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How venture capital can create a better, more equitable future

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This article was contributed by Lindsay Siegel, Managing Director of the City Fellowship and Head of Impact, Company Ventures.

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown how interconnected our environment is. Health care, employment, supply chain, and global financial markets — as a society, we now understand far more deeply how the strain felt in one arena can percolate into others.

The same goes for large-scale urban challenges, from climate resiliency to future workforce training. Extreme weather can have devastating effects on local economies and global supply chains; lack of quality childcare means a lost generation in the workplace and labor shortages and communities systematically left out of a technology-driven economy will struggle to create generational wealth.

And yet, over the last decade, the VC market has exploded. While many thought there would be a slowdown during the pandemic, the opposite actually happened. According to Crunchbase, $454 billion total capital was raised globally through Q3 2021, versus just over $300 billion in 2020.

The VC community has a duty to increase equity and access and improve services and solutions for impact in local economies. This VC community has the capital, the resources, and the know-how to help startups innovate for net positive impact, and that model could be a blueprint for success. Here’s how.

Venture capital allocation

$5 trillion in new wealth was created during the COVID-19 pandemic, and millennials are projected to inherit as much as $68 trillion over the next 25 yearsWith the coming generational wealth transfer, we are at an inflection point where we can utilize the enormous power of investment for the long-term betterment of society. In a recent survey conducted by Allianz Life, 99% of millennials considered social responsibility when making investment decisions, and Bloomberg predicts that ESG assets may hit $53 trillion by 2025. With the strategic assessment and investment of capital, the VC community can help to foster rapid innovation and quickly scale solutions for the betterment of society, with an eye towards centering the needs and ideas of those most vulnerable and/or at the margins of our economic system.

Resource deployment

Investment is about much more than money. VCs are experts at helping high-potential companies (and founders) grow at scale and dominate in their respective markets. 366 startups reached unicorn status (companies with a $1 billion valuation) in 2021. While this was driven in part by the amount of cash invested in those companies, this was also due in part to the guidance and acumen provided to these companies by people with the know-how to build and scale.  Seeking methods to provide impact for entrepreneurs, including nonprofit leaders, small business entrepreneurs, and cooperative organizers, with the same playbook will drive exponentially greater returns not only for those of us making capital investments in their companies, but the benefit of society as well.

Public-private partnership

Traditionally, public-private partnerships (PPPs) have focused on large-scale infrastructure initiatives like utilities and transportation.  Increasingly, the model has been successfully deployed at the local level. Last year we saw the immense benefit of this partnership in the rapid development and distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine. Through deep alignment with public sector goals, the VC community is able to leverage the private sector’s capital and capabilities to advance public priorities ranging from community development to climate resiliency to technology infrastructure.

Crises often lead to periods of supercharged creativity and innovation. The Renaissance followed the Dark Ages; great fires in urban centers led to better urban planning and innovations; Airbnb, Uber, Disney, General Electric, and Apple were all founded during recessions. According to McKinsey, 90% of executives said they expect the fallout from COVID-19 to fundamentally change the way they do business over the next five years.

The after-effects of the pandemic have shown us that not only do we need to rebuild our society, but that we can reimagine a better, more equitable future. At this moment, we must embrace the urgency to experiment and push ingenuity to build a more resilient chain.  The VC community has the cash, the experience, and fundamental know-how to deliver long-term impact, and now, more than ever, we have the obligation to do so.

Lindsay Siegel is Managing Director of the City Fellowship and Head of Impact, Company Ventures.

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Down rounds are still rare by historical standards • TechCrunch

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If you thought that the recent venture capital market was tough, let me tell you about 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020.

With the first week of December under our belts, we’re not too far away from the end of the year. And that means that 2022’s venture capital story has largely been written. It’s not a single narrative; instead, this year started on a high, with momentum from the monstrous 2021 funding period persisting into the new year. From that point, we’ve seen a slowdown accelerate into what some consider a downturn.


The Exchange explores startups, markets and money.

Read it every morning on TechCrunch+ or get The Exchange newsletter every Saturday.


Startups raised lots of capital this year. Less, yes, than last year, but more than in nearly any year in recent memory. It’s still a good time to build a tech upstart.

Does that perspective feel too sunny when we hear so much doom and gloom on Twitter regarding startup prospects in a more conservative investing climate?

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Howie Mandel gets a digital twin from DeepBrain AI

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Howie Mandel is stepping into the metaverse. DeepBrain AI has created a pretty realistic AI version of comedian and actor Mandel.

Deepbrain AI, based in South Korea and Palo Alto, California, calls its creation “AI Howie,” and it’s an interactive virtual human and digital twin for immersive and personalized fan experiences. AI Howie mentions VentureBeat and talks to me in the attached videos.

Unlike the “deepfakes” of Tom Cruise and other actors, the real Howie Mandel cooperated with DeepBrain AI to create the virtual human AI replica of the famous comedian, actor, host, and technology enthusiast. We used “virtual Paris” AI character at our recent MetaBeat event in San Francisco.

“I am equally thrilled, excited, and terrified to finally have the ability of showing up and doing things without going anywhere or doing anything,” said Mandel, in a statement. “Thank you, DeepBrain.”

DeepBrain AI applies deep learning technology to create hyper-realistic virtual humans through its AI Studios and the AI Human platforms. These virtual humans are digital twins of the real person, with the same appearance, voice, gestures, and subtle mannerisms. The AI Studios platform enables script-to-video software that synthesizes dynamic video content in seconds, producing the quickest and most
realistic AI-generated videos. The script-to-video editor makes it easy for customers to select a model and then make it say something based on a script. Within a minute or so the video is made.

This is a powerful communication and marketing tool for celebrities, professional athletes, news anchors, and even politicians. Before working with Howie Mandel, the DeepBrain AI team created digital twins of Premier League soccer superstar Son Heung-Min, multiple news anchors across Asia, and South Korean president Yoon Suk-yeol.

Joe Murphy, business development manager for DeepBrain AI, said in an interview with VentureBeat that the virtual Howie is a conversational model that you pepper with questions. DeepBrain AI designs and develops these virtual humans for the purpose of creating digital twins (like Howie Mandel), digital people, and avatars.

It takes about four weeks of machine learning work to create a Howie Mandel digital twin.

“We create models of real people,” Murphy said. “We also have completely synthetic virtual humans. That is what we’ll call digital people. And then avatars are just the basic Roblox type of avatars. But where our technology comes in with the digital twins is we go through a deep learning process to clone the person’s voice, their mannerisms, their face, the way their eyes move, the way their lips move.”

He added, “So we create what we call the digital twin of the real person with all the uniqueness of that person. Our mission is to use this technology that we’ve developed throughout Asia and bring it to America.”

In addition to the script-to-video capabilities, the company provides fully conversational experiences with its AI Human software. The AI Human solution enables fans to interact and engage with AI Howie by simply asking questions. For example, when asked, “What was your favorite act on AGT this season?” the AI Howie model responds in real-time to support interactive, fun, and engaging fan experiences.

AI Humans are available within mobile apps, web browsers, or voice-activated kiosks.

“Our vision is to humanize digital experiences and empower creative teams to generate immersive content at scale,” said Eric Jang, DeepBrain AI CEO. “Working with Howie Mandel was a fun experience, and we are excited to see how the AI Howie collaboration will connect with his fans worldwide.”

DeepBrain AI, (formerly Moneybrain), a conversational AI startup based in Seoul, South Korea, has raised $44 million in a series B round led by Korea Development Bank at a post-money valuation of $180 million. The company started in 2016 and it has raised $54 million to date. The company has 130 employees.

The AI is being used for AI news anchors in South Korea and China at four different television networks. The networks flag that the anchor is an AI avatar so that no one gets confused.

The real Howie Mandel spent about a day shooting video with DeepBrain AI.

While multiple companies are working on virtual humans, DeepBrain AI’s avatars are hyperrealistic. One of Asia’s largest insurance companies is also using it, as is a “brand ambassador” for a soccer team.

“When we worked with Howie Mandel, we went down to his studio in Los Angeles, we provided a script, and fed our training data into our neural network,” Murphy said.

It took about a day to do a video shoot with Mandel and about three to four weeks of machine learning time on the computers to generate the first AI model.

Back in January, DeepBrain AI opened its office in Palo Alto, California, and it is talking to partners in Silicon Valley and the rest of the U.S. Over time, Murphy said that the hope is to create AI avatars in realistic 3D for the metaverse. In South Korea, kiosks are appearing in places like banks with both 2D avatars and 3D avatars.

Over time, Murphy said the avatars have gotten better at mannerisms, lip sync, and subtle gestures. The speed of real-time responses in conversations has also gotten faster. The company is talking about doing more with game companies and major brands.

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This Doggy DNA Test Ships Free for the Holidays

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Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Every pet owner wants the best for their animal sidekick. They want to spend as much time as possible with them, even at the office. But being the best dog owner you can be isn’t all about just being present. It helps to understand your dog on a genotypic as well as phenotypic level. That’s one reason why doggy DNA tests have become so popular.



DNA My Dog

If you’re wondering what to get for your pooch this holiday season, look no further than the DNA My Dog Breed Identification Test. If you order by December 8, you’ll get free shipping, but that date is coming up fast so don’t delay.

This simple, painless kit requires just a swab of your dog’s cheek to get a detailed report delivered in two weeks or less. That report includes a custom photo certificate of the breed breakdown found in your dog’s genetic breed composition, a percentage breakdown of the levels found in your dog’s DNA, and a report on the dominant breeds, personality traits, and health concerns that your dog may be genetically predisposed to. All of that information will help you be a better friend to your dog, making smarter decisions about food, training, and healthcare.

The DNA My Dog Kit was awarded at the 2020 GHO Biotechnology Awards and user Bonnie H. writes, “I loved this experience!!! The kit came immediately with great instructions. The results came exactly when promised. When I couldn’t open the attachment with the results, I emailed my concern and got instant help! To find out his DNA has been the coolest experience!”

Lock in free shipping on a unique gift for your dog by December 8. Grab the DNA My Dog Breed Identification Test on sale for 24% off $79 at just $59.99 now.

Prices subject to change.

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