Apple plans to build its own financial infrastructure for payments and lending

Apple Card physical card

Enlarge / The featureless, very Apple-like physical Apple Card. (credit: Apple)

Apple plans to build its own in-house technology and infrastructure for financial services, according to a new Bloomberg report citing people with knowledge of the matter.

The initiative is internally codenamed “Breakout” as an allusion to the idea of users breaking free from the current establishment players in the financial system.

Apple has long held to a philosophy of controlling as much of the user experience—and its own pipeline—as possible, believing that offers the dual benefits of better experiences for customers and a bigger slice of the revenue pie for Apple itself. That control also means Apple can be less affected by surprises or failures that come from external partners.

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#apple, #apple-card, #apple-pay, #apple-pay-later, #goldman-sachs, #tech

#DealMonitor – Patient21 sammelt 142 Millionen ein – Wandelbots bekommt 84 Millionen – Gorillas kauft Frichti


Im #DealMonitor für den 25. Januar werfen wir einen Blick auf die wichtigsten, spannendsten und interessantesten Investments und Exits des Tages in der DACH-Region. Alle Deals der Vortage gibt es im großen und übersichtlichen #DealMonitor-Archiv.

INVESTMENTS

Patient21
+++ Target Global, Eight Roads, Piton Capital und Pico Capital investieren 142 Millionen US-Dollar in das bisher sehr stille Berliner Unternehmen Patient21 – siehe Handelsblatt. Patient21 wurde 2019 von Christopher Muhr (Citydeal, Groupon, Auto1) ins Leben gerufen, inzwischen führt Nicolas Hantzsch das Unternehmen. Kingsway Capital, Target Global, Piton Capital investierten in der Vergangenheit bereits heimlich, still und leise in das Unternehmen zu dem auch Dental21, eine “Business Development Agentur mit einer Spezialisierung auf Zahnärzte” und das Dentallabor Dentalab21 gehören. Patient21 betreibt 25 Praxen und die Klinik Sankt Elisabeth. Patient21 übernahm die Heidelberger Klinik im Frühjahr 2021. Mehr über Patient21 

Wandelbots
+++ Der amerikanische Geldgeber Insight Partners und die Altinvestoren 83North, Microsoft, Next47, Paua Ventures, Atlantic Labs und EQT investieren 84 Millionen US-Dollar in Wandelbots. Zuletzt investierten 83North, M12 und Next47, Paua Ventures, EQT Ventures und Atlantic Labs 26 Millionen Euro in das Unternehmen. Insgesamt flossen nun schon 123 Millionen Dollar in Wandelbots. Das Unternehmen aus Dresden, das 2017 von Christian Piechnick, Georg Püschel, Maria Piechnick, Sebastian Werner, Jan Falkenberg, Giang Nguyen und Frank Fitzek gegründet wurde, entwickelt eine Methode zur Programmierung von Industrierobotern. 140 Mitarbeiter:innen arbeiten derzeit für das Unternehmen. Mehr über Wandelbots

Raisin
+++ Altinvestoren wie Goldman Sachs und Hedosophia stellen dem Berliner Unicorn Raisin nach unseren Informationen im Rahmen eines Wandeldarlehens 30 Millionen Euro zur Verfügung. Zuvor hatte das Unternehmen seine geplante Investmentrunde verschoben. Das FinTech, in Deutschland als WeltSparen bekannt, wurde 2012 von Tamaz Georgadze, Frank Freund und Michael Stephan gegründet. 2021 fusionierte die Spareinlagen-Plattform mit dem Hamburger  Wettbewerber Deposit Solutions. Im Zuge der Investmentrunde stieg die Bewertung der Jungfirma auf über 1 Milliarde US-Dollar. Neben Goldman Sachs und Hedosophia investierten in den vergangenen Jahren auch Index Ventures, PayPal, Ribbit Capital, Thrive Capital und Orange Digital Ventures in das FinTech. Mehr im Insider-Podcast #EXKLUSIV

Ninetailed
+++ Der Berliner Frühphasen-Investor Cherry Ventures investiert nach unseren Informationen 800.000 Euro in Ninetailed. Das Berliner Startup, das 2021 von den Aiderly-Gründern Andreas Kaiser und Alexander Braunreuther gegründet wurde, kümmert sich um Personalisierung. “Enhance your visitors experience and grow your customers with personalization for headless CMS and modern Jamstack frameworks without performance trade-offs”, heißt es zum Konzept. Mehr im Insider-Podcast #EXKLUSIV

Ceezer
+++ Picus Capital investiert nach unseren Informationen in Ceezer. Das ClimateTech aus Berlin, das von Magnus Drewelies, zuletzt Park Now, und Jan Oltmanns, zuletzt BCG, gegründet wurde, positioniert sich als “digital-first carbon bank”. In der Selbstbeschreibung heißt es: “Ceezer uses external and proprietary data to help companies seamlessly offset and remove the footprint they cannot currently reduce”. Mehr im Insider-Podcast #EXKLUSIV

Grenion
+++ Bekannte Angel-Investoren wie Pascal Zuta, Ingo Weber, Andreas Burike und Timo Weltner investieren nach unseren Informationen in Grenion. Das Startup aus Mannheim, dass von Fjolla Myftari und Spotted-Macher Nik Myftari gegründet wurde, Beauty- Health- und Wellness-Marken auf. Zum Unternehmen gehören derzeit myRapunzel, Sophie Rosenburg, BitterLiebe, natuamo, Just Oyls and Rosental Organics. D2C-Auper Angel Zuta etwa investierte zuvor in Startups wie Fitvia, Invicible Brands und gitti. Mehr im Insider-Podcast #EXKLUSIV

HQS Quantum Simulations
+++ Quantonation sowie die Altinvestoren UVC Partners, btov und der High-Tech Gründerfonds (HTGF) investieren 12 Millionen Euro in HQS Quantum Simulations, ein Spin-Off des Karlsruher Instituts für Technologie (KIT). Das junge Unternehmen, das 2017 von Michael Marthaler, Jan Reiner, Iris Schwenk und Sebastian Zanker gegründet wurde, entwickelt eine Software zur Simulation von Quantensystemen.  UVC Partners, btov und der HTGF investierten zuvor 2,3 Millionen in das Unternehmen.

NeoTaste
+++ Die Crash Unternehmensgruppe, hinter der Rolf Hilchner und Heinz-Wilhelm Bogena stecken, investiert eine Millionensumme in NeoTaste. Das Startup aus Osnabrück, das 2019 von Hendrik Sander gegründet wurde, lässt sich am besten als Restaurant-Entdecker-App samt Deal-Komponente beschreiben. “Die ausgegebenen Voucher können auch jederzeit an veränderte Kapazitäten oder gestiegene Gastzahlen angepasst werden, um flexibel in jeder Situation einsetzbar zu sein”, teilt das Unternehmen mit.

BenFit 
+++ Namentlich nicht genannte Geldgeber investieren eine mittlere siebenstellige Summe in BenFit. Das Düsseldorfer Food-Startup, das 2018 von Benjamin Jakob gegründet wurde, setzt auf proteinreiche Backwaren. Michael Kern,  ehemaliger Vorstandsvorsitzender von Kamps, sowie Angelika Schöchlin, Partner und Antin Infrastructure Partners investierten in der Vergangenheit bereits in das Unternehmen.

MERGERS & ACQUISITIONS

Frichti
+++ Das Berliner Quick Commerce-Unternehmen Gorillas steht vor der Übernahme von Frichti. Die Jungfirma aus Frankreich liefert Lebensmittel und Fertiggerichte. “Frichti’s expertise around private label, ready to eat segments and profitable operations (wow) will reach Europe and beyond through Gorillas’ global community”, schreibt Gorillas Kagan Sümer zur geplanten Übernahme bei Linkedin. “Over the years, Frichti had raised around €100 million in total ($114 million at today’s exchange rate)”, schreibt TechCrunch zum Deal. Frichti kann man definitiv als Ergänzung zum derzeitigen Gorillas-Konzept sehen. Fertiggerichte oder besser Mittagsmenüs konnten auch Gorillas aus der margenschwachen Lebensmittel-Nische bringen.

Firstbird
+++ Das amerikanische Unternehmen Radancy, ein Anbieter von Recruiting-Technologie, übernimmt das österreichische Startup Firstbird. “Das Unternehmen wird fortan unter dem Namen Firstbird, a Radancy Company, firmieren und wie bisher von den beiden Geschäftsführern Arnim Wahls und Matthias Wolf geleitet. Radancy übernimmt zu 100 % alle Anteile von Investoren und Gesellschaftern. Über den Kaufpreis wurde Stillschweigen vereinbart”, teilen die Unternehmen mit. Firstbird, 2013 von Arnim Wahls, Matthias Wolf und Daniel Winter in Wien gegründet, positioniert sich als Anbieter von SaaS-basierten Mitarbeiterempfehlungsprogrammen. Das Unternehmen wurde in der Vergangenheit unter anderem von Verve Ventures, dem European Super Angels Club und Jobcloud finanziell unterstützt.

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

Foto (oben): azrael74

#83north, #aktuell, #atlantic-lab, #benfit, #berlin, #btov-partners, #ceezer, #cherry-ventures, #climatetech, #d2c, #dental21, #dresden, #dusseldorf, #eight-roads, #fintech, #firstbird, #food, #frichti, #goldman-sachs, #gorillas, #grenion, #hedosophia, #high-tech-grunderfonds, #hqs-quantum-simulations, #hr, #insight-partners, #karlsruhe, #mannheim, #neotaste, #next47, #ninetailed, #osnabruck, #patient21, #paua-ventures, #pico-capital, #picus-capital, #piton-capital, #quantonation, #quick-commerce, #radancy, #raisin, #target-global, #uvc-partners, #venture-capital, #wandelbots, #wien

Confluent CEO Jay Kreps is coming to TC Sessions: SaaS for a fireside chat

As companies process ever-increasing amounts of data, moving it in real time is a huge challenge for organizations. Confluent is a streaming data platform built on top of the open source Apache Kafka project that’s been designed to process massive numbers of events. To discuss this, and more, Confluent CEO and co-founder Jay Kreps will be joining us at TC Sessions: SaaS on Oct 27th for a fireside chat.

Data is a big part of the story we are telling at the SaaS event, as it has such a critical role in every business. Kreps has said in the past the data streams are at the core of every business, from sales to orders to customer experiences. As he wrote in a company blog post announcing the company’s $250 million Series E in April 2020, Confluent is working to process all of this data in real time — and that was a big reason why investors were willing to pour so much money into the company.

“The reason is simple: though new data technologies come and go, event streaming is emerging as a major new category that is on a path to be as important and foundational in the architecture of a modern digital company as databases have been,” Kreps wrote at the time.

The company’s streaming data platform takes a multi-faceted approach to streaming and builds on the open source Kafka project. While anyone can download and use Kafka, as with many open source projects, companies may lack the resources or expertise to deal with the raw open source code. Many a startup have been built on open source to help simplify whatever the project does, and Confluent and Kafka are no different.

Kreps told us in 2017 that companies using Kafka as a core technology include Netflix, Uber, Cisco and Goldman Sachs. But those companies have the resources to manage complex software like this. Mere mortal companies can pay Confluent to access a managed cloud version or they can manage it themselves and install it in the cloud infrastructure provider of choice.

The project was actually born at LinkedIn in 2011 when their engineers were tasked with building a tool to process the enormous number of events flowing through the platform. The company eventually open sourced the technology it had created and Apache Kafka was born.

Confluent launched in 2014 and raised over $450 million along the way. In its last private round in April 2020, the company scored a $4.5 billion valuation on a $250 million investment. As of today, it has a market cap of over $17 billion.

In addition to our discussion with Kreps, the conference will also include Google’s Javier Soltero, Amplitude’s Olivia Rose, as well as investors Kobie Fuller and Casey Aylward, among others. We hope you’ll join us. It’s going to be a thought-provoking lineup.

Buy your pass now to save up to $100 when you book by October 1. We can’t wait to see you in October!

#apache-kafka, #casey-aylward, #cisco, #cloud, #cloud-computing, #computing, #confluent, #developer, #enterprise, #event-streaming, #free-software, #goldman-sachs, #google, #javier-soltero, #jay-kreps, #kobie-fuller, #linkedin, #microsoft, #netflix, #open-source, #saas, #software, #software-as-a-service, #tc, #tc-sessions-saas-2021, #uber

For tech firms, the risk of not preparing for leadership changes is huge

Every week over the past three and a half years, an average of three CEOs have exited tech companies in the U.S. That tally is higher — in good times and bad — than in any of the other 26 for-profit sectors tracked by executive search firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas. You’d think tech companies should be the paradigm of how to prep for leadership transitions, since they operate in such a constant state of flux.

They’re far from it.

A change of command is one of the most delicate moments in the life cycle of any organization. If mishandled, the transition from one CEO to the next can result in a loss of market valuation, momentum and focus, as well as key personnel, customers and partners. It may even become that turning point when an organization begins to slide toward irrelevance.

With so much at stake, 84% of tech execs agree that succession planning is more important than ever because of today’s fast-changing business environment, according to our new survey of corporate America’s leaders. Seven out of 10 survey respondents agreed that tech companies face more scrutiny than other multinationals during a transition.

84% of tech execs agree that succession planning is more important than ever because of today’s fast-changing business environment.

Yet we found that tech execs appear just as unprepared for C-suite transitions as their peers in other sectors. Three out of five respondents said their companies don’t have a documented plan to handle a leadership change, even though, by that same ratio, they acknowledge that a documented plan is the biggest determinant in seamless transitions.

The findings may not be troubling if these respondents were millennial startup founders, years from leaving their companies. The executives we polled, however, hail from 160 companies that have been in business for a minimum of 15 years — 35 are tech companies, the largest industry cohort in the survey.

The smallest companies have at least 1,500 employees and $500 million in annual revenue, while the largest have head counts of over 500,000 and revenue upward of $100 billion. They have been around long enough to understand — and put into place — risk management and crisis planning, including what happens should their leaders fall victim to the proverbial milk truck.

Tech execs should be more rigorous about succession planning for one important reason: institutional memory. Tech firms generally are younger than other companies of a similar size, which partly explains why the median age of S&P 500 companies plunged to 33 years in 2018 from 85 years in 2000, according to McKinsey & Co.

These enterprises clearly have accomplished a lot in their short lives, but in their haste, most have not captured their history, unlike their longer-lived peers in other sectors. Less than half of these tech firms, in fact, have formally recorded their leader’s story for posterity. That puts them at a disadvantage when, inevitably, they will be required to onboard newcomers to their C-suites.

It’s best to record this history well before the intense swirl of a leadership transition begins. Crucially, it will help the incoming and future generations of leadership understand critical aspects of its track record, the lessons learned, culture and identity. It also explains why the organization has evolved as it has, what binds people together and what may trigger resistance based on previous experience. It’s as much about moving forward as looking back.

Most execs in our poll get it, with 85% saying a company’s history can be a playbook for new executives to learn and prepare for upcoming challenges and opportunities. “History is the mother of innovation for any type of company,” one respondent said. “History,” writes another, “includes the roadmap to failures as well as successes.”

But this documented history cannot be a hagiography of the departing CEO. Too often, outgoing execs spend their last years in office constructing their own trophy cases. Even as they conceded their own flat-footedness on transition planning, the majority of execs said they have already taken steps to create and reinforce their personal legacies — two-thirds said they have already completed their own formal legacy planning, many with the blessing of their boards.

It’s ironic, then, that three out of five also said that the legacy of a CEO or founder often overshadows the skill set and experience a successor brings. Two-thirds of tech execs believed that the longer a leader has been in office, the more it complicates a transition.

Tech leaders can do this right and have done so. Asked which five big-name CEO transitions was most successful, respondents’ No. 1 was Apple’s handoff from Steve Jobs to Tim Cook (38%), followed by Microsoft’s page-turn from Steve Ballmer to Satya Nadella (28%). The others, at General Electric, General Motors and Goldman Sachs, each netted no more than 13% of votes.

Apple’s apparent predominance in this survey might contradict the advice to play down the aggrandizement of an exiting CEO and highlight the compilation and transfer of an organization’s history to the next chief executive. Jobs, after all, painstakingly managed his legacy until the end. But even as he continued to take center-stage, he also made sure to pass along Apple’s institutional knowledge and ethos to Cook over the 13 years they shared space on Apple’s executive floor.

Sooner or later, everyone in the C-suite today — including startup founders — will depart. For the sake of everyone they’ll leave behind, they should begin prepping for that day now.

#column, #entrepreneurship, #goldman-sachs, #human-resource-management, #leadership-tactics, #opinion, #personnel, #planning, #satya-nadella, #startups, #tim-cook

i80 Group has quietly committed $1B in credit to the fintech and proptech worlds

Not every startup wants to raise venture capital. And then there are those that do want to raise VC money but don’t want to use it for specific things.

In recent years, a number of firms have emerged looking to meet the credit needs of such venture-backed and growth startups: i80 Group is one of those firms.

Former Goldman Sachs investment banker Marc Helwani founded i80 in 2016 after investing in early-stage New York-based fintechs in 2014-2015 via his VC fund, Avenue A Ventures.

“It became very clear to me that fintech was going to explode,” he recalls. “At that time, it was still relatively new. And every time I spoke to a company, they would tell me, ‘We know how to raise VC, but what about the credit?’ I just saw this white space.”

For example, proptechs that buy homes on behalf of buyers don’t want to use venture money. Fintechs that want to make loans to consumers don’t want to use equity to do it. Instead, in those cases, credit might be more desirable.

Enter i80. The firm offers credit exclusively, and over the years has quietly committed more than $1 billion to over 15 companies –including real estate marketplace Properly, finance app MoneyLion and SaaS financing company Capchase — that have all raised a significant amount of venture capital but are looking for credit “to help them scale very efficiently and in a non-dilutive manner so they can retain more ownership of their companies,” Helwani said. 

Its $1 billion milestone follows fund commitments nearing $500 million from an unnamed “leading global asset manager” as well as other institutional and retail investors.

Image Credits: Founder and Chief Investment Officer Marc Helwani / i80 Group

I80 — which derives its name from the highway that connects New York and San Francisco — is mainly focused on the fintech and proptech sectors. 

“They are the two centers for the venture ecosystem,” Helwani said. “And we’re trying to be a bridge between those two cities.” I80 has offices in both locations and will soon be opening one in Montreal.

The firm works in conjunction with VC firms such as a16z (more formally known as Andreessen Horowitz); Affirm and PayPal co-founder Max Levchin’s SciFi; Khosla Ventures; Union Square Ventures; and QED.

“In a perfect world, venture capital would be called venture equity,” Helwani said. “VCs’ capital is critical for companies to hire and get office space. But when it comes time to do what the actual business is, such as provide loans or buy homes, capital like ours is very accretive without VCs and management losing ownership in the business. In these cases, using both credit and equity makes a lot of sense.”

Helwani is reluctant to call what i80 offers venture “debt.” He says that has a very specific connotation and is what Silicon Valley Bank and others like it do in providing debt as a percentage of a previous equity round. Instead, according to Helwani, i80’s approach is to minimize fees. The vast majority of its deals are “interest-rate related.”

“With mortgages, for example, we never think about the fees upfront, and focus more on the interest rate,” Helwan said. “We believe the more transparent we are, the more companies will want to work with us.”

I80 conducts quarterly calls with VCs and for now, that’s how it typically sources most of its deal flow. It also gets referrals. Helwani believes that i80 stands out from other firms also offering credit in that it’s “not trying to be credit investors in VC clothing.”

He also thinks that the fact that the i80 team is made of operators, as well as investors, is a contributing factor.

The firm is set to close another half a dozen deals in the next 60 to 90 days, and then plans to set its sights on raising more capital.

“We want to fill this void, and help companies raise money in their subsequent rounds at higher valuations,” Helwani said.

#andreesen-horowitz, #capchase, #finance, #financial-services, #financial-technology, #goldman-sachs, #i80-group, #khosla-ventures, #max-levchin, #montreal, #new-york, #qed, #san-francisco, #startup-company, #startups, #union-square-ventures, #venture-capital

With Apple Pay Later, Apple may take another stab at the PayPal model

Apple Pay on an iPhone and Apple Watch.

Enlarge / Apple Pay on an iPhone and Apple Watch. (credit: Apple)

Apple will continue to expand beyond traditional technology projects with a new feature the company is internally calling “Apple Pay Later,” according to a new report from Bloomberg.

With Apple Pay Later, users making either retail or online purchases with Apple Pay will have the option of paying over time rather than entirely up front. Customers will not need an Apple Card (the company’s recently launched credit card service) to take advantage of Apple Pay Later, according to the report.

Apple will offer two payment options. “Apple Pay Monthly Installments” will allow users to pay off a loan, with interest, in monthly installments. “Apple Pay in 4” will let users pay for purchases with four interest-free payments due every two weeks.

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#apple, #apple-pay, #apple-pay-later, #apple-watch, #goldman-sachs, #ios, #ipad, #ipados, #iphone, #paypal, #tech, #wallet, #watchos

Ramp adds merchant ‘blocking’ to corporate credit card

Ask any employee and they’ll tell you one of their least favorite things to do is file expenses. And for companies, the process of managing corporate spend is one of their biggest challenges.

Corporate credit cards help ease that pain, so it’s no surprise that the competition between startups in the space is heating up by the day. 

One of the fastest growing players in the space is Ramp, a fintech company that earlier this year secured a $150 million debt facility with Goldman Sachs after having raised a $30 million Series B in late December 2020.

Today, the New York-based company is announcing a new feature that it says will give its corporate customers greater control and flexibility over the way their cards are used. Specifically, Ramp said it now offers its customers the option to approve or block merchants on the cards they offer to their employees.

In an exclusive interview with TechCrunch, Ramp co-founder and CEO Eric Glyman said the move was in response to customer demand.

“This was one of our most requested features, especially from companies with over 100 employees,” he told TechCrunch. “They said, ‘I can block a spam call. It’s crazy I can’t do this with my credit card.’ ”

Image Credits: Ramp

With the new feature, Ramp says companies “have complete control” over how their employees use their corporate cards, down to the vendor level. It allows companies to outline specifically who employees can spend with, which vendors can be charged on what card and how much they can charge. 

So, why is this a big deal? Glyman said this means that merchant-specific cards greatly reduce the risk from stolen or compromised cards. It also helps keep employees from inflating expenses or filing false reimbursement claims.

“This gives security and control back to finance teams in a way that was never before possible,” he said.

It also helps companies in their quest to save money by using corporate credit cards in the first place, Glyman added.

“For example, they can restrict spending to businesses or companies that they have discounts or preferential pricing with,” he said. “It’s another layer of enforcement for finance teams.”

The process was not an easy one since understanding and clustering unique identifiers to be able to identify merchants was “technically complex,” according to Glyman.

For its part, Ramp counts “thousands” of businesses as customers, with well into the tens of thousands individuals using its cards.

“We’re powering into 9 figures monthly and over $1 billion in spend,” Glyman said.

The company must be doing something right.

Since raising the credit line earlier this year, Ramp has seen continued growth, more than doubling volume over the past three months.

While Glyman declined to reveal specific revenue figures, he said Ramp grew by over 6,000% in 2020, compared to the year prior and has grown over 1,000 over the past 12 months. Customers are typically fast-growing startups as well as small businesses. Some of its more well-known startup customers include Ro, Sleep Eight, ClickUp, Marqeta, Candid, Better, Truebill and Nuggs.

While Ramp makes money mostly by interchange fees, Glyman said the two-year-old startup thinks of itself as a SaaS operator.

“Our long-term strategy to develop great software,” he said.

#articles, #business-models, #credit-cards, #economy, #entrepreneurship, #eric-glyman, #finance, #financial-technology, #fintech, #goldman-sachs, #marqeta, #money, #new-york, #payments, #ramp, #small-business, #smart-card, #startup, #startup-company, #tc

Female Founder Fund closes third fund with $57M for female, BIPOC founders

Female Founders Fund announced Tuesday the closing of its Fund III after raising $57 million to create what the seven-year-old New York-based early-stage fund considers “the largest fund for seed capital specifically for female founders.”

The oversubscribed fund is backed by institutional investors including Goldman Sachs, Cambridge Associates, Melinda French Gates’ Pivotal Ventures, Twitter, Plexo Capital and the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. It also includes investments from 23andMe founder Anne Wojcicki, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki and Houseparty co-founder Sima Sistani.

“I firmly believe we are missing out on transformational ideas by not putting resources behind women,” said Melinda French Gates, founder of Pivotal Ventures, in a statement. “I’ve invested in the Female Founders Fund because we need women founders and funders at the table if we want to build a more prosperous and inclusive economy for everyone. New and innovative ideas come from everywhere; we can’t keep looking in the same old packages.”

Fund III brings FFF’s total assets under management to over $95 million since it was formed in 2014 to invest in female-founded technology companies and lifestyle brands. The fund’s portfolio is already 70% invested in BIPOC founders, which stands for Black, Indigenous and people of color, Anu Duggal, founding partner of Female Founders Fund, told TechCrunch.

FFF began raising its third fund in 2020, making its first close just before the global pandemic locked everything down. That didn’t slow down Duggal’s ability to meet potential investors, which she said was done from her kitchen table.

“It was an incredible testament to how fast so much can be done without the flights and in-person meetings, which does take a bunch of time,” she said. “I think investors felt the same because March through June was preoccupied with making sure portfolio companies were in a good spot.”

The new fund is a continuation of FFF’s existing strategy — essentially doubling down on investing in female, women of color and LGBTQ+ founders who are building companies at the seed stage. The biggest differentiator with the third fund is that FFF will be able to increase its check sizes to between $750,000 to $1 million, Duggal said. Half of the fund will go to follow-on funding.

While fundraising over the past 18 months, Duggal said she was inspired by the momentum of female-led companies going public, including Bumble, 23andMe and Figs, which also drove investor backing of the new fund, she added.

Fund III’s fundraising goal is in line with the transition from FFF’s previous funds: Fund I was $6 million and Fund II was $25 million. So far, FFF has invested in more than 50 female-led companies nationwide.

To date, FFF has invested in seven companies from Fund III, including a few that haven’t been announced yet or are in stealth mode. Duggal expects to be able to invest in 25 companies from this fund.

Many of the companies are pre-launch, so there aren’t early successes quite yet, but one of the first investments was in an at-home blood test created by one of Facebook’s female engineers, she said. FFF was able to bring in Anne Wojcicki as an angel investor.

“One of our themes is consumerization of digital health, and this is a great example,” Duggal said. “It can be annoying to have to go get blood drawn, and this is putting the experience and the data in the hands of the consumer.”

The Female Founders Fund is also looking at startups focused on the development of the workplace — tools for employees, small businesses and creators. Most everyone had to adjust to a pandemic working lifestyle, and the firm doesn’t see that ending soon.

Two newer areas of focus are climate change and education. Within education, FFF sees a trend in opportunities for technology to enable senior citizens to remain mentally engaged through continuing education. The firm is also looking at the climate market for technology to replace plastic food containers, refillable solutions, alternatives to meat and ways to record carbon usages on a daily basis.

“From day one, we have been committed to building the largest and most powerful network of female operators in technology,” Duggal added. “We are happy with the support we have received from Anne Wojcicki and Susan Wojcicki, Houseparty and some of our founders, as well as Melinda French Gates. This shows that we are developing something that is unique.”

 

#anne-wojcicki, #anu-duggal, #female-founders-fund, #funding, #goldman-sachs, #pivotal-ventures, #susan-wojcicki, #tc, #venture-capital

AI cybersecurity provider SentinelOne files for $100M IPO

SentinelOne, a late-stage security startup that helps organizations secure their data using AI and machine learning, has filed for an IPO on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE).

In an S-1 filing on Thursday, the security company revealed that for the three months ending April 30, its revenues increased by 108% year-on-year to $37.4 million and its customer base grew to 4,700, up from 2,700 a year prior. Despite this pandemic-fueled growth, SentinelOne’s net losses more than doubled from $26.6 million in 2020 to $62.6 million.

“We also expect our operating expenses to increase in the future as we continue to invest for our future growth, including expanding our research and development function to drive further development of our platform, expanding our sales and marketing activities, developing the functionality to expand into adjacent markets, and reaching customers in new geographic locations,” SentinelOne wrote in its filing.

The Mountain View-based company said it intends to list its Class A common stock using the ticker symbol “S” and that details about the price range and number of common shares to be put up for the IPO are yet to be determined. The S-1 filing also identifies Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, Bank of America Securities, Barclays and Wells Fargo Securities as the lead underwriters.

SentinelOne raised $276 million in a funding round in November last year, tripling its $1 billion valuation from February 2020 to $3 billion. At the time, CEO and founder Tomer Weingarten told TechCrunch that an IPO “would be the next logical step” for the company.

SentinelOne, which was founded in 2013 and has raised a total of $696.5 million through eight rounds of funding, is looking to raise up to $100 million in its IPO, and said it’s intending to use the net proceeds to increase its visibility in the cybersecurity marketplace and for product development and other “general corporate processes.”

It added that “may also use a portion of the net proceeds for the acquisition of, or investment in, technologies, solutions, or businesses that complement our business.” The company’s sole acquisition so far took place back in February when it bought high-speed logging startup Scalyr for $155 million.

SentinelOne is going public during a period of heightened public interest in cybersecurity. There has been a wave of high-profile cyberattacks during the COVID-19 pandemic, with hackers taking advantage of widespread remote working necessitated as a result.

One of the biggest attacks saw Russian hackers breach the networks of IT company SolarWinds, enabling them to gain access to government agencies and corporations. SentinelOne’s endpoint protection solution was able to detect and stop the related malicious payload, protecting its customers.

“The world is full of criminals, state actors, and other hostile agents who seek to exfiltrate and exploit data to disrupt our way of life,” Weingarten said in SentinelOne’s SEC filing. “Our mission is to keep the world running by protecting and securing the core pillars of modern infrastructure: data and the systems that store, process, and share information. This is an endless mission as attackers evolve rapidly in their quest to disrupt operations, breach data, turn profit, and inflict damage.”

#artificial-intelligence, #barclays, #ceo, #cloud, #companies, #computing, #goldman-sachs, #initial-public-offering, #machine-learning, #morgan-stanley, #scalyr, #security, #sentinelone, #solarwinds, #system-administration, #u-s-securities-and-exchange-commission

#DealMonitor – Celonis sammelt 1 Milliarde ein – Tier Mobility bekommt 60 Millionen – Cognigy sammelt 44 Millionen ein


Im aktuellen #DealMonitor für den 2. Juni werfen wir wieder einen Blick auf die wichtigsten, spannendsten und interessantesten Investments und Exits des Tages in der DACH-Region. Alle Deals der Vortage gibt es im großen und übersichtlichen #DealMonitor-Archiv.

INVESTMENTS

Celonis
+++ Durable Capital Partners, T. Rowe Price Associates, Franklin Templeton, Splunk Ventures und “eine Gruppe weiterer Investoren” sowie Altinvestoren wie Arena Holdings investieren 1 Milliarde US-Dollar in das Process Mining-Grownup Celonis. Eine solche Summe sammelte bisher noch kein Startup auf seinen Schlag ein. Die Bewertung liegt bei 11 Milliarden Dollar. Damit ist Celonis das erste deutsche Decacorn. Mit dem Begriff werden Unternehmen beschrieben, die mindestens mit 10 Milliarden US-Dollar bewertet werden. Mehr im ausführlichen Artikel zum Decacorn-Investment

Tier Mobility
+++ Goldman Sachs stellt dem millionenschweren Berliner Mobility-Startup Tier, das E-Scooter und Roller anbietet, eine sogenannte Asset-Backed-Finanzierung in Höhe von 60 Millionen US-Dollar zur Verfügung. “The debt facility from the leading investment banking, securities and investment management firm is the first of such scale in micro-mobility and will fuel TIER’s e-scooter fleet expansion for 2021”, heißt es in der Presseaussendung. Investoren wie SoftBank, Mubadala Capital, Northzone, Goodwater Capital und White Star Capital investierten bereits in Tier. Das Unternehmen wurde 2018 von Lawrence Leuschner, Matthias Laug und Julian Blessin gegründet. Mehr über Tier Mobility

Cognigy
+++ Insight Partners. DN Capital, Global Brain, Nordic Makers, Inventures und Digital Innovation and Growth investieren 44 Millionen US-Dollar in Cognigy. Das Düsseldorfer Unternehmen, das 2016 von Philipp Heltewig und Sascha Poggemann gegründet wurde, entwickelt einen Künstliche Intelligenz-Service, Kundenanfragen zu managen. Zu den Kunden des Unternehmens gehören unter anderem Lufthansa, BioNTech und Daimler. Bis Ende 2019 flossen bereits rund 6,5 Millionen Euro in Cognigy. Mit dem frischen Kapital möchte das Unternehmen “sein weltweites Kundenwachstum fördern, neue Partnerschaften vorantreiben und die marktführenden Funktionen seiner Plattform kontinuierlich weiterentwickeln, um die Einführung von Künstlicher Intelligenz auf Unternehmensebene zu beschleunigen”. Mehr über Cognigy

OroraTech
+++ Bayern Kapital, Ananda Impact Ventures, Findus Ventures, APEX Ventures und “ein Konsortium erfahrener Business Angels” investieren 5,8 Millionen Euro in OroraTech.Das Münchner Unternehmen positioniert sich als “kommerzieller Anbieter von Satelliten, die – mit Infrarot-Kameras ausgestattet – Buschfeuer überall auf der Welt frühzeitig entdecken und überwachen können”. Das junge Startup entstand als Spin-off des Raumfahrtlehrstuhls der TUM. Mehr über OroraTech

Evana
+++ Wecken & Cie., AC+X und das Schweizer Family Office Arventus sowie die Altinvestoren Patrizia und AM Alpha investieren 10 Millionen Euro in das PropTech Evana. “Das Unternehmen nutzt die Finanzierung, um Evana als führende Plattform für das digitale Daten- und Dokumenten-Management in Europa und Technologieführer für Künstliche Intelligenz in der Immobilienwirtschaft zu etablieren”, heißt es in der Presseaussendung. Das 2015 gegründete PropTech (Frankfurt am Main und Saarbrücken) beschäftigt mehr als 100 Mitarbeiter:innen.

Bikemap
+++ Der niederländische Investors Ponooc, der auch bei Swapfiets und Unu an Bord ist, investiert eine siebenstellige Summe in das Wiener Startup Bikemap. Die Jungfirma bezeichnet sich selbst als “bisher größte nutzer:innengenerierte Fahrradroutensammlung der Welt”. Die Bikemap-App, die 2014 gegründet wurde, bietet nach eigenen Angaben “mehr als sieben Millionen Routen in über 100 Ländern” an. 30 Mitarbeiter:innen arbeiten für das Unternehmen.

WeProfit
+++ Angel-Investoren wie Clemens Bollinger, Vahe Andonians, Armen Kocharyan, Ara Abrahamyan und Jörg-Matthias Butzlaff investieren 330.000 US-Dollar in WeProfit. Das Startup aus Frankfurt am Main bringt sich als “Software Development-Marktplatz” in Stellung. Über die Plattform können Unternehmen “passende und gescreente Geschäftspartner für Software Development-Projekte finden”. WeProfit wurde von Sahak Artazyan, Matteo Emmanuello und Arsen Abrahamyan gegründet.

Fyppit
+++ Der Berliner Geldgeber APX, hinter dem Axel Springer und Porsche stecken, investiert in Fyppit. Das Berliner Startup, das 2020 von Harsha Jagasia, Tobias Lehmann und Andy Seto gegründet wurde, bietet einen Online-Marktplatz an, bei dem Kundinnen und Kunden “Waren direkt von ihren lokalen Geschäften mit Lieferung am selben Tag bestellen können”.

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

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

Foto (oben): azrael74

#aktuell, #ananda-impact-ventures, #apex-ventures, #apx, #bayern-kapital, #berlin, #bikemap, #cognigy, #dusseldorf, #evana, #findus-ventures, #frankfurt-am-main, #fyppit, #global-brain, #goldman-sachs, #insight-partners-dn-capital, #inventures, #mobility, #nordic-makers, #ororatech, #ponooc, #proptech, #saarbrucken, #tier-mobility, #venture-capital, #weprofit, #wien

Tier banks $60 million in debt from Goldman Sachs to expand scooter fleet

Berlin-based Tier Mobility has raised $60 million to help the e-scooter company expand its fleet and its network of battery charging stations in 2021.

The funds, which come from investment banking firm Goldman Sachs, come just weeks after Tier was awarded the London e-scooter pilot permit, alongside Lime and Dott. With a major new city on the horizon and hints of further expansion plans, Tier will need a significant upfront investment to cover everything from fleet orders to local warehouses to new teams.

In November, Tier also closed a $250 million Series C funding round, led by SoftBank Vision Fund 2. The latest funds are asset-backed financing, meaning Goldman Sachs is essentially providing Tier with a loan that is secured by one of the company’s assets, probably its scooters. Tier did not respond to a request for specifics on the loan.

“The size of this highly scalable asset-backed debt facility is a game-changing first in micro-mobility, accelerating our expansion and cementing our market leadership in Europe,” said Alex Gayer, Tier’s chief financial officer, in a statement. “This facility leverages our recent equity raise and will enhance our capital-efficient growth.”

In addition to London, over the past year, Tier has added the coveted cities of Dubai and Paris to its list. It’s available in over 100 cities across 12 countries in Europe and the Middle East. With the fresh capital, Tier plans to extend its international coverage and invest in its multi-modal fleet, adding bicycles and mopeds to the mix.

The Tier Energy Network is Tier Mobility’s plan to place charging stations in retail stores to incentivize riders to swap scooter batteries.

The Goldman Sachs-backed funding will also enable Tier to expand its Tier Energy Network, a venture to place battery charging stations in retail stores across its coverage area. The energy network would provide an incentive structure for riders to take a minute at the end of their ride to swap the scooter’s battery and earn free credit, while shops can enjoy the extra foot traffic.

“Even amid a global pandemic, TIER has established a proven track record of profitable unit economics and asset longevity,” said Ben Payne, managing director at Goldman Tier, in a statement. “We are excited to help the European leader extend sustainable mobility to more people across the world.”

#e-scooter, #escooters, #europe, #goldman-sachs, #tc, #tier, #tier-mobility, #transportation

Goldman Sachs leads $202M investment in project44, doubling its valuation to $1.2B in a matter of months

The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted a lot in the world, and supply chains are no exception. 

A number of applications that aim to solve workflow challenges across the supply chain exist. But getting real-time access to information from transportation providers has remained somewhat elusive for shippers and logistics companies alike. 

Enter Project44. The 7-year-old Chicago-based company has built an API-based platform that it  says acts as “the connective tissue” between transportation providers, third-party logistics companies, shippers and the systems. Using predictive analytics, the platform provides crucial real-time information such as estimated time of arrivals (ETAs).

“Supply chains have undergone an incredible amount of change – there has never been a greater need for agility, resiliency, and the ability to rapidly respond to changes across the supply chain,” said Jason Duboe, the company’s Chief Growth Officer.

And now, project44 announced it has raised $202 million in a Series E funding round led by Goldman Sachs Asset Management and Emergence Capital. Girteka and Lineage Logistics also participated in the financing, which gives project44 a post-money valuation of $1.2 billion. That doubles the company’s valuation at the time of its Insight Partners-led $100 million Series D in December.

The raise is quite possibly the largest investment in the supply chain visibility space to date.

Project44 is one of those refreshingly transparent private companies that gives insight into its financials. This month, the company says it crossed $50 million in annual recurring revenue (ARR), which is up 100% year over year. It has more than 600 customers including some of the world’s largest brands such as Amazon, Walmart, Nestle, Starbucks, Unilever, Lenovo and P&G. Customers hail from a variety of industries including CPG, retail, e-commerce, manufacturing, pharma, and chemical.

Over the last year, the pandemic created a number of supply chain disruptions, underscoring the importance of technologies that help provide visibility into supply chain operations. Project44 said it worked hard to help customers to mitigate “relentless volatility, bottlenecks, and logistics breakdowns,” including during the Suez Canal incident where a cargo ship got stuck for days.

Looking ahead, Project44 plans to use its new capital in part to continue its global expansion. Project44 recently announced its expansion into China and has plans to grow in the Asia-Pacific, Australia/New Zealand and Latin American markets, according to Duboe.

We are also going to continue to invest heavily in our carrier products to enable more participation and engagement from the transportation community that desires a stronger digital experience to improve efficiency and experience for their customers,” he told TechCrunch. The company also aims to expand its artificial intelligence (AI) and data science capabilities and broaden sales and marketing reach globally.

Last week, project44 announced its acquisition of ClearMetal, a San Francisco-based supply chain planning software company that focuses on international freight visibility, predictive planning and overall customer experience. WIth the buy, Duboe said  project44 will now have two contracts with Amazon: road and ocean. 

“Project44 will power what they are chasing,” he added.

And in March, the company also acquired Ocean Insights to expand its ocean offerings.

Will Chen, a managing director of Goldman Sachs Asset Management, believes that project44 is unique in its scope of network coverage across geographies and modes of transport.  

“Most competitors predominantly focus on over-the-road visibility and primarily serve one region, whereas project44 is a truly global business that provides end-to-end visibility across their customers’ entire supply chain,” he said.

Goldman Sachs Asset Management, noted project44 CEO and founder Jett McCandless, will help the company grow not only by providing capital but through its network and resources.

#amazon, #api, #articles, #artificial-intelligence, #asia-pacific, #australia, #business, #chicago, #chief, #china, #clearmetal, #companies, #e-commerce, #emergence-capital, #funding, #fundings-exits, #goldman-sachs, #insight-partners, #lenovo, #logistics, #manufacturing, #nestle, #new-zealand, #officer, #pg, #recent-funding, #san-francisco, #starbucks, #startup, #startups, #supply-chain, #supply-chain-management, #transportation, #unilever, #venture-capital, #walmart

Goldman Sachs leads $45M investment into auto fintech startup MotoRefi

MotoRefi has raised another $45 million in a round led by Goldman Sachs just five months after investors poured $10 million into the fintech startup to help turbocharge its auto refinancing business.

The startup developed an auto refinancing platform that handles the entire loan process, including finding the best rates, paying off the old lender and re-titling the vehicle. MotoRefi says using its platform saves consumers an average of $100 a month on their car payments, a goal achieved partly because it works directly with lending institutions. The company’s refinancing tools had seen steady growth until the COVID-19 pandemic popped into in higher gear. CEO Kevin Bennett said MotoRefi is on track to issue $1 billion in loans by the end of the year, a fivefold increase from the same period last year.

Bennett said the short timeline between rounds was driven by investor confidence in its metrics, which have continued on to grow at a fast pace, and the basic economics around the business.

“We candidly weren’t planning on raising yet, but they (Goldman Sachs) were comfortable given the relationship we have built and the track record and success of the business, to preempt the round and move that calendar up,” Bennett said.

MotoRefi’s platform is available in 46 states and Washington DC with plans to be live in all 50 by the end of the year. The startup has ramped up hiring to help support that growth. By the first quarter of 2021, it had more than doubled its headcount to 187 employees from the same period last year. Its workforce has now popped to 250 employees. The company has hired several senior level executives, opened a new headquarters and partnered with SoFi. Goldman Sach’s vp of venture capital and growth equity Jade Mandel has joined MotoRefi’s board.

And Bennett sees plenty of room to grow as consumers seek out ways to rebalance their debts. The auto refinance market in the United States is $40 billion. However, overall auto loan debt is $1.3 trillion. With 40 million auto loans originated every year, MotoRefi is promised a consistent flow of potential new customers.

The fresh injection of capital, which included investor IA Capital as well as returning backers Moderne Ventures, Accomplice, Link Ventures, Motley Fool Ventures and CMFG Ventures, will be used to continue to build out its products and services and hire more people. MotoRefi has raised $60 million since its inception in 2016.

Bennett believes the company is now in self-sustaining position.

“Thankfully, we moved beyond the world where we are raising capital and then raising more capital as we run out of capital,” he said. “I think we have a great sustainable business and so we, in some sense runway is infinite, and we are building a great profitable business. That’s not to say that we won’t ever raise again, but it will be based on strategic considerations, as opposed to out of necessity.”

#auto-loans, #automotive, #car-loans, #finance, #fintech, #goldman-sachs, #motorefi, #tc, #transportation

Amount raises $99M at a $1B+ valuation to help banks better compete with fintechs

Amount, a company that provides technology to banks and financial institutions, has raised $99 million in a Series D funding round at a valuation of just over $1 billion.

WestCap, a growth equity firm founded by ex-Airbnb and Blackstone CFO Laurence Tosi, led the round. Hanaco Ventures, Goldman Sachs, Invus Opportunities and Barclays Principal Investments also participated.

Notably, the investment comes just over five months after Amount raised $86 million in a Series C round led by Goldman Sachs Growth at a valuation of $686 million. (The original raise was $81 million, but Barclays Principal Investments invested $5 million as part of a second close of the Series C round). And that round came just three months after the Chicago-based startup quietly raised $58 million in a Series B round in March. The latest funding brings Amount’s total capital raised to $243 million since it spun off from Avant — an online lender that has raised over $600 million in equity — in January of 2020.

So, what kind of technology does Amount provide? 

In simple terms, Amount’s mission is to help financial institutions “go digital in months — not years” and thus, better compete with fintech rivals. The company formed just before the pandemic hit. But as we have all seen, demand for the type of technology Amount has developed has only increased exponentially this year and last.

CEO Adam Hughes says Amount was spun out of Avant to provide enterprise software built specifically for the banking industry. It partners with banks and financial institutions to “rapidly digitize their financial infrastructure and compete in the retail lending and buy now, pay later sectors,” Hughes told TechCrunch.

Specifically, the 400-person company has built what it describes as “battle-tested” retail banking and point-of-sale technology that it claims accelerates digital transformation for financial institutions. The goal is to give those institutions a way to offer “a secure and seamless digital customer and merchant experience” that leverages Amount’s verification and analytics capabilities. 

Image Credits: Amount

HSBC, TD Bank, Regions, Banco Popular and Avant (of course) are among the 10 banks that use Amount’s technology in an effort to simplify their transition to digital financial services. Recently, Barclays US Consumer Bank became one of the first major banks to offer installment point-of-sale options, giving merchants the ability to “white label” POS payments under their own brand (using Amount’s technology).

The pandemic dramatically accelerated banks’ interest in further digitizing the retail lending experience and offering additional buy now, pay later financing options with the rise of e-commerce,” Hughes, former president and COO at Avant, told TechCrunch. “Banks are facing significant disruption risk from fintech competitors, so an Amount partnership can deliver a world-class digital experience with significant go-to-market advantages.”

Also, he points out, consumers’ digital expectations have changed as a result of the forced digital adoption during the pandemic, with bank branches and stores closing and more banking done and more goods and services being purchased online.

Amount delivers retail banking experiences via a variety of channels and a point-of-sale financing product suite, as well as features such as fraud prevention, verification, decisioning engines and account management.

Overall, Amount clients include financial institutions collectively managing nearly $2 trillion in U.S. assets and servicing more than 50 million U.S. customers, according to the company.

Hughes declined to provide any details regarding the company’s financials, saying only that Amount “performed well” as a standalone company in 2020 and that the company is expecting “significant” year-over-year revenue growth in 2021.

Amount plans to use its new capital to further accelerate R&D by investing in its technology and products. It also will be eyeing some acquisitions.

“We see a lot of interesting technology we could layer onto our platform to unlock new asset classes, and acquisition opportunities that would allow us to bring additional features to our platform,” Hughes told TechCrunch.

Avant itself made its first acquisition earlier this year when it picked up Zero Financial, news that TechCrunch covered here.

Kevin Marcus, partner at WestCap, said his firm invested in Amount based on the belief that banks and other financial institutions have “a point-in-time opportunity to democratize access to traditional financial products by accelerating modernization efforts.”

“Amount is the market leader in powering that change,” he said. “Through its best-in-class products, Amount enables financial institutions to enhance and elevate the banking experience for their end customers and maintain a key competitive advantage in the marketplace.”

#airbnb, #amount, #avant, #bank, #banking, #barclays, #blackstone, #chicago, #e-commerce, #economy, #enterprise-software, #finance, #financial-infrastructure, #financial-services, #financial-technology, #fintech, #funding, #fundings-exits, #goldman-sachs, #hanaco-ventures, #hsbc, #ing-group, #invus-group, #laurence-tosi, #market-leader, #money, #recent-funding, #retail-banking, #startup, #startups, #united-states, #venture-capital, #westcap

How Robert Reffkin went from being a C-average student to the founder of Compass

In April, real estate tech company Compass forged ahead with its initial public offering and is now valued at nearly $6.4 billion.

At that time, TechCrunch Senior Editor Alex Wilhelm caught up with founder and CEO Robert Reffkin to chat about his company’s debut in the market’s suddenly choppy waters for tech and tech-enabled debuts.

This week, I caught up with Reffkin on a whole other topic: his path to entrepreneurship as a child raised by a disowned single mother whose father had died homeless. Reffkin is so passionate about inspiring others from nontraditional backgrounds to pursue their dreams that he wrote a book about it.

In our discussion, Reffkin shared what he believes are the secrets to his success (hint: one of them involves lots of listening) and his advice for his young entrepreneurs, especially those from non-privileged backgrounds.

This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.

TC: As the mother of a teen who is already trying to start his own business, I’m intrigued by your DJing as a teenager. What finally got you motivated to care about school and how did you manage to graduate in such a short amount of time?

Reffkin: Well, I think your son might just be on the right track! Please give him a word of encouragement from me, from one entrepreneur to another.

My mom says that a lot of other parents thought she was crazy for letting me launch my DJ business. But starting a successful DJ business in high school helped me learn about myself and my passion for entrepreneurship — and it ultimately helped me get into Columbia, forming the core of both my personal statement and the relationships I built with several members of the admissions team.

I believe the first step is always to dream big. For me, my big dreams for my college future started on a trip to New York City. I toured Columbia and fell in love with it, but I knew it was going to be hard for me to get in. In fact, my high school guidance counselor said, “Don’t even apply. It wouldn’t be worth your time and money on the application fee.” In that moment, my desire to go to Columbia went from strong to absolute, because suddenly it felt like it was about something larger than myself — not just where I went to school, but about a broader struggle for opportunity for people like me. So I poured myself into my SAT prep to show that even though I had a C average, I had what it took to keep up at a top school. And thankfully, it paid off. 

In high school and college, I was a C-student in part because I didn’t see how studying calculus or Western Civilization related to my life or my dreams. I knew that excelling in school wasn’t going to be the way I was going to distinguish myself in the world. At the same time, I was energized by my entrepreneurial efforts and my summer internships. I moved as quickly as I could to get through school and have my real life begin, because the real world made so much more sense to me.

TC: How do you think being raised by a single mother without privilege helped shape you as a man, and entrepreneur? How would you say being a person of color impact your path?

Reffkin: Growing up, it was just me and my mom. She’s an Israeli immigrant, disowned by her parents because I was Black. My father abandoned us and died, homeless, when I was young. What shaped me most as an entrepreneur was learning from my mother. She embodied the entrepreneurial spirit and taught me one of the most important principles: every time you get knocked down, you’ve got to bounce back with passion. I saw her face bad relationships, bankruptcy, and the stream of daily rejections that comes from being an agent. And she always bounced back. So when the world told me I couldn’t do something or that I was destined to fail, I was ready for them. Thanks to my mom, I already knew how to bounce back.

Image Credits: CEO Robert Reffkin & mother, Ruth / Compass

Being Black and Jewish, I’ve felt out of place my entire life. In most classes in Hosch school and college, I was the only Black person. In almost every meeting early in my career, I was the only Black person. When I was raising capital for Compass, I almost never saw someone Black on the other side of the table. But I’ve been very fortunate. I’ve been lucky to get terrific advice along the way from so many Black mentors, from the late Vernon Jordan, to Ken Chenault, the former CEO of American Express, to Bayo Ogunlesi, who is lead director for Goldman Sachs. There’s a really strong community of people who’ve all supported each other.

TC: You’ve had some impressive mentors over the years. How did those relationships develop? How have they been valuable besides the obvious? 

Growing up, I was hungry for advice. Coming from a single-parent home, I looked for guidance and wisdom on how to create a better life wherever I could find it. My mom connected me to several non-profits when I was in high school that helped open my eyes to how much opportunity and support there was out there in the world. 

The most important lesson I’ve learned in my life is that feedback is a gift. Even when it’s hard to hear, feedback is a gift. My relationships with many of my mentors deepened because I started asking them for really tough, candid feedback — the sort of things they thought other people wouldn’t tell me. And then, I’d actually take their advice, apply it in my life, and let them know how it had helped me. That did two two things: First, it led to more honest and practical advice that helped me get better faster. Second, it made the people who had given me advice feel far more invested in my success and the success of whatI was working on.

The other thing my mentors gave me was the sense that even though the world was telling me I couldn’t be successful, I could be. Meeting someone like Vernon Jordan who advised presidents and CEOs alike, had a profound impact on me. He was a father figure to me. I met him when I was 23 years old, and at that time, it wasn’t clear to me that you could be successful in the business world as a Black man. I just hadn’t seen it before. When I started at Lazard, Vernon Jordan was the only other Black investment banker there. He was not just a senior partner, he was a legend, widely known for serving on more Fortune 500 boards than anyone in history. He took a strong interest in me, and with his support and advice, he made me feel like I belonged and helped me see a path where I could be as successful as I wanted to be. 

I founded a nonprofit in my twenties called America Needs You that has provided mentorship, career development, and college support to thousands of students. I wrote my new book, No One Succeeds Alone, as a way to pay it forward by making the lessons I’ve been fortunate enough to learn from so many remarkable people available to everyone — and it’s why I’m donating all of my proceeds to nonprofits that help young people realize their dreams.

TC: What advice you would give to young, aspiring entrepreneurs, especially those from non-privileged backgrounds?

Reffkin: Here’s the advice I’d give to someone from an underrepresented group who just graduated college and is in their first job:

1) Don’t let anyone get in the way of your dream. Not society, not your colleagues, not even yourself. Whenever anyone tells you to slow down, speed up.

2) Spend the next 10 years learning as much as you can from the smartest people you can. Find mentors in your job and outside that will give you the honest feedback that others won’t. Feedback is a gift. It’ll be hard for you to hear, but it’s actually even harder for them to give it to you. So you may have to ask for it directly and let people know that you can take it.

3) Learn how to turn negativity into positive energy that fuels you. There will always be skeptics, doubters, and haters telling you that you can’t do something or that you don’t belong. 

TC: What next after Compass?

Reffkin: I believe that to be truly successful, you can’t have a Plan B. As a CEO, you have to be all-in, and that’s what I am for Compass: 100% dedicated to our 23,000 agents and employees. One of my mentors told me about the “shower test” once — that if you’re not excited enough about your job to think about it in the shower, you’re probably not in the right job. And I’ll tell you: I’m so passionate about the company we’re building that I’m still thinking about Compass in the shower. At Compass, we’ve accomplished much in the past eight years, but we’re truly just getting started. 

#america, #c, #ceo, #columbia, #compass, #diversity, #editor, #entrepreneur, #goldman-sachs, #ken-chenault, #lazard, #new-york-city, #real-estate, #real-estate-tech, #tc

Goldman Sachs leads $23M in funding for Brazilian e-commerce startup Olist

Olist, a Brazilian e-commerce marketplace integrator, has raised $23 million in a Series D round extension led by new investor Goldman Sachs Asset Management that brings its total Series D financing to $80 million.

Existing backer Redpoint Ventures, which first put money in Olist in 2015, also participated in the latest round. With this latest infusion, Olist has now raised over $126 million since its 2015 inception. This round is reportedly its last before the company plans to go public, according to Bloomberg.

SoftBank led the first tranch of Olist’s Series D in November as well as the company’s $46 million Series C in 2019. Valor Capital, Velt Partners, FJ Labs, Península and angel Kevin Efrusy had previously invested in the first tranche of the Series D.

Olist connects small businesses to larger product marketplaces to help entrepreneurs sell their products to a larger customer base. The company was founded with the mission of helping small merchants gain market share across the country through a SaaS licensing model to small brick and mortar businesses.

As of October 2019, Olist had more than 7,000 customers and used a drop-shipping model to send products directly from stores to clients around the country, allowing them to grow with a capital-light model.

Today, Olist says its platform provides tools that support “all the stages of an e-commerce operation” with the goal of helping merchants see “rapid increases in sales volume.” It currently has about 25,000 merchants on its platform.

The startup is no doubt benefiting from the pandemic-fueled e-commerce boom taking place all over the world as more people have turned to online shopping. Latin America, in general, has been home to increased e-commerce adoption. The region’s $85 billion e-commerce market is growing rapidly with projections of it reaching $116.2 billion in 2023.

As evidence of that, Olist says its revenue tripled to a record number in the first quarter of 2021 compared to the previous year, although it did not provide hard figures. It also reportedly doubled revenue in 2020, according to Bloomberg.

Olist Store, the company’s flagship product, gives merchants a way to manage product listings, logistics and store payments. It also offers “a unique sales experience” through channels such as Mercado Livre, B2W and Via Varejo. The product saw a record GMV in the first half of the year, which was up 2.5 times over the same period in the prior year, the company said.

Last year, Olist launched a new product, Olist Shops, giving users the ability to create a virtual showcase “in less than 3 minutes” that also offers payment checkout tools and integration with logistics operators. Shops has interfaces in Portuguese, English, and Spanish, and since its launch, it has attracted more than 200,000 users in 180 countries, according to Olist.

“The pandemic has accelerated digitalizing business processes around the world, thus spurring e-commerce growth in a surprising way,” said Tiago Dalvi, Olist’s founder and CEO, in a written statement. 

The company plans to use its new capital to invest in technology and products, pursuing new mergers and acquisitions and boosting its internationalization process. This is on top of two acquisitions Olist made last year — Clickspace and Pax Logistica, which gave Olist entry into the heated logistics space with more than 4,000 registered drivers.

Specifically, CFO Eduardo Ferraz said the company is in preliminary discussions with ERPs, retailers, and companies with complementary solutions to its own.

“That is why we also decided to expand the investment in our Series D and bring Goldman Sachs as another relevant investor to our cap table,” he said.

David Castelblanco, managing director and head of Latin America Corporate and Growth Equity Investing for the Goldman Sachs Asset Management, said his firm was impressed with how Olist empowers SMBs to generate more revenue.

“Tiago and the Olist team are incredibly customer oriented and have created an innovative technological solution for their e-commerce clients,” he added.

Olist is operating in an increasingly crowded space. In March, we covered São Paulo-based Nuvemshop’s $90 million raise that was led by Silicon Valley venture firm Accel. That company has developed an e-commerce platform that aims to allow SMBs and merchants to connect more directly with their consumers. 

#accel, #banks, #brazil, #ceo, #cfo, #companies, #e-commerce, #finance, #fj-labs, #goldman-sachs, #kevin-efrusy, #latin-america, #olist, #online-shopping, #opera, #redpoint-ventures, #sao-paulo, #series-d, #softbank, #tc, #valor-capital

Clim8 raises $8M from 7pc Ventures, launches climate-focused investing app for retail investors

Ethical investing remains something of a confusing maze, with a great deal of ‘greenwashing’ going on. A new UK startup is hoping to fix that with the launch of its new app and platform for retail investors.

Clim8 Investhas raised $8 million from 7pc Ventures (early backers of Oculus, acquired by Facebook),  British Business Bank Future Fund and a numbers of technology entrepreneurs and executives including Marcus Exall (Monese), Marcus Mosen (N26),  Paul Willmott (Lego Digital, McKinsey), Doug Scott (Redbrain), Matt Wilkins (Thought Machine), Andrew Cocker (Skyscanner), Steve Thomson (Redbrain), Monica Kalia (Neyber, Goldman Sachs), Doug Monro (Adzuna), Erik Nygard (Limejump). 

Consumers will be able to invest in companies and supply chains that are focused on tackling climate change. It will be competing with similar startups in the space such as London-based Tickr (backed by $3m from Ada Ventures), Helios in Paris, and Yova in Zurich.

Duncan Grierson, CEO of Clim8 said in a statement: “We are launching at an exciting time for sustainable investing. 2020 was an exceptional year for environmentally-focused investment offerings, as investors looked harder at climate-related opportunities. Sustainable investments have continued to outperform markets since the beginning of the Covid-19 Crisis and we believe this will continue.”

Grierson has 20 years of experience in the green space and was a winner of the EY Entrepreneur of Year Cleantech award.

The startup will take advantage of new, higher EU rules around the disclosure requirements for sustainable investment funds. Users can choose between either stocks and shares ISAs (up to £20k) or a taxable general investment account.

#ada-ventures, #adzuna, #articles, #ceo, #corporate-social-responsibility, #economy, #europe, #european-union, #facebook, #finance, #goldman-sachs, #london, #monese, #n26, #paris, #retail-investors, #social-finance, #tc, #technology-entrepreneurs, #united-kingdom, #zurich

Mortgage is suddenly sexy as SoftBank pumps $500M in Better.com at $6B valuation

Digital mortgage lender Better.com has raised a $500 million round from Japanese investment conglomerate SoftBank that values the company at $6 billion.

The financing is notable for a few reasons. For one, that new $6 billion valuation,  is up 50% from the $4 billion it was valued at last November when it raised $200 million in Series D financing. It’s also up tenfold from its $600 million valuation at the time of its Series C raise in August 2019.

Secondly, it’s further proof that mortgage – a traditionally “unsexy” industry that has long been in need of disruption – is officially hot. For all its controversy, when SoftBank invests, people pay attention.

The COVID-19 pandemic and historically-low mortgage rates fueled acceleration in the online lending space in a way that no one could have anticipated. That, combined with the general fervour in venture funding, means it’s not a big surprise that Better.com has raised $700 million in just a matter of months.

The investment brings Better.com’s total funding raised to over $900 million since its 2014 inception. Other backers include Goldman Sachs, Kleiner Perkins, American Express, Activant Capital and Citi, among others.

According to the Wall Street Journal, SoftBank is buying shares from Better’s existing investors, and agreed to give all of its voting rights to CEO and founder Vishal Garg “in a sign of its eagerness” to invest in the company. 

During a one-on-one interview at Lendit Fintech’s USA 2020 virtual event in October, Garg had told me that an IPO was definitely in the works.

“We’ll do it when it’s right,” he said. “One of the core tenets of American capitalism is the ability for your customers to buy your stock.”

At that time, he had also told me that before the pandemic, Better was processing about $1.2 billion a month in loans. But as of October 2020, it was funding over $2.5 billion per month, and had gone from 1,500 staffers to about 4,000 worldwide. 

“When the pandemic started we were doing less than sort of like $50 million a month of revenue,” he said. “We’re two-and-a half times that now.”

#activant-capital, #better-com, #ceo, #citi, #companies, #finance, #fintech, #funding, #fundings-exits, #goldman-sachs, #kleiner-perkins, #online-lending, #recent-funding, #softbank, #softbank-group, #startups, #tc, #the-wall-street-journal, #united-states, #venture-capital, #vishal-garg, #vodafone

India’s Swiggy nears $5 billion valuation in new $800 million fundraise

Swiggy has raised about $800 million in a new financing round, the Indian food delivery startup told employees on Monday, as it looks to expand its business in the country quarters after the startup cut its workforce to navigate the pandemic.

In an email to employees, first reported by Times of India journalist Digbijay Mishra, Swiggy co-founder and chief executive Sriharsha Majety said the startup had raised $800 million from new investors including Falcon Edge Capital, Goldman Sachs, Think Capital, Amansa Capital, and Carmignac, and existing investors Prosus and Accel.

“This fundraise gives us a lot more firepower than the planned investments for our current business lines. Given our unfettered ambition though, we will continue to seed/experiment new offerings for the future that may be ready for investment later. We will just need to now relentlessly invent and execute over the next few years to build an enduring iconic company out of India,” wrote Majety in the email obtained by TechCrunch.

Majety didn’t disclose the new valuation of Swiggy, but said the new financing round was “heavily subscribed given the very positive investor sentiments towards Swiggy.” According to a person familiar with the matter, the new round valued Swiggy at over $4.8 billion. The startup has now raised about $2.2 billion to date.

Swiggy had raised $157 million last year at about $3.7 billion valuation. That investment is not part of the new round, a person familiar with the matter told TechCrunch.

He said the long-term goal for the startup, which competes with heavily-backed Zomato and new entrant Amazon, is to serve 500 million users in the next 10-15 years, pointing to Chinese tech giant Meituan, which had 500 million transacting users last year.

“We’re coming out of a very hard phase during the last year given Covid and have weathered the storm, but everything we do from here on needs to maximise the chances of our succeeding in the long-term,” wrote Majety.

Monday’s reveal comes amid Zomato raising $910 million in recent months as the Gurgaon-headquartered firm prepares for an IPO this year. The last tranche of investment valued Zomato at $5.4 billion.

A third player, Amazon, has also entered the food delivery market in India last year, though its operations are still limited to parts of Bangalore. At stake is India’s food delivery market, which analysts at Bernstein expect to balloon to be worth $12 billion by 2022, they wrote in a report to clients earlier this year. Zomato currently leads the market with about 50% market share, Bernstein analysts wrote.

“We find the food-tech industry in India to be well positioned to sustained growth with improving unit economics. Take-rates are one of the highest in India at 20-25% and consumer traction is increasing. Market is largely a duopoly between Zomato and Swiggy with 80%+ share,” wrote analysts at Bank of America in a recent report, reviewed by TechCrunch.

This is a developing story. More to follow…

#accel, #asia, #falcon-edge-capital, #food, #funding, #goldman-sachs, #prosus-ventures, #swiggy

Knock is the latest proptech said to be eyeing the public markets

Another proptech is considering raising capital through the public arena.

Knock confirmed Monday that it is considering going public, although CEO Sean Black did not specify whether the company would do so via a traditional IPO, SPAC merger or direct listing.

“We are considering all of our options,” Black told TechCrunch. “We pioneered the real estate transaction revolution over five years ago and our priority is to build a war chest to dramatically widen the already cavernous gap between us and any unoriginal knock-offs.”

Bloomberg reported earlier today that the company had hired Goldman Sachs to advise on such a bid, which Knock also confirmed.

According to Bloomberg, Knock is potentially seeking to raise $400 million to $500 million through an IPO, according to “people familiar with the matter,” at a valuation of about $2 billion. The company declined to comment on valuation.

Black and Knock COO Jamie Glenn are no strangers to the proptech game, having both been on the founding team of Trulia, which went public in 2012 and was acquired by Zillow for $3.5 billion in 2014. The pair started Knock in 2015, and have since raised over $430 million in venture funding and another $170 million so in debt.

Knock started out as a real estate brokerage business until last July, when the company announced a major shift in strategy and said it was becoming a lender. At the time, Knock unveiled its Home Swap program, under which Knock serves as the lender to help a homeowner buy a new home before selling their old house. It previously worked with lending partners but has now become a licensed lender itself.

In other words, the company now offers integrated financing – the mortgage and an interest-free bridge loan – with the goal of helping consumers make strong non-contingent offers on a new home before repairing and listing their old home for sale on the open market.

With that move, Knock eliminated its Home Trade In program, where it helped consumers buy before selling by using its own money to purchase the new home on behalf of the consumer before prepping and listing the consumer’s old house on the open market. Under that Trade-In model, the homeowner used the proceeds from selling their old home to buy the new home from Knock and pay the company back for any repairs it did to prep the house for sale.

At that time, Black had told me that Knock had decided to move away from its trade in program in part because it was capital intensive and required the closing of a house to take place twice.

“It added friction to the experience,” he said. “And now, especially during COVID, it can be inconvenient to try and sell a house at the same time as buying one. This is about making something possible that isn’t possible with any other traditional lender. We’re able to lend some money before an owner’s [old] house is even listed on the market.” 

To sum up what Knock does today, Black said the company aims to offer a full service technology platform that includes everything “from pre-funding the homebuyers to make non-contingent offers and win bidding wars, to getting their old home ready for market with our contractor network to selling their old home quickly at the highest price and empowers them to have their own agent working with them in the app through the entire process.” .

Demand for the Home Swap, he added, has “exceeded all expectations.”

Knock is headquartered in New York and San Francisco. The company aunched the Home Swap in three markets in July 2020, and today it is in 27 markets in nine states, including Texas, California and North Carolina.

“Our original plan was to be in 21 markets by the end of 2021,” Black said. “At our current growth rate, we expect to end the year at 45 markets and be in 100 by 2023.”

Knock began 2021 with 100 employees and now has 150. Its plan is to have at least 400 employees by year’s end.

Other proptech startups that have recently announced plans to go public include Compass and Doma (formerly States Title).

#exit, #fundings-exits, #goldman-sachs, #knock, #new-york, #property-technology, #real-estate, #sean-black, #startups, #trulia

Closing on $103M, MaC VC is changing the face of venture capital

The partners at MaC Venture Capital, the Los Angeles-based investment firm that has just closed on $103 million for its inaugural fund, have spent the bulk of their careers breaking barriers.

Formed when M Ventures (a firm founded by former Washington DC mayor Adrian Fenty); the first Black talent agency partner in the history of Hollywood, Charles D. King; and longtime operating executive (and former agent) Michael Palank joined forces with Marlon Nichols, a co-founder of the LA-based investment firm Cross Culture Capital, MaC Venture Capital wanted to be a different kind of fund.

The firm combines the focus on investing in software that Fenty had honed from his years spent as a special advisor to Andreessen Horowitz, where he spent five years before setting out to launch M Ventures; and Nichols’ thesis-driven approach to focusing on particular sectors that are being transformed by global cultural shifts wrought by changing consumer behavior and demographics.

“There’s a long history and a lot of relationships here,” said King, one of Hollywood’s premier power players and the founder of the global media company, Macro. “Adrian and I go back to 93 [when] we were in law school. We went on to conquer the world, where he went out to Washington DC and I became a senior partner at WME.”

Palank was connected to the team through King as well, since the two men worked together at William Morris before running business development for Will Smith and others.

“There was this idea of having connectivity between tech and innovation… that’s when we formed M Ventures [but] that understanding of media and culture… that focus… was complimentary with what Marlon was doing at Cross Culture,” King said.

Few firms could merge the cultural revolutions wrought by DJ Herc spinning records in the rec room of a Bronx apartment building and Sir Tim Berners Lee’s invention of the internet, but that’s exactly what MaC VC aims to do.

And while the firm’s founding partnership would prefer to focus on the financial achievements of their respective firms and the investments that now comprise the new portfolio of their combined efforts — it includes StokeGoodfairFinessePureStream, and Sote — it’s hard to overstate the significance that a general partnership that includes three Black men have raised $103 million in an industry that’s been repeatedly called out for problems with diversity and inclusion.

MaC Venture Capital co-founders Marlon Nichols, Michael Palank, Charles King, and Adrian Fenty. Image Credit: MaC Venture Capital

“Our LPs invested in us… for lots of different reasons but at the top of the list was that we are a diverse team in so many ways. We’re going to show them a set of companies that they would not have seen from any [other] VC fund,” said Fenty. “We also, in turn, have the same investing thesis when we look at companies. We want to have women founders, African American founders, Latino founders… In our fund now we have some companies that are all women, all African American or all Latino.”

The diversity of the firm’s ethos is also reflected in the broad group of limited partners that have come on to bankroll its operations: it includes Goldman Sachs, the University of Michigan, Howard University, Mitch and Freada Kapor, Foot Locker, and Greenspring Associates.

“We are thrilled to join MaC Venture Capital in this key milestone toward building a new kind of venture capital firm that is anchored around a cultural investment thesis and supports transformative companies and dynamic founders,” said Daniel Feder, Managing Director with the University of Michigan Investment Office, in a statement. “Their unified understanding of technology, media, entertainment, and government, along with a successful track record of investing, give them deep insights into burgeoning shifts in culture and behavior.”

And it extends to the firm’s portfolio, a clutch of startup companies headquartered around the globe — from Seattle to Houston and Los Angeles to Nairobi.

“We look at all verticals. We’re very happy to be generalists,” said Fenty.

A laser focus on software-enabled businesses is complemented by the thesis-driven approach laid out in position papers staking out predictions for how the ubiquity of gaming; conscious consumerism; new parenting paradigms; and cultural and demographic shifts will transform the global economy.

Increasingly, that thesis also means moving into areas of frontier technologies that include the space industry, mixed reality and everything at the intersection of computing and the transformation of the physical world — drawn in part by the firm’s close connection to the diverse tech ecosystem that’s emerging in Los Angeles. “We’re seeing these SpaceX and Tesla mafias spin out, entrepreneurs who have had best-in-class training at an Elon Musk company,” said Palank. “It’s a great talent pool, and LA has more computer science students graduating every year than Northern California.”

With its current portfolio, though early, the venture firm is operating in the top 5% of funds — at least on paper — and its early investments are up 3 times what the firm invested, Nichols said. 

“The way to think about it is MaC is essentially an extension of what we were building before,” the Cross Culture Ventures co-founder said. “We’re sticking with the concept that talent is ubiquitous but access to capital and opportunity is not. We want to be the source and access to capital for those founders.”

#adrian-fenty, #andreessen, #andreessen-horowitz, #california, #co-founder, #computing, #cross-culture-ventures, #finance, #finesse, #foot-locker, #goldman-sachs, #greenspring-associates, #houston, #investment, #king, #laser, #los-angeles, #louisiana, #m-ventures, #mac-venture-capital, #macro, #marlon-nichols, #mayor, #media, #michigan, #money, #nairobi, #seattle, #sote, #spacex, #stoke, #tc, #tesla, #tim-berners-lee, #university-of-michigan, #venture-capital, #washington-dc, #will-smith

New York’s Department of Financial Services says Apple Card program didn’t violate fair lending laws

The New York State Department of Financial Services (NYDFS) released a report today that cleared the Apple Card credit card program of discriminatory practices and specifically, gender-based discrimination, following an investigation triggered by online complaints back in November 2019. At the time, tech entrepreneur David Heinemeier Hansson had called out Apple Card program, jointly run by Apple and Goldman Sachs, for gender-based discrimination after he received a credit limit that was 20 times higher than what his wife was offered — even though the couple filed joint tax returns and his wife had a higher credit score than he did.

Hansson’s tweet storm detailing the problem ending up going viral, generating responses from several others, including Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, who claimed they had similar experiences when applying for the Apple Card with their partners.

David’s wife, Jamie Heinemeier Hansson, had also penned a blog post documenting her experiences in more detail.

The numerous consumer complaints soon drew the attention of the New York Department of Financial Services, which then launched an investigation into Goldman Sachs’ credit card practices in order to see if gender-based discrimination was taking place, as alleged.

The NYDFS report, first spotted today by Appleinsider, notes that Goldman Sachs re-reviewed the credit files of the some of the women who had been initially been offered dramatically lower credit scores than their spouses, and decided to raise their limits to match those of their spouses. At the time, the bank also eliminated the six-month waiting period for appeals on credit decisions.

These actions seemed to indicate that the Apple Card algorithms were making bad calls on credit worthiness, potentially even on the basis of gender; but the Department says that’s not the case — though it did stress the need or credit score reforms and updating existing laws around credit access.

The NYDFS said it reviewed several thousands pages of record and written responses from Apple and Goldman Sachs, interviewed witnesses, met with representatives from Apple and the bank, and analyzed the bank’s underwriting data using a data set covering nearly 400,000 New York applicants. It also interviewed the consumers who had complained of discrimination.

The Department concluded that there was no “unlawful discrimination” against applicants under fair lending law. However, statements made by the Superintendent of Financial Services Linda A. Lacewell, did stress that there is still discrimination built into the credit lending system itself, and the way credit scores can lead to unequal access to credit.

“While we found no fair lending violations, our inquiry stands as a reminder of disparities in access to credit that continue nearly 50 years after the passage of the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA) ,” Lacewell said. “The report also notes that the use of credit scoring in its current form and laws and regulations barring discrimination in lending are in need of strengthening and modernization to improve access to credit. Consumer frustration with the Apple Card policy of not permitting an account holder to add an authorized user drew attention to the following: a person who relies on a spouse’s access to credit, and only accesses those accounts as an authorized user, may incorrectly believe they have the same credit profile as the spouse. This is one part of a broader discussion we must have about equal credit access,” she added.

One common factor among the consumers who complained was a belief that a spouse who had access to the same shared bank account or other shared assets, like credit cards — even if only as authorized users — would receive the same credit terms as their spouses. But the way the system works today, underwriters don’t have to consider an authorized user the same as an account holder, and they may consider other factors, too. Combined, these are what led to the lower lending decisions, the investigation found.

The Department said that, when asked, Goldman Sachs was able to document underwriting that determined its lending decisions for the consumer complaints. Gender was not a factor, but spouses’ credit scores, indebtedness, income, credit utilization, missed payments and other credit history elements were. None of the factors identified was an “unlawful basis” for a credit determination, the Department said.

Of course, the credit score system itself is one that overall, favors men. (And specifically, white men). There is no one single reason as to why that’s the case, but often has to do with women’s role as a primary caregiver, combined with how the credit scoring model operates. This is a system that needs reform, but as it relates to the Apple Card program and discrimination complaints, it was “lawfully” used to make the Apple Card lending decisions.

However, the Department did point out that there was a lack of transparency around Apple Card’s lending decisions — noting that although it was able to obtain the data about the bank’s decision for these complaints, the impacted consumers could not. It also suggested Apple could have offered a more robust appeals process, instead of requiring a six-month wait.

Apple has since responded to some of the issues raised, including by launching “Path to Apple Card” last year, which helps applicants follow steps that lead to an Apple Card approval. To date, more than 70K consumers have enrolled in this program and nearly 5,000 have been approved. Apple also updated its website with more information about how Apple Card approvals work. And now it’s in the process of adding support for Apple Card family sharing features — meaning, authorized users. This would address issues around spouses not being able to gain access to the higher credit lending limits at least.

But this investigation highlighted the problems Apple faced by pairing its trusted brand with a credit card issued by a traditional lender and the accompanying crummy banking practices consumers hate, as well as how a lack of transparency had undermined trust in the lending decisions that were made.

Apple hasn’t commented on the NYDHS report at this time.

 

 

 

 

#apple, #apple-card, #discrimination, #gender, #goldman-sachs, #tc

Indian beauty e-commerce Purplle raises $45 million

Purplle, an e-commerce platform for beauty products in India, said on Monday it has raised $45 million in a new financing round as it looks to expand its presence in the world’s second largest internet market.

The new round, a Series D, was financed by Sequoia Capital India and existing investors Verlinvest, Blume Ventures, and JSW Ventures. The new round values the Indian startup — which has raised $95 million to date — at about $300 million, up from $150 million in its 2019 Series C round, a person familiar with the matter told TechCrunch.

The new round gave partial exit to IvyCap Ventures, which had invested about $2 million in Purplle in 2015. The venture firm said in a statement that Purplle delivered a 22X return and 1.35x of its entire Fund 1.

“We continue to believe in the growth of the company and therefore we have retained our stake for Fund 2,” said Vikram Gupta, Founder and Managing Partner of IvyCap Ventures.

Eight-year-old Purplle.com, which counts Goldman Sachs among its investors, says it sells nearly 50,000 products from over 1,000 brands. The startup said it has amassed 7 million monthly active users.

“Purplle has been on a robust growth trajectory. Even with a Covid year, we have delivered >90% GMV CAGR for the last 3 years. This, while scaling our private brands successfully; Good Vibes is already an INR 150 Cr [$20.7 million] brand. The investment will help to shape Purplle into a multibillion-dollar, digital-first, beauty and personal care enterprise,” said Manish Taneja (pictured above), co-founder and chief executive of Purplle, in a statement late Monday.

The growth of Purplle is indicative of the growing e-commerce space in India, where users are beginning to purchase fashion and beauty products online. MyGlamm, an omnichannel direct-to-consumer Indian brand, last week raised $24.2 million in a round co-led by Amazon.

“We are excited to partner with Purplle as we believe they have cracked the beauty playbook of value retailing with 3 key tenets – a business built on high retention and low customer acquisition cost (CAC), a wide assortment of brands offering quality at best prices, and an attractive private label portfolio mix. We see Purplle emerging as a dominant beauty destination as the online beauty penetration grows from 10% to 25%+ over the next decade,” said Sakshi Chopra, Principal, Sequoia India.

#asia, #blume-ventures, #ecommerce, #funding, #goldman-sachs, #india, #nykaa, #sequoia-capital-india

Swedish battery manufacturer Northvolt receives a $14 billion order from VW

Northvolt, the Swedish battery manufacturer which raised $1 billion in financing from investors led by Goldman Sachs and Volkswagen back in 2019, has signed a massive $14 billion battery order with VW for the next 10 years.

The big buy clears up some questions about where Volkswagen will be getting the batteries for its huge push into electric vehicles, which will see the automaker reach production capacity of 1.5 million electric vehicles by 2025.

The deal will not only see Northvolt become the strategic lead supplier for battery cells for Volkswagen Group in Europe, but will also involve the German automaker increasing its equity ownership of Northvolt.

As part of the partnership agreement, Northvolt’s gigafactory in Sweden will be expanded and Northvolt agreed to sell its joint venture share in Salzgitter, Germany to Volkswagen as the car maker looks to build up its battery manufacturing efforts across Europe, the companies said.

The agreement between Northvolt and VW brings the Swedish battery maker’s total contracts to $27 billion in the two years since it raised its big $1 billion cash haul.

“Volkswagen is a key investor, customer and partner on the journey ahead and we will continue to work hard with the goal of providing them with the greenest battery on the planet as they rapidly expand their fleet of electric vehicles,” said Peter Carlsson, the co-founder and chief executive of Northvolt, in a statement.

Northvolt’s other partners and customers include ABB, BMW Group, Scania, Siemens, Vattenfall, and Vestas. Together these firms comprise some of the largest manufacturers in Europe.

Back in 2019, the company said that its cell manufacturing capacity could hit 16 Gigawatt hours and that it had sold its capacity to the tune of $13 billion through 2030. That means that the Volkswagen deal will eat up a significant portion of expanded product lines.

Founded Carlsson, a former executive at Tesla, Northvolt’s battery business was intended to leapfrog the European Union into direct competition with Asia’s largest battery manufacturers — Samsung, LG Chem, and CATL.

Back when the company first announced its $1 billion investment round, Carlsson had said that Northvolt would need to build up to150 gigawatt hours of capacity to hit targets for. 2030 electric vehicle sales.

The plant in Sweden is expected to hit at least 32 gigawatt hours of production thanks, in part to backing by the Swedish pension fund firms AMF and Folksam and IKEA-linked IMAS Foundation, in addition to the big financial partners Volkswagen and Goldman Sachs.

Northvolt has had a busy few months. Earlier in March the company announced the acquisition of the Silicon Valley-based startup company Cuberg.

That acquisition gave Northvolt a foothold in the U.S. and established the company’s advanced technology center.

The acquisition also gives Northvolt a window into the newest battery chemistry that’s being touted as a savior for the industry — lithium metal batteries.

Cuberg spun out of Stanford University back in 2015 to commercialize what the company called its next-generation battery combining a liquid electrolyte with a lithium metal anode. The company’s customers include Boeing, BETA Technologies, Ampaire, and VoltAero and it was backed by Boeing HorizonX Ventures, Activate.org, the California Energy Commission, the Department of Energy and the TomKat Center at Stanford.

Cuberg’s cells deliver 70 percent increased range and capacity versus comparable lithium ion cells designed for electric aviation applications. The two companies hope that they can apply the technology to Northvolt’s automotive and industrial product portfolio with the ambition to industrialize cells in 2025 that exceed 1,000 Wh/L, while meeting the full spectrum of automotive customer requirements, according to a statement.

“The Cuberg team has shown exceptional ability to develop world-class technology, proven results and an outstanding customer base in a lean and efficient organization,” said Peter Carlsson, CEO and Co-Founder, Northvolt in a statement. “Combining these strengths with the capabilities and technology of Northvolt allows us to make significant improvements in both performance and safety while driving down cost even further for next-generation battery cells. This is critical for accelerating the shift to fully electric vehicles and responding to the needs of the leading automotive companies within a relevant time frame.”

 

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With Atlanta rising as a new hub for tech, early stage firm Tech Square Ventures gets a new partner

Atlanta is coming up in the tech world with several newly minted billion-dollar businesses hailing from the ATL and the city’s local venture capital community is taking notice.

Even as later stage firms like the newly minted BIP Capital rebrand and  with increasingly large funds, earlier stage firms like Tech Square Ventures are staffing up and adding new partners.

The firm’s latest hire is Vasant Kamath, a general partner who joins the firm from Primus Capital, a later stage investment vehicle based out of Atlanta. Before that, he was managing investments for the private office of the Cox family.

Originally from Augusta, Ga. Kamath left the south to attend Harvard and then went out west for a stint at Stanford Business School.

In between his jaunts North and West Kamath spent time in Atlanta as an investment banker with Raymond James in the early 2000s, the beginnings of a lifelong professional career in technology. Before business school, Kamath worked at Summit Equity Partners in Boston investing in later stage technology companies.

Kamath settled in Atlanta in 2010 just as a second wave of technology companies began making their presence felt in the city.

The new Tech Square Village general partner pointed to Atlanta’s underlying tech infrastructure as one reason for the move to early stage. One pillar of that infrastructure is Georgia Tech itself. The school, whose campus abuts the Tech Square Ventures offices, is one of the top engineering universities in the country and the breadth of talent coming out of that program is impressive, Kamath said.

There’s also the companies like Airwatch, MailChimp, Calendly and others that represent the resurgence of Atlanta’s tech scene, Tech Square Ventures’ newest general partner said.

Not only are young companies reinvesting in the city, but big tech giants and telecom players like T-Mobile, Google, and Microsoft are also establishing major offices, accelerators, and incubators in Atlanta.

“There’s a lot of momentum here in early stage and i think it’s building. It’s the right time for a firm like TSV to take advantage of all of the things,” Kamath said. 

Another selling point for making the jump to early stage investing was the relationship that Kamath had established with Tech Square Ventures founder, Blake Patton. A serial entrepreneur who’s committed to building up Atlanta’s startup ecosystem, Patton has been the architect of Tech Square Ventures’ growth through two separate initiatives.

In all, the firm has $90 million in assets under management. What began with a small pilot fund, Tech Square Ventures Fund 1, (a $5 million investment vehicle) has expanded to include two larger funds raised in conjunction with major industrial corporate partners like AT&T, Chick-Fil-A, Cox Enterprises, Delta, Georgia-Pacific, Georgia Power, The Home Depot, UPS, Goldman Sachs, and Invesco, under the auspices of a program called Engage. Those funds total $54 million in AUM and the firm is halfway toward closing a much larger second flagship fund under the Tech Square Ventures name with a $75 million target.

All this activity has led to a blossoming entrepreneurial community that early stage funds like Tech Square Ventures hopes to tap.

“We see a fair number of folks from these large corporations spinning out and starting things themselves,” said Kamath. “For a decade plus, you have multiple entrepreneurs doing really well and increasing acceleration in terms of climate and exits.”

And more firms from outside of the region are beginning to take notice.

“I think that is happening,” said Kamath. “You might seen investment from outside the region. At the seed stage it’s harder you do need to have feet on the ground right when they’re starting and building their business. Once they’ve been vetted and had that early round of investment you will definitely see a lot of activity. We’re seeing more investment at the Series A and B from out of town. That’s the strategy.”

It all points to a burgeoning startup scene that’s based in a collaborative approach, which should be good not only for Tech Square Ventures, but the other early stage funds like Atlanta Ventures, Outlander Labs, BLH Ventures, Knoll Ventures and Overline, that working to support the city’s entrepreneurs, Kamath said.

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