Image recognition startup ViSenze raises $20M Series C


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ViSenze, a startup that provides visual search tools for online retailers like Rakuten and ASOS, announced today that it has raised a $20 million Series C. The round was co-led by Gobi Ventures and Sonae IM, with participation from other backers including returning investors Rakuten and WI Harper.

Founded in 2012, ViSenze has now raised a total of $34.5 million (its last round was a Series B announced in September 2016). The Singapore-based company, whose clients also include Urban Outfitters, Zalora, and Uniqlo, bills its software portfolio as a “personal shopping concierge” that allows shoppers to find or discover new products based on visual search, automatic photo tagging, and recommendations based on their browsing history. ViSenze’s verticals include fashion, jewelry, furniture, and intellectual property.

ViSenze’s latest funding will be used to develop its software through partnerships with smartphone makers including Samsung, LG, and Huawei. The company has

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EF raises $115M new fund, aiming to create another 300-plus startups in the next three years


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Entrepreneur First (EF), the London-headquartered “talent investor” that recruits and backs individuals pre-team and pre-idea to enable them to found startups, has raised a new fund of its own to continue scaling globally.

The $115 million first close was led by a number of leading (mostly unnamed) institutional investors across the U.S., Europe and Asia, including new anchor LP Trusted Insight. A number of well-known European entrepreneurs also invested. They include Taavet Hinrikus (co-founder of TransferWise), Alex Chesterman (co-founder of Zoopla), and EF alumnus Rob Bishop (who co-founded Magic Pony Technology which was bought by Twitter for a reported $150m in 2016).

This new fund — which EF says is one the largest pre-seed funds ever raised – will enable the talent investor to back more than 2,200 individuals who join its various programs over the next three years. EF currently operates in Bangalore, Berlin, Hong

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Palo Alto Networks to acquire Demisto for $560M


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Palo Alto Networks announced today that it intends to acquire security startup, Demisto, for $560 million.

The company sees a tool that can help enhance the Palo Alto security portfolio by adding a higher level of automation. “The addition of Demisto’s orchestration and automation technologies will accelerate Palo Alto Networks Application Framework strategy and serve as a critical step forward in the company’s aim to deliver immediate threat prevention and response for security teams,” the company explained in a statement.

Palo Alto also hopes that Demisto’s automated solutions will help accelerate its AI and machine learning capabilities to bring intelligent automation across the platform. The company brings more than technology, of course. It also brings its 150 customers to Palo Alto, a quarter of which are in the Fortune 500.

Prior to being acquired, Demisto had raised $69 million from Accel, Greylock, Stewart McClure and others. We covered the

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Slack off. Send videos instead with $11M-funded Loom


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If a picture is worth a thousand words, how many emails can you replace with a video? As offices fragment into remote teams, work becomes more visual, and social media makes us more comfortable on camera, it’s time for collaboration to go beyond text. That’s the idea behind Loom, a fast-rising startup that equips enterprises with instant video messaging tools. In a click, you can film yourself or narrate a screenshare to get an idea across in a more vivid, personal way. Instead of scheduling a video call, employees can asynchronously discuss projects or give ‘stand-up’ updates without massive disruptions to their workflow.

In the 2.5 years since launch, Loom has signed up 1.1 million users from 18,000 companies. And that was just as a Chrome extension. Today Loom launches its PC and Mac apps that give it a dedicated presence in your digital workspace. Whether you’re

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GN acquires Altia Systems for $125M to add video to its advanced audio solutions


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Some interesting M&A is afoot in the world of hardware and software that’s aiming to improve the quality of audio and video communications over digital networks.

GN Group — the Danish company that broke new ground in mobile when it inked deals first with Apple and then Google to stream audio from their phones directly to smart, connected hearing aids — is expanding from audio to video, and from Europe to Silicon Valley.

Today, the company announced that it would acquire Altia Systems, a startup out of Cupertino that makes a “surround” videoconferencing device and software called the PanaCast (we reviewed it oncedesigned to replicate the panoramic, immersive experience of vision that we have as humans

GN is paying $125 million for the startup. For some context, this price represents a decent return: according to PitchBook, Altia was last valued at around $78 million with investors

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Redis Labs raises a $60M Series E round


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Redis Labs, a startup that offers commercial services around the Redis in-memory data store (and which counts Redis creator and lead developer Salvatore Sanfilippo among its employees), today announced that it has raised a $60 million Series E funding round led by private equity firm Francisco Partners.

The firm didn’t participate in any of Redis Labs’ previous rounds, but existing investors Goldman Sachs Private Capital Investing, Bain Capital Ventures, Viola Ventures and Dell Technologies Capital all participated in this round.

In total, Redis Labs has now raised $146 million and the company plans to use the new funding to accelerate its go-to-market strategy and continue to invest in the Redis community and product development.

Current Redis Labs users include the likes of American Express, Staples, Microsoft, Mastercard and Atlassian . In total, the company now has over 8,500 customers. Because it’s pretty flexible, these customers use the service as

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Flipkart co-founder Sachin Bansal invests $92M in Ola


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The money is starting to flow from India’s largest startup exit. Ola has added a major name to its ongoing financing round after it confirmed that Flipkart co-founder Sachin Bansal has invested 650 crore INR (around $92 million) into the Indian ride-hailing business.

The deal rumored in January when Paper.vc, an intelligence service that sifts through company filings in India, noticed that Bansal had committed to investing 150 crore. Today, eight-year-old Ola not only confirmed the pairing, but it revealed that the actual size of Bansal’s investment is significantly higher. It represents his most prominent and largest investment to date, and his first major deal since he left Flipkart following its sale to Walmart for $16 billion last year.

TechCrunch understands that Bansal will not take an advisory role nor will he be involved in operations.

The investment is part of an ongoing Series J round of financing

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Antescofo’s Metronaut adds an orchestra when you play music


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Meet Metronaut, an app for smartphones and tablets that could change the way you play classical music. The startup behind the app, Antescofo, raised a $4.5 million funding round (€4 million) and has attracted 160,000 downloads.

Daphni and OneRagTime are leading the round, with Nobuyuki Idei, Yann LeCun, Sophie Gasperment and Thibault Viort also participating.

Metronaut lets you play a music instrument with a professional orchestra playing all the other instruments with you. It isn’t just an audio player — the app leverages your device microphone to listen to your music and adjust the tempo of the other instruments.

The startup has recorded professional musicians in a studio so that you can play the flute without hearing the flute coming out of your speakers or headphones.

And if you still need to practice, you can set your own tempo while you learn your part — nothing will be

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GoCardless raises $75M Series E for its recurring payments network and heads to America


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Compared to startups born into the frothy London fintech space as it exists today, 2011-founded GoCardless could well be considered a slow burner. However, in more recent years, the nearly 300 person company — headed up by co-founder and CEO Hiroki Takeuchi — has undoubtedly stepped on the gas in a bid to become the one stop shop globally for businesses that want to let customers pay via recurring bank payments.

A little over a year ago, GoCardless announced that it had raised $22.5 million in further funding, off the back of record annual growth in the U.K. and strong early traction in new markets. And today the fintech is disclosing another fresh injection of capital: $75 million in Series E funding, in part to fund new offices across EMEA, APAC and North America. In addition to its London HQ, the company already has sites in France, Australia

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Apple acquires talking Barbie voicetech startup PullString


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Apple has just bought up the talent it needs to make talking toys a part of Siri, HomePod, and its voice strategy. Apple has acquired PullString, also known as ToyTalk, according to Axios’ Dan Primack and Ina Fried. The company makes voice experience design tools, artificial intelligence to power those experiences, and toys like talking Barbie and Thomas The Tank Engine toys in partnership with Mattel. Founded in 2011 by former Pixar executives, PullString went on to raise $44 million.

Apple’s Siri is seen as lagging far behind Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, not only in voice recognition and utility, but also in terms of developer ecosystem. Google and Amazon has built platforms to distribute Skills from tons of voice app makers, including storytelling, quizzes, and other games for kids. If Apple wants to take a real shot at becoming the center of your connected living room with

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ChargedUp picks up £1.2M seed to grow its mobile charging network across UK


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ChargedUp, a U.K. startup that offers a mobile charging network that takes inspiration from bike-sharing, has closed £1.2 million in seed investment. Leading the round is Sir John Hegarty’s fund The Garage, and the ex-Innocent Smoothie founders fund JamJar. The funding will be used to grow the offering across the U.K. and for international expansion.

Founded by Hugo Tilmouth, Charlie Baron, Hakeem Buge and Forrest Skerman Stevenson, ChargedUp has set out to solve the dead mobile phone battery problem with a charging network. However, rather than offer fixed charging points, the team has developed a solution that lets you rent a mobile charging pack from one destination and return it at different location if needed. That way, mobile phone use remains mobile.

“It’s annoying and inconvenient to be out and about with a dying phone battery,” says CEO Hugo Tilmouth. We’ve all been there and I

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Audio tech supplier to Rolls Royce and Xiaomi secures another $13.2M in funding


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As autonomous driving eventually transforms cars from transportation devices to mobile theaters or conference rooms we will need better audio inside them. And we’ve already seen that VCs like Andreessen Horowitz say ‘audio is the future.’

So it’s interesting that Swedish sound pioneer Dirac has completed a new $13.2 million round of financing led by current investors. Previous investors included Swedish Angel network Club Network Investments, Erik Ejerhed and Staffan Persson.

Dirac makes sophisticated audio technology for customers including BMW, OnePlus, Rolls Royce, Volvo, and Xiaomi .

Its platform is used by those firms for everything from capture to playback – regardless of device size or form factor.

“As consumer devices decrease in size and expand in complexity, digital signal processing is
the key to unlocking their full audio potential and creating premium sound experiences,” says
Dirac CEO Mathias Johansson. “With this new funding, we can take our

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JibJab, one of the first silly selfie video makers, acquired by private equity firm Catapult Capital


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JibJab, one of the first companies that let people insert selfies into videos, gifs, and e-cards, has been acquired by Catapult Capital. The Los Angeles-based private equity firm announced the deal today, but did not disclose financial terms. A portion of financing was provided by investment firm Cloud Capital.

According to Catapult Capital’s site, it focuses on middle-market transactions, targeting internet, consumer, and tech companies that are profitable, or nearing profitability, and past the venture stage. The firm’s investment size is usually $10 million to $100 million and it works with portfolio companies to “develop a China angle,” including new revenue channels. JibJab COO Paul Hanges was promoted to CEO after the acquisition.

Founded in 1999 by brothers Evan and Gregg Spiridellis after they saw “an animated dancing doodie streaming over a 56K modem,” JibJab’s big break came during the 2004 presidential campaign, when its satirical “This Land”

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Starling Bank, now with 460K consumer accounts, raises £75M more for European expansion


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Starling Bank, founded by banking veteran Anne Boden, has raised £75 million (~$97m) in further funding. The new capital breaks down as £60 million in a Series C round led by Merian Global Investors, including Merian Chrysalis, with £15 million in follow-on funding from Starling’s existing backer and major shareholder Harald McPike. It brings total funding to date for the London-based challenger bank to £133 million.

Starling says the new funding will support increased investment in the bank’s financial products in retail and SME banking as well as banking services. This will include ramping up international expansion, starting with Europe. The bank is thought to be applying for an additional banking license in Ireland to ensure those expansion plans aren’t interrupted post-Brexit.

Meanwhile, breaking with tradition, Starling is formally disclosing its latest customer numbers, presumably now that it has hit a respectable number: the challenger bank now has 460,000

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Medium buys Bay Area mag The Bold Italic to add to its paywall


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Medium is seeking to juice up its premium subscription content in its home market with the acquisition of The Bold Italic. The 10-year-old online culture magazine will go behind the $5 per month Medium Membership paywall. The deal will keep The Bold Italic afloat when other San Francisco-local publications have struggled, following the shutdown of the The Oakland Tribune an SFist plus the layoff of most the Easy Bay Express.

The Bold Italic could make Medium Membership more appealing to Bay Area techies, newshounds, and community-philes. It needs all the subscribers it can get after pivoting away from ads and laying off 50 employees as well as shuttering two offices in 2017. That’s despite having raised $132 million. Last year it gave some publications whiplash by suddenly terminating its program that let them operate their own paywalls on the Medium platform. With so many publications competing for subscription revenue (TechCrunch

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Dandelion Energy, the Alphabet X spinout, raises another $16M led by GV and Comcast


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As tech companies continue their race to control the smart home, a promising energy startup has raised a round of funding from traditionally-tech and strategic investors, for a geothermal solution to heat and cool houses. Dandelion Energy, a spinout from Alphabet X, has raised $16 million in a Series A round of funding, with strategic investors Comcast Ventures leading the round along with GV, the investment arm of Alphabet formerly known as Google Ventures.

Lennar Corporation, the home building giant, is also coming in as an investor, as are previous backers NEA, Collaborative Fund, Ground Up, and Zhenfund, and other unnamed investors. Notably, Lennar once worked with Apple but is now collaborating with Amazon on smart homes.

As a side note, Dandelion’s investment is a timely reminder of how central “new home” startups are right now in smart home plays. Amazon just yesterday announced one more big move in its own

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Datadog acquires app testing company Madumbo


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Datadog, the popular monitoring and analytics platform, today announced that it has acquired Madumbo, an AI-based application testing platform.

“We’re excited to have the Madumbo team join Datadog,” said Olivier Pomel, Datadog’s CEO. “They’ve built a sophisticated AI platform that can quickly determine if a web application is behaving correctly. We see their core technology strengthening our platform and extending into many new digital experience monitoring capabilities for our customers.”

Paris-based Madumbo, which was incubated at Station F and launched in 2017, offers its users a way to test their web apps without having to write any additional code. It promises to let developers build tests by simply interacting with the site, using the Madumbo test recorder, and to help them build test emails, password and testing data on the fly. The Madumbo system then watches your site and adapts its check to whatever changes you make.

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SumUp acquires ‘multi-channel’ e-commerce platform Shoplo


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SumUp, the London-based fintech company that enables small businesses to take card payments via its device and online, has acquired “multi-channel” e-commerce platform Shoplo.

Terms of the deal aren’t being disclosed, while SumUp says the acquisition will enable it to expand its product suite to give SumUp merchants access to various online marketplaces, such as Facebook, eBay and Etsy. In addition, Shoplo’s tech will also help SumUp merchants create better-looking online storefronts.

“The acquisition of Warsaw-based company Shoplo, consisting of 30 employees, will provide SumUp with the template, technology, and expertise to expand the e-commerce area of its business, enabling it to offer a scalable solution that will allow its merchants to easily create their own online stores and sell on numerous e-commerce platforms in just a few clicks,” says SumUp.

More broadly, BBVA-backed SumUp started out offering functionality akin to Silicon Valley’s Square, and subsequently merged with Rocket

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Car rental startup Virtuo picks up €20M Series B


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Virtuo, the Paris-headquartered car rentals startup, has raised €20 million in Series B funding. The round is backed by Iris Capital, Balderton Capital and Raise Ventures, and will be used to continue expanding across the U.K. and other European countries.

Originally founded in France and available in 19 French and 2 Belgium locations, Virtuo launched in London last Summer, and says it plans to bring the service to U.K. cities Manchester, Bristol and Edinburgh later this year.

The company will also expand to Spain and Germany in 2019, creating what Virtuo claims will be a “truly pan-European rental option,” for drivers who are seeking an alternative to the big five incumbent car rental companies.

Designed to bring car rentals into the mobile age and in turn improve the user experience, the Virtuo app lets you book and unlock a Mercedes A-Class or GLA “in minutes,” at stations

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E-commerce startup Zilingo raises $226M to digitize Asia’s fashion supply chain


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If you’re looking for the next unicorn in Southeast Asia, Zilingo might just be it. The 3.5-year-old e-commerce company announced today that it has raised a Series D round worth $226 million to go after the opportunity to digitize Asia’s fashion supply chain.

This new round takes Zilingo to $308 million from investors since its 2015 launch. The Series D is provided by existing investors Sequoia India, Singapore sovereign fund Temasek, Germany’s Burda and Sofina, a European backer of Flipkart -owned fashion site Myntra. Joining the party for the first time is new investor EDBI, the corporate investment arm of Singapore’s Economic Development Board.

Zilingo isn’t commenting on a valuation for the round, but a source with knowledge of the deal told TechCrunch that it is ‘a rounding error’ away from $1 billion. We had heard in recent months that the startup was getting close to unicorn status, so that is

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