Index Ventures launches web-app to help founders calculate employee stock options

The ability to offer stock options is utterly essential to startups. They convince talented people to join when the startup is unlikely to be capable of matching the high salaries that larger, established tech firms can offer.

However, it’s a complex business developing a competitive stock option plan. Luckily, London-based VC Index Ventures today launches both a handy web app to calculate all this, plus new research into how startups are compensating their key hires across Europe and the US.

OptionPlan Seed, is a web-app for seed-stage founders designing ESOPs (Employee Stock Ownership Plans). 
The web app is based on Index’s analysis of seed-stage option grants, drawing on data from over 1,000 startups.

The web app covers a variety of roles; 6 different levels of allocation benchmarks; calculates potential financial upside for each team member (including tax); and adjusts according to policy frameworks in the US, Canada, Israel, Australia, and 20 European countries.

It also builds on the OptionPlan for Series A companies that Index launched a few years ago.

As part of its research for the new tool, Index said it found that almost all seed-stage employees receive stock options. However, while this reaches 97% of technical hires at seed-stage startups and 80% of junior non-technical hires for startups in the US, in Europe only 75% of technical hires receive options, dropping to 60% for junior non-technical hires.

That said, Index found stock option grant sizes are increasing, particularly among startups “with a lot of technical DNA, and weighted towards the Bay Area”. In less tech-heavy sectors such as e-commerce or content, grant sizes have not shifted much. Meanwhile, grants are still larger overall as seed valuations have grown in the last few years.

Index found the ESOP size is increasing at seed stage, following a faster rate of hiring, and larger grants per employee. Index recommends an ESOP size at seed stage is set at 12.5% or 15%, rather than the more traditional 10% in order to retain and attract staff.

The research also found seed fundraise sizes and valuations have doubled, while valuations have risen by 2.5x, in Europe and the US. 


Additionally, salaries at seed have “risen dramatically” with average salaries rising in excess of 60%. Senior tech roles at seed-stage startups in the US now earn an average $185,000 salary, a 68% increase over 3 years, and can rise to over $220,000. But in Europe, the biggest salary increases have been for junior roles, both technical and non-technical.



That said, Index found that “Europe’s technical talent continues to have a compensation gap” with seed-stage technical employees in Europe still being paid 40-50% less on average than their US counterparts. Indeed, Index found this gap had actually widened since 2018, “despite a narrowing of the gap for non-technical roles”.


Index also found variations in salaries across Europe are “much wider than the US”, reflecting high-cost hubs like London, versus lower-cost cities like Bucharest or Warsaw.

The war for talent is now global, with the compensation gap for technical hires narrowing to 20-25% compared to the US.


Index’s conclusion is that “ambitious seed founders in Europe should raise the bar in terms of who they hire, particularly in technical roles” as well as aiming for more experienced and higher-caliber candidates, larger fundraises to be competitive on salaries.

#australia, #canada, #corporate-finance, #e-commerce, #entrepreneurship, #europe, #finance, #investment, #israel, #london, #money, #private-equity, #startup-company, #stock, #tc, #united-states, #venture-capital, #warsaw, #web-app

Fintech is transforming the world’s oldest asset class: Farmland

Farmland as an asset class has proven itself to be a stable investment decade after decade. Farmland’s negative correlation with the Dow Jones Industrial Average sits at an eye-popping -43% for a three-year hold period, making it an excellent hedge against market volatility.

The asset has also been a steady appreciator since 1987, when institutional investors began incorporating farmland into their portfolios. Equally, investments into sustainably managed farmland have the potential to transform agriculture from one of the largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions to one of the largest carbon sinks.

While farmland investments can provide passive income and a hedge during just about any economic condition, direct investments into the asset have been largely inaccessible to date.

However, while farmland is among the oldest investment classes around, the average investor hasn’t had access to farmland the way that billionaires and institutional investors have.

Revolutions in fintech and a host of startups are changing this.

Why farmland?

COVID-19 affected the world in ways we couldn’t have predicted, and the markets were no exception. The S&P 500 plummeted in mid-March and shed 34% of its pre-COVID peak value. But unlike past crises, the index rebounded just a month later.

This doesn’t mean that financial markets have fully recovered, however. We’ve seen plenty of volatility since, both in the form of rallies and losses. This has caused many investors to move some of their portfolio out of equities.

This is where farmland entered the discussion.

A historically stable asset class

Wild stock market fluctuations existed well before COVID-19. The latest era of volatility began in 2018 and continued even as the economy grew prior to the pandemic. Given the unpredictability of the equities market, investors need to counterbalance what’s in store for stocks and funds.

#column, #ec-column, #ec-food-climate-and-sustainability, #finance, #financial-technology, #food-supply, #greenhouse-gas-emissions, #investment, #startups

Gaia Capital Partners in Paris rebrands as Revaia, closes first €250M growth fund

Paris-based VC fund Gaia Capital Partners has change its name to Revaia and announced the final closing of its first growth fund, at €250 million. The firm said it exceeded its initial target of €200 million, and the fund will be ‘ESG focused’.

Revaia is also claiming to be Europe’s largest female-founded VC fund, although TechCrunch has not been able to verify that at the time of publication.

As Gaia Capital Partners, Revaia launched its first fund in late 2019, the portfolio for which currently consists of ten investments, including Aircall, recently achieved a unicorn valuation. Other investments include Epsor (Paris: Epsor designs and distributes employee savings and retirement plans), GetAccept (SF: an all-in-one sales enablement solution that assists B2B sales reps in closing remote deals), gohenry (London: a kids money management application), Planity (Paris: an online booking platform for hair and beauty salons), Welcome to the Jungle (Paris: a multichannel media company), and Yubo (Paris: a social platform for Generation Z).

Alice Albizzati, co-founder of Revaia said in a statement: “When we set up the firm, we were determined to create an investment strategy in line with our convictions – a focus on European companies with high ambitions but with no compromise on sustainability – and with the objective of bridging the gap between private and public markets. Our venture has performed beyond our initial expectations.”

The firm now has an office in Paris and Berlin, as well as a presence in New York and Toronto

The fund’s institutional investors include insurance companies such as Generali, Allianz, and Maif, pension funds, other institutional investors such as Bpifrance, as well as over 50 family offices and Angels.

Elina Berrebi, co-founder of Revaia, said: “We are very grateful to our investors and entrepreneurs who trusted us as we accelerated the build-up of our portfolio. This final closing of our first fund is a huge milestone. It is a solid foundation from which we can support future European technology leaders with their ambitions and sustainability plans, as well as expand and internationalize our team while building a strong value creation platform.”

Revaia said the new fund had already begun investing, and “two new investments should be announced soon”.

The firm says it aims to invest in around 15 companies and expand across Europe.

It’s also partnered with listed market sustainable investor Sycomore Asset Management.

#accel, #allianz, #berlin, #bpifrance, #co-founder, #europe, #finance, #gaia-capital-partners, #insurance, #investment, #london, #maif, #money, #new-york, #paris, #tc, #vc

VC Geoff Lewis on moving to Austin and popping Silicon Valley’s ‘self-referential’ bubble

Austin has made headlines over the past year for a number of reasons: It’s home to Oracle’s new headquarters. Tesla is building a massive gigafactory in the Texas capital. People, mostly tech workers, are leaving the Bay Area in droves to settle in the city, driving up home prices in the process.

But, it’s not just tech workers. A number of venture capitalists have set up shop in Austin, including Jim Breyer of Breyer Capital and Palantir co-founder Joe Lonsdale, who said last year he was moving his venture capital firm, 8VC, from Silicon Valley to the city.

‘I don’t believe everyone should move to Austin. I don’t think it’s right for everyone, but I do think it’s right for us.’

The latest VC to call Austin home is Geoff Lewis, founder and managing partner of Bedrock Capital, a 4-year-old early-stage venture capital firm with $1 billion in assets under management. Lewis started his investing career at Founders Fund, where he was a partner for several years. He either serves or has served on the board of companies such as Lyft, Nubank, Vercel and Workrise.

Lewis also led early investments in Wish, Upstart, Tilray, Canva, Rippling, ClearCo, Flock Safety and a number of other unicorns. He’s largely credited with popularizing the phrase “narrative violation” to describe promising companies that are overlooked or underestimated because they are incongruent with popular narratives.

In making the move to Austin, the investor said he had grown disillusioned with Silicon Valley and the region’s continued lack of focus on solving what he described as real-world problems.

In a Medium post, Lewis said he was first introduced to Austin after backing Workrise (formerly called RigUp), a marketplace for skilled trade workers. In fact, he was the company’s first seed investor eight years ago and has gone on to invest in the company eight subsequent times. Today, Workrise is valued at nearly $3 billion.

Lewis said he was drawn to the company not just because it was “going to be huge” but also because it was “much more concerned with real people and real places than today’s Silicon Valley behemoths.”

“Put simply, it is a more humane technology company,” Lewis writes. “And it’s my search for this more humane genre of technological innovation that brought me to Texas. I’ve lived on the coasts and built my career as a Silicon Valley technology entrepreneur and investor, but I’ve never felt of the coasts or as an insider in Silicon Valley — I didn’t go to Stanford nor grow up rich.”

TechCrunch talked with Lewis to get more details around his decision to move his firm to Austin, learn more of his views on why Silicon Valley is too much of “a bubble” (spoiler alert: they may not be popular with many of you!) and how he plans to invest in more of Texas’ nexus of startups.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

I understand that you grew up in Canada. How did you first get involved in the tech industry to begin with?

I started off as an entrepreneur myself, building a SaaS company in the travel space [Topguest]. I founded that business in New York City, and in 2009 ended up moving my team to San Francisco. I spent most of my career from 2009 to 2021 bouncing between New York and SF. We ended up selling that company in 2011 and it was a reasonably OK outcome. I joined Founders Fund in 2012, where I just fell in love with investing. I ended up really having a special trajectory there and 2012 was a great time to be a young VC in San Francisco and Silicon Valley. I ended up specializing in marketplaces, both consumer and enterprise, backing companies like Lyft and Canva early. I also did the firm’s first fintech investment in Latin America, backing Nubank, and now that company has a $30 billion valuation.

I grew up with pretty modest means and by 2017, I figured I had done well enough as a VC and I should strike out on trying to get back to what I wanted to do, which was more entrepreneurial. So we founded Bedrock in late 2017. We’re on Fund III now and it’s been consistent with the investment philosophy I pursued — trying to find what we call narrative violations, or these counternarrative companies that are being overlooked or underestimated. We were very early investors in Cameo, which is now obviously a pretty well-known business, for example.

You initially chose to base Bedrock in New York. Why?

When I was at Founders Fund I had a home in both cities (SF and NYC), so I was the kid who grew up in Calgary, Canada and wanted to live on the coasts and be in the center of the action. But we decided to actually headquarter Bedrock in New York in 2017 because we had an inclination that Silicon Valley was becoming a little bit overly self-referential and wanted to be a bit outside of the noise. New York is less of a one-horse town, so we decided to base the firm there, but really invested in, and continue to invest, everywhere across the country and quite honestly around the world. We invested in WordPress in the early days and more recently in Argyle and Lambda School.

#bedrock-capital, #dallas, #ec-news-analysis, #funding, #geoff-lewis, #houston, #interview, #investment, #silicon-valley, #tc, #texas, #venture-capital

‘The tortoise and the hare’ story is playing out right now in VC

The unprecedented liquidity that has entered the venture market in the past year has spurred several trends that require VCs to adapt to a more competitive environment where startup founders have far more leverage than they did in the past.

Structurally, there are only so many startups looking to raise capital, and even though some founders may be opportunistically pursuing deals they wouldn’t have previously, the supply of capital into venture funds has nonetheless outpaced the demand for those dollars.

This means VCs are in an unusual environment of increasing competition to get in on deals with startups, and as they jockey to win spots on cap tables they’re moving faster than ever to close deals.

The best early-stage VCs take the time to find the founders they believe in and who need their expertise, because they’ll be right there working with them for the long haul.

What’s more, newcomers in the VC market like Tiger Global as well as a number of non-VC investment funds like PE firms with much larger pools of capital than the market has seen are aggressively pursuing enormous deals in an effort to drive faster exits and returns on their investments.

With so many investors vying for their attention, many founders are taking the opportunity to raise bigger rounds and coming back for additional funding faster than ever, which is apparent in the constant drumbeat of funding news as well as the 250 unicorns and the record $288 billion invested in startups in the first half of this year.

How can VCs adapt and be competitive?

For some, the answer may be moving faster to get in on deals. Strategies like doing more due diligence in advance of ever meeting startups and leveraging technologies like AI to supplement investors’ ability to evaluate companies can help with this. For others, it may be making larger investments and accepting smaller ownership stakes in startups than they’re accustomed to.

#column, #ec-column, #entrepreneurship, #funding, #investment, #private-equity, #startup-company, #startups, #tiger-global, #venture-capital, #venture-investment

3 lies VCs tell ourselves about startup valuations

I’m frequently asked by journalists whether I think venture capital valuations are too high in the current environment.

Because the average venture capital fund returns only 1.3x committed capital over the course of a decade, according to the last reported data from Cambridge Associates, and 1.5x, according to PitchBook, I believe the answer is a resounding “yes.”

So when entrepreneurs use unicorn aspirations to pump private company valuations, how can investors plan for a decent return?

At the growth stage, we can easily apply traditional financial metrics to venture capital valuations. By definition, everything is fairly predictable, so price-to-revenue and industry multiples make for easy math.

For starters, venture capitalists need to stop engaging in self-delusion about why a valuation that is too high might be OK.

But at the seed and early stages, when forecasting is nearly impossible, what tools can investors apply to make pricing objective, disciplined and fair for both sides?

For starters, venture capitalists need to stop engaging in self-delusion about why a valuation that is too high might be OK. Here are three common lies we tell ourselves as investors to rationalize a potentially undisciplined valuation decision.

Lie 1 : The devil made me do it

If a big-name VC thinks the price is OK, it must be a good deal, right?

Wrong.

While the lead investor who set the price may be experienced, there are many reasons why the price she set may not be justified. The lead may be an “inside” investor already, committing small amounts or  —  believe it or not  —  simply not care.

Insiders are investors who have previously placed capital in the startup. They face a conflict of interest because they are rooting for the success of the startup and generally want the company’s stock price to keep growing to show momentum.

This is one of the reasons why many venture capitalists prefer not to lead subsequent rounds: Pricing decisions can no longer be objective because investors are effectively on both sides of the table at the same time.

Inside-led rounds happen all the time for good reasons  —  including making a funding process fast so that management can focus on building the business  —  but because these decisions are not at arm’s length, they cannot be trusted as an objective indicator of market value. Only a test of the open market or an independent third-party valuation can accomplish this goal.

It’s also the case that a relatively small investment can relax pricing discipline in some firms. If a funding amount represents 1% of the fund size or less, it’s possible that the VC team may view the investment as “putting a marker down” and not worry about whether the price offers an attractive multiple. For this reason, it’s a good idea to check the lead investor’s check size against the overall size of the firm’s latest fund.

There are other reasons why investors may not care about the valuation. Some VCs are “logo hunters” who just want to be able to say they were investors in a particular company. If you outsource valuation discipline to a lead investor who doesn’t value financial results, your own returns may suffer.

Lie 2:  We are getting a deal because the price is flat from the last round

If the last round valuation was $50 million and the current round valuation is about the same, we tell ourselves it’s gotta be a good deal.

Again, this is faulty thinking, because the last round’s price might have been too high.

#column, #corporate-venture-capital, #ec-column, #entrepreneurship, #fundings-exits, #investment, #kpcb, #private-equity, #startups, #tc, #unicorn, #valuation, #venture-capital

Stage 2 Capital launches $80M Fund II targeting B2B software startups

Boston go-to-market venture capital firm Stage 2 Capital kicks off its second fund with plans to invest $80 million into B2B software companies.

The firm’s approach combines venture capital expertise with a diverse community of over 250 limited partners and go-to-market experts who work with portfolio companies to accelerate revenue growth.

Firm co-founders Jay Po, a former investor at Bessemer Venture Partners, and Mark Roberge, former chief revenue officer at HubSpot, started Stage 2 Capital in 2018.

While at Bessemer, Po told TechCrunch he met startup founders who were not sure how to scale revenue or build a sustainable sales machine. He saw how big the skills gap was in go-to-market (GtM), so on nights and weekends he took classes on sales development to better understand what was going on.

At the same time, Roberge was on faculty at Harvard Business School and was consulting startups. He, too, saw founders struggle to build out their GtM function, so much so that gathered a bunch of data points and put them all together in a book, “The Sales Acceleration Formula: Using Data, Technology and Inbound Selling to go from $0 to $100 million.”

Stage 2 Capital team. Image Credits: Stage 2 Capital

Po said the firm “was virtual before it was cool,” which is how it has been able to invest in diverse geographies and set its own pace in terms of curating its network and making introductions.

Their goal is to educate startups on the right time to scale. While startups should be growing 100% or 200%, many startups scale prematurely because they see certain companies experience massive growth all at once and assume that is the way to do it, Roberge said.

“We find companies jump into that set of goals prematurely and are not ready for it,” he added. “We help them to understand when and how fast they can go. They are often looking at that prior success, but are not appreciating the context, like who the other company was selling to and the environment at that time.”

Po and Roberge launched their first fund in 2018, raising $15 million, and ended up making 11 investments in late-seed stage to Series A companies and amassed a network of 97 LPs from companies like Gong, Procore, Atlassian, Asana and Drift. The firm wants to assist companies in changing the world, but Roberge said that will take a while, and that peers were impressed with the early signals of the investment thesis.

Investments from the first fund include companies hailing from across the United States, including Sendoso, Ocrolus, Gosite and Reibus.

“Stage 2 Capital stands out from all other VCs because of the expertise and partnership Jay, Mark and the LPs bring,” said Kris Rudeegraap, founder and CEO of Sendoso, in a written statement. “They’ve exceeded expectations on delivering what they promised and we’ve increased our revenue almost 10 times in the short time since they invested.”

The firm’s second fund represents a five-time increase in investment capital, Po said. He expects to be able to invest in another 20 companies with an average check size of $250,000. The pair have already made seven investments so far, including DeepScribe, Arcade, QuotaPath and Sales Impact Academy.

 

#entrepreneurship, #funding, #investment, #jay-po, #mark-roberge, #sendoso, #stage-2-capital, #tc, #venture-capital

Founders must learn how to build and maintain circles of trust with investors

Many VCs tout their mentorship and hands-on approach to founders, especially those who run early-stage startups. But in the recent era of lightning-fast rounds closing at sky-high valuations, the cap tables of early-stage startups are becoming increasingly crowded.

This isn’t to say that the value VCs bring has diminished. If anything, it’s quite the opposite — this new dynamic is forcing founders to be extremely selective about exactly who is sitting around their mentorship table. It’s simply not possible to have numerous deep and meaningful relationships to extract maximum value at the early stage from seasoned investors.

Founders should definitely pursue big rounds at sky-high valuations, but it’s important that they recognize how important it is to manage who they allow into their mentorship circles. Initially, founders should make sure their first layer consists of the real “doers” — usually angels and early venture investors who founders meet with weekly (or more frequently) to help solve some of the most granular problems.

Everything from hiring to operational hurdles all the way to deeper, more personal challenges like balancing family life with a rapidly growing startup.

This circle is where the real mentorship happens, where founders can be open and vulnerable. For obvious reasons, this circle has to be small, and usually consist of two to six people at most. Anything more simply becomes unwieldy and leaves founders spending more time managing these relationships than actually building their company.

How founders manage their VC circles can mean the difference in success or failure for a thousand different reasons.

The second layer should consist of the “quarterly crowd” of investors. These aren’t necessarily people who are uninterested or unwilling to participate in the nitty gritty of running the company, but this circle tends to consist of VCs who make dozens of investments per year. They, like their founders, aren’t capable of managing 50 relationships on a weekly basis, so their touch points on company issues tend to move slower or less frequently.

#column, #ec-column, #ec-how-to, #entrepreneurship, #finance, #funding, #investment, #mentorship, #private-equity, #startups, #venture-capital

Venture capital undermines human rights

The future of technology is determined by a handful of venture capitalists. The world’s 10 leading venture capital firms have, together, invested over $150 billion in technology startups. The venture capitalists who run these firms decide which startups today will develop the new platforms and technologies that will shape our lives tomorrow.

There is a startling lack of diversity within the venture capital sector. This means that a small group of men — mostly white men — make decisions that affect all of us. Unsurprisingly, they all too often ignore the broader societal and human rights implications of these investment decisions.

We all live in a world shaped by venture capital. As of 2019, 81% of all venture capital funds worldwide are clustered in just a handful of countries, primarily in the U.S., Europe and China, which in turn are shaping the future of technology. If you spend time on Facebook or Twitter, use Google, travel in an Uber or stay in an Airbnb, then you’ve experienced firsthand the impact of venture capital funding.

Venture capital firms, which provide equity financing for early- and growth-stage startups, play a critical gatekeeper role, deciding which new technologies and technology companies will receive funding.

Venture capital firms need to institute human rights due diligence processes that meet the standards set forth in the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

All businesses — including venture capital — have a responsibility to respect human rights. In order to ensure that their investments are not undermining our human rights, it is therefore critical for venture capital firms to conduct due diligence processes before making investments.

Amnesty International recently surveyed the world’s largest venture capital firms and startup accelerators. Of the world’s 10 largest venture capital firms, not a single one had an adequate human rights due diligence process that met the standards set forth in the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

Unfortunately, this is true of the broader venture capital sector as well. Overall, of the 50 VC firms and three startup accelerators analyzed by Amnesty International, we found that almost all of them lacked adequate human rights due diligence policies and processes.

This failure to carry out adequate due diligence means that a vast majority of VC firms are failing in their responsibility to respect human rights.

This almost complete lack of respect for human rights among the world’s largest venture capital firms has three key impacts. First, and most immediately, it means that venture capital firms invest in companies whose products and services have been implicated in ongoing human rights abuses, such as companies that provide support to the Chinese government’s repression of the Uyghur population in Xinjiang and across China.

Second, it means that venture capital firms continue to fund companies whose business models have a significant negative impact on human rights, including our privacy and labor rights. For instance, leading venture capital firms continue to support companies that rely on app-based or “gig” workers, who often face exploitative or otherwise abusive work conditions, as well as companies whose “surveillance capitalism” business model undermines our right to privacy.

Third, the lack of human rights due diligence by venture capital firms dramatically increases the risk that they fund new and “frontier” technologies without ensuring that adequate human rights safeguards are in place.

For instance, the application of increasingly powerful artificial intelligence/machine learning (AI/ML) tools across a wide variety of sectors risks amplifying existing societal biases and discrimination. Seemingly objective algorithms can be biased by reliance on incomplete or unrepresentative training data, and/or by replicating the unconscious bias of those who developed the algorithms.

This is a critical blind spot, especially as VC-funded startups seek to disrupt such fundamental parts of our lives as education, finance and health.

The negative impacts of the VC firms’ lack of human rights due diligence — especially regarding issues like algorithmic bias — are magnified by these firms’ own lack of gender and racial diversity. For instance, women comprise only 23% of venture capital investment professionals (i.e., those involved in deciding which startups to fund).

The numbers are even worse when it comes to racial diversity — just 4% of investment professionals at VC firms in the U.S. are Latinx, and only 4% are Black. Groups like Blck VC, Diversity VC and digitalundivided have been calling attention to this issue for years, but venture capitalists have been slow to respond so far.

This lack of diversity is mirrored in the gender and racial composition of founders who receive VC funding. In 2018, all-female founding teams received just 2.2% of all U.S.-based venture funding. At the same time, Black and Latinx founders received less than 2.3% of all U.S.-based venture capital funding in 2019.

With power comes responsibility. Venture capital firms need to institute human rights due diligence processes that meet the standards set forth in the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

Further, they should provide support to their portfolio companies to ensure that they comply with human rights standards. Venture capital firms should also publicly commit to hiring more diverse teams, especially in investment-related positions. Finally, they should publicly commit to funding more diverse startup founders as part of their flagship funds.

VC firms have a responsibility to ensure that their investments are not causing harm. A responsibility that they have, to date, largely ignored.

#amnesty-international, #artificial-intelligence, #china, #column, #dei, #diversity, #entrepreneurship, #google, #human-rights, #investment, #opinion, #startups, #tc, #uber, #united-nations, #venture-capital, #venture-capital-funds

What I’ve learned after 5 years of buying common stock in startups

From day one, Pillar VC has offered to buy common stock in startups.

Instead of the standard 10-page venture capital term sheet riddled with terms and conditions, our team believed that a far simpler structure where we owned the same security as the founders would align interests, increase trust, and hopefully, enhance the performance of our investments.

There are many terms and conditions in a preferred term sheet that can misalign investors and founders

Five years since launching Pillar, as we finish investing our second fund and begin deploying our third, we thought it was a good time to reflect on whether buying common stock instead of preferred stock has offered the benefits that we had hoped for.

Preferred stock can misalign incentives between parties

There are many terms and conditions in a preferred term sheet that can misalign investors and founders — for brevity, I’ll highlight just two below. (For more, see the term-sheet grader).

Preference: Preferred stock has a “preference” that gives the investor the right to choose whether they want to get their money back or take their percentage of the total proceeds. In downside scenarios, having an investor take their money back may mean that they are taking a far higher percentage of the proceeds than the founders “thought” they sold.

For example, if an investor buys 25% of a company for $2 million in preferred stock, their break point on this decision will be $8 million, which happens to be the post-money valuation of the round. If the company is sold for less than $8 million, the investor would rather take their $2 million back. If the company is sold for more than that, the investor would choose to take 25% of the total.

The founder thinks that they sold 25% of their company, but that percentage is actually determined by what the company is sold for. Yes, if the company is sold for $8 million or more, they sold 25%, but if the company is sold for, say $4 million, the investors will choose to take their $2 million back, which is 50% of the proceeds. Worse still, if the company is sold for just $2 million, investors will take all of it.

Anti-dilution: This clause means that if an investor buys shares for $10 and the startup raises money in the future at a price point that is lower than $10, the investor’s share price will be recalculated retroactively to a lower price. How is this done? By issuing the investors more shares, which dilutes the rest of the ownership pie, especially the founders and employees. The company is not performing well and the investors are made whole at the expense of the founders. Aligned? Hardly.

#column, #common-stock, #corporate-finance, #ec-column, #ec-how-to, #funding, #investment, #private-equity, #startups, #venture-capital

Mark Cuban-backed Eterneva raises $10M to turn your loved one’s ashes into diamonds

The loss of a loved one is perhaps one of the most traumatic things a person can experience.

When it comes to memorializing someone after their death, most people think of planning funerals and/or picking out caskets or tombstones. And those things are typically done with the help of a funeral home.

Enter Austin-based Eterneva, which is building a rare direct to consumer brand in the end-of life-space. The four-year-old startup creates diamonds from the cremated ashes or hair of people and pets. It’s a highly unusual business but one that seems to be resonating with people seeking a way to keep a piece of their loved ones close to them after their death.

Since its inception, Eterneva has seen triple-digit growth in sales — including in 2020, when it more than doubled its revenue, according to CEO and co-founder Adelle Archer. And today, the company is announcing an “oversubscribed” $10M Series A led funding round led by Tiger Management with participation from Goodwater Capital, Capstar Ventures, NextCoast Ventures and Dallas billionaire Mark Cuban. (For the unacquainted, Tiger Management is the hedge fund and family office of Julian Robertson from which Tiger Global Management descended.)

“It was an extremely competitive round,” Archer told TechCrunch. “We received three term sheets and were able to put together an all-star investment group.” That investment group included Capstar Managing DIrector Kathryn Cavanaugh, who also joined Eterneva’s board; Lydia Jett – one of the top female partners at Softbank overseeing their $100B Vision Fund and Kara Nortman, managing partner at Upfront Capital, one of the first women to make managing partner at a VC fund and co-founder of Angel City with actress Natalie Portman.

Archer and co-founder Garrett Ozar launched Eterneva in the first quarter of 2017 after working together at BigCommerce. The company’s origin story is a very personal one for Archer. Her close friend and business mentor, Tracey Kaufman, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and ended up passing away at the age of 47. With no next of kin, Kaufman left her cremated ashes to her aunt, best friend and Archer.

“We started looking into different options but all the websites we landed on were so lackluster, somber and overwhelming,” Archer recalls. “Tracey was the most amazing person, and I felt like when you lose remarkable people, you needed better options to honor and memorialize them.”

At the time, Archer was working on a lab-grown diamond startup. Over dinner with a diamond scientist during which she was discussing her mentor’s death, the scientist said, “Well, you know Adele, there is carbon in ashes, so we could get the carbon out of Tracey’s ashes and make a diamond.”

The thought blew Archer’s mind.

“I knew that I had to do that, 100%. Tracy was such a vibrant person, it suited her so perfectly,” she said. “And I’d have a part of her with me all the time.”

Image Credits: Eterneva; Co-founders Garrett Ozar and Adelle Archer

It was the first diamond ever created by Eterneva, and it gave Archer a chance to be a customer of her own product, which she believes has helped in building an experience for her other customers. Soon, she became “fully focused” on the idea, which she viewed as a way to give grieving people “brightness and healing and a beautiful way to honor their loved ones.”

Since inception, Eterneva has created nearly 1,500 diamonds for over 1,000 customers. It can do colorless or nearly any color including black, yellow, blue, orange and green. The entry price for an Eterneva diamond is $2,999 and that goes up based on the size and color. Pets make up about 40% of Eterneva’s business.

“We view ourselves as the complete opposite tone of everything else in this space,” Archer said. “A lot of people are trying to solve planning and logistics around the end of life. We’re about helping people move forward, and building a platform for the celebration of life.”

The process to create the diamond is intricate, according to Archer, taking 7 to 9 months. The intent is to bring the customer along the journey by sharing the process with them at each stage through videos and pictures.

“We do it in parallel with their processing grief, which is super isolating,” Archer said. “They are usually in a different place with their grief than when they first started.”

One of the plans with the new capital is to enable more people to participate in person with the process such as, starting the machine work, or telling the jeweler stories about their loved one and coming up with a custom design that might have little details that represent aspects of their loved one’s life.

The company also plans to use the money to scale their funeral home channel program nationwide via Enterprise partnerships and scaling its operations and capacity in Austin so it can keep up with demand.

Eterneva is banking on the fact that more and more “people don’t want traditional funerals anymore.”

“They want personalization and meaning,” said Archer. “We plan to evolve the platform with different products and services down the road.”

The startup also wants to continue to build awareness around its brand. Recently, it’s seen more than a dozen videos on TikTok about its diamonds go viral, according to Archer.

Prior to the Series A, Eterneva has raised a total of $6.7 million from angels and institutions. Its seed round was a $3 million financing led by Austin-based Springdale Ventures in 2020. Mark Cuban first became an investor in the company when Archer and Ozar appeared on Shark Tank. Cuban took a 9% stake in the company in exchange for a $600,000 investment. Despite claims that the company was a scam, Cuban has stood by the science behind it and put money in the latest round as well.

Via email, he told TechCrunch he views an Eterneva diamond as “a unique, socially responsible way to stay connected to loved ones.”

 “There is still so much upside and growth in their future,” Cuban wrote. “So I doubled down.”  

He went on to describe the creation of diamond from the hair or ashes of a loved one as “such an intense personal commitment.”

“Eternava takes a very emotional and difficult and helps people walk through their journey in a trusted way that I don’t think anyone else can come close to,” Cuban added.

#actress, #austin, #co-founder, #diamond, #funding, #fundings-exits, #goodwater-capital, #investment, #kara-nortman, #managing-partner, #mark, #mark-cuban, #recent-funding, #startups, #synthetic-diamond, #tiger-management, #venture-capital, #vision-fund

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image credits: Titan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Construct Capital’s Dayna Grayson will be a Startup Battlefield Judge at Disrupt 2021

Dayna Grayson has been in venture capital for more than a decade and was one of the first VCs to build a portfolio around the transformation of industrial sectors of our economy.

At NEA, where she was a partner for eight years, she led investments in and sat on the boards of companies including Desktop Metal, Onshape, Framebridge, Tulip, Formlabs and Guideline. She left NEA to start her own fund, Construct Capital, that focuses exclusively on early-stage startups, with a portfolio that includes Copia, ChargeLab, Tradeswell and Hadrian.

It should come as no surprise, then, that we’re absolutely thrilled to have Grayson join us at TechCrunch Disrupt 2021 in September.

Grayson has more than proven that she has a keen eye for transformational technology. Desktop Metal went public in 2020 — she still sits on the board as chair of the compensation committee. Onshape, another NEA-era investment, was acquired by PTC in 2019 for a whopping $525 million. Framebridge was also acquired by Graham Holdings in 2020.

Grayson saw an opportunity to develop a venture brand more hyperfocused on the types of deals she was doing at NEA, which centered around manufacturing and digitizing industrial verticals. That’s where Construct Capital came in. It’s a $140 million fund helmed by Grayson and former Uber exec Rachel Holt.

At Disrupt, Grayson will serve as a Startup Battlefield judge. The Battlefield is one of the world’s most prestigious and exciting startup competitions. Twenty+ early-stage startups hop on our stage and present their wares to a panel of expert VC judges, who then grill the founders on everything about the business, from the revenue model to the go-to-market strategy to the team to the technology itself.

The winner walks away with $100,000 in prize money and the glory of being a Battlefield winner. Households names in tech have gotten their start in the Battlefield, from Dropbox to Mint.

Grayson joins plenty of other seasoned investors on the Battlefield stage, including Camille Samuels, Deena Shakir, Terri Burns, Shauntel Garvey and Alexa Von Tobel.

Disrupt 2021 goes down from September 21 to 23 and is virtual. Snag a ticket here starting under $100 for a limited time!

#alexa-von-tobel, #camille-samuels, #dayna-grayson, #deena-shakir, #desktop-metal, #finance, #formlabs, #framebridge, #graham-holdings, #guideline, #investment, #manufacturing, #money, #onshape, #ptc, #rachel-holt, #shauntel-garvey, #startup-battlefield, #startup-company, #startups, #tc, #tc-disrupt-2021, #terri-burns, #tulip, #uber, #venture-capital

Firat Ileri becomes Hummingbird VC’s new Managing Partner, as the firm looks to expand

Seed investment firm Hummingbird VC, which previously invested in Deliveroo, Peak Games, MarkaVIP, and Kraken has a new Managing Partner. Firat Ileri, previously a Partner – who at 28 became one of Europe’s youngest VCs when he joined in 2012 – takes over from Founding Partner Barend Van den Brande, who will now take on a more strategic role at the firm.

Ileri grew up in Cyprus and went on to study electrical engineering, computer science, and operations research at MIT. At Hummingbird he has lead the firm’s first investments in Latin America and in South East Asia.

Ileri initially introduced the cofounders of Gram Games, led their first investment, and helped exit the company to Zynga for half a billion. He also led the sale process of Peak Games in 2020, which exited at $1.8Bn, making history as Turkey’s largest tech exit to date.

Founded in 2010, Hummingbird is currently on its fourth fund of $200M, raised in Q4 2020, and says it invests from Europe to India, SEA, LATAM, Turkey and more recently in the US.
 
Firat most recently led Hummingbird’s first investments in engineering biology, investing in Billiontoone, the SF-based precision diagnostics company in the prenatal and liquid biopsy space, which has raised a $55M Series B round. It’s also invested in Kernal Biologics, an mRNA 2.0 therapeutics company focused on oncology.

Van den Brande said: “From the moment Firat joined us in the very early days of Hummingbird, he hit the ground running. His eye for unique and ambitious founding teams, and unparalleled expertise in Seed investing, persistence and really understanding what Early Stage companies need has made him an invaluable asset to Hummingbird and all of the founders we work with. I’m only pleased to have Firat take on the role and lead the Hummingbird family and portfolio for years to come.”

Ileri said the firm’s thesis was to invest in stand-out founders: “We’re spending much more time trying to understand who these people are and what makes them special. In a way, we’re looking for anomalies in people, and we believe that the best companies are created with nonlinear backgrounds. So, this is the thesis.”

He said the team has expanded to drive this vision: “We used to be a boutique fund, but we have the ambition to be more and especially to look for founders who have an independent mind and huge ambitions. To be able to find more companies we’ve gone more global, in order to have a better chance of finding these special stories.”

#corporate-finance, #cyprus, #deliveroo, #europe, #finance, #hummingbird, #india, #investment, #latin-america, #managing-partner, #mit, #money, #online-food-ordering, #seed-money, #south-east-asia, #tc, #turkey, #united-states, #van, #venture-capital, #zynga

Real estate platform Casafari raises $15M to allow PE to buy single-family homes at scale

Just a Spotify used VC and PE backing to acquire the assets of the music industry so that we must now all rent our music via subscription, rather than own it for life, so a PropTech startup plans to follow a similar strategy for single-family homes.

Casafari, a real estate data platform in Europe based out of Lisbon, Portugal, has raised a $15 million Series A funding round led by Prudence Holdings in New York. But, crucially, it has also secured a $120 million “mandate” from Geneva-based private equity investors Stoneweg, among other PE players, in order to buy-to-let residential and commercial real estate. The startup already has operations in Portugal, Spain, France, and Italy.

Other investors include Armilar Venture Partners (the Portuguese VC behind unicorns Outsystems and Feedzai), HJM Holdings, 1Sharpe (founders of Roofstock), and FJ Labs (Fabrice Grinda, founder of OLX Group), as well as existing investor Lakestar.

Founded by Mila Suharev, Nils Henning, and Mitya Moskalchuk in 2018, Casafari is taking advantage of Europe’s often chaotic real estate data to achieve its goals, due to the lack of a unified Multiple Listings Service (“MLS”).

Casafari plans to aggregate, verify and distribute this data via its platform, hunting down single-family homes as an asset class for institutional investors.

According to Nils Henning, CEO, “CASAFARI has built a unique ecosystem, which connects brokers, developers, asset managers, and investors and enables sourcing, valuation, underwriting and deal collaboration on single units in all asset classes. We are very excited to represent important institutional clients like Stoneweg and others, in deploying their capital into fragmented acquisitions at scale, bringing more liquidity to the market and generating more transactions to the broker clients of our platform.”

Private investors are already using the platform. Since launching in 2018, Casafari has been used by Sotheby’s International Realty, Coldwell Banker, RE/MAX franchises, Savills, Fine & Country, Engel & Voelkers, Keller Williams, and important institutional investors and developers like Stoneweg, Kronos, Vanguard, and Vic Properties.

Mila Suharev, Casafari’s Co-CEO and CPO said: ”There are currently around 70 billion euros in dry powder in Europe that could be allocated in acquiring residential property in a buy to let strategy, and basically there’s no offer available. The property will be collected in portfolios, consisting of single units that pension funds, private equity real estate funds, want to build in Europe as they do in the US.”

What Casafari’s is doing is largely following the playbook of what Roofstock in the US did: an online marketplace for investing in leased single-family rental homes. Roofstock has raised $132.3 million to date.

#armilar-venture-partners, #broker, #ceo, #co-ceo, #coldwell-banker, #economy, #europe, #fabrice-grinda, #finance, #fj-labs, #founder, #france, #geneva, #investment, #italy, #kronos, #lakestar, #lisbon, #money, #new-york, #olx-group, #online-marketplace, #portugal, #private-equity, #property-technology, #prudence-holdings, #roofstock, #sothebys, #spain, #spotify, #stoneweg, #tc, #technology, #united-states

Hear top VCs Albert Wegner, Jenny Rooke, and Shilpi Kumar talk green bets at the Extreme Tech Challenge finals

This year, TechCrunch is proudly hosting the Extreme Tech Challenge Global Finals on July 22. The event is among the world’s largest purpose-driven startup competitions that are aiming to solve global challenges based on the United Nations’ 17 sustainability goals.

If you want to catch an array of innovative startups across a range of categories, all of them showcasing what they’re building, you won’t want to miss our must-see pitch-off competition.

You can also catch feature panels hosted by TechCrunch editors, including one of the most highly anticipated discussions of the event, a talk on “going green” with guest speakers Shilpi Kumar, Jenny Rooke, and Albert Wenger, all of whom are actively investing in climate startups that are targeting big opportunities

Shilpi Kumar is a partner with Urban Us, an investment platform focused on urban tech and climate solutions. She previously led go-to-market and early sales efforts at Filament, a startup focused on deploying secure wireless networks for connected physical assets. As an investor, Shilpi has also focused on hardware, mobility, energy, IoT, and robotics, having worked previously for VTF Capital, First Round Capital, and Village Global.

Jenny Rooke is the founder and managing director of Genoa Ventures, but Rooke has been deploying capital into innovative life sciences opportunities for years, including at Fidelity Biosciences and later the Gates Foundation, where she helped managed more than $250 million in funding, funneling some of that capital into genetic engineering, diagnostics, and synthetic biology startups. Rooke began independently investing under the brand 5 Prime Ventures, ultimately establishing among the largest life sciences syndicates on AngelList before launching Genoa.

Last but not least, Albert Wenger, has been a managing partner at Union Square Ventures for more than 13 years. Before joining USV, Albert was the president of del.icio.us through the company’s sale to Yahoo and an angel investor, including writing early checks to Etsy and Tumblr. He previously founded or co-founded several companies, including a management consulting firm and an early hosted data analytics company. Among his investments today is goTenna, a company trying to advance universal access to connectivity by building a scalable mobile mesh network.

Sustainability is the key to our planet’s future and our survival, but it’s also going to be incredibly lucrative and a major piece of our world economy. Hear from these seasoned investors about how VCs and startups alike are thinking about Greentech and how that will evolve in the coming years.

Join us on July 22 to find out how the most innovative startups are working to solve some of the world’s biggest problems. And best of all, tickets are free — book yours today!

#albert-wenger, #angel-investor, #angellist, #energy, #etsy, #fidelity-biosciences, #filament, #finance, #first-round-capital, #gates-foundation, #genetic-engineering, #gotenna, #investment, #managing-partner, #money, #president, #prime-ventures, #startup-company, #tc, #techcrunch, #tumblr, #union-square-ventures, #united-nations, #village-global, #yahoo

How VCs can get the most out of co-investing alongside LPs

It has rarely been easier for people looking to invest. Nontraditional investors, which include anyone outside of traditional VC firms investing in venture capital deals, are increasingly making their presence felt in the investing community.

McKinsey found that the value of co-investment deals has more than doubled to $104 billion from 2012 to 2018. And by some counts, there are as many as 1,600 “nontraditional” investors helping to fund venture capital deals in 2021.

The primary motivator for nontraditional investors is seeking better returns, and investing alongside VC funds is a great way to achieve that. A recent Preqin study shows co-investing funds significantly outperform traditional funds.

Research shows that 80% of investors found their co-investments outperforming private equity fund investments, with 46% outperforming by a margin of more than 5%. Investors also benefit from a generally less expensive fee structure compared to traditional private equity or VC funds.

When evaluating deals, keep in mind that most companies are not going to be the next tech unicorn, so set realistic views on exits.

Co-investors can also profit by sharing the investment risk, which benefits all investors and builds loyalty and trust. And because this kind of investing requires a hands-on approach, investors get the chance to work closely with top sponsors — the general partners (GPs) — to foster deeper relationships and gain a better understanding of the GPs’ investment strategies and deal review processes. For new investors, building these relationships is essential for strengthening their own investment skills in the long run.

Why VCs love alternative investors

Alternative investors aren’t the only ones who benefit from co-investing, it’s also a boon for GPs. They gain a broader array of funding options by partnering with alternative investors, and they can leverage their own capital more effectively with prospective investments.

VCs have other benefits too: While co-investing LPs remain passive in the business, the VC can use that voting power to preserve investor rights and consolidate decision-making. It also allows them to put more money to work in any company while staying within diversification limits.

#c5-capital, #co-investing, #co-investment, #column, #corporate-finance, #ec-column, #ec-how-to, #finance, #funding, #fundings-exits, #general-partner, #investment, #limited-partners, #private-equity, #uber, #venture-capital

Kaszek Ventures leads a $15 million round in Chilean asset management startup, Fintual

Like other financial sectors in Latin America, the retail investing space is getting a facelift by local tech startups that are cashing in on the untapped potential for democratizing asset management in the region. One of those startups is Chilean-based Fintual, which today announced a $15 million round led by Kaszek Ventures, the largest fund in Latin America.

Fintual is an automated passive investment platform that allows the average person in Chile or Mexico to invest in mutual funds containing ETFs (Exchange Traded Funds), investment vehicles that aren’t as well known, or as readily accessible in Latin America.

“The idea that got to me was that we were allowing people to invest in the long term, we enable them to invest in instruments they didn’t have access to before,” said Pedro Pineda, co-founder and CEO of Fintual.

Before starting Fintual in 2018 with his three co-founders, Pineda was an astronomer and an entrepreneur, who built and sold a Groupon copycat company in Chile called “Queremos Descuentos” (We Want Discounts) for just over $1 million when he was 28. 

After the exit, he admits he was a bit lost in life. 

“One day I decided that I wanted to do only the things that I wanted to do and with the people I wanted to do it with,” he said.

He traveled for a couple of years, and learned to code, among other things, until Omar Larré, Fintual’s current CIO, presented him with the idea for the business. 

Larré had been a portfolio manager at Banco Itau, Brazil’s biggest bank by total assets, and he saw the gap in the market: investing was not set up for the average person. The annual fees were too high, the minimum amount required to invest was too high, and there was a penalty when you removed your money. Additionally, the transaction takes a certain amount of financial know-how that most people don’t possess.

For Pineda, disrupting the financial sector also seemed like a lot of fun, he thought.

“I liked the idea of challenging the financial banks, and you can’t do that without technology. We have this super tool that my parents didn’t have, and you can disrupt an entire industry,” Pineda told TechCrunch.

While traditional mutual funds in Chile and Mexico charge up to 6.45% and 5% annually, Fintual charges 1% annually of assets managed. Additionally, Fintual doesn’t require a minimum investment nor a minimum amount of time invested, and users can take their money out any time with no penalties. 

“It’s different than the U.S.; we invest way less than you do; by a factor of 10 maybe,” Pineda said, comparing the investment rate in Chile.

In 2018, the company was accepted into Y Combinator and became the first Chilean startup to go through the prestigious accelerator. It has been growing exponentially ever since and today it serves 57,000 clients in Chile and Mexico.

Below is a table that shows their growth including money managed and percent growth each year since launch.

Assets Under Management (USD)* Annual Growth
May 2018              1.2 M
May 2019              12.9 M 1075%
May 2020               87.6 M 679%
May 2021               480.7 m 548%

    *Each figure corresponds to the end of each month.

The current raise will be used to grow the company’s operations in Mexico, expand to other countries — namely Colombia and Peru — and grow its tech team. 

In addition to Kaszek, other investors to date include YC, ALLVP, and angel investors such as Plaid’s CTO, Jean-Denis Greze, and Cornershop’s founder Oskar Hjertonsson. To date, the company has raised about $15.2 million.

Fintual’s impressive growth speaks for itself, but Kaszek’s co-founder and managing partner, Nicolas Szekasy, said the fund has been following Fintual since its early days, and he was impressed with the niche market the team identified and even more impressed with the user experience the company had developed which has, in turn, fueled its growth.

#apps, #asset-management, #bank, #chile, #colombia, #cto, #finance, #funding, #fundings-exits, #groupon, #investment, #investment-fund, #kaszek-ventures, #latin-america, #mexico, #mutual-funds, #peru, #plaid, #startup-company, #startups, #united-states, #venture-capital, #y-combinator

Drata raises $25M Series A to expand its security compliance platform

Security compliance is precisely three things: incredibly boring, time consuming, and entirely necessary to run a business in the modern age. Compliance isn’t going away, but startups like Drata are making it slightly easier to bear.

Drata helps companies get their SOC 2 compliance quicker by using automation. SOC 2 is a certification used to show that a company can store customer data in the cloud securely, but the process is notoriously complex and can take months to complete — and you have to do it all over again every year. That’s particularly burdensome for startups and smaller firms.

Drata says it can get companies SOC 2-compliant faster and keep them in compliance for longer by integrating with popular business tools and cloud services to get a better picture of a company’s security posture.

Now with a new round of $25 million at Series A in the bank, Drata said it’s expanding its compliance platform to also include ISO 27001, another core security standard used all over the world to help companies protect their systems and safeguard data.

The round landed six months after its $3.2 million seed round in January, and was led by GGV Capital, with participation from Silicon Valley CISO Investors, Okta Ventures, Cowboy Ventures, Leaders Fund, and SV Angel.

Drata CEO and co-founder Adam Markowitz told TechCrunch that the company is growing on average 100% month-over-month since it launched out of stealth and is serving hundreds of customers, including three-person startups to publicly traded companies.

The startup joins several other companies in the compliance space. Secureframe raised $18 million at Series A in March to offer SOC 2 and ISO 27001 certifications. Strike Graph raised a $3.9 million seed round last year to help companies automate security audits and get FedRamp certification needed to provide technology to the federal government. And, Startup Battlefield participant Osano in 2019 raised $5.4 million at Series A to build out its risk and compliance platform.

Related funding news:

#adam-markowitz, #bank, #boston, #cloud-services, #computing, #cowboy-ventures, #federal-government, #finance, #ggv-capital, #gv, #investment, #leaders-fund, #okta-ventures, #security, #startup-company, #techcrunch

Fintech startup TreasurySpring raises $10M for platform giving online access to Fixed-term-funds

Fixed-term-funds (FTFs) have historically been a bank-to-bank market. FTF products allow for investing into some of the safest assets including, UK Government bonds, US Government bonds and highly-rated corporations. They allow holders of large amounts of cash (such as charities, private funds, family offices etc) to reduce and diversify their risk, but also increasing returns.

TreasurySpring is a fintech startup that is aiming to opening up access to this area of financial markets, by creating a Fixed-Term Fund platform. It’s now raised a $10 million Series A investment round co-led by MMC Ventures and Anthemis Group. Existing investors, including ETFS Capital, participated, taking the total its raised to $15 million.

TreasurySpring says its FTF platform gives holders of large cash balances online access to a menu of proprietary cash investments on a daily basis. This gives them access to an asset class that is usually only available to major financial institutions.

Founded in 2016 by Kevin Cook (CEO), Matthew Longhurst and James Skillen, Cook said in a statement: “Following a break-out 12 months in which we increased AUM by 10x, we wanted to bring in the best possible investment partners to support our ambitious growth plans. We have long admired both Anthemis Group and MMC, so I am delighted that they co-led the round and we are excited to work with Sean, Ollie and their respective teams, as we move into the next phase of our journey to redefine cash investment and front-office treasury.”

Given the current low and negative interest rates and an uncertain global financial outlook, TreasurySpring says its platform is likely to appeal as an alternative to traditional bank deposits and money market funds. It says it’s now issued more than $9B of FTFs to a client base which includes FTSE 100 and other listed companies, fund managers, large private companies, charities, and family offices.

Yann Ranchere, partner at Anthemis Group said: “With its ambitious and mission-driven team, TreaurySpring is opening the traditional money market industry to a whole new pool of participants.”

Oliver Richards, partner at MMC Ventures added: “Having worked with the team at TreasurySpring for the last two years, we have absolute confidence in their ability to deliver on their unique vision to level the playing field in cash investing and short-term funding, through a platform that not only brings value to its clients and issuers but also enhances the diversification and systemic stability of the money markets as a whole.”

Does TreasurySpring have any direct competitors? The compay sdays not. That said, bank deposits and money market funds are still the only tools available to most holders of large cash balances, so the banks and asset managers that offer these products are competitors, “to an extent” admits the firm. Howeverr, they are also “collaborators in many instances.”

Cook said: “Adoption of the platform is being driven by a realisation that the risks and returns of the traditional [deposit and MMF] options are becoming ever less attractive, whilst building out the infrastructure to do anything else is complex, cumbersome, time consuming and expensive.”

#bank, #bond, #ceo, #economy, #europe, #finance, #fintech-startup, #investment, #mmc-ventures, #money, #ollie, #partner, #tc, #uk-government, #us-government

Todd and Rahul’s Angel Fund closes new $24 million fund

After making investments in 57 startups together, Superhuman CEO Rahul Vohra and Eventjoy founder Todd Goldberg are back at it with a new $24 million fund and big ambitions amid a venture capital renaissance with fast-moving deals a plenty.

Todd and Rahul’s Angel Fund” announced their first $7.3 million fund just weeks before the pandemic hit stateside last year and they were soon left with more access to deals than they had funding to support; they went on raise $3.5 million in a rolling fund designed around making investments in later stage deals beyond Seed and Series A rounds.

“We closed right before Covid hit and we had one plan but then everything accelerated,” Goldberg tells TechCrunch. “A lot of our companies started raising additional rounds.”

With their latest raise, Vohra and Goldberg are looking to maintain their wide outlook with a single fund, saying they plan to invest three-quarters of the fund in early stage deals while saving a quarter of the $24 million for later stage opportunities. Still, the duo know they likely could’ve chosen to raise more.

“A lot of our peers were scaling up into much larger funds,” Vohra says. “For us, we wanted to stay small and collaborative.”

Some of the firm’s investments from their first fund include NBA Top Shot creator Dapper Labs, open source Firebase alternative Supabase, D2C liquor brand Haus, alternative asset platform Alt, biowearable maker Levels and location analytics startup Placer. Their biggest hit was an early investment in audio chat app Clubhouse before Andreessen Horowitz led its buzzy seed round at a $100 million valuation. Clubhouse most recently raised at $4 billion.

The pair say they’ve learned a ton through the past year of navigating increasingly competitive rounds and that fighting for those deals has helped the duo hone how they market themselves to founders.

“You never want to be a passive check,” Goldberg says. “We do three things: help companies find product/market fit, we help them super-charge distribution.. and we help them find the best investors.”

A big part of the firm’s appeal to founders has been the “operator” status of its founders. Goldberg’s startup Eventjoy was acquired by Ticketmaster and Vohra’s Rapportive was bought by Linkedin while his current startup Superhuman has maintained buzz for its premium email service and has raised $33 million from investors including Andreessen Horowitz and First Round Capital.

Their new has an unusual LP base that’s made up of over 110 entrepreneurs and investors, including 40 founders that Vohra and Goldberg have previously backed themselves. Backers of their second fund include Plaid’s William Hockey, Behance’s Scott Belsky, Haus’s Helena Price Hambrecht, Lattice’s Jack Altman and Loom’s Shahed Khan.

#andreessen-horowitz, #angel-fund, #angel-investor, #behance, #ceo, #dapper-labs, #eventjoy, #finance, #first-round-capital, #investment, #jack-altman, #lattice, #levels, #linkedin, #money, #national-basketball-association, #nba, #rahul-vohra, #scott-belsky, #shahed-khan, #startups, #superhuman, #tc, #ticketmaster, #todd-goldberg, #venture-capital

Version One launches $70M Fund IV and $30M Opportunities Fund II

Early stage investor Version One, which consists of partners Boris Wertz and Angela Tran, has raised its fourth fund, as well as a second opportunity fund specifically dedicated to making follow-on investments. Fund IV pools $70 million from LPs to invest, and Opportunities Fund II is $30 million, both up from the $45 million Fund III and roughly $20 million original Opportunity Fund.

Version One is unveiling this new pool of capital after a very successful year for the firm, which is based in Vancouver and San Francisco. 2021 saw its first true blockbuster exit, with Coinbase’s IPO. The investor also saw big valuation boosts on paper for a number of its portfolio companies, including Ada (which raises at a $1.2 billion valuation in May); Dapper Labs (valued at $7.5 billion after riding the NFT wave); and Jobber (no valuation disclosed but raised a $60 million round in January).

I spoke to both Wertz and Tran about their run of good fortune, how they think the fund has achieved the wins it recorded thus far, and what Version One has planned for this Fund IV and its investment strategy going forward.

“We have this pretty broad focus of mission-driven founders, and not necessarily just investing in SaaS, or just investing in marketplaces, or crypto,” Wertz said regarding their focus. “We obviously love staying early — pre-seed and seed — we’re really the investors that love investing in people, not necessarily in existing traction and numbers. We love being contrarian, both in terms of the verticals we go in to, and and the entrepreneurs we back; we’re happy to be backing first-time entrepreneurs that nobody else has ever backed.”

In speaking to different startups that Version One has backed over the years, I’ve always been struck by how connected the founders seem to the firm and both Wertz and Tran — even much later in the startups’ maturation. Tran said that one of their advantages is following the journey of their entrepreneurs, across both good times and bad.

“We get to learn,” she said. “It’s so cool to watch these companies scale […] we get to see how these companies grow, because we stick with them. Even the smallest things we’re just constantly thinking about— we’re constantly thinking about Laura [Behrens Wu] at Shippo, we’re constantly thinking about Mike [Murchison] and David [Hariri] at Ada, even though it’s getting harder to really help them move the needle on their business.”

Wertz also discussed the knack Version One seems to have for getting into a hot investment area early, anticipating hype cycles when many other firms are still reticent.

“We we went into crypto early in 2016, when most people didn’t really believe in crypto,” he said. “We started investing pretty aggressively in in climate last year, when nobody was really invested in climate tech. Having a conviction in in a few areas, as well as the type of entrepreneurs that nobody else really has conviction is what really makes these returns possible.”

Since climate tech is a relatively new focus for Version One, I asked Wertz about why they’re betting on it now, and why this is not just another green bubble like the one we saw around the end of the first decade of the 2000s.

“First of all, we deeply care about it,” he said. Secondly, we think there is obviously a new urgency needed for technology to jump into to what is probably one of the biggest problems of humankind. Thirdly, is that the clean tech boom has put a lot of infrastructure into the ground. It really drove down the cost of the infrastructure, and the hardware, of electric cars, of batteries in general, of solar and renewable energies in general. And so now it feels like there’s more opportunity to actually build a more sophisticated application layer on top of it.”

Tran added that Version One also made its existing climate bet at what she sees as a crucial inflection point — effectively at the height of the pandemic, when most were focused on healthcare crises instead of other imminent existential threats.

I also asked her about the new Opportunity Fund, and how that fits in with the early stage focus and their overall functional approach.

“It doesn’t require much change in the way we operate, because we’re not doing any net new investments,” Tran said. “So we recognize we’re not growth investors, or Series A/Series B investors that need to have a different lens in the way that they evaluate companies. For us, we just say we want to double down on these companies. We have such close relationships with them, we know what the opportunities are. It’s almost like we have information arbitrage.”

That works well for all involved, including LPs, because Tran said that it’s appealing to them to be able to invest more in companies doing well without having to build a new direct relationship with target companies, or doing something like creating an SPV designated for the purpose, which is costly and time-consuming.

Looking forward to what’s going to change with this fund and their investment approach, Wertz points to a broadened international focus made possible by the increasingly distributed nature of the tech industry following the pandemic.

“I think that the thing that probably will change the most is just much more international investing in this one, and I think it’s just direct result of the pandemic and Zoom investing, that suddenly the pipeline has opened up,” he said.

“We’ve certainly learned a lot about ourselves over the past year and a half,” Tran added. “I mean, we’ve always been distributed, […] and being remote was one of our advantages. So we certainly benefited and we didn’t have to adjust our working style too much, right. But now everyone’s working like this, […] so it’s going to be fun to see what advantage we come up with next.”

#boris-wertz, #coinbase, #corporate-finance, #economy, #entrepreneurship, #finance, #investment, #laura-behrens-wu, #money, #private-equity, #san-francisco, #startup-company, #tc, #vancouver, #venture-capital, #version-one, #version-one-ventures

Yieldstreet raises $100M as it mulls going public via SPAC, eyes acquisitions

These days, investing goes way beyond the stock market. And in recent years there’s been a growing number of startups which aim to give more people access to a wider array of investment opportunities. Today, one of those startups has raised a significant round of funding to help it achieve its goals.

Yieldstreet — which provides a platform for making alternative investments in areas like real estate, marine/shipping, legal finance, commercial loans and other opportunities that were previously only open to institutional investors — announced Tuesday that it has raised $100 million in a Series C funding round.

Former E*TRADE CEO Mitch Caplan, of Tarsadia Investments, led the round. Other participants include Alex Brown (a division of Raymond James), Kingfisher Capital, Top Tier Capital Partners and Gaingels. Existing backers Edison Partners, Soros Fund Management, Greenspring Associates, Raine Ventures, Greycroft and Expansion Capital also put money in the round, which brings Yieldstreet’s total raised to $278.5 million since its 2015 inception.

Milind Mehere and Michael Weisz co-founded Yieldstreet with the mission of making investing more inclusive for non-institutional investors. In an interview with TechCrunch, CEO Mehere declined to say at what valuation the Series C was raised other than to say “near unicorn.”

What he did share is that Yieldstreet has funded nearly $1.9 billion on its platform and has about 300,000 consumers signed up on its platform. That’s up from $600 million invested on its platform from more than 100,000 members in February 2019, at the time of its last raise. Also since that time, Yieldstreet has seen its investor base climb by 350%, he said. And this year, the company is expecting “over 50% revenue growth,” compared to 2020.

Image Credits: Yieldstreet

Since its inception, Yieldstreet says it has provided nearly more than $950 million in principal and interest payments to its investors.

And, both the number of investment requests and new investors surged by more than 250% from January to April 2021 compared to the same period in 2020, with new investors already exceeding all of last year, according to the company.

Mehere also shared that Yieldstreet is considering going public via a SPAC (special purpose acquisition vehicle) sometime in the next year or two.

“We are growing extremely fast and a few SPACs have approached us,” he told TechCrunch. “We are on a great path to potentially explore some of those options in the next 12 to 24 months. I think the public markets would be great for a company like Yieldstreet, purely because that gives you the visibility to expand your consumer growth but also gives you access to equity to pursue growth strategies such as potential acquisitions and other things.”

So far, Yieldstreet has acquired two companies (both in 2019): WealthFlex and Athena Art Finance. 

Some context

At a very high level, Yieldstreet aims to give consumers access to invest in asset classes outside of the stock market.

“These are investments that generate passive income. For example, we do a bunch of things in real estate such as financing warehouses, multifamily and distribution centers,” Mehere told TechCrunch. “We also do art, auto loans or equipment finance. These are typically investments done by institutions and what we’re trying to do is really fractionalize them and get them to real estate investors. A lot of this stuff is asset-backed and it’s generating cash flow.”

In an effort to help people understand just exactly what they’re putting their money into, Yieldstreet aims to provide “a ton of investor education,” Mehere added, in the form of content such as articles, blog posts and infographics.

The company also aims to have its portfolios working “around the clock” to automatically apply earned income toward everyday expenses — a concept conceived by Mahere as “self-driving money.”

Yieldstreet will use its new capital to expand its user base, develop new investment products, explore international expansion and pursue strategic acquisitions, according to Mehere. Outside of its New York City headquarters, Yieldstreet also has offices in Brazil, Greece and Malta.

“Alternative investing has generally been restricted to very high net worth individuals. This is not just a U.S. problem, but a worldwide one. In Europe, especially, it is exacerbated by a negative interest rate,” he said. “So it’s even more compelling to them to tap into U.S. assets.” As such, Yieldstreet plans to expand into Europe and Asia as part of its growth strategy.

Tarsadia Investments (and former E*TRADE CEO) President Caplan believes the company is “uniquely positioned” to “achieve significant growth in revenue while ultimately achieving tremendous scale.”

“Everything begins and ends with the management team,” he told TechCrunch. “Yieldstreet’s management team’s vision for the future of digital investing aligned perfectly with that of our organization at Tarsadia. Yieldstreet is building the future of investing.”

#apps, #asia, #brazil, #business-incubators, #economy, #edison-partners, #entrepreneurship, #etrade, #europe, #finance, #fintech, #funding, #fundings-exits, #greece, #greenspring-associates, #greycroft, #growth-capital, #impact-investing, #investment, #investors, #malta, #money, #private-equity, #raine-ventures, #real-estate, #recent-funding, #soros-fund-management, #startup-company, #startups, #tarsadia-investments, #venture-capital, #yieldstreet

Middle East and Africa will reap benefits from Nuwa Capital’s newest fund

Nuwa Capital, a venture capital firm based in Dubai and Riyadh, announced the first close of its $100 million NVFI fund in February.

The close was three-quarters of the target and was done in less than a year following the firm’s launch in February 2020. According to the firm, the second close should be concluded by the end of this year or Q1 2022.

Founded by partners Khaled Talhouni, Sarah Abu Risheh and Stephanie Nour Prince, Nuwa primarily targets markets in the Middle East and the wider GCC. The partners have a track record of investing in Middle Eastern companies — Careem, Mumzworld, Golden Scent and Nana Direct. However, they have also invested in Twiga Foods and AZA, two East African startups.

They have cut checks for three companies with this new fund: two Dubai-based companies, Eyewa and Flexxpay, and one Egypt-based company, Homzmart. And despite having a strong focus on the Middle East and the GCC, the firm wants to double down on investing in more African startups, particularly in Egypt and East Africa.

I spoke with the partners to discuss their past investments, why they are interested in Africa and the similarities and differences between the regions they operate in. This interview has been edited lightly for length and clarity.

TC: Why is Nuwa Capital choosing Sub-Saharan Africa as one of its target markets?

Khaled: I mean, it’s not our primary market, but it’s an area of secondary focus for us, which we’re really interested in. And we think that there are a lot of learnings from the Middle East that we can take from our experience of investing regionally here that we can use for investing in Africa, particularly in East Africa, especially as the digital adoption increases very significantly.

TC: Nuwa Capital invested in Homzmart recently. Are there any other startups Nuwa has invested in or plans to in North Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa?

Sarah: So there is a lot of the deal flow we’ve seen in North Africa, and we just started in December. We are seeing a lot of companies in Egypt, Morocco, across all of North Africa, and in the coming months, we will be investing aggressively across that geography. But for now, Homzmart is our only African investment.

TC: How do you plan to make the transition in investing in Sub-Saharan Africa?

Sarah: We have a network in East Africa because, in our previous fund, we did invest in two companies in Kenya. One was Twiga and the other was BitPesa, which is now AZA. We’ve invested in those, and as part of our due diligence and network that we’ve built in Africa, that’s why we think the opportunity is there because we got to see it and understood the market with those two companies.

TC: From your perception of how the African market is, how is it different from the GCC?

Sarah: There are different ways to look at it. But Africa is different from the GCC markets in terms of the population sizes, in terms of the purchasing power of people and in terms of companies that get a lot of attraction based on mass volume. So the success of the company sometimes is based on volume. So like a large number of people signing up to a company, for example. In Twiga, for example, it was bridging the gap between farmers and vendors, so they had a large number of farmers, and that really had a lot of power. And I think that’s where we see opportunity in Africa — in the power of the population.

Stephanie: From a VC standpoint, many funds have cropped up in the GCC region in the past couple of years, so there’s a lot more capital flowing directly in the market. That may not be exactly mirrored yet in East Africa if I might say. Also, I guess what we see from where we are in East Africa is that the capital seems to be concentrated around a particular set of founders.

TC: What will be the investment strategy for Nuwa Capital in Africa?

Sarah: We look for companies that fit into our thesis. So I can talk a bit more about the sectors that we invest in. So fintech is a large one that we look at. And then, we have a big focus on SaaS across different industries. We also really like e-commerce and marketplaces, the top of private label angle and private brands selling through e-commerce marketplaces.

Nuwa Capital

L-R: Khaled Talhouni, Sarah Abu Risheh and Stephanie Nour Prince

And then we also have, we also look at something that we call the rapidly digitizing industries, and that’s companies that are disrupting the traditional industries through technology in education, health tech, agritech. So these are the theses we look at, and that’s how we drive our investment strategy. In terms of ticket sizes and stages, we focus on seed and Series A, and then we could also follow on in the round.

Stephanie: So when it particularly comes to Africa, what we’ve seen, which is also very interesting for us, is an increase of companies pitching to us in healthcare, in agritech, in different variations of financial services or intersection of fintech and something else. That will be very interesting also for us as we move forward, as we start looking a bit more intently.

TC: Since you are relatively new to African investment, will you be looking to partner or liaise with other VCs based on the continent?

Stephanie: It‘s a very common practice for us. We’re quite collaborative as a fund, and that’s also due to the nature of the region where you end up co-investing with a number of funds, and sometimes they tend to be the same funds that you have a similar mindset with. So that happens quite a bit; I think it’s very likely also to happen with funds we’ve co-invested with in the past in Africa.

TC: Egypt has been one of the exciting countries in both Africa and the Middle East region. What do you think is going for the market?

Stephanie: Egypt is one of the primary markets that we focus on. We are seeing a large part of our pipeline coming from Egypt. We’ve also seen a great shift in Egypt over the past few years where the type of entrepreneurs, the type of founders that are coming to us, are more mature and more experienced and just a higher calibre than before. We used to see a lot of earlier-stage companies with inexperienced founders. But today, what we’re seeing is just amazing. We are very bullish on the market when it is one of our primary focus markets.

Sarah: When companies come out of Egypt, their expansion strategy is usually either to the rest of North Africa or East Africa. Some will come to the GCC, while some will stay in Africa, depending on what industry they’re in. But I think that as we invest more in Egypt and then actively into our East Africa strategy will give us really good exposure in Africa, and as we grow, our subsequent funds will look more into Africa.

TC: Is there a portion of the fund dedicated to the African market?

Khalid: I don’t think we have a specific percentage, but the continent is part of the major strategy. We have a significant portion of the fund targeted at Egypt but we’d like to do at least 5-10% of the fund in Africa, excluding Egypt. It depends on the final fund size but we’re really bullish on Africa.

#africa, #dubai, #east-africa, #egypt, #investment, #kenya, #middle-east, #north-africa, #nuwa-capital, #tc, #venture-capital

Venture capital investment in Africa predicted to reach a record high this year

Investments in African startups keep growing at a healthy pace ever since reports started keeping count in 2015. That year, publications Disrupt Africa and Partech released independently researched and contrasting figures showing that venture capital investments hit $186 million and $277 million, respectively. Those are ridiculously low figures for a continent when you consider that four-year-old Snapchat raised more than $500 million in one round that same year. However, while the disparity in funding between Africa and a single high-growth U.S. startup continues, the good news is that more money is coming into the continent.

In 2019, Africa’s venture capital investments rose to an all-time high, per Partech’s report. According to Partech, 234 African tech companies raised $2.02 billion in 250 equity rounds. This indicated a 74% increase from 2018’s figure of $1.163 billion raised by 146 startups in 164 rounds.  

There was shared optimism that 2020 would record a new high, but that was before the pandemic struck. For that reason, African tech ecosystem accelerator AfricArena predicted that venture capital funding in the continent’s startups would fall between $1.2 billion and $1.8 billion. In what may be described as an educated guess or a calculated prediction by the publication, year-end reports by Partech and Briter Bridges pegged total investment raised at $1.4 billion and $1.3 billion, respectively.

This year, AfricArena, in a new report, is predicting that VC funding in the continent’s startups would increase between $2.25 billion and $2.8 billion, which, if met, will surpass 2019 figures for a record high on the continent.

Here’s the rationale behind the prediction from an excerpt in the report:

We foresee that the first two quarters of 2021 will be similar Q4 2020 with the mix of factors. Vaccine campaigns will likely take longer than hoped to have a meaningful impact. However, this rollout – regardless of how long they will actually take – will eliminate the major uncertainty about the end of the pandemic, which is only a question of time.

As a result, we expect an extremely strong acceleration of deals from seed to Series B as well as major growth deals, together with some IPOs (Nigeria’s Interswitch, for example), that will propel deal activity to never seen before levels of activity. As of April 2020, our forecast for 2021 ranged from under $1.6 billion to over $3 billion. The worst-case scenario was based on a prolonged and fragmented impact on the African economies and the best-case scenario factoring in a full recovery Q1 2021. Based on the above observations, our views are now that 2021 will range between $2.25 and $2.8 billion.

As of April 30, the total disclosed venture capital funding stood a little over $800 million, according to Maxime Bayen, deal tracker and senior venture builder at BFA Global. If that pace is kept throughout the year, African startups might raise more than $2 billion.

AfricArena

Image Credits: AfricArena

In 2020, the number of early-stage deals increased, but there was a drop in growth deals and overall ticket sizes, constituting the drop in funding activities. Per Partech, seed rounds grew 80% year-on-year and accounted for 64% of all deals made. In total, African startups raised $220 million in seed funding, which was a 47% increase year on year. Series A and B rounds grew likewise. Series A deals went up 9% (86 rounds), and Series B deals, 16% (29 rounds), yet their investment sizes dropped 5% ($447 million) and 8% ($449 million), respectively.

Growth deals also dropped by 16%, and only two deals closed above $50 million compared to the 10 that took place in 2019, some of which include Interswitch, OPay, Branch and Andela.

The driving force to exceed the $2 billion mark in 2021 lies on VCs to make more deals and startups to replicate the large growth rounds of 2019. The former appears to be in place as African startups continue to raise money week in and week out. However, there’s still work to be done for the latter, as only two African startups have raised more than $100 million in a single round so far — fintech startups Flutterwave and TymeBank.

#africa, #finance, #flutterwave, #investment, #nigeria, #partech, #tc, #tymebank, #venture-capital, #venture-capital-investments