Goldman Sachs leads $23M in funding for Brazilian e-commerce startup Olist

Olist, a Brazilian e-commerce marketplace integrator, has raised $23 million in a Series D round extension led by new investor Goldman Sachs Asset Management that brings its total Series D financing to $80 million.

Existing backer Redpoint Ventures, which first put money in Olist in 2015, also participated in the latest round. With this latest infusion, Olist has now raised over $126 million since its 2015 inception. This round is reportedly its last before the company plans to go public, according to Bloomberg.

SoftBank led the first tranch of Olist’s Series D in November as well as the company’s $46 million Series C in 2019. Valor Capital, Velt Partners, FJ Labs, Península and angel Kevin Efrusy had previously invested in the first tranche of the Series D.

Olist connects small businesses to larger product marketplaces to help entrepreneurs sell their products to a larger customer base. The company was founded with the mission of helping small merchants gain market share across the country through a SaaS licensing model to small brick and mortar businesses.

As of October 2019, Olist had more than 7,000 customers and used a drop-shipping model to send products directly from stores to clients around the country, allowing them to grow with a capital-light model.

Today, Olist says its platform provides tools that support “all the stages of an e-commerce operation” with the goal of helping merchants see “rapid increases in sales volume.” It currently has about 25,000 merchants on its platform.

The startup is no doubt benefiting from the pandemic-fueled e-commerce boom taking place all over the world as more people have turned to online shopping. Latin America, in general, has been home to increased e-commerce adoption. The region’s $85 billion e-commerce market is growing rapidly with projections of it reaching $116.2 billion in 2023.

As evidence of that, Olist says its revenue tripled to a record number in the first quarter of 2021 compared to the previous year, although it did not provide hard figures. It also reportedly doubled revenue in 2020, according to Bloomberg.

Olist Store, the company’s flagship product, gives merchants a way to manage product listings, logistics and store payments. It also offers “a unique sales experience” through channels such as Mercado Livre, B2W and Via Varejo. The product saw a record GMV in the first half of the year, which was up 2.5 times over the same period in the prior year, the company said.

Last year, Olist launched a new product, Olist Shops, giving users the ability to create a virtual showcase “in less than 3 minutes” that also offers payment checkout tools and integration with logistics operators. Shops has interfaces in Portuguese, English, and Spanish, and since its launch, it has attracted more than 200,000 users in 180 countries, according to Olist.

“The pandemic has accelerated digitalizing business processes around the world, thus spurring e-commerce growth in a surprising way,” said Tiago Dalvi, Olist’s founder and CEO, in a written statement. 

The company plans to use its new capital to invest in technology and products, pursuing new mergers and acquisitions and boosting its internationalization process. This is on top of two acquisitions Olist made last year — Clickspace and Pax Logistica, which gave Olist entry into the heated logistics space with more than 4,000 registered drivers.

Specifically, CFO Eduardo Ferraz said the company is in preliminary discussions with ERPs, retailers, and companies with complementary solutions to its own.

“That is why we also decided to expand the investment in our Series D and bring Goldman Sachs as another relevant investor to our cap table,” he said.

David Castelblanco, managing director and head of Latin America Corporate and Growth Equity Investing for the Goldman Sachs Asset Management, said his firm was impressed with how Olist empowers SMBs to generate more revenue.

“Tiago and the Olist team are incredibly customer oriented and have created an innovative technological solution for their e-commerce clients,” he added.

Olist is operating in an increasingly crowded space. In March, we covered São Paulo-based Nuvemshop’s $90 million raise that was led by Silicon Valley venture firm Accel. That company has developed an e-commerce platform that aims to allow SMBs and merchants to connect more directly with their consumers. 

#accel, #banks, #brazil, #ceo, #cfo, #companies, #e-commerce, #finance, #fj-labs, #goldman-sachs, #kevin-efrusy, #latin-america, #olist, #online-shopping, #opera, #redpoint-ventures, #sao-paulo, #series-d, #softbank, #tc, #valor-capital


Austin’s newest unicorn: The Zebra raises $150M after doubling revenue in 2020

The Zebra, an Austin-based company that operates an insurance comparison site, has raised $150 million in a Series D round that propels it into unicorn territory.

Both the round size and valuation are a substantial bump from the $38.5 million Series C that Austin-based The Zebra raised in February of 2020. (The company would not disclose its valuation at that time, saying now only that its new valuation of over $1 billion is a “nice step up.”)

The Zebra also would not disclose the name of the firm that led its Series D round, but sources familiar with the deal said it was London-based Hedosophia. Existing backers Weatherford Capital and Accel also participated in the funding event.

The round size also is bigger than all of The Zebra’s prior rounds combined, bringing the company’s total raised to $261.5 million since its 2012 inception. Previous backers also include Silverton Partners, Ballast Point Ventures, Daher Capital, Floodgate Fund, The Zebra CEO Keith Melnick, KDT and others. 

According to Melnick, the round was all primary, and included no debt or secondary.

The Zebra started out as a site for people looking for auto insurance via its real-time quote comparison tool. The company partners with the top 10 auto insurance carriers in the U.S. Over time, it’s also “naturally” evolved to offer homeowners insurance with the goal of eventually branching out into renters and life insurance. It recently launched a dedicated home and auto bundled product, although much of its recent growth still revolves around its core auto offering, according to Melnick.

Like many other financial services companies, The Zebra has benefited from the big consumer shift to digital services since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

And we know this because the company is one of the few that are refreshingly open about their financials. The Zebra doubled its net revenue in 2020 to $79 million compared to $37 million in 2019, according to Melnick, who is former president of travel metasearch engine Kayak. March marked the company’s highest-performing month ever, he said, with revenue totaling $12.5 million — putting the company on track to achieve an annual run rate of $150 million this year. For some context, that’s up from $8 million in September of 2020 and $6 million in May of 2020.

Also, its revenue per applicant has grown at a clip of 100% year over year, according to Melnick. And The Zebra has increased its headcount to over 325, compared to about 200 in early 2020.

“We’ve definitely improved our relationships with carriers and seen more carrier participation as they continue to embrace our model,” Melnick said. “And we’ve leaned more into brand marketing efforts.”

The Zebra CEO Keith Melnick. Image courtesy of The Zebra

The company was even profitable for a couple of months last year, somewhat “unintentionally,” according to Melnick.

“We’re not highly unprofitable or burning through money like crazy,” he told TechCrunch. “This new raise wasn’t to fund operations. It’s more about accelerating growth and some of our product plans. We’re pulling forward things that were planned for later in time. We still had a nice chunk of money sitting on our balance sheet.”

The company also plans to use its new capital to do more hiring and focus strongly on continuing to build The Zebra’s brand, according to Melnick. Some of the things the company is planning include a national advertising campaign and adding tools and information so it can serve as an “insurance advisor,” and not just a site that refers people to carriers. It’s also planning to create more “personalized experiences and results” via machine learning.

“We are accelerating our efforts to make The Zebra a household name,” Melnick said. “And we want a deeper connection with our users.” It also aims to be there for a consumer through their lifecycle — as they move from being renters to homeowners, for example.

And while an IPO is not out of the question, he emphasizes that it’s not the company’s main objective at this time.

“I definitely try not to get locked on to a particular exit strategy. I just want to make sure we continue to build the best company we can. And then, I think the exit will make itself apparent,” Melnick said. “I’m not blind and am very aware that public market valuations are strong right now and that may be the right decision for us, but for now, that’s not the ultimate goal for me.”

To the CEO, there’s still plenty of runway.

“This is a big milestone, but I do feel like for us that this is just the beginning,” he said. “We’ve just scratched the surface of it.”

Early investor Mark Cuban believes the company is at an inflection point.

” ‘Startup’ isn’t the right word anymore,” he said in a written statement. “The Zebra is a full fledged tech company that is taking on – and solving – some of the biggest challenges in the $638B insurance industry.”

Accel Partner John Locke said the firm has tripled down on its investment in The Zebra because of its confidence in not only what the company is doing but also its potential.

“In an increasingly noisy insurance landscape that includes insurtechs and traditional carriers, giving consumers the ability to compare everything in one place is is more and more valuable,” he told TechCrunch. “I think The Zebra has really seized the mantle of becoming the go-to site for people to compare insurance and then that’s showing up in the numbers, referral traffic and fundraise interest.”

#accel, #animals, #austin, #auto-insurance, #ballast-point-ventures, #connect, #finance, #financial-services, #floodgate-fund, #funding, #fundings-exits, #hedosophia, #insurance, #insurtech, #john-locke, #life-insurance, #machine-learning, #mark-cuban, #model, #recent-funding, #silverton-partners, #startups, #the-zebra, #united-kingdom, #united-states, #venture-capital, #zebra


Scale CEO Alex Wang and Accel’s Dan Levine explain why sometimes unconventional VC deals are best

Few companies have done better than Scale at spotting a need in the AI gold rush early on and filling that gap. The startup rightly identified that one of the tasks most important to building effective AI at scale — the laborious exercise of tagging data sets to make them usable in properly training new AI agents — was one that companies focused on that area of tech would also be most willing to outsource. CEO and co-founder Alex Wang credits their success since founding, which includes raising over $277 million and achieving break-even status in terms of revenue, to early support from investors including Accel’s Dan Levine.

Accel haș participated in four of Scale’s financing rounds, which is all of them unless you include the funding from YC the company secured as part of a cohort in 2016. In fact, Levine wrote one of the company’s very first checks. So on this past week’s episode of Extra Crunch Live, we spoke with Levine and Wang about how that first deal came together, and what their working relationship has been like in the years since.

Scale’s story starts with a pivot, and with a bit of rule-breaking, too — Wang went off the typical YC book by speaking to investors prior to demo day when Levine cold-emailed him after seeing Scale on Product Hunt. The Product Hunt spot wasn’t planned, either — Wang was as surprised to see his company there as anyone else. But Levine saw the kernel of something with huge potential, and despite being a relative unknown in VC at the time, didn’t want to let the opportunity pass him, or Wang, by.

Both Wang and Levine were also able to provide some great feedback on decks submitted to our regular Pitch Deck Teardown segment, despite the fact that Levine actually never saw a pitch deck from Wang before investing (more on that later). If you’d like your pitch deck reviewed by experienced founders and investors on a future episode, you can submit your deck here.

Knowing when to bend the rules

As mentioned, Levine and Accel’s initial investment in Scale came from a cold email sent after the company appeared on Product Hunt. Wang said the team had just put out an early version of Scale, and then noticed that it was up on Product Hunt — it was submitted by someone else. The community response was encouraging, and it also led to Levine reaching out via email.

“One of the side effects of that, one of the outcomes, was that we got this cold email from Dan,” he said. “We really knew nothing about Dan until his cold email. So like many great stories that started with a bold, cold email. And we were pretty stressed about it at the time, because in YC, they tell you pretty definitively, ‘Hey, don’t talk to a VC during the batch,’ and we were squarely in the middle of the batch.”

Wang and the team were so nervous that they even considered “ghosting” Dan despite his obvious interest and the prestige of Accel as an investment firm. In the end, they decided to “go rogue” and respond, which led to a meeting at the Accel offices in Palo Alto.

#accel, #alex-wang, #artificial-intelligence, #dan-levine, #ec-how-to, #extra-crunch-live, #pitching, #product-hunt, #startups, #tc, #technology, #tiger-global, #venture-capital, #y-combinator


CaptivateIQ raises $46M for its no-code sales commissions platform

CaptivateIQ, which has developed a no-code platform to help companies design customized sales commission plans, has raised $46 million in a Series B round led by Accel.

Existing backers Amity, S28 Capital, Sequoia, and Y Combinator also participated in the financing, which brings the San Francisco-based company’s total raised to $63 million since its 2017 inception.

CaptivateIQ must be doing something right. While it is not yet profitable, the startup’s revenue has grown 600% year-over-year. To date, it has processed over $2 billion in commissions on its platform across hundreds of enterprise customers including Affirm, TripActions, Udemy, Intercom, Newfront Insurance and JMAC Lending.

“A big part of our growth is that we can help any company that offers a performance-based compensation plan, so we don’t have any restrictions with the types of businesses we work with,” said co-CEO Mark Schopmeyer. “We typically see conversations start with teams that have a minimum of 25 sales people, though we easily serve enterprises and public companies as well.”

The number of payees — defined as someone receiving a payout in CapitvateIQ’s system — was up four times in December 2020 from the year prior. Plus, the company had “back-to-back record months” from September through the end of the year in 2020, according to Schopmeyer.

He, co-CEO Conway Teng and CTO Hubert Wong founded CaptivateIQ after coming out of Y Combinator’s Winter 2017 cohort. 

Left to right: CaptivateIQ co-founders Hubert Wong, Mark Schopmeyer and Conway Teng

Left to right: CaptivateIQ co-founders Hubert Wong, Mark Schopmeyer and Conway Teng.

The company touts its SaaS platform as a combination of the familiarity of spreadsheets, with the scalability and performance of software, so that users can configure any commission plan “entirely on their own,” according to Teng. 

“Calculating commissions is really complicated and mission critical – think of it like a very complicated form of payroll – each company has a unique commission plan that involves a lot more calculations and data than your typical salary payroll math,” Teng said. “Also, in recent years, companies have access to more data than ever, giving them room to incentive employees on more performance metrics.” 

Today, CaptivateIQ has 90 employees, more than triple what it did one year ago.

In 2020, the startup saw a bump in the number of non-high technology companies buying its software, and as a result, CaptivateIQ is going to increase its efforts into those other verticals, according to Teng. So far, it has found success in particular in financial services, manufacturing, and business services, among other sectors.

The pandemic served as a tailwind to its business. Sales teams generally rely on in-person interactions to stay productive, Schopmeyer points out. Without those activities over the past year, “having the right incentives in place became ever more critical as companies required new ways to motivate teams during the shift to remote work.”

“We saw our product usage skyrocket at the beginning of the pandemic as businesses quickly adjusted incentives, team quotas, SPIFs, and other components of their comp plans to stay competitive,” he said. 

The company plans to use its new capital to improve upon the user experience. Specifically, Teng said, it plans to introduce “more powerful data transformations, a richer set of formulas, and off-the-shelf templates.”

Another goal is to automate and streamline the commissions process from beginning to end, he added. The startup is expanding its data integrations to support “all major data systems” and introducing new dashboarding capabilities. It’s also enhancing existing collaboration workflows around approvals, inquiries and contracts.

Looking ahead, CaptivateIQ is exploring the potential of applying its technology to solve for use cases outside the world of commissions — something that it says its customers are already doing.

“It’s exciting to see what people have been building, and we’re looking forward to enabling new solutions as we continue to release more of our core technology platform,” Teng said.

Accel Partner Ben Fletcher said the pain point of calculating and reporting sales commissions kept coming up among portfolio companies, with CaptivateIQ frequently referenced. Those companies, he said, tried more enterprise-grade solutions — “spending hundreds of thousands on implementation to ultimately find that their products did not work.” They also tried other newer tools that also just didn’t work well.

“As we dug in and talked with more and more customers, it was abundantly clear — CaptivateIQ was the best product in the space,” Fletcher said.

Besides ease of use, the fact that CaptivateIQ is a no-code tool, is a big deal to Accel.

“Similar to UIPath, Webflow, and Ada, CaptivateIQ is able to bring the power of customer development and automation to an easy to use, drag-and-drop product,” Fletcher said. 

#accel, #articles, #commission, #funding, #no-code, #recent-funding, #s28-capital, #saas, #san-francisco, #software, #startups, #venture-capital, #y-combinator


#DealMonitor – #EXKLUSIV Adtriba sammelt rund 4 Millionen ein – Cleverly bekommt knapp 1 Million + LiveEO sammelt 5,25 Millionen ein

Im aktuellen #DealMonitor für den 6. April 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.


+++ seed + speed Ventures, der Frühphasen-Investor von Carsten Maschmeyer, und Aschendorff Next investieren gemeinsam mit den Alt-Investoren Lightfield Equity, Jens Schumann, dem Lead-Investor High-Tech Gründerfonds (HTGF) und dem Innovationsstarter Fonds Hamburg (IFH)) nach unseren Informationen rund 4 Millionen Euro in Adtriba. Das Hamburger Startup, das 2015 von János Moldvay und Ludwig Ostrowski gegründet wurde, möchte die Online-Marketing-Kampagnen von kleinen und mittelständischen Unternehmen verbessern. Mit dem Adtriba-Dashboard lassen sich dann alle Aktivitäten auf einen Blick erfassen. Kunden von Adtriba sind unter anderem Montblanc, Gerry Weber und Flixbus. #EXKLUSIV

+++ Mehrere Business Angels – darunter die Flixbus-Gründer, Investorin Verena Pausder und Lea-Sophie Cramer investieren nach unseren Informationen knapp 1 Million Euro in Cleverly. Das sehr junge Berliner Startup kümmert sich um Online-Nachhilfe. Bei Cleverly werden Schüler:innen dabei “nicht nur von den besten Tutoren, sondern auch von Cleverly-Mentoren ganzheitlich unterstützt”. Hinter der Jungfirma stecken unter anderem Investor Björn Jopen und Bodychange-Gründer Fredrik Harkort. Zum Team gehören außerdem Mike Gehrhardt und  Philipp Grassinger. #EXKLUSIV

+++ Jetzt offiziell: Accel und HV Capital investieren – wie bereits Ende Februar im Insider-Podcast berichtet – in Charles. In der Investmentrunde fließen 6,4 Millionen Euro. Hinter Charles verbirgt sich eine Conversational-Commerce-as-a-Service-Software für Händler und Konsumgütermarken. Das Unternehmen aus Berlin, das von Artjem Weissbeck (Kapten & Son) und Andreas Tussing (McKinsey) gegründet wurde, ermöglicht es Marken ihre Produkte über WhatsApp und andere Chat-Apps anzubieten. Tarek Müller (AboutYou), Alexander Graf (Spryker Systems, Kassenzone) und Nils Seebach (Etribes) investieren zuvor bereits 1 Million in Charles.

+++ btov Partners, Helen Ventures, Motu Ventures, Dieter von Holtzbrinck Ventures (DvH Ventures), Andreas Kupke und “einer der renommiertesten Investoren aus dem Silicon Valley” investieren 5,25 Millionen Euro in LiveEO. Das Ende 2017 von Sven Przywarra und Daniel Seidel in Berlin gegründete Startup analysiert durch Künstliche Intelligenz die Aufnahmen von Satellitenaufnahmen seiner Kunden und bietet auf dieser Grundlage eine Lösung zur Überwachung der Infrastruktur, wie zum Beispiel Bahntrassen und Hochspannungsleitungen, an. DvH Ventures und Finanzcheck-Gründer Kupke investieren zuvor bereits in LiveEO.

+++ “Führende Angel-Investoren und öffentliche Fördereinrichtungen” – darunter die Runtastic-Gründer Alfred Luger und Christian Kaar – investieren “knapp 2 Millionen Euro” in inoqo. Das 2020 in Wien gegründete ClimateTech entwickelt eine App, die es Onliner:innen ermöglicht, die verursachten CO2-Emissionen von Produkten zu ermitteln. Das Startup wurde von Markus Linder, Doris Wimmer, Hélène Saurais, Simon Haberfellner, Bernhard Schandl und Elisa Gramlich gegründet.

+++Der langjährige SAP-Vorstand Stefan Ries und HR Pioneers-Geschäftsführer André Häusling investieren gemeinsam mit den Alt-Investoren eine siebenstellige Summe in Monday.Rocks. Das HR-Startup aus Düsseldorf, das von Tobias Liedtke, Mario Reis, Luisa Bunzel und Christoph Schönfelder gegründet wurde, kümmert sich um “digitale Team-Optimierung”. In eigener Sache teilt die Jungfirma mit: “Dies gelingt durch ein digitales Team-Instrument, das intrinsische Motivation analysiert, die Teamdynamiken versteht und das gesamte Unternehmen auf ein neues Leistungsniveau hebt”.

+++ Der Salzburger Risikokapitalgeber Next Floor und Business Angel Oliver Sikora investieren eine sechsstellige Summe in Seasy – siehe Der Brutkasten. Das Startup aus Graz, das von Niklas Baumgartner, Martin Olsansky und Ivana Zemanovicova gegründet wurde, verbindet Segler und Marinas miteinander. In der Selbstbeschreibung heißt es: “Seasy offers a total solution that eases the everyday life of sailors, as well as marinas and yachting harbours”.

+++ In unserem Newsletter Startup-Radar berichten wir einmal in der Woche über neue Startups. Alle Startups stellen wir in unserem kostenpflichtigen Newsletter kurz und knapp vor und bringen sie so auf den Radar der Startup-Szene. Jetzt unseren Newsletter Startup-Radar abonnieren und 30 Tage kostenlos testen!


+++ In der dritten Folge der neunten Staffel investierte Pharma-Löwe Nils Glagau 150.000 Euro in easyBeeBox und sicherte sich 25 % am Unternehmen. Die Jungfirma, die von Jan Meyer und Nick Peters gegründet wurde, bietet Bienenkästen für den heimischen Garten an. Ursprünglich wollte das easyBeeBox-Team 150.000 Euro für 15 % einsammeln.

+++ In der dritten Folge der neunten Staffel investierte Regal-Löwe Ralf Dümmel 60.000 Euro in Flüwa und sicherte sich 30 % am Unternehmen. Hinter Flüwa, das von Karheinz Voll ins Leben gerufen wurde, verbirgt sich eine Wasserwaage, die über einen Flügel verfügt. Ursprünglich wollte der Flüwa-Macher 60.000 Euro für 20 % einsammeln.

+++ In der dritten Folge der neunten Staffel investierte Familien-Löwin Dagmar Wöhrl 200.000 in Kulero und sicherte sich 10 % am Unternehmen. Das Food-Startup, das von Juliane Schöning und Hemant Chawla gegründet wurde, setzt auf essbare Löffel. Der Deal platzte nach der Show aber.


Insider #99
+++ Schon die neue Insider-Ausgabe mit Sven Schmidt gehört?  In der aktuellen Folge geht es um Taktile, Finoa, Wisemarkt, Hive, Alexander Samwer, den VC-Markt, Iconi, den Spac-Boom, WeFox, Lilium, Airbank, Trana, Fanzone, Roadsurfer, Deliveroo, Gorillas, Flink und den Thrasio-Hype.

Abonnieren: Die Podcasts von könnt ihr bei Amazon Music – Apple Podcasts – Castbox – Deezer – Google Podcasts – iHeartRadio – Overcast – PlayerFM – Podimo – Spotify – SoundCloud oder per RSS-Feed abonnieren.

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

#accel, #adtriba, #aktuell, #aschendorff-next, #berlin, #btov-partners, #charles, #cleverly, #climatetech, #dusselsorf, #dvh-ventures, #easybeebox, #edtech, #fluwa, #graz, #helen-ventures, #hr, #hv-capital, #inoqo, #kulero, #liveeo, #monday-rocks, #motu-ventures, #next-floor, #seasy, #seed-speed-ventures, #venture-capital, #wien


Charles raises €6.4M seed to bring ‘conversational commerce’ to WhatsApp

Charles, a Berlin-based startup that offers a “conversational-commerce” SaaS for businesses that want to sell on WhatsApp and other chat apps, has raised €6.4 million in funding.

Led by Accel and HV Capital, the seed funding will be used by the company to scale and meet existing demand for its conversational commerce platform.

Launched in 2020 by Artjem Weissbeck and Andreas Tussing after the pair had run a year-long experiment running a store in WhatsApp, Charles enables businesses to sell products and services via WhatsApp and other chat apps in order to “increase conversion rate, customer loyalty and ultimately revenue”.

The SaaS connects chat app APIs, such as WhatsApp and Messenger, with shop and CRM systems, like Shopify, SAP and HubSpot, all delivered through a user-friendly interface. The idea is to make it easier for businesses to meet their customers on the channels they already use and to bridge the gap between sales enquiries and support, and actual conversions.

” ‘Traffic’ and with it ‘conversion’ will exponentially move from the streets (retail) and the browser/native apps into chat apps,” says Weissbeck. “Thereby, conversational commerce will be the third big pillar of commerce, gluing together all channels and unlocking the full potential of personalization via the unique identification of customers via their phone number”.

This transition, argues the Charles founder, creates “tremendous challenges and opportunities” for companies in terms of customer journey design and the tech stack, which to date — Asia, aside — has been predominantly tailored around webshops and e-mail.

“Ultimately our technology provides the operating system for companies to master this challenge,” adds Tussing. “The core of our software integrates chat apps with shop/CRM backends in an intuitive interface that puts the human chat sales agent in the center, supported by chatbots and AI”.

Luca Bocchio, partner at Accel, says that conversational commerce is emerging as a “critical channel for brands,” and is a trend that will reshape the way brands interact with customers. [This is] paving the way for potential new category-defining tools to emerge,” he says, noting that Charles has the potential to be one of those tools.

“When we talk to potential clients it’s mostly existing customer service tools like Zendesk who are starting to add chat apps as an additional channel,” says Weissbeck, when asked to cite direct competitors. “These tools are usually built upon a ‘ticketing’ logic, optimized to solve customer inquiries as quickly as possible and with a clear focus on service cases, not sales”.

In contrast, Weissbeck says Charles is built upon a “feed” logic, showing customer interaction as an ongoing conversation and end-to-end relationship — in the same way as the customer sees it.

“Further we deeply integrate into shop/CRM-backends to make it easy for agents to sell product and create carts or contracts — all in a very design-driven and intuitive interface, that is fun to use for the agent and puts her/him in the center,” says Tussing. “Supported by chatbots, not replaced”.

Meanwhile, the revenue model is simple enough: Businesses pay a monthly base fee to cover Charles’ fixed costs and on top of this the startup earns money on conversions. “We take a small share of the net sales, ensuring we are co-incentivised,” explains Weissbeck.

#accel, #charles, #europe, #fundings-exits, #hv-capital, #recent-funding, #startups, #tc, #whatsapp


ConductorOne raises $5M in seed round led by Accel to automate your access requests

Over the course of their careers, Alex Bovee and Paul Querna realized that while the use of SaaS apps and cloud infrastructure was exploding, the process to give employees permission to use them was not keeping up.

The pair led Zero Trust strategies and products at Okta, and could see the problem firsthand. For the unacquainted, Zero Trust is a security concept based on the premise that organizations should not automatically trust anything inside or outside its perimeters and, instead must verify anything and everything trying to connect to its systems before granting access.

Bovee and Querna realized that while more organizations were adopting Zero Trust strategies, they were not enacting privilege controls. This was resulting in delayed employee access to apps, or to the over-permissioning employees from day one.

Last summer, Bovee left Okta to be the first virtual entrepreneur-in-residence at VC firm Accel. There, he and Accel partner Ping Li got to talking and realized they both had an interest in addressing the challenge of granting permissions to users of cloud apps quicker and more securely.

Recalls Li: “It was actually kind of fortuitous. We were looking at this problem and I was like ‘Who can we talk to about the space? And we realized we had an expert in Alex.”

At that point, Bovee told Li he was actually thinking of starting a company to solve the problem. And so he did. Months later, Querna left Okta to join him in getting the startup off the ground. And today, ConductorOne announced that it raised $5 million in seed funding in a round led by Accel, with participation from Fuel Capital, Fathom Capital and Active Capital. 

ConductorOne plans to use its new capital to build what the company describes as “the first-ever identity orchestration and automation platform.” Its goal is to give IT and identity admins the ability to automate and delegate employee access to cloud apps and infrastructure, while preserving least privilege permissions. 

“The crux of the problem is that you’ve got these identities — you’ve got employees and contractors on one side and then on the other side you’ve got all this SaaS infrastructure and they all have sort of infinite permutations of roles and permissions and what people can do within the context of those infrastructure environments,” Bovee said.

Companies of all sizes often have hundreds of apps and infrastructure providers they’re managing. It’s not unusual for an IT helpdesk queue to be more than 20% access requests, with people needing urgent access to resources like Salesforce, AWS, or GitHub, according to Bovee. Yet each request is manually reviewed to make sure people get the right level of permissions. 

“But that access is never revoked, even if it’s unused,” Bovee said. “Without a central layer to orchestrate and automate authorization, it’s impossible to handle all the permissions, entitlements, and on- and off-boarding, not to mention auditing and analytics.”

ConductorOne aims to build “the world’s best access request experience,” with automation at its core.

“Automation that solves privilege management and governance is the next major pillar of cloud identity,” Accel’s Li said.

Bovee and Querna have deep expertise in the space. Prior to Okta, Bovee led enterprise mobile security product development at Lookout. Querna was the co-founder and CTO of ScaleFT, which was acquired by Okta in 2018. He also led technology and strategy teams at Rackspace and Cloudkick, and is a vocal and active open source software advocate.   

While the company’s headquarters are in Portland, Oregon, ConductorOne is a remote-first company with 10 employees.

“We’re deep in building the product right now, and just doing a lot of customer development to understand the problems deeply,” Bovee said. “Then we’ll focus on getting early customers.”

#accel, #alex-bovee, #cloud, #cloud-infrastructure, #funding, #fundings-exits, #paul-querna, #ping-li, #recent-funding, #saas, #security, #startups, #venture-capital


India’s Swiggy nears $5 billion valuation in new $800 million fundraise

Swiggy has raised about $800 million in a new financing round, the Indian food delivery startup told employees on Monday, as it looks to expand its business in the country quarters after the startup cut its workforce to navigate the pandemic.

In an email to employees, first reported by Times of India journalist Digbijay Mishra, Swiggy co-founder and chief executive Sriharsha Majety said the startup had raised $800 million from new investors including Falcon Edge Capital, Goldman Sachs, Think Capital, Amansa Capital, and Carmignac, and existing investors Prosus and Accel.

“This fundraise gives us a lot more firepower than the planned investments for our current business lines. Given our unfettered ambition though, we will continue to seed/experiment new offerings for the future that may be ready for investment later. We will just need to now relentlessly invent and execute over the next few years to build an enduring iconic company out of India,” wrote Majety in the email obtained by TechCrunch.

Majety didn’t disclose the new valuation of Swiggy, but said the new financing round was “heavily subscribed given the very positive investor sentiments towards Swiggy.” According to a person familiar with the matter, the new round valued Swiggy at over $4.8 billion. The startup has now raised about $2.2 billion to date.

Swiggy had raised $157 million last year at about $3.7 billion valuation. That investment is not part of the new round, a person familiar with the matter told TechCrunch.

He said the long-term goal for the startup, which competes with heavily-backed Zomato and new entrant Amazon, is to serve 500 million users in the next 10-15 years, pointing to Chinese tech giant Meituan, which had 500 million transacting users last year.

“We’re coming out of a very hard phase during the last year given Covid and have weathered the storm, but everything we do from here on needs to maximise the chances of our succeeding in the long-term,” wrote Majety.

Monday’s reveal comes amid Zomato raising $910 million in recent months as the Gurgaon-headquartered firm prepares for an IPO this year. The last tranche of investment valued Zomato at $5.4 billion.

A third player, Amazon, has also entered the food delivery market in India last year, though its operations are still limited to parts of Bangalore. At stake is India’s food delivery market, which analysts at Bernstein expect to balloon to be worth $12 billion by 2022, they wrote in a report to clients earlier this year. Zomato currently leads the market with about 50% market share, Bernstein analysts wrote.

“We find the food-tech industry in India to be well positioned to sustained growth with improving unit economics. Take-rates are one of the highest in India at 20-25% and consumer traction is increasing. Market is largely a duopoly between Zomato and Swiggy with 80%+ share,” wrote analysts at Bank of America in a recent report, reviewed by TechCrunch.

This is a developing story. More to follow…

#accel, #asia, #falcon-edge-capital, #food, #funding, #goldman-sachs, #prosus-ventures, #swiggy


Accel-backed mobile money platform NALA to start offering remittance services to East Africa

According to a McKinsey report, the total number of mobile money services worldwide was 282 in 2017, with more than half of those operating in sub-Saharan Africa. 

In 2020, these numbers increased significantly, but the ratio remained similar.  In 96 countries, there are 310 live mobile money services, according to a GSMA report. Out of that number, 171 are from Africa, while 157 are in sub-Saharan Africa.

In Tanzania, mobile money services can be relatively difficult to use due to unstable internet and high service fees. Benjamin Fernandes noticed this as a national television host while building a mobile money service to enable people to pay for TV subscriptions in East Africa back in 2011

Six years later, he would start his own mobile money and wallet aggregator, NALA, to solve these issues. Its first mobile application allowed users to make mobile money payments and utilize mobile banking without an internet connection. The business grew to 250,000 users in over a year after its official launch.

Last year, the WorldBank predicted a sharp decline of international remittances to Africa. But even though Africa is still the most expensive region to send money to with averages of 10.6% in transaction fees, the opposite happened. There was an increase in remittance activity on the continent.

Kenya, for instance, had its highest-ever inbound remittance at $3 billion, while WorldRemit acquired Sendwave in August 2020 for $500 million and Mama Money claimed to have grown 500% within the year.

NALA also noticed an uptick in remittance requests where 1 in 7 users wanted to receive money internationally. This happened despite not being in that business at the time. It’s not hard to see why: Presently, over 70% of money sent to Sub-Saharan Africa is transacted through physical stores. When many over-the-counter services were suspended or limited due to coronavirus restrictions, people were left with expensive, unreliable or hard-to-access alternatives.

Combined with the increasing trend for digital-first financial services and listening to some users’ requests, NALA began testing international money transfers in August 2020 to facilitate payments from the U.K. to Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. By building a multi-currency ledger where people can send money from the U.K. to Tanzania and back to the U.K., Fernandes says NALA can build a Wise for Africa.

I believe international payments are only 1% built today. Until you can send money both ways seamlessly, our work isn’t done,” Fernandes told TechCrunch. We believe African markets should be ‘sender’ markets, too; there is a lot of trade happening with other countries, and most of the money is sent via costly bank wires or at physical stores. It doesn’t need to be this way; it’s time for something better.” 

Various platforms are trying to achieve this, but none specifically targets the East African region. That is NALA’s play, according to the CEO. “This is where we see a big advantage for us. We are local, we understand mobile money, we built bill payments on our previous product, and this is an extension of that,” he added.

Benjamin Fernandes (CEO, Nala)

Since graduating as the first East African company from Y Combinator in 2019, NALA has brought other interesting investors on board to support its mission. The most notable is Accel, which has been kept under wraps for some time. The VC firm rarely makes deals on the continent and has only invested in NALA and Egypt’s Instabug. Other backers include NYCA Partners and angel investors like Shamir Karkal (co-founder of Simple), Peeyush Ranjan (former Flipkart CTO and current head of Google Payments), and Thomas Stafford (DST Global)

NALA also enlisted the services of Nicolas Esteves, who was the VP of engineering at Osper and had a stint at Monzo to become the company’s CTO which, according to Fernandes, will considerably improve the company’s chances of achieving its goal. “When we brought someone of his calibre on our team, it just opened up the doors of what we could accomplish because he has built multi-currency ledgers across different large companies.”   

For now, though, the company will be rolling out a beta product next month for U.K.-based customers sending money to Kenya and Uganda (Tanzania will come later). The company claims that the service will support instant payments to all major mobile money accounts and says it is closing some banking partnerships that will allow it to facilitate money transfers from East Africa to the U.K.

#accel, #africa, #east-africa, #finance, #kenya, #mobile-payments, #monzo, #nala, #payments, #remittance, #tanzania, #tc, #uganda, #y-combinator


Bevy raises $40M Series C with 20% coming from Black investors

You might expect that a startup that makes community building software would be thriving during a pandemic when it’s so difficult for us to be together. And Bevy, a company whose product powers community sites like Salesforce Trailblazers and Google Developers announced it has raised a $40 million Series C this morning, at least partly due to the growth related to that dynamic.

The round was led by Accel with participation from Upfront Ventures, Qualtrics co-founder Ryan Smith and LinkedIn, but what makes this investment remarkable is that it included 25 Black investors representing 20% of the investment.

One of those investors, James Lowery, who is a management consultant and entrepreneur, and was the first Black employee hired at McKinsey in 1968, sees the opportunity for this approach to be a model to attract investment from other under-represented groups.

“I know for a fact because of my friendship and my network that there are a lot of people, if they had the opportunity to invest in opportunities like this, they will do it, and they have the money to do it. And I think we can be the model for the nation,” Lowery said.

Unfortunately, there has been a dearth of Black VC investment in startups like Bevy. In fact, only around 3% of venture capitalists are Black and 81% of VC firms don’t have a single Black investor.

Kobie Fuller, who is general Partner at investor Upfront Ventures, a Bevy board member and runs his own community called Valence, says that investments like this can lead to a flywheel effect that can lead to increasing Black investment in startups.

“So for me, it’s about how do we get more Black investors on cap tables of companies early in their lifecycle before they go public, where wealth can be created. How do we get key members of executive teams being Black executives who have the ability to create wealth through options and equity. And how do we also make sure that we have proper representation on the boards of these companies, so that we can make sure that the CEOs and the C suite is held accountable towards the diversity goals,” Fuller said.

He sees a software platform like Bevy that facilitates community as a logical starting point for this approach, and the company needs to look like the broader communities it serves. “Making sure that our workforce is appropriately represented from a perspective of having appropriate level of Black employees to the board to the actual investors is just good business sense,” he said.

But the diversity angle doesn’t stop with the investor group. Bevy CEO and co-founder Derek Anderson says that last May when George Floyd was killed, his firm didn’t have a single person of color among the company’s 27 employees and not a single Black investor in his cap table. He wanted to change that, and he found that in diversifying, it not only was the right thing to do from a human perspective, it was also from a business one.

“We realized that if we really started including people from the Black and Brown communities inside of Bevy that the collective bar of a talent was going to go up. We were going to look from a broader pool of candidates, and what we found as we’ve done this is that as the culture has started to change, the customer satisfaction is going up, our profits and our revenues — the trajectory is going up — and I see this thing is completely correlated,” Anderson said.

Last summer the company set a two year goal to get to 20% of employees being Black. While the number of employees is small, Bevy went from zero to 5% in June, 10% by September. Today it is just under 15% and expects to hit the 20% goal by summer, a year ahead of the goal it set last year.

Bevy grew out of a community called Startup Grind that Anderson started several years ago. Unable to find software to run and manage the community, he decided to build it himself. In 2017, he spun that product into a separate company that became Bevy, and he has raised $60 million, according to the company.

In addition to Salesforce and Google, other large enterprises are using Bevy to power their communities and events including Adobe, Atlassian, Twilio, Slack and Zendesk.

Today, the startup is valued at $325 million, which is 4x the amount it was valued at when it raised its $15 million Series B in May 2019. It expects to reach $30 million in ARR by the end of this year.

#accel, #bevy, #diversity, #enterprise, #funding, #recent-funding, #startups, #upfront-ventures


Accel’s Dan Levine and Scale’s Alexandr Wang will chat about how to create a category on Extra Crunch Live

Alexandr Wang has spent the last five years looking to accelerate the development of AI and machine learning algorithms with Scale AI. The company has raised upwards of $270 million since inception, and doesn’t show any signs of slowing.

That’s why we’re thrilled to hang out with Wang and Scale AI investor Dan Levine (Accel) on Wednesday, April 7 on Extra Crunch Live.

Extra Crunch Live is free to everyone, and focuses on the relationships between founders and investors that have led to successful business building. We talk about what made them choose each other, hear about the initial pitch meetings, and learn about how they make decisions about the future together.

ECL also features the Pitch Deck Teardown, wherein our esteemed guests give their live feedback on decks submitted by the audience. If you’d like to send us your deck to be featured on a future episode of Extra Crunch Live, hit up this link.

Dan Levine worked on the platform team at Dropbox before getting into venture, and before that was an entrepreneur himself, founding YC-backed Chartio. His current portfolio includes Gem, Mux, Numeracy (acquired by Snowflake), ReadMe, Scale, Searchlight, Sentry and Vercel.

Wang, for his part, was a technical lead at Quora before founding Scale. He also worked as an algorithm developer at Hudson River Trading and as a software engineer at Addepar after attending, and ultimately dropping out from, MIT, where he studied Artificial Intelligence.

Between the two of them, these speakers have plenty of wisdom to impart about how to ideate, fund, and scale (ha!) businesses.

The episode goes down on April 7 at 12pm PT/3pm ET and is free to attend live. Only Extra Crunch members will have access to the episode on demand so be sure to register now and hang out with us.

Early Stage is the premier ‘how-to’ event for startup entrepreneurs and investors. You’ll hear first-hand how some of the most successful founders and VCs build their businesses, raise money and manage their portfolios. We’ll cover every aspect of company-building: Fundraising, recruiting, sales, product market fit, PR, marketing and brand building. Each session also has audience participation built-in – there’s ample time included for audience questions and discussion. Use code “TCARTICLE” at checkout to get 20 percent off tickets right here.

#accel, #extra-crunch-live-announcement, #scale-ai, #tc


Nuvemshop, LatAm’s answer to Shopify, raises $90M in Accel-led Series D

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to people everywhere shopping more online and Latin America is no exception.

São Paulo-based Nuvemshop has developed an e-commerce platform that aims to allow SMBs and merchants to connect more directly with their consumers. With more people in Latin America getting used to making purchases digitally, the company has experienced a major surge in business over the past year.

Demand for Nuvemshop’s offering was already heating up prior to the pandemic. But over the past 12 months, that demand has skyrocketed as more merchants have been seeking greater control over their brands.

Rather than selling their goods on existing marketplaces (such as Mercado Libre, the Brazilian equivalent of Amazon), many merchants and entrepreneurs are opting to start and grow their own online businesses, according to Nuvemshop co-founder and CEO Santiago Sosa.

“Most merchants have entered the internet by selling on marketplaces but we are hearing from newer generations of merchants and SMBs that they don’t want to be intermediated anymore,” he said. “They want to connect more directly with consumers and convey their own brand, image and voice.”

The proof is in the numbers.

Nuvemshop has seen the number of merchants on its platform surge to nearly 80,000 across Brazil, Argentina and Mexico compared to 20,000 at the start of 2020. These businesses range from direct-to-consumer (DTC) upstarts to larger brands such as PlayMobil, Billabong and Luigi Bosca. Virtually every KPI tripled in the company in 2020 as the world saw a massive transition to online, and Nuvemshop’s platform was home to 14 million transactions last year, according to Sosa.

“With us, businesses can find a more comprehensive ecosystem around payments, logistics, shipping and catalogue/inventory management,” he said.

Nuvemshop’s rapid growth caught the attention of Silicon Valley-based Accel. Having just raised $30 million in a Series C round in October and achieving profitability in 2020, the Nuvemshop team was not looking for more capital.

But Ethan Choi, a partner at Accel, said his firm saw in Nuvemshop the potential to be the market leader, or the “de facto” e-commerce platform, in Latin America.

“Accel has been investing in e-commerce for a very long time. It’s a very important area for us,” Choi said. “We saw what they were building and all their potential. So we pre-emptively asked them to let us invest.”

Today, Nuvemshop is announcing that it has closed on a $90 million Series D funding led by Accel. ThornTree Capital and returning backers Kaszek, Qualcomm Ventures and others also put money in the round, which brings Nuvemshop’s total funding raised since its 2011 inception to nearly $130 million. The company declined to reveal at what valuation this latest round was raised but it is notable that its Series D is triple the size of its Series C, raised just over six months prior. Sosa said only that there was a “substantial increase” in valuation since its Series C.

Nuvemshop is banking on the fact that the density of SMBs in Latin America is higher in most Latin American countries compared to the U.S. On top of that, the $85 billion e-commerce market in Latin America is growing rapidly with projections of it reaching $116.2 billion in 2023.

“In Brazil, it grew 40% last year but is still underpenetrated, representing less than 10% of retail sales. In Latin America as a whole, penetration is somewhere between 5 and 10%,” Sosa said.

Nuvemshop co-founder and CEO Santiago Sosa;
Image courtesy of Nuvemshop

Last year, the company transitioned from a closed product to a platform that is open to everyone from third parties, developers, agencies and other SaaS vendors. Through Nuvemshop’s APIs, all those third parties can connect their apps into Nuvemshop’s platform.

“Our platform becomes much more powerful, vendors are generating more revenue and merchants have more options,” Sosa told TechCrunch. “So everyone wins.” Currently, Nuvemshop has about 150 applications publishing on its ecosystem, which he projects will more than triple over the next 12 to 18 months.

As for comparisons to Shopify, Sosa said the company doesn’t necessarily make them but believes they are “fair.”

To Choi, there are many similarities.

“We saw Amazon get to really big scale in the U.S.. Merchants also found tools to build their own presence. This birthed Shopify, which today is worth $160 billion. Both companies saw their market caps quadruple during the pandemic,” he said. “Now we’re seeing the same dynamics in LatAm…Our bet here is that this company and business has all the same dynamics and the same really powerful tailwinds.”

For Accel partner Andrew Braccia, Nuvemshop has a clear first mover advantage.

Over the past decade, direct-to-consumer has become one of the most important drivers of entrepreneurship globally,” he said. “Latin America is no exception to this trend, and we believe that Nuvemshop has the level of sophistication and ability to understand all that change and fuel the continued transformation of commerce from offline to online.”

Looking ahead, Sosa expects Nuvemshop will use its new capital to significantly invest in: continuing to open its APIs; payments processing and financial services; “everything related to logistics and logistics management” and attracting smaller merchants. It also plans to expand into other markets such as Colombia, Chile and Peru over the next 18-24 months. Nuvemshop currently operates in Mexico, Brazil and Argentina.

“While the countries share the same secular trends and product experience, they have very different market dynamics,” Sosa said. “This requires an on the ground local knowledge to make it all work. Separate markets require distinct knowledge. That makes this a more complicated opportunity, but one that enables a long-term competitive advantage.”

#accel, #amazon, #andrew-braccia, #argentina, #brazil, #chile, #colombia, #e-commerce, #ecommerce, #finance, #financial-services, #funding, #fundings-exits, #investment, #latin-america, #market-leader, #mercado-libre, #mexico, #nuvemshop, #payments-processing, #peru, #publishing, #qualcomm-ventures, #recent-funding, #saas, #sao-paulo, #series-c, #silicon-valley, #startups, #tc, #united-states, #venture-capital


Aldea Ventures creates ‘hybrid’ European €100M fund to invest both in Micro VCs, plus follow-on

The historical trajectory of venture capital has been to move to earlier and earlier finding rounds in order to capture the greatest potential multiple on exit. In the US, we’ve seen an explosion of Pre-series A funds, and similarly in Europe. But there’s been an opportunity to tie a lot of that activity together and also produce data that can feed into decision-making about growth rounds, further up the funding pipeline. Now, newly-formed Aldea Ventures intends to do just that.

Today’s it’s announcing a €60M first close of its Pan-European fund with the aim of reaching its target €100M first fund. The idea is ambitious: to invest in 700 startups across Europe, but with an unusual, “hybrid” strategy. First up, it will operate as a fund-of-funds, investing in up to 20 early-stage ‘micro VC funds’ across Europe. Second of all, it will act as a co-investment platform from Series A upwards.  So far it has invested in London-based Job and Talent and most recently, Copenhagen-based Podimo.

The model is more common in Silicon Valley than in Europe, so Aldea Ventures hopes to capitalize on this trend as one of the earlier players with this strategy. Aldea is also effectively stepping into the gap where corporate VCs in the US would normally fill, but in Europe is generally a gaping hole.

Aldea Ventures is led by managing partners Carlos Trenchs, formerly at Caixa Capital Risc; Alfonso Bassols, previously at Nauta Capital; Josep Duran, formerly with the European Investment Fund; and Gonzalo Rodés, Chairman. Aldea Ventures is partnering with Meridia Capital, a leading Spanish alternative investment fund manager.

Carlos Trenchs, managing partner of Aldea Ventures, said: “We believe Europe will continue to grow in influence and play an integral part in the next decade of technology… Our dual model as a fund of funds and co-investor into scaleups is the first of its kind in Europe. Seen only in Silicon Valley until today, we’re putting this model to work to fuel the next generation of growth across the European ecosystem.”

Aldea will look for five factors to selecting micro VCs: the firm’s thesis (specialist, thematic or generalist); location (pan-European or local); the experience of the partners; the size of the fund, and whether the fund is emerging or established. The fund will also take a long hard look at AI, Blockchain and DeepTech companies.

Trenchs explained to me during an interview that “we will have exposure to seed capital in different geographies with the 700 companies, and we reserve the other half of the fund to invest directly on the growth stage in the best performers in their portfolios.” This, he says, will establish a roadmap from direct investing all the way up to later-stage rounds.

Aldea has so far made investments into six micro VCs; Air Street Capital and Moonfire in London; Helloworld in Luxembourg; Inventures in Munich; Mustard Seed Maze in Lisbon; and Nina Capital in Barcelona. 

Nathan Benaich, Founding Partner of Air Street Capital, commented: “Investing in  European AI-first companies is a huge opportunity, with almost one-quarter of top global AI talent earning their university degrees here.. Our partnership with Aldea demonstrates a shared conviction that specialist managers with deep sector-specific knowledge will accelerate the success of tomorrow’s category-defining European companies that are AI-first by design.”

There’s clearly also a data play here because Aldea is likely to end up with a lot of data across companies, sectors and also across various stages.

And that was confirmed by Trenchs: “We want to make the VC world more transparent. If you have the 700 companies, in a few years from now, we’ll be able to collect a lot of data about what’s going on at seed stage in European valuations, geographies and sectors. Our intention is of course to use it as intelligence.” He also said the firm intended to share a lot of anonymized data with the wider European ecosystem.

“There is a funnel of few thousands of companies that get funded, but only a few make it through the funnel. As investors, we are looking for venture capitalists that can transform their seed portfolio into a portfolio that graduates from Series A to Series B,” he added.

#accel, #air-street-capital, #barcelona, #chairman, #copenhagen, #corporate-finance, #entrepreneurship, #europe, #european-investment-fund, #finance, #investment, #lisbon, #london, #luxembourg, #managing-partner, #money, #munich, #nauta-capital, #partner, #private-equity, #tc, #united-states, #venture-capital


Inovia Capital raises $450M for second growth-stage investment fund

Montreal-headquartered Inovia Capital has raised $450 million for Growth Fund II, the firm’s second growth-stage investment fund. The close of this funding comes just a little over two years after the announcement of its first in February 2019, a $400 million pool of investment capital that marked Inovia’s first foray beyond the early stage deals it originally focused on.

Inovia now has investments across every stage of a company’s development — including retaining stakes in some of its portfolio companies that have had successful exits to the public markets, like Lightspeed, the point-of-sale and commerce company that went public in a nearly $400 million public offering on both the NYSE and the TSX last year.

As with Growth Fund I, the goal of Growth Fund II is to invest in companies with a focus primarily on Canadian startups, but also looking to targets in the U.S. and EU, where Inovia also maintains offices. The firms’ partners, including Chris Arsenault, Dennis Kavelman, and former Google CFO Patrick Pichette, have focused on building out a team of experienced operators to help their portfolio companies, and invest specifically in areas of particular need for startups outside the Valley, like sourcing high-demand, senior talent with high-profile tech industry experience.

Inovia’s original Growth Fund was based on an assumption that the firm could leverage its relationships and its experience to deliver value to its portfolio companies not just when they’re starting out, but across their growth cycles. Arsenault explained in an interview that Fund I was kind of a proof point that that this assumption was correct, which then paid big dividends when the firm went out to raise Fund II last year.

“We basically built the team around Dennis, Patrick and myself,” he said. “We really followed through on our key assumptions over why it made sense for Inovia to use its platform to actually build a growth stage fund that would benefit not only from insights into the portfolio, but also all of the relationships and the platform that we built over the last decade.”

What needed proving, Arsenault said, was that Inovia could stand toe-to-toe with the growth-focused firms that had acted as follow-on investors for its early stage deals over the years. That was no easy task, when you consider that Inovia provided deal flow to some of the most respected venture firms in technology, including Bessemer, KKR, TA Ventures and Sequoia.

Inovia hired a lot of operators with experience at high-growth companies, and focused on being able to shepherd its investments through challenges like building a real board, and engineering a cap table to properly manage and prepare secondary sales. With a plan to invest in between 10 to 12 companies with the $400 million in Fund I, Inovia began making deals – the first was with Lightspeed, and then they got into Forward (tech-enabled primary health care), Hopper and Snaptravel (two travel industry startups) and more.

Inovia Capital growth partners Chris Arsenault, Dennis Kavelman and Patrick Pichette (left to right)

Most of the companies that Lightspeed picked with Fund I (it did 10 deals in total) ended up having a very strong 2020 – including, surprisingly, all the travel-focused startups. Based on the strength of their performance, Arsenault and his partners decided to accelerate their timetable for raising Fund II, and found LPs more than willing. They ended up capping the fund at $450 million (with a target of between 10 to 12 investments, as with Fund I) given what Arsenault says felt like the right size for managing across the investment and operating team, despite available demand to likely raise quite a bit more.

Arsenault noted that most of the LPs contributing to this fund also had capital in the first, though some new investors have also signed on. And while Inovia’s focus is not strictly Canadian, he added that the firm’s success, along with the makeup of its investment partners and portfolio (two-thirds of the companies it has backed are Canadian) tells a story of a changing investment landscape north of the border.

“The majority of our LPs are Canadian, and I take it to heart that it’s important to create patterns of success, so that people can look towards models and either replicate or adapt to their own situation,” Arsenault said. “I think that we need more success stories that people can look at and say, ‘I can do the same thing, or I can do better.’ And the fact that our LPs came back with us, and when you look at, you know, what Georgian [Partners] is doing, and what Novacap is doing, and what OMERS Growth – this is nothing like the VC ecosystem and industry that I was in 10 years ago, right? We’re definitely on another level now in Canada.”

He added that there are examples at every stage of company-building, citing the new Backbone Angels collective led by a number of post and current Shopify employees including Arati Sharma, Atless Clark, Lynsey Thornton and Alexandra Clark. Arsenault also pointed to Lightspeed’s decision to list first on the TSX before the NYSE as a sign of newfound tech industry maturity in the Canadian context.

Finally, Arsenault credits an unusual ‘X’ factor in how Inovia has been able to put together this second fund and manage deep involvement in its very active portfolio companies over the last year: the mostly remote conditions brought on by the necessities of the pandemic.

“It would have been impossible to do what we did within the portfolio, with the portfolio, fundraising a new fund, generating our best year, in terms of exits last year, we had the New York Stock Exchange IPO for Lightspeed, we had a dozen transactions of acquisitions where our portfolio companies are doing the acquiring,” he said. “I don’t know how we would have done what we’ve done, had we been traveling and had a normal life.”

#accel, #canada, #cfo, #chris-arsenault, #corporate-finance, #european-union, #finance, #fund, #funding, #google, #hopper, #inovia, #inovia-capital, #investment, #lightspeed, #money, #montreal, #patrick-pichette, #shopify, #ta-ventures, #tc, #united-states, #venture-capital


Indonesian payments infra startup Xendit raises $64.6M in Accel-led Series B

Fueled by the COVID-19 pandemic, digital transformation is happening all over the world. And Southeast Asia is no exception.

Indonesia’s Xendit, a startup focused on building digital payments infrastructure for the region, has just raised $64.6 million in a Series B led by Silicon Valley heavyweight Accel. The funding brings the total amount raised by the Jakarta-based company to $88 million since its 2015.

Notably, Y Combinator also participated in the financing. In fact, Xendit is the first Indonesian company to go through Y Combinator’s accelerator program. It also was ranked No. 64 on Y Combinator’s top 100 companies (by valuation and top exits) list in January 2021

Xendit works with businesses of all sizes, processing more than 65 million transactions with $6.5 billion in payment value annually. Its website promises businesses that “with a single integration,” they can accept payments in Indonesia and the Philippines. The company describes itself as building out financial services and digital payments infrastructure “in which the next generation of Southeast Asian SaaS companies can be built on top of,” or put more simply, it aspires to be the Stripe of Southeast Asia.

Xendit has been growing exponentially since its launch — with its CAGR (compound annual growth rate) increasing annually by 700%, according to COO and co-founder Tessa Wijaya. In 2020, the company saw its customer count increase by 540%. Customers include Traveloka, TransferWise, Wish and Grab, among others. Xendit declined to reveal hard revenue figures.

It also declined to reveal its current valuation but we do know that as of October 2019, it was valued at at least $150 million – a pre-requisite for appearing on this Y Combinator liston which it ranked No. 53. 

The idea for Xendit was formed when CEO Moses Lo met his co-founders while studying at University of California, Berkeley. Shortly after, they went through Y Combinator, and launched Xendit in 2015. 

One of the company’s main benefactors was Twitch co-founder Justin Kan. According to Lo, “he happened to have some family in Indonesia, and it was also about the time when Asia was becoming more interesting for YC.”

Xendit was originally launched as a P2P payments platform before evolving into its current model.

Today, the startup aims to help businesses of all sizes seamlessly process online payments, run marketplaces, distribute payroll manage finances and detect fraud via machine learning. It aims for fast and easy integrations so that businesses can more easily accept payments digitally.

The market opportunity is there. One of the world’s most populous countries that is home to more than 270 million people — an estimated 175 million of which are internet users — Indonesia’s digital economy is expected to reach $300 billion by 2025.

Add to that a complex region that is home to 17,000 different islands and a number of regulatory and technological challenges.

“Trying to build the businesses of tomorrow on yesterday’s infrastructure is holding Southeast Asia’s businesses back,” Lo said.

The global shift toward more digital transactions over the past year led to increased demand for Xendit’s infrastructure and services, according to Wijaya. To meet that demand, the company doubled its employee headcount to over 350 currently.

The pandemic also led to Xendit branching out. Prior to 2020, many of the company’s customers were large travel companies. So the first few months of the year, the startup’s business was hit hard. But increased demand paved the way for Xendit to expand into new sectors, such as retail, gaming and other digital products.

Looking ahead, the startup plans to use its new capital to scale its digital payments infrastructure “quickly” with the goal of providing millions of small and medium-sized businesses across Southeast Asia with “an on-ramp to the digital economy.” It is also eyeing other markets. Xendit recently expanded into the Philippines and also is considering other countries in Southeast Asia, such as Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia and Singapore, according to Wijaya.

Xendit is also similar in scope to San Francisco-based Finix, which aims to make every software company a payments company. Xendit acknowledges the similarities, but notes it is also “looking to tackle broader challenges related to accessibility, security and reliability that are unique to Southeast Asia,” with a deep understanding of the region’s unique geographical and cultural nuances.

To Accel partner Ryan Sweeney, Xendit has “quietly” built a modern digital payments infrastructure that’s transformed how Southeast Asian businesses transact.

“Their team’s combination of deep local expertise and global ambitions means they’re uniquely positioned to do what no other company could do in the region,” he said. “The vision of Xendit is a bold one: they are building the digital payments infrastructure for Southeast Asia, and fits squarely into Accel’s global fintech thesis.”

Other fintechs that Accel has backed include Braintree/Venmo, WorldRemit,GoFundMe and Monzo, and more recently Galileo, TradeRepublic, Lydia, and Flink.

#accel, #digital-services, #digital-transformation, #finance, #fintech, #funding, #fundings-exits, #indonesia, #jakarta, #payment-solutions, #payments, #philippines, #recent-funding, #ryan-sweeney, #southeast-asia, #startups, #venture-capital, #xendit, #y-combinator


#DealMonitor – #EXKLUSIV Gorillas: 100 Millionen-Runde steht – NetEase investiert in Jodel – Charles sammelt Millionen ein – Cherry investiert in Supercam

Im aktuellen #DealMonitor für den 22. Februar 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.


+++ Das Berliner Hype-Startup Gorillas, ein sogenannter Flash-Supermarkt, plant derzeit – wie bereits im Januar berichtet – 100 Millionen Euro einzusammeln. Nun steht die erneute Investmentrunde nach unseren Informationen kurz vor der Unterzeichnung. Als Geldgeber steht vermutlich Greenoaks Capital aus San Francisco bereit. Der New Yorker Hedgefonds Coatue investierte gerade erst 44 Millionen US-Dollar in Gorillas – bei einer Bewertung von 160 Millionen (Pre-Money). Das Startup, das bereits über 1.000 Mitarbeiter beschäftigt, wurde 2020 von Kagan Sümer und Jörg Kattner, der schon wieder ausgestiegen ist, gegründet. Details gibt es in unserem aktuellen Insider-Podcast (siehe unten). #EXKLUSIV

+++ Accel und HV Capital investieren nach unseren Informationen 5 Millionen Euro in Charles. Die Bewertung  liegt bei 20 Millionen Euro (Pre-Money). Hinter Charles verbirgt sich eine Conversational-Commerce-as-a-Service-Software für Händler und Konsumgütermarken. Das Unternehmen aus Berlin, das von Artjem Weissbeck (Kapten & Son) und Andreas Tussing (McKinsey) gegründet wurde, ermöglicht es Marken ihre Produkte über WhatsApp und andere Chat-Apps anzubieten. Tarek Müller (AboutYou), Alexander Graf (Spryker Systems, Kassenzone) und Nils Seebach (Etribes) investieren zuvor bereits 1 Million in Charles. Details gibt es in unserem aktuellen Insider-Podcast (siehe unten). #EXKLUSIV

+++ Der chinesische Internet-Gigant NetEase investiert nach unseren Informationen in die hyperlokale App Jodel. NetEase hält nun 23 % am Unternehmen. In den vergangenen Jahren flossen rund 10 Millionen Euro in das Berliner Unternehmen, das 2014 als eine Art Campus-App startete. Das Startup zeigt seinen Nutzern anonymisiert Beiträge an, die andere Nutzer, die in der Umgebung sind, veröffentlicht haben. Zu den Investoren von Jodel gehören unter anderem Global Founders Capital, der Geldgeber von Rocket Internet, und Atlantic Internet, also Christophe Maire. Details gibt es in unserem aktuellen Insider-Podcast (siehe unten). #EXKLUSIV

+++ Cherry Ventures investiert nach unseren Informationen eine unbekannte, sicherlich aber siebenstellige Summe, in Supercam, das neueste Startup von Janis Zech (Fyber). Das junge Unternehmen entwickelt eine Software für Videokonferenzen und Videokommunikation. “Our vision is to make everyone a great presenter”, teilt das Unternehmen in eigener Sache mit. Mit seiner Startup-Schmiede NewCo Labs schob Zech zuletzt Unternehmen wie Back und Good Game/Donut an. Bei Supercam steht ihm Henrik Basten, früher CTO bei Exactag und Fyber, zur Seite. Details gibt es in unserem aktuellen Insider-Podcast (siehe unten). #EXKLUSIV

+++ Das Kieler Startup Gitpod, das von Sven Efftinge, Moritz Eysholdt und Jan Köhnlein geführt wird, steht nach unseren Informationen vor dem Abschluss einer weiteren – millionenschweren – Investmentrunde. Crane Venture Partners, Speedinvest und Vertex Ventures US investieren erst kürzlich 3 Millionen US-Dollar in das Startup. Mit Gitpod können Entwickler ihre Projekte zügig umsetzen. Das Startup bietet seinen Nutzern eine einsatzbereite Entwicklungsumgebung im Browser – und zwar auf Knopfdruck. Details gibt es in unserem aktuellen Insider-Podcast (siehe unten). #EXKLUSIV

+++ Hessen Kapital investiert gemeinsam mit privaten und institutionellen Investoren, wie der DLE Holding, 1 Million Euro in das Frankfurter  das Startup LegalTegrity. Das LegalTech, das 2019 von 
Thomas Altenburg, Pia Michel und Maraja Fistanic gegründet wurde, bietet eine digitale Hinweisgeberlösung als Software-as-a-Service-Produkt an. “Die Lösung können kleine und mittelständische Unternehmen (KMU) einfach in ihre Abläufe sowie Unternehmensprozesse einbinden”, teilt die Jungfirma mit.


+++ Schon die neue Insider-Ausgabe mit Sven Schmidt gehört? In der aktuellen Folge geht es um Gorillas, Charles, Jodel, Supercam, Gitpod, Careship, Capnamic Ventures, AdJust, LeanIX, staffbase und den Spac-Boom.

Abonnieren: Die Podcasts von könnt ihr bei Amazon Music – Apple Podcasts – Castbox – Deezer – Google Podcasts – iHeartRadio – Overcast – PlayerFM – Podimo – Spotify – SoundCloud oder per RSS-Feed abonnieren.

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

#accel, #aktuell, #berlin, #charles, #cherry-ventures, #frankfurt-am-main, #gitpod, #gorillas, #greenoaks-capital, #hessen-kapital, #hv-capital, #jodel, #kiel, #legaltegrity, #netease, #supercam, #venture-capital


Ironclad’s Jason Boehmig: The objective of pricing is to become less wrong over time

In 2017, Ironclad founder and CEO Jason Boehmig was looking to raise a Series A. As a former lawyer, Boehmig had a specific process for fundraising and an ultimate goal of finding the right investors for his company.

Part of Boehmig’s process was to ask people in the San Francisco Bay Area about their favorite place to work. Many praised RelateIQ, a company founded by Steve Loughlin who had sold it to Salesforce for $390 million and was brand new to venture at the time.

“I wanted to meet Steve and had kind of put two and two together,” said Boehmig. “I was like, ‘There’s this founder I’ve been meaning to connect with anyways, just to pick his brain, about how to build a great company, and he also just became an investor.’”

On this week’s Extra Crunch Live, the duo discussed how the Ironclad pitch excited Loughlin about leading the round. (So excited, in fact, he signed paperwork in the hospital on the same day his child was born.) They also discussed how they’ve managed to build trust by working through disagreements and the challenges of pricing and packaging enterprise products.

As with every episode of Extra Crunch Live, they also gave feedback on pitch decks submitted by the audience. (If you’d like to see your deck featured on a future episode, send it to us using this form.)

We record Extra Crunch Live every Wednesday at 12 p.m. PST/3 p.m. EST/8 p.m. GMT. You can see our past episodes here and check out the March slate right here.

Episode breakdown:

  • The pitch — 2:30
  • How they operate — 23:00
  • The problem of pricing — 29:00
  • Pitch deck teardown — 35:00

The pitch

When Boehmig came in to pitch Accel, Loughlin remembers feeling ambivalent. He had heard about the company and knew a former lawyer was coming in to pitch a legal tech company. He also trusted the reference who had introduced him to Boehmig, and thought, “I’ll take the meeting.”

Then, Boehmig dove into the pitch. The company had about a dozen customers that were excited about the product, and a few who were expanding use of the product across the organization, but it wasn’t until the ultimate vision of Ironclad was teased that Loughlin perked up.

Loughlin realized that the contract can be seen as a core object that could be used to collaborate horizontally across the enterprise.

“That was when the lightbulb went off and I realized this is actually much bigger,” said Loughlin. “This is not a legal tech company. This is core horizontal enterprise collaboration in one of the areas that has not been solved yet, where there is no great software yet for legal departments to collaborate with their counterparts.”

He listed all the software that those same counterparts had to let them collaborate: Salesforce, Marketo, Zendesk. Any investor would be excited to hear that a potential portfolio company could match the likes of those behemoths. Loughlin was hooked.

“There was a slide that I’m guessing Jason didn’t think much of, as it was just the data around the business, but I got pretty excited about it,” said Loughlin. “It said, for every legal user Ironclad added, they added nine other users from departments like sales, marketing, customer service, etc. It was evidence that this theory of collaboration could be true at scale.”

#accel, #ecl, #enterprise, #extra-crunch-live, #funding, #ironclad, #jason-boehmig, #startups, #steve-loughlin, #tc, #venture-capital


The Series A deal that launched a near unicorn: Meet Accel’s Steve Loughlin and Ironclad’s Jason Boehmig

The only people who truly understand a relationship are the ones who are in it. Luckily for us, we’re going to have a candid conversation with both parties in the relationship between Ironclad CEO and cofounder Jason Boehmig and his investor and board member Accel partner Steve Loughlin.

Loughlin led Ironclad’s Series A deal back in 2017, making it one of his first Series A deals after returning to Accel.

This episode of Extra Crunch Live goes down on Wednesday at 3pm ET/12pm PT, just like usual.

We’ll talk to the duo about how they met, what made them ‘choose’ each other, and how they’ve operated as a duo since. How they built trust, maintain honesty, and talk strategy are also on the table as part of the discussion.

Loughlin was an entrepreneur before he was an investor, founding RelateIQ (an Accel-backed company) in 2011. The company was acquired by Salesforce in 2014 for $390 million and later became Salesforce IQ. Loughlin then “came back home” to Accel in 2016, and has led investments in companies like Airkit,, Clockwise, Ironclad, Monte Carlo, Nines, Productiv,, and Vivun.

Not entirely unsurprising for a man who has dominated the legal tech sphere, Jason Boehmig is a California barred attorney who practiced law at Fenwick & West and was also an adjunct professor of law at Notre Dame Law School. Ironclad launched in 2014 and today the company has raised more than $180 million and, according to reports, is valued just under $1 billion.

Not only will we peel back the curtain on how this investor/founder relationship works, but we’ll also hear from these two tech leaders on their thoughts around bigger enterprise trends in the ecosystem.

Then, it’s time for the Pitch Deck Teardown. On each episode of Extra Crunch Live, we take a look at pitch decks submitted by the audience and our experienced guests give their live feedback. If you want to throw your hat pitch deck in the ring, you can hit this link to submit your deck for a future episode.

As with just about everything we do here at TechCrunch, audience members can also ask their own questions to our guests.

Extra Crunch Live has left room for you to network (you gotta network to get work, amirite?). Networking is open starting at 2:30pm ET/11:30am PT and stays open a half hour after the episode ends. Make a friend!

As a reminder, Extra Crunch Live is a members-only series that aims to give founders and tech operators actionable advice and insights from leaders across the tech industry. If you’re not an Extra Crunch member yet, what are you waiting for?

Loughlin and Boehmig join a stellar cast of speakers on Extra Crunch Live, including Lightspeed’s Gaurav Gupta and Grafana’s Raj Dutt, as well as Felicis’ Aydin Senkut and Guideline’s Kevin Busque. Extra Crunch members can catch every episode of Extra Crunch Live on demand right here.

You can find details for this episode (and upcoming episodes) after the jump below.

See you on Wednesday!

#accel, #enterprise, #extra-crunch-live-announcement, #funding, #ironclad, #startups, #tc, #venture-capital


SplashLearn raises $18 million for its game-based edtech platform

SplashLearn, a 10-year-old U.S.-headquartered edtech startup that teaches children through a game-based curriculum, has raised $18 million in a new financing round as it looks to expand to more markets.

San Francisco-based Owl Ventures led the Series C funding round in SplashLearn, and Accel, which had earlier invested $7 million in the startup’s Series B, also participated in the new round.

In an interview with TechCrunch, SplashLearn co-founder and chief executive Arpit Jain said one of the biggest hurdles the education system faces today is that kids do not wish to learn, so you have to broach the subject in a way they find engaging.

His startup offers math and reading courses to students in pre-kindergarten to grade five. It has developed, with guidance from teachers and other experts, over 4,000 games and other interactive activities to explain various concepts to the children.

In a demo, Jain showed an adventure game that was riddled with hurdles. A kid needed to visually apply the concept of addition to progress forward in the game. “When the kids are engaged, there is improvement in their learning outcome,” said Jain.

SplashLearn platform additionally provides 15 minutes to 20 minutes of personalized learning experience to each student every day, he said.

The startup charges $12 a month to parents for its service. Alternatively, the service is free for schools. Currently, one in every three schools in the United States use SplashLearn, Jain said.

“One of our goals has been to make quality education available to students for free. Our business model has enabled us to work on this,” he said. SplashLearn doesn’t reach out to schools, he said. Teachers use our platform, and if they like the offering, they make the case for wider adoption at the school, said Jain, who like the other three co-founders, is an alumni of IIT Kharagpur.

Image: SplashLearn

The team first created an edtech platform that was similar to what Coursera has evolved into over the past decade. But their previous venture failed to gain traction as the Indian market, which had fewer than 50 million internet users then, wasn’t ready for it, said Jain.

SplashLearn today caters to more than 40 million registered students on its platform, 10 million of whom joined last year as the coronavirus shut schools worldwide. More than 750,000 teachers have also joined the platform.

The startup is currently largely serving students in the United States, which accounts for 80% of its revenue. But students from over 150 other markets, including the UK, Australia, Canada and India use the platform today.

“SplashLearn is well poised to bring about a distinct change in the digital learning space with its unique blend of scientifically designed curriculum and its pedagogical methods with global appeal. SplashLearn fits into our objective of supporting innovative companies in the edtech space, helping drive a paradigm shift in the way education is imparted, bringing it to scale,” said Amit A. Patel Managing Director, Owl Ventures, in a statement. Patel is joining the SplashLearn’s board along with Abhinav Chaturvedi, a partner at Accel.

Last year, SplashLearn also started a tutoring service for kids, where teachers teach a group of three to five students. This service costs $10 to $25 an hour. “Even at this cost, we are offering the service at a fraction of what it would cost students in a private tuition,” he said.

The tutoring service is currently available in the U.S., and Jain said the startup plans to grow it within the country this year.

#accel, #apps, #edtech, #education, #funding, #owl-ventures


Accel backs Mexican startup Flink’s effort to bring consumer investing to Latin America

Here in the U.S., we take for granted the ability to invest and trade in the stock market. So while we can get in an uproar about the various ways Robinhood may or may not be acting responsibly, it can be easy to forget that not everyone in the world has the same access to potentially making — or losing — money via trading as we do.

For Mexico City-born Sergio Jiménez Amozurrutia, the fact that in his country of more than 120 million people, only a tiny fraction of the population have the ability to invest in the capital markets just didn’t seem right. To him, the lack of widespread participation in investing is an example of the rich getting richer as part of an infrastructure “that is built for the wealthy.” The result of the imbalance is that a lot of people are locked out of making potentially wealth-building investments.  

So after selling Easy Credit, a consumer lending platform he’d built with Rick Rafael Bueno (whom he met in 2015 at a hackathon at Tech de Monterrey), Amozurrutia set out to give Mexicans access to something he believed they’d never had access to: an app-based consumer trading platform.

That platform, called Flink, attracted the attention of Silicon Valley-based venture capital firm Accel, which just led a $12 million Series A for the company. Mexico’s ALLVP, Clocktower, Kevin Efrusy and Oskar Hjertonsson and existing backer Raptor Financial Group participated in the financing as well.

The demand for what Flink has to offer is clear. Since launching its first brokerage product in July of 2020, Flink has surpassed 1 million users and 800,000 active brokerage accounts. This makes Flink the largest retail brokerage service in Mexico, according to Amozurrutia. It averages 6,000 new customers a day, mostly due to word of mouth, the company said. And, the app was recently ranked in the top 10 of all apps downloaded in Mexico via Google Play, surpassing Spotify and Facebook app downloads, according to Amozurrutia.

“Most legacy Mexican banks cater to less than 1% of the population — meaning most Mexicans don’t have a bank account, let alone a brokerage account,” he said. “At Flink, we’re guided by the belief that Mexico’s financial system should work for everyone — not only a select few.”

The fact that Latin Americans are underbanked is not new news. In Mexico in particular, there are far fewer banks than the thousands the U.S. is home to. Those banks, Amozurrutia believes, make it challenging for most people to make investments by charging high fees, among other barriers to entry, such as large minimum deposits.

“Also, here in Mexico, the population is not that sophisticated like in the U.S. in terms of investing in the markets,” he told TechCrunch. “The banks and incumbents take advantage of that and make people feel like they’re not smart enough to manage their money. They say, ‘Give me your money and I’ll invest it and charge you fees.’ ”

Flink is out to not only give Mexicans a way to invest, but to help educate them as well. Ninety percent of its users are first-time investors, and many are millennials.

“When you compare this kind of product with Robinhood or Acorns for example, the difference with us is that we need to be even more responsible with the kind of information and access we are trying to provide,” Amozurrutia said. “We need to educate on a basic level.”

Image: Flink

Flink has also built a community around the product so that people can share ideas and try to help each other, including a Facebook group made up of more than 35,000 people.  

For Accel partner Andrew Braccia (who was also an early investor in Slack), the most interesting thing about Flink is that in many ways it is “creating a market,” rather than building an offering in an already large and sophisticated market.

“A high percentage of customers are a younger demographic that has never invested before, and never had the tools or opportunity to use a product like Flink,” Braccia said. “It’s a responsibility we take very seriously so we’re trying to make sure there’s a tremendous amount of education and transparency in the process.”

He also believes Flink’s story and the larger opportunity of what’s happening in Mexico “is one centered around accessibility and hope.”

Demand for Flink’s product is not only coming from Mexico, but from other Latin American countries such as Colombia, Chile, Peru and Argentina.

Flink can’t yet enter those markets due to regulatory constraints, but getting licenses to do business in Latin American countries is something the company plans to use some of its new capital to do.

“When you try to understand the deeper issues around financial services in Latin America,” Amozurrutia said, “you will see the status quo is really similar.”

Accel’s Braccia agrees.

Flink, he believes, has already created a level playing field for those who want to participate in investing in Mexico.

“The fact that the vast majority of their users are first-time participants in the stock market speaks to the significance of their vision of financial accessibility—a vision that we believe will continue to resonate with other markets throughout Latin America,” Braccia told TechCrunch.

Flink also plans to use its funding in part to continue improving the user experience and product offering, as well as to add to its current headcount of 60 to be able to meet rising demand.

“Our goal is to get to 4 million users by the end of 2021,” Amozurrutia said.

Meanwhile, backing Flink fits into Accel’s overall investment thesis. The firm has also put money in other fintechs globally, such as France’s Lydia, London-based Monzo and WorldRemit, Galileo and Braintree/Venmo, among others.

#accel, #andrew-braccia, #finance, #financial-services, #flink, #funding, #latin-america, #london, #mexico, #recent-funding, #startups, #tc


Accel Partners heads down to Georgia to invest in DecisionLink, leading an $18.5 million round

DecisionLink, an Atlanta-based company that provides software for cost-benefit analyses of business services from a customer’s perspective, has managed to woo one of Silicon Valley’s top venture firms to invest in its latest $18.5 million round of funding.

Accel Partners has a long-standing reputation as one of the Bay Area’s premier investment firms, and it’s leading DecisionLink’s latest round. Their investment comes on the heels of billion dollar valuations for Atlanta companies like Calendly, Greenlight Financial Technologies, OneTrust, and the $800 million acquisition of Kabbage.

Other investors in the round included George Kurtz, the president and chief executive of CrowdStrike, and George Roberts, a partner at OpenView Venture Partners and the former executive vice president of North American sales at Oracle.

“Value Management [sic] as a practice is now a C-suite priority and increasingly considered an enterprise-critical function alongside software systems like CRM, marketing automation, and project management,” said Sameer Gandhi, Partner, Accel, in a statement. “In 2019, we invested in a SAFE round in DecisionLink because we believed in the market opportunity for scalable [value management]. Now, we have been so impressed by DecisionLink’s execution and its ability to drive this transformation on behalf of customers, that we are excited to lead its Series A round.”

Businesses are constantly looking for ways to benchmark themselves against their competitors or find new ways to better service them. Most of these strategies don’t take off, or are variations on a theme, but value management seems to have legs — especially given the accessibility of all kinds of benchmarking data points that are publicly available.

Accel-backed portfolio companies like CrowdStrike, PagerDuty, and DocuSign are using the service and so are companies like ServiceNow, Marketo, NCR, and VMWare.

These are big names in enterprise software, and the signal that their adoption of DecisionLink’s software provided must have played a role in Accel’s decision to invest.

#accel, #crowdstrike, #docusign, #kabbage, #marketo, #oracle, #pagerduty, #servicenow, #tc, #vmware


#DealMonitor – sennder bekommt 160 Millionen (und wird zum Unicorn) – Moss sammelt 21 Millionen ein – Sequoia investiert 20 Millionen in Xentral

Im aktuellen #DealMonitor für den 14. Januar 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.


+++ Die Alt-Investoren Accel, Lakestar, HV Capital, Project A und Scania investieren weitere 160 Millionen US-Dollar in sennder. Das Berliner Logistik-Startup, das 2015 von Julius Köhler, Nicolaus Schefenacker und David Nothacker gegründet wurde, steigt mit der erneuten Finanzierungsrunde – wie erwartet – zum Unicorn (Bewertung: 1 Milliarde Dollar) auf. Zuletzt wanderten rund 100 Millionen US-Dollar in das Logistik-Startup. Insgesamt flossen somit bereits 260 Millionen in sennder. Das junge Unternehmen kümmert sich in der großen und wilden Logistikwelt um sogenannte Komplettladungen. Konkret verbindet das Logistikstartup aus Berlin über seine Softwareplattform Händler und Transportunternehmen.  In den vergangenen Monaten sorgte das Grownup mit zwei Übernahmen für Schlagzeilen: Im Juni des vergangenen Jahres fusionierte sennder mit seinen französischen Wettbewerber Everoad. Im September übernahm sennder dann das europäische Frachtgeschäft von Uber Freight. 800 Mitarbeiter wirken derzeit für sennder. Im Insider-Podcast haben wir bereits Mitte Dezember über den Aufstieg von sennder gesprochen. Zuletzt stieg Mambu in Deutschland zum Unicorn auf.

+++ Der US-Investor Valar Ventures, also Peter Thiel, sowie die Alt-Investoren Cherry Ventures und Global Founders Capital (GFC), der Investmentarm von Rocket Internet, investieren 21 Millionen Euro in Moss. Die Bewertung des jungen FinTech, die zuletzt als Vanta bekannt war, steigt dabei auf 100 Millionen Euro – siehe FinanceFWD. Das junge Unternehmen, hinter dem die Move24-Macher Ante Spittler und Anton Rummel stecken, ging erst vor einigen Monaten offiziell an den Start. Über Moss können Kunden sich Firmenkreditkarten zulegen – und zwar insbesondere virtuelle Kreditkarten. So sind etwa Kreditkarten für einzelne Personen, Teams oder Abteilungen bzw. Kostenstellen möglich. Zum Start war Moss vor allem in der Startup-Szene auf Kundenfang. Inzwischen möchte das Fintech auch im KMU-Segment Kunden (Unternehmen zwischen 20/30 bis 500 Mitabeiter) gewinnen.  Valar Ventures investierte bisher unter anderem in FinTechs wie N26, Bitpanda und Taxfix. 40 Mitarbeiter wirken derzeit bei Moss.

+++ Der amerikanische Geldgeber Sequoia Capital und Visionaires Club aus Berlin investieren 20 Millionen US-Dollar in Xentral. Das von Benedikt und Claudia Sauter in Augsburg gegründete Unternehmen ist ein flexibles ERP-/CRM-System mit eigenem App-Store und bietet Schnittstellen zu allen gängigen Online-Shop-Systemen, Marktplätzen und Zahlungsanbietern. Nach Frank Thelen investierte zuletzt auch Pitch-Gründer Christian Reber in Xentral. Das Unternehmen wird die millionenschwere neue Finanzspritze nutzen, um “die Produktentwicklung, den Ausbau des Teams sowie die Expansion voranzutreiben – zunächst auf paneuropäischer Basis und längerfristig auch in Großbritannien und den USA”. 65 Mitarbeiter wirken derzeit für das Unternehmen. Zu den Kunden von Xentral gehören Unternehmen wie YFood, The Nu Company und Flyeralarm.

+++ Die Berliner Effektengesellschaft und  “erfahrene Privatinvestoren” investieren 13 Millionen Euro in den Robo-Advisor quirion. “Mit diesem Invest wird quirion sein Wachstum weiter beschleunigen. Die Bewertung des Unternehmens liegt nach dem Kapitalzufluss bei 73 Millionen Euro”, heißt es in der Presseaussendung.

Der Robo-Advisor quirion erhält 13 Millionen Euro von externen Investoren. Neben erfahrenen Privatinvestoren beteiligt sich auch die Berliner Effektengesellschaft. Mit diesem Invest wird quirion sein Wachstum weiter beschleunigen. Die Bewertung des Unternehmens liegt nach dem Kapitalzufluss bei 73 Millionen Euro.

Achtung! Wir freuen uns über Tipps, was wir im #DealMonitor aufgreifen sollten. Schreibt uns eure Vorschläge per E-Mail oder nutzt unsere “Stille Post“, unseren anonymen Briefkasten.

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

Foto (oben): azrael74

#accel, #aktuell, #augsburg, #berlin, #berliner-effektengesellschaft, #cherry-ventures, #fintech, #global-founders-capital, #hv-capital, #lakestar, #logistik, #moss, #project-a-ventures, #quirion, #scania, #sennder, #sequoia-capital, #unicorn, #valar-ventures, #venture-capital, #visionaires-club, #xentral


Digital road freight forwarder Sennder raises $160M Series, plans European expansion

Sennder, a large digital road freight forwarder based out of Germany, has raised $160m in Series D financing. The round was led by an unnamed party, but round participants included Accel, Lakestar, HV Capital, Project A and Scania. To date, Sennder has raised more than $260m, allowing it to lay claim to a potential $1bn valuation.

Sennder directly connects enterprise shippers with trucking companies, thus disintermediating the traditional freight model. It says it will move over 1 million truckloads this year. So far it’s concentrated on the lucrative European market. In June 2020 it merged with French competitor Everoad and acquired Uber Freight’s European business last September. The European logistics and freight sector has a market size of $427bn.

Sennder competes with large incumbents like Wincanton and CH Robinson as well as other startups such as OnTrac in Spin, and Instafreight.

The whole digital freight forwarding market is booming. Only last November, Germany’s Forto, a digital freight forwarder raised another $50 million in funding taking its total raised to $103 million. And in 2018 FreightHub, another European digital freight forwarder, raised $30 million in Series B financing.

Sennder’s new investment will mean it can expand in European markets. It already partners with Poste Italiane in Italy, as well as Scania and Siemens, and is now supplying transport services to over 10 organizations listed in the German DAX 30, and 11 companies comprising the Euro Stoxx 50.

Since its founding in 2015 by David Nothacker, Julius Köhler and Nicolaus Schefenacker, the company has grown to 800 employees and seven international offices.

David Nothacker, CEO and Co-Founder of Sennder, said: “We are now an established industry player on equal terms with other more traditional sector pioneers, but have maintained our founding spirit. As a data-driven company, we contribute to making the logistics industry fit for a sustainable future; ensuring transparency, flexibility and efficiency in the distribution of goods. The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated the importance of a digitalized logistics industry.

Sonali De Rycker, Partner at Accel commented: “It is always fantastic to see a portfolio company reach such a significant milestone. 2020 highlighted the value that Sennder’s innovative digital offering brings to the freight industry.”

#accel, #europe, #finance, #germany, #italy, #lakestar, #sennder, #siemens, #sonali-de-rycker, #tc, #uber-freight


Webflow raises $140M, pushing its valuation to $2.1 billion

This morning Webflow, a software company that helps businesses build no-code websites, announced that it has raised a $140 million Series B. The round, led by returning investors Accel and Silversmith, comes after the startup raised $72 million in an August, 2019 Series A.

The new funding values Webflow at more than $2.1 billion it said in a blog post that TechCrunch viewed before publication. Capital G, an Alphabet venture capital group, joined the Series B as well, with its investor Laela Sturdy joining the startup’s board.

Webflows offers a software that helps customers build websites without the need to write code; the company also offers hosting, and content-related capabilities.

Webflow’s product fits into a category of companies arguing that building software for the Internet should get easier over time, not harder. TechCrunch explored the no-code, low-code space 2020, including asking investors bullish on its market about their views concerning its future.

Webflow CEO Vlad Magdalin described the round as “opportunistic” for the company, telling TechCrunch that his company was not low on cash when the deal came together. Indeed, Magdalin said that his company ended 2020 cash-flow positive.

So why raise more money, let alone such a huge round? The CEO described the funds as “courage capital,” funds that will allow it to make investments into its business that may not have short-term revenue impacts. Magdalin said that the money may be spent on its enterprise products, support team, platform, and recruiting.

In an email, Accel investor, and Webflow board member Arun Mathew echoed the CEO’s comments, adding that the company doubled its customer base in 2020.

That Webflow managed to break into the realm of startup profitability is less surprising when we recall that the no-code software company bootstrapped for more than a half-decade before taking external funds; it’s done this before.

Raising capital has other impacts on a business than the ability to raise spend. New capital, a higher valuation, and noise about a business can bolster recruiting efforts, and assuage customers concerned that the startup in question could either evaporate due to a lack of cash, or wind up bought, and either stripped by a private-equity firm, or subsumed by a tech giant.

Big companies don’t want to tie themselves to a product that could disappear. Webflow, now valued at $2.1 billion after its Series B closed, may have allayed those concerns for the time being.

Asked how 2020 went for the company, Magdalin said that its business doubled, which he described as an acceleration of its previous results.

It’s not clear from our vantage point if the company is in the eight, or nine-figure revenue range, so it’s hard to vet how strong a roughly 100% growth rate is for Webflow; that it appears to have bested its 2019 growth rate in 2020 is encouraging for its future IPO prospects.

The company could see strong growth in 2021. Webflow’s CEO told TechCrunch that his company’s move up-market is starting to bear fruit. After noting that average contract values, or ACV, for its larger accounts were several orders of magnitude bigger than its sales agreements with SMBs, Magdalin said that its enterprise customers only account for around 5% of its present-day business today.

However, the CEO said that his firm had only begun to target the enterprise cohort last year, and expects to grow its larger-account business by a factor of ten this year.

And the company has big product plans, including building out its service to support richer and more powerful website creation. In the CEO’s view, websites are merely part of the software world, and he expects no-code tooling to take on more and more complex software tasks over time.

That could expand the broader no-code market, in our view, perhaps creating more space for startups to build services that allow for non-developers to depend less on engineering teams over time.

Mathew shares Magdalin’s bullish view on the no-code market, saying in an email that “the market is moving very quickly to being bullish on no-code tooling,” adding that we are “still very early in the adoption curve.”

Given that take, it’s not hard to see why Accel would want to double-down on Webflow. Accel has a history of making large-dollar bets into companies that bootstrapped to scale, including Webflow and Qualtrics. In the Qualtrics example, Accel led its Series A, B, and C, rounds worth a combined total of $400 million.

To see Accel lead another round for Webflow, then, is in-keeping with prior investing patterns from the firm.

Capital G’s Sturdy, Webflow’s new board member, told TechCrunch in an email that her firm has been “bullish on the massive potential of no code for years,” leading it to hunt for “the most promising companies utilizing no code to transform sectors and democratize access to key tools.” Let’s see what it can do with another huge check and some time.

#accel, #capital-g, #fundings-exits, #startups, #tc, #webflow


Niantic buys competitive gaming platform Mayhem

Pokèmon Go creator Niantic has acquired a small SF gaming startup building a league and tournament organization platform to help gamers create their own communities around popular titles.

Mayhem was in Y Combinator’s winter 2018 batch and went onto raise $5.7 million in funding according to Crunchbase. Other backers include Accel, which led the startup’s Series A in 2018, Afore Capital and NextGen Venture Partners.

The startup’s focus has shifted quite a bit since its initial YC debut, when it announced a service called Visor that would analyze video of esports gameplay and coach users on how they could improve their performance. The company has seemed to shift its focus wholly to community tools to help gamers find matches and organize tournaments for games like Overwatch on its platform.

Terms of the acquisition weren’t disclosed by Niantic .

The “majority” of Mayhem’s team will be joining Niantic with the startup’s CEO Ivan Zhou landing in the company’s Social Platform Product team while the rest of the team joins Platform Engineering.

In a statement, Niantic asserts that the acquisition “reinforces our commitment to real-world social as the centerpiece of our mission.”

Read a deep dive of Niantic on Extra Crunch

Most of Niantic’s acquisitions of late have focused on augmented reality backend technologies so it’s interesting to see them buying tech that focuses on community organization.

Pokèmon Go continues to be Niantic’s cash cow though the company hasn’t seen the same levels of viral success with subsequent releases where organic growth hasn’t been quite as easy to come by. Buying a startup building community tools suggests the company is ready to bring in some outside tech to push their own efforts forward as they strive to create a broader platform for their AR ambitions and more standalone hits of their own.

#accel, #afore-capital, #augmented-reality, #companies, #crunchbase, #exit, #gaming, #nextgen-venture-partners, #niantic, #startup-company, #startups, #tc, #visor, #y-combinator


Lydia raises another $86 million to build European financial super app

French fintech startup Lydia has extended its Series B round. Accel is leading the extension with all major existing shareholders also participating. Lydia first raised $45 million in January 2020 — Tencent led that investment. The startup is now raising another $86 million, which means that Lydia has raised $131 million in total as part of its Series B round.

While Lydia wouldn’t discuss the valuation of the round, its co-founder and CEO gave me a hint. “The value of the company has really significantly increased between the two parts of the B round,” he told me.

Interestingly, Amit Jhawar is heading this investment for Accel . He joined Accel as a venture partner in July and he’s going to join Lydia’s board of directors.

Jhawar joined payments company Braintree in 2011 as COO and CFO. Shortly after, Braintree acquired peer-to-peer payment app Venmo. “When we acquired Venmo it was only 15 people. They had just released their mobile app in April of 2012,” Jhawar told me in a phone interview.

PayPal later acquired Braintree and Venmo — Jhawar stuck around until early 2020 to scale Venmo to the huge fintech consumer app that 52 million people use in the U.S. Jhawar believes that peer-to-peer payments represent the beginning of a long-term consumer relationship.

“You know that P2P is successful when they leave money in their account because they’re going to come back,” he said.

Back in 2014, when I first covered Lydia, I called it the Venmo for France — they had only raised €600,000 back then. It seems like Jhawar agrees with that take. Since then, Lydia has grown quite a lot and has expanded beyond peer-to-peer payments in various ways.

With Lydia, you can send money to another user in just a few seconds. You don’t have to enter an account number in your banking app — as long as you know their phone number, they’ll receive your payment.

If you have money in your account, you can choose to spend it directly using a Visa debit card. Lydia lets you generate a virtual card that works with Apple Pay and Google Pay — you can also order a plastic card.

Lydia also supports direct deposit as you get your own IBAN in the app. You can also create money pots and send a link to other users, view your bank accounts in Lydia, donate money to hospitals and charities, get a credit line, etc.

But there’s one killer feature that stands out over the rest. Bank accounts tend to be monolithic and don’t reflect how you use money. “If you look at banks today, they call the main account a checking account. It’s outdated by design,” CEO Cyril Chiche said.

Lydia has created flexible sub-accounts that you can use in many different ways. You can create a second sub-account and set some money aside for your bills. You can create a third one and share it with a few friends because you’re going on a vacation together.

You can move money from one account to another by swiping your finger across the account grid. As you can have multiple contributors and you can change the account associated with your debit card, it means that money flows more naturally. It feels like using a messaging app, not a financial app.

And it’s been working well in France. The company now has more than 4 million users. Transactions have doubled over the past year, which means that usage is accelerating.

“Lydia has the largest P2P network in Europe outside of PayPal and has the potential to grow all across Europe with a mobile-first, customer-focused solution. This will bring demand for incremental consumer financial products and high merchant interest to accept the payment,” Jhawar told me in an email.

And 2020 has been a busy year for Lydia. The company has just released a complete redesign to better position the app as a super app for financial services. All the interactions and all the main tabs have been changed.

Lydia also re-launched its premium offering with two new premium plans that offer you higher limits over the free plan and an insurance package for the most expensive offer. Those plans are more in line with what the app offers today and should contribute to the company’s bottom line. “The next step is bringing Lydia to profitability and it’s something that has always been important for us,” Chiche said in a recent interview.

Behind the scenes, Lydia has also upgraded many core features, such as migrating cards to a new infrastructure, adding alerts to account aggregation, supporting instant SEPA transfers to bank accounts, etc.

In 2021, the company plans to build on top of that new foundation with more financial products. “We’re going to try every single product — credit, savings, investment,” Chiche said.

The company is also slowly expanding to more countries. But it wants to offer a product that feels like a local product with a local card and a local IBAN to increase acceptance rates. Lydia is starting with Portugal.

#accel, #europe, #finance, #fintech, #france-newsletter, #fundings-exits, #lydia, #recent-funding, #startups


Social stock trading services Public raises $65M Series C

Less than a year after it raised a $15 million Series B, Public, a social-focused free stock trading service, has raised a $65 million Series C.

The startup is not the only company to raise successive rounds this year. Welcome has managed the feat, along with Skyflow and others. Public’s Series C, therefore, fits into the trend of investors doubling down into startups that they think have potential.

After an initial freeze during the early pandemic months, venture capitalists and other investors accelerated the pace at which they deploy late-stage checks to upstart companies. Public’s Series C typifies the tendency, representing just over 72% of its total fundraising to date.

The Public round also exemplifies another developing venture trend, namely that of existing investors preempting portfolio companies’ proximate rounds. In this case Accel led the new investment. It also led Public’s Series A and B rounds.

But trends alone are not enough to pull any round together. So, TechCrunch got on the phone with Public co-founders Jannick Malling and Leif Abraham to better understand what investors see in the fintech upstart.


Public grew quickly in 2020, expanding its user base by a multiple of 10 since the start of the year.

According to Abraham, the company’s growth has been consistent instead of lumpy, expanding at around 30% each month. The co-founder also stressed that most of Public’s users find its service organically, implying that the startup’s marketing costs have not been extreme, nor its growth artificially boosted.

That user growth explains why Public was able to raise more. But why did it want to?

The founding duo told TechCrunch that they had plenty of cash in the bank from their preceding round, but saw the raise as a way to double-down on their model.

While competing services to Public also sport zero-cost trading, Public’s model hinges on a social focus (TechCrunch covered an element of Public’s social platform here, for example). And in the eyes of its founders, Public gets better as more people use it.

So, the startup intends to use its new capital to continue investing into product work, keeping its flywheel alive.

That self-reinforcing dynamic works something like this: Public offers a place where investors can discuss and execute trades for free. Those same investors tell their friends about Public, who later show up and take part in the conversation. Those conversations are enriched by the new participants — as Public deals with securities, it only has users who have registered as themselves, limiting trolling — and the process repeats.

So far it has worked. How much longer Public and Robinhood and M1 and Wealthfront and others can continue to accrete net-new investors to their platforms is an open question, however.


Astute readers will note that we discussed Public’s growth in the above paragraphs only from a user perspective. What about revenue?

Like other companies that offer free stock trades, Public makes money from what’s called payment for order flow. It’s the routing of trades to different market makers. Robinhood generates oceans of income from the practice, for example.

Before chatting with Public, I dug into its trading partner Apex’s filings to learn about its payment for order flow results from its recent filings. The resulting sums are somewhat modest for Apex’s collected clients. This means that Public’s revenue metrics, a portion of the aggregate sums, are even more unassuming.

Naturally, we were curious if the company had changed up its business model and thus had revenues heading into its new investment that we could not spot from external documentation. The founding team told TechCrunch that it had not changed its model, and that their company is more focused on user growth than near-term revenue targets.

This makes some sense. Public emphasized to TechCrunch that most of its users are long-term holders. The longer a user holds securities, the less they likely trade. That limits trading incomes like payment for order flow. So, trading likely won’t make a lot of money for the company.

The company’s monetization plans remain opaque. This means that the company’s new check will not only fund its product work in terms of its social experience, but also, we presume, its future revenue generation.

You can look around the fintech market and find examples of ways that Public could further monetize its user base.

This is not to say that revenue at Public has not grown. It has. I asked the company if trading volume generally scales with user growth. It’s correlated, the founders said. So, we can infer that the company’s growing user base has executed more trades over time, as a whole.

Let’s see what Public builds next, and how soon we get a taste for its future plans for generating ample top line from its users.

#accel, #m1-finance, #public, #recent-funding, #robinhood, #startups, #tc