TechSummit Rewind #060

Editor’s Note: This is the TechSummit Rewind, a daily recap of the top technology headlines.

Amazon invests in Luma

Luma_Floating_Family copy

WiFi startup Luma has landed an investment from Amazon as part of a $12.5 million series A funding round.

The round was led by Accel Partners and the aforementioned e-commerce giant, with 500 Startups and former AT&T CEO David Dorman also investing alongside existing backers Felicis Ventures, Base Ventures, BIP Capital, Relay Ventures, and Webb Investment Network.

Luma aims to offer better coverage through a mesh network of multiple devices and use a mobile app to set up, monitor, and control the network. The Atlanta-based company also looks to offer home administrators a deeper view into the devices on the network, and the websites/apps being used.

Amazon’s investment was made by the company’s Alexa fund, and Luma is working to see how its products might integrate with Amazon’s voice assistant.

Luma plans to ship in June, according to company executive chairman Paul Judge, but the company has received 30,000 preorders for the product.

The new investment will help the company step up its hiring.

Luma is available for preorder now for $149 for a single unit or in a $299 three-unit pack.

Google Fiber ending free Internet offer in Kansas City

googlefiberspace

Initially, Google Fiber came with the pitch that you paid for a one-time construction fee and got Internet access for free after that. However, that option was dropped for new subscribers in Kansas City, its first market.

In its place are two new plans, a faster Fiber 100 option that costs $50/month with no construction fee or contract, and a broader agenda implementation to wire economically underserved neighborhoods for free.

Google is still offering a free Internet service in Kansas City, although it will come from an Obama administration coordinated program to reach unspecified “digitally divided neighborhoods.”

According to the company, Fiber users who are currently on the free tier have until May 19 to keep the initial agreement, which lasts seven years.

Goldman Sachs leads $30M round for Persado’s copywriting service

Persado

Goldman Sachs has led a $30 million investment into Persado, a service that has developed software that can write “cognitive content” designed to get readers to engage with it.

“We’ve run 4,000 campaigns and our average uplift on conversion rates is 49.5 percent.

“Cognitive content has a much broader applicability if you think that in the next few years everyone wants to inspire action. If you want a Fitbit device and you want motivation to run the next 5k… if you’re in the market for dating and you want to improve your chances… All of these are examples of areas where cognitive content can play a role.”

-Assaf Baciu, Persado cofounder

In the next few years, Persado plans to start pursuing opportunities for pushing health and wellness prompts in apps and other areas.

The company has cataloged a million words and phrases that marketers use in their copy and scored those words based on sentiment analysis and the structure of marketing pitches defined by a message’s format, linguistic structure, description, emotional language, and its actual call to action. The software can create a message, optimize its language, and then translate that message into any of 23 languages, according to Baciu.

“We tagged language that we harvested around the web and then our content went to market roughly 40 billion times. Every time we do a campaign we leverage that content. We accumulate knowledge over time and refine it.”

-Assaf Baciu

According to Baciu, Persado can infinitely tweak messages to find the phrases that will be most engaging for readers.

“We’re not here about displacing, we’re here about enhancing. On the debate of whether technology is replacing or enhancing, we’re optimists. We want to enhance on the ability to drive impact.”

-Assaf Baciu

Twiggle scores $12.5M Series A led by Naspers

Internet conglomerate Naspers has led a $12.5M Series A funding round for Tel Aviv-based e-commerce search startup Twiggle. Yahoo Japan, State of Mind Ventures, and Sir Ronald Cohen also participated in the round.

The search engine combined natural language processing, data science, and artificial intelligence. The company’s founders want to improve on current e-commerce search engines by letting people search in normal sentences. For example, instead of typing “double door white refrigerator” and then filtering results, they can write “I want a two-door fridge that doesn’t make too much noise which is also white, which is new, has great reviews and is a great value for the money.”

Twiggle will then analyze that sentence for keywords and decide the technical criteria it needs to find in product descriptions.

The search engine will also provide context about different types of products so they know what they want to look for. For example, a search for a smartphone will return specs about important features (internal memory, camera megapixels, etc.) and then rank it against competing products around the web.

“We want to treat search as a way to give people answers to questions and give them timely information. We don’t want to send them to a product page and then have to find the information themselves. If they ask for a quiet laptop, then we want to rank results by quietness, instead of creating more confusion. We look at the Internet at large and create a very large knowledge graph with use cases of products and the relations between them.”

-Amir Konigsberg, Twiggle CEO

The company plans to use its Series A capital to hire more engineers and integrate its search engine into e-commerce sites. After that, Twiggle will build an ecosystem including mobile and voice-to-text search products.

Twiggle will launch on several e-commerce sites, like India’s Flipkart, Argentina’s Avenida, and the Philippines’ OLX, in August.

Quixey names new CEO

Quixey

Mobile search and advertising startup Quixey has swapped out its CEO after missing key revenue targets last year.

Mark Lazar is now CEO, while the company’s founding CEO, Tomar Kagan, will focus on Quixey’s technology as its chief strategy officer.

“Quixey has a unique vision and place in mobile search alongside big industry players like Google.”

-Mark Lazar, Quixey CEO

Lazar was most recently CEO of Mountain View, Calif.-based company Victorio, which sells enterprise software against fraud attacks.

A final note…

It’s going to be a busy week in the tech space, so keep it locked right here for full coverage.

  • Tuesday: HTC will hold a media event where we expect to get the Taiwanese phone maker’s next flagship, and Facebook will hold its F8 developer conference where the social network is expected to launch chatbot support for its Messenger messaging service.
  • Amazon is also expected to launch new Kindles.
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