Category: Spark Capital

Stepping back at Spark Capital

This post is by bijansabet from B I J A N

Seventeen years ago, my friend Santo told me he was going to start a new venture capital firm. It didn’t have a name just yet and he didn’t have a fund, but he had recruited Todd Dagres and Paul Conway and for some reason they asked me to join along.

My wife Lauren and I were living just outside of Boston with our two kids (with one more on the way!). I remember talking it over with her. At the time, We had moved back east after ten years in SF and I was missing the Bay Area. I had an offer from Apple that I was seriously contemplating. And, to be honest, I didn’t know if I would be a good investor or if I would even like the work. But, I loved the idea of helping start something from scratch with a group of friends and people I respected.

So in the fall of 2004, I said yes to Santo and Todd. A few weeks later we had our name and a few months after that our first fund. We were all working out of  a tiny space in Cambridge until we opened our office above a shoe store on Boston’s Newbury Street. And we have been there ever since (along with an expanded team with offices in NYC and SF).

We have done a lot together over these years. We raised six early stage funds and three growth funds and built a company that I adore. I (Read more...)

Shepherd raises $6.2M seed round to tackle the construction insurance market

Shepherd, an insurtech startup focused on the construction market, has closed a $6.15 million seed round led by Spark Capital. The funding event comes after the startup raised a pre-seed round in February led by Susa Ventures, which also participated in Shepherd’s latest fundraising event.

Thinking broadly, Shepherd fits into a theme of neoinsurance providers selling more to other companies than to consumers. Insurtech startups serving consumers enjoyed years of venture capital backing only to find their public debuts met with early optimism followed quickly by eroding share prices.

But companies like Shepherd — and Blueprint Title earlier this week — are wagering on there being margin elsewhere in the insurance world to attack. For Shepherd, the construction market is its target, an industry that it intends to carve into starting with excess liability coverage.

The company’s co-founder and CEO, Justin Levine, told TechCrunch that contractors in the construction space have a number of insurance requirements, including general liability, commercial auto and so forth. But construction projects often also require more liability coverage, which is sold as excess or umbrella policies.

Targeting the middle-market of the construction space — companies doing $25 million to $250 million in projects per year, in its view — Shepherd wants to lean on technology as a way to help underwrite customers.

Levine said that his company’s offering will have two core parts. The first is what you expected, namely a complete digital experience for customers. The CEO likened its digital (Read more...)

Crypto infra startup Fireblocks raises $310M, triples valuation to $2.2B

Fireblocks, an infrastructure provider for digital assets, has raised $310 million in a Series D round of funding that tripled the company’s valuation to $2.2 billion in just over five months.

Sequoia Capital, Stripes and Spark Capital co-led Fireblocks’ latest round, which also included participation from Coatue, DRW VC and SCB 10X – the venture arm of Thailand’s oldest bank – and Siam Commercial Bank. The latter is the third global bank to invest in Fireblocks in addition to the Bank of New York (BNY) Mellon and SVB Capital.

In February, the New York-based startup raised $133 million in a Series C round at a $700 million valuation. The latest financing brings Fireblocks’ total raised since its 2018 inception to $489 million. And as for Fireblocks’ valuation boost, the growth correlates with its increase in customers and ARR this year, according to CEO and co-founder Michael Shaulov.

Since January, Fireblocks has seen its customer base increase to about 500 compared to 150 in January. Its ARR (annual recurring revenue) is also up — by 350% so far in 2021 compared to 2020. Last year, ARR rose by 450% compared to 2019.

“We expect to end the year up 500%,” Shaulov said. “We’ve already adjusted our revenue predictions for 2021 three times.”

Put simply, Fireblocks aims to offer financial institutions an all-in-one platform to run a digital asset business, providing them with infrastructure to store, transfer and issue digital assets. In particular, Fireblocks provides custody to institutional investors (Read more...)

Wunderite raises $3M to build software for indie insurance agencies

This morning Wunderite, a Boston-based software startup, announced that it has raised $3 million in an early-stage round led by Spark Capital.

Wunderite builds and sells software designed to help insurance agencies more rapidly process insurance applications, and automate some of their processes. With an industry-focus on insurance agencies while providing some API hooks, the startup fits into a number of startup trends, including vertical SaaS, developer-friendly tooling, and insurtech.

TechCrunch caught up with co-founders Peter MacDonald (CEO) and Joe Schnare (COO) about their company and its new investment. MacDonald previously worked for his family’s insurance business, while Schnare earned insurance experience by working for a large player in the market. The two met while at business school.

The pair told TechCrunch that most property and casualty insurance (car, pet, home, and other forms of popular coverage) is still sold by small and mid-sized agencies. That may surprise, but most of the United States is not the Bay Area, Austin, Boston, Chicago, Denver, or Seattle it turns out.

But while that market share point is good news for smaller insurance groups out there, it’s not great news for the staff of those firms as MacDonald and Schnare detailed that many are forced to work with archaic tooling. Like writing with their hands. Or email. A huge market — insurance is a monster industry — with a piecemeal competitive market and antiquated tooling could prove ripe for Wunderite, provided that it can reach a sufficient number of the companies (Read more...)

Remote hiring startup Deel raises $156M at a $1.25B valuation after 20x growth in 2020

Many of the world’s organizations shifted to remote work due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But even as more people are vaccinated and offices are planning re-openings, it’s clear that for some organizations, remote work is here to stay. 

Deel, a startup which provides payroll, compliance tools and other services to help businesses hire remotely, has seen increased demand in the wake of this shift.

And today, the San Francisco company has announced that it has raised $156 million in Series C funding led by the YC Continuity Fund and existing backers Andreessen Horowitz and Spark Capital. Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, former Stripe payments guru Lachy Groom, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Jeff Wilke, and Anthony Schiller also participated in the round, among others. 

The raise is notable for a few reasons. For one, it comes just over seven months after Deel raised a $30 million Series B financing. So it is essentially more than 5x the size of that round. It’s also a big deal because it propels Deel, a 3 year-old company, to unicorn status with a $1.25 billion valuation. The raise also comes after a massive year of growth for Deel, which says it saw a “20x” increase in revenue in 2020 with over 1,800 business clients. That’s up from 500 at the time of its September raise.

Co-founded by MIT alumni Alex Bouaziz and Shuo Wan, Deel aims to allow businesses “to hire anyone, anywhere, in a compliant manner.” It claims that by using its services, businesses can hire and (Read more...)