Google’s Gradient Ventures leads $8.2M Series A for Vault Platform’s misconduct reporting SaaS

Fixing workplace misconduct reporting is a mission that’s snagged London-based Vault Platform backing from Google’s AI focused fund, Gradient Ventures, which is the lead investor in an $8.2 million Series A that’s being announced today.

Other investors joining the round are Illuminate Financial, along with existing investors including Kindred Capital and Angular Ventures. Its $4.2M seed round was closed back in 2019.

Vault sells a suite of SaaS tools to enterprise-sized or large/scale-up companies to support them to pro-actively manage internal ethics and integrity issues. As well as tools for staff to report issues, data and analytics is baked into the platform — so it can support with customers’ wider audit and compliance requirements.

In an interview with TechCrunch, co-founder and CEO Neta Meidav said that as well as being wholly on board with the overarching mission to upgrade legacy reporting tools like hotlines provided to staff to try to surface conduct-related workplace risks (be that bullying and harassment; racism and sexism; or bribery, corruption and fraud), as you might expect Gradient Ventures was interested in the potential for applying AI to further enhance Vault’s SaaS-based reporting tool.

A feature of its current platform, called ‘GoTogether’, consists of an escrow system that allows users to submit misconduct reports to the relevant internal bodies but only if they are not the first or only person to have made a report about the same person — the idea being that can help encourage staff (or outsiders, where open reporting is enabled) to report concerns they may otherwise hesitate to, for various reasons.

Vault now wants to expand the feature’s capabilities so it can be used to proactively surface problematic conduct that may not just relate to a particular individual but may even affect a whole team or division — by using natural language processing to help spot patterns and potential linkages in the kind of activity being reported.

“Our algorithms today match on an alleged perpetrator’s identity. However many events that people might report on are not related to a specific person — they can be more descriptive,” explains Meidav. “For example if you are experiencing some irregularities in accounting in your department, for example, and you’re suspecting that there is some sort of corruption or fraudulent activity happening.”

“If you think about the greatest [workplace misconduct] disasters and crises that happened in recent years — the Dieselgate story at Volkswagen, what happened in Boeing — the common denominator in all these cases is that there’s been some sort of a serious ethical breach or failure which was observed by several people within the organization in remote parts of the organization. And the dots weren’t connected,” she goes on. “So the capacity we’re currently building and increasing — building upon what we already have with GoTogether — is the ability to connect on these repeated events and be able to connect and understand and read the human input. And connect the dots when repeated events are happening — alerting companies’ boards that there is a certain ‘hot pocket’ that they need to go and investigate.

“That would save companies from great risk, great cost, and essentially could prevent huge loss. Not only financial but reputational, sometimes it’s even loss to human lives… That’s where we’re getting to and what we’re aiming to achieve.”

There is the question of how defensible Vault’s GoTogether feature is — how easily it could be copied — given you can’t patent an idea. So baking in AI smarts may be a way to layer added sophistication to try to maintain a competitive edge.

“There’s some very sophisticated, unique technology there in the backend so we are continuing to invest in this side of our technology. And Gradient’s investment and the specific we’re receiving from Google now will only increase that element and that side of our business,” says Meidav when we ask about defensibility.

Commenting on the funding in a statement, Gradient Ventures founder and managing partner, Anna Patterson, added: “Vault tackles an important space with an innovative and timely solution. Vault’s application provides organizations with a data-driven approach to tackling challenges like occupational fraud, bribery or corruption incidents, safety failures and misconduct. Given their impressive team, technology, and customer traction, they are poised to improve the modern workplace.”

The London-based startup was only founded in 2018 — and while it’s most keen to talk about disrupting legacy hotline systems, which offer only a linear and passive conduit for misconduct reporting, there are a number of other startups playing in the same space. Examples include the likes of LA-based AllVoices, YC-backed WhispliHootsworth and Spot to name a few.

Competition seems likely to continue to increase as regulatory requirements around workplace reporting keep stepping up.

The incoming EU Whistleblower Protection Directive is one piece of regulation Vault expects will increase demand for smarter compliance solutions — aka “TrustTech”, as it seeks to badge it — as it will require companies of more than 250 employees to have a reporting solution in place by the end of December 2021, encouraging European businesses to cast around for tools to help shrink their misconduct-related risk.

She also suggests a platform solution can help bridge gaps between different internal teams that may need to be involved in addressing complaints, as well as helping to speed up internal investigations by offering the ability to chat anonymously with the original reporter.

Meidav also flags the rising attention US regulators are giving to workplace misconduct reporting — noting some recent massive awards by the SEC to external whistleblowers, such as the $28M paid out to a single whistleblower earlier this year (in relation to the Panasonic Avionics consultant corruption case).

She also argues that growing numbers of companies going public (such as via the SPAC trend, where there will have been reduced regulatory scrutiny ahead of the ‘blank check’ IPO) raises reporting requirements generally — meaning, again, more companies will need to have in place a system operated by a third party which allows anonymous and non-anonymous reporting. (And, well, we can only speculate whether companies going public by SPAC may be in greater need of misconduct reporting services vs companies that choose to take a more traditional and scrutinized route to market… )

“Just a few years back I had to convince investors that this category it really is a category — and fast forward to 2021, congratulations! We have a market here. It’s a growing category and there is competition in this space,” says Meidav.

“What truly differentiates Vault is that we did not just focus on digitizing an old legacy process. We focused on leveraging technology to truly empower more misconduct to surface internally and for employees to speak up in ways that weren’t available for them before. GoTogether is truly unique as well as the things that we’re doing on the operational side for a company — such as collaboration.”

She gives an example of how a customer in the oil and gas sector configured the platform to make use of an anonymous chat feature in Vault’s app so they could provide employees with a secure direct-line to company leadership.

“They’ve utilizing the anonymous chat that the app enables for people to have a direct line to leadership,” she says. “That’s incredible. That is such a progress, forward looking way to be utilizing this tool.”

Vault Platform’s suite of tools include an employee app and a Resolution Hub for compliance, HR, risk and legal teams (Image credits: Vault Platform)

Meidav says Vault has around 30 customers at this stage, split between the US and EU — its core regions of focus.

And while its platform is geared towards enterprises, its early customer base includes a fair number of scale-ups — with familiar names like Lemonade, Airbnb, Kavak, G2 and OVO Energy on the list.

Scale ups may be natural customers for this sort of product given the huge pressures that can be brought to bear upon company culture as a startup switches to expanding headcount very rapidly, per Meidav.

“They are the early adopters and they are also very much sensitive to events such as these kind of [workplace] scandals as it can impact them greatly… as well as the fact that when a company goes through a hyper growth — and usually you see hyper growth happening in tech companies more than in any other type of sector — hyper growth is at time when you really, as management, as leadership, it’s really important to safeguard your culture,” she suggests.

“Because it changes very, very quickly and these changes can lead to all sorts of things — and it’s really important that leadership is on top of it. So when a company goes through hyper growth it’s an excellent time for them to incorporate a tool such as Vault. As well as the fact that every company that even thinks of an IPO in the coming months or years will do very well to put a tool like Vault in place.”

Expanding Vault’s own team is also on the cards after this Series A close, as it guns for the next phase of growth for its own business. Presumably, though, it’s not short of a misconduct reporting solution.

#abuse, #airbnb, #allvoices, #angular-ventures, #anna-patterson, #artificial-intelligence, #boeing, #corporate-law, #corruption, #deception, #europe, #european-union, #fundings-exits, #google, #gradient-ventures, #kindred-capital, #london, #louisiana, #managing-partner, #misconduct, #natural-language-processing, #saas, #u-s-securities-and-exchange-commission, #united-states, #vault-platform, #workplace

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Ronald Greene’s Mother Calls for Troopers to Be Charged in His Death

Mona Hardin, Mr. Greene’s mother, said a lack of accountability for her son’s death in Louisiana State Police custody in 2019 was “inhumane.”

#civil-rights-and-liberties, #demoss-dakota-louisiana-state-police-officer, #greene-ronald-d-2019, #hardin-mona-1951, #louisiana, #louisiana-state-police, #police, #police-brutality-misconduct-and-shootings, #york-kory-louisiana-state-police-officer

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What Ronald Greene’s Death Reveals About Police Killings

The officers involved in Ronald Greene’s death aren’t just a few bad apples. It is the whole tree that is shading the truth.

#assaults, #associated-press, #black-people, #louisiana, #police, #police-brutality-misconduct-and-shootings, #traffic-accidents-and-safety, #video-recordings-downloads-and-streaming

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What We Know About Ronald Greene’s Death

The Louisiana State Police said Mr. Greene died in 2019 from crashing his S.U.V. during a police chase, but video footage shows troopers shocking, choking and beating him.

#associated-press, #deaths-fatalities, #demoss-dakota-louisiana-state-police-officer, #greene-ronald-d-2019, #hollingsworth-chris-louisiana-state-police-officer, #louisiana, #louisiana-state-police, #police-brutality-misconduct-and-shootings, #suits-and-litigation-civil, #video-recordings-downloads-and-streaming, #york-kory-louisiana-state-police-officer

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Footage Shows Louisiana Troopers Punching and Dragging Man Who Died

Body-camera footage obtained by The Associated Press showed Ronald Greene apologizing and screaming, “I’m scared,” as he was jolted with a stun gun after a high-speed chase in 2019.

#associated-press, #black-people, #deaths-fatalities, #greene-ronald-d-2019, #hollingsworth-chris, #louisiana, #police-brutality-misconduct-and-shootings, #stun-guns, #suits-and-litigation-civil, #video-recordings-downloads-and-streaming, #york-kory

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A Deluge Unleashes Floods in a Louisiana City [Video]

Lake Charles, which had been hit by Hurricanes Laura and Delta, has had some of the worst of recent storms that have dumped more than a foot of rain in Louisiana.

#floods, #gulf-coast-us, #hurricane-laura-2020, #lake-charles-la, #louisiana, #national-weather-service

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A Deluge Unleashes Floods in a Louisiana City Still Reeling From 2 Hurricanes

Lake Charles, which had been hit by Hurricanes Laura and Delta, has had some of the worst of recent storms that have dumped more than a foot of rain in Louisiana.

#floods, #gulf-coast-us, #hurricane-laura-2020, #lake-charles-la, #louisiana, #national-weather-service

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With Search Ending, 13 Are Likely Dead in Capsized Boat in Gulf

The Seacor Power, a lift boat carrying 19 people, capsized last week, eight miles from a Louisiana port in stormy weather. Six crew members were quickly rescued. The bodies of five others have been recovered.

#gulf-of-mexico, #louisiana, #maritime-accidents-and-safety, #rescues, #seacor-power, #united-states-coast-guard, #weather

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Gwyneth Paltrow invests in The Expert, a video marketplace for high-end interior designers

The pandemic-induced lockdowns halted many a home decoration project, but the irony was that our homes became even more important. But where to get ideas to decorate? Home decor experts could no longer visit. Now an LA-based startup is addressing this digitization of the interior design market, but kicking off with a typically LA-oriented, high-end clientele.

The LA-based The Expert – a platform for video consultations with interior designers – has raised a $3 million seed funding round led by Forerunner Ventures, with participation from Sweet Capital, Promus Ventures, Golden Ventures, Jeffrey Katzenberg’s WndrCo, AD 100 designer Brigette Romanek, and movie star Gwyneth Paltrow.

The Expert offers 1:1 video consultations with leading interior designers, it says.

The founders consist of Jake Arnold, a celebrity interior designer (who has worked with John Legend, Rashida Jones, and Cameron Diaz among, others) and YC-alumni, Leo Seigal, who previously founded and sold Represent.com to CustomInk for $100m in 2015.

After being “inundated” with DMs during lockdown asking for his advice, Arnold says he realized he didn’t have the business model to help non-retainer clients. So he joined Seigal to create The Expert.

The Expert features 85 designers, so far. CLients click on their profiles to see rates and availability and then click to book. Clients can upload any relevant floor plans, images of the home, inspiration ideas etc for the designer to review ahead of time. They then join a zoom link (the platform uses the Zoom API) to meet with an interior designer and can leave a review afterward.

The company claims it has 700 designers on its waitlist and will hit $1m of bookings after its first quarter, after launching in early February this year.

The startup has some competition in the form of Modsy and Havenly, but The Expert says it is going for a more high-end experience, where clients are willing to pay $300-$2,500 for an hour of a designers’ time. The startup takes a 20% cut of the transaction.

Co-founder Leo Seigal said: “We were able to attract a crazy roster of designers partly thanks to co-founder Jake who is so highly regarded in the industry, and partly due to a timeliness of offering which is far above anything that has been tried in the home space.”

In a statement, Gwyneth Paltrow said: “I’ve always felt that access to great design – and those who create it – is too rare of a commodity. It’s a game-changer for someone without the budget for a full-time designer to have this roster of talent on speed dial.”

Nicole Johnson, Partner at Forerunner said: “We’ve been thinking through new models for the interior design sector for years at Forerunner, observing room for improvement for the trade and consumers alike. Interior design is arguably the ultimate, best-suited source of home inspiration and commerce enablement for consumers, but the trade is a famously walled garden. The Expert solves for this, connecting anyone, anywhere with the world’s leading interior designers via video consultation—allowing Experts to broaden their reach and monetization in a predictable, rewarding, and low-friction way.”

#actors, #api, #co-founder, #designer, #dms, #forerunner-ventures, #golden-ventures, #gwyneth-paltrow, #interior-design, #jeffrey-katzenberg, #john-legend, #louisiana, #partner, #promus-ventures, #tc

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Phi Gamma Delta Members Pay Off Mortgage of Longtime House Cook

For 14 years, Jessie Hamilton cooked for the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity at Louisiana State University. Years later, 90 former members took up a collection to pay her mortgage.

#baton-rouge-la, #fraternities-and-sororities, #gifts, #hamilton-jessie-1947, #louisiana, #louisiana-state-university, #phi-gamma-delta

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A $1.2 Million Charles Schwab Bank Deposit Error Buys a House, and an Arrest, Officials Say

Kelyn Spadoni tried to keep a deposit that was off by five decimal places, according to the authorities, who said she was charged with fraud and fired from her job on the same day.

#arbitration-conciliation-and-mediation, #bank-robberies, #banking-and-financial-institutions, #charles-schwab-corporation, #financial-brokers, #financial-industry-regulatory-authority, #frauds-and-swindling, #jefferson-parish-la, #louisiana, #new-orleans-la, #suits-and-litigation-civil

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Lessons From Lynchings

There’s a through-line from a noose on the neck to a knee on the neck.

#black-people, #chauvin-derek-1976, #floyd-george-d-2020, #louisiana, #lynching, #murders-attempted-murders-and-homicides, #slavery-historical, #united-states

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Closing on $103M, MaC VC is changing the face of venture capital

The partners at MaC Venture Capital, the Los Angeles-based investment firm that has just closed on $103 million for its inaugural fund, have spent the bulk of their careers breaking barriers.

Formed when M Ventures (a firm founded by former Washington DC mayor Adrian Fenty); the first Black talent agency partner in the history of Hollywood, Charles D. King; and longtime operating executive (and former agent) Michael Palank joined forces with Marlon Nichols, a co-founder of the LA-based investment firm Cross Culture Capital, MaC Venture Capital wanted to be a different kind of fund.

The firm combines the focus on investing in software that Fenty had honed from his years spent as a special advisor to Andreessen Horowitz, where he spent five years before setting out to launch M Ventures; and Nichols’ thesis-driven approach to focusing on particular sectors that are being transformed by global cultural shifts wrought by changing consumer behavior and demographics.

“There’s a long history and a lot of relationships here,” said King, one of Hollywood’s premier power players and the founder of the global media company, Macro. “Adrian and I go back to 93 [when] we were in law school. We went on to conquer the world, where he went out to Washington DC and I became a senior partner at WME.”

Palank was connected to the team through King as well, since the two men worked together at William Morris before running business development for Will Smith and others.

“There was this idea of having connectivity between tech and innovation… that’s when we formed M Ventures [but] that understanding of media and culture… that focus… was complimentary with what Marlon was doing at Cross Culture,” King said.

Few firms could merge the cultural revolutions wrought by DJ Herc spinning records in the rec room of a Bronx apartment building and Sir Tim Berners Lee’s invention of the internet, but that’s exactly what MaC VC aims to do.

And while the firm’s founding partnership would prefer to focus on the financial achievements of their respective firms and the investments that now comprise the new portfolio of their combined efforts — it includes StokeGoodfairFinessePureStream, and Sote — it’s hard to overstate the significance that a general partnership that includes three Black men have raised $103 million in an industry that’s been repeatedly called out for problems with diversity and inclusion.

MaC Venture Capital co-founders Marlon Nichols, Michael Palank, Charles King, and Adrian Fenty. Image Credit: MaC Venture Capital

“Our LPs invested in us… for lots of different reasons but at the top of the list was that we are a diverse team in so many ways. We’re going to show them a set of companies that they would not have seen from any [other] VC fund,” said Fenty. “We also, in turn, have the same investing thesis when we look at companies. We want to have women founders, African American founders, Latino founders… In our fund now we have some companies that are all women, all African American or all Latino.”

The diversity of the firm’s ethos is also reflected in the broad group of limited partners that have come on to bankroll its operations: it includes Goldman Sachs, the University of Michigan, Howard University, Mitch and Freada Kapor, Foot Locker, and Greenspring Associates.

“We are thrilled to join MaC Venture Capital in this key milestone toward building a new kind of venture capital firm that is anchored around a cultural investment thesis and supports transformative companies and dynamic founders,” said Daniel Feder, Managing Director with the University of Michigan Investment Office, in a statement. “Their unified understanding of technology, media, entertainment, and government, along with a successful track record of investing, give them deep insights into burgeoning shifts in culture and behavior.”

And it extends to the firm’s portfolio, a clutch of startup companies headquartered around the globe — from Seattle to Houston and Los Angeles to Nairobi.

“We look at all verticals. We’re very happy to be generalists,” said Fenty.

A laser focus on software-enabled businesses is complemented by the thesis-driven approach laid out in position papers staking out predictions for how the ubiquity of gaming; conscious consumerism; new parenting paradigms; and cultural and demographic shifts will transform the global economy.

Increasingly, that thesis also means moving into areas of frontier technologies that include the space industry, mixed reality and everything at the intersection of computing and the transformation of the physical world — drawn in part by the firm’s close connection to the diverse tech ecosystem that’s emerging in Los Angeles. “We’re seeing these SpaceX and Tesla mafias spin out, entrepreneurs who have had best-in-class training at an Elon Musk company,” said Palank. “It’s a great talent pool, and LA has more computer science students graduating every year than Northern California.”

With its current portfolio, though early, the venture firm is operating in the top 5% of funds — at least on paper — and its early investments are up 3 times what the firm invested, Nichols said. 

“The way to think about it is MaC is essentially an extension of what we were building before,” the Cross Culture Ventures co-founder said. “We’re sticking with the concept that talent is ubiquitous but access to capital and opportunity is not. We want to be the source and access to capital for those founders.”

#adrian-fenty, #andreessen, #andreessen-horowitz, #california, #co-founder, #computing, #cross-culture-ventures, #finance, #finesse, #foot-locker, #goldman-sachs, #greenspring-associates, #houston, #investment, #king, #laser, #los-angeles, #louisiana, #m-ventures, #mac-venture-capital, #macro, #marlon-nichols, #mayor, #media, #michigan, #money, #nairobi, #seattle, #sote, #spacex, #stoke, #tc, #tesla, #tim-berners-lee, #university-of-michigan, #venture-capital, #washington-dc, #will-smith

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A List of Recent Mass Shootings in the United States

In the last five years, there have been at least 29 shootings with four or more fatalities, according to a database compiled by the Violence Project.

#annapolis-md, #atlanta-ga, #atlanta-spa-shootings-2021, #aurora-colo, #borderline-bar-and-grill-thousand-oaks-calif-nightclub, #boulder-colo, #capital-gazette, #charleston-sc, #colorado, #dallas-tex, #dayton-ohio, #dayton-ohio-shooting-2019, #deaths-fatalities, #demonstrations-protests-and-riots, #el-paso-tex, #el-paso-tex-shooting-2019, #florida, #fort-lauderdale-fla, #fort-lauderdale-hollywood-international-airport, #gilroy-calif, #gilroy-calif-shooting-2019, #las-vegas-nev, #las-vegas-nev-shooting-october-2017, #louisiana, #mandalay-bay-resort-and-casino, #marjory-stoneman-douglas-high-school-parkland-fla, #maryland, #mass-shootings, #midland-tex, #midland-odessa-tex-shooting-2019, #minnesota, #newtown-conn, #orlando-fla, #parkland-fla, #parkland-fla-shooting-2018, #pittsburgh-pa-shooting-2018, #police-department-dallas-tex, #san-bernardino-calif, #santa-fe-tex, #santa-fe-tex-shooting-2018, #school-shootings-and-armed-attacks, #springfield-mo, #sutherland-springs-tex, #sutherland-springs-tex-shooting-2017, #thousand-oaks-calif, #thousand-oaks-calif-shooting-2018, #tree-of-life-pittsburgh-pa-synagogue, #virginia-beach-va, #virginia-beach-va-shooting-2019, #virginia-polytechnic-institute-and-state-university, #walmart-stores-inc, #workplace-hazards-and-violations

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Louisiana Special Election Sets Up a Democratic Showdown

The first competitive special congressional election of 2021 will unfold on Saturday, with two rival Democrats poised for a runoff to succeed the Biden adviser Cedric Richmond.

#black-people, #carter-troy, #democratic-party, #elections-house-of-representatives, #letlow-julia, #letlow-luke-1979-2020, #louisiana, #new-orleans-la, #peterson-karen-carter, #richmond-cedric, #united-states-politics-and-government

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Now approved in LA, Abodu’s backyard homes can now go from contract to completion in as little as 30 days

Abodu, one of a slew of startup companies pitching backyard homes and office spaces to Californians in an effort to help address the state’s housing shortage, has instituted a new “Quickship” program that can take an order from contract to construction and installation in about thirty days.

Behind the quick turnaround time is a pre-approval process that was first rolled out in Santa Fe and came to Los Angeles in recent weeks.

Abodu began installing homes through a pre-approval process back in 2019, when the city of San Jose created a program that allowed developers of alternative dwelling units to submit plans for pre-approval to cut the time for homeowners.

That approval process means that ADU developers like Abodu can be permitted in one hour. Other ADU developers pre-approved in San Jose, Calif. include Acton ADU, the venture backed Connect Homes, J. Kretschmer Architect, Mayberry Workshop, Open Remodel, and prefabADU. In Los Angeles, La Mas, IT House, Design, Bitches, Connect Homes, Welcome Projects and First Office have all had homes pre-approved for construction.

Beyond the cities where Adobu’s ADUs have received pre-approval, the company has built across California in cities ranging from, Palo Alto, Millbrae, Orange County, to LA and Oakland. Units in the Bay Area cost roughly $189,000 as a starting price, compared to the $650,000 to $850,000 it takes to build units in a mid-rise apartment building, or $1 million per unit in a steel-reinforced highrise, according to the company.

“Our Quickship program is the fastest way to add housing,” said John Geary, CEO at Abodu.  “Homeowners with immediate needs, be it family situations or those looking for investment income, can now complete an ADU project in as little as four weeks. A key mission for Abodu is to make a serious dent in our state’s housing deficit while providing people and municipalities the necessary blueprint to enact real change. ”

For former TechCrunch writer Kim-Mai Cutler, who serves on the Abodu board of directors the achievement of a 30 day construction milestone is almost a dream come true. Cutler wrote the book (or the equivalent of a book) on the housing crisis and its impact on the Bay Area and California broadly.

That piece led Cutler to work in public service “on boards and commissions overseeing the spending of federal dollars on homelessness and the proceeds of municipal bonds directed at financing affordable housing (because yes, for some segments of residents, you do have to explicitly subsidize housing at the local level.),” as she noted in a blog post about her investment in Abodu.

The interior of an Abodu home. Photo via Abodu.

Cutler backed the company because of her deep knowledge of the issues associated with housing.

“The reason this is a big deal is because Northern California has been the most expensive and unpredictable place to build new housing in the world. Projects typically take several years because of uncertainty with entitlements and materials,” Cutler wrote. “Over the past year, Abodu co-founders John Geary and Eric McInerney have put homes in the backyards of parents bringing kids home from college, a mother-and-son pair that each bought one for their homes in Millbrae, a couple looking to eventually house a grandmother in San Jose and on and on.”

The key inspiration that Abodu’s founders hit on was their concentration on granny flats, casitas and backyard dwellings. “While deliberations over mid-rise density were stalling in Sacramento, the state legislature (and legislatures up north in the Pacific Northwest) were passing bill after bill, including Phil Ting’s AB 68 and Bob Wieckowski’s SB 1069, to make it really easy to add backyard units,” Cutler wrote. “This is the kind of change that suburban America wants, is comfortable with and can politically pass and implement easily.”

To Cutler’s thinking, Adobu’s 30 day construction schedule will change consumer behavior, thanks to the fact that the home can be craned in and installed in less than a day on a foundation constructed in less than two weeks. Its incredibly low cost will enable a lot of opportunities to develop new inventory and the simple fact is that inventory remains a scarce commodity. As Cutler noted, only half as many homes are trading across the United States as were available a year ago, which is happening at the same time as when millennials are entering prime family formation years. 

 

#abodu, #america, #california, #ceo, #kim-mai-cutler, #los-angeles, #louisiana, #oakland, #palo-alto, #planning, #sacramento, #san-jose, #tc, #united-states, #urban-planning, #writer

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Co-founded by a leader of SpaceX’s missions operations, Epsilon3 wants to be the OS for space launches

Laura Crabtree spent a good chunk of her childhood watching rocket launches on television and her entire professional career launching rockets, first at Northrup Grumman and then at SpaceX.

Now, the former senior missions operations engineer at SpaceX is the co-founder and chief executive of a new LA-based space startup called Epsilon3, which says it has developed the operating system for launch operations.

“The tools I had wanted did not exist,” said Crabtree. So when she left SpaceX to pursue her next opportunity, it was a no-brainer to try and develop the toolkit she never had, the first-time entrepreneur said. “I started looking at ways in which I could help the space industry become more efficient and reduce errors.”

Joining Crabtree in the new business is Max Mednik, a serial entrepreneur whose last company, Epirus, raised at least $144.7 million from investors including 8VC, Bedrock Capital and L3 Harris Technologies, and Aaron Sullivan, a former Googler who serves as the chief software engineer. Mednik worked at Google too before turning his attention to entrepreneurship. His previous businesses ranged from financial services software to legal services software, Mednik too had an interest in aerospace. His first job offers out of school were with SpaceX, JPL, and Google. And Aaron Sullivan another former

Part of a growing network of SpaceX alumni launching businesses, Epsilon3, like its fellow travelers First Resonance and Prewitt Ridge, is creating a product around an aspect of the design, manufacturing mission management and operations of rockets that had previously been handled manually or with bespoke tools.

“They make mission management software for the launchers and for the satellite companies that are going to be the payload of the rocket companies,” said Alex Rubacalva, the founder and managing partner of Stage Venture Partners, an investor in the company’s recent seed round. “It’s not just the design and spec but for when they’re actually working what are they doing; when you’re uplinking and downlinking data and changing software.”

Rubacalva acknowledged that the market for Epsilon3 is entirely new, but it’s growing rapidly.

“This was an analysis based on the fact that access to space used to be really expensive and used to be the provenance of governments and ten or 20 commercial satellite operators in the world. And it was limited by the fact that there were only a handful of companies that could launch,” Rubacalva said. “Now all of a sudden there’s going to be thirty different space flights. Thirty different companies that have rockets… access to space used to scarce, expensive, and highly restricted and it’s no longer any of those things now.” 

Relativity Space's Terran 1 rocket, artist's rendering

Image Credits: Relativity Space

The demand for space services is exploding with some analysts estimating that the launch services industry could reach over $18 billion by 2026.

“It’s a very similar story and we all come from different places within SpaceX,” said Crabtree. First Resonance, provides software that moves from prototyping to production; Prewitt Ridge, provides engineering and management tools; and Epsilon3 has developed an operating system for launch operations.

“You’ve got design development, manufacturing, integration tests and operations. We’re trying to support that integration of tests and operations,” said Crabtree. 

While First Resonance and Prewitt Ridge have applications in aerospace and manufacturing broadly, Crabtree’s eyes, and her company’s mission, remain fixed on the stars.

“We’re laser focused on space and proving out that the software works in the highest stakes and most complex environments,” said Mednik. There are applications in other areas that require complex workflows for industries as diverse as nuclear plant construction and operations, energy, mining, and aviation broadly, but for now and the foreseeable future, it’s all about the space business.

Mednik described the software as an electronic toolkit for controlling and editing workflows and procedures. “You can think of it as Asana project management meets Github version control,” he said. “It should be for integration of subsystems or systems and operations of the systems.”

Named for the planet in Babylon Five, Epsilon3 could become an integral part of the rocket missions that eventually do explore other worlds. At least, that’s the bet that firms like Stage Venture Partners and MaC Ventures are making on the business with their early $1.8 million investment into the business.

Right now, the Epislon3’s early customers are coming from early stage space companies that are using the platform for live launches. These would be companies like Stoke Space and other new rocket entrants. 

“For us, space and deeptech is hot,” said MaC Ventures co-founder and managing partner, Adrian Fenty. The former mayor of Washington noted that the combination of Mednik’s serial entrepreneur status and Crabtree’s deep, deep expertise in the field.

“We had been looking at operating systems in general and thinking that there would be some good ones coming along,” Fenty said. In Epsilon3 the company found the combination of deep space, deep tech, and a thesis around developing verticalized operating systems that ticked all the boxes. 

“In doing diligence for the company… you just see how big space is and will become as a business,” said Michael Palank, a co-founder and managing partner at MaC Ventures predecessor, M Ventures alongside Fenty. “A lot of the challenges here on earth will and only can be solved in space. And you need better operating systems to manage getting to and from space.”

The view from Astra’s Rocket 3.2 second stage from space.

#adrian-fenty, #aerospace, #asana, #bedrock-capital, #elon-musk, #energy, #engineer, #entrepreneur, #github, #google, #hyperloop, #l3, #laser, #louisiana, #m-ventures, #mac-ventures, #managing-partner, #manufacturing, #mayor, #mining, #operating-system, #operating-systems, #outer-space, #project-management, #satellite, #serial-entrepreneur, #space-tourism, #spaceflight, #spacex, #tc, #washington

0

Pixxel closes $7.3M seed round and unveils commercial hyperspectral imaging product

LA and Bangalore-based space startup Pixxel has closed a $7.3 million seed round, including newly committed capital from Techstars, Omnivore VC and more. The company has also announced a new product focus: Hyperspectral imaging. It aims to provide that imaging at the highest resolution commercially available, via a small satellite constellation that will provide 24-hour, global coverage once it’s fully operational.

Pixxel’s funding today is an extension of the $5 million it announced it had raised back in August of last year. At the time, the startup had only revealed that it was focusing on Earth imaging,, and it’s unveiling its specific pursuit of hyperspectral imaging for the first time today. Hyperspectral imaging uses far more light frequencies than the much more commonly-used multispectral imaging used in satellite observation today, allowing for unprecedented insight and detection of previously invisible issues, including migration of pest insect populations in agriculture, or observing gas leaks and other ecological threats.

Standard multispectral imaging (left) vs. hyperspectral imaging (right) Credit: EPFL

“We started with analyzing existing satellite images, and what we could do with this immediately,” explained Pixxel co-founder and CEO Awais Ahmed in an interview. “We realized that in most cases, it was not able to even see certain problems or issues that we wanted to solve – for example, we wanted to be able to look at air pollution and water pollution levels. But to be able to do that there were no commercial satellites that would enable us to do that, or even open source satellite data at the resolution that would enable us to do that.”

The potential of hyperspectral imaging on Earth, across a range of sectors, is huge, according to Ahmed, but Pixxel’s long-term vision is all about empowering a future commercial space sector to make the most of in-space resources.

“We started looking at space as a sector for us to be able to work in, and we realized that what we wanted to do was to be able to enable people to take resources from space to use in space,” Ahmed said. That included asteroid mining, for example, and when we investigated that, we found hyperspectral imaging was the imaging tech that would enable us to map these asteroids as to whether they contain these metal or these minerals. So that knowledge sort of transferred to this more short-term problem that we were looking at solving.”

Part of the reason that Pixxel’s founders couldn’t find existing available hyperspectral imaging at the resolutions they needed was that as a technology, it has previously been restricted to internal governmental use through regulation. The U.S. recently opened up the ability for commercial entities to pursue very high-resolution hyperspectral imaging for use on the private market, effectively because they realized that these technical capabilities were becoming available in other international markets anyway. Ahmed told me that the main blocker was still technical, however.

Pixxel's Hyperspectral imaging satellite at its production facility in Bangalore

Image Credits: Pixxel

“If we were to build a camera like this even two or three years ago, it would not have been possible because of the miniaturized sensors, the optics, etc.,” he said. “The advances that have happened only happened very recently, so it’s also the fact that this the right time to take it from the scientific domain to the commercial domain.”

Pixxel now aims to have its first hyperspectral imaging satellite launched and operating on orbit within the next few months, and it will then continue to launch additional satellites after that once it’s able to test and evaluate the performance of its first spacecraft in an actual operating environment.


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#aerospace, #asteroid-mining, #awais-ahmed, #bangalore, #imaging, #louisiana, #metal, #optics, #recent-funding, #satellite-constellation, #space, #spectroscopy, #startups, #tc, #techstars, #united-states

0

Forward Health raises $225M from investors including The Weeknd as it looks to expand nationwide

Primary care startup Forward Health is looking to expand its tech-powered, personalized healthcare model across the U.S., and will use a new $225 million Series D raise to help make it happen. The new capital comes from Founders Fund, Khosla Ventures, SoftBank, Mark Benioff – and recording artist The Weeknd – among others. I spoke to Forward Health co-founder and CEO Adrian Aoun about his company’s plans for this fresh capital, and we also chatted briefly about how The Weeknd got involved.

Forward, which currently operates clinics in select U.S. markets including LA, New York, Chicago, SF and Washington, D.C., has a number of distinguishing features, but most notable are likely its tech-first approach that includes a full biometric assessment upon first visit, and its business model, which eschews insurance providers altogether and instead works based on a single flat membership fee.

Aoun and his co-founders created Forward Health with the idea of building a healthcare business that’s aligned with its customers in terms of incentives, which is why they sidestepped insurance altogether. That’s led to a focus on customer service and long-term patient relationships and outcomes, which Aoun says are stronger because they’re not bound by an individual’s relationship with their employer, for instance, which is often the case when an employer foots the bill for healthcare via company-provided insurance.

“The average person in the Bay Area is with their employer for about two and a quarter years,” Aoun told me. “So your employer is kind of sitting there thinking, if you get the flu, you’re missing three days of work – I’m out some money.” That means they’ll do things like institute programs to remind employees constantly to get their annual flu vaccine, and do other things to make that happen like provide on-premise shots. But Aoun says they’re optimizing for short-term outcomes, not long-term health – because that’s where their incentives tell them to optimize.

Image Credits: Forward Health

But when long-term healthcare programs, like lifestyle shifts that can lessen the potential of truly dangerous outcomes like heart disease and cancer, come into play, an employer who expects you to stick around for a few years at most is far less incentivized to want to fund that. Forward Health, which aims to attract subscribers and, for lack of a better term, minimize churn, actually is incentivized to make those long-term outcomes positive for everyone who comes through the door.

That’s part of why one focus with this new funding is to debut new doctor-led programs tailored to treating conditions that individual patients might be predisposed to – like heart health, if heart disease runs in your family, or specific types of cancer, if there’s a history of that, for instance.

“We’ve got our [in-clinic] body scanners, our blood tests, our gene sequencing – we basically collect on the order of about 500 biometric data points,” Aoun said. “The idea is you and your doctor then figure out which which kind of programs make sense for you based upon those.”

For example, Aoun says he’s actually at fairly high risk for developing heart disease, so there’s a Forward program that includes doing a heart risk analysis, blood tests, and regular at-home monitoring of key risk factors like blood pressure and weight. Another program for cancer prevention includes measures designed to help lessen the risk of contracting the top five cancers in terms of prevalence — so Forward created a dermatoscope for that, which is essentially a skin scanner to map out an individual’s moles and skin features and alert them of any changes.

This builds on work that Forward began at the outset of COVID-19 — its ‘Forward at Home’ program, which includes sending patients home with specialized sensors for remote care. Another specialized program tailored to COVID-19 actually offers monitoring specific to the disease in order to track a patient’s progress safely.

“We’re now launching programs for all the top diseases to help you get ahead of them,” Aoun said. “And whatever kind of programs you’re using, you walk away with plans that are tailored to you, again, to counsel you not only on the potential risks for the things like the cancer and heart disease, but also to be proactive, with guidance from diet, to exercise, to stress, and to sleep, etc.”

The programs are supported by Forward’s 24/7 worldwide care support team, which subscribers can access via their mobile app. It’s also complemented by the check-ins with your physician via the ‘Forward at Home’ in-home virtual visits.

Image Credits: Forward Health

While Forward is already rolling these out, it has plans to continue to develop new ones, and it’s also monitoring results in order to understand how they’re working for users, and will be sharing that data once it has collected a significant sample. I asked Aoun how Forward can scale this kind of personalized care – especially now that the startup plans to open additional locations in other parts of the country.

Basically, Aoun said that Forward approached it as an engineering problem. He argues that most solutions in healthcare see the fundamental issue as a labor problem — but trying to scale that, with the salaries that medical professionals command, and the limited availability of skilled talent, makes no sense. Especially because consumers are naturally looking for improvements in their standard of care over time, in the same way they expect improvements in the products they buy or services they use.

Rather than relying on a chain of increasingly specific medical professionals to address individual health risks and needs, Aoun said Forward identified that there’s a massive amount of overlap in preventative care courses of action. The Forward team focused on breaking the fundamental elements down into what equate roughly to reusable Lego blocks, which can be recombined with relative speed and repeatability to produce a program that’s nonetheless tailored to an individual’s needs.

Combined with Forward Health’s longitudinal approach to care, these programs and their recombinant nature should prove a good dataset from which to assess how a direct, client-focused primary care model affects overall health.

And, because I promised, I’ll leave you with how Aoun says The Weeknd got involved in the Series D.

“He literally just walked by one of our locations, and walked in and was like, ‘This is awesome,’ and then asked a friend, who asked a friend, who asked a friend to get connected,” he told me.

#adrian-aoun, #artist, #cancer, #chicago, #disease, #flu, #forward, #forward-health, #founders-fund, #health, #healthcare, #khosla-ventures, #louisiana, #new-york, #physician, #recent-funding, #softbank, #startups, #tc, #united-states, #washington-d-c

0

Big Step Forward for $50 Billion Plan to Save Louisiana Coast

An environmental assessment said the project’s next step would largely benefit coastal areas, though it might also affect some marine life, especially dolphins.

#army-corps-of-engineers, #bp-plc, #coast-erosion, #dolphins-and-porpoises, #fish-and-other-marine-life, #fishing-commercial, #floods, #global-warming, #gulf-of-mexico, #levees-and-dams, #louisiana, #mississippi-river, #oil-spills, #wetlands

0

Maestro nets $15 million for its interactive commerce, community and engagement tools for livestreams

Making money on livestreams has never been easier thanks to a suite of tools from the Los Angeles-based startup Maestro, which just nabbed $15 million in financing to grow its business.

As video commerce becomes the norm and entertainers, brands, businesses, and franchises of all sizes and stripes look to cut out the middle man, the array of services on offer from Maestro may be the scissors these entities need to cut the cord.

The company has already worked with names as diverse as the Golden State Warriors, the Dallas Cowboys, and pop sensation Billy Eilish on embedding its interactive tools into various live events and promotions.

Initially the LA-based company launched to the gaming community with interactive features that folks could use in-stream to create better engagement with fans. But what started in the gaming world quickly spun out as the company slashed prices to $500 per month for its services.

The pandemic also helped as artists who were cut off from their audiences began to explore alternative ways to reach fans — and make money.

We were targeted to a small number of very premier customers. It was around 50 to 60 and we grew to in the hundreds,” said Maestro chief executive, Ari Evans, said. “2020 was a blowout year… People needed an interactive streaming platform that they could spin up quickly that they could launch on their website.”

Celebrities from Katy Perry to Post Malone to Billie Eilish all turned to the service and so did other streaming platforms like the Los Angeles-based virtual concert platform, The Wave.

Now the company has $15 million in new financing to capitalize on its growth from investors including NetEase, Sony Music Entertainment, and Acronym Venture Capital, alongside a host of industry titans including Twitch co-founder Kevin Lin and Moonwell Capital, founded by former Activision Blizzard executives Michael and Amy Morhaime, the company said in a statement. 

Existing investors like SeventySix Capital, The Strand Partners, Stadia Ventures, Hersh Interactive Group, and Transcend Fund, as well as early Zoom employees Richard Gatchalian and Aaron Lewis, also participated. 

Since the launch of monetization tools in May of last year, Evans estimated that the platform has paid out at least $5 million to entertainers who used the service.

“We are pleased to be supporting the continued development of Maestro as part of our ongoing investment in new technologies that provide artists with cutting-edge tools and solutions for growing their careers. Maestro gives artists greater flexibility and control to build the most engaging and customized events for their fans, allowing creators at any stage of their career to put together a world class live stream event,” said Dennis Kooker, President, Global Digital Business and U.S. Sales, Sony Music Entertainment, in a statement. 

“Maestro is at the forefront of redefining the relationship of content owners and creators with their viewers. Instead of relying on incumbent distribution platforms, customers control the audience relationship directly and maximize engagement and monetization in a way that fits with their brand objectives. We are very excited by Maestro’s potential to be a fundamental driver in the growth of the creator economy,” said Joshua Siegel, General Partner, Acronym Venture Capital.  

“Maestro… started off with the content and now we’re adding membership and community management and ticketing and all that stuff,” said Evans. 

The next step, and a big part of what Evans and his team of 55 employees will work on building will be a developer ecosystem, so software designers can start building out new tools to sell through the Maestro platform.

“The third piece is a developer ecosystem,” Evans said. “We’re really copying Shopify, Squarespace for video or Shopify for video. It’s kind of strange that this has taken so long to develop.

The one thing that Maestro won’t do is discovery or search services, Evans said. “We’re helping creators make money and build a business on top of video. That’s something creators need to be aware of if they’re going to  build that direct to consumer channel,” he said. “If you do do that and you’re successful you’re in control over your audience.”

#activision-blizzard, #billie-eilish, #co-founder, #companies, #electronic-arts, #general-partner, #golden-state-warriors, #katy-perry, #kevin-lin, #los-angeles, #louisiana, #maestro, #michael, #musicians, #netease, #shopify, #sony, #sony-music-entertainment, #tc, #technology, #twitch, #united-states, #unity-technologies, #website

0

Rocket Lab debuts plans for a new, larger, reusable rocket for launching satellite constellations

Because news of its SPAC-fueled public market debut wasn’t enough, Rocket Lab also unveiled a new class of rocket it has in development on Monday. The launch vehicle, called Neutron, will be able to carry 8 metric tons (around 18,000 lbs) to orbit, far exceeding the cargo capacity of Rocket Lab’s current Electron vehicle, which can host only around 660 lbs. Neutron will also have a fully reusable first-stage, designed to launch on an ocean landing platform, not unlike SpaceX’s Falcon 9 booster.

Rocket Lab says that Neutron will be designed to service increased demand from customers launching large multi-satellite constellations. The heavier lift will mean that it can take more small satellites up at one time to get those constellations in orbit more quickly. Its cargo rating also means it should be able to deliver up to 98% of all currently-forecasted spacecraft launching through 2029, according to Rocket Lab, and provide resupply services to the International Space Station. Rocket Lab also says it’ll be capable of human spaceflight missions, indicating an ambition to make it the company’s first human-rated spacecraft.

Neutron could significantly expand Rocket Lab’s customer base, and it’ll also improve costs and economics vs. what Electron can do now, thanks to a design focus don efficiency and reusability. The rocket will launch from Rocket Lab’s Wallops, Virginia facility, and since there’s already a launch pad in place for it, the company expects it’ll be able to fly Neutron for the first time by 2024. In addition to its LA-based HQ and the Wallops launch site, Rocket Lab anticipates it’ll be building a new Neutron production facility somewhere in the U.S. to build the new rocket at scale.

While it won’t have the launch capacity of SpaceX’s Falcon 9, it’s still intended to be a rocket that can also carry smaller payloads to the Moon and even deep space beyond. The medium-lift category in general is generating a lot of interest right now, given the projections in the amount and variety of constellations that both private and public organization are expected to put into orbit over the next decade. Constellations are offering advantages in terms of cost and coverage for everything from communications to Earth observation. Another rocket startup, Relativity Space, just unveiled similar plans for a larger launch vehicle to complement its first small rocket.

#aerospace, #electron, #exit, #falcon, #falcon-9, #international-space-station, #louisiana, #outer-space, #relativity-space, #rocket-lab, #science, #space, #spaceflight, #spaceport, #spacex, #startups, #united-states, #virginia

0

Rocket Lab to go public via SPAC at valuation of $4.1 billion

The SPAC run is on for space startups, which have been relatively slow in their overall exit pace before the current special purpose acquisitions company merger craze got underway. Rocket Lab is the latest, and likely the most notable to jump on the trend, with a deal that will see it combine with a SPAC called Vector and subsequently list on the NASDAQ under the ticker RKLB, with the transaction expected to close in the second quarter of this year.

Rocket Lab, which got its start in New Zealand, and which still launches rockets there with its HQ now shifted to LA, will have a pro forma enterprise value of $4.1 billion via the transaction, with a total cash balance of $750 million once the deal goes through thanks to a PIPE of $470 million with funds invested via Vector, BlackRock and others. At close, existing Rocket Lab shareholders will retain 82% of the total equity in the combined company.

The launch company was founded in 2006, and is led by founder Peter Beck. In 2013, it opened its California headquarters, and it has already completed its first U.S. launch facility at Wallops Island, Virginia. The company’s Electron launch vehicle can carry small payloads to orbit, and is designed to cater to the growing small satellite market, with a focus on responsive and flexible launch options.

Rocket Lab has performed launches on behalf of the U.S. government, including national security payloads, and that’s a key revenue opportunity for it gown forward. Currently, it says it has a backlog of customers, with a projection that it will be ‘EBITDA positive’ in 2023 after adjustments, and fully cash-flow positive by 2024, with a projected run rate of over $1 billion in revenue by 2026.

The company has focused on increasing its ability to launch more frequently in a number of ways. It’s been steadily improving its production capacity, with a focus on its large automated carbon fiber production capabilities. It has also established its U.S. launch site, as mentioned, and will soon open its second launch pad at its existing New Zealand launch site, which is fully privately-owned by Rocket Lab itself. It’s also working on making its Electron vehicle partially reusable, which founder Beck says will help it turn around launches more quickly.

Finally, it has just announced a new heavier-lift launch vehicle called Neutron, with a launch payload capacity of 8 tons – around 16,000 lbs.

#aerospace, #artemis-program, #blackrock, #california, #electron, #louisiana, #new-zealand, #outer-space, #peter-beck, #public, #rocket-lab, #spac, #space, #spaceflight, #spaceport, #tc, #u-s-government, #united-states, #virginia

0

Gunman Who Killed 2 at Louisiana Gun Store Fired 32 Rounds, Sheriff Says

Joshua Williams, who went to the Jefferson Gun Outlet to buy ammunition and “flipped out,” was fatally shot by store employees in the parking lot, the authorities said.

#assaults, #firearms, #gun-control, #jefferson-gun-outlet-metairie-la, #jefferson-parish-la, #lopinto-joseph-p-iii, #louisiana, #murders-attempted-murders-and-homicides, #new-orleans-la, #workplace-hazards-and-violations

0

LA’s Splice gets $55 million for its software bringing beats from bedrooms to bandstands

Splice, the LA-based, AI-infused, beat-making software service for music producers created by the founder of GroupMe, has managed to sample another $55 million in financing from investors for its wildly popular service.

The github for music producers ranging from Hook N SlingMr Hudson, SLY, and Steve Solomon to TechCrunch’s own Megan Rose Dickey, Splice gained a following for its ability to help electronic dance music creators save, share, collaborate and remix music.

The company’s popularity has made it from bedroom djs to the Goldman Sachs boardroom as the financial services giant joined MUSIC, a joint venture between the music executive Matt Pincus and boutique financial services firm, Liontree, in leading the company’s latest $55 million round.  The company’s previous investors include USV, True Ventures, DFJ Growth, and Flybridge.

“The music creation process is going through a digital transformation. Artists are flocking to solutions that offer a user-friendly, collaborative, and affordable platform for music creation,” said Stephen Kerns, a VP with Goldman Sachs’ GS Growth, in a statement. “With 4 million users, Splice is at the forefront of this transformation and is beloved by the creator community. We’re thrilled to be partnering with Steve Martocci and his team at Splice.”

Splice’s financing follows an incredibly acquisitive 2020 for the company, which saw it acquiring music technology companies Audiaire and Superpowered.

In addition to the financing, Splice also nabbed Kakul Srivastava, the vice president of Adobe Creative Cloud Experience and Engagement as a director for its board.

The funding news comes on the heels of Splice’s recent acquisitions of music-tech companies Audiaire and Superpowered, creating more ways to improve and inspire the audio and music-making process. Splice is also pleased to announce that Kakul Srivastava has joined the company’s board.

Steve Martocci at TechCrunch Disrupt in 2016. Image Credits: Getty Images

Splice’s beefed up balance sheet comes as new entrants have started vying for a slice of Splice’s music-making market. These are companies like hardware maker Native Instruments, which launched the Sounds.com marketplace last year, and there’s also Arcade by Output that’s pitching a similar service. 

Meanwhile Splice continues to invest in new technology to make producers’ lives easier. In November 2019 it unveiled its artificial intelligence product that lets producers match samples from different genres using machine learning techniques to find the matches.

“My job is to keep as many people inspired to create as possible” Splice founder and chief executive, Steve Martocci told TechCrunch.

It’s another win for the serial entrepreneur who famously sold his TechCrunch Disrupt Hackathon chat app Group.Me to Skype for $85 million just a year after launching.

#artificial-intelligence, #computing, #dfj-growth, #draper-fisher-jurvetson, #financial-services, #founder, #goldman-sachs, #groupme, #hudson, #louisiana, #machine-learning, #matt-pincus, #megan-rose-dickey, #microsoft, #music-technology, #native-instruments, #serial-entrepreneur, #skype, #splice, #steve-martocci, #tc, #true-ventures, #vice-president, #vp

0

Magical raises $3.3M to modernize calendars

Calendars. They are at the core of how we organize our workdays and meetings, but despite regular attempts to modernize the overall calendar experience, the calendar experience you see today in Outlook or G Suite Google Workspace hasn’t really changed at its core. And for the most part, the area that startups like Calendly or ReclaimAI have focused on in recent years is scheduling.

Magical is a Tel Aviv-based startup that wants to reinvent the calendar experience from the ground up and turn it into more of a team collaboration tool than simply a personal time-management service. The company today announced that it has raised a $3.3 million seed round led by Resolute Ventures, with additional backing from Ibex Investors, Aviv Growth Partners, ORR Partners, Homeward Ventures and Fusion LA, as well as several angel investors in the productivity space.

The idea for the service came from discussions on Supertools, a large workplace-productivity community, which was also founded by Magical founder and CEO Tommy Barav.

Image Credits: Magical

Based on the feedback from the community — and his own consulting work with large Fortune 500 multinationals — Barav realized that time management remains an unsolved business problem. “The time management space is so highly fragmented,” he told me. “There are so many micro tools and frameworks to manage time, but they’re not built inside of your calendar, which is the main workflow.”

Traditional calendars are add-ons to bigger product bundles and find themselves trapped under those, he argues. “The calendar in Outlook is an email sidekick, but it’s actually the center of your day. So there is an unmet need to use the calendar as a time management hub,” he said.

Magical, which is still in private beta, aims to integrate many of the features we’re seeing from current scheduling and calendaring startups, including AI-scheduling and automation tools. But Magical’s ambition is larger than that.

Image Credits: Magical

“We want to redefine how you use a calendar in the first place,” Barav said. “Many of the innovations that we’ve seen are associated with scheduling: how you schedule your time, letting you streamline the way you schedule meetings, how you see your calendar. […] But we’re talking about redefining time management by giving you a better calendar, by bringing these workflows — scheduling, coordinating and utilizing — into your calendar. We’re redefining the use of the calendar in the modern workspace.”

Since Magical is still in its early days, the team is still working out some of the details, but the general idea is to, for example, turn the calendar into the central repository for meeting notes — and Magical will feature tools to collaborate on these notes and share them. Team members will also be able to follow those meeting notes without having to participate in the actual meeting (or get copied on the emails about that meeting).

“We’ll help teams reduce pointless meetings,” Barav noted. To do this, the team is also integrating other service into the calendar experience, including the usual suspects like Zoom and Slack, but also Salesforce and Notion, for example.

“It’s rare that you find an entrepreneur who has so clearly validated its market opportunity,” said Mike Hirshland, a founding partner of Magical investor Resolute Ventures. “Tommy and his team have been talking to thousands of users for three years, they’ve validated the opportunity, and they’ve designed a product from the ground-up that meets the needs of the market. Now it’s ‘go time’ and I’m thrilled to be part of the journey ahead.”

#artificial-intelligence, #calendar, #ceo, #google, #google-workspace, #ical, #louisiana, #microsoft, #microsoft-windows, #outlook-com, #recent-funding, #resolute-ventures, #startups, #tc, #tel-aviv, #time-management

0

With Ironspring Ventures, Texas gets a $61 million new fund focused on ‘industrial’ technologies

From the chemical refineries that line the Gulf Coast to oilfields of West Texas, heavy industry has always been a big part of the economy in the Lone Star State.

Now, as venture capital moves in to the state as part of an exodus from California, a new fund is combining Texas’ industrial past with its high technology future.

That fund is Ironspring Ventures, which has closed its first investment vehicle with $61 million nearly two years after it launched its fundraising efforts.

The fruit of a partnership between Adam Bridgman and Peter J. Holt, the co-founders of an earlier investment vehicle called Holt Ventures, and Ty Findley, a former investor at G.E. Ventures and the Pritzker Group, the firm’s mission is to “accelerate digital adoption across legacy heavy industries,” according to Bridgman.

Each member of the Ironspring team has a long history with industrial technologies and deep roots in the Texas economy. Findley, a managing partner, grew up “in the middle of nowhere in East Texas” but comes from a family of entrepreneurs who built businesses along the Texas and Louisiana border.

“I joined up with our other co-founder and managing partner, Peter Holt,” said Bridgman. “That was really step one for us pursuing this broader mission of investing in legacy industry at the early stage of digital innovation. We were fortunate to find a strong cultural alignment and rare experience with Ty [Findley]. After co-investing over a period of time we got to know each other very well. We joined forces and it’s been a nice journey over the last year-and-a-half of formally launching and formally closing the fund in December.”

The first deal that the three men invested in together was Augmentir, a service providing information and support for remote workers. “Everything comes back to these words ‘digital industrial’ for us,” said Findley. “There’s this massive gap where people forget that almost the majority of GDP in this country is manufacturing.”

So far, Ironspring has invested in four portfolio companies, Mercado, which is developing a service to improve the import process; Icon Build, a company developing 3-D printing tools and technologies for the building industry;  FastRadius, which brings design tools and services for prototyping and industrial design; and GoContractor, a safety and compliance management service.

The firm’s average check size is around $2.5 million and investments will range from $1 million on the low end to $4 million on the high end, according to the firm’s partners. That means looking for what the firm called “post-seed” deals.

And the firm is looking for technology that is transforming how businesses design products, build them, and provide services and operate across the wide range of industrial output.

“We’re trying to organize around those themes,” said Bridgman. 

#california, #corporate-finance, #economy, #entrepreneurship, #gulf-coast, #louisiana, #private-equity, #tc, #texas, #venture-capital

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Why Does Louisiana Consistently Lead the Nation in Murders?

It has problems common to several Southern states, like a high rate of poverty, but also an inheritance of violence.

#crime-and-criminals, #criminal-justice, #firearms, #gun-control, #louisiana, #murders-attempted-murders-and-homicides, #new-orleans-la, #poverty, #prisons-and-prisoners, #southern-states-us

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Janet Irvin Arrested in Case of Teen Found Dead in a Field

Janet Irvin, 37, was charged with failure to report a missing child in the disappearance of Quawan Charles, 15. The case has raised questions about the urgency of the police response.

#autopsies, #charles-quawan-d-2020, #child-abuse-and-neglect, #deaths-fatalities, #irvin-janet, #louisiana

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Why Bill Cassidy Broke With Senate Republicans and Backed Trump’s Trial

The Louisiana senator, usually a reliable conservative vote, angered Republicans by voting to continue with the impeachment trial. But he has increasingly shown an inclination toward pragmatism.

#cassidy-bill-1957, #elections-senate, #impeachment, #louisiana, #senate, #trump-donald-j, #united-states-politics-and-government

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Mate Fertility is aiming to create a franchise of fertility clinics open to everyone

Mate Fertility, the new Los Angeles startup launching today with $2.8 million in financing, has a mission to create a more inclusive network of family planning services for people struggling with the high cost and low availability of fertility clinics around the country.

Founded by serial entrepreneur Oliver Bogner and his brother Gabriel, Mate was born from both brothers’ struggles with trying to start a family. For Oliver, that was when he and his partner were looking at IVF as a way to screen for the BRCA1 gene from her embryos after she found out that she was a carrier. Meanwhile, Gabriel, an IVF baby who is a member of the LGBTQ community, felt that the services for family planning weren’t always accepting of the gay community.

“IVF and surrogacy were the only options for me to have kids,” the younger Bogner said. “And the queer community has been locked out of these services. It became my mission to democratize healthcare for my community.”

Once Oliver started doing research into the market and discovered that there were only 460 fertility clinics in the U.S. and that over 80% were concentrated in five major metropolitan areas, he knew there was an opportunity for a new business.

Mate Fertility co-founders Gabriel and Oliver Bogner. Image Credit: Mate Fertility

The Bogner brothers enlisted famed reproductive endocrinologist Dr. Jeffrey Steinberg, who trained under the British doctors that pioneered In Vitro Fertilization, to come on board and together the three men launched Mate Fertility.

The co-founders have enlisted an impressive array of financiers to back their business boasting an investor base that includes Andy Dunn, the founder of Bonobos; Peter Pham, the co-founder of the LA-based consumer focused company incubator, Science; Patrick Schwarzenegger; Brian Schwartz; the investors behind Roman, Allbirds, and Caspar, Rosecliff Ventures; Pure Imagination Brands; Mana Ventures, and Maschmeyer Group Ventures.

Mate is launching first in Oklahoma City, where two legacy providers are charging anywhere from 10% to 15% above the national average for family planning services. “We’re going in at anywhere from 50% to 60% lower costs than they are,” said Oliver Bogner.

The company said it would offer egg freezing services for as low as $5,000 and IVF for $8,000, while the national average for IVF cycle costs ranges from $15,000 to $18,000, including medication.

“We’re still making healthy margins that allow us to operate the business. It’s not a matter fo these procedures costing more. These 460 clinics are allowed to radically mark up the process,” said the elder Bogner. “One of these clinics is making approximately 1,000% profit margin on every procedure.”

Given the fact that the company estimates roughly 18% of the U.S. population will face some fertility issue, the need for more clinics — setting aside the lower costs — would be enormous.

We need 3,000 clinics to properly serve our population, today we have 460. There’s a huge gap in care,” said Bogner. 

The company is working with the architects behind Dry Bar, Heitler Houstoun, to design its clinics in an effort to popularize and destigmatize the services.

“We were really intrigued by Oliver and Gabe. In terms of what the biggest risks are… you’re not playing around. You’re not creating software, you’re creating life,” said Adam Struck, the founder of Mate Fertility’s lead investment firm, Struck Capital. “The ultimate KPI which is success rate for our patients is top tier. There’s a lot that Nate is doing to ensure that some of the best medical personnel in the world are part of the Mate mission.” 

Mate Fertility offers modern EHR platforms, an e-pharmacy, proven protocols, payment assistance and digital patient and provider portals for services that include IVF, genetic screening, egg freezing, surrogacy and LGBTQ family building treatments, the company said.

Its first locations will be clinics in Oklahoma City, Anchorage, Ark., Bakersfield, Calif. Lancaster, Pa., Austin, and Portland.

#anchorage, #andy-dunn, #arkansas, #austin, #bonobos, #california, #co-founder, #e-pharmacy, #egg-freezing, #ehr, #fertility, #founder, #healthcare, #ivf, #lancaster, #los-angeles, #louisiana, #pennsylvania, #peter-pham, #portland, #reproduction, #rosecliff-ventures, #serial-entrepreneur, #struck-capital, #tc, #united-states

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4 Louisiana Troopers Arrested on Charges of Using Excessive Force

The state troopers, who are also accused of deactivating their body cameras during arrests in 2019 and 2020, will remain on administrative leave, according to the Louisiana State Police.

#brown-jacob-louisiana-state-police-officer, #demoss-dakota-louisiana-state-police-officer, #dickerson-randall-louisiana-state-police-officer, #greene-ronald-d-2019, #harper-george-louisiana-state-police-officer, #louisiana, #police-brutality-misconduct-and-shootings

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Launching Panoramic Ventures, Atlanta’s BIP Capital adds a new partner and plans $300 million new VC fund

The Atlanta-based BIP Capital has a new name for its venture capital operations (Panoramic Ventures); a new partner (Paul Judge); and is launching a $300 million new fund in its bid to plant a flag as the premier venture fund among the rising startup cities across the country.

Miami may have grabbed headlines recently as a new hub for venture capital and technology startups, but like other cities across the Southeast it’s lacked venture funds of a significant size since the early days of the dot-com bubble. Panoramic wants to be the fundraising destination for entrepreneurs outside of traditional tech hubs like Boston, Silicon Valley and New York as these new tech hubs emerge.

Atlanta, which already boasts several startup companies that have achieved billion-dollar valuations including Greenlight Financial and Calendly, has an equally burgeoning startup scene and an opportunity to become the central hub for venture capital investment in a region that encompasses several other rising tech hubs in the Southeast like Birmingham, Miami, Nashville, and New Orleans.

It’s a strategy similar to the one that Drive Capital has employed to become a leading fund in the Midwest and across the U.S.

Under the new partnership, which will include famed early stage Atlanta investor, Paul Judge, BIP Capital’s venture activities will operate under the Panoramic Ventures brand.

Should the firm manage to raise the $300 million it has targeted for Panoramic’s inaugural investment vehicle it would become the largest venture fund in the Southeast.

“It’s important to have a fund at that scale,” said Mark Buffington, a co-founder of BIP Capital and Panoramic Ventures. “You see the venture activity that is increasing in the region [and] one thing that’s been missing is a really active venture fund that can scale up as companies grow.”

Panoramic intends to be active at the seed stage while having the capacity to make investments in later stage venture backed companies as well, according to the two co-founders. And the firm will also try to focus on a more diverse group of entrepreneurs, thanks to the addition of Paul Judge.

Judge, a Black serial entrepreneur and investor, was the co-founder of the Atlanta-based voice recognition tech developer Pindrop, the Wi-Fi startup Luma Home, and security tech developer Purewire.  He’s also an investor several startups across the Southeast through his own venture initiatives, including Techsquare Labs and Judge sits on the investment committee for the SoftBank Opportunity Fund, focused on Black, Hispanic and Native American founders. His portfolio includes companies like LeaseQuery, Cove.tool, OncoLens and Eventeny.

About $125 million has already been soft-circled for the new Panoramic Ventures fund, which expects to work closely with some of the other investment firms that have cropped up or established a presence in the Southeast. That includes firms like Outlander Labs, founded by the husband and wife investment team of Paige and Leura Craig, and the LA-based firm, Mucker Labs, which has an investment partner working out of Nashville.

“There’s been an absence of this type of energy and this type of heft in a venture fund in Atlanta,” said Judge. “That’s the hole that we’ve been aiming to fill.”

Panoramic will invest in Seed, Series A, and Series B funding rounds, the company said in a statement. Investment areas will focus on include business-to-business software as a service companies, healthcare software, financial technologies, digital media, cybersecurity, and frontier technologies. 

#atlanta, #bip-capital, #boston, #business-incubators, #business-software, #calendly, #co-founder, #corporate-finance, #digital-media, #drive-capital, #economy, #energy, #entrepreneurship, #finance, #judge, #louisiana, #miami, #money, #mucker-labs, #nashville, #new-orleans, #new-york, #paige, #pindrop, #private-equity, #softbank-opportunity-fund, #startup-company, #tc, #techsquare-labs, #united-states, #venture-capital, #venture-capital-investment, #voice-recognition

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Beauty, Serenity, Stillness: An Ode to the Final Miles of the Mississippi River

Stark and minimalist in their beauty, the landscapes and communities in Louisiana’s Plaquemines Parish exist in a state of constant change.

#floods, #gulf-of-mexico, #gulf-of-mexico-oil-spill-2010, #hurricane-katrina-2005, #louisiana, #mississippi-river, #oil-petroleum-and-gasoline, #photography, #plaquemines-parish-la, #rivers, #ships-and-shipping, #travel-and-vacations

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Techstars Los Angeles names Matt Kozlov as its new managing director

Techstars Los Angeles, the local Los Angeles-focused branch of the global accelerator network, has named Matt Kozlov as its new managing director.

Kozlov, a longtime Techstars network fixture, has previously served as the head of the organization’s healthcare accelerator through a partnership with Cedars-Sinai and as the head of the Techstars Starburst Space Accelerator, which was focused on space and aerospace startups.

Now, Kozlov turns his attention to the Los Angeles ecosystem broadly.

“I’m humbled to have the opportunity each day to support incredible founders who are solving some of humanity’s greatest challenges,” said Kozlov, in a statement. “As I begin this new role, my goal is to continue to leverage my experience to help generate opportunities for future Techstars LA companies to make meaningful, long-term impact.”

Kozlov’s appointment comes as the Los Angeles tech ecosystem is having something of a moment. As the diaspora out of Silicon Valley continues, the Southern California tech world has proven to be a tempting landing pad during the COVID-19 pandemic. And remote work means that Los Angeles could be a fixture for more investors looking to escape the Bay.

Beyond Southern California’s coastal appeal is a vibrant technology ecosystem that encompasses enterprise software, financial services, healthcare, aerospace and defense, robotics, ecommerce and social media. It’s the home of social networking favorites Snap and TikTok’s U.S. base of operations and SpaceX’s significant presence has born a number of talented hardware and engineering startups.

LA is truly having a moment and Kozlov’s experience with some of the less-well-known corners of the city’s tech ecosystem could be a boon for the Techstars program.

“I’m thrilled by the selection of Matt as the new Managing Director for Techstars LA,” said Anna Barber, former Managing Director, Techstars LA, who stepped down from the role in November to join venture firm M13 as Partner, in a statement. “He is a talented investor and longstanding leader in LA’s Techstars community, and has been an essential and valued mentor for the program for the past four years. He embodies the Techstars values of #givefirst and I have every confidence that he is the right leader to continue building on what we’ve established in the LA community.”

Collectively, the 40 alumni companies who have participated in Techstars Los Angeles accelerator program have raised over $126 million and have a combined market cap of $328.6 million.

“Techstars LA plays a critical role in the Los Angeles tech ecosystem as the premier startup accelerator, providing valuable mentorship and funding for dozens of companies a year,” said Spencer Rascoff, Chair of dot.LA and Los Angeles angel investor. “I’m very excited that Matt will be the new Managing Director of Techstars LA. He brings extensive experience in healthcare and aerospace investing and has been an incredible mentor and leader to the companies of the Techstars Starburst Space Accelerator over the last several years.”

 

#aerospace, #anna-barber, #chair, #david-cohen, #e-commerce, #enterprise-software, #financial-services, #head, #healthcare, #los-angeles, #louisiana, #m13, #matt-kozlov, #mentorships, #premier, #sinai, #social-media, #spacex, #spencer-rascoff, #startup-accelerator, #tc, #techstars, #united-states

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After pulling in around $80 million last year in revenue, LA’s StackCommerce is acquired by TPG’s Integrated Media Company

The Los Angeles-based commerce and content platform StackCommerce has been acquired by the Integrated Media Company, a holding company set up by the massive private equity fund, TPG, to acquire new media businesses.

StackCommerce’s affiliate buying platform has distributed more than $175 million on its platform by going directly to merchants. Through its platform publishers can make between 15% to 20% of gross compared with 5% on an affiliate marketing site. Stackcommerce takes 30% to 40% of the transaction, according to a person with knowledge of the company’s operations.

As a part of Integrated Media, StackCommerce will join properties like Fandom and Goal.com. With the firepower of TPG behind the combined entity, Integrated Media could bolt on other media companies and then monetize them using the sales engine developed by StackCommerce.

“Josh and the team at Stack have already built a large and important company in the e-commerce ecosystem with almost no outside investment,” said Andy Doyle, Operations Director at TPG. “And yet we’re still in the early stages of the market’s evolution. We feel fortunate to partner with a team that has such deep expertise in commerce and technology. We look forward to supporting Stack’s rapid growth as it serves more publishers and influencers and provides an even better shopping experience for audiences.”

It’s a business that’s been incredibly profitable for the Los Angeles company, which raised $1 million from the LA-based accelerator and incubator, Amplify and a few angel investors. That $1 million round took the company to a business that employed around 90 people and was generating $80 million in revenue in 2020, according to a person familiar with the company.

StackCommerce has partnered with over 1,000 publishers and 5,000 brands including CNN, CNET, Verizon Media, Hearst, Mashable, NY Post, TMZ, MarketWatch, and more, according to a statement.

“We founded StackCommerce nearly a decade ago to reimagine affiliate commerce for publishers by enabling them to own the customer data and user experience top to bottom. We’ve been pioneering the commerce and content space ever since, helping publishers to build and scale this new revenue stream at a higher rate and with access to content creation services, user acquisition, and more,” said Josh Payne, the founder and chief executive of StackCommerce, in a statement. “Today is not just an important day for Stack, but for the future of shoppable content. TPG’s in-depth media expertise will make for a brighter future for our partners through further investment in our industry-leading commerce tools and services.”

StackCommerce was advised by investment bank CG Petsky Prunier, part of the Canaccord Genuity Group. Cooley LLP acted as legal advisor to StackCommerce.

 

#cnet, #companies, #cooley-llp, #e-commerce, #hearst, #josh-payne, #los-angeles, #louisiana, #mashable, #media, #stackcommerce, #tc, #tmz, #tpg, #verizon-media

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