Polywork gets $3.5M to blend professional and social networking

Life is complicated and so — increasingly — is work-life. That’s the premise underpinning Polywork, a new professional social network founded by Lystable/Kalo founder, Peter Johnson.

It’s announcing a $3.5 million seed round today, led by by Caffeinated Capital’s Ray Tonsing (who it notes was the first investor in Clubhouse, Airtable and Brex), with participation from the founders of YouTube (Steve Chen), Twitch (Kevin Lin), PayPal (Max Levchin), VSCO (Joel Flory), Behance (Scott Belsky), and Worklife VC (Brianne Kimmel) — to name a few of its long list of angels.

As the list illustrates, Johnson, an ex-Googler (and TC battlefield alum), isn’t short of contacts to tap up for his new startup — having pulled so much VC into Lystable/Kalo.

Albeit we’ve also learned that his earlier startup, which was focused on tools to help companies manage freelancers and gig workers, is no longer active. Kalo/Lystable has hit the deadpool.

We’re told the founders took the decision to pull the plug after being unable to convince investors to keep supporting the business — which had, presumably, been severely impacted by the pandemic as companies laid off freelancers.

Although, in parallel, VC investment has been flowing into startups building marketplaces to help companies work with external talent (as the remote work boom is clearly driving more flexible ways of working) so it’s not clear where exactly Kalo went wrong — perhaps its focus on management tools was simply being overtaken by more fully featured marketplaces which are baking in the kind of admin support its SaaS offered.

Lystable/Kalo had raised close to $30M over its seven year run, per Crunchbase, including from some of the same investors putting money into Polywork. Though most of the latter’s investors aren’t the same and look to be coming more from the social/entertainment side.

So what is Johnson’s new startup all about? It’s still focused on the world of work. It’s his “moonshot mission” — which, we’re told, has been fed by learnings gleaned from Lystable about creating a professional network.

But if you take a look at the site it’s a lot more Twitter in look and feel than LinkedIn. So the social element is really being put front and center here.

A Polywork profile (Image credits: Polywork)

In short, Polywork sums to a Twitter-style social feed where professionals can post updates about what they’re up to (in work and, if they like, in life too).

Users skills and interests (e.g. “UX design”, “founder”, “dinosaur enthusiast”); personality quirks (“introvert”); and achievements (“life partner”) — or indeed the opposite (“bad golfer”, “failure”) — can be displayed as custom badges at the top of their profile — again with the chance to blend personal and professional to offer a fuller portrait of who you are and what you offer.

In the feed itself, individual posts can be given related tags (e.g. “conducted user research”, which files under “UX Design”) — to illustrate relevant activity. (Clicking on a specific badge shows the sliced view of that user’s related tagged content.)

The result is an interface that feels gamified and informal — where you’re actively encouraged to inject your own personality — but which is simultaneously intended for showing off work activity and achievements.

On the professional networking side, the approach allows users to get a quick visual overview of an individual — perhaps fleshing out some of the dry details they already saw on their LinkedIn account — and quickly navigate to individual examples of specific activity. Recruiters or others looking for professional ice-breakers will probably relish the chance to find more up-to-date material to work with, ahead of making a cold pitch.

Polywork also lets users send collaboration requests to others on the network — aka, its version of LinkedIn’s in-mail. But (thankfully) it looks like users have controls to set whether or not they’re open to receiving such requests or not.

It’s certainly true that home and work have never been so blended as now, given the pandemic-fuelled remote work boom.

At the same time professionals may well — out of necessity — be more focused on the range of skills and interests they have or can acquire, rather than viewing any single job title as defining them, as was true for earlier generations of workers. As the saying goes, there’s no such thing as a ‘job for life’ anymore. Careers paths are complicated, multi-faceted — and, for some, may be more a tapestry, than a linear trajectory.

Polywork’s Millennial-friendly premise is thus to offer a place where people can present a more personal and well-rounded flavor of themselves as professionals and individuals — encompassing not just their skills and work achievements but their passions, quirks and obsessions — showing off a lot more than feels possible (or sensible) in the staid environs of LinkedIn.

That said, LinkedIn isn’t the only place for professionals to express themselves of course; People are already doing that all the time over on social media sites like Twitter (or indeed Instagram for more visually minded professions). Either social network is basically already an informal professional network in its own right — without the need for badges or labels (hashtags do a fairly decent job).

So while Polywork’s product design may look inviting, trying to reinvent the networking wheel is undoubtedly a massive challenge.

It’s not only fighting for attention with boring professional networks like LinkedIn (which everyone loves to hate), it’s treading directly into highly contested social media territory. Er, good luck with that! 

Convincing people to duplicate their social networking activity — or indeed ditch their existing hard-won social media networks — looks like a big ask. So the risk is irrelevance, despite a pretty interface. (Sure LinkedIn is boring — but, guys, the whole point is that it’s low maintenance… )

Polywork’s name and philosophy suggests it might be okay with being added to the existing mix of professional and social networks, i.e. rather than replacing either. But, well, a supplementary professional network sounds like a bit of a sideline.

Polywork launched in April but isn’t disclosing user numbers yet — and is currently operating a wait list for sign ups.

Commenting on the seed funding in a statement Caffeinated Capital’s Tonsing said: “There’s a new generation that wants to work and live on their own terms, not destined for a single track identity. The pandemic accelerated this trend and humans are reevaluating who they are and what’s most important to them in life. Polywork will usher in and facilitate this permanent shift in human behavior. We’re excited to partner with Peter again!”

#behance, #brianne-kimmel, #caffeinated-capital, #fundings-exits, #instagram, #joel-flory, #kalo, #kevin-lin, #linkedin, #lystable, #max-levchin, #professional-networking, #saas, #scott-belsky, #social, #social-media, #social-networks, #startups, #steve-chen, #twitter

Settle raises $15M from Kleiner Perkins to give e-commerce companies more working capital

Alek Koenig spent four years at Affirm, where he was head of credit.

There he saw firsthand just how powerful the alternative lending model could be. Koenig realized that it wasn’t just consumers who could benefit from the model, but businesses too.

So in November 2019, he founded Settle as a way to give e-commerce and consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies access to non-dilutive capital. (Not every company wants to raise venture money). By June 2020, the startup had launched its platform, which is designed to help these businesses manage their cash flow. Over time, he recruited a previous co-worker, Shane Morian, to serve as Settle’s CTO.

And today, the company is announcing that it has raised $15 million in a Series A funding round led by Kleiner Perkins. This follows a previously unannounced $6 million seed raise led by Founders Fund in November 2020. Other investors in the company include SciFi (Affirm founder Max Levchin’s VC firm), Caffeinated Capital, WorkLife Ventures, Background Capital and AngelList Venture CEO Avlok Kohli.

With the pandemic leading to a massive shift toward digital and online shopping, ecommerce and CPG businesses found themselves with the challenge of keeping up with demand while trying to manage their cash flow. The main problem was the lag between accounts receivables and accounts payables.

“These companies suffer from the problem where there are these huge cash flow gaps from buying inventory, waiting to receive it and then turning it into revenue,” Koenig explains. “It takes quite a bit of time for these customers to actually get revenue from all those inventory purchases they need to make. What we do is make it really easy for companies to pay their vendors with extended payment terms.”

Settle does this by automatically syncing to a business’ accounting software and combining that with working capital products it’s developed.

Put simply, Settle will pay a vendor, and then brands can pay Settle back when they turn that COGS (cost of goods sold) into revenue. The startup says it also saves brands money on expensive wire fees.

Image Credits: Settle

“Businesses really value getting cash sooner, so they can use it in their operations,” Koenig said. “We’ve worked to reimagine the CFO suite for brands, starting with integrated financing and bill pay solutions.”

The concept of non-dilutive capital is not a new one with other startups tackling the space in different ways. For example, Pipe aims to give SaaS companies a way to get their revenue upfront, by pairing them with investors on a marketplace that pays a discounted rate for the annual value of those contracts.

Settle is focused on the e-commerce vertical, and building a unique product for that category, Koenig says, rather than trying to build a product aimed for several different industries.

“We don’t want to be a mediocre product for everybody,” he told TechCrunch. “But rather a phenomenal product for this vertical.”

Since its launch last June, Settle has seen its business jump by 1000% although it’s important to note that’s from a small base. Settle is currently working with over 300 brands including baby stroller retailer Lalo, Spiceology and men’s skincare brand Disco. So far, all of its growth has been organic.

“Last year when the pandemic hit, offline retail shut down and ecommerce got a big boost. But that meant that a lot of these companies were running out of orders and were out of stock on many items, so they were just kind of leaving money on the table,” Koenig said. “Once they started using us, they were able to buy more inventory, so we actually help them make more profit, and not just create more sales.”

His reasoning for that last statement is that by giving these businesses the ability to purchase items in bulk, they could get cheaper price per unit costs as well as cheaper shipping costs.

The company is planning to use its new capital in part to grow its team of 20, as well as raise more debt so that it can continue lending money to businesses.

Kleiner Perkins’ Monica Desai Weiss said her firm believes that Koenig and CTO Morian’s expertise in underwriting, capital markets and e-commerce give the pair “a rare skill set that’s unique to their market.”

She’s also drawn to the company’s embedded approach.

“Whereas most lending businesses are fairly transactional and opportunistic, Settle becomes deeply embedded in the way their merchants forecast and grow,” she told TechCrunch. “That approach has demonstrated inherent virality and their timing is perfect — the past year has changed consumer behaviors permanently and also produced massive opportunities for global entrepreneurship via ecommerce. In that way, we see the umbrella of e-commerce expanding massively in the coming years, and we believe Settle will be key to enabling that shift.”

#avlok-kohli, #background-capital, #business, #caffeinated-capital, #ceo, #cfo, #corporate-finance, #cto, #e-commerce, #economy, #entrepreneurship, #finance, #fintech, #founders-fund, #funding, #fundings-exits, #head, #inventory, #kleiner-perkins, #online-lending, #payments, #private-equity, #recent-funding, #settle, #startup, #startup-company, #startups, #supply-chain-management, #venture-capital, #worklife-ventures

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Polytomic announces $2.4M seed to move business data where it’s needed

There is so much data sitting inside companies these days, but getting data to the people who need it most remains a daunting challenge. Polytomic, a graduate of the Y Combinator Winter 2020 cohort set out to solve that problem, and today the startup announced a $2.4 million seed.

Caffeinated Capital led the round with help from Bow Capital and a number of individual investors including the founders of PlanGrid, Tracy Young and Ralph Gootee, the company where Polytomic founders CEO Ghalib Suleiman and CTO Nathan Yergler both previously worked.

“We synch internal data to business systems. You can imagine your sales team living in Salesforce and would like to see who’s using your product from your customer data that lives in other internal databases. We have a no-code web app that moves internal data to the business systems of the office,” Suleiman told me.

Data lives in silos across every company, and Polytomic lets you build the connectors by dragging and dropping components in the Polytomic interface. This new data then shows up as additional fields in the target application. So you might have a usage percentage field added to Salesforce automatically if you were connecting to customer usage data.

The company actually sells the product to business operations teams, who would be charged with setting up a catalogue or menu of data sources that live in Polytomic. This is usually handled by someone like a business analyst who can configure the different sources. Once that’s done, anyone can build connectors to these data sources by selecting them from the menu and then choosing where to deliver the data.

The founders came up with the idea for the company because when they were at PlanGrid, they faced a problem getting data to the people who needed it in the company. The problem became more pronounced as the company grew and they had ever more data and more employees who needed access to it.

They left PlanGrid in 2018 and launched Polytomic a year later to begin attacking the problem. The two founders joined YC as a way to learn to refine the product, and were still working on it on Demo Day, delivering their presentation off the record because they weren’t quite done with it yet.

They released the first iteration of the product last September and report some progress getting customers and gaining revenue. Early customers include Brex, ShipBob, Sourcegraph and Vanta.

The company has no additional employees beyond the two founders as of yet, but with the seed funding in the bank, they plan to begin hiring a few people this year.

#caffeinated-capital, #cloud, #enterprise, #funding, #plangrid, #polytomic, #recent-funding, #startups, #tc, #y-combinator

Virta Health’s behavioral diabetes treatment service is now worth over $1 billion

A new $65 million investment led by the growth capital and public investment arm of Sequoia Capital will give Virta Health, a developer of a behavioral-focused diabetes treatment, a valuation of over $1 billion.

Virta’s approach, which uses a combination of approaches to change diet and exercise to reverse the presence of type 2 diabetes and other chronic metabolic conditions, has shown clinical success and attracted 100 health care payers to endorse the company’s treatments.

“We partnered with Virta for their ability to deliver unmatched health improvement and cost savings—two clear differentiators from other offerings on the market,” said William Ashmore, CEO of the State Employees’ Insurance Board of Alabama, in a statement. “Especially amid the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s vital that we provide our members the life-changing results Virta is known for delivering, through expert, virtual care delivered right to their home.”

The company said it would use the funding to expand sales and marketing efforts for its services as well as expand its research and development into other non-pharmaceutical therapies for metabolic conditions.

The financing came from Sequoia Capital Global Equities and Caffeinated Capital and brings the company’s total funding to over $230 million and gives it a $1.1 billion valuation, according to a statement.

Alongside Sequoia Capital Global Equities, Caffeinated Capital participated in the round, which brings total funding to more than $230 million and values Virta Health at over $1.1 billion.

Diabetes has long been an attractive condition for startups and has been the first target that companies focused on behavior changes to influence metabolic conditions aim to address. The reason why there are so many diabetes-focused businesses is because of the prevalence of the disease in the U.S. Almost half of adults in the U.S. suffer from obesity, pre-diabetes, or type 2 diabetes and the disease kills thirty people every hour. Diabetes also doubles the risk of death from COVID-19 infections.

Beyond the risks, the costs of treatment are skyrocketing. According to data from the American Diabetes Association released in March 2018, the total costs of treating diagnosed diabetes have risen to $327 billion in 2017 from $245 billion in 2012, when the cost was last examined.

“Given the scope of the metabolic crisis in the U.S. and globally, it cannot be understated how game-changing Virta’s results and care delivery are,” said Patrick Fu, managing partner at Sequoia Capital Global Equities, in a statement. “Virta’s technology-driven, non-pharmaceutical approach has fundamentally changed how diabetes is cared for, and our collective belief in what is possible for population health improvement. This is the future of chronic disease care.”

#alabama, #caffeinated-capital, #ceo, #chronic-disease, #diabetes, #disease, #health, #managing-partner, #medicine, #obesity, #sequoia-capital, #sequoia-capital-global-equities, #tc, #united-states

This serial founder is taking on Carta with cap table management software she says is better for founders

Yin Wu has cofounded several companies since graduating from Stanford in 2011, including a computer vision company called Double Labs that sold to Microsoft, where she stayed on for a couple of years as a software engineer. In fact, it was only after that sale she she says she “actually understood all of the nuances with a company’s cap table.”

Her newest company, Pulley, a 14-month-old, Mountain View, Ca.-based maker of cap table management software aims to solve that same problem and has so far raised $10 million toward that end led by the payments company Stripe, with participation from Caffeinated Capital, General Catalyst, 8VC, and numerous angel investors.

Wu is going up against some pretty powerful competition. Carta was reportedly raising $200 million in fresh funding at a $3 billion valuation as of the spring (a round the company never official confirmed or announced). Last year, it raised $300 million. Morgan Stanley has meanwhile been beefing up its stock plan administration business, acquiring Solium Capital early last year and more newly purchasing Barclay’s stock plan business.

Of course, startups often manage to find a way to take down incumbents and a distraction for Carta, at least, in the form of a very public gender discrimination lawsuit by a former VP of marketing, could be the kind of opening that Pulley needs. We emailed with Yu yesterday to ask if that might be the case. She didn’t answer directly, but she did mention “values,” as long as shared some more details about what she sees as different about the two products.

TC: Why start this company? Has Carta’s press of late created an opening for a new upstart in the space?

YW: I left Microsoft in 2018 and started Pulley a year later. We skipped the seed and raised the A because of overwhelming demand from investors. Many wanted a better product for their portfolio companies. Many founders are increasingly thinking about choosing with companies, like Pulley, that better align with their values.

TC: How many people are working for Pulley and are any folks you pulled out of Carta?

YW: We’re a team of seven and have four people on the team who are former Y Combinator founders. We attract founders to the team because they’ve experienced firsthand the difficulties of managing a cap table and want to build a better tool for other founders. We have not pulled anyone out of Carta yet.

TC: Carta has raised a lot of funding and it has long tentacles. What can Pulley offer startups that Carta cannot?

YW: We offer startups a better product compared to our competitors. We make every interaction on Pulley easier and faster. 409A valuations take five days instead of weeks, and onboarding is the same day rather than months. By analogy, this is similar to the difference between Stripe and Braintree when Stripe initially launched. There were many different payment processes when Stripe launched. They were able to capture a large portion of the market by building a better product that resonated with developers.

One of the features that stands out on Pulley is our modeling feature [which helps founders model dilution in future rounds and helps employees understand the value of their equity as the company grows]. Founders switch from our competitors to Pulley to use our modeling tool [and it works] with pre-money SAFEs, post-money SAFEs, and factors in pro-ratas and discounts. To my knowledge, Pulley’s modeling tool is the most comprehensive product on the market.

TC: How does your pricing compare with Carta’s?

YW:  Pulley is free for early-stage companies regardless of how much they raise. We’re price competitive with Carta on our paid plans. Part of the reason we started Pulley is because we had frustrations with other cap table management tools. When using other services, we had to regularly ping our accountants or lawyers to make edits, run reports, or get data. Each time we involved the lawyers, it was an expensive legal fee. So there is easily a $2,000 hidden fee when using tools that aren’t self-serve for setting up and updating your cap table.

TC: Is there a business-to-business opportunity here, where maybe attorneys or accountants or wealth managers private label this service? Or are these industry professionals viewed as competitors?

YW: We think there are opportunities to white label the service for accountants and law firms. However, this is currently not our focus.

TC: How adaptable is the software? Can it deal with a complicated scenario, a corner case?

YW: We started Pulley one year ago and we’re launching today because we have invested in building an architecture that can support complex cap table scenarios as companies scale. There are two things that you have to get right with cap table systems, First, never lose the data and second, always make sure the numbers are correct. We haven’t lost data for any customer and we have a comprehensive system of tests that verifies the cap table numbers on Pulley remain accurate.

TC: At what stage does it make sense for a startup to work with Pulley, and do you have the tools to hang onto them and keep them from switching over to a competitor later?

YW: We work with companies past the Series A, like Fast and Clubhouse. Companies are not looking to change their cap table provider if Pulley has the tool to grow with them. We already have the features of our competitors, including electronic share issuance, ACH transfers for options, modeling tools for multiple rounds, and more. We think we can win more startups because Pulley is also easier to use and faster to onboard.

TC: Regarding your paid plans, how much is Pulley charging and for what? How many tiers of service are there?

YW; Pulley is free for early-stage startups with less than 25 stakeholders. We charge $10 per stakeholder per month when companies scale beyond that. A stakeholder is any employee or investor on the cap table. Most companies upgrade to our premium plan after a seed round when they need a 409A valuation.

Cap table management is an area where companies don’t want a free product. Pulley takes our customers data privacy and security very seriously. We charge a flat fee for companies so they rest assured that their data will never be sold or used without their permission.

TC: What’s Pulley’s relationship to venture firms?

YW: We’re currently focused on founders rather than investors. We work with accelerators like Y Combinator to help their portfolio companies manage their cap table, but don’t have a formal relationship with any VC firms.

#8vc, #caffeinated-capital, #carta, #funding, #fundings-exits, #general-catalyst, #morgan-stanley, #recent-funding, #startups, #stripe, #tc, #venture-capital, #yin-wu

Future raises $24M Series B for its $150/mo workout coaching app amid at-home fitness boom

With thousands of gyms across the country forced to close down during the pandemic, there’s been an unprecedented opportunity for fitness companies pitching an at-home solution. This moment has propelled public companies like Peloton to stratospheric highs — its market cap is about to eclipse $40 billion — but it has also pushed venture capitalists towards plenty of deals in the fitness space.

Future launched with a bold sell for consumers, a $150 per month subscription app that virtually teamed users up with a real life fitness coach. Leaning on the health-tracking capabilities of the Apple Watch, the startup has been aiming to build a platform that teams motivation, accountability and fitness insights.

via Future

Close to 18 months after announcing a Series A led by Kleiner Perkins, the startup tells TechCrunch they’ve closed a $24 million Series B led by Trustbridge Partners with Caffeinated Capital and Kleiner Perkins participating again.

Amid the at-home fitness boom, Future has seen major growth of its own. CEO Rishi Mandal says that the company’s growth rate has tripled in recent months as thousands of gyms closed their doors. He says shelter-in-place has merely accelerated an ongoing shift towards tech-forward fitness services that can help busy users find time during their day to exercise.

The operating thesis of the company is that modern life is inherently crazy not just during pandemic times but in normal times,” Mandal says. “The idea of having a set routine is a complete fallacy.”

At $149 per month, Future isn’t aiming for mass market appeal the same way other digital fitness programs being produced by Peloton, Fitbit or Apple are. It seems to be more squarely aimed at users that could be a candidate for getting a personal trainer but might bot be ready to make the investment or don’t need the guided instruction so much as they need general guidelines and some accountability.

As the startup closes on more funding, the team has big goals to expand its network. Mandal aims to have 1,000 coaches on the Future platform by this time next year. Reaching new scales could give the service a chance to tackle new challenges. Mandal sees opportunities for Future to expand its coaching services beyond fitness as it grows, “there’s a real opportunity to help people with all aspects of their health.”

#apple, #apple-inc, #caffeinated-capital, #ceo, #companies, #fitbit, #fitness, #industries, #kleiner-perkins, #peloton, #rishi-mandal, #tc, #trustbridge-partners

Airtable raises $185M and launches new low-code and automation features

The spreadsheet-centric database and no-code platform Airtable today announced that it has raised a $185 million Series D funding round, putting the company at a $2.585 billion post-money valuation.

Thrive Capital led the round, with additional funding by existing investors Benchmark, Coatue, Caffeinated Capital and CRV, as well as new investor D1 Capital. With this, Airtable, which says it now has 200,000 companies using its service, has raised a total of about $350 million. Current customers include Netflix, HBO, Condé Nast Entertainment, TIME, City of Los Angeles, MIT Media Lab and IBM.

In addition, the company is also launching one of its largest feature updates today, which start to execute on the company’s overall platform vision that goes beyond its current no-code capabilities and bring more low-code features, as well new automation (think IFTTT for Airtable) and data management tools to the service.

As Airtable founder and CEO Howie Liu told me, a number of investors approached the company since it raised its Series C round in 2018, in part because the market clearly realized the potential size of the low-code/no-code market.

“I think there’s this increasing market recognition that the space is real, and the spaces is very large […],” he told me. “While we didn’t strictly need the funding, it allowed us to continue to invest aggressively into furthering our platform, vision and really executing aggressively, […] without having to worry about, ‘well, what happens with COVID?’ There’s a lot of uncertainty, right? And I think even today there’s still a lot of uncertainty about what the next year will bear.”

The company started opening the round a couple of months after the first shelter in place orders in California and for most investors, this was a purely digital process.

Liu has always been open about the fact that he wants to build this company for the long haul — especially after he sold his last company to Salesforce at an early stage. As a founder, that likely means he is trying to keep his stake in the company high, even as Airtable continues to raise more money. He argues, though, that more so than the legal and structural controls, being aligned with his investors is what matters most.

“I think actually, what’s more important in my view, is having philosophical alignment and expectations alignment with the investors,” he said. “Because I don’t want to be in a position where it comes down to a legal right or structural debate over the future of the company. That almost feels to me like the last resort where it’s already gotten to a place where things are ugly. I’d much rather be in a position where all the investors around the table, whether they have legal say or not, are fully aligned with what we’re trying to do with this business.”

Just as important as the new funding though, are the various new features the company is launching today. Maybe the most important of these is Airtable Apps. Previously, Airtable users could use pre-built blocks to add maps, Gantt charts and other features to their tables. But while being a no-code service surely helped Airtable’s users get started, there’s always an inevitable point where the pre-built functionality just isn’t enough and users need more custom tools (Liu calls this an escape valve). So with Airtable Apps, more sophisticated users can now build additional functionality in JavaScript — and if they choose to do so, they can then share those new capabilities with other users in the new Airtable Marketplace.

Image Credits: Airtable

“You may or may not need an escape valve and obviously, we’ve gotten this far with 200,000 organizations using Airtable without that kind of escape valve,” he noted. “But I think that we open up a lot more use cases when you can say, well, Airtable by itself is 99% there, but that last 1% is make or break. You need it. And then, just having that outlet and making it much more leveraged to build that use case on Airtable with 1% effort, rather than building the full-stack application as a custom built application is all the difference.”

Image Credits: Airtable

The other major new feature is Airtable Automations. With this, you can build custom, automated workflows to generate reports or perform other repetitive steps. You can do a lot of that through the service’s graphical interface or use JavaScript to build you own custom flows and integrations, too. For now, this feature is available for free, but the team is looking into how to charge for it over time, given that these automated flows may become costly if you run them often.

The last new feature is Airtable Sync. With this, teams can more easily share data across an organization, while also providing controls for who can see what. “The goal is to enable people who built software with Airtable to make that software interconnected and to be able to share a source of truth table between different instances of our tables,” Liu explained.

Image Credits: Airtable

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Capchase raises $4.6M to deliver fast cash to SaaS companies

As a business model, SaaS has expanded to epic size. A number of major SaaS companies filed to go public last week, and there are now thousands of SaaS startups growing all around the world. That scale makes it easier for banks and financial institutions to offer tailored solutions to this market around everything from equity to debt.

We’ve talked a bit about SaaS securitization the last few weeks, a crop of new financial products that use the metrics of a SaaS company to underwrite its debt (e.g. better churn = more debt available and at better terms) as opposed to traditional benchmarks like total revenue and company age. We also did a deep dive with Kentik CEO Avi Freedman on how he approached his recent venture debt fundraise and the terms he got across his five term sheets (Extra Crunch membership required).

Every SaaS company these days is considering its financial options and the trade-offs between equity and debt. But sometimes, they just need cash, and cash as quickly as possible. Startups sign contracts with customers that might be paid over a year or more, but they want to access that cash now, and at the best terms possible. The product that solves this problem is known as an accounts receivable line, and you can go to many banks to get them, with all the drudgery of that process.

Or, four founders hope, you’ll head to Capchase .

Capchase is an online platform for rapidly getting cash from your accounts receivable. Startups upload key details of their customer contracts and financial history to Capchase, and the company uses its underwriting algorithms to quickly assess the quality of those contracts and extend a debt line. The startup calls itself part of the “non-dilutive revolution,” and it’s headquartered in Boston.

“We’re targeting B2B SaaS or ‘X-as-a-service’ companies with recurring revenue, and we’re targeting companies around the seed to Series B/C stage having more than $1 million of ARR and at least eight months of revenue generating history,” Miguel Fernández, CEO and co-founder, said.

He linked up with three other founders earlier this year to launch Capchase: Luis Basagoiti, Ignacio Moreno, and Przemek Gotfryd. Fernández and Gotfryd met while at Harvard Business School where Fernández was thinking about “working capital and cash conversion cycle optimization” after his previous experiences at SaaS companies. Gotfryd had previously worked at growth investor TCV in London, where he acutely saw the challenges of raising non-dilutive cash.

Capchase’s team (Photo via Capchase)

Despite its early operational history, the company has already raised its own cash quickly. It closed on $4.6 million in VC seed funding led by Caffeinated Capital, Bling Capital and SciFi VC, along with BoxGroup, ONEVC and a number of angels.

To get cash early today, startups often resort to negotiating terms with their customers, offering discounts — sometimes massive discounts — for them to pay an entire contract’s value upfront. Fernández saw an opportunity to arbitrage the difference between interest rates and those discounts with Capchase.

From a user’s perspective, after syncing their startup’s financial data to Capchase, they will see a projection of what their runway extension will look like after selecting a debt line, and then Capchase will extend its terms after going through an underwriting process (“which takes a couple hours now, and is very rapidly decreasing to take minutes” Fernández said). In terms of traction, he said that “we’re working with around 3-4 customers right now.”

Startups are charged a discount on their total contract value, which is where Capchase makes its money. For instance, if $100,000 is going to be paid by a customer over the next 12 months, Capchase may offer $95,000 to the startup upfront, and keep the remaining $5,000 as those payments roll in. That discount fluctuates based on the startup in question and the payment risk of the underlying customer contracts.

Fernández said that venture debt is often cheaper on a pure interest rate basis, but that once additional elements of those products are added in, such as warrants, the simplicity of Capchase’s product will prove competitive for founders.

Simpler, easier and fully digital financial products are always welcome, and Capchase hopes that it will nestle itself in a suite of new financial products for SaaS founders looking to avoid dilution and extend their cash longer.

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