How a Nostalgic Novel About Spain’s Heartland Joined the Political Fray

Ana Iris Simón wrote “Feria” to depict a way of life she fears is vanishing. She didn’t expect its message to be embraced by conservatives in her country.

#books-and-literature, #content-type-personal-profile, #feria-book, #politics-and-government, #simon-ana-iris, #spain, #spanish-language, #writing-and-writers

Carlos Alcaraz Plays Matteo Berrettini at the Australian Open

Alcaraz is one of the most exciting next-generation talents in sports, and is the youngest player in the men’s draw at the Australian Open. He faces Matteo Berrettini in the third round.

#alcaraz-carlos-2003, #australian-open-tennis, #content-type-personal-profile, #nadal-rafael, #spain, #tennis

Undeterred by Omicron, Tourists Seek Sun in a Welcoming Spain

For decades, Spain has been a prime destination for European snowbirds. Even as the Omicron variant spreads, the country is keeping its doors wide open to visitors.

#canary-islands, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #economic-conditions-and-trends, #spain, #travel-and-vacations, #vaccination-and-immunization

The Omicron Shift in Europe: Pandemic or Endemic?

A number of governments have changed their approaches to the coronavirus to one that is more like how we treat the flu. Public health experts say it’s too soon to make that call.

#coronavirus-2019-ncov, #england, #epidemics, #europe, #great-britain, #italy, #politics-and-government, #spain, #world-health-organization

Dorms Pop Up in Spain as More Students Seek Housing Away From Home

The country’s student population has become increasingly mobile, fueling investments in accommodations, largely funded by foreign capital.

#dormitories, #foreign-investments, #international-study-and-teaching, #malaga-spain, #real-estate-commercial, #real-estate-and-housing-residential, #spain

Italian Mafia Fugitive Caught In Spain Thanks to Google Maps

Investigators had tracked the man to a town in Spain, and an image found online confirmed that the police were on the right track.

#computers-and-the-internet, #fugitives, #google-street-view, #google-maps, #italy, #organized-crime, #spain

A Spanish Mystery: Is a ‘Masked Restorer’ to Blame for a Church’s Botched Repair?

Yet another imprudent fix in a land plagued by vigilante handymen led to angry calls to find the culprit — and to a soul-searching question: Does Spain just have too much history in need of upkeep?

#architecture, #churches-buildings, #gimenez-cecilia, #spain, #vandalism

A Ghost Hotel Haunts the Spanish Coastline

For almost two decades, the hulk of a never-finished hotel has marred an idyllic coastline in southern Spain. Its fate remains cloudy, but the lesson is clear: It’s easier to damage the environment than to fix it.

#eco-tourism, #hotels-and-travel-lodgings, #spain, #travel-and-vacations

Will Juan Carlos, Spain’s Disgraced King, Get a Royal Homecoming?

In the years since Juan Carlos, Spain’s former king, fled the country to escape corruption investigations, some of the cases have been resolved or dropped. Now Spaniards are weighing whether they want him back.

#bribery-and-kickbacks, #immunity-from-prosecution, #juan-carlos-i-king-of-spain, #politics-and-government, #royal-families, #spain, #suits-and-litigation-civil

Pedro Almodóvar Is Still Making Movies That Shock

He built his reputation with raunchy farces. But in his new film, “Parallel Mothers,” the 72-year-old dredges up his country’s most painful history.

#almodovar-pedro, #content-type-personal-profile, #cruz-penelope, #movies, #parallel-mothers-movie, #spain, #spanish-civil-war-1936-39

Honeybees Survived for Weeks Under Volcano Ash After Canary Islands Eruption

For roughly 50 days, thousands of honeybees sealed themselves in their hives, away from deadly gas, and feasted on honey. “It is a very empowering story,” one entomologist said.

#animal-behavior, #bee-informed-partnership, #bees, #canary-islands, #honey, #spain, #volcanoes

Will High Vaccination Rates Help Spain Weather Omicron?

Spain surpassed others in Europe by avoiding politicized debate about Covid shots. Citizens also largely heeded the health guidance from their leaders.

#coronavirus-2019-ncov, #coronavirus-omicron-variant, #disease-rates, #drugs-pharmaceuticals, #medicine-and-health, #politics-and-government, #spain, #vaccination-and-immunization

A Tale of Culinary Reconciliation, Beside the Eiffel Tower

Two decades ago, Spain was the new France, leading gastronomic innovation. Now two iconic chefs have joined forces in Paris.

#admo-paris-france-restaurant, #adria-albert, #chefs, #ducasse-alain, #el-bulli-catalonia-spain-restaurant, #france, #french-food-cuisine, #meder-romain, #paris-france, #restaurants, #spain

Playwright Is in Exile as Cuba Uses an Old Playbook to Quash Dissent

Yunior García, a rising star of the Cuban protest movement, fled to Spain. He is one of a young generation of artists who say they have chosen exile over imprisonment.

#cuba, #economic-conditions-and-trends, #garcia-yunior, #politics-and-government, #spain, #united-states-international-relations

You Should See Her in a Crown. Now You Can See Her Face.

New research is solving mysteries linked to the La Almoloya burial site and revealing a genetic history of an ancient European people.

#archaeology-and-anthropology, #bronze-age, #face, #genetics-and-heredity, #men-and-boys, #research, #software, #spain, #women-and-girls, #your-feed-science

Europe Toughens Rules for Unvaccinated as Fourth Covid Wave Swells

Austria took the hardest line yet on Monday, beginning a lockdown aimed exclusively at those who are not inoculated, part of a pattern to make life harder for resisters.

#austria, #bulgaria, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #deaths-fatalities, #di-maio-luigi, #disease-rates, #eastern-europe, #europe, #france, #germany, #great-britain, #greece, #italy, #johnson-boris, #latvia, #politics-and-government, #portugal, #quarantines, #romania, #rumors-and-misinformation, #russia, #schallenberg-alexander-1969, #slovenia, #spain, #ukraine, #vaccination-and-immunization, #world-health-organization

Spanish Police Seek Missing Plane Passengers After Emergency Landing

More than 20 people fled a Moroccan flight that diverted to Mallorca after a passenger apparently fell ill. A dozen had yet to be found.

#airlines-and-airplanes, #airport-security, #airports, #fugitives, #majorca-spain, #spain

On Spain’s Camino de Santiago, Even Óscar the Donkey Is a Pilgrim

An artist and an innkeeper have enlisted the help of a burro in their effort to rescue the traditions of Spain’s ancient pilgrimage route from mass tourism (and selfies).

#donkeys, #galicia-spain, #irene-garcia-ines, #pilgrimages, #roman-catholic-church, #santiago-de-compostela-spain, #shoes-and-boots, #spain

Living on the Edge, Literally: Homes Perched on Cliffs

It takes some creative engineering — and a bit of daredevil spirit — to build a house that is truly waterside.

#architecture, #beirut-lebanon, #engineering-and-engineers, #greece, #real-estate-and-housing-residential, #rock-and-stone, #spain

Behind a Top Female Name in Spanish Crime Fiction: Three Men

Carmen Mola, a novelist publishing under a pen name, seemed to shatter a glass ceiling in the world of Spanish books. But when the author’s true identity was revealed while claiming a big prize, it was a shock.

#awards-decorations-and-honors, #book-trade-and-publishing, #books-and-literature, #madrid-spain, #names-personal, #spain, #spanish-language, #women-and-girls, #writing-and-writers

Spanish Court Agrees to Extradite Former Venezuela Spy Chief to U.S.

Hugo Carvajal, once a prominent figure in the government of the Venezuelan leader Nicolás Maduro, faces drug-trafficking charges in the United States.

#carvajal-hugo, #drug-abuse-and-traffic, #extradition, #fugitives, #madrid-spain, #maduro-nicolas, #politics-and-government, #spain, #suits-and-litigation-civil, #united-states, #united-states-international-relations, #venezuela

How a Stunning Lagoon in Spain Turned Into ‘Green Soup’

Tons of dead fish have washed ashore in recent years from the Mar Menor, a once-crystalline lagoon on the Mediterranean coast that has become choked with algae. Farm pollution is mostly blamed.

#agriculture-and-farming, #fertilizer, #mediterranean-sea, #politics-and-government, #spain, #water-pollution, #wildlife-die-offs

The Body Collector of Spain: When Migrants Die at Sea, He Gets Them Home

Martín Zamora, the owner of a funeral parlor near Gibraltar, has found an unusual line of business among the relatives of those who drown trying to reach Europe.

#drownings, #funerals-and-memorials, #illegal-immigration, #immigration-and-emigration, #maritime-accidents-and-safety, #mediterranean-sea, #middle-east-and-africa-migrant-crisis, #morgues-and-mortuaries, #morocco, #spain

In Debate Over Conquistadors 500 Years Ago, Spanish Right Sees an Opportunity

Spanish politicians sparred with Pope Francis over their country’s role in conquering the Americas, signaling a nationalist tilt in the conservative establishment.

#columbus-day, #madrid-spain, #nationalism-theory-and-philosophy, #politics-and-government, #popular-party-spain, #roman-catholic-church, #spain, #vox-spanish-political-party

La Palma Volcano Lava Hits Ocean, Creating a Pyramid and Toxic Gas Risks

The authorities told residents of the Spanish island to keep their windows shut, warning of powerful chemical reactions as molten rock meets seawater.

#canary-islands, #oceans-and-seas, #spain, #volcanoes

Overlooked No More: Remedios Varo, Spanish Painter of Magic, Mysticism and Science

In the 1950s, and ’60s, she depicted women, artists and thinkers in intricate dreamlike canvases that now fetch high prices.

#art, #biographical-information, #mexico, #spain, #varo-remedios

Italy Frees Catalan Separatist Leader From Jail. Here’s How the Case Has Gone.

Carles Puigdemont, a former leader of Catalonia, faces trial in Spain and was detained briefly in Italy. It is not clear if he will appear when the court considers whether to return him to Spain.

#barcelona-spain, #catalonia-spain, #courts-and-the-judiciary, #decisions-and-verdicts, #europe, #european-parliament, #extradition, #fugitives, #italy, #legislatures-and-parliaments, #madrid-spain, #politics-and-government, #puigdemont-carles-1962, #sardinia-italy, #secession-and-independence-movements, #spain, #territorial-disputes, #treason-and-sedition

In Spain, Abortions Are Legal, but Many Doctors Refuse to Perform Them

Many physicians in the country call themselves “conscientious objectors” and deny the procedures, often forcing women to travel long distances for one.

#abortion, #doctors, #gynecology-and-gynecologists, #law-and-legislation, #politics-and-government, #pregnancy-and-childbirth, #spain, #women-and-girls, #womens-rights

What we can learn from edtech startups’ expansion efforts in Europe

It’s a story common to all sectors today: investors only want to see ‘uppy-righty’ charts in a pitch. However, edtech growth in the past 18 months has ramped up to such an extent that companies need to be presenting 3x+ growth in annual recurring revenue to even get noticed by their favored funds.

Some companies are able to blast this out of the park — like GoStudent, Ornikar and YouSchool — but others, arguably less suited to the conditions presented by the pandemic, have found it more difficult to present this kind of growth.

One of the most common themes Brighteye sees in young companies is an emphasis on international expansion for growth. To get some additional insight into this trend, we surveyed edtech firms on their expansion plans, priorities and pitfalls. We received 57 responses and supplemented it with interviews of leading companies and investors. Europe is home 49 of the surveyed companies, six are based in the U.S., and three in Asia.

Going international later in the journey or when more funding is available, possibly due to a VC round, seems to make facets of expansion more feasible. Higher budgets also enable entry to several markets nearly simultaneously.

The survey revealed a roughly even split of target customers across companies, institutions and consumers, as well as a good spread of home markets. The largest contingents were from the U.K. and France, with 13 and nine respondents respectively, followed by the U.S. with seven, Norway with five, and Spain, Finland, and Switzerland with four each. About 40% of these firms were yet to foray beyond their home country and the rest had gone international.

International expansion is an interesting and nuanced part of the growth path of an edtech firm. Unlike their neighbors in fintech, it’s assumed that edtech companies need to expand to a number of big markets in order to reach a scale that makes them attractive to VCs. This is less true than it was in early 2020, as digital education and work is now so commonplace that it’s possible to build a billion-dollar edtech in a single, larger European market.

But naturally, nearly every ambitious edtech founder realizes they need to expand overseas to grow at a pace that is attractive to investors. They have good reason to believe that, too: The complexities of selling to schools and universities, for example, are widely documented, so it might seem logical to take your chances and build market share internationally. It follows that some view expansion as a way of diversifying risk — e.g. we are growing nicely in market X, but what if the opportunity in Y is larger and our business begins to decline for some reason in market X?

International expansion sounds good, but what does it mean? We asked a number of organizations this question as part of the survey analysis. The responses were quite broad, and their breadth to an extent reflected their target customer groups and how those customers are reached. If the product is web-based and accessible anywhere, then it’s relatively easy for a company with a good product to reach customers in a large number of markets (50+). The firm can then build teams and wider infrastructure around that traction.

#column, #ec-column, #ec-edtech, #ec-how-to, #edtech, #education, #europe, #finland, #france, #norway, #owl-ventures, #spain, #startups, #sweden, #switzerland, #united-kingdom, #united-states, #venture-capital

Glovo bags two grocery picking and delivery startups

More startup swapping in the food delivery space: Spain’s Glovo, an on-demand delivery platform which operates a network of dark stores focused on urban convenience shopping, is pushing deeper into planned grocery shopping — announcing the acquisition of two regional ‘Instacart-style’ grocery picking and delivery startups, Madrid-based Lola Market and Portugal’s Mercadão.

Terms of the acquisitions are not being disclosed.

2015-founded Lola Market had raised around €3M, per Crunchbase. It’s not clear how much Portugal’s Mercadão — which was founded in 2018 — had raised over its shorter run.

Glovo, meanwhile, raised a meaty $528M Series F back in April — but quickly splurged $208M to pick up three food delivery brands from rival Delivery Hero in Central and Eastern Europe.

The Spanish on-demand delivery platform is facing challenges to its model on home turf where the government has applied a labor reform aimed at delivery workers in the gig economy.

The reform, agreed earlier this year, came into application last month — recognizing delivery platform riders as employees, or at least on paper.

Glovo responded by imposing a new self-employment model on the vast majority of riders on its platform, hiring only around a fifth. So the scene looks set for legal challenges in its home market.

At the European Union level, lawmakers are also eyeing how to improve conditions for platform workers — and could come with pan-EU legislation that has wider implications for the business models of regional players like Glovo.

Ongoing regulatory challenges over employment classification and algorithmic management of workers in the gig economy may offer some context for Glovo’s expanding interest in grocery purchasing in Europe, where it has been building out a network of dark stores to power what it calls ‘Q-commerce’ (aka, quick urban convenience shopping).

As well as for its recently announced international expansion in Africa, where it has said it will be doubling down investment over the next 12 months.

But also the challenge of hitting profitability for pure on-demand food delivery looks like a sizeable piece of the puzzle here driving consolidation.

By adding players in the supermarket and retail outlet picking delivery space, Glovo expands its coverage of shoppers’ needs — and can nudge users to spend more by being able to cross-sell them on planned purchases (such as the weekly grocery shop), as well as what it bills as “emergency essentials” and “fast action convenience” powered by the more limited inventory it can offer in its city center dark stores.

Both Lola Market and Mercadão’s brand identities will be retained, per Glovo, which also says they will operate independently — led by Gonçalo Soares da Costa, CEO of Mercadão.

It touts the acquisitions as strengthening its competitive position in Europe in “key markets” — going on to suggest it will add grocery picking and delivery across its entire market footprint, with an initial expansion planned for Poland and Italy.

Also today it said its Q-Commerce division is “on track” to reach an annual Gross Transaction Value (GTV) of more than €300M this year — adding that it expects that to more than triple by the end of 2022, projecting it will surpass a run rate of €1BN.

Commenting on its latest acquisitions in a statement, Oscar Pierre, CEO and co-founder of Glovo, added: “We see huge potential in the on-demand groceries marketplace and both companies are strong local players in their respective markets, and further strengthen our Q-Commerce offering.

“With Lola Market and Mercadão on board, we can build stronger partnerships with retailers, offer our users big-basket purchases and provide a more complete service. These acquisitions represent a significant step forward for us, as we’re now able to cover all of the main purchasing considerations for groceries customers, making Glovo a one-stop-shop for e-groceries.”

#apps, #delivery-hero, #delivery-startups, #e-groceries, #europe, #food, #food-delivery, #glovo, #grocery-store, #instacart, #madrid, #online-food-ordering, #oscar-pierre, #portugal, #spain

Billogram, provider of a payments platform specifically for recurring billing, raises $45M

Payments made a huge shift to digital platforms during the Covid-19 pandemic — purchasing moved online for many consumers and businesses; and a large proportion of those continuing to buy and sell in-person went cash-free. Today a startup that has been focusing on one specific aspect of payments — recurring billing — is announcing a round of funding to capitalize on that growth with expansion of its own. Billogram, which has built a platform for third parties to build and handle any kind of recurring payments (not one-off purchases), has closed a round of $45 million.

The funding is coming from a single investor, Partech, and will be used to help the Stockholm-based startup expand from its current base in Sweden to six more markets, Jonas Suijkerbuijk, Billogram’s CEO and founder, said in an interview, to cover more of Germany (where it’s already active now), Norway, Finland, Ireland, France, Spain, and Italy.

The company got its start working with SMBs in 2011 but pivoted some years later to working with larger enterprises, which make up the majority of its business today. Suijkerbuijk said that in 2020, signed deals went up by 300%, and the first half of 2021 grew 50% more on top of that. Its users include utilities like Skanska Energi and broadband company Ownit, and others like remote healthcare company Kry, businesses that take invoice and take monthly payments from their customers.

While there has been a lot of attention around how companies like Apple and Google are handling subscriptions and payments in apps, what Billogram focuses on is a different beast, and much more complex: it’s more integrated into the business providing services, and it may involve different services, and the fees can vary over every billing period. It’s for this reason that, in fact, even big companies in the realm of digital payments, like Stripe, which might even already have products that can help manage subscriptions on their platforms, partner with companies like Billogram to build the experiences to manage their more involved kinds of payment services.

I should point out here that Suijkerbuijk told me that Stripe recently became a partner of Billograms, which is very interesting… but he also added that a number of the big payments companies have talked to Billogram. He also confirmed that currently Stripe is not an investor in the company. “We have a very good relationship,” he said.

It’s not surprising to see Stripe and others wanting to more in the area of more complex, recurring billing services. Researchers estimate that the market size (revenues and services) for subscription and recurring billing will be close to $6 billion this year, with that number ballooning to well over $10 billion by 2025. And indeed, the effort to make a payment or any kind of transaction will continue to be a point of friction in the world of commerce, so any kinds of systems that bring technology to bear to make that easier and something that consumers or businesses will do without thinking about it, will be valuable, and will likely grow in dominance. (It’s why the more basic subscription services, such as Prime membership or a Netflix subscription, or a cloud storage account, are such winners.)

Within that very big pie, Suijkerbuijk noted that rather than the Apples and Googles of the world, the kinds of businesses that Billogram currently competes against are those that are addressing the same thornier end of the payments spectrum that Billogram is. These include a wide swathe of incumbent companies that do a lot of their business in areas like debt collection, and other specialists like Scaleworks-backed Chargify — which itself got a big investment injection earlier this year from Battery Ventures, which put $150 million into both it and another billing provider, SaaSOptics, in April.

The former group of competitors are not currently a threat to Billogram, he added.

“Debt collecting agencies are big on invoicing, but no one — not their customers, nor their customers’ customers — loves them, so they are great competitors to have,” Suijkerbuijk joked.

This also means that Billogram is not likely to move into debt collection itself as it continues to expand. Instead, he said, the focus will be on building out more tools to make the invoicing and payments experience better and less painful to customers. That will likely include more moves into customer service and generally improving the overall billing experience — something we have seen become a bigger area also during the pandemic, as companies realized that they needed to address non-payments in a different way from how their used to, given world events and the impact they were having on individuals.

“We are excited to partner with Jonas and the team at Billogram.” says Omri Benayoun, General Partner at Partech, in a statement. “Having spotted a gap in the market, they have quietly built the most advanced platform for large B2C enterprises looking to integrate billing, payment, and collection in one single solution. In our discussion with leading utilities, telecom, e-health, and all other clients across Europe, we realized how valuable Billogram was for them in order to engage with their end-users through a top-notch billing and payment experience. The outstanding commercial traction demonstrated by Billogram has further cemented our conviction, and we can’t wait to support the team in bringing their solution to many more customers in Europe and beyond!”

#apple, #battery-ventures, #billing, #billogram, #broadband, #business-software, #ceo, #e-health, #economy, #europe, #finance, #financial-technology, #finland, #france, #funding, #general-partner, #germany, #google, #ireland, #italy, #kry, #merchant-services, #money, #netflix, #norway, #online-payments, #partner, #spain, #stockholm, #stripe, #sweden, #web-applications

Spain Arrests Former Venezuela Spy Chief Accused of Drug Trafficking

Hugo Carvajal, the former intelligence chief, had been hiding in Madrid, the police said, trying to avoid extradition to the United States.

#carvajal-hugo, #drug-abuse-and-traffic, #economic-conditions-and-trends, #espionage-and-intelligence-services, #extradition, #fugitives, #guaido-juan, #international-relations, #maduro-nicolas, #politics-and-government, #spain, #venezuela

Spain’s Factorial raises $80M at a $530M valuation on the back of strong traction for its ‘Workday for SMBs’

Factorial, a startup out of Barcelona that has built a platform that lets SMBs run human resources functions with the same kind of tools that typically are used by much bigger companies, is today announcing some funding to bulk up its own position: the company has raised $80 million, funding that it will be using to expand its operations geographically — specifically deeper into Latin American markets — and to continue to augment its product with more features.

CEO Jordi Romero, who co-founded the startup with Pau Ramon and Bernat Farrero — said in an interview that Factorial has seen a huge boom of growth in the last 18 months and counts more than anything 75,000 customers across 65 countries, with the average size of each customer in the range of 100 employees, although they can be significantly (single-digit) smaller or potentially up to 1,000 (the “M” of SMB, or SME as it’s often called in Europe).

“We have a generous definition of SME,” Romero said of how the company first started with a target of 10-15 employees but is now working in the size bracket that it is. “But that is the limit. This is the segment that needs the most help. We see other competitors of ours are trying to move into SME and they are screwing up their product by making it too complex. SMEs want solutions that have as much data as possible in one single place. That is unique to the SME.” Customers can include smaller franchises of much larger organizations, too: KFC, Booking.com, and Whisbi are among those that fall into this category for Factorial.

Factorial offers a one-stop shop to manage hiring, onboarding, payroll management, time off, performance management, internal communications and more. Other services such as the actual process of payroll or sourcing candidates, it partners and integrates closely with more localized third parties.

The Series B is being led by Tiger Global, and past investors CRV, Creandum, Point Nine and K Fund also participating, at a valuation we understand from sources close to the deal to be around $530 million post-money. Factorial has raised $100 million to date, including a $16 million Series A round in early 2020, just ahead of the Covid-19 pandemic really taking hold of the world.

That timing turned out to be significant: Factorial, as you might expect of an HR startup, was shaped by Covid-19 in a pretty powerful way.

The pandemic, as we have seen, massively changed how — and where — many of us work. In the world of desk jobs, offices largely disappeared overnight, with people shifting to working at home in compliance with shelter-in-place orders to curb the spread of the virus, and then in many cases staying there even after those were lifted as companies grappled both with balancing the best (and least infectious) way forward and their own employees’ demands for safety and productivity. Front-line workers, meanwhile, faced a completely new set of challenges in doing their jobs, whether it was to minimize exposure to the coronavirus, or dealing with giant volumes of demand for their services. Across both, organizations were facing economics-based contractions, furloughs, and in other cases, hiring pushes, despite being office-less to carry all that out.

All of this had an impact on HR. People who needed to manage others, and those working for organizations, suddenly needed — and were willing to pay for — new kinds of tools to carry out their roles.

But it wasn’t always like this. In the early days, Romero said the company had to quickly adjust to what the market was doing.

“We target HR leaders and they are currently very distracted with furloughs and layoffs right now, so we turned around and focused on how we could provide the best value to them,” Romero said to me during the Series A back in early 2020. Then, Factorial made its product free to use and found new interest from businesses that had never used cloud-based services before but needed to get something quickly up and running to use while working from home (and that cloud migration turned out to be a much bigger trend played out across a number of sectors). Those turning to Factorial had previously kept all their records in local files or at best a “Dropbox folder, but nothing else,” Romero said.

It also provided tools specifically to address the most pressing needs HR people had at the time, such as guidance on how to implement furloughs and layoffs, best practices for communication policies and more. “We had to get creative,” Romero said.

But it wasn’t all simple. “We did suffer at the beginning,” Romero now says. “People were doing furloughs and [frankly] less attention was being paid to software purchasing. People were just surviving. Then gradually, people realized they needed to improve their systems in the cloud, to manage remote people better, and so on.” So after a couple of very slow months, things started to take off, he said.

Factorial’s rise is part of a much, longer-term bigger trend in which the enterprise technology world has at long last started to turn its attention to how to take the tools that originally were built for larger organizations, and right size them for smaller customers.

The metrics are completely different: large enterprises are harder to win as customers, but represent a giant payoff when they do sign up; smaller enterprises represent genuine scale since there are so many of them globally — 400 million, accounting for 95% of all firms worldwide. But so are the product demands, as Romero pointed out previously: SMBs also want powerful tools, but they need to work in a more efficient, and out-of-the-box way.

Factorial is not the only HR startup that has been honing in on this, of course. Among the wider field are PeopleHR, Workday, Infor, ADP, Zenefits, Gusto, IBM, Oracle, SAP and Rippling; and a very close competitor out of Europe, Germany’s Personio, raised $125 million on a $1.7 billion valuation earlier this year, speaking not just to the opportunity but the success it is seeing in it.

But the major fragmentation in the market, the fact that there are so many potential customers, and Factorial’s own rapid traction are three reasons why investors approached the startup, which was not proactively seeking funding when it decided to go ahead with this Series B.

“The HR software market opportunity is very large in Europe, and Factorial is incredibly well positioned to capitalize on it,” said John Curtius, Partner at Tiger Global, in a statement. “Our diligence found a product that delighted customers and a world-class team well-positioned to achieve Factorial’s potential.”

“It is now clear that labor markets around the world have shifted over the past 18 months,” added Reid Christian, general partner at CRV, which led its previous round, which had been CRV’s first investment in Spain. “This has strained employers who need to manage their HR processes and properly serve their employees. Factorial was always architected to support employers across geographies with their HR and payroll needs, and this has only accelerated the demand for their platform. We are excited to continue to support the company through this funding round and the next phase of growth for the business.”

Notably, Romero told me that the fundraising process really evolved between the two rounds, with the first needing him flying around the world to meet people, and the second happening over video links, while he was recovering himself from Covid-19. Given that it was not too long ago that the most ambitious startups in Europe were encouraged to relocate to the U.S. if they wanted to succeed, it seems that it’s not just the world of HR that is rapidly shifting in line with new global conditions.

#barcelona, #booking-com, #brazil, #ceo, #crv, #enterprise, #europe, #factorial, #general-partner, #germany, #hiring, #human-resource-management, #human-resources, #ibm, #k, #k-fund, #labor, #mathematics, #onboarding, #oracle, #payroll, #people-management, #performance-management, #personnel, #sap, #software, #spain, #tiger-global-management, #united-states, #zenefits

Gamestry gets $5M to give games video creators a sweeter deal

Barcelona-based gaming video platform Gamestry has snatched up $5 million in seed funding, led by Goodwater Capital, Target Global and Kibo Ventures — turning investors’ heads with a 175x growth rate over the past 12 months.

While the (for now) Spanish-language gaming video platform launched a few years back, in 2018, last year the founders decided to shift away from an initial focus on curating purely learning content around gaming — allowing creators to upload and share entertainment-focused games videos, too.

The switch looks to have paid off as a growth tactic. Gamestry says it now has 4M monthly active users (MAUs) and 2,000 active creators in Spain and Latin America (its main markets so far) — and is gunning to hit 20M MAUs by the end of the year.

While Twitch continues to dominate the market for live-streaming games — catering to the esports boom — Gamestry, which says it’s focused on “non-live video content”, reckons there’s a gap for a dedicated on-demand video platform that better supports games-focused video creators and provides games fans with a more streamlined discovery experience than catch-all user-generated content giants like YouTube.

For games video creators, it’s dangling the carrot of a better revenue share than other UGC video platforms — talking about having “a fair ads revenue share model”, and a plan to add more revenue streams for creators “soon”. It also pledges “full transparency on how the monetization structure works”, and a focus on supporting creators if they have technical issues.

So, basically, the sorts of issues creators have often complained that YouTube fails them on.

For viewers, the pitch is a one-stop-shop for finding and watching videos about games and connecting with others with the same passion (gaming chat) — so the platform structures content around individual games titles.

The startup also claims to present viewers with better info about a video to help them decide whether or not to click on it (aka, tools to help them find “quality instead of clickbait”), beyond basics like title, thumbnail and videos. (Albeit to my admittedly unseasoned eye for assessing the calibre of games video content, there is no shortage of clickbaity-looking stuff on Gamestry. But I am definitely not the target audience here…). So the viewer pitch also sounds like another little dig at YouTube.

“Despite being the de-facto place for uploading content, YouTube is a generic platform that is not optimized for gaming and therefore doesn’t cater to the needs of gaming creators,” argue founders — brothers Alejo and Guillermo Torrens — adding: “Vertical or specialized platforms emerge whenever markets become large enough that current platforms can’t serve their users’ needs and we believe that’s exactly what’s happening today.”

Target Global’s Lina Chong led the international fund’s investment in Gamestry. Asked what piqued her interest here, she flagged the recent growth spurt and the platform having onboarded scores of highly engaged games content creators in short order.

“The problem Gamestry is addressing is that the vast majority of creators don’t make much money on those platforms because they are ads/eyeball driven businesses,” she told TechCrunch. “Gamestry provides a space where creators, despite audience size, can find new ways to engage with their audience and make a living. This problem among creators is so big that Gamestry now has over 2k highly engaged creators uploading multiple content pieces and millions of their viewers on the platform every month.”

It will surely surprise no one to learn that the typical Gamestry user is a male, aged between 18 and 24.

The startup also told us the “most trending” games on its platform are Minecraft, Free Fire, and Fortnite, adding that “IRL (In Real Life) content is also very successful”.

As well as YouTube Gaming, other platforms competing for similar games-mad eyeballs include Facebook Gaming and Booyah.

#barcelona, #europe, #fortnite, #fundings-exits, #games-video, #gaming, #goodwater-capital, #kibo-ventures, #latin-america, #lina-chong, #minecraft, #spain, #target-global, #twitch, #user-generated-content, #youtube

Married Kremlin Spies, a Shadowy Mission to Moscow and Unrest in Catalonia

Intelligence files suggest an aide to a top Catalan separatist sought help from Russia in the struggle to break with Spain. A fierce new protest group emerged shortly afterward.

#alexander-dmitrenko, #catalonia-spain, #demonstrations-protests-and-riots, #espionage-and-intelligence-services, #fugitives, #gonzalo-boye, #gru-russia, #josep-lluis-alay, #politics-and-government, #puigdemont-carles-1962, #referendums, #russia, #secession-and-independence-movements, #spain, #tsunami-democratic

Spotify expands its radio DJ-like format, Music + Talk, to global creators

Last fall, Spotify introduced a new format that combined spoken word commentary with music, allowing creators to reproduce the  radio-like experience of listening to a DJ or music journalist who shared their perspective on the tracks they would then play. Today, the company is making the format, which it calls “Music + Talk,” available to global creators through its podcasting software Anchor.

Creators who want to offer this sort of blended audio experience can now do so by using the new “Music” tool in Anchor, which provides access to Spotify’s full catalog of 70 million tracks that they can insert into their spoken-word audio programs. Spotify has said this new type of show will continue to compensate the artist when the track is streamed, the same as it would elsewhere on Spotify’s platform. In addition, users can also interact with the music content within the shows as they would otherwise — by liking the song, viewing more information about the track, saving the song, or sharing it, for example.

The shows themselves, meanwhile, will be available to both free and Premium Spotify listeners. Paying subscribers will hear the full tracks when listening to these shows, but free users will only hear a 30-second preview of the songs, due to licensing rights.

The format is somewhat reminiscent of Pandora’s Stories, which was also a combination of music and podcasting, introduced in 2019. However, in Pandora’s case, the focus had been on allowing artists to add their own commentary to music — like talking about the inspiration for a song — while Spotify is making it possible for anyone to annotate their favorite playlists with audio commentary.

Since launching last year, the product has been tweaked somewhat in response to user feedback, Spotify says. The shows now offer clearer visual distinction between the music and talk segments during an episode, and they include music previews on episode pages.

The ability to create Music + Talk shows was previously available in select markets ahead of this global rollout, including in the U.S., Canada, the U.K., Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand.

With the expansion, creators in a number of other major markets are now gaining access, including Japan, India, the Philippines, Indonesia, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, the Netherlands, Sweden, Mexico, Brazil, Chile, Argentina, and Colombia. Alongside the expansion, Spotify’s catalog of Music + Talk original programs will also grow today, as new shows from Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Chile, India, Japan, and the Philippines will be added.

Spotify will also begin to more heavily market the feature with the launch of its own Spotify Original called “Music + Talk: Unlocked,” which will offer tips and ideas for creators interested in trying out the format.

#argentina, #artist, #australia, #brazil, #canada, #chile, #colombia, #france, #germany, #india, #indonesia, #ireland, #italy, #japan, #media, #mexico, #microsoft-windows, #netherlands, #new-zealand, #operating-systems, #pandora, #philippines, #podcast, #software, #spain, #spotify, #sweden, #united-kingdom, #united-states

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Deliveroo could leave Spanish market ahead of on-demand labor reclassification

Deliveroo announced today that it is considering leaving the Spanish market, citing limited market share and a long road of investment with “highly uncertain long-term potential returns” on the horizon.

The company, an on-demand outfit based in the U.K., went public earlier in 2021. Its shares initially sagged, drawing concern about both the value of on-demand companies and tech concerns listing in London more broadly. However, shares of Deliveroo have since recovered, and the company’s second-quarter earnings report saw it raise its expected gross order volume growth expectations “from between 30% to 40% to between 50% to 60%.”

Given its rising growth expectations and improving public-market valuation, you may be surprised that Deliveroo is willing to leave any of the 12 markets in which it currently operates. In the case of Spain, it appears that Deliveroo is concerned that changes to local labor laws will make its operations more expensive in the country, which, given its modest market share, is not palatable.

Recall that Spain adopted a law in May — a law generally agreed to in March — requiring on-demand companies to hire their couriers. This is the sort of arrangement that on-demand companies in food delivery and ride-hailing have long fought; many on-demand companies are unprofitable without hiring couriers, and doing so could raise their costs. The possibility of worsened economics makes such changes to labor laws in any market a worry for startups and public companies alike that lean on freelance delivery workers.

Let’s parse the Deliveroo statement to better understand the company’s perspective. Here’s the introductory paragraph:

Deliveroo today announces that it proposes to consult on ending its operations in Spain. Deliveroo currently operates across 12 markets worldwide, with the vast majority of the Company’s gross transaction value (GTV) coming from markets where Deliveroo holds a #1 or #2 market position.

Translation: We’re probably leaving Spain. Most of our order volume comes from markets where we are in a leading position (the company competes with Uber Eats, Glovo and Just Eat in different markets). We are not in a leading position in Spain.

Spain represents less than 2% of Deliveroo’s GTV in H1 2021. The Company has determined that achieving and sustaining a top-tier market position in Spain would require a disproportionate level of investment with highly uncertain long-term potential returns that could impact the economic viability of the market for the Company. 

Translation: Spain is a very small market for Deliveroo. To gain lots of market share in Spain would be very costly, and the company isn’t sure about the long-term profitability of the country’s business. This is where labor issues like this come into play — investing to gain market share in a country where your business is less profitable is hard to pencil out.

And according to El Pais, the decision by Deliveroo comes as it was up against a deadline regarding worker reclassification. That may have contributed to the timing of the announcement.

From this juncture, Deliveroo spends three paragraphs discussing how it will support workers in case it does leave the Spanish market. It closes with the following:

This proposal does not impact previously communicated full-year guidance on Group annual GTV growth and gross profit margin.

Fair enough.

On-demand companies have made arguments over the years that changes to labor laws that would push more costs onto their plates in the form of hiring couriers — or simply paying them more — would make certain markets uneconomic and drive them away. Here, Deliveroo can follow through with an exit at essentially no cost, given how small its order volume is compared to its other 11 markets.

#deliveroo, #food-delivery, #just-eat, #labor, #london, #online-food-ordering, #spain, #uber-eats, #united-kingdom

White-label SaaS shipping startup Outvio closes $3M round led by Change Ventures

Outvio, an Estonian startup that provides a white-label SaaS fulfillment solution for medium-sized and large online retailers in Spain and Estonia, has closed a $3 million early-stage financing round led by Change Ventures. Also participating were TMT Investments (London), Fresco Capital (San Francisco), and Lemonade Stand (Tallinn). Several angels also joined the round including James Berdigans (Printify) and Kristjan Vilosius (Katana MRP). This is the startup’s first institutional round of funding, after bootstrapping since 2018.

Online retailers usually have to use a number of different tools or hire expensive developers to create in-house shipping solutions. Outvio offers online stores of any size a post-purchase shipping experience, which seeks to replicate an Amazon-style experience where customers can also return packages. Among others, itcompetes with ShippyPro, which runs out of Italy and has raised $5 million to date.

Juan Borras, co-founder and CEO of Outvio said: “We can give any online store all the tools needed to offer a superior post-sale customer experience. We can integrate at different points in their fulfilment process, and for large merchants, save them hundreds of thousands in development costs alone.”

He added: “What happens after the purchase is more important than most shops realize. More than 88% of consumers say it is very important for them that retailers proactively communicate every fulfilment and delivery stage. Not doing so, especially if there are problems, often results in losing that client. Our mission is to help online stores streamline everything that happens after the sale, fueling repeat business and brand-loyal customers with the help of a fantastic post-purchase experience.”

Rait Ojasaar, Investment Partner at lead investor Change Ventures commented: “While online retailing has a long way to go, the expectations of consumers are increasing when it comes to delivery time and standards. The same can be said about the online shop operators who increasingly look for more advanced solutions with consumer-like user experience. The Outvio team has understood exactly what the gap in the market is and has done a tremendous job of finding product-market fit with their modern fulfilment SaaS platform.”

#amazon, #customer-experience, #e-commerce, #estonia, #europe, #italy, #london, #marketing, #merchandising, #online-shopping, #online-stores, #partner, #retail, #saas, #san-francisco, #spain, #tc, #tmt-investments

Remains of Esther Dingley, Missing British Hiker, Are Found

For months, the authorities and Ms. Dingley’s partner combed the Pyrenees mountains. A DNA test confirmed the identity of remains found near her last known location, a group aiding the search said.

#dingley-esther, #europe, #france, #hikes-and-hiking, #missing-persons, #pyrenees-mountains, #spain

‘The Year of the Discovery’ Review: Remembering Tumult in Spain

The film revisits Spain in 1992 from a less rosy vantage point than that year’s Olympics gave the world.

#cartagena-spain, #demonstrations-protests-and-riots, #documentary-films-and-programs, #labor-and-jobs, #lopez-carrasco-luis, #politics-and-government, #spain, #the-year-of-the-discovery-movie

Spain Pledged Citizenship to Sephardic Jews. Now They Feel Betrayed.

In 2015, Spain said it would give citizenship to the descendants of Sephardic Jews expelled during the Spanish Inquisition. Then rejections started pouring in this summer.

#citizenship-and-naturalization, #genealogy, #immigration-and-emigration, #jews-and-judaism, #politics-and-government, #roman-catholic-church, #spain, #synagogues

Capchase raises $280M to scale its financing platform for subscription businesses

Almost overnight, platforms that offer non-dilutive capital for recurring revenue businesses have become white-hot. It was only in March that Pipe — which aims to be the “Nasdaq for revenue” — raised $150 million, but two months later had raised $250 million at a $2 billion valuation.

This fever is now reaching Europe, where today Capchase raises an additional $280 million in new debt and equity funding, led by i80 Group, following a $125 million round in June. But unlike Pipe, Capchase is playing both in the US and in Europe, where it has made €100m available to more than 50 companies in its first month of operation on the continent.

Right now it’s live in the UK and Spain but expects to expand across Europe this year.

The Spanish-American company is also now launching ‘Capchase Expense Financing’ to enable companies to manage their largest expenses – such as legal bills, cloud hosting services, payroll and bonus payments, and recruitment fees –  without depleting their cash reserves, in either 3, 6, 9, or 12-month increments.

Miguel Fernandez, co-founder, and CEO of Capchase said: “Our new expense financing solution is a first in the industry, and we believe it will be a game-changer. Since we launched just over a year ago, we’ve seen first-hand the challenges that companies face when securing the financing they need to grow their business. Managing large expenses and having to make difficult decisions over how they spend their cash is one of the most consistent and trying issues that our clients face. There’s also a great opportunity to reduce costs by making use of the upfront discounts that vendors provide. Now Capchase users can pay upfront with Capchase, get a discount, and pay Capchase monthly over the following months.”

At interview Fernandez told me their main competitor is venture debt: “That is the one that we constantly keep winning against.”

He said: “We’re not limited to just monthly or quarterly subscriptions, we can work with any revenue. We apply intelligence to it and work with customers. It’s not just the ability to pull forward revenues to find the growth, but also what is the implied schedule in order to achieve a business goal.”

#corporate-finance, #economy, #europe, #finance, #money, #spain, #tc, #united-kingdom, #venture-capital

Localyze raises $12M for a SaaS that supports cross-border hiring and relocation

Y-Combinator-backed Localyze has nabbed $12 million in Series A funding led by Blossom Capital for a SaaS that supports staff relocations and hiring across borders.

Previous investor Frontline Ventures also participated,with a number of angel investors joining the round — including Andrew Robb (ex-Farfetch); Des Traynor, co-founder and CSO at Intercom; Hanno Renner, co-founder and CEO at Personio; David Clarke, former CTO at Workday; and Michael Wax, CEO of Forto.

In the first quarter of 2021, the Hamburg, Germany-based startup — which was founded in 2018 by a trio of women: CEO Hanna Asmussen, COO Lisa Dahlke, and CTO Franzi Löw — saw a record 300% revenue bump.

Localyze’s current roster of customers include the likes of Free Now, Trade Republic, Babbel, Thoughtworks, Tier Mobility, DeepL, Forto and Personio.

The startup suggests the pandemic-triggered rise in remote working is helping to drive demand for relocations as employees reassess where they want to be physically based. Its SaaS aims to streamline immigration-related admin tasks like visa applications; work and residence permits and registration; as well as providing help with housing and banking in the destination country.

“It was very interesting, we did of course see a negative impact from COVID-19 in 2020 but the main reason why we never worried about our business model is that we knew the businesses have never been the only driver of relocations,” Asmussen tells TechCrunch.

“We did a survey among the internationals we relocated and 98% stated that they wanted to relocate, and weren’t forced by the company. I of course believe that some people will choose not to relocate but at the same time, the increased flexibility [of remote working] opens many more doors for other people to relocate — and also for different time frames.”

To date, Localyze says it’s helped more than 2,000 people from over 100 countries relocate internationally. But it reckons that’s just the start.

“Relocation is becoming a benefit at some companies, and the overall number of people moving across borders during their working life is increasing drastically,” argues Asmussen.

Before COVID-19 hit and reconfigured so much of how we live, almost two million people relocated for work within Europe each year. But Localyze cites a PwC study on mobility in the global skilled workforce that suggests employee relocation is set to increase by 50% as we emerge from the pandemic.

“While the percentage of the global skilled workforce that is mobile — meaning that they work or worked abroad — is currently still very low, around 20% I think, it is expected to grow to up to 80% in the next decade,” she suggests. 

Localyze’s SaaS is designed to simplify and support staff relocations or cross-border hiring, offering digital tools to automate admin and case tracking, helping companies and employees navigate what can be complex, bureaucratic and even stressful immigration requirements.

“We developed a software that automates large parts of the relevant processes around global mobility,” explains Asmussen. “The core of our technology is a pipeline system that maps out all possibilities of how the employee can enter a country and matches the pipeline with the characteristics of that employee (e.g. nationality, family status or education). This guarantees that the employee gets all the relevant information throughout his/her process and that our case managers can focus on more individual questions.

“One big advantage of this pipeline system is that we built a no-code solution to manage it. Together with our CMS to edit the content of the steps, we are able to quickly expand the usability of our software to new countries and use cases.

“On the HR side our software helps to manage and track the process of all employees with the ease of mind that we notify them about changes or required actions. The HR manager can simply add a case, or transfer information over through our integration with their HRIS and we take it from there.”

Asmussen says the core of the platform is the automation of the paperwork with the startup supplementing that by providing a level of (human) support — in the form of case workers, who can field users’ questions and/or troubleshoot issues.

Case types its platform handles — such as obtaining a new visa, getting an extension etc — get broken down into a series of individual tasks that need to be carried out (and checked off), with the individual set of ‘dos’ determined by the characteristics of the person (origin, family, salary, etc.).

So essentially it’s built a decision tree with 30-50 variations per country, based on the specificity of each set of rules.

“The employee is seeing this as a personalized set of to do’s in her/his dashboard and can then go through them,” notes Asmussen, adding: “The case managers are there for questions and to give additional guidance when problems occur.

“Thanks to the automation engine, we can operate at 80% gross margin today.”

Localyze also offers a “pre-check” feature that give companies the opportunity to get information on a case that’s being considered — such as showing information on applicable conditions like the salary limits associated with a role when it comes to the visa of a new hire and the timeline that may be involved — to  make it easier for them to understand the complexity of a case. (Which may in turn help them make an informed decision on a start date for a particular hire.)

The startup says it’s been seeing growth rates hitting, on average, more than 30% month-on-month, as employer demand for its services accelerates.

The Series A funding will be used to capitalize on growing demand by expanding into new regions — with Localyze saying it will start by focusing on “major hubs” for international talent, in Ireland, Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands and the UK, so it can target more high-growth companies with offices across Europe.

Currently it has over 120 customers — and it’s expecting that to double by the end of the year.

It also predicts existing accounts will expand in value — with Asmussen saying it’s closing larger ACVs (annual contract value), and seeing existing accounts “grow strongly” over time. (It offers tiered pricing for the SaaS, based on usage.)

Europe remains the primary focus for its business currently — with all cases it supports entailing helping customers relocate staff to the region (“from all over the world”) and within Europe itself. 

“The predominant destinations are Germany, Ireland, Spain and the UK,” says Asmussen. “With the funding, we want to accelerate our expansion in the UK, Ireland, Netherlands, Portugal & Spain, besides our core market Germany. We’ve been operating in these markets for a while and now look at strengthening our go to market across Europe.”

She says Localyze’s 25-strong team will at least double by the end of the year, with the startup planning to hire across all teams — with a particular focus on expanding engineering and product to keep pace with the scaling business; and beefing up sales and customer support capacity to support its continued growth.  

On the competitor front, Asmussen names Estonia-headquartered Jobbatical as its closest rival for relocation support with the same digital focus.

She also points to Topia as providing some competing services — but says it has more of a focus on software for HR professionals and integrating partners vs Localyze providing both a HR and an employee portal plus the ‘glue’ of its “automation engine”.

Localyze also argues it differentiates vs “more traditional” relocation agencies (e.g. Cartus and Graebel), per Asmussen, because it offers “end-to-end support” in a fully digital form — giving users “full visibility and transparency at all times”, as she tells it, and helping to streamline and simplify processes in “what has previously been a complex and confusing space”.

Increased flexibility of work and and mobility of the global workforce looks set to be one firm (and typically welcome) legacy of the pandemic — one which Localyze already had a handle on supporting, putting it in a strong position to scale its SaaS as demand steps up in the coming years.

Rising levels of employee mobility may, in turn, make subscribing to a software service that assists relocations and cross-border hiring more of a ‘must have’ than a ‘nice to have’ for more types of businesses — especially as competition for talent heats up given the rising opportunities of remote work.

“In 2021, companies will need to define how they are going to operate post-COVID-19, and many companies keep locations as part of their people strategy. Yet they try to offer more flexibility in terms of location choices, which in many cases results in the creation of different talent hubs and a mix of remote with in-person hubs/offices. This means increased operations across borders and more employee mobility, both long and short-term, because people will make use of these options,” Asmussen predicts. 

Commenting on the Series A in a statement, Blossom Capital’s Ophelia Brown added: “Access to the very best talent is a huge consideration for businesses of all sizes, but for high-growth enterprises, it’s absolutely crucial that nothing gets in the way of being able to tap into the skills and abilities of staff anywhere in Europe. Localyze removes all of these barriers. Instead of being bogged down by the costly and lengthy relocation processes, enterprises can concentrate on the job at hand and their employees can feel confident and secure that their relocation – often one of the biggest decisions they’ll have to make in their career – is dealt with efficiently and without a hitch.”

#blossom-capital, #cartus, #europe, #farfetch, #forto, #frontline-ventures, #germany, #hamburg, #hanno-renner, #human-resource-management, #ireland, #localyze, #ophelia-brown, #personio, #personnel, #recent-funding, #saas, #software-as-a-service, #spain, #startup-company, #startups, #telecommuting, #united-kingdom

Real estate platform Casafari raises $15M to allow PE to buy single-family homes at scale

Just a Spotify used VC and PE backing to acquire the assets of the music industry so that we must now all rent our music via subscription, rather than own it for life, so a PropTech startup plans to follow a similar strategy for single-family homes.

Casafari, a real estate data platform in Europe based out of Lisbon, Portugal, has raised a $15 million Series A funding round led by Prudence Holdings in New York. But, crucially, it has also secured a $120 million “mandate” from Geneva-based private equity investors Stoneweg, among other PE players, in order to buy-to-let residential and commercial real estate. The startup already has operations in Portugal, Spain, France, and Italy.

Other investors include Armilar Venture Partners (the Portuguese VC behind unicorns Outsystems and Feedzai), HJM Holdings, 1Sharpe (founders of Roofstock), and FJ Labs (Fabrice Grinda, founder of OLX Group), as well as existing investor Lakestar.

Founded by Mila Suharev, Nils Henning, and Mitya Moskalchuk in 2018, Casafari is taking advantage of Europe’s often chaotic real estate data to achieve its goals, due to the lack of a unified Multiple Listings Service (“MLS”).

Casafari plans to aggregate, verify and distribute this data via its platform, hunting down single-family homes as an asset class for institutional investors.

According to Nils Henning, CEO, “CASAFARI has built a unique ecosystem, which connects brokers, developers, asset managers, and investors and enables sourcing, valuation, underwriting and deal collaboration on single units in all asset classes. We are very excited to represent important institutional clients like Stoneweg and others, in deploying their capital into fragmented acquisitions at scale, bringing more liquidity to the market and generating more transactions to the broker clients of our platform.”

Private investors are already using the platform. Since launching in 2018, Casafari has been used by Sotheby’s International Realty, Coldwell Banker, RE/MAX franchises, Savills, Fine & Country, Engel & Voelkers, Keller Williams, and important institutional investors and developers like Stoneweg, Kronos, Vanguard, and Vic Properties.

Mila Suharev, Casafari’s Co-CEO and CPO said: ”There are currently around 70 billion euros in dry powder in Europe that could be allocated in acquiring residential property in a buy to let strategy, and basically there’s no offer available. The property will be collected in portfolios, consisting of single units that pension funds, private equity real estate funds, want to build in Europe as they do in the US.”

What Casafari’s is doing is largely following the playbook of what Roofstock in the US did: an online marketplace for investing in leased single-family rental homes. Roofstock has raised $132.3 million to date.

#armilar-venture-partners, #broker, #ceo, #co-ceo, #coldwell-banker, #economy, #europe, #fabrice-grinda, #finance, #fj-labs, #founder, #france, #geneva, #investment, #italy, #kronos, #lakestar, #lisbon, #money, #new-york, #olx-group, #online-marketplace, #portugal, #private-equity, #property-technology, #prudence-holdings, #roofstock, #sothebys, #spain, #spotify, #stoneweg, #tc, #technology, #united-states

Italy’s DPA fines Glovo-owned Foodinho $3M, orders changes to algorithmic management of riders

Algorithmic management of gig workers has landed Glovo-owned on-demand delivery firm Foodinho in trouble in Italy where the country’s data protection authority issued a €2.6 million penalty (~$3M) yesterday after an investigation found a laundry list of problems.

The delivery company has been ordered to make a number of changes to how it operates in the market, with the Garante’s order giving it two months to correct the most serious violations found, and a further month (so three months total) to amend how its algorithms function — to ensure compliance with privacy legislation, Italy’s workers’ statute and recent legislation protecting platform workers.

One of the issues of concern to the data watchdog is the risk of discrimination arising from a rider rating system operated by Foodinho — which had some 19,000 riders operating on its platform in Italy at the time of the Garante’s investigation.

Likely of relevance here is a long running litigation brought by riders gigging for another food delivery brand in Italy, Foodora, which culminated in a ruling by the country’s Supreme Court last year that asserted riders should be treated as having workers rights, regardless of whether they are employed or self-employed — bolstering the case for challenges against delivery apps that apply algorithms to opaquely micromanage platform workers’ labor.

In the injunction against Foodinho, Italy’s DPA says it found numerous violations of privacy legislation, as well as a risk of discrimination against gig workers based on how Foodinho’s booking and assignments algorithms function, in addition to flagging concerns over how the system uses ratings and reputational mechanisms as further levers of labor control.

Article 22 of the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) provides protections for individuals against being solely subject to automated decision-making including profiling where such decisions produce a legal or similarly substantial effect (and access to paid work would meet that bar) — giving them the right to get information on a specific decision and object to it and/or ask for human review.

But it does not appear that Foodinho provided riders with such rights, per the Garante’s assessment.

In a press release about the injunction (which we’ve translated from Italian with Google Translate), the watchdog writes:

“The Authority found a series of serious offences, in particular with regard to the algorithms used for the management of workers. The company, for example, had not adequately informed the workers on the functioning of the system and did not guarantee the accuracy and correctness of the results of the algorithmic systems used for the evaluation of the riders. Nor did it guarantee procedures to protect the right to obtain human intervention, express one’s opinion and contest the decisions adopted through the use of the algorithms in question, including the exclusion of a part of the riders from job opportunities.

“The Guarantor has therefore required the company to identify measures to protect the rights and freedoms of riders in the face of automated decisions, including profiling.

The watchdog also says it has asked Foodinho to verify the “accuracy and relevance” of data that feeds the algorithmic management system — listing a wide variety of signals that are factored in (such as chats, emails and phone calls between riders and customer care; geolocation data captured every 15 seconds and displayed on the app map; estimated and actual delivery times; details of the management of the order in progress and those already made; customer and partner feedback; remaining battery level of device etc).

“This is also in order to minimize the risk of errors and distortions which could, for example, lead to the limitation of the deliveries assigned to each rider or to the exclusion itself from the platform. These risks also arise from the rating system,” it goes on, adding: “The company will also need to identify measures that prevent improper or discriminatory use of reputational mechanisms based on customer and business partner feedback.”

Glovo, Foodinho’s parent entity — which is named as the owner of the platform in the Garante’s injunction — was contacted for comment on the injunction.

A company spokesperson told us they were discussing a response — so we’ll update this report if we get one.

Glovo acquired the Italian food delivery company Foodinho back in 2016, making its first foray into international expansion. The Barcelona-based business went on to try to build out a business in the Middle East and LatAm — before retrenching back to largely focus on Southern and Eastern Europe. (In 2018 Glovo also picked up the Foodora brand in Italy, which had been owned by German rival Delivery Hero.)

The Garante says it collaborated with Spain’s privacy watchdog, the AEDP — which is Glovo’s lead data protection supervisor under the GDPR — on the investigation into Foodinho and the platform tech provided to it by Glovo.

Its press release also notes that Glovo is the subject of “an independent procedure” carried out by the AEPD, which it says it’s also assisting with.

The Spanish watchdog confirmed to TechCrunch that joint working between the AEPD and the Garante had resulted in the resolution against the Glovo-owned company, Foodinho.

The AEPD also said it has undertaken its own procedures against Glovo — pointing to a 2019 sanction related to the latter not appointing a data protection officer, as is required by the GDPR. The watchdog later issued Glovo with a fined of €25,000 for that compliance failure.

However it’s not clear why the AEDP has — seemingly — not taken a deep dive look at Glovo’s own compliance with the Article 22 of the GDPR. (We’ve asked it for more on this and will update if we get a response.)

It did point us to recently published guidance on data protection and labor relations, which it worked on with Spain’s Ministry of Labor and the employers and trade union organizations, and which it said includes information on the right of a works council to be informed by a platform company of the parameters on which the algorithms or artificial intelligence systems are based — including “the elaboration of profiles, which may affect the conditions, access and maintenance of employment”.

Earlier this year the Spanish government agreed upon a labor reform to expand the protections available to platform workers by recognizing platform couriers as employees.

The amendments to the Spanish Workers Statute Law were approved by Royal Decree in May — but aren’t due to start being applied until the middle of next month, per El Pais.

Notably, the reform also contains a provision that requires workers’ legal representatives to be informed of the criteria powering any algorithms or AI systems that are used to manage them and which may affect their working conditions — such as those affecting access to employment or rating systems that monitor performance or profile workers. And that additional incoming algorithmic transparency provision has evidently been factored into the AEPD’s guidance.

So it may be that the watchdog is giving affected platforms like Glovo a few months’ grace to allow them to get their systems in order for the new rules.

Spanish labor law also of course remains distinct to Italian law, so there will be ongoing differences of application related to elements that concern delivery apps, regardless of what appears to be a similar trajectory on the issue of expanding platform workers rights.

Back in January, for example, an Italian court found that a reputation-ranking algorithm that had been used by another on-demand delivery app, Deliveroo, had discriminated against riders because it had failed to distinguish between legally protected reasons for withholding labour (e.g., because a rider was sick; or exercising their protected right to strike) and other reasons for not being as productive as they’d indicated they would be.

In that case, Deliveroo said the judgement referred to a historic booking system that it said was no longer used in Italy or any other markets.

More recently a tribunal ruling in Bologna — found a Collective Bargaining Agreement signed by, AssoDelivery, a trade association that represents a number of delivery platforms in the market (including Deliveroo and Glovo), and a minority union with far right affiliations, the UGL trade union, to be unlawful.

Deliveroo told us it planned to appeal that ruling.

The agreement attracted controversy because it seeks to derogate unfavorably from Italian law that protects workers and the signing trade body is not representative enough in the sector.

Zooming out, EU lawmakers are also looking at the issue of platform workers rights — kicking off a consultation in February on how to improve working conditions for gig workers, with the possibility that Brussels could propose legislation later this year.

However platform giants have seen the exercise as an opportunity to lobby for deregulation — pushing to reduce employment standards for gig workers across the EU. The strategy looks intended to circumvent or at least try to limit momentum for beefed up rules coming a national level, such as Spain’s labor reform.

#algorithmic-accountability, #artificial-intelligence, #barcelona, #deliveroo, #delivery-hero, #europe, #european-union, #food-delivery, #gdpr, #general-data-protection-regulation, #glovo, #italy, #labor, #online-food-ordering, #policy, #privacy, #spain

German identity verifier IDnow acquires France’s ARIADNEXT for $59 million, hits M&A road

IDnow, a German-based identity verification startup is acquiring ARIADNEXT, a French equivalent, specializing in remote identity verification and digital identity creation. A price was not released by either party but TechCrunch understands from sources that the deal was approximately $59 million / €50 million. Sources say IDnow is looking to do similar acquisitions.

IDnow says the combined entity will be able to provide a comprehensive identity verification platform, ranging from AI-driven to human-assisted technology and from online to point-of-sale verification options. IDnow offers its services into the UK, French and German, Spain, Poland, Romania, and other international markets, and says it expects to increase revenue 3x in 2021 versus 2019.

The startup also says the pandemic has meant usage of its products has gone up 200% more compared to last year as companies switch to digital processes.

Andreas Bodczek, CEO of IDnow said in a statement: “This combination with ARIADNEXT is an important step towards our vision of building the pan-European leader for identity verification-as-a-service solutions. With ARIADNEXT, in addition to our recent acquisition of identity Trust Management AG, IDnow can provide our customers with an even broader suite of products through a single platform with a seamless user experience.”

Guillaume Despagne, President of ARIADNEXT, said: “We are looking forward to joining a team of IDnow’s caliber, combining our experience and skills to work towards our shared vision of providing a pan-European secure and future-proof solution to customers.

IDnow will retain ARIADNEXT’s locations in Rennes, Paris, Madrid, Bucharest, Iasi, and Warsaw, as well as its over 125 employees. The acquisition is subject to regulatory approvals.

The acquisition means IDNow is now on a par with the other large player in Europe, OnFido. TechCrunch understands the company has done €50m+ revenue this year expect to over-perform its €100m revenue target for 2023.

#articles, #artificial-intelligence, #business, #ceo, #economy, #europe, #german, #idnow, #madrid, #onfido, #paris, #poland, #president, #romania, #spain, #startup-company, #tc, #techcrunch, #united-kingdom, #verification, #warsaw

Gympass, the corporate wellness unicorn, raises a $220M series E

Gympass, the exercise and corporate wellness unicorn that originated in Brazil, today announced a $220 million Series E. The company has seen tremendous growth in the last few months, as more and more people are vaccinated and flocking back to the gym.

Gympass is like ClassPass, but on steroids. However, unlike ClassPass’ BTC model, Gympass partners with employers who then pay a flat fee for the platform (an app) which then allows their employees to choose from several wellbeing plans that give them access to myriad in-person gyms and studios, and a directory of health apps, such as Calm. The offerings are broken up into the following categories: physical health, emotional health, nutrition and sleep.

According to the company, in May, Gympass saw a record 4 million monthly check-ins across its network of more than 50,000 global partners. In fact, for some of the partners, usage hit above pre-COVID levels. 

Between increased anxiety rates and documented weight gain during the pandemic, it’s clear that people are eager to get active again with the hopes of improving their mental health and their waistlines.

GymPass is the brainchild of Cesar Carvalho, a former McKinsey & Company consultant in Brazil who was always on the road and yearned for a corporate wellness product that would comply with his hectic work schedule.

“Some days I worked from home, other days I worked from the office, and then there was the time I was traveling. I could never go to the gym in one place,” Carvalho told TechCrunch. “I realized that my needs were the same as others,” he said.

He decided to pursue his business idea while he was at Harvard Business School.

“I’m one of those crazy entrepreneurs that drops out of their MBA to start a company, but looking back now, it worked out okay,” he said, later telling TechCrunch that Gympass is now in Brazil, Mexico, Chile, Argentina, the U.S., Germany, Spain, Italy, Ireland, and the U.K. 

Since its launch in São Paulo in 2012, the company achieved product-market fit fairly quickly, and its growth and expansion have been largely organic.

Originally, Gympass was a BTC concept, and one of its first clients was an executive at PricewaterhouseCoopers in Brazil. He liked the product so much that he eventually said to Carvalho, “Can’t I communicate this to my 5000 employees in all the cities where we have offices in Brazil?” With that question – and offer – Carvalho saw the need to pivot and build a B2B company.

After only three years in Brazil, one of his biggest Brazilian clients asked Carvalho to expand to Mexico, because his company had a large presence there and he wanted to offer Gympass to its employees. And so follows most of the expansion stories.

“We expanded to Spain, because we worked with a Spanish bank in Mexico, and they wanted their employees in Spain to have access to our product,” he said.

This round, which doubles the company’s valuation to $2.2 billion, includes participation from SoftBank, General Atlantic, More Strategic Ventures, Kaszek Ventures and Valor. Carvalho plans to use the money to grow the company in the U.S., expand its offerings, and work on making the tech smarter. 

“We want [the app] to be able to recommend the best partners for your complete well-being journey based on your workout patterns, for example: ‘This is the best meditation app for you to use with your workout profile,’” Carvalho said.

 

#argentina, #brazil, #chile, #classpass, #general-atlantic, #germany, #harvard-business-school, #ireland, #italy, #kaszek-ventures, #mckinsey-company, #mexico, #pricewaterhousecoopers, #softbank, #softbank-group, #spain, #tc, #united-kingdom, #united-states