Shopify expands its one-click checkout, Shop Pay, to any merchant on Facebook or Google

E-commerce platform Shopify announced this morning its one-click checkout service known as Shop Pay will become available to any U.S. merchant that sells on Facebook or Google — even if they don’t use Shopify’s software to power their online stores. That makes Shop Pay the first Shopify product offered to non-Shopify merchants, the company notes.

First introduced at its developer conference in 2017, Shop Pay is similar to other instant checkout solutions that offer an easier way to pay online by reducing the number of fields a customer has to fill out during the checkout process. The service remembers and encrypts the customer’s information, so consumers can check out with just a tap when shopping online and, as of recently, even pay for purchase in installments, thanks to a partnership with Affirm.

Shopify in February had expanded Shop Pay to Facebook and Instagram, in partnership with Facebook, but it only worked for existing Shopify merchants selling on those social platforms at the time. In May, Google announced at its I/O developer conference it was partnering with Shopify on an online shopping expansion that would give Shopify’s more than 1.7 million merchants the ability to reach customers through Google Search and other “shopping journeys” that began through other Google properties like Search, Maps, Images, Lens, and YouTube.

The company declined to share how many of its 1.7 million merchants are already available on Facebook or Google today, but said they are two of the most popular channels.

Following today’s announcement, other merchants will also have the option to adopt Shop Pay for their own Facebook or Google stores. While how many will actually do so is yet unknown, Shopify notes that every day 1.8 billion people log onto Facebook and a billion shopping sessions take place across Google.

The company also touted Shop Pay’s advantages, including its 70% faster checkout than a typical checkout offers, with a 1.72x higher conversion rate — meaning fewer abandoned charts.

For consumers, the advantage of using Shop Pay over a traditional checkout, beyond the speed, is its integration with Shopify’s mobile app, Shop, which organizes and tracks your online orders across merchants, including Amazon,  so you can see when orders are arriving or quickly ask questions and manage returns.

To date, the Shop app has tracked over 430 million orders, the company says.

Over time, the Shop app can also customize a feed including users’ favorite stores to point to other recommendations, including those from local merchants. Shopify confirmed that the Shop app will be able to track the Shop Pay-enabled orders from the non-Shopify merchants.

“Since launching, Shop Pay has set the standard for checkout experiences, facilitating more than $24 billion in orders,” noted Shopify VP, Carl Rivera, who heads Product for Shop. “According to studies, cart abandonment averages 70%, with nearly 20% occurring because of a complicated checkout process. Shop Pay makes that process fast and simple, and the expansion to all merchants selling on Facebook and Google is a mission-critical step in bringing a best-in-class checkout to every consumer, every merchant, every platform, and every device,” he added.

The expansion could be a notable challenge to other payment mechanisms, including PayPal, Venmo, Apple Pay, and those offered by the platforms themselves, thanks to Shopify’s growing traction with merchants — one analysis gives its platform a 23% market share in the U.S — combined with the popularity of the Shop app, now the No. 3 Shopping app on the App Store.

The news follows yesterday’s confirmation that Shopify has taken a significant stake in payments giant Stripe, the backbone of the Shop Pay service, as well as Shopify’s partner on merchant services, including bank accounts and debit cards.

Shopify says the Shop Pay service will be enabled for all U.S. merchants selling on Facebook in the “coming months,” and will roll out to all merchants on Google by late 2021.

 

#e-commerce, #ecommerce, #economy, #facebook, #google, #merchant-services, #mobile-payments, #online-shopping, #online-stores, #partner, #shop, #shopify, #shopping, #stripe, #tc, #united-states

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Fintech startup TreasurySpring raises $10M for platform giving online access to Fixed-term-funds

Fixed-term-funds (FTFs) have historically been a bank-to-bank market. FTF products allow for investing into some of the safest assets including, UK Government bonds, US Government bonds and highly-rated corporations. They allow holders of large amounts of cash (such as charities, private funds, family offices etc) to reduce and diversify their risk, but also increasing returns.

TreasurySpring is a fintech startup that is aiming to opening up access to this area of financial markets, by creating a Fixed-Term Fund platform. It’s now raised a $10 million Series A investment round co-led by MMC Ventures and Anthemis Group. Existing investors, including ETFS Capital, participated, taking the total its raised to $15 million.

TreasurySpring says its FTF platform gives holders of large cash balances online access to a menu of proprietary cash investments on a daily basis. This gives them access to an asset class that is usually only available to major financial institutions.

Founded in 2016 by Kevin Cook (CEO), Matthew Longhurst and James Skillen, Cook said in a statement: “Following a break-out 12 months in which we increased AUM by 10x, we wanted to bring in the best possible investment partners to support our ambitious growth plans. We have long admired both Anthemis Group and MMC, so I am delighted that they co-led the round and we are excited to work with Sean, Ollie and their respective teams, as we move into the next phase of our journey to redefine cash investment and front-office treasury.”

Given the current low and negative interest rates and an uncertain global financial outlook, TreasurySpring says its platform is likely to appeal as an alternative to traditional bank deposits and money market funds. It says it’s now issued more than $9B of FTFs to a client base which includes FTSE 100 and other listed companies, fund managers, large private companies, charities, and family offices.

Yann Ranchere, partner at Anthemis Group said: “With its ambitious and mission-driven team, TreaurySpring is opening the traditional money market industry to a whole new pool of participants.”

Oliver Richards, partner at MMC Ventures added: “Having worked with the team at TreasurySpring for the last two years, we have absolute confidence in their ability to deliver on their unique vision to level the playing field in cash investing and short-term funding, through a platform that not only brings value to its clients and issuers but also enhances the diversification and systemic stability of the money markets as a whole.”

Does TreasurySpring have any direct competitors? The compay sdays not. That said, bank deposits and money market funds are still the only tools available to most holders of large cash balances, so the banks and asset managers that offer these products are competitors, “to an extent” admits the firm. Howeverr, they are also “collaborators in many instances.”

Cook said: “Adoption of the platform is being driven by a realisation that the risks and returns of the traditional [deposit and MMF] options are becoming ever less attractive, whilst building out the infrastructure to do anything else is complex, cumbersome, time consuming and expensive.”

#bank, #bond, #ceo, #economy, #europe, #finance, #fintech-startup, #investment, #mmc-ventures, #money, #ollie, #partner, #tc, #uk-government, #us-government

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Instagram adds affiliate and shop features for creators

As Apple hosts their annual Worldwide Developers Conference, Instagram and Facebook chose this moment to pilot their first-ever Creator Week. This three-day event is geared toward aspiring and emerging digital creators, complete with 9:45 AM virtual DJ sets and panels on “Algorithm Mythbusting” and raising “zillions for a nonprofit you care about.”

During the first day of the event, Mark Zuckerberg made an announcement introducing new ways for creators to make money. In the coming months, Instagram will start testing a native affiliate tool, which allows creators to recommend products available on checkout, share them with followers and earn commissions for sales their posts drive. When creators make these posts, the text “eligible for commission” will appear beneath their username in the same way that sponsored content labels appear.

Available immediately, creators will be able to link their shops to their personal profiles, not just business ones. By the end of the year, eligible creators in the U.S. will be able to partner with one of Instagram’s merchandise partners (Bravado/UMG, Fanjoy, Represent and Spring) to drop exclusive product launches on the app.

During live Instagram videos, viewers can tip creators by sending them a Badge, which costs between $0.99 and $4.99. Facebook Gaming has a similar feature called Stars, in which one Star is valued at $0.01. Starting this week, creators can earn bonuses for accomplishing certain challenges, like going live with another account. In a promotional image, for example, Facebook offers a bonus of $150 for creators who earn 5,000 Stars, the equivalent of $50.

“To help more creators make a living on our platforms, we’re going to keep paid online events, fan subscriptions, badges, and our upcoming independent news products free for creators until 2023,” Zuckerberg wrote in a Facebook post. “And when we do introduce a revenue share, it will be less than the 30% that Apple and others take.”

Image Credits: Instagram

These updates mark the latest push by Instagram toward affiliate marketing and in-app shopping, like its redesigned Instagram Shop and Shopping in Reels, which debuted within the last year.

“Our goal is to be the best platform for creators like you to make a living. And if you have an idea that you want to share with the world, you should be able to create it and get it out there easily and simply — across Facebook and Instagram — and then earn money for your work,” Zuckerberg added during Creator Week.

Creators may be drawn to experiment with these affiliate and shop features, since for now, they won’t lose a cut of their profits to Instagram. But platforms like TikTok and YouTube offer monetization strategies that extend beyond e-commerce.

Last July, TikTok announced its $200 million TikTok Creator Fund, which allows popular posters to earn money from their videos. It’s unclear exactly how TikTok determines how much money to dole out, but it depends on the number of views, engaged views and other factors. In August 2020, the YouTuber-turned-TikToker Hank Green estimated that he would bring home about $700 from 20,000,000 TikTok views in one month, averaging to about 3.5 cents per 1,000 views.

Meanwhile, YouTube announced a $100 million fund last month for top creators on YouTube Shorts, its TikTok competitor. The platform pointed out that over the last three years it has paid $30 billion to content creators. Snapchat has been paying $1 million per day to creators on their own TikTok competitor, Spotlight.

For users who don’t have millions of followers, these creator funds might not pay the rent. Still, it offers an income stream based on views, outside of e-commerce or viewer tips. For now, Instagram can’t say the same.

#conference, #e-commerce, #ecommerce, #instagram, #mark-zuckerberg, #online-events, #partner, #social, #software, #tc, #tiktok, #united-states, #video-hosting, #youtube

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FireEye to sell products unit to Symphony-led group for $1.2B

Cybersecurity giant FireEye has agreed to sell its products business to a consortium led by private equity firm Symphony Technology Group for $1.2 billion.

The all-cash deal will split FireEye, the maker of network and email cybersecurity products, from its digital forensics and incident response arm Mandiant.

FireEye’s chief executive Kevin Mandia said the deal unlocks its “high-growth” Mandiant business, allowing it to stand alone as a separate business running incident response and security testing.

The move to split the two companies comes almost a decade after FireEye acquired Mandiant, and made Mandia chief executive.

Mandia said: “STG’s focus on fueling innovative market leaders in software and cybersecurity makes them an ideal partner for FireEye Products. We look forward to our relationship and collaboration on threat intelligence and expertise.”

STG managing partner William Chisholm said there is an “enormous untapped opportunity for the business that we are excited to crystallize by leveraging our significant security software sector experience and our market leading carve-out expertise.”

The company said the deal is expected to close by the end of the fourth quarter.

FireEye has become one of the more prominent names in cybersecurity, known for its research into hacking groups — some linked to governments — and its Mandiant unit for responding to major security incidents. Mandiant was called in to help Colonial Pipeline recover from a recent ransomware attack.

In December, FireEye admitted that its own networks had been hacked, a move praised across the cybersecurity industry for helping to speed up efforts that led to the discovery of the SolarWinds espionage attack, later attributed to Russian foreign intelligence.

FireEye becomes the latest cybersecurity giant to STG’s portfolio. In March, Symphony bought McAfee’s enterprise business for $4 billion and bought RSA for $2 billion.

#colonial-pipeline, #computer-security, #computing, #cybercrime, #cyberwarfare, #fireeye, #information-technology, #kevin-mandia, #mandiant, #mcafee, #partner, #rsa, #rsa-security, #security, #solarwinds, #symphony-technology-group

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British AI startup Faculty raises $42.5M growth round led by Apax Digital Fund

British artificial intelligence (AI) company, Faculty has raised £30 million ($42.5M) in growth funding from the Apax Digital Fund (ADF). The startup has now raised a total of £40m ($56.6M) to date.

In April this year, the company announced it had won a contract to work with the UK’s NHS to better predict its future needs. It has also picked up at least seven other UK government contracts. Its customers include the UK’s National Crime Agency, Red Bull, Virgin Media, and Moonpig.

The company says it now expects to create over 400 new jobs across its engineering, product and delivery teams. The investment will also be put toward the rollout of Faculty’s new learning and development programme. Founded in 2014 by Dr Marc Warner, Dr Angie Ma and Andrew Brookes, the company is noted for its fondness for hiring swathes of maths and data science PhDs.

Far from being an aloof R&D AI operation, Faculty pitches more as an “AI as a Service”, applying its platform to real-world data for the purposes of real-world outcomes, such as optimizing a company’s marketing spend or forecasting demand for consumer goods. That said, Faculty became briefly notorious after applying its platform to the cause of Vote Leave during the UK referendum.

After helping the campaign win that fight, it’s ironically now been awarded a public contract to help the British government apply machine learning to Britain’s post-Brexit fishing waters, even as the fishing industry comes under considerable strain… because of Brexit.

Speaking to me over a call (a longer interview will be available later) Marc Warner, CEO, and co-founder of Faculty told me the company has no plans to work in the political sphere again: “Never again. It’s very controversial. I don’t want to make out that I think politics is unethical. Trying to make the world better, in whatever dimension you can, is a good thing… But from our perspective, it was, you know, ‘noisy’, and our goal as an organization is, despite current appearances to the contrary, is not to spend tonnes of time talking about this stuff. We do believe this is an important technology that should be out there and should be in a broader set of hands than just the tech giants, who are already very good at it.”

Of the investment, he said: “This is about doubling down on the UK first and then international expansion. We have learned what it takes to do important, impactful AI at scale. And we just don’t think that there’s actually much of it out there. Customers are rightly sometimes a bit skeptical. There’s been hype around this stuff for years and years. We figured out a bunch of real-world applications that actually deliver value. And so, ultimately, the money [we’ve raised] is really just about being able to build out all of the pieces to do that incredibly well for our customers.”

He added that Faculty plans to continue to take advantage of the UK’s talent pool: “The UK is a wonderful place to do AI. It has brilliant universities and a very dynamic startup scene. It’s actually more diverse than San Francisco. There’s government, there’s finance, there’s corporates, there’s less competition from the tech giants, so there’s a bit more of a heterogeneous ecosystem.”

Mark Beith, partner at Apax Digital, who joins Faculty’s board of directors, said: “Faculty is a world-leading AI company with cutting-edge technology, inspiring people and culture, and with phenomenal customer feedback. They enable customers to realize the tremendous value of AI quickly but responsibly, providing robust, fair, and explainable AI, with advanced data privacy. We have seen the power and impact of their solutions first-hand, as a client, and are thrilled to partner with Marc, Angie, Andy, and the team to support their global expansion.”

The Apax Digital Fund joins Faculty’s existing investors, including Guardian Media Group Ventures, LocalGlobe, and Jaan Tallinn, one of Skype’s founding engineers.

The Estonian investor gave Faculty 350 units of Ether in January 2018, worth about $434,000 at the time, and 50 Bitcoins in March 2020, worth about $316,000, according to Faculty’s financial filings at the U.K. business registry Companies House.

#apax-digital-fund, #apax-partners, #articles, #artificial-intelligence, #europe, #faculty, #finance, #jaan-tallinn, #localglobe, #machine-learning, #marc, #nhs, #partner, #red-bull, #san-francisco, #science-and-technology, #tc, #uk-government, #united-kingdom, #virgin-media

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&Open raises $7.2M from First Round Capital and LocalGlobe to send gifts at scale

We live in a world where companies have to send out ‘gifts’ to individuals. Chocolate bars. Bottles of wine. You name it. Companies are gifting it. But right now, that operation is buried in a marketing department on a spreadsheet, as is mostly pretty disorganized.

A handful of startups realized it could be done better and at scale, among them Sendoso (which has raised $52.7M) and ReachDesk ($6M).

Joining this clan is a startup with the tortuous name of “&Open” (yes, ‘ampersand open’, pronounced ‘And Open’ for those of you at the back).

Suffice it to say, that despite its name it’s raised $7.2 million to makes it easier for brands to send carefully gifts to customers to boost loyalty and engagement. First Round Capital and LocalGlobe led the Seed round along with participation from angel investors including Andrew Robb (Farfetch), Des Traynor (Intercom) and Liam Casey (PCH). The funds will be used to scale to Europe and the US. Currently &Open claims to deliver more than 3,500 gifts every week.

Dublin-based &Open launched in 2017 and was founded by Ciara Flood, formerly buyer at Net-a-Porter and part of the founding team at Mr Porter, together with her husband Jonathan Legge, and her and brother-in-law, Mark Legge. The brothers previously founded the high-end gift and homeware venture Makers & Brothers.

&Open (please God, take me now…) counts Airbnb, Spotify, and Peloton among their customers.

Gifting can be powerful. According to one study which the company cites, customers who feel emotionally connected to a brand have been shown to create a 306% higher lifetime value. This is in stark contrast to existing, traditional Meanwhile, Schemes like corporate gifts, branded merchandise, loyalty programmes, and vouchers don’t work, claims &Open.

Jonathan Legge said: “Customers will choose brands who prioritize care and connection over transactional relationships. A thoughtful gift can make all the difference — both for a customer’s experience and their advocacy and loyalty to a brand.”

Hayley Barna, Partner at First Round Capital, said: “Gone are the days of relying on a points-based loyalty scheme to keep your customers engaged and happy. Brands increasingly need to work harder to retain customers and &Open provides an elegant solution to this conundrum.”

#airbnb, #articles, #brand, #business, #dublin, #europe, #farfetch, #first-round-capital, #gift, #hayley-barna, #liam-casey, #marketing, #partner, #psychological-manipulation, #spotify, #tc, #united-states

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White Star Capital launches new $50M crypto/blockchain fund backed by Bpifrance, Ubisoft

White Star Capital, better known as a VC which, in its time, has backed the likes of Digg, launchrock, Meero, Summly, and Tier, among others, is moving into the hot world of crypto and blockchain with a new $50M Digital Asset Fund.

The special-vehicle fund will specialize in investing in crypto-networks and blockchain-enabled businesses and was previously going to be $30 million before raising more backing. Both Bpifrance and Ubisoft are among those institutions backing the new fund.

The fund will be run by New York-based General Partner Sep Alavi and supported by Principals Thomas Klocanas in New York and Sanjay Zimmerman in Toronto. The will deploy between $500,000 and $3.0 million in initial investments into 15-20 companies with a focus on North America and Europe.

Alavi said: “We are hyper-focused on this space and we expect to see further innovative use cases such as crypto credit, DeFi, NFTs, metaverses and more manifesting at an accelerated pace… With this fund, We are actively investing in crypto protocols, infrastructure, privacy, financial, gaming, and social use cases.”

The fund has already made six investments including; dfuse, Multis, Paraswap, Rally, Safello, a European crypto brokerage that went public on the Nasdaq First North stock exchange on May 12, and Ledn, a global digital asset savings, and credit platform.

Yoann Caujolle, managing director of Bpifrance said: “It’s critical that emerging crypto and blockchain-enabled startups receive investment from firms and professionals who have the experience and knowledge to help drive their businesses forward,” said “We’re pleased to partner with the Digital Asset Fund team for bringing their support and vision into the French and European blockchain and digital asset ecosystem.”

Over a call, Alavi told me: “White Star is investing across three funds, obviously our fund one, fund two, and in this new specialized Digital Asset Fund. Historically we’ve invested in enterprise and consumer businesses, we’ve not done any, any blockchain, but for two years ago we’ve been looking at this sector. And we believe that this merits its own dedicated vehicle. I’ve been personally been investing in blockchain the blockchain ecosystem since 2015 and bring your five-plus years of domain expertise and then I was able to build a team around this new fund.”

“We are, we’re looking at the three main verticals in this sector. The protocol layer, the infrastructure layer, and the application layer. That’s the kind of high-level thesis. The protocol layer is where we invest in tokens, because it’s important to mention that the fund will also hold tokens as investments as well as equity. On top of that, we’re pretty much agnostic and opportunistic. We see great use cases in decentralized finance. We see some great use cases in the NFT space and have made investments there as well. As long as we’re true to those three verticals that I mentioned, we will capture great value there.”

#articles, #blockchain, #bpifrance, #cryptocurrencies, #decentralized-finance, #europe, #finance, #new-york, #north-america, #partner, #tc, #technology, #toronto, #ubisoft, #white-star-capital

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Swarmia raises $8M Seed to help software development teams deal with data

Swarmia, a B2B SaaS company for software development teams dealing with data, has raised a €5.7 M Seed round and a previously unannounced 1M€ pre-seed round, taking its raise to €6.7M ($8M). The Seed round was led by Alven Capital and joined by Jigsaw VC, Irena Goldenberg, Alex Algard, Lars Fjeldsoe-Nielsen, Jonathan Benhamou and Romain Huet. Lifeline Ventures, the sole investor in a previously unannounced 1M€ pre-seed round, also participated. The cash wil be used to scale to the US.

Founder Otto Hilska is a serial entrepreneur who started Flowdock (team collaboration product, acquired by Rally Software) and was Smartly.io’s Chief Product Officer.

Hilska says many software development organizations could be much more successful if they had a “better visibility to their work and a systematic approach for continuous improvement”.

Swarmia integrates with development tools such as GitHub, Jira, Linear and various CI tools to “create a holistic view to the engineering teams’ inner workings.”

Competitors include Pluralsight Flow (raised $192.5M) and CodeClimate Velocity ($15M).

However, Hilska says: “We’re the only product in the market that’s actually used by developers themselves. We don’t build features for stalking individual developers, but rather focus on how the team can improve. We’ve built the product together with our pilot customers (with shared Slack channels and daily iteration) to make sure that it actually scales with them. Every team is different, and our product adapts to these different ways of working by letting teams define their Working Agreements. That leads to much better data quality, since we actually understand how the teams work – while competitors are happy to plot any incorrect data. Our Slack bot also helps teams drive the behavioral change when teams choose to adopt a working agreement.”

Thomas Cuvelier, Partner at Alven commented: “Software is eating the world but software engineering, the largest cost center of the modern organization, is still a black box. Swarmia solves a considerable pain point by bringing visibility to engineering work and helping executives make the right business decisions based on data rather than anecdotal evidence. What Otto and his team have achieved so far is impressive and they’re well on their way to drive better working habits for the world’s 27m developers.”

#alven-capital, #computing, #europe, #github, #lars-fjeldsoe-nielsen, #lifeline-ventures, #operating-systems, #partner, #pluralsight, #rally-software, #romain-huet, #serial-entrepreneur, #slack, #software, #software-development, #software-engineering, #tc, #united-states

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Final-mile fulfillment startup parcelLab closes $112M Series C funding led by Insight Partners

Munich-based parcelLab, which offers a final-mile fulfillment service for online retailers, has closed a $112 million (GB£80 million) Series C funding round led by the US VC/PE firm Insight Partners.

Germany’s Endeit Capital participated as a co-investor, alongside existing investors Capnamic Ventures and coparion. parcelLab last raised an undisclosed Series B in October 2019. The new funding will feed into parcelLab’s global expansion plans and new product development.

Founded in 2015 by Tobias Buxhoidt (CEO), Julian Krenge (CTO), and Anton Eder (COO), the startup has managed to bag such customers as Lidl, to which it provides automated personalized shipping messages. This means that as much as 85% of Lidl customers return to its website.

It also works with IKEA and Farfetch to increase basket sizes and email open rates of – it claims – over 90%, 25% reductions in WISMO (where is my order), and increases of customer reviews.   

In a statement Tobias Buxhoidt, CEO and Founder of parcelLab, said: “As e-commerce becomes increasingly competitive, providing unique and branded experiences will drive growth. Identifying opportunities to further connect with people and build a better, stronger relationship is a key differentiator.”   
 
Matt Gatto, Managing Director at Insight Partners, said: “We pride ourselves in identifying and investing in software ScaleUp companies that are driving transformative change in their industries. In parcelLab, we see true potential to transform how brands and people connect.”

Endeit only recently raised a €250 million fund to invest in B-stage European startups, so this is its most recent deployment of capital.

Philipp Schroeder Partner at Endeit commented: “ParcelLab’s team is the perfect example of internet entrepreneurs that we want to support – entrepreneurs who can drive the change to make Europe more competitive and who have the ambition to become global market leaders.” 

ParcelLab’s main competitor is US-based Narvar which has raised $64M, with its last round being a Series C funding.

#business, #capnamic-ventures, #ceo, #coo, #cto, #e-commerce, #endeit-capital, #entrepreneurship, #europe, #farfetch, #germany, #ikea, #insight-partners, #internet-entrepreneurs, #munich, #partner, #retailers, #tc

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Erase All Kittens raises $1M Seed round for Mario-style game which teaches girls to code

Erase All Kittens (EAK) is an EdTech startup that created a ‘Mario-style’ web-based game designed for kids aged 8-12. However, the game has a twist: it places an emphasis on inspiring girls to code (since let’s face it, most coding tools are created by men). After reaching 160,000 players in over 100 countries, it’s now raised a $1M Seed funding led by Twinkl Educational Publishing, with participation from first investor Christian Reyntjens of the A Black Square family office, alongside angel investors, including one of the founders of Shazam.

While the existing EAK game is free, a new game launched in July will be paid for, further boosting the product’s business model.

EAK says its research shows that some 55% of its players are girls, and 95% want to learn more about coding after playing its game. EAK is currently being used in over 3,000 schools, mostly in the UK and US, and its traction increased by 500% during the lockdowns associated with the pandemic.

It’s Erase All Kittens’ contention that coding education tools for children have been largely built by men and so naturally appeal more to boys. With most teaching repetitive coding, in a very rigid, instructional way, it tends to appeal more to boys than girls, says EAK.

The female-founded team has a platform for changing the perception that kids, especially girls, have of coding. After R&D of two years, it came up with a game designed to teach kids and girls as young as 8 skills such as HTML, CSS, and Javascript through highly gamified, story-driven gameplay. Kids get to chat with characters on their journey, for example, a serial entrepreneur unicorn mermaid called Tarquin Glitterquiff.

“Players edit the code that governs the game environment, building and fixing levels as they play in order to save kittens in a fantasy internet universe,” said cofounder Dee Saigal, co-founder, CEO and creative director. Saigal is joined by co-founder Leonie Van Der Linde; CTO Rex Van Der Spuy; Senior Games Developer Jeremy Keen; and 2D Games Artist Mikhail Malkin.

Erase All Kittens game

Erase All Kittens game

The existing game teaches HTML skills and how to create URLs, and the new game (released in July this year) will teach HTML, CSS, and Javascript skills – bridging the huge gap between kids learning the concepts and being able to create on the web like developers.

Said Saigal: “We’re designing a coding game that girls genuinely love – one that places a huge emphasis on creativity. Girls can see instant results as they code, there are different ways to progress through the game, and learning is seamlessly blended with storytelling.”

Saigal said: “When I was younger I wanted to be a games designer. I loved coming up with ideas for games but coding had always seemed like an impossible task. We weren’t taught coding at school, and I couldn’t see anyone who looked like me making games, so I didn’t think it was something I could do.”

“Whilst researching our target audience, we found that one of the biggest obstacles for girls still begins with gender stereotypes from an early age. By the time girls reach school, this snowballs into a lack of confidence in STEM skills and lower expectations from teachers, which in turn can lead to lower performance—a gap that only widens as girls get older.”

EAK’s competitors include Code Kingdoms, Swift Playgrounds and CodeCombat. But Saigal says these games tend to appeal far more to boys than to girls.

The new game (see below) will be sold to schools and parents, globally. EAK will also be carrying out a one-for-one scheme, where for every school account purchased, one will be donated to underserved schools via partnerships with tech companies, educational organizations, and NGOs.

Jonathan Seaton, Co-founder and CEO at Twinkl and Director of TwinklHive, said: “We’re really excited to partner with Erase All Kittens, as a digital company Twinkl recognizes the importance of preparing children to succeed in the digital age and we believe through this partnership we can really make a difference.”

“The team is particularly excited about helping further Erase All Kitten’s mission to empower girls and give them the same opportunities to learn to code and build their own digital creations. Ensuring that all children have equal access to opportunities to learn is at the heart of Twinkl’s vision and a key motivation in the development of this partnership for both organizations.”

Erase All Kittens

Erase All Kittens

Erase All Kittens says it is addressing the global skills gap, where the gender gap is increasingly widening. According to PWC, just 24% of the tech workforce is female and women make up just 12% of all engineers, while only 3% of female students in the UK list tech as their first career choice.

Research by Childwise found that 90% of girls give up on coding after first trying it, and if they lose interest in STEM subject by the age of 11, they never recover from that. This is a huge and growing problem for the tech industry and for investors.

#articles, #black, #co-founder, #code-kingdoms, #codecombat, #cofounder, #cto, #director, #education, #entrepreneur, #europe, #html, #javascript, #partner, #science, #science-technology-engineering-and-mathematics, #shazam, #stem, #swift-playgrounds, #tc, #united-kingdom, #united-states

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Solar roof-tile and energy startup SunRoof closes €4.5M led by Inovo Venture Partners

SunRoof is a European startup that has come up with a clever idea. It has its own roof-tile technology which generates solar power. It then links up those houses, creating a sort of virtual power plant, allowing homeowners to sell surplus energy back to the grid.

It’s now closed a €4.5 million round (Seed extension) led by Inovo Venture Partners, with participation from SMOK Ventures (€2m of which came in the form of convertible notes). Other investors include LT Capital, EIT InnoEnergy, FD Growth Capital and KnowledgeHub. 

Sweden-based SunRoof’s approach is reminiscent of Tesla Energy, with its solar roof tiles, but whereas Tesla runs a closed energy ecosystem, SunRoof plans to work with multiple energy partners.

To achieve this virtual power company, SunRoof CEO and serial entrepreneur Lech Kaniuk (formerly of Delivery Hero, PizzaPortal, and iTaxi), acquired the renewable energy system, Redlogger, in 2020.

SunRoof’s platform consists of 2-in-1 solar roofs and façades that generate electricity without needing traditional photovoltaic modules. Instead, they use monocrystalline solar cells sandwiched between two large sheets of glass which measure 1.7 sq meters. Because the surface area is large and the connections fewer, the roofs are cheaper and faster to build. 

SunRoof give homeowners an energy app to manage the solar, based on Redlogger’s infrastructure

Tesla’s Autobidder is a trading platform that manages the energy from roofs but is a closed ecosystem. SunRoof, by contrast, works with multiple partners.

Kaniuk said: “SunRoof was founded to make the move to renewable energy not only easy, but highly cost-effective without ever having to sacrifice on features or design. We’ve already grown more than 500% year-on-year and will use the latest funding to double down on growth.” 

Michal Rokosz, Partner at Inovo Venture Partners, commented: “The market of solar energy is booming, estimated to reach $334 billion by 2026. Technology of integrated solar roofs is past the inflection point. It is an economical no-brainer for consumers to build new homes using solar solutions. With a more elegant and efficient substitute to a traditional hybrid of rooftops and solar panels, SunRoof clearly stands out and has a chance to be the brand for solar roofs, making clean-tech more appealing to a wider customer-base.”

The team includes co-founder Marek Zmysłowski (ex-(Jumia Travel and HotelOnline.co), former Google executive, Rafal Plutecki, and former Tesla Channel Sales Manager, Robert Bruchner.

There are rollout plans for Sweden, Germany, Poland, Switzerland, Italy, Spain, and the US.

#automotive-industry, #co-founder, #delivery-hero, #electricity, #energy, #europe, #executive, #germany, #google, #italy, #partner, #poland, #renewable-energy, #smok-ventures, #solar-cell, #solar-energy, #spain, #sweden, #switzerland, #tc, #united-states

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France’s SOS Accessoire raises £12M to help people repair their home appliances themselves

SOS Accessoire, a French startup that helps people diagnose and repair their home appliances, has raised €10M/$12M in a funding round led by ETF Partners. The round was joined by Quadia, Starquest, and Seed for Good.

There is now a growing home repair market, powered by startups like this, which allow people to save money, but also reduce waste, and ultimately help the environment.

Around 80% of home appliances get replaced instead of repaired, creating an enormous environmental problem. At the same time, says SOS Accessoire, the spare parts market is worth €4.1bn in the European Union alone. So why not tap into that consumer desire? Why indeed not.

However, sourcing spare parts is not easy, there are hundreds of suppliers, and instructions are aimed at professionals, not amateur repairers.

SOS Accessoire provides tools to diagnose home appliance problems, access spare parts, and provides video tutorials for the repair process.

The company says it estimates it has now saved half a million appliances in 2020, equivalent to 20,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions, or the annual equivalent of CO2 emissions from 4,375 French people a year.

Olivier de Montlivault, the founder of SOS Accessoire, said: “We have a huge opportunity to help reduce household appliance waste and, in doing so, disrupt the perceived thinking that once something is broken, it must be replaced.”

Its direct competitors are other digital players focusing on the retail customer such as Spareka and Adepem. But SOS Accessoire says its competitive advantages include its size, availability of spare parts and catalog/database.

Remy de Tonnac, a partner at ETF Partners, said: “We’re seeing an increasingly conscious consumer wanting to maintain their appliances, rather than just throw them away. SOS Accessoire is ideally placed to meet that need, with a management team that has a deep understanding of the market and the business model to not only dominate this niche within the e-commerce sector but disrupt the broader market itself.”

#europe, #european-union, #founder, #partner, #tc

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Look out Amazon Go — A Lisbon startup plans to offer autonomous stores to other retailers

Look out Amazon Go. A Lisbon startup plans to offer the same autonomous store technology to other retailers. Lisbon-based Sensei, a computer vision startup that allows convenience stores to offer check-out-free purchasing has secured a seed round of $6.5 million (€5.4M). The funding was led by Seaya Ventures and Iberis Capital, with participation from 200M Fund.

The startup will now scale its R&D and launch new stores. Its proprietary platform uses a blend of cameras, sensors, and AI to automate stores, both new and existing. The platform means retailers can manage inventory in real-time and also access insights into the way the stores are used.

Vasco Portugal, Sensei’s CEO and Co-founder said: “Sensei’s technology will help level the playing field for retailers to compete against digital giants such as Amazon. We aim to enhance the familiar and enjoyable customer shopping experience, making it seamless, convenient, and safe.”

Sensei is designed to work mainly with grab-and-go stores, forecourts, and similar retail formats. Competitors include Trigo which has raised $89 million.

The advantages of automated stores in a pandemic are obvious: customers no longer have to queue. Plus retailers can avoid stock-outs and staff turn into customer support.

“We are delighted to invest in a business that is part of the digitalization of commerce, a trend that is currently clearly being accelerated,” said Aris Xenofontos, Principal at Seaya Ventures.

Luis Quaresma, Partner at Iberis Capital, added: “Sensei brings tremendous efficiencies and cost-savings to the retail industry, while providing a much needed seamless checkout experience for consumers.”

Sensei was founded by Vasco Portugal (CEO, ex-MIT), Joana Rafael (COO),Nuno Moutinho (CTO) and Paulo Carreira (CSO).

#amazon, #ceo, #coo, #cto, #europe, #lisbon, #marketing, #merchandising, #mit, #online-shopping, #partner, #portugal, #retail, #retailers, #seaya-ventures, #sensei, #tc, #trigo

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Instreamatic, which inserts interactive voice ads into audio streams, raises $6.1M Series A round

Interactive voice advertising startup Instreamatic, which can insert interactive voice ads into an audio stream, has raised $6.1 million in a Series A funding led by Progress Ventures led the round, joined by Accomplice, and Google Assistant Investments.

SF-HQ’d Instreamatic lets brands that advertise through streaming music apps and podcasts (for instance) have interactive voice-based dialogues with consumers. So instead of an audio ad playing in a one-way experience (as all adverts currently do), the listener can talk to, and interact, with the ad.

For example, when an Instreamatic advert says “Hello! Need help sleeping?” the microphone on the device it’s playing on opens, and the listener can respond however they like. If they say “Yes” then the brand’s voice (perhaps it’s a mattress brand) will respond with “Then we will sing you a lullaby”. If the user doesn’t respond then the ad experience is over and the content resumes playing. There are also more complex versions of this scenario. The key is that Instreamatic knows what happened and can tailor future ads to match the listener’s past engagement. Here’s an example.

The company says its technology can understand the ‘intent and tone’ of consumers’ natural responses to take the next action.

The upshot is that this AI-fueled voice ad could be coming to an audio stream near you soon. And with audio exploding following the pandemic, the platform is likely to benefit.

CEO Stas Tushinskiy, CEO, Instreamatic said in a statement: “Consumers don’t like being fed annoyingly repetitive ads. Brands are under ever-increasing pressure to make those moments meaningful while supporting strong ROI demands. On the publisher side, audio and video platforms need a better way to prove their audiences and ad inventory deliver their promise to brands. Our voice AI infrastructure, deployed by brands such as IKEA, Infiniti, and HP and across platforms like Pandora and Gaana, is empirically demonstrating that conversational marketing benefits brands, consumers, and publishers alike.”

Instreamatic says its voice ads can reach an average of 12% engagement, with some campaigns reaching 19%. These figures are quite unusual for the online advertising industry – the average CTR of mobile advertising is 0.6%.

The company says that a recent campaign by Infiniti saw 5.5% of listeners who declined the offer in the first conversation ask to receive more information about the vehicle after the second (and more personalized) chat.

Instreamatic also says it can achieve what it calls ‘continuous dialogues’ with consumers, not dissimilar to an Alexa or Siri device.

Because of the platforms complexity, Instreamatic also says it can build up a profile of the user based on an individual consumer’s previous interactions with a brand, allowing it to customize future campaigns.

So far brands that have used the platform include Pandora, Salem Media, Gaana (the Indian streaming music service), as well as a recent deal with Universal Electronics to expand voice ads into the smart-TV industry. It is also working with Triton Digital, one of the larger audio ad networks.

 
“Consumer demand for audio and video content, and the ubiquity of smart devices delivering that content on-demand, continues to accelerate,” said Nick MacShane, the founding partner at Progress Ventures, the venture capital arm of Progress Partners, a full-service merchant bank. “What hasn’t caught up is how brands and publishers can effectively engage those audiences in the same medium and analytically prove the ROI of their audio and video platform ad spend.”
 
A competitor to Instreamatic is AdsWizz, which, instead of voice, allows users to shake their phones when they are interested in an ad. But its interactions are obviously, therefore, more limited.

According to Juniper Research, the voice-based ad market will grow to $19 billion in the U.S. by 2022, growing the market share from the $17 billion audio ad market and the $57 billion programmatic ad market. Voice assistant usage is booming. Some estimates put it at over at 3 billion right, and half of all searches are expected to be done via voice. Some 55% of teens use voice search daily.

As well as Tushinskiy, the Instreamatic team also includes cofounder Simon Dunlop (former CEO/Founder of Bookmate, a subscription-based reading and audiobook platform, and Zvuk; Victor Frumkin (co-founder at Zvuk, a mobile music streaming app in Eastern Europe and Bookmate); Ilya Lityuga, CTO, one of the original team members at RuTube; and Andy Whatley, U.S. radio industry veteran.

#artificial-intelligence, #assistant, #ceo, #co-founder, #cofounder, #eastern-europe, #europe, #gaana, #hp, #ikea, #instreamatic, #juniper-research, #marketing, #mobile-advertising, #online-advertising, #pandora, #partner, #rutube, #sirius-xm, #smart-devices, #social-media-marketing, #tc, #triton-digital, #united-states, #voice-search

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‘Bowl food’ startup Poke House closes $24M Series B led by Eulero Capital to expand in Europe

The FoodTech industry is effectively now going into fast food. Sweetgreen in the US is a ‘fast-casual’ restaurant chain that serves healthy “bowl food”. It’s raised $478.6M. A similar firm is Sweetfin. Both employ a lot of tech in their back-end to improve efficiencies.

Into this area has come European startup Poke House, which is effectively industrializing the production of “poke bowls” for food delivery platforms. Poke House specializes in bowl food that often includes marinated fish that’s cubed and layered up with sticky rice, pickles, noodles, etc.

The company has now raised €20 million ($24m) in a Series B funding round led by Eulero Capital, with the backing of FG2 Capital and reinvestment from Milan Investment Partners SGR. It using tech and data to optimize the production and delivery of its product via all the major food delivery platforms such as Uber East etc. The Italy-born food tech startup claims to have built a “€100M+ company” inside two years.

Founded by Matteo Pichi and Vittoria Zanetti, Poke House has opened 30+ stores in Italy, Portugal and Spain, and now has 400 employees. It’s claiming an expected turnover of €40M+ in 2021.

With the funding, the startup will start opening new stores in existing markets, enter France and start in expansion in the UK.

Poke House says it uses a lot of tech on its back-end, tracking every element of the supply chain to optimize the business. It also analyzes data from third-party delivery platforms (ie. Deliveroo, Glovo, UberEats) to deliver a sub-10 mins food preparation time, and a delivery time under 25 mins.

Matteo Pichi, Co-Founder of Poke House said: “The pandemic has challenged our food sector, and we see technology as the way forward to innovate and digitalize the traditional restaurant experience. We are seeing a shift in people’s desires in fast but healthy food. Poke bowls fit this new need and it promotes a more balanced, active and sustainable lifestyle with quick and healthy food options available nearby.”

Speaking to TechCrunch, Pichi added: “Our competitors are the fast-growing healthy concepts such as Sweetgreen or Sweetfin in the US. But in the same time, we think we are lucky because we really are one of the first brands built 100% from food delivery experts or former employees. Our next competitors are gonna be full native virtual brands extremely strong in data analysis and digital brand building. We use food delivery platforms as media platforms and we invest heavier than competitors in the channel.”

Gianfranco Burei, Founding Partner of Eulero Capital said: “Poke House business model rides some of the main trends in the food sector (food-tech, healthy food, delivery, customization) and has all the characteristics and talents to position the company among the top players at European level. We are thrilled to be a partner of Poke House in an innovative and forward-looking project, in line with our investment strategy which is based on the search for companies included in the macro-trends that will characterize the economic, technological and social evolution of the coming years.”

#co-founder, #companies, #deliveroo, #distribution, #europe, #food, #food-delivery, #food-tech, #france, #healthy-food, #italy, #online-food-ordering, #partner, #poke, #portugal, #spain, #supply-chain, #sweetgreen, #tc, #uber, #uber-eats, #united-kingdom, #united-states

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Norwegian corporate training startup Attensi raises $26M from NYC’s Lugard Road, DX Ventures

Corporate training startup Attensi — which originally emerged out of Oslo, Norway — has raised $26 million from New York-based Lugard Road Capital, DX Ventures (a VC fund backed by Delivery Hero), and existing shareholder Viking Venture. The new funding will be used to expand in North America and Europe.

Attensi uses a ‘gamified approach to corporate training, putting employees into 3D simulations of their workplace and work processes. Its competitors include companies like GoSkills, Mindflash SAP Litmos Skilljar.

With the pandemic shifting all office work to remote, digital training platforms like this stand to benefit.

This is also yet another recent example of how US VCs are ‘going hunting’ for startups in Europe, putting pressure on local VCs.

Attensi co-founder and co-CEO, Trond Aas said in a statement: “With gamified simulation training, we have combined the best of workplace psychology with our expertise in simulations and gamification to create a new category of training solutions.”

The company claims it’s experienced a 63% CAGR in annual recurring revenue. Its clients include Daimler Mercedes Benz, Circle K, Equinor, BCG, and ASDA.

Doug Friedman, a partner at Lugard Road Capital, said: “We could not be more excited to be investing in the Attensi team as they work to forever change and improve corporate learning and development through their Attensi solutions.”

#articles, #business, #companies, #daimler, #delivery-hero, #europe, #gamification, #gaming, #lugard-road-capital, #new-york, #north-america, #norway, #oslo, #partner, #sap, #simulation, #startup-company, #tc

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Hiro Capital puts $2.3M into team sports tracking platform PlayerData — as does Sir Terry Leahy

Hiro Capital has gradually been making a name for itself as an investor in the area know as ‘Digital Sports’ or DSports for shorts. It’s now led a $2.3m funding round in PlayerData. While the round might sound small, the area it’s going into is large and growing. Also investing in the round is Sir Terry Leahy, previously the CEO of Tesco, the largest British retailer.

Edinburgh, UK-based PlayerData uses wearable technology and software tracking to give grass-roots and professional sports teams feedback on their training. It can, for instance, allow coaches to replay key moments from a game, even modeling different outcomes based on player positioning.

This is Hiro Capital’s 4th DSports and ‘connected fitness’ investment, and it joins Zwift, FitXR and NURVV. Hiro has also invested in eight games startups in the UK, USA and Europe, as befits the heritage of cofounder and partner Ian Livingstone, OBE,CBE, who is the former chairman of Tomb Raider publisher Eidos plc and all-round gaming pioneer.

PlayerData says it has captured more than 10,000 team sessions across UK soccer and rugby, and logged over 50 million meters of play. It also has strong network effects, it says. Every time a new team encounters one using Playerdata’s platform, it generates 5 more clubs as users.

Roy Hotrabhvanon is cofounder and CEO of PlayerData, and is a former international-level archer. He’s joined by Hayden Ball, cofounder and CTO, a firmware and cloud infrastructure expert.

playerdata app

playerdata app

In a statement Hotrabhvanon said: “Our mission is to bring fine-grained data and insight to clubs across team sports, helping them supercharge their game-making, improve player performance, and avoid injury… Our ultimate goal is to implement cutting-edge insights from pioneering wearables that are applicable to any team in any discipline at any level.”

Cherry Freeman, co-founding Partner at Hiro says: “PlayerData ticks all of our key boxes: a huge TAM with over 3m grass-roots clubs; a deep moat built on shared player data, machine learning and highly actionable predictive algorithms; compelling customer network effects; and a really impressive yet humble founding team.”

The PlayerData news forms part of a wider growth in digital sports, which includes such breakout names as Peloton, Tonal, Mirror, as well as Hiro’s portfolio investment, Zwift. With the pandemic putting an emphasison both home workouts and general health, the fascination with digital measurement of performance now has a growing grip on the sector.

Speaking to TechCrunch, Freeman added: “We think there are something like 3 million teams that are potential customers for PlayerData. Obviously the number of runners is enormous, and they only need to get a small slice of that market to have a very, very large business. At the end of the day everyone, everyone works out, even if you just go for a walk, so the target market’s huge and they started with running but their technology is applicable to a whole raft of other sports.”

#capital, #ceo, #chairman, #cofounder, #cycling, #edinburgh, #europe, #fiction, #finance, #hiro, #machine-learning, #partner, #player, #tc, #tesco, #tonal, #united-kingdom, #united-states, #wearable-technology, #zwift

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While other startups develop alt-proteins for meat replacement, Nourish Ingredients focuses on fat

Plant-based meat replacements have commanded a huge amount of investor and consumer attention in the decade or more since new entrants like Beyond Meat first burst onto the scene.

These companies have raised billions of dollars and the industry is now worth at least $20 billion as companies try to bring all the meaty taste of… um… meat… without all of the nasty environmental damage… to supermarket aisles and restaurants around the world.

Switching to a plant-based diet is probably the single most meaningful contribution a person can make to reducing their personal greenhouse gas emissions (without buying an electric vehicle or throwing solar panels on their roof).

The problem that continues to bedevil the industry is that there remains a pretty big chasm between the taste of these meat replacements and actual meat, no matter how many advancements startups notch in making better proteins or new additives like Impossible Foods’ heme. Today, meat replacement companies depend on palm oil and coconut oil for their fats — both inputs that come with their own set of environmental issues.

Enter Nourish Ingredients, which is focusing not on the proteins, but the fats that make tasty meats tasty. Consumers can’t have delicious, delicious bacon without fat, and they can’t have a marvelously marbled steak replacements without it either.

The Canberra, Australia-based company has raised $11 million from Horizons Ventures, the firm backed by Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing (also a backer of Impossible Foods), and Main Sequence Ventures, an investment firm founded by Australia’s national science agency, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation.

That organization is actually where the company’s two co-founders James Petrie and Ben Leita met back in 2013 while working as scientists. Petrie, a specialist in crop development, was spearheading the development of omega-3 canola oil, while Leita had a background in chemistry and bioplastics.  

The two had previously worked on a company that was trying to increase oil production in plants, something that the CSRO had been particularly interested in circa 2017. As the market for alternative meats really began to take off, the two entrepreneurs turned their attention to trying to make corollaries for animal fats.

When we were talking to people we realized that these alternative food space was going to need these animal fat like plants,” said Leita. “We could use that skillset for fish oil and out of canola oil.”

Nourish’s innovation was in moving from plants to bacteria. “With the iteration speeds, it feels kind of like we’re cheating,” said Petrie. “You can get the cost of goods pretty damn low.”

Nourish Ingredients uses bacteria or organisms that make significant amounts of triglycerides and lipids. “Examples include Yarrowia. There are examples of that being used for production of tailored oils,” said Petrie. “We can tune these oleaginous organisms to make these animal fats that give us that great taste and experience.”

As both men noted, fats are really important for flavor. They’re a key differentiator in what makes different meats taste different, they said.

“The cow makes cow fat because that’s what the cow does, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best fat for a plant protein,” said Petrie. “We start out with a mimetic. No reason for us to be locked by the original organism. We’re trying to create new experiences. There are new experiences out there to be had.”

The company already counts several customers in both the plant and recombinant protein production space. Now, with 18 employees, the company is producing both genetically modified and non-CRISPR cultivated optimized fats. 

Other startups and established businesses also have technologies that could allow them to enter this new market. Those would be businesses like Geltor, which is currently focused on collagen, or Solazyme, which makes a range of bio-based specialty oils and chemicals.

As active investors in the alternative protein space, we realize that animal-free fats that replicate the taste of traditional meat, poultry and seafood products are the next breakthrough in the industry,” said Phil Morle, partner at Main Sequence Ventures. “Nourish have discovered how to do just that in a way that’s sustainable and incredibly tasty, and we couldn’t be happier to join them at this early stage.” 

#australia, #beyond-meat, #chemicals, #cooking, #food, #food-and-drink, #horizons-ventures, #impossible-foods, #li-ka-shing, #meat, #meat-substitutes, #partner, #solazyme, #tc

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Planting seed investments on tech’s frontiers nets KdT Ventures $50 million for its latest fund

Like other venture investors over the past year, Cain McClary, co-founder of the investment firm KdT Ventures, recently made the jump to Austin. But unlike the rest of them, he was coming from Black Mountain, NC.

McClary had spent the better part of the last three years with his co-founder Mack Healy building out a portfolio that would be the envy of almost any investor looking at financing startups whose businesses depend on innovations at the borders of current technological achievement.

Since 2017, when the firm closed on the first $3.5 million of what ended up being a $15 million fund (they had targeted $30 million), McClary and Healy managed to find their way onto the cap table of businesses like the green chemicals manufacturer, Solugen; health diagnostics technology developer, PathAI; the Nigerian genetic dataset developer, 54Gene; the novel biomaterials developer, Checkerspot; and the genetics-focused therapy company, Dyno Therapeutics. 

That portfolio — and the subsequent top decile performance that Cambridge Associates has said comes with it — has allowed McClary and Healy to close on an oversubscribed $50 million new fund to invest in promising startup companies.

KdT co-founders Cain McClary and Mack Healy. Image Credit: KdT Ventures

Hailing from a small Tennessee town outside of Leipers Fork (itself a small Tennessee town) McClary studied medicine at Tulane and business at Stanford where he linked up with Healy through a mutual friend.

Healy, who had done stints throughout big Bay Area startups like Airbnb, Databricks, and Facebook brought the software expertise (and some capital to stake the firm) while McClary provided the life sciences know-how.

Together the two men set out to hang their investment shingle at the intersection of software and life sciences that was proving to be fertile ground for new business creation. Each company in the firm’s portfolio depends on both the advances in understanding how to code computers and living cells.

McClary had left California for personal reasons when he launched the fund in 2017 and in 2020 relocated to Austin for professional ones. Healy had already set up shop in the city and it was easier, McClary said to fly out to San Francisco to look for companies from the Austin airport than it was from Ashville.

Also, both men were placing big bets on the Dell Medical School at the University of Texas to become the breeding ground for the type of entrepreneurs that the firm is looking to back.

Mack was there… the Dell Medical School and we think it’s going to be produce the types of entrpereneurs that we want to support. Houston has a med system. I firmly believe that texas has a place at the table in the future 

“The way that we define it is that we like to invest in the physical layer of the world,” said McClary. “That includes not only medicine, but chemicals and agriculture. All of that is driven by some of the things that we have this sourcecode for the physical world.”

Mapping the unmapped corners of the frontier tech startup world means that the firm not only has a presence in Austin, but has hired principals to scour Houston and Research Triangle Park in North Carolina for hot deals.

That doesn’t mean the firm is forsaking California though. One of the most recent deals in the KdT portfolio is Andes Ag, an Emeryville, Calif.-based startup that’s applying yield-boosting microbes directly to seeds in an effort to improve crop performance for farmers.

“The KdT team speaks the language of science, making them an outlier in this area of venture investing,” said JD Montgomery of Canterbury Consulting, a limited partner in KdT’s first and second fund. “They are passionate about building the science companies of the future that will tackle some of the significant challenges our world faces in the next decade and beyond.”

#54gene, #airbnb, #austin, #california, #cambridge-associates, #chemicals, #co-founder, #corporate-finance, #databricks, #dell, #economy, #entrepreneurship, #facebook, #finance, #fork, #houston, #money, #north-carolina, #partner, #pathai, #private-equity, #san-francisco, #solugen, #stanford, #startup-company, #tc, #texas, #tulane, #university-of-texas, #venture-capital

0

D2C furniture startup Tylko closes $26M Series C growth round led by Pitango and Evli

Polish startup Tylko, a modular furniture company that employs Augmented Reality as part of its sales cycle, has closed a €22 million ($26m) investment Series C funding round, led by Israel-based Pitango Growth and Finnish Evli Growth Partners, following previous investors TDJ Pitango and Experior Venture Fund. Additionally, Brian Walker, former CEO of Hermann Miller, and Mark Williamson, COO of US-based MasterClass, join as new investors. Tylko has now raised a total of €33 million since its inception in 2015.

It now plans to more than double its team of 140, as well as launch in new markets, and expand its portfolio, which right now is limited to shelving only.

Tylko is not dissimilar from made.com which, to some extent, pioneered the direct-to-consumer furniture market. Like Made, the idea behind Tylko is also direct-to-consumer, ‘design-on-demand’. The company says it has taken advantage of the period when people have been stuck at home during the pandemic, ordering online, to hit a 132% increase in sales in 2020 in comparison to previous years.

Jacek Majewski, co-founder, Co-CEO Tylko, commented in a statement: “Tylko’s vision has always been about putting the user experience first, in order to create a product that is perfectly designed, high-quality and sustainable. We believe that driving sustainability into this huge industry can only be done by creating highly desirable products that will win over customers by their features rather than certificates.”

Tylko says its furniture of based on ‘parametric design’, with each item being quite individual. Tylko’s platform then automates the manufacturing process for its production partners.

Mikko Kuitunen, Growth Partner at Evli Growth Partners, added: “We are impressed by Tylko’s exceptional growth and ability to scale the company as a market leader, offering new, customized solutions within the furniture market. Tylko’s strong impact-driven vision and made-to-order business model drives the market’s transition towards more sustainable solutions.”

Rami Kalish, General Managing Partner & Co-Founder at Pitango Venture Capital commented: “Tylko has a huge vision to disrupt the furniture industry.”

#ceo, #companies, #coo, #europe, #evli-growth-partners, #experior-venture-fund, #made-com, #market-leader, #masterclass, #partner, #pitango, #pitango-venture-capital, #tc, #tylko

0

Astroscale launches its ELSA-d orbital debris removal satellite

Space startup Astroscale has launched ELSA-d, the demonstration mission for its End-of-Life Services by Astroscale (ELSA) technology, which aims to dock with, and then safely remove, orbital debris. Astroscale’s demonstrator package includes two separate payloads, a servicer that represents its future production spacecraft, and a ‘client’ satellite that’s meant to represent the debris satellites it’ll be de-orbiting on behalf of customers in future.

The Astrocale payload was launched via a Soyuz rocket that took off early this morning from Kazakhstan carrying 38 commercial satellites from 18 countries. It’s the first Astroscale spacecraft to reach orbit, since the startup’s founding in 2013 by Japanese entrepreneur Nobu Okada. Astroscale had launched a micro satellite designed to measure small-scale debris in 2017, but all 18 of the satellites on that particular mission failed to reach orbit, due to human error in the launch vehicle’s programming.

This ELSA-d mission is a much more ambitious effort, and involves what amounts to an active on-orbit demonstration of the technology that Astroscale ultimately hopes to commercialize. The mission profile includes repeat docking and release maneuvers between the servicer satellite and the simulated client satellite, which is equipped with a ferromagnetic plate to assist the servicer with its magnetic docking procedure.

Astroscale hopes to prove out a range of its advertised capabilities with this demonstration, including the servicer’s ability to search out and located the client satellite, inspect it for damage, and then dock with it as mentioned, in both non-tumbling and tumbling scenarios (ie., a payload that’s maintaining a stable orbit, and one that’s spinning end-over-end in space with no ability to control its own attitude).

There’s a lot riding on this mission, which will be controlled from a ground center established by Astroscale in the UK. Aside from its long-term commercial ambitions, the startup is also contracted to partner with JAXA on the Japanese space agency’s first orbital debris removal mission, which aims to be the first in the world to remove a large object from orbit, representing the spent upper stage of a launch rocket.

#aerospace, #articles, #astroscale, #entrepreneur, #jaxa, #kazakhstan, #orbital-debris, #outer-space, #partner, #space, #space-debris, #spaceflight, #startups, #tc, #united-kingdom

0

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

0

Fraud prevention platform Seon raises a $12M Series A round led by Creandum

Seon, which lets online businesses fight online fraud like fake accounts has raised a $12 million Series A round led by Creandum, with participation from PortfoLion, part of OTP Bank. The funding appears to be one of Hungary’s larger series A rounds to date.
 
Seon is a fraud-detection startup that establishes a customers’ ‘digital footprint’ in order to weed out false accounts and thus prevent fraudulent transactions. Clients include Patreon, AirFrance, Rivalry and Ladbrokes Launched in 2017, the company claims to bave been profitable since the end of 2019, after experiencing growth through working with neobanks, esports, gaming, Forex, and crypto trading throughout the rapid digitization brought on by the pandemic.

SEON’s CEO and Founder, Tamas Kadar, said in a statement: “We’re extremely pleased to have completed our latest funding round, led by Creandum, joining its exciting tech portfolio. We feel we have found a like-minded investor to work closely with to pursue the significant global opportunity for our business as we continue to democratize fraud fighting.”
 
Simon Schmincke, general partner at Creandum, said: “At Creandum, we believe cybercrime will be one of the most serious threats of the 21st century. With SEON, we’ve found an anti-fraud solution that’s effective, affordable, flexible, intuitive, and clearly proves its ROI.”
 
Gábor Pozsonyi, partner at PortfoLion Capital Partners, added: “Seon is a fundamentally useful brand: it offers a solution to one of the greatest challenges of digitalization, not only saving hundreds of millions of euros for its partners but making the internet a safer place.”

SEON are seen as competing with Emailage, Iovation, Threatmetrix. However, SEON’s thesis is that social media is a great proxy of a legitimate user vs bot/fake fraudster, so it looks heavily at social accounts to weed out fraudsters.

As part of the funding round, Seon has brought on board the following investors as shareholders: N26 founders, Maximilian Tayenthal and Valentin Stalf; SumUp founders Stefan Jeschonnek and Jan Deepen; Tide CEO Laurence Krieger; Revolut ex-CFO Peter O’Higgins; iZettle ex-chief Product Officer Leo Nilsson; Onfido cofounder Eamon Jubawy, and ComplyAdvantage founder Charlie Delingpole.

#ceo, #cfo, #charlie-delingpole, #cofounder, #europe, #financial-services, #financial-technology, #general-partner, #hungary, #izettle, #laurence-krieger, #mobile-payments, #n26, #onfido, #online-fraud, #online-payments, #partner, #patreon, #portfolion, #revolut, #social-media, #tc, #threatmetrix, #tide

0

Energy Impact Partners has set up an index for climate tech… and it’s crushing the overall market

Given the deluge of climate focused companies flooding public markets, it’s getting hard to keep track of who’s doing what, where they’re traded and how they’re performing. That’s why the folks at Energy Impact Partners have set up an index tracking tech companies that are focused on sustainability, energy efficiency and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

For the past few months the firm, whose investors include some of the largest energy consumers and utilities in the world, has been working on setting up the index of representative climate tech offerings that are available on public markets and discovered one thing — these companies are crushing returns compared to the overall market.

Since the beginning of 2020, EIP Climate Index has outperformed NASDAQ by approximately 2.8 times — it’s up 127% compared to 45% for the NASDAQ. Of the companies on the list, about 20 out of the 27 companies are new offerings that have been public less than a year and have outperformed NASDAQ during that period. About16 of them are up over 100% during that time. That’s true even with the overall index down about 20 percent from its January peaks.

The index isn’t actually available for public investment, it’s an educational tool more than anything else, but it does show the breadth of companies working on climate-related solutions and reveals the overwhelming appetite of public market investors to back these companies.

“There’s been a really incredibly positive run in the climate tech run in the public markets and not just from SPACs,” said Shayle Kann, a partner at Energy Impact Partners. “Part of our motivation for creating this climate tech index let’s see if we can put together as diverse a group of companies as possible.”

Included in the EIP index are companies like Beyond Meat, which is a sustainability darling, and businesses that are a bit longer in the tooth like hydrogen fuel cell companies Ballard Power and Bloom Energy. The companies run the gamut from electric storage to renewable energy production, to vehicle charging and infrastructure to alternative protein providers.

“The idea was, how was the sector, if you include all this stuff, performing as a whole. We created this index and tried to be inclusive. It has been dramatically outperforming the market.”

While the EIP list is intended to be informative, there’s no reason someone couldn’t take this index and turn it into an exchange traded fund for the industry. Most of the ETFs that are currently on the market are focused narrowly on energy production, or infrastructure, this index is potentially the first to track the broadly diversified world of companies focused on mitigating the impacts of climate change and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

There are even additive manufacturers in the mix like Desktop Metal, which Kann said had a huge climate component to its technology.

“Additive manufacturing has a fairly strong climate case in reduced waste, reduced transportation, electrification of the manufacturing process,” Kann said. 

It’s also a signal that early stage private investors can take note of too, said Kann.

“It provides a broader pathway to public markets. The companies that see their share prices run up here. What it suggests for us and for everybody else in this venture capital world is the exit pathways are improved when this index does well,” he said. 

 

#articles, #beyond-meat, #bloom-energy, #desktop-metal, #energy, #energy-impact-partners, #finance, #fuel-cell, #greenhouse-gas-emissions, #manufacturing, #nasdaq, #partner, #renewable-energy, #tc

0

Mercado Libre taps Pachama to monitor and manage its $8 million investment in Latin American rainforest restoration

Mercado Libre, one of the largest e-commerce and financial services company from Latin America by market cap, has selected the startup and Y Combinator alumni Pachama as its strategic partner in developing projects to restore ecosystems in Latin America.

The selection of Pachama is part of a program initiated by Mercado Libre, Latin America’s answer to Amazon, which is called Regenera America. The $8 million that Mercado Libre is investing will be in two reforestation projects: the “Mantiqueira Conservation Project”, organized under the auspices of The Nature Conservancy and the “Corridors of Live Project”, designed and implemented by the Instituto de Pesquisas Ecologicas.

Both projects will focus on the reforestation of over three thosuand hectares, through natural regeneration and planting over 1 million trees, restoring biodiversity corridors and protecting hydrological basins in the Atlantic Forest region of Brazil, the two companies said in a statement.

Pachama will provide satellite and machine learning technologies to verify and monitor the carbon sequestration produced by the sweeping reforestation efforts in a deal which leapfrogs Mercado Libre ahead of Microsoft as the young startup’s largest customer.

Software tools provided by Pachama will also increase the efficiency and transparency of the actual reforestation efforts on the ground, the companies said in a joint statement.

The deal between the two companies, and Mercado Libre’s big buy was announced earlier today at a press conference in Argentina and the agreement marks the first time Mercado Libre has tapped money from a recently issued $400 million Sustainability Bond that was designed to finance projects of what the e-commerce giant called “triple impact” in the Latin American region. The bond was issued by JP Morgan and BNP Paribas.

“We’re taking our first steps. We have always tried to do things the hard way and go to the core of problems. We have had a very interesting debate internally about when is the right time to start buying carbon offsets and carbon credits but we also realize that the … getting up and running of projects that generate carbon credits in Latin America was potentially even more of a challenging situation and more of a longterm solution,” said Mercado Libre chief financial officer Pedro Arnt.

“This is a building block of a longer term strategy thinking through not just what we can do for the next two or three years,” Arnt said. 

The Regenera America project has four pieces, Arnt said: measuring and reporting emissions internally for the company; buying clean energy for the company’s operations; providing electric vehicles for its own fleet and assisting its last mile and logistics partners in electrifying their own transportation; and the development of reforestation efforts across Latin America.

“This is setting up an example for more traditional industries across Latin America,” said Diego Saez-Gil, the co-founder and chief executive of Pachama. MercadoLibre is the largest company by market cap in Latin America and serves as a standard bearer for the forward thinking businesses in the region, he said. “Latin America is one of the biggest holders of biodiversity and carbon stocks in the world, and should be playing a more active role in climate mitigation.”

It’s a big step for Pachama as well. The deal marks the first time the young company has involved itself in project origination and provide a new revenue stream to compliment its existing lines of business.

“We are incredibly excited to start helping new reforestation projects get off the ground that have the capabilities to plant millions of trees and remove millions tons of CO2 from the atmosphere. If we are to solve climate change we need more projects like these to start as soon as possible,” said Saez-Gil in a statement. “We are confident that technologies such as AI and satellite imagery are key to scaling these efforts with high integrity, efficiency and transparency. Partnering with world-class organizations such as Mercado Libre, The Nature Conservancy and IPE for our first projects represents an incredible opportunity for us.” 

#argentina, #artificial-intelligence, #biology, #bnp-paribas, #brazil, #chief-financial-officer, #clean-energy, #diego-saez-gil, #e-commerce, #ebay, #electric-vehicles, #jp-morgan, #latin-america, #mercado-libre, #mercadolibre, #microsoft, #nature-conservancy, #pachama, #partner, #paypal, #satellite-imagery, #tc, #y-combinator

0

SoFi acquires community bank Golden Pacific Bancorp to speed up its national bank charter process

SoFi, more formally known as Social Finance, announced today that it has agreed to acquire Golden Pacific Bancorp (GPB) for about $22.3 million.

The dollar amount is not staggering. What is more notable about the acquisition is that it’s giving SoFi a quick route to getting a national bank charter. SoFi, a digital personal finance company, got preliminary approval for a bank charter last October. By acquiring Golden Pacific, the company gets a fast track into that process. Once the transaction closes later this year, GPB will become a subsidiary of the company.

A national bank charter will give SoFi the ability to accept deposits and make loans that use SoFi’s member deposits as opposed to funding its loan offerings as a non-bank, by contracting external underwriters at a premium.

As a result of the proposed acquisition, SoFi said it would switch its current de novo (ie, net new) bank application to a change of control application. GPB currently has about $150 million in assets, but if the OCC and Federal Reserve grants SoFi a national bank charter, the company said it will then put $750 million toward its national, digital business plan. At the same time, it will maintain GPB’s community bank business and footprint, including its current three physical branches. 

SoFi expects the acquisition to close by year’s end. At that time, GPB’s community bank business will operate as a division of SoFi Bank, N.A., a renaming of GPB’s bank entity. 

GPB President and CEO Virginia Varela will continue to lead the GPB community bank business under the direction of Paul Mayer, who will serve as president of SoFi Bank, N.A.

“We believe that by pursuing a national bank charter, we will be able to help even more people get their money right with enhanced value and more products and services,” said SoFi CEO Anthony Noto in a written statement. “We are thrilled to have found a partner in Golden Pacific Bank to both accelerate our pursuit to establish a national bank subsidiary, as well as begin to expand our offerings in SoFi’s financial products and Galileo’s technology platform to serve local communities.”

Noto is referring to SoFi’s 2020 acquisition of Galileo — which provides APIs that allow fintech companies to easily create bank accounts and issue physical and virtual credit cards — for $1.2 billion. 

SoFi expects to file shortly with the Federal Reserve for Bank Holding Company status and, together with GPB, to file an updated business plan with the OCC.

San Francisco-based SoFi is the latest in a string of fintechs that are either becoming banks, or launching bank arms.

Last week, TechCrunch reported that Square’s industrial bank, Square Financial Services, had begun operations. Square Financial Services completed the charter approval process with the FDIC and Utah Department of Financial Institutions, meaning it was ready for business as of last week.

And in February, we reported that Brex — a fast-growing company that sells a credit card tailored for startups — had applied for a bank charter

#anthony-noto, #bank, #california, #ceo, #fdic, #finance, #fintech, #galileo, #partner, #president, #san-francisco, #social-finance, #sofi, #tc

0

German InsureTech platform Hepster raises $10M Series A led by Element Ventures

Hepster, an insurtech platform from Germany, has raised $10 million in a Series A funding led by Element Ventures. Also participating was Seventure Partners, MBMV, and GPS Ventures, as well as previous investors. The funds will be used to broaden the Hepster insurance ecosystem and scale up its network, with an emphasis on automation.

The German insurance market is famously slow at adopting new practices, and Hepster is part of a new wave of insurtech startups in the country taking advantage of this. It allows businesses to build insurance policies from scratch, matched specifically to the needs of their individual service or industry. E-commerce players, for instance, can then embed these insurance products into the e-commerce journey.

Its products are therefore better suited to the new sector of, for example, shared e-bike schemes and peer-to-peer rental platforms, which are rarely covered by traditional brokers in Germany. However, it also caters to traditional, established industries as well.

It now has more than 700 partners, including European bike retailers and rental companies Greenstorm Mobility and Baron Mobility, as well as Berlin-based cargo bike provider Citkar and Munich e-bike startup SUSHI.

Christian Range, Hepster co-founder and CEO, said in a statement: “Hepster is now a key player within the European insurance market. Our state-of-the-art technology with our API-driven ecosystem, as well as our highly service-oriented approach, sets us apart.” 

In interview, he told me: “Germany is the toughest market with the most regulations, the most laws. We have a saying in Germany if you can make it in Germany, you can make it everywhere. Also, it’s a big market in terms of selling insurance products because Germans really like insurance in every regard. So there is huge market potential in Germany I think.”

Michael McFadgen, partner at Element Ventures, said: “As new industries and business models emerge, companies need much more flexible insurance propositions than what is currently being offered by traditional brokers. Hepster is the breakout company in the space, and their focus on embedded insurance will pay dividends in years to come.”

#berlin, #e-bike, #element-ventures, #europe, #germany, #insurance, #insurance-policies, #munich, #partner, #player, #seventure-partners, #tc

0

Snapcommerce raises $85M to make over your mobile shopping experience

People are not only shopping digitally more than ever. They’re also shopping using their mobile phones more than ever.

And for mobile-first companies like Snapcommerce, this is good news.

Snapcommerce, formerly known as SnapTravel, has raised $85 million in what the company is describing as a “Pre-IPO” growth round to help further its mission of “changing the way people shop on their phones.”

The Toronto, Ontario-based startup has built out an AI-driven, vertical-agnostic platform that uses messaging in an effort to personalize the mobile shopping experience and “deliver the best promotional prices.” While it was initially focused on the travel industry, the company is now branching out into other consumer verticals – hence its name change.

Inovia Capital and Lion Capital co-led the new growth round, which included participation from Acrew DCF, Thayer Ventures, Full In Partners as well as existing backers Telstra Ventures and Bee Partners. The financing brings Snapcommerce’s total raised since its 2016 inception to over $100 million. Its last raise — a $7.2 million round from Telstra and NBA star Steph Curry — took place in 2019.

The startup was founded by tech entrepreneurs Hussein Fazal, whose prior company AdParlor grew to $100+ million in revenue, then sold to AdKnowledge back in 2011; and Henry Shi, who previously built uMentioned and worked at Google, where he helped launch YouTube Music Insights, according to previous TechCrunch reporting.

Snapcommerce co-founders Henry Shi and Hussein Fazal, Image courtesy of Snapcommerce

Snapcommerce launched its first, travel-focused product in 2017. It works by using chatbots to interact with customers via messaging apps such as SMS, Facebook and Whatsapp. But the company also has human agents ready to help if people need more assistance, in the past essentially serving as on-demand travel agents.

Its service is not just for hotels and flights, but also to help people book restaurants and activities too.

“Our focus has been on building that personal relationship,” Fazal said. “Many people end up coming back to us when they travel again.” In fact, over 40% of its sales in 2020 came from repeat customers.

Over the years, the company claims to have helped more than 10 million users globally save over $75 million. It expects to cross over $1 billion in total mobile sales this year.

And now it’s ready to branch out into helping consumers save money on goods.

“When shopping, it’s hard to find the right product and even if you do, it’s hard to find a good deal,” he said. “On a desktop, there’s ways around it. But on mobile, it’s virtually impossible.”

The company turned the corner to profitability three months into the pandemic in 2020, seeing a 60% spike in sales in the second half of the year compared to H2 2019, according to CEO Fazal.

It then decided to re-invest its profits to continue growing the business.

“The profitability during the pandemic gave us confidence that we could turn to profitability whenever we needed to and gave us control of our own destiny, which enabled this fundraise,” Fazal told TechCrunch. “The third quarter of 2020 ended up being our greatest quarter ever.”

The COVID-19 pandemic, naturally, only accelerated its growth as more consumers turned to mobile.

“We believe the next wave of power purchasers will be via mobile,” Fazal said. “Some of the new generation don’t even have desktops or laptops, and they spend all their time on their mobile phone and messaging. So we’re able to be at the forefront.” 

Snapcommerce has an IPO in its sights although no specific timeline. The company did not reveal its current valuation or hard revenue figures. The company makes money by either marking up prices provided by a merchant or charging the merchant a commission.

Chris Arsenault, partner at Inovia and Snapcommerce lead investor, said his firm “tripled up” on its investment in the startup after witnessing its success in the travel space.

“Other companies out there only care about the transaction, and force consumers to look through several services to see if they got the best price, all the while telling them ‘there’s only 2 seats left,’ ” he told TechCrunch. “We believe that consumers aren’t going to accept that type of pressure-selling in the future. And Snapcommerce’s ability to build trust with its customers and service providers has attracted us to them as they are defining what the future of commerce is going to be like.”

Ultimately, the company plans to use its fresh capital to continue to scale with the goal of streamlining the entire mobile search, purchase and fulfillment process and make finding “the right item at the right price as sending a message to a trusted friend.”

#bee-partners, #ceo, #computing, #inovia-capital, #mobile-phones, #mobile-search, #operating-systems, #partner, #sms, #steph-curry, #tc, #telstra, #telstra-ventures, #thayer-ventures, #toronto, #travel-industry, #whatsapp

0

Databricks brings its lakehouse to Google Cloud

Databricks and Google Cloud today announced a new partnership that will bring to Databricks customers a deep integration with Google’s BigQuery platform and Google Kubernetes Engine. This will allow Databricks’ users to bring their data lakes and the service’s analytics capabilities to Google Cloud.

Databricks already features a deep integration with Microsoft Azure — one that goes well beyond this new partnership with Google Cloud — and the company is also an AWS partner. By adding Google Cloud to this list, the company can now claim to be the “only unified data platform available across all three clouds (Google, AWS and Azure).”

It’s worth stressing, though, that Databricks’ Azure integration is a bit of a different deal from this new partnership with Google Cloud. “Azure Databricks is a first-party Microsoft Azure service that is sold and supported directly by Microsoft. The first-party service is unique to our Microsoft partnership. Customers on Google Cloud will purchase directly from Databricks through the Google Cloud Marketplace,” a company spokesperson told me. That makes it a bit more of a run-of-the-mill partnership compared to the Microsoft deal, but that doesn’t mean the two companies aren’t just as excited about it.

“We’re delighted to deliver Databricks’ lakehouse for AI and ML-driven analytics on Google Cloud,” said Google Cloud CEO Thomas Kurian (or, more likely, one of the company’s many PR specialists who likely wrote and re-wrote this for him a few times before it got approved). “By combining Databricks’ capabilities in data engineering and analytics with Google Cloud’s global, secure network—and our expertise in analytics and delivering containerized applications—we can help companies transform their businesses through the power of data.”

Similarly, Databricks CEO Ali Ghodsi noted that he is “thrilled to partner with Google Cloud and deliver on our shared vision of a simplified, open, and unified data platform that supports all analytics and AI use-cases that will empower our customers to innovate even faster.”

And indeed, this is clearly a thrilling delight for everybody around, including customers like Conde Nast, whose Director of Data Engineering Nana Essuman is “excited to see leaders like Google Cloud and Databricks come together to streamline and simplify getting value from data.”

If you’re also thrilled about this, you’ll be able to hear more about it from both Ghodsi and Kurian at an event on April 6 that is apparently hosted by TechCrunch (though this is the first I’ve heard of it, too).