As Bitcoin Busts, What’s the Future of Web3? And What Even Is Web3?

Kara Swisher talks to Chris Dixon of Andreessen Horowitz about why Silicon Valley is doubling down on crypto despite its slide.

#andreessen-horowitz, #computers-and-the-internet, #dixon-chris-1972, #ethereum-foundation, #virtual-currency

#DealMonitor – Ecosia investiert in Zolar – Rewe verkauft Durst.de-Anteile


Im #DealMonitor für den 17. März werfen wir 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.

INVESTMENTS

Zolar
+++ Die Berliner Suchmaschine Ecosia investiert in das Solarenergie-Startup Zolar. “By partnering with Zolar, this investment will allow 1.300 households in Germany to power their homes with solar energy. A 20 million investment in renewables is significant, especially given our previous 7 million euro investment into solar parks”, schreibt Ecosia-Gründer Christian Kroll. Das Berliner Startup Zolar , das 2016 von Gregor Loukidis und Alex Melzer gegründet wurde, bietet Photovoltaikanlagen zum Festpreis an, die Eigenheimbesitzer maßgeschneidert online planen, vergleichen und beauftragen können. Zuletzt wanderten 35 Millionen Euro in Zolar – unter anderem von Energy Impact PartnersMehr über Zolar

Payrails 
+++ Andreessen Horowitz, HV Capital und mehrere Business Angels, darunter Delivery Hero-CFO Emmanuel Thomassin, HelloFresh-Gründer Dominik Richter und die Flixbus-Gründer investieren – wie bereits im Dezember im Insider-Podcast berichtet – in Payrails. In der Investmentrunde fließen 6.4 Millionen US-Dollar in das Unternehmen. Das Berliner Startup, das 2021 von den drei Delivery Hero-Mitarbeitern Emre Talay, Nicolas Thouzeau und Orkhan Abdullayev gegründet wurde, positioniert sich als “Betriebssystem für die Abwicklung von Zahlungen und den Aufbau von Finanzdienstleistungen”. 30 Mitarbeiter:innen arbeiten derzeit für Payrails. Mehr über Payrails

reverse.supply
+++ Der Early-Stage-Geldgeber Capnamic Ventures sowie die Altinvestoren Push Ventures, Dutch Founders Fund und Angel-Investoren wie Julia Bösch (Outfittery) und Marcus Börner (Rebuy) investieren 5 Millionen Euro in reverse.supply. Das Berliner Startup, das 2021 von Max Große Lutermann und Janis Künkler gegründet wurde, positioniert sich als White-Label Plattform in Sachen Re-Commerce. Zielgruppe sind dabei Modemarken. “Die Finanzierungsrunde markiert den offiziellen Marktstart von reverse.supply und wird zum weiteren Aufbau des Teams, der technologischen Plattform und Kundenakquise verwendet werden”, teilt das Unternehmen mit. Mehr über reverse.supply

Yababa 
+++ Der Logistik-Geldgeber F-LOG Ventures investiert in Yababa – siehe Linkedin. Das Berliner Startup, das von Ralph Hage, Hadi Zaklouta, Javier Gimenez und Kamel Semakieh gegründet wurde, positioniert sich als Lieferservice für orientalische Lebensmittel. Creandum, Project A Ventures und FoodLabs investierten zuletzt 15,5 Millionen US-Dollar in Yababa. Mehr über Yababa

BigOmics
+++ Das Life Sciences-Unternehmen Eppendorf investiert in BigOmics. Das Schweizer Startup, das 2018 gegründet wurde, “entwickelt digitale Self-Service-Tools zur Analyse von molekular-biologischen Forschungsergebnissen in der Cloud”.

MERGERS & ACQUISITIONS

Durst.de
+++ Das Unternehmen GFGH Direkt, hinter dem Störtebeker Braumanufaktur-Macher Henning Meyer steckt, übernimmt die Rewe-Anteile an Durst.de – siehe Lebensmittel Zeitung. Das 2017 von Simon Biela und Matthias Steinforth gegründete Kölner Unternehmen baute in den vergangenen Jahren eine “Plattform zur Bestellung von Getränken aufgebaut sowie eine technische Infrastruktur für den Auslieferungs-, Logistik- und Abrechnungsprozess im B2C-Getränkehandel” auf. Mehrere Getränkefachhändler nutzen die Plattform derzeit für die digitale Abwicklung ihres Getränkelieferservices. 2020 übernahm der Handelsriese Rewe die Mehrheit an Durst.de. Mehr über Durst.de

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

Foto (oben): azrael74

#aktuell, #andreessen-horowitz, #bigomics, #capnamic-ventures, #durst-de, #eppendorf, #f-log-ventures, #greentech, #hv-capital, #payrails, #reverse-supply, #rewe, #venture-capital, #yababa, #zolar

Reality Intrudes on a Utopian Crypto Vision

The cryptocurrency boom has spawned enterprises democratically governed by a community of users. Or that’s the theory. Making it work has been much messier.

#andreessen-horowitz, #peirce-hester, #securities-and-commodities-violations, #securities-and-exchange-commission, #virtual-currency

Friends With Benefits: The Social Club That Runs On Crypto and Vibes

Friends With Benefits is a V.I.P. lounge for crypto’s creative class. Is it empty hype or the future of friendship?

#andreessen-horowitz, #computers-and-the-internet, #entrepreneurship, #friends-with-benefits-social-club, #organizations-societies-and-clubs, #social-media, #venture-capital, #virtual-currency

#DealMonitor – #EXKLUSIV Lightspeed investiert 30 Millionen in Mayd – Accel investiert in Priceloop – Andreessen Horowitz setzt auf Payrails


Im aktuellen #DealMonitor für den 13. Dezember 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.

INVESTMENTS

Mayd
+++ Der amerikanische Personio-Geldgeber Lightspeed investiert nach unseren Informationen gemeinsam mit den Altinvestoren 30 Millionen Euro in Mayd. Das Berliner Startup, das im Frühjahr 2021 von den McMakler-Gründern Hanno Heintzenberg und Lukas Pieczonka gegründet wurde, liefert Medikamente in 30 Minuten aus. 468 Capital, Earlybird Venture Capital und Target Global investierten kürzlich erst 13 Millionen Euro in die Jungfirma. Zu den Wettbewerbern von Mayd gehören insbesondere First A und kurando, zuvor als Phaster bekannt. Mehr im Insider-Podcast #EXKLUSIV

Priceloop
+++ Der amerikanische Geldgeber Accel investiert gemeinsam mit Business Angels wie den Flixbus-Gründern in Priceloop. Das Berliner Startup, das 2020 vom Contorion-Gründer Richard Schwenke und Dat Tran (zuletzt unter anderem Head of AI, Axel Springer) gegründet wurde, positioniert sich als KI-gestützte Software zur Optimierung von Verkaufspreisen. “Priceloop helps e-commerce and retail companies to be more successful by using data-driven pricing decisions”, heißt es in der Selbstbeschreibung der Jungfirma. Der Berliner Kapitalgeber Project A Ventures investierte zuvor bereits in Priceloop. Mehr im Insider-Podcast #EXKLUSIV 

Payrails
+++ Andreessen Horowitz, HV Capital und mehrere Business Angels, darunter Delivery Hero-CFO Emmanuel Thomassin, HelloFresh-Gründer Dominik Richter, Foodpanda-Gründer Felix Plog, die Flixbus-Gründer investieren in Payrails. Das Startup, das von den drei Delivery Hero-Mitarbeitern Emre Talay, Nicolas Thouzeau und Orkhan Abdullayev gegründet wurde, positioniert sich als “Cloud Native Payment Operating System”. In der Selbstbeschreibung heißt es: “We are building an operating system to simplify accepting payments”. Mehr im Insider-Podcast #EXKLUSIV

ramblr.ai
+++ Die beiden Geldgeber 468 Capital und Vsquared Ventures investieren in ramblr.ai. Das Münchner Startup, das von metaio-Gründer Thomas Alt und dem ehemaligen metaio-Manager Roman Hasenbeck gegründet wurde, kümmert sich um die “Entwicklung, die Vermarktung und der Vertrieb von Software, Augmented Reality Systemen und Datensätzen sowie die Erbringung von IT-Dienstleistungen” . metaio gilt als einer der Augmented-Reality-Pioniere in Deutschland. 2015 übernahm Apple die Jungfirma. Mehr im Insider-Podcast #EXKLUSIV

aedifion
+++ Momeni Digital Ventures, Drees & Sommer, BeyondBuild und Bauwens X sowie die Altinvestoren BitStone Capital und Phoenix Contact Innovation Ventures investieren eine siebenstellige Summe in aedifion. Das junge Unternehmen aus Köln entwickelt eine Software, mit der Immobilienbesitzer die Betriebskosten analysieren und im besten Fall senken können. Das Jungunternehmen, das von Johannes Peter Fütterer und Felix Dorner geführt wird, wurde 2019 gegründet.

up.lftd
+++ IBB Ventures und mehrere Business Angels “mit fundierten Branchenkenntnissen” investieren eine sechsstellige Summe in up.lftd. Das Berliner Startup, das von Antonia Wälzholz und Klaus Großmann gegründet wurde, positioniert sich als Performance-Management- und Personalentwicklungs-Tool.  Die HR-Software setzt dabei auf die “automatischen Erkennung der passendsten Feedback-Momente und der kontinuierlichen Sammlung von 360°-Mikro-Feedback für diese Momente”.

Finn
+++ Credit Suisse Securitized Products Finance und Waterfall Asset Management  gewähren Finn eine Kreditlinie in Höhe von 500 Millionen Euro. “Die Finanzierung soll das Wachstum weiter signifikant steigern. Die Transaktion ist rechtskräftig und die Kreditsumme abrufbereit”, teilt das Unternehmen mit. Wie andere Anbieter auch bietet Finn, das von Max-Josef Meier (früher Stylight) gegründet wurde, Autos im Abo an. White Star Capital, Rubin Ritter, David Schneider und Robert Gentz (alle zalando) sowie die Altinvestoren HV Capital, Picus Capital, Heartcore und UVC Partners investierten zuletzt 20 Millionen Euro in das Unternehmen.

MERGERS & ACQUISITIONS

Fincompare
+++ Eine Gruppe genossenschaftlichen Banken – darunter die DZ Bank und diverse Volksbanken – übernehmen Fincompare – siehe FinanceFWD. Der Kaufpreis liegt dem Bericht zufolge bei 15 Millionen Euro.  Das Berliner FinTech, das 2017 von Watchmaster-Mitgründer Stephan Heller gegründet wurde, positioniert sich als “digitale Plattform für die Unternehmensfinanzierung”. Speedinvest, ING Ventures, UNIQA Ventures, Elevator Ventures und Co. investierten in den vergangen Jahren mehr als 25 Millionen in das Unternehmen. Fincompare ging somit vergleichsweise günstig über den Tisch.

Fishing-King
+++ Die Beteiligungsgesellschaft Afinum übernimmt die Mehrheit an Fishing-King.  “Gemeinsam mit dem Gründer Hubertus Massong und dem bestehenden Management-Team von Fishing-King plant Afinum weiteres Wachstum durch eine höhere Durchdringung der bestehenden Kernmärkte, Expansion in neue Märkte und in angrenzende Produktsegmente”, teilt das Unternehmen mit. Das Unternehmen aus Köln, eine “E-Learning-Plattform für die Angel-Community” wurde 2009 gegründet.

Intranav
+++ Das amerikanische Unternehmen Inpixon übernimmt Intranav. Das Unternehmen aus Eschborn, das 2014 von Ersan Günes und Gonzalo Ibarra gegründet wurde, positioniert sich als IoT-Plattform für die Ortung von Waren- und Materialflüssen. “Intranav will bring new, comprehensive products and technologies, and a broad IP portfolio to strengthen our established RTLS product line”, teilt das Unternehmen mit.

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

Foto (oben): azrael74

#468-capital, #accel, #aedifion, #afinum, #aktuell, #andreessen-horowitz, #berlin, #fincompare, #finn, #fintech, #hr, #hv-capital, #inpixon, #intranav, #koln, #lightspeed, #munchen, #priceloop, #ramblr-ai, #up-lftd, #venture-capital, #vsquared-ventures

The Teenagers Getting Six Figures to Leave Their High Schools for Basketball

The new pro league Overtime Elite is luring young phenoms with hefty salaries, viral success and — perhaps — a better path to the N.B.A.

#andreessen-horowitz, #basketball, #basketball-college, #drake-rapper, #national-basketball-assn, #ncaa-basketball-championships-men, #overtime-elite-league, #student-athlete-compensation

#DealMonitor – commercetools kauft Frontastic – Andreessen Horowitz investiert in Matter Labs – Zolar bekommt 20 Millionen


Im aktuellen #DealMonitor für den 19. November 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.

MERGERS & ACQUISITIONS

Frontastic 
+++ Die E-Commerce-Lösung commercetools, die gerade erst 140 Millionen US-Dollar eingesammelt hat, übernimmt Frontastic. Das Unternehmen, eine Frontend-Management-Plattform, die 2017 von Thomas Gottheil, Henning Emmrich, Kore Nordmann, Tobias Schlitt und Manuel Pichler in Münster gegründet wurde, setzt auf Frontend as a Service. Kern von Frontastic ist eine Art Homepage-Editor, bei dem sich Elemente simpel per Drag & Drop platzieren lassen. Die NRW.Bank, Reimann Investors, Ventech sowie Business Angel Ulrike Müller investierten in der Vergangenheit 1,8 Millionen Euro in die Remote Native Company. commercetools und Frontastic arbeiten bereits seit der Gründung der Jungfirma “partnerschaftlich zusammen”. Mit der Übernahme möchte das commercetools-Team “es Unternehmen künftig noch leichter, inspirierende Einkaufserlebnisse über sämtliche Kanäle hinweg zu kreieren und damit schnell und flexibel auf die Herausforderungen des Marktes einzugehen”. Mehr über Frontastic

INVESTMENTS

Zolar
+++ Die Berliner Volksbank stellt Zolar über ein Special Purpose Vehicle (SVP) eine Kreditlinie in Höhe von 20 Millionen Euro zur Verfügung.  “The company expects to announce further  debt  financings over the next few months”, heißt es in der Presseaussendung. Das Berliner Startup, das 2016 von Gregor Loukidis und Alex Melzer gegründet wurde, bietet Photovoltaikanlagen zum Festpreis an, die Eigenheimbesitzer maßgeschneidert online planen, vergleichen und beauftragen können. Zuletzt wanderten 35 Millionen Euro in Zolar – unter anderem von Energy Impact Partners. Mehr über Zolar

Matter Labs
+++ Andreessen Horowitz, Blockchain.com, Crypto.com, Consensys, ByBit, OKEx, Alchemy, Covalent und Co. investieren 50 Millionen US-Dollar in Matter Labs. Das Startup, das 2018 von Alex Gluchowski und Alexandr Vlasov in Berlin gegründet wurde, steckt hinter zkSync, einem “Ethereum Layer 2 scaling protocol”. In der Presseaussendung heißt es zum Investment: “Matter Labs intends to use the funds to expand its scientific and engineering teams and finance its business growth”.

persomatch
+++ idealo-Gründer Martin Sinner investiert in persomatch. Das Bielefelder HR-Startup, ein Customer Self Service der Unternehmen unterstützt, ihre Stellenanzeigen bei Google zu platzieren, wurde 2017 von Tristan Niewöhner gegründet.  “Gleichzeitig mit der Beteiligung von Martin Sinner hat die HRpepper GmbH & Co. KGaA aus Berlin, die bereits 2018 in persomatch investierte, ihren Investitionsanteil an persomatch erhöht”, teilt das Unternehmen mit.

sproof
+++ Business Angels wie Berthold Baurek-Karlic und Michael Repnik investieren eine sechsstellige Summe in sproof. Das Startup mit Sitz in Puch bei Hallein (Österreich), das von Clemens Brunner, Fabian Knirsch und Erich Höpoldseder gegründet wurde, entwickelt eine cloud-basierte Software zum elektronischen Signieren von Dokumenten.

Newsletter: Über neue Startups berichten wir zuerst in unserem Startup-Radar-Newsletter. Der Newsletter erscheint einmal pro Woche und stellt junge Startups vor, die noch nicht jeder kennt. Den Newsletter gibt es aber nur im kostenpflichtigen Abo. Jetzt 30 Tage kostenlos testen.

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

Foto (oben): azrael74

#aktuell, #andreessen-horowitz, #berlin, #bielefeld, #commercetools, #frontastic, #hr, #matter-labs, #munster, #persomatch, #puch, #sproof, #venture-capital, #zksync, #zolar

How Venture Capitalists Think Crypto Will Reshape Commerce

From banking to gaming, investors are sending billions of dollars to crypto inventors who seek to disrupt industries. Here’s a look at some of those bets.

#andreessen-horowitz, #bitcoin-currency, #blockchain-technology, #coinbase-inc, #compound-labs-inc, #computers-and-the-internet, #dapper-labs-inc, #ethereum-foundation, #nonfungible-tokens-nfts, #venture-capital

How Venture Capitalists Think Cryptocurrency Will Reshape Commerce

From banking to gaming, investors are sending billions of dollars to crypto inventors who seek to disrupt industries. Here’s a look at some of those bets.

#andreessen-horowitz, #bitcoin-currency, #blockchain-technology, #coinbase-inc, #compound-labs-inc, #computers-and-the-internet, #dapper-labs-inc, #ethereum-foundation, #nonfungible-tokens-nfts, #venture-capital

Andreessen Horowitz’s Plan to Dominate Crypto

The Silicon Valley firm Andreessen Horowitz, whose founders played big roles in the development of the internet, aims to own a huge part of the digital currency world — and set the rules for it, too.

#andreessen-horowitz, #andreessen-marc-l, #coinbase-inc, #creative-artists-agency, #haun-katie, #horowitz-ben, #ovitz-michael, #regulation-and-deregulation-of-industry, #securities-and-exchange-commission, #united-states-politics-and-government, #venture-capital, #virtual-currency

Big Hires, Big Money and a D.C. Blitz: A Bold Plan to Dominate Crypto

The Silicon Valley firm Andreessen Horowitz, whose founders played big roles in the development of the internet, aims to own a huge part of the digital currency world — and set the rules for it, too.

#andreessen-horowitz, #andreessen-marc-l, #coinbase-inc, #creative-artists-agency, #haun-katie, #horowitz-ben, #ovitz-michael, #regulation-and-deregulation-of-industry, #securities-and-exchange-commission, #united-states-politics-and-government, #venture-capital, #virtual-currency

Cryptocurrency Regulators Rush To Create First Major Rules

Concerned about the potential for a digital-era bank run, the Treasury Department is working on an oversight framework for the fast-growing sector.

#andreessen-horowitz, #banking-and-financial-institutions, #bitcoin-currency, #blockfi-inc, #coinbase-inc, #dodd-frank-wall-street-reform-and-consumer-protection-act-2010, #financial-stability-oversight-council, #gemini-trust-co-llc, #gensler-gary-s, #liang-nellie, #mastercard-inc, #regulation-and-deregulation-of-industry, #securities-and-exchange-commission, #stablecoin, #treasury-department, #virtual-currency

Fivetran hauls in $565M on $5.6B valuation, acquires competitor HVR for $700M

Fivetran, the data connectivity startup, had a big day today. For starters it announced a $565 million investment on $5.6 billion valuation, but it didn’t stop there. It also announced its second acquisition this year, snagging HVR, a data integration competitor that had raised over $50M, for $700 million in cash and stock.

The company last raised a $100 million Series C on a $1.2 billion valuation, increasing the valuation by over 5x. As with that Series C, Andreessen Horowitz was back leading the round with participation from other double dippers General Catalyst, CEAS Investments, Matrix Partners and other unnamed firms or individuals. New investors ICONIQ Capital, D1 Capital Partners and YC Continuity also came along for the ride. The company reports it has now raised $730 million.

The HVR acquisition represents a hefty investment for the startup, grabbing a company for a price that is almost equal to all the money it has raised to date, but it provides a way to expand its market quickly by buying a competitor. Earlier this year Fivetran acquired Teleport Data as it continues to add functionality and customers via acquisition.

“The acquisition — a cash and stock deal valued at $700 million — strengthens Fivetran’s market position as one of the data integration leaders for all industries and all customer types,” the company said in a statement.

While that may smack of corporate marketing speak, there is some truth to it, as pulling data from multiple sources, sometimes in siloed legacy systems is a huge challenge for companies and both Fivetran and HVR have developed tools to provide the pipes to connect various data sources and put it to work across a business.

Data is central to a number of modern enterprise practices including customer experience management, which takes advantage of customer data to deliver customized experiences based on what you know about them, and data is the main fuel for machine learning models, which use it to understand and learn how a process works. Fivetran and HVR provide the nuts and bolts infrastructure to move the data around to where it’s needed, connecting to various applications like Salesforce, Box or Airtable, databases like Postgres SQL or data repositories like Snowflake or Databricks.

Whether bigger is better remains to be seen, but Fivetran is betting that it will be in this case as it makes its way along the startup journey. The transaction has been approved by both company’s boards. The deal is still subject to standard regulatory approval, but Fivetran is expecting it to close in October

#andreessen-horowitz, #cloud, #data-pipelines, #enterprise, #exit, #fivetran, #fundings-exits, #ma, #mergers-and-acquisitions, #recent-funding, #startups

Andreessen Horowitz’s crypto boss Katie Haun is coming to Disrupt

The crypto space has matured so much in so little time, but even amid a blockbuster year, it’s still facing down the existential risk of aggressive regulation from U.S. agencies.

All the while, venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz has been tirelessly building out a major crypto arm dedicated to ensuring that the firm will be an institutional powerhouse in the world of cryptocurrencies, decentralized finance and broader “Web3” technologies for years to come. Its early network of investments power much of the crypto world’s earliest success stories, but the firm has bigger ambitions yet. The firm’s efforts here are co-led by General Partner Katie Haun — who was once a federal prosecutor tackling fraud and cyber crime alongside top government agencies.

We’re excited to have Haun join us at TechCrunch Disrupt this year (September 21-23), where we’ll be asking her about all things crypto regulation and what the firm hopes to accomplish with its new, massive $2.2 billion crypto fund. Beyond the firm’s aggressive fund sizes and rapid deal-making in the crypto space, the firm’s partners — including Haun — have been among the most vocal about the potentially transformative nature of the blockchain and cryptocurrencies.

This has gotten more attention in 2021 when currencies have surged, fallen and surged again, minting more and more crypto millionaires while sucking in retail investors clamoring to get a piece of the hot space. It’s also been a year where the crypto space’s diversity has emerged with decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs) gaining attention, non-fungible tokens (NFTs) catching global attention and decentralized finance (DeFi) threatening to upend financial institutions.

Haun serves on the boards of Coinbase and OpenSea. Coinbase went public this year and delivered one of the firm’s biggest payouts ever, while OpenSea is the dominant platform in the ever-shifting and ever-surging world of NFTs. Both companies are facing controversies on their quest toward crypto greatness. This month, Coinbase detailed that the SEC plans to sue it over the company’s upcoming lending feature. Meanwhile, OpenSea is grappling with the resignation of a highly visible executive who was discovered to be abusing company information to trade NFTs.

It’s a controversial space with plenty of money to be had, and Andreesen Horowitz has made a lot of it.

We look forward to chatting with Haun, alongside a whole host of amazing speakers at Disrupt, including Canva CEO Melanie Perkins, actor-entrepreneur Ryan Reynolds and U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.

The show is coming up fast. Get your ticket now for less than $100 before the price increases tonight — and we’ll see you soon.

#andreessen-horowitz, #crypto-economy, #cryptocurrency, #events, #katie-haun, #tc, #tc-disrupt-2021

Elodie Games obtains $32.5M round to make social co-op gaming better

During the darkest hours of the pandemic, millions upon millions of people turned to online gaming as a way to pass time in lockdown and connect with friends they couldn’t see in person. But a social, cooperative, fun and cross-platform gaming experience is remarkably hard to find — and Elodie Games is here to change that.

Elodie’s co-founders, Christina Norman and David Banks, are gaming industry vets who both worked on global hit League of Legends at Riot Games. The pair — also partners — left in 2019 to form their own company, announcing their intention in 2020 to build games focusing on co-op, crossplay, and “endlessly engaging experiences,” which suggests more open-ended, sandbox play.

The team already numbers 30 (and they’re hiring), and the game they’re working on is still something of a mystery; the images on its site are just general ideas, nothing from development. But what they showed behind closed doors was clearly enough to secure a $32.5 million Series A from Galaxy Interactive and a16z, with Brian Cho of Patron and Chris Ovitz from Electric Ant participating as well. The company last raised $5M in 2020 to get the ball rolling and clearly they’ve put that money to good use.

Norman explained that the main idea is to remove the barriers many gamers have come to accept as inevitable.

“At the simplest level, we’re designing our game so players have these great experiences more easily, and more frequently,” she told TechCrunch. “This starts with removing friction that stops you from playing with friends in the first place. Most social multiplayer gamers are segmented by platform, time investment, purchases or skill in a way that limits who you can play with, and how you can play with them. While there are examples of how to overcome these limitations individually (Among Us is doing some great stuff for example) progress overall here has been slow and we are excited to speed it up.”

Certainly I can speak personally to even the slightest amount of friction stopping a nascent play session in its tracks as one person had to update their app or OS, or another couldn’t get the lobby to load, an Android-iOS conflict emerged, and so on. We ended up playing the rather poor games built into video chat apps simply because they worked every time. Even then it depended on the feel of the gathering, and being able to decide collectively what sounds like fun is another aspect of the Elodie ambition.

Making a game cross-platform isn’t as difficult as it used to be thanks to shared architectures like Unreal and Unity, but it’s still no cake walk.

“Of course, modern engine tech helps immensely with making cross-play possible, but it doesn’t make it fun. Traditional approaches to cross-platform development are slow, expensive and repetitive,” said Banks. “That’s why we are building Elodie’s development practices to achieve exceptional cross-play and focusing on what we call the true cross-play experience from day one.”

“True” cross-play, one presumes, is a step above the elementary “Xbox players can play with PC players,” to the point where the game is actually equally desirable to play on platform. Whether that can really be achieved is a matter of debate, but the proof of the pudding is in the taste, so we’ll find out when Elodie puts its game out into the wild.

#a16z, #andreessen-horowitz, #funding, #fundings-exits, #galaxy-interactive, #gaming, #league-of-legends, #recent-funding, #riot-games, #startups

OpenSea admits incident as top exec is accused of trading NFTs on insider information

The “eBay of NFTs” is running into a scandal as it admits one of its employees traded the crypto digital assets using insider information from the platform.

Yesterday, a top executive at NFT platform OpenSea was accused of front-running sales on the platform, purchasing pieces from NFT collections before they were featured on the homepage of the platform. According to Twitter user @ZuwuTV, the startup’s Head of Product was using secret crypto wallets to buy drops before they listed on the main page of OpenSea, selling them shortly after they were highlighted publicly by OpenSea, and funneling the profits back to his main account. Users linked to a handful of transactions from accounts linked back to the executive on the public blockchain including an NFT drop that was, at the time, actively listed on the front page of the platform.

Today, OpenSea seemed to acknowledge the incident, saying in a blog post that it had “learned that one of our employees purchased items that they knew were set to display on our front page before they appeared there publicly.” The company did not identify the employee but said that they were conducting an “immediate” review of the incident. The startup, which was recently valued at $1.5 billion after raising a $100 million Series B from Andreessen Horowitz, added in the unsigned blog post that this incident was “incredibly disappointing.”

“We’re conducting a thorough review of yesterday’s incident and are committed to doing the right thing for OpenSea users,” OpenSea CEO Devin Finzer said in a tweet.

OpenSea, which did a record $3.4 billion in transaction volume last month, appears not to have had any rules in places preventing employees from using confidential information to buy or sell NFTs on its own platform to its own users. The company detailed that it was now implementing a policy that team members could not buy or sell “from collections or creators while we are featuring or promoting them,” and that they are “prohibited from using confidential information to purchase or sell any NFTs, whether available on the OpenSea platform or not.”

Most NFTs are not generally assumed to be securities, despite little official guidance from the SEC on the crypto asset class. Some in the space have questioned whether different mechanics around buying and selling, alongside ongoing rewards structures may be pushing some NFT sales further into securities territory.

“Many have been enticed by dramatic jumps in the value of new digital assets,” Senate Banking Committee Chairman Sherrod Brown said in a hearing yesterday — as transcribed by The Block — where the relationship between crypto markets and SEC enforcement was discussed. “Some professional investors and celebrities make earning millions look easy. But, as we are reminded time and again, it’s never that simple – and too often, someone’s quick profit comes at the expense of workers and entire communities.”

We’ve reached out to OpenSea for further comment.

#andreessen-horowitz, #blockchains, #ceo, #chairman, #cryptocurrencies, #cryptocurrency, #cryptography, #distributed-computing, #ebay, #ethereum, #executive, #head, #opensea, #tc, #u-s-securities-and-exchange-commission

SpotOn raises $300M at a $3.15B valuation and acquires Appetize

Last year at this time, SpotOn was on the brink of announcing a $60 million Series C funding round at a $625 million valuation.

Fast forward to almost exactly one year later, and a lot has changed for the payments and software startup.

Today, SpotOn said it has closed on $300 million in Series E financing that values the company at $3.15 billion — more than 5x of its valuation at the time of its Series C round, and significantly higher than its $1.875 billion valuation in May (yes, just three and a half months ago) when it raised $125 million in a Series D funding event.

Andreessen Horowitz (a16z) led both the Series D and E rounds for the company, which says it has seen 100% growth year over year and a tripling in revenue over the past 18 months. Existing investors DST Global, 01 Advisors, Dragoneer Investment Group, Franklin Templeton and Mubadala Investment Company too doubled down on their investments in SpotOn, joining new backers Wellington Management and Coatue Management. Advisors Douglas Merritt, CEO of Splunk, and Mike Scarpelli, CFO of Snowflake, also made individual investments as angels. With the new capital, SpotOn has raised $628 million since its inception.

The latest investment is being used to finance the acquisition of another company in the space — Appetize, a digital and mobile commerce payments platform for enterprises such as sports and entertainment venues, theme parks and zoos. SpotOn is paying $415 million in cash and stock for the Los Angeles-based company.

Since its 2017 inception, SpotOn has been focused on providing software and payments technology to SMBs with an emphasis on restaurants and retail businesses. The acquisition of Appetize extends SpotOn’s reach to the enterprise space in a major way. Appetize will go to market as SpotOn and will work to grow its client base, which already includes an impressive list of companies and organizations including Live Nation, LSU, Dodger Stadium and Urban Air. 

In fact, Appetize currently covers 65% of all major league sports stadiums, specializing in contactless payments, mobile ordering and menu management. So for example, when you’re ordering food at a game or concert, Appetize’s technology makes it easier to pay in a variety of contactless ways through point of sale (POS) devices, self-service kiosks, handheld devices, online ordering, mobile web and API integrations.

Image Credits: SpotOn

SpotOn is taking on the likes of Square in the payments space. But the company says its offering extends beyond traditional payment processing and point-of-sale software. Its platform aims to give SMBs the ability to run their businesses “from building a brand to taking payments and everything in between.” SpotOn’s goal is to be a “one-stop shop” by incorporating tools that include things such as custom website development, scheduling software, marketing, appointment scheduling, review management, analytics and digital loyalty.

The combined company will have 1,600 employees — 1,300 from SpotOn and 300 from Appetize. SpotOn will now have over 500 employees on its product and technology team, according to co-founder and co-CEO Zach Hyman. It will also have clients in the tens of thousands, a number that SpotOn says is growing by “thousands more every month.”

The acquisition is not the first for SpotOn, which also acquired SeatNinja earlier this year.

But in Appetize it saw a company that was complementary both in its go-to-market and tech stacks, and a “natural fit.”

SMEs are going to benefit from the scalable tech that can go with them, including things like kiosks and offline modes, and for the enterprise clients of Appetize, they’re going to be able to leverage products like sophisticated loyalty programs and extended marketing capabilities,” Hyman told TechCrunch. 

SpotOn was not necessarily planning to raise another round so soon, Hyman added, but the opportunity came up to acquire Appetize.

“We spent a lot of time together, and it was too compelling to pass up,” he told TechCrunch.

For its part, Appetize — which has raised over $77 million over its lifetime, according to Crunchbase — too saw the combination as a logical one.

“It was important to us to retain a stake in the business. We were not looking to cash out,” said Appetize CEO Max Roper. “We are deeply invested in growing the business together. It’s a big win for our team and our clients over the long term. This is a rocketship that we are excited to be on.” 

No doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic only emphasized the need for more digital offerings from small businesses to enterprises alike.

“There has been a high demand for our services and now as businesses are faced with a Covid resurgence, no one is closing down,” Hyman said. “So they see a responsibility to install the necessary technology to properly run their business.”

One of the moves SpotOn has made, for example, is launching a vaccination alert system in its reservation management software platform to make it easier for consumers to confirm they are vaccinated for cities and states that have those requirements.

Clearly, a16z General Partner David George too was bullish on the idea of a combined company.

He told TechCrunch that the two companies fit together “extremely nicely.”

“It felt like a no-brainer for us to want to lead the round, and continue to support them,” George said.

Since first investing in SpotOn in May, the startup’s growth has “exceeded” a16z’s expectations, he added.

“When companies are growing as fast as it is organically, they don’t need to rely on acquisitions to fuel growth,” he said. “But the strategic rationale here is so strong, that the acquisition will only turbocharge what is already high growth.”

While the Series E capital is primarily funding the acquisition, SpotOn continues to double down on its product and technology.

“This is our time to shine and invest in the future with forward thinking technology,” Hyman told TechCrunch. “We’re thinking about things like how are consumers going to be ordering their beer at a Dodgers game in three years? Are they going to be standing in line for 25 minutes or are they going to be interacting and buying merchandise in other unique ways? Those are the things we’re looking to solve for.”

#andreessen-horowitz, #appetize, #david-george, #dragoneer-investment-group, #dst-global, #finance, #fintech, #franklin-templeton, #funding, #fundings-exits, #instagram, #los-angeles, #ma, #mobile-web, #mubadala-investment-company, #online-payments, #payment-processing, #payments, #recent-funding, #saas, #san-francisco, #splunk, #spoton, #startup, #startups, #venture-capital

Indian crypto exchange CoinSwitch Kuber in talks to raise funds at unicorn valuation

Indian crypto exchange CoinSwitch Kuber is in advanced stages of talks to raise a new financing round at up to $2 billion in valuation, several sources familiar with the matter told TechCrunch.

If the talks materialize in a deal, CoinSwitch Kuber will become the second crypto startup in the world’s second largest internet market to attain the unicorn status.

The four-year-old startup, which counts Tiger Global, Sequoia Capital India, and Ribbit Capital among its existing investors, was valued at over $500 million valuation in its Series B financing round in April this year.

It’s unclear who is positioning to lead the round. The firm has engaged closely with Andreessen Horowitz and Coinbase in recent weeks, several people aware of those discussions told TechCrunch.

A deal may finalize within this month, sources said. The size of the deal, according to one source, is over $100 million.

The startup declined to comment. Coinbase and A16z, which has yet to back any Indian startup, did not respond to a request for comment Monday. Tiger Global and Sequoia Capital India did not respond to a request for comment last week.

The investment talks come at a time when CoinSwitch Kuber has almost doubled its userbase in recent months — even as local authorities push back against crypto assets. Its eponymous app had over 7 million monthly active users in India last month, up from about 4 million in April this year, according to mobile insight platform App Annie (data of which an industry exec shared with TechCrunch).

B Capital backed CoinSwitch Kuber’s rival CoinDCX last month in a $90 million round that valued the Indian startup at about $1.1 billion.

Policymakers in India have been debating on the status of digital currencies in the South Asian market for several years. India’s central bank, Reserve Bank of India, has expressed concerns about private virtual currencies though it is planning to run trial programs of its first digital currency as soon as December.

More than two dozen Indian startups have become a unicorn this year, up from 11 last year, as several high-profile investors, including Tiger Global, SoftBank and Falcon Edge, have increased the pace of their investments in the South Asian market. TechCrunch reported last week that Tiger Global is engaging with Apna to fund a new round that values the 21-month-old Indian firm at over $1 billion.

#a16z, #andreessen-horowitz, #asia, #coinbase, #coinswitch-kuber, #cryptocurrency, #funding, #india, #sequoia-capital, #tc, #tiger-global

Crypto’s Rapid Move Into Banking Elicits Alarm in Washington

The boom in companies offering cryptocurrency loans and high-yield deposit accounts is disrupting the banking industry and leaving regulators scrambling to catch up.

#andreessen-horowitz, #banking-and-financial-institutions, #blockfi-inc, #coinbase-inc, #federal-reserve-system, #gensler-gary-s, #powell-jerome-h, #regulation-and-deregulation-of-industry, #securities-and-exchange-commission, #treasury-department, #virtual-currency, #warren-elizabeth, #yellen-janet-l

Playbyte’s new app aims to become the ‘TikTok for games’

A startup called Playbyte wants to become the TikTok for games. The company’s newly launched iOS app offers tools that allow users to make and share simple games on their phone, as well as a vertically scrollable, fullscreen feed where you can play the games created by others. Also like TikTok, the feed becomes more personalized over time to serve up more of the kinds of games you like to play.

While typically, game creation involves some aspect of coding, Playbyte’s games are created using simple building blocks, emoji and even images from your Camera Roll on your iPhone. The idea is to make building games just another form of self-expression, rather than some introductory, educational experience that’s trying to teach users the basics of coding.

At its core, Playbyte’s game creation is powered by its lightweight 2D game engine built on web frameworks, which lets users create games that can be quickly loaded and played even on slow connections and older devices. After you play a game, you can like and comment using buttons on the right-side of the screen, which also greatly resembles the TikTok look-and-feel. Over time, Playbyte’s feed shows you more of the games you enjoyed as the app leverages its understanding of in-game imagery, tags and descriptions, and other engagement analytics to serve up more games it believes you’ll find compelling.

At launch, users have already made a variety of games using Playbyte’s tools — including simulators, tower defense games, combat challenges, obbys, murder mystery games, and more.

According to Playbyte founder and CEO Kyle Russell — previously of Skydio, Andreessen Horowitz, and (disclosure!) TechCrunch — Playbyte is meant to be a social media app, not just a games app.

“We have this model in our minds for what is required to build a new social media platform,” he says.

What Twitter did for text, Instagram did for photos and TikTok did for video was to combine a constraint with a personalized feed, Russell explains. “Typically. [they started] with a focus on making these experiences really brief…So a short, constrained format and dedicated tools that set you up for success to work within that constrained format,” he adds.

Similarly, Playbyte games have their own set of limitations. In addition to their simplistic nature, the games are limited to five scenes. Thanks to this constraint, a format has emerged where people are making games that have an intro screen where you hit “play,” a story intro, a challenging gameplay section, and then a story outro.

In addition to its easy-to-use game building tools, Playbyte also allows game assets to be reused by other game creators. That means if someone who has more expertise makes a game asset using custom logic or which pieced together multiple components, the rest of the user base can benefit from that work.

“Basically, we want to make it really easy for people who aren’t as ambitious to still feel like productive, creative game makers,” says Russell. “The key to that is going to be if you have an idea — like an image of a game in your mind — you should be able to very quickly search for new assets or piece together other ones you’ve previously saved. And then just drop them in and mix-and-match — almost like Legos — and construct something that’s 90% of what you imagined, without any further configuration on your part,” he says.

In time, Playbyte plans to monetize its feed with brand advertising, perhaps by allowing creators to drop sponsored assets into their games, for instance. It also wants to establish some sort of patronage model at a later point. This could involve either subscriptions or even NFTs of the games, but this would be further down the road.

The startup had originally began as a web app in 2019, but at the end of last year, the team scrapped that plan and rewrote everything as a native iOS app with its own game engine. That app launched on the App Store this week, after previously maxing out TestFlight’s cap of 10,000 users.

Currently, it’s finding traction with younger teenagers who are active on TikTok and other collaborative games, like Roblox, Minecraft, or Fortnite.

“These are young people who feel inspired to build their own games but have been intimidated by the need to learn to code or use other advanced tools, or who simply don’t have a computer at home that would let them access those tools,” notes Russell.

Playbyte is backed by $4 million in pre-seed and seed funding from investors including FirstMark (Rick Heitzmann), Ludlow Ventures (Jonathon Triest and Blake Robbins), Dream Machine (former Editor-in-Chief at TechCrunch, Alexia Bonatsos), and angels such as Fred Ehrsam, co-founder of Coinbase; Nate Mitchell, co-founder of Oculus; Ashita Achuthan, previously of Twitter; and others.

The app is a free download on the App Store.

#alexia-bonatsos, #andreessen-horowitz, #app-store, #apps, #blake-robbins, #byte, #ceo, #co-founder, #coinbase, #editor-in-chief, #firstmark, #fred-ehrsam, #gaming, #instagram, #internet-culture, #iphone, #jonathon-triest, #kyle-russell, #legos, #ludlow-ventures, #mobile, #mobile-applications, #mobile-software, #nate-mitchell, #oculus, #rick-heitzmann, #roblox, #skydio, #social-media-app, #software, #startups, #tiktok, #twitter, #web-app

Extra Crunch roundup: Pre-pitch tactics, Warby Parker S-1, Israel’s fintech ecosystem

Forget what you’ve heard: There are many shortcuts to success.

Tapping into someone else’s experience is a tried-and-true method, which is why two-time Y Combinator participant Chris Morton wrote a guest post for Extra Crunch with advice for founders hoping to be accepted by the famed accelerator.

Morton, who has also reviewed thousands of YC applications, shares his thoughts on when to submit an application, what to do if you miss the deadline and whether you’ll need to relocate if accepted.

“Remember that your application should be good enough to get an interview, not win a prize,” says Morton. “Go back to work instead of spending more time perfecting an application.”


Full Extra Crunch articles are only available to members
Use discount code ECFriday to save 20% off a one- or two-year subscription


Robert Katai

Image Credits: Robert Katai under a license.

In an interview with reporter Anna Heim, Romania-based marketer Robert Katai discussed some of the methods he uses to help clients refine their content and branding strategies.

“Today, content creation is free — everybody can do it. The hard part is how you distribute and amplify that.”

Katai also shared his impressions of Romania’s startup ecosystem, suggestions for maintaining top-of-mind status with customers, and reinforced the often-overlooked need to continually repurpose content to grab mindshare.

Like our other growth marketing interviews, there’s no paywall.

Thanks very much for reading Extra Crunch this week! I hope you have a fantastic weekend.

Walter Thompson
Senior Editor, TechCrunch
@yourprotagonist

Why global investors are flocking to back Latin American startups

Image Credits: Bryce Durbin / TechCrunch

Latin America’s increasingly dynamic venture capital scene has been making headlines of late. To learn more about why investors are so enthusiastic, senior reporter Mary Ann Azevedo spoke to several who are actively engaged with the region:

  • Shu Nyatta, managing partner, SoftBank
  • Ethan Choi, partner, Accel
  • Julie Ruvolo, director of venture capital, LAVCA
  • Bill Cilluffo, partner, QED Investors
  • Ana Cristina Gadala-Maria, principal, QED Investors
  • Ross Darwin, principal, Owl Ventures

“I am not surprised by all the activity,” Mary Ann writes. “However, I am a bit taken aback by the sheer number of rounds, the caliber of firms leading them and the sky-high valuations.

“It seems that the region is finally, and deservedly, being taken seriously. This is likely just the beginning.”

Corporate venture capital follows the same trend as other VC markets: Up

Corporations are not remaining on the sidelines of the fiery 2021 venture capital game, Alex Wilhelm and Anna Heim note in The Exchange.

After parsing data from CB Insights and Stryber and chatting with a handful of investors, Alex and Anna concluded that the corporate venture capital market looks a lot like other VC markets.

“Perhaps this should not be a surprise,” they write. “We’ve seen non-venture funds flow into the later stages of startup land, pushing VCs toward earlier-stage and more venture-y deals. Why would CVCs be immune to the same trend?”

Ramp and Brex draw diverging market plans with M&A strategies

Image Credits: Bryan Mullennix (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

Corporate spending management startup Brex raised a $300 million Series C and acquired Buyer just a week after rival Brex announced it had acquired Israeli fintech Weav.

Ryan Lawler and Alex Wilhelm dug into the Ramp-Brex rivalry, and what those acquisitions say about their diverging strategies.

“From a high level, all of the recent deal-making in corporate cards and spend management shows that it’s not enough to just help companies track what employees are expensing these days,” they write.

“As the market matures and feature sets begin to converge, the players are seeking to differentiate themselves from the competition.”

Boston’s startup market is more than setting records in scorching start to year

Alex Wilhelm and Anna Heim interviewed VCs and corralled data to present a detailed picture of Boston’s startup funding scene.

“Boston is benefiting from larger structural changes to at least the U.S. venture capital market, helping close historical gaps in its startup funding market and access funds that previously might have skipped the region,” they write.

“And local university density isn’t hurting the city’s cause, either, boosting its ability to form new companies during a period of rich investment access.”

Europe’s quick-commerce startups are overhyped: Lessons from China

Image of a motorcycle courier speeding down a street.

Image Credits: Andrew Holt (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

Half of the companies offering instant grocery delivery in Europe were founded last year as the pandemic reshaped most aspects of our existence.

To date, they’ve raised about $2 billion, but Picus Capital’s Alexander Kremer says startup lessons from China suggest that “instant delivery is not the magic bullet to crack the dominance” of old-school grocery players.

“If the performance of online grocery platforms in China (a market five to seven years ahead of Europe in terms of online retail) is anything to go by, a range of B2C business models would be more likely to displace the traditional grocery retailers.”

D2C specs purveyor Warby Parker files to go public

For The Exchange, Alex Wilhelm examines the S-1 filing from Warby Parker, “a consumer hardware company with two main sales channels, largely attractive economics, falling losses and rising adjusted profitability. You could even argue that it handled the pandemic well, despite COVID-19’s negative impact on its operations.”

But how are its growth prospects?

Dear Sophie: Can I still get a green card through marriage if I’m divorcing?

lone figure at entrance to maze hedge that has an American flag at the center

Image Credits: Bryce Durbin/TechCrunch

Dear Sophie,

I received a conditional green card after my wife and I got married in 2019. Recently, we have made the difficult decision to end our marriage. I want to continue living and working in the United States.

Is it still possible for me to complete my green card based on my marriage through the I-751 process or do I need to do something else, like ask my employer to sponsor me for a work visa?

— Better to Have Loved and Lost

Using AI to reboot brand-client relationships

Artificial intelligence robot arm and businessman completing gear jigsaw puzzle (teamwork).

Image Credits: Getty Images under an alashi (opens in a new window)license.

Marketing automation can help boost key metrics, but it can also be a disservice to brands by perpetually devaluing goods and services, ShareThis’ Michael Gorman writes in a guest column.

Companies with a narrow focus on driving conversions are missing the bigger picture: AI can help create richer experiences that identify consumer actions and intent while also improving customer experiences.

“We live in a world rich with data, and insights are growing more vibrant every day,” he writes.

Israel’s maturing fintech ecosystem may soon create global disruptors

Abstract of israel map network, internet and global connection concept, Wire Frame 3D mesh polygonal network line, design sphere, dot and structure. Vector illustration eps 10. (Abstract of israel map network, internet and global connection concept, W

Image Credits: Thitima Thongkham (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

Fintech startups based in Israel raised more than $1.8 billion in 2019, but in Q1 2021, companies in the category raised $1.1 billion.

Facilitating a wide range of services, more than a dozen fintech unicorns have already emerged in a country that has a population slightly smaller than Los Angeles County, many of them started by entrepreneurs who lacked financial backgrounds.

“So what is it about Israeli-founded fintech startups that stand out from their scaling neighbors across the pond?” asks Flint Capital’s Tel Aviv-based investor, Adi Levanon.

Forbes jumps into hot media liquidity summer with a SPAC combo

For The Exchange, Alex Wilhelm takes stock of Forbes’ SPAC combination during a week when POLITICO was snatched up for more than $1 billion by Axel Springer and just a few months after BuzzFeed went public via a blank-check company.

“Is it the most exciting debut? No,” he writes.

“But it does highlight that with enough sheer gumption, one can take a magazine business into the digital age and keep aggregate revenue growing. That’s worth something.”

Are B2B SaaS marketers getting it wrong?

A square peg forced into a round hole. 3D render with HDRI lighting and raytraced textures.

Image Credits: mevans (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

Technical jargon is one of the most annoying aspects of technology marketing.

Sadly, it tends to perpetuate itself: Marketers are terrified of making a wrong move, so they tend to copy what everyone else is doing.

If you want to attract customers and drive higher conversions, cut the jargon.

“Do everything you can to be immediately understood and you’ll have a much better chance of cutting through the noise and pushing clear and persuasive benefits in a way no prospect can resist,” advises Konrad Sanders, CEO of The Creative Copywriter.

#andreessen-horowitz, #axel-springer, #brex, #buzzfeed, #ec-roundup, #extra-crunch-roundup, #finance, #saas, #startups, #tc, #venture-capital, #warby-parker, #y-combinator

Andreessen Horowitz just rolled out a $400 million fund that’s expressly for seed deals

Andreessen Horowitz is begun to announce new funds almost as routinely as some startups have begun announcing follow-on rounds. After announcing a third biotech fund in February 2020 that’s currently investing $750 million; a pair of new funds totaling $4.5 billion last November; and, most recently, a new $2.2 billion crypto-focused fund, the firm is rolling out a brand new fund: a $400 million vehicle that is focused expressly on backing seed-stage companies.

In the broader historical context of the firm, it’s an interesting development. Many years ago, Andreessen Horowitz backed away from making seed stage deals to avoid the appearance of conflicts of interest — even while the firm didn’t have a conflict policy around nascent deals. As Marc Andreessen explained it back in 2013, there is often too much uncertainty at the earliest stages of company formation, and though it conveyed this thinking to founders, they didn’t always listen, and bets that evolved to be similar made them feel bad and caused problems.

Of course, things changed over time, competition is competition, and before long, the firm was again writing checks to very young startups. In fact, today, not only have seed-stage investments again become very much part of the program, but that since the beginning of 2020, about half the firm’s investments have been in seed companies, according to a16z Indeed, General Partner Martin Casado said yesterday that the new fund is largely about optimizing its processes around seed deals, and ensuring investors are rewarded properly for the associated risk. Here’s some of that conversation, edited lightly for length:

TC: You say this seed fund doesn’t change anything about your investment strategy, that it’s more about putting a formal structure around these deals. So we won’t necessarily see even more seed-stage deals out of Andreessen Horowitz?

MC: Well what’s interesting is the entire industry has picked up the pace dramatically in the last three years. I think the industry has doubled the number of seed funds, and we’ve kept pace with the industry. The seed investments from Andreessen Horowitz have gone up dramatically in the last three years in response to the industry. That we have a separate seed fund doesn’t mean we’re going to pick up the pace [further still].

TC: How might formalizing this new fund impact your relationship with other seed stage firms?

MC: We work closely with seed funds and we plan to continue to do so. I do think the environment has become more and more competitive at the seed stage, and if you actually look at some seed [stage startups] that I have personally been involved, [they’ve received] term sheets from hedge funds, growth funds — all the way down to angel investors. Everybody is in the mix at the seed stage. I think this is an evolution of the industry rather than kind of a key shift.

TC: Who will be making these seed investments at a16z? Is there a team that will be primarily managing the fund?

MC: We do not have seed specific investors [investing this new capital]. If we do Series A and Series B deals, it’s the same set of investors.

TC: Andreessen Horowitz has used scouts in the past. Is that true currently and if, so, what percentage of your seed-stage deals come from them?

MC: Yes, we use scouts, but they are responsible for zero percent of our seed-stage deals. That’s an independent function where they can put small dollars in deals of their choosing, but those, to us, aren’t seed [deals]. Seeds to us are $1 million to $4 million led by an investor at the firm where we get real ownership and have real involvement.

TC: So these scouts are really just founders and operators who Andreessen Horowitz wants in its ecosystem?

MC: The scouts serves two functions. We get to develop a relationship with key people and key influencers, whether they’re entrepreneurs are they’re going to be entrepreneurs. It also gives us access to interesting deal flow to see what activity is happening now and kind of draft off that judgment.

TC: You mention $1 million to $4 million checks.  What constitutes a seed investment, in a16z’s view?

MC: Typically, for us, let’s say it’s $6 million — these aren’t hard and fast rules — and we typically don’t take board seats.

TC: And you look to own how much with that first check?

MC: We don’t have target ownership, really. It all depends  on the market dynamics; we tend to respond to the market.

TC: You mention that it’s gotten very competitive, seed-stage investing. Do you prefer to go it alone or work with a syndicate or investors?

MC: Personally, I love working with other seed funds. We absolutely do not have any sort of internal rules or biases one way or the other on this. I think independent GPs have independent views on this. For myself, I love it because there are great seed funds out there that I love splitting deals with or sharing deals with that we then work on together.

TC: And you want to see what, exactly? How early is too early for the firm to invest?

M: If we know the space very very well, meaning we’ve done the work in the space and we have a deal partner like myself [who is] particularly expert in a space, it can be just a person and an idea, because we believe that we understand the market. We’ve invested in solo  founders before their company existed.

If we don’t understand the space very well, we’d like to see kind of some maturity in the company, maybe some early customer traction, maybe some early product work, maybe an early demo, because that way we’ll have a better sense of the market. So I would say the maturity of the actual company we invest in is inversely correlated with our knowledge.

TC: What the decision-making process look like? I’m guessing it’s different when you’re writing a $6 million check versus a check that’s many times bigger than that.

MC: Yeah, the amount of work and scrutiny that we do for seed tends to be less than for a Series A. The number of people involved is less. And because we’re not taking a board seat, the firm’s commitment is a bit less. So it just tends to be a lighter-weight process. Typically, we have at least two GPs take a look [whereas] if we’re doing an A and above, you want to kind of everybody in the vertical to be involved, and then, for the larger checks, everybody in the fund [is involved].

TC: What are some of the firm’s most successful seed investments?

MC: We’ve had some great ones. Slack was first money. Databricks was first money. I believe we had a seed check in Coinbase.

Pictured above: Casado at a TechCrunch Disrupt event in 2019.

#a16z, #andreessen-horowitz, #martin-casado, #seed-investing, #seed-stage-fund, #tc, #venture-capital

Stacker raises $20M Series A to help business units build software without coding

No code platforms have developed into a hot market, and Stacker, a London-based no-code platform is attempting to bring the concept to a new level. Not only can you create a web application from a spreadsheet, you can pull data from a variety of sources to create a sophisticated business application automatically (although some tweaking may be required).

Today the company announced a $20 million Series A led by Andreessen Horowitz with participation from existing investors Initialized Capital, Y Combinator and Pentech. Today’s investment brings the total raised to $23 million, according to Crunchbase data.

Michael Skelly, CEO and co-founder at Stacker, says that the idea is to take key business data and turn it into a useful app to help someone do their job more efficiently. “[We enable] people in business to create apps to help them in their working life — so things like customer portals, internal tools and things that take the data they’re already using, often to run a process, and turn that into an app,” Skelly explained.

“We really think that in order to actually be useful for business, you need to be hooked into the data that a business cares about. And so we let people bring their spreadsheets, SQL databases, Salesforce data, bring all the data that they use to run their business, and automatically turn it into an app,” he said.

Once the company pulls that data in and creates an app, the user can begin to tweak how things look, but Stacker gives them a big head start toward creating something usable from the get-go, Skelly said.

Jennifer Li,  a partner at lead investor Andreessen Horowitz likes the startup’s approach to no code. “We’ve been watching the no-code space for a while, and Stacker stands apart from the rest because of its thoughtful product approach, allowing business operators to instantly generate a functional app that perfectly fits existing business processes,” she said in a blog post announcing the funding round.

The company currently has 19 employees with plans to put the new capital to work to reach 30-40 by the end of the year. Skelly sees building a diverse company as a key goal and is proactive and thoughtful about finding ways to achieve that. In fact, he has identified three ways to approach diversity.

“Firstly is just making sure that we get a diverse pipeline of people. I really think that the ratio of the people you talk to is probably going to be the biggest indicator of the people you hire. Secondly we try to find ways we can hire people who are maybe further down their career profile, but [looking] to grow,” he said.

Thirdly, and I think this is something that is not talked about enough, there are plenty of people who would like to get into programming roles, and who are under represented, and so we have members of our team who are converting from various non-technical roles to DevOps — and I think it’s just like a really great route to add to the overall pool [of diverse candidates],” he said.

The company is remote first with Skelly in London and his co-founder based in Geneva and they intend to stay that way. They founded the company in 2017 and originally created a different product that was much more complex and required a lot of hand holding before eventually concluding that making it simple was the way to go, They released the first version of the current product at the end of 2019.

The company has a big vision to be the software development tool for business units. “We really think that in the future just like everyone’s got email, a chat tool, a spreadsheet and a video conferencing tool nowadays, they will also have a software tool, where they write and run the custom software that they run their business on,” he said.

#andreessen-horowitz, #developer, #enterprise, #funding, #no-code, #recent-funding, #stacker, #startups

Apeel bites into another $250M funding round, at a $2B valuation, to accelerate fresh food supply chains

Apeel Sciences, a food system innovation company, is out to prevent food produced globally from ending up in the landfill, especially as pressures from the global pandemic affect the food supply chain.

The company just added $250 million in Series E funding, giving it a valuation of $2 billion, to speed up the availability of its longer-lasting produce in the U.S. (where approximately 40% of food is wasted), the U.K. and Europe.

Existing investor Temasek led the round and was joined by a group of new and existing investors, including Mirae Asset Global Investments, GIC, Viking Global Investors, Disruptive, Andreessen Horowitz, Tenere Capital, Sweetwater Private Equity, Tao Capital Partners, K3 Ventures, David Barber of Almanac Insights, Michael Ovitz of Creative Artists Agency, Anne Wojcicki of 23andMe, Susan Wojcicki of YouTube and Katy Perry.

With the new funding, Apeel has now raised over $635 million since the company was founded in 2012. Prior to this round, the company brought in $250 million in Series D funding in May 2020.

Santa Barbara-based Apeel developed a plant-based layer for the surface of fruits and vegetables that is tasteless and odorless and that keeps moisture in while letting oxygen out. It is those two factors in particular that lead to grocery produce lasting twice as long, James Rogers, CEO of Apeel, told TechCrunch.

Apeel installs its application at the supplier facilities where the produce is packed into boxes. In addition to that technology, the company acquired ImpactVision earlier this year to add another layer of quality by integrating imaging systems on individual pieces as they move through the supply chain to optimize routing so more produce that is grown is eaten.

“One in nine people are going hungry, and if three in nine pieces of produce are being thrown away, we can be better stewards of the food we are throwing away,” Rogers said. “This is a solvable problem, we just have to get the pieces to the right place at the right time.”

The company is not alone in tackling food waste. For example, Shelf Engine, Imperfect Foods, Mori and Phood Solutions are all working to improve the food supply chain and have attracted venture dollars to go after that mission.

Prior to the pandemic, the amount of food people were eating was growing each year, but that trend is reversed, Rogers explained. Consumers are more aware of the food they eat, they are shopping less frequently, buying more per visit and more online. At the same time, grocery stores are trying to sort through all of that.

“We can’t create these supply networks alone, we do it in concert with supply and retail partners,” he said. “Grocery stores are looking at the way shoppers want to buy things, while we look at how to partner to empower the supply chain. What started with longer-lasting fruits and vegetables, is becoming how we provide information to empower them to do it without adding to food waste.”

Since 2019, Apeel has prevented 42 million pieces of fruit from going to waste at retail locations; that includes up to 50% reduction in avocado food waste with corresponding sales growth. Those 42 million pieces of saved fruit also helped conserve nearly 4.7 billion liters of water, Rogers said.

Meanwhile, over the past year, Apeel has amassed a presence in eight countries, operating 30 supply networks and  distributing produce to 40 retail partners, which then goes out to tens of thousands of stores around the world.

The new funding will accelerate the rollout of those systems, as well as co-create another 10 supply networks with retail and supply partnerships by the end of the year. Rogers also expects to use the funding to advance Apeel’s data and insights offerings and future acquisitions.

Thomas Park, president and head of alternative investments at Mirae Asset Global Investments, said his firm has been investing in environmental, social and governance-related companies for awhile, targeting companies that “make a huge impact globally and in a way that is easy for us to understand.”

The firm, which is part of Mirae Asset Financial Group, often partners with other investors on venture rounds, and in Apeel’s case with Temasek. It also invested with Temasek in Impossible Foods, leading its Series F round last year.

“When we saw them double-down on their investment, it gave us confidence to invest in Apeel and an opportunity to do so,” Park said. “Food waste is a global problem, and after listening to James, we definitely feel like Apeel is the next wave of how to attack these huge problems in an impactful way.”

 

#andreessen-horowitz, #anne-wojcicki, #apeel-sciences, #david-barber, #disruptive, #enterprise, #food, #food-and-drink, #food-supply-chain, #food-waste, #funding, #gic, #grocery-store, #james-rogers, #katy-perry, #michael-ovitz, #mirae-asset-global-investments, #recent-funding, #startups, #susan-wojcicki, #sweetwater-private-equity, #tao-capital-partners, #tc, #temasek, #tenere-capital, #thomas-park, #viking-global-investors

Early Affirm employees raise $70M for SentiLink, an identity verification startup

SentiLink, an identity verification technology startup, has raised $70 million in a Series B funding round led by Craft Ventures.

Felicis Ventures, Andreessen Horowitz (a16z) and NYCA also participated in the financing, which brings the company’s total raised to $85 million since its 2017 inception. The company declined to reveal at what valuation the money was raised, saying only it was “at a very high multiple” of its 2019 $15 million Series A led by a16z.

Naftali Harris and Max Blumenfeld founded SentiLink in mid-2017 after their experience working as data scientists at Affirm, where they built out the company’s risk function. At one point during their tenure at the installment loan provider, they came across a “peculiar” fraud case, where 12 identities applied for loans using the same name and date of birth but 12 different Social Security numbers. 

The pair was surprised to discover that all 12 of the identities had real credit reports with 750+ credit scores despite not being real people. It was then they realized how big a problem identity verification was and how poorly it was done, and founded SentiLink with Affirm CEO and founder Max Levchin’s blessing and investment.

San Francisco-based SentiLink aims to help banks, lenders and financial institutions detect fraud at the point of application through a real-time API. Specifically, those APIs detect fake and stolen identities for new account applications. For example, before a bank issues a new credit card, it will send the application information to SentiLink. SentiLink’s models and technology assess the credit card application for various fraud risks, including identity theft and synthetic fraud. If SentiLink detects the application as high risk, the bank will ask for more information or reject the application. 

SentiLink works with more than 100 financial institutions, including three of the top 10 banks in the U.S. It has verified several hundred million applications to date, and saw its revenue grow by “5x” over the last year, according to Harris.

Craft Ventures co-founder and general partner David Sacks said SentiLink’s growth trajectory is “one of the fastest” he’s ever seen.

“Their traction with companies from new startups to major U.S. banks is impressive,” he added. “All of this stems from the team’s deep understanding of fraud and identity. I learned about fraud attacks I didn’t even think were possible from talking with Naftali and Max.”

Harris said the company was a few months away from profitability before its Series B but decided the opportunity was “too big to grow slowly.” So it opted to put off profitability so it could expand more “aggressively.” 

With the slew of companies in the space out there, it can be hard to differentiate what makes one unique compared to others.

To Harris, the biggest differentiation in SentiLink’s approach is how much it emphasizes “deep understanding of fraud and identity in our models.”

“We have a team of fraud investigators that manually review applications every day looking for fraud, and we use their insights and discoveries in our fraud models and technology,” he told TechCrunch. “This deep understanding is so important to us that every Friday the entire company spends an hour reviewing fraud cases.”

SentiLink, Harris added, focuses on “deeply” understanding fraud and identity, and then using technology to productionalize these insights.  Those discoveries include the deterioration of phone/name match data and uncovering “same name” fraud. 

“This deep understanding is so important that SentiLink employs a team of risk analysts whose full time job is to investigate new kinds of fraud and discover what the fraudsters are doing,” the company says. 

SentiLink, like so many other startups, saw an increase in business during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The various government assistance programs were rife with fraud. This had a cascading effect throughout financial services, where fraudsters that had successfully stolen government money attempted to launder it into the financial system,” Harris said. “As a result we’ve been very busy, particularly with checking and savings accounts that until now have had relatively little fraud.”

The startup plans to use its new capital to build out its product suite and do some hiring. Today it has 25 employees, with five accepted offers, and expects to end the year with a headcount of 45-50.

“Identity verification has so many aspects to it and approaches, and so we plan to significantly expand our product suite beyond the scoring API that we’ve started with,” Harris told TechCrunch. “Part of this will include continuing to invest heavily in our product team, part of this will involve partnering with other companies, and it may also include acquisitions.” 

At the end of September, for example, the company plans to launch a KYC (“Know Your Customer”) solution.   

Mike Marg, a principal at Craft, said Harris and Blumenfeld’s experience at Affirm “was a clear sign they were experts on this subject.”

“We love it when founders have an earned secret or insight around a massive problem that outsiders don’t understand, and SentiLink is a perfect example of this,” he said. “Their fast growth only validated that the problem they were solving for customers was urgent and painful.”

Other companies in the identity verification space that have recently raised money include Persona and Socure.

 

#andreessen-horowitz, #api, #craft-ventures, #david-sacks, #felicis-ventures, #finance, #fraud, #funding, #fundings-exits, #identity-theft, #identity-verification, #max-levchin, #recent-funding, #san-francisco, #sentilink, #startups, #venture-capital

Newtopia closes first fund of $50M to invest in LatAm startups

Early-stage venture capital fund Newtopia VC launched Monday with $50 million to invest in tech startups based in Latin America.

The fund will invest between $250,000 and $1 million in startups at the seed stage to help them achieve the milestones needed on the path to raising a Series A.

Newtopia is led by five major players in the regional entrepreneurial ecosystem:

  • Patricio Jutard, co-founder of MURAL;
  • Mariano Mayer, former national secretary for entrepreneurs and SMEs in Argentina and founder of Marea Venture Partners;
  • Sacha Spitz, co-founder and partner of Yavu Ventures and former director at the Universidad de San Andrés incubation program;
  • Jorge Aguado, former national science, technology and innovation secretary in Argentina;
  • Juan Pablo Lafosse, founder and former CEO of Almundo.

The group has already invested in startups in Mexico, Brazil and Argentina, including Aleph (B2B SaaS for e-commerce), Apperto (social commerce), Choiz (healthtech), Exactly (DeFi), Elevva (e-commerce brands), Inipay (fintech), Leef (sustainability), Wibson (e-privacy) and Yerbo (wellness).

Mayer told TechCrunch that he sees a great moment happening in Latin America around global venture capital firms — like Sequoia Capital, Andreessen Horowitz and SoftBank —making bets in the region, especially targeting later-stage investments. There are home-grown venture capital firms doing well, too, citing Kazek’s $1 billion funds.

“However, we see a gap in investments in seed and road to Series A,” he added. “We aim to help entrepreneurs in those stages. Newtopia started with conversations during the pandemic, and now we see a big momentum for transformation of traditional sectors and the talent to make businesses out of these opportunities.”

Newtopia is offering both investment and a hands-on mentorship model to guide startups through the initial stages so they can grow regionally or globally. The fund has already amassed a community of more than 70 founders to invest, advise and be venture partners to the portfolio companies.

The Newtopia 10-Week Program works with companies to find product-market fit, achieve initial goals and set a foundation for further growth. The firm opened the call for applicants and will select 10 startups to receive a spot in the program and $100,000 each.

By taking a lead in early-stage investing, it will feed the rest of the venture capital firms that are doing later-stage investing, Mayer said.

He sees investments growing in Latin America every year, estimating there was a record $4 billion spread across the region, turning some companies into unicorns, including Jutard’s Mural, which raised $50 million in July. That has more than validated that there will be more money in coming years, Mayer added.

Jutard said the fund’s founders were all investing or mentoring companies on their own, but the new funding will enable them to structure that assistance to help hundreds of startups rather than a handful.

“Early-stage companies go through an emotional rollercoaster where they feel alone, encounter times when it is hard to sell their product or recruit, so we are focused on building a community of support,” Jutard added.

#andreessen-horowitz, #argentina, #funding, #latin-america, #mariano-mayer, #newtopia-vc, #patricio-jutard, #sequoia-capital, #softbank, #startups, #tc, #venture-capital

48-hour countdown to early bird savings on passes to TC Disrupt 2021

What’s big enough, bold enough and influential enough to inspire more than 10,000 people around the world to carve out three days from their intensely busy schedules? If you said TechCrunch Disrupt 2021, the grand matriarch of startup tech conferences, well friend, you’d be right on the money.

And speaking of money, you have just 48 hours left to score the early-bird price on TC Disrupt Innovator, Founder and Investor passes. Buy any of these passes and attend all three days of Disrupt for less than $100. Here’s the catch: The early bird price expires on July 30 at 11:59 pm (PT).

Don’t miss the dynamic 1:1 interviews and panel discussions on the Disrupt Stage. We’ve tapped high-profile speakers — all leading voices in their fields — to download their insight, trends and sage advice. You’ll hear U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg discuss some of the major challenges of moving people and packages around the block and across the globe.

Houseplant COO, Haneen Davies will join company co-founders Michael Mohr and Seth Rogen — who, it seems, has a somewhat successful side hustle as a Hollywood writer, director and actor — for a lively CBD: Cannabis Business Discussion.

Head on over to the Extra Crunch Stage where you’ll find strategic insight across a range of essential startup skills. Think fundraising, product iteration, tech stack development and growth marketing.

Here’s a quick peek at just some of what’s going down Extra Crunchy.

How to Cultivate a Community for your Company that Actually Lasts: The word of the year in startup-land is “community.” In this panel, Community Fund’s Lolita Taub, Commsor’s Alex Angel and Seven Seven Six’s Katelin Holloway will extract buzz from reality and help founders understand the growing importance of chief community officers in startup culture and, ultimately, financial success today.

The Path for Underrepresented Entrepreneurs: Founding a startup comes with a wide array of challenges but, unfortunately, underrepresented founders face an extra layer of bias, both conscious and unconscious. We’ll talk with Hana Mohan (MagicBell), Leslie Feinzaig (Female Founders Alliance) and Stephen Bailey (ExecOnline) about their journeys, as founders, through fundraising and scaling — and as advocates who can offer tactical insights and advice.

We’re just warming up, folks. You’ll hear from execs, founders and CEOs from companies like Twitter, Calendly, Mirror, Evil Geniuses, Andreessen Horowitz and plenty more. Check out the Disrupt 2021 agenda. We’ll add even more speakers, events and ticket discounts in the coming weeks. Register for updates so you don’t miss out.

TechCrunch Disrupt 2021 takes place on September 21-23. Buy your Disrupt pass before July 30 at 11:59 pm (PT), and get ready to join the big, bold and influential — for less than $100.

Is your company interested in sponsoring or exhibiting at Disrupt 2021? Contact our sponsorship sales team by filling out this form.

#andreessen-horowitz, #calendly, #coo, #entrepreneurship, #female-founders-alliance, #hana-mohan, #leslie-feinzaig, #operating-systems, #pete-buttigieg, #private-equity, #software, #startup-company, #tc, #techcrunch, #techcrunch-disrupt-2021, #technology, #twitter, #united-states

Andreessen Horowitz funds Vitally’s $9M round for customer experience software

Customer success company Vitally raised $9 million in Series A funding from Andreessen Horowitz to continue developing its SaaS platform automating customer experiences.

Co-founder and CEO Jamie Davidson got the idea for Vitally while he was at his previous company, Pathgather. As chief customer officer, he was looking at tools and “was underwhelmed” by the available tools to automate repetitive tasks. So he set out to build one.

The global pandemic thrust customer satisfaction into the limelight as brands realized that the same ways they were engaging with customers had to change now that everyone was making the majority of their purchases online. Previously, a customer service representative may have managed a dozen accounts, but nowadays with product-led growth, they tackle a portfolio of thousands of customers, Davidson told TechCrunch.

New York-based Vitally, founded in 2017, unifies all of that customer data into one place and flows it through an engine to provide engagement insights, like what help customers need, which ones are at risk of churning and which to target for expanded revenue opportunities. Its software also provides automation to balance workflow and steer customer success teams to the tasks with the right customers so that they are engaging at the correct time.

Andreessen approached Davidson for the Series A, and he liked the alignment in customer success vision, he said. Including the new funding, Vitally raised a total of $10.6 million, which includes $1.2 million in September 2019.

From the beginning, Vitally was bringing in strong revenue growth, which enabled the company to focus on building its platform and hold off on fundraising.

“A Series A was certainly on our mind and road map, but we weren’t actively fundraising,” Davidson said. “However, we saw a great fit and great backing to help us grow. Tools have lagged in the customer success area and how to manage that. Andreessen can help us scale and grow with our customers as they manage the thousands of their customers.”

Davidson intends to use the new funding to scale Vitally’s team across the board and build out its marketing efforts to introduce the company to the market. He expects to grow to 30 by the end of the year to support the company’s annual revenue growth — averaging 3x — and customer acquisition. Vitally is already working with big customers like Segment, Productboard and Calendly.

As part of the investment, Andreessen general partner David Ulevitch is joining the Vitally board. He saw an opportunity for the reimagining of how SaaS companies delivered customer success, he told TechCrunch via email.

Similar to Davidson, he thought that customer success teams were now instrumental to growing SaaS businesses, but technology lagged behind market need, especially with so many SaaS companies taking a self-serve or product-led approach that attracted more orders than legacy tools.

Before the firm met Vitally, it was hearing “rave reviews” from its customers, Ulevitch said.

“The feedback was overwhelmingly positive and affirmed the fact that Vitally simply had the best product on the market since it actually mapped to how businesses operated and interacted with customers, particularly businesses with a long-tail of paying customers,” he added. “The first dollar into a SaaS company is great, but it’s the renewal and expansion dollars that really set the winners apart from everyone else. Vitally is in the best position to help companies get that renewal, help their customers expand accounts and ultimately win the space.”

 

#andreessen-horowitz, #brand-management, #customer-experience, #customer-success, #david-ulevitch, #enterprise, #funding, #jamie-davidson, #recent-funding, #saas, #startups, #tc, #venture-capital, #vitally

Titan, a platform aimed at the ‘everyday investor,’ valued at $450M as a16z leads $58M Series B

Titan, a startup that is building a retail investment management platform aimed at the new generation of “everyday investors,” has closed on $58 million in a Series B round led by Andreessen Horowitz (a16z).

The financing comes just over five months after Titan raised $12.5 million in a Series A round led by General Catalyst, and brings the startup’s total raised since its 2017 inception to $75 million. It values the company at $450 million.

General Catalyst also put money in the Series B round, along with BoxGroup, Ashton Kutcher’s Sound Ventures and a group of professional athletes and celebrities including Odell Beckham Jr., Kevin Durant, Jared Leto and Will Smith. 

The startup, which describes itself as “a new-guard active investment manager, launched its first investment strategy in February of 2018 and today has 30,000 users. Titan’s platform grew by 500% in the last 12 months, largely organically, according to the company, which expects to cross its first billion in assets under management later this year. At the time of its last raise in February, Titan co-founder and co-CEO Joe Percoco said the startup was approaching $500 million in assets under management and was cash flow positive last year. 

“What Fidelity and its iconic mutual funds were for baby boomers, Titan is for new generations. Titan is the first DTC, mobile-first investment platform where everyday investors, irrespective of wealth, can have their capital actively managed by investment experts in long-term strategies,” Percoco said.

He went on to describe the mutual fund or an ETF as “fundamentally just a piece of technology for an investment manager to accept money from someone in order to invest in securities.” He likened that piece of technology to a VHS tape that “does the job, but is archaic for a few reasons.” Those reasons, he said, are that the investor is an “anonymized dollar value” and the products have layers of costs with high minimums and are difficult to create.

“The factory that creates the mutual fund itself is very old. The entire investment management industry is predicated on these VHS tapes,” Percoco said. “These are the archaic technologies being used. We’re rebuilding it entirely. Fidelity is an old factory. Titan is effectively a new factory.”

Image credits: Titan

On August 3, Titan plans to launch its cryptocurrency offering, which the company claims will be the first and only actively managed portfolio of cryptocurrency assets available to U.S. investors. At launch, Titan Crypto will be available to all U.S. residents except those with home addresses in New  York. Access for NY-based residents will be provided once Titan’s custodial partner receives regulatory approval for the state’s jurisdiction. 

Looking ahead, Titan said it plans to allow other investment managers to launch their products from its “factory.”

“The initial strategies on Titan’s platform are predominantly in stocks,” Percoco said. “We’re already getting in-bounds from multibillion-dollar managers asking to launch products on Titan.”

The company plans to use its new capital toward continuing to build out its underlying platform and suite of investment products as well as hiring. It currently has about 30 employees, up from seven a year ago. Percoco expects that Titan will have 100 employees by this time next year.

A16z general partner Anish Acharya said that since meeting the Titan team last year, his firm has “consistently been impressed” by Titan’s product vision, execution and team.

“If we pull back and look at trends happening in consumer investing, we can see that younger generations are embracing more risk in investing, that they demand easy to navigate, mobile-first interfaces and transparency from their banks, and that they want to deeply understand how their money is being invested and participate in the learnings from that process,” said Acharya, who will be joining Titan’s board as part of the financing.

In his view, Titan sits at an “interesting intersection” between passive robo-advisors and active stock-pricing, “allowing their customers to ride shotgun alongside some of the best fund managers in the world, thus achieving the returns and knowledge of stock picking without having to make the decisions themselves.”

#a16z, #andreessen-horowitz, #anish-acharya, #boxgroup, #finance, #fintech, #funding, #fundings-exits, #general-catalyst, #investment, #investment-fund, #jared-leto, #joe-percoco, #kevin-durant, #new-york, #recent-funding, #startup, #startups, #tc, #titan, #united-states, #venture-capital, #will-smith

NFT market OpenSea hits $1.5 billion valuation

It’s been a wild 2021 for NFT auction marketplace OpenSea. The startup was exceedingly well-positioned in a niche space when NFTs exploded earlier this year seemingly out of nowhere. Since then, the startup has found its user base expanding, the total volume of sales skyrocketing and more investor dollars being thrown at them.

The startup announced in March, it had closed a $23 million Series A, and now some four months later, the company tells TechCrunch it has raised another $100 million in a Series B round led by Andreessen Horowitz at a $1.5 billion valuation. Other investors in the round include Coatue, CAA, Michael Ovitz, Kevin Hartz, Kevin Durant and Ashton Kutcher.

Despite a fall from stratospheric heights in the early summer, the broader NFT market has still been chugging along and OpenSea is continuing to see plenty of action. The startup saw $160 million in sales last month and is on track to blow past that figure this month, CEO Devin Finzer tells TechCrunch.

One of the company’s clearer growth roadblocks has been infrastructure issues native to the Ethereum blockchain that its marketplace has been built around. The Ethereum blockchain, which has a number of network upgrades outstanding, has struggled to keep up with the NFT boom at times, leaving users footing the bill with occasionally pricey “gas” fees needed to mint an item or make a transaction. Though these fees have largely cooled down in recent weeks, OpenSea is aiming to make a move towards long-term scalability by announcing that they plan to bring support for several more blockchains to its platform.

They’re starting with Polygon, a popular Layer 2 Ethereum blockchain which boasts a more energy-efficient structure that will allow OpenSea to entirely eliminate gas fees for creators, buyers and sellers on that blockchain. Losing these fees may give OpenSea a better shot at expanding its ambitions, which include finding a future for NFTs in the gaming world and in the events space, Finzer says.

Beyond Polygon, OpenSea has plans to integrate with Dapper Labs’ Flow blockchain as well as Tezos down the road, the company says.

Operating across multiple blockchains could create some headaches for consumers operating across platforms with differing levels of support for each network. Some NFT investors are also more hesitant to buy items on blockchains they see as less time-tested than Ethereum, worrying that newer chains may lose support over time. But overall, the user-friendly changes will likely be well-received by the wider NFT community which has seen the explosion in new interest stress-test its systems and highlight need for user interface and user experience improvements.

#andreessen-horowitz, #articles, #ashton-kutcher, #blockchain, #blockchains, #ceo, #cryptocurrencies, #cryptocurrency, #cryptokitties, #decentralization, #ethereum, #kevin-durant, #kevin-hartz, #michael-ovitz, #tc, #tezos

Colombian on-demand delivery startup Rappi raises ‘over’ $500M at a $5.25B valuation

Rappi, a Colombian on-demand delivery startup, has raised “over” $500 million at a $5.25 billion valuation in a Series G round led by T. Rowe Price, the company announced late Friday.

Baillie Gifford, Third Point, Octahedron, GIC SoftBank, DST Global, Y Combinator, Andreessen Horowitz and Sequoia Capital and others also participated in the round.

The new financing brings Rappi’s total raised since its 2015 inception to over $2 billion, according to Crunchbase. Today, the country has operations in 9 countries and more than 250 cities across Latin America. Its last raise was a $300 million a Series F funding round in September of 2020.

According to the Latin American Venture Capital and Private Equity Association (LAVCA), Rappi focused on delivering beverages and first, and has since expanded into meals, groceries, tech goods and medicine. The company also offers a cash withdrawal feature, allowing users to pay with credit cards and then receive cash from one of Rappi’s delivery agents. Today, the company says its app allows consumers to “order nearly any good or service.”

In addition to traditional delivery, it says “users can get products delivered in less than 10 minutes, can access financial services, as well as ‘whims,” and “favors.’ Whims allow users to order anything available in their coverage area. Favors offer an array of custom services, such as running an errand, going to the hardware store or picking out and delivering a gift. The two products allow users to connect directly with a courier. 

Simón Borrero, Sebastian Mejia, and Felipe Villamarin launched the company in 2015, graduating from Y Combinator the following year. A16z’s initial investment in July 2016 was the Silicon Valley firm’s first investment in Latin America, according to LAVCA.