BlaBlaCar raises $115 million to build all-in-one travel app

French startup BlaBlaCar has raised a new $115 million funding round (€97 million). While the company is better known for its long distance carpooling marketplace, BlaBlaCar has also added a bus marketplace with the acquisition of Ouibus and an online bus ticketing platform with the acquisition of Busfor.

Existing investor VNV Global is leading the round. Two new investors are also participating — Otiva J/F AB and FMZ Ventures. Otiva J/F AB is a fund created by Avito founders Jonas Nordlander and Filip Engelbert. If you’re not familiar with Avito, they specialize in classified ads for the Russian market. Classified giant and global tech investor Naspers acquired Avito. As for FMZ Ventures, it’s a growth fund created by Michael Zeisser, who previously led investments for Alibaba and was a board member at Lyft and Tripadvisor.

It’s a convertible note, which means that the valuation will depend on the next financial event, such as another fundraising round or an initial public offering. But BlaBlaCar co-founder and CEO Nicolas Brusson consider it as a “pre-IPO convertible” round as BlaBlaCar still has a ton of cash on its bank account.

“We already had a lot of cash before this round and we still have more than €200 million in cash following this funding round,” Brusson told me.

Even if BlaBlaCar doesn’t go public right away (or doesn’t raise), there’s a clause with a time frame. After a while, those $115 million will convert into BlaBlaCar shares at a $2 billion valuation in case there’s no financial event.

BlaBlaCar’s strategy and goal with today’s funding round could be summed up with three pillars — carpooling, buses and aggregation.

Let’s start with carpooling, BlaBlaCar’s core business. The company started 15 years ago with a simple goal — matching empty car seats with passengers going in the same direction. While last year’s lockdown has impacted carpooling, it shouldn’t be compared with trains or flights.

“With our carpooling network, there’s no fixed costs,” Brusson said. So BlaBlaCar isn’t paying to put empty cars on the road as everything is community-powered. But, of course, as BlaBlaCar takes a cut from each transaction, revenue took a hit during last year’s lockdown.

Activity bounced back last summer and it’s been up and down ever since depending on current restrictions. “Car is and will be the universal connector that doesn’t rely on train stations or bus stops,” Brusson said.

The carpooling marketplace will always remain a strong revenue generator. In 2020 alone, BlaBlaCar had 50 million passengers across 22 markets overall. In other words, never bet against carpooling.

For the past few years, BlaBlaCar’s second pillar has been buses. In particular, buses represent a huge opportunity in emerging markets and Eastern Europe.

There are already a ton of buses on the road, you simply can’t buy tickets online. BlaBlaCar’s total addressable market in this category is huge and the company is mostly focused on moving offline supply to its online marketplace.

That’s why the company is also acquiring Octobus, a Ukrainian company working on an inventory management system for bus supply. “It consolidates our tech stack in the region,” Brusson said.

Finally, BlaBlaCar’s third pillar is all about creating loyal users that keep coming back to the platform. The company wants to build a multimodal app where you can find all shared travel — carpooling, buses and soon trains.

The startup will add train operators on its marketplace by the end of 2021 or early 2022. I asked Brusson whether he wanted to build an Omio competitor. Formerly known as GoEuro, Omio lets you book train tickets, bus tickets and flights on a single platform.

BlaBlaCar wants to follow a different strategy. It wants to focus first on a handful of countries so that it can sell everything a local would expect.

Eventually, you could imagine opening the BlaBlaCar app to find the best way to go from A to B. It could involve a train ticket followed by a carpooling ride to reach a tiny town. Or it could mix carpooling with bus rides. Thanks to BlaBlaCar’s reach, the French startup is uniquely positioned to connect two small cities through shared transportation.

#blablacar, #bus, #carpooling, #europe, #france, #france-newsletter, #fundings-exits, #startups, #transportation

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Feels is a new dating app with profiles that look more personal

Meet Feels, a new French startup that wants to change how dating apps work. According to the company, scrolling through photos and reading descriptions tend to be a boring experience. Feels want to improve profiles so that navigating the app feels more like watching TikTok videos or browsing stories.

“For the past 10 years, there’s been little innovation in the industry,” co-founder and CEO Daniel Cheaib told me. “The reason why many people uninstall dating apps is that it’s boring. Profiles all look the same and we feel like we’re browsing a catalog.”

In that case, Cheaib is thinking about Tinder, but also other dating apps that feel like Tinder but aren’t exactly Tinder, such as Bumble, Happn, etc.

Feels’ founding team has spent two years iterating on the app to find out what works and what doesn’t. Now that retention metrics are where they’re supposed to be, the company is now ready to launch more widely.

A screenshot of the app Feels

Image Credits: Feels

If you want to show interesting content to your users in a dating app, you have to rethink profiles. Arguably, this has been the most difficult part of the development phase. When you install the app, it takes around 15 minutes to create your profile.

At first, only 30% of new users finished the onboarding process. Now, around 75% of new users reach the end of the signup flow.

So what makes a profile on Feels different? In many ways, a profile looks more like a story, or TikTok posts. Users can record videos, add text and stickers, share photos, answer questions and more.

“When you’re done with the onboarding process, you have consistent profiles with people sharing content about them,” Cheaib said.

Like other dating apps, there are many options when it comes to gender identity — you’re not limited to woman or man. You can then say that you want to see all profiles or just some profiles based on various criteria.

After that, you can look at other profiles. Once again, Feels tries to change the basic interaction of dating apps. Most dating apps require you to swipe left or right, or give a thumbs up or a thumbs down. When you think about it, it’s a binary choice that requires a ton of micro decisions.

Sometimes, you don’t have any strong feelings about someone. Or maybe you just want to go to the next profile. And the fact that you have to triage profiles like this leads to a lot negativity, whether it’s conscious or subconscious — you keep rejecting people, after all.

When you’re looking at a profile on Feels, it fills up your entire screen. Videos start playing, you can see what the person likes and who they are in front of a camera. You can react on some content or you can simply move on by swiping up. There’s no heart or like button.

When the startup thought they finally were going somewhere, they raised a $1.3 million funding round (€1.1 million) from a long list of business angels, such as somebody in Atomico’s business angel program, Blaise Matuidi, Eric Besson, René Ricol, Ricardo Pereira , Yohan Benalouane, Nampalys Mendy, Jean Romain Lhomme, Julien Radic and Jean Michel Chami.

Now, Feels plans to attract new users with organic TikTok posts, some TV ads and more. The company wants to reach one million users by the end of the year with a big focus on France for now. There are 100,000 users right now.

When it comes to monetization, Feels started offering a premium subscription to unlock more features. The company is still iterating on that part.

Feels is just getting started in a crowded and competitive industry. Unlike other companies, Feels has invested heavily in its own product before working on user acquisition and paid installs. It’s an ambitious strategy but it has a lot of potential as it could lead to a truly different dating app.

#apps, #dating, #dating-app, #europe, #feels, #france, #france-newsletter, #mobile, #startups

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Sunday raises $24 million seed round to build a fast restaurant checkout flow

Meet Sunday, a new startup that is going to attract some headlines as it has raised a $24 million seed round at a $140 million post-money valuation. That’s a lot of money for a company that started just a few months ago but that’s because Sunday wants to move quickly.

Sunday is getting noticed because it is founded by Victor Lugger, Tigrane Seydoux and Christine de Wendel — Lugger and Tigrane have been working together for several years as they’re the founders of Big Mamma. Christine de Wendel headed Zalando in France before joining ManoMano as COO.

If you’re not familiar with Big Mamma, they’ve launched a dozen Italian restaurants in France. They also manage La Felicità, the food court at Station F.

Some people love those restaurants because the food is good and it’s relatively affordable. Some people hate it because Big Mamma is also particularly well known for its long queues and the fact that you always feel like you have to eat quickly for the next group. But it’s clear that it’s been working well for the past few years.

Managing Big Mamma during a pandemic led to Sunday, a spin-off company incorporated in the U.S. The restaurant company wanted to offer a way to check the menu and pay without touching anything. Like many restaurants, they put QR codes on the tables to that customers can scan them with their phones and load a website.

But Sunday didn’t stop at the menu as it also connects directly to the cash register system. Sunday supports Oracle Micros, Brinks, Tiller, Zelty, Revo, CashPad, etc. This way, clients can also scan the QR code, check their tab and pay directly from their phone. When they’re done eating, they can pay by themselves, stand up and leave.

After trying Sunday in Big Mamma restaurants, the company saw some encouraging results. 80% of customers chose to pay using the QR code, which means that restaurants saved 15 minutes in wait time on average leading to a better table turnover rate.

And this is key to understanding Sunday. It’s easy to sell a new payment system to a restaurant if it leads to more revenue. Popular restaurants that feel like they’re always looking for empty tables could greatly benefit from Sunday.

It also opens up some new possibilities. For instance, guests can split the bill directly at the table — everyone loads up Sunday and pay. Sunday is based on QR codes right now, but the company isn’t attached to QR codes specifically. You could imagine loading your bill using RFID chips, a tablet, etc.

The vision is clear — Sunday wants to build the Fast Checkout of restaurants. The startup thinks online checkout is going to merge with offline, brick-and-mortar checkout.

Sunday customers don’t pay any monthly subscription fee or setup fee. You only pay processing fees based on usage. And those fees tend to be lower than the card machine you’re currently using.

The startup’s seed round was led by Coatue with New Wave participating. New Wave is a new European seed fund led by Pia d’Iribarne and backed by Xavier Niel. Multiple hospitality and tech investors are also participating.

The idea is to raise a lot of money, sign up a lot of restaurants and take over the market right now while there’s an opportunity during the pandemic. They have hired 40 people already and they’re signing deals with restaurants even though most of them are still closed in Europe.

Sunday isn’t a tech achievement per se — it’s an execution play. The company that can roll out this kind of checkout experience faster than the others is going to take over the market.

When restaurants are going to be open again, you may notice Sunday QR codes in France at Eataly, PNY, Paris Society, Eric Frechon, Groupe Bertrand’s restaurants (Burger King France, Hippopotamus, Groupe Flo…). Similarly, in the U.K., Sunday is partnering with JKS Group (Hoppers, Brigadiers, Gymkhana…), Corbin & King and others. Sunday is also talking with companies in the U.S. and Spain.

Overall, there are more than a thousand restaurants currently adopting Sunday.

“We follow the same model as the one we used when launching restaurants with Big Mamma. Seven years ago, we invested three times more than the others to compress fixed costs and deliver a better product,” Sunday co-founder and CEO Victor Lugger told me.

The startup already has an ambitious product roadmap. Eventually, you could imagine having your own Sunday account that remembers your past bills, tracks your allergies, saves your favorite payment method, etc. Once again, it’ll come down to execution.

#checkout, #ecommerce, #europe, #france-newsletter, #fundings-exits, #payment, #startups, #sunday

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Willo launches its tooth-brushing robot for kids

Are you 100% sure that your children are brushing their teeth properly? A New York-based startup called Willo has been working for several years on a device that should transform the tooth-brushing experience for children.

Willo isn’t a new toothbrush — electric or not. It’s an oral care device that doesn’t look like a toothbrush at all. The startup has worked with dental professionals to start from scratch with oral care in mind.

The device can be quite intimidating when you don’t see it in action as it takes quite a bit of shelf space and you don’t know what you’re supposed to do. But when you see it in action, it looks easier than expected. Willo specifically targets children because they tend to struggle to reach every tooth and brush properly.

Kids are supposed to grab the handle and put the mouthpiece in their mouth. They can start brushing by pressing the button and that’s it. They don’t have to do anything else. The silicone-based mouthpiece also features soft bristles. It starts vibrating in your kid’s mouth when they press the button.

The handle is connected to a bigger home station that contains a water tank with a special rinse liquid. Kids don’t have to use toothpaste and don’t have to rinse their mouth. Everything is handled by the device.

Finally, Willo is a connected device, which means that parents can track oral care in a mobile app. You can also set up multiple users — your kids will have to swap the mouthpiece before using the device.

Image Credits: Willo

If you’re thinking about buying a device for your children, Willo costs $199. You then have to pay $13 per month to receive rinse pods as well as new mouthpieces that always fit.

While the product is going live today, the startup has already tested it with real families. These children rated the device 4.73/5 and parents gave an NPS of 70+. They’ve all kept using Willo after the testing phase.

Behind this product, there’s a team of 33 people in France and the U.S. They have filed over 50 patents over the past 7 years — 30 of them have been granted so far. The company has raised $17 million in total funding from Kleiner Perkins, Bpifrance and Matt Rogers’ fund Incite.

It’s true that the concept of a toothbrush hasn’t changed at all. Making a device that changes the way you brush your teeth is an ambitious bet. But it’s clear that the startup has made a lot of efforts to tackle this challenge. Now let’s see if they manage to convince parents.

Image Credits: Willo

#connected-device, #connected-home, #france-newsletter, #gadgets, #healthcare, #startups, #tc, #willo

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On-demand pediatrics app Biloba adds prescriptions and raises $1.7 million

French startup Biloba has raised a $1.7 million funding round (€1.4 million) a few months after launching its pediatrics app that lets you chat with a doctor whenever you have a question. In addition to raising some money, the startup also recently added in-app prescriptions.

Biloba’s concept is surprisingly simple. It’s a mobile app that lets you reach a general practitioner and a nurse whenever you have a medical question about your child. The service is available from 8 AM to 10 PM.

When you start a conversation, it looks like a messaging app. You can send and receive messages but also send photos and videos. There’s no real-time video conversation, no appointment. The company says that you usually get an answer in less than 10 minutes.

Last year, Biloba raised a €1.2 million pre-seed round. This year’s €1.4 million’s seed round is led by Aglaé Ventures and ID4. Existing investors Calm/Storm Ventures, Inventures, Acequia Capital and several business angels are also participating once again.

A text conversation will never replace a visit to the pediatrician. And there are many medical interactions and milestones after a baby is born. But you may have questions and you don’t want to wait for the next appointment.

And if it’s a relatively harmless issue that doesn’t need an in-person appointment, Biloba can now issue prescriptions. You receive the prescriptions in the app and it is accepted in all French pharmacies. The startup uses Ordoclic for that feature.

Biloba thinks people shouldn’t pay per consultation — even though people are particularly well covered by the French national healthcare system and private health insurance. Instead, the startup has opted for a subscription model.

Parents pay €12.99 per month, €24.99 for a three-month subscription or €79.99 per year. After that, you can start as many conversations as you want. Biloba subscriptions aren’t covered by the French national healthcare system.

Basically, if you can afford a subscription, Biloba can increase the frequency of interactions with doctors, which should lead to better medical advice.

Image Credits: Biloba

#biloba, #europe, #france-newsletter, #fundings-exits, #health, #pediatrics, #startups, #tc, #telehealth, #telemedicine

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Vybe raises $2.9 million for its challenger bank for teens

French startup Vybe has raised a $2.9 million funding round (€2.4 million) to build a challenger bank for teens. The company is currently testing its product with a soft launch. Users get a Mastercard payment card paired with an e-wallet.

Each Vybe account comes with its own IBAN so that users can send and receive money. If you want to open an account and you are less than 18 years old, you have to go through the KYC process (know your identity) with your parent.

As for parents, they can set up some limits on card payments or even block the card. Parents can also view transactions. The startup plans to generate revenue from interchange fees as well as partnership with brands and a reward system.

While Vybe isn’t technically live, the company has attracted 375,000 downloads. Overall, 260,000 teens have pre-ordered a card already. Thousands of cards have been delivered and the first metrics are encouraging. Early adopters tend to use their card once every two days.

Today’s fund is a round extension from existing investors. Investors include Ronan Le Moal, the former CEO of Crédit Mutuel Arkéa, Kick Club and Manoel Amorim.

Banking products for teenagers are a lucrative segment. In France, there are several companies trying to position themselves on this segment, such as Kard, PixPay and Xaalys. Most of these companies charge a subscription fee to access the service.

Other fintech companies that aren’t specifically targeting young people could also work well with teenagers. For instance, young users can open a Revolut Junior or Lydia account and receive money from their parents.

In the U.S., startups offering debit cards for children are about to reach unicorn status. As The Information’s Kate Clark reported, Greenlight, Current and Step are all raising new funding rounds with a valuation between $1 billion and $2 billion.

Image Credits: Vybe

#challenger-bank, #europe, #finance, #fintech, #france-newsletter, #fundings-exits, #neobank, #startups, #tc, #vybe

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Nabla is building a healthcare super app for women

Meet Nabla, a French startup launching a new app today focused on women’s health. On Nabla, you’ll find several services that should all contribute to helping you stay on top of your health. In short, Nabla lets you chat with practitioners, offers community content, helps you centralize all your medical data and will soon offer telemedicine appointments.

Nabla’s key feature right now is the ability to start a conversation with health professionals. You can send a message to a general practitioner, a gynecologist, a midwife, a nurse, a nutritionist, or a physiotherapist.

While text discussions are not going to replace in-person appointments altogether, they can definitely be helpful. By increasing the number of interactions with health professionals, chances are you’ll be healthier and you may even end up booking more in-person appointments.

Other French startups have been providing text conversations with practitioners. For instance, health insurance company Alan lets you message a general practitioner — but you have to be insured by Alan. Biloba also lets you chat with a doctor — but the company has been focusing on pediatrics.

Nabla has a different positioning and offers this feature for free — there’s a limit as you can only send a handful of questions per month though. If it’s a common question, you may find the answer from the community. Nabla’s doctors will curate community content as well.

Using a free product to talk about your health feels suspicious. But that’s because the startup is well-funded and plans to launch premium features.

Image Credits: Nabla

The startup has raised $20.2 million (€17 million) and is already working with a team of doctors who are ready to answer questions from the company’s first users — or patients. Investors in the company include Xavier Niel, Artemis, Rachel Delacour, Julie Pellet, Marc Simoncini and Firstminute Capital.

One of the reasons why Nabla could raise so much money before releasing its app is that the three co-founders have a track record in the tech ecosystem.

Co-founder and CEO Alexandre Lebrun previously founded VirtuOz, which was acquired by Nuance, and Wit.ai, which was acquired by Facebook. More recently, he’s worked for Facebook’s AI research team (FAIR).

Co-founder and COO Delphine Groll has been heading business development and communications for two major media groups Aufeminin and My Little Paris. And Nabla’s co-founder and CTO Martin Raison has worked with Alexandre Lebrun at both Wit.ai and Facebook.

In addition to text conversations, Nabla shows all your past interactions in a personal log. You can connect that log with other apps and services, such as Apple’s Health app, Clue and Withings. This way, you can see all your data from the same app.

As you may have guessed, the startup truly believes that machine learning can help when it comes to preventive and holistic care. By default, nothing is shared with Nabla for machine learning purposes. But users can opt in and share data to improve processes, personalization and more.

Eventually, Nabla wants to optimize the interactions with doctors as much as possible. The startup says it doesn’t want to replace doctors altogether — it wants to enhance medical interactions so that doctors can focus on the human and empathetic part.

Nabla plans to launch a telemedicine service so that you can interact with doctors in real time as well as a premium offering with more features. That’s an ambitious roadmap, and it’s going to be interesting to track Nabla over the long run to see if they stick to their original vision and find a loyal user base.

#europe, #france-newsletter, #fundings-exits, #health, #healthcare, #nabla, #startups, #telehealth, #telemedicine

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Leeway is a contract workflow service for your legal team

Meet Leeway, a French startup that is building an end-to-end software-as-a-service solution for your contracts. Leeway lets you centralize all your contracts in a single repository, go through multiple negotiation steps and trigger a DocuSign event for the signature.

The company raised a $4.2 million seed round from HenQ, Kima Ventures as well as several business angels, such as the founders of Algolia, Eventbrite, Spendesk, MeilleursAgents, Livestorm and Luko.

If you’re working for the legal department of your company, you’re probably working with multiple tools. Chances are you’re using Microsoft Word to write a contract, a cloud service to store and share the contract with your teammates and business partners, an e-signature and archival service.

Leeway is optimizing this worklfow at every step. First, you can store all your contracts on Leeway. In addition to making it easier to find a contract later down the road, you can get reminders when a contract is about to expire so that you can renew a contract.

Second, you can edit your contract from Leeway directly. For instance, a manager can review a contract and write changes in Leeway’s interface. The employee can then start a revision and save a new version of the contract.

After that, you can send the contract from the same interface. Administrators can set up approval workflows so that several people need to approve a contract before it is signed. As everything is centralized, you can get an overview of all your contracts that are currently in the pipeline.

Image Credits: Leeway

Up next, Leeway is thinking about integrating conditional clauses within the product. Usually, big companies have several versions of the same clause — very favorable, favorable, not so favorable, etc. When a client is negotiating, Leeway customers could switch the clause from very favorable to favorable for instance.

Right now, around 30 companies are using Leeway to manage their contracts. Clients include Voodoo, Evaneos, Ifop and Fitness Park. “We have a very specific customer base — the legal department of companies with 100 to 500 employees,” co-founder and CEO Antoine Fabre told me.

It doesn’t mean that smaller and bigger companies shouldn’t be using Leeway. But companies with less than 100 employees don’t necessarily have a full-fledged legal department. The sales team or the finance department could act as the legal-ish team. But Leeway still has a lot of room to grow.

Image Credits: Leeway

#europe, #france-newsletter, #fundings-exits, #leeway, #startups

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Stockly lets e-commerce websites sell out-of-stock items from a shared inventory

Meet Stockly, a French startup that keeps the inventory of various e-commerce websites in sync. When you see an out-of-stock item on an e-commerce website, chances are you leave that website and try to find the same item on another site.

If you operate an e-commerce website, Stockly lets you sell items even when they’re currently out of stock. The startup automatically finds a third-party Stockly supplier with that specific item.

The order will go through and be sent by that supplier directly. Stockly tells its partners to use neutral packaging so that the end consumer isn’t confused.

This could be particularly useful for small scale e-commerce companies that don’t have a healthy marketplace of third-party retailers. For instance, Amazon can already sell you an out-of-stock item if a supplier has listed that specific item on Amazon’s own marketplace. But that’s not the case for most e-commerce websites.

The main challenge for Stockly is that it has to sort through various catalog formats and match the different inventories of different retailers. It is focusing on clothing items at first. When an order is routed through Stockly, it selects a specific supplier based on different criteria, such as logistics, delivery time and historical data.

So far, Stockly has been working with Galeries Lafayette, Go Sport, Foot Shop and others. The startup has recently raised a $6 million (€5.1 million) funding round from Idinvest Partners, Daphni, Techstars, Checkout.com CEO Guillaume Pousaz and various business angels.

With this funding round, the company plans to expand its team to 20 people, add new clients and iterate on its product.

#ecommerce, #europe, #france-newsletter, #fundings-exits, #startups, #stockly

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French VC firm Breega raises $130 million fund

Breega, a VC firm based in Paris, has announced the final closing of its third fund. The firm has managed to raise $130 million (€110 million).

This is Breega’s third fund and is officially called Breega Capital Venture 3. The firm’s previous fund launched in 2015 with €45 million ($53 million at today’s exchange rate).

Breega doesn’t focus on a vertical in particular. It says it can invest across many different categories, such as marketplaces, SaaS, agtech, HR tech, robotics, etc.

The investment team has already deployed some of the capital of Breega’s new fund. Portfolio startups include Stations-e, Trustpair, IoTerop, BeOp, Otodo, Humanity, Alice&Bob, Neobrain, Didomi, Ubble, Ponicode and reciTAL. They all have received some funding at the seed or Series A stage.

Breega believes it can support its portfolio companies with some operational help. The firm has its own team of experts when it comes to HR, business development, communications, legal and finance.

Some of the fund’s limited partners include entrepreneurs-turned-business-angles. For instance, Patrick Asdaghi, the co-founder of FoodChéri, has invested in the new fund. FoodChéri received some funding from Breega before getting acquired by Sodexo.

Other limited partners include Bpifrance, the European Investment Fund, Isomer Capital, several banks and insurance companies.

#breega, #europe, #france-newsletter, #venture-capital

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PayFit raises $107 million for its payroll and HR platform

French startup PayFit has raised a $107 million series D funding round (€90 million). Eurazeo Growth and Bpifrance’s Large Venture fund are leading today’s round. Existing investors Accel, Frst and Xavier Niel are participating once again.

PayFit has been building a payroll and HR software-as-a-service platform. It lets you manage your payroll from a web browser and automate as many steps as possible. For instance, you can configure automate payslip generation, export your payroll data to your accounting software and get a list of payments you need to make when it comes to pensions, health insurance, etc.

Given that it’s a software-as-a-service platform, everything remains up to date. For instance, if there are some regulatory changes that require some adjustments, PayFit can update its platform so that you remain compliant from day one without having to think about it.

Over time, the startup has expanded beyond payroll to tackle a bigger chunk of the HR stack. Each employee gets its own PayFit login to access their payslips. But the company doesn’t stop there as you can request time off and enter how much time you’ve worked this week if you’re paid on an hourly basis. PayFit automatically notifies the manager for approval.

PayFit can also become your central repository for expenses and receipts. The company already has everyone’s bank information, which makes it easier to transfer money back to an employee for a cash expense.

Employees can also view the company’s directory and management chain from PayFit. The HR department can set up an onboarding flow in PayFit so that employees can request a computer, a badge, and enter personal information as soon as they join the company.

If you work for a big company that uses something like Workday, all of this probably sounds familiar. But PayFit targets small and medium companies that don’t want to sign expensive contracts with enterprise companies. It has attracted 5,000 clients that employ 100,000 employees overall — that’s an average of 20 employees per company. Some of the biggest clients include Revolut, Starling Bank and Treatwell.

The company is currently live in France, Germany, Spain, Italy and the U.K. It currently has 550 employees and it plans to hire another 250 employees in 2021 to support its growth.

#europe, #france-newsletter, #fundings-exits, #payfit, #startups

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Vestiaire Collective raises $216 million for its second-hand fashion platform

Vestiaire Collective announced a new funding round. The company has raised $216 million, or €178 million — it has reached a valuation above $1 billion, making it a unicorn. French fashion and luxury group Kering is leading the round with Tiger Global Management. Kering now owns 5% of Vestiaire Collective.

The startup operates an online marketplace where you can find pre-owned luxury and fashion items. And it’s a complicated industry as you don’t want to buy a damaged item or a cheap knockoff. The company controls and authenticate some items before they reach the buyer. If you opt for direct shipping, you can get reimbursed if there’s something wrong with what you ordered.

In addition to the two lead investors, many of the company’s existing shareholders are investing once again, such as Vestiaire Collective’s own CEO Max Bittner, Bpifrance’s Large Venture fund, Condé Nast, Eurazeo through Eurazeo Growth and Idinvest Venture, Fidelity International, Korelya Capital, Luxury Tech Fund and Vitruvian Partner.

As you may have noticed, it’s been a bit harder to travel and buy fashion items in store. Many fashion e-commerce companies have been thriving during the coronavirus outbreak, and Vestiaire Collective is one of them. Transaction volume doubled in 2020 compared to 2019. There are 140,000 new listings every week.

In addition to the current pandemic, many consumers are concerned about the impact of fashion on the environment. At the lower end of the spectrum, retailers and fast fashion brands encourage you to buy more and more stuff as trends change with each season. At the higher end of the spectrum, luxury brands don’t want to undermine the value of their goods by putting items on sale to clear room for a new collection.

That’s why Vestiaire Collective is particularly well positioned to find new customers who are looking for quality goods that are going to last for a while and that haven’t been specifically produced for them. Similarly, people can sell their stuff instead of throwing them away.

While Vestiaire Collective originally started in Europe, the company is now growing rapidly in the U.S. and Asia. “As of January 2021, local sellers in those regions had increased their items sold by more than 250% year-over-year,” Tiger Global partner Griffin Schroeder said in the release.

With today’s funding round, the company plans to further develop partnerships with brands through buy-back circular solutions. The company also wants to encourage more people to sell something every time they buy something. Vestiaire Collective aims to be carbon neutral by 2026 and get the B Corp certification. The startup will also hire 155 people in the technology team.

#ecommerce, #europe, #france-newsletter, #fundings-exits, #startups, #vestiaire-collective

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Private equity firm Marlin snatches up e-commerce optimization platform Lengow

French startup Lengow has a new landlord as Marlin Equity Partners has acquired a majority stake in the company. Lengow operates a softare-as-a-service platform to optimize e-commerce listings. Terms of the deal are undisclosed.

In particular, many sellers now list their items on multiple e-commerce websites at once. For instance, a company could have its own e-commerce website and also sell products on Amazon, eBay, etc. And you may have noticed the same third-party sellers on different marketplaces.

Manually listing items across multiple e-commerce platforms would be extremely tedious. Behind the scenes, Lengow tries to automate as many steps as possible. First, you can import your products by connecting Lengow with your product information management system (PIM) or your e-commerce back end — it can run on Akeneo, Shopify, Magento, WooCommerce, etc.

You can then publish your products on multiple sales channels at once. It can be a marketplace, a price comparison website, a social network or an adtech platform. Examples include Amazon, Google Shopping, Criteo, Instagram, etc.

Lengow also helps you track orders, create rules when you’re running low on stock and manage your advertising strategy. Essentially, it’s the glue that makes all the moving parts of e-commerce stick together. There are 4,600 merchants using Lengow globally.

Marlin describes the deal as a growth investment. The firm plans to increase the value of Lengow in the coming years as it hasn’t reached its full potential yet. “We are looking forward to leveraging our operational and financial resources to support Lengow’s growth trajectory and continued international expansion,” Marlin principal Roland Pezzutto said in a statement.

#ecommerce, #europe, #france-newsletter, #fundings-exits, #lengow, #marlin, #marlin-equity-partners, #startups

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Powder raises $14 million for its social app for game clips

Meet Powder, a French startup that helps you share video clips of your favorite games, follow people with the same interests and interact with them. The company has raised a $14 million Series A round led by Serena.

Powder wants to build the video infrastructure for social gaming. While many communities of gamers already share content on Twitch, Discord and Reddit, there isn’t a dominant mobile app focused on gaming.

You could call it an Instagram or Snapchat for gamers, but the startup has built specific tools that make it similar and yet different from those mainstream social platforms.

Powder can capture video content from any platform. You can record with your console and access your footage by connecting your account with Powder. You can capture videos on your PC using the company’s desktop app. You can also capture videos of mobile games.

The company tries to identify the most relevant events in your favorite game — it can be when you score a goal on Rocket League, when you are the last person standing in Fortnite, etc.

You can then trim your video, add filters, music and stickers and share a video with your followers. Other users can share reactions, add comments and send messages.

Image Credits: Powder

Overall, the company has raised $18 million and is pretty transparent about its funding story. In August 2018, the company raised a $400,000 pre-seed round with Kima Ventures and the co-founders of Zenly Antoine Martin and Alexis Bonillo. In March 2019, General Catalyst, Slow Ventures, Dream Machine, SV Angel, Brian Pokorny, Florian Kahn and Guillaume Luccisano invested $1.5 million.

Around May 2020, the company had to raise a $1.3 million seed extension with Alven Capital, Seraam Invest, Farmers, Maxime Demeure, Jean-Nicolas Vernin and some existing investors. Bpifrance and CNC also put some money in the company. And now, Serena is leading the $14 million Series A round with General Catalyst, Slow Ventures, Alven Capital, Bpifrance’s Digital Venture fund, Secocha Ventures, Turner Novak and Kevin Hartz also participating in today’s round.

As you can see, it’s been a long and winding road. That’s because Powder didn’t come up with its social app for gamers overnight. The company tried many different consumer apps. It would iterate on an idea for a few weeks and then kill the concept if it didn’t pan out. With Powder, the company seems to have found a great distribution mechanism to attract more downloads, leading to more users.

“The idea behind Powder started in December 2019. We had already worked on several projects and none of them really took off. We thought we would create a community first and then a product,” co-founder and CEO Stanislas Coppin told me. He previously co-founded Mindie, a music video app.

Powder started as a Discord server with tens of thousands of members. The team then developed an app that would appeal to that community, the “metaverse camera” as Coppin says. Overall, 1.5 million people have downloaded the iOS app since its launch.

There are three other co-founders, Barthélémy Kiss, Yannis Mangematin and Christian Navelot. There are 18 employees and the company just launched on Android.

Image Credits: Powder

#apps, #europe, #france-newsletter, #fundings-exits, #mobile, #powder, #social, #startups, #tc

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Hyper casual game publisher Homa Games raises $15 million

French startup Homa Games has raised a $15 million seed round led by e.ventures and Idinvest Partners. The company has built several in-house technologies that can take a game from a prototype to an App Store success. It partners with third-party game studios and has a few in-house game studios as well.

OneRagtime, Jean-Marie Messier, Vladimir Lasocki, John Cheng and Alexis Bonillo are also participating in today’s funding round. This is quite a big funding round, but Homa Games already has some impressive metrics.

For instance, the startup’s games have been downloaded 250 million times overall since the creation of the company in 2018. It has signed an IP partnership with Hasbro to launch a Nerf-themed game that has been working quite well. Other games include Sky Roller, Idle World and Tower Color.

Home Games has developed three products in particular to optimize mobile game creation. Homa Lab helps you learn more about the competitive landscape with market intelligence and testing tools. Homa Belly is an SDK that helps you iterate and manage your game. And Homa Data optimizes monetization using data for both in-app purchases and ads.

Third-party developers can submit their games and choose Homa Games as their publisher. Both companies agree on a revenue-sharing model.

In addition to third-party games, Homa Games has also acquired IRL Team in Toulouse and has in-house game development teams in Skopje, Lisbon and Paris. Overall, there are 80 people working for Homa Games.

Benoist Grossmann from Idinvest Partners and Jonathan Userovici from e.ventures are both joining the board of the company.

#europe, #france-newsletter, #fundings-exits, #gaming, #homa, #homa-games, #startups

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ManoMano’s sales are growing rapidly for its home improvement e-commerce platform

It’s been a year since I covered ManoMano, the French e-commerce platform focused on DIY, home improvement and gardening products. And 2020 has been a successful years as the company’s gross merchandise volume doubled to €1.2 billion ($1.45 billion at today’s rate).

ManoMano’s sales are also accelerating as the company reported a 50% increase in 2019 gross merchandise volume compared to 2018.

When it comes to “softer” metrics, the company now attracts 50 million unique visitors per month, which represents a 70% year-over-year increase. There are 7 million active clients on the platform — that’s a 100% increase.

In addition to France, ManoMano is operating in Spain, Italy, Germany, the U.K. and Belgium. In 2021, the company plans to double down on Northern Europe (Germany and the U.K.) and improve the experience for both merchants and customers.

France still represents 60% of the company’s sales volume. And the company is currently profitable on this market if you look at this segment independently from the rest of the company.

While ManoMano operates a marketplace, it also offers a fulfillment service for third-party retailers. The company is also growing nicely on the professional segment with its ManoManoPro vertical.

The startup has raised $125 million in 2019 and $139 million in 2020. It is still actively hiring and growing the team. There are currently 650 employees and the company could work with 1,000 people at the end of 2021.

#ecommerce, #europe, #france-newsletter, #manomano, #startups

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Cajoo promises grocery deliveries in 15 minutes

Meet Cajoo, a new French startup that has raised a $7.3 million (€6 million) funding round. The company wants to make it easier to order groceries from your phone and receive them 15 minutes later. It is launching in Paris today.

“I left Bolt around mid-August and I’m launching a company with two co-founders focused on 15-minute deliveries,” co-founder and CEO Henri Capoul told me. Thanks to his experience at Bolt, he probably knows a thing or two about logistics and operating a marketplace at scale. Guillaume Luscan and Jeremy Gotteland are the two other co-founders.

What makes Cajoo different from what’s out there? In France, there’s no Instacart or pure player in the grocery delivering space. Instead, many supermarket chains already offer deliveries. You can order from their website or app and get your groceries the next day or two days later.

Some retailers are trying to speed things up a bit, such as Carrefour with its Livraison Express service and Monoprix with Monoprix Plus. Amazon can also deliver some groceries through its Amazon Prime Now sub-service. It can take 30 minutes, an hour or even two hours before receiving your order though.

But people want things now, as the success of Deliveroo, Uber Eats and others has shown. I think impatience is unsustainable because of unit economics, labor laws, the impact on small shops and cities. And yet, it seems likely that there’s enough demand for Cajoo.

The startup wants to differentiate itself with a full-stack approach. Cajoo operates its own micro-fulfillment centers. It has its own inventory of products. It manages the fleet of delivery people as much as possible. And, of course, it sells directly to customers.

Glovo offered grocery deliveries from your local grocery store. But the company pulled back from the French market a few weeks ago. It seems like it couldn’t generate big enough margins by buying from stores directly.

On Cajoo, you’ll find anything you could find in a local grocery store — pasta, shampoo, candies, you name it. You’ll be able to order wine, beer and snack — Uber proved that it can be a lucrative segment with its acquisition of Drizly for $1.1 billion.

And it is launching today in Paris in the 9th arrondissement and around. Overall, Cajoo thinks it’ll require ten micro-fulfillment centers to cover Paris and it’s going to take a few months.

Cajoo is also benefiting from the current economic crisis as there are a ton of empty stores, empty garages, small warehouses that are currently waiting for a new owner.

“The differentiating factor of our model is that we offer products at market price. It’s the same price as a Monoprix or Carrefour Express store with delivery fees under €2,” Capoul said.

The company doesn’t plan to generate most of its revenue from delivery fees. Those are minimum fees so that you don’t order one item at a time. Instead, the company will get margins from products themselves, like any retailer.

Frst and XAnge are leading the seed round with the two co-founders of Chauffeur-Privé (later rebranded as Kapten) also participating.

I asked about the company’s plans when it comes to delivery staff. As Gurvan Kristanadjaja reported for Libération last year, there are some serious issues with contractors working for food delivery companies in France. For instance, a significant portion of Frichti’s delivery people were illegal immigrants. Some riders on Deliveroo or Uber Eats also rent their accounts to illegal immigrants.

Capoul told me that it is going to hire some employees to handle deliveries and give them electric bikes. But the company will also work with partners — both contracting companies and freelancers.

“We don’t want to have the same standards as Deliveroo or Uber Eats. Recruiting the right delivery people, making sure that they have work permits are important topics,” Capoul said. Each micro-fulfillment centers will also have a restroom and a place to wait for the next order.

It’s going to be important to see whether Cajoo manages to keep high standards over the long run as the service gets more popular. At least, the service is starting with the right mindset.

Image Credits: Cajoo

#apps, #cajoo, #delivery, #europe, #france-newsletter, #logistics, #startups, #tc

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Beam raises $9.5 million to build a web browser that collects ideas

Beam has raised a $9.5 million Series A round. The company is working on a new web browser that completely rethinks the way you start a web session and browse the web. The startup is founded by Dom Leca and Sébastien Métrot. Dom Leca previously worked on Sparrow, an email app with an opinionated design.

Pace Capital is leading today’s funding round. Several business angels are also participating, such as Christan Reber, Harry Stebbings and Albert Wenger. Existing investors Spark, Amaranthine, C4V and Alven are also investing once again.

Beam is also announcing that it is acquiring RadBlock, an ad blocker for Safari.

If you’re not familiar with Beam, I encourage you to read my previous article on the company — I describe how the product is going to work and the reasoning behind it.

In short, Beam is a web browser focused on knowledge. Many people spend a ton of time mindlessly browsing the web. When you close the last tab, you realize that you didn’t learn much and you don’t have any note.

You can bookmark stuff, but chances are you either don’t use bookmarks or you never check them. And if you want to find something again, you often end up entering a Google query and starting from scratch.

With Beam, every time you search for something, it creates a new session. Each session is represented by a note card. When you’re done browsing, the note card summarizes your findings. Your search query is the title of the card, the most important sites appear near the top of the note. Irrelevant content is listed at the end of the note.

You can then add text, remove links, reorganize stuff and create a full-fledged note. Basically, you end up creating comprehensive notes without even realizing it.

Beam is an ambitious project and the company will have to iterate on that initial idea. But it sounds like a great way to start using the web as a kid. You get to learn more about your passions based on what you do on the web.

Right now, there are seven people working for Beam. The company is going to hire machine learning and natural language processing experts as well as more developers.

#apps, #beam, #europe, #france-newsletter, #fundings-exits, #startups

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Seyna is building an insurance-as-a-service startup for the French market

French startup Seyna is getting a new CEO. Stephen Leguillon is joining the company as chief executive while Philippe Mangematin is stepping back from day-to-day activities for personal reasons — he’ll become honorary chairman.

If you’re not familiar with the company, Seyna is an insurtech startup that has obtained an insurance license focused on property and casualty. This is a significant move as the French regulator (ACPR) hasn’t handed out a new license in this category since 1983.

The company’s go-to-market strategy is also interesting as it doesn’t sell insurance products to consumers directly. Instead, the company is building out insurance-as-a-service products. It partners with other companies that offer Seyna’s insurance products under their own brands.

Behind the scenes, Seyna offers an API to generate insurance contracts on demand — an API is a programming interface that lets two services interact with each other. You can also connect directly to Seyna’s interface to manage contracts.

Seyna has created its own core insurance system, which is an important differentiating factor compared to legacy players. The startup can generate many different variants that cover around 20 different insurance products — pet insurance, ticket cancelation, rent guarantee, etc. Clients include Garantme and Decathlon.

The company’s new CEO Stephen Leguillon previous co-founded La Belle Assiette, a company that lets you hire a chef for a dinner at home and that I covered on TechCrunch. He added a second product called GoCater, a corporate catering service — GoCater was letter spun out from La Belle Assiette and acquired by ezCater.

Seyna has raised a €14 million seed round ($17 million at today’s rate) from Global Founders Capital, Allianz France, Financière Saint James and several business angels. Insurance companies require a ton of capital to operate, that’s why the seed round seems quite big for the French market.

#europe, #finance, #france-newsletter, #insurtech, #startups

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Chefclub raises $17 million to expand its food media brand beyond social networks

French startup Chefclub announced earlier this week that it has raised a $17 million funding round led by First Bridge Ventures. SEB Alliance, the venture arm of kitchen appliance maker Groupe SEB, Korelya Capital and Algaé Ventures are also participating.

Chefclub has been building a major media brand on social media platforms. It has attracted a huge audience that doesn’t look bad next to well-funded media brands Tastemade and Tasty.

I already covered the company at length, so I encourage you to read my previous profile of the company:

Chefclub is an interesting lesson in sales funnel. It has a huge top of the funnel with 100 million followers YouTube, Snapchat, Instagram and TikTok. Overall, they generate over 1 billion views per month.

The company leverages that audience to create new products. It starts with cooking books, obviously. Chefclub has sold 700,000 books so far. As those books are self-published, the company gets to keep a good chunk of the revenue.

More recently, the startup has launched cooking kits for kids with colorful measuring cups, cooking accessories and easy-to-understand recipes. 150,000 people have bought a product for children.

Chefclub now wants to display its brands in stores thanks to partnerships. That’s why having Groupe SEB as an investor makes sense. You can imagine co-branded items boosted by promotion on Chefclub’s accounts.

Finally, the startup plans to enter a new market — consumer-packaged goods. That’s the same thinking behind it, except that we’re talking about food. It’s interesting to see that Chefclub doesn’t think online ads represent the future of the company. And it seems like a smart decision during the current economic crisis.

#chefclub, #europe, #france-newsletter, #fundings-exits, #social, #startups

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Corporate card startup Mooncard challenges American Express in France with miles

French startup Mooncard is partnering with Flying Blue to offer Air France miles to its customers. This is the first time you can earn miles with a payment card in France that isn’t an American Express card.

Mooncard provides corporate payment cards to streamline your expenses. Most companies in France don’t use corporate cards. But fintech startups have created corporate cards that can help you streamline expenses.

In addition to Visa cards, Mooncard lets you easily take a photo of your receipts, add details and submit expenses to your accounting team. You can set up different limits and validation processes.

Today’s news is interesting as American Express has been in a monopolistic position for decades with its partnership with Flying Blue. In France, companies had to choose American Express if they wanted miles as perks.

When it comes to pricing, it looks pretty similar to what American Express offers:

There’s one big difference — Mooncard relies on the Visa network. As many restaurants and shops don’t support American Express, it could be enough to lure customers away from American Express. Employees can use their miles for personal trips.

There are 3,000 companies using Mooncard as well as many public institutions.

#europe, #finance, #fintech, #france-newsletter, #mooncard, #startups

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SaaS startup studio eFounders launches a fintech startup studio

eFounders is expanding its focus by creating a second startup studio called Logic Founders. This time, Logic Founders is going to focus on fintech startups exclusively. Camille Tyan (pictured above) is going to lead the new studio.

Over the past ten years, eFounders has launched dozens of software-as-a-service companies trying to improve the way we work. Portfolio companies include Front, Aircall and Spendesk.

Camille Tyan previously co-founded PayPlug, a payments company that was acquired by Natixis (Groupe BPCE). He plans to follow the eFounders model centered around a new vertical. Logic Founders will come up with ideas for new startups. It’ll recruit two co-founders and start working on the product for the first 12 to 18 months of the company.

Ideally, the startup finds product-market fit and raises a seed round after this initial phase. The startup studio keeps a stake in the startup but it moves on so that it can focus on new projects.

If you’ve been following eFounders closely, the startup studio has already worked on several fintech companies, such as Spendesk, Upflow, Multis and Swan. New fintech projects will likely fall under the Logic Founders umbrella.

The studio says it will launch API-first financial products. It is riding the embedded finance trend — many believe financial products will be distributed by platforms that aren’t primarily focused on finance but could benefit from fintech features. You can expect companies working on payments orchestration, asset securitization, lending APIs, crypto and B2B identity.

#efounders, #europe, #france-newsletter, #startups

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Alma raises $59.4 million for its Klarna-like payment option

French startup Alma is raising a $59.4 million Series B funding round (€49 million). The company has been building a new payment option for expensive good. You can choose to pay over three or four installments. This product sounds familiar if you’ve used Klarna in the past. But Klarna isn’t available in France.

Cathay Innovation, Idinvest, Bpifrance’s Large Venture fund, Seaya Ventures and Picus Capital are participating in today’s funding round. In addition to today’s equity round, Alma is raising a credit line of $25.5 million (€21 million) to finance merchant payments.

What makes Alma attractive to merchants is that the startup is handling 100% of the risk involved with a payment over multiple installments. When a customer buys a bike over four installments, they’ll get charged over several months. But the merchant gets paid on day one.

Since I first covered Alma, the startup has launched the ability to pay later. You enter your card information right now but you get charged 15 days or a month later. It can be particularly useful if you’re unsure about something you’re buying and if you think there’s a chance you’ll send it back.

And it’s an attractive option in France where debit cards are the norm — not credit cards. Alma also plans to offer longer plans, such as the ability to buy now and pay over 6, 10 or 12 installments.

Thanks to the new influx of cash, the startup plans to triple the size of its team and reach €1 billion in annual payment volume within two years. It’s also going to expand to other countries, but with a specific focus on helping French merchants reach European customers living in other European countries.

#alma, #europe, #finance, #france-newsletter, #fundings-exits, #startups

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Bodyguard is a mobile app that hides toxic content on social platforms

If you’re somewhat famous on various social networks, chances are you are exposed to hate speech in your replies or in your comments. French startup Bodyguard recently launched its app and service in English so that it can hide toxic content from your eyes. It has been available in French for a few years and the company has attracted 50,000 users so far.

“We have developed a technology that detects hate speech on the internet with a 90 to 95% accuracy and only 2% of false positive,” founder and CEO Charles Cohen told me.

The company has started with a mobile app that anyone can use. After you download the app and connect the app with your favorite social networks, you choose the level of moderation. There are several categories, such as insults, body shaming, moral harassment, sexual harassment, racism and homophobia. You can select whether it’s a low priority or a top priority for each category.

After that, you don’t have to open the app again. Bodyguard scans replies and comments from its servers and makes a decision whether something is OK or not OK. For instance, it can hide comments, mute users, block users, etc. When you open Instagram or Twitter again, it’s like those hateful comments never existed.

The app currently supports Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and Twitch. Unfortunately, it can’t process content on Snapchat and TikTok due to API limitations.

Behind the scenes, most moderation services rely heavily on machine learning or keyword-based moderation. Bodyguard has chosen a different approach. It algorithmically cleans up a comment and tries to analyze the content of a comment contextually. It can determine whether a comment is offensive to you, to a third-party person, to a group of persons, etc.

More recently, the startup has launched a B2B product. Other companies can use a Bodyguard-powered API to moderate comments in real time on their social platforms or in their own apps. The company charges its customers using a traditional software-as-a-service approach.

#apps, #bodyguard, #europe, #france-newsletter, #mobile, #startups

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Accounting automation startup Georges raises $42.4 million and rebrands to Indy

French startup Georges — or Georges.tech — is raising a new round of funding of $42.4 million (€35 million). The company is also getting a new name and will be called Indy going forward. The startup has been building an accounting automation application for freelancers and small companies.

Singular is leading today’s funding round. You might not be familiar with Singular, but it makes a ton of sense to see the VC firm on the cap table. Former Alven partners Jeremy Uzan and Raffi Kamber left the Paris-based VC firm to raise their own fund. Uzan previously invested in Indy when he was at Alven and he’s following up with Singular.

Existing investors Alven and Kerala are also investing once again. Overall, Indy has managed to attract 40,000 clients who pay a monthly subscription fee to access the service.

Indy first started with a product specifically designed for freelancers, self-employed people, doctors, architects, lawyers, etc. It can help you replace your accountant altogether. You first connect the service to your bank account. Indy then imports all your transactions and tries to tag and categorize as many transactions as possible.

You can go back and add missing data. You can also add receipts or invoices right next to your transactions. Once this is done, you know how much VAT you’re supposed to get back at the end of the year.

Indy then automatically fills out administrative forms based on your data. You can then download your tax documents or send them directly from Indy.

You can also use the platform to get an overview of your business. You can see your corporate revenue, track your expenses, and see how much you earn per year based on personal expenses and your own pay.

Over time, Indy has expanded its service so that it supports more types of companies. In addition to freelancers, Indy supports EURL, SARL, SAS and SASU. In 2020, the startup has tripled its revenue.

And the company plans to improve its product to support even more self-employed people, including people selling stuff under the BIC status in France. Indy plans to hire 100 people in 2021 in Lyon.

Indy has even bigger plans as it has been evaluating the U.S. as a potential market. There are a ton of self-employed people in the U.S. and that’s why it represents an interesting opportunity.

#europe, #france-newsletter, #fundings-exits, #startups

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Health insurance startup Alan launches free medical app Alan Baby

French startup Alan is generating 100% of its revenue from health insurance products — and that isn’t going to change. But the company wants to start a conversation with a bigger use base. Alan is going to launch multiple mobile apps that let you learn more about health topics, contact a doctor and chat with the community.

“We are proud to announce today that we’re launching free medical apps for everyone,” co-founder and CEO Jean-Charles Samuelian-Werve said in a virtual press conference. “We’re going to develop services for specific groups of people who are facing specific issues or questions.”

And the company is starting with Alan Baby. As you can guess from the name, Alan Baby helps you stay on top of your baby’s health. The company has chosen to focus on that segment as your baby’s health can be a great source of mental stress.

When you first open the app, you get a feed of articles on specific topics, from sleep to nutrition and child development. You can get relevant articles by entering the birthdate of your child as you often don’t have the same questions at day one and day 100.

While parents usually have 10 pediatrician appointments in the first year, you may have a burning question that cannot wait that long. From Alan Baby, you can start a text discussion with a doctor. The company says users should expect an answer within 24 hours.

Alan had already hired doctors for a similar messaging feature for its users who are covered under the health insurance products. The company is opening up that feature to more users beyond its paid customers.

Finally, people who install Alan Baby can interact with each other in the community section. It works a bit like an online forum on health topics, except that it’s mobile-first and Alan wants to moderate it with some help from its doctors.

“Thanks to what we’re setting up for parents, we will be able to extend it to other topics soon,” Samuelian-Werve said. He names fertility, mental health or diabetes as potential topics for other free apps.

While the apps are going to be free, the company expects to attract new clients for its health insurance thanks to those new apps. Essentially, Alan is broadening the top of its sales funnel with free apps.

Alan Baby is rolling out progressively in France. There’s a waitlist and the iOS app is available to pre-order (for free) in the App Store.

An update on the health insurance products

Back in October, Samuelian-Werve told me that 100,000 were covered through Alan. A few months later, 139,000 people are covered through one Alan insurance product or another. Overall, 8,300 companies have chosen the company as their health insurance provider. Basically, Alan’s user base has more than doubled in 2020.

In France, employees are covered by both the national healthcare system and private insurance companies. So Alan convinces other companies to use its product for its employees. The company has obtained its own health insurance license, which means that it can customize its health insurance products completely depending on the segment and client.

The company is also operating in Spain and Belgium. But it’s been a slow start with 300 members in Spain and 500 members in Belgium. Alan is going to focus on those two markets before launching new countries in the future.

#alan, #europe, #france-newsletter, #health, #startups

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Iziwork raises $43 million for its temporary work platform

French startup Iziwork has raised a $43 million funding round. Cathay Innovation and Bpifrance’s Large Venture fund are participating in this funding round. The company has been building a platform focused on improving temporary employment.

While it’s a relatively large funding round, the startup is quite young. It was founded in September 2018 and it has raised $68 million overall.

Iziwork manages a marketplace of temporary work. 2,000 companies are using the platform in France and Italy. 800,000 candidates have used the app to access job opportunities. You can consider it as a tech-enabled version of the good old employment agency.

Candidates can onboard directly from the mobile app. You then get personalized recommendations based on your profile. 95% of assignments are filled in less than 4 hours. And of course, all your documents are managed from the app.

Iziwork tries to add some benefits to compensate the fact that temporary workers often jump from one company to another. For instance, you get a time savings account, you can request a down payment on your pay every week, etc.

The startup has realized that it can’t open offices in every big and intermediate city. That’s why third-party companies can join the Iziwork network. As a partner, you find new clients and new job opportunities. You can then leverage Iziwork’s app, service and pool of candidates.

This is an interesting strategy as it greatly increases supply on the Iziwork marketplace. Partners get a revenue sharing deal with Iziwork.

With today’s funding round, the company plans to expand to new countries and improve its tech product. There are still some growth opportunities in its existing markets as well.

Jobandtalent, another company in this space, has attracted some headlines as it has raised $108 million last week. Founded in 2009 and based in Madrid, it has generated €500 million in revenue last year.

But, let’s be honest, the temporary work market is huge. Adecco, Randstad and other legacy players still represent a bigger threat for this recent wave of temp staffing startups. Let’s see how it plays out in the coming years.

#europe, #france-newsletter, #fundings-exits, #iziwork, #startups

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Molotov starts its international expansion with seven African countries

French startup Molotov provides an OTT TV streaming service in France with live TV, premium channels, a cloud DVR and on-demand content. While the service has managed to attract 13 million users in France, it has yet to expand to other countries.

Molotov is starting its international expansion this year with a dozen countries on the roadmap. First, the service will be available in seven African countries, starting with Ivory Coast where it’s already live, Senegal in January, Cameroon in February, Burkina Faso in March, Tunisia in April, Guinea and Democratic Republic of Congo after that.

“When it comes to features, the service is more or less the same but content is different,” co-founder and CEO Jean-David Blanc told me. Molotov is betting on local partnerships to launch its service in new countries.

In today’s case, Molotov is partnering with Digital Virgo, a mobile payments company available in 40 countries. Digital Virgo is handling the relationships with local content owners. Molotov is taking care of operations and the tech stack.

There will be 15 channels at launch, such as Nina TV, Passions TV, Trace Urban, Trace Africa, Trace Urban Africa, Savannah TV, Gametoon, Africanews, Euronews, France24, Trace Sport Stars and DocuBox. Molotov will also grant access to its ad-supported on-demand streaming service Mango.

Image Credits: Molotov

In order to support its international expansion plans, the startup had to rework its infrastructure so that it’s more robust — it relies more on cloud hosting and it is partnering with more CDN companies. For instance, the service should work better if you don’t have as much bandwidth as before.

And this is just a start as Molotov is already talking with different B2B partners in Asia, South America and Europe. “Our strategy is that we lean on local players to launch Molotov in new countries,” Blanc said. So you can expect more news on the international front with new countries and new partners.

#europe, #france-newsletter, #molotov, #startups

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PhotoRoom launches background-removal app on Android

French startup PhotoRoom is launching its app on Android today. The company has been working on a utility photography app that lets you remove the background from a photo, swaps it for another background and tweaks your photo.

And it’s been working well on iOS already as the company attended Y Combinator, doubled its annual recurring revenue to $2 million and raised a $1.2 million seed round.

In particular, influencers and people reselling clothes and fashion items have been relying on PhotoRoom . They use their phone as their main creativity platform. Like other professional photography apps, the startup relies on subscriptions to generate revenue ($9.49 per month or $46.99 per year).

PhotoRoom relies on machine learning to identify objects and separate them from the rest of the photo. This way, you can manipulate a specific part of your photo.

Image Credits: PhotoRoom

When the startup raised its seed round after Y Combinator, it chose to raise from Nicolas Wittenborn’s Adjacent fund, Liquid2 Ventures as well as two groups:

  • A group of business angels focused on machine learning, such as Yann LeCun (Chief AI Scientist at Facebook), Zehan Wang (Head of Twitter Machine Learning Cortex, co-founder of Magic Poney), Nicolas Pinto (Perceptio founder), etc.
  • And another group of business angels focused on mobile subscriptions, such as Holger Seim (Blinkist), Jacob Eiting (RevenueCat), John Bonten (advisor for Calm and Spotify) and Eric Setton (Tango).

With this funding round, the company plans to grow the team from 3 to 8 persons and work on its deep learning algorithm. If you want to learn more about PhotoRoom, feel free to read my take on the product:

#apps, #europe, #france-newsletter, #fundings-exits, #mobile, #photoroom, #startups, #tc

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Lydia raises another $86 million to build European financial super app

French fintech startup Lydia has extended its Series B round. Accel is leading the extension with all major existing shareholders also participating. Lydia first raised $45 million in January 2020 — Tencent led that investment. The startup is now raising another $86 million, which means that Lydia has raised $131 million in total as part of its Series B round.

While Lydia wouldn’t discuss the valuation of the round, its co-founder and CEO gave me a hint. “The value of the company has really significantly increased between the two parts of the B round,” he told me.

Interestingly, Amit Jhawar is heading this investment for Accel . He joined Accel as a venture partner in July and he’s going to join Lydia’s board of directors.

Jhawar joined payments company Braintree in 2011 as COO and CFO. Shortly after, Braintree acquired peer-to-peer payment app Venmo. “When we acquired Venmo it was only 15 people. They had just released their mobile app in April of 2012,” Jhawar told me in a phone interview.

PayPal later acquired Braintree and Venmo — Jhawar stuck around until early 2020 to scale Venmo to the huge fintech consumer app that 52 million people use in the U.S. Jhawar believes that peer-to-peer payments represent the beginning of a long-term consumer relationship.

“You know that P2P is successful when they leave money in their account because they’re going to come back,” he said.

Back in 2014, when I first covered Lydia, I called it the Venmo for France — they had only raised €600,000 back then. It seems like Jhawar agrees with that take. Since then, Lydia has grown quite a lot and has expanded beyond peer-to-peer payments in various ways.

With Lydia, you can send money to another user in just a few seconds. You don’t have to enter an account number in your banking app — as long as you know their phone number, they’ll receive your payment.

If you have money in your account, you can choose to spend it directly using a Visa debit card. Lydia lets you generate a virtual card that works with Apple Pay and Google Pay — you can also order a plastic card.

Lydia also supports direct deposit as you get your own IBAN in the app. You can also create money pots and send a link to other users, view your bank accounts in Lydia, donate money to hospitals and charities, get a credit line, etc.

But there’s one killer feature that stands out over the rest. Bank accounts tend to be monolithic and don’t reflect how you use money. “If you look at banks today, they call the main account a checking account. It’s outdated by design,” CEO Cyril Chiche said.

Lydia has created flexible sub-accounts that you can use in many different ways. You can create a second sub-account and set some money aside for your bills. You can create a third one and share it with a few friends because you’re going on a vacation together.

You can move money from one account to another by swiping your finger across the account grid. As you can have multiple contributors and you can change the account associated with your debit card, it means that money flows more naturally. It feels like using a messaging app, not a financial app.

And it’s been working well in France. The company now has more than 4 million users. Transactions have doubled over the past year, which means that usage is accelerating.

“Lydia has the largest P2P network in Europe outside of PayPal and has the potential to grow all across Europe with a mobile-first, customer-focused solution. This will bring demand for incremental consumer financial products and high merchant interest to accept the payment,” Jhawar told me in an email.

And 2020 has been a busy year for Lydia. The company has just released a complete redesign to better position the app as a super app for financial services. All the interactions and all the main tabs have been changed.

Lydia also re-launched its premium offering with two new premium plans that offer you higher limits over the free plan and an insurance package for the most expensive offer. Those plans are more in line with what the app offers today and should contribute to the company’s bottom line. “The next step is bringing Lydia to profitability and it’s something that has always been important for us,” Chiche said in a recent interview.

Behind the scenes, Lydia has also upgraded many core features, such as migrating cards to a new infrastructure, adding alerts to account aggregation, supporting instant SEPA transfers to bank accounts, etc.

In 2021, the company plans to build on top of that new foundation with more financial products. “We’re going to try every single product — credit, savings, investment,” Chiche said.

The company is also slowly expanding to more countries. But it wants to offer a product that feels like a local product with a local card and a local IBAN to increase acceptance rates. Lydia is starting with Portugal.

#accel, #europe, #finance, #fintech, #france-newsletter, #fundings-exits, #lydia, #recent-funding, #startups

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In&motion raises $12 million for its wearable airbag systems

French startup In&motion has raised a $12 million (€10 million) funding round led by Upfront Ventures with 360 Capital also participating. The company has been working on wearable airbag systems for motorbikes.

Integrated in a vest, the airbag is completely autonomous and can detect crashes in 60 milliseconds. The company has worked on a device called the In&box that analyzes movements in real time. Thanks to different sensors, the device can determine when it’s time to activate the airbag.

In&motion has worked on different profiles for different types of activities. For instance, if you’re riding a motorcycle on a MotoGP track, chances are you’re going to move faster and change your trajectory quite often. You can choose between traditional motorcycle riding, track and off-road.

Professional racers are also increasingly using airbag systems. In addition to MotoGP racers, participants in the 2021 Dakar Rallye will have to use airbags.

The go-to-market strategy is interesting as the startup isn’t selling its system directly to end users. In&motion has partnered with existing motorcycle brands so that they can integrate the system in some vests. This way, In&motion doesn’t have to build out a network of resellers from scratch. So far, the company has sold tens of thousands of systems.

There’s also a subscription component with unlimited warranty and the ability to replace the In&box device with a new model after three years.

With today’s funding round, the company wants to expand beyond its home country with a focus on Germany and the U.S. The company plans to double the size of its team.

Image Credits: In&motion

#europe, #france-newsletter, #fundings-exits, #hardware, #inmotion, #startups

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Luko raises $60 million for its home insurance products

French startup Luko has raised a $60 million Series B funding round (€50 million). The round is led by EQT Ventures, with existing investors Accel, Founders Fund and Speedinvest also participating.

Some angel investors with a background in insurance and technology are also investing in the startup, such as Assaf Wand, the co-founder of Hippo Insurance.

Luko is selling home insurance products for both homeowners and renters. And the company has managed to attract 100,000 clients so far. Over the past year or so, the company has grown quite rapidly, jumping from 15,000 customers to 100,000.

In addition to a speedy on-boarding process, Luko has been refining its insurance product to make the experience better for the client. For instance, Luko doesn’t want to benefit from unused premiums.

Luko has a straightforward revenue model. It takes a 30% cut on monthly payments. Everything else is pooled together to pay compensation. This way, the startup isn’t always trying to generate bigger margins from premiums.

At the end of the year, you can choose to donate your portion of what’s left of the 70% share. Luko is also B-Corp certified.

This model is reminiscent of Lemonade, another insurtech company that recently went public and that should launch in France soon. Let’s see whether Luko can keep growing at the same pace with Lemonade entering the market.

In order to speed up repayments, Luko can send you money through Lydia, the leading peer-to-peer payment app in France. This way, you get your money back in just a few seconds.

With 85 employees, Luko plans to expand beyond its home country. It also wants to proactively protect homes by providing water meters to detect leaks, door sensors to detect when somebody is trying to get in, etc.

Image Credits: Luko

#europe, #france-newsletter, #fundings-exits, #insurtech, #luko

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Ankorstore raises $29.9 million for its wholesale marketplace

French startup Ankorstore has raised a $29.9 million Series A round (€25 million) with Index Ventures leading the round. Existing investors GFC, Alven and Aglaé are also participating.

Ankorstore is building a wholesale marketplace that connects independent shop owners with brands selling household supplies, maple syrup, headbands, bath salts, stationery items and a lot more. That list alone should remind you of neighborhood stores that sell a ton of cutesy stuff that you don’t necessarily need but that tend to be popular.

The company works with 2,000 brands and 15,000 shops. And the startup isn’t just connecting buyers and sellers as it has a clear set of rules. For instance, the minimum first order is €100, which means that you can try out new products without ordering hundreds of items at once.

By default, Ankorstore withdraws the money 60 days after placing an order. Brands get paid upon delivery. And of course, buying from several brands through Ankorstore should simplify your admin tasks.

Ankorstore is currently live in eight countries — France, Spain, Austria, Germany, Belgium, Holland, Switzerland and Luxembourg. France is the biggest market followed by Germany. Up next, the startup plans to launch in the U.K. in 2021.

In many ways, Ankorstore reminds me of Faire, the wholesale marketplace that has raised hundreds of millions of dollars in the U.S.

“There are a number of different retail marketplaces connecting retailers with makers and brands. Where we believe we differ is in our clear focus on the independent shop owner, offering the tools and the terms that make it really easy and cost-effective to discover and access some of the most desirable up-and-coming brands,” Ankorstore co-founder Pierre-Louis Lacoste said.

Given that the startup is working with small suppliers, chances are they’re only selling their products in Europe. So there should be enough room for a European leader in that space that I would describe as wholesale Etsy-style marketplaces with a strong focus on curation.

Image Credits: Ankorstore

#ankorstore, #ecommerce, #europe, #france-newsletter, #fundings-exits, #startups

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Dozens of tech companies sign ‘Tech for Good Call’ following French initiative

A couple of years ago, French President Emmanuel Macron initiated the Tech for Good Summit by inviting 50 tech CEOs to discuss the challenges in the tech industry and make some announcements.

Usually, tech CEOs meet ahead of Viva Technology, a tech event in Paris. This year, Viva Technology had to be canceled, which means that tech CEOs couldn’t get together, take a group photo and say that they want to make the world a better place.

In the meantime, dozens of tech CEOs have chosen to sign a common pledge. Despite the positive impact of some technological breakthroughs, they collectively recognize that everything is not perfect with the tech industry.

“Recognizing that such progress may be hindered by negative externalities, including unfair competition such as abuse of dominant or systemic position, and fragmentation of the internet; that, without appropriate safeguards, technology can also be used to threaten fundamental freedoms and human rights or weaken democracy; that, unless we implement appropriate measures to combat it, some individuals and organizations inevitably use it for criminal purposes, including in the context of conflicts,” the pledge says.

Among other things, companies that sign the pledge agree to cooperate when it comes to fighting toxic content, such as child sexual abuse material and terrorist content. They promise to “responsibly address hate speech, disinformation and opinion manipulation.”

Interestingly, they also agree that they should “contribute fairly to the taxes in countries where [they] operate.” This has been an ongoing issue between the French government and the U.S. government. The OECD and the European Union have also discussed implementing a tax on tech giants so that they report to tax authorities in each country where they operate.

Other commitments mention privacy, social inclusiveness, diversity and equity, fighting all sorts of discriminations and more. As the name suggests, the pledge revolves around using technology for good things.

Now let’s talk about who signed the pledge. There are some well-known names, such as Sundar Pichai from Alphabet (Google), Mark Zuckerberg from Facebook, Brad Smith from Microsoft, Evan Spiegel from Snap and Jack Dorsey, the CEO of Twitter and Square. Other companies include Cisco, Deliveroo, Doctolib, IBM, OpenClassrooms, Uber, etc.

Some nonprofit organizations also signed the pledge, such as the Mozilla Foundation, Simplon, Tech for Good France, etc.

But it’s more interesting to see who’s not on the list. Amazon and Apple have chosen not to sign the pledge. There have been discussions with Apple but the company eventually chose not to participate.

“Amazon didn’t want to sign it and I invite you to ask them directly,” a source close to the French president said. The French government is clearly finger-pointing in Amazon’s case.

This is an odd move as it’s a non-binding pledge. You can say that you want to “contribute fairly to taxes” and then argue that you’re paying everything that you owe — tax optimization is not tax evasion, after all. Worse, you can say that you’re building products with “privacy by design” in mind while you’re actually building entire companies based on personalized ads and micro-targeting.

In other words, the Tech for Good summit was created for photo opportunities (like this photo from 2018 below). Tech CEOs want to be treated like heads of state, while Macron wants to position himself as a tech-savvy president. It’s a win-win for them, and a waste of time for everyone else.

Some nonprofit organizations and governance groups are actually working hard to build digital commons. But big tech companies are using the same lexicon with these greenwashing-style campaigns.

In 2018, hundreds of organizations signed the Paris Call. In 2019, the biggest social media companies signed the Christchurch Call. And now, we have the Tech for Good Call. Those calls can’t replace proper regulation.

Image Credits: Charles Platiau / AFP / Getty Images

#emmanuel-macron, #europe, #france-newsletter, #policy, #startups, #tech-for-good, #tech-for-good-call, #tech-for-good-summit

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Yubo could be the next big social app as it raises $47.5 million

French startup Yubo is the biggest social media app you’ve never heard of — unless you’re a teen. With a focus on young people under 25, the company has managed to attract 40 million users. A fraction of them hang out every day in live-streaming rooms, meet new people and spend money for more features.

That’s right, the company isn’t betting on ads. You can pay to unlock items or subscribe to the app. Yubo expects to generate $20 million in revenue this year — that’s twice as much revenue than it generated in 2019.

Yubo recently closed a Series C funding round of $47.5 million. Existing investors Idinvest Partners, Iris Capital, Alven and Sweet Capital are investing once again. Gaia Capital Partners is joining the round as a new investor. Jerry Murdock from Insight Partners isn’t investing in the company but he’s joining the company’s board.

So what is Yubo exactly? It’s a social media app that wants to reverse the current trend of social networks — you can’t follow other users, you can’t like content.

As we’ve seen many, many times in the past, once you introduce a following feature, the ability to like and algorithmic recommendations, your social network becomes a virtual stage. A tiny portion of your user base performs on that stage, the vast majority consumes content. Influencers emerge and monopolize your attention. We’ve seen that trend with Vine, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, TikTok and even LinkedIn.

Yubo isn’t looking for performers. The company wants to help you meet other people, play games, hang out and create new friendships. In many ways, it feels like a way to hang out with teens that don’t attend your high school.

Image Credits: Yubo

When you open the app, you get a list of rooms that you can join. Users can live stream from their phone and chat with other users. You join rooms depending on what you’re looking for — local people, people talking about politics, people playing games, etc.

Once again, the idea isn’t to create giant room with a handful of performers and tens of thousands of viewers. There’s no tipping mechanism so it’s not like Twitch.

“In 95% of rooms, there are only streamers. Rooms have between 5 and 10 people on average,” co-founder and CEO Sacha Lazimi told me.

You can add people as friends and chat with them in the app. In addition to rooms, you can find new friends by swiping left and right on profile pages — an interaction borrowed from Tinder.

“We had 25 million registered users in December. Today, we have more than 40 million users,” Lazimi said. Most users are based in the U.S., the U.K., Canada, Australia and France.

And engagement has been going up as well. The number of hours spent in live rooms is up 400% year-over-year.

With in-app purchases and subscriptions, you get additional features. For instance, you can boost your live stream, promote your profile on the Swipe page or feature your profile at the top of the online section. It’s a way to get more people in your room, receive messages from more users and have more interactions in general.

“We think it’s the future of monetization for social platforms. If you focus on ads, you’re competing with Facebook, TikTok and Snap,” Lazimi said.

With such a young audience, moderation is extremely important. The company has been investing heavily on real-time moderation processes and it tries to enforce strict rules. When you sign up, Yubo checks your identity to put you in the right age group.

“We analyze all content both semantically and visually,” Lazimi said. The company is currently working on alert popups to tell users that they’re doing something inappropriate while it’s happening.

Yubo has in-house safety experts and also works with contractors — it can connect its users with local helplines as well. One-third of the company’s investments are focused on safety. It currently covers 36 languages.

With today’s funding round, Yubo will expand its team. There are currently 30 employees in Paris, London and Jacksonville, which is small when you think about the reach of the app. Yubo will open an office in New York.

On the product front, Yubo is working on recommendation algorithms. The company is also going to build a YouTube integration to consume YouTube content from a room directly. Yubo is also partnering with Snap to integrate Camera Kit. This way, Yubo will be able to build is own AR lenses for its users.

#apps, #europe, #france-newsletter, #fundings-exits, #mobile, #social, #yubo

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Scaleway launches cloud instances that cost $2.10 per month

French cloud hosting company Scaleway originally started with very cheap cloud instances. Over the years, the company has expanded its offering and added more premium services, such as managed Kubernetes, object storage, block storage, managed databases, load balancers and GPU instances. But Scaleway is now launching another cheap cloud instance that costs €0.0025 per hour — around $0.0039 per hour.

Obviously, you’re not getting incredible performance for that price. But it’s a good way to try out new things and build an application just for you. If you’re the only user, those specifications might be enough.

Called Stardust, the virtual compute instance comes with 1 vCPU, 1GB of RAM, an IP address (IPv4), 10GB of local storage and up to 100Mbps of bandwidth. There’s no restriction on bandwidth usage.

Billed by the hour, you end up paying €1.80 per month ($2.10). The company isn’t going to generate a ton of revenue from such a cheap product. That’s why supply is limited. Scaleway will release a limited batch of cloud instances every month — first come, first served.

There are also some limits as you can’t spin up a ton of Stardust and build your own infrastructure. Each account can have up to one Stardust instance in Paris and another one in Amsterdam.

Scaleway lists some potential use cases for its new product, such as an internal wiki, a code repository backup, an always-on instance to set up daemons, triggers and workers, a VPN server, etc. The instance supports Ubuntu, Debian, CentOS and Fedora.

#developer, #europe, #france-newsletter, #scaleway

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France rebrands contact-tracing app in an effort to boost downloads

Don’t call it StopCovid anymore. France’s contact-tracing app has been updated and is now called TousAntiCovid, which means ‘everyone against Covid’. The French government is trying to pivot so that it’s no longer a contact-tracing app — or at least not just a contact-tracing app.

Right now, TousAntiCovid appears to be a rebranding more than a pivot. There’s a new name and some changes in the user interface. But the core feature of the app remains unchanged.

StopCovid hasn’t been a success. First, it’s still unclear whether contact-tracing apps are a useful tool to alert people who have been interacting with someone who has been diagnosed COVID-19-positive. Second, even when you take that into consideration, the app never really took off.

Back in June, the French government gave us an update on StopCovid three weeks after its launch. 1.9 million people had downloaded the app, but StopCovid only sent 14 notifications.

Four months later, StopCovid/TousAntiCovid has been downloaded and activated by close to 2.8 million people. But only 13,651 people declared themselves as COVID-19-positive in the app, which led to 823 notifications. Even if you’re tested positive, in most cases, no one is going to be notified.

Hence today’s update. If you’ve been using the app, you’ll receive TousAntiCovid with a software update — the French government is using the same App Store and Play Store listing. When you first launch the app, you go through an onboarding process focused on contact-tracing — activate notifications, activate Bluetooth, etc.

France is using its own contact-tracing protocol called ROBERT. A group of researchers and private companies have worked on a centralized architecture. The server assigns you a permanent ID (a pseudonym) and sends to your phone a list of ephemeral IDs derived from that permanent ID.

Like most contact-tracing apps, TousAntiCovid relies on Bluetooth Low Energy to build a comprehensive list of other app users you’ve interacted with for more than a few minutes. If you’re using the app, it collects the ephemeral IDs of other app users around you.

If you’re using the app and you’re diagnosed COVID-19-positive, your testing facility will hand you a QR code or a string of letters and numbers. You can choose to open the app and enter that code to share the list of ephemeral IDs of people you’ve interacted with over the past two weeks.

The server back end then flags all those ephemeral IDs as belonging to people who have potentially been exposed to the coronavirus. On the server again, each user is associated with a risk score. If it goes above a certain threshold, the user receives a notification. The app then recommends you get tested and follow official instructions.

But there are some new things in the app. You can now access some recent numbers about the pandemic in France — new cases over the past 24 hours, number of people in intensive care unit, etc. There’s a new feed of news items. Right now, it sums up what you can do and cannot do in France

And there are some new links for useful resources — the service that tells you where you can get tested and a link to the exemption certificate during the curfew. When you tap on those links, it simply launches your web browser to official websites.

Let’s see how the app evolves as the government now wants to actively iterate on TousAntiCovid to make it more attractive. If TousAntiCovid can become a central information hub for your phone, it could attract more downloads.

#contact-tracing, #coronavirus, #covid, #covid-19, #europe, #france-newsletter, #policy, #stopcovid, #tc

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Health insurance startup Alan lets you chat with a doctor

French startup Alan is building health insurance products. And 100,000 people are now covered through Alan . I caught up with the company’s co-founder and CEO Jean-Charles Samuelian-Werve so that he could give us an update on the product.

Alan has obtained its own health insurance license and is a proper insurance company. It doesn’t partner with existing insurance companies. The company primarily sells its insurance product to other companies.

In France, employees are covered by both the national health care system and private insurance companies. So Alan convinces other companies to use its product for all employees.

Over the years, Alan has diversified its offering with high-end coverage, partnerships with CNP Assurances, Livi and Petit Bambou, a focus on new verticals, such as companies in the hospitality industry or retired individuals.

“We’ve kept shipping, and I even think that our pace has increased. We’ve released some exciting stuff in recent months, for our members, for companies and for us internally,” Samuelian-Werve told me.

The biggest change isn’t visible to the end user. The company has built a service that lets them generate a new insurance package on demand. It uses historical data to figure out pricing on the fly. And it opens up some market opportunities as big companies want a custom insurance product depending on their needs.

The biggest Alan customer is a company with 1,000 to 1,500 employees. But the startup is currently selling its product to bigger companies. The idea is that companies above 100 employees can get a custom insurance package.

For the customer, pricing remains transparent as Alan shows you how much it costs to cover your medical needs depending on what you’re asking for. Alan adds a membership fee on top of that to access the platform and related services.

Alan is also introducing a new messaging feature. You can start a text discussion with a doctor whenever you have a question about your health — it’s included in your insurance package. Alan doesn’t want to replace your general practitioner. But having a doctor that you can text is always helpful when you’re not sure what to do next.

On the other side of the screen, there are actual doctors answering your questions. “We’ve hired a full-time doctor and we’re working with a bit under 10 doctors on a part-time basis,” Samuelian-Werve told me.

Alan’s app has been redesigned with a bigger emphasis on your health instead of your insurance. The company shows you all your interactions with health professionals. You can add documents and notes to consolidate information in the same place.

It sounds a bit like France’s DMP, which acts as a personal repository for all your health-related documents. And Alan doesn’t want to replace the public initiative. The startup would like to take advantage of the service to upload and download data at some point down the road.

If you give your consent, Alan can also proactively nudge you about your health. For instance, given your child’s age, Alan can notify you when they’re supposed to get vaccinated. Or if you haven’t been to the dentist in a year, Alan can tell you that it’s time to get a routine checkup.

Finally, the company has improved efficiency when it comes to reimbursements. “74% of reimbursements are issued within an hour. And we’re using instant transfers to send money to your bank account,” Samuelian-Werve told me.

As you can see, Alan is releasing incremental updates. They slowly add up and change the product. In the coming years, the company plans to offer its product in multiple European countries.

#alan, #europe, #france-newsletter, #startups

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French TV networks team up to launch streaming service Salto

There’s a new streaming service in France called Salto. The companies behind the new service have been around for a while though. Salto is a joint initiative between TF1, France Télévisions and M6 — three major TV networks.

Those companies already had their own apps with live TV and ad-supported catch-up content. And of course, you can access content from these networks from your set-top box. But they’re trying something new with Salto.

For now, Salto is mostly an ad-free combination of all the individual apps from TF1, France Télévisions and M6. You can watch live TV from 19 different channels. You can play catch-up content from all three networks without any video ad.

It costs €6.99 per month. For €9.99, you can watch on two screens simultaneously. For €12.99 per month, you get four screens. Salto has released apps for Android, Android TV, iOS and tvOS. It also works in a web browser.

Such an offering probably won’t be enough to attract subscribers. That’s why Salto is slowly adding exclusive content to its platform as well. Salto is also going to be a good way to access content for kids in a dedicated section.

You can see some TV shows before they air on TV, such as an adaption from Agatha Christies’ ‘And Then There Were None’, the new season of Fargo. There are also some classic shows, such as Parks & Recreation and Seinfeld.

Who will be subscribing to Salto then? If you mostly watch live TV and you already know how to access catch-up content, Salto isn’t for you. If you already have access to premium content through a Canal+ subscription for instance, Salto isn’t for you.

But if you’re addicted to reality TV and daily soap operas, Salto could be a nice service to consume your favorite show. If you don’t pay for any streaming service, it could be a cheap service to get started and access some basic shows and movies.

Image Credits: Salto

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