Tezlab CEO Ben Schippers to discuss the Tesla effect and the next wave of EV startups at TC Sessions: Mobility 2021

As Tesla sales have risen, interest in the company has exploded, prompting investment and interest in the automotive industry, as well as the startup world.

Tezlab, a free app that’s like a Fitbit for a Tesla vehicle, is just one example of the numerous startups that have sprung up in the past few years as electric vehicles have started to make the tiniest of dents in global sales. Now, as Ford, GM, Volvo, Hyundai along with newcomers Rivian, Fisker and others launch electric vehicles into the marketplace, more startups are sure to follow.

Ben Schippers, the co-founder and CEO of Tezlab, is one of two early-stage founders who will join us at TC Sessions: Mobility 2021 to talk about their startups and the opportunities cropping up in this emerging age of EVs. The six-person team behind TezLab was born out of HappyFunCorp, a software engineering shop that builds apps for mobile, web, wearables and Internet of Things devices for clients that include Amazon, Facebook and Twitter, as well as an array of startups.

HFC’s engineers, including Schippers, who also co-founded HFC, were attracted to Tesla  because of its techcentric approach and one important detail: the Tesla API endpoints are accessible to outsiders. The Tesla API is technically private. But it exists allowing the Tesla’s app to communicate with the cars to do things like read battery charge status and lock doors. When reverse-engineered, it’s possible for a third-party app to communicate directly with the API.

Schippers’ experience extends beyond scaling up Tezlab. Schippers consults and works with companies focused on technology and human interaction, with a sub-focus in EV.

The list of speakers at our 2021 event is growing by the day and includes Motional’s president and CEO Karl Iagnemma and Aurora co-founder and CEO Chris Urmson, who will discuss the past, present and future of AVs. On the electric front is Mate Rimac, the founder of Rimac Automobili, who will talk about scaling his startup from a one-man enterprise in a garage to more than 1,000 people and contracts with major automakers.

We also recently announced a panel dedicated to China’s robotaxi industry, featuring three female leaders from Chinese AV startups: AutoX’s COO Jewel Li, Huan Sun, general manager of Momenta Europe with Momenta, and WeRide’s VP of Finance Jennifer Li.

Other guests include, GM’s VP of Global Innovation Pam Fletcher, Scale AI CEO Alexandr Wang, Joby Aviation founder and CEO JoeBen Bevirt, investor and LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman (whose special purpose acquisition company just merged with Joby), investors Clara Brenner of Urban Innovation Fund, Quin Garcia of Autotech Ventures and Rachel Holt of Construct Capital, and Zoox co-founder and CTO Jesse Levinson.

And we may even have one more surprise — a classic TechCrunch stealth company reveal to close the show.

Don’t wait to book your tickets to TC Sessions: Mobility as prices go up at our virtual door.

#alexandr-wang, #amazon, #api, #articles, #aurora, #automation, #autotech-ventures, #autox, #av, #ben-schippers, #ceo, #china, #chris-urmson, #clara-brenner, #construct-capital, #coo, #facebook, #fitbit, #founder, #happyfuncorp, #hyundai, #jesse-levinson, #jewel-li, #joby, #joby-aviation, #joeben-bevirt, #karl-iagnemma, #linkedin, #major, #mate-rimac, #momenta, #motional, #pam-fletcher, #quin-garcia, #rachel-holt, #reid-hoffman, #rimac-automobili, #rivian, #robotaxi, #robotics, #scale-ai, #science-and-technology, #self-driving-cars, #startup-company, #tc, #technology, #tesla, #tezlab, #urban-innovation-fund, #volvo, #weride, #zoox

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ChargerHelp co-founder, CEO Kameale C. Terry is heading to TC Sessions: Mobility 2021

Thousands of electric vehicle charging stations will be built around the country over the next decade. ChargerHelp!, founded in January 2020 by Kameale C. Terry and Evette Ellis, wants to make sure they stay up and running.

The idea for the on-demand repair app for EV charging stations came to Terry when she was working at EV Connect, where she held a number of roles including director of programs and head of customer experience. She noticed long wait times to fix non-electrical issues at charging stations due to the industry practice to use electrical contractors.

“When the stations went down we really couldn’t get anyone on site because most of the issues were communication issues, vandalism, firmware updates or swapping out a part — all things that were not electrical,” Terry said in an interview with TechCrunch earlier this year.

After Terry quit her job to start ChargerHelp!, she joined the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator, where she developed a first-of-its-kind EV Network Technician Training Curriculum. Shortly after, Terry and Ellis were accepted into Elemental Excelerator’s startup incubator and have landed contracts with major EV charging network providers like EV Connect and SparkCharge.

The company uses a workforce-development approach to hiring, meaning that they only hire in cohorts. Workers receive full training, earn two safety licenses, are guaranteed a wage of $30 an hour and receive shares in the startup, Terry said.

We’re excited to announce that Kameale Terry will be joining us at TC Sessions: Mobility 2021, a one-day virtual event that is scheduled June 9. We’ll be covering a lot of ground with Terry, from how she developed her EV repair curriculum to what she sees in the company’s future.

Each year TechCrunch brings together founders, investors, CEOs and engineers who are working on all things transportation and mobility. If it moves people and packages from Point A to Point B, we cover it. This year’s agenda is filled with leaders in the mobility space who are shaping the future of transportation, from EV charging to autonomous vehicles to urban air taxis.

Among the growing list of speakers are Rimac Automobili founder Mate RimacRevel Transit CEO Frank Reig, community organizer, transportation consultant and lawyer Tamika L. Butler and Remix/Via co-founder and CEO Tiffany Chu, who will come together to discuss how (and if) urban mobility can increase equity while still remaining a viable business.

Other guests include Motional’s President and CEO Karl Iagnemma, Aurora co-founder and CEO Chris Urmson, GM‘s VP of Global Innovation Pam FletcherScale AI CEO Alexandr WangJoby Aviation founder and CEO JoeBen Bevirt, investor and LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman (whose special purpose acquisition company just merged with Joby), investors Clara Brenner of Urban Innovation FundQuin Garcia of Autotech Ventures and Rachel Holt of Construct CapitalZoox co-founder and CTO Jesse Levinson.

We also recently announced a panel dedicated to China’s robotaxi industry, featuring three female leaders from Chinese AV startups: AutoX’s COO Jewel LiHuan Sun, general manager of Momenta Europe with Momenta, and WeRide’s VP of Finance Jennifer Li.

Don’t wait to book your tickets to TC Sessions: Mobility as prices go up at the door. Grab your passes right now and hear from today’s biggest mobility leaders.

#alexandr-wang, #aurora, #automation, #automotive, #autotech-ventures, #autox, #av, #ceo, #chargerhelp, #charging-station, #china, #chris-urmson, #clara-brenner, #construct-capital, #coo, #electric-vehicle, #electric-vehicle-charging-station, #electric-vehicles, #ev-connect, #events, #frank-reig, #jesse-levinson, #jewel-li, #joby, #joby-aviation, #joeben-bevirt, #karl-iagnemma, #linkedin, #mate-rimac, #momenta, #motional, #pam-fletcher, #quin-garcia, #rachel-holt, #reid-hoffman, #revel-transit, #rimac-automobili, #robotaxi, #robotics, #scale-ai, #science-and-technology, #sparkcharge, #startups, #tamika-l-butler, #tc, #tc-sessions-mobility-2021, #technology, #tiffany-chu, #transport, #transportation, #urban-innovation-fund, #weride, #zoox

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AI-powered Jerry raises $28M to help you save money on car insurance

When Art Agrawal was growing up in India, a car ride was a rare treat, and car ownership was a dream. When he moved to the U.S. and bought his first car, he was shocked by how much it cost and how difficult it was to maintain a car.

In 2012, he co-founded a company called YourMechanic that provides on-demand automotive mobile maintenance and repair services. Over the years, the challenge of helping consumers more easily find car insurance was in the back of his mind. So in 2017, he teamed up with Lina Zhang and  Musawir Shah to found Jerry, a mobile-first car ownership “super app.” The Palo Alto-based startup launched an AI/ML-powered car insurance comparison service in January 2019. It has quietly since amassed nearly 1 million customers across the United States as a licensed insurance broker.

“Today as a consumer, you have to go to multiple different places to deal with different things,” Argawal said. “Jerry is out to change that.”

And now today, Jerry is announcing that it has raised more than $57 million in funding, including a new $28 million Series B round led by Goodwater Capital. A group of angel investors also participated in the round include Greenlight president Johnson Cook and Greenlight CEO Timothy Sheehan; Tekion CEO Jay Vijayan; Jon McNeill, CEO of DVx Ventures and former president of Tesla and ex-COO of Lyft; Brandon Krieg, CEO of Stash and Ed Robinson, co-founder and president of Stash.

CEO Argawal says Jerry is different from other auto-related marketplaces out there in that it aims to help consumers with various aspects of car ownership (from repair to maintenance to insurance to warranties), rather than just one. Although for now it is mostly focused on insurance, it plans to use its new capital to move into other categories of car ownership.

The company also believes it is set apart from competitors in that it doesn’t refer a consumer to an insurance carrier’s site so that they still have to do the work of signing up with them separately, for example. Rather, Jerry uses automation to give consumers customized quotes from more than 45 insurance carriers “in 45 seconds.” The consumers can then sign on to the new carrier via Jerry, which would even cancel former policies on their behalf.

Image Credits: Jerry

“With Jerry, you can complete the whole transaction in our app,” Argawal said. “We don’t send you to another site. You don’t have to fill out a bunch of forms. You just give us some information, and we’ll instantly provide you with quotes.”

Its customers save on average about $800 a year on car insurance, the company claims. Jerry also offers a similar offering for home insurance but its focus is on car ownership.

The company must be doing something right. In 2020, Jerry saw its revenue surge by “10x.”

For some context, Jerry sold a few million dollars of insurance in 2019, according to Argawal. This year, he said, the company is on track to do “two to four times” more than last year’s numbers.

“There’s no other automated way to compare and buy car insurance, because all the APIs are not easily accessible,” he said. “What we have done is we have automated the end to end journey for the consumer using our infrastructure, which will only scale over time.”

Jerry makes recurring revenue from earning a percentage of the premium when a consumer purchases a policy on its site. So it’s partnered with carriers such as Progressive, Lemonade and Root to make that happen.

“A lot of the marketplaces are lead-gen. A very small percent of their revenue is reoccurring,” Argawal said. “For us, it’s 100% of our revenues.”

Down the line, Jerry wants to become a carrier itself, but is realistic in that it will take time to get licensed in all 50 states, so it expects those relationships to continue for some time.

Goodwater Capital’s Chi-Hua Chien notes that the insurance space has historically been a very challenging category from a customer experience perspective.

“They took something that has historically been painful, intimidating and difficult for the customer and made it effortless,” he told TechCrunch. “That experience will more broadly over time apply to comparison shopping and maintenance, too.”

Chien said he was also drawn to the category itself.

“This is a competitive category because 100% of drivers need to have auto insurance 100% of the time,” he said. “That’s a large market that’s not going to go away. And since Jerry is powered by AI, it will only serve customers better over time, and just grow faster.”

#apps, #artificial-intelligence, #auto-insurance, #car-insurance, #car-ownership, #ceo, #chi-hua-chien, #coo, #economy, #finance, #funding, #fundings-exits, #goodwater-capital, #greenlight, #india, #insurance, #insurtech, #jay-vijayan, #jerry, #jon-mcneill, #lyft, #money, #palo-alto, #president, #recent-funding, #startup, #startups, #stash, #tc, #tekion, #tesla, #united-states, #venture-capital

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Quix raises $3.2M from Project A and others for its ‘Stream centric’ approach to data

Quix, a platform for Python developers working on streaming data, has secured a £2.3 Million ($3.2M)Seed funding round led by Project A Ventures in Germany, with participation from London’s Passion Capital and angel investors. The Quix Portal is also providing developers with a free subscription to a real-time data engineering platform.

Quix attracted angel investors including Frank Sagnier (CEO, Codemasters), Ian Hogarth (Co-author, State of AI Report), Chris Schagen (CMO, Contentful), and Michael Schrezenmaier (COO, Pipedrive).

Quix wants to change the way data is handled and processed from a database-centric approach to a ‘stream-centric’ approach, connecting machine learning models to real-time data streams. This is arguably the next paradigm in computing.

Use cases for Quix, it says, include developing electric vehicles, and fraud prevention in financial services. Some of its early customers are the NHS, Deloitte and McLaren.

Indeed, the founding team consists of former McLaren F1 engineers who are used to processing real-time data streams from the systems used by most Formula 1 teams.

Co-founder and CEO Michael Rosam said: “At Quix, we believe that it will soon be essential for every organization to automatically action data within milliseconds of it being created. Whether it’s personalizing digital experiences, developing electric vehicles, automating industrial machinery, deploying smart wearables in healthcare, or detecting financial fraud faster, the ability to run machine learning models on live data streams and immediately respond to rapidly changing environments is critical to delivering better experiences and outcomes to people.”

Over email he told me that Quix’s main advantage is that it allows developers to build streaming applications on Kafka without investing in cloud infrastructure first: “Uniquely, our API & SDK connects any Python code directly to the broker so that teams can run real-time machine learning models in-memory, reducing latency and cost compared to database-centric architectures.”

Quix is entering the data ecosystem alongside batch data processing platforms like Snowflake and Databricks, and event streaming platforms like Confluent, Materialize, and DBT. However, this ecosystem is very complementary with organizations usually combining multiple products into a production infrastructure based on the strengths of each proposition.

Sam Cash of Project A Ventures said: “Data streaming is the next paradigm in data architecture, given end-users accelerating demand for live, on-demand and personalized applications. The Quix team are leading the way in this market, by democratizing access to data streaming infrastructure, which until now has been the reserve of the largest companies.”

Malin Posern, Partner at Passion Capital commented: “The world today is generating unimaginable amounts of data from digital and physical activities. Businesses of all types and sizes will want to make use of their data in real-time in order to be competitive.”

#api, #ceo, #cloud-infrastructure, #codemasters, #computing, #coo, #data-stream, #databricks, #deloitte, #europe, #financial-services, #germany, #healthcare, #ian-hogarth, #kafka, #machine-learning, #mclaren, #nhs, #passion-capital, #pipedrive, #project-a-ventures, #python, #streaming-applications, #streaming-data, #streaming-media, #tc, #technology, #wireless-networking

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Final-mile fulfillment startup parcelLab closes $112M Series C funding led by Insight Partners

Munich-based parcelLab, which offers a final-mile fulfillment service for online retailers, has closed a $112 million (GB£80 million) Series C funding round led by the US VC/PE firm Insight Partners.

Germany’s Endeit Capital participated as a co-investor, alongside existing investors Capnamic Ventures and coparion. parcelLab last raised an undisclosed Series B in October 2019. The new funding will feed into parcelLab’s global expansion plans and new product development.

Founded in 2015 by Tobias Buxhoidt (CEO), Julian Krenge (CTO), and Anton Eder (COO), the startup has managed to bag such customers as Lidl, to which it provides automated personalized shipping messages. This means that as much as 85% of Lidl customers return to its website.

It also works with IKEA and Farfetch to increase basket sizes and email open rates of – it claims – over 90%, 25% reductions in WISMO (where is my order), and increases of customer reviews.   

In a statement Tobias Buxhoidt, CEO and Founder of parcelLab, said: “As e-commerce becomes increasingly competitive, providing unique and branded experiences will drive growth. Identifying opportunities to further connect with people and build a better, stronger relationship is a key differentiator.”   
 
Matt Gatto, Managing Director at Insight Partners, said: “We pride ourselves in identifying and investing in software ScaleUp companies that are driving transformative change in their industries. In parcelLab, we see true potential to transform how brands and people connect.”

Endeit only recently raised a €250 million fund to invest in B-stage European startups, so this is its most recent deployment of capital.

Philipp Schroeder Partner at Endeit commented: “ParcelLab’s team is the perfect example of internet entrepreneurs that we want to support – entrepreneurs who can drive the change to make Europe more competitive and who have the ambition to become global market leaders.” 

ParcelLab’s main competitor is US-based Narvar which has raised $64M, with its last round being a Series C funding.

#business, #capnamic-ventures, #ceo, #coo, #cto, #e-commerce, #endeit-capital, #entrepreneurship, #europe, #farfetch, #germany, #ikea, #insight-partners, #internet-entrepreneurs, #munich, #partner, #retailers, #tc

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Could NFT auctions be moving away from Ethereum? One new group is betting they will

NFTs were arguably already taking off when Beeple sold his NFT artwork for $69m. But another crypto project attracted attention when it bought an original Banksy artwork for $95,000.

The group literally burnt the artwork and sold its NFT on the OpenSea platform for $400,000. Although the stunt was covered by CBS News, BBC News, The Guardian, and others, it did actually make a significant point.

By removing the physical piece, the group – calling itself “Burnt Banksy” – proved that the value of the piece wasn’t affected by being destroyed, given that the NFT went up so much in value.

Now that project is turning that stunt into an actual blockchain platform for art auctions.

Burnt Finance says it has raised $3 Million for a decentralized auction protocol built on the Solana blockchain.

The project is being incubated by Injective Protocol (which recently raised $10 from investors and Mark Cuban, as well as Multicoin, DeFiance, Alameda, Mechanism, Vessel Capital, Hashkey, Spartan, Do Kwon (CEO of Terra), Sandeep (COO of Polygon), and others.

The reason why it’s worth mentioning all this is that in trying to auction the painting, the Burnt Banksy group stumbled on an increasing problem in the world of NFTs: the rising congestion on the Ethereum network is leading to larger and larger gas fees. This is making both the creation and bidding on NFTs increasingly expensive, just from a baseline.

As a result, team decided to build the Burnt Finance NFT auction platform away from Etherum and hit upon the Solana blockchain, which has comparatively good speed, performance, and lower transaction costs. It will use ‘Solana Wormhole’ which connects ETH and ERC20 tokens to SPL Tokens.

A spokesperson for Burnt Finance, ‘Burnt Banksy’ told me: “Most auctions are Ethereum based, and currently the Ethereum gas fees are extremely high. It can cost you up to $70 to make an artwork, which doesn’t work if you’re selling an NFT for $50. We chose Solana mainly because of the ecosystem. It’s fast-growing, in addition to the technical aspect of it.”

There’s another reason why we may see other Crypto projects move away from Ethereum as ETH rises in price and as gas fees increase: the potential for bad faith actors in NFT auctions.

If a bad actor tries to leverage the congestion on Ethereum and manipulate the transaction fee, they might sway the results of an auction. This would be quite something, if the auction was for, say, $69 million…

#bbc, #blockchains, #ceo, #coo, #crypto-art, #cryptocurrencies, #decentralized-finance, #distributed-computing, #ethereum, #europe, #joseph-lubin, #spokesperson, #tc, #terra, #the-guardian

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How 4 New Jersey pools turned into a startup that just raised $10M

As the oldest of 12 children, Bunim Laskin spent much of his teen years looking for ways to help keep his siblings entertained. Noticing that a neighbor’s pool was often empty, Laskin reached out to ask if his family could use her pool. To make it worth her while, he suggested that they could help cover her expenses for maintaining the pool.

Soon after, five other families had made the same arrangement with her and the pool owner had six families covering 25% of her expenses. This meant that the neighbor was actually making money off her pool. The arrangement sparked a business idea in Laskin’s mind. At the age of 20, he founded Swimply, a marketplace for homeowners to rent out their underutilized pools to local swimmers, with Asher Weinberger.

The Cedarhurst, New York-based company launched a beta in 2018, starting with four pools in the New Jersey area. 

“We used Google Earth to find houses, and then knocked on 80 doors with a pool,” Laskin recalls. “We got to 100 pools organically. Word of mouth really helped us grow.” The site was pretty bare bones, he admits, with potential customers only able to view photos of the pools and connect with the pool owner by phone.

That year, Swimply did around 400 reservations and raised $1.2 million from friends and family.

In 2019, Swimply launched what he describes as a “proper” website and app with an automated platform. It grew “4 to 5 times” that year, again mostly organically. In an episode that aired in March 2020, the company appeared on Shark Tank but went home without a deal.

Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Swimply, Laskin said, pivoted right into the pandemic.

“We were the perfect solution for people when the world was falling on its head,” he said. The company restructured its offering to ensure that pool owners did not have to interact with guests. “It was the perfect, contact-free, self-serve experience to hang out and be with people you quarantined with.”

The CDC then came out to say that it was safe to swim because chlorine could help kill the virus, and that proved to be a big boon to its business.

“On one end, it was a way for people to have a normal day and on the other, it helped give owners a way to earn an income, at a time when many people were being affected financially,” Laskin told TechCrunch.

Business took off in 2020 with revenue growing 4,000% and now Swimply is announcing a $10 million Series A round. Norwest Venture Partners led the financing, which also included participation from Trust Ventures and a number of angel investors such as Poshmark founder and CEO Manish Chandra; Rob Chesnut, former general counsel and chief ethics officer at Airbnb; Ancestry.com CEO Deborah Liu and Michael Curtis. 

Swimply is now operating in a total of 125 U.S. markets, two markets in Canada and five markets in Australia. It plans to use its new capital in part to expand into new markets and toward product development.

Image Credits: Swimply

The way it works is pretty straightforward. Swimply simply connects homeowners that have underutilized backyard spaces and pools with those seeking a way to gather, cool off or exercise, for example. People or families can rent pools by the hour, ranging in price from $15 to $60 per hour (at an average of $45/hour) depending on the amenities. New markets that Swimply has recently expanded to include Portland, Oregon; Raleigh, NC and the California cities of Oakland, San Luis Obispo and Los Gatos. 

“The shifting mindset from younger generations about ownership is a huge contributor to increased growth of the Swimply marketplace,” said co-founder Weinberger, who serves as Swimply’s COO. “Swimming is the third most popular activity for adults and number one for children, and yet no other company has tackled the aquatic space to make swimming more affordable and accessible…until now.”

While the company declined to provide hard revenue figures, Laskin said Swimply was seeing “7 digits a month in revenue” and 15,000 to 20,000 reservations a month. Families represent the most popular reservation.

“People can book and pay through our platform, and only 20% of hosts ever meet their guests,” Laskin said. “We’re enabling a new kind of consumer behavior with what we’re doing.”

The company is planning to use its new capital to also rebuild much of its tech infrastructure and boost its customer support team to be more “readily available.”

It is also now offering a complimentary up to $1 million worth of insurance per booking for liability as well as $10,000.

Swimply has a little over 20 employees, up 10 times from 2 people in December of 2020. It plans to double that number over the next few months.

The company’s model has proven quite lucrative for some owners, according to Laskin.

“Last year, there were some owners who earned $10,000 a month. One owner in Denver earned $50,000 last year and he had signed up toward the end of the summer. He should make over $100,000 this year,” Lasken projects.

Its only criteria is that owners offer a clean pool. Eighty five percent of hosts offer restrooms as well. If they don’t, they are limited to one-hour reservations with a max of five guests. Swimply has also partnered with local pool companies, and if they pay one of its owners a visit and certify that pool, that owner gets a badge on the site “so guests get an additional level of security,” Laskin said.

Ed Yip of Norwest Venture Partners admits that when he first heard of the concept of Swimply, he “didn’t know what to make of it.”

But the more he heard about it, the more excited he got.

“This is the holy grail for a consumer investor. We’re not changing consumer behavior, but rather productize the experience and make it safer and easier on both sides,” Yip told TechCrunch.

What also gets the investor excited is the potential for Swimply beyond just swimming pools in the future.

“We’re seeing a ton of demand from hosts wanting to list hot tubs and tennis courts, for example,” Yip said. “So this can turn into a marketplace for shared outdoor resources and that’s a huge market opportunity that adds value on both sides.”

Indeed, the concept of monetizing underutilized space is a growing concept. Earlier this year, we reported on Neighbor, which operates a self-storage marketplace, raising $53 million in a Series B round of funding. Neighbor’s unique model aims to repurpose under-utilized or vacant space — whether it be a person’s basement or the empty floor of an office building — and turn it into storage.

 

 

#airbnb, #ancestry-com, #australia, #california, #canada, #ceo, #co-founder, #coo, #denver, #entertainment, #funding, #fundings-exits, #manish-chandra, #new-jersey, #north-carolina, #norwest-venture-partners, #oakland, #oregon, #pool, #portland, #poshmark, #raleigh, #recent-funding, #renting, #sports, #startup, #startups, #tc, #united-states, #venture-capital

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Look out Amazon Go — A Lisbon startup plans to offer autonomous stores to other retailers

Look out Amazon Go. A Lisbon startup plans to offer the same autonomous store technology to other retailers. Lisbon-based Sensei, a computer vision startup that allows convenience stores to offer check-out-free purchasing has secured a seed round of $6.5 million (€5.4M). The funding was led by Seaya Ventures and Iberis Capital, with participation from 200M Fund.

The startup will now scale its R&D and launch new stores. Its proprietary platform uses a blend of cameras, sensors, and AI to automate stores, both new and existing. The platform means retailers can manage inventory in real-time and also access insights into the way the stores are used.

Vasco Portugal, Sensei’s CEO and Co-founder said: “Sensei’s technology will help level the playing field for retailers to compete against digital giants such as Amazon. We aim to enhance the familiar and enjoyable customer shopping experience, making it seamless, convenient, and safe.”

Sensei is designed to work mainly with grab-and-go stores, forecourts, and similar retail formats. Competitors include Trigo which has raised $89 million.

The advantages of automated stores in a pandemic are obvious: customers no longer have to queue. Plus retailers can avoid stock-outs and staff turn into customer support.

“We are delighted to invest in a business that is part of the digitalization of commerce, a trend that is currently clearly being accelerated,” said Aris Xenofontos, Principal at Seaya Ventures.

Luis Quaresma, Partner at Iberis Capital, added: “Sensei brings tremendous efficiencies and cost-savings to the retail industry, while providing a much needed seamless checkout experience for consumers.”

Sensei was founded by Vasco Portugal (CEO, ex-MIT), Joana Rafael (COO),Nuno Moutinho (CTO) and Paulo Carreira (CSO).

#amazon, #ceo, #coo, #cto, #europe, #lisbon, #marketing, #merchandising, #mit, #online-shopping, #partner, #portugal, #retail, #retailers, #seaya-ventures, #sensei, #tc, #trigo

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This Y Combinator startup is taking lab grown meat upscale with elk, lamb, and wagyu beef cell lines

Last week a select group of 20 employees and guests gathered at an event space on the San Francisco Bay, and, while looking out at the Bay Bridge dined on a selection of choice elk sausages, wagyu meatloaf, and lamb burgers — all of which were grown from a petrie dish.

The dinner was a coming out party for Orbillion Bio, a new startup pitching today in Y Combinator’s latest demo day, that’s looking to take lab-grown meats from the supermarket to high end, bespoke butcher shops.

Instead of focusing on pork, chicken and beef, Orbillion is going after so-called heritage meats — the aforementioned elk, lamb, and wagyu beef to start.

By focusing on more expensive end products, Orbillion doesn’t have as much pressure to slash costs as dramatically as other companies in the cellular meat market, the thinking goes.

But there’s more to the technology than its bourgie beef, elite elk, and luscious lamb meat.

“Orbillion uses a unique accelerated development process producing thousands of tiny tissue samples, constantly iterating to find the best tissue and media combinations,” according to Holly Jacobus, whose firm, Joyance Partners, is an early investor in Orbillion. “This is much less expensive and more efficient than traditional methods and will enable them to respond quickly to the impressive demand they’re already experiencing.”

The company runs its multiple cell lines through a system of small bioreactors. Orbillion couples that with a high throughput screening and machine learning software system to build out a database of optimized tissue and media combinations. “The key to making lab grown meat work scalably is choosing the right cells cultured in the most efficient way possible,” Jacobus wrote.

Co-founded by a deeply technical and highly experienced team of executives that’s led by Patricia Bubner, a former researcher at the German pharmaceutical giant Boehringer Ingelheim. Joining Bubner is Gabriel Levesque-Tremblay, a former director of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, who was a post-doc at Berkeley with Bubner and serves as the company’s chief technology officer. Rounding out the senior leadership is Samet Yildirim, the chief operating officer at Orbillion and a veteran executive of Boehringer Ingelheim (he actually served as Bubner’s boss).

Orbillion Bio co-founders Gabriel Levesque-Tremblay, CTO, Patricia Bubner, CEO, and Samet Yildirim, COO. Image Credit: Orbillion Bio

For Bubner, the focus on heritage meats is as much a function of her background growing up in rural Austria as it is about economics. A longtime, self-described foodie and a nerd, Bubner went into chemistry because she ultimately wanted to apply science to the food business. And she wants Orbillion to make not just meat, but the most delicious meats.

It’s an aim that fits with how many other companies have approached the market when they’re looking to commercialize a novel technology. Higher end products, or products with unique flavor profiles that are unique to the production technologies available are more likely to be commercially viable sooner than those competing with commodity products. Why focus on angus beef when you focus on a much more delicious breed of animal?

For Bubner, it’s not just about making a pork replacement, it’s about making the tastiest pork replacement.

“I’m just fascinated and can see the future in us being able to further change the way we produce food to be more efficient,” she said. “We’re at this inflection point. I’m a nerd, i’m a foodie and I really wanted to use my skills to make a change. I wanted to be part of that group of people that can really have an impact on the way we eat. For me there’s no doubt that a large percentage of our food will be from alternative proteins — plant based, fermentation, and lab-grown meat.”

Joining Boehringer Ingelheim was a way for Bubner to become grounded in the world of big bioprocessing. It was preparation for her foray into lab grown meat, she said.

“We are a product company. Our goal is to make the most flavorful steaks. Our first product will not be whole cuts of steak. The first product is going to be a Wagyu beef product that we plan on putting out in 2023,” Bubner said. “It’s a product that’s going to be based on more of a minced product. Think Wagyu sashimi.”

To get to market, Bubner sees the need not just for a new approach to cultivating choice meats, but a new way of growing other inputs as well, from the tissue scaffolding needed to make larger cuts that resemble traditional cuts of meat, or the fats that will need to be combined with the meat cells to give flavor.

That means there are still opportunities for companies like Future Fields, Matrix Meats, and Turtle Tree Scientific to provide inputs that are integrated into the final, branded product.

Bubner’s also thinking about the supply chain beyond her immediate potential partners in the manufacturing process. “Part of my family were farmers and construction workers and the others were civil engineers and architects. I hold farmers in high respect… and think the people who grow the food and breed the animals don’t get recognition for the work that they do.”

She envisions working in concert with farmers and breeders in a kind of licensing arrangement, potentially, where the owners of the animals that produce the cell lines can share in the rewards of their popularization and wider commercial production.

That also helps in the mission of curbing the emissions associated with big agribusiness and breeding and raising livestock on a massive scale. If you only need a few animals to make the meat, you don’t have the same environmental footprint for the farms.

“We need to make sure that we don’t make the mistakes that we did in the past that we only breed animals for yield and not for flavor,” said Bubner. 

Even though the company is still in its earliest days, it already has one letter of intent, with one of San Francisco’s most famous butchers. Guy Crims, also known as “Guy the Butcher” has signed a letter of intent to stock Orbillion Bio’s lab grown Wagyu in his butcher shop, Bubner said. “He’s very much a proponent of lab-grown meat.”

Now that the company has its initial technology proven, Orbillion is looking to scale rapidly. It will take roughly $3.5 million for the company to get a pilot plant up and running by the end of 2022 and that’s in addition to the small $1.4 million seed round the company has raised from Joyant and firms like VentureSoukh.

“The way i see an integrated model working later on is to have the farmers be the breeders of animals for cultivated meat. That can reduce the number of cows on the planet to a couple of hundred thousand,” Bubner said of her ultimate goal. “There’s a lot of talking about if you do lab grown meat you want to put me out of business. It’s not like we’re going to abolish animal agriculture tomorrow.”

Image Credit: Getty Images

#articles, #austria, #barbecue, #beef, #bio, #butcher, #ceo, #chief-operating-officer, #chief-technology-officer, #coo, #cto, #cultured-meat, #director, #executive, #food, #food-and-drink, #future-fields, #getty-images, #machine-learning, #meat, #orbillion-bio, #san-francisco, #steak, #supply-chain, #tc, #y-combinator

0

D2C furniture startup Tylko closes $26M Series C growth round led by Pitango and Evli

Polish startup Tylko, a modular furniture company that employs Augmented Reality as part of its sales cycle, has closed a €22 million ($26m) investment Series C funding round, led by Israel-based Pitango Growth and Finnish Evli Growth Partners, following previous investors TDJ Pitango and Experior Venture Fund. Additionally, Brian Walker, former CEO of Hermann Miller, and Mark Williamson, COO of US-based MasterClass, join as new investors. Tylko has now raised a total of €33 million since its inception in 2015.

It now plans to more than double its team of 140, as well as launch in new markets, and expand its portfolio, which right now is limited to shelving only.

Tylko is not dissimilar from made.com which, to some extent, pioneered the direct-to-consumer furniture market. Like Made, the idea behind Tylko is also direct-to-consumer, ‘design-on-demand’. The company says it has taken advantage of the period when people have been stuck at home during the pandemic, ordering online, to hit a 132% increase in sales in 2020 in comparison to previous years.

Jacek Majewski, co-founder, Co-CEO Tylko, commented in a statement: “Tylko’s vision has always been about putting the user experience first, in order to create a product that is perfectly designed, high-quality and sustainable. We believe that driving sustainability into this huge industry can only be done by creating highly desirable products that will win over customers by their features rather than certificates.”

Tylko says its furniture of based on ‘parametric design’, with each item being quite individual. Tylko’s platform then automates the manufacturing process for its production partners.

Mikko Kuitunen, Growth Partner at Evli Growth Partners, added: “We are impressed by Tylko’s exceptional growth and ability to scale the company as a market leader, offering new, customized solutions within the furniture market. Tylko’s strong impact-driven vision and made-to-order business model drives the market’s transition towards more sustainable solutions.”

Rami Kalish, General Managing Partner & Co-Founder at Pitango Venture Capital commented: “Tylko has a huge vision to disrupt the furniture industry.”

#ceo, #companies, #coo, #europe, #evli-growth-partners, #experior-venture-fund, #made-com, #market-leader, #masterclass, #partner, #pitango, #pitango-venture-capital, #tc, #tylko

0

Socure raises $100M at $1.3B valuation, proving identity verification is hotter than ever

The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated digital adoption in a way that no one could have ever anticipated, and as more people conduct more services online and via mobile devices, businesses have had to work even harder to validate users and security. One company working to serve that need, Socure – which uses AI and machine learning to verify identities – announced Tuesday that it has raised $100 million in a Series D funding round at a $1.3 billion valuation.

Given how much of our lives have shifted online, it’s no surprise that the U.S. digital identity market is projected to increase to over $30 billion by 2023 from just under $15 billion in 2019, according to One World IdentityThis has led to skyrocketing demand for the services provided by identity verification companies. 

Historically, Socure has been focused on the financial services industry, but it plans to use its new capital to further expand into “every consumer-facing vertical” including online gaming, healthcare, telco, e-commerce, and on-demand services.

The startup’s predictive analytics platform applies artificial intelligence and machine-learning techniques with online/offline data intelligence (from email, phone, address, IP, device, velocity, and the broader internet) to verify that people are, in fact, who they say they are when applying for various accounts.

Today, Socure has more than 350 customers including three top five banks, six top 10 card issuers, a “top” credit bureau and over 75 fintechs such as Varo Money, Public, Chime, and Stash.

Accel led Socure’s latest financing, which included participation from existing backers Commerce Ventures, Scale Venture Partners, Flint Capital, Citi Ventures, Wells Fargo Strategic Capital, Synchrony, Sorenson, Two Sigma Ventures, and others. 

The round comes less than six months after the company raised $35 million in a round led by Sorenson Ventures, and brings the New York-based company’s total raised to $196 million since its 2012 inception.

Socure founder and CEO Johnny Ayers says his company’s identity management products can help B2C enterprises achieve know-your-customer (KYC) auto-approval rates of up to 97%. This means that financial institutions can more easily capture fraud, for example, via Socure’s single API. The company also claims that by more easily verifying thin-file (those without much credit history) and young consumers, it can help reduce the underbanked population.     

The company plans to use its new capital to also enhance its product offering as it continues to develop patents. 

Accel partner Amit Jhawar will join Socure’s board as part of the funding round.

In a blog post, Jhawar described Socure as “a purpose-built solution designed to handle the wave of new online users because its machine learning models have learned from every identity it has already seen.”

As former COO at Braintree and general  manager at Venmo, Jhawar knows a thing or two about the importance of identity verification, especially in the financial services space.

He wrote: “I knew immediately that the Socure solution would be a game-changer because the solution can be used in every step of the customer lifecycle, from account creation to login to transaction.”

Socure also has hinted that it has an IPO in its future.

In a written statement, Ayers said: “We are incredibly grateful for the chance to innovate and partner to solve this problem with some of the greatest companies in the world and are energized for the opportunities that lay ahead for Socure, especially as we make our march to a potential IPO.”

TechCrunch has reached out to Socure and will update this story with more details.

#api, #articles, #artificial-intelligence, #b2c, #ceo, #citi-ventures, #commerce-ventures, #coo, #digital-identity, #finance, #financial-technology, #funding, #fundings-exits, #healthcare, #identity-management, #know-your-customer, #machine-learning, #mobile-devices, #money, #new-york, #online-gaming, #recent-funding, #scale-venture-partners, #socure, #startups, #two-sigma-ventures, #united-states, #venmo

0

Israel’s Retrain.ai closes $13M to use AI to understand early signals in the changing jobs market

Israel’s retrain.ai, which uses AI and Machine Learning to read job boards at scale and to gain insight into where the job market is going, has closed $9M Series A led by Square Peg. Since retrain.ai’s $4M seed round last year was unannounced (led by Hetz Ventures, with TechAviv and .406 Ventures participating) that means it’s raised a total of $13 million. It’s competitors include Pymetrics which has raised $56.6M and Eightfold.ai which has raised $176.8M.

As well as the funding, the company has secured a first deal with the Israeli Department of Labor to look at the changing nature of the Israeli job market in light of the pandemic.

With technology eating into the traditional labour market, retrain.ai says its platform can look at what jobs are being advertised, which jobs are going down in popularity and see early-warning signals as to where new jobs are going to appear from. This can help form policy for large organiations and governments.

retrain.ai’s CEO is Dr. Shay David, who is best known for co-founding the video enterprise leader Kaltura, which first appeared at TehcCrunch’s first ever conference in 2007. Isabelle Bichler-Eliasaf is the company’s COO and Avi Simon, is retrain.ai’s CTO.

Dr. Shay David said: “What was once the regular tide of change in the workforce has evolved into a tsunami, especially pronounced by COVID-19 and its huge impact on the labor market– this has been a wake-up call. Unemployment and underemployment  is going to affect a billion people globally in the next few decades. Our vision is to help 10 million workers get the right jobs by 2025 and help organizations navigate efficiently through the wave of change.”
 
retrain.ai is the first investment by Square Peg’s new $450M fund. The VC previously invested in Canva, Stripe, Fiverr and Airwallex.

#406-ventures, #articles, #artificial-intelligence, #canva, #ceo, #coo, #cto, #economy, #employment, #europe, #fiverr, #hetz, #israel, #kaltura, #machine-learning, #square-peg, #tc, #unemployment, #video-hosting

0

TC Sessions: Mobility 2021 is coming, save the date!

Buckle up, startup and tech fans. Save the date and get ready to rub virtual elbows with mobility’s best and brightest minds — the movers, shakers and policy makers that are shaping the future of transportation.

TC Sessions: Mobility returns for its third year on June 9, 2021. Can you say mobility three-peat? Yes, you can!

We’re excited to host another day dedicated to the people — and the technology they’re developing — that’s changing transportation. TC Sessions: Mobility 2021 goes beyond hunting for the next unicorn or showcasing the gee-whiz distraction of the moment. We’ll explore the latest trends, discuss regulatory, technical and ethical challenges and look at the costs and long-term effects on towns and cities.

Pro tip: Early bird pricing is now in play on all pass levels and June will be here before you know it. Keep your hard-earned money in your pocket. Buy your passes now and save 35% before the prices increase.

We’re building out the day’s agenda, and we’ll pack it with presentations, interviews and Q&As with founders, investors and inventors. Enjoy breakout sessions, dozens of exhibiting startups and plenty of time to network and recruit — with attendees from around the world.

Take a look at some of the mobility mavens and transportation titans who joined us on the virtual stage at last year’s event to get a sense of the quality programming you should expect on June 9.

  • JB Straubel, co-founder, CEO of Redwood Materials, co-founder and former Tesla CTO
  • Tekedra Mawakana, COO, Waymo
  • Matthew Johnson-Roberson, co-founder, Refraction AI
  • Nancy Sun, co-founder and chief engineer, Ike
  • Shin-pei Tsay, director of policy, cities and transportation, Uber
  • Peter Rawlinson, CTO and CEO, Lucid Motors
  • Margaret Stewart Nagle, head of policy and government affairs, Wing
  • Paul Ajegba, director, Michigan Department of Transportation
  • Celina Mikolajczak, vice president, battery technology, Panasonic Energy of North America, Panasonic
  • Reilly Brennan, founding general partner, Trucks Venture Capital

Will you benefit from attending TC Sessions: Mobility 2021? Take it from Rachael Wilcox, creative producer at Volvo Cars, who completed a TechCrunch hat trick in 2020 by attending Disrupt, TC Sessions: Robotics/AI and TC Sessions: Mobility.

Going to TechCrunch events, whether it’s Disrupt or TC Sessions, helps me stay ahead of emerging trends, technologies and startups that affect the future of mobility.”

TC Sessions: Mobility 2021 takes place on June 9, 2021. Learn from and engage with the industry’s mightiest minds, makers, innovators and investors. Buy your early bird pass, connect with your world-wide community and help build a new age of transportation.

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

#artificial-intelligence, #automotive, #autonomous-vehicles, #battery-technology, #celina-mikolajczak, #co-founder, #companies, #coo, #director, #general-motors, #mobility, #nancy-sun, #panasonic, #reilly-brennan, #self-driving-cars, #startups, #tc-sessions-mobility-2021, #techcrunch, #technology, #tekedra-mawakana, #uber, #volvo-cars, #waymo

0

Fintech startup ClearGlass Analytics closes $3.6M for pension funds transparency platform

Fintech startup ClearGlass Analytics has closed a £2.6 million ($3.6M) funding round for its platform, which aims to create greater transparency on fees in the long-term savings market, such as pensions and the wider asset management market. 

The £2.6m seed round includes European VC Lakestar and Outward VC, the venture arm of Investec, as well as several angels from both the asset management and pension fund worlds. These include Ruston Smith, a pension trustee; Richard Butcher, Chair of the PLSA (UK pension trade body); Chris Wilcox, former Global Head of JP Morgan Asset Management; and Rob O’Rahilly, Sikander Ilyas and Alex Large, also former JP Morgan employees.

ClearGlass is targeting the £1.5trillion mature ‘Defined Benefit’ pension schemes market and claims to now work with over 500 DB pension funds. It will use the funding to expand into the UK Defined Contribution pension market, and consolidate its early footprint in Europe and Africa.

How ClearGlass works is that it acts as a data interface between asset managers and their clients. Pension funds then use the platform to see all of their investment costs in one place, thus getting more data than usual from more asset managers and other suppliers. This helps the funds see the ‘true cost’ of what they are paying for the management of their investments. ClearGlass claims to be able to uncover the kinds of costs of asset management that, in some instances, can be more than double those expected.

The startup recently did an analysis of the cost and performance of over 400 asset managers. It found that while most UK asset managers were meeting minimum standards for data delivery, quality, and accuracy, 30 (including some powerful players) did not pass their tests.

The company was founded by Dr. Christopher Sier, a World Bank and FCA expert who previously developed the cost transparency standard at the request of the FCA, and co-founders Ritesh Singhania and Kunal Varma.

Sier, founder and CEO, said: “Finding your costs are so much larger is shocking, but also something to be celebrated. These incremental costs were always there, they just weren’t exposed, and now you can identify those and bring about change. You can’t manage what you don’t measure.”

In an interview with TechCrunch, Ritesh Singhaniam, COO, said getting the data about pension funds is normally “super challenging and complicated. And second of all, even when you got the data, you couldn’t make head nor tail of it because you can’t compare it across funds. What we have done is that we have been the line of communication between the manager and the pension fund. So we have built a piece of technology that helps with the communication between the asset managers, and the pension funds to be able to collect that data, check that data. And finally, give them something that doesn’t require them to spend 20 hours to understand it.”

ClearGlass was incubated by the Founders Factory accelerator.

#africa, #asset-management, #ceo, #coo, #europe, #fca, #head, #jp-morgan-asset-management, #tc, #united-kingdom, #valuation, #world-bank

0

3D model provider CGTrader raises $9.5M Series B led by Evli Growth Partners

3D model provider CGTrader, has raised $9.5M in a Series B funding led by Finnish VC fund Evli Growth Partners, alongside previous investors Karma Ventures and LVV Group. Ex-Rovio CEO Mikael Hed also invested and joins as Board Chairman. We first covered the Vilnius-based company when it raised 200,000 euro from Practica Capital.

Founded in 2011 by 3D designer Marius Kalytis (now COO), CGTrader has become a signifiant 3D content provider – it even claims to be the world’s largest. In its marketplace are 1.1M 3D models and 3.5M 3D designers, service 370,000 businesses including Nike, Microsoft, Made.com, Crate & Barrel, and Staples.

Unlike photos, 3D models can also be used to create both static images as well as AR experiences, so that users can see how a product might fit in their home. The company is also looking to invest in automating 3D modeling, QA, and asset management processes with AI. 

Dalia Lasaite, CEO and co-founder of CGTrader said in a statement: “3D models are not only widely used in professional 3D industries, but have become a more convenient and cost-effective way of generating amazing product visuals for e-commerce as well. With our ARsenal enterprise platform, it is up to ten times cheaper to produce photorealistic 3D visuals that are indistinguishable from photographs.”

CGTrader now plans to consolidate its position and further develop its platform.

The company competes with TurboSquid (which was recently acquired for $75 million by Shutterstock) and Threekit.

#3d, #3d-modeling, #arsenal, #artificial-intelligence, #ceo, #cgtrader, #computer-graphics, #coo, #crate-barrel, #designer, #e-commerce, #europe, #graphics, #image-processing, #karma-ventures, #made-com, #microsoft, #nike, #practica-capital, #rovio, #shutterstock, #staples, #tc, #visual-effects

0

SAP launches ‘RISE with SAP,’ a concierge service for digital transformation

SAP today announced a new offering it calls ‘RISE with SAP,’ a solution that is meant to help the company’s customers go through their respective digital transformations and become what SAP calls ‘intelligent enterprises.’ RISE is a subscription service that combines a set of services and product offerings.

SAP’s head of product success Sven Denecken (and its COO for S/4Hana) described it as “the best concierge service you can get for your digital transformation” when I talked to him earlier this week. “We need to help our clients to embrace that change that they see currently,” he said. “Transformation is a journey. Every client wants to become that smarter, faster and that nimbler business, but they, of course, also see that they are faced with challenges today and in the future. This continuous transformation is what is happening to businesses. And we do know from working together with them, that actually they agree with those fundamentals. They want to be an intelligent enterprise. They want to adapt and change. But the key question is how to get there? And the key question they ask us is, please help us to get there.”

With RISE for SAP, businesses will get a single contact at SAP to help guide them through their journey, but also access to the SAP partner ecosystem.

The first step in this process, Denecken stressed, isn’t necessarily to bring in new technology, though that is also part of it, but to help businesses redesign and optimize their business processes and implement the best practices in their verticals — and then measure the outcome. “Business process redesign means that you analyze how your business processes perform. How can you get tailored recommendations? How can you benchmark against industry standards? And this helps you to set the tone and also to motivate your people — your IT, your business people — to adapt,” Denecken described. He also noted that in order for a digital transformation project to succeed, IT and business leaders and employees have to work together.

In part, that includes technology offerings and adopting robotic process automation (RPA), for example. As Denecken stressed, all of this builds on top of the work SAP has done with its customers over the years to define business processes and KPIs.

On the technical side, SAP is obviously offering its own services, including its Business Technology Platform, and cloud infrastructure, but it will also support customers on all of the large cloud providers. Also included in RISE is support for more than 2,200 APIs to integrate various on-premises, cloud and non-SAP systems, access to SAP’s low-code and no-code capabilities and, of course, its database and analytics offerings.

“Geopolitical tensions, environmental challenges and the ongoing pandemic are forcing businesses to deal with change faster than ever before,” said Christian Klein, SAP’s CEO, in today’s announcement. “Companies that can adapt their business processes quickly will thrive – and SAP can help them achieve this. This is what RISE with SAP is all about: It helps customers continuously unlock new ways of running businesses in the cloud to stay ahead of their industry.”

With this new offering, SAP is now providing its customers with a number of solutions that were previously available through its partner ecosystem. Denecken doesn’t see this as SAP competing with its own partners, though. Instead, he argues that this is very much a partner play and that this new solution will likely only bring more customers to its partners as well.

“Needless to say, this has been a negotiation with those partners,” he said. “Because yes, it’s sometimes topics that we now take over they [previously] did. But we are looking for scale here. The need in the market for digital transformation has just started. And this is where we see that this is definitely a big offering, together with partners. “

#articles, #cloud-infrastructure, #computing, #coo, #digital-transformation, #enterprise, #erp-software, #sap, #technology

0

Berlin’s Remagine secures $24M to finance high-growth and impact-led startups

Remagine, a financing platform offering banking services to high-growth companies with an ‘impact’ twist, has raised €20 million ($24M) in a Seed funding round. The Berlin-based startup has been operating in stealth mode, but already has 20 clients under its former brand name ‘Get Conscious Growth’. Its backers include former Global Head of Google Payment Jonathan Weiner and former COO of Venmo Michael Vaughn. Remagine’s lead investor is unmade but Techcrunch understands it comprises largely of debt financing.

The fintech will specialize in offering revenue-based financing for high-growth and impact-led businesses, which tends to be more founder-friendly than equity or debt products, allowing them to quickly secure funding while staying in control of their business. Remagine will rollout business accounts in the coming months from its base in Germany, and plans to expand across Europe.

While the fashion in fintech for a while now has been ‘Neo’ or ‘challenger’ banks, there is a new breed arriving: financing platforms. These offer banking services but also offer extra features aimed at new businesses. Another example is Rho in New York, which recently raised $15m.

The ‘twist’ is that Remagine is going to aim at business with a ‘sustainable and impactful’ bent to their business model which might have a ‘positive social and environmental impact’. Remagine itself says it is also committing to impact-driven initiatives and will contribute 10% of its profits to impact causes.
 
Founded by Julia M. Profeta Johansson and Sebastian Dienst, co-CEO Dienst said in a statement: “We believe capital and technology can be forces for good. When used together, they can be powerful tools that help shape the future. The challenge now is to shape it in a way that aligns people and planet with profit,” said “We believe that every business – big and small – can be more sustainable and impactful. Remagine has been created to help them achieve this.”
 
Johansson added: “Having already provided financing to numerous companies, the funds raised will allow us to support many more startups towards more impact. With the upcoming launch of our accounts and cards, we’re excited to continue to grow the team, invest further in our products, and help create a world where money and business are forces for good.”
 
Weiner said: “Sustainability and impact have become increasingly relevant for businesses over the past decade and today, research shows that nearly four-fifths of CEOs are planning to align their business strategy with social and environmental goals.. Remagine’s mission and business model enables founders to consider both their bottom line and their impact. This is the future of financing and we’re delighted to be a part of it.”
 
Remagine’s products will include Team cards (unlimited separate cards for team members to improve expense management); Multi-IBANs; analytics; zero negative interest; and free accounts. It’s competitors include Finom and Penta, but these tend to focus more on SMEs rather than startups.

#bank, #banking, #berlin, #co-ceo, #coo, #economy, #europe, #expense-management, #finance, #financial-services, #financial-technology, #finom, #germany, #google, #head, #money, #new-york, #penta, #tc, #venmo

0

After lockdowns boost gaming marketplace Eneba, it raises $8M from Practica and InReach

Eneba, a marketplace for gamers that sells games and other products, has raised a $8M round of funding from Practica Capital and InReach Ventures. The funding is described as a ‘combination’ of a Seed and Series A round. Also participating in the funding for the Lithuanian startup was FJ Labs and a group of Angel investors including Mantas Mikuckas, COO of Vinted. The investment highlights once again the strength of the Baltics region as tech ecosystem, after Lithuania produced its first Unicorn in the shape of Vinted, and Estonia’s added Pipedrive to its unicorns list.

With the increased shift to digital entertainment during the pandemic, the startup has managed to garner much more US traffic. Launched in 2018 by two Lithuanian school friends, Vytis Uogintas and Žygimantas Mikšta, Eneba says it has attracted 26 million unique users because of its security features, ‘one-click to buy’ gamer experience and fingerprinting technology. The site also optimizes its localized gaming experiences to show locally trending gaming products. Eneba’s platform is designed to reduce risky transactions, simplifies the refunding process, and deals with fraud threats.

Co-founder and CMO, Žygimantas Mikšta said: “We had a lot of new users coming to Eneba during these uncertain times. While it was extremely satisfying to see our numbers increasing tenfold, there was a challenge to meet the demand. To better reflect our user numbers, we had to quickly expand our team to 130.”

Security has risen up the agenda in online gaming as virtual goods and services connected to games can be highly susceptible to fraud or theft. Although it competes with outlets like Amazon, eBay, and retailers like Gamestop, Game.co.uk, Eneba think they’ve found a better, tailored online pre/post-buying experience for gamers, while addressing the risk problems for sellers and buyers in the gaming world.

Donatas Keras, partner at Practica Capital said: “We are thrilled to be backing Vytis and Žygimantas. We’ve been impressed by their ability to execute at such speed as their company quickly scales, and to drive an incredible product with a unique value proposition for gamers.”

Co-founder of InReach Ventures, Roberto Bonanzinga, said: “In Europe we have a tradition of building successful companies in the gaming space. We are very excited to have discovered Eneba thanks to our AI platform when the company was unknown and under the radar. We have been extremely impressed by what the founders have been able to build in such a short amount of time.”

#amazon, #artificial-intelligence, #co-founder, #companies, #coo, #ebay, #estonia, #europe, #fj-labs, #game-co-uk, #gamestop, #inreach-ventures, #lithuania, #online-gaming, #partner, #pipedrive, #retailers, #tc, #unicorn, #united-states, #vinted

0

Tencent leads $100M Series B funding round into China-based esport provider VSPN

Further confirmation that the esports market is booming amid the pandemic comes today with the news that esports ‘total solutions provider’ VSPN (Versus Programming Network) has raised what it describes as ‘close to’ $100 million in a Series B funding round, led by Tencent Holdings . Other investors that participated in the round include Tiantu Capital, SIG (Susquehanna International Group), and Kuaishou. The funding round will go towards improving esports products and its ecosystem in China and across Asia.

Founded in 2016 and headquartered in Shanghai, VSPN was one of the early pioneers in esports tournament organization and content creation out of Asia. It has since expanded into other businesses including offline venue operation.

In a statement, Dino Ying, CEO of VSPN (see also our exclusive interview) said: “We are delighted to announce this latest round of funding. Thanks to policies supporting Shanghai as the global center for esports, and with Beijing, Chengdu, and Xi’an expressing confidence in the development of esports, VSPN has grown rapidly in recent years. After this funding round, we look forward to building an esports research institute, an esports culture park, and further expanding globally. VSPN has a long-term vision and is dedicated to the sustainable development of the global esports ecosystem.”

Dino Ying, VSPN CEO

Dino Ying, VSPN CEO

Mars Hou, general manager of Tencent Esports, commented: “VSPN’s long-term company vision and leading position in esports production are vital for Tencent to optimize the layout of the esports industry’s development.”

We had a hint that Tencent might invest in VSPN when, in March this year, Mark Ren, COO of Tencent Holdings, made a public statement that Tencent would provide more high-quality esports competitions in conjunction with tournament organizers like VSPN.

As we observed in August, Tencent, already the world’s biggest games publisher, that it would consolidate Douyu and Huya, the previously competing live-streaming sites focused on video games.

In other words, Tencent’s investment into VSPN shows it is once again doubling-down on the esports market.

This Series B funding round comes four years after VSPN’s 2016 Series A funding round, which was led by Focus Media Network, joined by China Jianteng Sports Industry Fund, Guangdian Capital, and Averest Capital.

Now, VSPN has become the principal tournament organizer and broadcaster for PUBG MOBILE international competitions, and China’s top competitions for Honor of Kings, PUBG, Peacekeeper Elite, CrossFire, FIFA, QQ Speed, and Clash Royale. This will tally-up 12,000 hours of original content. The company has partnered with over 70% of China’s esports tournaments.

In March, another huge esports player, ESL, joined forces with Tencent to become a part of the PUBG Mobile esports circuit for 2020.

In addition to its core esports tournament and content production business, VSPN has branded esports venues in Chengdu, Xi’an, and Shanghai. In May, VSPN launched its first overseas venue, V. SPACE in Seoul, South Korea.

And even offline events are coming back. VSPN hosted the first large-scale esport event with offline audiences in August this year. And the LOL S10 event will open 6,000 tickets. However, all tournaments will operate under strict COVID-19 prevention measures and approval processes by the Chinese government, and not all esports events are allowing offline audiences. In the main, only high-level ones are approved.

VSPN said it will continue to focus on building an esports short-form video ecosystem, improving the quality of esports content creation, and reaching more users via different channels. VSPN currently houses more than 1,000 employees in five business divisions.

#asia, #beijing, #ceo, #china, #coo, #douyu, #esl, #esports, #europe, #fifa, #games-publisher, #huya, #rss, #seoul, #shanghai, #south-korea, #susquehanna-international-group, #tc, #tencent, #tencent-holdings, #video-games, #video-gaming

0

Stotles secures funding for platform which brings transparency to government tenders, contracts

The public sector usually publishes its business opportunities in the form of ‘tenders,’ to increase transparency to the public. However, this data is scattered, and larger businesses have access to more information, giving them opportunities to grab contracts before official tenders are released. We have seen the controversy around UK government contracts going to a number of private consultants who have questionable prior experience in the issues they are winning contracts on.

And public-to-private sector business makes up 14% of global GDP, and even a 1% improvement could save €20B for taxpayers per year, according to the European Commission .

Stotles is a new UK startup technology that turns fragmented public sector data — such as spending, tenders, contracts, meeting minutes, or news releases — into a clearer view of the market, and extracts relevant early signals about potential opportunities.

It’s now raised a £1.4m seed round led by Speedinvest, with participation from 7Percent Ventures, FJLabs, and high-profile angels including Matt Robinson, co-founder of GoCardless and CEO at Nested; Carlos Gonzalez-Cadenas, COO at Go -Cardless; Charlie Songhurst, former Head of Corporate Strategy at Microsoft; Will Neale, founder of Grabyo; and Akhil Paul. It received a previous investment from Seedcamp last year.

Stotles’ founders say they had “scathing” experiences dealing with public procurement in their previous roles at organizations like Boston Consulting Group and the World Economic Forum.

The private beta has been open for nine months, and is used by companies including UiPath, Freshworks, Rackspace, and Couchbase. With this funding announcement, they’ll be opening up an early access program.

Competitors include: Global Data, Contracts Advance, BIP Solutions, Spend Network/Open Opps, Tussel, TenderLake. However, most of the players out there are focused on tracking cold tenders, or providing contracting data for periodic generic market research.

#articles, #artificial-intelligence, #carlos-gonzalez-cadenas, #ceo, #co-founder, #computing, #coo, #couchbase, #europe, #european-commission, #founder, #freshworks, #go, #gocardless, #government-procurement, #grabyo, #matt-robinson, #microsoft, #nested, #rackspace, #seedcamp, #tc, #uipath, #uk-government, #united-kingdom, #world-economic-forum

0

Hear E-Prix Champion di Grassi on the future of electric motor sports (including scooters)

Lucas di Grassi is returning to TechCrunch’s stage, and we’re going to talk racing electric vehicles. Again. Because electric is the future of motoring including motorsports.

There’s a lot to talk about with di Grassi. He’s an outspoken proponent of electric vehicles, previously helping to develop Formula E, push forward the AI racing circuit Roborace, and is now developing an international electric race scooter series. He’s seemingly focused on justifying the benefits of electric vehicles in the name of the environment and acts as a Clear Air Advocate for the UN and is organizing a technology and business event for a zero-carbon future in Latin America called Zero Summit.

Di Grassi is a racer in Formula E and a former champion, taking the podium in 2016. Before racing for the series, he helped develop the vehicles used in Formula E. Now, even with his plate full of other projects, he continues to compete in the electric F1 series.

The last time he spoke at a TechCrunch event, he talked extensively on Roborace’s development and arrival. At the time he was the CEO of Roborace, and now, nearly two years later, Roborace still seems like a far-fetched idea.

Di Grassi teamed up with former F1 driver Alex Wurz for a different racing series involving electric scooters. Called eSkootr Championship, the series is said to feature purpose-built scooters that are capable of speeds up to 100 km/h. The pair, along with motorsport entrepreneur CEO Hrak Sarikissian, and COO Khalil Beschir, an F1 broadcaster and former A1 GP racing driver, hope the series’s lower cost of entry will draw racers from different backgrounds and disciplines.

We hope you can join us at our TC: Sessions Mobility event on October 6 and 7 to hear from di Grassi and other icons trying to change the face of mobility. Tickets are currently on sale and available at an Early Bird rate until September 4th, 11:59 p.m. (PDT).

#artificial-intelligence, #ceo, #coo, #driver, #formula-e, #latin-america, #racer, #roborace, #self-driving-cars, #tc, #united-nations

0

Apple goes to war with the gaming industry

Most gamers may not view Apple as a games company to the same degree that they see Sony with PlayStation or Microsoft with Xbox, but the iPhone-maker continues to uniformly drive the industry with decisions made in the Apple App Store.

The company made the news a couple times late this week for App Store approvals. Once for denying a gaming app, and the other for approving one.

The denial was Microsoft’s xCloud gaming app, something the Xbox folks weren’t too psyched about. Microsoft xCloud is one of the Xbox’s most substantial software platform plays in quite some time, allowing gamers to live-stream titles from the cloud and play console-quality games across a number of devices. It’s a huge effort that’s been in preview for a bit, but is likely going to officially launch next month. The app had been in a Testflight preview for iOS, but as Microsoft looked to push it to primetime, Apple said not so fast.

The app that was approved was the Facebook Gaming app which Facebook has been trying to shove through the App Store for months to no avail. It was at last approved Friday after the company stripped one of its two central features, a library of playable mobile games. In a curt statement to The New York Times, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg said, “Unfortunately, we had to remove gameplay functionality entirely in order to get Apple’s approval on the stand-alone Facebook Gaming app.”

Microsoft’s Xbox team also took the unusually aggressive step of calling out Apple in a statement that reads, in-part, “Apple stands alone as the only general purpose platform to deny consumers from cloud gaming and game subscription services like Xbox Game Pass. And it consistently treats gaming apps differently, applying more lenient rules to non-gaming apps even when they include interactive content.”

Microsoft is still a $1.61 trillion company so don’t think I’m busting out the violin for them, but iOS is the world’s largest gaming platform, something CEO Tim Cook proudly proclaimed when the company launched its own game subscription platform, Apple Arcade, last year. Apple likes to play at its own pace, and all of these game-streaming platforms popping up at the same time seem poised to overwhelm them.

Image Credits: Microsoft

There are a few things about cloud gaming apps that seem at odds with some of the App Store’s rules, yet these rules are, of course, just guidelines written by Apple.  For Apple’s part, they basically said (full statement later) that the App Store had curators for a reason and that approving apps like these means they can’t individually review the apps which compromises the App Store experience.

To say that’s “the reason” seems disingenuous because the company has long approved platforms to operate on the App Store without stamping approval on the individual pieces of content that can be accessed. With “Games” representing the App Store’s most popular category, Apple likely cares much more about keeping their own money straight.

Analysis from CNBC pinned Apple’s 2019 App Store total revenue at $50 billion.

When these cloud gaming platforms like xCloud scale with zero iOS support, millions of Apple customers, myself included, are actually going to be pissed that their iPhone can’t do something that their friend’s phone can. Playing console-class titles on the iPhone would be a substantial feature upgrade for consumers. There are about 90 million Xbox Live users out there, a substantial number of which are iPhone owners I would imagine. The games industry is steadily rallying around game subscription networks and cloud gaming as a move to encourage consumers to sample more titles and discover more indie hits.

I’ve seen enough of these sagas to realize that sometimes parties will kick off these fights purely as a tactic to get their way in negotiations and avoid workarounds, but it’s a tactic that really only works when consumers have a reason to care. Most of the bigger App Store developer spats have played in the background and come to light later, but at this point the Xbox team undoubtedly sees that Apple isn’t positioned all that well to wage an App Store war in the midst of increased antitrust attention over a cause that seems wholly focused on maintaining their edge in monetizing the games consumers play on Apple screens.

CEO Tim Cook spent an awful lot of time in his Congressional Zoom room answering question about perceived anticompetitiveness on the company’s application storefront.

The big point of tension I could see happening behind closed doors is that plenty of these titles offer in-game transactions and just because that in-app purchase framework is being live-streamed from a cloud computer doesn’t mean that a user isn’t still using experiencing that content on an Apple device. I’m not sure whether this is actually the point of contention, but it seems like it would be a major threat to Apple’s ecosystem-wide in-app purchase raking.

The App Store does not currently support cloud gaming on Nvidia’s GeForce platform or Google’s Stadia which are also both available on Android phones. Both of these platforms are more limited in scope than Microsoft’s offering which is expected to launch with wider support and pick up wider adoption.

While I can understand Apple’s desire to not have gaming titles ship that might not function properly on an iPhone because of system constraints, that argument doesn’t apply so well to the cloud gaming world where apps are translating button presses to the cloud and the cloud is sending them back the next engine-rendered frames of their game. Apple is being forced to get pretty particular about what media types of apps fall under the “reader” designation. The inherent interactivity of a cloud gaming platform seems to be the differentiation Apple is pushing here — as well as the interfaces that allows gamers to directly launch titles with an interface that’s far more specialized than some generic remote desktop app.

All of these platforms arrive after the company already launched Apple Arcade, a non-cloud gaming product made in the image of what Apple would like to think are the values it fosters in the gaming world: family friendly indie titles with no intrusive ads, no bothersome micro-transactions and Apple’s watchful review.

Apple’s driver’s seat position in the gaming world has been far from a wholly positive influence for the industry. Apple has acted as a gatekeeper, but the fact is plenty of the “innovations” pushed through as a result of App Store policies have been great for Apple but questionable for the development of a gamer-friendly games industry.

Apple facilitated the advent of free-to-play games by pushing in-app purchases which have been abused recklessly over the years as studios have been irresistibly pushed to structure their titles around principles of addiction. Mobile gaming has been one of the more insane areas of Wild West startup growth over the past decade and Apple’s mechanics for fueling quick transactions inside these titles has moved fast and broken things.

Take a look at the 200 top grossing games in the App Store (data via Sensor Tower) and you’ll see that all 199 of them rely solely on in-app micro-transaction to reach that status — Microsoft’s Minecraft, ranked 50th costs $6.99 to download, though it also offers in-app purchases.

In 2013, the company settled a class-action lawsuit that kicked off after parents sued Apple for making it too easy for kids to make in-app purchases. In 2014, Apple settled a case with the FTC over the same mechanism for $32 million. This year, a lawsuit filed against Apple questioned the legality of “loot box” in-app purchases which gave gamers randomized digital awards.

“Through the games it sells and offers for free to consumers through its AppStore, Apple engages in predatory practices enticing consumers, including children to engage in gambling and similar addictive conduct in violation of this and other laws designed to protect consumers and to prohibit such practices,” read that most recent lawsuit filing.

This is, of course, not how Apple sees its role in the gaming industry. In a statement to Business Insider responding to the company’s denial of Microsoft’s xCloud, Apple laid out its messaging.

The App Store was created to be a safe and trusted place for customers to discover and download apps, and a great business opportunity for all developers. Before they go on our store, all apps are reviewed against the same set of guidelines that are intended to protect customers and provide a fair and level playing field to developers.

Our customers enjoy great apps and games from millions of developers, and gaming services can absolutely launch on the App Store as long as they follow the same set of guidelines applicable to all developers, including submitting games individually for review, and appearing in charts and search. In addition to the App Store, developers can choose to reach all iPhone and iPad users over the web through Safari and other browsers on the App Store.

The impact has — quite obviously — not been uniformly negative, but Apple has played fast and loose with industry changes when they benefit the mothership. I won’t act like plenty of Sony and Microsoft’s actions over the years haven’t offered similar affronts to gamers, but Apple exercises the industry-wide sway it holds, operating the world’s largest gaming platform, too often and gamers should be cautious in trusting the App Store owner to make decisions that have their best interests at heart.


If you’re reading this on the TechCrunch site, you can get more of my weekly opinions and notes on the news by subscribing to Week in Review here, and following my tweets here.

#android, #app-store, #apple, #apple-app-store, #apple-arcade, #apple-inc, #ceo, #computing, #coo, #driver, #federal-trade-commission, #gaming, #geforce, #ios, #ipad, #iphone, #itunes, #microsoft, #mobile-app, #nvidia, #sensor-tower, #sheryl-sandberg, #smartphones, #software, #sony, #tc, #the-new-york-times, #tim-cook, #xcloud

0

With Robinhood’s UK launch delayed, eToro to bring out UK debit card following acquisition

Investment app eToro is to launch a debit card, following its acquisition of Marq Millions Ltd, the UK based e-money business. Marq Millions will now trade as eToro Money and will be the issuer for eToro’s card. The acquisition was for an undisclosed amount, and the Marq Millions management team stays on.

The card will initially be available to eToro Club members in the UK, then Europe, and will later be extended to non-eToro users. eToro has over 14 million registered users and expects take-up of the card to be strong.

A spokesperson said the card could now provide instant ‘cash-out and cash-in’ functionality to customers, a feature which their user-base has been requesting for a while.

The debit cards won’t launch immediately but will launch first in the UK, followed by other markets. eToro Money has a Principal Membership with VISA and an EMI License permission from the Financial Conduct Authority . This means they are likely to hit the ground running, subject to approval from the FCA.

Commenting on the acquisition, co-founder and CEO of eToro, Yoni Assia, said in a statement: “The launch of a debit card is a natural next step for eToro as we broaden the range of services that we provide to our users… The debit card will provide instant cash-out and cash-in functionality, greatly improving the user experience. We expect to see a strong take-up of the card – initially from our client base.”

eToro allows customers to invest in stocks and commodities, as well as crypto assets like Bitcoin. It claims to have 14 million registered users, all of whom share their investment strategies, similar to a social network. It’s regulated in Europe by the Cyprus Securities and Exchange Commission, by the Financial Conduct Authority in the UK and by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission.

Mahmood Kamran, former COO of Marq Millions and now Managing Director of eToro Money, commented: “We are incredibly excited to become part of the eToro Group. The backing of this leading global fintech, will allow us to issue a debit card which we are confident will become a market leader globally.”

The context to this is that eToro is racing to build up it’s UK user-base ahead of a potential launch by competitor Robinhood . The US-based investment platform , which has made waves in the US, has had to delay its UK launch “indefinitely” after one of its customers killed himself in the US, with the consequent regulatory interest in its activities.

Robinhood previously said it had a waiting list of more than 250,000 people in the UK ahead of a launch planned for this year, showing that there will likely be strong demand for eToro’s services, given it now has a ‘head start’.

eToro has had over 256,000 new registrations in the UK since it launched zero commission stocks in May last year, (over 3 million globally), and says it can afford to offer zero commission as it is multi-asset and global.

#coo, #debit-cards, #e-money, #etoro, #europe, #finance, #financial-conduct-authority, #financial-services, #market-leader, #robinhood, #social-network, #spokesperson, #tc, #united-kingdom, #united-states, #visa, #yoni-assia

0

Belvo scores $10M from Founders Fund and Kaszek to scale its API for financial services

Belvo, a Latin American fintech startup which launched just 12 months ago, has already snagged funding from two of the biggest names in North and South American venture capital.

The company is aiming to expand the reach of its service that connects mobile applications in Mexico and Colombia to a customer’s banking information and now has some deep-pocketed investors to support its efforts. 

If the business model sounds familiar, that’s because it is. Belvo is borrowing a page from the Plaid playbook. It’s a strategy that ultimately netted the U.S. startup and its investors $5.3 billion when it was acquired by Visa in January of this year.

Belvo and its backers, who funneled $10 million into the year-old company, want to replicate Plaid’s success and open up an entire new range of financial services companies in Latin America.  

The round was co-led by Silicon Valley’s Founders Fund and Argentina’s Kaszek. With the new arsenal of capital complimented by the Founders Fund’s network and Kaszek’s deep knowledge of the Latin American market, Belvo hopes to triple its current team of 25 that is spread across operations in Mexico City and Barcelona. 

Since its initial establishment in May 2019, the company has raised a total of $13 million from Y Combinator (W20) along with some of the biggest players in Latin America’s startup scene. Those investors include David Velez, the co-founder of Brazil’s multi-billion dollar lending startup, Nubank; MAYA Capital and Venture Friends. 

The company’s co-founders, Pablo Viguera and Oriol Tintoré are no stranger to startups themselves. Viguera served as COO at European payments app Verse, and is a former general manager of one of the big European neo-banks, Revolut. Tintoré is a former NASA aerospace engineer, and while working for his Stanford MBA, founded Capella Space, an information collection startup that went on to raise over $50 million. 

The company said it aims to work with leading fintechs in Latin America, spanning across verticals like the neobanks, credit providers and personal finance products Latin Americans use every day.

Belvo has built a developer-first API platform that can be used to access and interpret end-user financial data to build better, more efficient and more inclusive financial products in Latin America. Developers of popular neobank apps, credit providers and personal finance tools use Belvo’s API to connect bank accounts to their apps to unlock the power of open banking.

Viguera says the capital will be used to open a new office in Sao Paulo, and invest in new product and business development hires. Notably, Belvo is only one year old, having launched in January 2020 and operative in Mexico and Colombia. 

Co-founders Pablo Viguera and Oriol Tintoré are a former Revolut GM and former NASA aerospace engineer.

 

Belvo’s latest funding also marks another instance of a U.S.-Latin America investment teamup for a Latin American company.

Nuvocargo, a logistics startup that wants to bolster the Mexico – U.S. trade lane with its freight transportation technology, also recently raised a round co-led by Mexico’s ALLVP and Silicon Valley-based NFX. American investors may be starting to take note of the co-investment opportunity of putting capital into startups serving the Latin American market in partnership with successful new wave domestic funds like Mexico’s ALLVP and Argentina’s Kaszek.  

#aerospace, #api, #argentina, #banking, #barcelona, #belvo, #brazil, #capella-space, #co-founder, #colombia, #companies, #coo, #david-velez, #economy, #engineer, #finance, #fintech-startup, #founders-fund, #latin-america, #mexico, #mexico-city, #nubank, #nuvocargo, #revolut, #sao-paulo, #startup-company, #tc, #the-founders-fund, #united-states, #venture-capital, #visa, #y-combinator

0

Startups are transforming global trade in the COVID-19 era

Global trade watchers breathed a sigh of relief on January 15, 2020.

After two years of threats, tariffs and tweets, there was finally a truce in the trade war between the U.S. and China. The agreement signed by President Trump and Chinese Vice Premier Liu He in the Oval Office didn’t resolve all trade tensions and maintained most of the $360 billion in tariffs the administration had put on Chinese goods. But for the first time in months, it looked like manufacturers, importers and shippers could start to put two difficult years behind them.

Then came COVID-19, at first a local disruption in Wuhan, China. Then it spread throughout Hubei province, causing havoc in a concentric circle that eventually engulfed the rest of China, where industrial production fell by more than 13.5% in the first two months of the year. When the virus spread everywhere, chaos ensued: Factories shuttered. Borders closed. Supply chains crumbled.

“It has had a cascading effect through the entire world’s economy,” says Anja Manuel, co-founder and managing partner of Rice, Hadley, Gates & Manuel LLC, an international strategic consulting firm based in Silicon Valley.

The crisis has caused a drastic contraction in global trade; the World Trade Organization estimates trade volumes will fall 13-20% in 2020. And spinning activity back up could be tricky: Even as China starts to get back online, the slowdown there could reduce worldwide exports by $50 billion this year. When factories do reopen, there’s no guarantee whether they will have parts available or empty warehouses, says Manuel, who also serves on the advisory board of Flexport, a shipping logistics startup. “Our supply chains are so tightly-knit and so just-in-time that throw a few wrenches in it like we’ve just done, and it’s going to be really hard to stand it back up again. The idea that we go back to normal the moment we lift restrictions is unlikely, fanciful, even.”

Getting to that new normal, though, is a job that a number of logistics startups are embracing. Already on the rise, companies like Flexport, Haven and Factiv see a global trade crisis as a setback, but also an opportunity to demonstrate the value of their digital platforms in a very much analog industry.

#additive-manufacturing, #advisor, #business, #california, #china, #cloud, #cloud-based-software, #co-founder, #column, #coo, #coronavirus, #covid-19, #ecommerce, #economist, #economy, #enterprise, #extra-crunch, #fictiv, #flexport, #gavin-newsom, #governor, #haven, #logistics, #market-analysis, #president, #silicon-valley, #startups, #supply-chain, #trump, #united-states, #world-health-organization

0

B2B challenger bank Finom raises $7M Seed from Target Global and General Catalyst

Just as challenger banks have appeared in the B2C space, so to have B2B startup banks aimed small businesses, among them startups like Qonto (Fr), Tide (UK), Penta (GER) and CountingUp (UK).

Today another such firm, Finom, has closed a €6.5m ($7M) seed funding round led by Target Global, with participation from General Catalyst. Further investors include FJ Labs, Raisin founders Tamaz Georgadze, Frank Freund and Michael Stephan, and Ilya Kondrashov, the founder of MarketFinance. The company will primarily use the fresh capital to develop its product, and to expand further into Italy and France in the summer of 2020.

Finom puts accounting, financial management and banking functions for early-stage businesses and SMEs into one ‘mobile-first’ product. Businesses can set up an online account, with accounts payable and account receivable from both the app and the site in fairly short order. The company was started by the team that also launched Modulbank, ‘neobank’ for SMEs in Russia.

Konstantin Stiskin, co-founder of Finom, told Techcrunch: “The EU SME banking market size is more than €100bn. But according to McKinsey research, European entrepreneurs spend 74% of their time on non-core activities and pay for expensive and inconvenient products. Our goal is to enable small businesses in Europe to become more efficient and to thrive.”

He added: “We are not just a card with an account. We aim to be a foundation for SME’s and their everyday business, covering banking, accounting and financial management within one product.

Finom is now live in France, Italy and Germany and started with e-invoicing in Italy, which allowed it to gain market knowledge and collect the data for accounting/payments and lending.

Mike Lobanov, General Partner and COO at Target Global