Confrere, the video calling service for professionals and clients, raises $1.5M seed

Confrere, a video calling service designed specifically for professionals who need to hold online consultations or meeting with clients, has raised $1.5 million in seed funding. Leading the round is Berlin’s Point Nine Capital, with participation from Nordic Makers, The Nordic Web Ventures, and Fathom Capital. A number of angel investors also took part in the round, including Albert Armengo (the founder of Doctoralia, sold to Docplanner), as well as a number of physicians who are users of the product. Notably, Confrere was co-founded by CEO Svein Yngvar Willassen, who previously founded and headed up appear.in, another video calling service but one designed for team collaboration. The startup’s other co-founders are CTO Dag-Inge Aas and CPO Ida Aalen. “I knew from my time with appear.in that meetings between professionals and their clients were a different use case than team meetings,” Yngvar Willassen tells me.
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The Family raises $17.4 million to support European startups

The Family has always been an ambitious startup accelerator. But it has always felt like the company never had enough money to grow as quickly as it wanted. The Family is raising a new $17.4 million funding round (€15 million). Private banking and asset management group LGT Capital Partners is leading the round, with HummingBird Venture, Project A, eVentures and others also participating. “It’s the first time an investor understands The Family’s business model. It’s the first time an investor isn’t trying to turn us into a VC fund,” The Family co-founder Oussama Ammar told me. According to him, The Family is basically going to do more of the same. Except that this funding round “makes [The Family] virtually immortal.” The Family had to double-check its bank account many, many times to make sure that there was enough money to pay all its employees. This funding
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Chinese Tesla rival Nio trims IPO target: now aims to raise up to $1.5B

The U.S. IPO window may be wide open for Chinese tech firms, but electric vehicle maker Nio has conservatively cut the target for its NYSE listing to $1.5 billion after it released a price range for its shares. The company plans to sell 184 million shares between $6.25-$8.25. That range would yield a total raise of $1.518 billion, which is down from the initial target of $1.8 billion from the firm’s first filing in August. The range is, of course, subject to change and it doesn’t include income from the green shoe option — which allows underwriters to take an additional allocation of shares — but nevertheless, it is a notable development. Nio also revealed in its newest filing that its existing investors have committed to investing $250 million into the IPO which, at the middle of the range, would account for 22 percent of
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Twilio’s contact center products just got more analytical with Ytica acquisition

Twilio, a company best known for supplying a communications APIs for developers has a product called Twilio Flex for building sophisticated customer service applications on top of Twilio’s APIs. Today, it announced it was acquiring Ytica (pronounced Why-tica) to provide an operational and analytical layer on top of the customer service solution. The companies would not discuss the purchase price, but Twilio indicated it does not expect the acquisition to have a material impact on its “results, operations or financial condition.” In other words, it probably didn’t cost much. Ytica, which is based in Prague, has actually been a partner with Twilio for some time, so coming together in this fashion really made a lot of sense, especially as Twilio has been developing Flex. Twilio Flex is an app platform for contact centers, which offers a full stack of applications and allows users to deliver customer support over
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TiDB developer PingCAP wants to expand in North America after raising $50M Series C

PingCAP co-founder and CEO Max Liu

PingCAP, the company behind MySQL-compatible distributed database TiDB, said today that it plans its global operations after raising a $50 million Series C. The round was led by Chinese venture capital firms Fosun and Morningside Venture Capital, with participation from returning investors including China Growth Capital, Yunqi Partners and Matrix Partners. Based in Beijing, the company says it will also use the new capital to build more cross-cloud products. PingCAP is focusing on the North American market since it is the most mature cloud market, said Kevin Xu, the company’s general manager of U.S. strategy and operations, in an email. Founded in 2015 by Dylan Cui, Edward Huang and Max Liu, PingCAP has raised about $72 million so far, including its $15 million Series B announced in June 2017. TiDB is an open-source hybrid transactional and analytical database targeted at companies that
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Packet hauls in $25M Series B as customized cloud vision takes shape

In a world where large hyperscale companies like Amazon, Microsoft and Google dominate the public cloud, it would seem foolhardy for a startup to try and carve out a space, but Packet has an alternative customized cloud vision, and investors have taken notice. Today, the company announced a $25 million Series B led by Third Point Ventures. An interesting mix of strategic and traditional investors joined the round including Battery Ventures, JA Mitsui Leasing and Samsung Next. Existing investors SoftBank Corp. and Dell Technologies Capital also participated. The company has now raised over $36 million. The company also showed some signs of maturing by bringing in Ihab Tarazi as CTO and George Karidis as COO. Tarazi, who came over from Equinix, likes what he sees in Packet . He says they offer several advantages over the public providers. First of all, customers can buy whatever hardware they want. “We offer the
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Alibaba goes big on Russia with joint venture focused on gaming, shopping and more

Alibaba is doubling down on Russia after the Chinese e-commerce giant launched a joint venture with one of the country’s leading internet companies. Russia is said to have over 70 million internet users, around half of its population, with countless more attracted from Russian-speaking neighboring countries. The numbers are projected to rise as, like in many parts of the world, the growth of smartphones brings more people online. Now Alibaba is moving in to ensure it is well placed to take advantage. Mail.ru, the Russia firm that offers a range of internet services including social media, email and food delivery to 100 million registered users, has teamed up with Alibaba to launch AliExpress Russia, a JV that they hope will function as a “one-stop destination” for communication, social media, shopping and games. Mail.ru backer MegaFon, a telecom firm, and the country’s sovereign wealth fund RDIF (Russian Direct Investment Fund)
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Ravelin raises £8M Series B to use machine learning to fight e-commerce fraud

Ravelin, the London-based company using machine learning to help e-commerce companies fight and predict the risk of fraud, has raised £8 million in Series B funding. The round is led by BlackFin Capital Partners, while existing investors Amadeus Capital Partners, Passion Capital, and Playfair Capital followed on. In a call with co-founder and CEO Martin Sweeney, he told me the new funding will in part be used for Ravelin’s expansion plans. This will include opening an office in the East Coast of the U.S., where the company is seeing increasing in-bound inquiries. This, he says, won’t merely be one or two sales people, but will be staffed properly, including posting one of Ravelin’s other co-founders there. The company has also recently developed a product for Payment Service Providers, and says it will continue to invest in other capabilities complementary to its core proposition of charge back protection.
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Zendesk expands into CRM with Base acquisition

Zendesk has mostly confined itself to customer service scenarios, but it seems that’s not enough anymore. If you want to truly know the customer behind the interaction, you need a customer system of record to go with the customer service component. To fill that need, Zendesk announced it was acquiring Base, a startup that has raised over $50 million. The companies did not share the purchase price, but Zendesk did report that the acquisition should not have a significant impact on revenue. While Base might not be as well known as Salesforce, Microsoft or Oracle in the CRM game, it has created a sophisticated sales force automation platform, complete with its own artificial intelligence underpinnings. CEO Uzi Shmilovici claimed his company’s AI could compete with its more well-heeled competitors when it was released in 2016 to provide salespeople with meaningful prescriptive advice on how to be more successful. Zendesk
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Evaneos, the online marketplace for tailor-made travel experiences, picks up $80M Series D

Evaneos, the online marketplace for tailor-made travel experiences, has picked up $80 million in Series D funding. Leading the round is Partech, and Level Equity, with participation from Quadrille Capital, and existing backers XAnge, Serena Capital, and Bpifrance. The injection of cash is to be used to international development, including increasing headcount from the current 180 employees. It brings total funding to around $108 million since being founded in 2009. Competing primarily with traditional tour operators, Evaneos offers a marketplace for tailored travel experiences that claims to cut out the middle-person -– that is, the tour operators and major travel agencies -– by connecting travellers directly with a community of local travel agents. Through the site you can browse a range of holiday ideas, then contact a local agent living in the destination country to design a tailor-made itinerary. The draw for consumers is more personalized travel experiences, while
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Intel acquires NetSpeed Systems to boost its system-on-a-chip business

Intel today is announcing another acquisition as it continues to pick up talent and IP to bolster its next generation of computing chips beyond legacy PCs. The company has acquired NetSpeed Systems, a startup that makes system-on-chip (SoC) design tools and interconnect fabric intellectual property (IP). The company will be joining Intel’s Silicon Engineering Group, and its co-founder and CEO, Sundari Mitra, herself an Intel vet, will be coming on as a VP at Intel where she will continue to lead her team. Terms of the deal are not being disclosed, but for some context, during NetSpeed’s last fundraise in 2016 (a $10 million Series C) it had a post-money valuation of $60 million, according to data from PitchBook. SoC is a central part of how newer connected devices are being made. Moving away from traditional motherboards to create all-in-one chips that include processing, memory, input/output and storage is an
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Crowdcube acquires business reporting software Supdate

In what looks like an undeniably good strategic fit, U.K.-based business reporting software startup Supdate has been acquired by equity crowdfunding platform Crowdcube. Terms of the deal remain undisclosed, although I’m told it was an all-cash acquisition. I understand that Crowdcube is essentially buying the Supdate user base and tech/IP, and that Supdate founder Duane Jackson is not joining Crowdcube but will be helping on the technical side during the handover. The idea is that Supdate will become part of part of the existing suite of “post-funding benefits” available to businesses that raise on Crowdcube, such as access to Amazon’s Launchpad Programme. Founded out of Jackson’s own frustration as an angel investor, whereby startups he’d backed didn’t always keep him updated regularly, Supdate offers SaaS for businesses to create and share company news and metrics with shareholders. The premise was that well-designed software could help streamline and
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Hong Kong-based OneDegree gets $25.5M Series A to make coverage more accessible, starting with pet insurance

OneDegree, a Hong Kong-based insurance technology startup, announced today that it has closed a Series A totaling HKD $200 million (about $25.5 million). Half of that amount was pledged by investors to OneDegree pending regulatory approval through the Hong Kong Insurance Authority’s new fast-track licensing program for online-only insurers. The company, which participated in Cyberport, the Hong Kong government’s startup incubator, claims this is the largest ever fundraising round for a pre-revenue insurance tech startup in Hong Kong. OneDegree is currently not disclosing its list of investors because its new shareholders are being vetted by the Insurance Authority, founder and CEO Alvin Kwock tells TechCrunch, but it includes institutional investors and family offices. The South China Morning Post reports that speculation among brokers peg Tencent and Alibaba as probable backers. OneDegree has developed an online insurance platform that lets consumers purchase personal lines and health insurance products without
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Perlego raises $4.8M for its ‘Spotify for textbooks’

Perlego, which has been dubbed the ‘Spotify for textbooks,’ has closed $4.8 million in finding. Leading the round is ADV, with participation from existing angel investors, including Simon Franks (co-founder of Lovefilm), Alex Chesterman (founder of Zoopla), and Peter Hinssen. Founded by Gauthier Van Malderen and Matthew Davis, Perlego provides students and professionals unlimited access to hundreds of thousands of academic and professional eBook titles for £12 a month. To be able to do this, it works with 650 publishers, including big names like Oxford University Press, Princeton University Press, Macmillan Higher Education, and Cengage Learning. Publishers receive 65 percent of each subscription on a consumption basis. “Textbook prices have increased more than fifteen-fold since 1970, or three times the rate of inflation,” Perlego co-founder and CEO Van Malderen tells TechCrunch. “In the U.K., the average university student spends £439 a year on textbooks. This is
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Unmortgage scores £10M seed round to offer ‘part-own, part-rental’ housing

Unmortgage enables everyone to live in the home they want to, that’s our mission,” Unmortgage co-founder and CEO Ray Rafiq-Omar tells me. “We do that by allowing people to buy as little as five percent of a home and rent the rest. So there’s no mortgage involved, hence the name Unmortgage”. The burgeoning London startup, which aims to launch next year having just closed a hefty £10 million seed round, calls its model “part-own, part-rent”. However, unlike traditional shared ownership schemes, Unmortgage doesn’t want you to have to take out a mortgage to buy the first portion of your own, and it isn’t targeting new-builds. Like a number of other fintech/proptech companies, such as Strideup and Proportunity, it is the latest attempt to solve the increasing difficulty first time buyers face trying to get on the housing ladder as rising house prices typically outstrip wages. If people rent,
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Eventbrite sets IPO range of $19 to $21, valuing it at $1.8B

Eventbrite has taken its final step toward becoming a publicly traded company. In an updated S-1 filing this morning, the ticketing and events company announced plans to sell 10 million Class A shares on the New York Stock Exchange at a price range of $19 to $21 under the ticker symbol EB. At a midpoint price, Eventbrite will raise $200 million at a $1.8 billion valuation. The company filed its initial IPO paperwork confidentially back in July, then unveiled its S-1 to about two weeks ago. Eventbrite is not profitable and has been losing money since 2016. According to the documents, it posted losses of $40.4 million in 2016 and $38.5 million in 2017. In the first six months of 2018, the company has posted a net loss of $15.6 million. The company is making changes to make up for some of those losses  at
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Starry wants to put high-speed 5G internet in reach of everyone

Starry, a Boston startup, wants deliver high-speed 5G internet in major cities at a reasonable price. Today, it announced it is expanding service from its initial launch in Boston to New York City. The company also announced a deal with Related Companies, a large national affordable housing owner, to host Starry equipment on its buildings and offer Starry service to its tenants. The Starry solution consists of three parts: The beam sits on a high roof. The point sits on a lower roof and the consumer gets a Starry Station, which acts as a modem of sorts to deliver the internet service to the home. As they put it, internet access becomes an extension of the property.

Diagram: Starry

While the hardware solution is impressive in itself, it allows Starry to offer high-speed internet to consumers at a more affordable price point than traditional large providers. Company founder
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Robinhood aims at IPO as the fintech startup seeks CFO

Now valued at $5.6 billion, zero-fee stock trading app and cryptocurrency exchange Robinhood is starting preparations to go public. Just a year and a half ago, it was still largely under the radar. But then it raised a $110 million Series C at a $1.3 billion valuation in April 2017 and then just a year later scored a $363 million Series D, both led by Russian firm DST Global. Combined with the growth of its premium subscription for trading on margin called Robinhood Gold, the startup now has the firepower and revenue to make a viable Wall Street debut. Today during Robinhood CEO Baiju Bhatt’s talk at TechCrunch Disrupt SF, he revealed that his company is on the path to an IPO and has begun its search for a chief financial officer. It’s also undergoing constant audits from the SEC, FINRA and its security team to make sure
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Benchmark and Tiger double down on going public

In an ecosystem enthralled with private capital and delayed public debuts, Bill Gurley has been something of a maverick. The former dot-com equity analyst and long-time partner at Benchmark has pushed hard for companies to go public and “grow up,” including at his portfolio company Uber, where he was formerly a board member. Earlier this year, he noted that “it’s cool to go public again,” and now we are starting to see the fruits of Benchmark’s labors. Over the past 24 hours, two companies – Elastic and Upwork – have submitted their S-1 registration statements to the SEC, and Benchmark is the largest shareholder in both. That follows last year’s IPO for Stitch Fix, where Gurley was the lead investor. The story of these two public aspirants are certainly divergent. Upwork is the rebranded merger of two companies, Elance and oDesk, which merged in
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GreyOrange raises $140M to develop fully-automated robotics for warehouses

GreyOrange, a Singapore-headquartered firm that develops robots for warehouses, has pulled in a $140 million Series C funding round as it targets more expansion and growth. The company was started in 2011. Today it has five regional offices across the world — covering India, Singapore, Japan, Germany, and the U.S. — three R&D centers and more than 60 ‘installations’ of its tech with retail customers worldwide. Right now, GreyOrange’s two main products are a robot ‘butler’ that moves heavy shelves and installations around warehouses and a robotic ‘sorter’ belt that organizes packages, but the vision is to build something more holistic. “In three to four years we want to be the first in the world to achieve the goal of operating a fully-autonomous warehouse,” founders Samay Kohli and Akash Gupta told TechCrunch in an interview. That’s a huge goal, and it puts the company in competition with established firms like Amazon-owned
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