Former Instacart CFO Sagar Sanghvi joins Accel as its newest partner

Instacart‘s chief financial officer Sagar Sanghvi has departed from the on-demand grocery delivery company after nearly six years and is returning to his investing roots. Specifically, Sanghvi has joined Accel as a partner focused on global growth-stage consumer and enterprise investments.

Prior to becoming CFO of Instacart, Sanghvi served as the company’s vice president of finance and strategy. Interestingly, when he became CFO of Instacart in 2019, he was succeeding Ravi Gupta, who left the company to join Sequoia Capital as a partner on its growth team.

Sanghvi and Gupta worked together as investors at KKR (after Sanghvi had worked as an analyst for Goldman Sachs), so it is notable they are following similar career paths of first working in finance and then becoming operators before transitioning into VC roles. Both joined Instacart in 2015. And Gupta is the one who introduced Sanghvi to Accel’s Miles Clements years ago.

When Sanghvi joined Instacart, it had approximately 300 employees. By the time he’d left earlier this year, it had more than 1,500.

“I’ve been through quite the roller coaster of ups and downs along the way. It was the classic Silicon Valley journey. During my time there, a few crazy things happened,” he told TechCrunch. “ Amazon bought Whole Foods. We experienced the COVID pandemic and lockdowns, which led to an amazing wave of demand. It was an interesting time to be navigating the company.”

And while Sanghvi says he would definitely rather see a business be smaller “than have COVID happen to the world,” it was a time where he learned a lot in helping grow the company.

One of the things Sanghvi worked on during his time at Instacart was a $200 million venture round in October 2020 that valued the company at $17.7 billion. (Since then it raised another $265 million at a $39 billion valuation.) In fact, during his tenure, the company raised more than $2 billion.

But now, Sanghvi will be the one investing in other companies’ rounds — out of Accel’s Palo Alto office.

While his Instacart experience is clearly relevant to the consumer space, Sanghvi said he’ll be working with not just consumer-focused startups, but also a lot of enterprise solutions.

“One of the things that drew me to Miles and the team was the experience and success Accel as a firm has had investing in all different types of companies within the technology sector and so I’m hoping to diversify my experience,” he told TechCrunch.

Clements praised what he described as Sanghvi’s “humility and versatility.”

“He’s done everything from raising $2 billion of capital to being in the minutiae of evaluating back office automation software. He has led a company that is on its way to being an iconic consumer brand, but he’s also been a media investor at KKR,” Clements said. “He guided Instacart through some massive recent fundraises but only because he has also helped navigate through some previous existential challenges. So he brings a lot of natural empathy to founders and entrepreneurs.”

For his part, Sanghvi is eager to start investing as part of the Accel team.

When deciding to move to the venture world, he said, he was looking for a “very well-known brand” that invested across at all stages. He found that in Accel, he said.

“One of the things that was important to me was to find the type of people who really care about the success of companies, and in every person I met at Accel, I could see they took that responsibility very seriously,” Sanghvi told TechCrunch.

He officially started in his new role last week, so he’s actively scoping out investments as I type.

#accel, #cfo, #instacart, #personnel, #sagar-sanghvi, #startups, #venture-capital

Freshworks aims for nearly $9 billion valuation in US IPO

Freshworks disclosed on Monday that it is aiming for a valuation of up to $9 billion in its US initial public offering in which it is hoping to raise over $800 million.

The California-based firm, which started its journey in India and rivals Salesforce, said it plans to sell 28.5 million shares at a price range of $28 to $32. If the firm is able to sell its shares at the top range, it will raise $912 million. Freshworks had originally filed paperworks for its IPO in late August, but hadn’t disclosed several figures.

The 11-year-old firm was last valued at $3.5 billion in a financing round in November 2019. The startup considered raising a pre-IPO round earlier this year at a valuation of over $5 billion but decided against it, a person familiar with the matter told TechCrunch.

Freshworks, which counts Accel, Sequoia Capital India, Tiger Global, and CapitalG among its existing investors, develops and offers a variety of business software tools, from CRM to help-desk software. In recent years, it has built enterprise SaaS platform to give customers a set of integrated business tools and aggressively pursued expansion in broadening its products offering.

The startup, which has applied to list its shares on Nasdaq under the symbol FRSH, serves over 50,000 customers and its revenue in the six months of the year grew to $169 million, up from $11 million during the same period last year. At the same time, its net loss dropped to $9.8 million from $57 million a year ago.

“First, based on industry research from International Data Corporation (IDC), we believe we have a large addressable market of approximately $120 billion,” the firm said in an updated S-1 filing on Monday.

“Second, based on our internal data and analysis, we estimate the annual potential market opportunity for our products to be $77 billion. […] We expect our estimated market opportunity will continue to expand as customers onboard more or expand usage of our products, increasing the weighted average ARR per customer for use of our products.”

TechCrunch recently spoke with Freshworks co-founder and chief executive Girish Mathrubootham about the business. Mathrubootham is one of the most respected entrepreneurs in India. Along with three friends, Mathrubootham launched an $85 million venture fund in late July this year to back early-stage SaaS startups.

#accel, #capitalg, #freshworks, #fundings-exits, #salesforce, #sequoia-capital-india, #tc, #tiger-global

Commercetools raises $140M at a $1.9B valuation as ‘headless’ commerce continues to boom

E-commerce these days is now a major part of every retailer’s strategy, so technology builders and platforms that are helping them compete better on digital screens are seeing a huge boost in business. In the latest turn, Commercetools — a provider of e-commerce APIs that larger retailers can use to build customized payment, check-out, social commerce, marketplace and other services — has closed $140 million in funding, a Series C that CEO Dirk Hoerig has confirmed to me values the company at $1.9 billion. 

The funding is being led by Accel, with previous investors Insight Partners and REWE Group also participating. Munich, Germany-based Commercetools spun out of REWE — a giant German retailer, and also a customer — and announced $145 million in investment led by Insight in October 2019.

This latest round represents a huge hike on its valuation since then, when Commercetools was valued at around $300 million.

Part of the reason for the big bump, of course, has been the wave of interest in digital transactions from shopping online. E-commerce was already growing at a steady pace before 2020, by some estimates representing more than half of all commerce transactions. The Covid-19 pandemic turbo-charged that proportion, with many retailers switching exclusively to internet sales, and consumers stuck at home happy to shop with a click.

While companies like Shopify have addressed the needs of smaller retailers, providing them with an alternative or complement to listing on third-party marketplaces like Amazon’s, Commercetools has built its business around catering to larger retailers and the many specific, large-scale needs and investment budgets that they may have for building their digital commerce solutions.

It provides some 300 APIs today around some nine “buckets” of services, and a wide network of integration partners, Hoerig said, and powers some $10 billion of sales annually for its customers, which include the likes of Audi, AT&T, Danone, Tiffany & Co., John Lewis and many others.

“Our main focus is the retailer with more than $100 million in gross merchandise value,” Hoerig said. “This is when it becomes interesting.” But he added that the force of market growth is such that Commercetools is also seeing a lot of business from smaller companies that are simply needing more functionality to address their fast growth. “So we also sometimes have customers that start at $5 million in GMV and quickly go to $50 million. With that scale, they also have specific requirements, so the lines get a bit blurry.” (And that also explains why investors are so interested: there is a lot of evidence of the market growing and growing; and by capturing smaller retailers on big trajectories, that represents a lot more scale for Commercetools.)

Hoerig is sometimes credited with being the person who first coined the term “headless commerce”, which basically means APIs that can be used by a company, or its team of strategists, developers and designers, to build their own customized check-out and other purchasing experiences, rather than fitting these into templates provided by the tech company powering the checkout.

But as the API economy has continued to grow, and the world of non-tech companies that use tech continues to mature, that has taking on a mass-market appeal, and so Commercetools is far from being the only one in this area. In addition to Shopify (which has its own version targeting larger businesses, Shopify Plus), others include SprykerSwellFabricChord and Shogun.

Commercetools will be using the funding both to continue organically expanding its business, but also to make some acquisitions to bolt on new customers, and new technology, tapping into some of the scaling and consolidation that is taking place across e-commerce as a whole. What will be interesting to see is where consolidation will happen, and which startups will be raising money to scale on their own: right now there is a lot of enthusiasm around the space because it is so buoyant, and that will spell more money being funneled to more startups.

Case in point: when I first got wind of this funding round, Commercetools told me it was in the middle of a deal to acquire a company. In the end, that company decided to stay independent and take some more investment to try to grow on its own. Hoerig said it’s now pursuing another target.

Indeed, that is also the bigger force that has brought Commercetools to where it is today.

“The chance to invest in a fast-growing, innovative commerce platform was one we could not pass up,” said Ping Li, the partner at Accel who led on this deal, said in a statement. “Commercetools provides e-commerce enterprises the technology necessary to capture revenue in the rapidly growing global e-commerce market.”

#accel, #api, #articles, #att, #audi, #business, #ceo, #commercetools, #content-management-systems, #danone, #e-commerce, #ecommerce, #economy, #europe, #germany, #headless-commerce, #insight-partners, #munich, #ping-li, #shopify, #social-commerce

Amagi tunes into $100M for cloud-based video content creation, monetization

Media technology company Amagi announced Friday $100 million to further develop its cloud-based SaaS technology for broadcast and connected televisions.

Accel, Avataar Ventures and Norwest Venture Partners joined existing investor Premji Invest in the funding round, which included buying out stakes held by Emerald Media and Mayfield Fund. Nadathur Holdings continues as an existing investor. The latest round gives Amagi total funding raised to date of $150 million, Baskar Subramanian, co-founder and CEO of Amagi, told TechCrunch.

New Delhi-based Amagi provides cloud broadcast and targeted advertising software so that customers can create content that can be created and monetized to be distributed via broadcast TV and streaming TV platforms like The Roku Channel, Samsung TV Plus and Pluto TV. The company already supports more than 2,000 channels on its platform across over 40 countries.

“Video is a complex technology to manage — there are large files and a lot of computing,” Subramanian said. “What Amagi does is enable a content owner with zero technology knowledge to simplify that complex workflow and scalable infrastructure. We want to make it easy to plug in and start targeting and monetizing advertising.”

As a result, Amagi customers see operational cost savings on average of up to 40% compared to traditional delivery models and their ad impressions grow between five and 10 times.

The new funding comes at a time when the company is experiencing rapid growth. For example, Amagi grew 30 times in the United States alone over the past few years, Subramanian said. Amagi commands an audience of over 2 billion people, and the U.S. is its largest market. The company also sees growth potential in both Latin America and Europe.

In addition, in the last year, revenue grew 136%, while new customer year over year growth was 44%, including NBCUniversal — Subramanian said the Tokyo Olympics were run on Amagi’s platform for NBC, USA Today and ABS-CBN.

As more of a shift happens with video content being developed for connected television experiences, which he said is a $50 billion market, the company plans to use the new funding for sales expansion, R&D to invest in the company’s product pipeline and potential M&A opportunities. The company has not made any acquisitions yet, Subramanian added.

In addition to the broadcast operations in New Delhi, Amagi also has an innovation center in Bangalore and offices in New York, Los Angeles and London.

“Consumer behavior and infrastructure needs have reached a critical mass and new companies are bringing in the next generation of media, and we are a large part of that growth,” Subramanian said. “Sports will come on quicker, while live news and events are going to be one of the biggest growth areas.”

Shekhar Kirani, partner at Accel, said Amagi is taking a unique approach to enterprise SaaS due to that $50 billion industry shift happening in video content, where he sees half of the spend moving to connected television platforms quickly.

Some of the legacy players like Viacom and NBCUniversal created their own streaming platforms, where Netflix and Amazon have also been leading, but not many SaaS companies are enabling the transition, he said.

When Kirani met Subramanian five years ago, Amagi was already well funded, but Kirani was excited about the platform and wanted to help the company scale. He believes the company has a long tailwind because it is saving people time and enabling new content providers to move faster to get their content distributed.

“Amagi is creating a new category and will grow fast,” Kirani added. “They are already growing and doubling each year with phenomenal SaaS metrics because they are helping content providers to connect to any audience.


#accel, #advertising-tech, #amagi, #avataar-ventures, #baskar-subramanian, #cloud, #cloud-computing, #computing, #content-creators, #developer, #enterprise, #funding, #india, #mayfield-fund, #media, #norwest-venture-partners, #recent-funding, #shekhar-kirani, #startups, #streaming-video, #tc, #video-content

Fin names former Twilio exec Evan Cummack as CEO, raises $20M

Work insights platform Fin raised $20 million in Series A funding and brought in Evan Cummack, a former Twilio executive, as its new chief executive officer.

The San Francisco-based company captures employee workflow data from across applications and turns it into productivity insights to improve the way enterprise teams work and remain engaged.

Fin was founded in 2015 by Andrew Kortina, co-founder of Venmo, and Facebook’s former VP of product and Slow Ventures partner Sam Lessin. Initially, the company was doing voice assistant technology — think Alexa but powered by humans and machine learning — and then workplace analytics software. You can read more about Fin’s origins at the link below.

In 2020, the company pivoted again to the company it is today. The new round was led by Coatue, with participation from First Round Capital, Accel and Kleiner Perkins. The original team was talented, but small, so the new funding will build out sales, marketing and engineering teams, Cummack said.

“At that point, the right thing was to raise money, so at the end of last year, the company raised a $20 million Series A, and it was also decided to find a leadership team that knows how to build an enterprise,” Cummack told TechCrunch. “The company had completely pivoted and removed ‘Analytics’ from our name because it was not encompassing what we do.”

Fin’s software measures productivity and provides insights on ways managers can optimize processes, coach their employees and see how teams are actually using technology to get their work done. At the same time, employees are able to manage their workflow and highlight areas where there may be bottlenecks. All combined, it leads to better operations and customer experiences, Cummack said.

Graphic showing how work is really done. Image Credits: Fin

Fin’s view is that as more automation occurs, the company is looking at a “renaissance of human work.” There will be more jobs and more types of jobs, but people will be able to do them more effectively and the work will be more fulfilling, he added.

Particularly with the use of technology, he notes that in the era before cloud computing, there was a small number of software vendors. Now with the average tech company using over 130 SaaS apps, it allows for a lot of entrepreneurs and adoption of best-in-breed apps so that a viable company can start with a handful of people and leverage those apps to gain big customers.

“It’s different for enterprise customers, though, to understand that investment and what they are spending their money on as they use tools to get their jobs done,” Cummack added. “There is massive pressure to improve the customer experience and move quickly. Now with many people working from home, Fin enables you to look at all 130 apps as if they are one and how they are being used.”

As a result, Fin’s customers are seeing metrics like 16% increase in team utilization and engagement, a 25% decrease in support ticket handle time and a 71% increase in policy compliance. Meanwhile, the company itself is doubling and tripling its customers and revenue each year.

Now with leadership and people in place, Cummack said the company is positioned to scale, though it already had a huge head start in terms of a meaningful business.

Arielle Zuckerberg, partner at Coatue, said via email that she was part of a previous firm that invested in Fin’s seed round to build a virtual assistant. She was also a customer of Fin Assistant until it was discontinued.

When she heard the company was pivoting to enterprise, she “was excited because I thought it was a natural outgrowth of the previous business, had a lot of potential and I was already familiar with management and thought highly of them.”

She believed the “brains” of the company always revolved around understanding and measuring what assistants were doing to complete a task as a way to create opportunities for improvement or automation. The pivot to agent-facing tools made sense to Zuckerberg, but it wasn’t until the global pandemic that it clicked.

“Service teams were forced to go remote overnight, and companies had little to no visibility into what people were doing working from home,” she added. “In this remote environment, we thought that Fin’s product was incredibly well-suited to address the challenges of managing a growing remote support team, and that over time, their unique data set of how people use various apps and tools to complete tasks can help business leaders improve the future of work for their team members. We believe that contact center agents going remote was inevitable even before COVID, but COVID was a huge accelerant and created a compelling ‘why now’ moment for Fin’s solution.”

Going forward, Coatue sees Fin as “a process mining company that is focused on service teams.” By initially focusing on customer support and contact center use case — a business large enough to support a scaled, standalone business — rather than joining competitors in going after Fortune 500 companies where implementation cycles are long and there is slow time-to-value, Zuckerberg said Fin is better able to “address the unique challenges of managing a growing remote support team with a near-immediate time-to-value.”


#accel, #andrew-kortina, #arielle-zuckerberg, #artificial-intelligence, #automation, #business-intelligence, #business-process-management, #cloud, #cloud-computing, #coatue, #enterprise, #fin, #first-round-capital, #funding, #groupware, #kleiner-perkins, #machine-learning, #process-mining, #recent-funding, #saas, #sam-lessin, #slow-ventures, #startups, #talent, #tc, #twilio, #workflow

UnitQ raises $30M in Accel-led round to help companies improve product quality

Product quality is hugely important when it comes to the success of a product. Even if your product seems really cool, if it’s buggy or doesn’t work well, many people will just stop using it rather than taking the time to figure it out or even report a problem.

UnitQ, a Burlingame, California-based startup using a data-driven approach to product quality, today announced it has raised $30 million in a Series B funding round led by Accel to tackle this issue. In a nutshell, the company uses artificial intelligence to help businesses determine what is specifically impacting product quality at any given time, notes unitQ co-founder and CEO Christian Wiklund.

While he would not disclose valuation or hard revenue figures, the CEO says unitQ has been tripling its ARR (annual recurring revenue) every 12 months. 

The SaaS company’s goal is to give engineering, support, product ops and product management teams the ability to identify and, more importantly, fix quality issues that might be impacting customer satisfaction and retention.

Specifically, unitQ says it identifies actionable insights in a variety of ways. For one, it gathers user feedback from public sources like app reviews and social media and from private sources such as support tickets, support chats and surveys. It also does this through its own API, which connects to other external data sources. Currently, the company integrates into, and pulls insights from, 26 platforms and also ingests the data from anywhere there is user feedback.

With all these data points, Wiklund said, unitQ then “automatically tags and analyzes” quality issues with the goal of delivering “the most comprehensive and accurate view of product quality yet.”

The startup is mostly focused on consumer companies, but also has some B2B clients. Customers include Chime, Pandora, The RealReal, NerdWallet, Strava and AppLovin, among others.

“Our goal is to not only enable them to move faster and build higher-quality products, we want to help them build a quality company,” Wiklund told TechCrunch.

The premise behind the company is that these days, when so many consumer-facing industries are incredibly crowded, it can be difficult to stand out.

“Product features are a bit too easy to replicate and copy so most apps and products have a very similar feature set,” he said. “It’s hard to compete with features pricing too. Even content is becoming a commodity. But quality is the one thing that we all experience and the one thing that when we touch a product, we form our opinion.”

And poor quality, Wiklund maintains, can impact the growth of a company in many ways, such as reputation and pace of product development. 

“So we want to make sure that every conversion cycle inside of the product is as fine-tuned as possible,” he said.

Image Credits: UnitQ

The company says that on average, its customers are able to increase their product quality by 20% in 30 days. It also touts that its technology is able to glean insights that are more valuable than Net Promoter Scores (NPS) — a tool used by many product teams that tend to be based mostly on surveys that are proactively sent out by businesses. Such scores, Wiklund said, are more likely to capture positive sentiments and “represent a tiny fraction of users.”

Existing backers Creandum — the early-stage Swedish fund which also backed Shopify — and Gradient Ventures, Google’s AI-focused venture fund, also put money in the round, which brings the startup’s total amount raised since its 2018 launch to $41 million.  

UnitQ plans to use its new capital toward beefing up its engineering and go-to-market teams, according to Wiklund. 

The idea for unitQ was born out of the co-founding duo’s previous company, Skout. That Andreessen Horowitz-backed social app had over 50 million app installations before being acquired by MeetMe for $28.5 million in cash and approximately 5.37 million common shares in 2016. 

“During the decade we worked on Skout, we never lost sight of the user experience and our top priority was ensuring people were happy with our product,” Wiklund recalls. “We would have loved to have access to a product like unitQ.”

DI Repotage

Andrew Braccia and Ben Fletcher of Accel, who worked on the deal, believe the fact that the founding team are repeat founders who intimately understand the problem that they are solving is a big advantage. 

“The customer feedback was over-the-top positive. Spotify, Cornershop, Pinterest, Whoop and Strava all rave that not only does unitQ ingest all of their data from app store reviews, internal support tickets and social media feedback, but they correlate this data so that it gives them the highest-value bug and improvement fixes for their products, something they could not find elsewhere,” Fletcher told TechCrunch.

They also believe that unitQ is creating a category around aggregating user feedback and then tying it back to product and engineering teams.  

“Similar to PagerDuty for incident management and DataDog for performance observability; unitQ is creating a new category around product quality and quality scores and indicators for their end customers; we think this would be really, really large,” Braccia added. “Teams are citing that churn is going down, revenue is going up, and engineering teams are shipping code faster for the things that really matter for their products because of the insights that they are getting from unitQ.”

#accel, #recent-funding, #saas, #startups, #tc, #unitq

Gaia Capital Partners in Paris rebrands as Revaia, closes first €250M growth fund

Paris-based VC fund Gaia Capital Partners has change its name to Revaia and announced the final closing of its first growth fund, at €250 million. The firm said it exceeded its initial target of €200 million, and the fund will be ‘ESG focused’.

Revaia is also claiming to be Europe’s largest female-founded VC fund, although TechCrunch has not been able to verify that at the time of publication.

As Gaia Capital Partners, Revaia launched its first fund in late 2019, the portfolio for which currently consists of ten investments, including Aircall, recently achieved a unicorn valuation. Other investments include Epsor (Paris: Epsor designs and distributes employee savings and retirement plans), GetAccept (SF: an all-in-one sales enablement solution that assists B2B sales reps in closing remote deals), gohenry (London: a kids money management application), Planity (Paris: an online booking platform for hair and beauty salons), Welcome to the Jungle (Paris: a multichannel media company), and Yubo (Paris: a social platform for Generation Z).

Alice Albizzati, co-founder of Revaia said in a statement: “When we set up the firm, we were determined to create an investment strategy in line with our convictions – a focus on European companies with high ambitions but with no compromise on sustainability – and with the objective of bridging the gap between private and public markets. Our venture has performed beyond our initial expectations.”

The firm now has an office in Paris and Berlin, as well as a presence in New York and Toronto

The fund’s institutional investors include insurance companies such as Generali, Allianz, and Maif, pension funds, other institutional investors such as Bpifrance, as well as over 50 family offices and Angels.

Elina Berrebi, co-founder of Revaia, said: “We are very grateful to our investors and entrepreneurs who trusted us as we accelerated the build-up of our portfolio. This final closing of our first fund is a huge milestone. It is a solid foundation from which we can support future European technology leaders with their ambitions and sustainability plans, as well as expand and internationalize our team while building a strong value creation platform.”

Revaia said the new fund had already begun investing, and “two new investments should be announced soon”.

The firm says it aims to invest in around 15 companies and expand across Europe.

It’s also partnered with listed market sustainable investor Sycomore Asset Management.

#accel, #allianz, #berlin, #bpifrance, #co-founder, #europe, #finance, #gaia-capital-partners, #insurance, #investment, #london, #maif, #money, #new-york, #paris, #tc, #vc

Accel leads $18M Series A for Knoetic, a startup that wants to make HR professionals’ lives easier with software

Knoetic, a startup that has built a software analytics platform for chief people officers, emerged from stealth today with $18 million in Series A funding.

For the unacquainted, chief people officers are also known as heads of human resources, or HR.

Accel led the financing, which notably also included participation from over 100 angel investors, including a number of executives, VCs and former and current chief people officers (CPOs) of companies such as Mozilla, Pinterest, Gusto, Box, Twilio, Fitbit, Kickstarter, Looker, Hired and GitHub.

For founder and CEO Joseph Quan, the fact that so many people who worked in the industry put money in the round as angels was huge validation that Knoetic is on the right track.

Founded in March 2020, the New York City-based startup has built a platform that combines a social network and a SaaS analytics tool for chief people officers. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit last year, human resources leaders found themselves in a position they’d never before been — hiring talent remotely and having to work virtually to retain workers that previously came to an office.

Quan himself has worked in a variety of roles in the HR technology space, including at Twine, Knoetic’s predecessor company. 

Image Credits: Knoetic; Founder and CEO Joseph Quan

“The reason we exist was really born out of the pandemic. We noticed in our ecosystem of chief people officers that their role was thrust into the spotlight and it was a really tough time for them, and also a really lonely time,” Quan told TechCrunch. “Everyone was kind of scrambling for answers and we just realized this was a time to actually put together a network that allows all these people to commiserate and tackle some of their hardest questions, and then from that, form the basis for a broader vision.”

Over 1,000 HR professionals are members of Knoetic’s social community, which the company has embedded directly into its people analytics software. The result, Quan said, is an “Insight Engine” designed to give CPOs both quantitative and qualitative insights with the goal of helping them make “smarter, holistic” decisions about their workforce. The network is a referral-only community aimed at giving HR professionals a forum to discuss best practices and their “most pressing challenges,” such as how to navigate the COVID Delta variant and transition to and from remote work, Quan said.

 Chief people officers can also use Knoetic to do things like build board decks and present data to their CEOs. The company also claims the platform can help CPOs improve employee retention, compensation and hiring. 

Image Credits: Knoetic

In a short amount of time, Knoetic has built an impressive customer and community base, including the likes of Lyft, Squarespace, Amplitude, Discord, Dollar Shave Club and Zapier. 

Vas Natarajan of Accel believes that Knoetic is solving “a deep pain point.”

“We see how overstretched people teams are trying to wrangle information to make organizational decisions,” he wrote via email. “Across our best companies is a strong people function backed by great data to help inform all kinds of decisions around compensation, performance, and diversity and inclusion, among other things. Knoetic is uniformly solving this for everyone.”

The startup will use its new capital toward building out new products and hiring. It currently has about 25 employees, and Quan expects that number to grow to “north of 40” by year’s end.

“We want to build the single greatest network for HR professionals and build a dedicated community team,” he said.

Down the line, Quan also envisions creating an analytics engine that is “prescriptive and predictive” and can do things like tell HR leaders what kind of turnover their companies are seeing, what they can do about it and how to improve retention.

“And then it would be predictive as we gather more big data points as more people use the platform,” he added. “Then we could use that data to proactively predict who’s going to be a fast-rising company or who’s going to trip over the next 12 months. We’re starting to build those kinds of models on the back end.”

#accel, #chief-people-officer, #hiring, #hr, #knoetic, #new-york-city, #recent-funding, #startup, #startups, #vas-natarajan, #venture-capital

Why global investors are flocking to back Latin American startups

The Latin America startup ecosystem is having a great year, with mega-rounds being announced at breakneck speed and new unicorns minted almost monthly. This is mostly due to the clearly maturing startup scene in the region, with proven successes such as Nubank, Cornershop, Gympass and Loggi helping to bolster LatAm’s credibility.

Interestingly, many of the region’s rounds are led by or saw participation from investors based elsewhere. Firms such as SoftBank, Tiger Global Management, Tencent, Accel, Ribbit Capital and QED Investors are pouring money into LatAm. Some are even seeing more opportunity than in the U.S. — Latin America, they believe, has historically been ripe for disruption, especially in the fintech and proptech sectors, due to the significant underbanked and unbanked population in the region and the relatively unstructured real estate industry.

Last month, my colleagues Anna Heim and Alex Wilhelm found that structural factors such as strong digital penetration and quick e-commerce growth are among the key reasons Latin America is breaking venture capital records this year. One Mexico-based VC even declared that the story was about “talent, not capital.”

Local VCs are raving about the human capital in the region, but for some global investors, the appeal of Latin America extends beyond the talent to the general populace. Shu Nyatta, a managing partner at SoftBank who co-leads its $5 billion Latin America Fund, pointed out a dynamic that might seem obvious but is rarely articulated: Technology in LatAm is often more about inclusion rather than disruption.

“The vast majority of the population is underserved in almost every category of consumption. Similarly, most businesses are underserved by modern software solutions,” Nyatta explained. “There’s so much to build for so many people and businesses. In San Francisco, the venture ecosystem makes life a little better for individuals and businesses who are already living in the future. In LatAm, tech entrepreneurs are building the future for everyone else.”

Accel Partner Ethan Choi says the region’s consumer markets are growing rapidly thanks to a fast-growing middle class and “technology permeating through every aspect of consumers’ lives.” This has spurred demand for digital offerings, which has led to more startups, and consequently, investor interest.

Brazil and Mexico riding the gravy train

One look at the dollars pouring into LatAm this year is enough to convince anyone of the skyrocketing interest.

Latin America saw a total of $6.2 billion in incoming venture capital in the first half of 2021, more than double the $2.6 billion in the same period last year, and even beating the $4.1 billion invested across all of 2020, according to preliminary data from LAVCA (the Association for Private Capital Investment in Latin America — LAVCA used a different methodology than CB Insights, in case you’re wondering).

#accel, #brazil, #funding, #fundings-exits, #latin-america, #mexico, #owl-ventures, #qed-investors, #quintoandar, #ribbit-capital, #softbank, #softbank-group, #startups, #tc, #venture-capital

Accel doubles down on 1Password, which just raised $100M more at a $2B valuation

Toronto-based 1Password is one of those rare companies that is a) profitable and b) transparent enough to share financials.

And today, the company announced that it raised $100 million in a Series B round of funding that doubles the company’s valuation to $2 billion.

You may recall that the previously bootstrapped 1Password only raised its first round of external capital in 2019 – a $200 million Series A led by Accel that represented the venture firm’s largest single investment in its 35-year history. At the time, 1Password was hardly a startup, having been founded in 2005. 

Accel also led its latest round, which notably included participation from Ashton Kutcher’s Sound Ventures, Kim Jackson’s Skip Capital and a slew of tech executives including Tobias Lütke, CEO of Shopify; Harley Finkelstein, president of Shopify; Stewart Butterfield, co-founder and CEO of Slack; Anthony Caselena, founder and CEO of Squarespace; Mike Cannon-Brookes and Scott Farquhar, co-CEOs of Atlassian; and Kevin Hartz, co-founder and chairman of Eventbrite, among others.

Profitable since day one, 1Password recently crossed the $120 million in ARR (annual recurring revenue) mark, according to CEO Jeff Shiner. Over 90,000 businesses use its SaaS platform, including a number of big names such as Under Armour, Shopify, the PGA, IBM, GitLab, Slack and PagerDuty. That’s up from 50,000 customers at the time of its November 2019 raise.

Founding couples Dave and Sara Teare and Roustem and Natalia Karimov came up with the idea for 1Password while they were growing another company that built websites and realized the struggle of keeping up with passwords.

It started out focused on consumers only. Over time, it evolved and began offering its password management services to businesses. This move took an already successful company to another level. 

It also caught the attention of Accel, which has a history of investing in bootstrapped and profitable businesses. In both its Series A and B rounds, the venture firm approached the company about investing.

Accel partner Arun Mathew, who drove his firm’s investment in 1Password in both rounds, noted that “1Password has a very unique company profile. To see a company riding all these market tailwinds with fundamentals and metrics like this is really, really unusual. Our hope is this [latest round] allows the entire company to be even more aggressive about winning this market.”

Since its last raise, 1Password has continued to evolve — a testament to its self-proclaimed intent to never sit on its laurels, said Shiner. For one thing, it has increased its headcount from 174 employees to about 475 today, including the formation of a go-to-market team, which the company never really had before.

And in the past few months, 1Password has expanded its business offerings, launching Secrets Automation in April and more recently, 1Password Events,  an enterprise offering aimed at protecting “critical”  business information. It has also launched a Linux Desktop Application and integrations with Slack and Rippling. 

Image Credits: 1Password

Secrets Automation, Shiner said, allows 1Password to protect a business’ infrastructure secrets “machine to machine.”

“Password management is usually human to machine, so it’s a huge win for us and expands what we do into the broader infrastructure,” he added. It was able to launch Secrets Automation with the help of the acquisition of a Dutch company, SecretHub. 

The company is planning to use some of its new capital for further acquisitions as the number of startups in the cybersecurity space continues to grow.

“Having a stronger balance sheet only helps the company take calculated risks and be opportunistic about potential M&A or investing even more aggressively where we see opportunity,” Accel’s Mathew said. “For almost 16 years, this company has been one of the best-kept secrets, no pun intended, for businesses and consumers alike.”

The COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting work-from-home shift only led to more demand for 1Password’s offering. In fact, with each business account, 1Password is giving each employee a free family account to use at home. 

“As work and home have mixed, it’s been a huge benefit for users,” Shiner said.

That line-blurring is one of the reasons that Accel sees even more potential in 1Password. The firm has 24 active security investments across its portfolio, according to Accel partner Ethan Choi.

“This doubling down [on 1Password] signifies our belief that this is one of the most important areas of security today,” Choi said. “CIOs and CISOs want their employees to be productive and get into the applications they need to, but they also need them to be secure.”

For its part, 1Password believes that despite being around for 16 years, it’s only “just scratching the surface,” according to Shiner.

“I think that’s what gets us excited, is just this incredible opportunity that we see in front of us,” he said. “We need to keep moving forward, with urgency.”

Gaining the insight of so many experienced tech execs was also a factor in raising more capital, Shiner said.

“We already had a great relationship with Accel, but being able to bring in those additional folks and the experience they bring along with them is tremendously valuable,” he added.

#1password, #accel, #arun-mathew, #funding, #fundings-exits, #kevin-hartz, #privacy, #recent-funding, #saas, #scott-farquhar, #security, #startups, #stewart-butterfield, #tc, #tobias-lutke, #verified-experts

Blameless raises $30M to guide companies through their software lifecycle

Site reliability engineering platform Blameless announced Tuesday it raised $30 million in a Series B funding round, led by Third Point Ventures with participation from Accel, Decibel and Lightspeed Venture Partners, to bring total funding to over $50 million.

Site reliability engineering (SRE) is an extension of DevOps designed for more complex environments.

Blameless, based in San Mateo, California, emerged from stealth in 2019 after raising both a seed and Series A round, totaling $20 million. Since then, it has turned its business into a blossoming software platform.

Blameless’ platform provides the context, guardrails and automated workflows so engineering teams are unified in the way they communicate and interact, especially to resolve issues quicker as they build their software systems.

It originally worked with tech-forward teams at large companies, like Home Depot, that were “dipping [their toes] into the space and now [want] to double down,” co-founder and CEO Lyon Wong told TechCrunch.

The company still works with those tech-forward teams, but in the past two years, more companies sought out resident SRE architect Kurt Anderson to advise them, causing Blameless to change up its business approach, Wong said.

Other companies are also seeing a trend of customers asking for support — for example, in March, Google Cloud unveiled its Mission Critical Services support option for SRE to serve in a similar role as a consultant as companies move toward readiness with their systems. And in February, Nobl9 raised a $21 million Series B to provide enterprises with the tools they need to build service-level-objective-centric operations, which is part of a company’s SRE efforts.

Blameless now has interest from more mainstream companies in the areas of enterprise, logistics and healthcare. These companies aren’t necessarily focused on technology, but see a need for SRE.

“Companies recognize the shortfall in reliability, and then the question they come to us with is how do they get from where they are to where they want to be,” Anderson said. “Often companies that don’t have a process respond with ‘all hands on deck’ all the time, but instead need to shift to the right people responding.”

Lyon plans to use the new funding to fill key leadership roles, the company’s go-to-market strategy and product development to enable the company to go after larger enterprises.

Blameless doubled its revenue in the last year and will expand to service all customer segments, adding small and emerging businesses to its roster of midmarket and large companies. The company also expects to double headcount in the next three quarters.

As part of the funding announcement, Third Point Ventures partner Dan Moskowitz will join Blameless’ board of directors with Wong, Accel partner Vas Natarajan and Lightspeed partner Ravi Mhatre.

“Freeing up engineering to focus on shipping code is exactly what Blameless achieves,” said Moskowitz in a written statement. “The Blameless market opportunity is big as we see teams struggle and resort to creating homegrown playbooks and point solutions that are incomplete and costly.”


#accel, #blameless, #dan-moskowitz, #developer, #devops, #enterprise, #funding, #google, #kurt-anderson, #lightspeed-venture-partners, #lyon-wong, #ravi-mhatre, #recent-funding, #san-mateo, #site-reliability-engineering, #software-development, #software-engineering, #startups, #third-point-ventures, #vas-natarajan, #venture-capital

Amazon-backed Indian D2C beauty brand MyGlamm raises $71 million

MyGlamm, a direct-to-consumer beauty brand in India that sells most of its products through its own website, app and retail touch points, said on Monday it has raised $71.3 million in a financing round as the Mumbai-headquartered firm looks to scale its business across the South Asian market.

The startup had raised $23.5 million in its four-times subscribed Series C financing round from Amazon, Ascent Capital, Wipro in March this year. On Monday, it said it has added an additional $47.8 million as part of the round — which is now closed.

Accel led the investment in the new tranche while existing MyGlamm investors — Bessemer Venture Partners, L’Occitane, Ascent, Amazon, Mankekar family, Trifecta and Strides Ventures — also participated, Darpan Sanghvi, founder and chief executive of MyGlamm, told TechCrunch in an interview.

Sanghvi started MyGlamm in 2017 after pivoting his previous venture. He recalled the struggle he faced raising money for a direct-to-consumer brand, which were not as popular in the world’s second largest internet market just five years ago. To make matters worse, MyGlamm was also among the last direct-to-consumer startups to kick off its journeys at the time.

MyGlamm website

The startup today operates as a house of brands in the beauty and personal care spaces. “We operate across makeup, skincare, haircare, bath and body, and personal care. Unlike other brands, we have been able to successfully build a master brand across categories,” he said over a video call.

“The reason we have been able to build this is because we are truly direct to consumers. This allows us to communicate very directly with them,” he said, adding that most other firms in the industry are too reliant on third-party marketplaces for their sales.

He attributed the recent growth of the startup, which sells over 800 SKUs across categories (up from 600 in March), to its newfound user acquisition strategy. In August, the startup acquired POPxo, a startup that has built a community around content, influencers and commerce and serves over 60 million monthly active users.

“The content to the commerce engine has become our biggest moat,” he said. “We are acquiring 250,000 new users each month without spending any real money.”

POPxo, which is run by Priyanka Gill, engages with nearly 300,000 users each month, gathering their feedback and ideas for new products. Gill said in a video call that “in this line of business, CAC (cost of customer acquisition) is the game and POPxo has solved this problem,” she said, adding that POPxo, which is run like a fairly independent business, is on track to reach over 100 million users by March next year.

The startup also has 15,000 point-of-sale touch points in the physical world across India. The physical presence, which accounts for 40% of the revenue it generates today, “has been crucial to scale in the country,” Sanghvi said.

“We believe that the time is ripe for building out digital first CPG brands with a deep focus on content-to-commerce,” said Anand Daniel, Partner at Accel, in a statement.

“COVID has only cemented this belief. The unique combination of content coupled with a compelling product line gave us the conviction to lead this round in MyGlamm. We are excited to partner with Darpan, Priyanka and the MyGlamm team and look forward to building out the next generation CPG giant,” he said.

The startup plans to deploy the fresh funds to expand its product development, data science and technology research teams. It is also working to expand its offline presence and broadening the digital reach of POPxo.

The new investment comes at a time when Indian startups are raising record capital and a handful of mature firms are beginning to explore the public markets. Last week, Tribe Capital’s investment crowned BlackBuck as India’s 16th unicorn this year, compared to 11 last year and six in 2019. Food delivery startup Zomato made a stellar stock market debut last week and financial services firms MobiKwik and Paytm have also filed for their IPOs. Insurance aggregator service PolicyBazaar and online beauty e-commerce firm Nykaa are also expected to file their paperworks for IPO in the coming weeks.

#accel, #amazon, #asia, #ecommerce, #funding, #india

Mint’s first PM raises millions for Monarch, an Accel-backed money management platform

Monarch, a subscription-based platform that aims to help consumers “plan and manage” their financial lives, has raised $4.8 million in seed funding.

Accel led the round, which also included participation from SignalFire, and brings the Mountain View-based yet fully distributed startup’s total funding since its 2019 inception to $5.5 million.

Co-founder and CEO Val Agostino was the first product manager on the original team that built There, he said, he saw firsthand that Americans with a greater understanding of financial matters “needed software solutions that went beyond just tracking and budgeting.” 

“They needed help planning their financial future and understanding the tradeoffs between competing financial priorities,” he said.

Monarch aims to help people address those needs with software it says “makes it easy” for people to outline their financial goals and then create a detailed, forward-looking plan toward achieving them. 

“We then help customers track their progress against their plan and automatically course correct as their financial situation changes, which it always does,” Agostino said.

Monarch came out of private beta in early 2021 with apps for web, iOS and Android, and is priced at $9.99 per month or $89.99 per year. The startup intentionally opted to not be ad-supported or sell customers’ financial data.

These approaches are “misaligned with users’ financial interests,” Agostino said.

“We felt that a subscription business model would best support that ethos and align our users’ interests with our own,” he added. Since launching publicly, Monarch has been growing its paid subscriber base by about 9% per week.

Image Credits: Monarch

Monarch launched during the pandemic, the uncertainty of which carried over into people’s financial lives, believes Agostino.

“As a result, we saw a lot of people make use of Monarch’s forecasting features to compare different ‘what if ‘scenarios such as switching jobs or moving to a different city or state,” he said.

Earlier this month, TechCrunch reported on a company with a similar mission, BodesWell, teaming up with American Express on a financial planning tool for its cardholders. Agostino said that Monarch is similar to BodesWell in that both startups help customers map a financial plan and future. 

“The difference is that Monarch also has a full suite of PFM tools, such as budgeting, reporting and investment analysis,” he said. “The benefit to the consumer is that because Monarch is connected to your entire financial picture, we can help you actually stay on track with your financial plan and/or update the plan in real time if needed.”

Accel’s Daniel Levine said that until he came across Monarch, he was “somehow still a Mint customer despite its obsolescence.”

Over the past decade, the landscape for financial products has expanded dramatically, with more people having brokerage and crypto accounts, for example, Levine said.

In his view, Monarch stands out for a couple of reasons. For one, it’s a subscription product.

“One thing I always hated about Mint was when it would suggest the objectively wrong credit card for me,” Levine said. “It has all of my transaction data, it should tell me the card with the best rewards for me. Monarch is set up to never compromise what’s best for the user in favor of advertising.”

Secondly, Monarch’s aim is to serve as the infrastructure for its customers. To do that, it needs to monitor all of someone’s finances. 

“They need to track checking, credit cards, brokerage, real estate and crypto,” he said. “Monarch is committed to doing that. It’s an incredibly painful problem and even though Monarch is a new entrant in the space, I think they’ve clearly separated themselves on that dimension.”

#accel, #daniel-levine, #economy, #finance, #financial-services, #fintech, #funding, #fundings-exits, #monarch, #money-management, #recent-funding, #signalfire, #startup, #startups, #val-agostino, #venture-capital

Pillar VC closes $192M for two funds targeting SaaS, crypto, biotech, manufacturing

As its name suggests, venture firm Pillar VC is focused on building “pillar” companies in Boston and across the Northeast.

The Boston-based seed-stage firm closed a raise of $192 million of capital that was split into two funds, $169 million for Pillar III and $23 million for Pillar Select. More than 25 investors are backing the new fund, including portfolio founders.

Jamie Goldstein, Sarah Hodges and Russ Wilcox are Pillar VC’s three partners, and all three lead investments for Pillar. The trio all have backgrounds as entrepreneurs: Goldstein, who has spent the past two decades in VC, co-founded speech recognition company PureSpeech, which was acquired by Voice Control Systems; Hodges was at online learning company Pluralsight; and Wilcox was CEO of electronic paper company E Ink, which he sold in 2009.

Pillar typically invests in a range of enterprise and consumer startups and aims to target Pillar III at startups focused on biology, enterprise SaaS, AI/ML, crypto, fintech, hardware, manufacturing and logistics. The firm will make pre-seed investments of $50,000 to $500,000 and seed-round investments of $2 million to $6 million.

One of the unique aspects of the firm is that it will buy common stock so that it will be aligned with founders and take on the same risks, Goldstein told TechCrunch.

The firm, founded in 2016, already has 50 portfolio companies from its first two funds — Pillar I, which raised $57 million, and Pillar $100 million. These include cryptocurrency company Circle, which announced a SPAC earlier this month, 3D printing company Desktop Metal that went public, also via SPAC, last year, and PillPack, which was bought by Amazon in 2018.

“Pillar is an experiment, answering the question of ‘what would happen if unicorn CEOs came in and helped bootstrap the next generation’,” Wilcox said. “The experience is working, and Pillar does what VCs ought to do, which is back first-of-its-kind ideas.”

In addition to leading investments, Hodges leads the Pillar VC platform for the firm’s portfolio companies. Many of the portfolio companies are spinouts from universities, and need help turning that technology into a company. Pillar provides guidance to recruit a CEO or partner on the business side, leadership development, recruit talent and makes introductions to potential customers.

Pillar also intends to invest a third of the new fund into that biology category, specifically looking at the convergence of life science and technology, Wilcox said.

In its second fund, the firm started Petri, a pre-seed bio accelerator focused on biotech, and brought in founders using computation and engineering to develop technologies around the areas of agriculture, genetics, cell and gene therapies, medical data and drug discovery. The third fund will continue to support the accelerator through both pre-seed and seed investments.

The first investments from Pillar III are being finalized, but Hodges expects to infuse capital into another 50 companies.

“We are super bullish on Boston,” she added. “So many companies here are growing to be household names, and an exciting energy is coming out.”


#accel, #boston, #circle, #cryptocurrency, #desktop-metal, #enterprise, #funding, #jamie-goldstein, #pillar-vc, #pillpack, #russ-wilcox, #sarah-hodges, #tc, #venture-capital

Dispatch from Bangalore

A startup founder, who hasn’t had much sleep all week, woke up on a recent Sunday to a phone call from his co-founder. A senior engineer was feeling burnt out and was contemplating leaving. For the founder, who had several calls scheduled with many high-profile Silicon Valley investors later in the day, talking this developer out of leaving the job quickly became the top agenda item for the rest of the weekend.

There’s a joke among many startup founders in Bangalore that hiring two to three engineers is currently more time-consuming and cumbersome than securing a fresh round of funding. Heavily-backed startups are increasingly paying big premiums to attract and retain talent, making it very challenging for their younger siblings to scale. And relying on recruiters is costly and still takes over a month to close a hire.

A good engineer with two to three years of experience with any recognizable startup expects $70,000 a year as salary, up from about $40,000 a year ago. A puzzled startup founder recently quizzed another peer in the industry how much a good QA engineer costs, and then answered the question himself: about $35,000, up from about $20,000.

Most difficult to poach are those who work at unicorn fintechs CRED and RazorPay, many startup founders said. Engineers from either of the firms expect as much as $150,000 a year, if not more — often four to five times the amount founders at early stage startups draw themselves.

The intense competition for talent has been prompted by newly turned unicorns increasing the pool on their captables for employee stock options, a concept that was nearly elusive just three years ago. Scores of U.S. and European startups are also aggressively hiring in India as remote working begins to take off.

India has produced a record 16 unicorns this year as Tiger Global, Falcon Edge, and SoftBank cut large size checks to the nation’s promising startups at a pace never witnessed before in the South Asian nation.

Indian startups have raised a record $10.46 billion in the first half of 2021, up from $4 billion during the same period last year, and $5.4 billion in the first half of 2019, data insight platform Tracxn told me. (In all of 2020, Indian startups raised $11.6 billion.)

The average size of a seed round in India was $1.1 million in the first half of 2021, up from $800,000 during the same period last year and $740,000 in 2019, per Tracxn. An average Series A check size this year has been $7.67 million, up from $4.30 million in the $4.30 million last year, and $5.92 million last year.

Even the early-stage startups are at the centre of attraction as virtually everyone is attempting to get in on a deal. Some second-time founders now have the confidence and networking to bypass Sequoia Capital India’s Surge accelerator program and Y Combinator and still gain access to some of the perks they offer.

Some aren’t engaging with funds at all for their seed financing rounds. Scores of startup founders from the past decade have accrued enough capital to write dozens of checks a year to early promising startups.

The abundance of dry powder in the market and the increased competition from some of the most reputable names in the industry have also changed the power dynamics between founders and investors. It’s becoming common for founders to negotiate from a place of strength to hold on the rights and preferential treatments from investors.

On a call recently, two founders discussed what many would consider a first-world dilemma: Dozens of investors had agreed to invest in them, but they no longer had so much stake to offer. So they strategize what stake to give whom and how to politely get others to reduce the size of their committed check size.

But some investors are worried that the music may stop soon.

Investors at several high-profile firms told me that many startups are taking checks from Tiger Global / Falcon / SoftBank too early in their journeys.

They argue that many of these young startups have raised funds at such a high valuation that if they are not able to hit the metrics they have told their existing lead investors, very few in the industry would be in a position to engage with them at a later stage.

“And even the likes of Tiger will not back you then,” one investor said, pointing to examples such as Bangalore-based Upstox, which raised from Tiger Global in the past, but later Tiger invested in its chief rival Groww. “Tiger is backing the race, not the horse,” another investor said.

A down cycle is a scenario many investors are preparing for. But it appears the music, so to speak, has only gotten louder in recent weeks.

Bangalore-based edtech Brightchamps is in advanced stages of talks to raise at over $500 million valuation, while Ola Electric has held talks to raise at over $3 billion valuation, according to multiple people familiar with the matter. Fidelity and Goldman Sachs have held talks to invest in a pre-IPO round at Paytm, one person said.

ShareChat is about to raise $150 million to $200 million from Temasek and others at a pre-money valuation of $2.8 billion. Prosus Ventures is in advanced stages of talks to lead an investment round in Upstox.

Sequoia is in talks to invest in Gitcoin and back Dive again, while Infra.Market, which was valued at $200 million in December last year and $1 billion earlier this year, is in talks to raise at over $2 billion valuation. Many other startups that turned unicorns this year are also in the market to finalize new rounds. BharatPe, Open, and Yap are in advanced stages of talks to finalize new rounds, TechCrunch has reported in recent weeks.

There are at least seven more $50 million+ rounds, and more than a dozen $20 million+ rounds that are expected to close within weeks. (I wish I could share the names but दोस्ती बनी रहे)

Elsewhere in Bangalore, there’s another sense of urgency. Several founders in India are starting crypto startups for customers across the world, but high-profile investors in India have largely stayed away from this category, in part because of India’s confusing stand about virtual currencies. Their absence has resulted in many of these startups secure funds from international funds and angels.

But things may change soon. Several venture funds including Sequoia Capital India, Lightspeed, Accel, WEH, and Kalaari are currently building their thesis for investments in crypto startups, people familiar with the matter told me.

#accel, #asia, #funding, #lightspeed, #sequoia-capital-india, #tc, #venture-capital

#DealMonitor – #EXKLUSIV Raisin/Deposit Solutions-Fusion: Bewertung liegt bei 2,5 Milliarden – EQT Ventures investiert in Vectornator

Im aktuellen #DealMonitor für den 1. Juli werfen wir wieder einen Blick auf die wichtigsten, spannendsten und interessantesten Investments und Exits des Tages in der DACH-Region. Alle Deals der Vortage gibt es im großen und übersichtlichen #DealMonitor-Archiv.


Raisin/Deposit Solutions
+++ Die beiden FinTechs Deposit Solutions (Zinspilot) und Raisin (WeltSparen) gehören inzwischen – wie bereits berichtet – zusammen. Der Zusammenschluss erfolgt im Verhältnis 60 (Raisin) zu 40 % (Deposit Solutions). Das fusionierte Unternehmen wird nach einer Übergangszeit von Raisin-Gründer Tamaz Georgadze geführt. Deposit Solutions-Chef Tim Sievers wird das Unternehmen zum Jahresende verlassen. Das neue Unternehmen wird im Zuge der Fusion nach unseren Informationen mit 2,5 Milliarden Euro bewertet.  Wie zu hören ist, plant das FinTech bereits eine neue Investmentrunde. Mehr im  Insider-Podcast #EXKLUSIV


+++ EQT Ventures investiert einen zweistelligen Millionenbetrag in Vectornator. Zusätzlich sind auch Secondaries, bei denen Altinvestoren Anteile verkaufen, geplant. Linearity wurde 2017 von Vladimir Danila und Marc Zacherl gegründet. Mit Hilfe von Vectornator können Designer Logos, Kunstwerke, Flyer, Webseiten und vieles mehr erstellen. Die Post-Money-Bewertung liegt bei 120 Millionen Euro. Zu den bisherigen Investoren zählen unter anderem 468 Capital, HV Capital und diverse Angel-Investoren wie Martin Sinner. Mehr im  Insider-Podcast #EXKLUSIV

+++ Picus Capital investiert im Rahmen eines Convertibles rund 4 Millionen Euro in Valyria. Das Berliner PropTech, das insbesondere von Robin Behlau, Gründer von Käuferportal (inzwischen als Aroundhome bekannt) vorangetrieben wird, kümmert sich um den Kauf und Verkauf von Mehrfamilienhäusern. Valyria kombiniert dabei “die neueste Technologie mit Expertise”. Mehr im  Insider-Podcast #EXKLUSIV

Hashtag You
+++ Tengelmann Ventures (und nicht der Nachfolger Cusp Capital), der Konsumgüterkonzern Henkel, Fynveur, Founders First Capital und mehrere Angel-Investoren investieren in Hashtag You. Das junge Unternehmen, das 2018 von Akos Piffko, Ankur Bansal und Sascha Dexler, die zuvor bei Invincible Brands aktiv waren, gegründet wurde, baut Direct to Consumer-Marken wie Ava & May auf. Henkel kennt sich im D2C-Segment bereits aus, das Unternehmen kaufte Invicible Brands zuletzt die Marken HelloBody, Banana Beauty sowie Mermaid+Me ab. Mehr im  Insider-Podcast #EXKLUSIV

+++ Der Berliner Geldgeber Atlantic Food Labs investiert in Voila. Das Berliner Startup bringt seinen Nutzer:innen Restaurants nach Hause – bundesweit. Das Motto dabei lautet “Home Fine Dining”. In der Eigenbeschreibung heißt es: “Wir verbinden die besten Köche und Food Lover, um eine gehobene kulinarische Inhouse-Erfahrung zu Hause zu ermöglichen”. Voila wurde von Florian Berg (Fachkraft1) und Julius Wiesenhütter (früher bei Foodora, Caterwings und Delivery Hero akiv) gegründet. Mehr im  Insider-Podcast #EXKLUSIV

+++ CRV und Altinvestoren wie Accel, Mango Capital und Guillermo Rauch investieren 10 Millionen Dollar in Checkly. Das 2018 von Hannes Lenke, Tim Nolet und Timo Euteneuer in Berlin gegründete Unternehmen positioniert sich als Monitoring-Plattform für Entwickler. Checkly ermöglicht es DevOps- und Engineering-Teams, API-Monitoring und Frontend-Tests auf über 20 globale Rechenenzentren durchzuführen. 2020 flossen bereits 2,25 Millionen in das Remote-First-Unternehmen.

+++ Angel-Investoren wie Rolf Schrömgens (trivago), Philipp Frenkel (Mister Spex), Robert Kabs ( und Yang Zou (Freachly) investieren eine niedrige siebenstellige Summe in Yamuntu. Das Hamburger Startup, das von Woundioun Sissoko, Nouri Alexander Hilscher und Oliver Krause gegründet wurde, macht Online-Shopper:innen zu Markenbotschaftern. “Der User verdient mit seiner Instagram Story Geld. Einfach die App herunterladen, bei einem der Partnershops das neue Lieblingsprodukt einkaufen und sobald das Produkt ankommt, über die App eine Story/Tiktok dazu posten”, teilt das Startup zum Konzept mit.

The Base
+++ 32nd Floor, ein Investmentableger der  skandinavischen Skjerven Group, und GDC Ventures (gehört zur Depot-Mutter Gries Deco Company), investieren 5 Millionen Euro in den Berliner Coliving-Anbieter The Base. “Das frische Kapital ermöglicht es uns, diese Expansion aktiv voranzutreiben, die gegenwärtigen – einzigartigen – Chancen am Immobilienmarkt zu nutzen und The Base europaweit als führende Coliving-Brand zu etablieren”, teilt das Unternehmen mit. Das Unternehmen wurde 2019 von Florian Färber gegründet.


Icon Ventures
+++ Die Mobile-Marketing-Agentur Icon Group, früher als Iconmobile bekannt, legt mit Icon Ventures einen Venture-Capital-Fonds auf, im Topf sind 30 Millionen Euro – siehe TechCrunch. “The icon ventures VC fund will be accompanied by new company arm: ‘icon impact’, the continuation of iconmobile’s well-established product and experience innovation arm”, heißt es im Artikel.

Achtung! Wir freuen uns über Tipps, Infos und Hinweise, was wir in unserem #DealMonitor alles so aufgreifen sollten. Schreibt uns eure Vorschläge entweder ganz klassisch per E-Mail oder nutzt unsere “Stille Post“, unseren Briefkasten für Insider-Infos.

Startup-Jobs: Auf der Suche nach einer neuen Herausforderung? In der unserer Jobbörse findet Ihr Stellenanzeigen von Startups und Unternehmen.

Foto (oben): azrael74

#32nd-floor, #accel, #aktuell, #atlantic-food-labs, #checkly, #coliving, #crv, #deposit-solutions, #direct-to-consumer, #eqt-ventures, #fintech, #food, #founders-first-capital, #fynveur, #gdc-ventures, #gries-deco-company, #hamburg, #hashtag-you, #henkel, #icon-ventures, #mango-capital, #picus-capital, #proptech, #raisin, #skjerven-group, #tengelmann-ventures, #the-base, #valyria, #vectornator, #venture-capital, #voila, #yamuntu

Sequoia unveils fifth group of startups for Surge

Sequoia Capital India has selected 23 early-stage startups for its fifth cohort of Surge, its accelerator program for India and Southeast Asia, at a time when dealflow activity is at its peak in the region.

The new cohort, Surge’s largest to date, have collectively raised $55 million, the storied investment firm said Wednesday. The cohort also includes 10 women founders, another record for the accelerator program which started its journey in March 2019.

The Surge program has enabled Sequoia Capital India — which has always backed early-stage startups but historically focused more on cutting checks for Series A and beyond rounds — to more aggressively identify promising startups while they are too young and increase the probability of broadening its portfolio with more winners, investors in the industry said.

And those odds have gotten much better in recent months. As Tiger Global and Falcon Edge begin to chase early-stage deals in India, both the firms have backed several Surge startups.

Sequoia said nearly 50% of startups from the first three cohorts have grown to raise their Series A financing rounds.

The Surge program, for which Sequoia raised an additional $195 million earlier this year, is now “tried, tested and proven to support founders through strategic mentorship from some of the world’s best startups and business minds, hands-on company building support, and a community of founder-to-founder support,” said the investment firm, which employs over 30 people in advisory roles in the region.

Some investors also said Sequoia, which offers very aggressive terms and a plethora of resources (App Annie subscription, for instance) to startups in Surge, that the accelerator program has diminished the significance of Y Combinator in India. (Rajan Anandan, who spearheads Surge, told me earlier this year that he doesn’t see Y Combinator and Surge as rivals.)

The new cohort, several names of which TechCrunch scooped early this month, includes 13 startups that are building services in fintech, payments, communications, logistics, and SaaS sectors, Surge said.

“We are incredibly proud of all 23 companies who have joined Surge 05 and the founders who have forged their businesses in sectors that have seen tremendous tailwinds. These leaders have displayed grit, exceptional talent, and relentless purpose in shaping the world,” said Anandan, who prior to joining Sequoia Capital India as MD led Google’s business in India and Southeast Asia.

“At this inflection point of global regrowth, we are excited to be part of the journey of our founders and their companies, many of which we believe will grow into large, enduring businesses,” he added.

The new cohort features the following startups as well as one that is operating in stealth mode.

  • Absolute is building a plant bioscience and AI-driven adaptive platform for precision agriculture that helps horticulture growers radically transform yields, grade and nutritional value of produce. The startup has also received an investment from Lets Venture.
  • ADPList is attempting to “democratise” mentorship and make it accessible for everyone through a community platform where people can find, book and meet mentors around the world.
  • ApnaKlub is an agent-led business-to-business wholesale platform for fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG). The startup aims to encourage and empower people to set up their own hyper-local micro-distribution businesses by providing them with better profit margins, access to a large assortment of brands and SKUs, and supply consistency.
  • Belora produces clean, high-performance, vegan makeup — free from toxins and harmful ingredients. The startup, which has also secured investment from DSG Consumer Partners, says it wants to create makeup that doubles up as skincare, so that women can wear products that are not only dermatologically tested, but also good for their skin.
  • Durianpay is building an integrated and comprehensive payments stack that enables businesses to grow and scale.
  • Dyte is a developer-friendly real time audio and video calling software development kit (SDK). The startup, which has also secured investments from Nexus Venture Partners and Y Combinator, allows developers to integrate live video into their apps in interesting and innovative ways. The SDK is simple, offers integrations within hours, and has a large number of plug-ins and configurations. These configurations provide developers with a quick and efficient way to embed audio and video calling, AI video augmentation, and collaboration features.
  • Gumlet provides a new-age media delivery infrastructure that provides low code or no-code integration plugins, which automates the entire media publishing pipeline. Developers all over the world use Gumlet to automatically provide the lowest size images and videos with the best resolution and performance.
  • Locad is making multi-channel e-commerce fulfilment easier than ever by offering a distributed warehousing network, which reduces shipping time and costs by storing products closer to customers. The startup has also secured investments from Antler and others.
  • Mailmodo is an email marketing platform that helps marketers create app-like experiences within emails and increase conversions.
  • Mesh is a new-age people management platform that makes it easy for employees to manage goals, get timely feedback, and grow faster. Y Combinator Continuity fund and RTP Global have also invested in Mesh.
  • Multiplier is a new-age employer of record that simplifies international hiring. It counts Golden Gate Ventures, MS&AD Ventures, Picus Capital among its investors.
  • OneCode is an app that connects companies with sales agents, giving these agents access to sell the products and services to less tech-savvy buyers. The startup’s mission is to digitise 50 million sales agents across India, and bridge the gap between brands and potential buyers who may need in-person interactions and physical touch points before committing to a purchase. Nexus Venture Partners and WaterBridge Ventures have also invested in the startup.
  • Powerplay is a mobile-first, vernacular construction site management app that enables project managers and workers to communicate and collaborate more effectively. The startup, also backed by Accel, helps them track their progress, deliverables, and payments across projects.
  • Pankhuri is a social community platform where women can network, learn and shop online through live streaming, chat, and micro courses.
  • RaRa Delivery is attempting to reimagine instant delivery for e-commerce in Indonesia through data driven logistics. It also counts 500 Startups among its investors.
  • Revery is using game thinking to revolutionise wellness, and the team is on a mission to make wellness affordable and accessible to anyone with a mobile phone. The startup has also secured funds from GGV Capital and Pascal Capital.
  • TWID (That’s What I Do) is a rewards-based payment network that enables customer reward or loyalty points to be used as a payment instrument. (Beenext is a co-investor.)
  • Vah Vah! is a live, online vocational training platform that offers professional beauty courses.
  • Vara is an easy-to-use and lightweight staff management platform for SMEs across Southeast Asia. It enables small companies to effortlessly manage their attendance and payroll. The startup counts RTP Global and a number of other firms among its investors.
  • Veera Health is on a mission to help women lead healthier lives. Veera’s first offering is a digital therapeutics platform that helps women identify and navigate Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), with a comprehensive offering of therapy, coaching and specialist support. Global Founders Capital, Harvard University, and Y Combinator have also backed Veera.
  • Virtual Internships are redesigning internships for the 21st century workforce, mirroring the future of work.
  • WATI helps companies have personalised conversations with customers at scale with an easy-to-use customer engagement software that’s built on WhatApp’s Business API.

#absolute, #accel, #adplist, #apnaklub, #asia, #belora, #durianpay, #dyte, #funding, #gumlet, #india, #locad, #mailmodo, #mesh, #multiplier, #nexus-venture-partners, #onecode, #pankhuri, #powerplay, #rara-delivery, #revery, #sequoia, #sequoia-capital-india, #tiger-global, #twid, #vah-vah, #vara, #veera-health, #virtual-internships, #wat

Orum raises $56M to help speed up intrabank transfers

Orum, which aims to speed up the amount of time it takes to transfer money between banks, announced today it has raised $56 million in a Series B round of funding.

Accel and Canapi Ventures co-led the round, which also included participation from existing backers Bain Capital Ventures, Inspired Capital, Homebrew, Acrew, Primary, Clocktower and Box Group. The financing comes barely three months after Orum announced a $21 Series A, and brings its total raised to over $82 million.

Orum CEO Stephany Kirkpatrick launched the company in 2019 after working for several years at LearnVest, a personal finance site founded by Alexa von Tobel that was acquired by Northwestern Mutual in 2015 for an estimated $375 million. Tobel went on to form Inspired Capital, a venture capital firm that put money in Orum’s $5.2 million seed round last August. Prior to that, the firm also provided Orum with an “inspiration check” that was the first money into the business.

“Most Americans are not familiar with the intricacies of ACH [automated clearing house) or why it takes multiple business days to move money between accounts,” Kirkpatrick said. “But none of us can allow money to wait 5-7 days to hit our accounts. It needs to be instant.”

Her mission with Orum is straightforward even if the technology behind it is complex. Put simply, Orum aims to use machine learning-backed APIs to “move money smartly across all payment rails, and in doing so, provide universal financial access.”

Orum’s first embeddable product, Foresight, launched in September of 2020. It’s an automated programming interface designed to give financial institutions a way to move money in real time. The platform uses machine learning and data science to predict when funds are available and to identify any potential risks. Its Momentum product “intelligently” routes funds across payments rails and is powered by banking providers JPMorgan Chase and Silicon Valley Bank.

“They power the back end of our Momentum platform that allows the money to move on a multirail basis,” Kirkpatrick told TechCrunch. “They power our access to real-time payments.”

Orum says it serves a range of enterprise partners, including Alloy, HM Bradley, First Horizon Bank and Zero Financial (which was recently acquired by Avant).

The volume of transactions being conducted with Orum is growing 100% month over month, Kirkpatrick said. Most of its early growth has come from word of mouth. 

The remote-first company prides itself on diversity — in both its employee and investor base. For one, 48% of its 55-person headcount are female, and 48% are “nonwhite,” according to Kirkpatrick. Orum also recently joined the Cap Table Coalition — a partnership between high-growth startups and emerging investors who want to work to close the racial wealth gap — to allocate over 10% of its Series B round to underrepresented founders. For example, the financing includes investors such as the Neythri Features Fund, a group of South Asian women investing in the next generation of female founders and diverse teams.

Jeffrey Reitman, partner at Canapi Ventures (a firm whose LPs mostly consist of banks), told TechCrunch that those bank LPs conduct hundreds of millions of ACH transactions annually, 

“They need a path to achieving a state where funds can be transferred instantly,” he said. “Orum’s product paves the path for many players in financial services and fintech — and beyond — to partake in faster money movement without compromising key risk principles.”

To Reitman, the company’s major differentiators are its team, which he describes as consisting of “the best group of data scientists and engineers in the space.”

“Many of their customers consider the team to be instrumental in helping to set the risk dials on how they fund transactions by teasing out key data and insights from historical transaction data,” he said. “Second, Orum is building one of the densest and most comprehensive data sets around the risks of money movement. Better data means better risk models, and it will be hard for other offerings to match Orum’s approach to building this rich data set.”

Accel Partner Sameer Gandhi, who joined Orum’s board as part of the latest financing, agrees. He believes that in an 18-month period, Orum has built “game-changing technology and an exceptional team.”

“Orum is tackling financial infrastructure from its foundation,” he said.

#accel, #alexa-von-tobel, #artificial-intelligence, #bain-capital-ventures, #canapi-ventures, #finance, #financial-infrastructure, #financial-services, #funding, #fundings-exits, #inspired-capital, #jeffrey-reitman, #jpmorgan-chase, #machine-learning, #payments, #recent-funding, #silicon-valley-bank, #startups, #venture-capital

Tonkean raises $50M Series B to accelerate is no-code business automation service

Business operation automation startup Tonkean announced this morning that it closed a $50 million Series B round of capital. Accel led the round, which came just over a year after the startup raised a $24 million Series A. Lightspeed Ventures, which led the company’s preceding venture capital round, also participated in its new funding event.

Sagi Eliyahu, Tonkean’s co-founder and CEO, told TechCrunch in an interview that his company’s valuation rose by around 4x in its latest funding round.

The startup was able to secure more capital at a higher price thanks in part to quick growth in 2020, which Eliyahu said was concentrated in the second half of 2020.

Tonkean is an interesting mix of business process automation, no-code and humans. In short, the startup allows a company’s ops groups — sales ops, marketing ops, etc. — to set up automated business logic across applications that can include human-in-the-loop elements. And Tonkean built its system to be IT-friendly, allowing it to support enterprise-scale customers.

The automation space has been broadly hot in recent quarters. Robotic process automation (RPA) is great for mechanizing repetitive tasks that waste human time. The method of using computers to do stuff that humans previously had to do by clicking far too much has proven to be big business.


Tonkean allows for something a bit different. An example may help: During our interview, Eliyahu mused about what might happen if a salesperson for a Tonkean client wanted to send a lead into a nurture campaign. Tonkean would let the sales ops team set up logic so that when the frontline salesperson selects the lead for a nurture effort inside their CRM, the lead would then automatically be added to a specific Marketo campaign. Furthermore, the click-to-nurture system would alert a human on the sales team, perhaps asking for approval of the decision.

Tonkean software employs no-code tools to let ops groups use off-the-shelf command modules to build business logic — or craft their own as needed. The use of the company’s software could allow for more empowered teams at companies that are less reliant on engineering groups for help in accelerating and automating their work.

That thematically fits inside the general narrative we’ve seen from no-code startups in general: They want to allow non-technical folks to have more control of their work through less reliance on technical teams at their place of employment.

Tonkean employs around 60 people today, up from around 15 folks at the time of its Series A. It plans to hire rapidly now that it has more capital. Eliyahu claims most of its Series A is still in the bank. So why did it raise?

Because Eliyahu considers his startup’s market to be so large that he wants to pull the company’s future closer to today; the new capital will give Tonkean the space it needs to hire more rapidly and build more quickly than it might have if it continued to operate from a smaller capital case.

Fifty million dollars is a lot of money. Let’s see how far it gets Tonkean. The next time we talk to the company, we’ll demand some harder growth metrics so we can see if the additional capital was the accelerant that the company hopes it will be.

#accel, #business, #business-process-automation, #lightspeed-venture-partners, #series-a, #startup-company, #tc, #tonkean, #venture-capital

In its first funding in 7 years, profitable fintech Lower raises $100M Series A led by Accel

Lower, an Ohio-based home finance platform, announced today it has raised $100 million in a Series A funding round led by Accel.

This round is notable for a number of reasons. First off, it’s a large Series A even by today’s standards. The financing also marks the previously bootstrapped Lower’s first external round of funding in its seven-year history. Lower is also something that is kind of rare these days in the startup world: profitable. Silicon Valley-based Accel has a history of backing profitable, bootstrapped companies, having also led large Series A rounds for the likes of 1Password, Atlassian, Qualtrics, Webflow, Tenable and Galileo (which went on to be acquired by SoFi). 

In fact, Galileo founder Clay Wilkes introduced the VC firm to Dan Snyder, Lower’s founder and CEO. The two companies have a few things in common besides being profitable: they were both bootstrapped for years before taking institutional capital and both have headquarters outside of Silicon Valley.

“We were immediately intrigued because Ohio-based Lower echoes both of these themes,” said Accel partner John Locke, who led the firm’s investment in Lower and is taking a seat on the company’s board as part of the investment. “Like Galileo, Lower will be one of the most successful bootstrapped fintech companies globally. The combination of a company built in a nontraditional region across the globe and a bootstrapped company reminds us of [other] companies we have partnered with for a large Series A.”

There were other unnamed participants in the round, but Accel provided the “majority” of the investment, according to Lower.

Snyder co-founded Lower in 2014 with the goal of making the homebuying process simpler for consumers. The company launched with Homeside, its retail brand that Snyder describes as “a tech-leveraged retail mortgage bank” that works with realtors and builders, among others. In 2018, the company launched the website for Lower, its direct-to-consumer digital lending brand with the mission of making its platform a one-stop shop where consumers can go online to save for a home, obtain or refinance a mortgage and get insurance through its marketplace. This year, it launched the Lower mobile app with a savings account.

Sitting (L to R): Co-founders Dan Snyder, Grayson Hanes
Standing (L to R): Co-founders Mike Baynes, Chris Miller
Not pictured: Robert Tyson; Image credit: Lower

Over the years, Lower has funded billions of dollars in loans and notched an impressive $300 million in revenue in 2020 after doubling revenue every year, according to Snyder.

“Our history is maybe a little atypical of fintech companies today,” he told TechCrunch. “We’ve had a view going back to the start of the company that we wanted to run it profitably. That’s been one of our pillars, so that’s what we’ve done. Also, we all grew up in the mortgage industry, so we saw firsthand the size of the market, but also how broken it was, so we wanted to change it.”

In launching the direct-to-consumer digital lending brand, the company was working to make the homebuying process more “digital, transparent and easier for consumers to access,” Snyder said.

At the same time, the company didn’t want to lose the human touch.

“We tried to design the app flow in a way where you can get as far along as you can in the application but if you want, at any point in time, to talk or chat with someone, we’re available,” Snyder added.

Image Credits: Lower

Lower’s typical customer is the millennial and now Gen Z who’s aspiring to own their first home, according to Snyder.

“They might be thinking, ‘OK, I might be living in an apartment now, but in the next few years I’m going to meet someone and/or have a child and I want to unlock the investment that is a home,’ ” he told TechCrunch. “And we’ll help them on that journey.”

Lower’s recently launched new app offers a deposit account it’s dubbed “HomeFund.” The interest-bearing FDIC-insured deposit account offers a 0.75% Annual Percentage Yield and is designed to help consumers save for a home with a “dollar-for-dollar match in rewards” up to the first $1,000 saved, Snyder said.

Lower works with more than 35 major insurance carriers nationally, including Nationwide, Liberty Mutual and Allstate. It has more than 1,600 employees, about half of which are based in Lower’s home state. That’s up from about 650 employees in June of 2020.

Looking ahead, the company plans to add more services and has an “aggressive roadmap” for adding new features to its platform. Today, for example, Lower sells primarily to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. And while it services the majority of its loans, like many large lenders, it uses a subservicer. That will change, however, in early 2022, when Lower intends to launch its own native servicing platform. 

And while the company intends to continue to run profitably, Snyder said he and his co-founders “think the time is now to gain share.”

“We want to become a global brand, raise money and gain market share,” he added. “We’re going to continue to double down on product and build out our capabilities. We are the best-kept secret in fintech and plan to change that with smart branding, advertising and sponsorships.”

And last but not least, Lower is eyeing the public markets as part of its longer-term roadmap.

“Ultimately, we know we can build a great public company,” Snyder told TechCrunch. “We’re of the scale to be a public company right now, but we’re going to keep our heads down and we’re going to keep building for the next few years and then I think we can be in a spot to be a strong public business.”

Accel’s Locke points out that in the U.S., mortgage and home finance are among the largest financial service markets, and they have primarily been handled by large banks.

“For most consumers, getting a mortgage through these banks continues to be an overly complex, slow-moving process,” Locke told TechCrunch. “We believe by providing consumers a great mobile experience, Lower will gain share from incumbent banks, in the same way that companies like Monzo have in banking or Venmo in payments or Trade Republic and Robinhood in stock trading.” 

#1password, #accel, #advisors, #allstate, #atlassian, #banking, #bootstrapping, #columbus, #computing, #detroit, #fdic, #finance, #funding, #fundings-exits, #john-locke, #liberty-mutual, #lower, #monzo, #ohio, #qualtrics, #quicken-loans, #real-estate, #recent-funding, #silicon-valley, #sofi, #software, #startups, #united-states, #venmo, #venture-capital, #webflow

Unit raises $51M in Accel-led Series B to grow its banking-as-a-service platform

We’ve all heard the phrase, “Every company is a fintech.” 

But these days, that’s becoming more and more true as an increasing number of companies that are not even in the financial services space seek to add a fintech component to their offering.

A group of startups poised to benefit from this shift are those offering banking as a service. One such startup, Unit, has raised $51 million in a Series B round to further its goal of making it possible for companies and fintechs alike to build banking products “in minutes.”

Silicon Valley-based Accel led the round for Unit, bringing the company’s total raised since its 2019 inception to nearly $70 million. Existing backers Better Tomorrow Ventures, Aleph, Flourish Ventures and TLV Partners also participated in the latest financing

Founders Itai Damti and Doron Somech are no strangers to growing companies. The pair previously co-founded — and bootstrapped — Leverate, a Tel Aviv-based B2B trading tech provider. Unit has dual headquarters in Tel Aviv and New York City.

Damti and Somech founded Unit in late 2019 and spent the first year stealthily building out the platform with the mission of empowering companies to embed financial services into their product, accelerating their time to market. Unit officially launched its platform in late 2020, and over the last three months, it has seen deposit volume grow by more than 300% and new end users by 600% (albeit from a small base).

With its platform, Unit touts, companies in a variety of industries — such as freelance or creator economy and personal financial management, for example — can build financial products directly into their software. This gives them the ability to build and launch next-gen bank accounts, cards, payment and lending products. Customers include Wethos, Lance, Benepass, Moves and Tribevest, among others.

“Our mission is to expand financial access for all and we do it by empowering the next generation of fintech builders,” Damti said. Only about 20% of its customers are what might be considered true fintechs, he said. The remaining 80% are companies that are not but rather want to embed banking as a service into their offering.

Unit, Damti claims, takes what was once “a very expensive and complex process of 18 months” that includes finding and managing a bank relationship, building a compliance team and building a tech stack “that gets you to a competitive banking offering, and turns it into one API and one dashboard that helps companies launch accounts cards, payments and lending within five weeks.”

In conjunction with the funding, Unit is also announcing today a new offering, Unit Go, which it says allows companies to create live bank accounts and issue physical and virtual cards in minutes. Founders and developers can try it out by creating a free account, building in Unit’s live environment and testing their products using real funds. Unit Go is currently in beta and will be available to the public in the fall of 2021. 

The company plans to use its new capital to grow its headcount of 26 and fast-track its Unit Go offering. It also wants to expand its platform into additional financial products, software development kits (SDKs) and integrations. (It’s already integrated with Plaid, for example).

Of course, Unit is not the only startup in the burgeoning banking-as-a-service (BaaS) space. It competes with the likes of Railbank, Treasury Prime and Stripe. Damti believes there are a few things that help differentiate Unit in the increasingly crowded space.

For one, according to Damti, Unit intentionally “put compliance at the front and center of what we do.” As evidence of that, earlier this year, it tapped Amanda Swoverland to serve as its chief compliance officer. 

Secondly, Damti emphasizes that Unit is not a matchmaker or marketplace along the lines of Synctera.

“We are acting as a company that connects banks to the tech ecosystem and banks are critical vendors and partners to us, but we see them as a built-in element within Unit, because we believe that the most excellent experience in this ecosystem can only come from software companies,” Damti told TechCrunch. 

And finally, he notes, Unit is technically distinct in that it is actually building a ledger, which Damti describes as “the most critical and sensitive part of the ecosystem.”

By owning the ledger and not delegating, he said, Unit is “able to offer a radically better experience.”

“As far as the transaction environment, the cleanliness of the data that we provide and the fees that our customers are able to control and tweak, owning that ledger piece is super critical for the experience,” Damti said.  

Accel partner Amit Kumar notes that in recent years, the landscape has shifted from hundreds of fintech startups “trying to beat incumbents with slightly better products” to thousands of tech companies trying to launch fintech businesses in their verticals.

“Unit’s strong emphasis on managing compliance addresses the risk typically associated with offering banking services and allows customers to bring these products to market much faster than previously possible,” he told TechCrunch. “Unit is building the platform to power the next generation of fintech.”

#accel, #finance, #fintech, #funding, #fundings-exits, #payments, #recent-funding, #startups, #unit, #venture-capital

BrowserStack valued at $4 billion in $200 million BOND-led funding

BrowserStack, a startup that operates a giant software testing platform, said on Wednesday it has raised $200 million in a new financing round that valued the 10-year-old firm at $4 billion.

BOND led the Dublin and San Francisco-headquartered startup’s Series B financing round, while Insight Partners and existing investor Accel participated in it. BrowserStack, which for the first six years of its journey didn’t raise any money and remains profitable, has raised $250 million to date.

As companies move to rapid development cycles they often don’t have the time to perform adequate testing. For instance, say Google is working to launch a new mobile app. The search giant will want to test the new app on thousands — if not tens of thousands — of different mobile devices.

At present, even a company the size of Google will find it cumbersome to secure, store and maintain all those test devices. That’s where BrowserStack comes into play.

The startup has 15 data centers across the world and a repository of over 2,000 devices. BrowserStack, which began its journey in India, licenses its service to firms to let them remotely test their apps and websites on its devices, explained Nakul Aggarwal, co-founder and CTO of BrowserStack, in an interview with TechCrunch.

“Our mission has always been to help engineers build amazing products for their customers. Whenever they are developing an app or a website they have to ensure that it works across the fragmented ecosystem,” said Aggarwal, referring to various kinds of mobile devices, tablets, TVs, wearables and other platforms. “We are ensuring that engineers don’t have to worry about building their own in-house labs for devices.”

Google is not a hypothetical example. The Android-maker along with giants including Amazon, Microsoft, Twitter, Tesco, Ikea, Spotify, Expedia, and Trivago are among over 50,000 customers of BrowserStack. Over 60% of BrowserStack’s customers today are in the U.S.

“As software continues to rewire everything, the bar on speed and quality continues to rise, and testing software across the expanding number of browsers and devices is a huge and expensive challenge for development teams to manage on their own,” said Jay Simons, General Partner at BOND, in a statement.

“BrowserStack makes this simple and cost-effective, giving developers instant access to the widest range of browser and device configurations to test their applications. This product is an absolute boon for today’s web and app developers.”

It wasn’t until early 2018 when BrowserStack, which bootstrapped its way to profitability, first raised capital from an investor. Aggarwal said the founding team’s previous failed ventures made them more disciplined about money and it wasn’t until BrowserStack had assumed the market leading position and began scaling to new markets that it started to explore outside capital.

Aggarwal said BrowserStack wants to become the testing infrastructure of the internet and the new funds will help achieve that. “Every pull request that is getting raise, we want to become the infrastructure where it is getting tested,” he said. The startup, which recently acquired visual testing and review platform Percy, is open to more acquisition and acquihire opportunities.

“Our recent acquisition of Percy, a visual testing platform, was just the start. We will accelerate the rate at which we take new products to market through acquisitions and investment in our Product and Engineering teams. We want to achieve our vision of becoming the testing infrastructure for the internet,” said Ritesh Arora, co-founder and chief executive of BrowserStack.

#accel, #bond, #browserstack, #funding, #insight-partners, #mary-meeker, #saas, #tc

Productivity startup Time is Ltd raises $5.6M to be the ‘Google Analytics for company time’

Productivity analytics startup Time is Ltd wants to be the Google Analytics for company time. Or perhaps a sort of “Apple Screen Time” for companies. Whatever the case, the founders reckon that if you can map how time is spent in a company enormous productivity gains can be unlocked and, money better spent.

It’s now raised a $5.6 million late seed funding round led by Mike Chalfen, of London-based Chalfen Ventures, with participation from Illuminate Financial Management and existing investor Accel. Acequia Capital and former Seal Software chairman Paul Sallaberry are also contributing to the new round, as is former Seal board member Clark Golestani. Furthermore, Ulf Zetterberg, founder and former CEO of contract discovery and analytics company Seal Software, is joining as President and co-founder.

The venture is the latest from serial entrepreneur Jan Rezab, better known for founding SocialBakers, which was acquired last year.

We are all familiar with inefficient meetings, pestering notifications chat, video conferencing tools and the deluge of emails. Time is Ltd. says it plans to address this by acquiring insights and data platforms such as Microsoft 365, Google Workspace, Zoom, Webex, MS Teams, Slack, and more. The data and insights gathered would then help managers to understand and take a new approach to measure productivity, engagement, and collaboration, the startup says.

The startup says it has now gathered 400 indicators that companies can choose from. For example, a task set by The Wall Street Journal for Time is Ltd. found the average response time for Slack users vs. email was 16.3 minutes, comparing to emails which was 72 minutes.

Chalfen commented: “Measuring hybrid and distributed work patterns is critical for every business. Time Is Ltd.’s platform makes such measurement easily available and actionable for so many different types of organizations that I believe it could make work better for every business in the world.”

Rezab said: “The opportunity to analyze these kinds of collaboration and communication data in a privacy-compliant way alongside existing business metrics is the future of understanding the heartbeat of every company – I believe in 10 years time we will be looking at how we could have ignored insights from these platforms.”

Tomas Cupr, Founder and Group CEO of Rohlik Group, the European leader of e-grocery, said: “Alongside our traditional BI approaches using performance data, we use Time is Ltd. to help improve the way we collaborate in our teams and improve the way we work both internally and with our vendors – data that Time is Ltd. provides is a must-have for business leaders.”

#accel, #analytics, #apple, #articles, #board-member, #business-intelligence, #ceo, #chairman, #computing, #digital-marketing, #e-grocery, #europe, #google, #leader, #london, #microsoft, #mike-chalfen, #seal-software, #serial-entrepreneur, #slack, #socialbakers, #software, #tc, #the-wall-street-journal, #time-is-ltd, #video-conferencing, #webex

Join Accel’s Arun Mathew at TechCrunch Disrupt in our debate around alt-financing

TechCrunch Disrupt has a long history of bringing leading venture capitalists to the stage to yammer about their industry. Our impending TC Disrupt conference happening on September 21-23 is no different. This time around one of our investor guests is Arun Mathew of Accel, a venture capitalist that you might recall from his recent participation in Webflow’s huge $140 million Series B.

But we aren’t merely asking Mathew out to the event to chat low-code, or SaaS, or simply current intra-venture capital investing dynamics. Instead, he’ll be taking part in our panel on alternative financing (alt-finance) with a few folks that aren’t venture capitalists, but still deploy capital into startups.

Having an Accel partner take part in the panel makes good sense, as the venture firm has an interesting way of approaching bootstrapped companies. Namely that it is willing to show up to pretty large companies and write huge checks. That’s how Accel got into Qualtrics, for example, a deal that worked out pretty well.

But Accel invests from seed through super-late stage, making Mathew the perfect person to bring the venture perspective to the conversation.

The chat should hit on revenue-based financing, other more exotic forms of alt-finance and where the venture world may see capital partnerships, and funding rivalries. Our goal won’t be to incite an argument, but instead to unfold the private capital markets in a manner that helps fans of traditional VC — if there is still such a thing in today’s Tiger Global-led world — and believers in newer methods of capital deployment learn from each other. And so that founders can carve the most reasonable path for themselves as they seek to grow their businesses.

All told it should be a bop and I will see you there!

#accel, #arun-mathew, #events, #startups, #tc, #techcrunch-disrupt

Tiger Global leads $30 million investment in Indian Twitter rival Koo

Investors are backing Koo, an Indian alternative to Twitter, with large size checks at a time when tension is brewing between the American social network and New Delhi.

The Indian startup said on Wednesday it has raised $30 million in a financing round led by Tiger Global Management. Mirae Asset and IIFL’s venture capital fund and existing investors 3one4 Capital, Blume Ventures, and Accel also participated in the round, which valued the Bangalore-based startup at over $100 million, up from about $25 million in February.

Like Twitter, Koo app allows users to send out posts in English and half a dozen Indian languages. The app has gained popularity in India in recent months following flare-ups between Twitter and the Indian government after the San Francisco-headquartered firm refused to block accounts that criticized New Delhi and Prime Minister Narendra Modi earlier this year.

(The Indian government, like Singapore’s, also ordered Twitter and Facebook last week to take down posts that identified a new variant of the coronavirus as “Indian variant”. Also last week, New Delhi objected to Twitter’s labeling of some of its politicians’ tweets as manipulated media. Earlier this week, police in Delhi visited Twitter offices to “serve a notice.”)

Several prominent government officials — including Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal, Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar, Union Cabinet Minister Smriti Irani, Electronics and IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad — and many celebrities have signed up on Koo in recent months and urged their followers to follow suit.

Though the app, co-founded by Aprameya Radhakrishna (who also co-founded TaxiForSure, which was sold to local giant Ola; and is a prolific angel investor), has won the trust of investors, it is yet to gain ground.

One-year-old Koo app had fewer than 6 million monthly active users in India in April, according to mobile insight firm App Annie (data of which an industry executive shared with TechCrunch).

The startup says it aims to build a social network for the entire nation and not just a fraction of it. Twitter remains largely popular among users in urban cities in India.

Koo, whose initial traction has been credited to Hindu nationalists, is currently one of the handful of social networks that has complied with India’s new IT rules that grant New Delhi greater power to take down posts it deems offensive.

The revised IT rules, announced in February, would put an end to “double standards” by making platforms more accountable to the local law, government officials said then. Failure to comply might bereft social networks of safe harbor protection.

The deadline to comply with the new rules expires on Wednesday. Facebook, which identifies India as its largest market, said it “aims to comply” with the new rules, while Google said in a statement that it “respects” India’s legislative process.

Koo is the latest investment from Tiger Global in India this year. The hedge fund, which has backed over 20 Indian unicorns, has emerged as the most prolific investor in Indian startups in recent months, winning founders with its pace of investment, check size, and favorable terms.

#3one4-capital, #accel, #apps, #asia, #blume-ventures, #facebook, #google, #india, #social, #tiger-global, #twitter

Headway raises $70M at a $750M valuation to help connect therapists with people and insurance schemes

Mental health, and how it is getting addressed, has been one of the major leitmotifs of the past year of pandemic living. Covid-19 not only has led to a lot of people getting ill or worse; it has increased isolation, economic uncertainty, and led to a lot of other kinds of disappointments, and that all has had a knock-on effect on our collective and individual state of mind.

Today a startup called Headway, which has been working on building a better way for people to attend to themselves — by way of a three-sided marketplace of sorts, by helping a person to find and afford a therapist via a free-to-use portal, by making it possible for those therapists to accept a wider range of insurance plans, and by helping those insurance plans facilitate more therapy appointments for their patient networks — is announcing a major round of funding on the heels of strong growth.

The startup has raised $70 million, money that it will be using to continue expanding its platform with more partnerships, more hiring for its team (it wants to have 300 people this year) and opening up in new regions, aiming to be nationwide this year in the U.S.. This round, a Series B, has a number of big names attached to it: it is being led by Andreessen Horowitz, with Thrive, GV and Accel also participating. (The latter three are repeat investors: Thrive and GV led its Series A, while Accel led its seed.) This Series B is coming in at a $750 million valuation.

The rapid pace of funding, the backers, and that valuation all underscore the timeliness of the concept, and also the traction that Headway is getting for its approach.

When we last covered Headway — it raised $26 million just last November, six months ago — it said it had registered some 1,800 therapists on its platform in the New York metro area, where it is based. Now that number is up to over 3,000 with its network now covering not just NYC, but also New Jersey, Florida, North Carolina, Texas, Georgia, Michigan, Virginia, Washington, Illinois and Colorado. It has over 2,000 patients joining the platform each month and has so far helped facilitate 300,000 appointments, with a current average of 30,000 appointments each month. Revenues have in the last year, menawhile, grown nine-fold.

The approach that Headway is taking — creating not just a vertical search portal for therapists, but building a back-end system to help those therapists grow their business by making it easier for them to accept insurance coverage — comes directly out of the experiences faced by one of the startup’s co-founders.

Andrew Adams, the CEO of Headway, told me last year he came up with the idea after he moved to New York from California several years ago to take a job. In seeking a therapist, he found most unwilling to accept his insurance plan as payment, making getting therapy unaffordable.

This is a very typical problem, he said. Some 70% of therapists do not accept insurance today because it’s too complicated for them to integrate, since about 85% of all therapists happen to be solo practitioners. So something that should be accessible to everyone becomes something typically only used by those who can afford it, or have entered into social care programs that might provide it. But that leaves a massive gap in the middle.

“This is the defining problem in the space,” he said at the time. “Health insurance is built around a medical world dominated by billers and admins, but therapists ar