Pandemic’s shift to remote wellness helps Numan raise $40M Series B led by White Star

Numan, the European subscription service covering erectile dysfunction (ED) and men’s wellness/health needs more generally, has raised $40 million in a Series B funding round led by White Star Capital, with participation from existing investors Novator, Vostok New Global, Anthemis Exponential, Colle Capital, and new investor Hanwha Group. The new round will be used to fuel expansion.

Numan’s current roster of services cover ED, premature ejaculation, hair loss, gut and lung health, and nutritional deficiencies. But they can also do blood tests for general health needs which don’t require in-person appointments.

Post-pandemic, the digitization of health and wellness continues apace. Had we not had a pandemic, vitamins, and the like, delivered through the letterbox, would almost certainly have continued to grow steadily as a business. But with the pandemic, businesses that can speak to our health needs remotely have exploded.

Who would have considered taking a blood test remotely a ‘normal thing’ two years ago? Now it’s practically required. Into this space, wellness companies have uncovered an extremely lucrative nexus of trends: an aging male population with a desire to remain sexually active, increasing awareness of their own health, the convenience of subscription, and the imperative of the pandemic to keep things remote has proven to be a powerful combination of forces.

Numan is not alone in this space. Roman and Hims, for example, are two big players in the US. The open door Numan is pushing against is more this wider movement around male health, which men themselves are becoming more open to. As well as growing organically, Numan has also made two strategic acquisitions of companies in the UK and Sweden to expand its footprint. It’s likely this new round will lead to similar strategic plays.

With sexual health a tricky subject for men, digital services are stepping in to mitigate any embarrassment around having to sit in front of the family GP. Numan is also regulated by the Care Quality Commission as a registered healthcare provider, giving it a further stamp of approval.

Numan claims men now prefer its model to in-person healthcare meetings. In its own survey of 800 subscribers, 88% said that using the service has improved their confidence, while 68% say that using Numan has also improved their relationships, and over half said the effects of the pandemic had given them a more positive impression of using digital healthcare.

In a statement Sokratis Papafloratos, CEO & founder, Numan said: “This funding is a significant milestone on our journey to help millions of men be healthier. White Star Capital is one of the best investors in our space, and I’m delighted to be working together along with a wider team of brilliant investors.”

Speaking to me over a call, Papafloratos added that despite there being a lot of competition in the space “this is not a winner-takes-all-market. We have 25 languages on the team so we understand the market, patients, regulation, we understand it more in-depth than many competitors.”

Eric Martineau-Fortin, Founder and Managing Partner, White Star Capital: “Men’s health has been under-served by traditional services and needs innovative businesses to break down barriers and ensure taboos don’t prevent men from being happy and healthy. Numan’s digital offering helps men take charge of their health discreetly and decisively. We’re incredibly excited by Sokratis and his team, and look forward to working with them as they grow.”

#ceo, #digital-health, #digital-healthcare, #erectile-dysfunction, #europe, #healthcare, #managing-partner, #musicians, #numan, #sokratis-papafloratos, #sweden, #tc, #united-kingdom, #united-states, #white-star-capital

Product School raises $25M in growth equity to scale its product training platform

Traditional MBA programs can be costly, lengthy, and often lack the application of real world skills. Meanwhile, big global brands and companies who need Product Managers to grow their businesses can’t sit around waiting for people to graduate. And the EdTech space hasn’t traditionally catered for this sector.

This is perhaps why Product School, says it has secured $25 million in growth equity investment from growth fund Leeds Illuminate (subject to regulatory approval) to accelerate its product and partnerships with client companies.

The growth funding for the company comes after bootstrapping since 2014, in large part because product managers (PMs) no longer just inside tech companies but have become sought after across almost virtually all industries.

Product School provides certificates for individuals as well as team training, and says it has experienced and upwelling of business since Covid switched so many companies into Digital ones. It also now counts Google, Facebook, Netflix, Airbnb, PayPal, Uber, and Amazon amongst its customers.

“Product managers have an outsized role in driving digital transformation and innovation across all sectors,” said Susan Cates, Managing Partner of Leeds Illuminate. “Having built the largest community of PM’s in the world validates Product School’s certification as the industry standard for the market and positions the company at the forefront of upskilling top-notch talent for global organizations.”

Carlos Gonzalez de Villaumbrosia, CEO and Founder of Product School, who started the company after moving from Spain, said: “There has never been a better time in history to build digital products and Product School is excited to unlock value for product teams across the globe to help define the future. Our company was founded on the basis that traditional degrees and MBA programs simply don’t equip PMs with the real-world skills they require on the job.”

Product school has also produced the The Product BookThe Proddy Awards and ProductCon.

It’s main competitor is MindTheProduct community and training platform, which has also boostrapped.

#airbnb, #amazon, #articles, #brand, #business, #europe, #facebook, #google, #leeds-illuminate, #management, #managing-partner, #paypal, #product-management, #product-manager, #product-marketing, #spain, #tc, #uber

Independent retailer platform Creoate raises $5M Seed led by Fuel Ventures

Creoate is a startup, which lets independent retailers buy sustainable products from brands and wholesalers, has raised a $5m Seed round led by Fuel Ventures with participation from Vinted founder, Justas Janauskas. 

Its competitors include traditional wholesalers who’ve supplied independent retailers for decades, and other startups such as Faire (US, raised $696M) and Ankorstore (FR, raised €115M).


Founders Ashley Horn and Fahad Khan say the company aims at helping independent businesses and “reclaims the supply chain from global giants”. Khan says ‘Mom and Pop’ are “faced with poor information, discriminatory pricing and unpredictable cash flows.”

Creoate, which doesn’t own inventory, says it helps retailers forecast which products will sell well so that they can buy and manage inventory levels more easily. It says its cataloging software allows retailers to deal with fewer middlemen.

Launched in January 2020 the platform now claims 25,000 retailers across the UK, France, and Netherlands.

Creoate co-founder Horn said: “Sourcing brands as an independent retailer is close to impossible… We could see that this system was not sustainable and there had to be a better way”. 

Mark Pearson, founder and managing partner at Fuel Ventures said: “Unless you’re in the world of retail, it can be difficult to truly grasp just how broken the system is for the 2.5 million retailers and 30 million emerging brands that Creoate serves. We are captivated by Creoate’s technology which is inspired by the founding team’s real-world experience and empathy.”

#ankorstore, #co-founder, #europe, #france, #fuel-ventures, #inventory, #managing-partner, #mark-pearson, #netherlands, #supply-chain-management, #tc, #united-kingdom, #united-states, #vinted

GGV Capital gave this real estate startup founder a term sheet 48 hours after meeting

Realm, which aims to help homeowners maximize the value of their property with its data platform, has raised $12 million in Series A funding led by GGV Capital.

Existing backers Primary Venture Partners, Lerer Hippeau and Liberty Mutual Strategic Ventures also participated in the round, bringing the New York-based startup’s total raised to $15 million.

Liz Young founded Realm, launching the platform earlier this year with the goal of providing “a one-stop-shop for accessible, actionable home advice.”

So far, Realm says it has helped over 20,000 homeowners “uncover” an average of $175,000 in property value. Its user base is growing 20% month over month.

What makes the company different from other valuation offerings out there, according to Young, is that rather than telling owners what their homes are worth today, Realm can tell them what their home could be worth after renovations in months and years to come.

“There are a ton of tools and services that make it easier to buy or sell your home, but once you move, it’s a total black box,” she said. “You’re left trying to cobble together advice from fragmented, often biased resources to navigate big, expensive decisions. There’s nowhere else consumers spend so much money, with such little actionable information.”

For example, using data extracted from a variety of sources such as tax assessors and its own users, Realm can do things like tell a homeowner in real time how their property value will change if they do things like make over a bathroom or add a new deck. Its algorithms can assess a property and offer advice on what projects are most likely to add value.

“The public data that we acquire, the data we ingest from users, and the data that we build ourselves has allowed us to build the most robust and unique actionable real estate data set in the U.S.,” Young told TechCrunch.

Realm’s database is free and according to Young, offers insights on over 70 million single family detached homes across the U.S.

Part of that is determined by zoning data, which tells people where they can and cannot build on a property.

“It’s really important because square feet is one of the biggest drivers of home value,” Young said. “So if you’re trying to understand how much a home’s worth or could be worth, you really have to understand the local zoning rules.”

Image Credits: Realm

Realm’s marketplace offering, where an adviser connects owners to contractors, architects and lenders that can carry out the company’s recommendations, is currently only live in California, but will be expanding to new markets over the next 12 months.

“People can digitally consume our free insights but a lot want help interpreting them,” Young said.

The company plans to use its new capital to “improve the quality and sophistication of the platform’s data insights” and toward hiring across its data science, engineering, marketing and operations teams. It will also continue to develop its proprietary data sets and models, which offer homeowners across the country personalized analysis of over 70 million homes.
A lot of Realm’s business is driven by its relationships with agents and word of mouth via its existing user base.

Jeff Richards, GGV managing partner and new Realm board member, said that when his firm backs at the Series A level, its bet is “100% on the founder.”

“I met Liz when she was raising her seed round in July 2020 and was blown away,” he told TechCrunch. “She’s smart, ambitious and has a deep background in the space she’s going after. Although it was early, I could tell she was thinking big.”

Founder and CEO Liz Young. Image Credits: Realm

He points out that GGV Capital, with $2.5 billion in assets under management, is a long-time investor in other proptechs including Opendoor, Divvy Homes, Belong and Airbnb.

“Zillow made it easy for people to find a home to buy. Opendoor made it easy to buy and sell a home,” Richards told TechCrunch. “Airbnb made it easy to rent a home for a short-term vacation. Belong is making it easy to rent a home for the long term.”

Realm, according to Richards, was right in GGV’s “sweet spot.”

“No one has zeroed in on helping the individual homeowner manage their home, and that’s the opportunity area Liz is going after,” he said. “We kept in touch after the seed round, she pinged me to talk about her A, we met up and I gave her a term sheet 48 hours later.”

In general, Richards believes that residential real estate is one of the biggest spend categories in the U.S. and yet is still virtually untouched by technology.

Home sales are over $1.6 trillion annually, home improvement is one of the biggest categories in the U.S. at over $500 billion annually, and the average home renovation project in the U.S. is around $15,000, with many spending over $50,000.

“I’ve owned a home for 17 years and almost everything I do with respect to the home is the same as it was over a decade ago. The only thing that has really changed is I can manage my thermostat and cameras with my phone,” Richards said. “Literally everything else is the same — the way I do renovations, the way I find contractors to do repairs, the way I pay my mortgage, etc. — exactly the same. That’s ridiculous! Liz sees a huge opportunity here, and so do we. The market is enormous. So there will be many, many winners.”

#funding, #fundings-exits, #ggv-capital, #jeff-richards, #managing-partner, #new-york, #primary-venture-partners, #proptech, #real-estate, #realm, #recent-funding, #residential-real-estate, #startups, #tc, #venture-capital

European Investment Fund puts $30M in Fabric Ventures’ new $120M digital assets fund

Despite their rich engineering talent, Blockchain entrepreneurs in the EU often struggle to find backing due to the dearth of large funds and investment expertise in the space. But a big move takes place at an EU level today, as the European Investment Fund makes a significant investment into a blockchain and digital assets venture fund.

Fabric Ventures, a Luxembourg-based VC billed as backing the “Open Economy” has closed $120 million for its 2021 fund, $30 million of which is coming from the European Investment Fund (EIF). Other backers of the new fund include 33 founders, partners, and executives from Ethereum, (Transfer)Wise, PayPal, Square, Google, PayU, Ledger, Raisin, Ebury, PPRO, NEAR, Felix Capital, LocalGlobe, Earlybird, Accelerator Ventures, Aztec Protocol, Raisin, Aragon, Orchid, MySQL, Verifone, OpenOcean, Claret Capital, and more. 

This makes it the first EIF-backed fund mandated to invest in digital assets and blockchain technology.

EIF Chief Executive Alain Godard said:  “We are very pleased to be partnering with Fabric Ventures to bring to the European market this fund specializing in Blockchain technologies… This partnership seeks to address the need [in Europe] and unlock financing opportunities for entrepreneurs active in the field of blockchain technologies – a field of particular strategic importance for the EU and our competitiveness on the global stage.”

The subtext here is that the EIF wants some exposure to these new, decentralized platforms, potentially as a bulwark against the centralized platforms coming out of the US and China.

And yes, while the price of Bitcoin has yo-yo’d, there is now $100 billion invested in the decentralized finance sector and $1.5 billion market in the NFT market. This technology is going nowhere.

Fabric hasn’t just come from nowhere, either. Various Fabric Ventures team members have been involved in Orchestream, the Honeycomb Project at Sun Microsystems, Tideway, RPX, Automic, Yoyo Wallet, and Orchid.

Richard Muirhead is Managing Partner, and is joined by partners Max Mersch and Anil Hansjee. Hansjee becomes General Partner after leaving PayPal’s Venture Fund, which he led for EMEA. The team has experience in token design, market infrastructure, and community governance.

The same team started the Firestartr fund in 2012, backing Tray.io, Verse, Railsbank, Wagestream, Bitstamp, and others.

Muirhead said: “It is now well acknowledged that there is a need for a web that is user-owned and, consequently, more human-centric. There are astonishing people crafting this digital fabric for the benefit of all. We are excited to support those people with our latest fund.”

On a call with TechCrunch Muirhead added: “The thing to note here is that there’s a recognition at European Commission level, that this area is one of geopolitical significance for the EU bloc. On the one hand, you have the ‘wild west’ approach of North America, and, arguably, on the other is the surveillance state of the Chinese Communist Party.”

He said: “The European Commission, I think, believes that there is a third way for the individual, and to use this new wave of technology for the individual. Also for businesses. So we can have networks and marketplaces of individuals sharing their data for their own benefit, and businesses in supply chains sharing data for their own mutual benefits. So that’s the driving view.”

#accelerator-ventures, #articles, #blockchains, #china, #chinese-communist-party, #computing, #cryptocurrencies, #decentralization, #earlybird, #ethereum, #europe, #european-commission, #european-investment-fund, #european-union, #fabric-ventures, #felix-capital, #google, #managing-partner, #mysql, #north-america, #paypal, #railsbank, #rpx, #sun-microsystems, #tc, #technology, #united-states, #verifone, #yoyo-wallet

Blossom Capital lures Alex Lim from Silicon Valley to join the European tech boom

Alex Lim, a British-born VC based in the Bay Area who invested in Hopin, UiPath, Discord, and many other unicorns has decided to up sticks and leave Sand Hill Road behind for Blossom Capital in London. Blossom is fast making a name for itself both in Europe and internationally, having invested in breakout hits like Tines, Duffel, and Checkout.com.

Lim, the youngest-ever Partner promotion at IVP, leaves after six years to take on the role of Managing Partner at Blossom. Blossom founder Ophelia Brown will remain as Co-Managing Partner.

Despite being born in the UK, Lim has spent his entire adult life in the US, so brings an interesting mix of UK/European culture, combined with West Coast savvy.

“Alex is an exceptional investor and adored by anyone he works with,” said Blossom founder Ophelia Brown. “He builds strong personal connections and is relentlessly committed to founders, which makes him a perfect fit for our team at Blossom. He shares our ethos and approach, which is to put founders at the center of everything we do. Alex brings with him both an incredible level of knowledge and expertise in building technology businesses, as well as a strong network in the US, which our companies will benefit from immensely.”

Lim started his career in investment banking at Credit Suisse, and became IVP’s youngest Partner in its 41-year history.

He told me: “I was promoted last October, to partner. I was the youngest partner in the history of the firm. I’ve been making European investments for a couple of years now, and that’s how I met Ophelia.”

He told me that Blossom would be heading more towards Series A investing in the future: “I think it’s the right strategy for Europe. A European Series A fund is like a very attractive market in my perspective, and it’s a little bit underserved by the venture community. There are great companies out there. Opportunity is very fragmented across cities. So I think there’s a lot of opportunity for our style of investing, getting out on the road and meeting entrepreneurs in person.”

He admitted “it’s a big step to take on a new managing partner. So we’re entering a new chapter.”

He added that Europe is now ripe for bigger companies and investors: “There’s been a big change over the last 12 months. Some of the outcomes that you’ve seen over the last few months have been just on a different level to what the European is experience has been before, with huge companies emerging like UIPath and Wise.”

Blossom Capital has also appointed Tatiana Chopova, formerly of McKinsey and Company, Insead and ALPInvest, as Operating Partner, and Kim Goddard as Talent Partner, following his roles in talent acquisition at NuBank, Atlassian and Funding Circle. 

#artificial-intelligence, #atlassian, #companies, #credit-suisse, #europe, #finance, #funding-circle, #investment-banking, #london, #managing-partner, #nubank, #ophelia-brown, #software, #tc, #uipath, #united-kingdom, #united-states, #west-coast

Mark Cuban-backed Eterneva raises $10M to turn your loved one’s ashes into diamonds

The loss of a loved one is perhaps one of the most traumatic things a person can experience.

When it comes to memorializing someone after their death, most people think of planning funerals and/or picking out caskets or tombstones. And those things are typically done with the help of a funeral home.

Enter Austin-based Eterneva, which is building a rare direct to consumer brand in the end-of life-space. The four-year-old startup creates diamonds from the cremated ashes or hair of people and pets. It’s a highly unusual business but one that seems to be resonating with people seeking a way to keep a piece of their loved ones close to them after their death.

Since its inception, Eterneva has seen triple-digit growth in sales — including in 2020, when it more than doubled its revenue, according to CEO and co-founder Adelle Archer. And today, the company is announcing an “oversubscribed” $10M Series A led funding round led by Tiger Management with participation from Goodwater Capital, Capstar Ventures, NextCoast Ventures and Dallas billionaire Mark Cuban. (For the unacquainted, Tiger Management is the hedge fund and family office of Julian Robertson from which Tiger Global Management descended.)

“It was an extremely competitive round,” Archer told TechCrunch. “We received three term sheets and were able to put together an all-star investment group.” That investment group included Capstar Managing DIrector Kathryn Cavanaugh, who also joined Eterneva’s board; Lydia Jett – one of the top female partners at Softbank overseeing their $100B Vision Fund and Kara Nortman, managing partner at Upfront Capital, one of the first women to make managing partner at a VC fund and co-founder of Angel City with actress Natalie Portman.

Archer and co-founder Garrett Ozar launched Eterneva in the first quarter of 2017 after working together at BigCommerce. The company’s origin story is a very personal one for Archer. Her close friend and business mentor, Tracey Kaufman, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and ended up passing away at the age of 47. With no next of kin, Kaufman left her cremated ashes to her aunt, best friend and Archer.

“We started looking into different options but all the websites we landed on were so lackluster, somber and overwhelming,” Archer recalls. “Tracey was the most amazing person, and I felt like when you lose remarkable people, you needed better options to honor and memorialize them.”

At the time, Archer was working on a lab-grown diamond startup. Over dinner with a diamond scientist during which she was discussing her mentor’s death, the scientist said, “Well, you know Adele, there is carbon in ashes, so we could get the carbon out of Tracey’s ashes and make a diamond.”

The thought blew Archer’s mind.

“I knew that I had to do that, 100%. Tracy was such a vibrant person, it suited her so perfectly,” she said. “And I’d have a part of her with me all the time.”

Image Credits: Eterneva; Co-founders Garrett Ozar and Adelle Archer

It was the first diamond ever created by Eterneva, and it gave Archer a chance to be a customer of her own product, which she believes has helped in building an experience for her other customers. Soon, she became “fully focused” on the idea, which she viewed as a way to give grieving people “brightness and healing and a beautiful way to honor their loved ones.”

Since inception, Eterneva has created nearly 1,500 diamonds for over 1,000 customers. It can do colorless or nearly any color including black, yellow, blue, orange and green. The entry price for an Eterneva diamond is $2,999 and that goes up based on the size and color. Pets make up about 40% of Eterneva’s business.

“We view ourselves as the complete opposite tone of everything else in this space,” Archer said. “A lot of people are trying to solve planning and logistics around the end of life. We’re about helping people move forward, and building a platform for the celebration of life.”

The process to create the diamond is intricate, according to Archer, taking 7 to 9 months. The intent is to bring the customer along the journey by sharing the process with them at each stage through videos and pictures.

“We do it in parallel with their processing grief, which is super isolating,” Archer said. “They are usually in a different place with their grief than when they first started.”

One of the plans with the new capital is to enable more people to participate in person with the process such as, starting the machine work, or telling the jeweler stories about their loved one and coming up with a custom design that might have little details that represent aspects of their loved one’s life.

The company also plans to use the money to scale their funeral home channel program nationwide via Enterprise partnerships and scaling its operations and capacity in Austin so it can keep up with demand.

Eterneva is banking on the fact that more and more “people don’t want traditional funerals anymore.”

“They want personalization and meaning,” said Archer. “We plan to evolve the platform with different products and services down the road.”

The startup also wants to continue to build awareness around its brand. Recently, it’s seen more than a dozen videos on TikTok about its diamonds go viral, according to Archer.

Prior to the Series A, Eterneva has raised a total of $6.7 million from angels and institutions. Its seed round was a $3 million financing led by Austin-based Springdale Ventures in 2020. Mark Cuban first became an investor in the company when Archer and Ozar appeared on Shark Tank. Cuban took a 9% stake in the company in exchange for a $600,000 investment. Despite claims that the company was a scam, Cuban has stood by the science behind it and put money in the latest round as well.

Via email, he told TechCrunch he views an Eterneva diamond as “a unique, socially responsible way to stay connected to loved ones.”

 “There is still so much upside and growth in their future,” Cuban wrote. “So I doubled down.”  

He went on to describe the creation of diamond from the hair or ashes of a loved one as “such an intense personal commitment.”

“Eternava takes a very emotional and difficult and helps people walk through their journey in a trusted way that I don’t think anyone else can come close to,” Cuban added.

#actress, #austin, #co-founder, #diamond, #funding, #fundings-exits, #goodwater-capital, #investment, #kara-nortman, #managing-partner, #mark, #mark-cuban, #recent-funding, #startups, #synthetic-diamond, #tiger-management, #venture-capital, #vision-fund

Tune in today to watch Extreme Tech Challenge (XTC) Global Finals

It’s not too late to enjoy an epic pitch-off of global proportion. The Extreme Tech Challenge (XTC) Global Finals start today, July 22 at 9:00 am (PT). Register here for free, get instant access and tune in to see seven phenomenal startups — each one tackling some of the world’s most daunting social and environmental challenges.

The day also includes a keynote address from Beth Bechdol, the deputy director-general, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, and five panel discussions ranging from powering clean energy startups to going green. Here are just two examples, and be sure to check out the event agenda so you don’t miss a minute.

Powering the Future Through Transformative Tech: XTC’s co-founders Young Sohn, Chairman of the Board at HARMAN International, and founding Managing Partner at Walden Catalyst, and Bill Tai, Partner Emeritus at Charles River Ventures jump into the breakthrough tech innovations that are transforming industries to build a radically better world. How can business, government, philanthropy, and the startup community come together to create a better tomorrow? Hear from these industry veterans and thought leaders about how technology can not only shape the future, but also where the biggest opportunities lie, including some exciting news about XTC and the FAO of the United Nations.

Cutting Out Carbon Emitters with Bioengineering: Bioengineering may soon provide compelling, low-carbon alternatives in industries where even the best methods produce significant emissions. By utilizing natural and engineered biological processes, we may soon have low-carbon textiles from Algiknit, lab-grown premium meats from Orbillion and fuels captured from waste emissions via LanzaTech. Leaders from these companies will join our panel to talk about how bioengineering can do its part in the fight against climate change.

The main event is, of course, the pitch competition. More than 3,700 startups applied, and these are the seven finalists who will compete one last time for the title of XTC 2021 champion.

In addition to choosing the winner of XTC 2021, the esteemed judges will announce the winners of the COVID-19 Innovation award, the Female Founder award, the Ethical AI award and the People’s Choice award.

The Extreme Tech Challenge Global Finals start today at 9:00 am (PT). Register for free and gain instant access to this global pitch competition focused on saving the globe.

#agtech, #articles, #artificial-intelligence, #bill-tai, #charles-river-ventures, #climate-change, #extreme-tech-challenge-global-finals, #managing-partner, #musicians, #tc, #united-nations, #young-sohn

Untitled Ventures joins the scramble for Russian & Eastern European startups with a $118M warchest

Sorry Mr. Putin, but there’s a race on for Russian and Eastern European founders. And right now, those awful capitalists in the corrupt West are starting to out-gun the opposition! But seriously… only the other day a $100 million fund aimed at Russian speaking entrepreneurs appeared, and others are proliferating.

Now, London-based Untitled Ventures plans to join their fray with a €100 million / $118M for its second fund to invest in “ambitious deep tech startups with eastern European founders.”

Untitled says it is aiming at entrepreneurs who are looking to relocate their business or have already HQ’ed in Western Europe and the USA. That’s alongside all the other existing Western VCs who are – in my experience – always ready and willing to listen to Russian and Eastern European founders, who are often known for their technical prowess.

Untitled is going to be aiming at B2B, AI, agritech, medtech, robotics, and data management startups with proven traction emerging from the Baltics, CEE, and CIS, or those already established in Western Europe

LPs in the fund include Vladimir Vedeenev, a founder of Global Network Management>. Untitled also claims to have Google, Telegram Messenger, Facebook, Twitch, DigitalOcean, IP-Only, CenturyLinks, Vodafone and TelecomItaly as partners.

Oskar Stachowiak, Untitled Ventures Managing Partner, said: “With over 10 unicorns, €1Bn venture funding in 2020 alone, and success stories like Veeam, Semrush, and Wrike, startups emerging from the fast-growing regions are the best choice to focus on early-stage investment for us. Thanks to the strong STEM focus in the education system and about one million high-skilled developers, we have an ample opportunity to find and support the rising stars in the region.”

Konstantin Siniushin, the Untitled Ventures MP said: “We believe in economic efficiency and at the same time we fulfill a social mission of bringing technological projects with a large scientific component from the economically unstable countries of the former USSR, such as, first of all, Belarus, Russia and Ukraine, but not only in terms of bringing sales to the world market and not only helping them to HQ in Europe so they can get next rounds of investments.”

He added: “We have a great experience accumulated earlier in the first portfolio of the first fund, not just structuring business in such European countries as, for example, Luxembourg, Germany, Great Britain, Portugal, Cyprus and Latvia, but also physically relocating startup teams so that they are perceived already as fully resident in Europe and globally.”

To be fair, it is still harder than it needs to be to create large startups from Eastern Europe, mainly because there is often very little local capital. However, that is changing, with the launch recently of CEE funds such as Vitosha Venture Partners and Launchub Ventures, and the breakout hit from Romania that was UIPath.

The Untitled Ventures team:
• Konstantin Siniushin, a serial tech entrepreneur
• Oskar Stachowiak, experienced fund manager
• Mary Glazkova, PR & Comms veteran
• Anton Antich, early stage investor and an ex VP of Veeam, a Swiss cloud data management company
acquired by Insight Venture Partners for $5bln
• Yulia Druzhnikova, experienced in taking tech companies international
• Mark Cowley, who has worked on private and listed investments within CEE/Russia for over 20 years

Untitled Ventures portfolio highlights – Fund I
Sizolution: AI-driven size prediction engine, based in Germany
Pure app – spontaneous and impersonal dating app, based in Portugal
Fixar Global –  efficient drones for commercial use-cases, based in Latvia,
E-contenta – based in Poland
SuitApp – AI based mix-and-match suggestions for fashion retail, based in Singapore
• Sarafan.tech, AI-driven recognition, based in the USA
Hello, baby – parental assistant, based in the USA
Voximplant – voice, video and messaging cloud communication platform, based in the USA (exited)

#artificial-intelligence, #baltics, #belarus, #corporate-finance, #cyprus, #eastern-europe, #economy, #entrepreneurship, #europe, #facebook, #finance, #founder, #germany, #google, #insight-venture-partners, #latvia, #launchub-ventures, #london, #luxembourg, #managing-partner, #money, #poland, #portugal, #private-equity, #putin, #republicans, #russia, #singapore, #startup-company, #tc, #ukraine, #united-kingdom, #united-states, #veeam, #venture-capital, #vitosha-venture-partners, #vodafone, #vp, #wrike

WhenThen’s no-code payments platform attracts $6M from European VCs Stride and Cavalry

The payments space – amazingly – remains up for grabs for startups. Yes dear reader, despite the success of Stripe, there seems to be a new payments startup virtually every other day. It’s a mess out there! The accelerated growth of e-commerce due to the pandemic means payments are now a booming space. And here comes another one, with a twist.

WhenThen has built a no-code payment operations platform that, they claim, streamlines the payment processes “of merchants of any kind”.  It says its platform can autonomously orchestrate, monitor, improve and manage all customer payments and payments ops.

The startup’s opportunity has arisen because service providers across different verticals increasingly want to get into open banking and provide their own payment solutions and financial services.

Founded 6 months ago, WhenThen has now raised $6 million, backed by European VCs Stride and Cavalry.

The founders, Kirk Donohoe, Eamon Doyle and Dave Brown  are three former Mastercard Payment veterans.

Based “out of Dublin, CEO Donohoe told me: “We see traditional businesses embracing e-comm, and e-comm merchants now operating multiple business models such as trade supply, marketplace, subscription, and more. There is no platform that makes it easy for such businesses to create and operate multiple payment flows to support multiple business models in one place – that’s where we step in.”

He added: “WhenThen is helping ecommerce digital platforms build advanced payment flows and payment automation, in minutes as opposed to months. When you start to integrate different payment methods, different payment gateways, how you want the payment to move from collection through to payout gets very, very complex. I’ve been doing this for over a decade now, as an entrepreneur building different businesses that had to accept collect and pay payments.”

He said his founding team “had to build very complex payment flows for large merchants, airlines, hotels, issuers, and we just found it was ridiculous that you have to continue to do the same thing over and over again. So we decided to come up with WhenThen as a better way to be able to help you build those flows in minutes.”

Claude Ritter, managing partner at Cavalry said: “Basic payment orchestration platforms have been around for some time, focusing mostly on maximizing payment acceptance by optimizing routing. WhenThen provides the first end-to-end payment flow platform to equip businesses with the opportunity to control every stage of the payment flow from payment intent to payout.”

WhenThen supports a wide range of popular payment providers such as Stripe, Braintree, Adyen, Authorize.net, Checkout.com, etc., and a variety of alternative and locally preferred payment methods such as Klarna Affirm, PayPal, BitPay.

“For brave merchants considering global reach and operating multiple business models concurrently, I believe choosing the right payment ops platform will become as important as choosing the right e-commerce platform. Building your entire ecomm experience tightly coupled to a single payment processor is a hard correction to make down the line – you need a payment flow platform like WhenThen,” added Fred Destin, founder of Stride.VC.

#adyen, #authorize-net, #bitpay, #ceo, #checkout-com, #dublin, #e-commerce, #entrepreneur, #europe, #finance, #financial-services, #fred-destin, #klarna, #managing-partner, #mastercard, #merchant-services, #mobile-payments, #money, #online-payments, #open-banking, #payment-gateway, #payment-processor, #payment-solutions, #paypal, #stripe, #tc

The Extreme Tech Challenge Global Finals 2021 starts tomorrow

Get ready for a startup throwdown of global proportions (literally). We’re the proud hosts of the Extreme Tech Challenge (XTC) Global Finals, and the pitch competition action starts tomorrow, July 22 at 9:00 am (PT).

Pro housekeeping tip: Attending this virtual pitch fest is 100 percent free, but you need to register here first.

Not familiar with XTC? It’s the world’s largest pitch competition focused on solving humanity’s most vexing challenges. You gotta love a competition that serves the greater good — and a startup ecosystem for purpose-driven companies determined to build a more sustainable, equitable, healthy, inclusive and prosperous world.

The road to the XTC finals was crowded to say the least. More than 3,700 startups from 92 countries applied to compete in one of these categories: Agtech, Food & Water, Cleantech & Energy, Edtech, Enabling Tech, Fintech, Healthtech and Mobility & Smart Cities.

Talk about a daunting endeavor. Team XTC, which consisted of deeply experienced investors, entrepreneurs and executives, winnowed down that field to these seven competing finalists: Wasteless, Mining and Process Solutions, Testmaster, Dot Inc., Hillridge Technology, Genetika+ and Fotokite.

Tomorrow’s competition takes place in two rounds, and each startup team will have to bring its best if they hope to impress this panel of judges — all leaders in sustainability and social-impact.

Young Sohn, co-founder, XTC and chairman at Harmann International; Bill Tai, co-founder, XTC and Partner Emeritus, Charles River Ventures; Regina Dugan, president and CEO of Wellcome Leap; Jerry Yang, founder/partner of AME Cloud Ventures and co-founder of Yahoo!; Lars Reger, CTO and EVP at NXP Semiconductors; and Michael Zeisser, managing partner at FMZ Ventures.

In a classic, “but wait, there’s more” moment, the day also features several presentations from some of the leading voices in sustainability. Take a look at the two examples below, and check out the complete XTC finals agenda and the roster of speakers.

The Keynote Address: Tune in as Beth Bechdol, the deputy director-general at the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, provides an update on the latest from her agency.

Waste Matters: According to the EPA, the U.S. alone produces 292.4 million tons of waste a year. Can technology help this massive – and growing – issue? Leon Farrant (Green Li-Ion), Matanya Horowitz (AMP Robotics), and Elizabeth Gilligan (Material Evolution) will discuss their companies’ unique approaches to dealing with the problem.

The Extreme Tech Challenge Global Finals starts tomorrow, July 22. Join us and thousands of people around the world for this free, virtual pitch competition. Register here for your free ticket.

#agtech, #ame-cloud-ventures, #bill-tai, #charles-river-ventures, #co-founder, #environmental-protection-agency, #extreme-tech-challenge-global-finals, #healthtech, #jerry-yang, #managing-partner, #nxp-semiconductors, #partner, #regina-dugan, #tc, #united-nations, #united-states, #wellcome, #yahoo, #young-sohn

Percent raises $5M, aiming to become the ‘Stripe for donations’ to good causes

What with the planet collapsing and democracy under constant attack from all quarters – you know, just the usual – one or two members of the global population have, idly or not, wondered if the private sector might want to step up? I mean, as well as shooting billionaires into space. At the same time, even! Luckily, many businesses want to do better. But there are one or two hurdles. Incorporating “purpose” into their digital offering, such as donating to a non-profit at the end of a moving documentary, is harder than it looks. Businesses don’t have the capacity to build in donation software; they can’t continually verify and audit good causes; and processing donations is fraught with legal complications, compliance, and regulatory risk. What is to be done?

Pennies is one organization that bills itself as the digital equivalent of the traditional charity collection box. However, perhaps what we need is… drum roll… an API?

Step forward Percent. Founded in 2017, Percent provides an API allowing firms to customers to donate to good causes, matching a donation made when making a payment, or rounding up a financial transaction, for instance.

It’s now closed a $5M venture round led by Morpheus Ventures, allowing it to expand in the US, as well as its existing presence in the UK and Australia. The UK’s Nationwide Building Society – also an early investor and customer of the product – is a co-investor in the round.

The company says its API-first platform takes care of auditing and compliance processes to prevent fraud and money-laundering whilst also parsing tax-efficient disbursements of funds into 200 countries worldwide. It says 7 million non-profit causes have been added to the platform and it’s vetted the potential recipients of donations.

Henry Ludlam, Founder, and CEO of Percent, said: “Percent was founded to become the global API-first infrastructure behind all giving. This will be the foundation for a better, fairer future of capitalism in which every financial transaction has social and environmental good built into it.”

In an interview I asked him if the pandemic had accelerated the opportunity: “Because of COVID, suddenly now we have brands that are really desperate to build purpose into their business in a way that they just weren’t doing 18 months ago. It’s really been an amazing shift. We’ve just seen a huge shift in what consumers expect from businesses. Consumers expect businesses to build purpose into what they do now.”

He said that the product could be even built into – surprise! – streaming services: “Say you’ve seen a documentary. And at the end of the documentary, you feel particularly moved, like you watched a David Attenborough or something like that. You could then actually be able to quickly and easily build donations into the end of it. So using our API, it would pull up a list of nonprofits, so right there and then the customer could make a donation. We’re also working with a crypto platform where you can round down your transactions and donate to any nonprofit as well. There’s loads of really cool stuff we are working on which is coming out soon.”
 
Kristian Blaszczynski, Managing Partner of Morpheus Ventures, said: “With the events of the last several years, it has become more apparent that aligning brands with purpose is driving consumer behavior and spend. However, today, the process of donating to non-profits is incredibly archaic, manual, and inefficient… Percent’s API-first platform abstracts away all of these complexities and automates the processes, allowing businesses to align closer to their stakeholders and focus on their core business.”

Percent could well be pushing at an open door. Kantar Research says that only 22% of people could name a brand they thought was doing a good job addressing issues such as climate change, plastic waste, and water pollution. On the flip side, 95% of businesses think that “purpose” is at the heart of what they do. The disparity could not be more stark.

Is Percent the stripe for donations? We’re about to find out.

#api, #articles, #australia, #ceo, #david-attenborough, #europe, #good-worldwide, #magazines, #managing-partner, #morpheus-ventures, #streaming-services, #tc, #united-kingdom, #united-states

Brokrete wants to be the “Shopify of construction”, raises $3M Seed led by Xploration Capital

With the pandemic affecting every aspect of life and industry, it’s no surprise that digitization is coming to construction fast. Construction suppliers are increasingly under the same pressure as other sectors to perform at a higher level. We’ve seen the rise of companies like Dozer, Reno Run, and Toolbox try to address this, but often the model is closer to a vertical integration one rather than something more open. Even with that, it’s still the case that to order concrete or bricks, construction companies have to negotiate each time, while simultaneously record keeping.

This is the argument of Brokrete, which bills itself as the “Shopify of construction.”

The startup has now raised a $3M seed financing round led by Xploration Capital, which was joined by unnamed new strategic investors and existing investors. The startup graduated from Y Combinator’s winter cohort last year. Other strategic investors include Ronald Richardson, Avlok Kohli (CEO of AngeLlist Ventures) and the MaRS Investment Accelerator Fund (IAF). The funding will be used to expand in North American and European markets. Brokrete also launched an e-commerce platform for suppliers in the construction industry it calls Storefront.

Jordan Latourelle, the company’s founder and CEO said: “Construction today is a largely offline, $1.2 trillion market where legacy commerce is the norm. Brokrete’s Storefront product equips suppliers with the tools required to enhance their operations by orders of magnitude. I founded Brokrete after seeing an industry left behind by e-commerce giants. Now we are becoming the operating system for e-commerce in the construction industry, while staying easy and affordable at the same time.”

Brokrete says its platform is code-free, white-labeled, multi-channel, and industry-specific to sell and manage orders online. Suppliers get an iOS and Android app for e-commerce to receive offline orders from more ‘traditional’ customers. It then provides order management, payouts, dispatching, logistics, and real-time delivery. There are also financial and operational ERP integrations. Brokrete claims to works with 1000+ contractors and to have a 250+ supplier network. 

Latourelle told me: “We’re giving the construction industry an opportunity to use it on a Shopify way, and create their own store. It’s like a branded storefront for suppliers.”

Eugene Timko, Managing Partner at Xploration Capital said: “Construction is one of the few remaining large industries with mostly undigitized supply chains. Historically the key problem was the lack of real-time access to actual stocks which prevented producers and distributors from going online. Now with Brokrete’s end-to-end solution, these businesses can not only sell through Brokrete’s marketplace but can also enable their own direct online channels. Similar to Shopify, this has allowed many thousands of previously offline businesses to start accepting orders online.”

#android, #angellist, #avlok-kohli, #ceo, #e-commerce, #europe, #managing-partner, #operating-system, #retailers, #shopify, #storefront, #tc, #toolbox, #y-combinator

Powered by local stores, JOKR joins the 15 min grocery race with a $170M Series A

“We are true believers in the fact that the world needs a new Amazon, a better one, a more sustainable one, one that appreciates local areas and products.” It’s quite one thing to claim you are out to replace Amazon (just as its founder goes into space), but Ralf Wenzel, Founder and CEO of JOKR, certainly believes his company might have a shot. And he’s raising plenty of money to aim at that goal.

Today the fast-growing grocery and retail delivery platform has closed a whopping $170 million Series A funding round. The round comes three months after the company started operations in the U.S., Latin America, and Europe. JOKR’s team consists of people who created both foodpanda and Delivery Hero, so from the outside at least, they have the chops to build a big business.

The round was led by Led by GGV Capital, Balderton Capital, and Tiger Global Management. It was joined by Activant Capital, Greycroft, Fabrice Grinda’s FJ Labs, as well as Latin America’s tech-specialized VC firms Kaszek and Monashees, as did HV Capital, the first institutional investor.

Based out of New York, where it launched last month JOKR plans to roll out across cities in the U.S., Latin America and Europe. Right now it’s live in nine cities, across Latin American countries, Brazil, Mexico, Colombia, Peru, as well as Poland and Austria in Europe.

Wenzel said: “The investment we announced today will empower us to continue our expansion at an unprecedented rate as we continue to build JOKR into the premier platform for a new generation of online shopping, with instant delivery, a focus on local product offerings and more sustainable delivery and supply chains. We are proud to be able to partner with such a distinguished group of international tech investors to help us seize the enormous opportunity in front of us.”

JOKR’s pitch is that it enables small local businesses to sell their goods, sourced from other local businesses, via the platform, thus expanding their reach without the need for complex logistics and delivery networks on their own. But that local aspect also builds sustainability into the model.

Hans Tung, Managing Partner at GGV Capital, and newly appointed member of JOKR’s board said: “Ralf has put together an all-star team for food delivery that will transform the retail supply chain. The combination of food delivery experience and the sophisticated data capabilities that optimizes inventory allocation and dispatch, set JOKR apart. We look forward to working with the team on their mission to make retail more instant, more democratic, and more sustainable.”

JOKR is joining other fast-delivery grocery providers like Gorillas and Getir in providing a 15 minute delivery time for supermarket and convenience products, pharmaceuticals, but also ‘exclusive’ local products that are not available in regular supermarkets. Although, so far, it only has an app on Google Play.

Speaking at an interview with me Wenzel said: “We are close to the equivalent of Instacart, strongly grocery focused. Our offering is significantly broader than the ones of Gorillas because we’re not only focusing on convenience and all kinds of different grocery categories, we’re getting closer to a supermarket offering, so the biggest competing element would be the traditional supermarkets, the offline supermarkets, as well as online grocery propositions. We are vertically integrating and hence procuring directly, cutting out middlemen and building our own distribution warehouses.”

#activant-capital, #amazon, #austria, #balderton-capital, #brazil, #ceo, #colombia, #delivery-hero, #distribution, #europe, #food-delivery, #foodpanda, #getir, #ggv-capital, #gorillas, #grocery-store, #hans-tung, #hv-capital, #instacart, #jokr, #latin-america, #managing-partner, #mexico, #new-york, #online-food-ordering, #online-shopping, #peru, #pharmaceuticals, #poland, #premier, #ralf-wenzel, #retailers, #tc, #tiger-global-management, #united-states

Firat Ileri becomes Hummingbird VC’s new Managing Partner, as the firm looks to expand

Seed investment firm Hummingbird VC, which previously invested in Deliveroo, Peak Games, MarkaVIP, and Kraken has a new Managing Partner. Firat Ileri, previously a Partner – who at 28 became one of Europe’s youngest VCs when he joined in 2012 – takes over from Founding Partner Barend Van den Brande, who will now take on a more strategic role at the firm.

Ileri grew up in Cyprus and went on to study electrical engineering, computer science, and operations research at MIT. At Hummingbird he has lead the firm’s first investments in Latin America and in South East Asia.

Ileri initially introduced the cofounders of Gram Games, led their first investment, and helped exit the company to Zynga for half a billion. He also led the sale process of Peak Games in 2020, which exited at $1.8Bn, making history as Turkey’s largest tech exit to date.

Founded in 2010, Hummingbird is currently on its fourth fund of $200M, raised in Q4 2020, and says it invests from Europe to India, SEA, LATAM, Turkey and more recently in the US.
 
Firat most recently led Hummingbird’s first investments in engineering biology, investing in Billiontoone, the SF-based precision diagnostics company in the prenatal and liquid biopsy space, which has raised a $55M Series B round. It’s also invested in Kernal Biologics, an mRNA 2.0 therapeutics company focused on oncology.

Van den Brande said: “From the moment Firat joined us in the very early days of Hummingbird, he hit the ground running. His eye for unique and ambitious founding teams, and unparalleled expertise in Seed investing, persistence and really understanding what Early Stage companies need has made him an invaluable asset to Hummingbird and all of the founders we work with. I’m only pleased to have Firat take on the role and lead the Hummingbird family and portfolio for years to come.”

Ileri said the firm’s thesis was to invest in stand-out founders: “We’re spending much more time trying to understand who these people are and what makes them special. In a way, we’re looking for anomalies in people, and we believe that the best companies are created with nonlinear backgrounds. So, this is the thesis.”

He said the team has expanded to drive this vision: “We used to be a boutique fund, but we have the ambition to be more and especially to look for founders who have an independent mind and huge ambitions. To be able to find more companies we’ve gone more global, in order to have a better chance of finding these special stories.”

#corporate-finance, #cyprus, #deliveroo, #europe, #finance, #hummingbird, #india, #investment, #latin-america, #managing-partner, #mit, #money, #online-food-ordering, #seed-money, #south-east-asia, #tc, #turkey, #united-states, #van, #venture-capital, #zynga

Hear top VCs Albert Wegner, Jenny Rooke, and Shilpi Kumar talk green bets at the Extreme Tech Challenge finals

This year, TechCrunch is proudly hosting the Extreme Tech Challenge Global Finals on July 22. The event is among the world’s largest purpose-driven startup competitions that are aiming to solve global challenges based on the United Nations’ 17 sustainability goals.

If you want to catch an array of innovative startups across a range of categories, all of them showcasing what they’re building, you won’t want to miss our must-see pitch-off competition.

You can also catch feature panels hosted by TechCrunch editors, including one of the most highly anticipated discussions of the event, a talk on “going green” with guest speakers Shilpi Kumar, Jenny Rooke, and Albert Wenger, all of whom are actively investing in climate startups that are targeting big opportunities

Shilpi Kumar is a partner with Urban Us, an investment platform focused on urban tech and climate solutions. She previously led go-to-market and early sales efforts at Filament, a startup focused on deploying secure wireless networks for connected physical assets. As an investor, Shilpi has also focused on hardware, mobility, energy, IoT, and robotics, having worked previously for VTF Capital, First Round Capital, and Village Global.

Jenny Rooke is the founder and managing director of Genoa Ventures, but Rooke has been deploying capital into innovative life sciences opportunities for years, including at Fidelity Biosciences and later the Gates Foundation, where she helped managed more than $250 million in funding, funneling some of that capital into genetic engineering, diagnostics, and synthetic biology startups. Rooke began independently investing under the brand 5 Prime Ventures, ultimately establishing among the largest life sciences syndicates on AngelList before launching Genoa.

Last but not least, Albert Wenger, has been a managing partner at Union Square Ventures for more than 13 years. Before joining USV, Albert was the president of del.icio.us through the company’s sale to Yahoo and an angel investor, including writing early checks to Etsy and Tumblr. He previously founded or co-founded several companies, including a management consulting firm and an early hosted data analytics company. Among his investments today is goTenna, a company trying to advance universal access to connectivity by building a scalable mobile mesh network.

Sustainability is the key to our planet’s future and our survival, but it’s also going to be incredibly lucrative and a major piece of our world economy. Hear from these seasoned investors about how VCs and startups alike are thinking about Greentech and how that will evolve in the coming years.

Join us on July 22 to find out how the most innovative startups are working to solve some of the world’s biggest problems. And best of all, tickets are free — book yours today!

#albert-wenger, #angel-investor, #angellist, #energy, #etsy, #fidelity-biosciences, #filament, #finance, #first-round-capital, #gates-foundation, #genetic-engineering, #gotenna, #investment, #managing-partner, #money, #president, #prime-ventures, #startup-company, #tc, #techcrunch, #tumblr, #union-square-ventures, #united-nations, #village-global, #yahoo

Iceland’s Frumtak Ventures raises its third, $57M, fund focusing on post-seed and Series A

Frumtak Ventures, one of the few VCs in Iceland, has raised its third fund, Frumtak III. The $57 million (ISK 7b, €48m) fund will focus on post-seed and Series A startups. The firm says its typical ticket size will range from $1-5 million (€850k-4.2m).

Frumtak was a somewhat lesser-known European VC until it popped up on our radar as the backers behind the Controlant real-time supply chain monitoring startup, the technology from which was pictured beside Andrew Cuomo, governor of New York, when he held up a box containing the first-ever shipment of the COVID-19 vaccine to the city. Controlant has been a key player in the global distribution cold chain associated with vaccines.

However, the fund has also backed digital banking solutions provider Meniga, digital therapeutics scaleup Sidekick Health, travel CRM and travel booking system provider Kaptio, live event and fan engagement data analytics company Activity Stream, and Data Market, which was acquired by Qlik in 2014.

Svana Gunnarsdottir, managing partner of Frumtak Ventures said: “We are proud of the accomplishments of our portfolio companies and their teams, as well as the investment decisions we made through our first two funds. We look forward to continuing our support of high-potential startups and brilliant founders with Frumtak III. We are also grateful for the confidence shown to us by our LP’s, many of whom have been with us since our first fund in 2009.”

Concurrently, Asthildur Otharsdottir has joined the firm as partner and Frumtak III’s lead investment manager. Otharsdottir was previously Frumtak’s Chairman for 6 years and has been on the board of Marel and Icelandair Group.

#andrew-cuomo, #business, #chairman, #companies, #crm, #europe, #frumtak-ventures, #governor, #iceland, #managing-partner, #meniga, #new-york, #player, #private-equity, #startup-company, #tc

Vercel raises $102M Series C for its front-end development platform

Vercel, the company behind the popular open-source Next.js React framework, today announced that it has raised a $102 million Series C funding round led by Bedrock Capital. Existing investors Accel, CRV,
Geodesic Capital, Greenoaks Capital and GV also participated in this round, together with new investors 8VC, Flex Capital, GGV, Latacora, Salesforce Ventures and Tiger Global. In total, the company has now raised $163 million and its current valuation is $1.1 billion.

As Vercel notes, the company saw strong growth in recent months, with traffic to all sites and apps on its network doubling since October 2020. About half of the world’s largest 10,000 websites now use Next.js . Given the open-source nature of the Next.js framework, not all of these users are obviously Vercel customers, but its current paying customers include the likes of Carhartt, Github, IBM, McDonald’s and Uber.

Image Credits: Vercel

“For us, it all starts with a front-end developer,” Vercel CEO Guillermo Rauch told me. “Our goal is to create and empower those developers — and their teams — to create delightful, immersive web experiences for their customers.”

With Vercel, Rauch and his team took the Next.js framework and then built a serverless platform that specifically caters to this framework and allows developers to focus on building their front ends without having to worry about scaling and performance.

Older solutions, Rauch argues, were built in isolation from the cloud platforms and serverless technologies, leaving it up to the developers to deploy and scale their solutions. And while some potential users may also be content with using a headless content management system, Rauch argues that increasingly, developers need to be able to build solutions that can go deeper than the off-the-shelf solutions that many businesses use today.

Rauch also noted that developers really like Vercel’s ability to generate a preview URL for a site’s front end every time a developer edits the code. “So instead of just spending all your time in code review, we’re shifting the equation to spending your time reviewing or experiencing your front end. That makes the experience a lot more collaborative,” he said. “So now, designers, marketers, IT, CEOs […] can now come together in this collaboration of building a front end and say, ‘that shade of blue is not the right shade of blue.’”

“Vercel is leading a market transition through which we are seeing the majority of value-add in web and cloud application development being delivered at the front end, closest to the user, where true experiences are made and enjoyed,” said Geoff Lewis, founder and managing partner at Bedrock. “We are extremely enthusiastic to work closely with Guillermo and the peerless team he has assembled to drive this revolution forward and are very pleased to have been able to co-lead this round.”

#bedrock-capital, #ceo, #cloud, #cloud-computing, #cloud-infrastructure, #computing, #content-management-system, #developer, #funding, #fundings-exits, #geodesic-capital, #geoff-lewis, #github, #greenoaks-capital, #ibm, #managing-partner, #mcdonalds, #react, #recent-funding, #salesforce, #salesforce-ventures, #serverless-computing, #software, #startups, #tc, #tiger-global

Golden Ventures raises $100M fourth fund and $20M opportunities fund

Canadian early stage venture firm Golden Ventures has raised its fourth fund, a $100 million pool of capital that it will use to invest in between 20 to 25 companies, as well as a $20 million ‘Opportunities Fund’ that it will use to make follow-on investments in standout performers among its portfolio. This is also the 10th anniversary for Golden Ventures, and its latest fund arrives at a time when the Canadian startup ecosystem looks healthier than ever, with a proliferation of angels emerging from past success stories, a number of new funds being announced, and unicorn valuations on significant funding rounds for multiple Canadian startups.

I spoke to Golden Ventures Founder and Managing Partner Matt Golden, and General Partner Ameet Shah about its plans for this fund, and about the Canadian startup and investment landscape in general.

“Over time, we’re certainly seeing more and more interest in institutional LPs, more and more interest in the Canadian ecosystem, which I think is a net positive,” Golden said. “Whereas before, the Canadian ecosystem was largely funded by Canadian institutions, so I think that’s really positive, because you have to sort of be judged on the on the world stage. And we’re starting to meet that bar as both an ecosystem and as a fund.”

Golden said that the game plan with this Fund IV doesn’t really change in terms of their investment targets; while Golden initially set out to invest primarily in companies working on software products for mobile devices, it eventually shifted to a strategy of backing North American seed stage, mission-driven founders working on venture-scale opportunities across a range of verticals and categories.

“I would say that over time, our ratio of deals, Canada to U.S., we’ve increased the number of deals on a ratio basis that we do in Canada versus the U.S., just by virtue of the fact that the Canadian ecosystem is on a terrific, high-velocity trajectory.” Golden said. “You’ve seen it coming, but I think it’s really starting to hit its stride now, with lots of founders with ‘big swing’ vision, and an increasing interest in capital playing in the ecosystem.”

Shah added that he also thinks we’re trending towards more startups that originate in Canada setting up nodes in different geographies in ways that make most sense for their talent needs, and vice versa.

“Post-COVID, a lot of companies may start here, but with the geographical boundaries just blurring, there’s really no reason they can’t set up locations in different centers of gravity and take advantage of other ecosystems’ competitive advantages,” he said. “We had one that recently set up a location in LA, as well as Toronto, capturing some the value of LA but also leveraging all the talent in Toronto as well. I think you’re gonna start seeing more and more of that, where things are moving more towards networks, and not just cities in general.”

As for this fund raise, it’s one of three recent Canadian early stage pools of venture capital to also include an ‘Opportunities Fund,’ which in each case has been described as a way for the firms to participate in later stage deals in their star portfolio companies that they wouldn’t otherwise be set up to invest in as an early stage investment organization. Golden Ventures is also introducing another new type of investment to its roster with Fund IV, however.

“There’s this concept, we call it ‘Angel allocation,’ […] it’s the idea that we can invest smaller checks, sort of 400-to-500 thousand, into companies where maybe the structure of the opportunity or of the deal may not fit what our core checks would be,” Golden explains. “That could be, for example, a case where there’s not enough room left in the round, or the valuation is outside of our core range, or maybe we’re learning about a completely new space that’s highly experimental — but we still have a high degree of conviction in the opportunity, in the people behind that opportunity, and the returns that it could generate.”

Funds for those investments will come out of the main Fund IV pool, but the majority will still be targeting those core 20-25 larger checks. Overall, though, both Golden and Shah emphasize that the primary goal of the fund at this stage is capitalizing on the growing trend they see of more opportunity emerging in the Canadian ecosystem, and the impact that’s having in terms of startups across North America.

“When you talk about who are the the top five to ten companies in Canada, for a long time, it was really the same group,” Shah said. “Now, you’ve got this new crop of people that have come in and feel like they’re still on an upward trajectory, and I think that’s just really exciting as well.”

#business-incubators, #canada, #corporate-finance, #economy, #entrepreneurship, #finance, #golden-ventures, #louisiana, #managing-partner, #matt-golden, #mobile-devices, #money, #north-america, #ourcrowd, #private-equity, #startup-company, #tc, #toronto, #united-states, #venture-capital

Vitosha Venture Partners launches $30M fund to back Bulgarian-related early-stage startups

Vitosha Venture Partners is a brand new venture fund launching out of Bulgaria, and backed by the Bulgarian government. The 26 million euro ($30M) fund aims to invest in approximately 100 companies, starting from low ticket sizes all the way up to a million, in early-stage and growth-stage companies that are based in or related to Bulgaria.

Vitosha will be co-financed by the European Structural and Investment Funds under the Operational Programme for Innovation and Competitiveness 2014-2020, managed by the Fund of Funds in Bulgaria. Beyond standard VC conventions, it will also back companies that matter for the growth, sustainability, and development of the local economy in Bulgaria and the Central European region.

Speaking to me over a call, co-founder Max Gurvits said: “Bulgaria and this whole region of South-eastern Europe is a very early ecosystem. The cool thing that’s happening here and that’s something we’re excited about and proud of is that because Bulgaria started a little earlier in tech than the neighboring countries, it’s still very early, but there are 1000s of people now in startups.”

He added: “I do think that in Bulgaria, something like the emergence of a unicorn-like UIPath might happen in the next two or three years. So we’re slowly but surely catching up.”

“There’s a lot of FoodTech / AgTech here, there there’s a lot of connected hardware manufacturing like electric bicycles. While those companies might not be groundbreaking or world-changing they are actually quite solid fast-growing businesses that have a pretty high probability of exiting for 2x 3x 4x 5x or more.”

Vitosha Accelerate also run an acceleration program.

The team consists of:
Erik Anderson- Managing Partner (ex WiseGuys)
Max Gurvits – Managing partner
Marin Iliev- Managing partner
Maris Prii – Managing Partner
Nikola Stojanow – Managing Partner
Paul Weinberger- Managing partner
Kamen Bankovski – Principal
Stoyan Nedin – Venture Partner

Portfolio – 17 companies up to date
Investments between EUR 150k and EUR 800k
Hobo – https://hobo.bg
Quendoo – https://www.quendoo.com
Econic One – https://econicone.com
Eirene Studio- https://eirenestudio.com
Tokwise- https://www.tokwise.com
Omnio-https://omniotech.net
Petmall- https://petmall.bg
Assen Aero- http://assen.aero
MeatMe Bar- https://www.meatmebar.com/bg
PelletBox- Stealth

Vitosha ACCELERATE startups (tickets up to EUR 50k)
Gridmetrics – https://www.gridmetrics.co
Trace the Taste- Stealth
FidU Trade-https://fidutrade.com
Augment- https://augment.gg
NulaBG-https://nula.bg
Bye Bye Stuttering- https://www.byebyestuttering.com
Ecopolitech- Stealth

The companies that became part of Vitosha’s portfolio in April are:
Tokwise- €150K
Omnio-€200K
Petmall- €800K
Assen Aero- €600K
MeatMe Bar- €400K
PelletBox- €200K
Gridmetrics-€50K
Trace the Taste-€50K
FidU Trade-€75K
Augment-€50K
NulaBG-€50K
Bye Bye Stuttering-€50K
EcoPolytech-€50K

#agtech, #bulgaria, #co-founder, #eastern-europe, #europe, #managing-partner, #max-gurvits, #tc, #uipath, #venture-capital

Elisity raises $26M Series A to scale its AI cybersecurity platform

Elisity, a self-styled innovator that provides behavior-based enterprise cybersecurity, has raised $26 million in Series A funding.

The funding round was co-led by Two Bear Capital and AllegisCyber Capital, the latter of which has invested in a number of cybersecurity startups including Panaseer, with previous seed investor Atlantic Bridge also participating.

Elisity, which is led by industry veterans from Cisco, Qualys, and Viptela, says the funding will help it meet growing enterprise demand for its cloud-delivered Cognitive Trust platform, which it claims is the only platform intelligent enough to understand how assets and people connect beyond corporate perimeters.

The platform looks to help organizations transition from legacy access approaches to zero trust, a security model based on maintaining strict access controls and not trusting anyone — even employees — by default, across their entire digital footprint. This enables organizations to adopt a ‘work-from-anywhere’ model, according to the company, which notes that most companies today continue to rely on security and policies based on physical location or low-level networking constructs, such as VLAN, IP and MAC addresses, and VPNs.

Cognitive Trust, the company claims, can analyze the uniquely identify and context of people, apps and devices, including Internet of Things (IoT) and operational technology (OT), wherever they’re working. The company says its AI-driven behavioral intelligence, the platform can also continuously assess risk and instantly optimize access, connectivity and protection policies.

“CISOs are facing ever increasing attack surfaces caused by the shift to remote work, reliance on cloud-based services (and often multi-cloud), and the convergence of IT/OT networks,” said Mike Goguen, founder and managing partner at Two Bear Capital. “Elisity addresses all of these problems by not only enacting a zero trust model, but by doing so at the edge and within the behavioral context of each interaction. We are excited to partner with the CEO, James Winebrenner, and his team as they expand the reach of their revolutionary approach to enterprise security.”

Founded in 2018, Elisity — whose competitors include the likes of Vectra AI and Lastline closed a $7.5 million seed round in August that same year, led by Atlantic Bridge. With its seed round, Elisity began scaling its engineering, sales and marketing teams to ramp up ahead of the platform’s launch. 

Now it’s looking to scale in order to meet growing enterprise demand, which comes as many organizations move to a hybrid working model and seek the tools to help them secure distributed workforces. 

“When the security perimeter is no longer the network, we see an incredible opportunity to evolve the way enterprises connect and protect their people and their assets, moving away from strict network constructs to identity and context as the basis for secure access,” said Winebrenner. 

“With Elisity, customers can dispense with the complexity, cost and protracted timeline enterprises usually encounter. We can onboard a new customer in as little as 45 minutes, rather than months or years, moving them to an identity-based access policy, and expanding to their cloud and on-prem[ise] footprints over time without having to rip and replace existing identity providers and network infrastructure investments. We do this without making tradeoffs between productivity for employees and the network security posture.”

Elisity, which is based in California, currently employs around 30 staff. However, it currently has no women in its leadership team, nor on its board of directors. 

#allegiscyber-capital, #artificial-intelligence, #california, #ceo, #cisco, #cloud-computing, #cloud-infrastructure, #computer-security, #computing, #funding, #lastline, #managing-partner, #operational-technology, #qualys, #security, #technology, #viptela

Recorded Future launches its new $20M Intelligence Fund for early-stage startups

Threat intelligence company Recorded Future is launching a $20 million fund for early-stage startups developing novel data intelligence tools.

The Intelligence Fund will provide seed and Series A funding to startups that already have venture capital funding, Recorded Future says, as well as equip them with resources to help with the development and integration of intelligence applications in order to accelerate their go-to-market strategy. 

Recorded Future, which provides customers with information to help them better understand the external cyber threats they are facing, will invest in startups that aim to tackle significant problems that require novel approaches using datasets and collection platforms, which the company says could be anything from technical internet sensors to satellites. It’s also keen to invest in startups building intelligence analysis toolsets that make use of technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, as well as intelligence-driven applications that can be integrated into its own Intelligence Platform and ecosystem.

Recorded Future co-founder and chief executive Christopher Ahlberg said: “In a world of aggressive uncertainty, intelligence is the only equalizer. With the launch of the Intelligence Fund, we are investing in the next generation of entrepreneurs who share our vision for securing the world with intelligence.” 

So far, the Intelligence Fund has invested in two companies, the first being SecurityTrails, which provides customers with a comprehensive overview of current and historical domain and IP address data. The second investment went to Gemini Advisory, a fraud intelligence platform specializing in finding compromised data on the dark web, which Recorded Future went on to acquire earlier this year for $52 million in a bid to bolster its own threat intelligence capabilities. 

Recorded Future told TechCrunch that future investments could also be made with an eye to acquiring, but added that funding could also be given purely on the basis that the startup would make a good business or technology partner. Recorded Future was itself acquired by private equity firm Insight Partners back in 2019 for $780 million. The acquisition effectively bought out the company’s earlier investors, including Google’s venture arm GV, and In-Q-Tel, the non-profit venture arm of the U.S. intelligence community.

Commenting on the launch of the fund, Michael Triplett, managing partner at Insight Partners, said: “Cyberattacks continue to impact global enterprises across the globe, and we’re excited to see Recorded Future invest in intelligence startups tackling the business-critical issues that organizations face today. 

“The Intelligence Fund will provide the resources needed by entrepreneurs to build applications with data and mathematics at the core.” 

#christopher-ahlberg, #computing, #crunchbase, #dark-web, #entrepreneurship, #finance, #information-technology, #insight-partners, #machine-learning, #managing-partner, #prediction, #recorded-future, #security, #startup-company, #startups

Lifted raises $6.2M Series A round led by Fuel Ventures for its long-term social care platform

As people live longer and longer and have long-term health issues like cancer and dementia, caring for elderly relatives is becoming a huge societal and political issue. Right now this care is antiquated and run by incumbents, many of which still run off paper and Excel. We are now seeing a new wave of startups turn up to tackle this space by applying Apple’s age-old model of owning the experience end-to-end and running everything on a platform.

The latest to join this race is UK startup Lifted, which has now raised $6.2 million in a Series A funding round led by Fuel Ventures. Also participating were existing investor 1818 Venture Capital as well as new investors Novit Ventures, Perivoli Innovations, the J.B. Ugland family office, and a number of Angels. This latest funding round takes the total raised by Lifted to $11.2M.

Lifted says its UK market is increasing and claims the number of people caring for adult loved ones has risen exponentially during the pandemic, with almost 1 in 2 people supporting people outside their household.

The startup is entering a perfect storm of increasing need, unpopular care homes, and the UK Government still without a long-term plan for social care.

Lifted app

Lifted app

In contrast to a raft of agencies and freelancers, Lifted directly employs its care workforce and uses its platform to “gamify and improve the experience of carers to make them perform better in people’s lives and also to restore respect to the caring profession” with its Care Management Platform, says the company.

Lifted has also acquired the ‘Live Better With Dementia’ website and launched the Lifted Dementia Hub, an online community with a marketplace of products.

Rachael Crook co-founded Lifted with Sam Cohen. She says she was inspired to get into the sector when, at the age of 24, she had to care for her mother, who was diagnosed with dementia at age 56.

Rachael Crook, Lifted CEO sold me at an interview: “I was in that position much younger than most people. And it seemed abundantly clear to me that it was an experience that was hugely emotionally important to me, and financially expensive, was really convoluted and frustrating. It made an already really difficult time, more difficult. My mum brought me up to really fight for the underdog and I felt like the carers themselves were getting a really poor deal. And yet, it’s a huge colossal market. The care market is set to double in the next 20 years, and for the next 10 years, we will look to compete against traditional care companies. We want to transform the care experience. This is a product that is worth four and a half times your mortgage. And yet, it’s predominantly bought in a really antiquated way with paper and pen systems. It’s really hard to keep up to date with your loved ones’ care. We’re also competing against new entrants.”

She added: “In 12 months, we have tripled revenue, launched the first App in the world to offer free care advice, and cut Carer churn to half the industry average, all while maintaining exclusively 5-star reviews on Trustpilot.”

Mark Pearson, Managing Partner of Fuel Ventures said: “Rachael, Sam and their team have delivered exceptional growth in the past year. They have a unique vision of the future for care and their model is delivering clear results for both sides of the marketplace.”

#caregiving, #ceo, #dementia, #europe, #fuel-ventures, #health, #managing-partner, #mark-pearson, #online-community, #tc, #trustpilot, #uk-government, #united-kingdom

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

Brazil’s idwall raises $38M for identity validation platform

Online fraud and identity theft is a global problem that has only been exacerbated with increased online transactions amid the COVID-19 pandemic. In particular, it is estimated that Brazilian companies lose over $41 billion due to fraud every year.

In an attempt to tackle this problem head on, Lincoln Ando and Raphael Melo started idwall in mid-2016. São Paulo-based idwall started as an automated background check solution and has since grown into a suite of data and identity validation and risk analysis products. For the consumer market, its “MeuID” app is aimed at users who want to change the way they identify themselves and share their data.

And now the Brazilian regtech has raised $38 million in a Series C round led by Endurance.

GGV Capital, monashees, Canary, Qualcomm Ventures, ONEVC, Peninsula and Norte also participated in the funding, bringing its total raised to nearly $50 million.

The company says it has grown 1,458% between 2017 and 2020, with average growth of 144% per year. Its more than 300 clients include 10 unicorns, two out of the three biggest banks in Brazil and companies such as iFood, Claro, Cielo, Loggi, Ebanx, QuintoAndar and OLX, among others.

Fintechs make up a significant portion of its client base, and in 2020, the company saw its revenue from clients in the financial industry alone climb by 588% compared to 2019.

Idwall uses machine learning and AI to automate the onboarding process via its face match, background check, risk analysis, ID validation and automated optical character recognition (OCR) offerings to help companies avoid fraud.

The company said its APIs verify personal documents and information by searching in public and private databases “quickly and pursuant to the compliance rules.” Idwall does all this by first validating that an ID is authentic. Then it works to ensure the person using it is actually the owner of the ID. And lastly, it runs a full background check. It claims it does all this in less than three minutes.

“We help them do all these onboarding processes in a safer, better and faster way,” said idwall co-founder and CEO Ando.

Over the years, idwall has generated more than 65 million data reports for its clients, a number that it says surged by 5,000 times between 2017 and 2020.Those reports, it claims, have helped its clients scale their operations, register more of their own clients and optimize compliance and KYC processes, as well as reduce fraud.

Image Credits: idwall

In general, the pandemic’s drive to digital led to a massive increase in the number of digital bank accounts, mobile payment services and also of companies adjusting to digital platforms and/or expanding their digital operations — leading to a boom in business for idwall.

“The more digitized companies become, the more client expectations grow — and market competition grows stronger,” Ando said. “Our mission is to always stay ahead of innovation in our market, and that’s why we invest so much in growth and in building the best possible team to develop our products.”

Part of that includes using its new capital to recruit more developers, strengthen its existing products and release new ones. Idwall plans to increase its headcount from its current 200 to about 300 over the next few months. The company is also examining the possibility of expanding outside of Brazil to all of Latin America. 

“Many of the identity validation and fraud problems faced in Brazil are seen in other Latin American countries as well,” Ando said. “Besides, places like Mexico and Colombia also have highly innovative companies pushing the envelope when it comes to identity and technology. We still have a lot to achieve in Brazil, but we see a big opportunity for us to take our mission even further.”

Still, in its home country, recent regulatory changes in Brazil in recent years have also led to an increase in demand for idwall’s offerings.

In addition, Brazil’s documentation databases are highly siloed, the company says, with each state having its own model for the most common identity document, the RG (“Registro Geral” or “General Registry”). Plus, each citizen can be issued a different RG document in each state.

“It’s undeniable how much digital onboarding and automated identity validation processes are fundamental for the Latin American market to reach as far as it has the potential to,” Ando said. “It’s extremely difficult to understand and validate identification and personal data in Brazil.”

Also, in general, the company has observed how weary Brazilians are of having to show their IDs for routine events. Idwall helps with that via its aforementioned “MeuID” solution, which stores in a single wallet all the documents necessary for the onboarding processes of fintechs, startups, office buildings and other businesses.

Its investors are, naturally, bullish.

Hans Tung, GGV Capital’s managing partner, describes idwall as a “one-of-a-kind” startup. 

“idwall is leading the discussions and innovations in Brazil regarding digital onboarding and identity validation,” he said. “And their B2C digital identity app MeuID could be the first true super-app in Latin America.”

GGV aims to invest in category leaders that are using technology to create positive impact for its users and for society, Tung added.

“The idwall founders are tackling a huge yet underserved problem in Brazil, and have led the company through terrific growth,” he said. “They have the ingredients to become the leading personal data platform in LatAm for the enterprise.”

Marcos Toledo, managing partner at Canary, notes that idwall was one of his firm’s first investments.

“Lincoln and Raphael’s abilities to build and scale a business solving a very relevant problem in Brazil have caught our attention,” he told TechCrunch. “Their culture, tech level and agility as a company also are very remarkable in the Brazilian market.”

#artificial-intelligence, #brazil, #canary, #colombia, #digital-identity, #ebanx, #economy, #endurance, #finance, #financial-technology, #funding, #fundings-exits, #ggv-capital, #hans-tung, #identity-management, #identity-theft, #identity-verification, #idwall, #ifood, #latin-america, #machine-learning, #managing-partner, #mexico, #ocr, #olx, #onboarding, #online-fraud, #optical-character-recognition, #qualcomm-ventures, #quintoandar, #recent-funding, #regtech, #sao-paulo, #startup, #startups, #tc, #venture-capital

Orbiit raises Seed funding to automate the interactions within an online community

Orbiit, a startup that automates the interactions within an online community, has raised a $2.7 million round led by Bread and Butter Ventures with participation from new investors High Alpha Capital, LAUNCHub Ventures and Company Ventures. Existing investors Founders Fund, which led Orbiit’s $1M pre-seed round, Acceleprise and other angels also participated. The capital will be used to build out the Orbiit product and engineering team.

Orbiit says its platform handles the communications, matching, scheduling, feedback collection, and analytics for people connecting with each other in an online community. The idea is that the communities therefore learn and network better, engage more, and share more knowledge.

CEO and Co-Founder Bilyana Freye said: “Tailored 1:1 connections allow members to discuss difficult topics, be vulnerable and share learnings with one another. Those 1:1 connections are the hardest to execute, but when you start investing in them, with the help of Orbiit, you see engagement feeding into all other initiatives and a vibrant, active community that truly delivers on the promise to its members.”

Bread and Butter Ventures Managing Partner Mary Grove added: “This age-old question of how to leverage technology at scale to drive meaningful connections across communities both internal to an organization and across the globe is a problem we’ve been actively seeking a solution to for a decade. Orbiit brings the perfect blend of tech-enabled software with human curation to create strong connections and provide insights back to community managers.”

The platform is being used by startup communities at True Ventures, GGV, and Lerer Hippeau; private networking groups such as Dreamers & Doers; and customer communities, like the CFO community run by fintech leader Spendesk.

Founders Fund Principal Delian Asparouhov said: “We see Orbiit as a key platform for peer learning within companies and communities, unlocking untapped knowledge through curated matchmaking.”

LAUNCHub Ventures participated in the round, following the recent first close of its new $70 million fund.

#cfo, #delian-asparouhov, #entrepreneurship, #europe, #founders-fund, #ggv, #high-alpha-capital, #launchub-ventures, #lerer-hippeau, #managing-partner, #mary-grove, #online-community, #private-equity, #spendesk, #startup-company, #tc, #true-ventures

Homeward secures $371M to help people make all-cash offers on houses

Trying to buy a house in a competitive market is perhaps one of the most stressful things an adult can go through.

Competing with a bunch of people all putting offers on a house that fly off the market in a matter of days is not fun. One startup that is trying to give home buyers a competitive edge by giving them a way to offer all cash on a home has just raised a boatload of money to help it keep growing.

Austin-based Homeward, which aims to help people buy homes faster, announced today it has raised $136 million in a Series B funding round led by Norwest Venture Partners at a valuation “just north of $800 million.” The company has also secured $235 million in debt.

Blackstone, Breyer Capital and existing backers Adams Street, Javelin and LiveOak Venture Partners also participated in the equity financing, which brings Homeward’s total equity raised since inception to $160 million. 

Homeward’s model seems to be appealing to both home buyers (including first time ones) and agents alike, with lots of growth occurring since May 2020 when it raised $105 million in debt and equity. The company declined to reveal hard revenue figures but noted that its GMV (gross merchandise value) run rate is up over 600%+ year over year.

Also, as of March, Homeward says it had experienced a 5x increase in the volume of homes transacted and 9x year over growth in the number of new customers. Plus, It’s hired 161 employees since January alone, and currently has a headcount of 203, up from about 33 at this time last year. 

CEO Tim Heyl founded the real estate startup in late 2018 on the premise that in most cases, sellers prefer to receive all cash offers because they are more likely to close. Loans can fall through, but cash is cash.

Heyl started the company after having worked in the industry for the previous decade, first as a broker then as the owner of a title company. During that time, he saw firsthand many of the problems in the industry. And one conundrum he frequently ran into was people not wanting to make an offer on a home without knowing for sure their current house would sell in a certain amount of time. This is a dilemma many are facing during the COVID-19 pandemic as demand outweighs supply in many major U.S. cities.

“The pandemic has greatly increased demand for our product,” Heyl told TechCrunch. “It’s a historic seller’s market with unprecedented demand from buyers and the lowest inventory levels in decades.”

The company plans to use its new capital to “double down” on its offering, scale up to meet “outsized demand” and open additional markets. Currently, Homeward operates in Texas, Colorado and Georgia.

“Right now, we have a waiting list in every market across the country, so this growth capital will enable us to meet that demand,” Heyl said. Its ultimate goal is to open its offering to agents nationwide.

Homeward also plans to double the size of its title and mortgage teams in the latter half of the year so it can offer its clients and partner agents “a single streamlined experience.” It’s also planning to integrate its consumer and internal software systems for approvals, offers and closing “so everyone can be on a single platform and we can eliminate confusion and waste,” Heyl added.

So, how does it work exactly? Homeward will make an all-cash offer on behalf of a customer wanting to buy a house. Meanwhile, that customer can hire an agent (from brokerages such as Redfin or Keller Williams) to list their home with less pressure to sell it in a certain amount of time or at a discounted price. Once Homeward buys a home, it will lease the property back to its customer until they sell their house, get a mortgage, and can buy the property back from Homeward, plus a 2 percent to 3 percent convenience fee. During the process, Homeward offers a predetermined guaranteed price for its customer’s home with the promise that if it’s unable to sell the house for at least that amount, it’ll buy the house from them.

Heyl believes Homeward’s “alternative iBuyer” model is a better deal for customers since it doesn’t purchase a customer’s old home for below market value. The company also works with agents, and not against them, he said. For example, its offerings are available to any agent, but the company “strategically” partners with top brokerages and teams, providing them with what it describes as “dedicated support, white-label branding, and digital marketing tools to help them stand out from the crowd and attract more clients.”

“Most alternatives to traditional real estate minimize or replace the agent,” Heyl said. “But we are agents ourselves, and we’ve built this for agents.”

Homeward is profitable on a per unit basis if you count transaction revenue minus costs to acquire and complete each transaction, according to Heyl. However, it is not yet profitable on a net income basis.

Jeff Crowe, managing partner at Norwest Venture Partners, will join Homeward’s board as part of the funding.

“Homeward is innovating at the intersection of real estate and fintech — that’s the next frontier,” he said. “Homeward’s cash offer addresses real problems for homebuyers in all market conditions, and the team has identified a winning strategy by partnering with agents and their clients.”

Jim Breyer of Breyer Capital describes Homeward as one of Austin’s most innovative companies.

“We are inspired by the company’s mission to build home finance solutions to overcome the limitations of the traditional mortgage and we are proud to support them as they continue to scale rapidly and efficiently,” he said.

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