Can AI Read Your Mind? Sesh Raises $1.6M
Sesh Corp. wants to read your mind through artificial intelligence. And the Los Angeles-based startup just brought in some help with a $1.6 million pre-seed round to further develop their centerpiece product called Empath.
The software, launched in July, uses Al to help understand emotions and states of mind of individuals on video. Sesh is holding it up as an essential business tool during the pandemic when in-person meetings are near impossible and drawn out Zoom calls are the norm. The company calls it EQ or emotional intelligence on demand.
"With most of the world now communicating by video, being able to truly understand the non-verbal cues, situational context and culture of your meeting participants is crucial to quickly establishing trust, and building meaningful relationships," said co-founder and CEO, David Dorfman in announcing the raise.
Empath reads each user's emotion and they are identified in clouds that show up in the corner of their heads as they are interacting, allowing companies to see what works best in terms of communication. The data is traced and analyzed over time so the user has a better understanding of the subject's state of mind.
The funding will be used to further develop and prepare an Empath Beta that is set to launch next month while increasing customer access, expanding the team and aiming to have a market leader in cognitive Al.
While the application is especially useful during the pandemic when people are relying on video calls to communicate, Sesh thinks it can be a useful tool for sales teams, as a training tool and for market research.
"Whether selling a product, measuring audience reaction, or leading a training and education seminar, effective empathy-powered communications saves time and money, and helps you find consensus and understanding," said Dorfman.
The $1.6 million was raised in a pre-seeding funding round and brought together old and new investors like DreamHost co-founder Josh Jones and venture capitalists Behzad Kianmahd, co-founder of TAU Ventures Kyle Schlotman, partner and CIO, Connetic Ventures and Radest Ventures.
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Lyre wants to sell Americans on clear-headed drinking with their faux bourbon and other mocktail spirits. The Australian-based company set up North American offices in Los Angeles last year and has aggressively sought to make a mark in the Golden State. And it seems to be working; the company just raised $11.5 million.
Lyre has hitched its success to the growing "sober curious" movement, focusing on health-conscious consumers with its dry month challenges. About 60% of the company's sales come from the United States and it's increasingly looking for tastemakers in Southern California to help build its brand.
"We believed that there was significant latent demand in the U.S. market for consumers looking for a sophisticated non-alcoholic alternative," said Christian Butler, Lyre's Los Angeles-based senior vice president in an email response. Some bars in Los Angeles have adopted the mocktail, a trend that he hopes will influence the rest of the country.
Founders Mark Livings and Carl Hartmann created the non-alcoholic drink line in 2016 catering to those who might be left out in social settings where booze is flowing. Lyre's mission is driven by a focus on health and lifestyle, allowing consumers to enjoy the best of both worlds while being responsible.
"Our business anticipates and matches the trends of the consumer and culture and our current product innovation is being developed to match alcohol spirit flavors and styles," said co-founder Livings in the announcing statement.
The seed round will be divided into three tranches and be distributed over the next 12 months. The company is backed by Doehler Ventures, DLF Venture, Maropost Ventures with several European, American and Australian family offices and also HNWI participating.
Lyre has a line of 12 fake alcoholic beverages, from amaretto to gin and rum, that are sold at Bevmo, Amazon, at some Los Angeles bars and directly online. The drinks aren't cheap at $35.99 for a 700 ml bottle.
Although the pandemic depressed sales, the company said since January it has seen a monthly 400% recurring revenue growth. The recent raise will allow Lyre's products to expand their market reach as they set to launch an Italian Spritz in the U.S. market later this year and develop a line of ready-to-drink mocktails like gin and tonic or bourbon and cola.
According to a report by Nielson, the non-alcoholic beer market had an increase of 3.4% in the last year. Lyre's also looking to compete by expanding to other countries.They are currently available in Australia, New Zealand, the United States, the United Kingdom, Hong Kong, Singapore, China and throughout Europe.
"The next year demarcates our business evolution from a start-up to a true multi-national beverage company, with manufacturing in multiple, global locations, compliance for new markets, and continued recruitment firmly at the top of our task list," said Hartmann in the announcing statement.
Kelly Rutherford is an activist and actress who has impressed audiences with her roles in "Melrose Place," "Gossip Girl," and most recently, "Dynasty" and "Pretty Little Liars."
Rutherford is also known for her very high-profile and public custody battle she had with her ex-husband. A California judge went on to rule that it was in the best interest of the kids to live with their father in Monaco which is something she fought for six years, eventually going bankrupt. The fight for her kids impacted her not only emotionally but also financially, and it was at this point that she had to rebuild her life from the ground up.
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As Santa Monica prepares to shutdown its five-year-old, city-run shared bike service, Lyft will roll out a fleet of hundreds of electric bikes, beginning Tuesday.
The new ebikes will be docked at the city's existing 80 bike rental stations and cost $1 to unlock plus 34 cents per minute to ride. That compares to the city's Breeze Bike Share program started in 2015, which cost 12 cents a minute after a $1 initial drop.
Breeze was the first shared bike system in L.A. County, but once competitors such as Bird, Lyft, and Lime came to town, Breeze lost marketshare and ran a deficit that city leaders were not keen to subsidize. Last month, the city's bike share coordinator Kyle Kazar said with Santa Monica financially strapped by the pandemic, the city would permanently close Breeze and turn bike sharing over to the private sector.
When stay-at-home orders took effect this year, Santa Monica saw shared mobility ridership plummet by 94% between February and April. Lime and Jump terminated their operations, leaving Lyft and the hometown unicorn, Bird, as the only operators.
Since then demand has increased, especially as riders have favored micro mobility over crowded buses and trains. Bird and Lyft have returned their e-scooter fleet sizes back to 750 each and Lyft will roll out the 500 ebikes.
Lyft already rents ebikes in Columbus, Minneapolis, San Francisco, San Jose, New York, Washington D.C., Chicago and Portland.
The electric bikes are available in Santa Monica but can be ridden and left as far away as West Los Angeles, so long as the rider attaches the bicycle to a public bike rack when done. Otherwise, they must be returned to a Breeze station.
"I couldn't be more excited to see Lyft launch its new ebike program in Santa Monica," Mayor Pro Tem Terry O'Day said in a statement. "Our future depends on sustainable, active transportation like ebikes. They reduce our carbon footprint and increase accessibility for the entire community."
For those who still want to try the city's Breeze program, rides are free until the city pulls those bikes off the road November 11. The city's equipment will be sold or recycled in the coming months.