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R10m for “Uber of cleaning”

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SweepSouth, a company specialising in on-demand home cleaning services on the African continent, has that announced it has secured R10m in new funding.

The funding comes from the Vumela Fund, as well as from its existing investor, Vinny Lingham and Llew Claasen’s firm, Newtown Partners. The Vumela Fund is capitalised by the First Rand Group and the Jobs Fund and managed by FNB in an alliance relationship with Edge Growth.

SweepSouth had an impressive 2015, coming off of a winning pitch at the SiMODiSA Startup SA conference in October 2014.  This was followed by an April 2015 Series Seed funding round from a team of top tech investors, led by Vinny Lingham and Llew Claasen’s firm Newtown Partners and including Pule Taukobong’s Africa Angels Network (AAN) and Polo Leteka Radebe’s Identity Development Fund (IDF). The startup finished the year as the first South African startup selected to participate in the 500 Startups accelerator in Silicon Valley, between July and November 2015.

“The start of 2016 suggests a year that will be no less exciting for us,” says Aisha R. Pandor, CEO of SweepSouth. “With this major new cash injection from the Vumela Fund, we can further expand our rapidly growing national footprint.”

SweepSouth was founded on the belief that the home cleaning industry needed modernisation through technology as well as a change in mindset towards the belief that everyone deserves access to dignified work at decent pay. “As we expand we can offer so many more work opportunities,” says Pandor. SweepSouth has created thousands of job opportunities in the last few months for women, the vast majority of whom were unemployed, resulting in over 100 000 hours of cleaning being completed over this time.

“Edge Growth is an experienced and respected investor who shares our passion for job creation and social transformation. We’ve loved interacting with their team and are excited about utilising this investment to continue our rapid growth and create sustainable work for thousands of cleaners in the next year” said Pandor.

Speaking about the deal, lead investor Janice Johnston of Edge Growth says, “We think SweepSouth is one of the leading tech startups in SA. The on-demand economy is a huge growth area because a lot of consumers’ needs can be far better served with tech-enabled, on-demand services. Uber is a great example of such innovation and we think SweepSouth is the Uber of cleaning in SA. The exciting job creation opportunities which the SweepSouth platform provides professional cleaners, is an important attribute of the investment for the Vumela Fund.  SweepSouth has one of the most dynamic and creative teams in the startup space and we think they’ll take on-demand service adoption to another level in SA.”

Pandor has a PhD in Genetics and is a former management consultant with experience in HR management, strategy and operations. Alen Ribic, SweepSouth’s co-founder and CTO has over a decade of experience in software engineering, particularly in developing highly scalable systems.

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CES: Most useless gadgets of all

Choosing the best of show is a popular pastime, but the worst gadgets of CES also deserve their moment of infamy, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

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It’s fairly easy to choose the best new gadgets launched at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas last week. Most lists – and there are many – highlight the LG roll-up TV, the Samsung modular TV, the Royole foldable phone, the impossible burger, and the walking car.

But what about the voice assisted bed, the smart baby dining table, the self-driving suitcase and the robot that does nothing? In their current renditions, they sum up what is not only bad about technology, but how technology for its own sake quickly leads us down the rabbit hole of waste and futility.

The following pick of the worst of CES may well be a thinly veneered attempt at mockery, but it is also intended as a caution against getting caught up in hype and justification of pointless technology.

1. DUX voice-assisted bed

The single most useless product launched at CES this year must surely be a bed with Alexa voice control built in. No, not to control the bed itself, but to manage the smart home features with which Alexa and other smart speakers are associated. Or that any smartphone with Siri or Google Assistant could handle. Swedish luxury bedmaker DUX thinks it’s a good idea to manage smart lights, TV, security and air conditioning through the bed itself. Just don’t say Alexa’s “wake word” in your sleep.

2. Smart Baby Dining Table 

Ironically, the runner-up comes from a brand that also makes smart beds: China’s 37 Degree Smart Home. Self-described as “the world’s first smart furniture brand that is transforming technology into furniture”, it outdid itself with a Smart Baby Dining Table. This isa baby feeding table with a removable dining chair that contains a weight detector and adjustable camera, to make children’s weight and temperature visible to parents via the brand’s app. Score one for hands-off parenting.

Click here to read about smart diapers, self-driving suitcases, laundry folders, and bad robot companions.

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CES: Tech means no more “lost in translation”

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Talking to strangers in foreign countries just got a lot easier with recent advancements in translation technology. Last week, major companies and small startups alike showed the CES technology expo in Las Vegas how well their translation worked at live translation.

Most existing translation apps, like Bixby and Siri Translate, are still in their infancy with live speech translation, which brings about the need for dedicated solutions like these technologies:

Babel’s AIcorrect pocket translator

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The AIcorrect Translator, developed by Beijing-based Babel Technology, attracted attention as the linguistic king of the show. As an advanced application of AI technology in consumer technology, the pocket translator deals with problems in cross-linguistic communication. 

It supports real-time mutual translation in multiple situations between Chinese/English and 30 other languages, including Japanese, Korean, Thai, French, Russian and Spanish. A significant differentiator is that major languages like English being further divided into accents. The translation quality reaches as high as 96%.

It has a touch screen, where transcription and audio translation are shown at the same time. Lei Guan, CEO of Babel Technology, said: “As a Chinese pathfinder in the field of AI, we designed the device in hoping that hundreds of millions of people can have access to it and carry out cross-linguistic communication all barrier-free.” 

Click here to read about the Pilot, Travis, Pocketalk, Google and Zoi translators.

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