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Original author: 
Amir Efrati

In one of the largest exoduses from Stanford University’s computer-science programs, more than a dozen students have left to launch a startup called Clinkle Corp. that aims to let other students — and eventually anyone — use their mobile devices to pay for goods and services.

Several professors also are funding and advising the company, in what may be the epitome of a Stanford-fueled startup.

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Lumo BodyTech, which makes a wearable waistband that tracks posture and movement and vibrates when the wearer slouches, has raised $5 million in Series A funding led by Madrona Venture Group.

LumobackThe Palo Alto, Calif.-based start-up doubled its goal in a Kickstarter campaign this summer, taking in $200,000 and more than 1,000 effective preorders for the Lumoback.

The Kickstarter backers now have their devices in hand, and Lumobacks will start shipping to the general public in January.

Lumo CEO Monisha Perkash described the Kickstarter campaign as a “de-risking” strategy, saying that it provided market validation and feedback that helped pave the way for the venture round.

Perkash said that Lumo eventually expects to move beyond posture into other devices that “give your body a voice.” Versus other wearable sensors, Lumo is particularly focused on real-time, accurate feedback — currently, in the form of a gentle buzz that gets wearers to stand up straight, or to walk around after an extended period of sitting.

 

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The venture capital firm funded by Google is building up its data sciences team to increase the capabilities inside its companies and to look for new investments in the area. The firm is extending a thesis that was developed inside Google about finding patterns in big collections of data, which it hopes will work in other industries.

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The Minerva Project says it’s planning to launch the first elite American university in a century. Sounds wacky, right?

But the project is starting to gather some heavyweight support: Former Harvard President and U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Larry Summers will chair its advisory board, and Benchmark Capital has committed $25 million, the VC firm’s largest seed investment ever.

Elite higher education is a stagnant market, argues Minerva CEO Ben Nelson. Far more people are qualified to get into top colleges than are admitted. Meanwhile, college education is too expensive and good teaching is undervalued. How can you address all that? By going online.

Unlike former Stanford professor and Google exec Sebastian Thrun’s Udacity, which started by offering a small selection of university-level classes online, Minerva plans to birth itself as a full alternative to college.

Minerva will be a virtual school, though it will encourage students to live together in dorm clusters around the world. It doesn’t plan to offer introductory-level classes — students will be expected to go to community colleges or take online courses to get up to speed.

To attract the best professors to contribute Minerva courses, the school will be paying them well and running an international “Minerva Prize” for the best college-level teaching, with a substantial cash reward.

As for admission, Minerva promises it will give “no weight to lineage, athletic ability, state or country of origin, or capacity to donate.”

Oh, and here’s the most ridiculously audacious bit of all of this: Minerva plans to admit its first class in 2014.

Here’s Nelson giving his pitch about “Taking on the Ivy League” last year at TEDxSF. Nelson was formerly CEO of SnapFish and chairman of RedBeacon.

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