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Tag Archives: startups

ISAI closes new $175 million fund

French venture capital firm ISAI just raised a new $175 million fund (€150 million) called ISAI Expansion II. This fund is designed for later stage investments. The firm says that it managed to raise this fund in less than three months. This is a growth fund and the team plans to invest between $6 million and $35 million per deal (between €5 million and €30 million). ISAI first started with a seed fund back in 2010. The company raised a $41 million fund (€35 million) and invested in BlaBlaCar shortly after that. The firm has raised a growth fund and another seed fund since then. If you include today’s new fund, ISAI has raised over $350 million in total (€300 million). So ISAI Expansion II is by far the biggest fund to date. Limited partners include dozens of successful tech entrepreneurs as well as institutional partners. Many existing investors invested once again in ISAI’s new fund.

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Starling CEO Anne Boden is coming to Disrupt Berlin

The European fintech wave can’t stop and won’t stop. That’s why I’m excited to announce that the founder and CEO of Starling Bank Anne Boden is joining us at Disrupt Berlin . While it feels like everybody is talking about challenger banks, Boden started thinking about building a new bank back in 2014. She ditched a carrer in traditional banks to start her own thing. Starling provides a current account specifically designed for your phone. You can open an account in just a few minutes using the company’s mobile app. Whenever you use your card or send money, you can instantly see the transaction in the app — there’s no delay. You can also receive push notifications instantly. When it comes to your card, you can lock it when you can’t find it, and there’s no exchange fee when you use your card abroad. Starling supports Apple Pay, Google Pay, Samsung Pay, Fitbit Pay and, yes, even Garmin Pay.

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Facebook confirms that it’s acquiring Bloomsbury AI

Facebook announced this morning that the London-based team at Bloomsbury AI will be joining the company. My colleague Steve O’Hear broke the news about the acquisition , reporting that Facebook would deploy the team and technology to assist in its efforts to fight fake news and address other content issues. In fact, Bloomsbury AI co-founder and Head of Research Sebastian Riedel also co-founded Factmata, a startup that purports to have developed tools to help brands combat fake news. Facebook doesn’t quite put it that way in the announcement post. Instead, it says the team’s “expertise will strengthen Facebook’s efforts in natural language processing research, and help us further understand natural language and its applications” — but it certainly seems possible that those applications could include detecting misinformation and other problematic content. While financial terms were not disclosed, we reported that Facebook is paying between $23 and $30 million. Bloomsbury AI is an alumnus of Entrepreneur First, and it was also backed by Fly.VC, Seedcamp, IQ Capital, UCL Technology Fund and the U.K. taxpayer-funded London Co-investment Fund.

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All charges against ex-Vungle CEO Zain Jaffer, including lewd act on a child, dismissed by judge

All charges against former Vungle CEO Zain Jaffer, including a sexual abuse of a child, have been dropped. According to a statement from Jaffer’s representatives, San Mateo County Judge Stephanie Garratt dismissed the charges today. Jaffer was arrested last October and charged with several serious offenses, including a lewd act on one of his children, child abuse and battery on a police officer. The dismissal is confirmed by San Mateo County Superior Court’s online records. The case (number 17NF012415A) had been scheduled to go to jury trial in late August. Jaffer, whose full name is Zainali Jaffer, said in a statement that: Being wrongfully accused of these crimes has been a terrible experience, which has had a deep and lasting impact on my family and the employees of my business. Those closest to me knew I was innocent and were confident that all of the charges against me would eventually be dismissed. I want to thank the San Mateo County District Attorney’s Office for carefully reviewing and considering all of the information and evidence in this case and dropping all the charges. I am also incredibly grateful for the continued and unwavering support of my wife and family, and look forward to spending some quality time with them. Vungle, the fast-rising mobile ad startup Jaffer co-founded in 2011, removed him from the company immediately after they learned about the charges in October. TechCrunch has contacted Vungle and the San Mateo County District Attorney’s Office for comment.

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Anthony Levandowski is back with a new self-driving startup, called Kache.ai

This is a comeback story. Or at least the first chapter to one. Anthony Levandowski, the former Google engineer and serial entrepreneur who was at the center of a trade secrets lawsuit between Uber and Waymo, is back. And he is connected to an autonomous trucking company that is still in stealth mode, TechCrunch has learned. The company, called Kache.ai (pronounced like cache), has kept a low profile since paperwork registering it as a corporation was first filed with the California Secretary of State nearly seven months ago. And at first glance, there’s no indication that Levandowski is even tied to the company. Corporation documents, filed with the state, list a “Thomas S. Lee Jr.” as its president. A search on LinkedIn showed Lee, a software developer whose previous experience includes co-founding two San Diego-based companies, as president of Kache.ai. Since reaching out to Kache.ai, all references of the company have been removed from LinkedIn. However, the address listed on the corporation’s state filing tells a different story. Kache.ai’s documents filed with the state lists an address in St. Helena, Calif

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Original Stitch’s new Bodygram will measure your body

After years of teasing, Original Stitch has officially launched their Bodygram service and will be rolling it out this summer. The system can scan your body based on front and side photos and will create custom shirts with your precise measurements. “Bodygram gives you full body measurements as accurate as taken by professional tailors from just two photos on your phone. Simply take a front photo and a side photo and upload to our cloud and you will receive a push notification within minutes when your Bodygram sizing report is ready,” said CEO Jin Koh. “In the sizing report you will find your full body measurements including neck, sleeve, shoulder, chest, waist, hip, etc. Bodygram is capable of producing sizing result within 99 percent accuracy compared to professional human tailors.” gallery ids="1666969,1666970,1666971,1666972,1666973,1666974" The technology is a clever solution to the biggest problem in custom clothing: fit. While it’s great to find a service that will tailor your clothing based on your measurements, often these measurements are slightly off and can affect the cut of the shirt or pants. Right now, Koh said, his team offers free returns if the custom shirts don’t fit. Further, the technology is brand new and avoids many of the pitfalls of the original body-scanning tech. For example, Bodygram doesn’t require you to get into a Spandex onesie like most systems do and it can capture 40 measurements with only two full-body photos. “Bodygram is the first sizing technology that works on your phone capable of giving you highly accurate sizing result from just two photos with you wearing normal clothing on any background,” said Koh. “Legacy technologies on the market today require you to wear a very tight-fitting spandex suit, take 360 photos of you and require a plain background to work.

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Announcing TechCrunch’s Startup Battlefield Latin America in São Paulo on Nov. 8

TechCrunch is excited to announce that the Startup Battlefield Latin America is coming to São Paulo on November 8 this year. This is the first event TechCrunch has ever held in Latin America, and we are all in to make it a memorable one to support the fast-emerging startup ecosystem in the region. The Startup Battlefield is TechCrunch’s premier startup competition, which over the past 12 years has placed 750 companies on stage to pitch top VCs and TechCrunch editors. Those founders have gone on to raise more than $8 billion and produce more than 100 exits. Startup Battlefield Latin America aims to add 15 great founders from Latin America to those elite ranks. Here’s how the competition works. Founders may apply now  to participate in Startup Battlefield. Any early stage (pre-A round) company with a working product headquartered in an eligible Latin American country (see list below) may apply. Applications close August 6. TechCrunch editors will review the applications and, based on which applicants have the strongest potential for a big exit of major societal impact, pick 15 to compete on November 8. TechCrunch’s Startup Battlefield team will work intensively with each founding team to hone their six-minute pitch to perfection. Then it’s game day. The 15 companies will take the stage at São Paulo’s Tomie Ohtake Institute in front of a live audience of 500 people to pitch top-tier VC judges.

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Leena AI builds HR chatbots to answer policy questions automatically

Say you have a job with a large company and you want to know how much vacation time you have left, or how to add your new baby to your healthcare. This usually involves emailing or calling HR and waiting for an answer, or it could even involve crossing multiple systems to get what you need. Leena AI , a member of the Y Combinator Summer 2018 class, wants to change that by building HR bots to answer questions for employees instantly. The bots can be integrated into Slack or Workplace by Facebook and they are built and trained using information in policy documents and by pulling data from various back-end systems like Oracle and SAP. Adit Jain, co-founder at Leena AI, says the company has its roots in another startup called Chatteron, which the founders started after they got out of college in India in 2015. That product helped people build their own chatbots. Jain says along the way, they discovered while doing their market research a particularly strong need in HR. They started Leena AI last year to address that specific requirement. Jain says when building bots, the team learned through its experience with Chatteron that it’s better to concentrate on a single subject because the underlying machine learning model gets better the more it’s used. “Once you create a bot, for it to really add value and be extremely accurate, and for it to really go deep, it takes a lot of time and effort and that can only happen through verticalization,” Jain explained. Photo: Leena AI What’s more, as the founders have become more knowledgeable about the needs of HR, they have learned that 80 percent of the questions cover similar topics, like vacation, sick time and expense reporting. They have also seen companies using similar back-end systems, so they can now build standard integrators for common applications like SAP, Oracle and NetSuite. Of course, even though people may ask similar questions, the company may have unique terminology or people may ask the question in an unusual way

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Hellman & Friedman acquires controlling interest in SimpliSafe

SimpliSafe , the company behind the well-received SimpliSafe home security service , today announced that Hellman & Friedman , the massive venture fund and private equity firm, has taken a controlling interest in the company. While the two companies didn’t disclose the terms of the transaction, sources close to SimpliSafe tell us that the deal valued the company at about $1 billion. Hellman & Friedman also currently own a number of other brands. ranging from Grocery Outlet to insurance software specialist Applied Systems (and which owned companies like Getty Images, Scout24 and others in the past ). Ahead of today’s announcement, SimpliSafe had raised about $57 million, mostly thanks to a funding round led by Sequoia Capital in 2014 . The deal is expected to close in the third quarter of 2018, “subject to the waiting period under the HSR Act and other customary closing conditions.” There will be no changes in the company’s leadership due to this acquisition. Hellman & Friedman have made a number of deals in the past that involved investments, acquisition and acquiring the controlling interest (sometimes as part of a syndicate) in companies like DoubleClick, Nielsen, Nasdaq, OpenLink and others. Today’s deal fits the group’s overall pattern of acquiring similar companies and then selling them for a profit at a later time — or guiding them to an IPO. For SimpliSafe, the news comes on the heels of the launch of its updated hardware platform in February. But it also comes shortly after Amazon closed its acquisition of Ring , which not also offers its own security system , and the launch of Nest’s home security system . SimpliSafe says it currently protects over two million people, but while there are now more players in the market, this is also still a market with plenty of growth potential.  “Home security is at an inflection point. Despite the market’s growth, today still only 20% of homes are protected,” notes SimpliSafe CEO Chad Laurans in today’s announcement.

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Bird has officially raised a whopping $300M as the scooter wars heat up

And there we have it: Bird, one of the emerging massively hyped Scooter startups, has roped in its next pile of funding by picking up another $300 million in a round led by Sequoia Capital. The company announced the long-anticipated round this morning, with Sequoia’s Roelof Botha joining the company’s board of directors. This is the second round of funding that Bird has raised over the span of a few months, sending it from a reported $1 billion valuation in May to a $2 billion valuation by the end of June. In March, the company had a $300 million valuation , but the Scooter hype train has officially hit a pretty impressive inflection point as investors pile on to get money into what many consider to be the next iteration of resolving transportation at an even more granular level than cars or bikes. New investors in the round include  Accel, B Capital, CRV, Sound Ventures, Greycroft and e.ventures; previous investors  Craft Ventures, Index Ventures, Valor, Goldcrest, Tusk Ventures and Upfront Ventures are also in the round. (So, basically everyone else who isn’t in competitor Lime .) Scooter mania has captured the hearts of Silicon Valley and investors in general — including Paige Craig, who actually jumped from VC to join Bird as its VP of business  — with a large amount of capital flowing into the area about as quickly as it possibly can. These sort of revolving-door fundraising processes are not entirely uncommon, especially for very hot areas of investment, though the scooter scene has exploded considerably faster than most. Bird’s round comes amid reports of a mega-round for Lime , one of its competitors, with the company reportedly raising another $250 million led by GV, and Skip also raising $25 million . “We have met with over 20 companies focused on the last-mile problem over the years and feel this is a multi-billion dollar opportunity that can have a big impact in the world,” CRV’s Saar Gur, who did the deal for the firm, said. “We have a ton of conviction that this team has original product thought (they created the space) and the execution chops to build something extremely valuable here. And we have been long-term focused, not short-term focused, in making the investment. The ‘hype’ in our decision (the non-zero answer) is that  Bird  has built the best product in the market and while we kept meeting with more startups wanting to invest in the space — we kept coming back to  Bird  as the best company. So in that sense, the hype from consumers is real and was a part of the decision. On unit economics: We view the first product as an MVP (as the company is less than a year old) — and while the unit economics are encouraging, they played a part of the investment decision but we know it is not even the first inning in this market.” There’s certainly an argument to be made for Bird, whose scooters you’ll see pretty much all over the place in cities like Los Angeles

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New York’s RRE Ventures raises $265M for its new fund

RRE Ventures has raised $265 million for its latest fund. The firm was founded back in 1994, and this is its seventh fund (eighth if you include a separate “opportunity” fund for making follow-on investments). Exits in the last few years include Bitly ( acquired by Spectrum Equity ), Business Insider ( acquired by Axel Springer ) and TapCommerce ( acquired by Twitter ). General Partner Raju Rishi said that RRE will continue to follow its current investment strategy. That means putting about 60 percent of its money into Series A investments, 5 to 10 percent into seed deals and the rest in B or C rounds. It also means investing making about half its investments on the East Coast — mostly New York City, where RRE is based. Rishi suggested that with the growth of “a very virtualized tech community of developer from around the world,” New York makes more sense for startups, thanks to the density of industries like media and fashion: “The ecosystem question has become, ‘Where can I be closest to my customer?'” RRE invests beyond New York too. In those cases, Rishi said it’s usually based on specific sectors that the investment team has researched deeply. Currently, those sectors include healthcare IT, space technology, blockchain, robotics, virtual reality and augmented reality. In contrast, there are some other sectors that RRE sees as “a little bit waning.” “A great example is, we made the initial investment in 3D printing — we were the original investors in MakerBot,” Rishi said. “Now, we don’t see a striking amount of innovation that space. That doesn’t mean we cut it off at the knees and not invest in it, but it’s not something we’re actively looking at.” Vice President of Business Development Maria Palma added that the firm has also been growing its platform strategy to support portfolio companies in the last couple years. “You can’t pick a platform strategy that’s unique, but you can pick a platform strategy that your firm can uniquely execute,” she said.

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BigID scores $30 million Series B months after closing A round

BigID announced a big $30 million Series B round today, which comes on the heels of closing their $14M A investment in January. It’s been a whirlwind year for the NYC data security startup as GDPR kicked in and companies came calling for their products. The round was led by Scale Venture Partners with participation from previous investors ClearSky Security, Comcast Ventures, Boldstart Ventures, Information Venture Partners and SAP.io. BigID has a product that helps companies inventory their data, even extremely large data stores, and identify the most sensitive information, a convenient feature at a time where GDPR data privacy rules , which went into effect at the end of May, require that companies doing business in the EU have a grip on their customer data. That’s certainly something that caught the eye of Ariel Tseitlin from Scale Venture Partners. “We talked to a lot of companies, how they feel more specifically about about GDPR, and more broadly about how they think about data within in their organizations, and we got a very strong signal that there is a lot of concern around the regulation and how to prepare for that, but also more fundamentally, that CIOs and chief data officers don’t have a good sense of where data resides within their their organizations,” he explained. Dimitri Sirota, CEO and co-founder, says that GDPR is a nice business driver, but he sees the potential to grow the data security market much more broadly than simply as a way to comply with one regulatory ruling or another. He says that American companies are calling, even some without operations in Europe because they see getting a grip on their customer data as a fundamental business imperative. BigID product collage. Graphic: BigID The company plans to expand their partner go-to market strategy in the coming the months, another approach that could translate to increased sales. That will include global systems integrators

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Tact $27M Series C attracts Amazon, Microsoft and Salesforce

It’s not often you can get three cloud giants like Amazon, Microsoft and Salesforce to agree on much of anything, but today they were all part of a $27 million Series C investment in Tact.ai , a startup that has been trying to change the way sales people interact with information in CRM systems using voice. Amazon Alexa Fund, Salesforce Ventures and M12 (formerly Microsoft Ventures) joined Comcast Ventures as strategic investors in the company this round. Traditional VCs Accel Partners, Redpoint Ventures and Upfront Ventures also participated. Tact has now raised over $53 million, according to Crunchbase. Amazon is of course deeply invested in voice interfaces and has recognized what Tact is trying to do in an enterprise setting with this investment. In fact, Tact was one of the first services to launch as part of  Alexa for Business  last fall. “Just as people were quick to adopt voice technology in the home, we see an enormous opportunity for voice services in the enterprise,” Paul Bernard, Director of the Amazon Alexa Fund said. He sees Tact on the forefront of that movement. As though to prove Amazon’s point, the company also announced a product enhancement to improve the voice experience in the car. The feature dubbed ‘Voice Intelligence’ acts like a car-based virtual assistant. Sales people spend much of their time in the car, and the tool can not only give them the basics about the next meeting, it can also provide details about the deal and other relevant information, such as recently filed service tickets. All of this info can arm the salesperson for a potentially more effective meeting, Tact CEO Chuck Ganapathi explained. “We want sales professionals who are on the road, keeping their eyes on the road ahead, so we are pushing information to them and initiating a conversation, which is exactly what a human assistant would do,” he said. Ganapathi understands the limitations of CRM tools perhaps better than anyone. That’s because before he started Tact, he had been helping build them for more than 20 years — first custom systems with Ernst and Young, then on prem with Siebel Systems and finally with Salesforce in the cloud

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Fintech friends: Monzo partners with TransferWise for international payments

“So what’s going on here then?” I ask. “Two good friends just got even better friends,” replies TransferWise co-founder Kristo Käärmann laughing, while Monzo co-founder Tom Blomfield, who is also on the video call, smiles approvingly. “Sorry for spoiling your news,” I tell the pair, who I’m interviewing ahead of an announcement today that the two companies are working together. The partnership, which TechCrunch outed nearly three weeks ago , will see TransferWise power international payments for the U.K. challenger bank’s 750,000 customers. It is the second new bank partnership that the fintech unicorn has unveiled this month, after announcing that it has begun working with France’s second largest bank BPCE Groupe. TransferWise also powers international money transfer for Germany’s N26, and Estonia’s LHV. However, a previously announced partnership with the U.K.’s Starling Bank never materialised and has since been disbanded . Asked why Monzo has chosen to work with TransferWise, Blomfield reiterates the challenger bank’s goal of becoming a “hub or control centre” for your money. This won’t necessarily all be done by Monzo, he says, “but with partner organisations who plug into this hub”. TransferWise is the first of these. International payments has also been one of the most requested features by Monzo users since the challenger bank posted a roadmap of things it intends to “ fix ” over the next three months now that the switch from a pre-paid card to a full current account has been completed. “I’ve personally been a TransferWise customer for five or six years and the service is amazing,” says Blomfield. “Compared to my old bank, it’s really, really transparent, the fees are really fair, and they’re continually working on bringing fees down and to make transfers more instantaneous. So I can’t think of a better a partner to do foreign transfers with than TransferWise”

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Are scooter startups really worth billions?

It’s been hard to miss the scooter startup wars opening fresh, techno-fueled rifts in Valley society in recent months. Another flavor of ride-sharing steed which sprouted seemingly overnight to clutter up sidewalks — drawing rapid-fire ire from city regulators apparently far more forgiving of traffic congestion if it’s delivered in the traditional, car-shaped capsule. Even in their best, most-groomed PR shots, the dockless carelessness of these slimline electrified scooters hums with an air of insouciance and privilege. As if to say: Why yes, we turned a kids’ toy into a battery-powered kidult transporter — what u gonna do about it? An earlier batch of  electric scooter sharing startups  — offering full-fat, on-road mopeds that most definitely do need a license to ride (and, unless you’re crazy, a helmet for your head) — just can’t compete with that. Last mile does not haul. But a short-walk replacement tool that’s so seamlessly manhandled is also of course easily vandalized . Or misappropriated. Or both. And there have been a plethora of scooter dismemberment / kidnap horror stories coming out of California, judging by reports from the scooter wars front line. Hanging scooters in trees is presumably a protest thing. Scooter brand Lime struck an especially tone-deaf tech note trying to fix this problem after an update added a security alarm  that bellowed robotic threats to call the cops  on anyone who fumbled to unlock them.

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