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Coming at you a day late this week! Back to our regular Sunday programming next week.

Welcome to the 2-Minute Drill -- a curated selection of the week's hottest stories from the world of tech, all in 2 minutes.

As always, shoot me a note to learn more or if you just want to say 👋.


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On my whistle...

Arise Raises $4M for Virtual Eating Disorder Care
Often the best startups are launched by founders tackling a problem they have personally encountered. Such is the case with New York-based digital health startup Arise, which looks to leverage technology to help people suffering from eating disorders. Founded by seasoned digital health entrepreneurs Amanda D’Ambra and Joan Zhang, this week the startup announced $4 million in seed funding.

Eating disorders are unfortunately quite common and are among the most deadly of mental health disorders. According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, eating disorders are the second deadliest mental illness after opioid use, with a devastating 26% of people afflicted attempting suicide.

Arise looks to leverage technology to provide a combination of education, care and community to help reverse this trend. It is still early days, but plans to launch a pilot program later this summer, and then expand more broadly once early data and feedback is received and incorporated into product development and iteration. 

(more here)


Verishop Bags a Premium $40M Round of Funding for Luxury Commerce
This week, Los Angeles-based luxury e-commerce platform Verishop announced a fresh $40 million in Series B funding as it looks to become the online destination of choice for luxury products that are typically overlooked by online retail giants Amazon and Walmart. This brings the 2018-founded startup's total reported funding to more than $50 million

We last covered Verishop back in 2019 when the startup had come out of the gates swinging with $17 million in Seed stage funding. With big name founders in Snapchat chief strategy officer Imran Khan and his wife, Cate Khan (ex head of retail at Amazon-owned Quidsi), Verishop caught a lot of headlines.

Since then, the startup has navigated the supply chain issues that affected global retail during the height of Covid, and has since expanded its offering to move beyond just bringing premium brands online, to now include business solutions to help emerging brands reach a target audience curated by Verishop.

To-date, the startup reports having over 4,000 brands on its platform, which would make it one of the largest aggregators of emerging brands on the interwebs. If it can succeed in supporting the top emerging premium brands with tools, services, and ultimately paying customers, perhaps Verishop can carve out a market segment underrepresented by the current e-commerce giants.

(more here)


Lines Team Lines Up $4M in Funding to Tackle Web3 Messaging
For all the talk of crypto winter, those entrepreneurs and investors who believe in the future of blockchain-based technologies are heads down building. And one of the more interesting fronts of this innovation cycle is social messaging.

During the recent NFT and crypto craze, platforms like Discord and Telegram became the de facto homes of countless Web3 projects and communities. The problem was that these platforms were ill-equipped to handle the particular needs of these communities and were often plagued by scams (Discord in particular). 

A new startup called Lines--and a host of other Web3 startups--are using this moment of pull-back from the hype to double-down on building a core infrastructure for Web3, including better messaging that natively takes into account Web3 use-cases.

So what does a Web3 messaging platform entail that makes it better suited than existing solutions?

For starters, embedded in the DNA of Web3 communities are characteristics like anonymity, use of digital currencies, NFT exchanges and token-gated access, DAOs that incorporate voting and treasury management, and more. Current solutions struggle to enable users to know whether others in the community are actually the person that owns that token or that has the actual voting rights. The idea here is to build a communications layer that supports structural factors around ownership and transactions across multiple platforms and blockchains.

Lines is still in the early days, but has $4 million in seed funding to get busy scaling a team and manifesting its vision. There are plenty of other upstarts and incumbents alike who are looking to take on this same opportunity of building the social communications layer of Web3. It's far too early to say who will win, but this is definitely a sector to keep an eye on -- and if/when crypto emerges from this current down-cycle, investors are placing their bets now on who is building the best onboarding rocket ship to take the next wave of crypto adopters to the social messaging moon.

(more here)


Spotify Listens In, Acquires "Wordle for Music" Game Heardle
Since its launch in October the viral world game Wordle has taken the internet (and my family group chat) by storm with its addictive word game. For those living on Mars who have never heard of it, Wordle is a simple word puzzle that each day challenges users to guess the daily word in as few tries as possible, only receiving clues after each guess of which letters are in the word and/or are in the correct order.

With Wordle's meteoric rise, it sparked a wave of derivative games that applied the same concept to other formats ranging from geography (Worldle) to movie identification (Framed). And this week, Wordle-inspired music trivia game Heardle was acquired by music media giant Spotify for an undisclosed sum

So why did Spotify purchase Heardle? Most likely it was paying close attention to earnings calls of the New York Times after its January acquisition of WordleTimes CEO Meredith Kopit Levien CEO shared in an earnings call that "Wordle brought an unprecedented tens of millions of new users to The Times,” referring to a quarter that saw 387k new digital subs for the company.

Spotify has been on an acquisition spree in recent years--primarily in the podcasting sector--as it looks for ways to boost subscribers and revenue. The move into games appears to be the latest strategy, and we'll have to check on future earnings calls to see if Heardle has the same impact for Spotify as Wordle did for the Times.

(more here)


Talent in Tech: Hologram Labs
This week digital avatar startup Hologram Labs announced $6.5 million in seed funding to as it looks to scale its virtual avatar platform. This is the first reported round of funding for the 2021-founded company.

With all the talk of the "metaverse" in the past couple of years, a wave of startups and incumbents alike have been investing in technologies focused on digital representation of identity.

Hologram's specific approach taps into the power of online communities driven by NFT collections. For example, if you buy a Cool Cat or Deadfellaz NFT, you may change your profile picture to your NFT as a kind of flex and bat signal to other crypto degens. Hologram Labs looks to take this a step further, enabling you to take video calls as your NFT. Instead of a static image, now your NFT can come to life as an avatar and mimic your movements as you talk.

Currently the app is available as a Chrome extension. The company accesses your laptop's camera and runs the live video into its machine-learning powered software that utilizes face tracking points captured by the camera and maps it in realtime to the avatar.

Hologram Labs is by no means the first or only startup utilizing machine learning for video communication and/or incorporating digital avatars. But its focus on NFTs may help the startup gain initial popularity in the die-hard NFT communities and perhaps can be a good launching point for broader adoption.

Athletes + Entertainers involved include: musician Mike Shinoda of Linkin Park.

(more here)

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Disclaimer: The content in this newsletter is for informational purposes only and should NOT be taken as legal, business, tax, or investment advice. It also does NOT constitute an offer or solicitation to purchase any investment or a recommendation to buy or sell a security.

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