Tech update: Amazon wants to be your Internet provider; Merck launches Darmstadt accelerator

A familiar name to U.S. expats might become your Internet provider.

A number of news and tech sites are reporting that Seattle-based e-commerce/digital conglomerate Amazon is about to become an Internet service provider, with Europe the first market where it will sell broadband.

amazon-prime-monthly-2016-04-18-01Actually, resell, because several European governments require internet providers/communication companies to allow wholesale access to networks to increase competition.

Tech Times is reporting Europe is the first market because communications regulations in Germany and the UK are “more lax than those in the U.S.,” where the Federal Communications Corporation calls the shots.  The scoop started with The Information, a tech-news startup. TI reported last week that becoming an ISP would let the camel get its nose under the tent, giving Amazon a consumer platform to promote its Prime on-demand service and other content channels, and go head-to-head with Netflix … not to mention conventional European TV programming.

In countries such as Netherlands, where most people watch English-language movies and programming, that could lead to brutal competition.

The question is, are already defensive European Union regulators going to open the door to Amazon devouring the local ISPs? Because Amazon operates at extremely low margins, passing the value back to consumers in hopes of selling them additional, more profitable products and services. Remember, Amazon doesn’t just ship shoes, apparel, electronic and books. They also sell their excess server farm capacity as cloud hosting, and Amazon owns the book market now withs various versions of the Kindle e-reader.

dd3Merck  is creating a Darmstadt-based accelerator that will invest up to 50,000 euros in each startup team. The New York City-area based pharma giant is looking for teams in healthcare, life science and performance materials. Teams have to apply by 19 December and the program runs from 6 March through 24 May, 2017.

From their announcement:

The Merck Accelerator is looking for true innovators and entrepreneurs with a start-up mindset. Candidates applying to the accelerator program should be startups in the fields of healthcare, life science and performance materials who are dedicated to the program and ready to give their all for the entire program period.

Here are the key benefits ready for you:
1. Financial support up to €50,000 for your team.
2. Accommodation & office space in the center of Darmstadt, Germany.
3. Access to a global network with 50,000+ industry leaders and investors.
4. Deep-dive mentoring sessions to bring your startup to the next level.
5. Travel & conference opportunities to enrich your international experience as well as the possibility to expand your network through our Silicon Valley extension program.

• Last week it was International Airline Group launching its Hanger 51 accelerator to capture promising travel-tech startups. This week, it’s EasyJet partnering with Founders Factory in an incubator/accelerator, investing “millions of pounds” in five early-stage Travel-tech startups, according to a news release, and multiple new sources. The goal is to launch two new companies every year.

EasyJet will take an equity stake in the startups, according to CNBC.

• Speaking of travel, Skyscanner – an online travel search company and Scotland’s only unicorn – is attracting a lot of attention including talk of its being acquired by Priceline. It wouldn’t be much of a stretch for Priceline, according to Bloomberg:

Priceline has $4.4 billion in cash and marketable securities on hand, and its shares are projected to rise to a record over the next 12 months on what some analysts think is an “open-ended” growth story.

Bax Music, based in Amsterdam, aspires to have one of its online music instruments/equipment stores in every European country by 2021. The 13-year-old company already has online stores in the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Italy, Spain and Sweden, according to E-commerce News Europe. The company also has bricks-and-mortar stores, about 450 employees and a projected 115 million euros in 2016 gross sales.

Bax sells instruments as well as speakers and other stuff. Bax Music has physical stores in Goes, Rotterdam, Amsterdam and Antwerp.



• All the banks might be leaving because of Brexit. But Yoox Net-a-Porter, the British-Italian high-fashion e-tailer, is building a new tech hub in London. Yoox is taking two floors — about 70,000 square feet of state-of-the-art (and expensive) office space — in the new MediaWorks building at White City Place, according to a news release. This is a big deal.

From the release:

YOOX NET-A-PORTER GROUP’s Five Year plan is built on a foundation of mobile and has been developed to outpace the industry through innovation. The new Tech Hub will accommodate for the planned 20% increase in YNAP’s global technology team, made up of 1000 employees equally spread across the UK and Italy. The Hub will nurture the mobile-centric culture, allowing engineers to create best-in-class technology solutions, and accelerate the Group’s R&D and release of the next wave of developments including yet-to-be-released technological breakthroughs.

Who has the money?

• This is a bit of a surprise. Financial Times has a long post about the success of Seedcamp, Europe’s largest (only?) mega-seed fund/startup accelerator. In “Seedcamp’s fund performance shows booming European startup-scene,” FT reports the first $3 million fund has returned almost twice the capital it raised back in 2007.

 From the post:

Of the 230 companies backed since 2007, including now-billion-dollar companies like TransferWise, roughly 80 per cent have gone on to raise further funding and together they have raised roughly $500m. Seedcamp companies have raised and exited for more than $250m in the first nine months of 2016 alone, it said.

• This is kind of cool. We never heard of it, but apparently “proptech” is a thing. Something called blackprint PropTech Booster is investing as much as 150,000 euros per team. (Small b) blackprint PropTech Booster bills itself as the “premier hub for PropTech Innovation in Germany.” It’s an accelerator that wants to “transform the conventional approach to the real estate industry” with digital. They host as many as five teams over six months at offices in Frankfurt am Main.

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