Forward Kitchens cooks up $2.5M to transform existing kitchens into digital storefronts

Forward Kitchens was working quietly on its digital storefront for restaurants and is now announcing a $2.5 million seed round.

Raghav Poddar started the company two years ago and was part of the Y Combinator Summer 2019 cohort. Poddar told TechCrunch he has been a foodie his entire life. Lately, he was relying on food delivery and pickup services, and while visiting with some of the restaurant owners, he realized a few things: first, not many had a good online presence, and second, these restaurants had the ability to cook cuisine representative of their communities.

That led to the idea of Forward Kitchens, which provides a turnkey tool for restaurants to set up an online presence, including food delivery, where they can create multiple digital storefronts easily and without having to contact each delivery platform. The company ran pilot programs in a handful of restaurants, and this is the first year coming out of stealth.

“It’s an expansion of what they have on the menu, but is not immediately available in the neighborhood,” Poddar added. “Kitchens can keep the costs and headcount the same, but be able to service the demand and get more orders because it is fulfilling a need for the neighborhood, which is why we can grow so fast.”

Here’s how it works: Forward Kitchens goes into a restaurant and takes into account its capacity for additional cooking and the demographic area, as well as what food is available near it, and helps the restaurant create the storefront.

Each restaurant is able to build multiple storefronts, for example, an Italian restaurant setting up a storefront just to sell its popular mac n’ cheese or other small plates on demand. A couple hundred digital storefronts were already created, Poddar said.

A group of investors, including Y Combinator, Floodgate, Slow Ventures and SV Angel and angel investors Michael Seibel of YC, Ram Shriram and Thumbtack’s Jonathan Swanson, were involved in the round.

The new funding will be used to expand the company’s footprint and reach, and to hire a team in operations, sales and engineering to help support the product.

“Forward Kitchens is empowering independent kitchens to create digital storefronts and receive more online sales,” Seibel said via email. “With Forward Kitchens, a kitchen can create world-class digital storefronts at the click of a button.”

#ecommerce, #enterprise, #floodgate, #food, #food-and-drink, #food-delivery, #forward-kitchens, #funding, #jonathan-swanson, #kitchen, #michael-seibel, #online-food-ordering, #raghav-poddar, #recent-funding, #restaurant, #slow-ventures, #startups, #storefront, #sv-angel, #tc, #y-combinator

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

Serverless Stack raises $1M for open-source application framework

Open-source framework startup Serverless Stack announced Friday that it raised $1 million in seed funding from a group of investors that includes Greylock Partners, SV Angel and Y Combinator.

The company was founded in 2017 by Jay V and Frank Wang in San Francisco, and they were part of Y Combinator’s 2021 winter batch.

Serverless Stack’s technology enables engineers to more easily build full-stack serverless apps. CEO V said he and Wang were working in this space for years with the aim of exposing it to a broader group of people.

While tooling around in the space, they determined that the ability to build serverless apps was not getting better, so they joined Y Combinator to hone their idea on how to make the process easier.

Here’s how the technology works: The open-source framework allows developers to test and make changes to their applications by directly connecting their local machines to the cloud. The problem with what V called an “old-school process” is that developers would upload their apps to the cloud, wait for it to run and then make any changes. Instead, Serverless Stack connects directly to the cloud for the ability to debug applications locally, he added.

Since its launch six months ago, Serverless Stack has grown to over 2,000 stars on GitHub and was downloaded more than 60,000 times.

Dalton Caldwell, managing director of YC, met V and Wang at the cohort and said he was “super impressed” because the pair were working in the space for a long time.

“These folks are experts — there are probably just half a dozen people who know as much as they do, as there aren’t that many people working on this technology,” Caldwell told TechCrunch. “The proof is in the pudding, and if they can get people to adopt it, like they did on GitHub so far, and keep that community engagement, that is my strongest signal of staying power.”

V has earmarked the new funding to expand the team, including hiring engineers to support new use cases.

Serverless initially gravitated toward specific use cases — APIs are now allowing its community to chime in and it is using that as a guide, V said. It recently announced more of a full-stack use case for building out APIs with a database and also building out the front end frameworks.

Ultimately, V’s roadmap includes building out more tools with a vision of getting Serverless Stack to the point where a developer can come on with an idea and take it all the way to an IPO using his platform.

“That’s why we want the community to drive the roadmap,” V told TechCrunch. “We are focused on what they are building and when they are in production, how they are managing it. Eventually, we will build out a dashboard to make it easier for them to manage all of their applications.”

 

#apps, #cloud, #cloud-infrastructure, #dalton-caldwell, #developer, #frank-wang, #funding, #github, #greylock-partners, #jay-v, #recent-funding, #serverless-computing, #serverless-stack, #startups, #sv-angel, #tc, #y-combinator

Dfinity’s valuation soars to $9.5Bn after revealing its governance system and token economics

We’ve been tracking one of the few genuinely interesting stories to come out of the blockchain world, ever since Dfinity raised $102M from Andreessen Horowitz and Polychain Capital for a decentralised ‘Internet Computer’ to rival AWS in August last year. It later revealed more this past January, and has since then started to open up to developers.

But today it unveils it’s governance system and token economics. This will mean the market knows for first time how it will allow a mathematical calculation of valuations, based on token supply and futures price.

The effect of this is that the company is now valued at a notional $9.5bn, and as such would make it a top five cryptocurrency. The last valuation was $2bn, based on a $105mn round led by Andreessen and Polychain in August 2018.

Today it launches the “Network Nervous System (NNS)”, an open algorithmic governance system that controls Dfinitiy’s “Internet Computer” and acts as its brain.

Dubbed the Sodium network, this reveals the novel algorithmic governance and the token economics needed to build ‘decentralized finance’ (DeFi) and dapps, open internet services, and pan-industry enterprise systems. Sodium is the last milestone before the public launch of the Internet Computer later this year, when it will be spun out as part of the public internet.

Dominic Williams, founder and chief scientist of the Dfinity Foundation commented in a statement: “The NNS now means the Internet Computer is feature complete. It represents a seminal moment in the history of the internet. For the first time, internet services will be governed in a completely independent, decentralized manner. It is the technical solution to the systemic problems Big Tech has created with its monopoly over the internet, a public utility that should be completely open — bringing back the concept of the programmable web. The NNS is the catalyst for the open internet we were promised in the 1990s, and it ensures that the future of the internet remains open and free.”

Dfinity’s ‘Internet Computer’ is effectively a ‘blockchain computer’ powered by a network of independent data centers, allowing software to run anywhere on the internet rather than on Amazon, Google, and Microsoft -controlled server farms. Dfinity is pitching it as – eventually – an alternative to the $3.9-trillion-dollar IT stack in operation today.

Dfinity is backed by Andreessen Horowitz (via its crypto fund a16z crypto), Polychain Capital, SV Angel, Aspect Ventures, Village Global, Multicoin Capital, Scalar Capital, and Amino Capital, KR1, as well as Dfinity community members.

#andreessen, #andreessen-horowitz, #articles, #aws, #blockchain, #computing, #cryptocurrencies, #decentralization, #dfinity, #finance, #google, #microsoft, #multicoin-capital, #net-neutrality, #open-internet, #polychain-capital, #programmable-web, #scalar-capital, #sv-angel, #tc, #village-global

Dr. Seuss comes to the blockchain thanks to the maker of Cryptokitties

From CryptoKitties to the NBA,

Dapper Labs has paved the way

for blockchain popularity

beyond speculation that’s purely monetary

and now with Dr. Seuss Enterprises

another collectible application arises.

Featuring the Lorax, Thing One and Thing Two

The Cat in the Hat and Horton too,

fans of Dr. Seuss can collect

characters who in retrospect

may prove to be more valuable

than almost any other collectible.

“As the world moves increasingly online, so has consumers’ desire for discovering and collecting digital memorabilia that brings them one step closer to their favorite athletes, musicians and iconic characters,” said Roham Gharegozlou, the chief executive and founder of Dapper Labs, in a statement. “With our new Dr. Seuss digital decal experience, we are marrying the best of both worlds – allowing fans to interact and discover something entirely new, while tapping into our collective nostalgia for the characters that mean so much from our childhood. We are thrilled to be working alongside Dr. Seuss Enterprises to launch this first of its kind endeavour that is bound to bring joy to Dr. Seuss fans around the globe.”

In September, Dapper Labs raised $11 million in financing from a slew of investors including Andreessen Horowitz’s crypto fund, with participation from investors including Accomplice, AppWorks, Autonomous Partners, Fenbushi Digital and Warner Music Group.

Those investors followed on a slew of other venture firms like Union Square Ventures, Venrock, Digital Currency Group, Animoca Brands, SV Angel, Version One, and CoinFund, among others.

That who’s who of investors are buying in to the underlying platform Dapper developed called “Flow”, a specialized blockchain designed for the entertainment industry, according to Gharegozlou.

 

#andreessen-horowitz, #animoca-brands, #blockchain, #coinfund, #cryptokitties, #dapper-labs, #digital-currency-group, #dr-seuss, #films, #literature, #national-basketball-association, #nba, #sv-angel, #tc, #union-square-ventures, #venrock, #version-one, #warner-music-group

Free money for startups? It’s possible with MainStreet’s platform for economic development incentives

Startups need money. State and local governments need startups and the employment growth they offer. It should be obvious that the two groups can work together and make each other happy. Unfortunately, nothing could be further from the truth.

Each year, governments spend tens of billions of dollars on economic development incentives designed to attract employers and jobs to their communities. There are a huge number of challenges, however, for startups and individual contributors trying to apply for these programs.

First, economic development leaders typically focus on massive, flagship projects that are splashy and will drive the news cycle and bring good media attention to their elected official bosses. So, for example, you get a massive, $10 billion Foxconn plant in Wisconsin tied to hundreds of millions of incentives, only to see the project sputter into the ground.

Then there is the paperwork. As you’d expect with any government application process, it can be arduous to find the right incentive programs, apply for credits at the right time and max out the opportunities available.

That’s where MainStreet comes in.

Its CEO and founder Doug Ludlow’s third company. He previously founded Hipster, which sold to AOL, and The Happy Home Company, which sold to Google. After that transaction, Ludlow went on to become chief of staff for SMB ads at the tech giant, where he saw firsthand the challenges that startups and all small companies face in growing outside of major urban hubs like San Francisco.

When he and his co-founders Dan Lindquist and Daniel Griffin first started, they were focused on what Ludlow described as “a network of remote work hubs.” As they were experimenting last November they tried paying people to leave the Bay Area, offering them $10,000 if they moved to other cities. The offer caused a sensation, with outlets like CNN covering the news.

While the interest from customers was great, what ignited Ludlow and his co-founders’ passions was that “literally dozens of cities, states and counties reached out, letting us know that they had an incentive program.” As the team explored further, they realized there was a huge untapped opportunity to connect startups to these preexisting programs.

MainStreet was born, and it’s an idea that has also attracted the attention of investors. The company announced today that it raised a $2.3 million round from Gradient Ventures, Weekend Fund and others.

Startups apply for economic incentives through MainStreet’s platform, and then MainStreet takes a 20% cut of any successful application. Notably, that cut is only taken when the incentive is actually disbursed (there’s no upfront cost), and there is also no on-going subscription fee to use the platform. “If you identify the credit that you’re able to use six months from now, we will charge you six months from now, when you’re actually getting that credit. It seems to be a business model that is aligned well with founders,” Ludlow said.

Right now, he says that the average MainStreet client saves $51,000, and that MainStreet has crossed the $1 million ARR run rate threshold.

Right now, the company’s core clientele are startups applying for payroll credits and research and development credits, but Ludlow says that MainStreet is working to expand beyond its tech roots to all small businesses such as restaurants. The company also wants to expand the number of economic development programs that startups can apply for. Given the myriad of governments and programs, there are hundreds if not thousands of more programs to onboard onto the platform.

MainStreet’s team. Image Credits: MainStreet

While MainStreet is helping startups and small businesses, it also wants to help governments improve their operations around economic development. With MainStreet, “we can report back to cities and states showing exactly what their tax dollars or tax credits are being utilized for,” Ludlow said. “So the accountability is orders of magnitude greater than they had before. So already, there’s this better system for tracking the success of incentives.”

The big question for MainStreet this year is navigating the crisis around the COVID-19 pandemic. While more small businesses than ever need help navigating credits, state and local governments have suffered huge shortfalls in revenues as taxes have dried up and Washington continues to debate over what, if any aid, to offer. There’s no money for economic development, yet, economic development has never been more important than right now.

Ultimately, MainStreet is pushing the vanguard of economic development thinking forward away from massive checks designed to underwrite industrial factories to a more flexible and dynamic model of incentivizing knowledge workers to move to areas outside the major global cities. It’s an interesting bet, and one that, at the very least, will help many startups get the economic incentives they rightly have access to.

Outside of Gradient and Weekend Fund, Shrug Capital, SV Angel, Remote First Capital, Basement Fund, Basecamp Ventures, Backend Capital and a host of angels participated in the round.

#doug-ludlow, #funding, #fundings-exits, #government, #gradient-ventures, #shrug-capital, #startups, #sv-angel, #weekend-fund