There’s now proof that quantum computers can outperform classical machines

The hype around quantum computing is real. But to fully realize the promise of quantum computing, it’ll still take a few years of research and scientific breakthroughs. And indeed, it still remains to be seen if quantum computers will ever live up to the hype. Today, though, we got mathematical proof that there are really calculations that […]

The hype around quantum computing is real. But to fully realize the promise of quantum computing, it’ll still take a few years of research and scientific breakthroughs. And indeed, it still remains to be seen if quantum computers will ever live up to the hype. Today, though, we got mathematical proof that there are really calculations that quantum computers will definitely be able to perform faster than any classical computer.

What we have today are quantum computers with a very limited number of qubits and short coherence time. Those limitations put a damper on the amount of computation you can perform on those machines, but they still allow for some practical work. Unsurprisingly, researchers are very interested in seeing what they can do with the current set of available machines. Because they have such short coherence time before the system becomes chaotic and useless for any computations, you can only perform a relatively small number of operations on them. In quantum computing speak, that’s “depth,” and today’s systems are considered shallow.

Science today published a paper (“Quantum advantage with shallow circuits”) by Sergey Bravyi of IBM Research, David Gosset of the University of Waterloo’s Institute for Quantum Computing and Robert König of the Institute for Advanced Study and Zentrum Mathematik, Technische Universität München. In this paper, the researchers prove that a quantum computer with a fixed circuit depth is able to outperform a classical computer that’s tackling the same problem because the classical computer will require the circuit depth to grow larger, while it can stay constant for the quantum computer.

There is very little that’s intuitive about quantum computing, of course, but it’s worth remembering that quantum computers are very different from classical computers.

“Quantum circuits are not just basically the same but different from classical circuits,” IBM Q Ecosystem and Strategy VP Bub Sutor told me. Classic circuits, […]they are bits, they are zeros and ones, and there’s binary logic, ANDs, ORs, NOTs and things like. The very, very basic gate sets, the types of operations you can do in quantum are different. When these qubit are actually operating, with this notion of superposition you have much, much more to operate elbow room, not just two bits. You actually have a tremendous amount of more room here.” And it’s that additional room you get, because qubits can encode any number and not just zeros and ones, that allows them to be more powerful than a classical computer in solving the specific kind of problem that the researchers tackled.

The question the researchers here asked was if constant-depth quantum circuits can solve a computational problem that constant-depth classical circuits cannot? The problem they decided to look at is a variation on the well-known Bernstein-Vazirani problem (well-known among quantum computing wonks, that is). You don’t need to jump into the details here, but the researchers show that even a shallow quantum computer can easily outperform a classical computer in solving this problem.

“We tried to understand what kinds of things we can do with a shallow quantum circuit and looked for an appropriate model for a type of computation that can be done on a near-term quantum device,” Bravyi told me. “What our result says is that there are certain computational problems for which you can solve on a quantum computer with a constant depth. So as you increase the number of input bits, the depth of the quantum algorithm that solves the problem remains constant.” A constant depth classical computer can not solve this problem, though.

Sutor was very quick to note that we shouldn’t over-hype the current state of quantum computing or this result, though. “We try to be extremely cautious and honest in terms of saying ‘this is what quantum computers can do today’ versus what classical computers will do,” he told me. “And we do this for a very specific reason in that that this is something that will play out over the next three to five years and decades — probably decades.” But what this result shows is that it’s worth exploring quantum algorithms.

As Sutor noted, “there is still this core question, which is, ‘why are you bothering?'” Today’s result should put that question to rest, but Sutor still stressed that he tries to stay grounded and never says quantum computing “will” do something until it does. “There’s a strategy through this, but there’s going to be little left turns and right turns along the way.”

IBM files formal JEDI protest a day before bidding process closes

IBM announced yesterday that it has filed a formal protest with the U.S. Government Accountability Office over the structure of the Pentagon’s winner-take-all $10 billion, 10-year JEDI cloud contract. The protest came just a day before the bidding process is scheduled to close. As IBM put it in a blog post, they took issues with […]

IBM announced yesterday that it has filed a formal protest with the U.S. Government Accountability Office over the structure of the Pentagon’s winner-take-all $10 billion, 10-year JEDI cloud contract. The protest came just a day before the bidding process is scheduled to close. As IBM put it in a blog post, they took issues with the single vendor approach. They are certainly not alone.

Just about every vendor short of Amazon, which has remained mostly quiet, has been complaining about this strategy. IBM certainly faces a tough fight going up against Amazon and Microsoft.

IBM doesn’t disguise the fact that it thinks the contract has been written for Amazon to win and they believe the one-vendor approach simply doesn’t make sense. “No business in the world would build a cloud the way JEDI would and then lock in to it for a decade. JEDI turns its back on the preferences of Congress and the administration, is a bad use of taxpayer dollars and was written with just one company in mind.” IBM wrote in the blog post explaining why it was protesting the deal before a decision was made or the bidding was even closed.

For the record, DOD spokesperson Heather Babb told TechCrunch last month that the bidding is open and no vendor is favored. “The JEDI Cloud final RFP reflects the unique and critical needs of DOD, employing the best practices of competitive pricing and security. No vendors have been pre-selected,” she said.

Much like Oracle, which filed a protest of its own back in August, IBM is a traditional vendor that was late to the cloud. It began a journey to build a cloud business in 2013 when it purchased Infrastructure as a Service vendor SoftLayer and has been using its checkbook to buy software services to add on top of SoftLayer ever since. IBM has concentrated on building cloud services around AI, security, big data, blockchain and other emerging technologies.

Both IBM and Oracle have a problem with the one-vendor approach, especially one that locks in the government for a 10-year period. It’s worth pointing out that the contract actually is an initial two-year deal with two additional three year options and a final two year option. The DOD has left open the possibility this might not go the entire 10 years.

It’s also worth putting the contract in perspective. While 10 years and $10 billion is nothing to sneeze at, neither is it as market altering as it might appear, not when some are predicting the cloud will be $100 billion a year market very soon.

IBM uses the blog post as a kind of sales pitch as to why it’s a good choice, while at the same time pointing out the flaws in the single vendor approach and complaining that it’s geared toward a single unnamed vendor that we all know is Amazon.

The bidding process closes today, and unless something changes as a result of these protests, the winner will be selected next April

Tim Berners-Lee is on a mission to decentralize the web

The father of the World Wide Web has a new venture-funded business called inrupt — emerging from stealth today.

“I’ve always believed the web is for everyone,” wrote Tim Berners-Lee, the well-known (and knighted) creator of the World Wide Web.

“The web has evolved into an engine of inequity and division; swayed by powerful forces who use it for their own agendas,” he added. “Today, I believe we’ve reached a critical tipping point, and that powerful change for the better is possible — and necessary.”

Late last month, he published the above in a blog post announcing inrupt, a startup that would finally execute on his vision for the information superhighway he built nearly 30 years ago. Backed with an undisclosed amount of funding from Glasswing Ventures, the startup is emerging from stealth today with a plan to decentralize the web and restore power to the people rather than the companies that have exploited user trust for their own financial gains.

The timing couldn’t be better. The last year has been plagued with scandals, from Cambridge Analytica, a data analysis firm that used Facebook data to target voters for President Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, to most recently a data-exposing hack on Google+ that relinquished the private information of hundreds of thousands of unsuspecting users.

Internet privacy and security are hot-button issues, to say the least. Users are rapidly losing trust in the companies that became institutions in the digital age — and they’re demanding solutions.

The race to restore control of data and the web at large has begun; inrupt is looking to the finish line.

The father of the World Wide Web

Berners-Lee is a British engineer and professor of computer science who famously gave away the web, which allows anyone with a computer to access the internet, for free.

For the past few years, he’s been quietly working on a project called Solid with a small team at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Solid is an open-source project built on the existing web meant to give people control over their own data. Using Solid, users can keep their data wherever they choose, rather than being forced to store it on centralized servers.

The world we’ve created on the web [is] not the right one. — John Bruce, co-founder of inrupt.

Despite its populist ambitions, Solid has failed to garner the momentum necessary to truly disrupt the web.

Berners-Lee realized Solid needed commercial backing, a real business behind it to earn the interests of open-source developers who have to build decentralized apps on the Solid platform for it to be useful.

Thus, inrupt was born. Berners-Lee tapped John Bruce, a fellow British engineer and serial entrepreneur, to lead the company as its chief executive officer. Most recently, Bruce co-founded Resilient, an incident response platform later acquired by IBM. Before that, he was the chairman and CEO of Quickcomm and the vice president of Symantec.

Bruce resigned from IBM in April to focus on inrupt full time.

“The world we’ve created on the web [is] not the right one,” Bruce told TechCrunch. “Maybe, just maybe, we can put it in the place it was originally intended to be.”

“Inrupt’s mission, at this point, is to bring resources, process and skills to galvanize the open-source effort that Tim was leading out of MIT to help [Solid] become, truly, a force to be reckoned with,” he added. “We are at the stage of the new web that Tim was at when he first started the World Wide Web.”

Bruce says that since Berners-Lee announced inrupt in late September, open-source developers have poured into the Solid platform in droves.

Now, the pair are gearing up to raise another round of funding, hire, expand the Solid platform and work on a digital assistant tool called Charlie, which the company describes as a “decentralized version of Alexa.”

For Berners-Lee, inrupt is Act II of a much larger story. For Bruce, it’s the opportunity to work with a legend.

“This is a man that understands the web truly better than anyone else on the planet,” Bruce said. “And the wheels of innovation have really just started to turn.”

Talkdesk nabs $100M at more than $1B valuation for its smart call centers

Talkdesk, the provider of cloud-based contact center software, has raised $100 million in new funding from Viking Global Investors and DFJ.

Talkdesk, the provider of cloud-based contact center software, has raised $100 million in new funding from Viking Global Investors, a Connecticut-based hedge fund, and existing investor DFJ.

The round values the company at north of $1 billion, Talkdesk co-founder and chief executive officer Tiago Paiva confirmed to TechCrunch, but he declined to disclose the exact figure.

The company, which uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to improve customer service, targets mid-market and enterprise businesses, counting IBM, Dropbox, Stitch Fix and Farfetch as customers.

“Imagine a company has a million customers and they want to reach out for support, what Talkdesk does is allow the customer to connect with a company in the best way possible,” Paiva told TechCrunch. “If you call into Farfetch, they will be using Talkdesk so they can see what products you’ve bought, what your tastes are, what you’ve complained about before. It gives them the history of everything so they can take care of your problem faster.”

Founded in Portugal in 2011, Talkdesk has offices in San Francisco and Lisbon. With the latest investment, it plans to expand to the U.K., as well as double down on its investment in AI. The company has previously raised about $24 million in equity funding, including a $15 million round in mid-2015. It also was a Startup Battlefield contestant at TechCrunch Disrupt NY in 2012.

“Today’s digital-first customers expect immediate and personalized answers, yet the majority of companies have not yet adopted a flexible, cloud-native platform to enable this level of agility and service,” DFJ partner Josh Stein said in a statement. “We believe that 2019 will be the year that cloud-based contact centers become the rule, not the exception.”

What each cloud company could bring to the Pentagon’s $10 B JEDI cloud contract

The Pentagon is going to make one cloud vendor exceedingly happy when it chooses the winner of the $10 billion, ten-year enterprise cloud project dubbed the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (or JEDI for short). The contract is designed to establish the cloud technology strategy for the military over the next 10 years as it begins […]

The Pentagon is going to make one cloud vendor exceedingly happy when it chooses the winner of the $10 billion, ten-year enterprise cloud project dubbed the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (or JEDI for short). The contract is designed to establish the cloud technology strategy for the military over the next 10 years as it begins to take advantage of current trends like Internet of Things, artificial intelligence and big data.

Ten billion dollars spread out over ten years may not entirely alter a market that’s expected to reach $100 billion a year very soon, but it is substantial enough give a lesser vendor much greater visibility, and possibly deeper entree into other government and private sector business. The cloud companies certainly recognize that.

Photo: Glowimages/Getty Images

That could explain why they are tripping over themselves to change the contract dynamics, insisting, maybe rightly, that a multi-vendor approach would make more sense.

One look at the Request for Proposal (RFP) itself, which has dozens of documents outlining various criteria from security to training to the specification of the single award itself, shows the sheer complexity of this proposal. At the heart of it is a package of classified and unclassified infrastructure, platform and support services with other components around portability. Each of the main cloud vendors we’ll explore here offers these services. They are not unusual in themselves, but they do each bring a different set of skills and experiences to bear on a project like this.

It’s worth noting that it’s not just interested in technical chops, the DOD is also looking closely at pricing and has explicitly asked for specific discounts that would be applied to each component. The RFP process closes on October 12th and the winner is expected to be chosen next April.

Amazon

What can you say about Amazon? They are by far the dominant cloud infrastructure vendor. They have the advantage of having scored a large government contract in the past when they built the CIA’s private cloud in 2013, earning $600 million for their troubles. It offers GovCloud, which is the product that came out of this project designed to host sensitive data.

Jeff Bezos, Chairman and founder of Amazon.com. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Many of the other vendors worry that gives them a leg up on this deal. While five years is a long time, especially in technology terms, if anything, Amazon has tightened control of the market. Heck, most of the other players were just beginning to establish their cloud business in 2013. Amazon, which launched in 2006, has maturity the others lack and they are still innovating, introducing dozens of new features every year. That makes them difficult to compete with, but even the biggest player can be taken down with the right game plan.

Microsoft

If anyone can take Amazon on, it’s Microsoft. While they were somewhat late the cloud they have more than made up for it over the last several years. They are growing fast, yet are still far behind Amazon in terms of pure market share. Still, they have a lot to offer the Pentagon including a combination of Azure, their cloud platform and Office 365, the popular business suite that includes Word, PowerPoint, Excel and Outlook email. What’s more they have a fat contract with the DOD for $900 million, signed in 2016 for Windows and related hardware.

Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella Photo: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Azure Stack is particularly well suited to a military scenario. It’s a private cloud you can stand up and have a mini private version of the Azure public cloud. It’s fully compatible with Azure’s public cloud in terms of APIs and tools. The company also has Azure Government Cloud, which is certified for use by many of the U.S. government’s branches, including DOD Level 5. Microsoft brings a lot of experience working inside large enterprises and government clients over the years, meaning it knows how to manage a large contract like this.

Google

When we talk about the cloud, we tend to think of the Big Three. The third member of that group is Google. They have been working hard to establish their enterprise cloud business since 2015 when they brought in Diane Greene to reorganize the cloud unit and give them some enterprise cred. They still have a relatively small share of the market, but they are taking the long view, knowing that there is plenty of market left to conquer.

Head of Google Cloud, Diane Greene Photo: TechCrunch

They have taken an approach of open sourcing a lot of the tools they used in-house, then offering cloud versions of those same services, arguing that who knows better how to manage large-scale operations than they do. They have a point, and that could play well in a bid for this contract, but they also stepped away from an artificial intelligence contract with DOD called Project Maven when a group of their employees objected. It’s not clear if that would be held against them or not in the bidding process here.

IBM

IBM has been using its checkbook to build a broad platform of cloud services since 2013 when it bought Softlayer to give it infrastructure services, while adding software and development tools over the years, and emphasizing AI, big data, security, blockchain and other services. All the while, it has been trying to take full advantage of their artificial intelligence engine, Watson.

IBM Chairman, President and CEO Ginni Romett Photo: Ethan Miller/Getty Images

As one of the primary technology brands of the 20th century, the company has vast experience working with contracts of this scope and with large enterprise clients and governments. It’s not clear if this translates to its more recently developed cloud services, or if it has the cloud maturity of the others, especially Microsoft and Amazon. In that light, it would have its work cut out for it to win a contract like this.

Oracle

Oracle has been complaining since last spring to anyone who will listen, including reportedly the president, that the JEDI RFP is unfairly written to favor Amazon, a charge that DOD firmly denies. They have even filed a formal protest against the process itself.

That could be a smoke screen because the company was late to the cloud, took years to take it seriously as a concept, and barely registers today in terms of market share. What it does bring to the table is broad enterprise experience over decades and one of the most popular enterprise databases in the last 40 years.

Larry Ellison, chairman of Oracle Corp.

Larry Ellison, chairman of Oracle. Photo: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

It recently began offering a self-repairing database in the cloud that could prove attractive to DOD, but whether its other offerings are enough to help it win this contract remains to be to be seen.

Cloudflare partners with Microsoft, Google and others to reduce bandwidth costs

Say hello to the Bandwidth Alliance, a new group led by Cloudflare that promises to reduce the price of bandwidth for many cloud customers. The overall idea here is that customers who use both Cloudflare, which is turning eight years old this week, and a cloud provider that’s part of this alliance will get a […]

Say hello to the Bandwidth Alliance, a new group led by Cloudflare that promises to reduce the price of bandwidth for many cloud customers. The overall idea here is that customers who use both Cloudflare, which is turning eight years old this week, and a cloud provider that’s part of this alliance will get a significant discount on their egress traffic or won’t have to pay for it at all.

The alliance is open, and others may join still, but right now it includes virtually every major and minor cloud provider you’ve ever heard of — with one exception. Current members include Automattic, Backblaze, Digital Ocean, DreamHost, IBM Cloud, Linode, Google, Google Cloud, Microsoft Azure, Packet, Scaleway and Vapor. Some of these will now offer free egress traffic to mutual customers with Cloudflare, while others will offer at least a 75 percent discount.

That’s quite the alliance, but as Cloudflare CEO and co-founder Matthew Prince told me, once the first member joined, the rest of the pieces fell into place quickly. Surely it also helped that both Google and Microsoft have invested in Cloudflare.

Why would these businesses choose to do away with what’s a minor but high-margin business, though? “The argument that we made to them was a pretty simple argument: it makes sense for you to charge for transit when you are actually paying for it,” Prince said. Most of the time, though, those costs are very minor and Cloudflare, thanks to his massive number of global peering locations, can ingest the traffic directly from the cloud provider with no middlemen involved.

The first company Cloudflare partnered with was Google, thanks to that company’s CDN Interconnect program, which launched in 2015. Cloudflare was one of the initial partners in the program, though as Prince noted, there was still a lot to learn for all parties involved, especially because traffic was sometimes routed in very unpredictable ways that circumvented the cost savings mechanisms. Cloudflare learned from this, though, and is now using its own Argo technology to intelligently route traffic.

As Prince noted, though, one thing that turned out to be harder than anticipated was ensuring that the cloud vendors would know that one of their customers is a mutual customer. Some have that instrumentation in place, while Cloudflare needs to pass a special header to them so they can know where their traffic is coming from.

Prince also argued that this will make it easier for many companies to use multiple cloud providers without having to pay extremely high bandwidth cost. While Cloudflare’s early focus was very much on web traffic, Prince said that more than half is now API-based traffic, and that’s exactly the kind of user who will likely save quite a bit of money thanks to this.

The one company that’s not part of this alliance, of course, is Amazon with its AWS platform. Prince said that Cloudflare has talked to them, though, and the group is open to all cloud and CDN providers.

Walmart is betting on the blockchain to improve food safety

Walmart has been working with IBM on a food safety blockchain solution and today it announced it’s requiring that all suppliers of leafy green vegetable for Sam’s and Walmart upload their data to the blockchain by September 2019 . Most supply chains are bogged down in manual processes. This makes it difficult and time consuming […]

Walmart has been working with IBM on a food safety blockchain solution and today it announced it’s requiring that all suppliers of leafy green vegetable for Sam’s and Walmart upload their data to the blockchain by September 2019 .

Most supply chains are bogged down in manual processes. This makes it difficult and time consuming to track down an issue should one like the E. coli romaine lettuce problem from last spring rear its head. By placing a supply chain on the blockchain, it makes the process more traceable, transparent and fully digital. Each node on the blockchain could represent an entity that has handled the food on the way to the store, making it much easier and faster to see if one of the affected farms sold infected supply to a particular location with much greater precision.

Walmart has been working with IBM for over a year on using the blockchain to digitize the food supply chain process. In fact, supply chain is one of the premiere business use cases for blockchain (beyond digital currency). Walmart is using the IBM Food Trust Solution, specifically developed for this use case.

“We built the IBM Food Trust solution using IBM Blockchain Platform, which is a tool or capability that that IBM has built to help companies build, govern and run blockchain networks. It’s built using Hyperledger Fabric (the open source digital ledger technology) and it runs on IBM Cloud,” Bridget van Kralingen, IBM’s senior VP for Global Industries, Platforms and Blockchain explained.

Before moving the process to the blockchain, it typically took approximately 7 days to trace the source of food. With the blockchain, it’s been reduced to 2.2 seconds. That substantially reduces the likelihood  that infected food will reach the consumer.

Photo:  Shana Novak/Getty Images

One of the issues in a requiring the suppliers to put their information on the blockchain is understanding that there will be a range of approaches from paper to Excel spreadsheets to sophisticated ERP systems all uploading data to the blockchain. Walmart spokesperson Molly Blakeman says that this something they worked hard on with IBM to account for. Suppliers don’t have to be blockchain experts by any means. They simply have to know how to upload data to the blockchain application.

“IBM will offer an onboarding system that orients users with the service easily. Think about when you get a new iPhone – the instructions are easy to understand and you’re quickly up and running. That’s the aim here. Essentially, suppliers will need a smart device and internet to participate,” she said.

After working with it for a year, the company things it’s ready for broader implementation with the goal ultimately being making sure that the food that is sold at Walmart is safe for consumption, and if there is a problem, making auditing the supply chain a trivial activity.

“Our customers deserve a more transparent supply chain. We felt the one-step-up and one-step-back model of food traceability was outdated for the 21st century. This is a smart, technology-supported move that will greatly benefit our customers and transform the food system, benefitting all stakeholders,” Frank Yiannas, vice president of food safety for Walmart said in statement.

In addition to the blockchain requirement, the company is also requiring that suppliers adhere to one of the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI), which have been internationally recognized as food safety standards, according to the company.

Microsoft’s Quantum Development Kit adds a chemical simulation library

During last September’s Ignite conference, Microsoft heavily emphasized its quantum computing efforts and launched both its Q# programming language and development kits. This year, the focus is on other things, and the announcements about quantum are far and in between (and our understanding is that Microsoft, unlike some of its competitors, doesn’t have a working quantum […]

During last September’s Ignite conference, Microsoft heavily emphasized its quantum computing efforts and launched both its Q# programming language and development kits.

This year, the focus is on other things, and the announcements about quantum are far and in between (and our understanding is that Microsoft, unlike some of its competitors, doesn’t have a working quantum computing prototype yet). It did, however, announce an addition to its Quantum Development Kit that brings a new chemical simulation library to tools for getting started with quantum computing.

While there are plenty of applications for quantum computing once it becomes a reality, quite a few experts are betting on chemical simulations as one of the first areas where developers will be able to reap the fruits of this new computing paradigm. It’s maybe no surprise then that Microsoft is also betting on this.

The new library was developed in collaboration with Pacific Northwest National Labs. “The library will enable developers and organizations to create quantum-inspired solutions that can be simulated on classical computers today and quantum computers in the future – helping them tackle big chemistry challenges in such fields as agriculture and climate,” Microsoft explained ahead of today’s announcement.

While Microsoft is still working on making quantum hardware available to developers, competitors like IBM and Rigetti already offer working machines that may be limited in their capabilities — as all quantum computers currently are — but that offer developers the ability to test their algorithms on real machines. We’re still a while away from reaching the point where quantum computers will be able to live up to their potential, but as both IBM’s Dario Gil and Rigetti CEO Chad Rigetti told me at our Disrupt conference earlier this year, now is the time to get started with learning the basics.

more Microsoft Ignite 2018 coverage

uBiome is jumping into therapeutics with a healthy $83 million in Series C financing

23andMe, IBM and now uBiome is the next tech company to jump into the lucrative multi-billion dollar drug discovery market. The company started out with a consumer gut health test to check whether your intestines carry the right kind of bacteria for healthy digestion but has since expanded to include over 250,000 samples for everything […]

23andMe, IBM and now uBiome is the next tech company to jump into the lucrative multi-billion dollar drug discovery market.

The company started out with a consumer gut health test to check whether your intestines carry the right kind of bacteria for healthy digestion but has since expanded to include over 250,000 samples for everything from the microbes on your skin to vaginal health — the largest data set in the world for these types of samples, according to the company.

Founder Jessica Richman now says there’s a wider opportunity to use this data to create value in therapeutics.

To support its new drug discovery efforts, the San Francisco-based startup will be moving its therapeutics unit into new Cambridge, Massachusetts headquarters and appointing former Novartis CEO Joseph Jimenez to the board of directors as well.

The company has a healthy pile of cash to help build out that new HQ, too, with a fresh $83 million Series C, lead by OS Fund and in participation with 8VC, Y Combinator, Dentsu Ventures and others.

The drug discovery market is slated to be worth nearly $86 billion by 2022, according to BCC Research numbers. New technologies — those that solve logistics issues and shorten the time between research and getting a drug to market in particular — are driving the growth and that’s where uBiome thinks it can get into the game.

“This financing allows us to expand our product portfolio, increase our focus on patent assets and further raise our clinical profile, especially as we begin to focus on commercialization of drug discovery and development of our patent assets,” Richman said.

Though its unclear at this time which drug maker the company might partner up with, Richman did say there would be plenty to announce later on that front.

So far, the company has published over 30 peer-reviewed papers on microbiome research, has entered into research partnerships with the likes of the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and leading research institutions such as Harvard, MIT and Stanford and has previously raised $22 million in funding. The additional VC cash puts the total amount raised to $105 million to date.

Meet the startups in the latest Alchemist class

Alchemist is the Valley’s premiere enterprise accelerator and every season they feature a group of promising startups. They are also trying something new this year: they’re putting a reserve button next to each company, allowing angels to express their interest in investing immediately. It’s a clever addition to the demo day model. You can watch […]

Alchemist is the Valley’s premiere enterprise accelerator and every season they feature a group of promising startups. They are also trying something new this year: they’re putting a reserve button next to each company, allowing angels to express their interest in investing immediately. It’s a clever addition to the demo day model.

You can watch the livestream at 3pm PST here.

Videoflow – Videoflow allows broadcasters to personalize live TV. The founding team is a duo of brothers — one from the creative side of TV as a designer, the other a computer scientist. Their SaaS product delivers personalized and targeted content on top of live video streams to viewers. Completely bootstrapped to date, they’ve landed NBC, ABC, and CBS Sports as paying customers and appear to be growing fast, having booked over $300k in revenue this year.

Redbird Health Tech – Redbird is a lab-in-a-box for convenient health monitoring in emerging market pharmacies, starting with Africa. Africa has the fastest growing middle class in the world — but also the fastest growing rate of diabetes (double North America’s). Redbird supplies local pharmacies with software and rapid tests to transform them into health monitoring points – for anything from blood sugar to malaria to cholesterol. The founding team includes a Princeton Chemical Engineer, 2 Peace Corps alums, and a Pharmacist from Ghana’s top engineering school. They have 20 customers, and are growing 36% week over week.

Shuttle Shuttle is getting a head start on the future of space travel by building a commercial spaceflight booking platform. Space tourism may be coming sooner than you think. Shuttle wants to democratize access to the heavens above. Founded by a Stanford Computer Science alum active in Stanford’s Student Space Society, Shuttle has partnerships with the leading spaceflight operators, including Virgin Galactic, Space Adventures, and Zero-G. Tickets to space today will set you back a cool $250K, but Shuttle believes that prices will drop exponentially as reusable rockets and landing pads become pervasive. They have $1.6m in reservations and growing.

Birdnest – Threading the needle between communal and private, Birdnest is the Goldilocks of office space for startups. Communal coworking spaces are accessible but have too many distractions. Traditional office spaces are private but inflexible on their terms. Birdnest brings the best of each without the drawbacks: finding, leasing, and operating a network of underutilized spaces inside of private offices. The cofounders, a duo of Duke and Kellogg MBA grads, are at $300K ARR with a fast-growing 50+ client waitlist.

Tag.bio – Tag.bio wants to make data science actionable in healthtech. The founding team is comprised of a former Ayasdi bioinformatician and a former Honda Racing engineer with a Stanford MBA. They’ve developed a next-generation data science platform that makes it easy and fast to build data apps for end users, or as they say, “WordPress for data science.” The result they claim is lightning-fast analysis apps that can be run by end users, dramatically accelerating insight discovery. They count the UCSF Medical Center and a “large Swiss pharma company” as early customers.

nCorium – They’ve built a new server architecture to handle the onslaught of AI to come with what they claim is the world’s first AI accelerator on memory to deliver 30x greater performance than the status quo. The quad founding team is intimidatingly technical — including a UCSD Professor, and former engineers from Qualcomm and Intel with 40 patents among them. They have $300K in pilots.

Spiio – Software eats landscaping with Spiio, which combines cloud-driven AI with physical sensors to monitor watering and landscaping for big companies. Their smart system knows when to water and when not to. This reduces water consumption by 50%, which means their system pays for itself in less than 30 days for big companies. They want to connect every plant to the internet, and look like they are off to a good start — $100K in orders from brand name Valley tech firms, and they are doubling monthly.

Element42 – Fraud is a major problem — For example, if you buy a Rolex on eBay, you run the risk of winding up with a counterfeit. Started by ex-VPs from Citibank, the founders are using risk models and technologies that banks use to help brands combat fraud and counterfeiting. Designed with token economics, they also incentivize customers to buy genuine products by serving exclusive content and promotions only to genuine product holders. Built on blockchain at the core, they claim to be the world’s first peer-to-peer authentication platform for physical assets. They have 45 customers across two industry verticals, 800K in ARR and are a member of World Economic Forum’s global initiatives against corruption.

My90 – Distrust between the public and the police has rarely been more strained than it is today. My90 wants to solve that by collecting data about interactions between the police and the public—think traffic stops, service calls, etc.—and turn these into actionable intelligence via an online analytics dashboard. Users text My90 anonymously about their interactions, and My90’s dashboard analyzes the results using natural language processing. Customers include major city police departments like the San Jose Police Department and the world’s largest community policing program. They have booked $150K in pilots and are expanding aggressively across the US.

Nunetz – A Stanford Computer Science grad and UCSF Neurosurgeon have come together to try to build a single unifying interface to replace the deluge of monitors and data sources in today’s clinical health environment. The goal is to prepare a daily “battle map” for physicians, nurses, and other providers, with an initial focus on the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). They have closed 3 paid pilots with hospitals through grants.

When Labs – If you hate managing people, When Labs wants to unburden you. Using an AI-powered assistant that texts with employees to negotiate assignments for hourly work, WhenLabs is trying to free customers like Hilton from spending money on managers who would normally do this manually. As the system gets smarter, they claim employees will prefer interfacing with their AI bot more than a human. AI and HR is a crowded space, but this might be the team to separate from the pack: the founding team’s previous company had a 9 figure exit to IBM.

FirstCut – FirstCut helps businesses put video content out at scale. Video dominates social media — it creates 10x more comments than text — and is emerging as a necessity for B2B media. But putting video out if you are a B2B marketer normally requires using agencies that charge hefty fees. FirstCut wants to disrupt the agencies with software and marketplaces. They use software automation and an on-demand talent marketplace to offer a fixed price product for video content. They are at $180k revenue, and most of it is moving to recurring subscriptions.

LynxCare – LynxCare claims that 90% of healthcare data goes untapped when doctors make critical decisions about your life. Further, they claim the average person’s life could be extended by 4 years if that data can be converted into insights. Their team of clinicians and data scientists aims to do just that — building a data platform that aggregates disparate data sets and drive insight for better clinical outcomes. And it looks like their platform has fans: they are active in 9 hospitals, count Pharma companies like Pfizer as Partners, and grew 4x over the past year and now are at $800K ARR.

ADIAN – Adian is a B2B SaaS product that digitizes the complex agrochemical supply chain in order to improve the sales process between manufacturers and distributors. The company claims manufacturers reduce costs by 20% and increase sales by 4% by using their online framework. $1.5 Billion and 70,000 orders have gone through the platform to date.

Hardin Scientific – Hardin is building IoT-enabled, Smart Lab Equipment. The hardware becomes a gateway to become the hub for monitoring, controlling, and sharing scientific data across teams. They’ve closed over $1.5m in revenue, and raised $15m in equity and debt financing. One of their smart devices is being used to 3D print bio-tissues and human organs in space.

ZaiNar – This team of 5 Stanford grads — 3 PhD’s and 2 MBAs — joined up with the Co-Founder of BlueKai to build the world’s best time synchronization technology. ZaiNar claims their ability to wirelessly synchronize and distribute time between networked devices is a thousand times better than existing technologies. This enables them to locate RF-emitting devices (i.e. phones, cars, drones, & RFID) at long distances with sub-meter accuracy. Beyond location, this technology has applications across data transmission, 5G communications, and energy grids. ZaiNar has raised a $1.7M seed from AME Cloud and Softbank, and has built an extensive patent portfolio.

SMART Brain Aging – This startup claims to reduce the onset of dementia by 2.25 years with software. They are the only company approved by Medicare to get reimbursed on a preventative basis for the treatment of dementia. In conjunction with Harvard University, they have developed 20,000 exercises that are clinically proven to reduce the onset of dementia and, they claim, help build neurotransmitters. The company works with 300 patients per week ($2.2m annual revenue) and is building to a goal of helping 22,000 people in 24 months.

Phoneic – Phoneic believes the data trapped in voice calls from cellphones is a gold mine waiting to be unleashed. Their app records and transcribes cell phones conversations, and the company has built an integration layer to enterprise AI and CRM systems that traditionally didn’t have access to voice data. The team is led by the co-founder of 3jam, one of the first group SMS and virtual number companies, which was acquired by Skype in 2011. He is keenly aware of the power of virality — and like Skype, the use of Phoneic spreads its adoption. The company has already raised $800,000 in seed funding.

Arkose Labs – Whether or not you think Russia interfered with the 2016 election, it’s no secret that bots are having significant impact on society. Arkose Labs wants to fight fraud, without adding friction to legit users. Most fraud prevention platforms today focus on gathering info from the user and providing a probability score that the traffic is good or bad. This leaves companies with a difficult decision where they may be blocking revenue generating users. Arkose has a different approach, and uses a bilateral approach that doesn’t force this tradeoff. They claim to be the only solution to offer a 100% SLA on fraud prevention. Big companies like Singapore Airlines and Electronic Arts are customers. USVP led a $6m investment into the company.