Category: economy

June 7, 2019 Off

Fintech platform Synapse raises $33M to build ‘the AWS of banking’

By Jill T Frey

Synapse, a San Francisco-based startup that operates a platform enabling banks and fintech companies to easily develop financial services, has closed a $33 million Series B to develop new products and go after international expansion.

The investment was led by Andreessen Horowitz, with participation from existing backers Trinity Ventures and Core Innovation Capital . Synapse — which recently rebranded (slightly) from “SynapseFi” — announced a $17 million Series A back in September 2018, so this deal takes it to $50 million raised to date.

The startup was founded in 2014 by Bryan Keltner and India-born CEO Sankaet Pathak, who came to the U.S. to study but grew frustrated at the difficulty of opening a bank account without U.S. social security history. Inspired by his struggles, Synapse, which operated under the radar prior to that Series A deal, is focused on democratizing financial services.

Its approach to doing that is … Read the rest

June 5, 2019 Off

Social Capital reincarnated

By Jill T Frey

Nine months ago, the once high-flying venture capital fund Social Capital made the bold decision to stop accepting outside capital and operate as a family office, in essence.

The co-founder of the outfit, brazen billionaire and early Facebook executive Chamath Palihapitiya, pledged to upend his investment strategy and make fewer but much larger investments as a means to improve his returns. Naturally, a near-complete exodus of Social Capital’s venture capitalists followed.

Today, the firm’s three founders, Palihapitiya, Mamoon Hamid and Ted Maidenberg, have gone their separate ways. Palihapitiya is rewriting the Social Capital playbook, Hamid is busy reinvigorating Kleiner Perkins and Maidenberg is building on top of the data-driven strategy and proprietary software dubbed “Magic 8-Ball” he built at Social Capital, with a new firm called Tribe Capital.

Quietly, Tribe Capital’s co-founders, Maidenberg and former Social Capital partners Arjun Sethi and Jonathan Hsu, have deployed millions of dollars in Read the rest

June 5, 2019 Off

The Stanford connections behind Latin America’s multibillion-dollar startup renaissance

By Jill T Frey

The houses along the tree-lined blocks of Josina Avenue in Palo Alto, with their big back yards, swimming pools and driveways are about as far removed from the snarls of traffic, sputtering diesel engines, and smoggy air of South America’s major metropolises as one can get.

But it was in one of those houses, about a twelve-minute bicycle ride from Stanford University, that the seed was planted for what has become a renaissance in technology entrepreneurship in Latin America.

Back in 2010, when Adeyemi Ajao, Carlo Dapuzzo, and Juan de Antonio were students at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business they could not predict that they would be counted among the vanguard of investors and entrepreneurs transforming Latin America’s startup economy.

At the time, Ajao was negotiating the sale of his first business, the Spanish social networking company, Tuenti, to Telefonica (in what would be a $100 million exit). Carlo Dapuzzo … Read the rest

June 3, 2019 Off

Fitness startup Mirror nears $300M valuation with fresh funding

By Jill T Frey

Today, Peloton is a bonafide success. The company, which sells $2,245 internet-connected exercise bikes, boasts a $4 billion valuation and a cult following.

That hasn’t always been the case. For years, Peloton battled for venture capital investment and struggled to attract buyers. Now that it’s proven the market for tech-enabled home exercise equipment and affiliated subscription products, a whole bunch of startups are chasing down the same customer segment.

Mirror, a New York-based company that sells $1,495 full-length mirrors that double as interactive home gyms, is closing in a round of funding expected to reach $36 million, sources and Delaware stock filings confirm, at a valuation just under $300 million. It’s unclear who has signed on to lead the round; we’ve heard a number of high-profile firms looked at Mirror’s books and passed. The company has previously raised a total of $38 million from Spark Capital, First Round Capital, Lerer … Read the rest

June 3, 2019 Off

Key Vision Fund investors are reportedly lukewarm on a second fund

By Jill T Frey

SoftBank shook up the venture capital world with its unprecedented $100 billion Vision Fund, and the speculation continues around its follow-up.

The fund hasn’t quite closed $100 billion — it is mighty close… — but that hasn’t stopped reports of a sequel from surfacing for the last 18 months. SoftBank has mown through its allocation at speed, dealmaking increased to a record speed in Q1 despite controversy while its hiring has intensified, but the latest chatter suggests that a number of the fund’s key backers are lukewarm at the prospect of a return act.

The Wall Street Journal this weekend reported that Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), which anchored the Vision Fund with a $45 billion investment (but also provides the controversy), and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board are among those that “plan to make limited or no contributions” to the follow-up vehicle.

Sources told the … Read the rest

June 1, 2019 Off

Startups Weekly: Will the real unicorns please stand up?

By Jill T Frey

Hello and welcome back to Startups Weekly, a newsletter published every Saturday that dives into the week’s noteworthy venture capital deals, funds and trends. Before I dive into this week’s topic, let’s catch up a bit. Last week, I wrote about the sudden uptick in beverage startup rounds. Before that, I noted an alternative to venture capital fundraising called revenue-based financing. Remember, you can send me tips, suggestions and feedback to [email protected] or on Twitter @KateClarkTweets.

Here’s what I’ve been thinking about this week: Unicorn scarcity, or lack thereof. I’ve written about this concept before, as has my Equity co-host, Crunchbase News editor-in-chief Alex Wilhelm. I apologize if the two of us are broken records, but I think we’re equally perplexed by the pace at which companies are garnering $1 billion valuations.

Here’s the latest data, according to Crunchbase: “2018 outstripped all previous years in terms of … Read the rest

May 31, 2019 Off

Slack narrows losses, displays healthy revenue growth

By Jill T Frey

Workplace messaging powerhouse Slack filed an amended S-1 with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on Friday weeks ahead of a direct listing expected June 20.

In the document, Slack included an updated look at its path to profitability, posting first-quarter revenues of $134.8 million on losses of $31.8 million. Slack’s Q1 revenues represent a 67% increase from the same period last year when the company lost $24.8 million on $80.9 million in revenue.

For the fiscal year ending January 31, 2019, the company reported losses of $138.9 million on revenue of $400.6 million. That’s compared to a loss of $140.1 million on revenue of $220.5 million the year prior.

Slack is in the process of completing the final steps necessary for its direct listing on The New York Stock Exchange, where it will trade under the ticker symbol “WORK.” A direct listing is an alternative approach to the stock … Read the rest

May 31, 2019 Off

Is the tech press too positive in its coverage of startups?

By Jill T Frey

Hello and welcome back to Equity, TechCrunch’s venture capital-focused podcast, where we unpack the numbers behind the headlines.

It’s our first week in the new TechCrunch podcast studio, or it was for Kate Clark and Chris Gates. Alex Wilhelm will be back in SF next week. For now, we fired up the mics and dug into what was a veritable barrage of news.

First, Paul Graham’s contentious comments. The co-founder of Y Combinator tweeted some criticism of the tech press on Thursday; naturally, Kate and Alex had a few thoughts. In summary, Graham doesn’t seem to understand what it is we tech journalists do, and that’s a problem.

Next … Read the rest

May 30, 2019 Off

EV Growth closes $200M fund to cover Southeast Asia’s Series B funding gap

By Jill T Frey

East Ventures has long been known as one of Indonesia’s longest-serving and most active seed-stage investors, but now it has officially moved up the food chain after it announced a final close of its growth fund at $200 million.

Called EV Growth, the fund is a joint venture between East Ventures, SMDV — the VC arm of Indonesian conglomerate Sinar Mas — and YJ Capital, which is associated with Yahoo Japan. The fund was first announced last year with a target of $150 million, but this final close has already surpassed that thanks to contributions from LPs that include SoftBank Group, Pavilion CapitaI and Indies Capital.

EV Growth is already active, with 40% of the fund deployed to date, according to East Ventures’ founding partner Willson Cuaca, who serves as partner for the new fund alongside Roderick Purwana from SMDV and  YJ Capital’s Shinichiro Hori.

“We thought ‘There’s a gap … Read the rest

May 28, 2019 Off

Seedlegals closes $4M Series A, led by Index Ventures, to automate startup fundraisings

By Jill T Frey

When SeedLegals launched in 2017 in the UK, I’d say many of us thought “why has that not been done before?”. After all, two things have happened which make this an obvious idea for a startup: startup funding rounds are now so common that there is no reason large amounts of automation could be done. If you can buy a divorce online, surely you can organise funding rounds?

The second trend is the sheer level of automation happening in legal software today. After all, we now have “Uber for Lawyers” (Lexoo, Linkilaw, Lawbite) and AI-driven legaltech (KIRA, Luminance, ThoughtRiver). (Eventually, we will have blockchain smart contracts do ALL the work, but that’s for another time…).

So it’s not unsurprising that today SeedLegals announces it has closed a $4 million Series A led by venture capital firm Index Ventures (London/SF/etc) with participation from Kima Ventures (Paris/TelAviv), The Family (Paris) … Read the rest