Uber hit with default ‘robo-firing’ ruling after another EU labor rights GDPR challenge

Labor activists challenging Uber over what they allege are ‘robo-firings’ of drivers in Europe have trumpeted winning a default judgement in the Netherlands — where the Court of Amsterdam ordered the ride-hailing giant to reinstate six drivers who the litigants claim were unfairly terminated “by algorithmic means.”

The court also ordered Uber to pay the fired drivers compensation.

The challenge references Article 22 of the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) — which provides protection for individuals against purely automated decisions with a legal or significant impact.

The activists say this is the first time a court has ordered the overturning of an automated decision to dismiss workers from employment.

However the judgement, which was issued on February 24, was issued by default — and Uber says it was not aware of the case until last week, claiming that was why it did not contest it (nor, indeed, comply with the order).

It had until March 29 to do so, per the litigants, who are being supported by the App Drivers & Couriers Union (ADCU) and Worker Info Exchange (WIE).

Uber argues the default judgement was not correctly served and says it is now making an application to set the default ruling aside and have its case heard “on the basis that the correct procedure was not followed.”

It envisages the hearing taking place within four weeks of its Dutch entity, Uber BV, being made aware of the judgement — which it says occurred on April 8.

“Uber only became aware of this default judgement last week, due to representatives for the ADCU not following proper legal procedure,” an Uber spokesperson told TechCrunch.

A spokesperson for WIE denied that correct procedure was not followed but welcomed the opportunity for Uber to respond to questions over how its driver ID systems operate in court, adding: “They [Uber] are out of time. But we’d be happy to see them in court. They will need to show meaningful human intervention and provide transparency.”

Uber pointed to a separate judgement by the Amsterdam Court last month — which rejected another ADCU- and WIE-backed challenge to Uber’s anti-fraud systems, with the court accepting its explanation that algorithmic tools are mere aids to human “anti-fraud” teams who it said take all decisions on terminations.

“With no knowledge of the case, the Court handed down a default judgement in our absence, which was automatic and not considered. Only weeks later, the very same Court found comprehensively in Uber’s favour on similar issues in a separate case. We will now contest this judgement,” Uber’s spokesperson added.

However WIE said this default judgement “robo-firing” challenge specifically targets Uber’s Hybrid Real-Time ID System — a system that incorporates facial recognition checks and which labor activists recently found misidentifying drivers in a number of instances.

It also pointed to a separate development this week in the U.K. where it said the City of London Magistrates Court ordered the city’s transport regulator, TfL, to reinstate the licence of one of the drivers revoked after Uber routinely notified it of a dismissal (also triggered by Uber’s real time ID system, per WIE).

Reached for comment on that, a TfL spokesperson said: “The safety of the travelling public is our top priority and where we are notified of cases of driver identity fraud, we take immediate licensing action so that passenger safety is not compromised. We always require the evidence behind an operator’s decision to dismiss a driver and review it along with any other relevant information as part of any decision to revoke a licence. All drivers have the right to appeal a decision to remove a licence through the Magistrates’ Court.”

The regulator has been applying pressure to Uber since 2017 when it took the (shocking to Uber) decision to revoke the company’s licence to operate — citing safety and corporate governance concerns.

Since then Uber has been able to continue to operate in the U.K. capital but the company remains under pressure to comply with a laundry list of requirements set by TfL as it tries to regain a full operator licence.

Commenting on the default Dutch judgement on the Uber driver terminations in a statement, James Farrar, director of WIE, accused gig platforms of “hiding management control in algorithms.”

“For the Uber drivers robbed of their jobs and livelihoods this has been a dystopian nightmare come true,” he said. “They were publicly accused of ‘fraudulent activity’ on the back of poorly governed use of bad technology. This case is a wake-up call for lawmakers about the abuse of surveillance technology now proliferating in the gig economy. In the aftermath of the recent U.K. Supreme Court ruling on worker rights gig economy platforms are hiding management control in algorithms. This is misclassification 2.0.”

In another supporting statement, Yaseen Aslam, president of the ADCU, added: “I am deeply concerned about the complicit role Transport for London has played in this catastrophe. They have encouraged Uber to introduce surveillance technology as a price for keeping their operator’s license and the result has been devastating for a TfL licensed workforce that is 94% BAME. The Mayor of London must step in and guarantee the rights and freedoms of Uber drivers licensed under his administration.”  

When pressed on the driver termination challenge being specifically targeted at its Hybrid Real-Time ID system, Uber declined to comment in greater detail — claiming the case is “now a live court case again”.

But its spokesman suggested it will seek to apply the same defence against the earlier “robo-firing” charge — when it argued its anti-fraud systems do not equate to automated decision making under EU law because “meaningful human involvement [is] involved in decisions of this nature”.

 

#app-drivers-couriers-union, #artificial-intelligence, #automated-decisions, #europe, #european-union, #facial-recognition, #gdpr, #general-data-protection-regulation, #gig-worker, #james-farrar, #labor, #lawsuit, #london, #netherlands, #transport-for-london, #uber, #united-kingdom

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Pale Blue Dot aims to be Europe’s premier early-stage climate investor and has $100 million to prove it

When Hampus Jakobsson, Heidi Lindvall, and Joel Larsson, all well-known players in the European venture ecosystem, began talking about their new firm Pale Blue Dot, they began by looking at the problems with venture capital.

For the three entrepreneurs and investors, whose resumes included co-founding companies and accelerators like The Astonishing Tribe (Jakobsson) and Fast Track Malmö (Lindvall and Larsson) and working as a venture partner at BlueYard Capital (Jakobsson again), the problems were clear.

Their first thesis was that all investment funds should be impact funds, and be taking into account ways to effect positive change; their second thesis was that since all funds should be impact funds, what would be their point of differentiation — that is, where could they provide the most impact.

The three young investors hit on climate change as the core mission and ran with it.

As it was closing on €53 million ($63.3 million) last year, the firm also made its first investments in Phytoform, a London headquartered company creating new crops using computational biology and synbio; Patch, a San Francisco-based carbon-offsetting platform that finances both traditional and frontier “carbon sequestration” methods; and 20tree.ai, an Amsterdam-based startup, using machine learning and satellite data to understand trees to lower the risk of forest fires and power outages.

Now they’ve raised another €34 million and seven more investments on their path to doing between 30 and 35 deals.

These investments primarily focus on Europe and include Veat, a European vegetarian prepared meal company; Madefrom, a still-in-stealth company angling to make everyday products more sustainable; HackYourCloset, a clothing rental company leveraging fast fashion to avoid landfilling clothes; Hier, a fresh food delivery service; Cirplus, a marketplace for recycled plastics trading; and Overstory, which aims to prevent wildfires by giving utilities a view into vegetation around their assets. 

The team expects to be primarily focused on Europe, with a few opportunistic investments in the U.S., and intends to invest in companies that are looking to change systems rather than directly affect consumer behavior. For instance, a Pale Blue Dot investment likely wouldn’t include e-commerce filters for more sustainable shopping, but potentially could include investments in sustainable consumer products companies.

The size of the firm’s commitments will range up to €1 million and will look to commit to a lot of investments. That’s by design, said Jakobsson. “Climate is so many different fields that we didn’t want to do 50% of the fund in food or 50% of the fund in materials,” he said. Also, the founders know their skillsets, which are primarily helping early stage entrepreneurs scale and making the right connections to other investors that can add value.

“In every deal we’ve gotten in co-investors that add particular, amazing, value while we still try to be the shepherds and managers and sherpas,” Jakobsson said. “We’re the ones that are going to protect the founder from the hell-rain of investor opinions.”

Another point of differentiation for the firm are its limited partners. Jakobsson said they rejected capital from oil companies in favor of founders and investors from the tech community that could add value. These include Prima Materia, the investment vehicle for Spotify founder Daniel Ek; the founders of Supercell, Zendesk, TransferWise and DeliveryHero are also backing the firm. So too, is Albert Wenger, a managing partner at Union Square Ventures.

The goal, simply, is to be the best early stage climate fund in Europe.

“We want to be the European climate fund,” Lindvall said. “This is where we can make most of the difference.” 

#albert-wenger, #amsterdam, #blueyard-capital, #corporate-finance, #daniel-ek, #economy, #entrepreneurship, #europe, #finance, #food, #hampus-jakobsson, #heidi-lindvall, #investment, #joel-larsson, #london, #machine-learning, #managing-partner, #money, #oil, #pale-blue-dot, #partner, #private-equity, #san-francisco, #spotify, #supercell, #tc, #transferwise, #union-square-ventures, #united-states, #venture-capital, #zendesk

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Job postings hint at winners of NYC and London e-scooter pilots

A batch of job listings along with some Twitter whisperings suggests that scooter companies such as Lime and Superpedestrian are gearing up to operate in London and New York City — two of the last remaining frontiers of shared scooter services.

A review of job listings, company websites and LinkedIn shows that Lime and Dott are preparing to launch in London, while Lime, Superpedestrian and maybe even Spin are getting ready for New York. While the job posts don’t provide definitive proof that these companies have been awarded these coveted permits, it does identify which companies believe they will win.

London’s Department for Transport and the NYC City Council approved their respective e-scooter pilots in the summer of 2020 as city dwellers sought socially-distanced modes of travel. London’s pilot should have begun at the start of 2021, and NYC’s was originally meant to launch by March 1, but neither city has even named which companies will be awarded concessions yet. Sources familiar with the dealings say London is holding up the announcement until after the mayoral race on May 6. The NYC Department of Transportation declined to comment.

Dott, Tier and Lime for London?

There has been speculation that Dott, Lime and maybe Tier will be sharing the streets of London once the pilot takes off. Information on Dott’s and Lime’s websites, LinkedIn profiles and hiring pages show that they’re hiring for positions in the city. Sources in the industry told TechCrunch that Tier had a London-focused job posting listed on its page that has since been taken down.

Dott, which doesn’t already appear to have a footprint in the United Kingdom, is hiring a UK-based operations manager to “set up operations from scratch within the U.K.” They’re also hiring a public policy manager to be the “voice for the Dott U.K. market.”

On Dott’s website, a map showing service areas shows a little yellow flag over London. Clicking on the flag leads to a 404 “page not found” error page. 

Lime, a mobility company that appears to be swiftly taking over the world, already has a presence in London in the form of its Jump e-bikes, which made an appearance last summer. New job postings on LinkedIn suggests they’re preparing to expand. 

The company’s LinkedIn page reveals a call for a London-based general manager whose responsibilities include building and implementing “the operational infrastructure to ensure market growth in the United Kingdom.” That gig was posted a week ago and they’re actively recruiting for it on LinkedIn. 

About a month ago, Lime also posted a London-based operations manager role, for which it appears to still be recruiting. 

Voi might also still be in the running based on its job postings on LinkedIn. On Thursday, the company added a call for an ambassador supervisor for a six-month position in London. It seems to be an on-the-ground sort of role, and the temporary nature of it could have something to do with London’s year-long pilot. It’s also possible the company is just looking for someone in a central city to manage the other U.K. cities where Voi operates.   

Bird has already been in London’s Olympic Park since the summer, and it actively lobbied for a change in London’s legislation around scooters riding on roads or pavements. This presence could explain why Bird’s operating map highlights London, but to make matters more confusing, the company is hiring an operations associate to ostensibly handle London city operations and general U.K. operations. 

New York might award Lime, Superpedestrian and others

Image Credits: Lime

Lime is no stranger to NYC. Its e-bikes have historically had a presence in the Rockaways, Queens. Now it has two job postings up — for a mechanic and an operations specialist — that specifically mention management, maintenance, deployment and retrieval of Lime’s e-scooters. 

Superpedestrian, which is based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, has four new job posts up between its website and LinkedIn. On the site, there’s a call for a chief of staff who is ideally based in NYC to support the CEO. Also listed is a general manager position; duties include “being responsible for the growth and success of our scooter share in New York and New Jersey.”

On LinkedIn, Superpedestrian has posted two positions based in NYC. The first, posted a week ago, is an operations associate that will handle things like scooter charging, safety inspections, deployment of scooters and scooter repair and assembly. The second is a scooter mechanic, posted a month ago, but to be fair the post does include the caveat: “If we are awarded the privilege of operating in NYC…”

Spin also posted an operations lead based in New York about a week ago. The employee hired for the position will be tasked with “Spin’s day-to-day operations, managing drivers and mechanics and building a highly efficient operations team.” It’s not precisely indicative of the Ford-owned company winning NYC, but the job does appear to be involved with on-the-ground tasks. The post also hints that the new hire would be leading the build-out and deployment of Spin’s vehicles. 

With a huge presence in Europe but absolutely none in the United States as of yet, Voi has been hoping NYC would be its entry into the country. The company hasn’t posted any NYC-specific job ads, but its job board features a locations dropdown menu which includes NYC.

Finally, Bird is adding to the mess of guesses with two LinkedIn job posts based in New York. The general manager position, posted four weeks ago but still actively recruiting, appears to require someone to be pretty locally involved. The operations associate role, posted on Wednesday, is a bit more vague about whether the new hire would be on the ground in NYC or not. 

#automotive, #london, #new-york-city, #tc, #transportation

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Private chef parties at home startup Yhangry raises $1.5M Seed from VC angels and Ollie Locke

There’s an “uber for everything” these days and now there are “Ubers for personal chefs”. Just take a look at PopTop or 100 Pleats for instance. Now in London, there is Yhangry (which brands itself as the appropriately shouty YHANGRY). This is a “private chef parties at home” website, and no doubt an app at some point. The startup has now raised a $1.5 million Seed round from a number of notable UK angels which also includes a few UK VCs for good measure, as well as ‘Made In Chelsea’ TV star Ollie Locke.

Founders Heinin Zhang and Siddhi Mittal created the startup before the pandemic, which lets people order a made-to-measure dinner party online. Although it trundled along until Covid, it had to pivot into virtual chef classes during lockdowns last year and this. The company is now poised to take advantage of London’s unlocking, which will see legal outdoor and indoor dining return.

The startup also speaks to the decentralization of experiences going on in the wake of the pandemic. In 2019 we were working out in gyms and going to restaurants. In 2021 we are working out at home and bringing the restaurant to us.

Normally booking private dinner parties involves a lot of hassle. The idea here is that Yhangry makes the whole affair as easy to order as an Uber Eats or Deliveroo.

Investors in the Seed round include Carmen Rico (Blossom Capital), Eileen Burbidge (Passion Capital), Orson Stadler (Antler) and Martin Mignot (Index Ventures), Made In Chelsea star Ollie Locke, plus fellow tech founders including Jack Tang (Urban), Adnan Ebrahim (MindLabs), Alex Fitzgerald (Cuckoo Internet), Georgina Kirby (Vinehealth) and Deepali Nangia (Alma Angels). Yhangry’s statement said all the investors are also keen customers. I bet they are.

Co-founder Mittal said in a statement: “By making private chef experiences more accessible and affordable, our customers regularly tell us they are finally able to catch up with friends at home… 70% of our customers have never had a private chef before and for them, the freedom and flexibility to curate their own evening is priceless.”

Yhangry now has 130 chefs on its books. Chefs have to pass a cooking trial and adhere to Covid rules. The funding will be used to double the size of the startup’s team.

The menus start at £17pp for six people. The price of the booking covers everything, including the cost of the fresh ingredients, but customers can add extras, such as wine etc. Since its launch in December 2019, the firm says it has served more than 7,000 Londoners.

Yhangry says it will enter key European markets, such as Paris, Berlin, Lisbon and Barcelona.

How will Yhangry survive post-Covid, with restaurants/bars opening up again?

Mittal said: “When restaurants were open between our launch and March 2020, we saw demand because people want to be able to spend time with their friends in a relaxed setting, and aren’t limited to the two-hour slot you get in a restaurant. Once places start to open up again, we believe Yhangry will follow this trend of at-home dining and socializing – not to mention for people who are not ready yet to go out to a busy pub or restaurant.”

#articles, #barcelona, #berlin, #chef, #co-founder, #companies, #deliveroo, #economy, #eileen-burbidge, #europe, #lisbon, #london, #martin-mignot, #online-food-ordering, #paris, #passion-capital, #restaurant, #startup-company, #tc, #uber, #uber-eats, #united-kingdom

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European branded payments startup Recharge raises $11.8M debt round led by Kreos Capital

Online branded payments now run the gamut of anything from Spotify vouchers, Netflix vouchers, Neosurf, PaySafe cards, and everything in between. Consumers use them to pay for a variety of things. In Europe, they are an increasingly big business. Now, European branded payments company Recharge.com has raised €10m ($11.8m) in a debt funding round led by London-based Kreos Capital, a growth debt provider for high-growth companies. In 2019 the Dutch fintech Creative Group, which owns the Recharge.com and Rapido.com brands, took investment of €22m from Prime Ventures.

Recharge has also appointed Michael Kent – who previously founded payments companies Small World and Azimo, along with UK neobank Tandem – as its non-executive chairman.

Recharge.com says it plans to use the funding to extend its mobile offering, product range, and expand in regions such as North America, Latin America and the GCC. It’s also aiming for sales of €450m in 2021.

Günther Vogelpoel CEO of Recharge.com said in a statement: “We live in a world of instant wish fulfillment, from taxis that appear on demand to same-day delivery of consumer goods. Recharge.com gives customers a fast, safe and simple way to fulfill their wishes, whether that’s an essential remittance or access to digital goods and services.”

Commenting, Kent said: “The era of supermarket gift cards and mobile top-ups is drawing to a close. Branded payments have exploded during the global lockdown as consumers seek digital alternatives to the high street. People are now aware that online branded payments are safe, fast, and convenient.”

Through a range of digital vouchers from brands including Apple, Google, Spotify, Xbox and PlayStation as well as cross-border remittances of call, data credits etc Recharge is attacking the market from the consumer angle.

The biggest company in this space is Blackhawk networks which is owned by private equity group Silverlake. It’s considered a large player in Europe which has a direct-to-consumer model.

As Kent told me over a Zoom call: “Nobody actually owns the consumer side of this business globally so that’s the big opportunity.”

#apple, #articles, #azimo, #ceo, #corporate-finance, #digital-currencies, #europe, #finance, #google, #kreos-capital, #latin-america, #london, #netflix, #north-america, #prime-ventures, #private-equity, #silverlake, #spotify, #tc

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Bill Gates wants Western countries to eat “synthetic meat”; Meatable has raised $47 million to make it

In a recent interview discussing Bill Gates’ recent book “How to Avoid a Climate Disaster“, the Microsoft and Breakthrough Energy founder (and the world’s third wealthiest man) advocated for citizens of the richest countries in the world to switch to diets consisting entirely of what he called synthetic meat in an effort to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

Gates’ call is being met by startups and public companies hailing from everywhere from Amsterdam to Tel Aviv, London to Los Angeles, and Berkeley to… um… Chicago.

Indeed, two of the best funded companies in the lab-grown meat market hail from The Netherlands, where Mosa Meat is being challenged by a newer upstart, Meatable, which just announced $47 million in new financing.

The company aims to have its first product approved by European regulators by 2023 and notching commercial sales by 2025.

Meatable has a long road ahead of it, because, as Gates acknowledged in his interview with MIT Technology Review (ed. note: I’m available for a call, too, Bill), “the people like Memphis Meats who do it at a cellular level—I don’t know that that will ever be economical.”

Beyond the economics, there’s also the open question of whether consumers will be willing to make the switch to lab grown meat. Some companies, like the San Francisco-based Just Foods and Tel Aviv’s Supermeat are already selling chicken patties and nuggets made from cultured cells at select restaurants.

These products don’t get at the full potential for cellular technology according to Daan Luining, Meatable’s chief technology officer. “We have seen the nugget and the chicken burger, but we’re working on whole muscle tissue,” Luining said.

The sheer number of entrants in the category — and the capital they’ve raised — points to the opportunity for several winners if companies can walk the tightrope balancing cost at scale and quality replacements for free range food.

“The mission of the company is to be a global leader in providing proteins for the planet. Pork and beef and regularly eaten cuts have on environmental and land management,” Luining said. “The technology that we are using allows us to go into different species. First we’re focused on the animals that have the biggest impact on climate change and planetary health.”

For Meatable right now, price remains an issue. The company is currently producing meat at roughly $10,000 per pound, but, unlike its competitors, the company said it is producing whole meat. That’s including the fat and connective tissue that makes meat… well… meat.

Now with 35 employees and new financing, the company is trying to shift from research and development into a food production company. Strategic investors like DSM, one of the largest food biotech companies in Europe should help. So should angel investors like Dr. Jeffrey Leiden, the executive chairman of Vertex Pharmaceuticals; and Dr. Rick Klausner, the former executive director of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and a founder of Juno Therapeutics, GRAIL, and Mindstrong Health, after leaving Illumina where he served as chief medical officer.

Institutional investors in the company’s latest round include Google Ventures founder Bill Maris’ new fund, Section 32,  and existing investors like: BlueYard Capital, Agronomics, Humboldt, and Taavet Hinrikus. 

The company’s first commercial offering will likely be a lab-grown pork product, but with expanded facilities in Delft, the location of one of the top universities in The Netherlands, a beef product may not be far behind.

“[Meatable has] a great team and game-changing technology that can address the challenges around the global food insecurity issues our planet is facing,” said Klausner. “They have all the right ingredients to become the leading choice for sustainably and efficiently produced meat.”


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Aldea Ventures creates ‘hybrid’ European €100M fund to invest both in Micro VCs, plus follow-on

The historical trajectory of venture capital has been to move to earlier and earlier finding rounds in order to capture the greatest potential multiple on exit. In the US, we’ve seen an explosion of Pre-series A funds, and similarly in Europe. But there’s been an opportunity to tie a lot of that activity together and also produce data that can feed into decision-making about growth rounds, further up the funding pipeline. Now, newly-formed Aldea Ventures intends to do just that.

Today’s it’s announcing a €60M first close of its Pan-European fund with the aim of reaching its target €100M first fund. The idea is ambitious: to invest in 700 startups across Europe, but with an unusual, “hybrid” strategy. First up, it will operate as a fund-of-funds, investing in up to 20 early-stage ‘micro VC funds’ across Europe. Second of all, it will act as a co-investment platform from Series A upwards.  So far it has invested in London-based Job and Talent and most recently, Copenhagen-based Podimo.

The model is more common in Silicon Valley than in Europe, so Aldea Ventures hopes to capitalize on this trend as one of the earlier players with this strategy. Aldea is also effectively stepping into the gap where corporate VCs in the US would normally fill, but in Europe is generally a gaping hole.

Aldea Ventures is led by managing partners Carlos Trenchs, formerly at Caixa Capital Risc; Alfonso Bassols, previously at Nauta Capital; Josep Duran, formerly with the European Investment Fund; and Gonzalo Rodés, Chairman. Aldea Ventures is partnering with Meridia Capital, a leading Spanish alternative investment fund manager.

Carlos Trenchs, managing partner of Aldea Ventures, said: “We believe Europe will continue to grow in influence and play an integral part in the next decade of technology… Our dual model as a fund of funds and co-investor into scaleups is the first of its kind in Europe. Seen only in Silicon Valley until today, we’re putting this model to work to fuel the next generation of growth across the European ecosystem.”

Aldea will look for five factors to selecting micro VCs: the firm’s thesis (specialist, thematic or generalist); location (pan-European or local); the experience of the partners; the size of the fund, and whether the fund is emerging or established. The fund will also take a long hard look at AI, Blockchain and DeepTech companies.

Trenchs explained to me during an interview that “we will have exposure to seed capital in different geographies with the 700 companies, and we reserve the other half of the fund to invest directly on the growth stage in the best performers in their portfolios.” This, he says, will establish a roadmap from direct investing all the way up to later-stage rounds.

Aldea has so far made investments into six micro VCs; Air Street Capital and Moonfire in London; Helloworld in Luxembourg; Inventures in Munich; Mustard Seed Maze in Lisbon; and Nina Capital in Barcelona. 

Nathan Benaich, Founding Partner of Air Street Capital, commented: “Investing in  European AI-first companies is a huge opportunity, with almost one-quarter of top global AI talent earning their university degrees here.. Our partnership with Aldea demonstrates a shared conviction that specialist managers with deep sector-specific knowledge will accelerate the success of tomorrow’s category-defining European companies that are AI-first by design.”

There’s clearly also a data play here because Aldea is likely to end up with a lot of data across companies, sectors and also across various stages.

And that was confirmed by Trenchs: “We want to make the VC world more transparent. If you have the 700 companies, in a few years from now, we’ll be able to collect a lot of data about what’s going on at seed stage in European valuations, geographies and sectors. Our intention is of course to use it as intelligence.” He also said the firm intended to share a lot of anonymized data with the wider European ecosystem.

“There is a funnel of few thousands of companies that get funded, but only a few make it through the funnel. As investors, we are looking for venture capitalists that can transform their seed portfolio into a portfolio that graduates from Series A to Series B,” he added.

#accel, #air-street-capital, #barcelona, #chairman, #copenhagen, #corporate-finance, #entrepreneurship, #europe, #european-investment-fund, #finance, #investment, #lisbon, #london, #luxembourg, #managing-partner, #money, #munich, #nauta-capital, #partner, #private-equity, #tc, #united-states, #venture-capital

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Credit-and-collect fintech start-up Diem raises $5.5M Seed led by Fasanara Capital

Diem, a London, UK-based fintech start-up has raised a seed round of $5.5 million led by Fasanara Capital, and Angel investor Chris Adelsbach, founder of Outrun Ventures. Additional investors include Andrea Molteni (early investor in Farfetch), Ben Demiri (co-chairman at fashion tech PlatformE) and Nicholas Kirkwood (founder of the eponymous brand). 

Diem is a debit card with an app affording instant cash access, traditional banking service benefits (debit card, domestic and international bank transfers), but also allowing consumers to dispose of goods for eventual resale. The idea here is that this feeds into the so-called circular economy, making Diem attractive from an environmental point of view. Some estimates put the amount of worth of goods disposed of in the last 15 years at $6.9Tn.

Here’s how it works: You have an old time of clothing, phone, book or bag, for instance. You load the item it into the app. The app makes you an offer for what the item is worth. If you accept, cash is loaded into your account and there’s a facility to spend in the item, which is then resold. The incentive, therefore, is not to throw away the object and add to landfill, because you have now turned it into cash. Think “neo bank meets people who sell your stuff on eBay”

Geri Cupi said in a statement: “Diem’s mission is to empower consumers to value, unlock, and enjoy wealth they never knew they had. All of this while fuelling the circular economy and supporting the commitment to sustainability as our key value proposition. DIEM makes it possible for capitalism and sustainability to co-exist.”

Lead Investor and CEO at Fasanara Capital, Francesco Filia, said: “Fasanara is excited to announce our partnership with DIEM and Geri Cupi… [it’s] a new generation fintech powered by principles of circular economy and look forward to support its growth.”

#bank, #bank-transfers, #banking, #cash, #ceo, #debit-card, #europe, #farfetch, #founder, #london, #money, #outrun-ventures, #tc, #united-kingdom

0

The Robinhood competitor landscape intensifies as Invstr raises $20M

One of the biggest gripes about investing apps is that they are not acting responsibly by not educating users properly and allegedly letting them fend for themselves. This can result in people losing a lot of money, as evidenced by the number of lawsuits against Robinhood.

Today, an eight-year-old company that has been focused on nothing but financial education is now offering trading and banking services in the U.S..

Over the years, London-based Invstr has built out an educational platform with features such as an investing Academy. It’s created a Fantasy Finance game, which gives users the ability to manage a virtual $1 million portfolio so they can learn more about the markets before risking their own money for real. Via social gamification, Invstr has set out to make the educational process fun.

It has also built a community around users so they can learn from each other (something another Robinhood competitor Gatsby is also doing).

Over 1 million users have downloaded the platform globally.

Invstr, according to CEO and founder Kerim Derhalli, is taking a different approach from competitors by offering education and learning tools upfront. And in addition to giving users the ability to make commission-free stock trades, it’s also giving them a way to digitally bank and invest using their Invstr+ accounts “without ever needing to move money from one place to another.”

Invstr takes it all a step further for subscribers who have access to an “Invstr Score,” performance stats and behavioral analytics among other things.

Derhalli said moving in this direction with the company was part of his business plan from day one.

“I think the most powerful trend in the U.S. is self directed investing,” Derhalli told TechCrunch. “Younger generations have grown up in an app world and they expect to be autonomous and do things for themselves. Many distrust the banking system, and they don’t want to follow in their parents’ footsteps when it comes to banking and finance. We think this is a massive opportunity.”

In the unveiling of its new offerings, Invstr also announced Wednesday that it has closed on a $20 million Series A in the form of a convertible offering. This builds upon $20 million it previously raised across two seed rounds from investors such as Ventura Capital, Finberg, European angel investor Jari Ovaskainen and Rick Haythornthwaite, former global chairman of Mastercard.

Derhalli said he felt compelled to found Invstr after seeing firsthand how a lack of knowledge and confidence can prevent individuals from starting to invest. He worked for three decades in senior leadership roles at Deutsche Bank, Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch and JPMorgan before founding Invstr “so that anyone, anywhere could learn how to invest.”

Invstr is offering its new investing services in partnership with Apex Clearing, which formerly provided execution and settlement services to Robinhood. Its digital banking services are being offered through a partnership with Vast Bank. To address the security piece, Invstr said its user data is also protected by technology from Okta.

The company, which also has offices in New York and Istanbul, plans to use the new capital to launch new brokerage and analytics tools and a portfolio builder.

#apps, #bank, #banking, #ceo, #chairman, #deutsche-bank, #economy, #finance, #funding, #gamification, #investor, #invstr, #istanbul, #london, #mastercard, #money, #new-york, #recent-funding, #robinhood, #startups, #united-states, #ventura-capital

0

Brandwatch is acquired by Cision for $450M, creating a PR, marketing and social listening giant

Online consumer intelligence and social media listening platform Brandwatch has been acquired by Cision, best known for its media monitoring and media contact database services, for $450 million, in a combined cash and shares deal. TechCrunch understands Brandwatch’s key executive team will be staying on. The move combines two large players to offer a broad range of services from PR to marketing and online customer engagement. The deal is expected to close in the second quarter of 2021.

Cision has a media contact database of approximately 1 million journalists and media outlets and claims to have over 75,000 customers. Brandwatch applies AI and machine learning the practice known as ‘social listening’.

Along the way, Brandwatch raised a total of around $65 million. It was Series A-funded by Nauta Capital, followed by Highland Europe and then Partech.

IN a statement, Giles Palmer, founder, and CEO of Brandwatch said: “We have always built Brandwatch with ambition… Now is the time to take the next step – joining a company of significant scale to create a business and a suite of products that can have an important global impact.”

Abel Clark, CEO of Cision said: “The continued digital shift and widespread adoption of social media is rapidly and fundamentally changing how brands and organizations engage with their customers. This is driving the imperative that PR, marketing, social, and customer care teams fully incorporate the unique insights now available into consumer-led strategies. Together, Cision and Brandwatch will help our clients to more deeply understand, connect and engage with their customers at scale across every channel.”

Brandwatch has been on an almost case-study of a journey from fundraising to acquisition to a merger, but less characteristically for a well-funded tech company, it did much of it from its home-town of Brighton, on the southern coast of England.

The financing journey began for Giles Palmer, with Angel funding in 2006. In 2010 Brandwatch raised $1.5m from Durrants, a marketing and PR firm, and Nauta Capital. In 2014 it raised $22 million in funding in a Series B round led by Highland Capital. That was followed by a $33M Series C financing led by Partech Ventures in 2015.

With the war chest, it went on to acquire BuzzSumo in 2017, a content marketing and influencer identification platform, for an undisclosed sum. And in 2019 Brandwatch merged with a similar business, Crimson Hexagon, creating a business with around $100 million in ARR. It also acquired the London-based SaaS research platform Qriously.

Brandwatch was recently named a leader in Forrester’s guide for buyers of social listening solutions.

#artificial-intelligence, #brandwatch, #business, #buzzsumo, #ceo, #cision, #communication, #content-marketing, #crimson-hexagon, #europe, #executive, #highland-capital, #highland-europe, #leader, #london, #machine-learning, #marketing, #media-monitoring, #nauta-capital, #partech-ventures, #saas, #social-media, #tc

0

Berlin’s MorphAIs hopes its AI algorithms will put its early-stage VC fund ahead of the pack

MorphAIs is a new VC out of Berlin, aiming to leverage AI algorithms to boost its investment decisions in early-stage startups. But there’s a catch: it hasn’t raised a fund yet.

The firm was founded by Eva-Valérie Gfrerer who was previously head of Growth Marketing at FinTech startup OptioPay and her background is in Behavioural Science and Advanced Information Systems.

Gfrerer says she started MorphAIs to be a tech company, using AI to assess venture investments and then selling that as a service. But after a while, she realized the platform could be applied an in-house fund, hence the drive to now raise a fund.

MorphAIs has already received financing from some serial entrepreneurs, including: Max Laemmle, CEO & Founder Fraugster, previously Better Payment and SumUp; Marc-Alexander Christ, Co-Founder SumUp, previously Groupon (CityDeal) and JP Morgan Chase; Charles Fraenkl, CEO SmartFrog, previously CEO at Gigaset and AOL; Andreas Winiarski, Chairman & Founder awesome capital Group.

She says: “It’s been decades since there has been any meaningful innovation in the processes by which venture capital is allocated. We have built technology to re-invent those processes and push the industry towards more accurate allocation of capital and a less-biased and more inclusive start-up ecosystem.”

She points out that over 80% of early-stage VC funds don’t deliver the minimum expected return rate to their investors. This is true, but admittedly, the VC industry is almost built to throw a lot of money away, in the hope that it will pick the winner that makes up for all the losses.

She now plans to aim for a pre-seed/seed fund, backed by a team consisting of machine learning scientists, mathematicians, and behavioral scientists, and claims that MorphAIs is modeling consistent 16x return rates, after running real-time predictions based on market data.

Her co-founder is Jan Saputra Müller, CTO and Co-Founder, who co-founded and served as CTO for several machine learning companies, including askby.ai.

There’s one problem: Gfrerer’s approach is not unique. For instance, London-based Inreach Ventures has made a big play of using data to hunt down startups. And every other VC in Europe does something similar, more or less.

Will Gfrerer manage to pull off something spectacular? We shall have to wait and find out.

#artificial-intelligence, #berlin, #ceo, #chairman, #chase, #citydeal, #co-founder, #cto, #economy, #europe, #finance, #head, #inreach-ventures, #jp-morgan-chase, #london, #machine-learning, #money, #sumup, #tc, #venture-capital

0

Calling Oslo VCs: Be featured in The Great TechCrunch Survey of European VC

TechCrunch is embarking on a major project to survey the venture capital investors of Europe, and their cities.

Our survey of VCs in Oslo and Norway will capture how the country is faring, and what changes are being wrought amongst investors by the coronavirus pandemic.

We’d like to know how Norway’s startup scene is evolving, how the tech sector is being impacted by COVID-19, and, generally, how your thinking will evolve from here.

Our survey will only be about investors, and only the contributions of VC investors will be included. More than one partner is welcome to fill out the survey. (Please note, if you have filled the survey out already, there is no need to do it again).

The shortlist of questions will require only brief responses, but the more you can add, the better.

You can fill out the survey here.

Obviously, investors who contribute will be featured in the final surveys, with links to their companies and profiles.

What kinds of things do we want to know? Questions include: Which trends are you most excited by? What startup do you wish someone would create? Where are the overlooked opportunities? What are you looking for in your next investment, in general? How is your local ecosystem going? And how has COVID-19 impacted your investment strategy?

This survey is part of a broader series of surveys we’re doing to help founders find the right investors.

https://techcrunch.com/extra-crunch/investor-surveys/

For example, here is the recent survey of London.

You are not in Norway, but would like to take part? That’s fine! Any European VC investor can STILL fill out the survey, as we probably will be putting a call out to your country next anyway! And we will use the data for future surveys on vertical topics.

The survey is covering almost every country on in the Union for the Mediterranean, so just look for your country and city on the survey and please participate (if you’re a venture capital investor).

Thank you for participating. If you have questions you can email mike@techcrunch.com

(Please note: Filling out the survey is not a guarantee of inclusion in the final published piece).

#corporate-finance, #denmark, #economy, #entrepreneurship, #europe, #finance, #london, #money, #norway, #oslo, #private-equity, #startup-company, #tc, #venture-capital

0

Emerging as an Eastern powerhouse, Earlybird Digital East Fund launches new $242M fund

Earlybird Digital East Fund — a fund associated with Germany’s Earlybird VC, but operating separately — has launched a €200m ($242m) successor fund. The fund’s focus will remain the same as before: a Seed and Series-A fund focusing on what’s known as ‘Emerging Europe’, in other words, countries stretching from the Baltics to Central and Eastern Europe, and Turkey. The firm has also promoted Mehmet Atici, who’s been with the firm for eight years, to Partner. The new fund has made four investments so far: FintechOS, Payhawk, Picus, and Binalyze.

The back-story to DEF is a fascinating tale of what happened to Europe in the last 15 years, as tech took off and Europeans returned from Silicon Valley.

Following his exit from SelectMinds (where he was the Founder & CEO) in 2005, Cem Sertoglu moved back to Turkey. Although he says he “accidentally became the first angel investor” there, he was clearly the right man, in the right place, at the right time. He told me: “I was very lucky and ended up writing the first checks in some of the first large outcomes in Turkey.”

In 2013, Sertoglu partnered with Evren Ucok (the first angel in Peak Games and Trendyol), and Roland Manger (Earlybird). Dan Lupu, a Romanian investor who had covered the region for Intel Capital, joined them, and together they raised the ‘Earlybird Digital East Fund I’ set at $150m fund in 2014, focusing on CEE and Turkey. This was and is an area where there can be high-quality ventures to be found, but very little in the way of VC. 

Thereafter, between 2014 and 2019, the fund invested in UiPath, Hazelcast, and Obilet. UiPath has become a global leader in the area known as ‘Robotic Process Automation (RPA). Hazelcast is a low latency data processing platform startup with Turkish roots. Obilet is a marketplace focused for the massive Turkish intercity bus travel market. DEF has also exited Vivense, Dolap, and EMbonds and in more recent times the fund has exited Vivense, the “Wayfair of Turkey” to Actera, the top local PE fund.

The team had spectacular early success. Peak Games, Trendyol, YemekSepeti and GittiGidiyor are the four largest Turkish tech exits to date. Digital East Fund was an investor in all of them. Peak games exited for $1.8 billion in cash to Zynga only last year.

As of Q4 2020, the fund’s metrics are:
Investment Multiple: 24.9x
Gross IRR: 104.4%
Net IRR: 84.1%

So in VC terms, they have done pretty well.

I interviewed Sertoglu to unpack the story of Earlybird Digital East Fund.

He told me DEF has achieved a 17 times investment multiple on a $150 million fund. He thinks “this might be the biggest European VC fund performance in history, and it’s not coming from Berlin, it’s not coming from London, but it’s coming from Eastern Europe. We have been told by some of our LPs that they think we’re the top 2014 vintage VC fund in the world, nobody’s seen stronger numbers than this.”

“Peak Games turned out to be a phenomenal story. When you look at how tough it’s been for Turkey, macroeconomically. The fact that a single company with 100 people essentially sold for $1.8 billion in cash, was just… it was staggering for the local market here.”

DEF’s emergence from Turkey, together with its relationship with a fund in Berlin, was not the most obvious path for the VC fund.

“One thing we realized early one was that we could invest with our own capital and syndicating to our friends, but for follow-on funding, we’d always have to go global. And that made us feel vulnerable. It made us feel we were always dependent on others’ comprehension of the opportunity that we were facing. So that’s when the first fund idea came out this was,” said Sertoglu.

“We felt that there was this unusual dislocation between opportunity and capital in Eastern Europe. Our first fund was $150 million funds – I mean, a very quaint size compared to Western markets. But we became the largest fund in the region, and decided to focus on this series A gap where we felt that there was this big opportunity, because of the way we think series A is still very much a local play.”

“Being a local player that understands the region would be an advantage, so this was proven to be true. We could essentially see pretty much everything in Eastern Europe for the last eight years. And we caught the biggest one, fortunately, which was UiPath. I think very few funds around the world can say that they see the majority if not all of the opportunities that fall into their mandate,” he said.

“We have this dual strategy of backing local champions as well as contenders for global markets as well. 20 years ago you had to be in Silicon Valley. Now, Transferwise comes out of Estonia, UiPath comes out of Romania. And that was even before the pandemic.”

Sertoglu concluded: “So we now have fresh capital, coming on the heels of a very successful first fund, which we’re keen to deploy. We’re calling all the opportunities, seeing very ambitious, strong teams coming out of the region. And we have 200 million euros to focus on these types of opportunities in the region.”

#artificial-intelligence, #berlin, #central-europe, #ceo, #computing, #eastern-europe, #estonia, #europe, #germany, #intel-capital, #london, #romania, #selectminds, #software, #tc, #transferwise, #turkey, #uipath, #wayfair, #yemeksepeti, #zynga

0

Calling Danish VCs: Be featured in The Great TechCrunch Survey of European VC

TechCrunch is embarking on a major project to survey the venture capital investors of Europe, and their cities.

Our <a href=”https://forms.gle/k4Ji2Ch7zdrn7o2p6”>survey of VCs in Copenhagen and Denmark will capture how the country is faring, and what changes are being wrought amongst investors by the coronavirus pandemic.

We’d like to know how Denmark’s startup scene is evolving, how the tech sector is being impacted by COVID-19, and, generally, how your thinking will evolve from here.

Our survey will only be about investors, and only the contributions of VC investors will be included. More than one partner is welcome to fill out the survey. (Please note, if you have filled the survey out already, there is no need to do it again).

The shortlist of questions will require only brief responses, but the more you can add, the better.

You can fill out the survey here.

Obviously, investors who contribute will be featured in the final surveys, with links to their companies and profiles.

What kinds of things do we want to know? Questions include: Which trends are you most excited by? What startup do you wish someone would create? Where are the overlooked opportunities? What are you looking for in your next investment, in general? How is your local ecosystem going? And how has COVID-19 impacted your investment strategy?

This survey is part of a broader series of surveys we’re doing to help founders find the right investors.

https://techcrunch.com/extra-crunch/investor-surveys/

For example, here is the recent survey of London.

You are not in Denmark, but would like to take part? That’s fine! Any European VC investor can STILL fill out the survey, as we probably will be putting a call out to your country next anyway! And we will use the data for future surveys on vertical topics.

The survey is covering almost every country on in the Union for the Mediterranean, so just look for your country and city on the survey and please participate (if you’re a venture capital investor).

Thank you for participating. If you have questions you can email mike@techcrunch.com

(Please note: Filling out the survey is not a guarantee of inclusion in the final published piece).

#articles, #business, #copenhagen, #corporate-finance, #denmark, #economy, #entrepreneurship, #europe, #london, #mediterranean, #private-equity, #startup-company, #survey, #tc, #venture-capital

0

Israeli startup CYE raises $100M to help companies shore up their cyber-defenses

Cybersecurity startup CYE has raised $100 million in a new growth round, led by investment firm EQT and with participation from 83North.

CYE was founded in 2012 by Reuven Aronashvili to help companies shore up their security posture. It does this in large part by conducting offensive operations against their customers — with their explicit consent — to find weaknesses in their network defenses before malicious hackers do. The company also provides incident response and security consultants, as well as its flagship product, Hyver, which helps companies assess their entire network and assets.

It’s a bet that’s working: CYE says it has been profitable since it was founded, and has customers in the Fortune 500. The company has presence in London, and recently opened a New York office.

CYE’s chief marketing officer Sharon Argov told TechCrunch that the company will use the $100 million investment to expand its operations, invest in research and development, sales and marketing, and plans to double its 80-person workforce.

Aronashvili said in remarks that the company is “laser-focused on building a company that fundamentally changes the way organizations approach cybersecurity, enabling them to accurately assess the most urgent threats to their business.”

#computer-security, #computing, #cryptography, #cybercrime, #data-protection, #data-security, #eqt, #laser, #london, #malware, #new-york, #security, #technology

0

Big data VC OpenOcean hits $111.5M for third fund, appoints Ekaterina Almasque to GP

OpenOcean, a European VC which has tended to specialise in big data-oriented startups and deep tech, has reach the €92 million ($111.5 million) mark for its third main venture fund, and is aiming for a final close of €130 million by mid-way this year. LPs in the new fund include the European Investment Fund (EIF), Tesi, pension funds, major family offices and Oxford University’s Corpus Christi College.

Ekaterina Almasque — who has already led investments in IQM (superconducting quantum machines) and Sunrise.io (multi-cloud hyper-converged infrastructure) and is leading the London team and operations for the firm — has been appointed as general partner. Before joining, Almasque was a managing director at Samsung Catalyst Fund in Europe, led investments in Graphcore’s processor for Artificial Intelligence, Mapillary’s layer for rapid mapping and AIMotive’s autonomous driving stack.

The enormous wealth of data in the modern world means the next generation of software is being built at the infrastructure. Thus, the fund said it would invest primarily at the Series A level with initial investments of €3 million to €5 million, across OpenOcean’s principle areas of artificial intelligence, application-driven data infrastructure, intelligent automation and open source.

OpenOcean’s team includes Michael “Monty” Widenius, the “spiritual father” of MariaDB, and one of the original developers of MySQL, the predecessor to MariaDB; Tom Henriksson, who invested in MySQL and MariaDB; as well as Ralf Wahlsten and Patrik Backman.

Tom Henriksson, general partner at OpenOcean, commented: “Ekaterina… brings an immense amount of expertise to the team and exemplifies the way we want to support our founders. Fund 2020 is an important step for OpenOcean, with prestigious LPs trusting our approach and our knowledge, and believing in our ability to identify the very best data solutions and infrastructure technologies in Europe.”

Almasque said: “The next five years will be critical for digital infrastructure, as breakthrough technologies are currently being constrained by the capabilities of the stack. Enabling this next level of infrastructure innovation is crucial to realising digitisation projects across the economy and will determine what the internet of the future looks like. We’re excited by the potential of world-leading businesses being built across Europe and are looking forward to supporting the next generation of software leaders.”

Speaking to TechCrunch she added: “It’s very rare to find such a VC so deep in the stack which also invested in one of the first unicorns in Europe and really built the open source ecosystem globally. So for me, this was absolutely an interesting team to join. And what OpenOcean was doing since inception in 2011 was very unique among pioneering ecosystems, such as big data analytics… and it remains very pioneering, pushing the frontiers in artificial intelligence and now quantum computing. This is what really attracts me, and I think there is a very, very big future.”

In an interview Henriksson told me: “What we are seeing is that our economy is shifting more and more towards the digital, data-driven economy. It started with few industries, but now we see a larger shift, including new industries like healthcare, like manufacturing.”

Asked about the effects of the pandemic on the sector, he said: “Obviously we see a lot of startups who are plugging into things like the UiPath platform. This is very relevant for the pandemic. Because the companies that had started automating strongly before the pandemic hit… they’ve actually accelerated and they find benefits for their teams and organisations and actually the people are happier because they have better automation technologies in place. The ones that didn’t start before [the pandemic hit] they’re a little behind now.”

#aria, #artificial-intelligence, #big-data, #computing, #data-management, #databases, #drupal, #europe, #european-investment-fund, #infrastructure, #london, #manufacturing, #mapillary, #mariadb, #mysql, #openocean, #tc, #venture-capital, #wordpress

0

#DealMonitor – Branded sammelt 150 Millionen ein – Rocket Internet plant Spac-IPO – Blacklane übernimmt Havn


Im aktuellen #DealMonitor für den 9. Februar werfen wir wieder einen Blick auf die wichtigsten, spannendsten und interessantesten Investments und Exits des Tages in der DACH-Region. Alle Deals der Vortage gibt es im großen und übersichtlichen #DealMonitor-Archiv.

INVESTMENTS

Branded
+++ Target Global, Declaration Partners, Tiger Global, Kreos Capital, Lurra Capital, Regah Ventures, Kima Ventures und Vine Ventures investieren 150 Millionen US-Dollar in den Berliner Thasio-Klon Branded. Kreos Capital dürfte in dieser Konstellation für die notwendigen (millionenschweren) Kreditfinanzierungen sorgen. Im Insider-Podcast und in unseren Thrasio-Klon-Übersichten haben wir in den vergangenen Monaten bereits mehrmals ganz kurz über Branded, das maßgeblich von Target Global vorangetrieben und sogar mitgegründet wurde, gesprochen und geschrieben. Der Berliner Amazon-Shop-Aufkäufer wird von Pierre Poignant, früher Lazada, und Michael Ronen, zuletzt SoftBank, geführt. Nach eigenen Angaben übernahm Branded in den vergangenen sechs Monaten bereits 20 verschiedene Shops, die zusammen auf einen Bruttoumsatz in Höhe von 150 Millionen Dollar kommen. Rund 100 Mitarbeiter wirken bereits für Branded. In Deutschland setzen unter anderem die Razor Group, SellerX und The Stryze Group auf das Thrasio-Konzept. The Stryze Group aka ManuCo sammelte zuletzt rund 100 Millionen Dollar ein

AutLay
+++ Venture Creator investiert eine siebenstellige Summe in AutLay. Mit AutLay bekommen Onliner eine Software as a Service-Anwendung für automatisches Dokumenten-Layout an die Hand. “Wir überführen Ihre Inhalte vollautomatisch in ein druckfertiges Dokument”, versprechen David Schölgens und Sven Müller, die Macher hinter AutLay.com. Crew Ventures investierte 2019 bereits einen mittleren sechsstelligen Betrag in die Kölner Jungfirma, das 2017 gegründet wurde. Das Investment soll “vor allem in die weitere Produkt- und KI-Entwicklung sowie in Marketingaktivitäten” fließen.

Famedly
+++ aQua, ein Institut für angewandte Qualitätsförderung und Forschung im Gesundheitswesen, investiert eine hohe sechsstellige Summe in Famedly. Das Berliner Startup, das von Phillipp Kurtz und Niklas Zender gegründet wurde, entwickelt eine Kommunikations-App für Ärzte und Krankenhäuser. Zum Konzept schreiben die Jungunternehmer: “Für einen reibungslosen Einsatz im medizinischen Alltag ist die Software wie ein klassisches Chatprogramm gestaltet”.

ReAct
+++ Die MBG Mittelständische Beteiligungsgesellschaft Schleswig-Holstein und “Privatinvestoren” investieren in das junge Hamburger Software-Unternehmen ReAct. Mit der IoT-Kommunikationsplattform “Call to Action” unterstützt ReAct den Einzelhandel dabei, “eine effiziente, prozessorientierte Kommunikation zwischen Menschen und Maschinen zu etablieren”. Das frische Kapital soll in das “weitere Wachstum, insbesondere die Internationalisierung des Vertriebs und die Erschließung neuer Marktsegmente” fließen. ReAct wurde 2015 gegründet.

Werbezeichen
+++ Donatus Albrecht, Mitinitiator der Aurelius Gruppe, investiert in Münchner B2B-Startup Werbezeichen. Das Unternehmen bietet Kunden “auf seiner digitalen Werbemittel-Plattform die gesamte Palette an Produkten und Merchandise für Unternehmen jeglicher Größe” an. Mehr als 1.200 Unternehmen zählen nach eigenen Angaben zu den Kunden von Werbezeichen. Werbezeichen wird von Florian Ganss, Felix Bumm und Julian Mayer geführt.

IPO

Rocket Internet
+++ Der Berliner Startup-Investor Rocket Internet bereitet den Börsengang einer sogenannten Special Purpose Acquisition Company, kurz Spac, in New York vor. Dabei plant das Unternehmen bei dem IPO einen dreistelligen Millionen-Betrag einzusammeln- siehe FinanceFWD. Die Citibank soll damit beauftragt sein, den Spac-Prozess zu begleiten. Das Thema Spacs ist gerade insbesondere in den USA ein Mega-Thema. Bei einem Spac-Prozess geht es darum, eine Firmenhülle an die Börse zu bringen und dann Unternehmen aufzukaufen und mit dieser Firmenhülle zu verschmelzen. Auch der bekannte Investor Klaus Hommels arbeitet mit seinem Kapitalgeber Lakestar an einem Spac-IPO – allerdings in Frankfurt am Main.

EXITS

Havn
+++ Der Berliner Limousinendienst Blacklane übernimmt die Mehrheit am Londoner Unternehmen Havn, einem elektrischen Taxiservice. “Havn and Blacklane will continue operating separately, learning from one another, and cooperating on sustainability. Your top-quality Havn experience, in-app, online and on the ground, stays the same”, heißt es in der Presseaussendung. InMotion Ventures – also Jaguar Land Rover – bleibt weiter als Anteilseigner an Bord. InMotion Ventures investierte 2019 in Havn. Seit dem Start im Jahre 2011 sammelte der Limousinenservice Blacklane Verluste in Höhe von 60 Millionen Euro ein. 2018 etwa lag der Jahresfehlbetrag bei üppigen 15,4 Millionen.

KptnCook
+++ Miele übernimmt die Mehrheit an der Berliner Rezepte-App KptnCook. Der Hausgerätehersteller war bereits seit 2018 an KptnCook beteiligt, jetzt weitet das Unternehmen seine Beteiligung auf über 50 % aus. “Gemeinsames Ziel ist die Forcierung des Wachstumskurses der mehrfach preisgekrönten App in Deutschland, Österreich, der Schweiz und auch darüber hinaus. Außerdem ist ein stärker personalisiertes Angebot geplant”, teilt das Unternehmen mit. KptnCook wurde 2014 von Eva Hoefer und Alex Reeg gegründet. Das Unternehmen beschäftigt 37 Mitarbeiter:innen.

PODCAST

Insider
+++ Schon die neue Insider-Ausgabe mit Sven Schmidt gehört? in der aktuellen Folge geht es um 10x Group, Glore/Fure, Vytal, Outfittery, Dental21, Gorillas, Bring und Adjust.

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

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

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

Foto (oben): azrael74

#aktuell, #autlay, #b2b, #berlin, #blacklane, #branded, #declaration-partners, #hamburg, #havn, #kima-ventures, #koln, #kptncook, #kreos-capital, #london, #lurra-capital, #miele, #mobility, #munchen, #react, #regah-ventures, #rocket-internet, #spac, #special-purpose-acquisition-company, #target-global, #thrasio, #tiger-global, #venture-capital, #venture-creator, #vine-ventures, #werbezeichen

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Barclays adds itemised digital receipts to its banking app in partnership with fintech Flux

Flux, the London fintech that has built a technology platform for banks and merchants to power itemised digital receipts and more, has seen its lengthy pilot with Barclays bear fruit.

Announced formally today — but actually quietly rolled out a few months ago — Flux-powered digital receipts are now available as an opt-in for all U.K. Barclays debit card holders within the bank’s main mobile banking app. Previously, the functionality was only available within the Barclays Launchpad app, which is available for customers that want to try out experimental or upcoming features.

Early last year, Barclays announced that it has invested in Flux, taking a minority stake, so the strengthening of its partnership isn’t too much of a surprise. Flux also went through the Techstars-powered Barclays accelerator in its very early days. However, not all corporate accelerators lead to great outcomes as corporates are notoriously risk-adverse. This one certainly wasn’t rushed but it’s meaningful regardless, giving Flux a major shot in the arm in reaching mainstream banking customers beyond the existing challenger bank partnerships it has forged.

“Customers who pay using their Barclays debit card for future in store purchases at H&M, shoe retailer schuh and food outlets, which include Just Eat and Papa Johns, will see their receipts sent automatically to their app after making a purchase. They can then easily and securely view their receipts whenever they need by tapping on the transaction,” says Barclays. Crucially, although opt-in, Barclays customers will receive a prompt to set up digital receipts when they purchase items from retailers currently on-boarded to Flux.

Founded in 2016 by former early employees at Revolut, Flux bridges the gap between the itemised receipt data captured by a merchant’s point-of-sale (POS) system and what little information typically shows up on your bank statement or mobile banking app. Off the back of this, it can also power loyalty schemes and card-linked offers, as well as give merchants much deeper POS analytics via aggregated and anonymised data on consumer behaviour, such as which products are selling best in unique baskets.

On the banking side, along with Barclays, Flux has partnered with challenger banks Starling and Monzo. Once banking customers link their account to the service, Flux delivers digital receipts (and where available rewards and loyalty) for transactions at Flux retailer partners.

Longer-term, Flux wants to become a standard for the interchange of item level digital receipt data — and the proprietary platform that powers that standard — but has always faced a chicken and egg problem: It needs bank integrations to sign up merchants and it needs merchant integrations to sign up banks. Barclays going live properly is another significant turn in the upstart’s flywheel.

#bank, #banking, #barclays, #europe, #finance, #financial-services, #flux, #fundings-exits, #london, #mobile-banking, #mobile-payments, #startups, #tc, #techstars

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Accel backs Mexican startup Flink’s effort to bring consumer investing to Latin America

Here in the U.S., we take for granted the ability to invest and trade in the stock market. So while we can get in an uproar about the various ways Robinhood may or may not be acting responsibly, it can be easy to forget that not everyone in the world has the same access to potentially making — or losing — money via trading as we do.

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 have the ability to invest in the capital markets just didn’t seem right. 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 are 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.

That platform, called Flink, attracted the attention of Silicon Valley-based venture capital firm Accel, which just led a $12 million Series A for the company. Mexico’s ALLVP, Clocktower, Kevin Efrusy and Oskar Hjertonsson and existing backer Raptor Financial Group participated in the financing as well.

The demand for what Flink has to offer is clear. Since launching its first brokerage product in July of 2020, Flink has surpassed 1 million users and 800,000 active brokerage accounts. This makes Flink the largest retail brokerage service in Mexico, according to Amozurrutia. It averages 6,000 new customers a day, mostly due to word of mouth, the company said. And, the app was recently ranked in the top 10 of all apps downloaded in Mexico via Google Play, surpassing Spotify and Facebook app downloads, according to Amozurrutia.

“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,” he said. “At Flink, we’re guided by the belief that Mexico’s financial system should work for everyone — not only a select few.”

The fact that Latin Americans are underbanked is not new news. In Mexico in particular, there are far fewer banks than the thousands the U.S. is home to. Those banks, Amozurrutia believes, make it challenging for most people to make investments by charging high fees, among other barriers to entry, such as large minimum deposits.

“Also, here in Mexico, the population is not that sophisticated like in the U.S. in terms of investing in the markets,” he told TechCrunch. “The banks and incumbents take advantage of that and make people feel like they’re not smart enough to manage their money. They say, ‘Give me your money and I’ll invest it and charge you fees.’ ”

Flink is out to not only give Mexicans a way to invest, but to help educate them as well. Ninety percent of its users are first-time investors, and many are millennials.

“When you compare this kind of product with Robinhood or Acorns for example, the difference with us is that we need to be even more responsible with the kind of information and access we are trying to provide,” Amozurrutia said. “We need to educate on a basic level.”

Image: Flink

Flink has also built a community around the product so that people can share ideas and try to help each other, including a Facebook group made up of more than 35,000 people.  

For Accel partner Andrew Braccia (who was also an early investor in Slack), the most interesting thing about Flink is that in many ways it is “creating a market,” rather than building an offering in an already large and sophisticated market.

“A high percentage of customers are a younger demographic that has never invested before, and never had the tools or opportunity to use a product like Flink,” Braccia said. “It’s a responsibility we take very seriously so we’re trying to make sure there’s a tremendous amount of education and transparency in the process.”

He also believes Flink’s story and the larger opportunity of what’s happening in Mexico “is one centered around accessibility and hope.”

Demand for Flink’s product is not only coming from Mexico, but from other Latin American countries such as Colombia, Chile, Peru and Argentina.

Flink can’t yet enter those markets due to regulatory constraints, but getting licenses to do business in Latin American countries is something the company plans to use some of its new capital to do.

“When you try to understand the deeper issues around financial services in Latin America,” Amozurrutia said, “you will see the status quo is really similar.”

Accel’s Braccia agrees.

Flink, he believes, has already created a level playing field for those who want to participate in investing in Mexico.

“The fact that the vast majority of their users are first-time participants in the stock market speaks to the significance of their vision of financial accessibility—a vision that we believe will continue to resonate with other markets throughout Latin America,” Braccia told TechCrunch.

Flink also plans to use its funding in part to continue improving the user experience and product offering, as well as to add to its current headcount of 60 to be able to meet rising demand.

“Our goal is to get to 4 million users by the end of 2021,” Amozurrutia said.

Meanwhile, backing Flink fits into Accel’s overall investment thesis. The firm has also put money in other fintechs globally, such as France’s Lydia, London-based Monzo and WorldRemit, Galileo and Braintree/Venmo, among others.

#accel, #andrew-braccia, #finance, #financial-services, #flink, #funding, #latin-america, #london, #mexico, #recent-funding, #startups, #tc

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Calling Swedish VCs: Be featured in The Great TechCrunch Survey of European VC

TechCrunch is embarking on a major project to survey the venture capital investors of Europe, and their cities.

Our survey of VCs in Stockholm, and Sweden generally, will capture how the country is faring, and what changes are being wrought amongst investors by the coronavirus pandemic.

The deadline is the end of this week.

We’d like to know how Sweden’s startup scene is evolving, how the tech sector is being impacted by COVID-19, and, generally, how your thinking will evolve from here.

Our survey will only be about investors, and only the contributions of VC investors will be included. More than one partner is welcome to fill out the survey. (Please note, if you have filled the survey out already, there is no need to do it again).

The shortlist of questions will require only brief responses, but the more you can add, the better.

You can fill out the survey here.

Obviously, investors who contribute will be featured in the final surveys, with links to their companies and profiles.

What kinds of things do we want to know? Questions include: Which trends are you most excited by? What startup do you wish someone would create? Where are the overlooked opportunities? What are you looking for in your next investment, in general? How is your local ecosystem going? And how has COVID-19 impacted your investment strategy?

This survey is part of a broader series of surveys we’re doing to help founders find the right investors.

https://techcrunch.com/extra-crunch/investor-surveys/

For example, here is the recent survey of London.

You are not in Sweden, but would like to take part? That’s fine! Any European VC investor can STILL fill out the survey, as we probably will be putting a call out to your country next anyway! And we will use the data for future surveys on vertical topics.

The survey is covering almost every country on in the Union for the Mediterranean, so just look for your country and city on the survey and please participate (if you’re a venture capital investor).

Thank you for participating. If you have questions you can email mike@techcrunch.com

(Please note: Filling out the survey is not a guarantee of inclusion in the final published piece).

#corporate-finance, #economy, #entrepreneurship, #europe, #finance, #london, #money, #private-equity, #startup-company, #stockholm, #sweden, #tc, #venture-capital

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This Week in Apps: TikTok viral hit breaks Spotify records, inauguration boosts news app installs, judge rules against Parler

Welcome back to This Week in Apps, the weekly TechCrunch series that recaps the latest in mobile OS news, mobile applications and the overall app economy.

The app industry is as hot as ever, with a record 218 billion downloads and $143 billion in global consumer spend in 2020.

Consumers last year also spent 3.5 trillion minutes using apps on Android devices alone. And in the U.S., app usage surged ahead of the time spent watching live TV. Currently, the average American watches 3.7 hours of live TV per day, but now spends four hours per day on their mobile devices.

Apps aren’t just a way to pass idle hours — they’re also a big business. In 2019, mobile-first companies had a combined $544 billion valuation, 6.5x higher than those without a mobile focus. In 2020, investors poured $73 billion in capital into mobile companies — a figure that’s up 27% year-over-year.

This week, we’re looking into how President Biden’s inauguration impacted news apps, the latest in the Parler lawsuit, and how TikTok’s app continues to shape culture, among other things.

Top Stories

Judge says Amazon doesn’t have to host Parler on AWS

logos for AWS (Amazon Web Services) and Parler

Logos for AWS (Amazon Web Services) and Parler. Image Credits: TechCrunch

U.S. District Judge Barbara Rothstein in Seattle this week ruled that Amazon won’t be required to restore access to web services to Parler. As you may recall, Parler sued Amazon for booting it from AWS’ infrastructure, effectively forcing it offline. Like Apple and Google before it, Amazon had decided that the calls for violence that were being spread on Parler violated its terms of service. It also said that Parler showed an “unwillingness and inability” to remove dangerous posts that called for the rape, torture and assassination of politicians, tech executives and many others, the AP reported.

Amazon’s decision shouldn’t have been a surprise for Parler. Amazon had reported 98 examples of Parler posts that incited violence over the past several weeks before its decision. It told Parler these were clear violations of the terms of service.

Parler’s lawsuit against Amazon, however, went on to claim breach of contract and even made antitrust allegations.

The judge shot down Parler’s claims that Amazon and Twitter were colluding over the decision to kick the app off AWS. Parler’s claims over breach of contract were denied, too, as the contract had never said Amazon had to give Parler 30 days to fix things. (Not to mention the fact that Parler breached the contract on its side, too.) It also said Parler had fallen short in demonstrating the need for an injunction to restore access to Amazon’s web services.

The ruling only blocks Parler from forcing Amazon to again host it as the lawsuit proceeds, but is not the final ruling in the overall case, which is continuing.

TikTok drives another pop song to No. 1 on Billboard charts, breaks Spotify’s record

@livbedumb♬ drivers license – Olivia Rodrigo

We already knew TikTok was playing a large role in influencing music charts and listening behavior. For example, Billboard last year noted how TikTok drove hits from Sony artists like Doja Cat (“Say So”) and 24kGoldn (“Mood”), and helped Sony discover new talent. Columbia also signed viral TikTok artists like Lil Nas X, Powfu, StaySolidRocky, Jawsh 685, Arizona Zervas and 24kGoldn. Meanwhile, Nielsen has said that no other app had helped break more songs in 2020 than TikTok.

This month, we’ve witnessed yet another example of this phenomenon. Olivia Rodrigo, the 17-year-old star of Disney+’s “High School Musical: The Musical: the Series” released her latest song, “Drivers License” on January 8. The pop ballad and breakup anthem is believed to be referencing the actress’ relationship with co-star Joshua Bassett, which gave the song even more appeal to fans.

Upon its release the song was heavily streamed by TikTok users, which helped make it an overnight sensation of sorts. According to a report by The WSJ, Billboard counted 76.1 million streams and 38,000 downloads in the U.S. during the week of its release. It also made a historic debut at No. 1 on the Hot 100, becoming the first smash hit of 2021.

On January 11, “Drivers License” broke Spotify’s record for most streams per day (for a non-holiday song) with 15.17 million global streams. On TikTok, meanwhile, the number of videos featuring the song and the views they received doubled every day, The WSJ said.

Charli D’Amelio’s dance to it on the app has now generated 5 million “Likes” across nearly 33 million views, as of the time of writing.

@charlidamelio♬ drivers license – Olivia Rodrigo

Of course, other TikTok hits have broken out in the past, too — even reaching No. 1 like “Blinding Lights” (The Weeknd) and “Mood” (24kGoldn). But the success of “Drivers License” may be in part due to the way it focuses on a subject that’s more relevant to TikTok’s young, teenage user base. It talks about first loves and being dumped for the other girl. And its title and opening refer to a time many adults have forgotten: the momentous day when you get your driver’s license. It’s highly relatable to the TikTok crowd who fully embraced it and made it a hit.

Weekly News

Platforms: Apple

  • Apple stops signing iOS 12.5, making iOS 12.5.1 the only versions of iOS available to older devices.
  • A report claims Apple’s iOS 15 update will cut support for devices with an A9 chip, like the iPhone 6, iPhone 6s Plus and the original iPhone SE.
  • New analysis estimates Apple’s upcoming iOS privacy changes will cause a roughly 7% revenue hit for Facebook in Q2. The revenue hit will continue in following quarters and will be “material.”

Platforms: Google

  • Google adds “trending” icons to the Play Store. New arrow icons appeared in the Top Charts tab, which indicate whether an app’s downloads are trending up or down, in terms of popularity. This could provide an early signal about those that may still be rising in the charts or beginning to fall out of favor, despite their current high position.
  • Google appears to be working on a Restricted Networking mode for Android 12. The mode, discovered by XDA Developers digging in the Android Open Source Project, would disable network access for all third-party apps.

Gaming

  • Goama (or Go Games) introduced a way for developers to integrate social games into their apps, which was showcased at CES. The company focuses on Asia and Latin America and has more than 15 partners, including GCash and Rappi, for digital payments and communications.
  • Fortnite maker Epic Games is getting into movies. The animated feature film Gilgamesh will use Epic’s Unreal Engine technology to tell the story of the king-turned-deity. The movie is not an in-house project, but rather is financed through Epic’s $100M MegaGrants fund.

Augmented Reality

  • Patents around Apple’s AR and VR efforts describe how a system could be identified in a way that’s similar to FaceID, then either permitted or denied the ability to change their appearance in the game.
  • Pinterest launches AR try-on for eyeshadow in its mobile app using Lens technology and ModiFace data. The app already offered AR try-on for lipsticks.

Entertainment

  • The CW app became the No. 1 app on the App Store this week, topping TikTok, Instagram and YouTube, thanks to CW’s season premieres of Batwoman, All American, Riverdale and Nancy Drew.
  • Users of podcasting app Anchor, owned by Spotify, say the app isn’t bringing them any sponsorship opportunities, as promised, beyond those from Spotify and Anchor itself.
  • YouTube launches hashtag landing pages on the web and in its mobile app. The pages are accessible when you click hashtags on YouTube, not via search, and weirdly rank the “best” videos through some inscrutable algorithm.
  • Apple’s Podcasts app adds a new editorial feature, Apple Podcasts Spotlight, meant to increase podcast listening by showcasing the best podcasts as selected by Apple editors.

E-commerce

  • WeChat facilitated 1.6 trillion yuan (close to $250 billion) in annual transactions through its “mini programs” in 2020. The figure is more than double that of 2019.

Fintech

  • Douyin, the Chinese version of TikTok, launched an e-wallet, Douyin Pay. The wallet will supplement the existing payment options, Alipay and WeChat Pay, and will help to support the Douyin app’s growing e-commerce business.
  • Neobank Monzo founder Tom Blomfield left the startup, saying he struggled during the pandemic. “I think [for] a lot of people in the world…going through a pandemic, going through lockdown and the isolation involved in that has an impact on people’s mental health,” he told TechCrunch.
  • New estimates indicate about 50% of the iPhone user base (or 507 million users) now use Apple Pay. 
  • Samsung’s newest phones drop support for MST, which emulates a mag stripe at terminals that don’t support NFC.

Social

  • Indian messaging app, StickerChat, owned by Hike, is shutting down. Founder Kavin Bharti Mittal said India will never have a homegrown messenger unless it bars Western companies from its market. Hike pivoted this month to virtual social apps, Vibe and Rush, which it believes have more potential.
  • Instagram head Adam Mosseri, in a Verge podcast, said he’s not happy with Reels so far, and how he feels most people probably don’t understand the difference between Instagram video and IGTV. He says the social network needs to simplify and consolidate ideas.
  • Facebook and Instagram improve their accessibility features. The apps’ AI-generated image captions now offer far more details about who or what is in the photos, thanks to improvements in image recognition systems.
  • TikTok launches a Q&A feature that lets creators respond to fan questions using text or videos. The feature, rolled out to select creators with more than 10,000 followers, makes it easier to see all the questions in one place.

Health & Fitness

  • Health and fitness app spending jumped 70% last year in Europe to record $544 million, a Sensor Tower report says. The year-over-year increase is far larger than 2019, when growth was just 37.2%. COVID-19 played a large role in this shift as people turned to fitness apps instead of gyms to stay in shape.

Government & Policy

  • Biden’s inauguration boosted installs of U.S. news apps up to 170%, Sensor Tower reported. CNN was the biggest mover, climbing 530 positions to reach No. 41 on the App Store, and up 170% in terms of downloads. News Break was the second highest, climbing 13 positions to No. 65. Right-wing outlet Newsmax climbed 43 spots to reach No. 108. In 2020, the top news apps were: News Break (23.7 million installs); SmartNews (9 million); CNN (5 million); and Fox News (4 million). This month, however, News Break saw 1.2 million installs, followed by Newsmax with about 863,000 installs, the report said.
  • Ireland’s Data Protection Commission (DPC) sent a draft decision to fellow EU Data Protection Authorities over the WhatsApp-Facebook data sharing policy. This means a decision on the matter is coming closer to a resolution in terms of what standards of transparency is required by WhatsApp.
  • German app developer Florian Mueller of FOSS Patents filed a complaint with the EU, U.S. DOJ and other antitrust watchdogs around the world over Apple and Google’s rejection of his COVID-related mobile game. Both stores had policies to only approve official COVID-19 apps from health authorities. Mueller renamed the game Viral Days and removed references to the novel coronavirus to get the app approved. However, he still feels the stores’ rules are holding back innovation.

Productivity

  • Basecamp’s Hey, which famously fought back against Apple’s App Store rules over IAP last year, has launched a business-focused platform, Hey for Work, expected to be public in Q1. The app has more App Store ratings than rival Superhuman, a report found. Currently, Hey has a 4.7-star rating across 3.3K reviews; Superhuman has 3.9 rating across only 274 reviews.

Trends

  • Baby boomers are increasingly using apps. Baby boomers/Gen Xers in the U.S. spent 30% more time year-over-year in their most used apps, App Annie reports. That’s a larger increase than either Millennials or Gen Z, at 18% and 16%, respectively.

Funding and M&A

  • Curtsy, a clothing resale app for Gen Z women, raised an $11 million Series A led by Index Ventures. The app tackles some of the problems with online resale by sending shipping supplies and labels to sellers, and by making the marketplace accessible to new and casual sellers.
  • Storytelling platform Wattpad acquired by South Korea’s Naver for $600 million. The reading apps whose stories have turned into book and Netflix hits will be incorporated into Naver’s publishing platform Webtoon.
  • On-demand delivery app Glovo partnered with Swiss-based real estate firm, Stoneweg, which is investing €100 million in building and refurbishing real estate in key markets to build out Glovo’s network of “dark stores.”
  • Pocket Casts app is up for sale. The podcast app was acquired nearly three years ago by a public radio consortium of top podcast producers (NPR, WNYC Studios, WBEZ Chicago and This American Life). The owners have now agreed to sell the app, which posted a net loss in 2020. (NPR’s share of the loss was over $800,000.)
  • Travel app Maps.me raised $50 million in a round led by Alameda Research. The funding will go toward the launch of a multi-currency wallet. Cryptocurrency lender Genesis Capital and institutional cryptocurrency firm CMS Holdings also participated in the round, Coindesk reported.
  • Bangalore-based hyperlocal delivery app Dunzo raised $40 million in a round that included investment from Google, Lightbox, Evolvence, Hana Financial Investment, LGT Lightstone Aspada and Alteria.
  • London-based food delivery app Deliveroo raised $180 million in new funding from existing investors, led by Durable Capital Partners and Fidelity Management, valuing the business at more than $7 billion.
  • Dating Group acquired Swiss startup Once, a dating app that sends one match per day, for $18 million.

Downloads

Bodyguard

Image Credits: Bodyguard

A French content moderation app called Bodyguard, detailed here by TechCrunch, has brought its service to the English-speaking market. The app allows you to choose the level of content moderation you want to see on top social networks, like Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and Twitch. You can choose to hide toxic content across a range of categories, like insults, body shaming, moral harassment, sexual harassment, racism and homophobia and indicate whether the content is a low or high priority to block.

Beeper

Image Credits: Beeper

Pebble’s founder and current YC Partner Eric Migicovsky has launched a new app, Beeper, that aims to centralize in one interface 15 different chat apps, including iMessage. The app relies on an open-source federated, encrypted messaging protocol called Matrix that uses “bridges” to connect to the various networks to move the messages. However, iMessage support is more wonky, as the company actually ships you an old iPhone to make the connection to the network. But this system allows you to access Beeper on non-Apple devices, the company says. The app is slowly onboarding new users due to initial demand. The app works across MacOS, Windows, Linux‍, iOS and Android and charges $10/mo for the service.

 

#actress, #adam-mosseri, #alipay, #alteria, #amazon, #amazon-web-services, #android, #app-developer, #app-store, #apple, #apps, #arkansas, #asia, #bangalore, #biden, #bodyguard, #columbia, #computing, #data-protection-commission, #dating-group, #disney, #doj, #driver, #durable-capital-partners, #e-commerce, #epic-games, #eric-migicovsky, #europe, #european-union, #fidelity-management, #food, #fox-news, #glovo, #google, #hana-financial-investment, #india, #instagram, #iphone, #ireland, #itunes, #judge, #latin-america, #linux, #london, #macos, #microsoft-windows, #mobile, #mobile-app, #mobile-applications, #mobile-devices, #netflix, #operating-systems, #parler, #pinterest, #play-store, #president, #real-estate, #seattle, #sensor-tower, #social-network, #social-networks, #software, #sony, #south-korea, #spotify, #stoneweg, #superhuman, #this-american-life, #tiktok, #tom-blomfield, #twitch, #twitter, #united-states, #wattpad, #web-services, #wnyc

0

Omnipresent raises $15.8M Series A for its platform to employ remote-workers globally

Omnipresent, which helps companies employ remote-working local teams worldwide, has closed a $15.8M Series A funding round. The fundraise was led by an undisclosed investor with participation from existing investors, Episode 1, Playfair Capital and Truesight Ventures. The company said it closed the round five months after it’s July 2020 $2m in seed round.

Founders Matthew Wilson and Guenther Eisinger started the company as part of Entrepreneur First’s London cohort in 2019.

Omnipresent says it ensures the process of remote-hiring costs a fraction of what it would if the company did it on their own, by using Omnipresent’s platform to onboard employees compliantly in 150 countries. It provides employees with local contracts, tax contributions, and local and international benefits such as health insurance, pensions and equity options. 

In a joint statement, Guenther Eisinger and Matthew Wilson, Co-CEOs of Omnipresent said: “Even before the pandemic we recognized the revolutionary potential of breaking down legal and administrative barriers of international employment. As former business owners, we had first-hand experience of what a headache it is to navigate the complexity and bureaucracy of building global teams. Now with the pandemic and the global shift towards remote working it’s confirmed that we are on the right track.”

Wilson told me in an interview: “For instance, in Canada, we have a Canadian entity and we enter into an employment relationship with that person in Canada, on behalf of our client, so they don’t have to set up any of the legal infrastructure themselves in Canada, or any of the 149 countries that we operate in. We then manage all the ongoing administration of the employment relationship, whether that’s from an HR perspective, from an employee benefits perspective, or if they want to get health care for instance.”

The company competes with other firms like Remote.com and Boundless HQ.

Carina Namih, General Partner at Episode 1 Ventures commented: “While talent is evenly distributed around the world, for too long, opportunities have not been. I have experienced first hand the challenge of hiring globally. Omnipresent has already become a crucial piece of infrastructure for global teams working across different countries.”

Joe Thornton, General Partner at Playfair Capital commented: “Remote work undoubtedly represents the future of the modern workforce. The sooner companies adapt, the sooner they will reap the massive competitive advantage associated with a globally distributed workforce, including increased workforce productivity and satisfaction and a larger and more diverse pool of talent from which to recruit workers.”

Omnipresent said its own employer surveys show that over 85% of employers will be employing remote or international employees in 2021.

#canada, #employment, #entrepreneur, #episode-1-ventures, #europe, #general-partner, #health-insurance, #london, #playfair-capital, #remote-com, #tc, #telecommuting, #truesight-ventures, #workforce

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Drone-focused construction startup TraceAir raises $3.5M

Bay Area-based construction startup TraceAir today announced a $3.5 million Series A. Led by London-based XTX Ventures, this round brings the company’s total funding up to $7 million. The raise includes existing investor Metropolis VC, along with new additions Liquid 2 Ventures, GEM Capital, GPS Ventures and Andrew Filev.

We first noted the company back in 2016, when it pitched a method for using drones to spot construction errors before they become too expense. It’s a pretty massive field that various technology companies are attempting to solve through a variety of different means, ranging from quadrupedal robots to site-scanning hard hats.

Last February, TraceAir announced a new drone management tool. “Haul Router provides the best mathematically objective hauls for each given drone scan,” the company noted at the time. “Any employee can use the tool to design a haul road and export the results to feed into grading equipment.”

The pandemic has thrown the construction industry for a loop (along with countless others). But unlike other sectors, demand still remains high in many places. TraceAir is hoping its solution will prove beneficial as many outfits seek a way to continue the process in spite of uncertainty.

“The Covid-19 pandemic created new challenges for the U.S. and worldwide construction industries, resulting in delayed projects and growing unemployment rates,” CEO Dmitry Korolev said in a release tied to the news. “Our platform allows industry leaders to manage projects more efficiently and collaborate with their teams remotely, minimizing the need for a physical presence on-site.”

TraceAir says the additional funding will go toward its sales and marketing, along with future product developments, including an unnamed product set for release this quarter.

#andrew-filev, #apps, #construction, #drones, #emerging-technologies, #funding, #liquid-2-ventures, #london, #recent-funding, #science-and-technology, #startups, #technology, #traceair, #united-states, #wireless, #xtx-ventures

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Calling Bucharest VCs: Be featured in The Great TechCrunch Survey of European VC

TechCrunch is embarking on a major project to survey the venture capital investors of Europe, and their cities.

Our <a href=”https://forms.gle/k4Ji2Ch7zdrn7o2p6”>survey of VCs in Bucharest and Romania will capture how the country is faring, and what changes are being wrought amongst investors by the coronavirus pandemic.

We’d like to know how Romania’s startup scene is evolving, how the tech sector is being impacted by COVID-19, and, generally, how your thinking will evolve from here.

Our survey will only be about investors, and only the contributions of VC investors will be included. More than one partner is welcome to fill out the survey. (Please note, if you have filled the survey out already, there is no need to do it again).

The shortlist of questions will require only brief responses, but the more you can add, the better.

You can fill out the survey here.

The deadline is January 22, 2021.

Obviously, investors who contribute will be featured in the final surveys, with links to their companies and profiles.

What kinds of things do we want to know? Questions include: Which trends are you most excited by? What startup do you wish someone would create? Where are the overlooked opportunities? What are you looking for in your next investment, in general? How is your local ecosystem going? And how has COVID-19 impacted your investment strategy?

This survey is part of a broader series of surveys we’re doing to help founders find the right investors.

https://techcrunch.com/extra-crunch/investor-surveys/

For example, here is the recent survey of London.

You are not in Romania, but would like to take part? That’s fine! Any European VC investor can STILL fill out the survey, as we probably will be putting a call out to your country next anyway! And we will use the data for future surveys on vertical topics.

The survey is covering almost every country on in the Union for the Mediterranean, so just look for your country and city on the survey and please participate (if you’re a venture capital investor).

Thank you for participating. If you have questions you can email mike@techcrunch.com

(Please note: Filling out the survey is not a guarantee of inclusion in the final published piece).

#corporate-finance, #economy, #entrepreneurship, #europe, #finance, #london, #money, #private-equity, #romania, #startup-company, #tc, #venture-capital

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

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

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

The cash injection will be used to expand its grocery delivery service across London and the broader UK, and open two fulfillment centers across London. Some 40 more UK s