CommandBar raises $4.8M to make web-based apps searchable

James Evans and his co-founders at CommandBar were working on a software product when they hit a wall while trying to access certain functionalities within the software.

That’s when the lightbulb moment happened and, in 2020, the team shifted to building a product search engine add-on to make software easier to use.

“We thought this paradigm feels like it could be useful, but it is hard to build well, so we built it,” Evans told TechCrunch.

On Monday, CommandBar emerged from beta and announced its $4.8 million seed round, led by Thrive Capital, with participation from Y Combinator, BoxGroup and a group of angel investors including, AngelList’s Naval Ravikant, Worklife Ventures’ Brianne Kimmel, StitchFix president Mike Smith and others.

CommandBar’s business-to-business tool, referred to as “command k,” was designed to make software simpler and faster to use. The technology is a search interface that sits on top of web-based apps so that users can access functionalities by searching simple keywords. It can also be used to boost new users with recommended prompts like referrals.

CommandBar in Clubhouse. Image Credits: CommandBar

Companies integrate CommandBar by pasting in a line of code and using configuration tools to quickly add commands relevant to their apps. The product was purposefully designed as low-code so that product and customer success teams can add configurations without relying on engineering support, Evans said.

Initially, it was a difficult sell: One of the more challenging parts in the early days of the company was helping customers and investors understand what CommandBar was doing.

“It was hard to describe over the phone, we had to try to get people on Zoom so they could see it,” he said. “It is easier now to sell the product because they can see it being used in an app. That is where many new users come from.”

CommandBar is already being used by companies like Clubhouse.io, Canix and Stacker that are serving hundreds of thousands of users. The most common use case for CommandBar so far is onboarding new software users.

He intends to use the new funding to grow the team, hiring across engineering, sales and marketing. The beta testing was successful in receiving good feedback from the early customers, and Evans wants to reflect that in new products and functionalities that will come out later this year.

Vince Hankes, an investor at Thrive Capital, was introduced to CommandBar through one of its pre-seed investors.

His interest is in B2B software companies and applications, and one of the things that became obvious to him while looking into the space was the natural tension between the simplicity and functionality of apps.

Apps are sometimes hard for even a power user to navigate, he said, but CommandBar makes something as simple as resetting a password easier by being able to search for that term and go right to that page if it is configured that way by the company.

“The types of companies interested in their product are impressive,” Hankes said. “We began to see demand from a broad range of companies that weren’t obvious. In fact, they are using CommandBar as a tool for deeper customer engagement.”

 

#apps, #boxgroup, #commandbar, #enterprise, #funding, #james-evans, #product-search-engine, #recent-funding, #search-engine, #software, #startups, #tc, #thrive-capital, #vince-hankes, #y-combinator

Joshua Kushner’s Thrive Capital leads $20M investment in Brazilian healthcare startup Pipo Saude

Pipo Saude, a startup that developed a platform that sells and manages healthcare benefits for Brazilian companies, has raised $20 million in a Series A round of funding.

Joshua Kushner’s Thrive Capital led the round, marking the first time the New York-based venture firm has led an investment in a Brazilian startup. (Although, notably, Thrive has also put money in Nubank and Loft.)

Atlantico participated in the financing as a new investor in addition to all existing backers including Monashees, Kaszek and OneVC. Nubank co-founder and CEO David Velez and Cedar co-founder and CEO Florian Otto (and former CEO of Groupon in Brazil) also joined in the round. Pipo Saude had raised $4.6 million in a seed round in June 2020 that was led by Monashees and Kaszek with the participation of OneVC and Nubank’s Velez.

Manoela Mitchell (CEO), Thiago Torres (COO) and Vinicius Correa (CTO) founded Pipo Saude in July 2019 with the goal of “bringing an unparalleled experience” of buying and managing healthcare benefits for corporations in combination with providing a care navigation platform for employees. More simply, its mission is to “transform” the healthcare experience for companies and their employees.

Pipo Saude started selling its solution six months after its inception. Over the past year, it has grown its ARR by “around 5x,” and the number of lives managed by 7.2x, according to Mitchell. Pipo currently has 100 corporate clients and 15,000 lives under management. Its clients include Brazilian unicorns MadeiraMadeira and Buser, Caelum and Funcional Health Tech, among others. Pipo Saude makes money off of commissions and says that its business model is a hybrid of Nava, Accolade and Rightway, but that Zenefits and Amino are inspirations or benchmarks that it “looks up to.”

When Pipo was first founded in 2019, the company was trying to convince prospective customers that digital healthcare could be an interesting option to reduce cost and improve care, according to Mitchell.

And then when the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March 2020, she added, the whole sector was forced to change and the company saw all stakeholders from doctors to employers to patients “adopting technologies to make their job easier or more accessible to others.”

This trend also helped Pipo grow. In January 2020, it had two corporate clients. By December of the same year, it had around 70.

“COVID has fast-forwarded the digital transformation of the healthcare system everywhere, but even more so in a place like Brazil that was a few years behind the U.S. when it came to technology penetration in the health space,” Mitchell said.

Image Credits: Pipo Saude

Because healthcare is so complex, most companies outsource the benefits capabilities to traditional brokers. Pipo, she said, was created to “disrupt this landscape” with the use of technology and data.

The company claims that enrolling a new member in a healthcare plan can typically take up to 10 business days in Brazil, but that Pipo “can do it in less than 1 hour” given its integrations with HMO/PPOs. It plans to use the new funds to continue investing heavily in technology and data with the goal of launching its first digital product that will be “100% focused” on its members.

Sao Paulo-based Pipo currently has 108 employees distributed across 33 cities and three countries, up from 27 a year ago. During the pandemic, it evolved into being a “remote-first-company.”

The startup also plans to use its new capital to do some hiring, with the goal of doubling the number of its full-time employees by year’s end. Mitchell described the business model as an “asset-light” one that connects healthcare buyers, users and products without having any type of regulatory capital need.

In the medium to long term, Mitchell said the team views Pipo as a local business rather than a global one.

“Going deep into healthcare data and protocols requires a lot of specialization and deep understanding,” she said. Also, the opportunity in Brazil is just so large.

“We are focused on being the local leader in Brazil rather than having a broader but shallower expertise across many markets,” Mitchell said.

Kareem Zaki, a general partner at Thrive, said his firm invested in Pipo Saude because it viewed the company as the first of its kind innovating the channel by which healthcare solutions reach individuals and their families.

“Pipo is using data to deliver value at every step of the customer journey, from informing employers’ purchase decisions and automating manual pieces of benefit management to helping employees navigate the healthcare system to meet their individual needs,” he wrote in an email. “The result is 20% better savings, up to 50 times faster workflows, and a 97% customer satisfaction rate that is unprecedented in the industry.”

Pipo Saude is not the only Brazilian startup tackling the benefits space. Earlier this month, Flash, a startup that has developed a flexible benefits platform for Brazilian companies and employees, announced it had raised $22 million in a Series B round of funding led by Tiger Global Management.

#brazil, #david-velez, #digital-healthcare, #funding, #fundings-exits, #health, #healthcare, #healthtech, #pipo-saude, #recent-funding, #saas, #startups, #tc, #thrive, #thrive-capital, #venture-capital

Ex-Plaid employees raise $30M for Stytch, an API-first passwordless authentication platform

There are far fewer annoying things than managing one’s passwords.

There are a bunch of companies out there to help you attempt to do that. And there’s also a number of companies that want to go a step further and eliminate the password completely.

One such company, Stytch, just raised $30 million in a Series A round of funding as it launches out of beta with its API-first passwordless authentication platform.

The round caught our attention for a couple of reasons.

For one, this is the same startup that just months earlier announced it had raised a $6.25 million seed round led by Benchmark with participation from Index Ventures and a number of angels including Plaid co-founder William Hockey. That round was speculated to have valued the new company at a staggering $200 million (although that was never confirmed), and was actually raised last summer around the time of Stytch’s founding, but only announced this year. Other angels that have backed the company include Figma co-founder and CEO Dylan Field, Very Good Security co-founder Mahmoud Abdelkader, startup advisor Elad Gil and early Stripe employee and Cocoon co-founder Amber Feng.

Also notable about this round is that Stytch was founded by two former Plaid employees, Reed McGinley-Stempel (CEO) and Julianna Lamb (CTO), who built user authentication features that “millions” use to connect their bank accounts to apps like Venmo, Coinbase and Robinhood. The company was founded on the premise that passwords are no longer secure, and make companies easy targets for hackers and expose them to account takeover risk.

Lamb says that as she and McGinley-Stempel worked together at Plaid on user authentication, they realized how frustrating it is to build sign-up and login flows.

“In addition to it being complicated, it’s resource intensive and error-prone to build in house,” she told TechCrunch. “The other thing that really frustrated us was that the core building blocks that all companies use for authentication had really significant security and conversion issues. It struck us that the web has improved in so many ways over the past few decades, but authentication is still stuck in the 1990s.”

Thrive Capital led the Series A, which also included participation from Coatue Management and existing backers Benchmark and Index. The company declined to reveal its new valuation, although sources say only that it is “north of $200 million.”

Stytch claims that it simplifies the authentication process by giving developers and users the “tools and infrastructure to incorporate passwordless authentication methods into modern applications.”

Specifically, the team is creating “simple” APIs and SDKs (software development kits) that the founders say allow “any company to boost user onboarding and retention by removing passwords from their application, while improving security and saving significant engineering time in the process.”

Image Credits: Stytch

In its first year of operation, Stytch released its product in beta to more than 350 developers who have added passwordless features such as email magic links, SMS and WhatsApp passcodes and one-click user invitations into their user onboarding and authentication login flows. As mentioned above, Stytch launched out of beta this week to make all of the features publicly available in conjunction with the funding announcement. 

“What we found is that it makes more sense to be more flexible with developers,” Lamb told TechCrunch. “The thing that even surprised us about the API-first approach is that we now also have a handful of Fortune 500 companies using the product and the primary reasoning from their standpoint was one of the simplicity of getting set up on the platform. It took them an hour rather than the multiple months they sometimes spend with other providers. There is also the direct API piece where it’s just a much more flexible way to think about workflows in onboarding or login.”

Nearly 65% of users reuse passwords across accounts, which can pose major security threats and breach liabilities, according to a study conducted by Google. Also, many people struggle with remembering passwords and the password reset process can be so frustrating that many users just give up on the account.

This can negatively impact businesses that rely on e-commerce sites, who lose customers over that frustration.

Thrive’s Gaurav Ahuja, who is taking a seat on Stytch’s board with the funding round, believes that the startup’s product is specifically designed for improving sign-up conversion and user retention, and its customizable front end tools help companies get started “quickly.”

He said his firm talked to many developers who used it and saw “how impressed they were with the company’s best-in-class API docs and speed to go live.”

Over the past several years we’ve seen that most authentication systems are both outdated and pose a security risk to users,” Ahuja told TechCrunch via email. “Stytch is addressing both of these issues head on.”

The new capital will be used to roll out more authentication options, including biometrics, WebAuthn, OAuth logins, QR codes and push notification login. The company also plans to launch additional user infrastructure features and to build out session management and advanced fraud detection solutions. Stytch also aims to hire 20 people by year’s end.

Stytch is not the only company out to kill the password. Boston-based Transmit Security in June raised a massive $543 million in Series A funding in what was believed to be the largest Series A investment in cybersecurity history and one of the highest valuations for a bootstrapped company. Microsoft has announced plans to make Windows 10 password-free, and Apple recently previewed Passkeys in iCloud Keychain, a method of passwordless authentication powered by WebAuth.

 

#access-control, #api, #bank, #coinbase, #computer-security, #cryptography, #funding, #fundings-exits, #password, #plaid, #recent-funding, #secret-double-octopus, #security, #sms, #startups, #stytch, #tc, #thrive-capital, #venmo, #venture-capital, #william-hockey

#DealMonitor – Trade Republic sammelt 900 Millionen ein – Bewertung: 5 Milliarden


Im aktuellen #DealMonitor für den 20. Mai werfen wir wieder einen Blick auf die wichtigsten, spannendsten und interessantesten Investments und Exits des Tages in der DACH-Region. Alle Deals der Vortage gibt es im großen und übersichtlichen #DealMonitor-Archiv.

INVESTMENTS

Trade Republic
+++ Sequoia, TCV und Thrive Capital sowie die Altinvestoren Accel, Creandum, Founders Fund, also Peter Thiel, und Project A Ventures investieren 900 Millionen US-Dollar in Trade Republic. Die Bewertung liegt bei beachtlichen 5 Milliarden Dollar. Somit ist der Neobroker Trade Republic das neuste Unicorn im Lande. Über das Interesse von Sequoia, bei Trade Republic einzusteigen, hatten wir bereits Mitte Dezember im Insider-Podcast berichtet (siehe unten). Das Berliner FinTech, das 2015 von Christian Hecker, Thomas Pischke und Marco Cancellieri gegründet wurde, erhielt zuletzt 62 Millionen Euro – unter anderem von Accel und Founders Fund. Hinter Trade Republic verbirgt sich ein mobiler und provisionsfreier Broker mit dem Kunden mobil und provisionsfrei mit Aktien, ETFs und Derivate handeln können. “Der frühe Geldgeber Sino verkauft Anteile im Wert von rund 150 Millionen Dollar, 750 Millionen Dollar fließen in die Firma. Die Bewertung steigt dabei von 730 Millionen Dollar Ende des vergangenen Jahres auf 5,3 Milliarden Dollar”, schreibt FinanceFWD zum Mega-Investment. “Mit dieser Finanzierung werden wir unsere Mission vorantreiben, Millionen von Europäern einen sicheren, einfachen und kostenlosen Zugang zum Kapitalmarkt zu ermöglichen”, teilt das Unternehmen mit. Über 400 Mitarbeiter:innen wirken bereits für Trade Republic. Nach eigenen Angaben verfügt das Fintech in Deutschland, Frankreich und Österreich derzeit über “mehr als eine Million Kunden”. Mehr über Trade Republic

Dabbel
+++ Target Global, SeedX, main incubator und weitere Investoren investieren 3,6 Millionen Euro in Dabbel. Das PropTech aus Düsseldorf setzt künstliche Intelligenz ein, um die Energieeffizienz in gewerblichen Gebäuden zu steigern. Dazu entwickelt Dabbel “eine cloud-basierte, selbstlernende Gebäudemanagement-Software, die sich in bestehende Gebäudemanagement-Systeme einfügt und die Steuerung von Heiz- und Kühlsystemen auf eine Art und Weise übernimmt”.

Miles
+++ Emmanuel Thomassin, Christian Ga?rtner, Rex Jackson und Stine Rolstad Brenna investieren in den Carsharinganbieter Miles. Die Jungfirma unterscheidet sich von der vielen Konkurrenz vor allem durch sein Abrechnungssystem. Abgerechnet werden, anders als bei anderen Carsharing-Anbietern, nur die tatsächlich gefahrenen Kilometer, nicht die Fahrtzeit. In der Vergangenheit investierte vor allem Seriengründer und -investor Lukasz Gadowski in das Berliner Startup. Im vergangenen erwirtschaftete das Unternehmen nach eigenen Angaben einen Umsatz in Höhe von 20 Millionen Euro. Mehr über Miles

Achtung! Wir freuen uns über Tipps, Infos und Hinweise, was wir in unserem #DealMonitor alles so aufgreifen sollten. Schreibt uns eure Vorschläge entweder ganz klassisch per E-Mail oder nutzt unsere “Stille Post“, unseren Briefkasten für Insider-Infos.

Startup-Jobs: Auf der Suche nach einer neuen Herausforderung? In der unserer Jobbörse findet Ihr Stellenanzeigen von Startups und Unternehmen.

Foto (oben): azrael74

#aktuell, #berlin, #carsharing, #fintech, #miles, #mobility, #neobroker, #proptech, #sequoia, #tcv, #thrive-capital, #trade-republic, #venture-capital

Homebound aims to help solve Austin’s housing shortage problem

The sheer volume of people migrating to Austin from all over the country, but particularly from the San Francisco Bay Area, has been making headlines for a while now.

One result of this continued migration is a steady surge in housing prices due to increased demand and low inventory that dropped to nearly zero earlier this year. Now, Homebound, a Santa Rosa, California-based tech-enabled homebuilding startup, is entering the Austin market with the goal of helping ease some of the pain felt in the city by offering an alternative to buying existing homes.

Homebound has raised about $73 million over the years from the likes of Google Ventures, Fifth Wall, Khosla, Sound Ventures, Atomic and Thrive Capital. It raised a $35 million Series B last April and then closed on a $20 million convertible note late last year. CEO Nikki Pechet and Atomic managing partner Jack Abraham founded the company in 2017 after Abraham lost his home to wildfires.

Essentially serving as a virtual general contractor, Homebound combines technology and a network for “vetted” and licensed building “experts” to manage the new home construction from the design phase to completion. The startup has developed tools to track and manage hundreds of unique tasks associated with building a home.

Up until this point, Homebound has been focused on helping homeowners navigate the challenges and complexities of rebuilding after wildfires in California. But this month, Homebound will be expanding to Austin, its first non-disaster market, with the goal of taking learnings from those rebuilds and applying the same “streamlined, tech-enabled building process” to make custom homebuilding an option for local homeowners.

I talked with Homebound’s CEO and co-founder, Nikki Pechet, to learn more.

With Homebound, she said, the company is out to serve as a “next gen” homebuilder to make it possible “for anyone, anywhere to build a home.”

Austin’s housing market is definitely overheated, with homes going 10-30% above asking in some cases (I should know, I live here).

“Homeowners have been reaching out to us from across the country asking us to come to their market,” Pechet said. “We’re already seeing Austin grow faster than any of our other markets did in their early days. It’s going to be a huge market for us.”

It’s a model Pechet envisions replicating in other cities with similar housing supply issues such as Miami, Tampa, Raleigh and Charlotte.

“This is just the start,” Pechet said. “We’re taking the platform to markets across the country to help exactly with this issue.”

The company starts by helping a potential homeowner identify land they want to build on, or help them find a lot among the inventory Homebound has already built up. From there, it can help with everything from architectural plans to design to actual construction via its platform. Homebound offers a set of plans for people to choose from, with varying levels of customization.

Building costs for a typical single-family home in the Austin area will start around $300,000 depending on the size, complexity of house, lot size and location. That does not include land cost. Some people are opting to build second units on existing properties.

“In most cases, people can build a new home for less than they can pay for an existing home just because of the dynamics,” Pechet said.

#atomic, #austin, #california, #fifth-wall, #google-ventures, #homebound, #jack-abraham, #model, #proptech, #real-estate, #santa-rosa, #sound-ventures, #startup-company, #startups, #tampa, #thrive-capital

Kim Kardashian’s Skims Is Now Worth $1.6 Billion

Her shapewear company, Skims, is now valued at $1.6 billion, even as shoppers shifted to looser-fitting clothes during lockdowns.

#fashion-and-apparel, #kardashian-kim, #skims-body-inc, #thrive-capital, #venture-capital

In new round, Dutchie, focused on smoother cannabis retail, sees its valuation soar by eight times

Dutchie, a nearly four-year-old, Bend, Oregon company that charges cannabis dispensaries a monthly fee to create and run their websites, process their orders, and track what needs to be prepped for pick-up, has raised $200 million in Series C funding at a $1.7 billion valuation. That’s roughly eight times the valuation the company was assigned last August, when it closed on $35 million in Series B funding.

Why the massive jump in so short a period? Aside from general frothiness in startup investing, Dutchie just acquired two companies, Greenbits and Leaflogix, that will enable it become even more of an all-in-one tech platform for its customers. Dutchie isn’t disclosing how, or how much, it paid for either outfit, but the two concerns — which make enterprise resource planning and point-of-sale software, respectively — are being folded into Dutchie along with their collective 150 employees, effectively doubling the size of Dutchie, which now employs 300 people altogether.

Dutchie is also benefiting from some fairly strong tailwinds. In addition to a lockdown that has driven many new users to cannabis, five more states voted to legalize recreational marijuana in the November elections, and the federal government, which still categorizes marijuana as an illegal Schedule I drug and has thus denied cannabis companies access to commercial banking and insurance, appears closer to decriminalizing marijuana than any administration previously.

Given the way the company is evolving, and regulations are evolving, we talked with Dutchie cofounder and CEO Ross Lipson yesterday about whether Dutchie eventually begins to sell directly to consumers, rather than work with dispensaries. Once people no longer have to pay cash to the brick-and-mortar shops to which Dutchie sends them, will those outfits become less necessary?

Lipson insists they will not. While online orders have soared over the last year for obvious reasons and more shoppers grow accustomed to the ease of picking out products virtually, Lipson says that, “Longer term, this is a retail-first model. The nature of this industry lends itself to a hyper-local model largely because of the way that plants are cultivated and processed, so I believe retail will remain intact and continue to be successful.”

We’ll see. In the meantime, Dutchie has $200 million more dollars from top backers to develop new products — including discovery and education tools —  and to begin to expand internationally, says Lipson.

Tiger Global Management led its newest round, joined by Dragoneer and DFJ Growth, two firms that are just now making their first forays into cannabis-related investing.

Dutchie’s earlier investors Casa Verde Capital, Thrive Capital, Gron Ventures and former Starbucks CEO and founder Howard Schultz also participated.

Asked if becoming publicly traded could be next for Dutchie as investor interest in the industry rises, Lipson says that Dutchie is right now “focused with what’s on our plate.”

As for any discussions with special purpose acquisition companies that might want to take the outfit public through a merger, Lipson says it “isn’t engaged in those talks right now,” but adds that the company will “weigh out the business opportunities as they come. We look at how does this decision bring value to the dispensary and the customer. If it brings value, we’d embark on that decision.”

#cannabis, #casa-verde-capital, #dfj-growth, #dragoneer, #dutchie, #gron-ventures, #howard-schultz, #marijuana, #tc, #thrive-capital, #tiger-global, #venture-capital

Joshua Kushner of Thrive Capital Is Still Investing

Joshua Kushner is steering his venture capital firm out from under the shadow of his older brother — and the Trump administration.

#kushner-jared, #kushner-joshua, #oscar-ny-health-insurer, #thrive-capital, #venture-capital

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Maisonette is becoming a go-to brand for fashion-conscious families; here’s how

Maisonette, a four-year-old, New York-based company has aimed from the outset to become a one-stop curated shop for everything a family might need for their young children.

That plan appears to be working. Today, the company — which launched with preppy young children’s apparel and has steadily built out categories that include home decor, home furniture, toys, gear, and accessories — says it doubled its number of customers last year and tripled its revenue. Indeed, even as COVID could have crimped its style — sale of children’s dress-up clothes slowed for a time — its DIY and STEM toy sales shot up 1,400%.

Though the company keeps its sales numbers private, its growth is interesting, particularly given the unabated growth of Amazon, which became the nation’s leading apparel retailer somewhere around the end of 2018.

Seemingly, much of Maisonette’s traction owes to the trust it has built with customers, who see its offerings as high-end yet accessible relative to the many high-end fashion brands that are also increasingly focused on the children’s market, like Gucci and Burberry.

Specifically, the 75-person company has a merchandising team that prides itself on working with independent brands and surfacing items that are hard to find elsewhere.

Maisonette also launched its own apparel line roughly 30 months ago called Maison Me. Focused around “elevated basics” at a more reasonable price point, the line, made in China, is seeing brisk sales to families who buy items time and again as their kids outgrow or wear holes in them, says the company.

It helps that Maisonette’s founders have an eye for what’s chic. Cofounder Sylvana Ward Durrett and Luisana Mendoza Roccia met at Vogue magazine, where Durrett spent 15 years, joining the staff straight from Princeton and becoming its director of events (work that earned her a high profile in fashion circles). Roccia joined straight from Georgetown the same year, 2003, and left as the magazine’s accessories editor in 2008.

For those who might be curious, their former boss, Anna Wintour, is a champion of theirs. Yet they also have some other powerful advocates, including NEA investor Tony Florence, a kind of e-commerce whisperer who has also led previous investments on behalf of his firm in Jet, Goop, and Casper.

NEA is an investor in Maisonette, as is Thrive Capital and the growth-stage venture firm G Squared, which just today announced it led a $30 million round in the company that brings its total funding to $50 million.

Another ally is Marissa Mayer, who first met Durrett back in 2009 when Mayer was still known as Google’s first female engineer its most fashionable executive. Not only has their friendship endured — Mayer says she named one of her twin daughters Sylvana because she adored the name — but Mayer is on the board of Maisonette, where she has presumably helped refine its data strategy, including around an inherent advantage that the company enjoys: its very young customers.

“One of the things that’s really helpful when it comes to data and e-commerce is when you can capture people at a particular life stage,” Mayer explains. “It’s why people liked wedding registries. You get married, then you have children and [the retailer] can follow the children’s ages and start anticipating that customer’s needs and what they’re going to want two years from now.”

In terms of “predictable supply chain, for inventory selection, for just being able to meet that moment, having insight into those stages is really important and helpful,” she says. It can also be very lucrative for Maisonette as it continues to build out its business, notes Mayer,

Certainly, much is working in the company’s favor already. To Mayer’s point, Roccia says that more than half of Maisonette’s sales last year came from repeat customers. More, it already has an audience of more than 800,000 people who either receive emails from the company or follow its social media channels. (Maisonette also features a healthy dose of content at its site.)

Unlike some e-commerce businesses, Maisonette is asset-lite, too. Though it has opened a handful of pop-up stores previously and was contemplating a bigger move into retail (“that’s now on pause,” says Durrett), the company doesn’t have warehouses to manage. Instead, items are shipped directly to customers from the various retailers featured at its site.

Perhaps most meaningful of all, the company is competing in what is a massive and growing market. In the U.S. alone, the children’s apparel market is estimated to be $34 billion. Meanwhile, the children’s market is $630 billion globally. While Maisonette is selling to U.S. customers alone right now, it plans to use some of that new funding to move into international markets, says Roccia, who has been living in Milan with her own four children during the pandemic, while Durrett began working out Maisonette’s mostly empty Brooklyn headquarters in January to create a bit of space from her three.

Indeed, on a Zoom call from their far-flung locations, they talk at length about parents needing to create new space to work from home right now, as well as to update rooms for kids attending virtual school. While no one asked for a global shutdown, home decor is a “category that has picked up due to the Covid effect,” notes Roccia.

Asked what other trends the two are tracking — for example, Maisonette features the mommy-and-me clothing pairings that have become big business in recent years — Roccia says that even with the world shut down, it remains a “huge” trend. “It started with holiday pajamas — that was kind of the catalyst to this whole movement — and now swimwear and just casual dressing has become a pretty big piece of the business, too.”

As for what Durrett has noticed, she laughs. “Llamas are big. We sell a llama music player that we had to bring back on the site several times over the holidays.” Also “rainbows and unicorns. As cliche as it sounds, we literally can’t keep them in stock.”

Unicorns, she adds, “are a thing.”

#e-commerce, #fashion, #marissa-mayer, #nea, #tc, #thrive-capital, #tony-florence, #venture-capital, #vogue

Airtable raises $185M and launches new low-code and automation features

The spreadsheet-centric database and no-code platform Airtable today announced that it has raised a $185 million Series D funding round, putting the company at a $2.585 billion post-money valuation.

Thrive Capital led the round, with additional funding by existing investors Benchmark, Coatue, Caffeinated Capital and CRV, as well as new investor D1 Capital. With this, Airtable, which says it now has 200,000 companies using its service, has raised a total of about $350 million. Current customers include Netflix, HBO, Condé Nast Entertainment, TIME, City of Los Angeles, MIT Media Lab and IBM.

In addition, the company is also launching one of its largest feature updates today, which start to execute on the company’s overall platform vision that goes beyond its current no-code capabilities and bring more low-code features, as well new automation (think IFTTT for Airtable) and data management tools to the service.

As Airtable founder and CEO Howie Liu told me, a number of investors approached the company since it raised its Series C round in 2018, in part because the market clearly realized the potential size of the low-code/no-code market.

“I think there’s this increasing market recognition that the space is real, and the spaces is very large […],” he told me. “While we didn’t strictly need the funding, it allowed us to continue to invest aggressively into furthering our platform, vision and really executing aggressively, […] without having to worry about, ‘well, what happens with COVID?’ There’s a lot of uncertainty, right? And I think even today there’s still a lot of uncertainty about what the next year will bear.”

The company started opening the round a couple of months after the first shelter in place orders in California and for most investors, this was a purely digital process.

Liu has always been open about the fact that he wants to build this company for the long haul — especially after he sold his last company to Salesforce at an early stage. As a founder, that likely means he is trying to keep his stake in the company high, even as Airtable continues to raise more money. He argues, though, that more so than the legal and structural controls, being aligned with his investors is what matters most.

“I think actually, what’s more important in my view, is having philosophical alignment and expectations alignment with the investors,” he said. “Because I don’t want to be in a position where it comes down to a legal right or structural debate over the future of the company. That almost feels to me like the last resort where it’s already gotten to a place where things are ugly. I’d much rather be in a position where all the investors around the table, whether they have legal say or not, are fully aligned with what we’re trying to do with this business.”

Just as important as the new funding though, are the various new features the company is launching today. Maybe the most important of these is Airtable Apps. Previously, Airtable users could use pre-built blocks to add maps, Gantt charts and other features to their tables. But while being a no-code service surely helped Airtable’s users get started, there’s always an inevitable point where the pre-built functionality just isn’t enough and users need more custom tools (Liu calls this an escape valve). So with Airtable Apps, more sophisticated users can now build additional functionality in JavaScript — and if they choose to do so, they can then share those new capabilities with other users in the new Airtable Marketplace.

Image Credits: Airtable

“You may or may not need an escape valve and obviously, we’ve gotten this far with 200,000 organizations using Airtable without that kind of escape valve,” he noted. “But I think that we open up a lot more use cases when you can say, well, Airtable by itself is 99% there, but that last 1% is make or break. You need it. And then, just having that outlet and making it much more leveraged to build that use case on Airtable with 1% effort, rather than building the full-stack application as a custom built application is all the difference.”

Image Credits: Airtable

The other major new feature is Airtable Automations. With this, you can build custom, automated workflows to generate reports or perform other repetitive steps. You can do a lot of that through the service’s graphical interface or use JavaScript to build you own custom flows and integrations, too. For now, this feature is available for free, but the team is looking into how to charge for it over time, given that these automated flows may become costly if you run them often.

The last new feature is Airtable Sync. With this, teams can more easily share data across an organization, while also providing controls for who can see what. “The goal is to enable people who built software with Airtable to make that software interconnected and to be able to share a source of truth table between different instances of our tables,” Liu explained.

Image Credits: Airtable

#airtable, #c, #caffeinated-capital, #california, #ceo, #cloud, #computing, #enterprise, #gantt, #howie-liu, #javascript, #recent-funding, #salesforce, #series-c, #software, #spreadsheet, #startups, #tc, #thrive-capital

Cannabis dispensaries’ online sales are way up, and Dutchie, which connects them to their customers, is a major beneficiary

Dutchie, a nearly three-year-old, Bend, Ore.-based software company focused on connecting consumers with cannabis dispensaries that pay it a monthly subscription fee to create and maintain their websites, process their orders, and track what needs to be ready for pickup, has raised $35 million in Series B funding. The capital came both new investors Thrive Capital and Starbucks founder Howard Schultz, along with earlier backers, including Kevin Durant’s Thirty Five Ventures and the cannabis-focused fund Casa Verde Capital.

The money comes hot on the heels of Dutchie’s first major round of funding — $15 million that it closed last September — and suggests that the cannabis industry has fared better during the COVID-19 pandemic than people outside the industry might imagine.

We had a fast chat yesterday with the company’s cofounder and CEO, Ross Lipson, about the year that Dutchie is having.

TC: I’d seen recently that Dutchie has added contactless payments.

RL: Yes, when the pandemic hit, virtually all of our dispensaries shifted to a curbside pickup model. We built a solution that allows customers to select curbside at checkout, and also includes a way to notify the dispensary when they arrive and provides them information on how to locate their vehicle.

TC: A year ago, there were more than 30 states where cannabis was either medically legal or that had legalized the recreational use of marijuana. How has that changed?

RL: We now work with over 1,300 dispensaries in 32 markets. By comparison, a year ago we were only operating in 9 markets. Nationwide, 47 out of 50 states now allow some form of legal cannabis, and 2020 could bring full legalization in major markets such as New Jersey and Arizona.

TC. Can you put that into context? How many dispensaries are there in the U.S.?

RL: Dutchie processes 10% of all legal cannabis sales worldwide and powers over 25% of dispensaries. That’s more than 75,000 orders a day.

TC: You had 36 employees the last time we talked. What’s that number now?

RL: We currently have 102 employees and we aim to double our team by the end of 2021.

TC: Aside from helping dispensaries shift to a curbside model, how has the pandemic impacted your business?

RL: Virtually all states deemed cannabis dispensaries as essential businesses [once COVID took hold]. Many still had to comply with state laws and close their physical stores, though, leaving only one option for sales – online ordering. We saw dispensaries shift from about 30% of overall sales coming from Dutchie to upwards of 100%, and our business grew 600% in roughly one month.

Overall, we’ve seen a 700% surge in sales volume during the pandemic. We had to scale quickly to deal with six times the load on our technology.

TC: Think those numbers will shift around as some parts of the country open up?

RL: Dispensaries are poised to keep online ordering and e-commerce options available because it is part of what their customers now expect.

Pictured, left to right, above: Ross and Zach Lipson (Zach, Ross’s brother, is the company’s cofounder and chief product officer).

#cannabis, #casa-verde-capital, #dutchie, #funding, #howard-schultz, #recent-funding, #startups, #tc, #thirty-five-ventures, #thrive-capital, #venture-capital

Investors are browsing for Chromium startups

A few months ago, we declared that “browsers are interesting again,” thanks to increased competition among the major players. Now, as more startups are getting onboard, things are getting downright exciting.

A small but growing number of projects are building web browsers with a more specific type of user in mind. Whether that perceived user is prioritizing improved speed, organization or toolsets aligned with their workflow, entrepreneurs are building these projects with the assumption that Google’s one-size-fits-all approach with Chrome leaves plenty of users with a suboptimal experience.

Building a modern web browser from scratch isn’t the most feasible challenge for a small startup. Luckily open-source projects have enabled developers to build their evolved web browsers on the bones of the apps they aim to compete with. For browsers that are not Safari, Firefox, Chrome or a handful of others, Google’s Chromium open-source project has proven to be an invaluable asset.

Since Google first released Chrome in late 2008, the company has also been updating Chromium. The source code powers the Microsoft Edge and Opera web browsers, but also allows smaller developer teams to harness the power of Chrome when building their own apps.

These upstart browsers have generally sought to compete with the dominant powers on the privacy front, but as Chrome and Safari have begun shipping more features to help users manage how they are tracked online, entrepreneurs are widening their product ambitions to tackle usability upgrades.

Aiding these heightened ambitions is increased attention on custom browsers from investors. Mozilla co-founder Brendan Eich’s Brave has continued to scale, announcing last month they had 5 million daily active users of their privacy-centric browser.

Today, Thrive Capital’s Josh Miller spoke with TechCrunch about his project The Browser Company which has raised $5 million from some notable Silicon Valley operators. Other hot upstart efforts include Mighty, a subscription-based, remote-streamed Chrome startup from Mixpanel founder Suhail Doshi, and Blue Link Labs, a recent entrant that’s building a decentralized peer-to-peer browser called Beaker browser.

Mighty

As front-end developers have gotten more ambitious and web applications have gotten more complex, Chrome has earned the reputation of being quite the RAM hog.

#brave, #browsers, #chromium, #ev-williams, #founders-fund, #freeware, #github, #google, #google-chrome, #mighty, #mixpanel, #mozilla, #opera, #slack-fund, #tc, #thrive-capital, #web-browsers, #y-combinator