Virtus Data Centres plots further expansion of Slough colocation site

Colocation provider Virtus Data Centres is expanding its server farm footprint in Slough, Berkshire, with three further data halls planned for its London4 site.

The Slough facility has been part of Virtus’ portfolio since late 2015, when it acquired the site from fellow colocation provider Infinity SDC, and underwent a number of expansions in 2016 and 2017.

The site is also home to the Jisc shared datacentre services initiative, whereby members of the higher and further education sector look to save money by pooling their datacentre infrastructure resources and sharing them with other members of the community.

Jisc is responsible for operating the network that supplies the site, as well as the single supplier framework that organisations use to commission and specify how much space they want to take up.

Upgrade works at the site have previously been overseen by Bouygues Energies and Services (BYES), which has also collaborated with Virtus on the design and build of its London 1, 2, 4 and 5 facilities in Hayes, Enfield and Slough.

BYES has now also been enlisted to carry out the fit-out work for its London4 data halls expansion, as well as an upgrade of the site’s energy connections.

At present, the site encompasses 10,800m2 net technical space and has an IT load capacity of 27MW, but is set to soar following this work.

Chris Mosley, project director at BYES, said the company is pleased to be reinforcing its ties with Virtus, adding that the commission is proof of the strong relationship between the two parties.

“The strength of the relationship is testament to our strong team and skills, and we are delighted to be providing ongoing support to the UK’s leading datacentre provider,” he said.

“This contract is further evidence of the success of the collaborative approach we apply to our work, as we always ensure open lines of communication, full access to our in-house design team and our ‘can do’ attitude, which sees us going the extra mile for clients.”

Simon Anderson, construction director at Virtus, said the works are being undertaken in direct response to the growing demand it is seeing for colocation capacity.

“Having worked at the London4 facility over the past two years, BYES was the obvious choice to carry out the power upgrade and data hall extension works needed to meet the growing requirements of our existing customers,” he said.

“In addition, BYES has previously shown that it fully understands the added complications of working within a live datacentre, having completed similar expansion works at other Virtus facilities.”

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Home From the Honeymoon, the Self-Driving Car Industry Faces Reality

At the blockbuster plenary sessions, the chairs stretched so far back that even the most youthful Silicon Valley college dropouts-turned VC hoovers had to squint to see the action up in front. A handful of large projection screens hung between the ballroom’s chandeliers, displaying loop-de-looping flow charts on vehicle safety systems, sensor alignments, liability law.

But despite the best efforts of the downtown San Francisco Hilton’s air conditioners, the air shared by the attendees of this year’s Automated Vehicles Symposium was thick with secrets and doubt. Eight years after Google first showed its self-driving car to The New York Times, the autonomous vehicle industry is still trying to figure out how to talk about itself.

Over the three-day conference, engineers, business buffs, urban planners, government officials, and transportation researchers grappled with how to tell the public that its wonder drug of a transportation solution will have its limitations. For at least a few decades to come.

In a market that could be worth $7 trillion by 2050, the players have a powerful incentive to stay mum. And if anyone forgot that, Tuesday’s news that FBI agents had arrested an ex-Apple engineer en route to China, charging him with stealing blueprints of the company’s autonomous vehicle circuit board, reminded them. If any player talks too much, who knows what snatches of information might slip out? There are plenty of competitors waiting to profit.

And yet, the reasons for speaking more loudly and clearly about the goals and realities of self-driving have snapped into focus. In March, an autonomous Uber testing in Tempe, Arizona, struck and killed a woman crossing the street. A AAA survey taken after the incident found American unwillingness to ride in an autonomous vehicle jumped by 16 percent. The crash hung over the symposium as both a lesson in what’s at stake and in what can happen if the autonomous vehicle industry gets things wrong.

In years past, this conference has been all about big pronouncements. Last year, Lyft’s policy chief told the audience that most of the service’s rides would be automated in five years. This year, attendees heard less about commercial launches and more about the minutiae of safety procedures. Lyft’s 2018 presentation, by self-driving car president Nadeem Sheikh, dodged firm deadlines all together.

In an industry built on eliminating human error, insiders have started to admit that building a flawless vehicle will be almost impossible. In fact, they are starting to admit that they need to start admitting it publicly.

“Safety should be foundational to everything you do in this area,” said Mark Rosekind, a former National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and National Transportation Safety Board official who now heads up safety and innovation at the secretive autonomous vehicle startup Zoox. “But understand that on that path, crashes will continue to happen.” How do you go about telling the public this sort of truth, that zero road fatalities is, for the time being, a fantasy?

During her keynote address on Tuesday, Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao suggested one avenue. “Let me challenge you to step up, and help educate the public about this new technology,” she said. “That is so important, because without public acceptance automated technology will never reach its full potential.”

Chao appears to be onto something there. The public is primed to expect autonomous vehicles to be perfect. When the tech isn’t, people are surprised—and scared. Earlier that morning, Kristin Kolodge of the market research firm JD Power presented her findings on what consumers expect from AVs. “The car is meant for accidents not to happen,” one respondent told the firm. “[Accidents] Should never happen,” said another. For self-driving vehicle developers, that’s an unfortunate expectation. A person who expects infallible technology will be disappointed.

And when Americans are disappointed, they sue. JD Power’s survey found that more than half of respondents would be willing to pursue litigation if they were involved in an incident with a driverless car. The firm also surveyed liability lawyers across the nation, who predicted lawsuits involving self-driving vehicles would be way pricier than the average, in part because of the sheer breadth of sensitive data through which lawyers would have to sift during discovery.

So there is worry, and some soul-searching. Yet the deals continue. Down in the Hilton’s lobby, business hummed along, startup founders shaking hands with tech lobbyists and transportation researchers. The state of the autonomous vehicle industry is strong, and no one’s putting away the checkbook just yet. Since the first symposium kicked off in 2014—just four years ago!—attendance has ballooned by 200 percent. It’s up 12 percent since just last year. But the real action happens outside the San Francisco Union Square Hilton. Learning how to speak to the people out there will be an existential skill.


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The 3 Most Important Slides in Your Pitch Deck

PixabayPixabay

Each and every slide is important. Yet, if you only have time to really nail and improve on some of them before your next investor meeting, which ones do you focus on?

Decks seem to be shrinking. It’s perfectly acceptable to only have 10 slides in your deck. 20 is pushing the long side. While this might sound easy, if you hope to raise just $10M in this round, each of those slides is worth a million bucks. That means you’d better have the right slides covered, and put some effort into them.

It really depends on your investment stage (e.g. Seed, Series, A, Series B, etc) but for the most part investors are always wanting to know if you have something solid that is grounded and with wind blowing on its back from a market timing perspective. I was reminded of the emphasis on these factors when I covered the pitch deck template that was created by Silicon Valley legend, Peter Thiel (see it here) and when I provided a commentary on a pitch deck from an Uber competitor that has raised over $400M (see it here)

According to DocSend‘s study, which conducted research on the behavior of investors on 200+ pitch decks, investors typically spend per presentation an average of three minutes. With this in mind, you may want to give special attention to the following slides.

1) Cover Slide

The cover slide is normally overlooked in most articles and advice on creating a pitch deck that gets funded. It is true that most investors are looking at the substance of your idea and its potential. Startup founders need to finish strong with a powerful closing slide that compels angels and VCs to take action and empowers them to do so with your information. Yet, you aren’t going to get that far if your cover slide is poor. First impressions count. A lot. It also sets the tone right from the start.

Many investors are going to make up their minds about whether they are interested or not from slide one. Think of this like the subject line of an email, your old resume cover letter, or an executive summary if you’ve ever applied for a commercial loan. The cover slide opens the door to opportunity (or not).

Simple is fine. Don’t try to cram too much onto it. A great image can help sets the tone, and generates the right emotions, while demonstrating the effort you’ve invested in this. Your logo and company name may change, but if not, these few seconds can ingrain your company into their memories so they remember you even if they don’t participate in this round.

I would typically recommend founders to include an image showcasing the product in action or an image that represents their business on a high note.

2) Team Slide

This is the next most important slide in your pitch deck. Remember that people invest in and buy you, not the product or service. It doesn’t matter if they love the concept if they don’t think you are the team to pull it off. Whereas if they love you then they’ll invest anyway and maybe in future ventures even if this one fails.

The team slide is the #1 out of just 8 slides Inc.com says you need in your deck. Guy Kawasaki says it’s one of only 10 slides you’ll need. It’s definitely one Sequoia Capital recommends. After the cover, it’s the number one slide of just 5 that Entrepreneur says you “must” have in your deck.

If your founding management team is weak, strengthen it with a robust board of advisors. Be wary of listing too many employees. That can cause a variety of problems. First of which is just creating a whole bunch of additional questions and mental detours for the investor, who may have otherwise just pulled out their checkbook.

On the team slide you want to list in bullets clearly what has been the experience and key accomplishments of the leadership team. Also avoid including anyone outside of the leadership team and potential colleagues that may not stick around as if they leave in the middle of your financing that could raise potential concerns.

3) Financials Slide

Very early startups that are at a pre-revenue don’t need a financial slides. You may have nothing to show or perhaps just a few years of projections. Hopefully you do have some key metrics, and data on the size of the market. Just don’t get too detailed with projections and minutiae. That’s just going to slow you down.

However, when you do include a financials slide, DocSend data shows that investors spend more time on that slide than any others. According to a review of two hundred funded startups, investors spent 23.2 seconds viewing the financials slide. That’s more than double the time spent on ‘Problem’ and ‘Solution’ slides.

Below is an image that outlines the distribution of time per slide according to DocSend.

DocSendDocSend

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Make Money While You Sleep: OTOY Wants To Rent Your Idle Computer

Otoy announced today the opening of RNDR, a crowdsourced cloud based on blockchain, to the public. RNDR will reduce the costs of producing games and movies while putting Ethereum cryptocurrency in the wallets of those who lend the network their idle computing time. RNDR’s peer to peer platform now enables the entertainment and games industry to drastically reduce the cost of creating those incredible, realistic scenes in shows like Westworld. An individual could theoretically make several hundred dollars a month.

James Ubach, CEO and co-founder of Otoy, which today opened is RNDR to the public.Otoy

You’ve probably never heard of Otoy because it works quietly in the background, helping to turn the work of artists, captured as code, into 60 frames per second of high-resolution 2D or 3D images through a process called “rendering”. Otoy adds a proprietary “secret sauce” of AI and machine learning to make the process faster and cheaper while eliminating “noise” or mistakes that sometimes mar the output. “Between AI rendering and de-noising and an ability to move objects around dynamically, we’re approaching being able to have full passive movies built with game engines,” Otoy’s co-founder and CEO James Urbach told Venturebeat in an interview at the Games Developer Summit in April.

This growth in demand for rendering services poses a problem referred to as “the GPU Cloud Gap”. An increasingly large amount of market segments are competing for limited resources, and this drives the price up. Centralized data centers that provide the necessary hardware (like Amazon Web Services) have been unable to expand fast enough to meet the demand and match competitive pricing.

The Otoy team has been thinking about ways to harness the countless millions of idle GPUs around the world to create a distributed, secure peer-to-peer network for years. When the Ethereum blockchain came along with decentralized security and currency needed for anonymous buyers and sellers, they were finally able to take what producers are already doing and making it better, cheaper, faster while generating substantial recurring revenue. The entire process is decentralized. Otoy maintains the underlying network, while RNDR users and content creators connect to each other within the system. All users purchase or sell computing power with Etherium based “render tokens” which can be purchased from Otoy or directly or as Etherium from an exchange.

Once a rendering job begins, a creator’s payment of RNDR tokens will be held in escrow until the job is completed. Throughout the rendering process, users can watch the status of a job and updates of the render, such as scene previews, or maximize the preview mode to see better details in the image. As the job progresses, RNDR token usage increases, and once the job is complete, frames can be downloaded and the token transfer occurs. “Customers are getting back their work and not knowing if Amazon did it or the decentralized nodes did it,” Urbach said.

Don’t spend that Etherium you’re going to mint by lending your PC to RNDR just yet. RNDR uses a node matching and prioritizing protocol that searches for available rendering power. Depending on the circumstance you may not qualify for a job.

James Urbach, CEO and co-founder of Otoy, believes blockchain will be bigger than the Internet and will produce the next Google.Otoy

Today’s opening of RNDR to the public launches what the company calls Phase II of its development. Kalin Stoyanchev, Head of Blockchain/Project Lead of RNDR said, “Currently less than 1% of the world’s GPU power is accessible to creators. By harnessing the wasted, idle computing power of millions, with no expense in terms of hardware, we will have access to much more computing power, at a more affordable cost to creators, with the utmost security of their digital assets ownership.”

“RNDR’s next phase of development [Phase III] will be devoted to expanding its global partnerships and growing the platform to reach rendering-streaming through smart contracts and blockchain technology,” said Urbach. “Otoy is seeding the network with the key relationships we have in the industry, principally the major studios that use our technology and to more than ten million developers that use Unity and Unreal Engine.”

The privately owned Otoy was founded in 2008 by Urbach, Alissa Grainger (Co-Founder & President) and Malcolm Taylor (Co-Founder & CTO). Since then, Otoy has grown to over 60 employees across four offices with headquarters in Downtown Los Angeles, CA. The company’s investors include Autodesk and Yuri Milner’s Digital Sky Technologies (DST), and it boasts about a board of powerful advisers from Eric Schmidt of Google, to superagent Ari Emanuel of WME-IMG. The company declined to talk about other investors or its finances.

Those interested in making money while they sleep can log on to RNDR at https://rendertoken.com

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