Chinese WeWork rival Ucommune raises $200M to go after international growth

China’s Ucommune, the country’s largest rival to WeWork, has been on a busy acquisition spree to build out its domestic business and now it is looking at overseas opportunities after it closed a $200 million Series D funding round.

The new round was led by Hong Kong-based All-Stars Investment with participation from Chinese investment bank CEC Capital and other investors. Ucommune said in a statement that the deal gives it a valuation of $3 billion, that represents a significant jump on its Series C in August which valued it at $1.8 billion. This new round takes Ucommune to around $650 million from investors to date, according to Crunchbase. Founded in 2015, Ucommune has emerged as WeWork’s main rival in China since the U.S. firm acquired Naked Hub earlier this year in a deal said to be worth $400 million. Ucommune claims to operate more than 200 co-working spaces, most
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Grab lands $50M from Thailand’s Kasikorn Bank to further its fintech push

Southeast Asia ride-hailing firm Grab is continuing to add strategic investors to its ongoing Series H round — which is targeted at over $3 billion — after it revealed Thai bank Kasikorn put in $50 million as part of a strategic partnership to advance its financial services strategy.

Kasikorn joins Hyundai ($250 million), Microsoft (undisclosed) and travel firm Booking ($200 million) as strategic backers announced over the past month. The round also includes Toyota, which invested $1 billion in its largest ride-hailing deal to date, and institutional investors OppenheimerFunds, Ping An Capital, Mirae Asset-Naver Asia Growth Fund, Lightspeed Venture Partners and Macquarie Capital. In the case of Kasikorn, Grab is working with the bank to roll out its GrabPay payment service in Thailand, a country with over 60 million people, as it begins to truly take steps to become a fintech player, in addition to ride-hailing.

Korean AI startup Skelter Labs raises $10M to expand to Southeast Asia

Korean AI startup Skelter Labs is expanding to Southeast Asia after it pulled in $10 million in new funding led by Singapore-based VC firm Golden Gate Ventures.

Skelter Labs was founded in 2015 by founded by Ted Cho, the former engineering site director at Google Korea. It started out developing apps and services that made use of AI but then it pivoted to focus fully on AI tech, which it licenses out to companies and corporations that it works with. This new money is aimed at enabling it to move into Japan and parts of Southeast Asia, with Vietnam, Thailand and Malaysia specifically mentioned The startup raised a $9 million seed round earlier this year, and those investors have returned to join Golden Gate this time around. They include KakaoBrain — the AI unit of Korean messaging giant Kakao — Kakao’s K-Cute venture arm, Stonebridge Ventures and Lotte Homeshopping, the TV and
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FabFitFun surpasses $200 million in revenue as it hits million-customer milestone

At least one million people will be receiving the next FabFitFun box as the Los Angeles company surpasses $200 million in revenue and continues its run as one of the startups to watch in the Los Angeles tech community. 

As it renews its focus on media — doubling down on new programming in a bid to reach further into repeatable revenue through subscriptions that encompass more than just retail — the company is trying to frame itself as more than just makeup and accessories in a box. “When we think of the potential behind the business … there are a few businesses in the world for whom membership is a no brainer. Netflix is, Spotify is and we think FabFitFun is a no brainer,” said Daniel Broukhim co-founder and co-chief executive of FabFitFun. 

The company’s

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Peak Theory lines up media partners and funding as Cubcoats becomes a phenomenon

With a planned cartoon series coming up, partnerships in place with Major League Baseball, NBCUniversal, and other media companies of heroic proportions, the founders creating the kids clothing phenomenon, Cubcoats, are on a roll.

Peak Theory, launched by longtime friends Zac Park (who’s 29) and the 35 year-old Spencer Markel, is the company behind Cubcoats, a hoodie that transforms into a puppet (or a puppet that transforms into a hoodie?). With their first product, the two founders have achieved the kind of viral success in its first year that most companies only dream of. Markel, a former mergers and acquisitions lawyer with DLA Piper, and Park, a product director at the design agency AKQA, first met in San Francisco through a mutual friend and almost immediately began planning their escape from the corporate world.

Peak Theory founders Zac Park and Spencer Markel

“We thought to ourselves, what
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Anti-fraud startup Shape Security raises $26M in Series E round to drive global expansion

Shape Security, a fraud-fighting cybersecurity company, has closed a $26 million round of Series E funding.

This will be the fifth round of funding — more than $130 million — since the Mountain View, Calif.-based company was founded in 2011. This latest round was led by Norwest Venture Partners, Kleiner Perkins, Allegis Capital and others — including JetBlue Ventures and Singtel. Shape Security said that the addition of JetBlue’s investment was because it has benefitted first-hand from its fraud-fighting technology. The company’s primary focus is on preventing imitation attacks — such as when hackers use stolen logins or malware to walk in through the front door. Shape’s enterprise defense technology protects web and mobile apps against automated attacks by utilizing artificial intelligence to differentiate ordinary customers from hackers. Using its massive trove of data, including geolocation and even mouse movements, combined with Shape’s machine learning technology, the company says
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KKR’s latest Southeast Asia bet is a $144M investment in PropertyGuru

Global investment giant KKR is warming up to Southeast Asia after it made a third high-profile investment. The firm — which has nearly $150 billion in assets under management — has cut a SG$200 million (US$144 million) check for PropertyGuru, the region’s largest property listings group.

Founded in 2006, PropertyGuru operates rental and sale listing sites in Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand. Prior to today’s deal (its Series D), its most recent investment came in 2015, when it raised SG$175 million from backers including TPG and Australia’s Square Peg. This new financing takes it to SG$440 million (or around $320 million) thus far. You’d imagine that the deal values PropertyGuru at/above $1 billion — the much-vaunted unicorn milestone — but the company has declined to reveal its valuation at this point. It isn’t talking about its valuation, but PropertyGuru CEO Hari V. Krishnan did say in a statement, however, that the company is
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Study: Latinx women-led startups have raised 0.4% of VC since 2009

In recent years, many have pushed to level the playing field for women in tech through new initiatives, funds, companies, support networks and more. White women, however, have emerged as the key beneficiaries.

Less has been done to bolster black and Latinx female founders specifically. Enter digitalundivided. The organization, which encourages black and Latinx women to pursue entrepreneurship, has been working to highlight just how extensive the disparity in funding is for black and Latinx female founders. Today the company published its first-ever report on venture capital funding, or lack thereof, for Latinx female founders via its proprietary research arm, called ProjectDiane, in partnership with JPMorgan Chase. The key takeaways: Latinx women make up 17.1 percent of the U.S. women’s population but less than 2 percent of women-led startups have Latinx women founders. Of the 107 Latinx women-led startups in digitalundivided’s database, 58 of them have raised more than $1 million in
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DLab is a new East Coast accelerator for crypto

SOSV, a twenty-year-old fund with $500M in assets under management, has been running accelerators for years. Their oldest one, HAX, is the premier hardware accelerator in San Francisco and Shenzhen and they’ve recently launched a food accelerator in New York and a pair of biology accelerators. Now, however, they’ve just announced dLab, a crypto accelerator that is paired with Cardano to build out distributed apps and solutions.

It is led by Nick Plante, a programmer integral in drafting the JOBS Act and who co-founded Wefunder, a successful crowdfunding platform. “We can only make this sort of commitment to ecosystems we feel are incredibly compelling; it takes a substantial amount of dedication, education, staffing, and of course the long term financial commitment to support the space and the companies,” said Plante. “We invest in ecosystems that we identify as ‘macro trends’ like disruptive food, life sciences and synthetic biology, Chinese
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Lessons from building Brex into a billion-dollar startup

When I think about my experience as an immigrant and entrepreneur in Silicon Valley, I remember growing up in Brazil and how we saw tech founders and CEOs as kings. We imagined what it would be like to assume the throne.

But these weren’t just any kings. Silicon Valley was the kingdom of nerds and underdogs. We identified with these guys, they were just like us. We were fed the myth of a Silicon Valley meritocracy, and the illusion that all you needed was ambition, determination, and a good idea to meet the right person and get funded.

What we didn’t understand was that this myth was not completely rooted in reality. Not everyone has access to the American Dream, and those who do have a track record of success

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Jane.VC, a new fund for female entrepreneurs, wants founders to cold email them

Want to pitch a venture capitalist? You’ll need a “warm introduction” first. At least that’s what most in the business will advise.

Find a person, typically a man, who made the VC you’re interested in pitching a whole bunch of money at some point and have them introduce you. Why? Because VCs love people who’ve made them money; naturally, they’ll be willing to hear you out if you’ve got at least one money maker on your side. There’s a big problem with that cycle. Not all entrepreneurs are friendly with millionaires and not all entrepreneurs, especially those based outside Silicon Valley or from underrepresented backgrounds, have anyone in their network to provide them that coveted intro. Jane.VC, a new venture fund based out of Cleveland and London wants entrepreneurs to cold email them. Send them your pitch, no wealthy or successful intermediary necessary. The fund, which has so
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Atlassian launches the new Jira Software Cloud

Atlassian previewed the next generation of its hosted Jira Software project tracking tool earlier this year. Today, it’s available to all Jira users. To build the new Jira, Atlassian redesigned both the back-end stack and rethought the user experience from the ground up. That’s not an easy change, given how important Jira has become for virtually every company that develops software — and given that it is Atlassian’s flagship product. And with this launch, Atlassian is now focusing on its hosted version of Jira (which is hosted on AWS) and prioritizing that over the self-hosted server version.

So the new version of Jira that’s launching to all users today doesn’t just have a new, cleaner look, but more importantly, new functionality that allows for a more flexible workflow that’s less dependent on admins and gives more autonomy to teams (assuming the admins don’t turn those features off). Because changes to such
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Building a great startup requires more than genius and a great invention

Many entrepreneurs assume that an invention carries intrinsic value, but that assumption is a fallacy.

Here, the examples of the 19th and 20th century inventors Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla are instructive. Even as aspiring entrepreneurs and inventors lionize Edison for his myriad inventions and business acumen, they conveniently fail to recognize Tesla, despite having far greater contributions to how we generate, move and harness power. Edison is the exception, with the legendary penniless Tesla as the norm.

Universities are the epicenter of pure innovation research. But the reality is that academic research is supported by tax dollars. The zero-sum game of attracting government funding is mastered by selling two concepts: Technical merit, and broader

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Shopify opens its first brick-and-mortar space in Los Angeles

Shopify, the provider of payment and logistics management software and services for retailers, has opened its first physical storefront in Los Angeles.

The first brick and mortar location for the Toronto-based company, is nestled in a warren of downtown Los Angeles boutique shops in a complex known as the Row DTLA. For Shopify, Los Angeles is the ideal place to debut a physical storefront showing off the company’s new line of hardware products and the array of services it provides to businesses ranging from newly opened startups to $900 million juggernauts like the Kylie Cosmetics brand. The city is one of the most dense conglomerations of Shopify customers with over 10,000 merchants using the company’s technologies in the greater Los Angeles area. 400 of those retailers have each earned over $1 million in gross merchandise volume. In the Los Angeles space, which looks similar to an Apple store, patrons
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Chargify launches a new payment management tool for subscription services

Chargify, the payment management service owned by Scaleworks, has launched a new tool for billing management. 

The new product is designed to remove limitations and allow payers to assign or reassign payment responsibility for subscriptions or groups of subscriptions, according to the company.

Called WhoPays, the new service is pitched to businesses as a way to consolidate and manage their payments with different subscribers in an organization.

According to the company, the launch of the product required the re-engineering of its underlying invoice architecture — centering it around the hierarchies of employees that can be involved in making purchasing decisions. “One of our customers sells API services primarily to developers. They noticed that there’d be multiple developers in different parts of their company… each with their own subscription. The customer didn’t know that the multiple subscriptions were connected and sometimes being paid by the same credit card,”
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Alexa can now reserve conference rooms

Amazon is debuting a new feature that will allow businesses to use Alexa for booking conference rooms. The addition is part of the Alexa for Business platform, and works with linked calendars from either Google’s G Suite or Microsoft Exchange, as well as over an API, arriving soon.

The feature is part of Amazon’s broader plan to put Alexa to work outside the home. At last year’s AWS re:Invent conference, Amazon first launched its Alexa for Business platform to allow companies to build out their own skills and integrations for practical business use cases. Amazon also spoke of integrations that would allow Alexa to support productivity tools and enterprise services, including those from Microsoft, Concur, Splunk, and others. Shortly after, early partner WeWork integrated Echo devices in some of its own meeting rooms to test out how the smart assistant could be useful for things like managing meeting room reservations,
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Indonesian co-working startup GoWork lands $10 million

Co-working today is a global game that’s played by many more than just WeWork, despite the company’s valuation surging to $20 billion. But, as WeWork increasingly globalizes its focus, the U.S. firm is coming into contact with smaller players who are highly localized in markets with the potential to grow significantly.

One such market is Indonesia, the largest economy in the growing region of Southeast Asia. Indonesia’s capital alone has a population of 10 million and it is tipped to overtake Tokyo as the world’s most populous city by 2020. WeWork is prioritizing Indonesia as one of the keys markets in Asia but already there are strong local competitors. EV Hive, now known as Cocowork, raised $20 million earlier this year, and now Gowork, a startup formed from a merger between Rework and GoWork, has pulled in $10 million for expansion. The new capital is
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Freight trucking startup Shipwell gets a $10 million boost

Shipwell, a startup pitching a marketplace for domestic ground shipping and fleet and cargo management services for freight trucking companies, has raised $10 million in a new round of funding.

A booming American economy coupled with failing infrastructure and a low-margin business reluctant to adopt new technologies have put stress on domestic logistics companies in the $900 billion market for U.S. trucking services. Shipwell combines a marketplace for shippers to connect with freight companies and online tools to manage those shipments. In effect, the company is pitching a version of the proprietary logistics management toolkit that has made Amazon so successful, to any retailer or outlet. We coordinate the freight, we pay the truckers, we help optimize the fleets,” says Shipwell president and co-founder, Jason Traff.  Those services — and the company’s growing business among small and medium-sized suppliers to the construction industry — brought the Austin-based
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Humbition is a new fund led by the Indiegogo’s Slava Rubin

Zocdoc founder Cyrus Massoumi and Indiegogo founder Slava Rubin have created a new $30 million fund called Humbition aimed at early stage, founder-led companies in New York. “The fund is focused on connecting startups with investors and advisors experienced in building and growing successful businesses,” said Rubin. “W are seeking to fill a void in NYC, where the vast majority of early stage investors have no significant experience building and scaling businesses,” he said. “The fund’s main areas of investment include marketplaces, consumer and health tech. But the primary criteria for investments is high quality founders. The fund is also seeking out mission-driven businesses because the companies that are socially responsible will be the most successful in the coming decades.” The fund has has brought on ClassPass founder Payal Kadakia, Warby Parker founder Neil Blumenthal, Charity: Water CEO and founder Scott Harrison, and Casper founder and CEO Philip Krim
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Chinese investment into computer vision technology and AR surges as U.S. funding dries up

Last year 30 leading venture investors told us about a fundamental shift from early stage North American VR investment to later stage Chinese computer vision/AR investment — but they didn’t anticipate its ferocity.

Digi-Capital’s AR/VR/XR Analytics Platform showed Chinese investments into computer vision and augmented reality technologies surging to $3.9 billion in the last 12 months, while North American augmented and virtual reality investment fell from nearly $1.5 billion in the fourth quarter of 2017 to less than $120 million in the third quarter of 2018. At the same time, VC sentiment on virtual reality softened significantly.

What a difference a year makes.

Dealflow (dollars)

What VCs said a year ago

When we spoke to venture capitalists

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