SoftBank pours up to $150M into GBM, a Mexico City-based investment platform

Grupo Bursátil Mexicano (GBM) is a 35-year-old investment platform in the Mexican stock market. In its first three decades of life, GBM was focused on providing investment services to high net worth individuals and local and global institutions.

Over the past decade, the Mexico City-based brokerage has ramped up its digital efforts, and, in the past five years, has evolved its business model to offer services to all Mexicans with the same products and services it offers large estates.

Today, GBM is announcing it has received an investment of “up to” $150 million from SoftBank via the Japanese conglomerate’s Latin America Fund at a valuation of “over $1 billion.” The investment is being made through one of GBM’s subsidiaries and is not contingent on anything, according to the company.

Co-CEO Pedro de Garay Montero told TechCrunch that GBM has built an app, GBM+, that organizes and invests clients’ money through three different tools: Wealth Management, Trading and Smart Cash.

Last year was a “historic” one for the company, he said, and GBM went from having 38,000 investment accounts in January 2020 to more than 650,000 by year’s end. In the first quarter of 2021, that number had grown to over 1 million — representing more than 30x growth from the beginning of 2020.

For some context, according to the National Banking and Securities Commission (CNBV), there were only 298,000 brokerage accounts in Mexico at the end of 2019, and that number climbed to 940,000 by the end of 2020 — with GBM holding a large share of them.

Most of GBM’s clients are retail clients, but the company also caters to “most of the largest investment managers worldwide,” as well as global companies such as Netflix, Google and BlackRock. Specifically, it services 40% of the largest public corporations in Mexico and a large base of ultra high net worth individuals.

The company is planning to use its new capital in part to invest “heavily” in customer acquisition.

Montero said that half of its team of 450 are tech professionals, and that the company plans to also continue hiring as it focuses on growth in its B2C and B2B offerings and expanding into new verticals.

“We are improving our already robust financial education offering,” he added, “so that Mexicans can take control of their finances. GBM’s mission is to transform Mexico into a country of investors.”

Because Mexico is such a huge market — with a population of over 120 million and a GDP of more than $1 trillion — GBM is laser-focused on growing its presence in the country.

“The financial services industry is dominated by big banks and is inefficient, expensive and provides a poor client experience. This has resulted in less than 1% of individuals having an investment account,” Montero told TechCrunch. “We will be targeting clients through our own platform and internal advisors, as well as growing our base of external advisors to reach as many people as possible with the best investment products and user experience.”

When it comes to institutional clients, he believes there is “enormous potential” in serving both the large corporations and the SMEs “who have received limited services from banks.”

Juan Franck, investment lead for SoftBank Latin America Fund in Mexico, believes the retail investment space in Mexico is at an inflection point.

“The investing culture in Mexico has historically been low compared to the rest of the world, even when specifically compared to other countries in Latin America, like Brazil,” he added. “However, the landscape is quickly changing as, through technology, Mexicans are being provided more education around investing and more investment alternatives.”

In the midst of this shift, SoftBank was impressed by GBM’s “clear vision and playbook,” Franck said.

So, despite being a decades-old company, SoftBank sees big potential in the strength of the digital platform that GBM has built out.

“GBM is the leading broker in Mexico in terms of trading activity and broker accounts,” he said. “The company combines decades of industry know-how with an entrepreneurial drive to revolutionize the wealth management space in the country.”

#apps, #blackrock, #brazil, #broker, #finance, #financial-services, #funding, #fundings-exits, #google, #laser, #latin-america, #mexico, #mexico-city, #money, #netflix, #softbank, #softbank-group, #tc, #ubs, #venture-capital, #vodafone

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#DealMonitor – Razor Group sammelt 400 Millionen ein – Berenberg investiert in Enpal – Acton Capital investiert in Metalshub


Im aktuellen #DealMonitor für den 4. Mai 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

Razor Group
+++ BlackRock und Victory Park Capital (VPC) sowie die Altinvestoren investieren 400 Millionen US-Dollar – gemeint ist eine Fremd- und Eigenkapitalfinanzierung – in den Amazon-Shop-Aufkäufer Razor Group. “Mit BlackRock und VPC erweitert Razor seinen Investorenkreis um zwei renommierte globale Investoren, die über eine umfangreiche Erfolgsbilanz verfügen, E-Commerce-Marktführer zu unterstützen. Razor ist überzeugt, dass das Unternehmen damit seine Führungsposition in Europa und darüber hinaus weiter festigen kann”, teilt das Unternehmen mit. Zuvor flossen bereits 70 Millionen US-Dollar in die Razor Group – unter anderem von 468 Capital, Redalpine, Presight Capital, Global Founders Capital und Claret Capital Partners. Die Razor Group, 2020 von Tushar Ahluwalia und Jonas Diezun gegründet, kauft – wie das große Vorbild Thrasio – profitable Amazon-Händler und führt deren Geschäfte weiter. Über 100 Mitarbeiter:innen arbeiten bereits für die Jungfirma. In den vergangenen Monaten übernahm das junge Unternehmen unter anderem HappyPo. Mehr über die Razor Group

Enpal
+++ Die Privatbank Berenberg steht gemeinsam mit dem Münchner Geldgeber HV Capital vor einem Investment in Enpal. Das Berliner Unternehmen, das 2017 von Mario Kohle (Käuferportal-Gründer), Viktor Wingert und Jochen Ziervogel gegründet wurde, vermietet Solaranlagen. In der Vergangenheit investierten insbesondere Picus Capital, Spreadshirt-, Circ- und Delivery Hero-Gründer Lukasz Gadowski sowie der amerikanische Investmentfonds Princeville Climate Technology in das Unternehmen, das langfristig einen IPO plant. 2020 erwirtschaftete die Jungfirma 56 Millionen Euro Umsatz, 2019 gerade einmal 18 Millionen. Details gibt es nur im aktuellen Insider-Podcast. Mehr über Enpal #EXKLUSIV

Metalshub
+++ Der Münchner Kapitalgeber Acton Capital investiert rund 7,5 Millionen Euro (inklusive Convertible) in Metalshub. Das Unternehmen aus Düsseldorf digitalisiert seit 2016 den Metallhandel. Zu den Investoren von Metalshub gehören bisher die brasilianische Beteiligungsgesellschaft Chromo Invest, der Berliner Geldgeber Point Nine Capital und diverse Business Angels – darunter die Flixbus-Gründer. Chromo Invest hielt zuletzt bereits 12,8 % am Unternehmen. Details gibt es nur im aktuellen Insider-Podcast. Mehr über Metalshub #EXKLUSIV

Urbyo
+++ Der Berliner Kapitalgeber June, hinter dem unter anderem  Google-Vorstand Philipp Schindler steckt, investiert in Urbyo. Das Berliner Stealth-Startup kümmert sich “um den Betrieb von Internetportalen und Dienstleistungen für im Internet aktive Kunden”. Urbyo wird von Markus Fasselt sowie Philipp Schormann und Oliver Wulf vorangetrieben. Das Team baute zuvor bereits das Unternehmen Deutsche Auftragsagentur auf und verkaufte es an Bosch. Details gibt es nur im aktuellen Insider-Podcast. #EXKLUSIV

Labforward
+++Das Family Office der Familie Fielmann investiert gemeinsam mit dem Altinvestor IBB Ventures sowie “bestehenden und neue Business Angels” mehr als 3 Millionen Euro in die Berliner Laborsoftware-Firma Labforward. Das Unternehmen entstand 2019 durch die Fusion von labfolder und cubuslab. labfolder wurde 2013 von Simon Bungers und dem Biophysiker Florian Hauer gegründet. Zuletzt investierten die Laborgerätehersteller Tecan und 2mag sowie Altinvestor Peppermint Venture Partners mehr als 5 Millionen Euro in das Unternehmen. Mehr über Labforward

OptioPay
+++ Eos Venture Partners, Arab Bank Ventures und Seed X Liechtenstein investieren gemeinsam mit den Altinvestoren, darunter Avaloq Ventures und Main Incubator 5,75 Millionen Euro in OptioPay. Das Startup, das 2014 von Marcus Börner und Oliver Oster gegründet wurde, setzte zunächst auf ein Gutscheinsystem. Inzwischen positioniert sich das FinTech als Open Banking-Anbieter. OptioPay erstellt für seine Kunden “personalisierte und vorteilhafte Finanzkampagnen auf Basis von Bankdaten”. 65 Mitarbeiter:innen wirken bereits für OptioPay. Details gibt es auch im aktuellen Insider-Podcast. Mehr über OptioPay

sewts
+++ APEX Ventures, Bayern Kapital und der High-Tech Gründerfonds (HTGF) investieren eine siebenstellige Summe in das Robotik-Startup sewts. Das Unternehmen aus München entwickelt eine Software, “mit deren Hilfe Industrieunternehmen Prozesse automatisieren können, in denen leicht verformbare Materialien verarbeitet werden, zum Beispiel Textilien oder Folien”. Zunächst soll die Technologie der Jungfirma, die 2019 gegründet wurde, in industriellen Wäschereistraßen zum Einsatz kommen.

Cineamo
+++ Eine “norddeutsche Beteiligungsgesellschaft” investiert 1,1 Millionen Euro in das Kino-Startup Cineamo. Das Startup aus Würzburg bietet eine App sowie eine SaaS-Lösung für Kinobetriebe, genannt Cineamo-Control an. Filmfans können mit der kostenlosen App in ihrem Lieblingskino Filmwünsche und andere Eventideen anfragen. Das Kino behält dabei die volle Kontrolle über sein Programm. Ziel des Jungunternehmens ist es, besucherschwache oder freie Terminslots mit Angeboten der Besucher besser auszulasten.

4Gene 
+++ Goldmann International und MBG Baden-Württemberg investieren gemeinsam mit den Gründungsgesellschaftern eine “hohe sechsstellige Summe” in 4Gene. Das Münchner Startup bietet programmierbare Aromastoffe für verschiedenste Anwendungen an. “Mit der Technologie können nahezu alle Aromen so aufbereitet werden, dass eine molekulare Bindung möglich ist. Für die Kosmetikindustrie bedeutet das eine Revolution”, verkündet das Startup.

sourc-e
+++ Die Digitalagentur nexum investiert in das Kölner Unternehmen sourc-e, einem cloudbasierten Startup für Druck- und Packagingerzeugnisse. “Mit der Investition erweitert nexum sein E-Commerce- und Marketing-Portfolio, um einen smarten Druckdienstleister im B2B-Bereich”, heißt es in der Presseaussendung.  sourc-e wurde 2016 von Lucas Scherer und Felix Severing gegründet.

Dörrwerk
+++ Zentis Ventures, der Investmentableger von Zentis, investiert in Dörrwerk. Das Berliner Startup verwertet für seine Produkte seine Snacks, Suppen und Erfrischungsgetränke  ausschließlich Obst und Gemüse, “das aufgrund ästhetischer Mängel ansonsten nicht im regulären Verkauf gelandet wäre”. Dörrwerk wurde 2015 von Zubin Farhani gegründet.

Laori
+++ Faraday Venture Partners investiert eine sechsstellige Summe in Laori, das in dieser Woche in der VOX-Show “Die Höhle der Löwen” kein Investment einsammeln konnte. Das Berliner Food-Startup, das 2019 von Stella-Oriana Strüfing und Christian Zimmermann gegründet wurde, bietet alkoholfreie Gin an. Mit dem frischen Kapital möchte das junge Unternehmen “seine Marktposition im deutschen Markt für alkoholfreie Alternativen weiter ausbauen”.

EXITS

proSenio
+++ Das Unternehmen Schülke & Mayr, das im Segment Infektionsprävention und Hygienelösungen unterwegs ist, übernimmt proSenio. Zur Jungfirma, die sich 2919 mit dem Pflegehilfsmittel CommitMed zusammengeschlossen hat, gehören Pflegebox, ein Versand von Pflegehilfsmitteln sowie Marken wie hoerhelfer aktivwelt und sehhelfer. schülke möchte mit dem “Zukauf sein Portfolio strategisch um die Bereiche Pflege und Sanitätsbedarf – einem Markt, der gerade vor dem Hintergrund einer stetig wachsenden älteren Bevölkerung stark wächst” erweitern. Der Wachstumsfinanzierer yabeo invesierte 2014 in CommitMed und dann mit proSenio fusioniert. “Dadurch entstand ein profitabler, technologiebasierter Mittelständler mit zuletzt mehr als 24 Millionen Euro Jahresumsatz und rund 150 Mitarbeitern”, teilt der Geldgeber mit.

DIE HÖHLE DER LÖWEN

Ndeyefoods
+++ In der siebten Folge der neunten Staffel investierte Familien-Löwin Dagmar Wöhrl 130.000 Euro in  Ndeyefoods und sicherte sich dabei 30 % am Unternehmen. Hinter Ndeyefoods  verbergen sich “Gourmetsaucen mit einer westafrikanischen Note”. Ursprünglich wollte Ndeyefoods-Gründerin N’deye Fall-Kuete 130.000 Euro für 25 % ihrer Firmenanteile einsammeln.

ajuma
+++ In der siebten Folge der neunten Staffel investierten Pharma-Löwe Nils Glagau und Sales-Löwe Carsten Maschmeyer 110.000 Euro in ajuma und sicherten sich dabei 25 % am Unternehmen. Das Startup bietet einen UV-Bodyguard an. Der Sensor, der an der Kleidung oder am Handgelenk getragen wird, misst die einfallende Sonneneinstrahlung und bezieht auch Satellitendaten wie Ozonwerte in die Berechnung mit ein. Ursprünglich wollte das ajuma-Team 110.000 Euro für 15 % einsammeln.

SmartQ
+++ In der siebten Folge der neunten Staffel investierte Regallöwe Ralf Dümmel 40.000 Euro in SmartQ und sicherte sich dabei 15 % am Unternehmen. Hinter SmartQ verbirgt sich eine ergonomische Tapezierbürste.

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

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

Foto (oben): azrael74

#4gene, #acton-capital, #ajuma, #aktuell, #apex-ventures, #bayern-kapital, #berenberg, #berlin, #blackrock, #cineamo, #commitmed, #dorrwerk, #dusseldorf, #enpal, #faraday-venture-partners, #fielmann, #fintech, #food, #goldmann-international, #high-tech-grunderfonds, #hv-capital, #june, #koln, #labforward, #laori, #mbg-baden-wurttemberg, #metalshub, #munchen, #ndeyefoods, #nexum, #optiopay, #pflegebox, #prosenio, #razor-group, #schulke-may, #sewts, #smartq, #sourc-e, #urbyo, #venture-capital, #victory-park-capital, #wurzburg, #zentis-ventures

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Berlin’s Razor Group raises $400M to buy and scale Amazon Marketplace merchants

The market remains very hot for startups building e-commerce empires by consolidating independent third-party merchants that have gained traction on Amazon’s Marketplace, and in the latest development, Razor Group — a Berlin-based startup buying up promising Amazon sellers and scaling them into bigger, multi-channel businesses — has closed financing of $400 million to scale its own efforts in the space.

Around $25 million is coming in the form of equity to grow its business and $375 million is in debt to make acquisitions, with target businesses typically already pulling in between $1 million and $15 million in annual revenues.

Razor Group itself is not even a year old but has been building out its business at a fast pace. Founded in August 2020, in the last eight months, CEO Tushar Ahluwalia said the startup has grown to 107 employees across four offices and is currently on track to cross $120 million (€100 million) in sales from the 30 brands it has already amassed in its stable in categories like personal wellness, sports and home and living. Assuming the debt capital it’s now raised is put to use, Ahluwalia believes Razor Group will cross $480 million (€400 million) in sales in the next 12 to 15 months.

As a point of comparison, Thrasio, one of the older players in this current market, was founded in 2018 and has 100 brands in its stable.

Indeed, there are, as you might have seen, a lot of others in the market pursuing the “FBA rollup” model — consolidating businesses that have been built on the back of Fulfillment by Amazon, with the pitch being they can apply more sophisticated economies of scale, analytics and management to grow great cottage industries into high rises, so to speak. But Razor believes its point of differentiation is its focus on technology to improve its responsiveness to the market, both when it comes to identifying and buying brands, and then growing them.

It’s a big opportunity. By one estimate there are about 5 million third-party sellers on Amazon today, and their ranks are growing exponentially, with more than 1 million sellers joining the platform in 2020 alone. Thrasio has in the past estimated to me that there are probably 50,000 businesses selling on Amazon via FBA making $1 million or more per year in revenues.

“It’s perfectly acceptable to build an FBA-based business, but at some point you can move beyond that,” Ahluwalia said in an interview. “We want to transform what we see as the levers of business operations in this space. We don’t see ourselves as the next P&G, but a new version of it, building microchampions in micromarkets, identifying underpriced digital real estate. Just thinking about it as abritrage is not enough.”

The funding, a mixture of equity to invest in the startup itself and debt to use for acquisitions (and it is mostly debt), is being led by funds and accounts managed by BlackRock and Victory Park Capital (“VPC”) as well as its existing shareholders, a list that includes a number of individuals as well as VCs such as Redalpine, FJ Labs and Global Founders Capital, the VC firm co-founded by the Samwer Brothers, also behind the well-known Berlin e-commerce incubator Rocket Internet.

Ahluwalia and Razor’s head of finance Christoph Gamon — who together co-founded Razor with CTO Shrestha Chowdury — are both Rocket Internet alums, and Ahluwalia and Chowdury also worked on a previous e-commerce business in India called StalkBuyLove (a clone of Wanelo — short for “Want Need Love” — for India, I think) that ran out of cash and shut down.

All of that speaks to both the inroads that the founders may have had into gaining some early financing from other Rocket alums and others, as well as their experiences, both good and bad, of what it takes to grow and scale e-commerce businesses.

Including the $25 million in this latest tranche, the funding brings the total raised in equity by Razor Group to about $40 million — with the previous money being used to get the ball rolling and “validate the model”, Ahluwalia said. It’s not disclosing its valuation today but he confirmed it’s also raising another, larger equity round when it will be speaking more about that.

Meanwhile, the huge injection of debt financing it is getting for acquisitions — doubled after its original plan to raise $200 million got a lot of interest — is a sign not just of what investors and Razor Group itself see as an opportunity, but also of the encroaching competition from other roll-up players that are also well capitalized also setting their sights on buying up the most promising independent businesses selling via Amazon and other marketplace providers.

That list of competitors is getting longer by the day. It includes Thrasio, one of the first startups to identify and build out this space, which has raised very large rounds in rapid succession totaling hundreds of millions of dollars in the last year, and is profitable; Branded; Heroes; SellerX; Perch; Berlin Brands Group (X2); Benitago; and Valoreo (with its backers including Razor’s CEO).

The opportunity is also breeding other e-commerce startups like Jungle Scout, which has also raised $110 million recently, providing tools to some of those third-party sellers to help them stay, in fact, independent (or at least grow more to be more valuable to acquirers)

Razor believes that its ability to stand out in this crowd will not just be based on how much money it has to spend, but on the technology that it is using to identify the best third-party sellers faster in order to roll them up first, and then to leverage that early move by giving those companies better tools to grow faster.

Chowdhury describes the platform that she has built as “M&A 2.0”, a system that performs “massive due dilligence” at machine scale by evaluating some 1 million companies each week as they perform on platforms like Amazon’s. “Technology runs through the whole business,” she said, started with the acquisitions, where Razor is identifying the most interesting companies faster than others, she said. “We look at thousands of data points,” building algorithms, she continued, “to flag what we want to acquire. It means that our acquisitions funnel is 99% sourced directly and we don’t rely on brokers.” Brokers, she said, are something of a unspoken part of this area, but bypassing them means less competition and better pricing.

Being early also means building better relationships with the owners of these businesses, with less time pressure.

“Dealmaking is something extremely personal,” Ahluwalia said. “A seller needs to like you. Our calculations have allowed us to be the first in these deal conversations”

Further along, that data will also help Razor build those businesses and figure out where else brands can be sold beyond Amazon and how to sell them better.

That is a plan that has yet to be proven out, given the age of the company, but investors — adding up the numbers and track record of these founders, and the tech they have built — are willing to bet on this one.

“We are excited to partner with Tushar, Chris, and the rest of the Razor Group team. The ability to identify, underwrite, integrate and ultimately create tangible value across a broad suite of eCommerce assets is a real competitive advantage in the marketplace,” said Tom Welch, partner at VPC, in a statement.

“We are pleased to make this investment in Razor Group to support the company’s strong growth momentum as it continues to diversify its portfolio of brands and expand into new markets,” added Dan Worrell, MD at BlackRock.

#amazon, #blackrock, #ecommerce, #europe, #fba, #fulfillment-by-amazon, #funding, #global-founders-capital, #razor-group, #roll-ups, #tc, #victory-park

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Crusoe Energy is tackling energy use for cryptocurrencies and data centers and greenhouse gas emissions

The two founders of Crusoe Energy think they may have a solution to two of the largest problems facing the planet today — the increasing energy footprint of the tech industry and the greenhouse gas emissions associated with the natural gas industry.

Crusoe, which uses excess natural gas from energy operations to power data centers and cryptocurrency mining operations, has just raised $128 million in new financing from some of the top names in the venture capital industry to build out its operations — and the timing couldn’t be better.

Methane emissions are emerging as a new area of focus for researchers and policymakers focused on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and keeping global warming within the 1.5 degree targets set under the Paris Agreement. And those emissions are just what Crusoe Energy is capturing to power its data centers and bitcoin mining operations.

The reason why addressing methane emissions is so critical in the short term is because these greenhouse gases trap more heat than their carbon dioxide counterparts and also dissipate more quickly. So dramatic reductions in methane emissions can do more in the short term to alleviate the global warming pressures that human industry is putting on the environment.

And the biggest source of methane emissions is the oil and gas industry. In the U.S. alone roughly 1.4 billion cubic feet of natural gas is flared daily, said Chase Lochmiller, a co-founder of Crusoe Energy. About two thirds of that is flared in Texas with another 500 million cubic feet flared in North Dakota, where Crusoe has focused its operations to date.

For Lochmiller, a former quant trader at some of the top American financial services institutions, and Cully Cavmess, a third generation oil and gas scion, the ability to capture natural gas and harness it for computing operations is a natural combination of the two men’s interests in financial engineering and environmental preservation.

NEW TOWN, ND – AUGUST 13: View of three oil wells and flaring of natural gas on The Fort Berthold Indian Reservation near New Town, ND on August 13, 2014. About 100 million dollars worth of natural gas burns off per month because a pipeline system isn’t in place yet to capture and safely transport it . The Three Affiliated Tribes on Fort Berthold represent Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nations. It’s also at the epicenter of the fracking and oil boom that has brought oil royalties to a large number of native americans living there. (Photo by Linda Davidson / The Washington Post via Getty Images)

The two Denver natives met in prep-school and remained friends. When Lochmiller left for MIT and Cavness headed off to Middlebury they didn’t know that they’d eventually be launching a business together. But through Lochmiller’s exposure to large scale computing and the financial services industry, and Cavness assumption of the family business they came to the conclusion that there had to be a better way to address the massive waste associated with natural gas.

Conversation around Crusoe Energy began in 2018 when Lochmiller and Cavness went climbing in the Rockies to talk about Lochmiller’s trip to Mt. Everest.

When the two men started building their business, the initial focus was on finding an environmentally friendly way to deal with the energy footprint of bitcoin mining operations. It was this pitch that brought the company to the attention of investors at Polychain, the investment firm started by Olaf Carlson-Wee (and Lochmiller’s former employer), and investors like Bain Capital Ventures and new investor Valor Equity Partners.

(This was also the pitch that Lochmiller made to me to cover the company’s seed round. At the time I was skeptical of the company’s premise and was worried that the business would just be another way to prolong the use of hydrocarbons while propping up a cryptocurrency that had limited actual utility beyond a speculative hedge against governmental collapse. I was wrong on at least one of those assessments.)

“Regarding questions about sustainability, Crusoe has a clear standard of only pursuing projects that are net reducers of emissions. Generally the wells that Crusoe works with are already flaring and would continue to do so in the absence of Crusoe’s solution. The company has turned down numerous projects where they would be a buyer of low cost gas from a traditional pipeline because they explicitly do not want to be net adders of demand and emissions,” wrote a spokesman for Valor Equity in an email. “In addition, mining is increasingly moving to renewables and Crusoe’s approach to stranded energy can enable better economics for stranded or marginalized renewables, ultimately bringing more renewables into the mix. Mining can provide an interruptible base load demand that can be cut back when grid demand increases, so overall the effect to incentivize the addition of more renewable energy sources to the grid.”

Other investors have since piled on including: Lowercarbon Capital, DRW Ventures, Founders Fund, Coinbase Ventures, KCK Group, Upper90, Winklevoss Capital, Zigg Capital and Tesla co-founder JB Straubel.

The company now operate 40 modular data centers powered by otherwise wasted and flared natural gas throughout North Dakota, Montana, Wyoming and Colorado. Next year that number should expand to 100 units as Crusoe enters new markets such as Texas and New Mexico. Since launching in 2018, Crusoe has emerged as a scalable solution to reduce flaring through energy intensive computing such as bitcoin mining, graphical rendering, artificial intelligence model training and even protein folding simulations for COVID-19 therapeutic research.

Crusoe boasts 99.9% combustion efficiency for its methane, and is also bringing additional benefits in the form of new networking buildout at its data center and mining sites. Eventually, this networking capacity could lead to increased connectivity for rural communities surrounding the Crusoe sites.

Currently, 80% of the company’s operations are being used for bitcoin mining, but there’s increasing demand for use in data center operations and some universities, including Lochmiller’s alma mater of MIT are looking at the company’s offerings for their own computing needs.

“That’s very much in an incubated phase right now,” said Lochmiller. “A private alpha where we have a few test customers… we’ll make that available for public use later this year.”

Crusoe Energy Systems should have the lowest data center operating costs in the world, according to Lochmiller and while the company will spend money to support the infrastructure buildout necessary to get the data to customers, those costs are negligible when compared to energy consumption, Lochmiller said.

The same holds true for bitcoin mining, where the company can offer an alternative to coal powered mining operations in China and the construction of new renewable capacity that wouldn’t be used to service the grid. As cryptocurrencies look for a way to blunt criticism about the energy usage involved in their creation and distribution, Crusoe becomes an elegant solution.

Institutional and regulatory tailwinds are also propelling the company forward. Recently New Mexico passed new laws limiting flaring and venting to no more than 2 percent of an operator’s production by April of next year and North Dakota is pushing for incentives to support on-site flare capture systems while Wyoming signed a law creating incentives for flare gas reduction applied to bitcoin mining. The world’s largest financial services firms are also taking a stand against flare gas with BlackRock calling for an end to routine flaring by 2025.

“Where we view our power consumption, we draw a very clear line in our project evaluation stage where we’re reducing emissions for an oil and gas projects,” Lochmiller said. 

#air-pollution, #alpha, #artificial-intelligence, #bain-capital-ventures, #bitcoin, #bitcoin-mining, #blackrock, #china, #co-founder, #coinbase-ventures, #colorado, #computing, #cryptocurrency, #cryptography, #denver, #energy, #energy-consumption, #energy-efficiency, #everest, #founders-fund, #greenhouse-gas-emissions, #jb-straubel, #lowercarbon-capital, #methane, #mining, #mit, #montana, #natural-gas, #new-mexico, #north-dakota, #tc, #tesla, #texas, #trader, #united-states, #upper90, #valor-equity-partners, #winklevoss-capital, #world-bank, #wyoming

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Astranis raises $250M at a $1.4B valuation for smaller, cheaper geostationary communications satellites

Space startup Astranis has raised a $250 million Series C round to provide it with a capital injection to help scale manufacturing of its unique MicroGEO satellites — geostationary communications satellites that are much smaller than the typical massive, expensive spacecraft used in that orbital band to provide communications and connectivity to specific points on Earth.

The Astranis Series C was led by BlackRock-managed funds, and includes participation from a host of new investors including Baillie Gifford, Fidelity, Koch Strategic Platforms and more. Existing investors including Andreessen Horowitz, Venrock, and more also chipped in, with the raise valuing the company at $1.4 billion post-money.

This brings the total funding raised by Astranis to over $350 million, including both equity and debt financing. Astranis got started only in 2016, and was part of the YC Winter 2016 cohort. While a lot of other companies are looking to build satellite constellations in low-Earth orbit to provide low-cost broadband on Earth, Astranis, led by co-founder and CEO John Gedmark, is focused on the GEO band, where the large legacy communications satellites currently operate, orbiting the Earth at a fixed position and providing connectivity to a set area on Earth.

Gedmark has told me previously that the company’s offering is very different from the LEO constellations being put up and operated by companies including SpaceX, because they’re essentially a much more targeted, nimble solution that works with existing ground infrastructure. Customers who have a specific regional need for connectivity can get Astranis to put one one up at a greatly reduced cost compared to a traditional GEO communications satellite, and do so to replace or upgrade aging existing satellite network infrastructure, for example.

It’s worth noting that BlackRock, which led this round, has also been a key participant in the PIPE components of high-profile space startup SPACs like launcher company Astra’s. Not saying that’s the exit plan this round is setting up, but definitely something to think about.

#aerospace, #andreessen-horowitz, #astranis, #blackrock, #funding, #outer-space, #satellite, #satellite-constellation, #satellite-constellations, #space, #spaceflight, #spacex, #startup-funding, #tc, #venrock

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Temasek and BlackRock form Decarbonization Partners with $600 million to create a zero-emission economy

The $9 trillion financial management firm Blackrock is collaborating with the $313 billion Singapore investment firm Temasek to back companies developing technologies and services to help create a zero emission economy by 2050.

The two mega-investment firms will invest an initial $600 million to launch Decarbonization Partners, and look to raise money from investors committing to achieving a net zero world and long-term sustainable finacnial returns. The two partners have set themselves a goal to raise $1 billion for their first fund, including capital from Temasek and BlackRock.

The partnership, coming during Earth month, is one of several big multi-billion dollar initiatives that are underway to prevent global climate change caused by greenhouse gas emissions.

Indeed, BlackRock is somewhat tardy to the party. Temasek, for its part, has already made a number of high-profile bets in the alternative meat market — namely in companies like Impossible Foods — and in alternative energy technology developers including Eavor, a geothermal company, and a $500 million bet on a renewable power developer in India.

Meanwhile, a coalition of billionaires led by Bill Gates are already on their second billion dollar investment vehicle through Breakthrough Energy, a multi-stage, multi-strategy initiative that includes a venture capital arm as well as other types of financing on the way.

“The world cannot meet its net zero ambitions without transformational innovation,” said Larry Fink, Chairman and CEO of BlackRock, in a statement. “For decarbonization solutions and technologies to transform our economy, they need to be scaled. To do that, they need patient, well-managed capital to support their vital goals. This partnership will help define climate solutions as a standalone asset class that is both essential to our collective mission and a historic investment opportunity created by the net zero transition.”

To get a sense of what Decarbonization Partners might back, companies should probably look to the Breakthrough Energy portfolio — the firms share similar interests in new sources of energy, technologies to distribute that energy, building and manufacturing technologies, and material science and process innovations.

It’s a big swing that the firms are taking, but the flood of capital coming into the sustainability sector is commensurate with both the size of the problem, and the potential opportunity in returns generated by solving it.

A report from Morgan Stanley estimated that solving climate change would be a $50 trillion problem, according to a 2019 report from Forbes.

“Bold, aggressive actions are needed to make the global net zero ambition a reality. Decarbonization Partners represents one of several steps we are taking to follow through on our commitment to halve the emissions from our portfolio by 2030, and ultimately move to net zero emissions by 2050,” said Dilhan Pillay, Chief Executive Officer of Temasek International. “Through collective efforts with like-minded partners, we will be able to create sustainable value for all of our stakeholders over the long term, and investors will have the opportunity to help deliver innovative solutions at scale to address climate challenges.”

#articles, #bill-gates, #blackrock, #chief-executive-officer, #energy, #forbes, #greenhouse-gas-emissions, #impossible-foods, #india, #morgan-stanley, #singapore, #tc, #temasek, #temasek-holdings

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Facebook gets a C – Startup rates the ‘ethics’ of social media platforms, targets asset managers

By now you’ve probably heard of ESG (Environmental, Social, Governance) ratings for companies, or ratings for their carbon footprint. Well, now a UK company has come up with a way of rating the ‘ethics’ social media companies. 
  
EthicsGrade is an ESG ratings agency, focusing on AI governance. Headed up Charles Radclyffe, the former head of AI at Fidelity, it uses AI-driven models to create a more complete picture of the ESG of organizations, harnessing Natural Language Processing to automate the analysis of huge data sets. This includes tracking controversial topics, and public statements.

Frustrated with the green-washing of some ‘environmental’ stocks, Radclyffe realized that the AI governance of social media companies was not being properly considered, despite presenting an enormous risk to investors in the wake of such scandals as the manipulation of Facebook by companies such as Cambridge Analytica during the US Election and the UK’s Brexit referendum.

EthicsGrade Industry Summary Scorecard – Social Media

The idea is that these ratings are used by companies to better see where they should improve. But the twist is that asset managers can also see where the risks of AI might lie.

Speaking to TechCrunch he said: “While at Fidelity I got a reputation within the firm for being the go-to person, for my colleagues in the investment team, who wanted to understand the risks within the technology firms that we were investing in. After being asked a number of times about some dodgy facial recognition company or a social media platform, I realized there was actually a massive absence of data around this stuff as opposed to anecdotal evidence.”

He says that when he left Fidelity he decided EthicsGrade would out to cover not just ESGs but also AI ethics for platforms that are driven by algorithms.

He told me: “We’ve built a model to analyze technology governance. We’ve covered 20 industries. So most of what we’ve published so far has been non-tech companies because these are risks that are inherent in many other industries, other than simply social media or big tech. But over the next couple of weeks, we’re going live with our data on things which are directly related to tech, starting with social media.”

Essentially, what they are doing is a big parallel with what is being done in the ESG space.

“The question we want to be able to answer is how does Tik Tok compare against Twitter or Wechat as against WhatsApp. And what we’ve essentially found is that things like GDPR have done a lot of good in terms of raising the bar on questions like data privacy and data governance. But in a lot of the other areas that we cover, such as ethical risk or a firm’s approach to public policy, are indeed technical questions about risk management,” says Radclyffe.

But, of course, they are effectively rating algorithms. Are the ratings they are giving the social platforms themselves derived from algorithms? EthicsGrade says they are training their own AI through NLP as they go so that they can automate what is currently very human analysts centric, just as ‘sustainalytics’ et al did years ago in the environmental arena.

So how are they coming up with these ratings? EthicsGrade says are evaluating “the extent to which organizations implement transparent and democratic values, ensure informed consent and risk management protocols, and establish a positive environment for error and improvement.” And this is all achieved, they say, all through publicly available data – policy, website, lobbying etc. In simple terms, they rate the governance of the AI not necessarily the algorithms themselves but what checks and balances are in place to ensure that the outcomes and inputs are ethical and managed.

“Our goal really is to target asset owners and asset managers,” says Radclyffe. “So if you look at any of these firms like, let’s say Twitter, 29% of Twitter is owned by five organizations: it’s Vanguard, Morgan Stanley, Blackrock, State Street and ClearBridge. If you look at the ownership structure of Facebook or Microsoft, it’s the same firms: Fidelity, Vanguard and BlackRock. And so really we only need to win a couple of hearts and minds, we just need to convince the asset owners and the asset managers that questions like the ones journalists have been asking for years are pertinent and relevant to their portfolios and that’s really how we’re planning to make our impact.”

Asked if they look at content of things like Tweets, he said no: “We don’t look at content. What we concern ourselves is how they govern their technology, and where we can find evidence of that. So what we do is we write to each firm with our rating, with our assessment of them. We make it very clear that it’s based on publicly available data. And then we invite them to complete a survey. Essentially, that survey helps us validate data of these firms. Microsoft is the only one that’s completed the survey.”

Ideally, firms will “verify the information, that they’ve got a particular process in place to make sure that things are well-managed and their algorithms don’t become discriminatory.”

In an age increasingly driven by algorithms, it will be interesting to see if this idea of rating them for risk takes off, especially amongst asset managers.

#articles, #artificial-intelligence, #asset-management, #blackrock, #environmentalism, #esg, #europe, #facebook, #facial-recognition, #fidelity, #finance, #governance, #microsoft, #morgan-stanley, #natural-language-processing, #social-media, #tc, #technology, #twitter, #united-kingdom, #united-states

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Real estate tech startup Offerpad to go public via SPAC merger in $3B deal

Offerpad is the latest proptech company to go public via a SPAC merger.

The Phoenix, Ariz.-based company announced Thursday its plans to go public by merging with Supernova Partners Acquisition Company in a deal valued at $3 billion.

The transaction is expected to close in the second, or early third, quarter of 2021. The combined company will be named Offerpad Solutions and trade on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker “OPAD.”

Founded in 2015, Offerpad started out as primarily an iBuyer (meaning it bought homes from sellers who signed up online) and has since evolved its platform in an effort to be a one-stop shop for people looking to buy or sell a home. For example, it now also offers home improvement advances, as well as title and mortgage services. The company has raised $155 million in equity funding from investors such as LL Funds, in addition to hundreds of millions more in debt over the years.

Since its inception, Offerpad says it has completed 30,000 transactions and achieved nearly $7 billion in gross transaction volume. The company projects it will generate revenue of $1.4 billion this year, up from an estimated $1.1 billion in 2020. That compares to revenue of  $100 million in 2016. Offerpad also says it has had “positive per-home contribution margins” since 2016. 

The company has ambitious goals, projecting revenue of $2.4 billion in 2022 and $3.9 billion in 2023.

Supernova Partners, which spun up the SPAC for this deal, is led by Spencer Rascoff — a serial entrepreneur with plenty of prop tech experience who co-founded Hotwire, Zillow, dot.LA and Pacaso, and who led Zillow as CEO for nearly a decade.

PIPE investors include funds and accounts managed by BlackRock and Zimmer Partners, as well as national homebuilder Taylor Morrison Home Corp.

Offerpad says that by partnering with Supernova to become a public company, it expects it will be able “to accelerate its growth to capture more” of the market. The company currently operates in over 900 cities and towns across the country and plans to expand nationwide. 

Rascoff believes Offerpad “is incredibly well-positioned to grab a huge piece” of the online real estate market.

“iBuying has barely scratched the surface of real estate, one of the biggest addressable markets in the world,” he said in a written statement. “In general, real estate continues to be mostly analog, in contrast to other industries like grocery, autos and pharmaceuticals, but consumers demand online solutions. As they bring more transactions online, we believe online real estate as a whole is poised to grow rapidly in the coming years.”

Offerpad competes with companies such as Opendoor, Redfin and Zillow, among others.

As part of the transaction, existing Offerpad shareholders will roll 100% of their equity into the combined company and are expected to own approximately 75% of the combined entity at closing. Offerpad’s founder and CEO Brian Bair will receive high-vote stock that is expected to represent approximately 35% of the voting power of the combined company.

Earlier this month, real estate tech startup Doma, formerly known as States Title, announced it would go public through a merger with SPAC Capitol Investment Corp. V in a deal valued at $3 billion, including debt.

#arizona, #blackrock, #exit, #fundings-exits, #online-real-estate, #phoenix, #real-estate, #redfin, #spencer-rascoff, #startups, #tc

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Jobandtalent takes $120M from Softbank to enter the US market

Spain’s Jobandtalent, a digital temp staffing agency startup which operates a dual-sided platform that matches temps with employers needing casual labor in sectors like ecommerce, warehousing, logistics and manufacturing, has grabbed €100 million (~$120M) in Series D funding from SoftBank’s Vision Fund 2.

Previous investors — including Atomico, Seek, DN Capital, InfraVia, Quadrille, Kibo and FJ Labs — also participated in the round.

The new raise fast-follows a $108M top up to Jobandtalent’s Series C round, which we reported on back in January. In total, the company has raised a total of €310M (just under $370M) since being founded back in 2009.

Today Jobandtalent is also announcing a ~$100M (€83M) in debt financing from BlackRock.

The startup tells us the mix of debt and equity will help it step on the gas and accelerate growth of its marketplace faster than if it took in less capital at this point, as well as enabling it to plough more resource into its product and tech development.

On the tech side its platform uses learning algorithms to match temps with jobs — speeding the hiring process up. It also offers a CRM for employers which bakes in analytics for tracking workforce performance in real time — which it says can help them monitor workplace satisfaction, reduce attrition and track metrics such as absences and late arrivals.

For temps there’s the promise of steadier and easy to obtain shift work — as Jobandtalent streamlines job application admin and payroll into a one-stop shop, and it suggests its marketplace/workforce-as-a-service model can provide temps with continuous employment (i.e. through consecutive temp roles).

Its marketing also talks in terms of offering these workers a level of job security and benefits typically associated with full time employment — such as pensions, sick and holiday pay, health insurance (in some markets) and training courses.

With the new Series D funds in the bank Jobandtalent is preparing to enter the U.S. market “in the next year”, per co-CEO and co-founder, Juan Urdiales — expanding out from the eight markets it’s currently operating in (namely: Spain, the UK, Germany, France, Sweden, Mexico, Colombia, and Portugal).

He confirms it’s also now eyeing entering two more markets in Europe: Italy and the Netherlands.

“We are not yet seeing any competitor operating in the US at large scale and in multiple states in the verticals where we operate (e-commerce, logistics, etc). This is one of the reasons why we believe that we have a great opportunity there,” Urdiales tells TechCrunch.

“The U.S. can be a very difficult market to break into. However, we are starting to see more and more European companies going to the U.S. and being successful (Spotify, Klarna, Adyen, etc),” he adds.

“We believe that in our case, after having operated our model in Europe with high standards on labour rights and complex regulatory environments, we are in a great position to launch our platform in the US and offer a great value proposition to workers and employers there.”

Jobandtalent’s platform will offer temps equivalent perks and benefits in the U.S. as it offers elsewhere, per Urdiales.

“The perks and benefits offered into our marketplace meet the same principles everywhere, all of them aim to bring to the workers a similar status as a permanent worker, with the same type of benefits and perks,” he says, adding: “There are some adaptations in every country to do this, and it would be the same with the US.”

In the past year Jobandtalent says that more than 80,000 workers have used its marketplace to find temporary roles (its website says it has 10M+ registered users) — while more than 850 companies, including the likes of XPO, Ceva Logistics, eBay, Ocado, Sainsbury’s, Bayer and Santander, have used its platform to locate temp workers.

The startup’s revenue run rate has grown from €5M in 2016 to €500M in 2020 — which it says has resulted in a positive EBITDA. It also touts a growth rate of over 100% year on year.

Commenting in a statement, Yanni Pipilis, managing partner at SoftBank Investment Advisers, said: “Jobandtalent is addressing a crucial challenge facing the modern workforce — how to balance flexibility with high quality, reliable job opportunities. The company has developed a data-driven platform that has a track record of providing high fulfilment and low attrition staffing for businesses with temporary roles to fill, while securing income stability and benefits for workers. We are incredibly excited to partner with Juan, Felipe and the team on the next phase of the company’s growth.”

Asked about its decision to take funding from SoftBank for the Series D — and whether it was largely about the scale the investor could offer or whether Jobandtalent also sees potential synergies with other SoftBank portfolio companies (in sectors like logistics) — Urdiales also tells us: “We believe the Vision Fund team can add a lot of value to the company in this new stage of our growth as they have a lot of experience with companies of our size. We can learn a lot from the companies and management teams that they have invested in over the past few years. They have an entrepreneurial mindset and a clear vision on how technology and AI is going to disrupt many industries, and we share the same vision around our category.”

 

#blackrock, #europe, #fundings-exits, #hiring, #job-marketplace, #jobandtalent, #logistics, #softbank-vision-fund-2, #tc

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#DealMonitor – Volocopter sammelt 200 Millionen ein – IDnow übernimmt Wettbewerber – 123fahrschule bekommt 5 Millionen


Im aktuellen #DealMonitor für den 3. März 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

Volocopter
+++ Der Vermögensverwalter BlackRock, Avala Capital, Atlantia, Continental, Jericho Capital, der Investmentableger von NTT, und Tokyo Century sowie alle Alt-Investoren – darunter Geely, Daimler, DB Schenker, Intel Capital, btov Partners, Team Europe (Lukasz Gadowski) und Klocke Holding – investieren beachtliche 200 Millionen Euro in das Flugtaxi-Startup Volocopter, das 2011 von Stephan Wolf und Alexander Zosel gegründet wurde. Insgesamt flossen nun schon 322 Millionen in Volocopter. Zuletzt investiert die Deutsche Bahn über ihre Logistik-Tochter Schenker in das Flugtaxi-Startup. Das Unternehmen entwickelt elektrisch angetriebenen senkrecht startenden Flugtaxis, um Passagiere zu transportieren. Das viele Geld möchte das Unternehmen für den “Endspurt in Richtung Zertifizierung und Markteinführung in den nächsten zwei Jahren” nutzen. Volocopter beschäftigt derzeit in Bruchsal, München und Singapur über 300 Mitarbeiter.

Helvengo
+++ Das Unternehmen Hypoport, Seed X aus Lichtenstein, Cornelius Boersch (Conny & Co) und weitere Business Angels investieren in das Schweizer InsurTech Helvengo, einen KMU-Versicherer aus Zürich. “Die Kapitalerhöhung wird genutzt um das Produkt in der Schweiz weiter zu entwickeln und um den Markteintritt nach Deutschland und Österreich vorzubereiten”, teilt die Jungfirma mit. Helvengo wurde von Benedikt Andreas, Felix Huemer und Vedran Pranjic gegründet.

EXITS

identity Trust Management
+++  Münchner FinTech IDnow, ein Anbieter von Identity Verification-as-a-Service Lösungen, übernimmt den Düsseldorfer Wettbewerber identity Trust Management. “Der Zusammenschluss wird das Portfolio an Verifikationsmethoden, die über die IDnow-Plattform angeboten werden, weiter ausbauen und das kombinierte Produktportfolio wird eines der umfangreichsten Angebote an Identitätsüberprüfungsmethoden im europäischen Markt werden”, teilt das Unternehmen mit. IDnow übernahm zuletzt auch die Wirecard-Tochter Wirecard Communication Services.

STOCK MARKET

123fahrschule
+++ Die digitale Kölner Fahrschule 123fahrschule sammelt über eine Kapitalerhöhung weitere 5 Millionen Euro ein. “Die Erlöse sollen vornehmlich für das weitere Wachstum der 123fahrschule SE durch den Erwerb weiterer Fahrschulen eingesetzt werden”, teilt das Unternehmen mit. 123fahrschule hat es sich zur Aufgabe gemacht, das Fahrschulwesen zu digitalisieren. Das Unternehmen wurde 2016 von Boris Polenske und Daniel Radziwon (nicht mehr im Unternehmen tätig) gegründet.

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

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

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

Foto (oben): azrael74

#123fahrschule, #aktuell, #atlantia, #avala-capital, #blackrock, #conny-co, #continental, #dusseldorf, #fintech, #helvengo, #hypoport, #identity-trust-management, #idnow, #jericho-capital, #koln, #munchen, #seed-x, #venture-capital, #volocopter, #zurich

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Satellite constellation operator Spire Global to go public via $1.6 billion SPAC

Monday brings with it not one, but two space SPACS – there’s Rocket Lab, and there’s Spire Global, a satellite operator that bills itself primarily as a SaaS company focused on delivering data and analytics made possible by its 100-plus spacecraft constellation. SPACs have essentially proven a pressure-release valve for the space startup market, which has been waiting on high-profile exits to basically prove out the math of its venture-backability.

Spire Global debuted in 2012, and has raised over $220 million to date. It will merge with a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) called NavSight Holdings, in order to make a debut on the NYSE under the ticker ‘SPIR.’ The combined company will have a pro forma enterprise value of $1.6 billion upon transaction close, which is targeted for this summer.

The deal will provide $475 in funds for the company, including via a PIPE that includes Tiger Global, BlackRock and Hedosophia. Existing Spire stockholders will wind up with around 67% of the company after the businesses combine.

Spire’s network of satellites is designed to provide customers with a ‘space-as-a-service’ model, allowing them to operate their own payloads, and access data collected via an API their developers can integrate into their own software. The model is subscription-based, and is designed to get customers up and running with their own space-based data feed in less than a year from deal designs and commitment.

Existing investors in Spire Global include RRE Ventures, Promus Ventures, Seraphim Capital, Mitsui Global Investment and more, with its most recent round being a raised of debt financing. The company has launched satellites via Rocket Lab, its companion in the Monday SPAC news rush. The satellites it operates are small cube satellites, and it has launches on a wide range of launch vehicles, including SpaceX’s Falcon 9, the Russian Soyuz, ISRO’s PSLV, Japan’s H-2B, ULA rockets, Northrop Grumman’s Antares and even the International Space Station.

Spire got its start from very humble origins indeed – tracing all the way back to a Kickstarter campaign that was successful with just over $100,000 raised from backers.

#aerospace, #api, #blackrock, #corporate-finance, #falcon, #international-space-station, #japan, #kickstarter, #mitsui, #northrop-grumman, #outer-space, #private-equity, #promus-ventures, #rocket-lab, #rre-ventures, #satellite, #seraphim-capital, #spac, #space, #spaceflight, #spacex, #special-purpose-acquisition-company, #spire-global, #tc, #tiger-global, #transport

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Rocket Lab to go public via SPAC at valuation of $4.1 billion

The SPAC run is on for space startups, which have been relatively slow in their overall exit pace before the current special purpose acquisitions company merger craze got underway. Rocket Lab is the latest, and likely the most notable to jump on the trend, with a deal that will see it combine with a SPAC called Vector and subsequently list on the NASDAQ under the ticker RKLB, with the transaction expected to close in the second quarter of this year.

Rocket Lab, which got its start in New Zealand, and which still launches rockets there with its HQ now shifted to LA, will have a pro forma enterprise value of $4.1 billion via the transaction, with a total cash balance of $750 million once the deal goes through thanks to a PIPE of $470 million with funds invested via Vector, BlackRock and others. At close, existing Rocket Lab shareholders will retain 82% of the total equity in the combined company.

The launch company was founded in 2006, and is led by founder Peter Beck. In 2013, it opened its California headquarters, and it has already completed its first U.S. launch facility at Wallops Island, Virginia. The company’s Electron launch vehicle can carry small payloads to orbit, and is designed to cater to the growing small satellite market, with a focus on responsive and flexible launch options.

Rocket Lab has performed launches on behalf of the U.S. government, including national security payloads, and that’s a key revenue opportunity for it gown forward. Currently, it says it has a backlog of customers, with a projection that it will be ‘EBITDA positive’ in 2023 after adjustments, and fully cash-flow positive by 2024, with a projected run rate of over $1 billion in revenue by 2026.

The company has focused on increasing its ability to launch more frequently in a number of ways. It’s been steadily improving its production capacity, with a focus on its large automated carbon fiber production capabilities. It has also established its U.S. launch site, as mentioned, and will soon open its second launch pad at its existing New Zealand launch site, which is fully privately-owned by Rocket Lab itself. It’s also working on making its Electron vehicle partially reusable, which founder Beck says will help it turn around launches more quickly.

Finally, it has just announced a new heavier-lift launch vehicle called Neutron, with a launch payload capacity of 8 tons – around 16,000 lbs.

#aerospace, #artemis-program, #blackrock, #california, #electron, #louisiana, #new-zealand, #outer-space, #peter-beck, #public, #rocket-lab, #spac, #space, #spaceflight, #spaceport, #tc, #u-s-government, #united-states, #virginia

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Rocket startup Astra is going public vis SPAC

Rocket launch company Astra, which just reached space this past December with a test launch from Alaska, will be going public on the NASDAQ via a merger with a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) called Holicity. The recent SPAC craze has already extended to the New Space sector, and Virgin Galactic was among the in this wave of a new path to public listing, so there is precedent for space launch in particular, but Astra will be the first to list on the NASDAQ.

The terms of the deal will result in an anticipated $500 million in cash for Astra, from a combined $300 million held by Holicity in trust and a $300 million injection via a PIPE (private investment in public equity) from funds under management by BlackRock. The arrangement sets a pro forma enterprise valuation of Astra at around $2.1 billion – that valuation of the company minus the $500 million in cash the SPAC merger brings in. Astra expects it to complete by the second quarter of this year, after which the company will trade under the ticker ‘ASTR.’

Astra manufactures its own rockets, which are designed to carry small orbital payloads, at a facility in Alameda, California. Thus far, it has then shipped its launch vehicles to Kodiak, Alaska for flight – requiring just a handful of people on the ground at the actual spaceport to mount and launch the rocket, with the majority of the team overseeing the flight operating remotely out of a mission control facility back in California. The company’s model focuses on high output production of relatively inexpensive rockets, which can be responsively shipped and launched virtually anywhere depending on needs.

With its successful test in December, Astra achieved a pay-off of years of quiet work building and iterating its launch model. The startup was originally pursuing a DARPA-funded competition to achieve rapid response launch capabilities, but that contest expired with the prize unclaimed. The successful test in December still proved out the viability of Astra’s model – though it fell slightly short of achieving orbital velocity for actual payload delivery. The company said that this was a relatively easy remaining issue to fix, wholly manageable via software tweaks, and it intends to deliver its first commercial satellites beginning this summer.

Ultimately, Astra aims to be launching payloads on a daily cadency by 2025, and in a blog post accompanying the SPAC news, Astra founder and CEO Chris Kemp said that it’s also intent on “building a platform of space services” that implies ambitions beyond its work today on rockets.

#aerospace, #alaska, #astra, #blackrock, #california, #cars, #ceo, #chris-kemp, #kodiak, #nasdaq, #spac, #space, #space-launch, #special-purpose-acquisition-company, #tc, #transportation, #virgin-galactic

0

Battery companies are the latest SPAC target as EVs get a huge regulatory boost

Batteries are the latest landing pad for investors.

In the past week alone, two companies have announced plans to become publicly traded companies by merging with special purpose acquisition companies. European battery manufacturer FREYR said Friday it would become a publicly traded company through a special purpose acquisition vehicle with a valuation at $1.4 billion. Houston area startup Microvast announced Monday its own SPAC, at a $3 billion valuation.

A $4.4 billion combined valuation for two companies with a little over $100 million in revenue (FREYR has yet to manufacture a battery) would seem absurd were it not for the incredible demand for batteries that’s coming.

Legacy automakers like GM and Ford have committed billions of dollars to shifting their portfolios to electric models. GM said last year it will spend $27 billion over the next five years on the development of electric vehicles and automated technology. Meanwhile, a number of newer entrants are either preparing to begin production of their electric vehicles or scaling up. Rivian, for instance, will begin delivering its electric pickup truck this summer. The company has also been tapped by Amazon to build thousands of electric vans.

The U.S. government could end up driving some of that demand.  President Biden announced last week that the U.S. government would replace the entire federal fleet of cars, trucks and SUVs with electric vehicles manufactured in the U.S. That’s 645,047 vehicles. That’s going to mean a lot of new batteries need to be made to supply GM and Ford, but also U.S.-based upstarts like Fisker, Canoo, Rivian, Proterra, Lion Electric and Tesla.

Meanwhile, some of the largest cities in the world are planning their own electrification initiatives. Shanghai is hoping to have electric vehicles represent roughly half of all new vehicle purchases by 2025 and all public buses, taxis, delivery trucks, and government vehicles will be zero-emission by the same period, according to research from the Royal Bank of Canada.

The Chinese market for electric vehicles is one of the world’s largest and one where policy is significantly ahead of the rest of the world.

A potential windfall from China’s EV market is likely one reason for the significant investment into Microvast by investors including the Oshkosh Corp., a 100 year-old industrial vehicles manufacturer; the $8.67 trillion money management firm, BlackRock; Koch Strategic Platforms; and InterPrivate, a private equity fund manager. That’s because Microvast’s previous backers include CDH Investments and CITIC Securities, two of the most well-connected private equity and financial services firms in China.

So is the company’s focus on commercial and industrial vehicles. Microvast believes that the market for commercial electric vehicles could be $30 billion in the near term. Currently, commercial EV sales represent just 1.5% of the market, but that penetration is supposed to climb to 9% by 2025, according to the company.

“In 2008, we set out to power a mobility revolution by building disruptive battery technologies that would allow electric vehicles to compete with internal combustion engine vehicles,” said Microvast chief executive Yang Wu, in a statement. “Since that time we have launched three generations of battery technologies that have provided our customers with battery performance far superior to our competitors and that successfully satisfy, over many years of operation, the stringent requirements of commercial vehicle operators.”

Roughly 30,000 vehicles are using Microvast’s batteries and the investment in Microvast includes about $822 million in cash that will finance the expansion of its manufacturing capacity to hit 9 gigawatt hours by 2022. The money should help Microvast meet its contractual obligations which account for about $1.5 billion in total value, according to the company.

If Chinese investors stand to win big in the upcoming Microvast public offering, a clutch of American investors and one giant Japanese corporation are waiting expectantly for FREYR’s public offering. Northbridge Venture Partners, CRV, and Itochu Corp. are all going to see gains from FREYR’s exit — even if they’re not backers of the European company.

Those three firms, along with the International Finance Corp. are investors in 24m, the Boston-based startup licensing its technology to FREYR to make its batteries.

FREYR’s public offering will also be another win for Yet-Ming Chiang, a serial entrepreneur and professor who has a long and storied history of developing innovations in the battery and materials science industry.

The MIT professor has been working on sustainable technologies for the last two decades, first at the now-defunct battery startup A123 Systems and then with a slew of startups like the 3D printing company Desktop Metal; lithium-ion battery technology developer, 24m; the energy storage system designer, Form Energy; and Baseload Renewables, another early-stage energy storage startup.

Desktop Metal went public last year after it was acquired by a Special Purpose Acquisition Company, and now 24m is getting a potential boost from a big cash infusion into one of its European manufacturing partners, FREYR.

The Norwegian company, which has plans to build five modular battery manufacturing facilities around a site in its home country intends to develop up to 43 gigawatt hours of clean batteries over the next four years.

For FREYR chief executive Tom Jensen there were two main draws for the 24m technology. “It’s the production process itself,” said Jensen. “What they basically do is they mix the electrolyte with the active material, which allows them to make thicker electrodes and reduce the inactive materials in the battery. Beyond that, when you actually do that you remove the need fo a number of traditional production steps… Compared to conventional lithium battery production it reduces production from 15 steps to 5 steps.”

Those process efficiencies combined with the higher volumes of energy bearing material in the cell leads to a fundamental disruption in the battery production process.

Jensen said the company would need $2.5 billion to fully realize its plans, but that the float should get FREYR there. The company is merging with Alussa Energy Acquisition Corp. in a SPAC backed by investors including Koch Strategic Platforms, Glencore, Fidelity Management & Research Company LLC, Franklin Templeton, Sylebra Capital and Van Eck Associates.

All of these investments are necessary if the world is to meet targets for vehicle electrification on the timelines that have been established.

As the Royal Bank of Canada noted in a December report on the electric vehicle industry. “We estimate that globally, battery electric vehicles (BEVs) will represent ~3% of 2020 global demand, while plug-in hybrid-electric vehicles (PHEVs) will represent another ~1.3%,” according to RBC’s figures. “But we see robust growth off these low figures. By 2025, when growth is still primarily regulatory driven, we see ~11% BEV global penetration of new demand representing a ~40% CAGR from 2020’s levels and ~5% PHEV penetration representing a ~35% CAGR. By 2025, we see BEV penetration in Western Europe at ~20%, China at ~17.5%, and the US at 7%. Comparatively, we expect internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles to grow (cyclically) at a 2% CAGR through 2025. On a pure unit basis, we see “peak ICE” in 2024.”

#3d-printing, #amazon, #automotive-industry, #biden, #blackrock, #boston, #cdh-investments, #china, #crv, #desktop-metal, #electric-vehicle, #electric-vehicles, #energy, #energy-storage, #ford, #franklin-templeton, #gm, #houston, #itochu-corp, #lithium-ion-battery, #mit, #northbridge-venture-partners, #plug-in-hybrid, #president, #proterra, #rivian, #royal-bank-of-canada, #shanghai, #sylebra-capital, #tc, #tesla, #u-s-government, #united-states

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Renewable investment wave continues as solar lending company Loanpal raises $800 million

Days after the billionaire investor Chamath Palihapitiya announced his involvement in the $1.3 billion acquisition of the solar and home improvement lending business Sunlight Financial, a collection of investors announced a nearly $1 billion cash infusion into Loanpal, another renewable energy and home improvement lender.

The $800 million commitment to Loanpal arrives alongside a flurry of climate commitments from some of the world’s largest investors.

Yesterday, Blackrock chief Larry Fink, released the $9 trillion investment manager’s annual letter calling for more stringent accounting and reporting of climate data, and Bank of America joined 60 other companies in committing to a new reporting standard for climate and sustainability endorsed by the International Business Council and the World Economic Forum. Fink endorses a separate reporting scheme called the Task Force on Climate Related Financial Disclosures that has the backing of some of the biggest financial investors in the world.

These new standards will drive more investment dollars into businesses that are reducing the greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global climate change. And lending programs incentivizing the switch to more energy efficient appliances and renewable installations are probably the lowest of low hanging fruit for the financial services industry.

That’s one reason why investors like NEA, the WestCap Group, Brookfield Asset Management, and the giant private equity energy investment fund Riverstone Holdings are backing Loanpal.

The deal, which was a secondary transaction to give strategic investors a stake in the business actually wrapped up last year. As a result Scott Sandell, the managing general partner at NEA and a longtime investor in pr and Laurence Tosi, Managing Partner of WestCap Group, have joined the company’s board of directors.

“We invited a number of players into the company,” said Loanpal’s founder, chairman and chief executive Hayes Barnard. The former chief revenue officer for SolarCity before its acquisition by Tesla, Barnard has a long history with solar energy development. At Loanpal he also had the balance sheet to take his pick among would-be investors. “We’re a multi-billion dollar company,” said Barnard.

Loanpal founder chairman and chief executive, Hayes Barnard. Image Credit: Loanpal

“This was us inviting strategic investors into the company and being thoughtful about where they could help and how they could help,” Barnard said.

Loanpal is profitable, has zero debt and throws off monthly dividends to its financial backers. “Today we finance $400 million a month for roughly 15,000 solar systems that are combined with battery systems,” says Barnard. In all, the company has arranged $5.9 billion in consumer finance loans since its launch in 2018. Loanpal also counts around 85% of the top solar firms as vendors and has a staff of around 12,000 sales professionals.

Those numbers allowed the company to bring in board members like Tosi, the former chief financial officer of the multi-billion dollar financial services firm, Blackstone. “He really understands how to bring in capital markets at scale,” said Barnard. 

If anything, the attention from Blackrock, Blackstone, Riverstone and all the financial services firms without references to stones or rocks in their name shows that this is a problem of capital at scale. Decarbonizing the global economy is a $10 trillion business, according to the World Economic Forum (or, for the retail investment crowd, the equivalent of roughly 66.7 billion Gamestops at yesterday’s share price).

The near term market that we’re going to penetrate now is sustainable home solutions that’s a $100 billion market,” Barnard said. 

A significant chunk of that $10 trillion is going to come from the development and integration of new consumer facing appliances and hardware to reduce the consumption of energy. “We believe the battery storage market, the smart thermostat market and the solar market are all intertwined and combined,” said Barnard. “Overall the most important thing is that this is just technology that is better. It was going to scale regardless of who was in the White House. These pieces of technology are better, they save homeowners money.. It’s kind of an IQ test if homeowners want to do it.”

#bank-of-america, #blackrock, #blackstone, #chamath-palihapitiya, #chief-financial-officer, #economy, #energy, #finance, #general-partner, #greenhouse-gas-emissions, #laurence-tosi, #managing-partner, #money, #nea, #officer, #private-equity, #renewable-energy, #riverstone-holdings, #scott-sandell, #solarcity, #tc, #tesla, #white-house, #world-economic-forum

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Rivian raises $2.65B as it pushes towards production of its electric pickup

Rivian has raised $2.65 billion as it prepares to begin production this summer of its all-electric pickup truck.

The round, which was led by funds and accounts advised by T. Rowe Price Associates Inc., also included Fidelity Management and Research Company, Amazon’s Climate Pledge Fund, Coatue and D1 Capital Partners as well as several other existing and new investors.

Rivian is now valued at $27.6 billion, according to a person familiar with the investment round.

The capital comes at a critical time for Rivian, which is undertaking the design, development, production and delivery of two consumer vehicles — the R1T pickup truck the R1S SUV — build out of its electric vehicle charging network as well as fulfilling an order for 100,000 commercial delivery vans for Amazon.

“The support and confidence of our investors enables us to remain focused on these launches while simultaneously scaling our business for our next stage of growth,” Rivian founder and CEO RJ Scaringe said in a statement.

This latest round follows two years of heavy investment activity that began in earnest after the company unveiled its electric SUV and pickup truck at the 2018 LA Auto Show.

Just months after that reveal, Rivian announced a $700 million funding round led by Amazon. More deals and investments would follow, including a $500 million investment from Ford — along with a promise to collaborate on a future EV program — and a $350 million investment by Cox Automotive in September 2019. The company closed the year with an announcement that it had raised a $1.3 billion round led by funds and accounts advised by T. Rowe Price Associates, Inc. with additional participation from Amazon, Ford Motor Company and funds managed by BlackRock.

The stream of capital didn’t stop in 2020. Rivian announced in July it had raised $2.5 billion in a round led by funds and accounts advised by T. Rowe Price Associates Inc. New investors Soros Fund Management LLC, Coatue, Fidelity Management and Research Company and Baron Capital Group along with existing shareholders Amazon and BlackRock joined the round.

To date, Rivian has raised $8 billion since the start of 2019.

Rivian factor Normal Illinois

Rivian’s factory in Normal, Illinois.

Rivian hasn’t held back on spending that capital. The company has put more than $1 billion into its factory in Normal, Illinois. The factory, which once produced the Mitsubishi Eclipse through a joint venture between Mitsubishi and Chrysler Corporation, has been completely updated and expanded.

The overhaul of the 3 million-square-foot is on schedule, but not yet complete, according to the company. A pilot line is operational and is producing validation prototypes of its R1T pickup truck daily.

 

#amazon, #automotive, #blackrock, #ford, #rivian, #t-rowe-price, #transportation

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What’s behind this year’s boom in climate tech SPACs?

There’s no denying that 2020 has been the year of the special purpose acquisition company.

Since the beginning of the year, 219 SPACs have raised $73 billion, according to widely reported market research from Goldman Sachs. That’s a 462% jump from 2019 and more than traditional public offerings raised by about $6 billion. By some counts, roughly one quarter of the SPACs that have been announced will target climate-related businesses.

Since the beginning of the year, 219 SPACs have raised $73 billion.

Already, of the 78 deals that have either completed or announced a merger since 2018, just over one-third have been climate-related, as tallied by Climate Tech VC. And these SPACs have outperformed the broader technology market, with the 10 climate tech companies that have completed mergers averaging a 131% return on investment versus the 50% return of the total SPAC market (assuming average offering prices of $10 per share).

Clearly this has been a banner year for companies that are tackling the climate crisis across a number of verticals, but can it last?

There are a few reasons to think that it can — led chiefly by the demand for these kinds of public offerings from institutional investors, including the pension funds, mutual funds and asset managers handling trillions of investment dollars.

“[The] current wave [of SPACs] is because over the past 24 months the institutional investor universe has come fully into believing that climate solutions are going to be a major growth area in the 2020s and beyond, but they weren’t seeing options available to them for investing into,” wrote longtime clean technology investor, Rob Day, in a DM.

“The available publicly traded ‘green’ companies were already getting really bought up, and the private equity options were underwhelming as well (smallish in the case of VC, low returns in the case of large-format projects). Throw in a Robinhood market of retail investors with a lot of enthusiasm for EVs and such, and you have a nice recipe for this to happen.”

#blackrock, #canada-pension-plan, #chargepoint, #greentech, #special-purpose-acquisition-company, #tc

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Everlywell raises $175 million to expand virtual care options and scale its at-home health testing

Digital health startup Everlywell has raised a $175 million Series D funding round, following relatively fast on the heels of a $25 million Series C round it closed in February of this year. The Series D included a host of new investors, including BlackRock, The Chernin Group (TCG), Foresite Capital, Greenspring Associates, Morningside Ventures and Portfolio, along with existing investors including Highland Capital Partners, which led the Series C round. The startup has now raised over $250 million to date.

Everlywell, which launched to the public at TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2016 as a participant in Startup Battlefield, specializes in home health care, and specifically on home health care tests supported by their digital platform for providing customers with their results and helping them understand the diagnostics, and how to seek the right follow-on care and expert medical advice.

Earlier this year, Everlywell launched an at-home COVID-19 test collection kit – the first of this type of test to receive an emergency authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for its use that allowed cooperation with multiple lab service providers over time. The COVID-19 test kit joins its many other offerings, which include tests for thyroid hormone levels, food and allergen sensitivity, women’s health and fertility, vitamin D deficiency and more. I spoke to Everlywell CEO and founder Julia Cheek about the raise, and she acknowledged that the COVID-19 pandemic was definitely behind the decision to raise such a large amount so quickly again after the close of the Series C, since the company saw a sharp increase in demand coming out of the coronavirus crisis – not only for its COVID-19 test kit, but for at-home digital health care options in general.

“We obviously have a very successful COVID-19 test,” she said. “But we’ve also seen three-fourths of our test menu just explode at well over 100% year-over-year growth, and several of our tests are at 4x or 5x growth. That is really representative of this shift in consumer health behavior that will continue in a big way in many different verticals that include testing, and making things more convenient, digitally-enabled, and in the home.”

Like other companies built on solving for a shift to more remote and virtual care options, Cheek said that Everlywell had already anticipated this kind of consumer demand – but COVID-19 has dramatically accelerated the pace of change, which is why the startup put together this round, at this size, this quickly (she says they started the process of putting together the Series D just in September).

“We’ve been talking about the digital health movement, and the consumer-directed movement probably for a decade now,” she told me. “I do believe that this will be the watershed moment, unfortunately. But hopefully, we will come out on the other side of the pandemic and say, ‘There are some good things that happened broadly for healthcare.’ That is the hope of what we lean into everyday, and  fundamentally, why we went out and raised this amount of capital in this tremendous growth year.”

Image Credits: Everlywell

Everlywell has also expanded availability of its products this year, with distribution in over 10,000 retail locations across Target, Walgreens, CVS and Kroger stores across the U.S. The company also landed a number of new partnerships on the diagnostic lab and insurance payer side, as well as with major employers – a key customer group since employers shoulder the largest share of healthcare spending in the U.S. due to employee benefit plans. Cheek says that despite their commercial and enterprise customer wins, the focus remains squarely on consumer satisfaction, which is what distinguishes their offering.

“Our COVID-19 test is 75% new people buying our product, and it has an NPS [net promoter score] of 75,” she said. “And then it’s the most highly-referred product, and also one of our top tests where people buy other tests. Experience matters here – we know that if someone is a promoter of Everlywell, if they rate us a nine or a 10, on NPS, they are five times more likely to purchase again on the platform.”

That’s not new for Everlywell, according to Cheek – customers have always had a high degree of satisfaction with the company’s products. But what is new is the expanded reach, and the realization among many Americans that virtual care and at-home options are available, and are effective.

“What you have is this lightbulb moment for Americans in a new way that care can be delivered where then they definitely don’t want to go back,” she said. “It’s not just for Everlywell. This is all of these verticals, that have really shifted consumer behavior around healthcare in the home, and I think that will be somewhat permanent. That is the main driver here, and is what we’re seeing, and it’s why Everlywell has resonated so well with so many Americans.”

#articles, #battlefield, #biotech, #blackrock, #ceo, #chernin-group, #cvs, #driver, #everlywell, #food, #foresite-capital, #funding, #greenspring-associates, #health, #healthcare, #highland-capital-partners, #kroger, #morningside-ventures, #national-park-service, #occupational-safety-and-health, #portfolio, #recent-funding, #science, #startups, #target, #tc, #united-states, #walgreens

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Loadsmart raises $90 million to further consolidate its one-stop freight and logistics platform

Leading on-demand digital freight platform Loadsmart has raised a $90 million Series C funding round, led by funds under management by BlackRock, and co-led by Chromo Invest. The funding will be used to continue to build out its platform to offer even more end-to-end logistics services to its freight customers, and the company says that it will be doing that in part through new collaboration with strategic investor TFI International, a leader in the logistics space, which also participated in this round.

In addition to TFI, the round also saw renewed investment from Maersk, a global oceanic shipping leader and one of Loadsmart’s strategic backers since its Series A round. The company says it has increased its revenues by 250% across 2020, while at the same time managing to keep its operating expenses flat. In a press release announcing the news, the company seemed to take indirect shots at competitors including Uber Freight and Convoy by noting that it has achieved its growth through “organic” means, rather than “by subsidizing its customers’ freight spend” through aggressive pricing.

Loadsmart offers booking for freight transportation across land, rail and through ports, all from a single online portal. It recently added the ability to ship partial truckloads, and it’s consistency brought in new strategic investors deeply involved in all aspects of the industry, including port management and overland shipping, which is likely contributing to its growth through ever-deeper industry insight.

#blackrock, #convoy, #leader, #logistics, #maersk, #recent-funding, #startups, #tc, #transport, #transportation, #uber-freight

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JumpCloud raises $75M Series E as cloud directory service thrives during pandemic

JumpCloud, the cloud directory service that debuted at TechCrunch Disrupt Battlefield in 2013, announced a $75 million Series E today. The round was led by BlackRock with participation from existing investor General Atlantic.

The company wasn’t willing to discuss the current valuation, but has now raised over $166 million, according to Crunchbase data.

Changes in the way that IT works have been evolving since the company launched. Back then, most companies used Microsoft Active Directory in a Windows-centric environment. Since then, things have gotten more heterogeneous with multiple operating systems, web applications, the cloud and mobile and that has required a different way of thinking about directory structures.

JumpCloud co-founder and CEO Rajat Bhargava says that the pandemic has only accelerated the need for his company’s kind of service as more companies move to the cloud. “Obviously now with COVID, all these changes made it much more difficult for IT to connect their users to all the resources that they needed, and to us that’s one of the most critical tasks that an IT organization has is making their team productive,” he said.

He said their idea was to build an “independent cloud directory platform that would connect people to really whatever it is they need and do that in a secure way while giving IT complete control over that access.”

The product which includes a free tier for 10 users on 10 systems for an unlimited amount of time, has 100,000 users. Of those, Bhargava says that about 3000 are paying.

The company has 300 employees with plans to add 200-250 in the next year with a goal of adding 500 in the next couple of years. As he does that, Bhargava, who is South Asian, sees diversity and inclusion as an important component of the hiring process. In fact, the company tries to make sure it always has diverse candidates in the hiring pool.

“Some of the things that we’ve tried to do is make sure that every role has some diversity candidates involved in the hiring process. That’s something that our recruiting team is working on and making sure that we’re having that conversation with every single hire,” he said. He acknowledges that it’s a work in progress, and a problem across the entire tech industry that he and his company continue to try and address.

Since the pandemic, the company, which is based in Colorado, has made the decision to be remote first and they will be hiring from across the country and across the world as they make these new hires, which could help contribute to a more diverse workforce over time.

With a $75 million investment, and having reached Series E, it’s fair to ask if the company is thinking ahead to an IPO, but Bhargava didn’t want to discuss that. “We just raised this $75 million round. There’s so much work to be done, so we’re just looking forward to that right now,” he said.

#blackrock, #cloud, #directory-services, #enterprise, #funding, #jumpcloud, #recent-funding, #security, #startups, #tc

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Scopely raises $340 million at a $3.3 billion valuation as gaming grabs investors’ interest

In a move to shore up institutional support in what’s likely to be it’s last fundraising as a private company, the Los Angeles-based mobile gaming behemoth Scopely has raised $340 million in its latest eye-popping round of funding.

Acting as if there’s not still a global pandemic raging throughout the world, some of the largest institutional financing firms like Wellington Management, TSG Consumer Partners, CPP Investments, and funds managed by BlackRock poured more money into the gaming giant just one year after the company raised $200 million in another late-stage funding round.

“What we are seeing is that there’s a significant appetite from public market investors to interactive entertainment as a category,” said Scopely co-chief executive Walter Driver. “We were excited to crossover and invest in Scopely.”

These late-stage, traditionally pre-IPO investors joined NewView Capital, Battery Ventures, Greycroft, Revolution Growth and Highland Capital Partners in the funding, which values the company at $3.3 billion, according to a person familiar with the financing.

The massive windfall won’t mean anything for Scopely’s strategy as the already wildly profitable business continues to grow both organically and through its acquisition strategy of major mobile gaming studios, according to co-chief executive, Walter Driver.

Unlike the other big companies that have taken billions of dollars in the gaming market — chiefly Epic Games and Unity — Scopely isn’t making tools for gaming. The focus at the Los Angeles-based company is squarely on the games themselves and the players who spend billions of dollars on them.

Scopely is focused on building the end-to-end publishing capabilities and development capabilities that will result in the longest term relationships with players for years to come,” Driver said. “This space is evolving really quickly and we have grown exponentially. If we want to be the leading company in the space, we have to be capitalized like the leading the company in the space.”

In terms of capitalization, no other mobile gaming studio comes close. The company’s closest competitor, both in proximity and in strategy would probably be the other LA-based mobile gaming company, Jam City, which is reportedly valued at $1.1 billion.

Scopely doesn’t shy away from developing aspects of the platform technologies that have powered Epic and Unity to their own multi-billion valuations, but it isn’t selling those tools to other companies, Driver said.

“Our belief is that over the longterm the most valuable companies in this space are going to be fully vertically integrated and own proprietary technology platforms,” he said.  

For Scopely, technology development is all about user retention, and developing the publishing capabilities and development capabilities that will help the company and its games stay relevant to an increasingly expanding and increasingly savvy audience of gamers.

And the company has an eye on the future. It’s looking at moving more of its games between platforms desktop, mobile, and consoles as games evolve to be played across those different systems. While that doesn’t mean developing for augmented reality or virtual reality hardware yet, Driver doesn’t rule it out.

“We do think there’s going to be continued innovation of new genres and consumer experience and more convergence and cross-pollination between platforms. Scopely is going to be focused on a player-centric approach rather than a device-centric one,” said Driver. 

For Driver and his co-founder, Javier Ferreira, Scopely’s growth — and that of the total gaming industry — represents an evolution in the ways that consumers want to be entertained.

Scopely’s players are spending 80 minutes per-day on games like “Star Trek Fleet Command”, “MARVEL Strike Force”, Scrabble GO” and “YAHTZEE With Buddies” and that time spent is actually spent socially.

“People have found — and investors looking at the space have found also that people value the connection they’re getting from interactive experiences. It’s not just our relationship with the players, but their relationships with each other,” Driver said. “Inside of most passively consumed media experiences, you don’t have an identity. You don’t have friends.

Or, to put in more nakedly capitalist terms, “We believe mobile gaming’s rapid growth makes it one of the most attractive categories in entertainment from an investment standpoint,” as Dan Sundheim the co-founder of late-stage Scopely backer D1 Capital, said in a statement. “We are confident that Scopely’s vision for the future coupled with its strategic approach to creating a vertically integrated game-making ecosystem, differentiated technology platform, and deep relationships with players will continue to cement its status as an industry leader.”

 

#battery-ventures, #blackrock, #co-founder, #d1-capital, #driver, #epic-games, #greycroft, #highland-capital-partners, #jam-city, #los-angeles, #louisiana, #newview-capital, #scopely, #tc, #technology-development, #tsg-consumer-partners, #video-games, #video-gaming, #virtual-reality, #walter-driver, #wellington-management

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Using population health analysis to improve patient care brings Sema4 a $1.1 billion valuation

Sema4, the Stamford, Conn.-based digital healthcare company now worth just over $1 billion, takes its name from the system of sending messages via code.

And like its namesake, Sema4 is trying to send messages of its own to the broader healthcare system based on the signals it uncovers in massive datasets of population health that can reveal insights and best practices, according to the company’s founding chief executive, Eric Schadt.

Spun out from the Mt. Sinai Health System in June 2017, Sema4 is the second digital healthcare company in a week to reach a billion dollar valuation from investors (Ro, too, is now worth over $1 billion). In this case, Sema4’s $121 million financing came from BlackRock, Deerfield and Moore Capital, and follows only twelve months after another $120 million institutional financing from investors including Blackstone, Section 32, Oak HC/FT, Decheng, and the Connecticut Innovation Fund.

The company’s ability to attract capital may have something to do with a business model that’s managed to amass nearly 10 million patient records through partnerships with ten major health systems and several hundred thousand more patients through a strategy that has the company offer direct insights to patients as part of enhanced care services.

“My effort centered on… how do we aggregate bigger and bigger sources of data to better inform patients around their health and wellness,” said Schadt. 

Sema4 chief executive Eric Shcadt. Image Credit: Sema4

Sema4 works with physicians to provide analysis of genetic data so doctors can make informed decisions on what care would work best with their patients. “We’re providing a meaningful service on behalf of the physician and it’s a service that the physician wants us to do because they’re generally not adept at the genomics,” said Schadt. 

The company provides screening services for reproductive health and oncology as two of its core competencies, acting as a single point of care to collect and store information in a way that’s easily portable for patients, Schadt said

“We play in the testing arena as a growth hack engine to engage patients and generating high amounts of quality data and seek to engage with them to get to higher scales to build the biggest models to get what [doctors] need on any condition of interest,” he said. 

Sema4 is currently working in three areas, reproductive health, precision oncology, and now COVID-19. In April, the company had no ability to analyze tests for COVID-19, but did have lab space that was certified to perform the necessary analysis. Now, the company can handle15,000 tests per day.

As a result of the round, Andrew Elbardissi, a managing partner at Deerfield, as joined Sema4’s board of directors. Other recent additions to the board include Mike Pellini, the former chief executive of Foundation Medicine and current investor at Section32 (the venture firm launched by former Google Ventures head Bill Maris); former principal deputy commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, Rachel Sherman; and former Goldman Sachs chief financial officer, Marty Chavez. 

“Sema4 is a leader at the forefront of one of the most exciting intersections in healthcare – the application of technology, AI and machine learning to help improve patient outcomes. We are excited to support this talented management team as Sema4 begins its next phase of growth,” said Will Abacassis, Managing Director at BlackRock, in a statement. 

Goldman Sachs acted as a financial advisor to Sema4 on the transaction.

 

#bill-maris, #blackrock, #blackstone, #digital-healthcare, #food-and-drug-administration, #genomics, #goldman-sachs, #health-care, #health-systems, #healthcare, #machine-learning, #marty-chavez, #physician, #tc

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#DealMonitor – 50 Millionen für Scalable Capital – Fondsgesellschaft kauft CAPinside


Im aktuellen #DealMonitor für den 22. Juli werfen wir wieder einen Blick auf die wichtigsten, spannendsten und interessantesten Investments und Exits des Tages. Alle Deals der Vortage gibt es im großen und übersichtlichen #DealMonitor-Archiv.

INVESTMENTS

Scalable Capital
+++ Alle Alt-Investoren – darunter BlackRock, Holtzbrinck Ventures und Tengelmann Ventures – und ein nicht genannter neuer Geldgeber – vielleicht wieder einmal der scheue Investor Hedosophia – investieren 50 Millionen Euro in Scalable Capital. Insgesamt flossen nun schon 116 Millionen in das Münchner FinTech. Der digitale Vermögensverwalter wurde im Dezember 2014 von Florian Prucker, Erik Podzuweit, Patrick Pöschl, Adam French und Stefan Mittnik gegründet. Scalable Capital beschäftigt an seinen Standorten München und London mehr als 130 Mitarbeiter.

VoltStorage
+++ Korys aus Belgien, Bayern Kapital und EIT InnoEnergy investieren 6 Millionen Euro in VoltStorage. Das Münchner Startup entwickelt und produziert Solarstromspeicher auf Basis der “umwelt- und ressourcenschonenden Vanadium-Redox-Flow (VRF) Technologie”. Das frische Das Kapital soll in den “Ausbau der Serienproduktion, die Entwicklung neuer Speicherlösungen sowie die technologische Weiterentwicklung” fließen. VoltStorage wurde 2016 von Jakob Bitner, Michael Peither und Felix Kiefl gegründet.

EXITS

CAPinside
+++ Die Fondsgesellschaft Universal Investment übernimmt die Mehrheit am Hamburger Fintech CAPinside. Das Unternehmen, ein B2B-Online-Investment-Plattform für den Investmentmarkt mit Fokus auf Fondsvermarktung und Vertriebsanbahnung, wurde 2017 von Achim Denkel und Philipp Schröder gegründet. Thomas Pütter, Andreas Kupke, Christoph Ostermann und Alexander Holtappels investierten Anfang 2019 rund 3,3 Millionen Euro in das Fintech. Das Startup beschäftigt derzeit 40 Mitarbeiter.

FUSION

GoLiving
+++ Der Berliner Co-Living-Anbieter Habyt fusioniert mit seinem Wettbewerber GoLiving. Das 2017 von Luca Bovone gegründete Habyt, verfügt aktuell über mehr als 500 komplett
eingerichtete Zimmer in Berlin, Madrid, Mailand und Lissabon. Die GoLiving-Gründer Tobias Brühne und Hasib Samad, die das Startup 2019 gegründet haben, bleiben auch nach dem Zusammenschluss an Bord. Im Zuge der Fusion investieren Picus Capital, P101 und der neue Investor Italia500 weiteres Geld in die Jungfirma. Insgesamt flossen nun schon rund 6 Millionen in das Unternehmen.

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

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

Foto (oben): Shutterstock

#aktuell, #berlin, #blackrock, #capinside, #co-living, #engergie, #fintech, #goliving, #habyt, #hamburg, #holtzbrinck-ventures, #italia500, #munchen, #p101, #picus-capital, #scalable-capital, #tengelmann-ventures, #universal-investment, #venture-capital, #voltstorage

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Puppet announces $40 million debt round from BlackRock

Puppet, the Portland, Oregon-based infrastructure automation company, announced a $40 million debt round today from BlackRock Investments.

CEO Yvonne Wassenaar says the company sees this debt round as part of a longer term relationship with BlackRock . “What’s interesting, and I think part of the reason why we decided to go with BlackRock, is that typically when you look at how they invest this is the first step of a much longer term relationship that we will have with them  over time that has different elements that we can tap into as the company scales,” Wassenaar told TechCrunch.

In terms of the arrangement, rather than BlackRock taking a stake in the company, Puppet will pay back the money. “We’ve borrowed a sum of money that we will pay back over time. BlackRock does have a board observer seat, and that’s really because they’re very interested in working with us on how we grow and accelerate the business,” Wassenaar said.

Puppet has been in the process of rebuilding its executive team with Wassenaar coming on board about 18 months ago. Last year she brought in industry veterans Erik Frieberg and Paul Heywood as CMO and CRO respectively. This year she brought in former Cloud Foundry Foundation director Abby Kearns to be CTO.

All of these moves are with an eye to a future IPO, says Wassenaar. “We’re looking at how do we  progress ultimately, ideally on a path to an IPO, and what it is going to take for Puppet to go through that journey,” she said.

She points out that in some ways, the pandemic has forced companies to look more closely at automation solutions like the ones that Puppet provides. “What’s really interesting is […] that the pandemic in many ways has put wind in our sails in terms of the need for corporations to automate and think about how they leverage and extend from a technology perspective going forward,” she said.

As Puppet continues to grow, she says that diversity is a core organizational value, and that while the company has made progress from a gender perspective (as illustrated by the presence of her and Kearns in the C Suite), they still are working at being more racially diverse.

“Where I believe we have a lot more work and there’s a lot more focus right now is further complementing that [gender diversity] from a racial perspective. And it’s an area that I have personally taken on, and I’m committed to making changes in the company as we go forward to support more racial diversity as well,” she said.

Previously the company had raised almost $150 million with the most recent round being a $42 million Series F in 2018, according to Crunchbase data. The company previously took $22 million in debt financing in 2016, prior to Wassenaar coming on board.

#blackrock, #cloud, #developer, #enterprise, #funding, #open-source, #puppet, #tc

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Qumulo scores $125M Series E on $1.2B valuation as storage biz accelerates

Qumulo, a Seattle storage startup helping companies store vast amounts of data, announced a $125 million Series E investment today on a $1.2 billion valuation.

BlackRock led the round with help from Highland Capital Partners, Madrona Venture Group, Kleiner Perkins and new investor Amity Ventures. The company reports it has now raised $351 million.

CEO Bill Richter says the valuation is more than 2x its most recent round, a $93 million Series D in 2018. While the valuation puts his company in the unicorn club, he says that it’s more important than simple bragging rights. “It puts us in the category of raising at a billion plus dollar level during a very complicated environment in the world. Actually, that’s probably the more meaningful news,” he told TechCrunch.

It typically hasn’t been easy raising money during the pandemic, but Richter reports the company started getting inbound interest in March just before things started shutting down nationally. What’s more, as the company’s quarter closed at the end of April, they had grown almost 100% year over year, and beaten their pre-COVID revenue estimate. He says they saw that as a signal to take additional investment.

“When you’re putting up nearly 100% year over year growth in an environment like this, I think it really draws a lot of attention in a positive way,” he said. And that attention came in the form a huge round that closed this week.

What’s driving that growth is that the amount of unstructured data, which plays to the company’s storage strength, is accelerating during the pandemic as companies move more of their activities online. He says that when you combine that with a shift to the public cloud, he believes that Qumulo is well positioned.

Today the company has 400 customers and over 300 employees with plans to add another 100 more before year’s end. As he adds those employees, he says that part of the the company’s core principles includes building a diverse workforce. “We took the time as an organization to write out a detailed set of hiring practices that are designed to root out bias in the process,” he said.

One of the keys to that is looking at a broad set of candidates, not just the ones you’ve known from previous jobs. “The reason for that is that when you force people to go through hiring practices, you open up the position to a broader, more diverse set of candidates and you stop the cycle of continuously creating what I call ‘club memberships’, where if you were a member of the club before you’re a member in the future,” he says.

The company has been around since 2012 and spent the first couple of years conducting market research before building its first product. In 2014 it released a storage appliance, but over time it has shifted more towards hybrid solutions.

#blackrock, #enterprise, #funding, #hybrid-cloud, #qumulo, #seattle-startups, #startups, #storage, #tc, #unicorns

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BlackRock backs Trustly, bank transfer payments platform now valued at over $1B

Online payments are often synonymous with card payments, but today a startup that’s built a profitable alternative, based around making and taking payments by way of a bank transfer, is announcing a round of funding amid a surge of growth.

Trustly, a startup from Sweden that has built a platform to make it as easy (and competitive) for merchants to accept bank transfers as it is to take card payments to complete online transactions, is today announcing that it has raised a significant round of funding from a group of investors led by BlackRock.

In an interview, Trustly’s CEO Oscar Berglund said the company and its investors are not disclosing the exact amount of the investment, but we understand from reliable sources that the deal values the company — which is profitable and had revenues of over $150 million last year — at over $1 billion, and that it will give BlackRock and others participating in the investment (including Aberdeen Standard Investments, funds managed by Neuberger Berman, the Investment Corporation of Dubai and RSIC) a minority share in the business.

For some further background, private equity group Nordic Capital essentially acquired Trustly in 2018 for €700 million ($794 million at today’s rates). This deal represents a partial exit. From what we understand the base valuation also rose with this transaction.

That’s both on the back of growth — both organic and also inorganic, as it merged with US rival PayWithMyBank, last year, to expand its network to touch 600 million consumers — and Trustly’s impressive list of customers. That list has more than 6,000 merchants today and also includes Facebook, where you can find its logo to let people buy ads and pay via Trustly; AT&T, which lets people pay bills using the network; Alibaba.com for making purchases in Europe; topping up PayPal accounts in a number of countries; and sending and receiving money via TransferWise.

This also essentially puts this investment in the hundred/hundreds of million/s range.

Trustly’s growth comes amid a bigger picture of how e-commerce is evolving as it continues to mature and become more ubiquitous — a trend that has been accelerated in the last several months as many have turned away from physically making purchases because of social distancing measures.

When many of us think of online payments, we usually associate the process with using credit or debit cards, or maybe logging into a mobile wallet to complete a transaction. But the reality is that payments are a much more fragmented business, with consumer and merchant preferences changing with each region and including a wider range of options than simply Visa, MasterCard, Amex, and PayPal or some other wallet.

Bank transfers as a method of payment are not at all common in some markets, especially those where cards have become ubiquitous. For example in the UK only about 5% of transactions online are made this way.

But in other markets, this is a very common and well-used route. In Austria, Estonia, Finland, the Netherlands and Poland, a majority of consumers prefer to pay via bank transfer — respectively the rates are 50%, 50%, 40%, 60%, 45%, Trustly tells me, basing its figures on a number of data sources including some of its payment partners, Adyen, PPRO, Global Data and Worldpay.

And Berglund said that the picture is a positive one for Trustly — and other companies that it competes with, including Klarna (another startup ‘unicorn’ from Sweden, as it happens) — because it seems that bank-based transfers as a payment method is on the rise.

There are multiple reasons for that shift. Perhaps most obviously, we’ve seen a lot of security issues around card usage, including too many stories of malicious hackers breaching businesses’ network security and stealing data and card numbers, and other kinds of card fraud. Even as more watertight procedures are put into place (such as mandatory chip-and-pin transactions in many countries), there remain loopholes and also general unease among consumers.

On top of that are changing tides in consumer-focused financial services. Specifically, thanks to the rise of mobile apps and a plethora of startups that have built “challenger banks” to provide more user-friendly banking, consumers today want and expect more control over their finances.

Using credit cards for many represents a departure from that, given that they are designed to help you spend more than you might actually have to spend, so that you can pay back in increments with interest. And, I’d argue, even debit cards can be a departure from transparency, since you are still not seeing your account balance in real time when you make purchases, and many people have overdrafts in place to again spend more than they actually have to spend.

“I think that bank transfers plays into the younger generation of millennials who just consciously don’t want to get into the debt trap, while also  being used to everything being done in real time,” Berglund said. 

If the story for end users — be they the consumers doing the buying or the merchants doing the selling — is all about transparency, easy user interfaces and simplification, it’s because the work under the hood remains very complex and fragmented. Such is the case here as well.

Trustly’s network, Berglund explained, is based around Trustly itself setting up its own business accounts across a wide range of banks around markets where it is active.

When a user elects to pay by bank transfer, it essentially goes through whatever interface his/her own bank uses when interacting with it directly, which then routes the payment through Trustly’s network to be paid into a merchant’s account.

The system is as secure as an individual’s own online banking interface, which typically will use two-factor authentication to complete a transaction, unlike most card transactions. Berglund says that for this reason, the company has not experienced any of the kinds of of breaches or frauds that you see in card payments.

In terms of Trustly’s business model, it is a customer of the banks, while the merchants are its customers: it charges a transaction fee to merchants who use the Trustly network to receive payments, and Berglund said that the percentage varies but is essentially lower than what they would pay for card-based transactions.

But because payments are complex, this is not the full story. In addition to working with merchants directly, Trustly also integrates with a number of third parties like Worldpay, PPRO, Rapyd and others that use these latter services to integrate a number of payment options through a single API (rather than multiple APIs or integrations) into their check-out stack.

And Berglund added that it’s looking like it might be taking on another new wave of customers going forward. Banks themselves are exploring ways of providing more services to merchants who bank with them, and so Trustly is talking to some of them about the potential of a white-label version what Trustly offers so that they can provide the service directly.

The reason it’s not replicated is the same reason it’s hard to build any financial service from the ground up: Trustly has put in place not just a banking network but the integrations around it, plus the customer service it provides to merchants around the business of payments. That makes it hard to replicate, he added. “You have a huge platform here in the middle of this business, not unlike the platforms that exist for card payments,” he said. “It’s a big system all in all.”

#blackrock, #europe, #finance, #fintech, #recent-funding, #startups, #sweden, #tc, #trustly

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