Pull Systems launches out of Up.Labs-Porsche partnership to tackle EV performance
When Porsche partnered with venture studio UP.Labs, the mission was to create six startups over three years all designed to solve the German automaker’s biggest problems and be compelling enough as a standalone business it that can attract other customers.
On Porsche’s list: software that helps manage and automate the performance of EVs. Pull Systems, the first startup borne out of the partnership, has developed a software product that the two companies say can solve it. Pull Systems, which was unveiled at SXSW 2023, also announced that it raised $5 million in a seed round led by UP.Partners.
“Cars are becoming a combination of software and a battery — and ultimately battery performance,” UP.Labs president Katelyn Foley said. “And OEMs need to really get to a place where they can understand both of those aspects in order to stay competitive, because the things that they’re really good at are actually the more commodity parts of the car.”
Pull Systems is a software as as service platform that provides performance management software to EV suppliers, manufacturers and operators. The product isn’t battery management software (BMS), which is technically responsible for collecting data about the battery and communicating with the battery management system. The startup’s software is a compliment, explained Henry Furman, former venture head of product at UP.Labs, now chief product officer of Pull Systems.
And it has already rolled out to Porsche Taycan vehicles that are on the road today.
The startup developed a library of machine learning models that can analyze and predict vehicle behavior such as driving and charging across the Porsche fleet. That kind of information, coupled with outside data like weather patterns and road conditions, can be used to predict and then inform the automaker or EV owners when a vehicle needs maintenance, when to deploy over-the-air software updates and even boost after-sales revenues.
The software tracks and collects data on each vehicle in the Porsche EV fleet, which can also help identify performance issues that might be solved with new firmware or determine the best second-life option for the battery as it reaches its end of life, Furman added.
Ultimately, the company wants the software to be automated using machine learning tools.
“Our real vision here, within the complexities of electrification, is that the cars are actually able to take on some of the management of their own propulsion system themselves,” Furman said. “We see a great opportunity for us to automate a lot of what is essentially the rules based kind of conclusions for these different software updates.”
For instance, the software might identify a weather front coming into a certain area and issue a software update that helps optimize the batteries, he explained.
That’s a compelling prospect for Porsche, a company that plans to expand its EV lineup beyond the Taycan over the next several years, including the Macan in 2024, the 718 in 2025, a Cayenne and a yet-to-be-named full-sized SUV.
Pull Systems plans to add several more carmakers to its service over the next year.
The Up.Labs connection
UP.Labs is not a venture firm, even though it emerged from, and operates in parallel with, UP.Partners. It’s not a corporate accelerator or incubator either, although it is building startups and working with corporations. The company, which launched during UP.Summit 2022 in Bentonville, Arkansas, is structured as a venture lab with a new kind of financial investment vehicle.
Porsche is its first corporate partner. Foley told TechCrunch that more corporate partnerships will be announced this year.
“The way our model works is we identify large friction areas that touch big value pools, and it’s the confluence of those two things that has to be in place,” Foley said. “So it’s somebody acutely feels the problem and it touches a lot of money — and we won’t consider anything outside of those two areas.”
In the beginning, the firm dissects the corporation to find all problems. UP.Labs identified 217 over at Porsche and whittled them down to a set of problems and accompanying ideas that would solve them. An investment committee that includes UP.Labs, Porsche and UP.Partners, narrows them down to the final pair that the team will start incubating.
Under the three-year agreement with Porsche, UP.Labs will establish six companies, or two a year, with new business models focused on the automaker’s core activities such as predictive maintenance, supply chain transparency or digital retail, according to Lutz Meschke, deputy chairman and member of the Porsche AG executive board on finance and IT.
Just 7 days until the TC Early Stage early bird flies away
Budget-minded entrepreneurs and early-stage startup founders take heed — this is no time to procrastinate. We have only 7 days left of early-bird pricing to TechCrunch Early Stage 2023 in Boston on April 20.
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TC Early Stage is our only event where you get hands-on training with experts to help your business succeed. No need to reinvent the startup wheel — you’ll have access to leading experts across a range of specialties.
During this one-day startup bootcamp, you’ll learn about legal issues, fundraising, marketing, growth, product-market fit, pitching, recruiting and more. We’re talking more than 40 highly engaging presentations, workshops and roundtables with interactive Q&As and plenty of time for networking.
Here are just a few examples of the topics we have on tap. You’ll find plenty more listed in the event agenda.
How to Tell Your TAM: Dayna Grayson from Construct Capital invests in the rebuilding of the most foundational and broken industries of our economy. Industries such as manufacturing and logistics, among others, that formed in an analog world have been neglected by advanced technology. Dayna will talk about how, beyond the idea, founders can pitch investors on their TAM, including how they will wedge into the market and how they will eventually disrupt it.
How to Think About Accelerators and Incubators: Founders often hear they should get involved with an incubator or accelerator, but when is the “right” time for early-stage founders to apply to these types of startup support ecosystems, and how can they best engage if accepted? In this talk, Harvard Innovation Labs executive director Matt Segneri will cover everything from the types of incubators and accelerators available to early-stage founders, to what startups should consider before applying, and tips for getting the most out of these ecosystems.
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Twitter will kill ‘legacy’ blue checks on April 1
Twitter has picked April Fool’s Day, otherwise known as April 1, to start removing legacy blue checkmarks from the platform.
Despite the significance of the day Twitter chose, the removal of legacy checkmarks has been anticipated for months now. Musk tweeted in December that the company would remove those checks “in a few months” because “the way in which they were given out was corrupt and nonsensical.”
Since then, legacy blue checkmark holders have been seeing a pop-up when they click on their checkmark that reads, “This is a legacy verified account. It may or may not be notable.”
Before Musk acquired the company, Twitter used checkmarks to verify individuals and entities as active, authentic and notable accounts of interest. Verified checkmarks were doled out for free.
Today, Twitter users can purchase a blue check through the Twitter Blue subscription model for $8 per month (iOS and Android signups will cost $11 per month, due to app store costs). There are also other checkmark colors and badges available for purchase to denote whether an account is a business or a government, for example.
Twitter says the purchase of a checkmark gives users access to subscriber-only features like fewer ads on their timeline, prioritized ranking in conversations, bookmark folders, and the ability to craft long tweets, edit tweets and undo tweets.
The news comes within hours of Twitter also announcing the availability of the Blue subscription globally.
Twitter did not respond to TechCrunch’s request for more information about how many users have already signed up for Twitter Blue.
Roofstock, valued at $1.9B last year, cuts 27% of staff in second round of layoffs
Proptech company Roofstock has laid off about 27% of its staff today, according to an email sent to employees viewed by TechCrunch. The cuts come just five months after the startup laid off 20% of its workforce.
The company’s website states that it has 400+ employees, or “Roofsters” as they’re dubbed, but it is not known if that figure is current.
Roofstock, an online marketplace for investing in leased single-family rental homes, one year ago raised $240 million at a $1.9 billion valuation. SoftBank Vision Fund 2 led that financing, which included participation from existing and new backers including Khosla Ventures, Lightspeed Venture Partners, Bain Capital Ventures and others. Roofstock has raised a total of over $365 million in funding since its 2015 inception, per Crunchbase.
According to the email seen by TechCrunch, co-founder and CEO Gary Beasley said today’s reduction in force (RIF) was “in response to the challenging macro environment” and the “negative impact” it is having on Roofstock’s business.
He added that the company was not expecting to have to cut more staff so soon but that it needed to “right size” in an effort “to reduce cash burn rate” and ensure it has “adequate capital runway until the market eventually turns.”
Beasley sent the email because apparently, the Zoom meeting where it was addressed “maxed out on attendees.”
Oakland, Calif.-based Roofstock lets people buy and sell rental homes in dozens of U.S. markets. The premise behind the company is that both institutional and retail investors can buy and sell homes without forcing renters to leave their homes. Meanwhile, buyers can also presumably generate income from day one.
At the time of its raise in March 2022, the company said that it had facilitated more than $5 billion in transaction volume, more than half of which had come from the last year alone.
Just days before its last round of layoffs last year, Roofstock made headlines for selling its first single-family home using NFTs, or non-fungible tokens.
Rising mortgage rates and a slowdown in the housing market led to challenges for many real estate technology companies in 2022 that continue this year. Opendoor, Redfin, Compass, Better.com and Homeward were among the other startups that also laid off workers. IBuyer Reali also announced it was shutting down after raising $100 million the year prior.
TechCrunch has reached out to Roofstock but had not heard back at the time of writing but multiple sources confirmed that layoffs had taken place today.
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