Fintech giant Klarna raises $639M at a $45.6B valuation amid ‘massive momentum’ in the US

Just over three months after its last funding round, European fintech giant Klarna is announcing today that it has raised another $639 million at a staggering post-money valuation of $45.6 billion.

Rumors swirled in recent weeks that Klarna had raised more money at a valuation north of $40 billion. But the Swedish buy now, pay later behemoth and upstart bank declined to comment until now.

SoftBank’s Vision Fund 2 led the latest round, which also included participation from existing investors Adit Ventures, Honeycomb Asset Management and WestCap Group. The new valuation represents a 47.3% increase over Klarna’s post-money valuation of $31 billion in early March, when it raised $1 billion, and a 330% increase over its $10.6 billion valuation at the time of its $650 million raise last September. Previous backers include Sequoia Capital, SilverLake, Dragoneer and Ant Group, among others.

The latest financing cements 16-year-old Klarna’s position as the highest-valued private fintech in Europe.

In an exclusive interview with TechCrunch, Klarna CEO and founder Sebastian Siemiatkowski said the company has seen explosive growth in the U.S. and plans to use its new capital in part to continue to grow there and globally.

In particular, over the past year, the fintech has seen “massive momentum” in the country, with more than 18 million American consumers now using Klarna, he said. That’s up from 10 million at the end of last year’s third quarter, and up 118% year over year. Klara is now live with 24 of the top 100 U.S. retailers, which it says is “more than any of its competitors.”

Overall, Klarna is live in 20 markets, has more than 90 million global active users and more than 2 million transactions a day conducted on its platform. The company’s momentum can be seen in its impressive financial results. In the first quarter, Klarna notched $18.1 billion in volume compared to $9.9 billion in the prior year first quarter. In all of 2020, it processed $53 billion in volume. To put that into context; Affirm’s financial report in May projected it would process $8.04 billion in volume for the entire fiscal year of 2021 and Afterpay is projecting $16 billion in volume for its entire fiscal year. 

March 2021 also represented a record month for global shopping volume with $6.9 billion of purchases made through the Klarna platform.

Meanwhile, in 2020, Klara hit over a billion in revenue. While the company was profitable for its first 14 years of life, it has not been profitable the last two, according to Siemiatkowski, and that’s been by design.

“We’ve scaled up so massively in investments in our growth and technology, but running on a loss is very odd for us,” he told TechCrunch. “We will get back to profitability soon.”

Klarna has entered six new markets this year alone, including New Zealand and France, where it just launched this week. It is planning to expand into a number of new markets this year. The company has about 4,000 employees with several hundred in the U.S. in markets such as New York and Los Angeles. It also has offices in Stockholm, London, Manchester, Berlin, Madrid and Amsterdam. 

While Klarna is partnered with over 250,000 retailers around the world (including Macy’s, Ikea, Nike, Saks), its buy now, pay later feature is also available direct to consumers via its shopping app. This means that consumers can use Klarna’s app to pay immediately or later, as well as manage spending and view available balances. They can also do things like initiate refunds, track deliveries and get price-drop notifications.

“Our shopping browser allows users to use Klarna everywhere,” Siemiatkowski said. “No one else is offering that, and are rather limited to integrating with merchants.”

Image Credits: Klarna

Other things the company plans to do with its new capital is focus on acquisitions, particularly acqui-hires, according to Siemiatkowski. According to Crunchbase, the company has made nine known acquisitions over time — most recently picking up Los Gatos-based content creation services provider Toplooks.ai.

“We’re the market leader in this space and we want to find new partners that want to support us in this,” Siemiatkowski told TechCrunch. “That gives us better prerequisites to be successful going forward. Now we have more cash and money available to invest further in the long term.”

Klarna has long been rumored to be going public via a direct listing. Siemiatkowski said that the company in many ways already acts like a public company in that it offers stock to all its employees, and reports financials — giving the impression that the company is not in a hurry to go the public route.

“We report quarterly to national authorities and are a fully regulated bank so do all the things you expect to see from public companies such as risk control and compliance,” he told TechCrunch. “We’re reaching a point for it to be a natural evolution for the company to IPO. But we’re not preparing to IPO anytime soon.”

At the time of its last funding round, Klarna announced its GiveOne initiative to support planet health. With this round, the company is again giving 1% of the equity raised back to the planet.

Naturally, its investors are bullish on what the company is doing and its market position. Yanni Pipilis, managing partner for SoftBank Investment Advisers, said the company’s growth isfounded on a deep understanding of how the purchasing behaviors of consumers are changing,” an evolution SoftBank believes is only accelerating. 

Eric Munson, founder and CIO of Adit Ventures, said his firm believes the “best is yet to come as Klarna multiplies their addressable market through global expansion.” 

For Siemiatkowski, what Klarna is trying to achieve is to compete with the $1 trillion-plus credit card industry.

We really see right now all the signs are there. True competition is coming to this space, this decade,” he said. “This is an opportunity to genuinely disrupt the retail banking space.”

 

#amsterdam, #ant-group, #apps, #bank, #berlin, #bnpl, #buy-now-pay-later, #europe, #finance, #fintech, #france, #funding, #fundings-exits, #ikea, #klarna, #london, #los-angeles, #macys, #madrid, #manchester, #market-leader, #money, #new-york, #new-zealand, #nike, #payments, #recent-funding, #sebastian-siemiatkowski, #sequoia-capital, #softbank-investment-advisers, #softbank-vision-fund-2, #stockholm, #united-states, #venture-capital

0

8 investors and founders highlight Valencia’s potential as a fintech and cybersecurity hub

While Madrid and Barcelona tend to attract the buzz when it comes to tech startups in Spain, Valencia is slowly and surely making a name for itself as a growing tech ecosystem.

The country’s third-largest city, Valencia features great beaches, sunny weather all year, and affordable housing and healthcare. And with a population of only around a million people, it’s a little more manageable compared to its bigger cousins.

The city also topped the InterNations Expat City Ranking 2020 as one of the best cities for expats to settle in. What’s more, it produces plenty of talent — about 25,000 bachelor’s and masters degrees are issued in the city every year.

So to find out what the startup scene in Valencia looks like, we spoke with eight local investors, executives and founders. The city appears to be strong in areas such as travel, AI, cybersecurity, fintech, agritech, travel tech, biotech, sports tech, and VR. The blockchain/crytpo scene could do with some improvement, according to a few respondents.

The city’s investment scene is not particularly large and most investors focus on seed funding, but it’s growing as family-owned companies, and individual and institutional investors turn to tech. BIGBAN is a private nonprofit angel investor network based in Valencia, and incubators and accelerator programs continue to proliferate, supported by corporates and local government initiatives such as Startup Valencia.

Notable startups in the city include Streamloots, Voicemod, Jeff, Beroomers, Flywire and Blinkfire Analytics.

We surveyed:


Luz Adell, CFO/partner, Draper B1

Which sectors is your tech ecosystem strong in? What are you most excited by? What does it lack?
Key sectors include fintech, agritech and travel tech.

Which are the most interesting startups in your city?
Streamloots, Criptan, Voicemod, Boatjump, Zeleros, WiTraC and Sales Layer.

What are the tech investors like in Valencia? What’s their focus?
The Valencia investor scene is growing. There are more family-owned companies, and individual and institutional investors, and they have also invested capital. We have some of the top incubators and accelerator programs in Spain. BIGBAN, a private nonprofit angel investor network based in Valencia, is building and developing one of the most dynamic and active investor communities in Spain.

With the shift to remote working, do you think people will stay in Valencia, or will they move out? Will others move in?
People will stay or move in to the city. Expats and digital nomads prefer moving to Valencia.

Who are the key startup people in the city (e.g., investors, founders, lawyers, designers)?
Startup Valencia, BIGBAN, Lanzadera, Plug and Play, GoHub, Angels Capital, Demium, Tbig Advisory, KM Zero, BioHub and Draper B1.

Where do you think the city’s tech scene will be in five years?
Valencia is becoming a pole of attraction for companies and talent thanks to an ecosystem in continuous evolution, with a clear entrepreneurial mindset.

Jordi Díaz Maiquez, CEO, Play&go experience

Which sectors is your tech ecosystem strong in? What are you most excited by? What does it lack?
Tourism.

Which are the most interesting startups in your city?
Zeleros.

What are the tech investors like in Valencia? What’s their focus?
Demium, and GoHub for deep tech.

With the shift to remote working, do you think people will stay in Valencia, or will they move out? Will others move in?
People will stay or move in.

Where do you think the city’s tech scene will be in five years?
Much better than now.

Helena Ortiz Gil, CMO, Techer Team

Which sectors is your tech ecosystem strong in? What are you most excited by? What does it lack?
Virtual reality is strong and exciting. Blockchain could be improved.

Which are the most interesting startups in your city?
Techer Team and some Lanzadera projects.

What is the investing scene like in Valencia? What’s the investors’ focus?
It could improve.

With the shift to remote working, do you think people will stay in Valencia, or will they move out? Will others move in?
Most people stayed back.

Who are the key startup people in the city (e.g., investors, founders, lawyers, designers)?
Lanzadera, Valencia Activa, Demium and GoHub.

Where do you think the city’s tech scene will be in five years?
I hope it improves.

Patricia Pastor, director, GoHub

Which sectors is your tech ecosystem strong in? What are you most excited by? What does it lack?
Water, industry, smart city tech.

Which are the most interesting startups in your city?
Fivecomm, Sales Layer, Quibim, Jeff and Voicemod.

What are the tech investors like in Valencia? What’s their focus?
GoHub for B2B in AI, 5G, cybersecurity and sustainability.

With the shift to remote working, do you think people will stay in Valencia, or will they move out? Will others move in?
We’ll see hundreds of remote workers.

Where do you think the city’s tech scene will be in five years?
In the top 15.

Fernando Marzal, VP of New Business, Jeff

Which sectors is your tech ecosystem strong in? What are you most excited by? What does it lack?
Day-to-day services.

Which are the most interesting startups in your city?
Flywire, Streamloots, Voicemod, Blinkfire and Demium.

What is the tech investment scene like in Valencia? What’s investors’ focus?
Seed investors.

With the shift to remote working, do you think people will stay in Valencia, or will they move out? Will others move in?
Stay. Valencia is one the better places to work thanks to weather, city size, beach, etc.

Who are the key startup people in the city (e.g., investors, founders, lawyers, designers)?
Startup Valencia Association.

Where do you think the city’s tech scene will be in five years?
One of the main startup cities in Europe.

Enrique Penichet, founding partner, Draper B1

Which sectors is your tech ecosystem strong in? What are you most excited by? What does it lack?
Valencia’s tech ecosystem is strong on providing tech talent. There are a lot of people with capabilities in AI and cybersecurity. Because of this some corporate accelerators are growing strong here, mainly in fintech, such as Bankia Fintech.

We have a unicorn in fintech Flywire, and a foreign fintech scaleup, Creditas (from Brazil), has established their HQ here. We also have some good startups in fintech growing here such as Criptan, Colectual or The Logic Value.

Valencia has also been traditionally strong in video gaming. ESAT, a globally recognized academy located here, provides great talent, and mainly due to this, we have some successful startups such as Voicemod or Streamloots in the gaming industry. In fact, one of the major gaming events in Spain and Europe, Dreamhack, is held in Valencia.

Due to Lanzadera, together with Station F, one of the biggest accelerators in Europe is located in Valencia, and there are now startups growing in all verticals.

Which are the most interesting startups in your city?
Flywire, Jeff, Streamloots, Voicemod, Criptan, Cronoshare, Quibim, Cuidum and Gokoan.

What are the tech investors like in Valencia? What’s their focus?
Most investors are business angels and early-stage investors. Draper B1, Angels Capital, Zriser, and Keith VC.

With the shift to remote working, do you think people will stay in Valencia, or will they move out? Will others move in?
Both things are happening, Valencia is a nice place to work, near the Mediterranean Sea. It was recognized by Bloomberg as the No. 1 city in the world to work. So, many people are coming here to work remotely. At the same time, some people are leaving to work from the countryside.

Who are the key startup people in the city (e.g., investors, founders, lawyers, designers)?
Accelerators and founders.

Where do you think the city’s tech scene will be in five years?
A bunch of companies from Valencia have closed Series A rounds. Hopefully, in five years it will be commonplace to see some Series B or C or D happening. Right now, probably only Flywire has accomplished that.

Javier Moliner Urdiales, CEO, Howlanders

Which sectors is your tech ecosystem strong in? What are you most excited by? What does it lack?
E-commerce, travel and Industry 4.0.

Which are the most interesting startups in your city?
Howlanders, Jeff, Airhopping, Landbot and WiTraC.

What are the tech investors like in Valencia? What’s their focus?
Focus on seed. Already some years of experience, mainly BA, small VC or crowd.

With the shift to remote working, do you think people will stay in Valencia, or will they move out? Will others move in?
People will move in due to quality of life, low costs, the location and local government support.

Who are the key startup people in the city (e.g., investors, founders, lawyers, designers)?
Javier Megias and Juan Roig.

Where do you think the city’s tech scene will be in five years?
Bigger, stronger, totally international community thanks to new arrivals (startups and remote workers), more national or international VCs managed locally from Valencia.

Jorge Soriano Lázaro, CEO, Criptan

Which sectors is your tech ecosystem strong in? What are you most excited by? What does it lack?
Cryptocurrencies, or using crypto.

Which are the most interesting startups in your city?
Balio.

What are the tech investors like in Valencia? What’s their focus?
Draper B1.

With the shift to remote working, do you think people will stay in Valencia, or will they move out? Will others move in?
Yes, people are staying here. We were working remotely since the beginning.

Who are the key startup people in the city (e.g., investors, founders, lawyers, designers)?
Draper B1, Enrique Penichet and Signne.

Where do you think the city’s tech scene will be in five years?
One of the most innovative in Europe.

#artificial-intelligence, #barcelona, #e-commerce, #ec-investor-survey, #europe, #finance, #investor-survey, #iot, #madrid, #spain, #startups, #station-f, #tc, #valencia, #venture-capital

0

ifeel, another well-being platform that blends self-care tools with 1-2-1 therapy, scores $6.6M

If the pandemic has been good for anything it’s been good for the therapy business and for startups targeting mental health, with VCs kept very busy signing checks. To wit, here’s another one: Madrid-based ifeel has bagged €5.5 million (~$6.6M) in Series A funding, led by Nauta Capital.

The startup was founded back in 2017 — initially as a consumer-focused therapy platform — but last year it pivoted to a hybrid business model, tapping into demand from businesses to offer staff emotional support during the public health crisis. So it’s available both to individuals via monthly subscription or as part of employer’s or insurance provider’s cover

It says that pandemic pivot has resulted in 1,000% growth in its b2b business.

Companies it’s signed up to offer its platform to their staff include AXA Partners, Glovo and Gympass.

“We have a total of 400K users on the platform (b2c and b2b),” says co-founder Amir Kaplan. “We have 100,000 eligible covered who have access to ifeel as a benefit (through our insurance and wellness partners or direct with ifeel).

“The 100K grew 10x from September 2020 and is the largest trend we are experiencing these days. Employees of 100 companies use ifeel on a weekly basis.”

ifeel’s platform delivers both live therapy sessions with licensed psychologists but also provides users with self-care tool such as daily mood trackers, recommended exercises and activities to expand the support available.

“By combining self-care and guided therapies, ifeel maximises engagement and retention of its users — with 90% reporting improved emotional and mental well-being after using ifeel,” it claims.

The startup is using AI technology in the self-care portion of its platform — to recommend “the most relevant” content or exercise to its users, per Kaplan. But he also says it’s looking at using the tech to assist the therapist practice by developing dedicated tools inside the platform.

ifeel has an international founding team, hailing from three countries (Israel, Italy and Mexico), and says its main markets so far are Spain, France, Brazil and Mexico. While its b2b and insurance network coverage extends to 20 countries and four languages (English, Spanish, French and Portuguese).

With so much competition in the mental health tools space — from mindfulness apps, to internet-delivered CBT programs, to therapy platforms — how does ifeel see itself standing out?

Kaplan suggests it has an advantage of being “global from day one”, and also flags a “strong technology integration focus” which he says has allowed it to plug into insurance companies and wellness players — to become a “main service provider”.

“Very early we partnered with global leading companies and we support them in many countries (compared to specific country players like in Germany and UK,” he tells TechCrunch. “The platform approach is different from ‘online therapy’ companies or ‘mindfulness apps’.

“We want our users to manage their emotional well being on our platform no matter the need. In this way we create millions of engagement events that are customized to the user’s needs and allow users over time to use different parts of our platform in different life situations.”

#brazil, #europe, #france, #fundings-exits, #germany, #health, #ifeel, #insurance, #israel, #italy, #madrid, #meditation, #mental-health, #mexico, #mindfulness, #nauta-capital, #online-therapy, #self-care, #spain, #therapist, #therapy, #united-kingdom

0

TaxDown banks ~$3M for tech that helps people get their taxes done

Madrid-based TaxDown, which automates income tax filing by calculating regional deductions due to users so they don’t have to navigate complex tax rules themselves, has raised €2.4 million (~$3M) in seed funding.

US-based FJ Labs has joined TaxDown’s investment board as it closes the seed round. It says all its previous investors participated in the round, including James Argalas (Presidio Union); Abac Nest, Abac’s venture capital business; Baldomero Falcones, the former Chairman at Mastercard; and the founders of Jobandtalent, Juan Urdiales and Felipe Navío (another Madrid-based startup).

For the past three years TaxDown been offering a service in Spain but is now eyeing international expansion, as well as further growth in its home market.

Last year, it says it managed more than €29M in taxes for users — delivering savings of €4M+ to users.

Its target is to hit 500,000 users in Spain this year. While international expansion is planned for the second half of 2021, with TaxDown saying it’s focused on other European and Latin American markets.

“From the beginning, our ambition has been to help people fill in their taxes all over the world. That is why we developed our proprietary software/tax language that allows a tax expert with no coding capabilities to translate the tax law into calculation and logic that can be interpreted by our backend seamlessly,” says Enrique García, CEO and co-founder. “This tax language allowed us to launch in Spain in 4 months with only one tax consultant. We are confident that we can launch a new country in only 6 months.”

“The tax filing process is far from being simple,” he goes on, explaining how its tech simplifies income tax filing in Spain. “Currently, when using the Spanish Tax Agency tax-filling tool, taxpayers need to manually apply deductions on their tax forms. The problem is, with national regional deductions being different in each region in Spain, taxpayers often do not even know they’re entitled to those deductions. Thus, by not applying them to their tax form, they lose money. What TaxDown does is leverage the advanced Spanish Tax Agency technology, which offers an API to request the financial data related to a taxpayer — always with prior authorization from the user — with 2.000+ datapoints.

“Once we have that, our algorithm ‘RITA’ is capable of understanding the user’s personal and financial data, select the optimum questions that the user needs to answer — an average of 9 over a database of 3.000+ – and precisely calculate the tax return, with no errors.”

“Technology is the heart of TaxDown,” he adds. “Besides our algorithm RITA that has been trained with over 40.000+ tax returns, today we also use AI to help our ‘taxers’ with tips on how to lower future tax bills, and we have started working on live income tax simulation for our users throughout the entire year.”

García says TaxDown calculated more than 42,000 tax returns last year with a team of just two in-house tax experts — thanks to proprietary internal tools which allow them to handle this scale (by being “80x more efficient than the Spanish average”, as he puts it). He adds that further efficiency gains are expected.

“We have developed a machine-learning tool that flags the tax returns that need to be reviewed before filing based on historical data. Thus, we continuously increase the percentage of tax returns that are automatically submitted with no manual intervention,” he tells TechCrunch, adding: “Thanks to this feature, we expect to improve our efficiency at least 5x versus last year.”

According to García, TaxDown has never had any filings rejected for inaccuracies because he says its algorithms continually run tests and validate the information with the authorities. “Furthermore, our technology can flag errors in real time in case that there is a discrepancy, so our tax experts can manually check the tax return form if needed,” he adds.

Its business model — currently — is a sort of twist on freemium, in that it will only charge users if the income tax savings it calculates for them exceed €35.

García says that so far an average of three out of 10 users see financial savings from using its tool — but he suggests it’s not only savings that motivate users; he says they also want reassurance that they are taking “the best approach with their taxes: doing them effortlessly, correctly, with all the guarantees, tapping for experts’ live help at any time, ensuring the best result they can get, and of course knowing that we have their backs in case of an audit”.

Given that wider relationship it’s building with users, TaxDown sees potential to evolve its business model by expanding to offer additional fintech services, such as financial advice, in the future.

“Our vision goes far beyond income tax return preparation, we believe that tax data is becoming one of the most valuable data assets for people (take Trump’s tax returns for example), and we want to assess our ’taxers’ based on the best and more qualitative information that we can get,” says García. “Therefore, in the future we want to be a trusted financial advisor not just for taxes, but for personal finances as well. We believe we are well positioned to be an intermediary between our users and financial institutions.”

 

#ai, #artificial-intelligence, #europe, #finance, #fintech, #fj-labs, #fundings-exits, #madrid, #recent-funding, #startups, #taxdown

0

Micromobility startup Helbiz to go public via a SPAC, and will expand into ghost kitchens

Micromobility startup Helbiz, which now operates across Europe and the USA, is merging with a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) to become a publicly listed company, giving it a war chest to potentially roll-up smaller competitors in the space, as well as the resources to expand into “cloud” or “ghost” kitchens as part of a move into food delivery.

Helbiz intends to merge with GreenVision Acquisition Corp. (Nasdaq: GRNV) in the second quarter of 2021. The combined entity will be named Helbiz Inc. and will be listed on the Nasdaq Capital Market under the new ticker symbol, “HLBZ.”

The transaction includes $30 million PIPE anchored by institutional investors and approximately $80 million in net proceeds will be fed into Helbiz’s micromobility and advertising businesses, which have 2.7 million users.

Helbiz says the merged entity will have a valuation of $408 million, and by run Helbiz’s existing management under CEO Salvatore Palella.

Palella said: “Through this transaction, we’re committed to fulfilling our vision in revolutionizing transport by using micromobility to become a seamless last-mile solution.”

He further revealed to me that the company plans to establish “ghost kitchens” in Milan and Washington, DC later this year, with the aim of introducing a five-minute delivery time.

Helbiz has tried to differentiate itself from other players like Lime and Bird by offering e-scooters, e-bicycles and e-mopeds all on one platform.

Key to Helbiz’s offering is an integrated geofencing platform that tends to appeal to city authorities who don’t want scooters left in random places, as well as a swappable battery that enables easier charging of the devices. Its subscription service allows users to take unlimited 30-minute trips on its e-bikes and e-scooters every month.

In Europe the company currently operates a fleet of e-scooters and e-bicycles in Milan, Turin, Verona, Rome, Madrid and Belgrade, and in the U.S. it operates in Washington, DC, Alexandria, Arlington and Miami.

David Fu, chairman, and CEO of GreenVision, commented: “Helbiz has distinguished itself as the only company to offer e-scooters, e-bicycles, and e-mopeds all on one user-friendly platform… Helbiz has a proven and capital-light business model that combines hardware, software, and services with extensive customer relationships.”

#arlington, #bird, #dc, #e-bikes, #e-mopeds, #e-scooters, #electric-bicycle, #europe, #exit, #food-delivery, #greenvision-acquisition-corp, #helbiz, #italy, #lime, #madrid, #miami, #milan, #moped, #rome, #scooter, #spac, #special-purpose-acquisition-company, #startups, #tc, #transport, #transportation, #united-states, #washington-dc

0

Miami-based Ironhack raises $20 million for its coding bootcamps as demand for coders continues

Ironhack, a company offering programming bootcamps across Europe and North and South America, has raised $20 million in its latest round of funding.

The Miami-based company with locations in Amsterdam, Barcelona, Berlin, Lisbon, Madrid, Mexico City, Miami, Paris and Sao Paulo said it will use the money to build out more virtual offerings to compliment the company’s campuses.

Over the next five years, 13 million jobs will be added to the tech industry in the U.S., according to Ironhack co-founder Ariel Quiñones. That’s in addition to another 20 million jobs that Quiñones expects to come from the growth of the technology sector in the EU.

Ironhack isn’t the only bootcamp to benefit from this growth. Last year, Lambda School raised $74 million for its coding education program.

Ironhack’s raised its latest round from Endeavor Catalyst, a fund that invests in entrepreneurs from emerging and underserved markets; Lumos Capital, which was formed by investors with a long history in education technology; Creas Capital, a Spanish impact investment firm; and Brighteye, a European edtech investor.

Prices for the company’s classes vary by country. In the U.S. an Ironhack bootcamp costs $12,000, while that figure is more like $3,000 for classes in Mexico City.

The company offers classes in subjects ranging from web development to UX/UI design and data analytics to cybersecurity, according to a statement. 

“We believe that practical skills training, a supportive global community and career development programs can give everyone, regardless of their education or employment history, the ability to write their stories through technology,” said Ariel Quiñones, co-founder of Ironhack.

Since its launch in 2013, the company has graduated more than 8,000 students, with a job placement rate of 89%, according to data collected as of July 2020. Companies who have employed Ironhack graudates include Capgemini, Siemens, and Santander, the company said.

 

#amsterdam, #barcelona, #berlin, #capgemini, #co-founder, #companies, #education-technology, #europe, #european-union, #ironhack, #lambda-school, #lisbon, #madrid, #mexico-city, #miami, #north-america, #paris, #santander, #sao-paulo, #siemens, #south-america, #tc, #united-states, #web-development

0

Portugal’s Faber reaches $24.3M for its second fund aimed at data-driven startups from Iberia

Portuguese VC Faber has hit the first close of its Faber Tech II fund at €20.5 million ($24.3 million). The fund will focus on early-stage data-driven startups starting from Southern Europe and the Iberian peninsula, with the aim of reaching a final close of €30 million in the coming months. The new fund targets pre-series A and early-stage startups in Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning and Data Science.

The fund is backed by European Investment Fund (EIF) and the local Financial Development Institution (IFD), with a joint commitment of €15 million (backed by the Investment Plan for Europe – the Juncker Plan and through the Portugal Tech program), alongside other private institutional and individual investors.

Alexandre Barbosa, Faber’s Managing Partner, said “The success of the first close of our new fund allows us to foresee a growth in the demand for this type of investment, as we believe digital transformation through Intelligence Artificial, Machine Learning and data science are increasingly relevant for companies and their businesses, and we think Southern Europe will be the launchpad of a growing number.”

Faber has already ‘warehoused’ three initial investments. It co-financed a 15.6 million euros Series A for SWORD Health – portuguese startup that created the first digital physiotherapy system combining artificial intelligence and clinical teams. It led the pre-seed round of YData, a startup with a data-centric development platform that provides data science professionals tools to deal with accessing high-quality and meaningful data while protecting its privacy. It also co-financed the pre-seed round of Emotai, a neuroscience-powered analytics and performance-boosting platform for virtual sports.

Faber was a first local investor in the first wave of Portugal’s most promising startups, such as Seedrs (co-founded by Carlos Silva, one f Faber’s Partners) which recently announced its merger with CrowdCube); Unbabel; Codacy and Hole19, among others.

Faber’s main focus is deep-tech and data science startups and as such it’s assembled around 20 experts, researchers, Data Scientists, CTO’s, Founders, AI and Machine Learning professors, as part of its investment strategy.

In particular, it’s created the new role of Professor-in-residence, the first of whom is renowned professor Mário Figueiredo from Lisbon’s leading tech university Instituto Superior Técnico. His interests include signal processing, machine learning, AI and optimization, being a highly cited researcher in these fields.

Speaking to TechCrunch in an interview Barbosa added: “We’ve seen first-time, but also second and third-time entrepreneurs coming over to Lisbon, Porto, Barcelona, Valencia, Madrid and experimenting with their next startup and considering starting-up from Iberia in the first place. But also successful entrepreneurs considering extending their engineering teams to Portugal and building engineering hubs in Portugal or Spain.”

“We’ve been historically countercyclical, so we found that startups came to, and appears in Iberia back in 2012 / 2013. This time around mid-2020, we’re very bullish on what’s we can do for the entrepreneurial engine of the economy. We see a lot happening – especially around our thesis – which is basically the data stack, all things data AI-driven, machine learning, data science, and we see that as a very relevant core. A lot of the transformation and digitization is happening right now, so we see a lot of promising stuff going on and a lot of promising talent establishing and setting up companies in Portugal and Spain – so that’s why we think this story is relevant for Europe as a whole.”

#articles, #artificial-intelligence, #barcelona, #crowdcube, #cto, #entrepreneurship, #europe, #european-investment-fund, #machine-learning, #madrid, #managing-partner, #neuroscience, #portugal, #private-equity, #seedrs, #spain, #startup-company, #tc, #valencia

0

Spain’s Savana Medica raises $15 million to bring its AI toolkit turning clinical notes into care insights to the US

Savana, a machine learning-based service that turns clinical notes into structured patient information for physicians and pharmacists, has raised $15 million to take its technology from Spain to the U.S., the company said.

The investment was led by Cathay Innovation with participation from the Spanish investment firm Seaya Ventures, which led the company’s previous round, and new investors like MACSF, a French insurance provider for doctors. 

The company has already processed 400 million electronic medical records in English, Spanish, German, and French.

Founded in Madrid in 2014, the company is relocating to New York and is already working with the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies and over 100 healthcare facilities.

“Our mission is to predict the occurrence of disease at the patient level. This focuses our resources on discovering new ways of providing medical knowledge almost in real time — which is more urgent than ever in the context of the pandemic,” said Savana chief executive Jorge Tello. “Healthcare challenges are increasingly global, and we know that the application of AI across health data at scale is essential to accelerate health science.”

Company co-founder and chief medical officer, Dr. Ignacio Hernandez Medrano, also emphasized that while the company is collecting hundreds of millions of electronic records, it’s doing its best to keep that information private.

“One of our main value propositions is that the information remains controlled by the hospital, with privacy guaranteed by the de-identification of patient data before we process it,” he said. 

 

#articles, #artificial-intelligence, #disease, #electronic-health-records, #health, #machine-learning, #madrid, #new-york, #pharmaceutical, #pharmacy, #seaya-ventures, #spain, #tc, #united-states

0

Spain’s startup ecosystem: 9 investors on remote work, green shoots and 2020 trends

As reported in the first half of our Spain-focused VC survey, the nation’s startup ecosystem continues to grow and is keeping pace with ecosystems in more developed European countries such as U.K., France, Sweden and Germany.

While main hubs Madrid and Barcelona bump heads politically, tech ecosystems in each city have been developing with local support. According to this regional investor database, Spain is home to 62 angels, 84 seed funds and 19 Series A and beyond institutional funds.

As the capital and financial center, Madrid enjoys proximity to political power and multinational companies, which is likely why it’s home to a larger proportion of fintech startups. According to Dealroom, between 2015 and 2019, Madrid’s emerging companies raised €1.5 billion. In recent years, its Arganzuela district has become known as a startup hub, but Barcelona’s Districte de la innovació is also home to a growing number of established and upcoming technology companies.

May of 2020 saw a resumption of VC activity with €70.89 million invested in startups. Wallabox, the Barcelona-based electric charger company, closed the second part of €12 million from a Series A investment. Also in May, Belvo raised €9.09 million, Accure Therapeutics €7.6 million and Cubiq Foods €4 million.

Notable companies and data points:

  • Voovio Technologies — raised €15 million from Moira Capital.
  • MOVO — €13 million from Delivery Hero, Seaya Ventures and others.
  • Lana — $12.5 million from Base10, Cathay Innovation and other investors.
  • ProntoPiso — €1.6 million from existing shareholders.
  • Colvin — raised €14 million.
  • U.S./Spanish insurtech startup CoverWallet was sold to AON for $330 million.
  • MediQuo — raised €4 million.
  • Factorial — raised a €15 million in a Series A round led by CRV.
  • Holded — €6 million Series A round in 2019 led by Lakestar.

Here are the investors who shared their thoughts with us for the conclusion of our Spain VC survey:

Lourdes Álvarez de Toledo, partner, JME Ventures

What trends are you most excited about investing in, generally?
SaaS. B2B.

What’s your latest, most exciting investment?
Kymatio.

Are there startups that you wish you would see in the industry but don’t? What are some overlooked opportunities right now?
Subscription B2C app for managing kids from 0 to 18 years.

What are you looking for in your next investment, in general?
Scalability,

Which areas are either oversaturated or would be too hard to compete in at this point for a new startup? What other types of products/services are you wary or concerned about?
Too much competition: travel. Interesting areas: quantum computing.

How much are you focused on investing in your local ecosystem versus other startup hubs (or everywhere) in general? More than 50%? Less?
More than 50% in Spain.

Which industries in your city and region seem well-positioned to thrive, or not, long term? What are companies you are excited about (your portfolio or not), which founders?
Industries: cybersecurity. Companies: Lingokids, Devo, Genially, Glovo.

How should investors in other cities think about the overall investment climate and opportunities in your city?
Spain has no Series B investors, so there are many opportunities for foreign Series B funds.

Do you expect to see a surge in more founders coming from geographies outside major cities in the years to come, with startup hubs losing people due to the pandemic and lingering concerns, plus the attraction of remote work?
At least in Spain, I think remote work will be only temporary. If you are freelance it is still important to work near the main cities.

Which industry segments that you invest in look weaker or more exposed to potential shifts in consumer and business behavior because of COVID-19?
Retail, fashion, travel.

What is your advice to startups in your portfolio right now?
Don’t take debt if it is not extremely necessary, try to be cash flow positive — although you have to sacrifice faster growth.

Are you seeing “green shoots” regarding revenue growth, retention or other momentum in your portfolio as they adapt to the pandemic?
Yes! In Genially: awesome growth.

What is a moment that has given you hope in the last month or so? This can be professional, personal or a mix of the two.
Schools opening again (four kids already).

Any other thoughts you want to share with TechCrunch readers?
Spain will be very harmed the next year, and so will the startup ecosystem.

Javier González-Soria y Moreno de la Santa, managing partner, Top Seeds Lab

What trends are you most excited about investing in, generally?

#barcelona, #covid-19, #europe, #fintech, #madrid, #spain, #startups, #tc, #venture-capital

0

Google Maps gets improved Live View AR directions

Google today announced a few updates to Live View, the augmented reality walking directions in its Google Maps app that officially launched last year. Live View uses your phone’s camera and GPS to tell you exactly where to go, making it a nice addition to the standard map-centric directions in similar applications.

The new features Google is introducing today include the ability to invoke Live View from the transit tab in Google Maps when you’re on a journey that includes multiple modes of transportations. Until now, the only way to see Live View was when were asking for pure walking directions.

 

Image Credits: Google

 

 

If you’re like me and perpetually disoriented after you exit a subway station in a new city (remember 2019, when we could still travel?), this is a godsend. And I admit that I often forget Live View exists. Adding it to multi-model directions may just get me to try it out more often since it is now more clearly highlighted in the app.

Google Maps can now also identify landmarks around you to give you better guidance and a clearer idea of where you are in a city. Think the Empire State Building in New York, for example.

Image Credits: Google

These new landmarks will be coming to Amsterdam, Bangkok, Barcelona, Berlin, Budapest, Dubai, Florence, Istanbul, Kuala Lumpur, Kyoto, London, Los Angeles, Madrid, Milan, Munich, New York, Osaka, Paris, Prague, Rome, San Francisco, Sydney, Tokyo and Vienna, with more to follow.

If you’re a regular Live View user, you’ll know that the actual pin locations in this mode can sometimes be off. In hilly areas, the pin can often be hovering high above your destination, for example. Now, Google promises to fix this by using a combination of machine learning and better topographical maps to place the pin exactly where it’s supposed to be.

Also new is the ability to use Live View in combination with Google Maps’ location sharing feature. So when a friend shares their location with you, you can now see exactly where they are in Live View, too, and get directions to meet them.

#amsterdam, #artificial-intelligence, #augmented-reality, #bangkok, #barcelona, #berlin, #budapest, #dubai, #florence, #google, #google-maps, #gps, #istanbul, #kuala-lumpur, #kyoto, #london, #los-angeles, #machine-learning, #madrid, #milan, #munich, #new-york, #osaka, #paris, #prague, #rome, #san-francisco, #software, #sydney, #tokyo, #vienna

0

9 VCs in Madrid and Barcelona discuss the COVID-19 era and look to the future

Spain’s startup ecosystem has two main hubs: Madrid and Barcelona.

Most observers place Barcelona first and Madrid second, but the gap appears to close every year. Barcelona has benefitted from attracting expats in search of sun, beach and lifestyle who tend to produce more internationally minded startups.

Madrid’s startups have predominantly been Spain or Latin America-focused, but have become increasingly international in nature. Although not part of this survey, we expect Valencia to join next year, as city authorities have been going all-out to attract entrepreneurs and investors.

The overall Spanish ecosystem is generally less mature than those in the U.K., France, Sweden and Germany, but it has been improving at a fast clip. More recently, entrepreneurs in Spain have moved away from emulating success in pursuit of innovative technologies.

Following the financial crisis, the Spanish government supported the creation of startups with the launch of FOND-ICO GLOBAL, a €1.5 billion fund-of-funds in 2017, which put €800 million into the market that year. Three years later, the fastest-moving sector is tech. In 2018, Spain counted 4,115 active startups, reported 150sec. Barcelona has seen a boom in startups and support systems, with companies based there raising €2.7 billion between 2015 and 2019, almost doubling Madrid’s figure (according to Dealroom).

In the first half of a two-part survey that asks 18 Spain-based startup investors about the trends they’re tracking, we reached out to the following VCs:

Marta-Gaia Zanchi, managing partner, Nina Capital

What trends are you most excited about investing in, generally?
Infrastructural needs of the healthcare industry.

Are there startups that you wish you would see in the industry but don’t? What are some overlooked opportunities right now?
We see opportunities in data liquidity, in silico trials, biotech manufacturing … for which enabling technologies may already exist from the information technology and semiconductor industry.

What are you looking for in your next investment, in general?
What we always do: Great unmet need, deep understanding of healthcare stakeholder ecosystem, the right technology solution, a team we love to work with.

Which areas are either oversaturated or would be too hard to compete in at this point for a new startup? What other types of products/services are you wary or concerned about?
Telemedicine.

How much are you focused on investing in your local ecosystem versus other startup hubs (or everywhere) in general? More than 50%? Less?
Local ecosystem: 10% Rest of the world: 90%.

Which industries in your city and region seem well-positioned to thrive, or not, long term? What are companies you are excited about (your portfolio or not), which founders?
We only invest in healthtech. So, the answer is: healthtech 🙂

How should investors in other cities think about the overall investment climate and opportunities in your city?
They all think we have a wonderful climate. After all, it’s Barcelona. Regarding the investment climate in particular, I believe too few international investors appreciate the full spectrum and significance of the opportunities that this city affords for starting and scaling a company.

Do you expect to see a surge in more founders coming from geographies outside major cities in the years to come, with startup hubs losing people due to the pandemic and lingering concerns, plus the attraction of remote work?
Not really. I think most companies will continue to have HQs in the major hubs, but their teams are going to be more distributed. And hubs that were traditionally at disadvantage over the usual suspects will find themselves less so.

Which industry segments that you invest in look weaker or more exposed to potential shifts in consumer and business behavior because of COVID-19? What are the opportunities startups may be able to tap into during these unprecedented times?
We are specialized healthtech investors. All our investments to date are B2B companies selling to healthcare organizations.

How has COVID-19 impacted your investment strategy? What are the biggest worries of the founders in your portfolio? What is your advice to startups in your portfolio right now?
We decided to increase our reserves, to have more capital to support our portfolio companies in follow-on rounds. For more, see here.

What is a moment that has given you hope in the last month or so? This can be professional, personal or a mix of the two.
My team is amazing. With them by my side, I never lost hope.

Any other thoughts you want to share with TechCrunch readers?
I know 2020 is a tragedy but … Isn’t it something to see everyone finally engaged in the conversations that matter (healthcare, science, public health, politics, equality, diversity).

#barcelona, #coronavirus, #covid-19, #europe, #madrid, #spain, #startups, #tc, #venture-capital

0

Calling Madrid & Barcelona VCs: Be featured in The Great TechCrunch Survey of European VC

TechCrunch is embarking on a major new project to survey the venture capital investors of Europe.

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

We’d like to know how your city’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. (Please note, if you have filled the survey out already, there is no need to repeat).

The shortlist of questions will require only brief responses, but the more you want to 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 will 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?

Over the next few weeks, we will be “zeroing-in” on Europe’s major cities.

It’s part of a broader series of surveys we’re doing to help founders find the right investors. For example, here is the recent survey of London.

Not in Madrid or Barcelona? European VC investors can STILL fill out the survey, as we will be putting a call out to your city next anyway! The survey will cover almost every European country on the continent of Europe (not just EU members, btw), so just look for your country in the menu 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

#barcelona, #corporate-finance, #economy, #entrepreneurship, #europe, #european-union, #finance, #london, #madrid, #money, #private-equity, #startup-company, #tc, #venture-capital

0

Lana has launched in Latin America to be the one-stop shop for gig workers financial needs

Lana, a new startup based in Madrid, is looking to be the next big thing in Latin American fintech.

Founded by a serial entrepreneur Pablo Muniz, whose last business was backed by one of Spain’s largest financial services institutions, BBVA; Lana is looking to be the all-in-one financial services provider for Latin America’s gig economy workers.

Muniz’s last company, Denizen, was designed to provide expats in foreign and domestic markets with the financial services they would need as they began their new lives in a different country. While the target customer for Lana may not be the same middle to upper-middle-class international traveler that he had previously hoped to serve, the challenges gig economy workers face in Latin America are much the same.

Muniz actually had two revelations from his work at Denizen. The first — he would never try to launch a fintech company in conjunction with a big bank. And the second was that fintechs or neobanks that focus on a very niche segment will be successful — so long as they can find the right niche.

The biggest niche that Muniz saw that was underserved was actually in the gig economy space in Latin America. “I knew several people who worked at gig economy companies and I knew that their businesses were booming and the industry was growing,” he said. “[But] I was concerned about the inequalities.”

Workers in gig economy marketplaces in Latin America often don’t have bank accounts and are paid through the apps on which they list their services in siloed wallets that are exclusive to that particular app. What Lana is hoping to do is become the wallet of wallets for all of the different companies on which laborers list their services. Frequently, drivers will work for Uber or Cabify and deliver food for Rappi. Those workers have wallets for each service.

(Photo by Cris Faga/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Lana wants to unify all of those disparate wallets into a single account that would operate like a payment account. These accounts can be opened at local merchant shops and, once opened, workers will have access to a debit card that they can use at other locations.

The Lana service also has a bill pay feature that it’s rolling out to users, in the first evolution of the product into a marketplace for financial services that would appeal to gig workers, Muniz said.

“We want to become that account in which they receive funds,” he said. “We are still iterating the value proposition to gig economy companies.”

Working with companies like Cabify, and other, undisclosed companies, Lana has plans to roll out in Mexico, Chile, Peru, and eventually Colombia and Argentina.

Eventually, Lana hopes to move beyond basic banking services like deposits and payments and into credit services. Already hundreds of customers are using the company’s service, through the distribution partnership with Cabify, which ran the initial pilot to determine the viability of the company’s offering.

“The idea of creating Lana was initially tested as an internal project at Cabify,” Muniz wrote in an email. “Soon Cabify and some potential investors saw that Lana could have a greater impact as an independent company, being able to serve gig economy workers from any industry and decided to start over a new entrepreneurial project.”

Through those connections with Cabify, Lana was able to bring in other investors like the Silicon Valley-based investment firm Base 10.

“One of the things we’ve been interested in is in inclusion generally and in fintech specifically,” said Adeyemi Ajao, the firm’s co-founder. “We had gotten very close to investing in a couple of fintech companies in Latin America and that is because the opportunity is huge. There are several million people going from unbanked to banked in the region.”

Along with a few other investors Base 10 put in $12.5 million to finance the Lana as it looks to expand. It’s a market that has few real competitors. Nubank, Latin America’s biggest fintech company, is offering credit services across the continent, but most of their end users already have an established financial history.

“Most of their end users are not unbanked,” said Ajao. “With Lana it is truly gig workers… They can start by being a wallet of wallets and then give customers products that help them finance their cars or their scooters.”

The ultimate idea is to get workers paid faster and provide a window into their financial history that can give them more opportunities at other gig economy companies, said Ajao. “The vision would be that someone can pug in their financial information for services. If they’re working for Rappi and have never been an Uber driver and they want to be an Uber driver, Lana can use their financial history with Rappi to offer a loan on a car,” he said.

That financial history is completely inaccessible to a traditional bank, and those established financial services don’t care about the history built in wallets that they can’t control or track. “Today if you’ve been a gig worker and you go to a bank, that’s worth nothing,” said Ajao.

#argentina, #articles, #bank, #chile, #co-founder, #colombia, #economy, #financial-services, #financial-technology, #food, #getty-images, #gig-worker, #latin-america, #madrid, #mexico, #nubank, #peru, #serial-entrepreneur, #silicon-valley, #spain, #tc, #uber

0

Google is building a new private subsea cable between Europe and the U.S.

Google today announced its plans to build a new subsea cable with landing points in New York in the U.S. and Bude, UK and Bilbao, Spain in Europe. The new cable, named after the pioneering computer scientist Grace Hopper, will join Google’s various other private subsea cables like Curie between the U.S. and South America, Dunant between the U.S. and France, and Equiano between Europe and Africa.

The new cable is scheduled to go online in 2022 and will be built by SubCom, which Google also contracted for work on its Dunant and Curie cables.

Image Credits: Google

Google plans to launch a new Google Cloud region in Madrid in the near future, so it’s maybe no surprise that it is also looking at how it can best connect the region to its global network. The new cable marks Google’s first cable to Spain and its first private subsea cable route to the UK.

The cable will feature 16 fiber pairs, which is a pretty standard number, but as the Google team stresses, it will be the first to use a new switching architecture the company developed in cooperation with SubCom. This new system is meant to provide increased reliability and to enable the company to better move traffic around outages.

Grace Hopper will be Google’s fourth wholly-owned cable. In addition to these private cables, the company is also a member of a number of consortiums that jointly operate cables around the world. In total, Google has now announced investments in 15 subsea cables, though it is also reportedly part of the upcoming Blue-Raman Cable that will run between India and Italy via Israel. The company has yet to confirm its participation in this project, though.

#africa, #cloud, #companies, #europe, #france, #google, #grace-hopper, #india, #israel, #italy, #madrid, #new-york, #oceans, #south-america, #spain, #tc, #technology, #united-kingdom, #united-states

0

K Fund’s Jaime Novoa discusses early-stage firm’s focus on Spanish startups

Earlier this month, Spanish early-stage venture capital firm K Fund officially launched its second fund, which sits at €70 million, up from €50 million the first time around.

Targeting Spanish startups with an international outlook, the seed-stage firm plans to invest from €200,000 to €2 million, writing first checks in 25-30 companies. Meanwhile, a portion of the fund will also be set aside for follow-on funding for the most promising of its portfolio.

Described as business model- and sector-agnostic, K Fund currently has a mix of B2B and B2C companies in its portfolio across a wide variety of sectors, such as travel, fintech, insurtech and others. They include online travel agency Exoticca, HR software Factorial, insurtech startup Bdeo and Hubtype, a conversational messaging tech provider.

I caught up with K Fund’s Jaime Novoa to delve deeper into the firm’s investment remit, how the Spanish startup and tech ecosystem has developed over the last few years and to learn more about “K Founders,” the VC’s new pre-seed funding program.

TechCrunch: K Fund’s first fund was announced in late 2016 to back startups in Spain with an international outlook at seed and Series A. At €70 million, this second fund is €20 million larger but I gather the remit remains broadly the same. Can you be more specific with regards to cheque size, geography, sector and the types of startups you look for?

Jaime Novoa: We’re both agnostic in terms of business models and industries. Since our focus is, for the most part, Spain, we do not believe that the Spanish market is big enough to build a vertically focused fund, either in terms of business model or sector.

With our first fund we invested in 28 companies, with a slightly larger number of B2B SaaS companies than B2C ones, and across a wide variety of sectors. We do have a bit of exposure to travel and fintech/insurtech, but that’s because we’ve found several interesting companies in those spaces, not because we proactively said, “let’s invest in fintech/travel.”

In terms of check sizes, the core of the fund will be to make the same type of investments as in our first fund: first cheques from €200k to €2m and then sufficient capital for follow-on rounds. We’ll probably do a similar number of deals compared to the previous fund, but we want to have additional capital for follow-on purposes.

#barcelona, #entrepreneurship, #europe, #extra-crunch, #financial-technology, #fundraising, #k-fund, #madrid, #portugal, #private-equity, #spain, #startups, #tc, #verified-experts, #virtual-reality

0

Security decoy startup CounterCraft closes $5M Series A

Spain-based CounterCraft, which builds b2b tools for gathering counterintelligence on evolving security threats, has closed a $5M Series A. The all cash round is led by Adara Ventures, with eCAPITAL and Red Eléctrica Group joining as new investors, and with participation from existing backers including Evolution Equity, ORZA, and Wayra.

CounterCraft was founded back in 2015 with the aim of helping security chiefs take a more proactive defense stance. The founders went through Telefonica’s Wayra Madrid accelerator — and went on to raise a $1.1M seed round, back in 2016.

While its early focus was on the European market, the startup has expanded to serve clients across Western Europe and North America — with particular focus on national defense and intelligence departments, major financial institutions, and large enterprises.

We understand they have 20 customers at this stage. The new funding will be used to build out CounterCraft’s business in the US, per Adara Ventures .

Commenting on the Series A in a statement, Alberto Gomez, managing partner at the VC firm said: “We continue to be inspired by the combination of engineering ability and vision that CounterCraft has shown in defining a new category of defensive tool that responds to the current threat landscape. Nothing else we have seen effectively uses a Know-Your-Attacker stance to turn the tables on threat actors. We are now excited about CounterCraft’s prospects for expanding its presence with sophisticated, large clients in the U.S. and European markets.”

CounterCraft’s core product is what it bills as a “Threat Deception platform” — supporting its customers’ security function by contributing to three areas: threat detection, intelligence and response; and by using deceptive techniques as a lure to gather better intelligence on threats and attackers for a smarter response.

The platform offers a set of common use cases that can be automatically deployed without further configuration — including ‘Remote Worker Protection’; Pre-Breach Activity; Sphere Phishing Response; and Lateral Movement — with the three strands of ‘detection, intelligence and response’ covered for all use cases.

The platform is also designed to integrate with customers’ incident response workflows, and has the ability to reconfigure defensive systems in real time to mitigate risks from ongoing attacks.

CEO David Barroso notes, for example, that CounterCraft’s platform is fully integrated with the MITRE ATT&CK™ TTP classification project.

In terms of intelligence gathering Barroso says it mines assets such as WiFi, SWIFT, email accounts and social media. “Uniquely, the platform can automatically convert this harvested data into active responses. This puts CISOs back in the driving seat when defending,” he added in a statement.

#adara-ventures, #computer-security, #countercraft, #europe, #fundings-exits, #madrid, #north-america, #security, #threat, #united-states, #wayra

0

Target Global has a €1M “super seed” fund incoming to switch on laid off tech talent in Spain during COVID-19

Target Global is backing a €1 million support fund for tech talent in Spain laid off or furloughed as a result of the coronavirus crisis. The aim is to provide pre-seed financing to help crisis-hit tech workers switch gears and build out a startup concept over the next four to six months, covering living expenses plus enough funds to get going on a business idea.

The VC firm says they’ll be cutting checks of at least €25k/€35k up to €50k for “qualified applicants” — meaning the initiative could support between 20 and 30 local tech workers who have found themselves sat at home without a job as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Target Global, which has some €700M under management, will contribute €500,000 to the early stage support initiative — with a further €500,000 chipped in from local founders, including entrepreneurs behind AlienVault, TravelPerk, Job & Talent, Badi and Adyen.

“The idea is to cap it at €1M for now,” says Target Global investment director, Lina Chong . “We don’t know where the end of the tunnel is but for now let’s say we cap it at that.”

“We want to give between 20 and 30 safe notes that are really super easy to deploy… which should be enough for one or two people to cover their living costs for four to six months… It’ll also cover initial startup costs. So found an entity, work with a designer and engineer. Develop your idea or concept into an actual beta or some sort of prototype and test some of your early assumptions, and get it ready for, essentially, a pre-seed round.”

“We’re calling it super seed,” she adds. “It’s like a real first check just to get you started.”

She says the VC firm will be putting up a landing page for the initiative shortly — this week or next, per Chong — to begin taking applications for the ‘safe notes’.

In terms of requirements, applicants must be located in Spain, and will be asked to specify a few categories their concept falls into; plus whether they’ve built anything yet; whether they have users; whether they’ve incorporated yet, and so on.

“All of those things can be ‘no’ — that’s totally fine,” Chong tells TechCrunch. “We will ask for your LinkedIn because we do want to have this go towards people in tech. We want to see some minimum amount of experience in startups or in technology — but you yourself don’t have to be an engineer.

“And of course the idea has to be pretty bold and ambitious… That’s going to be the bulk of our work — filtering through candidates where we feel they have the relevant background, plus what they’re thinking about it something really relevant and big.”

“We’re not looking to fund the next sunglasses shop,” she adds. “But if you have a different way to engage with government… [or] think about even media. There’s so many things up for grabs right now. There’s going to be a host of security, identity, so many issues. And that’s the stuff we’re looking for — real, big, global problems.”

Chong confirms that some of TargetGlobal’s own portfolio startups have had to lay off or furlough staff themselves during the crisis — including flatshare finder business Badi and business travel booking platform TravelPerk. Both of which are types of businesses that are very exposed to the national population lockdowns that have been imposed over most of Europe. (The travel sector has of course been especially hard hit.)

“Every business that’s been affected by shelter in place have had to let go of staff,” adds Chong, suggesting portfolio layoffs have been up to around a third for the worst affected startups.

Local founders have therefore been keen to support the initiative, not only to help the wider tech ecosystem in Spain, but as something they can point furloughed or laid off staff to as an opportunity.

“Everyday we’re getting more sign ups,” she adds, noting that founders can also choose offer mentorship/advice as well as chipping into the fund.

Target Global dialled up its focus on Spain last year, when it opened a country office in Barcelona. Though Chong, who is normally based in Barcelona, has been spending the lockdown period in Berlin, after returning to Germany from a trip to the US in March.

“For me this [crisis] is super unfortunate because one of the reasons we made a bet so early on Spain is because of exactly this talent — Typeform and all the gaming studios, and Facebook and Amazon in Madrid . Let’s say priming the early generation workforce. And giving them the ideas how to be in a tech company, how an organization runs, how to build product, how to think of marketing — all of this stuff. So I think it’s a big shame,” she says.

“Clearly Spain has a highly entrepreneurial spirit. They’ve come out of the last crisis… with a very ‘we make our own reality’ view of the world. And I think the same will happen in this crisis so we thought why won’t we just allocate a small amount of money — for our early stage fund it’s a relatively small check — it’s a very exploratory one.”

In terms of the business opportunities that may open up as a result of the societal and economic disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Chong suggests “a new way of thinking about consumer products and service” is certainly coming down the pipe.

“I would be shocked if there isn’t a plethora of ideas coming on how to rethink brick and mortar and rethink retail or consumer goods,” she says.

“This is a clear trend that brick and mortar, as a model, is not working. In the US, around the world, you see everything from massive shopping malls to main street small shops, owner-operated shops, all shuttering doors. And I think it’s a big opportunity — whether the entrepreneur decides to tackle this opportunity from a pure digital play to maybe it’s a turn on real estate? Maybe there’s a new model of thinking about shop ownership or what to do with that space? Because consumers are pretty fickle. They’re used to entirely new experience with Amazon. I think there’s a lot of opportunity there for sure. The specific form or shape of that opportunity — I leave it to the wild imaginations of entrepreneurs.”

She also points to the whole value chain around retail — from supply chains to marketing, to manufacturing to getting the goods and services into consumers hands — as ripe for rethinking right now, adding: “I’m hoping there’s going to be a lot of innovation around even the supply chain aspects.”

Entrepreneurs in the country may also do well to focus their energy on ideas around reskilling/upskilling the large numbers of people who suddenly find themselves unable to do their usual work because of the impact of social distancing on traditional businesses and ways of working. Spain’s bar culture, for example, looks set to be very heavily hit by the coronavirus.

“How do we manage ourselves? How do we manage others in a remote working environment?” posits Chong. “There’s such a huge population of people where — it’s becoming pretty clear — that if you can’t work remote, if you’re not a knowledge worker, there’s a huge question mark over your ability to maybe more into those knowledge worker/desk type roles. And that’s a lot of value that’s left on the table. That’s human brains and muscle — just so much energy and potential that’s just kind of left out there.

“I would argue that a real forward thinking entrepreneur can think of ways to help utilize and bring meaning to these people’s skill sets.”

The terms of the safe notes will be “flexible”, according to Chong, though there will be a provision for investors to get a discount on the next round, i.e. if there is one. 

“You don’t have to pay it back if there’s no financing afterwards,” she says. “So far we really do want to keep it case by case — so it’s super flexible. It’s essentially like ‘hey, we want the option not the obligation to follow on in the next round’.

“Clearly, we’ll decide on that case by case. Anything beyond that we want to make sure that terms of the next fund — it’s likely going to be seed funds that come in at that next stage of the company life — we want to be able to keep the slate relatively clean in order for those funds to feel comfortable coming on board. So there’s not too much stipulated at the moment in the safe note.”

“It’s an amount. We can help you incorporate. It’s an option to the next round. There’s going to be a minimum discount — probably pretty standard, like 20%. And that’s pretty much it,” she adds.

#adyen, #barcelona, #consumer-products, #coronavirus, #covid-19, #europe, #knowledge-worker, #lina-chong, #madrid, #real-estate, #retail, #spain, #startups, #supply-chains, #target-global, #venture-capital

0

SoftBank terminates $3BN tender offer for WeWork shares

SoftBank Group has pulled a $3 billion tender offer for WeWork shares — citing closing conditions not being met.

The investment behemoth had been rumoured to be getting cold feet, when the WSJ reported last month that it was using regulatory investigations as a way to back out of its commitment to buy $3BN in shares from existing WeWork shareholders.

Under the terms of the share buyback deal negotiated last year, WeWork founder Adam Neumann had been set to receive almost $1BN for his shares in the co-working company. The former CEO had already been forced out at that stage after public markets balked over his managerial acumen, as we reported it at the time.

In a press statement issued today SoftBank SVP and chief legal officer, Rob Townsend, writes:

SoftBank remains fully committed to the success of WeWork and has taken significant steps to strengthen the company since October, including newly committed capital, the development of a new strategic plan for WeWork and the hiring of a new, world-class management team. The tender offer was an offer to buy shares directly from other major stockholders and its termination has no impact on WeWork’s operations or customers. The tender offer closing was conditioned on the satisfaction of certain closing conditions the parties agreed to in October of last year for SoftBank’s protection. Several of those conditions were not met, leaving SoftBank no choice but to terminate the tender offer.

SoftBank lists the unfulfilled conditions that have led it to terminate the offer as:

  • The failure to obtain the necessary antitrust approvals by April 1, 2020;
  • The failure to sign and close the roll up of the China joint venture by April 1, 2020;
  • The failure to close the roll up of the Asia (ex-China and ex-Japan) joint venture by April 1, 2020;
  • The existence of multiple, new, and significant pending criminal and civil investigations that have begun since the MTA was signed in October 2019, in which authorities have requested information regarding, among other things, WeWork’s financing activities, communications with investors, business dealings with Adam Neumann, operations, and financial condition; and
  • The existence of multiple new actions by governments around the world related to COVID-19, imposing restrictions against WeWork and its operations.

A spokeswomen for WeWork declined to comment on SoftBank withdrawing the offer. But Reuters has reported that a special committee of WeWork’s board said it was “disappointed” by the development and is  considering “all of its legal options, including litigation.”

At the time of writing SoftBank had not responded to a request for comment.

Its press note makes a point of emphasizing that “Neumann, his family, and certain large institutional stockholders, such as Benchmark Capital, were the parties who stood to benefit most from the tender offer”.

“Together, Mr. Neumann’s and Benchmark’s equity constitute more than half of the stock tendered in the offering. In contrast, current WeWork employees tendered less than 10 percent of the total,” it writes, adding: “SoftBank previously worked with WeWork to complete an earlier phase of the tender offer that allowed over 4,000 employees to reprice out-of-the-money stock options at lower strike prices, delivering value in excess of $140 million to these employees in the form of reduced exercise prices (where such options would have been worth substantially less or nothing absent such repricing).”

Earlier this week WeWork announced the sale of Meetup, a social networking platform designed to connect people in person, for an undisclosed sum that’s reportedly far less than the $156M acquisition price WeWork paid for it back in 2017.

The novel coronavirus has certainly brought disruption to the hipster white collar co-working and social networking business, as populations are encouraged do to the opposite of mingle. The near term prospects for co-working spaces in a new age of social distancing and encouraged (or enforced) home working look bleak.

Yet, outside Asia, WeWork has to date closed only a tiny minority of its locations globally as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Even in heavily affected cities in Europe, such as Madrid and Milan — where governments have imposed strict quarantine measures to try to stem the tide of COVID-19 deaths — WeWork has not taken the step of shuttering co-working spaces.

Instead, in Europe and the US, it has only been temporarily closing buildings or even just individual floors if infections are identified.

It’s a different story in Asia. Per an updated list of building closures on WeWork’s website, the company closed more than 30 locations across cities in India on March 23 — but only after the government imposed a three-week nationwide lockdown, instructing India’s 1.3BN people to stay at home.

Elsewhere, WeWork members may see little reason to break quarantine in order to travel to a shared workspace when, provided they have Internet at home, they can stay where they are and be just as productive without risking spreading or catching the virus — hence the Zoom videoconferencing boom.

WeWork’s handling of the coronavirus crisis has also caused some rifts with its membership, with press reports of members angry at it for refusing refunds for spaces they can’t (in good conscience) use.

It has also faced criticism from members angry it’s prioritizing rent collection from now very cash-strapped small businesses rather than closing down during a public health crisis. (We’ve heard similar stories from members who did not wish to be publicly identified.)

WeWork, meanwhile, has justified staying open in a pandemic by claiming its locations contain people doing essential work.

When we asked the company about its response to the coronavirus last month, it told us: “We are monitoring the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic closely and have implemented a number of precautionary measures” — saying then it had strengthened “on-site cleanliness measures” and suspended all internal and member events until further notice, as of March 12.

On the same date it had offered its own staff the option of working from home — though its doors remained open to keycard-holding, fee-paying members.

#adam-neumann, #benchmark, #benchmark-capital, #coronavirus, #covid-19, #coworking, #fundings-exits, #india, #madrid, #meetup, #milan, #real-estate, #softbank-group, #wework

0

Uber Eats beefs up its grocery delivery offer as COVID-19 lockdowns continue

Uber Eats has beefed up grocery delivery options in three markets hard hit by the coronavirus.

Uber’s food delivery division said today it’s inked a partnership with supermarket giant Carrefour in France to provide Parisians with 30 minute home delivery on a range of grocery products, including everyday foods, toiletries and cleaning products.

The service is starting with 15 stores in the city, with Uber Eats saying it plans to scale it out rapidly nationwide “in the coming weeks”.

In Spain it’s partnered with the Galp service station brand to offer a grocery delivery service that consists of basic foods, over the counter medicines, beverages and cleaning products in 15 cities across the following 8 provinces: Badajoz, Barcelona, Cádiz, Córdoba, Madrid, Málaga, Palma de Mallorca and Valencia.

Uber Eats said there will be an initial 25 Galp convenience stores participating. The service will not only be offered via the Uber Eats app but also by phone for those without access to a smartphone or Internet.

The third market it’s inked deals in is Brazil, where Uber said it’s partnering with a range of pharmacies, convenience stores and pet shops in Sao Paulo to offer home delivery on basic supplies.

“Over the counter medicines will be available from the Pague Menos chain of pharmacies, grocery products from Shell Select convenience stores and pet supplies from Cobasi — one of the largest pet shop chains in the country,” it said. “The new services will be available on the Uber Eats app, with plans to launch in other Brazil states and cities in the coming weeks.”

The grocery tie-ups are not Uber Eats’ first such deals. The company had already inked partnerships with a supermarket in Australia (Coles) and the Costcutter brand in the UK, where around 600 independent convenience stores are offered via its app.

Uber Eats also lets independent convenience stores in countries around the world self listed on its app. However the latest tie-ups put more branded meat on the bone of its grocery offer in Europe and LatAm — with the Carrefour tie-up in France marking its first partnership with a major supermarket in Europe.

It’s worth noting Spain’s food delivery rival, Glovo, has an existing grocery-delivery partnership with the French supermarket giant in markets including its home country — which likely explains why Uber Eats has opted for a different partner in Spain.

Asked whether it’s looking to further expand grocery deliveries in other markets hit by the public health emergency Uber Eats told us it’s exploring opportunities to partner with more supermarkets, convenience stores and other retailers around the world.

As part of its response to the threat posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the company has switched all deliveries to contactless by default — with orders left at the door or as instructed by a user.

It also told us it’s providing drivers and delivery people with access to hand sanitiser, gloves and disinfectant wipes, as soon as they become available. And said it’s dispensing guidance to users of its apps on hygiene best practice and limiting the spread of the virus.

Uber Eats has previously said it will provide 14 days of financial support for drivers and delivery people who get diagnosed with COVID-19 or are personally placed in quarantine by a public health authority due to their risk of spreading the virus, with the amount based on their average earnings over the last six months or less.

The policy is due for review on April 6.

#apps, #australia, #barcelona, #brazil, #carrefour, #collaborative-consumption, #coronavirus, #covid-19, #europe, #food, #food-delivery, #france, #glovo, #grocery-store, #madrid, #online-food-ordering, #retailers, #sao-paulo, #shell, #spain, #supermarkets, #uber, #uber-eats, #united-kingdom, #valencia

0