Microsoft has announced the release of Project Reunion 0.5. Project Reunion aims to encourage developers to build Windows applications by providing them with the latest Windows technologies and new features by decoupling features from the operating system. This means developers don’t need to wait for the operating system to update with those new features in order to use them.
“You’ve told us that typically you have to wait for your users to update to the latest Windows OS before you can consider adopting the latest features and integrating them into your app. For some of you that could mean a 1-2 year delay in a new feature being available, you being able to adopt it, and users seeing it in apps. Now, you can take the latest Project Reunion release whenever you want to get the latest features and can feel confident that they’ll work for all your users on Windows 10 version 1809 – which is the current Enterprise LTSC – and newer,” Andrew Clinick, partner group program manager at Microsoft wrote in a post.
The Project Reunion 0.5 release was focused on providing functionality based on feedback from developers. It includes stable releases for many preview features, such as the ability to create desktop apps with WinUI, Chromium-based WebView2 control, custom titlebar support, ARM64 support and SwapChainPanel.
Current technologies that already support the project or are planning to include Actipro Software, DevExpress, GrapeCity, Infragistics, Syncfusion, Telerik UI for WinUI, Uno Platformand Windows Community Toolkit.
Moving forward, Microsoft plans to add more technologies to the ecosystem, such as App Lifecycle for improved system and battery performance, a modern windowing system that combines Win32 and UWP, and notifications support for local and push scenarios.
Project Reunion 0.8 is expected in a few months and the 1.0 release will be available later this year.
A little over thirteen years ago, Shai Agassi, a promising software executive who was in line to succeed the chief executive at SAP, then one of the world’s mightiest software companies, left the company he’d devoted the bulk of his professional career to and started a business called Better Place.
That startup promised to revolutionize the nascent electric vehicle market and make range anxiety a thing of the past. The company’s pitch? A network of automated battery swapping stations that would replace spent batteries with freshly charged ones.
Agassi’s company would go on to raise nearly $1 billion (back when that was considered a large sum of money) from some of the world’s top venture capital and growth equity firms. By 2013 it would be bankrupt and one of the many casualties of the first wave of cleantech investing.
Now serial entrepreneurs John de Souza and Khaled Hassounah are reviving the battery swapping business model with a startup called Ample and an approach that they say solves some of the problems that Better Place could never address at a time when the adoption of electric vehicles is creating a far larger addressable market.
Ample has actually raised approximately $70 million from investors including Shell Ventures, the Spanish energy company Repsol, and the Moore Strategic Ventures, a venture firm which is the private held investment firm of Louis M. Bacon, founder of the multi-billion hedge fund, Moore Capital Management. That includes a $34 million investment first reported back in 2018, and a later round from investors including Japan’s energy and metals company, Eneos Holdings that closed recently.
“We had a lot of people that either said, I somehow was involved in that and was suffering from PTSD,” said de Souza, of the similarities between his business and Better Place. “The people who weren’t involved read up about it and then ran away.”
For Ample, the difference is in the modularization of the battery pack and how that changes the relationship with the automakers that would use the technology.
“The approach we’ve taken… is to modularize the battery and then we have an adapter plate that is the structural element of the battery that has the same shape of the battery, same bolt pattern and same software interface. Even though we provide the same battery system.. .it’s same as replacing the tire,” said Hassounah, Ample’s co-founder and chief executive. “Effectively we’re giving them the plate. We don’t modify the car whatsoever. You either put a fixed battery system or an Ample battery plate. We’re able to work with the OEMS where you can make the battery swappable for the use cases where this makes a lot of sense. Without really changing the same vehicle.”
Ample’s currently working with five different OEMs and has validated its approach to battery swapping with nine different car models. One of those OEMs also brings back memories of Better Place.
It’s clear that the company has a deal with Nissan for the Leaf thanks to the other partnership that Ample has announced with Uber. Ample’s founders declined to comment on any OEM relationships.
It’s clear that Ample is working with Nissan because Nissan is the company that inked a deal with Uber earlier this year on zero-emission mobility. And Uber is the first company to use Ample’s robotic charging stations at a few locations in the Bay Area, the company said. This work with Nissan echoes Better Place’s one partnership with Renault, another arm of the automaker, which proved to be the biggest deal for the older, doomed, battery swapping startup.
Ample says it only takes weeks to set up one of its charging pods at a facility and that the company’s charging drivers on energy delivered per mile. “We achieve economics that are 10% to 20% cheaper than gas. We are profitable on day one,” said Hassounah.
Uber is the first step. Ample is focused on fleets first and is in talks with multiple, undisclosed municipalities to get their cars added to the system. So far, Ample has done thousands of swaps, according to Hassounah with just Uber drivers alone.
The cars can also be charged at traditional charging facilities, Hassounah said, and the company’s billing system knows the split between the amount of energy it delivers versus another charging outlet, Hassounah said.
“So far, in the use cases that we have, for ride sharing it’s individual drivers who pay,” said de Souza. With the five fleets that Ample expects to deploy with later this year the company expects to have the fleet managers and owners pay for. charging.
Some of the inspiration for Ample came from Hassounah’s earlier experience working at One laptop per child, where he was forced to rethink assumptions about how the laptops would be used, the founder said.
“Initially i worked on the keyboard display and then quickly realized the challenge was in the field and developed a framework for creating infrastructure,” Hassounah said.
The problem was the initial design of the system did not take into account lack of access to power for laptops at children’s homes. So the initiative developed a charging unit for swapping batteries. Children would use their laptops over the course of the day and take them home, and when they needed a fresh charge, they would swap out the batteries.
“There are fleets that need this exact solution,” said de Souza. But there are advantages for individual car owners as well, he said. “The experience for the owner of a vehicle is after time the battery degrades. With ours as we put new batteries in the car can go further and further over time.”
Right now, OEMs are sending cars without batteries and Ample is just installing their charging system, said Hassounah, but as the number of vehicles using the system rises above 1,000, the company expects to send their plates to manufacturers, who can then have Ample install their own packs.
Currently, Ample only supports level one and level two charging, but won’t offer fast charging options for the car makers it works with — likely because that option would cannibalize the company’s business and potentially obviate the need for its swapping technology.
At issue is the time it takes to charge a car. Fast chargers still take between 20 and 30 minutes to charge up, but advances in technologies should drive that figure down. Even if fast charging ultimately becomes a better option, Ample’s founders say they view their business as an additive step to faster electric vehicle adoption.
“When you’re moving 1 billion cars, you need everything… We have so many cars we need to put on the road,” Hassounah said. “We think we need all solutions to solve the problem. As you think of fleet applications you need a solution that can match gas in charge and not speed. Fast charging is not available in mass. The challenge will not be can the battery be charged in 5 minutes. The cost of building charges that can deliver that amount of power is prohibitive.”
Looking beyond charging, Ample sees opportunities in the grid power market as well, the two founders said.
“Time shift is built into our economics… that’s another way we can help,” said de Souza. “We use that as grid storage… we can do demand charge and now that the federal mandate is there to feed into the grid we can help stabilize the grid by feeding back energy.. We don’t have a lot of stations to make a significant impact. As we scale up this year we will.”
Currently the company is operating at a storage capacity of tens of megawatts per hour, according to Hassounah.
“We can use the side storage to accelerate the development of swapping stations,” de Souza said. “You don’t have to invest an insane amount of money to put them in. We can finance the batteries in multiple ways as well as utilize other sources of financing.”
Ample co-founders John de Souza and Khaled Hassounah. Image Credit: Ample
Early Stage is the premier “how-to” event for startup entrepreneurs and investors. You’ll hear firsthand how some of the most successful founders and VCs build their businesses, raise money and manage their portfolios. We’ll cover every aspect of company building: Fundraising, recruiting, sales, legal, PR, marketing and brand building. Each session also has audience participation built-in — there’s ample time included in each for audience questions and discussion.
Countingup, the U.K. fintech offering a business current account with built-in accounting features, has closed £9.1 million in Series A investment. Leading the round is Framework Venture Partners, with participation from Gresham House Ventures, Sage and existing investors.
It’s noteworthy that Countingup has previously taken investment from ING, and the addition of Sage as a backer is interesting since both could help the startup reach more business customers. It also potentially sets up one future road to exit. However, let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
Founded in 2017 by Tim Fouracre, who previously founded cloud accounting software Clear Books, Countingup now boasts over 34,000 business customers. The company’s long-term vision is to be the one “financial hub” for micro businesses in the U.K. and beyond. Its initial “attack vector” was to combine a business bank account with bookkeeping features to help automate the filing of accounts — a major time sink and pain-point for sole traders and small businesses.
Today that includes a business bank account with its own sort code and account number, a Mastercard for making payments and support for faster payments and direct debits. On the accounting software side, Countingup currently supports automated bookkeeping, invoicing, receipts, payment of bills, tax estimates and profit and loss reporting.
In addition, accountants can be given limited access via the web to better support clients banking with Countingup. This includes the option for business owners to share real-time bookkeeping data with their accountant, “eliminating the pains of re-authorisation requests, data lags, duplicates, and inaccuracies,” says the fintech.
To that end, Fouracre tells me the new funding will be used to quickly scale up the team from 30 to 80 people. “This will accelerate our roadmap enabling more swim lanes of product work to be on the go concurrently,” he says.
That roadmap includes tax filing, new financial services (e.g. loans, card payment services) and multi-currency invoicing and payments to support the 33% of SMEs in the U.K. that trade internationally. A web version of the app for small business customers is planned too.
“We will also be building out our sales and marketing teams for more aggressive growth,” adds Fouracre.
Countingup’s business model combines both SaaS and fintech. On the SaaS side, the company earns monthly subscription fees. On the fintech side, it generates revenue from banking activity (e.g. interchange fees) on Mastercard spend. In the future, that will likely include other sources of income via offering credit, payments and FX.
Comments Neal Watkins, EVP, Small Business Segment at Sage: “Investing in high-growth SaaS businesses is core to our strategy to enable small businesses and accountants to survive and thrive. This is an exciting opportunity to be part of the startup journey in a new way as businesses explore the benefits of bringing accounting and financial services together”.
A recent report found the four best ways to measure DevOps productivity is to look at: duration, mean time to recovery, throughput and success rate. According to the State of Software Delivery report from CI/CD platform provider CircleCI, companies who optimize on those four metrics are some of the most successful software companies out there.
In a webinar on how to help teams build better software faster, technical content marketing manager at CircleCI Ron Powell and Contentful software engineer Sergiy Tupchiy looked at the four metrics and what it really looks like in practice.
“It does look different when you try to actually apply the measurement of these to your case. And then it also looks different when you try to describe the value of optimizing on these four metrics to the rest of your organization,” Powell explained in the webinar.
The first metric, duration, measures the length of a workflow. While teams want to be around five minutes, Powell found the 50th percentile looks something closer to about 10 minutes.
“If you’re really well above 10 minutes, I think that that’s probably a pretty good place to start, trying to find ways to make improvements,” Powell said.
Powell said the next category, mean time to recovery, is the most valuable metric and the one organizations should focus on lowering. Companies in the 50th percentile have a mean time to recover of under an hour.
For the third category, Powell explained monitoring throughput is more valuable than trying to match some other organization that builds software in a different paradigm.
Lastly, success rate depends on what is being measured. Powell said companies should be looking at 90 to 95% success rate for their main branches. The success rate can dip lower for the feature branches that deal with building cutting-edge software.
There are some proven ways in which to create a more successful DevOps environment that were outlined by Contentful’s Tupchiy.
One way is to form an internal engineering productivity team and to standardize data sources to define what is applicable and what can be scrapped.
Engineering teams should also act on the insights and tie in the KPI data with other engineering business systems.
To learn more about the practices and metrics that will help teams build better software and faster in 2021 watch the webinar here.
Google is partnering with other industry vendors to improve web compatibility across various browsers through an initiative called #Compat2021.
According to Google, it will focus on addressing the top five browser compatibility issues: CSS Flexbox, CSS Grid, position:sticky, aspect-ratio, and CSS transforms. The #Compat2021 chose these focus areas based on feature usage data, the number of bugs in each browser engine, survey results from MDN surveys and the State of CSS, test results from web-platform-tests, and CanIUse data.
CSS Flexbox is widely used, but web developers run into major issues with it, such as Chromium and WebKit having issues with auto-height flex containers, resulting in incorrectly sized images.
CSS Grid is a core building block for web layouts, so it needs to be rock solid, Google explained, so that differences between browsers don’t cause developers to avoid using it.
The position-sticky property allows content to “stick” to the edge of a viewport. It’s commonly used in headers that are visible at the top of a viewport. It’s technically supported by all browsers, but there are certain use cases where it doesn’t work as intended, such as sticky table headers, which aren’t supported in Chromium.
The aspect-ratio property in CSS allows web applications to maintain a consistent width-to-height ratio, which eliminates the need to use padding-top to accomplish this.
The final area of focus, CSS transforms, allows developers to rotate, scale, skew, or translate an element. It is supported by all browsers, but doesn’t always work the same across different browsers, especially in the case of animations or 3D transforms.
“As we kick off this effort, we need your help making sure we catch the most important issues and getting the word out! If you are encountering compatibility issues in the areas listed above, please continue to file bugs in the appropriate tool (either via the “Send Feedback” tool in Microsoft Edge, or directly in the appropriate project: Chromium, Webkit, or Gecko),” Kyle Pflug, principal PM lead for the Edge Dev Ecosystem at Microsoft, wrote in a post.
Bond, the growth-stage firm that spun out of the Kleiner Perkins Digital Growth Fund in late 2018, is closing a second fund with $2 billion, suggests a new SEC filing that says the amount has not yet been raised, though investment firms sometimes file their paperwork at the final stages of their fundraising and even long afterward.
Axios was first to flag the paperwork.
Earlier today, we reached out to the firm — which closed its debut fund with $1.25 billion in 2019 — and are awaiting more information. But that Bond would be raising almost twice as much capital for its second vehicle is unsurprising for numerous reasons.
For one, thing, the outfit, spearheaded by famed former investment banker Mary Meeker, has been adding to its investing roster. Though the outfit exclusively featured Kleiner alums at the outset, including Mood Rowghani, Noah Knauf, Juliet de Baubigny, Daegwon Chae, and Paul Vronksky, Bond brought aboard Jay Simons to lead its global enterprise practice late last year.
Simons knows a thing or two about scaling a business as the former president of Atlassian, the maker of business development and collaboration software that went public in 2015 at a $4.3 billion valuation and now boasts a market cap of nearly $57 billion. (Simons joined the outfit in 2008 as its VP of sales and was promoted to president three years later, spending the next nine years in that role before leaving last summer.)
Bond’s team has also backed the kinds of brands that institutional investors like to see in a portfolio, with growth-stage bets while at Kleiner that include Slack, Uber, Snap and Waze, and current stakes through Bond in some other big and growing businesses around the world.
Among these is Byju’s of India, which is among the world’s largest ed tech companies and whose founder wants to take the company public in the next year or two; the London-based online bank Revolut, which was valued at $5.5 billion by private investors as of a year ago and said last month it eventually aims to go public via a traditional U.S. IPO; and Canva, the Australia-based design platform for non-designers that was valued at $6 billion during its last funding round in June of last year.
Of course, a third reason that Bond is raising so much capital ties to the large amount of money still sloshing around in the market and which seems more eager than ever to find its way into late-stage deals, particularly as more companies are being brought into the public market at jaw-dropping valuations.
One of Bond’s portfolio companies, for example, Nextdoor, was last valued by private investors at $2.2 billion back in 2019. According to Bloomberg, the company, which has raised $470 million altogether, began considering options to go public several months ago at a valuation in the range of $4 billion to $5 billion.
Altogether, Bond appears to have used its first fund to invest in roughly 20 companies. Among its newest bets is Locus Robotics, a nearly seven-year-old, Wilmington, Ma.-based company that makes autonomous mobile robots for warehouses and that announced $150 million in Series E funding at a post-money valuation of $1 billion last month co-led by Tiger Global Management and Bond.
According to a December report in The Information, Bond also led the newest round for portfolio company Ironclad, which develops software that helps companies such as Dropbox and MasterCard create and manage business contracts. According to The Information, Bond led a Series D round of at least $100 million for the company at a post-investment valuation of more than $950 million, more than double its valuation from late 2019.
Open Collective is trying to make working full-time for an open-source project an alternative to a career developing for a for-profit company. It believes the steps to achieve this goal include eliminating friction between projects, the communities that support them, and the corporations that depend on them.
It is introducing Funds to its open funding management platform to make it easier for companies to invest in open-source projects by making a one-time payment to a Fund, which then redistributes the money to different projects and contributors, rather than paying those projects individually.
“Big companies call the process for paying for stuff ‘procurement.’ It’s often pretty involved, with contracts, invoices, purchasing order numbers, and bureaucracy—a painful thing to go through repeatedly for small amounts. It’s practically a blocker. It is so much simpler and more practical to ask corporations to make one large payment, to one vendor. Make it easy and companies will invest more,” Pia Mancini, co-founder of Open Collective wrote in a post.
For example, Chrome invests in 17 open-source projects through its Web Framework & Tools Performance Fund. Rather than having Google’s finance department make 17 contributions to different groups or individuals with separate procurement processes, it makes one payment that then get redistributed,
According to Open Collective, more and more companies are now becoming aware of the need to compensate developers for their work on open-source projects and are willing to fund them. There are a few reasons for this, such as developers taking pride in working at a company that supports open source, access to creators, building a positive reputation within the community, ensuring their own open-source dependencies are being properly maintained, and ensuring open-source projects can scale with their needs.
The main challenge with financially supporting these projects is that contracts and partnership agreements don’t happen in the open-source community the same way they do in the business world. Open-source projects are often made up of a distributed group of people, some tied to companies or foundations. This makes it difficult to invest in them, but Open Collective believes Funds will make it easier.