Pienso Raises $2.1 Million Seed Round

Pienso, a machine learning platform for non-programmers, has closed a $2.1 million seed round. Led by Eniac Ventures, with participation from SoftTech VC, Indicator Ventures and E14 Fund, Pienso is focused on democratizing machine learning for domain experts who are non-programmers with no technical or data scientist experience. The funding allows the company to scale operations. “Investment by large enterprises in machine learning is rapidly accelerating as corporations spin up massive data lakes to garner insights into their business. However, it is costly, challenging to integrate and before now required data scientists on staff,” said Vic Singh, Indian American general partner at Eniac. “We led Pienso’s seed round because we believe Birago (Jones, CEO) and Karthik (Dinakar, CTO) have built an elegant solution that puts the power of machine learning and data science into the hands of domain experts who know their requirements.” Pienso’s machine learning platform takes unstructured and structured text data and allows subject matter experts the ability to train algorithms directly; no programming or technical skill required. A proprietary technique, using a user interface to create a Lens, allows subject matter experts the ability to interact directly with the algorithms to impart their knowledge. This approach provides a higher level of efficiency, transparency and accuracy.

Lotus Hotel Group LLC Acquires Indiana Hotel

Omkar Bhatt-led Lotus Hotel Group LLC has acquired the Evansville, Ind.-based Comfort Inn hotel. The amount of the acquisition was $4.8 million. “There were a lot of things they weren’t doing correctly and got overlooked,” Bhatt said in an Evansville Courier and Press report. “The employee retention was awful. It was like a revolving door. And there was no loyalty among customers or employees. We want to make sure there are familiar faces when people come here.” Hotel occupancy rates in the Evansville market typically hover in the 60 percent range, the report said. City and CVB officials said there’s a constant push to market to meeting planners, sporting events and various other groups and functions, it added. “We see a lot of positives in this town,” Bhatt said in the report.

Groupon Honors Englewood Snack Company

Tea Squares, an Englewood, Ill.-based, tea-infused energy snack company founded by local entrepreneurs Jordan Buckner, Isaac Lozano, Alex Stomp and Adi Malik, won a Make City Business pitch event competition sponsored by Groupon and organized by the Industrial Council of Nearwest Chicago. Tea Squares will receive a $5,000 grant to help with its growth as well as $2,500 in UPS shipping credits. The company was chosen as the grand-prize winner from a pool of five finalists who were invited to pitch a panel of local business leaders on the quality of their business plan and the likelihood that they could execute it, soundness of their financial status and projections, a clear plan for job creation, the marketability of their product or service and how they planned to use the extra money and supplemental services. “We were very impressed by Jordan’s business acumen and how he and his co-founders plan to use the additional financial resources and services to market their business to the broader marketplace and hire more teens and young adults from the Englewood neighborhood,” said Nikhil Sagar, pitch event judge and vice president and general manager of Groupon Goods North America.

University Startup Hubs Announce Partnership

Two universities internationally known for driving early-stage business activity have agreed to jointly support tech startups and entrepreneurial activity among tenant companies in their respective startup centers. The international collaboration links the New York University Tandon School of Engineering Future Labs to the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur Incubators. The three-year agreement sets the framework for giving select startups from the IITK Incubators access to NYU Tandon Future Labs for support and mentoring, as well as insight into U.S. market; allowing Future Labs companies desiring to explore the Indian market to call upon IITK knowledge and resources; providing flex desk space to companies visiting from either country for short periods of time; and planning mutually beneficial workshops, panels and other events focused on shared entrepreneurial concerns. "It's great to help with this tie-up and we will work to make it highly effective and useful to students and start-ups on both sides," said Sanjiv Khosla, IITK's global liaison in New York City.

Savari Named to ITS World Congress HoF

Savari Inc., a Silicon Valley-based auto tech company, announced that it has been selected to the ITS World Congress Hall of Fame for its leadership and contributions to the Vehicle-to-Everything communication technology market. This prestigious hall of fame was started in 2010 to recognize the luminaries and thought leaders in intelligent transportation services. Savari is the first V2X technology solution provider to be named to the ITS World Congress Hall of Fame. The company joined ITS America as a member in 2008. ITS America members are leading the technological modernization of transportation systems around the world by supporting the research, deployment and public policy for the future of ITS. "Over the last 12 months, we've seen many cities around the world look at the feasibility of deploying V2X technology today. Up to 94 percent of all car accidents in the U.S. can be eliminated with V2X technology, this technology will save lives and reduce traffic congestion in our cities. There's not another technology that can make that claim in auto tech," said Savari CEO Ravi Puvvala.

PayPal Launches Ops in India

Digital payments company PayPal has launched its domestic operations in India. PayPal has been offering cross border payments in India for close to a decade and claims to control a third of India's B2C export payments. Rohan Mahadevan, CEO, PayPal Pvt Ltd & SVP, General Manager APAC of PayPal, said, "India's digital payments journey is on a high growth trajectory and we are proud to be a part of it. We are excited about our prospects in a market that is highly inspirational and aspirational." PayPal has setup an Indian subsidiary with local call centers with multi lingual support.

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