Split raises $17M for its product experimentation platform


Split announced this morning that it’s raised $17 million in Series B funding.

The round was led by Lightspeed Venture Partners, with participation from Accel Partners and new investor Harmony Partners. Split has now raised a total of $26.8 million.

The startup allows companies to test out new features and deliver them in a targeted way to select groups of users. Co-founder and CEO Adil Aijaz said the key components of the platform include tools for targeting users and tracking their activity within the product, plus a statistical engine to help businesses understand how feature changes are actually affecting that activity.

While this might sound like just another A/B testing tool, Aijaz argued that it’s very different, because it’s used by the product and engineering team (rather than marketers), and it involves core product features (rather than relatively superficial changes to a website’s appearance and messaging).

Optimizely, which has its roots in A/B testing, also describes itself as an experimentation platform, but in Aijaz’s view, this is just “great validation.”

“In the long run, will these terms become synonymous? I believe so,” he said. “But I believe a single solution that serves the needs of the needs of entire team is still pretty far off in the future.”

And Split has already signed up customers including Salesforce, Vevo and Twilio.

Featured Image: Andrew Brookes/Cultura/Getty Images

Split raises $17M for its product experimentation platform


Split announced this morning that it’s raised $17 million in Series B funding.

The round was led by Lightspeed Venture Partners, with participation from Accel Partners and new investor Harmony Partners. Split has now raised a total of $26.8 million.

The startup allows companies to test out new features and deliver them in a targeted way to select groups of users. Co-founder and CEO Adil Aijaz said the key components of the platform include tools for targeting users and tracking their activity within the product, plus a statistical engine to help businesses understand how feature changes are actually affecting that activity.

While this might sound like just another A/B testing tool, Aijaz argued that it’s very different, because it’s used by the product and engineering team (rather than marketers), and it involves core product features (rather than relatively superficial changes to a website’s appearance and messaging).

Optimizely, which has its roots in A/B testing, also describes itself as an experimentation platform, but in Aijaz’s view, this is just “great validation.”

“In the long run, will these terms become synonymous? I believe so,” he said. “But I believe a single solution that serves the needs of the needs of entire team is still pretty far off in the future.”

And Split has already signed up customers including Salesforce, Vevo and Twilio.

Featured Image: Andrew Brookes/Cultura/Getty Images

Split raises $17M for its product experimentation platform


Split announced this morning that it’s raised $17 million in Series B funding.

The round was led by Lightspeed Venture Partners, with participation from Accel Partners and new investor Harmony Partners. Split has now raised a total of $26.8 million.

The startup allows companies to test out new features and deliver them in a targeted way to select groups of users. Co-founder and CEO Adil Aijaz said the key components of the platform include tools for targeting users and tracking their activity within the product, plus a statistical engine to help businesses understand how feature changes are actually affecting that activity.

While this might sound like just another A/B testing tool, Aijaz argued that it’s very different, because it’s used by the product and engineering team (rather than marketers), and it involves core product features (rather than relatively superficial changes to a website’s appearance and messaging).

Optimizely, which has its roots in A/B testing, also describes itself as an experimentation platform, but in Aijaz’s view, this is just “great validation.”

“In the long run, will these terms become synonymous? I believe so,” he said. “But I believe a single solution that serves the needs of the needs of entire team is still pretty far off in the future.”

And Split has already signed up customers including Salesforce, Vevo and Twilio.

Featured Image: Andrew Brookes/Cultura/Getty Images

Bump is a peer-to-peer marketplace for streetwear


As the streetwear and sneaker industry continues to explode in popularity we’re seeing more and more startups popping up to service the industry, all from slightly different angles.

Meet Bump, a peer-to-peer take on a streetwear marketplace. Founded six months ago in the U.K and now part of Y Combinator’s Winter ’18 batch, the startup already has over 200,000 users buying and selling limited edition streetwear from brands like Supreme and Kith.

After signing up anyone can create a listing or buy an item – all prices are set by sellers, who pay a 6% transaction fee to Bump and 2.9% fee to PayPal on all sales. Users can sort by price, size, category or brand – and can also follow specific sellers and “like” items too.

There’s also a messaging feature so you can talk to the seller and potentially negotiate on price. Bump says over 5.5 million messages have been sent on the platform so far, and the majority of purchases involve some type of back and forth and negotiation before being completed. Not only does talking to the seller make buyers feel more comfortable, but it also creates a sense of community where users can just chat about streetwear and develop relationships for future purchases. This is especially important in the streetwear world where getting the newest items is all about what connections you have.

Speaking of getting new items, the app also has a “proxy” category, where users can list their “camping services”, i.e charge you money to wait in line and buy limited edition items then ship them to you. This service is surprisingly popular, and Bump provides a platform to arrange these services where users have PayPal’s buyer protection as a fall back option in case anything goes wrong.

The most notable difference between Bump and competitors like GOAT and StockX is that Bump doesn’t physically inspect and verify the items sold on their platform before they are shipped to a buyer. Instead, they rely on moderators and crowdsourcing to police the platform and report/block any listing that’s a fake.

Of course this sounds easier said than done – especially with how good the quality of fakes are becoming these days. But Jack Ryder and Sam Howarth, cofounders of Bump, explained that their moderators are hard-core streetwear experts and typically know these items inside and out – meaning they know exactly what to look for when spotting a fake.

And while anyone can flag a listing as fake, historically most are taken down by moderators before they are even around long enough to be seen by buyers. Fake sellers are banned and also have their device ID blocked, effectively removing them from the platform. There’s also an eBay-style review system, so sellers can build up positive reviews to signal that they’re a trustworthy seller.

Ryder and Howarth said that these precautions result in a “negligible” fraud rate in the low single digits. But of course this isn’t perfect, and there’s always going to be a little more risk buying on a peer-to-peer marketplace than directly from the retailer or through a platform that verifies each item by hand.

For this reason Bump will probably (at least initially) be used by more savvy streetwear buyers who at least have some personal knowledge of the item they’re trying to buy. But anyone that does receive a fake item is able to receive a full refund via PayPal’s buyer protection services, who processes payments for the startup via their Marketplace Program.

While the startup admitted it may need to eventually look into a physical authentication service as the platform grows, the marketplace aspect does allow for a much wider range of goods to be sold. For example, a scroll through Bump reveals a Supreme Shovel, an Off-White T Shirt and Yeezy Shoes – all on the same page. This is a wider variety compared to services like GOAT where product categories are more limited – as of now that platform still only supports sneakers.

Even though Bump was started in the U.K about 45% of users are now from the U.S, and there’s a decently high percentage of transactions occurring across countries. Essentially buyers are happy to pay a slightly higher shipping price to score an item they’d otherwise not be able to get.

Bump is available on iOS now, and you can check it out here.

Snips brings its privacy-focused voice assistant to cars


French startup Snips is announcing two things for its voice assistant SDK. First, the company is showing off an interesting use case in Nuremberg with a Snips-powered voice assistant in a car. Second, you can now build voice assistants in German.

Snips isn’t technically competing with Alexa Voice Service or Google Assistant SDK as they’re not designed the same way. Snips lets you build a voice assistant that runs locally. While many hackers have been playing around with the SDK, Snips eventually wants to convince manufacturers that they should embed a Snips-powered assistant instead of Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant.

Your voice recordings or instructions are never sent to the cloud with Snips. It respects your privacy and allows some low-latency use cases even if your device isn’t connected or has some connection issues.

While it could be limiting in some cases if you want to build a general-purpose smart speaker, it makes a lot of sense for some devices. For instance, your car might not always be connected to the internet if you’re driving abroad for instance. Snips assistants run on ARM chips that are at least as powerful as a Raspberry Pi 3. So it should work with most infotainment systems out there.

With Snips, you can still launch the navigation system and set a destination with your voice without sending any data. The company thinks that many devices are going to have a voice interface so that you can interact with them directly. For instance, you only want to tell your Roomba to start vacuuming — no need to let you start a Spotify playlist from your vacuum cleaner.

In the demo, you can ask the Snips-powered car to give you an ETA, call a contact and go to an address. Car manufacturers can also work with Snips to customize the wakeword so that you can say “Hey Toyota” instead of a generic “Ok Google” wakeword.

In addition to that, Snips is adding new languages to its embedded voice recognition platform. You can now build a Snips-powered assistant that works in English, French and German. Now let’s see if that will be enough to convince infotainment system manufacturers.

Featured Image: Bryce Durbin/TechCrunch

MyBagCheck lets you drop off your bags anywhere


MyBagCheck is a clever system that ensures that you’ll be able to spend that extra few hours in a foreign city without having to lug around fifty pounds of Samsonite. The founder, Micah B. Lewis, created the app to allow people who have bags to get those bags picked up and stored during the day, something every traveler would love.

The app is self-funded and Lewis spent $60,000 of his own money to build it out. It is in the iOS App Store now.

“We are the only on-demand mobile application that picks up, stores, and delivers bags/luggage in the NYC Metro 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” said Lewis. “No other company does this in the United States.

“I’ve created an entire new segment of business,” he said.

Prices vary based on your location and duration but Lewis’ team will pick up and store your bag from nearly anywhere in New York.

Lewis says the inspiration for the app came when he spent a day in New York and had to lug a laptop bag and shopping around the city and couldn’t get back to his hotel to drop them off.

“With my hands full I had miss out on the impromptu bar crawl because I didn’t want to lug all that stuff around. While walking to the train, I thought to myself there needs to be a better way to get this stuff home so I can stay out and have fun with friends,” he said.

The service is in beta now and he already has a number of paying – and hands-free – customers.

Airbnb is rolling out a new tier aimed at higher-end travelers


Airbnb today is rolling out a few new additions to their home-booking system, including new tiers that are aimed at higher-end customers called Airbnb Plus and Beyond by Airbnb.

The new Airbnb Plus tier has homes that are verified for “quality and comfort,” rolling out with around 2,000 homes to start that have been inspected against a thorough checklist. The Luxury tier, called Beyond by Airbnb, is built around whole trips including hospitality, custom experience and — of course — higher-end homes. Each appears to be targeting verticals within the travel space that make sense based on the typical hospitality industry, but weren’t specifically singled out on Airbnb.

Rather than just searching for a home on Airbnb and flipping through the photos or reviews, the new tiers may offer customers willing to spend more an opportunity to tap into the same expectations they’d get from a luxury resort — or, at least, a higher-end one aiming to hit the status of something like the Sofitel in Bangkok, Thailand. Frequent business travelers often have accumulated massive piles of reward points (and maybe have bigger travel budgets) and may be accustomed to this, and there’s also plenty of opportunity to target the same kinds of experiences that something like an Atlantis full-service resort in the Bahamas might offer.

In addition to those tiers, which are being announced at an event at San Francisco this morning (I overheard that there may be more than 1,000 employees at this event as well as a few dozen “super-hosts”), the company is also adding new ways to search for property on its service. The new brackets are vacation home, unique space, B&B, and Boutique. All these basically already existed on the platform, but that segmentation wasn’t there yet. Hosts are going to have an opportunity to have a more granular way of classifying their homes.

In fact, you’ll often find these kinds of setups already in place when you’re searching for places to stay abroad. You might find several rental units in the same building, or of the same configuration, all by the same host. It’s almost like a kind of faux hotel system, but this will offer an opportunity for Airbnb hosts to differentiate themselves for users that are looking for something more specific.

As Airbnb has tried to begin turning itself into a kind of experience machine with the launch of Experiences, it’s trying to cater itself as an alternative and more robust option in the hospitality industry. Rather than just booking a hotel at a luxury resort you find on TripAdvisor, Airbnb is trying to build the credibility that it can offer unique experiences you won’t find in those hotel environments — whether that’s a tiny apartment in the middle of Shinjuku, Japan, to a beautiful condo in the middle of Ponta Delgada in the Azores. All this comes back to the hosts, which now have an opportunity to try to craft those experiences and, in the end, pick up an additional revenue stream on the property they might already own.

Still, Airbnb is going to continue to face challenges, ranging from some criticism for its expansion in cities like New York to the recent departure of its CFO Laurence Tosi. Airbnb is pegged as one of the next major consumer IPOs, which is highly anticipated given the nigh-flop of Snap and the most-definite flop of Blue Apron as everyone holds their breath for Uber’s IPO in 2019. Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky has said there are no plans for an IPO in 2018, but it doesn’t change that it has to set itself up as a company that has the capacity to be a robust competitor in the hospitality space.

Featured Image: Carl Court/Getty Images