Piper pulls in $2.1 mln

San Francisco-based Piper, which provides DIY computer kits for kids, has secured $2.1 million in seed funding. The investors included Princeton University, Reach Capital, 500 Startups and FoundersXFund.


San Francisco, CA (June 21, 2016) – Piper, a startup that empowers budding inventors with its DIY computer kit for kids, today announced $2.1 million in seed funding. The investment arrives as the company looks to expand its product offering to allow educators and students to learn about, and build creatively with technology, code and electronics. The additional financing comes from a group of mission-driven investors including Princeton University, Reach Capital, 500 Startups, FoundersXFund, Jaan Tallinn (co-founder of Skype), and Jay Silver (founder of Makey Makey).

The newly secured funding will assist with the creation and distribution of PiperEDU, a new product for K-12 educators that will allow Piper’s products, powered by the latest Raspberry Pi 3, to be seamlessly integrated into classrooms all over the world. With PiperEDU, students will learn programming, engineering and electronics as they assemble their own computers and build gadgets to solve Minecraft challenges.

“We believe we can redefine how students in classrooms build and create with technology and are excited to launch PiperEDU for schools across America to make this happen,” said Mark Pavlyukovskyy, co-founder of Piper.  “Piper takes a unique hands-on approach to STEM education by combining the world’s most popular video game with hands-on engineering and tinkering, making the product appealing to both kids and educators.”

“Thousands of kids are already playing and building with Piper all over the world and to make the product more accessible to more students, we are introducing Piper to schools. Dozens of schools all over the world have beta-tested the product and we are excited to bring it to schools everywhere,” added Piper co-founder Joel Sadler. The Piper computer kit is like a Trojan horse for learning it combines a familiar video game with physical building. Ultimately we want to boost everyone’s creative confidence with technology, programming and engineering in a playful way”

“Combining coding and Minecraft is genius”, said Dave McClure, founding partner of 500 Startups. “Great to see my kids turn into little nerds; maybe they can pay for my retirement some day.”

Elon Musk’s kids also play Piper and love the product. Steve Wozniak is another fan of Piper. Steve said: “I love Piper because it represents what enabled me to do all the great technology things in my life”.

We are thrilled to have Piper as a company in Princeton’s Alumni Entrepreneurs Fund (AEF), which is one of the ways we support Princetonian entrepreneurs,” said Mayra Ceja, Entrepreneurial Program Manager, AEF.

The Piper Computer Kit comes with everything a 7-12 year old needs to assemble her own computer, including a Raspberry Pi 3 microcomputer, an HD LCD display, a powerbank, a speaker and a puzzle-like wooden case that she assemble to house her computer. Turning the computer on reveals the PiperCraft learning system that teaches kids engineering and programming through a combination of engaging storyline, physical building, and Minecraft gameplay. The core Piper experience seamlessly introduces engineering, electronics and programming, allowing kids to create and program their own electronic gadgets through a custom Minecraft story mode designed specifically for education.

PiperEDU provides four Piper computer kits, a Common Core and next generation science standards (NGSS) aligned online curriculum, and professional development tools for educators. For more information about Piper, please visit www.PlayPiper.com.

About Piper
Piper’s mission is to empower the inventors of tomorrow by giving them the tools to build creatively.  Founded in 2014 by Princeton graduate Mark Pavlyukovskyy, MIT graduate and Stanford fellow Joel Sadler, and Harvard graduate and Google Science Fair winner Shree Bose, Piper inspires kids of all ages to see the world as a malleable puzzle which can be questioned and solved rather than an absolute that must be passively accepted.

For more information, please visit www.PlayPiper.com or Facebook and Twitter.


True Or False? Credit Scores Matter For Newcomers

We often hear how necessary building a credit history is to settling into Canada. Its a key part of the process used to determine whether a person is eligible for a loan, including how much one can borrow. Canadas central credit bureaus gather information from all the lenders that you do business with to determine your credit score. The better the credit score, the more likely you are to qualify for credit.

Your credit rating is based on your record of managing your finances responsibly. Lenders look at how you handle your financial obligations, such as whether you pay your monthly bills on time, carry a balance, or regularly miss payments.

Many newcomers to Canada are surprised at how important credit scores are, or how they work. The credit system in Canada may not always take into account financial history in another country and the concept of building a credit history can be unfamiliar, especially in places where cash or your bank balance is the most important financial consideration.

Ive found that understanding what it takes to create and maintain a good credit score is one of the most important determinants of financial success in Canada.

Lets have some fun. Test your knowledge with the following True or False statements:

Everyone needs their own credit score.

TRUE: Your credit score is yours and yours alone. If youre married, you both need credit in your name in order to establish a credit score. If your credit card, car loan or mortgage is in your spouses name only, youre missing a valuable opportunity to build your own credit score. You cant rely on your spouses credit history for your personal credit needs.

Credit history data stays on your ranking forever.

FALSE: In Canada, data stays on your credit rating for seven years.

My bank account balance is more important than my credit score.

FALSE: Banks and other companies determine your creditworthiness based on a number of factors and the amount of money you have in the bank will not always be relevant or the only information necessary. In Canada there is heavy reliance on credit score to determine eligibility for lending.

Missed payments show on your credit score.

TRUE: Credit scores are maintained by credit reporting agencies, and include whether you have paid your bills such as utilities, mobile phone and credit card on time, if you have missed payments, and if you have outstanding debt. Over time, this data will form a pattern of how well you pay back – or dont pay – your debt. This is why its so important to pay at least the minimum payment on all of your bills, on time, even if they seem small or insignificant.

My credit history from my home country will be reflected in my Canadian Credit Score.

FALSE: Your credit score in Canada starts with your activity here in Canada; for example the first time you borrow money, set up utilities, or purchase a cell phone.

One last tip: Its a good idea to check your own credit history once a year by requesting a report from one of Canadas credit bureaus TransUnion or Equifax. This will not only help you track how you are doing, but also help you detect any errors and protect yourself against identity fraud by ensuring the information is accurate.
Understanding the credit system in Canada is the first step in creating a solid financial footing in your new home.


Even In Investment Draught, This Startup Secured Funding In Just 5 Days

India, as a country, in addition to its existing market, has seen a tremendous spurt in its entrepreneurial outlook and is soon becoming a utopian land of thriving businesses.

But unfortunately, this turn of events has still not transcended into the concurrent employment it should encourage, especially in the blue and grey collar jobs market. The core of this rut lies in the fact that there has been no bridge that connects the eager job seekers with the right employers.

And this is where Kickstart Jobs, a startup focusing on niche talent acquisition in the entry-level workforce, comes into the picture.

Birth of a Startup

Founded by Samriddhi Malhotra and Abhishek Srivastava in August 2015, Kickstart aims to create a scalable platform to connect entry level candidates with prospective employers and vice versa.

Within a year of its commencement, the venture is already operational in the key north Indian territories of Delhi, Noida and Gurgaon, with a workforce of 10 employees.

Speaking about the need for a product like Kickstart Jobs, Malhotra, said, The market for entry-level hiring is one with both tremendous potential as well as enormous challenges. None of the solutions present in the market today have been able to really delve into the job seekers psyche and create a solution that works for both candidates and employers. Kickstart is attempting to do just that. We have closely observed existing patterns of job seeking at the entry level workforce and are leveraging this existing pattern and enabling it with technology.

All About Its Team

Samriddhi Malhotra, an XLRI Jamshedpur alumna, comes with a rich experience of working with numerous rural communities on a grassroot level. This background of hers helps her thoroughly understand the core requirements and competencies of the workforce at the entry level section. Malhotra heads the product development and operations at the venture whereas Srivastava, a mechanical engineer from ISM Dhanbad, spearhead the strategy and business development at Kickstart Jobs.

Funding Galore

This Gurgaon-based entry-level talent acquisition startup has raised an undisclosed amount of funding in its Series-seed round. Led in collaboration with ah! Ventures, this round saw investments from marquee investors like Vivek Joshi, Founder, Wyzen Tech; Mohit Satyanand, Chairman, Team Works Art; Amit Banati, President (Asia Pacific), Kelloggs; Arun Khanna, President (Asia), Dun and Bradstreet and a few others including ah! Ventures themselves. The startup plans to infuse this fund to scale up its growth.

On asking about how they convinced the investors, Srivastavasaid,We approached ah! Ventures to close our funding requirement and they proactively helped us close in 5 days, in which they also participated. Their network is huge and the response has been extremely prompt. We wanted to bring ah! Ventures onboard as their reach and connections will keep us in good stead for future.

In ashort span of time, they have registered more than 5000 candidates, enlisted about 3000 vacancies, and conducted more than 2000 interviews.

On asking about the recent investment Harshad Lahoti, Founder, and CEO of ah! Venturesopined,As an investor, the growth that is about to unfold in this entry-level jobs sector in the near future is evident to me. This growth and spurt of service offerings in the sector is especially lucrative for the currently existing workforce of over 500 million in the blue and grey collar ecosystem of India. And, given the fact that this number is increasing at about 12 million per year, the need to effectively harness these human resources becomes all the more essential. ah! Ventures and its investors saw that potential in Kickstart Jobs, not only in terms of their strong team but also in their unique methodology in operating and creating value for both, the job seeker amp; the employer.

The Startup has developed a unique operational proposition, wherein lsquo;Leaders are identified among the communities of job seekers and are in turn collaborated with, to utilize their strong network and connect with the entry-level job seekers. The company believes in empowering these leaders with technology, currently in the form of a mobile app, thus bettering the process of data mapping.


$19 million Schenectady housing project secures funding

Nonprofit real estate developers The Community Builders Inc. have secured funding for a $19.4 million housing project in Schenectady.

Jennica Petrik-Huff is the project manager for the 58-unit, mixed-income and mixed-use development that will be called Hillside View. The project will turn the former Horace Mann and St. Columba schools into apartments.


The week’s best financial advice

Posted by admin on 06/25/2016 in Consolidating Debt | Short Link
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Here are three of the weeks top pieces of financial advice, gathered from around the web:

A risk for empty nesters
Empty nesters arent reining in their spending once their kids leave the house, and its imperiling their retirement, said Ruth Davis Konigsberg at Time. Empty-nest savings are supposed to spike by a whopping 12 percentage points, but a recent study by Boston Colleges Center for Retirement Research found that parents 401(k) savings only increase by a paltry 0.3 to 0.7 percent once their children leave home. Often, its because the kids still require financial assistance. Some 61 percent of Americans say that theyve helped an adult child financially in the past 12 months, according to Pew Research. Other empty nesters refuse to cut back on their lifestyle, and continue to eat out or take regular vacations. They may feel like celebrating their independence, but the inability to downshift spending is putting their retirement in serious jeopardy.

Borrowing from the boss
Worried about their financially strapped workforce, a handful of companies are stepping in to offer employees alternatives to payday loans and other expensive financial products, said Rachel Emma Silverman at The Wall Street Journal. Six percent of employers now offer low- or no-interest loans for nonemergency situations, while others provide assistance consolidating debt or buying big-ticket items like appliances without going into credit-card debt. At Atlantic American, an Atlanta insurance provider, some 15 percent of the staff now have loans through Kashable, one of a growing number of startups that help fund and service employer loans. Payments are deducted from employee paychecks, with rates ranging from 6 percent to the high teens.

When to share a planner
Married couples may share a bathroom, but many of them are leery about sharing a financial planner, said Chris Taylor at Reuters. Some 13 percent of couples keep their own financial planners after getting married, according to a study by Fidelity Investments. Thats a perfectly legitimate decision at first, since Americans are getting married later than ever — after careers and financial plans have been established. But it can cause problems down the road, including conflicting strategies, overlapping holdings, and duplication of fees. To stay on roughly the same page financially, couples should get their planners together quarterly, or at least annually, to make sure theyre not offsetting each others strategy or paying more than necessary.


Malawi: Challenges Abound for Refugees in Malawi

Posted by admin on 06/25/2016 in Secured Funding | Short Link
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My entire family depends on the WFP ration because we cannot afford to buy anything else says Echoia Asukulu (38), married with 10 children.

WFPs food assistance plays a crucial role in meeting the basic food needs of refugees and helping prevent malnutrition. Since WFP began providing fortified, blended food and fortified vegetable oil, prevalence of anaemia among children under five years has decreased by 8 percent.

The severity of the shortfalls cannot be underscored: for some months in 2015, WFP was forced to reduce rations by half. Such cuts drive refugees to adopt negative coping mechanisms, including early marriage, so-called survival sex by women and girls, and school drop-outs.

New contributions will enable WFP to resume provisions of full food rations, ensuring the nutritional status of all refugees. WFP is also attempting to shift to a combination of cash-based transfers (CBTs) and in-kind food distributions at Dzaleka, though there is no secured funding for the provision of cash. CBTs give dignity, flexibility and choice to the recipient, as s/he can choose what food items are needed most. Given the diversity of cultural backgrounds represented at Dzaleka, this could be an important step forward in giving some autonomy to the camps population.


How to Get a Perfect Credit Score

Posted by admin on 06/25/2016 in Credit History | Short Link
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What is a perfect credit score? Using the popular FICO scoring method, the magic number is 850, which is difficult, but not impossible to achieve. By learning how the FICO formula works, we can get some insight on how to get an 850 credit score, or close to it.

How the FICO formula works

Unfortunately, the specific formula by which FICO determines your credit score is a closely guarded secret. However, we do know the general composition of the formula, which gives us some insight on how to maximize our credit score.

Here are the five categories of information that make up your FICO score, their respective weights, and some specifics on what each category emphasizes:

  • Payment history (35% of your score) — The largest category is also the most straightforward. If you pay your bills on time each month, 35% of your score will take care of itself.
  • Amounts owed (30%) — This mainly focuses on the amounts you owe relative to your available credit or original loan balances, as opposed to the actual dollar amount of debt you carry. In other words, a consumer who still owes $400,000 on a mortgage which was originally for $1 million would look better than someone who owes $100,000 on a $110,000 mortgage, even though they owe four times as much.
  • Length of credit history (15%) — This category looks at several time-related factors, including the age of your oldest account (whether its still open or not), the average age of your credit accounts, and the ages of individual accounts.
  • Mix of credit accounts (10%) — Creditors want to know that you can handle a variety of debt obligations, not just one. For example, someone with a mortgage, auto loan, and credit card all in good standing could have an advantage over someone with just a credit card.
  • New credit (10%) — This category includes the number of times youve applied for credit within the past year, as well as any accounts youve opened that are considered to be new. As your inquiries get further into the past, and your newest accounts age, this category will improve.


Library director Whitehall Council’s ‘Person of Year’

Posted by admin on 06/24/2016 in Secured Funding | Short Link
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Story times are typical in libraries, but Whitehall Public Library Director Paula Kelly is helping tell stories outside the library and even outside the borough.

Because of her efforts, Whitehall Mayor James Nowalk, with borough council, has named her the communitys “Person of the Year” and proclaimed June 4 as Paula C. Kelly Day.

Nowalk said the honor, which started in 1994, recognizes someone whose accomplishments have gone beyond the borough.

Whitehall also has an award that recognizes a person for community service within the borough.

Kelly is being honored in part for her efforts to secure funding for projects that have brought attention to the stories of Whitehalls refugee community.

Money from the $5,000 the library received when it won the Maggie Forbes Distinguished Service Award in 2014 for its work in community engagement funded the “Meet Your Neighbors: Refugee Portraits and Stories” exhibit.

“(Pittsburgh) Mayor (Bill) Peduto was so impressed with it, he arranged for it to be in the City-County Building,” Nowalk said. The exhibit was shown there last year as part of Pedutos Welcoming Pittsburgh Initiative.

When he was at the City-County Building, Nowalk said, “I was so proud to see our exhibit in such a prominent place.”

Since then, the exhibit has been traveling to locations in several communities.

More recently, Kelly worked on securing funding from Macys for the “Saving Stories” project, which is taking the stories of Whitehalls refugees and turning them into bilingual English and Nepali picture books that are being placed in several local libraries and in the offices of community organizations. The books also are for sale on Amazon.com.

Many of Whitehalls refugees are natives of Bhutan who lived in a refugee camp in Nepal before coming to the United States.

Kelly, 58, of Mt. Lebanon, is a Whitehall native and grew up in the borough, where she made weekly trips to the library.

In 1997, she took a part-time job shelving books at the library and over the years became a full-time employee, attended graduate school to receive a masters degree in library and information science, and eventually became library director.

Kelly said she has had a longtime interest in getting involved with outreach or tutoring to serve Whitehalls “unique pocket of diversity.” After becoming a volunteer English-language tutor with the Greater Pittsburgh Literacy Council, she said, she realized the library could do a lot to help the refugee community, and she secured funding for programs to help people practice English conversation and prepare for the citizenship test.

Her work has resulted in a 2012 Community Champion Award from the Pittsburgh Pirates and a 2014 national Jefferson Award.

Even so, Kelly said, she was surprised to be named Whitehalls Person of the Year.

She said receiving the honor is flattering, but it makes her a little uncomfortable because “Im not necessarily comfortable having the spotlight shine on me.”

But because it also brings attention to the library, she said, “Ill take it.”

Nowalk said some people appointed to a position such as Kellys settle for living within the resources given them.

“Then, there are others who dream … about more,” he said, and “and they find the resources to realize them.”

Madelyn Dinnerstein is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.


Hot Stock to Track After Earnings: Avis Budget Group, Inc. (NASDAQ:CAR)

Posted by admin on 06/24/2016 in Car Funding | Short Link
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Avis Budget Group, Inc. (NASDAQ:CAR) reported earnings for the three months ended Mar 2016 on May 03, 2016. The company earned $-0.28 per share on revenue of $1.88B. Analysts had been modeling earning per share of $-0.08 with $1.88B in revenue.

Avis Budget Group, Inc. (NASDAQ:CAR) reported results for its first quarter ended March 31, 2016.  For the quarter, the Company reported revenue of $1.9 billion and Adjusted EBITDA of $44 million.  The Company reported an adjusted net loss of $27 million, or $0.28 per share, in the seasonally slower first quarter.  The Company’s GAAP net loss was $51 million, or $0.53 per share.

Other Items

Share Repurchases  The Company repurchased approximately 3.0 million shares of its common stock, or 3% of its shares outstanding, at a cost of $80 million in the first quarter.

Debt Refinancing  In March, the Company completed a $350 million offering of senior notes due 2024 with an interest rate of 6.375%.  The Company will use proceeds from the offering primarily to redeem $300 million of senior notes due 2017.

In March, the Company’s Avis Budget Rental Car Funding subsidiary issued $450 million of five-year vehicle-backed notes with a weighted-average interest rate of 3.25%.  The proceeds from the borrowing will be used to repay maturing vehicle-backed debt and to purchase cars in the United States.

Technology  In the first quarter, the Company completed the roll-out of new website and mobile-app reservations technologies to twelve countries in Europe, continued the development and implementation of its Demand-Fleet-Pricing yield-management tools worldwide, and launched a pilot of “self-service” vehicle rental capabilities at Avis locations in the United States.

Avis Budget Group, Inc. earnings per share showed an increasing trend of 34% for the current fiscal year. The company’s expected EPS growth rate for next fiscal year is 330%.Analysts project EPS growth over the next 5 years at 9.74%. It has EPS annual growth over the past 5 fiscal years of 44% when sales grew 10.4. It reported 1.7% sales growth, and -524.3% EPS decline in the last quarter.

The stock is trading at $32.57, up 49.88% from 52-week low of $21.73. The stock trades down -38.59% from its peak of $53.04 and % below the consensus price target of $35.85. Its volume clocked up at 4.61 million shares which is higher than the average volume of 2.62 million shares. Its market capitalization currently stands at $2.87B.


8 Things to Consider Before You Refinance

Posted by admin on 06/24/2016 in Consolidating Debt | Short Link
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Low interest rates are driving borrowers to refinance, with applications in 2016 hitting their highest levels for the week ending on Feb. 12, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.

Refinancing can potentially help homeowners save real money that can be put toward home repairs, consolidating debt or paying off the loan faster. However, borrowers shouldnt go into things blindly. The idea is to improve your overall lifestyle and financial plans, Carlos Jaime, a mortgage planner and owner of CTC Brokers amp; Associates in Southern California, said.

Here are eight tips to consider before you refinance. (You can also read our mortgage refinancing primer here.)

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