#DealMonitor – Staffbase bekommt 105 Millionen – Pirate Impact investiert in Voltfang


Im #DealMonitor für den 15. März werfen wir einen Blick auf die wichtigsten, spannendsten und interessantesten Investments und Exits des Tages in der DACH-Region. Alle Deals der Vortage gibt es im großen und übersichtlichen #DealMonitor-Archiv.

INVESTMENTS

Staffbase
+++  Der Private-Equity-Geldgeber General Atlantic und Insight Partners investieren weitere 106 Millionen Euro in Staffbase. Das Unternehmen wird nun mit “über einer Milliarde Euro bewertet” und erreicht somit mit dieser Finanzierungsrunde Unicorn-Status. Das Chemnitzer Startup, 2014 von Frank Wolf, Lutz Gerlach und Martin Böhringer gegründet, entwickelt eine Plattform, mit der Unternehmen ohne großen Aufwand eigene Mitarbeiter-Apps für den internen Gebrauch erstellen können. Über diese können die Nutzer etwa Nachrichten verschicken oder Schulungsvideos abrufen. Zu den Staffbase-Kunden gehören unter anderem Adidas, Ikea und Volvo. General Atlantic, Insights Partners und e.ventures investierten erst im März 2021 rund 145 Millionen US-Dollar in das Unternehmen. Zu den Investoren gehören ansonsten Kizoo Technology Capital und Capnamic Ventures, die auch weiter an Bord bleiben. Insgesamt flossen nun über 300 Millionen Dollar in das Unternehmen. Mehr über Staffbase

Voltfang
+++ Pirate Impact, das Family Office der Gebrüder Heilemann, die gridX-Gründer David Balensiefen und Andreas Booke sowie Ralf Christian und Gabor Cselle investieren eine siebenstellige Summe in Voltfang. Das Startup aus Aachen, das von Roman Alberti, Afshin Doostdar und David Oudsandji gegründet wurde, entwickelt Hausspeicher für Privathaushalte – und zwar aus gebrauchten Elektroauto-Batterien. Mehr über Voltfang

talentsconnect
+++ Pride Capital investiert im Rahmen einer Mezzanine-Finanzierung eine mittlere siebenstellige Summe in talentsconnect. Das Unternehmen aus Köln bietet Unternehmen mit JobShops die Möglichkeit, offene Stellen wie in einem Online-Shop anzubieten. “Diese besondere Form der Finanzierung garantiert dem Unternehmen weiterhin unternehmerische Unabhängigkeit und wird das zuletzt zweistellige Wachstum weiter beschleunigen. Im gleichen Zug haben auch die Bestandsaktionäre ihr Engagement mit einem ebenfalls siebenstelligen Betrag ausgeweitet”, teilt das Unternehmen mit.

Foto (oben): azrael74

#aachen, #aktuell, #chemnitz, #general-atlantic, #insight-partners, #koln, #pirate-impact, #staffbase, #talentsconnect, #venture-capital, #voltfang

#DealMonitor – Ardian investiert in Berlin Brands Group – AnyDesk bekommt 70 Millionen – Tesvolt sammelt 40 Millionen ein


Im aktuellen #DealMonitor für den 17. November werfen wir wieder einen Blick auf die wichtigsten, spannendsten und interessantesten Investments und Exits des Tages in der DACH-Region. Alle Deals der Vortage gibt es im großen und übersichtlichen #DealMonitor-Archiv.

INVESTMENTS

Berlin Brands Group
+++ Die Privat-Equity-Firma Ardian investiert 100 Millionen US-Dollar in die Berlin Brands Group (BBG) – siehe Handelsblatt. “Die Investmentgesellschaft erhält dafür eine Minderheitsbeteiligung. Mehrheitsgesellschafter bleibt Peter Chaljawski mit seinem Gründerteam. Zweitgrößter Gesellschafter ist Bain Capital”, teilt BBG zum Investment mit. Spannend dabei: Ardian ist gerade erst bei BBG ausgestiegen.  Das Privat-Equity-Unternehmen Bain Capital investierte im September 700 Millionen US-Dollar Eigen- und Fremdkapital in BBG und kaufte dabei auch den 40-Prozent-Anteil des vorherigen Investors Ardian auf. Im Zuge der Transaktion wurde der D2C-Pionier, zu dem Marken wie Klarstein, auna und gehören, mit mehr als 1 Milliarde US-Dollar bewertet und erreichte damit Unicorn-Status. BBG erwirtschaftete 2020 einen Umsatz in Höhe von 334 Millionen Euro. Über 900 Mitarbeiter:innen wirkten derzeit für das Unternehmen. Als Ardian 2015 zum ersten Mal bei BBG eingestiegen ist, lag der Umsatz gerade einmal bei 70 Millionen Euro. Mehr über die Berlin Brands Group

AnyDesk
+++ Jetzt offiziell: General Atlantic, Insight Partners, EQT Ventures und Possible Ventures investieren 70 Millionen US-Dollar in AnyDesk. Das junge Unternehmen aus Stuttgart möchte quasi TeamViewer als erste Adresse für den Fernzugriff auf Rechner ablösen. Insight Partners, EQT Ventures sowie Business Angels wie Chris Hitchen und Andreas Burike investierten in den vergangenen Jahren bereits in AnyDesk. Die Bewertung liegt bei rund 600 Millionen Dollar – siehe TechCrunch. Bereits Ende September hatten wir im Insider-Podcast über den geplanten Einstieg von General Atlantic bei AnyDesk berichtet. Mehr über Anydesk

Hakuna
+++ Der Berliner Geldgeber Visionaries Club und Discovery Ventures investieren nach unseren Informationen in Hakuna. Das Startup, das von den beiden abracar-Gründern Sebastian Jost und Orhan Köroglu gegründet wurde, kümmert sich um die Vermittlung von Versicherungen. Das Unternehmen hört auf den Namen Product Protection JKM. Die Hauptstädter sicherten sich aber bereits die Marken Hakuna und hellohakuna. Mehr im Insider-Podcast #EXKLUSIV

Patronus
+++ Cavalry Ventures, UVC Partners und DN Capital investieren nach unseren Informationen in Patronus. Das Berliner Startup, das 2020 von Ben Staudt und Tim Wagner gegründet wurde, setzt auf einen digitalen Hausnotruf in Form einer Uhr. In der Selbstbeschreibung heißt es: “Die Patronus-Uhr hat alles, was Sie von einem Hausnotruf erwarten. Immer zur Stelle, wenn Hilfe gebraucht wird”. Mehr im Insider-Podcast #EXKLUSIV

Tesvolt 
+++ Ein Investorenkonsortium unter Führung der Liechtenstein Gruppe – eine Unternehmensgruppe im Besitz der Fürstenfamilie Liechtenstein – investiert 40 Millionen Euro in Tesvolt. Das Unternehmen aus Wittenberg, das von Simon Schandert und Daniel Hannemann gegründet wurde, kümmert sich um Energiespeicherung im gewerblichen und industriellen Bereich. “Mit den finanziellen Mitteln wird Tesvolt seine internationalen Aktivitäten forcieren und seinen Fokus auf innovative Produkte konsequent weiterverfolgen”, heißt es in der Presseaussendung.

Daedalus
+++ Addition und Altinvestor Khosla Ventures investieren 11,5 Millionen US-Dollar in das deutsch-amerikanische KI-Startup Daedalus. Das Unternehmen mit Sitz in Karlsruhe und San Francisco, das von Jonas Schneider gegründet wurde, baut “autonome und sofort rekonfigurierbare Fabriken mit softwaregesteuerter Fertigung und KI-gestützten Robotern”. In der Presseaussendung zum Investment heißt es: “The investment will support the company on its mission to revolutionize manufacturing by making automation economically feasible for companies of all sizes and independent of manufacturing technologies”.

unea 
+++ Nach Philipp Westermeyer (OMR), Marcus Börner (OptioPay, reBuy), Daniel Khachab (choco), Benita Krahforst (Ex-Partner Burda Ventures), Moritz Kreppel (Urban Sports Club) und Torben Schreiter (Signavio) investiert nun auch Jérôme Cochet in unea. Das Berliner AdTech-Startup, das 2021 vom Roq.ad-Gründer Richy Ugwu gegründet wurde, entwickelt eine Software, “die es jedem Business ermöglicht, die eigenen Werbeflächen selbstständig und skalierbar zu monetarisieren”.

ContentBay
+++ Ex-Sky-Vorstand Holger Enßlin investiert in ContentBay. Das Startup aus München, das von Oliver Skelton gegründet wurde, positioniert sich als Marktplatz für Programminhalte. “Ziel ist es, den Handel von audiovisuellen Inhalten aller Art auf Basis einer umfassenden Datenbank mit intelligenten Such- und Analyse-Funktionen effizienter und zielgenauer zu gestalten”, teilt die Jungfirma mit.

Digitalstage.io
+++ Flori Ventures investiert eine sechsstellige Summe in Digitalstage.io. Das Startup aus Berlin, das 2020 von Richard Harless, dem ehemaligen Deutschland-Chef von Shazam, gegründet wurde, möchte digitale Fan-Erlebnisse schaffen. Die “Fan Experience” von Live-Konzerten, Meet-and-Greets, Schallplattenläden und Merchandise-Ständen soll dabei in einen gemeinsamen digitalen Raum übertragen werden.

MERGERS & ACQUISITIONS

Sanubi
+++ Das Unternehmen Schülke & Mayr, das im Segment Infektionsprävention und Hygienelösungen unterwegs ist, übernimmt Sanubi, ein junger Online-Anbieter für erstattungsfähige Produkte im Pflegesektor. “Eigentümer von Schülke ist EQT Partners, ein führender europäischer Private-Equity-Fonds. Der Erwerb der Sanubi-Anteile ist eine strategische Investition für Schülke/EQT”, heißt es in der Presseaussendung. Schülke + Mayr übernahm zuletzt auch proSenio. Zur Jungfirma gehören Pflegebox, ein Versand von Pflegehilfsmitteln sowie Marken wie hoerhelfer, aktivwelt und sehhelfer. Sanubi, 2014 von Carsten Lebtig und Fabian Lemke gegründet, wurde unter anderem von DvH Ventures finanziell unterstützt.

VENTURE CAPITAL

SmartCityHouse
+++ In Osnabrück geht mit SmartCityHouse ein neuer Accelerator und Company Builder an den Start. “Ziel unseres Programmes ist es, euch Raum für ihre Geschäftsmodelle zu geben und euch auf dem Weg zu einem erfolgreichen Unternehmen zu begleiten. So möchten wir Innovationen voranbringen, die das Zusammenleben der Menschen in der Stadt von Morgen smarter und lebenswerter machen sowie die Lebensqualität und Nachhaltigkeit in der Stadt und Region Osnabrück fördern”, teilt der Startup-Förderer mit.

Newsletter: Über neue Startups berichten wir zuerst in unserem Startup-Radar-Newsletter. Der Newsletter erscheint einmal pro Woche und stellt junge Startups vor, die noch nicht jeder kennt. Den Newsletter gibt es aber nur im kostenpflichtigen Abo. Jetzt 30 Tage kostenlos testen.

Startup-Jobs: Auf der Suche nach einer neuen Herausforderung? In der unserer Jobbörse findet Ihr Stellenanzeigen von Startups und Unternehmen.

Foto (oben): azrael74

#accelerator, #addition, #adtech, #aktuell, #anydesk, #ardian, #berlin-brands-group, #cavalry-ventures, #contentbay, #daedalus, #digitalstage-io, #discovery-ventures, #dn-capital, #eqt-ventures, #flori-ventures, #general-atlantic, #hakuna, #insight-partners, #khosla-ventures, #osnabruck, #patronus, #possible-ventures, #sanubi, #schulke-mayr, #smartcityhouse, #stuttgart, #tesvolt, #unea, #uvc-partners, #venture-capital, #visionaries-club, #wittenberg

Panorama raises $60M in General Atlantic-led Series C to help schools better understand students

Panorama Education, which has built out a K-12 education software platform, has raised $60 million in a Series C round of funding led by General Atlantic.

Existing backers Owl Ventures, Emerson Collective, Uncork Capital, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative and Tao Capital Partners also participated in the financing, which brings the Boston-based company’s total raised since its 2012 inception to $105 million.

Panorama declined to reveal at what valuation the Series C was raised, nor did it provide any specific financial growth metrics. CEO and co-founder Aaron Feuer did say the company now serves 13 million students in 23,000 schools across the United States, which means that 25% of American students are enrolled in a district served by Panorama today. 

Over 50 of the largest 100 school districts and state agencies in the country use its platform. In total, more than 1,500 school districts are among its customers. Clients include the New York City Department of Education, Clark County School District in Nevada, Dallas ISD in Texas and the Hawaii Department of Education, among others.

Since March 2020, Panorama has added 700 school districts to its customer base, nearly doubling the 800 it served just 18 months prior, according to Feuer.

Just what does Panorama do exactly? In a nutshell, the SaaS business surveys students, parents and teachers to collect actionable data. Former Yale graduate students Feuer and Xan Tanner started the company in an effort to figure out the best way for schools to collect and understand feedback from their students.

With the COVID-19 pandemic leading to many students attending school virtually, the need to address students’ social and emotional needs has probably never been more paramount. Many children and teenagers have suffered depression and anxiety due to being isolated from their peers, and some believe the impact on their mental health has been even greater than any negative academic repercussions.

Students, for example, are asked questions to determine how safe they feel at school, how much they trust their teachers and how much potential they think they have.

“We help schools survey students, teachers and parents to understand the environment and experiences of the school,” Feuer told TechCrunch. “And then we help schools measure social and emotional development so that in the same way you might have rigorous data on math, you can now get information about social emotional learning and well-being.”

In the past year, for example, 25 million people across the country have taken a Panorama survey, which has resulted in quite a bit of information. The company is able to integrate with all of a district’s existing data systems so that it can pull together a “panorama” of its data, plus the information about a student.

“It’s really powerful because a teacher can then log in and see everything about a student in one place,” Feuer said. “But most importantly, we give teachers the tools to plan actions for a student.”

The company claims that by using its software, districts can see benefits such as improved graduation rates, fewer behavior referrals, more time engaged in learning and students building “stronger supportive relationships with adults and peers.”

Panorama plans to use its new capital toward continued product development, further deepening its district partnerships and naturally, toward hiring. Panorama currently has about 250 employees.

Notably, Panorama had not raised capital in a couple of years simply because, according to Feuer, it did not need the money.

“We met General Atlantic and realized the opportunity to reach the next level of impact for our schools,” he told TechCrunch. “But it was important to me that we didn’t need to raise the money. We chose to because we want to be able to invest in the business.”

Tanzeen Syed, managing director at General Atlantic, said edtech has been an important area of focus for this firm.

“When we looked at the U.S. education system, we thought that there was a massive opportunity and that we’re in the very early innings of using software and technology to really enhance the student experience,” he said.

When it came to Panorama, he believes “it’s not just a business” for the company.

“They truly and deeply care about providing students and administrators with the tools to make the student experience better,” Syed told TechCrunch. “And they’re maniacally focused on developing the sort of product to allow them to do that. In addition to that, we spoke with a lot of schools and districts and the feedback came back consistently positive.”

#edtech, #education, #funding, #fundings-exits, #general-atlantic, #panorama-education, #recent-funding, #saas, #startups, #tc

#DealMonitor – Kalera kauft &ever (Bewertung: 130 Millionen) – Chrono24 sammelt 100 Millionen ein – Perform bekommt 20 Millionen ein


Im aktuellen #DealMonitor für den 11. August werfen wir wieder einen Blick auf die wichtigsten, spannendsten und interessantesten Investments und Exits des Tages in der DACH-Region. Alle Deals der Vortage gibt es im großen und übersichtlichen #DealMonitor-Archiv.

MERGERS & ACQUISITIONS

&ever
+++ Der norwegische Vertical Farming-Anbieter Kalera übernimmt &ever. Kalera bewertet die Münchner Jungfirma dabei mit 130 Millionen Euro. “The consideration will consist of a combination of cash and Kalera shares. Under the terms of the agreement, &ever GmbH shareholders will receive EUR 21.6 million in cash and 27,856,081 Kalera shares at a subscription price of NOK 36.68. Kalera shareholders will own an 87% stake in the combined company, while current &ever GmbH shareholders will own 13%, on a fully-diluted basis”, teilt das Unternehmen mit. &ever wurde 2015 vom Vapiano-Gründer Mark Korzilius unter dem namen Farmers Cut ins Leben gerufen. &ever betreibt neben sogenannten In-Store Grow-Towers in Deutschland auch eine große Vertical Farming-Anlage in Kuwait. Mit einem ähnlichen Ansatz wie &ever ist Infarm unterwegs. Die Berliner dachten zuletzt über einen SPAC-IPO nach.

INVESTMENT

Chrono24
+++ Der Wachstumsinvestor General Atlantic und Aglaé Ventures (gehört zur Familie Arnault, die Anteile an Christian Dior und LVMH hält) sowie die Altinvestoren Insight Partners und Sprints Capital investieren 100 Millionen Euro in Chrono24. Insgesamt flossen nun schon rund 200 Millionen Euro in die Jungfirma. Chrono24 wurde bereits 2003 von Andrej Maric und der Axess New Media GmbH gegründet. Seit März 2010 haben Dirk Schwartz und Tim Stracke, die Gründer von mentasys (heute pangora), beim Luxusuhren-Marktplatz das Kommando. “Chrono24 will das frisch eingesammelte Kapital nutzen, um seinen Wachstumskurs zu beschleunigen und international weiter zu expandieren, seine Präsenz auf bestehenden Märkten auszubauen und sein globales Team mit zusätzlichen Toptalenten zu verstärken”, teilt das Unternehmen mit. Rund 400 Mitarbeiter:innen wirken in Karlsruhe, Berlin, New York und Hongkong derzeit für Chrono24. Mehr über Chrono24

Parcel Perform 
+++ Cambridge Capital, SoftBank Ventures Asia sowie die Altinvestoren Wavemaker Partners und Investible investieren 20 Millionen US-Dollar in Parcel Perform. Das Startup, das 2015 von den beiden Berlinern Dana von der Heide und Arne Jeroschewski in Singapur gegründet wurde, positioniert sich als “Cloud-basierte Zustellplattform für E-Commerce-Unternehmen”. Derzeit arbeiten 100 Mitarbeiter:innen für die Jungfirma. “Parcel Perform ist profitabel und wächst kontinuierlich. Der Umsatz ist seit dem Ausbruch der COVID-19-Pandemie um das Fünffache gestiegen”, teilt das Unternehmen mit. Mehr über Parcel Perform 

Afilio
+++ CommerzVentures und Speedinvest sowie die beiden Altinvestoren Cherry Ventures und Cavalry Ventures investieren 13 Millionen US-Dollar in Afilio. Beim Berliner InsurTech, das 2017 von  Till Oltmanns, Philip Harms und Richard Musiol gegründet wurde, dreht sich alles um die Erstellung und Verwaltung von Vorsorge- und Nachlassdokumenten. Cherry Ventures, Cavalry Ventures und einige Business Angels investierten zuvor bereits rund 4,5 Millionen Euro in das Unternehmen. Mehr über Afilio

Sunvigo
+++ Der High-Tech Gründerfonds (HTGF), der Climate-Tech-Investor Übermorgen Ventures und ein nicht genanntes Family Office investieren 3 Millionen Euro in Sunvigo. “Zudem hat Sunvigo mit der Deutschen Kreditbank AG (DKB) einen weiteren Kreditrahmen über 2,5 Milionen Euro für die Finanzierung seiner Assets abgeschlossen”, teilt die Jungfirma mit. Das Startup aus Köln setzt seinen Kunden eine kostenlose Solaranlage aufs Dach. Im Gegenzug bietet Sunvigo, das von Michael Peters, Bastian Bauwens und Vigen Nikogosian gegründet wurde, seinen Kunden einen Stromvertrag an. Mehr über Sunvigo

Fyrfeed
+++ Angel-Investoren wie Dan Phillips, Josef Arweck, Sven Rawe, Volker Asemann, Michael Naumann, Julius Göllner und Jochen Hummel investieren eine mittlere sechsstellige Summe in Fyrfeed. Das Startup aus Berlin, das von Thomas Lindemann aus Benjamin Zengler und Ehud Alexander Avner gegründet wurde, setzt auf einen “wissenschaftlichen Ansatz mit Künstlicher Intelligenz”, um Social Media-Inhalte zu generieren.

Achtung! Wir freuen uns über Tipps, Infos und Hinweise, was wir in unserem #DealMonitor alles so aufgreifen sollten. Schreibt uns eure Vorschläge entweder ganz klassisch per E-Mail oder nutzt unsere “Stille Post“, unseren Briefkasten für Insider-Infos.

Startup-Jobs: Auf der Suche nach einer neuen Herausforderung? In der unserer Jobbörse findet Ihr Stellenanzeigen von Startups und Unternehmen.

Foto (oben): azrael74

#afilio, #aglae-ventures, #aktuell, #berlin, #cambridge-capital, #chrono24, #commerzventures, #energie, #ever, #fyrfeed, #general-atlantic, #high-tech-grunderfonds, #insurtech, #investible, #kalera, #karlsruhe, #koln, #parcel-perform, #singapur, #softbank-ventures-asia, #speedinvest, #sunvigo, #ubermorgen-ventures, #venture-capital, #vertical-farming, #wavemaker-partners

Turkey’s first decacorn: Trendyol raises $1.5B at a $16.5B valuation

Trendyol, an e-commerce platform based in Turkey, has raised $1.5 billion in a massive funding round that values the company at $16.5 billion. General Atlantic, SoftBank Vision Fund 2, Princeville Capital and sovereign wealth funds, ADQ (UAE) and Qatar Investment Authority co-led the round. 

The deal marks SoftBank’s first in the country.

The new financing also makes Trendyol Turkey’s first decacorn, and among the highest-valued private tech companies in Europe. It comes just months after strategic — and majority — backer Alibaba invested $350 million in the company at a $9.4 billion valuation.

Founded in 2010, Trendyol ranks as Turkey’s largest e-commerce company, serving more than 30 million shoppers and delivering more than 1 million packages per day. It claims to have evolved from marketplace to “superapp” by combining its marketplace platform (which is powered by Trendyol Express, its own last-mile delivery solution) with instant grocery and food delivery through its own courier network (Trendyol Go), its digital wallet (Trendyol Pay), consumer-to-consumer channel (Dolap) and other services.

Trendyol founder Demet Suzan Mutlu said the new capital will go toward expansion within Turkey and globally. Specifically, the company plans to continue investing in nationwide infrastructure, technology and logistics and toward accelerating digitalization of Turkish SMEs. She said the company was founded to create positive impact and that it intends to continue on that mission.

Evren Ucok, Trendyol’s chairman,  added that part of the company’s goal is to create new export channels for Turkish merchants and manufacturers.

Melis Kahya Akar, managing director and head of consumer for EMEA at General Atlantic, said that Trendyol’s marketplace model — ranging from grocery delivery to mobile wallets — “brings convenience and ease to consumers” in Turkey and internationally.

“Turkey is one of the fastest growing economies in the world and benefits from attractive demographics, with a young population that is very active online,” wrote General Atlantic’s Kahya Akar via e-mail. “We expect its already sizable e-commerce market –$17 billion in 2020 – to continue to grow meaningfully on the back of growing online penetration. We think Trendyol is ideally positioned to meet the needs of consumers in Turkey and around the world as the company expands.”

A 2020 report by JPMorgan found that e-commerce represented only 5.3% of the overall Turkish retail market at the time but that Turkish e-commerce had notched impressive leaps in revenues in recent years: 2018 alone saw the market jump by 42%, followed by 31% in 2019. As of 2020, 67% of the Turkish population were making purchases online.

#alibaba, #apps, #demet-suzan-mutlu, #e-commerce, #ecommerce, #europe, #food-delivery, #funding, #fundings-exits, #general-atlantic, #qatar-investment-authority, #recent-funding, #softbank, #softbank-vision-fund, #startups, #trendyol, #turkey, #venture-capital

This Week in Apps: In-app events hit the App Store, TikTok tries Stories, Apple reveals new child safety plan

Welcome back to This Week in Apps, the weekly TechCrunch series that recaps the latest in mobile OS news, mobile applications and the overall app economy.

The app industry continues to grow, with a record 218 billion downloads and $143 billion in global consumer spend in 2020. Consumers last year also spent 3.5 trillion minutes using apps on Android devices alone. And in the U.S., app usage surged ahead of the time spent watching live TV. Currently, the average American watches 3.7 hours of live TV per day, but now spends four hours per day on their mobile devices.

Apps aren’t just a way to pass idle hours — they’re also a big business. In 2019, mobile-first companies had a combined $544 billion valuation, 6.5x higher than those without a mobile focus. In 2020, investors poured $73 billion in capital into mobile companies — a figure that’s up 27% year-over-year.

This Week in Apps offers a way to keep up with this fast-moving industry in one place, with the latest from the world of apps, including news, updates, startup fundings, mergers and acquisitions, and suggestions about new apps and games to try, too.

Do you want This Week in Apps in your inbox every Saturday? Sign up here: techcrunch.com/newsletters

Top Stories

Apple to scan for CSAM imagery

Apple announced a major initiative to scan devices for CSAM imagery. The company on Thursday announced a new set of features, arriving later this year, that will detect child sexual abuse material (CSAM) in its cloud and report it to law enforcement. Companies like Dropbox, Google and Microsoft already scan for CSAM in their cloud services, but Apple had allowed users to encrypt their data before it reached iCloud. Now, Apple’s new technology, NeuralHash, will run on users’ devices, tatformso detect when a users upload known CSAM imagery — without having to first decrypt the images. It even can detect the imagery if it’s been cropped or edited in an attempt to avoid detection.

Meanwhile, on iPhone and iPad, the company will roll out protections to Messages app users that will filter images and alert children and parents if sexually explicit photos are sent to or from a child’s account. Children will not be shown the images but will instead see a grayed-out image instead. If they try to view the image anyway through the link, they’ll be shown interruptive screens that explain why the material may be harmful and are warned that their parents will be notified.

Some privacy advocates pushed back at the idea of such a system, believing it could expand to end-to-end encrypted photos, lead to false positives, or set the stage for more on-device government surveillance in the future. But many cryptology experts believe the system Apple developed provides a good balance between privacy and utility, and have offered their endorsement of the technology. In addition, Apple said reports are manually reviewed before being sent to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC).

The changes may also benefit iOS developers who deal in user photos and uploads, as predators will no longer store CSAM imagery on iOS devices in the first place, given the new risk of detection.

In-App Events appear on the App Store

Image Credits: Apple

Though not yet publicly available to all users, those testing the new iOS 15 mobile operating system got their first glimpse of a new App Store discovery feature this week: “in-app events.” First announced at this year’s WWDC, the feature will allow developers and Apple editors alike to showcase directly on the App Store upcoming events taking place inside apps.

The events can appear on the App Store homepage, on the app’s product pages or can be discovered through personalized recommendations and search. In some cases, editors will curate events to feature on the App Store. But developers will also be provided tools to submit their own in-app events. TikTok’s “Summer Camp” for creators was one of the first in-app events to be featured, where it received a top spot on the iPadOS 15 App Store.

Weekly News

Platforms: Apple

Apple expands support for student IDs on iPhone and Apple Watch ahead of the fall semester. Tens of thousands more U.S. and Canadian colleges will now support mobile student IDs in the Apple Wallet app, including Auburn University, Northern Arizona University, University of Maine, New Mexico State University and others.

Apple was accused of promoting scam apps in the App Store’s featured section. The company’s failure to properly police its store is one thing, but to curate an editorial list that actually includes the scams is quite another. One of the games rounded up under “Slime Relaxations,” an already iffy category to say the least, was a subscription-based slime simulator that locked users into a $13 AUD per week subscription for its slime simulator. One of the apps on the curated list didn’t even function, implying that Apple’s editors hadn’t even tested the apps they recommend.

Tax changes hit the App Store. Apple announced tax and price changes for apps and IAPs in South Africa, the U.K. and all territories using the Euro currency, all of which will see decreases. Increases will occur in Georgia and Tajikistan, due to new tax changes. Proceeds on the App Store in Italy will be increased to reflect a change to the Digital Services Tax effective rate.

Game Center changes, too. Apple said that on August 4, a new certificate for server-based Game Center verification will be available via the publicKeyUrl.

Fintech

Robinhood stock jumped more than 24% to $46.80 on Tuesday after initially falling 8% on its first day of trading last week, after which it had continued to trade below its opening price of $38.

Square’s Cash app nearly doubled its gross profit to $546 million in Q2, but also reported a $45 million impairment loss on its bitcoin holdings.

Coinbase’s app now lets you buy your cryptocurrency using Apple Pay. The company previously made its Coinbase Card compatible with Apple Pay in June.

Social

An anonymous app called Sendit, which relies on Snap Kit to function, is climbing the charts of the U.S. App Store after Snap suspended similar apps, YOLO and LMK. Snap was sued by the parent of child who was bullied through those apps, which led to his suicide. Sendit also allows for anonymity, and reviews compare it to YOLO. But some reviews also complained about bullying. This isn’t the first time Snap has been involved in a lawsuit related to a young person’s death related to its app. The company was also sued for its irresponsible “speed filter” that critics said encouraged unsafe driving. Three young men died using the filter, which captured them doing 123 mph.

TikTok is testing Stories. As Twitter’s own Stories integrations, Fleets, shuts down, TikTok confirmed it’s testing its own Stories product. The TikTok Stories appear in a left-hand sidebar and allow users to post ephemeral images or video that disappear in 24 hours. Users can also comment on Stories, which are public to their mutual friends and the creator. Stories on TikTok may make more sense than they did on Twitter, as TikTok is already known as a creative platform and it gives the app a more familiar place to integrate its effects toolset and, eventually, advertisements.

Facebook has again re-arranged its privacy settings. The company continually moves around where its privacy features are located, ostensibly to make them easier to find. But users then have to re-learn where to go to find the tools they need, after they had finally memorized the location. This time, the settings have been grouped into six top-level categories, but “privacy” settings have been unbundled from one location to be scattered among the other categories.

A VICE report details ban-as-a-service operations that allow anyone to harass or censor online creators on Instagram. Assuming you can find it, one operation charged $60 per ban, the listing says.

TikTok merged personal accounts with creator accounts. The change means now all non-business accounts on TikTok will have access to the creator tools under Settings, including Analytics, Creator Portal, Promote and Q&A. TikTok shared the news directly with subscribers of its TikTok Creators newsletter in August, and all users will get a push notification alerting them to the change, the company told us.

Discord now lets users customize their profile on its apps. The company added new features to its iOS and Android apps that let you add a description, links and emojis and select a profile color. Paid subscribers can also choose an image or GIF as their banner.

Twitter Spaces added a co-hosting option that allows up to two co-hosts to be added to the live audio chat rooms. Now Spaces can have one main host, two co-hosts and up to 10 speakers. Co-hosts have all the moderation abilities as hosts, but can’t add or remove others as co-hosts.

Messaging

Tencent reopened new user sign-ups for its WeChat messaging app, after having suspended registrations last week for unspecified “technical upgrades.” The company, like many other Chinese tech giants, had to address new regulations from Beijing impacting the tech industry. New rules address how companies handle user data collection and storage, antitrust behavior and other checks on capitalist “excess.” The gaming industry is now worried it’s next to be impacted, with regulations that would restrict gaming for minors to fight addiction.

WhatsApp is adding a new feature that will allow users to send photos and videos that disappear after a single viewing. The Snapchat-inspired feature, however, doesn’t alert you if the other person takes a screenshot — as Snap’s app does. So it may not be ideal for sharing your most sensitive content.

Telegram’s update expands group video calls to support up to 1,000 viewers. It also announced video messages can be recorded in higher quality and can be expanded, regular videos can be watched at 0.5 or 2x speed, screen sharing with sound is available for all video calls, including 1-on-1 calls, and more.

Streaming & Entertainment

American Airlines added free access to TikTok aboard its Viasat-equipped aircraft. Passengers will be able to watch the app’s videos for up to 30 minutes for free and can even download the app if it’s not already installed. After the free time, they can opt to pay for Wi-Fi to keep watching. Considering how easy it is to fall into multi-hour TikTok viewing sessions without knowing it, the addition of the addictive app could make long plane rides feel shorter. Or at least less painful.

Chinese TikTok rival Kuaishou saw stocks fall by more than 15% in Hong Kong, the most since its February IPO. The company is another victim of an ongoing market selloff triggered by increasing investor uncertainty related to China’s recent crackdown on tech companies. Beijing’s campaign to rein in tech has also impacted Tencent, Alibaba, Jack Ma’s Ant Group, food delivery company Meituan and ride-hailing company Didi. Also related, Kuaishou shut down its controversial app Zynn, which had been paying users to watch its short-form videos, including those stolen from other apps.

Twitch overtook YouTube in consumer spending per user in April 2021, and now sees $6.20 per download as of June compared with YouTube’s $5.60, Sensor Tower found.

Image Credits: Sensor Tower

Spotify confirmed tests of a new ad-supported tier called Spotify Plus, which is only $0.99 per month and offers unlimited skips (like free users get on the desktop) and the ability to play the songs you want, instead of only being forced to use shuffle mode.

The company also noted in a forum posting that it’s no longer working on AirPlay2 support, due to “audio driver compatibility” issues.

Mark Cuban-backed audio app Fireside asked its users to invest in the company via an email sent to creators which didn’t share deal terms. The app has yet to launch.

YouTube kicks off its $100 million Shorts Fund aimed at taking on TikTok by providing creators with cash incentives for top videos. Creators will get bonuses of $100 to $10,000 based on their videos’ performance.

Dating

Match Group announced during its Q2 earnings it plans to add to several of the company’s brands over the next 12 to 24 months audio and video chat, including group live video, and other livestreaming technologies. The developments will be powered by innovations from Hyperconnect, the social networking company that this year became Match’s biggest acquisition to date when it bought the Korean app maker for a sizable $1.73 billion. Since then, Match was spotted testing group live video on Tinder, but says that particular product is not launching in the near-term. At least two brands will see Hyperconnect-powered integrations in 2021.

Photos

The Photo & Video category on U.S. app stores saw strong growth in the first half of the year, a Sensor Tower report found. Consumer spend among the top 100 apps grew 34% YoY to $457 million in Q2 2021, with the majority of the revenue (83%) taking place on iOS.

Image Credits: Sensor Tower

Gaming

Epic Games revealed the host of its in-app Rift Tour event is Ariana Grande, in the event that runs August 6-8.

Pokémon GO influencers threatened to boycott the game after Niantic removed the COVID safety measures that had allowed people to more easily play while social distancing. Niantic’s move seemed ill-timed, given the Delta variant is causing a new wave of COVID cases globally.

Health & Fitness

Apple kicked out an app called Unjected from the App Store. The new social app billed itself as a community for the unvaccinated, allowing like-minded users to connect for dating and friendships. Apple said the app violated its policies for COVID-19 content.

Google Pay expanded support for vaccine cards. In Australia, Google’s payments app now allows users to add their COVID-19 digital certification to their device for easy access. The option is available through Google’s newly updated Passes API which lets government agencies distribute digital versions of vaccine cards.

COVID Tech Connect, a U.S. nonprofit initially dedicated to collecting devices like phones and tablets for COVID ICU patients, has now launched its own app. The app, TeleHome, is a device-agnostic, HIPAA-compliant way for patients to place a video call for free at a time when the Delta variant is again filling ICU wards, this time with the unvaccinated — a condition that sometimes overlaps with being low-income. Some among the working poor have been hesitant to get the shot because they can’t miss a day of work, and are worried about side effects. Which is why the Biden administration offered a tax credit to SMBs who offered paid time off to staff to get vaccinated and recover.

Popular journaling app Day One, which was recently acquired by WordPress.com owner Automattic, rolled out a new “Concealed Journals” feature that lets users hide content from others’ viewing. By tapping the eye icon, the content can be easily concealed on a journal by journal basis, which can be useful for those who write to their journal in public, like coffee shops or public transportation.

Edtech

Recently IPO’d language learning app Duolingo is developing a math app for kids. The company says it’s still “very early” in the development process, but will announce more details at its annual conference, Duocon, later this month.

Educational publisher Pearson launched an app that offers U.S. students access to its 1,500 titles for a monthly subscription of $14.99. the Pearson+ mobile app (ack, another +), also offers the option of paying $9.99 per month for access to a single textbook for a minimum of four months.

News & Reading

Quora jumps into the subscription economy. Still not profitable from ads alone, Quora announced two new products that allow its expert creators to monetize their content on its service. With Quora+ ($5/mo or $50/yr), subscribers can pay for any content that a creator paywalls. Creators can choose to enable a adaptive paywall that will use an algorithm to determine when to show the paywall. Another product, Spaces, lets creators write paywalled publications on Quora, similar to Substack. But only a 5% cut goes to Quora, instead of 10% on Substack.

Utilities

Google Maps on iOS added a new live location-sharing feature for iMessage users, allowing them to more easily show your ETA with friends and even how much battery life you have left. The feature competes with iMessage’s built-in location-sharing feature, and offers location sharing of 1 hour up to 3 days. The app also gained a dark mode.

Security & Privacy

Controversial crime app Citizen launched a $20 per month “Protect” service that includes live agent support (who can refer calls to 911 if need be). The agents can gather your precise location, alert your designated emergency contacts, help you navigate to a safe location and monitor the situation until you feel safe. The system of live agent support is similar to in-car or in-home security and safety systems, like those from ADT or OnStar, but works with users out in the real world. The controversial part, however, is the company behind the product: Citizen has been making headlines for launching private security fleets outside law enforcement, and recently offered a reward in a manhunt for an innocent person based on unsubstantiated tips.

Funding and M&A

? Square announced its acquisition of the “buy now, pay later” giant AfterPay in a $29 billion deal that values the Australian firm at more than 30% higher than the stock’s last closing price of AUS$96.66. AfterPay has served over 16 million customers and nearly 100,000 merchants globally, to date, and comes at a time when the BNPL space is heating up. Apple has also gotten into the market recently with an Affirm partnership in Canada.

? Gaming giant Zynga acquired Chinese game developer StarLark, the team behind the mobile golf game Golf Rival, from Betta Games for $525 million in both cash and stock. Golf Rival is the second-largest mobile golf game behind Playdemic’s Golf Clash, and EA is in the process of buying that studio for $1.4 billion.

?  U.K.-based Humanity raised an additional $2.5 million for its app that claims to help slow down aging, bringing the total raise to date to $5 million. Backers include Calm’s co-founders, MyFitness Pal’s co-founder and others in the health space. The app works by benchmarking health advice against real-world data, to help users put better health practices into action.

? YELA, a Cameo-like app for the Middle East and South Asia, raised $2 million led by U.S. investors that include Tinder co-founder Justin Mateen and Sean Rad, general partner of RAD Fund. The app is focusing on signing celebrities in the regions it serves, where smartphone penetration is high and over 6% of the population is under 35.

? London-based health and wellness app maker Palta raised a $100 million Series B led by VNV Global. The company’s products include Flo.Health, Simple Fasting, Zing Fitness Coach and others, which reach a combined 2.4 million active, paid subscribers. The funds will be used to create more mobile subscription products.

? Emoji database and Wikipedia-like site Emojipedia was acquired by Zedge, the makers of a phone personalization app offering wallpapers, ringtones and more to 35 million MAUs. Deal terms weren’t disclosed. Emojipedia says the deal provides it with more stability and the opportunity for future growth. For Zedge, the deal provides?….um, a popular web resource it thinks it can better monetize, we suspect.

? Mental health app Revery raised $2 million led by Sequoia Capital India’s Surge program for its app that combines cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia with mobile gaming concepts. The company will focus on other mental health issues in the future.

? London-based Nigerian-operating fintech startup Kuda raised a $55 million Series B, valuing its mobile-first challenger bank at $500 million. The inside round was co-led by Valar Ventures and Target Global.

? Vietnamese payments provider VNLife raised $250 million in a round led by U.S.-based General Atlantic and Dragoneer Investment Group. PayPal Ventures and others also participated. The round values the business at over $1 billion.

Downloads

Mastodon for iPhone

Fans of decentralized social media efforts now have a new app. The nonprofit behind the open source decentralized social network Mastodon released an official iPhone app, aimed at making the network more accessible to newcomers. The app allows you to find and follow people and topics; post text, images, GIFs, polls, and videos; and get notified of new replies and reblogs, much like Twitter.

Xingtu

@_666eveITS SO COOL FRFR do u guys want a tutorial? #fypシ #醒图 #醒图app♬ original sound – Ian Asher

TikTok users are teaching each other how to switch over to the Chinese App Store in order to get ahold of the Xingtu app for iOS. (An Android version is also available.) The app offers advanced editing tools that let users edit their face and body, like FaceTune, apply makeup, add filters and more. While image-editing apps can be controversial for how they can impact body acceptance, Xingtu offers a variety of artistic filters which is what’s primarily driving the demand. It’s interesting to see the lengths people will go to just to get a few new filters for their photos — perhaps making a case for Instagram to finally update its Post filters instead of pretending no one cares about their static photos anymore.

Tweets

Facebook still dominating top charts, but not the No. 1 spot:  

Not cool, Apple: 

This user acquisition strategy: 

Maybe Stories don’t work everywhere: 

#adt, #afterpay, #alibaba, #android, #ant-group, #api, #app-maker, #app-store, #apple, #apps, #australia, #automattic, #beijing, #biden-administration, #canada, #china, #cloud-services, #coinbase, #coinbase-card, #computing, #day-one, #dragoneer-investment-group, #driver, #dropbox, #duolingo, #emojipedia, #eta, #facebook, #fintech-startup, #food-delivery, #game-center, #game-developer, #general-atlantic, #general-partner, #georgia, #gif, #google, #hyperconnect, #instagram, #ios, #ios-devices, #ipad, #iphone, #italy, #itunes, #jam-fund, #justin-mateen, #kuaishou, #kuda, #law-enforcement, #london, #ma, #maine, #meituan, #microsoft, #middle-east, #mobile, #mobile-app, #mobile-applications, #mobile-devices, #online-creators, #onstar, #operating-system, #palta, #playdemic, #quora, #sean-rad, #sensor-tower, #sequoia-capital, #smartphone, #snap, #snapchat, #social-network, #social-networking, #software, #south-africa, #south-asia, #spotify, #stories, #target-global, #tc, #this-week-in-apps, #tiktok, #twitch, #united-kingdom, #united-states, #valar-ventures, #viasat, #vnv-global, #wi-fi, #wordpress-com, #zedge, #zynga

Customer engagement platform Dixa raises $105M Series C led by General Atlantic

European customer engagement platform Dixa has raised a Series C funding round of $105 million, led by growth equity investor General Atlantic. Existing investors Notion Capital, Project A, and Seed Capital also participated. In February last year, it raised $36 million in Series B funding, led by Notion Capital, with support from existing investors Project A and Seed.

As well a product development, Dixa plans to use the cash injection as a war chest to roll-up other products. It already acquired Melbourne-based Elevio in January 2021.

Founded in Denmark in 2015 and launched in 2018, Dixa says it enables brands to stay connected with customers via messaging, live chat, email, or voice.

Mads Fosselius, founder and CEO of Dixa said: “For today’s customers, channels have ceased to matter. The way they engage now is holistically blended into what is called ‘multiexperience’. This is how we’re empowering brands to continuously stay true to their values.

Tom Hussey, Vice President in General Atlantic’s Technology sector focused on B2B software added: “Customer service software is undergoing a fundamental transformation, moving away from disjointed, transactional approaches towards longitudinal, conversational engagement. Dixa has helped to define and lead this multiexperience approach.”

#ceo, #denmark, #dixa, #elevio, #europe, #general-atlantic, #melbourne, #notion-capital, #olo, #seed-capital, #tc, #vice-president

China Roundup: Kai-Fu Lee’s first Europe bet, WeRide buys a truck startup

Hello and welcome back to TechCrunch’s China Roundup, a digest of recent events shaping the Chinese tech landscape and what they mean to people in the rest of the world.

Despite the geopolitical headwinds for foreign tech firms to enter China, many companies, especially those that find a dependable partner, are still forging ahead. For this week’s roundup, I’m including a conversation I had with Prophesee, a French vision technology startup, which recently got funding from Kai-Fu Lee and Xiaomi, along with the usual news digest.

Spotting opportunities in China

Like many companies working on futuristic, cutting-edge tech in Europe, Prophesee was a spinout from university research labs. Previously, I covered two such companies from Sweden: Imint, which improves smartphone video production through deep learning, and Dirac, an expert in sound optimization.

The three companies have two things in common: They are all in niche fields, and they have all found eager customers in China.

For Prophesee, they are production lines, automakers and smartphone companies in China looking for breakthroughs in perception technology, which will in turn improve how their robots respond to the environment. So it’s unsurprising that Xiaomi and Chinese chip-focused investment firm Inno-Chip backed Prophesee in its latest funding round, which was led by Sinovation Venture.

The funding size was undisclosed but TechCrunch learned it was in the range of “tens of million USD.” It was also the first investment that Kai-Fu Lee has made through Sinovation in Europe. As Prophesee CEO Luca Verre recalled:

I met Dr. Kai-Fu Lee three years ago during the World Economic Forum … and when I pitched to him about Prophesee, he got very intrigued. And then over the past three years, actually, we kept in touch and last year, given the growing traction we were having in China, particularly in the mobile and IoT industry, he decided to jump in. He said okay, it is now the right timing Prophesee becomes big.

The Paris-based company wasn’t actively seeking funding, but it believed having Chinese strategic investors could help it gain greater access to the complex market.

Rather than sending information collected by sensors and cameras to computing platforms, Prophesee fits that process inside a chip (fabricated by Sony) that mimics the human eyes, a technology that is built upon neuromorphic engineering.

The old method snaps a collection of fixed images so when information grows in volume, a tremendous amount of computing power is needed. In contrast, Prophesee’s sensors, which it describes as “event-based,” only pick up changes in the environment just as the photoreceptors in our eyes and can process information continuously and quickly.

Europe has been pioneering neuromorphic computing, but in recent years, Verre saw a surge in research coming from Chinese universities and tech firms, which reaffirmed his confidence in the market’s appetite.

We see Chinese OEMs (original equipment manufacturers), particularly Xiaomi, Oppo and Vivo pushing the standard of quality of image quality to very, very high … They are very eager to adopt new technology to further differentiate in a way which is faster and more aggressive than Apple. Apple is a company with an attitude which to me looks more similar to Huawei. So maybe for some technology, it takes more time to see the technology mature and adopt, which is right very often but later. So I’m sure that Apple will come at certain point with some products integrating event-based technology. In fact, we see them moving. We see them filing patents in the space. I’m sure that will come, but maybe not the first.

Though China is striving for technological independence, Verre believed Prophesee’s addressable market is large enough — $20 billion by his estimate. Nonetheless, he admitted he’d be “naive to believe Prophesee will be the only one to capture” this opportunity.

WeRide bought a truck company

One of China’s most valuable robotaxi startups has just acquired an autonomous trucking company called MoonX. The size of the deal is undisclosed, but we know that MoonX raised “tens of millions RMB” 15 months ago in a Series A round.

While WeRide is focused on Level 4 self-driving technology, it is also finding new monetization avenues before its robotaxis can chauffeur people at scale. It’s done so by developing minibusses, and the MoonX acqui-hire, which brings the company’s founder and over 50 engineers to WeRide, will likely help diversify its revenue pool.

WeRide and MoonX have deep-rooted relationships. Their respective founders, Tony Han and Yang Qingxiong, worked side by side at Jingchi, which was later rebranded to WeRide. Han co-founded Jingchi and took the helm as CEO in March 2018 while Yang was assigned vice president of engineering. But Yang soon quit and started MoonX.

Han, a Baidu veteran, gave Yang a warm homecoming and put him in charge of the firm’s research institute and its new office in Shenzhen, home to MoonX. WeRide’s sprawling headquarters is just about an hour’s drive away in the adjacent city of Guangzhou.

AI surveillance giant Cloudwalk nears IPO

Cloudwalk belongs to a cohort of Chinese unicorns that flourished through the second half of the 2010s by selling computer vision technology to government agencies across China. Together, Cloudwalk and its rivals SenseTime, Megvii and Yitu were dubbed the “four AI dragons” for their fast ascending valuations and handsome funding rounds.

Of course, the term “AI dragon” is now a misnomer as AI application becomes so pervasive across industries. Investors soon realized these upstarts need to diversify revenue streams beyond smart city contracts, and they’ve been waiting anxiously for exits. Finally, here comes Cloudwalk, which will likely be the first in its cohort to go public.

Cloudwalk’s application to raise 3.75 billion yuan ($580 million) from an IPO on the Shanghai STAR board was approved this week, though it can still be months before it starts trading. The firm’s financials don’t look particularly rosy for investors, with net loss amounting to 720 million yuan in 2020.

Also in the news

  • Speaking of the torrent of news in autonomous driving, vehicle vision provider CalmCar said this week that it has raised $150 million in a Series C round. Founded by several overseas Chinese returnees in 2016, CalmCar uses deep learning to develop ADAS (Advanced Driver Assistance System) used in automotive, industrial and surveillance scenarios. German auto parts maker ZF led the round.
  • Baby clothes direct-to-consumer brand PatPat said it has raised $510 million from Series C and D rounds. The D2C ecosystem leveraging China’s robust supply chains is increasingly gaining interest from venture capitalists. Brands like Shein, PatPat, Cider and Outer have all secured fundings from established VCs. Founded by three Carnegie Mellon grads, PatPat counts IDG Capital, General Atlantic, DST Global, GGV Capital, SIG China and Sequoia China among its investors.

#apple-inc, #artificial-intelligence, #asia, #carnegie-mellon, #china, #dst-global, #europe, #funding, #fundings-exits, #general-atlantic, #ggv-capital, #idg-capital, #kai-fu-lee, #megvii, #paris, #perception, #self-driving-technology, #sensetime, #sequoia-china, #shein, #shenzhen, #sig-china, #smartphone, #smartphones, #sony, #sweden, #tc, #weride, #xiaomi

After bootstrapping since 2002, Articulate raises $1.5B on $3.75B valuation

Most companies don’t announce their first venture investment after almost 20 years in the business, nor do they announce that round is the equivalent of a good startup’s entire private fundraising history. But Articulate, a SaaS training and development platform, is not your typical company and today it announced a whopping $1.5 billion investment on a $3.75 billion valuation.

You can call it Series A if you must label it, but whatever it is, it’s a hefty investment by any measure. General Atlantic led the round with participation from Blackstone Growth and Iconiq Growth. GA claims it’s one of the largest A rounds ever, and I’m willing to bet it’s right.

CEO Adam Schwartz founded the company with his life savings in 2002 and hasn’t taken a dime of outside investment since. “Our software enables organizations to develop, deliver, and analyze online training that is engaging and [interesting] for enterprises and SMBs,” Schwartz explained.

He says that the company started back in 2002 as a plug-in for PowerPoint. Today it is a software service with the goal of helping enable everyone to deliver training, even if they aren’t a training professional. Articulate actually has two main products, one is a set of tools for companies building training that connects to an enterprise learning management system or LMS. The other is aimed at SMBs or departments in an enterprise.

Its approach seems to be working with the company reporting it has 106,000 customers across 161 countries including every single one of the Fortune 100. Schwartz was loath to share any additional metrics, but did say they hope to use this money to grow 10x over the next several years.

Company president Lucy Suros, who has been with the organization for a decade, says even with this success, they see plenty of opportunity for growth and they felt taking this capital now would really enable them to accelerate.

“We are the most dominant player by far in course offering apps, but when you look at that whole ecosystem and you think about where companies are in transforming from instructor-led training to online training, they’re still really in the early innings so there’s a lot of opportunity,” she said.

Anton Levy, co-president and managing director at General Atlantic, who is leading the investment for the firm, says that this is a “big, bold, incredible business” and that’s why they’re making an investment of this size and scope. “The reason we’re stepping up in such a large way, and what’s such a large check for us, is because of the business they’ve built, the team they’ve built, and frankly the market opportunity that they’re playing in and their ambition,” he said.

Today the company has 300 employees and they have been working as a remote company long before COVID. With the new capital, that number could triple over the next several years. Suros says that when she started at the company, there were 50 employees, mostly male engineers and she went to work to make it a more diverse work environment.

“We’ve put emphasis and a lot of just structural things in place to ensure that we are bringing more [diverse] people to the table, and then supporting folks once they’re here,” she said. With the new capital, the company announced a lot of new benefits and she said those were developed with the idea of helping break down barriers for under-represented groups in their ranks including covering gender transition-related costs.

She says that one of the benefits of becoming more visible as a company is being able to talk about and their human-centered organization framework, the set of principles the company put in place to define its values. “[We think about] how that can impact the employees and drive human flourishing for its own sake, and that also happens to lead to better business outcomes. But we’re really also interested in it from [the standpoint that] we want to be good and do good in the world and promote human flourishing at work,” she said.

The company seems to have been doing just fine up until now, but with this kind of capital, it aims to take the business to another level, while trying to be good corporate citizens as they do that.

#articulate, #cloud, #education, #enterprise, #funding, #general-atlantic, #startups, #training

Gympass, the corporate wellness unicorn, raises a $220M series E

Gympass, the exercise and corporate wellness unicorn that originated in Brazil, today announced a $220 million Series E. The company has seen tremendous growth in the last few months, as more and more people are vaccinated and flocking back to the gym.

Gympass is like ClassPass, but on steroids. However, unlike ClassPass’ BTC model, Gympass partners with employers who then pay a flat fee for the platform (an app) which then allows their employees to choose from several wellbeing plans that give them access to myriad in-person gyms and studios, and a directory of health apps, such as Calm. The offerings are broken up into the following categories: physical health, emotional health, nutrition and sleep.

According to the company, in May, Gympass saw a record 4 million monthly check-ins across its network of more than 50,000 global partners. In fact, for some of the partners, usage hit above pre-COVID levels. 

Between increased anxiety rates and documented weight gain during the pandemic, it’s clear that people are eager to get active again with the hopes of improving their mental health and their waistlines.

GymPass is the brainchild of Cesar Carvalho, a former McKinsey & Company consultant in Brazil who was always on the road and yearned for a corporate wellness product that would comply with his hectic work schedule.

“Some days I worked from home, other days I worked from the office, and then there was the time I was traveling. I could never go to the gym in one place,” Carvalho told TechCrunch. “I realized that my needs were the same as others,” he said.

He decided to pursue his business idea while he was at Harvard Business School.

“I’m one of those crazy entrepreneurs that drops out of their MBA to start a company, but looking back now, it worked out okay,” he said, later telling TechCrunch that Gympass is now in Brazil, Mexico, Chile, Argentina, the U.S., Germany, Spain, Italy, Ireland, and the U.K. 

Since its launch in São Paulo in 2012, the company achieved product-market fit fairly quickly, and its growth and expansion have been largely organic.

Originally, Gympass was a BTC concept, and one of its first clients was an executive at PricewaterhouseCoopers in Brazil. He liked the product so much that he eventually said to Carvalho, “Can’t I communicate this to my 5000 employees in all the cities where we have offices in Brazil?” With that question – and offer – Carvalho saw the need to pivot and build a B2B company.

After only three years in Brazil, one of his biggest Brazilian clients asked Carvalho to expand to Mexico, because his company had a large presence there and he wanted to offer Gympass to its employees. And so follows most of the expansion stories.

“We expanded to Spain, because we worked with a Spanish bank in Mexico, and they wanted their employees in Spain to have access to our product,” he said.

This round, which doubles the company’s valuation to $2.2 billion, includes participation from SoftBank, General Atlantic, More Strategic Ventures, Kaszek Ventures and Valor. Carvalho plans to use the money to grow the company in the U.S., expand its offerings, and work on making the tech smarter. 

“We want [the app] to be able to recommend the best partners for your complete well-being journey based on your workout patterns, for example: ‘This is the best meditation app for you to use with your workout profile,’” Carvalho said.

 

#argentina, #brazil, #chile, #classpass, #general-atlantic, #germany, #harvard-business-school, #ireland, #italy, #kaszek-ventures, #mckinsey-company, #mexico, #pricewaterhousecoopers, #softbank, #softbank-group, #spain, #tc, #united-kingdom, #united-states

Transmit Security raises $543M Series A to kill off the password

Transmit Security, a Boston-based startup that’s on a mission to rid the world of passwords, has raised a massive $543 million in Series A funding.

The funding round, said to be the largest Series A investment in cybersecurity history and one of the highest valuations for a bootstrapped company, was led by Insight Partners and General Atlantic, with additional investment from Cyberstarts, Geodesic, SYN Ventures, Vintage, and Artisanal Ventures. 

Transmit Security said it has a pre-money valuation of $2.2 billion, and will use the new funds to expand its reach and investing in key global areas to grow the organization.

Ultimately, however, the funding round will help the company to accelerate its mission to help the world go passwordless. Organizations lose millions of dollars every year due to “inherently unsafe” password-based authentication, according to the startup; not only do weak passwords account for more than 80% of all data breaches, but the average help desk labor cost to reset a single password stands at more than $70. 

Transmit says its biometric-based authenticator is the first natively passwordless identity and risk management solution, and it has already been adopted by a number of big-name brands including Lowes, Santander, and UBS. The solution, which currently handles more than 9,000 authentication requests per second, can reduce account resets by 96%, the company says, and reduces customer authentication from 1 minute to 2 seconds. 

“By eliminating passwords, businesses can immediately reduce churn and cart abandonment and provide superior security for personal data,” said Transmit Security CEO Mickey Boodaei, who co-founded the company in 2014. “Our customers, whether they are in the retail, banking, financial, telecommunications, or automotive sectors, understand that providing an optimized identity experience is a multimillion-dollar challenge. With this latest round of funding from premier partners, we can significantly expand our reach to help rid the world of passwords.”

Transmit Security isn’t the only company that’s on a mission to kill off the password. Microsoft has announced plans to make Windows 10 password-free, and Apple recently previewed Passkeys in iCloud Keychain, a method of passwordless authentication powered by WebAuthn, and Face ID and Touch ID.

#access-control, #authenticator, #banking, #boston, #ceo, #computer-security, #cryptography, #funding, #general-atlantic, #identification, #insight-partners, #lowes, #microsoft, #microsoft-windows, #password, #retail, #security, #telecommunications, #transmit-security, #ubs

Temasek and General Atlantic in talks to back Indian neobank Open

Bangalore-based neobank Open is in advanced stages of talks to raise about $100 million, according to two sources familiar with the matter.

Temasek, the Singaporean government’s sovereign wealth fund, and General Atlantic are positioning to co-lead the Series C financing round, which values the Indian startup at pre-money $600 million, the sources told TechCrunch, requesting anonymity as the matter is private. Open was valued at about $150 million in its Series B funding round two years ago.

Existing investor Tiger Global, PayPal, which shuttered its domestic operations in the world’s second largest internet market early this year, as well as Google and Amazon are in talks to participate in the new round, the sources said.

Indian news outlet Economic Times first reported about the size of the imminent round and identified Google and Amazon as probable investors earlier this week. The round hasn’t closed yet so terms may change and not all investors may end up backing Open. The startup’s founder and chief executive Anish Achuthan declined to comment.

Open operates as a neobank that offers nearly all the features of a bank with additional tools to serve the needs of businesses. The startup offers its clients services such as automated account, payment gateway, credit cards, automated bookkeeping, cash flow management, and tax and compliance management solutions.

Realizing the opportunity that they can’t tap the entire market, several banks in India have in recent years started to collaborate with fintech startups to expand their reach in the South Asian nation.

“Banks are doing their best to defend their turf by focusing on several fronts – eco system building (led by HDFC Bank), open approach to fintech partnerships (led by ICICI Bank), overall digital experience as an acquisition tool (led by Kotak and Axis) etc. But [they] continue to play catchup as they lack the focus/ expertise in each channel (Banking super apps and APIs are fast becoming hygiene). Fintech revenues are already ~10% of private banks’ fee income, but could grow >3x in the next 3 years,” wrote analysts at Bank of America in a report late last year.

“Banks no doubt want to own the pipe and relationships, but are unlikely to succeed except in very specific segments,” they added.

In recent months, however, some banks have begun to reevaluate their engagement strategy with neobanks, Indian news and analysis publication the CapTable reported last month.

#asia, #funding, #general-atlantic, #india, #open, #paypal, #temasek, #tiger-global

Avant doubles down on digital banking with Zero Financial acquisition

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ex-General Catalyst and General Atlantic VC announces $68M debut fund

As of 2019, the majority of venture firms — 65% — still did not have a single female partner or GP at their firm, according to All Raise.

So naturally, anytime we hear of a new female-led fund, our ears perk up.

Today, New York-based Avid Ventures announced the launch of its $68 million debut venture capital fund. Addie Lerner — who was previously an investor with General Catalyst, General Atlantic and Goldman Sachs — founded Avid in 2020 with the goal of taking a hands-on approach to working with founders of early-stage startups in the United States, Europe and Israel.

“We believe investing in a founder’s company is a privilege to be earned,” she said.

Tali Vogelstein — a former investor at Bessemer Venture Partners — joined the firm as a founding investor soon after its launch and the pair were able to raise the capital in 10 months’ time during the 2020 pandemic.

The newly formed firm has an impressive list of LPs backing its debut effort. Schusterman Family Investments and the George Kaiser Family Foundation are its anchor LPs. Institutional investors include Foundry Group, General Catalyst, 14W, Slow Ventures and LocalGlobe/Latitude through its Basecamp initiative that backs emerging managers. 

Avid also has the support of 50 founders, entrepreneurs and investors as LPs — 40% of whom are female — including Mirror founder Brynn Putnam; Getty Images co-founder Jonathan Klein; founding partner of Acrew Capital Theresia Gouw and others.

Avid invests at the Series A and B stages, and so far has invested in Alloy, Nova Credit, Rapyd, Staircase, Nava and The Wing. Three of those companies have female founders — something Lerner said happened “quite naturally.”

“Diversity can happen and should happen more organically as opposed to quotas or mandates,” she added.

In making those deals, Avid partnered with top-tier firms such as Kleiner Perkins, Canapi Ventures, Zigg Capital and Thrive Capital. In general, Avid intentionally does not lead its first investments in startups, with its first checks typically being in the $500,000 to $1 million range. It preserves most of its capital for follow-on investments.

“We like to position ourselves to earn the right to write a bigger check in a future round,” Lerner told TechCrunch. 

In the case of Rapyd, Avid organized an SPV (special-purpose vehicle) to invest in the unicorn’s recent Series D. Lerner had previously backed the company’s Series B round while at General Catalyst and remains a board observer.

Prior to founding Avid, Lerner had helped deploy more than $450 million across 18 investments in software, fintech (Rapyd & Monzo) and consumer internet companies spanning North America, Europe and Israel. 

When it comes to sectors, Avid is particularly focused on backing early-stage fintech, consumer internet and software companies. The firm intends to invest in about 20 startups over a three-to-four year period.

“We want to take our time, so we can be as hands-on as we want to be,” Lerner said. “We’re not looking to back 80 companies. Our goal is to drive outstanding returns for our LPs.”

The firm views itself as an extension of its portfolio companies’ teams, serving as their “Outsourced Strategic CFO.” Lerner and Vogelstein also aim to provide the companies they work with strategic growth modeling, unit economics analysis, talent recruiting, customer introductions and business development support.

“We strive to build deep relationships early on and to prove our value well ahead of a prospective investment,” Lerner said. Avid takes its team’s prior data-driven experience to employ “a metrics-driven approach” so that a startup can “deeply understand” their unit economics. It also “gets in the trenches” alongside founders to help grow a company.

Ed Zimmerman, chair of Lowenstein Sandler LLP’s tech group in New York and adjunct professor of VC at Columbia Business School, is an Avid investor.

He told TechCrunch that because of his role in the venture community, he is often counsel to a company or fund and will run into former students in deals. Feedback from numerous people in his network point to Lerner being “extraordinarily thoughtful about deals,” with one entrepreneur describing her as “one of the smartest people she has met in a decade-plus in venture.”

“I’ve seen it myself in deals and then I’ve seen founders turn down very well branded funds to work with Addie,” Zimmerman added, noting they are impressed both by her intellect and integrity. “…Addie will find and win and be invited into great deals because she makes an indelible impression on the people who’ve worked with her and the data is remarkably consistent.”

#acrew-capital, #addie-lerner, #basecamp, #bessemer-venture-partners, #brynn-putnam, #canapi-ventures, #catalyst, #consumer-internet, #corporate-finance, #diversity, #finance, #foundry-group, #funding, #general-atlantic, #general-catalyst, #george-kaiser-family-foundation, #goldman-sachs, #israel, #jonathan-klein, #kleiner-perkins, #new-york, #north-america, #slow-ventures, #software, #tali-vogelstein, #tc, #tech, #techcrunch-include, #theresia-gouw, #thrive-capital, #united-states, #venture-capital

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#DealMonitor – René Benko blitzt bei Komoot ab – Insight kauft weitere AnyDesk-Anteile – Warburg Pincus investiert in McMakler


Im aktuellen #DealMonitor für den 20. November werfen wir wieder einen Blick auf die wichtigsten, spannendsten und interessantesten Investments und Exits des Tages. Alle Deals der Vortage gibt es im großen und übersichtlichen #DealMonitor-Archiv.

INVESTMENTS

Komoot
+++ Der Berliner Geldgeber June, hinter dem unter anderem Google-Vorstand Philipp Schindler steckt, nutzt seine Vorkaufsrechte beim Startup Komoot, einem Routenplaner samt Navigations-App. Der BFB Frühphasenfonds Brandenburg wollte beim Unternehmen aus Potsdam, das von Markus Hallermann gegründet wurde, aussteigen und seinen Anteil (15 %) verkaufen. Interesse an der Übernahme der Anteile hatte auch der bekannte österreichische Investor René Benko (unter anderem Galeria Karstadt Kaufhof). Hintergründe gibt es nur im aktuellen Insider-Podcast. #EXKLUSIV

AnyDesk
+++ Der amerikanische Wagniskapitalgeber Insight Partners nutzt seine Vorkaufsrechte bei AnyDesk. Das junge Unternehmen will quasi TeamViewer als erste Adresse für den Fernzugriff auf Rechner ablösen. EQT Ventures sowie Business Angels wie Chris Hitchen und Andreas Burike sowie Insight investierten in den vergangenen Jahren bereits rund 20 Millionen Dollar in AnyDesk. General Atlantic hatte sich zuletzt für einen Einstieg bei AnyDesk interessiert. Hintergründe gibt es nur im aktuellen Insider-Podcast. #EXKLUSIV

Simplesurance
+++ Die Altinvestoren investierten erneut in Simplesurance. Das Berliner Startup in Deutschland als Schutzklick bekannt, gehört zu den ganz großen InsurTech-Pionieren. Mindestens 60 Millionen Dollar flossen bisher in das Unternehmen, das 2012 an den Start ging. Zuletzt investierten unter anderem die Tokio Marine Holdings (TMHD) und die deutsch-französische Finanzgruppe ODDO BHF Kapital in das Unternehmen. Hintergründe gibt es nur im aktuellen Insider-Podcast. #EXKLUSIV

Urban Sports Club
+++ Die Altinvestoren investierten erneut in Urban Sports Club, einen millonenschweren Anbieter für Sportflatrates. Urban Sports Club wurde Ende 2012 von Benjamin Roth und Moritz Kreppel gegründet. Das Startup expandierte zuletzt vor allem durch Übernahmen (99Gyms, Fitengo, Somuchmore, FITrate). Investoren des Startups sind unter anderem HV Capital, Rocket Internet und Partech. Hintergründe gibt es nur im aktuellen Insider-Podcast. #EXKLUSIV

McMakler
+++ Der amerikanische Finanzinvestor Warburg Pincus investiert gemeinsam mit einigen Bestandsinvestoren in das Berliner Unternehmen McMakler. Das Handelsblatt berichtet von einem Investment in Höhe von 50 Millionen US-Dollar. “Die nächste Wachstumsphase von McMakler wird sich auf die Erweiterung der proprietären Technologie und der digitalen Tools konzentrieren, um einen transparenteren und schnelleren Marketingprozess für die Kunden zu gewährleisten”, teilt das Unternehmen mit . Target Global, Israel Growth Partners und einige Bestandsinvestoren investierten zuletzt 50 Millionen Euro in McMakler, ein Berliner Makler-Startup. Das Unternehmen, das in Deutschland, Österreich und Frankreich aktiv ist, wurde 2015 von Hanno Heintzenberg, Felix Jahn und Lukas Pieczonka gegründet. Das Grownup beschäftigt über 600 Mitarbeiter.

Sastrix
+++ TS Ventures, also Tim Schumacher, Discovery Ventures und Christian Gaiser investieren 1,3 Millionen US-Dollar in das Kölner Startup Sastrix. Die Jungfirma, die von Maximilian Messing und Sven Lackinger, beide früher evopark, gegründet wurde, unterstützt Unternehmen beim Kauf und der Verwaltung von Softwarelösungen. Die Rheinländer versprechen: “Wir bringen Transparenz in Ihr bestehendes Setup, befreien Sie von nicht ausgelasteten Lizenzen und verhandeln mit Ihren Anbietern, um die besten Angebote für Sie zu erhalten”.

deineStudienfinanzierung
+++ Der Berliner FinTech-Investor finleap investiert in das Berliner Startup deineStudienfinanzierung. “Der Eintritt ins Portfolio von finleap ist für das junge Unternehmen ein weiterer Schritt, ein verlässlicher Partner der Generation Z zu sein”, teilt der Investor vollmundig mit. deineStudienfinanzierung, das von Alexander Barge, David Meyer und Bastian Krautwald gegründet wurde, aggregiert die “größten Finanzierungsprodukte für das Studium in Deutschland”. Im vergangenen Jahr suchte die Jungfirma im Fernsehen, bei “Die Höhle der Löwen” Geldgeber. Der TV-Deal mit Frank Thelen platzte damals aber.

NXRT
+++ Das Bahntechnik-Unternehmen Rhomberg Sersa Rail Group (RSRG) investiert in den Simulationsanbieter NXRT. Das Unternehmen  mit Sitz in Wien “fokussiert sich auf schlüsselfertige Anwendungen für innovative Simulationen für Demonstrations-, Trainings- und Testzwecke”. Die Software vermittelt den Anwendern dabei “sämtliche sensorischen Reize, die sowohl im Bereich Showcasing als auch im Bereich Schulung zu einer bleibenden Erinnerung der Inhalte beitragen”.

easierLife
+++ Der Energiedienstleister ESWE Versorgung investiert einen “bedeutenden finanziellen Betrag” in das Karlsruher Startup easierLife, das einen intelligentem Hausnotruf anbietet. easierLife wurde 2014 von vier wissenschaftlichen Mitarbeitern des FZI Forschungszentrum Informatik gegründet. Im Rahmen von Studien wurden zunächst über 100 Seniorenhaushalte mit Sensoren ausgestattet.

Achtung! Wir freuen uns über Tipps, Infos und Hinweise, was wir in unserem #DealMonitor alles so aufgreifen sollten. Schreibt uns eure Vorschläge entweder ganz klassisch per E-Mail oder nutzt unsere “Stille Post“, unseren Briefkasten für Insider-Infos.

Startup-Jobs: Auf der Suche nach einer neuen Herausforderung? In der unserer Jobbörse findet Ihr Stellenanzeigen von Startups und Unternehmen.

Foto (oben): azrael74

#aktuell, #anydesk, #berlin, #deinestudienfinanzierung, #discovery-ventures, #easierlife, #finleap, #general-atlantic, #insight-partners, #june, #karlsruhe, #koln, #komoot, #mcmakler, #nxrt, #potsdam, #sastrix, #simplesurance, #ts-ventures, #urban-sports-club, #venture-capital, #warburg-pincus

What will a Wish IPO look like? Seems we’ll find out sooner than later

Wish, the San Francisco-based, 750-person e-commerce app that sells deeply discounted goods that you definitely don’t need but might buy anyway when priced so low — think pool floaties, guinea pig harnesses, Apple Watch knockoffs — said yesterday that it has submitted a draft registration to the SEC for an IPO.

Because it filed confidentially, we can’t get a look at its financials just yet; we only know that its investors, who’ve provided the company with $1.6 billion across the years, think the company was worth $11.2 billion as of last summer, when it closed its most recent financing (a $300 million Series H round). Meanwhile, Wish itself says it has more than 70 million active users across more than 100 countries and 40 languages.

The big question, of course, is whether the now 10-year-old company can maintain or even accelerate its momentum. It’s not a no-brainer. On the one hand, it’s a victim of the increasingly chilly relations between the U.S. and China, from where the bulk of Wish’s goods come. Then again, Wish has been beefing up its business elsewhere in the world partly as a result of the countries’ shifting stance toward one another. For example, it told Recode last year that it’s increasingly looking to Latin American markets — Mexico, Argentina, Chile — for growth, and that it’s planning a bigger push into Africa, where it’s already available in South Africa, Ghana, and Nigeria, among other countries.

But let’s back up a minute first. If you don’t know, Wish was cofounded by CEO Peter Szulscewski, a computer scientist by training, who previously spent 6.5 years at Google before cofounding a company call ContextLogic, from which Wish evolved. The idea was to build a next-generation, mobile ad network to compete with Google’s AdSense network, but Szulscewski and his cofounder, Danny Zhang, realized they were “pretty bad at business development,” as he once said at an event hosted by this editor, so eventually they pivoted to Wish.

Wish began as an app that asked people to create wish lists, then the company approached merchants, letting them know a certain number of customers wanted, say, a certain type of table. It was smart to recognize that showing the right recommendations to shoppers would become critical to its users, though it didn’t necessarily foresee the types of merchants it would ultimately work with, most of them in China, Indonesia and elsewhere in East Asia and Southeast Asia who are focused on value-conscious customers and who, at the time, didn’t have other ways to sell to or communicate with customers elsewhere in the world (so didn’t mind paying Wish a 15% take to handle this for them).

Wish also quickly focused around lightweight items that it could ship cheaply from China, if slowly, using something called ePacket. It’s a shipping option agreement that established nine years ago with the cooperation of the US Postal Service and Hong Kong Post (and later made available to 40 countries altogether) that enables products coming from China and Hong Kong to be sent cheaply as long as they meet certain criteria — they don’t weigh too much, they aren’t worth too much, they adhere to certain minimum and maximums regarding their size, and so forth.

The mix has proved powerful for Wish, despite growing competition from China-based outfits like AliExpress that offer many of the same goods to the same customers around the world. (Wish has also competed, always, with Walmart and Amazon.)

The company has also soldiered on despite apparent struggles to keep customers coming over time, too. Because it doesn’t sell essential items but rather a grab bag of different items, people tend to cycle out of the app after a few months of their first visit, as The Information once reported.

A bigger issue now is that, as of two months ago, a new USPS pricing structure went into effect that raises rates on international shipments. It also requires foreign recipient countries to ratify new rates under ePacket (whose recipient countries, by the way, have been downsized from 40 to 12). That means that companies like Wish either pay more to ship their goods — forcing its vendors to charge more — or they move to commercial networks.

Of course, a third option — and one that may position Wish well for the future — would be for Wish to invest in more local warehousing in the U.S, Europe and others of its growing markets, which it told Recode that it is doing, along with seeking out more local vendors near its biggest markets.

Given shifts in the way that commercial real estate is being used — with retail-to-industrial property conversions accelerating, driven by the growth of e-commerce  — it’s probably as good a time as any for Wish to be making these moves. Whether they are enough to sustain and grow the company is something that only time will tell.

Again, we’ll collectively know much more when we can get a look at that filing. It should make for interesting reading.

Wish’s private investors include General Atlantic, GGV Capital, Founders Fund, Formation 8, Temasek Holdings and DST Global, among others.

#dst-global, #ecommerce, #formation-8, #founders-fund, #general-atlantic, #ggv, #ipo, #startups, #tc, #temasek, #venture-capital, #wish

Reliance Jio Platforms says $15.2 billion fundraise is good for now

If your venture fund was not one of the ten investors that backed Reliance Jio Platforms in recent weeks, you won’t be able to plough cash into the fast-growing top Indian telecom network for at least a few quarters now as it is no longer scouting for fresh deals.

Reliance Jio Platforms, which has raised $15.2 billion in the past nine weeks, said today that Saudi Arabia’s PIF $1.5 billion investment on Thursday marked the “end of Jio Platforms’ current phase of induction of financial partners.”

Mukesh Ambani, who controls Reliance Industries (the parent firm of Jio Platforms and a range of other businesses), said that Jio Platforms and Reliance Retail, the largest retail chain in the country, “have received strong interest from strategic and financial investors,” but he will now “induct leading global partners in these businesses in the next few quarters.”

India’s richest man added that he plans to publicly list both Jio Platforms and Reliance Retail within the next five years. “With these initiatives, I have no doubt that your company will have one of the strongest balance sheets in the world.”

Mukesh Ambani, chairman and managing director of the Reliance Industries Ltd., arrives for the company’s annual general meeting in Mumbai, India, on Monday, Aug. 12, 2019. Photographer: Dhiraj Singh/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The announcement today caps perhaps the buzziest fundraising news cycle that lasted for nearly three months. Reliance Jio Platforms, which has amassed over 388 million subscribers in less than four years, announced in April that it had secured $5.7 billion from Facebook.

In the weeks since, the telecom operator has raised an additional $9.5 billion from a roster of nine high-profile investors including Silver Lake, KKR, and General Atlantic .

The huge capital infusion at the height of a global pandemic accounted for more than half of the investment into telecom companies globally this year, according to Bloomberg. By raising $15.2 billion, Jio Platforms, which Ambani describes as a “startup,” alone mopped up more capital than India’s entire tech startup ecosystem last year.

On Friday, Ambani also confirmed a market speculation about why Reliance Jio Platforms was raising money at all. Ambani said that the capital has helped him repay Reliance Industries’ net debt of $21 billion well ahead of schedule. The oil-to-retail giant, which was debt free in 2012, is now “net debt free,” he said.

Last August, Ambani promised shareholders that Reliance Industries, which is India’s most valued firm, would repay its debt by early 2021.

“Today I am both delighted and humbled to announce that we have fulfilled our promise to the shareholders by making Reliance net debt-free much before our original schedule of 31st March 2021,” he said.

#asia, #facebook, #funding, #general-atlantic, #india, #mukesh-ambani, #reliance, #reliance-jio, #silver-lake

India’s Reliance Jio Platforms to sell $750 million stake to Abu Dhabi Investment Authority

Mukesh Ambani has courted the seventh major investor for his telecommunications business in just as many weeks.

On Sunday, Reliance Jio Platforms said it will sell a stake of 1.16% for $750 million to Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA), continuing its eye-catching run of investments at the height of a global pandemic.

The three-and-a-half-year-old digital unit of oil-to-retail giant Reliance Industries, the most valuable firm in India, has now secured nearly $13 billion from seven investors including Facebook, and U.S. private equity firms Silver Lake, General Atlantic by selling close to 20% stake.

Abu Dhabi Investment Authority’s announcement is the third deal Reliance Jio Platforms, which is India’s largest telecom operator with over 388 million subscribers, has secured just this week. Jio Platforms is selling $1.2 billion stake to Abu Dhabi-based sovereign firm Mubadala, it said earlier this week. The company also announced that U.S private equity firm Silver Lake was pumping an additional $600 million to increase its stake in Jio to 2.1%.

The deal further captures the appeal of Jio Platforms to foreign investors looking for a slice of the world’s second-largest internet market. Jio, which launched its commercial operations in the second half of 2016, upended the market by offering mobile data and voice calls at cut-rate prices.

“The incumbent players (Airtel, Vodafone, Idea, BSNL) in India did the opposite of what companies in their position do elsewhere in the world when a new player emerges in the market. The existing players expect the newcomer to compete aggressively on price. They often lower their prices – some times steeply — to reduce the latter’s attractiveness. Newcomers often complain to the regulators about anti-competitive practices of incumbents,” said Mahesh Uppal, director of communications consultancy firm Com First.

“In India, the opposite happened. It was the existing players who ran to regulators with complaints. So we saw a major miscalculation from incumbent players that had already missed out on taking any major step before the launch of Jio,” he said.

India has emerged as one of the biggest global battlegrounds for Silicon Valley and Chinese firms that are looking to win the nation’s 1.3 billion people, most of whom remain without a smartphone and internet connection.

Media reports have claimed in recent weeks that Amazon is considering buying stakes worth at least $2 billion in Bharti Airtel, India’s third largest telecom operator, while Google has held talks for a similar deal in Vodafone Idea, the second largest telecom operator.

Hamad Shahwan Aldhaheri, who oversees private equity deals at ADIA, said Jio Platforms is poised to benefit from major socio-economic developments and “transformative effects of technology on the way people live and work. The rapid growth of the business, which has established itself as a market leader in just four years, has been built on a strong track record of strategic execution. Our investment in Jio is a further demonstration of ADIA’s ability to draw on deep regional and sector expertise to invest globally in market leading companies and alongside proven partners.”

The new capital should help Ambani, India’s richest man, further solidify his commitment to investors when he pledged to cut Reliance’s net debt of about $21 billion to zero by early 2021 — in part because of the investments it has made to build Jio Platforms, said Uppal.

Its core business — oil refining and petrochemicals — has been hard hit by the coronavirus outbreak. Its net profit in the quarter that ended on March 31 fell by 37%.

“I am delighted that ADIA, with its track record of more than four decades of successful long-term value investing across the world, is partnering with Jio Platforms in its mission to take India to digital leadership and generate inclusive growth opportunities. This investment is a strong endorsement of our strategy and India’s potential,” said Ambani.

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KKR to invest $1.5 billion in India’s Reliance Jio Platforms

Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Jio Platforms has agreed to sell 2.32% stake to U.S. equity firm KKR in what is the fifth major investment in the top Indian telecom firm in just as many weeks.

On Friday, KKR announced it will invest $1.5 billion in the Indian top telecom operator, a subsidiary of India’s most valued firm (Reliance Industries), joining fellow American investors Facebook, Silver Lake, Vista Equity Partners, and General Atlantic that have made similar bets on the Indian firm that has amassed over 388 million subscribers.

The investment from KKR, which has wrote checks to about 20 tech companies to date including ByteDance and GoJek, values the nearly four-year-old Reliance Jio Platforms at $65 billion. The announcement today further shows the growing appeal of Jio Platforms, which has raised $10.35 billion in the past month by selling about 17% of its stake to foreign investors that are looking for a slice of the world’s second-largest internet market.

Ambani, the chairman and managing director of Reliance Industries and who has poured more than $30 billion to build Jio Platforms, said the company was looking forward to leverage “KKR’s global platform, industry knowledge and operational expertise to further grow Jio.”

“Few companies have the potential to transform a country’s digital ecosystem in the way that Jio Platforms is doing in India, and potentially worldwide. Jio Platforms is a true homegrown next generation technology leader in India that is unmatched in its ability to deliver technology solutions and services to a country that is experiencing a digital revolution,” Henry Kravis, co-founder and co-chief executive of KKR, said in a statement.

“We are investing behind Jio Platforms’ impressive momentum, world-class innovation and strong leadership team, and we view this landmark investment as a strong indicator of KKR’s commitment to supporting leading technology companies in India and Asia Pacific,” he added.

More to follow…

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General Atlantic to invest $870M in India’s Reliance Jio Platforms

Mukesh Ambani’s Jio Platforms has agreed to sell 1.34% stake to General Atlantic, the latest deal in a series of deals the top Indian telecom operator has secured in recent weeks.

On Sunday, General Atlantic said it would invest $869.8 million in the Indian firm, joining Facebook, Silver Lake, and Vista Equity Partners that have made sizeable bets on the three-and-a-half-year old Indian firm.

General Atlantic’s investment values Jio Platforms at $65 billion (equity valuation) — the same valuation implied by the Silver Lake and Vista deals and a 12.5% premium over Facebook’s deal, the Indian firm said.

Sunday’s announcement further illustrates the growing appeal of Jio Platforms, which has raised $8.85 billion in the last one month, to foreign investors looking for a slice in the fast-growing world’s second largest internet market.

General Atlantic, a high profile investor in consumer tech space, has invested in dozens of firms such as Airbnb, Alibaba, Ant Financial, Box, ByteDance, Facebook, India’s NoBroker, Slack, Snapchat, and Uber.

“General Atlantic shares our vision of a Digital Society for India and strongly believes in the transformative power of digitization in enriching the lives of 1.3 billion Indians. We are excited to leverage General Atlantic’sproven global expertise and strategic insights across 40 years of technology investing for the benefit of Jio,” said Mukesh Ambani, chairman of Jio Platforms-parent firm Reliance Industries, in a statement.

More to follow…

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Quizlet valued at $1 billion as it raises millions during a global pandemic

As millions of students and teachers shift to learn from home in response to the novel coronavirus disease, modern-day flashcard business Quizlet has raised $30 million in a Series C round led by General Atlantic.

Quizlet’s chief executive officer Matthew Glotzbach said that the new funding values the business at $1 billion, up five times from its last funding round in 2018. Quizlet’s total known financing is more than $60 million.

The fresh funding comes off the heels of unprecedented usage for Quizlet, which connects students to virtual flashcards and study guides. Once a user makes a guide, they can share a unique link with friends and collaborate ahead of a test. School shutdowns due to COVID-19 have caused students to flock to the platform as they look for new ways to study, retain information and collaborate.

Students ask over 1 billion questions on Quizlet each week and more than 400 million virtual study guides have been created. The San Francisco-based startup is also seeing “massive international growth,” with 200% to 400% new user growth across its top international markets.

The company declined to share daily numbers, but said it sees over 50 million users every month, which is similar to a statistic it shared two years ago.

Glotzbach noted that more than two-thirds of high schoolers in the United States use Quizlet. At least half of U.S. college students have used the platform. That kind of market hold only comes from two aspects: volume and variety. The site’s curriculum spans from acid and bases in chemistry to the science of roller coasters to the art of sensation and perception.

As for why a flash card business could be worth a billion dollars, it isn’t. But an AI-powered tutoring platform could be, and that’s exactly what Quizlet is focusing on as a core product move in the foreseeable future. Quizlet Learn, Glotzbach says, is the most popular feature on the site and uses AI to help users study topics and learn mastery by a certain time.

Quizlet’s newest investor, General Atlantic, has invested in a number of edtech companies around the world, like OpenClassrooms, Ruangguru, Unacademy and, recently, Duolingo. Glotzbach said that Quizlet will continue to expand to new international markets, but does not have any “specific targets or names.” It is currently used in 130 countries across 19 localized languages, so it has a lot of room to grow.

Quizlet did not comment on profitability, but said its revenue is growing 100% year over year.

Quizlet views its closest competitor as Chegg, an online textbook company that went public in November 2013. Glotzbach says it has a larger audience and bigger footprint on education in the United States. He noted that other learning apps like Duolingo are vertical and subject focused, while Quizlet has a more broad curriculum.

While the new funding officially makes Quizlet a unicorn, Glotzbach said that when he announced the funding to his staff he compared the company more closely to a camel.

“We’ve built a very large-scale business with products that are easy to use, easy to get up and running and easy to share,” he said. “We use a low-cost subscription model that is very inexpensive so we get a lot of people upgrading to our premium product, and it drives economic business.”

Slow and steady is part of its founding story: Quizlet was founded in 2005 by a 15-year-old, Andrew Sutherland. It was fully bootstrapped until 2015. Glotzbach, who was previously an executive at YouTube, then joined in 2016.

But while it has humble roots, this new round was closed in the heat of a global pandemic.

“We saw record drops in the stock market multiple days in a row while trying to both manage [the round] and move an entire company to remote work,” he detailed. “It was closed during such a volatile time.”

Glotzbach said that the round was more opportunistic, and that it didn’t “need an injection of capital to make ends meet.”

Therefore, Quizlet’s new shiny valuation is yet another example of how edtech has found both revitalization and green shoots during this catastrophic time, and how remote learning is going from a tool to a necessity for many learners.

#edtech, #education, #general-atlantic, #quizlet, #recent-funding, #startups, #tc