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Bailey Amber

Real estate portals generate competition, inform buyers and draw even more attention to listings

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The owners of real estate sales data in Canada have gone to great lengths to restrict unauthorized access to and use of that data, but the Competition Bureau and many within the industry have long argued for freer access to data to enhance competition.

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The matter seems far from settled despite years of litigation and rulings. As a result, some real estate boards continue to file legal notices against property technology companies that try to gain access to their data and remind them of the integrity of their digital infrastructure.

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Real estate transaction and listing data in Canada is disseminated via the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) systems, which are owned and maintained by the real estate boards. A collaborative agreement facilitates the sharing of data between and amongst boards. Realtors usually register with one or more boards and then become eligible to list properties on the MLS system, which can then be reviewed by prospective buyers and their agents online for free.

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The boards, of course, are motivated to protect the integrity of data they collect, maintain and disseminate, either by themselves or with help from others. The improper use of that data or access by unauthorized entities is a valid industry concern, but so is the commitment to promote competition and prevent monopolies.

A recent industry-sponsored paper by Paul Johnson and Anthony Niblett pointed out the success of the MLS system lies in its “network effects.” As more homes are listed on the system, more buyers are attracted to it, which motivates more sellers to list their properties. This reinforcing loop of more listings leading to more buyers leading to even more sellers creates the so-called network effect.

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The authors offer three recommendations to preserve and expand this system’s value. First, it recommends realtors be required to list all properties on MLS. Currently, the system operates as a voluntary listing service, so realtors can decide to handle the transaction alone or within their brokerage.

Before the real estate industry embraced the internet, the practice of keeping listings off the MLS system was prevalent among large brokerages that would double end the sale by having agents from the same brokerage represent the buyer and the seller. However, such practices are unlikely to be in the best interests of consumers, so requiring all properties to be listed (with some exceptions) is a worthwhile consideration.

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Their second recommendation is that MLS “must continue to leverage highly effective portals” through which real estate data is disseminated. The most recognizable real estate portal in Canada is Realtor.ca, which is operated by the Canadian Real Estate Association, the sponsor of the study.

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At the same time, proptech companies and digital–first brokerages also provide listing data with additional information about neighbourhoods and previous transaction prices through virtual office websites. Portals generate competition, inform buyers and draw even more attention to listings. The industry, therefore, benefits from such portals.

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The third recommendation is about limiting access to MLS data. The authors said unfettered access to listing data might discourage sellers from listing their property on MLS, but we believe such privacy concerns are a red herring.

Sellers willingly consent to have photographs of their bedrooms and washrooms made freely available online to anyone in the world when they list their properties on MLS. If privacy was a concern, sellers would be more cautious. Yet the millions of homes listed on MLS containing photographs, 3-D renderings of floor plans and videos suggest privacy concerns are not a deterrent.

The authors said “any entity whose access to MLS Systems is used for the transaction of real estate would presumptively create value and should (continue to) have access.” But realtors are not the only ones who create value. Most real estate transactions do not take place without home inspectors, lawyers, financial institutions and others getting involved.

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With advances in artificial intelligence and communication technologies, the real estate sector is ripe for constructive disruption that will benefit consumers while safeguarding the intellectual property rights of those who collect and store real estate data. Restricting the definition of value-adding entities to those who market real estate is not in the best interest of consumers.

Murtaza Haider is a professor of real estate management and director of the Urban Analytics Institute at Toronto Metropolitan University. Stephen Moranis is a real estate industry veteran. They can be reached at the Haider-Moranis Bulletin website, www.hmbulletin.com.

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Employees

The World Health Organization now considers social determinants of health to comprise the better part of healthcare. This is long overdue, but as pioneers of the population health movement, my colleagues and I consider this an understatement.

We estimate that 80 percent of individual health is due to non-medical factors, including crime, poverty, education and opioid abuse. The silver lining of Covid is that people are finally paying attention to the large-scale social, economic, and environmental issues that impact health outcomes of disparate groups of people — population health — but this is just a start.

An “engine of inequality”

In April of 2020, professors Anne Case and Angus Deaton wrote in The New York Times that the current healthcare system is an “engine of inequality.” Sadly, they got it exactly right. The pandemic exposed the primacy of social determinants in terms of who lives and who does not. Now, we in the healthcare business must ask some very tough questions that have been avoided for far too long. For example, how do we care for populations that may put us at economic risk? How do we stratify care among populations? How do we coordinate care between communities?

In the past, these were considered public health questions. They now fall under the “roof” of population health. The central pillar supporting this roof is composed of epidemiology, behavioral science, and the environment — all of the key tenets of the traditional public health approach. However, there are other pillars, including the quality and safety of the care we deliver, its cost, and public policy considerations.

During the height of the pandemic, the lines for food exceeded the lines for medical help here in Philadelphia. The inherent inequality in our system ensured that the death rate for people of color would be much higher than for others. Covid was a witches’ brew of catastrophe and increased mortality for minority populations.

Post-mortem

While it is too late to declare victory over Covid — and, sadly, we already have another population health crisis on our hands — let’s not wait to recognize the scope and depth of the problems we face. Moreover, let’s address them with the appropriate tools. If our core business is improving health, then let’s reinforce all of those pillars in order to improve the roof over our heads. Of course, this begs yet another question: how are we going to get paid to implement these changes?

Healthcare is a $4 trillion business, and at least $1 trillion of this amount adds no value — except corporate profits. So, one idea could be to redirect those funds to actual healthcare.

Burnout

Aside from a small minority, most doctors feel like outsiders victimized by the healthcare system. Almost 42% of physicians report symptoms of burnout, especially the physicians in critical care, emergency medicine, family medicine, internal medicine, neurology, and urology. I have a daughter who was on the frontlines of Covid as an attending physician. I get it; expecting doctors to heal themselves is simplistic during and after a pandemic.

In contrast, research says that we can reduce burnout if we give providers the opportunity to ameliorate social determinants. Why not allow doctors to write a prescription for food, connect patients to community organizations for help, and mandate behavioral consultations? If we can give providers the tools to help the underserved, burnout decreases. We know doctors aren’t social workers, but they can (and should) be leading the charge to implement the population health paradigm. All they need is a voice and the right tools.

Technology

For example, it’s critical that providers at a minimum have a unique and unified patient record. Especially as we adapt to telehealth and virtual care, organizations need to have a framework that can enable a swift exchange of data among members of care teams. Indeed, population health intelligence is another vital pillar, as well as an important subset of population health that subsumes predictive analytics, augmented intelligence, and artificial intelligence. We can and should be creating a registry of patients with Covid that protects privacy. From the tsunami of data gained, we would glean actionable information about at risk populations. I’m also hopeful that we’ll see digital healthcare that continues to reduce marginal costs. This will enable us to reach much larger populations at a lower cost than ever before.

Strategic shifts

Imagine if we could go upstream to shut off that faucet of disease, rather than constantly mopping up the floor. What if the population of Philadelphia had been healthier pre-Covid? If we had paid more attention to social determinants, we would have been far more proactive. The chance of reducing the unbelievable death rate in minority populations would have been far greater if we had paid attention to obesity, smoking, heart disease, exercise, nutrition, and other “soft” issues. Why didn’t we do this? No one was leading the way, probably because there was no profit incentive.

We know that healthcare is big business, but even more than that, it is the final common pathway to all social determinants. It is constantly reframing what it means to take good care of the population. I firmly believe that we can still establish an exemplary model of population health — a system that promotes inclusion of all factors associated with a patient’s health in order to provide as much comprehensive care as possible.

Photo: marchmeena29, Getty Images

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For thousands of residents across Australia’s east coast, there’s a growing reason to ditch their petrol cars and pivot towards more sustainable transportation – a fleet of electric vehicles is being made exclusively available to them, to rent on demand, as part of their building’s amenities.

“We basically say it’s like a pool, but useful,” laughed Kyle Bolto, founder and CEO of Ohmie GO, the first sustainable shared e-Mobility company in Australia.

“You’re seeing these beautiful modern buildings coming to the market with luxury dining rooms, wonderful entertaining areas, great gyms and health clubs, and all these sorts of amenities. At Ohmie GO, we think that e-mobility as an amenity is a valuable proposition for both the building and the residents within it.”

First launched in 2018 and now operating in sites across Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane, Ohmie GO’s fleet of cars (specifically Tesla Model 3s), e-bikes, and e-scooters to rent on-demand aim to “change the way we move around cities.”

Some of their property partners include Knight Frank, Aria Property Group, Sekisui House, Mosaic Property Group, and Bolton Clarke.

Kyle elaborated, “We’ve been in the technology space with IoT devices and smart homes for a little while now and it became very apparent to us that one of the big problems to be solved in the next four to five years is, how can we make the transition from petrol vehicles into electric vehicles? How does that meld into the way we plan and operate buildings?”

READ MORE: Founder Friday with Jacinta Timmins: the secrets of launching a sustainable apparel brand

ohmie go founder kyle bolto
Source: supplied

Bringing EVs to the general public

With a corporate background in technology and telecom, playing a key role in building the infrastructure for the internet and mobile networks in Australia with Vodafone and NBN, Kyle’s passionate about “looking at what’s coming in the future, how these technologies can help us, and making sure the infrastructure is in place.”

He left the corporate world in 2015 down the path of entrepreneurship, seeking avenues to make a difference.

“I got a great front row seat to observe how these industries grew with pretty rapid pace,” he noted. “It’s interesting to see what’s happening in the electric vehicle and mobility space now, as it has a lot of similarities to what happened in the early days of the internet.”

So far, Ohmie GO has raised around $1.5 million from a small number of supporters so far, with plans to raise another round soon.

The mission, as Kyle explains, is “to challenge car ownership as a concept, to create a future of shared e-mobility across smart cities and regional communities.” (The name, too, is a subtle nod to ohm, the unit of electrical resistance.)

“Look, the world of car share or bike share is not new,” Kyle admitted. “The big difference here is that we’re making these privately available to the tenants of a building. By bringing this inside, it creates a really wonderful dynamic that it’s a private amenity and interestingly, it creates a different social dynamic as well. People treat them really well because they know the next person coming in could be their neighbor or co-worker.”

Notably, it also marks the first time in the driver’s seat of an EV for many Ohmie GO users, who can now rent a Tesla for just $15 an hour.

“We have vehicles in retirement villages of all places, with users in their 70s and 80s! They’re able to book it through the Ohmie GO app, use the car for errands and do everything they need to do, and come right back. For us, it’s a really great endorsement that electric vehicles can be easy to use, even for people who might find the technology daunting or challenging,” Kyle grinned.

READ MORE: Founder Friday: This father-daughter duo is on a quest to improve global health, one person at a time

The EV market in Australia

Electric cars accounted for less than two per cent of sales in Australia in 2021 compared to the global average of nine per cent, per recent reports. Many sceptics point to the price barrier as well as the current infrastructure in place to charge, and maintain, an EV in the country.

According to Kyle, Ohmie GO’s success lies in its model, which takes care of the installation, cleaning, insurance, sustainability reporting, and maintenance of the electric vehicles for the residents.

“I think the infrastructure for EVs is there, like the Tesla charger network and companies like ChargeFox. I’ve personally driven from Sydney to Brisbane in a Tesla maybe five times, even Sydney to Melbourne in a Tesla around eight times, and I would argue it’s a lovelier experience than driving a conventional petrol car,” he said.

“That said, there’s certainly more infrastructure that needs to be made available, but it’s coming. And it’s already a lot better than it was just a couple of years ago when we first began.”

kyle bolto and max millett
With Max Millett, Ohmie GO’s Head of Growth. Source: supplied

Best advice received

Through Kyle’s twenty years experience across technology and executive leadership, there’s one important lesson that’s stood out: “the devil’s in the details.”

“It’s relatively easy to get from zero to 90 per cent and a lot of people can do that. What’s very difficult in business to get to 100 per cent, whether that’s delivering a quality product or user experience,” he observed.

“Certainly early in my career, that attention to detail wasn’t where it should’ve been, and I learned some crucial lessons along the way. For me, value lies in the details, and the rest will come.”

Keep up to date with our stories on LinkedInTwitterFacebook and Instagram.

READ MORE: How this young entrepreneur is bringing youthful energy back to the disability support space

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Clocked the fact that every other business in Australia is digitising fast and wondering where technology might be put to best use in your own enterprise? 

It’s unlikely the good old accounts receivable department is top of your list. Yes, it’s an integral part of your operations, but it’s also the epitome of a backroom cost centre. Collecting and processing payments, updating accounts, and chasing debtors…they’re necessary, repetitive tasks that keep the organisation ticking over but could streamlining and automating them really make a difference to the health of your business?

In a word, yes. Investing in technology to automate the accounts receivable function enables you to maintain complete visibility over the flow of cash into your business. Not a month or several ago but right here, right now. Having that real- oversight of your working capital and financial position brings powerful benefits.

Freeing up funds

Arguably, the most compelling of these is the freeing up of funds. Applying customer payments to customer accounts quickly and accurately is the raison d’etre of every AR department. Doing so manually is a laborious exercise, and the time lag that inevitably ensues can extend the cash conversion cycle.

Make the switch to an automated AR platform, and it’s a very different story. BlackLine research shows companies that do so can expect to reduce their manual processing by up to 85 per cent and enjoy a 99 per cent reduction in unapplied cash.

This matters because the money owed to you by your customers is likely to be one of the largest assets on your balance sheet. Accountancy giant PwC estimates that, globally, around $A1.75 trillion of working capital is being ‘held hostage’ in this way. Faster access to funds may alleviate your cash flow woes and reduce or eliminate your requirement for external capital. Given interest rates are on the rise, the prospect of reduced borrowings should pique the interest of finance and business leaders alike.

Enhancing customer relationships

Good business is all about maintaining healthy, trusting relationships with customers and suppliers. Being contacted about payment by a creditor is rarely an enjoyable experience and if you’ve already paid the bill, it can be downright irritating. If it happens too frequently, switching suppliers may even cross your mind. 

Yet chasing customers who’ve already settled their accounts is a relatively common occurrence in the AR world. In organisations that are operating in manual mode, that is. Aside from annoying the individuals and businesses that pay the bills – and on time too! – it’s a waste of employees’ time and effort. 

Adopt an automated AR solution and your employees can stop pursuing good payers. Instead, they’ll be able to spend their time more productively, courtesy of the fact that you’ll have an accurate, up-to-the-minute view of the payment status of each and every customer on your books.

Enabling smarter decision making

Armed with this enhanced insight, your finance and sales teams will be able to make more informed credit and collection decisions. AR professionals can map individual customers’ purchasing and payment patterns and devise bespoke processes that encourage them to discharge their debts sooner. If, for example, it emerges that a consistently slow payer will only remits funds following a phone call, you can have your AR team skip the usual email reminder process and get straight on the blower.

You’ll also be able to monitor the creditworthiness of customers. If payment times are regularly extending beyond acceptable parameters, you may opt to rescind or reduce the credit facility of the organisation in question – before, not after, they default or disappear. Allowing quicker payers to extend their credit limits, meanwhile, is a smart, safe way to grow your sales.

Elevating your team

Finally, there’s another asset that automated AR technology can help you to retain: your team. BlackLine research shows organisations that want to retain top talent need to ensure those individuals are engaged and challenged. More than a quarter of finance professionals surveyed revealed they were bored by the mundanity of their jobs and 28 per cent bemoaned the fact that endless tranches of transactional work meant opportunities to learn new skills were limited.

Reducing the volume of tedious, transactional tasks your team members are expected to perform can put paid to these problems, and deploying automated AR technology is the key to doing so. It’s a great way to free up time – time employees can spend focusing on higher level tasks that deliver value for the business and provide greater job satisfaction.

Strengthening from within

Automating your AR department will never be a headline-grabbing digital transformation project. Your customers and suppliers may not even register that you’re doing things differently. But, if improving your cash flow, optimising your customer relationships, making smarter credit decisions and keeping high-performing employees happy are all important to you, it’s an exercise that’s well worth undertaking.

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Had earlier predicted a drop of 5% by the middle of 2023

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The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. will soon release revised expectations for home price declines, which will be greater than the housing authority expected last summer, chief executive Romy Bowers said at a conference Thursday.

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In July, a CMHC report said a surge in interest rates could drag national home values down by five per cent by the middle of 2023. While a formal revision won’t be released until October, Bowers said it is expected to be in the range of 10 to 15 per cent.

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She said falling housing prices should make homes — which rose at unsustainable levels in the first year or so of the COVID-19 pandemic — more affordable. However, higher interest rates will offset the renewed affordability, she added during a discussion Thursday afternoon at the Bloomberg Canadian Finance Conference.

Bowers said “correcting the supply-demand imbalance” by building more homes including rental properties at all price points is the best way to remedy Canada housing affordability issues.

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In May, CMHC released a comprehensive report that showed new housing starts have struggled to keep up with population growth in some of Canada’s large cities, especially Toronto, making affordability a “significant” challenge.

The following month, the housing authority said projected construction of new homes by 2030 would not be enough to solve Canada’s supply and affordability issues, concluding that an additional 3.5 million units would be required on top of those already in the works.

The CMHC report in June projected that housing stock would increase by 2.3 million units by 2030, reaching close to 19 million housing units, based on rates of new construction at the time. However, that “would need to climb to over 22 million… to achieve affordability for everyone living in Canada,” the report said.

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“The number is huge,” Bowers said Thursday, adding that the size and complexity of the affordability issue should not be an impediment to addressing it.

“There’s no doubt that doubling our housing starts is very difficult, but that doesn’t make it any less desirable.” 

She said CMHC is working to offset pullbacks in the development and construction pipeline resulting from economic factors such as rising interest rates and inflation, noting that some of the projects the housing authority was supporting “are no longer viable.”

But Bowers said she is not concerned that fast-rising interest rates and falling home prices will cause distress in the housing market, despite the pain to homeowners’ pocketbooks, because employment levels are not showing signs of strain.

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“What causes losses for mortgage lenders is increases in unemployment,” she said. “To date, the employment picture in Canada has been very strong, so despite the interest rate increases we don’t see signs of  distress in our mortgage book.”

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She acknowledged that high household debt is “a vulnerability” in Canada’s housing market, one that would be aggravated by interest rate increases, but she said a mortgage stress test that requires home buyers and those renewing a mortgage to have the financial means to handle increased monthly costs  “a very good policy tool in providing providing resiliency to the system.”

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The Toronto Regional Real Estate Board is among those who have called for more flexibility in the stress test, particularly for those trying to renew a mortgage who must re-qualify at the current rate plus two percentage points.

“I think changes to the stress test have to be considered in light of the fragility of the system and ensuring that the actions that have been take to strengthen it remain in place,” Bowers said, adding that the mortgage qualification test was among safeguards put in place following the 2008 financial crisis, including additional capital requirements for lenders and beefed up underwriting standards. 

She noted that what happens to the stress test is not up to CHMC, however, because such decisions are made by the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions, which has so far rejected the calls for more flexibility, and the Department of Finance. 

• Email: bshecter@nationalpost.com | Twitter:

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This weekly feature from Dynamic Business runs down the week’s top funding rounds from Australia, India and the US. Check out last week’s biggest funding rounds here.

Solvo launches after securing $3.5 million in funding

Solvo, a new finance app that provides crypto-interested investors with a more simple and transparent approach to accessing high-quality crypto products, has announced the debut of its new app and initial features. Index Ventures, CoinFund, and FJ Labs contributed $3.5 million to the company’s inaugural funding round.

Two-year-old TRENDii raises $2.9m

TRENDii, a two-year-old ad-tech company, has announced a seed financing of A$2.9 million. Investible and a key media partner are leading this cash campaign. TRENDii collaborates closely with Daily Mail, Are Media, News Corp, and PopSugar, and it looks forward to extending its relationship portfolio to create shared value for eCommerce and publisher businesses throughout the world.

Checkmate lands a $7.75 million Seed round

Checkmate, an Australian startup operating in the United States, has raised $5 million (A$7.75 million) in a seed round. Fuel Capital, a US venture capital firm, led the funding round. Kevin Johnson, former CEO of Ebates at Rakuten, NFL star Joe Montana’s Liquid 2 Ventures, Ancestry CEO Deborah Liu, Firstbase CEO Chris Herd, XMTP cofounder Shane Mac, f7 Ventures, Blackbird, Scribble Ventures, Hyper, Susa Ventures, Wischoff Ventures, Exits Capital, and Night Capital are among the other investors.

6clicks banks $10 million Series A

Centerstone Capital, a specialist VC focused on tech-enabled startups for the professional services industry founded by former Deloitte global chief strategy officer John Meacock and Deloitte global strategy and innovation MD Luc Maasdorp, led the $10 million Series A round led by Melbourne regtech 6clicks. RainMakr, WeAre8, and Clear Dynamics are also part of the company’s portfolio.

Hanwha Energy Australia raises $150 million 

Hanwha Energy Australia Pty Ltd has raised AU$150 million in funding to accelerate the development and expansion of its revolutionary renewable energy business model in the Australian energy industry. Hanwha Energy Australia, in collaboration with its retail energy businesses Nectr, integrates utility-scale renewable energy generation, rooftop solar and home batteries, retail energy, finance, and technology to provide Australians with a one-stop shop for all of their energy needs. 

A consortium of financial organisations, including Woori PE Asset Management, the Korea Development Bank (KDB), and KDB Capital, invested.

Scale Venture Partners closes Fund VIII with a $900 million investment

Scale Venture Partners, a venture capital firm based in Foster City, California, closed its Fund VIII at $900 million. 

XP Health has raised $17.1 million in Series A funding

XP Health, a digital visual benefits platform provider based in San Carlos, CA, has raised $17.1 million in Series A funding. The round was led by HC9 Ventures, Valor Capital Group and ManchesterStory. Additional investors include Core Innovation Capital, GSR Ventures, Canvas Ventures, Plug and Play, CameronVC, Ken Goulet, Kevin Hill, Jeff Epstein and Brett Rochkind. This recent funding round followed a $5.5 million raise in 2021.

Aikon Secures $10 Million in Series A Equity Financing 

Aikon, a Web3 onboarding solution provider based in San Francisco, CA, has raised $10 million in Series A funding. The round was led by institutional blockchain investment firm Morgan Creek Digital. Also in this round, Blizzard the Avalanche Fund joined as a strategic investor and partner. 

Sitetracker has raised $96 million in Series D equity and debt financing

Sitetracker, a Montclair, New Jersey-based deployment operations management software provider for critical infrastructure providers, has raised $96 million in funding. Energize Ventures led a new round of equity funding totalling $66M, and BridgeBank, a subsidiary of Western Alliance, provided a $30M revolving credit facility.

Meesho Gets $192 Mn From Parent Entity

Meesho has received $192 Mn from its parent entity, Meesho Inc amid the festive season sale.  Meesho had last raised $570 Mn in a funding round led by Fidelity Management and B Capital Group in September 2021.

Mojocare Secures US$20M in Series A Funding

Mojocare, a Bengaluru, India-based full-stack health and wellness clinic, raised US$20.6 million (INR 160 Cr) in a Series A funding.  The round was led by B Capital’s Ascent Fund and existing investors Chiratae Ventures, Sequoia India’s Surge, and Better Capital. The funding round also saw participation from some of India’s top angel investors like Mr. Vineet Jain (MD, Times Group), Kunal Shah (Founder, CRED), Ankit Nagori (Founder of Curefoods), Adrian Auon (Founder and CEO, Forward), Sajid Rahman (Founder and CEO, Telenor Health), Ravi Bhushan (Founder and CEO, Brightchamps), and Vivekananda HR (CEO and Founder, Bounce). 

Elucidata Bags $16 Mn To Scale SaaS Platform Polly

Delhi-based biomedical data startup Elucidata has raised $16 Mn as part of its Series A funding round led by investment firm Eight Roads Ventures. The round also saw F-Prime Capital, IvyCap Ventures, and Hyperplane Venture Capital participation.

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Many of us first tried virtual care during the pandemic, often because we had no other choice. We connected with our primary care physicians about Covid and other health questions, holding our elbows and ears up to webcams to show where it hurts. This was Virtual Care 1.0, and it was little more than a doctor’s visit via video.

Not only did these early days of “doctors at a distance” meet our needs, but most of us found the experience convenient and time-saving. The vast majority of us are ready to use virtual care on a regular basis, and providers and insurers are poised to build on this wellspring of enthusiasm for telehealth: Virtual Care 2.0 is right around the corner.

Timely, specific, and personal

If you’ve ever stood in the rain trying to hail a cab, you may have wondered “why are there NO taxis?” What you didn’t know was that there were several cabs available at that very moment—just out of sight, just around the corner. The problem wasn’t a lack of taxis, but rather a lack of taxis where and when you needed them. Uber solved this problem by connecting customers and cabs instantly and at the exact location where a ride was needed. As customers and drivers came to understand the power of the model, new uses emerged, including UberEats and other “off-label” errand services.

Uber created a new category of service by leveraging inefficiencies in the transportation system. By creating a marketplace for drivers with idle cars or empty seats, they dramatically increased the convenience and efficiency of transport, while lowering the cost and improving satisfaction. Both drivers and riders have benefited. Uber’s story shows how virtual systems can connect people to real world services—and it serves as a powerful metaphor for the future delivery of healthcare via Virtual Care 2.0.

Not Just an Appointment by Video

Several platforms have emerged that strive to be the Uber of healthcare, but not all are made the same. Most continue to focus on urgent or primary care—replicating a traditional doctor’s visit via video. Such replication fails to leverage the true power of the technology and does little to mitigate megatrends in the healthcare marketplace:

  • Traditional doctor visits contain very little doctor time. The average hourlong appointment contains only 15-20 minutes of care from physicians. The rest of the appointment visit is filled with PA and nurse consultations, vitals collection, clerical needs, and (mostly) waiting. Often the “result” of a visit is a referral to a specialist, where after a long wait for an appointment, the cycle repeats.
  • The US faces a drought of doctors and nurses. As the shortage of health-care workers worsens over the next decade, wait times and scheduling delays will increase, putting patient health at risk. Gains in efficiency and organizational capacity are the only available methods for addressing this shortage in the near term.
  • Healthcare needs are growing. Aging Baby Boomers will burden our healthcare systems for at least the next two decades, and given their financial resources, they are likely to expand the market for innovative geriatric care and lifestyle medicine. To this trend, add a larger, long-term health crisis in America, signified by declining life expectancy. Lastly, Covid-19 is likely only an early example in a future pattern of pandemics.

To address these industry challenges, improve efficiency, build capacity—and deliver better healthcare experiences—Virtual Care 2.0 must leverage patient enthusiasm for tech, exploring and inventing new models. The result will be an utter reshaping of the marketplace towards virtual specialty care.

Specialty care is the core of Virtual Care 2.0

By providing frictionless access to a network of specialist physicians, virtual specialty care can relieve pressure on physicians and speed access to high quality specialists. Assisted by technology that facilitates understanding of medical history and follow-up, virtual specialty care shifts the conversation from urgent care to longitudinal care, including lifestyle medicine. Specialists, connected directly to the patient, attuned to nuance, and supported with powerful information systems, can analyze a patient’s entire journey across any health topic, large or small, common or rare. Here’s how it works:

  1. Employers purchase membership in a virtual care network and provide access as an employment benefit; their employees are now “members” of the network.
  2. Most members first use virtual specialty care because they have a specific health question or concern. When connecting to a healthcare concierge on this first topic, they initiate a relationship with the network that can grow and deepen over time.
  3. The healthcare concierge fields the member’s query and leverages technology to identify a highly-skilled specialist physician.
  4. A consultation with the specialist physician is scheduled within days—and sometimes, hours—of the initial member inquiry. The healthcare concierge may also help the member prepare for the consultation, guiding them to assemble medical records and imagery the specialist might need—and even coaching members to formulate meaningful questions for the physician.
  5. Follow-up conversations are scheduled, introducing the member to the benefits of longitudinal care, lifestyle medicine, and other telehealth opportunities that arise from a sustained relationship with the network.

The efficiency of this model is a win for everyone involved:

  • Patients see the right doctors sooner, which results in better health outcomes. On one network, 52% of patients changed their approach to treatment based on physician guidance gained through virtual specialty care.
  • Employers who offer virtual specialty care as a benefit see a healthier, happier, more productive workforce with fewer sick days. In addition, they see dramatic savings in healthcare costs as a result of quicker, more accurate diagnosis. Specialty care platforms have provided up to $7,150 in average savings per member engagement, resulting in a 3:1 return on investment.
  • Physicians get to spend more time with patients. With the average patient engagement lasting 44 minutes, physicians can spend more time with each patient directly listening and engaging.

Managing the whole journey

Virtual Care 2.0 will restore the human connection between patients and the collective wisdom of the medical community. Using new tools, patients and specialists will collaborate to quickly identify healthcare challenges and map out a journey towards well-being.

Virtual specialty care networks may provide the sort of longitudinal healthcare relationship we haven’t seen since the era of house calls and doctors’ bags—benefiting patients and physicians alike. Employers, who sponsor virtual specialty care for their employees, will see a happier, more productive workforce, higher retention, and reduced costs.

Photo: Feodora Chiosea, Getty Images

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After the significant Optus data breach, the federal government should quickly enact legislation modelled after the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) of the European Union to protect Australians, says a UNSW Sydney law expert.

EU’s GDPR was lauded as the industry benchmark for safeguarding customer data because it established the strictest privacy standards ever.

On Sept 21, Optus, Australia’s second-largest telco, suffered a major data breach with potentially millions of customers’ personal information leaked by a malicious cyber-attack. Customers’ names, dates of birth, phone numbers, and email addresses may have been compromised, according to Optus. 

More here: Optus data leak: When sharing is NOT caring

Tony Song, a Research Fellow for the NSW Law Society’s Future of Law and Innovation (FLIP) research stream at UNSW Law & Justice, believes the serious data breach at Optus that exposed millions of Australians to fraud should prompt a full rethink of the country’s consumer laws.

EU’s General Data Protection Regulation 

A legal framework for data protection and privacy, known as the “toughest privacy and security regulation in the world,” was put into effect by the European Union (EU) on May 25, 2018. 

Mr Song asserts that in addition to the GDPR’s severe and stringent penalties, which can reach hundreds of millions of dollars, it is a revolutionary law because it is the result of six years of negotiations between member states in the EU’s institutional framework, which consists of the European Parliament, European Council, and European Commission.

“I think our laws should at the very least be updated to match the EU’s GDPR, which has become something of the gold standard for data protection regulation,” Mr Song said. 

“This means increasing the penalties not just for the cybercriminals, as suggested by Shadow Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews, as this will not effectively deter bad actors, who will assume they will not get caught anyway but actually for the companies that hold, use and process all our data,” he said.

Australia is now reviewing the Privacy Legislation Amendment (Enhancing Online Privacy and Other Measures) Bill 2021 (Online Privacy Bill), which is largely influenced by the GDPR and the California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018. The GDPR defines an array of legal terms at length. Below are the most important ones:

Personal data – Personal data is any information relating to an individual who can be identified directly or indirectly. Names and email addresses are obviously private information. Personal data can also include location information, race, gender, biometric data, religious beliefs, browser cookies, and political attitudes. Pseudonymous data can also be included if it is pretty straightforward to identify someone from it.

Data processing — Any action performed on data, whether automatic or manual, is referred to as data processing. Collecting, recording, arranging, organising, storing, using, erasing… virtually anything is mentioned in the text.

Read about the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation

More on Australia’s bill based on the EU’s GDPR 

Australia is planning changes to its privacy rules so that banks can be alerted faster-following cyber-attacks at companies. According to media reports, the federal government is considering legislation obliging businesses to notify banks if client data is hacked, allowing lenders to monitor impacted accounts for suspicious behaviour.

Increased fines: In the EU, the maximum GDPR penalty is $20 million euros or 4 per cent of the firm’s global yearly revenue. According to Mr Song, the proposed legislation would raise the maximum penalty from $2.2 million to $10 million, three times the benefit of the wrongdoing, or 10 per cent of the organisation’s turnover in the 12-month period preceding the behaviour.

Increased consumer coverage: According to the Bill, broadening the definitions of ‘personal information and ‘collection’ would better align with the GDPR’s concept of ‘personal data, or any data or information relating to an identified or identifiable person, rather than just information ‘about’ a person as it is currently defined.

The other side

The GDPR, according to Matthias Orthwein, Vice-Chair of the IBA Technology Law Committee, is the gold standard that “no one can use that other countries will think is beautiful but can’t work with it.”

According to Innocenzo Genna, Website Officer of the IBA Communications Law Committee and an EU public affairs consultant, while the regulation has been effective in raising awareness of data protection issues, regulators’ apparent reluctance to enforce breaches against internet giants, in particular, is becoming problematic.

“The reality is that so far, there have been no strong GDPR sanctions,” he says.

In Australia, the competition and Consumer Commission has proposed legislation that reflects much of what the GDPR offers. However, Angela Flannery, Working Group Coordinator of the IBA Communications Law Committee and a partner at Holding Redlich, notes that while the Australian authorities were already concerned that anything too similar to the GDPR would result in notification and consent fatigue on the part of consumers, the fact that so little enforcement action has been taken in Europe has weakened the case for aligning the Australian legislation too closely with the EU’s.

“I don’t think the Australian government is particularly enamoured with the idea that Europe put it in place first, and therefore, we should all do what the Europeans are doing, particularly as there is no data that indicates that the GDPR has improved things for consumers,’ says Flannery.

“We watch what’s happening in Europe, and there hasn’t been a significant number of cases since the GDPR. There hasn’t been a huge change in regulatory practice.”

Source: UNSW

Read more from International Bar Association here.

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In response to the need for the next generation of skilled, inventive, critical, and creative thinkers and entrepreneurs to flourish in the future workforce, Australia’s Haileybury is launching a new entrepreneurship programme with edtech company HEX.

Students will develop the skills and knowledge required to be creative and entrepreneurial in various settings, including start-ups, technology corporations, existing businesses, the public sector, and social enterprises. They will also learn how to adapt and thrive in a virtual, competitive, innovation-led environment by merging real-world and theory-based techniques and applying them to the startup ecosystem.

Also read: New exchange program to foster Indian and Australian female tech talent

Universities such as RMIT, the University of Wollongong, and Torrens University will recognise the curriculum for ‘previous learning.’ Students in Years 10 and 11 can participate in the self-paced online curriculum. Students will have regular mentoring with the HEX team and industry experts, including Leon Belebrov, Principal Product Manager, Mobile at job search site Seek; Shoaib Iqbal, CEO & Founder of satellite technology startup Esper Satellites; and a host of technologists from tech giant Atlassian, in addition to the self-paced online learning and fortnightly check-ins with Haileybury Head of Entrepreneurship Damien Meunier.

Through “HEXcurisions,” they will also be exposed to the Melbourne startup environment and meet with founders, investors, and technologists. It’s an experience that most high school students will never have, and it could help them in their future jobs by opening up doors they didn’t know existed. Students who complete the Haileybury Enterprise Academy can receive recognition of prior learning’ in various business programmes at pre-approved universities around Australia, including RMIT University, the University of Wollongong, and others.

HEX Chief Growth Officer Chris Hoffmann, says: “We are thrilled to launch our first high school partnership program with one of Australia’s innovative and most entrepreneurial schools. We believe young people and the next generation need to be exposed to new learning pathways and future opportunities to unlock their full potential and help them design and build the world they want to live in. 

“With the world and future workforce changing at such a rapid pace and innovation being pivotal across all areas of business, it is an exciting time for us to challenge the traditional education pathways and see how we can further children’s skills and experiences sooner in life.

READ MORE: NSW launches online hub to support female entrepreneurs

“We look forward to forging partnerships with more forward-thinking schools and education providers to deliver a new kind of learning that keeps pace with the changes of tech, the workplace and the real world.”

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Sanofi’s technology for making natural killer (NK) cell therapies came from an M&A move. The pharmaceutical giant just struck a deal that adds a CRISPR-editing technology to its to toolkit for developing NK cell-based therapies for cancer.

The CRISPR technology is from Scribe Therapeutics, a startup co-founded by CRISPR technology pioneer Jennifer Doudna. Whereas CRISPR’s initial development employed the Cas9 cutting enzyme, Alameda, California-based Scribe’s platform is comprised of gene-editing and delivery tools based on CasX, a protein discovered in Doudna’s lab. CasX is a smaller protein, which makes it a better fit for the in vivo gene-editing applications that are the focus of the startup’s internal research.

Sanofi will apply the Scribe technology to ex vivo NK cell therapies. According to financial terms announced Tuesday, the pharma giant is paying $25 million up front. Development and commercialization milestone payments to Scribe could top $1 billion; Scribe would also receive royalties from sales of any approved products that stem from the collaboration.

NK cells are a type of immune cell endowed with tumor-killing enzymes. NK cells seek out cancer cells to carry out their work, and they have application across many tumor types. Two years ago, Sanofi licensed an off-the-shelf NK cell therapy from Kiadis Pharma that was in preclinical development. The stated goal was to pair that drug with Sarclisa, a Sanofi antibody drug for multiple myeloma.

Months after the licensing deal was announced, Sanofi agreed to acquire the biotech outright for €308 million cash. Sanofi said Kiadis’s NK cell therapies would be developed as standalone treatments and in combinations with the pharma giant’s drugs. Sanofi’s pipeline currently lists one clinical-stage NK program from Kiadis: SAR445419, an off-the-shelf therapy, is in Phase 1 testing for acute myeloid leukemia.

Companies conducting NK cell research are working to bring cell therapy to solid tumors. The first cell therapies, based on engineering a patient’s own T cells, have worked only on blood cancers so far. Frank Nestle, Sanofi’s global head of research and chief scientific officer, said in a statement that his company sees NK cells having applications in both solid tumors and blood cancers.

“This collaboration with Scribe complements our robust research efforts across the NK cell therapy spectrum and offers our scientists unique access to engineered CRISPR-based technologies as they strive to deliver off-the-shelf NK cell therapies and novel combination approaches that improve upon the first generation of cell therapies,” he said.

Scribe emerged from stealth in 2020, backed by a $20 million Series A round of financing. Last year, Scribe closed a $100 million Series B round to finance further development of its technology platform and to advance its pipeline of CRISPR-based therapies for neurodegenerative disorders. The biotech’s neuroscience work previously led to a research partnership with Biogen focused on developing CRISPR-based therapies for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. In May, the two companies announced that Biogen had exercised its option to expand the collaboration to an additional disease target in gene therapy. That target was not disclosed.

Photo: Nathan Laine/Bloomberg, via Getty Images

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