Is the tech boom at an end? London VCs aren’t worried

The tech startup bubble may be over — though mega-deals suggest there’s life in VC funding yet.A report from KPMG has revealed the number of venture capital deals has continued its “gentle” slide, down seven per cent from the first quarter of this year to the second and down by a quarter from last year.Investment is up 55 per cent this quarter to $40 billion from $29.5 billion the previous quarter, but that’s been boosted by a handful of “mega deals” over $500 million including a record $5.5 billion raised by Didi Chuxing. The quarter saw the largest number of unicorns created in two years, with 16 firms valued over $1 billion. But even with such cash splashing around, funding is still down 14 per cent versus the same quarter last year, sparking Asus Customer Service Uk suggestions the tech startup boom has busted. Don’t panic, says Harry Briggs, partner at BGF Ventures. “First, it’s worth stressing that according to these figures, Q2 2017 was the fourth biggest quarter for UK venture funding in the last decade,” he told WIRED. “So rumours of decline are greatly exaggerated, and arguably there’s been a massive 40 per cent rebound since Q4 of last year.” Instead, it may be getting tougher for early-stage startups. “What does appear to be happening is a ‘flight to later-stage’ – the number of deals has roughly halved since 2014, whilst the amount of capital has remained about the same,” Briggs said. There’s still plenty of cash to go around, for those with proven ideas, at least.Why the flight to later-stage funding? Briggs suggests two explanations. “There is still a massive glut of capital managed from London — but unfortunately much of that capital is looking for high yield at low risk, which means piling into the companies that already seem like winners, in the B rounds, C rounds and later rounds,” he said, which is why so much money is pouring into the likes of proven startups such as Deliveroo and Transferwise.

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Beyond that, the apparent slide in deals and funding is merely the cyclical nature of technology. At the beginning of a cycle, funders favour smaller, earlier-stage firms, and as a given technology matures and potential “winners” emerge, larger piles of cash collect around a few companies.

“Arguably we are now in the late stage of the cloud computing, mobile, [and] social cycles, which generated vast numbers of startups, because of the low barriers to entry — there will still be more winners, but the big battles have mostly been won by the likes of Tencent, Facebook, Didi, Uber, Spotify, Salesforce, etc.” As new companies emerge with fresh technologies — Briggs names AI, blockchain and synthetic biology — the funding focus will again shift to early-stage startups.Rob Kniaz, ‎founding partner at Hoxton Ventures, argues there never really was a bubble, particularly in Europe. “I think the later stage pre-IPO valuations in the US were bubbly, but that’s slowly deflating as the Blue Aprons and Snaps go public and valuations creep down to more sane levels,” he said. “Europe hasn’t really had that inflation ever so we don’t see downwards trends anywhere like what you’d see in the US.” The KPMG figures suggest the number of deals slid to a six-quarter low, down 40 per cent from its peak in 2015.

Kniaz was particularly positive about London, which saw the number of deals fall but posted record investment helped by Improbable’s leap into unicorn status. He said the capital “remains resilient”, while Laurence Garrett, partner at Highland Europe, says his firm still saw plenty of opportunity. “Total amount invested in the UK is holding steady year over year,” he added.

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UK could lose 30,000 fintech jobs after ‘hard Brexit’

The UK could lose up to 30,000 jobs within the fintech sector in the event of a ‘hard’ Brexit, the Emerging Payments Association has warned.The concerns centre on ‘passporting’ rights, which allow companies to sell financial services to the rest of the EU, and are tied to being a member of the single market. The UK is likely to lose single market membership if it refuses to continue permitting freedom of movement from the EU, a situation widely dubbed ‘hard Brexit’. “It’s looking likely to be a hard Brexit,” Peter Howitt, founder of Ramparts law firm and co-author of the EPA’s latest report, said at the launch this week. There are 5,500 registered UK companies with 336,421 ‘passports’ at the moment, according to the Financial Conduct Authority. HM Treasury estimates the market employs 60,000 people and is worth £6 billion to the UK economy. “We estimate 10 to 50 percent of those jobs could be lost, so up to 30,000”, Howitt warned. “We’re not all going to move to Frankfurt, but we have to do something,” he said. “It [hard Brexit] will require us to look somewhere else.”Although the authors said they had not seen any UK fintech firms apply to get authorised for a ‘passport’ elsewhere yet, many are seriously considering it. “We’re not hearing many saying they’ll leave fully,” Howitt said. GoCardless, a UK payments firm with 100 employees, would consider opening a satellite office in another EU member state if the right to passport into Europe from the UK is removed, its legal lead Ahmed Badr told Techworld.

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“It’s not difficult for UK companies to set up an EU subsidiary to conquer the passporting challenge, and still be able to benefit from all the advantages of operating from a London base,” he added. For now, the EPA advised fintech companies to follow one of three options: wait and see; hedge their bets and investigate alternative countries; or ignore the EU and focus on the UK and non-EU markets. The six countries most likely to benefit from a UK fintech exodus are Ireland, Malta, Denmark, Cyprus, Sweden and Luxembourg, according to Howitt and co-author David Parker, CEO of Polymath Consulting. Neither France nor Germany were recommended as potential relocation destinations for fintech firms.The decision shouldn’t be purely based on tax and the cost of business. Companies also need to consider the political environment and whether they can form a good relationship with the regulator, the report recommended.  Howitt emphasised it is still unclear what the outcome of UK/EU negotiations will be.

“Many hope for a middle ground between the EU political system and the common market,” he said. “We’re still hopeful the UK won’t lose common market rights, despite the dynamics in the press and political posturing.”

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22 of the most infamous data breaches affecting the UK

It’s tempting to believe that important data breaches only happen in the US and the figures tend to bear that out – the US accounts for the overwhelming majority of the really big data breaches that have been made public, some of them absolutely vast. But US laws and regulations force organisations to admit to data breaches involving the customer, something which is not true in all countries.In the UK, the most important piece of legislation organisations must worry about is the Data Protection Act and the possibility of fines by the Asus Contact Number UK information commissioner (ICO).  Below we offer what we believe are the ten most significant data breaches to hit the UK, not in all cases because they were particularly large but because of the type of attack or vulnerability involved or the sensitivity of the data compromised.Globally, the UK currently ranks a distant second behind the US for data breaches, which is no cause for complacency. Many of the breaches mentioned here happened in the last two years. Undoubtedly, larger and more serious breaches lie ahead.

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Bupa (2017)

Bupa has suffered a data breach (13 July 2017) affecting 500,000 customers on its international health insurance plan.The London-based private healthcare group said a Bupa employee inappropriately copied and removed information including names, dates of birth and some contact information, however no medical information was compromised.

In a written statement, Bupa said that 43,000 of the total number affected had a UK address and that those that bought their medical insurance abroad could also be affected.

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Spark Kids By the Clever Toys

Gone are the days when Lego was enough to cure childhood curiosity. From toys that teach kids about the principles of robot construction and coding, to paper planes you can pilot, WIRED selects the smartest educational toys in the box.At last: a paper plane you can pilot – just download the PowerUp app, reach for your Google Cardboard and enjoy a different view of the world. PowerUp has engineered an 80g paper-aeroplane motor with Asus Customer Service a built-in wide-angle camera, microphone and Wi-Fi connectivity with a range of 92 metres. Tilt your head to control its movements, and – depending on the design – your sheet of 120gsm can reach speeds of up to 32kph. £199

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YouTuber Daniel Perdomo has taken the classic 70s video game and turned it into a real-world proposition. With no previous technical knowledge – the paddle controllers are made from old hard drives and engineering principles picked up online – Perdomo and his team have made the virtual tangible, without diminishing the game’s appeal. $tbc

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Maglev Model Train

The concept for the magnetic levitating train dates back to 1902; the first commercially usable track opened in Birmingham in 1984. While we’re all waiting for the hyperloop to take the idea to the next level, here’s a small-scale version for your kids to play with. Build your own smooth-running, high-speed maglev track (above), albeit one that fits in your living room. $tbc

This bug-zapper has laser-guided precision

This device shoots flying pests with laser beams. Overkill? Not according to Intellectual Ventures, the Seattle-based firm behind the Photonic Fence, which the company says is a more targeted weapon than pesticide. Asus Support Number The fence creates a 30-Watt wall of near-infrared light that can identify specific species of insect. It can even tell the difference between male and female mosquitoes by analysing the way they fly. “We’re looking to tell it to kill only mosquitos, fruit flies or sand flies,” says Arty Makagon, technical lead for the project. “You can choose to eliminate all the small, flying things or you can choose to be very specific about the kinds of things you want to kill.”Cameras and optics on the Photonic Fence detect potential pests within a 100-metre range. It then assesses the insect’s form, velocity, acceleration and wing-beat frequency. “Once it validates a target as a bad bug, we deploy the lethal laser. Within 25 milliseconds you have a little insect carcass on the ground,” Makagon says. “Each wall segment is designed to interrogate and, if the target is on the kill list, it will provide a lethal dose to up to 20 insects per second.” The company claims the machine, which has a kill zone of 30 metres wide and three metres high, destroys 99 per cent of the insects it identifies.

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When Intellectual Ventures co-founder and former Microsoft chief technology officer Nathan Myhrvold came up with the idea of a bug-killing fence in 2010, the intention was to use it to improve public health in Sub-Saharan Africa. Now, however, the Photonic Fence has become a commercial project with a particular target: the Asian citrus psyllid. This insect invader has reduced citrus production in Florida by at least 70 per cent over the last 15 years. In August, the device will be installed on a US Department of Agriculture site in the state for its first real-world test. If all goes to plan, Intellectual Ventures aims to market the Photonic Fence to farmers protecting crops from a multitude of other pests.

“It turns out that everybody you talk about this to has a pest they want to kill,” Makagon says. “Some small, flying things that are really annoying and detrimental to their way of being.”

 

Drones and phones are the next frontier for AI breakthroughs

The artificial intelligence revolution is being underwritten by the cloud. Every decision made by an AI involves sending information to vast data centres, where it’s processed before being returned. But our data-hungry world is posing a problem: while we can process data at rapid rates, sending it back and forth is a logistical nightmare. And that’s why AI is heading to your pocket. In essence, this means adding brains to the phones and other technologies we use on a daily basis. “Machine learning and artificial intelligence not only makes devices more autonomous and valuable but also allows them to be more personal depending on what a customer likes or needs,” says Vadim Budaev, software development team leader at Scorch AI. Much of the work in the area is being led by tech’s biggest companies, which are adding basic AI and machine learning applications to products as they develop them.  Abilogic Facebook has introduced deep learning that can “capture, analyse, and process pixels” in videos in real-time within its apps. Google’s latest framework lets developers build AI into their apps.Apps are the likely first step for introducing AI to devices, but it’s predicted this will quickly move to other products. “An expanding variety of mobile devices will be able to run machine learning,” says David Schatsky, a managing director at Deloitte. “Virtual and augmented reality headsets; smart glasses; a new generation of medical devices that will be able to do diagnostics in the field; drones and vehicles; and internet of things devices will combine sensing with local analysis.” His company predicts that during 2017, 300 million smartphones will have a built-in neural network machine-learning capability.The first products using on-device AI and machine learning are starting to appear. Australian startup Lingmo International’s in-ear language translator claims to work without Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. Meanwhile, DJI’s Phantom 4 drone, released in 2016, uses on-board machine vision to stop it from crashing.

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Technology developed by Xnor AI is using CPUs (rather than GPUs) to put AI on devices. It claims to be able to detect objects, in real-time on a cellphone. A promotional video and a report from TechCrunch claims its systems can also be run on a lower-powered device. A Raspberry Pi, for example, could be used to detect knives and guns.”Where the data sets are smaller or involving more individualised data sets (such as personal information), it will be significantly more practical to process on-device,” explains Nadav Tal-Israel, from Pixoneye, a firm using on-device machine learning to scan photos. When successful, there are multiple benefits of running machine learning on a device. To start with, the processing and decision making can be quicker as data doesn’t need to be beamed to a remote location. Keeping data local means it doesn’t have to be transmitted to the company providing the service – giving users greater privacy levels. Apple is testing the model through a system it calls differential privacy. “Protecting customer information is a major priority for businesses, and we’ve seen in many instances the damage that can be done to a brand where customer data is hacked,” Tal-Israel adds. “Processing data on-device alleviates this issue by ensuring that the data is retained on the user’s mobile rather than being transferred to the server”.At present, the difficulty in bringing AI to devices at scale lies in computing power. If phones can’t process data quickly enough, AI systems will run down their batteries. Electrical engineers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have developed a way for neural networks – one of the key underlying systems behind machine learning – to reduce power consumption and be more portable.

There’s also a new range of chips being developed that can specifically handle machine learning applications. Google’s Tensor Processing Units powers its translate and search systems, while UK startup Graphcore has developed its own machine learning chips. Elsewhere, the field of neuromorphic computing is growing considerably. On-device artificial intelligence is still in its infancy, but for the wider AI industry to continue to make big breakthroughs it’s going to need all the computing power it can get.

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Here’s an idea: quit your job and start your own microbrewery

Whether you prefer a pale ale, porter, ruby, IPA, DIPA or stout, the choice of beer at pubs across the UK has changed beyond recognition mostly thanks to the rise of craft breweries. Here’s how you can turn making your own tipple into a brewing business. It all started with a tax change. In 2002 then chancellor Gordon Brown introduced the ‘small breweries’ relief’ scheme. Also known as Progressive Beer Duty (PBD), the incentive gave huge tax breaks to small breweries.It might sound like a lot, but breweries producing less than 600,000 hectolitres each year – or about ten million pints – qualifies for a discount on the amount of duty they Asus Support Number pay. Extra small breweries, producing only 5,000 hectolitres each year, pay 50 per cent of the duty compared to large companies.In 2000 there were around 500 breweries in the UK. In October last year, there were 1,700 – and this trend is only going one way. In the US, the number of craft microbreweries jumped by 21 per cent to 3,132 from 2015 to 2017, according to the Brewers Association.

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There are two main routes people can go to start their own brewery, says Seb Brink, head brewer at North Brewing Co, based in Leeds. Either start out as an enthusiastic home-brewer, like he did, or get an apprenticeship at a brewery and learn the trade from there.After graduating from a music degree, Brink was brewing at home for a while. One day he asked a local brewery if he could Leapzip rent some of their equipment. A few years after using that to start his own brewery, called Golden Owl, he was approached by a local bar, North Bar, which wanted to start its own brewery.

With a few bars dotted around Leeds, North Brewing Co. already had somewhere to sell its beer. Now, just over a year and a half years late, North Brewing Co. Soup is receiving orders from across the world and finding it difficult to keep up with demand.

 

Overwatch: Bigger than the Premier League?

Its developer Activision Blizzard has just announced the first seven team owners for a forthcoming league. It believes, in time, the tournament could prove more lucrative than the UK’s Premier League – football’s highest-earning competition. Several of the successful bidders have made their mark with traditional sports teams, and the buy-in price has not been cheap. The BBC understands the rights cost $20m (£15.5m) per squad. For that, owners get the promise of a 50% revenue split with the Overwatch League itself for future earnings.The fast-paced cartoon-like shooter was designed to appeal to both players and spectators. It’s low on gore and features a racial mix of male and female heroes, including a gay character – a relative rarity in gaming.Unlike most e-sports competitions, each team will be based in a different major city to help owners attract home crowds.And they will pursue the world’s biggest consumer brands as sponsors, rather than the kind of games-related businesses usually associated with e-sports.

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“If you want to reach 18-to-35-year-olds, you really need to be where they are, and they are playing games,” Activision Blizzard’s chief executive Bobby Kotick told the BBC. “The other thing that we offer uniquely is that Overwatch is a very family-friendly game experience. It’s a teen-rated game; it’s super-colourful, super-friendly. “And if you look at the geographical diversity of the maps or the ethnic and racial diversity of the characters, those are all things that we took into consideration in the construction of what we thought would be a globally appealing experience.”To start with, teams are expected to make use of existing venues, but in time Activision Blizzard believes owners will build huge dedicated stadiums of their own.

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From privacy to AI, the new trends set to change the world

Every now and then, WIRED brings together a small group of people from multiple sectors and disciplines to talk. The aim is simple: to share ideas, discuss new trends and debate the value and impact of emerging technologies. On Monday 13 March 2017, one of these evenings was held at Condé Nast’s UK HQ with partner Accenture. This time, the topic brought to the table for discussion by WIRED editor Greg Williams was the biggest trends and technologies announced and unveiled at Mobile World Congress (MWC). “For me, it was the quieter things that were making the most noise,” said James Temperton, WIRED senior editor and reporter from MWC. “Things like the unanswered questions around 5G and also the fact that in the coming years we won’t be tapping our interfaces, we’ll be talking to them.” Asus Customer Service UK Attendees ranged from Caroline Drucker of Instagram’s strategic partnerships and Christina Nesheva from Hive Innovation Unit, to Paul Coby, CIO of John Lewis and Brooke Stevens, head of international research at Shazam.Topics touched upon included the shift in the ownership model of cars, with the mass introduction of driverless transportation, and the potential for data-driven product design and personalisation.

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“Using qualitative ways of customising experiences. So businesses making decision based on numbers – not old white men making decisions on gut feelings,” said one attendee. From here, a short debate took hold. Surely, said some, these customisations could only come from gathering people’s data – something many users are still queasy about with respect to their browsing, messaging and location information, even if it’s in their interest. Terence Eden, open standards lead at Government Digital Service, drew on the general stasis seen in mobile hardware to highlight a need for refinement. “We’ve reached an inflection point where things are good enough,” he said. “If we look at the big sellers at the moment, it’s stuff that’s plateau-level. People have reached a level where they are happy – apart from with their battery life, of course.”

For such big sellers to thrive, however, it’s key that they open up, said Accenture managing director and go-to-market lead George Marcotte: “Businesses have a choice between continuing with the internal, closed-shop practices of the past, or opening their innovation capabilities to an entire ecosystem of innovative partners.”

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Microsoft 365 puts Windows and Office in one package for businesses

Microsoft has bundled up its core products for businesses for a monthly fee, to encourage companies to upgrade to Windows 10.Its new offering, Microsoft 365, includes Office 365, Windows 10, and Enterprise Mobility + Security, for a monthly, per-user fee.By wrapping its products into one package, Microsoft is making it easier for businesses big and small to manage and pay for the software. It also pushes customers to the latest versions of Office and Windows and, as it’s subscription-based, ensures they’ll always have the latest version of software – something Microsoft is keen to encourage among its user base. Asus Support There are two main versions of the new package: Microsoft 365 Business, which is for small and medium-sized businesses, and Microsoft 365 Enterprise for larger businesses.The first caters for businesses with up to 300 users. Alongside Windows, Office and the security tools, the bundle will also include Microsoft’s mileage tracking app, called Mile IQ, and previews of three new SMB-focused apps: Listings, for email marketing; Connections, to help publish your business information online; and Invoicing. It will hit public preview on 2 August and be available in the autumn, at $20 per user each month.

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For larger companies, Microsoft 365 Enterprise comes in two versions, E3 and E5, with both available on 1 August. The former comes with Office, Outlook and Exchange, Teams, Skype for Business, SharePoint, Yammer and Microsoft’s threat protection system, as well as analytics and management software. E5 adds further analytics and compliance tools, and Microsoft’s advanced security tools, as well as PSTN Conferencing and Cloud PBX.There’s no pricing for Microsoft 365 Enterprise as it will be sold via partners, so costs will vary. Windows 10 Enterprise E3, which doesn’t come with Office, currently costs $7 a month.

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