Author: Natasha Lomas

Raspberry Pi gets $45M to meet demand for low-cost PCs and IoT



Turns out COVID-19 lockdowns have been good for the indoor hobby of hardware hacking: The U.K.-based foundation behind the low-price microprocessor Raspberry Pi announced close of a $45 million funding round yesterday.

The cash injection into the trading arm of the (nonprofit) Raspberry Pi Foundation values it at $500 million (pre-money), founder Eben Upton confirmed.

The funding round was led by London-based Lansdowne Partners and The Ezrah Charitable Trust, a private charitable foundation based in the US.

“We are pleased to welcome Lansdowne Partners and The Ezrah Charitable Trust as our first outside shareholders to help us achieve the next steps in our growth,” said Upton in a statement. “We are seeing strong demand from consumers as they use our PCs to access the internet for work and entertainment, and even faster growth from industrial companies globally as they design Raspberry Pi into their innovative IoT applications. This funding will enable us to scale to meet future demand.

“Our new investors will not only add value to our strategy and help support our growth but they also understand the rationale and ethos of our business model, aimed at enabling access to hardware and software tools for everyone and delivering a consumer PC experience from only $35 as well as building partnerships with a growing range of OEMs across the world.”

The Pi Foundation said the financing will be used to expand what is already an ample product line of Pi microprocessors.

Tanso nabs $1.9M pre-seed to help industrial manufacturers do sustainability reporting



The climate crisis is creating massive demand for data capture as industries grapple with how to decarbonize. Put simply, you can’t cut your carbon emissions if don’t know what they are in the first place.

This need to gather data is a big opportunity for startups — and a wave of early companies have already been founded to try to plug the sustainability data gap, through things like APIs to assess emissions for carbon offsetting (which in turn has led to other startups trying to tackle the data gap around offsetting projects…).

One thing is clear: Requirements for sustainability reporting are only going to get broader and deeper from here on in.

Munich-based Tanso is an early stage startup (founded this year) that’s building software to support sustainability reporting for a particular sector (industrial manufacturers) — with the goal of creating a data management system that can automate data capture and sustainability reporting geared towards the specific needs of the sector.

The startup says it decided to focus on industrial manufacturing because it’s both an emissions-heavy sector and underserved with supportive digital tech vs many other industries.

The founders met during their studies at universities in Munich and Zurich — where they’d been researching the assessment of organizational climate impact. Their collective expertise crystalized into the realization of a business opportunity to build a data management system for a notoriously polluting sector that’s facing a mandate to change.

In the coming years, European regulations will expand sustainability reporting requirements (Read more...)

Index leads $12.2M seed in Sourceful, a data play to make supply chains greener



Supply chains can be a complex logistical challenge. But they pose an even greater environmental challenge. And it’s that latter problem — global supply-chain sustainability — where UK startup Sourceful is fully focused, although it argues its approach can boost efficiency as well as shrink environmental impact. So it’s a win-win, per the pitch.

Early investors look impressed: Sourceful is announcing a $12.2 million seed funding round today, led by Europe’s Index Ventures (partner, Danny Rimer, is joining the board). Eka Ventures, Venrex and Dylan Field (Figma founder), also participated in the chunky raise.

The June 2020-founded startup says it will use the new funding to scale its operations and build out its platform for sustainable sourcing, with a plan to hire more staff across technology, sustainability, marketing and ops.

Its team has already grown fivefold since the start of 2021 — and it’s now aiming to reach 60 employees by the end of the year.

And all this is ahead of a public launch that’s programmed for early next year.

Sourceful’s platform is in pre-launch beta for now, with around 20 customers across a number of categories — such as food & beverages (Foundation Coffee House), fashion and accessories (Fenton), healthcare (Elder), and online marketplaces (Floom and Stitched) — kicking the tyres in the hopes of making better supply chain decisions.

Startup watchers will know that supply chain logistics and freight forwarding has been a hotbed of activity — with entrepreneurs making waves for years now, promising (Read more...)

Going after social commerce for sportspeople, Millions gets $10M



Millions.co, a social commerce platform geared towards professional and semi-professional athletes wanting help to monetize their fanbase by selling merch and/or on-demand video, has grabbed $10 million in funding led by Boston-based Volition Capital.

The round is being loosely pegged as a Series A as the seasoned team behind Millions self-funded the first wave of development to get the platform launched.

The founding team includes CEO Matt Whitteker, a boxing gym owner who co-founded the supply chain data management unicorn Assent Compliance and NoNotes.com; CMO Brandon Austin, co-founder of Go-Fish Cam; and, in advisor roles, Adrian Salamunovic, co-founder of DNA 11 and CanvasPop; Scott Whitteker (Fight For The Cure) and Bruce Buffer (a veteran sports announcer).

Millions‘ launched its fan engagement social commerce platform in April — with an initial three products for pro/semi-pro athletes to pitch at their followers: Namely custom merchandize (including a free design service); ask-me-anything personalized videos; and a pay-per-view streaming offering that lets fans pay to tune into a live stream of their favorite sportsperson.

The startup’s initial plan had been to build just an ecommerce and merchandising platform but, having built that component, Salamunovic says the team decided to bundle in video products — such as personalized videos and “‘democratiszing’ pay-per-view (PPV). 

“Our biggest advantage and differentiator is that we are strictly focused on the sports world and fan engagement,” he tells TechCrunch. “The obvious indirect competitors are Twitch (heavily focused on e-sports/gaming), Patreon (focused on creators), Represent.com (focused on merch (Read more...)

PassFort, a RegTech SaaS for KYC and AML, nets $16.2M



London-based PassFort, a SaaS provider that helps business meet compliance requirements such as KYC (Know Your Customer) and AML (Anti-Money Laundering) reporting, has closed a $16.2 million Series A led by US growth equity fund, Level Equity.

The 2015-founded startup‘s existing investors OpenOcean, Episode 1 and Entrepreneur First also participated in the round. The Series A is a mix of equity and debt, with $4.89M worth of venture debt being provided by Shard Credit Partners.

PassFort tells TechCrunch it now has 54 customers in total, saying the majority are in the digital payments space. It’s also selling its SaaS to customers in foreign exchange, banking and (ofc) crypto. It also touts some “major” customer wins preceding this raise — name-checking the likes of Curve and WorldRemit.

The new funding will be put towards stepping up its growth globally — with PassFort noting it’s hired a new C-suite for its growth team to lead the planned global push.

It’s also hiring more staff in business development and marketing, and plans to significantly bump spending across marketing, sales and customer support roles as it gears up to scale up.

“On the product side we are developing the solution to meet the demands of the changing digital economy and the threats it faces,” says CEO and co-founder Donald Gillies. “This means investing heavily into our new compliance policy cloud, system-to-system integrations with market-leading CRM and transaction monitoring systems as well as building a data team capable of deriving valuable real-time insights (Read more...)

Fertility tracking app Flo closes $50M Series B



Flo, a fertility focused period-tracking app, has closed a $50 million Series B funding round which it says values the company at $800M — underlining how much value investors are now attaching to women’s health tech.

The 2016-founded startup raised a $1M seed in its first year and has gone on to raise a total of $65M. The latest B funding round is co-led by VNV Global and Target Global.

Flo’s user-base has grown to around 200M globally — a proportion of whom pay it a subscription to access exclusive content, in addition to the core period tracking features.

The app uses machine learning to offer users “curated” cycle tracking and predictions, personalized health insights, and real-time health alerts — based on tracked symptoms, with data fed in by its sizeable user base. So while it started out as a period tracker Flo now touts its app as a proactive, preventative healthcare tool for women —  connecting them to “science-backed content, expert-led courses and accurate cycle predictions”.

But that’s also a measure of increased competition for women-centric utilities like period tracking — with Apple, for example, (finally) adding cycle tracking in the Health app that’s native to iOS back in 2019. So femtech startups like Flo have to do a lot more than provide basic utility to win women these days.

Flo appears to be getting something right with its current content and marketing mix: Over the past 12 months it says its active subscriber base has increased 4x (Read more...)

Printify bags $45M, led by Index, to ride the custom printing boom



The creator economy loves merch which is great news for on-demand custom printing startups such as Latvia-based Printify — today it’s announcing a $45 million Series A round, led by Index Ventures, off the back of rising demand for its services.

The mission: To keep growing its global marketplace of print shops to meet rising demand for custom wares, shipped.

Also participating in the funding round: H&M Group, Virgin Group, plus the founders of Transferwise, Vinted, Squarespace, RedHat, and entertainment industry investors including Will Smith’s Dreamers VC and NBA player Kristaps Porzingis.

TechCrunch understands Printify’s post-money valuation is just over $300M.

Ecommerce and creator-focused platforms like Patreon and Shopify — which cater to micro-brand creating individual sellers (be they designers, content creators, ecommerce entrepreneurs or other highly online hustlers) — are helping to fire up demand for custom products like t-shirts, mugs, stickers etc, expanding the market for on-demand printing and shipping.

Printify says it’s now connecting some two million merchants with print providers all over the world — and shipping a million units per month.

It’s also grown to employ close to 500 people — doubling its headcount over the past year, now with a plan to add a further 200 positions by the end of the year.

“Our main audiences are creators, entrepreneurs; most of our merchants are people who want to build a side-business and earn money in addition to their main income, however, we also see a high growth of creators and entrepreneurs who use Printify (Read more...)

Women’s health tech brand, Elvie, tops up Series C to $97M



Elvie, the women’s health tech pioneer behind a connected breast pump and smart pelvic floor exerciser, has topped up a Series C which it announced earlier this summer (July) — adding a further £12.7m to bring the total raised to £70 million ($97m).

The 2013-founded, UK-based startup previously raised a $42M Series B in 2019, and a $6M Series A in 2017 — when femtech startups were a lot rarer than they are now. Products designed for (and often by) women have gained a lot of momentum over this period as female-led startups have blazed a trail and shown there’s a sizeable market for femtech — leading investors to slow clock on to the opportunity too.

Analysts now project the femtech industry will become a $50 billion market by 2025.

Elvie says the Series C extension includes funds sponsored by the co-founders of Blume Equity – a PE firm that focuses on the food and health sectors – plus further capital from existing investors IPGL, Hiro Capital and Westerly Winds.

In July, when it announced the earlier ($80M) tranche of the raise, Elvie said the Series C was led by BGF and BlackRock alongside existing investors including Octopus Ventures.

The Series C will be used to drive for more growth through geographical expansion (including entering new markets) and diversifying its product portfolio to target other “key stages” in women’s lives, it said.

That means it’ll be splashing out on R&D to support product development — connected hardware (Read more...)

Mobius Labs nabs $6M to help more sectors tap into computer vision



Berlin-based Mobius Labs has closed a €5.2 million (~$6.1M) funding round off the back of increased demand for its computer vision training platform. The Series A investment is led by Ventech VC, along with Atlantic Labs, APEX Ventures, Space Capital, Lunar Ventures plus some additional angel investors.

The startup offers an SDK that lets the user create custom computer vision models fed with a little of their own training data — as an alternative to off-the-shelf tools which may not have the required specificity for a particular use-case.

It also flags a ‘no code’ focus, saying its tech has been designed with a non-technical user in mind.

As it’s an SDK, Mobius Labs’ platform can also be deployed on premise and/or on device — rather than the customer needing to connect to a cloud service to tap into the AI tool’s utility.

“Our custom training user interface is very simple to work with, and requires no prior technical knowledge on any level,” claims Appu Shaji, CEO and chief scientist. 

“Over the years, a trend we have observed is that often the people who get the maximum value from AI are non technical personas like a content manager in a press and creative agency, or an application manager in the space sector. Our no-code AI allows anyone to build their own applications, thus enabling these users to get close to their vision without having to wait for AI experts or developer teams to help them.”

Mobius Labs — which was (Read more...)

Gamestry gets $5M to give games video creators a sweeter deal



Barcelona-based gaming video platform Gamestry has snatched up $5 million in seed funding, led by Goodwater Capital, Target Global and Kibo Ventures — turning investors’ heads with a 175x growth rate over the past 12 months.

While the (for now) Spanish-language gaming video platform launched a few years back, in 2018, last year the founders decided to shift away from an initial focus on curating purely learning content around gaming — allowing creators to upload and share entertainment-focused games videos, too.

The switch looks to have paid off as a growth tactic. Gamestry says it now has 4M monthly active users (MAUs) and 2,000 active creators in Spain and Latin America (its main markets so far) — and is gunning to hit 20M MAUs by the end of the year.

While Twitch continues to dominate the market for live-streaming games — catering to the esports boom — Gamestry, which says it’s focused on “non-live video content”, reckons there’s a gap for a dedicated on-demand video platform that better supports games-focused video creators and provides games fans with a more streamlined discovery experience than catch-all user-generated content giants like YouTube.

For games video creators, it’s dangling the carrot of a better revenue share than other UGC video platforms — talking about having “a fair ads revenue share model”, and a plan to add more revenue streams for creators “soon”. It also pledges “full transparency on how the monetization structure works”, and a focus on supporting creators if they have technical issues.

So, (Read more...)