France overhaul Tech talent Visa.

It has been announced this week that the French government will completely overhaul its tech visa system.  The revamp is good news all round, and will positively affect both tech employers and those wishing to work for them.

Over recent years, the French Tech ecosystem is one that has been growing rapidly.  Many French tech start-ups are choosing to work in English and employ foreign talent from right across the globe.  

These amendments to the current system will allow these startups to scale rapidly and employ the talent to drive their business forward.

Kat Borlongan holds the title of French Tech Mission director.  When asked why it was so important to overhaul the system, she remarked that the reasons are twofold.  

Firstly; There’s the economic supply-demand part — all the high-growth startups we interviewed pretty unanimously said that hiring was their number one priority and that they were looking for profiles that weren’t readily available in France.”

Secondly, she points toward France’s need to embrace diversity and be recognised as global employers…

“As strong an ecosystem as the French Tech is becoming, it’s still perceived as overwhelmingly French. To succeed globally, we need to become global ourselves, in terms of team composition, mindset, markets, etc.”

As we mentioned earlier, the new guidelines are beneficial for both companies and employees alike.

Up until this point, French visa restrictions meant that roughly only 100 companies were selected to be part of the Pass French Tech program.  Employees also had to graduate with educational qualifications of at least Master’s degree level. Now, according to Borlongan that number is radically different.  There are now over 10,000 startups which meet the requirements to access the French Tech Visa and so hire talent from further afield than the EU more easily.   

Those startups who have raised money from a VC fund, have been part of an accelerator, have received state funding, or have the JEI status are now eligible.

La French Tech and the French government have created lists of VC funds, accelerators and grants.  Any company who meets these conditions can apply to the Visa program.

Comparatively, the French visa system is also significantly favourable to others out there.  Unlike many American visas for example, the French system does not require companies to prove they have already been looking for candidates in France.  

Additionally, there is no need to pay astronomical immigration lawyer fees.  The French Tech Visa will cost €368 in admin fees and future employees don’t need to meet any educational requirements.  

For foreign employees, it’s a pretty great deal too.  The visa will be valid for 4 years and will be renewable after that.  Employees do not have to remain in the same company either. Techies can keep their visa as they develop their skills and move on professionally.   Additionally, visas will not be restricted to the worker themselves. Visas will also be extended to family, meaning that they can relocate too.

All round this is a huge improvement, and will certainly go a long way in helping to secure France’s position as a global employer.  Of course, workers from within the EU won’t need a visa. It will though, open up French tech to a whole pool of talent that has previously been untapped, and as such It will be interesting to monitor how the French tech ecosystem thrives as a result of the changes.

Voi Technology secure $30million for European expansion.

Electric scooters emerged as one of the big breakout trends last year, and already 2019 promises more of the same.  

Voi Technology are a Sweden based electric scooter startup.  Voi announced this week that they have secured a $30million in fresh funding.  The round was held up by Balderton Capital, Vostok New Ventures, LocalGlobe, Raine Ventures, Project A, and Creandum.

They say that great things happen in threes, and this is certainly the case for Voi.  This $30 million follows just three months after a Series A round of $50 mill, which in turn arrived just a couple of months after a $3 million seed round.  We think you’ll agree, 2018 was quite a year for Voi.

If our maths is correct, Voi have raised an impressive $83 million in just 6 months.  With this latest cash injection Voi have disclosed that they plan to concentrate on their research and development initiatives, whilst continuing on their European journey. They hope to establish new markets across Italy, Germany, Norway and France.

Speaking about their recent financial good fortune,Voi Technology’s CEO Fredrik Hjelm commented;

“It will enable us to ramp up both our investment in R&D — we build all our own tech end-to-end — and our pace of expansion, as we continue to forge new alliances with cities and riders across Europe.”

In evidence of the growth in the electric scooter market, the numbers speak for themselves.  Indeed, it has not just been Voi who have secured impressive amounts over the past 12 months.  Following their recent $310 million raise Lime also added a jaw-dropping $400 million from some big names including Uber and Alphabet’s VC arm GV.

Additionally, firms from across the Atlantic have used the funding to establish a European presence.  Santa Monica based Bird raised around $400 million to expand into new markets.

The scene has also seen some exciting acquisitions involving some massive names.  Uber bought electric bike startup, Jump Bikes in April last year, and quickly expanded the business to include electric-scooters.  Additionally, San Francisco e-scooter start-up Spin was acquired by Ford.

It appears that as we are all becoming more aware of the effect our transport choices have on the environment there is room for more than one network of e-scooters across our cities.  Amid this land-grab, Voi are planning to “partner” with cities across the globe, ensuring that they only enter markets where they are actively wanted and therefore can put the citizen at the heart of everything they do.  Hjelm remarked;

“Asking permission before we enter new towns and cities, unlike some of our competitors, means we can work with the authorities on the ground to offer not only a viable alternative to cars, but also help people to combine their e-scooter journeys with the existing public transport network to make moving around as seamless as possible.”

It will be exciting to monitor Voi’s journey into 2019 and beyond, and how this strategy may succeed in challenging the indisputable dominance of Lime et al.

Microsoft open-sources its Windows calculator on Github.

Windows is making the source code for its Windows calculator available on Github.  With this latest Microsoft addition, the software maker intends to “build an even better user experience in partnership with the community”.  

By opening up the calculator, eager developers can add code to help improve the app.  However, before implementing any contributions or indeed reviewing their current code, Microsoft will evaluate all new feature prototypes or amendments to the user interface.  

Admittedly, the calculator is a minor part of windows, but the open-sourcing of the calculator is just the latest indication of the value the software giant places on open-source.  Indeed, in spring last year Microsoft open-sourced the original file manager from the 90s to allow it to run on Windows 10.  More recently it made 60,000 patents open-source to help protect Linux.

The source code includes the build system, unit tests, and even the product road map for the Windows calculator feature.  For any devs out there who want to have a go, the source-code is available on Github now.

Google is giving users in-app rewards for watching ads.

It has been revealed this week that Google are introducing a new way for Android users to earn in-app rewards.

On Wednesday, Google launched products in beta, a new AdMob-powered monetisation method.  This will enable app developers to boost revenue while sharing a small, nontangible cut with their user base.

Google first launched the idea of rewarded ads last spring at the 2018 Game Developers Conference.  They followed this in November by publishing SDK-dependent, full-screen rewarded videos.  This latest roll-out means that they are now available more widely.

Rewarded products will operate on a simple premise.  Should users view an in-app advert they will receive in-game goods or virtual currency in return.  By clicking “watch ad” and then viewing the subsequent video, users may be rewarded with 100 virtual coins, for example.  

In a recent blog, Patrick Davis, product manager at Google Play wrote;

“One trend has been to reward users for a monetizable action, like watching a video, with in-game currency or other benefits. This gives users more choice in how they experience the app or game, and has been an effective way to monetize non-paying users.”

Currently, the only available product offering is in a video format, however, the company is leaving open the possibility for new ad types in the future.

The launch of rewarded products comes only a day after Google debuted shoppable ads within image searches, which allows advertisers to highlight products for sale within sponsored ads.

A recently published study found that Google and Facebook were the top performers when it comes to ROI for marketing campaigns that place ads in mobile apps and games.  Alongside this, research firm Statista speculate that worldwide in-app purchase revenue will reach a gargantuan $71.7 billion by 2020.  It could be argued then that this new Google-led initiative cannot come a moment too soon.   

Cardiff – UK pioneer in facial recognition technology.

If you have ever been shopping on Cardiff’s Queen Street, you’ll know just how busy it can get.  What better place then, than to use the Welsh capital as the test-bed for the latest in facial recognition technologies.

Over the past couple of years, South Wales police have been trialling facial recognition tech, and have been using the results as an integral part of their crime-fighting efforts.  The technology is able to scan thousands of faces. It uses the resulting data to match and compare these images to those held in the criminal database.  The significant difference to this tech and its predecessors is that it is done in real time.

Facial recognition technologies are on the verge of dramatic growth and is an area that is likely to see significant developments in the coming years.  The industry as a whole could be worth as much as £7.3 billion by 2022. Quite apart from its monetary value it holds considerable social implications.  It could revolutionise the way in which crowds are policed at large events or how the UK may counter terror threats for example. Knife crime is an area that is hot on the lips of policymakers too, and one area of crime that could be impacted by tech such as this.

However, support for the technology is far from universal; there has been criticism following a number of ‘false-positive’ results from the Cardiff trials.  Indeed, amid growing interest in the debate around facial recognition technologies, other police forces, privacy rights activist groups and regulators have been watching the South Wales deployments closely.  

Even those who work within the industry have been forced to comment on the shortcomings of facial recognition technologies. Zak Doffman is the Chief Executive of Digital Barriers, who are themselves a facial recognition company.

He believes that when used properly the tech is accurate and can be relied upon to work.  He goes on to remark that the real debate lies around how the tech should be used. He is of the belief that the facial recognition systems employed by security forces thus far have been a “distraction” because they have not held real-time, live capabilities.

“While it is screening people off-line, it is not connected to anything,” he says. The value of the tech, he believes, lies in the “real time”; a watchlist that can be updated on the go to be used alongside facial recognition technology which is integrated to different devices.

For example, Digital Barriers have recently deployed their facial recognition tech at the O2 for the BRIT Awards.  Here, CCTV was used in conjunction with mobile phone cameras and linked to a database to scan for people on a watchlist.

How do you feel about facial recognition tech?  Is it an infringement of your human rights or a positive move toward public safety?

We’d love to hear what you think.  Leave your comments below!

And Finally:

Trump’s ‘fruity’ faux-pas.

If you are Apple CEO, Tim Cook it is probably not often that your name is not the most notable in the room.  However, this was not the case earlier this week! Speaking at an appearance at the American Workforce Policy Advisory Board, President Trump managed to refer to possibly the most revered name in tech, as ‘Tim Apple’.  

We’d recommend you follow the link to see the situation unfold in all its toe-curling glory but to paraphrase POTUS….

“You’ve really put a great investment in our country. We really appreciate it very much, Tim Apple.”

Lightning doesn’t strike twice….history does not repeat itself.  Not in the case of Trump, however. This isn’t the first time that Trump has put his considerable foot in his considerable mouth while introducing notable persons.  Around this time last year, Trump referred to Lockheed Martin CEO, Marilyn Hewson as “Marilyn Lockheed” while introducing her at an event.  He then went on to refer to her as “the leading women’s business executive in this country”.   We’re sure we don’t need to point out the irony of this situation.

We have all been there, and we’ve all done it, so it may seem cheap to highlight Trump’s latest blunder.  Not so cheap however that we won’t do it!

About the author: As Client Relationship Director, I am responsible for helping grow the new and existing client base of Ignite Digital. I work as a “trusted connection” with my clients and candidates aiming to deliver the best service I can to connect talent to opportunity.

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