Startup Monday Issue (Issue 34–6 April 2021): Latest tech trends and news happening in the global startup ecosystem!
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The Startup Monday top stories (and more) you need to know today.
Weekly VC Overview
Some of Europe’s biggest tech companies are calling for a 100 billion-euro ($118 billion) fund to kick-start the creation of regional champions in green technology, science-driven startups and other new industries. The leaders of around 35 unicorns and startups including Blablacar, FacilityLive and Cabify.
Data shows that the Venture capital has a diversity problem: According to the 2020 Crunchbase Diversity Spotlight Report, Black and Latinx founders received just 2.6% of overall funding in 2020. Women-founded teams received nearly 30% less funding in 2020 than they did in 2019. Just look at the data on women-founded startups, which deliver 63% higher ROI (according to First Round Capital), generate twice as much revenue for every dollar invested (according to BCG), and take one full year less time to exit (according to PitchBook & AllRaise). Founders that have it harder, but persevere, lead to stronger companies with outsized results for their investors. Read more about this in Techcrunch
Holler, described by founder and CEO Travis Montaque as “a conversational media company,” just announced that it’s raised $36 million in Series B funding. You may not know what conversational media is, but there’s a decent chance you’ve used Holler’s technology. For example, if you’ve added a sticker or a GIF to your Venmo payments, Holler actually manages the app’s search and suggestion experience around that media.
Common Room, a year-old startup based in Seattle, is coming out of stealth mode in a big way. The company revealed $52 million in total funding and big-name customers using its software that aims to help companies deepen relationships with their users and customers. GeekWire first uncovered the startup in September just as it was getting off the ground.
Amazon Web Services is launching a space accelerator program for startups, the company announced March 30. AWS is teaming up with the U.K.-based venture investment firm Seraphim Capital to select the first 10 startups for the four-week mentoring program scheduled to begin in June. The program will be modeled after Seraphim’s “space camp” accelerator.
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When the pandemic unfolded last year, demand for at-home fitness equipment skyrocketed, and Tonal was no exception. The maker of a smart home fitness trainer experienced an explosive increase in sales, and now the six-year-old San Francisco-based startup is gearing up for its next stage of growth. Tonal is adding $250 million of new funding in a Series E round valuing the startup at $1.6 billion.
Wall Street Journal reports that Startup Productiv Raises $45 Million in New Funding. The company says its platform, which helps CIOs measure employee app engagement, experienced a boost during a pandemic.
Seattle-area startup Darklight raised a $5.1 million round. Investors listed on an SEC filing include Jay Lee of Agile Defense and Tom Bruderman of MAG Ventures. Total funding to date is about $10 million.
ImToken, the blockchain tech startup and crypto wallet developer, announced today it has raised $30 million in Series B funding led by Qiming Venture Partners. Participants included returning investor IDG Capital, and new backers Breyer Capital, HashKey, Signum Capital, Longling Capital, SNZ and Liang Xinjun, the co-founder of Fosun International. Founded in 2016, ImToken now has 12 million users, and over $50 billion in assets are currently stored on its platform, with a total transaction value exceeding $500 billion.
Industry 4.0 startup Kinta AI announced this week that it has raised $5.5M in funding in a Series A led by Lachy Groom’s LGF and Mo Koyfman’s Shine Capital. Kinta specializes in optimizing complex factory floor planning and operations by deploying AI-enabled software and streamlined workflow tools. The funding will help Kinta scale-out factory implementations across existing top general industrial clients as well as deploy at a series of new manufacturing firms.
Food-delivery robots get rolling in Los Angeles. When restaurants closed last year, third-party delivery services became a significant part of life. But as we begin to emerge from life in a pandemic, there are businesses betting the consumer will continue to pay for the comfort of staying home. Kiwibot has made over 150,000 deliveries via robot since 2017. Recently partnering with the mobile app MealMe in Santa Monica, the company’s focus for now is food delivery without the wait of traditional delivery services, and with a 50% reduction in services charges.
Ambi Robotics, formerly known as Ambidextrous Laboratories, raised $6.1 million in seed funding for its picking robots and operating system that are based on simulation-to-reality artificial intelligence (AI).
According to Aerospace Robotics Market Research Report, the Global Aerospace Robotics Market is expected to grow from USD 4,835.19 Million in 2020 to USD 9,682.73 Million by the end of 2025.
Recently, Argon, a MXC listed company, has announced its new blockchain platform for freelancers. Argon offers freelancers the chance to participate in the latest blockchain technology. Argon is a completely decentralized platform designed specifically to integrate freelance work into blockchain technology.
Hut 8 Mining Corp., one of the world’s largest and oldest Bitcoin mining companies, has put in an order worth $30 million for Nvidia’s CMP graphics cards. Nvidia will start delivering the order starting May 2021, and Hut 8 Mining Corp. plans to get everything up and running by the summer. With the purchase, Hut 8 Mining Corp. hopes to increase its mining operations substantially. The company estimates a collective performance up to 1,600 Gigahash.
The People’s Bank of China and the Hong Kong Monetary Authority have begun ‘technical testing’ for cross-border use of the digital yuan. China is a world leader in the development of a central bank digital currency (CBDC), with 200 million yuan (US$30.4 million) already distributed in pilot projects across the country, including in cities like Shenzhen, Suzhou, and Beijing.
Startups in Europe
Oxford Nanopore said on Tuesday that it has started preparing for a potential initial public offering, which could value the U.K.-based biotech revolutionizing real-time genetic sequencing at more than £2 billion ($3.17 billion). Oxford Nanopore was valued at £2.3 billion in March after intellectual property-based business developer IP Group IPO, +1.45%, which owns a 15% stake of the company, valued its holding at £340.3 million. That makes Oxford Nanopore one of the U.K.’s rare “unicorns” — an unlisted technology company valued at more than £1 billion.
Some of Europe’s biggest tech companies are calling for a 100 billion-euro ($118 billion) fund to kick-start the creation of regional champions in green technology, science-driven startups and other new industries. The leaders of around 35 unicorns and startups including Blablacar, FacilityLive, and Cabify will call for the European Sovereign Tech Fund at an online meeting with the European Union’s Research and Innovation Commissioner Mariya Gabriel on Tuesday. Adyen NV, Collibra SA, and Supercell are also expected to participate. The fund would combine public and private money and take the form of long-term equity investments. Some of the founders may invest some of their personal wealth in the fund, according to the document. Details of the proposal may still change ahead of the meeting.
Startups in South America
Uruguayan payments startup dLocal has raised $150 million at a $5 billion valuation, less than seven months after securing $200 million at a $1.2 billion valuation. DLocal connects global enterprise merchants with “billions” of emerging market consumers in 29 countries across Asia-Pacific, the Middle East, Latin America and Africa. More than 325 global merchants, including e-commerce retailers, SaaS companies, online travel providers and marketplaces use dLocal to accept over 600 local payment methods.
Clocktower Technology Venture s (“CTV”) 1, the venture capital investment arm within Clocktower Group, last week announced the launch of the firm’s first venture capital fund dedicated to financial services innovation in Latin America. The firm has already held the first closing and is targeting a $25M strategy. Since launching in 2015, Clocktower Technology Ventures has invested in 96 fintech companies in North America, Europe, and Latin America.
Indian-Asian Startup Ecosystem
Singapore-based fintech startup Friz announced it has raised six-figure funding in its seed round from Y Combinator, Iterative VC, 500 Durians, and 500 TukTuks. Funds raised from the financing round will be used to increase hiring for the company’s an engineering and marketing teams, and also expand into newer markets such as the Philippines and Thailand.
B Capital Group on Thursday said that it closed a USD 415 million fund for a new category called “Elevate” and that it will open a presence in China, where it appointed former Softbank Vision Fund partner Daisy Cai as country head. The new fund will provide follow-on capital to later-stage companies within B Capital’s portfolio, according to the firm. It brings its total assets under management to USD 1.9 billion. Through Elevate, B Capital says it aims to support companies “across their life cycles, from early stages to IPO.”
Startups in Israel
10 Years, 10 Companies, $100 Billion: Forget the ‘Startup Nation.’ Israeli high-tech is changing. The industry is set to grow a new generation of large companies that could revolutionize Israel. In the next year or two — assuming market conditions don’t change — 20 to 40 Israeli tech companies will go public in New York, with an average valuation of $3 billion. Waiting in the wings are dozens more small companies, all in earlier stages of growth.
The founder of Israeli startup Servicefriend Shahar Ben-Ami has filed a lawsuit in the Tel Aviv Labor Court against Facebook for allegedly acting fraudulently and with an extreme lack of good faith when acquiring the company that he founded. Ben Ami, who was fired as CEO in 2020, one year after the acquisition, is suing for NIS 25 million. Ben Ami claims that Facebook committed to paying him in blocked shares worth millions of dollars, in order to persuade him to sell the startup that he had founded. But after the acquisition was completed, Facebook’s attitude towards him underwent an extreme change, until he was fired in contravention, he claims, to the agreement.
Israeli augmented reality surgery guidance system developer Augmedics has announced that it has raised $36 million in an oversubscribed Series C financing round led by Almeda Ventures (TASE: AMDA), H.I.G. Capital and Revival Healthcare Capital and with the participation of HCA Healthcare Health Insight Capital and XR Invest. This latest financing round is only eight months after the company closed a $21 million Series B financing, and brings the total funding to date to $63 million.
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