Colvin raises $15M to rethink the flower supply chain


This post is by Anthony Ha from Fundings & Exits – TechCrunch

At first glance, Colvin — which recently announced that it has raised a $15 million Series B — might look like just another flower and plant delivery company, but co-founder and CEO Andres Cester said the startup has a much grander vision.

“We were born with the ambition the company that would redesign global flower trade,” he said.

Apparently, when Cester and his co-founder/COO Sergi Bastardas started researching the flower supply chain, they found an industry that was both “fragmented” in terms of growsers and sellers, but also surprisingly centralized, with the Aalsmeer Flower Auction in the Netherlands accounting for 77% of all flower bulbs sold globally.

With all the middlemen, Cester said flowers end up being more expensive (with the growers getting a smaller share of the overall payment), and it takes longer for the flowers to reach the consumer.

So the startup created a marketplace where consumers are buying flowers from straight the growers, with Colvin as the only intermediary. That results in average savings of 50% to 100% compared to online competitors, Cester said. (For example, the bouquets featured on the Colvin homepage all cost about €33 or €34).

And while the flower business is hurting overall due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Bastardas said consumers are turning to online options, with Colvin seeing a fourfold sales increase year-over-year, and delivery volumes worth $1 million in a single day. The challenge, he said, has been making sure to deliver those flowers within the promised time window.

Colvin founders

Image Credits: Colvin

Cester said Colvin started by selling directly to consumers because it was a good way to build the supply from growers, and that consumer sales should a become a profitable, “cash-generating business.” However, the company’s big focus moving forward is building out its sales to flower wholesalers, who in turn sell to the retailers.

“We’re envisioning the B2B part of the business is going to drive most of the returns and valuation,” Bastardas added.

Colvin was founded in Spain and currently operates in Spain, Italy, Germany and Portugal. There are no plans to come to the U.S. anytime soon, but Cester said, “We believe that if we really want to … redesign how the flower industry works, we’re going to have to land in U.S. sooner or later.”

The startup has now raised a total of $27 million. The new round was led by Italian investment fund Milano Investment Partners, with participation from P101 sgr and Samaipata.

And if you’re wondering about the name, Bastardas said the company was named for civil rights pioneer Claudette Colvin, who was arrested in several months before Rosa Parks in Montgomery, Alabama for refusing to give up her bus seat to a white person.

It’s an incongruous choice for a flower startup, but Bastardas said the founders took inspiration from Colvin’s story and the idea that “from several small actions, we can really change an industry.”

Permutive raises $18.5M to help publishers target ads in a new privacy landscape


This post is by Anthony Ha from Fundings & Exits – TechCrunch

Permutive is announcing that it has raised $18.5 million in Series B funding, as the London-based startup works to help online publishers make money in a changing privacy landscape.

CEO Joe Root, who co-founded the company with CTO Tim Spratt, noted that publishers are facing increasing regulation, while web browsers are phasing out support for third-party cookies — all good news for privacy advocates, but with a real downside for publisher ad revenue (blocking cookies causes an average 52% decline in ad revenue, according to a Google study last year, though other estimates have been dramatically lower).

Permutive tries to address these issues by allowing publishers to utilize their own first-party data more effectively. Root estimated that without cookies, web visitors break down to 10% who are logged in and authenticated, while 90% are anonymous, and he said, “We use the insight and understanding from that 10% to make predictions about that 90%.”

So from a single anonymous pageview, Permutive can collect 20 or 30 data points about visitor behavior, which it then uses to try to project who that visitor might be and what they might be interested in. Root also noted that the company’s technology relies on edge computing, allowing it to process data more quickly, which is crucial for publishers who may only have a few seconds in which to show a visitor an ad.

If you’re wondering whether this approach has any privacy or regulatory implications of its own, Root suggested Permutive spends “a lot of time making sure we are ideologically aligned with [European privacy regulation] GDPR and ideologically aligned with the browsers.”

Joe Root - Permutive

Joe Root – Permutive

For one thing, “We don’t believe data should be portable across applications,” which is why Permutive is focused on helping publishers use their own data. For another, Root said Permutive is committed to “the destruction of identity in the adtech ecosystem.”

“Using data isn’t a problem — it’s when you attach data to an identity,” he added. So without identity, “Instead of saying, ‘Here is an ad for Anthony, look up everything you know from Anthony,’ we say, ‘Here is an ad for a user interested in tech media.’ One model leaks data and the other doesn’t.”

Root also suggested that these shifts will allow ad dollars to move back to the premium publishers who have more engagement with and data from their readers — publishers who he argued have “up until now funded the long tail” with their cookie-based data.

This approach is reflected in the publishers Permutive already works with, including BuzzFeed, Penske, The Financial Times, The Guardian, Business Insider, The Daily Telegraph, The Economist, Bell Media, News UK and MailOnline.

Founded in 2014, Permutive previously raised $11.5 million, according to Crunchbase. The Series B was led by Octopus Ventures, with participation from EQT Ventures and previous investors.

“Today, Permutive is the U.K. category leader in its field and is beating billion-dollar global businesses on a consistent basis in trial processes,” said Will Gibbs of Octopus Ventures in a statement. “The team has hired many incredible people and is now ready to replicate the success seen in the U.K. in the U.S. Given the evolving regulatory and customer priorities, Permutive’s technology could be genuinely pioneering in its field.”

The startup is also announcing that it has hired Aly Nurmohamed (former global managing director for publisher partners at Criteo) as its general manager for publishing and Steve Francolla (former head of global publisher strategy at LiveRamp) as head of partnerships.

Daily Crunch: Uber confirms Postmates acquisition


This post is by Anthony Ha from Fundings & Exits – TechCrunch

You may have noticed that The Daily Crunch is publishing about six hours later than usual. Do not be alarmed! We decided that sending the newsletter later in the day was a better fit for the TechCrunch news cycle — hopefully, there will be fewer days when we hit Publish and then groan when we see a giant story break five minutes later.

We’re also taking the opportunity to rethink the newsletter format. The mission hasn’t changed — the goal is to deliver the day’s big tech headlines in an email that you can read in just a couple of minutes. But we know that different readers are focused on different areas of TechCrunch’s coverage, so moving forward, The Daily Crunch will be organized to make it easier to find the news that interests you.

Without further ado: Here’s your Daily Crunch for July 6, 2020.

The big story: Uber confirms Postmates acquisition

The reports last week were true: Uber announced today that it’s acquiring Postmates in an all-stock deal worth $2.65 billion. It looks like the restaurant delivery market is consolidating — Uber previously tried to acquire Grubhub, which ended up selling to the European company Just Eat Takeaway instead. The company said Postmates will continue to operate as a standalone app, but tech and delivery operations will be consolidated.

Meanwhile, Alex Wilhelm took a close look at Uber’s finances to help Extra Crunch readers understand why the company’s stock is up today, arguing that the acquisition could help Uber Eats “grow more quickly while bringing down its losses as a percent of revenue.”

The tech giants

US tech giants halt Hong Kong police help — After the Chinese government has passed a new security law undermining protections for Hong Kong, both Facebook and Twitter said that they will no longer process demands for user data from Hong Kong authorities. (In Facebook’s case, this also applies to WhatsApp.)

Instagram Reels tested in India following TikTok’s ban — Instagram may be taking advantage of India’s decision to ban TikTok by expanding its Reels feature, which allows users to create 15-second videos set to music.

Intel to invest $253.5 million in India’s Reliance Jio Platforms — Intel joins General Atlantic, Facebook and Silver Lake as an investor in India’s top telecom operator.

Startups, funding and venture capital

Here’s a list of tech companies that the SBA says took PPP money — Bolt Mobility, Getaround, Luminar, Stackin, TuSimple and Velodyne all took loans of $150,000 or more from the Paycheck Protection Program, according to the U.S. Treasury Department. But confusingly, some of the firms on the list (including Bird and Index) denied taking any loans.

Sequoia announces $1.35 billion venture and growth funds for India and Southeast Asia — Sequoia Capital India made more than 50 investments in India last year, putting it ahead of any other VC firm in the country.

Payfazz gets $53 million to give more Indonesians access to financial services — This Indonesian startup offers a number of mobile financial services, including bill payments and loans.

Advice and analysis from Extra Crunch

Four views: Is edtech changing how we learn? — Devin Coldewey, Natasha Mascarenhas, Alex Wilhelm and Danny Crichton have thoughts about whether digital learning can make quality education more accessible, or will simply widen existing divides.

As COVID-19 surges, 3D printing is having a moment — 3D printing has fallen out of the spotlight over the past couple of years, but the COVID-19 pandemic has changed all that.

(Reminder: Extra Crunch is our subscription membership program, designed to democratize information about startups. You can sign up here.)

Everything else

‘Hamilton’ gives Disney+ a holiday weekend bump in US, with app downloads up 74% — That’s according to data from Apptopia.

Original Content podcast: ‘Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga’ is a goofy delight — Every week, Darrell Etherington, Jordan Crook and I review the latest streaming movies and shows in a freewheeling discussion. In this episode, we were all pleasantly surprised by the new Will Ferrell movie on Netflix.

The Daily Crunch is TechCrunch’s roundup of our biggest and most important stories. If you’d like to get this delivered to your inbox every day at around 3pm Pacific, you can subscribe here.

Daily Crunch: Microsoft acquires CyberX


This post is by Anthony Ha from Fundings & Exits – TechCrunch

Microsoft acquires a security startup, Canva raises $60 million and Apple kicks off a virtual WWDC.

Here’s your Daily Crunch for June 22, 2020.

1. Microsoft confirms acquisition of CyberX to boost security in its Azure IoT business

Microsoft announced today that it’s acquiring CyberX, a security startup that focuses on detecting, stopping and predicting security breaches on Internet of Things networks and the networks of large industrial organizations. Terms of the deal are not being disclosed, but sources say that it’s in the region of $165 million.

The deal also illustrates how bigger tech companies are using the economic slowdown to focus on their longer-term strategies and shore up assets to support those strategies.

2. Canva raises $60 million on a $6 billion valuation

At the beginning of the pandemic, Canva made a commitment to continue paying all of its contracted workers, but froze hiring. The company also made quick moves to shut down the office and move to remote work. At the same time, Canva says it’s getting a boost from the world moving to work from home.

3. Live from Apple’s virtual WWDC 2020

What will Apple announce today? You can wait for tomorrow’s Daily Crunch to find out, or you can follow along with our live blog. The keynote starts at 10 a.m. Pacific/1 p.m. Eastern.

4. Virgin Galactic to buy seats on rockets and train private astronauts for Space Station trips

Virgin Galactic is in the process of developing a sub-orbital space tourism program using its own spacecraft, but this deal would involve use of other spacecraft that have the capacity to reach orbit and the ISS — which Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo can’t do.

5. Ideas for a post-COVID-19 workplace

As a workplace strategist, Albert De Plazaola says he’s constantly asked, “What is the workplace of the future?” But in his view, Frank Lloyd Wright already designed the solution. (Extra Crunch membership required.)

6. BMW, Mercedes-Benz end ‘long-term’ automated driving alliance, for now

BMW Group and Mercedes-Benz AG have punted on what was meant to be a long-term collaboration to develop next-generation automated driving technology together, less than a year after announcing the agreement.

7. This week’s TechCrunch podcasts

The latest full-length Equity episode discusses the Hey email app and its developer’s dispute with Apple, while the Monday news roundup recaps recent fundings. And on Original Content, we review Spike Lee’s new movie on Netflix, “Da 5 Bloods.”

The Daily Crunch is TechCrunch’s roundup of our biggest and most important stories. If you’d like to get this delivered to your inbox every day at around 9am Pacific, you can subscribe here.

Unbounce raises $38.4M to build better landing pages with automation


This post is by Anthony Ha from Fundings & Exits – TechCrunch

Landing page optimization company Unbounce is announcing that it has raised $52 million Canadian (approximately $38.4 million in US dollars).

Unbounce was founded back in 2009 with what co-founder and CEO Rick Perreault described as a goal of helping small and medium businesses easily create different landing pages where they can direct potential customers after they’ve engaged with their ad and marketing campaigns. (Apparently some Unbounce customers are successful with just a “handful” of landing pages, while others create “hundreds and hundreds.”)

The Vancouver-headquartered company now has a 200-person team, with customers including Hootsuite, Zola and World Vision. It also says it recently passed the milestone of having powered 1 billion conversions.

Aside from a small seed round raised back in 2011, Perreault said the company has not raised any outside funding. Apparently it raised a big round now in order to invest in technology that can bring more automation to the process.

Perreault said the ultimate goal is to allow a business to “set it and forget it through machine learning” — so that they no longer have to create landing pages at all, because the Unbounce platform is doing all the optimization and personalization for them. As a first step in that direction, Unbounce has created a Smart Traffic product that will automatically use visitor data to send visitors to the best landing page, resulting in an average conversion lift of 20%.

Rick Perreault

Image Credits: Unbounce

“As more and more millennials become the SMB owners, and they’re much more savvy with computers and comfortable with online and digital marketing … landing pages are becoming more critical than ever,” he added.

The funding was led by Denver-based equity firm Crest Rock Partners, with Crest Rock’s Steve Johnson and Jeff Carnes joining Unbounce’s board of directors.

“Unbounce is the clear market leader in conversion optimization today — a world-class team, well-respected brand and the company’s conversion intelligence strategy will together dramatically increase the distance between Unbounce and its competitors,” Johnson said in a statement.

Perreault said he was also pleased that Crest Rock was on-board with Unbounce’s “people first” culture, which includes a commitment to diversity. In fact, the company says it recently reached gender parity, with 50% of employees (and 56% of the senior leadership team) identifying as women. In addition, 34% of employees are visible ethnic minorities.

Unbounce is also announcing that Chief Revenue Officer Felicia Bochicchio has been appointed the company’s president.

Admix raises $7M to bring more ads to games, VR and AR


This post is by Anthony Ha from Fundings & Exits – TechCrunch

Adtech startup Admix is announcing that it has raised $7 million in Series A funding.

The London-based company was founded by CEO Samuel Huber (previously owner of an indie gaming studio) and COO Joe Bachle-Morris (who previously worked in the ad agency world). The company is working to bring ads to games, esports, virtual reality and augmented reality.

In-game advertising is already a huge market, but Admix says it’s differentiated by focusing on building a product that supports game advertising at scale, where advertisers can bid programmatically through traditional ad-buying platforms, rather than relying on an ad agency model.

For developers, Admix offers an SDK for the Unity and Unreal game engines, allowing them to drag and drop ad formats like billboards, posters and 3D spaces into their games. The startup says it’s working with more than 200 developers and is running campaigns from more than 500 advertisers each month, with past advertisers including National Geographic, Uber and State Farm.

“The concept of putting ads in games is obviously not new, but the scalability of our solution is what is revolutionary, delivering instant and consistent revenue to game makers, or streaming platforms,” Huber said in a statement. “This coupled with the fact that 1.5B people play games globally every day, means that gaming is becoming a truly mainstream advertising channel.”

Admix previously raised $2.1 million, according to Crunchbase. The Series A was led by UK-based Force Over Mass, with the participation from Speedinvest, Sure Valley Ventures and Nigel Morris (a former Dentsu Aegis executive), as well as other angel investors.

Demandbase acquires Engagio to bring consolidation and ‘clarity’ to B2B marketing


This post is by Anthony Ha from Fundings & Exits – TechCrunch

Two business-to-business marketing companies are teaming up, with Demandbase acquiring Engagio.

Both companies focus on account-based marketing (ABM), an approach where marketing and sales coordinate their outreach to specific, high-value accounts. Engagio co-founder and CEO Jon Miller (who previously co-founded Marketo) told me, “Most people who aren’t super close to the category would have said we’re competitors.”

Instead, Miller said that Demandbase and Engagio have more than 30 shared customers. Similarly, Demandbase CEO Gabe Rogol described the companies as having “very much had a complementary partner strategy with each other.”

More specifically, Rogol said Demandbase’s strength is in helping marketers take advantage of third-party data, whereas Engagio was more focused on helping them utilize of their own first-party data.

The financial terms were not disclosed — Engagio had previously raised $32.5 million, according to Crunchbase, while Demandbase raised $158 million. As a result of the acquisition, Miller will become chief product officer at Demandbase, while his co-founder Brian Babcock becomes chief technology officer.

Demandbase

Image Credits: Demandbase

Rogol acknowledged that it’s going to be an “incredible challenge” bringing the two teams together during the pandemic, with everyone working from home and large gatherings in traditional offices currently off the table. However, he said unifying the companies and the technology will be “our strategic initiative for the second half of the year.”

Meanwhile, Miller argued that the pandemic hasn’t eliminated the need for what Demandbase and Engagio are offering. In fact, he suggested that where marketers may have previously seen the shift to ABM as something they could deal with later, their plans have accelerated: “It’s a now priority, because I [as a marketer] still have to create revenue.”

In fact, Rogol said that Demandbase “crushed” its advertising goals during its first quarter.

“We’re really confident that this will define what’s been a fragmented ABM market,” he said. “The market needs clarity here.”

Daily Crunch: Just Eat Takeaway confirms its Grubhub acquisition


This post is by Anthony Ha from Fundings & Exits – TechCrunch

Food delivery takes a big step toward consolidation, Amazon announces a moratorium on providing facial recognition tech to law enforcement (but there are loopholes) and Twitter tests a way to scold users for tweeting an article they haven’t read.

Here’s your Daily Crunch for June 11, 2020.

1. Just Eat Takeaway confirms it’s gobbling up Grubhub in a $7.3B deal

European company Just Eat Takeaway said the combined operation processed 593 million orders in 2019 and will have over 70 million combined active customers globally.

This is an all-stock deal. Matt Maloney, CEO and founder of Grubhub, will join the Just Eat Takeaway.com management board and will lead the combined group’s businesses across North America.

2. Amazon’s facial recognition moratorium has major loopholes

In a surprise blog post, Amazon said it will put the brakes on providing its facial recognition technology to police for one year, but it refuses to say if the move applies to federal law enforcement agencies. Amazon also did not say what action it would take after the yearlong moratorium expires.

3. Twitter tests a feature that calls you out for RTing without reading the article

The experimental new prompt doesn’t stop a user from resharing a link before clicking to read it. Instead, it suggests you might want to read the article first. And the feature will only appear for some U.S.-based Android users for now.

4. Sentropy emerges from stealth with an AI platform to tackle online abuse, backed by $13M from Initialized and more

Sentropy says that it has developed the most sophisticated — yet easy to implement — system for identifying, tracking and ultimately purging online abuse by way of its AI-based platform.

5. Extra Crunch Live: Join BLCK VC’s Sydney Sykes for a discussion on fostering diversity in venture

At 1pm Eastern/10am Pacific today, we’ll be speaking to Sydney Sykes, who started BLCK VC with Frederik Groce in 2018 with a mission to increase the number of Black investors in tech. We’ll be making this episode of Extra Crunch Live free to watch and participate in live, and to view later.

6. 9 top space tech VCs on the market’s opportunities and challenges

We caught up with nine top investors in the space market to collect their thoughts on what’s going on right now in the industry, what red flags there are to watch out for and what opportunities they see for new and existing space startups. (Extra Crunch membership required.)

7. Theaters are ready to reopen, but is America ready to go back to the movies?

As America begins the slow, deliberate process of reopening, movie theaters have outlined their own plans to return to normal. But it seems clear that like so many other industries, the theatrical movie business remains very uncertain.

The Daily Crunch is TechCrunch’s roundup of our biggest and most important stories. If you’d like to get this delivered to your inbox every day at around 9am Pacific, you can subscribe here.

Lili raises $10M for its freelancer banking app


This post is by Anthony Ha from Fundings & Exits – TechCrunch

Lili, a startup building banking products to meet the needs of freelance workers, is announcing that it has raised $10 million in seed funding.

The startup takes its name from its founders, CEO Lilac Bar David and CTO Liran Zelkha, who previously founded Israeli challenger bank Pepper. Bar David told me that while many neobanks have emerged over the past few years, most of them “are very focused on the consumer side.”

More broadly, she suggested that no traditional banking solutions are really designed to solve the problems faced by freelancers — whether they’re designers, programmers, fitness instructors, chefs or beauty professionals. She described Lili as the first “all-in-one” solution, offering both a bank account and a broader suite of financial tracking tools.

The account comes with a Visa business debit card and is unencumbered by account fees, overdraft fees, foreign transaction fees or minimum balance requirements. Bar David said Lili only makes money from card processing fees, which means “we will make money whenever you’re making money.”

Lili also supports direct deposit, saying it provides access to payments up to two days earlier than a traditional bank. And to help freelancers manage their finances, there’s a tool for tracking and categorizing expenses, and another tool that will put a percentage of income into a sub-account for taxes.

The startup estimates that it can save freelancers up to 60 hours and $1,700 per year. (Bar David said customers may choose to use individual Lili products, but “the benefits of using the product are definitely enhanced when you use it as your main account.”) The company launched in 2019 and says it’s already used by tens of thousands of freelancers across all 50 states in the U.S.

Bar David  also suggested that the freelance economy is only going to grow with the economic instability caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, with millions more people turning to freelance work as either their primary source of income, or as a supplement.

The funding was led by Group 11, with participation from Foundation Capital, AltaIR Capital, Primary Venture Partners and Torch Capital.

“Lili is redefining banking for freelancers and we’re thrilled to be partnering with the team,” said Group 11’s Dovi Frances in a statement. “As the future of work continues to evolve more quickly than ever in these uncertain times, Lilac and Liran’s forward-looking vision is changing how modern workers manage their finances, while saving them valuable time and money.”

Truthset raises $4.75M to help marketers score their data


This post is by Anthony Ha from Fundings & Exits – TechCrunch

Data, the cliche goes, is the new oil of the digital economy. But Truth{set} co-founder and CEO Scott McKinley wants to know: “Why does no one care about the quality of that fuel?”

That’s an issue McKinley saw in his seven years as an executive at Nielsen, where he said he realized that marketing data products are “all built on massive error.” As evidence, he pointed to recent studies showing that bad data leads marketers to waste 21 cents of every dollar, and that in many cases, consumer data is “similar to or even worse than what you’d get if you used random chance to create a target list.

McKinley argued, “You wouldn’t drive a car to a gas station where there’s no octane rating on the pump.” He created Truth{set} to provide that octane rating to marketers, and to “shine the light on that whole ecosystem.”

More specifically, the company scores the consumer data that marketers are buying on accuracy, on a scale between 0.00 and 1.00. To create these scores, Truth{set} checks the data against independent data sources, as well as first-party data and panels.

“In order for us to do this, we had to develop a perspective on what is truthful and what is not,” McKinley said. “And so instead of building our own data sets, we said, ‘Let’s be smarter than that, let’s verify everybody else’s data with these independent sources of truth.’”

Truthset screenshot

Image Credits: Truthset

In addition to coming out of stealth,  Truth{set} is also announcing that it has raised $4.75 million in seed funding from startup studio super{set}, WTI, Ulu Ventures, and strategic angel investors.

The company says it’s compatible with demand-side platforms, data management platforms and customer platforms. It also integrates with the leading data providers including Facebook, LiveRamp and The Trade Desk.

McKinley added that the platform can even “suppress” consumer IDs that don’t meet a marketer’s standards, so that they’re not used in targeting.

Throughout our conversation, he emphasized the idea of independence, arguing that in order to provide trustworthy scores, “You cannot have a conflict of interest.” At the same time, Truthset is working closely with the data providers to score their data and to help them improve their accuracy. The goal is to create an expectation among marketers that if data is accurate, it will come with a score from Truth{set}.

“There’s a FOMO thing here — if you’re not being measured, what are you hiding?” McKinley said.

Storage marketplace Warehouse Exchange raises $2.2M


This post is by Anthony Ha from Fundings & Exits – TechCrunch

Warehouse Exchange, a startup that describes itself as the Airbnb of warehouse space, has raised $2.2 million in seed funding.

The company was founded Jonathan Rosenthal (CEO of Saybrook Management) and Dan Pimentel (previously CFO/COO of startup Hub TV). They recently brought on former eHarmony CEO Grant Langston as the Warehouse Exchange’s chief executive.

Langston admitted that his new job might sound pretty different from running an online dating company, but he said that in both cases, it’s really about using technology to build a marketplace.

In the case of Warehouse Exchange, Langston said the opportunity lies in the fact that “businesses that wanted warehouse space were not welcome in warehouses.” Specifically, there are plenty of new e-commerce companies that want “smaller footprints for shorter periods of time and want to handle their own inventory,” but particularly pre-pandemic, most of the third-party logistics companies (known as 3PLs) operating warehouses weren’t interested in that business.

So Warehouse Exchange has created a marketplace connecting renters with flexible warehouse space — Langston said businesses are renting space through the marketplace for an average of 11 months (though it usually starts with a shorter amount of time and then gets extended).

Warehouse Exchange CEO Grant Langston

Warehouse Exchange CEO Grant Langston

In fact, the company said it’s seen 22,000 searches on its site in the past 18 months. The warehouse space, meanwhile, might not come from traditional warehouse operators, but instead from other organizations that have extra space that they want to monetize.

Langston added, “3PLs are typically not interested in this small e-commerce demand, but what has happened in the last eight weeks is that a lot of these companies have lost their anchor tenant and need to rethink their revenue.”

In order for a warehouse shift to this model, Langston said some rethinking is required, but “the infrastructure is quite light” — usually, you just partitions to separate different parts of the warehouse.

Given the broader concerns about warehouse safety during the COVID-19 pandemic, I also asked about who is responsible for those issues within the warehouses. Langston said it’s up to the individual tenants, noting that in many cases it’s just one person running an e-commerce business, and that “in a general sense, there’s not a lot of intermingling between tenants.”

The new funding comes from investors including Xebec Realty. Langston said he’s already working to raise a Series A, with a target of $6 to $7 million.

Cookware startup Caraway raises $5.3M as it eyes new product categories


This post is by Anthony Ha from Fundings & Exits – TechCrunch

Caraway, a direct-to-consumer startup selling ceramic pots and pans, is announcing that it has raised $5.3 million in seed funding.

Founder and CEO Jordan Nathan (previously a brand manager at e-commerce holding company Mohawk Group) told me that he became interested in cookware after burning a Teflon pan and learned more about the dangers of Teflon poisoning.

In fact, although nonstick materials like Teflon are used most of the cookware sold in the United States, it turns out that that there are real health risks when those pots and pans are overheated.

So Nathan said Caraway offers non-toxic, eco-friendly pots and pans that are also well-designed and premium quality. The four-item cookware set costs $395 and also comes with pot and lid holders (Nathan noted that many consumers also struggle with storage).

When I brought up some of the broader issues facing direct-to-consumer startups before the pandemic, particularly around costly user acquisition, Nathan said, “Caraway has been focused on sustainable growth since day one. We’re only a few months old and growing very fast, but at the same time, we’re focused on cutting cost and making sure every dollar returns a profitable first purchase from consumers.”

Caraway racks

Image Credits: Caraway

Caraway isn’t revealing any sales numbers, but Nathan suggested that the company has definitely benefited from increased consumer interest as everyone is stuck at home and doing more cooking.

And he said that interest extends beyond buying Caraway products: “It’s been a really good time to activate our community. There’s been a lot more engagement, a lot of sharing of user generated content, sharing on Instagram — not just for cookware and pans, but education around cooking, around storage, around design.”

The company’s supply chain has also been affected by the pandemic. Nathan said his team has done work to expedite shipments, but “where we’ve put our focus has really just been communicating with customers that there will be delays.”

The new funding comes from more than 100 investors, including Republic Labs, Springdale Ventures, Wesray Social, Bridge Investments, WTI, CompanyFirst, G9 Ventures, Super Angel Syndicate (led by Ben Zises), Five Four Ventures, alongside Bonobos co-founder Andy Dunn, PopSugar co-founder Brian Sugar (PopSugar), Glossier and Arfa founders/executives Henry Davis and Bryan Mahoney, One Kings Lane co-founder Ali Pincus and Nik Sharma of Sharma Brands.

In a statement, Dunn said:

Many people think direct-to-consumer brands are going to struggle in this new economy. From being an investor in two dozen brands, the truth is more nuanced: some are really flourishing. Caraway had strong momentum at launch, with a clear vision from founder Jordan Nathan around the future of home goods. The COVID-19 pandemic then amplified that momentum with the surge of in-home cooking. Caraway’s out of the gates growth rate is in the top 1% of what I’ve seen in DTC brands. This is not a pots and pans company, this is a disruptor to traditional brick and mortar multi-category home brands.

To that last point, Nathan said Caraway has already expanded into kitchen linens, and there are plans for other home products.

“With every new product we launch, we’re bringing the same focus [that we brought to] cookware,” he said. “The same colors, the same sleek and timeless design, the non-toxic, eco-friendly material. And every product we launch will have a storage solution built into it.”

Video news startup Stringr raises $5.75M from Thomson Reuters and others


This post is by Anthony Ha from Fundings & Exits – TechCrunch

Stringr, a video-focused startup that says it can help news organizations adapt to the challenges of COVID-19, is announcing that it’s raised $5.75 million in new funding.

When I wrote about the the company at the end of 2015, it was creating a marketplace that connected news organizations with videographers who could provide them with news footage. Since then, co-founder and CEO Lindsay Stewart (a former TV news producer herself) told me the network has grown to more than 100,000 videographers.

At the same time, Stringr has added new tools for things like live streaming, transcription and editing, creating what Stewart described as “the most efficient video production platform.”

And she suggested that media companies need a platform like this more than ever. Yes, some Stringr customers are just using the service when they need footage, but she said others see Stringr as a purely cloud-based solution for producing news programming “when nobody’s coming into the office.”

And speaking of footage, newsrooms are going to need help on that front too, particularly with the COVID-19 pandemic having a dramatic impact on the media industry’s bottom line.

“I don’t think it’s lost on anyone that media companies … the business model, even more than before COVID, has been challenged,” Stewart added. So those companies are turning to Stringr for help in figuring out “how they become as cost effective as they possibly can, while still providing a valuable service to society overall.”

Stringr has also launched a division called Embed Studios that taps into the startup’s videographer network to create content for brands including Corcoran, Zillow, HBO Max, Amazon, Lightworkers, TikTok, Mastercard, United Way and MGM.

The company has now raised a total of $7.25 million. The new funding comes from Thomson Reuters, as well as previous investors G5 Capital and Advection Growth Capital.

It sounds like the Reuters investment is part of a broader partnership where the wire service’s customers can request video footage from Stringr. In fact, Stewart said that the startup’s work with Reuters is also pushing it to recruit videographers globally, starting in western Europe. (It was previously focused on the United States and the United Kingdom.)

Bevy.com raises $15M to power virtual events and community


This post is by Anthony Ha from Fundings & Exits – TechCrunch

This might seem like the worst time to be building an event software business, but it seems to be working for Bevy.com, which just announced that it has raised $15 million in Series B funding.

Co-founder and CEO Derek Andersen explained that the company had already started moving into virtual events when the conference business ground to a halt thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. And it’s seen demand explode in the last few months.

For example, he pointed to how Duolingo has used the platform to host 1,000 events in the past six weeks, while Startup Grind went from a single virtual event in February (in Wuhan, China) to planning 600 for June. Salesforce is also using the platform, and community manager Sofía Rodríguez Mata said in a statement:

We’ve been blown away and inspired by our community’s resilience amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Our customers are finding new and creative ways to learn, connect, have fun, and give back together. Although we feel the physical distance between us, it’s beautiful to witness how someone in Morocco can be in the same event as someone in Brazil or New Zealand. With Bevy’s help our user groups have organized 650 events with 20,000 RSVPs in the past few months.

Bevy actually emerged from Startup Grind —which Andersen also founded — to further develop and monetize the products that were initially built to help the entrepreneurial community organize hundreds of events around the world.

They’re separate companies, although Andersen still leads both of them. He described Bevy as providing a “fully end-to-end virtual experience” for event organizers, offering tools for event creation and user registration while also integrating to other platforms like Zoom, Salesforce, Marketo and Meetup.

He also argued that these kinds of community events are key for companies pursuing a “customer-to-customer marketing model” —  instead of flying field marketing teams into new locations (which again, isn’t exactly feasible right now), you “empower customers to do this for you,” both at events and on a more ongoing basis.

“Whether it’s virtual, or offline, in forums, chats, or events, C2C realizes the importance of taking the corporation out of the conversation and giving the torch to the customers at massive global scale,” Andersen told me in a follow-up email.

Bevy previously raised a $6.4 million Series A. The new funding was led by Accel, with participation from existing investors Ryan Smith (the Qualtrics CEO is also joining Bevy’s board of directors) and Upfront Ventures.

“No one understands how to build community and drive virtual marketing events at scale better than the team behind Bevy,” said Accel General Partner Ryan Sweeney in a statement. “Bevy has unmatched domain expertise and an award winning product that is already trending.”

Slice, an online ordering and marketing platform for pizzerias, raises $43M


This post is by Anthony Ha from Fundings & Exits – TechCrunch

Global investment firm KKR is betting on the pizza business — it just led a $43 million Series C investment in Slice.

Formerly known as MyPizza, Slice has has created a mobile app and website where diners can order a custom pizza delivery from their local, independent pizzeria.

And for those pizzerias, CEO Ilir Sela said Slice helps to digitize their whole business by also creating a website, improving their SEO and even allowing them to benefit from the “economies of scale” of the larger network, through bulk orders of supplies like pizza boxes.

Sela contrasted his company’s approach with other the popular food delivery apps that he characterized as aggregators. For one thing, Slice “anchors” your favorite pizzerias in the app, giving them the top spots and making it easy to place your regular order with just a few taps. And it will be adding more loyalty features soon.

“Our job is to make loyal customers even more loyal,” he said.

In addition, while there’s been increased criticism of the high fees charged by services like Grubhub, Sela said Slice’s fee is capped at $2.25 per order, allowing pizzerias to get all the upside from large orders.

Of course, the environment for restaurants has changed dramatically in the last few months, thanks to COVID-19. But most pizzerias are already set up for takeout and delivery, and Sela said that more than 90% of the 12,000-plus pizzerias that work with Slice have stayed open.

He also pointed to the company’s Pizza vs Pandemic initiative, which raises funds for pizzerias to feed healthcare workers. The program has raised more than $470,000 and fed an estimated 140,000 workers.

“Local independent pizzerias have been feeding Americans across communities for decades and we are excited to put our resources behind Slice as they help to move these businesses online,” said KKR Principal Allan Jean-Baptiste in a statement. “Slice charges small business owners a fraction of the fees charged by food delivery apps and offers a suite of vertical specific solutions to solve the challenges faced by independent pizza makers.”

Slice had previously raised $30 million, according to Crunchbase. Sela said he’ll be using the new funding to bring on more pizzerias and continue building a “vertically integrated solution for the small businesses, in order to solve more and more of their challenges.”

Daily Crunch: Zoom acquires security startup Keybase


This post is by Anthony Ha from Fundings & Exits – TechCrunch

Zoom acquires some encryption expertise, Uber makes a big investment in scooters and we review the new 13-inch Macbook Pro.

Here’s your Daily Crunch for May 7, 2020.

1. Zoom acquires Keybase to get end-to-end encryption expertise

Keybase, whose encryption products include secure file sharing and collaboration tools, should give Zoom some security credibility as it goes through pandemic demand growing pains. A number of Zoom security issues have come to light the last couple of months as demand as soared and exposed security weaknesses in the platform.

Under the terms of the deal, Keybase will become a subsidiary of Zoom and co-founder and Max Krohn will lead the Zoom security engineering team, reporting directly to Yuan to help build the security product.

2. Uber leads $170 million Lime investment, offloads Jump to Lime

As part of the deal (which was reported earlier this week but is now official), Lime is also acquiring Uber’s micro-mobility subsidiary Jump. There will be more integrations between Uber and Jump in the future, but both apps will remain active for now.

3. Apple MacBook Pro 13-inch review

With this week’s news, the 13-inch becomes the third and final member of the MacBook family to get the new keyboard. It’s not “Magic” as the name implies (Apple really does love the M-word), but Brian Heater says improvements are immediate and vast.

4. Nintendo sells a lot more Switches, as people stay and home playing Animal Crossing

The company says it has sold 21 million Switch units in the past year, handily beating a 19.5 million forecast. 6.2 million of those systems were the newer, cheaper Switch Lite, which hit the market in September. All of this comes as Nintendo has run up against shortage through a combination of increased popularity and a a global supply chain knocked off balance from COVID-19.

5. How will digital media survive the ad crash?

Bustle Digital Group’s Jason Wagenheim told us that he’s anticipating a 35% decline in ad revenue for this quarter. And where he’d once hoped BDG would reach $120 or $125 million in ad revenue this year, he’s now trying to figure out “what does our company look like at $75 or $90 million?” (Extra Crunch membership required.)

6. Apple awards $10 million to rapidly scale COVID-19 sample collection kit production

Apple has awarded $10 million from its Advanced Manufacturing Fund to COPAN Diagnostics, a company focused on producing sample collection kits for testing COVID-19 to hospitals in the U.S. The money comes from the fund that Apple established to support the development and growth of U.S.-based manufacturing — to date, the fund has been used to support companies tied more directly to Apple’s own supply chain.

7. Sonos debuts new Arc soundbar, next-generation Sonos Sub, and Sonos Five speaker

Sonos has introduced a trio of new hardware today, adding three new smart speakers to its lineup, including the Sonos Arc soundbar that includes Dolby Atmos support, as well as Sonos Five, the next version of its Sonos Play:5 speaker, and a third-generation Sonos Sub.

The Daily Crunch is TechCrunch’s roundup of our biggest and most important stories. If you’d like to get this delivered to your inbox every day at around 9am Pacific, you can subscribe here.

Goldman Sachs backs electric toothbrush startup Burst Oral Care


This post is by Anthony Ha from Fundings & Exits – TechCrunch

Burst Oral Care, a startup that sells an electric toothbrush boasting charcoal bristles and 33,000 sonic vibrations per minute, has raised a Series C of undisclosed size.

Although we don’t know the amount of the round, the Series C was led by Goldman Sachs Growth Equity, and Burst says it more than doubled the valuation from its previous round. (Goldman Sachs’ other direct-to-consumer investments include women’s razor startup Billie, which was recently acquired by P&G.)

The startup also says it has hundreds of thousands of subscribers who don’t just buy the $69.99 toothbrush but are also signed up to receive $6 replacement heads every 90 days. Co-founder and President Brittany Stewart argued that the need for a product like this has only grown in recent months, as the COVID-19 pandemic has shut down many dentists’ offices (dentists were facing some of the highest risks of exposure).

“The only care that you’re getting is oral care at home,” Stewart said.

As a result, she suggested that more dentists are pointing their patients to Burst as a way to keep their mouths in good shape until it’s safe to get a professional cleaning. (Meanwhile, some of the factories that Burst works with in China were affected by the pandemic, but Stewart said the company had done enough inventory planning that subscriptions were not affected.)

Burst founders Hamish Khayat and Brittany Stewart

Burst founders Hamish Khayat and Brittany Stewart

In fact, although Burst sells its toothbrush through a direct-to-consumer, subscription e-commerce model, it reaches new customers through a network of 25,000 “ambassadors” — namely, dental professionals who get a personalized discount code and referral fee for recommending the product.

This approach has prompted at some skeptical comparisons to multi-level marketing programs, but Burst and its investors have said it’s closer to an affiliate model. And during our interview, co-founder and CEO Hamish Khayat suggested that one of the startup’s real strengths compared other toothbrush and dental care startups is its involvement with the professional community.

“Since we started the company, we’ve been to every single dental show, we’ve been to dental offices, and through that we’ve garnered a very different set of knowledge,” Khayat said.

Stewart added that as Burst develops new products, it’s doing so in consultation with “thousands of dental professionals.” It’s already expanded beyond the toothbrush with products like floss, whitening strips and toothpaste, and Khayat said one of the big priorities in the comings months is launching a lineup of products for kids.

Burst previously raised a total of $20 million in funding. As part of the new investment, Goldman’s Allison Berardo and Hillel Moerman are joining the company’s board of directors.

“We are excited to back Brittany, Hamish, and the rest of the BURST team as they harness the power of the dental community to build a next-generation oral care business,” Berardo said in a statement. “BURST has a clear vision and brand ethos and we believe they have meaningful runway ahead with regard to both their product suite and go-to-market strategy.”

TapClicks expands its marketing platform by acquiring AdStage


This post is by Anthony Ha from Fundings & Exits – TechCrunch

Digital marketing company TapClicks announced this morning that it’s broadening its platform with the acquisition of AdStage.

AdStage first launched back in 2013 as a cross-network advertising startup, eventually expanding by automating ad campaigns and consolidating marketing data.

TapClicks founder and CEO Babak Hedayti told me that his goal is to build a “single, unified platform” for marketing. The company says it already sells interconnected products for analytics, intelligence, reporting, workflow and order management, with many of those capabilities coming from acquisitions — in 2019 alone, TapClicks announced that it was buying Megalytic, iSpionage and StatX.

By acquiring AdStage, Hedayti said TapClicks can deepen its intelligence capabilities, giving marketers a better understanding of how their campaigns are performing across different channels.

The companies said TapClicks made offers for the entire AdStage team to join, with the majority of the team accepting. AdStage co-founders Sahil Jain and Jason Wu are taking roles at TapClicks as general manager for marketing intelligence and vice president of engineering for marketing intelligence, respectively.

AdStage previously raised more than $15 million in funding from investors including Verizon Ventures, Freestyle Capital, 500Startups, Digital Garage and HubSpot. (Verizon owns TechCrunch.)

Jain said that before the COVID-19 pandemic, he was considering different paths for the AdStage’s future. That might have meant raising more funding, but he realized that “consolidation is happening” across the industry, and that by joining a company that was “very financially sound, we could leverage those resources to build the stuff that we’ve always wanted to build … the cool stuff that truly help marketers not just see what they’re spending on and the cross-channel makeup, but where to spend the next dollar.”

He also praised the way TapClicks handled the acquisition — Jain said that as the world changed around them, Hedayti and the other executives “never wavered from the deal, they never changed the terms.”

Looking ahead, Hedayti argued that despite the broader downturn in ad and marketing spending, there are still opportunities. For one thing, he suggested that large enterprises are going to be less interested in making a big investment in building their own marketing tools.

“When they need a technology partner for martech, they’re calling us,” he said.

Daily Crunch: Stripe now valued at $36B


This post is by Anthony Ha from Fundings & Exits – TechCrunch

Stripe raises new funding, Uber acknowledges financial uncertainty and a controversial facial recognition startup accidentally exposes its source code.

Here’s your Daily Crunch for April 17, 2020.

1. Stripe raises $600M at $36B valuation in Series G extension, says it has $2B on its balance sheet

The economy may be contracting as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, but promising startups are still continuing to raise money to shore up finances for whatever may lie ahead.

The latest development: Stripe, a well-known payments unicorn, announced that it had raised another $600 million in new capital, money that it plans to use to continue investing in product development, further global expansion and strategic initiatives.

2. Uber withdraws 2020 guidance

“Given the evolving nature of COVID-19 and the uncertainty it has caused for every industry in every part of the world, it is impossible to predict with precision the pandemic’s cumulative impact on our future financial results,” Uber said in a statement.

3. Security lapse exposed Clearview AI source code

The controversial facial recognition startup allows its law enforcement users to take a picture of a person, upload it and match it against its alleged database of 3 billion images, which the company scraped from public social media profiles. And for a time, a misconfigured server exposed the company’s internal files, apps and source code for anyone on the internet to find.

4. Changing policy, Y Combinator cuts its pro rata stake and makes investments case-by-case

Under its new policy, the accelerator is reducing its pro rata investment size from 7% to 4% and is only investing on a case-by-case basis going forward. Apparently the portfolio has gotten too large for blanket investments, and some of the limited partners who back the accelerator’s operations are balking at making commitments to the pro rata program.

5. Announcing the Extra Crunch Live event series

First up: We’ll be chatting with Aileen Lee (former KPCB partner, founder and managing director at Cowboy.vc and coiner of the term “Unicorn”) and Ted Wang (Cowboy.vc partner, former partner at Fenwick & West, and former outside counsel to Facebook, Twitter, Dropbox, Square and more) on Monday, April 20. And yes, you’ll need to be an Extra Crunch member to tune in.

6. NASA reveals ambitious multi-spacecraft plan to bring a piece of Mars back to Earth

NASA has said many times that it intends to collect a sample from Mars and return it to Earth. But how will the organization go about scooping up soil from the surface of a distant planet and getting it back here? With a newly-revealed plan that sounds straight out of sci-fi.

7. Facebook’s annual virtual reality conference goes virtual-only

Facebook announced that it will be shelving the in-person component of its virtual reality-focused Oculus Connect 7 conference due to COVID-19 concerns and focusing on a digital format. Although the company hadn’t announced dates for the event, the conference is typically held in late September or early October.

The Daily Crunch is TechCrunch’s roundup of our biggest and most important stories. If you’d like to get this delivered to your inbox every day at around 9am Pacific, you can subscribe here.

Daily Crunch: Airbnb takes a $1B loan


This post is by Anthony Ha from Fundings & Exits – TechCrunch

Airbnb takes on new debt as it adapts to a world without tourism, Apple announces a new entry-level iPhone and Google lowers Nest camera quality.

Here’s your Daily Crunch for April 15, 2020.

1. Airbnb ups its debt by $1B amid the coronavirus travel crunch

Airbnb has secured commitments of $1 billion for a syndicated term loan from institutional investors. The emergency cash injection comes as the coronavirus travel freeze continues to hammer vacation rentals, with holidaymakers locked down at home and global travel banned or heavily discouraged for public health reasons.

Earlier this month, Airbnb announced an additional $1 billion raise in debt and equity. At the time it said the funds would support its ongoing work to invest over the long term, while this new loan looks more clearly targeted at dealing with immediate negative impacts caused by COVID-19.

2. Apple introduces new $399 iPhone SE with Touch ID and 4.7″ screen

With a $399 starting price point, the new SE is aimed squarely at new iPhone users or first time smartphone buyers, but it could appeal to those who just want the smallest iPhone model currently available.

3. Google is lowering Nest camera quality ‘to conserve internet resources’

If you’re looking at footage from your Nest Cam and the quality seems a bit lower than normal: it’s not your eyes. The quality adjustment is rolling out over the next few days, and Google says anyone affected will get a notification in the Nest app.

4. Onfido, the AI-based ID verification platform, raises $100M led by TPG

Onfido uses AI to “read” a person’s identity documents, then uses facial recognition and other datapoints to verify that a person is who she or he says they are online. Customers for its tech include major banks, government bodies and businesses doing recruitment — any organization running parts of its processes virtually.

5. As stocks recover, private investors aren’t buying the hype

Yesterday, we discussed the state of affairs for private companies with Jason Pressman of Shasta Ventures. From his perspective — and that of other investors who we’ve spoken to recently — it’s hard to understand the level of optimism that public markets are signaling. (Extra Crunch membership required.)

6. NBCUniversal’s Peacock launches on Comcast

Today’s launch lines up with the schedule that the company announced in January, which pointed to a broader release on July 15. NBCUniversal says that’s still happening, though the timing will no longer coincide with the Tokyo Summer Olympics.

7. Attentive raises another $40M for mobile messaging, will invest in helping customers respond to COVID-19

The messaging startup raised a $40 million Series B last summer, followed by a $70 million Series C at the beginning of this year. Today it’s announcing that it’s extended the Series C by another $40 million, bringing the total round size to $110 million.

The Daily Crunch is TechCrunch’s roundup of our biggest and most important stories. If you’d like to get this delivered to your inbox every day at around 9am Pacific, you can subscribe here.