Choco bites into $100M Series B, at a $600M valuation, to build a more transparent, sustainable food supply chain

The United States estimates of the food produced here approximately 40% is wasted. Globally, $2.6 trillion annually is lost.

Berlin-based Choco, which has built ordering software for restaurants and their suppliers, is working to digitize the food supply chain and announced $100 million in Series B funding, led by Left Lane Capital, to give it a $600 million post-market valuation. Joining in is new investor Insight Partners and existing investors Coatue Management and Bessemer Venture Partners.

The new round comes just over a year after Choco’s $63.7 million Series A, raised at two different periods, a $33.5 million round in 2019 and a $30.2 million round in 2020 — at a $230 million valuation — to bring total funding to $171.5 million since the company was founded in 2018.

The company’s core food procurement technology digitizes ordering workflow and communications for restaurants and suppliers. During the global pandemic, Khachab said Choco became the go-to tool for operators to be more efficient around procurement processes and reducing expenses as they adapted to the changing market conditions.

With the food industry a $6 trillion market, Choco CEO Daniel Khachab told TechCrunch he aims to make the food supply chain more transparent and sustainable in order to help increase margins in the food service sector and combat climate change.

The company did 14 months of food waste research and found that it was central to a lot of other global problems: Food waste is the third-largest driver of climate change and is causing deforestation — as evident by news from the Amazon last year  — and the extinction of animals.

“It makes sense to try and solve it,” he added. “The food system is highly fragile, and what was shown in the first and second waves of the pandemic is how fragile and inflexible it was. It made the industry realize that it has to step up and that it can’t continue to work on pen and paper.”

Between the farmer and the end point, there are some nine parties involved, Khachab said. None are connected to another, which often means nine data silos and data not collected along the chain. It is important to connect them on one single platform so decision-making can be data-driven, he added.

As uncertainty swept across the food industry at the beginning of the pandemic, Khachab said Choco could either lay low and wait or invest in the company. He chose the latter, pumping up the team, regions and technology. As a result, Choco’s technology is stronger than it was 15 months ago and proved to be flexible amid the inflexible environment.

Choco saw orders quadruple on the platform in the past year, and gross merchandise value grew to $900 million annualized, up from $230 million, Khachab said.

As the company continues to learn how it can provide value to the food supply chain, half of the Series B funding will go into technology development. It will also go toward doubling its headcount, especially on the engineering side. Choco recently brought on ex-Uber and Facebook executive Vikas Gupta as chief technology officer, and Khachab said Gupta’s expertise will enable the company “to build the best technology team in Europe” and scale faster.

Choco is already operating in six markets, including the United States, Germany, France, Spain, Austria and Belgium. Khachab expects to expand in those markets and gain a footprint in new markets like Latin America, the Middle East and Asia.

 

#bessemer-venture-partners, #choco, #coatue-management, #enterprise, #food, #food-supply-chain, #food-waste, #funding, #insight-partners, #left-lane-capital, #recent-funding, #startups, #tc, #venture-capital, #vikas-gupta

Wayflyer raises $76M to provide ‘revenue-based’ financing to e-commerce merchants

Wayflyer, a revenue-based financing platform for e-commerce merchants, has raised $76 million in a Series A funding round led by Left Lane Capital.

“Partners” of DST Global, QED Investors, Speedinvest and Zinal Growth — the family office of Guillaume Pousaz (founder of Checkout.com) — also put money in the round. The raise comes just after Wayflyer raised $100 million in debt funding to support its cash advance product, and 14 months after the Dublin, Ireland-based startup launched its first product.

With an e-commerce boom fueled by the COVID-19 pandemic, Wayflyer is the latest in a group of startups focused on the space that has attracted investor interest as of late. The company aims to help e-commerce merchants “unlock growth” by giving them access to working capital (from $10,000 up to $20 million) so they can improve cash flow and drive sales. For example, more cash can help these merchants do things like buy more inventory in bulk so they can meet customer demand and save money. 

In a nutshell, Wayflyer uses analytics and sends merchants cash to make inventory purchases or investments in their business. Those merchants then repay Wayflyer using a percentage of their revenue until the money is paid back (plus a fee charged for the cash advance). So essentially, the merchants are using their revenue to get financing, hence the term revenue-based financing. The advantage, Wayflyer says, is that companies make repayments as a percentage of their sales. So if they have a slow month, they will pay back less. So, there’s more flexibility involved than with other mechanisms such as traditional bank loans.

Co-founder Aidan Corbett believes that in a crowded space, Wayflyer’s use of big data gives it an edge over competitors.

Corbett and former VC Jack Pierse spun Wayflyer out of a marketing analytics company that Corbett had also started, called Conjura, in September 2019.

“Jack came to me and said, ‘You should stop using our marketing analytics engine to do these big enterprise SaaS solutions, and instead use them to underwrite e-commerce businesses for short-term finance,’ ” Corbett recalls.

And so he did.

“We just had our heads down and started repurposing the platform for it to be an underwriting platform,” Corbett said. It launched in April 2020, doing about $600,000 in advances at the time. In March of 2021, Wayflyer did about $36 million in advances.

“So, it’s been a pretty aggressive kind of growth,” Corbett said.

Over the past six months alone, the company has seen its business grow 290% as it has deployed over $150 million of funding across 10 markets with a focus on the U.S., the United Kingdom and Australia. About 75% of its customers are U.S. based.

Wayflyer plans to use its new capital toward product development and global expansion with the goal of entering “multiple” new markets in the coming months. The company recently opened a sales office in Atlanta, and also has locations in the U.K., the Netherlands and Spain.

To Corbett, the company’s offering is more compelling than buy now, pay later solutions for consumers for example, in that it is funding the merchant directly and able to add services on top of that.

“There’s a lot more opportunity for companies like ourselves to differentiate because essentially, we focus on the merchants. And when we underwrite the merchant by getting data from the merchant, there’s a lot of additional services that you can put in on top,” Corbett explained. “Whereas with buy now, pay later, you get information on the consumer, and there’s not as much room to add additional services on top.”

For example, if a business requests an advance and either is not approved for one, or doesn’t choose to take it, Wayflyer’s analytics platform is free to anybody who signs up to help them optimize their marketing spend.

“This is a critical driver of value for e-commerce businesses. If you can’t acquire customers at a reasonable price, you’re not going to be around very long. And a lot of early-stage e-commerce businesses struggle with that,” Corbett said.

It also can pair up a merchant with a marketing analytics “specialist” to analyze its marketing performance or an inventory “specialist” to look at the current terms and price a business is getting from a supplier.

“Our focus from the very beginning is really supporting the merchants, not just providing them with working capital,” Corbett said.  

Another way the company claims to be different is in how it deploys funds. As mentioned above, merchants can pay the money back at varied terms, depending on how sales are going. The company makes money by charging a principal on advances, and then a “remittance rate” on revenues until the total amount is paid back.

“We tend to be more flexible than competition in this way,” Corbett said. “Also, some competitors will pay invoices on merchants’ behalf or give them a pre-charged card to use on advertising spend,” Corbett said. “We always give cash into a merchant’s account.” 

Wayflyer recently inked an agreement with Adobe Commerce, a partnership it said would provide a new channel to further amplify its growth with the goal of funding 8,000 e-commerce businesses in the first year of the partnership.

For his part, Left Lane Capital Partner Dan Ahrens said that his firm was impressed by Wayflyer’s “nuanced understanding of what will drive value for their clients.”

“The team’s focus, specialization, and deep analytical expertise within the e-commerce market also drives superior underwriting,” he told TechCrunch. “Their explosive growth has not come about by taking on undue risk. We are big believers that their underwriting will only improve with scale, and that Wayflyer will be able to compound its competitive advantages over time.”

As mentioned, this is an increasingly crowded space. Earlier this month, Settle announced it had raised $15 million in a Series A funding round led by Kleiner Perkins to give e-commerce and consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies access to non-dilutive capital.

#adobe, #atlanta, #australia, #bank, #checkout-com, #distribution, #dst-global, #dublin, #e-commerce, #ecommerce, #economy, #finance, #funding, #fundings-exits, #guillaume-pousaz, #ireland, #kleiner-perkins, #left-lane-capital, #merchant, #netherlands, #qed-investors, #recent-funding, #spain, #startup, #startups, #tc, #underwriting, #united-kingdom, #united-states, #wayflyer

#DealMonitor – StudySmarter sammelt 15 Millionen ein – Receeve bekommt 13,5 Millionen – Upvest sammelt 4 Millionen ein


Im aktuellen #DealMonitor für den 5 . Mai werfen wir wieder einen Blick auf die wichtigsten, spannendsten und interessantesten Investments und Exits des Tages in der DACH-Region. Alle Deals der Vortage gibt es im großen und übersichtlichen #DealMonitor-Archiv.

INVESTMENTS

StudySmarter 
+++ Owl Ventures, Left Lane Capital, Business Angel wie Lars Fjeldsoe-Nielsen und Altinvestoren wie Dieter von Holtzbrinck Ventures (DvH Ventures) investieren 15 Millionen US-Dollar in StudySmarter. DvH Ventures investierte zuletzt im Sommer des vergangenen Jahres eine siebenstellige Summe in das Münchner EdTech. Das Spin-Off der TU München und LMU München, das 2017 von Simon Hohentanner, Maurice Kudhir, Christian Felgenhauer und Till Söhlemann gegründet wurde, positioniert sich als “intelligente Lern-App für das lebenslange Lernen, mit der individuelle Lernpläne, Karteikarten, Zusammenfassungen und Mindmaps schnell und einfach aus Lern-Skripten und Vorlesungsfolien erstellt werden können”. Mehr über StudySmarter

Receeve
+++ Seaya Ventures und 14W sowie die Altinvestoren Mangrove, Speedinvest und Seedcamp investieren 13,5 Millionen US-Dollar in das Hamburger Startup Receeve. “The investment is targeted to fuel growth over the next 12 months and to expand”, teilt das Unternehmen mit. Das Hamburger FinTech, das 2019 von Paul Jozefak und Michael Backes (beide zuletzt Liquid Labs) gegründet wurde, positioniert sich als “digital debt servicing platform”. Anfang 2020 flossen beriets 4 Millionen Euro in das junge Unternehmen. Mehr über Receeve

Upvest
+++ ABN AMRO Ventures, der Investmentableger der ABN AMRO Bank, investiert 4 Millionen Euro in das Berliner FinTech-Start-up Upvest. Das 2017 von Martin Kassing gegründete Startup bietet eine Schnittstelle an, mit der Unternehmen digitale Investment-Produkte anbieten können. Earlybird, Notion Capital, Partech Ventures, Speedinvest und HV Capital investierten zuletzt 5 Millionen Euro in Upvest. Insgesamt flossen nun schon 16 Millionen Euro in das junge Unternehmen. Mehr über Upvest

Moanah
+++ Die Mediengruppe Klambt investiert in Moanah. Die Jungfirma aus Mannheim bietet Reinigungsmittel in Glasflaschen – samt einem Refill-System an. Die Sprühflaschen des Startups kann jeder zu Hause befüllen und mit Wasser auffüllen. “Sobald die Konzentrate leer sind, können sie nachbestellt werden”, heißt es auf der Website. Die Mediengruppe Klambt investierte zuletzt auch in Careloop, eine Personalvermittlungsplattform für ausländische Kranken- und Altenpflege.

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

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

Foto (oben): azrael74

#abn-amro-ventures, #aktuell, #berlin, #edtech, #fintech, #klambt, #left-lane-capital, #moanah, #munchen, #owl-ventures, #studysmarter, #upvest, #venture-capital

StudySmarter books $15M for a global ‘personalized learning’ push

More money for the edtech boom: Munich-based StudySmarter, which makes digital tools to help learners of all ages swat up — styling itself as a ‘lifelong learning platform’ — has closed a $15 million Series A.

The round is led by sector-focused VC fund, Owl Ventures. New York-based Left Lane Capital is co-investing, along with Lars Fjeldsoe-Nielsen (ex WhatsApp, Uber and Dropbox; now GP at Balderton Capital), and existing early stage investor Dieter von Holtzbrinck Ventures (aka DvH Ventures).

The platform, which launched back in 2018 and has amassed a user-base of 1.5M+ learners — with a 50/50 split between higher education students and K12 learners, and with main markets so far in German speaking DACH countries in Europe — uses AI technologies like natural language processing (NLP) to automate the creation of text-based interactive custom courses and track learners’ progress (including by creating a personalized study plan that adjusts as they go along).

StudySmarter claims its data shows that 94% of learners achieve better grades as a result of using its platform.

While NLP is generally most advanced for the English language, the startup says it’s confident its NLP models can be transferred to new languages without requiring new training data — claiming its tech is “scalable in any language”. (Although it concedes its algorithms increase in accuracy for a given language as users upload more content so the software itself is undertaking a learning journey and will necessarily be at a different point on the learning curve depending on the source content.)

Here’s how StudySmarter works: Users input their study goals to get recommendations for relevant revision content that’s been made available to the platform’s community.

They can also contribute content themselves to create custom courses by uploading assets like lecture slides and revisions notes. StudySmarter’s platform can then turn this source material into interactive study aids — like flashcards and revision exercises — and the startup touts the convenience of the approach, saying it enables students to manage all their revision in one place (rather than wrangling multiple learning apps).

In short, it’s both a (revision) content marketplace and a productivity platform for learning — as it helps users create their own study (or lesson) plans, and offers them handy tools like a digital magic marker that automatically turns highlighted text into flashcards, while the resulting “smart” flashcards also apply the principle of spaced repetition learning to help make the studied content stick.

Users can choose to share content they create with other learners in the StudySmarter community (or not). The startup says a quarter (25%) of its users are creators, and that 80% of the content they create is shared. Overall, it says its platform provides access to more than 25 million pieces of shared content currently.

It’s topic agnostic, as you’d expect, so course content covers a diverse range of subjects. We’re told the most popular courses to study are: Economics, Medicine, Law, Computer Science, Engineering and school subjects such as Maths, Physics, Biology and English.

Regardless of how learners use it, the platform uses AI to nudge users towards relevant revision content and topics (and study groups) to keep extending and supporting their learning process — making adaptive, ongoing recommendations for other stuff they should check out.

The ease of creating learning materials on the StudySmarter platform results in a democratization of high-quality educational content, driven by learners themselves,” is the claim.   

As well as user generated content (UGC), StudySmarter’s platform hosts content created by verified educationists and publishers — and there’s an option for users to search only for such verified content, i.e. if they don’t want to dip into the UGC pool.

“In general, there is no single workflow,” says co-founder and CMO Maurice Khudhir. “We created StudySmarter to adapt to different learner types. Some are very active learners and prefer to create content, some only want to search and consume content from other peers/publishers.”

“Our platform focuses on the art of learning itself, rather than being bound by topics, sectors, industries or content types. This means that anyone, regardless of what they’re learning, can use StudySmarter to improve how they learn. We started in higher education as it was the closest, most relevant market to where we were at the time of launch. We more recently expanded to K12, and are currently running our first corporate learning pilot.”

Gamification is a key strategy to encourage engagement and advance learning, with the platform dishing out encouraging words and emoji, plus rewards like badges and achievements based on the individual’s progress. Think of it as akin to Duolingo-style microlearning — but where users get to choose the subject (not just the language) and can feed in source material if they wish.

StudySmarter says it’s taken inspiration from tech darlings like Netflix and Tinder — baking in recommendation algorithms to surface relevant study content for users -(a la Netflix’s ‘watch next’ suggestions), and deploying a Tinder-swipe-style learning UI on mobile so that its “smart flashcards” can to adapt to users’ responses.

“Firstly, we individualise the learning experience by recommending appropriate content to the learner, depending on their demographics, demands and study goals,” explains Khudhir. “For instance, when an economics student uploads a PDF on the topic of marginal cost, StudySmarter will recommend several user-generated courses that cover marginal cost and/or several flashcards on marginal cost as well as e-books on StudySmarter that cover this topic.

“In this way, StudySmarter is similar to Netflix — Netflix will suggest similar TV shows and films depending on what you’ve already watched and StudySmarter will recommend different learning materials depending on the types of content and topics you interact with.

“As well, depending on how the student likes to learn, we also individualise the learning journey through things such as the smart flashcard learning algorithm. This is based on spaced repetition. For example, if a student is testing themselves on microeconomics, the flashcard set will go through different questions and responses and the student can swipe through the flashcards, in a similar way to Tinder. The flashcards’ sequence will adapt after every response.

“The notifications are also personalised — so they will remind the student to learn at particular points in the day, adapted to how the student uses the app.”

There’s also a scan functionality which uses OCR (optical character recognition) technology that lets users upload (paper-based) notes, handouts or books — and a sketch feature lets them carry out further edits, if they want to add more notes and scribbles.

Once ingested into the platform, this scanned (paper-based) content can of course also be used to create digital learning materials — extending the utility of the source material by plugging it into the platform’s creation and tracking capabilities.

“A significant cohort of users access StudySmarter on tablets, and they find this learning flow very useful, especially for our school-age pupils,” he adds.

StudySmarter can also offer educators and publishers detailed learning analytics, per Khudhir — who says its overarching goal is to establish itself as “the leading marketplace for educational content”, i.e. by using the information it gleans on users’ learning goals to directly recommend (relevant) professional content — “making it an extremely effective distribution platform”, as he puts it.

In addition to students, he says the platform is being used by teachers, professors, trainers, and corporate members — ie. to create content to share with their own students, team members, course participants etc, or just to publish publicly. And he notes a bit of a usage spike from teachers in March last year as the pandemic shut down schools in Europe. 

StudySmarter co-founders, back from left to right: Christian Felgenhauer (co-founder & CEO), Till Söhlemann (co-founder); front: Maurice Khudir (co-founder & CMO), Simon Hohentanner (COO & co-founder). Image credits: StudySmarter

What about copyright? Khudir says they follow a three-layered system to minimize infringement risks — firstly by not letting users share or export any professional content hosted on the platform.

Uploaded documents like lecture notes and users’ own comments can be shared within one university course/class in a private learning group. But only UGC (like flashcards, summaries and exercises) can be shared freely with the entire StudySmarter community, if the user wants to.

“It’s important to note that no content is shared without the author’s permission,” he notes. “We also have a contact email for people to raise potential copyright infringements. Thanks to this system, we can say that we never had a single copyright issue with universities, professors or publishers.”

Another potential pitfall around UGC is quality. And, clearly, no student wants to waste their time revising from poor (or just plain wrong) revision notes.

StudySmarter says it’s limiting that risk by tracking how learners engage with shared content on the platform — in order to create quality scores for UGC — monitoring factors like how often such stuff is used for learning; how often the students who study from it answer questions correctly; and by looking the average learning time for a particular flashcard or summary, etc.

“We combine this with an active feedback system from the students to assign each piece of content a dynamic quality score. The higher the score is, the more often it is shown to new users. If the score falls below a certain threshold, the content is removed and is only visible to the original creator,” he goes on, adding: “We track the quality of shared content on the creator level so users who consistently share low-quality content can be banned from sharing more content on the platform.”

There are unlikely to be quality issues with verified educator/publisher content. But since it’s professional content, StudySmarter can’t expect to get it purely for free — so it says it “mostly” follows revenue-sharing agreements with these types of contributors.

It is also sharing data on learning trends and to help publishers reach relevant learners, as mentioned above. So the information it can provide education publishers about potential customers is probably the bigger carrot for pulling them in.

“We are very happy to say that the vast majority of our content is not created or shared on StudySmarter for any financial incentive but rather because our platform and technology simply make the creation significantly easier,” says Khudir, adding: “We have not paid a single Euro to any user on StudySmarter to create content and do not intend to do so going forward.” 

It’s still early days for monetization, which he says isn’t front of mind yet — with the team focused on building out the platform’s global reach — but he notes that the model allows for a number of b2b revenue streams, adding that they’ve been doing some early b2b monetization by working with employers and businesses to promote their graduate programs or to support recruitment drives. 

The new funding will be put towards product development and supporting the platform’s global expansion, per Khudir.

“We’ve run successful pilots in the U.K. and U.S. so they’re our primary focus to expand to by Q3 this year. In fact, following a test pilot in the U.K. in December, we became the number one education app within 24 hours (ahead of the likes of Duolingo, Quizlet, Kahoot, and Photomath), which bodes well!” he goes on. 

“Brazil, India and Indonesia are key targets for us due to a wider need for digital education. We’re also looking to launch in France, Nordics, Spain, Russia and many more countries. Due to the fact our platform is content-agnostic, and the technology that underpins it is universal, we’re able to scale effectively in multiple countries and languages. Within the next 12 months, we will be expanding to more than 12 countries and support millions of learners globally.”

StudySmarter’s subject-agnostic, feature-packed, one-stop-shop platform approach sets it apart from what Khudir refers to as “single-feature apps”, i.e. which just help you learn one thing — be that Duolingo (only languages), or apps that focus on teaching a particular skill-set (like Photomath for maths equations, or dedicated learn-to-code apps/courses (and toys)). 

But where the process of learning is concerned, there are lots of ways of going about it, and no one that suits everyone (or every subject), so there’s undoubtedly room for (and value in) a variety of approaches (which may happily operate in parallel). So it seems a safe bet that broad-brush learning platforms aren’t going to replace specialized tools — or (indeed) vice versa.

StudySmarter names the likes of Course Hero, StuDocu, Quizlet and Anki as taking a similar broad approach — while simultaneously claiming they’re not doing it in “quite the same, holistic, end-to-end, all-in-one bespoke platform for learners” way.  

Albeit, some of those edtech rivals are doing it with a lot more capital already raised. So StudySmarter is going to need to work smart and hard to localize and grab students’ attention as it guns for growth far beyond its European base.

 

#anki, #apps, #artificial-intelligence, #balderton-capital, #duolingo, #education, #europe, #fundings-exits, #holtzbrinck-ventures, #lars-fjeldsoe-nielsen, #learning, #left-lane-capital, #munich, #natural-language-processing, #netflix, #new-york, #nlp, #ocr, #optical-character-recognition, #owl-ventures, #quizlet, #studysmarter, #tc, #tinder, #united-kingdom

#DealMonitor – GoStudent sammelt 70 Millionen ein – Kolibri-Gründer investieren in heat it – Lizza-Gründer investiert in Zaunkoenig


Im aktuellen #DealMonitor für den 30. März werfen wir wieder einen Blick auf die wichtigsten, spannendsten und interessantesten Investments und Exits des Tages in der DACH-Region. Alle Deals der Vortage gibt es im großen und übersichtlichen #DealMonitor-Archiv.

INVESTMENTS

GoStudent
+++ Coatue investiert gemeinsam mit den Altinvestoren Left Lane Capital und DN Capital 70 Millionen Euro in GoStudent. Das Wiener Startup, das sich als E-Learning-Dienst positioniert, wurde 2017 von Gregor Müller, Felix Ohswald und seinem Bruder Moritz Ohswald gegründet. Left Lane Capital und DN Capital investierten zuletzt in zwei Investmentrunden rund 13 Millionen in GoStudent, das auf kostenpflichtige Einzelkurse setzt. Das frische Kapital soll vor allem “genutzt werden, um die Internationalisierung von GoStudent weiter voranzutreiben, und die bestehende Präsenz in bedeutenden Nachhilfemärkten wie Frankreich, Spanien, Italien, Großbritannien und Irland weiter auszubauen”. Über 300 Mitarbeiter:innen wirken bereits für das junge Unternehmen.

Anzeige
+++ In unserem Newsletter Startup-Radar berichten wir einmal in der Woche über neue Startups. Alle Startups stellen wir in unserem kostenpflichtigen Newsletter kurz und knapp vor und bringen sie so auf den Radar der Startup-Szene. Jetzt unseren Newsletter Startup-Radar abonnieren und 30 Tage kostenlos testen!

heat it
+++ Daniel Stammler, Janosch Sadowski und Oliver Löffler, die Gründer von Kolibri Games, Friedrich Georg Hoepfner und weitere “erfahrene Persönlichkeiten aus den Bereichen Handel und Medizin” investieren in heat it. Das Startup aus Karlsruhe, das 2018 von Lukas Liedtke, Armin Meyer, Christof Reuter und Stefan Hotz gegründet wurde, kämpft mittels Wärme gegen Mücken- und Wespenstiche. Der heat it ist ein nur Würfelzucker-großes Gerät. Er wird einfach in den Ladeanschluss gesteckt und mittels App gesteuert. Die Pre-Money-Bewertung lag nach Firmenangaben bei 5 Millionen Euro. Die heat it-Gründer waren in dieser Woche auch in der Vox-Gründershow “Die Höhle der Löwen”, konnten dort aber kein Investment ergattern.

krankenhaus.de
+++ Der E-Health-Lösungsanbieter samedi, IBB Ventures und capacura investieren 2 Millionen Euro in krankenhaus.de. Das E-Health-Startup, das 2018 von Nikolai von Schroeders, Balthasar von Hohenthal und Lukas Weiß gegründet wurde, positioniert sich als Buchungsdienst für Krankenhäuser.  IBB Ventures und capacura investieren bereits 2019 einen ungenannten Betrag in den Berliner Patientendienst.

German Autolabs
+++ Das Family Office des Schwarzwälder Boten sowie die Altinvestoren Target Partners, nbr Tech Ventures und Coparion investieren “mehrere Millionen Euro” in German Autolabs. Das 2016 von Serienunternehmer Holger G. Weiss gegründete Berliner Startup entwickelte zunächst einen nachrüstbaren smarten Sprachassistenten fürs Auto. Inzwischen setzt die Jungfirma auf “Sprachassistenzlösungen für Berufskraftfahrer, Kuriere und Zusteller”.

Packwise
+++ Der Technologiegründerfonds Sachsen (TGFS), Hüttenes hoch drei (H3) und die Golzern Holding investieren eine siebenstellige Summe in Packwise aus Dresden. Das Unternehmen ermöglicht Unternehmen der Chemie- und Lebensmittelindustrie “eine schnelle und einfache Digitalisierung ihrer Supply Chain sowie die Reduktion ihres CO2-Fußabdruckes”. Packwise wurde 2017 von Gesche Weger, Felix Weger und René Bernhardt gegründet.

Angle Audio
+++ Der Berliner Geldgeber Atlantic Labs und weitere Investoren investierten bereits im Dezember in Angle Audio. Das Startup, das 2020 von Matthias D. Strodtkoetter, Valerius Huonder und Matthias Karg gegründet wurde, positioniert sich als Clubhouse-Alternative und setzt auf “audiobasierte Gruppenkonversationen”. Die Jungfirma aus Zürich bietet zudem aber auch Funktionen wie eine Bildschirmfreigabe und eine Text-Chat Funktion an, um sich auch schriftlich austauschen zu können.

Careloop
+++ Der Swiss Founders Fund (SFF), die Mediengruppe Klambt, WestTech Ventures, HNC Capital und mehrere Angel-Investoren investieren eine “hohe sechsstellige Summe” in Careloop. Das Berliner Startup bringt sich als Personalvermittlung für ausländische Kranken- und Altenpflegekräfte in Stellung. Die Gründer Alexander Lundberg und Matti Fischer wollen dabei selbstredend “den traditionellen Bewerbungsprozess auf den Kopf stellen”.

EXITS

Icony
+++ Russmedia Equity Partners übernimmt die Mehrheit am White-Label-Dating-Anbieter Icony. Das Unternehmen bietet seinen Kunden die Möglichkeit unter einer eigener Marke eine Partnersuche bzw. Singlebörse anzubieten. “Bereits über 200 Medienhäuser und Domains nutzen dieses Netzwerk und generieren so, ohne eigene Ressourcen, relevante Umsätze mit diesem Angebot”, teilt das Unternehmen mit.

VENTURE CAPITAL

Venpace
+++ Die Kölner Firmenschmiede crossbuilders startet gemeinsam mit Ingo Küpper, Walter Botermann und Torsten Oletzky sowie den vier Versicherern Deal Versicherungsgruppe, PrismaLife, Provinzial Rheinland und Vienna Insurance Group den InsurTech-Investor Venpace. “Gemeinsam werden im InsurTech-nahen Umfeld eigene digitale Geschäftsmodelle aufgebaut und Pre-Seed- und Seed-Investments bis 500.000 Euro getätigt”, teilt der neue Geldgeber mit.

DIE HÖHLE DER LÖWEN

Back’o’Funny
+++ In der zweiten Folge der neunten Staffel investierte Regal-Löwe Ralf Dümmel 33.000 Euro in Back’o’Funny und sicherte sich 33 % am Unternehmen. Die Freundinnen Gisela Hüsges-Schnabel und Sabine Kämper haben Back’o’Funnyentwickelt, um Backen so einfach und lecker wie möglich zu machen.

Co’Ps
+++ In der zweiten Folge der neunten Staffel investierte Pharma-Löwe Nils Glagau 100.000 Euro in Co’Ps und sicherte sich dabei 20 % am Unternehmen. Finn Geldermann und Jan Weigelt, die sich seit ihrer Jugend kennen, bieten mit Co’Ps einen Schnaps aus Kaffeebohnen und Kolanuss an.

Zaunkoenig
+++ In der zweiten Folge der neunten Staffel investierten Sales-Löwe Carsten Maschmeyer und Regal-Löwe Ralf Dümmel 100.000 Euro in Zaunkoenig und sicherten sich dabei 25 % am Unternehmen, das von Patrick Schmalzried und seinem Bruder Dominik Schmalzried gegründet wurde. Hinter Zaunkoenig verbirgt sich die “leichteste Computer-Maus der Welt”. Nach der Show platzte der Deal leider. “Für viele Gamer ist das Scrollrad essentiell – ein Tool, das die Entwicklung von Patrick und Dominik nicht hatte. Dies war ein Grund, warum die Beteiligung nicht zustande kam. Sie haben sich unsere Kritik aber zu Herzen genommen und haben das Scrollrad mittlerweile eingebaut. Da war es für uns aber schon zu spät. Wir wünschen den Gründern noch viel Erfolg mit Zaunkoenig”, sagt Löwe Maschmeyer. Stattdessen investierte aber Lizza-Gründer Matthias Kramer, 2016 selbst in der Vox-Show zu Gast war, in das Unternehmen und vor allem die Gründer, die er als “langjährige Freunde” bezeichnet.

PODCAST

Insider #98
+++ Schon die neue Insider-Ausgabe mit Sven Schmidt gehört? In der aktuellen Folge geht es um: Amazd, Pitch, Planet A Ventures, Dance, Blok, likeminded, GraphCMS, Klaus Hommels, Fit Analytics, Patient 21, Enpal, Babbel, Volocopter, Lampenwelt, About You und Mister Spex.

Abonnieren: Die Podcasts von deutsche-startups.de könnt ihr bei Amazon Music – Apple Podcasts – Castbox – Deezer – Google Podcasts – iHeartRadio – Overcast – PlayerFM – Podimo – Spotify – SoundCloud oder per RSS-Feed abonnieren.

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

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

Foto (oben): azrael74

#aktuell, #angle-audio, #audio, #backofunny, #capacura, #careloop, #cops, #coatue, #coparion, #dating, #dn-capital, #e-health, #german-autolabs, #gostudent, #heat-it, #hnc-capital, #hr, #ibb-ventures, #icony, #insurtech, #karlsruhe, #koln, #krankenhaus-de, #left-lane-capital, #nbr-tech-ventures, #russmedia-equity-partners, #samedi, #swiss-founders-fund, #target-partners, #venpace, #venture-capital, #westtech-ventures, #zaunkonig, #zurich

Celebrity video platform Memmo raises $10M

Memmo.me, a startup allowing users to pay celebrities for personalized video messages, is announcing that it has raised $10 million in Series A funding.

“We’re really excited about our mission to break down these barriers [and help talent] connect one-to-one instead of one-to-thousands,” said co-founder and CEO Gustav Lundberg Toresson.

He added that celebrities are embracing this as a new source of income. It’s particularly appealing during the pandemic, but he predicted that celebrities will still be excited about “making this much money from their living rooms” after the pandemic ends.

The concept probably reminds you of Cameo (indeed, Carole Baskin of “Tiger King” fame has presence on both platforms), but while Cameo is U.S.-based, Memmo was founded in Stockholm, and Lundberg Toresson said its strategy is both global and localized — the company is currently operating localized marketplaces for Sweden, Germany, Finland, Norway, the United Kingdom, Spain, Italy and Canada, as well as a general global market.

“We want to be the place where you can find everyone from world famous talents like a soccer or basketball star, to the local musician down the road,” he said.” It’s all about using localization to help you find who’s most relevant for you, wherever you are.”

The startup says it has been used to send more than 100,000 messages globally, and that sales grew 50% every month between July of last year and January 2021.

The round was led by Left Lane Capital, with the firm’s founder and managing parter Harley Miller joining the Memmo board. Delivery Hero co-founder Lukasz Gadowski , FJ Labs, Depop CEO Maria Raga, Zillow co-founder Spencer Rascoff, former Groupon operations director Inbal Leshem, Voi Technology co-founder Fredrik Hjelm, former Udemy CEO Dennis Yang and Wolt co-founder Elias Aalto also participated.

“We’ve been impressed with the pace at which Memmo has expanded their offering across markets, where localization is critical to unlocking marketplace liquidity,” Miller said in a statement. “The ability to monetize the gap between wealth and fame for talent & celebrities, all the while allowing them to engage deeply with fans, is a trend that was only further underscored by the pandemic.”

Although Left Lane is based in New York, Lundberg Toresson said he was particularly excited about the firm’s marketplace expertise, and that its investment does not signal an imminent U.S. launch.

Memmo has now raised a total of $12 million. The new funding will allow the startup to add new features like live videos and to build out its business offerings, allowing companies to hire celebrities to create promotional videos for external marketing or internal employee motivation.

#apps, #funding, #fundings-exits, #left-lane-capital, #memmo-me, #startups

Wholesale marketplace Abound raises $22.9M

Abound, an online marketplace that helps independent retailers stock their shelves with new products from up-and-coming brands, is announcing that it has raised $22.9 million in its first institutional round of funding.

CEO Bill Shope founded the company with Niklas de la Motte and Drew Sfugaras. He told me that small retailers are constantly on the hunt for new products, which means attending trade shows several times a year. Abound, on the other hand, allows them to find those products through an online shopping experience, with wholesale prices (a.k.a. discounts of up to 50 percent), free returns and, in some cases, Net 60 sale terms (meaning retailers don’t have to pay until 60 days after the invoice).

The startup actually began as a community connecting manufacturer’s representatives and retailers, but Shope said the team “kept seeing the limits of that model,” while some retailers were asking to buy from the brands directly. So the team decided to support that experience, starting out by recruiting 50 brands with an offer of free consulting — as long as they were willing to be one of the brands on the marketplace when it launched in October 2019.

Of course, the retail environment changed dramatically in the following months, as the pandemic forced stores to close and/or adopt social distancing measures. Shope said the startup saw a dramatic, short-term decline in sales — but things quickly bounced back and kept growing as “all the trade shows got canceled.”

Partly, that’s because Abound also supports e-commerce retailers, but Shope noted that “the brick and mortars that were succeeding had a very powerful hybrid model,” where they continued to operate a physical store while also quickly launching websites and adding features like curbside pickup.

Abound screenshot

Image Credits: Abound

Abound says that since the beginning of 2020, it has added 180,000 new products in categories like baby and kid products, beauty, food and drink, home and living, jewelry and more. And monthly sales volume has increased 20-fold.

“From a retail perspective, I don’t think there’s any going back [to pre-COVID buying models,]” Shope said. After all, even before the pandemic, independent retailers had to compete with giants like Amazon and Walmart. “You’re not going to beat them on convenience products. The store that’s helping consumers discover new brands, or donating 10 percent of profits to charities — those are types of stories and products you need to have to draw consumers into your store.”

The funding was led by Left Lane Capital, with participation from RiverPark Ventures, All Iron Ventures and branding firm Red Antler. This will allow Abound to grow the team, expand internationally and continue developing the product.

In a statement, Left Lane Managing Partner Harley Miller said:

My family has been in independent retail for the last 20 years. Growing up, I attended many industry events, so I have long understood how under-optimized the wholesale buying and selling experience is. With the cancellation of most major trade shows in 2020 and 2021, emerging brands and independent retailers have been seeking new distribution channels to support their business ambitions. Abound offers an exciting and unique alternative to the legacy wholesale model at a time when small businesses need it most.

#ecommerce, #funding, #fundings-exits, #left-lane-capital, #startups, #tc

UK on-demand supermarket Weezy raises $20M Series A led by NYC’s Left Lane Capital

Weezy — an on-demand supermarket that delivers groceries in fast times such as 15 minutes — has raised $20 million in a Series A funding led by New York-based venture capital fund Left Lane Capital. Also participating were UK-based fund DN Capital, earlier investors Heartcore Capital and angel investors, notably Chris Muhr, the Groupon founder.

Although the company hasn’t made mention of a later US launch, the presence of US investors would tend to suggest that. Weezy is reminiscent of Kozmo, the on-demand groceries business from the dotcom boom of the late ’90s. However, it differs from Postmates in that it doesn’t do pickups.

The cash injection will be used to expand its grocery delivery service across London and the broader UK, and open two fulfillment centers across London. Some 40 more UK sites are planned by the end of 2021 and it plans to add 50 new employees in the next 4 months.

Launched in July 2020, Weezy uses its own delivery people on pedal cycles or electric mopeds to deliver goods in less than 15 minutes on average. As well as working with wholesalers, it also sources groceries from independent bakers, butchers and markets.

It has pushed at an open door during the pandemic. In Q2 2020 half a million new shoppers joined the grocery delivery sector, which is now worth £14.3bn in the UK, according to research.

Kristof Van Beveren, Co-founder and CEO of Weezy, said in a statement: “People are no longer happy to wait around for deliveries, and there is strong demand for a more efficient service.”

Weezy’s co-founders are Kristof Van Beveren and Alec Dent. Van Beveren is formerly from the consumer goods world at Procter & Gamble and McKinsey & Company, while Dent headed up operations at UK startup Drover and business development at BlaBlaCar.

Harley Miller, managing partner, Left Lane Capital, commented: “Weezy’s founding team have the right balance of drive, experience and temperament to lead in e-commerce innovation
and convenience within the UK grocery market and beyond.”

Nenad Marovac, founder and managing partner, DN Capital, said: “Even before the pandemic, interest in online grocery shopping was on the rise. The first time I ordered from Weezy, my delivery arrived in seven minutes and I was hooked.”

#alec-dent, #delivery, #distribution, #dn-capital, #europe, #grocery-store, #groupon, #heartcore-capital, #kristof-van-beveren, #left-lane-capital, #london, #managing-partner, #marketing, #mckinsey-company, #nenad-marovac, #new-york, #procter-gamble, #retailers, #tc, #united-kingdom, #united-states, #weezy

#DealMonitor – Tourlane bekommt 20 Millionen – Carbon Relay übernimmt StormForger


Im aktuellen #DealMonitor für den 18. November werfen wir wieder einen Blick auf die wichtigsten, spannendsten und interessantesten Investments und Exits des Tages. Alle Deals der Vortage gibt es im großen und übersichtlichen #DealMonitor-Archiv.

INVESTMENTS

Tourlane
+++ Die Altinvestoren HV Capital, Sequoia Capital, Spark Capital und DN Capital investieren weitere 20 Millionen US-Dollar in Tourlane. “Mit dem frischen Kapital kann sich Tourlane weiter auf seine Vision fokussieren, ein auf Technologie und Reisekompetenz basierendes End-to-End-Erlebnis für die Buchung einzigartiger Individualreisen zu schaffen”, teilt das Startup mit. Das Berliner Travel-Startup, das 2016 von Julian Stiefel und Julian Weselek gegründet wurde, vermittelt “maßgeschneiderte Traumreisen” im höheren Preissegment. Insgesamt flossen nun schon mehr als 100 Millionen US-Dollar in Tourlane. Zuletzt hieß es, dass sich Tourlane Corona-Matching-Gelder gesichert hat.

Coyo
+++ Die amerikanische Investmentfirma Marlin Equity Partners investiert – wie bereits berichtet – eine zweistellige Millionensumme in das Hamburger Unternehmen Coyo. Das Startup wurde 2010 von Jan Marius Marquardt gegründet – zunächst als IT-Beratungsagentur (Mindmash). Seit 2012 bietet Coyo eine Social-Intranet-Software an. Bisher setzte Gründer Marquardt komplett auf Bootstrapping. Marlin Equity Partners meldete beim Bundeskartellamt bereits den “mit­tel­ba­ren An­teils- und Kon­trol­l­er­werb” bei Coyo an.

GoStudent 
+++ Left Lane Capital und DN Capital investieren weitere 5 Millionen in GoStudent. “Die Erhöhung des Investments, abermals inmitten der Corona-Pandemie, ist Ausdruck der Überzeugung in das weitere Wachstum des Startups im aufstrebenden E-Learning-Sektor”, teilt das Startup mit. Left Lane Capital und DN Capital investierten erst im Sommer dieses Jahres 8,3 Millionen Euro in GoStudent. Das Wiener Startup, das sich als E-Learning-Dienst positioniert, wurde 2017 von Gregor Müller, Felix Ohswald und seinem Bruder Moritz Ohswald gegründet. GoStudent bietet kostenpflichtige Einzel- und Gruppenkurse an.

Troy
+++ Der Versicherer HDI, der zum Talanx-Konzern gehört, investiert eine einstellige Millionensumme in das Inkasso-Startup Troy – siehe FinanceFwd. Das junge FinTech will sich als Unternehmen für “kundenfreundliches, digitales Inkasso” etablieren. troy setzt dabei auf “Tools und Methoden aus Marketing und CRM und verbindet sie mit Daten und Machine Learning”. Das Startup wurde 2017 von Philip Rürup und Till Völzke in Lippstadt gegründet. eCAPITAL, BORN2GROW, Avala Capital und Seed X Liechtenstein investierten zuletzt einen mittleren einstelligen Millionenbetrag in troy.

Fulfin
+++ “Führende Investoren aus dem Finanzsektor” investieren eine mittlere siebenstellige Summe in das Münchner FinTech Fulfin, einen Kreditgeber für E-Commerce-Verkäufer. Das Startup, das 2018 von Nathan Evans, Alfred Gruber, Peter Eriksson und Tobias Steinbrecher gegründet wurde, bietet Warenfinanzierungen für junge Online-Händler an. Hevella Capital und Lakeside, die bereits im vergangenen Jahr eine siebenstellige Summe in das FinTech investierten, sind auch bei der aktuellen Investmentrunde wieder an Bord.

garden
+++ Crowberry Capital und byFounders investieren 3,1 Millionen Euro in das Berliner Startup garden. Zuvor investierten bereits Fly Ventures, System.One, Tiny.vc, Renaud Visage, Chad Fowler, Olivier Pomel, David Helgason, Nat Friedman, Hampus Jakobsson und Thomas Köhl in die Jungfirma. In der Selbstbeschreibung des Startups heißt es: “Garden is a development automation platform for Kubernetes and cloud native applications”. garden wurde 2018 von Jón Eðvald Vignisson, Bas Peters und Eythor Magnusson gegründet.

EXITS

StormForger
+++ Das amerikanische Unternehmen Carbon Relay übernimmt die Kölner Firma StormForger, eine Software-as-a-Service-Lösung in Sachen Last- und Performance-Testing. “Mit der Übernahme wird Carbon Relay in StormForge umbenannt und kündigt die erste integrierte Plattform für DevOps und IT-Profis an, die proaktiv und automatisch containerisierte Anwendungen testen, analysieren, konfigurieren, optimieren und freigeben kann, um das Risiko einer negativen Beeinträchtigung der Benutzererfahrung und des Kundenvertrauens zu beseitigen”, teilt das Unternehmen mit. StormForger wurde 2014 von Sebastian Cohnen und Lars Wolff gegründet.

Clasen Bio
+++ Das Berliner Unternehmen Social Chain übernimmt Clasen Bio, eine Marke für Nüsse, Snacks und Trockenfrüchte. “Clasen Bio wird gemeinsam mit den anderen Food-Marken der Social Chain unter das Dach der neuen Food Chain GmbH gestellt, einer hundertprozentigen Tochter der Social Chain AG”, teilt das Unternehmen von TV-Löwe Georg Kofler mit. Weitere Beteiligungen von Food Chain sind KoRo, 3Bears und VYTAL. “Die Umsatzentwicklung der Food Chain ist auf starkes Wachstum ausgerichtet: 2020 liegt der Umsatz bei 70 Millionen Euro (pro-forma-konsolidiert). 2021 wird eine Steigerung auf 100 Millionen Euro erwartet. Im Geschäftsjahr 2022 soll sich der Umsatz auf rund 140 Millionen Euro erhöhen”.

Capjob
+++ Das Wiener Startup myAbility, das von Gregor Demblin und Wolfgang Kowatsch gegründet wurde, übernimmt den deutschen Mitbewerber Capjob – siehe Trending Topics. “Neben der Ablösesumme gibt es eine Vereinbarung mit dem Capjob-Gründer, damit er die nächsten zwei Jahre für das Projekt tätig ist”, heißt es im Artikel. myAbility positioniert sich als “eine innovative, soziale Unternehmensberatung, die Unternehmen dabei hilft, die Potenziale von Menschen mit Behinderung als KundInnen und MitarbeiterInnen zu nutzen”.

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

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

Foto (oben): azrael74

#aktuell, #berlin, #capjob, #carbon-relay, #clasen-bio, #coyo, #dn-capital, #fintech, #food-chain, #fulfin, #garden, #gostudent, #hamburg, #hv-capital, #karlsruhe, #koln, #left-lane-capital, #lippstadt, #marlin-equity-partners, #munchen, #myability, #sequoia-capital, #social-chain-group, #spark-capital, #stormforge, #stormforger, #tourlane, #travel, #troy, #venture-capital, #wien

M1 Finance closes $45M Series C mere months after it raised its $33M Series B

Just months after it announced a $33 million Series B, Chicago-based M1 Finance today disclosed a $45 Series C.

The new financing event was led by Left Lane Capital, the same investor that led M1’s Series B. Bear in mind that so-called inside rounds are now a bullish sign in 2020, as opposed to in prior VC eras when they were viewed more cooly. Other M1 investors include Jump Capital, Clocktower Technology Ventures and Chicago Ventures, though only the first two appear to have taken part in this round.

Per M1, the Series C comes just 120 days after it raised a Series B. A good question is why M1 has raised more capital, and why Left Lane Capital wanted to lead two rounds for the consumer-focused fintech provider. Going back to our prior coverage, we can figure it out.

In February, we reported that M1 Finance had reached the $1 billion assets under management mark, or AUM.

The startup combines three different traditional fintech services into one (roboadvising, neobanking and lending), allowing it to price the package aggressively. The model appears to be working. When M1 raised its Series B a few months later in June, it had reached the $1.45 billion AUM, or about 45% growth in just over a quarter. That’s very good.

Today, the company announced that it has surpassed the $2 billion AUM mark, up more than 38% in the last four months.

M1 posted slower AUM growth in percentage terms and greater growth in raw AUM over a similar time frame heading into its Series C. But regardless of that nuance, the company’s AUM grew quickly.

That fact helps explain its new round. If you were Left Lane Capital, had just led a round into the company, and then watched it keep growing rapidly, you’d want to double-down quickly. Not only to buy more of the company, but also to get the round done before another investor could show up and buy its own piece of M1, diluting you and nabbing your ascendant position as the startup’s most recent lead investor.

So Left Lane led the Series C, hoping that M1 keeps growing like the proverbial garden irritant.

Revenue, growth

Something fun about M1 is that it shared a revenue target as a percent of AUM earlier in the year, namely that it aims to generate around 1% of its AUM in revenue each year. The company’s CEO Brian Barnes re-confirmed the number for TechCrunch this week.

So, with more than $2 billion in AUM, we can see that M1’s revenues are probably on a run rate of more than $20 million today, and could crest a $25 million run rate by the end of the year, provided that growth continues as it has for the startup.

How is M1 adding so much capital to its platform? Barnes told TechCrunch that M1 has tripled its userbase since the start of the year, and that its current users are bringing more funds in from other financial platforms. The combination is making M1 larger, and quickly.

To wrap, our notes above about Left Lane probably wanting to lead the Series C to keep some other firm from doing it — pre-emption is a regular thing in today’s hot VC market — weren’t mere idle speculation. Barnes told TechCrunch in response to a question about its Series C that his company was “fortunate to have significant investor demand for our Series C, partly due to hitting milestones as quickly” as it has. That sounds like the possibility of competing lead investors to us, at least from our present remove.

The M1 round continues the savings and investing boom we’ve tracked this year. And the round is a win for the Midwest at the same time. More when M1 reaches $3 billion in AUM. Start your countdown.

#chicago, #finance, #fundings-exits, #left-lane-capital, #m1-finance, #recent-funding, #robinhood, #startups

Direct-to-consumer cat food startup Smalls raises $9M

While dog owners have plenty of direct-to-consumer options if they want to order pet food online, we haven’t seen a similar wave of startups for cats. But that may be starting to change.

Earlier this year, I wrote about Cat Person, a startup backed by Harry’s Labs offering a variety of cat care products, including food. And Smalls, a cat food startup that launched in 2018, is announcing today that it has raised $9 million in Series A funding.

Co-founders Matt Michaelson (CEO) and Calvin Bohn (COO) said that it’s not simply a matter of taking the D2C dog food model and applying it to cats.

“The traditional sort of MO for companies in the pet care space is to do everything for dogs first,” and then expand into cat products, Bohn said.

Michaelson argued that this means companies “often overlooked the nutritional needs of cat.” In particular, he said, “We found that we needed a much broader range of products to really succeed. Cats are picky because they’re apex predators.”

So Smalls offers a variety of food options, including what it says is fresh, human-grade chicken and beef; freeze-dried chicken, turkey and duck; plus other treats (and non-food products like litter and toys).

Smalls

Image Credits: Smalls

Michaelson and Bohn started out by cooking the food in the kitchen of their New York City apartments, then moved into what was then known as Brooklyn Foodworks. Smalls now manufactures its cat food in a facility in Chicago.

They acknowledged that the cost can be a bit higher than what cat owners are used to paying — the exact comparison will depend on the brand and quality you currently buy, but after taking a quick quiz on the Smalls website, I was offered subscription plans that cost around $3 or $4 per cat per day. Michaelson noted that “retention is not correlated to income” (so Smalls customers aren’t just wealthy cat owners), and he argued that investing healthy food for your cat could save money down the road

“We don’t have studies to say that yet, but at the same time, you would naturally assume eating better food is going to be a good investment in yourself,” he said.

Bohn added that when cat owners switch to Smalls, they quickly notice the difference: “Within weeks, their cats were sleeping better at night, their coats were more lustrous, their stool smelled better.” (Journalists who tried it out seem to agree.)

The Series A brings Smalls’ total funding to $12 million. It was led by Left Lane Capital (whose partner Jason Fiedler previously invested in The Farmer’s Dog), with participation from Founder Collective and Companion Fund.

“While we’ve seen a proliferation of highly successful healthy dog food brands, the cat food market has remained completely ignored,” Fiedler said in a statement. “Smalls has successfully developed a brand, product mix, supply chain and customer experience that is specifically optimized for cats that no one else has.”

Michaelson said Smalls currently has “several thousand” active subscribers, up 4x year-over-year. And while the pandemic has created some supply chain challenges, it also led to “a huge rise in pet adoption,” as well as convincing some owners that they should look for alternatives to their local pet store.

“Because we’re seeing this big movement towards the direct-to-consumer side of things with COVID, it’s really an opportunity to lean into that and grow faster,” he said.

#ecommerce, #funding, #fundings-exits, #left-lane-capital, #startups

Investors drop off $33 million for Chowbus, a delivery service for ‘mom and pop’ Asian restaurants

When big platforms have carved out large swaths of the delivery market, the best thing for an upstart company to do is to specialize.

For Chowbus, that meant building a food-delivery business that finds restaurants whose cuisines specialize in regional cuisines from Northern and Southern China, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam.

It’s a strategy that has now netted the company $33 million in financing led by the Silicon Valley-based investment firm Altos Ventures and New York’s Left Lane Capital. Hyde Park Angels, Fika Ventures, FJ Labs and Silicon Valley Bank also participated in the round.

Founded four years ago in Chicago by Suyu Zhang and Linxin Wen, the company said that its goal was to connect people with authentic Asian food that’s not easy to find on delivery apps. Over the past year, the company touted significant growth in its business, a traction that can be reflected in its decision to bring on the former chief operating officer of Jump Bikes, Kenny Tsai, as its chief operating officer, and Jieying Zheng, a former Groupon product leader as its head of product.

“When we say we’re true partners to the restaurants we work with, we mean it. By eliminating hidden fees, helping them showcase their best dishes, and other efforts we make on their behalf, we really go the extra mile to help our restaurant partners succeed,” said Wen, Chowbus’ chief executive, in a statement. “We only succeed if they do.”

And seemingly, Chowbus is succeeding. The company raised $4 million in its first round of institutional funding just last year and its rise has been precipitous since then.

The Chicago-based company said it would use its new funding to expand to more cities across the US and add new products like a “dine-in” feature allowing diners to order and pay for their meals on their phone for a contactless experience at restaurants in cities that have flattened the curve of COVID-19 infections and are now reopening. 

Chowbus pitches its lack of hidden fees and footprint across 20 cities in North America including New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago, Atlanta, Los Angeles, the Bay Area, Seattle, and many other cities across North America. In Los Angeles, the company offers menus in Mandarin and Cantonese and allows its users to bundle dishes from multiple restaurants in a single delivery.

Other companies are experimenting with specialization as a way to differentiate from the major delivery services that are on the market. Black and Mobile, which launched in Philadelphia but is in the process of expanding across the country, is a delivery service focused on Black-owned restaurants and food stores.

Founded by David Cabello, Black and Mobile was started in 2017 by the 22 year-old college dropout. The company launched its first operations outside of Atlanta earlier this month and is available on iOS.

“The market is experiencing a permanent shift from offline to online ordering, a trend that Chowbus is actively driving,” said Harley Miller, Managing Partner at Left Lane Capital . “Focusing on this large and loyal constituency with a vertical-approach to supporting Asian restaurants and food purveyors has allowed Chowbus to differentiate itself on both sides of the marketplace. The capital efficiency with which they have operated, relative to the scale achieved, is extraordinarily impressive, and not something we often see.”

#altos-ventures, #chicago, #china, #chowbus, #fika-ventures, #fj-labs, #food, #food-delivery, #groupon, #jump-bikes, #left-lane-capital, #los-angeles, #online-food-ordering, #philadelphia, #seattle, #silicon-valley-bank, #taiwan, #tc, #united-states

#DealMonitor – Andreessen Horowitz investiert 26 Millionen in Rasa


Im aktuellen #DealMonitor für den 23. Juni werfen wir wieder einen Blick auf die wichtigsten, spannendsten und interessantesten Investments und Exits des Tages. Alle Deals der Vortage gibt es im großen und übersichtlichen #DealMonitor-Archiv.

INVESTMENTS

Rasa
+++ Jetzt offiziell! Andreessen Horowitz investiert – wie bereits Mitte Juni exklusiv berichtet – 26 Millionen US-Dollar in Rasa. Neben Andreessen Horowitz investieren auch Accel, 468 Capital, Basis Set Ventures und Mango Capital erneut in das Berliner Startup. Insgesamt flossen nun schon 40 Millionen Dollar in Rasa, einen Anbieter für Open-Source-Anwendungen. Das Unternehmen wurde 2016 von Alan Nichol und Alexander Weidauer gegründet.

GoStudent
+++ Left Lane Capital und DN Capital investieren 8,3 Millionen Euro in GoStudent. “Darüber hinaus kommen die Gründer von Swoodoo und HomeToGo mit ihrem Investmentvehikel NFQ als strategische Partner mit an Bord”, teilt das Unternehmen mit. Das Wiener Startup, das sich als E-Learning-Dienst positioniert, wurde 2017 von Gregor Müller, Felix Ohswald und seinem Bruder Moritz Ohswald gegründet. Nachhilfe. GoStudent bietet kostenpflichtige Einzel- und Gruppenkurse an.

smark
+++ Campo und Mutschler Ventures investieren 3,1 Millionen Euro in das Stuttgarter Startup smark. Die Jungfirma, die von Philipp Hoening und Max Ittermann gegründet wurde, bietet vollautomatisierte Einkaufsstationen, sogenannte smarkBoxen, an. Kunden können entweder vorher per App einkaufen oder vor Ort über einen Touchscreen bestellen. “Möglich macht das ein automatisiertes Lager- und Greifsystem, das alle Artikel innerhalb nur einer Minute zur Ausgabe befördert”, teilt das Startup mit.

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#468-capital, #accel, #aktuell, #andreessen-horowitz, #basis-set-ventures, #campo, #dn-capital, #e-learning, #gostudent, #left-lane-capital, #mango-capital, #mutschler-ventures, #rasa, #smark, #stuttgart, #venture-capital, #wien

M1 Finance raises $33M Series B as it reaches $1.45B AUM

Today M1 Finance, a Chicago-based fintech startup focused on consumer finance, announced that it has closed a $33 million Series B. Left Lane Capital led the round, with participation from Clocktower Technology Ventures and Jump Capital. The firm has raised around $54.5 million to date.

M1 Finance caught TechCrunch’s attention earlier in the year when it crossed the $1 billion assets-under-management (AUM) mark. When TechCrunch learned of its impending Series B, we wanted to know how fast the company was adding to its AUM total, and how its efficiency was faring in the current savings-and-investing fintech boom. So, we found out.

Growth

According to M1 Finance founder and CEO Brian Barnes, after reaching the $1 billion AUM mark in February, his company has “continued to see record new account signups and net inflows,” helping it grow its total assets managed by “about 50% in the less than four months since.” Asked about its precise AUM today, the company told TechCrunch that as of the time of press, it had reached $1.45 billion in assets under management.

The company’s AUM total is not only a good metric to track regarding how successful the firm is in terms of attracting customers and customer trust (monies deposited are a vote of user confidence), it’s also a fun proxy for M1 Finance’s revenue. The firm previously told TechCrunch before that it targets generating around 1% of AUM in revenue.

So, as M1 stacks AUM, it theoretically grows it revenues. Asked whether M1 was sustaining its revenue goal as its assets managed grew, Barnes told TechCrunch that personal banking tool M1 Spend “is seeing strong demand from our users,” adding that “because it is still very new, we are, as expected, below the 1% target.”

But while M1 is currently tracking under its 1% goal, Barnes added that his company expects “to hit the 1% target over the next year or so as we increase use adoption across our entire product suite.”

Doing the math, 1% of $1.45 billion AUM is a run rate of $14.5 million. M1 is growing assets while boosting its take rate, likely making its short-term financial results attractive to investors.

On that note, the company’s financial performance is improving in other ways. Asked by TechCrunch what has happened to M1’s blended customer acquisition costs (CAC) since it reached the $1 billion AUM mark, Barnes said that the company’s “blended CAC continues to fall every month because our organic and word of mouth traffic continues to grow substantially.”

It’s far easier to pay back customer acquisition costs when they are going down. And, as CAC payback periods (the length of time it takes to repay CAC with gross-margin adjusted revenues) matter to investors, this is a bullish result for M1.

What’s next

M1’s new $33 million round is more money than the aggregate amount of capital that the company had raised before its Series B. Given that the firm has at its disposal more capital than ever, TechCrunch was curious what it intends to do with the capital.

According to Barnes, M1 will double-down on its product focus, “just with more money to do so bigger, better and faster.” The CEO highlighted that the new money would also give M1 “more flexibility to make longer-term investments as people will need finance products for the rest of time.”

Next up we’ll look for news that the company has reached the $2 billion AUM mark, and then we’ll set our stopwatches for $3 billion. How much more quickly the company can add its third billion in AUM compared to its second will provide a good proxy for its future growth prospects.

#finance, #finservices, #fundings-exits, #left-lane-capital, #m1-finance, #recent-funding, #startups, #tc