When it comes to package fulfillment in the business of logistics, giants like Amazon have long led the way. But one company is working on technology that may open the door for small- and medium-sized enterprises. Robotics firm Kindred has developed a device called SORT, which features mechanical arms that can grasp products of various sizes and uses artificial intelligence to determine which items to pick up. E-commerce order fulfillment requires working with all types of objects, which can make it a difficult task for robots. Kindred’s SORT system removes that barrier – and to make their service even more accessible, the company doesn’t even require its customers to make a significant investment in its technology. Clients don’t actually pay for the hardware itself, but rather by how successfully the robots are able to pick up and sort warehouse items.
Berlin-based startup Zenjobs has made a name for itself by helping part-time workers – mostly students, and people in the food, event and retail industries – find employment. Zenjobs employs and insures its workers, then pairs them with companies looking for extra help – for a small cut of their salary. What sets the firm apart is that its automated matching system finds the right fit for workers significantly faster than its competitors. Zenjobs’ success in a city that thrives on temporary and part-time work helped it snag €15 million in new funding this week. “Traditional part-time employment agencies continue to struggle with digital transformations in the market. What the employment industry is missing are innovative products,” said CEO Fritz Trott. “With our automated software technology, we place a large portion of our personnel within a few hours. At the same time, we offer our customers long-term planning security.”
Swedish on-demand scooter rental service VOI has only been in business since August, but it has already become indispensable across the country. The company now has 120,000 users in Sweden and operates in multiple other European countries. Unlike their competitors, however, VOI works with local city governments to ensure their service operates according to local regulations, which means that once they are up and running, they stay that way. Their rapid expansion is also in part down to their efficient service. Users simply down-load an app that helps them locates a nearby scooter, press “ride” and scan a QR code. The scooters cost just €1 to unlock and €0.15 a minute to ride. VOI says their easy-to-use rental process helps them keep regular customers – and, it turns out, investors too. The company just earned $50 million in new investment this week, which it plans to use to expand across Western Europe.
Eating at the workplace often means struggling for a healthy lunch. On-demand food service Feedr has solved that problem by pairing local artisanal suppliers to offer healthy eating options as an alternative to office cafeterias. The London-based startup allows users to choose from a variety of meal options on their app during the morning, then delivers the food straight to their office for lunch. What’s more, Feedr partners with employers who can either partly or entirely subsidize the cost of those meals to make higher-quality ingredients more accessible. As users build up a database of meals, Feedr’s app caters its offerings to individual preferences, earning itself the nickname “Netflix for Food.” This combination of personal wellness, improved workplace experience and tasty food earned the company £1.5 million in fresh funding this week, which it says will help it broaden its meal options and streamline its app experience.
Tutoring has long been a part of the college education process, but at many institutions, finding the right kind of help can be a frustrating process. Florida-based startup Knack simplifies the learning experience by pairing people who need help with fellow students for tutoring and mentoring sessions. Users can search profiles, read reviews and make payments (Knack takes a 20 percent cut) all through the company’s app. Knack’s peer-to-peer approach has seen it grow to 40 US universities with more than 4,000 tutors. What’s more, the company partners with local businesses for networking events, giving its tutors the opportunity to meet prospective employers. Knack’s ‘everybody-wins’ business model helped the company earn $1.5 million in funding this week, which it hopes will help it continue expanding to universities across the country.