Some of the best real-time insights into Tesla and its global fleet of electric vehicles — outside the confines of its Silicon Valley headquarters — might be through the lens of TezLab, a tiny upstart in Brooklyn.
Now, a little more than two years after its founding, TezLab is on the verge of hitting what its founders believe is a tipping point of users, a milestone that could finally trigger a path to monetization. And it’s adding lots of new features to help accelerate that plan.
For the non-Tesla owner, the name TezLab is likely a foreign one. In certain circles though, namely Tesla owners obsessed with understanding how their electric vehicle performs, TezLab is a familiar friend.
Tezlab is a free app that’s like a Fitbit for a Tesla vehicle. Tesla owners who download the app can track their efficiency, total trip miles and use it to control certain functions of the vehicle, such as locking and unlocking the doors and heating and air conditioning. There’s even a gamification piece that lets users earn badges for hitting milestones or completing tasks.
The company has started to add new features as part of a longer term plan aimed at monetization.
One of these features, which crowdsources data like Waze to give insights and ratings on Tesla Supercharger stations, is rolling out now. The video below shows how this supercharger feature will function.
The Waze for supercharger feature is considered “phase one” of the company’s plans to broaden its crowdsourcing and social community.
The six-person team behind TezLab was born out of HappyFunCorp, a software engineering shop that builds apps for mobile, web, wearables and Internet of Things devices for clients that include Amazon, Facebook and Twitter, as well as an array of startups.
HFC’s engineers, including co-founders Ben Schippers and William Schenk, were attracted to Tesla largely because of its techcentric approach and one important detail: the Tesla API endpoints are accessible to outsiders.
The Tesla API is technically private. But it exists, allowing Tesla’s own first-party app to communicate with the cars to do things like read battery charge status and lock doors. When reverse-engineered, it’s possible for a third-party app to communicate directly with the API. (Tesla CEO Elon Musk has talked recently about opening up the API to third-party developers)
“Essentially, the plumbing is already built to connect to the server,” Schippers told TechCrunch recently. “This was the catalyst for us.”
A Tesla vehicle buying trend was triggered at HFC. Schippers, Schenk and a number of other software engineers and staffers at HFC bought, and still own, Tesla vehicles like the Model 3. The company’s HFC fund provided the initial $350,000 to build the first version of TezLab.
TezLab hasn’t captured anywhere near every Tesla owner. But Schippers believes they’re getting close to reaching a critical mass of users. More than 200 owners are downloading the app each week, and that rate is accelerating, he said.
TezLab has 16,000 total installs on the Apple App Store and Google Play, according to Sensor Tower . The figures are all unique, new installs. The firm doesn’t count re-installs or downloads to multiple devices belonging to the same user. However, that total install number is likely closer to 18,000 because many are listed under TestFlight, an online service used to test apps.
In comparison, Tesla delivered 245,506 vehicles globally in 2018. TezLab doesn’t expect every Tesla owner to download the app. Instead, Schippers is initially aiming for 10% of owners — a target he believes is within reach — and eventually higher.
Even at its current numbers, TezLab has become a massive repository of Tesla data. The company is storing between 850,000 to 1 million events a day, and that volume is growing. That translates to more than 1 GB of data a day, according to Schippers.
“We now have enough data in our system to start making large assumptions of what the fleet is doing and why,” said Schippers, who is CEO of HappyFunCorp and head of product at TezLab.
The data is aggregated and anonymous and isn’t shared publicly. And there are no plans to sell that data.
“I think we can create something really meaningful, without getting into the business of selling data,” Schippers told TechCrunch.
Of course, what Schippers and others at TezLab have built could, theoretically, end overnight if Tesla were to change access.
Tesla declined to comment on this topic.
What TezLab does provide publicly on its website are insights based on that crunched data. For instance, anyone visiting the site can get a breakdown of model ownership, the average trip length and average time between plugging in.
As the company adds more features to the app, an understanding of how people use their Tesla vehicles should deepen.
In the background, of course, TezLab knows more than what it shows on its website. It can quickly spot phantom drain issues, if the Tesla API goes offline or chart spikes in charging use. For instance, Tezlab was able to determine that visits to Tesla Supercharger stations were 84% higher on Memorial Day than on an average day in 2019.
Capturing and storing that data is at the core of TezLab’s plan to make money. The app will remain free even as more features are added.
The company plans to follow the business model of the social fitness network Strava, which is charge for storage, not features. That data could become a lot more valuable to owners as new features are added. TezLab is looking at tracking Autopilot miles and is looking into doing “interesting stuff with Sentry mode,” the security feature now live in Tesla vehicles.
This summer, the app will introduce clubs that Schippers hopes will build up the community. The feature will let Tesla owners join a specific club, say in Norway, Brooklyn or San Francisco. It will be designed so owners can easily find and converse with other owners. And Schippers added, only people who own Tesla are allowed in.
TezLab’s staff puts itself squarely in the “protector of the realm” category when it comes to Tesla. In the end, all of this is to help Tesla succeed, said Schippers.
“We look at what Fitbit did for walking and exercise and motivation,” he said. “And we’ll bring that to the space of electric vehicles.”[ + ]
Zynga the casual games developer which once rode Facebook’s platform to popularity and riches is now turning its attention to Snap for growth.
A multiplayer shooting game first announced as part of the big unveiling of Snap Games in April, Tiny Royale’s likely aim is to bring the popular game format that has made Fortnite and PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds so successful to the Snap platform.
In the game, players can choose custom characters and form squads with friends or battle alone for quick two-minute rounds to gather loot and shoot their way to victory.
Up to 30 players can battle at a time in terms of up to four. The gameplay is much the same as the other battle royale games with maps shrinking in size until only one player, or team, remains, the company said.
“We are thrilled to be one of the first companies to launch a gaming experience on Snapchat,” said Bernard Kim, president of Publishing at Zynga, in a statement. “Game developers rarely get the opportunity to create an entirely new experience on an emerging platform so our team was excited to remix the battle royale genre into a fast-paced game designed to rock on Snap Games.”
Built on the PlayCanvas game engine, Snap Games features a selection of third party titles. Players can access Tiny Royale through the Snapchat messaging feature and use text and voice-based features during game play. Later the summer, Zynga will offer a ranked matchmaking feature called Tiny Royale Leagues, which will place competitors in groups of 100, broken out into 20 tiers. Players can battle to climb up in tier ranks earning trophies and rewards based on their performance.
Snap launched in April with six announced titles including Tiny Royale and:
“Snap Games is all about exploring new ways for friends to play together and Tiny Royale is the perfect example of that,” said Will Wu, Snap’s Head of Snap Games. “We jumped at the chance to have a global leader in mobile games like Zynga develop for our platform, and we can’t wait to see what our community thinks about this new way to connect with each other.”[ + ]
Shan Kadavil, who spent early days of his career managing tech support firm Support and then heading India operations of gaming firm Zynga, says he had a calling of sorts when his son was born. Kadavil realized that much of the meat that sells in India is not exactly healthy. The perishables are loaded with chemicals to superficially extend their life by six months, if not more. He wanted to do something better.
Fast forward four years, Kadavil said today that FreshToHome, his new e-commerce startup that delivers “100 percent” pure and fresh fish, chicken, and other kinds of meat, has raised $11 million in Series A funding. The startup has raised $13 million to date.
The round was led by CE Ventures, with participation from Das Capital, Kortschak Investments, TTCER Partners, Al-Nasser Holdings, M&S Partners and other Asia and Valley based Investors. Some of the backers of FreshToHome include Rajan Anandan, the former head of Google Southeast Asia, David Krane, CEO of GV, and Mark Pincus, chairman of Zynga.
FreshToHome has already courted 400,000 customers across four cities — Bengaluru, NCR (Delhi, Gurgaon, Noida, Faridabad, Ghaziabad & Greater Noida), Chennai and Kerala (Kochi, Trivandrum, Calicut & Trichur) — in India. On the backend, the startup does business with 1,500 fishermen across 125 coasts.
In an interview with TechCrunch, Kadavil said the startup is trying to “Uber-ize farmers and fishmen in India. We are giving them an app — around which we have a US patent — for commodity exchange. What farmers and fishermen do is they bid with us (as mandated by local laws) electronically using the app.” By dealing directly with the source, the startup is eliminating as many as half a dozen middlemen to cut costs.
The startup has built its own supply chain network. “We have got a 1,000 people, 100 trucks, and 40 collection points.” The startup, which also uses trains and planes to move inventory, has become one of the biggest clients of airlines Indigo and SpiceJet, he added. Kadavil claimed that FreshToHome is also the largest e-commerce platform for meat with $1.73 million in GMV sales each month.
If this all sounds well strategized, it is because of the people who are running the show. Kadavil founded the FreshToHome with Mathew Joseph, a veteran in the industry who has dealt with fish export for more than 30 years. Joseph started India’s first e-commerce venture in fish and meat called SeaToHome in 2012.
FreshToHome has also emerged as a micro-VC to farmers where it is doing cooperative farming. In such model, FreshToHome guides farmers to use the latest technologies to produce certain kind of fish. As of today, the startup is seeing 60,000 kg (132,227 pound) of production in cooperative farming through its marketplace and over 400,000 kg (881,849 pound) of total products sold per month.
FreshToHome will use the fresh capital to expand its supply chain network, connect with as many as 8,500 new farmers, and start delivering vegetables. It already delivers vegetables in Bengaluru. Kadavil said the startup will also expand to two more cities — Mumbai and Pune.
FreshToHome will compete with a handful of startups, including Licious, which has raised more than $35 million to date, ZappFresh, and BigBasket, which just earlier this month raised $150 million. The cold-chain market of India is estimated to grow to $37 billion in next five years.
In a prepared statement, Tushar Singhvi, Director of CE Ventures said, “The Meat and Seafood segment in India is pegged to be a 50 billion dollar market, but we have to keep in mind that it’s a highly fragmented industry. FreshToHome.com is not only trying to streamline the industry, they’re also using technology to revolutionize the way the industry functions by disintermediating the supply chain, eliminating the middleman and working directly with the fishermen and farmers in a market place model, to make fresh and chemical free food accessible to the masses at large.”[ + ]
Canopy, an upscale, profitable developer of co-working spaces, has expanded its footprint in San Francisco to a third location on the heels of a strategic financing round.
Co-founded by the product designer Yves Behar; the second-generation design-build developer Amir Mortazavi; and Steve Mohebi, a serial entrepreneur with experience spanning real estate and healthcare (and the former director of sales at BetaSphere); Canopy bills itself as a better-designed WeWork for high-powered adults (or aspiring high-powered adults).
The company opened its latest office space in the financial district of San Francisco and has plans to double its Jackson Square location with a new penthouse space.
Investors in the round were culled from Canopy members and a few institutional investment funds, including Structure Capital, Montage Ventures and Graph Ventures, and individuals like Erik Blachford, the former chief executive of Expedia, Mark Pincus, the former chief executive of Zynga and Spencer Rascoff, the co-founder of Zillow .
Canopy’s latest office will be at 353 Kearny Street and Pine. The ground floor will house a retail store in partnership with Monocle Magazine and the building will contain 32 offices suitable for everyone from one person shops to larger teams of 10.
Like all of its offices, Canopy’s new building will be kitted out with Herman Miller sit-to-stand desks and Sayl chairs, and sound masking for privacy.
“Designing our spaces along with my friend and co-founder, Yves Behar, to serve the unmet demands of the premium segment has been a true labor of passion,” said co-founder and CEO, Amir Mortazavi, in a statement. “We build everything around our members’ needs — a generosity of space, abundant natural light, easy flow between private and shared spaces — to ensure the overall Canopy experience is at once inspiring and calm.”
The company boasts 300 members already and its founders say the business is already profitable. Canopy’s workspaces are not for everyone. Prices start at $100 per month to take advantage of the company’s addresses for people who want a virtual office. For folks who want 10 days’ worth of access to the co-working space’s common areas and an actual seat at a table, the price tag is $365 per month ($275 gets you 60 days of access out of a year).
Meanwhile, anyone who wants to be able to sit at an actual, dedicated workstation that’s theirs and theirs alone in a Canopy space better be willing to shell out $925 per month. That’s… not cheap, but it is a piece of Canopy that a customer can call their own.[ + ]
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In-car commerce startup Cargo extends Uber partnership to Brazil
Snap is unlocking a new revenue stream while giving you something to do between chats and Stories. Today Snapchat debuts its Snap Games platform that lets you play real-time, multiplayer games while texting and talking with your friends. The platform is based on Snap’s secret late-2017 acquisition of PrettyGreat, an Australian game studio with talent from HalfBrick (which built Fruit Ninja). That team built Bitmoji Party, a Mario Party-style mini-game fest, to show off the platform that includes five games from developers like Zynga and ZeptoLab. The games are rolling out worldwide on iOS and Android starting today.
To monetize the platform, Snapchat will let users opt in to watching six-second unskippable commercials that reward them with a power up or bonus in-game currency. Snapchat will share revenue from the ads with developers, though it refused to specify the split. It could be a little weird watching ads to more easily beat your friends. But down the line it’s easy to imagine Snapchat selling cosmetic upgrades via in-app purchases akin to Fortnite.
Snap announced the new Snap Games platform at its first-ever press event, the Snap Partner Summit in Los Angeles, where it also announced an augmented reality utility platform called Scan, an ads network and a way to put its Stories in other apps. “We wanted to build something that makes us feel like we’re playing a board game with a family of over a long holiday weekend. Something that makes us feel like we’re sitting with friends, controllers in hand, looking at the same screen,” says Snap’s head of gaming, Will Wu. The Information’s Tom Dotan and Amir Efrati first reported Snap was building a gaming platform and Cheddar’s Alex Heath reported it would end up launching today.
Snap Games could be considered a real-time spin on Facebook Messenger’s Instant Games platform, which has focused on porting to HTML5 well-known asynchronous games like Pac-Man and other arcade titles. Similarly, Snap Games don’t have to be downloaded separately, as they’re piped in from the web. Users can browse available games by tapping a new rocket ship button in the chat bar.