The Fiddle Leaf Fig Is Dead. What’s the New Popular Plant?

Meet the man working to put the next big “It” plant on every windowsill in North America.

#agriculture-and-farming, #collectors-and-collections, #costco-wholesale-corporation, #ebay-inc, #flowers-and-plants, #home-depot-inc, #ikea, #millennial-generation, #shopping-and-retail, #social-media, #walmart-stores-inc

These Are the Companies That Have Withdrawn From Russia

More than 400 companies have withdrawn, at least temporarily, from Russia since it invaded Ukraine. Some have been there since the fall of communism — symbols of the enduring power of Western culture and commerce.

#3m-company, #apple-inc, #boycotts, #bp-plc, #british-american-tobacco-plc, #christian-dior-sa, #coca-cola-company, #cold-war-era, #ford-motor-co, #ikea, #levi-straussco, #lvmh-moet-hennessy-louis-vuitton-sa, #mcdonalds-corporation, #pepsico-inc, #pizza-hut, #russian-invasion-of-ukraine-2022, #uniqlo

Facing Economic Calamity, Putin Talks of Nationalizing Western Businesses.

With the ruble collapsing, the economy contracting and people abandoning the country, Russia’s leader talks of a Western plot to destroy the country.

#economic-conditions-and-trends, #ikea, #layoffs-and-job-reductions, #mcdonalds-corporation, #moscow-russia, #putin-vladimir-v, #ruble-currency, #russia, #russian-invasion-of-ukraine-2022

How Low Can You Go (Sofa-wise)?

Advice for decorating, cleaning and warming your home.

#1stdibs-com, #cleansers-detergents-and-soaps, #ikea, #interior-design-and-furnishings

IKEA will sell clean energy to Swedish homes

IKEA won’t just sell you smart lights — it’ll soon sell you the electricity to power those lights, provided you live in the right country. Electrek notes that IKEA has revealed plans to sell clean energy to Swedish homes through a Strömma subscription service. Pay the (as yet unmentioned) fee and you’ll get certified solar- or wind-generated electricity with usage you can track through a mobile app.

The home furnishings giant didn’t say whether it would expand the clean energy sales to other countries, although it hoped to let people “use and generate” renewable energy in “all our Ingka Group markets” by 2025. The company already sells solar panels.

The retailer is no stranger to eco-friendly efforts. It stopped selling non-LED lights and will soon drop non-rechargeable alkaline batteries. It’s even planning to turn a Swedish city into a sustainable community. And there’s little doubt this will help burnish IKEA’s public image. It can address concerns about the chain’s environmental impact by serving as a clean energy source.

It’s still a significant move, though, and we wouldn’t be surprised if other larger stores followed suit. It’s not just a feel-good effort that could reduce emissions — sales of excess clean energy could recoup costs and boost profits.

Editor’s note: This post originally appeared on Engadget.

#column, #green-energy, #ikea, #renewable-energy, #solar-power, #tc, #tceng, #wind-power

Artisan home decor retailer The Citizenry raises $20M in Series B funding

The Citizenry announced today that it raised $20 million in Series B funding in partnership with NextWorld Evergreen. A direct-to-consumer home decor retailer, The Citizenry works with artisans from around the world to produce limited-edition runs of handcrafted, hand-numbered home goods. In October, The Citizenry opened its first brick-and-mortar store in New York City, and with this round of funding, The Citizenry hopes to accelerate its development into a whole-home brand.

Co-Founder Rachel Bentley got her start at Bain & Company, where she worked in strategy consulting in global supply chains.

“I saw a lot of the challenges that were coming as a result of that, tied to income inequality, human rights, and the environment,” Bentley told TechCrunch. “But I also saw the tremendous opportunity that connections of global supply chains can create to hopefully move communities forward.”

Bentley and fellow co-founder Carly Nance, a brand strategist, noticed that there was a gap in the market for premium, thoughtfully crafted home goods. They took the leap to leave their corporate jobs to start The Citizenry with the aim to make a positive global impact and set more socially conscious standards for the home decor industry.

These are lofty goals, but Bentley’s experience in global supply chain strategy helped her develop a business model that prioritizes the fair treatment of workers.

Image Credits: The Citizenry

“One of the biggest challenges in working with artisan communities is that companies are there for one season, they place a large order, and their goal is to get a really high volume at a very low price,” Bentley says. “We came in and took the opposite approach. We tried to identify groups we saw a long term potential with, that we could partner with for the next ten, twenty, fifty years, to really help grow their businesses. Having sustainable income day in and day out, not just seasonally, is where you really start to see change happen.”

The Citizenry is a member of the World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO), and for over eighteen months, they’ve been going through the process to become fully verified through the WFTO’s Guarantee System. This means that the WFTO reviews every partner and conducts several day, in-person examinations of the artisans’ working conditions. On average, The Citizenry pays its artisans double the local minimum wage.

Image Credits: The Citizenry

“Social responsibility is much more important to our generation than previous generations,” Bentley said. “We want to feel good about the way a product was made, because we know we’re going to be living with the ramifications of how it was made, whether that’s environmentally or in terms of human rights.”

Bentley says that the rise in farm-to-table food shopping is indicative of consumers’ transition in values. But spending an extra few dollars on organic produce isn’t quite the same as shelling out $695 for a Portuguese leather headboard. So, The Citizenry may not undercut retailers like IKEA, but their price points are often cheaper than luxury home competitors like Williams-Sonoma, for example. The fact that The Citizenry can even compete with larger retailers while paying livable wages to artisans is a testament to their business model.

Since closing its Series A in 2019, The Citizenry has grown sales over 200%, with repeat customers driving 45% of sales. Over the same period, the company has supported 3,000 global artisan jobs. With its Series B funding, The Citizenry hopes to expand its furniture section — the most shopped category on its website — and invest in expanding its brick-and-mortar business after its SoHo store’s successful launch.

#articles, #business-model, #environmentalism, #fair-trade, #funding, #furniture, #ikea, #new-york-city, #retailers, #supply-chains, #williams-sonoma

Sonos and Ikea’s latest collaboration is a picture frame speaker

Following a smattering of leaks, Sonos and Ikea just unveiled the newest addition to their three-year-old Symfonisk line of home speakers. As the name implies, the Picture Frame is a medium-size, flat-panel speaker that can either be mounted on a wall or sat on a shelf via kickstand.

As with the rest of the Symfonisk line, the product is designed to get out of its own way, and blend in its surroundings. It’s a direction much of the industry has gone in over the last several years, with fabric covers aimed at matching the surrounding décor and more or less fade into the background.

Image Credits: Ikea/Sonos

The Picture Frame form factor is another logical extension of this, with a design that doesn’t require clearing off desk space. The front grille is covered in either black or white, with a design created by artist Jennifer Idrizi, which Ikea notes was inspired by cymatics – a visualization of sound vibrations. Fitting and simple, though the company also offers a pair of replacement panels with different designs, at $20.

The Picture Frame itself is $199 – not cheap, exactly, but certainly not unreasonable – especially by Sonos hardware standards. It features built-in WiFi, connects with the rest of Sonos’ hardware and works with 100 different streaming services. There are volume and Play/Pause buttons built in and a number of small touches, like the ability to reconfigure the power cord placement, based on how the frame is positioned.

It’s will be available online and in Ikea stores starting a month from today. The Symfonisk line also includes a lamp speaker and a more traditional rectangular form factor, ranging between $100 and $200.

#hardware, #ikea, #sonos, #speaker, #symfonisk

Fintech giant Klarna raises $639M at a $45.6B valuation amid ‘massive momentum’ in the US

Just over three months after its last funding round, European fintech giant Klarna is announcing today that it has raised another $639 million at a staggering post-money valuation of $45.6 billion.

Rumors swirled in recent weeks that Klarna had raised more money at a valuation north of $40 billion. But the Swedish buy now, pay later behemoth and upstart bank declined to comment until now.

SoftBank’s Vision Fund 2 led the latest round, which also included participation from existing investors Adit Ventures, Honeycomb Asset Management and WestCap Group. The new valuation represents a 47.3% increase over Klarna’s post-money valuation of $31 billion in early March, when it raised $1 billion, and a 330% increase over its $10.6 billion valuation at the time of its $650 million raise last September. Previous backers include Sequoia Capital, SilverLake, Dragoneer and Ant Group, among others.

The latest financing cements 16-year-old Klarna’s position as the highest-valued private fintech in Europe.

In an exclusive interview with TechCrunch, Klarna CEO and founder Sebastian Siemiatkowski said the company has seen explosive growth in the U.S. and plans to use its new capital in part to continue to grow there and globally.

In particular, over the past year, the fintech has seen “massive momentum” in the country, with more than 18 million American consumers now using Klarna, he said. That’s up from 10 million at the end of last year’s third quarter, and up 118% year over year. Klara is now live with 24 of the top 100 U.S. retailers, which it says is “more than any of its competitors.”

Overall, Klarna is live in 20 markets, has more than 90 million global active users and more than 2 million transactions a day conducted on its platform. The company’s momentum can be seen in its impressive financial results. In the first quarter, Klarna notched $18.1 billion in volume compared to $9.9 billion in the prior year first quarter. In all of 2020, it processed $53 billion in volume. To put that into context; Affirm’s financial report in May projected it would process $8.04 billion in volume for the entire fiscal year of 2021 and Afterpay is projecting $16 billion in volume for its entire fiscal year. 

March 2021 also represented a record month for global shopping volume with $6.9 billion of purchases made through the Klarna platform.

Meanwhile, in 2020, Klara hit over a billion in revenue. While the company was profitable for its first 14 years of life, it has not been profitable the last two, according to Siemiatkowski, and that’s been by design.

“We’ve scaled up so massively in investments in our growth and technology, but running on a loss is very odd for us,” he told TechCrunch. “We will get back to profitability soon.”

Klarna has entered six new markets this year alone, including New Zealand and France, where it just launched this week. It is planning to expand into a number of new markets this year. The company has about 4,000 employees with several hundred in the U.S. in markets such as New York and Los Angeles. It also has offices in Stockholm, London, Manchester, Berlin, Madrid and Amsterdam. 

While Klarna is partnered with over 250,000 retailers around the world (including Macy’s, Ikea, Nike, Saks), its buy now, pay later feature is also available direct to consumers via its shopping app. This means that consumers can use Klarna’s app to pay immediately or later, as well as manage spending and view available balances. They can also do things like initiate refunds, track deliveries and get price-drop notifications.

“Our shopping browser allows users to use Klarna everywhere,” Siemiatkowski said. “No one else is offering that, and are rather limited to integrating with merchants.”

Image Credits: Klarna

Other things the company plans to do with its new capital is focus on acquisitions, particularly acqui-hires, according to Siemiatkowski. According to Crunchbase, the company has made nine known acquisitions over time — most recently picking up Los Gatos-based content creation services provider Toplooks.ai.

“We’re the market leader in this space and we want to find new partners that want to support us in this,” Siemiatkowski told TechCrunch. “That gives us better prerequisites to be successful going forward. Now we have more cash and money available to invest further in the long term.”

Klarna has long been rumored to be going public via a direct listing. Siemiatkowski said that the company in many ways already acts like a public company in that it offers stock to all its employees, and reports financials — giving the impression that the company is not in a hurry to go the public route.

“We report quarterly to national authorities and are a fully regulated bank so do all the things you expect to see from public companies such as risk control and compliance,” he told TechCrunch. “We’re reaching a point for it to be a natural evolution for the company to IPO. But we’re not preparing to IPO anytime soon.”

At the time of its last funding round, Klarna announced its GiveOne initiative to support planet health. With this round, the company is again giving 1% of the equity raised back to the planet.

Naturally, its investors are bullish on what the company is doing and its market position. Yanni Pipilis, managing partner for SoftBank Investment Advisers, said the company’s growth isfounded on a deep understanding of how the purchasing behaviors of consumers are changing,” an evolution SoftBank believes is only accelerating. 

Eric Munson, founder and CIO of Adit Ventures, said his firm believes the “best is yet to come as Klarna multiplies their addressable market through global expansion.” 

For Siemiatkowski, what Klarna is trying to achieve is to compete with the $1 trillion-plus credit card industry.

We really see right now all the signs are there. True competition is coming to this space, this decade,” he said. “This is an opportunity to genuinely disrupt the retail banking space.”

 

#amsterdam, #ant-group, #apps, #bank, #berlin, #bnpl, #buy-now-pay-later, #europe, #finance, #fintech, #france, #funding, #fundings-exits, #ikea, #klarna, #london, #los-angeles, #macys, #madrid, #manchester, #market-leader, #money, #new-york, #new-zealand, #nike, #payments, #recent-funding, #sebastian-siemiatkowski, #sequoia-capital, #softbank-investment-advisers, #softbank-vision-fund-2, #stockholm, #united-states, #venture-capital

Google Cloud Run gets committed use discounts and new security features

Cloud Run, Google Cloud’s serverless platform for containerized applications, is getting committed use discounts. Users who commit to spending a given amount on using Cloud Run for a year will get a 17% discount on the money they commit. The company offers a similar pre-commitment discount scheme for VM-based Compute Engine instances, as well as automatic ‘sustained use‘ discounts for machines that run for more than 25% of a month.

In addition, Google Cloud is also introducing a number of new security features for Cloud Run, including the ability to mount secrets from the Google Cloud Secret Manager and binary authorization to help define and enforce policies about how containers are deployed on the service. Cloud Run users can now also now use and manage their own encryption keys (by default, Cloud Run uses Google-managed keys) and a new Recommendation Hub inside of Cloud Run will now offer users recommendations for how to better protect their Cloud Run services.

Aparna Sinha, who recently became the director of product management for Google Cloud’s serverless platform, noted that these updates are part of Google Cloud’s push to build what she calls the “next generation of serverless.’

“We’re really excited to introduce our new vision for serverless, which I think is going to help redefine this space,” she told me. “In the past, serverless has meant a certain narrower type of compute, which is focused on functions or a very specific kind of applications, web services, etc. — and what we are talking about with redefining serverless is focusing on the power of serverless, which is the developer experience and the ease of use, but broadening it into a much more versatile platform, where many different types of applications can be run, and building in the Google way of doing DevOps and security and a lot of integrations so that you have access to everything that’s the best of cloud.”

She noted that Cloud Run saw “tremendous adoption” during the pandemic, something she attributes to the fact that businesses were looking to speed up time-to-value from their applications. IKEA, for example, which famously had a hard time moving from in-store to online sales, bet on Google Cloud’s serverless platform to bring down the refresh time of its online store and inventory management system from three hours to less than three minutes after switching to this model.

“That’s kind of the power of serverless, I think, especially looking forward, the ability to build real-time applications that have data about the context, about the inventory, about the customer and can therefore be much more reactive and responsive,” Sinha said. “This is an expectation that customers will have going forward and serverless is an excellent way to deliver that as well as be responsive to demand patterns, especially when they’re changing so much in today’s uncertain environment.”

Since the container model gives businesses a lot of flexibility in what they want to run in these containers — and how they want to develop these applications since Cloud Run is language-agnostic — Google is now seeing a lot of other enterprises move to this platform as well, both for deploying completely new applications but also to modernize some of their existing services.

For the companies that have predictable usage patterns, the committed use discounts should be an attractive option and it’s likely the more sophisticated organizations that are asking for the kinds of new security features that Google Cloud is introducing today.

“The next generation of serverless combines the best of serverless with containers to run a broad spectrum of apps, with no language, networking or regional restrictions,” Sinha writes in today’s announcement. “The next generation of serverless will help developers build the modern applications of tomorrow—applications that adapt easily to change, scale as needed, respond to the needs of their customers faster and more efficiently, all while giving developers the best developer experience.”

#aparna-sinha, #cloud, #cloud-computing, #cloud-infrastructure, #computing, #developer, #encryption, #google, #google-cloud, #google-compute-engine, #ikea, #online-sales, #product-management, #serverless-computing, #web-services

Final-mile fulfillment startup parcelLab closes $112M Series C funding led by Insight Partners

Munich-based parcelLab, which offers a final-mile fulfillment service for online retailers, has closed a $112 million (GB£80 million) Series C funding round led by the US VC/PE firm Insight Partners.

Germany’s Endeit Capital participated as a co-investor, alongside existing investors Capnamic Ventures and coparion. parcelLab last raised an undisclosed Series B in October 2019. The new funding will feed into parcelLab’s global expansion plans and new product development.

Founded in 2015 by Tobias Buxhoidt (CEO), Julian Krenge (CTO), and Anton Eder (COO), the startup has managed to bag such customers as Lidl, to which it provides automated personalized shipping messages. This means that as much as 85% of Lidl customers return to its website.

It also works with IKEA and Farfetch to increase basket sizes and email open rates of – it claims – over 90%, 25% reductions in WISMO (where is my order), and increases of customer reviews.   

In a statement Tobias Buxhoidt, CEO and Founder of parcelLab, said: “As e-commerce becomes increasingly competitive, providing unique and branded experiences will drive growth. Identifying opportunities to further connect with people and build a better, stronger relationship is a key differentiator.”   
 
Matt Gatto, Managing Director at Insight Partners, said: “We pride ourselves in identifying and investing in software ScaleUp companies that are driving transformative change in their industries. In parcelLab, we see true potential to transform how brands and people connect.”

Endeit only recently raised a €250 million fund to invest in B-stage European startups, so this is its most recent deployment of capital.

Philipp Schroeder Partner at Endeit commented: “ParcelLab’s team is the perfect example of internet entrepreneurs that we want to support – entrepreneurs who can drive the change to make Europe more competitive and who have the ambition to become global market leaders.” 

ParcelLab’s main competitor is US-based Narvar which has raised $64M, with its last round being a Series C funding.

#business, #capnamic-ventures, #ceo, #coo, #cto, #e-commerce, #endeit-capital, #entrepreneurship, #europe, #farfetch, #germany, #ikea, #insight-partners, #internet-entrepreneurs, #munich, #partner, #retailers, #tc

Instreamatic, which inserts interactive voice ads into audio streams, raises $6.1M Series A round

Interactive voice advertising startup Instreamatic, which can insert interactive voice ads into an audio stream, has raised $6.1 million in a Series A funding led by Progress Ventures led the round, joined by Accomplice, and Google Assistant Investments.

SF-HQ’d Instreamatic lets brands that advertise through streaming music apps and podcasts (for instance) have interactive voice-based dialogues with consumers. So instead of an audio ad playing in a one-way experience (as all adverts currently do), the listener can talk to, and interact, with the ad.

For example, when an Instreamatic advert says “Hello! Need help sleeping?” the microphone on the device it’s playing on opens, and the listener can respond however they like. If they say “Yes” then the brand’s voice (perhaps it’s a mattress brand) will respond with “Then we will sing you a lullaby”. If the user doesn’t respond then the ad experience is over and the content resumes playing. There are also more complex versions of this scenario. The key is that Instreamatic knows what happened and can tailor future ads to match the listener’s past engagement. Here’s an example.

The company says its technology can understand the ‘intent and tone’ of consumers’ natural responses to take the next action.

The upshot is that this AI-fueled voice ad could be coming to an audio stream near you soon. And with audio exploding following the pandemic, the platform is likely to benefit.

CEO Stas Tushinskiy, CEO, Instreamatic said in a statement: “Consumers don’t like being fed annoyingly repetitive ads. Brands are under ever-increasing pressure to make those moments meaningful while supporting strong ROI demands. On the publisher side, audio and video platforms need a better way to prove their audiences and ad inventory deliver their promise to brands. Our voice AI infrastructure, deployed by brands such as IKEA, Infiniti, and HP and across platforms like Pandora and Gaana, is empirically demonstrating that conversational marketing benefits brands, consumers, and publishers alike.”

Instreamatic says its voice ads can reach an average of 12% engagement, with some campaigns reaching 19%. These figures are quite unusual for the online advertising industry – the average CTR of mobile advertising is 0.6%.

The company says that a recent campaign by Infiniti saw 5.5% of listeners who declined the offer in the first conversation ask to receive more information about the vehicle after the second (and more personalized) chat.

Instreamatic also says it can achieve what it calls ‘continuous dialogues’ with consumers, not dissimilar to an Alexa or Siri device.

Because of the platforms complexity, Instreamatic also says it can build up a profile of the user based on an individual consumer’s previous interactions with a brand, allowing it to customize future campaigns.

So far brands that have used the platform include Pandora, Salem Media, Gaana (the Indian streaming music service), as well as a recent deal with Universal Electronics to expand voice ads into the smart-TV industry. It is also working with Triton Digital, one of the larger audio ad networks.

 
“Consumer demand for audio and video content, and the ubiquity of smart devices delivering that content on-demand, continues to accelerate,” said Nick MacShane, the founding partner at Progress Ventures, the venture capital arm of Progress Partners, a full-service merchant bank. “What hasn’t caught up is how brands and publishers can effectively engage those audiences in the same medium and analytically prove the ROI of their audio and video platform ad spend.”
 
A competitor to Instreamatic is AdsWizz, which, instead of voice, allows users to shake their phones when they are interested in an ad. But its interactions are obviously, therefore, more limited.

According to Juniper Research, the voice-based ad market will grow to $19 billion in the U.S. by 2022, growing the market share from the $17 billion audio ad market and the $57 billion programmatic ad market. Voice assistant usage is booming. Some estimates put it at over at 3 billion right, and half of all searches are expected to be done via voice. Some 55% of teens use voice search daily.

As well as Tushinskiy, the Instreamatic team also includes cofounder Simon Dunlop (former CEO/Founder of Bookmate, a subscription-based reading and audiobook platform, and Zvuk; Victor Frumkin (co-founder at Zvuk, a mobile music streaming app in Eastern Europe and Bookmate); Ilya Lityuga, CTO, one of the original team members at RuTube; and Andy Whatley, U.S. radio industry veteran.

#artificial-intelligence, #assistant, #ceo, #co-founder, #cofounder, #eastern-europe, #europe, #gaana, #hp, #ikea, #instreamatic, #juniper-research, #marketing, #mobile-advertising, #online-advertising, #pandora, #partner, #rutube, #sirius-xm, #smart-devices, #social-media-marketing, #tc, #triton-digital, #united-states, #voice-search

A ‘System of Espionage’ Reigned at Ikea, a French Prosecutor Charges

In a case riveting national attention, Ikea France is charged with violating privacy rights by surveilling unions, employees and customers.

#detectives-private, #france, #ikea, #industrial-espionage, #privacy, #workplace-hazards-and-violations

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.”

 

#abb, #asia, #bmw-group, #boeing-horizonx-ventures, #catl, #department-of-energy, #electric-vehicle, #europe, #european-union, #germany, #goldman-sachs, #ikea, #lg-chem, #lithium-ion-battery, #samsung, #siemens, #silicon-valley, #stanford-university, #sweden, #tc, #tesla, #united-states, #vestas, #volkswagen, #volkswagen-group, #vw

MadeiraMadeira, Brazil’s answer to Wayfair and Ikea, is now worth over $1 billion

MadeiraMadeira, the Brazilian answer to Wayfair or Ikea, is now worth $1 billion after raising $190 million in late stage financing from investors led by SoftBank’s Latin American investment fund and the Brazilian public and private investment firm, Dynamo.

An online marketplace specializing in home products, MadeiraMadeira offers roughly 300,000 products so customers can build furnish, renovate and decorate their homes.

Founded in 2009 by Daniel Scandian, Marcelo Scandian and Robson Privado, the company has seen huge tailwinds come from the shift to online shopping in Brazil as a result of the global COVID-19 pandemic.

With stores closed, online shopping in Brazil surged. As Daniel Scandian noted, before the pandemic ecommerce penetration in Brazil was at roughly 7%, that number ballooned to 17% at the height of the pandemic in Brazil and has now stabilized at around 10%.

Combining third party sales with private labeled goods and its own shipping and logistics facilities has meant that MadeiraMadeira can take the best practices from several online retailers and home furnishing stores, Scandian said.

There are more than 10,000 sellers on the MadeiraMadeira platform and roughly 2.5 million stock keeping units. In recent years the company has added showrooms to its mix of retail facilities, where customers can check out merchandise, but complete their orders online.

“That’s the way we can tackle the offline market with a digital mindset,” Scandian said. 

Money from the most recent financing will be used to invest in expanding its logistics capabilities with the addition of new warehouse facilities to expand on its existing ten locations. The company also intends to add same day delivery and the expansion of its private label services.

The new capital, likely the last round before a potential public offering, included previous investors like Flybridge and Monashees along with public-focused investment firms Velt, Brasil Capital and Lakewood.

Early investors like Monashees, Kaszek, Fundo Avila, Endeavour Catalyst and angel backers like Niraj Shah, the founder of Wayfair, and Build.com founder Christian Friedland were instrumental to MadeiraMadeira’s early success, Scandian said.

Based in Curitiba, MadeiraMadeira has over 1300 employees, with the majority of them focused on technology, logistics and product development.

“With this new investment, we are raising our commitment to MadeiraMadeira’s long-term value creation vision as the company consolidates its position as the leader in Latin America’s home goods market. Since our initial investment, MadeiraMadeira’s management team has delivered everything they’ve promised, and our faith in them continues to grow,” said Paulo Passoni, Managing Investment Partner to SoftBank Latin America fund.

#brazil, #companies, #dynamo, #e-commerce, #flybridge, #founder, #ikea, #latin-america, #leader, #online-marketplace, #online-shopping, #partner, #retailers, #softbank, #softbank-group, #tc, #wayfair

TaskRabbit is resetting customer passwords after finding ‘suspicious activity’ on its network

TaskRabbit has reset an unknown number of customer passwords after confirming it detected “suspicious activity” on its network.

The IKEA -owned online marketplace for on-demand labor said it reset user passwords out of an abundance of caution and that it “took steps to prevent access to any user accounts,” a TaskRabbit spokesperson told TechCrunch.

The company later confirmed it was a credential stuffing attack, where existing sets of exposed or breached usernames and passwords are matched against different websites to access accounts.

“We acted in an abundance of caution and reset passwords for many TaskRabbit accounts, including all users who had not logged in since May 1, 2020, as well as all users who logged in during the time period of the attack, even though most of the latter activity was attributable to users’ regular use of our services,” the spokesperson said.

“As always, the safety and security of the TaskRabbit community is our priority, and we will continue to be vigilant about protecting our users’ personal information,” said the spokesperson.

TaskRabbit customers were alerted to the incident in a vague email that only noted their password had been recently changed “as a security precaution,” without saying what specifically prompted the account change. TechCrunch confirmed that the email was legitimate.

The password reset email sent to TaskRabbit customers. (Image: Sarah Perez/TechCrunch)

It’s not uncommon for companies to reset passwords after a security incident where customer or account information is accessed or stolen in a breach.

Last year, online apparel marketplace StockX reset customer passwords after initially citing “system updates,” but later admitted it took action after it found suspicious activity on its network. Days later, a hacker provided TechCrunch with 6.8 million StockX account records stolen from the company’s servers.

TaskRabbit’s freelance labor marketplace was founded in 2008, and grew over time from an auction-style platform for negotiating tasks and errands to a more mature and tailored marketplace to match customers with contractors. That eventually attracted the attention of furniture retailer IKEA, which bought the startup in September 2017 after TaskRabbit put itself on the market for a strategic buyer.

The year after the acquisition, however, TaskRabbit had to take its website and app down due to a “cybersecurity incident.” The company later revealed an attacker had gained unauthorized access to its systems. Then-TaskRabbit CEO Stacy Brown-Philpot said the company had contracted with an outside forensics team to identify what customer information had been compromised by the attack, and urged both users and providers to stay vigilant in monitoring their own accounts for suspicious activity.

Following the attack, the company said it was implementing several new security measures and would work on making the log-in process more secure. It also said it would reduce the amount of data retained about taskers and customers as well as “enhance overall network cyber threat detection technology.”

Brown-Philpot left TaskRabbit earlier this year, and the CEO role has since been filled by former Airbnb and Uber Eats leader, Ania Smith.

Updated with additional comment from TaskRabbit.

#data-breach, #data-security, #ecommerce, #ikea, #online-marketplace, #retailers, #security, #taskrabbit

#DealMonitor – Bitburger investiert Millionen in Sanity Group – Project A investiert in GartenHaus – IKEA investiert in nyris


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

INVESTMENTS

Sanity Group
+++ Bitburger Ventures, die Beteiligungsgesellschaft der Brauerei Bitburger, investiert in das Berliner Cannabis-Startup Sanity Group, das vom Movinga-Retter Finn Hänsel und Fabian Friede ins Leben gerufen wurde. Wie aus dem Umfeld des Unternehmens zu hören ist, investiert Bitburger Ventures eine mittlere einstellige Millionensumme in die Sanity Group. Das Startup äußerte sich auf Anfrage nicht zu dem Investment. Holtzbrinck Ventures, Cherry Ventures, TQ Ventures und Calyx investierten zuletzt rund 20 Millionen Euro in das junge Cannabis-Startup, das derzeit mit Vayamed (früher: Sanatio Pharma), Vaay und neuerdings der Kosmetiklinie This Place unterwegs ist. Neben Bitburger entdeckte auch Wettbewerber Krombacher längst das Cannabis-Segment. Bernhard Schadeberg, Chef der Krombacher Brauerei, investierte bereits in das Unternehmen Demecan, das vom Mediziner Adrian Fischer, dem Volkswirt Cornelius Maurer und dem Juristen Constantin von der Groeben gegründet wurde. Demecan darf in Deutschland legal medizinisches Cannabis anpflanzen. #EXKLUSIV

GartenHaus
+++ Der Berliner Geldgeber Project A Ventures investiert eine ungenannte Summe in GartenHaus das 2002 an den Start gegangen ist. “Mit über 50.000 Kunden und monatlich einer halben Million Nutzern” sieht sich die Jungfirma als “Marktführer im Online Fachhandel für Haus & Garten in Deutschland, Österreich und der Schweiz”. GartenHaus bietet neben Gartenhäusern auch Saunen, Carports, Terrassen sowie andere “garten- und hausbezogene Produkte und Dienstleistungen, wie Aufbau und Baugenehmigung an”. Derzeit beschäftigt das Unternehmen 70 Mitarbeiter. “Das Co-Investment wurde mit der Private-Equity-Investmentgesellschaft 3i Group durchgeführt”, teilt der Kapitalgeber mit.  Die britische Beteiligungsgesellschaft 3i Group investierte kürzlich rund 60 Millionen Pfund in das Hamburger Unternehmen. Im Zuge der Transaktion wurde 3i Mehrheitsgesellschafter bei GartenHaus, das von Sebastian Arendt und Olivier Renaux geführt wird. 2019 erwirtschaftete das Unternehmen knapp 30 Millionen Euro Umsatz.

Decentriq
+++ btov Partners, Paladin Capital Group und Atlantic Labs investieren 3,8 Millionen US-Dollar in Decentriq. Das Schweizer Unternehmen möchte “sichere Datenökosysteme für Unternehmen zu ermöglichen”. Das frische Kapital soll das internationale Wachstum vorantreiben und den Kundenstamm erweitern. “Decentriq minimiert den Zeit- und Kostenaufwand für sensible Daten-Ökosysteme, die beispielsweise für den Datenaustausch zwischen Organisationen notwendig sind”, teilt das Startup mit.

nyris
+++ Der schwedische Einrichtungsgigant IKEA investiert eine ungenannte Summe in das Berliner Startup nyris, das von den Geschwistern Anna Lukasson-Herzig und Markus Lukasson geführt wird. Das Unternehmen bietet eine Software, die mithilfe künstlicher Intelligenz Objekte auf Bildern aller Art erkennt. Zuletzt investierte der Münsteraner Geldgeber eCapital gemeinsam mit SEK Ventures, also den Flixbus-Gründern, und dem Axel Springer Plug & Play Accelerator in die Jungfirma.

Insha
+++ Der türkische Payment Service Provider Param investiert 2,5 Millionen Euro in das deutsch-türkische Fintech Insha. Hinter dem Fintech verbirgt sich eine Smartphone-Bank, bei der “moralische Werte an erste Stelle” stehen. “Mit Büros in Berlin und Istanbul unterliegt insha der Regulierung durch EU-Behörden. Die App wird von AlBaraka Türk unterstützt”, teilt das Unternehmen, hinter dem die türkische Bank AlBaraka steckt, mit.

DIE HÖHLE DER LÖWEN

Yucona
+++ In der achten Folge investierte Regal-Löwe Ralf Dümmel 250.000 Euro in Yucona und sicherte sich dabei 35 % am Unternehmen. Die wiederverwendbare Wasserfilterkartusche von Richard Birich und seiner Cousine Inga Plochow ins Leben gerufen. Ursprünglich wollten die Yucona-Macher 250.000 Euro für 20 % einsammeln.

NUI Cosmetics
+++ In der achten Folge investierte Beauty-Löwin Judith Williams 250.000 Euro in NUI Cosmetics und sicherte sich dabei direkt 40 % am Unternehmen. Hinter NUI Cosmetics verbirgt sich eine “Produktwelt mit natürlichen und veganen – aber auch stylischen – Kosmetikprodukten”. Ursprünglich wollte Gründerin Swantje van Uehm 250.000 Euro für 20 % einsammeln.

Twentyless
+++ In der achten Folge investierte Regal-Löwe Ralf Dümmel 70.000 Euro in Twentyless und sicherte sich dabei 25 % am Unternehmen. Die Jungfirma, die von Eike Meyer gegründet wurde, bietet Reinigungskonzentrate in Glasflaschen an. Ursprünglich wollte Gründer Meyer 70.000 Euro für 15 % einsammeln.

Hyconnect
+++ In der achten Folge investierten Sales-Löwe Carsten Maschmeyer und Klima-Löwe Nico Rosberg 500.000 Euro in Hyconnect und sicherten sich dabei nach harten Verhandlungen 17,5 % am Unternehmen. Hyconnect-Gründer Lars Molter entwickelt mit FAUSST ein spezielles Verbindungselement, das Metall und Faserverbundelemente sicher miteinander fügt. Ursprünglich wollte der Hyconnect-Gründer 500.000 Euro für 12,5 % einsammeln. Mittlerweile konnte das Startup 1 Millionen einsammeln – siehe der Brutkasten.

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): Shutterstock

#aktuell, #albaraka, #atlantic-labs, #berlin, #bitburger-ventures, #btov-partners, #decentriq, #fintech, #gartenhaus, #hamburg, #hyconnect, #ikea, #insha, #nui-cosmetics, #nyris, #paladin-capital-group, #project-a-ventures, #sanatio-pharma, #sanity-group, #this-place, #twentyless, #vaay, #vayamed, #venture-capital, #yucona

Ikea Will Buy Back Some Used Furniture

The program, part of the company’s larger efforts to combat climate change, will be available in 27 countries, but not the United States.

#black-friday-and-cyber-monday-shopping, #furniture, #great-britain, #greenhouse-gas-emissions, #ikea, #shopping-and-retail, #sweden

TaskRabbit C.E.O. to Step Down, a Blow for Silicon Valley Diversity

Stacy Brown-Philpot, one of the few prominent black women in the technology industry, has led the gig worker marketplace for four years, and oversaw its sale to Ikea.

#appointments-and-executive-changes, #black-people, #brown-philpot-stacy, #ikea, #race-and-ethnicity, #taskrabbit-inc

Cake brings a Swedish take on e-motorcycle design to the U.S.

Cake has crafted the Swedish edition of electric motorcycle design starting in the dirt.

The Stockholm based mobility startup’s debut, the Kalk OR, is a 150 pound, battery powered two-wheeler engineered for agile off-road riding and available in a street-legal version.

On appearance, Cake’s Kalk has a minimalist stance and doesn’t evoke “motorcycle” in any conventional sense.

That was intentional, according to the company’s CEO, Stefan Ytterborn — a design aficionado and serial founder — who was more of a mountain biker and skier than a motorcyclist, before launching Cake with is two sons Karl and Nils.

“I wasn’t a motorcycle geek…I actually learned how to ride a motorcycle,” he explained on his foray into the business.

Ytterborn has worked in design development his entire career, leaving Sweden for Milan in his early days, developing product lines for IKEA in the ’90s and founding several design oriented companies over the years.

His last venture — outdoor sporting gear venture POC — supplied Olympic gold medalist Bode miller and the U.S. Ski Team with helmets and optics before it was acquired by Investcorp in 2015 for a reported $65 million.

Cake Motorcycles

Cake’s Kalk OR, Image Credits: Cake

Ytterborn’s current company shares some similarities with POC, namely creating products for natural forward motion in the outdoors.

The direction for Cake — according to its founder — was to design a motorcycle from a clean slate, harnessing the advantages of what voltage power could offer to the form.

“I was stoked by the idea of what an electric drive-train could bring,” Ytterborn told TechCrunch . “But then I started realizing nobody is really optimizing the performance of the electric drive-train. Everyone’s trying to imitate what the combustion motorcycle does,” he said.

One of the first things Ytterborn took from that view was engineering a lighter platform with a better power to weight ratio.

A distinguishing characteristic of most e-moto offerings, including the few oriented toward off-road use, is they are heavier than gas motorcycles. Even one of the lightest choices out there for street and dirt use, Zero’s FX, weighs nearly 100 pounds more than Cake’s Kalk OR.

The $13,000 Swedish e-motorcycle has a 2.6kWh battery, charges to 80% in an hour and a half using a standard outlet, and offers up to three-hours of off road ride time, according to Cake. The Kalk has 30 ft-lbs of torque and a top speed of 50 miles per hour.

The street legal version, the Kalk&, has similar specs with a mixed city/highway range of 53 miles. Both have capability for quick battery swaps and a second battery goes for $3,000.

Cake introduced an additional model in 2020, the $8,500 Ösa+, which the company characterizes as an urban utility moped with off-road capabilities.

Cake’s Ösa+, Image Credits: Cake

As a startup, Cake has raised $20 million in VC, including a $14 million Series A financing round led by e.ventures and Creandum in 2019.

The U.S. is a prime market for the company. Cake has a subsidiary in Park City, Utah, a U.S. representative — Zach Clayton — and is poised to open a sales store in New York City this quarter. 

The company has sold 300 motorcycles in the U.S. this year and America makes up 60% of its sales market, according to its CEO.

On where the Cake fits into motorcycle market, “We’re much more Patagonia than Kawasaki,” said Ytterborn,

He described Cake as something developed for a far from static mobility world, where everything about how people move from A to B is being redefined, including the concept of the motorcycle.

That entails creating something that captures the exhilaration of riding off-road for an eco-conscious market segment, put off by the noise and fumes of gas motocross bikes.

“What really got me going was the intuition that we could flip the market upside down [with Kalk],” said Ytterborn.

Cake’s street legal Kalk&; Image Credits: Cake

“It’s silent, it doesn’t disturb, it doesn’t pollute and is the opposite of what non-motorcycle people associate with motorcycles,” he said.

The U.S. motorcycle market could use some fresh ideas, as it’s been in pretty bad shape since the last recession, particularly with young folks. New sales dropped by roughly 50% in 2008 — with sharp declines in ownership by everyone under 40 — and have never recovered.

At least one of the big gas manufactures — Harley Davidson — and several EV startups, such as Zero, are offering e-motorcycles as a way to convert gas riders to electric and attract a younger generation to motorcycling.

It’s notable that Harley Davidson acquired a youth electric scooter maker, Stacyc, in 2019 and has committed to produce e-scooters and e-mountain bikes as part of its EV pivot. The strategy is to use these platforms to create a new bridge for young people to motorcycles in the on-demand mobility world.

HD’s moves could provide some insight on where Cake might fit in that space. On one hand, the startup’s models could become premium electric motorcycles for the eco-friendly, Outside Magazine and action sports crowd. On the other, Cake could fill a new segment on the mobility product line — somewhere between e-scooters, e-bikes and traditional motorcycles.

“We want to establish a new category where people with an active lifestyle, whether they’re motorcycle people or not, can proceed with sustainability, responsibility and respect,” said CEO Stefan Ytterborn.

One challenge for this thesis could be Cake’s price and performance points compared to the competition. Zero Motorcycle’s FX, while heavier than the $13,000 Kalk, starts at $8,995 and has a top speed of 85 miles per hour.

#america, #cake-motorcycles, #ceo, #e-bike, #e-moto, #e-motorcycle, #e-motorcycles, #e-scooters, #electric-bicycle, #europe, #harley-davidson, #ikea, #investcorp, #moped, #motocross, #motorcycle, #new-york-city, #patagonia, #scooter, #stacyc, #stockholm, #sweden, #tc, #techcrunch, #transport, #united-states, #utah, #zero-motorcycles

RWDC Industries is a new startup hoping to become a bioplastics giant in Athens, Ga.

Daniel Carraway spent his entire career working in paper and bioplastics.

The serial entrepreneur began his career at International Paper working in their research division before founding two previous companies which became cornerstones of the bioplastics industry. His latest venture, RWDC Industries, has raised $133 million in a recent financing to build a new sustainable manufacturing juggernaut in the small city of Athens, Ga.

With offices in Athens and Singapore, RWDC is the fruit of a partnership between Carraway and Roland Wee, an engineer with decades of experience in the chemicals and construction business across Asia.

The two men met through mutual connections as Carraway sought new opportunities to pursue his longtime vision of commercializing bioplastics.  The serial entrepreneur had just stepped away from his work with  Meredian Holdings Group and its subsidiary, Danimer Scientific — companies that sprung from work Carraway started at his kitchen table with his wife back in 2004, he said.

In 2019, bioplastics represented a $95 million opportunity according to a report in Market Data Forecast, but the small size of the current market belies how big the opportunity can be, according to Carraway.

RWDC, Danimer, and Kaneka are all pursuing an opportunity to replace plastic packaging, which was a $234.14 billion market, according to GrandViewResearch. It’s that potential market for plastics that has drawn countless companies over the years — including Carraway’s own — to raise hundreds of millions of dollars.

Several of those companies failed. Perhaps the most successful of the early high-flyers was Metabolix, which had a public offering before the financial crisis hit in 2008. That company sold its bioplastics division to CJ CheilJedang for roughly $10 million and pivoted to crop science.

Carraway insists that the market has changed over the last few decades and the time is finally right for biology to supplant chemistry in industrial manufacturing.

“If you look back at the history of new materials development… especially polymers.. There has never been a new polymer that had been invented that didn’t take twenty to thirty years for it to make wide scale adoption,” said Carraway. “When a polymer is first developed it takes a while to get the manufacturing right to get it at wide scale. [And] it takes time for polymer converters to understand how to use a new material… it’s not that technologically it’s not viable it’s about figuring out how to use the new material.”

Scale is important too, said Carraway. “You have to reach a certain critical availability in metric tons available in the global market to create a situation where people can use the new material,” he said.

RWDC can already make about 5,000 tons of PHA and expects to grow its capacity to make half a million tons of material, but that barely scratches the surface of available capacity for traditional plastics. “For the next decade we’re going to be in a mad scramble to grow production capacity because we’re going to be behind the demand curve,” said Carraway.

Industry observers have seen this story before. Because the new material Carraway is talking about isn’t actually all that new. For at least the past twenty years companies have been working on ways to cheaply manufacture polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs). The material is produced by the fermentation of oil or sugars and serve as a replacement for the chemicals that are made from cracking ethane (a product of oil processing) to make plastic.

However, as concerns continue to mount over the environmental degradation caused by plastic pollutants and the contributions the plastics industry makes to emissions causing global climate change, the push for replacing plastics with more sustainable products has gained momentum.

Regulations in Europe will ban many single use plastic products next year forcing companies to build out their supply of bioplastic alternatives or abandon the use of plastics altogether.

Market moves like these have the potential to spur the bioplastics industry and shift production into high gear. Carraway said demand hasn’t been effected by the collapse of oil prices which has driven down the costs of chemicals and plastics.

“Even though our materials are initially more expensive… the amount that they cost over the commodities in normal circumstances isn’t that much,” Carraway said. “Every customer we’re working with has asked us to speed up and give them more. No one has said we want to slow down or scale back or change our plans.”

And propelling the industry forward could provide a lift to local economies that have been financially ravaged by the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic.

At least, that’s what Carraway is hoping will happen in Athens, Ga.

The company is using some of the money it raised from international and US-based investors including the Singapore-based venture capital firm Vickers Venture Partners; IKEA’s investment company; a Swiss pension fund; a Northeastern energy provider; and an industrial chemical company owned by Koch Industries to revive an old factory in the city as its new production plant. 

RWDC said the new facility will bring in 200 jobs to northeastern Georgia.

“We are excited to see RWDC expand its operations in Athens and add a substantial number of new well-paying jobs,” said Athens-Clarke County Mayor, Kelly Girtz. “Athens is the home of the University of Georgia, and we have a long record of supporting innovation and industry. Like communities across America and the world, we want to see a reduction in plastic pollution, and we have high hopes that RWDC, with the help of the Athens community at their new facility, will be able to solve that problem.”

#america, #asia, #chemicals, #companies, #energy, #engineer, #europe, #georgia, #ikea, #koch-industries, #metabolix, #oil, #plastic, #plastics, #polymer, #serial-entrepreneur, #shutterstock, #singapore, #tc, #university-of-georgia, #venture-capital, #vickers-venture-partners

Marketing data platform Adverity raises $30M Series C led by Sapphire Ventures

In the time many of us live in now, we all know our online media consumption is — to state the obvious — going through the roof. Subsequently, the amount of data pertaining to online marketing is, equally, reaching stratospheric heights and in recent years tech companies like Datorama and Funnel.io, SuperMetrics and Adverity have appeared to give marketeers a data intelligence platform to deal with the welter of spreadsheets and reports necessary to track everything.

Last year, Vienna HQ’d Adverity closed an €11 million Series B funding round for its AI-driven platform to produce actionable insights in real-time for marketers.

Today it’s announcing a Series C financing round of $30 million, bringing the total amount it has raised to $50 million. The latest funding round is led by Valley-based Sapphire Ventures . Also participating is Mangrove Capital Partners, Felix Capital, SAP.iO and aws Gründerfonds who have all re-invested in this latest round. 

The Series C funding will be used to accelerate Adverity’s business growth, office network and R&D. Adverity’s clients include IKEA, Red Bull, Unilever, MediaCom and IPG Mediabrands.

Alexander Igelsböck, CEO and co-founder of Adverity, said in a statement: “Our platform plays a crucial role in helping enterprises become agile, empowering digital teams with intelligent insights. It is imperative we invest in evolving and developing new solutions, improving access and quality, and tackle the challenges of data complexity.”

Nino Marakovic, CEO and managing director at Sapphire Ventures commented that Adverity has “the opportunity to help all companies become more data-driven in their marketing.”

In an interview with TechCrunch, long-time Adverity investor Frederic Court of Felix Capital said: “We backed them as marketing is becoming a science with increasing complexity, we see this across all our consumer investments. Take Farfetch, where there is a dedicated team just for marketing. Adverity enables brands and ad agencies to aggregate their marketing data and extract intelligence automatically. I describe it as having a data scientist in a box, where a brand can understand its marketing data and get smart insights effortlessly. Their technology is very strong and their sales have taken off strongly.”

Speaking to this latest round of investment, he told me: “We were not fundraising but Sapphire was a very compelling partner. Post COVID-19, e-commerce is going to grow even faster (as we see with Shopify, Amazon and across our portfolio) and the company can benefit from this accelerated transition to e-commerce.”

#adverity, #amazon, #artificial-intelligence, #companies, #data-scientist, #e-commerce, #europe, #farfetch, #felix-capital, #frederic-court, #funnel, #ikea, #mangrove-capital-partners, #nino-marakovic, #online-marketing, #publishing, #red-bull, #sapphire-ventures, #shopify, #tc, #techcrunch, #unilever

Ikea acquires AI imaging startup Geomagical Labs to supercharge room visualisations

Ikea, the Swedish home furnishings and decor giant, has been one of the leaders among retailers when it comes to adapting to tech innovations that impact its business, being one of the first to launch augmented reality applications, partnering with others to develop smart home devices and launching a business unit to build that out further, investing in relevant startups, and even picking up of logistics startups to expand its reach. Today, it’s taking another step in that trajectory with a tech acquisition: the company has acquired Geomagical Labs, an AI imaging startup based out of Mountain View.

Geomagical Labs has not had a lot of fanfare, but quietly it’s been developing a number of computer vision-based technologies. Its first product — which allows a user to quickly scan a room using any smartphone, render that into a panoramic 3D picture in a few minutes, remove all the furniture in it, and then, in the words of Geomagical’s founder and CEO Brian Totty, “play dress up” by adding in new items to scale — will be implemented by Ikea into its website and apps to let people start to create more accurate visualisations of their spaces, and how they would look with Ikea pieces in them.

To be clear, Ikea already had developed an AR-based visualisation tool, as one of the first to use Apple’s AR developer kit a few years ago, but this represents a far more accurate and useful development on that, besides also giving Ikea the tools to build more features and tools in the future in house.

(That is the kind of technology that is always useful, but perhaps especially right now, when physical stores are being shut down in many countries around the world to stave off spread of the coronavirus.)

“We’re excited because the user can really play around with this and see how something would fit immediately,” said Barbara Martin Coppola, Chief Digital Officer, Ikea Retail, in an interview. She added that Ikea decided to acquire the startup rather than just partner with it for “a lot of different reasons, with the first being that the tech is exceptional and groundbreaking.” The app and online experience that Ikea is developing will be free to use, and for now, there are no plans to offer the tech as a service to other retailers, a la an AWS model, she added.

Terms of the deal — which technically is being made between Geomagical and the Ingka Group, the company that owns Ikea — are not being disclosed, the companies said. But Totty — a serial entrepreneur who was an early Groupon exec (by way of acquisition of a previous startup) as well as one of the founding employees of Inktomi (remember them?) — said that the startup and investors were “very happy” with the terms.

Those investors and how much it had previously raised is also not fully disclosed but they included Totty himself, Andrew Mason (Groupon’s cofounder and former CEO) and a number of other individuals.

From what we understand, the startup had been talking to a number of other interested parties, including other retailers and a couple of large tech companies. (For some more context, computer vision has been a very hot area for acquisition, both to pick up products and talent, and Apple and Google are among those that have been aggressively acquiring in this area in recent times to expand their own platforms.)

The reason why Geomagical Labs went with Ikea versus a tech exit, Totty said, was because the company was keen to make sure that its technology saw the light of day — rather than potentially get subsumed into a bigger tech machine that might or might not use it, or instead choose to redeploy the team (which includes six PhDs, including Totty himself) on something completely different, experience Totty would know given his track record.

“There has been so much progress in cell phones and AI, finally giving us this dream of waving your camera in front of you and to do cool things,” he said. He described going to Ikea as “a great bird in the hand” play.

“You plan all your options and you could decide to wait, but you don’t always have the ability to get partnerships of this kind. The question for us was, do we raise another round of funding, or do a 50 or larger percent acquisition? I don’t really want to talk about scenario planning but I believe what we’ve built is broadly valuable to all of the industry right now. And the challenge of a general purpose tech with a special product is that your domain of applicability is lower. We didn’t want to be talented people with a little technology but a game changer.”

Before Ikea, Coppola spent her entire career working for big tech companies, including many years at Google, as well as Samsung and others, and she sees this acquisition as an essential move in focusing the retailer even more squarely on its technology opportunity, by not just adopting new innovations but by owning the IP and building the technology itself.

“Ikea has spent more than $200 million investing in or acquiring 23 companies to date,” she said. “both to make a positive contribution to the sector and fulfil Ikea’s vision. This will continue to be the case. Acquisitions and investments will not stop and will increase,” she added.

#artificial-intelligence, #augmented-reality, #computer-vision, #coronavirus, #covid-19, #ecommerce, #europe, #exit, #furniture, #geomagical-labs, #ikea, #ma, #retail, #startups, #tc

Alipay owner Ant Financial takes minority stake in Klarna

Some big moves in the payments platform space: Ant Financial Group, the owner of China’s Alipay payment platform has announced it’s taking a minority stake in Swedish payments platform Klarna — which has a strong European presence and a flagship product that lets shoppers buy now and pay later in interest-free instalments (typically 14 or 30 days after the purchase).

The pair have not disclosed terms of the deal but Reuters reported the stake amounts to less than 1% and was made up of existing and new shares. It also cites its source telling it the stake was done at a “slight uptick” to Klarna’s $460 million funding round last August — which valued the company at $5.5BN.

A spokeswomen for Klarna told us it’s not disclosing the value of the investment but she confirmed Reuters reporting, saying the stake is less than 1%.

Ant Financial is part of Chinese ecommerce and retail services multinational giant, Alibaba Group, which took a 33% stake in the fintech affiliate back in 2018 that gave it direct ownership of its suite of products and services — including an investment fund, micro-loans, insurance services, a digital bank and the Alipay mobile payments platform. 

Prior to today’s news, Klarna and Alipay had already been collaborating via Alibaba’s global ecommerce marketplace, AliExpress — which offers Klarna’s ‘Pay later’ option in multiple markets.

Now the pair touted their deepening partnership as set to bring more “innovative and convenient” financial services to consumers worldwide.

They are also clearly hoping to further grease the wheels of East to West ecommerce by expanding opportunities for China’s growing middle class to tap into Klarna’s network of European and global merchants via their preferred online payment method.

Commenting in a statement, Klarna CEO Sebastian Siemiątkowski said: “For too long consumers have had to endure non-intuitive, boring and overly complex services when shopping both online and offline. At the heart of this cooperation between Klarna and Alipay is a shared ambition of innovating truly superior shopping experiences and creating destinations of inspiration for consumers across the world.”

“Alipay, and the wider Alibaba Group, have truly set the global pace on retail innovation and the app economy. We are delighted in this confidence shown in Klarna in defining the future of payments and shopping and are very much looking forward to working together further in the future,” he added.

Klarna said its technology is being used by more than 200,000 retailers and e-commerce platforms globally at this point, including AliExpress, H&M, ASOS, Expedia Group, IKEA, Farfetch, Adidas, Spotify, Samsung and Nike .

Last year it said it added over 75,000 new merchants — describing itself as a “strategic growth partner” for these retailers and claiming it’s driving “millions of referrals and traffic each month” from owned channels to partner merchants from consumers who it says are actively seeking where they can shop with Klarna. (It claims a base of 85 million shoppers.)

Ant Financial, meanwhile, has been working on expanding Alipay’s global footprint by cutting local deals in markets outside China where it cannot build up its transaction volume organically. Notably, back in 2015, it  took a stake in India’s One97 — which operates a major local mobile payment platform, Paytm.

TechCrunch’s Ingrid Lunden contributed to this report

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