#DealMonitor – #EXKLUSIV Creandum und Project A investieren in Yababa – Stripes and HV Capital investieren in CarOnSale


Im aktuellen #DealMonitor für den 16. 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

Yababa
+++ Creandum und Project A investieren nach unseren Informationen 15 Millionen Euro in Yababa. Das Berliner Startup, das von Ralph Hage, Hadi Zaklouta, Javier Gimenez und Kamel Semakieh gegründet wurde, positioniert sich als Lieferservice für orientalische Lebensmittel. Dabei setzen die Hauptstädter auf  Same Day Delivery. Der Berliner Gorillas-Investor Atlantic Food Labs, intwischen als FoodLabs bekannt, schob das Unternehmen vor wenigen Wochen an. Mehr im Insider-Podcast #EXKLUSIV

CarOnSale
+++ Der New Yorker Geldgeber Stripes and HV Capital investieren nach unseren Informationen 60 Millionen US-Dollar in CarOnSale. Das Berliner Startup, das 2018 von Tekin Has, Tom Krüger, Fabian Roth und Oguz Özgüler gegründet wurde, positioniert sich als Marktplatz für Händlerfahrzeuge. Über CarOnSale, dessen Wurzeln in Nürnberg liegen, können Autohäuser ihre Fahrzeuge vermarkten und an Autohändler verkaufen. Der amerikanische Geldgeber Insight Partners und der schwedische Kapitalgeber Creandum investierten zuvor bereits rund 17,5 Millionen Euro in CarOnSale. Mehr im Insider-Podcast #EXKLUSIV

Zageno
+++ General Catalyst und eine “Healthcare Organization” sowie die Altinvestoren Grazia Equity, Capnamic Ventures und HighSage Ventures investieren 60 Millionen US-Dollar in Zageno, einen Online-Marktplatz für Life Science-Forschungsprodukte. Das junge Unternehmen, das 2015 von Kilian Veer, David Pumberger und Florian Wegener gegründet wurde, verbindet Wissenschaftler, Forschungsinstitute und Biotech-Hersteller miteinander. Capnamic Ventures und Grazia Equity investierten bereits 2017 rund 8 Millionen Dollar in Zageno

apriwell
+++ Der Berliner E-Health-Investor Heal Capital und und Calm/Storm Ventures investieren 3 Millionen Euro in apriwell. Das Berliner Startup kümmert sich um Verstopfung. apriwell, 2020 von Viomedo-Macher Alexander Puschilov gegründet, setzt dabei auf drei Elementen: Dazu zählt die telemedizinische Beratung, um die Ursachen zu finden, ein individuelles digitales Therapieprogramm und passende Nahrungsergänzungsmittel.

Stream.tv
+++ Altinvestor KaPa Ventures investiert 1 Million Euro in Stream.tv, bisher unter dem Namen Own3d.tv bekannt. Das Startup aus Steyr, das von Thomas Rafelsberger, Andy Hanne und Lukas Hoffmann gegründet wurde, bietet mit Own3d.tv hochwertige Stream-Designs an. Mit Own3d.Pro bietet das Unternehmen Streaming und Broadcasting-Tools an, die sich Anfänger:innen und Profi-Streamer:innen richten.

Lodgea
+++ Müller Medien und DTM Deutsche Tele Medien investieren in Lodgea. Das Startup aus aus München, das 2021 von Ricarda Kies und Jan Kammerath gegründet wurde, bietet die Software-Lösung für die Online-Vermarktung von Unterkünften an. “Die kommerzielle Standard-Shop-Software-Lösung gibt jedem Vermarkter ein Werkzeug an die Hand, das ohne Entwicklungsaufwand eingesetzt werden kann”, teilt das Unternehmen mit.

Itexia
+++ Die Business Angels Julius Göllner, Christoph Jentzsch und Philipp Herkelmann investieren eine sechsstellige Summe in Itexia. Das Startup aus Dresden, das 2014 von Patrick Boden und Steffen Prasse gegründet wurde,, positioniert sich als “einfache, digitale und übersichtliche Verwaltung von Inventargegenständen in Unternehmen”.

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

#aktuell, #apriwell, #berlin, #caronsale, #creandum, #dresden, #e-health, #food, #foodlabs, #general-catalyst, #heal-capital, #hv-capital, #itexia, #kapa-ventures, #lodgea, #munchen, #own3d, #project-a-ventures, #same-day-delivery, #steyr, #stream-tv, #stripes, #venture-capital, #yababa, #zageno

#DealMonitor – Frontify sammelt 50 Millionen ein – Flexcavo bekommt 7,5 Millionen – Lena Gercke investiert in 26 Homes


Im aktuellen #DealMonitor für den 27. September 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

Frontify 
+++ Revaia (ehemals Gaia Capital Partners) und High Sage Ventures sowie die Alt-Investoren EQT Ventures, Blossom Capital und Tenderloin Ventures investieren 50 Millionen US-Dollar in das Schweizer Startup Frontify. Das Unternehmen, das 2013 von Roger Dudler in St. Gallen gegründet wurde, betreibt eine Plattform, über die Unternehmen ihren Markenauftritt verwalten können. EQT Ventures, Blossom Capital, Datartis Ventures und Tenderloin Ventures investierten zuletzt bereits 22,3 Millionen Dollar in Frontify. Über 200 Mitarbeiter:innen wirken bereits für die Jungfirma. Zu den Kunden von Frontify gehören unter anderem Lufthansa, KIA, Vodafone, Maersk, Dyson und Allianz. Mit dem frischen Kapital möchte das Unternehmen “das Wachstum weiter vorantreiben – sowohl in der Produktforschung und -entwicklung als auch bei der Einstellung von Talenten in den USA, der Schweiz und darüber hinaus, um das derzeitige Team zu verstärken”. Mehr über Frontify

Flexcavo 
+++ VR Ventures, Picus Capital, Rivus Ventures und FJ Labs sowie Business Angels wie Felix Jahn, Max-Josef Meier, Florian Huber, Florian Seubert und die Alasco-Gründer investieren 7,5 Millionen in Flexcavo. Bei Flexcavo aus Berlin, das von Picus Capital angeschoben wurde, dreht sich alles um das Mieten von Baumaschinen. “Wir kombinieren unsere Mietflotte mit innovativer Technologie, um gemeinsam mit Ihnen den Einsatz von Baumaschinen zu optimieren”, teilen die Jungunternehmer mit. “Das neue Kapital soll vor allem in den Ausbau des Teams, die Weiterentwicklung der Software sowie den deutschlandweiten Ausbau des Netzwerks für Baumaschinenvermietung fließen”, teilt das ConTech, das von Benedict Aicher und Leonhard Fricke gegründet wurde, mit.

RemNote
+++ General Catalyst, 468 Capital, Soma Capital und Dorm Room Fund investieren 3 Millionen US-Dollar in das deutsch-amerikanische Startup RemNote. Das Unternehmen aus Boston, das von 2020 von Deutschen Moritz Wallawitsch und dem US-Amerikaner Martin Schneider gegründet wurde, positioniert sich als “Online-Umgebung für Lernen und Wissensvermittlung”. Das frische Kapital soll “für laufende Produktinnovationen und den Ausbau des Teams aus Ingenieuren, Designern und Forschern verwendet” werden.

26 Homes
+++ Amorelie-Gründerin Lea-Sophie Cramer und Model Lena Gercke investieren nach unseren Informationen eine unbekannte Summe in 26 Homes. Das Berliner Startup, das von Dorothea Metasch gegründet wurde, beschreibt sich als “neuen Weg, um Immobilien zu entdecken”. Zum Konzept, das über einen Newsletter funktioniert, heißt es weiter: “Wir sind der Follow-Button für Eigentumswohnungen”. #EXKLUSIV

MERGERS & ACQUISITIONS

Port
+++ Das New Yorker Unternehmen Commsor übernimmt Port. Das Berliner Startup, das 2020 von Jake Stott, Nick Dijkstra und Kevin Dykes gegründet wurde, kümmert sich um Community-Wachstum. In der Eigenbeschreibung heißt es: “Navigate your community. Port helps you grow, engage, and retain your members. Wherever they are”. Die Hauptstädter schreiben: “It was totally unexpected that only 18 months into our voyage, we would receive an acquisition offer we couldn’t refuse”.

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

#26-homes, #468-capital, #aktuell, #berlin, #blossom-capital, #boston, #commsor, #contech, #dorm-room-fund, #eqt-ventures, #fj-labs, #flexcavo, #frontify, #general-catalyst, #high-sage-ventures, #picus-capital, #pink-capital, #port, #proptech, #remnote, #revaia, #rivus-ventures, #soma-capital, #st-gallen, #tenderloin-ventures, #venture-capital, #vr-ventures

Docs startup Almanac raises $34 million from Tiger as remote work shift hardens

As companies continue to delay their returns to the office and find temporary remote work policies becoming permanent, the startups building tooling for remote work-first cultures are finding a seemingly endless supply of customers.

“Companies are finding the shift to remote work is not a one-time aberration due to Covid,” Almanac CEO Adam Nathan tells TechCrunch. “Over the past several months we’ve seen pretty explosive revenue growth.”

Almanac, which builds a doc editor that takes feature cues like version control from developer platforms like Github, has been seizing on the shift to remote work, onboarding new customers through its open source office document library Core while pushing features that allow for easier onboarding like an online company handbook builder.

In the past couple years, timelines between funding rounds have been shrinking for fast-growing startups. Almanac announced its $9 million seed round earlier this year led by Floodgate, now they’re taking the wraps off of a $34 million Series A led by the pandemic’s most prolific startup investment powerhouse — Tiger Global. Floodgate again participated in the raise, alongside General Catalyst and a host of angels.

The company wants its collaborative doc editor to be the way more companies fully embrace online productivity software, leaving local-first document editors in the dust. While Alphabet’s G Suite is a rising presence in the office productivity suite world, Microsoft Office is still the market’s dominant force.

“We see ourselves as a generational challenger to Microsoft Office,” Nathan says. “It’s not only an old product, but it’s totally outmoded for what we do to today.”

While investors have backed plenty of startups based on pandemic era trends that have already seemed to fizzle out, the growing shift away from office culture or even hybrid culture towards full remote work has only grown more apparent as employees place a premium on jobs with flexible remote policies.

Major tech companies like Facebook have found themselves gradually adjusting policies towards full-remote work for staff that can do their jobs remotely. Meanwhile, Apple’s more aggressive return-to-office plan has prompted a rare outpouring of public and private criticism from employees at the company. Nathan only expects this divide to accelerate as more companies come tor grips with the shifting reality.

“I personally don’t believe that hybrid is a thing,” he says. “You have to pick a side, you’re either office culture or ‘cloud culture.’”

#almanac, #alphabet, #articles, #ceo, #cloud-computing, #economy, #general-catalyst, #github, #human-resource-management, #major, #microsoft, #onboarding, #productivity, #recruitment, #software, #startup-company, #startups, #telecommuting, #tiger-global

Patient monitoring startup Doccla secures $3.3M Seed funding for ‘virtual wards’ platform

Doccla, a healthtech startup with a platform that can monitor patients on hospital wards and in the home, has secured a $3.3 million Seed funding round, led by Giant Ventures and Speedinvest. The company allows hospitals to predict when beds will be freed up by monitoring patients remotely via wearable medical devices, thus helping to alleviate bottlenecks in the system.

Founded by health entrepreneur, Martin Ratz, and tech entrepreneur, Dag Larrson, Doccla says it has saved “thousands of bed days for the NHS,” achieving a 29% reduction in Emergency Admissions and a 20% reduction in A&E attendance, the company claimed.

Doccla is similar to competitors Current Health, Huma and Cadence. The latter recently raised $41 million in funding from Thrive and General Catalyst. The company offers a remote patient monitoring platform that enables clinicians to monitor patients at home and provide personalized feedback via texts and ‘video visits’. Doccla says it can also measure patients at home.

The cash raised will be used to invest in its technology, and integrate further with the medical wearables and journal record systems. It also plans to expand into European healthcare markets.
 
Once again, as we have seen with other technologies, Doccla’s development was propelled by the pandemic. It turned out that overwhelmed hospitals needed technologies like this to create ‘virtual wards’ in order to monitor patients’ journey both in the hospital and when they got home.

Dag Larsson, CEO and co-founder of Doccla said. “Our end-to-end virtual ward services are extremely easy for the care provider to take on and extremely hard for them to ignore. The NHS now faces a challenging winter season and we’re evolving our technology to support care providers.”

He added: “We differ a lot from the competition in that we support the entire patient journey (e.g all last-mile activities like logistics, customer service, and even pre-configured mobile phones). This has made us punch substantially over our weight and win contracts with extremely high patient and clinician approval.”

Cameron McLain, Managing Partner & Co-Founder from Giant Ventures added: “Doccla provides a vital solution for a strained healthcare system, delivering a product that improves the patient experience and tackles cost.”

Felix Faltin, Principal and Digital Health Lead at Speedinvest said “Doccla’s platform is more than a product, it’s a full-stack solution that makes care delivery more efficient for providers, cheaper for payors and safer for patients, long past COVID-19.”

#cadence, #europe, #general-catalyst, #giant-ventures, #health, #huma, #mobile-phones, #monitor, #national-health-service, #nhs, #speedinvest, #tc, #telehealth

General Catalyst, Abstract back Wanderlog’s $1.5M round for collaborative travel

Twin brothers Harry and Peter Yu grew up traveling all over, an aspect of their lives that continued even into their careers. What they didn’t enjoy was figuring out all the logistics, which has become more difficult during the pandemic: vacations that could be taken quickly now require more planning and even reservations.

“People travel differently, but the common denominator is that everyone uses some kind of document to plan and share their trip information,” Harry Yu told TechCrunch. “We saw a need for something that is better than spreadsheets and ‘copy-and paste.’ ”

So they launched Bay Area-based Wanderlog in 2019 to enable users to gather and record their travel plans. The free itinerary maker and road trip planner takes the best parts of Google Docs and Maps and enables users to import the information and map out the trip. You can even add lists of places you’d like to visit, and Wanderlog will recommend the best way to get there. Reservations can also be added, Peter Yu said.

Wanderlog demo. Image Credits: Wanderlog

The company announced Wednesday it raised $1.5 million in seed funding from General Catalyst and Abstract Ventures.

“Wanderlog has built a product that has a unique understanding of how users plan trips and share their experiences — it’s no surprise that people love using it,” General Catalyst’s Niko Bonatsos said via email. “General Catalyst is proud to invest in Wanderlog as they change the way we travel together, and we’re excited by the growth Peter, Harry and the entire Wanderlog team have achieved.”

The company, which was part of Y Combinator’s 2019 cohort, plans to use the new funding to expand its web and mobile app features, including offering restaurant recommendations, based on Google and Yelp reviews, for those who don’t want to do a bunch of searching and reading reviews.

The founders declined to share growth metrics, but said the platform is already facilitating thousands of trips per week. Customers are already sharing with the founders that the app is good for communication among a large group, where everyone can see what the plans are and discuss them, Harry Yu said. In addition, they just launched a subscription service and are seeing good early metrics.

Wanderlog is among a number of travel startups attracting venture capital dollars as travel restrictions have begun to ease amid the pandemic. For example, just over the past month companies like Thatch raised $3 million for its platform aimed at travel creators, travel tech company Hopper brought in $175 million, Wheel the World grabbed $2 million for its disability-friendly vacation planner and Elude raised $2.1 million to bring spontaneous travel back to a hard-hit industry.

 

#abstract-ventures, #apps, #funding, #general-catalyst, #harry-yu, #niko-bonatsos, #peter-yu, #recent-funding, #software, #startups, #tc, #travel-startups, #travel-tech, #wanderlog, #y-combinator, #yelp

Osana Salud raises $20M to build API-connected infrastructure for the LatAm healthcare industry

Osana Salud, which aims to transform the healthcare infrastructure in Latin America, has closed on a $20 million Series A round of funding led by General Catalyst.

The Argentina-based, yet fully remote, startup was founded in 2019 — just a few months before the pandemic. Since launching less than a year ago, Osana says it has secured contracts with health insurance firms and providers that collectively serve more than 6 million patients in the region. For example, it is working with Sanatorio Güemes and PAMI, which has a network of 5 million patients, among others.

Quiet Capital, Preface Ventures, FJ Labs, AforeVC and K50 Ventures also put money in the latest round, which brings Osana’s total raised over its lifetime to $26.5 million. Lee Fixel’s Addition is also an investor.

CEO Andre Lawson told TechCrunch he was inspired to start Osana Salud because an estimated 50% of Latin America does not have access to quality healthcare. So he teamed up with COO Jorge Lopez to found the company to help change that. President Charu Sharma (the only staffer who is U.S.-based) and CTO Hugo Martin joined at a later date.

“Our vision is to enable affordable and accessible healthcare for every person in Latin America by leveraging technology,” Lawson said.

Specifically, Osana Salud is building an API-connected infrastructure to help the region’s healthcare industry offer a patient experience that offers “greater convenience, outcomes and value,” Lawson told TechCrunch. Its initial focus is on building solutions for telehealth, pharmacy and diagnostics. 

For example, he said, Osana wants to make it faster and cheaper for healthcare players to build solutions that are “safe, secure and interact well” with other health systems. With that in mind, the company has tapped doctors and engineers to design that infrastructure.

“The goal is to empower the next generation of healthcare providers in building patient-centric solutions with the potential to positively impact the healthcare experiences and outcomes for hundreds of millions of people,” Lawson said.

In the past eight months, Osana has grown from four to about 50 people, and it expects to have over 250 employees in the next year. Despite not quite being two years old, the startup believes it’s already grown to be Latin America’s biggest telehealth company.

Sharma told TechCrunch that despite living in Silicon Valley, she was drawn to the company’s mission and found the potential to “massively transform healthcare for a whole continent” appealing.

“In the U.S. tech ecosystem, we focus on first-world problems a lot, but an emerging market like LatAm gave me the opportunity to make a meaningful impact at a very basic human need level,” she said. “As the saying goes, talent is equally distributed but opportunity is not.”

In fact, as evidence that remote work will never be the same after COVID, neither Sharma nor Martin have met Lawson or Lopez in person.

The new capital will in part go toward accelerating the company’s product roadmap, Lawson said, and helping it expand to Brazil and Mexico, where it has seen “strong inbound interest.” But primarily, it will be used for hiring.

The timing of the company’s inception was good. The pandemic shed light on the fractures of the healthcare system in Latin America, Lawson believes. It also gave the industry the opportunity to show the benefits of a “virtual first” approach, he added. And once people got a taste of it, they wanted more.

As a result, Osana says it has seen a big bump both in the number of clients and in the usage of its technology platform amongst existing ones.

“Furthermore, COVID-19 created urgency for healthcare providers, which resulted in very short sales cycles for us,” Lawson said.

Hemant Taneja of General Catalyst said the startup’s thesis aligns “perfectly” with his firm’s thesis around healthcare. Taneja himself is also a co-founder and executive chairman of San Francisco-based Commure, a venture-backed startup which is also building software infrastructure aimed at transforming the healthcare space.

“The healthcare infrastructure landscape in Latin America is highly fragmented,” he told TechCrunch. Most software vendors are small or medium-sized local vendors, who have not crossed into other Latin American geographies, Taneja pointed out.

“Osana has a variety of solutions for providers, payors and the pharmaceutical industry that are customizable and modular to create truly personalized experiences — regardless of the region in Latin America,” he said. “They can be an important unifier in a really fractured marketplace.”

#argentina, #funding, #fundings-exits, #general-catalyst, #health, #latin-america, #osana-salud, #recent-funding, #startups, #venture-capital

Clay debuts a new tool to help people better manage their business and personal relationships

A new startup called Clay, backed by $8 million in seed funding, has built a system designed to help you be more thoughtful with the people in your life, which operates somewhat like a personal CRM. With Clay, you build a collection of the people you meet by connecting your email and calendar with social apps, including Twitter and LinkedIn. Clay then populates each person’s entry with all the relevant information you would need to recall for any future meeting — ranging from their work history to latest tweets to the details on how you met and when you last communicated, among other things.

You also can add notes of your own to each entry, click to activate reminders to follow up with certain people and organize entries into groups. The app supports a command bar, keyboard shortcuts and home screen widgets, as well.

The end result is something that’s not exactly an address book but also not necessarily as sales and pipeline-focused as a CRM system.

Clay’s founders instead refer to their app as a “home for your people,” as it’s attempting to carve out a new space in the market for a more personal system of tracking who you know and how.

Image Credits: Clay

The idea for the startup comes from entrepreneurs Matthew Achariam and Zachary Hamed, Clay’s co-founders and co-CEOs, who met back in their early days of working with startups. Prior to starting Clay, Achariam helped lead product at Y Combinator-backed analytics company, Custora, and Hamed led the product management team for Goldman Sachs’ web platform, Marquee.

“We think that people and relationships have played such an important role in our own career trajectories. And we wanted to dive into that,” Hamed explains, when speaking about what prompted their interest in building Clay.

To get started with Clay — which is available as a web, desktop and mobile app — you’ll first connect your accounts. At present, Clay supports Microsoft Outlook/Office 365, Google Calendar, Gmail/Google Mail and Twitter. You also can add other services via Zapier integrations. After setup, Clay will then automatically track your meetings and personal connections, and augment people’s entries with other details pulled from the web, like their background and work experience listed on LinkedIn and latest tweets.

People’s entries will also detail how you met the person — something people tend to forget over time. For example, they may be noted as a connection you made on LinkedIn, or someone you met in person or in an online meeting.

Through Clay’s desktop app, you also can optionally connect Clay with iMessage, which allows it to augment its people entries with phone numbers and details about when you last communicated. However, this feature should be met with some caution. While Clay doesn’t import the content of your messages, the company says, it has to work around the lack of an official API or SDK to perform this integration. That means the feature requires full disk access in order to function. That’s an elevated security permission some will not feel comfortable using.

Image Credits: Clay

The founders, however, say they’ve built Clay to respect people’s privacy and security. The company’s privacy policy is human-readable and each integration is explained in terms of what data is pulled, what’s not pulled and how the data is used. Currently, data is encrypted on Clay’s servers and in transit, but the goal — and part of what the funding round is going toward — is to make Clay work fully locally on users’ devices.

“We want it to work fully on your machine. We don’t want to be storing any data at all,” says Hamed. “To do that is a very technically complex task, so it was prohibitively out of reach for Matt and I as we were building Clay in the beginning. But now that we have resources, that is our eventual goal.”

Still, Clay may face a difficult time convincing users that it’s safe, due to how many times people have been burned in the past over “smart” address books that abused users’ private data. Only last year, a new startup in this space, Sunshine Contacts, was found to be distributing people’s home addresses, even though these people hadn’t signed up for the app. Many other prior efforts also failed because they overstepped user privacy concerns in order to generate revenue.

Achariam believes the problem with these earlier products was often the business model they adopted.

“That was one of the things we really were thinking about when we started going into the space — because we, ourselves, wanted something like this — and every product that we saw kind of rubbed us the wrong way or exploded because of those reasons,” notes Achariam, of the smart address market’s history. “A lot of these things started off with making the user the product. And then you weren’t paying for it. There was no sustainable business model and at some point, they had to balance those trade-offs,” he says.

Image Credits: Clay

Clay is doing things differently. It’s starting from day one with a pricing plan that will allow it to self-sustain. Right now, that’s a fairly steep $20 per month, but the goal is to bring that down over time and introduce a free plan. (It’s also offering cheaper access to certain groups, like students and nonprofits, if a request is emailed.)

During testing, Clay was adopted by a number of different types of users, including teachers who wanted to remember students and their parents; a congressional candidate who wanted to track their constituents; and a veterinarian who wanted to remember customers and their pets.

“We intentionally made it really cross-industry, cross-disciplinary. We didn’t think that this was a tech problem or investor problem. We went broader,” notes Hamed.

The startup has raised a total of $8 million in seed funding from 2019 through 2020. The funding was led by Forerunner Ventures, with participation from General Catalyst.

Angel investors include Shannon Brayton, former CMO at LinkedIn; Kevin Hartz, former CEO of Eventbrite; Kelvin Beachum, an NFL player, philanthropist and investor; Lindsay Kaplan, co-founder of Chief and former VP of Communications and Brand at Casper; Zoelle Egner, former marketing lead at Airtable; Adam Evans, former CTO of RelateIQ; Charlie Songhurst, former head of corporate strategy at Microsoft; Sam Lessin, former VP of product management at Facebook; Jonah Goodhart, former CEO of Moat and SVP at Oracle; Jeff Morris Jr., Chapter One Ventures and others.

“Emerging from COVID, people are recognizing what had already become true. Relationships are increasingly digital, formed through online interaction and honed through messaging apps. So, how is it that we can be continuously connected, yet increasingly lonely at the same time?” stated Forerunner GP Brian O’Malley, about his firm’s investment. “The problem is that existing social products don’t serve you as the end user. You are just a pawn for some other customer, like a recruiter or some unknown advertiser. Clay is the first relationship software company built to understand all the signals that drive your connections, helping you form better ones with a broader set of people. Clay understands that your network is yours, so you should be empowered to own it,” he added.

Clay is currently opened to sign-ups through its website.

#apps, #computing, #crm, #customer-relationship-management, #desktop-app, #facebook, #forerunner-ventures, #funding, #general-catalyst, #google, #linkedin, #microsoft, #mobile, #networking, #privacy, #relationship-management, #relationships, #social-networking, #software, #startups, #web-app

Popcorn’s new app brings short-form video to the workplace

A new startup called Popcorn wants to make work communication more fun and personal by offering a way for users to record short video messages, or “pops,” that can be used for any number of purposes in place of longer emails, texts, Slack messages, or Zoom calls. While there are plenty of other places to record short-form video these days, most of these exist in the social media space which isn’t appropriate for a work environment. Nor does it make sense to send a video you’ve recorded on your phone as an email attachment, when you really just want to check in with a colleague or say hello.

Popcorn, on the other hand, lets you create the short video and then send a URL to that video anywhere you would want add a personal touch to your message.

For example, you could use Popcorn in business networking scenario, where you’re trying to connect with someone in your industry for the first time — aka “cold outreach.” Instead of just blasting them a message on LinkedIn, you could also paste in the Popcorn URL to introduce yourself in a more natural, friendly fashion. You could also use Popcorn with your team at work for things like daily check-ins, sharing progress on an ongoing project, or to greet new hires, among other things.

Videos themselves can be up to 60 seconds in length — a time limit designed to keep Popcorn users from rambling. Users can also opt to record audio only if they don’t want to appear on video. And you can increase the playback speed if you’re in a hurry. Users who want to receive “pops” could also advertise their “popcode” (e.g. try mine at U8696).

The idea to bring short-form video to the workplace comes from Popcorn co-founder and CEO Justin Spraggins, whose background is in building consumer apps. One of his first apps to gain traction back in 2014 was a Tinder-meets-Instagram experience called Looksee that allowed users to connect around shared photos. A couple years later, he co-founded a social calling app called Unmute, a Clubhouse precursor of sorts. He then went on to co-found 9 Count, a consumer app development shop which launched more social apps like BFF (previously Wink) and Juju.

9 Count’s lead engineer, Ben Hochberg, is now also a co-founder on Popcorn (or rather, Snack Break, Inc. as the legal entity is called). They began their work on Popcorn in 2020, just after the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. But the rapid shift to remote work that’s come in the days that followed could now help Popcorn gain traction among distributed teams. Today’s remote workers may never again return to in-person meetings at the office, but they’re also are growing tired of long days stuck in Zoom meetings.

With Popcorn, the goal is to make work communication fun, personal and bite-sized, Spraggins says. “[We want to] bring all the stuff we’re really passionate about in consumer social into work, which I think is really important for us now,” he explains.

“You work with these people, but how do you — without scheduling a Zoom — how do you bring the ‘human’ to it?,” Spraggins says. “I’m really excited about making work products feel more social, more like Snapchat than utility tools.”

There is a lot Popcorn would still need to figure out to truly make a business-oriented social app work, including adding enhanced security, limiting spam, offering some sort of reporting flow for bad actors, and more. It will also eventually need to land on a successful revenue model.

Currently, Popcorn is a free download on iPhone, iPad and Mac, and offers a Slack integration so you can send video messages to co-workers directly in the communication software you already use to catch up and stay in touch. The app today is fairly simple but the company plans to enhance its short videos over time using AR frames that let users showcase their personalities.

The startup raised a $400,000 pre-seed round from General Catalyst (Nico Bonatsos) and Dream Machine (Alexia Bonatsos, previously editor-in-chief at TechCrunch.) Spraggins says the company will be looking to raise a seed round in the fall to help with hires, including in the AR space.

#alexia-bonatsos, #app-store, #apps, #business, #chat, #computing, #funding, #general-catalyst, #instagram, #iphone, #mobile, #mobile-applications, #operating-systems, #popcorn, #recent-funding, #short-form, #slack, #social, #software, #startups, #video, #video-apps, #work

D2C specs purveyor Warby Parker files to go public

Did you miss IPOs? I sure did. They could be coming back after a summer lull.

Warby Parker, a D2C glasses company backed by over a half-billion dollars of private capital, filed to go public yesterday. For investors like General Catalyst, Tiger Global and Durable Capital Partners, it’s an important debut. Having taken on equity capital since at least 2011, investors have been waiting a long time for Warby to float.


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And there’s quite a lot to like about the company, the first parse of its IPO filing reveals. There are some less attractive elements to its business worth discussing, and we need to examine how COVID-19 impacted the company’s 2020 performance.

Warby last raised known private capital in August 2020, a $120 million Series G that valued the company at just over $3 billion on a post-money basis. D1 Capital Partners led that transaction, which included both Durable Capital and Baillie Gifford.

For D2C startups, the Warby IPO is something of a do-over. The Casper IPO from early 2020 is now a cautionary tale for companies employing the business model; the company reduced its IPO range, priced at $12 per share and today trades for just over $5.

But there’s more to Warby Parker’s IPO than just the D2C category. It’s a public benefit corporation, which it says in its filing means that it is “focused on positively impacting all stakeholders” as opposed to merely shareholders. And the company has a charitable bent to its efforts through a foundation and donation model of giving away eyewear when customers purchase their own set. Warby also has a hybrid sales model, leaning on both IRL and digital retail channels. There’s lots to dig into.

So let’s parse Warby’s growth history, its profitability progress over time and how the company is blending IRL shopping with digital channels. We’ll close by examining just how the company was priced last year, taking a guess at what it might be worth in today’s public markets.

Inside Warby Parker’s historical growth

Looking at Warby’s full-year results for 2020 is not inspiring. The company grew well from 2018 to 2019, expanding from $272.9 million in revenue to $370.5 million in revenue, or around 36%. That’s not an astounding pace of growth, but it’s more than respectable for a company of Warby’s age and size.

Then in 2020 the company only managed to eke out 6% growth to $393.7 million in top line. What happened to slow the company’s growth rate from Just Fine to Not Fine At All? COVID, it appears.

#baillie-gifford, #d1-capital-partners, #durable-capital-partners, #eyewear, #fundings-exits, #general-catalyst, #ipo, #luxottica, #retail, #startups, #tc, #the-exchange, #tiger-global, #warby-parker

Tango dances in with $5.7M, making employee onboarding easier

Ken Babcock and his co-founders, Dan Giovacchini and Brian Shultz, were in the midst of Harvard Business School in March 2020 when they felt the call to start Tango, a Chrome extension that auto-captures workflow best practices so that teams can learn from their top performers.

“This window of opportunity was driven by the pandemic as we saw a lot of companies become distributed and go remote,” CEO Babcock told TechCrunch. “Team leaders were remotely onboarding people, for perhaps the first time, and accelerating ramp times. There was no longer the opportunity to tap on people’s shoulders in the office, so much of the training was left to people’s own devices.”

They dropped out of their program to start Los Angeles-based Tango, and today, announced a $5.7 million seed round for its workflow intelligence platform. Wing Venture Capital led the round and was joined by General Catalyst, Global Silicon Valley, Outsiders Fund and Red Sea Ventures. A group of angel investors also joined, including former Yelp executive Michael Stoppelman, former Uber head of data Jai Ranganathan, KeepTruckin CEO Shoaib Makani and Awesome People Ventures’ Julia Lipton.

Tango is designed to help employees, particularly in customer success and sales enablement, get back as much as 20% of their workweek spent searching for that one piece of information or tracking down the right colleague to assist with a task. Its technology creates tutorials by recording a users’ workflow — actions, links to pages, URLs and screenshots — and turns that into step-by-step documentation with a video.

Previously the co-founders bootstrapped the company, and decided to go after seed funding to expand the product and growth teams and invest in product development so that Tango could take a product-led growth strategy, Babcock said. The team now has 13 employees.

Since starting last year, Tango has secured 10 pilots to figure out the data and capabilities before it is set to launch publicly in September. Babcock said the company will always have a free version of the product, as well as premium and enterprise versions that will unlock additional capabilities.

“The big thing is around integrations and meeting people where the consumer content is,” Babcock added. “We are reducing that burden of creating documentation, and for companies that already have Wikis or other materials, learning how to inject ourselves into those systems.”

Zach DeWitt, partner at Wing Venture Capital, said he met the company three years ago through a mutual friend.

His firm invests in early-stage, business-to-business startups unlocking a novel data set. In Tango’s case, the company was creating a new data set for the enterprise and business, where users can analyze workflow.

With the average tech company using 150 SaaS apps, up from 20 a decade ago, there are permutations about which app to use, how to use them, what happens if the user gets stuck and what if none of the data is being captured, Dewitt said. Tango works in the background and captures workflow, which is the foundation to the business’ success.

“I was blown away by the approach,” he added. “You have to meet people where they get stuck and even anticipate where they get stuck so you can serve the Tango tutorial to get unstuck. It can also change the company’s culture when it rewards people to share knowledge. The whole idea is beneficial to multiple parties: to those who are getting stuck and to new hires. That is powerful.”

 

#apps, #artificial-intelligence, #brian-shultz, #chrome-extension, #dan-giovacchini, #enterprise, #funding, #general-catalyst, #global-silicon-valley, #harvard-business-school, #ken-babcock, #outsiders-fund, #recent-funding, #red-sea-ventures, #software, #startups, #tango, #tc, #wing-venture-capital, #workflow, #zach-dewitt

MobileCoin closes on $66 million in equity in Series B round

MobileCoin, a cryptocurrency business that counts founder Moxie Marlinspike of the encrypting messaging app Signal as its earliest technical advisor, has raised $66 million in Series B funding from a long list of investors, including Alameda Research, Berggruen Holdings, BlockTower Capital, Coinbase Ventures, Marc Benioff’s TIME Ventures, Vy Capital, and earlier backers General Catalyst and Future Ventures.

The all-equity round brings the four-year-old, San Francisco-based company’s total funding to $107 million altogether, including a $30 million round led by Binance Labs back in 2018. According to founder and CEO Joshua Goldbard, the newest round values the outfit at $1.066 billion.

As we reported earlier this year, MobileCoin is focused on enabling privacy-protecting payments made through “near instantaneous transactions” over one’s phone. Indeed, a month after we published that piece, Signal rolled out support for MobileCoin as a payment feature that its users (only in the UK for now) can use to pay for a service or product while enjoying greater privacy than might be possible otherwise.

Marlinspike told Wired back in April that because MobileCoin is a so-called privacy coin designed to protect users’ identities and the details of their payments on a blockchain, that it’s an ideal fit for Signal. “There’s a palpable difference in the feeling of what it’s like to communicate over Signal, knowing you’re not being watched or listened to, versus other communication platforms. I would like to get to a world where not only can you feel that when you talk to your therapist over Signal, but also when you pay your therapist for the session over Signal.”

According to Goldbard, MobileCoin is also being used to transact by users of Mixin Messenger, is a China-based open-source private messenger based on Signal Protocol that enables individuals to send cryptocurrencies to their phone contacts.

MobileCoin’s actual digital coins have fluctuated wildly in value since they began trading in December of last year on the cryptocurrency exchange, FTX, run by entrepreneur Sam Bankman-Fried, who also founded the quantitative crypto trading firm Alameda Research (which just invested in MobileCoin).

It is also available to buy and sell on the non-U.S. crypto trading platforms Bitfinex, BigOne, and HotBit. Goldbard says there’s no reason that U.S. exchanges couldn’t also list the coin for trade, though that’s not the case currently.

“It’s entirely up to [them] when they list assets, and no one knows ahead of time when your asset will be listed,” Goldbard offers, dismissing questions about U.S. regulators who’ve cracked down on similar efforts and pointing instead to MobileCoin’s relatively newness as its biggest challenge right now. “Most coins take a long time to list, to be honest.”

As for whether Goldbard or his early team members have sold some of company’s coins — they spiked in price this past spring — he says that “management has not sold any coins.” Asked whether the same is true of Marlinspike, Goldbard says that he “can’t speak for Moxie.” (Marlinspike told Wired in April that neither he nor Signal owned any MobileCoins at the time. We’ve since asked the company whether Marlinspike has ever owned any MobileCoins and also whether he owns or previously owned shares in MobileCoin as an early advisor to the company and have yet to hear back.)

Even assuming that MobileCoin is more secure than other options, it is still not foolproof. Among the risks involved in storing cryptocurrency on a phone are potentially losing it if the phone is left unlocked or the radio on the phone is hacked or if, say, iOS itself is hacked. 

It does offer another advantage, though, argues Goldbard. He says MobileCoin is more environmentally friendly than  cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin that rely on ‘proof of work,’ where individuals on a network compete with computing power to solve cryptographic puzzles and consume large amounts of electricity along the way.

MobileCoin instead relies on a mechanism called a “federated byzantine agreement,” wherein different validators —  people who agree to store data, process transactions, and add new blocks to the blockchain to earn more cryptocurrency — decide which other validators they trust, and when enough circles of trusted validators overlap, consensus is reached. The algorithm requires fewer people and less energy while remaining decentralized, says Goldbard.

MobileCoin currently has 40 employees and is “hiring as fast as possible,” says Goldbard. Tragically, the company’s head of engineering, Toby Segaran, who was previously an engineer with both Google and Reddit, passed away unexpectedly last week. Meanwhile, MobileCoin brought aboard is first head of compliance, David Ackerman, last month.

#coinbase-ventures, #cryptocurrency, #ftx, #general-catalyst, #joshua-goldbard, #messaging-apps, #mobilecoin, #recent-funding, #signal, #startups, #tc, #venture-capital

Titan, a platform aimed at the ‘everyday investor,’ valued at $450M as a16z leads $58M Series B

Titan, a startup that is building a retail investment management platform aimed at the new generation of “everyday investors,” has closed on $58 million in a Series B round led by Andreessen Horowitz (a16z).

The financing comes just over five months after Titan raised $12.5 million in a Series A round led by General Catalyst, and brings the startup’s total raised since its 2017 inception to $75 million. It values the company at $450 million.

General Catalyst also put money in the Series B round, along with BoxGroup, Ashton Kutcher’s Sound Ventures and a group of professional athletes and celebrities including Odell Beckham Jr., Kevin Durant, Jared Leto and Will Smith. 

The startup, which describes itself as “a new-guard active investment manager, launched its first investment strategy in February of 2018 and today has 30,000 users. Titan’s platform grew by 500% in the last 12 months, largely organically, according to the company, which expects to cross its first billion in assets under management later this year. At the time of its last raise in February, Titan co-founder and co-CEO Joe Percoco said the startup was approaching $500 million in assets under management and was cash flow positive last year. 

“What Fidelity and its iconic mutual funds were for baby boomers, Titan is for new generations. Titan is the first DTC, mobile-first investment platform where everyday investors, irrespective of wealth, can have their capital actively managed by investment experts in long-term strategies,” Percoco said.

He went on to describe the mutual fund or an ETF as “fundamentally just a piece of technology for an investment manager to accept money from someone in order to invest in securities.” He likened that piece of technology to a VHS tape that “does the job, but is archaic for a few reasons.” Those reasons, he said, are that the investor is an “anonymized dollar value” and the products have layers of costs with high minimums and are difficult to create.

“The factory that creates the mutual fund itself is very old. The entire investment management industry is predicated on these VHS tapes,” Percoco said. “These are the archaic technologies being used. We’re rebuilding it entirely. Fidelity is an old factory. Titan is effectively a new factory.”

Image credits: Titan

On August 3, Titan plans to launch its cryptocurrency offering, which the company claims will be the first and only actively managed portfolio of cryptocurrency assets available to U.S. investors. At launch, Titan Crypto will be available to all U.S. residents except those with home addresses in New  York. Access for NY-based residents will be provided once Titan’s custodial partner receives regulatory approval for the state’s jurisdiction. 

Looking ahead, Titan said it plans to allow other investment managers to launch their products from its “factory.”

“The initial strategies on Titan’s platform are predominantly in stocks,” Percoco said. “We’re already getting in-bounds from multibillion-dollar managers asking to launch products on Titan.”

The company plans to use its new capital toward continuing to build out its underlying platform and suite of investment products as well as hiring. It currently has about 30 employees, up from seven a year ago. Percoco expects that Titan will have 100 employees by this time next year.

A16z general partner Anish Acharya said that since meeting the Titan team last year, his firm has “consistently been impressed” by Titan’s product vision, execution and team.

“If we pull back and look at trends happening in consumer investing, we can see that younger generations are embracing more risk in investing, that they demand easy to navigate, mobile-first interfaces and transparency from their banks, and that they want to deeply understand how their money is being invested and participate in the learnings from that process,” said Acharya, who will be joining Titan’s board as part of the financing.

In his view, Titan sits at an “interesting intersection” between passive robo-advisors and active stock-pricing, “allowing their customers to ride shotgun alongside some of the best fund managers in the world, thus achieving the returns and knowledge of stock picking without having to make the decisions themselves.”

#a16z, #andreessen-horowitz, #anish-acharya, #boxgroup, #finance, #fintech, #funding, #fundings-exits, #general-catalyst, #investment, #investment-fund, #jared-leto, #joe-percoco, #kevin-durant, #new-york, #recent-funding, #startup, #startups, #tc, #titan, #united-states, #venture-capital, #will-smith

Backed by $5M led by General Catalyst, Evvy launches a vaginal microbiome test to support women’s health research

Another US femtech startup has joined the race to build up data-sets to support research into and understanding of a range of health issues that can affect women.

Evvy has today launched an at-home test kit for the vaginal microbiome. The user returns their swab to the startup for analysis — and gets detailed information and analysis of the microbes (fungi and bacteria) that are present in their vagina and may be associated with a variety of health concerns.

Users of the test also get personalized suggestions for things they could try (such as diet and lifestyle changes) to improve the balance of microbes — potentially helping with related heath issues they may be suffering from, like yeast infections or BV.

Variances in the microbes present in an individual’s vaginal microbiome are thought to have broad implications for women’s health — playing a role in relatively minor infections (like thrush) but Evvy also flags research linking imbalances in the vaginal microbiome to more serious issues like infertility or pre-term birth, or even linkages to the progression of cervical cancer.

Decoding the vaginal microbiome is thus seen as an opportunity to support a broad range of women’s health goals.

“We give users back a full understanding of everything that’s present. So here are all of the bacteria and fungi and importantly what is the relative amount of each of those bacteria,” explains CEO and co-founder Priyanka Jain, noting that users also get their test data in a downloadable format so they can take the information to their healthcare provider if they wish.

“There are certain bacteria that play really important roles in the vagina, either positive or negative, and understanding if that’s 90% of your vagina vs 5% makes a big difference… For every single microbe that we show to a woman we also fully explain what that microbe is, what the scientific understanding of it is today, how it might contribute to symptoms, how it might be behaving with other microbes that exist in your vagina — as well as if research has shown that it’s related to any health outcomes that you might care about.”

“We also give every woman a full personalized plan — that includes ways to help reduce any type of disruptive bacteria, ways to promote their protective bacteria and ways to overall maintain their vaginal health based on their personal life experiences,” she adds.

As with many such femtech startups, Evvy is targeting the women’s health data gap. This refers to how women can have a relatively poor experience of traditional healthcare, perhaps especially when seeking help or support with conditions related to female biology, because of historic under-representation of women in medical research — which means female health conditions tend to be less well researched and understood vs conditions affecting biological men.

Even relatively common conditions which can affect the vagina — such as a simple yeast infection — can be frustratingly difficult to connect to individual triggers. And while over-the-counter treatments do work, some women report recurrent infections — and may benefit from a better understanding of why the infections may be occurring in the first place.

The problem of less research into women’s health issues does also mean that femtech startups can have a lot of ground to cover to live up to enticing pitches of ‘demystifying’ the female body, as Evvy couches it. In its case, a key challenge is clearly analyzing the vaginal microbiome data it gets from users and turning it into useful recommendations for each person — without overpromising, given there may be relatively little research to back up possible links to wider health conditions.

Evvy says it tackles this challenge by signposting the level of research associated with each of the personalized suggestions it offers.

“I always say treat women like they’re smart,” says Jain. “What we actually do on each of our recommendations is we rate them. So they’re either rated as ‘novel’, ’emerging’ or ‘established’. And we show the women this is the research that exists on this type of treatment [and how relevant it might be to them personally — based on] if it was done on people that resemble you enough that you are actually interested in what the results are.

“Our goal is to highlight everything that’s out there. Because women are… looking for answers everywhere — and you see this kind of amazing crowdsourcing of knowledge, of people trying to figure out what might work for them — and our goal is to say, from a scientific perspective, this is everything that has been studied and we are actually just transparent about how well researched each of those things are.”

Jain says wider research-related goals include trying to identify biomarkers with suspected links to a swathe of serious female health issues — such as infertility, preterm birth, STI acquisition and cervical cancer progression.

Although it’s important to note that Evvy’s commercial offering comes with a disclaimer that it’s not providing medical advice — and is only selling a “wellness” test for now. This is because the service is not a regulated medical device. Hence Evvy specifies it’s only providing customers with “information” about their vaginal microbiome (although the co-founders told us they may consider applying for FDA clearance in the future).

The gap in knowledge around female health issues has led to a proliferation of ‘wellness’ claims and products targeted at women — some of which are, unfortunately, peddling what amounts to ‘snake oil’; i.e. selling products that lack rigorous scientific research to underpin a fuzzy range of ‘holistic benefits’ suggested by the associated marketing (crystal-healing yoni eggs, anyone?).

Being in the unregulated ‘wellness’ category therefore has risks for any femtech startup. But Evvy also sees an opportunity to cut through some of the noise and dubious claims by arming women with robust data on what’s going on in their bodies and connecting them with genuine scientific expertise that can help them interpret it.

Education is a key goal for the startup, per CMO Laine Bruzek.

“How can we bring the scientific community, care providers and women together in the same place to get their questions answered quickly and with the best scientific information… Education is just such an important goal for us because there’s not a lot of great information that exists on the Internet,” she says.

“Not just about your vaginal microbiome — which is sort of a new and emerging space — but just vaginal health in general. There’s so much misinformation, there’s so much snake oil that people are selling. So we want to make sure that we have, not just a chance to bring the women together, but that we give them access to people who are pushing the bounds of vaginal health research so that they can get the best information when they need it.”

Evvy’s approach — which includes bringing in OBGYNs and experts in gynecology & reproductive health as advisors (although the founders themselves have data science and product design backgrounds) — has attracted some top-tier investors: Today it’s announcing a $5 million seed round led by General Catalyst which will see the fund’s Margo Georgiadis (formerly the CEO of Ancestry.com) join the board.

Commenting in a statement, Georgiadis said: “Evvy is breaking boundaries to advance women’s health with more affordable and comprehensive testing starting with its vaginal microbiome metagenomics test. The team has bold plans to enable greater early detection, improved treatment, and enhanced therapeutics using new female-specific biomarkers.”

“There is a huge opportunity to build new datasets that will transform our understanding of these conditions in the female body, and I truly believe that Evvy’s unique platform combined with the development of new therapeutics will catalyze a new era in women’s health,” added Dr. Craig Cohen, professor of obstetrics, gynecology & reproductive sciences at UCSF and advisor to Evvy in another supporting statement.

Evvy is not the first startup to sell a home testing kit for the vaginal microbiome, targeting women who may be suffering from conditions related to microbial imbalances, or — well — just women who want to learn more about their own bodies.

Juno Bio, for example, launched an at-home test kit last year.

But Evvy is using a technique — called metagenomic sequencing — which the founders say is able to capture more data than other commercial tests, or the typical tests a woman is able to obtain via a doctor’s office (where scans may only look for a few specific pathogens). So the pitch is the approach provides a higher fidelity view of what’s going on inside a woman’s vagina.

“A lot of the work that we’ve done is specifically incorporating what’s called metagenomic sequencing into the analysis of the vaginal microbiome,” explains Jain. “When you go to the doctor’s office the type of test that they can run is what’s called a PCR test — essentially they take a sample and they look for a specific pathogen within that sample. So oftentimes when you go to the doctor you’ll get a PCR test that looks for one to three different individuals pathogens.

“Since then there have been a few iterations of improvements on that done by other companies. Some are not using what’s called 16-S sequencing — which is a form of amplicon sequencing — which is definitely a large step up from PCR but the downside is it’s only able to look at certain variable regions of the genome. And you actually have to pre-define what you’re looking for. So it’s much harder to do discovery and you’re not able to find all bacteria and fungi that are present. Because 16-S actually can’t detect fungi at all so you have to separately test for it — which means you can’t understand their relative relationships.

“So our test is really the first time anyone is using metagenomics at scale to better understand the vaginal microbiome; both for individual woman and the healthcare system as a whole… In the same way that 16-S was an improvement on PCR, metagenomics is just an improvement on 16-S; it allows us to understand everything that’s possibly present across all bacteria and fungi.”

Per Jain, the service is the only commercially available vaginal microbiome test that’s able to use metagenomics.

A key part of Evvy’s work as a startup is then the analysis of this higher dimension data it’s capturing — to map different microbes to potential health outcomes (based on its analysis of existing research) — and understand how to interpret individual findings and offer relevant and actionable information to each user.

“A lot of our work has been on the data analysis part,” confirms Jain. “So when you do metagenomics sequencing you get much, much higher fidelity data back — and we had to build out everything from, we co-developed an amazing bioinformatics pipeline that is able to analyze that type of data and understand which bacteria and fungi they are. And then actually mapped out for each of those bacteria and fungi how are they related to the vaginal microbiome? What type of symptoms might they cause, and also what type of health implications might they be related to.

“Lastly we’ve done a tonne of work with our science advisory board around putting together personalized recommendations that take into account — not only the microbial data that we get from the test — but also someone’s health history and their symptoms, and if what stage of menopause they’re in, or all of this other information so that we can actually make this information actionable for the women.”

Once data from paying users starts to flow the idea is also to support a range of Evvy’s own research initiatives and partnerships (on the latter, specific details are being kept under wraps for now) — all aimed at furthering knowledge of women’s health and supporting what they hope will be more products in future.

“There’s been so much research done showing that the vaginal microbiome is for example related to pre-term birth,” says Jain. “When you look at women who deliver early or pre-term, they tend to have very different vaginal microbiomes than women who don’t. But a lot of the sequencing that’s been done in that space has been using things like 16-S — and our goal is to bring a much higher level of fidelity. And so, more specifically, we can look at the strain level of bacteria — whereas 16-S and other forms of sequencing can only get you to the species level. And when we’re looking at something as complex as pre-term birth, cervical cancer progression and STI acquisition it’s not just what’s there — but it’s getting to the very, very high fidelity information of specifically what strains are there. So that we can actually start to discover what are the biomarkers that might be leading to differences between people who deliver pre-term and people who don’t.”

“The other value of metagenomic sequencing is it gives us functional profiling,” she adds. “Which helps us not only understand who’s there but also what they might be doing — and all of that information together is more likely able to help us better understand these complex conditions that research has shown is related but no-one’s been able to figure out exactly how.”

While the overarching goal is that data from users’ vaginal swab samples will support research into a range of women’s health issues, Evvy’s users are also paying for a commercial service to get their individual analysis — so what can they expect?

The at-home swab test kit is being priced at $129 for one test kit — which delivers them with a personalized analysis after two weeks.

Evvy is also offering a membership rate for users who want to be able to carry out multiple tests — to be able to track changes to their vaginal microbiome — and for those users tests will cost $99 each (with the user able to take a test every three months).

As they launch the service across the US’ 20 states, Evvy’s co-founders say they’re hoping “thousands” of women will sign up to quantify their vaginal microbiome and support the wider goal of backing research into female health.

“Why is it that looking at the bacteria in the vaginal microbiome is 94% accurate in predicting whether or not a cycle of IVF works?” asks Jain. “Why is it that women who give birth pre-term have a differing vaginal microbiome than people who don’t? Or the whole cervical cancer progression, STI acquisition, pelvic inflammatory disease.

“There’s so many conditions that seem to be — either the vaginal microbiome is an interesting diagnostic opportunity [or] there’s even some very early research showing that women who have PCOS [polycystic ovary syndrome] or endometriosis have varying markers in their vaginal microbiome from women who don’t have those conditions — so everything from helping to detect disease to helping diagnose things, to helping predict risk for so many of these conditions that often we don’t catch for too long.

“Also thinking about treatment as well — something like IVF success or pre-term birth — if we’re able to identify risk earlier can we actually come up with interventions that are personalized to that individual person so that we’re able to avoid that negative outcome in the long term?”

#ancestry-com, #bioinformatics, #evvy, #femtech, #fundings-exits, #general-catalyst, #health, #juno-bio, #microbiome, #recent-funding, #startups, #tc, #united-states

Peter Boyce II has left General Catalyst to start his own $40M fund

Peter Boyce II has left General Catalyst to start his own firm, a little over a year after the venture capital firm promoted him to partner. His new firm is called Stellation Capital, and filings indicate that he is looking to raise up to $40 million for the debut investment vehicle. Sources say that most, if perhaps not all, of that total has been closed since the initial SEC filing in April.

Boyce declined to comment for this story. It’s been a quiet transition for the investor; his LinkedIn and Twitter have not been updated to indicate his new job title, but his personal website indicates the new gig. For an investor to leave a prominent venture capital firm after an eight-year tenure to raise dozens of millions of his own — and somehow do so quietly and with minimal coverage — might be a result of the funding frenzy and consequential numbness to yet another filing.

Boyce joined GC in 2013 and led investments in Ro, Macro, towerIQ and Atom. He’s also supported portfolio companies such as Giphy, Jet.com and Circle. Beyond GC, Boyce has experience co-founding and running Rough Draft Ventures, a program that helps incubate startups founded by students and recent graduates, as well as promote entrepreneurship on campuses.

Stellation Capital will leverage his work and name into early-stage investments. The name of the firm, per its website, is derived from the Latin root of stella, which means star. The name also describes “the process of extending a polygon in new dimensions to form a new shape … just like we’re extending the potential of a founder into new possibilities.”

It’s unclear what the firm’s check size and cadence will be, but it did say it wants to back successful companies at “their earliest stages” on the website.

#early-stage, #general-catalyst, #peter-boyce, #tc

Edtech startup Microverse raises $12.5M to bring income share agreements to the developing world

Edtech startup Microverse has tapped new venture funding in its quest to help train students across the globe to code through its online school that requires zero upfront cost, instead relying on an income-share agreement that kicks in when students find a job.

The startup tells TechCrunch it has closed a $12.5 million Series A led by Northzone with additional participation from General Catalyst, All Iron Ventures and a host of angel investors. We last covered the company after it had closed a bout of seed funding from General Catalyst and Y Combinator; this latest round brings the startup’s total funding to just under $16 million.

The company’s vision has seen added pandemic-era traction as larger tech companies have embraced remote work that spans geographic boundaries and time zones. Microverse has now brought English-speaking students from over 188 countries through its program.

Since we last chatted, CEO Ariel Camus says the startup has landed some 300 early graduates in positions at tech companies including Microsoft, VMWare and Huawei. The company says its has above a 95% employment rate for its students within six months of graduation so far, pushing past one of the bigger issues that income-share-agreement-based schools have had stateside — getting graduates employed.

Microverse does have notably less generous terms than counterparts like Lambda School when it comes to when students begin loan repayment, the terms of both are actually quite different, as noted in my previous article:

While Lambda School’s ISA terms require students to pay 17% of their monthly salary for 24 months once they begin earning above $50,000 annually — up to a maximum of $30,000, Microverse requires that graduates pay 15% of their salary once they begin making more than just $1,000 per month, though there is no cap on time, so students continue payments until they have repaid $15,000 in full. In both startups’ cases, students only repay if they are employed in a field related to what they studied, but with Microverse, ISAs never expire, so if you ever enter a job adjacent to your area of study, you are on the hook for repayments. Lambda School’s ISA taps out after five years of deferred repayments.

The startup has made efforts to streamline their online program since launch to ensure that students are being set up to succeed in the full-time, 10-month program. Part of Microverse’s efforts have included condensing lesson segments into shorter time frames to ensure students aren’t starting the program unless they have enough free time to commit. Camus says the startup is receiving thousands of applications per month, of which only a fraction are accepted in an effort to ensure that the small startup isn’t overcommitting itself early on. The startup estimates it will usher 1,000 students through its program this year.

The startup has big plans for the future, including working more closely with tech companies to ensure that students have easier access to job placement once they graduate.

“We have data now that the day we launch a partner program — which we haven’t done yet but we will eventually — it opens up the market by 5x,” Camus tells TechCrunch. “To get 10,000 students per year in a world where 90% of the world’s population doesn’t have access to higher education — it’s not going to be that hard, to be honest, I’m not too worried.”

#ariel-camus, #education, #general-catalyst, #lambda-school, #microverse, #private-equity, #recent-funding, #startups, #tc, #y-combinator

SWORD Health closes on $85 million Series C for virtual MSK care

SWORD Health, a virtual musculoskeletal care platform founded in 2015, announced today that it has raised an $85 million Series C funding round led by General Catalyst. Other participating investors included BOND, Highmark Ventures, BPEA, Khosla Ventures, Founders Fund, Transformation Capital and Green Innovations. The funding comes months after the company raised a $25 million Series B round – which, put differently, means that the New York-based company has now raised $110 million across six months.

CEO and founder of SWORD Health, Virgílio Bento, said that company was not actively having conversations with external VCs when it raised the round. The Series C closed within three weeks of the first anchor investor’s check.

“Given the interest of the market, given the valuations, and given the ability to bring other stellar investors [who] can help us grow even faster and more efficiently – that’s why we decided to raise again,” he said.

SWORD Health’s massive tranche of capital comes as the world of MSK digital health startups continues to boom, thanks to the broad rise of virtual care. Venture-backed startups such as Kaia Health, which saw its business grow by 600% in 2020 and Hinge Health, which was last valued at $3 billion, are hitting growth stage. SWORD Health, while founded in 2015, has only been in the market for 18 months. Bento declined to share the company’s exact valuation, but he confirmed that it was north of $500 million.

MSK conditions, which can range from a sprained ankle to a disc compression, are diverse and, unfortunately, universally felt. The sheer expansiveness of the condition has triggered a crop of entrepreneurs to create solutions that help people avoid surgery or addictive opioids, two of the mainstream ways to deal with MSK conditions.

SWORD Health’s solution looks like this: The platform connects consumers to a virtual physical therapist who is accessible via traditional telemedicine. Beyond that, the company gives each consumer a tablet and motion sensors. The consumers are promoted to go through the motions, and get feedback and tips through a SWORD HealthDigital Therapist.

Nikhil Krishnan, the founder of Out-of-Pocket, explained how it all works through a first-person account:

As you go through them, the sensors + digital therapist can tell if the movements are correct and how far you’re moving in each direction. The digital therapist has 5000 different types of feedback messages like “don’t bend your knee,” “lean forward more,” and “your squat form is more embarrassing than your Facebook etiquette circa 2009.” You get a score of 1-5 stars depending on how far you move in a direction for a given exercise. My regimen was usually between 17-25 exercises and in total would take me 20-25 minutes.

SWORD Health sells to insurers, health systems and employers in the United States, Europe and Australia.

SWORD Health’s biggest competitor is Hinge Health, last valued at $3 billion. However, for now, Bento isn’t too worried about the behemoth.

“It’s really two different studies on how to build a healthcare company,” Bento said. He pointed to how SWORD Health spent its first four years as a company developing its sensor, while he claims that Hinge went out to the market with “a half-baked solution” in sensor technology.

That said, in March 2021, Hinge acquired medical device maker Enso to grow its non-invasive, musculoskeletal therapy tech, and continues to have the biggest marketshare among private startups in the sector.

The company touted that it has increased its number of treated patients 1,000% year over year, which has led to 600% year-over-year revenue growth. Given the fact that it’s only been in the market for 18 months, these metrics don’t provide an entirely holistic picture into the business, but instead offer a snapshot into the recent growth of an early-stage tool. With millions more, the SWORD Health founder is set to invest more in the company, and continue to not focus too much on profitability.

“This is a big problem that we want to solve, so we really want to reinvest all of the gross profit that we are generating into building a platform that is able to deliver more value to patients,” he said.

 

#bond, #early-stage, #general-catalyst, #hinge-health, #msk, #series-c, #sword-health, #tc

Zero trust unicorn Illumio closes $225M Series F led by Thoma Bravo

Illumio, a self-styled zero trust unicorn, has closed a $225 million Series F funding round at a $2.75 billion valuation. 

The round was led by Thoma Bravo, which recently bought cybersecurity vendor Proofpoint by $12.3 billion, and supported by Franklin Templeton, Hamilton Lane, and Blue Owl Capital. 

The round lands more than two years after Illumio’s Series E funding round in which it raised $65 million, and fueled speculation of an impending IPO. The company’s founder, Andrew Rubin, still isn’t ready to be pressed on whether the company plans to go public, though he told TechCrunch: “If we do our job right, and if we make our customers successful, I’d like to think that would be part of our journey.”

Illumio’s latest funding round is well-timed. Not only does it come amid a huge rise in successful cyberattacks which show that some of the more traditional cybersecurity measures are no longer working, from the SolarWinds hack in early 2020 to the more recent attack on Colonial Pipeline, but it also comes just weeks after President Joe Biden issued an executive order pushing federal agencies to implement significant cybersecurity initiatives, including a zero trust architecture. 

“And just a couple of weeks ago, Anne Neuberger [deputy national security adviser for cybersecurity] put out a memo on White House stationary to all of corporate America saying we’re living through a ransomware pandemic, and here’s six things that we’re imploring you to do,” Rubin says. “One of them was to segment your network.”

Illumio focuses on protecting data centers and cloud networks through something it calls micro-segmentation, which it claims makes it easier to manage and guard against potential breaches, as well as to contain a breach if one occurs. This zero trust approach to security — a concept centered on the belief that businesses should not automatically trust anything inside or outside its perimeters — has never been more important for organizations, according to Illumio. 

“Cyber events are no longer constrained to cyber space,” says Rubin. “That’s why people are finally saying that, after 30 years of relying solely on detection to keep us safe, we cannot rely on it 100% of the time. Zero trust is now becoming the mantra.”

Illumio tells TechCrunch it will use the newly raised funds to make a “huge” investment in its field operations and channel partner network, and to invest in innovation, engineering and its product. 

The late-stage startup, which was founded in 2013 and is based in California, says more than 10% of Fortune 100 companies — including Morgan Stanley, BNP Paribas SA and Salesforce — now use its technology to protect their data centers, networks and other applications. It saw 100% international growth during the pandemic, and says it’s also broadening its customer base across more industries. 

The company has raised more now raised more $550 million from investors include Andreessen Horowitz, General Catalyst and Formation 8.

#america, #andreessen-horowitz, #anne-neuberger, #california, #colonial-pipeline, #computer-security, #computing, #cyberwarfare, #executive, #formation-8, #franklin-templeton, #funding, #general-catalyst, #information-technology, #joe-biden, #morgan-stanley, #network-management, #president, #proofpoint, #salesforce, #security, #solarwinds, #system-administration, #thoma-bravo, #unicorn, #white-house

Anduril raises $450M as the defense tech company’s valuation soars to $4.6B

The AI-powered defense company founded by tech iconoclast Palmer Luckey has landed a $450 million round of investment that values the startup at $4.6 billion just four years in.

In April, reports suggested that the company was on the hunt for fresh investment and headed for a valuation between four and five billion, up from $1.9 billion in July 2020.

The new Series D round was led by angel investor and serial entrepreneur Elad Gil, a former Twitter VP and Googler with a track record of investments in companies with exponential growth. Andreessen Horowitz, Founders Fund, 8VC, General Catalyst, Lux Capital, Valor Equity Partners and D1 Capital Partners also participated in the round.

“Just as old incumbent institutions with little to no organizational renewal impacted our ability to respond to COVID, the defense industry has undergone significant consolidation over the last 30 years,” Gil wrote in a blog post on the investment. “There has not been a new defense technology company of any scale to directly challenge these incumbents in many decades…”

Anduril launched quietly in 2017 but grew quickly, picking up contracts with Customs and Border Protection and the Marine Corps during the Trump administration. Luckey, the young high-flying founder who sold Oculus to Facebook before being booted from the company, emerged as one of President Trump’s most prominent boosters in the generally Trump-averse tech industry.

The company makes defense hardware, including long-flying drones and surveillance towers that connect to a shared software platform it calls Lattice. The technology can be used to secure military bases, monitor borders and even knock enemy drones out of the sky, in the case of Anduril’s counter-UAS tech known as “Anvil.”

Anduril co-founder and CEO Brian Schimpf describes the company’s mission as one of “transformation,” pairing relatively affordable hardware with sensor fusion and machine learning technologies through a contract partner more nimble than established giants in the defense sector.

“This new round of funding reflects our confidence that the Department of Defense sees the same problems we do, and is serious about deploying emerging technologies at scale across land, sea, air, and space domains,” Schimpf said.

The company set its sights on work with the Department of Defense from its earliest days and last year was one of 50 vendors tapped by the DoD to test tech for the Air Force’s own piece of the Joint All-Domain Command & Control (JADC2) project, which seeks to build a smart warfare platform to connect all service members, devices and vehicles that power the U.S. military.

The company’s work with U.S. Customs and Border Protection also matured from a pilot into a program of record last year. Anduril supplies the agency with connected surveillance towers capable of autonomously monitoring stretches of the U.S. border.

In April, Anduril acquired Area-I, a company known for small drones that can be launched from a larger aircraft. Area-I counted the U.S. Army, Air Force, Navy and NASA among its customers, relationships that likely sweetened the deal.

#air-force, #andreessen-horowitz, #anduril, #artificial-intelligence, #brian-schimpf, #d1-capital-partners, #department-of-defense, #elad-gil, #founders-fund, #general-catalyst, #government, #lattice, #lux-capital, #palmer-luckey, #science-and-technology, #tc, #technology, #trump-administration, #valor-equity-partners, #vp

FamPay, a fintech aimed at teens in India, raises $38 million

How big is the market in India for a neobank aimed at teenagers? Scores of high-profile investors are backing a startup to find out.

Bangalore-based FamPay said on Wednesday it has raised $38 million in its Series A round led by Elevation Capital. General Catalyst, Rocketship VC, Greenoaks Capital and existing investors Sequoia Capital India, Y Combinator, Global Founders Capital and Venture Highway also participated in the new round, which brings FamPay’s to-date raise to $42.7 million.

TechCrunch reported early this month that FamPay was in talks with Elevation Capital to raise a new round.

Founded by Sambhav Jain and Kush Taneja (pictured above) — both of whom graduated from Indian Institute of Technology, Roorkee in 2019 — FamPay enables teenagers to make online and offline payments.

The thesis behind the startup, said Jain in an interview with TechCrunch, is to provide financial literacy to teenagers, who additionally have limited options to open a bank account in India at a young age. Through gamification, the startup said it’s making lessons about money fun for youngsters.

Unlike in the U.S., where it’s common for teenagers to get jobs at restaurants and other places and understand how to handle money at a young age, a similar tradition doesn’t exist in India.

After gathering the consent from parents, FamPay provides teenagers with an app to make online purchases, as well as plastic cards — the only numberless card of its kind in the country — for offline transactions. Parents credit money to their children’s FamPay accounts and get to keep track of high-ticket spendings.

In other markets, including the U.S., a number of startups including Greenlight, Step and Till Financial are chasing to serve the teenagers, but in India, there currently is no startup looking to solve the financial access problem for teenagers, said Mridul Arora, a partner at Elevation Capital, in an interview with TechCrunch.

It could prove to be a good issue to solve — India has the largest adolescent population in the world.

“If you’re able to serve them at a young age, over a course of time, you stand to become their go-to product for a lot of things,” Arora said. “FamPay is serving a population that is very attractive and at the same time underserved.”

The current offerings of FamPay are just the beginning, said Jain. Eventually the startup wishes to provide a range of services and serve as a neobank for youngsters to retain them with the platform forever, he said, though he didn’t wish to share currently what those services might be.

Image Credits: FamPay

Teens represent the “most tech-savvy generation, as they haven’t seen a world without the internet,” he said. “They adapt to technology faster than any other target audience and their first exposure with the internet comes from the likes of Instagram and Netflix. This leads to higher expectations from the products that they prefer to use. We are unique in approaching banking from a whole new lens with our recipe of community and gamification to match the Gen Z vibe.”

“I don’t look at FamPay just as a payments service. If the team is able to execute this, FamPay can become a very powerful gateway product to teenagers in India and their financial life. It can become a neobank, and it also has the opportunity to do something around social, community and commerce,” said Arora.

During their college life, Jain and Taneja collaborated and built an app and worked at a number of startups, including social network ShareChat, logistics firm Rivigo and video streaming service Hotstar. Jain said their work with startups in the early days paved the idea to explore a future in this ecosystem.

Prior to arriving at FamPay, Jain said the duo had thought about several more ideas for a startup. The early days of FamPay were uniquely challenging to the founders, who had to convince their parents about their decision to do a startup rather than joining firms or startups as had most of their peers from college. Until being selected by Y Combinator, Jain said he didn’t even fully understand a cap table and dilutions.

He credited entrepreneurs such as Kunal Shah (founder of CRED) and Amrish Rau (CEO of Pine Labs) for being generous with their time and guidance. They also wrote some of the earliest checks to the startup.

The startup, which has amassed over 2 million registered users, plans to deploy the fresh capital to expand its user base and product offerings, and hire engineers. It is also looking for people to join its leadership team, said Jain.

#apps, #asia, #elevation-capital, #fampay, #finance, #funding, #general-catalyst, #global-founders-capital, #greenoaks-capital, #neobanks, #recent-funding, #rocketship-vc, #sequoia-capital-india, #startups, #tc, #venture-highway, #y-combinator

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Garg said recruiting remains an untapped opportunity and existing platforms.

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

This is a developing story. More to follow…

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

LatAm-focused corporate spend startup Clara raises $30M months after its last round

This morning Clara announced that it closed a new, $30 million funding round and secured a $50 million revolving debt facility.

The startup, which provides corporate cards to Mexican companies, raised funds earlier this year when it was busy launching its product. Since then, growth has proven rapid for the Mexico City-based company.

TechCrunch learned that the company is valued around $130 million after this latest investment, according to sources familiar with its latest fundraising. The round added DST and monashees to Clara’s cap table; prior investor General Catalyst also contributed funds to the deal.

We spoke with Gerry Giacomán Colyer, a co-founder at the startup and its CEO, about why Clara raised more capital so quickly after it last closed a financing round. The short gist is that the company’s growth, and market, allowed it to raise easily. And that the startup has pretty big plans, so having more capital with which to hire is welcome.

Per Giacomán Colyer, since he last spoke to this publication the transaction volume (GTV) that Clara supports has grown by 100x. His company is managing 2x week-over-week growth at times, which is super rapid. That’s precisely the sort of usage growth that venture capitalists covet; and as Clara makes revenue from interchange fees that stem from transaction volume, the startup is likely seeing its revenue advance at roughly the same rate as its GTV.

That Clara was able to raise more capital is unsurprising. Not only is it growing quickly in its home market with designs on Brazil in the future, a U.S.-based player in the same space recently sold for north of $2 billion. Divvy’s sale was likely a shot in the arm for not only Clara, but also Brex and Ramp, two other well-known players in the larger corporate spend world.

Clara’s success in Mexico makes it likely that related startups also targeting markets that lack a modern corporate spend solution will see strong venture capital interest; I would not be surprised if we heard from a number of other companies attacking geographies with favorable interchange economics with a similar model, as it has proven to be so lucrative.

TechCrunch asked Giacomán Colyer about who his company is targeting in terms of customers; Brex famously got its start working with high-growth startups before moving to work with a broader array of companies. Clara is working with startups in the Mexican market, the company said, but also with larger firms as well. Its CEO said that its underwriting model is set up to support more traditional cash-flow modeling.

So far Clara has largely attracted customers via word-of-mouth, and is working to bolster its referral system. But now that it has lots more capital, it will be interesting to see if the startup builds out a more aggressive go-to-market motion.

And more than just equity capital, the debt that Clara also secured as part of its recent funding round will help it underwrite customers without having to work off of its own balance sheet. Giacomán Colyer said that even after the capital costs associated with the facility, Clara’s economics are still good. Interchange is a flexible beast, it seems.

To that end, TechCrunch asked Giacomán Colyer if his company intends to charge for software in time, or merely eat off of interchange. In the United States, Brex is now in camp one, along with Airbase, while Ramp is sticking to camp two. Divvy proved that you can get to nine-figures in top line without charging for software, though having some ARR in the mix along with interchange incomes could provide a margin-boost to interchange top line. Regardless, Clara appears happy to keep to interchange for the time being.

Let’s see how quickly Clara can keep scaling. We’ll check back with the company in a few months.

#airbase, #brex, #clara, #dst-global, #fundings-exits, #general-catalyst, #monashees, #ramp, #recent-funding, #startups, #tc

Payroll automation startup raises $15.6M Series A led by General Catalyst

Payroll automation is not exactly the sexiest of startup areas but it’s a pretty decent business. The larger startup in the space is Payfit which has raised upwards of $208.4M to do something that lots of companies find quite painful. But Payfit does a lot of other things as well, potentially leaving it exposed. Now a startup aims to come along and hone in on the thorny issue of payroll automation, alone.

Founded by Jonas Bøgh Larsen and Emil Hagbarth Rasmussen, Danish firm Pento has raised $15.6 million in a Series A funding led by General Catalyst. Also participating was Avid Ventures and the UK’s LocalGlobe. Existing investors Point Nine Capital, Moonfire Ventures, Hustle Fund, and Seedcamp also took part, alongside angels (see below). This latest funding takes the total raised by Pento to $18.4 million.

The startup claims 700 companies are using it including tech firms Pleo and Cuvva; large hospitality brands (Honest Burgers); and retail and e-commerce brands (Lacoste, Beauty Pie). Pento replaces spreadsheets etc and gives them cloud-based tools, real-time calculations, transparency, and online and telephone support.

Pento co-founder and CEO, Jonas Bøgh Larsen told me: “The biggest process we’re replacing is payroll outsourcing where companies are outsourcing payroll to an accountant, which the vast majority of companies do in Europe. We automate the entire process from reporting to tax calculations to payments. So, what most other platforms or payable products do is basically just helping you calculate the right taxes and National Insurance, and so on. We also take care of the reporting. We also do payments, and we integrate the product to other HR products.”

Adam Valkin, Managing Director at General Catalyst said: “Despite being so business-critical, payroll is one of the least digitally advanced services across the globe. It’s also one that has garnered a reputation for being too complex, too convoluted and too out of reach for those who aren’t payroll specialists, leading many to consider expensive outsourcing as the only route to go. Pento dispels this myth because it’s built purely with HR and finance teams in mind, by business leaders who truly understand the frustrations involved. It’s easy-to-use, transparent, flexible, secure and affordable. It’s what payroll should be in a modern company and it represents the future of employee compensation.”

Pento’s angel are from Stripe (Thairu and Diede van Lamoen), Monzo (Tom Blomfield), GoCardless (Matt Robinson), Zoom (Eric Yuan), Cuvva (Freddy Macnamara), Intercom (Des Traynor) and others.

#accountant, #adam-valkin, #articles, #avid-ventures, #business, #economy, #eric-yuan, #europe, #general-catalyst, #gocardless, #hustle-fund, #localglobe, #matt-robinson, #moonfire-ventures, #outsourcing, #payroll, #pento, #point-nine-capital, #seedcamp, #tc, #tom-blomfield, #united-kingdom

Collective, a back-office for the self-employed, raises $20M from Ashton Kutcher’s VC

With so much focus on the ‘creator economy’, and countries hit by the effects of the pandemic, the self-employed market is ‘booming’, for good or for ill. So it’s not too much of a surprise that
Collective,a subscription-based back-office for the self-employed has raised a $20 million Series A funding after launching only late last year.

The round was led by General Catalyst and joined by Sound Ventures (the venture capital fund founded by Ashton Kutcher and Guy Oseary). Collective has now raised a total of $28.65 million. Other notable investors include: Steve Chen (Founder YouTube), Hamish McKenzie (Founder Substack), Aaron Levie (founder Box), Kevin Lin (founder Twitch), Sam Yam (founder Patreon), Li Jin (Atelier Ventures), Shadiah Sigala (founder HoneyBook), Adrian Aoun (founder Forward), Holly Liu (founder Kabam), Andrew Dudum (founder Hims) and Edward Hartman (founder LegalZoom).

Ashton Kutcher said in a statement: “We’re proud to be supporting a company that’s making it easier for creators to focus on what they do best by taking care of the back office work that creates so much friction for so many early entrepreneurs. I would have loved something like this when I was getting started.”

Launched in September 2020 by CEO Hooman Radfar, CPO Ugur Kaner and CTO Bugra Akcay, Collective offers “tailored” financial services, access to advisors that oversee accounting, tax, bookkeeping, and business formation needs. There are currently 59 million self-employed workers in the U.S. (36% of US workforce) who mostly do all their own admin. So Collective hopes to be their online back office platform.

Speaking to me over email, Radfar said that the start-up fintech market tends to serve companies like them – other start-ups and growing SMBs: “Companies like Pilot have done an amazing job at building a back-office platform that handles taxes, bookkeeping and finances for start-ups. We want to offer that same great value to the underserved business-of-one community, since they are the largest group of founders in the country.”

He added: “Before Collective, consultants, freelancers, and other solo founders had to string together their back-office solution using DIY platforms like Quickbooks, Gusto, and LegalZoom. If they were lucky, they had the help of a part-time accountant to advise them. Collective makes handling finances easy with the first all-in-one platform that not only bundles these tools into one platform, but also provides the technology and team to optimize their tax savings like the pros.”

According to some estimates, the number of lone freelancers in the US is projected to make up 86.5 million, 50% of the US workforce by 2027, with the freelancer space projected to grow three times faster than the traditional workforce.

Niko Bonatsos, Managing Director of General Catalyst said: “Collective is serving the $1.2 trillion business-of-one industry by building the first back-office platform that saves individuals significant time and money, while providing them with the appropriate tools and resources they need to help them succeed,” said “We’re excited to support Collective as they expand their team and build an exceptional service for the business-of-one community.”

#aaron-levie, #adrian-aoun, #advisors, #andrew-dudum, #ashton-kutcher, #atelier-ventures, #ceo, #collective, #cto, #finance, #financial-services, #freelancer, #general-catalyst, #guy-oseary, #hamish-mckenzie, #hooman-radfar, #kabam, #kevin-lin, #legalzoom, #li-jin, #niko-bonatsos, #pilot, #quickbooks, #sam-yam, #sound-ventures, #steve-chen, #tc, #twitch, #united-states, #upwork

MD Ally connects telehealth alternatives right into 911 calls

Every day in the United States, hundreds of thousands of people will dial 911 to seek help. Some of those calls are serious and require immediate emergency attention, but the reality is that most 911 calls are of a far simpler variety: concerns about a prescription, fear over a newly-developed symptom, or a general medical question.

When a 911 call taker receives that request for medical assistance, it sets into motion a series of responses. Ambulances and paramedics are sent, leading to skyrocketing costs for patients and insurers alike. What if instead of sending hyper-expensive emergency services to a non-emergency situation, call takers had an ally to guide patients to the resources they actually need?

MD Ally is a startup that triages 911 calls and reroutes non-emergency calls to telehealth medical services. The company closed $3.5 million in seed funding led by Hemant Teneja at General Catalyst, along with Tuoyo Louis of Seae Ventures. The company formerly raised $1 million in financing last March.

Shanel Fields, the CEO and founder of the company, said that the impetus for the company came from a very early age. “It goes back to my own childhood — my father was a volunteer EMT when I was growing up on Long Island,” she said, and that interest in healthcare brought her to Athenahealth.

CEO and founder of MD Ally Shanel Fields. Image Credits: MD Ally

She kept thinking about 911 calls though, and the disparities that exist between different communities when it comes to response times. “Whether you have $5 dollars in your pocket or $5 million — you call the same number,” she said. But I “read some research that in low-income and indigent communities, they had higher rates of ‘dead on arrival’ due to higher wait times.” The reason was simple: in communities with less access to healthcare, emergency services are often the only alternative, leading to higher volumes of 911 calls with many that would be considered low priority.

That gave her the idea for MD Ally — to improve the efficiency of dispatching so that emergencies got first care, and that non-emergency calls could also be helpfully routed to improve clinical outcomes. She officially started building the company in Fall of 2019, and joined up with Kojo DeGraft-Hanson, who is the company’s chief product officer. The two have known each other for a decade from Cornell, and they stayed in touch as each pursued their own careers.

The company integrates into the computer-aided dispatch systems used by 911 operations centers (known more formally as Public Safety Answering Points or PSAPs). Today, when a 911 call comes in, call takers determine the acuity of the medical danger involved using an Advanced Medical Priority Dispatch System, a uniform process for coding each call by severity. MD Ally has established a range of codes that call takers can safely redirect to telehealth treatment options.

Best of all for cash-strapped 911 centers, MD Ally’s platform is free. The company instead intends to generate revenues on the provider side for telehealth referrals as well as from insurance companies looking to reduce the cost of emergency medical services. The company is integrating with centers in New York and Florida now and by the end of the year, hopes to also have centers on board in Louisiana, California, and Arizona.

Long-term, the company hopes to help deescalate situations where 911 callers, who might be experiencing mental illness, are sent police response rather than psychological services. We’re “really passionate about and excited to provide a range of resources to deescalate scenarios,” Fields said.

#emergency-response, #funding, #fundings-exits, #general-catalyst, #government, #health, #hemant-taneja, #startups

Oath Care just raised $2 million to develop a social, health-focused app that groups expectant and new parents

Being an expectant mom can be frightening, as can mothering a new human. Parenting doesn’t come with a manual, and while there’s no shortage of books and websites (and advice from grandparents) about how to parent at every stage, finding satisfying, instructive, conclusive information often proves a lot harder than imagined.

There are online social groups that deliver some of the social and emotional support that new parents need, no matter where they live. There are many dozens of mom communities on Facebook, for example. However, it’s because there’s room for improvement on this theme — big groups can feel isolating, bad information abounds —that Oath Care, a young, four-person San Francisco-based startup, just raised $2 million in seed funding from XYZ Ventures, General Catalyst, and Eros Resmini, former CMO of Discord and managing partner of the Mini Fund.

What is it building? Founder Camilla Hermann describes it as a subscription-based mobile app that’s focused on improving the lives of new mothers by combining parents with a whole lot in common with healthcare specialists and moderators who can guide them in group chats, as well as one-on-one video calls.

More specifically, she says, for $20 per month, Oath matches pregnant and postpartum moms in circles of up to 10 women based on factors like stage of pregnancy, age of child, location, and career so they can ask questions of each other, with the help of a trained moderator (sometimes this is a mother with older children). Oath also pushes curriculum that Oath’s team is developing in-house to members based on each group’s specific needs. Not last, every group is given collective access to medical specialists who can answer general questions as part of the members’ subscription and who are also available for consultations when more specialized help is needed (yet not enough help to warrant a visit to a gynecologist or pediatrician).

Hermann says the pricing of these 15-minute-long consultations is still being developed, but that the medical experts with whom it’s already working see the app as a form of lead generation.

It’s an interesting concept, one that could be taken in a host of directions, acknowledges Hermann who says she was inspired to cofound the company based on earlier work developing a contact tracing technology created to track outbreaks like Ebola in real time. As she said yesterday during a Zoom call with TechCrunch and her cofounder, Michelle Stephens, a pediatric clinician and research scientist: “We’ve fundamentally misunderstand something really important about health in the West; we think that [changes] happen to one person at a time or one part of the body at a time, but it always happens in interconnected systems both inside and outside the body, which fundamentally means that it is always happening in community.”

For her part, Stephens — who was introduced to Hermann at a dinner years ago — she says her motivation in cofounding Oath was born out of research into childhood stress, and that by “better equipping parents to be those positive consistent caregivers in their child’s life,” Oath aims to help enable stronger, more intimate child-parent bonds.

It might sound grand for a mobile app, but it also sounds (to this editor) like a smart starting point. Though the idea is to match mothers in similar situations at the outset to help bolster theirs and their children’s health, it’s easy to see the platform evolving in a way that brings together parents in numerous groups based on interests, from preschool applications to autism to same-sex parenting. It’s easy to see the platform helping to sell products that parents need. It’s easy to imagine the company amassing a lot of valuable information.

Indeed, says Hermann, the longer-term vision for Oath is to create rich datasets that it hopes can be used to improve health outcomes, including by identifying health issues earlier; it also hopes to build relationships with health systems and payers in order to increase access to its products.

For now, Oath is mostly just trying to keep up with demand. Hermann says the “small and scrappy” company found its first 50 users through Facebook ads, and that this base quickly tripled organically before Oath was forced to create a growing waitlist for what has been a closed beta until now. (Oath is “anticipating a full launch in late summer,” says Stephens.)

That’s not to say the company isn’t thinking at all about next steps. While right now it is “laser focused on building out the most exceptional experience for this specific cohort of users in this specific period of time of their lives,” says Hermann, once it builds out communities of small trusted groups with high engagement and high trust, “there’s a lot you can layer on top of that. It’s virtually limitless.”

#general-catalyst, #health, #healthcare, #mobile-app, #parenting, #recent-funding, #social-network, #startups, #tc, #venture-capital, #xyz-ventures

Building tech for worker safety, Guardhat Technologies is a company that could only come from Detroit

Saikat Dey, the founder of Detroit’s own Guardhat Technologies, got his start working in the steel industry. His last job, before founding Guardhat, was serving as the chief executive officer of Severstal International, the multinational steel conglomerate whose headquarters were in Dearborn, Mich.

There, managing the global business of the fourth largest steelmaker by volume and revenue, with 3,600 employees in Mississippi, Michigan, and the coal mines of West Virginia, Dey became obsessed with safety, he said.

Beyond tracking cash flow and EBITDA, the typical numbers companies use, Dey said that worker safety was another measurement that effected compensation. “One of the key metrics is how well and how safe we keep our frontline workers,” Dey said. 

Dey’s concerns over safety at his plants is what led him to reach out to union leadership and begin developing the technology that would form the core of Guardhat’s offerings.

The company pitches a multi-product intelligent safety system that integrates wearable technology and proprietary software to detect, alert, and prevent hazardous industrial work-related incidents.

Investors including Dan Gilbert’s Detroit Venture Partners, General Catalyst, and RTP Ventures, the venture investment firm led by Ru-Net Holdings co-founder, Leonid Boguslavsky, are backing Dey’s vision, which also has buy-in from the most important audience of all, the unions representing the workers that use the company’s tech.

Notes on the first day brainstorming session for Guardhat’s industrial wearable. Image Credit: Guardhat

Made in Detroit, built for the world’s industrial workers

Roughly fifteen workers are killed every day on the job in industrial jobs like mining, metals and oil and gas and another 3 million people are injured every year. For executives in the industry, the issue is as much a financial concern as it is an ethical one. At Severstal, 40 percent of Dey’s salary was tied to worker safety, he said.

In fact, the idea for Guardhat hit Dey while he was walking the floor of the company’s Detroit-area steel plant. On one of his regular walks through the factory Dey said he wandered past a man working on a piece of equipment when the employee’s carbon monoxide alarm started to buzz. Instead of trying to find the source of the leak, the man turned off his monitor.

“You’re taking about a steel facility in the heart of Detroit having the largest blast furnace in North America,” said Dey. “Whatever that individual was doing, it could have led to a catastrophic accident.”

That’s what inspired Guardhat’s technology that Dey said was designed to answer a few simple, situational questions that apply to any factory anywhere in the world: Where are you? What conditions do you face? When can help get to you? Those are the questions that Guardhat’s technology is designed to answer.

“We didn’t have effective means to prevent or if an accident happens to intervene with timely information,” Dey said. 

The technology may have been designed by executives, but it was made in consultation with the heads of the Detroit area unions, to ensure that workers would actually use the product.

We decided that we wanted to do this in September 2014,” Dey said. “And when I was struggling with whether to scratch that itch and start the business, the union guys said go for it and do it…. I was a person of color with a $6 billion P&L running one of the six largest steelmakers in the U.S. building this literally out of the garage. It took a lot of guts, stupidity, and it took a lot of support from regular friends at the UAW.” 

That collaboration ensured that the union’s workers were comfortable that the information wasn’t being generated and stored in a way that employees would not feel that they were being monitored unnecessarily or punitively.

Guardhat Technologies wearable safety helmet. Image Credit Guardhat Technologies

From prototype to product

The company’s first product was the HC1 — a helmet that comes jam-packed with sensor equipment. “You want to put it on something that everyone wears and is mandated to wear,” Dey said.

Initially the thought was to just create the wearable, but over time Dey and his team realized that the device alone wouldn’t be enough. “The helmet is just another form factor… [and] whatever the form factor, you need to know how you make this information the single source of truth for the platform of all things that surround the worker.”

Like dozens of other Detroit-area startups that came before them, when Dey and his team needed to raise cash, they first turned to Dan Gilbert.

Gilbert tested the prototype by running around a building and asking the GuardHat team if they could find him and tell him where they thought he was.

With Gilbert on board, the product design firm frog labs came into the picture and so did 3M. By then, it was time to test the prototype.

“I still remember the first day we were in testing in a third party certified lab in Akron, Ohio,” sad Dey. These guys were dropping a metal ball from 5 meters and each one of those puppies was $3,000 a-piece and 27 of those hats got ground down to powder,” Dey said. “We failed every test because we didn’t know how to build a helmet.”

Assistance from frog and others brought the device over the finish line and it’s now being used by over 5,000 workers and prevented or alerted workers to at least 2,000 potentially dangerous incidents. 

For Dey, the business could only have come from Detroit. “The Detroit thing is symbolic,” he said. It’s a symbol of the school of hard knocks that educated its founding team in the ways these heavy industries.

#chief-executive-officer, #dan-gilbert, #detroit, #detroit-venture-partners, #general-catalyst, #michigan, #mining, #oil-and-gas, #rtp-ventures, #tc, #wearable-technology