Keith Rabois, BoxGroup back New York-based Brex competitor

Paribus, which raised just over $2 million from Slow Ventures, General Catalyst, Greylock and others before the M&A transaction, helps online …

Considering its unparalleled success, it was only a matter of time before a Brex copycat emerged.

Ramp Financial, a new startup led by Capital One-acquiredParibus founders Eric Glyman and Karim Atiyeh (pictured), has raised $7 million, TechCrunch has learned. The capital came from Keith Rabois of Founders Fund, BoxGroup’s Adam Rothenberg and Coatue Management, a hedge fund that recently launched a $700 million early-stage investment vehicle.

Ramp Financial, Founders Fund, BoxGroup and Coatue Management declined to comment.

Ramp Financial is in the very early stages of product development, though we’re told, “It’s the same as Brex .” Other details available on the new startup, which raised on a pre-money valuation of $25 million, according to sources, are slim. Even its name may be subject to change.

Brex, founded in 2017 by a pair of now 23-year-olds, created a corporate charge card tailored for startups. The Y Combinator graduate doesn’t require cardholders to submit Social Security numbers or credit scores, granting entrepreneurs a new avenue to credit and method of protecting their credit scores. Brex’s software also expedites the time-consuming expense management, and accounting and budgeting processes for employees. Quickly, it has become essential to the company-building process in Silicon Valley.

It helps that VCs are wild for Brex. The startup has raised more than $300 million in VC funding in only two years. Most recently, it closed a $100 million round led by Kleiner Perkins at a valuation of $2.6 billion.

Given Brex’s rapid growth and the uptick in venture capital investment in challenger banks, or new financial services competing with incumbent financiers, we’re guessing Ramp Financial didn’t have a tough time pitching VCs. Plus, its founders Glyman and Atiyeh have a clear track record of success.

The duo previously built Paribus, a startup acquired by Capital One roughly one year after launching onstage at TechCrunch Disrupt New York 2015. Paribus, which raised just over $2 million from Slow Ventures, General Catalyst, Greylock and others before the M&A transaction, helps online shoppers get money back when prices drop on items they’ve purchased. Terms of Capital One’s acquisition were not disclosed.

Paribus is also a graduate of Y Combinator, completing the startup accelerator in the summer of 2015.

Aside from both completing Y Combinator, the founders of Brex and Ramp Financial share connections to the PayPal mafia. Rabois, a general partner at Founders Fund, was an executive at the business in the early 2000s. PayPal co-founders Peter Thiel and Max Levchin are Brex investors.

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Peter Thiel said that AI is a ‘military technology’ that will primarily be used ‘by generals,’ but experts …

Tech billionaire Peter Thiel painted a gloomy picture of artificial intelligence in his NYT’s op-ed on Thursday, detailing the technology’s use case as …

Tech billionaire Peter Thiel painted a gloomy picture of artificial intelligence in his NYT’s op-ed on Thursday, detailing the technology’s real value and purpose as primarily a military one.

“The first users of the machine learning tools being created today will be generals,” Thiel declared in his 1,200-word piece. “A.I. is a military technology.”

Thiel’s portrayal is a far cry from the optimistic view that many in Silicon Valley have embraced. Artificial intelligence has promised to give us the next, best Netflix recommendations, let us search the internet using our voices, and do away with humans behind the wheel. It’s also expected to have a huge impact in medicine and agriculture. But instead, Thiel says that AI’s real home is on the battlefield — whether that be in the physical or cyber worlds.

Multiple AI experts that Business Insider spoke with on Friday, however, disagree with Thiel’s assertion that AI is inherently a military-first technology and say that it can be used for far greater good than alluded to in Thiel’s fiery op-ed.

“I don’t think we can say AI is a military technology,” Dawn Song, a Computer Science Professor at the University of California, Berkeley and faculty member of the Berkeley Artificial Intelligence Research (BAIR) Lab, told Business Insider on Friday. “AI, machine learning technology is just like any other technologies. Technology itself is neutral.”

Song said that just like nuclear or security encryption technologies, artificial intelligence can be used in either good ways or bad, but to describe it as something in which people should inherently be afraid would be missing the point.

Read more: Peter Thiel slammed Google in a scathing New York Times op-ed, but failed to mention that he works for and invests in the search giant’s rivals

Fatma Kilinc-Karzan, an Operations Research Associate Professor at Carnegie Mellon University, told us that Thiel’s views on AI were “way too pessimistic” and that not enough light was shined on its positive, every-day use cases.

“Sure, AI is used in the military quite a bit,” Kilinc-Karzan said. “But its everyday use in simplifying and enabling modern life and business is largely overlooked in this view.”

Kilinc-Karzan said that the same technologies targeted by Thiel — like deep learning and automated vision — are already being used positively for a wide variety of commercial and medical applications, like driverless cars and improved CT and MRI machines that make it easier for doctors to detect different types of cancers.

In his piece, Thiel acknowledged AI as a “dual-use” technology — meaning it has both military and civilian applications — though the tech billionaire failed to specifically point out any of its consumer upsides.

“[Thiel’s] view overlooked the fact that AI is being used in daily life by everyone in the US,” Kilinc-Karzan said. “That seems very minor to him. He didn’t discuss that impact. It is true that the military will pick up and use whatever is the most powerful, but that will be the case regardless of what technology we’re talking about.”

The overarching theme of Thiel’s piece was that Google — a US company — had created an AI research lab in China, a country which has established the precedent that all research done within its borders be shared with its national army.

Berkeley’s Song agreed that AI projects needed to be handled carefully, but stressed that portraying the technology as intrinsically evil, especially at the expense of curtailing innovation, was wrong.

“It’s important for us to advance AI so that we can have the societal benefits from its advancements,” Song said. “Of course, we need to be careful about how the technology is being used, but I think it’s important to keep in mind that technology is neutral.”

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Truework Receives $12 Million in Series A Financing

… Capital with participation from Stanford University and existing investors, including Khosla Ventures, Menlo Ventures, and Founder Collective.

Truework, the verified identity platform that gives consumers control over their personal and professional information, announced today it has raised $12 million in Series A financing led by Sequoia Capital with participation from Stanford University and existing investors, including Khosla Ventures, Menlo Ventures, and Founder Collective. The company is also announcing that its network has grown to more than one million users in just one year.

During major transactions, from buying a home to applying for a job, banks and other institutions must verify private, sensitive data about consumers. While many of these activities have shifted to take place online, the process of verifying identity remains stuck in the past, plagued by a lack of consumer transparency and accuracy. Beginning with employment and income data, Truework secures sensitive identity information, providing details only with consumers’ explicit consent, while automating manual workflows for HR departments, banks, and other institutions.

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“We are working to fundamentally change the data economy, in which credit bureaus continue to squeeze profits by abusing the privacy of consumers,” said Ryan Sandler, co-founder, and CEO of Truework. “When third parties receive access to private data, it is often a complete black box for individuals. Truework is bringing these processes front and center, putting more control into the hands of the consumer.”

“Identity is vital to the health of the sharing economy and other online services, but it is completely broken today. Truework is building the internet’s new identity layer that will bring security and speed to many different transactions. The success they have had in just over a year shows the incredible demand for innovation and privacy in this very outdated space,” added Alfred Lin, partner at Sequoia Capital. Lin is joining Truework’s board and also sits on the board of Airbnb, Doordash, and others.

Launched in April 2018, Truework’s platform for employers integrates with HR and payroll systems to automatically process employment and income requests. Employees are able to approve or deny each request in real-time, allowing banks and other institutions to access information without slowing down the application process. Today, Truework’s network is comprised of hundreds of employers, including The College Board, Oscar Health, InVision, and Tuft & Needle. The company serves over 3,000 financial institutions and has verified income data on more than $2 billion of home loans.

The new funding will be used to scale the product and engineering teams and expand the scope of its identity platform for consumer and enterprise users.

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“It’s hard to believe that in 2019 consumers cannot instantly go through every step of the mortgage qualification process online. Truework is solving the final missing piece by letting lenders quickly verify employment, income and other identity data,” said Keith Rabois, partner at Founders Fund who led Truework’s seed round while at Khosla Ventures. Rabois sits on the board of Opendoor, Affirm, and others.

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Truework Secures $12 Million Series A To Compete With Equifax

… of $12 million led by Sequoia Capital, on Tuesday, raising its total to $14.9 million, including a $2.9 million seed round led by Khosla Ventures.
Ethan Winchell COO, Ryan Sandler CEO, and Victor Kabdebon CTO (from left)

Ethan Winchell COO, Ryan Sandler CEO, and Victor Kabdebon CTO (from left)


In the wake of Equifax’s $700 million data breach settlement, companies are stepping up to be the next leader in the secure consumer verification business. One such contender, Truework, announced Series A funding of $12 million led by Sequoia Capital on Tuesday, raising its total funding to $14.9 million, including a $2.9 million seed round led by Khosla Ventures.

Launched in 2018, the San Francisco-based startup, which mostly helps banks, employers, and landlords verify consumer income and personal data, is setting its sights on breaking up Equifax’s monopoly on financial verification with a focus on consumer consent.

“Equifax makes almost $1 billion in revenue a year by selling income and employment data to verifiers at banks and often without consumer permission,” Truework CEO Ryan Sandler told Forbes. “Moving to a model that makes it faster and more secure to verify private information has seen incredibly large adoption in the one year since we’ve launched.”

By giving explicit and clear control to consumers, Sandler says, Truework can satisfy what he sees as the growing demand for an alternative to Equifax. The company works with over 3,000 financial institutions, which hold verified income data on more than $2 billion of home loans. Other major clients include Oscar Health and InVision.

“There’s a preexisting need for millions of Americans to validate their income, and verify other pieces of their identity, the question is how to best do that in a way that serves the interest of everybody involved including the consumer,” says Keith Rabois, the Khosla Ventures partner who led Truework’s seed funding and also serves on Truework’s board. “Arguably the incumbents don’t protect the consumer and don’t care about the consumer at all, and haven’t served paying customers very well either.”

Rabois is behind seed funding of multiple startups now valued at more than $1 billion, including Airbnb, Lyft and YouTube. A former vice president at both PayPal and LinkedIn who also served as Square’s chief operating officer, Rabois sees an opportunity for Truework in the way old-guard verifiers, like Equifax, have handled consumer privacy. Positioning itself as a solution for the age of heightened consumer privacy could better establish the startup, he says.

“For a startup, being on the right side of history, being able to ride the wave of change is a formula that’s worked for decades,” Rabois continued. “Looking forward to the increased attention to privacy by both consumers and regulators certainly can do nothing but propel Truework.”

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Microsoft invests $1 billion in OpenAI, will partner on “Azure AI supercomputing technologies”

OpenAI, the originally non-profit AI research organization, will receive a $1bn investment from Microsoft. Together the companies will build new Azure …

OpenAI started in 2015 with $1bn in pledged funding from Elon Musk (Tesla, SpaceX), Sam Altman (then-president of startup incubator Y Combinator), Peter Thiel (PayPal, Facebook investor), Reid Hoffman (LinkedIn), AWS and more

The research group was a registered non-profit, and aimed to open source the majority of its work – only declining to release tools it thought were too ‘dangerous’ to be given out.

In an introductory post, OpenAI stated: “Our goal is to advance digital intelligence in the way that is most likely to benefit humanity as a whole, unconstrained by a need to generate financial return. Since our research is free from financial obligations, we can better focus on a positive human impact.”

But earlier this year, that mission shifted. This March the group said that it needs “to invest billions of dollars in upcoming years into large-scale cloud compute, attracting and retaining talented people, and building AI supercomputers.”

To do this, it split into two groups, one non-profit (OpenAI Nonprofit) and one for-profit (OpenAI LP).

“The fundamental idea of OpenAI LP is that investors and employees can get a capped return if we succeed at our mission, which allows us to raise investment capital and attract employees with startup-like equity. But any returns beyond that amount—and if we are successful, we expect to generate orders of magnitude more value than we’d owe to people who invest in or work at OpenAI LP – are owned by the original OpenAI Nonprofit entity,” the group said.

While OpenAI LP now employs the majority of the combined group’s approximately 100-strong staff, OpenAI claims that it has “designed OpenAI LP to put our overall mission—ensuring the creation and adoption of safe and beneficial AGI—ahead of generating returns for investors.”

OpenAI detailed the restrictions placed on making payouts to investors, saying “returns for our first round of investors are capped at 100x their investment.” That is a generous rate of return: if it covers Microsoft, its return is ‘capped’ at $100bn.

It will also receive non-financial return benefits, including becoming OpenAI’s exclusive cloud provider, and become the preferred partner for AI commercialization. Those technologies, one can presume, will not be open sourced.

Microsoft is specifically investing in OpenAI LP, with the group’s chairman and CTO Greg Brockman confirming that “it’s a cash investment,” adding “we’ll definitely spend the $1bn within 5 years, and maybe much faster. It’s also not Azure credits.”

Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI, previously downplayed the claim that a 100x cap is rather high. Its theoretical AGI could “maybe capture the light cone of all future value in the universe, and that’s for sure not okay for one group of investors to have.”

With today’s announcement, he added: “The creation of AGI will be the most important technological development in human history, with the potential to shape the trajectory of humanity.

“Our mission is to ensure that AGI technology benefits all of humanity, and we’re working with Microsoft to build the supercomputing foundation on which we’ll build AGI. We believe it’s crucial that AGI is deployed safely and securely and that its economic benefits are widely distributed. We are excited about how deeply Microsoft shares this vision.”

Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, currently the world’s most valuable public company, added: “AI is one of the most transformative technologies of our time and has the potential to help solve many of our world’s most pressing challenges. By bringing together OpenAI’s breakthrough technology with new Azure AI supercomputing technologies, our ambition is to democratize AI — while always keeping AI safety front and center — so everyone can benefit.”

Earlier this year, Wired reported that OpenAI – which is no longer formally involved with Elon Musk – may also be set to raise money from venture capital firm Khosla Ventures and LinkedIn cofounder Reid Hoffman’s charitable foundation.

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