One banks $40M to offer ‘all-in-one’ financial services to the middle class

One, a startup that aims to bring “all-in-one banking” to the middle class, announced today that it has raised $40 million in a Series B round of funding.

Progressive Investment Company (the insurance giant’s investment arm) led the round, which included participation from Obvious Ventures, Foundation Capital, Core Innovation Capital and others. The financing brings One’s total raised since its 2019 inception to $66 million.

Since making its product generally available in September of 2020, Northern California-based One has grown to have “hundreds of thousands” of customers, according to CEO and co-founder Brian Hamilton, who previously co-founded PushPoint (which was acquired by Capital One).

“Stretched middle-income households and working families deal with financial stress on a daily basis and are largely unsupported by current offerings,” Hamilton said. “This can be viewed as a kind of a noisy market, and so this funding has been a good validation of the vision and kind of the products, in that we have been able to stand out in that market.”

Over the past 11 months, the startup has worked to enhance its core product offering, launching overdraft protection, an auto-save feature that rewards automatic savings contributions at 3.00% APY, cash flow-based credit lines and a credit builder product to help its customers build financial health. One claims that it has helped its users automatically save over $2 million collectively since its launch, a number that grows daily, according to Hamilton.

The company is also trying to change up how people share financial goals and responsibilities with individually configurable “Pockets” that it says can be “easily” shared with others and accessed via virtual and physical cards. 

“What we’re doing really is to re-integrate and unify what is otherwise a pretty splintered financial life for middle income households and families that are attempting to manage finances on a daily, weekly and monthly basis,” Hamilton told TechCrunch.

Over the past few years, he said, there have been a number of different fintech and bank products that people use to run their life “and they’re all starting to converge.”

The company was founded on the premise that traditional banking exists “on a system of fractured accounts and billions of dollars in hidden fees that leave customers living paycheck to paycheck despite steady incomes.” One says it is built on a “proprietary” technology core that aims to deliver saving, spending, sharing, budgeting and borrowing in a single account.

“Everybody’s trying to do a piece of everything, but they all started doing one thing,” Hamilton said. “But it’s really hard to back into the others or to bolt them on afterwards if you didn’t begin with the end in mind, kind of on an integrated basis. So that is essentially what we set out to build with One, with the idea to reunify credit and debit and savings and reintegrate the sharing of money with other people so it didn’t have to be done on a one-off transactional basis through Venmo or PayPal or Zelle.”

One’s banking services are provided by Coastal Community Bank, Member FDIC. The startup emphasizes that it’s a financial technology company, and “not a bank.”

It plans to use the new funding toward “fueling” customer growth, hiring and expanding its product offerings.

Charles Moldow, Foundation Capital general partner and One investor, said that challenger banks such as Chime and Aspiration focus on a debit card offering to subprime customers who are looking for lower bank fees and access to paychecks sooner.  

“These customers are generally treated poorly by banks and charged a lot of fees because they don’t generate much revenue for banks outside of interchange fees on debit purchases with little disposable income,” he said.

The real money made by banks, according to Moldow, is against mid-prime customers for both debit and lending.  

“These customers are harder to acquire because banks hate to lose them due to their large lifetime values,” he said. “One differs from the challenger banks in the market in that they have created a superior mobile banking experience for the 80% of the market that is not super prime or subprime. They have both a debit and credit offering and a vastly better user experience.”

The fintech is able to offer a user experience that is “materially” different from standard large bank offerings in that their back end infrastructure is a “modern” core and One is able to handle core checking, lending, money transfer and savings all on the same back end.

This means One can fully integrate those experiences (the aforementioned integrated offering “Pockets”).

“This differs from traditional banks which have each of these systems on top of different tech stacks which prevents them from providing integrated offerings,” he said. 

Also, by not having brick and mortar branches, the company is able to offer lower fees, more points and rewards and higher savings rates, Moldow added.

#apps, #banking, #charles-moldow, #digital-banking, #finance, #financial-services, #fintech, #foundation-capital, #funding, #fundings-exits, #one, #progressive, #recent-funding, #startup, #startups, #venture-capital

Orchata raises $4M, aims to build a ‘Gopuff for Latin America’

Luis Mario Garcia grew up in Mexico making deliveries for the grocery stores in his neighborhood. After honing his startup skills in San Francisco, he returned to Mexico with the idea of building a software company.

That’s when he met his co-founder Javier Gonzalez and the pair started Orchata in 2020, a mobile app enabling consumers to get groceries delivered in 15 minutes, with no substitutes and at supermarket prices. Products delivered include fresh fruit, beverages, bread, medicine and household essentials, Garcia told TechCrunch.

Orchata does this by operating a network of micro fulfillment centers — it is already operating in two cities — with technology for efficient picking and hyperfast delivery.

Online food delivery sales in Latin America are projected to reach $9.8 billion by 2024, with the global pandemic driving demand for faster delivery, according to Statista. Garcia sees three different waves in this market: the first one being traditional supermarkets, where you can spend hours, which led to the second wave of food delivery companies, including some big players in the region — for example Rappi in Colombia, which in July raised $500 million in Series F funding at a $5.25 billion valuation in a round led by T. Rowe Price, and Cornershop in Chile, which was acquired by Uber in 2019.

However, Garcia said many of these services still take more than an hour from order to doorstep and may require phone calls if an item is not available. He wants to be part of a third wave — software that is integrated with inventory and delivery that is super fast, and no substitutions.

“This is similar to what is going on around the world, but there is a huge opportunity to bring convenience, to be the Gopuff for Latin America, and we want to build it first in the region,” Garcia said.

The Monterrey-based company was part of Y Combinator’s summer 2020 cohort and on Friday announced a $4 million seed round from a group of investors, including Y Combinator, JAM Fund, FJ Labs, Venture Friends, Investo and Foundation Capital, and angel investors Ross Lipson, Mike Hennessey, Brian Requarth and Javier Mata.

Jonathan Lewy, co-founder of Grin Scooters and founder of Investo, is also an investor in Rappi. He said Garcia was building a product for the end user, with the key being the building of the infrastructure and inventory. Lewy believes Garcia understands how quick delivery should be done and that it is not just about offering a mobile app, but building the technology behind it.

Meanwhile, Justin Mateen, general partner at JAM Fund, and co-founder of Tinder and an early-stage investor, met Garcia over a year ago and was one of the company’s first investors. He said Garcia’s and Gonzalez’s initial idea for the model of grocery stores was still not solving the problem, but then they pivoted to doing fulfillment and inventory themselves.

“He fits the mold of what I look for in a founder, and he is the type of founder that doesn’t give up,” Mateen said. “Luis finally agreed to let me double down on my investment. The model makes sense now, he is on to something and it is now going to be about execution of capital as he scales.”

Both Mateen and Lewy agree that there will be similar apps coming because food delivery is such a large market, but that Orchata has a clear advantage of owning the customer experience from beginning to end.

Having only launched four months ago, Orchata is already processing thousands of orders and is seeing 100% monthly growth. The new funding will enable Orchata to expand into three new cities in Mexico. Garcia is also eyeing Colombia, Brazil, Peru and Chile for future expansion.

The company is also targeting multiple use cases, including someone noticing a forgotten item while cooking to consumers shopping for the week or teenagers needing food for a party.

“We are going to be super convenient to customers, and we think every use case for food delivery will be this way in the future,” Garcia said. “We will eventually introduce our own brands and foods with the goal of being that app that is there anytime you need it.”

 

#apps, #ecommerce, #fj-labs, #food, #food-delivery, #foundation-capital, #funding, #grocery-store, #investo, #jam-fund, #javier-gonzalez, #jonathan-lewy, #justin-mateen, #latin-america, #luis-mario-garcia, #mexico, #online-food-ordering, #orchata, #rappi, #recent-funding, #startups, #tc, #venture-friends, #y-combinator

Microsoft’s cyber startup spending spree continues with CloudKnox acquisition

Microsoft has acquired identity and access management (IAM) startup CloudKnox Security, the tech giant’s fourth cybersecurity acquisition this year.

The deal, the terms of which were not disclosed, is the latest cybersecurity acquisition by Microsoft, which just last week announced that it’s buying threat intelligence startup RiskIQ. The firm also recently acquired IoT security startups CyberX and Refirm Labs as it moved to beef up its security portfolio. Security is big business for Microsoft, which made more than $10 billion in security-related revenue in 2020 — a 40% increase from the year prior.

CloudKnox, which was founded in 2015 and emerged from stealth two years later, helps organizations to enforce least-privilege principles to reduce risk and help prevent security breaches. The startup had raised $22.8 million prior to the acquisition, with backing from ClearSky, Sorenson Ventures, Dell Technologies Capital, and Foundation Capital. 

The company’s activity-based authorization service will equip Azure Active Directory customers with “granular visibility, continuous monitoring and automated remediation for hybrid and multi-cloud permissions,” according to a blog post by Joy Chik, corporate vice president of identity at Microsoft. 

Chik said that while organizations were reaping the benefits of cloud adoption, particularly as they embrace flexible working models, they often struggled to assess, prevent and enforce privileged access across hybrid and multi-cloud environments.

“CloudKnox offers complete visibility into privileged access,” Chik said. “It helps organizations right-size permissions and consistently enforce least-privilege principles to reduce risk, and it employs continuous analytics to help prevent security breaches and ensure compliance. This strengthens our comprehensive approach to cloud security.”

In addition to Azure Active Directory, Microsoft also plans to integrate CloudKnox with its other cloud security services including 365 Defender, Azure Defender, and Azure Sentinel.

Commenting on the deal, Balaji Parimi, CloudKnox founder and CEO, said: “By joining Microsoft, we can unlock new synergies and make it easier for our mutual customers to protect their multi-cloud and hybrid environments and strengthen their security posture.”

#access-management, #active-directory, #ceo, #cloud-computing, #cloud-infrastructure, #computer-security, #computing, #cyberx, #dell-technologies-capital, #foundation-capital, #microsoft, #palo-alto-networks, #riskiq, #security, #security-startups, #technology

After selling Bread last year for over $500M, this founder just raised millions for his new fintech startup

When Daniel Simon sold Bread, a consumer purchase finance and payments startup he’d co-founded, to Alliance Data Systems for over $500 million late last year, he quickly set his sights on building another startup.

During the pandemic, Simon says he observed how much strain was placed on what he described as ‘real-world’ businesses and their employees — such as truck drivers, plumbers, HVAC installers and last-mile delivery people — “and how little the last decade of innovation in fintech has done to meet the needs of the vast and vital fleets segment.”

So he teamed up with former Bread COO (and former Lyft exec) Andrew Woolf to found Coast, a company that is aiming to meet those needs with the mission of becoming “the financial platform for the future of transportation.”

And today, the New York-based company is announcing it has raised $6 million in an “oversubscribed” seed round of funding led by Better Tomorrow Ventures. Avid Ventures, Bessemer Venture Partners, BoxGroup, Colle, Foundation Capital, Greycroft, and Max Levchin’s SciFi VC — as well as more than a dozen angels including founders of Plaid, Flexport, Marqeta, Bread, Albert, Addi, Lithic, and other fintech and logistics startups — also put money in the round.

Coast co-founders Daniel Simon and Andrew Woolf

Businesses that operate fleets need to enable their drivers to pay for vehicle-related expenses when they’re on the road, such as maintenance, roadside assistance and gas.

But once a fleet reaches a size of more than just a few vehicles, traditional small business credit cards are no longer sufficient because they lack the line-item level security, visibility, and controls necessary with a mobile workforce, according to Simon. 

“Fleet owners need transactions to be authorized, for instance, for buying gas for the company van, not the personal car, and for filling up at the pump, not making other purchases in the gas station convenience store,” he said.

Historically, fleets have turned to specialized fleet and fuel credit cards which provide controls like restricting purchases to only fuel products of a particular grade or tracking expenses on a per-vehicle basis. But Simon argues that the companies that sell such cards were founded decades ago with very little innovation since.

Coast’s goal is to use technology to provide fleet business owners and their employees payments products that are intuitive and easy to use.

“They need their employee and vehicle payments integrated into the rest of their operations, and they need fair and transparent financial products that are simple to understand,” Simon said. Bottom line, he wants to bring the “same sort of ease of use and transparency that Bread brought to e-commerce consumers and retailers to a category of business and employee that is often overlooked in tech.”

Coast’s first product, which is set to launch later this year, is a commercial fuel charge card. Drivers will be able use a physical Coast card they keep in their wallet or a shared Coast card in the vehicle, and when they swipe it at a pump at any merchant that takes Visa, Simon says Coast will conduct a “rapid review of a complex set of rules to enforce the fleet business’s policies and flag potentially fraudulent transactions.”

“No need for entering data prompted by the pump – the driver fills up and is on their way,” he said.

Fleet owners and managers can use Coast’s web portal to assign drivers and vehicles, set policies and rules about who can purchase what, how much, how often, and when. They can also get reporting and alerts on their expense policies and potential abuse. At the end of the month, they will be able pay their Coast balance in full.

Down the line, the company plans to add integrations into major accounting platforms as well as into telematics platforms that provide real-time data on vehicle status and location “so it can provide actionable spending insights back to fleet managers.” Over time, Coast also plans to expand into more categories of fleet businesses’ spending as it seeks to become more of a holistic platform for the industry.

Sheel Mohnot of Better Tomorrow Ventures, who took a seat on Coast’s board as part of the financing, says his firm was impressed by both the size of the opportunity and the team at Coast that’s tackling it. 

“The space is one of those massive unsexy categories with huge incumbents that most people have never heard of but customers — who are forced to use them — universally despise. It’s the perfect recipe for a startup to come in and disrupt it with a much better experience,” Mohnot told TechCrunch via e-mail. “Similar to what Ramp or Brex do for startups, Coast does for fleet operators – it helps them control their spending so they can focus on growing their business.”

#articles, #avid-ventures, #bessemer-venture-partners, #better-tomorrow-ventures, #boxgroup, #bread, #coast, #credit-card, #daniel-simon, #driver, #finance, #financial-technology, #fintech, #foundation-capital, #funding, #fundings-exits, #lithic, #lyft, #marqeta, #money, #new-york, #payments, #plaid, #recent-funding, #startup, #startup-company, #startups, #web-portal

Nowports raises $16M to build the OS for LatAm’s shipping industry

Nowports, an automated digital freight forwarder in Latin America, has raised $16 million in Series A funding.

Mouro Capital — a venture capital fund focused on fintechs and adjacent businesses that is backed by Banco Santanderled the round for the Monterrey, Mexico-based startup. Foundation Capital also participated in the financing, which included participation from existing backers Broadhaven Ventures, InvestoVC, Monashees, Base10 Partners and Y Combinator.

A number of angels also put money in the round, including Justo.mx founder Ricardo Weder, Luuna’s Carlos Salinas from Luuna and Tinder co-founder Justin Mateen. The investment brings Nowports’ total raised since its 2018 inception to over $24 million.

Nowports raised its initial seed round in 2019 after graduating from Y Combinator’s Winter 2019 batch with a mission to innovate the freight forwarding industry by helping companies improve the import process. Its software and services track freight shipments from ports to destinations across Latin America. Over time, it has expanded its offerings and now also automates insurance policies for, and provides financing, to its clients. 

“In this way, we allow our clients to import and export more, which helps them grow their businesses and improves the foreign trade conditions of the region,” said Nowports CEO and co-founder Alfonso de los Rios.

2020 was a good year for Nowports, which saw its revenue climb by 605% compared to 2019.

“Our 2021 goal is 400% to 600%,” de los Rios told TechCrunch.

The company currently has offices in Mexico, Chile, Colombia, and Uruguay. Nowports plans to use its new capital in part to expand its 160-person team to China, according to de los Rios. It also plans to expand its logistics and financial services and to “solidify its most important routes.”

Image Credits: CEO and co-founder Alfonso de los Rios / Nowports

“With platforms, algorithms with AI and integrations, our platform allows companies to take control of their shipments and plan and predict the best timing to move the freight based on the needs of their own company,” he said at the time of the company’s seed raise. “Our goal with the series A is to position ourselves as the biggest digital freight forwarder in the region and expand our venture financing solution.”

Tens of millions of containers are imported and exported from Latin America each year, and nearly half of them are either delayed or lost due to mismanagement. And, an estimated 50% of shipping containers suffer delays due to disorganized processes or errors during transport, which ends up costing companies billions per year. It’s a big opportunity. And, Nowports pledges to shippers that its digital management software will keep track of each container. 

“Slow, inefficient, and manual processes in international logistics are disassociated from today’s technological world”, said Nowports co-founder and COO Maximiliano Casal. “Customers are looking for solutions that can improve their logistics processes adapted to current challenges of international trade.”

The two co-founders of Nowports met at a program at Stanford University, with de los Rios hailing from a family with deep ties to the shipping industry. He and Casal linked up and the two began plotting a way to make the deeply inefficient industry more modern and transparent. To familiarize himself with the market for which he’d be developing a technology, Casal worked with a freight forwarder in Kansas City that had been operating for more than 30 years.

Michael Sidgmore, co-founder and partner of seed round lead investor Broadhaven Ventures, described the team as “visionaries in the freight forwarding industry who see the ability to build the operating system for the shipping industry, much like Carta has done for equity ownership.”

The need to track and digitize the supply chain process was never more apparent than with the recent blockage of the Suez Canal by the Ever Given, which became a meme that represented the impacts of inefficiencies in the supply chain, Sidgmore said. 

“Nowports has created industry leading technology to help its customers know when to turn starboard or port side,” he added.

Chris Gottschalk, senior advisor of Mouro Capital, said the Nowports platform brings both “transparency and technology” to a global client base.

#articles, #base10-partners, #chile, #china, #co-founder, #colombia, #finance, #financial-services, #foundation-capital, #freight-forwarding, #funding, #fundings-exits, #insurance-policies, #justin-mateen, #kansas-city, #latin-america, #logistics, #mexico, #mouro-capital, #nowports, #operating-system, #recent-funding, #ricardo-weder, #stanford-university, #startup, #startups, #supply-chain, #transport, #uruguay, #venture-capital, #y-combinator

Shopify acquires augmented reality home design app Primer

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

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

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

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

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

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

AI startup Eightfold valued at $2.1B in SoftBank-led $220M funding

Eightfold AI, a startup which uses deep learning and artificial intelligence to help companies find, recruit and retain workers, said on Thursday it has raised $220 million in a new round as it looks to accelerate its growth.

SoftBank Vision Fund 2 led the Series E round of the five-year-old startup, which is now valued at $2.1 billion, up from $1 billion in Series E last October, Eightfold AI founder and chief executive Ashutosh Garg told TechCrunch in an interview.

Existing investors General Catalyst, Capital One Ventures, Foundation Capital, IVP and Lightspeed Venture Partners also participated in the new round, which brings the startup’s all-time raise to over $410 million.

The Mountain View-based startup provides its clients with a talent acquisition platform that helps them identify suitable candidates and import and filter thousands of resumes. One of Eightfold AI’s missions is to help companies reduce biases in their hirings, so it masks candidates’ personal information during evaluation.

“Instead of searching for a job, a candidate can upload their resume and the system will tell what is the most relevant job for that candidate in real-time,” explained Garg. “What this does is, it reduces the drop-off rate. And our clients see more applications — and field more diverse applications.”

The startup, which has amassed clients in over 100 countries and offers its platform in over a dozen languages, also enables employers to deploy the Eightfold platform internally and help employees discover job opportunities within their organization. “This has helped businesses almost double their internal mobility,” said Garg, who previously worked at Google.

Garg said recruiting remains an untapped opportunity and existing platforms.

“Powered by AI and machine learning, Eightfold’s platform provides global enterprises with a single solution for managing the entire talent lifecycle, including hiring, retaining, and growing a diverse global workforce,” said Deep Nishar, Senior Managing Partner at SoftBank Investment Advisers and who previously worked for nearly six years at LinkedIn. “We are pleased to partner with Ashutosh and the Eightfold team to support their ambition of transforming how enterprises manage talent and how people build their careers.”

This is a developing story. More to follow…

#capital-one-ventures, #foundation-capital, #funding, #general-catalyst, #ivp, #lightspeed-venture-partners, #saas, #softbank, #softbank-vision-fund-2

Branch raises $50M to offer bundled auto & home insurance via an API

Branch Insurance, a startup offering bundled home and auto insurance, has raised $50 million in a Series B funding round led by Anthemis Group.

Acrew, Cherry Creek Holdings and existing backers Greycroft, HSCM Bermuda, American Family Ventures, SignalFire, SCOR P&C Ventures, Foundation Capital and Tower IV also participated in the round. With this latest financing, Columbus, Ohio-based Branch has raised $82.5 million in total funding since its 2017 inception.

With so many players in the insurtech space, it can get tough distinguishing the various offerings. Branch claims that it is unique in that it is able to provide customers with “an instant insurance offer” for bundled home and auto insurance “within seconds” using just a few pieces of information.

Co-founder and CEO Steve Lekas began his career at Allstate, where he went on to hold roles in underwriting, technology and product management. He then went on to build Esurance’s first online home insurance business.

But in the back of his mind, Lekas yearned to figure out a way to make insurance more accessible for more people. And so he teamed up with Joe Emison, and Branch was born.

“The industry is structurally flawed and it harms consumers. Complicated policies, rising costs and marketing warfare all contribute to a vicious cycle that results in overpriced insurance,” said Lekas. “We are a full-stack insurance company transforming the way people think about their home and car insurance.”

Branch, he claims, is the only insurance company that he is aware of that can bind insurance through an API, and the only one that can bundle auto and home insurance in a single transaction.

Another way Branch is unique, according to Lekas, is that it can be embedded into the buying experience. In other words, the company has partnered with companies such as Rocket Mortgage and ADT to integrate insurance at the point of sale in their products. For example, if a person is closing on a home, they have the option of purchasing Branch insurance at the same time.

Branch co-founder and CEO Steve Lekas. Photo: Robb McCormick Photography

“Every home or car policy starts with another transaction,” Lekas said. “Insurance is a product that exists only because of the other transaction. It’s never before been possible to embed in that primary purchase before.”

This distribution model means that Branch shells out less to acquire customers and thus, it claims, is able to offer premiums for a lower price than competitors.

“In just two clicks, a consumer can have home and car insurance or just home and we’ll cancel the old insurance on their closing date, and transmit all the data to their existing mortgage,” Lekas said.

Branch also offers its insurance direct-to-consumer and through agencies.

The company plans to use its new capital in part to accelerate its rollout across the U.S. so that it can sign more such partnerships where it can embed its offering. Currently, Branch has more than 30 partnerships of varying sizes, and is “adding more every week” as it launches in more states.

“It’s really hard to move quickly,” Lekas said. “The system is built to make you move slowly. Every state regulator has to approve individually and independently with their own rules.”

Lekas predicts Branch will be available in more than 80% of the U.S. before the year’s out.

Branch has seen increased momentum since its $24 million Series A in July 2020.

Specifically, the startup says it has achieved a 435% growth in its partner channel, 660% growth in active policies and a 734% increase in active premium less than one year after its last raise.

Anthemis Group Partner Ruth Foxe Blader notes that Branch marks her firm’s first investment from its new growth fund.

Blader says she has invested in insurance innovation over the past decade, and is particularly attracted to insurtech businesses that represent three things: significant technology and data science innovation; significant product innovation and significant cultural innovation.

“Branch easily ticks those boxes,” Blader told TechCrunch. “Branch’s products are both embedded and bundled, making them less expensive and more convenient to purchase, and less likely to leave customers with critical protection gaps.”

The startup, she added, effectively combines data science and technology to create “unique, automatic product bundles.”

With what it describes as a “built-for-savings” structure, Branch said it has created connected home discounts as well as programs that reward members for making referrals and practicing safe driving behaviors, for example.

Branch also has formed a nonprofit, SafetyNest, to help those who are un- or underinsured.

#allstate, #american-family-ventures, #anthemis-group, #auto-insurance, #branch, #car-insurance, #columbus, #finance, #foundation-capital, #funding, #fundings-exits, #insurance, #insurtech, #ohio, #ontology, #product-management, #recent-funding, #rocket-mortgage, #ruth-foxe-blader, #startup, #startups, #tc, #united-states, #venture-capital

Weav raises $4.3M to knit together a universal API for commerce platforms

Weav, which is building a universal API for commerce platforms, is emerging from stealth today with $4.3 million in funding from a bevy of investors, and a partnership with Brex.

Founded last year by engineers Ambika Acharya, Avikam Agur and Nadav Lidor after participating in the W20 YC batch, Weav joins the wave of fintech infrastructure companies that aim to give fintechs and financial institutions a boost. Specifically, Weav’s embedded technology is designed to give these organizations access to “real time, user-permissioned” commerce data that they can use to create new financial products for small businesses.  

Its products allow its customers to connect to multiple platforms with a single API that was developed specifically for the commerce platforms that businesses use to sell products and accept payments. Weav operates under the premise that allowing companies to build and embed new financial products creates new opportunities for e-commerce merchants, creators and other entrepreneurs. 

Left to right: Co-founders Ambika Acharya, Nadav Lidor and Avikam Agur; Image courtesy of Weav

In a short amount of time, Weav has seen impressive traction. Recently, Brex launched Instant Payouts for Shopify sellers using the Weav API. It supports platform integrations such as Stripe, Square, Shopify and PayPal. (More on that later.) Since its API went live in January, “thousands” of businesses have used new products and services built on Weav’s infrastructure, according to Lidor. Its API call volume is growing 300% month over month, he said.

And, the startup has attracted the attention of a number of big-name investors, including institutions and the founders of prominent fintech companies. Foundation Capital led its $4.3 million seed round, which also included participation from Y Combinator, Abstract Ventures, Box Group, LocalGlobe, Operator Partners, Commerce Ventures and SV Angel. 

A slew of founders and executives also put money in the round, including Brex founders Henrique Dubugras and Pedro Franceschi; Ramp founder Karim Atiyeh; Digits founders Jeff Seibert and Wayne Chang; Hatch founder Thomson Nguyen; GoCardless founder Matt Robinson and COO Carlos Gonzalez-Cadenas; Vouch founder Sam Hodges; Plaid’s Charley Ma as well as executives from fintechs such as Square, Modern Treasury and Pagaya.

Foundation Capital’s Angus Davis said his firm has been investing in fintech infrastructure for over a decade. And personally, before he became a VC, Davis was the founder and CEO of Upserve, a commerce software company. There, he says, he witnessed firsthand “the value of transactional data to enable new types of lending products.”

Foundation has a thesis around the type of embedded fintech that Weav has developed, according to Davis. And it sees a large market opportunity for a new class of financial applications to come to market built atop Weav’s platform.

“We were excited by Weav’s vision of a universal API for commerce platforms,” Davis wrote via email. “Much like Plaid and Envestnet brought universal APIs to banking for consumers, Weav enables a new class of B2B fintech applications for businesses.”

How it works

Weav says that by using its API, companies can prompt their business customers to “securely” connect their accounts with selling platforms, online marketplaces, subscription management systems and payment gateways. Once authenticated, Weav aggregates and standardizes sales, inventory and other account data across platforms and develops insights to power new products across a range of use cases, including lending and underwriting; financial planning and analysis; real-time financial services and business management tools.

For the last few years, there’s been a rise of API companies, as well as openness in the financial system that’s largely been focused on consumers, Lidor points out.

“For example, Plaid brings up very rich data about consumers, but when you think about businesses, oftentimes that data is still locked up in all kinds of systems,” he told TechCrunch. “We’re here to provide some of the building blocks and the access to data from everything that has to do with sales and revenue. And, we’re really excited about powering products that are meant to make the lives of small businesses and e-commerce, sellers and creators much easier and be able to get them access to financial products.”

In the case of Brex, Weav’s API allows the startup to essentially offer instant access to funds that otherwise would take a few days or a few weeks for businesses to access.

“Small businesses need access as quickly as possible to their revenue so that they can fund their operations,” Lidor said.

Brex co-CEO Henrique Dubugras said that Weav’s API gives the company the ability to offer real-time funding to more customers selling on more platforms, which saved the company “thousands of engineering hours” and accelerated its rollout timeline by months.

Clearly, the company liked what it saw, considering that its founders personally invested in Weav. Is Weav building the “Plaid for commerce”? Guess only time will tell.

#abstract-ventures, #angus-davis, #api, #banking, #box-group, #brex, #carlos-gonzalez-cadenas, #commerce-ventures, #e-commerce, #ecommerce, #finance, #financial-services, #financial-technology, #fintech-infrastructure, #foundation-capital, #funding, #fundings-exits, #hatch, #matt-robinson, #money, #online-marketplaces, #operator-partners, #paypal, #plaid, #real-time, #recent-funding, #shopify, #startup, #startups, #stripe, #tc, #thomson, #upserve, #venture-capital, #weav, #y-combinator

Metal 3D printing startup Mantle launches out of stealth with $13M in funding

Additive manufacturing has been a popular buzz phrase for decades now. With a smattering of notable exceptions, however, 3D printing has largely been focused on rapid prototyping and limited-run, personal products. Metal 3D printing companies like Mantle represent an intriguing use case on the road to truly scaling the tech to mass manufacturing.

Arriving out of stealth today, the Bay Area-based company is not focused on replacing traditional manufacturing methods, as much as augmenting and improving them. Specifically, the startup is focusing its technology in helping creating better molds and dies for manufacturers.

There are, of course, a number of companies currently competing in the printable metal category. Notable names include Desktop Metal, ExOne and Markforged. Armed with $13 million in funding from Foundation Capital, Hypertherm Ventures, Future Shape, 11.2 capital, Plug and Play Ventures and Corazon Capital, Mantle seeks to differentiate itself with a machine capable of removing some steps from the process.

“The main difference, having interacted with 3D printing for close to three decades, is really around the focus on these use cases that are production oriented,” Foundational Capital General Partner Steve Vassallo tells TechCrunch. “The vast majority of 3D printing is to make a prototype as quickly as possible. To actually make something that can be used in production environments — real parts that you can use — has never been done before.”

Built on the familiar binder jetting, the company’s machine (roughly “The size of two standing desks” its says) builds part finishing into the process.

“Ours is the first sintering-based hybrid technology that does shape refinement prior to going into the furnace,” CEO Ted Sorom tells TechCrunch. “We do it with a unique material that’s designed not only to be deposited into a very dense body but to also be cut with high-speed cutting tools. That allows us to get a totally different level of surface detail than anyone’s able to get today.”

The company has thus far announced L’Oréal as its first partner. The cosmetics giant will be using Mantle’s printers to create precision molds for products and packaging.

Tony Fadell, of Future Shape Mantle, added in a comment offered to TechCunch, “Mantle gives you the superpowers to make Apple-quality mechanical parts in days not months and lowers your cost by orders of magnitude. That speed and affordability lets you iterate to get your parts to perfection and still lets you launch much earlier.”

#11-2-capital, #3d-printing, #corazon-capital, #foundation-capital, #funding, #future-shape, #hardware, #hypertherm-ventures, #mantle, #metal-printing, #plug-and-play-ventures, #recent-funding, #startups

Mexican online grocer Jüsto raises $65M in General Atlantic-led Series A

Jüsto, an online supermarket based in Mexico City, announced Tuesday it has raised $65 million in Series A round led by General Atlantic.

The amount is sizable for a Series A in general, but supersized for a LatAm startup. In fact, according to Pitchbook data cited by General Atlantic, the round represents the largest Series A raised in Latin America in the past decade.

Existing backers also participated in the round including Foundation Capital and Mountain Nazca.

Ricardo Weder, former president of Cabify (a large ride-sharing company operating in Latin America, Spain, and Portugal) founded Jüsto in 2019 with a mission to “disrupt the Latin American grocery industry.” It claims to be the first supermarket in Mexico with no physical store. Customers can buy their groceries directly from the website or via the app and Jüsto delivers the order to the customer’s location of choice.

The concept is clearly resonating with consumers as Jüsto saw impressive growth in 2020 with a 16-fold increase in revenue. 

Jüsto prides itself on working directly with fresh produce suppliers so that it can offer “the freshest” fruits, vegetables, meats and fish in the market. It also offers a variety of products such as pantry staples, personal hygiene and beauty, home and cleaning, drinks and pet-related items.

The startup only sells items from local suppliers, with whom it prides itself on developing fair trade agreements. (“Jüsto” means fair in Spanish) It also uses artificial intelligence to forecast demand and to try and reduce food waste at its micro-fulfillment centers. The company’s approach results in “competitive prices, lower transaction costs, and improved convenience to consumers by eliminating intermediaries in the supply chain,” according to the company.

Looking ahead, Jüsto plans to use its new capital on expanding across Mexico and Latin America as a whole, enhancing its last-mile logistics infrastructure and marketing initiatives.

Luis Cervantes, managing director and head of Mexico City for General Atlantic, believes Mexico is at an inflection point in its transition to a digital economy.

“We see Jüsto as leading the way in the high-growth online grocery space with its technology-centric, mission-driven approach,” he said in a written statement. “Under Ricardo’s leadership, we believe Jüsto is positioned for significant expansion as it disrupts and transforms the legacy grocery value chain.”

 Jüsto marks General Atlantic’s fifth investment in Mexico since 2014. Since then, General Atlantic has invested nearly USD $1 billion in what it describes as “high-growth” Mexican companies. 

The financing brings Jüsto’s total raised to over $100 million. Other investors include FEMSA Ventures, S7V, Elevar Equity, Bimbo Ventures, Quiet Capital, Sweet Capital, H2O Capital  and SV LatAm Capital, among others.

#artificial-intelligence, #ecommerce, #foundation-capital, #funding, #general-atlantic, #grocery-store, #justo, #latin-america, #mexico, #mexico-city, #recent-funding, #startups, #tc

Joanne Chen just became the first woman GP at Foundation Capital since founder Kathryn Gould

Joanne Chen just became the second general partner in the history of the now 26-year-old, Silicon Valley venture firm, Foundation Capital.

Were she still alive, Foundation’s founder, Kathyrn Gould, would undoubtedly cheer the development.

Known for her big personality, Gould first met Chen when Chen was an MBA student at the University of Chicago. Gould was recovering from a bout with cancer at the time, and after being introduced to Chen through one of Chen’s professors, she initially advised Chen not to go into venture. As Gould herself discovered early on, doors open more easily to men in the venture world, which is why she’d started her own firm in the first place.

Yet, like Gould, being dissuaded only motivated Chen more. While she began her career as an engineer at Cisco, she was long interested in finance, jumping into a banking analyst role with Jeffries, then working as an associate with the capital advisory firm Probitas before cofounding a mobile gaming company she would later wind down.

Indeed, grad school in Chicago — and meeting Gould — only reinforced for Chen how much she wanted to become a VC, and following stints at Formation 8 and Hyde Park Angels, she landed at Foundation in 2014. (Sadly, Gould passed away in 2015.)

Certainly, Chen has brought a fresh perspective to a firm that features 10 investors altogether, the rest men.

Aside from being the only woman in the group, Chen has a strong point of view, for example, on the entrepreneurial potential of students from U.C. Berkeley, where she studied as an undergraduate. While the university is not nearly so organized as Stanford when it comes to minting founders, in her view it has just as much talent and, as a result, it’s a network into which she invests a lot of time and energy as an investor.

Chen, who was born in China and great up in Montreal, also spends a lot of time thinking about AI, both as an investor and also simply a person in the world. Her father, who received his PhD from the University of Montreal, went on to work at Bell Labs as a researcher, and her mother is a computer programmer and “DevOps person” who Chen routinely talks with about software tools. But their background isn’t so simple.

Like many immigrants, her parents fled China during the Cultural Revolution. Because her grandfather helped architect a major telecom company in China, he was persecuted by the Communist Party, stripped of all his responsibilities and titles and, as an “intellectual,” says Chen, thrown in jail. Meanwhile, his son (her father) wasn’t allowed to start college until he was 21, and it was only because he was a good student that was he invited abroad to obtain his master’s degree.

Today, her family’s experience combined with China’s use of artificial intelligence — including to track its Muslim minority — is top of mind for Chen in ways it may not be for someone with a lesser grasp of the lengths to which authoritarian regimes will go, and how quickly they can act.

It’s why most of Chen’s work centers on understanding how AI, from how machines evolve from organizing activity to replacing humans (which will definitely happen, says Chen); to how to recognize and counter malicious applications of AI with AI (such as through recruiting software that screens out names and gender to eliminate human bias); and how to otherwise make sure that AI is used to improve human life, she suggests.

Of course, Chen isn’t exactly alone in her interest in AI. Nearly every startup today incorporates — or says it does — AI into its offerings, from lending companies to startups that help remote teams work more effectively. And investors, including at Foundation, have funded many of them.

Asked how she deals with competition for many of these deals, Chen says she moves as fast when there’s a decision to be made. She engages with VPs of engineering and technical founders who share ideas through Slack communities and elsewhere. She also notes that Foundation provides capital to roughly 30 operators who write angel checks and help steer the firm’s attention to interesting deals.

Mostly, suggests Chen, she focuses on whatever is not landing in her inbox — a lesson learned in part from Gould years ago.

It’s easy to believe. As Gould once told this editor of the advice she gives to other VCs: “It not the calls you take. It’s the calls you make. Everyone is calling you with dumb startup ideas, and you can stay hugely busy sorting through that crap. My advice instead is to figure out who are the 10 to 20 smartest people you know and call them. One of them is always starting a company.”

#brightback, #foundation-capital, #kathryn-gould, #oasis-labs, #tc, #venture-capital, #watchful

Stacklet raises $18M for its cloud governance platform

Stacklet, a startup that is commercializing the Cloud Custodian open-source cloud governance project, today announced that it has raised an $18 million Series A funding round. The round was led by Addition, with participation from Foundation Capital and new individual investor Liam Randall, who is joining the company as VP of business development. Addition and Foundation Capital also invested in Stacklet’s seed round, which the company announced last August. This new round brings the company’s total funding to $22 million.

Stacklet helps enterprises manage their data governance stance across different clouds, accounts, policies and regions, with a focus on security, cost optimization and regulatory compliance. The service offers its users a set of pre-defined policy packs that encode best practices for access to cloud resources, though users can obviously also specify their own rules. In addition, Stacklet offers a number of analytics functions around policy health and resource auditing, as well as a real-time inventory and change management logs for a company’s cloud assets.

The company was co-founded by Travis Stanfield (CEO) and Kapil Thangavelu (CTO). Both bring a lot of industry expertise to the table. Stanfield spent time as an engineer at Microsoft and leading DealerTrack Technologies, while Thangavelu worked at Canonical and most recently in Amazon’s AWSOpen team. Thangavelu is also one of the co-creators of the Cloud Custodian project, which was first incubated at Capital One, where the two co-founders met during their time there, and is now a sandbox project under the Cloud Native Computing Foundation’s umbrella.

“When I joined Capital One, they had made the executive decision to go all-in on cloud and close their data centers,” Thangavelu told me. “I got to join on the ground floor of that movement and Custodian was born as a side project, looking at some of the governance and security needs that large regulated enterprises have as they move into the cloud.”

As companies have sped up their move to the cloud during the pandemic, the need for products like Stacklets has also increased. The company isn’t naming most of its customers, but one of them is FICO, among a number of other larger enterprises. Stacklet isn’t purely focused on the enterprise, though. “Once the cloud infrastructure becomes — for a particular organization — large enough that it’s not knowable in a single person’s head, we can deliver value for you at that time and certainly, whether it’s through the open source or through Stacklet, we will have a story there.” The Cloud Custodian open-source project is already seeing serious use among large enterprises, though, and Stacklet obviously benefits from that as well.

“In just 8 months, Travis and Kapil have gone from an idea to a functioning team with 15 employees, signed early Fortune 2000 design partners and are well on their way to building the Stacklet commercial platform,” Foundation Capital’s Sid Trivedi said. “They’ve done all this while sheltered in place at home during a once-in-a-lifetime global pandemic. This is the type of velocity that investors look for from an early-stage company.”

Looking ahead, the team plans to use the new funding to continue to developed the product, which should be generally available later this year, expand both its engineering and its go-to-market teams and continue to grow the open-source community around Cloud Custodian.

#cloud, #cloud-computing, #cloud-custodian, #cloud-infrastructure, #cloud-native-computing-foundation, #computing, #engineer, #enterprise, #foundation-capital, #kapil-thangavelu, #microsoft, #recent-funding, #stacklet, #startups, #tc

Parrot Software has $1.2 million to grow its restaurant point-of-sale and management service in Mexico

The two founders of Parrot Software, Roberto Cebrián and David Villarreal, first met in high school in Monterrey, Mexico. In the eleven years since , both have pursued successful careers in the tech industry and became family (they’re brothers-in-law).

Now, they’re starting a new business together leveraging Cebrián’s experience running a point-of-sale company and Villarreal’s time working first at Uber and then at the high-growth, scooter and bike rental startup, Grin.

Cebrían’s experience founding the point-of-sale company S3 Software laid the foundation for Parrot Software, and its point of sale service to manage restaurant operations. 

Roberto has been in the industry for the past six or seven years,” said Villarreal. “And he was telling me that no one has been serving [restaurants] properly… Roberto pitched me the idea and I got super involved and decided to start the company.”

Parrot Software co-founders Roberto Cebrían and David Villarreal. Image Credit: Parrot Software

Like Toast in the U.S., Parrot  manages payments including online and payments and real-time ordering, along with integrations into services that can manage the back-end operations of a restaurant too, according to Villarreal. Those services include things like delivery software, accounting and loyalty systems.  

The company is already live in over 500 restaurants in Mexico and is used by chains including Cinnabon, Dairy Queen, Grupo Costeño, and Grupo Pangea.

Based in Monterrey, Mexico, the company has managed to attract a slew of high profile North American investors including Joe Montana’s Liquid2 Ventures, Foundation Capital, Superhuman angel fund, Toby Spinoza, the vice president of DoorDash, and Ed Baker, a product lead at Uber.

Since its launch, the company has managed to land contracts in 10 cities, with the largest presence in Northeastern Mexico, around Monterrey, said Villarreal.

The market for restaurant management software is large and growing. It’s a big category that’s expected to reach $6.94 billion in sales worldwide by 2025, according to a reporter from Grand View Research.

Investors in the U.S. market certainly believe in the potential opportunity for a business like Toast. That company has raised nearly $1 billion in funding from firms like Bessemer Venture Partners, the private equity firm TPG, and Tiger Global Management.

#bessemer-venture-partners, #doordash, #foundation-capital, #free-software, #grin, #mexico, #point-of-sale, #reporter, #software, #tc, #tiger-global-management, #trade, #uber, #united-states

Stacklet launches cloud governance platform with $4.4M seed investment

Stacklet co-founders Travis Stanfield and Kapil Thangavelu met while both were working at Capital One several years ago. Thangavelu helped create the Cloud Custodian open source cloud governance project. The two eventually got together and decided to build a startup based on that project and today the company launched out of stealth with a $4.4 million seed investment from Foundation Capital and Addition Ventures.

Stanfield, who is CEO at the young startup, says that Cloud Custodian came about as Capital One was moving to a fully cloud approach in around 2013. As the company looked for ways to deal with compliance and governance, it found that organizations like theirs were forced to do one-off scripts and they were looking for a way that could be repeatable and scale.

“Cloud Custodian was developed as a way of understanding what all those one-off scripts were doing, looking at the cloud control plane, finding the interesting set of resources, and then taking sensitive actions on them,” he explained.

After leaving Capital One, and going off in different directions for a time, the two came together this year to start Stacklet as a way to nurture the underlying open source project Thangavelu helped build, and build a commercial company to add some functionality to make it easier for enterprises to implement and understand.

While cloud administrators can download and figure out how to use the raw open source, Stacklet is attempting to make that easier by providing an administrative layer to manage usage across thousands of cloud accounts along with pre-packaged sets of common kinds of compliance requirements out of the box, analytics to understand how the tool is doing and what it’s finding in terms of issues, and finally a resources database to understand all of the cloud resources under management.

The company has 8 employees including the two founders and hopes to add a few more in the coming months. The open source project has 270 contributors from around the world. The startup is looking to build diversity through being fully remote. Not being limited by geography means that they can hire from anywhere, and that can help lead to a more diverse group of employees.

The founders admit that it’s a tough time to start a company and to be fundraising, but on the bright side didn’t have to be on a plane to San Francisco every week during the process.

In fact, Sid Trivedi, partner at Foundation Capital said that this was his first investment where he never met the founders in person, but he said through long discussions he learned “their passion for the opportunity at hand, experience of the market dynamics and vision for how they would solve the problem of meeting the needs of both IT/security admins and developers.”

#capital-one, #cloud, #cloud-governance, #enterprise, #foundation-capital, #funding, #open-source, #recent-funding, #stacklet, #startups

Shelf Engine has a plan to reduce food waste at grocery stores, and $12 million in new cash to see i

For the first few months it was operating, Shelf Engine, the Seattle-based company that optimizes the process of stocking store shelves for supermarkets and groceries, didn’t have a name.

Co-founders Stefan Kalb and Bede Jordan were on a ski trip outside of Salt Lake City about four years ago when they began discussing what, exactly, could be done about the problem of food waste in the US.

Kalb is a serial entrepreneur whose first business was a food distribution company called Molly’s, which was sold to a company called HomeGrown back in 2019.

A graduate of Western Washington University with a degree in actuarial science, Kalb says he started his food company to make a difference in the world. While Molly’s did, indeed, promote healthy eating, the problem that Kalb and Bede, a former Microsoft engineer, are tackling at Shelf Engine may have even more of an impact.

Food waste isn’t just bad for its inefficiency in the face of a massive problem in the US with food insecurity for citizens, it’s also bad for the environment.

Shelf Engine proposes to tackle the problem by providing demand forecasting for perishable food items. The idea is to wring inefficiencies out of the ordering system. Typically about a third of food gets thrown out of the bakery section and other highly perishable goods stocked on store shelves. Shelf Engine guarantees use for the store and any items that remain unsold the company will pay for.

Image: OstapenkoOlena/iStock

Shelf Engine gets information about how much sales a store typically sees for particular items and can then predict how much demand for a particular product there will be. The company makes money off of the arbitrage between how much it pays for goods from vendors and how much it sells to grocers.

It allows groceries to lower the food waste and have a broader variety of products on shelves for customers.

Shelf Engine initially went to market with a product that it was hoping to sell to groceries, but found more traction by becoming a marketplace and perfecting its models on how much of a particular item needs to go on store shelves.

The next item on the agenda for Bede and Kalb is to get insights into secondary sources like imperfect produce resellers or other grocery stores that work as an outlet.

The business model is already showing results at around 400 stores in the Northwest, according to Kalb and it now has another $12 million in financing to go to market.

The funds came from Garry Tan’s Initialized and GGV (and GGV managing director Hans Tung has a seat on the company’s board). Other investors in the company include Foundation Capital, Bain Capital, 1984 and Correlation Ventures .

Kalb said the money from the round will be used to scale up the engineering team and its sales and acquisition process.

The investment in Shelf Engine is part of a wave of new technology applications coming to the grocery store, as Sunny Dhillon, a partner at Signia Ventures, wrote in a piece for TechCrunch’s Extra Crunch.

“Grocery margins will always be razor thin, and the difference between a profitable and unprofitable grocer is often just cents on the dollar,” Dhillon wrote. “Thus, as the adoption of e-grocery becomes more commonplace, retailers must not only optimize their fulfillment operations (e.g, MFCs), but also the logistics of delivery to a customer’s doorstep to ensure speed and quality (e.g., darkstores).”

Beyond Dhillon’s version of a delivery only grocery network with mobile fulfillment centers and dark stores, there’s a lot of room for chains with existing real estate and bespoke shopping options to increase their margins on perishable goods as well.

 

#bain-capital, #correlation-ventures, #e-grocery, #engineer, #food, #food-waste, #foundation-capital, #ggv, #grocery-store, #hans-tung, #marketing, #microsoft, #molly, #packaging, #partner, #real-estate, #retail, #retailers, #salt-lake-city, #seattle, #serial-entrepreneur, #shelf-engine, #signia-ventures, #sunny-dhillon, #tc, #united-states

Medley, a life and career coaching community for everyone, launches today

As we speak, there are professional networks for women executives, mothers, owners of small and medium-sized businesses, and many more.

Medley, a new membership-based community that launches today, is looking to do things a little bit different. Instead of bringing together a specific category of people, the goal of Medley is to connect users with people who aren’t just like them.

Founded by mom and daughter duo Edith Cooper and Jordan Taylor, Medley is backed by a variety of angel investors including Jen Rubio, Tim Armstrong, Damien Dwin, as well as Foundation Capital. The company declined to disclose the amount raised.

Cooper and Taylor told TechCrunch that one of the biggest challenges with the product is defining what it is. Unlike some other professional membership communities, Medley isn’t solely focused on career growth, but rather incorporates personal growth into the framework.

“Medley is really about the connection between your career, your personal growth and your philosophy in life,” said Edith Cooper. “What I experienced is that people no longer want there to be strict barriers between those aspects of their lives.”

Folks who join Medley spend about 15 minutes on the application process, answering a wide range of questions that take a look at personal and professional information, but also at their general psychology and personality type.

From there, Medley matches users into a group of eight with the precise goal of ensuring that there is diversity among that small group. Some may be older, while others are younger. They may come from different racial backgrounds or different industries. Men and women alike will meet together in their groups.

An expert executive coach is also in on these monthly group meetings (which are currently being held virtually due to the coronavirus pandemic), and guides the group as they share about themselves and learn about their groupmates, all the while focusing on communication.

Prior to Medley, Cooper was a partner at Goldman Sachs for twenty years, and spent the last decade of her tenure as Global Head of Human Capital Management. Taylor was Chief of Staff at Mic, and was also a consultant at Boston Consulting Group and a Baker Scholar from Harvard Business School.

“There is one main theme for my investment thesis, which is the change to direct empowerment and direct ownership of relationships between people and everything else,” said Tim Armstrong . “Just like you may have a direct relationship with your gym or personal trainer — which a lot of people do and it’s an industry that’s growing tremendously — most people have not taken direct ownership of their careers. They end up outsourcing to the companies they work for that don’t have the resources to do development.”

He added that Medley is a gym for your mind and your career.

Medley’s target demographic is people in their late 20s, early 30s, who are starting to think more long-term about their choices both professionally and personally.

That said, part of what makes Medley special is that it’s open to anyone who’s curious to learn, grow and explore other people. As such, Medley is available on an opportunity-based sliding scale for the annual membership fee to ensure the community remains inclusive. Founding memberships are available now for $150/month or $1,500 annually.

Cooper explained that some of the biggest barriers for Medley are in the midst of being broken down.

“We don’t have to explain anymore that different perspectives are valuable,” said Cooper. “We don’t have to explain anymore why it’s so important to have intentional conversations and dialogue with people, or that we can do that virtually as well as in person. Some of the biggest things that we were focused on communicating about this business and this offering have been broken down as a result of the push and inertia of the other things that are going on in society.”

#edith-cooper, #foundation-capital, #jen-rubio, #jordan-taylor, #medley, #social, #startups, #tc, #tim-armstrong

Skyflow raises $7.5M to build its privacy API business

Skyflow, a Mountain View-based privacy API company, announced this morning that it has closed a $7.5 million round of capital it describes as a seed investment. Foundation Capital’s Ashu Garg led the round, with the company touting smaller checks from Jeff Immelt (former GE CEO) and Jonathan Bush (former AthenaHealth CEO).

For Skyflow, founded in 2019, the capital raise and its constituent announcement mark an exit from quasi-stealth mode.

TechCrunch knew a little about Skyflow before it announced its seed round because one if its co-founders, Anshu Sharma is a former Salesforce executive and former venture partner at Storm Ventures, a venture capital firm that focuses on enterprise SaaS businesses. That he left the venture world to eventually found something new caught our eye.

Sharma co-founded the company with Prakash Khot, another former Salesforce denizen.

So what is Skyflow? In a sense it’s the nexus between two trends, namely the growing importance of data security (privacy, in other words), and API -based companies. Skyflow’s product is an API that allows its customers — businesses, not individuals — to store sensitive user information, like Social Security numbers, securely.

Chatting with Sharma in advance of the funding, the CEO told TechCrunch that many providers of cybersecurity solutions today sell products that raise a company’s walls a little higher against certain threats. Once breached, however, the data stored inside is loose. Skyflow wants to make sure that its customers cannot lose your personal information.

Sharma likened Skyflow to other API companies that work to take complex services — Twilio’s telephony API, Stripe’s payments API, and so forth — and provide a simple endpoint for companies to hook into, giving them access to something hard with ease.

Comparing his company’s product to privacy-focused solutions like Apple Pay, the CEO said in a release that “Skyflow has taken a similar approach to all the sensitive data so companies can run their workflows, analytics and machine learning to serve the customer, but do so without exposing the data as a result of a potential theft or breach.”

It’s an interesting idea. If the technology works as promised, Skyflow could help a host of companies that either can’t afford, or simply can’t be bothered, to properly protect your data that they have collected.

If you are not still furious with Equifax, a company that decided that it was a fine idea to collect your personal information so it could grade you and then lost “hundreds of millions of customer records,” Skyflow might not excite you. But if the law is willing to let firms leak your data with little punishment, tooling to help companies be a bit less awful concerning data security is welcome.

Skyflow is not the only API-based company that has raised recently. Daily.co picked up funds recently for its video-chatting API, FalconX raised money for its crypto pricing and trading API, and CNBC reported today that another privacy-focused API company called Evervault has also taken on capital.

Skyflow’s model, however, may differ a little from how other API-built companies have priced themselves. Given that the data it will store for customers isn’t accessed as often, say, as a customer might ping Twilio’s API, Skyflow won’t charge usage rates for its product. After discussing the topic with Sharma, our impression is that Skyflow — once it formally launches its service commercially– will look something like a SaaS business.

The cloud isn’t coming, it’s here. And companies are awful at cybersecurity. Skyflow is betting it’s engineering-heavy team can make that better, while making money. Let’s see.

#anshu-sharma, #api, #foundation-capital, #fundings-exits, #privacy, #startups, #tc