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Carbyne raises $25M for a next-generation platform to improve emergency 911 responses



Emergency services continue to be a major force when it comes to coping with the Covid-19 health pandemic, and today a company that is building technology to help them run better is announcing a round of funding to continue expanding its business.

Carbyne — an Israeli startup that has built a cloud-based platform aimed at emergency services to help them pinpoint more complete information about the people who are calling in, and to provide additional telemedicine services to start responding faster — has picked up $25 million.

The plan will be to take the service — which was already seeing strong growth before the pandemic — to the next level in terms of the technology it is building and the markets and organizations it is serving.

“Carbyne was not founded last year: we were already pushing cloud services and video and location to 911 for quite a while and had served 250 million people before the pandemic,” said Amir Elichai, the CEO, in an interview. “But cloud solutions for emergency services went from nice to have to must have with Covid.” The company has partnerships with public health providers as well as with groups like CentralSquare and Global Medical Response (GMR), and says that in the U.S. it is on target to cover some 90% of the market.

The Series B1 is being led by Hanaco Ventures and ELSTED Capital Partners, with former CIA Director General David Petraeus, Founders Fund, FinTLV, and other past investors also participating.

The fact that this is a B1 round points to more funding on the way for the company in coming months. In any case, the $25 million is more than the company had planned to raise.

“The plan was to raise $15 million in 2020. After Covid started I decided we didn’t want to let anyone go, but we didn’t know what the situation would be. So we cut salaries instead across the board,” said Elichai. “But then we started to double revenues starting in Q2, and then in Q3 and Q4 grew 160%. It was straightforward to raise this money.”

The funding is coming on the heels of very strong growth for the company, in particular in the last year.

Carbyne’s services now cover about 400 million people, with a new implementation launching every 10 days since March of last year.

Elichai, who co-founded the company with Alex Dizengoff (CTO) and Yony Yatsun (engineering lead), said in an interview that in the last nine months, Carbyne has provided some 155 million location points to emergency medical services teams. Newer products are also growing. The services for EMS teams to provide help remotely have racked up 1.3 million minutes of video in that time, he said.

From what we understand, the funding puts Carbyne’s valuation at over $100 million. Although Elichai declined to give a specific figure, for some context, the company was valued at “around” $100 million when it last raised in 2018, a $15 million round that marked the first time that Founders Fund had invested in an Israeli startup.

The growth of the last year, and the ongoing demands on the business, point to that “over” being strong. Indeed, since its last round, the world at large, and the startup itself, have undergone some significant changes.

2018 and whatever dramas we were experiencing back then now feel like a distant, almost halcyon?, past when compared to some of the crises of the moment. One in particular, the coronavirus pandemic, has a direct connection to Carbyne.

Covid-19, the illness the results from the virus, has proven to be a pernicious and dogged ailment, often hitting people with its most dire and serious symptoms — the inability to breathe and organ failure — just when they start to think that they might be recovering. (Of course, that’s not the case for everyone, thankfully, but still it happens much too often to ignore.)

That has put a huge strain on emergency response services, from those that are fielding initial callouts, through to those making first contact with patients, and those at the hospitals bringing in and caring for the most serious cases. In many cases, those working these services have been stretched to overcapacity. The situation in many cities is nothing short of dire.

Carbyne’s technology has come into its own as a way not just to help those people do their jobs better by providing them with more data, but by becoming a means to those services channelling data back to those people calling in.

In the last couple of years, the company has undergone some significant shifts in how it delivers its services: when I covered the startup’s last funding round in 2018, for example, it provided some services directly to EMS organizations, but mainly it needed users to install an app, or provide that technology through another app, in order to work. Now, Elichai says that the company has integrated some location services from companies like Google to remove the need to use an app to connect users to its platform.

Similarly, the startup has taken a strong lead in how it collaborates with municipalities not just to provide services to make their operations more efficient, but to help offset them getting overwhelmed. A project in that vein was a recent undertaking in New Orleans, which Elichai said played a part in helping the city from really buckling under and managing the Covid-19 outbreak. More on that here:


Longer term, in countries like the US and elsewhere, there is a strong argument to be made for a lot of legacy services in 911-style emergency response finally getting the updates they have needed for years.

Specifically, earlier this month, a $1.5 trillion infrastructure bill approved in Congress earmarks $12 billion in funding for next-generation 911 deployments.

Carbyne believes that by 2023, it will be serving some 1.5 billion people, and it’s moves like this in the U.S. that point to why that might not be so far-fetched, Covid-19 or not.

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Tesla’s power businesses are beginning to take off



Tesla just released its latest earnings report, and the results indicate that Elon Musk’s bets on energy storage and solar are beginning to pay off.

The storage business was the star of the company’s power plays in the fourth quarter, with quarterly year-on-year growth approaching 200%. As the company said in its presentation to shareholders, “[energy] deployments grew substantially from 2019 to 2020. For the first time, our total battery deployments surpassed 3 GWh in a single year, which is an 83% increase compared to the prior year.

Solar deployments also had their day in the sun. For the year, solar energy installations increased to 205 MW, an 18% increase over the prior year. “This growth is the result of meaningful improvements to our solar retrofit strategy, including product simplification, cost reduction and industry-leading pricing.

Revenue from the energy generation and storage business came in at $752 million for the fourth quarter, up from $436 million in the year-ago period, and up $579 million from the third quarter.

This is likely only the beginning of the surge that’s coming for Tesla’s power business. The company has long stated that it wants to be one of the world’s largest power or utility companies, and global capital is marshaling resources to encourage the shift to renewables.

Tesla could be a huge beneficiary from the Biden administration’s renewable plans through their goals to dramatically boost solar development and buildings. The big infrastructure spend will require big batteries to store renewable power. It will also require massive solar installations.

And even as the federal government makes money moves to renewables, private capital is coming in to boost solar installations and energy storage dramatically.

Over the last week alone, investors have pumped nearly $2 billion into companies that lend money to homeowners for solar installations and energy efficiency upgrades. One company, founded by a former SolarCity executive, announced that it had raised $800 million in capital just today.

At least some of that money will have cash registers ringing for Tesla’s energy storage and solar installation business.


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Daily Crunch: GameStop becomes a meme stock



Reddit users have some fun with the stock market, Facebook predicts advertising challenges and ByteDance is cutting jobs in India. This is your Daily Crunch for January 27, 2021.

The big story: GameStop becomes a meme stock

GameStop’s stock continued to climb today, along with Blockbuster and AMC — all stocks shorted by institutional investors. These gains were apparently driven by users in the r/WallStreetBets subreddit.

We’ve rounded up the fairly non-committal statements from various trading apps like Robinhood about how they’re responding to this volatility.

And Lucas Matney asks how this might affect cryptocurrencies: “For investors looking to have a good time or shoot the moon, meme stocks are a more fun place to be than crypto is.”

The tech giants

Facebook predicts ‘significant’ obstacles to ad targeting and revenue in 2021 — While Facebook’s fourth quarter earnings report included solid user and revenue numbers, the company sounded a note of caution for 2021.

SAP launches ‘RISE with SAP,’ a concierge service for digital transformation — RISE is a subscription service that combines a set of services and product offerings.

ByteDance is cutting jobs in India amid prolonged TikTok ban — The company employs more than 2,000 people in India.

Startups, funding and venture capital

SoftBank teams with home goods maker Iris Ohyama for new robotics venture — The newly formed Iris Robotics has set an extremely aggressive goal of $965 million in sales by 2025.

Literati raises $40M for its book club platform — CEO Jessica Ewing told me that she’s trying to build the first “new, innovative bookseller” since Amazon launched 25 years ago.

Renewable investment wave continues as solar lending company Loanpal raises $800M — The $800 million commitment to Loanpal arrives alongside a flurry of climate commitments from some of the world’s largest investors.

Advice and analysis from Extra Crunch

How two startups scaled to $50M ARR and beyond — The Exchange examines OwnBackup and Assembly.

Dear Sophie: How can I sponsor my mom and stepdad for green cards? — The latest “Dear Sophie,” the advice column that answers immigration-related questions about working at technology companies.

Check out the amazing speakers joining us on Extra Crunch Live in February — We’ll take a look at funding deals through the eyes of the founders and investors who made them happen.

(Extra Crunch is our membership program, which helps founders and startup teams get ahead. You can sign up here.)

Everything else

Battling algorithmic bias at TC Sessions: Justice — At TC Sessions: Justice on March 3, we’re going to dive head-first into data discrimination, algorithmic bias and how to ensure a more just future.

The Daily Crunch is TechCrunch’s roundup of our biggest and most important stories. If you’d like to get this delivered to your inbox every day at around 3pm Pacific, you can subscribe here.

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ProtonMail, Threema, Tresorit and Tutanota warn EU lawmakers over ‘anti-encryption’ push



Four European apps which secure user data via end-to-end encryption, ProtonMail, Threema, Tresorit and Tutanota, have issued a joint-statement warning over recent moves by EU institutions that they say are setting lawmakers on a dangerous path to backdooring encryption.

End-to-end encryption refers to a form of encryption where the service provider does not hold keys to decrypt the data, thereby enhancing user privacy — as there’s no third party in the loop with the technical capability to access data in a decrypted form.

E2e encryption also boosts security by reducing the attack surface area around people’s data.

However growth in access to e2e encrypted services has, for some half decade or more, been flagged as an issue of concern for law enforcement. This is because it makes it harder for agencies to access decrypted data. Service providers served with a warrant for e2e encrypted user data will only be able to provided it in an unreadable form.

Last month the EU Council passed a resolution on encryption that’s riven with contradiction — calling for “security through encryption and security despite encryption” — which the four e2e app makers believe is a thinly veiled call to backdoor encryption.

The European Commission has also talked about seeking “improved access” to encrypted information, writing in a wide-ranging counter-terrorism agenda also published in December that it will “work with Member States to identify possible legal, operational, and technical solutions for lawful access” [emphasis its].

Simultaneously, the Commission has said it will “promote an approach which both maintains the effectiveness of encryption in protecting privacy and security of communications, while providing an effective response to crime and terrorism”. And it has made it clear there will be no ‘one silver bullet’ as regards the e2e encryption security ‘challenge’.

But such caveats are doing nothing to alleviate the concerns of e2e encrypted app makers — who are convinced proposals from the Council of the EU, which is involved in adopting the bloc’s laws (though the Commission usually drafts legislation), sums to an push toward backdoors.

“While it’s not explicitly stated in the resolution, it’s widely understood that the proposal seeks to allow law enforcement access to encrypted platforms via backdoors,” the four app makers write, going on to warn that such a move would fatally underline the security EU institutions also claim to want to maintain.

“The resolution makes a fundamental misunderstanding: Encryption is an absolute, data is either encrypted or it isn’t, users have privacy or they don’t,” they go on. “The desire to give law enforcement more tools to fight crime is obviously understandable. But the proposals are the digital equivalent of giving law enforcement a key to every citizen’s home and might begin a slippery slope towards greater violations of personal privacy.”

They point out that any move to break e2e encryption in Europe would run counter to the global rise in interest in robustly encrypted services — pointing to the recent surge in sign-ups for apps like Signal as a result of mainstream privacy concerns attached to Facebook-owned WhatsApp.

Europe has also been ahead of the curve globally in legislating to protect privacy and security. So it would be quite the U-turn for EU lawmakers to line up to poke holes in e2e encryption. (Which, for example, EU data protection regulators are simultaneously recommending be used in order to legally secure transfers of personal data out of the bloc to third countries where it might be at risk).

To say there are ideological contradictions in the EU pushing in an anti-encryption direction is a massive understatement. Even as the contents of current communiques coming out of Brussels on this topic read as if they’re inherently conflicted — which may in fact be a recognition that squaring this circle is no simple policy proposition.

The app makers also pick up on that. “People around the world are taking back control of their privacy, and often it’s European companies helping them do it. It seems illogical that policy makers in the EU would now push for laws that fly in the face of public opinion and undermine a growing European technology sector,” they write.

In an individual quotation from the joint-statement, Andy Yen, CEO and founder of ProtonMail, a Swiss end-to-end encrypted email service, warns against complacency in the face of the latest seeming push for a legal framework to perforate encryption.

“This is not the first time we’ve seen anti-encryption rhetoric emanating from some parts of Europe, and I doubt it will be the last. But that does not mean we should be complacent,” he said. “Put simply, the resolution is no different from the previous proposals which generated a wide backlash from privacy conscious companies, civil society members, experts and MEPs.

“The difference this time is that the Council has taken a more subtle approach and avoided explicitly using words like ‘ban’ or ‘backdoor’. But make no mistake, this is the intention. It’s important that steps are taken now to prevent these proposals going too far and keep European’s rights to privacy intact.”

Martin Blatter, CEO of end-to-end encrypted instant messaging app Threema, also argues that EU lawmakers risk kneecapping homegrown startups if they seek to push ahead with legislation to force European vendors to bypass or deliberately weaken e2e encryption.

“[It] would not only destroy the European IT startup economy, it would also fail to provide even one bit of additional security,” he warned. “Joining the ranks of the most notorious surveillance states in this world, Europe would recklessly abandon its unique competitive advantage and become a privacy wasteland.”

Also chipping in, Istvan Lam, co-founder and CEO of Tresorit, an e2e encrypted file sync & sharing service, argues that any moves to weaken encryption would seriously undermine trust in services — as well as being “irreconcilable with the EU’s current stance on data privacy”.

“We find this resolution especially alarming given the EU’s previously progressive views on data protection. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the EU’s globally recognized model for data protection legislation, explicitly advocates for strong encryption as a fundamental technology to ensure citizens’ privacy,” he said, adding: “The current and proposed approaches are at complete odds with each other, as it is impossible to guarantee the integrity of encryption while providing any kind of targeted access to the encrypted data.”

While Arne Möhle, co-founder of Tutanota, a German e2e encrypted email provider, says any push to backdoor encryption would be a disaster for security — which actually risks helping criminals.

“Every EU citizen needs encryption to keep their data safe on the web and to protect themselves from malicious attackers,” he said. “With the latest attempt to backdoor encryption, politicians want an easier way to prevent crimes such as terrorist attacks while disregarding an entire range of other crimes that encryption protects us from: End-to-end encryption protects our data and communication against eavesdroppers such as hackers, (foreign) governments, and terrorists.”

“By demanding encryption backdoors, politicians are not asking us to choose between security and privacy. They are asking us to choose no security,” he added.

A fight looks to be brewing in Europe over what exactly the Council’s contradictory edict on ensuring “security through encryption and security despite encryption” will shake out to. But it seems clear that any push toward backdoors would mobilize major regional opposition — as well as being an unattractive option for EU policymakers because it would face legal challenge under the region’s jurisprudence.

The Commission recognizes this complexity. Its counter-terrorism agenda is also notably wide-ranging. There’s certainly no suggestion that it believes e2e encryption is a sole nut that must be cracked. EU institutions are pushing across a number of fronts here, not least because a bunch of fundamental red lines limit wiggle room for non-targeted interventions.

What comes out of the Council’s resolution may therefore be a concerted push to upskill police in areas relevant to investigations (such as digital forensics and metadata analysis). And perhaps create structures for local or state level forces across the bloc to access more powerful security service technical competences for furthering targeted investigations (e.g. device hacking). Rather than an EU-level order blasted at e2e encryption vendors to mandate a universal key escrow ‘solution’ (or similar) — indiscriminately risking everyone’s security and privacy.

But it’s certainly one to watch.

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