Marketing data startup Singular raises $30M

Singular, a startup working to unify data for marketers, is announcing that it has raised $30 million in Series B funding. The company was founded by former Onavo executives, including Gadi Eliashiv, Eran Friedman and Susan Kuo — who now serve, respectively, as Singular’s CEO, CTO and COO. Eliashiv explained that Singular was created in response to “this trend of data explosion in the marketing stack,” which require marketers to pull data from hundreds or thousands of different systems. “Essentially what we see is the creation of this new category of marketing intelligence, where the complexity of the marketing stack has created the need for this layer that sits on top,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if you use a marketing cloud like Adobe that’s bundling five products together — at the end of the day, you need a layer on top on making sense of it, helping
Singular Dashboard
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Erectile pharmacy app Roman raises $88M to launch ‘quit smoking’ kit

Roman is a rocket ship, and I’m not talking about how it sells Viagra and Cialis. Less than a year after launching its cloud pharmacy for erectile dysfunction with $3 million in funding and a five-person team, Roman has grown to seventy team members and a revenue run-rate in the 10s of millions — up 720 percent since January. It’s sparked over a million patient-physician visits, phone calls, and text conversations through its telemedicine portal for getting diagnoses and prescriptions. And now Roman is ready to expand beyond men, so it’s dropping the ‘Man. Today, the newly renamed ‘Ro’ unveiled its next product, Zero, a $129 ‘quit smoking’ kit containing a month’s worth of prescription cessation medication bupropion and nicotine gum, plus an app for tracking progress and learning how to stay motivated through hunger, nausea, and cravings. Pre-orders open today. “Erectile dysfunction medication is a knee brace. It helps you to walk
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Ultimate.ai nabs $1.3M for a customer service AI focused on non-English markets

For customer service, Ultimate.ai‘s thesis is it’s not humans or AI but humans and AI. The Helsinki- and Berlin-based startup has built an AI-powered suggestion engine that, once trained on clients’ data-sets, is able to provide real-time help to (human) staff dealing with customer queries via chat, email and social channels. So the AI layer is intended to make the humans behind the screens smarter and faster at responding to customer needs — as well as freeing them up from handling basic queries to focus on more complex issues. AI-fuelled chatbots have fast become a very crowded market, with hundreds of so called ‘conversational AI’ startups all vying to serve the customer service cause. Ultimate.ai stands out by merit of having focused on non-English language markets, says co-founder and CEO Reetu Kainulainen. This is a consequence of the business being founded in Finland, whose language belongs to a
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Divido, the consumer finance platform, scores $15M Series A

Divido, the consumer finance platform that lets you take out credit at the point of purchase to help spread the cost of buying new things, has raised $15 million in Series A funding. Leading the round is Dawn Capital, and DN Capital, with participation from Mastercard, American Express Ventures and a number of previous investors. Renier Lemmens, who previously served as Chief Executive Officer of PayPal EMEA and was an executive at Barclays, has also been appointed as chairman. Launched in late 2015, London-based Divido currently works with over 1,000 partners to enable them to offer B2C and B2B finance to their customers at checkout. This includes being able to spread the cost of any product or service over a period of time by providing instant access to credit at the point of purchase, either online and in-store. However, where the company differentiates from the likes of Klarna is
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Google partners with Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi to put Android into millions of vehicles

Google will partner with Renault -Nissan-Mitsubishi, the largest auto alliance in the world by vehicle sales, to put Android-based infotainment systems into millions of cars, the companies told Wall Street Journal. The alliance’s next-generation infotainment system and dashboard displays will use Android and launch in 2021. Drivers will be able to access Google’s maps, app store and voice assistant from their vehicle’s dashboards. The new partnership is a giant step forward for Google’s ambitions to get its operating system into more cars (the alliance sold a combined 5.5 million vehicles in the first half of this year, putting it ahead of Volkswagen and Toyota Motor). The alliance’s executives told WSJ that they decided on the partnership because many of their customers are accustomed to using Google Maps and other apps and prefer sticking with them instead of using software developed by automakers when they drive. Auto executives have also
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Ola raises $50M at a $4.3B valuation from two Chinese funds

Ola, the arch-rival of Uber in India, has raised $50 million at a valuation of about $4.3 billion from Sailing Capital, a Hong Kong-based private equity firm, and the China-Eurasian Economic Cooperation Fund (CEECF), a state-backed Chinese fund. The funding was disclosed in regulatory documents sourced by Paper.vc and reviewed by Indian financial publication Mint. According to Mint, Sailing Capital and CEECF will hold a combined stake of more than 1% in Ola . An Ola spokesperson said the company has no comment. Ola’s last funding announcement was in October, when it raised $1.1 billion (its largest funding round to date) from Tencent and returning investor SoftBank Group. Ola also said it planned to raise an additional $1 billion from other investors that would take the round’s final amount to about $2.1 billion. At the time, a source with knowledge of the deal told TechCrunch
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Africa’s Jumo raises $52M led by Goldman to bring its fintech services to Asia

Asia’s fintech scene is poised to get a little larger after Jumo, a company that offers loans to the unbanked in Africa, revealed plans to expand into the continent. To get the ball rolling, Jumo has opened an office in Singapore to lead the way and landed a massive $52 million investment led by banking giant Goldman Sachs to fuel the growth. The new round takes Jumo to $90 million raised from investors. While Goldman is the lead — and standout name — the round also saw participation from existing backers that include Proparco — which is attached to the French Development Agency — Finnfund, Vostok Emerging Finance, Gemcorp Capital, and LeapFrog Investments. Jumo launched in 2014 and it specializes in social impact financial products. That means loans and saving options for those who sit outside of the existing banking system, and particularly small businesses. To date, it claims to have
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WHILL raises $45M to help people with disabilities get around airports and other large venues

WHILL, the startup known for creating sleek, high-tech personal mobility devices, announced today that it has closed a $45 million Series C. The funding will be used for expanding into new international markets, as well as developing new products for large venues, including airports and “last-mile” sidewalk transportation. The round’s lead investors were SBI Investment, Daiwa Securities Group and WHIZ Partners, with participation from returning investors INCJ, Eight Road Ventures, MSIVC, Nippon Venture Capital, DG Incubation and Mizuho Capital. This brings WHILL’s total funding so far to about $80 million. Founded in Tokyo in 2012, WHILL plans to open a branch in the European Union and enter 10 new European countries. It also plans to start working with partners on developing autonomous capabilities for its mobility devices, senior marketing manager Jeff Yoshioka told TechCrunch. The company will build its own sensors and cameras to use in its “mobility as
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Logistics startup Freightos raises $44.4M Series C led by Singapore Exchange

Freightos, a marketplace for logistics providers, announced today that it has raised a $44.4 million Series C led by Singapore Exchange. Returning investors including General Electric Ventures (the lead investor of Freightos’ Series B extension last year), ICV and Aleph also participated in the round, which brings Freightos’ total funding so far to $94.4 million. Launched in 2016 as a price comparison service for freight forwarders—the agents that organize shipments from a supplier or manufacturer to their final destination—Freightos now also lets users book, manage and track shipments with more than 1,200 logistics providers. In an email, founder and CEO Zvi Schreiber said its online freight marketplace will continue to be Freightos’ flagship product, but the company also wants to find ways to make the industry more efficient by building a global digital infrastructure. The company claims to process more than one million instant freight quote requests
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Marc and Lynne Benioff will buy Times magazine from Meredith for $190M

Another tech billionaire will scoop up a major news outlet. Meredith Corporation, which acquired Time Inc. in January, announced today that it has agreed to sell its eponymous magazine to Salesforce.com co-founder Marc Benioff and his wife Lynne Benioff for $190 million in cash. Meredith said in March that it planned to sell Time, Sports Illustrated, Fortune and Money as part of its goal to save $400 million to $500 million over the next two years and increase the profitability of its remaining portfolio of publications. In its announcement today, the company said it will use proceeds from the sale of Times magazine to pay off debt and expects to reduce its debt by $1 billion during fiscal 2019. Meredith’s acquisition of Time Inc. was controversial because it received financial support from Koch Equity Development, the private equity fund run by Charles and David Koch, known for backing
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Drone startup Airware crashes, will shut down after burning $118M

Drone operating system startup Airware today suddenly informed employees it will cease operations immediately despite having raised $118 million from top investors like Andreessen Horowitz, Google’s GV, and Kleiner Perkins. The startup ran out of money after trying to manufacture its own hardware that couldn’t compete with drone giants like China’s DJI. The company at one point had as many as 140 employees, all of which are now out of a job. A source sent TechCrunch screenshots from the Airware alumni Slack channel detailing how the staff was told this morning that Airware would shut down. Airware makes a cloud sofware system that helps enterprise customers like construction companies, mining operations, and insurance companies reviewing equipment for damages to use drones to collect and analyze aerial data. That allowed companies to avoid using expensive helicopters or dangerous rigs with humans on harnesses to make inspections and gauge work progress. One
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Mobile bank Chime picks up credit score improvement service Pinch in all-stock deal

Chime, the no-fees mobile bank valued at $500 million as of its last round, has put some of its funds to use with its first acquisition. The deal is for Pinch, a startup that was focused on helping millennials and other young adults build better credit. It was best known for a service called PinchRent, which allowed users to increase their credit scores over time by reporting on-time rent payments to credit bureaus. Millennials can sometimes struggle to improve their credit, or are uneducated about what their credit scores mean, studies have shown. And like any younger demographic, they may also be afflicted with shorter credit histories, which impacts those scores, too. Many in this age group have said that their low credit scores are holding them back, and millennials prefer debit to credit, Visa has reported. Pinch’s focus was to provide a different way
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Golden Gate Ventures closes new $100M fund for Southeast Asia

Singapore’s Golden Gate Ventures has announced the close of its newest (and third) fund for Southeast Asia at a total of $100 million. The fund hit a first close in the summer, as TechCrunch reported at the time, and now it has reached full capacity. Seven-year-old Golden Gate said its LPs include existing backers Singapore sovereign fund Temasek, Korea’s Hanwha, Naver — the owner of messaging app Line — and EE Capital. Investors backing the firm for the first time through this fund include Mistletoe — the fund from Taizo Son, brother of SoftBank founder Masayoshi Son — Mitsui Fudosan, IDO Investments, CTBC Group, Korea Venture Investment Corporation (KVIC), and Ion Pacific. Golden Gate was founded by former Silicon Valley-based trio Vinnie Lauria, Jeffrey Paine and Paul Bragiel . It has investments across five markets in Southeast Asia — with a particular focus on Indonesia and Singapore — and that portfolio includes Singapore’s
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Economist Tyler Cowen launches a fellowship and grant program for moon shot ideas

Tyler Cowen, who I interviewed here, is a fascinating economist. Part pragmatist and part dreamer, he has been researching and writing about the future for a long time in books and his blog, Marginal Revolution. Now he and his university, George Mason, are putting some money where his mouth is. Cowen and the team at GMU are working on Emergent Ventures, a fellowship and grant program for moon shots. The goal is to give people with big ideas a little capital to help them build out their dreams. “It has long been my view that risk-takers are not sufficiently rewarded in the world of ideas and that academic incentives are too conservative,” he said. “The intellectual scene should learn something from Silicon Valley and venture capital.” Cowen is raising $4 million for the first fund. He announced the fund in a podcast on the Mercatus website. “People
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Walmart to acquire Mexico & Chile-focused grocery delivery service Cornershop for $225M

Walmart is ramping up its grocery delivery business on the international stage with today’s announcement that it has acquired the crowdsourced, on-demand delivery marketplace Cornershop for $225 million. The rapidly growing service offers on-demand delivery from supermarkets, pharmacies and specialty food retailers in Mexico and Chile, which will continue following the deal’s close, Walmart says. Founded in 2015, Cornershop last year raised $21 million in a round led by Accel, according to Crunchbase, in order to expand its service in Latin America. At the time, CEO Oskar Hjertonsson credited Instacart’s success in the U.S. as inspiring enthusiasm for grocery delivery in other international markets, as well, saying ” I think Instacart can build a profitable business in the US, as can we down here.” To date, it has raised $31.7 million, Crunchbase says. Other investors include ALLVP, Creandum, NMT Network, Jackson Square Ventures, and Endeavour Catalyst. Similar to
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Chinese electric vehicle maker Nio makes bumpy start following $1B IPO

Nio, the Tesla -wannabe electric vehicle firm from China, enjoyed a mix start to life as a public company after it raised $1 billion through a listing on the New York Stock Exchange on Wednesday. The firm went public at $6.26just one cent above the bottom of its pricing range — meaning that it raised a little over $1 billion. That’s some way down on its original goal of $1.8 billion, per an initial filing in August, and for a while it looked like even that price was optimistic. Early trading saw Nio’s stock fall as low as $5.84 before a wave of optimism took it to $6.81. The stock closed its first day at $6.60, up 12 percent overall, to give Nio a total market cap of $7.1 billion. Nio sells in China only, although its tech and design teams
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Indonesian fintech startup Moka raises $24M led by Sequoia India

Indonesia’s Moka, a startup that helps SMEs and retailers manage payment and other business operations, has pulled in a $24 million Series B round for growth. The investment is led by Sequoia India and Southeast Asia — which recently announced a new $695 million fund — with participation from new backers SoftBank Ventures Korea, EDBI — the corporate investment arm of Singapore’s Economic Development Board — and EV Growth, the later stage fund from Moka seed investor East Ventures. Existing investors Mandiri Capital, Convergence and Fenox also put into the round. The deal takes Moka to $27.9 million raised to date, according to data from Crunchbase. Moka was started four years ago primarily as a point-of-sale (POS) terminal with some basic business functionality. Today, it claims to work with 12,500 retailers in Indonesia and its services include sales reports, inventory management, table management, loyalty programs, and more. Its primary areas of
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Job Today gets a $16M top up as it preps for Brexit bump

Accel-backed mobile-first jobs app Job Today has pulled in another $16M — an expansion to its November 2016 $20M Series B round. It raised a $10M Series A in January of the same year. The 2015 founded startup offers a mobile app for job seekers that does away with the need for a CV. Instead job seekers create a profile in the app and can apply to relevant jobs. Employers can then triage potential applicants via the app and chat to any they like the look of via its messaging platform. The approach has been especially popular with fast turnover jobs in the service industry, such as hospitality and retail. Job Today says it has more than five million job seekers registered on its platform, and claims to have delivered more than 100 million candidate applications to the 400,000+ predominantly small businesses posting jobs via the app to date (with
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Spearhead is transforming founders into angel investors

Becoming an angel investor is simple in principle: have money and invest. Unfortunately for many of the smartest founders in the startup ecosystem, that requirement can prove a complete block on investing in the companies they see day after day, since early liquidity can be hard to find for founders. Spearhead was launched earlier this year with a mandate to identify promising startup founders and give them cash to invest in startups autonomously. The brainchild of AngelList’s Naval Ravikant and Accomplice’s Jeff Fagnan, the program identifies promising startup founders and provides them with $200,000 of investible capital, and potentially $1 million. It also sets them up with the right legal entities to invest. It selected its first cohort — a group of 19 founders selected from 1,500 applications — earlier this year, and the program announced that its second cohort is open for applications today. Ravikant explained to me that
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Integrate.ai pulls in $30M to help businesses make better customer-centric decisions

Helping businesses bring more firepower to the fight against AI-fuelled disruptors is the name of the game for Integrate.ai, a Canadian startup that’s announcing a $30M Series A today. The round is led by Portag3 Ventures . Other VCs include Georgian Partners, Real Ventures, plus other (unnamed) individual investors also participating. The funding will be used for a big push in the U.S. market. Integrate.ai’s early focus has been on retail banking, retail and telcos, says founder Steve Irvine, along with some startups which have data but aren’t necessarily awash with AI expertise to throw at it. (Not least because tech giants continue to hoover up talent.) Its SaaS platform targets consumer-centric businesses — offering to plug paying customers into a range of AI technologies and techniques to optimize their decision-making so they can respond more savvily to their customers. Aka turning “high volume consumer funnels”
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