Scale CEO Alex Wang and Accel’s Dan Levine explain why sometimes unconventional VC deals are best

Few companies have done better than Scale at spotting a need in the AI gold rush early on and filling that gap. The startup rightly identified that one of the tasks most important to building effective AI at scale — the laborious exercise of tagging data sets to make them usable in properly training new AI agents — was one that companies focused on that area of tech would also be most willing to outsource. CEO and co-founder Alex Wang credits their success since founding, which includes raising over $277 million and achieving break-even status in terms of revenue, to early support from investors including Accel’s Dan Levine.

Accel haș participated in four of Scale’s financing rounds, which is all of them unless you include the funding from YC the company secured as part of a cohort in 2016. In fact, Levine wrote one of the company’s very first checks. So on this past week’s episode of Extra Crunch Live, we spoke with Levine and Wang about how that first deal came together, and what their working relationship has been like in the years since.

Scale’s story starts with a pivot, and with a bit of rule-breaking, too — Wang went off the typical YC book by speaking to investors prior to demo day when Levine cold-emailed him after seeing Scale on Product Hunt. The Product Hunt spot wasn’t planned, either — Wang was as surprised to see his company there as anyone else. But Levine saw the kernel of something with huge potential, and despite being a relative unknown in VC at the time, didn’t want to let the opportunity pass him, or Wang, by.

Both Wang and Levine were also able to provide some great feedback on decks submitted to our regular Pitch Deck Teardown segment, despite the fact that Levine actually never saw a pitch deck from Wang before investing (more on that later). If you’d like your pitch deck reviewed by experienced founders and investors on a future episode, you can submit your deck here.

Knowing when to bend the rules

As mentioned, Levine and Accel’s initial investment in Scale came from a cold email sent after the company appeared on Product Hunt. Wang said the team had just put out an early version of Scale, and then noticed that it was up on Product Hunt — it was submitted by someone else. The community response was encouraging, and it also led to Levine reaching out via email.

“One of the side effects of that, one of the outcomes, was that we got this cold email from Dan,” he said. “We really knew nothing about Dan until his cold email. So like many great stories that started with a bold, cold email. And we were pretty stressed about it at the time, because in YC, they tell you pretty definitively, ‘Hey, don’t talk to a VC during the batch,’ and we were squarely in the middle of the batch.”

Wang and the team were so nervous that they even considered “ghosting” Dan despite his obvious interest and the prestige of Accel as an investment firm. In the end, they decided to “go rogue” and respond, which led to a meeting at the Accel offices in Palo Alto.

#accel, #alex-wang, #artificial-intelligence, #dan-levine, #ec-how-to, #extra-crunch-live, #pitching, #product-hunt, #startups, #tc, #technology, #tiger-global, #venture-capital, #y-combinator


#DealMonitor – Tiger Global und Co. investieren 66 Millionen in Bryter – APX investiert in LifeLive

Im aktuellen #DealMonitor für den 7. April 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.


+++ Der amerikanische Geldgeber Tiger Global investiert gemeisam mit einigen Alt-Investoren 66 Millionen US-Dollar in Bryter. Das Berliner Unternehmen, das 2018 gegründet wurde, positioniert sich als sogenannte “No-Code-Automatisierungsplattform”. Das Remote-First-Startup , das von Michael Grupp, Micha-Manuel Bues und Michael Hübl geführt wird, ermöglicht seinen Kunden ohne Programmierkenntnisse Applikationen und Bots zu betreiben. Thematisch geht es dabei um die Segmente Recht, HR, Einkauf, Finanzen, Steuern und Compliance. Zuletzt konnte das Startup 16 Millionen einsammeln – unter anderem von Dawn Capital und Accel. Zu den weiteren Geldgebern der Jungfirma gehören Notion Capital, Cavalry Ventures und die SaaS-Investoren Mike Chalfen und Charles Songhurst. Insgesamt flossen nun schon rund 90 Millionen Dollar in Bryter. Tiger Global drängt derzeit massiv auf den deutschen Markt. Der bekannte Geldgeber steht nach unseren Informationen derzeit vor einem Investment in Pitch und bei Taxdoo. Hintergründe gibt es im aktuellen Insider-Podcast.

+++ In unserem Newsletter Startup-Radar berichten wir einmal in der Woche über neue Startups. Alle Startups stellen wir in unserem kostenpflichtigen Newsletter kurz und knapp vor und bringen sie so auf den Radar der Startup-Szene. Jetzt unseren Newsletter Startup-Radar abonnieren und 30 Tage kostenlos testen!

+++ Der Berliner Frühestphaseninvestor APX, hinter dem Axel Springer und Porsche stecken, und der Berliner GründungsBONUS investieren in LifeLive. Bei LifeLive, 2020 von Daniel Breyer und Felix Reiter gegründet, handelt es sich um eine interaktive Streaming-Plattform. Diese erlaubt seinen Nutzer:innen “nicht nur an einem Live-Event – wie einem Konzert, Club-Gig oder Festival-Stage – teilzunehmen, sondern auch mit anderen Nutzern individuell via Live-Video-Übertragung zu kommunizieren”.

+++ Das Aachener Unternehmen Zentis investiert über seinen Venturearm Zentis Ventures in Berliner Startup Haferkater, ein Unternehmen, das Porridge anbietet.

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, #apx, #berlin, #bryter, #haferkater, #lifelive, #no-code, #tiger-global, #venture-capital, #zentis-ventures


Investment app for millennials Groww raises $83 million at over $1 billion valuation

More than 200 million people in India transact money digitally, but fewer than 30 million invest in mutual funds and stocks.

An Indian startup that is attempting to change this figure by courting millennials announced a new financing round on Wednesday and turned into the newest unicorn in the world’s second largest internet market.

Bangalore-based Groww has raised $83 million in its Series D financing round, which valued the Indian startup at more than $1 billion, up from $250 million in $30 million Series C in September last year.

Tiger Global led the new round, and existing investors Sequoia Capital India, Ribbit Capital, YC Continuity and Propel Venture Partners participated in it, said the four-year-old Indian startup, which has raised $142 million to date.

On a side note, Groww is the eighth Indian startup to attain the unicorn status this year — and fourth this week. Social commerce Meesho turned a unicorn on Monday, fintech firm CRED on Tuesday, and earlier today epharmacy firm PharmEasy announced a new financing round that valued the firm at about $1.5 billion.

Groww allows users to invest in mutual funds, including systematic investment planning (SIP) and equity-linked savings, gold, as well as stocks, including those listed at U.S. exchanges. The app offers every fund that is currently available in India.

The startup has amassed over 8 million registered users, two-thirds of whom are first-time investors, Lalit Keshre, co-founder and chief executive of Groww, told TechCrunch in an interview. Keshre and other former Flipkart executives — Harsh Jain, Neeraj Singh and Ishan Bansal — co-founded Groww in 2017.

Keshre said the startup will deploy the fresh funds to accelerate its growth, and hire more talent. “We now have fuel for longer-term thinking and faster growth,” he said.

More than 60% of Groww users come from smaller cities and towns of India and 60% of these have never made such investments before, said Keshre. The startup said it has conducted workshops in several small cities to educate people about the investment world.

Comparison of fintech market share in brokerage (BCG)

The coronavirus pandemic has also accelerated the startup’s growth as youngsters explore new hobbies. The startup competes with a handful of firms including Zerodha, Paytm Money, Upstox, ET Money, Smallcase, and traditional firms.

“We started Groww almost five years back to make investing accessible and transparent to everyone in India. We have made good progress, but it feels we have just got started,” said Keshre.

#apps, #asia, #funding, #groww, #india, #propel-venture-partners, #ribbit-capital, #sequoia-capital-india, #tiger-global, #yc-continuity


Patreon triples valuation to $4 billion in new raise

Patreon has tripled its valuation to $4 billion in a $155 million funding round led by Tiger Global, the company confirmed to the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday. 

The creator economy platform, which allows artists to be directly funded by their fans, received new attention amid the Covid-19 pandemic as creators were forced to push more of their work online. The creator payments space has seen a multitude of new entrants in recent months but the eight-year-old Patreon has already built up an extensive network. In a blog post last year, Patreon noted that more than 30,000 creators signed up for the service in the first weeks of March 2020.

Patreon makes money by taking a 5-12 percent fee from creators depending on which of the company’s services they use. The company wrapped a $90 million round in September that valued the company at $1.2 billion.

Other investors in this new round include Woodline Partners, Wellington Management, Lone Pine Capital and New Enterprise Associates, the report notes. 

#lone-pine-capital, #new-enterprise-associates, #patreon, #tc, #the-wall-street-journal, #tiger-global, #wall-street-journal, #wellington-management


India’s CRED valued at $2.2 billion in new $215 million fundraise

Two-year-old CRED has become the youngest Indian startup to be valued at $2 billion or higher.

Bangalore-based CRED said on Tuesday it has raised $215 million in a new funding round — a Series D — that valued the Indian startup at $2.2 billion (post-money), up from about $800 million valuation in $81 million Series C round in January this year.

New investor Falcon Edge Capital and existing investor Coatue Management led the new round. Insight Partners and existing investors DST Global, RTP Global, Tiger Global, Greenoaks Capital, Dragoneer Investment Group, and Sofina also participated in the new round, which brings CRED’s total to-date raise to about $443 million.

TechCrunch reported last month that CRED was in advanced stages of talks to raise about $200 million at a valuation of around $2 billion.

CRED operates an app that rewards customers for paying their credit card bills on time and gives them access to a range of additional services such as credit and a premium catalog of products from high-end brands.

An individual needs to have a credit score of at least 750 to be able to sign up for CRED. By keeping such a high bar, the startup says it is ensuring that people are incentivized to improve their financial behavior. (More on this later.)

CRED today serves more than 6 million customers, or about 22% of all credit card holders — and 35% of all premium credit card holders — in the world’s second largest internet market.

Kunal Shah, founder and chief executive of CRED, told TechCrunch in an interview that the startup intends to become the platform for affluent customers in India and also not limit its offerings to financial services.

He said the startup’s e-commerce service, for instance, has been growing fast. He attributed the early success to customers enjoying the curation of items on CRED and merchants finding the platform appealing as ticket size of each transaction on CRED is higher.

The startup plans to deploy the fresh funds to scale several of its revenue channels and engage in more experimentations, he said.

When asked whether CRED would like to serve all credit card users in India some day, Shah said the selection criteria limits the startup from doing so, but he said he was optimistic that more users will improve their scores in the future.

The startup, unlike most others in India, doesn’t focus on the usual TAM (addressable market) — hundreds of millions of users of the world’s second-most populated nation — and instead caters to some of the most premium audiences.

Consumer segmentation and addressable market for fintech firms in India (BofA Research)

“India has 57 million credit cards (vs 830 million debit cards) [that] largely serves the high-end market. The credit card industry is largely concentrated with the top 4 banks (HDFC, SBI, ICICI and Axis) controlling about 70% of the total market. This space is extremely profitable for these banks – as evident from the SBI Cards IPO,” analysts at Bank of America wrote in a recent report to clients.

“Very few starts-ups like CRED are focusing on this high-end base and [have] taken a platform-based approach (acquire customers now and look for monetization later). Credit card in India remains an aspirational product. The under penetration would likely ensure continued strong growth in coming years. Overtime, the form-factor may evolve (i.e. move from plastic card to virtual card), but the inherent demand for credit is expected to grow,” they added.

CRED has become one of the most talked about startups in India, in part because of the pace at which it has raised money of late, its growing valuation, and the fact that it only caters to select customers.

Some users have also said that CRED no longer offers them the perks it used a year ago.

Shah said CRED is addressing those concerns. A recent feature, which allows customers to use CRED points at over a thousand merchants, for instance, has made the reward more appealing, he said, adding that the startup is slowly incorporating that into its own e-commerce store as well.

“What will soon happen is that customers will realize that these points are asset and not a liability. They will start to see benefits of the points in more places,” he said, adding that the pandemic derailed some of the things CRED had planned for in the real world.

The startup, which bought back shares worth $1.2 million from employees in January this year, told them in an email today that it will soon be buying back stocks worth $5 million. “As the funding helps CRED invest in its future, hopefully the buyback will help some of you do that too,” the email said.

#apps, #asia, #coatue-management, #cred, #dragoneer-investment-group, #dst-global, #falcon-edge-capital, #finance, #funding, #greenoaks-capital, #india, #kunal-shah, #rtp-global, #sofina, #tiger-global


Uruguayan payments startup dLocal quadruples valuation to $5B with $150M raise

Cross-border payments startup dLocal has raised $150 million at a $5 billion valuation, less than seven months after securing $200 million at a $1.2 billion valuation.

This means that the five-year-old Uruguayan company has effectively quadrupled its valuation in a matter of months.

Alkeon Capital led the latest round, which also included participation from BOND, D1 Capital Partners, and Tiger Global. General Atlantic led its previous round, which closed last September and made dLocal Uruguay’s first unicorn and one of Latin American’s highest-valued startups.

DLocal connects global enterprise merchants with “billions” of emerging market consumers in 29 countries across Asia-Pacific, the Middle East, Latin America and Africa. More than 325 global merchants, including e-commerce retailers, SaaS companies, online travel providers and marketplaces use dLocal to accept over 600 local payment methods. They also use its platform to issue payments to their contractors, agents, and sellers. Some of dLocal’s customers include Amazon,, Dropbox, GoDaddy, MailChimp, Microsoft, Spotify, TripAdvisor, Uber and Zara. 

In conjunction with this latest round, dLocal has named Sumita Pandit to the role of COO. Pandit is former global head of fintech and managing director for JP Morgan, who also had experience at Goldman Sachs.

“Sumita is a highly respected and accomplished fintech investment banker, and she’s played a pivotal role advising some of the world’s most successful fintech companies as they’ve scaled to become global leaders,”  said dLocal CEO Sebastián Kanovich in a written statement.

Meanwhile, former COO Jacobo Singer has been promoted to president of dLocal.

The company plans to use its new capital to enhance its technology and continue to expand geographically.

Alkeon General Partner Deepak Ravichandran believes that emerging markets represent some of the fastest growth opportunities in digital payments.

“However, as global merchants look to access these markets, they are often faced with a complex web of local payment methods, cross-border regulations, and other operational roadblocks,” he said in a written statement. “dLocal’s unique platform empowers merchants with a single integrated payment solution, to reach billions of customers, accept payments, send payouts, and settle funds globally.”

#alkeon-capital, #bond, #cross-border-payments, #d1-capital-partners, #dlocal, #finance, #fintech, #funding, #fundings-exits, #latin-america, #payments, #recent-funding, #startups, #tiger-global, #uruguay, #venture-capital


Daily Crunch: Tiger Global raises one of the biggest venture funds ever

Tiger Global closes a $6.65 billion fund, Facebook gives users more tools to encourage COVID vaccination and iPhone app spending continues to grow. This is your Daily Crunch for April 1, 2021.

The big story: Tiger Global raises one of the biggest venture funds ever

Investment giant Tiger Global had already announced that it was raising $3.75 billion for its thirteenth venture fund, but a new SEC filing showed that it ended up raising much more than that — $6.65 billion.

Perhaps that’s no surprise, given how active the firm has been. Just this week, it’s been announced as the lead or co-lead in a $300 million round for HighRadius, a $192 million round for Cityblock Health and a $125 million round for 6sense. Plus, portfolio company Stripe is now valued at $95 billion and Roblox just went public.

The tech giants

Facebook launches profile frames that help you encourage friends to get the COVID-19 vaccine — The effort follows a similar launch in the U.K., which has apparently resulted in a quarter of Facebook users in the U.K. having seen a Facebook friend with the profile frame.

US iPhone users spent an average of $138 on apps in 2020, will grow to $180 in 2021 — That’s an increase of 38% year over year, according to new data from Sensor Tower.

UK’s antitrust watchdog takes a closer look at Facebook-Giphy — Facebook’s $400 million purchase of Giphy is now facing an in-depth probe by the CMA after the regulator found the acquisition raises competition concerns related to digital advertising.

Startups, funding and venture capital

Thrasio raises $100M for its Amazon roll-up play, appoints retail CFO for its next steps — The company has acquired and consolidated over 100 brands (and 15,000 products) selling on Amazon.

Next Insurance raises $250M, doubling its valuation to $4B in under a year — Next sells small-business coverage across a number of categories (workers’ comp, commercial auto, general liability, etc.) for different classes of workers.

Holler raises $36M to power ‘conversational media’ in your favorite apps — You may not know what conversational media is, but there’s a decent chance you’ve used Holler’s technology.

Advice and analysis from Extra Crunch

Kaltura puts debut on hold. Is the tech IPO window closing? — It appears that Kaltura was surprised that it was not trending toward a higher IPO price.

Knowing when your startup should go all-in on business development — There’s a persistent fallacy swirling around that any startup growing pain or scaling problem can be solved with business development.

Bring CISOs into the C-suite to bake cybersecurity into company culture — The information age is shaking up the C-suite’s composition.

(Extra Crunch is our membership program, which helps founders and startup teams get ahead. You can sign up here.)

Everything else

For VC Hans Tung, the personal becomes public in a growing campaign to ‘stop Asian hate’ — Tung and his partners at GGV Capital decided to take action two weeks ago.

ILM shows off the new Stagecraft LED wall used for season 2 of ‘The Mandalorian’ — Stagecraft, the enormous LED-wall volume ILM used to shoot the first season has since been expanded and updated to be better, faster and easier to use.

Put your city on the TC map with TechCrunch’s European Cities Survey 2021 — TechCrunch is embarking on a major new project to survey European founders and investors in cities outside the larger European capitals.

The Daily Crunch is TechCrunch’s roundup of our biggest and most important stories. If you’d like to get this delivered to your inbox every day at around 3pm Pacific, you can subscribe here.

#daily-crunch, #tc, #tiger-global, #venture-capital


#DealMonitor – #EXKLUSIV Project A und GFC investieren in amazd – Tiger Global vor Investment in Pitch – Cavalry Ventures investiert in Blok

Im aktuellen #DealMonitor für den 22. März 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.


+++ Project A Ventures und Global Founders Capital (GFC) investieren in amazd. Das Münchner Startup, das von Fabian Furtmeier und Dominik Unützer (beide zuletzt Global Founders Capital) gegründet wurde, möchte Shopbetreibern helfen, mehr Umsatz zu erzielen. “They aim to bridge the gap between the offline and online retail world by bringing the kind of curated, face-to-face advice from the offline world to the E-Commerce sphere”, heißt es in einer Stellenanzeige der Jungfirma. Weitere Infos gibt es nur im aktuellen Insider-Podcast. #EXKLUSIV

+++ Tiger Global steht vor einem Investment in Pitch. Mit Pitch möchte Wunderlist-Gründer Christian Reber Präsentationen für die Generation Slack bauen. Thrive Capital und Co. investierten zuletzt 30 Millionen US-Dollar in Pitch. Index Ventures, BlueYard und Frank Thelen, der schon Wunderlist unterstützte, zuvor bereits 19 Millionen Dollar in das Startup. Nach unseren Informationen bewerteten die Geldgeber das Startup zuletzt mit 170 Millionen Dollar (Pre-Money). Weitere Infos gibt es nur im aktuellen Insider-Podcast. #EXKLUSIV

+++ Der Berliner Kapitalgeber Cavalry Ventures investiert in den spanischen Gorillas Klon Blok. Die Jungfirma beschreibt sich als “On-demand grocery delivery service”. In der Pre-Seed-Investmentrunde sammelte das Startup, das Anfang 2021 gegründet wurde, bereits 1 Millionen Euro ein. Nun sucht das sehr junge Unternehmen – ohne große Erfahrungswerte im Segment – 15 Millionen Euro. Weitere Infos gibt es nur im aktuellen Insider-Podcast. #EXKLUSIV

+++ Das junge Gießener Unternehmen GraphCMS plant derzeit eine weitere – große – Investmentrunde. Der Berliner Kapitalgeber Paua Ventures und einige Business Angels investieren2018 bereits 1 Million US-Dollar in das Startup. 2020 flossen dann weitere 2,5 Millionen Euro in das Unternehmen – unter anderem von Peak Capital. Weitere Infos gibt es nur im aktuellen Insider-Podcast. #EXKLUSIV

+++ In unserem Newsletter Startup-Radar berichten wir einmal in der Woche über neue Startups. Alle Startups stellen wir in unserem kostenpflichtigen Newsletter kurz und knapp vor und bringen sie so auf den Radar der Startup-Szene. Jetzt unseren Newsletter Startup-Radar abonnieren und 30 Tage kostenlos testen!

+++ Das junge InsurTech wefox, das 2014 in der Schweiz an den Start ging, plant 250 Millionen US-Dollar einzusammen – siehe Sky News. “Sources said on Thursday that Target Global, a German-headquartered fund which has backed start-ups such as Delivery Hero and the ride-hailing app Lyft, was expected to lead the round with a $100m investment”, heißt es im Artikel. Zudem berichtet auch Sifted über wefox: “Sifted can reveal that the Berlin-based startup has recently hired Sachs as it tries to close out a Series C raise that has dragged on since last year”. Harbert Management Corporation und weitere Investoren investierten zuletzt rund 100 Millionen Euro in das Unternehmen zu dem auch der Versicherer One gehört.

+++ Insight Partners und Highland Europe investieren 82 Millionen Euro in Camunda. Mit der neuen Finanzspritze möchte das Berliner Unternehmen sein “Wachstum beschleunigen und die Führung im sich schnell entwickelnden globalen Markt für Prozessautomatisierung weiter ausbauen”. Highland Europe investierte 2018 bereits 25 Millionen Euro in das Berliner IT-Unternehmen, das 2008 von Jakob Freund gegründet wurde. Camunda entwickelt Software für die Automatisierung von Geschäftsprozessen.  “Insight Partners unterstützt Camunda über die Investition hinaus künftig auch darin, das eigene Unternehmen besser zu skalieren sowie Produktentwicklung, Vertrieb und Marketing im Rahmen der globalen Expansion zu beschleunigen”, teilt der Open-Source-Softwareanbieter mit.

+++  HV Capital, Heartcore Capital und die Altinvestoren investieren 24 Millionen Euro in Roadsurfer. Das Münchner Startups, das 2016 von Markus Dickhard, Stephie Niemann, Christoph Niemann, Jean-Marie Klein und Susanne Dickhardt gegründet wurde, vermietet Camper. Derzeit bietet das Unternehmen nach eigenen Angaben über 2.500 Camper an 22 Standorten in mehreren europäischen Länder an – darunter Deutschland, Frankreich, Spanien und Portugal. Mittlerweile arbeiten 230 Mitarbeiter:innen für Roadsurfer. Der Münchner Angel-Verbund 10x Group, hinter dem Andreas Etten, Felix Haas, Jan Becker und Robert Wuttke stecken, investierte bereits zuvor in Roadsurfer.

+++  Ein Konsortium aus Privatinvestoren und Family Offices aus Deutschland und Österreich investieren 7 Millionen Euro Clinomic – siehe Gründerszene. Das 2019 als Spin-off der RWTH Aachen gegründete Startup entwickelt mit Mona ein Assistenzsystem für Intensivstationen. “Das Zusammenwirken von translationaler Forschung, Data Science und Computational Intelligence schafft neue, bahnbrechende Möglichkeiten”, verspricht das Unternehmen, das von Lukas Martin und Arne Peine gegründet wurde.

+++ La Famiglia sowie die Gründer von Foodspring, Personio, AeroMobil und Petlab investieren 2,9 Millionen US-Dollar in y42, früher als Datos Intelligence bekannt. “The funding will help us pursue our mission and further support our go-to-market strategy as well as product development”, teilt das Startup mit.  Die Jungfirma beschreibt sich so: “y42 is a no-code business intelligence platform for loading, cleaning, connecting, visualizing and sharing data”.  y42 wurde von Hung Dang gegründet.

+++ Bayern Kapital und “ein Konsortium branchenerfahrener Business Angels” investieren eine siebenstellige Summe in Easy-Tutor aus München. Das Startup entwickelt eine Online-Nachhilfe- und Lernplattform für Schüler und Studenten. Easy-Tutor wurde Anfang 2017 von Massimo Cancellara Alexander Liebisch und Jessica Contento gegründet. “Die Kapitalaufstockung trägt dem starken Wachstum des jungen Unternehmens Rechnung: Mehr als 4000 Schüler nutzen das Angebot von Easy-Tutor bereits”, teilt das Unternehmen mit.

Naughty Nuts
+++ Döhler Ventures investiert in Naughty Nuts. Bei Naughty Nuts aus Köln dreht sich alles um Nüsse. “Wir kreieren innovatives Bio Nussmus aus 100 % natürlichen Zutaten. Damit sorgen wir für ein überraschendes Geschmackserlebnis und zeigen wie vielseitig Nussmus ist”, schreiben die Gründer Benjamin Porten und Lorenz Greiner zum Konzept. Döhler Ventures aus Darmstadt investierte in der Vergangenheit in Food-Startups wie Just Spices, BrauFässchen und waterdrop.

+++ Interlink Ventures und der Company Builder High Rise Ventures investieren in Planstack. Mit digitaler Baudokumentation möchte Planstack agiles Arbeiten zwischen Bauunternehmern, Gewerken und Käufern vereinfachen. In der webbasierten Anwendung werden alle Projektbeteiligten auf einer Plattform zusammengeführt. Das Augsburger Startup wurde 2019 von Linda Mayr und Sascha Schütz gegründet.

Lhotse Analytics
+++ Die Investitions- und Strukturbank Rheinland-Pfalz (ISB) investiert in Lhotse Analytics aus Koblenz. Das Unternehmen entwickelt eine Software für den strategischen Einkauf, die durch “intern entwickelte Algorithmen und Business Intelligence Einsparpotenziale aufzeigt”. Die Jungfirma wird von Nicolas Neubauer und Daniel Demuth geführt.


Planet A Ventures
+++ In Hamburg entsteht mit Planet A Ventures derzeit ein neuer Kapitalgeber. Vorangetrieben wird der Early Stage-Investor von Jimdo-Gründer Fridtjof Detzner, Tobias Seikel (zuletzt Hanse Ventures), Christian Schad, Lena Thiede und Nick de la Forge. Das Team plant Impact-Investments, bei der eine wissenschaftliche Sichtweise auf die Ökobilanz, im Fokus stehen. Das sogenannte First Closing (50 Millionen Euro) ist für den Sommer geplant. Bis zum kommenden Jahr möchten die Hanseaten dann 100 Millionen einsammeln. Vor dem offiziellen Start plant das Planet A Ventures-Team fünf Investments – darunter nach unseren Informationen ein Investment in Dance, das neue Mobility-Startups von Jimdo-Gründer Christian Springub. Weitere Infos gibt es nur im aktuellen Insider-Podcast. #EXKLUSIV


Insider #98
+++ Schon die neue Insider-Ausgabe mit Sven Schmidt gehört? In der aktuellen Folge geht es um: Amazd, Pitch, Planet A Ventures, Dance, Blok, likeminded, GraphCMS, Klaus Hommels, Fit Analytics, Patient 21, Enpal, Babbel, Volocopter, Lampenwelt, About You und Mister Spex.

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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.

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E-commerce marketing startup Yotpo raises $230M at a $1.4B valuation

Barely more than seven months after its most recent funding announcement, Yotpo is revealing that it has raised another $230 million in a Series F round that values the company at $1.4 billion (post-money).

“Our round, in my eyes, it’s all about celebrating the future of e-commerce,” co-founder and CEO Tomer Tagrin told me. “Brands don’t need to worry about connecting the marketing stack anymore.”

Where success in traditional retail has been determined by “location, location, location,” Tagrin said e-commerce is “all about consumer attention.” To capture that attention, he estimated the average brand is using 10 to 14 different marketing applications, creating a “pretty horrible experience.” So Yotpo — founded in 2011 and headquartered in New York City — aims to provide all of a brand’s e-commerce marketing needs in a single, integrated platform.

To illustrate this, Tagrin described a marketer wanting to create a customized offer just for users who had both purchased a product in the past 90 days and left a five-star review. Yotpo allows them to do that with “just the click of a button,” whereas “that experience was just not feasible before Yotpo,” he said.

The platform currently consists of four main products — Yotpo SMS Marketing, Yotpo Loyalty & Referrals, Yotpo Reviews and Yotpo Visual UGC — which integrate with each other, as well as with e-commerce platforms such as Shopify, Salesforce Commerce Cloud, Adobe-owned Magento and BigCommerce.

Yotpo CEO Tomer Tagrin

Yotpo CEO Tomer Tagrin

Tagrin said Yotpo still had money leftover from the last round but it decided to raise additional money to continue investing in product and marketing, as well for strategic acquisitions. (The company acquired SMSBump at the beginning of 2020 and Tagrin said it’s “70% of the way there” towards full integration.) Among other things, the company is planning to launch new products around customer communication and measuring a customer’s lifetime value.

Yotpo also says that it has now exceeded $100 million in annual recurring revenue, with the SMS marketing product growing revenue by 170% last year, while the loyalty product saw its revenue nearly double. Big brands like Patagonia and Steve Madden use the platform, but Tagrin pointed out that it’s also used by newer direct-to-consumer businesses like Princess Polly and has 30,000 paying customers over all.

“I like to say that Victoria’s Secret will die by a thousand cuts,” he said. “These are the mini-brands … the up-and-comer brands that are going to replace the incumbents.”

Yotpo has now raised more than $400 million in total funding, according to Crunchbase. The round was led by by Bessemer Venture Partners and Tiger Global, with participation from Claltech Investment, Coin Ventures, Hanaco, Vertex Ventures, Vintage Investment Partners, Capital Group and others.

“Tiger Global has long been bullish on eCommerce as the future of retail, having invested in disruptor brands like Warby Parker and Peloton, giants like, and best-in-class SaaS companies like Stripe and Twilio,” said Tiger’s John Curtius in a statement. “We are excited by Yotpo’s approach to provide a unified marketing tech stack and the value it provides to brands and online shoppers in the process.”

#advertising-tech, #bessemer-venture-partners, #ecommerce, #funding, #fundings-exits, #startups, #tc, #tiger-global, #yotpo


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


India’s CRED in talks to raise $200 million at $2 billion valuation

Bangalore’s fintech startup ecosystem is inching closer to delivering a new unicorn: CRED.

Two-year-old CRED is in advanced stages of talks to raise about $200 million at about $2 billion valuation, three sources familiar with the matter told TechCrunch. The new funding round, like this January’s Series C, will be largely financed by existing investors, the sources said, requesting anonymity as talks are private. The round is expected to close within a month, one of them said.

CRED, founded by Kunal Shah, has become one of the most talked-about startups in India, in part because of the pace at which its valuation has soared.

Backed by high-profile investors including DST Global, Sequoia Capital India, Tiger Global, Ribbit Capital, and General Catalyst, CRED was valued at $806 million when it closed its Series C round in January this year and $450 million in August 2019. (TechCrunch also scooped the Series C round of CRED.)

If the new deal goes through, CRED will be the fastest startup in the world’s second largest internet market to attain a $2 billion valuation. Prior to the upcoming Series D round, CRED had raised about $228 million.

Reached by TechCrunch early last week, CRED declined to comment. Sequoia Capital India didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Indian startup operates an eponymous app that rewards customers for paying their credit card bills on time and offers deals from online brands such as Starbucks, Nykaa, and Vahdam Teas. It had over 5.9 million customers as of January — or about 20% of the credit card holder population in the country.

The startup, unlike most others in India, doesn’t focus on the usual TAM of India — hundreds of millions of users of the world’s second most populated nation — and instead caters to some of the most premium audiences.

“India has 57 million credit cards (vs 830 million debit cards) [that] largely serves the high-end market. The credit card industry is largely concentrated with the top 4 banks (HDFC, SBI, ICICI and Axis) controlling about 70% of the total market. This space is extremely profitable for these banks – as evident from the SBI Cards IPO,” analysts at Bank of America wrote in a recent report to clients.

“Very few starts-ups like CRED are focusing on this high-end base and [have] taken a platform-based approach (acquire customers now and look for monetization later). Credit card in India remains an aspirational product. The under penetration would likely ensure continued strong growth in coming years. Overtime, the form-factor may evolve (i.e. move from plastic card to virtual card), but the inherent demand for credit is expected to grow,” they added.

Consumer segmentation and addressable market for fintech firms in India (BofA Research)

CRED says it is trying to help customers improve their financial behavior. An individual needs a credit score of at least 750 to join CRED. In a recent newsletter to customers, CRED said the median credit score of its customers was 830 and at “any given point in time” more than 375,000 individuals are on the app’s waiting list, many of whom have demonstrably improved their score to join CRED.

“It’s easy to be responsible when you’re empowered. 80% CRED Protect members got visibility on extra interest charges and avoided late payment fees by tracking their dues on CRED. Ignorance is not always bliss. CRED members detected additional charges worth over ₹145 Crores [$20.1 million] on their statements. CRED members avoided over ₹43.5 Crores [$6 million] worth of late payment fees,” it wrote in the newsletter.

“With the help of regular bill payment reminders, and a seamless credit card management experience; 160,000 CRED members improved their credit scores last month. CRED members know it pays to be good as they earned cash-back worth ₹12 Crores [$1.65 million] by paying their bills on time. There’s always something to look forward to on CRED. Our members got access to over 750 new rewards and products.”

The startup makes money by cross-selling financing products — for which it has a revenue-sharing arrangement with banks and other financial institutions — and levies a similar cut from merchants who are on the platform, Shah, who is also one of the most prolific angel investors in India, told TechCrunch in an interview in January this year.

#asia, #cred, #dst-global, #funding, #general-catalyst, #india, #kunal-shah, #payments, #ribbit-capital, #sequoia-capital-india, #tiger-global


Tiger Global in talks to invest in young Indian social network at $170M valuation

Who says there is no room for a new social network?

Tiger Global is in advanced stages of talks to lead a round of $15 million to $20 million in seven-month-old Kutumb that values the Indian startup at about $170 million, four people familiar with the matter told TechCrunch.

The American investment firm has offered a termsheet to the Indian startup but the deal — a Series A — has not closed yet, some of the people said on the condition of anonymity as the talks are private. Usual caveat: Terms may change, or the deal may not materialize.

Kutumb, which means family in Hindi, has built a “private social network like Reddit” that connects communities based on “culture, creed, beliefs, interests, [and] professions.”

The startup’s eponymous six-month-old app has amassed over 11 million monthly active users, up from about 550,000 in December last year, according to mobile insight firm App Annie (data of which an industry executive shared with TechCrunch.)

Kutumb was valued at about $15 million late last year when it raised funds from Sequoia Capital India’s Surge accelerator. It raised about $2.5 million in its seed financing round, according to insight firm Tracxn.

Tiger Global declined to comment. One of the co-founders of Kutumb didn’t respond to a request for comment.

#apps, #asia, #india, #social, #tiger-global


BlockFi lands a $350M Series D at a $3B valuation for its fast-growing crypto-lending platform

If there were any doubt about a cryptocurrency boom, we need look no further than at the explosion of growth of certain companies in the space.

One such company is BlockFi, which today announced it has closed on a massive $350 million Series D funding that values it at $3 billion. While this news in and of itself is certainly attention-getting, it’s even more impressive when you consider the startup just raised a $50 million Series C last August at a $450 million valuation. The latest financing brings its total equity raised since inception to about $450 million, with the company raising $100 million across its seed and Series C rounds.

Zac Prince — who comes from a background in consumer lending —  founded BlockFi with Flori Marquez in 2017. The Jersey City, New Jersey-based startup raised $1.6 million in a seed round of funding that closed in 2018 and was led by ConsenSys Ventures and included participation from SoFi.  

Prince describes BlockFi as a financial services company for crypto market investors that offers a retail and institutional-facing suite of products. On the retail side of its platform, people can use its mobile app to earn a yield on their crypto holdings (6% on Bitcoin, 8.6% on stablecoins), buy and sell crypto and get low-cost loans secured by the value of their crypto portfolio “so they can get liquidity without selling,” he said. Specifically, clients can buy and sell digital assets (from Bitcoin, Ethereum and Link to Litecoin, PaxG and multiple stablecoins) directly on BlockFi.

The startup is also a lender and provider of trade execution services to institutions participating in digital asset markets. 

It’s a model that seems to be working in a big way. Since the end of 2019, BlockFi has seen its client base grow from 10,000 to more than 225,000. Today, BlockFi has 265,000 funded retail clients and over 200 institutional clients.

And it’s lent over $10 billion to its retail, corporate and institutional clients.

Over the past year, BlockFi has also accomplished the following:

  • Increased the number of assets on its platform to $15 billion, compared to $1 billion last March — with a 0% loss rate across its lending portfolio since inception.
  • Bumped its monthly revenue to over $50 million, up from $1.5 million a year prior.
  • Boosted its headcount to about 530 people, compared to 100 last March.

“In less than six months since we completed our Series C, Bitcoin and other digital assets have assumed a central role in many investors’ portfolios and in broader financial markets,” Prince said. “Our conviction that digital assets are the future of finance has been vindicated by our client base, which grew 10 times year over year in 2020 and has more than doubled since the end of 2020.”

New investor Bain Capital Ventures, partners of DST Global, Pomp Investments and Tiger Global co-led the Series D, which included participation from a slew of other firms including existing backer Valar Ventures, Breyer Capital, Susquehanna Government Products, Jump Capital and Paradigm, among many others. BlockFi employees who have been employed for more than one year have the opportunity to receive liquidity on a portion of their equity via a secondary tender offer as part of the financing round.  

BlockFi believes that investor enthusiasm for the Series D round reflects both the company’s strong business growth, as well as “broader conviction in cryptocurrencies as an asset class.” 

“Individual investors, institutional asset managers and corporate treasury departments are all exploring avenues to invest in cryptocurrencies,” the company said.

“Our goal for BlockFi has always been for it to facilitate cryptocurrencies going mainstream – and each day provides more evidence that is exactly what is occurring,” said Marquez, who serves as the company’s SVP of operations.

Bain Capital Ventures Partner Stefan Cohen agrees. He believes there are currently limited banking services available for crypto holders, which puts BlockFi in an opportune position.

“Bitcoin has already eclipsed $1 trillion in market cap and is likely headed higher to fulfill its store of value promise. As wealth accumulates to BTC holders, most will look for ways to earn yield or borrow against their holdings for more traditional asset purchases such as homes, cars and education,” he wrote via email. “BlockFi stands alone as the leader in bringing simple, secure, everyday financial services to cryptocurrency holders.”

The startup’s exponential growth over the past year proves “there was clearly a huge need for BlockFi’s services,” Cohen said.

“Their vision was to build an easy-to-use, trusted platform to bring cryptocurrency to the mainstream, and they’ve truly succeeded,” he added.

Meanwhile, Cohen said Bain Capital has had a long-term thesis on Bitcoin becoming a store of value and has actively invested in “picks-and-shovels businesses” that enable what is now a $1 trillion-plus market. 

“Trusted financial services are a critical pillar of the space, and we view it as a highly strategic component of the market,” he added.

Looking ahead, the startup has plans to launch in the second quarter a Bitcoin Rewards Credit Card, which will give BlockFi clients the ability to earn Bitcoin cash back on every transaction. It plans to use the new capital to continue growing its product suite, expand into new global markets and for strategic acquisitions. The company also plans to double its headcount by year’s end, according to Prince.

BlockFi already has a global presence and retail clients in over 100 countries. Last year, it opened institutional client service offices in London and Singapore.  This year, the startup is looking to add regional support in Europe, APAC and LatAm for its retail clients. 

Over the past week, BlockFi was making headlines for other reasons. The company was the victim of an “unusual assault” on March 7 when an attacker spammed the platform with fake sign-ups and abusive language.

To that end, the company acknowledges that it became aware that an unauthorized third party began attempting bulk sign-ups on its platform on March 7.

“We do not know the origin of the email addresses used for these ‘sign-ups’  but they did not come from us and they were not the emails of BlockFi clients,” the company told TechCrunch. “In general, we would characterize the event as vulgar spam’ and the total number of valid emails affected was less than 1,000.”

The company maintains that no data from BlockFi was accessed and its data was not compromised.  

“Our clients’ funds and data were safeguarded throughout the incident,” the company added. “Since then, our engineering and security teams have taken steps to prevent events like this from happening in the future. In addition, we reached out directly to all of the valid email recipients to apologize for the incident.”

#bain-capital-ventures, #bitcoin, #blockfi, #breyer-capital, #consensys, #consensys-ventures, #cryptocurrencies, #cryptocurrency, #cryptography, #currency, #digital-currencies, #dst-global, #finance, #financial-services, #funding, #fundings-exits, #jump-capital, #new-jersey, #paradigm, #recent-funding, #stablecoin, #startups, #tc, #tiger-global, #valar-ventures, #venture-capital


African payments company Flutterwave raises $170M, now valued at over $1B

The proliferation of fintech services across Africa remains in full swing as investors remain bullish about the opportunities that abound in the sector. Today we behold another unicorn: African payments company Flutterwave announced that it has closed $170 million, valuing the company over $1 billion.

New York-based private investment firm Avenir Growth Capital and US hedge fund and investment firm Tiger Global led the Series C round. New and existing investors who participated include DST Global, Early Capital Berrywood, Green Visor Capital, Greycroft Capital, Insight Ventures, PayPal, Salesforce Ventures, Tiger Management, WorldpayFIS 9yards Capital

The Series C round comes a year after Flutterwave closed its $35 million Series B and $20 million Series A in 2018. In total, Flutterwave has raised $225 million and is one of the few African startups to have secured more than $200 million in funding

Launched in 2016 as a Nigerian and U.S.-based payments company with offices in Lagos and San Francisco, Flutterwave helps businesses build customizable payments applications through its APIs.

When the company raised its Series B, we reported that Flutterwave had processed 107 million transactions worth $5.4 billion. Right now, those numbers have increased to over 140 million transactions worth over $9 billion. The company, which also helps businesses outside Africa to expand their operations on the continent, has an impressive clientele of international companies. Some of them include, Facebook, Flywire, and Uber.

Flutterwave says over 290,000 businesses use its platform to carry out payments. And according to the company’s statement, they can do so “in 150 currencies and multiple payment modes including local and international cards, mobile wallets, bank transfers, Barter by Flutterwave.”

While its website shows an active presence in 11 African countries, Flutterwave CEO Olugbenga Agboola, also known as GB, told TechCrunch the company is live in 20 African countries with an infrastructure reach in over 33 countries on the continent.

Last year was a pivotal one for the five-year-old company. Its second investment came just in time before the COVID-19 pandemic hit Africa, negatively impacting some businesses but not payments companies like Flutterwave.

Agboola says his company grew more than 100% in revenue within the past year due to the pandemic without giving specifics on numbers. It also contributed to its compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 226% from 2018.  

According to the CEO, this growth resulted from an increase in activities in “COVID beneficiary sectors”  — a term used by Flutterwave to describe sectors positively impacted by the pandemic. They include streaming, gaming, remittance, e-commerce, among others. Agboola adds that the company plans to ride on these sectors’ growth and continue in that trajectory.

Besides, Flutterwave’s response in introducing the Flutterwave Store for merchants during pandemic-induced lockdowns was instrumental as well. The product, which went live across 15 African countries, helps over 20,000 merchants to create storefronts and sell their products online.

Image Credits: Flutterwave

Flutterwave wants to become a global payments company, and the Series C investment helps to reach that goal. The company says it plans to use the funds to speed up customer acquisition in its present markets. It will also improve existing product offerings like Barter, where it has over 500,000 users, and introduce new offerings. One such is Flutterwave Mobile, which in the founder’s words “will turn merchants’ mobile devices into a point of sale, allowing them to accept payments and make sales.”

In a statement, Agboola gives credit to the company’s more than 300 staff, investors, customers, and regulatory bodies like the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) for creating the backbone for Flutterwave’s success.

For some, it would come off as strange that the CEO mentioned the last stakeholder given the unfavourable and questionable regulations it has recently placed on fintechs in Nigeria.

However, Agboola thinks the reverse is the case. He makes a bold statement by saying that under the current CBN governor’s current administration, the Central Bank has shown a consistent regulatory framework that has allowed fintechs like Flutterwave to thrive.

“Flutterwave, for instance, launched when the governor just came in. We got our license and scaled our business because of a favourable regime that allowed it to be possible. There are so many trailblazing innovations that we don’t talk about a lot about Nigeria, like the BVN and the NIP system. Nigeria has consistently been at the forefront of payments innovation for over a decade, and all it was possible because of the forward-looking CBN policies,” he said.

On exits, acquisitions, and the billion-dollar club

One fintech company that has unquestionably championed payments in this timeframe is Interswitch. The payments giant is currently worth $1 billion after Visa acquired a 20% stake in 2019 and Flutterwave joins the company as the only fintechs in Nigeria to have reached that valuation. This number increases to four in Africa when including publicly traded African e-commerce company, Jumia and Egyptian payments company Fawry.

Flutterwave’s $170 million mammoth raise and its billion-dollar valuation represent a landmark achievement for the African startup scene. While the aforementioned companies’ valuations can’t be disputed, there are question marks on whether some are startups or others, African companies.

Interswitch, for instance, was founded in 2002, which doesn’t necessarily make it a startup despite still being private. Fawry was launched in 2007 but didn’t become a billion-dollar company until 2020, a year after going public. Jumia, albeit public, reached unicorn status as a private company in 2016; however, there are varying consensus if it is an African company or not.

Unlike the others, Flutterwave checks all the boxes of what a billion-dollar African startup should ideally look like — founded by Africans in Africa while reaching a $1 billion valuation in fewer than 10 years.

Most stakeholders in Africa’s tech ecosystem knew this would happen, but the timing expected was later rather than sooner. After raising $35 million in a Series B in 2020, who would have thought Flutterwave was going to raise almost five times that amount the following round and be valued at more than $1 billion the next year? Maybe just a few.

Well, these numbers rarely matter to Agboola, as I ask him what he thinks of Flutterwave’s new growth metric. “I’ll say valuation is both art and science. At some point, we were also the most valuable African company at YC, but it’s not really a metric we’re focused on at Flutterwave because they move up and down,” he smiles. “Our key metrics have always been revenue, customer growth and retention.”

Aptly said, but as the company continues to grow, questions around profitability and exit will become more frequent.

Paystack, another Nigerian payments company that is often compared to Flutterwave got acquired by Stripe for more than $200 million last year. At the time, there were also rumours of Flutterwave taking the same route, but this Series C raise suggests that the company is not looking to exit at the moment. However, if the YC-backed company indeed does, it might be through an IPO.

“Like every other startup, we’re thinking about ways to create exit tools for our investors. So, a listing is very much in our plans, but for now, we’re focused on giving the best value to our customers,” Agboola said. 

In the course of the company’s journey to this point, it has remained big on partnerships. In 2019, Flutterwave partnered with Visa to launch Barter and Alipay to offer digital payments between Africa and China. Then last year, the company announced a partnership with Worldpay FIS for payments in Africa.

Although Flutterwave has done this with bigger establishments, Agboola says the company will be looking to do the same with smaller companies, opening the doors to potential acquisitions.

We believe in payments in partnership as you have to partner to scale. So, if in the course of making partnerships and scaling and we identify promising companies with a similar ethos and have our vision in mind, that is in making Africa a country, an acquisition isn’t off the table,” he said.

After capturing much of Sub-Saharan Africa, Agboola says Flutterwave’s next plan is to go live in North Africa. There, it will likely face competition from a local leader, Fawry, but that doesn’t matter. The African fintech market is large enough to accommodate multiple players.

That’s one reason why it has also been a popular bet with investors. The sector, which is both local and international investors’ top destination, attracted between 25% to 31% of the total VC funding last year from varying sources.

But from the information on their websites, this is the first time Flutterwave’s lead investors —  Avenir Growth Capital and Tiger Global — are backing an African fintech startup. For the former, Flutterwave represents the first African startup in its portfolio, but Tiger Global is known to have invested in Nigerian media company iROKOtv and South African e-commerce company, Takealot.

Via their partners — Jamie Reynolds of Avenir Growth Capital and Scott Shleifer of Tiger Global, both firms said they’re backing Flutterwave on its quest to build a global and world-class payments company.

Looking into the future, Agboola insists that the company’s focus remains to support its 290,000 merchants and help them build global businesses.

“We look forward to increasing our investments across the continent and deepening the impact our platform has on lives and livelihoods as we take more businesses in Africa to the world, and at the same time continue to bring more of the world to Africa,” he said.


#africa, #finance, #flutterwave, #funding, #olugbenga-agboola, #payments, #startups, #tc, #tiger-global, #unicorn, #worldpay


Inside Workvivo’s plans to take on Microsoft in the employee experience space

Maintaining company culture when the majority of staff is working remotely is a challenge for every organization — big and small.

This was an issue, even before COVID. But it’s become an even bigger problem with so many employees working from home. Employers have to be careful that workers don’t feel disconnected and isolated from the rest of the company and that morale stays high.

Enter Workvivo, a Cork, Ireland-based employee experience startup that is backed by Zoom founder Eric Yuan and Tiger Global that has steadily grown over 200% over the past year.

The company works with organizations ranging in size from 100 employees to over 100,000 and boasts more than 500,000 users. According to CEO and co-founder John Goulding, it’s had 100% retention since it launched. Customers include Telus International, Kentech, A+E Networks and Seneca Gaming Corp., among others.

Founded by Goulding and Joe Lennon in 2017, Workvivo launched its employee communication platform in mid-2018 with the goal of helping companies create “an engaging virtual workplace” and replace the outdated intranet.

“We’re not about real time, we’re more asynchronous communication,” Goulding explained. “We have a lot of transactional tools, and typically carry the bigger message about what’s going on in a company and what positive things are happening. We’re more focused on human connection.”

Using Workvivo, companies can provide information like CEO updates, recognition for employees via a social style — “more things that shape the culture so workers can get a real sense of what’s happening in an organization.” It launched podcasts in the second quarter and livestreaming in Q4.

In 2019, Workvivo showed its product to Zoom’s Yuan, who ended up becoming one of the company’s first investors. Then in May of 2020, the company raised $16 million in a Series A funding led by Tiger Global, which is best known for large growth-oriented rounds.

Workvivo, which was built out long before the COVID-19 pandemic, found itself in an opportune place last year. And demand for its offering has reflected that. 

“Since COVID hit, growth has accelerated,” Goulding told TechCrunch. “We grew three times in size over where we were before the pandemic started, in terms of revenue, users, customers and employees.”

The SaaS operator’s deals range from $50,000 to close to $1 million a year, he said. Workvivo is Europe-based and operates in 82 countries. But the majority of its customers are located in the U.S. with 80% of its growth coming from the country.

The startup opened an office in San Francisco in early 2020, which it is expanding. Thirty percent of its 65-person team is currently U.S.-based, with some working remotely from other states.

While Workvivo would not reveal hard revenue figures, Goulding only said it’s not seeking additional funding anytime soon considering the company is “in a very strong capital position.”

To tackle the same problem, Microsoft last month launched Viva, its new “employee experience platform,” or, in non-marketing terms, its new take on the intranet sites most large companies tend to offer their employees. With the move, Microsoft is taking on the likes of Facebook’s Workplace platform and Jive in addition to Workvivo.

Despite the increasingly crowded space, Workvivo believes it has an advantage over competitors in that it integrates well with Slack and Zoom.

“We’re sitting alongside Slack and Zoom in the ecosystem,” Goulding said. “There’s Zoom, Slack and us.”

Slack is real-time messaging and what’s happening in the immediate future, and Zoom is real-time video and “about the moment,” he said.

To Goulding, Microsoft’s new offering is unproven yet and a reactionary move.

“It’s obvious there’s a battle to be won for the center of the digital workplace,” he said. “We’re here to capture the heartbeat of an organization, not pulses.”

#eric-yuan, #labor, #personnel, #saas, #startups, #tc, #tiger-global, #tiger-global-management, #workvivo


Satellite constellation operator Spire Global to go public via $1.6 billion SPAC

Monday brings with it not one, but two space SPACS – there’s Rocket Lab, and there’s Spire Global, a satellite operator that bills itself primarily as a SaaS company focused on delivering data and analytics made possible by its 100-plus spacecraft constellation. SPACs have essentially proven a pressure-release valve for the space startup market, which has been waiting on high-profile exits to basically prove out the math of its venture-backability.

Spire Global debuted in 2012, and has raised over $220 million to date. It will merge with a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) called NavSight Holdings, in order to make a debut on the NYSE under the ticker ‘SPIR.’ The combined company will have a pro forma enterprise value of $1.6 billion upon transaction close, which is targeted for this summer.

The deal will provide $475 in funds for the company, including via a PIPE that includes Tiger Global, BlackRock and Hedosophia. Existing Spire stockholders will wind up with around 67% of the company after the businesses combine.

Spire’s network of satellites is designed to provide customers with a ‘space-as-a-service’ model, allowing them to operate their own payloads, and access data collected via an API their developers can integrate into their own software. The model is subscription-based, and is designed to get customers up and running with their own space-based data feed in less than a year from deal designs and commitment.

Existing investors in Spire Global include RRE Ventures, Promus Ventures, Seraphim Capital, Mitsui Global Investment and more, with its most recent round being a raised of debt financing. The company has launched satellites via Rocket Lab, its companion in the Monday SPAC news rush. The satellites it operates are small cube satellites, and it has launches on a wide range of launch vehicles, including SpaceX’s Falcon 9, the Russian Soyuz, ISRO’s PSLV, Japan’s H-2B, ULA rockets, Northrop Grumman’s Antares and even the International Space Station.

Spire got its start from very humble origins indeed – tracing all the way back to a Kickstarter campaign that was successful with just over $100,000 raised from backers.

#aerospace, #api, #blackrock, #corporate-finance, #falcon, #international-space-station, #japan, #kickstarter, #mitsui, #northrop-grumman, #outer-space, #private-equity, #promus-ventures, #rocket-lab, #rre-ventures, #satellite, #seraphim-capital, #spac, #space, #spaceflight, #spacex, #special-purpose-acquisition-company, #spire-global, #tc, #tiger-global, #transport


Infra.Market becomes India’s newest unicorn with $100 million fundraise

The newest unicorn in India is a startup that is helping construction and real estate companies in the world’s second most populated nation procure materials and handle logistics for their projects.

Four year-old Infra.Market said on Thursday it has raised $100 million in a Series C round led by Tiger Global. Existing investors including Foundamental, Accel Partners, Nexus Venture Partners, Evolvence India Fund, and Sistema Asia Fund also participated in the round, which valued the Indian startup at $1 billion.

The new round, which brings Infra.Market’s total to-date raise to about $150 million, comes just two months after the Mumbai-headquartered startup concluded its Series B round. The startup was valued at about $200 million post-money in the December round, a person familiar with the matter told TechCrunch. Avendus Capital advised Infra.Market on the new transaction.

Infra.Market helps small businesses such as manufacturers of paints and cements improve the quality of their production and meet various compliances. The startup adds its load cells to the manufacturing facilities of these small businesses to ensure there is no lapse in quality, and also helps them work with other businesses that can provide them with better raw material and provide guidance on pricing. It also works closely with businesses to ensure that their deliveries are made on time.

These improvements, explained co-founder Souvik Sengupta, help small manufacturers land larger clients that have higher expectations from the businesses with which they engage. He said the startup has helped small manufacturers reach customers outside of India as well. Some of its clients are in Bangladesh, Malaysia, Singapore and Dubai.

“We are bringing a service layer to these small manufacturers, enabling them to grow their business. We don’t own the asset and are creating private label brands,” he said in an interview with TechCrunch in December. Infra.Market works with more than 170 small manufacturers and counts the vast majority of major construction and real estate companies such as giants Larsen & Toubro, Tata Projects and Ashoka Buildcon as its clients. Sengupta said the startup sells to more than 400 large clients and 3,000 small retailers.

Sengupta said in December that the startup was on track to hit the ARR (annual recurring revenue) of $100 million before the pandemic hit early last year. This nearly cut the startup’s business in half for at least two early months of the pandemic. But the startup has picked up pace again, and is now on track to hit the ARR of $180 million. The startup aims to grow this figure to $300 million by March.

“We are delighted to partner with Souvik and Aaditya in the growth journey of Infra.Market which is reshaping India’s construction materials supply chain. With pioneering technology innovation and the ability to stitch together private label brands, Infra.Market is positioned for strong growth, healthy economics and profitability,” said Scott Shleifer, Partner of Tiger Global Management, in a statement.

Sengupta added today: “We are seeing rapid acceleration in demand as Infrastructure and real-estate companies are looking to shift their procurement to get consistent quality and minimize delays.”

#accel-partners, #asia, #ecommerce, #evolvence-india-fund, #funding, #india, #nexus-venture-partners, #sistema-asia-fund, #tiger-global


India’s Zomato valued at $5.4 billion in new $250 million investment

Zomato has raised $250 million, two months after closing a $660 million Series J financing round, as the Indian food delivery startup builds a war-chest ahead of its IPO later this year.

Kora (which contributed $115 million), Fidelity ($55 million), Tiger Global ($50 million), Bow Wave ($20 million), and Dragoneer ($10 million) pumped the new capital into the 12-year-old Gurgaon-headquartered startup, Info Edge, a publicly listed investor in Zomato, disclosed in a filing (PDF) to a local stock exchange. The new investment gives Zomato a post-money valuation of $5.4 billion, up from $3.9 billion in December last year, said Info Edge, which owns 18.4% stake in the Indian startup.

The new investment reinforces the strong confidence investors have in Zomato, which struggled to raise money for much of last year. Zomato, which acquired the Indian food delivery business of Uber early last year, competes with Prosus Ventures-backed Swiggy (valued at about $3.6 billion) in India. Together they work with over 440,000 delivery partners, a larger workforce than that employed by Indian Department of Posts.

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

At stake is India’s food delivery market, which analysts at Bernstein expect to balloon to be worth $12 billion by 2022, they wrote in a report to clients. With about 50% of the market share, Zomato is the current leader among the three, Bernstein analysts wrote.

“We find the food-tech industry in India to be well positioned to sustained growth with improving unit economics. Take-rates are one of the highest in India at 20-25% and consumer traction is increasing. Market is largely a duopoly between Zomato and Swiggy with 80%+ share,” wrote analysts at Bank of America in a recent report, reviewed by TechCrunch.

Zomato and Swiggy have improved their finances in recent years, which is especially impressive because making money with food delivery is very even more challenging in India. Unlike Western markets such as the U.S., where the value of each delivery item is about $33, in India, a similar item carries the price tag of $3 to $4, according to research firms.

Both the startups eliminated hundreds of jobs last year as coronavirus pandemic hit their businesses. Zomato co-founder and chief executive Deepinder Goyal said in December that the food delivery market was “rapidly coming out of COVID-19 shadows.”

“December 2020 is expected to be the highest ever GMV month in our history. We are now clocking ~25% higher GMV than our previous peaks in February 2020. I am supremely excited about what lies ahead and the impact that we will create for our customers, delivery partners, and restaurant partners,” he said.

In an email to employees in September last year, Goyal said Zomato was working on its IPO for “sometime in the first half” of 2021 and was raising money to build a war-chest for “future M&A, and fighting off any mischief or price wars from our competition in various areas of our business.”

#amazon, #apps, #asia, #food, #funding, #india, #swiggy, #tiger-global, #zomato


Low-code focused OutSystems raises $150M at a $9.5B valuation

This morning OutSystems, a low-code app development service, announced that it has closed $150 million in new capital. The round was led by Abdiel Capital and Tiger Global. Notably this is not the largest funding event that the Portugal and U.S.-based software company has raised. TechCrunch covered a $360 million round that OutSystems raised in 2018.

OutSystems was founded in 2001, making it older than most companies that we cover on TechCrunch, and yet it remains privately held. And like many startups, it appears to have caught a tailwind from the accelerating digital transformation of companies both large and small.

By selling $150 million worth of its own shares at a $9.5 billion valuation, OutSystems parted ways with around 1.6% of itself in the deal. Investors would not be willing to buy such a tiny slice of a company for such a price if they didn’t have confidence in its future performance.

The new funds put OutSystems on an IPO path, we reckon; the company declined to discuss public market plans with TechCrunch. It could go out sooner rather than later. This round smells a bit like pre-IPO capital, and OutSystems touted its model to TechCrunch as “efficient” in a conversation about its new funding, implying moderate cash-consumption at worst.

TechCrunch had asked the company to break down its stated plan to invest its new capital in both go-to-market (GTM) capabilities and product (R&D) work. OutSystems CEO Paulo Rosado told TechCrunch in an email that even before this announcement OutSystems was “steadily increasing both our R&D and GTM capacity,” meaning that it was “investing for growth.” The company remains “focused on building scale in an efficient way,” the CEO added.

OutSystems works on low-code app development, in contrast to the startups and more mature private concerns that are focused on the no-code project; no-code tools do not involve code, while low-code services bring together some coding along with visual programming interfaces.

In an interview with Rosado in late 2020, he explained to TechCrunch the differences between no-code and low-code as both complexity (the ability to tackle heavy-duty internal corporate workflows) and extensibility (the ability to adapt).

In OutSystems’ view low-code is simply better suited to creating material corporate apps. Here’s how the CEO explained it:

The problem is not low-code is worse than no-code. If no-code is very narrow, which most no-code tools are, when you get [a] change request that goes beyond what you can do visually, that’s it. The only answer that you have for the customer is “no, we cannot do it.”

With low-code, you can do it. But you have to do it with code. You go, you [add] code, and the code then gets blended into the no-code portion.So low-code means it’s a no-code capability, with the possibility of jumping into code.

No-code fans would argue that as their tools’ ability to avoid code improves, the code-required portion of development that Rosado details will decline. Regardless, the OutSystem’s method approach to the market appears to be working, if its recent capital raise is any indication.

Back to the round, to better understand of OutSystems’ market position in both competitive and completeness terms, TechCrunch asked the CEO about its relative strength in customer pricing calls. He responded by saying that the OutSystem’s “pricing model is based on platform utilization” over traditional SaaS pricing. We could quibble with the company here – it does have seat limits on lower-priced tiers – but the focus on consumption over traditional SaaS reminded us more of on-demand software over what Salesforce pioneered. Given the changes we’ve seen in the SaaS market lately, it’s a distinction worth keeping in mind.

Finally, how competitive is the low-code market that OutSystems’ is now taking on with fresh funding? According to its CEO, their chief competitor is not some other startup, but, instead “non-consumption.” A bit like how Netflix is competing with sleep, instead of HBO.

TechCrunch has covered the no-code and low-code for quite some time. We put words together concerning OutSystem’s 2016-vintage, $55 million round for example. But lately it seems that the demand for corporate apps – be they no-code or low-code – does appear to have accelerated. In the last four or six quarters, startups in the less-code market have consistently reported high-demand to TechCrunch.

Let’s see if the moment is enough to carry OutSystems all the way to the public markets.

#fundings-exits, #low-code, #no-code, #outsystems, #startups, #tc, #tiger-global


TigerGraph raises $105M Series C for its enterprise graph database

TigerGraph, a well-funded enterprise startup that provides a graph database and analytics platform, today announced that it has raised a $105 million Series C funding round. The round was led by Tiger Global and brings the company’s total funding to over $170 million.

“TigerGraph is leading the paradigm shift in connecting and analyzing data via scalable and native graph technology with pre-connected entities versus the traditional way of joining large tables with rows and columns,” said TigerGraph found and CEO, Yu Xu. “This funding will allow us to expand our offering and bring it to many more markets, enabling more customers to realize the benefits of graph analytics and AI.”

Current TigerGraph customers include the likes of Amgen, Citrix, Intuit, Jaguar Land Rover and UnitedHealth Group. Using a SQL-like query language (GSQL), these customers can use the company’s services to store and quickly query their graph databases. At the core of its offerings is the TigerGraphDB database and analytics platform, but the company also offers a hosted service, TigerGraph Cloud, with pay-as-you-go pricing, hosted either on AWS or Azure. With GraphStudio, the company also offers a graphical UI for creating data models and visually analyzing them.

The promise for the company’s database services is that they can scale to tens of terabytes of data with billions of edges. Its customers use the technology for a wide variety of use cases, including fraud detection, customer 360, IoT, AI, and machine learning.

Like so many other companies in this space, TigerGraph is facing some tailwind thanks to the fact that many enterprises have accelerated their digital transformation projects during the pandemic.

“Over the last 12 months with the COVID-19 pandemic, companies have embraced digital transformation at a faster pace driving an urgent need to find new insights about their customers, products, services, and suppliers,” the company explains in today’s announcement. “Graph technology connects these domains from the relational databases, offering the opportunity to shrink development cycles for data preparation, improve data quality, identify new insights such as similarity patterns to deliver the next best action recommendation.”

#amgen, #analytics, #articles, #artificial-intelligence, #aws, #business-intelligence, #ceo, #citrix, #citrix-systems, #computing, #data, #database, #enterprise, #graph-database, #intuit, #jaguar-land-rover, #machine-learning, #tiger-global


#DealMonitor – Branded sammelt 150 Millionen ein – Rocket Internet plant Spac-IPO – Blacklane übernimmt Havn

Im aktuellen #DealMonitor für den 9. Februar 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.


+++ Target Global, Declaration Partners, Tiger Global, Kreos Capital, Lurra Capital, Regah Ventures, Kima Ventures und Vine Ventures investieren 150 Millionen US-Dollar in den Berliner Thasio-Klon Branded. Kreos Capital dürfte in dieser Konstellation für die notwendigen (millionenschweren) Kreditfinanzierungen sorgen. Im Insider-Podcast und in unseren Thrasio-Klon-Übersichten haben wir in den vergangenen Monaten bereits mehrmals ganz kurz über Branded, das maßgeblich von Target Global vorangetrieben und sogar mitgegründet wurde, gesprochen und geschrieben. Der Berliner Amazon-Shop-Aufkäufer wird von Pierre Poignant, früher Lazada, und Michael Ronen, zuletzt SoftBank, geführt. Nach eigenen Angaben übernahm Branded in den vergangenen sechs Monaten bereits 20 verschiedene Shops, die zusammen auf einen Bruttoumsatz in Höhe von 150 Millionen Dollar kommen. Rund 100 Mitarbeiter wirken bereits für Branded. In Deutschland setzen unter anderem die Razor Group, SellerX und The Stryze Group auf das Thrasio-Konzept. The Stryze Group aka ManuCo sammelte zuletzt rund 100 Millionen Dollar ein

+++ Venture Creator investiert eine siebenstellige Summe in AutLay. Mit AutLay bekommen Onliner eine Software as a Service-Anwendung für automatisches Dokumenten-Layout an die Hand. “Wir überführen Ihre Inhalte vollautomatisch in ein druckfertiges Dokument”, versprechen David Schölgens und Sven Müller, die Macher hinter Crew Ventures investierte 2019 bereits einen mittleren sechsstelligen Betrag in die Kölner Jungfirma, das 2017 gegründet wurde. Das Investment soll “vor allem in die weitere Produkt- und KI-Entwicklung sowie in Marketingaktivitäten” fließen.

+++ aQua, ein Institut für angewandte Qualitätsförderung und Forschung im Gesundheitswesen, investiert eine hohe sechsstellige Summe in Famedly. Das Berliner Startup, das von Phillipp Kurtz und Niklas Zender gegründet wurde, entwickelt eine Kommunikations-App für Ärzte und Krankenhäuser. Zum Konzept schreiben die Jungunternehmer: “Für einen reibungslosen Einsatz im medizinischen Alltag ist die Software wie ein klassisches Chatprogramm gestaltet”.

+++ Die MBG Mittelständische Beteiligungsgesellschaft Schleswig-Holstein und “Privatinvestoren” investieren in das junge Hamburger Software-Unternehmen ReAct. Mit der IoT-Kommunikationsplattform “Call to Action” unterstützt ReAct den Einzelhandel dabei, “eine effiziente, prozessorientierte Kommunikation zwischen Menschen und Maschinen zu etablieren”. Das frische Kapital soll in das “weitere Wachstum, insbesondere die Internationalisierung des Vertriebs und die Erschließung neuer Marktsegmente” fließen. ReAct wurde 2015 gegründet.

+++ Donatus Albrecht, Mitinitiator der Aurelius Gruppe, investiert in Münchner B2B-Startup Werbezeichen. Das Unternehmen bietet Kunden “auf seiner digitalen Werbemittel-Plattform die gesamte Palette an Produkten und Merchandise für Unternehmen jeglicher Größe” an. Mehr als 1.200 Unternehmen zählen nach eigenen Angaben zu den Kunden von Werbezeichen. Werbezeichen wird von Florian Ganss, Felix Bumm und Julian Mayer geführt.


Rocket Internet
+++ Der Berliner Startup-Investor Rocket Internet bereitet den Börsengang einer sogenannten Special Purpose Acquisition Company, kurz Spac, in New York vor. Dabei plant das Unternehmen bei dem IPO einen dreistelligen Millionen-Betrag einzusammeln- siehe FinanceFWD. Die Citibank soll damit beauftragt sein, den Spac-Prozess zu begleiten. Das Thema Spacs ist gerade insbesondere in den USA ein Mega-Thema. Bei einem Spac-Prozess geht es darum, eine Firmenhülle an die Börse zu bringen und dann Unternehmen aufzukaufen und mit dieser Firmenhülle zu verschmelzen. Auch der bekannte Investor Klaus Hommels arbeitet mit seinem Kapitalgeber Lakestar an einem Spac-IPO – allerdings in Frankfurt am Main.


+++ Der Berliner Limousinendienst Blacklane übernimmt die Mehrheit am Londoner Unternehmen Havn, einem elektrischen Taxiservice. “Havn and Blacklane will continue operating separately, learning from one another, and cooperating on sustainability. Your top-quality Havn experience, in-app, online and on the ground, stays the same”, heißt es in der Presseaussendung. InMotion Ventures – also Jaguar Land Rover – bleibt weiter als Anteilseigner an Bord. InMotion Ventures investierte 2019 in Havn. Seit dem Start im Jahre 2011 sammelte der Limousinenservice Blacklane Verluste in Höhe von 60 Millionen Euro ein. 2018 etwa lag der Jahresfehlbetrag bei üppigen 15,4 Millionen.

+++ Miele übernimmt die Mehrheit an der Berliner Rezepte-App KptnCook. Der Hausgerätehersteller war bereits seit 2018 an KptnCook beteiligt, jetzt weitet das Unternehmen seine Beteiligung auf über 50 % aus. “Gemeinsames Ziel ist die Forcierung des Wachstumskurses der mehrfach preisgekrönten App in Deutschland, Österreich, der Schweiz und auch darüber hinaus. Außerdem ist ein stärker personalisiertes Angebot geplant”, teilt das Unternehmen mit. KptnCook wurde 2014 von Eva Hoefer und Alex Reeg gegründet. Das Unternehmen beschäftigt 37 Mitarbeiter:innen.


+++ Schon die neue Insider-Ausgabe mit Sven Schmidt gehört? in der aktuellen Folge geht es um 10x Group, Glore/Fure, Vytal, Outfittery, Dental21, Gorillas, Bring und Adjust.

Abonnieren: Die Podcasts von könnt ihr bei Amazon Music – Apple Podcasts – Castbox – Deezer – Google Podcasts – iHeartRadio – Overcast – PlayerFM – Podimo – Spotify – SoundCloud oder per RSS-Feed abonnieren.

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, #autlay, #b2b, #berlin, #blacklane, #branded, #declaration-partners, #hamburg, #havn, #kima-ventures, #koln, #kptncook, #kreos-capital, #london, #lurra-capital, #miele, #mobility, #munchen, #react, #regah-ventures, #rocket-internet, #spac, #special-purpose-acquisition-company, #target-global, #thrasio, #tiger-global, #venture-capital, #venture-creator, #vine-ventures, #werbezeichen


Robotic process automation platform UiPath raises $750M at $35B valuation

UiPath, one of the leaders in the quickly growing robotic process automation (RPA) space, announced Monday that it has closed on $750 million in Series F funding at a staggering post-money valuation of $35 billion.

Existing backers Alkeon Capital and Coatue co-led the round, which also included participation from other returning investors such as Altimeter Capital, Dragoneer, IVP, Sequoia, Tiger Global, and funds and accounts advised by T. Rowe Price Associates, Inc. The financing brings the New York-based company’s total raised to nearly $2 billion since inception, according to Crunchbase.

UiPath was founded in 2005 but didn’t raise institutional capital until 2015, according to Crunchbase. CNBC reported in December that the company had annual revenue of about $360 million and over 6,300 customers including Amazon, Bank of America and Verizon.

UiPath’s self-proclaimed mission is “to unlock human creativity and ingenuity by enabling the Fully Automated Enterprise™ and empowering workers through automation.” Its Automation Platform aims to “transform the way humans work” by giving companies a way to build out and run automations across departments.

The company uses artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning in an effort to “automate millions of repetitive, mind-numbing tasks for business and government organizations all over the world, improving productivity, customer experience and employee job satisfaction.” Its goal is to give workers the mental energy and time to focus on more complex jobs. Competitors include Microsoft Power Automate, Blue Prism, Automation Anywhere. SAP also recently entered the space.

The company has been growing like crazy. Back when I covered its $568 million Series D in April of 2019, UiPath had 400,000 users in 200 countries. At the time, the company said it had increased its annual recurring revenue (ARR) from $8 million in April 2017 to over $200 million. UiPath said then it had grown its headcount by 16 times over a two-year period, to more than 2,500 employees. It also hinted that it was considering an IPO.

True to its word, UiPath in December submitted a draft registration to the Securities and Exchange Commission for an initial public offering. So it’s especially interesting that it raised such a huge round now.

For some, UiPath’s going public could be the Snowflake IPO of 2021. Alternative payments provider Affirm followed a similar path recently – raising $500 million before filing for an IPO weeks later.

UiPath declined to comment on its latest funding round beyond a press release.

#alkeon-capital, #altimeter-capital, #artificial-intelligence, #automation-anywhere, #blue-prism, #business-software, #machine-learning, #microsoft, #robotic-process-automation, #sap, #securities-and-exchange-commission, #tc, #tiger-global, #uipath


LA-based Sidecar Health’s low-cost, cash-pay health insurance service is now valued at $1 billion

Meet Sidecar Health, the newest member of the tech industry’s billion dollar healthcare startup club.

The valuation comes thanks to $125 million in new funding that the company will use to expand its new model for health insurance. Sidecar Health’s insurance plans give consumers the ability to pay directly for care — often at steep discounts to the prices that patients would be charged through traditional insurance plans.

A typical Sidecar Health plan costs $240 per-member, per-month and its flexibility has made it a popular choice for the nation’s 20 million to 30 million uninsured individuals, according to chief executive officer Patrick Quigley.

The core of Sidecar’s plan is an ability to offer its policy holders the ability to pay directly for their medical care — and shop around to find the best provider using pricing information that the company provides through its mobile app.

Sidecar’s app provides real-time, geo-located information on the costs of any number of medical procedures, consultations, or drugs — and allows its users to shop at the places that offer them the best deal — in some cases the company will even pay money back if a price-savvy healthcare shopper finds a better deal.

If this all sounds kind of dystopian and nightmarish — well, welcome to the world of American healthcare!

In an ideal world, low-cost medical care would be a right, not a privilege and a baseline level of healthcare access would be available to everyone — including an ability to pay a set price for drugs, consultations and treatment. But if you live in America, bargain hunting for care may be the best bet to curb skyrocketing healthcare costs — at least for now.

While Sidecar pitches its service for everyone, the average age of the company’s current patient population is 33 years-old, Quigley said.  “It’s typically people that earn more than $45,000 a year and less than $75,000,” said Quigley of the company’s demographics.

The way it works is that Sidecar issues its insured members what’s basically a debit card that they use to pay for care, prescriptions, and consultations directly. The money comes from Sidecar’s claims accounts and is paid directly to doctors. By avoiding the middleman (traditional insurance companies), Sidecar can reduce overhead for care providers who like to get paid directly and will offer discounts in exchange for receiving cash in hand.

“It is 40% cheaper than the traditional commercial insurance companies would pay,” said Quigley.

Sidecar covers around 170,000 medical conditions and procedures, according to Quigley — including things from horse therapy (it’s a thing) for anxiety relief to heart transplants and chemotherapy, Quigley said.

Sidecar is currently available in 16 states and hopes to expand to most of the country on the back of its latest round of funding.

And while the company is working with uninsured patient populations now, it’s hoping to also expand its footprint with government-backed healthcare plans and into employer-sponsored health insurance as well.

It’s still early days for the service, which has only been around through two open enrollment periods for would-be plan members to sign up. And while the company doesn’t disclose its membership figures, Quigley said it would end the year above 30,000 members.

“It’s still super early,” Quigley said. 

Despite the stage of the business, investors are convinced that the business model has an opportunity to transform health insurance in the US. 

“The extraordinary level of transparency Sidecar Health brings to the marketplace has the  potential to fundamentally change how millions of Americans shop for healthcare,” said Molly  Bonakdarpour, a partner at the Drive Capital, which provided early backing for the company. “We think Sidecar Health’s team of consumer,  technology and healthcare veterans is well positioned to capitalize on the large healthcare  insurtech opportunity.” 

For the latest round, Drive Capital was joined by new investors including BOND, Tiger Global and Menlo Ventures, according to a statement.

Sidecar Health will use the investment to expand its geographic footprint, grow its team and  invest in new insurance products that build on its success in the uninsured market. The first of  these will be an ACA or “Obamacare” offering for 2022, followed by a product for the self funded employer market. 

“We believe we can take $1 trillion in waste out of the U.S. healthcare system,” Quigley said. 

#affordable-care-act, #america, #articles, #chief-executive-officer, #drive-capital, #health, #health-insurance, #healthcare, #insurance, #menlo-ventures, #partner, #sidecar, #tc, #tiger-global, #united-states


Wolt closes $530M round to continue expanding beyond restaurant delivery

Wolt, the Helsinki-based online ordering and delivery company that initially focused on restaurants but has since expanded to other verticals, has raised $530 million in new funding. The round was led by Iconiq Growth, with participation from Tiger Global, DST, KKR, Prosus, EQT Growth and Coatue.

Previous backers 83North, Highland Europe, Goldman Sachs Growth Equity, EQT Ventures and Vintage Investment Partners also followed on. The new round takes the total amount of financing Wolt has raised to $856 million. Wolt declined to disclose the company’s latest valuation, although we know from the previous D round that the company is one of Europe’s so-called unicorns.

“We operate in an extremely competitive and well-funded industry, and this round allows us to have a long-term mindset when it comes to doubling down on our different markets,” says co-founder and CEO Miki Kuusi in a statement. “Despite the turbulence of 2020, we’ve remained focused on growth, tripling our revenue to a preliminary $330 against a net loss of just $38 million. Compared to the $670 million in new capital that we’ve raised during this year, this puts us into a strong position for investing in our people, technology, and markets when thinking about the next few years ahead”.

Since launching with 10 restaurants in its home city in 2015, five years on Wolt has expanded to 23 countries and 120 cities, mostly in Europe but also including Japan and Israel. More recently, like others in the restaurant delivery space, Wolt has expanded beyond restaurants and takeout food into the grocery and retail sectors. This, says the company, sees it offer anything from cosmetics to pet food and pharmaceuticals on its platform.

“This was mostly a primary raise,” Kuusi tells me when I ask if the new round includes secondary funding (i.e. shareholders that exited to new investors). “We’re not looking to disclose the valuation at this time, but we’ve previously shared that the Series D round that we raised in early 2020 valued that company at above €1 billion,” he adds.

Kuusi says that the latest funding round is based on the belief that local services in the offline world will gradually be brought online by players “that can execute and maintain a great customer experience”. “We started with an exclusive focus on the restaurant, as it’s the biggest local service with an underlying high-frequency use case,” he says. “We quickly learnt that the magical product market fit for bringing the restaurant online was to offer a quick and predictable delivery experience from restaurants that didn’t use to be available for delivery. We do this by handling the complexity of the delivery on the restaurant’s behalf”.

However, this was especially difficult to do efficiently and sustainably in small and difficult home market in the Nordics. To solve this, Wolt needed to build an “optimization-heavy logistics setup for last-mile delivery” that Kuusi says lets the service operate even in “very small cities with low income disparity, limited population density and high labor costs”.

“This means that we can operate efficiently even with relatively low order volumes, enabling us to grow and expand rapidly with much less financing than some of the other players in the market. We simply had no other choice than to do it this way was we came from such a difficult home market”.

On this foundation, Wolt is expanding into other ordering and local delivery verticals, aiming to be what Kuusi dubs as “the everything app” of goods and services. “Today, Wolt is much more than a restaurant delivery service, you can order groceries, electronics, flowers, clothes and many other things on our platform,” he explains. “We believe that the future of how people buy Nike shoes is a few taps on Wolt and some 30 minutes later you get any pair of shoes brought to your door. This is what we strive to make into a reality with our team at Wolt”. (I’m an Adidas guy myself, steadfastly European.)

Asked what he thinks about all the money being pumped into the dark convenience store model, Kuusi says Wolt is investing into its own dark store operation called Wolt Market. “It’s not surprising to also see a growing amount of financing going into this sector,” he admits. “We’re huge believers in a hybrid model where there will be both offline/online retailers as well as focused online retailers in the mix. Obviously the latter category is only getting started, and we should see a massive amount of growth for the coming years ahead”.

#dst, #eqt-ventures, #europe, #fundings-exits, #goldman-sachs-growth-equity, #helsinki, #highland-europe, #pharmaceuticals, #startups, #tc, #tiger-global, #vintage-investment-partners, #wolt


Tencent-backed Hike, once India’s answer to WhatsApp, has given up on messaging

India’s answer to WhatsApp has completely moved on from messaging.

Hike Messenger, backed by Tencent, Tiger Global and SoftBank and valued at $1.4 billion in 2016, earlier this month announced that it was shutting down Sticker Chat, its messaging app.

The startup, founded by Kavin Bharti Mittal, this month pivoted to two virtual social apps called Vibe and Rush, said Mittal, who is the son of telecom giant Airtel’s chairman Sunil Bharti Mittal.

In a series of tweets earlier this month, Kavin said that India will never have a homegrown messenger that makes inroads in the world’s second largest market unless it chooses to ban Western companies from operating in the nation. “Global network effects are too strong,” he said. WhatsApp has amassed over 450 million users in India, its biggest market by users.

Mittal described opportunities in building virtual worlds as a “much better approach for today’s world that is unconstrained by cheap, fast data and powerful smartphones.”

In recent years, Hike made bets on stickers and emojis to cater to the younger population in India. In a meeting with TechCrunch in late 2019, Mittal said that the startup was overwhelmed with the engagement stickers on its platform and was working to automate development of personalized stickers.

In a different meeting last year, Mittal showcased emojis that replicated human expressions and a virtual hangout place called HikeLand. Vibe is the rebranded version of HikeLand and the emojis Hike developed will continue to be available to users on both the newer apps, Mittal said earlier this month.

Hike, which has raised more than $260 million to date, had enough runway last year, Mittal said, who hinted that the startup may raise more capital a year later.

Hike also attempted to build its own operating system through acquisition of a startup called Creo. In 2018, Hike launched Total OS that aimed to cater to users with low-cost Android smartphones and slow internet data.

The startup later shut down the project. Mittal told TechCrunch that the arrival of Reliance Jio, which prompted Airtel and Vodafone to lower mobile data tariff on their networks, solved the data issues in the country and Total OS was no longer needed in the market.

#apps, #asia, #hike, #signal, #social, #softbank, #telegram, #tencent, #tiger-global, #whatsapp


Indian food delivery giant Zomato secures $660 million

Zomato has raised $660 million in a financing round that it kicked off last year as the Indian food delivery startup prepares to go public next year.

The Indian startup said Tiger Global, Kora, Luxor, Fidelity (FMR), D1 Capital, Baillie Gifford, Mirae, and Steadview participated in the round — a Series J –which gives Zomato a post-money valuation of $3.9 billion. Zomato had previously disclosed fundraise of about $212 million as part of Series J round from Ant Financial, Tiger Global, Baillie Gifford, and Temasek.

Deepinder Goyal, the co-founder and chief executive of Zomato, said the 12-year-old startup is also in the process of closing a $140 million secondary transaction. “As part of this transaction, we have already provided liquidity worth $30m to our ex-employees,” he tweeted.

The startup originally anticipated to close a round of about $600 million by January this year, but several obstacles including the global pandemic delayed the fundraise effort. Additionally, Ant Financial, which had originally committed to invest $150 million in this round, only delivered a third of it, Zomato’s investor Info Edge disclosed earlier this year.

The Gurgaon-headquartered startup, which acquired the Indian food delivery business of Uber early this year, competes with Prosus Ventures-backed Swiggy  in India. A third player, Amazon, has also emerged in the market, though it currently offers its food delivery service in only parts of Bangalore.

At stake is India’s food delivery market, which analysts at Bernstein expect to balloon to be worth $12 billion by 2022, they wrote in a report to clients — accessed by TechCrunch. With about 50% of the market share, Zomato is the current leader among the three, Bernstein analysts wrote.

Zomato has eliminated hundreds of jobs this year to improve its finances and navigate the coronavirus pandemic, which significantly hurt the food delivery business in India in the early months. Goyal said the food delivery market is “rapidly coming out of COVID-19 shadows. December 2020 is expected to be the highest ever GMV month in our history. We are now clocking ~25% higher GMV than our previous peaks in February 2020.” He added, “I am supremely excited about what lies ahead and the impact that we will create for our customers, delivery partners, and restaurant partners.”

In September, Goyal told employees that Zomato was working for its IPO for “sometime in the first half of next year” and was raising money to develop a war-chest for “future M&A, and fighting off any mischief or price wars from our competition in various areas of our business.”

Making money with food delivery has been especially challenging in India. Unlike Western markets such as the U.S., where the value of each delivery item is about $33, in India, a similar item carries the price tag of $4, according to estimates by Bangalore-based research firm RedSeer.

“The problem is that there are very few people in India who can afford to place an order from a food delivery firm each day,” said Anand Lunia, a venture capitalist at India Quotient, in an interview with TechCrunch earlier this year.

#ant-financial, #apps, #asia, #food, #funding, #swiggy, #tiger-global, #zomato


Zenoti becomes a unicorn with $160 million funding round

Zenoti, a 10-year-old startup that develops services for the spa and salon industry, is the latest entrant to the coveted unicorn list.

The Bellevue, Washington-headquartered SaaS startup said on Tuesday it has raised $160 million in its Series D financing round that valued it at “well past $1 billion,” said Sudheer Koneru, founder and chief executive of Zenoti, in an interview with TechCrunch earlier this week. The round was led by Advent International with participation from Tiger Global and Steadview Partners. The startup has raised about $251 to date.

Zenoti, which started its journey in India, has built a cloud management solution for health and wellness industries. The startup’s platform allows customers to pay directly from a mobile app after their appointments. It also checks them in when they walk into the store and notifies the providers about the customer.

For their clients, Zenoti allows them to accept bookings, accept digital payments, handle payroll, manage backend inventory, and transfer the tip from customers to directly a staff’s bank account. The startup was founded in 2010, but it wasn’t until 2012 when it had built this complete stack and went to the market.

Zenoti’s platform combines both the ERP and CRM tools. And that’s what this industry, which had surprisingly been underserved prior to Zenoti’s entry, needed, explained Shekhar Kirani, partner at Accel, in an interview with TechCrunch.

Accel was the first investor to back Zenoti. Unlike offerings from companies such as Microsoft or Notion, that have built “horizontal” services that people across the industries use, the spa and salon industry needed a “vertical” player that just looked at solving the issues that they were facing, he explained. Zenoti did just that.

It became very clear early on that Zenoti could pursue customers beyond India. That early bet has proven right for the startup, for which the U.S. now accounts for 60% of the revenue, followed by the UK. Kirani described the success of Zenoti as a SaaS movement in India, which has produced scores of startups such as Freshworks, Zoho, MindTickle, and Crazybee that started in the world’s second largest internet market but now have most of their customers outside of the country.

Zenoti’s offerings have proven more useful in recent months as the pandemic moves several aspects of businesses digital. Spa and salon chains that were previously not relying on digital offerings have since embraced mobile apps and ways to cut reliance on paper cash. On top of that, Zenoti employees donated $250,000 to help the workers in the industry they serve, said Koneru.

More to follow…

#accel, #advent-international, #apps, #asia, #funding, #saas, #tiger-global, #zenoti


Infra.Market raises $20 million for its B2B marketplace in India

A startup that is improving the way construction and real estate companies in India procure materials and handle logistics for their projects has received the backing of three new investors.

Mumbai-headquartered Infra.Market said on Thursday it has raised $20 million in a Series B financing round. The round was led by Evolvence India Fund, Sistema Asia Fund, and Foundamental Gmbh, while existing investors Accel, Tiger Global, and Nexus also participated in it. The four-year-old startup has raised about $50 million to date.

Infra.Market helps small businesses such as manufacturers of paints and cements improve the quality of their production and meet various compliances. The startup adds its load cells to the manufacturing facilities of these small businesses to ensure there is no lapse in quality, and also helps them work with other businesses that can provide them with better raw material and provide guidance on pricing. It also works closely with businesses to ensure that their deliveries are made on time.

These improvements, explained co-founder Souvik Sengupta, help small manufacturers land larger clients that have higher expectations from the businesses with which they engage.

“We are bringing a service layer to these small manufacturers, enabling them to grow their business. We don’t own the asset and are creating private label brands,” he said in an interview with TechCrunch. Infra.Market today works with over 170 small manufacturers and counts the vast majority of major construction and real estate companies such as giants Larsen & Toubro, Tata Projects and Ashoka Buildcon as its clients. Sengupta said the startup sells to over 400 large clients and 3,000 small retailers.

Sengupta said the startup was on track to hit the ARR (annual recurring revenue) of $100 million before the pandemic, which for at least two months nearly cut its business in half. But the startup has picked up pace again, and is now on track to hit the ARR of $180 million. The startup aims to grow this figure to $300 million by March next year.

Infra.Market is also enabling small manufacturers reach customers outside of India. Some of its clients are in Bangladesh, Malaysia, Singapore, and Dubai. Sengupta said Infra.Market will deploy the fresh funds to expand to more markets as well as deepen its penetration in smaller Indian cities and towns. International markets today account for 10% of the revenue Infra.Market clocks.

“As an enabler to this sector, Infra.Market has emerged as one of the most disruptive companies through pioneering technological innovation in the procurement and distribution of building materials catering to the infrastructure and construction industry by improving logistics, financing, procurement and project management of large scale projects in key markets across India. The company has very quickly demonstrated remarkable growth backed by a solid business model and deep sector domain knowledge of its founders and management team,” said Rohit Batra, Partner at Evolvence India, in a statement.

The startup, which today runs about half a dozen private label brands, also plans to expand to more categories such as electrical items, Sengupta said.

Sumit Jain, Senior Partner at Sistema Asia Fund, said Infra.Market is increasingly serving as an important institution in the context of India’s bounce-back in the post-Covid world.

#accel, #asia, #ecommerce, #evolvence-india-fund, #funding, #tiger-global