DealHub raises $20M Series B for its sales platform

DealHub.io, an Austin-based platform that helps businesses manage the entire process of their sales engagements, today announced that it has raised a $20 million Series B funding round. The round was led by Israel Growth Partners, with participation from existing investor Cornerstone Venture Partners. This brings DealHub’s total funding to $24.5 million.

The company describes itself as a ‘revenue amplification’ platform (or ‘RevAmp,’ as DealHub likes to call it) that represents the next generation of existing sales and revenue operations tools. It’s meant to give businesses a more complete view of buyers and their intent, and streamline the sales processes from proposal to pricing quotes, subscription management and (electronic) signatures.

“Yesterday’s siloed sales tools no longer cut it in the new Work from Anywhere era,” said Eyal Elbahary, CEO & Co-founder of DealHub.io. “Sales has undergone the largest disruption it has ever seen. Not only have sales teams needed to adapt to more sophisticated and informed buyers, but remote selling and digital transformation have compelled them to evolve the traditional sales process into a unique human-to-human interaction.”

The platform integrates with virtually all of the standard CRM tools, including Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics and Freshworks, as well as e-signature platforms like DocuSign.

The company didn’t share any revenue data, but it notes that the new funding round follows “continued multi-year hyper-growth.” In part, the company argues, demand for its platform has been driven by sales teams that need new tools, given that they — for the most part — can’t travel to meet their (potential) customers face-to-face.

“Revenue leaders need the agility to keep pace with today’s fast and ever-changing business environment. They cannot afford to be restrained by rigid and costly to implement tools to manage their sales processes,” said Uri Erde, General Partner at Israel Growth Partners. “RevAmp provides a simple to operate, intuitive, no-code solution that makes it possible for sales organizations to continuously adapt to the modern sales ecosystem. Furthermore, it provides sales leaders the visibility and insights they need to manage and consistently accelerate revenue growth. We’re excited to back the innovation DealHub is bringing to the world of revenue operations and help fuel its growth.”

#articles, #austin, #business, #cloud-applications, #crm, #distribution, #docusign, #enterprise, #freshworks, #funding, #fundings-exits, #general-partner, #israel-growth-partners, #recent-funding, #sales, #salesforce, #startups, #tc

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HoneyBook raises $155M at $1B+ valuation to help SMBs, freelancers manage their businesses

HoneyBook, which has built out a client experience and financial management platform for service-based small businesses and freelancers, announced today that it has raised $155 million in a Series D round led by Durable Capital Partners LP.

Tiger Global Management, Battery Ventures, Zeev Ventures, 01 Advisors as well as existing backers Norwest Venture Partners and Citi Ventures also participated in the financing, which brings the New York-based company’s valuation to over $1 billion. With the latest round, HoneyBook has now raised $215 million since its 2013 inception. The Series D is a big jump from the $28 million that HoneyBook raised in March 2019. 

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit last year, HoneyBook’s leadership team was concerned about the potential impact on their business and braced themselves for a drop in revenue.

Rather than lay off people, they instead asked everyone to take a pay cut, and that included the executive team, who cut theirs “by double” the rest of the staff.

“I remember it was terrifying. We knew that our customers’ businesses were going to be impacted dramatically, and would impact ours at the same time dramatically,” recalls CEO Oz Alon. “We had to make some hard decisions.”

But the resilience of HoneyBook’s customer base surprised even the company, who ended up reinstating those salaries just a few months later. And, as corporate layoffs driven by the COVID-19 pandemic led to more people deciding to start their own businesses, HoneyBook saw a big surge in demand.

“Our members who saw a hit in demand went out and found demand in another thing,” Oz said. As a result, HoneyBook ended up doubling its number of members on its SaaS platform and tripling its annual recurring revenue (ARR) over the past 12 months. Members booked more than $1 billion in business on the platform in the past nine months alone. 

HoneyBook combines tools like billing, contracts, and client communication on its platform with the goal of helping business owners stay organized. Since its inception, service providers across the U.S. and Canada such as graphic designers, event planners, digital marketers and photographers have booked more than $3 billion in business on its platform. And as the pandemic had more people shift to doing more things online, HoneyBook prepared to help its members adapt by being armed with digital tools.

Image Credits: HoneyBook

“Clients now expect streamlined communication, seamless payments, and the same level of exceptional service online, that they were used to receiving from business owners in person,” Alon said.

Oz and co-founder/wife, Naama, were both small business owners themselves at one time, so they had firsthand insight on the pain points of running a service-based business. 

HoneyBook’s software not only helps SMBs do more business, but helps them “convert potentials to actual clients,” Oz said.

“We help them communicate with potential clients so they can win their business, and then help them manage the relationship so they can keep them,” Naama said.

The company plans to use its new capital toward continued product development and to “dramatically” boost its 103-person headcount across its New York and Tel Aviv offices.

“We’re seeing so much demand for additional services and products, so we definitely want to invest and create better ways for our members to present themselves online,” Alon told TechCrunch. “We’re also seeing demand for financial products and the ability to access capital faster. So that’s just a few of the things we plan to invest in.”

The company also wants to make its platform “more customizable” for different categories and verticals.

Chelsea Stoner, general partner at Battery Ventures, said her firm recognized that the expansive market of productivity tools to serve small businesses and entrepreneurs was “a market of discrete and separate productivity tools.”

HoneyBook, she said, is a true platform for SMBs, “providing a huge array of functionality in one cohesive UX.”

“It unites and connects every task for the solopreneurs, from creating and distributing marketing collateral, to organizing and executing proposals, to sending invoices and collecting payments,” Stoner said. “The company is constantly innovating and iterating in response to its members; we also see a lot of opportunity with payments going forward…And, due to Covid-19 and other factors, the company is sitting on pent-up demand that will accelerate growth even more.”

#advisors, #articles, #battery-ventures, #business, #business-models, #canada, #ceo, #chelsea-stoner, #citi-ventures, #co-founder, #economy, #entrepreneurship, #executive, #funding, #fundings-exits, #general-partner, #honeybook, #new-york, #norwest-venture-partners, #payments, #productivity-tools, #recent-funding, #saas, #small-business, #startups, #tel-aviv, #tiger-global-management, #united-states, #venture-capital, #zeev-ventures

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Memic raises $96M for its robot-assisted surgery platform

Memic, a startup developing a robotic-assisted surgical platform that recently received marketing authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, today announced that it has closed a $96 million Series D funding round. The round was led by Peregrine Ventures and Ceros, with participation from OurCrowd and Accelmed. The company plans to use the new funding to commercialize its platform in the U.S. and expand its marketing and sales efforts outside of the U.S., too.

The company previously raised a total amount of $31.8 million, according to Crunchbase, including about $12.5 million raised through crowdsourcing platform OurCrowd.

Memic team photo

Image Credits: Memic

The Hominis, as the company calls its platform, has been authorized for use in “single site, natural orifice laparoscopic-assisted transvaginal benign surgical procedures including benign hysterectomy.” It’s worth noting that the robot doesn’t perform the surgery without human intervention. Instead, surgeons control the device — and its robotic arms — from a central console. The company notes that the instruments are meant to replicate the motions of the surgeon’s arms. And while it’s currently only authorized for this one specific type of procedure, Memic is looking at a wide range of other procedures where a system like this could be beneficial.

“The Hominis system represents a significant advancement in the growing multi-billion-dollar robotic surgery market. This financing positions us to accelerate our commercialization efforts and bring Hominis to both surgeons and patients in the months ahead,” said Dvir Cohen, co-founder and CEO of Memic.

It’s worth noting that there are a wide range of similar, computer-assisted surgical systems on the market already. Only last month, Asensus Surgical received FDA clearance for its laparoscopic platform to be used in general surgery, for example. Meanwhile, eye surgery robotics startup ForSight recently raised $10 million in seed funding for its platform.

Memic’s Hominis is the first robotic device approved for benign transvaginal procedures, though, and the company and its investors are surely betting on this being a first stepping stone to additional use cases over time.

“Given the broad potential of Hominis combined with a strong management team, we are proud to support Memic and execution of its bold vision,” said Eyal Lifschitz, managing general partner of Peregrine Ventures.

#general-partner, #hardware, #health, #medicine, #ourcrowd, #recent-funding, #startups, #surgery, #telemedicine, #united-states

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Collaborative iOS app Craft Docs secures $8M, led by Creandum and a ‘Skyscanner Mafia’

Launched in only November last year, the Craft Docs app — which was built from the ground up as an iOS app for collaborative documents — has secured an $8 million Series A round led by Creandum. Also participating was InReach Ventures, Gareth Williams, former CEO and co-founder of Skyscanner, and a number of other tech entrepreneurs, many of whom are ex-Skyscanner.

Currently available on iOS, iPadOS and MacOS, Craft now plans to launch APIs, extended integrations, and a browser-based editor in 2021. It has aspirations to become a similar product to Notion, and the founder and CEO Balint Grosz told me over a Zoom call that “Notion is very much focused around writing and wikis and all that sort of stuff. We have a lot of users coming from Notion, but we believe we have a better solution for people, mainly for written content. Notion is very strong with its databases and structural content. People just happen to use it for other stuff. So we are viewed as a very strong competitor by our users, because of the similarities in the product. I don’t believe our markets overlap much, but right now from the outside people do switch from Notion to us, and they do perceive us as being competitors.”

He told me this was less down to the app experience than “the hierarchical content. We have this structure where you can create notes within notes, so with every chunk of text you add content and navigate style, and add inside of that – and notion has that as well. And that is a feature which not many products have, so that is the primary reason why people tend to compare us.”

Craft says it’s main advantages over Notion are UX; Data storage and privacy (Craft is offline first, with real-time sync and collaboration; you can use 3rd party cloud services (i.e. iCloud); and integrations with other tools.

Orosz was previously responsible for Skyscanner’s mobile strategy after the company acquired his previous company, Distinction.

Fredrik Cassel, General Partner at Creandum, said in a statement: “Since our first discussions we’ve been impressed by both the amount of love users have for Craft, as well as the team’s unique ability to create a product that is beautiful and powerful at the same time. The upcoming features around connectivity and data accessibility truly set Craft apart from the competition.”

Craft ipad app

Craft ipad app

Roberto Bonazinga, Co-founder at InReach Ventures, added: “We invested in Craft on day zero because we were fascinated by the clarity and the boldness of Balint’s vision – to reinvent how millions of people can structure their thoughts and write them down in the most effective and beautiful way.”

The launch and funding of the Craft startup suggests there is something of a “Skyscanner Mafia” emerging, after its acquisition by Trip.com Group (formerly Ctrip), the largest travel firm in China, $1.75 billion in 2016.

Other backers of the company include Carlos Gonzalez (former CPO at Skyscanner, CTPO at GoCardless), Filip Filipov (former VP Strategy at Skyscanner), Ross McNairn (former CEO at Dorsai, CPO at TravelPerk), Stefan Lesser (former Technology and Partnership Manager at Apple) and Akos Kapui (Former Head of Technology at Skyscanner, VP of Engineering at Shapr3D).

#app-store, #apple, #ceo, #china, #co-founder, #creandum, #distinction, #europe, #general-partner, #inreach-ventures, #macos, #notion, #operating-systems, #skyscanner, #software, #tc, #travel, #trip-com, #yo

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Apple invests $50M into music distributor UnitedMasters alongside A16z and Alphabet

Independent music distribution platform and tool factory UnitedMasters has raised a $50M series B round led by Apple. A16z and Alphabet are participating again in this raise. United Masters is also entering a strategic partnership with Apple alongside this investment. 

If you’re unfamiliar with UnitedMasters, it’s a distribution company launched in 2017 by Steve Stoute, a former Interscope and Sony Music executive. The focus of UnitedMasters is to provide artists with a direct pipeline to data around the way that fans are interacting with their content and community, allowing them to connect more directly to offer tickets, merchandise and other commercial efforts. UnitedMasters also generally allows artists to retain control of their own masters.

Neither of these conditions are at all typical in the music industry. In a typical artist deal, recording companies retain all audience and targeting data as well as masters. This limits an artist’s ability to be agile, taking advantage of new technologies to foster a community. 

While Apple does invest in various companies, it typically does so out of its Advanced Manufacturing Fund to promote US manufacturing or strategically in partners that make critical components of its hardware like silicon foundries or glass manufacturing. Apple does a lot more purchasing than investing, typically, buying a company every few weeks or so to supplement one product effort or another. UnitedMasters, then, would be a relatively unique partnership, especially in the music space. 

I spoke to UnitedMasters CEO Steve Stoute about the deal and what it means for the businesses 1M current artists and new ones. Stoute credits Apple executive Eddy Cue having a philosophy aligned with the UnitedMasters vision with getting this deal done. 

“We want all artists to have the same opportunity,” says Stoute. “Currently, independent artists have less opportunity for success and we’re trying to remove that stigma.”

This infusion, Stoute says, will be used to hire talent that are mission oriented to take UnitedMasters global. They’re seeking local technical talent and artists talent to build out the platform worldwide. 

“Every artist needs access to a CTO,” Stoute says. “Some of the value of what a manager is today for an artist needs to be transferred to that role.”

UnitedMasters wants to provide that technical edge at scale, allowing artists to build out their fanbase at a community level.

Currently, UnitedMasters has deals with the NBA, ESPN, TikTok, Twitch and others that allow artists to tap big brand deals that would normally be brokered by a label and manager. It also has a direct distribution app that allows publishing to all of the major streaming services. Most importantly, they can check stream, fan and earnings data at a glance. 

“Steve Stoute and UnitedMasters provide creators with more opportunities to advance their careers and bring their music to the world,” said Apple’s Eddy Cue in a release statement. “The contributions of independent artists play a significant role in driving the continued growth and success of the music industry, and UnitedMasters, like Apple, is committed to empowering creators.”

“UnitedMasters has completely transformed the way artists create, retain ownership in their work, and connect with their fans,” said Ben Horowitz, Co-Founder and General Partner of Andreessen Horowitz in a release. “We are excited to work with Steve and team to build a better, bigger, and far more profitable world for musical artists.” 

We are currently at an inflection point in the way that artists and fans connect with one another. Though there have been seemingly endless ways for artists to get their messages out or speak to fans using social media and other platforms, the actual business of distributing work to a community and making money from that work has been out of their hands completely since the beginning of the recording industry. Recent developments like NFTs, DAOs and social tokens, as well as an explosion of DTC frameworks have begun to re-write that deal. But the major players have yet to make the truly aggressive strides they need to in order to embrace this ‘artist centric’ new world. 

The mechanics of distribution have been based on a framework defined by DRM and the DMCA for decades. This framework was always marketed as a way to protect value for the artist but was in fact architected to protect value for the distributor. We need a rethinking of the entire distribution layer.

As I mentioned when reporting the UnitedMasters + TikTok deal, it’s going to be instrumental in a more equitable future for artists:

It’s beyond time for the creators of The Culture to benefit from that culture. That’s why I find this UnitedMasters deal so interesting. Offering a direct pipeline to audiences without the attendant vulture-ism of the recording industry apparatus is really well-aligned with a platform like TikTok, which encourages and enables “viral sounds” with collaborative performances. Traditional deal structures are not well-suited to capturing viral hype, which can rise and fall within weeks without additional fuel.

In music, Apple is at the center of this maelstrom along with a few other major players like Spotify. One of the big misses in recent years for Apple Music, in my opinion, was Apple’s failure to turn Apple Music Connect into an industry-standard portal that allowed artists to connect broadly with fans, distribute directly, sell tickets and merchandise but — most importantly — to foster and own their community. 

A UnitedMasters tie up isn’t a straight line to that goal, but it’s definitely got the ingredients. I’m looking forward to seeing what this produces. 

Image Credits: Steve Stoute

#advanced-manufacturing-fund, #alphabet, #andreessen-horowitz, #apple, #apple-inc, #apple-music, #apple-store, #artist, #ben-horowitz, #ceo, #co-founder, #companies, #cto, #eddy-cue, #espn, #executive, #general-partner, #manufacturing, #music-industry, #national-basketball-association, #nba, #operating-systems, #social-media, #software, #sony-music, #spotify, #steve-stoute, #streaming-services, #tc, #twitch, #united-states, #unitedmasters

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To improve accountability, Norrsken VC ties partner compensation to its portfolio’s sustainable successes

With the close of its latest investment fund, Norrsken VC is is taking an unprecedented step in tying the compensation of its partners to the positive changes the firm’s portfolio companies have on the world — and not just their financial returns.

The firm, which released its impact assessment for 2020 last week, has invested in companies that address seven of the United Nations’ seventeen sustainable development goals, and is benchmarking its performance on goals that range from the tightly monitored to the slightly tautological.

In some instances, the goals are simply customer metrics (with the assumption that the more customers on a product, the better they’re doing). To be fair, these are in areas like education and healthcare where the true impact of a company’s services are harder to measure.

The firm’s portfolio has much more tangible progress in the climate change mitigation and sustainability space. Here, emissions avoided or increases in energy efficiency can be measured quite easily.  And those energy efficiency gains and emissions reductions, along with lower waste associated with the firm’s food and agtech businesses are where the firm has seen its best performance.

When they exit, this performance will matter a great deal to the partners at Norrsken, because their compensation is directly affected by it.

“For each investment that we make, we set targets pre-investment for what we want to see in terms of impact,” said Tove Larsson, a general partner with Norrsken VC. “We do that together with some of our key LPs in the fund. We need to get the advisory committee’s approval of the targets. We set thsoe targets for an individual year and then on an annual basis.”

When the fund reaches the end of its cycle, the firm will look at the aggregated outcome of all of the impact KPIs and will weight the results of each company’s impact based o the amount we invested in each company. Based on that, the firm decides whether the team gets any carried interest or not.

If the portfolio companies hit sixty percent of the impact targets that have been set by the firm and its advisory board members, then they receive half of the carried interest, with the rest donated to charity. “There’s a linear escalation up to 100 percent. And if we don’t achieve that then the carried interest will be paid out to a charity organization or an NGO,” said Larsson.

Image Credit: Norrsken VC

The partners at Norrsken see their novel compensation structure as a point of differentiation, especially as the number of firms focused on themes related to the UN’s sustainable development goals continues to increase dramatically.

“We we started to invest, we were one of the first — four years ago. Then the market evolved so quickly where we got questions around how do you stand out and how do you know whether you’re truly an impact player,” said Agate Freimane, a general partner at the firm.

“This is a core part of the DNA. We need to do better and show that we can walk the talk,” Freimane said. So the firm took a page from the European Investment Fund, whose operations impose similar restrictions on compensation, she said. “When we heard about this way of doing it, we said tis make 100 percent sense, and why doesn’t everyone do it?”

So far, the team hasn’t had any problems hitting the target it had set. “We’re at 119 percent of the 2020 targets,” Freimane said. Still that’s only 12 percent of the long term targets. “At the moment, we’v e done one tenth of what we need to do over the lifetime of the fund.”

Even if some of the targets may be… imprecise… the steps that the firm’s portfolio companies have taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and food waste, and improving energy efficiency are having a real, measurable imapct. Whether that’s the reduction of data center energy demand by 10 Gigawatt hours thanks to the deployment of Submer technologies; reducing 11,000 tons of food waste through operations at Karma, Whywaste, Matsmart or Olio; saving 4 million liters of water from carwashes using Woshapp; or the development of 38 megawatts of solar projects thanks to the work of Alight.

Image Credit: Norrsken VC

“What we’re most proud of is that we’re actually doing this now,” said Larsson. “It’s not perfect, what we have delivered now, But we really think we need to start somewhere and it is key that the industry needs to become more transparent. The first thing we mentioned is that we think it is an achievement that we are tracking it and making it public.”

#energy-efficiency, #european-investment-fund, #finance, #food, #general-partner, #healthcare, #norrsken-vc, #tc, #united-nations

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No-code business intelligence service y42 raises $2.9M seed round

Berlin-based y42 (formerly known as Datos Intelligence), a data warehouse-centric business intelligence service that promises to give businesses access to an enterprise-level data stack that’s as simple to use as a spreadsheet, today announced that it has raised a $2.9 million seed funding round led by La Famiglia VC. Additional investors include the co-founders of Foodspring, Personio and Petlab.

The service, which was founded in 2020, integrates with over 100 data sources, covering all the standard B2B SaaS tools from Airtable to Shopify and Zendesk, as well as database services like Google’s BigQuery. Users can then transform and visualize this data, orchestrate their data pipelines and trigger automated workflows based on this data (think sending Slack notifications when revenue drops or emailing customers based on your own custom criteria).

Like similar startups, y42 extends the idea data warehouse, which was traditionally used for analytics, and helps businesses operationalize this data. At the core of the service is a lot of open source and the company, for example, contributes to GitLabs’ Meltano platform for building data pipelines.

y42 founder and CEO Hung Dang

y42 founder and CEO Hung Dang.

“We’re taking the best of breed open-source software. What we really want to accomplish is to create a tool that is so easy to understand and that enables everyone to work with their data effectively,” Y42 founder and CEO Hung Dang told me. “We’re extremely UX obsessed and I would describe us as no-code/low-code BI tool — but with the power of an enterprise-level data stack and the simplicity of Google Sheets.”

Before y42, Vietnam-born Dang co-founded a major events company that operated in over 10 countries and made millions in revenue (but with very thin margins), all while finishing up his studies with a focus on business analytics. And that in turn led him to also found a second company that focused on B2B data analytics.

Image Credits: y42

Even while building his events company, he noted, he was always very product- and data-driven. “I was implementing data pipelines to collect customer feedback and merge it with operational data — and it was really a big pain at that time,” he said. “I was using tools like Tableau and Alteryx, and it was really hard to glue them together — and they were quite expensive. So out of that frustration, I decided to develop an internal tool that was actually quite usable and in 2016, I decided to turn it into an actual company. ”

He then sold this company to a major publicly listed German company. An NDA prevents him from talking about the details of this transaction, but maybe you can draw some conclusions from the fact that he spent time at Eventim before founding y42.

Given his background, it’s maybe no surprise that y42’s focus is on making life easier for data engineers and, at the same time, putting the power of these platforms in the hands of business analysts. Dang noted that y42 typically provides some consulting work when it onboards new clients, but that’s mostly to give them a head start. Given the no-code/low-code nature of the product, most analysts are able to get started pretty quickly  — and for more complex queries, customers can opt to drop down from the graphical interface to y42’s low-code level and write queries in the service’s SQL dialect.

The service itself runs on Google Cloud and the 25-people team manages about 50,000 jobs per day for its clients. the company’s customers include the likes of LifeMD, Petlab and Everdrop.

Until raising this round, Dang self-funded the company and had also raised some money from angel investors. But La Famiglia felt like the right fit for y42, especially due to its focus on connecting startups with more traditional enterprise companies.

“When we first saw the product demo, it struck us how on top of analytical excellence, a lot of product development has gone into the y42 platform,” said Judith Dada, General Partner at LaFamiglia VC. “More and more work with data today means that data silos within organizations multiply, resulting in chaos or incorrect data. y42 is a powerful single source of truth for data experts and non-data experts alike. As former data scientists and analysts, we wish that we had y42 capabilities back then.”

Dang tells me he could have raised more but decided that he didn’t want to dilute the team’s stake too much at this point. “It’s a small round, but this round forces us to set up the right structure. For the series, A, which we plan to be towards the end of this year, we’re talking about a dimension which is 10x,” he told me.

#alteryx, #analytics, #berlin, #big-data, #business-intelligence, #business-software, #ceo, #cloud, #data, #data-analysis, #data-management, #data-warehouse, #enterprise, #general-partner, #information-technology, #judith-dada, #recent-funding, #shopify, #sql, #startups, #vietnam

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Fraud prevention platform Seon raises a $12M Series A round led by Creandum

Seon, which lets online businesses fight online fraud like fake accounts has raised a $12 million Series A round led by Creandum, with participation from PortfoLion, part of OTP Bank. The funding appears to be one of Hungary’s larger series A rounds to date.
 
Seon is a fraud-detection startup that establishes a customers’ ‘digital footprint’ in order to weed out false accounts and thus prevent fraudulent transactions. Clients include Patreon, AirFrance, Rivalry and Ladbrokes Launched in 2017, the company claims to bave been profitable since the end of 2019, after experiencing growth through working with neobanks, esports, gaming, Forex, and crypto trading throughout the rapid digitization brought on by the pandemic.

SEON’s CEO and Founder, Tamas Kadar, said in a statement: “We’re extremely pleased to have completed our latest funding round, led by Creandum, joining its exciting tech portfolio. We feel we have found a like-minded investor to work closely with to pursue the significant global opportunity for our business as we continue to democratize fraud fighting.”
 
Simon Schmincke, general partner at Creandum, said: “At Creandum, we believe cybercrime will be one of the most serious threats of the 21st century. With SEON, we’ve found an anti-fraud solution that’s effective, affordable, flexible, intuitive, and clearly proves its ROI.”
 
Gábor Pozsonyi, partner at PortfoLion Capital Partners, added: “Seon is a fundamentally useful brand: it offers a solution to one of the greatest challenges of digitalization, not only saving hundreds of millions of euros for its partners but making the internet a safer place.”

SEON are seen as competing with Emailage, Iovation, Threatmetrix. However, SEON’s thesis is that social media is a great proxy of a legitimate user vs bot/fake fraudster, so it looks heavily at social accounts to weed out fraudsters.

As part of the funding round, Seon has brought on board the following investors as shareholders: N26 founders, Maximilian Tayenthal and Valentin Stalf; SumUp founders Stefan Jeschonnek and Jan Deepen; Tide CEO Laurence Krieger; Revolut ex-CFO Peter O’Higgins; iZettle ex-chief Product Officer Leo Nilsson; Onfido cofounder Eamon Jubawy, and ComplyAdvantage founder Charlie Delingpole.

#ceo, #cfo, #charlie-delingpole, #cofounder, #europe, #financial-services, #financial-technology, #general-partner, #hungary, #izettle, #laurence-krieger, #mobile-payments, #n26, #onfido, #online-fraud, #online-payments, #partner, #patreon, #portfolion, #revolut, #social-media, #tc, #threatmetrix, #tide

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Maestro nets $15 million for its interactive commerce, community and engagement tools for livestreams

Making money on livestreams has never been easier thanks to a suite of tools from the Los Angeles-based startup Maestro, which just nabbed $15 million in financing to grow its business.

As video commerce becomes the norm and entertainers, brands, businesses, and franchises of all sizes and stripes look to cut out the middle man, the array of services on offer from Maestro may be the scissors these entities need to cut the cord.

The company has already worked with names as diverse as the Golden State Warriors, the Dallas Cowboys, and pop sensation Billy Eilish on embedding its interactive tools into various live events and promotions.

Initially the LA-based company launched to the gaming community with interactive features that folks could use in-stream to create better engagement with fans. But what started in the gaming world quickly spun out as the company slashed prices to $500 per month for its services.

The pandemic also helped as artists who were cut off from their audiences began to explore alternative ways to reach fans — and make money.

We were targeted to a small number of very premier customers. It was around 50 to 60 and we grew to in the hundreds,” said Maestro chief executive, Ari Evans, said. “2020 was a blowout year… People needed an interactive streaming platform that they could spin up quickly that they could launch on their website.”

Celebrities from Katy Perry to Post Malone to Billie Eilish all turned to the service and so did other streaming platforms like the Los Angeles-based virtual concert platform, The Wave.

Now the company has $15 million in new financing to capitalize on its growth from investors including NetEase, Sony Music Entertainment, and Acronym Venture Capital, alongside a host of industry titans including Twitch co-founder Kevin Lin and Moonwell Capital, founded by former Activision Blizzard executives Michael and Amy Morhaime, the company said in a statement. 

Existing investors like SeventySix Capital, The Strand Partners, Stadia Ventures, Hersh Interactive Group, and Transcend Fund, as well as early Zoom employees Richard Gatchalian and Aaron Lewis, also participated. 

Since the launch of monetization tools in May of last year, Evans estimated that the platform has paid out at least $5 million to entertainers who used the service.

“We are pleased to be supporting the continued development of Maestro as part of our ongoing investment in new technologies that provide artists with cutting-edge tools and solutions for growing their careers. Maestro gives artists greater flexibility and control to build the most engaging and customized events for their fans, allowing creators at any stage of their career to put together a world class live stream event,” said Dennis Kooker, President, Global Digital Business and U.S. Sales, Sony Music Entertainment, in a statement. 

“Maestro is at the forefront of redefining the relationship of content owners and creators with their viewers. Instead of relying on incumbent distribution platforms, customers control the audience relationship directly and maximize engagement and monetization in a way that fits with their brand objectives. We are very excited by Maestro’s potential to be a fundamental driver in the growth of the creator economy,” said Joshua Siegel, General Partner, Acronym Venture Capital.  

“Maestro… started off with the content and now we’re adding membership and community management and ticketing and all that stuff,” said Evans. 

The next step, and a big part of what Evans and his team of 55 employees will work on building will be a developer ecosystem, so software designers can start building out new tools to sell through the Maestro platform.

“The third piece is a developer ecosystem,” Evans said. “We’re really copying Shopify, Squarespace for video or Shopify for video. It’s kind of strange that this has taken so long to develop.

The one thing that Maestro won’t do is discovery or search services, Evans said. “We’re helping creators make money and build a business on top of video. That’s something creators need to be aware of if they’re going to  build that direct to consumer channel,” he said. “If you do do that and you’re successful you’re in control over your audience.”

#activision-blizzard, #billie-eilish, #co-founder, #companies, #electronic-arts, #general-partner, #golden-state-warriors, #katy-perry, #kevin-lin, #los-angeles, #louisiana, #maestro, #michael, #musicians, #netease, #shopify, #sony, #sony-music-entertainment, #tc, #technology, #twitch, #united-states, #unity-technologies, #website

0

Andreessen Horowitz could make the carbon offset API Patch its latest climate bet

The early-stage carbon offset API developer, Patch, could be another one of Andreessen Horowitz’s early bets on climate tech.

According to several people with knowledge of the investment round, former OpenTable chief executive and current Andreessen Horowitz partner Jeff Jordan is looking at leading the young company’s latest financing.

Such an investment would be a win for Patch, which could benefit from Andreessen Horowitz’s marketing muscle in a space that’s becoming increasingly crowded. And, if the deal goes through, it could be an indicator of more to come from one of the venture industry’s most (socially) active investors.

Companies like Pachama, Cloverly, Carbon Interface, and Cooler.dev all have similar API offerings, but the market for these types of services will likely expand as more companies try to do the least amount of work possible to become carbon neutral through offsetting. A growing market could generate space for more than one venture-backed winner.

Neither Patch’s co-founders nor Andreessen Horowitz responded to a request for comment about the funding.

One concern with services like Patch is that its customers will look at offsetting as their final destination instead of a step on the road to removing carbon emissions from business operations. To fix our climate crisis will take more work.

Founded by Brennan Spellacy and Aaron Grunfeld, two former employees at the apartment rental service Sonder, Patch raised its initial financing from VersionOne Ventures back in September.

Around 15 to twenty companies that are using the service now, according to people familiar with the company’s operations.

The company has an API that can calculate a company’s emissions footprint based on an integration with their ERP system and then invests money into offset projects that are designed to remove an equivalent amount of carbon dioxide.

While services like Pachama privilege lower-cost sequestration solutions like reforestation and forest management, Patch offers an array of potential investment opportunities for offsets. And the company tries to nudge its customers to some of the more expensive, high technology options in an effort to bring down costs for emerging technologies, said one person familiar with the company’s plans.

Like other services automating offsetting, Patch evaluates projects based on their additionality (how much additional carbon they’re removing over an already established baseline), permanence (how long the carbon emissions will be sequestered) and verifiability.

And, as the company’s founders note in their own statement about the company’s service, it’s not intended to be the only solution that customers deploy.

“The majority of climate models indicate that we need to reduce our emissions globally, while also removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere,” the founders wrote in a Medium post. “We take care of a company’s carbon removal goals, while they focus their efforts on reducing emissions, a more proprietary task that requires intimate operational knowledge. Patch complements this behavioral shift and gives us a real chance to mitigate climate change.”

VersionOne’s Angela Tran addressed any concerns about the defensibility of Patch’s technology in her own September announcement.

“We also believe that defensibility comes with the aggregation and “digitization” of quality supply. When we view Patch as a marketplace, we believe that businesses (demand) care about the type of projects (supply) they purchase to neutralize their emissions,” Tran wrote. “For example, a company might choose their sustainability legacy to be linked with forestry or mineralization projects. Patch is partnering with the best carbon removal developers and the latest negative emission technologies to build a network of low-cost, impactful projects.”

While Patch is explicitly focused on climate change, Andreessen has made a few early investments in a broad sustainability thesis. The firm led a $9 million investment into Silo last year and backed KoBold Metals back in 2019.

Silo has developed an enterprise resource planning tool for perishable food supply chains. Currently focused on wholesale produce, Silo said in a statement last year that it would be extending its services to meat, dairy and pantry items over the next year.

“The market potential for an innovator like Silo to reduce waste and improve margins is enormous and we’re excited to support its efforts as the system of record for food distribution in the United States,” said Anish Acharya, General Partner at Andreessen Horowitz, in a statement at the time. “Silo is well-positioned to scale beyond the west coast to help more customers modernize and transition their operations from pen and paper to software.”

Meanwhile, KoBold is a software developer that uses machine learning and big data processing technologies to find new prospects for the precious metals that companies need to make new batteries and renewable energy generation technologies.

“By building a digital prospecting engine — full stack, from scratch — using computer vision, machine learning, and sophisticated data analysis not currently available to the industry, KoBold’s software combines previously unavailable, dark data with conventional geochemical, geophysical, and geological data to identify prospects in models that can only get better over time, as with other data network effects,” wrote Connie Chan in a blog post at the time.

Taken together, these investments coalesce into a picture of how Andreessen Horowitz and its pool of $16.5 billion in assets under management may approach the renewables industry.

#andreessen, #andreessen-horowitz, #anish-acharya, #api, #chemistry, #general-partner, #greenhouse-gas-emissions, #jeff-jordan, #opentable, #pachama, #patch, #renewable-energy, #tc, #united-states, #west-coast

0

Renewable investment wave continues as solar lending company Loanpal raises $800 million

Days after the billionaire investor Chamath Palihapitiya announced his involvement in the $1.3 billion acquisition of the solar and home improvement lending business Sunlight Financial, a collection of investors announced a nearly $1 billion cash infusion into Loanpal, another renewable energy and home improvement lender.

The $800 million commitment to Loanpal arrives alongside a flurry of climate commitments from some of the world’s largest investors.

Yesterday, Blackrock chief Larry Fink, released the $9 trillion investment manager’s annual letter calling for more stringent accounting and reporting of climate data, and Bank of America joined 60 other companies in committing to a new reporting standard for climate and sustainability endorsed by the International Business Council and the World Economic Forum. Fink endorses a separate reporting scheme called the Task Force on Climate Related Financial Disclosures that has the backing of some of the biggest financial investors in the world.

These new standards will drive more investment dollars into businesses that are reducing the greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global climate change. And lending programs incentivizing the switch to more energy efficient appliances and renewable installations are probably the lowest of low hanging fruit for the financial services industry.

That’s one reason why investors like NEA, the WestCap Group, Brookfield Asset Management, and the giant private equity energy investment fund Riverstone Holdings are backing Loanpal.

The deal, which was a secondary transaction to give strategic investors a stake in the business actually wrapped up last year. As a result Scott Sandell, the managing general partner at NEA and a longtime investor in pr and Laurence Tosi, Managing Partner of WestCap Group, have joined the company’s board of directors.

“We invited a number of players into the company,” said Loanpal’s founder, chairman and chief executive Hayes Barnard. The former chief revenue officer for SolarCity before its acquisition by Tesla, Barnard has a long history with solar energy development. At Loanpal he also had the balance sheet to take his pick among would-be investors. “We’re a multi-billion dollar company,” said Barnard.

Loanpal founder chairman and chief executive, Hayes Barnard. Image Credit: Loanpal

“This was us inviting strategic investors into the company and being thoughtful about where they could help and how they could help,” Barnard said.

Loanpal is profitable, has zero debt and throws off monthly dividends to its financial backers. “Today we finance $400 million a month for roughly 15,000 solar systems that are combined with battery systems,” says Barnard. In all, the company has arranged $5.9 billion in consumer finance loans since its launch in 2018. Loanpal also counts around 85% of the top solar firms as vendors and has a staff of around 12,000 sales professionals.

Those numbers allowed the company to bring in board members like Tosi, the former chief financial officer of the multi-billion dollar financial services firm, Blackstone. “He really understands how to bring in capital markets at scale,” said Barnard. 

If anything, the attention from Blackrock, Blackstone, Riverstone and all the financial services firms without references to stones or rocks in their name shows that this is a problem of capital at scale. Decarbonizing the global economy is a $10 trillion business, according to the World Economic Forum (or, for the retail investment crowd, the equivalent of roughly 66.7 billion Gamestops at yesterday’s share price).

The near term market that we’re going to penetrate now is sustainable home solutions that’s a $100 billion market,” Barnard said. 

A significant chunk of that $10 trillion is going to come from the development and integration of new consumer facing appliances and hardware to reduce the consumption of energy. “We believe the battery storage market, the smart thermostat market and the solar market are all intertwined and combined,” said Barnard. “Overall the most important thing is that this is just technology that is better. It was going to scale regardless of who was in the White House. These pieces of technology are better, they save homeowners money.. It’s kind of an IQ test if homeowners want to do it.”

#bank-of-america, #blackrock, #blackstone, #chamath-palihapitiya, #chief-financial-officer, #economy, #energy, #finance, #general-partner, #greenhouse-gas-emissions, #laurence-tosi, #managing-partner, #money, #nea, #officer, #private-equity, #renewable-energy, #riverstone-holdings, #scott-sandell, #solarcity, #tc, #tesla, #white-house, #world-economic-forum

0

Cybersecurity startup SpiderSilk raises $2.25M to help prevent data breaches

Dubai-based cybersecurity startup SpiderSilk has raised $2.25 million in a pre-Series A round, led by venture firms Global Ventures and STV.

In the past two years, SpiderSilk has discovered some of the biggest data breaches: Blind, the allegedly anonymous social network that exposed private complaints by Silicon Valley employees; a lab leaked highly sensitive Samsung source code; an inadvertently public code repository revealed apps, code, and apartment building camera footage belonging to controversial facial recognition startup Clearview AI; and a massive spill of unencrypted customer card numbers at now-defunct MoviePass may have been the final nail in the already-beleaguered subscription service’s casket.

Much of those discoveries were found from the company’s proprietary internet scanner, SpiderSilk co-founder and chief security officer Mossab Hussein told TechCrunch.

Any company would want their data locked down, but mistakes happen and misconfigurations can leave sensitive internal corporate data accessible from the internet. SpiderSilk helps its customers understand their attack surface by looking for things that are exposed but shouldn’t be.

The cybersecurity startup uses its scanner to map out a company’s assets and attack surfaces to detect vulnerabilities and data exposures, and it also simulates cyberattacks to help customers understand where vulnerabilities are in their defenses.

“The attack surface management and threat detection platform we built scans the open internet on a continuous basis in order to attribute all publicly accessible assets back to organizations that could be affected by them, either directly or indirectly,” SpiderSilk’s co-founder and chief executive Rami El Malak told TechCrunch. “As a result, the platform regularly uncovers exploits and highlights how no organization is immune from infrastructure visibility blind-spots.”

El Malak said the funding will help to build out its security, engineering and data science teams, as well as its marketing and sales. He said the company is expanding its presence to North America with sales and engineering teams.

It’s the company’s second round of funding, after a seed round of $500,000 in November 2019, also led by Global Ventures and several angel investors.

“The SpiderSilk team are outstanding partners, solving a critical problem in the ever-complex world of cybersecurity, and protecting companies online from the increasing threats of malicious activity,” said Basil Moftah, general partner at Global Ventures.

#clearview-ai, #computer-security, #computing, #cybersecurity-startup, #data-security, #dubai, #facial-recognition, #general-partner, #north-america, #open-internet, #samsung, #security, #social-network, #spidersilk, #vulnerability

0

Omnipresent raises $15.8M Series A for its platform to employ remote-workers globally

Omnipresent, which helps companies employ remote-working local teams worldwide, has closed a $15.8M Series A funding round. The fundraise was led by an undisclosed investor with participation from existing investors, Episode 1, Playfair Capital and Truesight Ventures. The company said it closed the round five months after it’s July 2020 $2m in seed round.

Founders Matthew Wilson and Guenther Eisinger started the company as part of Entrepreneur First’s London cohort in 2019.

Omnipresent says it ensures the process of remote-hiring costs a fraction of what it would if the company did it on their own, by using Omnipresent’s platform to onboard employees compliantly in 150 countries. It provides employees with local contracts, tax contributions, and local and international benefits such as health insurance, pensions and equity options. 

In a joint statement, Guenther Eisinger and Matthew Wilson, Co-CEOs of Omnipresent said: “Even before the pandemic we recognized the revolutionary potential of breaking down legal and administrative barriers of international employment. As former business owners, we had first-hand experience of what a headache it is to navigate the complexity and bureaucracy of building global teams. Now with the pandemic and the global shift towards remote working it’s confirmed that we are on the right track.”

Wilson told me in an interview: “For instance, in Canada, we have a Canadian entity and we enter into an employment relationship with that person in Canada, on behalf of our client, so they don’t have to set up any of the legal infrastructure themselves in Canada, or any of the 149 countries that we operate in. We then manage all the ongoing administration of the employment relationship, whether that’s from an HR perspective, from an employee benefits perspective, or if they want to get health care for instance.”

The company competes with other firms like Remote.com and Boundless HQ.

Carina Namih, General Partner at Episode 1 Ventures commented: “While talent is evenly distributed around the world, for too long, opportunities have not been. I have experienced first hand the challenge of hiring globally. Omnipresent has already become a crucial piece of infrastructure for global teams working across different countries.”

Joe Thornton, General Partner at Playfair Capital commented: “Remote work undoubtedly represents the future of the modern workforce. The sooner companies adapt, the sooner they will reap the massive competitive advantage associated with a globally distributed workforce, including increased workforce productivity and satisfaction and a larger and more diverse pool of talent from which to recruit workers.”

Omnipresent said its own employer surveys show that over 85% of employers will be employing remote or international employees in 2021.

#canada, #employment, #entrepreneur, #episode-1-ventures, #europe, #general-partner, #health-insurance, #london, #playfair-capital, #remote-com, #tc, #telecommuting, #truesight-ventures, #workforce

0

Eco-conscious car subscription platform Finn.auto raises $24.2M, with White Star and Zalando founders

finn.auto — which allows people to subscribe to their car instead of owning it, and offsetting their CO2 emissions — has raised a $24.2M / €20M Series A funding round. White Star Capital (which has also invested in Tier Mobility), and the Zalando co-CEOs Rubin Ritter, David Schneider and Robert Gentz are new investors in this round. All previous investors participated.

The funding comes just under a year since the company launched, after selling just 1,000 car subscriptions. It’s also partnered with Deutsche Post AG and Deutsche Telekom AG.

A number of car manufacturers have launched similar subscription services powered by various providers, such as Drover, Leaseplan and Wagonex.

UK-based startup Drover has raised a total of $40M in funding over 5 rounds. Their latest Series B funding round was with Shell Ventures and Cherry Ventures . Plus, there are branded services which include Audi on Demand, BMW, Citroën, DS, Jaguar Carpe, Land Rover Carpe, Mini, Volkswagen and Care by Volvo.

Digitally-led subscription services have the potential to disrupt the traditional car sales model, and new startups are entering the market all the time.

The fin.auto model is proving to appeal to environment-conscious millennials. For each car subscription, the company is offsetting the CO₂ emissions of its vehicles, meaning subscribers can drive their cars in a climate-neutral manner. Its now expanding its range of fully electric vehicles and, in cooperation with ClimatePartner, is supporting selected regional climate protection and development projects.

Key to the Munich-based startups’ play is the automation of fleet management processes and customer interactions, meaning it’s much easier and cheaper to run this kind of subscription operation.

Max-Josef Meier, CEO and founder of finn.auto said: “We are delighted to have been able to bring such high-caliber investors on board and that our existing investors are cementing their confidence with the current round. Mobility with your own car becomes as easy as buying shoes on the Internet. We already offer a large selection of different car brands, whose cars can be ordered online on our platform in just five minutes and at flexible runtimes. The delivery is then conveniently made to the front door.”

Nicholas Stocks, General Partner at White Star Capital added: “There is a huge opportunity globally to streamline outdated customer experiences in the automotive retail space and become the Amazon of the automotive industry. This is something finn.auto is excellently placed to capitalize on with its offering of convenience, flexibility, value and sustainability.”

#amazon, #audi, #bmw, #car-subscriptions, #care, #ceo, #cherry-ventures, #citroen, #drover, #ds, #europe, #general-partner, #mini, #munich, #subscription-services, #tc, #volkswagen, #volvo, #white-star-capital, #zalando

0

Portugal’s Bizay – a customized products marketplace for SMBs – just raised a $38.6M C round

Bizay, a marketplace for small-to-medium-sized businesses allowing them to create highly customized products (such as merchandise), has raised a $38.6 million (€32 million) funding round. The Series C financing round was co-led by investors Indico Capital and the European Investment Bank, with “strong support” from Iberis Capital and existing investors including LeadX Capital Partners, Omnes Capital and Pathena.

This means Bizay has now raised a total of more than €54 million. The company previously raised a Series B financing round of €22 million. This new round will accelerate the development of further product expansion targeted at SMBs and reinforce Bizay´s operation supplying more than one million SMBs in 21 countries across Europe and America.

Bizay’s ideas is to become the ‘Amazon’ for SMBs in terms of merchandising, packaging, consumables, business essentials, decorations and uniforms, with good quality, at a fraction of the normal costs associated with these items.

Bizay´s CEO, Sérgio Vieira, said: “The current health crisis accelerated the shift to online ordering of customizable products at reduced prices. Our platform will be a key facilitator for businesses to recover at a faster pace. We are totally confident in achieving the goals that will allow us to enter a new level of global ambition”.

Speaking to TechCrunch Vieira added: “We are a software company, and our technology enables us to connect to industrial manufacturers that would usually work only for large corporations. We have no stock, we have no machines, no production. Using AI we aggregate multiple orders, and supply those orders using the network of industrial producers that we have in our marketplace. So we are able to offer these SMBs competitive prices for small individual orders. These industrial manufacturers would never normally supply SMBs because they are just too small.”

Stephan Morais, Managing General Partner at Indico Capital Partners, said: “Bizay is entering a new growth phase and this round will consolidate their presence across Europe and enable them to capture the opportunity that stems from the shift towards online ordering of personalized products for SMBs.”

#amazon, #america, #artificial-intelligence, #europe, #general-partner, #indico-capital-partners, #software, #tc

0

Funded by Connect Ventures, Purple Dot plans to take on Klarna-style purchase debt

In recent times startups have appeared offering credit at an e-commerce basket checkout so that a customer can buy a product without needing to pay right away. Klarna or Clearpay are the two most notable in this field. But what if you flipped the model around so that consumers could buy the item at a lower price later on, and the retailer could reduce waste? This is the model of Purple Dot, which bills itself as a ‘worth-the-wait’ payment option for fashion brands.

It’s now raised a seed round of £1.35 million, led by Connect Ventures, with support from AI Seed, Moxxie Ventures, Andy Chung and Philipp Moehring from AngelList, Alex Roetter former SVP of Engineering at Twitter and the family office of Paul Forster, co-founder of Indeed.com.

Founded in August 2019 by senior Skyscanner employees Madeline Parra (CEO) and John Talbott (CTO), Purple Dot allows consumers to request a ‘worth-the-wait’ lower price. The advantage for retailers is that they can then decide whether or not to release a fashion product mid-season at a slightly reduced rate in order to secure the sale.

“Unlike Klarna, we don’t encourage consumers to buy stuff they can’t afford.”

The customers still pays upfront and then waits to have the item confirmed, receiving a full refund if not. The Purple Dot payment method sits alongside ‘buy now, pay later’ finance options.

This ‘worth-the-wait’ price does not usually fall below a 10-20% reduction from the recommended retail price, thus reducing losses from end-of-season discounting, where discounts are much deeper. The advantage for the consumer is that they don’t then rack up debt on their purchases.

The startup says it’s already in talks with a number of major UK and US high street brands but has already secured menswear retailer Spoke, which will also use the tech for ‘pre-ordering’. This means they can test out new styles, designs and fabrics in a limited manner, thus reducing waste (and therefore carbon emissions) when they commit to a new line of clothing.

Madeline Parra, CEO of Purple Dot, commented: “When shopping online today, customers can either pay the retail price or walk away. When they do walk away, the item goes through the discounting process, becomes unprofitable for the merchant and is resigned to landfill. This binary system isn’t working for anyone – the customer loses out on the item, because it may go out of stock in their size before they attempt to purchase it again, and the merchant loses the sale. Purple Dot tackles this problem head-on by providing a new way to shop, taking on unsustainable, unrelenting consumerism, poor pricing tactics and profit-crunching sales at the same time.”

Speaking to TechCrunch she also added that “Unlike Klarna, we don’t encourage consumers to buy stuff they can’t afford.”

Pietro Bezza, General Partner at Connect Ventures, commented:  “Purple Dot’s innovative proposition benefits retailers by creating a solution to their inventory problems. End of season ‘panic sales’ have long caused financial uncertainty for retailers and a negative impact on the environment in equal measure.”

#alex-roetter, #angellist, #articles, #business, #ceo, #co-founder, #connect-ventures, #cto, #economy, #europe, #general-partner, #klarna, #major, #moxxie-ventures, #online-shopping, #pietro-bezza, #spoke, #startup-company, #tc, #united-kingdom, #united-states

0

Nutrium app, which links dietitians and patients, raises $4.9M led by Indico Capital

Nutrium, a digital health startup which links dietitians and their patients via an app, has raised a €4.25 million Seed round led by Indico Capital Partners, alongside the the Social Innovation Fund in Portugal (SIF) and previous investors. It now offers professional nutrition software to 80,000 nutrition professionals and 800,000 patients in more than 40 countries.

With this investment round, Nutrium plans to double the team size in the next 24 months in order to focus on platform development and expand global sales in markets like Spain, France, Italy, USA and the UK where the company already has a strong customer base.

With the Nutrium platform, patients get integrated nutrition counseling which combines professional advice, continuous monitoring and access to commercial products.

André Santos, CEO and Co-founder of Nutrium commented: “We are moving closer to our vision of enabling the improvement of eating habits for millions of people globally.”

Stephan Morais, managing general partner at Indico said: “Nutrium will become a full-fledged platform bringing together nutritionists, patients, products and wellness data that will enable healthier and happier lives. We are pleased to back this jointly developed vision with capital and knowledge.“

Rui Ferreira, Vice President at Portugal Ventures said: “In 2017, when Portugal Ventures invested in Nutrium’s pre-seed round, the company was mainly present in two markets. Today, Nutrium operates in more than 40 markets, having increased its turnover exponentially.”

Nutrium’s competitors include NutriAdmin, AppointmentPlus, Evolution Nutrition which has raised $2.3M.

#articles, #europe, #france, #general-partner, #health, #indico-capital-partners, #italy, #nutrition, #ro, #spain, #tc, #united-kingdom, #united-states, #vice-president

0

E-bike subscription service Dance closes $17.7M Series A, led by HV Holtzbrinck Ventures

Three months on since the former founders of SoundCloud launched their e-bike subscription service, Dance they are today announcing the close of a $17.7 million (€15 million) Series A funding round led by one of the larger European VCs, HV Holtzbrinck Ventures.

Founded by Eric Quidenus-Wahlforss (ex-Soundcloud), Alexander Ljung (ex-Soundcloud) and Christian Springub (ex-Jimdo), Dance has ambitions to offer its all-inclusive service subscription package into expanded markets across Europe and eventually the US. Dance is currently operating the invite-only pilot of its e-bike subscription in Berlin, with plans for a broader launch, expanded accessibility and availability and new cities next year. 

Rainer Märkle, general partner at HV Holtzbrinck Ventures said in a statement: “The mobility market is seeing a huge shift towards bikes, strongly fueled by the paradigm shift of vehicles going electric. Unfortunately, the majority of e-bikes on the market today have some combination of poor design, high upfront costs, and cumbersome maintenance. We analyzed the overall mobility market, evaluated all means of transport, and crunched the numbers on all types of business models for a few years before we found what we were looking for. Dance is by the far the most viable future of biking, bridging the gap between e-bike ownership and more ‘joyful’ accessibility to go places.”

E-bikes tend to be notoriously expensive to purchase and a hassle to repair. That said, startups like VanMoof and Cowboy have brought an Apple -esque business model to the market which is fast bringing the cost of full ownership down.

Most commuters are put off cycling the average 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) commute but e-bikes make this distance a breeze. Dance sits in that half-way house between owning an expensive bike and having to hunt down a rentable ebike or electric scooter close to your location.

Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought individual, socially distanced, transport into sharp relief. UK sales of e-bikes have boomed, seeing a 230% surge in demand over the summer. This has happened at the same time as EU governments have put in more than 2300km of bike lanes, with the UK alone pledging £250 million in investment.

Quidenus-Wahlforss said the startup has been “inundated with positive responses from around the world since we announced our invite-only pilot program.”

Dance’s subscription model includes a fully assembled e-bike delivered to a subscriber’s door within 24 hours. This comes with maintenance, theft replacement insurance, a dedicated smartphone app, concierge services, GPS location tracking and unlocking capabilities.

#alexander-ljung, #apple, #berlin, #bicycles, #dance, #e-bike, #e-bikes, #electric-bicycle, #europe, #european-union, #general-partner, #gps, #micromobility, #smartphone, #soundcloud, #tc, #transport, #united-kingdom, #united-states, #vanmoof

0

As Blizzard sunsets StarCraft II, some of its key creators raise cash for a new gaming studio

Even as Blizzard pulls the plug on new updates for its StarCraft II game, nearly a decade after its launch, gaming investors are financing the next new thing coming from key members of the game’s early development team.

Blizzard vets Tim Morten, the former production director for StarCraft II; and Tim Campbell, the lead campaign designer for WarCraft III; have launched a new studio with a number of colleagues from Blizzard to bring real time strategy games to a bigger audience.

The new company, Frost Giant Studios, has picked up $4.7 million in seed funding from the gaming and synthetic media focused investment firm, Bitkraft Ventures, along with participation from 1 Up Ventures, GC Tracker, Riot Games, and Griffin Gaming Partners, the company said.

“Frost Giant Studios is on a mission to bring one of the most beloved genres to a broader audience,” said Scott Rupp, Founding General Partner at Bitkraft Ventures. “We are excited to see some of the most experienced leaders in real-time strategy game development come together to build a game that will secure the future growth of the RTS genre while staying true to the core player fantasy of RTS.”

Building on their experience developing StarCraft II over the past ten years, the Frost Giant Studios strategy is focused on making gameplay better, easier, and more collaborative.

Think of it as taking some of the best elements of the battle royal genre and bringing them into real-time strategy games with an eye toward playability and competitive opportunities in esports.

“Real-time strategy players are an incredibly passionate community, and they deserve not just a great new game, but one they can share broadly with friends. Building a worthy successor will take time, but we’re incredibly excited and grateful to carry real-time strategy forward at Frost Giant Studios,” said Tim Morten, Frost Giant Studios CEO.

#blizzard-entertainment, #ceo, #director, #general-partner, #iii, #player, #riot-games, #starcraft, #synthetic-media, #tc, #video-games, #video-gaming

0

FloorFound is bringing online return and resale to direct to consumer furniture businesses

Over the next five years consumers will return an estimated 40 million to 50 million pieces of furniture that more than likely will end up in landfills, creating tons of unnecessary waste, according to Chris Richter, the founder of a new Austin-based furniture startup, FloorFound.

To reduce that waste, and give retailers another option for their used goods, Richter has launched FloorFound. The company is designed to manage furniture returns and resale for online merchants. So far, companies like Floyd Home, Inside Weather, Outer and Feather (the furniture rental company) are using FloorFound’s services.

“We have a very large pipeline and we’ve been operating since April first,” said Richter. “We can pick up in any major metro locally and inspect it locally. We have a platform layer where we can run inspections against those items.”

As consumers look to reduce their environmental footprint, an easy place to start is by buying used items, Richter said, and he expects that most brands will start to incorporate used and new products in their virtual and real showrooms. “Every brand will commingle new items with resale items,” he said. “We are trying to put retailers in the resale business with their own return inventory.” To prove his point, Richter pointed to companies like REI and The Gap, which have partnered with ThredUp to sell used clothes.

To compliment its returns business and give online sellers a way to work more seamlessly with local vendors the company has logistics partnerships with providers including Pilot Freight Services, Metropolitan Warehouse and Delivery and J.B. Hunt Transport.

Working with co-founder Ryan Matthews, the former director of technology for the Austin-based high end retailer Kendra Scott, Richter has set up a business that can tap into both the demand for better customer service for the return of large items and the growing call for greater sustainability in the furniture industry.

It was an attractive enough proposition to attract a pre-seed investment from Schematic Ventures, a venture fund focused exclusively on technological innovations for supply chain management.

“The broken experience of oversized e-commerce has kept a multi-billion dollar category offline. It’s not a simple problem: oversized items require coordination of a hyper-fragmented micro carrier network, complex physical processing, and then re-injection into an e-commerce channel that aligns with the brand,” said Julian Counihan, a general partner at Schematic Ventures. “UPS and FedEx just aren’t going to cut it. FloorFound is tackling this challenge with a team tailor-made for the task: Chris Richter, Ryan Matthews and Shannon Hardt have backgrounds spanning supply chain, delivery, e-commerce and enterprise software. FloorFound will be the final push that moves the remaining offline categories, online.” 

#articles, #austin, #business, #co-founder, #delivery, #e-commerce, #enterprise-software, #fedex, #general-partner, #marketing, #online-shopping, #supply-chain, #tc, #the-gap, #thredup, #ups

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Merging Airbnb and the traditional hotel model, Mexico City’s Casai raises $23 million to grow in Latin America

With travel and tourism rising across Latin America, Casai, a startup combining Airbnb single unit rentals with hotel room amenities, has raised $23 million to expand its business across Latin America.

The company, which initially was as hit hard by regional responses to the COVID-19 pandemic as other businesses in the hospitality industry has recovered to reach nearly 90 percent of total capacity on the 200 units it manages around Mexico City.

The company was co-founded by chief executive Nico Barawid, a former head of international expansion at Nova Credit and consultant with BCG, and chief operating officer María del Carmen Herrerías Salazar, who previously worked at one of Mexico’s largest hotel operators, Grupo Presidente.

The two met two years ago at a barbecue in Mexico City and began speaking about ways to update the hospitality industry taking the best of Airbnb’s short term rental model of individual units and pairing it with the quality control and standards that guests expect from a hotel chain.

“I wanted to define a product from a consumer angle,” said Barawid. “I wanted this to exist.”

Before the SARS-Cov-2 outbreak Casai’s units were primarily booked through travel partners like HotelTonight or Expedia. Now the company has a direct brisk direct booking business thanks to the work of its chief technology officer, a former engineer at Google named Andres Martinez.

The company’s new financing was led by Andreessen Horowitz and included additional commitments from the firm’s Cultural Leadership Fund, Kaszek Ventures, Monashees Capital, Global Founders Capital, Liquid 2 Ventures, and individual investors including the founders of Nova Credit, Loft, Kavak and Runa.

Casai also managed to nab a debt facility of up to $25 million from TriplePoint Capital, bringing its total cash haul to $48 million in equity and debt.

Image Credit: Casai

The big round is in part thanks to the company’s compelling value proposition, which offers guest not only places to stay equipped with a proprietary smart hardware hub and the Casai app, but also a Google Home, smart lights, and Chromecast-kitted televisions, but also a lounge where guests can stay ahead of their check-in or after check-out.

And while the company’s vision is focused on Latin America now, its management team definitely sees the opportunity to create a global brand and business.

The founding team also includes a chief revenue officer, Alberto Ramos, who worked at McKinsey and a chief growth officer, Daniel Hermann, who previously worked at the travel and lifestyle company, Selina. The head of design, Alexa Backal, used to work at GAIA Design, and its vice president of experience, Cristina Crespo, formerly ran WeWork’s international design studio.

“To successfully execute on this opportunity, a team needs to bring together expertise from consumer technology, design, hospitality, real estate and financial services to develop world-class operations needed to deliver on a first-class experience,” said Angela Strange, a general partner at Andreessen Horowitz, who’s taking a seat on the Casai board. “It was obvious when I met Nico and Maricarmen that they are operationally laser-focused and have uniquely blended expertise across verticals, with unique views on the consumer experience.”

#airbnb, #andreessen, #andreessen-horowitz, #angela-strange, #chief-operating-officer, #chief-technology-officer, #engineer, #financial-services, #general-partner, #global-founders-capital, #hoteltonight, #kaszek-ventures, #laser, #latin-america, #liquid-2-ventures, #mckinsey, #mexico, #mexico-city, #monashees-capital, #nova-credit, #real-estate, #runa, #selina, #sharing-economy, #tc, #tourism, #travel, #triplepoint-capital, #vacation-rental, #wework

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Pixie Labs raises $9.15M Series A round for its Kubernetes observability platform

Pixie, a startup that provides developers with tools to get observability into their Kubernetes-native applications, today announced that it has raised a $9.15 million Series A round led by Benchmark, with participation from GV. In addition, the company also today said that its service is now available as a public beta.

The company was co-founded by Zain Asgar (CEO), a former Google engineer working on Google AI and adjunct professor at Stanford, and Ishan Mukherjee (CPO), who led Apple’s Siri Knowledge Graph product team and also previously worked on Amazon’s Robotics efforts. Asgar had originally joined Benchmark to work on developer tools for machine learning. Over time, the idea changed to using machine learning to power tools to help developers manage large-scale deployments instead.

“We saw data systems, this move to the edge, and we felt like this old cloud 1.0 model of manually collecting data and shipping it to databases in the cloud seems pretty inefficient,” Mukherjee explained. “And the other part was: I was on call. I got gray hair and all that stuff. We felt like we could build this new generation of developer tools and get to Michael Jordan’s vision of intelligent augmentation, which is giving creatives tools where they can be a lot more productive.”

Image Credits: Pixie

The team argues that most competing monitoring and observability systems focus on operators and IT teams — and often involve a long manual setup process. But Pixie wants to automate most of this manual process and build a tool that developers want to use.

Pixie runs inside a developer’s Kubernetes platform and developers get instant and automatic visibility into their production environments. With Pixie, which the team is making available as a freemium SaaS product, there is no instrumentation to install. Instead, the team uses relatively new Linux kernel techniques like eBPF to collect data right at the source.

“One of the really cool things about this is that we can deploy Pixie in about a minute and you’ll instantly get data,” said Asgar. “Our goal here is that this really helps you when there are cases where you don’t want your business logic to be full of monitoring code, especially if you forget something — when you have an outage.”

Image Credits: Pixie

At the core of the developer experience is what the company calls “Pixie scripts.” Using a Python-like language (PxL), developers can codify their debugging workflows. The company’s system already features a number of scripts written by the team itself and the community at large. But as Asgar noted, not every user will write scripts. “The way scripts work, it’s supposed to capture human knowledge in that problem. We don’t expect the average user — or even the way above average developer — ever to touch a script or write one. They’re just going to use it in a specific scenario,” he explained.

Looking ahead, the team plans to make these scripts and the scripting language more robust and usable to allow developers to go from passively monitoring their systems to building scripts that can actively take actions on their clusters based on the monitoring data the system collects.

“Zain and Ishan’s provocative idea was to move software monitoring to the source,” said Eric Vishria, General Partner at Benchmark. “Pixie enables engineering teams to fundamentally rethink their monitoring strategy as it presents a vision of the future where we detect anomalous behavior and make operational decisions inside the infrastructure layer itself. This allows companies of all sizes to monitor their digital experiences in a more responsive, cost-effective and scalable manner.”

#artificial-intelligence, #benchmark, #ceo, #cloud-computing, #cloud-infrastructure, #computing, #engineer, #eric-vishria, #free-software, #general-partner, #google, #kubernetes, #linux, #machine-learning, #michael-jordan, #pixie, #stanford, #tc

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ClimaCell raises $23M Series C for its weather intelligence platform

ClimaCell, the weather forecasting and intelligence service that is using a number of interesting new techniques to gather weather data, today announced that it has raised a $23 million Series C round co-led by new investor Pitango Growth and existing investor Square Peg Captial. With this new round, the Boston- and TelAviv-based company’s total funding now exceeds $100 million.

As ClimaCell co-founder and CEO Shimon Elkabetz told me, the round came together well after the worldwide COVID-19 lockdowns had started and the team never met with its new investors in person. Because the pandemic affected many of ClimaCell’s customers in the travel industry, in recent months, the company did take some steps to reduce cost and expand its overall runway, but Elkabetz stressed that the company didn’t need to raise this new round and that the investors approached the company.

“We took some aggressive but respectful actions around reducing our expenses and created a significant runway,” Elkabetz explained. “We didn’t really need to raise money now, but this opportunity came to us and we decided to take it, because it gives us a significant opportunity to invest in strategic things.”

Image Credits: ClimaCell

Given the changing business climate, the company did double down on its efforts to brand its service as an intelligence platform that helps businesses make smart decisions about the operations, even if they are not meteorologists. In practice, this means a stronger focus on its Insights service, which helps operators in various industries to make smart decisions based on the company’s forecasts. With this, ClimaCell can help a construction company ensure that a worksite is safe when a storm is coming and when it should shut down its crane operations because of wind, for example, or when a logistics company should expect slowdowns because of heavy rains. Instead of just giving its users a weather forecast, the company’s tools provide actionable suggestions instead.

“65% of the world’s GDP is being impacted by weather events. ClimaCell is the only SaaS company that enables actionable items ahead of weather events rather than reacting to them and their implications and ramifications,” said Aaron Mankovski, Managing General Partner at Pitango Growth, in today’s announcement. “The opportunities coming to ClimaCell across industries including supply chain and logistics, railroads, trucking, shipping, on-demand, energy, insurance, and more represent a complete upending of the existing competitive landscape and is a testament to being laser-focused on customer value.”

Image Credits: ClimaCell

Elkabetz noted that the company plans to use the new funding to expand both its go-to-market efforts and to focus on the fundamental R&D that makes its platform work. He wasn’t quite ready to share what those R&D efforts will look like, but he expects to be able to announce these new capabilities “soon.”

The company also expects to launch some updates to its consumer mobile app soon. While the consumer app may not be ClimaCell’s main focus, it uses the same technology in the backend, including a version of Insights for leisure activities, for example. For Elkabetz, the consumer app helps spread the ClimaCell brand but he also expects that it can become a real business in its own right.

#boston, #climacell, #general-partner, #laser, #pitango, #recent-funding, #startups, #supply-chain, #tc

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Emerging from stealth, Octant is bringing the tools of synthetic biology to large scale drug discovery

Octant, a company backed by Andreessen Horowitz just now unveiling itself publicly to the world, is using the tools of synthetic biology to buck the latest trends in drug discovery.

As the pharmaceuticals industry turns its attention to precision medicine — the search for ever more tailored treatments for specific diseases using genetic engineering — Octant is using the same technologies to engage in drug discovery and diagnostics on a mass scale.

The company’s technology genetically engineers DNA to act as an identifier for the most common drug receptors inside the human genome. Basically, it’s creating QR codes that can flag and identify how different protein receptors in cells respond to chemicals. These are the biological sensors which help control everything from immune responses to the senses of sight and smell, the firing of neurons; even the release of hormones and communications between cells in the body are regulated.

“Our discovery platform was designed to map and measure the interconnected relationships between chemicals, multiple drug receptor pathways and diseases, enabling us to engineer multi-targeted drugs in a more rational way, across a wide spectrum of targets,” said Sri Kosuri, Octant’s co-founder and chief executive officer, in a statement.

Octant’s work is based on a technology first developed at the University of California Los Angeles by Kosuri and a team of researchers, which slashed the cost of making genetic sequences to $2 per gene from $50 to $100 per gene.

“Our method gives any lab that wants the power to build its own DNA sequences,” Kosuri said in a 2018 statement. “This is the first time that, without a million dollars, an average lab can make 10,000 genes from scratch.”

Joining Kosuri in launching Octant is Ramsey Homsany, a longtime friend of Kosuri’s, and a former executive at Google and Dropbox . Homsany happened to have a background in molecular biology from school, and when Kosuri would talk about the implications of the technology he developed, the two men knew they needed to for a company.

“We use these new tools to know which bar code is going with which construct or genetic variant or pathway that we’re working with [and] all of that fits into a single well,” said Kosuri. “What you can do on top of that is small molecule screening… we can do that with thousands of different wells at a time. So we can build these maps between chemicals and targets and pathways that are essential to drug development.”

Before coming to UCLA, Kosuri had a long history with companies developing products based on synthetic biology on both the coasts. Through some initial work that he’d done in the early days of the biofuel boom in 2007, Kosuri was connected with Flagship Ventures, and the imminent Harvard-based synthetic biologist George Church . He also served as a scientific advisor to Gen9, a company acquired by the multi-billion dollar synthetic biology powerhouse, Ginkgo Bioworks.

“Some of the most valuable drugs in history work on complex sets of drug targets, which is why Octant’s focus on polypharmacology is so compelling,” said Jason Kelly, the co-founder and CEO of Gingko Bioworks, and a member of the Octant board, in a statement. “Octant is engineering a lot of luck and cost out of the drug discovery equation with its novel platform and unique big data biology insights, which will drive the company’s internal development programs as well as potential partnerships.”

The new technology arrives at a unique moment in the industry where pharmaceutical companies are moving to target treatments for diseases that are tied to specific mutations, rather than look at treatments for more common disease problems, said Homsany.

“People are dropping common disease problems,” he said. “The biggest players are dropping these cases and it seems like that just didn’t make sense to us. So we thought about how would a company take these new technologies and apply them in a way that could solve some of this.”

One reason for the industry’s turn away from the big diseases that affect large swaths of the population is that new therapies are emerging to treat these conditions which don’t rely on drugs. While they wouldn’t get into specifics, Octant co-founders are pursuing treatments for what Kosuri said were conditions “in the metabolic space” and in the “neuropsychiatric space”.

Helping them pursue those targets, since Octant is very much a drug development company, is $20 million in financing from investors led by Andreessen Horowitz .

“Drug discovery remains a process of trial and error. Using its deep expertise in synthetic biology, the Octant team has engineered human cells that provide real-time, precise and complete readouts of the complex interactions and effects that drug molecules have within living cells,” said Jorge Conde, general partner at Andreessen Horowitz, and member of the Octant board of directors. “By querying biology at this unprecedented scale, Octant has the potential to systematically create exhaustive maps of drug targets and corresponding, novel treatments for our most intractable diseases.”

#andreessen-horowitz, #articles, #biology, #biotechnology, #chemicals, #dna, #dna-sequencing, #dropbox, #drug-development, #drug-discovery, #emerging-technologies, #executive, #flagship-ventures, #general-partner, #genetic-engineering, #genetics, #george-church, #ginkgo-bioworks, #google, #harvard, #jason-kelly, #jorge-conde, #pharmaceutical, #synthetic-biology, #tc

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Nanit raises $21 million for its baby monitor, app, and new line of wearables for infants

The developer of a machine learning enhanced baby monitor, Nanit, has managed to nab $21 million in financing even amid the teeth of an epidemic that has slowed venture financing across the board.

The round came from existing investors including: Jerusalem Venture Partners, Upfront Ventures, RRE Ventures, and Rho Capital Partners, and brings the company’s total capital to $50 million.

Nanit said it would use the financing for continued product development and global expansion.

For Nanit, the social distancing required to stop the spread of the COVID-19 epidemic has proven to be a huge boost for business. Families with grandparents, aunts, and uncles make up 20 percent of the company’s active users, according to a statistic provided by Nanit.

The company didn’t even have to tap outside investors or go on a road show for its recent raise, according to chief executive Sarah Dorsett. So far, Nanit has sold over 150,000 cameras and has at least twice as many users who are accessing the company’s app for remote monitoring of newborns and one year olds.

Prices for the sleep monitoring and video device range from $299 for a wall mounted camera to $379 for one attached to a floor stand. Currently, Nanit sells its monitoring devices in the U.S., Canada and the U.K.

The company’s app is free for the first year and then costs $5 per month to connect three users to the app. Upgrades are available for $10 per month for more users or $30 per month for unlimited users. And the company’s new line of wearable breathing bands, swaddles and sleeping bags range from $19.99 to $59.99.

Nanit does more than just provide a live, shareable feed of movements. The company is getting set to launch a new feature that would capture when a baby smiles or when they begin to move around in a crib, according to Dorsett.

“The company has experienced incredible growth from 2018, and our recent funding points to the confidence and demand in the marketplace for innovative consumer products,” Dorsett, said in a statement. “Having a baby is one of the most significant life moments not only for parents but for the entire family. We are so fortunate to be able to use our technology to keep families connected and sharing in this precious new journey, no matter where they are.”

Nanit has also launched a new line of wearables called, Breathing Wear, that track their infant’s breathing motion by reading the pattern printed on the fabric without putting sensors on their skin.

“Nanit has solved the age-old problem of teaching your baby to fall asleep. The company’s products are expanding our understanding of “life in the crib” and giving families more ways to share in the joy of parenting. The company has achieved incredible product-market fit and we believe Nanit is well-positioned to address a wide range of health and wellness questions for families and physicians,” said Will Porteous, General Partner, RRE Ventures, in a statement.

#canada, #consumer-products, #general-partner, #jerusalem-venture-partners, #machine-learning, #nanit, #rre-ventures, #tc, #united-kingdom, #united-states, #upfront-ventures

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Extra Crunch Live: Join Charles Hudson for a look at today’s seed-stage landscape

Earlier this week, we kicked off our Extra Crunch Live series with an interesting chat with Cowboy’s Aileen Lee and Ted Wang. Today, we will be back at 3 p.m. PST/6 p.m. EST/10 p.m. GMT with a new guest: Charles Hudson, the general partner of Precursor Ventures.

Extra Crunch members will find an AddEvent link below to drop the details directly into their calendar and folks who want to participate directly can hit up the Zoom link (also below). We’ll ask as many audience questions as we can, so please make them sharp — no pitches, please.

Charles Hudson founded Precursor Ventures to invest in pre-seed and seed-stage companies. Earlier this year, the firm filed paperwork to put together a $40 million third fund after previously raising two main funds and one $10 million “opportunity” fund.

As we await hard and accurate numbers on how COVID-19 is impacting fundraising, we’ll ask Hudson to walk us through the changes he has seen and will cover some basics: The best way to pitch him, what his to-do list looks like these days and if the pandemic has made Precursor newly bullish or bearish on certain sectors.

Then, we’ll get much nerdier: Will we see the number of party rounds fall further now that it’s harder to gather investors in real life? Do you think we’ll see pre-seed raises ask for more ownership terms? And what is the latest with the wacky world of early-stage valuations?

There’s a lot to talk about. And we haven’t even mentioned YC’s pro rata change yet.

After Hudson, we have a stacked lineup of Extra Crunch live guests, including Mitch and Freada Kapor, Mark Cuban, Roelof Botha and Kirsten Green, with more to be announced soon.

You can find information below with details for joining today’s discussion, as well as an AddEvent link to put the details directly onto your calendar.

Sign up for Extra Crunch to get access to all these episodes where you can view the talks live, participate in the Q&A with industry leaders and watch later on-demand if you can’t make the live timing. Talk soon!

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#aileen-lee, #charles-hudson, #extra-crunch, #extra-crunch-live, #freada-kapor-klein, #fundraising, #general-partner, #kapor, #kirsten-green, #market-analysis, #precursor-ventures, #roelof-botha, #startups, #tc, #ted-wang, #venture-capital

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Pre-school EdTech startup Lingumi raises £4m, adds some free services during Covid-19

At these difficult times, parents are concerned for their children’s education, especially given so much of it has had to go online during the Covid-19 pandemic. But what about pre-schoolers who are missing out?

Pre-school children are sponges for information but don’t get formal training on reading and writing until they enter the classroom when they are less sponge-like and surrounded by 30 other children. Things are tougher for non-English speaking children who’s parents want them to learn English.

Lingumi, a platform aimed at toddlers learning critical skills, has now raised £4 million in a funding round led by China-based technology fund North Summit Capital – a fund run by Alibaba’s former Chief Data Scientist Dr Min Wanli – alongside existing investors LocalGlobe, ADV, and Entrepreneur First.

The startup, launched in 2017, is also announcing the launch of daily free activity packs and videos to support children and families during the COVID-19 outbreak, and has pledged to donate 20% of its sales during this period to the Global Children’s Fund.

Lingumi’s interactive courses offer one-to-one tutoring with a kind ‘social learning’ and its first course helps introduce key English grammar and vocabulary from the age of 2.

Instead of tuning into live lessons with tutors, which are typically timetabled and expensive, Lingumi’s lessons are delivered through interactive speaking tasks, teacher videos, and games. At the end of each lesson, children can see videos of Lingumi friends speaking the same words and phrases as them. Because the kids are watching videos, Lingumi is cheaper than live courses, and thus more flexible for parents.

The company launched the first Lingumi course in China last year, focused on teaching spoken English to non-English speakers. The platform is now being used by more than 100,000 families globally, including in mainland China, Taiwan, UK, Germany, Italy, and France. More than 1.5 million English lessons have taken place in China over the past six months, and 40% of active users are also playing lessons daily. Lingumi says its user base grew 50% during China’s lockdown and it has had a rapid uptake in Europe.

“Lingumi’s rapid expansion in the Chinese market required a strategic local investor, and Dr Min and the team had a clear-sighted understanding of the technology and scale opportunity both in China, and globally.”

Dr Wanli Min, general partner at North Summit Capital, commented: “It is only the most privileged children who can access native English speakers for one-on-one tutoring… Lingumi has the potential to democratize English learning and offer every kid a personalized curriculum empowered by AI & Lingumi’s ‘asynchronous teaching; model.”

Competitors to include Lingumi include live teaching solutions like VIPKid, and learning platforms like Jiliguala in China, or Lingokids in the West.

#alibaba, #articles, #artificial-intelligence, #china, #education, #entrepreneur, #europe, #france, #general-partner, #germany, #italy, #lingumi, #taiwan, #tc, #teacher, #united-kingdom

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