Tiger Global backs bttn, leading e-commerce infiltration of medical supplies

That work has paid off, he added, and customers are “coming back in droves.” Bttn’s marketplace now has more than 2.5 million products and continues to “rip-and-replace” the way healthcare distribution is managed.

The company, going after a

News stories over the past two years spotlighted the problems hospitals and other medical organizations were having in procuring masks, gloves and other essential medical supplies as hospital units grew crowded with COVID patients.

Bttn co-founders JT Garwood and Jack Miller heard the call and started the Seattle-based company in March 2021 after seeing the challenges medical organizations faced in not only finding supplies, but fair prices for them.

The company’s business-to-business e-commerce marketplace provides a variety of name-brand medical supplies, saving its customers an average of between 20% and 40%, while providing a better ordering and shipping experience.

“From a supply chain perspective, the pandemic was the peak of terribleness,” Garwood told TechCrunch. “There were a lot of backorders and huge manufacturers were out of production. We felt it was an opportunity to step up during a time of intensity to help practice owners save time and money and get access to products they couldn’t through their traditional channels.”

JT Garwood, co-founder and CEO of bttn. Image Credits: bttn

That work has paid off, he added, and customers are “coming back in droves.” Bttn’s marketplace now has more than 2.5 million products and continues to “rip-and-replace” the way healthcare distribution is managed.

The company, going after a U.S. wholesale medical supply market poised to be valued at $307 billion this year, has experienced hypergrowth since we profiled bttn’s $5 million seed round in August 2021. At that time, the company was working with 300 customers, including individual practices, surgical centers and over 17 healthcare associations across the country.

Today that number has jumped to 7,000 customers, including more than 500 healthcare practices that purchased supplies via bttn for the first time in April, Garwood said. During that month, the company added eight distribution and fulfillment centers. Between August and May, bttn also boosted its employee headcount to 75 (from 10) and grew its gross merchandise volume 1,000%. In May, the company reached a milestone of over 1,000 orders.

With all of that demand and activity, bttn is back with a larger round and a prominent lead backer. Today, the one-year-old company is back with $20 million in Series A funding, led by Tiger Global, that puts it at a $110 million post-money valuation. Fuse also participated in the round.

Garwood explained that going after new capital would give the company the runway to accelerate toward its mission of being the “preferred distributor for every practitioner nationwide and bring transparency to the whole ecosystem.”

“They get to use digital parts of the supply chain that they have never been asked to use before,” he added. “Now is an important time because the ecosystem is ripe for it. In addition, though funding markets have slowed, it is clear that companies with big visions and economies are getting funding and that is what we are all about.”

Garwood intends to use the new funding to continue to build …read more


Echodyne’s compact, steerable radar spots $135M investment and prepares to diversify

An Echodyne radar attached to a small UAV.

When Echodyne showed off its compact but intelligent metamaterial radar system back in 2017, the applications seemed endless… but some, like urban air mobility and autonomous vehicles, we’re still waiting on. Fortunately the defense industry has buoyed the company up during a couple tough years and it is now looking to pursue new opportunities, powered by a $135M funding round co-led by Bill Gates.

The company’s technology, detailed back then, essentially replaces large, power-hungry, often mechanized radar arrays with a device the size of a hardback book.

The power and weight savings alone would make it attractive enough, but it also adds capabilities like intelligent beam-forming for directing the radar’s ability to resolve details to a small area of interest. It’s made possible by metamaterials, a class of tech lorded over by Intellectual Ventures, and where Echodyne was incubated.

Originally the thought was that this would be a great addition to things like drones, which are quite limited in the sensing hardware they can carry comfortably without affecting range or maneuverability, and autonomous vehicles, on which space is likewise at a premium.

EchoDrive was the company’s first commercial product, put out in January of 2020 and intended for AVs — and as you may recall, that market is still struggling to emerge. Not to mention the pandemic thing.

Fortunately the capabilities of Echodyne’s tech were not lost on certain deep-pocketed others, like the Army, Department of Homeland Security, NASA, and Northrop Grumman, all of which have signed contracts with the company for various reasons.

Image Credits: Echodyne

“You don’t need to solve the corner cases of AV when the topic is radar solutions for uncrewed aircraft systems, national and critical infrastructure security, or defense mission requirements. And we have products for dozens of applications in each one of those large and global markets,” said Eben Frankenberg, Echodyne’s CEO and co-founder.

The reality was people were hungry for better and smarter ground radar as part of a new generation of tracking and sensing that needs to occur in industrial and military situations around the world. If your main radar for detecting small UAVs at a military depot is the spinning one on top of the control tower, you’re low-hanging fruit for a modern savvy drone operator. But a dozen Echodyne radars scattered around the place might do the job ten times better for a quarter the price (these numbers purely for illustrative purposes).

Can’t hurt that they now offer the devices in desert tan:

An Echodyne radar on a small tripod overseeing a desert area.

Image Credits: Echodyne

It’s all part of a stationary, defense-focused package Echodyne calls EchoGuard. You can see in the top render that it’s meant to act as a full-sky tracking and warning system.

“We’re really leaning into the idea of networks of radars deployed that operate cooperatively, as a single instance, and …read more


DoorDash rolls out new in-app features, including written reviews, item ratings and more

Lastly, users will now also be able to find top-rated and reliable restaurants that are known for making sure orders are correct and on-time with DoorDash’s new Most Loved All Stars carousel and banner in the app.

“We’re always thinking about how we can make the shopping experience even more frictionless and relevant for our customers,” said Helena Seo, the head of design at DoorDash, in a statement. “With the launch of the Most Liked Items feature, we’re saving consumers over 400,000 hours annually, reducing decision fatigue when deciding what to order. We’re excited for consumers to find the delight in discovering new restaurants and dishes, trusted and loved by locals.”

Today’s announcement comes as DoorDash has been tweaking its platform and adding new options for consumers over the past few months. Most recently, DoorDash

DoorDash announced today that it’s rolling out a number of new features to give users additional ways to discover popular restaurants near them. Most notably, the company is launching written reviews within the app to let users read other customers’ thoughts about specific restaurants or share their own. DoorDash says in-app written reviews will enable customers to save time when looking for other users’ feedback because they’ll no longer have to toggle between multiple apps when looking for restaurant reviews.

The company also notes that the new written reviews will be beneficial for merchants on its app, as they’ll now be able to get access to direct feedback from their customers. DoorDash began piloting this feature in November 2021, and has received more than 7 million public reviews since then.

DoorDash has also created a new “most liked” tag to surface top-rated eats that customers often enjoy. After completing an order on the app, customers can rate the items they got by tapping a “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” icon. A restaurant’s three items with the highest number of “thumbs up” ratings will be displayed on the menu with a “most liked” tag. DoorDash says that since piloting this feature, it’s seen that users are submitting more than 2.5 million item ratings per week.

In addition, the app is rolling out Top 10 lists to make it easier for users to view top-rated nearby restaurants. The lists will leverage the company’s real-time data from consumer ratings and order volume to surface the best-rated restaurants.

Image Credits: DoorDash

Lastly, users will now also be able to find top-rated and reliable restaurants that are known for making sure orders are correct and on-time with DoorDash’s new Most Loved All Stars carousel and banner in the app.

“We’re always thinking about how we can make the shopping experience even more frictionless and relevant for our customers,” said Helena Seo, the head of design at DoorDash, in a statement. “With the launch of the Most Liked Items feature, we’re saving consumers over 400,000 hours annually, reducing decision fatigue when deciding what to order. We’re excited for consumers to find the delight in discovering new restaurants and dishes, trusted and loved by locals.”

Today’s announcement comes as DoorDash has been tweaking its platform and adding new options for consumers over the past few months. Most recently, DoorDash introduced a new subscription plan for college students called “DashPass for Students” that costs $4.99 per month, which is half the price of a standard monthly DashPass subscription. The company has also confirmed that it’s testing a new feature called “Return a Package” that allows customers to use the service to return packages to the nearest post office, UPS or FedEx location.

…read more


Spotify is acquiring Sonantic, the AI voice platform used to simulate Val Kilmer’s voice in Top Gun Maverick

Streaming giant Spotify, most famous for its music and podcast streaming services targeting consumers, is making an acquisition of a voice AI company to expand its reach in audio technology — opening the door not just to building more functionality on Spotify itself, but other potential business opportunities elsewhere, too. Today, the company announced that it is acquiring Sonantic, a London-based startup that has built an AI engine to create very realistic-sounding, yet simulated, human voices from text.

You may not know the name Sonantic, but you may have seen its work. The company was founded to build AI-based realistic voice services for gaming and entertainment environments, and its technology helped bring Val Kilmer’s voice to life in Top Gun: Maverick. In real life, the actor is unable to speak as he did in the past as a result of throat cancer; so for the sequel where he reprised his role as a foil (and now friend) to Tom Cruise, his condition, and the simulated voice Sonantic created, were both written into the plot of the film.

The companies are not disclosing the financial terms of the deal. Sonantic had raised less than $3 million in funding from an interesting group of investors that included EQT Ventures, Entrepreneur First (EF), AME Cloud Ventures, Bart Swanson of Horizons Ventures, Twitch’s Kevin Lin, Jeremy Jap, Charles Jolley and more.

It’s also not clear what the timing of the acquisition was and whether it came out of the startup looking for more fundraising, or the success of the high-profile film exposure, or something else altogether.

“We’ve been aware of Sonantic’s technology for a while,” a spokesperson said in answer to the question. He also said that the whole of the Sonantic team will sit inside of the “Consumer and Platform BU in the Personalization Mission” led by Ziad Sultan, who is VP of personalization at Spotify.

“We’re really excited about the potential to bring Sonantic’s AI voice technology onto the Spotify platform and create new experiences for our users,” Sultan said in a statement. “This integration will enable us to engage users in a new and even more personalized way.”

Spotify notes in a blog post that it sees “several potential opportunities for text-to-speech capabilities across our platform,” and from the looks of it the most immediate applications for using the tech indeed will be on Spotify itself, especially as it expands its reach further into new environments where consumers cannot immerse themselves in on-screen interactions — such as in vehicles, by way of services like Car Thing, launched earlier this year.

One example that Spotify gives of how it might use the tech is to use AI voices to bring more audio-based recommendations and descriptions to users who are not looking at their screens — for example, for those driving cars or listening while doing other activities and not able to look at a screen.

“We believe that over the long term, high-quality voice …read more


Cereal maker Magic Spoon scoops up $85M as it lands spot on Target shelves

Magic Spoon is not alone in tackling a healthier version of breakfast. They are among companies like

Magic Spoon, the maker of better-for-you cereals, secured $85 million in Series B funding as three of its brands make the jump from direct-to-consumer-only offerings to Target store shelves for the first time.

HighPost Capital led the new round, which brings Magic Spoon’s total funding to date to $100 million. HighPost is joined by Siddhi Capital, Coefficient Capital, Constellation Capital, Carter Comstock and a bevy of celebrity investors, including Shakira, Russell Westbrook, Halsey, The Chainsmokers, Amy Schumer, Odell Beckham Jr. and Nas.

Co-founders Gabi Lewis and Greg Sewitz started New York-based Magic Spoon in 2019, creating cereal flavors like Fruity, Cocoa and Peanut Butter, but with better ingredients, zero added sugar, high protein and low carbs, as well as gluten free and keto-friendly.

Those three flavors are the first among Magic Spoon’s eight flavors to go into 1,300 Target locations beginning Monday.

The pair declined to share hard numbers to support the company’s growth, but did say that Magic Spoon’s products have reached more than 1 million customers in the past three years.

And, while it has mostly been a direct-to-consumer brand, Lewis says adding retail was part of the plan all along.

“The plan was to grow the business as fast as we can and layer in new things over time,” Lewis told TechCrunch. “We wanted to do one thing at a time, do it well and then move on to the next one. We started with our website, then Amazon, with the goal of layering on additional channels to grow in new and different ways. Now we are ready to lean into retail and go onto shelves.”

In fact, Lewis and Sewitz have always planned to launch products away from the cereal box. Sewitz said he couldn’t go into more detail at this time as to what other products are in the pipeline, but Magic Spoon has a line of limited-edition cereal bars, which will become permanent members of the product line this month.

Magic Spoon co-founders Gabi Lewis and Greg Sewitz. Image Credits: Magic Spoon

Magic Spoon is not alone in tackling a healthier version of breakfast. They are among companies like OffLimits and Crispy Fantasy in cereal and Kreatures of Habit and Yishi in the oatmeal space. Some have also gobbled up venture capital dollars as they grab a piece of a breakfast cereals market poised to be valued at $51 billion by 2028.

When asked who they think their competitors are, Lewis and Sewitz say they don’t technically think of themselves as competing against just cereal brands, but with breakfast and snack brands, as a whole, for the right to be at the kitchen table.

The new capital injection positions Magic Spoon as “very well capitalized with its retail launch,” Sewitz said. He noted that investments will be made in growth and adding talent to scale up around logistics, customer service and growth marketing as …read more


All the things Apple Sherlocked at WWDC 2022

Feature: Medication tracking

Sherlocked apps: 

Apple introduced some amazing updates across iOS, iPadOS, watchOS, and macOS at the worldwide developer conference (WWDC) last week.

The company announced a few new features never seen before on iOS like Stage Manager for better multitasking and Safety Check to get away from abusers. But there are others that Apple simply Sherlocked — the term for when Apple incorporates features that have been hallmarks of third-party apps, making those apps no longer necessary to use for those features. Many people on Twitter were surprised at how many apps got Sherlocked this year.

It’s hard to say if Apple engineers sat in a meeting room and got “inspired” by an app, or if a feature was already part of product roadmaps. Either way, it’s likely that a lot more people will use a system-baked feature than trying to find an app for a particular problem — unless the latter offers some unique extra features.

For the uninitiated, here’s the backstory of how “Sherlocked” became a popular word among Apple enthusiasts. The company released a finder app named Sherlock for macOS 8 in the late 90s. The tool had capabilities of searching the web and files on your local system.

Meanwhile, a company called Karelia Software had a finder app named Watson — priced at $29 — with some superior features like plug-ins for better internet search. In 2002, Apple released Sherlock 3 with similar features to Watson, making Karelia redundant and forcing it to close down eventually.

So the word Sherlocked came into the picture whenever Apple released a feature that could potentially shut down an app or make it useless.

Now that’s out of the way, here’s a list of features and apps Apple Sherlocked.

Feature: Continuity camera

Sherlocked app: Camo

Apple’s new continuity feature will let you use your iPhone as a webcam, which was Camo’s main pitch. The iPhone-maker is partnering with Belkin to release a special mount later this year, which will hold your iPhone atop your Macbook screen. Plus, it will release an API for Camera Continuity so other apps could easily take advantage of this feature.

But Camo’s not completely dead. It’s available on Windows and also compatible with Android phones. As Camera Continuity will only work with an iPhone-Mac combo, any other combinations of desktop and mobile systems will have to use Camo or an equivalent app. Plus, it could offer more video tuning features to its pro users, so they can get their money’s worth.

Feature: Apple Pay Later

Sherlocked apps: Klarna, Clearpay, many others

Reports earlier in the year suggested that Apple will launch a pay later service. The company went a step further and even opened a new lending subsidiary.

Apple Pay Later service will let you make purchases that you can pay in four equal installments spread over six weeks, but you don’t have to bear any interests or service fees.

Klarna offers a similar …read more


Astra’s latest launch for NASA also ends in failure

Rocket launch company Astra isn’t starting out with the best track record, after it’s latest mission for NASA ended in failure — just a few months after its last rocket carrying payloads for the agency failed to reach orbit.

The TROPICS mission included two cubesats intended to join NASA’s existing constellation by the same name. Astra Rocket 3.3 launch vehicle took off as planned from Florida’s Cape Canaveral on Sunday, but despite what Astra characterized as good first stage performance, the second stage encountered a problem and shut down prior to delivering its payload to their intended orbit.

Astra did have a successful orbital launch in March, using the same iteration of its launch vehicle, for customer Spaceflight, Inc. That mission took off from Kodiak, Alaska. Astra has yet to fly a successful mission from Florida.

The company went public via a SPAC merger in 2021, and its share price is down nearly 24% ahead of market open.


…read more


Apple’s payment options offer for Dutch dating apps is compliant, says ACM

The Netherlands’ competition regulator is finally happy with concessions by Apple to allow dating apps in the market to use alternative payment technologies.

On Saturday the Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) provided an update on the multi-month saga which has drawn high level attention on Apple’s approach to complying with competition orders, saying the tech giant had changed unfair conditions it had been imposing following an order by the regulator to allow dating apps to use non-Apple payment tech for processing in-app purchases.

“Until recently, customers of dating apps had only been able to pay using the payment method that Apple imposed. In ACM’s opinion, Apple abused its dominant position with those practices,” the ACM wrote in the update. “From now on, dating-app providers are able to let their customers pay in different ways.”

The ACM has hit Apple with a series of fines since January — totalling €50 million — for non-compliance with its order, and had warned it could issue further penalties if Apple did not resolve its concerns.

The watchdog had been considering a revised offer Apple made back in March — after finding problems with how Apple had implemented earlier concessions and judging conditions it applied to be “unreasonable“, as well as accusing it of creating an “unnecessary barrier” for developers of dating apps.

“Apple now complies with the rules,” the regulator added. “That is why ACM no longer needs to impose a new order subject to periodic penalty payments. Over the past few months, ACM had collected information from dating-app providers and independent experts before its assessment that Apple complied with the order.”

Commenting in a statement, Martijn Snoep, chairman of the ACM’s board, also said: “We want everyone to be able to reap the benefits of the digital economy. In the digital economy, powerful companies have a special responsibility to keep the market fair and open. Apple avoided that responsibility, and abused its dominant position vis-à-vis dating-app providers. We are glad that Apple has finally brought its conditions in line with European and Dutch competition rules. That offers app providers more opportunities to compete. And consumers will ultimately reap the benefits, too.”

Details of how exactly Apple revised its concession to satisfy the ACM are not immediately clear — but, among a number of tweaks to its original offer, Apple previously dropped a requirement that dating apps compile a separate binary which the regulator had deemed overly burdensome.

In documentation for developers distributing dating apps in the Netherlands, Apple confirms they may do one of the following:

  1. continue using Apple’s in-app purchase system,
  2. use a third-party payment system within the app,
  3. include an in-app link directing users to the developer’s website to complete a purchase, or
  4. use a third-party payment system within the app and include a link directing users to the developer’s website to complete a purchase.

“Developers of dating apps who want to continue using Apple’s in-app purchase system may …read more


Crypto lender Celsius pauses withdrawals, transfers citing ‘extreme market conditions’


Cryptocurrency lender Celsius Network, recently valued at about $3 billion, told customers Sunday evening that it is pausing “withdrawals, swap, and transfers between accounts” in a move that is sparking discussions and has prompted the price of the firm’s token to take a 60% tumble in the past one hour to 19 cents.

“We are taking this action today to put Celsius in a better position to honor, over time, its withdrawal obligations,” wrote Celsius, which counts stablecoin-issuer Tether International and Canadian pension fund Caisse de Dépôt et Placement du Québec among its investors.

“Acting in the interest of our community is our top priority. In service of that commitment and to adhere to our risk management framework, we have activated a clause in our Terms of Use that will allow for this process to take place. Celsius has valuable assets and we are working diligently to meet our obligations.”

Celsius allows users to deposit their Bitcoin, Ethereum and Tether and receive weekly interest payments. Depending on the time horizon and the token, the platform offers as much as 18% interest a year. On its website, Celsius says 1.7 million people call “Celsius their home for crypto.”

The announcement follows one of the brutal weekends in the cryptocurrency market that saw hundreds of millions of dollars worth of liquidation. At the time of publication, Bitcoin was trading at about $25,585 and Ethereum at $1,346, some of their lowest levels in over a year. Other high-profile crypto projects including Solana, BNB and FTT were also down.

…read more


Google Settles Gender Discrimination Lawsuit for $118 Million

The company didn’t admit wrongdoing as part of an agreement to resolve a class-action suit that covered some 15,500 women. …read more