Startup News

Subscribe to Startup News feed Startup News
Startup and Technology News
Updated: 52 min ago

Klaxoon introduces whiteboard-focused conference room for hybrid work

2021, June 15 - 9:12pm

French startup Klaxoon is announcing a product update for its whiteboard collaboration platform as well as a new hardware product. With Hybridity, the company is going to sell ready-to-use conference rooms that optimize hybrid meetings between people currently in the office and people on the go.

Let’s start with the software update. Last year, the company unveiled Board, a visual interface that lets you work together during a video call. It lets you share ideas and collaborate using a whiteboard interface. You can create sticky notes, add text, insert images, move things around and start a video call from there.

Other people on the calls are represented through tiny thumbnails so that you can remain focused on the digital whiteboard. You can also connect Board with your existing video-conferencing tool.

This week, the company is updating Board and renaming it to Board Hybrid. “It’s the new version of Board that isn’t only designed for remote work, but also for hybrid work,” founder and CEO Matthieu Beucher said in a press conference.

Board Hybrid users can now add any type of file to their whiteboard. This way, they don’t have to upload files to a shared drive, create a link and paste the link in the whiteboard. Users can preview PowerPoint presentations, Word files, spreadsheets and more directly from Klaxoon’s interface.

There are some new drawing tools including some new connectors. For instance, you can create mindmaps from there. You can now also share your screen from Klaxoon’s own video-conferencing solution.

Image Credits: Klaxoon

The new product is something quite different — it’s a meeting room called Hybridity. It looks like a hexagon-shaped space capsule. There’s no window and it feels like a black box from the outside.

Inside, you’ll find three seats, three screens, three cameras and three Klaxoon Box devices. “Everyone can see everyone perfectly well and everybody can immerse themselves in content,” Beucher said.

If you’ve joined a hybrid meeting from your home, you’re well aware of the issues involved with that setup. Part of the team is sitting in the same room. They look like tiny action figures and you can’t figure out who’s talking.

With this setup, Klaxoon hopes it’ll be easier to run meetings with people in the office and people at home. A Klaxoon Hybridity conference room requires 5 square meters. You can put it down in a corner and move it to another location a couple of years later. It’s not secured in the ground.

Pre-orders will start this week. The company expects to sell Hybridity with a subscription model with prices starting at €2,000 per month. It’s going to be interesting to see whether Klaxoon has found a new revenue stream of it it’s just a fun experiment. But it could replace those tiny phone booths in your office.

Image Credits: Klaxoon

Categories: Business News

Golden Gate Ventures forecasts a record number of exits in Southeast Asia

2021, June 15 - 4:49pm

Despite the pandemic’s economic impact, Southeast Asia’s startup ecosystem has proven to be very resilient. In fact, a new report from investment firm Golden Gate Ventures predicts a record number of exits will happen in the region over the next couple of years, thanks to factors like a maturing ecosystem, more secondary buyers and the emergence of SPACs.

The firm’s comprehensive “Southeast Asia Exit Landscape Report 2.0,” is a followup to a previous report published in 2019.

Here are some highlights from the latest report, along with additional insight from Golden Gate Ventures partner Michael Lints, its lead author. For both reports, Golden Gate Ventures partnered with business school INSEAD to survey general and limited partners in the region. It also draws on Golden Gate Ventures’ proprietary database, which dates back to 2012 and tracks information like the time between funding rounds and fundraising success rates, as well as public databases, reports and expert commentary from the New York Stock Exchange.

The overall exit landscape

Despite the pandemic’s economic impact, tech proved to be resilient globally (for example, there were a number of initial public offers in the United States at record prices). While Southeast Asia’s tech ecosystem is relatively younger, Lints told TechCrunch its resiliency was driven by companies founded years ago that suddenly saw an increase in demand for their services because of the pandemic.

“We’ve built infrastructure over the past eight to nine years, when it comes to e-commerce, logistics, some on the healthcare side as well, and when the pandemic happened, people were suddenly stuck at home,” Lints said. He added “If you look at the pickup for most of the e-commerce companies, they at least doubled their revenue. For last-mile logistics companies, they’ve increased their revenue. There was a lot of pickup on the digital healthcare side as well.”

While tech fared well compare to many other industries, one downside was that the COVID-19 pandemic caused overall global venture capital investment to decline. Southeast Asia’s startup ecosystem was not immune, and had less exits, but it still did relatively well, with $8.2 billion invested in 2020, according to a report by Cento Ventures and Tech In Asia.

Grab to go public in the US following $40 billion SPAC deal

It’s important to note that more than half of that funding was raised in very large rounds by unicorns like Grab, Go-jek and Traveloka, but Cento Ventures found there was also an increase in investments between $50 million to $100 million for other startups. These are usually Series B and C rounds, which Golden Gate Ventures says creates a strong pipeline for potential exits over the next three to four years.

“If you go back even just two years, the amount of B rounds that are happening now, I’ve never seen that number before. It’s a definite increase,” said Lints.

Investments are also continuing to flow into Southeast Asia. According to the report, there was $6 billion of funding in just the first quarter of 2021 (based on data from DealStreet Asia, PWC and Genesis Ventures), making it the strongest start to a year in the region’s history.

This bodes well for the possibility of mergers and acquisitions in 2021. The report found that there were less exits in 2019 and 2020 than in 2018, but not just because of the pandemic—many startups wanted to remain venture-backed for longer. Golden Gate Ventures expects M&A activity will pick up again. In 2021, it forecasts acquisition deals worth more than $30 million, large mergers and an increase in SPACs.

What’s in the pipeline

Golden Gate Ventures predicts that a total of 468 startup exits will happen between 2020 and 2022, compared to the 412 forecast in the previous edition of its report. This is due to more late-stage private equity investors, including secondary buyers, SPACs and a welcoming public market.

The roadmap to startup consolidation in Southeast Asia is becoming clearer

Lints said secondary buyers will include a mix of family offices, conglomerates and venture funds that want a higher allocation in a company or to pre-empt a forthcoming round.

“What I think is interesting is some of the later-stage funds, so private equity funds, and not only ones that are in Southeast Asia, but even foreign ones, are now looking to get a position in companies that they assume will be able to raise a Series D or Series E over the next few years. That’s something I haven’t seen before, it’s relatively new in the market,” he added.

Golden Gate Ventures expects M&A activity to continue being the main way Southeast Asian startups exit, potentially accounting for up to 80% of deals, followed by secondary sales (15%) and IPOs (5%).

In fact, there was a record number of M&A deals in 2020, despite the pandemic. Golden Gate Ventures estimates that 45 deals happened, especially in e-commerce, fintech, media, adtech and social networking, as larger companies acquired startups to grow their tech stacks.

More companies going public will create a cascading effect through Southeast Asia’s ecosystem. The report forecasts that companies like Gojek and Trax, who have already made several high-profile acquisitions, will continue buying startups if they list publicly and have more liquidity.

Series B and C deals

While there will be more exits, there are also more opportunities for companies to raise larger later-stage rounds to stay private, if they want to—a sign of Southeast Asia’s maturing ecosystem, said Lints.

As the pandemic unfolded in 2020, the number of pre-seed and seed deals fell. On the other hand, the report found that it became quicker for startups to raise Series B or C rounds, or less than 21 months on average.

“If you look at typical exits between 2015 to 2017, you could argue that some of those exits might have been too early because the company was still in a growth trajectory, but there was hardly any follow-on funding for them to expand to a new country, for instance, or build out a new product,” said Lints. “So their only revenue to raise money was to be acquired by a larger company so they could keep building the product.”

“I think now you’re able to raise that Series C round, which allows you to expand the company and stay private, as opposed to having to drive towards an exit,” he added. “I think that shows the maturity of the ecosystem now and, again, it’s a huge advantage because founders have these amazing things they want to build, and now actually have the capital to do so and to really try to compete, and that has definitely been a big change.”

Another good thing is that the increase in later-stage funding does not appear to be creating a pre-seed and seed funding gap. This is partly because early employees from mature companies that have raised massive rounds often branch out and become founders themselves. As they launch startups, they have the benefit of being familiar with how fundraising works and a network. For example, a significant number of alumni from Grab, Gojek and Lazada have gone on to found companies.

“They seem to be raising a lot faster, and I think the second thing that’s happening across the board is we’re seeing more scouts putting really early checks into companies,” said Lints. “My assumption is if you look at the Series A pipeline, which is still pretty long, that has to come from a large number of pre-seed and seed deals.”

Singapore is poised to become Asia’s Silicon Valley

Funds want to cash out

Another factor that may drive an increase in exits—especially M&A deals—are funds that have reached the point where they want to cash out. Golden Gate Ventures’ 2019 report forecast that the first batch of institutional venture funds launched in 2010 to 2012 will start reaching the end of their lifecycle in 2020. This means the general partners of these funds are exploring exit opportunities for their portfolios, leading to an increase in secondary and M&A deals.

This in turn will increase the number of secondary markets, which have typically been low in Southeast Asia. The original investors won’t necessarily push for portfolio companies to sell themselves, but instead look at secondary buyers who might be keen on mergers and M&A deals.

“The thing we’ve seen over the last 18 months is there’s been a larger pickup in the secondary markets, where later-stage investors, in some cases family-owned businesses or family offices, are looking to get access to deals that were started eight, nine or 10 years ago. You’ll see the cap tables of these companies change, and that does mean the founders will have different shareholders,” said Lints.

“These are typically for companies that are performing well, where you can foresee that they will be able to fundraise within the next 12 months. For the ones that are in a more difficult position, I think it’s going to be tricky,” he added. “When you have a portfolio of companies as a fund, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you can sell all 20 of them, so I think for some founders, the impact will be that they will need to make a decision to continue the business and buy back the shares their investors are holding, or are they going to liquidate the business or look for a trade sale.”

SPAC opportunities

The biggest SPAC news in Southeast Asia was Grab’s announcement it will go public in the United States following a $40 billion SPAC deal. Lints expects more Southeast Asian companies to take the SPAC route when going public. Not only does the process give them more flexibility, but for startups that want to list in the U.S., working with a SPAC can help them.

“My guess is with New York allowing direct listings, I think more and more people will shy away from the traditional IPO route and look at what is the fastest and most flexible way to list on a stock exchange. For Southeast Asia, listing has never been easy, so I think SPACs will definitely open the floodgates,” said Lints.

Barriers not only include regulatory filings, pre-IPO roadshows and high costs, but also “concern whether the international retail investor or public markets actually understand these companies in Southeast Asia,” he added. “If you have a very strong sponsor team that is running the SPAC, they can be super helpful in positioning the company, doing the marketing and getting interest from the market as well.”

Both the Singapore Exchange and Indonesian Stock Exchange are preparing to allow SPACs in an effort to attract more tech listings.

Lints said this will allow companies to consider a dual listing in Southeast Asia and the U.S. for larger returns. “A dual listing would be an amazing option and I think through the avenue of SPACs, that makes a lot of sense.”

Monk’s Hill Ventures and Glints on how Southeast Asian startups can cope with the region’s talent crunch

Categories: Business News

Upflow raises $15 million to manage your outstanding invoices

2021, June 15 - 1:00pm

French startup Upflow has raised a $15 million Series A round. The company wants to help you chase late payments. It optimizes how you collect payments from your customers in order to improve your cash-cycle.

Investors in today’s funding round include 9yards Capital, existing investor eFounders, as well as N26 co-founder Maximilian Tayenthal, Uber SVP of Delivery Pierre-Dimitri Gore-Coty, auxmoney co-founder and CEO Raffael Johnen.

People who run a business often tell you that getting paid is a consuming task. When you create an invoice, chances are your customer will wait a few weeks before paying you. Most companies end up with a backlog of outstanding invoices sitting in an Excel spreadsheet.

They keep an eye on their bank account to manually reconcile those payments. And, of course, they often have to send an email or call a customer to tell them that now is the time.

Upflow acts as the central repository to see all your invoices, track payments, communicate with your team and send reminders. But Upflow doesn’t want to replace your existing tools. Instead, the company has built integrations with popular business tools that you’re already using.

For instance, you can connect your Upflow account with QuickBooks, Xero, Netsuite, Chargebee and Stripe Billing. You can charge your clients from your existing invoicing platform. Upflow imports your invoices, clients and payments. When Upflow notices a late payment, you receive a notification and can start sending automated or personalized emails.

The startup also thinks current B2B payment methods are outdated. In the U.S., too many companies still rely on paper checks. In France, copying IBAN information from an email to your bank account can be cumbersome.

When you send an invoice using Upflow, customers get a link with several payment methods. You can connect your Upflow account with Stripe Payments to enable card payments for instance. And the startup is slowly building a network of companies that have used Upflow at some point. 1.5 million companies have interacted with the product — it represents over $1 billion in payments.

“We are on a mission to revolutionize the way that companies get paid. At Upflow, we provide a solution that adds connectivity and clarity to a company's payment and invoicing stack. Where systems were previously closed and disconnected, Upflow's platform enables smooth and clear processes,” co-founder and CEO Alexandre Louisy said in a statement.

With today’s funding round, the company plans to expand to the U.S. Upflow already has a few customers there, such as Lattice, Front and Adikteev, but it’s just a start. The startup will open an office in New York.

Categories: Business News

Automotive marketplace Carro hits unicorn status with $360M Series C led by SoftBank Vision Fund 2

2021, June 15 - 9:00am

Carro, one of the largest automotive marketplaces in Southeast Asia, announced it has hit unicorn valuation after raising a $360 million Series C led by SoftBank Vision Fund 2. Other participants include insurance giant MSIG and Indonesian-based funds like EV Growth. About 90% of vehicles sold through Carro are secondhand, and it offers services that cover the entire lifecycle of a car, from maintenance to when it is broken down and recycled for parts.

Founded in 2015, Carro started as an online marketplace for cars, before expanding into more verticals. Co-founder and chief executive officer Aaron Tan told TechCrunch that, roughly speaking, the company’s operations are divided into three sections: wholesale, retail and fintech. Its wholesale business works with car dealers who want to purchase inventory, while its retail side sells to consumers. Its fintech operation offers products for both, including B2C car loans, auto insurance and B2B working capital loans.

Carro’s last funding announcement was in August 2019, when it said it had extended its Series B to $90 million. The company’s latest funding will be used to fund acquisitions, expand its financial services portfolio and develop its AI capabilities, which Carro uses to showcase cars online, develop pricing models and determine how much to charge insurance policyholders.

It also plans to expand retail services in its main markets: Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore. Carro currently employs about 1,000 people across the four countries and claims its revenue grew more than 2.5x during the financial year ending March 2021.

The COVID-19 pandemic helped Carro’s business because people wanted their own vehicles to avoid public transportation and became more receptive to shopping for cars online. Those factors also helped competitors like OLX Autos and Carsome fare well during the pandemic.

Used car marketplace Carsome gets $30 million Series D for its Southeast Asia growth plans

The adoption of electric vehicles across Southeast Asia has resulted in a new tailwind for Carro, because people who buy an EV usually want to sell off their combustion engine vehicles. Carro is currently talking to some of the largest electric vehicle companies in the world that want to launch in Southeast Asia.

“For every car someone typically buys in Southeast Asia, there’s always a trade-in. Where do cars go, right? We are a marketplace, but on a very high level, what we’re doing is reusing and recycling. That’s a big part in the environmental sustainability of the business, and something that sets us apart of other players in the region,” Tan said.

Cars typically stay in Carro’s inventory for less than 60 days. Its platform uses computer vision and sound technology to replicate the experience of inspecting a vehicle in-person. When someone clicks on a Carro listing, an AI bot automatically engages with them, providing more details about the cost of the car and answering questions. They also see a 360-degree view of the vehicle, its interior and can virtually start the engine to see how it sounds. Listings also provide information about defects and inspection reports.

Since many customers still want to get an in-person look before finalizing a purchase, Carro recently launched a beta product called Showroom Anywhere. Currently available in Singapore, it allows people to unlock Carro cars parked throughout the city, using QR codes, so they can inspect it at any time of the day, without a salesperson around. The company plans to add test driving to Showroom Anywhere.

“As a tech company, our job is to make sure we automate everything we can,” said Tan. “That’s the goal of the company and you can only assume that our cost structure and our revenue structure will get better along the years. We expect greater margin improvement and a lot more in cost reduction.”

Pricing is fixed, so shoppers don’t have to engage in haggling. Carro determines prices by using machine-learning models that look at details about a vehicle, including its make, model and mileage, and data from Carro’s transactions as well as market information (for example, how much of a particular vehicle is currently available for sale). Carro’s prices are typically in the middle of the market’s range.

Cars come with a three or seven-day moneyback guarantee and 30-day warranty. Once a customer decides to buy a car, they can opt to apply for loans and insurance through Carro’s fintech platform. Tan said Carro’s loan book is about five years old, almost as old as the startup itself, and is currently about $200 million.

Carro’s insurance is priced based on the policyholders driving behavior as tracked by sensors placed in their cars. This allows Carro to build a profile of how someone drives and the likelihood that they have an accident or other incident. For example, someone will get better pricing if they typically stick to speed limits.

“It sounds a bit futuristic,” said Tan. “But it’s something that’s been done in the United States for many years, like GEICO and a whole bunch of other insurers,” including Root Insurance, which recently went public.

Tan said MSIG’s investment in Carro is a “statement that we are really trying to triple down in insurance, because an insurer has so much linkage with what we do. The reason that MSIG is a good partner is that, like ourselves, they believe a lot in data and the difference in what we call ‘new age’ insurance, or data-driven insurance.”

Carro is also expanding its after-sale services, including Carro Care, in all four of its markets. Its after-sale services reach to the very end of a vehicle’s lifecycle and its customers include workshops around the world. For example, if a Toyota Corolla breaks down in Singapore, but its engine is still usable, it might be extracted and shipped to a repair shop in Nairobi, and the rest of its parts recycled.

“One thing I always ask in management meetings, is tell me where do cars go to die in Indonesia? Where do cars go to die in Thailand? There has to be a way, so if there is no way, we’re going to find a way,” said Tan.

In a statement, SoftBank Investment Advisers managing partner Greg Moon said, “Powered by AI, Carro’s technology platform provides consumers with full-stack services and transparency throughout the car ownership process. We are delighted to partner with Aaron and the Carro team to support their ambition to expand into new markets and use AI-powered technology to make the car buying process smarter, simpler and safer.”

The roadmap to startup consolidation in Southeast Asia is becoming clearer

Categories: Business News

Fraud protection startup nSure AI raises $6.8M in seed funding

2021, June 15 - 2:13am

Fraud protection startup nSure AI has raised $6.8 million in seed funding, led by DisruptiveAI, Phoenix Insurance, AXA-backed venture builder Kamet, Moneta Seeds and private investors.

The round will help the company bolster the predictive AI and machine learning algorithms that power nSure AI’s “first of its kind” fraud protection platform. Prior to this round, the company received $550,000 in pre-seed funding from Kamet in March 2019.

The Tel Aviv-headquartered startup, which currently has 16 employees, provides fraud detection for high-risk digital goods, such as electronic gift cards, airline tickets, software and games. While most fraud detection tools analyze each online transaction in an attempt to decide which purchases to approve and decline, nSure AI’s risk engine leverages deep learning techniques to accurately identify fraudulent transactions.

NSure AI, which is backed by insurance company AXA, said it has a 98% approval rating on average for purchases, compared to an industry average of 80%, allowing retailers to recapture nearly $100 billion a year in revenue lost by declining legitimate customers. The company is so confident in its technology that it will accept liability for any fraudulent transaction allowed by the platform.

Founders Alex Zeltcer and Ziv Isaiah started the company after experiencing the unique challenges faced by retailers of digital assets. The first week of their online gift card business found that 40% of sales were fraudulent, resulting in chargebacks. The founders began to develop their own platform for supporting the sale of high-risk digital goods after no other fraud detection service met their needs.

Zeltcer, co-founder and chief executive, said the investment “enables us to register thousands of new merchants, who can feel confident selling higher-risk digital goods, without accepting fraud as a part of business.”

NSure AI, which currently monitors and manages millions of transactions every month, has approved close to $1 billion in volume since going live in 2019.

RSA spins off fraud and risk intelligence unit as Outseer

12 top cybersecurity VCs discuss investing, valuations and no-go zones

 

Categories: Business News

How one founder is bringing the global corporate security industry out of the dark ages

2021, June 15 - 1:31am

When Cory Siskind finished school, she was dropped into a high-stakes job helping large multinational corporations manage their operational security in Mexico City, with almost no relevant lived experience. Eventually, she realized that this was more or less par for the course in the corporate security field, which lagged behind other mission-critical enterprise services, like information security.

The industry still relied on recent grads doing manual work like combing through blogs and local news reports, and on security industry veterans with contacts on the ground to build a sort of “whisper network” of ground truth. Those things are obviously still valuable, but advancements in technology mean that there are many, many more sources of information that can provide valuable insight into the security situation in any particular country, region or even neighborhood, and machine learning has progressed to the point where it can do a lot of the legwork involved in helping analysts parse the data.

Cory tells us all about how she came to the conclusion that Base Operations needed to be built to bring modern tech to bear on the capabilities gap she saw in how companies manage their global security footprint, and how she set out getting the skills needed to build her startup as a sole founder. We talk about the challenges of fundraising in an area where most traditional VCs likely feel out of their depth, and building a sales operation that can handle big clients even very early on in her startup’s life.

We loved our time chatting with Cory, and we hope you love yours listening to the episode. And of course, we’d love if you can subscribe to Found in Apple Podcasts, on Spotify, on Google Podcasts or in your podcast app of choice. Please leave us a review and let us know what you think, or send us direct feedback either on Twitter or via email at found@techcrunch.com. And please join us again next week for our next featured founder.

Categories: Business News

Yana’s mental health tool for Spanish speakers nears 5 million users

2021, June 15 - 12:28am

Andrea Campos has struggled with depression since she was eight years old. Over the years, she’s tried all sorts of therapies — from behavioral to pharmacotherapy.

In 2017, when Campos was in her early 20s, she learned to program and created a system to help manage her mental health. It started as a personal project, but as she talked to more people, Campos realized that many others might benefit from the system as well.

So she built an application to provide access to mental health tools for Spanish-speaking people and began testing it with a small group. At first, Campos herself was her own chatbot, texting with users who were tired of dealing with depression.

“During the month, I was pretending I was an app, and would send these people a list of activities they had to complete during the day, such as writing in a gratitude journal, and then asking them how those activities made them feel,” Campos recalls.

Her thinking was that sometimes with depression and anxiety comes “a lot of avoidance,” where people resist potential treatment out of fear.

The results from her small experiment were encouraging. So, Campos set out to conduct a bigger sample of experiments, and raised about $10,000 via a crowdfunding campaign. With that money, she hired a developer to build a chatbot for her app, which was mostly being used via Facebook Messenger.

Then an earthquake hit Mexico City and that developer lost everything — including his home and computer — and had to relocate.

“I was left with nothing,” Campos says. But that developer introduced her to another, who disappeared with his payment, and again, left Campos, “with nothing.”

“I realized at the beginning of 2019, I was going to have to do this by myself,” Campos said. So she used a site that she described as a “Wix for chatbots,” and created one herself.

After experimenting with the app with a sample of 700 people, Campos was even more encouraged and raised an angel round of funding for Yana, the startup behind her app. (Yana is an acronym for “You Are Not Alone.”) By early 2020, with just three months of runway left, she pivoted to create an app with chatbot integration that wasn’t just limited to use via Facebook Messenger.

Campos ended up launching the app more broadly during the same week that her city in Mexico went into quarantine.

Image Credits: Yana

At first, she said, she saw “normal, steady growth.” But then on October 10, 2020, Apple’s App Store highlighted Yana for International Mental Health Day, and the response was overwhelming.

“It was also my birthday so I was at a spa in a nearby town, relaxing, when I started hearing my cell phone go crazy,” Campos recalls. “Everything went nuts. I had to go back to Mexico City because our servers were exploding since they were not used to having that kind of volume.”

As a result of that exposure, Yana went from having around 80,000 users to reaching 1 million users two weeks later. Soon after that, Google highlighted the app as one of best for personal growth in 2020, and that too led to another spike in users. Today, Yana is about to hit the 5 million-user mark and is also announcing it has raised $1.5 million in funding led by Mexico’s ALLVP, which has also invested in the likes of Cornershop, Flink and Nuvocargo.

Funding for mental health-focused startups rises in 2020

When the pandemic hit last year, six of Yana’s nine-person team decided to quarantine together in a “startup house” in Cancun to focus on building the company. Earlier this year, the company had raised $315,000 from investors such as 500 Startups, Magma and Hustle Fund. The company had pitched ALLVP, which was intrigued but wanted to wait until it could write a bigger check. 

That time is now, and Yana is now among the top three downloaded apps in Mexico and 12 countries, including Spain, Chile, Ecuador and Venezuela.

With its new capital, Yana is planning to “move away from the depression/anxiety narrative,” according to Campos.

“We want to compete in the wellness space,” she told TechCrunch. “A lot of people were looking for us to deal with crises such as a breakup or a loss but then they didn’t always see a necessity to keep using Yana for longer than the crisis lasted.”

Some of those people would download the app again months later when hit with another crisis.

“We don’t want to be that app anymore,” Campos said. “We want to focus on whole wellness and mental health and transmit something that needs to be built every single day, just like we do with exercise.”

Moving forward, Yana aims to help people with their mental health not just during a crisis but with activities they can do on a daily basis, including a gratitude journal, a mood tracker and meditation — “things that prevent depression and anxiety,” Campos said.

“We want to be a vitamin for our soul, and keeping people mentally healthy on an ongoing basis,” she said. “We also want to include a community inside our application.”

ALLVP’s Federico Antoni is enthusiastic about the startup’s potential. He first met Campos when she was participating in an accelerator program in 2017, and then again recently.

The firm led Yana’s latest round because it “wanted to be on her team.”

“She [Campos] has turned into an amazing leader, and we realized her potential and strength,” he said. “Plus, Yana is an amazing product. When you download it, it’s almost like you can see a soul in there.”

Mental health startups are raising spirits and venture capital

Categories: Business News

The Nubank EC-1

2021, June 15 - 12:02am

Brazil is a country riven with economic contradictions. It has one of the largest and most profitable banking industries in Latin America, and is among the world’s most developed financial markets. Financial transactions that would take days to process in the United States through ACH happen instantaneously in Brazil. This sophistication, however, masks a backward state of affairs plagued by appalling customer service, exorbitant fees and lack of banking access for many.

The country’s financial system is volatile and often leaves its citizens with few or no alternatives. According to an HBS case study, “in December 2018 the interest rate in Brazil for corporate loans was 52.3%, for consumer loans it was 120.0% and for credit card indebtedness it was 272.42%.” Those rates are many multiples higher compared to figures in neighboring countries.

Brazil’s banking system is a massive market, and one ill-served by incumbents. If someone could thread the needle of product development, strategy and political horse trading required to build a bank in a country where it is nearly impossible for foreigners to own or invest in a bank, it would be one of the great startup and economic success stories of this century.

Nubank is on its way to realizing that objective. Its story is one of unmitigated success, even by the standards of our EC-1 series on high-flying companies and their hard-learned lessons. Just last week, this Brazilian credit card and banking fintech raised a $750 million round led by Berkshire Hathaway at a $30 billion valuation, becoming one of the most valuable startups in the world. It has 40 million users across Brazil, as well as Mexico and Colombia.

Yet, it’s a startup with a CEO and co-founder who isn’t Brazilian, didn’t speak the local language of Portuguese, hadn’t started a company before, and didn’t really know a lot about banking to begin with. This is a story of how raw execution, a “faster, faster” mentality and a fanaticism for making customer experience as enjoyable as a trip to Disney World can completely change the history of an industry — and country — forever.

Our lead writer for this EC-1 is Marcella McCarthy. McCarthy, who spent significant time in Brazil growing up and is trilingual in English, Spanish and Portuguese, has been covering the LatAm and Miami ecosystems for TechCrunch with an eye to the disruption underway in these interconnected regions. The lead editor for this package was Danny Crichton, the assistant editor was Ram Iyer, the copy editor was Richard Dal Porto, and illustrations were drawn by Nigel Sussman.

Nubank had no say in the content of this analysis and did not get advance access to it. McCarthy has no financial ties to Nubank or other conflicts of interest to disclose.

The Nubank EC-1 comprises four main articles numbering 9,200 words and a reading time of 37 minutes. Here’s what’s in the bank:

We’re always iterating on the EC-1 format. If you have questions, comments or ideas, please send an email to TechCrunch Managing Editor Danny Crichton at danny@techcrunch.com.

How contrarian hires and a pitch deck started Nubank’s $30 billion fintech empire

Categories: Business News

How contrarian hires and a pitch deck started Nubank’s $30 billion fintech empire

2021, June 15 - 12:01am

For most startups, the hardest early challenge is identifying a market and a product to serve it. That wasn’t the case for Nubank CEO David Velez, who understood the massive potential for success if he could break into Latin America’s most valuable economy with even a moderately modern banking offering.

Instead, the challenge was how to rebuild the concept of a bank in a country where banking is widely hated, all while the incumbents heavily entrenched with the state worked to block every move.

Nubank knew its market and geography, and through tenacious fundraising, inventive marketing and product development, and a series of contrarian hires, Velez and his team stripped bare the morass of Brazilian banking to build one of the world’s great fintech companies.

The challenge was how to rebuild the concept of a bank in a country where banking is widely hated, all while the incumbents heavily entrenched with the state worked to block every move.

In the first part of this EC-1, I’ll look at how Velez brought his skills and experience to bear on this market, how Nubank was founded in 2013, and how the team brought a Californian rather than Brazilian vibe to their first office on — no joke — California Street, in a neighborhood called Brooklin in the city of São Paulo.

The makings of an entrepreneur

The idea of being his own boss was ingrained in Velez from his earliest days in Colombia, where he grew up in an entrepreneurial family, with a father who owned a button factory. “I heard from my dad over and over again that you need to start your own company,” Velez said.

But years would pass and Velez still had no idea what he wanted to do. To “kill time,” and also to surround himself with entrepreneurial energy, Velez attended Stanford University — partially financed by the sale of some livestock — and then worked as an analyst at Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley before switching to venture capital at General Atlantic and Sequoia.

Categories: Business News

One woman’s drive to make a neobank as magical as Disney

2021, June 15 - 12:01am

As we mentioned in part 1 of this EC-1, David Velez had two key co-founding roles he needed to fill to get started building Nubank. For one, he needed a CTO to lead the engineering side of the business, as Velez didn’t have an engineering background.

Edward Wible, an American computer science graduate who spent most of his career in private equity, would take that responsibility. He didn’t bring years of coding experience, but he had qualities that Velez considered more important: A strong belief in the potential of the product and an equally intense commitment to working on it.

Given the occasionally hostile reaction of most incumbent banks to their customers in Brazil, Nubank’s starkly contrasting openness and transparency has garnered a huge following.

That left an even more important role to fill — one that was much harder to define. This other co-founder would need to blend knowledge of the Brazilian market and local savvy with expertise in banking, all while embodying a Silicon Valley ethos of focusing on customers. This person would also have to work in São Paulo for minimal wages out of a small office with just one bathroom, all in the belief that their equity (both stock and sweat) would one day be worth it.

Velez would eventually stumble upon Cristina Junqueira, who was qualified to do all this, and much, much more.

“Once someone said I was the glue of the operation, and that someone else was the brains. And I said, ‘No, I’m the glue and the brains, and I bet my brain is even better than his,”’ Junqueira said.

Junqueira didn’t just lead Nubank’s drive into the Brazilian market, she also upended age-old notions of what it means to be a 21st-century bank. Her inspiration was nothing short of Disney, and her mission was to create a bank as popular as the magical kingdom itself.

A bank. As popular as Disney. Sounds like a fairy tale, frankly.

Raised to be a doer

Unlike her co-founders Velez and Wible, Junqueira grew up in Nubank’s home market of Brazil. The eldest of four sisters, she remembers her parents — both dentists — always assiduously working to maintain their practice.

Their work ethic trickled down, but so did responsibility. As the oldest at home, she was forced to grow up quickly and take on responsibilities from an early age. “I remember being 11 years old and doing grocery shopping for the month,” she said. “I did everything very young.”

Categories: Business News

How Nubank’s CX strategy made it one of the most loved digital banks

2021, June 15 - 12:00am

As we saw in parts 1 and 2 of this EC-1, by mid-2013, Nubank CEO David Velez had most of what he needed to get started. He’d brought on two co-founders, assembled ambitious engineering and operations teams, raised $2 million in seed funding from Sequoia and Kaszek, rented a tiny office in São Paulo, and was armed with a mission to deliver the kind of banking services that customers in a market as large and lucrative as Brazil’s should expect.

Despite being named Nubank, however, the startup couldn’t actually be a bank: Brazil’s laws made it illegal at the time for a foreigner-run company to operate a bank. That restriction required the team to develop an inventive product strategy to find a foothold in the market while they waited for a license directly from the country’s president.

Nubank was so adamant about differentiating itself from other banks that it chose Barney purple for its brand color and first credit card.

Nubank therefore pursued a credit card as its first offering, but it had to race against a clock counting quickly down to zero. At the time, Brazil didn’t have ownership restrictions on this product segment like it did with banking, but new rules were coming into force in just a few months in May 2014 that would block a company like Nubank from launching.

The company needed to execute rapidly over the next eight months if it wanted to be grandfathered into the existing regulations. The speed of operations was frantic to say the least, and the company would go on to work even faster, ultimately propelling itself into the stratosphere of fintech startups.

Full faith in credit

It’s easy to assume that the name Nubank refers to “new bank,” but that’s not really what the founders were going for. The word “nu” in Portuguese means “naked,” and Velez and his team wanted the name to reflect their vision: To build a 21st-Century bank without any of the shackles imposed by the traditional banks in Brazil.

The team wanted to offer services to as many people as possible, as there is a huge wealth gap in Brazil, where the minimum wage is around $200 a month.

Launching with just a credit card was both a strategic and practical business decision. Credit cards were widely used in the country, and everyone understood how they worked. Additionally, you could only use credit cards to shop online in Brazil, because debit cards weren’t accepted.

Categories: Business News

Which Nubank will own the financial revolution?

2021, June 15 - 12:00am

Nubank’s first office, on California Street in the Brooklin neighborhood of São Paulo, makes for a great beginning to the company’s story. It wasn’t a Silicon Valley garage, but this tiny, one-bathroom rented house, where 30 people worked insane hours to push out the company’s debut credit card, lends just as well to an image of entrepreneurial spirit and drive.

As Nubank continues to make international waves, more and more VC investors are taking a look at the Brazilian ecosystem and could potentially fund other upstarts in the years to come.

But as Nubank’s story continued, the team eventually had to move out of that early office, and the next several offices, too. Eventually Nubank had to relocate to an eight-story building in São Paulo, which houses a large part of the company’s now 3,000-person team.

The startup reached decacorn status in far less than a decade, and it is growing faster than ever. When I interviewed CEO David Velez back in January to discuss Nubank’s $400 million Series G, he said, “We’ve gone from 12 million customers in 2019 to 34 million solely based on word of mouth.” By September last year, the company was onboarding 41,000 new customers per day.

In the five months since our interview, Nubank has managed to rope in a whopping 6 million customers to reach 40 million. It’s now valued at $30 billion.

Nubank’s present day headquarters in São Paulo, Brazil. Image Credits: NELSON ALMEIDA/AFP / Getty Images

Getting there hasn’t been easy. The company’s three co-founders, Velez, Edward Wible and Cristina Junqueira, had to make key strategic decisions about how to scale themselves to retain the company’s lead in the neobanking market. That lead is getting tougher to sustain every day. Nubank’s proliferating offerings and broader geographical remit has painted a massive target on its back, and a wide number of competitors have cropped up to run on the paths it pioneered.

Like most Disney films, a fairy-tale ending seems in order, but it’ll take a few more rotations of the film wheel to get to the ending.

Early mistakes and ingredients for success

For the co-founding trio, it became increasingly clear that Nubank’s growing scale demanded critical strategic decisions on how to bring order to the company.

By 2018, the company had thousands of employees, millions of customers, and they still didn’t have a head of HR. Growth until then had been somewhat unstructured. According to Junqueira, waiting so long to hire a head of HR was one of their early mistakes, because it stunted their ability to grow. “[Good] people continue to be our biggest bottleneck,” she says.

Categories: Business News

The Pill Club takes on primary care with $41.9M in fresh funding

2021, June 14 - 11:00pm

In January, former Uber executive Liz Meyerdirk announced that she took over as chief executive of The Pill Club. The company, which offers an online birth control prescription and delivery service to hundreds of thousands of women, had hit record revenues, crossing $100 million in annual run rate for the first time in its four-year history.

She found the bridge between ride-sharing to healthcare to be smoother than some might expect, saying that she focused on how to apply technology “to logistics for an everyday use case, [to know] how that simplifies your everyday life.”

Now, six months into her new job, Meyerdirk announced that her company has raised more capital to capitalize on the momentum in women’s health right now. The Pill Club announced today that it has raised a $41.9 million Series B extension round led by Base 10. Existing investors, including ACME, Base10, GV, Shasta Ventures and VMG, participated in the round, as well as new investors, including Uber’s Dara Khosrowshahi and Honey’s George Ruan and iGlobe.

The extension round comes over two years after the company announced its initial Series B investment, a $51 million financing led by VMG Partners. After reportedly being valued at $250 million, the company declined to provide its latest valuation, other than saying that the extension was an up-round.

When a customer joins The Pill Club, they are given a medical questionnaire and a digital form to input personal information. The company gives them a sense of how much the service will cost, and if the price works, it connects them to a nurse either live or via text.

“In a happy case, you can see a nurse immediately,” she said. “Obviously if it’s midnight, we haven’t figured that out yet.” The nurse walks though different options, since, Meyerdirk added, “contraception is not one size fits all.”

Once a customer makes a decision, The Pill Club can then prescribe birth control through their own pharmacy, which will be delivered to their door within two or three days.

The Pill Club launched in 2016 with an at-home delivery service of birth control. Between 2016 and January 2021, it launched in 43 states plus the District of Columbia. It has added five states in the past six months, and plans to get to 50 states by the end of 2021.

The company makes money from medical visits, insurance reimbursement for prescription drugs and cash patients who aren’t covered by insurance.

The chief executive views a big part of its value proposition as embedding with existing insurance plans of its customers, including Medi-CAL and Family PACT. In the last three months, 16% of The Pill Clubs’ new patients were on Medicaid.

“You’ve got companies like Oscar [Health] that are reimagining health insurance, and you’ve got Ro, Hims and Hers, who are [taking] cash as a primary…way to serve…patients,” she said. “That’s fantastic for those who can afford it, but for us, because so much of our value system is around access to equity, we believe everyone should have the right to get access to birth control.”

The company believes that it has to work within the system of insurance to have true innovation.

“Telemedicine that ignores the reality of insurance is always going to have a limited piece of the pie,” a spokesperson from the company said said. “Cash-only systems simply aren’t a product built for a scale. A truly innovative healthcare platform exists within the realities of the system.”

Hormonal health is a massive opportunity: Where are the unicorns?

By women, for women

Long-term, The Pill Club wants to replace the old model of going to a primary care provider for annual visits with ongoing care for women.

“I’m generally healthy [but] I actually do have questions on mammograms…colonoscopies, or anything,” Meyerdirk said. “And being able to have a person other than my mom” to talk to that doesn’t require a trip to the doctor or urgent care is the gap that The Pill Club wants to fill.

“We think it’s too good to be true, when we actually get what we deserve,” Meyerdirk said when describing women’s health. Part of her goal going forward is to think bigger, beyond contraception, and figure out how The Pill Club could bring a digital refresh to other areas of women’s health.

In March, the company launched a dermatology pilot, and also expanded its 2020 period care pilot. A portion of the new capital is earmarked toward launching new services for its members.

8 VCs agree: Behavioral support and remote visits make digital health a strong bet for 2021

The Pill Club also shared the diversity metrics of its 350-person staff as part of its announcement.

The Pill Club has 72% of employees identifying as women, and 28% of employees identifying as male. The executive leadership similarly sees predominantly women, with the ratio being 62.5% women and 37.5% male. As for racial diversity, the overall company identifies as 33% white, 19% Asian, 16% Hispanic or Latino and 14% Black or African American; 13% of employees declined to identify.

“We’re by women for women,” Meyerdirk said. “It’s very, very different when you’re by men, for women.” Her appointment came as The Pill Club’s founder and former chief executive officer Nick Chang stepped down from day to day operations. He didn’t take a board seat, but does still have shares in the company.

Liz Meyerdirk, chief executive of The Pill Club. Image Credits: The Pill Club

The wave of prescription, for-delivery medication is only getting bigger, with The Pill Club joined by startups such as Nurx and SimpleHealth, and bigger corporations such as Walmart and Amazon.

“The idea of creating more choice and flexibility across healthcare is long overdue,” she said. “Everyone deserves to have great options when they consider who can best address their daily needs.”

Editor’s note: A prior version of this story noted that The Pill Club does birth control for pick up. This is incorrect. It delivers birth control through its own pharmacies. A correction has been made to reflect this change.  

 

Categories: Business News

Enterprise AI platform Dataiku launches managed service for smaller companies

2021, June 14 - 10:23pm

Dataiku is going downstream with a new product today called Dataiku Online. As the name suggests, Dataiku Online is a fully managed version of Dataiku. It lets you take advantage of the data science platform without going through a complicated setup process that involves a system administrator and your own infrastructure.

If you’re not familiar with Dataiku, the platform lets you turn raw data into advanced analytics, run some data visualization tasks, create data-backed dashboards and train machine learning models. In particular, Dataiku can be used by data scientists, but also business analysts and less technical people.

The company has been mostly focused on big enterprise clients. Right now, Dataiku has more than 400 customers, such as Unilever, Schlumberger, GE, BNP Paribas, Cisco, Merck and NXP Semiconductors.

There are two ways to use Dataiku. You can install the software solution on your own, on-premise servers. You can also run it on a cloud instance. With Dataiku Online, the startup offers a third option and takes care of setup and infrastructure for you.

“Customers using Dataiku Online get all the same features that our on-premises and cloud instances provide, so everything from data preparation and visualization to advanced data analytics and machine learning capabilities,” co-founder and CEO Florian Douetteau said. “We’re really focused on getting startups and SMBs on the platform — there’s a perception that small or early-stage companies don’t have the resources or technical expertise to get value from AI projects, but that’s simply not true. Even small teams that lack data scientists or specialty ML engineers can use our platform to do a lot of the technical heavy lifting, so they can focus on actually operationalizing AI in their business.”

Customers using Dataiku Online can take advantage of Dataiku’s pre-built connectors. For instance, you can connect your Dataiku instance with a cloud data warehouse, such as Snowflake Data Cloud, Amazon Redshift and Google BigQuery. You can also connect to a SQL database (MySQL, PostgreSQL…), or you can just run it on CSV files stored on Amazon S3.

Data is the world’s most valuable (and vulnerable) resource

And if you’re just getting started and you have to work on data ingestion, Dataiku works well with popular data ingestion services. “A typical stack for our Dataiku Online Customers involves leveraging data ingestion tools like FiveTran, Stitch or Alooma, that sync to a cloud data warehouse like Google BigQuery, Amazon Redshift or Snowflake. Dataiku fits nicely within their modern data stacks,” Douetteau said.

Dataiku Online is a nice offering to get started with Dataiku. High-growth startups might start with Dataiku Online as they tend to be short on staff and want to be up and running as quickly as possible. But as you become bigger, you could imagine switching to a cloud or on-premise installation of Dataiku. Employees can keep using the same platform as the company scales.

Categories: Business News

Anrok raises $4.3M to solve sales tax for SaaS companies

2021, June 14 - 10:00pm

It’s easier than ever to build a product and sell it around the United States, or the world. But if you want to do so without incurring the wrath of any particular state, or nation-state, you’d best have your tax matters in order. This is why Stripe’s news last week that it has built tax-focused tooling to help its customers manage their state bills mattered.

But for SaaS companies, things can be more complicated from a tax perspective. That’s what Anrok, a startup working to build sales tax software for SaaS firms, told TechCrunch.

The company’s CEO, Michelle Valentine, said that modern software companies need specialized help. And her startup is announcing a $4.3 million fundraise today to back its efforts. The capital event was led by Sequoia and Index, the latter firm a place where Valentine used to work.

Anrok delivers its service via an API, and charges based on the total dollar value of sales that it helps a customer manage. Its percentage-fee falls with volume, and you can’t pay more than 0.19% of managed revenue, so it’s pretty cheap regardless, given how strong software gross margins tend to be.

The Anrok founding team: Michelle Valentine, and Kannan Goundan. Via the company.

Valentine said that there are three things that make SaaS tax issues more complex than other products. The first deals with addresses. Software companies have to pay sales tax where customers are located, and often only have partial information. Anrok will help with that problem. The CEO also said that variable SaaS billing makes charging the right amount of tax an interesting issue, and that states have tax laws specifically aimed at the software market that must be navigated.

So, a more mass-market solution might not be the best fit for SaaS companies looking to avoid both trouble with states and the work of handling tax matters themselves.

It’s not hard to see why Anrok was able to raise capital. The company is early-stage with its first customers onboarded, so it’s not posting the sort of revenue growth that investors covet at the later stages. What then were its more fetching attributes? From our perspective, on-demand pricing and a simply gigantic market.

Sure, Anrok is serving SaaS businesses, but it’s doing so using what could be described as a post-SaaS business model; on-demand, or usage-based pricing is an increasingly popular way to charge for software products today, putting Anrok closer to the cutting edge in business-model terms. And the company’s market is essentially every software business out there. That’s a lot of TAM to carve into, something that investors love to see.

Payments giant Stripe launches Stripe Tax to integrate sales tax calculations for 30+ countries

 

Categories: Business News

Could Claap, an asynchronous video meetings platform, end the tyranny of Zoom calls?

2021, June 14 - 9:39pm

Because of the pandemic, we’re all a lot more familiar with remote working than we used to be, whether we like it or not. But the remote tools of the pre-pandemic era — Slack, Trello, Zoom, Asana, etc., etc., etc. — are, if we admit it to ourselves, barely scratching the surface of what we really need to be productive. Luckily a new era of remote-working tools is fast emerging. As I recently tweeted, we need to think far more in asynchronous terms if remote working is to be productive (and healthy!), long term.

Older tools can offer asynchronous collaboration, but a new wave of tools is coming. Loom, for instance, is one-way video for “show and tell”. It’s raised $203.6 million — however, it has a drawback: it doesn’t have many collaboration features.

Now a new European startup hopes to address this.

Claap, an asynchronous meeting platform with video and collaboration, thinks it might have part of the solution, and a private beta launch is planned for this month.

It’s now raised $3 million in pre-seed funding from LocalGlobe, Headline, E.Ventures, Kima Ventures, and angels including Front co-founder Mathilde Collin, Oyster co-founder Tony Jamous, Nest and GoCardless founder Matt Robinson and Automattic’s head of product Aadil Mamujee. It also includes a group of 30 angels such as Ian Hogarth (Songkick), Olivier Godement (Stripe), Roxanne Varza (Station F), Chris Herd (FirstBase), Xavier Niel (Kima) and Shane Mac (investor in Remote).

We all now know that what were previously small catch-ups are now 30-minute Zoom calls, which are pointless. “Asynchronous meetings” could be the way forward. In fact, I actually want to try out Claap myself. Zoom ‘meetings’ need to be killed. Now.

Claap says its product allows employees to record a short video update on a topic, allow others to comment on the relevant part, and set a due date for team members to respond. Colleagues then view the video and respond in their own time. Claap bills itself as the remote working equivalent of the “quick hallway catch-up”. It integrates with other workplace tools such as Trello or Jira so that when a decision is made on a project, it’s recorded for everyone on the team to see and refer back to. A subscription model is planned which will have a sliding scale depending on team size.

Because it doesn’t require real-time interaction, you don’t need to find a time that suits everyone for a meeting, so in fact the “meeting” sort of disappears. Instead, the platform creates a space for feedback and iterations.

Founders Robin Bonduelle and Pierre Touzeau looked at solutions already adopted by companies such as Automattic, and GitLab. Touzeau was previously at 360Learning, which employed a strict limiting policy for meetings. Bonduelle has 10 years of product management experience, working at various startups and scaleups including Ogury where he was VP of Product, and Rocket Internet. He developed asynchronous communication habits while managing 50 people across four countries and time zones. Touzeau has worked for businesses including L’Oréal and 360Learning, where he was most recently VP of Marketing.

However, asynchronous communication is not always perfect. As we know, emails and Slack messages can go unread. Video MIGHT be the solution.

Robin Bonduelle, co-founder and CEO at Claap, said: “After a year of working remotely, people are realizing the benefits of not working in an office but at the same time grappling with one of its worst consequences: back-to-back video meetings. A query that in the office would take five minutes to solve now takes at least 30, leaving everyone more exhausted in the process. Claap is designed to solve this issue, allowing colleagues the tools to keep them engaged and connected but without taking up all their time. It’s a new meeting format that allows people to make quick decisions.”

Touzeau said: “Meetings are a necessary part of working, but it doesn’t need to be your entire day. Asynchronous meetings are the key to freeing up our calendars but making sure work still gets done and deadlines are met. We’re excited by the potential Claap has to empower people to work from anywhere.”

George Henry, general partner at LocalGlobe, said: “We were impressed with Robin and Pierre’s vision and the potential for Claap to allow employees to connect on a project when they need to and facilitate the ability to work from anywhere.”

Jonathan Userovici, partner at Headline, said: “Zoom may have been the go-to enterprise app over the past 12 months but for the thousands of businesses that are now going to be remote-first, video conferencing alone won’t be enough to keep teams connected and get work done. Claap is the challenger tool to end video-calling fatigue.”

How to do remote work right, from the teams that know it best

Categories: Business News

Motorway’s auction platform for second-hand cars raises $67.7M Series B led by Index Ventures

2021, June 14 - 2:00pm

Motorway is a U.K. startup that allows professional car dealers to bid in an auction for privately owned cars for sale. The startup has had rapid success by removing a lot of friction in the process. It’s now raised £48 million / $67.7 million in a Series B round led by Index Ventures, along with new investors BMW i Ventures and Unbound. Existing investors Latitude and Marchmont Ventures also participated. The funding will be used to extend its platform and grow the current 160-strong team.

The startup claims it allows consumers to sell their car for up to £1,000 more than they could via other means, by uploading its details via a smartphone app that also uses computer vision to assess the state of the car. Over 3,000 professional car dealers then bid for the vehicle in a daily online auction. The highest offer wins the car, which is then collected for free by the winning dealer inside 24 hours.

Motorway says it has sold 65,000 cars since its launch in 2017 and seen sales hit £50 million in May 2021 alone, £2.5 million of transactions a day, and more than 4,000 completed car sales a month. With only 5% of all vehicles in the U.K. sold online right now, there is plenty of headroom for this market to grow.

Tom Leathes, CEO of Motorway, said: “For half a century, inefficient offline processes have led to bad deals and a bad experience for both car sellers and car dealers. Motorway has fundamentally changed a broken experience where everyone ends up dissatisfied — and we’ve transformed it with a superior online experience where everybody wins. Cutting out the middlemen leaves both the consumer and car dealer with a better deal, all from home and without the stress. Our incredible growth so far is testament to our focus on delivering more value through technology — and this investment will provide us with the fuel to take Motorway to the next level.”

Danny Rimer, partner at Index Ventures, said: “We’re always looking to invest in companies that are truly disrupting an industry and meeting a real customer need. We have found that in Motorway. The team has built an incredibly powerful platform, underpinned by great technology and a deep understanding of the challenges both consumers and car dealers face. Motorway has quickly become the first port of call for tens of thousands of people selling their car.”

Motorway has raised £14 million in venture funding since it was founded by Tom Leathes, Harry Jones and Alex Buttle in 2017.

Speaking to me over interview Leathes added: “COVID has been a real accelerator of something that was already happening. The car industry is moving online and that’s partly about people buying their next car online, but it’s also about dealers changing their behavior, how they do business, where they buy their cars. It forced that change which they resisted for a long time, and now they’re embracing it, so it’s a fundamental shift in the industry. And this is why we see such a massive opportunity to provide the rails to help both sides of the marketplace to move online.”

Rimer added: “It’s rare that you have founders who have worked together across multiple successful and less successful startups who have that scar tissue and success, and are now going for a much bigger opportunity. The business model is really an important one for us because instead of owning inventory and then having to get rid of your inventory, sort of like the difference between Net-a-Porter and Farfetch. Motorway’s marketplace is just like Farfetch — they don’t have any inventory, which means that just by merely making that platform happen for buyers and sellers, they win. So there’s a lot less risk associated with what the money is going to be used for when building the business.”

Extra Crunch members get unlimited access to 12M stock images for $99 per year

Categories: Business News

The air taxi market prepares to take flight

2021, June 12 - 7:50am

Twelve years ago, Joby Aviation consisted of a team of seven engineers working out of founder JoeBen Bevirt’s ranch in the Santa Cruz mountains. Today, the startup has swelled to 800 people and a $6.6 billion valuation, ranking itself as the highest-valued electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) company in the industry.

As in any disruptive industry, the forecast may be cloudier than the rosy picture painted by passionate founders and investors.

It’s not the only air taxi company to reach unicorn status. The field is now dotted with new or soon-to-be publicly traded companies courtesy of mergers and special purpose acquisition companies. Partnerships with major automakers and airlines are on the rise, and CEOs have promised commercialization as early as 2024.

As in any disruptive industry, the forecast may be cloudier than the rosy picture painted by passionate founders and investors. A quick peek at comments and posts on LinkedIn reveals squabbles among industry insiders and analysts about when this emerging technology will truly take off and which companies will come out ahead.

Other disagreements have higher stakes. Wisk Aero filed a lawsuit against Archer Aviation alleging trade secret misappropriation. Meanwhile, valuations for companies that have no revenue yet to speak of — and may not for the foreseeable future — are skyrocketing.

Electric air mobility is gaining elevation. But there’s going to be some turbulence ahead.

Big goals and bigger expenses

Taking an eVTOL from design through to manufacturing and certification will likely cost about $1 billion, Mark Moore, then-head of Uber Elevate, estimated in April 2020 during a conference held by the Air Force’s Agility Prime program.

That means in some sense, the companies that will come out on top will likely be the ones that have managed to raise enough money to pay for all the expenses associated with engineering, certification, manufacturing and infrastructure.

“The startups that have successfully raised or that will be able to raise significant amounts of capital to get them through the certification process … that’s the number one thing that’s going to separate the strong from the weak,” Asad Hussain, a senior analyst in mobility technology at PitchBook, told TechCrunch. “There’s over 100 startups in the space. Not all of them are going to be able to do that.”

Just consider some of the expenses accrued by the biggest eVTOLs last year: Joby Aviation spent a whopping $108 million on research and development, a $30 million increase from 2019. Archer spent $21 million in R&D in 2020, according to regulatory filings. Meanwhile, Joby’s net loss last year was $114.2 million and Archer’s was $24.8 million, though, of course, neither company has brought a product to market yet. Operating expenses will likely only continue to grow into the future as companies enter into manufacturing and deployment phases.

What that means for the future of the industry is likely two things: more SPAC deals and more acquisitions.

Mobility companies, including those working on electrified transport, are often pre-revenue and have capitally intensive business models — a combination that can make it difficult to find buyers in a traditional IPO. SPACs have become increasingly popular as a shorter, less expensive path to becoming a public company. SPACs have also historically received less scrutiny than IPOs. Should the U.S. Securities Exchange Commission start to take a closer look at SPAC mergers in the future, it may impair the ability of other air taxi companies to go public this way, Hussain said.

That means market consolidation is nearly guaranteed, as smaller companies may find it more advantageous to sell than continue to raise more capital. It’s already begun: At the end of April, eVTOL developer Astro Aerospace announced the acquisition of Horizon Aircraft.

Horizon cited “greater access to capital” as one of the many benefits of the transaction, and other companies will likely find the buy or sell route to be the most beneficial on the road to commercialization. And just last week, British eVTOL Vertical Aerospace, which has an order for 150 aircraft from Virgin Atlantic, said it would go public via a merger with Broadstone Acquisition Corp. at an equity value of around $2.2 billion.

Categories: Business News

Extra Crunch roundup: EU insurtech, 30 years of ‘Crossing the Chasm,’ embedded finance’s endgame

2021, June 12 - 5:13am

This morning, Anna Heim and Alex Wilhelm dug into the EU insurtech market, interviewing European VCs and collating the biggest recent rounds to take the temperature of the waters across the pond:

  • Alex Timm, CEO, Root
  • Dan Preston, CEO, MetroMile
  • Luca Bocchio, partner, Accel
  • Florian Graillot, investor, Astorya.vc
  • Stephen Brittain, director and founder, Insurtech Gateway

Several European-based insurtech startups entered unicorn territory this year, such as Bought By Many, which offers pet insurance; London-based Zego; and Alan, a French startup that raised a $220 million round.

According to Brittain, EU startups in this sector are “still at the very early stages of innovation,” having only shown “a fraction of what’s possible” in a market that is “as large as banking.” Interestingly, he predicted that AI will play a larger role in the future as companies deploy it for fraud detection, improved customer experiences and processing claims more quickly.

“We are fully expecting the next generation of AI-driven business to unlock real-time risk analysis, pricing and claims resolution in the next few years,” he said.

Thanks very much for reading Extra Crunch; I hope you have a safe, relaxing weekend.

Walter Thompson
Senior Editor, TechCrunch
@yourprotagonist

Insurtech is hot on both sides of the Atlantic

What do these 4 IPOs tell us about the state of the market?

Image Credits: Nigel Sussman (opens in a new window)

Earlier this week, The Exchange assessed the looming Monday.com IPO before reading the tea leaves about that flotation and three others to sum up the overall state of the market.

So what do the Marqeta, Monday.com, Zeta Global and 1stDibs debuts tell us? We may have been too conservative.

What do these 4 IPOs tell us about the state of the market?

Toast’s Aman Narang and BVP’s Kent Bennett on how customer obsession is everything

Image Credits: Bessemer Venture Partners / Toast

On a recent episode of Extra Crunch Live, we spoke to Toast founder Aman Narang and Kent Bennett of Bessemer Venture Partners about how they came together for a deal, what makes the difference for both founders and investors when fundraising, and the biggest lessons they’ve learned so far.

The episode also featured the Extra Crunch Live Pitch-Off, where audience members pitched their products to Bennett and Narang and received live feedback.

Extra Crunch Live is open to everyone each Wednesday at 3 p.m. EDT/noon PDT, but only Extra Crunch members are able to stream these sessions afterward and watch previous shows on-demand in our episode library.

Toast’s Aman Narang and BVP’s Kent Bennett on how customer obsession is everything

AI startup investment is on pace for a record year

Image Credits: Nigel Sussman (opens in a new window)

Alex Wilhelm and Anna Heim solicited feedback from investors to get a temperature on the market for AI startup investments.

“The startup investing market is crowded, expensive and rapid-fire today as venture capitalists work to preempt one another, hoping to deploy funds into hot companies before their competitors,” they write. “The AI startup market may be even hotter than the average technology niche.”

But that’s not surprising. The Exchange was on it.

“In the wake of the Microsoft-Nuance deal, The Exchange reported that it would be reasonable to anticipate an even more active and competitive market for AI-powered startups,” Alex and Anna note. “Our thesis was that after Redmond dropped nearly $20 billion for the AI company, investors would have a fresh incentive to invest in upstarts with an AI focus or strong AI component; exits, especially large transactions, have a way of spurring investor interest in related companies.”

Their expectation is coming true: Investors reported a fierce market for AI startups.

AI startup investment is on pace for a record year

Dear Sophie: What is a diversity green card and how do I apply for one?

Image Credits: Bryce Durbin/TechCrunch

Dear Sophie,

I started a tech company about two years ago, and ever since I’ve dreamed of expanding my company in the United States.

I would love to have a green card. Someone mentioned that I should apply for a diversity green card. Would you please provide me with more details about it and how to apply?

— Technical in Tanzania

Dear Sophie: What is a diversity green card and how do I apply for one?

How to start a company in 4 days

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

Pulley founder and three-time YC alum Yin Wu offers a tactical guide to getting a startup running in four days. Yes, just four days.

“The logistics of setting up a startup should be simple, because over the long run, complicated equity setups and cap tables cost more money in legal fees and administration time,” Wu notes.

Read on for guidance on how to get your business going in less than a week.

How to start a company in 4 days

Health clouds are set to play a key role in healthcare innovation

Image Credits: Natali_Mis / Getty Images

Innovaccer founder and CEO Abhinav Shashank and CTO Mike Sutten write in a guest column that the U.S. healthcare industry is in the middle of a massive transformation.

This shift, they write, “is being stimulated by federal mandates, technological innovation, and the need to improve clinical outcomes and communication between providers, patients and payers.”

Improving healthcare now means we need to process tremendous amounts of healthcare data. How do we do it? The cloud, which “plays a pivotal role in meeting the current needs of healthcare organizations.”

Health clouds are set to play a key role in healthcare innovation

What SOSV’s Climate Tech 100 tells founders about investors in the space

Image Credits: MrJub / Getty Images

SOSV’s Benjamin Joffe and Meghan Hind round up a “who’s who” from the venture capital firm’s SOSV Climate Tech 100, a list of the best startups addressing climate change that SOSV has supported from the very beginning.

“What can founders learn from the list about climate tech investors? In other words, who invested in the Climate Tech 100?” they ask.

What SOSV’s Climate Tech 100 tells founders about investors in the space

The fintech endgame: New supercompanies combine the best of software and financials

Image Credits: Donald Iain Smith (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

Now that we can transact from anywhere, a new, hybrid class of software companies with embedded financial services are scooping up consumers — and investors are following the action.

Using data from a Battery Ventures report about “the intersection of software and financial services,” this post examines why these companies can be so hard to value and offers a framework for better understanding their business models and investor appeal.

The fintech endgame: New supercompanies combine the best of software and financials

After 30 years, ‘Crossing the Chasm’ is due for a refresh

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

Geoffrey Moore’s “Chasm,” a framework for marketing technology products that has been one of the canonical foundational concepts to product-market fit for three decades, needs a bit of an upgrade, Flybridge Capital’s Jeff Bussgang writes.

“I have been reflecting on why it is that we venture capitalists and founders keep making the same mistake over and over again — a mistake that has become even more glaring in recent years,” he writes.

Bussgang goes on to consider the Chasm — and propose tweaks for thinking about market size in the modern era.

After 30 years, ‘Crossing the Chasm’ is due for a refresh

Categories: Business News

5 questions startups should consider before making their first marketing hire

2021, June 12 - 4:19am
Jamie Viggiano Contributor Share on Twitter Jamie Viggiano is the chief marketing officer at Fuel Capital, an early-stage venture capital firm investing in consumer, SaaS and infrastructure businesses.

“Who should my first marketing hire be?”

This is (by far) the most common question I’ve received since starting as Fuel’s CMO, and for good reason. Your first marketer will have an outsized impact on team dynamics as well as the overall strategic direction of the brand, product and company.

The nature of the marketing function has expanded significantly over the past two decades. So much so that when founders ask this question, it immediately prompts multiple new ones: Should I hire a brand or growth marketer? An offline or an online marketer? A scientific or a creative marketer?

Once upon a time, the number of marketing channels was fairly limited, which meant the function itself fit into a neater, tighter box. The number of ways to reach customers has since grown exponentially, as has the scope of the marketing role. Today’s startups require at least four broad functions under the umbrella of “marketing,” each with its own array of subfunctions.

The reality is that anyone who excels across all marketing functions is a unicorn and nearly impossible to find.

Here’s a sample of the marketing functions at a typical early-stage startup:

Brand marketing: Brand strategy, positioning, naming, messaging, visual identity, experiential, events, community.

Product marketing: UX copy, website, email marketing, customer research and segmentation, pricing.

Communications: PR and media relations, content marketing, social media, thought leadership, influencer.

Growth marketing: Direct response paid acquisition, funnel optimization, retention, lifecycle, engagement, reporting and attribution, word of mouth, referral, SEO, partnerships.

Have you worked with a talented individual or agency who helped you find and keep more users?
Respond to our survey and help us find the best startup growth marketers!

As you can imagine, that’s a lot for one person to manage, let alone be an expert in. What’s more, the skill set and experience required to excel in growth marketing is quite different from the skill set required to succeed in brand marketing. The reality is that anyone who excels across all marketing functions is a unicorn and nearly impossible to find.

So who do you hire first?

Unless you’re lucky enough to nab that unicorn, your first hire should be a generalist who can tend to the full stack of the marketing function, learn what they don’t know, and roll up their sleeves to get things done. Someone smart, savvy and super scrappy who understands how to experiment across marketing channels until they find the right mix.

But this utility player should also bring deeper expertise in one of the big marketing functions: brand, product, communications or growth. Before making this key hire, you need to figure out which marketing priorities are most urgent and, consequently, which marketing “persona” is most appropriate for your business at the earliest stages.

To figure out which skill set you need most in-house, consider these five questions:

Which marketing channels have proven successful to date?

If you’ve done some marketing experimentation previously, have there been any bright spots? Which channels are proving the most efficient from a customer acquisition, conversion, retention, engagement, whatever your key KPI is, perspective? If you find a promising area, find a candidate that has expertise in it. For example, if you are seeing good results with Instagram ads, hiring a candidate who has expertise in growth marketing makes sense.

Where are the target customers?

If you don’t have much data from channel testing, consider how your target customers are currently finding competitive products or services. At TaskRabbit, we knew from early customer research that clients were finding help with home services either through recommendations from friends or by asking Google (i.e., SEO and SEM).

So, that was a natural place for us to start. Our focus from a resource and staffing perspective in the early days was on growth marketing — driving more word of mouth, plus optimizing our SEO and SEM.

How competitive is the market?

How competitive is the category you’re playing in? Are there dominant players with strong brands? Do these brands have endless marketing budgets? Are CACs exorbitant because well-capitalized competitors are outbidding each other? If so, you might want to focus on building an exceptional brand and product/customer experience.

That means disseminating a unique story through organic channels (word of mouth, PR, influencers and organic social media). A brand marketer or someone with deep PR and communications experience makes sense in this scenario.

Even startups on tight budgets can maximize their marketing impact

Where do the founder’s skills lie?

Another aspect to consider is the skills the founder(s) — or other members of the founding/early team — bring to the table. If a founder has a strong vision for the brand and extensive experience building brands, then focus less on a brand marketing hire and rather supplement the branding skill set with another marketing priority (i.e., product marketing). Likewise, if a founder has a strong vision for the brand but no one on the team knows how to build one, that’s a skill gap that your first marketing hire should fill.

How important is trust building?

Trust building has become an increasingly important aspect for brands as customers become more and more discerning. But trust building tends to be more critical in certain areas than others: New, nascent industries or markets, sectors with a lot of human interaction (services businesses, dating platforms, etc.), industries that are fundamentally changing consumer behavior (ride-sharing in its earliest days), or industries where the stakes or cost is relatively high (luxury goods).

If trust building is critical, consider a branding expert who understands how to build trust and credibility, and build an experience that consumers are passionate about. This person will likely have deep expertise in PR and brand building, as these channels tend to inspire the most trust among consumers.

What level of experience is necessary?

Once you’ve answered these five questions, you should have a pretty good idea of the type of marketing experience you want. But just how much experience should that person have? I typically recommend that seed-stage founders look for senior manager or director-level candidates at midsized companies.

At this experience level (six to 10 years), these candidates’ salaries tend to be more in line with a young company’s budget. Moreover, at this stage of their career, they tend to be both strategic and tactical. This means they can level up and think strategically about the business and the marketing function, but they are also happy to get their hands dirty and execute — actually dive into the Facebook platform and create ads, plan and host an event, or pitch a journalist.

5 ways to raise your startup’s PR game

Categories: Business News

Pages