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Startup Battlefield is coming to the Middle East and North Africa, apply today

TechCrunch is hosting its first startup competition for entrepreneurs across the Middle East and North Africa! We’ve wanted to bring TechCrunch to the region for a long time, and now thanks to our sponsor Facebook , TechCrunch is bringing the Startup Battlefield competition to Beirut on October 3 this year, hosted at the Beirut Digital District (BDD), in the heart of the Lebanese startup scene. We’re looking for the Middle East and North Africa’s best innovators, makers and technical entrepreneurs to participate in TechCrunch Startup Battlefield MENA 2018 . Startups of all kinds shooting for an exit or IPO should apply. TechCrunch will host the event at BDD in Beirut in front of a live audience and top judges, and the show will be covered on TechCrunch. The judges will choose a winner, “The Middle East’s Most Promising Startup,” whose founders will win US$25,000 in no-equity cash plus a paid trip for two to compete in the Startup Battlefield at TechCrunch Disrupt 2019 (assuming the company still qualifies to compete at this time). If you want to throw your hat in the ring  apply today . Science, technology and innovation have deep roots in the Middle East and North Africa, where the world’s first university was founded in Morocco in 859, and the world’s first medical center was founded in Cairo in 972. The startup world is increasingly focused on applications for artificial intelligence, whose algebraic roots date back to ancient Syria and Iraq. Past and present, the region is known for rich cultures producing great works of art, culture and scientific discovery. Today, venture investment and startup ecosystem development are on the rise across the region. Careem, a Middle East unicorn and ride-hailing app, is creating hundreds of thousands of jobs, while training female drivers in Saudi Arabia. Last summer, Amazon acquired Souq.com for $580 million, while regional investors poured a billion dollars into a local competitor, Noon. TechCrunch is eager to take part in covering the Middle East and North Africa’s burgeoning tech sector more fully.

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Startup Grind founders raise $6.4M for community event platform Bevy

The founders of entrepreneurial community Startup Grind have a startup of their own — Bevy , which announced today that it has raised $6.4 million in Series A funding. The funding comes from Upfront Ventures, author Steve Blank, Qualtrics founders Ryan Smith and Jared Smith, and Pluralsight CEO Aaron Skonnard. CEO Derek Andersen (who founded and runs both Bevy and Startup Grind with CTO Joel Fernandes) said that the product was created to deal with Startup Grind’s challenges as the team tried to organize events using a mix of Eventbrite, Meetup and Mailchimp, “It worked fine at first, but a few years later, we looked up and we had hundreds of cities, and we had maybe 500 people that were working on it, and it was too much,” Andersen said. “For the first time in many years, we started to get smaller instead of bigger. We were spending all of this time just running triage and maintenance on the platform.” So in early 2016, the team built its own event management software, with what Andersen said was “no intention of anyone else using it.” But eventually, he realized that other companies were facing similar problems, so he launched Bevy as a separate startup to further develop and commercialize the product. “We really focus on the smaller, community events,” Andersen added. “If you just do a conference, Eventbrite is great — I’ve hosted thousands of events on Eventbirte. But if you want to host five or 10 events a month or jack that number up anywhere above that, and you don’t want to hire 10 people, then that’s really what we’re perfect to do.” Usually, these are events where community members play a big role, or are even doing most of the organizing themselves. So beyond supporting tasks like creating event listings, sending out promotional emails and managing sponsorships, Andersen said one of Bevy’s big differentiators is the ability to precisely control which users are authorized to perform different roles at different events. In addition, Andersen said that with Bevy, companies can create fully branded experiences and get full access to the customer data around their events. Customers include Atlassian, Duolingo, Docker, Evernote and Asana. Andersen also suggested that the company is taking advantage of a broader shift in marketing, where company’s relying more on their own customers and communities. “All the best companies do it today,” he said

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Beat the clock and apply for TC Top Picks at Disrupt SF 2018

Time is running out on one of the best ways for an early-stage startup to experience  Disrupt San Francisco 2018,  September 5-7 at Moscone Center West. We’re designating 60 pre-Series A companies to be a TC Top Pick . If we select your company, you get to experience Disrupt SF in all its techno-glory for free. That’s right, people: F-R-E-E. Applications close on June 29, so get a move on and apply right now . Here’s the low-down on how the TC Top Pick program works. First off, it’s a highly competitive process. The TechCrunch editorial team carefully evaluates every application before selecting the winning startups to represent each of these 12 tech categories: AI, AR/VR, Blockchain, Biotech, Fintech, Gaming, Healthtech, Privacy/Security, Space, Mobility, Retail or Robotics. Each TC Top Pick finalist receives a free Startup Alley Exhibitor Package. The package includes a one-day exhibit space in Startup Alley and three Founder passes (good for all three days of the show). You’ll get to participate in  CrunchMatch  — our investor-to-startup matching platform — to simplify finding and making appointments with potential investors, and you’ll have access to the full event press list. Earning a TC Top Pick designation also gets you a three-minute interview on the Showcase Stage with a TechCrunch editor — and we’ll promote that video across our social media platforms. That’s promotional gold right there, my friend. One of the other fabulous opportunities for any startup exhibiting in Startup Alley (including Top Picks) is the chance to be voted the Startup Battlefield Wildcard by Alley attendees and TechCrunch editors. If that happens, you get to compete for the $100,000 Startup Battlefield prize.

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Showcase your country or state’s startups at Startup Alley

Disrupt SF is just a few months away (September 5-7 at Moscone Center West) and we’re looking for delegations of international startup groups, government innovation centers, incubators and accelerators to organize a country, state or regional pavilion in Startup Alley . Are you ready to step on a world stage, show off your emerging companies and be recognized as a leader in tech innovation? Startup Alley is prime real estate, where hundreds of founders from everywhere in the world — and investors looking to fund them — gather to meet, connect and network. And maybe even produce a unicorn or two. If you want to exhibit in Startup Alley as part of a country, state or region, your delegation startups must meet one requirement only: they must be Pre-Series A startups. If so, shoot our Startup Alley manager, Priya, an email at priya@techcrunch.com . Tell us about your delegation and where you’re from, and we’ll provide more information about the application process. Regions that have participated in previous TechCrunch events include St. Louis, Argentina, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, the Caribbean, Catalonia, the Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Hong Kong, Korea, Japan, Lithuania, Taiwan, Ukraine and Uruguay. We believe that innovation and great ideas know no geographical boundaries, and we strive to increase the diversity within our regional pavilions at every Disrupt . Organize a minimum of eight (8) startups in your region and you’ll receive a discount off each Startup Alley company’s exhibitor package — and you’ll get organizer passes to the event. Plus, if you book your pavilion before July 25, your startups will receive one additional Founder ticket to attend Disrupt SF. Email startupalley@techcrunch.com for more pricing information

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Farmdrop picks up £10M Series B

Farmdrop , the farmer-friendly online grocery platform based in the U.K., has picked up £10 million in new funding. New investors in this Series B round include LGT Impact Ventures (described as a growth equity investor that invests in businesses making a positive contribution to society), and Belltown Ventures, a renewable energy investment specialist with an interest in agricultural technology. Previous backer Atomico also followed on. Founded by ex-city broker Ben Pugh in 2014, Farmdrop originally launched as a ‘click and collect’ service that let you order groceries online from farmer-producers to pick up at a local collection point. However, the company has since pivoted to door-to-door delivery but with the same basic idea of a marketplace that bypasses the mass supermarkets. It claims to give consumers much fresher produce, and farmer-producers a more generous share of the retail price. Large supermarkets are known for squeezing suppliers in a bid to lower prices whilst maintaining their own profits, after all. “The fundamental problem is that the supermarket’s dominance over the last fifty years has put huge amounts of downward pressure on farmgate prices,” Pugh told me when Farmdrop raised its Series A . “In this environment, the only option for producers has been to focus on yields and durability which has led to a big depreciation in the taste and nutritional quality of homegrown foods”. To that end, Farmdrop says it now sells over 2,000 products ranging from high-welfare meat, dairy, fish, organic fruit and veg, plus household supplies and larder items.

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Macy’s acquires minority stake in tech retailer b8ta

Macy’s has partnered with b8ta, the retail-as-a-service startup that originally started as a way to let people try out new tech products. Macy’s has acquired a minority stake in b8ta and will use the startup to enhance The Market, an experiential-based retail concept at Macy’s. By partnering with b8ta, Macy’s envisions being able to scale its Market concept faster, Macy’s president Hal Lawton said in a statement. For b8ta, this is an additional source of revenue. “At b8ta, we believe physical retail will thrive as a platform for discovering new products and brands,” b8ta CEO Vibhu Norby said in a statement. “Macy’s was the best partner for b8ta to scale our pioneering retail-as-a-service model to a breadth of categories like apparel, beauty, home, and more. With b8ta’s software platform and business model, product makers can go from solely selling online to launching their products with Macy’s in a few clicks. Our platform makes it easy for makers to deploy, manage, analyze, and scale amazing offline retail experiences.” Earlier this year, b8ta unveiled a Shopify-like solution for retail stores . Called “ Built by b8ta ,” the solution functions as a retail-as-a-service platform for brands that want a physical presence. b8ta’s software solution includes checkout, inventory, point of sale, inventory management, staff scheduling services and more.  Netgear  was the first customer to launch a Built by b8ta store this June in Silicon Valley’s Santana Row, and b8ta has plans to deploy additional stores for other brands in that area. In April, Norby told me there were a handful of other brands that b8ta would announce soon. This year, b8ta expects anywhere from 10 to 15 companies to launch stores built by b8ta across cosmetics, apparel and furniture.

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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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Why exhibit in Startup Alley at Disrupt SF?

Hey startups! Disrupt SF  is in three months exactly. Registration is open for startups looking to showcase their product or company to thousands of people on the Disrupt floor. Last year, according to Crunchbase, startups that exhibited in Startup Alley at Disrupt SF 2017 raised more than $37 million in seed and Series A funding six months post-Disrupt. For $1,995, you’ll get one full day to exhibit, three full-conference passes to Disrupt SF (if you buy a table before 7/25), and admission to our After Party (as long as you’re over 21). Ready to join us? You can secure your exhibit spot here . What else do you get with your participation in Startup Alley , you might ask? Well, you get access to CrunchMatch , Disrupt’s startup and investor-matching program. It’s designed to make it easy for startups to meet investors based on a curated analysis of which startups fit with a given investor’s profile. In addition to CrunchMatch, Startup Alley companies have the opportunity to be selected as “Wild Card” and participate in the renowned Startup Battlefield competition. Through a combination of attendee votes and TechCrunch editorial votes, one startup will be chosen on each day to participate in Battlefield. At Disrupt NY 2017, RecordGram went from Startup Alley  to Wild Card to winner of the Startup Battlefield competition — and took home $50,000! Over the course of the three-day conference, you’ll make tons of connections with other tech enthusiasts, listen to panels covering topics ranging from artificial intelligence and machine learning to hardware, and more. So, if your company is pre-series A, Startup Alley is the place for you.  Secure your table here before we sell out!

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Scooter startup Bird has authorized sale of $200M in shares in latest funding round

Bird, the scooter startup whose scooters you might have seen fallen over on the sidewalk in a major metro area, has authorized a new $200 million round of funding that could value the startup at around $1 billion post-money, according to a certificate of incorporation filed in Delaware. The latest Bird round has been pretty widely reported, suggesting that the company is raising $150 million at a $1 billion valuation . That, too, comes amid a big effort by competitor Lime to raise a big funding round. These documents indicate that the company has authorized the sale of those shares, though it may not fully fill out the round. The certificate of incorporation document was provided by Lagniappe Labs, creator of the Prime Unicorn Index . The document indicates that Bird has authorized the sale of 31.5 million new shares in its financing round at a value of $6.15 per share, which if fully sold could net the startup as much as $200 million in this round. This round would value the company at just over $1 billion, a new financing round that follows up a $100 million round announced in March . These kinds of rolling rounds are not completely uncommon. Instead of bundling everything together in a single round, startups may sometimes have a process that includes follow-on investment rounds, of which this may be a component. The last funding round in March valued the company at around $300 million. Needless to say, scooters are a hot market right now even if they are facing a lot of friction when it comes to dealing with leaving their scooters everywhere around cities. But running startups that are hardware-focused — especially on-demand ones that have to manage a network of scooters that need to have enough of a charge to get someone from point A to point B, lest they have a bad experience and switch to an alternative — can be an expensive proposition. The hardware component itself, too, can be a tough business.

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Why now is the time to join Startup Alley at Disrupt SF

TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2018 is coming to Moscone West on September 5-7, and this year will be twice as big and better than ever. We’re looking for startups to be a part of our massive menagerie of innovation, Startup Alley . If you’ve never been to a Disrupt, Startup Alley is where hundreds of early-stage companies (which are pre-series A although, we do make some exceptions) showcase their talent and technology to attendees, investors and members of the press. This year, we’re expecting more than 1,200 startups to be in attendance. Plus, we have some contests and giveaways just for those who sign up for a Startup Alley Exhibitor Package — yup, you have a chance to snag some free stuff! Who doesn’t want in on that?! All you have to do is buy a Startup Alley Exhibitor Package for $1,995 , and you might get one (or more!) of these opportunities: All startups who purchase a Startup Alley Exhibitor Package will be entered into a drawing to win 2 VIP Disrupt SF dinner tickets; a rare chance to mingle with TechCrunch editors, investors and other tech enthusiasts One startup from Startup Alley will be selected at random every week leading up to Disrupt SF to be featured on our website and in an email as the “Startup Alley Spotlight of the Week” 25 startups from Startup Alley will be selected at random every month leading up to Disrupt to have a 60-second flash pitch on the Showcase Stage (that’s 75 startups who get to pitch!) These incentives are available for Startup Alley Exhibitor Package purchases right now — remember, all you have to do is buy a table (and you get THREE Founder passes to the full conference if you buy before July 25), and you could walk away from Disrupt with some shiny new connections, exposure and more! But don’t take our word for it — the CEO of Testcard.com, Luke Heron said, “If you’re a startup or an entrepreneur, exhibiting at Disrupt is a no-brainer.” Even Vlad Larin of Zeroqode told us that “TechCrunch Disrupt was a massively positive experience. It gave us the chance to show our technology to the world and have meaningful conversations with investors, accelerators, incubators, solo founders and developers.” So, what are you waiting for? Secure your table today.

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Apply now: Startup Battlefield San Francisco ’18 applications end in less than 2 weeks

Less than two weeks.That’s all that stands between you and your chance to compete in  Startup Battlefield  at  Disrupt San Francisco 2018  on September 5-7. If you think your pre-Series A company has what it takes to go head-to-head against some of the top early-stage startups, both domestic and international, then don’t delay. The application window for this potentially life-altering startup pitch competition slams shut in — you guessed it — less than two weeks. Apply right now . Disrupt SF ’18 is without doubt our largest and most ambitious Disrupt ever. Our new venue, Moscone Center West , provides three times the floor space, offers four unique stages, and we expect more than 10,000 attendees over the course of three program-packed days. Clearly, we needed a Startup Battlefield suitable for an event of this magnitude. So how does a $100,000 equity-free cash prize grab you? That kind of cheddar will go a long way to help you realize your startup dream, but you have to take the first step and apply . Here’s how it all works. Our team of pitch-savvy TechCrunch editors will scrutinize every Startup Battlefield application. As vetting processes go, it’s highly competitive with an acceptance rate somewhere between 3 and 6 percent. We look at the team, the product and the market potential before ultimately selecting 15-30 pre-Series A startups in the final cut. Keep in mind that competing in  Startup Battlefield  doesn’t cost a thing; we don’t charge any fees or take any equity. Remember those pitch-savvy TechCrunch editors

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Saul Klein joins TechCrunch Disrupt Berlin, tickets on sale now

TechCrunch Disrupt is coming back to Berlin this winter , and you can already buy tickets. It will feature technologists, investors, entrepreneurs and media outlets; Startup Alley, where over 400 pre-Series A companies exhibit; Startup Battlefield, our premier startup pitch competition where a curated group of tech’s top early-stage startups will compete for the $50,000 grand prize, the coveted Disrupt Cup and intense media and investor interest. Disrupt Berlin will feature workshops, world-class networking and after-parties. It’s time to place buying Disrupt Berlin tickets at the top of your priority list. Our two-for-one Innovator pass promotion goes live in just 48 hours with a limited number of passes, and it won’t last long. Sign up today . We’re also beginning to announce our first speakers, and we’re delighted that Saul Klein, Founding Partner at Localglobe, will be joining us. Localglobe is a new-ish seed fund focussed on helping London’s great most ambitious founders build game-changing businesses. Previously, Saul was a Partner at Index Ventures from 2007 until May 2015. In 2012 David Cameron appointed Saul to be the UK’s first tech envoy to Israel and a Technology Business Ambassador. Saul is a serial entrepreneur with two decades of experience building and exiting companies in the US, Israel and Europe.

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