Medium acquires social book reading app Glose


This post is by Romain Dillet from Fundings & Exits – TechCrunch

Medium is acquiring Paris-based startup Glose for an undisclosed amount. Glose has been building iOS, Android and web apps that let you buy, download and read books on your devices.

The company has turned reading into a multiplayer experience as you can build a bookshelf, share notes with your followers and start conversations in the margins. Sure, there are social platforms that let you talk about books, such as Goodreads. But Glose’s differentiating point is that the social features are intrinsically linked with the reading features — those aren’t two separate platforms. There are also some gamification features that help you stay motivated as you read difficult books — you get streak rewards for instance.

In many ways, Glose’s one-tap highlighting and commenting features are reminiscent of Medium’s features on this front. You can highlight text in any reading app on your phone or tablet but you can’t do much with it.

More recently, Glose has launched a separate service called Glose Education. As the name suggests, that version is tailored for universities and high schools. Teachers can hand out assignments and you can read a book as a group.

Over 1 million people have used Glose and 25 universities have signed up to Glose Education, including Stanford and Columbia University.

But Glose isn’t just a software play. The company has also put together a comprehensive book store. The company has partnered with 20,000 publishers so that you can buy ebooks directly from the app.

And if you are studying Virginia Wolf this semester, Glose also provides hundreds of thousands of public domain books for free. Glose also supports audio books.

This is by far the most interesting part as Medium now plans to expand beyond articles and blogs. While Glose is sticking around for now, Medium also plans to integrate ebooks and audio books to its service.

It’s a smart move as many prolific bloggers are also book writers. Right now, they write a blog post on Medium and link to a third-party site if you want to buy their books. Having the ability to host everything written by an author is a better experience for both content creators and readers.

“We’re impressed not only by Glose's reading products and technology, but also by their experience in partnering with book authors and publishers," Medium CEO Ev Williams said in a statement. “Books are a means of exploring an idea, a way to go deeper. The vast majority of the world’s ideas are stored in books and journals, yet are hardly searchable nor shareable. With Glose, we want to improve that experience within Medium’s large network of engaged readers and writers. We look forward to working with the Glose team on partnering with publishers to help authors reach more readers."

The Glose team will remain in Paris, which means that Medium is opening its first office outside of the U.S. Glose will continue to honor its partnerships with authors, publishers, schools and institutions.

7 Tips for European Female Founders Fundraising Right Now


This post is by Annalise Dragic from Sapphire Ventures Perspectives - Medium

The events of 2020 have compounded the issues female founders face all over the world. In the U.S., despite overall VC funding remaining stable, funding for female founders fell to 2017 levels in the third quarter and decreased on an annual basis last year, according to Pitchbook.

In Europe, the situation is arguably worse. The share of investments involving female founding teams has barely moved in recent years: female-founded companies represented less than two percent of the total capital invested in venture-backed startups according to Atomico’s 2020 State of European Tech Report.

Despite the downward trending data, there’s a silver lining for European female founders. The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the fundraising process to a mainly virtual world. From this perspective, in some ways it’s making it easier for European female founders to raise capital from international investors.

Many female founders have reached out as they are keen to take advantage of this opportunity to build relationships across borders, especially with U.S. investors. Toward the end of last year, Stacy Kim, London-based Partner at Wilson Sonsini, kindly invited me to a fireside chat with a group of European female founders looking to raise from U.S. investors. I want to share the top tips coming out of the session around how to approach fundraising and what has changed in the post-COVID word.

As a female founder in Europe, here are 7 best practices to keep in mind as you fundraise:

  1. Prepare a Plan of Attack

Although the fundraising process changes slightly from stage to stage, for example a Pre-Seed round is going to be a different beast than a Series B, but what does not change is having a plan is critical. Across all stages, it’s important to plan out when you want to start fundraising and which VCs you want to engage with. It helps if this plan includes an ongoing process of building relationships and crafting your story even when you are not actively fundraising.

2. Leverage Your Current Investors

If you’ve been able to secure investment already, one network to not overlook is your existing investors and board members. I often see founders who have done their research and identified VCs that might be a great partner for the next stage of growth, but they don’t deeply engage with the partners they already have. Your existing European-based investors can be a great bridge to other investors, especially U.S. investors. Also, consider doing a practice round with your existing investors as this can help identify what questions investors might have and increase your confidence in responses.

3. Always Consider the Next Round

One area early-stage European female founders should be mindful of when raising capital and negotiating terms is ensuring you’re continuously investable. Founders who have agreed to highly dilutive rounds or non-standards terms run the risk of setting themselves up for failure in a future round. For example, founders may find it harder to bring on new investors if they think management isn’t incentivized to work for the company because of low ownership or it requires work to fix a messy cap table. To avoid these issues, always make sure you are seeking expert advice and working with experienced lawyers, as well as doing your own research and referencing potential investors.

4. Craft a Pitch and Metrics Appropriate to Your Stage

Top tier VCs look for the same thing — whether they’re in the U.S. or Europe. They look for exceptional founders building highly scalability businesses with products that customers love. It’s critical to research and understand if the VC you are considering invests at your stage and is excited about your sector. That said, it’s important to recognize investors focus on different areas depending on the stage:

  • Pre-Seed / Seed: The team, market and product vision matter a lot. There aren’t that many data points for a VC to look at, so you will need to emphasize why your business needs to be built and why you’re the right person to do it.
  • Series A: Demonstrating product-market-fit is key. Share initial data points around commercialization and what initial customers say about the product.
  • Series B, C and further into the growth stage: Financial metrics and traction to-date is even more important. It’s key to emphasize scalability of the product and your engine for efficient growth.

5. Seek out Investors that Match Your Needs for Expansion

At the early stages of a company’s journey having an investor in close proximity geographically can be beneficial. Your broad member will be in the same or similar time zone and can answer those 1 a.m. Whatsapp messages. As a company matures and looks towards international expansion, it can be very beneficial to bring on board a U.S. investor. This is because a U.S. investor can provide better support and guidance accessing the U.S. market, like through Sapphire’s Portfolio Growth team. That said, COVID has accelerated trends around remote work, and I’ve seen more European founders seek out U.S. investors earlier in their journey as they build a global business from day one.

6. Don’t Forget to Be Confident in Yourself

It’s obvious, but an important area to stress is around confidence. I’ve heard time and time again it can be intimidating to pitch a VC partnership, especially for female founders who face unconscious biases, and there’s data to back it up. Seven years of data from pitches at TechCrunch Disrupt New York City analyzed in research from London Business School Professor Dana Kanze, as explained in her TED Talk, show that female founders get asked more prevention versus promotion questions from VCs. And the result of these biases are stark: male-led startups raise five times more capital than female-led ones. Staying confident and converting prevention questions into promotion answers can help female founders improve their chances of getting funding.

7. Stay Determined

2021 is likely to be another difficult year for many female entrepreneurs. A survey of women across global tech hubs by the Female Founders Alliance found 51 percent of women have delayed or cancelled their plans to start a company as a result of the pandemic. Of those surveyed, 45 percent of female entrepreneurs are fully or mostly responsible for the added workload in their household as a result of the pandemic.

But female founders have made much progress in the past decade in spite of the obstacles they face. COVID has caused hardship, but it’s also helping bring the female founder and investor community closer together in Europe.

If you’re a female tech entrepreneur — in Europe or elsewhere — and are chasing your dreams, Sapphire is committed to helping. You can email me at annalise@sapphireventures.com to chat, seek feedback or guidance or ask for any pointers.


7 Tips for European Female Founders Fundraising Right Now was originally published in Sapphire Ventures Perspectives on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Iziwork raises $43 million for its temporary work platform


This post is by Romain Dillet from Fundings & Exits – TechCrunch

French startup Iziwork has raised a $43 million funding round. Cathay Innovation and Bpifrance’s Large Venture fund are participating in this funding round. The company has been building a platform focused on improving temporary employment.

While it’s a relatively large funding round, the startup is quite young. It was founded in September 2018 and it has raised $68 million overall.

Iziwork manages a marketplace of temporary work. 2,000 companies are using the platform in France and Italy. 800,000 candidates have used the app to access job opportunities. You can consider it as a tech-enabled version of the good old employment agency.

Candidates can onboard directly from the mobile app. You then get personalized recommendations based on your profile. 95% of assignments are filled in less than 4 hours. And of course, all your documents are managed from the app.

Iziwork tries to add some benefits to compensate the fact that temporary workers often jump from one company to another. For instance, you get a time savings account, you can request a down payment on your pay every week, etc.

The startup has realized that it can’t open offices in every big and intermediate city. That’s why third-party companies can join the Iziwork network. As a partner, you find new clients and new job opportunities. You can then leverage Iziwork’s app, service and pool of candidates.

This is an interesting strategy as it greatly increases supply on the Iziwork marketplace. Partners get a revenue sharing deal with Iziwork.

With today’s funding round, the company plans to expand to new countries and improve its tech product. There are still some growth opportunities in its existing markets as well.

Jobandtalent, another company in this space, has attracted some headlines as it has raised $108 million last week. Founded in 2009 and based in Madrid, it has generated €500 million in revenue last year.

But, let’s be honest, the temporary work market is huge. Adecco, Randstad and other legacy players still represent a bigger threat for this recent wave of temp staffing startups. Let’s see how it plays out in the coming years.

Iziwork raises $43 million for its temporary work platform


This post is by Romain Dillet from Fundings & Exits – TechCrunch

French startup Iziwork has raised a $43 million funding round. Cathay Innovation and Bpifrance’s Large Venture fund are participating in this funding round. The company has been building a platform focused on improving temporary employment.

While it’s a relatively large funding round, the startup is quite young. It was founded in September 2018 and it has raised $68 million overall.

Iziwork manages a marketplace of temporary work. 2,000 companies are using the platform in France and Italy. 800,000 candidates have used the app to access job opportunities. You can consider it as a tech-enabled version of the good old employment agency.

Candidates can onboard directly from the mobile app. You then get personalized recommendations based on your profile. 95% of assignments are filled in less than 4 hours. And of course, all your documents are managed from the app.

Iziwork tries to add some benefits to compensate the fact that temporary workers often jump from one company to another. For instance, you get a time savings account, you can request a down payment on your pay every week, etc.

The startup has realized that it can’t open offices in every big and intermediate city. That’s why third-party companies can join the Iziwork network. As a partner, you find new clients and new job opportunities. You can then leverage Iziwork’s app, service and pool of candidates.

This is an interesting strategy as it greatly increases supply on the Iziwork marketplace. Partners get a revenue sharing deal with Iziwork.

With today’s funding round, the company plans to expand to new countries and improve its tech product. There are still some growth opportunities in its existing markets as well.

Jobandtalent, another company in this space, has attracted some headlines as it has raised $108 million last week. Founded in 2009 and based in Madrid, it has generated €500 million in revenue last year.

But, let’s be honest, the temporary work market is huge. Adecco, Randstad and other legacy players still represent a bigger threat for this recent wave of temp staffing startups. Let’s see how it plays out in the coming years.

Business trip platform TravelPerk buys YC-backed rival NexTravel


This post is by Natasha Lomas from Fundings & Exits – TechCrunch

Barcelona-based TravelPerk has scooped up US-based rival NexTravel as the pandemic drives consolidation in one of the sector’s hardest hit by COVID-19.

It’s not disclosing how much it’s shelling out for NexTravel, which has some 700 customers globally and has processed around 300,000 trips since being founded back in 2013, but says the deal is its largest acquisition to date — with the aim of beefing up its business in the US. (Also today it’s announcing a partnership with Southwest Airlines that plugs a key gap in its US offering.)

The US has always been a top five market for TravelPerk, per CEO and co-founder, Avi Meir, but after the NexTravel acquisition it becomes its largest market.

“US customers, US know-how, [US-based] team,” he said, listing the drivers for the acquisition. “They’ve built an amazing product. It’s a Y Combinator company who started 2-3 years before us and they focused only or mostly on the US market so they have an expertise that is very complementary to what we’re doing.”

Meir confirmed NexTravel’s founders and team are joining TravelPerk as part of the deal. Existing customers include the likes of Yelp, Stripe and Harry’s.

“They’re a great company. I really think we have great execution and we got into the crisis with a much better cash position and COVID-19 is creating opportunities that didn’t exist before,” he added. “We had friendly competition and just the context of the situation was we were in a better position to acquire them vs them acquiring us.”

The plan is to migrate users of the US product onto TravelPerk’s platform over time but Meir said the NexTravel team will continue to support the product for the foreseeable future while it works on understanding and plugging any functionality gaps with the aim of ensuring a smooth, eventual transition for NexTravel customers in the future.

The acquisition is only TravelPerk’s second after it picked up risk management startup Albatross last summer — underlining how the coronavirus crisis is retooling priorities for businesses in the travel sector.

Or at least those that have enough funding to see them through the revenue crunch. And Meir confirmed TravelPerk has its eye on more acquisition targets.

“We are in the process of talking with a few more [potential acquisitions],” he said, adding: “In a moment of crisis consolidation typically happens so I think it’s fair to expect more of this.”

While a couple of years ahead of TravelPerk in starting up a business travel booking business, NexTravel has raised considerably less over its run — pulling in circa $4.5M in funding, according to Crunchbase.

The younger Spain-based startup, meanwhile, grew faster and has raised orders of magnitude more (~$134M to date) — including a $60M top-up to its Series C in 2019 when it was reporting 2,000 customers globally.

“We just happen to be in Europe,” Meir told TechCrunch, discussing how his European startup is in a position to buy a US rival (when the reverse is all too often the case in tech) — and pointing to knowledge of how to localize as a key advantage. “We were never targeting the Spanish market exclusively or not even the European market.

“To win in business travel, one of the paradoxes is you have to build a very localized product… So we never saw ourselves as a European business we just recognize that we have to really localize deeply in order to be successful anywhere. But we have to do it across the world. So this acquisition is just another step in localizing for the US.”

“[The acquisition] will obviously drive a lot of product development, of commercial investments, of partnerships,” he added. “In a way we’re doing it knowing that it will force us to do more of the US — so it’s kind of a self-fulfilling prophesy — but it’s a $300BN business travel market so we should better make some moves around it.”

With the pandemic continuing to ravage much of the globe — including both the US and Europe — there’s likely to be considerably fewer billions of dollars on business travel value up for grabbed for a sizeable chunk of 2021. And Meir confirmed that TravelPerk isn’t expecting to see a revival in the market before the second half of this year.

Nonetheless, he remains bullish that once vaccinations are rolled out to the most vulnerable groups in society business travellers will be on the move once again — predicting that Zoom fatigue and the boom in remote working will rekindle demand for face-to-face human contact.

“My best guess right now is everything converges to around the second half of this year — around May-June maybe — where seasonality should hopefully hit. Meaning we’ll see the same decline in hospitalizations and deaths as we saw last year. That’s my hope,” he predicted. “On top of that we have the vaccines… Within the next 4-5 months there is reason to expect that we’ll see [vaccine rollouts] accelerating and then everything converges. We just need the at risk population to be safe for the world to be open again.”

“It doesn’t mean we’ll be completely done with corona but it won’t be as deadly as it is now so we’ll be able to open up more and remove restrictions and see travel coming back again,” he added.

Pressed on whether businesses might not have adjusted to a new, ‘more digital’ normal after 1.5 years of living with COVID-19 — having come to rely on a suite of videoconferencing and virtual meeting tools — Meir quashes the idea of a smaller business travel market replacing the pre-pandemic industry, predicting a “roaring ’20s” revival for business travel instead, fuelled by “Zoom fatigue” and networking FOMO once social distancing restrictions can be lifted.

“If you still own any Zoom shares you should sell them!” he quipped, speaking via Zoom call (obviously). “This is going down from now. Everybody is tired of this. The Zoom fatigue is real. It creates a lot of mental health concerns, social isolation… Maslow’s Pyramid of Needs is still here, and it’s even stronger than ever, I think, because we realize how bad it is when we don’t meet people in real life. When everything has to be through this weird, proxy to human connection. The virus doesn’t change human nature. We still need to meet each other face to face.”

“The first sales person who’s going to lose a sale because the competition went and took the customer to dinner and they wanted to do it via Zoom, they’re on a plane the next day. So competition will solve it — even if we put aside human nature,” he added. “I think we all recognize even more how much we need human connection.”

So even if some some “transactional meetings” do move permanently to Zoom, as Meir conceded “maybe” happens, he said they’re not the primary driver for the bulk of business travel anyway.

Furthermore, the pandemic will create new demand for business travel because of the boom in remote working creating ongoing need for distributed colleagues to travel to meet each other face to face, with Meir arguing that more flexible working is certainly here to stay.

“My team, like many other teams, used to be all in Barcelona in the same building — and now we allow them to work from anywhere in the world. Because why not? Many companies will stick to that I think,” he said. “We have recognized that people like it, the employees like it and it’s cheaper, because you don’t have to have as much office real estate — and people are more productive and they’re happier and they have a better balance between their personal and work life.

“So this requires a new type of travel because… you have to bring [your team] together for a week of work together. So I think the small decline in business travel due to this one hour transactional call that you can move to Zoom will be compensated even more — increased by — this new way of working that requires a new type of business travel.”

While TravelPerk was fortunate enough to go into the pandemic well-capitalized, having topped up its Series C in 2019, investor interest in travel startups undoubtedly went on holiday for a considerable chunk of last year. But, again, Meir suggests, an uptick on that front.

“We don’t need to raise any time soon — we have enough cash. The expectation is for the business to go back to growing year on year sometime in Q3, Q4 of this year,” he told us. “Having said that, what’s interesting — and I don’t know if I’m the only one — is we went from [being a fast-growing company] and you get a lot of inbound from investors and then COVID-19 hit and my inbox was empty for a while.

“It was pretty sad, pretty pathetic. And then the last few weeks — since the beginning of the school year — September/October, my inbox is not empty anymore. So there is some movement in the market. There’s a lot of money looking for a home — for good investments. And I think even in an industry which is suffering obviously, the good companies can raise at good terms right now. So I’m not looking to raise but I’m always open to the opportunity.”

Jobandtalent tops up with $108M for its ‘workforce as a service’ platform


This post is by Natasha Lomas from Fundings & Exits – TechCrunch

Madrid-based Jobandtalent, a digital temp staffing agency which operates a dual-sided platform that connects temp workers with employers needing regular casual labor in sectors like transport and logistics, has added €88 million (~$108M) to its Series C — bringing the total raised following an earlier (2019) closing of the round to €166M.

The 2009-founded startup has raised more than $290M to date over its decade+ run but describes itself as just at the beginning of a journey to make a dent in the massive and growing market for temporary work, expecting demand to keep stepping up as more sectors and processes go digital in the coming years.

Jobandtalent says more than 80,000 workers have used its platform to secure temp gigs in the last year across the seven markets where it operates in Europe and LatAm (namely: Spain, UK, Germany, France, Sweden, Mexico and Colombia); while 750+ employers are signed up to “recurrently manage a large part of their workforce”, as it puts it, including XPO, Ocado, Saint Gobain, Santander, Bayer, eBay, Huawei, Ceva Logistics and Carrefour.

It’s focused on competing with traditional staffing agencies such as Adecco and Randstad, though other similar startups are cropping up to cater to an ever more precarious temporary employment market. (And Uber, for example, launched a shift-finder app experiment called Works, back in 2019, also targeting demand for on-demand labor — but doing so in partnership with staffing agencies in its case).

Jobandtalent reports the number of workers looking for temp jobs on its platform doubling every year, while it’s grown revenue to €500M and says it’s hit positive EBITDA.

The beefed up Series C funding will be put towards expanding into more markets and doubling down on growing its existing footprint, it said today.

“We will keep expanding through Europe and will consider some additional opportunities (the US and some LatAm countries),” co-founder Juan Urdiales told us, noting that its main markets remain Spain and the UK, while its main sectors are logistics, last mile, warehousing and transport.

The lead investor in the expansion tranche of its C round is new investor InfraVia, a French private equity firm, which is putting in €30M — investing via a Growth Tech Fund it launched last year that’s focused on European b2b high-growth tech companies.

Existing Jobandtalent investors, including Atomico, Seek, DN Capital and Kibo Ventures, also participated in the Series C top-up.

Urdiales said the reason it’s taken in another chunk of funding now is because of increased opportunity for growth as the coronavirus pandemic continues to accelerate demand for temping. “The reason why we are raising more is because we are seeing a high potential now to grow even faster than expected,” he told us. “The pandemic has helped us with both workers and employers in terms of adoption of our platform.”

“Covid has accelerated the transformation of many industries. We have seen more adoption of new technologies in the last nine months than in the last five years. The staffing market is experiencing a huge transformation that will be accelerated in the upcoming years, moving from brick and mortar traditional structures to data driven platforms that will improve the experience of both workers and employers,” Urdiales went on in a statement.

“This market is really big and we are just in the beginning of our journey (even though we have been a lot of years in the market now),” he added via email, discussing whether an IPO is on the business’ roadmap in the next few years. “We think that if we continue growing at the pace that we are growing now, and we add some private investors to help us with our growth plans, we may stay private for longer.”

Jobandtalent has been through a number of pivots since kicking off more than a decade ago with the idea of using technology to streamline the messy and consummately human business of recruitment. It started out testing a number of approaches before settling on a linguistics algorithm to parse job ads and create alerts to loop in passive job seekers.

Then in 2016 it pivoted away from enterprise recruitment to focus on mobilizing hiring for SMEs — zeroing in on the growing opportunity for temp job-matching offered by the rise of gig work fuelled by smartphone apps. From there, it’s been honing tools to cater to the needs of employers that are managing large temporary workforces.

The flip side of the rapid growth of ‘flexible’ platform-based labor — and Jobandtalent says it’s eyeing a pool of some 500M temp workers globally — is something that gig platforms don’t usually like to talk about: Worker precariousness.

But that’s something this startup says it wants to help with too. A key part of the proposition Jobandtalent offers to workers is increased benefits vs what a temp might otherwise expect to get.

The average gig platform does not offer a full suite of workers rights and benefits, just as they don’t provide a contractual guarantee of future shifts, as they classify on-demand labor as ‘self-employed’ — even as, simultaneously, they apply mobile technology to tightly manage this workforce (via data, algorithms and their own devices). 

This disconnect, between the level of gig worker rights and platform control, has led to a number of legal challenges in Europe — including in several of the markets where Jobandtalent operates (such as Spain, where Glovo continues to face legal challenges over its classification of delivery couriers, for example; and France and the UK, where Uber has lost a number of employment tribunals over driver status).

EU lawmakers are also eyeing conditions for gig workers — considering whether legislation is needed to protect platform workers’ rights. While some platform giants, like Uber, have already felt politically pressured to offer a level of insurance in the region.

Jobandtalent’s promise is it’s pushing for more perks for temps — leveraging the scale of its platform to get workers a better deal, including by making precarious work more steady (by lining up the next gig) and therefore less uncertain.

“All of the workers have access to the same benefits,” said Urdiales via email when we ask about how Jobandtalent’s perks are structured. “There are benefits such as advance payroll, health insurance, training courses, etc (not all the benefits are available in all countries, it depends on the level of maturity of each country).”

“We want to give any worker that starts working through Jobandtalent access to those benefits and offer a high standard employment treatment, so they have a similar status to what a perm employee has,” he added.

In a press release trumpeting its investment in Jobandtalent, new investor, InfraVia, also suggests the platform makes “temporary work a fulfilling professional step” — by defining “career plans” for temporary workers so they can “progress towards permanent and rewarding positions”.

However when we asked Urdiales what data it has on temp-to-permanent switches that have been enabled by its platform he said this is “not a common thing”.

“Employers are not looking to add workers to their perm workforces, and Jobandtalent is precisely trying to solve that for the workers, trying to give constant employment in different work assignments at different companies so they can find more stability,” he told us, adding: “The market is moving even more into a more precarious temporary employment market, and we believe that in this context a platform like the one that we are offering makes even more sense.”.

The other big carrot for workers to plug into Jobandtalent’s temp work marketplace is convenience: It takes a mobile app-based approach — offering a one-stop-shop for giggers to find their next shift, apply for the temp job (via in-app video interview), sign the contract and get paid, as well as access the touted benefits.

Its streamlining of admin around recruitment and payroll is also of course a key carrot for employers to get on board with Jobandtalent’s ‘workforce as a service’ proposition — which claims an upgraded offer (such as a CRM that bakes in analytics for tracking workforce performance in real time) vs traditional temping agency processes, as well as lower costs and increased numbers of job offers.

Its worker-to-temp job matching tech is designed to take the (temp) recruitment strain for employer customers via a proprietary quality worker scoring algorithm which it calls a Worker Quality Score (WQS).

Urdiales told us the criteria that feeds this score include attrition rate, absenteeism rate — and “some productivity metrics of the workers that we place” — when we asked for details, having found no information about the WQS on its website.

Algorithmic scoring of workers can have obvious implications for worker agency.

Nor is it without legal risk in Europe where EU citizens have rights attached to their personal data, such as access rights, and also (under the GDPR) a right to human review of any purely automated decisions that have a legal or similarly substantial impact on them (and decisions impacting access to work would be likely to qualify).

In a recent judgement, for example, a court in Italy ruled that a reputation ranking algorithm used by on-demand delivery platform Deliveroo had discriminated against workers because the code failed to distinguish between legally protected reasons for being absent from work (such as sickness or being on strike) and more trivial reasons for not turning up for a previously booked shift. (Deliveroo no longer uses the algorithm in question.)

Uber is also facing legal challenges in the Netherlands to its use of algorithms to automatically terminate drivers and to its use of data and algorithms to profile and manage drivers. While ride-hailing company Ola is facing a similar suit over its algorithmic management of gig workers. So EU courts are certainly going to busy interrogating the intersection of app-driven algorithmic management and regional data and labor rights for the foreseeable future.

The European Commission has also proposed a sweeping reform of the regional rulebook for digital services which includes a requirement for regulatory oversight of key decision-making algorithms with the aim of shrinking the risk of negative impacts such as bias and discrimination — although any new laws are likely still years out.

Asked whether Jobandtalent’s worker users are provided with their own WQS and given the chance to appeal substantial decreases in the score — including the opportunity to request a human review of any automated decisions — Urdiales said: “The platform gives them constant feedback based on the main metrics that they can affect (voluntary attrition, absenteeism, etc) with the aim to make them improve at work and consequently improve their ability to get more jobs in the future.”

Too Good To Go raises $31 million to fight food waste


This post is by Romain Dillet from Fundings & Exits – TechCrunch

Too Good To Go, the startup that lets you buy food right before it goes to waste, is raising a $31.1 million round. blisce/ is leading the round and investing $15.4 million as part of today’s round. Existing investors and employees are also participating. While the company has been around for a while, this is the first time Too Good To Go is raising money from a VC firm.

The startup has been operating across several European countries for a few years now. It runs a marketplace focused on food waste. On one side, restaurants, grocery stores, bakeries and other food businesses contribute surplus food items. On the other side, consumers can snatch food right before it becomes unsellable.

It’s a win for everybody as businesses can generate a bit of revenue from surplus food, customers can buy food at great prices and it reduces unnecessary waste. Of course, it’s also beneficial for Too Good To Go as the company takes a commission on transactions.

The company’s CEO Mette Lykke told TechCrunch’s Ingrid Lunden that one-third of food produced today is either lost or wasted — so there’s a big market opportunity. While the startup has been growing nicely, the pandemic has had a big impact on revenue — many restaurants shut down and many customers prefer to stay at home.

Back in September, Lykke told TechCrunch that Too Good To Go saw a 62% drop in revenue due to Covid-19. But that’s not going to stop the company.

Overall, Too Good To Go is operating in 15 countries and has saved 50 million meals. 65,000 businesses have sold something on Too Good To Go so far. 30 million people signed up to the service.

Too Good To Go is already working on its biggest expansion — the U.S. Just like in Europe, billions of pounds of food go to waste. According to USDA’s Economic Research Service, it represents 30 to 40% of the food supply.

As the startup’s operations are extremely local, Too Good To Go is starting with specific metropolitan areas in the U.S. In September, the company started its operations in the U.S. with New York City and Boston. Too Good To Go has expanded to part of New Jersey since then.

In the U.S. alone, the startup has attracted 150,000 users and is working with 600 businesses. It has sold 50,000 meals. Those numbers are still somewhat small, but it’s been a weird quarter for restaurants and grocery stores in the U.S.

Let’s see how it evolves in the coming months. With today’s new funding round, it should definitely boost usage in the U.S. and make it easier to plan for the long run.

Pennylane raises $18.4 million for its accounting service


This post is by Romain Dillet from Fundings & Exits – TechCrunch

French startup Pennylane has raised $18.4 million (€15 million) for its accounting service that combines automated processes with human accountants. Existing investors Global Founders Capital and Partech are investing once again.

Pennylane is both a software-as-a-service company that helps you deal with your financial data and an accounting firm. By working with accountants directly, it means that you can talk with your accountant through the company’s platform. It becomes a single source of information for financial data.

The startup wants to improve the experience for both its clients and its accountants. Usually, accounting firms receive data every month or every quarter. They waste a ton of time opening files and entering information in accounting software.

Similarly, accounting reports are a black box for CEOs and CFOs. They can’t leverage that data for financial projections and visibility. Pennylane wants to change that so that you don’t have to use Excel to predict your company’s P&L.

When you first start working with Pennylane, you connect your account with third-party services that already hold valuable information, such as Stripe, Payfit, Qonto, Zoho, Sellsy, etc. This way, information is always up to date, and not just when you manually export data from all your services.

A year after launch, Pennylane has generated €2 million in revenue ($2.5 million) and attracted 550 customers. There are now 30 accountants working for the company.

Up next, the startup wants to attract more companies, and especially companies that have an in-house accounting team or work with an accounting firm already. You’ll be able to use Pennylane’s software-as-a-service with your own accountant.

Pennylane had previously raised a $4.3 million (€4 million) seed round with Global Founders Capital, Partech and Kima Ventures.

IPRally is building a knowledge graph-based search engine for patents


This post is by Steve O'Hear from Fundings & Exits – TechCrunch

IPRally, a burgeoning startup out of Finland aiming to solve the patent search problem, has raised €2 million in seed funding.

Leading the round is by JOIN Capital, and Spintop Ventures, with participation from existing pre-seed backer Icebreaker VC. It brings the total raised by the 2018-founded company to €2.35 million.

Co-founded by CEO Sakari Arvela, who has 15 years experience as a patent attorney, IPRally has built a knowledge graph to help machines better understand the technical details of patents and to enable humans to more efficiently trawl through existing patients. The premise is that a graph-based approach is more suited to patent search than simple keywords or freeform text search.

That’s because, argues Arvela, every patent publication can be distilled down to a simpler knowledge graph that “resonates” with the way IP professionals think and is infinitely more machine readable.

“We founded IPRally in April 2018, after one year of bootstrapping and proof-of-concepting with my co-founder and CTO Juho Kallio,” he tells me. “Before that, I had digested the graph approach myself for about two years and collected the courage to start the venture”.

Arvela says patent search is a hard problem to solve since it involves both deep understanding of technology and the capability to compare different technologies in detail.

“This is why this has been done almost entirely manually for as long as the patent system has existed. Even the most recent out-of-the-box machine learning models are way too inaccurate to solve the problem. This is why we have developed a specific ML model for the patent domain that reflects the way human professionals approach the search task and make the problem sensible for the computers too”.

That approach appears to be paying off, with IPRally already being used by customers such as Spotify and ABB, as well as intellectual property offices. Target customers are described as any corporation that actively protects its own R&D with patents and has to navigate the IPR landscape of competitors.

Meanwhile, IPRally is not without its own competition. Arvela cites industry giants like Clarivate and Questel that dominate the market with traditional keyword search engines.

In addition, there are a few other AI-based startups, like Amplified and IPScreener. “IPRally’s graph approach makes the searches much more accurate, allows detail-level computer analysis, and offer a non-black-box solution that is explainable for and controllable by the user,” he adds.

IPRally is building a knowledge graph-based search engine for patents


This post is by Steve O'Hear from Fundings & Exits – TechCrunch

IPRally, a burgeoning startup out of Finland aiming to solve the patent-search problem, has raised €2 million in seed funding.

Leading the round is JOIN Capital and Spintop Ventures, with participation from existing pre-seed backer Icebreaker VC. It brings the total raised by the 2018-founded company to €2.35 million.

Co-founded by CEO Sakari Arvela, who has 15 years experience as a patent attorney, IPRally has built a knowledge graph to help machines better understand the technical details of patents and to enable humans to more efficiently trawl through existing patients. The premise is that a graph-based approach is more suited to patent search than simple keywords or freeform text search.

That’s because, argues Arvela, every patent publication can be distilled down to a simpler knowledge graph that “resonates” with the way IP professionals think and is infinitely more machine readable.

“We founded IPRally in April 2018, after one year of bootstrapping and proof-of-concepting with my co-founder and CTO Juho Kallio”, he tells me. “Before that, I had digested the graph approach myself for about two years and collected the courage to start the venture”.

Arvela says patent search is a hard problem to solve because it involves both deep understanding of technology and the capability to compare different technologies in detail.

“This is why this has been done almost entirely manually for as long as the patent system has existed. Even the most recent out-of-the-box machine learning models are way too inaccurate to solve the problem. This is why we have developed a specific ML model for the patent domain that reflects the way human professionals approach the search task and make the problem sensible for the computers too”.

That approach appears to be paying off, with IPRally already being used by customers such as Spotify and ABB, as well as intellectual property offices. Target customers are described as any corporation that actively protects its own R&D with patents and has to navigate the IPR landscape of competitors.

Meanwhile, IPRally is not without its own competition. Arvela cites industry giants like Clarivate and Questel that dominate the market with traditional keyword search engines.

In addition, there are a few other AI-based startups, like Amplified and IPScreener. “IPRally’s graph approach makes the searches much more accurate, allows detail-level computer analysis, and offer a non-black-box solution that is explainable for and controllable by the user,” he adds.

Sources: Hinge Health has raised $300M Series D at a $3B valuation


This post is by Steve O'Hear from Fundings & Exits – TechCrunch

Hinge Health, the San Francisco-based company that offers a digital solution to treat chronic musculoskeletal (MSK) conditions — such as back and joint pain — has closed a $300 million in Series D funding, according to sources. (Update: Hinge Health have now confirmed the fund raise.)

The round is led by Coatue and Tiger Global, and values 2015-founded Hinge at $3 billion post-money, people familiar with the investment tell me. It comes off the back of a 300% increase in revenue in 2020, with investors told to expect revenue to nearly triple again in 2021 based on the company’s booked pipeline.

I also understand that Hinge’s founders — Daniel Perez and Gabriel Mecklenburg — retain voting control of the board. I’ve reached out to CEO Perez for comment and will update this post should I hear back.

Hinge’s existing investors include Bessemer Venture Partners, which backed the company’s $90 million Series C round in February, along with Lead Edge Capital, Insight Partners (which led the Series B), Atomico (which led the Series A), 11.2 Capital, Quadrille Capital and Heuristic Capital.

Originally based in London, Hinge Health primarily sells into U.S. employers and health plans, billing itself as a digital healthcare solution for chronic MSK conditions. The platform combines wearable sensors, an app and health coaching to remotely deliver physical therapy and behavioral health.

The basic premise is that there is plenty of existing research to show how best to treat chronic MSK disorders, but existing healthcare systems aren’t up to the task due to funding pressures and for other systematic reasons. The result is an over tendency to use opioid-based painkillers or surgery, with poor results and often at even greater cost. Hinge wants to reverse this through the use of technology and better data, with a focus on improving treatment adherence.

Meanwhile, Hinge’s jump in valuation is significant. According to sources, the company’s February round produced a valuation of around $420 million, so the new valuation is more than a 6x increase.

Article updated on 6th December 2021 after Hinge Health confirmed the round and clarified the Series D amount as $300 million.

Sources: Hinge Health has raised $300M Series D at a $3B valuation


This post is by Steve O'Hear from Fundings & Exits – TechCrunch

Hinge Health, the San Francisco-based company that offers a digital solution to treat chronic musculoskeletal (MSK) conditions — such as back and joint pain — has closed a $300 million in Series D funding, according to sources. (Update: Hinge Health have now confirmed the fund raise.)

The round is led by Coatue and Tiger Global, and values 2015-founded Hinge at $3 billion post-money, people familiar with the investment tell me. It comes off the back of a 300% increase in revenue in 2020, with investors told to expect revenue to nearly triple again in 2021 based on the company’s booked pipeline.

I also understand that Hinge’s founders — Daniel Perez and Gabriel Mecklenburg — retain voting control of the board. I’ve reached out to CEO Perez for comment and will update this post should I hear back.

Hinge’s existing investors include Bessemer Venture Partners, which backed the company’s $90 million Series C round in February, along with Lead Edge Capital, Insight Partners (which led the Series B), Atomico (which led the Series A), 11.2 Capital, Quadrille Capital and Heuristic Capital.

Originally based in London, Hinge Health primarily sells into U.S. employers and health plans, billing itself as a digital healthcare solution for chronic MSK conditions. The platform combines wearable sensors, an app and health coaching to remotely deliver physical therapy and behavioral health.

The basic premise is that there is plenty of existing research to show how best to treat chronic MSK disorders, but existing healthcare systems aren’t up to the task due to funding pressures and for other systematic reasons. The result is an over tendency to use opioid-based painkillers or surgery, with poor results and often at even greater cost. Hinge wants to reverse this through the use of technology and better data, with a focus on improving treatment adherence.

Meanwhile, Hinge’s jump in valuation is significant. According to sources, the company’s February round produced a valuation of around $420 million, so the new valuation is more than a 6x increase.

Article updated on 6th December 2021 after Hinge Health confirmed the round and clarified the Series D amount as $300 million.

Estonian proptech Rendin raises €1.2M seed for its long-term rental platform


This post is by Steve O'Hear from Fundings & Exits – TechCrunch

Rendin, an Estonian proptech startup that wants to improve the home rental experience, including offering a no-deposit feature, has raised €1.2 million in seed funding. Backing the round is Tera Ventures, Iron Wolf Capital, Truesight Ventures, Atomico’s Angel Programme and Startup Wise Guys.

Launched in Estonia in March this year and currently expanding to Poland, Rendin operates a long-term rental platform that promises to smooth out the process between landlords and tenants. Its headline feature is an insurance-backed solution that means no deposit is required from tenants.

The broader premise is that by digitizing the rental process and adding an insurance layer, further trust can be generated between parties, therefore increasing occupancy rates.

For landlords, Rendin has created a “letting agreement service” with certain guarantees and has insured those risks via a partnership with ERGO Insurance SE (Munich Re Group). So, for example, if a tenant causes damage or ends up in debt, the property owner is covered. The letting agreement is handled via the startup’s app and platform that plugs into rental marketplaces and real estate CRMs on the backend to provide a fully digital experience.

“We launched publicly in Estonia on March 10, 2020, two days before the country went into pandemic lockdown,” Rendin co-founder Alain Aun tells me. “It really looked like the world was going to fall apart and a lot of the risks in home renting skyrocketed. We had to reinvent some parts of our product insurance very quickly to adjust to the changes around us.

“Suddenly we had desperate tenants losing their income, expats leaving the country in a hurry, and more. Our learning curve was tremendous. We figured, if we can survive this, we can survive anything. The last eleven months have been constant proof to us that the concept of Rendin can endure.”

Longer term, Rendin is building what Aun describes as “a new standard in home renting.” The first step is to manage the rental process risks to help establish trust between landlords and tenants. This has seen the proptech startup build an “end-to-end value chain,” from contracting, evidence-based handover, preventive insurance flows, loss control and claim handling.

Aun says Rendin’s insurance product offers landlords more safety than regular deposits, while some risks for tenants are also covered. “The insurance is a tool that helps Rendin to solve real-life, often complicated situations in renting, both for landlords and tenants,” he explains. “Tenants in the Rendin platform don’t have to pay the security deposit, but this is just a feature, not the core product. Trust is the name of the game.”

To generate revenue and cover the insurance costs, Rendin charges a fee of 2.5% of the monthly rent. It can be paid by the tenant or by the landlord. “More and more landlords choose to pay the Rendin fee themselves as it helps find new tenants faster,” adds Aun.

On the competition, Rendin isn’t competing with real estate listing sites or letting agencies, and instead can be thought of more as a plugin that can be easily integrated into listing sites and agents’ business processes.

“There are a few no-deposit startups around but their business models, although similar at first glance, are entirely different from ours,” claims the Rendin co-founder. “Most of them are set up to be essentially lending businesses that collect interest from tenants with real estate agencies serving up demand for them, but they don’t really do anything to help mitigate risks for the parties [involved].”

Lydia raises another $86 million to build European financial super app


This post is by Romain Dillet from Fundings & Exits – TechCrunch

French fintech startup Lydia has extended its Series B round. Accel is leading the extension with all major existing shareholders also participating. Lydia first raised $45 million in January 2020 — Tencent led that investment. The startup is now raising another $86 million, which means that Lydia has raised $131 million in total as part of its Series B round.

While Lydia wouldn’t discuss the valuation of the round, its co-founder and CEO gave me a hint. “The value of the company has really significantly increased between the two parts of the B round,” he told me.

Interestingly, Amit Jhawar is heading this investment for Accel. He joined Accel as a venture partner in July and he’s going to join Lydia’s board of directors.

Jhawar joined payments company Braintree in 2011 as COO and CFO. Shortly after, Braintree acquired peer-to-peer payment app Venmo. “When we acquired Venmo it was only 15 people. They had just released their mobile app in April of 2012,” Jhawar told me in a phone interview.

PayPal later acquired Braintree and Venmo — Jhawar stuck around until early 2020 to scale Venmo to the huge fintech consumer app that 52 million people use in the U.S. Jhawar believes that peer-to-peer payments represent the beginning of a long-term consumer relationship.

“You know that P2P is successful when they leave money in their account because they’re going to come back,” he said.

Back in 2014, when I first covered Lydia, I called it the Venmo for France — they had only raised €600,000 back then. It seems like Jhawar agrees with that take. Since then, Lydia has grown quite a lot and has expanded beyond peer-to-peer payments in various different ways.

With Lydia, you can send money to another user in just a few seconds. You don’t have to enter an account number in your banking app — as long as you know their phone number, they’ll receive your payment.

If you have money in your account, you can choose to spend it directly using a Visa debit card. Lydia lets you generate a virtual card that works with Apple Pay and Google Pay — you can also order a plastic card.

Lydia also supports direct deposit as you get your own IBAN in the app. You can also create money pots and send a link to other users, view your bank accounts in Lydia, donate money to hospitals and charities, get a credit line, etc.

But there’s one killer feature that stands out over the rest. Bank accounts tend to be monolithic and don’t reflect how you use money. “If you look at banks today, they call the main account a checking account. It’s outdated by design,” Chiche said.

Lydia has created flexible sub-accounts that you can use in many different ways. You can create a second sub-account and set some money aside for your bills. You can create a third one and share it with a few friends because you’re going on a vacation together.

You can move money from one account to another by swiping your finger across the account grid. As you can have multiple contributors and you can change the account associated with your debit card, it means that money flows more naturally. It feels like using a messaging app, not a financial app.

And it’s been working well in France. The company now has over 4 million users. Transactions have doubled over the past year, which means that usage is accelerating.

“Lydia has the largest P2P network in Europe outside of PayPal and has the potential to grow all across Europe with a mobile-first, customer-focused solution. This will bring demand for incremental consumer financial products and high merchant interest to accept the payment,” Jhawar told me in an email.

And 2020 has been a busy year for Lydia. The company has just released a complete redesign to better position the app as a super app for financial services. All the interactions and all the main tabs have been changed.

Lydia also re-launched its premium offering with two new premium plans that offer you higher limits over the free plan and an insurance package for the most expensive offer. Those plans are more in line with what the app offers today and should contribute to the company’s bottom line. “The next step is bringing Lydia to profitability and it’s something that has always been important for us,” Chiche said in a recent interview.

Behind the scenes, Lydia has also upgraded many core features, such as migrating cards to a new infrastructure, adding alerts to account aggregation, supporting instant SEPA transfers to bank accounts, etc.

In 2021, the company plans to build on top of that new foundation with more financial products. “We’re going to try every single product — credit, savings, investment,” Chiche said.

The company is also slowly expanding to more countries. But it wants to offer a product that feels like a local product with a local card and a local IBAN to increase acceptance rates. Lydia is starting with Portugal.

MessageBird acquires real-time notifications and in-app messaging platform Pusher for $35M


This post is by Steve O'Hear from Fundings & Exits – TechCrunch

MessageBird, the omnichannel cloud communications platform recently valued at $3 billion following a Series C round in October, has acquired London-based real-time web technologies company Pusher.

The acquisition price is $35 million, and sees Pusher co-founder and CEO Max Williams and the 25-person Pusher team join Amsterdam-headquartered MessageBird . (In 2018, Pusher told TechCrunch it had a team of 60, so there has obviously been some cost-cutting in recent years.)

The Pusher product will be kept independent for existing customers, while Pusher’s tech, with its focus on in-app notifications and a developer-friendly API and SDKs built around “push,” will help plug a gap in MessageBird’s own communication platform, which is stronger in SMS and messaging-first channels such as Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Line and WeChat, etc. Specifically, Pusher is said to bring features like in-app messaging, push notifications and location tracking.

“The deal opens up a host of new tools and features that will help MessageBird’s customers talk to their customers in even more ways than before,” says MessageBird.

Founded in 2011, Pusher aimed to lower the barriers for developers who want to build real-time features into their websites and apps. This was originally delivered via a general purpose real-time API and supporting cloud infrastructure, enabling app developers to more easily build things like rich push notifications, live content updates and various real-time collaboration and communication features.

However, more recently the company had begun rolling out additional offerings dedicated to specific real-time functionality. The first of those was Chatkit, an API and SDK intended to do a lot of the heavy lifting required to add chat functionality to an app or service. This has since been extended to also include charts and location tracking/maps. Pusher customers include GitHub, Mailchimp, CodeShip and The Financial Times.

Meanwhile, MessageBird was originally seen as a European or “rest of the world” competitor to U.S.-based Twilio — offering a cloud communications platform that supports voice, video and text capabilities all wrapped up in an API — but has since repositioned itself as an “Omnichannel Platform-as-a-Service” (OPaaS). The idea is to easily enable enterprises and medium and smaller-sized companies to communicate with customers on any channel of their choosing.

Out of the box, this includes support for WhatsApp, Messenger, WeChat, Twitter, Line, Telegram, SMS, email and voice. Customers can start online and then move their support request or query over to a more convenient channel, such as their favourite mobile messaging app, which, of course, can go with them. It’s all part of MessageBird founder and CEO Robert Vis’ big bet that the future of customer interactions is omnichannel.

Therefore the acquisition of Pusher looks like a good fit, overall. London and Amsterdam are close geographically and with similar time zones, while MessageBird is transforming into a remote-first company anyway. There is also arguably enough product overlap but also genuine gaps to make the pairing a no-brainer.

In a short call with MessageBird CEO and founder Robert Vis, he talked up Pusher’s tech and team and pressed home his belief that it is important that startups exiting find a “good home,” rather than simply being acquired and then disappearing without a trace. Likewise, if MessageBird wants to be truly omnichannel, a really good “push” API and product suite is needed. The next decision was then whether or not to acquire or build, and, in this instance, teaming up with Pusher was deemed the best way forward.

Meanwhile, Vis advised me to expect a lot more M&A in the omnichannel and messaging platform space. Not just from MessageBird as it heads toward a potential IPO, but also from competitors.

Taxdoo, the tax compliance platform for cross-border e-commerce, raises $21M Series A


This post is by Steve O'Hear from Fundings & Exits – TechCrunch

Taxdoo, a startup that has built what it calls an “automated platform for financial compliance” aimed at cross-border e-commerce companies, has raised $21 million in new funding.

Leading the Series A round is venture capital firm Accel, with participation from Visionaries Club, 20VC and existing investor HTGF. The funding will be invested in Taxdoo’s growth — including international expansion– increased hiring, R&D, sales, and customer support. Accel’s Harry Nelis has joined the Taxdoo board.

The inclusion of Harry Stebbings’ 20VC is noteworthy, as the podcaster-turned-VC originally said his micro fund was targeting U.S. startups across various stages, and therefore there wasn’t any perceived conflict with his role as a partner at European VC Stride. Taxdoo is based out of Hamburg, Germany. “20VC essentially invests largely in the U.S. but can also invest where Stride does not, anywhere in Europe outside of the U.K. and Paris,” clarified Stebbings in a WhatsApp message.

Founded in May 2016, after its three founders — Christian Koenigsheim, Matthias Allmendinger, and Roger Gothmann — finished their PhDs in finance at the University of Hamburg, Taxdoo wants to use automation to meet the tax and compliance burden faced by cross-border e-commerce companies that sell on various marketplaces and platforms such as Amazon, eBay, and Shopify. This sees those businesses facing increasing complexity around VAT, accounting and other compliance requirements, with data siloed across multiple online systems.

Taxdoo brings that data into a single place and then uses its own tech to automate transaction-level data ingestion, tax calculation and filings across Europe. Customers can also collaborate with their tax advisors through the platform and reduce other compliance burdens, including Intrastat filings.

“While it has become easier and easier to sell products across borders in Europe from a marketing and logistics standpoint, the resulting compliance obligations – like accounting or VAT – are a nightmare for sellers,” Taxdoo’s Christian Koenigsheim tells me.

“Handling these issues manually using spreadsheets is a recipe for disaster. To solve this problem, we’ve used our in-house expertise to automate the entire process – from the collection of data to the filing of VAT returns in different countries and the integration of transactions into the seller’s accounting system”.

Koenigsheim says a typical Taxdoo customer sells products on different marketplaces and their own shop, with annual revenues of around €5-10 million. “Our largest customers are global consumer brands with annual revenues of €150 million and above,” he says.

Examples include D2C brands like air up and YFood or e-commerce companies OmniDeal and sellvin. “Among others, we partner with tax professionals, ERP systems, and e-commerce agencies to help them handle these complex issues for their clients,” adds Koenigsheim.

“Our secret sauce is that we automate the entire workflow from end-to-end. This starts with the aggregation of data from different channels like marketplaces, shops, and ERP systems using our automated connectors. Our system [then] analyses data under all applicable regulations and prepares the required returns across the EU, which are filed by an international network of tax partners using a convenient software solution created by us”.

Taxdoo data can also be exported to a seller’s accounting system, enabling them to more easily collaborate with local tax advisors.

Meanwhile, the addressable market is growing fast, in part helped by accelerated digitisation during the pandemic and the growth of e-commerce. Taxdoo cites data showing that cross-border transactions now represents approximately 25% of total e-commerce transactions in Western Europe and Scandinavia, and is rising.

Cue statement from Accel’s Harry Nelis: “With a booming e-commerce landscape and companies of all sizes looking to sell their products and services internationally, we see an acute need for integrated financial and tax compliance. Taxdoo’s founders bring together unique experience at the intersection of tax, finance and software and we are excited to work with them to build Taxdoo into a category defining company”.

Taxdoo, the tax compliance platform for cross-border e-commerce, raises $21M Series A


This post is by Steve O'Hear from Fundings & Exits – TechCrunch

Taxdoo, a startup that has built what it calls an “automated platform for financial compliance” aimed at cross-border e-commerce companies, has raised $21 million in new funding.

Leading the Series A round is venture capital firm Accel, with participation from Visionaries Club, 20VC and existing investor HTGF. The funding will be invested in Taxdoo’s growth — including international expansion– increased hiring, R&D, sales and customer support. Accel’s Harry Nelis has joined the Taxdoo board.

The inclusion of Harry Stebbings’ 20VC is noteworthy, as the podcaster-turned-VC originally said his micro fund was targeting U.S. startups across various stages, and therefore there wasn’t any perceived conflict with his role as a partner at European VC Stride. Taxdoo is based out of Hamburg, Germany. “20VC essentially invests largely in the U.S. but can also invest where Stride does not, anywhere in Europe outside of the U.K. and Paris,” clarified Stebbings in a WhatsApp message.

Founded in May 2016, after its three founders — Christian Koenigsheim, Matthias Allmendinger, and Roger Gothmann — finished their PhDs in finance at the University of Hamburg. Taxdoo wants to use automation to meet the tax and compliance burden faced by cross-border e-commerce companies that sell on various marketplaces and platforms such as Amazon, eBay and Shopify. This sees those businesses facing increasing complexity around VAT, accounting and other compliance requirements, with data siloed across multiple online systems.

Taxdoo brings that data into a single place and then uses its own tech to automate transaction-level data ingestion, tax calculation and filings across Europe. Customers can also collaborate with their tax advisors through the platform and reduce other compliance burdens, including Intrastat filings.

“While it has become easier and easier to sell products across borders in Europe from a marketing and logistics standpoint, the resulting compliance obligations — like accounting or VAT — are a nightmare for sellers,” Taxdoo’s Christian Koenigsheim tells me.

“Handling these issues manually using spreadsheets is a recipe for disaster. To solve this problem, we’ve used our in-house expertise to automate the entire process — from the collection of data to the filing of VAT returns in different countries and the integration of transactions into the seller’s accounting system”.

Koenigsheim says a typical Taxdoo customer sells products on different marketplaces and their own shop, with annual revenues of around €5-10 million. “Our largest customers are global consumer brands with annual revenues of €150 million and above,” he says.

Examples include D2C brands like air up and YFood or e-commerce companies OmniDeal and sellvin. “Among others, we partner with tax professionals, ERP systems and e-commerce agencies to help them handle these complex issues for their clients,” adds Koenigsheim.

“Our secret sauce is that we automate the entire workflow from end-to-end. This starts with the aggregation of data from different channels like marketplaces, shops and ERP systems using our automated connectors. Our system [then] analyses data under all applicable regulations and prepares the required returns across the EU, which are filed by an international network of tax partners using a convenient software solution created by us”.

Taxdoo data can also be exported to a seller’s accounting system, enabling them to more easily collaborate with local tax advisors.

Meanwhile, the addressable market is growing fast, in part helped by accelerated digitisation during the pandemic and the growth of e-commerce. Taxdoo cites data showing that cross-border transactions now represents approximately 25% of total e-commerce transactions in Western Europe and Scandinavia, and is rising.

Cue statement from Accel’s Harry Nelis: “With a booming e-commerce landscape and companies of all sizes looking to sell their products and services internationally, we see an acute need for integrated financial and tax compliance. Taxdoo’s founders bring together unique experience at the intersection of tax, finance and software and we are excited to work with them to build Taxdoo into a category defining company”.

Cledara, the SaaS purchase and management platform, raises $3.4M funding


This post is by Steve O'Hear from Fundings & Exits – TechCrunch

Cledara, the SaaS purchase and management platform that helps bring greater viability and control over a company’s sprawling software subscriptions, has raised $3.4 million in additional funding.

The round is led by Nauta Capital, with participation from existing investor Anthemis. It comes off the back of the startup growing revenues by 20x in 2020 — including 7x since August, although Cledara isn’t breaking out specific numbers.

Founded in July 2018 by Cristina Vila, after she experienced the SaaS management problem first-hand while working at London fintech Dopay, Cledara has developed software to let companies track and manage their SaaS usage and spending, including analytics to help understand if it is money well-spent. Vila has since been joined by co-founder and COO Brad van Leeuwen, who was previously an executive at banking platform Railsbank, which is also a Cledara customer.

Another Cledara feature is unlimited virtual debit cards to empower employees and outside teams to purchase appropriate SaaS offerings independently. This includes the option for management to approve every purchase before it happens and access real-time updates on what everyone is buying. Part of Cledara’s revenue comes from interchange fees via said card spend, along with employing a SaaS model itself with paid subscriptions.

Counting over 100 customers overall, other businesses using Cledara include Florence.co.uk, Unmind.com, and Butternut Box. To that end, Cledara claims its customers reduce software spend by up to 30%, while saving “hours” of manual admin work each month on things like chasing SaaS invoices, bookkeeping and “complying with GDPR and outsourcing regulations for regulated fintech”.

Image Credits: Cledara

The product is available in over 20 countries across Europe, including U.K., France, Ireland, Germany and Spain. Meanwhile, Cledara says it will use the new investment to accelerate product growth and for further international expansion, including plans to enter the U.S.

“The continued acceleration of growth means we really need to grow the team: we’ve had to slow down customer on-boarding in the past month because of bottlenecks,” says van Leeuwen. “We will be growing the team 4x before mid next year across all parts of the business — support, success, product, engineering, compliance, marketing and sales. This round brings us the funding to do that, and more”.

More than half of those new hires are likely to be in Barcelona, after Cledara opened a Spain office 4 months ago to ensure it can continue to access talent outside of the U.K. post-Brexit.

In&motion raises $12 million for its wearable airbag systems


This post is by Romain Dillet from Fundings & Exits – TechCrunch

French startup In&motion has raised a $12 million (€10 million) funding round led by Upfront Ventures with 360 Capital also participating. The company has been working on wearable airbag systems for motorbikes.

Integrated in a vest, the airbag is completely autonomous and can detect crashes in 60 milliseconds. The company has worked on a device called the In&box that analyzes movements in real time. Thanks to different sensors, the device can determine when it’s time to activate the airbag.

In&motion has worked on different profiles for different types of activities. For instance, if you’re riding a motorcycle on a MotoGP track, chances are you’re going to move faster and change your trajectory quite often. You can choose between traditional motorcycle riding, track and off-road.

Professional racers are also increasingly using airbag systems. In addition to MotoGP racers, participants in the 2021 Dakar Rallye will have to use airbags.

The go-to-market strategy is interesting as the startup isn’t selling its system directly to end users. In&motion has partnered with existing motorcycle brands so that they can integrate the system in some vests. This way, In&motion doesn’t have to build out a network of resellers from scratch. So far, the company has sold tens of thousands of systems.

There’s also a subscription component with unlimited warranty and the ability to replace the In&box device with a new model after three years.

With today’s funding round, the company wants to expand beyond its home country with a focus on Germany and the U.S. The company plans to double the size of its team.

Image Credits: In&motion

Gorillas, the on-demand grocery delivery startup taking Berlin by storm, has raised $44M Series A


This post is by Steve O'Hear from Fundings & Exits – TechCrunch

Gorillas, a grocery delivery startup that operates its own hyper local fulfillment centers and has already been a hit in Berlin, has raised $44 million in Series A funding.

Probably one of European tech’s worst kept secrets this year, the round is led by hedge fund Coatue, with participation from other unnamed European investors. Coatue’s Daniel Senft and Bennett Siegel will join Gorillas‘ board.

Noteworthy, Accel and Index were reportedly in the running, but ultimately didn’t invest. Atlantic Food Labs previously backed Gorillas in a seed round thought to be around €1.2 million.

Founded by Kağan Sümer and Jörg Kattner in May this year and operating in Berlin and Cologne, Gorillas delivers groceries within an average of ten minutes. Unlike gig economy models, it employs riders directly and is emphasising its ability to get fresh groceries, along with other household items, to shoppers at very short notice and at “retail prices”. The idea is that the startup can address a large part of the groceries market that falls outside of a weekly bulk shop.

Some have dubbed the model that Gorillas is attempting to make work, “dark” convenience stores, in reference to the dark kitchens that run on top of Deliveroo and UberEats and operate as delivery only restaurants. In this instance, Gorillas and other European competitors, such as Dija (which we reported is closing its own large funding round) and Weezy, are building out local delivery only grocery/convenience stores. These startups are also often compared to goPuff in the U.S.

Gorillas CEO Kağan Sümer says that mass supermarkets, including their delivery models, are designed so that the consumer organises their grocery shopping around the needs of the supermarket and supply chain, rather than the supermarket being designed around the needs of the consumer.

This sees an emphasis on long shelf life products, where even fresh goods are treated for longer expiry dates, and a model that serves the weekly bulk shop well, but at the detriment of two other use-cases: “emergency” shopping, such as when you’re missing a key ingredient, or quickly replenishing your fridge based on what you fancy consuming right now.

“The biggest problem is that bulk purchases are super served. What I mean by that is this: all of the supermarket infrastructure is shaped around bulk purchases,” Sümer tells me, arguing that this leaves one third of the market underserved.

“You have penne but no Arrabiata; how do you get that sauce that you need now? [There is] no way.

“So we asked ourselves, what would happen if a company pops up and serves people with what they need when they need it? Our hypothesis was that people would appreciate it and shift their interaction with groceries to more on demand purchases”.

With a slogan that reads: “Faster than you,” and a delivery fee of just €1.80, one question mark over Gorillas (and others in the space) is if the unit economics can ever stack up, especially at scale and if the company really isn’t marking up prices significantly. “Through our procurement relationships, we have healthy margins which allow us to sell at retail prices,” says Sümer, pushing back. “Taking into account the solid basket sizes and procurement margins we are able to build a long-term sustainable business”.

He says the average delivery time is 10 minutes. “Through our network of centrally located fulfillment centers we are able to service customers in a small delivery radius. Ultimately we strive to deliver an efficient and fast service with full transparency on delivery times,” adds the Gorillas CEO.

Meanwhile, Gorillas says the new funding will be used for expansion across Germany and will accelerate its rollout across more of Europe — first stop, Amsterdam. Additionally, the company will use the capital to build out its team in Berlin. More ambitious, by the end of Q2 next year, Gorillas says it plans to be available in over 15 cities in Germany and across Europe, operating over 60 fulfillment centers.