Please scale up, please scale up… Pan-European venture capital firm Speedinvest has launched a micro fund targeting early-stage marketplace startups. Dubbed Speedinvest x, the fund is sector-agnostic and will back “network effects-powered” platform businesses of any type. Speedinvest x partner Mathias Ockenfels reckons there are still many B2B marketplace categories wide open and in need of a platform approach, such as logistics and construction. “The platform trend is here to stay” and “marketplaces will continue to eat the world,” Ockenfels anticipates. Speedinvest x wants to show that European marketplaces have the goods to take a proper bite.
Blockchain technology is said to be revolutionising everything – from banking to healthcare and education. Increased transparency and security, cutting red tape and reducing time are just some of the better known benefits assigned to blockchain. But cutting through the hype, can it really deliver? It seems that there is no academic consensus on whether the nascent technology will actually change much. With the European Commission’s launch of the EU Blockchain Observatory and Forum this week, we can be sure that the technology will remain in the EU’s gaze in the coming months.
Confidence in the internet giants has never been lower. In Europe, there’s a call for the creation of an alternative internet that would allow users to manage their personal data, avoid tracking, and have an equal space online. Why? To prevent a small number of people from obtaining and using masses of data for profit. However, a decentralised and encrypted internet could encourage malicious users. It would also be difficult for governments and authorities to prevent users from storing illegal content on their devices or to using it against other net surfers. And once launched, it would be hard to shut down. Is the DIY net worth the risk?
The digital dating landscape is already tough enough, ripe with user discrimination based on race, weight, age – you name it. While that discrimination might reflect the bias or preferences of a site or app’s users, Tinder is now facing discrimination charges of its own. The company now offers Tinder Plus, a deluxe version giving users unlimited swipes and letting them change location, undo swipes and enjoy other premium-only features. The problem? Tinder priced the package differently for +30s and -30s. A California judge just ruled that it was a discriminatory pricing model. Will the ever-expanding rise of digital platforms lead to the possibility of micro-targeted, discriminatory practices?
As news of the foray of Amazon, Berkshire and JP Morgan into healthcare met with a positive reception, the challenges that tech companies face in this sensitive sector came under scrutiny elsewhere. In our quest to lead healthier lives, we’re all susceptible to whizzy gadgets designed to boost our physical fitness and general wellbeing. But this is such a competitive market with such high returns that companies could run the risk of getting ahead of themselves. As this piece documents, extreme care is needed to ensure that the tech and healthcare sectors are in sync. There’s no doubt however that this is a positive trend. We’re all living longer so anything that makes us live better can only be good.
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