Shopify acquires augmented reality home design app Primer

In Friday acquisition news, Shopify shared today that they’ve acquired augmented reality startup Primer, which makes an app that lets users visualize what tile, wallpaper or paint will look like on surfaces inside their home.

In a blog post, co-founders Adam Debreczeni and Russ Maschmeyer write that Primer’s app and services will be shutting down next month as part of the deal. Debreczeni tells TechCrunch that Primer’s team of eight employees will all be joining Shopify following the acquisition.

Primer had partnered with dozens of tile and textile design brands to allow users to directly visualize what their designs would look like using their iPhone and iPad and Apple’s augmented reality platform ARKit. The app has been highlighted by Apple several times including this nice write-up by the App Store’s internal editorial team.

Terms of the deal weren’t disclosed. Primer’s backers included Slow Ventures, Abstract Ventures, Foundation Capital and Expa.

There’s been a lot of big talk about how augmented reality will impact online shopping, but aside from some of the integrations made in home design, there hasn’t been an awful lot that’s found its way into real consumer use. Shopify has worked on some of their own integrations — allowing sellers to embed 3D models into their storefronts that users can drop into physical space — but it’s clear that there’s much more room left to experiment.

#abstract-ventures, #app-store, #apple, #apple-inc, #augment, #augmented-reality, #companies, #foundation-capital, #ipad, #iphone, #online-shopping, #paint, #primer, #shopify, #slow-ventures, #software, #technology, #tile

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Apple announces its 2021 Apple Design Award winners

Apple incorporated the announcement of this year’s Apple Design Award winners into its virtual Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) online event, instead of waiting until the event had wrapped, like last year. Ahead of WWDC, Apple previewed the finalists, whose apps and games showcased a combination of technical achievement, design and ingenuity. This evening, Apple announced the winners across six new award categories.

In each category, Apple selected one app and one game as the winner.

In the Inclusivity category, winners supported people from a diversity of backgrounds, abilities and languages.

This year, winners included U.S.-based Aconite’s highly accessible game, HoloVista, where users can adjust various options for motion control, text sizes, text contrast, sound, and visual effect intensity. In the game, users explore using the iPhone’s camera to find hidden objects, solve puzzles and more. (Our coverage)

Image Credits: Aconite

Another winner, Voice Dream Reader, is a text-to-speech app that support more than two dozen languages and offers adaptive features and a high level of customizable settings.

Image Credits: Voice Dream LLC

In the Delight and Fun, category, winners offer memorable and engaging experiences enhanced by Apple technologies. Belgium’s Pok Pok Playroom, a kid entertainment app that spun out of Snowman (Alto’s Adventure series), won for its thoughtful design and use of subtle haptics, sound effects and interactions. (Our coverage)

Image Credits: Pok Pok

Another winner included U.K.s’ Little Orpheus, a platformer that combines storytelling, surprises, and fun and offers a console-like experience in a casual game.

Image Credits: The Chinese Room

The Interaction category winners showcase apps that offer intuitive interfaces and effortless controls, Apple says.

The U.S.-based snarky weather app CARROT Weather won for its humorous forecasts, unique visuals, and entertaining experience, which is also available as Apple Watch faces and widgets.

Image Credits: Brian Mueller, Grailr LLC

Canada’s Bird Alone game combines gestures, haptics, parallax, and dynamic sound effects in clever ways to brings its world to life.

Image Credits: George Batchelor

A Social Impact category doled out awards to Denmark’s Be My Eyes, which enables people who are blind and low vision to identify objects by pairing them with volunteers from around the world using their camera. Today, it supports over 300K users who are assisted by over 4.5M volunteers. (Our coverage)

Image Credits: S/I Be My Eyes

U.K.’s ustwo games won in this category for Alba, a game that teaches about respecting the environment as players save wildlife, repair a bridge, clean up trash and more. The game also plants a tree for every download.

Image Credits: ustwo games

The Visuals and Graphics winners feature “stunning imagery, skillfully drawn interfaces, and high-quality animations,” Apple says.

Belarus-based Loóna offers sleepscape sessions which combine relaxing activities and atmospheric sounds with storytelling to help people wind down at night. The app was recently awarded Google’s “best app” of 2020.

Image Credits: Loóna Inc

China’s Genshin Impact won for pushing the visual frontier on gaming, as motion blur, shadow quality, and frame rate can be reconfigured on the fly. The game had previously made Apple’s Best of 2020 list and was Google’s best game of 2020.

Image Credits: miHoYo Limited

Innovation winners included India’s NaadSadhana, an all-in-one, studio-quality music app that helps artists perform and publish. The app uses A.I. and Core ML to listen and provide feedback on the accuracy of notes, and generates a backing track to match.

Image Credits: Sandeep Ranade

Riot Games’ League of Legends: Wild Rift (U.S.) won for taking a complex PC classic and delivering a full mobile experience that includes touchscreen controls, an auto-targeting system for newcomers, and a mobile-exclusive camera setting.

Image Credits: Riot Games

The winners this year will receive a prize package that includes hardware and the award itself.

A video featuring the winners is here on the Apple Developer website.

“This year’s Apple Design Award winners have redefined what we’ve come to expect from a great app experience, and we congratulate them on a well-deserved win,” said Susan Prescott, Apple’s vice president of Worldwide Developer Relations, in a statement. “The work of these developers embodies the essential role apps and games play in our everyday lives, and serve as perfect examples of our six new award categories.”

read more about Apple's WWDC 2021 on TechCrunch

#a-i, #apple, #apple-inc, #apple-watch, #apps, #awards, #belarus, #belgium, #companies, #computing, #denmark, #games, #gaming, #india, #ios, #league-of-legends, #loona, #susan-prescott, #text-to-speech, #united-states, #wwdc, #wwdc-2021

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Homebuying startup Flyhomes closes $150 million Series C

Amid a recent tear in residential real estate investment, venture capitalists are looking to get a piece of homebuying startup Flyhomes.

The five-year-old startup announced today that they’ve closed a $150 million Series C co-led by Norwest Venture Partners and Battery Ventures. Fifth Wall, Camber Creek, Balyasny Asset Management, Zillow’s Spencer Rascoff, and existing investors Andreessen Horowitz and Canvas Partners also participated in the round. Norwest’s Lisa Wu and Battery’s Roger Lee are joining Flyhomes’ board as part of the deal.

The end-to-end residential real estate startup says they handle “every step of the homebuying process, from brokerage to mortgage,” building financial tools that customers need throughout the process. The company has now raised some $310 million in total.

The startup is well-positioned during a historic run-up of home prices in the US that has made deals more competitive than ever for prospective buyers. A recent report by Redfin notes that more than half of US homes are selling above their asking price right now, up from 1 in 4 a year ago. A Zillow report notes that nearly half of US homes are selling within one week of going on the market.

Flyhomes’s Cash Offer lending product allows consumers purchasing homes to make more attractive all-cash offers to sellers, with the company noting that even if a buyer ends up backing out of the deal, Flyhomes will still buy the home themselves. Central to the startup’s business is sellers being more amenable to all-cash offers, allowing consumers making them to win deals even when they aren’t the highest bidders.

The company says it has bought and sold more than $2.5 billion worth of homes since launching in 2016.

#andreessen-horowitz, #battery-ventures, #camber-creek, #companies, #economy, #entrepreneurship, #fifth-wall, #financial-tools, #norwest-venture-partners, #real-estate, #real-estate-investment, #redfin, #spencer-rascoff, #startup-company, #tc, #united-states, #zillow

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AI cybersecurity provider SentinelOne files for $100M IPO

SentinelOne, a late-stage security startup that helps organizations secure their data using AI and machine learning, has filed for an IPO on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE).

In an S-1 filing on Thursday, the security company revealed that for the three months ending April 30, its revenues increased by 108% year-on-year to $37.4 million and its customer base grew to 4,700, up from 2,700 a year prior. Despite this pandemic-fueled growth, SentinelOne’s net losses more than doubled from $26.6 million in 2020 to $62.6 million.

“We also expect our operating expenses to increase in the future as we continue to invest for our future growth, including expanding our research and development function to drive further development of our platform, expanding our sales and marketing activities, developing the functionality to expand into adjacent markets, and reaching customers in new geographic locations,” SentinelOne wrote in its filing.

The Mountain View-based company said it intends to list its Class A common stock using the ticker symbol “S” and that details about the price range and number of common shares to be put up for the IPO are yet to be determined. The S-1 filing also identifies Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, Bank of America Securities, Barclays and Wells Fargo Securities as the lead underwriters.

SentinelOne raised $276 million in a funding round in November last year, tripling its $1 billion valuation from February 2020 to $3 billion. At the time, CEO and founder Tomer Weingarten told TechCrunch that an IPO “would be the next logical step” for the company.

SentinelOne, which was founded in 2013 and has raised a total of $696.5 million through eight rounds of funding, is looking to raise up to $100 million in its IPO, and said it’s intending to use the net proceeds to increase its visibility in the cybersecurity marketplace and for product development and other “general corporate processes.”

It added that “may also use a portion of the net proceeds for the acquisition of, or investment in, technologies, solutions, or businesses that complement our business.” The company’s sole acquisition so far took place back in February when it bought high-speed logging startup Scalyr for $155 million.

SentinelOne is going public during a period of heightened public interest in cybersecurity. There has been a wave of high-profile cyberattacks during the COVID-19 pandemic, with hackers taking advantage of widespread remote working necessitated as a result.

One of the biggest attacks saw Russian hackers breach the networks of IT company SolarWinds, enabling them to gain access to government agencies and corporations. SentinelOne’s endpoint protection solution was able to detect and stop the related malicious payload, protecting its customers.

“The world is full of criminals, state actors, and other hostile agents who seek to exfiltrate and exploit data to disrupt our way of life,” Weingarten said in SentinelOne’s SEC filing. “Our mission is to keep the world running by protecting and securing the core pillars of modern infrastructure: data and the systems that store, process, and share information. This is an endless mission as attackers evolve rapidly in their quest to disrupt operations, breach data, turn profit, and inflict damage.”

#artificial-intelligence, #barclays, #ceo, #cloud, #companies, #computing, #goldman-sachs, #initial-public-offering, #machine-learning, #morgan-stanley, #scalyr, #security, #sentinelone, #solarwinds, #system-administration, #u-s-securities-and-exchange-commission

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In latest big tech antitrust push, Germany’s FCO eyes Google News Showcase fine print

The Bundeskartellamt, Germany’s very active competition authority, isn’t letting the grass grow under new powers it gained this year to tackle big tech: The Federal Cartel Office (FCO) has just announced a third proceeding against Google.

The FCO’s latest competition probe looks very interesting as it’s targeting Google News Showcase — Google’s relatively recently launched product which curates a selection of third party publishers’ content to appear in story panels on Google News (and other Google properties), content for which the tech giant pays a licensing fee.

Google started cutting content licensing deals with publishers around the world for News Showcase last year, announcing a total pot of $1BN to fund the arrangements — with Germany one of the first markets where it inked deals.

However its motivation to pay publishers to licence their journalism is hardly pure.

It follows years of bitter accusations from media companies that Google is freeloading off their content. To which the tech giant routinely responded with stonewalling statements — saying it would never pay for content because that’s not how online aggregation works. It also tried to fob off the industry with a digital innovation fund (aka Google News Initiative) which distributes small grants and offers free workshops and product advice, seeking to frame publishers’ decimated business models as a failure of innovation, leaving Google’s adtech machine scot free to steamroller on.

Google’s stonewalling-plus-chicken-feeding approach worked to stave off regulatory action for a long time but eventually enough political pressure built up around the issue of media business models vs the online advertising duopoly that legislators started to make moves to try to address the power imbalance between traditional publishers and intermediating tech giants.

Most infamously in Australia, where lawmakers passed a news media bargaining code earlier this year.

Prior to its passage, both Facebook and Google, the twin targets for that law, warned the move could result in dire consequences — such as a total shut down of their products, reduced quality or even fees to use their services.

Nothing like that happened but lawmakers did agree to a last minute amendment — adding a two-month mediation period to the legislation which allows digital platforms and publishers to strike deals on their own before having to enter into forced arbitration.

Critics say that allows for the two tech giants to continue to set their own terms when dealmaking with publishers, leveraging market muscle to strike deals that may disproportionately benefit Australia’s largest media firms — and doing so without any external oversight and with no guarantees that the resulting content arrangements foster media diversity and plurality or even support quality journalism.

In the EU, lawmakers acted earlier — taking the controversial route of extending copyright to cover snippets of news content back in 2019.

Following on, France was among the first EU countries to transpose the provision into national law — and its competition watchdog quickly ordered Google to pay for news reuse back in 2020 after Google tried to wiggle out of the legislation by stopping displaying snippets in the market.

It responded to the competition authority’s order with more obfuscation, though, agreeing earlier this year to pay French publishers for linking to their content but also for their participation in News Showcase — bundling required-by-law payments (for news reuse) with content licensing deals of its own devising. And thereby making it difficult to understand the balance of mandatory payments vs commercial arrangements.

The problem with News Showcase is that these licensing arrangements are being done behind closed doors, in many cases ahead of relevant legislation and thus purely on Google’s terms — which means the initiative risks exacerbating concerns about the power imbalance between it and traditional publishers caught in a revenue bind as their business models have been massively disrupted by the switch to digital.

If Google suddenly offers some money for content, plenty of publishers might well jump — regardless of the terms. And perhaps especially because any publishers that hold out against licensing content to Google at the price it likes risk being disadvantaged by reduced visibility for their content, given Google’s dominance of the search market and content discoverability (via its ability to direct traffic to specific media properties, such as based on how prominently News Showcase content is displayed, for example).

The competition implications look clear.

But it’s still impressive that the Bundeskartellamt is spinning up an investigation into News Showcase so quickly.

The FCO said it’s acting on a complaint from Corint Media — looking at whether the announced integration of the Google News Showcase service into Google’s general search function is “likely to constitute self-preferencing or an impediment to the services offered by competing third parties”.

It also said it’s looking at whether contractual conditions include unreasonable terms (“to the detriment of the participating publishers”); and, in particular, “make it disproportionately difficult for them to enforce the ancillary copyright for press publishers introduced by the German Bundestag and Bundesrat in May 2021” — a reference to the transposed neighbouring right for news in the EU copyright reform.

So it will be examining the core issue of whether Google is trying to use News Showcase to undermine the new EU rights publishers gained under the copyright reform.

The FCO also said it wants to look at “how the conditions for access to Google’s News Showcase service are defined”.

Google launched the News Showcase in Germany on October 1 2020, with an initial 20 media companies participating — covering 50 publications. Although more have been added since.

Per the FCO, the News Showcase ‘story panels’ were initially integrated in the Google News app but can now also be found in Google News on the desktop. It also notes that Google has said the panels will soon also appear in the general Google search results — a move that will further dial up the competition dynamics around the product, given Google’s massive dominance of the search market in Europe.

Commenting on its proceeding in a statement, Andreas Mundt, president of the Bundeskartellamt, said: “Cooperating with Google can be an attractive option for publishers and other news providers and offer consumers new or improved information services. However, it must be ensured that this will not result in discrimination between individual publishers. In addition, Google’s strong position in providing access to end customers must not lead to a situation where competing services offered by publishers or other news providers are squeezed out of the market. There must be an adequate balance between the rights and obligations of the content providers participating in Google’s programme.”

Google was contacted for comment on the FCO’s action — and it sent us this statement, attributed to spokesperson, Kay Oberbeck:

“Showcase is one of many ways Google supports journalism, building on products and funds that all publishers can benefit from. Showcase is an international licensing program for news — the selection of partners is based on objective and non-discriminatory criteria, and partner content is not given preference in the ranking of our results. We will cooperate fully with the German Competition Authority and look forward to answering their questions.”

The FCO’s scrutiny of Google News Showcase, follows hard on the heels of two other Google proceedings it opened last month, one to determine whether or not the tech giant meets the threshold of Germany’s new competition powers for tackling big tech — and another examining its data processing practices. Both remain ongoing.

The competition authority has also recently opened a proceeding into Amazon’s market dominance — and is also looking to extend another recent investigation of Facebook’s Oculus business, also by determining whether the social media giant’s business meets the threshold required under the new law.

The amendment to the German Competition Act came into force in January — giving the FCO greater powers to proactively impose conditions on large digital companies who are considered to be of “paramount significance for competition across markets” in order to pre-emptively control the risk of market abuse.

That it’s taking on so many proceedings in parallel against big tech shows it’s keen not to waste any time — putting itself in a position to come, as quickly as possible, with proactive interventions to address competitive problems caused by platform giants just as soon as it determines it can legally do that.

The Bundeskartellamt also has a pioneering case against Facebook’s ‘superprofiling’ on its desk — which links privacy abuse to competition concerns and could drastically limit the tech giant’s ability to profile users. That investigation and case has been ongoing for years but was recently referred to Europe’s top court for an interpretation of key legal questions.

 

#andreas-mundt, #artificial-intelligence, #australia, #companies, #digital-media, #europe, #european-union, #facebook, #france, #germany, #google, #google-news-showcase, #media, #news-showcase, #policy, #president, #spokesperson, #websites, #world-wide-web

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HBO Max launches ad-supported subscription for $9.99 per month

“Game of Thrones” might be over, but HBO Max is still breaking new ground, and even breaking the internet – this past weekend, HBO Max blacked out right before the finale of “Mare of Easttown,” likely due to traffic. But if you haven’t hopped aboard the HBO Max train yet, it might be time to try it out. Today, the streaming platform premieres an ad-supported subscription at $9.99 per month. Its existing service – which features no ads – costs $14.99 per month. Subscribers can save 15% on their subscription, no matter which version they choose, if they pre-pay for an entire year. 

The advertisements aren’t the only drawback of the more affordable subscription option. The ad-supported tier offers a maximum quality of 1080p, which is still pretty good for most consumers, unless you’re watching “Friends: The Reunion” in your 4k home theater. But, lower-tier subscribers won’t be able to download content to view offline, nor will they have access to same-day film premieres of Warner Bros.’s newest theatrical releases. However, these films will become available to stream months after release. On the bright side, ads will not appear on original HBO programming.

With just four minutes of ad time per hour, the ad-supported tier “launches with a commitment” to maintaining the lowest volume of commercials among popular streaming services. HBO Max follows in the footsteps of Hulu, which also offers a discounted subscription with ads for $5.99 per month, as opposed to $11.99 per month. But on Hulu, a half-hour show can contain almost five minutes of unskippable ad time. Meanwhile, Netflix offers its most basic plan – which allows streaming on one screen at a time without HD – for $8.99 per month. Its standard plan is $13.99 a month. Now that HBO Max has a more competitively priced option, it might give these other platforms a run for their money. 

What kinds of ads can you expect to see on HBO Max? The company says that subscribers can expect “a greater personalization in the ads they see” over time, with “more innovation in formats to come.” This could resemble the ad experience on Hulu, which has experimented with viewer-friendly binge-watch ads.

As of April 2021, HBO Max and HBO reached a combined 44.2 million subscribers, and in Q1 of the year, added 2.7 million domestic subscribers. By comparison, Netflix reported an increase of 4 million subscribers in the same period, bringing them to about 207 million global subscribers. However, only 450,000 of those new subscribers come from the US and Canada.

On June 29, HBO Max will launch in 39 Latin American markets. Later in the year, the streaming service is expected to roll out in Europe. This will only further the platform’s rapid growth – in 2019, AT&T, which owns HBO Max, set the modest goal to attain 50 million subscribers by 2025. Now, HBO Max expects it will reach between 120 million and 150 million subscribers by the same date.

The ad-supported subscription option for HBO Max is available now.

#apps, #cinemax, #companies, #entertainment, #hbo, #hbo-go, #hbo-max, #hbo-now, #hulu, #max, #netflix, #streaming-services, #television, #warner-bros

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Cybersecurity unicorn Exabeam raises $200M to fuel SecOps growth

Exabeam, a late-stage startup that helps organizations detect advanced cybersecurity threats, has landed a new $200 million funding round that values the company at $2.4 billion.

The Series F growth round was led by the Owl Rock division of Blue Owl Capital, with support from existing investors Acrew Capital, Lightspeed Venture Partners and Norwest Venture Partners.

The announcement of Exabeam’s latest funding, which the company says will help it on its mission to become “the number one trusted cloud SeCops platform in the market”, coincides with the news that CEO Nir Polak, who co-founded the company in 2013, will be replaced by former ForeScout chief executive Michael DeCesare.

DeCesare is a big name in the cybersecurity space, with more than 25 years of experience leading high-growth security companies. He joined ForeScout as CEO and president in February 2015 after four years as president of McAfee, which at the time was owned by Intel. Under his leadership, ForeScout raised nearly $117 million in an upsized IPO that valued the IoT security vendor at $800 million.

Polak, meanwhile, will shift to a chairman role at Exabeam and “will continue on as an active member of the executive team and remain at the company,” according to the funding announcement.

“Nir has built an incredibly robust, diverse and inclusive culture at Exabeam, and I am committed to helping it flourish,” said DeCesare. “I’m thrilled to join Nir and the whole leadership team to help drive the company through its next phase of growth.”

Exabeam, which has now raised $390 million in six rounds of outside funding, says it expects to use the new money to fuel scale, innovate and extend the company’s leadership. “It gives us the opportunity to triple down on our R&D efforts and continue engineering the most advanced UEBA, XDR and SIEM cloud security products available today,” commented Polak.

The company adds that it has made significant investments in its partner program over the last 12 months, which now includes more than 400 reseller, distributor, systems integrator, MSSP, MDR and consulting partners globally. Exabeam also has more than 500 technology integrations with cloud network, data lake and endpoint vendors including CrowdStrike, Okta and Snowflake.

It’s clearly expecting these investments to pay off, describing its “outcome-based approach” to external security as perfectly suited to support organizations as they manage exponential amounts of data and return to the post-COVID workplace in a variety of hybrid scenarios. After all, hackers are already beginning to target employees who have started making a return to the office, and this threat is only likely to increase as more companies begin to dial back on remote working and start welcoming staff back into workplaces.

“Exabeam is poised to be the next-gen leader in the cloud security analytics, XDR and SIEM markets,” Pravin Vazirani, Blue Owl Capital’s managing director and co-head of tech investing, said in a statement. “We led this round of funding to provide the company with the resources necessary to support its sustainable, long-term growth and value creation.”

#acrew-capital, #ceo, #chairman, #cloud, #cloud-applications, #companies, #crowdstrike, #exabeam, #executive, #forescout, #funding, #intel, #leader, #lightspeed, #lightspeed-venture-partners, #mcafee, #norwest-venture-partners, #okta, #president, #security, #software

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SoftBank-backed construction giant Katerra said to be shutting down after raising billions

After burning through more than $2 billion in funding, SoftBank-backed construction startup Katerra has told employees that it will be shutting down operations, according to a report in The Information.

Last year, the company claimed it had more than 8,000 employees globally.

Menlo Park-based Katerra had already been struggling to find a viable business in cheaply building apartments properties for real estate developers when it was pushed to the edge of bankruptcy late last year, with the company blaming its latest struggles on climbing labor and material costs associated with the pandemic. The company was given one last chance after receiving a $200 million bailout from SoftBank, which reportedly bought up a majority stake after already having invested billions in the effort.

Katerra’s fall marks the most high-profile failure for SoftBank since the failed 2019 WeWork IPO. The firm has largely been seeing gains among its Vision Fund portfolio in the past year amid a larger tech stock rally, though some of those gains have receded in recent months.

In an interview with Barron’s last month, CEO Masayoshi Son highlighted Katerra as well as SoftBank’s investment in Greensill as “regrets” of his. Katerra’s other backers included Khosla Ventures, DFJ Growth, Greenoaks Capital and Celesta Capital.

TechCrunch has reached out to Katerra for comment.

 

#ceo, #companies, #dfj-growth, #greenoaks-capital, #katerra, #khosla-ventures, #masayoshi-son, #menlo-park, #softbank, #softbank-group, #tc, #vision-fund, #vodafone, #wework

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Goldman Sachs leads $202M investment in project44, doubling its valuation to $1.2B in a matter of months

The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted a lot in the world, and supply chains are no exception. 

A number of applications that aim to solve workflow challenges across the supply chain exist. But getting real-time access to information from transportation providers has remained somewhat elusive for shippers and logistics companies alike. 

Enter Project44. The 7-year-old Chicago-based company has built an API-based platform that it  says acts as “the connective tissue” between transportation providers, third-party logistics companies, shippers and the systems. Using predictive analytics, the platform provides crucial real-time information such as estimated time of arrivals (ETAs).

“Supply chains have undergone an incredible amount of change – there has never been a greater need for agility, resiliency, and the ability to rapidly respond to changes across the supply chain,” said Jason Duboe, the company’s Chief Growth Officer.

And now, project44 announced it has raised $202 million in a Series E funding round led by Goldman Sachs Asset Management and Emergence Capital. Girteka and Lineage Logistics also participated in the financing, which gives project44 a post-money valuation of $1.2 billion. That doubles the company’s valuation at the time of its Insight Partners-led $100 million Series D in December.

The raise is quite possibly the largest investment in the supply chain visibility space to date.

Project44 is one of those refreshingly transparent private companies that gives insight into its financials. This month, the company says it crossed $50 million in annual recurring revenue (ARR), which is up 100% year over year. It has more than 600 customers including some of the world’s largest brands such as Amazon, Walmart, Nestle, Starbucks, Unilever, Lenovo and P&G. Customers hail from a variety of industries including CPG, retail, e-commerce, manufacturing, pharma, and chemical.

Over the last year, the pandemic created a number of supply chain disruptions, underscoring the importance of technologies that help provide visibility into supply chain operations. Project44 said it worked hard to help customers to mitigate “relentless volatility, bottlenecks, and logistics breakdowns,” including during the Suez Canal incident where a cargo ship got stuck for days.

Looking ahead, Project44 plans to use its new capital in part to continue its global expansion. Project44 recently announced its expansion into China and has plans to grow in the Asia-Pacific, Australia/New Zealand and Latin American markets, according to Duboe.

We are also going to continue to invest heavily in our carrier products to enable more participation and engagement from the transportation community that desires a stronger digital experience to improve efficiency and experience for their customers,” he told TechCrunch. The company also aims to expand its artificial intelligence (AI) and data science capabilities and broaden sales and marketing reach globally.

Last week, project44 announced its acquisition of ClearMetal, a San Francisco-based supply chain planning software company that focuses on international freight visibility, predictive planning and overall customer experience. WIth the buy, Duboe said  project44 will now have two contracts with Amazon: road and ocean. 

“Project44 will power what they are chasing,” he added.

And in March, the company also acquired Ocean Insights to expand its ocean offerings.

Will Chen, a managing director of Goldman Sachs Asset Management, believes that project44 is unique in its scope of network coverage across geographies and modes of transport.  

“Most competitors predominantly focus on over-the-road visibility and primarily serve one region, whereas project44 is a truly global business that provides end-to-end visibility across their customers’ entire supply chain,” he said.

Goldman Sachs Asset Management, noted project44 CEO and founder Jett McCandless, will help the company grow not only by providing capital but through its network and resources.

#amazon, #api, #articles, #artificial-intelligence, #asia-pacific, #australia, #business, #chicago, #chief, #china, #clearmetal, #companies, #e-commerce, #emergence-capital, #funding, #fundings-exits, #goldman-sachs, #insight-partners, #lenovo, #logistics, #manufacturing, #nestle, #new-zealand, #officer, #pg, #recent-funding, #san-francisco, #starbucks, #startup, #startups, #supply-chain, #supply-chain-management, #transportation, #unilever, #venture-capital, #walmart

0

Experts from Toyota, Ford and Hyundai will discuss automotive robotics at TC Sessions: Mobility

The events of the past year have only served to accelerate interest in all things robotics and automation. It’s a phenomenon we’ve seen across a broad range of categories, and automotive is certainly no different.

Of course, carmakers are no strangers to the world of robotics. Automation has long played a key role in manufacturing, and more recently, robotics have played another central role in the form of self-driving vehicles. For this panel, however, we’re going to look past those much-discussed categories. Of late, carmakers have been investing heavily to further fuel innovation in the category.

It’s a fascinating space – and one that covers a broad range of cross-sections, from TRI’s (Toyota) Woven City project to Ford’s recent creation of a research facility at U of M to Hyundai’s concept cars and acquisition of Boston Dynamics. At TC Sessions: Mobility on June 9, we will be joined by a trio of experts from those companies for what’s sure to be a lively discussion on the topic.

Max Bajracharya is Vice President of Robotics at Toyota Research Institute. Previously serving as its Director of Robotics, he leads TRI’s work in robotics. He previously served at Alphabet’s X, as part of the Google Robotics team.

Mario Santillo is a Technical Expert at Ford. Previously serving as a Research Engineer for the company, he’s charged with helping lead the company’s efforts at a recently announced $75 million research facility at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. The work includes both Ford’s own robotics work, as well as partnerships with startups like Agility.

Ernestine Fu is a director at Hyundai Motor Group. She heads development at the newly announced New Horizons Studio, a group tasked with creating Ultimate Mobility Vehicles (UMVs). She also serves as an adjunct professor at Stanford University, where she received a BS, MS, MBA and PhD.

Get ready to talk robots at TC Sessions: Mobility. Grab your passes right now for $125 and hear from today’s biggest mobility leaders before our prices go up at the door.

 

#alphabet, #boston-dynamics, #companies, #director, #engines, #ernestine-fu, #google, #hyundai-motor-group, #manufacturing, #max-bajracharya, #michigan, #new-horizons, #robot, #stanford-university, #tc, #toyota, #toyota-research-institute, #university-of-michigan

0

With new Partner Colin Hanna, and Shikha Ahluwalia as Associate, Balderton puts down roots in Berlin

As of now, one fo the UK’s biggest and most active tech VCs has a new partner. Principal Colin Hanna has spearheaded several of Balderton’s deals in the past couple of years, and has now been appointed a Partner. But there’s a twist to this plot. He will be officially based in Berlin (where he’s lived since 2019), thus giving the VC a more powerful reach, being based, as it is, solely in London.

Hanna said: “Having been with Balderton for five years, I am humbled to now call my mentors my Partners. I look forward to strengthening Balderton’s unique approach from Berlin as we engineer serendipity for European founders with planet-scale ambition.”

Bernard Liautaud, Managing Partner of Balderton commented: “We are delighted to announce Colin’s promotion to Partner. Since he joined Balderton in 2016, Colin has had a significant impact on both Balderton and our portfolio… Colin has strengthened our position in DACH by establishing our permanent presence in Berlin and bringing in Shikha Ahluwalia, whom we are delighted to have. In addition, he was instrumental in the definition of the Balderton Sustainable Future Goals. We have no doubt Colin will be highly successful in his new role.”

The story does not end there, however. Joining him will be tech entrepreneur and founder Shikha Ahluwalia as an Associate covering the DACH region.

co-founded SBL, the D2C women’s fashion e-commerce company in India. Prior to that she was had a tech advisory boutique, and was previously with JP Morgan’s Investment Banking Division in London.

Balderton has 10 current investments across DACH including Contentful, Infarm, SOPHiA Genetics, McMakler, Demodesk, and vivenu.

Ahluwalia commented: “Over the past few years, I have seen the DACH start-up ecosystem evolve rapidly. We at Balderton believe the next European giant will be a technology company and know that the DACH ecosystem plays a significant role in helping form category-leading technology companies. As a former founder myself, I have first-hand experience with the unique challenges of running young businesses. I am excited to contribute and support founders on their own journey as part of Balderton Capital.”

Speaking to me over an interview Hanna said: “Shikha’s hiring deepens our commitment to the local Berlin ecosystem and to the DACH region more broadly. We have been actively supporting Founders in Germany for more than a decade.”

After spending his childhood in Jakarta and Hong Kong, and picking up a degree in Political Economy, Hanna has carved out a career in venture investing – at Balderton since July 4, 2016 – looking at it through the prism on the rise of urban living, grassroots-driven technologies like open source and crypto, and the political ramifications of technology.

He sits on the Board of companies like e-bikes startup VanMoof, Finoa (a crypto custodian), Rahko (quantum computing drug discovery, and helped lead on investments into Traefik and Luno and Vivenu).

One these you might pick up from all those is that they err towards the ‘purpose-driven’ side of the equation.

He told me: “I believe the next generation of Founders, particularly in Europe, care more about just their bank accounts and want to build companies that generate impact and are not afraid to take a view on how they want the world to change. Measuring this is a challenge and something we are trying to do with our SFGs at Balderton which I helped spearhead. I believe that when companies like Coinbase and others go “apolitical” they commit themselves to defending the structural status quo rather than becoming agents of deliberate change.”

“My point about purpose driven companies is that when I think when employees want to work with companies believe in their values and you try to tell them those aren’t important, that could be viewed as political. I don’t think we should be we should be muffling the employees.”

Does he think Coinbase, and also recent more recently Basecamp / 37 Signals were wrong to so-called ‘depoliticize’ their businesses?

“I think, I think every CEO is free to run their company how they see fit. But I think that that poses challenges for them on the talent side. I understand, as an American, how charged and how destructive the political climate became, and so I can really understand and empathize why certain choices were made at that time, because you get to a point where that where the conversation becomes toxic… I hope that the steps that they’ve taken, don’t strangle dialogue and conversation that’s constructive about how we want to make an impact and change the world, either as individuals or with the companies we work for,” he said.

Hanna also told me that he think VCs should be wary that the shift to remote will make it easier to invest more widely. “You have to more background checks on founders now, and things like that. But is it a ‘little bit’ more dangerous or is it ‘50% more dangerous’ the fact that people aren’t meeting up in person?”

#balderton, #balderton-capital, #basecamp, #berlin, #bernard-liautaud, #ceo, #coinbase, #colin-hanna, #companies, #drug-discovery, #europe, #finance, #germany, #india, #jakarta, #jp-morgan, #london, #managing-partner, #sophia-genetics, #startup-company, #tc, #technology, #united-kingdom, #vanmoof

0

The LatAm funding boom continues as Kaszek raises $1B across a duo of funds

Long before SoftBank launched its $2 billion Innovation Fund in Latin America, and before Andreessen Horowitz began actively investing in the region, Sao Paulo-based Kaszek has been putting money into promising startups since 2011, helping spawn nine unicorns along the way.

And now, the early-stage VC firm is announcing its largest fund closures to date: Kaszek Ventures V, a $475 million early-stage fund, believed to be the largest vehicle of its kind ever raised in the region, and Kaszek Ventures Opportunity II, a $525 million for later-stage investments.

Over the years, Kaszek has backed 91 companies, which the firm says collectively have raised over $10 billion in capital. 

MercadoLibre co-founder Hernán Kazah and the company’s ex-CFO, Nicolas Szekasy, founded Kaszek a decade ago after leaving LatAm’s answer to Amazon. Fun fact: the firm’s name comes from a combination of their two last names: Ka-Szek. Rounding out the team are Nicolas Berman, former VP at MercadoLibre, Santiago Fossatti, Andy Young and Mariana Donangelo.

Kaszek founded its first fund in 2011, raising $95 million, an impressive sum at that time. Funds II and III closed in 2014 and 2017, raising $135 million and $200 million, respectively. By 2019, Kaszek had closed on its fourth fund, raising $375 million and its first Opportunity Fund, reserving $225 million for later-stage investing in existing portfolio companies.

It’s notable that in its fifth fund, Kaszek is reserving more of its new capital to fund later-stage investments – a testament to its faith in its current portfolio. Both funds, according to Kaszek, were “several times oversubscribed” with demand coming globally from university endowments, global foundations, technology funds and several tech entrepreneurs.

Silicon Valley-based Sequoia Capital has been an LP since day one via Sequoia Heritage, its community investment office. Also, Connecticut-based Wesleyan University is an LP with Chief Investment Officer Anne Martin describing the founding team as “internet pioneers.”

In recent years, there has been an explosion of global investor interest in Latin American startups. The region’s startup scene is seeing a surge of fundraises, with new unicorns emerging with increasing regularity. And Kaszek has been at the heart of it all.

“We have been at the epicenter of the technology ecosystem in Latin America since 1999, first with MercadoLibre and now with Kaszek, and have witnessed firsthand the extraordinary  evolution that the sector has experienced since its infancy,” said managing partner and co-founder Kazah. “When MercadoLibre started, the internet penetration was less than 3% and it was mostly dial-up connections. Today, more than two decades later, technology secular trends are stronger than ever before as we are experiencing an acceleration towards digitalization.”

Kaszek has not yet backed any companies out of its newest investment vehicles, but plans to put money in 20 to 30 companies out of its early-stage fund, with check sizes ranging from $500,000 to $25 million, according to Kazah. Its Opportunity Fund investments will be more concentrated with the firm likely backing 10 to 15 companies with check sizes ranging from $10 million to $35 million. The firm is industry agnostic, with Kazah saying it considers “any industry where technology is playing a transformational role.”

General partner and co-founder Szekasy says that In the firm’s first funds, Kaszek mostly backed first-time entrepreneurs. But in its last early-stage fund, it began backing more teams led by repeat entrepreneurs or by founders spawned out of some of the region’s more successful startups. As many VC firms do, Kaszek describes its investment strategy as providing more than capital, but also becoming partners with the founders of its portfolio companies. For example, Creditas founder and CEO Sergio Furio describes the firm as “the co-founder I did not have.”

While the firm declined to comment on performance, a source with firsthand knowledge of its metrics over the years tells TechCrunch that it’s quite impressive with MOICS ranging from 19.2 for Fund I, 10.5 for Fund II, 4.9 for Fund III and 2.6 for Fund IV.

The firm’s active portfolio currently consists of 71 companies. Kaszek was one of the earliest investors in Brazilian neobank Nubank, just one of 9 unicorns it has helped build over the years. Other unicorns it’s backed include MadeiraMadeira, PedidosYa, proptech startup QuintoAndar, Gympass, Loggi, Creditas, Kavak and Bitso.

The firm’s investments have largely concentrated in Brazil and Mexico (the two startup hotspots of the region) and Colombia but the firm has also backed startups based in other countries in the region such as DigitalHouse (which was formed in Argentina), NotCo (originally founded in Chile) and Kushki (launched first in Ecuador). It has people on the ground in its home base of Brazil as well as Mexico, the United States, Argentina and Uruguay. 

“We have always believed that the strong secular technology trends that we were seeing 20 years ago, evident in the US and a little later in China, were going to happen in Latin America,” Kazah told TechCrunch. “…Everything we predicted back then was going to happen, happened. Maybe it happened later, but it was also much larger and more comprehensive than what we had initially imagined. That is typically what happens with innovations, they take off later than you think, but fly much higher than you ever imagined.” 

#amazon, #andreessen-horowitz, #argentina, #brazil, #business, #ceo, #cfo, #chile, #china, #co-founder, #colombia, #companies, #connecticut, #creditas, #economy, #ecuador, #entrepreneurship, #funding, #fundings-exits, #hernan-kazah, #internet-penetration, #kaszek, #kaszek-ventures, #latin-america, #mercadolibre, #mexico, #nubank, #private-equity, #quintoandar, #sequoia-capital, #silicon-valley, #softbank, #startup, #startup-company, #startups, #tc, #united-states, #uruguay, #venture-capital, #vp

0

Ampere prepares to launch its first custom data center chips

Ampere, the server startup that is betting on bringing Arm-based chips to the data center and edge, is hosting its annual media day today. With the 80-core Altara and 128-core Altra Max, the company already offers a platform that can rival and outperform those of competitors like Intel and AMD in many common scenarios — and Altra Max is now in production and shipping. Those chips are based on the standard ARM Neoverse N1 architecture, though. But now, it is about to launch its own custom  Ampere Cores, built on a 5nm process.

“Altra and Altra Max are based on the N1 core from Arm. We’re an architecture licensee as well as an IP licensee, so we’re going to talk about our own core [at our media day]: what we built, how we built it, why we built it,” Ampere CEO Renee James, who spent 26 years at Intel before founding Ampere, told me. “And what does a cloud-native processor look like? We like to think about it like you think about M1 for a PC from Apple, you would think about an Ampere Core for a cloud data center server.”

With the 128-core Altra Max, Ampere promises a chip that uses 50 percent less power per core compared to an AMD Rome CPU and performance gains of 1.6x for running the NGINX web server, for example. And all of those benchmarks look even better when compared to an Intel Cascade Lake Refresh CPU. AMD’s Rome launched in August 2019 and Intel’s Cascade Lake Scalable Performance Refresh CPU have been in the market since last Feburary.

“It’s all about developing that CPU that’s built for the cloud and making sure that we’re meeting the new — but not really not new anymore — but kind of the current and future needs of cloud-native workloads, that software development model, and that type of infrastructure deployment model,” Ampere’s CPO Jeff Wittich said. “Which for us really means developing a product that has high performance that’s very predictable across workloads across users and a very, very scalable platform for compute, memory, I/O, network, and that is very, very power efficient.”

Image Credits: Ampere

Wittich noted that Ampere had always planned to develop its own cores, in part because it offers a very specific product for a very specific use case. “We knew that from the start developing our own cores was going to be very, very important for us to innovate in the ways that we need to innovate,” he said. “I have to say the primary thing is that because we’re focused on cloud — and we’re not focused on a bunch of other markets, especially not client, and also not other markets, even within the server space — it means developing a core that’s specific to cloud is really important to us.”

Ampere’s cloud customers want certain built-in security features and manageability features for performance and power, for example. And as Wittich stressed, those have to be built in at the micro-architecture level to work properly (and this allows allow the company to optimize performance as well).

“We have to build our own cores to actually have a processor that does what the cloud wants,” he said. The Ampere Cores will, for example, feature high I/O memory bandwidth, for example, but optimized for cloud use cases, not high-performance computing use cases.

Image Credits: Ampere

James echoed this, noting that customers want these features and Ampere’s competitors will offer them. “The cloud business is pretty specific and the customers are very demanding,” she said. “So cadence is really important and we are competing against customers who have really very good products.”

It seems like this strategy is working out well for Ampere, which will now counts the likes of Microsoft, Oracle and Tencent Cloud among its customers. Rumor has it that Microsoft is working on its own Arm-based chips as well, but interestingly, the company is also using Ampere’s media day to talk about how it is readying Azure for Altra.

#advanced-micro-devices, #altra, #amd, #ampere, #california, #ceo, #cloud, #companies, #computers, #intel, #renee-james, #web-server

0

Commission-free trading app Stake secures $30M from Tiger Global to expand into Europe

Commission-free trading app Stake, which is available in UK, Brazil and New Zealand, has raised $30 million from Tiger Global and partners of London-based DST Global to expand into Europe.

Matt Leibowitz, Founder and CEO, Stake said: “We’re really excited to get to this point but it’s just the start. We set out to change the game for retail investors and were self-funded for the first four years of our journey. We’ve proven the model and now have the chance to expand our product and bring our zero-brokerage service to more retail investors.”

Since launching in the UK in early 2020, Stake claims to have grown its total customer base more than six times over, with 25% month-on-month customer growth on average and hitting over 330,000 customers globally.

It was the first to offer commission-free access to the US market in Australia, offering retail investors access to over 4,400 US stocks & ETFs without a brokerage fee.

In the UK it competes with eToro, Libertex, Fineco, Plus500 and IG, among others.

#australia, #brazil, #ceo, #companies, #dst-global, #etoro, #europe, #finance, #london, #new-zealand, #retail-investors, #stake, #tc, #tiger-global, #united-kingdom, #united-states

0

Facebook VR exec Hugo Barra is leaving

Four years after joining as Facebook’s first VP of VR, ex-Xiaomi exec Hugo Barra has left the company, he said in a social media post Tuesday.

Barra led Facebook’s VR efforts during a particularly tumultuous time for Oculus, coming aboard to helm the division as the once independent arm was folded deeper into its parent company after the departure of co-founder and CEO Brendan Iribe. During Barra’s time at Facebook, the company pivoted from PC-based VR systems towards all-in-one designs, relying on a partnership with Barra’s previous employer Xiaomi to help the company scale its entry-level Oculus Go headset which has since been discontinued.

The executive was eventually replaced in his role leading AR/VR inside Zuck’s inner circle by long-time Facebook veteran Andrew Bosworth and subsequently moved to a role leading partnerships. Barra leaves months after the launch of Facebook’s $299 Quest 2 headset, which arrived to positive reviews, and on the cusp of the company’s first foray into AR-based smart glasses.

“When Mark Zuckerberg approached me 5 years ago to come to Facebook to lead the Oculus team and work on virtual reality, I knew I was jumping into an ambitious journey to help build the next computing platform but I couldn’t have imagined just how much this team would get done in just a few years,” Barra wrote in a public Facebook post.

Barra didn’t detail where he’ll be landing next, but said he’s joining an effort in the healthcare technology space.

#andrew-bosworth, #arkansas, #brendan-iribe, #companies, #computing, #display-technology, #executive, #facebook, #hugo-barra, #mark-zuckerberg, #mixed-reality, #oculus, #quest, #technology, #virtual-reality, #vr, #wearable-devices, #xiaomi, #zuck

0

TechCrunch Survey of Scottish Tech Hubs: Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dundee, Aberdeen

TechCrunch is embarking on a major new project to survey European founders and investors in cities outside the larger European capitals.

Over the next few weeks, we will ask entrepreneurs in these cities to talk about their ecosystems, in their own words.

This is your chance to put Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dundee, Aberdeen on the Techcrunch Map!.

If you are a tech startup founder or investor in one of these cities please fill out the survey form here.

We are particularly interested in hearing from women founders and investors.

This is the follow-up to the huge survey of investors (see also below) we’ve done over the last six or more months, largely in Europe’s biggest capital cities.

These formed part of a broader series of surveys we’re doing regularly for ExtraCrunch, our subscription service that unpacks key issues for startups and investors.

In the first wave of surveys, the cities we wrote about were largely capitals. You can see them listed here.

This time, we will be surveying founders and investors in Europe’s other cities to capture how European hubs are growing, from the perspective of the people on the ground.

We’d like to know how your city’s startup scene is evolving, how the tech sector is being impacted by COVID-19, and generally how your city will evolve.

We leave submissions mostly unedited and are generally looking for at least one or two paragraphs in answers to the questions.

So if you are a tech startup founder or investor in one of these cities please fill out our survey form here.

Thank you for participating. If you have questions you can email mike@techcrunch.com and/or DM on Twitter to @mikebutcher.

#business, #companies, #economy, #edinburgh, #europe, #startup-company, #tc, #techcrunch, #verizon-media

0

Basecamp sees mass employee exodus after CEO bans political discussions

Following a controversial ban on political discussions earlier this week, Basecamp employees are heading for the exits. The company employs around 60 people, and roughly a third of the company appears to have accepted buyouts to leave, many citing new company policies.

On Monday, Basecamp CEO Jason Fried anounced in a blog post that employees would no longer be allowed to openly share their “societal and political discussions” at work.

“Every discussion remotely related to politics, advocacy or society at large quickly spins away from pleasant,” Fried wrote. “You shouldn’t have to wonder if staying out of it means you’re complicit, or wading into it means you’re a target.”

Basecamp’s departures are significant. According to Twitter posts, Basecamp’s head of design, head of marketing and head of customer support will all depart. The company’s iOS team also appears to have quit en masse and many departing employees have been with the company for years.

The no-politics rule at Basecamp follows a similar stance that Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong staked out late last year. Armstrong also denounced debates around “causes or political candidates” arguing that such discussions distracted from the company’s core work. About 60 members of Coinbase’s 1,200 person staff took buyouts in light of the internal policy change — a ratio that makes the exodus at Basecamp look even more dramatic.

Like Coinbase, Basecamp was immediately criticized for muzzling its employees over important issues, many of which disproportionately impact marginalized employees.

Drawing the line on “political” topics becomes murky very quickly for any non-white or LGBTQ employees, for whom many issues that might be seen as political in nature in some circles — the Black Lives Matter movement, for instance — are inextricably and deeply personal. It’s not a coincidence these grand stands against divisive “politics” at work issue down from white male tech executives.

“If you’re in doubt as to whether your choice of forum or topic for a discussion is appropriate, please ask before posting,” Basecamp CTO David Heinemeier Hansson wrote in his own blog post, echoing Fried.

According to Platformer, Fried’s missive didn’t tell the whole story. Basecamp employees instead said the tension arose from internal conversations about the company itself and its commitment to DEI work, not free-floating arguments about political candidates. Fried’s blog post does mention one particular source of tension in a roundabout way, referencing an employee-led DEI initiative that would be disbanded.

“We make project management, team communication, and email software,” Fried wrote. “We are not a social impact company.”

#basecamp, #brian-armstrong, #ceo, #coinbase, #companies, #cto, #diversity, #drama, #jason-fried, #project-management, #tc

0

The TechCrunch Survey of Dutch tech hubs: Calling Delft, Eindhoven, Rotterdam, Utrecht

TechCrunch is embarking on a major new project to survey European founders and investors in cities outside the larger European capitals.

Over the next few weeks, we will ask entrepreneurs in these cities to talk about their ecosystems, in their own words.

This is your chance to put Delft, Eindhoven, Rotterdam, Utrecht on the Techcrunch Map!. We covered Amsterdam here.

If you are a tech startup founder or investor in one of these cities please fill out the survey form here.

We are particularly interested in hearing from women founders and investors.

This is the follow-up to the huge survey of investors (see also below) we’ve done over the last six or more months, largely in capital cities.

These formed part of a broader series of surveys we’re doing regularly for ExtraCrunch, our subscription service that unpacks key issues for startups and investors.

In the first wave of surveys, the cities we wrote about were largely capitals. You can see them listed here.

This time, we will be surveying founders and investors in Europe’s other cities to capture how European hubs are growing, from the perspective of the people on the ground.

We’d like to know how your city’s startup scene is evolving, how the tech sector is being impacted by COVID-19, and generally how your city will evolve.

We leave submissions mostly unedited and are generally looking for at least one or two paragraphs in answers to the questions.

So if you are a tech startup founder or investor in one of these cities please fill out our survey form here.

Thank you for participating. If you have questions you can email mike@techcrunch.com and/or reply on Twitter to @mikebutcher.

#amsterdam, #business, #companies, #economy, #europe, #startup-company, #tc, #techcrunch, #verizon-media

0

Roku alleges Google is using its monopoly power in YouTube TV carriage negotiations

Roku is alerting its customers that they may lose access to the YouTube TV channel on its platform after negotiations with Google went south. The company alleges that Google is attempting to use its monopoly power to insist on unfair, anticompetitive terms with regard to how Roku handles search results for YouTube content, customer data and more. The email also urges Roku customers to reach out to Google to voice their concerns.

Details of the spat were first reported by Axios.

Roku says Google continues to ask for special treatment on Roku’s streaming media player platform, which today includes a dedicated search results row for YouTube that appear after a customer performs a universal voice search. Roku claims YouTube over a year ago threatened to remove the YouTube app if Roku didn’t comply with this particular demand. It now wants to ask Google to not preference its own service in the search results, as it believes this row doesn’t serve its customer base well. The row returns YouTube results at the top of the search results page, even when this isn’t relevant to what the customer was searching for in the first place, Roku explains.

In addition, Google is adding on to its earlier demands with a new series of requests to only show only YouTube or YouTube Music search results when the YouTube app is open — even overriding Roku user preferences to do so. Today, Roku allows its customers to set their own preferred music service provider for their music requests. Google’s ask that if a user presses the Roku voice search button while YouTube is open, that query returns only YouTube results. That means YouTube Music would play any music request, and YouTube search results would appear for any other request.

Roku says this also disadvantages the customer because it doesn’t honor the user’s preferences — like if their preferred music service is Roku, for example. Also, Roku couldn’t even use the search results to tell the customer if they’ve already paid for the content being requested — like showing them a movie they’ve already bought on another service or one of their paid subscriptions that carries the title.

There are other concerning demands as well, including asks for customer data that goes outside the realm of industry standard practices, Roku told TechCrunch. Roku says this data isn’t available to any other partners and it doesn’t want to share it with Google, either.

Finally, Google wants to reserve the right to ask for new certification requirements, as needed, for carrying YouTube — changes that could impact the cost of Roku’s hardware. By increasing the specs — say, asking for a faster processor speed or more memory — Google could close the gap between Roku’s low-end $29 device with Google’s new $50 Chromecast with Google TV. Roku admits Google has asked for those sorts of hardware changes before, but it now wants that in the YouTube TV agreement, too.

More broadly, Roku is concerned how Google is leveraging YouTube as it asks for these changes, even though the agreement being negotiated is YouTube TV. It says its deal with YouTube is not up for renewal at this time. We understand Google may have also issued similar requests to some TV platforms, but not larger companies like Apple (for Apple TV).

“Google is attempting to use its YouTube monopoly position to force Roku into accepting predatory, anti-competitive and discriminatory terms that will directly harm Roku and our users,” a Roku spokesperson told TechCrunch. “Given antitrust suits against Google, investigations by competition authorities of anti-competitive behavior and Congressional hearings into Google’s practices, it should come as no surprise that Google is now demanding unfair and anti-competitive terms that harm Roku’s users,” they said.

Roku declined to say whether or not it would bring its complaints before antitrust investigators, noting that, for now, its focus on closing the deal for YouTube TV.

While it’s common to see carriage disputes when contracts come up for renewal, those tend to involve requests for more money to allow a platform — like a pay TV provider, for example — to continue to carry a channel or group of channels. In this case, Roku says its not asking for any change in economic terms.

In the email sent to customers this morning at 6 AM, Roku says it won’t accept Google’s terms and its “anticompetitive requirements to manipulate your search results, impact the usage of your data, and ultimately cost you more.”

The full letter is below:

Dear Roku Customer,​

We are sending this email to update you on the possibility that Google may take away your access to the YouTube TV channel on Roku. Recent negotiations with Google to carry YouTube TV have broken down because Roku cannot accept Google’s unfair terms as we believe they could harm our users. ​

Ensuring a great streaming experience at an exceptional value is the core of our business. We will always stand up for our users, which is why we cannot accept Google’s unfair and anticompetitive requirements to manipulate your search results, impact the usage of your data and ultimately cost you more. ​

While we are deeply disappointed in Google’s decision to use their monopoly power to try and force terms that will directly harm streamers, we remain committed to reaching an agreement with Google that preserves your access to YouTube TV, protects your data and ensures a level playing field for companies to compete. We encourage you to contact Google and urge them to reach an agreement to continue offering YouTube TV on Roku and to follow standard industry practices pledging not to require access to sensitive search data or to manipulate your search results. ​

Google has not yet provided comment.

#chromecast, #companies, #digital-media-players, #google, #internet-television, #media, #pay-tv, #roku, #search-results, #streaming-media, #technology, #youtube

0

Colgate-Palmolive, Coca-Cola and Unilever join AB Inbev’s sustainable supply chain accelerator

A clutch of the world’s largest consumer products and food companies are joining Budweiser’s parent company Anheuser-Busch InBev in backing an investment program to support early stage companies focused on making supply chains more sustainable.

The Earth Day-timed announcement comes as companies and consumers confront the failure of recycling programs to adequately address the problems associated with plastic waste — and broader issues around the contributions of consumer behavior and industrial production and distribution to the current climate emergency.

The AB InBev program, called the 100+ Accelerator, launched in 2018 with the goal to solve supply chain challenges in water stewardship, the circular economy, sustainable agriculture and climate action, the company said. These are problems that the alcohol manufacturer’s new partners — Colgate-Palmolive; Coca-Cola; and Unilever are also intimately familiar with.

Since the launch of the accelerator and investment program, AB InBev has backed 36 companies in 16 countries, according to a statement. Those startups have gone on to raise more than $200 million in follow on financing.

The accelerator program creates funding for pilot programs and offers opportunities for early stage companies to consult with executive management at the world’s top consumer brands.

Since the program’s launch, AB InBev has worked with startups to pilot returnable packaging programs; implement new cleaning technologies to reduce water and energy use in Colombian brewing operations; provide insurance to small farms in Africa and South America; collect more waste in Brazil; recycle electric vehicle batteries in China; and upcycle grains waste from the brewing process to create new, nutrient rich food sources.

As pressures from outside investors and regulators mount, companies are beginning to shift their attention to focus on ways to make their industrial processes more sustainable.

These kinds of collaborative initiatives among major corporations, which are long overdue, have the potential to make a significant contribution to reducing the environmental footprint of business, but it depends on the depth of the commitment and the speed at which these businesses are willing to deploy solutions beyond a few small pilot programs.

Applications for the latest cohort will be due by May 31, 2021.

 

#africa, #anheuser-busch, #brazil, #breweries, #china, #coca-cola, #companies, #consumer-products, #earth-day, #food, #south-america, #supply-chains, #tc, #unilever

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‘Bowl food’ startup Poke House closes $24M Series B led by Eulero Capital to expand in Europe

The FoodTech industry is effectively now going into fast food. Sweetgreen in the US is a ‘fast-casual’ restaurant chain that serves healthy “bowl food”. It’s raised $478.6M. A similar firm is Sweetfin. Both employ a lot of tech in their back-end to improve efficiencies.

Into this area has come European startup Poke House, which is effectively industrializing the production of “poke bowls” for food delivery platforms. Poke House specializes in bowl food that often includes marinated fish that’s cubed and layered up with sticky rice, pickles, noodles, etc.

The company has now raised €20 million ($24m) in a Series B funding round led by Eulero Capital, with the backing of FG2 Capital and reinvestment from Milan Investment Partners SGR. It using tech and data to optimize the production and delivery of its product via all the major food delivery platforms such as Uber East etc. The Italy-born food tech startup claims to have built a “€100M+ company” inside two years.

Founded by Matteo Pichi and Vittoria Zanetti, Poke House has opened 30+ stores in Italy, Portugal and Spain, and now has 400 employees. It’s claiming an expected turnover of €40M+ in 2021.

With the funding, the startup will start opening new stores in existing markets, enter France and start in expansion in the UK.

Poke House says it uses a lot of tech on its back-end, tracking every element of the supply chain to optimize the business. It also analyzes data from third-party delivery platforms (ie. Deliveroo, Glovo, UberEats) to deliver a sub-10 mins food preparation time, and a delivery time under 25 mins.

Matteo Pichi, Co-Founder of Poke House said: “The pandemic has challenged our food sector, and we see technology as the way forward to innovate and digitalize the traditional restaurant experience. We are seeing a shift in people’s desires in fast but healthy food. Poke bowls fit this new need and it promotes a more balanced, active and sustainable lifestyle with quick and healthy food options available nearby.”

Speaking to TechCrunch, Pichi added: “Our competitors are the fast-growing healthy concepts such as Sweetgreen or Sweetfin in the US. But in the same time, we think we are lucky because we really are one of the first brands built 100% from food delivery experts or former employees. Our next competitors are gonna be full native virtual brands extremely strong in data analysis and digital brand building. We use food delivery platforms as media platforms and we invest heavier than competitors in the channel.”

Gianfranco Burei, Founding Partner of Eulero Capital said: “Poke House business model rides some of the main trends in the food sector (food-tech, healthy food, delivery, customization) and has all the characteristics and talents to position the company among the top players at European level. We are thrilled to be a partner of Poke House in an innovative and forward-looking project, in line with our investment strategy which is based on the search for companies included in the macro-trends that will characterize the economic, technological and social evolution of the coming years.”

#co-founder, #companies, #deliveroo, #distribution, #europe, #food, #food-delivery, #food-tech, #france, #healthy-food, #italy, #online-food-ordering, #partner, #poke, #portugal, #spain, #supply-chain, #sweetgreen, #tc, #uber, #uber-eats, #united-kingdom, #united-states

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Tyltgo’s same-day delivery platform lets small businesses compete with Amazon

Tyltgo wants to make it easier for restaurants and small businesses to compete with same-day delivery services offered by the likes of Amazon and HelloFresh. The Canadian company, which recently raised CAD $2.3 million (USD $1.8 million) in a seed round, is akin to a white label Uber Eats, providing businesses an on-demand delivery platform under their own branding that connects them to gig economy couriers.

“I think about us as a post-purchase experience company,” co-founder and CEO Jaden Pereira told TechCrunch. “The recipient goes directly onto the merchant’s platform and places orders through them, so it feels like they’re interacting with the brand they purchased from throughout the entire experience. Our messages, notifications, tracking pages and delivery are all customized under the merchant’s brand name, but it’s powered by Tyltgo.”

The necessity of having products delivered during the pandemic’s shelter-in-place orders combined with the massive reach of e-commerce giants like Amazon has created a society that expects same-day deliveries. Tyltgo recognized the exclusionary nature of that reality on smaller businesses with less time and fewer resources, and contrived to remedy the situation with some innovative tech and gig economy couriers.

In July 2018, Pereira, 22, co-founded the company with fellow student and developer Aaron Paul while studying at the University of Waterloo. Pereira originally did deliveries himself as a side hustle, while building up a consumer-facing service on Shopify. In October 2019, Pereira and Paul shifted focus to B2B, identifying the real problem as merchants struggling to offer quality same-day delivery at an affordable price.

From December 2019 to December 2020, Tyltgo’s revenue grew 2000%, says Pereira. The company started 2020 with two staff members and ended with nine, including former head of Uber Eats Canada’s marketplace operations, Joe Rhew, and former director of engineering at Goldman Sachs-acquired fintech company Financeit, Adnan Ali.

Aided by funding from VC firm TI Platform Management, Y Combinator and angel investor Charles Songhurst, Tyltgo projects another 1500% revenue growth for 2021. The company’s goal is to expand its team, develop an API and app-based platform, and add 100 more merchants across Ontario.

Pereira said Tyltgo originally focused on florists, and occasionally pharmacies, but demand from the restaurant industry led to the company’s new target — meal kit deliveries.

Meal kit services that provide the culinarily challenged with perfectly portioned ingredients and cooking instructions were already gaining popularity in the before times. When the pandemic hit, services like HelloFresh and Blue Apron saw even more growth. As restaurants struggled to keep their businesses open, many started to get in on the action, delivering restaurant-quality meals with instructions for heating and serving.

The global meal kit delivery services market is expected to reach almost $20 billion by 2027, with heat-and-eat options taking a large share of that market. Tyltgo is counting on the success of this industry. It has already secured partnerships with restaurants like General Assembly Pizza and Crafty Ramen, as well as with more traditional meal kit delivery services from grocery stores and organic farms.

Pereira said working in the “quasi-perishable space” of flowers and meal kits is both a challenge and a differentiator for the company. Depending on the contents of the delivery, Tyltgo will determine its perishability window and make sure to match that window with a driver. It’s also got an advanced fleet management platform that assigns a number of deliveries to suit the size of a courier’s vehicle.

“In the earlier days, the hardest part was being able to match those perishability windows without causing damage to the products,” said Pereira. “We all know that in logistics, you have to account for traffic, weather conditions, all these other things, but you have an eight hour delivery window to get out 35 deliveries.”

Another challenge is ensuring the top quality service Tyltgo advertises while working in the gig economy. Selecting for reliable couriers has slowed the company down at points, but Tyltgo aims to grow capacity only if it can simultaneously maintain a low error threshold.

“We won’t bring on a merchant if we don’t think we have the capacity to handle their deliveries and meet those expectations,” said Pereira.

Whether or not Tyltgo’s meal kit focus will end up driving scalability in the long run, the platform itself has legs. Pereira’s goal is to see Tyltgo become a part of every post-purchase customer experience for all retail trade categories, and that includes expanding into customer service, branding and transactions on top of delivery.

“The main reason why we’re doing this is because a lot of these smaller, brick-and-mortar retailers don’t have the time and resources to be able to compete with the Amazons of the world,” said Pereira. “We want to be able to put that power in their hands.”

#amazon, #blue-apron, #canada, #companies, #courier, #gig-economy, #hellofresh, #meal-kit, #mobility, #online-food-ordering, #shopify, #tc, #uber, #uber-eats, #university-of-waterloo, #y-combinator

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Tamika Butler, Remix’s Tiffany Chu and Revel’s Frank Reig to discuss how to balance equitability and profitability at TC Sessions Mobility

The race among mobility startups to become profitable by controlling market share has produced a string of bad results for cities and the people living in the them.

City officials and agencies learned from those early deployments of ride-hailing and shared scooter services and have since pushed back with new rules and tighter control over which companies can operate. This correction has prompted established companies to change how they do business and fueled a new crop of startups, all promising a different approach.

But can mobility be accessible, equitable and profitable? And how?

TC Sessions: Mobility 2021, a virtual event scheduled for June 9, aims to dig into those questions. Luckily, we have three guests who are at the center of cities, equity and shared mobility: community organizer, transportation consultant and lawyer Tamika L. Butler, Remix co-founder and CEO Tiffany Chu and Revel co-founder and CEO Frank Reig.

Butler, a lawyer and founder and principal of her own consulting company, is well known for work in diversity and inclusion, equity, the built environment, community organizing and leading nonprofits. She was most recently the director of planning in California and the director of equity and inclusion at Toole Design. She previously served as the executive director of the Los Angeles Neighborhood Land Trust and was the executive director of the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition. Butler also sits on the board of Lacuna Technologies.

Chu is the CEO and co-founder of Remix, a startup that developed mapping software used by cities for transportation planning and street design. Remix was recently acquired by Via for $100 million and will continue to operate as a subsidiary of the company. Remix, which was backed by Sequoia Capital, Energy Impact Partners, Y Combinator, and Elemental Excelerator has been recognized as both a 2020 World Economic Forum Tech Pioneer and BloombergNEF Pioneer for its work in empowering cities to make transportation decisions with sustainability and equity at the forefront. Chu currently serves as Commissioner of the San Francisco Department of the Environment, and sits on the city’s Congestion Pricing Policy Advisory Committee. Previously, Tiffany was a Fellow at Code for America, the first UX hire at Zipcar and is an alum of Y Combinator. Tiffany has a background in architecture and urban planning from MIT.

Early Bird tickets to the show are now available — book today and save $100 before prices go up.

Reig is the co-founder and CEO of Revel, a transportation company that got its start launching a shared electric moped service in Brooklyn. The company, which launched in 2018, has since expanded its moped service to Queens, Manhattan, the Bronx, Washington, D.C., Miami, Oakland, Berkeley, and San Francisco. The company has since expanded its focus beyond moped and has started to build fast-charging EV Superhubs across New York City and launched an eBike subscription service in four NYC boroughs. Prior to Revel, Reig held senior roles in the energy and corporate sustainability sectors.

The trio will join other speakers TechCrunch has announced, a list that so far includes Joby Aviation founder and CEO JonBen Bevirt, investor and Linked founder Reid Hoffman, whose special purpose acquisition company just merged with Joby, as well as investors Clara Brenner of Urban Innovation Fund, Quin Garcia of Autotech Ventures and Rachel Holt of Construct Capital and Starship Technologies co-founder and CEO/CTO Ahti Heinla. Stay tuned for more announcements in the weeks leading up to the event.

#america, #automotive, #autotech-ventures, #brands, #butler, #california, #ceo, #cities, #clara-brenner, #companies, #construct-capital, #energy, #energy-impact-partners, #frank-reig, #joby-aviation, #miami, #mit, #new-york-city, #oakland, #quin-garcia, #rachel-holt, #reid-hoffman, #remix, #revel, #san-francisco, #sequoia-capital, #starship-technologies, #startup-company, #tamika-l-butler, #tc, #tc-sessions-mobility, #techcrunch, #tiffany-chu, #transportation, #urban-innovation-fund, #washington-d-c, #world-economic-forum, #y-combinator, #zipcar

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Casa Blanca raises $2.6M to build the ‘Bumble for real estate’

Casa Blanca, which aims to develop a “Bumble-like app” for finding a home, has raised $2.6 million in seed funding.

Co-founder and CEO Hannah Bomze got her real estate license at the age of 18 and worked at Compass and  Douglas Elliman Real Estate before launching Casa Blanca last year.

She launched the app last October with the goal of matching home buyers and renters with homes using an in-app matchmaking algorithm combined with “expert agents.” Buyers get up to 1% of home purchases back at closing. Similar to dating apps, Casa Blanca’s app is powered by a simple swipe left or right.

Samuel Ben-Avraham, a partner and early investor of Kith and an early investor in WeWork, led the round for Casa Blanca, bringing its total raise to date to $4.1 million.

The New York-based startup recently launched in the Colorado market and has seen some impressive traction in a short amount of time. 

Since launching the app in October, Casa Blance has “made more than $100M in sales” and is projected to reach $280 million this year between New York and its Denver launch. 

Bomze said the app experience will be customized for each city with the goal of creating a personalized experience for each user. Casa Blanca claims to streamline and sort listings based on user preferences and lifestyle priorities.

Image Credits: Casa Blanca

“People love that there is one place to book, manage feedback, schedule and communicate with a branded agent for one cohesive experience,” Bomze said. “We have a breadth of users from first time buyers to people using our platform for $15 million listings.”

Unlike competitors, Casa Blanca applies to a direct-to-consumer model, she pointed out.

“While our agents are an integral part of the company, they are not responsible for bringing in business and have more organizational support, which allows them to focus on the individual more and creates a better end-to-end experience for the consumer,” Bomze said.

Casa Blanca currently has over 38 agents in NYC and Colorado, compared to about 15 at this time last year.

“We are in a growth phase and finding a unique opportunity in this climate, in particular, because there are many women exploring new, more flexible job opportunities,” Bomze noted. 

The company plans to use its new capital to continue expanding into new markets, nationally and globally; enhancingits technology and scaling.

“As we continue to grow in new markets, the app experience will be curated to each city – for example, in Colorado you can edit your preferences based on access to ski areas – to make sure we’re offering a personalized experience for each user,” Bomze said.

#colorado, #companies, #corporate-finance, #denver, #funding, #fundings-exits, #model, #new-york, #real-estate, #recent-funding, #social-software, #startup, #startups, #tc, #wework

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Goldman Sachs leads $23M in funding for Brazilian e-commerce startup Olist

Olist, a Brazilian e-commerce marketplace integrator, has raised $23 million in a Series D round extension led by new investor Goldman Sachs Asset Management that brings its total Series D financing to $80 million.

Existing backer Redpoint Ventures, which first put money in Olist in 2015, also participated in the latest round. With this latest infusion, Olist has now raised over $126 million since its 2015 inception. This round is reportedly its last before the company plans to go public, according to Bloomberg.

SoftBank led the first tranch of Olist’s Series D in November as well as the company’s $46 million Series C in 2019. Valor Capital, Velt Partners, FJ Labs, Península and angel Kevin Efrusy had previously invested in the first tranche of the Series D.

Olist connects small businesses to larger product marketplaces to help entrepreneurs sell their products to a larger customer base. The company was founded with the mission of helping small merchants gain market share across the country through a SaaS licensing model to small brick and mortar businesses.

As of October 2019, Olist had more than 7,000 customers and used a drop-shipping model to send products directly from stores to clients around the country, allowing them to grow with a capital-light model.

Today, Olist says its platform provides tools that support “all the stages of an e-commerce operation” with the goal of helping merchants see “rapid increases in sales volume.” It currently has about 25,000 merchants on its platform.

The startup is no doubt benefiting from the pandemic-fueled e-commerce boom taking place all over the world as more people have turned to online shopping. Latin America, in general, has been home to increased e-commerce adoption. The region’s $85 billion e-commerce market is growing rapidly with projections of it reaching $116.2 billion in 2023.

As evidence of that, Olist says its revenue tripled to a record number in the first quarter of 2021 compared to the previous year, although it did not provide hard figures. It also reportedly doubled revenue in 2020, according to Bloomberg.

Olist Store, the company’s flagship product, gives merchants a way to manage product listings, logistics and store payments. It also offers “a unique sales experience” through channels such as Mercado Livre, B2W and Via Varejo. The product saw a record GMV in the first half of the year, which was up 2.5 times over the same period in the prior year, the company said.

Last year, Olist launched a new product, Olist Shops, giving users the ability to create a virtual showcase “in less than 3 minutes” that also offers payment checkout tools and integration with logistics operators. Shops has interfaces in Portuguese, English, and Spanish, and since its launch, it has attracted more than 200,000 users in 180 countries, according to Olist.

“The pandemic has accelerated digitalizing business processes around the world, thus spurring e-commerce growth in a surprising way,” said Tiago Dalvi, Olist’s founder and CEO, in a written statement. 

The company plans to use its new capital to invest in technology and products, pursuing new mergers and acquisitions and boosting its internationalization process. This is on top of two acquisitions Olist made last year — Clickspace and Pax Logistica, which gave Olist entry into the heated logistics space with more than 4,000 registered drivers.

Specifically, CFO Eduardo Ferraz said the company is in preliminary discussions with ERPs, retailers, and companies with complementary solutions to its own.

“That is why we also decided to expand the investment in our Series D and bring Goldman Sachs as another relevant investor to our cap table,” he said.

David Castelblanco, managing director and head of Latin America Corporate and Growth Equity Investing for the Goldman Sachs Asset Management, said his firm was impressed with how Olist empowers SMBs to generate more revenue.

“Tiago and the Olist team are incredibly customer oriented and have created an innovative technological solution for their e-commerce clients,” he added.

Olist is operating in an increasingly crowded space. In March, we covered São Paulo-based Nuvemshop’s $90 million raise that was led by Silicon Valley venture firm Accel. That company has developed an e-commerce platform that aims to allow SMBs and merchants to connect more directly with their consumers. 

#accel, #banks, #brazil, #ceo, #cfo, #companies, #e-commerce, #finance, #fj-labs, #goldman-sachs, #kevin-efrusy, #latin-america, #olist, #online-shopping, #opera, #redpoint-ventures, #sao-paulo, #series-d, #softbank, #tc, #valor-capital

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Mortgage is suddenly sexy as SoftBank pumps $500M in Better.com at $6B valuation

Digital mortgage lender Better.com has raised a $500 million round from Japanese investment conglomerate SoftBank that values the company at $6 billion.

The financing is notable for a few reasons. For one, that new $6 billion valuation,  is up 50% from the $4 billion it was valued at last November when it raised $200 million in Series D financing. It’s also up tenfold from its $600 million valuation at the time of its Series C raise in August 2019.

Secondly, it’s further proof that mortgage – a traditionally “unsexy” industry that has long been in need of disruption – is officially hot. For all its controversy, when SoftBank invests, people pay attention.

The COVID-19 pandemic and historically-low mortgage rates fueled acceleration in the online lending space in a way that no one could have anticipated. That, combined with the general fervour in venture funding, means it’s not a big surprise that Better.com has raised $700 million in just a matter of months.

The investment brings Better.com’s total funding raised to over $900 million since its 2014 inception. Other backers include Goldman Sachs, Kleiner Perkins, American Express, Activant Capital and Citi, among others.

According to the Wall Street Journal, SoftBank is buying shares from Better’s existing investors, and agreed to give all of its voting rights to CEO and founder Vishal Garg “in a sign of its eagerness” to invest in the company. 

During a one-on-one interview at Lendit Fintech’s USA 2020 virtual event in October, Garg had told me that an IPO was definitely in the works.

“We’ll do it when it’s right,” he said. “One of the core tenets of American capitalism is the ability for your customers to buy your stock.”

At that time, he had also told me that before the pandemic, Better was processing about $1.2 billion a month in loans. But as of October 2020, it was funding over $2.5 billion per month, and had gone from 1,500 staffers to about 4,000 worldwide. 

“When the pandemic started we were doing less than sort of like $50 million a month of revenue,” he said. “We’re two-and-a half times that now.”

#activant-capital, #better-com, #ceo, #citi, #companies, #finance, #fintech, #funding, #fundings-exits, #goldman-sachs, #kleiner-perkins, #online-lending, #recent-funding, #softbank, #softbank-group, #startups, #tc, #the-wall-street-journal, #united-states, #venture-capital, #vishal-garg, #vodafone

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