Portfolio May 7 2021

Rockley Photonics Technology puts a “clinic on a wrist”

Rockley Photonics, which recently announced a $1.2 billion listing on the New York Stock Exchange via a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC), is thought to be developing advanced health monitoring features for smartwatches including for Apple. Apple began purchasing products from Rockley in 2017; it is now Rockley’s largest customer with $70 million of NRE commitment to date. The company plans to go public through the SPAC, and via a merger with NYSE-listed SC Health Corp. In an SEC filing last month supporting the maneuver, Rockley said that Apple is the largest of six customers with which it has entered into contracts with or engaged with, developing health and wellness devices. These companies are developing smartwatches and medical devices that measure advanced biomarker detection for chronic diseases, including the holy grail of wearables, continuous glucose monitoring. To date, Rockley’s two largest customers accounted for 100% of its revenue in 2020, and 99.6% of its revenue in 2019; the company said it expects that for the foreseeable future it will continue to be dependent on revenue attributable to a few large customers. In an interview with EE Times earlier this year, Andrew Rickman, founder, chairman and CEO of Rockley Photonics, said, “Silicon Photonics is at a tipping point. It’d been a long journey, there’s been a great deal of promise, but you wouldn’t be able to say today that there’s vast volume out there. There are now millions of units being produced a year, but not tens of millions.” That was when the company announced a $65 million funding round back in January 2021. Rickman told us at the time that the investment would enable it to drive the development of chips for its key target market, health and wellness, enabling continuous, non-invasive monitoring of multi-modal biomarkers such as lactate, glucose, hydration, blood pressure, and core body temperature. The company then announced in March its plans to go public at a $1.2 billion valuation, expected to complete at the end of this quarter. This is when Rickman explained the significance of its offering for healthcare biomarkers, which effectively puts a “clinic on a wrist” using its silicon photonics technology. He told investors on the call, “This is more ground-breaking than the first touchscreen or voice recognition in your smartphone and will change the way we monitor our health going forward. Our module compresses the sensing capabilities of a tabletop clinical spectrometer into a wearable chip that could be carried on your wrist. This enables continuous monitoring of numerous biomarkers, some of which are life critical such as hydration, blood pressure, core body temperature, lactate, and glucose levels for the first time ever.” He said Rockley’s technology is up to a million times more accurate than existing LEDs in high-end smartwatches today. “Smartwatches have LEDs that shine light into your skin, monitoring the scattered light that comes back to measure your pulse and, in the high-end versions, your blood oxygen. With this market taking off, it created a new opportunity for us to exploit an idea we had many years back to create a much more powerful optical sensing chip for non-invasive biomarker monitoring. The aim of Rockley was to develop a third-generation silicon photonics process that overcame the remaining hyperscale manufacturing issues and provided a wider breadth of performance capabilities compared to current processes.” Rickman added, “We’ve shrunk a laboratory spectrometer onto a chip, creating a “clinic on a wrist.” Traditionally, when you shrink an optical instrument, the performance generally gets worse as you get less light into the device. But in this particular case, the innovative architecture we’ve designed allows our device to actually have two orders of magnitude improvement over the benchtop instrument. This is not an average spectrometer, this is a highly advanced spectrometer.” He told EE Times about the importance of establishing a manufacturing ecosystem to support this. “The photonics chip process technology needs to be optimized for photonics, not electronics. We offer a full stack of technology capabilities to our OEM customers, ranging from the silicon and III-V photonics and electronics design, the co-packaging technology to put electronics and photonics together, the firmware / software to run the chips, and importantly, the biosensing algorithms and cloud analytics to measure and read individual biomarkers.” He said the company’s manufacturing ecosystem has been seeded with its own wholly owned proprietary manufacturing processes that can be rapidly scaled. Rockley’s technology solution is comprised of a unique spectroscopy chip made up of numerous infrared lasers and a second LED based element which is already being used today in wearables to detect pulse and blood oxygen. Rickman added, “We’re also designing the electronics and ASIC controller on the back of our module.” Rockley said it has developed two products for smartwatches: a basic module and an advanced module. The basic module contains what is already seen today in a high-end smartwatch, which is blood oxygen, heart rate, and breath rate, but adds to that biomarkers that are in great demand including hydration, core body temperature, and blood pressure. Adding onto that in the advanced module, which has roughly double the number of lasers as the basic module, it has extended the infrared spectroscopy range and uses more advanced algorithms to detect alcohol, carbon monoxide, glucose indicator, and lactate. It hopes this will set the scene for enabling continuous glucose monitoring, which it said is the holy grail of consumer wellness wearables. Other biomarkers it will be investigating in this device include albumin, urea, and creatinine, which through continuous monitoring can produce health trends and alerts for disease detection and management. As published in its SEC filings, Rockley said its products are being designed for utilization in medical devices, including blood pressure, body temperature, blood glucose, and alcohol monitoring devices, pulse oximetry, and near infra-red (“NIR”) spectrometers; and consumer wearables and mobile devices, including smartwatches, smart earbuds, fitness bands, and mobile phones. It adds, “To date, we have been engaged in developing customer-specific designs of our silicon photonics chipsets for incorporation into our customers’ end products and currently we do not have any of our own end products in commercial production. We expect that our immediate focus over the next two years will be on developing and commercializing our products for incorporation in consumer wearables and mobile applications, followed by medical devices in the healthcare space, and subsequently on developing our AI analytics cloud platform. In respect of consumer wearables and mobile applications, we plan to start delivering final samples to customers in the first half of 2022 with production ramp of these products commencing in in the second half of 2022.”

Portfolio May 6 2021

Riskified and IATA announce new strategic partnership

Riskified, the leading fraud prevention solution provider today announced a strategic partnership with the International Air Transport Association (IATA). With this partnership, IATA will integrate and offer Riskified's Chargeback Guarantee to IATA member airlines that use the IATA Financial Gateway (IFG). Member airlines will be able to quickly and easily activate Riskified's best-in-class fraud solution consistently throughout all of their distribution channels from e-commerce to agency sales including NDC. Airlines can maximize their online revenue with Riskified, as Riskified enables airlines to approve ticket orders they may otherwise have declined for fear of fraud, all while not requiring any additional investment in development resources. Airlines face an uphill battle against fraudsters. Tickets are a high-value digital good, which makes them attractive to fraudsters. Order decisions must be made nearly instantly and with limited information. If airlines make the wrong decision, they risk substantial revenue loss to fraudulent chargebacks and their associated fees. Conversely, a fear of fraud can lead to overly conservative order review, resulting in legitimate travelers being declined and leaving revenue on the table. Riskified's platform allows airlines to approve legitimate customers and avoid the costs of fraud. By analyzing ticket transactions and comparing them to billions of prior online transactions, the Riskified Chargeback Guarantee provides airlines with a decision to "approve" or "decline" each order. Airlines receive payment from Riskified for all approved orders even if they later turn out to be fraudulent. With Riskified's AI-based platform and merchant network underlying its decisions, airlines using Riskified, see dramatically increased ticket approvals. Riskified's automated decisions are instantaneous and scale to match airlines' rapid changes in volume. "The IATA Financial Gateway provides a consolidated and cost-efficient solution for airlines and travel suppliers to optimize their different sales payment processes through a single global connection. We are excited that Riskified is bringing added value for IFG users by helping to identify and reduce fraudulent activity and protect airline revenues, particularly during these difficult times," said Muhammad Albakri, IATA's Senior VP, Customer, Financial and Digital Services. "The combination of IATA's Financial Gateway and Riskified's eCommerce enablement platform is a powerful step forward for airlines as they seek to increase sales and reduce fraud," said Peter Elmgren, Chief Revenue Officer at Riskified. "With the Chargeback Guarantee, airlines can greatly improve their online customer experience by declining fewer consumers out of a fear of fraud no matter where the customer is in the world."

Portfolio May 6 2021

Soundcloud partners with Triller on playlist integration

Music streaming service SoundCloud has partnered with US-based TikTok rival Triller to integrate a Soundcloud-curated playlist feature into the short-form video platform’s app. This news follows the launch of other SoundCloud-curated programs with platforms including SiriusXM, Dash Radio, and Australia’s Southern Cross Austereo. Soundcloud says that providing this access to Triller’s platform will “uniquely showcase and support emerging independent artists”. The playlist has launched this week on Triller, and is also available to stream on SoundCloud. The SoundCloud-curated playlist is located on Triller’s Music Discovery page and will be updated monthly with new tracks selected by music teams at Repost, SoundCloud’s creator services division. In addition, all tracks are available for Triller creators to use in their video content within the app. The new integration also allows artists to link their Triller and SoundCloud profiles and SoundCloud says that this will allow artists to “grow additional revenue” through its ‘fan-powered’ royalties system. Elsewhere, Triller users will be able create their own ‘Power Edits’ of tracks to fit their video creation. Mahi de Silva, CEO of Triller, said: “With a shared goal of showcasing established and emerging talent, this partnership puts artists first–just like Triller does. “In front of a global audience, emerging artists will now have the opportunity to develop a Triller fan base that is empowered to create, share and connect.” Allison Moore, Head of Artist Marketing, Creator Services, Repost, SoundCloud, added: “The new SoundCloud playlist on Triller offers one more way we are creating unique, new channels to elevate and promote the rising artists who are building their careers independently today. “We’re very excited to be working with Triller to connect these artists with a new audience — helping them to get discovered, build their profiles, and grow their careers both on and beyond SoundCloud.” Mahi de Silva was appointed CEO of Triller in April. He is co-founder and CEO of AI-Powered ‘customer engagement platform’ Amplify.ai as well as TrillerNet’s non-executive board chairman. Alongside news of de Silva’s appointment, Triller’s parent company, TrillerNet, announced the acquisition of Amplify.ai, and event streaming platform FITE.

Portfolio May 6 2021

BillingPlatform and GoCardless collaborate to streamline quote-to-cash processes

BillingPlatform, the leading global cloud-based monetization and billing solution provider, and GoCardless, a global leader in bank-to-bank payments, today announced a partnership that combines innovative Payment Gateway Framework technology and enhanced ACH debit capabilities – helping to streamline the quote-to-cash processes for businesses so they can get paid more quickly and easily. By combining the most flexible billing solution on the market with a low-cost payment method that increases cash flow and decreases churn, BillingPlatform and GoCardless offer a solution which enables recurring revenue businesses to turn their billing and payment strategy into a competitive advantage. With a mission to take the pain out of getting paid, GoCardless has created a global bank debit network to rival credit and debit cards, as well as a payments platform designed and optimized for taking invoice, subscription, membership and installment payments. GoCardless integrates with the applications merchants use every day, giving businesses more visibility over payments and saving them significant time on non-value added tasks like payment reconciliation. GoCardless has also released the first of many open banking features within its platform, providing its 60,000 global customers access to the latest payments technology. “Digital payments are taking off at a pace that few could have imagined, dramatically changing expectations for anyone collecting payments. Waiting days for a check to arrive or putting up with failed transactions is simply unacceptable,” said GoCardless General Manager, North America, Andrew ‘AG’ Gilboy. “This has prompted businesses to look for payment methods that are optimized for today’s world, and we’ve seen many turn to GoCardless and ACH debit. Every day our platform provides significant benefits to our customers, including the ability to cut costs, increase cash flow and access the latest in payments technology, such as open banking. We look forward to partnering with BillingPlatform to extend our reach to even more businesses and provide best-in-class billing and payment technology to our joint customers.” Any business accepting electronic payments, regardless of volume, needs a payment gateway to facilitate the payment process. BillingPlatform’s Payment Gateway Framework, an API-based common integration framework, solves this challenge by providing a quick and convenient way for payment providers to connect and maintain their application within BillingPlatform. "When aligning flexible payment options and customer preferences with built-in automated collections and dunning, companies will increase employee productivity when managing outstanding accounts, minimizing revenue loss and reducing churn," said Matthijs Koorn, research director and head of payment strategies at MGI Research. "By automating the entire payment process - from billing to invoicing to payment to collections - customers can significantly reduce the costs associated with managing a business." “Payments are a vital part of any business, and that’s why BillingPlatform has developed the only billing solution on the market that offers a flexible framework to eliminate the technical complexity and effort needed to deploy new payment provider services,” said Dennis Wall, CEO of BillingPlatform. “Our partnership with GoCardless brings both depth and expertise in billing and digital payments, satisfying the needs of customers looking for best-in-breed, regionally compliant solutions to accelerate cash flow.”

Portfolio May 5 2021

Riskified launches Deco to help merchants recover up to 20% of transactions lost to payment authorization failures

Riskified, the leading fraud-prevention solutions provider today announced the launch of the latest version of Deco, a real-time solution for recovering orders lost to card-not-present payment authorization failures. As many as one in seven attempted eCommerce transactions fail payment authorization, according to The Economist, leading to lost revenue and upset customers. Deco converts up to 20% of those declined transactions into immediate sales, delivering a significant ROI to merchants and boosting customer satisfaction. Payments need to be authorized by multiple financial institutions in order to be successfully completed. Many of these institutions have not kept pace with the rapid changes in online shopping and consumers' purchasing behavior, making payment authorizations an especially hard challenge for eCommerce merchants. According to Riskified's research, as many as 72% of online shoppers whose payments fail authorization are actually legitimate customers who should have been approved. Riskified developed Deco with design partners including The Level Group, a leading global eCommerce partner that builds and manages end-to-end online experiences for luxury, design, and fashion brands. With Deco, a luxury European brand that is one of The Level Group's partners, has recovered 9.62% of Deco-eligible US credit card payments annually, and saw more than half of its Deco users double their spend on return shopping trips. "High authorization failure rates are a common pain point in cross-border sales, especially for non-US merchants that have growing US sales volumes," said Andrea Ciccoli, CEO and co-founder of The Level Group. "It's an even bigger pain point for brands with high average order values, and Riskified allowed us to recover significant amounts of revenue that would otherwise have been needlessly declined while also gaining a cohort of loyal, repeat customers." "Payment authorization failures are a significant, often hidden, source of revenue loss for eCommerce merchants," said Eido Gal, CEO of Riskified. "Deco enables merchants to address payment authorization failures in an automated fashion. We believe that Deco represents a key step forward for merchants looking to address the challenge of payment authorization failures." How Deco Works Merchants have traditionally been unable to affect payment authorization failures as the process happens outside of their systems. Deco is a fast payment option that was created to address authorization failures in a novel manner. Immediately after a payment failure, eligible shoppers receive a pop-up that simply asks consumers to re-enter the credit card details. Without any credit checks, additional fees, or applications, Deco completes the payment on the shoppers' behalf. What happens behind the scenes is Deco uses Riskified's AI-powered decisioning platform and the breadth of its merchant network to identify the legitimacy of the shopper behind the transaction. Once confirmed as legitimate in real-time, the transaction is intelligently submitted for payment authorization to increase the overall approval for the merchant. Deco is currently available from Riskified for US merchants and non-US merchants that have a significant amount of US-based sales.  

Portfolio May 5 2021

ionir achieves Red Hat OpenShift Operator certification

ionir, a leader in container-native storage innovation, today announced that the ionir platform has achieved Red Hat OpenShift Operator Certification. As a part of the Red Hat partner ecosystem, OpenShift Operator Certification offers customers and independent software vendors (ISVs) greater confidence when building their next-generation software projects on Red Hat OpenShift, the industry's leading enterprise Kubernetes platform. As a Red Hat OpenShift Certified Operator, ionir's Kubernetes Native Storage platform delivers data mobility through unified enterprise-class data and storage management capabilities – performance, continuous data protection, tiering, deduplication, replication and more – delivered simply. In addition to providing an agile solution for persistent storage, ionir helps overcome the effects of data gravity by moving data of any size across any distance in 40 seconds or less, and instantly recreating data as it existed at any previous point in time. ionir is pure software, installs in minutes with one command, and runs alongside application containers orchestrated by Kubernetes. OpenShift is a consistent foundation to deliver Kubernetes applications that benefits hybrid cloud management models. Kubernetes is the engine that powers container orchestration in OpenShift. Kubernetes Operators are a way to package an application with key human operational knowledge and best practices to automate management and deployment on top of Kubernetes. They help businesses increase the overall manageability of production environments by reducing manual intervention and human error. To make it easier to build Kubernetes applications, Red Hat and the community created and maintain the Operator Framework, an open source toolkit to build and manage Operators in an automated way without extensive Kubernetes knowledge. A Red Hat OpenShift Certified Operator is continuously monitored to reduce interoperability or security risks and is backed up by collaborative support between Red Hat and its partners. ionir participated in Red Hat OpenShift Operator Certification, an offering in Red Hat Partner Connect, Red Hat's technology partner program, by which partners can certify their Operators for use on OpenShift. OpenShift Certified Operators have been additionally validated beyond the basic tests performed for the community Operators from OperatorHub.io. The ionir platform has passed OpenShift Operator Certification and will be listed in the OperatorHub embedded in OpenShift and a web catalog listing of Certified Operators. Red Hat OpenShift Certified Operators in the OpenShift ecosystem provide a simplified path for software partners to deliver tested Kubernetes applications on the industry's most comprehensive enterprise Kubernetes platform. Customers and partners using custom-developed or third-party ISV Operators certified for Red Hat OpenShift can have greater confidence that these applications will increase operational efficiency of business application management when using them across a public, private or hybrid cloud architecture. The Red Hat OpenShift Operator Certification designation is awarded to Red Hat partners following validation by Red Hat. Each provider must meet testing and certification requirements to demonstrate that they can deliver a scalable, supported and consistent Operator designed for enterprise cloud deployments. The global program provides customers, ISVs and partners with the confidence that Red Hat product experts have validated a solution so that they can achieve portability and operational efficiency across hybrid and multi-cloud environments. Jacob Cherian, CEO, ionir, said: "Data gravity is a major issue for organizations as they build software in the cloud. The inability to move data quickly threatens to undermine the entire Kubernetes value proposition. The ionir platform eliminates this issue, enabling customers to make decisions faster, innovate quicker and operate more effectively – achieving the vision of Kubernetes at enterprise scale." Julio Tapia, senior director, Partner Ecosystem, Core Cloud Platforms, Red Hat, said: "Red Hat's partner ecosystem is a vital component in delivering powerful, flexible and open solutions to global enterprises. Data mobility is an important element of successful enterprise Kubernetes adoption. We're pleased to have ionir achieve Red Hat OpenShift Operator Certification and look forward to delivering open innovation to our joint clients with them."