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Mobile website creator Universe nabs $4 million Series A

The small team behind Universe , an iOS app which allows users to build modular, simple websites in a minute or two, has scored some new funding as it looks to grow its operations and its ambitions. The startup has closed a $4 million Series A investment from Javelin Venture Partners, General Catalyst, Y Combinator, Box Group, Eniac Ventures, Paul Buchheit, Yuri Sagalov, Louis Beryl and others. Universe has raised $7.2 million to date. The startup’s focus on building mobile websites has aimed to bypass the more complicated approaches of desktop-first web design companies for a process that feels a bit more like editing an Instagram photo. Over 160 thousand sites have been built with the app. We covered the Brooklyn-based company when it launched last year and when it graduated from Y Combinator with seed funding. The team is still just 3 full-time employees; with this latest funding the team is looking to grow a bit. “Javelin got excited about Universe because we saw a massive group of content creators that aren’t sitting at a desk or taking the time and cost to develop a website with the traditional tools,” Noah Doyle, Javelin’s managing director said in a statement. “We loved how Universe’s grid-based interface gives anyone the power to design a high quality web presence, and see it as transformative for artists, free agent professionals, small business owners and individual personal use, too.” Universe has spent the last few months rethinking how it’s approaching monetization with power users of the service. The company is switching from an a la carte approach that let users use a custom URL or ditch Universe branding on their site for an extra $3 a pop to a Pro tier that’s a flat $10 per month and will gain new functionality over time. Universe is iOS-only for now, you can check it out  here .

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Beamery closes $28M Series B to stoke support for its ‘talent CRM’

Beamery , a London-based startup that offers self-styled “talent CRM”– aka ‘candidate relationship management’ — and recruitment marketing software targeted at fast-growing companies, has closed a $28M Series B funding round, led by EQT Ventures. Also participating in the round are M12, Microsoft’s venture fund, and existing investors Index Ventures, Edenred Capital Partners and Angelpad Fund. Beamery last raised a $5M Series A, in April 2017 , led by Index. Its pitch centers on the notion of helping businesses win a ‘talent war’ by taking a more strategic and pro-active approach to future hires vs just maintaining a spreadsheet of potential candidates. Its platform aims to help the target enterprises build and manage a talent pool of people they might want to hire in future to get out ahead of the competition in HR terms, including providing tools for customized marketing aimed at nurture relations with possible future hires. Customer numbers for Beamery’s software have stepped up from around 50 in April 2017 to 100 using it now — including the likes of Facebook (which is using it globally), Continental, VMware, Zalando, Grab and Balfour Beatty. It says the new funding will be going towards supporting customer growth, including by ramping up hiring in its offices in London (HQ), Austin and San Francisco. It also wants to expand into more markets. “We’re focusing on some of the world’s biggest global businesses that need support in multiple timezones and geographies so really it’s a global approach,” said a spokesman on that. “Companies adopting the system are large enterprises doing talent at scale, that are innovative in terms of being proactive about recruiting, candidate experience and employer brand,” he added.

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Taiwan-based media startup The News Lens raises Series C for its international growth plans

The News Lens launched in 2013 as an independent news site for Taiwanese readers disenchanted with the country’s tabloid-ridden media. Now it has 9 million monthly unique readers, offices in Taipei and Hong Kong and just announced it has raised a Series C. The Taipei-based startup did not disclose the exact amount of the round, but founder and CEO Joey Chung told TechCrunch it’s between $3 million to $4 million. The round includes participation from Dorcas, Hazel Asset Management, Walden International and returning investor North Base Media. Individual investors in the round include Steve Chen, co-founder and former chief technology officer of YouTube, Twitch co-founder Kevin Lin and Charles Huang, the co-creator of Guitar Hero. At the very beginning, The News Lens was a Facebook page that shared news and analysis before launching its eponymous site with original content and videos. Now the startup envisions its future as a media group, with several brands. Earlier this year, The News Lens acquired two Taiwanese content producers, tech news site Inside and sports site Sports Vision , which still operate as separate brands. The News Lens’ two other verticals are its flagship news site, which now has Chinese-language editions for Taiwan, Hong Kong and Southeast Asia, as well as an English version for international readers, and ELD , which covers lifestyle and fashion. The News Lens will use some of its new capital to launch its in-house content management and data analytics platform and plans to gain more international readers through strategic partnerships or acquisitions of other Chinese-language online media companies.

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Italian grocery delivery service Supermercato24 picks up €13M Series B

Supermercato24 , an Italian same-day grocery delivery service, has raised €13 million in Series B funding. Leading the round is FII Tech Growth, with participation from new investor Endeavor Catalyst, and current investors 360 Capital Partners, and Innogest. Similar to Instacart in the U.S. and claiming to be the leader in Italy, Supermercato24 lets customers order from local supermarkets for delivery. The startup uses gig economy-styled personal shoppers who go into the store and ‘pick’ the products ordered and then deliver them same-day, or for an added cost within an hour. The company charges a delivery fee to consumers, but also generates revenue from fees charged to partnering merchants, and, notably, through advertising. Supermercato24 says it has more than 15 partnerships with merchants, and has more than 50 consumer packaged goods customers (CPGs) advertising on its platform. “Our customers represent that increasing share of the population that would love to spend their time differently rather than doing grocery shopping,” says Supermercato24 CEO Federico Sargenti, who was previously an Amazon Executive and launched the Amazon FMCG Business in Italy and Spain. “Going to the store, pushing a cart through the alleys, queuing up, checking out and lifting heavy grocery shopping bags from the store’s register all the way up to your apartment can take lots of energy and up to 3 hours every week. Plenty of people would prefer to do all of that in a few minutes”. Specifically, Sargenti says that Supermercato24’s customers span “hip youngsters to elderly people, single professionals to parents and working couples,” and that more than 65 percent of customers are women. “Customers have high expectations on their groceries, because they are used to choosing from a wide product range at supermarkets, with competitive prices and qualitative fresh products. Plus, they expect a comfortable, convenient and same-day delivery.

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LOLA just raised $24M for a subscription service that ships tampons, pads and now condoms

LOLA , a subscription service delivering tampons and pads, and now other products, including condoms, lubricant, and feminine cleansing wipes, has closed on $24 million in Series B funding. While the startup touts its products’ “100% organic” nature, it’s also well-received because of the customization offered and its direct-to-consumer nature. The new round of financing was led by private equity firm Alliance Consumer Growth (ACG), with support from existing investors Spark Capital, Lerer Hippeau and Brand Foundry Ventures. To date, LOLA has raised $11.2 million, from investors including also BBG Ventures, 14W, the founders of Warby Parker and Harry’s, Sweetgreen, Bonobos, and Insomnia Cookies. Celebs like  Serena Williams, Karlie Kloss, Lena Dunham, and Allison Williams have also invested. Launched in 2015, LOLA’s founders Alex Friedman and Jordana Kier had the idea to challenge industry giants, like Tampax and Playtex, with a 100% organic product. “We founded LOLA with a simple and seemingly obvious idea – as women, we shouldn’t have to compromise when it comes to our reproductive health,” explains Kier. “Like most women, we’d been using the same feminine care products since we were teenagers. But when we found out that brands – including the same ones we were loyal to all those years – aren’t required to disclose exactly what’s in their products, it made us wonder: what’s in our tampon?” “If we care about everything else we put in our bodies, products for our reproductive health shouldn’t be any different,” she states. LOLA’s tampons, pads and liners are made only with organic cotton, not synthetic fibers, like those used mainstream brands. Nor do they contain fragrances or dyes. The nature of its products appeal to consumers – especially, young millennial women – who are more conscious of the chemicals in their products, as well as those who want to buy organic for the environmental benefits. That said, there’s  a bit of debate over how dangerous (or not) it is to use traditional feminine care products. Skeptics , including some  doctors , insist there’s no threat from conventional products. But even women not concerned with buying organic may find LOLA appealing because of its model.

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CloudNC scores £9M Series A led by Atomico to bring AI to manufacturing

CloudNC , the U.K. startup and Entrepreneur First alumni that is developing AI software to automate part of the manufacturing process, has quietly raised £9 million in Series A funding, TechCrunch has learned. According to sources — and since confirmed by the company — Atomico, the European VC firm founded by Skype’s Niklas Zennström, has led the round. A number of existing investors, including Episode 1 and Entrepreneur First, also participated. We first heard a term sheet had been put on the table as far back as March, and last week the investment finally closed. With the broader aim of using AI to dramatically reduce the time and costs associated with manufacturing, CloudNC is developing software and a cloud computing service that hopes to automate the programming of CNC milling machines. These machines work by carving blocks of solid metal into useful shapes, where a useful shape could be anything from a Macbook body, to bits of a car, to jet engine turbine blades. Unlike 3D printing, this happens in a ‘subtractive’ way; metal is cut out until what is left is the resulting component. The problem is that to instruct a CNC machine to turn a 3D design into a finished part requires it to be fed pre-programmed sequences of machine control commands, which currently is a highly skilled and manual process. You have to instruct the machine not just precisely where and how to cut, but also which of its hundreds of tools to use. Programming a CNC machine can also be time-consuming, taking up to 100 hours for more complicated parts. Related to this manual labour, there’s a second problem CloudNC thinks it can solve, which is the speed of manufacturing itself. That’s because, the startup claims, a human can’t possibly calculate the most efficient way to cut out a block of metal for each bespoke part being manufactured, even though it is currently extremely well-educated guess-work. However, in theory, AI combined with ‘super computing’ in the cloud, can. The result: halving the time needed to manufacture parts and therefore halving the costs (minus the raw material costs, of course)

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“Social selling” startup Meesho lands $11.5M Series B led by Sequoia India

Y Combinator alum Meesho , one of several “social selling” startups gaining speed in India, will add more features to its e-commerce platform after closing a $11.5 million Series B led by Sequoia India. Existing investors SAIF Partners, Y Combinator and Venture Highway also returned for the round, which brings the Bangalore-based startup’s total funding so far to $15 million. Its last round of funding, a $3.4 million Series A, was announced last October . Like social selling competitors including GlowRoad and Zepo, Meesho’s model combines dropshipping from its wholesale partners with a comprehensive suite of e-commerce tools and services. This reduces overhead while making it easy for sellers, who Meesho says includes many housewives, students and retirees, to set up an online business through WhatsApp, Facebook and other social media. Meesho’s tools include an online platform that allows sellers to manage purchases and process payments, as well as a network of wholesale suppliers (its main categories are currently fashion and lifestyle items) and logistics providers. In other words, it offers almost everything its vendors need to start selling online. This leaves vendors responsible for customer acquisition, picking what items they want to include in their online shops and marketing them. This reselling model appeals to small stores, as well as individuals, who want to make more money but don’t want the expense of setting up an e-commerce business from scratch and carrying inventory. Meesho’s rivals include e-commerce startups like GlowRoad, Shopmatic and Zepo, which have also recently raised large funding rounds. All of these companies attract sellers by offering a significant amount of help with order management, payment processing, fulfillment and logistics. In order to differentiate, chief executive officer Vidit Aatrey, who co-founded Meesho in 2015 with Sanjeev Barnwal, its chief technology officer, tells TechCrunch it focuses on product quality, pricing and personalization to help resellers improve their sales and customer service. Meesho claims that more than 800,000 resellers have used its platform and that a “typical” reseller earns between 20,000 to 25,000 rupees per month (about $298 to $373)

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