Startup Monday: 10 news to follow this week in the global startup ecosystem (Issue 39–10 May 2021)

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Last June, software engineers (and housemates) Miles Hobby and Geoffrey Tisserand set about trying to solve the problem for companies by developing a data-driven platform that aims to help companies structure their compensation plans and transparently communicate them to candidates.

Now last week, the startup behind that platform, Figure, announced it has raised $7.5 million in seed funding led by CRV. Bling Capital, Better Tomorrow Ventures, and Garage Capital also participated in the financing, along with angel investors such as AngelList co-founder Naval Ravikant, Jason Calacanis, Reddit CEO Steve Huffman, and other executives based in Silicon Valley.

2. How Brex’s co-founders went from teens hacking iPhones and video games to running a $7 billion start-up

When Henrique Dubugras started getting legal notices about a video game that the then 14-year-old had hacked together and put on the internet for free — his own version of a popular Korean online roll-playing game — his parents were not pleased.

“I got these legal notifications saying I was breaking some sort of patents because of this game,” Dubugras says. “I really didn’t know what patents were, but my mom got, like, super upset and told me to shut everything [down].”

“But because of this game, I learned how to code and that changed the rest of my life.”

Today, Dubugras, 25, is the co-founder and CEO of corporate credit card start-up Brex, which valued at roughly $7.4 billion. Dubugras and his co-founder, Pedro Franceschi, 24, are reportedly each worth $400 million.

3. When Elon Musk stood onstage at Tesla’s Battery Day in September and promised to cut lithium-ion battery prices in half, he claimed some of the savings would come from reinventing the dirty and complex process of making their nickel-metal cathodes.

“It’s insanely complicated, like digging a ditch, filling it in, and digging the ditch again,” he said at the event. So we looked at the entire value chain and said how can we make this as simple as possible?”

The simplest route appears to involve a small Canadian battery startup — or at least its patent applications. Two weeks before Battery Day, Tesla purchased a number of patent applications from Springpower International, a small company based just outside Toronto, for a grand total of $3, according to public records.

4. Inspired by his own problems with skin ailments, tech founder Daniel Jensen decided there had to be a better way. So, using an in-house tech platform, his Copenhagen-based startup Nøie developed its own database of skin profiles to better care for sensitive skin.

Nøie has now raised $12 million in a Series A funding round led by Talis Capital, with participation from Inventure, as well as existing investors including Thomas Ryge Mikkelsen, former CMO of Pandora, and Kristian Schrøder Hart-Hansen, former CEO of LEO Pharma’s Innovation Lab.

Nøie’s customized skincare products target sensitive skin conditions including acne, psoriasis, and eczema. Using its own R&D, Nøie says it screens thousands of skincare products on the market, selects what it thinks are the best, and uses an algorithm to assign customers to their “skin family”. Customers then get recommendations for customized products to suit their skin.

5. Dogecoin nears 75 cents, then slips as crypto pioneer Silbert saw betting against parody coin ahead of Elon Musk’s ‘SNL’ guest-host gig.

Silbert is considered a luminary in the world of digital assets, after founding two of the most widely known enterprises in crypto: Grayscale Investments, which runs the popular Grayscale Bitcoin Trust, and the Digital Currency Group, which also owns CoinDesk

6. Merkle Technologies is set to launch a revolutionary technology that will increase “interoperability” between existing blockchains such as Bitcoin, Ethereum and Binance Smart Chain. The concept of “interoperability” refers to the ability of the ledgers to communicate with each other thus solving the problem of depending on a single ledger. It also improves the verification process and creates an efficient environment that offers security, scalability and compatibility. By using the technology, users will also be able to transfer their assets from other blockchains to the chain and vice versa.

7. Arcturus, a company building tools for editing and distributing volumetric video, today announced it has raised a $5 million seed investment.

Distinct from stereoscopic video, volumetric video is fully three-dimensional and can be viewed from all angles, which makes it potentially well suited for use in augmented and virtual reality. Volumetric video isn’t yet widespread, owing to challenges with capture, storage, editing, and distribution.

With its ‘Holosuite’-HoloEdit, HoloCompute, and HoloStream- Arcturus hopes to streamline the use of volumetric video, by making it easy to edit, manage, and stream. Arcturus says the funds will be used to “scale the software development team, focus efforts on sales growth, and expand the product line with an emphasis on live-streaming features.”

8. Israeli ag-tech startup Prospera snapped up by US firm Valmont for $300 million. Prospers is a maker of AI-based sensors and cameras helping farmers monitor crops was founded in 2014, and had raised $22 million from investors.

Valmont Industries, Inc., a US maker of irrigation and infrastructure equipment, said Wednesday it has entered an accord to buy Israel’s Prospera Technologies, for $300 million.

The acquisition is the culmination of a two-year strategic partnership set up between the companies in 2019. The merging of the firms will create the “largest global, vertically-integrated artificial intelligence (AI) company in agriculture,” the companies said in a statement

9. India is rapidly closing the gap with China in minting new unicorns — privately held startups valued at $1 billion or more — highlighting growing investor appetite for tech startups in the country as the pandemic accelerates the adoption of digital services.

Over the past year, 15 companies from India raised capital at a valuation of $1 billion or more for the first time, according to CB Insights and company announcements gathered by Nikkei Asia. Ten of them became unicorns in 2021. By comparison, only two of the 16 companies from China that joined the list over the past year did so in 2021, according to CB Insights.

A successful listing of online food delivery company Zomato, which recently filed a draft prospectus with India’s securities regulator, would set the stage for many of these unicorns to follow suit. Zomato, a loss-making company operating in a nascent industry once considered too risky to invest, is planning to raise 82.5 billion rupees ($1.1 billion), including through a pre-IPO placement.

10. Two Singapore-based startups founded by former Fave, Carousell, and foodpanda executives on Thursday separately announced a combined US$76 million in seed funding and debt to acquire e-commerce brands.

Una Brands bagged US$40 million, comprising majority debt financing.

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Founder at iFund Lab | Federal Funding Expert helping startups & tech entrepreneurs to raise non-dilutive funding through SBIR & other federal funding programs.

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Narine Emdjian

Founder at iFund Lab | Federal Funding Expert helping startups & tech entrepreneurs to raise non-dilutive funding through SBIR & other federal funding programs.