Shopify acquires augmented reality home design app Primer

In Friday acquisition news, Shopify shared today that they’ve acquired augmented reality startup Primer, which makes an app that lets users visualize what tile, wallpaper or paint will look like on surfaces inside their home.

In a blog post, co-founders Adam Debreczeni and Russ Maschmeyer write that Primer’s app and services will be shutting down next month as part of the deal. Debreczeni tells TechCrunch that Primer’s team of eight employees will all be joining Shopify following the acquisition.

Primer had partnered with dozens of tile and textile design brands to allow users to directly visualize what their designs would look like using their iPhone and iPad and Apple’s augmented reality platform ARKit. The app has been highlighted by Apple several times including this nice write-up by the App Store’s internal editorial team.

Terms of the deal weren’t disclosed. Primer’s backers included Slow Ventures, Abstract Ventures, Foundation Capital and Expa.

There’s been a lot of big talk about how augmented reality will impact online shopping, but aside from some of the integrations made in home design, there hasn’t been an awful lot that’s found its way into real consumer use. Shopify has worked on some of their own integrations — allowing sellers to embed 3D models into their storefronts that users can drop into physical space — but it’s clear that there’s much more room left to experiment.

#abstract-ventures, #app-store, #apple, #apple-inc, #augment, #augmented-reality, #companies, #foundation-capital, #ipad, #iphone, #online-shopping, #paint, #primer, #shopify, #slow-ventures, #software, #technology, #tile

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The Chainsmokers, Alexis Ohanian, Amy Schumer, Kevin Hart, Mark Cuban, Marshmello, and Snoop Dogg back Pearpop

Pearpop, the marketplace for social collaborations between the teeming hordes of musicians, craftspeople, chefs, clowns, diarists, dancers, artists, actors, acrobats, aspiring celebrities and actual celebrities, has raised $16 million in funding that includes what seems like half of Hollywood, along with Alexis Ohanian’s Seven Seven Six venture firm and Bessemer Venture Partners.

The funding was actually split between a $6 million seed funding round co-led by Ashton Kutcher and Guy Oseary’s Sound Ventures and Slow Ventures, with participation from Atelier Ventures and Chapter One Ventures and a $10 million additional investment led by Ohanian’s Seven Seven Six with participation from Bessemer.

TechCrunch first covered pearpop last year and there’s no denying that the startup is on to something. It basically takes Cameo’s celebrity marketplace for private shout-outs and makes it public. Allowing social media personalities to boost their followers by paying more popular personalities to shout out, duet, or comment on their posts.

“I’ve invested in pearpop because it’s been on my mind for a while that the creator economy has resulted in a lot of not equitable outcomes for creators. Where i talked about the missing middle class of the creator economy,” said Li Jin, the founder of Atelier Ventures and author of a critical piece on creator economics, “The creator economy needs a middle class“. 

“When I saw pearpop I felt like there was a really big potential for pearpop to be the one of the creators of the creative middle class. They’ve introduced this mechanism by which larger creators can help smaller creators and everyone has something of value to offer something to everyone else in the ecosystem.”

Jin discovered pearpop through the TechCrunch piece, she said. “You wrote that article and then i reached out to the team,” said Jin.

The idea was so appealing, it brought in a slew of musicians, athletes, actors and entertainers, including: Abel Makkonen (The Weeknd), Amy Schumer, The Chainsmokers, Diddy, Gary Vaynerchuk, Griffin Johnson, Josh Richards, Kevin Durant (Thirty 5 Ventures), Kevin Hart (HartBeat Ventures), Mark Cuban, Marshmello, Moe Shalizi, Michael Gruen (Animal Capital), MrBeast (Night Media Ventures), Rich Miner (Android co-founder) and Snoop Dogg.

“Pearpop has the potential to benefit all social media platforms by delivering new users and engagement, while simultaneously leveling the playing field of opportunity for creators,” said Alexis Ohanian, Founder, Seven Seven Six, in a statement. “The company has created a revolutionary new marketplace model that is set to completely reimagine how we think of social media monetization. As both a social media founder and an investor, I’m excited for what’s to come with pearpop.”

Already Heidi Klum, Loren Gray, Snoop Dogg, and Tony Hawk have gotten paid to appear in social media posts from aspiring auteurs on the social media platform TikTok.

Using the platform is relatively simple. A social media user (for now, that means just TikTok) sends a post that exists on their social feed and requests that another social media user interacts with it in some way — either commenting, posting a video in response, or adding a sound. If the request seems okay, or “on brand”, then the person who accepts the request performs the prescribed action.

Pearpop takes a 25% cut of all transactions with the social media user who’s performing the task getting the other 75%.

The company wouldn’t comment on revenue numbers, except to say that it’s on track to bring in seven figures this year.

Users on the platform set their prices and determine which kinds of services they’re willing to provide to boost the social media posts of their contractors.

Prices range anywhere from $5 to $10,000 depending on the size of a user’s following and the type of request that’s being made. Right now, the most requested personality on the marketplace is the TikTok star, Anna Banana.

These kinds of transactions do have impacts. The company said that personalities on the platform were able to increase their follower count with the service. For instance, Leah Svoboda went from 20K to 141K followers, after a pearpop duet with Anna Shumate.

If this all makes you feel like you’ve tripped and fallen through a Black Mirror into a dystopian hellscape where everything and every interaction is a commodity to be mined for money, well… that’s life.

“What I appreciate most about pearpop is the control it gives me as a creator,” said Anna Shumate, TikTok influencer @annabananaxdddd. “The platform allows me to post what I want and when I want. My followers still love my content because it’s authentic and true to me, which is what sets pearpop apart from all of the other opportunities on social media.”

Talent agencies, too, see the draw. Early adopters include Talent X, Get Engaged, and Next Step Talent and The Fuel Injector, which has added its entire roster of talent to pearpop, which includes Kody Antle, Brooke Monk and Harry Raftus, the company said.

“The initial concept came out of an obvious gap within the space: no marketplace existed for creators of all sizes to monetize through simple, authentic collaborations that are mutually beneficial,” said Cole Mason, co-founder & CEO, pearpop.  “It soon became clear that this was a product that people had been waiting for, as thousands of people rely on our platform today to gain full control of their social capital for the first time starting with TikTok.”

#alexis-ohanian, #amy-schumer, #android, #anna-shumate, #ashton-kutcher, #atelier-ventures, #author, #bessemer-venture-partners, #bytedance, #cole-mason, #founder, #gary-vaynerchuk, #instagram, #kevin-durant, #kevin-hart, #li-jin, #mark-cuban, #pearpop, #slow-ventures, #snoop-dogg, #social-media, #social-media-monetization, #social-media-platforms, #software, #tc, #techcrunch, #tiktok, #tony-hawk, #video-hosting

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Formation raises $4M led by Andreessen Horowitz to train truly ‘exceptional’ software engineers

Sophie Zhou Novati worked as a senior engineer at Facebook and then Nextdoor, where she struggled to hire great engineers for her team.

Frustrated, she decided to try training engineers to meet her team’s hiring standards by mentoring at a local coding bootcamp. After two and a half years of mentoring on nights and weekends, Novati decided to turn her passion into a career.

She and her husband, Michael, founded Formation with a couple of goals in mind. For one, they wanted to offer personalized training to help people not just learn to code, but to become “exceptional” software engineers. Sophie was also struck by the diversity of the people she witnessed going through coding bootcamps, but she realized that those graduates weren’t getting access to the same opportunities that students from traditional universities do.

Formation co-founder and CEO Sophia Zhou Navati

Formation co-founder and CEO Sophia Zhou Navati

With Formation, her goal is to personalize the training experience via a remote fellowship program that combines automated instruction with access to a “network of top tier mentors” from companies such as Facebook and Google. After one year in beta, Formation is unveiling its Engineering Fellowship, where every fellow gets a “personalized training plan tailored to their unique career ambitions.” So far, it’s placed just over 30 people in engineering roles at companies such as Facebook, Microsoft and Lyft with an average starting salary of $120,000.

Formation aims to offer an experience beyond bootcamps, which Sophie argues “have gotten too big, too fast, churning hundreds or thousands of students through fixed curriculums without individualized attention.”

The startup attracted the attention of Andreessen Horowitz, which just led its $4 million seed round. Designer Fund, Combine, Lachy Groom, Slow Ventures and engineers from Airbnb, Notion, Rippling and others also participated in the financing.

“The first thing that really struck me about this community is just how diverse it is. Forty-four percent of graduates are reporting that they identify as nonmale, and the percentage of Black and Latinx graduates is nearly double the national average at traditional universities,” Sophie told TechCrunch. “But the problem is that only about 55% of bootcamp grads are getting a job as a software engineer, and of the ones that do, their median salary is only about $65,000. At the same time, companies everywhere are just desperately looking for ways to diversify their talent pool.”

Instead of having students follow a fixed curriculum, Formation leverages adaptive learning technology to build a personalized training plan tailored to each student’s specific skillset and career goals. The platform continuously assesses their skills and adapts their roadmap, according to Sophie.

About half of the people participating in Formation’s program are current engineers already working in the industry in some capacity. 

Connie Chan, general partner at Andreessen Horowitz, said she’s been examining the edtech space for a while, including companies building new tools for teaching and upleveling coding skills. 

Formation stood out to her as the “only true tech-based and scalable solution that optimizes each student’s mastery of important skills.” Its ability to dynamically change based on a student’s performance in particular was compelling.

“The founder-product fit is also super clear — Sophie brings her own best-in-class engineering experience to Formation, as well as her long-time passion for mentoring,” Chan wrote via email.

#ai, #airbnb, #andreessen-horowitz, #articles, #artificial-intelligence, #coding-bootcamp, #connie-chan, #designer-fund, #distance-education, #diversity, #edtech, #education, #facebook, #formation, #funding, #google, #lachy-groom, #lyft, #mentorship, #recent-funding, #slow-ventures, #software-engineer, #startups, #venture-capital

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Porter Road’s sustainable, whole animal butchery raises $10 million to expand across the U.S.

In the nearly ten years since it launched as a whole animal butchery out of a storefront in East Nashville, the founders of Porter Road have wanted to herd America’s meat industry down a new path.

Now the company has $10 million in financing from investors including L37 Ventures, River Park Ventures, Middleland, FJ Labs, Kelvin Beachum along with previous investors MAX Ventures, Tribeca Venture Partners, and Slow Ventures to bring that mission to a broader swath of the country.

Since the company bought its own slaughterhouse back in 2015 and expanded to e-commerce in 2018 it has been shipping its selections of lamb, beef, pork, chicken and sausages from local farms to tables across the U.S.

The new money will be used to scale the company’s sustainable agriculture and its pasture-raised meat for the direct-to-consumer business, its shop in Nashville, and for wholesale distribution to restaurants around the country.

It’s going to expand its operations in Princeton, Ky with a new USDA processing facility that’s 4.5 times larger to meet new demand. That move will create 80 new jobs in the small town and is part of a broader agricultural renaissance in Kentucky.

“It’s easy to back founders who are as comfortable on the manufacturing line as they are in the boardroom, and who see the world differently and have the deep domain expertise to execute on that vision,” said L37 Partner Randall Ussery in a statement. “They have spent years perfecting the Porter Road way which no company nor incumbent can replicate overnight. They are a category killer in the meat industry and have built a moat around their brand.”

Porter Road delivery box of a selection of its steaks, sausages and bacon. Image Credit: Porter Road

One indication of the ways in which Porter Road differs from its larger competitors is in the way it handled the COVID-19 pandemic at its facilities.

Due to its limited production schedule and measures like staggered break times, mask requirements and social distancing rules, the company was able to avoid having any outbreaks at its facilities, according to the company’s co-founder and chief executive, Chris Carter. “We had a handful of people who got sick, but [COVID-19] didn’t spread in Princeton,” said Carter.

And despite the push for more plant-based diets, Carter says that his company’s focus on pasture-raised animals and whole animal butchery should appeal to folks who care about sustainable production. “We care about our farmers and we care about the way our animals are raised,” said Carter. “That’s the whole point of what we’re doing… Porter Road is about animal utilization. It’s about honoring the life of an animal so we find an outlet for every single piece.”

Porter Road is expanding its product line into cooking tallow and fats, and cross cut bones for bone marrow dishes, Carter said.

“The food system is broken and in need of a substantial change. Today’s consumer is demanding a deeper level of connection to their food and can see past misleading labels and buzzwords,” said  Carter, in a statement. “We are delivering trust, transparency, and flavor so no one has to compromise, all while supporting our farmers.”

#america, #e-commerce, #fj-labs, #food, #kentucky, #max-ventures, #meat, #nashville, #slow-ventures, #tc, #tribeca-venture-partners, #united-states, #usda

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Identiq, a privacy-friendly fraud prevention startup, secures $47M at Series A

Israeli fraud prevention startup Identiq has raised $47 million at Series A as the company eyes international growth, driven in large part by the spike in online spending during the pandemic.

The round was led by Insight Partners and Entrée Capital, with participation from Amdocs, Sony Innovation Fund by IGV, as well as existing investors Vertex Ventures Israel, Oryzn Capital, and Slow Ventures.

Fraud prevention is big business, which is slated to be worth $145 billion by 2026, ballooning by eightfold in size compared to 2018. But it’s a data hungry industry, fraught with security and privacy risks, having to rely on sharing enormous sets of consumer data in order to learn who legitimate customers are in order to weed out the fraudsters, and therefore.

Identiq takes a different, more privacy-friendly approach to fraud prevention, without having to share a customer’s data with a third-party.

“Before now, the only way companies could solve this problem was by exposing the data they were given by the user to a third party data provider for validation, creating huge privacy problems,” Identiq’s chief executive Itay Levy told TechCrunch. “We solved this by allowing these companies to validate that the data they’ve been given matches the data of other companies that already know and trust the user, without sharing any sensitive information at all.”

When an Identiq customer — such as an online store — sees a new customer for the first time, the store can ask other stores in Identiq’s network if they know or trust that new customer. This peer-to-peer network uses cryptography to help online stores anonymously vet new customers to help weed out bad actors, like fraudsters and scammers, without needing to collect private user data.

So far, the company says it already counts Fortune 500 companies as customers.

Identiq said it plans to use the $47 million raise to hire and grow the company’s workforce, and aims to scale up its support for its international customers.

#articles, #cryptography, #customer-data, #digital-rights, #entree-capital, #human-rights, #identity-management, #insight-partners, #marketing, #online-shopping, #online-stores, #peer-to-peer, #privacy, #security, #slow-ventures, #sony, #sony-innovation-fund, #startups, #terms-of-service, #vertex-ventures

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MealMe raises $900,000 for its food search engine

This morning MealMe.ai, a food search engine, announced that it has closed a $900,000 pre-seed round. Palm Drive Capital led the round, with participation from Slow Ventures and CP Ventures.

TechCrunch first became familiar with MealMe when it presented as part of the Techstars Atlanta demo day last October, mentioning it in a roundup of favorite startups from a group of the accelerator’s startup cohorts.

The company’s product allows users to search for food, or a restaurant. It then displays price points from various food-delivery apps for what the user wants to eat and have delivered. And, notably, MealMe allows for in-app checkout, regardless of the selected provider.

The service could boost pricing and delivery-speed transparency amongst the different apps that help folks eat, like DoorDash and Uber Eats. But Mealme didn’t start out looking to build a search engine. Instead it took a few changes in direction to get there.

From social network to search engine

MealMe is an example of a startup whose first idea proved only directionally correct. The company began life as a food-focused social network, co-founder Matthew Bouchner told TechCrunch. That iteration of the service allowed users to view posted food pictures, and then find ordering options for what they saw.

While still operating as a social network, MealMe applied to both Y Combinator and Techstars, but wasn’t accepted at either.

The startup discovered that some of its users were posting food pics simply to get the service to tell them which delivery services would be able to bring them what they wanted. From that learning the company focused on building a food search engine, allowing users to search for restaurants, and then vet various delivery options and prices. That iteration of the product got the company into Techstars Atlanta, eventually leading to the demo day that TechCrunch reviewed.

During its time in Techstars, the company adjusted its model to not merely link to DoorDash and others, but to handle checkout inside of its own application. This captures more gross merchandize value (GMV) inside of MealMe, Bouchner explained in an interview. The capability was rolled out in September of 2020.

Since then the company has seen rapid growth, which it measures at around 20% week-on-week. During TechCrunch’s interview with MealMe, the company said that it had reached a GMV run rate of more than $500,000, and was scaling toward the $1 million mark. In the intervening weeks the company passed the $1 million GMV run-rate threshold.

MealMe was slightly coy on its business model, but it appears to make margin between what it charges users for orders and the total revenue it passes along to food delivery apps.

TechCrunch was curious about platform risk at MealMe; could the company get away with offering price comparison and ordering across multiple third-party delivery services without raising the ire of the companies behind those apps? At the time of our interview, Bouchner said that his company had not seen pushback from the services it sends users to. His company’s goal is to grow quickly, become a useful revenue source for the DoorDashes of the world, and then reach out for some of formal agreement, he explained.

“We continue to be a powerful revenue generator and drive thousands of orders to food delivery services per week,” the co-founder said in a written statement. Certainly MealMe found investors more excited by its growth than concerned about Uber Eats or other apps cutting the startup off from their service.

What first caught my eye about MealMe was the realization of how much I would have used it in my early 20s. Perhaps the company can find enough users like my younger self to help it scale to sufficient size that it can go to the major food ordering companies and demand a cut, not merely avoid being cut off.

#fundings-exits, #mealme-ai, #palm-drive-capital, #recent-funding, #slow-ventures, #startups, #techstars

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Ex-General Catalyst and General Atlantic VC announces $68M debut fund

As of 2019, the majority of venture firms — 65% — still did not have a single female partner or GP at their firm, according to All Raise.

So naturally, anytime we hear of a new female-led fund, our ears perk up.

Today, New York-based Avid Ventures announced the launch of its $68 million debut venture capital fund. Addie Lerner — who was previously an investor with General Catalyst, General Atlantic and Goldman Sachs — founded Avid in 2020 with the goal of taking a hands-on approach to working with founders of early-stage startups in the United States, Europe and Israel.

“We believe investing in a founder’s company is a privilege to be earned,” she said.

Tali Vogelstein — a former investor at Bessemer Venture Partners — joined the firm as a founding investor soon after its launch and the pair were able to raise the capital in 10 months’ time during the 2020 pandemic.

The newly formed firm has an impressive list of LPs backing its debut effort. Schusterman Family Investments and the George Kaiser Family Foundation are its anchor LPs. Institutional investors include Foundry Group, General Catalyst, 14W, Slow Ventures and LocalGlobe/Latitude through its Basecamp initiative that backs emerging managers. 

Avid also has the support of 50 founders, entrepreneurs and investors as LPs — 40% of whom are female — including Mirror founder Brynn Putnam; Getty Images co-founder Jonathan Klein; founding partner of Acrew Capital Theresia Gouw and others.

Avid invests at the Series A and B stages, and so far has invested in Alloy, Nova Credit, Rapyd, Staircase, Nava and The Wing. Three of those companies have female founders — something Lerner said happened “quite naturally.”

“Diversity can happen and should happen more organically as opposed to quotas or mandates,” she added.

In making those deals, Avid partnered with top-tier firms such as Kleiner Perkins, Canapi Ventures, Zigg Capital and Thrive Capital. In general, Avid intentionally does not lead its first investments in startups, with its first checks typically being in the $500,000 to $1 million range. It preserves most of its capital for follow-on investments.

“We like to position ourselves to earn the right to write a bigger check in a future round,” Lerner told TechCrunch. 

In the case of Rapyd, Avid organized an SPV (special-purpose vehicle) to invest in the unicorn’s recent Series D. Lerner had previously backed the company’s Series B round while at General Catalyst and remains a board observer.

Prior to founding Avid, Lerner had helped deploy more than $450 million across 18 investments in software, fintech (Rapyd & Monzo) and consumer internet companies spanning North America, Europe and Israel. 

When it comes to sectors, Avid is particularly focused on backing early-stage fintech, consumer internet and software companies. The firm intends to invest in about 20 startups over a three-to-four year period.

“We want to take our time, so we can be as hands-on as we want to be,” Lerner said. “We’re not looking to back 80 companies. Our goal is to drive outstanding returns for our LPs.”

The firm views itself as an extension of its portfolio companies’ teams, serving as their “Outsourced Strategic CFO.” Lerner and Vogelstein also aim to provide the companies they work with strategic growth modeling, unit economics analysis, talent recruiting, customer introductions and business development support.

“We strive to build deep relationships early on and to prove our value well ahead of a prospective investment,” Lerner said. Avid takes its team’s prior data-driven experience to employ “a metrics-driven approach” so that a startup can “deeply understand” their unit economics. It also “gets in the trenches” alongside founders to help grow a company.

Ed Zimmerman, chair of Lowenstein Sandler LLP’s tech group in New York and adjunct professor of VC at Columbia Business School, is an Avid investor.

He told TechCrunch that because of his role in the venture community, he is often counsel to a company or fund and will run into former students in deals. Feedback from numerous people in his network point to Lerner being “extraordinarily thoughtful about deals,” with one entrepreneur describing her as “one of the smartest people she has met in a decade-plus in venture.”

“I’ve seen it myself in deals and then I’ve seen founders turn down very well branded funds to work with Addie,” Zimmerman added, noting they are impressed both by her intellect and integrity. “…Addie will find and win and be invited into great deals because she makes an indelible impression on the people who’ve worked with her and the data is remarkably consistent.”

#acrew-capital, #addie-lerner, #basecamp, #bessemer-venture-partners, #brynn-putnam, #canapi-ventures, #catalyst, #consumer-internet, #corporate-finance, #diversity, #finance, #foundry-group, #funding, #general-atlantic, #general-catalyst, #george-kaiser-family-foundation, #goldman-sachs, #israel, #jonathan-klein, #kleiner-perkins, #new-york, #north-america, #slow-ventures, #software, #tali-vogelstein, #tc, #tech, #techcrunch-include, #theresia-gouw, #thrive-capital, #united-states, #venture-capital

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Investors give Baltimore’s Facet Wealth $25 million to sell businesses on financial planning as a benefit

Yesterday, Baltimore-based fintech company Facet Wealth said it raised $25 million in financing as it readies a new business line pitching financial planning as an employment benefit to businesses looking to recruit top talent.

Employment benefit packages are expanding beyond the basic gym membership and healthcare to include subscriptions to Netflix, discounts on delivery and ride-share services, and other perks. So why not financial wellness?

The thesis certainly managed to attract a big-money backer, with Warburg Pincus, the multi-billion dollar private equity investment firm which doubled down on its commitment with the new financing into the company.

The company said the latest round would be used to finance the expansion of Facet Wealth’s direct-to-consumer business even as it readies its employee benefit service for launch.

Already customers are signing up for pre-launch partnerships to get their employees on the program. Early wannabe users include ClassPass, MyVest and ChiliPiper, the company said.

“Since our first investment two years ago, the Facet Wealth team has proven their ability to meet a unique consumer need, evolving and expanding their offering to build a truly innovative client experience and business model”, said Jeff Stein, Managing Director at Warburg Pincus. “Their expansion into the employer market further solidifies them as a category-defining company that is well-positioned to disrupt the wealth management industry for years to come.”

To date, Facet Wealth has raised $62 million in funding from Warburg Pincus, Slow Ventures and other, undisclosed investors.

#baltimore, #classpass, #companies, #finance, #healthcare, #investment, #netflix, #slow-ventures, #tc, #ubs, #warburg-pincus

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PicnicHealth raises $25 million for its patient health record management service

PicnicHealth, the startup that’s looking to give patients a way to manage their care in one place and pharmaceutical companies access to patient records for real world data, has just raised $25 million in financing to grow its business.

Founded in 2016 by a former international development worker and Crohn’s Disease patient, Noga Leviner, PicnicHealth’s initial pitch was around giving patients the ability to manage and coordinate their own care. It’s something that Leviner, a person with a chronic condition, knows can be complicated.

“Being a patient in the healthcare system in the US sucks,” said Leviner. “You think someone is going to be in charge and then, as it turns out, nobody’s in charge and it’s up to you to keep everybody in the loop.”

The pitch from PicnicHealth is that patients can use the service to collect and manage their medical records and then share their medical history to contribute to research. The data, the company says, is de-identified and then made available to external researchers.

The service is free for patients who are involved in clinical studies, and anyone who isn’t participating in the study pays a fee for the records management service, according to Leviner.

So far, there are tens of thousands of patients using the PicnicHealth platform.

For Felicis Ventures managing director Sundeep Peechu, a new director on the PicnicHealth board following his firm’s lead investment into the company, the opportunity Leviner’s company presents is in putting the patient first when it comes to data management.

“It is probably the first patient data company that has patient consent,” Peechu said. “This is a unique healthcare data company, which is going to the patients and asking for their consent and using that data in an advantageous way.”

Other companies in the data management space for healthcare have focused on making sure that healthcare providers are all looped in to provide coordinated care, but they don’t bring those tools into patient’s hands, according to the company.

Those are businesses like TrueVault and Aptible, who focus on delivering secure information to medical personnel rather than to the patient.

The access that pharmaceutical companies get when they work with PicnicHealth means that they’re able to use deep data sets to create longitudinal studies of patients over time. That allows those companies to look for commonalities between patient cases that they otherwise wouldn’t have seen.

For patients, it means the difference between a potential early diagnosis that may enable physicians to initiate treatment before a disease manifests itself, Peechu said.

To date, PicnicHealth has raised nearly $40 million from investors including YCombinator, Amplify Partners and Felicis Ventures with participation from notable investors in a seed round that included: Social+Captial, Great Oaks, Slow Ventures, YC partner Paul Buchheit, Scott Marlette, Sam Lessin, Joe Greenstein, Rashmi Sinha, Jameson Hsu, Kenny Van Zant, Rishi Kacker, Ramji Srinivasan, Eric Evans and Stanford’s StartX Fund.

#amplify-partners, #articles, #director, #disease, #felicis-ventures, #health, #healthcare, #healthcare-data, #paul-buchheit, #pharmaceutical, #picnichealth, #sam-lessin, #scott-marlette, #slow-ventures, #tc, #united-states

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After early-COVID layoffs, Hipcamp is buying competition, hiring

When shelter-in-place was first announced in the United States, most companies in the travel space saw bookings drop. Some shuttered. Hipcamp, a San Francisco-based startup that provides private land for people who want to go glamping or camping, found itself in a similar spot. (even though its entire sell is about getting you away from crowds).

“Bookings took a precipitous drop as people sheltered-in-place, and we actually encouraged people to cancel,” founder Alyssa Ravasio said in an interview. The startup conducted a round of layoffs back in April, citing ‘economic uncertainties.’ One employee tells TechCrunch that 60% of the company was laid off in two weeks. Hipcamp did not comment directly on the number of layoffs.

Months later, Hipcamp is in a far better spot. When stay-at-home orders lifted, bookings spiked with people eager to get outside, which the CDC says is a safer activity than being inside a place with less ventilation. Ravasio says that Hipcamp has even brought back some employees it originally laid off. The startup is currently hiring.

Off this new momentum, Hipcamp today announced that it has acquired Australia-based landsharing startup Youcamp, marking its first expansion into an international market. With the new business, Hipcamp will acquire Youcamp’s existing 50,000 listings, bringing its total to 420,000 listings.

Hipcamp declined to disclose the financials of the deal at this time.

Youcamp, founded by James Woodford, was born in New South Wales in 2013. Similar to Hipcamp, Youcamp worked to draw urban-based adults to the great outdoors. For its 7 years as an independent company, Youcamp racked up listings by working directly with private landowners.

Ravasio says she made her first big international bet in Australia partly because of revenue predictability.

“Expanding to the Southern Hemisphere also helps us account for natural seasonality with outdoor recreation. Between the US and Australia, it’s an endless summer,” the founder said.

The entire team at Youcamp will join Hipcamp, adding five to Hipcamp’s staff, bringing its employee base to a total of 35

Along with the acquisition announcement, Hipcamp shared that it is officially launching in Canada . The startup already had a number of Canadian hosts, but it will now increase the total by partnering directly with private landowners.

The company declined to share profitability or growth statistics, but instead pointing to aggregate usage numbers as some sort of cumulative revenue parallel. To date, Hipcamp has helped people spend 2.5 million nights outside across 6,000 hosts in the United States. Australia, and Canada.

In July 2019, Hipcamp got a tranche of new capital from investors, including but not limited to Andreessen Horowitz, Benchmark, Slow Ventures, Marcy Ventures (co-founded by Shawn Carter, or Jay-Z) and Dreamers Fund (co-founded by Will Smith). The round valued the startup at $127 million.

Hipcamp, which has been dubbed by the New Yorker the ‘Airbnb of the outdoors’, is more optimistic than it was in March, as shown by this appetite for acquisition. The progress mirrors what we’re seeing out of the actual Airbnb, which has found bookings increasing year over year as people look to stay at properties for local holidays.

#airbnb, #alyssa-ravasio, #andreessen-horowitz, #australia, #canada, #economy, #hipcamp, #san-francisco, #sharing-economy, #shawn-carter, #slow-ventures, #startup-company, #tc, #techcrunch, #travel, #united-states, #vacation-rental, #websites, #will-smith

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Plume is building a healthcare service specifically for the transgender community

Plume, the Denver-based startup that provides hormone replacement therapies and medical consultations tailored to the trans community, could not be launching at a time when the company’s services are more needed.

It’s no hyperbole to say that transgender citizens in the United States are under attack. Whether from government policies that are intended to defund their access to insurer-provided medical care, or actual physical assaults, transgender Americans are living in physically and politically perilous times.

That’s one reason why Matthew Wetschler and his co-founder Jerrica Kirkley founded Plume, which provides telehealth services tailored for the transgender community.

The two doctors met and became friends in medical school. From the earliest days, the two were inseparable, Dr. Wetschler recalled. “She and I spent nearly 12 hours a day together,” he said. “We have always shared a belief that the healthcare system can do better for patients and doctors.”

Dr. Jerrica Kirkley, Plume co-founder Image Credit: Plume

After medical school, Wetschler moved to the Bay Area to finish his residency at Stanford and then went on to run a consulting firm which worked primarily with digital health startups. Kirkley, who is transgender, focused on gender therapy in the trans community.

A little over a year ago the two began to discuss the potential for creating a primarily telehealth service for the trans community, Wetschler said.

“We have always shared a belief that the healthcare system can do better for patients and doctors,” he said. And almost no population is quite as exposed to the shortcomings of the current healthcare system as the transgender community.

“I had been increasingly interested in the telehealth space and the emerging trend of leveraging mobile technology to provide unparalleled access to clinical care at the touch of a button,” said Wetschler. “And many of the problems [Kirkley] was seeing with her patients involved finding doctors with expertise and safe sources of medications.”

In many instances, despite the duty of care that physicians have to maintain, transgender patients are subjected to discriminatory practices and even the denial of care. Roughly 20% of transgender patients who seek care are either denied that care or harassed because of their gender identity, Wetschler said.

Many patients don’t have access to the medications they need, which can lead to up to 30% of patients seeking out the medications they need on the black market.

It’s an issue for the more than 1.4 million Americans who identify as transgender.

Plume provides a safe, on-demand service for patients that need it, said Wetschler. And does it for $99 per month.

The company doesn’t perform gender reassignment surgeries, but that’s about the only limitation on the care that the company offers. It can recommend local surgeons who will perform those procedures and it will provide consultations for patients or potential patients considering various hormone-related or surgical therapies. A majority of the Plume care team is transgender, according to Wetschler.

“What we’re proud of with Plume is that we offer a way of accessing this way of trans-specific care regardless of policy or insurance coverage,” said Wetschler. 

At the heart of Plume’s services is access to gender-affirming hormone therapy. “This is the fundamental medical treatment for the trans community,” Wetschler said. “The trans experience is unique in that for most it involves navigating a gender and cis-normative healthcare system that may not understand their experiences. It can be highly traumatic.”

Plume offers a medical evaluation, ongoing monitoring and lab assignments and prescriptions. Soon, the company will also provide medication delivery, as well.

For most Americans, there’s a presumption that medical care will be delivered in a non-judgmental and safe way (both psychologically and physically). For many trans Americans there’s a lack of comfort and risk that’s inherent in the end-to-end care experience. Plume is trying to solve for that.

Dr. Matthew Wetschler, Plume, co-founder Image Credit: Plume

Investors from the nation’s top venture capital firms, General Catalyst and Slow Ventures, believe in the company’s vision and have backed it with $2.9 million in seed financing.  Springbank Collective is also an investor in the company.

“What I was drawn to with Plume is the commitment and conviction Mathew and Jerrica operate with in providing the trans community — a woefully underserved group with access to the health care they deserve,” wrote General Catalyst partner, Olivia Lew, in a statement. “The rollback of healthcare protections for the trans community this past week have only heightened awareness for the dire need for this company. One of the things we’re most excited about in the next wave of health innovation are companies that are using modern platforms like telehealth to serve people’s individual needs with more consumer friendly, personalized experiences.”

These personalized services become even more important for populations at risk, like the trans community, and they’re also more valuable.

“When people take hormone therapy… there’s an opportunity to have an ongoing longitudinal relationship and that’s something that’s highly valued,” said Wetschler.

Currently the transgender population spends around $4.5 billion to $6 billion on medication. And there’s an opportunity to provide better emotional and behavioral support to patients, as well, according to Wetschler.

Plume began providing services in Colorado a year ago and is now available in California, New York, Florida, Texas, Colorado, North Carolina, Virginia, Oregon, Maine and Massachusetts.

There are roughly 700,000 transgender patients who can now avail themselves of the services Plume offers, but the population, and therefore need, is growing.

“The estimates on the size of the trans population since a decade ago has been growing 20 percent year over year,” says Wetschler. “And Generation Z is five times more likely than baby boomers to identify as trans. The full visibility of the trans community is yet to be realized.”

#general-catalyst, #plume, #slow-ventures, #tc

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