Medbelle raise $7m to build out its digital hospital.

London and Berlin based startup, Medbelle have raised $7million in series A funding.  They offer what they term as an “end-to-end platform” for medical procedures; patients can book a number of medical procedures through its web and app-based platform.  To this end, Medbelle has set out to create a “digital hospital”, one which digitises the patient journey and can provide medical treatments in a more modern, convenient and consumer-centric way.  

Currently, these span cosmetic, bariatric and ophthalmology procedures, but in time the enterprise plans to expand into orthopaedics and fertility treatments.  At the moment, Medbelle limits its services to private patients, but in time wants to work with the NHS and public and private health insurance providers to widen its reach.  Medbelle co-founder Leander de Laporte, remarks,

“Our vision is to create a world in which all patients can navigate their treatment journey digitally and receive personal care at the click of a button”.

He then goes on to say;

“There is a massive lack of digitisation and patient care for medical procedures and little sight of someone changing this entirely. This results in a lack of quality and price transparency, bad communication and patients feeling left alone and neglected in their treatment journey”.

Medbelle’s offering looks to address this.  Their two-pronged service works for both patients and healthcare professionals.  De Laporte goes on to explain that “Once a patient is registered, every aspect of their treatment is accessible via a single, simple web portal and app, or through their own personal Medbelle Care Adviser”.  Healthcare professionals have access to tools covering the entire treatment journey from the first consultation to billing, post-operative care and follow-up.

Leading this funding round was Signals Venture Capital — the VC fund of major German health insurer Signal Iduna — with participation from Talis Capital, Mutschler Ventures, IBB and Cavalry Ventures.  

Competition to Medbelle’s service comes in the form of offline clinic groups with bricks and mortar clinics across the U.K.  The Medbelle co-founder pays no heed to those outside of his lane, however. He believes the market is ready for a digital-first and more integrated offering.  

Signals Venture Capital investment manager, Clemens Cloos agrees, stating that until now, the digitisation of patient journeys has been lacking.  Of Medbelle’s technology he remarks;

“Medbelle’s technology and personalised care enable much simpler and more affordable medical treatments – while allowing healthcare providers to efficiently focus on treating patients. We look forward to working with the Medbelle team and co-investors in expanding the platform to include more treatment specialities and increasing its reach.”

Google adds Smart Reply & Language Identification APIs to ML Kit.

Google has announced the addition of ‘Smart Reply’ and ‘Language Identification’ APIs to its ML (Machine Learning) Kit.

To date, the APIs in the ML Kit have focussed upon camera based machine learning processing.  These latest editions signal a new dawn for further opportunities within machine learning.

Smart Reply mirrors some features already present in GMail and Android messaging.  However as the name suggests, it can also provide logical responses to a received message based on the previous ten.  Similarly, the Language Identification feature is pretty self explanatory! Incredibly though, this add-on is able to identify as many as 110 different languages from just a few words.

The Language Identification feature is also super responsive, significantly improving user experience.  Its speed means that it is able to pretty much work in real time. Google suggest that on both iOS and Android, the API response time is as little as 1-2 ms meaning that detection can be made with zero impact to efficacy for the user.

All of the processing for both APIs is done locally on-device, so no connection is needed.  The current, or higher, versions of the ML Kit SDK are required to access the new APIs (9.0 on iOS, and 4.1 on Android).  

If you are a developer who wants to read more about the Language Identification API or Smart Reply just follow the attached links.

Amazon launches a certification program for Alexa skill developers.

Certifications are standard among the tech industry.  The ecosystem is awash with platforms and programs designed to accelerate the learning and skills of the workforce.  

This week, it was disclosed that developers building voice-enabled applications for Amazon Echo and other Alexa-powered devices will now have a new way to validate their credentials.   Amazon have launched a new AWS Certified Alexa Skill Builder – Speciality certification.

As suggested, the Alexa Skill builder certificate will run as a speciality within the current AWS program, but will have a finer scope.  It will be tailored toward those with an understanding of all aspects of Alexa voice app development.

The certification will follow a structured program.  It will address practical matters such as how to develop, test, validate and troubleshoot skills, alongside the use of the Alexa Developer Console and how to manage skill operations and life cycles.  Building on this, it will also address more high-level concepts. It will look at the “value of voice”, for example and how the voice user experience should flow. The latter is something that many Alexa developers today still seem to struggle with.

Developers enrolled on the program will begin by reviewing an exam guide which will include tutorials, technical documentation and more.  Amazon will also be making online training courses available. Eager developers can complete these at their own rate according to their levels of understanding and current skill set.

Once fully armed, developers are able to create an AWS training account and schedule their exam.

Though the completion of the certificate, Amazon hope to open up “more opportunities to build engaging voice experiences”; those that can reach the 100 million plus Alexa enabled devices on the market today.  It is their desire to be able to elevate the skills of those developers who already “dabble” in skill building, to the levels of industry best practice. In turn, these skills can actively be employed to better resonate with customers and improve their experience.

The certification program is certainly timely.  In the US, the smart speaker market reached critical masslast year.  Around 41 percent of U.S. consumers now own a voice-activated speaker, up from 21.5 percent in 2017.  Here in the UK, 9.5 million people used a smart speaker in 2018; up 98.6% over 2017. More than two-thirds of those users (68.0%) will use an Amazon Echo, while 26.2% will use a Google Home.  

It is not just us in our homes who are keen on the smart devices.  Arguably, music, timers and smart home controls are THE break out successes but more and more, businesses are exploring the benefits of Alexa and her friends.  For example, just this week, The American Red Cross are expanding its reach with voice technology through Alexa.  As such, the demand from organisations for professionals skilled with these qualifications on their CVs are growing.  

Indeed, the director of AWS Certification and Education Programs, Kevin Kelly remarks

“The demand from organisations for skilled professionals who can build skills for emerging voice-enabled workloads is increasing…this new certification validates those skills with the only credential in the industry focused on Alexa skill building” .

Brex, the credit card for startups raises $100M debt round.

Launching a startup is hard graft.  Not only does it demand a work ethic of 24/7 proportions, it also requires a sizeable cash flow.  Step forward Brex.  

A startup themselves, Brex provide a corporate credit card designed specifically for startups.  In the precarious world of startup culture, Brex go beyond success story. In the two years since it graduated from the Y Combinator startup accelerator, Brex have raised $215 million in equity funding and a $1.1 billion valuation.

This week, Brex announced they have secured a $100 million debt financing from Barclays Investment Bank .

So far this year, Brex have been taking steps toward maturation and putting its venture capital to work, significantly expanding their portfolio and thus expertise.  Recently, they have closed their first notable acquisition. Brex snared blockchain startup, Elph straight out of YC in a deal that finalised just a week before demo day.  The Elph team bring their infrastructure security know-how to Brex, helping the company build their next product; a credit card aimed at Fortune 500 companies.

Brex chief executive officer Henrique Dubugras, confirm that this debt finance will power the company’s next phase of growth, something which includes their launch of this credit card for large enterprises.  Supplying credit for startups is risky, so this is undeniably a necessary and sensible step for Brex as they work toward their own growth.

Dubugras said “Because we raised so much equity so fast, we put a lot of it to work on the lending; this will allow us to scale way beyond our equity”.  He adds that the company has no plans to raise additional equity funding right now, especially after this latest debt raise….“a lot of the capital that was tied up we can get back” he goes on to say.

Brex, which recently launched a rewards program tailored to startups needs, doesn’t require their borrowers to provide a personal guarantee or security deposit.  Instead, the company offers a consolidated look at spending and offers a credit limit that’s as much as 10 times higher than what they might receive elsewhere.

Traditional lenders are reluctant to take a gamble on fledgling business.  Brex themselves are a rare success story in a world where the vast majority of startups unpredictably fold or file for bankruptcy.  

Perhaps it is the Brex mentality and ambition that has ensured their success –

Dubugras says “We want to dominate corporate credit cards…We want every single company in the world, whenever they do businesses expenses, to do it on a Brex card.”


About the author: I aspire to help clients connect the dots by offering an extensive and honest experience. I am passionate about digital and in prior roles have assisted C level executives to overcome the challenges posed by a fast-moving, disruptive business environment – I believe that people and not solely technology is imperative in instilling forward-thinking, sustainable business development.

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