S16 Angel Fund launches a community of founders to invest in other founders

Ten years ago a group of young tech founders in Moscow decided to get an apartment together, at Shmitovskiy lane 16.

In time, the ecosystem around the group swelled to the point where today it now encompasses 300 entrepreneurs, executives, artists, and many other industries. The group now organizes the annual ‘Founders for Founders’ conference, in Russia and other locations. Just as in other places around the world, the members decided to help each other.

So they formed the Shmit16 Founder Community, and today they launch the S16 Angel Fund to invest in startups globally. Although tiny by investment standards (the funds first close will be $5 million) firm will focus on ‘founder-in-founder’ investments and has already backed 5 companies under this model. The fund plans to invest in five more companies in the next six months with an average of $250k ticket.

So far the Angel group has invested in AppFollow, Lokalize Simple, a fasting and diet management mobile app, and Anytype, a new operating environment for the modern internet.

The driving ethos of the S16 Fund is a focus on developing human potential and creating a productive peer context where information flows freely and participants can learn from each other.

Founding partners of the fund and community members include serial entrepreneurs Anatoly Marin, co-founder of Payment Systems (a mobile fintech in Eastern Europe); Aleks Shamis -partner at Dostavista (a crowdsourced same-day delivery service operating in 10 countries), Mikhail Peregudov, founder of Partiya Edy, recently acquired by Yandex ($YNDX), Oleg Bibergan, former Executive Director at Goldman Sachs, and others. Prior to this, the partners have invested in over 30 companies as individual angels.

S16 cofounder Anatoly Marin says: “There is a difference between helping a founder as someone whom you relate to on a human level, because you’ve been in these difficult places yourself, and helping a founder to get an ROI on your capital. The former helps shape relations where founders are open to share the most difficult subjects and get help. It is handy here that we’ve founded companies in different areas and can look at things from diverse perspectives.”

“The relationships in our community have always been about friendship, trust, and personal growth, with financial gains being an organic second-order outcome,” says S16 Angel Fund co-founder Aleks Shamis. “After 10 years, starting a fund was a natural next step in helping founders like ourselves.”

Beyond investment, S16 offers access to its network to help founders solve problems, find mentors and operators with business domain expertise such as go-to-market strategy, pricing, coaching for the executive team, and others.

#angel-investor, #co-founder, #eastern-europe, #europe, #executive, #founder, #goldman-sachs, #moscow, #russia, #tc, #venture-capitalists, #yandex

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Mirantis brings extensions to its Lens Kubernetes IDE, launches a new Kubernetes distro

Earlier this year, Mirantis, the company that now owns Docker’s enterprise business, acquired Lens, a desktop application that provides developers with something akin to an IDE for managing their Kubernetes clusters. At the time, Mirantis CEO Adrian Ionel told me that the company wants to offer enterprises the tools to quickly build modern applications. Today, it’s taking another step in that direction with the launch of an extensions API for Lens that will take the tool far beyond its original capabilities

In addition to this update to Lens, Mirantis also today announced a new open-source project: k0s. The company describes it as “a modern, 100% upstream vanilla Kubernetes distro that is designed and packaged without compromise.”

It’s a single optimized binary without any OS dependencies (besides the kernel). Based on upstream Kubernetes, k0s supports Intel and Arm architectures and can run on any Linux host or Windows Server 2019 worker nodes. Given these requirements, the team argues that k0s should work for virtually any use case, ranging from local development clusters to private datacenters, telco clusters and hybrid cloud solutions.

“We wanted to create a modern, robust and versatile base layer for various use cases where Kubernetes is in play. Something that leverages vanilla upstream Kubernetes and is versatile enough to cover use cases ranging from typical cloud based deployments to various edge/IoT type of cases.,” said Jussi Nummelin, Senior Principal Engineer at Mirantis and founder of k0s. “Leveraging our previous experiences, we really did not want to start maintaining the setup and packaging for various OS distros. Hence the packaging model of a single binary to allow us to focus more on the core problem rather than different flavors of packaging such as debs, rpms and what-nots.”

Mirantis, of course, has a bit of experience in the distro game. In its earliest iteration, back in 2013, the company offered one of the first major OpenStack distributions, after all.

As for Lens, the new API, which will go live next week to coincide with KubeCon, will enable developers to extend the service with support for other Kubernetes-integrated components and services.

“Extensions API will unlock collaboration with technology vendors and transform Lens into a fully featured cloud native development IDE that we can extend and enhance without limits,” said Miska Kaipiainen, the co-founder of the Lens open-source project and senior director of engineering at Mirantis. “If you are a vendor, Lens will provide the best channel to reach tens of thousands of active Kubernetes developers and gain distribution to your technology in a way that did not exist before. At the same time, the users of Lens enjoy quality features, technologies and integrations easier than ever.”

The company has already lined up a number of popular CNCF projects and vendors in the cloud-native ecosystem to build integrations. These include Kubernetes security vendors Aqua and Carbonetes, API gateway maker Ambassador Labs and AIOps company Carbon Relay. Venafi, nCipher, Tigera, Kong and StackRox are also currently working on their extensions.

“Introducing an extensions API to Lens is a game-changer for Kubernetes operators and developers, because it will foster an ecosystem of cloud-native tools that can be used in context with the full power of Kubernetes controls, at the user’s fingertips,” said Viswajith Venugopal, StackRox software engineer and developer of KubeLinter. “We look forward to integrating KubeLinter with Lens for a more seamless user experience.”

#adrian-ionel, #api, #carbon-relay, #ceo, #cloud, #cloud-infrastructure, #co-founder, #developer, #enterprise, #founder, #free-software, #intel, #kubernetes, #lens, #linux, #mirantis, #miska-kaipiainen, #openstack, #tc, #windows-server

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Provizio closes $6.2M seed round for its car safety platform using sensors and AI

Provizio, a combination hardware and software startup with technology to improve car safety, has closed a seed investment round of $6.2million. Investors include Bobby Hambrick (the founder of Autonomous Stuff); the founders of Movidius; the European Innovation Council (EIC); ACT Venture Capital.

The startup has a ‘five-dimensional’ sensory platform that – it says – perceives, predicts and prevents car accidents in real-time and beyond the line-of-sight. Its ‘Accident Prevention Technology Platform’ combines proprietary vision sensors, machine learning, radar and with ultra-long range and foresight capabilities to prevent collisions at high speed and in all weather conditions, says the company. The Provizio team is made up of experts in robotics, AI, and vision and radar sensor development.

Barry Lunn, CEO of Provizio Said: “One point three five road deaths to zero drives everything we do at Provizio. We have put together an incredible team that is growing daily. AI is the future of automotive accident prevention and Provizio 5D radars with AI on-the-edge are the first step towards that goal.”

Also involved in Provizio is also Dr. Scott Thayer and Prof Jeff Mishler formally of Carnegie Mellon robotics, famous for developing early autonomous technologies for Google/<a class=”crunchbase-link” href=”https://crunchbase.com/organization/waymo” target=”_blank” data-type=”organization” data-entity=”waymo”>Waymo, Argo, Aurora and Uber.

#articles, #artificial-intelligence, #aurora, #automotive, #car-accidents, #car-safety, #carnegie-mellon, #ceo, #companies, #emerging-technologies, #europe, #european-innovation-council, #founder, #google, #machine-learning, #movidius, #robotics, #science-and-technology, #self-driving-cars, #tc, #uber, #waymo

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SoftBank’s $100 million diversity and inclusion fund makes its first bet … in health Vitable Health

SoftBank’s Opportunity Growth Fund has made the health insurance startup Vitable Health the first commitment from its $100 million fund dedicated to investing in startups founded by entrepreneurs of color.

The Philadelphia-based company, which recently launched from Y Combinator, is focused on bringing basic health insurance to underserved and low-income communities.

Founded by Joseph Kitonga, a 23 year-old entrepreneur whose parents immigrated to the U.S. a decade ago, Vitable provides affordable acute healthcare coverage to underinsured or un-insured populations and was born out of Kitonga’s experience watching employees of his parents’ home healthcare agency struggle to receive basic coverage.

The $1.5 million commitment was led by the SoftBank Group Corp Opportunity Fund, and included Y Combinator, DNA Capital, Commerce Ventures, MSA Capital, Coughdrop Capital, and angels like Immad Akhund, the chief executive of Mercury Bank; and Allison Pickens, the former chief operating officer of Gainsight, the company said in a blog post.

“Good healthcare is a basic right that every American deserves, whoever they are,” said Paul Judge, the Atlanta-based Early Stage Investing Lead for the fund and the founder of Atlanta’s TechSquare Labs investment fund. “We’ve been inspired by Joseph and his approach to addressing this challenge. Vitable Health is bridging critical gaps in patient care and has emerged as a necessary, essential service for all whether they’re uninsured, underinsured, or simply need a better plan for their lifestyle.”

SoftBank created the opportunity fund while cities around the U.S. were witnessing a wave of public protests against systemic racism and police brutality stemming from the murder of the Black Minneapolis citizen George Floyd at the hands of white police officers.  Floyd’s murder reignited simmering tensions between citizens and police in cities around the country over issues including police brutality, the militarization of civil authorities, and racial profiling.

SoftBank has had its own problems with racism in its portfolio this year. A few months before the firm launched its fund, the CEO and founder of one of its portfolio companies, Banjo, resigned after it was revealed that he once had ties to the KKK.

With the Opportunity Fund, SoftBank is trying to address some of its issues, and notably, will not take a traditional management fee for transactions out of the fund “but instead will seek to put as much capital as possible into the hands of founders and entrepreneurs of color.”

The Opportunity Fund is the third investment vehicle announced by SoftBank in the last several years. The biggest of them all is the $100 billion Vision Fund; then last year it announced the $2 billion Innovation Fund focused on Latin America.

#atlanta, #ceo, #chief-operating-officer, #commerce-ventures, #companies, #entrepreneur, #founder, #gainsight, #george-floyd, #healthcare, #investment-fund, #joseph-kitonga, #latin-america, #minneapolis, #paul, #philadelphia, #softbank-group, #tc, #united-states, #vision-fund, #vitable-health, #vodafone, #y-combinator

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Spotify CEO Daniel Ek pledges $1Bn of his wealth to back deeptech startups from Europe

At an online event today, Daniel Ek, the founder of Spotify, said he would invest 1 billion euros ($1.2 billion) of his personal fortune in deeptech “moonshot projects”, spread across the next 10 years.

Ek indicated that he was referring to machine learning, biotechnology, materials sciences and energy as the sectors he’d like to invest in.

“I want to do my part; we all know that one of the greatest challenges is access to capital,” Ek said, adding he wanted to achieve a “new European dream”.

“I get really frustrated when I see European entrepreneurs giving up on their amazing visions selling early on to non-European companies, or when some of the most promising tech talent in Europe leaves because they don’t feel valued here,” Ek said. “We need more super companies that raise the bar and can act as an inspiration.”

According to Forbes, Ek is worth $3.6 billion, which would suggest he’s putting aside roughly a third of his own wealth for the investments.

And it would appear his personal cash will be deployed with the help of a close confidant of Ek’s. He retweeted a post by Shakhil Khan, one of the first investors in Spotify, who said “it’s time to come out of retirement then.”

During a fireside chat held by the Slush conference, he said: “We all know that one of the greatest challenges is access to capital. And that is why I’m sharing today that I will devote €1bn of my personal resources to enable the ecosystem of builders.” He said he would do this by “funding so-called moonshots focusing on the deep technology necessary to make a significant positive dent, and work with scientists, entrepreneurs, investors and governments to do so.”

He expressed his desire to level-up Europe against the US I terms of tech unicorns: “Europe needs more super companies, both for the ecosystem to develop and thrive. But I think more importantly if we’re going to have any chance to tackle the infinitely complex problems that our societies are dealing with at the moment, we need different stakeholders, including companies, governments, academic institutions, non-profits and investors of all kinds to work together.”

He also expressed his frustration at seeing “European entrepreneurs, giving up on their amazing visions by selling very early in the process… We need more super companies to raise the bar and can act as an inspiration… There’s lots and lots of really exciting areas where there are tons of scientists and entrepreneurs right now around Europe.”

Ek said he will work with scientists, investors, and governments to deploy his funds. A $1.2 billion fund would see him competing with other large European VCs such as Atomico, Balderton Capital, Accel, Index Ventures and Northzone.

Ek has been previously known for his interest in deeptech. He has invested in €16m in Swedish telemedicine startup Kry. He’s also put €3m into HJN Sverige, an artificial intelligence company in the health tech arena.

#articles, #artificial-intelligence, #balderton-capital, #biotechnology, #business, #daniel-ek, #economy, #energy, #entrepreneurship, #europe, #forbes, #founder, #kry, #machine-learning, #northzone, #private-equity, #spotify, #startup-company, #tc, #telemedicine, #united-states

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Fundraising lessons from David Rogier of MasterClass

Conventional wisdom says your company should be up and running and have some traction before you raise. But MasterClass co-founder David Rogier says entrepreneurs should try to raise funds before launching.

Before going live, David raised $6.4 million — $1.9 million in a seed round and $4.5 million in a Series A — for what would become MasterClass. To date, the company has raised six funding rounds and secured almost $240 million.

MasterClass’s first investment actually came from Michael Dearing, the founder of VC firm Harrison Metal and one of David’s business school professors. After graduating from Stanford University Graduate School of Business, David started working for Michael at the firm. About a year in, he quit to start his own company.

When David gave his notice, Michael told him he would invest just under $500,000, even though David didn’t have an idea yet.

“I was honored, I was thrilled and I was terrified, all within the span of 10 seconds,” David says. “It was an amazing gift, but I also felt an immense amount of pressure. I knew this was a once-in-a-lifetime chance, and I didn’t want to mess it up.”

He drew a blank for a year, but finally got inspiration from a story his grandmother told him when he was in second grade. In it, she stressed the importance of education, the one thing no one can ever take away from you. Upon remembering that lesson, David knew he wanted to give as many people as possible the opportunity to learn from the best, and MasterClass was born.

In an episode of How I Raised It, David shares some of his secrets to raising capital.

First money, then metrics

Securing funding before you even launch your company definitely isn’t a common practice. But David is adamant that you should attempt it.

“Your metrics out of the gate are never going to be great,” David says. “You need enough funds to have the time to actually improve them.” At the beginning, instead of relying on data, you should sell investors on your vision.

Of course, this is easier said than done. Many investors don’t want to give you a dime until you’ve proven your concept works. To overcome this barrier, David figured out what he could do to help minimize risk for investors.

#business, #co-founder, #column, #crunchbase, #david-rogier, #entrepreneurship, #founder, #funding, #harrison-metal, #masterclass, #michael-dearing, #startups, #tc, #venture-capital

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Superhuman’s Rahul Vohra asks 6 VCs how to raise funding when the sky is falling

When I wrote about how to run your startup in a downturn, the world was on the brink of recession. The economy contracted sharply — and the effects of the 2020 recession will persist.

If you are a founder, you can help. You can build companies that connect people, create employment and spark lasting change.

“Building is how we reboot the American dream,” declared Marc Andreessen, venture capitalist and co-founder of Andreessen Horowitz. In his rallying cry “It’s Time to Build” he writes: “We need to break the rapidly escalating price curves for housing, education and healthcare, to make sure that every American can realize the dream, and the only way to do that is to build.”

Yet building requires capital. How do you raise funding when the economy is on its knees? I spoke with six top venture capitalists to find out:

  • Bill Trenchard, general partner, First Round Capital
  • Dan Rose, chairman, Coatue Ventures
  • Brianne Kimmel, founder, Work Life
  • Sarah Guo, general partner, Greylock
  • Merci Grace, partner, Lightspeed
  • Charles Hudson, managing partner, Precursor Ventures

How has investment behavior changed during the pandemic?

  • Deal velocity has gone up.
  • The bar for investments is rising.
  • VCs are nurturing existing investments and “proto-founders.”

The recession did not cause activity to stall. In fact, deal velocity has gone up.

“It’s almost like a superheated environment right now,” says Bill Trenchard, general partner at First Round. “The speed with which partnerships can quickly meet with a company that’s of interest is so much higher in the Zoom world. It’s changing our thinking around velocity in the market, which was already very high.”

“We’ve been as active as we were before,” agrees Dan Rose, chairman at Coatue Ventures. “Maybe even slightly more active because I think more good companies are raising as kind of an insurance policy. When it became clear that we weren’t going to be able to meet with founders in person anymore, we snapped to Zoom.”

Velocity may be rising, but investors now require more data to reach conviction.

“The pricing is still the same but we see risk going up,” says Bill Trenchard. “You need to be very rigorous on your investment theses and how you’re looking at companies. We’ve been looking for more grapple hooks and more data for things that we do invest in, so that we have more conviction when we do.”

“There’s been almost an immediate shift in terms of expectations from VCs,” says Brianne Kimmel, founder of early stage venture firm Work Life. “Companies have been forced to come in with more richness and customer development, a clear path to revenue, a lot more of a strategic approach around the core mechanics of the business and more specifically the business model.”

Sarah Guo, general partner at Greylock, also has high expectations for founders.

#column, #coronavirus, #corporate-finance, #covid-19, #entrepreneur, #entrepreneurship, #founder, #rahul-vohra, #startups, #superhuman, #tc, #venture-capital

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Austin-based EmPath’s employee training and re-skilling service snags seed funding from B Capital

By the time Felix Ortiz III left the Army in 2006, the Brooklyn, NY native had spent time taking classes at the City University of New York and St. John’s. Those experiences led him to found ViridisLearning, which aimed to give universities a better way to track student development to help graduates land jobs.

Now he’s taken the learnings of that attempt to reshape education into the corporate world and raised over $1 million in financing from investors including B Capital, the investment firm launched jointly by the Boston Consulting Group and Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin, and Subversive Capital.

The goal of Ortiz’s newest startup, EmPath, is to provide corporate employees with a clear picture of their current skills based on the work they’re already doing at a company and give them a roadmap to up-skilling and educational opportunities that could land them a better, higher paying job.

The company has an initial customer in AT&T, which has rolled out its services across its entire organization, according to Ortiz.

From starting out in a shared apartment in Brooklyn’s Sunset Park, Ortiz’s family history took a turn as his father became assistant speaker of the house in New York’s legislature and his mother operated a mental health clinic in the city.

When Ortiz enlisted in the Army at 17, he continued to pursue his education, and served as a Judge Advocate General for the Army at Fort Bragg in North Carolina. From there, Ortiz launched his first education venture, a failed startup that attempted to teach skills for renewable energy jobs online. The Green University may no longer exist, but it was the young entrepreneur’s first foray into education.

A road that would continue with ViridisLearning and lead to the launch of EmPath.

Along the way, Ortiz enlisted the help of an experienced developer in the online education space — Adam Blum.

The creator of OpenEd, the largest educational open resource catalog online, which used machine learning to infer skills from the online activity of children, and the founder of Auger.ai, a toolkit to bring machine learning and predictive modeling to skill development, Blum immediately saw the opportunity EmPath presented.

“Inferring skills for employees using their corporate digital footprint and inferring those skills for potential jobs… where you identified skill gaps using inferred skills for courses to suggest remedial resources to plug education gaps,” just makes sense, Blum said. “It was a much more powerful vision.”

Blum still holds an equity stake in Auger.ai, but considers the work he’s doing with EmPath as the company’s chief technology officer to be his full time job now. “Building this out with felix was more exciting in terms of the impact it would have,” Blum said. 

EmPath already is fully deployed with AT&T and will be adding three Fortune 1,000 companies as customers by the end of the month, according to Ortiz.

The young startup also has a powerful and well-connected supporter in Carlos Gutierrez, the former chief executive officer of Kellogg, and the Secretary of Commerce in the George W. Bush White House.

“Lacking a college degree throughout my career, I had to develop my own skills to enable my climb up the corporate ladder. The technology didn’t exist to help guide me, but in today’s world, professionals should not have to upskill blindly,” said former Commerce Secretary and EmPath co-founder Carlos Gutierrez, in a statement. “We created a technology platform that can help transform an organization’s culture by empowering employees and strengthening talent development. This technology was a game changer even before the Covid-19 pandemic, and now that corporate budgets are tighter, it is even more important for companies to accelerate skills development and talent growth.” 

#army, #articles, #att, #b-capital, #bush, #business, #chief-executive-officer, #chief-technology-officer, #co-founder, #economy, #eduardo-saverin, #entrepreneurship, #facebook, #founder, #machine-learning, #north-carolina, #private-equity, #skill, #startup, #startup-company, #tc, #white-house

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Founded by an Impossible Foods, and Google data scientist, Climax Foods raises $7.5 million to tackle the cheesiest market

Oliver Zahn began his professional career studying the stars. The founder of Climax Foods, a startup that’s using data science to replace animal proteins with plant-based substitutes, spent years at the University of California at Berkeley with his eyes fixed firmly toward the heavens before taking up with Pat Brown and Impossible Foods as the company’s leading data scientist.

That experience focused Zahn on more terrestrial concerns and undoubtedly led the founder down the path to launching Climax Foods.

Now with $7.5 million in financing from investors including At One Ventures, founded by the GoogleX co-founder Tom Chi, along with Manta Ray Ventures, S2G Ventures, Valor Siren Ventures, Prelude Ventures, ARTIS Ventures, Index Ventures, Luminous Ventures, Canaccord Genuity Group, Carrot Capital and Global Founders Capital, Zahn is ready to take on the future of food.

The pitch to investors is similar to the one that Josh Tetrick made at Just Food (the company formerly known as Hampton Creek). It’s elegant in its simplicity — scan the natural world for proteins that have the same or better characteristics than those that are currently made by animals and make products with them.

By looking at what makes animal products so delicious, the company will find their plant-based analogs and start producing.

As with most things that depend on data science, the taxonomy is the key. So Climax Foods is building machine learning algorithms that will process and cross-reference molecular structures to find the best fit. It’s starting with cheese.

While, the replacing the humble wheel of cheese may not seem like a worthy adversary for an astrophysicist, companies have already raised hundreds of millions to defeat the big dairy industry.

“We are at a pivotal time where industrialization enabled explosive population growth and consumption of animal products. Today, more than 90% of all mammalian animals and more than 70% of all birds on the planet exist for the sole purpose of metabolizing plants and being turned into food,” said Zahn in a statement. “This industry is complex and wasteful, creating as much climate change as all modes of transportation combined, and using more than a third of the earth’s water and usable land. By speeding up food science innovation, Climax Foods is able to convert plants into equally craveable foods without the environmental impact.”

Joining Zahn on this quest to conquer the cheese industrial complex and its milk-made monstrousness are a few seasoned industry veterans including co-founder, Caroline Love, the company’s chief operating officer and former sales and operations executive from JUST foods, and Pavel Aronov, a Stanford-educated chemist who previously worked at the chemicals giant thermo-Fisher.

“Climax Foods is tackling the same opportunity to change the market and the food system, but they are doing it with an entirely novel technological approach. They are using data science to produce a new category of foods that will not merely compete with, but out-compete, animal products in terms of taste, nutritional density, and price,” said Sanjeev Krishnan, one of the largest investors in the plant protein space and Chief Investment Officer of S2G Ventures. “The machine intelligence approach Climax Foods is pioneering is critical for harnessing the vast number of ways raw ingredients and natural processes can be used to create the ultimate digital recipes.”

Krishnan would know. He’s an investor in Beyond Meat, the most successful public offering of a plant-based protein replacement company.

#beyond-meat, #california, #chemicals, #chief-operating-officer, #co-founder, #executive, #food, #food-and-drink, #founder, #global-founders-capital, #hampton-creek, #impossible-foods, #josh-tetrick, #just, #luminous-ventures, #manta-ray-ventures, #meat-substitutes, #prelude-ventures, #protein, #s2g-ventures, #stanford, #tc, #thermo-fisher, #university-of-california, #valor-siren-ventures

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Talking virtual events and Disrupt with Hopin founder Johnny Boufarhat

Register now to attend the event on 8/6 at 10 a.m. PDT. Registered attendees will have the opportunity to ask questions via Slido.

Next in our series of talks with virtual event masterminds, we’ll be meeting with Johnny Boufarhat, founder of virtual events platform, Hopin, about the virtual venue we’re developing together for Disrupt

Hopin was founded in 2007 with the aim to help organizers recreate the in-person event experience virtually. So far, it’s hosted events with partners including the U.N. and Dell. In June of this year, Hopin announced that it had raised a $40 million Series A led by IVP. 

In our discussion with Johnny, we will cover topics including: how COVID-19 has accelerated the demand for virtual events, his perspective on virtual venues, the Disrupt virtual venue, the attendee experience, the partner experience, how sponsors can leverage the event and what the future of events might look like. If you’re interested in attending, becoming a sponsor or learning more about Disrupt, this is for you.

Register now!

Next up:

7/30 at 10 a.m. PDT: Grip CEO, co-founder Tim Groot on Virtual Event networking

In addition to our talk with Johnny next week, we’re hosting a session today at 10 a.m. PDT with Tim Groot, the founder of the AI- driven event networking solution, Grip, that we will use to power Disrupt (register here).

8/13 at 10 a.m. PDT: Slido CEO, co-founder Peter Komorník

Join us for a conversation with the founder of Slido, the company we will use to power engagement at Disrupt. More on this soon!

#artificial-intelligence, #dell, #events, #founder, #groot, #tc, #united-nations

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As venture firms struggle with diversity, the Kauffman Foundation is grooming candidates to help

Recognizing the need for a more diverse venture capital industry, the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation is looking to take steps to train its most diverse class of would-be investors and is adding to its board to foreground diversity and inclusion going forward, the non-profit said today.

A longtime resource for startup founders and the venture capital industry and a voice for bringing the tools of venture investment to a broader national stage, the Kauffman Foundation is  bringing diversity to its boardroom with the appointment of Marlon Nichols as one of the organization’s newest directors. Nichols, a founder of MaC Venture Capital, joins Melissa Richlen, who heads up limited partner investments in private equity and vneture capital for the MacArthur Foundation, and Allen Taylor whose work at Endeavor and Endeavor Catalyst is focused on investing in entrepreneurs in undercapitalized markets in the US and around the world.

“This organization is taking diversity very seriously and it’s starting from the top down. The board is now 25% Black and 38% women. And the new class of Kauffman Fellows is the most diverse class in the twenty five year history of the program,” said Nichols. 

A graduate of the Foundation’s program, Nichols said that the new emphasis on diversity will help to get more new fund managers exposure to a network of dealmakers and potential limited partners.

“It’s setting them up for longevity in the industry so as those funds grow, they’re going to grow from a diverse base, and that foundation in diversity will lead to investments in more diverse founders,” said Nichols. “Instead of setting up a committee to talk about diversity, [the Foundation] is pulling them into the game and setting them up by giving them the resources to succeed in the game.”

The twenty fifth class of Kauffman Fellows is also the most diverse cohort the foundation has assembled. Out of 61 fellows 41 percent are women and 49 percent are people of color, while 11 percent are underrepresented minorities.

“Since our inception, we have believed that in order to best understand the world’s challenges and continue to catalyze innovation, the future of the VC industry must be diverse and more reflective of society as a whole. This has been at the core of the Kauffman Fellows mission, and it started with an extremely diverse group of Fellows in our charter class 25 years ago,” the Foundation said in a statement. “Over the years, we have measured the importance of a trusted diverse network and how it impacts the success and longevity of the best investors in the industry. Research has shown that Kauffman Fellows not only have larger returns than the industry average, but they stay in the industry 15+ years post-fellowship, which is 2X the minimum number of years it takes to recognize success in venture capital.”

#diversity, #economy, #endeavor, #finance, #founder, #kauffman-foundation, #mac-venture-capital, #marlon-nichols, #money, #tc, #united-states, #venture-capital

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Bit Bio’s “enter button for the keyboard to the software of life” nabs the company $41.5 million

Bit Bio, the new startup which pitches itself as the “enter button for the keyboard to the software of life” only needed three weeks to raise its latest $41.5 million round of funding.

Originally known as Elpis Biotechnology and named for the Greek goddess of hope, the Cambridge, England-based company was founded by Mark Kotter in 2016 to commercialize technology that can reduce the cost and increase the production capacity for human cell lines. These cells can be used in targeted gene therapies and as a method to accelerate drug discovery at pharmaceutical companies.

The company’s goal is to be able to reproduce every human cell type.

“We’re just at a very crucial time in biology and medicine and the bottleneck that has become really clear is a scalable source of robust human cells,” said Kotter. “For drug discovery this is important. When you look at failure rates in clinical trials they’re at an all time high… that’s in direct contradiction to the massive advancements in biotechnology in research and the field.”

In the seventeen years since scientists completely mapped the human genome, and eight years since scientists began using the gene editing technology known as CRISPR to edit genetic material, there’s been an explosion of treatments based on individual patient’s genetic material and new drugs developed to more precisely target the mechanisms that pathogens use to spread through organisms.

These treatments and the small molecule drugs being created to stop the spread of pathogens or reduce the effects of disease require significant testing before coming to market — and Bit Bio’s founder thinks his company can both reduce the time to market and offer new treatments for patients.

It’s a thesis that had investors like the famous serial biotech entrepreneur, Richard Klausner, who served as the former director of the National Cancer Institute and founder of revolutionary biotech companies like Lyell Immunopharma, Juno, and Grail, leaping at the chance to invest in Bit Bio’s business, according to Kotter.

Joining Klausner are the famous biotech investment firms Foresite Capital, Blueyard Capital and Arch Venture Partners.

“Bit Bio is based on beautiful science. The company’s technology has the potential to bring the long-awaited precision and reliability of engineering to the application of stem cells,” said Klausner in a statement. “Bit Bio’s approach represents a paradigm shift in biology that will enable a new generation of cell therapies, improving the lives of millions.”

Photo: Andrew Brookes/Getty Images

Kotter’s own path to develop the technology which lies at the heart of Bit Bio’s business began a decade ago in a laboratory in Cambridge University. It was there that he began research building on the revolutionary discoveries of Shinya Yamanaka, which enabled scientists to transform human adult cells into embryonic stem cells.

“What we did is what Yamanaka did. We turned everything upside down. We want to know how each cell is defined… and once we know that we can flip the switch,” said Kotter. “We find out which transcription factors code for a single cell and we turn it on.”

Kotter said the technology is like uploading a new program into the embryonic stem cell.

Although the company is still in its early days, it has managed to attract a few key customers and launch a sister company based on the technology. That company, Meatable, is using the same process to make lab-grown pork.

Meatable is the earliest claimant to a commercially viable, patented process for manufacturing meat cells without the need to kill an animal as a prerequisite for cell differentiation and growth.

Other companies have relied on fetal bovine serum or Chinese hamster ovaries to stimulate cell division and production, but Meatable says it has developed a process where it can sample tissue from an animal, revert that tissue to a pluripotent stem cell, then culture that cell sample into muscle and fat to produce the pork products that palates around the world crave.

“We know which DNA sequence is responsible for moving an early-stage cell to a muscle cell,” says Meatable chief executive Krijn De Nood.

If that sounds similar to Bit Bio, that’s because it’s the same tech — just used to make animal instead of human cells.

Image: PASIEKA/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY/Getty Images

If Meatable is one way to commercialize the cell differentiation technology, Bit Bio’s partnership with the drug development company Charles River Laboratories is another.

“We actually do have a revenue generating business side using human cells for research and drug discovery. We have a partnership with Charles River Laboratories the large preclinical contract research organization,” Kotter said. “That partnership is where we have given early access to our technology to Charles River… They have their own usual business clients who want them to help with their drug discovery. The big bottleneck at the moment is access to human cells.”

Drug trials fail because the treatments developed either are toxic or don’t work in humans. The difference is that most experiments to prove how effective the treatments are rely on animal testing before making the leap to human trials, Kotter said.

The company is also preparing to develop its own cell therapies, according to Kotter. There, the biggest selling point is the increased precision that  Bit Bio can bring to precision medicine, said Kotter. “If you look at these cell therapies at the moment you get mixed bags of cells. There are some that work and some that have dangerous side effects. We think we can be precise [and] safety is the biggest thing at this point.”

The company claims that it can produce cell lines in less than a week with 100 percent purity, versus the mixed bags from other companies cell cultures.

“Our moonshot goal is to develop a platform capable of producing every human cell type. This is possible once we understand the genes governing human cell behaviour, which ultimately form the ‘operating system of life’,” Kotter said in a statement. “This will unlock a new generation of cell and tissue therapies for tackling cancer, neurodegenerative disorders and autoimmune diseases and accelerate the development of effective drugs for a range of conditions. The support of leading deep tech and biotech investors will catalyse this unique convergence of biology and engineering.”

 

#arch-venture-partners, #biology, #biotechnology, #blueyard-capital, #cambridge-university, #cancer, #crispr, #director, #disease, #drug-development, #drug-discovery, #foresite-capital, #founder, #grail, #juno, #life-sciences, #meatable, #operating-system, #stem-cells, #tc, #united-kingdom

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With $84 million in new cash, Commonwealth Fusion is on track for a demonstration fusion reactor by 2025

Commonwealth Fusion Systems closed on its latest $84 million in new funding two weeks ago. The U.S. was still very much in the lockdown phase and getting a deal done, especially a multi-million dollar investment in a new technology aiming to make commercial nuclear fusion a reality after decades of hype, was “an interesting thing” in the words of Commonwealth’s chief executive, Bob Mumgaard. 

It was actually one time when the technical complexity of what Commonwealth Fusion is trying to achieve and the longterm horizon for the company’s first test technology was a benefit instead of an obstacle, Mumgaard said. 

We’re in a unique position where it’s still something that’s far enough in the future that any of the recovery models are not going to affect the underlying needs that the world still has a giant climate problem,” he said. 

Commonwealth Fusion Systems purports to be one solution to that problem. The company is using technology developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to leapfrog the current generation of nuclear fusion reactors currently under development (there are, in fact, several nuclear fusion reactors currently under development) and bring a waste-free energy source to industrial customers within the next ten years.

Commonwealth Fusion Systems core innovation was the development of a high power superconducting magnet that could theoretically be used to create the conditions necessary for a sustained fusion reaction. The reactor uses hydrogen isotopes that are kept under conditions of extreme pressure using these superconducting magnets to sustain the reaction and contain the energy that’s generated from the reaction. Designs for reactors require their hydrogen fuel source to be heated to tens of millions of degrees.

The design that Commonwealth is pursuing is akin to the massive, multi-decade International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) project that’s currently being completed in France. Begun under the Reagan Administration in the eighties, as a collaboration between the U.S., the Soviet Union, various European nations and Japan. Over the years, membership in the project expanded to include India, South Korea, and China.

While the ITER project also expects to flip the switch on its reactor in 2025, the cost has been dramatically higher — totaling well over $14 billion dollars. The project, which began construction in 2013, will also represent a much longer timeframe to completion compared with the schedule that Commonwealth has set for itself.

Picture taken on January 17, 2013 in Saint-Paul-les-Durance, southern France shows the model of the reactor of the future International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) . The International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (Iter), based at the French Atomic Energy Commission (CEA) research center of Cadarache in Saint-Paul-lès-Durance, was set up by the EU, which has a 45 percent share, China, India, South Korea, Japan, Russia and the US to research a clean and limitless alternative to dwindling fossil fuel reserves. AFP PHOTO / GERARD JULIEN (Photo credit should read GERARD JULIEN/AFP via Getty Images)

“We have set off to build what has been our big goal all along, which is to build the full scale demonstration magnet… we’re in the act of building that,” said Mumgaard. “We’ll turn that on next year.”

Upon completion, Commonwealth Fusion Systems will have built a ten-ton magnet that has the magnetic force equivalent to twenty MRI machines, said Mumgaard. “After we get the magnet to work, we’ll be building a machine that will generate more power than it takes to run. We see that as the Kitty Hawk moment,” for fusion, he said.

Other startup companies are also racing to bring technologies to market and hit the 2025 timeline. They include the Canadian company General Fusion and the United Kingdom’s Tokamak Energy.

Within the next six to eight months, Commonwealth Energy hopes to have a site selected for its first demonstration reactor.

Financing the company’s most recent developments are a slew of investors new and old who have committed over $200 million to the company, which formally launched in 2018.

The round was led by Temasek with participation from new investors Equinor, a multinational energy company, and Devonshire Investors, the private equity group affiliated with FMR LLC, the parent company of Fidelity Investments.

Current investors including the Bill Gates-backed Breakthrough Energy Ventures; MIT’s affiliated investment fund, The Engine; the Italian energy firm ENI Next LLC; and venture investors like Future Ventures, Khosla Ventures; Moore Strategic Ventures, Safar Partners LLC, Schooner Capital, and Starlight Ventures also participated. 

“We are investing in fusion and CFS because we believe in the technology and the company, and we remain committed to providing energy to the world, now and in a low carbon future,” said Sophie Hildebrand, Chief Technology Officer and Senior Vice President for Research and Technology at Equinor, in a statement.

The company said it would use the new financing to continue developing its technology which would offer fusion power plants, fusion engineering services, and HTS magnets to customers. Funding will also be used to support business development initiatives for other applications of the company’s proprietary HTS magnets, the key component to its SPARC reactor, which also has various other commercial uses, the company said. 

Helping the cause, and potentially accelerating the timelines for many fusion players is a new initiative from the federal government that could see government dollars go to support construction of new facilities. The Department of Energy recently released a request for information (RFI) on potential cost share programs for the development of nuclear fusion reactors in the U.S.

Modeled after the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services program which brought the world SpaceX, Blue Origin, and other U.S. private space companies, a cost-sharing program for fusion development could accelerate the development of low-cost, pollution free fusion reactors across the U.S.

“The COTS program transitioned the space industry from ‘Here’s a government dictated space sector’ to a vibrant commercial launch industry,” said Mumgaard.

One investor who’s seen the value of public private partnerships to spur commercial innovation is Steve Jurvetson, the founder of Future Ventures, and a backer of Commonwealth Fusion Systems. Jurvetson acknowledged the necessity of fusion investment for the future of the energy industry.

“Fusion energy is an investment in our future that offers an important path toward combating climate change. Our continued investment in CFS fits strongly within our mission as we seek long-term solutions to address the world’s energy challenges,” said Steve Jurvetson, Managing Director and Founder, Future Ventures.

#blue-origin, #breakthrough-energy-ventures, #china, #department-of-energy, #devonshire-investors, #energy, #energy-industry, #federal-government, #fidelity-investments, #founder, #france, #fusion-power, #future-ventures, #india, #japan, #khosla-ventures, #kitty-hawk, #massachusetts-institute-of-technology, #mri, #nuclear-fusion, #physics, #plasma-physics, #private-equity, #south-korea, #spacex, #sparc, #steve-jurvetson, #superconductivity, #tc, #temasek, #united-kingdom, #united-states

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With an ex-Uber exec as its new CEO, digital mental health service Mindstrong raises $100 million

Daniel Graf has had a long career in the tech industry. From founding his own startup in the mid-2000s to working at Google, then Twitter, and finally Uber, the tech business has made him extremely wealthy.

But after leaving Uber, he wasn’t necessarily interested in working at another business… at least, not until he spent an afternoon in the spring of 2019 with an old friend, General Catalyst managing director Hemant Taneja, walking in San Francisco’s South Park neighborhood and hearing Taneja talk about a new startup called Mindstrong Health.

Taneja told Graf that by the fall of that year, he’d be working at Mindstrong… and Taneja was right.

“I was intrigued by healthtech previously,” said Graf. “The problem always was… and it sounds a little too money-oriented… but if there’s no clear visibility around who pays who in a startup, the startup isn’t going to work,” and that was always his issue with healthcare businesses. 

NEW YORK, NY – MAY 21: Daniel Graf accepts a Webby award for Google Maps for iPhone at the 17th Annual Webby Awards at Cipriani Wall Street on May 21, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for The Webby Awards)

With Mindstrong, which announced today that it has raised $100 million in new financing, the issue of who pays is clear.

So Graf joined the company in November as chief executive, taking over from Paul Dagum, who remains with Mindstrong as its chief scientific officer.

“Daniel joined the company as it was moving from pure R&D into being something commercially available,” said Taneja, in an email. “In healthcare, it’s increasingly important to understand how to build for the consumer and that’s where Daniel’s experience and background comes in. Paul remains a core part of the team because none of this happens without the science.”

The company, which has developed a digital platform for providing therapy to patients with severe mental illnesses ranging from schizophrenia to obsessive compulsive disorders, is looking to tackle a problem that costs the American healthcare system $20 billion per month, Graf said.

Unlike companies like Headspace and Calm, which have focused on the mental wellness market for the mass consumer, Mindstrong is focused on people with severe mental health conditions, said Graf. That means people who are either bipolar, schizophrenic or have major depressive disorder.

It’s a much larger population than most Americans think, and they face a critical problem in their ability to receive adequate care, Graf said.

“1 in 5 adults experience mental illness, 1 in 25 experience serious mental illness, and the pandemic is making these numbers worse. Meanwhile, more than 60% of US counties don’t have a single practicing psychiatrist,” said Joe Lonsdale, the founder of 8VC, and an investor in the latest Mindstrong Health round, in a statement.  

Dagum, Mindstrong Health’s founder, has been working on the issue of how to provide better access and monitoring for indications of potential episodes of distress since 2013. The company’s technology provides a range of monitoring and measurement tools using digital biomarkers that are currently being validated through clinical trials, according to Graf.

“We’re passively measuring the usage of the phone and the timing of the keyboard strokes to measure how [a patient] is doing,” Graf said. These smartphone interactions can provide data around mental acuity and emotional valence, according to Graf — and can provide signs that someone might be having problems.

The company also provides access to therapists via phone and video consultations or text-based asynchronous communications, based on user preference.

“Think of us more as a virtual hospital… our care pathways are super complex for this population,” said Graf. “We’re not aware of other startups working with this population. These folks, the best you get right now is the county mental health.”

Mindstrong’s Series C raise included participation from new and existing investors, including General Catalyst, ARCH Ventures, Optum Ventures, Foresite Capital, 8VC, What If Ventures and Bezos Expeditions, along with other, undisclosed investors.  

And while mental health is the company’s current focus, the platform for care delivery that the company is building has broader implications for the industry, especially in the wake of the COVID-19 epidemic, according to Taneja.

“I expect that we’ll see discoveries in biomarker tech like Mindstrong’s that could be applied horizontally across almost any area of healthcare,” Taneja said in an email. “Because healthcare is so broad and varied, going vertical like Mindstrong is makes a lot of sense. There’s opportunity to become a successful and very impactful company by staying narrowly focused and solving some really hard problems for even a smaller part of the overall population.”

#8vc, #bezos-expeditions, #catalyst, #daniel-graf, #finance, #foresite-capital, #founder, #general-catalyst, #google, #headspace, #health, #hemant-taneja, #investment, #joe-lonsdale, #mental-health, #mindstrong, #mindstrong-health, #optum, #optum-ventures, #recent-funding, #san-francisco, #schizophrenia, #smartphone, #startup-company, #startups, #tc, #uber, #united-states

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mike Lobanov, General Partner and COO at Target Global said: “At Target Global we are great believers in the SME segment… The team of exceptional entrepreneurs standing behind Finom shares our view, and has already built a new standard for offering financial services to SMEs.”

Although Target Global is headquartered in Berlin, it has more than €700m in assets under management, with offices in London, Tel Aviv and Barcelona. Poortfolio includes companies such as Auto1, Delivery Hero, Omio (formerly GoEuro), TravelPerk, Rapyd and WeFox.

#banking, #barcelona, #berlin, #challenger-banks, #co-founder, #coo, #countingup, #delivery-hero, #europe, #european-union, #financial-management, #financial-services, #fj-labs, #founder, #france, #general-catalyst, #germany, #goeuro, #italy, #london, #omio, #penta, #qonto, #rapyd, #russia, #target-global, #tc, #techcrunch, #tel-aviv, #travelperk, #united-kingdom, #wefox

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Los Angeles-based Frame launches mental health gateway for a pandemic-stricken generation

The story behind Frame, the startup aiming to be the nation’s gateway into the world of therapy and mental wellness, seems like a tailor-made story of American entrepreneurial success.

Its co-founders, Kendall Bird and Sage Grazer, ran their first business in the Pacific Palisades neighborhood of Los Angeles years ago, selling out their entire inventory of lemonade to a captive audience of eager parents.

Years later, after Grazer graduated from Columbia and embarked on a career as a therapist, and Bird, a longtime proponent of therapy since her teens, had moved on to a job at the LA-based social media giant, Snap, the two reunited.

Frame was born from their shared belief that therapy was a tool that could be harnessed by every American for self-improvement and self-care, and that providing a window into the breadth of problems that therapy could address would be a way to popularize the process.

Frame aims to do both. Like SonderMind, another startup which raised a pile of cash recently, the company offers services matching therapists with patients on the front-end and providing a billing and telemedicine solution for mental health practitioners on the back-end.

But it also has another component — a recorded “workshop” between a therapist and a patient or a tutorial to illustrate the kinds of services that a patient could receive from therapy or explain what different conditions may be. These discussions and lessons — which the company emphasizes are not therapy sessions — are meant to frame how potential customers could view the types of things they could talk about with their therapists.

The workshops for us are a way for a larger audience to open up their minds and understand the different topics that they can cover,” says Bird.

Scene from a Frame workshop.

The goal is to give a millennial audience a window into how therapy works in an effort to popularize and de-stigmatize the process.

If there’s one thing that Bird knows, it’s how to reach a millennial audience. The former Snap product marketing executive was with the company through its public offering and now serves as one of a small cohort of former Snap employees that are beginning to launch their own companies — building on the success, and wealth that Snap’s public offering afforded them.

“There was no brand that was representing what it means to be a modern therapy goer and that’s why we started Frame,” says Bird. 

The company is launching today with around 12 videos of the pseudo-sessions with therapists and a small pilot matching program for the 100 therapists it counts on its roster of service providers.

Given that the company’s approach to its sessions straddles the line between therapy and entertainment, it was important to find therapists that would work well on camera for its workshops, said Bird.

“We really focused in on therapists that are really passionate about what they do and ones that felt more comfortable being on camera and adapting to this because it’s not therapy,” says Bird.  

Frame, which the two co-founders began building nearly a year ago, was hoping to have a bit more real estate to support its launch, but like other companies including Real, Silver Health, the European startup, Mindler, and even the sexual health focused startups like Hims, the company accelerated its launch in an effort to respond to the mental health needs stemming from the COVID-19 epidemic.

Much of this is predicated on virtual non-therapy sessions that Hims and Hers are calling discussions and that Real calls “Group Salons” and “Group Events”.

For Frame, building its library of recorded non-sessions required pre-recording thirty to forty sessions with volunteers — many pulled from the Snap community, according to Bird.

And the Snap community has also rallied to back the company. Imran Khan, the former Snap executive, is a seed investor along with several others from the company.

Another backer is Founders Capital, the New York-based accelerator that’s backed by Johnson and Johnson and other corporations to find new startups that fit within strategic areas of interest.

“There are over 700,000 behavioral healthcare professionals in the United States, yet 80% of millennials with mental health concerns never expect to receive treatment,” wrote Frame seed investor and founder of Struck Capital, Adam Struck, in an email. “We see an opportunity for Frame to make therapy more approachable for the millions who could benefit from access to high-quality mental health resources, building a valuable business that helps create a healthier society.”

#articles, #columbia, #executive, #founder, #health, #hims, #imran-khan, #johnson, #los-angeles, #louisiana, #mental-health, #new-york, #snap, #sondermind, #struck-capital, #tc, #telemedicine, #therapist, #therapy, #united-states

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Aspen Neuroscience raises $70 million for its experimental Parkinson Disease treatment

Since 2012, Dr. Jeanne Loring, the founder of the eponymous Loring Lab at Scripps Research, has been thinking about how to use pluripotent stem cells as a potential treatment for Parkinson Disease.

Now, eight years later, Aspen Neuroscience, the company she founded to bring her research to market has raised $70 million in funding and is set to begin clinical trials.

Roughly 60,000 Americans are diagnosed with Parkinson disease, which destroys parts of the brain responsible for motor function. The disease causes a debilitating loss of movement as a result of the degradation of a specific type of neuron in the brain responsible for the production of dopamine — a chemical that facilitates the brain’s control of mood and movement.

Aspen’s experimental treatment takes skin cells from patients who already have Parkinson’s disease and converts those cells into pluripotent stem cells using the technique that won Shinya Yamanaka and John Gurdon the Nobel Prize for medicine back in 2012.

It was Yamanaka’s discovery that in some ways served as a trigger for the work that Loring and Aspen’s chief executive officer Dr. Howard Federoff would be bringing to market eight years later.

Other cell replacement therapies for Parkinson’s had run into difficulties because patient’s bodies would reject the introduction of foreign neurons — in much the same way that organ transplants are sometimes unsuccessful because a host rejects the foreign tissue.

Aspen’s technology uses the host’s own tissue to develop the stem cells that will become the basis for treatment. A patient who carries a diagnosis of Parkinsons would be consented to give a biopsy and the tissue collected is then placed in a cell culture. The cells are then converted into pluripotent stem cells through the introduction of an inert viral RNA that recodes the cell structure.

Those pluripotent stem cells are then converted into neurons that are then transplanted into a patient to replace the ones that Parkinson’s disease has destroyed.

Federoff and Loring have known each other for years, and when the former vice chancellor for health affairs at the University of California, Irvine heard what Loring and her team was working on he stepped down to join her company as chief executive.

Federoff previously founded MedGenesis Therapeutix, another privately held company working on a treatment for Parkinsons. “Much of what we do for Parkinsons and the extant gene therapy is stabilizing the disease,” says Federoff. “Cells of fibroblasts help to dial the clock back.”

The key is the use of autologous cells — those collected from the same individual that will receive the transplant, says Federoff.

Aspen’s novel approach was compelling enough to win the support of longtime healthcare investors including OrbiMed, ARCH Venture Partners, Frazier Healthcare Partners, Domain Associates, Section 32, and former Y Combinator President, Sam Altman.

Following the new round, Aspen is significantly expanding its board of directors to include Faheem Hasnain, the founder of Gossamer Bio who’s taking the chairman role at Aspen; Tom Daniel a venture partner at ARCH Ventures, and Peter Thompson, a partner at OrbiMed.

Aspen’s first product is currently undergoing investigational new drug (IND)-enabling studies for the treatment of sporadic forms of Parkinson disease, the company said. Its second product uses gene correction and neuron therapy to try to treat genetic forms of Parkinson disease. 

According to the company, the financing will support the completion of all remaining investigational studies and FDA submission of the studies relating to the company’s lead product. In addition, the financing will support data collection from a Phase 1 clinical trial and the expansion into Phase 2 randomized studies.

#arch-venture-partners, #biology, #biotechnology, #founder, #parkinsons-disease, #sam-altman, #stem-cells, #tc, #university-of-california, #y-combinator

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