Privacy-oriented search app Xayn raises $12M from Japanese backers to go into devices

Back in December 2020 we covered the launch of a new kind of smartphone app-based search engine, Xayn.

“A search engine?!” I hear you say? Well, yes, because despite the convenience of modern search engines’ ability to tailor their search results to the individual, this user-tracking comes at the expense of privacy. This mass surveillance might be what improves Google’s search engine and Facebook’s ad targeting, to name just two examples, but it’s not very good for our privacy.

Internet users are admittedly able to switch to the US-based DuckDuckGo, or perhaps France’s Qwant, but what they gain in privacy, they often lose in user experience and the relevance of search results, through this lack of tailoring.

What Berlin-based Xayn has come up with is personalized, but a privacy-safe web search on smartphones, which replaces the cloud-based AI employed by Google et al with the innate AI in-built into modern smartphones. The result is that no data about you is uploaded to Xayn’s servers.

And this approach is not just for ‘privacy freaks’. Businesses that need search but don’t need Google’s dominant market position are increasingly attracted by this model.

And the evidence comes today with the new that Xayn has now raised almost $12 million in Series A funding led by the Japanese investors Global Brain and KDDI (a Japanese telecommunications operator), with participation from previous backers, including the Earlybird VC in Berlin. Xayn’s total financing now comes to more than $23 million to date.

It would appear that Xayn’s fusion of a search engine, a discovery feed, and a mobile browser has appealed to these Asian market players, particularly because Xayn can be built into OEM devices.

The result of the investment is that Xayn will now also focus on the Asian market, starting with Japan, as well as Europe.

Leif-Nissen Lundbæk, Co-Founder and CEO of Xayn said: “We proved with Xayn that you can have it all: great results through personalization, privacy by design through advanced technology, and a convenient user experience through clean design.”

He added: “In an industry in which selling data and delivering ads en masse are the norm, we choose to lead with privacy instead and put user satisfaction front and center.”

The funding comes as legislation such as the EU’s GDPR or California’s CCPA have both raised public awareness about personal data online.

Since its launch, Xayn says its app has been downloaded around 215,000 times worldwide, and a web version of its app is expected soon.

Over a call, Lundbæk expanded on the KDDI aspect of the fund-raising: “The partnership with KDDI means we will give users access to Xayn for free, while the corporate – such as KDDI – is the actual customer but gives our search engine away for free.”

The core features of Xayn include personalized search results; a personalized feed of the entire Internet which learns from their Tinder-like swipes, without collecting or sharing personal data;
an ad-free experience.  

Naoki Kamimeada, Partner at Global Brain Corporation said: “The market for private online search is growing, but Xayn is head and shoulders above everyone else because of the way they’re re-thinking how finding information online should be.”

Kazuhiko Chuman, Head of KDDI Open Innovation Fund, said: “This European discovery engine uniquely combines efficient AI with a privacy-protecting focus and a smooth user experience. At KDDI, we’re constantly on the lookout for companies that can shape the future with their expertise and technology. That’s why it was a perfect match for us.”

In addition to the three co-founders Leif-Nissen Lundbæk (Chief Executive Officer), Professor Michael Huth (Chief Research Officer), and Felix Hahmann (Chief Operations Officer), Dr Daniel von Heyl will come on board as Chief Financial Officer, Frank Pepermans will take on the role of Chief Technology Officer, and Michael Briggs will join as Chief Growth Officer.

#artificial-intelligence, #berlin, #california, #chief-executive-officer, #chief-financial-officer, #chief-technology-officer, #computing, #duckduckgo, #europe, #european-union, #facebook, #france, #global-brain-corporation, #google, #head, #japan, #kddi, #online-search, #partner, #privacy, #qwant, #search-engine, #search-engines, #search-results, #smartphone, #smartphones, #tc, #terms-of-service, #websites, #world-wide-web, #xayn

Microsoft secures court order to take down malicious ‘homoglyph’ domains

Microsoft has secured a court order to take down several malicious “homoglyph” domains that were used to impersonate Office 365 customers and commit fraud. 

The technology giant filed a case earlier this month after it uncovered cybercriminal activity targeting its customers. After receiving a customer complaint about a business email compromise attack, a Microsoft investigation found that the unnamed criminal group responsible created 17 additional malicious domains, which were then used together with stolen customer credentials to unlawfully access and monitor Office 365 accounts in an attempt to defraud the customers’ contacts.

Microsoft confirmed in a blog post published Monday that a judge in the Eastern District of Virginia issued a court order requiring domain registrars to disable service on the malicious domains, which include “thegiaint.com” and “nationalsafetyconsuiting.com,” which were used to impersonate its customers.

These so-called “homoglyph” domains exploit the similarities of some letters to create deceptive domains that appear legitimate. For example, using an uppercase “I” and a lowercase “l” (e.g. MICROSOFT.COM vs. MlCROSOFT.COM). 

“These were together with stolen customer credentials to unlawfully access customer accounts, monitor customer email traffic, gather intelligence on pending financial transactions, and criminally impersonate [Office 365] customers, all in an attempt to deceive their victims into transferring funds to the cybercriminals,” Microsoft said in its complaint, adding that the cybercriminals “have caused and continue to cause irreparable injury to Microsoft, its customers, and the public.”

In one instance, for example, the criminals identified a legitimate email from the compromised account of an Office 365 customer referencing payment issues. Capitalizing on this information, the criminals sent an email from a homoglyph domain using the same sender name and nearly identical domain. They also used the same subject line and format of an email from the earlier, legitimate conversation, but falsely claimed a hold had been placed on the account by the chief financial officer and that payment needed to be received as soon as possible.

The cybercriminals then attempted to solicit a fraudulent wire transfer by sending new wire transfer information appearing to be legitimate, including using the logo of the company they were impersonating.

Microsoft notes that while these criminals will typically move their malicious infrastructure outside the Microsoft ecosystem once detected, the order — granted on Friday — eliminates defendants’ ability to move these domains to other providers. 

“The action will further allow us to diminish the criminals’ capabilities and, more importantly, obtain additional evidence to undertake further disruptions inside and outside court,” said Amy Hogan-Burney, general manager of Microsoft’s Digital Crime Unit.

The tech giant hasn’t yet disclosed the identities of the cybercriminals responsible for the BEC attacks, but said that “based on the techniques deployed, the criminals appear to be financially motivated, and we believe they are part of an extensive network that appears to be based out of West Africa.” The targets of the operation were predominantly small businesses operating in North America across several industries, according to Microsoft.

This isn’t the first time Microsoft secured a court order to step up its fight against cybercriminals and similar attacks, which research shows affected 71% of businesses in 2021. Last year, a court granted the tech giant’s request to seize and take control of malicious web domains used in a large-scale cyberattack targeting victims in 62 countries with spoofed COVID-19 emails. 

#chief-financial-officer, #judge, #north-america, #security, #virginia, #west-africa

YC-backed Abacum nets $7M to empower finance teams with real-time data and collaboration tools

SaaS to support mid-sized companies’ financial planning with real-time data and native collaboration isn’t the sexiest startup pitch under the sun but it’s one that’s swiftly netted Abacum a bunch of notable backers — including Creandum, which is leading a $7M seed round that’s being announced today.

The rosters of existing investors also participating in the round are Y Combinator (Abacum was part of its latest batch), PROFounders, and K-Fund, along with angel investors such as Justin Kan (Atrium and Twitch co-founder and CEO); Maximilian Tayenthal (N26 co-founder and co-CEO & CFO); Thomas Lehrman (GLG co-founder and ex-CEO), Avi Meir (TravelPerk co-founder and CEO); plus Jenny Bloom (Zapier CFO and Mailchimp ex-CFO) and Mike Asher (CFO at Neo4j).

Abacum was founded last year in the middle of the COVID-19 global lockdown, after what it says was around a year of “deep research” to feed its product development. They launched their SaaS in June 2020. And while they’re not disclosing customer numbers at this early stage their first clients include a range of scale-up companies in the US and in Europe, including the likes of Typeform, Cabify, Ebury, Garten, Jeff and Talkable.

The startup’s Spanish co-founders — Julio Martinez, a fintech entrepreneur with an investment banking background, and Jorge Lluch, a European Space Agency engineer turned CFO/COO — spotted an opportunity to build dedicated software for mid-market finance teams to provide real-time access to data via native collaborative that plugs into key software platforms used by other business units, having felt the pain of a lack of access to real-time data and barriers to collaboration in their own professional experience with the finance function.

The idea with Abacum is to replace the need for finance teams to manually update their models. The SaaS automatically does the updates, fed with real-time data through direct integrations with software used by teams dealing with functions like HR, CRM, ERP (and so on) — empowering the finance function to collaborate more easily across the business and bolster its strategic decision-making capabilities.

The startup’s sales pitch to the target mid-sized companies is multi-layered. Abacum says its SaaS both saves finance teams time and enables faster-decision making.

“Prior to using Abacum, finance analysts in our clients were easily spending 50% to 70% of their time in manual tasks like downloading files from different systems, copy&pasting them in massive spreadsheets (that crash frequently), formatting the data by manually adding and removing rows, columns and formats, connecting the data in a model prone to manual error (e.g. vlookups & sumifs),” Martinez tells TechCrunch. “With Abacum, this entire manual part is automatically done and the finance professionals can spend their time analyzing and adding real value to the business.”

“We enable faster decisions that were not possible prior to Abacum. For instance, some of our clients were updating their cohort analysis on a quarterly basis only because the associated manual tasks were too painful. With us, they’re able to update the analysis weekly and take better decisions as a result.”

The SaaS also supports decisions in another way — by applying machine learning to business data to generate estimates on future performance, providing an AI-based reference point based on historical data that finance teams can use to inform their assumptions.

And it aids cross-business collaboration — allowing users to share and gather information “easily through workflows and permissions”. “We see that this results in faster and richer decisions as more stakeholders are brought into the process,” he adds.

Martinez says Abacum chose to focus on mid-market finance teams because they face “more challenges and inefficiencies” vs the smaller (and larger) ends of the market. “In that segment, the finance function is underinvested — they face the acute complexities of scaling companies that become very pressing but at the same time they are still considered a support function, a back-office,” he argues.

“Abacum makes finance a strategic function — we deliver native collaboration to finance teams so that they become the trusted business partner they want to be. We also see that the pandemic has accelerated the need for finance teams to collaborate effectively and work remotely,” he adds.

He also describes the mid market segment as “fairly unpenetrated” — claiming many companies do not yet having a solution in place.

While competitors he points to when asked about other players in the space are long in the tooth in digital terms: Adaptive Insights (2003); Host Analytics (2001); and Anaplan (2008).

Commenting on the seed round in a statement, Peter Specht, principal at Creandum, added: “The financial planning processes in many companies are ripe for disruption and demand more automation. Abacum’s slick solution empowers finance teams to be more collaborative, efficient and better informed with access to real-time data. We were impressed by their user-friendly product, the initial hiring of top talent, and crucially the strong founders and their extensive operational experience — including as CFOs and entrepreneurs who have experienced the problem first-hand. We are delighted to be part of Abacum’s journey to empower global SMEs to bring their financial operations to new levels.”

Abacum’s seed financing will be ploughed into product development and growth, per Martinez, who says it’s focused on wooing finance teams in the US and Europe for now.

#abacum, #adaptive-insights, #anaplan, #artificial-intelligence, #avi-meir, #business-models, #cfo, #chief-financial-officer, #creandum, #crm, #europe, #finance, #fundings-exits, #glg, #justin-kan, #machine-learning, #mailchimp, #n26, #neo4j, #profounders, #real-time-data, #saas, #software-as-a-service, #tc, #travelperk, #twitch, #y-combinator, #zapier

Mercado Libre taps Pachama to monitor and manage its $8 million investment in Latin American rainforest restoration

Mercado Libre, one of the largest e-commerce and financial services company from Latin America by market cap, has selected the startup and Y Combinator alumni Pachama as its strategic partner in developing projects to restore ecosystems in Latin America.

The selection of Pachama is part of a program initiated by Mercado Libre, Latin America’s answer to Amazon, which is called Regenera America. The $8 million that Mercado Libre is investing will be in two reforestation projects: the “Mantiqueira Conservation Project”, organized under the auspices of The Nature Conservancy and the “Corridors of Live Project”, designed and implemented by the Instituto de Pesquisas Ecologicas.

Both projects will focus on the reforestation of over three thosuand hectares, through natural regeneration and planting over 1 million trees, restoring biodiversity corridors and protecting hydrological basins in the Atlantic Forest region of Brazil, the two companies said in a statement.

Pachama will provide satellite and machine learning technologies to verify and monitor the carbon sequestration produced by the sweeping reforestation efforts in a deal which leapfrogs Mercado Libre ahead of Microsoft as the young startup’s largest customer.

Software tools provided by Pachama will also increase the efficiency and transparency of the actual reforestation efforts on the ground, the companies said in a joint statement.

The deal between the two companies, and Mercado Libre’s big buy was announced earlier today at a press conference in Argentina and the agreement marks the first time Mercado Libre has tapped money from a recently issued $400 million Sustainability Bond that was designed to finance projects of what the e-commerce giant called “triple impact” in the Latin American region. The bond was issued by JP Morgan and BNP Paribas.

“We’re taking our first steps. We have always tried to do things the hard way and go to the core of problems. We have had a very interesting debate internally about when is the right time to start buying carbon offsets and carbon credits but we also realize that the … getting up and running of projects that generate carbon credits in Latin America was potentially even more of a challenging situation and more of a longterm solution,” said Mercado Libre chief financial officer Pedro Arnt.

“This is a building block of a longer term strategy thinking through not just what we can do for the next two or three years,” Arnt said. 

The Regenera America project has four pieces, Arnt said: measuring and reporting emissions internally for the company; buying clean energy for the company’s operations; providing electric vehicles for its own fleet and assisting its last mile and logistics partners in electrifying their own transportation; and the development of reforestation efforts across Latin America.

“This is setting up an example for more traditional industries across Latin America,” said Diego Saez-Gil, the co-founder and chief executive of Pachama. MercadoLibre is the largest company by market cap in Latin America and serves as a standard bearer for the forward thinking businesses in the region, he said. “Latin America is one of the biggest holders of biodiversity and carbon stocks in the world, and should be playing a more active role in climate mitigation.”

It’s a big step for Pachama as well. The deal marks the first time the young company has involved itself in project origination and provide a new revenue stream to compliment its existing lines of business.

“We are incredibly excited to start helping new reforestation projects get off the ground that have the capabilities to plant millions of trees and remove millions tons of CO2 from the atmosphere. If we are to solve climate change we need more projects like these to start as soon as possible,” said Saez-Gil in a statement. “We are confident that technologies such as AI and satellite imagery are key to scaling these efforts with high integrity, efficiency and transparency. Partnering with world-class organizations such as Mercado Libre, The Nature Conservancy and IPE for our first projects represents an incredible opportunity for us.” 

#argentina, #artificial-intelligence, #biology, #bnp-paribas, #brazil, #chief-financial-officer, #clean-energy, #diego-saez-gil, #e-commerce, #ebay, #electric-vehicles, #jp-morgan, #latin-america, #mercado-libre, #mercadolibre, #microsoft, #nature-conservancy, #pachama, #partner, #paypal, #satellite-imagery, #tc, #y-combinator

Instacart raises $265M at a $39B valuation

On-demand grocery delivery platform Instacart has raises a $265 million funding ground from existing investors, including Andreessen Horowitz, Sequoia Capital, D1 Capital Partners and others. The new funding, which, like its past few rounds, isn’t assigned a Series alphabetical designation, pushes the company’s valuation to $39 billion – more than double its $17.7 billion valuation when it raised is last financing, a $200 million venture round in October 2020.

What’s behind the massive increase in the value investors are willing to ascribe to the business? Put simply, the pandemic. Last year, Instacart announced three separate raises, including a $225 round in June, followed by a $100 million round in July. The rapid sequence of venture capital injections were likely designed to fuel growth as demand for grocery delivery services surged while people attempted to quarantine or generally spend less time frequenting high-traffic social environments like grocery stores.

In a blog post announcing the news, Instacart doesn’t put specifics on the growth rates of usage over the course of 2020, but it does express its intent to grow headcount by 50% in 2021, and continue to scale and invest in its advertising, marketing and enterprise efforts specifically in a quote.

On the product side, Instacart broadened its offerings from groceries to also include same-day delivery of a wide range of products, including prescription medicine, electronics, home decor, sport and exercise equipment and more. It’s capitalizing on the phenomenon of increased consumer spending during the pandemic, which is a reverse from what many anticipated given the impact the ongoing crisis has had on employment.

Instacart Chief Financial Officer Nick Giovanni said in a quote that the company expects this to be “a new normal” for shopping habits, and the size and pace of the company’s recent funding, as well as its ballooning valuation, seem to suggest its investors also don’t think this is a trend that will revert post-pandemic.

#andreessen-horowitz, #chief-financial-officer, #d1-capital-partners, #electronics, #finance, #funding, #fundraising, #instacart, #investment, #money, #private-equity, #recent-funding, #sequoia-capital, #startups, #tc, #valuation, #venture-capital

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

As it hits $100 million run rate, The Pill Club adds former Uber exec Liz Meyerdirk as CEO

Liz Meyerdirk made a name for herself at Uber as the Senior Director & Global Head of Business Development for the company’s Uber Eats business and she’s now turning her attention to women’s health as the new chief executive of The Pill Club.

The move comes at a perilous time for the remote delivery of women’s healthcare as the Supreme Court has taken steps to limit the provision of sexual healthcare to women in recent months.

“Women’s health care has never been more tested than right now,” Meyerdirk noted in a blog post announcing her new role. “COVID-19 has upended access to care; dozens of states have—and continue—to try and limit women’s choice; and last year, the Supreme Court voted to uphold the rollback of the ACA contraceptive mandate decision, a stunning move that could end up impacting as many as 126,000 women who previously received covered contraception through employer-based health insurance.”

A seasoned corporate executive, Meyerdirk is hoping to navigate The Pill Club through these treacherous times. “These events have shown that reliable, safe, and affordable access to women’s health and birth control is
just one more vulnerability in our health care system,” Meyerdirk wrote.

Liz Meyerdirk, chief executive of The Pill Club: Image Credit: The Pill Club

As it faces an uncertain legal environment on some fronts, the company couldn’t be in a better position financially.

The Pill Club, which is profitable and now has a $100 million run rate, is now ready for its closeup with Meyerdirk at the helm.

The company has managed to make its mark in the crowded world of online prescriptions and refill fulfillment by focusing specifically on women’s health and ensuring that those services are available to as many potential patients as possible.

“We’re now serving hundreds of thousands of women nationwide with 20% on Medicaid,” says Meyerdirk. “We prescribe in 43 states and the District of Columbia.”

For Meyerdirk, the background she had in logistics and fulfillment from her time at Uber Eats made the transition to the pill prescription and delivery service natural.

“There is a heavy logistics element to it,” said Meyerdirk.

As Meyerdirk takes the reins of the company, she said there’s a few areas that The Pill Club will expand into beyond its focus on birth control and contraception. “There are areas that our customers are asking for,” Meyerdirk said.

These areas include, initially, dermatology. Last year the company launched a delivery service for contraceptives and women’s hygiene products like pads and tampons.

As it continues to expand its product suite, it’s also growing its executive staff. The company not only added Meyerdirk, but also David Hsu as chief financial officer and Jeremy Downs as senior vice president of growth. Hsu joins the company from Honey, where led the $4 billion acquisition negotiations with PayPal, and Downs comes from Uber Eats, where he spent five years leading growth.

“We need sustained, long-term access to women’s health care, not just a bridge while the pandemic persists; and we need coverage for essential health services like birth control and prenatal care, regardless of whether or not you’re insured,” Meyerdirk wrote. “Reproductive care has and continues to be an essential part of our business, but there are countless opportunities to serve women in all of their life stages from puberty to menopause.”

#articles, #birth-control, #chief-financial-officer, #contraception, #health, #health-care, #health-services, #healthcare, #paypal, #reproductive-health, #supreme-court, #tc, #uber, #uber-eats, #womens-health

Shopify stock is up in pre-market trading as earnings blow past estimates

Shopify stock jumped nearly 3% in pre-market trading today after announcing earnings that handily beat the estimates set by Wall Street.

The Ottawa-based provider of e-commerce services for retailers reported earnings of $133.2 million, or $1.13 per-share, for the third quarter after posting a loss of $33.6 million, or 29 cents per-share, in the same period last year. Analysts tracking the company had expected earnings per-share of 52 cents.

Pretty much everything about the company’s business looked good, partly driven by plummeting brick-and-mortar retail sales as health regulations to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus like occupancy constraints have slowed down foot traffic.

Shopify’s $767.4 million in revenue for the quarter was up 96% from a year ago and handily beat the expectations of analysts who were predicting for the company to bring in roughly $658 million. Operating income was also up from the year-ago period with Shopify calling about $50 million, or 7% of revenue, compared to a nearly $36 million loss for the year ago period. Adjusted operating income was nearly $131 million.

“The accelerated shift to digital commerce triggered by COVID-19 is continuing, as more consumers shop online and entrepreneurs step up to meet demand,” said Harley Finkelstein, Shopify’s President, in a statement. “Entrepreneurs will be the force in rebuilding economies all over the world, which makes it even more important for Shopify to innovate and build the critical tools that merchants need to succeed in a low-touch retail environment.”

“Shopify’s tremendous third-quarter results reflect the resilience and entrepreneurial spirit of our merchants,” said Amy Shapero, Shopify’s CFO . “More entrepreneurs are signing on to Shopify so they can quickly and easily put their ideas into action. We continue to evolve our global commerce operating system to make it easier for merchants to get online and start selling, get discovered, and get their goods to buyers, while providing a delightful shopping experience.”

Shopify is interesting not only for its own revenue, but what its revenues say about the health of direct-to-consumer retail businesses — some of which have raised significant investment from venture capitalists.

Looking at the company’s merchant solutions revenue, which grew by 132% to $522.1 million — the state of these direct-to-consumer companies’ bottom line must be pretty healthy. Gross merchandise volume, the figure from which Shopify derives its merchant solutions gains, was $30 billion. That figure is an increase of $16.1 billion over the year-ago period.

Shopify is sitting on a pretty hefty financial cushion with $6.12 billion in cash and equivalents, up from $2.46 billion at the start of the year.

Outside its financials, Shopify is making moves to expand its footprint in social commerce, through a recent partnership with TikTok, announced yesterday. The deal should enable more Shopify sellers to reach TikTok’s audience by marketing directly on the platform using a toolkit integrated with Shopify’s dashboard, the two companies said.

“More entrepreneurs are signing on to Shopify so they can quickly and easily put their ideas into action,” said Amy Shapero, Shopify’s chief financial officer. “We continue to evolve our global commerce operating system to make it easier for merchants to get online and start selling, get discovered, and get their goods to buyers, while providing a delightful shopping experience.”

#analyst, #business, #cfo, #chief-financial-officer, #e-commerce, #online-shopping, #operating-system, #president, #publishing, #shopify, #tc, #venture-capital

Combining machine learning tools for medical imaging with genetic sequencing nets Sophia Genetics $110M

SOPHiA GENETICS, the shoutily and poorly capitalized named startup that’s combining machine learning tools for medical imaging and genetic sequencing to come up with a more holistic view of diseases for better patient care, has raised $110 million in new funding.

The Series F round for the company was led by aMoon an Israeli healthcare and life sciences investment fund, and HItachi Ventures, the investment arm of the Hitachi Group.

Financial services firms like Credit Suisse and the PIctet Group, along with previous investors including Swisscom Ventures, Endeavour Vision, Generation Investment Management, and Eurazeo Growth also participated in the financing.

The company’s technology uses multiple sources of medical data to come up with potentially novel insights about how diseases spread in the body and offer better ways to coordinate care among different . The Boston and Lausanne, Switzerland-based company’s tech is currently used by over 1,000 healthcare institutions and has analyzed 600,000 genomic profiles, according to a statement.

The goal, the company said, is better patient care.

According to a statement, the new funding will be used to expand the company’s footprint in the US and Asian markets.

It also appears that the company may be gearing up for a public offering. It’s added Didier Hirsch, the former chief financial officer of Agilent, to its board of directors and has created an audit committee (usually a stepping stone on the way to a dive into public market waters).

“We believe that SOPHIA’s decentralized model will play a pivotal role in empowering health organizations to offer better patient care,” said Dr. Tomer Berkovitz, Partner & CFO of aMoon, in a statement.

#amoon, #boston, #business, #cfo, #chief-financial-officer, #companies, #credit-suisse, #endeavour-vision, #eurazeo, #eurazeo-growth, #generation-investment-management, #healthcare, #hitachi, #industries, #machine-learning, #medical-imaging, #sophia, #swisscom-ventures, #switzerland, #tc, #united-states

Clever Care Health Plan launches with a holistic healing spin on Medicare Advantage programs

Angling for a slice of the multi-billion dollar Medicare Advantage market with a pitch to integrate holistic medical practitioners into its network of service providers has netted Clever Care Health Plan some big backers and a huge market opportunity, the company says.

The company has raised $23 million in a new round of funding from investors led by Norwest Partners for its unique take on how to create a new network of healthcare providers for potential Medicare Advantage beneficiaries.

Several healthcare startups have raised hundreds of millions of dollars to tackle the Medicare Advantage opportunity. These include companies like Bright Health, Clover Health, Devoted Health, and Oscar, but, to-date, none have tried to put an emphasis on cultural sensitivity and holistic healing that chief operating officer Myong Lee and his co-founders settled on.

Joining Lee in the launch of Clever Care’s services are chief executive David Firdaus and chief financial officer Hiep Pham. The three have a long history of working together at other health plans. 

We’re looking to have a really unique supplemental benefit on the Eastern Medicine side,” said Lee of the company’s pitch.

Of course, there’s one hitch. Whether the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services will approve the treatments for coverage. ““All of this is predicated on CMS approval,” Lee acknowledged.

Already, CMS has identified some holistic medical treatments — notably acupuncture — as eligible for coverage, and Lee and his team are hoping that more approvals could be forthcoming. 

Lee said that the problem was particularly acute for California’s aging immigrant population, which does not necessarily feel comfortable accessing the current healthcare system. Often, these populations are comprised of people who don’t speak English very well and whose needs are going unmet by current providers.

Using his own parents as an example, he said, “There wasn’t anything from their perspective. Nothing that spoke to them from an Eastern Medicine perspective.”

As Norwest general partner Casper de Clerq noted, Medicare Advantage has grown to encompass roughly 35% of all Medicare recipients. “There are 64 million Medicare members and 22 million are on Medicare Advnatage,” de Clerq said. “As this market matures it’s going to become more and more specialized and more niche with different populations that are not properly served. This hyperlocal phenomenon will be more and more important.”

The company said it would use the capital to establish its California Medicare Advantage health plan and hire staff for its two offices in Little Saigon in Orange County and Arcadia in Los Angeles County. 

“Medicare spending was 15 percent of total federal spending in 2018 and is projected to nearly double due to the retirement of the Baby Boom Generation and the rapid growth of per capita healthcare costs,” said Sean Doolan, healthcare partner at Global Founders Capital, which joined the round alongside Norwest. “We are excited to partner with the Clever Care Health Plan team and fully believe in their bold vision to create a progressive and affordable Medicare Advantage plan that will dramatically expand access to high quality care for diverse communities.”

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Los Angeles-based Talespin nabs $15 million for its extended reality-based workforce training tools

It turns out the virtual and augmented reality companies aren’t dead — as long as they focus on the enterprise. That’s what the Los Angeles-based extended reality technology developer Talespin did — and it just raised $15 million to grow its business. 

Traditional venture capitalists may have made it rain on expensive Hollywood studios that were promising virtual reality would be the future of entertainment and social networking (given coronavirus fears, it may yet be), but Talespin and others like it are focused on much more mundane goals. Specifically, making talent management, training and hiring easier for employers in certain industries.

For Talespin, the areas that were the most promising were ones that aren’t obvious to a casual observer. Insurance and virtual reality are hardly synonymous, but Talespin’s training tools have helped claims assessors do their jobs and helped train a new generation of insurance investigators in what to look for when they’re trying to determine how much their companies are going to pay out.

Talespin‘s immersive platform has transformed employee learning and proven to be an impactful addition to our training programs. We’re honored to continue to support the Talespin team through this next phase of growth and development,” said Scott Lindquist, Chief Financial Officer at Farmers Insurance, in a statement.

Farmers is an investor in Talespin, as is the corporate training and talent management software provider Cornerstone OnDemand, and the hardware manufacturer HTC. The round’s composition speaks to the emerging confidence of corporate investors and just how skeptical traditional venture firms have become of the prospects for virtual reality.

The prospects of augmented and virtual reality may be uncertain, but what’s definite is the need for new tools and technologies to transfer knowledge and train up employees as skilled, experienced workers age out of the workforce — and the development of new skills becomes critically important as technology changes the workplace.

Cornerstone, which led the Talespin Series B round, will also be partnering with the company to develop human resources training tools in virtual reality.

“We share Talespin’s vision that the workforce needs innovative solutions to stay competitive, maximize opportunity and increase employee satisfaction,” said Jason Gold, Vice President of Finance, Corporate Development and Investor Relations at Cornerstone, in a statement. “We’ve been incredibly impressed with Talespin’s technology, leadership team and vision to transform the workplace through XR. Talespin’s technology is a perfect fit in our suite of products, and we look forward to working together to deliver great solutions for our customers.”

Talespin previously raised $5 million in financing. The company initially grew its business by developing a number of one-off projects for eventual customers as it determined a product strategy. Part of the company’s success has relied in its ability to use game engine and animation instead of 360 degree video. That means assets can be reused multiple times and across different training modules.

“Creating better alignment between skills and opportunities is the key to solving the reskilling challenges organizations across the world are facing,” said Kyle Jackson, CEO and Co-Founder of Talespin, in a statement. “That’s why it’s critical companies find a way to provide accelerated, continuous learning and create better skills data. By doing so, we will open up career pathways for individuals that are better aligned to their natural abilities and learned skills, and enable companies to implement a skills-based approach to talent development, assessment, and placement. Our new funding and partnership with Cornerstone will allow us to expand our product offerings to achieve these goals, and to continue building innovative solutions that redefine what work looks like in the future.”

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