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Mashr Resurrects A Tinder Experiment To Make You A Matchmaker


In May 2013, Tinder introduced Matchmaker, a way for users of the popular dating app to introduce their Facebook friends to each other.

“Right now introductions are a very difficult process,” Tinder Ceo Sean Rad said at the time. “They’re slow, they’re socially awkward. This is socially a acceptable environment for you to make introductions in an easy way.”

Matchmaker has since been phased out of Tinder, but a new startup, Mashr, is resurrecting the feature as its central thesis. Rad’s quote about the friction of introductions still rings true over a year later, and Mashr co-founder Brian Nichols argues that Matchmaker did not succeed because it wasn’t a true piece of the core Tinder experience.

Mashr is straightforward: a user pairs two of their friends together and offers a quick explanation on why they should meet. If both agree Mashr makes the connection much like Tinder.

Nichols is counting on the fact that I might actually go out with Rachel if my friend Lindsey introduces us and explains why we’re compatible, instead of if we just swiped right for each other on Tinder.

“I know Tinder is all the rage these days, but does it really make sense to meet up with a complete stranger?,” Nichols argues. “Wouldn’t it make more sense (and be safer) if you were connected by a friend to your future significant other?”

Will Mashr really be able to succeed with an experiment that Tinder abandoned?

“People are on Tinder for themselves, to play the game of tinder,” Nichols argues, explaining that he is in a relationship but has many friends who are looking for dates who he’d like to easily introduce.

Nichols co-founded Mashr with Michael and Will Perl, two brothers who attended Stanford and also co-founded a company called Naquatic, whose apps have accumulated over 35 million downloads. Nichols, who met the Perl brothers through mutual friends, convinced them to step outside of building games to take a shot at creating a new dating app in Mashr.

Besides Tinder, Nichols says Mashr primarily competes with Hinge, which connects users because they share a mutual or third degree Facebook friend, and CoffeeMeetsBagel, which restricts users to one match per day in order to make those matches more meaningful. He argues that Mashr’s human matching can do better than other app’s algorithms.

Users on Mashr can pair any of their Facebook friends together, even if those friends haven’t downloaded Mashr yet; those friends will then get a Facebook notification about the proposed match, which the team hopes will drive app downloads.

In addition to the primary one-to-one matching aspect of the app, Mashr has a few gamification aspects to galvanize users to mash their friends together. MashPlay is a timed game where you try to match as many friends together as quickly as possible. MashFeed shows a list of all the mashes people are making–not just the successful ones. This aspect of the app is intriguing, but could backfire. The team hopes it will cause people to check the feed regularly to see who of their friends might be getting matched, but many people wouldn’t want others to see who they’re being matched with.

“We want a really casual, fun and funny experience that also has the opportunity to make meaningful connections between two people,” Nichols says. “We’re trying to strike that balance.”

You can download Mashr now for iOS and Android.

Disclosure: I have accepted a role at Khosla Ventures beginning later in September. Since accepting this job, I am not covering any of the firm’s portfolio companies.

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Uber Slapped With Nationwide Injunction In Germany — But Vows To Continue To Operate


Last month on-demand ride-hailing service Uber faced a ban in Berlin on passenger safety grounds. That ban was suspended days later while the court in question rules on the legality of the move. But Uber is now facing another injunction in the country — this time a district court in Frankfurt has issued a temporary ban against its service which applies nationwide.

The Frankfurt injunction, which was issued late last week, is reported to be enforceable until the start of any hearing appealing the ban — so is very likely to be lifted soon. Update: Uber has confirmed to TechCrunch that it intends to both appeal the injunction and to continue operating in Germany ahead of its appeal (see below for the company’s full statement).

The civil action has been brought by the German taxi industry. At issue is the lack of an official permit for Uber to operate in Germany under its Passenger Transport Act. The court accuses Uber of unfair competition vs regulated taxi industries, given that its undercutting price model, which relies on drivers using their own cars to offer a ride-hailing service, could mean corners are being cut on areas such as insurance.

A report in Spiegel Online notes the Frankfurt injunction carries a penalty fine of €250,000/$330,000 per violation, and the threat of jail time against Uber’s directors.

Dr Arne Hasse, of the Frankfurt court, confirmed the details of the injunction to TechCrunch — noting via email: “The Uber App violates German unfair competition law. In Germany, commercial passanger transport is only allowed with a permission by the local authorities which the Uber drivers don’t have. The injunction was brought by a taxi drivers’ union which also operates a taxi app. A hearing will only take place if Uber applies for it. The injunction is immediately enforceable; Uber can apply for a suspension of the immediately enforceability.”

In a statement provided to the FT, Dieter Schlenker, chairman of taxi companies’ co-operative Taxi Deutschland, accused Uber of disingenuous behaviour, given how well funded the company is. “The Passenger Transport Act regulates the protection of drivers and consumers. That can’t easily be overturned no matter how neoliberal the company. Uber operates with billions in cash from Goldman Sachs and Google, wraps itself in a Startup-Look and sells itself as a New Economy saviour,” he said.

Uber has a $17bn valuation, huge funding muscle and a swathe of big name backers, including the aforementioned Google and Goldman Sachs, fueling its expansion.

In this latest bump in the ride-sharing road, Uber is able to — and doubtless will — object to the Frankfurt injunction and ask for an annulment of the court’s decision. It certainly has the overflowing coffers to lean in to lengthy legal battles. The company filed an objection to the earlier ban in Berlin, and has been able to continue operating there in the legal interim. It has also previously faced a ban in Hamburg, and recently was able to have that overturned.

At the time of writing Uber had not responded to a request for comment but the company told Spiegel Online it will fight the latest injunction in Germany.

We’ll update this story with any statement from the company. Update: Uber provided the following statement to TechCrunch: “Germany is one of the fastest growing markets for Uber in Europe. We will continue to operate in Germany and will appeal the recent lawsuit filed by Taxi Deutschland in Frankfurt. We believe innovation and competition is good for everyone, riders and drivers, everyone wins. You cannot put the brakes on progress. Uber will continue its operations and will offer Uberpop ridesharing services via its app throughout Germany.​”

It is unclear whether Uber will cover any fines incurred for drivers breaking the injunction, or whether the drivers themselves will be left to pay any penalties out of their own pocket. We’ve asked Uber for clarification on this point and will update this story with any response.

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DN Capital Raises $200M For 3rd European Fund, As Euro Tech Resurges


London-based DN Capital, which has invested in Shazam and Videdressing among others, has today announced it’s raised $200 million (€144 million) for its third venture capital fund, GVC III, a three-times increase on its previous fund. Investors include family offices, large institutional investors and sovereign wealth funds, including the European Investment Fund.

The fund will, as before, focus on early and growth stage companies in northern Europe, particularly the UK, Germany, and the Nordics with an allocation for US companies expanding into Europe.

Nenad Marovac, founder and managing partner, said the raise was “well ahead of our target and significantly oversubscribed.” He says there are “terrific start-ups in the European market at the moment.” This is DN’s largest fund to date.

DN Capital now has $320 million in total under management and has invested in around 50 companies since 2000. The Pan-European early-stage venture capital firm typically invests €1-10 million per company depending on investment stage.

In the wider marketplace, London’s Index Ventures raised a new fund this year of $550 million, while over the road, Balderton Capital raised $305 million earlier this year. Last year Accel Partners in London raised an early stage fund of $475 million.

According to data from Dow Jones VentureSource European startups have raised more than $2.8 billion (€2.1 billion) from VCs in the second quarter of 2014, the highest quarterly total since that iconic dot-com bust year of 2001. The UK remains the biggest country, where companies have raised 28% of the total amount in the second quarter, followed by France with 19% and Germany with 15%. London-based Index Ventures was the busiest VC firm in Europe, with 16 deals completed, according to VentureSource.

What’s clear from all this however is that European VC funds are taking advantage of the resurgence of tech startups to raise new funds. There are also many more exits happening.

There were 92 European tech “exits” in the second quarter of 2014, of which 10 were IPOs. This is up from 54 deals tracked in Q1 2014, an increase of about 70 percent, according to

Already this year, two London companies have been sold for some £1bn in total – Artificial Intelligence startup DeepMind was bought by Google while Zynga bought games company Natural Motion.

This year the IPO on the London Stock Market of property portal Zoopla attracted blue-chip investors to its £900m / $1.53m floatation, and the share price has gained since then.

According to CrunchBase, DN Capital’s Investments so far this year include:

Real Estate Agency
$13.4M / Series A with 3 other investors

An online reservation platform
$25M / Series C with 5 other investors

Book a Tiger
Online booking platform for professional cleaners.
undisclosed amount / Seed with 2 other investors

Hybrid Logic
$1.4M / Seed with 2 other investors

Social IT Research Platform
undisclosed amount / Seed

Vint Training
P2P Marketplace for Fitness Instructors
$1.8M / Seed with 2 other investors
Professional flight bookings
undisclosed amount / Seed with 1 other investor

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Facebook Has Restored Some Facial Recognition In Europe, Tagging U.S. Friends’ Photos


In 2012, Facebook came under fire from privacy advocates and eventually turned off all facial recognition services in the EU, which automatically recognised and suggested the names of friends from photos that you uploaded to the social network. But did you know that Facebook may have now started to restore parts of the service in Europe? It appears that it is now automatically tagging friends of yours in photos, if they are friends from the U.S.

The return of Facebook’s “tag suggest”, as the facial recognition feature is known, was first brought to my attention by a Facebook Friend. Doing some tests on my own timeline and those of a couple of other friends whose accounts are registered in the EU, here is what we found:

If you upload a picture of a friend whose account is registered as being in the U.S., that person’s face is identified (to the best of Facebook’s technology, that is) and that person is tagged:

If you upload a picture with friends who are based in Europe, they are not tagged. If you upload a picture of two people, with one in the U.S. and the other not, only the U.S. person gets tagged:

It seems that this is a recent change. And as you can see in the first picture above, you are also now getting a prompt for tag suggestions to add other tags and see other suggestions from Facebook. It seems that the tag icon in the corner is only programmed to come up for some pictures — presumably ones with faces of people from outside the U.S.

This has been confirmed for me by friends based in the UK, and it’s working exactly the same in Germany, too, my friend Matthäus Krzykowski tells me.

We have reached out to Facebook for more details about what is going on here, when they turned this on, and whether there is more to come. For now, here is some context:

The “tag suggest” feature was something that Facebook has been using and developing for some time now, partly bolstered by technology from, an Israeli startup that it acquired in 2012. At least some of’s employees are still working for Facebook.

But while tag suggest has been humming along in markets like Israel and the U.S., Facebook turned it off for users in Europe back in September 2012, in response to a list of features flagged by Ireland’s Data Protection Authority (DPA) that Facebook needed to change on its platform. That report that was made in response to a privacy complaint made in 2011 by none other than Max Schrems — the same Austrian law student who is now leading the charge on a class action suit against the company over alleged privacy violations (perpetual thorn in Facebook’s side, indeed).*

Because Facebook’s international headquarters is in Ireland, rulings made by courts and regulators in that market have wide-ranging ramifications, and the decisions impact how Facebook operates across the European Union.

But although Facebook made a very clear decision at the time to cut the facial recognition feature off for all new users, and to delete all tag suggest data for existing users by October of that year, it also left a loophole for how it could live to tag suggest another day.

“As our regulator in Europe, the Irish Office of the Data Protection Commissioner is constantly working with us to ensure that we keep improving on the high standards of control that we have built into our existing tools.

“This audit is part of an ongoing process of oversight, and we are pleased that, as the Data Protection Commissioner said, the latest announcement is confirmation that we are not only compliant with European data protection law but we have gone beyond some of their initial recommendations and are fully committed to best practice in data protection compliance.”

The spokesperson goes on, however, to make clear that Facebook will be revisiting facial recognition when it figures out how to square it with the regulators:

“It’s worth us reiterating that once we have agreed on an approach on the best way to notify and educate users with the DPC, we hope to bring back this useful tool.”

So, has that day now arrived, as least in small steps? Hopefully Facebook will get back with some clarification soon.

*In short, and for more context…. the argument for Schrems and others opposed to things like facial recognition on Facebook is that it gives less control to individuals for how they are tagged and organised and potentially monetized in Facebook’s database. The other side of the debate is that this can be a useful way of tagging and alerting friends to pictures of them, and it’s not clear that the data is repurposed in the way that would negatively affect your experience on the service. I’m personally in favor of more control of your data, if that is what you personally want, because that still gives individuals the option of having less control if you actually don’t care one way or the other.

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MindMixer Raises $17M To Help Governments Connect With Their Communities


MindMixer, a platform allowing local governments to solicit ideas from their communities, is announcing that it has raised $17 million in Series C funding.

When I first spoke to the company a couple of years ago, co-founder and CEO Nick Bowden said the product isn’t just about submitting and voting on ideas, but also creating a process for actually implementing the best ones.

The company now says that it has been used by 1.6 million participants who have submitted 100,000 new ideas, and that its customers include “most major cities in the United States,” including Los Angeles, Chicago, and San Francisco. It’s not just for cities, either — MindMixer says its tools can also be used by consultants, educational organizations, and nonprofit agencies. (You can see a map of some noteworthy MindMixer projects on its website.)

A “Silicon Prairie” startup, MindMixer also consolidated its Omaha and Lincoln, Neb. locations this year into its third office in Kansas City.

Bowden told me last week that one of his main goals moving forward is to help governments connect with a broader swath of their community. After all, he suggested that regular users of an idea submission site like ImproveSF “will be engaged no matter what.”

The challenge is to go beyond those groups, using the everyday interactions we have with the government as funnels towards more information and more engagement. As one sign of how disconnected many of us have become, Bowden noted that “most citizens don’t know who their representatives are” at either a local, state, or federal level.

To illustrate how MindMixer might expand, he suggested that online park listings could start pointing visitors to sites where they can submit ideas for improving those parks. So if someone is searching the web to find the nearest park, that search becomes “a potential avenue into a deeper level of engagement.”

The funding should help MindMixer pursue that broader mission. The new round was led by Omaha-based firm Dundee Venture Capital, with investment from the Govtech Fund and other, undisclosed participants. This brings MindMixer’s total funding to $23.2 million.

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Reddit Launches An Official App For AMAs


The so-called “front page of the Internet” has launched a new dedicated AMA app for iOS, with an Android version arriving later this week. Reddit users have long sought an official mobile app from the network after an original version launched in January 2011 ended up failing due to poor design user complaints. This AMA app is the first part of a new collection of mobile software the company is looking to develop, a move it signalled back in April when it announced it was looking for talent to help it with the initiative.

Reddit’s AMA or “Ask Me Anything” feature is just one part of the larger experience, but giving the open interview format its own dedicated mobile software makes a lot of sense, as it offers a medium that may be more naturally conducive to browsing and engaging in these QA sessions, which typically feature celebrities or newsmakers of the moment.

The AMA app is designed to make it easier for those new to Reddit to access and follow AMA content, according to Reddit VP Ellen Pao speaking to Variety, and that goal applies to all their mobile development efforts. Reddit has a lot of traction and high engagement, but it’s also dense and unwelcoming to new users, especially if those users are coming with more casual interest. The mobile app is night and day from the threaded, text-dense website, with a cleaner, lighter look, and it has navigation options that make the existing trove of post AMAs easy for new users to find and page through.

Based on a quick hands-on tour, the Reddit AMA app looks to be an improvement over the web interface, and will likely be my default destination for reading these things from now on. Reddit’s design choices are sometimes questionable, including using its signature logo font throughout, but for the AMA format at least, its latest mobile efforts make a lot of sense. The company still has to be wary of alienating its dedicated fan base in seeking new users, but the app’s design and nature show that initially at least, it’s taking baby steps in trying to finally make the leap into mobile.

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