Kaya VC launches its new $80M fund, focusing on Prague, Warsaw and the CEE region

Kaya VC’s new €72 million ($80m) fund will focus on startups in Prague, Warsaw and the wider CEE region. Previously called Enern, the Central and Eastern European VC — which, historically, started out investing in wind-farms and ended up invested in software — has changed its name to better reflect its modern focus. The firm will also back startups “at any stage” of funding. LPs in the fund include the EIF and a number of successful entrepreneurs from the region.

This is the team’s fourth fund, and together with the previous funds, the AUM is around €250m. The fund has invested in 27 companies with the latest investments into B2B marketplaces, healthtech and blockchain. 

The decade-old Prague-based VC (“KAYA” will be the official naming format) has previously invested in Booksy (raised $70 million in January 2021), Twisto (€16 million this year), DocPlanner (€80m in 2019), and Rohlik ($230m this year). Kaya previously participated in liquidity events for Skype, Wise (formerly TransferWise) and Bolt, UiPath which recently raised $750 million at a $35 billion valuation ahead of an IPO.

Kaya says it will be sector agnostic, with partners following some personal passions: Tomas Obrtac on agri-tech; Pavel Mucha on next-generation consumer experiences; Tomas Pacinda on fintech, and Martin Rajcan focuses on energy transition. All other areas of tech will be looked at. Similar to funds such as Point Nine in Berlin, Kaya says it is an ‘equal partnership’ meaning each partner can make decisions on what to back.

The firm plans to be able to write the first cheque and is also backing super-early ‘studio projects’ which have gone on to raise subsequent funding rounds.

Pavel Mucha, partner at Kaya VC, commented in a statement: “When I initially started investing in local startups in Prague and Warsaw, it was because there was a need to work with people to build something valuable that didn’t exist already. Over the past 10 years, we’ve seen this sector grow and mature, and with that our strategy of backing intrepid founders who are making a difference from Booksy’s Stefan Batory to Rohlik’s Tomáš Čupr.”

Kaya is also part of the Included VC, network, a mentor network for underrepresented groups such as women and people of color. Mucha told me: “We’ve hired through their program, been closely involved and big supporters. We think it’s a great addition to the ecosystem within Europe, and hope to do more. It’s definitely a very meaningful initiative we stand fully behind.”

Martin Rajcan, partner at Kaya VC, added: “Founders coming out of Central and Eastern Europe are globally-orientated, have strong technical skills, and an unmatched hunger for success. It’s these strong fundamentals paired with a next-level intensity that makes them so exciting to work with and we want to support such talent in any way we can. With partners, venture partners, advisors, and scouts across Europe, we’re in a unique position to support founders in the diaspora outside of core cities such as Prague and Warsaw.” 

In Turkish the word Kaya means ‘rock’, in Japanese, it’s ‘sanctuary’. Whatever the case, Kaya is in a good position to take advantage of the burgeoning startups in the CEE region. According to Dealroom there has been 5x more foreign investment in the CEE region than in 2015.

#advisors, #berlin, #central-europe, #eastern-europe, #entrepreneurship, #europe, #point-nine, #prague, #private-equity, #startup-company, #tc, #warsaw

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Atlanta’s early stage investment renaissance continues with Overline’s $27 million fund close

Michael Cohn became a celebrity in the Atlanta startup ecosystem when the company he co-founded was sold to Accenture in a deal valued somewhere between $350 million and $400 million nearly six years ago.

That same year, Sean O’Brien also made waves in the community when he helped shepherd the sale of the  collaboration software vendor, PGi, to a private equity firm for $1.5 billion.

The two men are now looking to become fixtures in the city’s burgeoning new tech community with the close of their seed-stage venture capital firm’s first fund, a $27.4 million investment vehicle.

Overline’s first fund has already made commitments to companies that are expanding the parameters of what’s investible in the Southeast broadly and Atlanta’s startup scene locally.

These are companies like Grubbly Farms, which sells insect-based chicken feed for backyard farmers, or Kayhan Space, which is aiming to be the air traffic control service for the space industry. Others, like Padsplit, an Atlanta-based flexible housing marketplace, are tackling America’s low income housing crisis. 

“Our business model is very different from that of a traditional software startup, and the Overline team’s unique strengths and operator mindset have been invaluable in helping us grow the company,” said Sean Warner, CEO and co-founder of Grubbly Farms. 

That’s on top of investments into companies building on Atlanta’s natural strengths as a financial services, payments and business software powerhouse.

For all of the activity in Atlanta these days, the city and the broader southeastern region is still massively underfunded, according to O’brien and Cohn. The region only received less than 10 percent of all the institutional venture investments that were committed in 2020. Indeed, only seven percent of Atlanta founders raise money locally when they’re first starting out, an Overline survey suggested.

“The data reflects what we have seen throughout our careers building, growing, and investing in startups. There is no shortage of phenomenal founders and businesses coming out of Atlanta and the Southeast, but they often struggle to find institutional capital at their earliest stages,” said O’Brien, in a statement. “Overline will lead as the first institutional check for these companies and be a true partner to the Founders throughout their lifecycle—supporting them on the strategic and operational business initiatives and decisions that are critical to a company’s success.” 

The limited partners in Overline’s first fund also reflects the firm’s emphasis on regional roots. The privately held email marketing behemoth Mailchimp anchored the fund, which also included partners like Cox Enterprises, Social Leverage,

Overline is supported by a bench of impressive partners that reflects the firm’s roots in the Southeast. Anchored by marketing platform, Mailchimp, additional partners include Cox Enterprises, Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Social Leverage, Wilmington, Del.-based Hallett Capital, and Atlanta Tech Village founder David Cummings, along with Techstars co-founder David Cohen. 

“At Mailchimp, we love our hometown of Atlanta, and are proud of the robust startup ecosystem that’s growing in our city. The Overline founding team’s vision of deploying smart, local capital into startups in Atlanta and the Southeast aligns with our goals of promoting and advancing local innovation,” said Rick Lynch, CFO, Mailchimp, in a statement.

The firm expects to make investments of between $250,000 to $1.5 million into seed stage companies and has already backed 11 companies including, Relay Payments, a logistics fintech company that has raised over $40 million from top-tier investors. 

“When we set out to build Atlanta Tech Village almost a decade ago, one of our primary goals was to help Atlanta develop into a top 10 startup city, where all entrepreneurs would thrive. We’re making tremendous strides as a community, as evidenced by the number of newly minted unicorns,” said serial entrepreneur and Atlanta Tech Village founder David Cummings. “I believe in Overline’s thesis that value-add institutional early-stage capital is critical to the ecosystem’s continued development. Since the early days, Michael and Sean have been an active presence in our community in a way that goes far beyond being a source of capital—as mentors, advisors, and champions of Atlanta founders. I am proud to be one of their first investors.”

#accenture, #advisors, #america, #arizona, #atlanta, #cfo, #co-founder, #collaboration-software, #corporate-finance, #cox-enterprises, #david-cohen, #delaware, #economy, #entrepreneurship, #finance, #financial-services, #mailchimp, #money, #private-equity, #serial-entrepreneur, #social-leverage, #startup-company, #tc, #techstars, #venture-capital

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Better Health raises $3.5M seed round to reinvent medical supply shopping through e-commerce

The home medical supply market in the U.S. is significant and growing, but the way that Americans go about getting much-needed medical supplies, particularly for those with chronic conditions, relies on outdated and clumsy sales mechanisms that often have very poor customer experiences. New startup Better Health aims to change that, with an e-commerce approach to serving customers in need of medical supplies for chronic conditions, and it has raised $3.5 million in a new seed round to pursue its goals.

Better Health estimates the total value of the home medical supplies market in the U.S., which covers all reimbursable devices and supplies needed for chronic conditions, including things like colostomy bags, catheters, mobility aids, insulin pumps and more, is around $60 billion annually. But the market is obviously a specialized one relative to other specialized goods businesses, in part because it requires working not only with customers who make the final decisions about what supplies to use, but also payers, who typically foot the bill through insurance reimbursements.

The other challenge is that individuals with chronic care needs often require a lot of guidance and support when making the decision about what equipment and supplies to select — and the choices they make can have a significant impact on quality of life. Better Health co-founder and CEO Naama Stauber Breckler explained how she came to identify the problems in the industry, and why she set out to address them.

“The first company I started was right out of school, it’s called CompactCath,” she explained in an interview. “We created a novel intermittent catheter, because we identified that there’s a gap in the existing options for people with chronic bladder issues that need to use a catheter on a day-to-day basis […] In the process of bringing it to market, I was exposed to the medical devices and supplies industry. I was just shocked when I realized how hard it is for people today to get life-saving medical supplies, and basically realized that it’s not just about inventing a better product, there’s kind of a bigger systematic problem that locks consumer choice, and also prevents innovation in the space.”

Stauber Breckler’s founding story isn’t too dissimilar from the founding story of another e-commerce pioneer: Shopify. The now-public heavyweight originally got started when founder Tobi Lütke, himself a software engineer like Stauber Breckler, found that the available options for running his online snowboard store were poorly designed and built. With Better Health, she’s created a marketplace, rather than a platform like Shopify, but the pain points and desire to address the problem at a more fundamental level are the same.

Better Health Head of Product Adam Breckler, left, and CEO Naama Stauber Breckler, right

With CompactCath, she said they ended up having to build their own direct-to-consumer marketing and sales product, and through that process, they ended up talking to thousands of customers with chronic conditions about their experiences, and what they found exposed the extend of the problems in the existing market.

“We kept hearing the same stories again, and again — it’s hard to find the right supplier, often it’s a local store, the process is extremely manual and lengthy and prone to errors, they get the surprise bills they weren’t expecting,” Stauber Breckler said. “But mostly, it’s just that there is this really sharp drop in care, from the time that you have a surgery or you were diagnosed, to when you need to now start using this device, when you’re essentially left at home and are given a general prescription.”

Unlike in the prescription drug market, where your choices essentially amount to whether you pick the brand name or the generic, and the outcome is pretty much the same regardless, in medical supplies which solution you choose can have a dramatically different effect on your experience. Customers might not be aware, for example, that something like CompactCath exists, and would instead chose a different catheter option that limits their mobility because of how frequently it needs changing and how intensive the process is. Physicians and medical professionals also might not be the best to advise them on their choice, because while they’ve obviously seen patients with these conditions, they generally haven’t lived with them themselves.

“We have talked to people who tell us, ‘I’ve had an ostomy for 19 years, and this is the first time I don’t have constant leakages’ or someone who had been using a catheter for three years and hasn’t left her house for more than two hours, because they didn’t feel comfortable with the product that they had to use it in a public restroom,” Stauber Breckler said. “So they told us things like ‘I finally went to visit my parents, they live in a town three hours away.’”

Better Health can provide this kind fo clarity to customers because it employs advisors who can talk patients through the equipment selection process with one-to-one coaching and product use education. The startup also helps with navigating the insurance side, managing paperwork, estimating costs and even arguing the case for a specific piece of equipment in case of difficulty getting the claim approved. The company leverages peers who have first-hand experience with the chronic conditions it serves to help better serve its customers.

Already, Better Health is a Medicare-licensed provider in 48 states, and it has partnerships in place with commercial providers like Humana and Oscar Health. This funding round was led by 8VC, a firm with plenty of expertise in the healthcare industry and an investor in Stauber Breckler’s prior ventures, and includes participation from Caffeinated Capital, Anorak Ventures, and angels Robert Hurley and Scott Flanders of remote health pioneer eHealth.

#8vc, #advisors, #caffeinated-capital, #health, #healthcare-industry, #humana, #medicare, #medicine, #oscar, #oscar-health, #pain, #port, #robert-hurley, #shopify, #software-engineer, #surgery, #tc, #united-states

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LA-based Metropolis raises $41 million to upgrade parking infrastructure

Metropolis is a new Los Angeles-based startup that’s looking to compete with BMW-owned ParkMobile for a slice of the automated parking lot management market.

Upgrading ParkMobile’s license plate-based service with a computer vision based system that recognizes cars as they enter and leave garages has been Metropolis’ mission since founder and chief executive Alex Israel first formed the business back in 2017.

Israel, a serial entrepreneur, has spent decades thinking about parking. His last company, ParkMe, was sold to Inrix back in 2015. And it was with those earnings and experience that Israel went back to the drawing board to develop a new kind of parking payment and management service.

Now, the company is ready for its closeup, announcing not only its launch, but $41 million in financing the company raised from investors including the real estate managers Starwood and RXR Realty; Dick Costolo’s 01 Advisors; Dragoneer; former Facebook employees Sam Lessin and Kevin Colleran’s Slow Ventures; Dan Doctoroff, the head of Alphabet’s Sidewalk Labs initiative; and NBA All star and early stage investor, Baron Davis. 

According to Alex Israel, the parking payment application is the foundation for a bigger business empire that hopes to reimagine parking spaces as hubs for a broad array of urban mobility services.

In this, the company’s goals aren’t dissimilar from the Florida-based startup, REEF, which has its own spin on what to do with the existing infrastructure and footprint created by urban parking spaces. And REEF’s $700 million round of funding from last year shows there’s a lot of money to be made — or at least spent — in a parking lot.

Unlike REEF, Metropolis will remain focused on mobility, according to Israel. “How does parking change over the next 20 years as mobility shifts?” he asked. And he’s hoping that Metropolis will provide an answer. 

The company is hoping to use its latest funding to expand its footprint to over 600 locations over the course of the next year. In all, Metropolis has raised $60 million since it was formed back in 2017.

While the computer vision and machine learning technology will serve as the company’s beachhead into parking lots, services like cleaning, charging, storage and logistics could all be part and parcel of the Metropolis offering going forward, Israel said. “We become the integrator [and] we also in some cases become the direct service provider,” Israel said.

The company already has 10,000 parking spots that it’s managing for big real estate owners, and Israel expects more property managers to flood to its service.

“[Big property owners] are not thinking about the infrastructure requirements that allow for the seamless access to these facilities,” Israel said. His technology can allow buildings to capture more value through other services like dynamic pricing and yield optimization as well.

“Metropolis is finding the highest and best use whether that be scooter charging, scooter storage, fleet storage, fleet logistics, or sorting,” Israel said.  

 

#advisors, #alphabet, #bmw, #charging, #cleaning, #dan-doctoroff, #dick-costolo, #dynamic-pricing, #facebook, #florida, #head, #inrix, #israel, #logistics, #los-angeles, #machine-learning-technology, #national-basketball-association, #nba, #parking, #parkme, #reef, #sam-lessin, #serial-entrepreneur, #storage, #tc, #transport

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Prime Movers Lab raises $245 million for second fund to invest in early stage science startups

After revealing its first fund just last year, a $100 million pool of investment capital dedicated to early stage startups focusing on sustainable food development, clean energy, health innovation and new space technologies, Prime Movers Lab is back with a second fund. Prime Movers Lab Fund II is larger, with $245 million committed, but it will pursue the same investment strategy, albeit with a plan to place more bets on more companies, with an expanded investment team to help manage the funds and portfolio.

“There are a lot of VCs out there,” explained founder and general partner Dakin Sloss about the concept behind the fund. “But there aren’t many VCs that are focused exclusively on breakthrough science, or deep tech. Even though there are a couple, when you look at the proportion of capital, I think it’s something like less than 10% of capital is going to these types of companies. But if you look at what’s meaningful to the life of the average person over the next 30 years, these are all the companies that are important, whether it’s coronavirus vaccine,s or solar energy production, or feeding the planet through aquaponics. These are the things that are really meaningful to to making a better quality of life for most people.”

Sloss told me that he sees part of the issue around why the proportion of capital dedicated to solving these significant problems is that it requires a lot of deep category knowledge to invest in correctly.

“There’s not enough technical expertise in VC firms to choose winners intelligently, rather than ending up with the next Theranos or clean tech bubble,” he said. “So that’s the first thing I wanted to solve. I have a physics background, and I was able to bring together a team of partners that have really deeply technical backgrounds.”

As referenced, Sloss himself has a degree from Stanford in Mathematics, Physics and Philosophy. He was a serial entrepreneur before starting the fund, having founded Tachyus, OpenGov and nonprofit California Common Sense. Other Partners on the team include systems engineer Dan Slomski, who previously worked on machine vision, electro-mechanical systems and developing a new multi-phase flow fluid analyzer; Amy Kruse, who holds a PhD in neuroscience and has served as an executive in defence technology and applied neuroscience companies; and Carly Anderson, a chemical engineer who has worked in biomedicine and oil & gas, and who has a PhD in chemical and biomolecular engineering. In addition to core partners with that kind of expertise, Prime Movers Lab enlists the help of venture partners and specialist advisors like former astronaut Chris Hadfield.

Having individuals with deep field expertise on the core team, in addition to supplementing that with top-notch advisors, is definitely a competitive advantage, particularly when investing in the kinds of companies that Prime Movers Lab does early on in their development. There’s a perception that companies pursuing these kinds of hard tech problems aren’t necessarily as viable as a target for traditional venture funding, specifically because of the timelines for returns. Sloss says he believes that’s a misperception based on unfortunate past experience.

“I think there are three big myths about breakthrough science or hard tech or deep tech,” he said. “That it takes longer, that it’s more capital intensive, and that it’s higher risk. And I think the reason those myths are out there is people invested in things like Theranos, and the clean tech bubble. But I think that there were fundamental mistakes made in how they underwrote risk of doing that.”

Image Credits: Momentus

To avoid making those kinds of mistakes, Sloss says that Prime Movers Lab views prospective investments from the perspective of a “spectrum of risk,” which includes risk of the science itself (does the fundamental technology involve actually work), engineering risk (given the science works, can we make it something we can sell) and finally, commercialization or scaling risk (can we then make it and sell it at scale with economics that work). Sloss says that if you use this risk matrix to assess investments, and allocated funds to address primarily the engineering risk category, concerns around timeframes to return don’t really apply.

He cites Primer Movers Lab’s Fund I portfolio, which includes space propulsion company Momentus, heading for an exit to the public markets via SPAC (the company’s Russian CEO actually just resigned in order to smooth the path for that, in fact), and notes that of the 15 companies that Fund I invested in, four are totally on a path to going public. That would put them much faster to an exit than is typical for early stage investment targets, and Sloss credits the very different approach most hard science startups take to IP development and capital.

“The inflection points in these types of companies are actually I think faster to get to market, because they’ve spent years developing the IP, staying at relatively low or attractive valuations,” he said. “Then we can kind of come in, at that inflection point, and help them get ready to commercialize and scale up exponentially, to where other investors no longer have to underwrite the difference between science and engineering risk, they can just see it’s working and producing revenue.”

Companies that fit this mold often come directly from academia, and keep the team small and focused while they’re figuring out the core scientific discovery or innovation that enables the business. A prime example of this in recent memory is Wingcopter, a German drone startup that developed and patented a technology for a tilt-wing rotor that changes the economics of electric autonomous drone flight. The startup just took its first significant startup investment after bootstrapping for four years, and the funds will indeed be used to help it accelerate engineering on a path towards high-volume production.

While Wingcopter isn’t a Prime Movers Lab portfolio company, many of its investments fit the same mold. Boom Aerospace is currently working on building and flying its subscale demonstration aircraft to pave the way for a future supersonic airliner, while Axiom Space just announced the first crew of private tourists to the International Space Station who will fly on a SpaceX Falcon 9 for $50 million a piece. As long as you can prove the fundamentals are sound, allocating money turning it into something marketable seems like a logical strategy.

For Prime Movers Lab’s Fund II, the plan is to invest in around 30 or so companies, roughly doubling the number of investments from Fund I. In addition to its partners with scientific expertise, the firm also includes Partners with skill sets including creative direction, industrial design, executive coaching and business acumen, and provides those services to its portfolio companies as value-add to help them supplement their technical innovations. Its Fund I portfolio includes Momentus and Axiom, as mentioned, as well as vertical farming startup Upward Farms, coronavirus vaccine startup Covaxx, and more.

#advisors, #articles, #astronaut, #business-incubators, #ceo, #chris-hadfield, #clean-energy, #corporate-finance, #deep-tech, #entrepreneurship, #executive, #falcon, #finance, #funding, #international-space-station, #machine-vision, #momentus, #money, #neuroscience, #oil, #prime-movers-lab, #private-equity, #serial-entrepreneur, #stanford, #startup-company, #startups, #tc, #theranos, #venture-capital, #wingcopter

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PepsiCo signs on to sponsor new founder-in-residence program from M13

The budding venture studio being built inside M13 has signed PepsiCo as its first new corporate partner.

Through the deal, PepsiCo has agreed to bankroll the first founder-in-residence program from the New York and Los Angeles-based firm, which poached former Techstars Los Angeles managing director Anna Barber to lead its new initiative.

The initial M13 Launchpad program will leverage PepsiCo executives and advisors to take entrepreneurs-in-residence on a 12-week long program in ideating and launching a health and wellness-focused startup.

“Today there is a wealth of data available to consumers about their own health, and the movement toward home testing has put ownership over health data more firmly in their hands. This creates exciting opportunities for people to use nutrition even more effectively as a source of consistent, overall health and wellness,” Barber wrote in an email. “This spring, we will be looking at everything from snacks, meal replacement foods, drinks and supplements to software platforms for optimizing nutrition, and connected devices for collecting and managing data.”

It’s a deal that compliments work M13 is already doing alongside corporate partners like Procter & Gamble Ventures, which was instrumental in developing companies like include the premium beauty tech OPTE, Kindra’s menopause products and Bodewell for sensitive skin care.

Independently, the Launchpad program was able to build up Rae, which sells affordable women’s wellness products available at Target, Anthropologie and Urban Outfitters.

Under the 12 week virtual Launchpad program, entrepreneurs will receive a $10,000 monthly stipend and enough cash for testing product market fit when they graduate. Upon leaving the program, each company will also receive a small seed round to ensure that they can continue to grow the business, M13 said.

#advisors, #anna-barber, #articles, #business, #companies, #launchpad, #los-angeles, #m13, #new-york, #rae, #target, #tc, #techstars, #wellness

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Bristol entrepreneur who exited for $800M doubles-down on the city with deep-tech incubator and VC fund

Harry Destecroix co-founded Ziylo while studying for his PhD at the University of Bristol. Ziylo, a university spin-out company, developed a synthetic molecule allowing glucose to bind with the bloodstream more effectively. Four years later, and by then a Phd, Destecroix sold the company to Danish firm Novo Nordisk, one of the biggest manufacturers of diabetes medicines, which had realized it could use Ziylo’s molecule to develop a new type of insulin to help diabetics. He walked away with an estimated $800m.

Destecroix is now embarking on a project, “Science Creates”, to repeat the exercise of creating deep-tech, science-based startups, and it will once more be based out of Bristol.

To foster this deep tech ecosystem it will offer a specialized incubator space able to house Wet Labs, a £15 million investment fund and a network of strategic partners to nurture science and engineering start-ups and spin-outs.

The Science Creates hub, in partnership with the University of Bristol and located in the heart of the city, is aspiring to become a sort of ‘West Coast’ for England, and the similarities, at least with an earlier version of Silicon Valley, are striking.

The Bay Area of old was cheaper than the East Coast of the US, had a cornerstone university, access to capital, and plenty of talent. Bristol has all that and for capital, it can access London, less than 90 minutes by train. But what it’s lacked until now is a greater level of “clustering” and startup-focused organization, which is clearly what Destecroix is planning to fix.

In a statement for the launch, he explained: “Where a discovery is made has a huge bearing on whether it’s successfully commercialized. While founding my own start-up, Ziylo, I became aware of just how many discoveries failed to emerge from the lab in Bristol alone. No matter the quality of the research and discovery, the right ecosystem is fundamental if we are going to challenge the global 90% failure rate of science start-ups, and create many more successful ventures.”

Science Creates is be grown out of the original incubator, Unit DX, that Destecroix set up in collaboration with the University of Bristol in 2017 to commercialize companies like his own.

The Science Creates team

The Science Creates team

The ‘Science Creates ecosystem’ will comprise of:

Science Creates Incubators: Unit DX houses 37 scientific and engineering companies working on healthtech, the environment and quality of life. The opening of a second incubator, Unit DY, close to Bristol Temple Meads train station, will mean it can support 100 companies and an estimated 450 jobs. The Science Creates’ physical footprint across the two units will reach 45,000 sq ft.

Science Creates Ventures: This £15 million EIS venture capital fund is backed by the Bristol-based entrepreneurs behind some of the South-West’s biggest deep tech exits.

Science Creates Network: This will be a portfolio of strategic partners, mentors and advisors tailored to the needs of science and engineering start-ups.

Destecroix is keen that the startups nurtured there will have more than “Wi-Fi and strong coffee” but also well-equipped lab space as well as sector-specific business support.

He’s betting that Bristol, with its long history of academic and industrial research, world-class research base around the University of Bristol, will be able to overcome the traditional challenges towards the commercialization of deep tech and science-based startups.

Professor Hugh Brady, Vice-Chancellor and President at the University of Bristol, commented: “We are delighted to support the vision and help Science Creates to build a thriving deep tech ecosystem in our home city. Great scientists don’t always know how to be great entrepreneurs, but we’ve seen the impact specialist support can have in helping them access the finance, networks, skills, and investment opportunities they need. Working with Science Creates, we aim to support even more ground-breaking discoveries to progress outside the university walls, and thrive as successful commercial ventures that change our world for the better.”

Ventures in Unit DX so far include:
– Imophoron (a vaccine tech start-up that is reinventing how vaccines are made and work – currently working on a COVID vaccine)
– Cytoseek (a discovery-stage biotech working on cell therapy cancer treatment)
– Anaphite (graphine-based science for next gen battery technology).

In an exclusive interview with TechCrunch, Destecroix went on to say: “After my startup exited I just got really interested in this idea that, where discovery is actually founded has a huge bearing on whether something is actually commercialized or not. The pandemic has really taught us there is a hell of a lot more – especially in the life sciences, and environmental sciences – that has still yet to be discovered. Vaccines are based on very old technology and take a while to develop.”

“Through this whole journey, I started trying to understand it from an economic perspective. How do we get more startups to emerge? To lower those barriers? I think first of all there’s a cultural problem, especially with academically-focused universities whereby entrepreneurship a dirty word. I had to go against many of my colleagues in the early days to spin out, then obviously universities own all the IP. And so you’ve got to go through the tech transfer office etc and depending on what university you are at, whether it’s Imperial, Cambridge or Oxford, they’re all different. So, and I put the reason why there were no deep terch startups in Bristol down to the fact that there was no incubator space, and not enough investment.”

“I’ve now made about 14 angel investments. Bristol has now catapulted from 20th in the league tables for life sciences to six in the country in the last three years and this is largely due to the activities that we’ve been helping to encourage. So we’ve helped streamline licensing processes for the university, and I’ve helped cornerstone a lot of these deals which has resulted in a wave of these technology startups coming in.”

“I thought, now’s the time to professionalize this and launch a respectable Bristol-based venture capital firm that specializes in deep technologies.”

#advisors, #articles, #bristol, #business, #cambridge, #cancer-treatment, #deep-tech, #east-coast, #economy, #entrepreneurship, #europe, #finance, #london, #oxford, #private-equity, #start-up, #start-ups, #startup-company, #tc, #united-kingdom, #united-states, #venture-capital, #west-coast, #wi-fi

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Alexa von Tobel: Eliminating risk is the key to building a startup during an economic downturn

Launching a company, even in the best of times, is one of the most challenging exercises a person can go through. In an economic recession, it can seem downright impossible. But founders across the country, and indeed across the globe, are in the midst of that process as I write.

They aren’t the first. Alexa von Tobel, founder of LearnVest and founding partner at Inspired Capital, publicly launched her fintech startup in 2009, and founded it in May of 2007. In that span of time, Lehman Brothers went under — in December of 2008.

The company was launched in the midst of the worst economic downturn in at least three generations (current circumstances notwithstanding). We briefly chatted with von Tobel about this in a recent episode of Extra Crunch Live, but the topic deserved much more exploration. Von Tobel was gracious enough to talk to us again, and gave us her advice and insights on what it means, and what it takes, to launch a business in the midst of economic uncertainty.

Write it down

Von Tobel says that one of the most important exercises in forming LearnVest — a company that was acquired for $375 million by Northwestern Mutual — was writing out a business plan. It was 75 pages, and by no means a formal document. Rather, the LearnVest business plan was a brain dump of everything von Tobel could possibly think of as it relates to her idea.

“It was nothing beautiful and by no means a work of art,” said von Tobel. “But it was valuable to put it together and walk through this blueprint of all the big questions, all the concerns. How would the customer feel? How big was the market? What was the competition? I even drew up a product plan of how I would roll it out. It was a budget, looking at how much money we think we need to get up and running.”

This business plan also included the areas in which von Tobel felt she was not an expert. She wanted a clear expression of her own strengths and weaknesses built into the business from its very inception.

von Tobel had never written a formal business plan before. She had taken a few business classes at Harvard Business School, but didn’t see the exercise as preparation for publication, but rather her own personal space to develop a product and business.

“It was a macro, more thoughtful plan that allowed me to understand where things were positioned,” said von Tobel. “Perfect is the enemy of good enough. You don’t have to be perfect, but you have to do enough that you have a really clear sense of the picture and a really clear sense of the cracks.”

#advisors, #alexa-von-tobel, #business-plan, #diver, #economy, #entrepreneurship, #finance, #fintech-startup, #harvard, #harvard-business-school, #learnvest, #lehman-brothers, #northwestern-mutual, #roelof-botha, #startups, #tc

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When building a startup, think like a buyer

“Never run a dual-track process.”

You’ll probably hear this advice if you ask an investor about raising money and selling a business concurrently, and it’s good advice. The two processes are so different, so all-consuming and require such different priorities that it is nearly impossible to do both well. Running a sale process, though, is much different from positioning your company for sale, and positioning for a sale is very easy to do while you are focused on execution and fundraising. In fact, thinking like a buyer often helps make your business better even if you never sell, and if you do end up exiting through a merger or acquisition (far more common than an IPO in any event), you’ll be that much farther ahead.

It’s not just about your KPIs anymore

Investors care about results far more than methods. If the business is growing and the results are strong, founders are apt to face few questions from investors about the details of how they run their businesses.

It can come as quite a shock, then, when a buyer begins questioning everything during a sale. An acquisition represents not just the purchase of a revenue stream but also the team, technology, culture and a swarm of contractual relationships. Consider that a buyer is acquiring everything you have built up to this point, and they will take a close interest in all of it, not just your results.

At times, it can feel infuriatingly unfair. When I sold my first startup, Prism, several buyers castigated us for building on .NET. The product worked beautifully, and we had strong revenue growth. The tech stack was efficient and reliable. In fact, buyers would often congratulate us for the technology we had built and in the same breath insult our method of building it. Unfair, perhaps, but entirely reasonable considering that the buyer had to consider not just our results but how to integrate our team and product into their company. I’ve heard similar stories from founders concerning issues that range from culture and hiring practices to core hours and partnerships.

While growth is always the priority, looking at the business objectively can pay handsome dividends even if no buyer ever materializes and starts asking questions. It is easy for teams to become insular and to ignore problems festering underneath the shiny performance metrics, and forcing yourself to think like a buyer can help uncover problems early. Security and accounting are the best and most obvious examples here, but are far from the only ones. Even if you decide not to make a given change (we would not have changed our tech stack, for example), you will be able to get in front of any objections. A good offense is always the best defense, and the more you address incompatibilities proactively with a buyer, the stronger your position will be.

A peek behind the curtain

So how does a sale actually happen, and how does your preparation pay off? Typically, there are two general paths: the traditional process and the “serendipitous” encounter. In a traditional process, the founder explicitly seeks to sell the company. In a large transaction, it’s common to hire an investment bank to run the process; founders tend to manage smaller transactions themselves. Either way, the founder or the banker will comb through a list of potential acquirers and pitch the business to them in a process that feels somewhat like raising money.

The “serendipitous” encounter is a much looser construction. Sometimes, it is truly happenstance, when an acquirer expresses genuinely unexpected interest. More often, those scare quotes are doing yeoman’s work, and the founder starts feeling out potential buyers by casually discussing how great their business is with those around them. Some founders are better at this dance than others, but once a buyer expresses genuine interest, the next steps look exactly like the formal process. Look, there may be environments in which having zero competition for your deal makes sense, just like there may be environments in which “Well, at this point, the best path forward definitely is to wrestle with that alligator” is a sensible thing to say. Both environments are equally likely. In almost all cases, it is imperative to get others interested in your company, even if you would prefer to sell to the first buyer. Auctions drive up prices and improve your negotiating position on literally everything, so you need to run a process just as if you’d planned one from the beginning.

So what does “interest” look like? It’s a fuzzy concept, but typically it means that someone with agency (either a C-suite executive or someone in the corporate M&A group) tells you that they want to consider acquiring your business. A lot of euphemisms get thrown around at this point to avoid scaring founders; you’ll hear “building a closer relationship” or word salads like “working together in a more structurally consistent manner” or if the person has a New York investment banking background, “Let’s get a deal done” likely delivered staccato with a finger. jabbing. the. table. for. emphasis. These phrases all mean the same thing, namely that the company that person represents wants to consider buying your company.

At this point, the conversation is pretty high level. You typically won’t be tearing into the technical wizardry, but rather demonstrating that you have what it takes to play the game: a good business model, a reliable product, strong team chemistry, and a product that fits well into the acquirer’s business. You, your co-founders and probably some senior engineers will spend some time at the acquirer’s offices, meeting with the management and product teams, trying to get a sense for how well these various groups of people gel. The CEO will spend time with the other company’s CEO (or in the case of larger acquirers, divisional leadership), hashing out employee benefit packages and transition agreements. Pro tip: “Synergies” mean firing people, and if that’s off the table for you, make that clear upfront. Even if there’s a desire to keep the whole team, it’s pretty unusual for every last person to make the transition.

If these first couple meetings go well, you need to start formalizing the process. Your sale will be much more successful if you establish an internal champion (sometimes the CEO but ideally your head of corporate development, business unit leader or GC) who can navigate the sale. Having one key point person will streamline the process and allow the founders to focus on ensuring that the business doesn’t fall apart from all of the distraction.

At some point early in this process, you’ll want to ask for an Initial Indication of Interest, or “IOI.” Legally, it’s a worthless piece of paper, but it keeps honest people honest. In it are outlined the terms of the proposed deal, the expected timing and other major deal points. Much can and will change, but having a common and documented starting ground is essential. NDAs tend to get signed around this time as well or may already be in place if the process started more formally. At this point, you also need to communicate to your other potential buyers (you have a few, right?) that you’re “in exclusivity,” meaning you can’t negotiate with anyone else. Doing so typically heightens their interest, because they’re human beings. From then on, you’ll almost certainly be prohibited from talking to new buyers about the business at all, so your only fallback options are the others already in the process.

From then on, it’s a sprint to the finish. Technical diligence, legal diligence, security reviews, accounting reviews, etc. It all takes longer than it should and creates proliferating headaches. Anything can derail a deal, but most of this work just creates more negotiating room for the buyer. It’s like a really expensive and prolonged home inspection, and if you’ve done a good job on maintenance over the years, it’ll go smoothly (see previous section).

The sellers matter, too

Your investors, employees and customers all have a stake in this outcome as well. While you’re busy trying to think like a buyer, you also need to empathize with all of your selling stakeholders. Each situation is different, so it’s hard to give generic advice. More communication is better than less, especially to your lead investors who likely have to approve any M&A in the first place. If a transaction comes out of nowhere, it can feel desperate and leave investors wondering what was left on the table. Investors have come to associate poor communication with poor management, and it’s not an unfair assumption.

You’ll need to bring employees into the circle as the diligence process unfolds, and involving your top people is almost always the right initial step. You need your leaders on board with the deal, and it is much easier to get people excited when they have a say in the process and outcome. Unfortunately for your customers, they will have to wait for the public deal announcement, but be transparent and honest in that communication. It should come from one of the CEOs.

Finally, be sure to give people who have supported you in the past — journalists, bloggers, podcasters, advisors — a heads-up as well so they don’t feel blindsided. Doing so is especially important if an acquisition will significantly disrupt the product; if someone put their reputation on the line for you, do your best to tell them what’s happening before they wake up to the news alert.

Ultimately, think like a sales lead

Every CEO is in sales . Pitching investors, selling to customers, recruiting all-stars, courting acquirers: It’s all sales. Preparing to sell your most important asset — the company itself — should be no less a part of your DNA. Never stop selling.

#advisors, #column, #corporate-finance, #entrepreneurship, #human-resource-management, #ma, #mergers-and-acquisitions, #prism, #sales, #startups, #talent, #venture-capital

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Decrypted: Police hack criminal phone network; Randori raises $20M Series A

Last week was, for most Americans, a four-day work week. But a lot still happened in the security world.

The U.S. government’s cybersecurity agencies warned of two critical vulnerabilities — one in Palo Alto’s networking tech and the other in F5’s gear — that foreign, nation state-backed hackers will “likely” exploit these flaws to get access to networks, steal data or spread malware. Plus, the FCC formally declared Chinese tech giants Huawei and ZTE as threats to national security.

Here’s more from the week.


THE BIG PICTURE

How police hacked a massive criminal phone network

Last week’s takedown of EncroChat was, according to police, the “biggest and most significant” law enforcement operation against organized criminals in the history of the U.K. EncroChat sold encrypted phones with custom software akin to how BlackBerry phones used to work; you needed one to talk to other device owners.

But the phone network was used almost exclusively by criminals, allowing their illicit activities to be kept secret and go unimpeded: drug deals, violent attacks, corruption — even murders.

That is, until French police hacked into the network, broke the encryption and uncovered millions of messages, according to Vice, which covered the takedown of the network. The circumstances of the case are unique; police have not taken down a network like this before.

But technical details of the case remain under wraps, likely until criminal trials begin, at which point attorneys for the alleged criminals are likely to rest much of their defense on the means — and legality — in which the hack was carried out.

#advisors, #ceo, #chief-information-security-officer, #china, #computing, #cryptography, #data-breach, #data-protection, #decrypted, #encryption, #extra-crunch, #federal-communications-commission, #huawei, #hunt, #information-technology, #internet-security, #market-analysis, #palo-alto, #security, #series-a, #social, #startups, #u-s-government, #united-kingdom, #united-states, #video-conferencing

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Affirming the position of tech advocates, Supreme Court overturns Trump’s termination of DACA

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled today that President Donald Trump’s administration unlawfully ended the federal policy providing temporary legal status for immigrants who came to the country as children.

The decision, issued Thursday, called the termination of the Obama-era policy known as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals “arbitrary and capricious.” As a result of its ruling, nearly 640,000 people living in the United States are now temporarily protected from deportation.

While a blow to the Trump Administration, the ruling is sure to be hailed nearly unanimously by the tech industry and its leaders, who had come out strongly in favor of the policy in the days leading up to its termination by the current President and his advisors.

At the beginning of 2018, many of tech’s most prominent executives, including the CEOs of Apple, Facebook, Amazon and Google, joined more than 100 American business leaders in signing an open letter asking Congress to take action on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program before it expired in March.

Tim Cook, Mark Zuckerberg, Jeff Bezos and Sundar Pichai who made a full throated defense of the policy and pleaded with Congress to pass legislation ensuring that Dreamers, or undocumented immigrants who arrived in the United States as children and were granted approval by the program, can continue to live and work in the country without risk of deportation.

At the time, those executives said the decision to end the program could potentially cost the U.S. economy as much as $215 billion.

In a 2017 tweet, Tim Cook noted that Apple employed roughly 250 of the company’s employees were “Dreamers”.

The list of tech executives who came out to support the DACA initiative is long. It included: IBM CEO Ginni Rometty; Brad Smith, the president and chief legal officer of Microsoft; Hewlett-Packard Enterprise CEO Meg Whitman; and CEOs or other leading executives of AT&T, Dropbox, Upwork, Cisco Systems, Salesforce.com, LinkedIn, Intel, Warby Parker, Uber, Airbnb, Slack, Box, Twitter, PayPal, Code.org, Lyft, Etsy, AdRoll, eBay, StitchCrew, SurveyMonkey, DoorDash, Verizon (the parent company of Verizon Media Group, which owns TechCrunch).

At the heart of the court’s ruling is the majority view that Department of Homeland Security officials didn’t provide a strong enough reason to terminate the program in September 2017. Now, the issue of immigration status gets punted back to the White House and Congress to address.

As the Boston Globe noted in a recent article, the majority decision written by Chief Justice John Roberts did not determine whether the Obama-era policy or its revocation were correct, just that the DHS didn’t make a strong enough case to end the policy.

“We address only whether the agency complied with the procedural requirement that it provide a reasoned explanation for its action,” Roberts wrote. 

While the ruling from the Supreme Court is some good news for the population of “dreamers,” the question of their citizenship status in the country is far from settled. And the U.S. government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic has basically consisted of freezing as much of the nation’s immigration apparatus as possible.

An Executive Order in late April froze the green card process for would-be immigrants, and the administration was rumored to be considering a ban on temporary workers under H1-B visas as well.

The President has, indeed, ramped up the crackdown with strict border control policies and other measures to curb both legal and illegal immigration. 

More than 800,000 people joined the workforce as a result of the 2012 program crafted by the Obama administration. DACA allows anyone under 30 to apply for protection from deportation or legal action on their immigration cases if they were younger than 16 when they were brought to the US, had not committed a crime, and were either working or in school.

In response to the Supreme Court decision, the President tweeted “Do you get the impression that the Supreme Court doesn’t like me?”

 

 

#adroll, #advisors, #airbnb, #amazon, #apple, #att, #brad-smith, #cisco-systems, #congress, #donald-trump, #doordash, #ebay, #etsy, #facebook, #ginni-rometty, #google, #hewlett-packard-enterprise, #ibm, #immigration, #intel, #jeff-bezos, #linkedin, #lyft, #mark-zuckerberg, #meg-whitman, #microsoft, #obama, #paypal, #president, #salesforce-com, #sundar-pichai, #supreme-court, #tc, #techcrunch, #tim-cook, #trump-administration, #twitter, #u-s-government, #uber, #united-states, #upwork, #verizon-media-group, #white-house

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All bets are off as Hertz pulls plan to issue $500 million in new stock

Hertz, which filed for bankruptcy last month, halted its $500 million stock offering Wednesday after the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission told the rental company it would review its controversial plan to sell shares that could soon be wiped out completely.

Hertz disclosed Monday that it would issue a $500 million stock offering following approval from the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware . Last week, the court gave Hertz permission to sell up to 246.8 million unissued shares (about $1 billion) to Jefferies LLC.

The financially strained company was aiming to tap into a new pool of speculative short-term retail investors in an effort to raise capital. But that plan got the SEC’s attention. Staff at the regulatory agency reached out to Hertz on Monday afternoon and told the company it intended to review its Prospectus Supplement, according to an SEC filing Wednesday. Trading was halted briefly Wednesday prior to Hertz’s announcement.

More from Hertz:

After discussions with the Staff, sales under the ATM Program were promptly suspended pending further understanding of the nature and timing of the Staff’s review. The company is not currently offering any shares under the ATM Program. The company’s advisors have been in regular contact with the Commission since the Staff’s initial contact on June 15, 2020. 

As COVID-19 spread throughout the globe, business trips and other travel stopped, leaving Hertz with an unused asset — lots and lots of cars. It wasn’t just that revenue stopped coming in; used car prices plummeted, further devaluing its fleet.

Hertz filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy May 22. But as its business dried up, prospectors jumped in. Retail investors, including those using the Robinhood trading app, invested in Hertz and drove up the stock price. Hertz stock dropped more than 83% between February 21 and March 18. It rose briefly and then continued to slide until May 26, when shares closed at $0.56 (that’s down 97.24% from the closing high in February).

Robinhood traders looked at Hertz and didn’t see the poor fundamentals; they saw opportunity. By March 18, more than 3,500 Robinhood users held Hertz stock, according to Robintrack. A month later, that number popped to more than 18,000, and then nearly doubled to surpass 43,000 users by May 21. It peaked June 14, when more than 170,000 Robinhood users held Hertz stock. The stock price rose 887.5% since that May 26 low, until it reached $5.53 on June 8. Shares of Hertz have since fallen 63.8% and closed Wednesday at $2.

#advisors, #atm, #automotive, #corporate-finance, #delaware, #finance, #hertz, #money, #robinhood, #stock, #stock-market, #u-s-securities-and-exchange-commission

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Remessa Online raises $20 million to become the TransferWise of Latin America

Remessa Online, the Brazilian money transfer service, said it has closed on $20 million in financing from one of the leading Latin American venture capital firms, Kaszek Ventures, and Accel Partners’ Kevin Efrusy, the architect of the famed venture capital firm’s Latin American investments.

Since its launch in 2016, Remessa Online has provided a pipeline for over $2 billion worth of international transfers for small and medium-sized businesses in the country. The company now boasts over 300,000 customers from 100 countries and says its fees are typically one eighth the cost of the local money transfer options.

“We understand that transferring money is just the beginning, and we are eager to build a global financial system that will make life easier for global citizens and businesses alike,” Liuzzi said.

Money transfer services are a huge business that startups have spent the last decade trying to improve in Europe and the U.S. European money transfer company, TransferWise has raised over $770 million alone in its bid to unseat the incumbents in the market. Meanwhile, the business-to-business cross-border payment gateway, Payoneer, has raised roughly $270 million to provide those services to small businesses.

Remessa Online already boasts a powerful group of investors and advisors including André Penha, the co-founder of apartment rental company QuintoAndar, and the former chief operating officer of Kraft Heinz USA, Fabio Armaganijan. With the new investment from Kaszek Ventures, firm co-founder Hernan Kazah, also the co-founder of the Latin American e-commerce giant MercadoLibre, will take a seat on the company’s board.

“We developed an online solution that is faster and substantially cheaper than traditional banking platforms, with digital and scalable processes and omnichannel customer support offered by a team of experts”, said Remessa Online’s co-founder and strategy director Alexandre Liuzzi, in a statement.

Last year, the company expanded its money transfer service to the U.K. and Europe, allowing Brazilians abroad to invest money, pay for education or rent housing without documentation or paperwork. The company’s accounts now come with an International Banking Account Number that allows its customers to receive money in nine currencies.

With the new year, Remessa has added additional services for small and medium-sized businesses and expanded its geographic footprint to include Argentina and Chile.

Latin American countries — especially Brazil — have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. While much of the economy is still reeling, the broad trends that are moving consumers and businesses to adopt e-commerce and mobile payment solutions are just as pronounced in the region as they are in the U.S., according to investors like Kazah.

“This crisis is accelerating the digitization process of several industries around the world and Remessa Online has taken the lead to transform the cross-border segment in Brazil, specially for SMBs,” he said in a statement.

Founded in 2016 by Fernando Pavani, Alexandre Liuzzi, Stefano Milo and Marcio William, Remessa Online was born from the founders own needs to find an easier way to send and receive money from abroad, according to the company.

In 2018, after a $4 million investment from Global Founders Capital and MAR Ventures, the company developed international processing capabilities and a more robust compliance tool kit to adhere to international anti-money laundering and know your customer standards. In the latter half of 2019, the company entered the SMB market with the launch of a toolkit for businesses that had been typically ignored by larger financial services institutions in Brazil.

“We believe in a world without physical borders. Our mission is to help our clients with their global financial needs, so that they can focus on what matters: their international dreams,” said Liuzzi.

#accel-partners, #advisors, #argentina, #bank, #banking, #brazil, #chief-operating-officer, #chile, #co-founder, #e-commerce, #economy, #europe, #finance, #financial-services, #global-founders-capital, #kaszek-ventures, #kevin-efrusy, #mercadolibre, #money, #money-laundering, #new-years-day, #tc, #united-kingdom, #united-states, #venture-capital, #venture-capital-firms

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IonQ raises additional funding for its quantum computing platform

Quantum computing startup IonQ today announced that it has raised additional funding as part of its previously announced Series B round. This round extends the company’s funding, including its 2019 $55 million Series B round, by about $7 million and brings the total investment into IonQ to $84 million.

The new funding includes strategic investments from Lockheed Martin and Robert Bosch Venture Capital, as well as Cambium, a relatively new multi-stage VC firm that specializes in investing “in the future of computational paradigms.”

In addition to the new funding, College Park, Maryland-based IonQ also announced a number of additions to its advisory team, including 2012 Nobel Prize winner David Wineland, who worked with IonQ co-founder and chief scientist Christopher Monroe on building the first quantum logic gate back in 1995.

Other new advisors are Berkeley Quantum Computation Center co-director Umesh Vazirani, former Cray senior VP of R&D Margaret (Peg) Williams, and Duke associate professor Kenneth Brown.

Image Credits: IonQ /

IonQ made an early bet on trapped ions at the core of its quantum computers, which is no surprise, given Monroe’s early work in this field.

We’re doing something which, at least initially, was thought of as kind of against the grain for quantum And what that is is trapped ion computers, which is ions which are being suspended in a vacuum and using electromagnets to hold them. So our cubits are our individual ions,” said IonQ CEO and president Peter Chapman, who was Amazon’s director of engineering for Amazon Prime before he took this new role last year. This approach has its pros and cons, Chapman explained. It makes it easier for the company to create its qubits, for example, which lets it focus on controlling them. In addition, IonQ’s machines can run at room temperature, while most of its competitors (with maybe the exception of Honeywell, which is also betting trapped ions at the core of its quantum computer) have to cool their machines to as close to zero Kelvin as possible.

One negative — at least for the time being, though — is that the trapped ion technique makes for a relatively slow quantum computer. But Chapman mostly dismissed the critique. “People say that the trapped ion computers are slow and that is true in the current generation. But slow is relative here. We run a thousand times slower or something. But at the end of the day, speed is one of those things that matters when you have two systems which can do the same thing. Then you care about the speed. If only one of the two systems can do your calculation, then it probably doesn’t matter.”

Image Credits: IonQ /

Like so many other quantum computing startups, IonQ is still mostly in its research and development phase and doesn’t currently have any revenue. That will change, though, Chapman noted, once Amazon and Microsoft start making its systems available in their clouds (something both vendors have already announced).

Until then, the new funding will go almost exclusively into R&D and Chapman noted that the team is currently working on the next three generations of its systems already.

Both Lockheed Martin and Bosch have made a number of investments in various quantum technologies and Chapman noted that Lockheed actually provided the initial grand money for IonQ co-founder Chris Monroe’s research during his time at the University of Maryland.

#advisors, #amazon, #bosch, #co-founder, #computing, #cray, #funding, #fundings-exits, #hardware, #honeywell, #ionq, #knowledge, #lockheed-martin, #maryland, #microsoft, #quantum-computing, #recent-funding, #robert-bosch-venture-capital, #startups, #tc

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Lucid Lane has developed a service to get patients off of pain meds and avoid addiction

Four years ago, Adnan Asar, the founder of the new addiction prevention service Lucid Lane, was enjoying a successful career working as the founding chief technology officer at Livongo Health. It was the serial senior tech executive’s most recent job after a long stint at Shutterfly and he was shepherding the company through the development of its suite of hardware and software for the management of chronic conditions.

But when Asar’s wife was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, he stepped away from the technology world to be with his family while she underwent treatment.

He did not know at the time that the decision would set him on the path to founding Lucid Lane. The company’s mission is to help give patients who have been prescribed medications to address pain and anxiety ways to wean themselves off those drugs and avoid addiction — and its purpose is born from the struggle Asar witnessed as his wife wrestled with how to stop taking the medication she was prescribed during her illness.

Asar’s wife isn’t alone. In 2018, there were roughly 168.2 million prescriptions for opioids written in the United States, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Lucid Lane estimates that 50 million people are prescribed opioids and another 13 million are prescribed benzodiazepines each year either after surgery or in conjunction with cancer treatments — all without a plan for how to manage or taper the use of these highly addictive medications.

For Asar’s wife, it was the benzodiazepine prescribed as part of her cancer treatment that became an issue. “She was hit by very severe withdrawal symptoms and we didn’t know what was going on,” Asar said. When they consulted her physician he gave the couple two options — quitting cold turkey or remaining on the medication.

“My wife decided to go cold turkey,” Asar said. “It was really debilitating for the whole family.”

It took nine months of therapy and regular consultations with psychiatrists to help with tailoring medication dosages and tapering to get her off of the medication, said Asar. And that experience led to the launch of Lucid Lane.

“Our goal is to prevent and control medication and substance dependence,” Asar said.

The company’s telehealth solution is built on a proprietary treatment protocol meant to provide continuous daily support and interventions, along with proactive monitoring of a personalized treatment plan — all on an ongoing basis, said Asar. 

And the COVID-19 pandemic is only accelerating the need for telehealth services. “COVID-19 has made telehealth a mandatory service instead of a discretionary service,” said Asar. “There’s a surge in anxiety, depression, substance use and medication use. We’re seeing a surge of patients who are reaching out to us.”

Asar sees Lucid Lane’s competitors as companies like Lyra Health and Ginger, or point solutions building digital diagnostics to detect anxiety and depression. But unlike some companies that are launching to treat addiction or addictive behaviors, Asar sees his startup as preventing dependency and addiction.

“A lot of people are sliding into these addictions through something that happens at the doctor’s office,” said Asar. ” Our solution does not prescribe any of these medications.”

The company is working on clinical studies that are set to start at the Palo Alto VA hospital, and has raised $4 million in seed funding from investors including Battery Ventures and AME Cloud Ventures, the investment firm founded by Jerry Yang.

“We see great potential for Lucid Lane, as it has developed a scalable solution to one of the biggest problems facing society today,” said Battery general partner Dharmesh Thakker, in a statement. “Telehealth solutions have emerged as highly capable of addressing complex problems, and Lucid Lane has embraced remote care from its beginning. Its design enables care anytime, anywhere for patients in their moment of need. This can make a tremendous difference in the battle between recovery and relapse. We believe that it will help millions of people lead better lives.”

Joining Asar in the development of the company and its healthcare protocols are a seasoned team of health professionals, including Dr. Ahmed Zaafran, a board certified anesthesiologist at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center and assistant professor of anesthesiology (affiliated) at Stanford University School of Medicine; and advisors like Dr. Vanila Singh, who was also previously chairperson of the HHS Task Force in conjunction with the DOD and the VA to address the opioid drug crisis; Dr. Carin Hagberg, the chair of anesthesiology, perioperative and pain medicine of MD Anderson Cancer Center; and Sherif Zaafran, the president of the Texas Medical Board and chair of multiple national committees on pain management, including the subcommittee Taskforce on Pain Management Services for HHS, as well as the department’s Pain Clinical Pathways Committee.

“Lucid Lane provides a patient-centered solution that allows for the best clinical outcomes for patients after surgery and those bravely finishing chemotherapy,” said Dr. Singh, in a statement. “For the many patients who require short-term opioids and benzodiazepine medications, Lucid Lane’s treatment can limit the risk of prolonged dependence of these medications while also ensuring effective pain control with a resulting improved quality of life and functioning.”

#adnan-asar, #advisors, #ame-cloud-ventures, #battery-ventures, #cancer, #cancer-treatment, #centers-for-disease-control-and-prevention, #department-of-defense, #depression, #dharmesh-thakker, #drugs, #health, #illness, #jerry-yang, #livongo-health, #lucid-lane, #lyra-health, #pain, #pain-management, #physician, #santa-clara-valley-medical-center, #startups, #surgery, #tc, #united-states, #virginia

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