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Nowsta takes in fresh capital to show some tech love for hourly workforces – TechCrunch



Nowsta attracted venture capital for its approach to help employers better engage with their hourly workforces in this increasingly hybrid work environment.

The company announced today $41 million in Series B funding in a round led by GreatPoint Ventures that brings the company’s total funding raised to date to $59 million. Joining GreatPoint in the financing were VMG Catalyst, Rally Ventures, Tribe Capital and existing investors Green Visor Capital, Compound Ventures and Clocktower Technology Ventures.

CEO Nick Lillios founded Nowsta in 2015 and spent the next year-and-a-half building the technology that arose out of his experience working with food service vendors in New York. The operational complexity of hourly workforces was the inspiration for the company’s technology, an answer to current workforce management solutions that were not able to keep up with the changing nature of hourly work, he said.

Nowsta’s web and mobile app rolls workforce management tools, like automated scheduling, time-tracking, payroll and communication, into an all-in-one resource that includes an on-demand labor marketplace that connects employers with a skilled pool of workers sourced by trusted third-party staffing providers. There is also a wallet feature so users can get paid after every shift and see their future earnings.

“Every employer is leveraging a contingent workforce and trying to use 1099 workers to fill in the gaps,” Lillios told TechCrunch. “Our marketplace matches employers in need with employees, and you can see how they have been trained and vetted so employers can make quick decisions.”

The company raised an $8.1 million Series A in April 2019, which gave it the boost to create the marketplace. When the global pandemic hit, Nowsta began working with customers that had to furlough its workers, and the resource enabled the company to help customers transition employees to other jobs.

Lillios doesn’t believe that hourly work will go back to normal. Instead, the shift seen over the past two years will be permanent as more employees crave flexibility and more employers have access to tools and resources that help them adapt.

A market that used to have little technology is now flush with startups giving attention to this underserved population. Most recently we reported on AskNicely, which raised $32 million in Series B funding for its employee empowering app.

Others include Blink, an app for frontline workers to use and engage with the various IT services used by their organizations, as well as with each other. Shiftsmart, a marketplace matching shift workers to employers, raised $95 million, while messaging app When I Work closed on a huge round — $200 million. Meanwhile, Fountain brought in $85 million and Seasoned grabbed $18.7 million for its tool for restaurant workers. Earlier this year we saw Homebase raise $71 million, and Workiz, which focuses on home services pros, raise $13 million.

Today, Nowsta’s technology manages over 300,000 workers each month across 600 employers, including sports stadiums, hotels, food services vendors and warehouses. As more stadiums and hotels were coming back online throughout the pandemic and needed to hire around 1,000 employees, Nowsta was able to source hundreds of workers initially, which Lillios said for some “has revolutionized their businesses and ushered in a new model of flex work.”

The new funding will enable the company to scale its operations across 25 new U.S. markets, double its 68-person headcount by the end of the year — it was 25 people in 2021 — and invest in product development and sales and marketing. After ramping up revenue significantly in 2021, Lillios doesn’t expect to repeat that, but does forecast the company to grow at least three to five times in revenue this year.

Ashok Krishnamurthi, managing partner at GreatPoint Ventures, said in a written statement: “The last two years have caused a paradigm shift in the labor marketplace, and hourly and flex work is becoming ever more prevalent. Businesses of all types now must connect easily with, and manage their on-demand workforces efficiently. The most effective way to do that is with Nowsta, and we couldn’t be more excited to be partnering with Nick and the team to help achieve this vision.”

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Down rounds are still rare by historical standards • TechCrunch



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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This Doggy DNA Test Ships Free for the Holidays



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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Howie Mandel gets a digital twin from DeepBrain AI



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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