Productivity startup Time is Ltd raises $5.6M to be the ‘Google Analytics for company time’

Productivity analytics startup Time is Ltd wants to be the Google Analytics for company time. Or perhaps a sort of “Apple Screen Time” for companies. Whatever the case, the founders reckon that if you can map how time is spent in a company enormous productivity gains can be unlocked and, money better spent.

It’s now raised a $5.6 million late seed funding round led by Mike Chalfen, of London-based Chalfen Ventures, with participation from Illuminate Financial Management and existing investor Accel. Acequia Capital and former Seal Software chairman Paul Sallaberry are also contributing to the new round, as is former Seal board member Clark Golestani. Furthermore, Ulf Zetterberg, founder and former CEO of contract discovery and analytics company Seal Software, is joining as President and co-founder.

The venture is the latest from serial entrepreneur Jan Rezab, better known for founding SocialBakers, which was acquired last year.

We are all familiar with inefficient meetings, pestering notifications chat, video conferencing tools and the deluge of emails. Time is Ltd. says it plans to address this by acquiring insights and data platforms such as Microsoft 365, Google Workspace, Zoom, Webex, MS Teams, Slack, and more. The data and insights gathered would then help managers to understand and take a new approach to measure productivity, engagement, and collaboration, the startup says.

The startup says it has now gathered 400 indicators that companies can choose from. For example, a task set by The Wall Street Journal for Time is Ltd. found the average response time for Slack users vs. email was 16.3 minutes, comparing to emails which was 72 minutes.

Chalfen commented: “Measuring hybrid and distributed work patterns is critical for every business. Time Is Ltd.’s platform makes such measurement easily available and actionable for so many different types of organizations that I believe it could make work better for every business in the world.”

Rezab said: “The opportunity to analyze these kinds of collaboration and communication data in a privacy-compliant way alongside existing business metrics is the future of understanding the heartbeat of every company – I believe in 10 years time we will be looking at how we could have ignored insights from these platforms.”

Tomas Cupr, Founder and Group CEO of Rohlik Group, the European leader of e-grocery, said: “Alongside our traditional BI approaches using performance data, we use Time is Ltd. to help improve the way we collaborate in our teams and improve the way we work both internally and with our vendors – data that Time is Ltd. provides is a must-have for business leaders.”

#accel, #analytics, #apple, #articles, #board-member, #business-intelligence, #ceo, #chairman, #computing, #digital-marketing, #e-grocery, #europe, #google, #leader, #london, #microsoft, #mike-chalfen, #seal-software, #serial-entrepreneur, #slack, #socialbakers, #software, #tc, #the-wall-street-journal, #time-is-ltd, #video-conferencing, #webex

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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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alt.bank, Brazil’s latest fintech targeting the unbanked, raises $5.5M

It looks like everyone and their mother is trying to reinvent the Brazilian banking system. Earlier this year we wrote about Nubank’s $400 million Series G, last month there was the PicPay IPO filing and today, alt.bank, a Brazilian neobank, announced a $5.5 million Series A led by Union Square Ventures (USV).

It’s no secret that the Brazilian banking system has been poised for disruption, considering the sector’s little attention to customer service and exorbitant fee structure that’s left most Brazilians unbanked, and alt.bank is just the latest company trying to take home a piece of the pie.

Following Nubank’s strategy of launching a bank with colors that are very un-bank-like, signaling that they do things differently, alt.bank similarly launched its first financial product in 2019 — a fluorescent-yellow debit card which the locals have endearingly dubbed, “o amarelinho,” meaning, “the little yellow card.”

The company, founded by serial entrepreneur Brad Liebman, follows the founder’s $480 million exit of Simply Business, which was acquired by U.S. insurance giant Travelers in 2017.

Unlike many fintechs, alt.bank has a strong social mission and pays commissions for referrals that last for the customer’s lifetime. 

“Most fintechs just help wealthy people get wealthier, so I thought let’s do something with a social mission,” Liebman told TechCrunch in an interview.

To drive home the mission, and really target the unbanked, Liebman and his team of 80 employees have designed an app that can be used by the illiterate. Instead of words, users can follow color-coded prompts to complete a transaction. The company also plans to launch credit products soon.

According to the company, close to a million people have downloaded the android app since launch, but Liebman declined to disclose how many active users the company actually has.

Today, the company’s core offerings include the debit card, a prepaid credit card, Pix (similar to Zelle), a savings account and even telemedicine visits via a partnership with Dr. Consulta, a network of healthcare clinics throughout the country. The prepaid credit card is key because online stores in Brazil don’t accept debit card purchases.

In addition to the perk of ongoing commissions, alt.bank has also partnered with three major drugstores, allowing their users to get 5-30% off any item at the stores, including medication.

While the company is based in São Paulo and São Carlos, Liebman and his family are currently based in London due to regulations around the pandemic.

The investment in alt.bank marks USV’s first investment in South America, solidifying a trend by other major U.S. investors such as Sequoia who only in the last several years have started looking to LatAm for deals.

“The bar was high for our first investment in South America,” said Union Square Ventures partner John Buttrick. “The combination of the alt.bank business model and world-class management team enticed us to expand our geographic focus to help build the leading digital bank targeting the 100 million Brazilians who are currently being neglected by traditional lenders,” he added in a statement. 

 

#android, #apps, #bank, #banking, #brazil, #credit-card, #debit-card, #finance, #financial-services, #funding, #fundings-exits, #mobile, #nubank, #online-stores, #payments, #recent-funding, #sao-paulo, #serial-entrepreneur, #south-america, #startups, #unbanked, #union-square-ventures

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Atlanta’s early stage investment renaissance continues with Overline’s $27 million fund close

Michael Cohn became a celebrity in the Atlanta startup ecosystem when the company he co-founded was sold to Accenture in a deal valued somewhere between $350 million and $400 million nearly six years ago.

That same year, Sean O’Brien also made waves in the community when he helped shepherd the sale of the  collaboration software vendor, PGi, to a private equity firm for $1.5 billion.

The two men are now looking to become fixtures in the city’s burgeoning new tech community with the close of their seed-stage venture capital firm’s first fund, a $27.4 million investment vehicle.

Overline’s first fund has already made commitments to companies that are expanding the parameters of what’s investible in the Southeast broadly and Atlanta’s startup scene locally.

These are companies like Grubbly Farms, which sells insect-based chicken feed for backyard farmers, or Kayhan Space, which is aiming to be the air traffic control service for the space industry. Others, like Padsplit, an Atlanta-based flexible housing marketplace, are tackling America’s low income housing crisis. 

“Our business model is very different from that of a traditional software startup, and the Overline team’s unique strengths and operator mindset have been invaluable in helping us grow the company,” said Sean Warner, CEO and co-founder of Grubbly Farms. 

That’s on top of investments into companies building on Atlanta’s natural strengths as a financial services, payments and business software powerhouse.

For all of the activity in Atlanta these days, the city and the broader southeastern region is still massively underfunded, according to O’brien and Cohn. The region only received less than 10 percent of all the institutional venture investments that were committed in 2020. Indeed, only seven percent of Atlanta founders raise money locally when they’re first starting out, an Overline survey suggested.

“The data reflects what we have seen throughout our careers building, growing, and investing in startups. There is no shortage of phenomenal founders and businesses coming out of Atlanta and the Southeast, but they often struggle to find institutional capital at their earliest stages,” said O’Brien, in a statement. “Overline will lead as the first institutional check for these companies and be a true partner to the Founders throughout their lifecycle—supporting them on the strategic and operational business initiatives and decisions that are critical to a company’s success.” 

The limited partners in Overline’s first fund also reflects the firm’s emphasis on regional roots. The privately held email marketing behemoth Mailchimp anchored the fund, which also included partners like Cox Enterprises, Social Leverage,

Overline is supported by a bench of impressive partners that reflects the firm’s roots in the Southeast. Anchored by marketing platform, Mailchimp, additional partners include Cox Enterprises, Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Social Leverage, Wilmington, Del.-based Hallett Capital, and Atlanta Tech Village founder David Cummings, along with Techstars co-founder David Cohen. 

“At Mailchimp, we love our hometown of Atlanta, and are proud of the robust startup ecosystem that’s growing in our city. The Overline founding team’s vision of deploying smart, local capital into startups in Atlanta and the Southeast aligns with our goals of promoting and advancing local innovation,” said Rick Lynch, CFO, Mailchimp, in a statement.

The firm expects to make investments of between $250,000 to $1.5 million into seed stage companies and has already backed 11 companies including, Relay Payments, a logistics fintech company that has raised over $40 million from top-tier investors. 

“When we set out to build Atlanta Tech Village almost a decade ago, one of our primary goals was to help Atlanta develop into a top 10 startup city, where all entrepreneurs would thrive. We’re making tremendous strides as a community, as evidenced by the number of newly minted unicorns,” said serial entrepreneur and Atlanta Tech Village founder David Cummings. “I believe in Overline’s thesis that value-add institutional early-stage capital is critical to the ecosystem’s continued development. Since the early days, Michael and Sean have been an active presence in our community in a way that goes far beyond being a source of capital—as mentors, advisors, and champions of Atlanta founders. I am proud to be one of their first investors.”

#accenture, #advisors, #america, #arizona, #atlanta, #cfo, #co-founder, #collaboration-software, #corporate-finance, #cox-enterprises, #david-cohen, #delaware, #economy, #entrepreneurship, #finance, #financial-services, #mailchimp, #money, #private-equity, #serial-entrepreneur, #social-leverage, #startup-company, #tc, #techstars, #venture-capital

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image Credits: Relativity Space

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Airbyte raises $5.2M for its open-source data integration platform

Airbyte, an open-source data integration platform, today announced that it has raised a $5.2 million seed funding round led by Accel. Other investors include YCombinator, 8VC, Segment co-founder Calvin French-Owen, former Cloudera GM Charles Zedlewski, LiveRamp and Safegraph CEO Auren Hoffman, Datavant CEO Travis May and Alain Rossmann, the president of Machinify.

The company was co-founded by Michel Tricot, the former director of engineering and head of integrations at LiverRamp and RideOS, and John Lafleur, a serial entrepreneur who focuses on developer tools and B2B services. The last startup he co-founded was Anaxi.

Image Credits: Airbyte

In its early days, the team was actually working on a slightly different project that focused on data connectivity for marketing companies. The founders were accepted into Y Combinator and built out their application, but once the COVID pandemic hit, a lot of the companies that had placed early bets on Airbyte’s original project faced budget freezes and layoffs.

“At that point, we decided to go into deeper data integration and that’s how we started the Airbyte project and product as we know it today,” Tricot explained.

Today’s Airbyte is geared toward data engineering, without the specific industry focus of its early incarnation, but it offers both a graphical UI for building connectors, as well as APIs for developers to hook into.

As Tricot noted, a lot of companies start out by building their own data connectors — and that tends to work alright at first. But the real complexity is in maintaining them. “You have zero control over how they behave,” he noted. “So either they’re going to fail, or they’re going to change something. The cost of data integration is in the maintenance.”

Even for a company that specializes in building these connectors, the complexity will quickly outpace its ability to keep up, so the team decided on building Airbyte as an open-source company. The team also argues that while there are companies like Fivetran that focus on data integration, a lot of customers end up with use cases that aren’t supported by Airbyte’s closed-source competitors and that they had to build themselves from the ground up.

“Our mission with Airbyte is really to become the standard to replicate data,” Lafleur said. “To do that, we will open-source every feature that addresses the need of the individual contributor, so all the connectors.” He also noted that Airbyte will exclusively focus on its open-source tools until it raises a Series A round — likely early next year.

To monetize its service, Airbyte plans to use an open core model, where all of the features that address the needs of a company (think enterprise features like data quality, privacy, user management, etc.) will be licensed. The team is also looking at white-labeling its containerized connectors to others.

Currently, about 600 companies use Airbyte’s connectors — up from 250 just a month ago. Its users include the likes of Safegraph, Dribbble, Mercato, GraniteRock, Agridigital and Cart.com.

The company plans to use the new funding to double its team from about 12 people to 25 by the end of the year. Right now, the company’s focus is on establishing its user base, and then it plans to start monetizing that — and raise more funding — next year.

 

#airbyte, #auren-hoffman, #ceo, #cloud, #cloud-infrastructure, #cloudera, #computing, #enterprise, #information-technology, #liveramp, #machinify, #safegraph, #serial-entrepreneur, #y-combinator

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With Atlanta rising as a new hub for tech, early stage firm Tech Square Ventures gets a new partner

Atlanta is coming up in the tech world with several newly minted billion-dollar businesses hailing from the ATL and the city’s local venture capital community is taking notice.

Even as later stage firms like the newly minted BIP Capital rebrand and  with increasingly large funds, earlier stage firms like Tech Square Ventures are staffing up and adding new partners.

The firm’s latest hire is Vasant Kamath, a general partner who joins the firm from Primus Capital, a later stage investment vehicle based out of Atlanta. Before that, he was managing investments for the private office of the Cox family.

Originally from Augusta, Ga. Kamath left the south to attend Harvard and then went out west for a stint at Stanford Business School.

In between his jaunts North and West Kamath spent time in Atlanta as an investment banker with Raymond James in the early 2000s, the beginnings of a lifelong professional career in technology. Before business school, Kamath worked at Summit Equity Partners in Boston investing in later stage technology companies.

Kamath settled in Atlanta in 2010 just as a second wave of technology companies began making their presence felt in the city.

The new Tech Square Village general partner pointed to Atlanta’s underlying tech infrastructure as one reason for the move to early stage. One pillar of that infrastructure is Georgia Tech itself. The school, whose campus abuts the Tech Square Ventures offices, is one of the top engineering universities in the country and the breadth of talent coming out of that program is impressive, Kamath said.

There’s also the companies like Airwatch, MailChimp, Calendly and others that represent the resurgence of Atlanta’s tech scene, Tech Square Ventures’ newest general partner said.

Not only are young companies reinvesting in the city, but big tech giants and telecom players like T-Mobile, Google, and Microsoft are also establishing major offices, accelerators, and incubators in Atlanta.

“There’s a lot of momentum here in early stage and i think it’s building. It’s the right time for a firm like TSV to take advantage of all of the things,” Kamath said. 

Another selling point for making the jump to early stage investing was the relationship that Kamath had established with Tech Square Ventures founder, Blake Patton. A serial entrepreneur who’s committed to building up Atlanta’s startup ecosystem, Patton has been the architect of Tech Square Ventures’ growth through two separate initiatives.

In all, the firm has $90 million in assets under management. What began with a small pilot fund, Tech Square Ventures Fund 1, (a $5 million investment vehicle) has expanded to include two larger funds raised in conjunction with major industrial corporate partners like AT&T, Chick-Fil-A, Cox Enterprises, Delta, Georgia-Pacific, Georgia Power, The Home Depot, UPS, Goldman Sachs, and Invesco, under the auspices of a program called Engage. Those funds total $54 million in AUM and the firm is halfway toward closing a much larger second flagship fund under the Tech Square Ventures name with a $75 million target.

All this activity has led to a blossoming entrepreneurial community that early stage funds like Tech Square Ventures hopes to tap.

“We see a fair number of folks from these large corporations spinning out and starting things themselves,” said Kamath. “For a decade plus, you have multiple entrepreneurs doing really well and increasing acceleration in terms of climate and exits.”

And more firms from outside of the region are beginning to take notice.

“I think that is happening,” said Kamath. “You might seen investment from outside the region. At the seed stage it’s harder you do need to have feet on the ground right when they’re starting and building their business. Once they’ve been vetted and had that early round of investment you will definitely see a lot of activity. We’re seeing more investment at the Series A and B from out of town. That’s the strategy.”

It all points to a burgeoning startup scene that’s based in a collaborative approach, which should be good not only for Tech Square Ventures, but the other early stage funds like Atlanta Ventures, Outlander Labs, BLH Ventures, Knoll Ventures and Overline, that working to support the city’s entrepreneurs, Kamath said.

#airwatch, #att, #atlanta, #bip-capital, #boston, #calendly, #chick-fil-a, #corporate-finance, #cox-enterprises, #delta, #entrepreneurship, #finance, #georgia, #goldman-sachs, #google, #harvard, #invesco, #investment-banker, #knoll-ventures, #mailchimp, #microsoft, #money, #private-equity, #serial-entrepreneur, #t-mobile, #tc, #tech-square-ventures, #technology, #venture-capital

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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LA-based Metropolis raises $41 million to upgrade parking infrastructure

Metropolis is a new Los Angeles-based startup that’s looking to compete with BMW-owned ParkMobile for a slice of the automated parking lot management market.

Upgrading ParkMobile’s license plate-based service with a computer vision based system that recognizes cars as they enter and leave garages has been Metropolis’ mission since founder and chief executive Alex Israel first formed the business back in 2017.

Israel, a serial entrepreneur, has spent decades thinking about parking. His last company, ParkMe, was sold to Inrix back in 2015. And it was with those earnings and experience that Israel went back to the drawing board to develop a new kind of parking payment and management service.

Now, the company is ready for its closeup, announcing not only its launch, but $41 million in financing the company raised from investors including the real estate managers Starwood and RXR Realty; Dick Costolo’s 01 Advisors; Dragoneer; former Facebook employees Sam Lessin and Kevin Colleran’s Slow Ventures; Dan Doctoroff, the head of Alphabet’s Sidewalk Labs initiative; and NBA All star and early stage investor, Baron Davis. 

According to Alex Israel, the parking payment application is the foundation for a bigger business empire that hopes to reimagine parking spaces as hubs for a broad array of urban mobility services.

In this, the company’s goals aren’t dissimilar from the Florida-based startup, REEF, which has its own spin on what to do with the existing infrastructure and footprint created by urban parking spaces. And REEF’s $700 million round of funding from last year shows there’s a lot of money to be made — or at least spent — in a parking lot.

Unlike REEF, Metropolis will remain focused on mobility, according to Israel. “How does parking change over the next 20 years as mobility shifts?” he asked. And he’s hoping that Metropolis will provide an answer. 

The company is hoping to use its latest funding to expand its footprint to over 600 locations over the course of the next year. In all, Metropolis has raised $60 million since it was formed back in 2017.

While the computer vision and machine learning technology will serve as the company’s beachhead into parking lots, services like cleaning, charging, storage and logistics could all be part and parcel of the Metropolis offering going forward, Israel said. “We become the integrator [and] we also in some cases become the direct service provider,” Israel said.

The company already has 10,000 parking spots that it’s managing for big real estate owners, and Israel expects more property managers to flood to its service.

“[Big property owners] are not thinking about the infrastructure requirements that allow for the seamless access to these facilities,” Israel said. His technology can allow buildings to capture more value through other services like dynamic pricing and yield optimization as well.

“Metropolis is finding the highest and best use whether that be scooter charging, scooter storage, fleet storage, fleet logistics, or sorting,” Israel said.  

 

#advisors, #alphabet, #bmw, #charging, #cleaning, #dan-doctoroff, #dick-costolo, #dynamic-pricing, #facebook, #florida, #head, #inrix, #israel, #logistics, #los-angeles, #machine-learning-technology, #national-basketball-association, #nba, #parking, #parkme, #reef, #sam-lessin, #serial-entrepreneur, #storage, #tc, #transport

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Three dimensional search engine Physna wants to be the Google of the physical world

In June of 1999, Sequoia Capital and Kleiner Perkins invested $25 million into an early stage company developing a new search engine called Google, paving the way for a revolution in how knowledge online was organized and shared.

Now, Sequoia Capital is placing another bet on a different kind of search engine, one for physical objects in three dimensions, just as the introduction of three dimensional sensing technologies on consumer phones are poised to create a revolution in spatial computing.

At least, that’s the bet that Sequoia Capital’s Shaun Maguire is making on the Cincinnati, Ohio-based startup Physna.

Maguire and Sequoia are leading a $20 million bet into the company alongside Drive Capital, the Columbus, Ohio-based venture firm founded by two former Sequoia partners, Mark Kvamme and Chris Olsen.

“There’s been this open problem in mathematics, which is how you do three dimensional search. How do you define a metric that gives you other similar three dimensional objects. This has a long history in mathematics,” Maguire said. “When I first met [Physna founder] Paul Powers, he had already come up with a wildly novel distance metric to compare different three dimensional objects. If you have one distance metric, you can find other objects that are a distance away. His thinking underlying that is so unbelievably creative. If I were to put it in the language of modern mathematics… it just involves a lot of really advanced ideas that actually also works.”

Powers’ idea — and Physna’s technology — was a long time coming.

A lawyer by training and an entrepreneur at heart, Powers came to the problem of three dimensional search through his old day job as an intellectual property lawyer.

Powers chose IP law because he thought it was the most interesting way to operate at the intersection of technology and law — and would provide good grounding for whatever company the serial entrepreneur would eventually launch next. While practicing, Powers hit upon a big problem, while some intellectual property theft around software and services was easy to catch, it was harder to identify when actual products or parts were being stolen as trade secrets. “We were always able to find 2D intellectual property theft,” Powers said, but catching IP theft in three dimensions was elusive.

From its launch in 2015 through 2019, Powers worked with co-founder and chief technology officer Glenn Warner Jr. on developing the product, which was initially intended to protect product designs from theft. Tragically just as the company was getting ready to unveil its transformation into the three dimensional search engine it had become, Warner died.

Powers soldiered on, rebuilding the company and its executive team with the help of Dennis DeMeyere, who joined the company in 2020 after a stint in Google’s office of the chief technology officer and technical director for Google Cloud.

“When I moved, I jumped on a plane with two checked bags and moved into a hotel, until I could rent a fully furnished home,” DeMeyere told Protocol last year.

Other heavy hitters were also drawn to the Cincinnati-based company thanks in no small part to Olsen and Kvamme’s Silicon Valley connections. They include Github’s chief technology officer, Jason Warner, who has a seat on the company’s board of directors alongside Drive Capital’s co-founder Kvamme, who serves as the chairman.

In Physna, Kvamme, Maguire, and Warner see a combination of Github and Google — especially after the launch last year of the company’s consumer facing site, Thangs.

That site allows users to search for three dimensional objects by a description or by uploading a model or image. As Mike Murphy at Protocol noted, it’s a bit like Thingiverse, Yeggi or other sites used by 3D-printing hobbyists. What the site can also do is show users the collaborative history of each model and the model’s component parts — if it involves different objects.

Hence the GitHub and Google combination. And users can set up profiles to store their own models or collaborate and comment on public models.

What caught Maguire’s eye about the company was the way users were gravitating to the free site. “There were tens of thousands of people using it every day,” he said. It’s a replica of the way many successful companies try a freemium or professional consumer hybrid approach to selling products. “They have a free version and people are using it all the time and loving it. That is a foundation that they can build from,” said Maguire.

And Maguire thinks that the spatial computing wave is coming sooner than anyone may realize. “The new iPhone has LIDAR on it… This is the first consumer device that comes shipped with a 3D scanner with LIDAR and I think three dimensional is about to explode.”

Eventually, Physna could be a technology hub where users can scan three dimensional objects into their phones and have a representational model for reproduction either as a virtual object or as something that can be converted into a file for 3D printing.

Right now, hundreds of businesses have approached the company with different requests for how to apply its technology, according to Powers.

One new feature will allow you to take a picture of something and not only show you what that is or where it goes. Even if that is into a part of the assembly. We shatter a vase and with the vase shards we can show you how the pieces fit back together,” Powers said.

Typical contracts for the company’s software range from $25,000 to $50,000 for enterprise customers, but the software that powers Physna’s product is more than just a single application, according to Powers.

“We’re not just a product. We’re a fundamental technology,” said Powers. “There is a gap between the physical and the digital.”

For Sequoia and Drive Capital, Physna’s software is the technology to bridge that gap.

 

#california, #chairman, #chief-technology-officer, #chris-olsen, #cincinnati, #co-founder, #columbus, #computing, #drive-capital, #entrepreneur, #executive, #github, #google, #google-cloud, #iphone, #kleiner-perkins, #lawyer, #mark-kvamme, #ohio, #printing, #search-engine, #sequoia, #sequoia-capital, #sequoia-partners, #serial-entrepreneur, #shaun-maguire, #tc

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Prime Movers Lab raises $245 million for second fund to invest in early stage science startups

After revealing its first fund just last year, a $100 million pool of investment capital dedicated to early stage startups focusing on sustainable food development, clean energy, health innovation and new space technologies, Prime Movers Lab is back with a second fund. Prime Movers Lab Fund II is larger, with $245 million committed, but it will pursue the same investment strategy, albeit with a plan to place more bets on more companies, with an expanded investment team to help manage the funds and portfolio.

“There are a lot of VCs out there,” explained founder and general partner Dakin Sloss about the concept behind the fund. “But there aren’t many VCs that are focused exclusively on breakthrough science, or deep tech. Even though there are a couple, when you look at the proportion of capital, I think it’s something like less than 10% of capital is going to these types of companies. But if you look at what’s meaningful to the life of the average person over the next 30 years, these are all the companies that are important, whether it’s coronavirus vaccine,s or solar energy production, or feeding the planet through aquaponics. These are the things that are really meaningful to to making a better quality of life for most people.”

Sloss told me that he sees part of the issue around why the proportion of capital dedicated to solving these significant problems is that it requires a lot of deep category knowledge to invest in correctly.

“There’s not enough technical expertise in VC firms to choose winners intelligently, rather than ending up with the next Theranos or clean tech bubble,” he said. “So that’s the first thing I wanted to solve. I have a physics background, and I was able to bring together a team of partners that have really deeply technical backgrounds.”

As referenced, Sloss himself has a degree from Stanford in Mathematics, Physics and Philosophy. He was a serial entrepreneur before starting the fund, having founded Tachyus, OpenGov and nonprofit California Common Sense. Other Partners on the team include systems engineer Dan Slomski, who previously worked on machine vision, electro-mechanical systems and developing a new multi-phase flow fluid analyzer; Amy Kruse, who holds a PhD in neuroscience and has served as an executive in defence technology and applied neuroscience companies; and Carly Anderson, a chemical engineer who has worked in biomedicine and oil & gas, and who has a PhD in chemical and biomolecular engineering. In addition to core partners with that kind of expertise, Prime Movers Lab enlists the help of venture partners and specialist advisors like former astronaut Chris Hadfield.

Having individuals with deep field expertise on the core team, in addition to supplementing that with top-notch advisors, is definitely a competitive advantage, particularly when investing in the kinds of companies that Prime Movers Lab does early on in their development. There’s a perception that companies pursuing these kinds of hard tech problems aren’t necessarily as viable as a target for traditional venture funding, specifically because of the timelines for returns. Sloss says he believes that’s a misperception based on unfortunate past experience.

“I think there are three big myths about breakthrough science or hard tech or deep tech,” he said. “That it takes longer, that it’s more capital intensive, and that it’s higher risk. And I think the reason those myths are out there is people invested in things like Theranos, and the clean tech bubble. But I think that there were fundamental mistakes made in how they underwrote risk of doing that.”

Image Credits: Momentus

To avoid making those kinds of mistakes, Sloss says that Prime Movers Lab views prospective investments from the perspective of a “spectrum of risk,” which includes risk of the science itself (does the fundamental technology involve actually work), engineering risk (given the science works, can we make it something we can sell) and finally, commercialization or scaling risk (can we then make it and sell it at scale with economics that work). Sloss says that if you use this risk matrix to assess investments, and allocated funds to address primarily the engineering risk category, concerns around timeframes to return don’t really apply.

He cites Primer Movers Lab’s Fund I portfolio, which includes space propulsion company Momentus, heading for an exit to the public markets via SPAC (the company’s Russian CEO actually just resigned in order to smooth the path for that, in fact), and notes that of the 15 companies that Fund I invested in, four are totally on a path to going public. That would put them much faster to an exit than is typical for early stage investment targets, and Sloss credits the very different approach most hard science startups take to IP development and capital.

“The inflection points in these types of companies are actually I think faster to get to market, because they’ve spent years developing the IP, staying at relatively low or attractive valuations,” he said. “Then we can kind of come in, at that inflection point, and help them get ready to commercialize and scale up exponentially, to where other investors no longer have to underwrite the difference between science and engineering risk, they can just see it’s working and producing revenue.”

Companies that fit this mold often come directly from academia, and keep the team small and focused while they’re figuring out the core scientific discovery or innovation that enables the business. A prime example of this in recent memory is Wingcopter, a German drone startup that developed and patented a technology for a tilt-wing rotor that changes the economics of electric autonomous drone flight. The startup just took its first significant startup investment after bootstrapping for four years, and the funds will indeed be used to help it accelerate engineering on a path towards high-volume production.

While Wingcopter isn’t a Prime Movers Lab portfolio company, many of its investments fit the same mold. Boom Aerospace is currently working on building and flying its subscale demonstration aircraft to pave the way for a future supersonic airliner, while Axiom Space just announced the first crew of private tourists to the International Space Station who will fly on a SpaceX Falcon 9 for $50 million a piece. As long as you can prove the fundamentals are sound, allocating money turning it into something marketable seems like a logical strategy.

For Prime Movers Lab’s Fund II, the plan is to invest in around 30 or so companies, roughly doubling the number of investments from Fund I. In addition to its partners with scientific expertise, the firm also includes Partners with skill sets including creative direction, industrial design, executive coaching and business acumen, and provides those services to its portfolio companies as value-add to help them supplement their technical innovations. Its Fund I portfolio includes Momentus and Axiom, as mentioned, as well as vertical farming startup Upward Farms, coronavirus vaccine startup Covaxx, and more.

#advisors, #articles, #astronaut, #business-incubators, #ceo, #chris-hadfield, #clean-energy, #corporate-finance, #deep-tech, #entrepreneurship, #executive, #falcon, #finance, #funding, #international-space-station, #machine-vision, #momentus, #money, #neuroscience, #oil, #prime-movers-lab, #private-equity, #serial-entrepreneur, #stanford, #startup-company, #startups, #tc, #theranos, #venture-capital, #wingcopter

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Kanarys raises $3 million for its data-driven platform to assess diversity and inclusion efforts

Mandy Price was already a highly successful lawyer in private practice before she took the jump into entrepreneurship alongside two co-founders to launch Kanarys a little over one year ago.

The Harvard Law School graduated didn’t have to start her company, which helps businesses measure the efficacy of their diversity and inclusion efforts using hard data, but she needed to start the company.

Now, a year after its launch, the company counts companies like Yum Brands, the Dallas Mavericks, and Neiman Marcus among the dozen or so companies using its service and has $3 million in seed funding to help it expand.

For Price, the drive to launch Kanarys came from her own experiences working in law. It wasn’t the microagressions, or the lower pay, or casually dismissive attitude of colleagues toward her well-earned success that led Price to start Kanarys, but the knowledge that her experience wasn’t unique and that thousands of other women and minorities faced the same experiences daily.

I have had many things happen to me in the workplace that is similar to what many other women and women of color have dealt with and didn’t want to have my children have to go through similar issues,” Price said. 

So alongside her husband, Bennie King (himself a serial entrepreneur in the Dallas area), and her University of Texas at Austin and Harvard classmate, Star Carter, Price launched Kanarys in late 2019.

The company uses Equal Employment Opportunity reports and assessments of various policies involving promotion, recruitment, and benefits to track how a company is performing in relation to its industry peers.

“A lot of the inequities we see are from a structural and systemic standpoint. That is where Kanarys can see how they’re perpetuating inequity,” Price said. 

Kanarys starts with an independent assessment of a company’s policies and practices and then conducts quarterly surveys with employees of its customers to see how well they are meeting their stated goals and objectives. They also integrate with existing human resources systems to track things like pay equity and promotions.

The service has attracted the attention of the Rise of the Rest fund, Morgan Stanley, Jigsaw Ventures, Segal Ventures and Zeal Capital Partners, which led the company’s $3 million seed round.

“Organizations have typically tried to address this with individual interventions,” said Price. “What we’re saying is we have to address it on both fronts. So much of the inequities that we see are based off of institutional and systemic policies and practices.”

Not only does Kanarys track information on diversity and inclusion efforts for customers, but for job seekers there’s a database of about 1,000 companies which operates like Glassdoor . The focus is not just on worker satisfaction, but on how employees view the diversity efforts their employers are undertaking.

Notably, Kanarys founders join the (far-too-few) ranks of Black entrepreneurs launching businesses and raising venture capital. In 2017, studies showed that 98 percent of venture capital raised in the U.S. went to men, according to data provided by the company. Black entrepreneurs in general receive less than one percent of venture capital, and Black women founders make up only 0.6 percent of venture capital funding raised. 

“We know that a focus on DEI in business is not just the right thing to do for employees, it also makes good business sense,” said Price, CEO and co-founder of Kanarys, in a statement. “Kanarys’ DEI data arms companies, for the first time, to make precise, immediate, and informed decisions using real, intersectional metrics around their diversity goals and inclusion programs that ultimately drive bottom-line business objectives.”

 

#articles, #business, #business-models, #dallas, #dallas-mavericks, #economy, #entrepreneurship, #glassdoor, #harvard, #lawyer, #morgan-stanley, #neiman-marcus, #serial-entrepreneur, #small-business, #tc, #texas, #united-states, #university-of-texas, #venture-capital, #yum-brands

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Bicycle Health, the virtual opioid use disorder therapy service, will soon be available in 25 states

The startup opioid use disorder therapy service Bicycle Health will soon be available to patients in half the country, just three years after its launch in 2017, according to founder Ankit Gupta.

A serial entrepreneur whose last company, Pulse News, was acquired by LinkedIn back in 2013, Gupta left the LinkedIn in 2016 (around the time of the Microsoft acquisition) to pursue something more meaningful. He settled on trying to find a better way to address the opioid addiction epidemic, which was responsible for more than 42,000 deaths the year he left LinkedIn.

By 2018 deaths from overdoses would exceed 47,000, according to data from the US Department of Health and Human Services.

And the problem isn’t going away. Bicycle Health’s statistics indicate that 92 million Americans are potentially at risk for developing opioid use disorder and 2 million Americans are already diagnosed as opioid addicts.

Initially, the company worked out of a clinic in Redwood City, Calif., but as the COVID-19 pandemic took hold in the US earlier this year and forced treatment facilities to undertake preventative measures to stop the spread of the disease, Bicycle Health began adopting virtual treatment methods.

Under new regulations delivered by HHS, many therapies and drug treatments that had only been available in-person were able to be distributed remotely. The change caused an explosion in remote care services and companies like Bicycle Health rushed to capitalize.

The company is currently offering treatment options in 18 states and is on track to be available in 25 states by the end of the first quarter of 2021.

Backing that growth are a slew of individual and institutional investors led by the venture investment firm, Signalfire, which led Bicycle Health’s seed round. In all, the company has raised roughly $5.5 million from investors including Signalfire, Hustle Fund, Romulus Capital, and individual investors like Jeff Weiner, the former chief executive of LinkedIn; Sami Inkinen, the founder of Virta Health; Rushika Fernandopulle, the founder of Iora Health; and John Simon, the co-founder of General Catalyst through his Greenlight Fund.

Bicycle Health both prescribes buprenorphine as a medical treatment and offers a team of health coaches to address the behavioral and mental health issues attendant with detoxifying.

There are three health coaches on staff to manage the care of the company’s current roster of 2,000 patients and those coaches are bolstered by 12 clinical support specialists, Gupta said.

Treatment is delivered and managed through the company’s mobile app, and is supplemented by regular in-home diagnostic testing to monitor a patient’s progress, according to Gupta.

Working with Goodrx, the company has been able to drive down over-the-counter costs for patients who don’t have healthcare, and Gupta said that Bicycle Health would be working with local and national healthcare providers to try and defray as much of the costs as the company can. 

“We want to subsidize the costs as much as possible for our patient,” he said.  

The goal, Gupta said in an interview with TechCrunch earlier this year is “making sure that this industry is making sure that they’re helping people make a change instead of keeping them stuck.”

And although Gupta comes from a software industry whose guiding principle has been to move fast and break things, he realizes that healthcare doesn’t work that way. “Move fast and break things is the wrong mindset for healthcare,” he said. “You have to build a safe space … and i don’t mean a safe space legally but a safe space where patients can be served.”

#california, #co-founder, #disease, #drugs, #founder, #general-catalyst, #goodrx, #healthcare, #hustle-fund, #iora-health, #jeff-weiner, #linkedin, #microsoft, #opioids, #pulse-news, #redwood-city, #romulus-capital, #sami-inkinen, #serial-entrepreneur, #signalfire, #tc, #united-states, #virta-health

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LA-based A-Frame, a developer of celebrity-led personal care brands, raises cash for its brand incubator

A-Frame, a Los Angeles-based developer of personal care brands supported by celebrities, has raised $2 million in a new round of funding led by Initialized Capital.

Joining Initialized in the round is the serial entrepreneur Moise Emquies, whose previous clothing lines, Ella Moss and Splendid, were acquired by the fashion holding company VFC in 2017.

A-Frame previously raised a seed round backed by cannabis dispensary Columbia Care. The company’s first product is a hand soap, Keeper. Other brands in suncare and skincare, children and babycare, and bath and body will follow, the company said.

“We partner with the investment groups at the agencies,” said company founder and chief executive, Ari Bloom. “We start interviewing different talent, speaking with their agents and their managers. We create an entity that we spin out. I wouldn’t say that we compete with the agencies.”

So far, the company has worked with CAA, UTA and WME on all of the brands in development, Bloom said. Two new brands should launch in the next couple of weeks.

As part of the round, actor, activist, and author Hill Harper has joined the company as a co-founder and as the company’s chief strategy officer. Emquies is also joining the company as its chief brand officer.

“Hill is my co-founder. He and I have worked together for a number of years. He’s with me at the holding company level. Identifying the opportunities,” said Bloom. “He’s bridging the gap between business and talent. He’s a part of the conversations when we talk to the agencies, managers and the talent. He’s a great guy that I think has a lot of respect in the agency and talent world.”

Initialized General Partner Alda Leu Dennis took point on the investment for Initialized and will take a seat on the company’s board of directors alongside Emquies. Other directors include Columbia Care chief executive, Nicholas Vita, and John D. Howard, the chief executive of Irving Place Capital.

“For us the calculus was to look at personal care and see what categories need to be reinvented because of sustainability,” said Bloom. “It was important to us once we get to a category what is the demographic opportunity. Even if categories were somewhat evolved they’re not all the way there… everything is in non-ingestible personal care. When you have a celebrity focused brand you want to focus on franchise items.”

The Keeper product is a subscription-based model for soap concentrates and cleansing hand sprays.

A serial entrepreneur, Bloom’s last business was the AR imaging company, Avametric, which was backed by Khosla Ventures and Y Combinator and wound up getting acquired by Gerber Technology in 2018. Bloom is also a founder of the Wise Sons Delicatessen in San Francisco.

“We first invested in Avametric at Initialized in 2013 and he had experience prior to that as well. From a venture perspective I think of these all around real defensibility of brand building,” said Dennis.

The investors believe that between Bloom’s software for determining market preferences, A-Frame’s roster of celebrities and the company’s structure as a brand incubator, all of the ingredients are in place for a successful direct to consumer business.

However, venture capitalists have been down this road before. The Honest Co. was an early attempt to build a sustainable brand around sustainable personal care products. Bloom said Honest provided several lessons for his young startup, one of them being a knowledge of when a company has reached the peak of its growth trajectory and created an opportunity for other, larger companies to take a business to the next level.

“Our goal is a three-to-seven year horizon that is big enough at a national scale that a global player can come in and internationally scale it,” said Bloom.

#alda-leu-dennis, #ceo, #co-founder, #imaging, #initialized-capital, #khosla-ventures, #los-angeles, #san-francisco, #serial-entrepreneur, #tc, #y-combinator

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Kayhan Space wants to be the air traffic control service for satellites in space

Kayhan Space, the Boulder, Colo. and Atlanta-based company launched from Techstars virtual space-focused accelerator, wants nothing more than to be the air traffic control service for satellites in space.

Founded by two childhood friends, Araz Feyzi and Siamak Hesar, who grew up in Iran and immigrated to the U.S. for college, Kayhan is tackling one of the toughest problems that the space industry will confront in the coming years — how to manage the exponentially increasing traffic that will soon crowd outer space.

There are currently around 8,000 satellites in orbit around the earth, but over the next several years, Amazon will launch 3,236 satellites for its Kuiper Network, while SpaceX filed paperwork last year to launch up to 30,000 satellites. That’s… a lot of metal flying around.

And somebody needs to make sure that those satellites don’t crash into each other, because space junk has a whole other set of problems.

In some ways, Feyzi and Hesar are a perfect pair to solve the problem.

Hesar, the company’s co-founder and chief executive, has spent years studying space travel, receiving a master’s degree from the University of Southern California in aeronautics, and a doctorate in astronautical engineering from the University of Colorado, Boulder. He interned at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and spent three years at Colorado-based satellite situational awareness and systems control technology developers like SpaceNav and Blue Canyon Technologies.

Meanwhile Feyzi is a serial entrepreneur who co-founded a company in the Atlanta area called Syfer, which developed technologies to secure internet-enabled consumer devices. Using Hesar’s proprietary algorithms based on research from his doctoral days at UC Boulder and Feyzi’s expertise in cloud computing, the company has developed a system that can predict and alert the operators of satellite networks when there’s the potential for a collision and suggest alternative paths to avoid an accident.

It’s a problem that the two founders say can’t be solved by automation on satellites alone, thanks to the complexity and multidimensional nature of the work. “Imagine that a US commercial satellite is on a collision course with a Russian military satellite,” Feyzi said. “Who needs to maneuver? We make sure the satellite operator has all the information available to them [including] here’s what we know about the collision about to happen here and here are the recommendations and options to avoid it.”

Satellites today aren’t equipped to visualize their surroundings and autonomy won’t solve a problem that includes geopolitical complexities and dumb space debris all creating a morass that requires human intervention to navigate, the founders said.

Today it’s too complex to resolve and because of the different nations and lack of standards and policy … today you need human input,” Hesar said.

And in the future, if satellites are equipped with sensors to make collision avoidance more autonomous, then Kayhan Space already has the algorithms that can provide that service. “If you think of the system and the sensors and the decision-making and [execution controls] actually performing that action… we are that,” Hesar said. “We have the algorithm whether it uses the ground-based sensor or the space-based sensor.”

Over the next eight years the space situational market is expected to reach $3.9 billion and there are very few companies equipped to provide the kind of traffic control systems that satellite network operators will need, the founders said.

Their argument was compelling enough to gain admission to the Techstars Allied Space Accelerator, an early stage investment and mentoring program developed by Techstars and the U.S. Air Force, the Netherlands Ministry of Defence, the Norwegian Ministry of Defence and the Norwegian Space Agency. And, as first reported in Hypeotamus, the company has now raised $600,000 in a pre-seed funding from investors including the Atlanta-based pre-seed investment firm, Overline, to grow its business.

And the company realizes that money and technology can’t solve the problem alone.

“We believe that technology alone can help but can’t solve this problem. We need the US to take the lead [on policy] globally,” said Feyzi. “Unlike airspace… which is controlled by countries. Space is space.” Hesar agreed. “There needs to be a focused effort on this problem.”

 

#amazon, #articles, #atlanta, #blue-canyon-technologies, #cloud-computing, #colorado, #iran, #metal, #outer-space, #pollution, #satellite, #serial-entrepreneur, #space-debris, #space-travel, #spaceflight, #spacex, #tc, #techstars, #u-s-air-force, #united-states

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Daphne Koller: ‘Digital biology is an incredible place to be right now’

Working at the intersection of biology and computing may be the most exciting new spot for technologists at the moment.

That’s the word from Daphne Koller, the founder and chief executive officer of Insitro — the biotech company that’s raised over $243 million in the two short years since it launched.

Speaking at our virtual TechCrunch Disrupt conference, Koller, a serial entrepreneur who previously co-founded Coursera and briefly served as the chief computing officer for the Alphabet subsidiary focused on human health, Calico, views digital biology as the next big technological revolution.

“Digital biology is an incredible place to be right now,” Koller said in an interview.

It’s certainly been an incredible opportunity for Koller whose work now spans the development of treatments for potential neurological diseases and a nearer term research and development effort on hepatitis with Gilead Pharmaceuticals.

Koller’s Insitro takes its name and inspiration from the combination of two different practices in biological research — the in vitro experiments that are done on living samples in labs and the in silico experiments that are done on the computer.

By synthesizing these two disciplines Koller’s company flips the process of drug discovery on its head, the company is designed sift through massive amounts of data to search for patterns in the expression of certain conditions. Once those patterns are determined, the company can examine the pathways or mechanisms associated with that expression to determine targets for potential therapies.

Then Insitro will pursue the development of novel molecules that can be used to intervene and either reverse or stop the progression of an illness by stopping the biological mechanisms associated with it.

“We now have massive amounts of data that is truly relevant to human disease,” Koller said. “Machine learning has given us a bunch of tools to really make sense of data.”

The company can identify new patient segments, new interventions new drugs that may modulate the expression of those conditions. “We view ourselves as being on the first phase of a very long journey using machine learning,” said Koller.

Take the company’s work on hepatitis in conjunction with Gilead. There, Koller and her team were able to take a small, high-quality dataset from Gilead’s trials and identify how a disease progressed by looking at the patient data from different points in time. Looking at the progression allowed the company to identify drivers that facilitated the progression of fibrosis that causes tissue damage. Now the company is using those targets as a starting point to find modifiers that could slow down the progression of the disease. 

It comes down to using computers to understand the biology, new biotechnology to model that biology in a Petri dish, and from the different models determine the interventions that will make a difference, Koller said.

“What we’re trying to do is so different and so out of alignment with how these [pharmaceutical] companies do their work,” Koller said. “It’s trying to shift the trajectory of these companies of hundreds or thousands of people and shift the culture to a tech culture that is going to be really a challenge.”

It’s the main reason Koller launched her own company rather than joining a big pharma play, and it’s a classic example of the innovator’s dilemma and the disruptive power of technology laid out in the theories of Clayton Christensen that give the Disrupt conference its name.

“[It’s] the notion of the innovator’s dilemma and coming in with a mindset that says we’re going to do this a completely different way,” said Koller. “The drug discovery effort is becoming increasingly expensive and increasingly prone to failure and if we do this in a different way will it enable us to generate better outcomes.”

#chief-executive-officer, #computing, #coursera, #daphne-koller, #disease, #drug-discovery, #health, #illness, #insitro, #machine-learning, #medicine, #serial-entrepreneur, #tc

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Peer Medical allows lung cancer patients to anonymously share treatments with each other

Peer Medical has a big mission. After his father died of lung cancer, serial entrepreneur Ed Spiegel vowed to create a better way for lung cancer patients to deal with their disease. The startup has so far raised a $1.2M seed funding round for its ground-breaking approach and is onboarding patients at a rate of knots.

Peer Medical allows lung cancer patients to anonymously share their treatments with each other. This helps survivors find others like them and see which treatments and procedures work best. Users can search by biomarker, stage, age, or gender and review verified treatments and journeys of similar patients.

The funding round was led by Amsterdam-based ‘Partners in Equity’ (PiE), best known for investing seed capital into Adyen the Dutch payments unicorn; and London’s Seedcamp, alongside Angel investors. Peer Medical is now able to sign up patients’ electronic health records inside a minute. Its advisers include Dr. David Jablons, Head of Thoracic Oncology at UCSF, and Dr. Geoffrey Ginsburg, Head of Applied Genomics and Precision Medicine at Duke University .

Spiegel’s RentMineOnline was one of the first-ever ‘share economy’ startups to appear 10 years ago, and also Seedcamp’s first investment, and its first exit.

Indeed, the idea for Peer Medical came to Spiegel 10 years ago as the sole care-giver during his father’s three-year battle with lung cancer.

Spiegal told me he came up with the idea after meeting a buddy of his from his college who had also seen his father pass away from lung cancer. Comparing notes, Spiegal realized he could have had so much more information if they’ve been able to share treatment information.

“It’s like: ‘God I wish I would have known that back then!’. It’s just such a terrible experience. Unfortunately for me, I lived the experience, but I could have really used a sort of ‘electronic caregiver’ essentially to help my Dad through it.”

Participating in online forums, Spiegel found patients willing to help but realized the need for a centralized, searchable database that contained the knowledge these people possessed. There were over 1.7 million new cancer cases diagnosed in the US last year alone. The information for the patients is often disorganized, incomplete, or out of date. Medical record portability is growing in adoption and will be crucial in aiding treatments.

“It’s a little like you as a driver using Waze to crowdsource information from other drivers to get to the perfect route because you’re learning from all the other people,” commented Spiegal. “The future is certainly electronic health records, although it’s still kind of like using a credit card in 1999 online, it’s coming in a big way. You will have your records, and wonder ‘who else is just like me?’”

There are already big players making it happen such as Apple Health, and online hospital portal growth driven by companies like Epic and Cerner.

Peer Medical doesn’t really have ‘competitors’ in the traditional sense, other than Facebook support groups for patients, which are not anonymous and chaotic, and Google searches. PatientsLikeMe, founded in the early 2000s, doesn’t leverage the medical records aspect and sold in 2019 to United Health Care for 2017 after raising $100M.

Commenting, Reshma Sohoni, co-founder of Seedcamp said: “Ed was a part of Seedcamp’s first cohort of companies and returned our first successful exit. We’re thrilled to back Ed and his team for a second time and bring what we hope will be another successful venture to our portfolio. Unfortunately, I’ve also lost a parent to cancer and can relate to how important a tool like this can be to navigate such difficult times. We really like that the patient retains anonymity but is still able to learn from others.”

Carlos Eduardo Espinal, Seedcamp Managing Partner added: “At Seedcamp, this is exactly the type of community that we like to invest in. People, in this case, patients and caregivers, bound together by a common goal to fight cancer. We’re thrilled to help Ed and the Peer Medical team build this community that pools verified and anonymized medical records and uses them to optimize individual treatment paths.”

RentMineOnline, which did referrals for apartments on Facebook, was successfully sold to a publicly-traded property management software firm, Real Page (NASDAQ: RP).

#adyen, #amsterdam, #cancer, #carlos-eduardo-espinal, #cerner, #co-founder, #crowdsourcing, #data-mining, #disease, #driver, #duke-university, #epic, #europe, #genomics, #google, #head, #london, #managing-partner, #online-forums, #patientslikeme, #reshma-sohoni, #seedcamp, #serial-entrepreneur, #tc, #united-states, #waze

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Mulberry, the warranty service for direct to consumer brands, approaches $10 million ARR

In the two years since Chinedu Eleanya founded Mulberry to be the warranty service for direct-to-consumer brands, business has boomed. 

Already riding a shakeup in consumer behavior brought by the emergence of startup brands selling just about everything to just about everyone, Mulberry brought a much-needed new spin on the warranty service that retailers had depended on for years to make consumers comfortable with big ticket purchases. Now the company is on its way to $10 million in ARR for 2020, thanks in no small part to the new shift to online shopping.

That’s why investors were wiling to invest $10 million into the company back in March before the pandemic hit. The round was led by the early stage New York-based investment firm, Pace Capital and included returning investors like Founder Collective.

Then the pandemic did hit. With COVID-19 pushing more shoppers (at least the ones that still have money to shop) out of stores and online, the need for warranty services has just ballooned, according to Eleanya.

A serial entrepreneur who moved from Nigeria to New York City and founded companies including Cognical and Zibby, Eleanya has found success with Mulberry and its online model.

To be sure, the company isn’t the only startup working in the e-commerce warranty space. There’s also, Clyde, which raised $14 million around the same time to offer similar services.

But the market for these kinds of online services is still growing rapidly, and Eleanya thinks there’s space fora few winners. “When you think of point of sale financial innovation, the extended warranty space is the most interesting,” he said.

From a retailer perspective, lending is good, but the bigger story is that the cost of customer acquisition continues to go up, Eleanya said. For him, retailers need to maximize the long term value by retaining customers and the way to do that, he contends, is to offer services programs.

“We’re democratizing access for small and medium sized retailers so they can compete in this really expensive environment,” he said.

Mulberry is already working with some big direct to consumer brands like Mirror, the smart workout mirror, the coffee maker Breville, and Nectar Sleep — a Casper mattress competitor.

So far, Mulberry has about $1 million in annual recurring revenue and is on pace to hit $10 million in ARR this year, Eleanya said.

 

#business, #coffee-maker, #e-commerce, #economy, #insurance, #kitchen, #new-york, #new-york-city, #nigeria, #pace-capital, #serial-entrepreneur, #tc, #warranty

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Birmingham-based Help Lightning raises $8 million for its remote training and support tools

In the four years since Help Lightning first began pitching its services out of its Birmingham, Ala. headquarters, the company has managed to sign up 100 customers including some large Fortune 500 companies like Cox Communications, Siemens, and Boston Scientific.

Now, with an additional $8 million in financing from Resolve Growth Partners, the company is hoping to expand its sales and marketing efforts and continue to refine its product.

The technology was initially invented by Bart Guthrie, a neurosurgeon at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, who wanted a way to improve telepresence technologies so he could assist with remote surgeries.

What Guthrie developed was a technology that could merge video streams to that experts could remotely monitor, manage, and assist in everything from service repairs to surgery.

“Think of it as a video call on steroids,” says Gary York, the company’s chief executive officer. A serial entrepreneur, York was brought on board by Guthrie to help commercialize the technology four years ago.

The technology works on any android or iOS device and is accessed through a mobile browser. The company now boasts over 100 customers including Cox, Canon, Unisys, and Boston Scientific. And its usage has soared since the advent of the pandemic, according to York.

“We saw call volume quadruple,” he said.

For instance, Cox Communications uses the technology to provide virtual trouble shooting to replace in-home service visits for customers. At Siemens, service technicians who fix medical imaging and lab diagnostic equipment can use the Help Lightning to link up with experts to troubleshoot fixes in real time. York would not comment on pricing, but said that the company provides custom quotes based on usage.

“After evaluating the virtual expertise software market for over a year, our diligence is clear that Help Lightning has built a highly differentiated solution that is valued by its customers” said Jit Sinha, co-founder and Managing Director from Resolve, in a statement earlier this week. “Help Lightning has a tremendous opportunity to power the success of this rapidly emerging market. We’re thrilled to be partnering with Gary York and his talented team.”

 

#alabama, #android, #articles, #canon, #chief-executive-officer, #companies, #cox-communications, #medical-imaging, #real-time, #serial-entrepreneur, #siemens, #tc, #telecommunications, #teleconferencing, #telepresence, #unisys

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Shelf Engine has a plan to reduce food waste at grocery stores, and $12 million in new cash to see i

For the first few months it was operating, Shelf Engine, the Seattle-based company that optimizes the process of stocking store shelves for supermarkets and groceries, didn’t have a name.

Co-founders Stefan Kalb and Bede Jordan were on a ski trip outside of Salt Lake City about four years ago when they began discussing what, exactly, could be done about the problem of food waste in the US.

Kalb is a serial entrepreneur whose first business was a food distribution company called Molly’s, which was sold to a company called HomeGrown back in 2019.

A graduate of Western Washington University with a degree in actuarial science, Kalb says he started his food company to make a difference in the world. While Molly’s did, indeed, promote healthy eating, the problem that Kalb and Bede, a former Microsoft engineer, are tackling at Shelf Engine may have even more of an impact.

Food waste isn’t just bad for its inefficiency in the face of a massive problem in the US with food insecurity for citizens, it’s also bad for the environment.

Shelf Engine proposes to tackle the problem by providing demand forecasting for perishable food items. The idea is to wring inefficiencies out of the ordering system. Typically about a third of food gets thrown out of the bakery section and other highly perishable goods stocked on store shelves. Shelf Engine guarantees use for the store and any items that remain unsold the company will pay for.

Image: OstapenkoOlena/iStock

Shelf Engine gets information about how much sales a store typically sees for particular items and can then predict how much demand for a particular product there will be. The company makes money off of the arbitrage between how much it pays for goods from vendors and how much it sells to grocers.

It allows groceries to lower the food waste and have a broader variety of products on shelves for customers.

Shelf Engine initially went to market with a product that it was hoping to sell to groceries, but found more traction by becoming a marketplace and perfecting its models on how much of a particular item needs to go on store shelves.

The next item on the agenda for Bede and Kalb is to get insights into secondary sources like imperfect produce resellers or other grocery stores that work as an outlet.

The business model is already showing results at around 400 stores in the Northwest, according to Kalb and it now has another $12 million in financing to go to market.

The funds came from Garry Tan’s Initialized and GGV (and GGV managing director Hans Tung has a seat on the company’s board). Other investors in the company include Foundation Capital, Bain Capital, 1984 and Correlation Ventures .

Kalb said the money from the round will be used to scale up the engineering team and its sales and acquisition process.

The investment in Shelf Engine is part of a wave of new technology applications coming to the grocery store, as Sunny Dhillon, a partner at Signia Ventures, wrote in a piece for TechCrunch’s Extra Crunch.

“Grocery margins will always be razor thin, and the difference between a profitable and unprofitable grocer is often just cents on the dollar,” Dhillon wrote. “Thus, as the adoption of e-grocery becomes more commonplace, retailers must not only optimize their fulfillment operations (e.g, MFCs), but also the logistics of delivery to a customer’s doorstep to ensure speed and quality (e.g., darkstores).”

Beyond Dhillon’s version of a delivery only grocery network with mobile fulfillment centers and dark stores, there’s a lot of room for chains with existing real estate and bespoke shopping options to increase their margins on perishable goods as well.

 

#bain-capital, #correlation-ventures, #e-grocery, #engineer, #food, #food-waste, #foundation-capital, #ggv, #grocery-store, #hans-tung, #marketing, #microsoft, #molly, #packaging, #partner, #real-estate, #retail, #retailers, #salt-lake-city, #seattle, #serial-entrepreneur, #shelf-engine, #signia-ventures, #sunny-dhillon, #tc, #united-states

0

LA’s Kickback is a social shopping app that converts users into marketing channels through cash rewards

Frankie Bernstein, the Venice, Calif.-based serial entrepreneur, knows marketing.

At his last startup, Markett, Bernstein turned college students into brand ambassadors who were paid by the companies they repped for proselytizing about them on campuses.

Now he’s using that knowledge to launch Kickback on iOS and Android. It’s invite-only at this point, but the idea is that it uses company’s marketing budgets to create shopping rewards and incentives for app users. In the same way that Markett turned college students into advocates for apps like Uber and Lyft, Kickback will turn shoppers into brand ambassadors through its app.

In-app referrals and discounts for shopping are nothing new to the e-commerce world. In China, apps like Pinduoduo have turned into billion dollar businesses on the strength of referrals. Indeed, Pinduoduo recently raised $1.1 billion in funding to hit a valuation of nearly $100 billion.

It was only a matter of time before an American company tried to copy its success. Kickback — like most new apps these days — is invite-only.

Once past the waiting list, users get discounts on brands and can earn cash-back rewards when they shop or when they encourage their friends to buy something with the app.

So far brands on the app include Walmart, Sam’s Club, Nike, Alo Yoga, Reebok, Away, Planet Blue, Sonos, Winc, Postmates, Casper, Kate Somerville, Lacoste, Columbia. Users get discounts or cash rewards when they shop and earn “kickbacks” when they invite someone to shop using their discount code. Cash rewards can be withdrawn using PayPal, according to a statement.

“Our mission is to take the billions of dollars brands spend on advertising and put that money directly into the pockets of the people,” said Franky Bernstein, Founder and CEO of Kickback, in a statement. “Brands know the most powerful form of marketing is word of mouth. We like to say that people are 100% more likely to go on a first date, watch a movie or, in our case, try a new product or service if a friend tells them about it. People have always loved sharing their favorite products and services with their friends. Now with Kickback, they get paid for it.”

#android, #california, #ceo, #china, #columbia, #digital-marketing, #lacoste, #lyft, #markett, #nike, #paypal, #pinduoduo, #postmates, #reebok, #referral-marketing, #sams-club, #serial-entrepreneur, #sonos, #tc, #uber, #venice, #walmart

0

ChromaCode’s tech to boost COVID-19 testing gets Bill Gates backing

Boasting a technology that can dramatically increase the capacity of existing polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing used to identify people infected with COVID-19 and other illnesses, ChromaCode has attracted new funding from Bill Gates-backed Adjuvant Capital

“We want a good solution for a resource-limited environment,” says ChromaCode founder and executive chairman Alex Wilkinson, a serial entrepreneur who has worked with CalTech researchers spinning out companies since the early 2000s.

The technology was based on research conducted by California Institute of Technology graduate student Aditya Rajagopal. A former researcher at Google[x] working on novel medical imaging methods, Rajagopal is the inventor of HDPCR, the tech at the heart of ChromaCode’s product.

With the help of Wilkinson, Rajagopal spun out the technology he’d developed to form ChromaCode in 2012, according to Crunchbase, and raised its initial capital to develop a diagnostic tool that could use algorithms and new sensing technologies to increase the number of targets that can be analyzed by traditional PCR analysis.

The polymerase chain reaction tests were invented in 1985 by Kary Mullis, who was working as a chemist at the Cetus Corp., and use copies of very small amounts of DNA sequences that are amplified in a series of cycles of temperature changes. It’s one of the foundations of genetic analysis. 

While traditional PCR testing relies on differentiation of targets by color, the HDPCR technology developed by ChromaCode’s co-founder uses signal intensity to identify multiple different targets and signify them as curve signatures encoded into a single color channel. Think of the technology as using color gradients to identify multiple targets in a test instead of just one color.

“It’s like image compression,” Wilkinson said.

For COVID-19 specifically, the use of ChromaCode’s technology could expand available testing capacity threefold, the company said.

“Right now the basic test looks at three different things,” said Wilkinson. “These machines have wells and they can do 96 tests at a time. The challenge is that you would typically use three of those wells for each test. We let them do all of the test in one well, which would give you a three times multiple.”

That means instead of testing 32 individuals using existing PCR equipment, labs would be able to perform 96 tests at a time.

Even more significant is the ability for ChromaCode’s technology to identify other illnesses alongside COVID-19. “What we’re planning for is the fall when we will be taking the existing COVID test and layering in flu and other diseases,” says Wilkinson.

The ability to test for multiple pathogens has important implications for the ability to adequately test, track and trace the spread of the disease in the low and medium income countries that are now undergoing their own outbreaks. “The problem in Africa is that someone has a fever and it might be COVID or that might be Dengue fever,” said Wilkinson. Using ChromaCode’s technology, diagnosticians and physicians can tell the difference without having to use new machines.

It’s the ability to work on existing technology that sets ChromaCode apart from competitors like BioFire Diagnostics and Cepheid, according to Wilkinson and his co-founder Greg Gosch.

“The supply chain on the tests will continue to be strained so people will be looking for more efficient mechanisms,” said Gosch.

Adjuvant Capital, the investment fund spun out from a collaboration between the Gates Foundation and JP Morgan Chase, had already identified ChromaCode as a potential investment target well before the pandemic hit, according to managing partner Jenny Yip.

The investment firm began speaking with ChromaCode in the summer of 2019, and was drawn to the company for its ability to expand testing capacity well before the COVID-19 outbreak brought the problems of adequate testing into stark relief.

From a global health perspective, ChromaCode’s technology ability to be installed in the existing technology base is very powerful,” said Yip. Given the low resource base in some of the countries where testing is needed the most, requiring the installation of an entirely new suite of hardware and software tools is untenable — let alone developing a supply chain that can service and maintain the technology.  

The lack of adequate testing in the United States remains the biggest obstacle to safely fully re-starting the country’s economy and ensuring that any future outbreaks of the disease can be managed successfully, according to experts.

“Testing is your first fundamental step in a plan to keep infected people from susceptible people,” Ashish Jha, the K. T. Li Professor of Global Health at Harvard and the director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, told The Atlantic.

“There’s a strong sense that the White House knows the amount of testing we need is far more than we have right now,” he said. “It is really stunning and disappointing.”

#adjuvant-capital, #africa, #aol, #caltech, #coronavirus, #covid-19, #crunchbase, #gates-foundation, #google, #image-compression, #jenny-yip, #jp-morgan-chase, #medical-imaging, #pinterest, #research, #serial-entrepreneur, #supply-chain, #tc

0

Investors cozy up to LA-based Ettitude’s bamboo bedding and sleep wear with $1.6 million

Ettitude, the Los Angeles-based, direct-to-consumer startup making sustainable bedding and sleepwear from bamboo fibers, has raised a sustainably sized round that should keep the company going even in the face of an economic recession.

Co-founded by the Melbourne, Australia native Phoebe Yu and serial entrepreneur Kat Dey, ettitude sells high-end bamboo bedding made using a process she first heard about in her old job working as an exporter helping chain stores source textiles in China.

Sourced from a factory in Zhejiang, China, near Shanghai, the bamboo textiles are made using non-toxic solvents and a closed-loop system that reuses water for the process, according to Yu.

Yu started selling the cleanBamboo-branded bedding under the etitude label in Melbourne first, but when she saw the orders begin to pick up from the U.S. she relocated and took her company with her.

Upon arrival, Yu realized that she’d need a strong co-founder with experience in branding to help her navigate the massive market in the U.S. So Yu turned to AngelList which is where she found Dey.

A serial entrepreneur with a background in retail, whose first company TryTheWorld was acquired by EarthBox in 2017, Dey was looking for her next project.

“Phoebe sent me a sample and i had the best night of sleep in my life,” Dey said. From then on in the two co-founders began the long, hard slog of marketing their business. 

Sales are growing, according to the two women, and the company’s chances have certainly been improved by the capital infusion from Drumbeat Ventures and TA Ventures, a European female-founded fund focusing on technology innovation.

The $1.6 million financing will be used to boost sales and marketing as the company expands beyond bedding — with an average price of $178 for a queen-sized sheet set — and into sleepwear and other categories.

“Phoebe, Kat and their brand, ettitude, are as genuine a combination of passion, purpose, and proprietary product that I’ve seen in the marketplace in my 20 years,” said Drumbeat Ventures founder, Adam Burgoon, in a statement. “They are perfectly positioned to bring their mission of sustainability and comfort to a broader audience.”

#angellist, #australia, #bamboo, #china, #los-angeles, #melbourne, #plants, #serial-entrepreneur, #shanghai, #tc, #united-states

0

RWDC Industries is a new startup hoping to become a bioplastics giant in Athens, Ga.

Daniel Carraway spent his entire career working in paper and bioplastics.

The serial entrepreneur began his career at International Paper working in their research division before founding two previous companies which became cornerstones of the bioplastics industry. His latest venture, RWDC Industries, has raised $133 million in a recent financing to build a new sustainable manufacturing juggernaut in the small city of Athens, Ga.

With offices in Athens and Singapore, RWDC is the fruit of a partnership between Carraway and Roland Wee, an engineer with decades of experience in the chemicals and construction business across Asia.

The two men met through mutual connections as Carraway sought new opportunities to pursue his longtime vision of commercializing bioplastics.  The serial entrepreneur had just stepped away from his work with  Meredian Holdings Group and its subsidiary, Danimer Scientific — companies that sprung from work Carraway started at his kitchen table with his wife back in 2004, he said.

In 2019, bioplastics represented a $95 million opportunity according to a report in Market Data Forecast, but the small size of the current market belies how big the opportunity can be, according to Carraway.

RWDC, Danimer, and Kaneka are all pursuing an opportunity to replace plastic packaging, which was a $234.14 billion market, according to GrandViewResearch. It’s that potential market for plastics that has drawn countless companies over the years — including Carraway’s own — to raise hundreds of millions of dollars.

Several of those companies failed. Perhaps the most successful of the early high-flyers was Metabolix, which had a public offering before the financial crisis hit in 2008. That company sold its bioplastics division to CJ CheilJedang for roughly $10 million and pivoted to crop science.

Carraway insists that the market has changed over the last few decades and the time is finally right for biology to supplant chemistry in industrial manufacturing.

“If you look back at the history of new materials development… especially polymers.. There has never been a new polymer that had been invented that didn’t take twenty to thirty years for it to make wide scale adoption,” said Carraway. “When a polymer is first developed it takes a while to get the manufacturing right to get it at wide scale. [And] it takes time for polymer converters to understand how to use a new material… it’s not that technologically it’s not viable it’s about figuring out how to use the new material.”

Scale is important too, said Carraway. “You have to reach a certain critical availability in metric tons available in the global market to create a situation where people can use the new material,” he said.

RWDC can already make about 5,000 tons of PHA and expects to grow its capacity to make half a million tons of material, but that barely scratches the surface of available capacity for traditional plastics. “For the next decade we’re going to be in a mad scramble to grow production capacity because we’re going to be behind the demand curve,” said Carraway.

Industry observers have seen this story before. Because the new material Carraway is talking about isn’t actually all that new. For at least the past twenty years companies have been working on ways to cheaply manufacture polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs). The material is produced by the fermentation of oil or sugars and serve as a replacement for the chemicals that are made from cracking ethane (a product of oil processing) to make plastic.

However, as concerns continue to mount over the environmental degradation caused by plastic pollutants and the contributions the plastics industry makes to emissions causing global climate change, the push for replacing plastics with more sustainable products has gained momentum.

Regulations in Europe will ban many single use plastic products next year forcing companies to build out their supply of bioplastic alternatives or abandon the use of plastics altogether.

Market moves like these have the potential to spur the bioplastics industry and shift production into high gear. Carraway said demand hasn’t been effected by the collapse of oil prices which has driven down the costs of chemicals and plastics.

“Even though our materials are initially more expensive… the amount that they cost over the commodities in normal circumstances isn’t that much,” Carraway said. “Every customer we’re working with has asked us to speed up and give them more. No one has said we want to slow down or scale back or change our plans.”

And propelling the industry forward could provide a lift to local economies that have been financially ravaged by the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic.

At least, that’s what Carraway is hoping will happen in Athens, Ga.

The company is using some of the money it raised from international and US-based investors including the Singapore-based venture capital firm Vickers Venture Partners; IKEA’s investment company; a Swiss pension fund; a Northeastern energy provider; and an industrial chemical company owned by Koch Industries to revive an old factory in the city as its new production plant. 

RWDC said the new facility will bring in 200 jobs to northeastern Georgia.

“We are excited to see RWDC expand its operations in Athens and add a substantial number of new well-paying jobs,” said Athens-Clarke County Mayor, Kelly Girtz. “Athens is the home of the University of Georgia, and we have a long record of supporting innovation and industry. Like communities across America and the world, we want to see a reduction in plastic pollution, and we have high hopes that RWDC, with the help of the Athens community at their new facility, will be able to solve that problem.”

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