SoftBank’s latest proptech bet is leading Pacaso’s $125M Series C

Less than six months after raising $75 million, Pacaso — a real estate platform which aims to help people buy and co-own a second home — announced today that it has raised $125 million at a $1.5 billion valuation.

SoftBank Vision Fund 2 led the Series C funding round for Pacaso, which essentially went from “launch to unicorn” in five months earlier this year and is pronounced like Picasso. New backers Fifth Wall and Gaingels also participated in the financing, along with existing backers Greycroft, Global Founders Capital, Crosscut and 75 & Sunny Ventures. (Sunny Ventures is Pacaso co-founder Spencer Rascoff’s venture firm). With the latest round, Picasso has now raised a total of $215 million in equity funding since its 2020 inception. It also secured $1 billion in debt financing earlier this year.

The fully distributed startup launched its platform in October of last year and already has an annualized revenue run rate of $330 million, according to CEO and co-founder Austin Allison — a feat which quite frankly seems remarkable. The company currently manages nearly $200 million in real estate on its platform, and in the second quarter, its website and mobile app saw a combined 1.8 million visits, up 196% from the first quarter. It’s currently serving owners “in the hundreds.”

Former Zillow executives Allison and Rascoff came up with the concept of Pacaso after leaving Zillow together about two years ago. (Publicly traded Zillow today has a market cap of $24 billion.) 

With a unique co-ownership model made possible via the creation of a property-specific LLC, the company aims to reduce the cost and hassle of second home ownership. It also gives vacation homeowners an alternative option to renting out their property.

Pacaso distinguishes its model from the age-old concept of timeshares, which sell the right to use a fixed amount of time in a condo or hotel. Pacaso aims to bring together a small group of co-owners to purchase a share of a single-family home and “enjoy ongoing access throughout the year.”

The way it works is that Pacaso purchases a home either outright or shares in a home. The company then partners with local real estate agents to market the properties. It then sells shares in the home — from one-eighth of the home to a greater percentage.

Pacaso holds a brokerage license in about 25 top second home markets such as Napa, Lake Tahoe, Palm Springs, Malibu and Park City. It recently expanded to its first market outside of the U.S. — Spain. Buyers can view curated listings on the startup’s website, which includes active listings, as well as previews of homes under consideration for purchase based on buyer demand.

In addition to curating the listings, Pacaso also offers integrated financing, “upscale” interior design, professional property management and proprietary scheduling technology.

In January of this year, Pacaso had 30 employees. Today, it has over 120, according to Allison.

It’s important to note that while Pacaso one day aspires to offer homes that are affordable to a broader segment of the population, Allison acknowledges that currently, the homes available on its platform are “very much” luxury, or higher price, homes.

As for what markets it plans to enter next, he said that will be based on customer feedback. For now, Allison said, 65% of Pacaso’s customers are first-time second homeowners and 25% of are non-white or identify as LGBTQ.

SoftBank Investing Partner Lydia Jett says she was drawn to Pacaso for both professional and personal reasons.

For one thing, she says that when she was growing up, her family owned one-tenth of a “modest” beach house on the coast of Oregon.

“This asset that should be an investment, and source of joy actually had an incredible amount of friction, pain and unexpected cost,” Jett told TechCrunch. “It was a difficult asset to make liquid.”

The friction and pain she referred to included debates around scheduling, capital investments and tension when one of the co-owners needed liquidity but none of the others wanted to buy them out.

Part of the pain involved many of the the things that Pacaso is trying to solve for, Jett believes. By managing the whole co-ownership process, owners don’t have to deal with the “headaches” of maintenance, furnishings and scheduling respective vacations, among other things.

“We’ve designed  a very innovative scheduling solution we call SmartStay, which empowers a calendar to be shared equitably among the ownership group so that each co-owner has fair and equitable access to the property all times of the year,” Allison told TechCrunch

In other words, Picasso is effectively an intermediary between the co-owners, something Jett makes it a very attractive model.

Also, she said, SoftBank was drawn to the opportunity to “create a whole new category of home ownership.”

“This is something that fundamentally can enrich millions of people’s lives,” she told TechCrunch, “and help them realize that dream of co-ownership.”

#apps, #austin-allison, #funding, #fundings-exits, #pacaso, #proptech, #real-estate, #recent-funding, #softbank-vision-fund-2, #spencer-rascoff, #startup, #startups, #venture-capital

Whoop raises another $200M for its athlete-focused fitness wearable

Founded in 2012, Whoop is far from a household name in the world of fitness trackers. But over the years, the company has attracted its share of converts. It hasn’t had any issue attracting venture capital over the years, either. Last time we checked in on the Boston-based company was in late-2019, when it raised $55 million. Now it’s back with a massive $200 million raise.

The Series F round brings Whoop’s total funding to nearly $405 million — a pretty massive investment for a company of its size. The round, led by SoftBank’s Vision Fund 2, puts the valuation at a jaw-dropping $3.6 billion valuation.

Additional investors include IVP, Cavu Venture Partners, Thursday Ventures, GP Bullhound, Accomplice, NextView Ventures and Animal Capital. They join a long list of former backers, including the National Football League Players Association, Jack Dorsey and a number of professional athletes.

The company’s targeting of athletes marks a strong contrast with leading consumer wearables like the Apple Watch and Fitbit. In fact, the company has a specific offering for sports teams, as well as solutions for businesses, healthcare and government/defense.

Whoop’s name made the rounds recently when Fitbit announced a “Daily Readiness Score” for the Charge 5, which many likened to the company’s more advanced analytics.

The company cites “rapid growth” in its membership offering over the past year as a motivation behind seeking additional funding. That was likely driven, in part, by the decision in 2019 to make the $500 wearable free, while focusing on a subscription service that starts at $18 a month for an 18-month membership (the shorter the membership, the more the monthly fee).

Whoop is eying international expansion beyond the U.S. and using the massive influx of cash on R&D for its hardware, software and analytics solutions. Money will also go toward expanding headcount, which is currently in excess of 500 (with nearly half of those employees having joined in the past year).

“We are thrilled to deepen our partnership with SoftBank as we grow internationally,” founder and CEO Will Ahmed said in a release. “While we have experienced amazing growth in the past year, the potential of our technology and the vast market for health monitoring remains largely untapped.”

#fitness, #fitness-trackers, #funding, #hardware, #health, #recent-funding, #softbank, #softbank-vision-fund-2, #startups, #wearables, #whoop

India’s Eruditus valued at $3.2 billion in $650 million fundraise

Mumbai-based Eruditus, which works with top universities globally to offer more than 100 executive-level courses to students in over 80 nations, said on Thursday it has raised $650 million in a new financing round led by Accel and SoftBank Vision Fund 2.

The new financing round — which includes both primary and secondary transactions — values the Indian startup at $3.2 billion, up from about $700 million a year ago. The Canada Pension Plan Investment Board also participated in the new round.

Eruditus, which counts Chan Zuckerberg Initiative among its backers, maintains a tie-up with over 30 top-tier universities, including MIT, Harvard, Columbia, Cambridge, INSEAD, Wharton, UC Berkeley, IIT, IIM and NUS. The universities and Eruditus work to develop courses that are aimed at offering higher education to students. These courses cost anything between $5,000 to $40,000.

The new fundraise comes at a time when Indian startups are raising record capital from high-profile investors. India, which is the world’s second largest internet market, has produced over 23 unicorns this year (Eruditus is the 23rd), up from 11 last year and 6 in 2019. Some investors have also doubled down on the South Asian market after China, one of the other rare big growth markets, enforced a series of regulatory changes that has wiped hundreds of billions of dollars in recent weeks.

Eruditus is SoftBank’s second major bet on India’s edtech market. The Japanese investment firm has also backed Unacademy.

UpGrad, a Bangalore-based startup that specializes in higher education and upskilling courses, joined the unicorn club earlier this week. VerSe Innovation, which operates news aggregator service Dailyhunt and short video apps Josh, said early Thursday that it has raised over $450 million in a new financing round.

This is a developing story. More to follow…

#asia, #education, #eruditus, #funding, #india, #softbank, #softbank-vision-fund-2

Indian edtech Unacademy valued at $3.44 billion in $440 million fundraise

Unacademy has raised $440 million in a new financing round as the Indian online learning startup looks to expand into multiple additional categories.

Temasek led the Bangalore-based startup’s new financing round while Mirae Asset and existing investors including SoftBank Vision Fund 2, General Atlantic, Tiger Global as well as Zomato co-founder and chief executive Deepinder Goyal and Oyo founder Ritesh Agarwal participated in it, the startup said.

The new round values the six-year-old startup at $3.44 billion, up from $2 billion in November last year. The new rounds brings Unacademy’s to-date raise to $880 million, according to insight platform Tracxn.

The online learning platform, which began its journey on YouTube and still uses Google’s video platform to on-board educators, helps students prepare for competitive exams to get into college, as well as those who are pursuing graduate-level courses.

On its app, students watch live classes from educators and later engage in sessions to review topics in more detail. In recent years, the startup has held several online interviews of high-profile individuals, such as Indian politician Shashi Tharoor, on a range of topics, which has expanded its appeal beyond its student base.

Unacademy has amassed over 5 million monthly active users in over 10,000 cities in India.

Gaurav Munjal, Unacademy co-founder and chief executive, said the startup will deploy the fresh capital to broaden its bets on new categories such as jobs and hiring.

Relevel is “giving people a path to get their dream job irrespective of their educational background, while Graphy is “empowering creators to build their online businesses to sell digital goods including NFTs,” he said in a tweet.

This is a developing story. More to follow…

#apps, #asia, #education, #funding, #india, #mirae-asset, #softbank-vision-fund-2, #unacademy

SoftBank-backed Embark Veterinary valued at $700M after $75M Series B

Now that you have that COVID dog, Embark Veterinary wants to help him or her be in your life for a long time by offering DNA testing with the goal of curbing preventable diseases and increasing the lifespan of dogs by three years within the next decade.

The Boston-based dog genetics company raised $75 million in Series B funding in what the company is calling “the biggest Series B for a pet startup to date.” SoftBank Vision Fund 2 was the lead investor and was joined by existing investors F-Prime Capital, SV Angel, Slow Ventures, Freestyle Capital and Third Kind Venture Capital.

The new round boosts Embark’s total funding to $94.3 million since the company was founded in 2015, according to Crunchbase data. It also gives it a post-money valuation of $700 million, Embark founder and CEO Ryan Boyko told TechCrunch.

Boyko has been a dog lover all his life, and also interested in biology and evolution. Dogs, in particular, are fascinating to him because of their variety: they can be bred to be two pounds or 200 pounds, and come in all shapes and sizes. His interest led him to study dogs in order to understand their evolution.

“I began to think about health problems, and honestly, dogs are a better system for using genetics to better their health than humans,” Boyko said. “You can breed them, so genetics has as much power to cause health problems as it can improve quality and life.”

Embark’s dog DNA test retails for $199 and enables dog owners, breeders and veterinarians to personalize care plans based on a dog’s unique genetic profile. It can test for over 350 breeds and 200 genetic health risks, as well as physical traits. Similar to a 23andMe test, test users can learn characteristics about breed, health and ancestry.

For example, the test could show that a healthy dog may have a gene that predisposes them to slipped discs. If the dog has that, then weight management would be an important factor in their care regime, as would not allowing them to jump off the couch. Another common genetic risk is HUU, or Hyperuricosuria, which is elevated levels of uric acid in urine that could lead to bladder stones due to the way dogs process minerals. By changing the dog’s diet, it could reduce the risk for developing the stones, which are painful and expensive to treat, Boyko said.

The test’s technology revolves around proprietary genotyping technology that analyzes more than 200,000 genetic markers, currently two times more information than any other dog DNA test on the market, Boyko said. This gives Embark the world’s largest database of canine health and biological information, enabling the company to provide insights into certain conditions and make new discoveries about health risks, traits and breeds.

Embark aims to become the standard of care for dog owners and vets. It grew 235% between 2019 and 2020 and saw five times the sales over the past two years. To support that growth, the company intends to use the new funding to bring on key hires and expand its database. Boyko anticipates adding more than 100 employees between 2021 and 2022.

Boyko said the opportunity in the pet startup space is huge. Indeed, U.S. spending on pets reached nearly $100 billion in 2020, up from $95.7 billion in 2019, according to the American Pet Products Association.

At the same time, venture capital interest in U.S. pet-focused companies, from nutrition to travel to healthcare, grew 29.5% from 2019 and 2020, according to Crunchbase data. In addition to Embark’s funding, 2021 was good to other pet startups as well, including pet insurance company Wagmo, raising $12.5 million, connected pet collar company Fi received $30 million and Rover, which announced plans to go public via SPAC.

Lydia Jett, partner at SoftBank Investment Advisers, told TechCrunch that this was her first pet-based investment, and what Embark is doing brings advances to a category right now where people care about their pets enough that they want to do something that will expand their value of life.

Jett said the management team being dedicated to DNA-based analytics is the future, and Embark is starting this big curve when it comes to pets and the convergence of real emotional ties to pets and the ability to improve their lives.

“This company is a driver of change to happen,” she added. “We are the largest consumer investor in the world, and Embark is very much aligned with what we are seeing across our portfolio that consumers are revisiting priorities and choices. That is a major trend, but still early in the cycle of personalization for their pets.”

 

#23andme, #biotech, #dna, #dog, #embark-veterinary, #f-prime-capital, #freestyle-capital, #funding, #health, #pet-insurance, #pets, #recent-funding, #ryan-boyko, #slow-ventures, #softbank-vision-fund-2, #startups, #sv-angel, #tc, #third-kind-venture-capital, #venture-capital, #wagmo

Indian food delivery startup Swiggy raises $1.25 billion led by SoftBank and Prosus

It took SoftBank several years, but finally the Japanese investment giant is ready to bet on India’s food delivery market. Swiggy said on Tuesday it has closed a $1.25 billion financing round led by SoftBank Vision Fund 2 and Prosus Ventures.

The new financing round, a Series J, includes the $800 million investment the Bangalore-based startup had disclosed to employees earlier this year. (SoftBank alone invested $450 million in the new round.) The new round, which Swiggy says was “heavily oversubscribed,” gives the food delivery startup a post-money valuation of $5.5 billion.

TechCrunch had first reported about Swiggy’s engagement with SoftBank and the proposed valuation of $5.5 billion in mid-April. Qatar Investment Authority, Falcon Edge Capital, Amansa Capital, Goldman Sachs, Think Investments and Carmignac and existing investors Accel Partners and Wellington Management also participated in the new round.

Swiggy said the new financing round shows the turnaround it has demonstrated in the past few quarters. Like many other startups, Swiggy was severely hit with the pandemic. The startup said its recent bet to expand into grocery delivery, and pick-up and drop service has paid off.

“The participation of some of the most visionary global investors is a huge vote of confidence in Swiggy’s mission and ability to build an enduring and iconic company out of India. The scope of food delivery in India is massive and over the next few years, we will continue to invest aggressively into growing this category,” said Sriharsha Majety, chief executive of Swiggy, in a statement.

“Our biggest investments will be in our non-food businesses that have witnessed tremendous consumer love and growth in a short span, especially in the past 15 months of the pandemic. I believe the next 10-15 years offer a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for companies like Swiggy as the Indian middle class expands and our target segment for convenience grows to 500 million users.”

The new investment comes at a time when Indian startups are raising record capital and a handful of mature firms are beginning to explore the public markets. Zomato, Swiggy’s chief rival in India, raised $1.3 billion in its initial public offering last week and financial services startups Paytm and MobiKwik have also filed for their initial public offerings.

At stake is India’s food delivery market, which analysts at Bernstein expect to balloon to be worth $12 billion by 2022, they wrote in a report to clients earlier this year. A third player, Amazon, also entered the food delivery market in India last year, though its operations are still limited to parts of Bangalore. At a virtual conference ahead of the IPO, Zomato executives dismissed Amazon as a serious competitor for now. “There’s no major impact on market share from Amazon so far,” the company’s chief financial officer said.

For SoftBank, a regular fixture of India’s startup, this is the first time it has bet on the food delivery market. The Japanese conglomerate has backed Indian startups in multiple categories including e-commerce (Flipkart, Snapdeal, Meesho, Lenskart, Firstcry), ride-hailing (Uber and Ola), and edtech (Unacademy). SoftBank has invested in several food delivery startups globally including DoorDash and Uber Eats. Prosus Ventures, an early investor in Swiggy, has also backed several food delivery startups globally.

“From its early days, I have had the privilege to watch Swiggy execute on their vision to become the leader in the convenience economy. Their focus on consumer delight, product innovation, and ecosystem support has made Swiggy a compelling digital experience in India. They have the railroads in place to empower multiple businesses to reach the new age consumer on a daily basis, and food delivery is just the beginning,” said Sumer Juneja, Partner at SoftBank Investment Advisers, in a statement.

Swiggy said it will deploy the fresh funds to accelerate its “multi-year strategy” of growing its core food delivery business and building new food and non-food adjacencies this year and beyond.

#apps, #asia, #food, #funding, #prosus-ventures, #softbank, #softbank-vision-fund-2, #swiggy, #zomato

M1 Finance raises $150M in SoftBank-led Series E, boosts valuation to $1.45B

Just over four months after announcing a $75 million Series D, M1 Finance today is announcing a new $150 million Series E round of funding led by SoftBank’s Vision Fund 2.

The financing, which also included participation from existing backers, propels the Chicago-based fintech to unicorn status with a valuation of $1.45 billion. It also marks M1’s fourth funding round in just over a 13-month time frame, and brings its total raised since its mid-2015 inception to over $300 million. Previous investors include Coatue Management, Left Lane Capital, Jump Capital and Clocktower Technology Ventures, among others.  

At the time of its Series D in March, M1 was “near unicorn status,” according to founder and CEO Brian Barnes.

The startup combines three different traditional fintech services into one (automated investing, borrowing and banking/spending) and has seen rapid growth over the past couple of years. At the time of its last raise in early March, for example, it had reached $3.5 billion in AUM (assets under management). Today, the company says it now has $4.5 billion in AUM, which is up more than fivefold compared to 18 months prior, according to Barnes.

Since July 1, 2020, the company has more than doubled its user base and tripled its AUM.

Image Credits: M1 Finance

M1 first launched to the public in late 2016 with the mission of building a platform that would help people manage and grow their money “with control and automation – for free.” (For more details on just how M1 makes its money, check out its blog here).

Today, the company says it has “hundreds of thousands” of customers that either invest, conduct digital checking or access portfolio lines of credit through its platform.

Like many other companies, M1 saw a pandemic-driven boost in business.

In particular, there seemed to be a surge of new interest in investing, particularly by millennials, according to Barnes. 

Image Credits: M1 Finance founder & CEO Brian Barnes

“Lockdown led many to decrease their spending, while an uncertain future increased the appetite to build wealth for the long-term through investing,” he told TechCrunch. “M1 experienced this firsthand. We quadrupled our assets under management since the start of the pandemic last March… and saw a 3x increase in signups in January 2021 compared to the month prior.”

Last December, M1 launched Smart Transfers, allowing its “Plus” clients to automate financial goals based on pre-set rules. In February of this year, it released Custodial Accounts, giving M1 Plus parents or guardians the ability to invest in portfolios for younger generations. In June, M1 launched Send Check, which allows M1 Plus clients to send physical checks from their M1 Spend Plus checking accounts.

“We always want to be the ones pushing for change, just as we have by moving away from the manual input of every trade or one-size-fits-all portfolios,” Barnes said. “Our plan is to continue to innovate across Invest, Borrow and Spend, finding ways to make complex processes seamless.”

Munish Varma, managing partner at SoftBank Investment Advisers, says his firm believes M1 is “well-positioned to consolidate users’ financial lives on a one-stop super-app with its Invest, Spend and Borrow products.”

The company plans to use its fresh capital to build new products and features, further “innovate” its platform and do more hiring. M1 has grown its headcount from 40 at the start of 2020 to 250 employees today.

As my colleague Alex Wilhelm pointed out when covering M1’s Series D, the company is not the only service in the savings, investing and spending spaces that has seen growth in the last year. Robinhood and Public have done well on the investing side of things, and Chime has scaled quickly in the spending and saving markets.

#finance, #fintech, #m1-finance, #softbank-vision-fund-2, #tc

SoftBank Vision Fund 2 leads $140M funding in Vishal Sikka’s Vianai

Vianai Systems, an AI startup founded by former chief executive of Indian IT services giant Infosys, said on Wednesday it has raised $140 million in a round led by SoftBank Vision Fund 2.

The two-year-old startup said a number of industry luminaries also participated in the new round, which brings its total to-date raise to at least $190 million. The startup raised $50 million in its Seed financing round, but there’s no word on the size of its Series A round.

Details about what exactly the Palo Alto-headquartered startup does is unclear. In a press statement, Dr. Vishal Sikka said the startup is building a “better AI platform, one that puts human judgment at the center of systems that bring vast AI capabilities to amplify human potential.” Sikka, 54, resigned from the top role at Infosys in 2017 after months of acrimony between the board and a cohort of founders.

Vianai helps its customers amplify the transformation potential within their organizations using a variety of advanced AI and ML tools with a distinct approach in how it thoughtfully brings together humans with technology. This human-centered approach differentiates Vianai from other platform and product companies and enables its customers to fulfill AI’s true promise,” the startup said.

The startup claims it has already amassed many of the world’s largest and most respected businesses including insurance giant Munich Re as its customers.

Its investors include Jim Davidson (co-founder of Silver Lake), Henry Kravis and George Roberts (co-founders of KKR), and Jerry Yang (founding partner of AME and co-founder of Yahoo). Dr. Fei-Fei Li (co-director of the Stanford Institute for Human-Centered AI), has joined Vianai Systems’ advisory board.

“With the AI revolution underway, we believe Vianai’s human-centered AI platform and products provide global enterprises with operational and customer intelligence to make better business decisions,” said Deep Nishar, Senior Managing Partner at SoftBank Investment Advisers, in a statement. “We are pleased to partner with Dr. Sikka and the Vianai team to support their ambition to fulfill AI’s promise to drive fundamental digital transformations.”

#artificial-intelligence, #funding, #softbank, #softbank-vision-fund-2, #vishal-sikka

Messaging social network IRL hits unicorn status with SoftBank-led $170M Series C

Social calendar app IRL has been busy building a messaging-based social network, or what founder and CEO Abraham Shafi calls a “WeChat of the West.” Following its pandemic-fueled growth and further push into the social networking space with group chat and other features, IRL is today announcing a sizable $170 million Series C growth round, led by SoftBank’s Vision Fund 2. The fundraise also mints IRL as a new unicorn with a $1.17 billion valuation.

Besides SoftBank, new investor Dragoneer also participated in the oversubscribed round, alongside returning investors Goodwater Capital, Founders Fund and Floodgate. To date, IRL has raised over $200 million.

The startup began its life as a tool for discovering real-world events — an industry that went to zero almost overnight due to the COVID-19 pandemic. That could have been the end for IRL, but the startup quickly pivoted to prioritize discovery of online events instead. Under COVID lockdowns, users could turn to the app to find things like livestreamed concerts, esports events, Zoom parties and more.

Image Credits: IRL

IRL focused on pulling in popular online events from places like Live Nation, Twitch, YouTube, TikTok and others.

As a result, IRL became more accessible because its audience was no longer limited only to those who had time and money to travel to real-world events.

That focus also helped the app to attract a crowd of younger users who are of the generation that doesn’t use Facebook.

“They essentially use Snapchat, Instagram and TikTok,” explains Shafi. “But there is no groups and events product for that generation,” he points out.

Earlier this year, the company doubled down on its social networking features with the launch of a new site that added things like user profiles, support for group chats, the ability to join group events, personalized recommendations and more. As users could now network with friends across both web and mobile, IRL began to feel more like a social network, not just an event-discovery engine.

Image Credits: IRL

Today, IRL has 20 million users and 12 million who use the app monthly, which are not startling numbers in comparison to major social networks and their billions of users. But the numbers are representative of a steady approach that helped IRL grow 400% over the past 15 months, despite COVID’s impact to real-world events.

But as of recently, things are starting to change. In-person events are starting to return. California, the home state for San Francisco-based IRL, is today re-opening, for example. That opens up IRL to once again focus on connecting people not just online, but also “in real life,” as its name implies.

That could mean helping people better connect around events with not just their own friend group, as is often the case today, but helping them discover new groups in their local area or on campus. The company is even planning to use a portion of its fundraise to help fuel the new events economy by allocating a certain amount of money per city that will go toward helping people put on real-world events. The exact details are still being worked out, Shafi says, but says the idea is that IRL wants to help “bring culture back in cities that are opening up again.”

IRL also plans to expand its international footprint by finding ways to bring in non-U.S. users to its platform — possibly beginning with the events focused on watching the Olympics. (If the Games are not again delayed or canceled due to a COVID surge.)

Shafi says IRL hadn’t been planning to fundraise, but they decided to take the meetings when they were approached.

“The philosophy is not to raise when you have to, but to raise when it makes sense. And we were scaling like crazy to the point where our servers were melting. It made sense to take those discussions very seriously when they came to us,” he says.

The addition of SoftBank and Dragoneer brings some expertise in scaling large social networks to the IRL team. SoftBank’s other notable social networking investment is with TikTok owner’s Bytedance, while Dragoneer has backed Snap. IRL has already has a close relationship with TikTok as it’s worked with the video app to pull in interesting events for discovery. It more recently integrated with TikTok’s new “Login Kit,” too, allowing TikTok users to authenticate with IRL using their TikTok credentials.

Now, IRL plans to add an even deeper TikTok integration — something that caught SoftBank’s attention.

Shafi is cagey on the details, but says more will be announced in the “coming weeks.”

“But what I can say is that we’ve seen a ton of growth of TikTok users linking to IRL group chats and IRL events through their TikTok profiles as a way to communicate and go deeper in relationships,” he says. “If you think about it, right now Instagram has really great messaging…whereas TikTok is still developing that,” he hints.

Image Credits: IRL

Beyond its value to growing social networks for the younger, Facebook-less generation, IRL is thinking about how to build a profitable business without ad revenue. On this front, it sees potential in helping people connect through paid events — although these wouldn’t have to be influencer-driven as on other platforms. In fact, when IRL recently piloted paid group chats, users were willing to pay for access to things like a calc homework help group, for example.

IRL also sees demand for tools that help groups and clubs collect membership dues and other fees, as well as for events that are too small for Ticketmaster or Eventbrite.

“Whether we succeed or fail will be based on our ability to execute on our opportunity,” says Shafi, adding that most social networks today are focused on media more so than helping users make connections. “What we’re building isn’t the media part of social, it’s the real human interaction part of social, because that hasn’t been paid attention to as much.”

“We’re building a messaging social network,” he continues, comparing it to the biggest messaging social network in the world, WeChat. “The big vision that we’re going for is building the WeChat of the West — a messaging super social network. And it starts with people organizing groups and doing things together,” he says.

With the additional funding, IRL will invest in product growth, international expansion and its Creator and Culture Fund, and will grow its now 25-person remotely distributed team to 100 by year-end.

“People are increasingly seeking more in-person social connections and are looking to share meaningful experiences together. As an innovative event-based social network, IRL sits at the intersection of group and event discovery, social calendaring, and group messaging, enabling people to do more together,” added Serena Dayal, director at SoftBank Investment Advisers, in a statement about its investment. “We are excited to partner with Abraham and the IRL team to support their ambition of helping everyone deepen their connections to friends and family.”

#abraham-shafi, #apps, #covid, #founders-fund, #funding, #goodwater-capital, #irl, #mobile-applications, #online-events, #recent-funding, #social, #social-calendar, #social-network, #social-networks, #softbank-group, #softbank-investment-advisers, #softbank-vision-fund-2, #startups, #tc, #tiktok, #twitch, #united-states, #wechat

Automotive marketplace Carro hits unicorn status with $360M Series C led by SoftBank Vision Fund 2

Carro, one of the largest automotive marketplaces in Southeast Asia, announced it has hit unicorn valuation after raising a $360 million Series C led by SoftBank Vision Fund 2. Other participants include insurance giant MSIG and Indonesian-based funds like EV Growth, Provident Growth and Indies Capital. About 90% of vehicles sold through Carro are secondhand, and it offers services that cover the entire lifecycle of a car, from maintenance to when it is broken down and recycled for parts.

Founded in 2015, Carro started as an online marketplace for cars, before expanding into more verticals. Co-founder and chief executive officer Aaron Tan told TechCrunch that, roughly speaking, the company’s operations are divided into three sections: wholesale, retail and fintech. Its wholesale business works with car dealers who want to purchase inventory, while its retail side sells to consumers. Its fintech operation offers products for both, including B2C car loans, auto insurance and B2B working capital loans.

Carro’s last funding announcement was in August 2019, when it said it had extended its Series B to $90 million. The company’s latest funding will be used to fund acquisitions, expand its financial services portfolio and develop its AI capabilities, which Carro uses to showcase cars online, develop pricing models and determine how much to charge insurance policyholders.

It also plans to expand retail services in its main markets: Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore. Carro currently employs about 1,000 people across the four countries and claims its revenue grew more than 2.5x during the financial year ending March 2021.

The COVID-19 pandemic helped Carro’s business because people wanted their own vehicles to avoid public transportation and became more receptive to shopping for cars online. Those factors also helped competitors like OLX Autos and Carsome fare well during the pandemic.

The adoption of electric vehicles across Southeast Asia has resulted in a new tailwind for Carro, because people who buy an EV usually want to sell off their combustion engine vehicles. Carro is currently talking to some of the largest electric vehicle countries in the world that want to launch in Southeast Asia.

“For every car someone typically buys in Southeast Asia, there’s always a trade-in. Where do cars go, right? We are a marketplace, but on a very high level, what we’re doing is reusing and recycling. That’s a big part in the environmental sustainability of the business, and something that sets us apart of other players in the region,” Tan said.

Cars typically stay in Carro’s inventory for less than 60 days. Its platform uses computer vision and sound technology to replicate the experience of inspecting a vehicle in-person. When someone clicks on a Carro listing, an AI bot automatically engages with them, providing more details about the cost of the car and answering questions. They also see a 360-degree view of the vehicle, its interior and can virtually start the engine to see how it sounds. Listings also provide information about defects and inspection reports.

Since many customers still want to get an in-person look before finalizing a purchase, Carro recently launched a beta product called Showroom Anywhere. Currently available in Singapore, it allows people to unlock Carro cars parked throughout the city, using QR codes, so they can inspect it at any time of the day, without a salesperson around. The company plans to add test driving to Showroom Anywhere.

“As a tech company, our job is to make sure we automate everything we can,” said Tan. “That’s the goal of the company and you can only assume that our cost structure and our revenue structure will get better along the years. We expect greater margin improvement and a lot more in cost reduction.”

Pricing is fixed, so shoppers don’t have to engage in haggling. Carro determines prices by using machine-learning models that look at details about a vehicle, including its make, model and mileage, and data from Carro’s transactions as well as market information (for example, how much of a particular vehicle is currently available for sale). Carro’s prices are typically in the middle of the market’s range.

Cars come with a three or seven-day moneyback guarantee and 30-day warranty. Once a customer decides to buy a car, they can opt to apply for loans and insurance through Carro’s fintech platform. Tan said Carro’s loan book is about five years old, almost as old as the startup itself, and is currently about $200 million.

Carro’s insurance is priced based on the policyholders driving behavior as tracked by sensors placed in their cars. This allows Carro to build a profile of how someone drives and the likelihood that they have an accident or other incident. For example, someone will get better pricing if they typically stick to speed limits.

“It sounds a bit futuristic,” said Tan. “But it’s something that’s been done in the United States for many years, like GEICO and a whole bunch of other insurers,” including Root Insurance, which recently went public.

Tan said MSIG’s investment in Carro is a “statement that we are really trying to triple down in insurance, because an insurer has so much linkage with what we do. The reason that MSIG is a good partner is that, like ourselves, they believe a lot in data and the difference in what we call ‘new age’ insurance, or data-driven insurance.”

Carro is also expanding its after-sale services, including Carro Care, in all four of its markets. Its after-sale services reach to the very end of a vehicle’s lifecycle and its customers include workshops around the world. For example, if a Toyota Corolla breaks down in Singapore, but its engine is still usable, it might be extracted and shipped to a repair shop in Nairobi, and the rest of its parts recycled.

“One thing I always ask in management meetings, is tell me where do cars go to die in Indonesia? Where do cars go to die in Thailand? There has to be a way, so if there is no way, we’re going to find a way,” said Tan.

In a statement, SoftBank Investment Advisers managing partner Greg Moon said, “Powered by AI, Carro’s technology platform provides consumers with full-stack services and transparency throughout the car ownership process. We are delighted to partner with Aaron and the Carro team to support their ambition to expand into new markets and use AI-powered technology to make the car buying process smarter, simpler and safer.”

#asia, #automative-marketplace, #car-marketplace, #carro, #fundings-exits, #indonesia, #malaysia, #recent-funding, #singapore, #softbank-vision-fund-2, #southeast-asia, #startups, #tc, #thailand, #used-cars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image Credits: Klarna

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

AI startup Eightfold valued at $2.1B in SoftBank-led $220M funding

Eightfold AI, a startup which uses deep learning and artificial intelligence to help companies find, recruit and retain workers, said on Thursday it has raised $220 million in a new round as it looks to accelerate its growth.

SoftBank Vision Fund 2 led the Series E round of the five-year-old startup, which is now valued at $2.1 billion, up from $1 billion in Series E last October, Eightfold AI founder and chief executive Ashutosh Garg told TechCrunch in an interview.

Existing investors General Catalyst, Capital One Ventures, Foundation Capital, IVP and Lightspeed Venture Partners also participated in the new round, which brings the startup’s all-time raise to over $410 million.

The Mountain View-based startup provides its clients with a talent acquisition platform that helps them identify suitable candidates and import and filter thousands of resumes. One of Eightfold AI’s missions is to help companies reduce biases in their hirings, so it masks candidates’ personal information during evaluation.

“Instead of searching for a job, a candidate can upload their resume and the system will tell what is the most relevant job for that candidate in real-time,” explained Garg. “What this does is, it reduces the drop-off rate. And our clients see more applications — and field more diverse applications.”

The startup, which has amassed clients in over 100 countries and offers its platform in over a dozen languages, also enables employers to deploy the Eightfold platform internally and help employees discover job opportunities within their organization. “This has helped businesses almost double their internal mobility,” said Garg, who previously worked at Google.

Garg said recruiting remains an untapped opportunity and existing platforms.

“Powered by AI and machine learning, Eightfold’s platform provides global enterprises with a single solution for managing the entire talent lifecycle, including hiring, retaining, and growing a diverse global workforce,” said Deep Nishar, Senior Managing Partner at SoftBank Investment Advisers and who previously worked for nearly six years at LinkedIn. “We are pleased to partner with Ashutosh and the Eightfold team to support their ambition of transforming how enterprises manage talent and how people build their careers.”

This is a developing story. More to follow…

#capital-one-ventures, #foundation-capital, #funding, #general-catalyst, #ivp, #lightspeed-venture-partners, #saas, #softbank, #softbank-vision-fund-2

Formlabs raises $150M

A massive raise for the 3D printing industry this morning, as Massachusetts-based Formlabs has announced a $150 million Series E. The round, led by Softbank’s Vision Fund 2, effectively doubles the value of the unicorn to $2 billion dollars.

The news comes during a kind of resurgence as the once-beleaguered industry is seeing a massive uptick in interest – and funding. Of note, Desktop Metal, Shapeways, Velo3D and Markforged have all announced places to go public via SPAC. The company notes a recent study that projects that the industry will hit more than $51 billion by 2026. The news arrives as technology is improving, materials are diversifying and companies are looking for ways to introduce additive manufacturing into mass production.

Founded in 2011 by MIT Media Lab students, Formlabs has been something of an anomaly in the world of 3D printing. The company adapted a formerly industrial method of additive manufacturing (stereolithography) to a desktop form factor. It was enough to keep the firm going amid a bubble burst for the industry.

“Today, most 3D printing technology is still too expensive and difficult to use for widespread adoption,” CEO Max Lobovsky said in a press release tied to the round. “Our laser focus on improving the user experience and quality of these machines while bringing down the cost is central to our success and the growth of the industry. With this investment, we plan to expand our current portfolio of SLA and SLS technology and accelerate our product development to continue delivering on the expectations of the 3D printing industry.”

The large round will go toward increasing the company’s global headcount and helping Formlabs scale its technology toward mass production – a longstanding sticking point for most 3D printing tech.

#3d-printer, #3d-printing, #formlabs, #funding, #hardware, #softbank, #softbank-vision-fund-2

SoftBank in talks to invest up to $500 million in Swiggy

SoftBank Vision Fund 2 is in advanced stages of talks to invest up to half a billion dollars into food delivery startup Swiggy, two sources familiar with the matter told TechCrunch. The new investment values the Indian startup at over $5.5 billion, the sources said.

The new investment is on top of $800 million fundraise Swiggy unveiled earlier this month.

Swiggy and SoftBank declined to comment.

The new investment talks come amid Zomato raising $910 million in recent months as the Gurgaon-headquartered firm prepares for an IPO this year. The last tranche of investment valued Zomato at $5.4 billion. During its fundraise, Zomato said it was raising money partially to fight off “any mischief or price wars from our competition in various areas of our business.”

A third player, Amazon, also entered the food delivery market in India last year, though its operations are still limited to parts of Bangalore.

At stake is India’s food delivery market, which analysts at Bernstein expect to balloon to be worth $12 billion by 2022, they wrote in a report to clients earlier this year. Zomato currently leads the market with about 50% market share, Bernstein analysts wrote.

This is a developing story. More to follow…

#asia, #funding, #softbank, #softbank-vision-fund-2, #swiggy

Indian fintech Zeta turns unicorn with SoftBank-led funding

Bangalore-based fintech startup Zeta has clinched the much sought-after unicorn status after finalizing a new financing round led by SoftBank Vision Fund 2, sources familiar with the matter told TechCrunch.

SoftBank Vision Fund 2 has led a ~$250 million Series D round in the five-year-old Indian startup, the sources said. The new round valued the Indian startup, co-founded by high-profile entrepreneur Bhavin Turakhia, at about $1.3 billion, up from $300 million in its maiden external funding (Series C) in 2019.

A SoftBank spokesperson declined to comment. Turakhia didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Five-year-old Zeta helps banks launch modern retail and fintech products. The thesis is that banks — largely operating on antiquated technologies — today don’t have the time and expertise to offer the best experience to hundreds of millions of customers and fintech firms they serve.

Zeta is attempting to help banks either use the startup’s cloud-native, API-first banking stack as its core framework or build services atop it to offer better a experience to all customers — think of improved mobile app and debit and credit features. It also offers API, SDKs and payment gateways to banks to work more efficiently with fintech firms.

The startup has amassed clients in several Asian and Latin American markets.

Turakhia, with his brother Divyank, started his first venture in 1998. Along the way, they sold Media.net for $900 million. In 2014, they sold four web companies to Endurance for $160 million. Zeta is the second startup Bhavin has co-founded since then — the other being business messaging platform Flock.

Zeta is the seventh Indian startup to become a unicorn this month. Last week, social commerce Meesho — also backed by SoftBank Vision Fund 2 — fintech firm CRED, e-pharmacy firm PharmEasy, millennials-focused Groww, business messaging platform Gupshup and social network ShareChat attained the unicorn status.

#asia, #cred, #finance, #funding, #groww, #gupshup, #india, #meesho, #pharmeasy, #recent-funding, #sharechat, #softbank, #softbank-vision-fund-2, #startups, #zeta

SoftBank Vision Fund 2 invests $160M in media localization provider Iyuno-SDI Group

Iyuno-SDI Group, a provider of translated subtitles and other media localization services, announced today it has raised $160 million in funding from SoftBank Vision 2. The company said this makes the fund one of its largest shareholders.

Iyuno-SDI Group was formed after Iyuno Media Group completed its acquisition of SDI Media last month. In a recent interview with TechCrunch, Iyuno-SDI Group chief executive officer David Lee, who launched Iyuno in 2002 while he was an undergraduate in Seoul, described how the company’s proprietary cloud-based enterprise resource planning software allows it to perform localization services—including subtitles, dubbing and accessibility features—at scale.

Iyuno also built its own neural machine translation engines, trained on data from specific entertainment genres, to help its human translators work more quickly. The company’s clients have included Netflix, Apple iTunes, DreamWorks, HBO and Entertainment One.

Now that its merger is complete, Iyuno-SDI Group operates a combined 67 offices in 34 countries, and is able to perform localization services in more than 100 languages.

SoftBank Group first invested in Iyuno Media Group through SoftBank Ventures Asia, its venture capital arm, in 2018. SoftBank Vision 2 will join Lee and investors Altor, Shamrock Capital Advisors and SoftBank Ventures Asia Corporation on Iyuno-SDI Group’s board of directors.

#asia, #entertainment, #fundings-exits, #iyuno-media-group, #iyuno-sdi-group, #localization, #sdi-media, #softbank-vision-fund-2, #south-korea, #startups, #streaming, #tc

Jobandtalent takes $120M from Softbank to enter the US market

Spain’s Jobandtalent, a digital temp staffing agency startup which operates a dual-sided platform that matches temps with employers needing casual labor in sectors like ecommerce, warehousing, logistics and manufacturing, has grabbed €100 million (~$120M) in Series D funding from SoftBank’s Vision Fund 2.

Previous investors — including Atomico, Seek, DN Capital, InfraVia, Quadrille, Kibo and FJ Labs — also participated in the round.

The new raise fast-follows a $108M top up to Jobandtalent’s Series C round, which we reported on back in January. In total, the company has raised a total of €310M (just under $370M) since being founded back in 2009.

Today Jobandtalent is also announcing a ~$100M (€83M) in debt financing from BlackRock.

The startup tells us the mix of debt and equity will help it step on the gas and accelerate growth of its marketplace faster than if it took in less capital at this point, as well as enabling it to plough more resource into its product and tech development.

On the tech side its platform uses learning algorithms to match temps with jobs — speeding the hiring process up. It also offers a CRM for employers which bakes in analytics for tracking workforce performance in real time — which it says can help them monitor workplace satisfaction, reduce attrition and track metrics such as absences and late arrivals.

For temps there’s the promise of steadier and easy to obtain shift work — as Jobandtalent streamlines job application admin and payroll into a one-stop shop, and it suggests its marketplace/workforce-as-a-service model can provide temps with continuous employment (i.e. through consecutive temp roles).

Its marketing also talks in terms of offering these workers a level of job security and benefits typically associated with full time employment — such as pensions, sick and holiday pay, health insurance (in some markets) and training courses.

With the new Series D funds in the bank Jobandtalent is preparing to enter the U.S. market “in the next year”, per co-CEO and co-founder, Juan Urdiales — expanding out from the eight markets it’s currently operating in (namely: Spain, the UK, Germany, France, Sweden, Mexico, Colombia, and Portugal).

He confirms it’s also now eyeing entering two more markets in Europe: Italy and the Netherlands.

“We are not yet seeing any competitor operating in the US at large scale and in multiple states in the verticals where we operate (e-commerce, logistics, etc). This is one of the reasons why we believe that we have a great opportunity there,” Urdiales tells TechCrunch.

“The U.S. can be a very difficult market to break into. However, we are starting to see more and more European companies going to the U.S. and being successful (Spotify, Klarna, Adyen, etc),” he adds.

“We believe that in our case, after having operated our model in Europe with high standards on labour rights and complex regulatory environments, we are in a great position to launch our platform in the US and offer a great value proposition to workers and employers there.”

Jobandtalent’s platform will offer temps equivalent perks and benefits in the U.S. as it offers elsewhere, per Urdiales.

“The perks and benefits offered into our marketplace meet the same principles everywhere, all of them aim to bring to the workers a similar status as a permanent worker, with the same type of benefits and perks,” he says, adding: “There are some adaptations in every country to do this, and it would be the same with the US.”

In the past year Jobandtalent says that more than 80,000 workers have used its marketplace to find temporary roles (its website says it has 10M+ registered users) — while more than 850 companies, including the likes of XPO, Ceva Logistics, eBay, Ocado, Sainsbury’s, Bayer and Santander, have used its platform to locate temp workers.

The startup’s revenue run rate has grown from €5M in 2016 to €500M in 2020 — which it says has resulted in a positive EBITDA. It also touts a growth rate of over 100% year on year.

Commenting in a statement, Yanni Pipilis, managing partner at SoftBank Investment Advisers, said: “Jobandtalent is addressing a crucial challenge facing the modern workforce — how to balance flexibility with high quality, reliable job opportunities. The company has developed a data-driven platform that has a track record of providing high fulfilment and low attrition staffing for businesses with temporary roles to fill, while securing income stability and benefits for workers. We are incredibly excited to partner with Juan, Felipe and the team on the next phase of the company’s growth.”

Asked about its decision to take funding from SoftBank for the Series D — and whether it was largely about the scale the investor could offer or whether Jobandtalent also sees potential synergies with other SoftBank portfolio companies (in sectors like logistics) — Urdiales also tells us: “We believe the Vision Fund team can add a lot of value to the company in this new stage of our growth as they have a lot of experience with companies of our size. We can learn a lot from the companies and management teams that they have invested in over the past few years. They have an entrepreneurial mindset and a clear vision on how technology and AI is going to disrupt many industries, and we share the same vision around our category.”

 

#blackrock, #europe, #fundings-exits, #hiring, #job-marketplace, #jobandtalent, #logistics, #softbank-vision-fund-2, #tc

Sales readiness platform MindTickle raises $100 million led by SoftBank Vision Fund 2

MindTickle, a startup that is helping hundreds of small and large firms improve their sales through its eponymous sales readiness platform, said on Monday it has raised $100 million in a new financing round.

The Pune and San Francisco-headquartered startup’s new financing round was led by SoftBank Vision Fund 2. The round is a combination of debt and equity, the startup said. Existing investors Norwest Venture Partners, Accel Partners, Canaan, NEA, NewView Capital, and Qualcomm Ventures also participated in the round, which according to a person familiar with the matter, valued the eight-year-old startup at roughly $500 million, up from about $250 million last year.

The vast majority of this $100 million fund is equity investment, said Krishna Depura, co-founder and chief executive of MindTickle, in an interview with TechCrunch. He declined to disclose the specific amount, however, or comment on the valuation.

We used to live in a seller’s world, where buyers had a small selection of choices from which they could pick their products. “You wanted to buy a car, there would be only one new car model every four years. Things have changed,” said Depura, noting that customers today have no shortage of companies trying to sell them similar lines of products.

While that’s great for customers, it means that companies have to put more effort to make a sale. A decade ago, as Depura watched Facebook and gaming firms like Zynga develop addictive products and services, he wondered if some of these learnings could be baked directly into modern age sales efforts.

That was the inception of MindTickle, which now helps companies guide their customer-facing teams. Regardless of what these firms are attempting to sell, they are competing with dozens of firms, if not more, and customers have ever-so-declining patience to hear them.

MindTickle, whose name is inspired from the idea of gamifying mindsets, allows companies to train and upskill their salespeople at scale, and uses role playing methods to help them practice their pitch, and how to handle a customer’s queries.

Depura said the platform helps salespeople measure their improvement in revenue metrics and offers feedback on the calls they made. The platform utilizes machine learning engines to serve personalized remediations and reinforcements to salespeople, he said.

More than 200 enterprises, including more than 40 of the Fortune 500 and Forbes Global 2000 firms, are among MindTickle’s clients today — though, citing confidential agreements, the firm said it can’t disclose several names. Some of the names it did share include MongoDB, Nutanix, Qualtrics, Procore, Square, Janssen, Cloudera, Dexcom, Merck & Co., and Benetton Group.

As of this writing, MindTickle was ranked the fifth best product for sales on G2, a popular marketplace for software and services.

“MindTickle’s track record of growth, quality of product and marquee customer base highlights their strengths,” said Sumer Juneja, Partner at SoftBank Investment Advisers, in a statement. “By delivering engaging and personalized training to users, MindTickle is uniquely placed to support businesses to increase revenue generation and extend critical capabilities within their existing workforce.” The Japanese investment group, which began conversations with MindTickle about three months ago, is exploring more investments in SaaS categories.

The new funding capital will allow MindTickle, which employs about 400 people in the U.S., Europe, and India, to further establish this new category, said Depura. The startup is developing new product features and will deploy the new funds to further grow in Europe, and the U.S., which is already one of its key markets.

More to follow…

#accel-partners, #asia, #canaan, #funding, #nea, #newview-capital, #norwest-venture-partners, #qualcomm-ventures, #saas, #softbank, #softbank-vision-fund-2

SoftBank Vision Fund 2 leads $100 million Series C in digital therapeutics company Biofourmis

Biofourmis, which combines AI-based data analytics and biosensors to monitor the progress of medical treatments, has raised funding from one of the world’s most high-profile investors. The digital therapeutics company, which launched in Singapore and is now headquartered in Boston, announced today it closed a $100 million Series C led by SoftBank Vision Fund 2, with participation from returning investors Openspace Ventures, MassMutual Ventures, Sequoia Capital and EDBI.

The company’s last funding announcement was in May 2019 for a $35 million Series A led by Sequoia India and MassMutual, the venture capital arm of Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company.

Biofourmis’ platform combines AI-based health analytics and wearable sensors to help healthcare providers gauge patient progress and the effectiveness of drugs and other treatments. The company, founded in 2015 by chief executive Kuldeep Singh Rajput and managing director Wendou Niu, said this is the largest funding for a healthtech startup in Southeast Asia to date. In addition to Boston and Singapore, Biofourmis also has offices in Switzerland and India.

Since its Series A funding, Biofourmis has grown through a series of partnerships with seven pharmaceutical companies and 10 health systems, including Novartis, AstraZeneca, and Mayo Clinic. Biofourmis also made several acquisitions, including wearable biosensor startup Biovotion and Gaido Health, a digital therapeutics company for cancer patients.

The funding will be used to validate and bring new digital therapeutic solutions for cardiology, respiratory, oncology and pain treatments to the market. Biofourmis also plans to expand in the United States and Asia-Pacific markets including China and Japan.

Biofourmis also said today that it is realigning its internal operations into two verticals: Biofourmis Therapeutics, which partners with companies like AstraZeneca and Chugai to created software that can help increased the efficacy of drug treatments, and Biofourmis Health, a “home hospital” platform that allows health providers to monitor patients remotely as they transition out of acute care. Biofourmis Health focuses on heart failure, coronary artery disease, respiratory illnesses and cancer.

EDBI is an investment firm linked to Singapore’s government, and looks for startups that can help advance the country’s industries, including healthcare. Biofourmis’ funding from EDBI is a strategic investment, and its technology is being used in Singapore as it copes with repeated outbreaks of COVID-19.

Announced last July, SoftBank Vision Fund 2 launched with $108 billion to invest in AI-based technology. The first Vision Fund is coping with heavy losses stemming in large part from its investments in WeWork and Uber, so the performance of Vision Fund 2’s focus on markets including healthtech (its other investments in the space include pharmaceutical delivery startup Alto and life sciences company Karius) is being closely watched.

In a press statement, SoftBank Investment Advisers partner Greg Moon said, “We believe predictive health is the future of medicine and Biofourmis is a leader in using AI and machine learning-based models to advance digital therapeutics.”

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