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Bridgefy launches end-to-end encrypted messaging for the app used during protests and disasters

Offline-messaging app Bridgefy — which innovatively uses Bluetooth and Wi-fi — became known as the go-to app by thousands of protesters around the world to keep communications going even when oppressive regimes blocked or shut down the Internet. Recently, activists in Nigeria and Thailand have urged supporters to download the app, as last year, when protesters in Hong Kong downloaded Bridgefy to face the government’s censorship of phone services or data connections. In the last 12 months, the startup says it’s reached 2 million downloads. And since the events of the weekend, when Turkey and Greece were hit by an earthquake, the app is now trending on app stores for those regions.

Bridgefy is now publishing a major new update, with a new, crucial feature for activists: end-to-end encrypted messages. This will allow people to securely send and receive messages when they don’t have access to data and will use the same encryption protocol used by Signal, Whatsapp and Facebook Messenger .

Bridgefy launched in 2014 (and appeared on the TechCrunch Disrupt stage in 2017) when the founders identified the problem of not being able to communicate during the earthquakes in Mexico City. It started as a mobile app, and an SDK was added a few years later so other apps could also work without the Internet. The Bridgefy SDK is now licensed to companies on an annual subscription model, based on user volume and is integrated by more than 40 companies across payments, messaging, gaming, social media, dating, and natural disaster apps. Technically-speaking, its competitors include GoTenna and the moth-ball gathering Firechat, although Bridgefy has become better known in the activist space.

The startup is now raising a Seed round and has already raised $800,000 USD, with investors including Twitter cofounder Biz Stone, Alchemist Accelerator and GAN Ventures.

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GAIA Design has raised more capital to become the West Elm of Mexico

Designing higher end furniture for Mexico’s rising middle and upper-middle class consumers has netted the Mexico City-based GAIA $15 million in a new round of funding.

The bridge round will take the company through to a much larger capital raise planned for 2021 as the company capitalizes on the growth of e-commerce in Mexico.

A 2019 report from JP Morgan put the e-commerce market in Mexico at around $22.6 billion, and that’s with online sales only accounting for just 1.7% of the overall retail market. JP Morgan expects the market to increase at a 12.6% growth rate annually.

As with everything else, the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the adoption of digital services as the country’s population looks to practice safe social distancing and reduce the spread of the virus. For those consumers who can afford to shop online — even for high value products like furniture — they are, according to GAIA chief executive Philippe Cahuzac.

At GAIA the new funding will be used to add new features to the company’s online service, including consultations with interior designers, the development of curated looks, and the ability for customers to create design sketches and visualizations for products in the home. The company expects to also double down on its sales and marketing efforts with the new cash.

GAIA’s funding also helps extend the company’s vision of supporting small and medium-sized Mexican furniture producers through financial products, training and revenue management tools and educational offerings.

With its investment, IDB Invest joins existing investors in the company including Rise Capital, Capital Invest, VARIV
Capital, French Partners, FJ Labs, and Warby Parker co-founder David Gilboa .

Launched by Raffaello Starace, Hassan Yassine, and Cahuzac the company started as an online retailer exclusively, but now has expanded to 15 showrooms in Monterrey, Mexico City, Guadalajara, Puebla and Queretaro.

“We want to offer a branded and frictionless urban experience to the modern Mexican consumer,” said Cahuzac in a statement. “In five years we built the leading digital player in the home category in Mexico.”

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