How Ryan Reynolds and Mint Mobile worked without becoming the joke

In the past decade, celebrity interest and investment in tech companies has significantly increased. But not all celebrity investments are created equally. Some investors, like Ashton Kutcher, have prioritized the VC pursuits. Some have invested casually without getting overly involved. Others have used their considerable platforms to market their portfolio to varying degrees of success.

It’s been a little over a year since Ryan Reynolds bought a majority stake in Mint Mobile, a deal that has already had a dramatic impact on the the MVNO (mobile virtual network operator).

The four-year-old company has seen a tremendous amount of growth, boosting revenue nearly 50,000% in the past three years. However, the D2C wireless carrier has seen its highest traffic days on the backs of Reynolds’ marketing initiatives and announcements.

There is a long history of celebrities getting involved with brands, either as brand ambassadors or ‘Creative Directors’ without much value other than the initial press wave.

Lenovo famously hired Ashton Kutcher as a product engineer to help develop the Yoga 2 tablet, on which I assume you are all reading this post. Alicia Keys was brought on as BlackBerry’s Global Creative Director, which felt even more convoluted a partnership than Lady Gaga’s stint as Polaroid’s Creative Director. That’s not to say that these publicity stunts necessarily hurt the brands or the products (most of the time), but they probably didn’t help much, and likely cost a fortune.

And then there are the actual financial investments, in areas where celebrities fundamentally understand the industry, that still didn’t get to ‘alpha.’

Even Jay-Z has struggled to make a music streaming service successful. Justin Bieber never really got a selfie app off the ground. Heck, not even Justin Timberlake could breathe life back into MySpace. Reynolds seemingly has an even heavier lift here. It’s hard to imagine a string of words in the English language less sexy than, “mobile virtual network operator.”

Reynolds tells TechCrunch that he viewed celebrity investments as a kind of “handicapping,” prior to the Mint acquisition.

“I’ve just sort of seen how most celebrities are doing very, very well,” he explains. “We’re generally hocking or getting behind or investing in luxury and aspirational items and projects. Then George and I had a conversation about a year-and-a-half ago, maybe longer, about what if we swerved the other way? What if he kind of got into something that was hyper practical and just forget about the sexy aspirational stuff.”

Mint isn’t Reynolds’ first entrepreneurial venture. He bought a majority stake in Portland-based Aviation Gin in 2018, which recently sold for $610 million. He also cofounded marketing agency Maximum Effort alongside George Dewey, which has made its own impact over the past several years.

Maximum Effort was founded to help promote the actor’s first Deadpool film. Reynolds and Dewey had come up with several low-budget spots to get people excited about an R-rated comic book movie. The bid appears to have worked. The film raked in $783.1 million at the box office — a record for an R-rated film that held until the 2019 release of Joker.

Maximum Effort (and Reynolds) was also behind the viral Aviation Gin spot, which poked fun at the manipulative Peloton ad that aired last year around the holidays. The same actress who portrayed a woman seemingly tortured by her holiday gift of a Peloton sits at a bar with her friends, shell-shocked, sipping a Martini.

The original ad on YouTube, not counting recirculation by the media, has more than 7 million hits. Reynolds calls it ‘fast-vertising’.

“We get to react,” he told TechCrunch. “We get to acknowledge and play with the cultural landscape in real time and react to it in real time. There isn’t any red tape to come through, because it’s just a matter of signing off on the approval. So in a way, it’s unfair, in that sense, because most big corporations, they take weeks and weeks or months to get something approved. Our budgets are down and dirty, fast and cheap.”

He explained that this type of real-time marketing is only possible because he’s the owner of Maximum Effort (and in some cases of the client businesses, as well), but because there is no red tape to cut through when a great idea presents itself.

Reynolds has brought this marketing acumen to Mint Mobile in a big way. Last year during the Super Bowl, Reynolds took out a full page ad in The New York Times, explaining that the decision to spend $125,000 on a print ad instead of $5 million+ on a Super Bowl commercial would enable the prepaid carrier to pass the savings on to consumers.

In October, Reynolds spun Mint’s 5G launch into another light-hearted spot. He brought on the head of mobile technology to explain what 5G actually is, and after hearing the technical explanation, happily said “We may never know, so we’ll just give it away for free.”

Mint also released a holiday ad just a couple of weeks ago warning of wireless promo season, wherein large wireless carriers may try to lure customers into expensive contracts using new devices. Standing over a bear trap, Reynolds dryly states: “At Mint Mobile, we don’t hate you.”

Reynolds enjoys nearly 17 million Twitter followers and more than 36 million Instagram followers. He uses both platforms to promote his various brands without alienating his followers. Moreover, he doesn’t exclusively promote his brands on social media, but weaves in his own funny personal commentary or gives followers a peek into his marriage with Blake Lively, which we can all agree is #relationshipgoals.

Mint Mobile partners exclusively with T-Mobile to provide service, and unlike some other MVNOs, it uses a direct-to-consumer model, foregoing any physical footprint. Plans start at $15/month and top out at $30/month. CMO Aron North says that Reynolds’ ownership and involvement with Mint Mobile is “absolutely critical.”

“Ryan is an A plus plus celebrity, and he’s very funny and entertaining and engaging,” said North. “His reach has given us a much bigger platform to speak on. I would say he is absolutely critical in our success and our growth.”

We asked Reynolds if he has any specific plans for further tech investment, or if there are any trends he’s keeping an eye on. He explained that his motivations are not purely capitalistic.

“I’m really focused on community and bringing people together,” said Reynolds. “We think it’s super cool to bring people together, particularly in a world that is very divisive. Even in our marketing, we try to find ways to have huge cultural moments without polarizing people without dividing people without saying one thing is wrong.”

In one of the company’s more notable recent spots, Reynolds enlisted the help of iconic comedian, Rick Moranis. It was an impressive coup, given the actor’s seeming retreat from the public eye, turning down two separate Ghostbusters film reboots.

“It’s funny what happens when you just ask,” says Reynolds. “I explained that people genuinely miss him and his performances and his energy. And he, for whatever reason, said yes, and the next thing I know, six days later, we were out of there in 15, 20 minutes and we shot our spot.”

Of course, it didn’t escape the internet’s notice that two well-known Canadian actors were standing in a field, selling a U.S.-only wireless service.

“I would love to see [Mint] in Canada,” Reynolds says. “There’s a Big Three here that’s challenging to crack. I don’t pretend to know the telecom business well enough to say why, how or what the path forward would be there. I see basically a tsunami of feedback from Canada, asking ‘why can’t we have this here?’ I think it’s sexy. It’s pragmatic and sexy. That’s why I got involved with it.”

#mint-mobile, #mobile, #ryan-reynolds, #startups, #tc, #venture-capital

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‘Tokenized’: Inside Black Workers’ Struggles at Coinbase

Coinbase, the most valuable U.S. cryptocurrency company, has faced many internal complaints about discriminatory treatment.

#armstrong-brian-1983, #bitcoin-currency, #black-lives-matter-movement, #black-people, #coinbase-inc, #computers-and-the-internet, #corporate-social-responsibility, #discrimination, #hiring-and-promotion, #minorities, #race-and-ethnicity, #start-ups, #venture-capital, #virtual-currency, #workplace-environment, #workplace-hazards-and-violations

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#DealMonitor – Atlantic Labs investiert in Mila – fairCamper bekommt Millionensumme


Im aktuellen #DealMonitor für den 26. November werfen wir wieder einen Blick auf die wichtigsten, spannendsten und interessantesten Investments und Exits des Tages. Alle Deals der Vortage gibt es im großen und übersichtlichen #DealMonitor-Archiv.

INVESTMENTS

Ben Fleet Services
+++ Der Versicherungskonzern Baloise investiert 5,5 Millionen Euro in das Startup Ben Fleet Services, einen Dienstleister für den Unterhalt von Fahrzeugflotten. Das junge Unternehmen wurde im vergangenen Jahr von EnBW und dem Company Builder Bridgemaker gegründet. “Das Berliner Startup beschäftigt inzwischen rund 100 Mitarbeiter*innenin ganz Deutschland. Neben traditionellen Firmenflotten zählen auch führende Anbieter neuer Mobilitätsdienste wie MILES, SIXT Share und stadtmobil zu seinen Kunden”, teilt das Unternehmen mit.

fairCamper
+++ Der High-Tech Gründerfonds (HTGF), Innovationsstarter Fonds Hamburg (IFH) und Business Angel David Majert investieren eine siebenstellige Summe in fairCamper, einen Marktplatz für “einfaches und sicheres” Mieten von Wohnmobilen und Campern. “Ein Großteil der Mittel fließt in die weitere Entwicklung der Plattform und der SaaS-Lösung. Ferner sollen die Mittel für den Ausbau des Teams eingesetzt werden und das internationale Wachstum ermöglichen”, teilt das Startup aus Hamburg mit.

Mila
+++ Der Berliner Frühphasen-Investor Atlantic Labs investiert gemeinsam mit Angel-Investoren wie Julian Blessin, Alan Poensgen, Andreas Schneider und Friedrich A. Neuman in Mila. Das junge Berliner Unternehmen beschreibt sich als “Raum für mentale Gesundheit in Unternehmen”. In sogenannten mila.sessions erhalten die Nutzer der Plattform Unterstützung von Experten. “Wir wollen das Stigma um das Thema psychische Gesundheit beseitigen”, teilt das Startup mit. mila wurde 2019 von Ines Räth, Catalina Turlea und Jonas Keil gegründet. In unserem ersten Pitch-Podcast könnt ihr euch die Idee hinter Mila anhören.

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, #atlantic-labs, #baloise, #ben-fleet-services, #berlin, #bridgemaker, #e-health, #enbw, #faircamper, #hamburg, #high-tech-grunderfonds, #innovationsstarter-fonds-hamburg, #mila, #venture-capital

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Enterprise investor Jason Green on SPAC hopefuls versus startups bound for traditional IPOs

Jason Green has pretty solid reputation as venture capitalists go. The enterprise-focused firm the cofounded 17 years ago, Emergence Capital, has backed Saleforce, Box, and Zoom, among many other companies, and even while every firm is now investing in software-as-a-service startups, the firm remains a go-to for many top founders selling business products and services.

To learn more about the trends impacting Green’s slice of the investing universe, we talked with him late last week about everything from SPACs to valuations to how the firm differentiates itself from the many rivals with which it’s now competing. Below are some outtakes edited lightly for length.

TC: What do you make of the assessment that SPACs for companies that aren’t generating enough revenue to go public the traditional route?

JG: Well, yeah, it’ll be really interesting. This has been quite a year for SPACs, right? I can’t remember the number, but it’s been something like $50 billion of capital raised this year in SPACs, and all of those have to put that money to work within the next 12 to 18 months or they give it back, right? So there’s this incredible pent-up demand to find opportunities for those SPACs to convert into into companies. And the companies that are at top of the charts, the ones that are the high growth and profitable companies, will probably do a traditional IPO, I would imagine.

So [SPAC candidates are] going to be companies that are growing fast enough to be attractive as a potential public company but not top of the charts. So I do think [sponsors are] going to target companies that are probably either growing slightly slower than the top-quartile public companies but slightly profitable, or companies that are growing faster but still burning a lot of cash and might actually scare all the traditional IPO investors.

TC: Are you having conversations with CEOs about whether or not they should pursue this avenue?

JG:  We just started having those conversations now. There are several companies in the portfolio that will probably be public companies in the next year or two, so it’s definitely an alternative to consider. I would say there’s nothing impending I see in the portfolio. With most entrepreneurs, there’s a little bit of this dream of going public the traditional way, where SPACs tend to be a little bit less exciting from that perspective. So for a company that maybe is thinking about another private round before going public, it’s like a private-plus round. I would say it’s a tweener, so the companies that are considering it are probably ones that are not quite ready to go public yet.

TC: A lot of the SPAC fundraising has seemed like a reaction to uncertainty around when the public window might close. With election behind us, do you think there’s less uncertainty?

JG: I don’t think risk and uncertainty has decreased since the election.There’s still uncertainty right now politically. The pandemic has reemerged in a significant way, even though we have some really good announcements recently regarding vaccines or potential vaccines. So there’s just a lot there’s a lot of potential directions things could head in.

It’s an environment generally where the public markets tend to gravitate more toward higher-quality opportunities, so fewer companies but higher quality,  and that’s where I think SPACs could play a role. I’d say first half of next year, I could easily see SPACs being the more likely go-to-market for a public company, then the latter half of next year, once the vaccines have kicked in and people feel like we’re returning to somewhat normal, I could see the traditional IPO coming back.

TC: When we sat down in person about a year ago, you said Emergence looks at maybe 1,000 deals a year, does deep due diligence on 25, and funds just a handful or so of these startups every year. How has that changed in 2020?

JG: I would say that over the last five years, we’ve made almost a total transition. Now we’re very much a data-driven, thesis-driven outbound firm, where we’re reaching out to entrepreneurs soon after they’ve started their companies or gotten seed financing. The last three investments that we made were all relationships that [date back] a year to 18 months before we started engaging in the actual financing process with them. I think that’s what’s required to build a relationship and the conviction, because financings are happening so fast.

I think we’re going to actually do more investments this year than we maybe ever done in the history of the firm, which is amazing to me [considering] COVID. I think we’ve really honed our ability to build this pipeline and have conviction, and then in this market environment, Zoom is actually helping expand the landscape that we’re willing to invest in. We’re probably seeing 50% to 100% more companies and trying to whittle them down over time and really focus on the 20 to 25 that we want to dig deep on as a team.

TC: For founders trying to understand your thinking, what’s interesting to you right now?

JG: We tend to focus on three major themes at any one time as a firm, and one we’ve termed ‘coaching networks’. This is this intersection between AI and machine learning and human interaction. Companies like [the sales engagement platform] SalesLoft or [the knowledge management system] Guru or Drishti [which sells video analytics for manual factory assembly lines] fall into this category, where it’s really intelligent software going deep into a specific functional area and unleashing data in a way that’s never been available before.

The second [theme] is going deep into more specific industry verticals. Veeva was the best example of this early on with with healthcare and life sciences, but we now have one called p44 in the transportation space that’s doing incredibly well. Doximity is in the healthcare space and going deep like a LinkedIn for physicians, with some remote health capabilities, as well. And then [lending company] Blend, which is in the financial services area. These companies are taking cloud software and just going deep into the most important problems of their industries.

The third them [centers around] remote work. Zoom, which has obviously has been [among our] best investments is almost as a platform, just like Salesforce became a platform after many years. We just funded a company called ClassEDU, which is a Zoom-specific offering for the education market. Snowflake is becoming a platform. So another opportunity is is not just trying to come up with another collaboration tool, but really going deep into a specific use case or vertical.

TC: What’s a company you’ve missed in recent years and were any lessons learned?

JG: We have our hall of shame. [Laughs.] I do think it’s dangerous to assume that things would have turned out the same if if we had been investors in the company. I believe the kinds of investors you put around the table make a difference in terms of the outcome of your company, so I try not beat myself up too much on the missed opportunities because maybe they found a better fit or a better investor for them to be successful.

But Rob Bernshteyn of Coupa is one where I knew Rob from SuccessFactors [where he was a product marketing VP], and I just always respected and liked him. And we always chasing it on valuation. And I think I think we probably turned it down at an $80 million or $100 million dollar valuation [and it’s valued at] $20 billion today. That can keep you up at night.

Sometimes, in the moment, there are some risks and concerns about the business and there are other people who are willing to be more aggressive and so you lose out on some of those opportunities. The beautiful thing about our business is that it’s not a zero-sum game.

#startups, #tc, #venture-capital

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Talking tech’s exodus, Twitter’s labels, and Medium’s next moves with founder Ev Williams

Earlier today, we had the chance to talk with Twitter and Medium cofounder Ev Williams, along with operator-turned investor James Joaquin, who helps oversee the day-to-day of the mission-focused venture firm they separately cofounded six years ago, Obvious Ventures.

We collectively discussed lot of venture-y things, some of which we’ll publish next week, so stayed tuned. In the meantime, we spent some time talking specifically with Williams about both Twitter and Medium and some of the day’s biggest headlines. Following are some excerpts from that chat, lightly edited for length and clarity.

TC: A lot of tech CEOs saying have been saying goodbye to San Francisco in 2020. Do you think the trend is attracting too much attention or perhaps not enough?

EW: I moved away from the Bay Area a little over a year ago, with my family to New York. I’d lived in San Francisco for 20 years, and I had never lived in New York, and thought, ‘Why not go? Now seems like a good time.’ Turns out I was wrong. [Laughs.] It was a very bad time to move to New York. So I was there for for six months, and quickly came back to California, which is a great place to be in a world where you’re not going into bars and restaurants and seeing people.

TC: You moved when COVID took hold?

EW: Yes. In March, Manhattan suddenly seemed not ideal. So now I’m on the peninsula.

I’m from San Francisco. It was really, for me, just honestly looking for a change. But an enabling factor that could be common in many of these cases is the fact that I no longer have to be in the office in San Francisco every day, [whereas] for most of 20 years [beforehand], all my work life was in an office in San Francisco, generally with a company I had started, so I thought it was important to be there.

This was pre COVID and remote work. But remote work was becoming more common. And I noticed in 2018 or so, with this massive number of companies that were in San Francisco —  startups and large public companies and pre IPO companies — the competition for talent had gotten more extreme than it had ever been. So it got me —  along with a lot of founders and CEOs — thinking about maybe the advantage of hiring locally and having everybody in the same office [was a pro] that was starting to get outweighed by the cons. . . And, of course, the tools and technology that make remote work possible were getting better all the time.

TC: Given that you cofounded Twitter, I have to ask about this presidential transition that is maybe, finally happening. In January, Donald Trump will lose the privileges he enjoyed as president. Given the amount of disinformation he has published routinely, do you think Twitter should have cracked down on him sooner? How would you rate its handling of a president who really tested its boundaries in every way?

EW: I think what Twitter has done especially recently is a pretty good solution. I mean, I don’t agree with the the notion or that he should have been removed altogether a long time ago. Having the visibility, literally seeing, what what the President is thinking at any given moment, as ludicrous as it is, is helpful.

What he would be doing if he didn’t have Twitter is unclear, but he’d be doing something to get his message out there. And what the company has done most recently with the warnings on his tweets or blocking them is great. It’s providing more information. It’s kind of ‘buyer beware’ about this information. And it’s a bolder step than any platform had done previously. It’s a good version of an in between where previously [people would] talk about just kicking people off, [and] allowing freedom of speech.

TC: You started Blogger, then Twitter, then Medium. As someone who has spent much of your career  focused on content and distribution, do you have any other thoughts about what more Twitter or other platforms could be doing [to tackle disinformation]? Because there is going to be somebody who comes along again with the same autocratic tendencies.

EW: I think all of society gets more information savvy — that’s one hope over the long term. It wasn’t that long ago that if something was in “media,” it was accepted as true. And now I think everyone’s skeptical. We’ve learned that that’s not necessarily the case and certainly not online.

Unfortunately, we’re now at the point where a lot of people have lost faith in everything published or shared anywhere. But I think that’s a step along the evolution of just getting more media savvy and knowing that sources really matter, and as we build both better tools, things will get better.

TC: Speaking of content platforms, Medium charges $50 per year for users to access an unlimited amount of articles from individual writers and poets. Have you said how many subscribers the platform now has?

EW: We haven’t given a precise number, but I can tell you it’s in the high hundreds of thousands. It’s been a been a couple years now, and I’m a very firm believer in the model — not only that people will pay for quality information, but that it’s just a much healthier model for publishers, be they individuals or companies, because it creates that feedback loop of ‘quality gets rewarded.’

If people aren’t getting value, they unsubscribe, and that isn’t the case with an advertising model. If people click, you keep making money, and you can kind of keep tricking people or keep appealing to lowest-common-denominator impulses. There were a couple of decades where the mantra was ‘No one will pay for content on the internet,’ which obviously seems silly now. But that was that was the established belief for such a long time.

TC: Do you ever think you should have charged from the outset? I  sometimes wonder if it’s harder to throw on the switch afterward.

EW: Yes, and no. When we first switched to this model in 2017, we created a subscription, but the vast majority of content was — and actually still is — outside of the paywall. And our model is different than most because it’s a platform, and we don’t own the content, and we have an agreement with our creators that they can publish behind the paywall if they want, and we will pay them if they do that. But they can also publish outside the paywall if they’re not interested in making money and want maximum reach. And those those models are actually very complimentary because the scale of the platform brings a lot of people in through the top of the funnel.

Scale is really important for most businesses, but for a paywall, it’s especially important because people have to be visiting with enough frequency to actually hit the paywall and be motivated to pay.

TC: Out of curiosity, what do you make of Substack, a startup that invites writers to create their own newsletters using a subscription model and then takes a cut of their revenue in exchange for a host of back end services.

EW: There’s a bit of a creator renaissance going on right now that is part of a bigger wave of a people being willing to pay for quality information, and independent writers and thinkers actually breaking out on their own and building brands and followings. And I think we’re going to see more of that.

TC: Medium has raised $132 million over the years. Will you raise more? Where do you want to take the platform in the next 12 to 24 months?

EW: We’re not yet not yet profitable, so I anticipate that we will raise more money.

There’s a very big business to be built here. While more and more people are willing to pay for content way, I don’t think that means that most people will subscribe to dozens of sources, whether they’re websites with paywalls or newsletters. If you look at how basically every media category has evolved, a lot of them have gone through this shift from free to paid, at least at the higher end of the market. That includes music, television, and even games. And at the high end, there tend to be players who own a large part of the market, and I think that comes down to offering the best consumer value proposition — one that gives people lots of optionality, lots of personalization, and lots of value for one price.

I think that the same thing is going to play out in this area, and for the subscription that’s able to reach critical mass, that’s a multi-billion dollar business. And that’s what we’re aiming to build.

#collaborative-consumption, #ev-williams, #james-joaquin, #medium, #obvious-ventures, #online-content, #publishing, #tc, #twitter, #venture-capital

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New venture firm The-Wolfpack takes a fresh approach to D2C startups

The-Wolfpack’s co-founders, Toh Jin Wei, Tan Kok Chin and Simon Nichols

The-Wolfpack’s co-founders, Toh Jin Wei, Tan Kok Chin and Simon Nichols (Image Credit: The-Wolfpack)

The COVID-19 pandemic has hit the consumer, leisure and media companies hard, but a new venture firm called The-Wolfpack is still very upbeat on those sectors. Based in Singapore, the firm was founded by former managing directors at GroupM, one of the world’s largest advertising and media companies, and plans to work very closely with each of its portfolio companies. Its name was chosen because they believe “entrepreneurs thrive best in a wolfpack.”

The-Wolfpack’s debut fund, called the Wolfpack Pioneer VCC, is already fully subscribed at $5 million USD, and will focus on direct-to-consumer companies, with plans to invest in eight to 10 startups. The firm is already looking to raise a second fund, with a target of $20 million SGD (about $14.9 million USD) and above, and will set up another office in Thailand, with plans to expand into Indonesia as well.

The-Wolfpack was founded by Toh Jin Wei and Simon Nichols, who met while working at GroupM, and Tan Kok Chin, a former director at Sunray Woodcraft Construction who has worked on projects with Marina Bay Sands, Raffles Hotel and the Singapore Tourism’s offices.

In addition to providing financial capital, The-Wolfpack wants to build ecosystems around its portfolio companies by connecting them with IP owners, digital marketing experts, content producers and designers who can help create offline experiences. It also plans to invest in startups based on opportunities for them to collaborate or cross-sell with one another.

Toh told TechCrunch that formal planning on The-Wolfpack began at the end of 2019, but he and Nichols started thinking of launching their own business five years ago while working together at GroupM.

“Our perspective on what the industry needed was similar — strategic investors who truly knew how to get behind D2C founders,” Toh said.

The COVID-19 pandemic and its economic impact has hurt spending in The-Wolfpack’s three key sectors (consumer, leisure and media). But it also presents opportunities for innovation as consumer habits shift, Nichols said.

For example, even though consumer spending has dropped, people are still “drawn towards brands that build towards higher-quality engagements,” he said. “There is a real business advantage for D2C brands who’ve recognized this shift and know how to act on it.”

The-Wolfpack hasn’t disclosed its investments yet since deals are still being finalized, but some of the brands its debut fund are interested in include one launched by an Australian makeup artist who wants to scale to Southeast Asia, and an online gaming company whose ecosystem includes original content, gaming teams and studios. The-Wolfpack plans to help them set up a physical studio to create an offline experience, too.

“Typically brands have talked at customers, but it’s become a two-way conversation, and startups who get D2C right have a real potential for exponential growth that’s worth investing in,” said Toh.

#asia, #d2c, #direct-to-consumer, #fundings-exits, #leisure, #media, #singapore, #southeast-asia, #startups, #tc, #the-wolfpack, #venture-capital, #venture-firm

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Marie Ekeland launches 2050, a new fund with radically ambitious, long-term goals

Marie Ekeland has unveiled her next act — and it’s a new fund called 2050. But it’s not your average French VC fund as it’s going to be an evergreen fund focused on building a better world. It sounds ambitious, but Ekeland isn’t just daydreaming as she has a detailed action plan.

If you’re not familiar with Marie Ekeland, she used to be an investor at French VC firm Elaia. She invested in adtech firm Criteo, which later became a public company in the U.S. She is also one of the founding members of France Digitale, the main startup lobby in France.

More recently, she co-founded Daphni, her own VC firm. While she’s no longer involved with Daphni’s day-to-day activities, she still follows her own investments in Daphni’s first fund. Her investments include Shine, Swile, Holberton School and Lifen.

With 2050, Ekeland is going back to the drawing board with a different vision when it comes to investment thesis, fund structure and the firm’s own values.

“Investment is self-fulfilling,” Ekeland told me. “When you invest in this company instead of that one, you’re shaping the future of society.”

During our lengthy discussion, it became quite clear that Ekeland both suffers from tech fatigue and also still believes she can have a positive impact through her investments.

Let’s start with the investment thesis. 2050 wants to focus on five fundamental areas — the future of food, better healthcare, improving education, shaping a sustainable lifestyle and fostering trust in the media and financial institutions.

As the name suggests, 2050 has a lot of time to think about these issues. The firm is willing to invest over the long haul. But if an entrepreneur wants to sell their company, that’s OK too. The idea is that there shouldn’t be any time frame pressure.

With traditional VC firms, limited partners invest in a fund and expects returns 10 years later. That’s why most VC funds have to sell their positions within eight to 10 years. It could lead to some pressure to go public, get acquired or find other investors to buy back previous investors.

So how do you remove short-term financial pressure from investment firms? 2050 is a fonds de pérennité, which works a bit like a trust fund, a mission-driven fund.

As an evergreen fund, investors in 2050 can invest whenever they want. Regularly, 2050 will open up liquidity distribution windows. It means that existing investors will be able to sell their positions in 2050. New investors will purchase those positions.

“What we’re doing is quite innovative, so we’re learning by doing,” Ekeland said. 2050 is still expecting regulatory approvals from France’s financial regulator AMF. In the meantime, 2050 has already participated in Withings’ latest funding round. Along with Ekeland, Anne-Lise Bance, Aicha Ben Dhia, Charly Berthet, Meyha Camara and Aude Duprat have already joined the team.

2050 also plans to dedicate 10% of investments in the fund and 50% of the team’s carried interest for digital commons. Arguably, this is the most interesting part of 2050. It proves that the team is committed to its vision beyond blog posts.

For instance, 2050 will contribute to Université Paris Dauphine’s class on the ecological challenges of the 21st century. The idea is to share that class as broadly as possible under an open license.

Some key concepts will be turned into actionable items for entrepreneurs. If you browse the business book section of your local bookshop, chances are you’ll see a ton of books about building a startup, growing as fast as possible and not paying attention to structural damage.

By investing in (often underfunded) knowledge, 2050 could share a different kind of actionable items with its portfolio companies and the tech ecosystem at large. Other investments in commons could include infrastructure investments that help everyone, or mutualized research.

Tech isn’t just about building companies. Public institutions, individuals and nonprofit organizations also have a say in the tech ecosystem. And I’m glad to see that 2050 understands that tech investment isn’t just about financing private companies. It’s such an important shift and I hope other investors will follow suit.

#europe, #marie-ekeland, #startups, #venture-capital

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HMBradley raises $18.25 million planting a flag as LA’s entrant into the challenger bank business

With $90 million in deposits and $18.25 million in new financing, HMBradley is making moves as the Los Angeles-based entrant into the challenger bank competition.

LA is home to a growing community of financial services startups and HMBradley is quickly taking its place among the leaders with a novel twist on the banking business.

Unlike most banking startups that woo customers with easy credit and savvy online user interfaces, HMBradley is pitching a better savings account.

The company offers up to 3% interest on its savings accounts, much higher than most banks these days, and it’s that pitch that has won over consumers and investors alike, according to the company’s co-founder and chief executive, Zach Bruhnke.

With climbing numbers on the back of limited marketing, Bruhnke said raising the company’s latest round of financing was a breeze. 

“They knew after the first call that they wanted to do it,” Brunke said of the negotiations with the venture capital firm Acrew, a venture firm whose previous exposure to fintech companies included backing the challenger bank phenomenon which is Chime . “It was a very different kind of fundraise for us. Our seed round was a terrible, treacherous 16-month fundraise,” Brunke said.

For Acrew’s part, the company actually had to call Chime’s founder to ensure that the company was okay with the venture firm backing another entrant into the banking business. Once the approval was granted, Brunke said the deal was smooth sailing.

Acrew, Chime, and HMBradley’s founders see enough daylight between the two business models that investing in one wouldn’t be a conflict of interest with the other. And there’s plenty of space for new entrants in the banking business, Bruhnke said. “It’s a very, very large industry as a whole,” he said.

As the company grows its deposits, Bruhnke said there will be several ways it can leverage its capital. That includes commercial lending on the back end of HMBradley’s deposits and other financial services offerings to grow its base.

For now, it’s been wooing consumers with one click credit applications and the high interest rates it offers to its various tiers of savers.

“When customers hit that 3% tier they get really excited,” Bruhnke said. “If you’re saving money and you’re not saving to HMBradley then you’re losing money.”

The money that HMBradley raised will be used to continue rolling out its new credit product and hiring staff. It already poached the former director of engineering at Capital One, Ben Coffman, and fintech thought leader Saira Rahman, the company said. 

In October, the company said, deposits doubled month-over-month and transaction volume has grown to over $110 million since it launched in April. 

Since launching the company’s cash back credit card in July, HMBradley has been able to pitch customers on 3% cash back for its highest tier of savers — giving them the option to earn 3.5% on their deposits.

The deposit and lending capabilities the company offers are possible because of its partnership with the California-based Hatch Bank, the company said.

#bank, #banking, #california, #chime, #economy, #finance, #financial-services, #financial-technology, #hmbradley, #ing-group, #los-angeles, #money, #tc, #venture-capital

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#DealMonitor – Bübchen Skincare investiert in Blaue Helden – aifinyo übernimmt Pagido


Im aktuellen #DealMonitor für den 24. November werfen wir wieder einen Blick auf die wichtigsten, spannendsten und interessantesten Investments und Exits des Tages. Alle Deals der Vortage gibt es im großen und übersichtlichen #DealMonitor-Archiv.

INVESTMENTS

Blaue Helden
+++ Bübchen Skincare, eine Tochter von Katjes International, steigt beim Startup Blaue Helden ein. “Im Rahmen einer Kapitalerhöhung erwirbt Bübchen Anteile, um Kapital für weiteres Wachstum zu schaffen”, teilt das Unternehmen mit. Blaue Helden aus Bad Homburg vor der Höhe, das 2019 von Christoph Heeren gegründet wurde, setzt auf nachhaltige Reinigungsmittel. Die Tabs von Blaue Helden sind als Bad-, Allzweck- und Glasreiniger sowie als Spülmittel erhältlich.

Kianava
+++ Jetzt offiziell: Der österreichische Geldgeber Speedinvest investiert – wie bereits im September berichtet – in Kianava. Nun ist auch die Summe bekannt: Speedinvest investiert 1,25 Millionen Euro. Das junge Berliner Health-Startup, das von Saman Hashemian (früher 8fit) gegründet wurde, entwickelt eine Telemedizin-Plattform über die Patienten aller Art über einen längeren Zeitraum – mehrere Monate – von Ärzten und Therapeuten betreut werden können.

teech
+++ Der Berliner Business Angel Udo Schloemer (Factory Berlin) investiert eine “hohe sechsstellige” Summe in teech. Das Startup aus Darmstadt, das von Joel Monaco, Emanuele Monaco und Dominik Benner geführt wird, kümmert sich um digitalen Unterricht. “Hierbei dient teech als ein Bestandteil eines hybriden Ansatzes und bietet unterstützende Elemente für die Durchführung konventioneller und innovativer Unterrichtsformate”, teilt das Unternehmen mit.

EXITS

Pagido
+++ Der Dresdener Finanzdienstleister aifinyo, früher als Elbe Finanzgruppe bekannt, übernimmt das Unternehmen Pagido – siehe FinanceFWD.  Hinter Pagido verbirgt sich eine Plattform für Freelancer-Factoring. Das Münchner Startup sorgt für sofortigen Geldfluss und übernimmt neben der Erstellung einer korrekten Rechnung auch die gesamte Kommunikation mit dem Auftraggeber. Pagido war 2014 beim Axel Springer Plug and Play Accelerator an Bord. Aifinyo hatte zuletzt bereits das Factoring-Startup Decimo übernommen.

VENTURE CAPITAL

Lios Ventures
Der neue Münchner Kapitalgeber Lios Ventures, hinter dem vor allem Frank Mair (Verlagsgruppe MairDuMont) steckt, investiert insbesondere in Travel-Startups. Lios Ventures tritt im Grunde die Nachfolge von MairDuMont Ventures, das weiter existiert, an. In den vergangenen Jahren investierte die Verlagsgruppe MairDuMont über ihren Ableger in diverse Travel-Startups – darunter travelcircus, holidu, PaulCamper, Zizoo, Fineway und journi. Mit Lios Ventures möchte Reise-Experte Mair die Venture-Aktivitäten nun unabhängiger von der eigenen Verlagsgruppe aufstellen. “Nach fünf Jahren, in denen ich MairDuMont Ventures aufgebaut habe, fühlte ich, dass es jetzt der richtige Zeitpunkt ist, etwas neues für die Zukunft aufzubauen”, sagt Mair.

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): azrael75

#aifinyo, #aktuell, #blaue-helden, #bubchen-skincare, #darmstadt, #kianava, #lios-ventures, #mairdumont-ventures, #pagido, #speedinvest, #teech, #venture-capital

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Will Brazil’s Roaring 20s see the rise of early-stage startups?

Since 2007, the number of publicly listed companies in Brazil has decreased from 400 to just a little over 300.

In the past six years there were only 21 IPOs — an average of just 3.5 public exits per year; by 2019, even Iran had more listed companies than Brazil. Global capital markets are heated given pandemic stimulus packages and low interest rates worldwide, but in Brazil the boom comes with a special feature: in Q3 2020, there were 25 primary and secondary equity offerings, and this year is on track to be the most active in history both in number of deals and dollar volume.

The most important event, however, is not necessarily the reversal of a shrinking public market but the fact that startups are issuing stocks for the first time, a dramatic change for a market previously dominated by industries like commodities and utilities.

Growth versus value: Revert the shrinking market and internet companies

Not only is Brazil’s IPO market roaring, the waitlist is even more impressive: More than 47 companies have filed at CVM (equivalent to the the Securities and Exchange Commission) to issue equity and are waiting for approval. In other words, the IPO is equivalent to more than 15% of the number of publicly listed companies. In the first half of October, six companies were approved to issue equity. Obviously construction and retail names are still predominant as they take advantage of the lower rates, but the main novelty are new entrants in internet and technology.

In the past decade, there were 56 IPOs in Brazil and only two were in the software space, both in 2013. That is a reflection of the profile of the investors who dominate local markets, which are used to allocating assets to companies in sectors like oil, paper and cellulose, mining or utilities. Historically, publicly listed companies in the country were value plays, as few of them had significant exposure to the domestic market and derived a significant share of revenue from commodities and exports.

As a result, companies that focused on the domestic market or on growth were never quite embraced by local investors. Many investors deploying capital in Brazil were mostly foreign and very risk-averse to the dynamics of the domestic market; in 2007, when Brazil went through a similar IPO boom, 70 percent of the demand for equity offerings came from foreign investors.

Along with an undervalued currency, growth companies struggled to find attractive valuations on the local exchange. As a result, growth companies such as Stone Payments, Netshoes, PagSeguro, Arco Educação and XP Investimentos did their IPOs in New York where they attained higher valuations. It’s ironic that there were three times more IPOs of Brazilian growth companies in the U.S. in the past five years than there were in the domestic market in the last decade.

Roaring 20s: New investors and massive portfolio relocations

#brazil, #column, #corporate-finance, #latin-america, #mining, #startups, #venture-capital, #venture-capital-funds

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7 things we just learned about Sequoia’s European expansion plans

Sequoia Capital, the renowned Silicon Valley venture capital firm that has backed companies like Apple, Google, Dropbox, Airbnb and Stripe, recently disclosed that it had opened its first office in Europe. To staff up, it hired partner Luciana Lixandru away from rival Accel Partners.

Even without an official European presence, Sequoia has quietly operated in the region for more than a decade, first investing in Klarna in 2010. Other Europe-founded companies in its portfolio include Baaima, CEGX, Charlotte Tilbury, Dashlane, Evervault, FON Wireless, Front, Graphcore, Mapillary, Metaswitch Networks, n8n, Remote, Skyscanner, Songkick, Tessian, Tourlane, UiPath, Unity and 6Winderkinder (Wunderlist).

Yet, it is only now that the VC firm is putting people on the ground here in Europe, starting with an office in London that has a remit to invest across the continent.

Working alongside Lixandru is junior investor George Robson, who joined from Revolut. Most recently, Sequoia recruited Zoe Jervier Hewitt from EQT as head of talent in Europe. And finally, Matt Miller, a Sequoia U.S. veteran, is also part of the European efforts and plans to relocate next year, while I also understand that Sequoia’s Doug Leone will be spending a lot of his time in Europe.

Last week at the virtual “Node by Slush” event, I interviewed Lixandru and Miller and teased out some important details about Sequoia’s plans.

1. Sequoia now believes Europe is producing market leaders ahead of Silicon Valley

“There has been this evolution and maturity of the tech ecosystem that has been really meaningful, that has attracted us to want to put down boots on the ground and be more invested in Europe than ever before,” said Sequoia partner Matt Miller.

“One change is in the attitudes of young people. Europe has always been this place where there’s been incredible talent coming out of the computer science programs, across the universities across the continent and the U.K., and these young people previously, were going into careers in investment banking and consulting are bigger conglomerates. And now that those young people are interested in startups and technology careers, that’s fueling a lot of great ideas and a lot of great talent.

“There was a long time this question of, when will there be a $10 billion plus startup, and now there’s multiple of them across the continent. And now the question has really changed: When will there be the next hundred billion dollar startup in Europe, and I think it’s just an evolution over time.

“We find ourselves getting pulled more and more. So when … we want to invest in the best AI semiconductor company in the world, we looked at them in China, Israel and Europe. And the one we wanted to invest in was Graphcore, in Bristol [in the U.K.]. And when we looked … [to] invest in the best process automation company in the world, we looked at automation anywhere in California … and we looked at companies all over the world, and the one we wanted to invest in was UiPath in Romania. And that is increasingly becoming the case.”

“To some extent, success breeds success, too,” said Lixandru. “I think role models are really powerful. And the fact that there have been these category-leading companies created out of Europe, but that are winning on a global scale, like Spotify, Adyen and UiPath … I think that’s really inspirational to the next generation of founders. And I think that has helped a lot.”

2. The firm will make investments out of the same fund as the U.S. and Canada

“We work as one partnership across two geographies, and we invest from the same pool of capital across both geographies,” explained Lixandru. “And the rationale behind that is exactly what Max talked about. We want to be able to partner with category leading companies, and if they start in Paris, or in Stockholm, or in San Francisco, for us, it does not make a difference. We want to partner with them early. And we want to be able to help them on the ground early … whether they start here in Europe or in the U.S.”

Related to this, Sequoia will share carry — the fund’s profits — with partners across the U.S. and Europe, regardless of where partners reside or where the deal was sourced.

“One of the things that I love the most about Sequoia having been here close to nine years now is the way that we operate is very, very team centric, and that everybody is compensated the same amount in a fund, whether or not it is the investment that they lead or the investment that their partner led,” said Miller. “So when we make an investment, we lock arms together as a team, and we work collectively to help that company be successful.”

Miller said portfolio companies in Europe also get to work with Sequoia’s operational supporting partners in the U.S., too. “And the economic model is one that supports that,” he said.

3. Sequoia will continue building out a team on the ground in Europe

#doug-leone, #entrepreneurship, #europe, #luciana-lixandru, #sequoia-capital, #startups, #stripe, #tc, #venture-capital

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Founders seeking their first check need a fundraising sales funnel

Milana Lewis, CEO and co-founder of music tech startup Stem, started the fundraising process long before she actually asked any investors for money (dig the well before you’re thirsty — it’s the best way). She recommends that other founders do the same.

Ten years ago, Milana started working at United Talent Agency (UTA), one of the world’s leading talent agencies. When tasked with finding the best tools and technologies that UTA’s clients could use to self-distribute their work, she discovered a glaring gap.

“There were all these tools built for the distribution of content, monetization of content and audience development,” she says. “The last piece missing was the financial aspect.” The entertainment industry desperately needed a platform that would help artists manage the financial side of their business — and that’s how the idea for Stem was born.

Because UTA had its own investment branch, called UTA Ventures, Milana’s job also introduced her to some brilliant investors. Years later, when it was time to fundraise for Stem, those connections played a pretty big role.

In an episode of How I Raised It, Milana shared how Stem has landed some superstar investors and raised a little under $22 million.

1. Bring investors along for the ride — from the very start

Milana’s involvement with UTA Ventures exposed her to the investor experience and put her in the same room as people like Gary Vaynerchuk, Jonathon Triest from Ludlow Ventures, Anthony Saleh from Wndrco and Scooter Braun.

After meeting them the first time, she made sure to nurture those relationships, and she was “honest and vulnerable” about the fact that she wanted to be an entrepreneur one day.

“It’s amazing how much people will help and support you along in that journey,” Milana says. Investors “get excited about making early-stage investments because they want to identify that person before anyone else does.”

As her idea for Stem came together, she shared that with them, too. Over the course of a year, she provided regular updates on her vision, like how she was building out her team, and she also called them for occasional advice.

By the time she approached some of them for funding, she didn’t even need to present a full pitch. By then, they already knew enough about Stem, and about Milana as a businesswoman. Her pitch meeting with Gary Vaynerchuk — the first person to invest — ended up being just 15 minutes long.

“I brought people on my entrepreneurial journey in the beginning,” Milana says. “The biggest piece of advice I could give is to start raising a year before you start raising. Start building relationships and data points.”

2. Become best friends with systems and deadlines

For each round, Milana put together a lead list — a list of potential investors who she either met socially or through business. Each time, she wanted to have at least 100 names on this list.

#column, #entertainment, #entrepreneurship, #funding, #gary-vaynerchuk, #growth-marketing, #scooter-braun, #startups, #tc, #united-talent-agency, #venture-capital

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Investors Lockheed Martin Ventures and SpaceFund are coming to TC Sessions: Space 2020

The space industry, once dominated by government-funded programs and a small handful of corporations, has seen a surge in startups in recent years. And with startups aplenty, the venture firms can never be far behind.

Venture capital has played an increasingly important role in rooting out the best and most promising of these startups. The stakes are even higher for the venture arms of corporations. Corporate venture firms are on the constant hunt for the technology that will keep their companies relevant for decades to come.

That’s why we’re excited to announce that Chris Moran, executive director and general manager at Lockheed Martin Ventures, and Meagan Crawford, managing partner at SpaceFund, will join us at our TC Sessions: Space event on December 16 & 17.

Moran leads Lockheed Martin Ventures efforts to invest in small technology businesses that support the company’s larger strategic business objectives. Prior to joining Lockheed Martin, Moran served in a variety of positions at Applied Materials Inc., most recently as the head of the business systems and analytics group.

More from the TC Sessions: Space agenda

Crawford isn’t just managing partner at SpaceFund . She’s an experienced space startup executive and founder. As the host of the Mission Eve podcast, she aims to increase the number of women in the space industry and is frequently featured as a thought leader on the industry’s development and investment potential. Crawford also chairs the board of the non-profit Center for Space Commerce and Finance.

She has more than a decade of experience helping educate entrepreneurs and investors through the NewSpace Business Plan Competition, which she started running in 2009. As a manager, coach and judge for the last decade, she has read over 1,000 space business executive summaries, coached hundreds of selected teams, and helped award cash prizes to dozens of NewSpace startups.

Crawford and Moran are tapped in and ready to share with the TechCrunch audience their insights and forecasts for our collective space future. We’ll dig into what their respective companies are paying attention to, the challenges and opportunities of COVID-19 and if a changing administration will change their investment strategy.

Starting today, we’re offering a BOGO deal. Buy one Late Registration ticket for $175 and get one free. You and a colleague pay just $87.50 each — that’s less than the early bird price. Booyah! We’re here all week folks…and this deal ends on Sunday, November 29, at 11:59 p.m. PST.

#aerospace, #events, #lockheed-martin-ventures, #space, #spacefund, #tc, #tc-sessions-space-2020, #venture-capital

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#DealMonitor – HelloFresh kauft Factor75 (für 277 Millionen) – ShowHeroes übernimmt Viralize


Im aktuellen #DealMonitor für den 23. November werfen wir wieder einen Blick auf die wichtigsten, spannendsten und interessantesten Investments und Exits des Tages. Alle Deals der Vortage gibt es im großen und übersichtlichen #DealMonitor-Archiv.

EXITS

Factor75
+++ Der börsennotierte Kochboxen-Anbieter HelloFresh übernimmt den Fertiggerichte-Anbieter Factor75. “Der Gesamtkaufpreis beläuft sich auf bis zu USD 277 Millionen, von denen bis zu USD 100 Millionen auf ein earn-out sowie auf ein Management-Incentivierungsprogramm entfallen”, teilt das Unternehmen mit. Factor75 peilt 2020 einen Umsatz in Höhe von rund 100 Millionen US-Dollar an. Factor wurde 2013 gegründet und gilt als “führender Anbieter für ready-to-eat Gerichte mit dem Fokus auf Gesundheit und Wellness”.

Viralize
+++ Das Berliner Startup ShowHeroes, ein Produzenten für Videos, die für mobile Einsätze und Social Media-Kanäle optimiert sind, übernimmt das italienische Unternehmen Viralize. “Das in Mailand, Florenz und Madrid ansässige Unternehmen ist ein führender Spezialist für Videotechnologie und -werbung in Südeuropa”, teilt das Unternehmen mit. ShowHeroes wurde 2016 von Ilhan Zengin, Mario Tiedemann und Dennis Kirschner gegründet

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): Shutterstock

#aktuell, #factor75, #food, #hellofresh, #showheroes, #venture-capital, #viralize

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Extra Crunch roundup: A fistful of IPOs, Affirm’s Peloton problem, Zoom Apps and more

DoorDash, Affirm, Roblox, Airbnb, C3.ai and Wish all filed to go public in recent days, which means some venture capitalists are having the best week of their lives.

Tech companies that go public capture our imagination because they are literal happy endings. An Initial Public Offering is the promised land for startup pilgrims who may wander the desert for years seeking product-market fit. After all, the “I” in “ISO” stands for “incentive.”

A flurry of new S-1s in a single week forced me to rearrange our editorial calendar, but I didn’t mind; our 360-degree coverage let some of the air out of various hype balloons and uncovered several unique angles.

For example: I was familiar with Affirm, the service that lets consumers finance purchases, but I had no idea Peloton accounted for 30% of its total revenue in the last quarter.

“What happens if Peloton puts on the brakes?” I asked Alex Wilhelm as I edited his breakdown of Affirm’s S-1. We decided to use that as the subhead for his analysis.

The stories that follow are an overview of Extra Crunch from the last five days. Full articles are only available to members, but you can use discount code ECFriday to save 20% off a one or two-year subscription. Details here.

Thank you very much for reading Extra Crunch this week; I hope you have a relaxing weekend.

Walter Thompson
Senior Editor, TechCrunch
@yourprotagonist


What is Roblox worth?

Gaming company Roblox filed to go public yesterday afternoon, so Alex Wilhelm brought out a scalpel and dissected its S-1. Using his patented mathmagic, he analyzed Roblox’s fundraising history and reported revenue to estimate where its valuation might land.

Noting that “the public markets appear to be even more risk-on than the private world in 2020,” Alex pegged the number at “just a hair under $10 billion.”

What China’s fintech can teach the world

Alibaba Employees Pay For Meals With Face Recognition System

HANGZHOU, CHINA – JULY 31: An employee uses face recognition system on a self-service check-out machine to pay for her meals in a canteen at the headquarters of Alibaba Group on July 31, 2018 in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province of China. The self-service check-out machine can calculate the price of meals quickly to save employees’ queuing time. (Photo by Visual China Group via Getty Images)

For all the hype about new forms of payment, the way I transact hasn’t been radically transformed in recent years — even in tech-centric San Francisco.

Sure, I use NFC card readers to tap and pay and tipped a street musician using Venmo last weekend. But my landlord still demands paper checks and there’s a tattered “CASH ONLY” taped to the register at my closest coffee shop.

In China, it’s a different story: Alibaba’s employee cafeteria uses facial recognition and AI to determine which foods a worker has selected and who to charge. Many consumers there use the same app to pay for utility bills, movie tickets and hamburgers.

“Today, nobody except Chinese people outside of China uses Alipay or WeChat Pay to pay for anything,” says finance researcher Martin Chorzempa. “So that’s a big unexplored side that I think is going to come into a lot of geopolitical risks.”

Inside Affirm’s IPO filing: A look at its economics, profits and revenue concentration

Consumer lending service Affirm filed to go public on Wednesday evening, so Alex used Thursday’s column to unpack the company’s financials.

After reviewing Affirm’s profitability, revenue and the impact of COVID-19 on its bottom line, he asked (and answered) three questions:

  • What does Affirm’s loss rate on consumer loans look like?
  • Are its gross margins improving?
  • What does the unicorn have to say about contribution profit from its loans business?

If you didn’t make $1B this week, you are not doing VC right

Image Credits: XiXinXing (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

“The only thing more rare than a unicorn is an exited unicorn,” observes Managing Editor Danny Crichton, who looked back at Exitpalooza 2020 to answer “a simple question — who made the money?”

Covering each exit from the perspective of founders and investors, Danny makes it clear who’ll take home the largest slice of each pie. TL;DR? “Some really colossal winners among founders, and several venture firms walking home with billions of dollars in capital.

5 questions from Airbnb’s IPO filing

The S-1 Airbnb released at the start of the week provided insight into the home-rental platform’s core financials, but it also raised several questions about the company’s health and long-term viability, according to Alex Wilhelm:

  • How far did Airbnb’s bookings fall during Q1 and Q2?
  • How far have Airbnb’s bookings come back since?
  • Did local, long-term stays save Airbnb?
  • Has Airbnb ever really made money?
  • Is the company wealthy despite the pandemic?

Autodesk CEO Andrew Anagnost explains the strategy behind acquiring Spacemaker

Andrew Anagnost, President and CEO, Autodesk.

Andrew Anagnost, president and CEO, Autodesk.

Earlier this week, Autodesk announced its purchase of Spacemaker, a Norwegian firm that develops AI-supported software for urban development.

TechCrunch reporter Steve O’Hear interviewed Autodesk CEO Andrew Anagnost to learn more about the acquisition and asked why Autodesk paid $240 million for Spacemaker’s 115-person team and IP — especially when there were other startups closer to its Bay Area HQ.

“They’ve built a real, practical, usable application that helps a segment of our population use machine learning to really create better outcomes in a critical area, which is urban redevelopment and development,” said Anagnost.

“So it’s totally aligned with what we’re trying to do.”

Unpacking the C3.ai IPO filing

On Monday, Alex dove into the IPO filing for enterprise artificial intelligence company C3.ai.

After poring over its ownership structure, service offerings and its last two years of revenue, he asks and answers the question: “is the business itself any damn good?”

Is the internet advertising economy about to implode?

Image Credits: jayk7 / Getty Images

In his new book, “Subprime Attention Crisis,” writer/researcher Tim Hwang attempts to answer a question I’ve wondered about for years: does advertising actually work?

Managing Editor Danny Crichton interviewed Hwang to learn more about his thesis that there are parallels between today’s ad industry and the subprime mortgage crisis that helped spur the Great Recession.

So, are online ads effective?

“I think the companies are very reticent to give up the data that would allow you to find a really definitive answer to that question,” says Hwang.

Will Zoom Apps be the next hot startup platform?

Logos of companies in the Zoom Apps marketplace

Image Credits: Zoom

Even after much of the population has been vaccinated against COVID-19, we will still be using Zoom’s video-conferencing platform in great numbers.

That’s because Zoom isn’t just an app: it’s also a platform play for startups that add functionality using APIs, an SDK or chatbots that behave like smart assistants.

Enterprise reporter Ron Miller spoke to entrepreneurs and investors who are leveraging Zoom’s platform to build new applications with an eye on the future.

“By offering a platform to build applications that take advantage of the meeting software, it’s possible it could be a valuable new ecosystem for startups,” says Ron.

Will edtech empower or erase the need for higher education?

Image Credits: Bryce Durbin

Without an on-campus experience, many students (and their parents) are wondering how much value there is in attending classes via a laptop in a dormitory.

Even worse: Declining enrollment is leading many institutions to eliminate majors and find other ways to cut costs, like furloughing staff and cutting athletic programs.

Edtech solutions could fill the gap, but there’s no real consensus in higher education over which tools work best. Many colleges and universities are using a number of “third-party solutions to keep operations afloat,” reports Natasha Mascarenhas.

“It’s a stress test that could lead to a reckoning among edtech startups.”

3 growth tactics that helped us surpass Noom and Weight Watchers

3D rendering of TNT dynamite sticks in carton box on blue background. Explosive supplies. Dangerous cargo. Plotting terrorist attack. Image Credits: Gearstd / Getty Images.

I look for guest-written Extra Crunch stories that will help other entrepreneurs be more successful, which is why I routinely turn down submissions that seem overly promotional.

However, Henrik Torstensson (CEO and co-founder of Lifesum) submitted a post about the techniques he’s used to scale his nutrition app over the last three years. “It’s a strategy any startup can use, regardless of size or budget,” he writes.

According to Sensor Tower, Lifesum is growing almost twice as fast as Noon and Weight Watchers, so putting his company at the center of the story made sense.

Send in reviews of your favorite books for TechCrunch!

Image via Getty Images / Alexander Spatari

Every year, we ask TechCrunch reporters, VCs and our Extra Crunch readers to recommend their favorite books.

Have you read a book this year that you want to recommend? Send an email with the title and a brief explanation of why you enjoyed it to bookclub@techcrunch.com.

We’ll compile the suggestions and publish the list as we get closer to the holidays. These books don’t have to be published this calendar year — any book you read this year qualifies.

Please share your submissions by November 30.

Dear Sophie: Can an H-1B co-founder own a Delaware C Corp?

Image Credits: Sophie Alcorn

Dear Sophie:

My VC partner and I are working with 50/50 co-founders on their startup — let’s call it “NewCo.” We’re exploring pre-seed terms.

One founder is on a green card and already works there. The other founder is from India and is working on an H-1B at a large tech company.

Can the H-1B co-founder lead this company? What’s the timing to get everything squared away? If we make the investment we want them to hit the ground running.

— Diligent in Daly City

#affirm, #airbnb, #doordash, #entrepreneurship, #fundings-exits, #gaming, #roblox, #startups, #tc, #venture-capital, #wish

0

A16z is now managing $16.5 billion, after announcing two new funds

Andreessen Horowitz (a16z) has closed a pair of funds totaling $4.5 billion, the firm confirmed in a blog post this morning. The firm has raised $1.3 billion for an early-stage fund focused on consumer, enterprise, and fintech; and closed a $3.2 billion growth-stage fund for later-stage investments. The firm did not immediately respond to request for comment.

The funds may seem somewhat typical, given the size of new funds that venture firms have been raising in recent years, Still, these are extraordinary amounts given that a16z, with offices in Menlo Park and San Francisco, was founded just 11 years ago.

As extraordinary, they bring the firm’s total assets under management to $16.5 billion.

It was just 20 months ago that a16z closed its most recent pair of funds — a $2 billion late-stage fund, and a $740 million flagship early-stage fund.

It also announced a separate, $515 million crypto-focused fund back in April of this year, its second such vehicle. And, in February, it rolled out its third biotech and healthcare investing fund, which closed with $750 million in capital commitments.

That’s a lot of capital to capture in one year. Then again, its limited partners have had reason to feel optimistic about its portfolio. In January, for example, the fintech company Plaid, whose Series C round a16z joined in late 2018, was acquired by Visa for a hefty $5.3 billion after raising roughly $310 million altogether. The Justice Department recently sued to block the deal on antitrust grounds, but even if it’s unwound, industry observers like Plaid’s prospects.

The firm is also an investor in the soon-to-be-publicly traded accommodations marketplace Airbnb, though notably, according to Airbnb’s S-1, a16z does not own enough of the company to be listed on the filing, despite that it led the company’s Series B round in 2011 and despite that general partner Jeff Jordan sits on the company’s board and would need to list any ownership position as a result.

We’ve asked if it sold part of its stake, possibly earlier this year. We’re still awaiting word back.

Another of a16z’s portfolio companies, the pay-as-you-go lending company Affirm, has also filed to go public. Andreessen Horowitz first participated in the company’s Series B round back in 2015. It is also not listed on Affirm’s S-1 filing, meaning it owns less than 5% of the company.

The firm is also an investor in the game company Roblox, whose $150 million Series G round it led earlier this year. Roblox made its S-1 public just earlier this week; a16z is not listed on it.

Its biggest win to date may well be Github, which sold to Microsoft in a $7.5 billion all-stock deal in 2018 and from which a16z reportedly pocketed more than $1 billion. When it invested in the company, it wrote the biggest check it had issued at the time: $100 million. The deal was enough for a16z to win the deal against some tough competition, including Benchmark, whose general partner, Peter Fenton, has said was also trying to woo Github at the time,

On the early-stage side, the firm is often characterized by its flashy deals, including its $100 million valuation of voice-chat app Clubhouse and $75 million valuation of Y Combinator graduate Trove.

 

A16z also recently launched a TxO accelerator, which uses a donor-advised fund to invest in underrepresented founders. Led by a16z partner Nait Jones, TxO has invested $100,000 each in an initial cohort of seven companies in exchange for 7% of ownership stake.

The donor-advised fund launched with $2.2 million in initial commitments, with Ben and Felicia Horowitz announcing that they would match up to $5 million. Any returns from companies in the fund will be repurposed into the investment vehicle. The firm has declined to share the fund’s total size to date.

Currently, a16z employs 185 people, most recently hiring Anthony Albanese, the chief regulatory officer at the New York Stock Exchange, as an operating partner for its cryptocurrency team.

 

#a16z, #affirm, #early-stage, #fund, #fundings-exits, #nyse, #tc, #venture-capital

0

If you didn’t make $1B this week, you are not doing VC right

The only thing more rare than a unicorn is an exited unicorn.

At TechCrunch, we cover a lot of startup financings, but we rarely get the opportunity to cover exits. This week was an exception though, as it was exitpalooza as Affirm, Roblox, Airbnb, and Wish all filed to go public. With DoorDash’s IPO filing last week, this is upwards of $100 billion in potential float heading to the public markets as we make our way to the end of a tumultuous 2020.

All those exits raise a simple question – who made the money? Which VCs got in early on some of the biggest startups of the decade? Who is going to be buying a new yacht for the family for the holidays (or, like, a fancy yurt for when Burning Man restarts)? The good news is that the wealth is being spread around at least a couple of VC firms, although there are definitely a handful of partners who are looking at a very, very nice check in the mail compared to others.

So let’s dive in.

I’ve covered DoorDash’s and Airbnb’s investor returns in-depth, so if you want to know more about those individual returns, feel free to check those analyses out. But let’s take a more panoramic perspective of the returns of these five companies as a whole.
First, let’s take a look at the founders. These are among the very best startups ever built, and therefore, unsurprisingly, the founders all did pretty well for themselves. But there are pretty wide variations that are interesting to note.

First, Airbnb — by far — has the best return profile for its founders. Brian Chesky, Nathan Blecharczyk, and Joe Gebbia together own nearly 42% of their company at IPO, and that’s after raising billions in venture capital. The reason for their success is simple: Airbnb may have had some tough early innings when it was just getting started, but once it did, its valuation just skyrocketed. That helped to limit dilution in its earlier growth rounds, and ultimately protected their ownership in the company.

David Baszucki of Roblox and Peter Szulczewski of Wish both did well: they own 12% and about 19% of their companies, respectively. Szulczewski’s co-founder Sheng “Danny” Zhang, who is Wish’s CTO, owns 4.9%. Eric Cassel, the co-founder of Roblox, did not disclose ownership in the company’s S-1 filing, indicating that he doesn’t own greater than 5% (the SEC’s reporting threshold).

DoorDash’s founders own a bit less of their company, mostly owing to the money-gobbling nature of that business and the sheer number of co-founders of the company. CEO Tony Xu owns 5.2% while his two co-founders Andy Fang and Stanley Tang each have 4.7%. A fourth co-founder Evan Moore didn’t disclose his share totals in the company’s filing.

Finally, we have Affirm . Affirm didn’t provide total share counts for the company, so it’s hard right now to get a full ownership picture. It’s also particularly hard because Max Levchin, who founded Affirm, was a well-known, multi-time entrepreneur who had a unique shareholder structure from the beginning (many of the venture firms on the cap table actually have equal proportions of common and preferred shares). Levchin has more shares all together than any of his individual VC investors — 27.5 million shares, compared to the second largest investor, Jasmine Ventures (a unit of Singapore’s GIC) at 22 million shares.

#affirm, #airbnb, #altos-ventures, #brian-chesky, #doordash, #entrepreneurship, #founders-fund, #roblox, #softbank-vision-fund, #startups, #venture-capital

0

Why is GoCardless COO Carlos Gonzalez-Cadenas pivoting to become a full-time VC?

Index Ventures, a London- and San Francisco-headquartered venture capital firm that primarily invests in Europe and the U.S., recently announced its latest partner. Carlos Gonzalez-Cadenas, currently COO of London-based fintech GoCardless and previously the chief product officer of Skyscanner, will join Index in January.

Gonzalez-Cadenas is a seasoned entrepreneur and operator, but has also become a prolific angel investor in the U.K. and Europe over the last three years, making more than 50 angel investments in total. Well-regarded by founders and co-investors, his transition to a full-time role in venture capital feels like quite a natural one.

Earlier this week, TechCrunch caught up with Gonzalez-Cadenas over Zoom to learn more about his new role at Index and how he intends to source deals and support founders. Index’s latest hire also shared his insights on Europe’s venture market, describing this era as the “best moment in entrepreneurship in Europe.”

TechCrunch: Let me start by asking, why do you want to become a VC? You’re obviously a well-established entrepreneur and operator, are you sure venture capital is the career for you?

Carlos Gonzalez-Cadenas: I’ve been an angel investor for the last three years and this is something that has basically grown for me quite organically. I started doing just a handful and seeing if this is something I like and over time it has grown quite a lot and so has the number of entrepreneurs I’m partnered with. And this is something I’ve been increasingly more excited to do. So it has grown organically and something that emotionally has been getting closer and closer as time has passed.

And the things I like more specifically are: One, I’m quite a curious person, and for me, investing gives you the possibility of learning a lot about different sectors, about different entrepreneurs, different ways of building businesses, and that is something that I enjoy a lot.

The second bit is that I care a lot about helping entrepreneurs, especially the next generation of entrepreneurs, build great businesses in Europe. I’ve been very lucky, in the past, to learn from great people, like Gareth [Williams, Skyscanner co-founder] and Hiroki [Takeuchi. CEO at GoCardless], in my journey. I feel a duty of helping the next generation of entrepreneurs and sharing all the things that I’ve learnt. I care a lot about setting up founders as much as possible for success and sharing all those experiences I’ve learned [from].

These are the key two motivations that have led me to decide that it would be a great time now to move to the investing side.

How have you managed your deal flow while having a full-time job and where is that deal flow coming from?

It is typically coming in three buckets. A part of it is coming from my entrepreneur and operator network. So there are entrepreneurs and operators I know that are referring other entrepreneurs to me. Another bucket is other investors that I typically co-invest with. Another bucket is venture capitalists. I basically tend to invest quite a lot with VCs and in some cases they are referring deals to me.

In terms of managing it alongside GoCardless, it takes quite a lot of effort. It requires a lot of dedication and time invested during evenings and weekends.

The good thing is that my network typically tends to send me quite highly curated deals so essentially the deal flow I have luckily tends to be quite high quality, which makes things a bit more manageable. But don’t get me wrong, it still takes quite a lot of effort even if the deal flow is relatively high quality.

Presumably you haven’t been able to be all that hands-on as an angel investor, so how are you going to make that transition and what is it that you think you bring with the operational side to venture?

The way I think about this is, the entrepreneurs I typically invest in and their companies tend to be quite capable in their day-to-day perspective. Where they tend to find more value in interactions with me is what I call the “moments of truth.” Those key decisions, those key points in the journey where essentially it can influence the trajectory of the business in a fundamental way. It could be things like, I am fundraising and I don’t know how to position the business. Or I’m thinking about my strategy for the next 18 months and I will basically welcome an experienced person giving me a qualified opinion.

Or I have a big people problem and I don’t know how to solve that problem and I need that third person who has been in my shoes before. Or it could be that I’m thinking about how to organize my team as I move from startup to scale-up and I need help from someone who has scaled teams before. Or could be that I’m hiring three executives and I don’t know what a great CMO looks like. It’s those high-impact, high-leverage questions that the entrepreneurs tend to find helpful engaging with me, as opposed to very detailed day-to-day things that most of the entrepreneurs I work with tend to be quite capable of doing. And so far that model is working. The other thing is that the model is quite scalable because you are engaging 2-3 times per year but those times are high quality and highly impactful for the entrepreneur.

I typically also tend to have pretty regular and frequent communication with entrepreneurs on Slack. It’s more like quick questions that can be solved, and I tend to get quite a lot of that. So I think it’s that bimodel approach of high-frequency questions that we can solve by asynchronous means or high-impact moments a few times per year where, essentially, we need to sit down and we need to think together deeply about the problem.

And I tend to do nothing in the middle, where essentially, it’s stuff that is not so impactful but takes a huge amount of time for everyone, that doesn’t tend to be the most effective way of helping entrepreneurs. Obviously, I’m guided by what entrepreneurs want from perspective, so I’m always training the models in response to what they need.

#artificial-intelligence, #carlos-gonzalez-cadenas, #entrepreneurship, #europe, #london, #machine-learning, #small-business, #startups, #tc, #venture-capital

0

#DealMonitor – René Benko blitzt bei Komoot ab – Insight kauft weitere AnyDesk-Anteile – Warburg Pincus investiert in McMakler


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

INVESTMENTS

Komoot
+++ Der Berliner Geldgeber June, hinter dem unter anderem Google-Vorstand Philipp Schindler steckt, nutzt seine Vorkaufsrechte beim Startup Komoot, einem Routenplaner samt Navigations-App. Der BFB Frühphasenfonds Brandenburg wollte beim Unternehmen aus Potsdam, das von Markus Hallermann gegründet wurde, aussteigen und seinen Anteil (15 %) verkaufen. Interesse an der Übernahme der Anteile hatte auch der bekannte österreichische Investor René Benko (unter anderem Galeria Karstadt Kaufhof). Hintergründe gibt es nur im aktuellen Insider-Podcast. #EXKLUSIV

AnyDesk
+++ Der amerikanische Wagniskapitalgeber Insight Partners nutzt seine Vorkaufsrechte bei AnyDesk. Das junge Unternehmen will quasi TeamViewer als erste Adresse für den Fernzugriff auf Rechner ablösen. EQT Ventures sowie Business Angels wie Chris Hitchen und Andreas Burike sowie Insight investierten in den vergangenen Jahren bereits rund 20 Millionen Dollar in AnyDesk. General Atlantic hatte sich zuletzt für einen Einstieg bei AnyDesk interessiert. Hintergründe gibt es nur im aktuellen Insider-Podcast. #EXKLUSIV

Simplesurance
+++ Die Altinvestoren investierten erneut in Simplesurance. Das Berliner Startup in Deutschland als Schutzklick bekannt, gehört zu den ganz großen InsurTech-Pionieren. Mindestens 60 Millionen Dollar flossen bisher in das Unternehmen, das 2012 an den Start ging. Zuletzt investierten unter anderem die Tokio Marine Holdings (TMHD) und die deutsch-französische Finanzgruppe ODDO BHF Kapital in das Unternehmen. Hintergründe gibt es nur im aktuellen Insider-Podcast. #EXKLUSIV

Urban Sports Club
+++ Die Altinvestoren investierten erneut in Urban Sports Club, einen millonenschweren Anbieter für Sportflatrates. Urban Sports Club wurde Ende 2012 von Benjamin Roth und Moritz Kreppel gegründet. Das Startup expandierte zuletzt vor allem durch Übernahmen (99Gyms, Fitengo, Somuchmore, FITrate). Investoren des Startups sind unter anderem HV Capital, Rocket Internet und Partech. Hintergründe gibt es nur im aktuellen Insider-Podcast. #EXKLUSIV

McMakler
+++ Der amerikanische Finanzinvestor Warburg Pincus investiert gemeinsam mit einigen Bestandsinvestoren in das Berliner Unternehmen McMakler. Das Handelsblatt berichtet von einem Investment in Höhe von 50 Millionen US-Dollar. “Die nächste Wachstumsphase von McMakler wird sich auf die Erweiterung der proprietären Technologie und der digitalen Tools konzentrieren, um einen transparenteren und schnelleren Marketingprozess für die Kunden zu gewährleisten”, teilt das Unternehmen mit . Target Global, Israel Growth Partners und einige Bestandsinvestoren investierten zuletzt 50 Millionen Euro in McMakler, ein Berliner Makler-Startup. Das Unternehmen, das in Deutschland, Österreich und Frankreich aktiv ist, wurde 2015 von Hanno Heintzenberg, Felix Jahn und Lukas Pieczonka gegründet. Das Grownup beschäftigt über 600 Mitarbeiter.

Sastrix
+++ TS Ventures, also Tim Schumacher, Discovery Ventures und Christian Gaiser investieren 1,3 Millionen US-Dollar in das Kölner Startup Sastrix. Die Jungfirma, die von Maximilian Messing und Sven Lackinger, beide früher evopark, gegründet wurde, unterstützt Unternehmen beim Kauf und der Verwaltung von Softwarelösungen. Die Rheinländer versprechen: “Wir bringen Transparenz in Ihr bestehendes Setup, befreien Sie von nicht ausgelasteten Lizenzen und verhandeln mit Ihren Anbietern, um die besten Angebote für Sie zu erhalten”.

deineStudienfinanzierung
+++ Der Berliner FinTech-Investor finleap investiert in das Berliner Startup deineStudienfinanzierung. “Der Eintritt ins Portfolio von finleap ist für das junge Unternehmen ein weiterer Schritt, ein verlässlicher Partner der Generation Z zu sein”, teilt der Investor vollmundig mit. deineStudienfinanzierung, das von Alexander Barge, David Meyer und Bastian Krautwald gegründet wurde, aggregiert die “größten Finanzierungsprodukte für das Studium in Deutschland”. Im vergangenen Jahr suchte die Jungfirma im Fernsehen, bei “Die Höhle der Löwen” Geldgeber. Der TV-Deal mit Frank Thelen platzte damals aber.

NXRT
+++ Das Bahntechnik-Unternehmen Rhomberg Sersa Rail Group (RSRG) investiert in den Simulationsanbieter NXRT. Das Unternehmen  mit Sitz in Wien “fokussiert sich auf schlüsselfertige Anwendungen für innovative Simulationen für Demonstrations-, Trainings- und Testzwecke”. Die Software vermittelt den Anwendern dabei “sämtliche sensorischen Reize, die sowohl im Bereich Showcasing als auch im Bereich Schulung zu einer bleibenden Erinnerung der Inhalte beitragen”.

easierLife
+++ Der Energiedienstleister ESWE Versorgung investiert einen “bedeutenden finanziellen Betrag” in das Karlsruher Startup easierLife, das einen intelligentem Hausnotruf anbietet. easierLife wurde 2014 von vier wissenschaftlichen Mitarbeitern des FZI Forschungszentrum Informatik gegründet. Im Rahmen von Studien wurden zunächst über 100 Seniorenhaushalte mit Sensoren ausgestattet.

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, #anydesk, #berlin, #deinestudienfinanzierung, #discovery-ventures, #easierlife, #finleap, #general-atlantic, #insight-partners, #june, #karlsruhe, #koln, #komoot, #mcmakler, #nxrt, #potsdam, #sastrix, #simplesurance, #ts-ventures, #urban-sports-club, #venture-capital, #warburg-pincus

0

Steve Case’s Revolution is targeting $500 million for its fourth growth fund

Revolution, the Washington, D.C.-based investment firm founded by AOL cofounder CEO Steve Case and former AOL senior exec Ted Leonsis, is raising $500 million for its fourth fund, shows a new SEC filing.

Asked about the effort earlier today, the firm declined to comment.

This new fund was was expected. It has been more than four years since Revolution announced its third growth fund, a vehicle that closed with $525 million in capital commitments. That’s a longer time between funds than we’re seeing more broadly across the venture industry, where teams have tended to raise new funds every two years roughly, but Revolution’s pacing could tie to its mission. The firm tends to invest primarily in what it long ago dubbed “rise of the rest” cities, where the cost of living and talent is less extreme and where checks go a lot further as a result.

It has in recent years formed  Rise of the Rest seed funds, in fact, closing the second of these last year with $150 million in capital commitments.

Revolution is also having pretty good 2020, all things considered. Earlier this year, its Boston-based portfolio company DraftKings closed on a three-way merger and debuted on the Nasdaq. Meanwhile, BigCommerce, an Austin-based SaaS startup helping companies build, manage and market online stores, went public via a traditional IPO in early August and currently boasts a market cap of $4.2 billion. (Revolution provided the capital for the company’s Series C round in 2013 and continued to invest in subsequent rounds.)

Others of its notable investments include Orchard, a tech platform that helps users sell their current home while simultaneously purchasing their next one and whose $69 million Series C round was led by Revolution in September; TemperPack, a maker of thermal liners meant to address the longstanding plastic waste consumer issue and which raised $31 million in Series C funding this past summer, including follow-on funding from Revolution; and sweetgreen, the fast-casual restaurant chain that has endured some ups and downs owing to the pandemic but that closed on $150 million in funding a year ago and which first received backing from Revolution in 2013.

Last month, we talked at some length with Case, including about his involvement in the creation of Section 230 Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996, which helped create today’s internet giants.

We also talked at the time about whether COVID-19 will cause Silicon Valley to finally lose its gravitational pull. Said Case at the time:

“Obviously the jury is out. I think a lot of people who decided to leave Silicon Valley to shelter someplace else, most of those will end up returning. I don’t think you’ll see a mass exodus from the city, whether that be Silicon Valley or New York or Boston, which some have predicted.

I do think some of the people who decided to leave at least temporarily will decide to stay, and most of them will end up still working for their current company, in part because some of the tech companies like Facebook and Square and many others have have made it easier to work remotely. But some, once they get settled in another place, and their family is settled, will likely will decide to do something different [and] I think it could be a helpful catalyst in terms of these rise-of-the-rest cities that were showing some signs of momentum. This could be an accelerant.”

We had also talked with Case about data that suggests that women and other founders who are not in the networking flow of traditional venture firms are getting left behind as deals are being struck over Zoom. He’d also seen the data and was surprised by it. As he told us:

Yeah, that’s a concern. And it’s a concern about place. It’s also a concerned about people. If you just look at the the NVCA data, last year, 75% of venture capital went to just three states and more than 90% of venture capital went to men and less than 10% to women, even though women represent half our population. And last year, even though Black Americans are about 14% of the population, Black founders got less than 1% of venture capital. So if you just look at the data, it does matter where you live, it does matter what you look like, it does matter the kind of school you went to.

I would have thought that because of the pandemic and because suddenly, Zoom meetings for pitches were becoming increasingly commonplace . . .that that would open up the aperture for most venture capitalists. They would be more willing to take meetings with people in other places, and also be willing to get to reach out to some of the diverse communities that they haven’t traditionally have invested in.

Some of that has happened, for sure. We have seen more interest among coastal investors in opportunities in these in these rise-of-the-rest cities. I think the challenge more broadly, when you go beyond place toward people is what you hear from more of these venture capitalists. They say, ‘Yes, we understand that it’s a problem we need to be help solve. It’s also an opportunity we can potentially seize, because some of these entrepreneurs are going to build some really valuable companies. But we don’t really have the networks. We tend to be mostly situated where we live and have worked or went to school and also where we’ve previously made investments. So we just don’t have the networks in the middle of a country. We don’t have networks with Black founders,’ and so forth.

So that’s an area that we’re really focusing on now: how do we extend the networks. I do think most VCs realize they should be part of the solution, and not part of the problem.

Case mentioned during our call — ahead of the U.S. presidential election —  his longstanding friendship with now President-elect Joseph Biden. Case isn’t the only one at Revolution with ties to Biden, however. Ron Klain, an executive vice president at Revolution, previously served as Biden’s chief of staff when he was vice president and, as the world learned last week, Klain is again heading into politics after being chosen to serve as the White House chief of staff beginning in January.

#bigcommerce, #draftkings, #orchard, #recent-funding, #revolution, #ron-klain, #startups, #steve-case, #sweetgreen, #tc, #venture-capital

0

Ashton Kutcher’s Sound Ventures targets $150M for third fund

Sound Ventures, a fund co-founded by Ashton Kutcher and Guy Oseary, has filed paperwork indicating plans to raise a third fund at $150 million. Notably, the firm filed paperwork for the same total in 2018 for its second fund.

The firm did not immediately respond to a request for comment on its plans to raise a new fund. Sound Ventures was born to write bigger and later-stage checks, or at a minimum, be stage-agnostic. Despite Kutcher’s fame and high-profile stakes, the firm has operated somewhat quietly in the recent past.

On the firm’s website, it states that it has a fund dedicated to the “next generation of clean, circular, and sustainable businesses” titled SOUNDWaves. It’s unclear whether today’s filing is for SOUNDWaves or Sound Ventures’ main fund, or if those two have been combined under a new direction for the firm.

In 2018, Kutcher noted his love for scooters, instead of cars, on the TechCrunch Disrupt Stage. “There are cars parked everywhere! It’s ridiculous! They’re clogging the roads, they’re making it impossible to get anywhere you want to go,” Kutcher said. Notably, Sound Ventures invested in Bird, which this week announced its discussions to go public via SPAC.

Portfolio news continued this year when Root, an Ohio-based car insurance business, went public (and got a warm reception).

Beyond micro-mobility and insurance, Sound Ventures is looking for opportunities in fintech, enterprise, govtech and medtech infrastructure markets. The firm has invested in companies including Robinhood and Gusto.

The new fund filing come as Sound Ventures’ team continues to grow. In 2017, Sound Ventures hired Effie Epstein, who was leading global strategy at Marsh, to be the firm’s managing partner and COO. Epstein’s hire came as Sound Ventures itself looked to evolve past just consumer investors. Other hires include growth investor Susan Su, who led growth marketing at Stripe, and chief sustainability and strategy officer Katherine Keating, who previously clocked time at VICE Media and Maverick Management.

#ashton-kutcher, #funding, #guy-oseary, #sound-ventures, #tc, #venture-capital

0

#DealMonitor – IBM übernimmt Instana – Elevat3 investiert in Neodigital – SellerX verkündet 100 Millionen-Runde


Im aktuellen #DealMonitor für den 19. November werfen wir wieder einen Blick auf die wichtigsten, spannendsten und interessantesten Investments und Exits des Tages. Alle Deals der Vortage gibt es im großen und übersichtlichen #DealMonitor-Archiv.

INVESTMENTS

SellerX
+++ Nach Cherry Ventures investiert, Felix Capital, Village Global und Business Angels wie David Schneider, Johannes Schaback, Philipp Kreibohm und Malte Huffmann investiert nun auch Triple Point Capital aus dem Silicon Valley in SellerX, einen weiteren Thrasio-Klon. Das Startup, das von Malte Horeyseck (Dafiti-Gründer) und Philipp Triebel gegründet wurde, kauft amazon-Shop an und versucht diese zu noch größerem Erfolg zu bringen. Wie das Handelsblatt berichtet, erhält SellerX insgesamt 100 Millionen Euro. Wobei ein Großteil dieser Summe wohl Kredite sind – und zudem darf man davon ausgehen, dass ein Großteil des Geldes erst nach dem Erreichen verschiedener Meilensteine fließt. Wie bereits berichtet, investierten Cherry  und Co. zuletzt 6 Millionen in SellerX (Bewertung: 10 Millionen Euro).

Neodigital
++ Der neue Wachstumsfonds Elevat3 Capital, hinter dem insbesondere Christian Angermayer (Ribopharma) steckt, investiert eine zweistellige Millionensumme in  Neodigital. Beim InsurTech dreht sich alles um Schaden- und Unfallversicherungen (Privathaftpflicht, Tierhalterhaftpflicht, Hausrat sowie Unfall). Neben der eigenen Produktlinie bietet das Unternehmen Vertriebspartnern die Möglichkeit, eine individualisierte Versicherungslösung (White-Label) zu erstellen. Neodigital mit Sitz in Neunkirchen wurde 2016 von Dirk Wittling und Stephen Voss gegründet. Zuvor investierte bereits Alstin Capital, also Carsten Maschmeyer, die Deutsche Rück und BA4V in den jungen digitalen Versicherer.

Frischepost
+++ BonVenture investiert eine siebenstellige Summe in das Hamburger Startup Frischepost, einen Lieferdienst für regionale Lebensmittelhersteller, der 2015 von Eva Neugebauer und Juliane Willing gegründet wurde. “Mit regionalen Standorten in Hamburg, dem Rhein-Main-Gebiet, Berlin und München ermöglicht Frischepost 2020 bereits rund 7,5 Millionen Kunden den Zugang zu nachhaltig produzierten Lebensmitteln aus der Region”, teilt die Jungfirma mit.

Creal
+++ Investiere, DAA Capital Partners und Ariel Luedi investieren 6,5 Millionen Schweizer Franken in Creal. “This new funding will extend CREAL’s capabilities to bring its light-field display technology from the current hardware-development-kit stage to the complete technology package for the next-generation Augmented Reality (AR) glasses”, teilt das Unternehmen mit. Insgesamt flossen nun schon 14,2 Millionen in Creal.

unown
+++ Altinvestor APX, der Schweizer Impact-Investor Übermorgen VC und eine Business Angel investieren 750.000 Euro in unown, einen Fashion-Leasing-Service. Über das 2019 in Hamburg gegründete Unternehmen können Onliner nachhaltige Mode leasen statt diese zu kaufen. Zwischen Oktober 2019 und Januar 2020 war unown bereits im Accelerator-Programm von APX (Springer, Porsche). unown wurde von Linda Ahrens und Tina Spießmacher gegründet.

Sponsoo
+++ Business Angel Andreas Mihalovits, Thorsten Mattig, der European Super Angels Club, Claas Nieraad, die VR Bank Nord und der Corona Recovery Fonds der IFB Innovationsstarter
Hamburg investieren in den Sponsoring-Marktplatz Sponsoo. “Das Volumen aller neuen Investments seit der letzten offiziellen Runde beträgt etwa 1,4 Millionen Euro”, teilt das Unternehmen mit. Sponsoo aus Hamburg digitalisiert seit einigen Jahren das Sport-Sponsoring.

FUSIONEN

Scorable / BondIT
+++ Das Berliner Startup Scorable und BondIT, ein israelisches Fintech, das Portfolio-Technologien für Asset Manager anbietet, fusionieren. “Als Teil der Vereinbarung werden die Unternehmen ihre Technologien kombinieren, um die Digitalisierung des Bondmarktes voranzutreiben. Die Transaktion wird voraussichtlich Ende 2020 abgeschlossen sein”, teilen die Unternehmen mit. In das fusionierte Unternehmen flossen bereits 40 Millionen US-Dollar. An Scorable war unter anderem Talanx beteiligt.

EXITS

Instana
+++ Der Software-Riese IBM übernimmt das deutsch-amerikanische Unternehmen Instana, das eine Software für Application Performance Management (APM) anbietet. Die Anwendung des Unternehmens überwacht technische Systeme und prüft sie auf Fehler. Meritech Capital und Accel investierten zuletzt 30 Millionen Dollar in die Softwarefirma, die in Solingen und den USA residiert. Das Startup wurde 2015 von Mirko Novakovic, Fabian Lange, Pete Abrams und Pavlo Baro gegründet. Target Partners aus München investierte bereits 2016 in Instana.  Zum Kaufpreis schreibt Gründerszene: “Insider gehen von einem dreistelligen Millionenbetrag aus”. Derzeit wirken 150 Mitarbeiter für Instana.

websms
+++ Das Unternehmen Link Mobility Group Holding aus Norwegen übernimmt die Firma websms, zu der atms und sms.at gehören. “The purchase price for WebSMS of EUR 50.9 million, reflecting an enterprise value of EUR 53.7 million on a cash-free and debt-free basis and assuming a normalized level of working capital, has been settled with 60% paid in cash and the remaining 30% in 3,512,299 new shares issued in LINK Mobility at a price of NOK 47.00 per share”, teilt das Unternehmen mit.

VENTURE CAPITAL

MA Ventures
+++ Die Genossenschaft Migros Aare, eine von zehn Genossenschaften von Migros, dem größten Handelsunternehmens der Schweiz, legt den Corporate Venture-Fonds MA Ventures auf. Das Unternehmen investiert in Startups, die innovative Geschäftsmodelle und zukunftsorientierte Technologien in den Geschäftsfeldern der Migros Aare entwickeln. “Im Fokus von MA Ventures stehen Startups, die den Wandel aktiv mitgestalten, indem sie traditionelle Prozesse aufbrechen und nachhaltig verbessern”, teilt das Unternehmen mit. Um die Umsetzung von MA Ventures kümmert sich Redstone. MA Ventures investierte bereits in _blaenk. Das Kölner Startup positioniert sich als als “hybrider B2B2C-Marktplatz für innovative Lifestyle-Produkte” – und zwar online und offline.

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, #bondit, #bonventure, #capital-partners, #elevat3-capital, #fintech, #frischepost, #hamburg, #ibm, #instana, #insurtech, #investiere, #lausanne, #ma-ventures, #neodigital, #neunkirchen, #redstone, #scorable, #sellerx, #solingen, #sponsoo, #triple-point-capital, #unown, #venture-capital, #websms

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Pre-seed fintech firm Financial Venture Studio closes on debut fund to build on legacy of top investments

Fintech has come into its own the past few years. Once an area of investment widely derided and avoided by VCs due to its regulated nature and entrenched incumbents, fintech has now emerged as one of the most popular categories for investment, buttressed by multiple, multi-billion dollar exits in just the past year like Plaid, CreditKarma, and Galileo.

Yet, building fintech apps and systems still requires a lot of finesse. There are those pesky regulations that make a cold start difficult for a fintech startup, and for founders, getting their feet through the doors of legacy financial institutions can be a major barrier to entry.

Financial Venture Studio wants to bridge the gap between a founder with an idea and the actual reality of getting a fintech startup into the market.

It’s a new firm, but one that is building on an extended legacy as one of the most influential early investors in financial services.

Ryan Falvey and Tyler Griffin founded the firm in 2018. They first worked together at the Financial Solutions Lab (FSL), which was a startup-focused incubator developed by the non-profit Center for Financial Services Innovation and funded by JPMorgan Chase. Falvey founded the lab to extend digital financial services into more areas of the economy, along the way funding such heavyweights as Digit, Nova Credit, Even, Dave, and Point.

Falvey and Griffin spun out of the program to build their own venture firm, with the goal of capturing the same spirit of helping founders make connections and accelerating their way through the thicket of challenges in fintech. Falvey has a background in banking having worked at Silicon Valley Bank, while Griffin co-founded Prism Money before joining FSL and eventually leaving to start the Financial Venture Studio.

Today, the firm announced the closing of their $13 million debut fund, which was funded by a wide number of financial institutions.

Financial Venture Studios’ Shannon Austin, Ryan Falvey, advisor Tom Brown, and Tyler Griffin. Photo via FVS

“We joked around that we should have called it, ‘Too Early Capital’ because you encounter these companies right when you can tell that they have an idea, some product,” Falvey said. “If the team is working on something and we just really know fintech really well, we can say, ‘Hey, we can bring a bunch of these other resources to the table earlier in your life cycle than is common, and hopefully accelerate their growth.’“

Falvey said that fintech, perhaps unlike some other categories, requires unique specialization from investors early on to be effective. “The problem is, you still need to follow the rules, and you’re still operating in the United States, which is a very complex and very expensive market,” he said. “Our ideal models are coming in at the pre-seed and taking them straight to series A.”

Fintech is the name of the game here, and there aren’t too many no-gos for the team within that broad category. I asked about cryptocurrencies and blockchain, and Falvey said that “we’re desperate to do a crypto deal.”

The firm is mostly focused on startups targeting the U.S. market, which can include international startups that are looking to launch or expand locally. Falvey says that the average first check size is $100,000, and that “we want to be providing a degree of support that kind of goes above and beyond.” The firm often makes follow-on investments as startups scale up and find market traction.

Given the amount of previous investment in the space, I was curious how Falvey sees the opportunities today in fintech. He said, “I think a lot of institutions are starting to think, especially in the post-COVID world, very differently about how they develop product, how they deploy it, how they support their staff and employees, which is going to open up a lot of new opportunities for fintech providers there as well.”

We talked a bit about diversity, which while certainly a problem in tech in general, is particularly acute in financial services. Falvey says that for many companies in financial services, one of their first lessons is just how much more diverse their consumers are than their own teams. “It is a user base that is more female, more black and brown, and less coastal than is common in technology,” he said. He notes that startups often learn the need for diversity early in order to communicate better with different consumers. He also pointed out that diversity was a topic brought up by LPs quite consistently.

Already, the firm has made 18 early investments across three “cohorts” and also has made some late-stage investments into a handful of their former startups at the Financial Solutions Lab. Among its first investments have been Everlance, Anvil, Roger, and HoneyBee.

#finance, #venture-capital

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Greece’s Marathon Venture Capital completes first close for Fund II, reaching $47M

Marathon Venture Capital in Athens, Greece has completed the first closing of its second fund, reaching the €40m / $47M mark. Backing the new fund is the European Investment Fund, HDBI, as well as corporates, family offices and HNWIs around the world (plus many Greek founders). It plans to invest in Seed-stage startups from €1m to 1.5m initial tickets for 15-20% of equity.

Team changes include Thaleia Misailidou being promoted to Principal, and Chris Gasteratos is promoted to Associate.

Marathon’s most prominent portfolio company is Netdata, which last year raised a $17 million Series A led by Bain Capital, and later raised another $14m from Bessemer. On the success side, Uber’s pending $1.4B+ acquisition of BMW/Daimler’s mobility group was in part driven by a Marathon-backed startup, Taxibeat, which was earlier acquired by Daimler.

Partners George Tziralis and Panos Papadopoulos tell me the fund is focused generally on enterprise/B2B, plus “Greek founders, anywhere”.

Highlights of Fund One’s investments include:

  • Netdata (leading infra monitoring OSS, backed by Bessemer & Bain)
  • Lenses (leader in DataOps, backed by 83North)
  • Hack The Box (cybersecurity adversarial training labs)
  • Learnworlds (business-in-a-box for course creators)
  • Causaly (cause-and-effect discovery in pharma)
  • Augmenta (autonomous precision agriculture)

Tziralis tells me the majority of its next ten companies have already raised a Series A round.

Tziralis and Papadopoulos have been key players in the Greek startups scene, backing many of the first startups to emerge from the country over 13 years ago. And they were enthusiastic backers of our TechCrunch Athens meetup many years ago.

Three years ago, they launched Marathon Venture Capital to take their efforts to the next level. Fund I invested in 10 companies with the first fund, and most have raised a Series A. The portfolio as a whole has raised 4x their total invested amount and maintains an estimated total enterprise value of $350 million.

They’ve also been running the “Greeks in Tech” meetups all over the world – Berlin to London to New York to San Francisco, and many more locations in between, connecting with Greek founders.

#bain-capital, #berlin, #bmw, #daimler, #europe, #european-investment-fund, #finance, #george-tziralis, #greece, #investment, #leader, #london, #mitt-romney, #mobility, #money, #new-york, #panos-papadopoulos, #san-francisco, #taxibeat, #tc, #uber, #venture-capital

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African fintech startup Chipper Cash raises $30M backed by Jeff Bezos

African cross-border fintech startup Chipper Cash has raised a $30 million Series B funding round led by Ribbit Capital with participation of Bezos Expeditions — the personal VC fund of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.

Chipper Cash was founded in San Francisco in 2018 by Ugandan Ham Serunjogi and Ghanaian Maijid Moujaled. The company offers mobile-based, no fee, P2P payment services in seven countries: Ghana, Uganda, Nigeria, Tanzania, Rwanda, South Africa and Kenya.

Parallel to its P2P app, the startup also runs Chipper Checkout — a merchant-focused, fee-based payment product that generates the revenue to support Chipper Cash’s free mobile-money business. The company has scaled to 3 million users on its platform and processes an average of 80,000 transactions daily. In June 2020, Chipper Cash reached a monthly payments value of $100 million, according to CEO Ham Serunjogi .

As part of the Series B raise, the startup plans to expand its products and geographic scope. On the product side, that entails offering more business payment solutions, crypto-currency trading options, and investment services.

“We’ll always be a P2P financial transfer platform at our core. But we’ve had demand from our users to offer other value services…like purchasing cryptocurrency assets and making investments in stocks,” Serunjogi told TechCrunch on a call.

Image Credits: Chipper Cash

Chipper Cash has added beta dropdowns on its website and app to buy and sell Bitcoin and invest in U.S. stocks from Africa — the latter through a partnership with U.S. financial services company DriveWealth.

“We’ll launch [the stock product] in Nigeria first so Nigerians have the option to buy fractional stocks — Tesla shares, Apple shares or Amazon shares and others — through our app. We’ll expand into other countries thereafter,” said Serunjogi.

On the business financial services side, the startup plans to offer more API payments solutions. “We’ve been getting a lot of requests from people on our P2P platform, who also have business enterprises, to be able to collect payments for sale of goods,” explained Serunjogi.

Chipper Cash also plans to use its Series B financing for additional country expansion, which the company will announce by the end of 2021.

Jeff Bezos’s backing of Chipper Cash follows a recent string of events that has elevated the visibility of Africa’s startup scene. Over the past decade, the continent’s tech ecosystem has been one of the fastest growing in the world by year year-over-year expansion in venture capital and startup formation, concentrated in countries such as Nigeria, Kenya, and South Africa.

Africa Top VC Markets 2019

Image Credits: TechCrunch/Bryce Durbin

Bringing Africa’s large unbanked population and underbanked consumers and SMEs online has factored prominently. Roughly 66% of Sub-Saharan Africa’s 1 billion people don’t have a bank account, according to World Bank data.

As such, fintech has become Africa’s highest-funded tech sector, receiving the bulk of an estimated $2 billion in VC that went to startups in 2019. Even with the rapid venture funding growth over the last decade, Africa’s tech scene had been performance light, with only one known unicorn (e-commerce venture Jumia) a handful of exits, and no major public share offerings. That changed last year.

In April 2019, Jumia — backed by investors including Goldman Sachs and Mastercard — went public in an NYSE IPO. Later in the year, Nigerian fintech company Interswitch achieved unicorn status after a $200 million investment by Visa.

This year, Network International purchased East African payments startup DPO for $288 million and in August WorldRemit acquired Africa focused remittance company Sendwave for $500 million.

One of the more significant liquidity events in African tech occurred last month, when Stripe acquired Nigerian payment gateway startup Paystack for a reported $200 million.

In an email to TechCrunch, a spokesperson for Bezos Expeditions confirmed the fund’s investment in Chipper Cash, but declined to comment on further plans to back African startups. Per Crunchbase data, the investment would be the first in Africa for the fund. It’s worth noting Bezos Expeditions is not connected to Jeff Bezo’s hallmark business venture, Amazon.

For Chipper Cash, the $30 million Series B raise caps an event-filled two years for the San Francisco-based payments company and founders Ham Serunjogi and Maijid Moujaled. The two came to America for academics, met in Iowa while studying at Grinnell College and ventured out to Silicon Valley for stints in big tech: Facebook for Serunjogi and Flickr and Yahoo! for Moujaled.

Chipper Cash founders Ham Serunjogi (R) and Maijid Moujaled; Image Credits: Chipper Cash

The startup call beckoned and after launching Chipper Cash in 2018, the duo convinced 500 Startups and Liquid 2 Ventures — co-founded by American football legend Joe Montana — to back their company with seed funds. The startup expanded into Nigeria and Southern Africa in 2019, entered a payments partnership with Visa in April and raised a $13.8 million Series A in June.

Chipper Cash founder Ham Serunjogi believes the backing of his company by a notable tech figure, such as Jeff Bezos (the world’s richest person), has benefits beyond his venture.

“It’s a big deal when a world class investor like Bezos or Ribbit goes out of their sweet spot to a new area where they previously haven’t done investments,” he said. “Ultimately, the winner of those things happening is the African tech ecosystem overall, as it will bring more investment from firms of that caliber to African startups.”

#500-startups, #africa, #amazon, #america, #apple, #banking, #bezos-expeditions, #chipper-cash, #e-commerce, #facebook, #financial-services, #ghana, #goldman-sachs, #ham-serunjogi, #hsbc, #interswitch, #iowa, #jeff-bezos, #joe-montana, #kenya, #liquid-2-ventures, #maijid-moujaled, #mastercard, #mobile-payments, #nigeria, #online-payments, #p2p, #paystack, #ribbit, #ribbit-capital, #rwanda, #san-francisco, #series-b, #south-africa, #stripe, #tanzania, #tc, #tesla, #uganda, #united-states, #venture-capital, #visa, #worldremit, #yahoo

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