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Jigsaw scores $3.7M to slow down your dating swipes

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Chalk one up for Jigsaw, an “anti-superficial” dating app that has scored £2.7 million ($3.7 million) in seed funding to put toward U.S. expansion. The round is led by a lead generation company for online dating companies, called The Relationship Corp., with backing from angel investors in the U.S. and U.K. “primarily” in the tech sector.

As the startup’s name suggests, Jigsaw adds a little cryptic fun to the transactional business of swiping photos of other singles in search of dating chemistry in a bid to offer a less superficial experience.

Albeit their (patented) anti-superficial twist looks a tad gimmicky at first blush: They literally superimpose a digital jigsaw over the faces of users, with pieces removed gradually the more you interact — and the full face only revealed after a pre-set amount of in-app engagement.

Digital filters are also banned, per the app’s FAQ; they only want “real” selfies. So no cute cat ears, etc. 

They’ve got a few more tricks up their sleeve but don’t want to offer a public reveal of the planned features we guessed were coming just yet (but, well, a quick glance at the app and it’s basically a half finished jigsaw puzzle of their product roadmap).

The U.K. startup — which was founded back in 2016 by a couple of friends, Alex Durrant (co-founder and CEO) and Max Adamski (co-founder and CPO), when they were at university (and finding the dating app scene frustratingly superficial, as they tell it, going on to quit their jobs and go all in on the project in 2018) — launched its puzzle-faced dating experience in London in 2019; and opened up to the U.S. in November last year.

Jigsaw has some 150,000+ registered users across those two markets at this point, with 50,000 in the U.S. — and an appetite to step things up over the pond now that they’re flush with new funds.

Durrant says the team is hoping to hit half a million U.S. users in the next six months. They reckon there’s a trend toward less superficial swiping in the American dating app scene that Jigsaw is well-positioned to tap into.

“We’re not insane and think people look better with puzzles over their faces, I promise, the puzzle is our middle finger to the superficial dating industry,” he says. “It exists as you say to encourage more meaningful/sustained interactions and to help users look beyond the looks.”

Currently, Jigsaw’s face-shielding mechanism involves a puzzle made up of 16 pieces. All photos start with one piece removed “so you get a sneak peek”. Another then comes off when a user likes (matches with) the person so at the start of chatting there are two pieces revealed.

More pieces are removed as the pair mutually exchange messages until there’s no more puzzle bits left. Hopefully you also won’t run out of conversation at that point.

“Over six messages each (12 in total) is what we believe is the minimum needed for a meaningful conversation,” says Durrant. “That’s why the jigsaw puzzle currently unveils fully after seven messages are exchanged (14 pieces revealed in total), revealing the face underneath. This number has been tested and this is the current sweet spot for our users.”

Jigsaw isn’t unique in the concept of shielding facial visuals to encourage dating app users to do more chatting and less mindless swiping. There are a whole bunch of “slower reveal” style twists aimed at reducing “dating app fatigue” — as another app, INYN, which also limits the velocity of the profile reveal, puts it.

Another app which blurs users’ photos until they do some chatting is Taffy. There’s also Muslim matchmaking app Veil — which offers a “digital veil” feature (aka an opaque filter) that it applies to all profile photos, male and female, until a mutual match is made.

Other “anti-superficial” dating apps, like Willow, try a Q&A style approach — getting users to answer questions to see more photos. The list goes on.

Still, Jigsaw has come up with perhaps the most visually obvious (and gamified) twist on this slow-reveal format. And being so immediately, well, obvious, it might make its “slow reveal” twist stick for longer than the average “love is blind” alternative dating app.

Its seed investment is not about buying users, either. We made sure to check.

The Relationship Corp. does offer user acquisition/traffic generation services to dating apps — including those it invests in — but in Jigsaw’s case the investment is a straight equity investment, per Durrant. So it’s at least sounding confident in its ability to grow.

“They’re super low-key but are known in the industry,” says Durrant of the lead seed investor. “Steve Happas their CEO is ex-Match and… sits on our advisory board [as part of the investment]. We had an option to work with them to acquire users but instead, they are supporting our internal team in an advisory capacity.”

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

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Flourish, a startup that aims to help banks engage and retain customers, raises $1.5M

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It’s not uncommon these days to hear of U.S.-based investors backing Latin American startups.

But it’s not every day that we hear of Latin American VCs investing in U.S.-based startups.

Berkeley-based fintech Flourish has raised $1.5 million in a funding round led by Brazilian venture capital firm Canary. Founded by Pedro Moura and Jessica Eting, the startup offers an “engagement and financial wellness” solution for banks, fintechs and credit unions with the goal of helping them engage and retain clients.

Also participating in the round were Xochi Ventures, First Check Ventures, Magma Capital and GV Angels as well as strategic angels including Rodrigo Xavier (former Bank of America CEO in Brazil), Beth Stelluto (formerly of Schwab),  Gustavo Lasala (president and CEO of The People Fund) and Brian Requarth (Founder of Viva Real). 

With clients in the U.S., Bolivia and Brazil, Flourish has developed a solution that features three main modules: 

  • A rewards engine designed to incentivize users to save or invest money
  • An intelligent and automated micro-savings feature where users can create personalized rules (such as transferring $15 into a rainy day fund every time their favorite sports team wins)
  • A financial knowledge module, where personal financial transactions and spending patterns are turned into a question and answer game. 

In the U.S., Flourish began by testing end-user mechanics with organizations such as CommonWealth and OpportunityFund. In 2019, it released a B2C version of the Flourish app (called the Flourish Savings App)  as a pilot for its banking platform, which can integrate with banks through a SDK or an API.  It is also now licensing its engagement technology to banks, retailers and fintechs across the Americas. Flourish has piloted or licensed its solution to US-based credit unions, Sicoob (Brazil’s largest credit union) and BancoSol in Bolivia. 

The startup makes money through a partnership model that focuses on user activation and engagement. 

Both immigrants, Moura and Eting met while in the MBA program at the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley. Moura emigrated to the U.S. from Brazil as a teen while Eting is the daughter of a Filiponio father and mother of Mexican descent.

The pair bonded on their joint mission of building a business that empowered people to create positive money habits and understand their finances.

Currently, the 11- person team works out of the U.S., Mexico and Brazil. It plans to use its new capital to increase its number of customers in LatAm, do more hiring and develop new functionalities for the Flourish platform. 

In particular, it plans to next focus on the Brazilian market, and will scale in a few select countries in the Americas. 

“There are three things that make Latin America, and more specifically Brazil, attractive to us at this moment,” Moura said. “Currently, the B2B financial technology market is still in its nascency. This combined with open banking regulation and the need for more responsible products provides Flourish a unique opportunity in Brazil.”

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Inside Workvivo’s plans to take on Microsoft in the employee experience space

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Maintaining company culture when the majority of staff is working remotely is a challenge for every organization — big and small.

This was an issue, even before COVID. But it’s become an even bigger problem with so many employees working from home. Employers have to be careful that workers don’t feel disconnected and isolated from the rest of the company and that morale stays high.

Enter Workvivo, a Cork, Ireland-based employee experience startup that is backed by Zoom founder Eric Yuan and Tiger Global that has steadily grown over 200% over the past year.

The company works with organizations ranging in size from 100 employees to over 100,000 and boasts more than 500,000 users. According to CEO and co-founder John Goulding, it’s had 100% retention since it launched. Customers include Telus International, Kentech, A+E Networks and Seneca Gaming Corp., among others.

Founded by Goulding and Joe Lennon in 2017, Workvivo launched its employee communication platform in mid-2018 with the goal of helping companies create “an engaging virtual workplace” and replace the outdated intranet.

“We’re not about real time, we’re more asynchronous communication,” Goulding explained. “We have a lot of transactional tools, and typically carry the bigger message about what’s going on in a company and what positive things are happening. We’re more focused on human connection.”

Using Workvivo, companies can provide information like CEO updates, recognition for employees via a social style — “more things that shape the culture so workers can get a real sense of what’s happening in an organization.” It launched podcasts in the second quarter and livestreaming in Q4.

In 2019, Workvivo showed its product to Zoom’s Yuan, who ended up becoming one of the company’s first investors. Then in May of 2020, the company raised $16 million in a Series A funding led by Tiger Global, which is best known for large growth-oriented rounds.

Workvivo, which was built out long before the COVID-19 pandemic, found itself in an opportune place last year. And demand for its offering has reflected that. 

“Since COVID hit, growth has accelerated,” Goulding told TechCrunch. “We grew three times in size over where we were before the pandemic started, in terms of revenue, users, customers and employees.”

The SaaS operator’s deals range from $50,000 to close to $1 million a year, he said. Workvivo is Europe-based and operates in 82 countries. But the majority of its customers are located in the U.S. with 80% of its growth coming from the country.

The startup opened an office in San Francisco in early 2020, which it is expanding. Thirty percent of its 65-person team is currently U.S.-based, with some working remotely from other states.

While Workvivo would not reveal hard revenue figures, Goulding only said it’s not seeking additional funding anytime soon considering the company is “in a very strong capital position.”

To tackle the same problem, Microsoft last month launched Viva, its new “employee experience platform,” or, in non-marketing terms, its new take on the intranet sites most large companies tend to offer their employees. With the move, Microsoft is taking on the likes of Facebook’s Workplace platform and Jive in addition to Workvivo.

Despite the increasingly crowded space, Workvivo believes it has an advantage over competitors in that it integrates well with Slack and Zoom.

“We’re sitting alongside Slack and Zoom in the ecosystem,” Goulding said. “There’s Zoom, Slack and us.”

Slack is real-time messaging and what’s happening in the immediate future, and Zoom is real-time video and “about the moment,” he said.

To Goulding, Microsoft’s new offering is unproven yet and a reactionary move.

“It’s obvious there’s a battle to be won for the center of the digital workplace,” he said. “We’re here to capture the heartbeat of an organization, not pulses.”

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Bitflips when PCs try to reach windows.com: What could possibly go wrong?

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Stock photo of ones and zeros displayed across a computer screen.

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images)

Bitflips are events that cause individual bits stored in an electronic device to flip, turning a 0 to a 1 or vice versa. Cosmic radiation and fluctuations in power or temperature are the most common naturally occurring causes. Research from 2010 estimated that a computer with 4GB of commodity RAM has a 96 percent chance of experiencing a bitflip within three days.

An independent researcher recently demonstrated how bitflips can come back to bite Windows users when their PCs reach out to Microsoft’s windows.com domain. Windows devices do this regularly to perform actions like making sure the time shown in the computer clock is accurate, connecting to Microsoft’s cloud-based services, and recovering from crashes.

Remy, as the researcher asked to be referred to, mapped the 32 valid domain names that were one bitflip away from windows.com. He provided the following to help readers understand how these flips can cause the domain to change to whndows.com:

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