Tribal Credit, which provides credit cards to startups in emerging markets, raises $34.3M

The B2B payments space has seen an explosion in demand, and investor interest, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic as businesses try to figure out how to pay each other digitally. The challenges become even more complex when dealing with cross-border payments.

Startups that were formed before the pandemic stand to benefit from the shift. One such startup, Tribal Credit, launched its beta in late 2019 to provide payment products for startups and small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) in emerging markets.

Today, Tribal Credit announced it has raised $34.3 million in a combined Series A and debt round led by QED Investors and Partners for Growth (PFG). Existing backers BECO Capital, Global Ventures, OTG Ventures and Endure Capital also participated in the round, along with new investor Endeavor Catalyst. The raise follows “10x” year-over-year growth, according to CEO and co-founder Amr Shady.

As part of the investment, Tribal received $3 million from the Stellar Development Foundation, a nonprofit organization that supports the development and growth of the open-source Stellar blockchain network. 

Tribal uses a proprietary AI-driven underwriting approval process to evaluate businesses and approve them for credit lines. Those businesses can then use those credit lines to spend on Tribal’s products, Tribal Card and Tribal Pay. Tribal Card is a business Visa card that allows users to create physical and virtual multi-currency cards. Tribal Pay allows them to make payments to merchants and suppliers that don’t accept credit cards. 

The company says its value proposition lies not only in its ability to provide SMEs with virtual and physical corporate cards, but also a digital platform that allows founders and CFOs “to give access to and manage the spend of their distributed teams.”

“We’ve seen more demand for making B2B online payments amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, with many SMEs migrating to digital and spending more on online products and services,” Shady told TechCrunch. “Companies in this new economy are digital and global first. The need for a corporate card was accelerated. As card spend grew during the pandemic, this meant greater liability on founders’ using their personal cards, or other competing cards linked to their personal credit.” 

Tribal, he said, underwrites the company without impacting the founders’ credit. 

Another accelerator for its products was how the pandemic forced teams to work remotely. Founders and CFOs needed a way to provide access to corporate payments while maintaining control, Shady pointed out. Tribal’s platform aims to streamline financial operations for a distributed team. 

Of course, Tribal is not the only company offering credit cards for startups. Brex, which has amassed $465 million in venture capital funding to date, also markets a credit card tailored for startups. While the companies are similar, there is a distinct difference, according to Shady: “Emerging market SMEs have different pains, particularly when it comes to cross-border payments.”

Tribal’s initial efforts are focused on Latin America, in particular Mexico, which is the startup’s biggest market.

Its new capital will go toward accelerating its growth in the region, according to Shady. In particular, the equity will go toward growing Tribal’s leadership team in Mexico, while the debt will fuel the company’s customers’ growing credit lines, Shady said.

“We have invested heavily in our product over the past year,” Shady said. “We’re the first mover in our segment in LatAm with a diverse suite of SME products that includes corporate cards, wire payments and treasury services. We’re incredibly excited by the future ahead of us in Mexico and beyond.” 

Customers include Minu, Ben and Frank, Fairplay and SLM, among others.

Looking ahead, Tribal is exploring four other Latin American markets and expects to be operational in one new market by year’s end, according to Shady.

Image Credits: Tribal Credit

QED Investors partner Lauren Morton said her firm has been following payments and the lending needs of SMEs in emerging markets closely.

“Compared with everything else we’ve seen in this market, Tribal has a differentiated and superior product that meets customers’ needs in a way that no competitor can match,” she said in a written statement. 

Morton went on to note that Tribal has had strong traction in Mexico, with adoption from “fast-growing startups” across the country, including many companies within QED’s own portfolio. 

PFG is providing the debt facility for Tribal. In addition to funding from PFG’s global fund, the firm will be co-investing from its Latin America Growth Lending Fund in partnership with IDB Invest and SVB Financial Group, the parent company of Silicon Valley Bank. 

Tribal Credit previously raised $7.8 million in a series of seed rounds. The latest round brings its total raised to $42.1 million. Tribal Credit also joined Visa’s Fintech Fast Track Program, a move that it said should accelerate its integration with Visa’s global payment network.  The company currently has 75 employees, up from 31 last year.

#artificial-intelligence, #bank, #beco-capital, #blockchain, #blockchain-network, #credit, #credit-card, #debt, #economy, #fairplay, #finance, #frank, #funding, #fundings-exits, #latin-america, #mexico, #minu, #money, #online-payments, #online-products, #partners-for-growth, #payment-network, #payments, #qed-investors, #recent-funding, #silicon-valley-bank, #slm, #startups, #svb-financial-group, #tc, #tribal-credit, #venture-capital

0

SoftBank bets big on a ‘digital Ellis Island’

Welcome Tech, which has built a digital platform aimed at immigrants and their families, has raised $35 million in a Series B funding round co-led by TTV Capital, Owl Ventures and SoftBank Group Corp.’s SB Opportunity Fund.

Crosscut Ventures, Mubadala Capital, Next Play Capital and Owl Capital also participated in the financing, which brings the Los Angeles-based company’s total raised to $50 million since its 2010 inception. Welcome Tech, which has an office in San Antonio, Texas, raised an $8 million Series A in March of 2020.

Built by immigrants for immigrants, Welcome Tech aims to do just what its name indicates — help immigrants feel more welcome, have an easier transition and achieve greater success when moving to the United States.

The company’s approach was different in that rather than launch a banking product and then set out to earn the trust of the community it aims to serve, it first worked hard to earn that trust and understand the community’s needs. 

So in its first years of existence, Welcome Tech has focused on building out a platform that provides educational resources, information and services that “they need to thrive in a  new country.” Its efforts are initially primarily focused on the Hispanic community in the U.S.

The goal of its platform, dubbed SABEResPODER (meaning Knowledge is Power in Spanish), is to serve as “a widely recognized and trusted resource” to members of the Hispanic community in the U.S., the company says.

Armed with knowledge and data that it has gathered over the years, Welcome Tech six months ago launched a banking service, including a debit card and bilingual mobile app. And in January, it launched a monthly subscription offering that gives users access to discounted resources such as medical and dental professionals.

Gardiner Garrard, co-founder and partner, TTV Capital, points out that the Hispanic market represents the largest minority cohort in the U.S., with a population of 62.8 million. 

“That said, less than half of Hispanic households are ‘fully banked’, meaning they cannot open an account, which then negatively impacts their ability to secure other products or services,” Garrard said. “To not serve this community is a major failure. Welcome Tech is addressing this issue head on.”

Today, Welcome’s platform is approaching 3 million active users, according to co-founder and CEO Amir Hemmat. Its ultimate goal, he said, is to serve as “digital Ellis Island.” 

“The way we leave immigrants’ success to chance is pretty crazy,” he told TechCrunch. “If you think of countries the way you think of companies and the way they want to attract and retain…here, we almost do the opposite.”

Image Credits: Welcome Tech

In particular, Hemmat and co-founder Raul Lomeli-Azoubel recognized that access to financial services was crucial to immigrants’ success.

“Although we ultimately see ourselves building towards a better future for immigration and a broader platform, the foundation and beachhead for that is definitely in financial services,” Hemmat said.  

Welcome offers a free banking account that is fully bilingual for English and Spanish speaking communities with “key features that are very tailor made for this community.”

A number of new digital banks targeting Latino and immigrant communities in general have emerged in recent years, including TomoCredit and Greenwood. Welcome aims to differentiate itself from competitors in being a more broad-based platform. Its subscription offering — at $10 a month — does things like offer discounts to healthcare professionals and free televisits, for example.

“When we dug in, we realized that immigrants are not being provided data-driven recommendations,” Hemmat said. “It’s very much a word of mouth and trial of error, and in some cases highly predatory, experience. We’re working to aggregate a historically fragmented audience and that gives us massive leverage to source better offerings, pricing and experiences for consumers across multiple categories.”

The company plans to use its new capital to build more partnerships so that it can do the above, as well as spread awareness about its services.

Gosia Karas, vice president and head of growth-stage investments at SoftBank’s Opportunity Fund, told TechCrunch that the fact that the immigrant population in the U.S. is “growing really fast and underserved creates an opportunity for someone to come in and serve them well with a financial services offering.”

In particular, SoftBank was attracted to Welcome Tech’s approach to truly understand, and gather data around, its target market.

“Before even jumping head first into building a fintech company, they did a lot of work prior,” Karas said. “They spent years building an understanding of this audience of the immigrant population, including building trust within that demographic. And at the same time, they have been building targeted content. This serves as a really great backbone to build a company that is very well-suited to serve that audience and to roll out things like the debit card and other financial services offerings.”

#bank, #banking, #crosscut-ventures, #debit-card, #diversity, #economy, #finance, #financial-services, #fintech, #funding, #fundings-exits, #greenwood, #los-angeles, #mubadala-capital, #owl-capital, #owl-ventures, #recent-funding, #softbank-group, #startups, #tc, #ttv-capital, #united-states, #venture-capital, #vodafone, #welcome-tech

0

Scale AI founder and CEO Alexandr Wang will join us at TC Sessions: Mobility on June 9

Last week, Scale AI announced a massive $325 million Series E. Led by Dragoneer, Greenoaks Capital and Tiger Global, the raise gives the San Francisco data labeling startup a $7 billion valuation.

Alexandr Wang founded the company back in 2016, while still at MIT. A veteran of Quora and Addepar, Wang built the startup to curate information for AI applications. The company is now a break-even business, with a wide range of top-notch clients, including General Motors, NVIDIA, Nuro and Zoox.

Backed by a ton of venture capital, the company plans a large-scale increase in its headcount, as it builds out new products and expands into additional markets. “One thing that we saw, especially in the course of the past year, was that AI is going to be used for so many different things,” Wang told TechCrunch in a recent interview. “It’s like we’re just sort of really at the beginning of this and we want to be prepared for that as it happens.”

The executive will join us on stage at TC Sessions: Mobility on June 9 to discuss how the company has made a major impact on the industry in its short four years of existence, the role AI is playing in the world of transportation and what the future looks like for Scale AI.

In addition to Wang, TC Sessions: Mobility 2021 will feature an incredible lineup of speakers, presentations, fireside chats and breakouts all focused on the current and future state of mobility — like EVs, micromobility and smart cities for starters — and the investment trends that influence them all.

Investors like Clara Brenner (Urban Innovation Fund), Quin Garcia (Autotech Ventures) and Rachel Holt (Construct Capital) — all of whom will grace our virtual stage. They’ll have plenty of insight and advice to share, including the challenges that startup founders will face as they break into the transportation arena.

You’ll hear from CEOs like Starship Technologies’ Ahti Heinla. The company’s been busy testing delivery robots in real-world markets. Don’t miss his discussion touching on challenges ranging from technology to red tape and what it might take to make last-mile robotic delivery a mainstream reality.

Grab your early bird pass today and save $100 on tickets before prices go up in less than a month.

#addepar, #alexandr-wang, #articles, #artificial-intelligence, #autotech-ventures, #clara-brenner, #deliv, #economy, #entrepreneurship, #executive, #general-motors, #greenoaks-capital, #micromobility, #mit, #nuro, #nvidia, #quora, #rachel-holt, #san-francisco, #scale-ai, #starship-technologies, #startup-company, #tc-sessions-mobility, #technology, #tiger-global, #transportation, #urban-innovation-fund, #venture-capital, #wang

0

Pale Blue Dot aims to be Europe’s premier early-stage climate investor and has $100 million to prove it

When Hampus Jakobsson, Heidi Lindvall, and Joel Larsson, all well-known players in the European venture ecosystem, began talking about their new firm Pale Blue Dot, they began by looking at the problems with venture capital.

For the three entrepreneurs and investors, whose resumes included co-founding companies and accelerators like The Astonishing Tribe (Jakobsson) and Fast Track Malmö (Lindvall and Larsson) and working as a venture partner at BlueYard Capital (Jakobsson again), the problems were clear.

Their first thesis was that all investment funds should be impact funds, and be taking into account ways to effect positive change; their second thesis was that since all funds should be impact funds, what would be their point of differentiation — that is, where could they provide the most impact.

The three young investors hit on climate change as the core mission and ran with it.

As it was closing on €53 million ($63.3 million) last year, the firm also made its first investments in Phytoform, a London headquartered company creating new crops using computational biology and synbio; Patch, a San Francisco-based carbon-offsetting platform that finances both traditional and frontier “carbon sequestration” methods; and 20tree.ai, an Amsterdam-based startup, using machine learning and satellite data to understand trees to lower the risk of forest fires and power outages.

Now they’ve raised another €34 million and seven more investments on their path to doing between 30 and 35 deals.

These investments primarily focus on Europe and include Veat, a European vegetarian prepared meal company; Madefrom, a still-in-stealth company angling to make everyday products more sustainable; HackYourCloset, a clothing rental company leveraging fast fashion to avoid landfilling clothes; Hier, a fresh food delivery service; Cirplus, a marketplace for recycled plastics trading; and Overstory, which aims to prevent wildfires by giving utilities a view into vegetation around their assets. 

The team expects to be primarily focused on Europe, with a few opportunistic investments in the U.S., and intends to invest in companies that are looking to change systems rather than directly affect consumer behavior. For instance, a Pale Blue Dot investment likely wouldn’t include e-commerce filters for more sustainable shopping, but potentially could include investments in sustainable consumer products companies.

The size of the firm’s commitments will range up to €1 million and will look to commit to a lot of investments. That’s by design, said Jakobsson. “Climate is so many different fields that we didn’t want to do 50% of the fund in food or 50% of the fund in materials,” he said. Also, the founders know their skillsets, which are primarily helping early stage entrepreneurs scale and making the right connections to other investors that can add value.

“In every deal we’ve gotten in co-investors that add particular, amazing, value while we still try to be the shepherds and managers and sherpas,” Jakobsson said. “We’re the ones that are going to protect the founder from the hell-rain of investor opinions.”

Another point of differentiation for the firm are its limited partners. Jakobsson said they rejected capital from oil companies in favor of founders and investors from the tech community that could add value. These include Prima Materia, the investment vehicle for Spotify founder Daniel Ek; the founders of Supercell, Zendesk, TransferWise and DeliveryHero are also backing the firm. So too, is Albert Wenger, a managing partner at Union Square Ventures.

The goal, simply, is to be the best early stage climate fund in Europe.

“We want to be the European climate fund,” Lindvall said. “This is where we can make most of the difference.” 

#albert-wenger, #amsterdam, #blueyard-capital, #corporate-finance, #daniel-ek, #economy, #entrepreneurship, #europe, #finance, #food, #hampus-jakobsson, #heidi-lindvall, #investment, #joel-larsson, #london, #machine-learning, #managing-partner, #money, #oil, #pale-blue-dot, #partner, #private-equity, #san-francisco, #spotify, #supercell, #tc, #transferwise, #union-square-ventures, #united-states, #venture-capital, #zendesk

0

The TechCrunch Survey of Tech Startup Hubs in England and Wales

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

Over the next few weeks, we will ask entrepreneurs in these cities to talk about their ecosystems, in their own words. For this survey we are interested in startup hubs in England and Wales. (Scotland will follow, and Northern Ireland is here).

So this is your chance to put your cities on the Techcrunch Map!

We’re like to hear from founders and investors. We are particularly interested in hearing from diverse founders and investors. These are our humble suggestions for the cities we’d most like to hear from:

Birmingham
Brighton
Bristol & Bath
Cambridge
Cardiff
Liverpool
Manchester
Newcastle
Oxford
Reading and Thames valley
York

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

The more founders/investors we hear from in a particular city, the more likely it is that city will be featured in TechCrunch.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#articles, #business, #economy, #entrepreneurship, #europe, #private-equity, #reading, #startup-company, #tc, #techcrunch, #verizon-media, #york

0

Clim8 raises $8M from 7pc Ventures, launches climate-focused investing app for retail investors

Ethical investing remains something of a confusing maze, with a great deal of ‘greenwashing’ going on. A new UK startup is hoping to fix that with the launch of its new app and platform for retail investors.

Clim8 Investhas raised $8 million from 7pc Ventures (early backers of Oculus, acquired by Facebook),  British Business Bank Future Fund and a numbers of technology entrepreneurs and executives including Marcus Exall (Monese), Marcus Mosen (N26),  Paul Willmott (Lego Digital, McKinsey), Doug Scott (Redbrain), Matt Wilkins (Thought Machine), Andrew Cocker (Skyscanner), Steve Thomson (Redbrain), Monica Kalia (Neyber, Goldman Sachs), Doug Monro (Adzuna), Erik Nygard (Limejump). 

Consumers will be able to invest in companies and supply chains that are focused on tackling climate change. It will be competing with similar startups in the space such as London-based Tickr (backed by $3m from Ada Ventures), Helios in Paris, and Yova in Zurich.

Duncan Grierson, CEO of Clim8 said in a statement: “We are launching at an exciting time for sustainable investing. 2020 was an exceptional year for environmentally-focused investment offerings, as investors looked harder at climate-related opportunities. Sustainable investments have continued to outperform markets since the beginning of the Covid-19 Crisis and we believe this will continue.”

Grierson has 20 years of experience in the green space and was a winner of the EY Entrepreneur of Year Cleantech award.

The startup will take advantage of new, higher EU rules around the disclosure requirements for sustainable investment funds. Users can choose between either stocks and shares ISAs (up to £20k) or a taxable general investment account.

#ada-ventures, #adzuna, #articles, #ceo, #corporate-social-responsibility, #economy, #europe, #european-union, #facebook, #finance, #goldman-sachs, #london, #monese, #n26, #paris, #retail-investors, #social-finance, #tc, #technology-entrepreneurs, #united-kingdom, #zurich

0

Private chef parties at home startup Yhangry raises $1.5M Seed from VC angels and Ollie Locke

There’s an “uber for everything” these days and now there are “Ubers for personal chefs”. Just take a look at PopTop or 100 Pleats for instance. Now in London, there is Yhangry (which brands itself as the appropriately shouty YHANGRY). This is a “private chef parties at home” website, and no doubt an app at some point. The startup has now raised a $1.5 million Seed round from a number of notable UK angels which also includes a few UK VCs for good measure, as well as ‘Made In Chelsea’ TV star Ollie Locke.

Founders Heinin Zhang and Siddhi Mittal created the startup before the pandemic, which lets people order a made-to-measure dinner party online. Although it trundled along until Covid, it had to pivot into virtual chef classes during lockdowns last year and this. The company is now poised to take advantage of London’s unlocking, which will see legal outdoor and indoor dining return.

The startup also speaks to the decentralization of experiences going on in the wake of the pandemic. In 2019 we were working out in gyms and going to restaurants. In 2021 we are working out at home and bringing the restaurant to us.

Normally booking private dinner parties involves a lot of hassle. The idea here is that Yhangry makes the whole affair as easy to order as an Uber Eats or Deliveroo.

Investors in the Seed round include Carmen Rico (Blossom Capital), Eileen Burbidge (Passion Capital), Orson Stadler (Antler) and Martin Mignot (Index Ventures), Made In Chelsea star Ollie Locke, plus fellow tech founders including Jack Tang (Urban), Adnan Ebrahim (MindLabs), Alex Fitzgerald (Cuckoo Internet), Georgina Kirby (Vinehealth) and Deepali Nangia (Alma Angels). Yhangry’s statement said all the investors are also keen customers. I bet they are.

Co-founder Mittal said in a statement: “By making private chef experiences more accessible and affordable, our customers regularly tell us they are finally able to catch up with friends at home… 70% of our customers have never had a private chef before and for them, the freedom and flexibility to curate their own evening is priceless.”

Yhangry now has 130 chefs on its books. Chefs have to pass a cooking trial and adhere to Covid rules. The funding will be used to double the size of the startup’s team.

The menus start at £17pp for six people. The price of the booking covers everything, including the cost of the fresh ingredients, but customers can add extras, such as wine etc. Since its launch in December 2019, the firm says it has served more than 7,000 Londoners.

Yhangry says it will enter key European markets, such as Paris, Berlin, Lisbon and Barcelona.

How will Yhangry survive post-Covid, with restaurants/bars opening up again?

Mittal said: “When restaurants were open between our launch and March 2020, we saw demand because people want to be able to spend time with their friends in a relaxed setting, and aren’t limited to the two-hour slot you get in a restaurant. Once places start to open up again, we believe Yhangry will follow this trend of at-home dining and socializing – not to mention for people who are not ready yet to go out to a busy pub or restaurant.”

#articles, #barcelona, #berlin, #chef, #co-founder, #companies, #deliveroo, #economy, #eileen-burbidge, #europe, #lisbon, #london, #martin-mignot, #online-food-ordering, #paris, #passion-capital, #restaurant, #startup-company, #tc, #uber, #uber-eats, #united-kingdom

0

Black Innovation Alliance, Village Capital team up to support founders of color

Black Innovation Alliance and Village Capital today announced Resource, a national initiative aimed at boosting the efforts of entrepreneur support organizations (ESOs) led by, and focused on, founders of color.

The motivation behind the project is straightforward. ESOs “face record demand, declining resources and are chronically underestimated, underappreciated and underfunded,” the organizations say.

Resource aims to give local accelerators and incubators support in the form of training and community.

Resource’s “ESO Accelerator” will train startup ecosystem leaders on how to build a more financially sustainable organization, as well as help connect them to potential funders. It also will provide milestone-based financial support tied to organizational development.

Resource also plans to build a national community of practice among ESO leaders of color and their funders to share best practices and “develop stronger capital and mentorship pathways” for Black, Latinx and Indigenous founders across the U.S.

Village Capital, says CEO Allie Burns, supports and invest in entrepreneurs “who have been historically sitting in historical blind spots of investors, whether that’s by the problems they’re trying to solve, the geography they’re located in or demographic factors that we have seen lead to capital being concentrated in very few people, places and problems.” Village Capital has worked with more than 100 other ESOs to help grow companies with founders from all backgrounds over the past five years.

The goal with Resource is to help ensure that incubators and accelerators focused on supporting people of color have the resources they need to flourish, she added.

“We want to make sure that those accelerators and other ESOs have the financial, social and human capital to keep their doors open and grow,” Burns said.

Black Innovation Alliance Executive Director Kelly Burton points out that these Black-led organizations are often the first line of support for Black entrepreneurs yet reap few benefits from their success over time.

“They receive very little support and very little funding,” she said. “It’s almost like they do all the heavy lifting, they plant seeds and do all the cultivation but they don’t really get to benefit once that founder and that startup has really taken off. This is an opportunity for us to stabilize these organizations to help them build their own capacities and capabilities so that that organization can be sustainable.”

Resource is supported by a national coalition of funders committed to supporting entrepreneurs of color. The initial coalition includes Moody’s, The Sorenson Impact Foundation, Travelers and UBS.

In related news, on Tuesday we covered New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy’s proposal for a $10 million allocation in the state budget to create a seed fund for Black and Latinx startups.

In that piece, we noted that there are a number of organizations out there that are committed to funding diverse founders.

In February, several national and Chicago-based organizations banded together to support early-stage Black and Latinx tech entrepreneurs through a new program dubbed TechRise. The nonprofit P33 launched the program in partnership with Verizon and 1871, a private business incubator and technology hub, among others, with the goals “of narrowing the wealth gap in Chicago, generating thousands of tech-related jobs and giving $5 million in grant funding to Black and Latino entrepreneurs,” according to the Chicago Sun Times. (Disclosure: Verizon is TechCrunch’s parent company).

Also in Austin, DivInc is a nonprofit pre-accelerator that holds 12-week programs for underrepresented tech founders. Founded in 2016 by former Dell executive Preston James, the organization aims to “empower people of color and women entrepreneurs and help them build successful high-growth businesses by providing them with access to education, mentorship and vital networks.”

#black-innovation-alliance, #business-incubators, #diversity, #economy, #entrepreneur, #entrepreneurship, #funding, #resource, #startups, #techcrunch-include, #ubs, #village-capital

0

Avant doubles down on digital banking with Zero Financial acquisition

Avant, an online lender that has raised over $600 million in equity, announced today that it has acquired Zero Financial and its neobank brand, Level, to further its mission of becoming a digital bank for the masses.

Founded in 2012, Chicago-based Avant started out primarily as an online lender targeting “underserved consumers,” but is evolving into digital banking with this acquisition. The company notched gross revenue of $265 million in 2020 and has raised capital over the years from backers such as General Atlantic and Tiger Global Management.

“Our path has always been to become the premier digital bank for the everyday American,” Avant CEO James Paris told TechCrunch. “The massive transition to digital over the last 12 months made the timing right to expand our offerings.” 

The acquisition of Zero Financial and its neobank, Level (plus its banking app assets), will give Avant the ability to offer “a full ecosystem of banking and credit product offerings” through one fully digital platform, according to Paris. Those offerings include deposits, personal loans, credit cards and auto loans.

Financial terms of the deal weren’t disclosed other than the fact that the acquisition was completed with a combination of cash and stock.

Founded in 2016, San Francisco-based Zero Financial has raised $147 million in debt and equity, according to Crunchbase. New Enterprise Associates (NEA) led its $20 million Series A in May of 2019.

Level was unveiled to the public in February of 2020, created by the same California-based team that founded the “debit-style” credit card offering Zero, according to this FintechFutures piece. The challenger bank was created to target millennials dissatisfied with the incumbent banking options.

Zero Financial co-founder and CEO Bryce Galen said that Avant shared his company’s mission “to challenge the status quo by bringing innovative financial services products to consumers who might otherwise be unable to access them.”

Avant, notes Paris, uses thousands of AI-driven data points to determine credit risk. With this acquisition, that lens will be expanded with data, such as a deposit customer’s cash flow, how they manage their finances and whether they pay their bills on time. 

“This will allow us to make credit decisions faster and deliver personalized options to help underbanked consumers gain financial freedom, at any and every stage of their financial journey,” Paris told TechCrunch. “It will also build long-term engagement and loyalty and help grow our reach beyond the 1.5 million customers we’ve served to date.”  

Like a growing number of fintechs, Avant operates under the premise that a person’s ability to get credit shouldn’t be dictated by a credit score alone.

“A significant amount of Americans have poor, bad or no credit at all. For these people, accessing credit isn’t exactly easy and often comes with extra fees,” Paris said. That’s why, he added, Avant has focused on providing options for such consumers with “transparent, rewards-driven products.”

Level’s branchless, all-digital platform offers things such as cashback rewards on debit card purchases, a “competitive APY” on deposits, early access to paychecks and no hidden fees, all of which are especially beneficial for consumers on the path to financial freedom, according to Paris.

Since its inception in 2012, Avant has connected more than 1.5 million consumers to $7.5 billion in loans and 400,000 credit cards. The company launched its credit card in 2017 and over the past two years alone, it has grown its number of credit card users by 170%.

#apps, #artificial-intelligence, #avant, #bank, #banking, #california, #challenger-bank, #chicago, #credit-card, #debit-card, #digital-banking, #economy, #exit, #finance, #funding, #general-atlantic, #level, #ma, #money, #premier, #san-francisco, #startups, #tc, #tiger-global-management, #zero-financial

0

Putting Belfast on the TechCrunch map — TechCrunch’s European Cities Survey 2021

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

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

This is your chance to put Belfast on the Techcrunch Map!

If you are a tech startup founder or investor in the city please fill out the survey form here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#articles, #business, #economy, #entrepreneurship, #europe, #startup-company, #tc, #techcrunch, #verizon-media

0

FinanZero, Brazil’s free online credit marketplace, raises $7M

FinanZero, a Brazilian online credit marketplace, announced today that it has closed a $7 million round of funding – its fourth since it launched in 2016 was founded in 2016. It has raised a total of $22.85 million to date.

The real-time online loan broker allows people to apply for a personal loan, a car equity loan, or a home equity loan for free and receive an answer in minutes. A key to FinanZero’s success is that it doesn’t offer the loans itself, but has instead partnered with about 51 banks and fintechs who back the loans.

FinanZero is based in Brazil’s financial capital, Sao Paulo, and has 52 employees.

“From day one we said, ‘We only work with a success fee,’ so we only get paid when the customer signs the loan contract,” said Olle Widen, the company’s co-founder, and CEO. 

Instead of charging the customer, FinanZero gets a commission from one of its partners, and with a growing volume of credit applications – an average of 750,000 applications per month – the company has seen 61% revenue growth from 2019-2020.

Olle Widen, cofounder and CEO of Finanzero

The Brazilian finance and banking market has been ripe for disruption, as it has traditionally favored the rich. 

Those with low incomes – the vast majority of Brazilian citizens – are then left with few options when it comes to financing, and which in turn forces them into compounding debt they’ll likely never escape from. Traditionally, young Brazilians have lived with their families until they got married, and while there is a cultural aspect to it, the bottom line is that mortgages were infinitely hard to get approved for. 

With products like FinanZero and Nubank – Latin America’s largest digital bank – Brazilians are starting to see more economic mobility and independence from the legacy institutions that dictated their lives for so long.

Widen, who is Swedish, moved to Brazil about 10 years ago for personal reasons, and while there, was pitched the idea of FinanZero by Webrok Ventures, an investment company focused on bringing Nordic innovation to Brazil. 

At the time, Swedish startup Lendo – a precursor to FinanZero – was making waves in Sweden, and the team felt that a similar model would succeed in Brazil, a country known for its bureaucracy and red tape, and thus primed for a streamlined and hassle-free approach to loans.

The original idea was to just copy Lendo, Widen said, but as others have discovered, along the way the team needed to “tropicalize” the product and the experience, meaning they had to build a custom solution for the Brazilian market and its people.

“The founder of Lendo was a childhood friend of mine,” said Widen, of his close ties to the Swedish fintech.

To apply for a loan on FinanZero you don’t need to provide your credit score. Instead, all you need is a utility bill (proof of address), proof of income, and your government ID. The process is so simple, Widen said, that 92% of loan applications are initiated from a smartphone.

“Our business model is very based on the bank’s risk appetite and we saw 60% growth from 2019-2020. We are close to 3 million visits per month, about 1.5 are unique and in March of 2021, we had 800K people fill out the entire loan form. We have about a 10% approval rating across all products,” Widen said.

The round was led by the Swedish investors VEF, Dunross & Co, and Atlant Fonder, which are all previous investors in the company. The funding will go toward marketing – most of which will be on T.V. – product development, and talent acquisition.

#banking, #brazil, #economy, #finance, #finanzero, #latin-america, #loans, #money, #online-lending, #personal-finance, #recent-funding, #sao-paulo, #startups

0

Put your city on the TC map — TechCrunch’s European Cities Survey 2021

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

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

This is your chance to put your city on the Techcrunch Map!

This is the follow-up to the huge survey of investors (see also below) we’ve done over the last 6 or more months, largely in capital cities.

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

In the first wave of surveys (as you can see below) the cities we wrote about were largely capitals.

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

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

We leave submissions mostly un-edited, and generally looking for at least one or two paragraphs in answers to the questions.

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

Austria: Graz, Linz
Belgium: Antwerp
Croatia: Zagreb, Osjek
Czech Republic: Brno, Ostrava, Plzen
England: Bristol, Cambridge, Oxford, Manchester
Estonia: Tartu
France: Toulouse, Lyon, Lille
Germany: Hamburg, Munich, Cologne, Bielefeld, Frankfurt
Greece: Thessaloniki
Ireland: Cork
Israel: Jerusalem
Italy: Trieste, Bologna, Turin, Florence, Milan
Netherlands: Delft, Eindhoven, Rotterdam, Utrecht
Northern Ireland: Belfast, Derry
Poland: Gdańsk, Wroclaw, Krakow, Poznan
Portugal: Porto, Braga
Romania: Cluj, Lasi, Timisoara, Oradea, Brasov
Scotland: Edinburgh, Glasgow
Spain: Valencia
Sweden: Malmo
Switzerland: Geneva, Lausanne

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

Here are the cities that previously participated in The Great TechCrunch Survey of Europe’s VCs:

Amsterdam/Netherlands

Athens/Greece

Berlin/Germany

Brussels/Belgium

Bucharest/Romania

Copenhagen/Denmark

Dublin/Ireland

Helsinki/Finland

Lisbon/Portugal

London/UK

Madrid & Barcelona/Spain (Part 1 & Part 2)

Oslo/Norway

Paris/France

Prague/Czech Republic

Rome, Milan/Italy

Stockholm/Sweden

Tel Aviv/Israel

Vienna/Austria

Warsaw/Poland (Part 1 & Part 2)

Zurich/Switzerland

#articles, #austria, #bristol, #business, #cambridge, #cologne, #economy, #edinburgh, #entrepreneurship, #europe, #florence, #hamburg, #munich, #oxford, #startup-company, #tc, #techcrunch, #trieste, #verizon-media

0

Atlanta’s early stage investment renaissance continues with Overline’s $27 million fund close

Michael Cohn became a celebrity in the Atlanta startup ecosystem when the company he co-founded was sold to Accenture in a deal valued somewhere between $350 million and $400 million nearly six years ago.

That same year, Sean O’Brien also made waves in the community when he helped shepherd the sale of the  collaboration software vendor, PGi, to a private equity firm for $1.5 billion.

The two men are now looking to become fixtures in the city’s burgeoning new tech community with the close of their seed-stage venture capital firm’s first fund, a $27.4 million investment vehicle.

Overline’s first fund has already made commitments to companies that are expanding the parameters of what’s investible in the Southeast broadly and Atlanta’s startup scene locally.

These are companies like Grubbly Farms, which sells insect-based chicken feed for backyard farmers, or Kayhan Space, which is aiming to be the air traffic control service for the space industry. Others, like Padsplit, an Atlanta-based flexible housing marketplace, are tackling America’s low income housing crisis. 

“Our business model is very different from that of a traditional software startup, and the Overline team’s unique strengths and operator mindset have been invaluable in helping us grow the company,” said Sean Warner, CEO and co-founder of Grubbly Farms. 

That’s on top of investments into companies building on Atlanta’s natural strengths as a financial services, payments and business software powerhouse.

For all of the activity in Atlanta these days, the city and the broader southeastern region is still massively underfunded, according to O’brien and Cohn. The region only received less than 10 percent of all the institutional venture investments that were committed in 2020. Indeed, only seven percent of Atlanta founders raise money locally when they’re first starting out, an Overline survey suggested.

“The data reflects what we have seen throughout our careers building, growing, and investing in startups. There is no shortage of phenomenal founders and businesses coming out of Atlanta and the Southeast, but they often struggle to find institutional capital at their earliest stages,” said O’Brien, in a statement. “Overline will lead as the first institutional check for these companies and be a true partner to the Founders throughout their lifecycle—supporting them on the strategic and operational business initiatives and decisions that are critical to a company’s success.” 

The limited partners in Overline’s first fund also reflects the firm’s emphasis on regional roots. The privately held email marketing behemoth Mailchimp anchored the fund, which also included partners like Cox Enterprises, Social Leverage,

Overline is supported by a bench of impressive partners that reflects the firm’s roots in the Southeast. Anchored by marketing platform, Mailchimp, additional partners include Cox Enterprises, Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Social Leverage, Wilmington, Del.-based Hallett Capital, and Atlanta Tech Village founder David Cummings, along with Techstars co-founder David Cohen. 

“At Mailchimp, we love our hometown of Atlanta, and are proud of the robust startup ecosystem that’s growing in our city. The Overline founding team’s vision of deploying smart, local capital into startups in Atlanta and the Southeast aligns with our goals of promoting and advancing local innovation,” said Rick Lynch, CFO, Mailchimp, in a statement.

The firm expects to make investments of between $250,000 to $1.5 million into seed stage companies and has already backed 11 companies including, Relay Payments, a logistics fintech company that has raised over $40 million from top-tier investors. 

“When we set out to build Atlanta Tech Village almost a decade ago, one of our primary goals was to help Atlanta develop into a top 10 startup city, where all entrepreneurs would thrive. We’re making tremendous strides as a community, as evidenced by the number of newly minted unicorns,” said serial entrepreneur and Atlanta Tech Village founder David Cummings. “I believe in Overline’s thesis that value-add institutional early-stage capital is critical to the ecosystem’s continued development. Since the early days, Michael and Sean have been an active presence in our community in a way that goes far beyond being a source of capital—as mentors, advisors, and champions of Atlanta founders. I am proud to be one of their first investors.”

#accenture, #advisors, #america, #arizona, #atlanta, #cfo, #co-founder, #collaboration-software, #corporate-finance, #cox-enterprises, #david-cohen, #delaware, #economy, #entrepreneurship, #finance, #financial-services, #mailchimp, #money, #private-equity, #serial-entrepreneur, #social-leverage, #startup-company, #tc, #techstars, #venture-capital

0

Acquisition-happy space infrastructure company Redwire set to go public via SPAC

The latest in a string of space tech SPACs announced this year is Redwire, an entity created by a PE firm in 2020, which has acquired a number of smaller companies including Adcole Space, Roccor, Made in Space, LoadPath, Oakman Aerospace, Deployable Space Systems and more — all within the last year or so. Redwire announced that it will go public through a merger with special purpose acquisition company Genesis Park Acquisition Crop., and the combined company will list on the NYSE.

The deal puts Redwire’s pro forma enterprise value at %615 million, and is expected to provide an additional $170 million to Redwire’s coffers post-merger, including a PIPE valued at over $100 million. Unsurprisingly, one of the uses of the proceeds that Redwire intends to pursue is continued M&A activity to build out its list of service offering in the space domain.

Redwire’s mandate isn’t specifically to go after new space companies, and instead its targets share in common expertise in a particular, rather narrow slice of the severally space market. It’s capabilities include on-orbit manufacturing and servicing; satellite design, manufacture and assembly; payload integration; sensor design and development, and more. The idea appears to be to build a full-stack infrastructure company that can offer tip-to-tail space technology services, exclusive really only of launch and ground station components (for now).

It’s a smart approach for a bourgeoning new space economy where increasingly, technology companies who want to operate in space would rather focus on their unique value proposition, and outsource the complex, but mostly settled business of actually getting to, and operating in, space. Other companies are addressing the market in similar ways, with launchers bringing more of that part of the process in-house so their payload customers basically only have to show up with the sensor or communication device they want to send to space, and the launcher providing everything else — including even the satellite, in the relatively near future.

Redwire has proven revenue-generating power, with projected 2021 revenue of $163 million, and many of the companies now operating under its umbrella are fairly mature and have been operating cash flow positive for many years. Accordingly, a SPAC as a path to public markets likely does make sense in this particular instance, but the increasing frequency and volume of space companies choosing this route, is, on the whole, a trend to watch with healthy skepticism.

#aerospace, #economy, #exit, #outer-space, #spac, #space, #special-purpose-acquisition-company, #tc, #technology

0

Hopper raises $170M and partners with Capital One on a new cardholder travel booking portal

Canadian travel startup Hopper has raised a $170 million Series F round, led by Capital One. The U.S. banks and credit card company is also coming on board as a strategic partner, to launch Capital One Travel, which is the first instantiation of Hopper’s new B2B platform, Hopper Cloud.

This is Hopper’s second raise in a year that has been marked by turmoil for the travel industry, owing to the disruptions caused by the global COVID-19 pandemic. Last March, Hopper raised $70 million, in a round that saw Inovia Capital actually make its first investment in the startup — essentially at the very moment that things looked most bleak for the travel industry in general, and in particular for airfare-focused Hopper.

I asked Inovia partner Patrick Pichette about his decision to back Hopper at a moment when a lot of investors where essentially on pause pending the fallout of the just-declared pandemic, and about their renewed support with a contribution to this latest round.

“What we had seen in the prior six months, nine months ti a year at Hopper was a transformation of a company before COVID,” Pichette said. “And second is our thesis at Inovia — we invest in companies with the mindset of, ‘Does this company have a shot at being a global company?’ If it’s gonna be a Canadian company, it might be fine, but it’s just not for us. Also, does it really leverage tech in a way that is differentiated? And so if it has these attributes, then we’re interested.”

That pre-COVID transformation that Pichette is referring to is Hopper’s shift from being essentially a machine learning-powered lowest fare finder, to what co-founder and CEO Fred Lalonde says is really much more of a fintech company. That characterization mostly comes from Hopper’s ability to offer customers financial flexibility around their travel bookings.

“The real fundamental sea change is that Hopper moved away from being a predominantly air travel company to a true fintech,” Lalonde explained in an interview. “Price freeze is a good example. We allow you to come in and hold the price of a booking for between two hours and 14 days. If the price goes up you pay what you froze, and if it goes down and you pay the lower price. We have flexible date plans, cancellation plans, where you can take a non-refundable, non-changeable ticket and for a nominal fee, make it changeable. And one that’s working really surprisingly well is the disruption insurance.”

Hopper’s disruption insurance is basically a rebooking service for missed connections. Whatever the reason, if you happen to miss a connection on a multiple-leg flight and you have opted for the disruption insurance service, you’ll be presented with every flight leaving that particular airport, regardless of airline, to your destination and you can select an available option at no additional cost.

Understandably, Hopper’s overall business took a hit during the pandemic, and that had a steep cost: The company laid off around 45% of its staff last year as a result of the dip in demand. But for the bookings that were being made, Lalonde says the company was seeing very high attach rates for its products that provide more peace-of-mind around booking stability. Now, with the U.S. travel industry in particular taking its first steps towards recovery, Lalonde says behavior is not changing as much as his company had anticipated.

Image Credits: Hopper

“What is interesting is as demand has recovered, originally we thought since we had very, very high attach rates, we thought those would never come back,” he said. “But we’ve actually outgrown our pandemic attach rate. So people are adding more of these services, and we credit that to the product innovation.”

Lalonde also credits the pandemic for proving out the validity of its fintech approach, since Hopper “had a lot of liabilities” in place prior to the global shutdowns, and so a lot of investors and observers were watching and thinking that though this was a novel and interesting approach, carrying those liabilities appeared to incur a lot of additional risk, as well. The pandemic was “the mother of all black swan events,” however, he notes, which means that now, it doesn’t have to talk about the theoretical resilience of its model — it can point to the actual experience.

“Three months later, [it turns out] we lost money for about 30 days,” Lalonde said. “Now we’re back on the other side of this, every color is profitable. The fact is the way that the future travel credits kicked in, and how the refunding work, we ended up with a pretty stable revenue stream.”

Hopper customers may not have felt so optimistic about the company’s performance during the pandemic, however. The startup’s app reviews, Better Business Bureau (BBB) profile and social media accounts were inundated with negative comments and reports of poor experiences. Most centered around either a lack of customer ability to secure their refund, or a failure of communication on Hopper’s part. Lalonde says that Hopper definitely failed at the communication part, and it’s still in the process of hiring hundreds of additional call center employees to improve that part of the business, but fundamentally, it opted to take a hit on that front in order to focus on building a technical solution to handle the unprecedented volume of flight credits coming from airlines.

“The part that is misunderstood is that all of a sudden, the airlines gave out these future travel credits,” he said. “These vouchers, we had to key them in all by hand. And I swear, this is a green screen – you have to go in and do commands. It takes about 20 minutes to do one, so we counted how much time with all of our staff, it would take us to do them by hand. And the answer was we’d be done in 2070, and then even if you double the number of people doing it, it was 2050.”

No existing automation for this process existed because prior to the pandemic, credits for non-refundable airline tickets just didn’t really exist, and particularly not at scale. At that point, Lalonde says Hopper “made a decision to put everybody on the automation, [and] just get murdered publicly.”

He says that gamble has worked out, since once the automation was up and running, they’ve been able to clear out the backlog pretty much entirely. And the company has also been focused on new product developments, including shifting its roadmap to prioritize the addition of car rental and hotel/holiday home booking to better suit the needs of pandemic travel, which has largely been overland in North America. That has meant deprioritizing other areas, including international expansion, but Lalonde says that’s one focus for use of the new funds the company raised.

The other big focus is Hopper Cloud, a B2B offering that provides the benefits of Hopper’s machine-learning power price prediction, as well as its fintech travel insurance and disruption prevention products, but tied to another businesses’ unique offerings. In the case of Capital One, that means all the rewards the company offers its cardholders in terms of earning and redeeming travel credits, for instance. I asked Lalonde whether that approach was made more appealing by the fact that it somewhat intermediates the customer experience, but he pointed out that the initiative is a co-branded one, so Hopper still has its name on the product and the accountability. Plus, he added, the real advantage of these kinds of partnerships are the network effects, and Hopper’s goal remains becoming the top booking destination for customers directly.

“One of the reasons I never want to drop the marketplace — it’s growing really quickly and making money, but even if it didn’t, losing that would just put us further away from the end customer,” Lalonde said. “I like the proximity of knowing exactly what happens, and feeling the pain when we screw up and feeling the joy when we get something right.”

#air-travel, #airline, #articles, #better-business-bureau, #car-rental, #economy, #financial-technology, #hopper, #inovia-capital, #machine-learning, #north-america, #patrick-pichette, #startup-funding, #tc, #travel-bookings, #travel-industry, #united-states

0

Planting seed investments on tech’s frontiers nets KdT Ventures $50 million for its latest fund

Like other venture investors over the past year, Cain McClary, co-founder of the investment firm KdT Ventures, recently made the jump to Austin. But unlike the rest of them, he was coming from Black Mountain, NC.

McClary had spent the better part of the last three years with his co-founder Mack Healy building out a portfolio that would be the envy of almost any investor looking at financing startups whose businesses depend on innovations at the borders of current technological achievement.

Since 2017, when the firm closed on the first $3.5 million of what ended up being a $15 million fund (they had targeted $30 million), McClary and Healy managed to find their way onto the cap table of businesses like the green chemicals manufacturer, Solugen; health diagnostics technology developer, PathAI; the Nigerian genetic dataset developer, 54Gene; the novel biomaterials developer, Checkerspot; and the genetics-focused therapy company, Dyno Therapeutics. 

That portfolio — and the subsequent top decile performance that Cambridge Associates has said comes with it — has allowed McClary and Healy to close on an oversubscribed $50 million new fund to invest in promising startup companies.

KdT co-founders Cain McClary and Mack Healy. Image Credit: KdT Ventures

Hailing from a small Tennessee town outside of Leipers Fork (itself a small Tennessee town) McClary studied medicine at Tulane and business at Stanford where he linked up with Healy through a mutual friend.

Healy, who had done stints throughout big Bay Area startups like Airbnb, Databricks, and Facebook brought the software expertise (and some capital to stake the firm) while McClary provided the life sciences know-how.

Together the two men set out to hang their investment shingle at the intersection of software and life sciences that was proving to be fertile ground for new business creation. Each company in the firm’s portfolio depends on both the advances in understanding how to code computers and living cells.

McClary had left California for personal reasons when he launched the fund in 2017 and in 2020 relocated to Austin for professional ones. Healy had already set up shop in the city and it was easier, McClary said to fly out to San Francisco to look for companies from the Austin airport than it was from Ashville.

Also, both men were placing big bets on the Dell Medical School at the University of Texas to become the breeding ground for the type of entrepreneurs that the firm is looking to back.

Mack was there… the Dell Medical School and we think it’s going to be produce the types of entrpereneurs that we want to support. Houston has a med system. I firmly believe that texas has a place at the table in the future 

“The way that we define it is that we like to invest in the physical layer of the world,” said McClary. “That includes not only medicine, but chemicals and agriculture. All of that is driven by some of the things that we have this sourcecode for the physical world.”

Mapping the unmapped corners of the frontier tech startup world means that the firm not only has a presence in Austin, but has hired principals to scour Houston and Research Triangle Park in North Carolina for hot deals.

That doesn’t mean the firm is forsaking California though. One of the most recent deals in the KdT portfolio is Andes Ag, an Emeryville, Calif.-based startup that’s applying yield-boosting microbes directly to seeds in an effort to improve crop performance for farmers.

“The KdT team speaks the language of science, making them an outlier in this area of venture investing,” said JD Montgomery of Canterbury Consulting, a limited partner in KdT’s first and second fund. “They are passionate about building the science companies of the future that will tackle some of the significant challenges our world faces in the next decade and beyond.”

#54gene, #airbnb, #austin, #california, #cambridge-associates, #chemicals, #co-founder, #corporate-finance, #databricks, #dell, #economy, #entrepreneurship, #facebook, #finance, #fork, #houston, #money, #north-carolina, #partner, #pathai, #private-equity, #san-francisco, #solugen, #stanford, #startup-company, #tc, #texas, #tulane, #university-of-texas, #venture-capital

0

Secureframe raises $18M Series A to simplify cybersecurity compliance

Security compliance may not be the hottest conversation starter, but it’s a critical and often grueling process that companies have to endure every year to show that their security practices are up to par. It’s a burden that bogs down startups more than others, and so it’s fitting that startups are trying to find a better way.

Enter security compliance startup Secureframe, founded by Shrav Mehta and Natasja Nielsen, which thinks it has.

The company is announcing it has raised $18 million at Series A, led by Kleiner Perkins and with participation from Gradient Ventures and Base10 Partners, which led its $4.5 million seed round less than a year after it was founded in January 2020.

Secureframe helps businesses maintain two key cybersecurity certifications, SOC 2 and ISO 27001, which many companies require before they will do business. Secureframe’s compliance platform integrates with dozens of the most used cloud providers and apps to understand its customers’ security posture. The benefit, the company says, is that it can help companies get their certifications and become compliant in weeks, rather than months.

Shrav Mehta, the company’s founder and chief executive, told TechCrunch that it’s paying off, with a tenfold increase in revenue growth over the six months alone, and with over a hundred new customers, like software house Hasura and Omni, a Y Combinator graduate from the summer 2020 batch.

Mehta said the fresh funding round will help the company grow beyond the two certifications into an enterprise-grade risk and compliance management platform, such as the U.S. health privacy rules like HIPAA, and PCI compliance for secure card processing.

In the long term, Mehta said, he wants the company to design and offer its own compliance certifications.

In remarks, Kleiner Perkins’s Josh Coyne said Secureframe is leading the effort to modernize security compliance. “Secureframe is turning the industry on its head by automating compliance certifications end-to-end, serving as the single source of truth for commercial compliance,” he said.

#articles, #base10-partners, #computing, #economy, #gradient-ventures, #hasura, #kleiner-perkins, #regulatory-compliance, #secureframe, #security, #startup-company, #united-states, #y-combinator

0

The Robinhood competitor landscape intensifies as Invstr raises $20M

One of the biggest gripes about investing apps is that they are not acting responsibly by not educating users properly and allegedly letting them fend for themselves. This can result in people losing a lot of money, as evidenced by the number of lawsuits against Robinhood.

Today, an eight-year-old company that has been focused on nothing but financial education is now offering trading and banking services in the U.S..

Over the years, London-based Invstr has built out an educational platform with features such as an investing Academy. It’s created a Fantasy Finance game, which gives users the ability to manage a virtual $1 million portfolio so they can learn more about the markets before risking their own money for real. Via social gamification, Invstr has set out to make the educational process fun.

It has also built a community around users so they can learn from each other (something another Robinhood competitor Gatsby is also doing).

Over 1 million users have downloaded the platform globally.

Invstr, according to CEO and founder Kerim Derhalli, is taking a different approach from competitors by offering education and learning tools upfront. And in addition to giving users the ability to make commission-free stock trades, it’s also giving them a way to digitally bank and invest using their Invstr+ accounts “without ever needing to move money from one place to another.”

Invstr takes it all a step further for subscribers who have access to an “Invstr Score,” performance stats and behavioral analytics among other things.

Derhalli said moving in this direction with the company was part of his business plan from day one.

“I think the most powerful trend in the U.S. is self directed investing,” Derhalli told TechCrunch. “Younger generations have grown up in an app world and they expect to be autonomous and do things for themselves. Many distrust the banking system, and they don’t want to follow in their parents’ footsteps when it comes to banking and finance. We think this is a massive opportunity.”

In the unveiling of its new offerings, Invstr also announced Wednesday that it has closed on a $20 million Series A in the form of a convertible offering. This builds upon $20 million it previously raised across two seed rounds from investors such as Ventura Capital, Finberg, European angel investor Jari Ovaskainen and Rick Haythornthwaite, former global chairman of Mastercard.

Derhalli said he felt compelled to found Invstr after seeing firsthand how a lack of knowledge and confidence can prevent individuals from starting to invest. He worked for three decades in senior leadership roles at Deutsche Bank, Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch and JPMorgan before founding Invstr “so that anyone, anywhere could learn how to invest.”

Invstr is offering its new investing services in partnership with Apex Clearing, which formerly provided execution and settlement services to Robinhood. Its digital banking services are being offered through a partnership with Vast Bank. To address the security piece, Invstr said its user data is also protected by technology from Okta.

The company, which also has offices in New York and Istanbul, plans to use the new capital to launch new brokerage and analytics tools and a portfolio builder.

#apps, #bank, #banking, #ceo, #chairman, #deutsche-bank, #economy, #finance, #funding, #gamification, #investor, #invstr, #istanbul, #london, #mastercard, #money, #new-york, #recent-funding, #robinhood, #startups, #united-states, #ventura-capital

0

Investors Clara Brenner, Quin Garcia and Rachel Holt are coming to TC Sessions: Mobility 2021

The transportation industry is abuzz with upstarts, legacy automakers, suppliers and tech companies working on automated vehicle technology, digital platforms, electrification and robotics. Then there are shared mobility companies from cars to scooters and mopeds to ebikes. And who can forget the emerging air taxi companies?

At the center of this evolving industry are the investors. Simply put: TechCrunch can’t hold an event on mobility without hearing from the people who are hunting for the best opportunities in the industry and tracking all of its changes. That’s why we’re happy to announce investors Clara Brenner of Urban Innovation Fund, Quin Garcia of Autotech Ventures and Rachel Holt of Construct Capital will join us on our virtual stage at TC Sessions: Mobility 2021. The virtual event, which features the best and brightest minds in the world of mobility, will be held on June 9.

p.s. Early Bird tickets to the show are now available – book today and save 35% before prices go up.

Brenner, Garcia and Holt will come on stage to discuss their near and long-term investment strategies, overlooked opportunities, and challenges that face startups trying to break into the transportation sector. They’ll lean on their considerable experience to provide the advice and insight that will help attendees understand the state of the industry and where it is headed.

Brenner is a serial co-founder. She is co-founder and managing partner of the Urban Innovation Fund, a venture capital firm that provides seed capital and regulatory support to entrepreneurs solving urban challenges. Urban Innovation Fund has backed curbflow, Electriphi and Kyte among others. She also co-founded Tumml, a startup hub for urban tech that provided 38 startups with seed funding and mentorship, and hosts events around urban innovation. In 2014, Forbes listed her as one of its “30 Under 30” for Social Entrepreneurship.

Garcia, a lifelong ‘car guy’ with an MS degree in management science and automotive engineering from Stanford University, is managing director at Autotech Ventures. He’s also a board director, board observer and advisory board member to a number of mobility companies including Lyft, Peloton Technology, and Connected Signals.

Garcia has been on the ground floor of startups, notably as part of the initial team at the electric vehicle infrastructure startup Better Place, where he was responsible for partnerships with automakers and parts suppliers while living in Israel, Japan and China.

Holt is co-founder and Managing Partner of early-stage venture firm Construct Capital, which is focused on finding founders that are trying to change foundational industries such as manufacturing and supply chain, logistics and transportation. The company’s transportation-focused investments include ChargeLab. Holt also sits on the board of MotoRefi.

Prior to Construct, Holt was at Uber, where she was one of the company’s first 30 employees. During her 8.5-year stint at Uber, Holt rose through the ranks of the company, including roles running the U.S.  and Canada “Rides” business as well as global marketing and customer support. She was a longtime member of the company’s executive leadership team. Her last position at Uber was leading the company’s new mobility organization, which focused on its e-bike and scooter businesses as well as running its incubator, which funded and developed new products and services.

Rachel began her career at Bain & Company, advising companies in the private equity, financial services and healthcare industries. She was ranked No. 9 on Fortune’s 40 under 40 and was named by Fast Company as One of the Most Creative People in Business.

We can’t wait to hear from this investor panel at TC Sessions: Mobility on June 9. Make sure to grab your Early Bird pass before May 6 to save 35% on tickets and join the fun!

#articles, #automotive, #autotech-ventures, #better-place, #board-member, #business, #canada, #china, #clara-brenner, #construct-capital, #e-bike, #economy, #entrepreneurship, #events, #executive, #fast-company, #financial-services, #forbes, #innovation, #israel, #japan, #lyft, #manufacturing, #motorefi, #peloton-technology, #private-equity, #quin-garcia, #rachel-holt, #stanford-university, #startup-company, #supply-chain, #tc, #tc-sessions-mobility, #techcrunch, #transportation, #uber, #united-states, #urban-innovation-fund, #venture-capital

0

Appfire, provider of Atlassian apps, raises $100M to continue its buying spree

Appfire, a Boston-based provider of software development apps, announced Tuesday that it has received a $100 million investment from growth private equity firm TA Associates.

Founded in 2005, Appfire was bootstrapped until it got $49 million from Silversmith Capital Partners last May. Since that time, Appfire has acquired six companies in the Atlassian “ecosystem,” including Botron, Beecom, Innovalog, Navarambh, Artemis and Bolo.

The Boston-based company has been profitable for over a decade, according to Randall Ward, co-founder and CEO of Appfire. And while Ward declined to reveal valuation or hard revenue numbers, he did say that Appfire has seen its ARR more than double over the past year.

Since last June alone, the company says it has experienced:

  • A 103% year over year increase in ARR.
  • A 258% YOY increase in enterprise subscription revenue (data center only). 
  • A 182% YOY increase in all subscription revenue (data center and cloud).  

So why the need for institutional capital? With the latest funding, Appfire intends to extend its buying spree of complementary apps. 

Appfire has been acquiring businesses every six to eight weeks, and it plans to continue scooping them up at that pace, according to Ward.

It’s also looking to let shareholders cash in on their options.

Fun fact: Atlassian itself was bootstrapped for nearly a decade. The Australian enterprise software company was profitable from its inception in 2001 before taking its first round of external capital, a $60 million financing led by Accel, in July 2010. The financing was primarily secondary.

Some context

Appfire was initially a professional services company before transitioning into products in 2013. The company says it has “developed domain expertise in creating, launching and distributing apps” through the Atlassian marketplace. Today, the company has 85 products on that marketplace and more than 110,000 active installations globally spanning workflow automation, business intelligence, publishing and administrative tools. 

Specifically, the company’s Bob Swift, Feed Three and Wittified brand apps aim to help companies like Google, Amazon and Starbucks streamline product development through improved collaboration, security, reporting and automation.

“We started this business 15 years ago with the goal of building software applications for customers,” Ward told TechCrunch. “At that time, there were no marketplaces, so iTunes marketplace didn’t exist, Google Play didn’t exist, but yet we were seeing that applications were getting smaller in size, Mozilla was putting out plugins. My co-founder and I were sitting on the floor of a warehouse in Maynard, Massachusetts and we conceived of this company called Appfire, and boy did we pick the right name.”

The pair then stumbled upon a project by which a friend of a friend was looking for them to integrate two pieces of software with software from Atlassian.

“It was brand new to us — we had never heard of it — a software called JIRA and another piece of software called Confluence,” Ward recalls. “About three months later we launched a project and then got introduced to the co-founders of Atlassian.”

In 2017, Appfire decided it wanted to focus full time on becoming “the biggest app platform and aggregator.”

“So we decided to wind down all the other little special side projects for Atlassian delivering services to customers, and really put all of our eggs in this marketplace basket,” Ward recalls. 

It was at that point the company began looking for external capital. With this last raise, though, Ward says Appfire was not necessarily looking for more cash.

When approached by TA, Appfire asked if it could create more employee equity programs so the company could be an employee-led business. It also asked if it could take 1% of its equity and contribute to the Pledge 1% initiative.

“They said yes,” Ward said. “So that led us to this latest funding.”

Appfire is also moving into business intelligence and data analytics apps for Tableau and Microsoft Power BI.

As mentioned above, some of its latest funding will go back to existing shareholders, Ward said. The remainder will go into continuing to grow the business.

“We have a lot of organic and inorganic growth opportunities,” he added. “…That obviously takes some momentum.”

Michael Libert, a principal of TA Associates, said his firm had been tracking Appfire’s progress for “quite some time.” The company’s apps, he said, do not require complex training, allowing customers to improve productivity “at a low cost,” leading to further customer adoption and enabling “a solid land-and-expand strategy.”

“We found the company’s high-quality business model, impressive organic growth and recent significant acquisitive activity particularly attractive,” Libert told TechCrunch.

#appfire, #apps, #atlassian, #boston, #business, #business-intelligence, #cloud, #confluence, #economy, #enterprise-software, #funding, #fundings-exits, #jira, #massachusetts, #private-equity, #saas, #secondaries, #ta-associates, #tc

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

Offering a service that prioritizes the highest-paying gigs in the gig economy, Stoovo raises funding

Semih Korkmaz and Hantz Févry launched Stoovo in 2019 as a way to help gig workers make the best use of their time.

Févry, who immigrated to the U.S. from Haiti, knew first hand the struggles that come with part time work from his days as a student at Stonybrook University. While there bouncing from job to job, Févry would feel the sting associated with hidden fees, unkept promises, and variability of part-time labor.

The time at Stonybrook was also when Févry got his first taste of entrepreneurship. In 2010 and 2011 Févry said the Dean of the University’s business school let the budding business owner cut back on his hours so he could start iTrade International, an import-export business selling earthquake detection equipment in Haiti.

That first taste of tech and business development eventually landed Févry a job at Google in Hong Kong and offered him the chance to travel around the world. After a stint in Europe, Févry moved back to the U.S. where he set to work building Stoovo.

The question on his mind was this: How can we leverage technology to help gig workers or people taking short term assignments?

Févry and his co-founder Korkmaz envisioned Stoovo as a way to level they playing field by providing gig workers with information about the highest paying jobs available on the gig platforms at any one time. “What the platforms are doing is they are  optimizing to make sure that they’re responding to demand,” Févry said. “What we do is use the same approach to predict what will be the demand, where will be the demand, what will be the competition, and what’s the payout.”

The company’s software advises gig workers on the optimum time for using each service based on their earning criteria and hours, Févry said.

“We tell you when to start working, where you need to start working, and when you need to go when you need to take your break,” he said. 

But the company’s service isn’t only about optimization. There’s also a banking component and a suite of products to ensure that gig workers are also getting the most out of their gigs financially. The company offers a checking account, a tax management service, and lending services as well through services like BellBizzer, a Seattle-based company which offers a short-term rental service for consumer goods.

Both Korkmaz and Févry spent time working as delivery drivers or freelancing to get a feel for the challenges gig workers faced, Févry said. During lunch breaks at Google, Févry would do food deliveries to seewhat he could do so that he could understand how to make the gig economy work better.

Ultimately, the best solution would be to pay gig workers a fair wage for the time they spend doing their work, but barring that, technologically developed band-aids to help heal technologically enabled wounds seem like the only option.

Gig companies like Uber have a history of using their algorithms to wring more money from drivers — sometimes unbeknownst to the workers.

Back in August, a developer named Armin Samii created an app called UberCheats that monitored the UberEats application for a software bug to inform drivers if they were underpaid by the company for the distance they’d traveled to make a delivery. Last week, the app was taken down, but only because of a copyright infringement claim from Uber.

 

Stoovo and UberCheats seem to come from the same place. The idea is to equip workers with tools that can work for workers instead of for big platforms.

It’s this vision that attracted investors like Derek Norton from Watertower Ventures to invest in the company. To date, Stoovo has raised $2.4 million from investors including Watertower, 500 Startups, Plug and Play Ventures, and TSEF, Févry said.

With the money the company hopes to build out more products that can enable things like low-cost money transfers. Ultimately, the company just wants to give these gig workers a chance, Févry said.

“The gig economy is rife with frustrations,” Févry said, and Stoovo is making a pitch to smooth over the obstacles. “We really understand your life. We are also immigrants,” he said. “We know that of that $200… we know you have to send $40 overseas… We are building a product with [gig workers], we are not building for them.”

#500-startups, #articles, #banking, #business-models, #co-founder, #derek-norton, #economy, #employment, #europe, #gig, #gig-worker, #haiti, #play-ventures, #seattle, #tc, #temporary-work, #uber, #united-states

0

Foresite Capital raises $969 million fund to invest in healthcare startups across all stages of growth

Health and life science specialist investment firm Foresite Capital has raised a new fund, its fifth to date, totally $969 million in commitments from LPs. This is the firm’s largest fund to date, and was oversubscribed relative to its original target according to fund CEO and founder Dr. Jim Tananbaum, who told me that while the fundraising process started out slow in the early months of the pandemic, it gained steam quickly starting around last fall and ultimately exceeded expectations.

This latest fund actually makes up two separate investment vehicles, Foresite Capital Fund V, and Foresite Capital Opportunity Fund V, but Tananbaum says that the money will be used to fuel investments in line with its existing approach, which includes companies ranging from early- to late-stage, and everything in between. Foresite’s approach is designed to help it be uniquely positioned to shepherd companies from founding (they also have a company-building incubator) all the way to public market exit – and even beyond. Tananbaum said that they’re also very interested in coming in later to startups they have have missed out on at earlier stages of their growth, however.

Image Credits: Foresite Capital

“We can also come into a later situation that’s competitive with a number of hedge funds, and bring something unique to the table, because we have all these value added resources that we used to start companies,” Tananbaum said. “So we have a competitive advantage for later stage deals, and we have a competitive advantage for early stage deals, by virtue of being able to function at a high level in the capital markets.”

Foresite’s other advantage, according to Tananbaum, is that it has long focused on the intersection of traditional tech business mechanics and biotech. That approach has especially paid off in recent years, he says, since the gap between the two continues to narrow.

“We’ve just had this enormous believe that technology, and tools and data science, machine learning, biotechnology, biology, and genetics – they are going to come together,” he told me. “There hasn’t been an organization out there that really speaks both languages well for entrepreneurs, and knows how to bring that diverse set of people together. So that’s what we specialized i,n and we have a lot of resources and a lot of cross-lingual resources, so that techies that can talk to biotechies, and biotechies can talk to techies.”

Foresite extended this approach to company formation with the creation of Foresite Labs, an incubation platform that it spun up in October 2019 to leverage this experience at the earliest possible stage of startup founding. It’s run by Dr. Vik Bajaj, who was previously co-founder and Chief Science Officer of Alphabet’s Verily health sciences enterprise.

“What’s going on, or last couple decades, is that the innovation cycles are getting faster and faster,” Tananbaum said. “So and then at some point, the people that are having the really big wins on the public side are saying, ‘Well, these really big wins are being driven by innovation, and by quality science, so let’s go a little bit more upstream on the quality science.’”

That has combined with shorter and shorter healthcare product development cycles, he added, aided by general improvements in technology. Tananbaum pointed out that when he began Foresite in 2011, even, the time horizons for returns on healthcare investments were significantly longer, and at the outside edge of the tolerances of venture economics. Now, however, they’re much closer to those found in the general tech startup ecosystem, even in the case of fundamental scientific breakthroughs.

CAMBRIDGE – DECEMBER 1: Stephanie Chandler, Relay Therapeutics Office Manager, demonstrates how she and her fellow co-workers at the company administer their own COVID tests inside the COVID testing room at Relay Therapeutics in Cambridge, MA on Dec. 1, 2021. The cancer treatment development company converted its coat room into a room where employees get tested once a week. All 100+employees have been back in the office as a result of regular testing. Relay is a Foresite portfolio company. (Photo by Jessica Rinaldi/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

“Basically, you’re seeing people now really look at biotech in general, in the same kind of way that you would look at a tech company,” he said. “There are these tech metrics that now also apply in biotech, about adoption velocity, other other things that may not exactly equate to immediate revenue, but give you all the core material that usually works over time.”

Overall, Foresite’s investment thesis focuses on funding companies in three areas – therapeutics at the clinical stage, infrastructure focused on automation and data generation, and what Tananbaum calls “individualized care.” All three are part of a continuum in the tech-enabled healthcare end state that he envisions, ultimately resulting “a world where we’re able to, at the individual level, help someone understand what their predispositions are to disease development.” That, Tananbaum suggests, will result in a transformation of this kind of targeted care into an everyday consumer experience – in the same way tech in general has taken previously specialist functions and abilities, and made them generally available to the public at large.

#alphabet, #articles, #biotech, #biotechnology, #ceo, #corporate-finance, #economy, #entrepreneurship, #finance, #foresite-capital, #fund, #fundings-exits, #health, #innovation, #investment, #jim-tananbaum, #machine-learning, #private-equity, #startup-company, #tc, #venture-capital, #vik-bajaj

0

Berlin’s MorphAIs hopes its AI algorithms will put its early-stage VC fund ahead of the pack

MorphAIs is a new VC out of Berlin, aiming to leverage AI algorithms to boost its investment decisions in early-stage startups. But there’s a catch: it hasn’t raised a fund yet.

The firm was founded by Eva-Valérie Gfrerer who was previously head of Growth Marketing at FinTech startup OptioPay and her background is in Behavioural Science and Advanced Information Systems.

Gfrerer says she started MorphAIs to be a tech company, using AI to assess venture investments and then selling that as a service. But after a while, she realized the platform could be applied an in-house fund, hence the drive to now raise a fund.

MorphAIs has already received financing from some serial entrepreneurs, including: Max Laemmle, CEO & Founder Fraugster, previously Better Payment and SumUp; Marc-Alexander Christ, Co-Founder SumUp, previously Groupon (CityDeal) and JP Morgan Chase; Charles Fraenkl, CEO SmartFrog, previously CEO at Gigaset and AOL; Andreas Winiarski, Chairman & Founder awesome capital Group.

She says: “It’s been decades since there has been any meaningful innovation in the processes by which venture capital is allocated. We have built technology to re-invent those processes and push the industry towards more accurate allocation of capital and a less-biased and more inclusive start-up ecosystem.”

She points out that over 80% of early-stage VC funds don’t deliver the minimum expected return rate to their investors. This is true, but admittedly, the VC industry is almost built to throw a lot of money away, in the hope that it will pick the winner that makes up for all the losses.

She now plans to aim for a pre-seed/seed fund, backed by a team consisting of machine learning scientists, mathematicians, and behavioral scientists, and claims that MorphAIs is modeling consistent 16x return rates, after running real-time predictions based on market data.

Her co-founder is Jan Saputra Müller, CTO and Co-Founder, who co-founded and served as CTO for several machine learning companies, including askby.ai.

There’s one problem: Gfrerer’s approach is not unique. For instance, London-based Inreach Ventures has made a big play of using data to hunt down startups. And every other VC in Europe does something similar, more or less.

Will Gfrerer manage to pull off something spectacular? We shall have to wait and find out.

#artificial-intelligence, #berlin, #ceo, #chairman, #chase, #citydeal, #co-founder, #cto, #economy, #europe, #finance, #head, #inreach-ventures, #jp-morgan-chase, #london, #machine-learning, #money, #sumup, #tc, #venture-capital

0

Calling Oslo VCs: Be featured in The Great TechCrunch Survey of European VC

TechCrunch is embarking on a major project to survey the venture capital investors of Europe, and their cities.

Our survey of VCs in Oslo and Norway will capture how the country is faring, and what changes are being wrought amongst investors by the coronavirus pandemic.

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

Our survey will only be about investors, and only the contributions of VC investors will be included. More than one partner is welcome to fill out the survey. (Please note, if you have filled the survey out already, there is no need to do it again).

The shortlist of questions will require only brief responses, but the more you can add, the better.

You can fill out the survey here.

Obviously, investors who contribute will be featured in the final surveys, with links to their companies and profiles.

What kinds of things do we want to know? Questions include: Which trends are you most excited by? What startup do you wish someone would create? Where are the overlooked opportunities? What are you looking for in your next investment, in general? How is your local ecosystem going? And how has COVID-19 impacted your investment strategy?

This survey is part of a broader series of surveys we’re doing to help founders find the right investors.

https://techcrunch.com/extra-crunch/investor-surveys/

For example, here is the recent survey of London.

You are not in Norway, but would like to take part? That’s fine! Any European VC investor can STILL fill out the survey, as we probably will be putting a call out to your country next anyway! And we will use the data for future surveys on vertical topics.

The survey is covering almost every country on in the Union for the Mediterranean, so just look for your country and city on the survey and please participate (if you’re a venture capital investor).

Thank you for participating. If you have questions you can email mike@techcrunch.com

(Please note: Filling out the survey is not a guarantee of inclusion in the final published piece).

#corporate-finance, #denmark, #economy, #entrepreneurship, #europe, #finance, #london, #money, #norway, #oslo, #private-equity, #startup-company, #tc, #venture-capital

0

SeedFi closes on $65M to help financially struggling Americans get ahead

Millions of Americans live paycheck to paycheck, and struggle to get out of a debt cycle.

One startup is developing financial products targeted toward this segment of the population, with the goal of helping them build credit, save money, access funds and plan for the future.

That startup, SeedFi, announced Wednesday it has raised $50 million in debt and $15 million in an equity funding round led by Andreessen Horowitz, also known as a16z. The VC firm also led SeedFi’s $4 million seed funding when it was founded in March of 2019.

Flourish, Core Innovation Capital and Quiet Capital also participated in the latest financing.

SeedFi was founded on the premise that it is difficult for many Americans to get ahead financially. Its founding team has worked at both startups and big banks, such as JPMorgan Chase and Capital One, and operates under the premise that many legacy financial institutions are simply not designed to help Americans who are struggling financially to get ahead. 

“We’ve seen firsthand how the system has been designed for underprivileged Americans to fail,” said Jim McGinley, co-founder and CEO of SeedFi. “Our average customer earns $50,000 a year, yet they pay $460 a year in overdraft fees and payday loan companies charge them APRs of 400% or more. They barely make enough to cover their expenses and any misstep can set them back for years.”

In previous roles, McGinley was responsible for payday loans for underserved communities.

“There I got insights to the financial difficulties they had and the need for better products to help them get a step up,” he told TechCrunch.

Co-founder Eric Burton said he can relate because he grew up in Central Texas as part of “a super poor family.”

“I experienced all the struggles of being low income and the necessity of taking on high-priced credit to get through day to day,” he recalled. “I personally was trapped in a debt cycle for a long time.”

In fact, a job offer he got from Capital One was temporarily rescinded because the company said he had “bad credit,” which turned out to be a result of unpaid medical bills he’d incurred at the age of 18.

“I didn’t know about them, but was able to get the job after using my signing bonus to pay off that debt,” he said. “So I can understand how a certain starting point makes it very hard to progress.”

SeedFi’s goal is to tackle the root of the problem. It launched in private beta in 2019, and helped its initial customers build more than $500,000 in savings — even during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Now, it’s launching to the public with two offerings. One is a credit building product that is designed to “create important long-term savings habits.” Customers save as little as $10 from every paycheck, which is reported to the credit bureaus to build their credit history, and are then able to generate $500 in savings in six months’ time.

After six months of on-time payments, SeedFi customers with no credit history were able to establish a credit score of 600, while customers with existing credit scores and less than three credit accounts boosted their scores by 45 points, according to the company.

The concept of enabling consumers to build credit history beyond traditional methods is becoming increasingly more common. Just last week, we wrote about Tomo Credit, which provides customers with a debit card so they can build credit based on their cash flow.

SeedFi’s other offering, the Borrow & Grow Plan, is designed to be a more affordable alternative to installment or payday loans. It provides consumers with “immediate access” to funds while also helping them build savings and credit. 

Andreessen Horowitz general partner Angela Strange , who has joined SeedFi’s board with the financing, believes there’s “a massive business opportunity for new financial services entrants to reach historically underserved populations through better product experiences, underwriting and technology.”

In a blog post, she shares an example of how SeedFi works. The company evaluates risk and extends credit to a customer that might be traditionally hard to underwrite. It determines how much to lend, as well as the proportion of dollars to give as money now versus savings. 

“For instance, a typical SeedFi plan might be structured as $500 right now and $500 reserved in a savings account. The borrower pays off $1,000 over time, and at the end of the plan, he or she has $500 in a savings account. Not only has the borrower paid a lower interest rate, he or she is in a better financial position after making the decision to borrow money,” Strange writes.

Looking ahead, SeedFi plans to use its new capital to build out its product suite and grow its customer base. 

“We will be able to more efficiently fund our growing loan portfolio and serve more customers,” McGinley said.

#andreessen-horowitz, #angela-strange, #core-innovation-capital, #credit, #credit-history, #credit-score, #debt, #economy, #finance, #funding, #loans, #personal-finance, #quiet-capital, #recent-funding, #seedfi, #startups, #tc, #venture-capital

0