announcement that it’s buying Slack for $27.7 billion, it’s not the only thing going on for the CRM giant this week. In fact Dreamforce, the company’s customer extravaganza is also on the docket. While it is virtual this year, there are still product announcements aplenty and today the company announced Einstein Automate, a new AI-fueled set of workflow solutions.

Sarah Franklin, EVP & GM of Platform, Trailhead and AppExchange at Salesforce says that she is seeing companies facing a digital imperative to automate processes as things move ever more quickly online, being driven there even faster by the pandemic. “With Einstein Automate, everyone can change the speed of work and be more productive through intelligent workflow automation,” she said in a statement.

Brent Leary, principal analyst at CRM Essentials says that combined these tools are designed to help customers get to work more quickly. “It’s not only about identifying the insight, it’s about making it easier to leverage it at the the right time. And this should make it easier for users to do it without spending more time and effort,” Leary told TechCrunch.

Einstein is the commercial name given to Salesforce’s artificial intelligence platform that touches every aspect of the company’s product line, bringing automation to many tasks and making it easier to find the most valuable information on customers, which is often buried in an avalanche of data.

Einstein Automate encompasses several products designed to improve workflows inside organizations. For starters, the company has created Flow Orchestrator, a tool that uses a low-code, drag and drop approach for building workflows, but it doesn’t stop there. It also relies on AI to provide help suggest logical next steps to speed up workflow creation.

Salesforce is also bringing Mulesoft, the integration company it bought for $6.5 billion in 2018 into the mix. Instead of processes like a mortgage approval workflow, the Mulesoft piece lets IT build complex integrations between applications across the enterprise, and the Salesforce family of products more easily.

To make it easier to build these workflows, Salesforce is announcing the Einstein Automate collection page available in AppExchange, the company’s application marketplace. The collection includes over 700 pre-built connectors so customers can grab and go as they build these workflows, and finally it’s updating the OmniStudio, their platform for generating customer experiences. As Salesforce describes it, “Included in OmniStudio is a suite of resources and no-code tools, including pre-built guided experiences, templates and more, allowing users to deploy digital-first experiences like licensing and permit applications quickly and with ease. ”

Per usual with Salesforce Dreamforce announcements, the Flow Orchestrator being announced today won’t be available in beta until next summer. The Mulesoft component will be available in early 2021, but the OmniStudio updates and the Einstein connections collection are available today.

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Virta Health’s behavioral diabetes treatment service is now worth over $1 billion

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A new $65 million investment led by the growth capital and public investment arm of Sequoia Capital will give Virta Health, a developer of a behavioral-focused diabetes treatment, a valuation of over $1 billion.

Virta’s approach, which uses a combination of approaches to change diet and exercise to reverse the presence of type 2 diabetes and other chronic metabolic conditions, has shown clinical success and attracted 100 health care payers to endorse the company’s treatments.

“We partnered with Virta for their ability to deliver unmatched health improvement and cost savings—two clear differentiators from other offerings on the market,” said William Ashmore, CEO of the State Employees’ Insurance Board of Alabama, in a statement. “Especially amid the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s vital that we provide our members the life-changing results Virta is known for delivering, through expert, virtual care delivered right to their home.”

The company said it would use the funding to expand sales and marketing efforts for its services as well as expand its research and development into other non-pharmaceutical therapies for metabolic conditions.

The financing came from Sequoia Capital Global Equities and Caffeinated Capital and brings the company’s total funding to over $230 million and gives it a $1.1 billion valuation, according to a statement.

Alongside Sequoia Capital Global Equities, Caffeinated Capital participated in the round, which brings total funding to more than $230 million and values Virta Health at over $1.1 billion.

Diabetes has long been an attractive condition for startups and has been the first target that companies focused on behavior changes to influence metabolic conditions aim to address. The reason why there are so many diabetes-focused businesses is because of the prevalence of the disease in the U.S. Almost half of adults in the U.S. suffer from obesity, pre-diabetes, or type 2 diabetes and the disease kills thirty people every hour. Diabetes also doubles the risk of death from COVID-19 infections.

Beyond the risks, the costs of treatment are skyrocketing. According to data from the American Diabetes Association released in March 2018, the total costs of treating diagnosed diabetes have risen to $327 billion in 2017 from $245 billion in 2012, when the cost was last examined.

“Given the scope of the metabolic crisis in the U.S. and globally, it cannot be understated how game-changing Virta’s results and care delivery are,” said Patrick Fu, managing partner at Sequoia Capital Global Equities, in a statement. “Virta’s technology-driven, non-pharmaceutical approach has fundamentally changed how diabetes is cared for, and our collective belief in what is possible for population health improvement. This is the future of chronic disease care.”

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