#DealMonitor – aware bekommt 15 Millionen – Soba sammelt 13,6 Millionen ein – Hero sichert sich 8 Millionen


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

INVESTMENTS

aware
+++ Jetzt offiziell: Lakestar, Cherry Ventures, June Fund, Katharina Jünger (Teleclinic), Simon Bolz (Klara), Florian Otto (Cedar), Manuel Grossmann (Amino Collective), Naren Sham (Omio), Lucas Cranach (Onefootball) und Christian Reber (Pitch) investieren 15 Millionen US-Dollar in aware. Das Berliner Startup, das 2021 von den EyeEm-Gründern Florian Meissner und Ramzi Rizk sowie Ferdinand Schmidt-Thomé gegründet wurde, kümmert sich um die “Entwicklung einer App zur Auswertung von Gesundheitsdaten und zur Erforschung chronischer Krankheiten”. Konkret geht es um Bluttests im Abo-Modell. “By digitizing checkups from the ground up and leveraging blood tests and biomarkers, they are providing people with a full picture of their health based on their own unique data”, teilt das Unternehmen mit. Im aktuellen Insider-Podcast haben wir bereits über den Einstieg von Lakestar und Co. berichtet. Mehr über aware

Soba
+++ Lightspeed Venture Partners, FTX Ventures, Cherry Ventures, Point Nine Capital und TQ Ventures sowie Matthew Haag, Jack Dunlop, Tim Evans, and Alvaro González de Buitrago investieren 13,6 Millionen US-Dollar in Soba. Das Berliner Startup, 2019 von Nonstop Games-Macher Juha Paananen und Florian Odronitz gegründet, positioniert sich als “no-code game tools for creators”. Das Team teilt zum Konzept weiter mit: “We believe in a world where making games and building experiences is available for everyone, on every platform, not only to professionals using complex tools on PCs; and where the economics are fair and support creators”.

Hero 
+++ Cusp Capital und Altinvestoren wie Robert Gentz (Zalando), Martin Sinner (Idealo), Reinhard Martens (Gastrofix), Philipp Schormann (Urbyo), Philip Magoulas (Shore, Bestsmile) investieren 8 Millionen Euro in Hero. Das Unternehmen aus Hannover, das 2018 von  Energieheld-Machern Michael Kessler und Philipp Lyding gegründet wurde, bietet eine “cloudbasierte und endgeräteunabhängige Software speziell für das Handwerk” an. “Das Wachstumskapital wird sowohl in die Beschleunigung der Produktentwicklung als auch in die Vorbereitung der europäischen Expansion investiert”, teilt das Unternehmen mit.

Project Eaden
+++ Jetzt offiziell: Creandum, Magnetic, Atlantic Food Labs, Shio Capital, Trellis Road und mehrere Angel-Investoren investieren 8 Millionen Euro in Project Eaden. Das Berliner Startup, das von den Upper Hand-Machern David Schmelzeisen und Jan Wilmking sowie mymuesli-Gründer Hubertus Bessau gegründet wurde, kümmert sich um “Fleischalternativen sowie deren Vertrieb”. Zunächst kümmert sich die Jungfirma um “Animal-free Steak”. “The fresh funding will enable Project Eaden to further develop and scale its proprietary technology and make the first product creation ready to market”, teilt das Team mit. Über den Einstieg von Creandum haben wir bereits Mitte Juni im Insider-Podcast berichtet.

Properti
+++ Serpentine Ventures, Sparrow Ventures, Bestsmile-Gründer Ertan Wittwer und weitere Angel-Investor:innen investieren 6 Millionen Schweizer Franken in Properti. Das PropTech aus Zürich, das 2019 von den Brüdern Levent Künzi und Adrian Künzi  gegründet wurde, stellt Maklern “alle Werkzeuge, die sie für ein erfolgreiches Geschäft benötigen, an einem Ort bereit”. Das frische Kapital “soll hauptsächlich in den Ausbau der Technologieplattform fließen”. Serpentine Ventures und Co. investierten Ende 2021 bereits 1,25 Millionen Schweizer Franken in Properti.

Empion 
+++ VR Ventures und Basinghall Partners sowie Angel-Investor:innen wie Robin Behlau (Aroundhome/Valyria), Constanze Buchheim (i-potentials), Oliver Manojlovic (Personio), Emma Tracey (Honeypot), Michael Stephan, Frank Freund (beide Raisin), Fabian Kienbaum (Kienbaum), Anna Kaiser (Tandemploy/Phenom), Christoph Hardt und Jan Schächtele (Comatch) und Julian Stiefel (Tourlane) investieren 2,4 Millionen Euro in Empion, Das Berliner HR-Startup, das von Annika von Mutius und Larissa Leitner gegründet wurde, möchte das Headhunting mit Hilfe künstlicher Intelligenz automatisieren.

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

Foto (oben): azrael74

#aktuell, #atlantic-food-labs, #aware, #basinghall-partners, #berlin, #cherry-ventures, #creandum, #cusp-capital, #empion, #food, #ftx-ventures, #games, #hannover, #hero, #hr, #june-fund, #lakestar, #lightspeed-venture-partners, #magnetic, #point-nine-capital, #project-eaden, #properti, #proptech, #serpentine-ventures, #shio-capital, #soba, #sparrow-ventures, #tq-ventures, #trellis-road, #venture-capital, #vr-ventures

#DealMonitor – Mayd sammelt 30 Millionen ein – Synapticon sammelt Millionen ein – Helvengo bekommt 4,1 Millionen


Im #DealMonitor für den 27. Januar werfen wir einen Blick auf die wichtigsten, spannendsten und interessantesten Investments und Exits des Tages in der DACH-Region. Alle Deals der Vortage gibt es im großen und übersichtlichen #DealMonitor-Archiv.

INVESTMENTS

Mayd
+++ Jetzt offiziell: Der amerikanische Personio-Geldgeber Lightspeed investiert – wie Mitte Dezember im Insider-Podcast berichtet – gemeinsam mit den Altinvestoren Target Global, 468 Capital and Earlybird Venture Capital 30 Millionen Euro in Mayd. Das Berliner Startup, das im Frühjahr 2021 von den McMakler-Gründern Hanno Heintzenberg und Lukas Pieczonka gegründet wurde, liefert Medikamente in 30 Minuten aus. 468 Capital, Earlybird Venture Capital und Target Global investierten zuvor bereits 13 Millionen Euro in die Jungfirma. “Das Jungunternehmen ist seit der Gründung auf über 100 Mitarbeiter*innen und über 350 festangestellte Fahrer*innen gewachsen. Zeitnah ist die Expansion in weitere deutsche Städte sowie zwei europäische Länder geplant”, heißt es in der Presseaussendung. Zu den Wettbewerbern von Mayd gehören insbesondere First A, kurando, zuvor als Phaster bekannt, und Aporando. Mehr über Mayd

Synapticon
+++ ICT Capital investiert gemeinsam mit Altinvestoren – darunter das Unternehmen Stabilus – einen zweistelligen Millionenbetrag in Synapticon. Das Unternehmen aus Schönaich kümmert sich um Lösungen für Integrated Motion. “Die Technologie von Synapticon erreicht mit Algorithmen, leistungsfähigen Prozessoren und Leistungselektronik sowie einfach zu bedienenden intelligenten Tools, traditionell über die mechanische Wertschöpfung realisierte Faktoren wie Qualität, Laufruhe und Präzision”, teilt das Unternehmen mit. Das frische Kapital soll “in die Weiterentwicklung des Produktportfolios und das operative Wachstum” fließen.

Helvengo
+++ Hypoport, das Medienunternehmen TX Ventures, Postfinance Ventures und Co. investieren 4,1 Millionen Euro in Helvengo – siehe FinanceFWD. Das InsurTech aus Zürich, das 2020 von Benedikt Andreas, Felix Huemer und Vedran Pranjic gegründet wurde, bringt sich als KMU-Versicherer in Stellung. Das Unternehmen verkauft Unternehmen und Startups etwa Berufshaftpflicht- oder Cyberversicherungen. Hypoport, Seed X aus Lichtenstein, Cornelius Boersch (Conny & Co) und weitere Business Angels investierten zuvor bereits in das Unternehmen.

saporo
+++ Die Schweizer Geldgeber session.vc und Lightbird Ventures investieren 2,7 Millionen US-Dollar in saporo. Das Cyber Security-Startup aus Lausanne, das 2021 von den Brüdern Olivier Eyries und Guillaume Eyries sowie Eric Blavier gegründet wurde, hilft Unternehmen dabei, ihre System zu schützen – unter anderem durch die Reduzierung von Benutzer- und Systemzugangsrisiken. 

App Radar
+++ eQventure und aws Gründerfonds investieren 2 Millionen Euro in App Radar. Das App-Marketing-Startup aus Graz, das 2016 von Thomas Kriebernegg und Christian Janesch gegründet wurde, hilft Unternehmen “mehr Nutzer durch organische und bezahlte Nutzerakquise zu erreichen”. Derzeit nutzen nach Firmenangaben “bereits mehr als 1.000 Kunden in 100 verschiedenen Ländern diese Lösung”. 50 Mitarbeiter:innen arbeiten derzeit für App Radar.

Tilo
+++ Peak, Tiny.VC, First Momentum Ventures, Enduring Ventures und weitere Angel-Investoren investieren 1,2 Millionen Euro in Tilo. Das Berliner Startup, ein Spin-Off der deutschen Wirtschaftsaufkunftei Regis24, wurde von Steven Renwick, Hendrik Nehnes und Stefan Berkner, die alle vorher im Technologieteam von Regis24 tätig waren, gegründet. Die Jungfirma möchte Unternehmen dabei helfen, “Datenpunkte aus verschiedenen Quellen und Formaten zusammenzuführen – Serverless, nahezu in Echtzeit und in immensen Größenordnungen”.

Unchained Robotics
+++ Archimedes New Ventures, der Investmentableger der Böllhoff Gruppe, und Born2Grow investieren 1,7 Millionen Euro in Unchained Robotics. Die Jungfirma aus Paderborn, die 2019 von Kevin Freise und Mladen Milicevic gegründet wurde, entwickelt eine auf künstlicher Intelligenz basierte Steuerung von Robotern für die Elektronik-Fertigung. “Mit dem Investment will Unchained Robotics deutschlandweit seinen Vertrieb und Service ausweiten sowie seine Plattform technisch weiter ausreifen”, heißt es in der Presseaussendung. Der Technologiefonds OWL investierte bereits zuvor bereits in das Unternehmen.  Mehr über Unchained Robotics

Altavo
+++ Der High-Tech Gründerfonds (HTGF), der Technologiegründerfonds Sachsen (TGFS), das Unternehmen Saxonia Systems Holding und die TUDAG TU Dresden investieren in Altavo. Das Unternehmen aus Dresden, das 2021 von Rudolf von Bünau und Co. gegründet wurde, entwickelt unter anderem auf Basis von KI-Algorithmen “eine nicht-invasive Prothese, die stimmlosen Menschen, beispielsweise nach einer Kehlkopfentfernung , wieder zu einer individuellen, natürlich klingenden Stimme verhelfen soll”.

Bringoo 
+++ Unternehmer und Investor Marcus Diekmann (Rose Bikes) investiert gemeinsam mit Konstantin Kirchfeld, Anna Weber und Jan Weischer, Jost Wiebelhaus, Joel Kaczmarek und Stefan Hamann in Bringoo. Das Hamburger Startup Bringoo, das 2019 von Hasib Khan, Robert Kosobucki und Christian Puell gegründet wurde, liefert im Stil von Instacart Lebensmittel aus Edeka-, Penny oder nahkauf-Märkten in 45 Minuten aus. Business Angels wie Frank Otto, Hauke Hansen, Michael Hehn, Hubertus Thonhauser und die Schürfeld Gruppe investierten zuvor bereits eine mittlere siebenstellige Summe in Bringoo. Mehr über Bringoo

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

Foto (oben): azrael74

#468-capital, #adtech, #aktuell, #altavo, #app-radar, #archimedes-new-ventures, #aws-grunderfonds, #born2grow, #cyber-security, #dresden, #earlybird-venture-capital, #enduring-ventures, #eqventure, #first-momentum-ventures, #helvengo, #high-tech-grunderfonds, #hypoport, #insurtech, #lausanne, #lightbird-ventures, #lightspeed-venture-partners, #mayd, #paderborn, #peak, #postfinance-ventures, #quick-commerce, #saporo, #schonaich, #session-vc, #synapticon, #target-global, #technologiegrunderfonds-sachsen, #tilo, #tiny-vc, #tx-ventures, #unchained-robotics, #venture-capital

1047 Games raises $100M on the runaway success of its debut title, Splitgate

When you’re hot, you’re hot. And 1047 Games is making the most of the heat generated by Splitgate, its first game and a now a breakout success. After working on a shoestring for years, the team has since May raised three rounds, the latest for a massive $100M.

Co-founder and CEO Ian Proulx credited a dedicated community and, as he described it, “taking a Silicon Valley approach to running a game business.”

At the time 1047 Games was founded, about 5 years ago, free to play (f2p) PC games were a niche genre. While games like World of Tanks and Warframe were seeing success, and of course many mobile games relying on in-app-purchases, Fortnite had yet to show the industry that f2p could be so ludicrously profitable.

“5 years ago it was very hit driven: you spend years developing a product, put all this money into hyping the launch, and then hope it’s a success,” Proulx explained. “Our process was, there’s no way we can take that risk — if we spent our entire budget and got it wrong, we’re out of business. So we thought, let’s do a soft launch, put it out there and see what happens, learn, listen, look at the data. Why would I spend money marketing a product that I have no idea about whether it will be a success? If we wanted to spend money, and we didn’t have a lot, I’d rather spend it on a product that has great metrics and KPIs.”

If you’re not familiar with it, Splitgate is a multiplayer online competitive shooter with a lot of DNA from the old-school arena shooters like Quake 3, Unreal Tournament, and Halo. Those games are frenetic enough, but Splitgate adds the ability to bend space with portals, like the eponymous Portal, adding a truly ridiculous amount of mobility to the action.

Screenshot of the game Splitgate showing a player aiming through a portal

Image Credits: 1047 Games

Proulx said investors shut the door on him repeatedly because they didn’t see Splitgate competing in any of the popular genres, battle royales and hero shooters, for instance. But he felt confident that this update to a familiar formula would be a success partly because the demand was there, just sleeping. “People grew up playing these games, and the reason [the market] is dead is not because they stopped loving them,” he said. “No one has moved the needle because there hasn’t been a lot of innovation, and there hasn’t been something that’s accessible to the masses. Quake Arena is great, but it’s extremely difficult. No 12-year-old Fortnite kid is gonna play it. We really do fill this void.”

While gameplay-wise Splitgate is most obviously similar to classic shooters, Proulx said a better comparison would be Rocket League, another huge success story in gaming that took a great concept and provided it as cheaply as possible, making money off cosmetic items and other totally optional perks.

“You can just have fun, turn your brain off and play, but there’s this limitless skill ceiling,” he explained.

It didn’t spring fully-formed from 1047 in 2019, though. The team put out the gaming equivalent of a minimum viable product. “It was fun, and the basics were there,” he said, “but we learned there’s way more to running a business and free-to-play than just having a fun game.”

The danger for any game is simply that people stop playing, so the team focused on retention and on listening to feedback from the community to make Splitgate a “forever game” that can go years with “seasons,” new features and maps, and so on.

The original MVP release saw some traction, around 600,000 downloads in its first month, but the big multi-platform relaunch — still as an “open beta” — this summer made a huge splash, pulling in more than 10 million in July.

Suddenly the tables had turned and 1047 was holding, as Proulx put it, “lightning in a bottle.”

“Our first round six months ago was extremely difficult. We talked to every investors on the planet and they all said no,” he recalled. But the hard work paid off: “We got lucky and ended up with the perfect partners — I can’t stress enough how supportive our investors have been.”

The next round ( with Human Capital, just as Splitgate was taking off, went from phonecall to funding over a weekend. This third round, with 1047 picking and choosing, was led by Lightspeed Venture Partners with participation from “Insight Partners, Anthos Capital, and earlier seed round investors Galaxy Interactive, VGames, Human Capital, Lakestar, DraperDragon, and Draper University” (from the press release).

One wonders what a team of fewer than ten people could possibly do with $100M ($116M if you count the two previous rounds). But the bet investors are making is not that 1047 is going to suddenly make Assassin’s Creed, but rather that they think ten million (and rising) people playing a unique game is potentially a huge opportunity — if the developers have the chance to follow through. This post-hype period is the valley of death for many games, the developers starved for cash after streamers and curious casuals move on. But the funding means that, for 1047, it’s license to hire like mad and double down.

“The scope of what we can do is now through the roof,” said Proulx. “There’s so much we couldn’t think about because we were a tiny team with a tiny budget, but now everything is on the table. We’re focusing on the long term — I look at the game as being 25 percent done. We don’t need to be Fortnite tomorrow, but now it really is about building the next Riot Games, the next big games business.”

In the meantime, Splitgate itself is still on the road to 1.0 and Proulx says the team can now truly focus on making it the game they and the community have been shaping it to be for years. He noted that many players have stuck by the team for years and helped make the game what it is, and that their input is just as important now.

“We read everything, we’re listening — keep the feedback coming. We’re still operating like the indie team that had to stay close with our community. We’re still in that mindset,” Proulx said, “but now we just have a ridiculous amount of money.”

#anthos-capital, #f2p, #free-to-play, #funding, #fundings-exits, #games, #gaming, #insight-partners, #lightspeed-venture-partners, #recent-funding, #startups, #tc

Virtual events startups have high hopes for after the pandemic

Few people thought of virtual events before the pandemic struck, but this format has fulfilled a unique and important need for companies and organizations large and small during the pandemic. But what will virtual events’ value be as more of the world attempts to return to life before COVID-19?

To find out, we caught up with top executives and investors in the sector to learn about the big trends they’re seeing — as the sequel to this survey we did in March 2020.

Certain use cases have been proven, they say. Today, you can find numerous small niche events available year-round that might have been buried in the back of a larger in-person conference before 2020. For organizations, internal virtual events can also be instrumental in helping connect and promote engagement for remote-first teams.

However, some respondents acknowledged that low-quality virtual events are growing ever more common, and everyone agreed that there is much more work to be done.

We surveyed:

Xiaoyin Qu, founder and CEO, Run The World

With the pandemic hopefully becoming more manageable soon, do you feel a return to in-person events is inevitable?

Certain types of events will go back to in person. Obviously, something to do with a President’s Club — the company rewards you with a party in Hawaii — that kind of thing will not go virtual. I think events more focused on increasing reach will continue to trend toward virtual.

“Hybrid is just another buzzword to say that both online and offline events formats will coexist. Of course they will.”

We’re also seeing that many events are getting smaller, more niche. Before the pandemic, if we look at a general pediatric conference, for example, an attendee may only be interested in two topics out of the 200 offered. But now we’ve seen that there’s a rise in many niche events that focus on very specific topics, which helps streamline these events for attendees.

I think such events are still going to happen virtually just because they’re easier to organize and people can have more in-depth conversations. Internal virtual events for employees is another category that is getting more traction, because companies have been going remote. So many the internal events like the company happy hour — events that help employees engage better — we think that’s still going to happen virtually. So there are a number of use cases we think will continue to be virtual and are probably better virtual.


Help TechCrunch find the best growth marketers for startups.

Provide a recommendation in this quick survey and we’ll share the results with everybody.


What sort of trends do you think will emerge once in-person events are possible again?

Another important trend we’re seeing is that a lot of organizers have begun hosting events more frequently. They were doing large conferences in the past, but now they’re pivoting or they’re rethinking their strategy. They realize that hosting maybe 10 events a year is better than hosting one big event every year. A traditional conference is usually multiday, with maybe 200 different topics and 100 different speakers. Now a lot of people are thinking about spreading it out throughout the year.

#ec-enterprise-applications, #ec-investor-survey, #hemant-mohapatra, #lightspeed-venture-partners, #online-events, #paul-murphy, #startups, #tc

Offchain Labs raises $120 million to hide Ethereum’s shortcomings with its Arbitrum product

As the broader crypto world enjoys a late summer surge in enthusiasm, more and more blockchain developers who have taken the plunge are bumping into the blaring scaling issues faced by decentralized apps on the Ethereum blockchain. The popular network has seen its popularity explode in the past year but its transaction volume has stayed frustratingly stable as the network continues to operate near its limits, leading to slower transaction speeds and hefty fees on the crowded chain.

Ethereum’s core developers have been planning out significant upgrades to the blockchain to rectify these issues, but even in the crypto world’s early stages, transitioning the network is a daunting, lengthy task. That’s why developers are looking to so-called Layer 2 rollup scaling solutions, which sit on top of the Ethereum network and handle transactions separately in a cheaper, faster way, while still recording the transactions to the Ethereum blockchain, albeit in batches.

The Layer 2 landscape is early, but crucial to the continued scalability of Ethereum. As a result, there’s been quite a bit of passionate chatter among blockchain developers regarding the early players in the space. Offchain Labs has been developing one particularly hyped rollup network called Arbitrum One, which has built up notable support and momentum since it beta-launched to developers in May, with about 350 teams signing up for access, the company says.

They’ve attracted some high-profile partnerships including Uniswap and Chainlink who have promised early support for the solution. The company has also quickly piqued investor interest. The startup tells TechCrunch it raised a $20 million Series A in April of this year, quickly followed up by a $100 million Series B led by Lightspeed Venture Partners which closed this month and valued the company at $1.2 billion. Other new investors include Polychain Capital, Ribbit Capital, Redpoint Ventures, Pantera Capital, Alameda Research and Mark Cuban.

Offchain Labs co-founders Felton, Goldfeder and Kalodner

It’s been a fairly lengthy ride for the Arbitrum technology to public access. The tech was first developed at Princeton — you can find a YouTube video where the tech is first discussed in earnest back in early 2015.  Longtime Professor Ed Felton and his co-founders CEO Steven Goldfeder and CTO Harry Kalodner detailed a deeper underlying vision in a 2018 research paper before licensing the tech from Princeton and building out the company. Felton previously served as the deputy U.S. chief technology officer in the Obama White House, and — alongside Goldfeder — authored a top textbook on cryptocurrencies.

After a lengthy period under wraps and a few months of limited access, the startup is ready to launch the Arbitrum One mainnet publicly, they tell TechCrunch.

This team’s scaling solution has few direct competitors — a16z-backed Optimism is its most notable rival — but Arbitrum’s biggest advantage is likely the smooth compatibility it boasts with decentralized applications designed to run on Ethereum, compared with competitors that may require more heavy-lifting on the developer’s part to be full compatibility with their rollup solution. That selling point could be a big one as Arbitrum looks to court support across the Ethereum network and crypto exchanges for its product, though most Ethereum developers are well aware of what’s at stake broadly.

“There’s just so much more demand than there is supply on Ethereum,” Goldfeder tells TechCrunch. “Rollups give you the security derived from Ethereum but a much better experience in terms of costs.”

#arbitrum, #articles, #blockchain, #blockchains, #cardano, #chief-technology-officer, #cryptocurrencies, #cryptocurrency, #cto, #decentralization, #ethereum, #joseph-lubin, #lightspeed-venture-partners, #offchain-labs, #pantera-capital, #polychain-capital, #redpoint-ventures, #ribbit-capital, #tc, #technology, #uniswap, #united-states, #white-house

Mexican neobroker Flink raises $57M from Lightspeed, The Chainsmokers to boost financial inclusion in LatAm

Flink, a Mexico City-based neobroker, has raised $57 million in a Series B round of funding led by Lightspeed Venture Partners.

The financing comes just over six months after Flink raised $12 million in a Series A round led by Accel. Existing backers Accel, ALLVP, Clocktower and new investor Mantis Venture Capital (founded by The Chainsmokers) also put money in the Series B. Since its 2017 inception, the startup has raised nearly $70 million.

Neobrokers are defined as startups that are disrupting the investment industry by providing a platform for a wider range of consumers to partake in the stock market by offering them more incremental investment options and modern and easy mobile-based interfaces to manage their money. There is a growing number of them globally, including Scalable Capital, Bitpanda and Trade Republic in Europe.

For Mexico City-born Sergio Jiménez Amozurrutia, the fact that in his country of more than 120 million people, only a tiny fraction of the population has the ability to invest in the capital markets felt unfair. To him, the lack of widespread participation in investing is an example of the rich getting richer as part of an infrastructure “that is built for the wealthy.” The result of the imbalance is that a lot of people have historically been locked out of making potentially wealth-building investments.  

So after selling Easy Credit, a consumer lending platform he’d built with Rick Rafael Bueno (whom he met in 2015 at a hackathon at Tech de Monterrey), Amozurrutia set out to give Mexicans access to something he believed they’d never had access to: an app-based consumer trading platform.

Flink launched its app in 2018 with a wallet service, a digital and physical global debit card backed by Mastercard and, last year, it began offering the ability to buy and sell fractional shares from 30 pesos, without commissions, for NYSE-listed stocks.

“Users can invest as little as US$1 and with zero commissions,” Amozurrutia said. “We want Flink to be the easiest way to invest, save and use your money.” 

Image Credits: Lightspeed’s Mercedes Bent and Flink founding team / Lightspeed

The demand for what the startup has to offer is clearly there. Since launching its first brokerage product in July of 2020, Flink has 1.6 million users, up from 1 million users at the time of its February raise. Over 85% of its users are first-time investors. GenZers seem to be the most interested in investing — 27% of the app’s clients are between 18 and 25 years old, while 22% are millennials, execs say.

“Most legacy Mexican banks cater to less than 1% of the population — meaning most Mexicans don’t have a bank account, let alone a brokerage account,” Amozurrutia said at the time of the company’s last raise. “At Flink, we’re guided by the belief that Mexico’s financial system should work for everyone — not only a select few.”

The company is growing its user base by 38% per month and revenue by 31% per month, according to  Amozurrutia, and touts a user acquisition cost of 62 cents. It is currently the largest retail brokerage service in Mexico, he said. Flink has 110 employees, up from 25 people a year ago today.

The startup plans to use its new capital to keep growing its team, toward product development and to expand its service to different countries in Latin America.

“The lack of access for retail investing is all over LATAM, and at Flink we want to change that,” Amozurrutia told TechCrunch. “We are focused on offering the opportunity to invest and grow their money to everyone in LATAM.”

Lightspeed Partner Mercedes Bent said her firm “fell in love” with Flink’s mission and impact on the country’s “financial ecosystem.” It was also impressed by the company’s unique features, including allowing Mexican investors to access the U.S. stock market and invest fractional shares.

“Many equities platforms only let you invest in equities in your own country,” she said. “Flink also has a big focus on education and creating an investment experience that makes it easy for their users to onboard.” For example, Bent noted, Flink has a podcast dubbed “Finanzas en órbita” that provides financial and stock market education in México.

In a blog post, Bent and Will Kohler wrote that they could feel the company’s passion and vision for creating more financial inclusion in Mexico, even via a Zoom call.

“The excitement leapt through the video screen,” the pair wrote. “…Flink’s vision for the future goes beyond accessing stocks, and we wanted to be a part of it.”

Flink marks Lightspeed’s third investment in Mexico, alongside Stori and Frubana, and Bent and Kohler say there is “more to come.”

“We are big believers in México, and bullish on LATAM,” they wrote.

#apps, #finance, #fintech, #flink, #fundings-exits, #latin-america, #lightspeed-venture-partners, #mercedes-bent, #mexico, #mexico-city, #neobroker, #recent-funding, #sergio-jimenez-amozurrutia, #startup, #startups, #the-chainsmokers, #venture-capital

Former Snap employees raise $9M for Trust, emerging from beta to level marketing playing field

Trust wants to give smaller businesses the same advantages that large enterprises have when marketing on digital and social media platforms. It came out of beta with $9 million in seed funding from Lerer Hippeau, Lightspeed Venture Partners, Upfront Ventures and Upper90.

The Los Angeles-based company was started in 2019 by a group of five Snap alums working in various roles within Snap’s revenue product strategy business. They were building tools for businesses to fund success with digital marketing, but kept hearing from customers about the advantage big advertisers had over smaller ones — the ability to receive good payment terms, credit lines, as well as data and advice.

Aiming to flip the script on that, the group created Trust, which is a card and business community to help digital businesses navigate the ever-changing pricing models to market online, receive the same incentives larger advertisers get and make the best decision of where their marketing dollars will reach the furthest.

Trust dashboard

Trust does this in a few ways: Its card, built in partnership with Stripe, enables businesses to increase their buying power by up to 20 times and have 45 days to make payments on their marketing investments, CEO James Borow told TechCrunch. Then as part of its community, companies share knowledge of marketing buys and data insights typically reserved for larger advertisers. Users even receive news via their dashboard around their specific marketing strategy, he added.

“The ad platforms are a wall of gardens, and most people don’t know what is going on inside, so our customers work together to see what is going on,” Borow said.

The growth of e-commerce is pushing more digital marketing investments, providing opportunity for Trust to be a huge business, Borow said. E-commerce sales in the U.S. grew by 39% in the first quarter, while digital advertising spend is forecasted to increase 25% this year to $191 billion. Meanwhile, Google, Facebook, Snapchat and Twitter all recently reported rapid growth in their year-over-year advertising revenues, Borow said.

The new funding will go toward increasing the company’s headcount.

“We have active customers on the platform, so we wanted to ramp up hiring as soon as we went into general release,” he added. “We are leaving beta with 25 businesses and a few hundred on our waitlist.”

That list will soon grow. In addition to the funding round, Trust announced a strategic partnership with social shopping e-commerce platform Verishop. The company’s 3,500 merchants will receive priority access to the Trust card and community, Borow said.

Andrea Hippeau, partner at Lerer Hippeau, said she knew Borow from being an investor in his previous advertising company Shift, which was acquired by Brand Networks in 2015.

When Borow contacted Lerer about Trust, Hippeau said this was the kind of offering that would be applicable to the firm’s portfolio, which has many direct-to-consumer brands, and knew marketing was a huge pain point for them.

“Digital marketing is important to all brands, but it is also a black box that you put marketing dollars into, but don’t know what you get,” she said. “We hear this across our portfolio — they spend a lot of money on ad platforms, yet are treated like mom-and-pop companies in terms of credit. When in reality Casper is outspending other companies by five times. Trust understands how important marketing dollars are and gives them terms that are financially better.”

 

#advertising-tech, #andrea-hippeau, #brand-networks, #business, #digital-advertising, #digital-marketing, #enterprise, #facebook, #funding, #google, #james-borow, #lerer-hippeau, #lightspeed-venture-partners, #marketing, #online-advertising, #recent-funding, #small-business, #startups, #stripe, #tc, #trust, #upfront-ventures, #upper90

Buildots raises $30M to put eyes on construction sites

One year after raising $16 million, construction technology company Buildots is back to claim another $30 million, this time in Series B funding.

Lightspeed Venture Partners led the round, with participation from previous investors TLV Partners, Future Energy Ventures and Tidhar Construction Group. This gives the company $46 million in total funding, Roy Danon, co-founder and CEO of Buildots, told TechCrunch.

The three-year-old company, with headquarters in Tel Aviv and London, is leveraging artificial intelligence computer vision technology to address construction inefficiencies. Danon said though construction accounts for 13% of the world’s GDP and employs hundreds of millions of people, construction productivity continues to lag, only growing 1% in the past two decades.

Danon spent six months on construction sites talking to workers to understand what was happening and learned that control was one of the areas where efficiency was breaking down. While construction processes would seem similar to manufacturing processes, building to the design or specs didn’t happen often due to different rules and reliance on numerous entities to get their jobs done first, he said.

Buildots’ technology is addressing this gap using AI algorithms to automatically validate images captured by hardhat-mounted 360-degree cameras, detecting immediately any gaps between the original design, scheduling and what is actually happening on the construction site. Project managers can then make better decisions to speed up construction.

“It even finds events where contractors are installing out of place and streamline payments so that information is transparent and clear,” Danon said. “Buildots also creates a collaborative environment and trust by having a single source telling everyone what is going on. There is no more blaming or cutting corners because the system validates that and also makes construction a healthier industry to work in.”

Buildots went after new funding once it was able to show product market fit and was expanding into other countries. The platform is being utilized on major building projects in countries like the U.S., U.K., Germany, Switzerland, Scandinavia and China. To meet demand, Buildots will use the new funding to continue that expansion; double the size of its global team with a focus on sales, marketing and R&D; and grow on the business side. Danon’s aim is “to get to the point where we are the standard for every construction site.” The company is also looking at areas outside construction where its technology would be applicable.

Tal Morgenstern, partner at Lightspeed Venture Partners, said he keeps an eye on graduates of the Israel Defense Forces, where the three Buildots founders came from. However, in the case of this company, Lightspeed actually passed on both the seed and Series A.

Morgenstern admits the decision was a mistake, but at the time, he thought the technology Buildots was trying to build “first, impossible and second, I knew construction was difficult to sell into.” He felt that Buildots, with such a premium product, would have a challenge selling to a low-margin industry that was late to adopt technology in general.

By the time the Series B came round, he said Buildots had solved both of those issues, proving that it works, but also that customers were adopting the technology without much sales and marketing. In addition, other solutions in construction tech were still relying on lasers or people to manually input or tap photos.

“Buildots is seamlessly capturing images and providing a level of insights that is so high, and that is why the company is able to command the price structure they have and are receiving interesting commercial results,” Morgenstern said.

Walking around today’s construction site, Danon said the adoption of technology is enabling Buildots to move quickly to build processes for the industry.

As such, the company saw more than 50% growth quarter over quarter over the past year in three of the countries in which it operates. It is now working with four of the top 10 construction companies in Europe and around the world.

“We did a good job selling remotely, but now we need local offices,” Danon added. “We are also sitting on piles of data from construction sites. We learn from one project to another and want to look for the challenges where data will help make a financial impact. It’s a natural next step for the company.”

 

#artificial-intelligence, #buildots, #construction, #construction-site, #enterprise, #funding, #future-energy-ventures, #lightspeed-venture-partners, #real-estate, #recent-funding, #roy-danon, #startups, #tal-morgenstern, #tc, #tlv-partners

Last day to snag early bird passes to TechCrunch Disrupt 2021

Don’t miss your chance to experience TechCrunch Disrupt 2021 — the startup world’s must-attend event of the season — for less than $100. Why not get the best ROI of your time while simultaneously learning about the latest industry trends and mining for opportunities that can take your startup to new levels of success?

Disrupt takes place on September 21-23, but the early-bird deal expires today, July 30 at 11:59 pm (PT). Buy your Disrupt 2021 pass now and save.

Let’s talk about what you’ll experience at Disrupt. Over on the Disrupt Stage you’ll find one-on-one interviews with icons and interactive, expert-led, presentations from across the tech, investing and policy sectors. Folks like Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, Duolingo CEO Luis von Ahn and Mirror CEO Brynn Putnam. And that’s just the tip of the tech iceberg. You can check out all the speakers here.

You’ll find plenty of actionable advice and how-to tips and strategies on the Extra Crunch Stage. Take a gander at just two of the topics we have scheduled there and explore the full Disrupt agenda here.

Crafting a Pitch Deck that Can’t Be Ignored: Investors may be chasing after the hottest deals, but for founders selling their startup’s vision, it’s never been more important to communicate it in the clearest way possible. Pitch deck experts Mercedes Bent (partner, Lightspeed Venture Partners), Mar Hershenson (co-founder & managing partner, Pear VC) and Saba Karim (Techstars’ head of accelerator pipeline) dig into what’s essential, what’s unnecessary and what could just make all the difference in your next deck.

How Do You Select the Right Tech Stack: From day zero, startups have to make dozens of trade-offs when it comes to the infinite variety of tech stacks available to today’s engineers. Choose the wrong combination or direction, and a startup could be left with years of refactoring to fix the legacy damage. What are the best practices for assessing potential stacks, and how can you minimize the risk of a painful mistake? Preeti Somal (executive vice president of engineering, HashiCorp) and Jill Wetzler (head of engineering, Pilot) will discuss strategies for improving engineering right from the beginning and at every stage of a startup’s journey.

Disrupt’s virtual format provides plenty of opportunity for questions, so come prepared to ask the experts about the issues that keep you up at night.

One post can’t possibly contain all the events and opportunities of Disrupt. Don’t miss the epic Startup Battlefield competition, hundreds of early-stage startups exhibiting in the Startup Alley expo area, special breakout sessions — like the Pitch Deck Teardown — and so much more.

TechCrunch Disrupt 2021 offers tons of opportunity. Don’t miss out on the first one — buy your Disrupt pass today, July 30, by 11:59 pm (PT) for less than $100. It’s a sweet deal!

Is your company interested in sponsoring or exhibiting at Disrupt 2021? Contact our sponsorship sales team by filling out this form.

#articles, #brian-armstrong, #brynn-putnam, #ceo, #coinbase, #duolingo, #finance, #hashicorp, #jill-wetzler, #lightspeed-venture-partners, #luis-von-ahn, #mining, #money, #pear-vc, #pete-buttigieg, #startup-company, #tc, #techcrunch, #techcrunch-disrupt-2021, #techstars, #united-states, #verizon-media

Blameless raises $30M to guide companies through their software lifecycle

Site reliability engineering platform Blameless announced Tuesday it raised $30 million in a Series B funding round, led by Third Point Ventures with participation from Accel, Decibel and Lightspeed Venture Partners, to bring total funding to over $50 million.

Site reliability engineering (SRE) is an extension of DevOps designed for more complex environments.

Blameless, based in San Mateo, California, emerged from stealth in 2019 after raising both a seed and Series A round, totaling $20 million. Since then, it has turned its business into a blossoming software platform.

Blameless’ platform provides the context, guardrails and automated workflows so engineering teams are unified in the way they communicate and interact, especially to resolve issues quicker as they build their software systems.

It originally worked with tech-forward teams at large companies, like Home Depot, that were “dipping [their toes] into the space and now [want] to double down,” co-founder and CEO Lyon Wong told TechCrunch.

The company still works with those tech-forward teams, but in the past two years, more companies sought out resident SRE architect Kurt Anderson to advise them, causing Blameless to change up its business approach, Wong said.

Other companies are also seeing a trend of customers asking for support — for example, in March, Google Cloud unveiled its Mission Critical Services support option for SRE to serve in a similar role as a consultant as companies move toward readiness with their systems. And in February, Nobl9 raised a $21 million Series B to provide enterprises with the tools they need to build service-level-objective-centric operations, which is part of a company’s SRE efforts.

Blameless now has interest from more mainstream companies in the areas of enterprise, logistics and healthcare. These companies aren’t necessarily focused on technology, but see a need for SRE.

“Companies recognize the shortfall in reliability, and then the question they come to us with is how do they get from where they are to where they want to be,” Anderson said. “Often companies that don’t have a process respond with ‘all hands on deck’ all the time, but instead need to shift to the right people responding.”

Lyon plans to use the new funding to fill key leadership roles, the company’s go-to-market strategy and product development to enable the company to go after larger enterprises.

Blameless doubled its revenue in the last year and will expand to service all customer segments, adding small and emerging businesses to its roster of midmarket and large companies. The company also expects to double headcount in the next three quarters.

As part of the funding announcement, Third Point Ventures partner Dan Moskowitz will join Blameless’ board of directors with Wong, Accel partner Vas Natarajan and Lightspeed partner Ravi Mhatre.

“Freeing up engineering to focus on shipping code is exactly what Blameless achieves,” said Moskowitz in a written statement. “The Blameless market opportunity is big as we see teams struggle and resort to creating homegrown playbooks and point solutions that are incomplete and costly.”

 

#accel, #blameless, #dan-moskowitz, #developer, #devops, #enterprise, #funding, #google, #kurt-anderson, #lightspeed-venture-partners, #lyon-wong, #ravi-mhatre, #recent-funding, #san-mateo, #site-reliability-engineering, #software-development, #software-engineering, #startups, #third-point-ventures, #vas-natarajan, #venture-capital

Nas Academy raises $11 million to help creators build their own MasterClass-like courses

Investors are buying into a creator-led future, and Nas Academy wants to turn that creator influence into a broad network of “virtual universities.”

The Singapore startup is building out a platform for creators to monetize their knowledge, giving them the tools to create their own classes and academies that fans can attend online. The platform is founded and led by Nuseir Yassin, a video blogger and influencer whose Nas Daily social media accounts boast tens of millions of followers across platforms.

Nas Academy has closed an $11 million Series A led by Lightspeed Venture Partners with additional backing from Balaji Srinivasan, Emilie Choi, TechAviv Founder Partners, 500 Startups and Metapurse, among others.

The platform can help creators build on-demand class portfolios or live courses, while the marketplace allows users to navigate and shop around for courses that appeal to them. Yassin hopes the platform can bring some predictability to consumers who are interested in signing up for online courses, but are wary of scams and half-baked offerings. “This market needs to have some trusted brands and quality assurances,” he says.

At the moment, a good chunk of the courses skew towards the business of online influence, with classes on video editing, content marketing and entrepreneurship. It’s also a pretty wide range of price points with costs for courses live on the platform now ranging from $29 to $499. Users can also pay for a bundle of courses, and Yassin says the platform has plans for a subscription offering down the road.

Nas Academy will monetize by taking a cut of these revenues, which may vary a bit, especially right now as the platform is invite-only for creators. As the platform opens up further, Yassin wants it to be a way for creators to find new audiences too. Course operators will have access to emails of their audience and be able to reach out to them directly outside the platform if they so desire.

Investors have been increasingly signing on to back startups building products in the creator economy vertical, especially in the past year. Creator platform Patreon recently raised at a $4 billion valuation. Yassin sees a massive opportunity in not only facilitating closer relationships between creators and fans but serving as an on-ramp for aspiring creators coming to their platform to learn.

“We think there are another 100,000 creators who will never get asked to make a Masterclass,” Yassin tells TechCrunch. “Internet skills are low in supply and high in demand.”

#articles, #balaji-srinivasan, #economy, #emilie-choi, #finance, #lightspeed-venture-partners, #online-courses, #patreon, #singapore, #social-media, #startup-company, #tc, #techcrunch

Cloud security platform Netskope boosts valuation to $7.5B following $300M raise

Netskope, focused on Secure Access Service Edge architecture, announced Friday a $300 million investment round on a post-money valuation of $7.5 billion.

The oversubscribed insider investment was led by ICONIQ Growth, which was joined by other existing investors, including Lightspeed Venture Partners, Accel, Sequoia Capital Global Equities, Base Partners, Sapphire Ventures and Geodesic Capital.

Netskope co-founder and CEO Sanjay Beri told TechCrunch that since its founding in 2012, the company’s mission has been to guide companies through their digital transformation by finding what is most valuable to them — sensitive data — and protecting it.

“What we had before in the market didn’t work for that world,” he said. “The theory is that digital transformation is inevitable, so our vision is to transform that market so people could do that, and that is what we are building nearly a decade later.”

With this new round, Netskope continues to rack up large rounds: it raised $340 million last February, which gave it a valuation of nearly $3 billion. Prior to that, it was a $168.7 million round at the end of 2018.

Similar to other rounds, the company was not actively seeking new capital, but that it was “an inside round with people who know everything about us,” Beri said.

“The reality is we could have raised $1 billion, but we don’t need more capital,” he added. “However, having a continued strong balance sheet isn’t a bad thing. We are fortunate to be in that situation, and our destination is to be the most impactful cybersecurity company in the world.

Beri said the company just completed a “three-year journey building the largest cloud network that is 15 milliseconds from anyone in the world,” and intends to invest the new funds into continued R&D, expanding its platform and Netskope’s go-to-market strategy to meet demand for a market it estimated would be valued at $30 billion by 2024, he said.

Even pre-pandemic the company had strong hypergrowth over the past year, surpassing the market average annual growth of 50%, he added.

Today’s investment brings the total raised by Santa Clara-based Netskope to just over $1 billion, according to Crunchbase data.

With the company racking up that kind of capital, the next natural step would be to become a public company. Beri admits that Netskope could be public now, though it doesn’t have to do it for the traditional reasons of raising capital or marketing.

“Going public is one day on our path, but you probably won’t see us raise another private round,” Beri said.

 

#cloud, #cloud-security, #enterprise, #funding, #lightspeed-venture-partners, #netskope, #recent-funding, #saas, #security, #startups, #tc, #venture-capital

Kikoff raises $30M for its hybrid consumer-credit and financial-literacy service

Kikoff, a personal finance platform aimed at helping consumers build credit, announced today that it has raised $30 million in a Series B round.

The capital is in addition to the $12.5 million the startup raised across previously unannounced seed and Series A rounds, which were both led by Lightspeed Venture partners.

Portage Ventures led Kickoff’s Series B, which included participation from Lightspeed, GGV, Coatue and Core Innovation Capital. Previous backers of the company include NBA star Steph Curry, Wex CEO Melissa Smith and Teresa Ressel, former CFO of the U.S. Department of the Treasury.

CEO Cynthia Chen and CTO Christophe Chong co-founded the San Francisco-based company in late 2019 with the goal of helping consumers without a credit history establish one, and helping those with credit histories to continue building credit. The pair came from “low to moderate income” families, Chen said, and say they want to help others who also come from similar economic backgrounds. Chen grew up in Beijing before coming to the U.S. for college on a scholarship and says she was struck by the experience of her parents having to borrow money from family and friends in order to purchase a TV.

While the company declined to reveal hard revenue figures, Chen did say that Kikoff has “hundreds of thousands” of customers after being out of beta for half a year.

Kikoff’s product, the “Kikoff Credit Account,” is the first of a planned suite of offerings all aimed at improving consumers’ financial health.

“There are many Americans who don’t come from affluent families and have tons of student loan debt,” Chen said. “For them and so many others, we wanted to create a better way to build good credit than existing offers in the market.” While anyone can use its platform, Chen says the vast majority of its customers are millennials and GenZers as they are most in need of a way to build credit.

Image Credits: Kikoff

With Kikoff, the pair aim to give people not only a way to build a credit history, but also a way to increase consumer financial literacy. Rather than provide a debit or credit card that can be used anywhere, Kikoff restricts the use of its line of credit to an online store it’s created. Users can purchase things like e-books covering a variety of finance-related topics such as how to plan and budget, or profit from trading bitcoin. It also has a selection of courses that it has purchased resell rights for, covering topics such as personal finance education, or how to set up an e-commerce store or even how to learn Python programming skills.

“When a consumer purchases something from our store, [that] item is going to help that person improve his or her financial habits or help him or her make money by making smarter investments, or setting up their small business or learning skills,” Chen told TechCrunch.

The company also does not charge any interest on its credit line or fees for the financing.

“There’s no cost of borrowing money,” she said. Instead, Kikoff collects revenue by taking the margin between the wholesale price for the items it sells in its store and the retail price that customers pay.

To sign up, customers first apply for a $500 revolving line of credit that can be used for purchases at Kikoff’s online store. The company touts that within months, its customers “can become eligible for better interest rates, competitive credit cards and home mortgages,” among other things within a relatively short period of about 45 days. 

Kikoff has intentionally worked to help its customers build credit in what Chen describes as “a very financially responsible way.”

“That’s why they are able to only use the product within our proprietary online store, and we have a number of affordable items in the store for them to purchase,” she told TechCrunch. “So it is relatively easy for them to not overspend or make any kind of impulse purchase that they later cannot really afford to pay.”

Lightspeed Partner Ansaf Kareem said he could empathize with the experiences of Chen and Chong in having to create and build credit for the first time, “especially as immigrants and first-generation Americans.”

A credit score holds the keys to your financial future, yet so many Americans struggle with creating and building credit,” he said. “Adjacent products may let you check your credit score, but do not provide tools or guidance to improve it without charging fees or asking for a large up-front cash commitment,” he added. “Kikoff built a product that provides real value through a simple, no fee structure to initiate and build credit. And they are just getting started.”

Kikoff’s executive team certainly has an impressive background in fintech. Chen previously served as Figure’s Chief Risk Officer and she held senior executive roles at Capital One and OnDeck. Chong was former head of growth at Lime and led growth teams at Facebook and Square. Andrew Brix, Kikoff’s head of product was employee No. 15 at Credit Karma and served as its director of product management. He also was a senior product manager at E-Trade. Patrick Glover, head of marketing, worked at both Plaid and Square and Vinni Bala, head of operations, is former CMO and Chief Credit Officer at Deserve.

Other companies with similar goals that have raised venture funding as of late include Tomo Credit and Welcome Tech, among others.

#ceo, #cfo, #core-innovation-capital, #credit, #credit-history, #cto, #economy, #finance, #fintech, #funding, #fundings-exits, #lightspeed-venture-partners, #money, #personal-finance, #personal-finance-education, #recent-funding, #san-francisco, #startup, #startups, #steph-curry, #tc, #united-states, #venture-capital

Tonkean raises $50M Series B to accelerate is no-code business automation service

Business operation automation startup Tonkean announced this morning that it closed a $50 million Series B round of capital. Accel led the round, which came just over a year after the startup raised a $24 million Series A. Lightspeed Ventures, which led the company’s preceding venture capital round, also participated in its new funding event.

Sagi Eliyahu, Tonkean’s co-founder and CEO, told TechCrunch in an interview that his company’s valuation rose by around 4x in its latest funding round.

The startup was able to secure more capital at a higher price thanks in part to quick growth in 2020, which Eliyahu said was concentrated in the second half of 2020.

Tonkean is an interesting mix of business process automation, no-code and humans. In short, the startup allows a company’s ops groups — sales ops, marketing ops, etc. — to set up automated business logic across applications that can include human-in-the-loop elements. And Tonkean built its system to be IT-friendly, allowing it to support enterprise-scale customers.

The automation space has been broadly hot in recent quarters. Robotic process automation (RPA) is great for mechanizing repetitive tasks that waste human time. The method of using computers to do stuff that humans previously had to do by clicking far too much has proven to be big business.

 

Tonkean allows for something a bit different. An example may help: During our interview, Eliyahu mused about what might happen if a salesperson for a Tonkean client wanted to send a lead into a nurture campaign. Tonkean would let the sales ops team set up logic so that when the frontline salesperson selects the lead for a nurture effort inside their CRM, the lead would then automatically be added to a specific Marketo campaign. Furthermore, the click-to-nurture system would alert a human on the sales team, perhaps asking for approval of the decision.

Tonkean software employs no-code tools to let ops groups use off-the-shelf command modules to build business logic — or craft their own as needed. The use of the company’s software could allow for more empowered teams at companies that are less reliant on engineering groups for help in accelerating and automating their work.

That thematically fits inside the general narrative we’ve seen from no-code startups in general: They want to allow non-technical folks to have more control of their work through less reliance on technical teams at their place of employment.

Tonkean employs around 60 people today, up from around 15 folks at the time of its Series A. It plans to hire rapidly now that it has more capital. Eliyahu claims most of its Series A is still in the bank. So why did it raise?

Because Eliyahu considers his startup’s market to be so large that he wants to pull the company’s future closer to today; the new capital will give Tonkean the space it needs to hire more rapidly and build more quickly than it might have if it continued to operate from a smaller capital case.

Fifty million dollars is a lot of money. Let’s see how far it gets Tonkean. The next time we talk to the company, we’ll demand some harder growth metrics so we can see if the additional capital was the accelerant that the company hopes it will be.

#accel, #business, #business-process-automation, #lightspeed-venture-partners, #series-a, #startup-company, #tc, #tonkean, #venture-capital

AI startup Eightfold valued at $2.1B in SoftBank-led $220M funding

Eightfold AI, a startup which uses deep learning and artificial intelligence to help companies find, recruit and retain workers, said on Thursday it has raised $220 million in a new round as it looks to accelerate its growth.

SoftBank Vision Fund 2 led the Series E round of the five-year-old startup, which is now valued at $2.1 billion, up from $1 billion in Series E last October, Eightfold AI founder and chief executive Ashutosh Garg told TechCrunch in an interview.

Existing investors General Catalyst, Capital One Ventures, Foundation Capital, IVP and Lightspeed Venture Partners also participated in the new round, which brings the startup’s all-time raise to over $410 million.

The Mountain View-based startup provides its clients with a talent acquisition platform that helps them identify suitable candidates and import and filter thousands of resumes. One of Eightfold AI’s missions is to help companies reduce biases in their hirings, so it masks candidates’ personal information during evaluation.

“Instead of searching for a job, a candidate can upload their resume and the system will tell what is the most relevant job for that candidate in real-time,” explained Garg. “What this does is, it reduces the drop-off rate. And our clients see more applications — and field more diverse applications.”

The startup, which has amassed clients in over 100 countries and offers its platform in over a dozen languages, also enables employers to deploy the Eightfold platform internally and help employees discover job opportunities within their organization. “This has helped businesses almost double their internal mobility,” said Garg, who previously worked at Google.

Garg said recruiting remains an untapped opportunity and existing platforms.

“Powered by AI and machine learning, Eightfold’s platform provides global enterprises with a single solution for managing the entire talent lifecycle, including hiring, retaining, and growing a diverse global workforce,” said Deep Nishar, Senior Managing Partner at SoftBank Investment Advisers and who previously worked for nearly six years at LinkedIn. “We are pleased to partner with Ashutosh and the Eightfold team to support their ambition of transforming how enterprises manage talent and how people build their careers.”

This is a developing story. More to follow…

#capital-one-ventures, #foundation-capital, #funding, #general-catalyst, #ivp, #lightspeed-venture-partners, #saas, #softbank, #softbank-vision-fund-2

Synctera raises $33M Series A to pair fintechs with banks

Synctera, which aims to serve as a matchmaker for community banks and fintechs, has raised $33 million in a Series A round of funding led by Fin VC.

The raise comes just under six months after the fintech raised $12.4 million in a seed round of funding.

New investors Mastercard and Gaingels also participated in the latest round, which included follow-on investments from Lightspeed Venture Partners, Diagram Ventures, SciFi Ventures and Scribble Ventures. Several angel investors put money in the Series A including Omri Dahan, Marqeta’s Chief Revenue Officer, Feedzai Chairman and CEO Nuno Sebastiao and Greenlight co-founder and CEO Tim Sheehan. 

Alongside the Series A, Synctera is also announcing its commitment to the new Cap Table Coalition – which includes funding from Gaingels, Neythri Futures Fund, Plexo Capital and over 20 angels – alongside other startups by allocating 10% of all funding rounds to “traditionally marginalized,” or underrepresented, investors via an SPV. (Fellow fintech Finix led the initiative earlier this year before forming this coalition but more on that later).

“This has exposed us to find great folks who we otherwise might not have known,” said Synctera’s co-founder and CEO Peter Hazlehurst. “That’s why we pledge to reserve 10% of this round and all future rounds to diverse investors.”

In a nutshell, San Francisco-based Synctera has developed a platform designed to help facilitate partnership banking. It was founded on the premise that some community banks and credit unions are actually turning down deals with young fintechs because the relationships can be too complicated or time-consuming to manage. Synctera’s goal is to connect community banks and fintechs to streamline the process with its “Banking-as-a-Service” (BaaS) platform.

TechCrunch recently caught up with Hazlehurst, who most recently served as former head of Uber Money and previously also led development of Google Wallet and products related to its payments system.

Put simply, Synctera wants to make it easier for community banks and fintechs to partner with each other. It examines banks’ needs and then sets them up with a fintech that is best suited to meet those needs. It claims to “do the work for both parties,” managing the partnership from its back-end platform, while dealing with issues like regulatory compliance, which can be a deterrent for some companies. The process of managing, reconciling and billing banks can result in “a lot of operational overhead and complexity,” according to the company.

The company says it’s built a “diverse” marketplace of banks and fintech companies so that it can apply a “personalized touch to each match” and make sure that the parties “align on geography, brand ethos, and desired business goals.”

So far, Synctera has signed three banks with plans to sign on three more this month. The startup has already paired Coastal Community Bank – a local bank serving the greater Puget Sound community – with One, a new digital banking platform, and Ellevest, a new fintech. 

By using Synctera’s platform, the company claims, banks can more freely allow their fintech counterparts to offer FDIC-insured mobile checking, debit cards, savings accounts or innovations in payments to their prospective customers, the company claims. They can also make more money doing so, Hazlehurst said, by bringing in more revenue beyond interchange fees.

“Like most small businesses, community banks have been hit hard by COVID-19,” he added. “We hope to further diversify community banks’ revenue streams.”

Banks can also more easily manage multiple relationships with various fintechs as the companies agree to adopt Synctera’s tech stack, the company claims.

“We build a single dashboard for a bank, so there’s a consolidated position across all fintechs,” Hazlehurst told me at the time of the company’s last raise. “It’s all about visibility for the bank.”

Currently Synctera has about 50 employees, including about two dozen engineers, most of whom are located in Canada, Hazlehurst said. The company plans to ramp up to 160 employees by year’s end with a focus on engineering, sales, marketing and customer success staff.

Looking ahead, Hazlehurst predicts that the fourth quarter will be “all about support for small business fintechs.”

“We want to create a neobank for gig economy workers, and want to add lending as a service,” he said. “But our next big phase is to onboard a lot of fintechs, and learn from them.”

Logan Allin, managing general partner and founder at Fin VC, believes that Banking-as-a-Service in general will transform legacy national and regional banks, credit unions, fintecs, corporate tech and retailers alike “as these players either seek to vertically integrate financial services or accelerate their digitization process.”

Synctera, he adds, has taken an approach with its tech stack that allows for integration with legacy community banks and their respective cores. This, Allin believes, will help ensure a “cloud native and scalable model” and made it an attractive investment. (Fin VC has also backed the likes of other fintechs such as Pipe and SoFi).

“Synctera’s peers are simply abstracting bank cores and serving as ‘API wrappers’ in a kludgy short-term approach and having come from the legacy bank and modern fintech worlds, we recognized that these players had not built sufficiently strong bridges across the ecosystem,” Allin told TechCrunch.

For his part, Finix Founder Richie Serna is thrilled that other startups are following his lead in the pledge to make their cap tables more diverse.

“After Finix announced our special purpose vehicle for Black and Latinx investors, the response was overwhelmingly positive,” he told TechCrunch. “Startups in every sector and at every stage have asked us how to recreate our SPV. In response, we started the Cap Table Coalition to make it as easy as possible for more high-growth startups, like Synctera, to take control over their cap tables,” said Richie Serna, CEO and co-founder of Finix. “We see this as an inflection point that will completely upend how the VC world functions.”

Meanwhile, Synctera is not the only player trying to help banks and fintechs forge partnerships. Last week, TechCrunch reported on Visa said it has expanded its Visa Fintech Partner Connect program, which is designed to help financial institutions quickly connect with a “vetted and curated” set of technology providers. 

#api, #articles, #bank, #banking-as-a-service, #canada, #diversity, #economy, #fdic, #finance, #financial-services, #financial-technology, #finix, #fintech, #founder, #funding, #fundings-exits, #google, #greenlight, #head, #lightspeed-venture-partners, #marqeta, #mastercard, #peter-hazlehurst, #player, #plexo-capital, #recent-funding, #richie-serna, #san-francisco, #startup, #startups, #uber, #venture-capital

Cybersecurity unicorn Exabeam raises $200M to fuel SecOps growth

Exabeam, a late-stage startup that helps organizations detect advanced cybersecurity threats, has landed a new $200 million funding round that values the company at $2.4 billion.

The Series F growth round was led by the Owl Rock division of Blue Owl Capital, with support from existing investors Acrew Capital, Lightspeed Venture Partners and Norwest Venture Partners.

The announcement of Exabeam’s latest funding, which the company says will help it on its mission to become “the number one trusted cloud SeCops platform in the market”, coincides with the news that CEO Nir Polak, who co-founded the company in 2013, will be replaced by former ForeScout chief executive Michael DeCesare.

DeCesare is a big name in the cybersecurity space, with more than 25 years of experience leading high-growth security companies. He joined ForeScout as CEO and president in February 2015 after four years as president of McAfee, which at the time was owned by Intel. Under his leadership, ForeScout raised nearly $117 million in an upsized IPO that valued the IoT security vendor at $800 million.

Polak, meanwhile, will shift to a chairman role at Exabeam and “will continue on as an active member of the executive team and remain at the company,” according to the funding announcement.

“Nir has built an incredibly robust, diverse and inclusive culture at Exabeam, and I am committed to helping it flourish,” said DeCesare. “I’m thrilled to join Nir and the whole leadership team to help drive the company through its next phase of growth.”

Exabeam, which has now raised $390 million in six rounds of outside funding, says it expects to use the new money to fuel scale, innovate and extend the company’s leadership. “It gives us the opportunity to triple down on our R&D efforts and continue engineering the most advanced UEBA, XDR and SIEM cloud security products available today,” commented Polak.

The company adds that it has made significant investments in its partner program over the last 12 months, which now includes more than 400 reseller, distributor, systems integrator, MSSP, MDR and consulting partners globally. Exabeam also has more than 500 technology integrations with cloud network, data lake and endpoint vendors including CrowdStrike, Okta and Snowflake.

It’s clearly expecting these investments to pay off, describing its “outcome-based approach” to external security as perfectly suited to support organizations as they manage exponential amounts of data and return to the post-COVID workplace in a variety of hybrid scenarios. After all, hackers are already beginning to target employees who have started making a return to the office, and this threat is only likely to increase as more companies begin to dial back on remote working and start welcoming staff back into workplaces.

“Exabeam is poised to be the next-gen leader in the cloud security analytics, XDR and SIEM markets,” Pravin Vazirani, Blue Owl Capital’s managing director and co-head of tech investing, said in a statement. “We led this round of funding to provide the company with the resources necessary to support its sustainable, long-term growth and value creation.”

#acrew-capital, #ceo, #chairman, #cloud, #cloud-applications, #companies, #crowdstrike, #exabeam, #executive, #forescout, #funding, #intel, #leader, #lightspeed, #lightspeed-venture-partners, #mcafee, #norwest-venture-partners, #okta, #president, #security, #software

Forget the piggy bank, Till Financial’s kids’ spend management app gets Gates’ backing

Today’s children and teens want more power and control over their spending.

And while there are a number of financial services and apps out there aimed at helping this demographic save and invest money (Greenlight being among the most popular and well-known), one startup is coming at the space from another angle: helping younger people also better manage their spend.

Till Financial describes itself as a collaborative family financial tool that aims to empower kids to become smarter spenders. The New York-based company’s banking platform is designed to encourage “open and honest” discussions between parents and their kids. And it has just raised $5 million to help it advance on that goal.

A slew of investors put money in the round, including Elysian Park Ventures, Melinda Gates’ venture fund Pivotal Ventures with Magnify Ventures, Afore Capital, Luge Capital, Alpine Meridian Ventures, The Gramercy Fund, SM Ventures (the family office of the founders/CEOs of Stadium Goods) and Lightspeed Venture Partners’ Scout Fund. Also participating were angel investors such as the founders of fintech Petal, the founders of alcohol marketplace Drizly, the president of Transactis, and the president of 1800Flowers.

Part of Till’s goal is to help kids “learn by doing” and gain confidence in spending decisions. It arms them with a bank account, digital and physical debit card and goal-based savings. For example, say a teen wants to buy an iPad, they can set up an account that they can save toward that iPad and give family members (such as grandparents, for example) the opportunity to pitch in the same amount, or more. They can also set up recurring payments for things like Netflix or Spotify subscriptions so they can get a taste of what it’s like to pay regular bills.

“Parents and the current banking options miss the point when they just focus on savings. We need to first prepare kids to be Smarter Spenders, supported by savings and investing,” said Taylor Burton, who founded the company with Tom Pincince. “On Till, kids learn to spend with intention and purpose, while parents gain confidence and trust based on transparency and accountability.”

To Pincince, the market is clearly underserved.

“The legacy banks really don’t care about this young person and the early digital players are really missing the mark,” he said. 

And despite the plethora of apps targeting the demographic, Pincince believes there’s plenty of room for the right players.

“The reality is you’re talking about a swath of kids under the age of 18 and over the age of eight that is the single largest unbanked population,” he said. “We’re not fighting to be the top of your son’s wallet. We’re fighting to be the first product into that wallet.”

Indeed, it’s a big market — the average middle-class family in the U.S. spends $284,570 per child by the time they turn 18.

The platform is free to all families and, early on, attracted the attention of Peggy Mangot, operating partner/COO of PayPal Ventures. She invested personally in Till in its pre-seed rounds. Prior to PayPal, Mangot ran development of Greenhouse, Well Fargo’s fee-free mobile banking app that aimed to help younger users build responsible spending habits.

Mangot has three kids and recalls that when they were shopping online, she’d give them her credit card. Or, if they were going to the corner store or meeting with friends, she’d give them cash.

“But that way, the money is meaningless to them. They didn’t really know how to understand what things cost and there was no sense of ownership,” she said. “It was just me handing over cash or a card.”

What attracted her the most about Till, Mangot said, was the team’s approach to treat younger people “with respect and agency.”

She also believes that by helping children and teens understand important financial lessons at a younger age, the world will ultimately be full of more responsible adults.

“By putting these tools in the hands of these young people early, they’ll have years and years of experience before they’re more independent and have to manage their paycheck and bills,” Mangot told TechCrunch. “Once you have mass adoption, it’s going to create a much more financially literate, confident and in control set of young adults than we’ve ever had.”

Besides making money on interchange fees, Till aims to earn revenue by partnering with merchants to offer rewards to users. It also plans to earn referral fees by referring the teens to other financial institutions when they get older and have different needs.

“It’s not our intention to be your son or daughter’s forever bank. It’s our intention to be the first bank,” Pincince said. “So, they hit the age of maturity, we’re actually giving them a high-five off of our platform and introducing them to maybe their first college loan or their first credit card.”

#afore-capital, #bank, #banking, #debit-card, #drizly, #ebay, #finance, #financial-services, #fintech, #funding, #fundings-exits, #ipad, #lightspeed-venture-partners, #luge-capital, #melinda-gates, #mobile-banking, #mobile-payments, #netflix, #new-york, #online-payments, #paypal, #pivotal-ventures, #recent-funding, #spotify, #stadium-goods, #startup, #startups, #tc, #till-financial, #tom-pincince, #united-states, #up, #venture-capital

Laiye, China’s answer to UiPath, closes $50 million Series C+

Robotic process automation has become buzzy in the last few months. New York-based UiPath is on course to launch an initial public offering after gaining an astounding valuation of $35 billion in February. Over in China, homegrown RPA startup Laiye is making waves as well.

Laiye, which develops software to mimic mundane workplace tasks like keyboard strokes and mouse clicks, announced it has raised $50 million in a Series C+ round. The proceeds came about a year after the Beijing-based company pulled in the first tranche of its Series C round.

Laiye, six years old and led by Baidu veterans, has raised over $130 million to date according to public information.

Leading investors in the Series C+ round were Ping An Global Voyager Fund, an early-stage strategic investment vehicle of Chinese financial conglomerate Ping An, and Shanghai Artificial Intelligence Industry Equity Investment Fund, a government-backed fund. Other participants included Lightspeed China Partners, Lightspeed Venture Partners, Sequoia China and Wu Capital.

RPA tools are attracting companies looking for ways to automate workflows during COVID-19, which has disrupted office collaboration. But the enterprise tech was already gaining traction prior to the pandemic. As my colleague, Ron Miller wrote this month on the heels of UiPath’s S1 filing:

“The category was gaining in popularity by that point because it addressed automation in a legacy context. That meant companies with deep legacy technology — practically everyone not born in the cloud — could automate across older platforms without ripping and replacing, an expensive and risky undertaking that most CEOs would rather not take.”

In one case, Laiye’s RPA software helped the social security workers in the city of Lanzhou speed up their account reconciliation process by 75%; in the past, they would have to type in pensioners’ information and check manually whether the details were correct.

In another instance, Laiye’s chatbot helped automate the national population census in several southern Chinese cities, freeing census takers from visiting households door-to-door.

Laiye said its RPA enterprise business achieved positive cash flow and its chatbot business turned profitability in the fourth quarter of 2020. Its free-to-use edition has amassed over 400,000 developers, and the company also runs a bot marketplace connecting freelance developers to small-time businesses with automation needs.

Laiye is expanding its services globally and boasts that its footprint now spams Asia, the United States and Europe.

“Laiye aims to foster the world’s largest developer community for software robots and built the world’s largest bot marketplace in the next three years, and we plan to certify at least one million software robot developers by 2025,” said Wang Guanchun, chair and CEO of Laiye.

“We believe that digital workforce and intelligent automation will reach all walks of life as long as more human workers can be up-skilled with knowledge in RPA and AI”.

#artificial-intelligence, #asia, #automation, #beijing, #business-software, #chatbot, #china, #enterprise, #lightspeed, #lightspeed-venture-partners, #robotic-process-automation, #saas, #sequoia-china, #uipath

Level raises $27M from Khosla, Lightspeed ‘to rebuild insurance from the ground up’

Level, a startup that aims to give companies a more flexible way to offer benefits to employees, has raised $27 million in a Series A funding round led by Khosla Ventures and Lightspeed Venture Partners.

Operator Collective and leading angels also participated in the financing, along with previous backers First Round Capital and Homebrew. The round was raised at a “nine-figure” valuation, according to founder and CEO Paul Aaron, who declined to be more specific.

Founded in 2018, New York City-based Level says it’s “rebuilding insurance from the ground up” via flexible networks and real-time claims with the goal of helping employers and employees get the most out of their benefit dollars. 

Employers can customize plans to do things like offer 100% coverage across treatments. The company also touts the ability to process claims in four hours. 

“That’s lightning fast when compared to 30- to 60-day claims often processed by traditional payers,” said Aaron, who as one of the first employees at Square, led the network team at Oscar Health and is an inventor of several patents in the payments space.

Level first launched employer-sponsored dental benefits in the summer of 2019 and started serving its first beta customers that fall. It also now offers vision plans. The company has more than 10,000 members from companies such as Intercom, Udemy, KeepTruckin and Thistle that have paid for care via its platform. 

“Insurance is confusing and often feels unfair. Networks restrict where you can go, billing takes weeks and you always seem to owe more than you expect,” Aaron said. “We believe paying with insurance should be as easy as any other purchase.”

Level says it is taking a full-stack approach and building end-to-end tools, from automated underwriting to real-time benefit analytics. 

It plans to launch a new insurance product aimed at “helping smaller businesses offer bigger benefits” that typically only enterprises have the ability to offer. The company also aims to help employers get money back for any unused benefits after paying a fixed amount each month. Ultimately, the goal is to be able to offer a full suite of products that will allow companies of all sizes — from two employees to 20,000 — provide better benefits for their teams. 

Level claims that its self-insured dental and vision products let companies offer more coverage to their teams while often cutting nearly 20% from their benefits budget. 

“Employers already spend so much money on benefits, and neither they nor their teams get enough out of it,” said Jana Messerschmidt from Lightspeed Venture Partners, in a written statement. “Businesses of all sizes need to compete for talent with innovative benefits that help people get more from their paychecks. Level offers a far superior employee experience, and you’re getting bang for your buck.” 

Meanwhile, Khosla’s Samir Kaul said he believes Level can do for insurance and benefits “what Square Cash did for person-to-person payments.”

Investor First Round Capital claims to have saved 47% by switching from fully insured to Level. And, Thistle says it saw 41% in savings by switching to Level. 

#employee-benefits, #fintech, #first-round-capital, #insurance, #khosla-ventures, #level, #lightspeed-venture-partners, #new-york, #recent-funding, #startup, #startups, #tc, #thistle

Snorkel AI scores $35M Series B to automate data labeling in machine learning

One of the more tedious aspects of machine learning is providing a set of labels to teach the machine learning model what it needs to know. Snorkel AI wants to make it easier for subject matter experts to apply those labels programmatically, and today the startup announced a $35 million Series B.

It also announced a new tool called Applications Studio that provides a way to build common machine learning applications using templates and predefined components.

Lightspeed Venture Partners led the round with participation from previous investors Greylock, GV, In-Q-Tel and Nepenthe Capital. New investors Walden and BlackRock also joined in. The startup reports that it has now raised $50 million.

Company co-founder and CEO Alex Ratner says that data labeling remains a huge challenge and roadblock to moving machine learning and artificial intelligence forward inside a lot of industries because it is costly, labor-intensive and hard for the subject experts to carve out the time to do it.

“The not so hidden secret about AI today is that in spite of all the technological and tooling advancements, roughly 80 to 90% of the cost and time for an average AI project goes into just manually labeling and collecting and relabeling this training data,” he said.

He says that his company has developed a solution to simplify this process to make it easier for subject experts to programmatically add the labels, a process he says decreases the time and effort required to apply labels in a pretty dramatic way from months to hours or days, depending on the complexity of the data.

As the company has developed this methodology, customers have been asking for help in the next step of the machine learning process, which is taking that training data and the model and building an application. That’s where the Application Studio comes in. It could be a contract classifier at a bank or a network anomaly detector at a telco and it helps companies take that next step after data labeling.

“It’s not just about how you programmatically label the data, it’s also about the models, the preprocessors, the post processors, and so we’ve made this now accessible in a kind of templated and visual no-code interface,” he said.

The company’s products are based on research that began at the Stanford AI Lab in 2015. The founders spent four years in the research phase before launching Snorkel in 2019. Today, the startup has 40 employees. Ratner recognizes the issues that the technology industry has had from a diversity perspective and says he has made a conscious effort to build a diverse and inclusive company.

“What I can say is that we tried to prioritize it at a company level, the full team level and at a board level from day one, and to also put action behind that. So we’ve been working with external firms for internal training and audits and strategy around DEI, and we’ve made pipeline diversity, a non-negotiable requirement of any of our contracts with recruiting firms,” he said.

Ratner also recognizes that automation can hard code bias into machine learning models, and he’s hopeful that by simplifying the labeling process, it can make it much easier to detect bias when it happens.

“If you start with a dozen or two dozen of what we call labeling functions in Snorkel, you still need to be vigilant and proactive about trying to detect bias, but it’s easier to audit what taught your model to change it by just going back and looking at a couple of hundred lines of code.”

#artificial-intelligence, #data-labeling-tools, #funding, #lightspeed-venture-partners, #machine-learning, #recent-funding, #snorkel-ai, #startups, #tc

India’s HealthPlix raises $13.5 million to help doctors treat patients more efficiently

There are fewer than 300,000 doctors in India actively practicing medicine. They serve hundreds of millions of patients who suffer from chronic illness in the world’s second most populous nation.

A doctor only has a few minutes to spend on a patient, remember the past diagnosis by glancing at their record, and formulate a plan of management.

HealthPlix, a Bangalore-based startup, believes it can help doctors serve these patients more efficiently with the limited time they have.

The startup has developed a software for doctors that helps them keep a tab on the symptoms a patient has displayed in the past, the medicine that was prescribed to them, and if they are showing any improvements in a methodical template.

But it doesn’t stop there, said Sandeep Gudibanda, co-founder of HealthPlix, in an interview with TechCrunch. The software has a knowledge base that is making determination of all the other factors that a doctor needs to assess as they treat the patient.

For instance, if a patient has diabetes, and they have mentioned that they had swollen feet and are experiencing more frequent visits to the washroom, said Gudibanda, the doctor can quickly assess that the patient’s symptoms are getting worse and she needs to start looking at the function of the kidney and other organs and monitor blood sugar.

“As a doctor, you are able to see how my disease is progressing, what medicine was prescribed to me and if they are working. So you are not going to prescribe me some medicine that didn’t work two months ago. Based on the data of more than 12 million patients we have, our software is also able to inform doctors what other things I am exposed to,” he said.

“Doctors have immense knowledge, but they have very little time. So how do we help them make better decisions on the few minutes they have with a patient,” he asked. “These few minutes matter most. It is in this precious interaction that health decisions get made, diagnostic tests get prescribed, pharmaceutical brands get chosen, surgical procedures get planned, and hospital referrals get made. This interaction is the moment of truth, where $88 billion of annual healthcare spend is decided.”

Scores of healthtech startups in India today are attempting to serve patients. What distinguishes HealthPlix from most is the approach it has taken. Unlike other startups, HealthPlix’s solution puts doctors at its centre of universe, said Gudibanda, who has spent nearly two decades in entrepreneurship in healthtech.

He said in a country like India, where there are so many people suffering from chronic diseases, a doctor’s intervention is needed for best results. “While going through the patient’s route, we might achieve some scale, we realized that the stakeholder they reason with and listen to is the doctor. A doctor here serves hundreds of patients. You work with the doctor and you make a bigger impact,” he said.

“Second, because of the immense workload on doctors, who can only spend 2-3 minutes to serve a patient, If he or she doesn’t have all the information, their thinking might get compromised. Hence the doctor had to be in the piece.”

HealthPlix initially started in late 2016 to help doctors connect with patients digitally. But that model, he recalled, wasn’t working. The current model is growing fast. More than 6,000 doctors today are using HealthPlix for over four hours a day, he said. The startup plans to reach over 50,000 doctors in two years.

On Wednesday, the startup said it has raised $13.5 million in its ongoing Series B financing round. The round was led by Lightspeed Venture Partners. The startup has now raised about $23.5 million to date.

“What sets HealthPlix apart is its doctor-first B2B approach. Doctors are the most influential decision-makers in healthcare. We believe whichever platform wins their trust will have the sole right to orchestrate the entire $88 billion of healthcare spend,” said Vaibhav Agrawal, Partner at Lightspeed, in a statement.

“The impact is very clear — improved health outcomes for patients, better practices for doctors, 10x better Insights for pharma and med device companies, and superior underwriting capability for insurers.”

Gudibanda said the startup will also deploy the fresh capital to tackle some acute diseases.

#asia, #funding, #health, #india, #lightspeed-venture-partners

Big banks rush to back Greenwood, Killer Mike’s Atlanta-based digital bank for underrepresented customers

Before even taking its first deposit, Greenwood, the digital banking service targeting Black and Latino individuals and business owners, has raised $40 million — only a few months after its launch.

Coming in to finance the new challenger bank are six of the seven largest U.S. Banks and the payment technology developers Mastercard and Visa.

That’s right, Bank of America, PNC, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, and Truist, are backing a bank co-founded by a man who declared, “I’m with the revolutionary. I’m with the radical policy,” when stumping for then Presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Joining the financial services giants in the round are FIS, a behind-the-scenes financial services tech developer; along with the venture capital firms TTV Capital, SoftBank Group’s SB Opportunity Fund, and Lightspeed Venture Partners. Sports investors Quality Control and All-Pro NFL running back Alvin Kamara also came in to finance the latest round.

Atlanta-based Greenwood was launched last October by a group that included former Atlanta mayor Andrew Young and Bounce TV founder, Ryan Glover.

“The net worth of a typical white family is nearly ten times greater than that of a Black family and eight times greater than that of a Latino family. This wealth gap is a curable injustice that requires collaboration,” said \ Glover, Chairman and Co-founder of Greenwood, in a statement. “The backing of six of the top seven banks and the two largest payment technology companies is a testament to the contemporary influence of the Black and Latino community. We now are even better positioned to deliver the world-class services our customers deserve.”

Named after the Greenwood district of Tulsa, Okla., which was known as the Black Wall Street before it was destroyed in a 1921 massacre, the digital bank promises to donate the equivalent of five free meals to an organization addressing food insecurity for every person who signs up to the bank. And every time a customer uses a Greenwood debit card, the bank will make a donation to either the United Negro College FundGoodr (an organization that addresses food insecurity) or the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

In addition, each month the bank will provide a $10,000 grant to a Black or Latinx small business owner that uses the company’s financial services.

“Truist Ventures is helping to inspire and build better lives and communities by leading the Series A funding round for Greenwood’s innovative approach to building greater trust in banking within Black and Latino communities,” said Truist Chief Digital and Client Experience Officer Dontá L. Wilson who oversees Truist Ventures, in a statement. “In addition to the opportunity to work with and learn from this distinguished group of founders, our investment in Greenwood is reflective of our purpose and commitment to advancing economic empowerment of minority and underserved communities.”

So far, 500,000 people have signed up for the wait list to bank with Greenwood.

#andrew-young, #atlanta, #bank, #bank-of-america, #banking, #bernie-sanders, #challenger-bank, #companies, #finance, #financial-services, #fis, #greenwood, #jpmorgan-chase, #lightspeed-venture-partners, #mastercard, #mayor, #national-football-league, #nfl, #oklahoma, #softbank-group, #tc, #tulsa, #united-states, #venture-capital-firms, #visa, #wells-fargo

Aqua Security raises $135M at a $1B valuation for its cloud native security service

Aqua Security, a Boston- and Tel Aviv-based security startup that focuses squarely on securing cloud-native services, today announced that it has raised a $135 million Series E funding round at a $1 billion valuation. The round was led by ION Crossover Partners. Existing investors M12 Ventures, Lightspeed Venture Partners, Insight Partners, TLV Partners, Greenspring Associates and Acrew Capital also participated. In total, Aqua Security has now raised $265 million since it was founded in 2015.

The company was one of the earliest to focus on securing container deployments. And while many of its competitors were acquired over the years, Aqua remains independent and is now likely on a path to an IPO. When it launched, the industry focus was still very much on Docker and Docker containers. To the detriment of Docker, that quickly shifted to Kubernetes, which is now the de facto standard. But enterprises are also now looking at serverless and other new technologies on top of this new stack.

“Enterprises that five years ago were experimenting with different types of technologies are now facing a completely different technology stack, a completely different ecosystem and a completely new set of security requirements,” Aqua CEO Dror Davidoff told me. And with these new security requirements came a plethora of startups, all focusing on specific parts of the stack.

Image Credits: Aqua Security

What set Aqua apart, Dror argues, is that it managed to 1) become the best solution for container security and 2) realized that to succeed in the long run, it had to become a platform that would secure the entire cloud-native environment. About two years ago, the company made this switch from a product to a platform, as Davidoff describes it.

“There was a spree of acquisitions by CheckPoint and Palo Alto [Networks] and Trend [Micro],” Davidoff said. “They all started to acquire pieces and tried to build a more complete offering. The big advantage for Aqua was that we had everything natively built on one platform. […] Five years later, everyone is talking about cloud-native security. No one says ‘container security’ or ‘serverless security’ anymore. And Aqua is practically the broadest cloud-native security [platform].”

One interesting aspect of Aqua’s strategy is that it continues to bet on open source, too. Trivy, its open-source vulnerability scanner, is the default scanner for GitLab’s Harbor Registry and the CNCF’s Artifact Hub, for example.

“We are probably the best security open-source player there is because not only do we secure from vulnerable open source, we are also very active in the open-source community,” Davidoff said (with maybe a bit of hyperbole). “We provide tools to the community that are open source. To keep evolving, we have a whole open-source team. It’s part of the philosophy here that we want to be part of the community and it really helps us to understand it better and provide the right tools.”

In 2020, Aqua, which mostly focuses on mid-size and larger companies, doubled the number of paying customers and it now has more than half a dozen customers with an ARR of over $1 million each.

Davidoff tells me the company wasn’t actively looking for new funding. Its last funding round came together only a year ago, after all. But the team decided that it wanted to be able to double down on its current strategy and raise sooner than originally planned. ION had been interested in working with Aqua for a while, Davidoff told me, and while the company received other offers, the team decided to go ahead with ION as the lead investor (with all of Aqua’s existing investors also participating in this round).

“We want to grow from a product perspective, we want to grow from a go-to-market [perspective] and expand our geographical coverage — and we also want to be a little more acquisitive. That’s another direction we’re looking at because now we have the platform that allows us to do that. […] I feel we can take the company to great heights. That’s the plan. The market opportunity allows us to dream big.”

 

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Yugabyte announces $48M Series C as cloud native database makes enterprise push

As demand for cloud native applications is growing, Yugabyte, makers of the cloud native, open source YugabyteDB database are seeing a corresponding rise in demand for their products, especially with large enterprise customers. Today, the company announced a $48 million Series C financing round to help build on that momentum.

Lightspeed Venture Partners led the round with participation from Greenspring Associates, Dell Technologies Capital, Wipro Ventures and 8VC. Today’s round comes on the heels of the startup’s $30 million Series B last June, and brings the total raised to $103 million, according to the company.

Kannan Muthukkaruppan, Yugabyte co-founder and president, says the startup saw a marked increase in interest in both the open source and commercial offerings in 2020 as the pandemic pushed many companies to the cloud faster than they might have gone otherwise, something many startup founders have pointed out to me.

“The distributed SQL space is definitely heating up, and if anything over the last six months almost in every vector in terms of enterprise customers — from Fortune 500 companies across financial, retail, ISP or telcos — are putting Yugabyte in production to be the system of record database to meet some of their business critical services needs,” Muthukkaruppan told me.

In addition, he’s seeing a similar rise in the level of interest from the open source version of the product.”Similarly, the groundswell on the community and the open source adoption has been phenomenal. Our Slack [open source] user community quadrupled in 2020,” he said.

That kind of momentum led to the increased investor interest, says co-founder and CTO Karthik Ranganathan. “Some of the primary reasons to go and even ask for funding was that we realized we could accelerate some of this stuff, and we couldn’t do that with the original $30 million we had raised,” he said. The original thinking was to do a secondary raise in the $15-20 million, but multiple investors expressed interest in participating, and it ended up being a $48 million round when all was said and done.

Former Pivotal president Bill Cook came on board as CEO at the same time they were announcing their last funding round in June and brought some enterprise chops to the table. It was his job to figure out how to expand the market opportunity with larger high-value enterprise clients. “And so the last six or seven months has been about that, dealing with enterprise clients on one hand and then this emerging developer led cloud offering as well,” Cook said.

The company has a three tier offering that includes the open source YugabyteDB. Then there is a fully managed cloud version called Yugabyte Cloud, and finally there is a self-managed cloud version of the database called Yugabyte Platform. The latter is especially attractive to large enterprise customers, who want to be in the cloud, but still want to maintain control of their data and infrastructure, and so choose to manage the cloud installation themselves.

The company started last year with 50 employees, doubled that to this point, and now expects to reach 200 by the end of this year. As they add employees, the leadership team is cognizant of the importance of building a diverse and inclusive workforce, while recognizing the challenges in doing so.

“It’s work in progress as always. We’ve added diversity candidates right along the whole spectrum as we’ve grown but from my perspective it’s never sufficient, and we just need to keep pushing on it hard, and I think as a leadership team we recognize that,” Cook said.

The three leaders of the company have been working together remotely now since the announcement in June, and had only met briefly in person prior to the pandemic shutting down offices, but they say that it has gone smoothly. And while they would obviously like to meet in person again when the time is right, the momentum the company is experiencing shows that things are moving in the right direction, regardless of where they are getting their work done.