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Tag Archives: fundings & exits

Amazon makes offline retail push in India

Amazon unleashed a flurry of new products this week at a U.S. press event , but halfway across the world, it is getting deeper into physical retail in the Indian market. The U.S. e-commerce giant is buying up 49 percent of More in a deal that sees Amazon partner and PE firm Samara Capital pick up the remaining 51 percent. Amazon and Samara have created an entity called Witzig Advisory Services Private Limited which will hold the ownership stake through the deal, which is reportedly worth around $585 million according to Indian media . Regulation prevents Amazon from owning the business entirely, hence it requires a local partner to take a majority stake. The deal is significant because it represents a major move for Amazon in brick and mortar retail in India, which is one of the up-and-coming global markets. It did, of course, jumped into offline sales in the U.S. when it gobbled up Whole Foods for some $16 billion last year  and this India-based acquisition is similarly strategic. Amazon is battling Flipkart for dominance in India’s e-commerce market, which is tipped to grow four-fold to reach $150 billion by 2022, according to a recent report from PWC . The India rival got a huge boost when it was bought by Walmart, Amazon’s chief rival in the U.S, in a $17 billion deal earlier this year.

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Meituan-Dianping’s IPO off to a good start as shares climb 7% on debut

Meituan-Dianping (3690.HK) enjoyed a strong debut today in Hong Kong, a sign that investors are confident in the Tencent-backed company’s prospects despite its cash-burning growth strategy, heavy competition and a sluggish Hong Kong stock market . During morning trading, Meituan’s shares reached a high of HKD$73.85 (about $9.41) , a 7% increase over its initial public offering price of HKD$69. When Meituan reportedly set a target valuation of $55 billion for its debut, it triggered concerns that the company, which bills itself a “one-stop super app” for everything from food delivery to ticket bookings, as overconfident. While Meituan, the owner of Mobile, is the leading online marketplace for services in China, it faces formidable competition from Alibaba’s Ele.me and operating on tight margins and heavy losses as it spends money on marketing and user acquisition costs. As it prepared for its IPO, Meituan was also under the shadow of underwhelming Hong Kong debuts by Xiaomi and China Tower . Like Xiaomi, Meituan is listed under a new dual-class share structure designed to attract tech companies by allowing them to give weighted voting rights to founders. The sponsors of Meituan’s IPO are Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley.

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WHILL raises $45M to help people with disabilities get around airports and other large venues

WHILL , the startup known for creating sleek, high-tech personal mobility devices, announced today that it has closed a $45 million Series C. The funding will be used for expanding into new international markets, as well as developing new products for large venues, including airports and “last-mile” sidewalk transportation. The round’s lead investors were SBI Investment, Daiwa Securities Group and WHIZ Partners, with participation from returning investors INCJ, Eight Road Ventures, MSIVC, Nippon Venture Capital, DG Incubation and Mizuho Capital. This brings WHILL’s total funding so far to about $80 million. Founded in Tokyo in 2012, WHILL plans to open a branch in the European Union and enter 10 new European countries. It also plans to start working with partners on developing autonomous capabilities for its mobility devices, senior marketing manager Jeff Yoshioka told TechCrunch. The company will build its own sensors and cameras to use in its “mobility as a service” program, which allows users to control vehicles and call customer service through a mobile app. One of WHILL’s biggest projects is developing an autonomous personal mobility device system for airports. Yoshioka says that an estimated 20 million people request wheelchairs in U.S. airports each year. This means they need to wait for an airline employee to bring a wheelchair to them and then push them from check-in to their gates. At the same time, it doesn’t give users a lot of flexibility. The system that WHILL has in mind, on the other hand, would allow individuals to use an app to summon a mobility device over to them. Then they can go wherever they want — coffee shops, restrooms, shops — before heading to the gate without an assistant.

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Marc and Lynne Benioff will buy Times magazine from Meredith for $190M

Another tech billionaire will scoop up a major news outlet. Meredith Corporation, which acquired Time Inc. in January, announced today that it has agreed to sell its eponymous magazine to Salesforce.com co-founder Marc Benioff and his wife Lynne Benioff for $190 million in cash. Meredith said in March that it planned to sell Time, Sports Illustrated, Fortune and Money as part of its goal to save $400 million to $500 million over the next two years and increase the profitability of its remaining portfolio of publications. In its announcement today, the company said it will use proceeds from the sale of Times magazine to pay off debt and expects to reduce its debt by $1 billion during fiscal 2019. Meredith’s acquisition of Time Inc. was controversial because it received financial support from Koch Equity Development , the private equity fund run by Charles and David Koch, known for backing conservative causes. The Benioffs, who are on the other side of the spectrum as supporters of progressive politics, are purchasing Time magazine as individuals. In other words, Salesforce.com, where Benioff serves as chairman and co-CEO, and other companies are not involved with the deal. Marc Benioff told the Wall Street Journal that he and his wife will not be involved in Time magazine’s daily operations or editorial decisions and added that “we’re investing in a company with tremendous impact on the world, one that is also an incredibly strong business. That’s what we’re looking for when we invest as a family.” Other tech billionaires who have purchased major publications include Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, who bought the Washington Post in a personal capacity five years ago and Laurene Powell Jobs, whose philanthropic organization, Emerson Collective, acquired a majority stake in The Atlantic last year . (While Jack Ma was a driving force behind Alibaba Group’s acquisition of the South China Morning Post in 2016 , that acquisition was made by the company, not Ma.) Despite being one of the most famous and iconic news brands in the U.S., Times magazine has (like other print publications) struggled to cope with falling circulation and revenue as it invests digital properties

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Drone startup Airware crashes, will shut down after burning $118M

Drone operating system startup Airware today suddenly informed employees it will cease operations immediately despite having raised $118 million from top investors like Andreessen Horowitz, Google’s GV, and Kleiner Perkins. The startup ran out of money after trying to manufacture its own hardware that couldn’t compete with drone giants like China’s DJI. The company at one point had as many as 140 employees, all of which are now out of a job. A source sent TechCrunch screenshots from the Airware alumni Slack channel detailing how the staff was told this morning that Airware would shut down. Airware makes a cloud sofware system that helps enterprise customers like construction companies, mining operations, and insurance companies reviewing equipment for damages to use drones to collect and analyze aerial data. That allowed companies to avoid using expensive helicopters or dangerous rigs with humans on harnesses to make inspections and gauge work progress. One ex-employee asked “How do I get my options sent to me on paper so I can burn them all in a fire? ” Founded in 2011 by Jonathan Downey, the son of two pilots, Airware first built an autopilot system for programming drones to follow certain routes to collect data. It could help businesses check rooftops for damage, see how much of a raw material was coming out of a mine, or build constantly-updated maps of construction sites. Later it tried to build its own drones before pivoting to consult clients on how to most efficiently apply unmanned aerial vehicles. While flying high, Airware launched its own Commercial Drone Fund for investing in the market in 2015, and acquired 38-person drone analytics startup Redbird in 2016. In this pre-crypto, pre-AI boom, Airware scored a ton of hype from us and others as tried to prove drones could be more than war machines . But over time, the software that shipped with commercial drone hardware from other manufacturers was good enough to make Airware irrelevant, and a downward spiral of layoffs began over the past two years, culminating in today’s shutdown.

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Drone startup Airware crashes, shut downs after burning $118M

Drone operating system startup Airware today suddenly informed employees it will cease operations immediately despite having raised $118 million from top investors like Andreessen Horowitz, Google’s GV, and Kleiner Perkins. The startup ran out of money after trying to manufacture its own hardware that couldn’t compete with drone giants like China’s DJI. The company at one point had as many as 140 employees, all of which are now out of a job. A source sent TechCrunch screenshots from the Airware alumni Slack channel detailing how the staff was told this morning that Airware would shut down. Airware makes a cloud sofware system that helps enterprise customers like construction companies, mining operations, and insurance companies reviewing equipment for damages to use drones to collect and analyze aerial data. That allowed companies to avoid using expensive helicopters or dangerous rigs with humans on harnesses to make inspections and gauge work progress. One ex-employee asked “How do I get my options sent to me on paper so I can burn them all in a fire? ” Founded in 2011 by Jonathan Downey, the son of two pilots, Airware first built an autopilot system for programming drones to follow certain routes to collect data. It could help businesses check rooftops for damage, see how much of a raw material was coming out of a mine, or build constantly-updated maps of construction sites. Later it tried to build its own drones before pivoting to consult clients on how to most efficiently apply unmanned aerial vehicles. While flying high, Airware launched its own Commercial Drone Fund for investing in the market in 2015, and acquired 38-person drone analytics startup Redbird in 2016. In this pre-crypto, pre-AI boom, Airware scored a ton of hype from us and others as tried to prove drones could be more than war machines . But over time, the software that shipped with commercial drone hardware from other manufacturers was good enough to make Airware irrelevant, and a downward spiral of layoffs began over the past two years, culminating in today’s shutdown. Demonstating how sudden the shut down is, Airware opened a Tokyo headquarters alongside an investment and partnership from Mitsubishi just four days ago. “Airware was ahead of the game trying to build their software.

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Golden Gate Ventures closes new $100M fund for Southeast Asia

Singapore’s Golden Gate Ventures has announced the close of its newest (and third) fund for Southeast Asia at a total of $100 million. The fund hit a first close in the summer, as TechCrunch reported at the time , and now it has reached full capacity. Seven-year-old Golden Gate said its LPs include existing backers Singapore sovereign fund Temasek, Korea’s Hanwha, Naver — the owner of messaging app Line — and EE Capital. Investors backing the firm for the first time through this fund include Mistletoe — the fund from Taizo Son, brother of SoftBank founder Masayoshi Son — Mitsui Fudosan, IDO Investments, CTBC Group, Korea Venture Investment Corporation (KVIC), and Ion Pacific. Golden Gate was founded by former Silicon Valley-based trio Vinnie Lauria, Jeffrey Paine and Paul Bragiel . It has investments across five markets in Southeast Asia — with a particular focus on Indonesia and Singapore — and that portfolio includes Singapore’s Carousell , automotive marketplace Carro , P2P lending startup Funding Societies , payment enabler Omise and health tech startup  Alodokter .  Golden Gate’s previous fund was $60 million  and it closed in 2016. Some of the firm’s exits so far include  the sale of Redmart to Lazada  (although not a blockbuster),  Priceline’s acquisition of Woomoo ,  Line’s acquisition of Temanjalan  and  the sale of Mapan (formerly Ruma) to Go-Jek . It claims that its first two funds have had distributions of cash (DPI) of 1.56x and 0.13x, and IRRs of 48 percent and 29 percent, respectively. “When I compare the tech ecosystem of Southeast Asia (SEA) to other markets, it’s really hit an inflection point — annual investment is now measured in the billions. That puts SEA on a global stage with the US, China, and India. Yet there is a youthfulness that reminds me of Silicon Valley circa 2005, shortly before social media and the iPhone took off,” Lauria said in a statement.

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Economist Tyler Cowen launches a fellowship and grant program for moon shot ideas

Tyler Cowen, who I interviewed here , is a fascinating economist. Part pragmatist and part dreamer, he has been researching and writing about the future for a long time in books and his blog, Marginal Revolution . Now he and his university, George Mason, are putting some money where his mouth is. Cowen and the team at GMU are working on Emergent Ventures , a fellowship and grant program for moon shots. The goal is to give people with big ideas a little capital to help them build out their dreams. “It has long been my view that risk-takers are not sufficiently rewarded in the world of ideas and that academic incentives are too conservative,” he said. “The intellectual scene should learn something from Silicon Valley and venture capital.” Cowen is raising $4 million for the first fund. He announced the fund in a podcast on the Mercatus website . “People such as Satoshi and Jordan Peterson have had huge impacts (regardless of one’s degree of enthusiasm for their ideas), and yet in terms of philanthropic funding the world just isn’t geared to seed their ambitions,” said Cowen. The project is part of the GMU Mercatus Center, a “source for market-oriented ideas—bridging the gap between academic ideas and real-world problems.” The fund has just opened applications and the amounts granted depend on the project and creator. Cowen, for his part, his optimistic about the prospects of the future-focused fund. “I expect to produce a better and freer world, some degree of human self-realization, a better climate for public intellectuals and other creators of ideas, more innovation, and to bring the intellectual side of America more in touch with the entrepreneurial side,” said Cowen.

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Walmart to acquire Mexico & Chile-focused grocery delivery service Cornershop for $225M

Walmart is ramping up its grocery delivery business on the international stage with today’s announcement that it has acquired the crowdsourced, on-demand delivery marketplace Cornershop for $225 million. The rapidly growing service offers on-demand delivery from supermarkets, pharmacies and specialty food retailers in Mexico and Chile, which will continue following the deal’s close, Walmart says. Founded in 2015, Cornershop last year raised $21 million in a round led by Accel, according to Crunchbase, in order to expand its service in Latin America. At the time, CEO Oskar Hjertonsson credited Instacart’s success in the U.S. as inspiring enthusiasm for grocery delivery in other international markets, as well, saying ” I think Instacart can build a profitable business in the US, as can we down here.” To date, it has raised $31.7 million, Crunchbase says. Other investors include ALLVP, Creandum, NMT Network, Jackson Square Ventures, and Endeavour Catalyst. Similar to Instacart, Cornershop works with contractors who visit the stores to shop then deliver customers’ orders. However, it also lets you order from several stores – like grocers, speciality wine or meat shops, and others – in one order. The service has been expanding its reach a fast pace, Walmart’s announcement points out. Over the past 12 months, it has seen the number of unique customers double. Cornershop’s three founders, including CEO Oskar Hjertonsson; COO Daniel Undurraga, and CTO Juan Pablo Cuevas, and their teams, will continue to run the business following Walmart’s acquisition. “We are focused on making life easier for customers and associates by building strong local businesses, powered by Walmart,” said Judith McKenna, president and CEO of Walmart International, in a statement. “Cornershop’s digital expertise, technology and capabilities will strengthen our successful businesses in Mexico and Chile and provide learning for other markets in which we operate. This is an opportunity to leverage both of our brands, as well as Walmart’s strong supply chain and store network. Combining Cornershop’s innovative, crowdsourced delivery platform with Walmart’s unique assets will allow us to accelerate growth for both companies, delighting our customers by saving them both time and money.

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Integrate.ai pulls in $30M to help businesses make better customer-centric decisions

Helping businesses bring more firepower to the fight against AI-fuelled disruptors is the name of the game for Integrate.ai , a Canadian startup that’s announcing a $30M Series A today. The round is led by Portag3 Ventures . Other VCs include Georgian Partners, Real Ventures, plus other (unnamed) individual investors also participating. The funding will be used for a big push in the U.S. market. Integrate.ai’s early focus has been on retail banking, retail and telcos, says founder Steve Irvine, along with some startups which have data but aren’t necessarily awash with AI expertise to throw at it. (Not least because tech giants continue to hoover up talent.) Its SaaS platform targets consumer-centric businesses — offering to plug paying customers into a range of AI technologies and techniques to optimize their decision-making so they can respond more savvily to their customers. Aka turning “high volume consumer funnels” into “flywheels”, if that’s a mental image that works for you. In short it’s selling AI pattern spotting insights as a service via a “cloud-based AI intelligence platform” — helping businesses move from “largely rules-based decisioning” to “more machine learning-based decisioning boosted by this trusted signals exchange of data”, as he puts it. Irvine gives the example of a large insurance aggregator the startup is working with to optimize the distribution of gift cards and incentive discounts to potential customers — with the aim of maximizing conversions. “Obviously they’ve got a finite amount of budget for those — they need to find a way to be able to best deploy those… And the challenge that they have is they don’t have a lot of information on people as they start through this funnel — and so they have what is a classic ‘cold start’ problem in machine learning. And they have a tough time allocating those resources most effectively.” “One of the things that we’ve been able to help them with is to, essentially, find the likelihood of those people to be able to convert earlier by being able to bring in some interesting new signal for them,” he continues. “Which allows them to not focus a lot of their revenue or a lot of those incentives on people who either have a low likelihood of conversion or are most likely to convert.

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Confrere, the video calling service for professionals and clients, raises $1.5M seed

Confrere , a video calling service designed specifically for professionals who need to hold online consultations or meeting with clients, has raised $1.5 million in seed funding. Leading the round is Berlin’s Point Nine Capital, with participation from Nordic Makers, The Nordic Web Ventures, and Fathom Capital. A number of angel investors also took part in the round, including Albert Armengo (the founder of Doctoralia, sold to Docplanner ), as well as a number of physicians who are users of the product. Notably, Confrere was co-founded by CEO Svein Yngvar Willassen, who previously founded and headed up appear.in , another video calling service but one designed for team collaboration. The startup’s other co-founders are CTO Dag-Inge Aas and CPO Ida Aalen. “I knew from my time with appear.in that meetings between professionals and their clients were a different use case than team meetings,” Yngvar Willassen tells me. “Appear.in and other current video tools do not serve that use case well. I found that it would probably be better to make a new service for this”. That’s because a typical professional receives many client calls after another, and this also makes it awkward to use typical room-based systems like Zoom or appear.in. “In addition, of course, needing to download and install an application is out of the question. It needs to run in the browser, also on mobile phones,” says the Confrere CEO.

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Chinese Tesla rival Nio trims IPO target: now aims to raise up to $1.5B

The U.S. IPO window may be wide open for Chinese tech firms, but electric vehicle maker Nio has conservatively cut the target for its NYSE listing to $1.5 billion after it released a price range for its shares. The company plans to sell 184 million shares between $6.25-$8.25. That range would yield a total raise of $1.518 billion, which is down from the initial target of $1.8 billion from the firm’s first filing in August . The range is, of course, subject to change and it doesn’t include income from the green shoe option — which allows underwriters to take an additional allocation of shares — but nevertheless, it is a notable development. Nio also revealed in its newest filing that its existing investors have committed to investing $250 million into the IPO which, at the middle of the range, would account for 22 percent of the allocation. There are plenty of possible explanation as to why Nio has cut its overall fundraise estimate. The most fundamental may be around sales. The company has only just begun to generate revenue. It  opened sales for its ES8 vehicle last year  but it only began shipping in June. So, thus far, it has fulfilled just 481 orders but it does claims that there are 17,000 customers who reserved a model and are waiting in the wings to purchase it

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TiDB developer PingCAP wants to expand in North America after raising $50M Series C

PingCAP co-founder and CEO Max Liu PingCAP , the company behind MySQL-compatible distributed database TiDB, said today that it plans its global operations after raising a $50 million Series C. The round was led by Chinese venture capital firms Fosun and Morningside Venture Capital, with participation from returning investors including China Growth Capital, Yunqi Partners and Matrix Partners. Based in Beijing, the company says it will also use the new capital to build more cross-cloud products. PingCAP is focusing on the North American market since it is the most mature cloud market, said Kevin Xu, the company’s general manager of U.S. strategy and operations, in an email. Founded in 2015 by Dylan Cui, Edward Huang and Max Liu, PingCAP has raised about $72 million so far, including its $15 million Series B announced in June 2017 . TiDB is an open-source hybrid transactional and analytical database targeted at companies that need to handle large volumes of data and plan to scale up quickly, but still want to be able to use the same database. Many of its users come from the financial, e-commerce, gaming and travel industries and currently include Mobike, Bank of Beijing, Hulu, Lenovo and Ele.me. In terms of other distributed databases, TiDB is often compared to CockroachDB and FoundationDB. Xu says one of the main things that differentiatese TiDB from CockroachDB is its ability to handle hybrid transactional and analytical processing workloads at scale, in addition online transaction processing. It is also MySQL compatible, while CockroachDB is PostgreSQL compatible. He adds that FoundationDB is more comparable to TiKV, the key-value storage layer developed by PingCAP that recently became a Cloud Native Computing Foundation project, because FoundationDB is not a relational database like TiDB with a SQL interface. In a press statement, Morningside Venture Capital managing director Richard Liu said “The database industry has always been a competitive arena, and PingCAP has secured a prominent spot in this crowded field by becoming the go-to solution for many large-scale Internet companies and financial services enterprises in China. Thus, we are glad to grow with PingCAP and continue building the TiDB ecosystem together.”

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Zendesk expands into CRM with Base acquisition

Zendesk has mostly confined itself to customer service scenarios, but it seems that’s not enough anymore. If you want to truly know the customer behind the interaction, you need a customer system of record to go with the customer service component. To fill that need, Zendesk announced it was acquiring Base , a startup that has raised over $50 million. The companies did not share the purchase price, but Zendesk did report that the acquisition should not have a significant impact on revenue. While Base might not be as well known as Salesforce, Microsoft or Oracle in the CRM game, it has created a sophisticated sales force automation platform, complete with its own artificial intelligence underpinnings. CEO Uzi Shmilovici claimed his company’s AI could compete with its more well-heeled competitors when it was released in 2016 to provide salespeople with meaningful prescriptive advice on how to be more successful. Zendesk CEO Mikkel Svane certainly sees the value of adding a company like Base to his platform. “We want to do for sales what Zendesk has already done for customer service: give salespeople tools built around them and the customers they serve,” he said in a statement. If the core of customer data includes customer service, CRM and marketing, Base gives Zendesk one more of those missing components, says Brent Leary, owner at CRM Essentials, a firm that keeps close watch on this market. “Zendesk has a great position in customer service, but now to strengthen their position with midmarket/enterprise customers looking for integrated platforms, Base adds a strong mobile sales force automation piece to their puzzle,” Leary told TechCrunch. As he points out, we have seen HubSpot make a similar move with HubSpot Apps, while SugarCRM, which was recently sold to Accel-KKR , could be shopping too, with its new owner’s deeper pockets.

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Perlego raises $4.8M for its ‘Spotify for textbooks’

Perlego , which has been dubbed the ‘Spotify for textbooks,’ has closed $4.8 million in finding. Leading the round is ADV, with participation from existing angel investors, including Simon Franks (co-founder of Lovefilm), Alex Chesterman (founder of Zoopla), and Peter Hinssen. Founded by Gauthier Van Malderen and Matthew Davis, Perlego provides students and professionals unlimited access to hundreds of thousands of academic and professional eBook titles for £12 a month. To be able to do this, it works with 650 publishers, including big names like Oxford University Press, Princeton University Press, Macmillan Higher Education, and Cengage Learning. Publishers receive 65 percent of each subscription on a consumption basis. “Textbook prices have increased more than fifteen-fold since 1970, or three times the rate of inflation,” Perlego co-founder and CEO Van Malderen tells TechCrunch. “In the U.K., the average university student spends £439 a year on textbooks. This is only exacerbating the cost of higher education and the debt burden on students, which is set to rise again this year in the U.K.”. In turn, Perlego says it helps publishers monetise their content to a large segment of price-sensitive students that would otherwise buy their books from the used-books market or download pirated copies. It also supplies publishers with detailed data on the consumption of titles. “We are true subscription model,” adds Van Malderen. “For £12 per month you get unlimited access to the best textbooks. We do not operate a complex leasing model and publishers benefit through data collection, reduced piracy, no cannibalization from second-hand print sales”. Meanwhile, Perlego says it will use the new funding to grow the team and support the company’s growth across the U.K. and Europe

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