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Voi hires former Bird UK chief to bring e-scooters to British streets

2020, May 27 - 8:04pm

With the U.K. government set to accelerate trials of e-scooter rentals in a bid to reduce crowding on public transport and support social distancing during the coronavirus crisis, Europe’s e-scooter companies are gearing up to be ready.

The latest move sees Sweden-headquartered Voi Technology recruit Richard Corbett to head up its U.K., Ireland and Benelux operations. Corbett joins from rival Bird, where he spent two years as the U.S. company’s U.K. and Ireland chief, as well as helping to launch e-scooter rentals in Netherlands.

This side of the pond, Corbett was best known for launching e-scooters on private land at Queen Elizabeth Park in East London, which was a major site for the London 2012 Summer Olympics. It has since become home to a ‘tech hub’, housing a number of tech and media-focused businesses and related organisations, along with co-working spaces, a large conference space, and various Olympic-standard sports facilities.

“Richard Corbett joins Voi immediately as head of the Swedish company’s UK, Ireland and Benelux operations, as the UK government prepares to change the law to finally allow e-scooters to be ridden on roads and cyclepaths,” explains Voi, adding that he’ll be responsible for leading Voi’s push into the UK, where it expects to see at least 50,000 rides per day by the end of 2020 in London.

Explains Fredrik Hjelm, CEO and co-founder of Voi Technology, in a statement: “Out of this terrible pandemic, there is an opportunity to reinvent the way that we travel around cities so that we can cut congestion and pollution for good. Now more than ever a collaborative approach to mobility is needed and we need to make sure that there are good non-polluting options available, that suit all abilities and pockets. There is a huge unmet demand for e-scooters in U.K. towns and cities and Voi will work closely with local authorities and other transport operators to provide new mobility choices”.

Out of genuine curiosity, I asked Corbett what he has been doing over the last two years, considering how limited Bird’s U.K. launch was.

“The Olympic Park was the UK’s very first ‘e-scooter showroom’, where stakeholders across no. 10, DfT, DEFRA, DHSC, cities, transport authorities and transport groups could test ride an e-scooter and develop an informed opinion about this new mode of transport,” he told me. “This trial was essential to get us to where we are today”.

To that end, one of Corbett’s first tasks is to continue building out the U.K. team, and working closely with U.K. local authorities and transport operators to bring e-scooter rentals to the U.K. cities that could benefit most.

“I’m really proud to have been part of the team who led the conversations to make e-scooters a priority and I firmly believe that they will be a solution to the U.K.’s pollution and transport issues, not just a fun way to get around,” he says. “I’m also really excited to be getting back to this campaign and in particular with Voi, which is a European company which really understands how people move around older cities like London. We share the same values and are passionate about creating better cities for people to live in.”

Meanwhile, it has been a challenging time for Voi, along with other e-scooter rental companies, including Lime, Bird, Tier and others, as many countries entered lockdown and demand for scooter rides plummeted. This forced Voi to pause operations in the majority of cities it operates in, with only a handful of its largest cities being serviced.

Since then, lockdowns across Europe have started to lift, and Voi says it has been putting more e-scooters back on the streets of various European cities, including in France and Germany. Throughout the pandemic, it also maintained service in key cities in Sweden, Norway and Denmark, in part to help key workers get around and to assist charities supporting people during the on-going crisis.

BlaBlaCar partners with scooter startup Voi to launch new BlaBla Ride app

Categories: Business News

ChatableApps launches its hearing assistance app

2020, May 27 - 5:00pm

ChatableApps is launching its hearing assistance app on iOS today, with a wider Android release to follow shortly. Backed by Mark Cuban, and based on the work of auditory neural signal processing researcher Dr. Andy Simpson, the app removes background noise in near real-time so that one-to-one conversations can be heard more clearly.

And, unlike other solutions on the market, its makers say it works with any modern smartphone and standard earbuds. Early “pre-clinical” trials of the Chatable app claim to demonstrate that it matches or even surpasses the performance of some traditional hearing aids, with 86% of participants reporting that the ChatableApps’ “universal hearing aid” was better for conversation than their existing hearing aid.

When I covered the startup’s recent funding round, ChatableApps co-founder Brendan O’Driscoll told me the company’s technology and approach is “completely unique” because it doesn’t use noise filtering or other DSP techniques. “It’s actually a deep learning neural net approach to speech and noise separation that doesn’t apply filters to the original audio but rather it listens and re-prints a brand new audio stream in near real-time which is a mimic of just the vocal components of the original audio,” he said.

Or, put simply, unlike traditional approaches to background noise removal — which attempt to label and remove unwanted sounds — ChatableApps’ AI, dubbed “VOXimity”, identifies the voice we want to hear, and creates a new, identical voice track which sounds (more or less) the same as the original but without any other background sounds. The technique is called end-to-end neural speech synthesis.

Meanwhile, ChatableApps CEO Giles Tongue, tells me the team has been racing to get the app released as quickly as possible, after realising it could help plug a gap for people unable to access a hearing clinic during the coronavirus crisis or unable to lipread due to the prevalence of face masks.

“Following successful pre-clinical trials, we have decided to launch immediately due to urgent demand from audiologists to help people struggling because of coronavirus,” he says. “With many unable to lipread due to face masks or unable to visit a hearing clinic in an emergency, our app provides a lifeline that will help people communicate”.

The app may also help manage social distancing. “You can place the phone next to the person talking, put in your Bluetooth buds, walk ten feet away and still be able to hear someone with perfect clarity,” adds Tongue.

Since we last covered the company, the team has also re-visited the ChatableApps pricing model. Previously the startup planned to offer a paid subscription version only, but now has a free, albeit somewhat limited, tier.

“The app is free to access, with the option to subscribe to unlock maximum voice amplification and reduction of background noise,” says the company. The full version is available for £9.99 ($12.99) per month, or £59.99 ($79.99) per year when paid annually.

Categories: Business News

Aircall raises $65 million for its cloud-based phone system

2020, May 27 - 4:00pm

Aircall has raised a $65 million Series C round (€60.2 million) with DTCP leading the round, Adam Street participating and existing investors eFounders, Draper Esprit, Balderton and NextWorld injecting more money in the company. Overall, Aircall has raised $106 million.

Aircall is building a software-as-a-service company around phone calls. You could use it to operate a call center and handle support requests or to improve the workflow of your sales team, for instance.

“We raised two years ago and we’ve done exactly what we wanted to do over the past two years by creating an executive team and a strong leadership,” co-founder and COO Jonathan Anguelov told me.

When it comes to product, Aircall wants to differentiate itself from traditional call center solutions thanks to integrations with third-party services. For instance, you could see your call information in your CRM to see if somebody on your team has already followed up on a lead. Or you could initiate a phone call from Zendesk if there’s an urgent support request.

More recently, the company has launched integrations with Chorus.ai and Gong for demanding customers operating call center. With those integrations, you can get transcriptions and analyze the sentiment of the conversation.

Over the past two years, Aircall has quadrupled its revenue and doubled the number of employees. While the company originally started in France, most of its revenue comes from the U.S. now. Aircall targets small and medium companies, from 10 to 1,000 people.

While the startup didn’t want to share information on its annual recurring revenue (ARR), Aircall says that its ARR is currently above the total cash burn of the past couple of years. Given that they raised $29 million and didn’t use all the money, that gives you an idea.

The company started reaching out to investors in January and ended up closing the round during the coronavirus outbreak. “We have done more than 3x on the valuation compared to the previous round,” Anguelov said

There are around 320 persons working for the company now. With today’s funding round, the company plans to expand with more developers, a bigger sales team and a new office in Australia.

Categories: Business News

Indonesian startup Delman raises $1.6 million to help companies clean up data

2020, May 27 - 12:00pm

Delman, a Jakarta-based data management startup, has raised $1.6 million in seed funding. The round was led by Intudo Ventures, with participation from Prasetia Dwidharma Ventures and Qlue Performa Indonesia, and will be used to establish a research and development center and hire software engineers and data scientists.

Delman was founded in 2018 by chief executive officer Surya Halim, chief product officer Raymond Christopher and chief technology officer Theo Budiyanto, who were classmates at the University of California, Berkeley. After graduation, they worked at tech companies in Silicon Valley, including Google and Splunk, before deciding to focus on the Indonesian market.

Originally launched as an end-to-end big data analytics provider, Delman shifted its focus to data preparation and management after talking to clients in Indonesia, said Halim. Many companies said they had budgeted for expensive data analytics solution, but then realized their data was not ready for analysis because it was spread across multiple formats. Delman’s mission is to make it easier for data engineers and scientists to do their jobs by cleaning up and preparing data.

Halim says many large companies in Indonesia typically spend up to $200,000 to clean and warehouse data, but Delman gives them a more cost-efficient and faster alternative.

“We have the capability to do analytics and data visualization for clients, but there are so many established companies that already do that, which is why we shifted our business model to something more niche and needed,” said Halim. “It also enables us to open our door to partner with everyone doing data analytics services.”

While newer companies and startups have cleaner datasets, Halim said many older Indonesian companies, especially ones with branches in multiple cities, often have large amounts of data spread across pen-and-paper ledgers, Excel spreadsheets and other software. The data may also have code, keywords and typos that need to be corrected.

“It’s easier for a new company, because everything is already standardized,” Halim said, “But if a company that was established in the 1970s wants to unify previous generations of data to integrate it into their system and keep notes on what customer behavior is like in order to compete with up-and-coming companies, then they need to have a data-driven policy.”

Delman is industry-agnostic and its clients range from large corporations and consulting firms to government agencies. Its customers have included PWC and Qlue. Halim said that the startup plans to expand into other Southeast Asian markets and expects that as COVID-19 changes the way people work, companies will want to invest more heavily in their IT infrastructure and make their databases easier to access outside of a central location.

In a press statement, Intudo Ventures founding partner Eddy Chan said, “By combining a highly localized approach with global technical expertise, Delman is providing Indonesian businesses with Indonesian-developed big data solutions, ultimately leading to better outcomes for end-users. Since meeting the Delman founding team in Silicon Valley in 2017, we have witnessed their growth as a management team, and are excited to continue to support them in their entrepreneurial journey ahead.”

Categories: Business News

GoBear raises $17 million to expand its consumer financial services for Asian markets

2020, May 27 - 10:00am

Singapore-based fintech startup GoBear has raised $17 million from returning investors Walvis Participaties, a Dutch venture capital firm, and Aegon N.V., a life insurance and asset management provider. The funding brings GoBear’s total funding so far to $97 million, and will be used to expand its consumer financial services platform, which is available in seven Asian markets: Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

Founder and CEO Adrian Chng told TechCrunch that GoBear will focus on what it calls its “three growth pillars”: an online financial supermarket that evolved from the company’s financial products aggregator/comparison service; an online insurance brokerage; and its digital lending business, which it recently expanded by acquiring consumer lending platform AsiaKredit.

The company has also added three new executives over the past few months: chief information technology officer Valeriy Gasratov; chief strategy officer Jinnee Lim as Chief Strategy Officer; and Mike Singh from AsiaKredit as its new chief lending officer.

GoBear originally launched in 2015 as a metasearch engine, before transitioning into financial services. The company now works with over 100 financial partners, including banks and insurance providers, and says its platform has been used by over 55 million people to search for more than 2,000 personal financial products.

The startup serves consumers who don’t have credit cards or other access to traditional credit building tools. Similar to other fintech companies that focus on underbanked populations, GoBear aggregates and analyzes alternative sources of data to judge lending risk, including patterns in consumer behavior. For example, Chng said if a loan application is filled out in less than a minute, it is more likely to be fraudulent, and applications made between 8:30PM and midnight are less risky than ones made between 2AM to 5AM.

Data points from smartphones is also used to assess creditworthiness in markets like the Philippines, where the credit card penetration rate is less than 10%, but more than 40% of the population uses a smartphone.

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Chng said GoBear has been gross margin positive since the end of 2019. Interest in travel insurance has declined, but the company has continued to see demand for other insurance products and lending. Its online insurance brokerage has grown its average order by 52% over the last three months, and the company has seen 50% year-over-year growth from its loan products.

There are other fintech companies in Asia that overlap with some of the services that GoBear offers, like comparison platform MoneySmart, CompareAsiaGroup and Grab Financial Group. In terms of competition, Chng told TechCrunch that not only is the market opportunity in Asia huge (he said there are 300 million underbanked people across GoBear’s seven markets), but the company also differentiates with its three core services, which are all interconnected and draw on the same data sources to score credit.

Chng anticipates that the pandemic will spur more financial institutions to begin digitizing their products and looking for partners like GoBear to help them manage risk. In turn, that will make more financial institutions open to using non-traditional data to score credit, enabling underbanked markets to have increased access to financial products.

“The momentum is here. I think now is the time for tech and data to transform financial services,” he said. “As a platform, we are really looking for partners to come with us for the next phase of growth and investment. I feel positive even with COVID-19, because I think that we will have more acceleration, and the opportunity to change people’s lives and benefit them and investors by solving tough problems will only increase.”

Categories: Business News

AI is more data-hungry than ever, and DefinedCrowd raises $50M B round to feed it

2020, May 27 - 7:42am

As AI has grown from niche to mission-critical technology, the companies that enable it have multiplied and in many cases prospered. A good example of that success is DefinedCrowd, which has gone from the Disrupt stage to globe-spanning AI toolkit to the Fortune 500 in just a couple of years. The company just raised a new $50.5 million B round to further fuel its expansion.

DefinedCrowd doesn’t make AI, but rather supplies data used to create it, specializing in natural language processing. After all, someone has to vet the 500 different ways you could ask for the weather — otherwise it would be much more difficult for machine learning systems to tell what users mean. The same goes for computer vision, sentiment recognition and other domains for which the company creates and sorts data. DefinedCrowd has a paid community hundreds of thousands strong doing this highly necessary but voluminous work.

As AI has worked its way into everything from creating and editing media to enterprise software, there’s been no shortage of companies in search of training data.

“The demand for data has consistently been growing over the last couple years — companies are more and more aware of the impact that data has on their systems, and have been looking for more languages and domains that weren’t considered five years ago,” co-founder and CEO Daniela Braga told TechCrunch.

She emphasized inclusivity, the potential for bias and more multilingual deployments as drivers of that demand. New markets and applications are opening up constantly and entrants need high-quality data to develop consumer-ready products.

DefinedCrowd offers mobile apps to empower its AI-annotating masses

“This puts us in a very good position, as our data is agnostic and we can work pretty much across all verticals,” Braga said.

As evidence this is not simply wishful thinking, the company reported a tremendous 656% increase in revenue year-over-year. They’ve also nearly tripled the size of their workforce in that time to more than 250 people.

It’s toward hiring that Braga expects a great deal of the $50 million round to go: got to have the developers to make the products to follow the road map. That means doubling the employee count — again.

I asked whether the present pandemic has had a major effect on DefinedCrowd’s operations or business. Braga noted that she hasn’t “noticed a significant downturn in the industry,” presumably because product development has continued in anticipation of consumer and enterprise needs returning to normal.

“We decided to make our business fully remote before lockdown measures were implemented,” she explained. “Transferring every employee to remote working in a short space of time was challenging; however, considering we were already a global company with four offices in three different countries, the adaptation phase was fairly smooth, and we were able to maintain full speed during the process.”

Semapa Next and Hermes GPE were added this round to the increasingly long list of investors, which now includes Evolution Equity Partners, Kibo Ventures, Portugal Ventures, Bynd Venture Capital, EDP Ventures, IronFire Ventures, Amazon Alexa Fund, Sony Innovation Fund and Mastercard.

Categories: Business News

D-ID, the Israeli company that digitally de-identifies faces in videos and still images, raises $13.5 million

2020, May 27 - 7:18am

If only Facebook had been using the kind of technology that TechCrunch Startup Battlefield alumnus D-ID was pitching, it could have avoided exposing all of our faces to privacy destroying software services like Clearview AI.

At least, that’s the pitch that D-ID’s founder and chief executive, Gil Perry, makes when he’s talking about the significance of his startup’s technology.

D-ID, which stands for de-identification, is a pretty straightforward service that’s masking some highly involved and very advanced technology to blur digital images so they can’t be cross-referenced to determine someone’s identity.

It’s a technology whose moment has come as governments and private companies around the world ramp up their use of surveillance technologies as the world adjusts to a new reality in the wake of the COVID-19 epidemic.

“Governments around the world and organizations have used this new reality basically as an excuse for mass surveillance,” says Perry. His own government has used a track and trace system that monitors interactions between Israeli citizens using cell phone location data to determine whether anyone had been in contact with a person who had COVID-19.

While awareness of the issue may be increasing among consumers and regulators alike, the damage has, in many cases, already been done. Social media companies have already had their troves of images scraped by companies like Clearview AI, ClearView, HighQ and NTechLabs, and much of our personal information is already circulating online.

D-ID is undeterred. Founded by Perry and two other members of the Israeli army’s cybersecurity and offensive cyber unit, 8200, Sella Blondheim and Eliran Kuta, D-ID thinks the need for anonymizing technologies will continue to expand — thanks to new privacy legislation in Europe and certain states in the U.S. 

Meanwhile, the company is also exploring other applications for its technology. The services that D-ID uses to mask and blur faces can also be used to create deepfakes of images and video.

The market for these types of digital manipulations are still in their earliest days, according to Perry. Still, the company’s pitch managed to intrigue new lead investor AXA Ventures, which joined backers including Pitango, Y Combinator, AI Alliance, Hyundai, Omron, Maverick (U.S.) and Mindset, to participate in the company’s $13.5 million round.

D-ID already sees demand coming from automakers who want to use the technology to anonymize their driving monitoring systems — enabling them to record drivers’ reactions, but not any public identifying information. Security technologies that monitor for threats are another potential customer, according to the company. While closed circuit television monitors a physical space, it doesn’t need to collect the identifying information of people entering and exiting buildings.

“The convergence of increased surveillance and individual privacy protection places enterprises in a position where they must either anonymize their stored footage or risk violating privacy laws and face costly penalties.” said Blondheim.  

The technical wizardry that D-ID has mastered is impressive — and a necessary defensive tool to ensure privacy in the modern world, according to its founders. Consumers are demanding it, according to D-ID’s chief executive.

“Privacy awareness and the importance of privacy enhancing technologies have increased,” Perry said.

Categories: Business News

What should startup founders know before negotiating with corporate VCs?

2020, May 27 - 5:35am
Scott Orn Contributor Share on Twitter Scott runs operations at Kruze Consulting, a fast-growing startup CFO consulting firm. Kruze is based in San Francisco with clients in the Bay Area, Los Angeles and New York. Bill Growney Contributor Share on Twitter Bill Growney, a partner in Goodwin’s Technology & Life Sciences group, focuses his practice on advising technology and other startup companies through their full corporate life-cycle.

Corporate venture capitalists (CVCs) are booming in the startup space as large companies look to take advantage of the fast-paced innovation and original thinking that entrepreneurs offer.

For startups, taking funding from CVCs can come with many benefits, including new opportunities for marketing, partnerships and sales channels. Still, no founder should consider a corporate investor “just another VC.” CVCs come with their own set of priorities, strategic objectives and rules.

When it comes to choosing a CVC with which to enter negotiations, the most important step is doing your own diligence beforehand. An entrepreneur’s goal is to find the perfect match to partner with and guide you as you grow your business. So before you start discussing terms, you’ll want to understand what’s driving the CVC’s interest in venture investing.

While traditional VCs are purely financially driven, CVCs can be in the venture game for a variety of reasons, including finding new technology that might generate marketplace demand for their products. An example is Amazon’s Alexa fund, which invested into emerging companies that drive use and adoption of Alexa. Alternatively, a CVC’s parent company may be looking to invest in tech that will help them operate their own products more efficiently, such as Comcast Ventures investing in DocuSign.

As a rule of thumb, the bigger CVC funds like GV and Comcast tend to be financially driven, meaning they’ll be approaching negotiations through a financial lens. As such, the negotiating process more closely resembles an institutional fund. You as a founder have to do the work to figure out what’s driving your CVC — is this a customer acquisition or distribution opportunity? Or are they seeking to find a source of knowledge transfer and/or bring new tech into their parent company?

“Before negotiating, always look at a CVC’s existing portfolio,” says Rick Prostko, managing director at Comcast Ventures. “Have they made a lot of investments, at what stage, and with whom? From this information you’ll see the strategic thinking of the CVC, and you can determine how best to position yourself when you begin negotiations.”

Categories: Business News

How to approach (and work with) the 3 types of corporate VCs

2020, May 27 - 5:35am
Scott Orn Contributor Share on Twitter Scott runs operations at Kruze Consulting, a fast-growing startup CFO consulting firm. Kruze is based in San Francisco with clients in the Bay Area, Los Angeles and New York. Bill Growney Contributor Share on Twitter Bill Growney, a partner in Goodwin’s Technology & Life Sciences group, focuses his practice on advising technology and other startup companies through their full corporate life-cycle.

Corporate venture capital (CVC) is booming, with more than $50 billion of CVC capital deployed in 2018. The rise in capital expenditures by CVCs between 2013 and 2018 was an impressive 400%, according to Corporate Venturing Research Data. There are currently more than a hundred active CVC investors, and some sources suggest that almost half of all venture rounds include a strategic investor.

This rise has been driven by two factors: 1) the tech landscape is moving at a faster pace and bigger companies know they need to innovate quicker to meet market demand; and 2) the number of startups seeking CVC capital is growing as founders look beyond traditional venture funds to help grow their businesses.

Kruze Consulting and Goodwin have worked with hundreds of startups through the funding process, including those working with CVCs. Together, the two firms and their principals have decades of experience advising founders during and after their capital raises.

To help startups navigate CVC transactions, we’ve created a guide to working with CVCs. In this segment, we’ll discuss the types of CVCs, the best way to approach each type and the key things to keep in mind during initial discussions.

The three types of corporate VCs

Roughly put, CVCs fall into three categories:

  1. The corporate version of an institutional venture platform, meaning that they look to leverage their parent company’s strategic assets with the goal of scaling their portfolio and driving real revenue. As Grant Allen, general partner at SE Ventures, the CVC arm of Schneider Electric, says, “this type of CVC looks just like a pure financial VC, except with a big company behind them, and the ability to open up real channel revenue.”
  2. Strategically-minded CVCs are not driven exclusively by returns, but also value innovation. These CVCs are looking for outsourced ways to stay on the leading edge and to learn about new technology that might benefit their parent corporation. This category likely still cares about returns, but their view on ROI is more nuanced than a traditional investor.
  3. So-called “tourists” often are made up of brand new and relatively inexperienced venture arms of companies that have done very few deals and haven’t had time to develop a strong process or dealflow strategy.

As the realm of CVCs becomes increasingly professionalized, more and more CVCs fall into the first category. For entrepreneurs seeking CVC investors, those in the institutional or strategic category can provide tremendous value — though it’s important that a startup know which type of CVC they’re speaking to, and have clear objectives going in that align with the CVC’s goals and strengths.

Determining which type of CVC you’re dealing with

Before engaging with a CVC, or any potential investor for that matter, the most important step is to do your research. Who is the individual you’re meeting with? What’s his/her background and what deals has he/she done with this venture group? These are Must Knows before walking into the initial meeting.

Once you’re in early discussions, ask the CVC whether he or she has carry in the fund and whether the venture arm is autonomous. The answers to these questions will help you clarify whether you’re dealing with institutional versus strategic CVCs.

“With corporate-backed venture funds, it’s really key up front to know who you’re talking to,” says Allen. “It’s dangerous to call all groups that are nontraditional investors ‘CVCs’ since some are far more serious than others. Most have some degree of strategic mandate but many are increasingly investing for financial gain.”

The next question is: Are you dealing with a financially driven CVC or a strategically driven one? From a founder’s standpoint, you’ll need to know whether you’re meeting with an investor who views deals through the lens of, “I’m looking for a great team, huge market and a chance to bring in funding and connections to make a business as strong as it can be” or, “I’m looking for a solution/product/platform that I can bring into my company or use to expose my company to a brand new marketplace or technology.”

Once again, the way to determine which type of CVC you’re dealing with is to ask the right questions. In the first meeting, ask about their investment process, how investments are made and whether strategic business unit sponsorship is required for a given deal. The answers will tell you whether the CVC falls into Group 1 or 2, and you’ll be in a strong position to then make choices about whether this potential investor is right for you.

“Look for someone who will understand your business, meet with you and decide that there’s something beyond just capital that will form the basis for that relationship,” says Rick Prostko, managing director at Comcast Ventures. “In today’s venture market, founders want money AND value. Seek out a CVC who has valuable experience to provide, and look for someone who’s been an operator in this segment previously or who has valuable insight and experience to offer.”

What you need to know before you engage with a CVC

Once you’ve done your initial diligence, developed a relationship and determined that a CVC could be a strong investor in your business, there are important factors to be aware of as you move into the next stage of discussions. These include:

Expect deeper product and technical diligence. CVCs can call on technical, product and market experts within their corporation during the due diligence process. As such, their level of product diligence is typically more rigorous than traditional VCs. Be prepared for some grilling by subject matter experts. On the flip side, this diligence process provides you with exposure to potential customers and partners inside the corporation, so use this time to your advantage.

Be aware that you’re going to share confidential information with a large company. “CVCs know that you’re only as good as your reputation,” says Eric Budin, director at Touchdown Ventures . “As such, there are very few examples of CVCs abusing confidential information, because news of it would get around so quickly.”

Still, for a founder, the goal is to be thoughtful and strategic with what you share, and to determine whether the CVC is truly interested in doing a deal before you hand over financial, technical and competitive information. It’s possible that commercial teams at the CVC sponsor could gain unfair advantage from seeing your information, or use their CVC to gain valuable intel on the competition.

On the other hand, sharing your intel could be a fantastic way to get in front of an internal team at the parent company. The key is to think carefully about what you are being asked to share and with whom, and set ground rules with the CVC before they begin diligence.

“It’s important to understand how the corporate fund is structured and how they handle any information that’s shared,” says Prostko. “It might be in your interest to loop in a business unit [within the parent company] that could benefit from learning about your business. On the flip side, if the CVC is a potential competitor, you’ll want to be more careful about what you reveal.”

There will be a risk of regime change. Large companies operate like, well, large companies. People leave, management changes happen and priorities shift. At the outset, ask questions such as: Who will support your company if the commercial manager leading your investment leaves? What will happen to the CVC if the person leading the venture arm is fired? Will they do their pro-rata if the person leading your deal is gone? What happens to any commercial relationships that you might be working on? It’s important to have a keen understanding of internal dynamics before you enter the relationship.

“In general, the more successful a firm is, the more likely the CVC will stick around,” says Allen. “Be sure to look at the individual’s history at the firm, how long he or she has been there, and whether he or she has jumped from fund to fund. If the investing partner has come out of the corporate ‘mother ship,’ and lacks any credible venture experience, buyer beware.”

The CVC may be subject to regulatory rules. Depending on the industry, government regulations may impact how your deal is structured. Banks, for example, are subject to rules that can restrict the percentage of voting stock they can own. Foreign investors may need to comply with CFIUS regulations if your company provides certain specified technologies. Generally, the CVCs will understand the regulations that apply to them. They may not, however, bring them up until late in the process, which could lead to delays.

Commercial transactions with the corporate arm can slow things down. Purely strategic CVCs (Group 2) often require a commercial transaction to happen in connection with a venture deal. The process involved in these transactions often takes longer than the financing process, which can cause issues if the CVC is a key (but not sole) investor in the round. If you’re dealing with a Group 2 CVC, discuss this issue ahead of time to see if you can decouple the two transactions and close the investment prior to inking the commercial deal.

The best way to think about CVC investment

CVCs offer a wealth of capital, human resources and corporate partnerships for startups. But whether you choose to take CVC capital or not, you can benefit from merely approaching CVCs if you have business units operating in either the same space or a tangential space. An initial meeting both gives you an opportunity to do a sales pitch and offers the CVC a chance to vet a product or team and gain some deal insight. For founders, you gain a powerful sales opportunity that might have otherwise taken months or years to obtain.

“Even if you’re told ‘no’ by a CVC, the meeting could result in a good business relationship that could turn into a sales opportunity for you in the near future,” says Prostko.

The WRONG way to think about approaching CVC investors is something along the lines of, “I can’t raise what I want from financial VCs so I’ll go to CVCs as my second choice, since they’re more likely to say ‘yes’ and/or give me better terms.” This attitude will shut doors and cut you off from valuable partners, capital and opportunities to strategically grow your business.

Above all, stay informed as you choose whom to bring in as a partner. Ultimately, it’s your business and the responsibility to ensure that you bring in the right capital partners lies with you.

Categories: Business News

Why localized compensation in a work-anywhere world isn’t so simple

2020, May 27 - 4:20am

Last Thursday, Mark Zuckerberg told Facebook’s 48,000 employees that he expects upwards of 50% of the company will be working remotely within 10 years. After outlining many of the advantages that remote work confers — including to “potentially spread more economic opportunity around the country and potentially around the world” — he added that those who choose to move to other places in the U.S. or elsewhere will be paid based on where they live.

“We’ll localize everybody’s comp on January 1,” Zuckerberg said. “They can do whatever they want through the rest of the year, but by the end of the year they should either come back to the Bay Area or they need to tell us where they are.”

Facebook isn’t pioneering something entirely new. The concept of localized compensation has been around for some time, and it’s used by tech companies like GitHub that have primarily distributed workforces. Still, questions about whether it’s fair to pay employees based on their location are sure to grow as more outfits adopt remote-work policies.

Despite Facebook’s uncharacteristic transparency about its thinking, not everyone thinks the tactic makes sense.

One longtime Bay Area recruiter who typically focuses on executive searches calls “disparate pay for the same work” a “dangerous place to be.” Explains the recruiter, Jon Holman, “Even if you invoke the geographic disparity arithmetic based almost entirely on housing costs, what if a new openness to telecommuting means that more women or people of color can aspire to some of these jobs? Are you going to pay them less than the mostly white and Asian-American engineers in the Bay Area? I doubt it.”

Categories: Business News

BlaBlaCar partners with scooter startup Voi to launch new BlaBla Ride app

2020, May 27 - 2:16am

Long-distance ridesharing startup BlaBlaCar announced that it is expanding to scooter sharing. But the company isn’t going to operate its own fleet of scooters. Instead, BlaBlaCar is partnering with Voi, a European e-scooter service that has raised $136 million over multiple rounds.

Voi operates in dozens of European cities, including Paris, Marseille and Lyon. Over the next few weeks, Voi scooters will feature three different brands — Voi, BlaBlaCar and BlaBla Ride.

Existing Voi members will still be able to use the Voi app. But BlaBlaCar also plans to launch its own app, BlaBla Ride. Existing BlaBlaCar users will be able to log in with their BlaBlaCar accounts.

According to AFP, BlaBlaCar says it isn’t a financial transaction — it’s just a partnership that could benefit users of both platforms.

BlaBlaCar has launched several new services over the past couple of years. It has acquired Ouibus and rebranded it to BlaBlaBus. And, it operates a carpooling marketplace for daily commutes between your home and your workplace called BlaBlaLines.

Interestingly, unlike Grab, Gojek and Uber, BlaBlaCar isn’t building a super app to access several different services. BlaBlaLines is still a separate app, for instance. It creates some friction for users that could be interested in multiple services.

The company thinks BlaBla Ride could be a great solution for the last mile of your ride. A bus or carpooling driver could drop you off in the city center and you could then unlock a scooter to reach your destination.

Categories: Business News

Dear Sophie: Can I work in the US on a dependent spouse visa?

2020, May 27 - 1:28am
Sophie Alcorn Contributor Share on Twitter Sophie Alcorn is the founder of Alcorn Immigration Law in Silicon Valley and 2019 Global Law Experts Awards’ “Law Firm of the Year in California for Entrepreneur Immigration Services.” She connects people with the businesses and opportunities that expand their lives. More posts by this contributor

Here’s another edition of “Dear Sophie,” the advice column that answers immigration-related questions about working at technology companies.

“Your questions are vital to the spread of knowledge that allows people all over the world to rise above borders and pursue their dreams,” says Sophie Alcorn, a Silicon Valley immigration attorney. “Whether you’re in people ops, a founder or seeking a job in Silicon Valley, I would love to answer your questions in my next column.”

“Dear Sophie” columns are accessible for Extra Crunch subscribers; use promo code ALCORN to purchase a one- or two-year subscription for 50% off.

Dear Sophie:

My spouse’s startup is transferring her to the U.S. to help set up an office there. Will I be able to go with her and work in the U.S.? How long will it take for me to get a work permit? How long will we be able to stay?

— Hopeful in Hyderabad

 

Dear Hopeful:

Congratulations on starting an exciting new adventure with your family. U.S. immigration law allows visa holders to bring their spouse and dependent children with them to the U.S. and you can check out this podcast on the topic. Dependent children are defined as children who are under the age of 21 and unmarried. Whether or not the spouse can get a work permit, which is called an Employment Authorization Document (EAD), depends on which dependent visa the spouse receives.

Categories: Business News

Where these 4 top VCs are investing in manufacturing

2020, May 27 - 12:31am

Even though it’s a vast sector in the midst of transformation, manufacturing is often overlooked by early-stage investors. We surveyed top VCs in the industry to gather their perspectives on the challenges and opportunities facing manufacturing.

Traditionally, manufacturing companies are capital-intensive and can be slow to implement new technology and processes. The investors in the survey below acknowledge the long-standing barriers facing founders in this space, yet they see large opportunities where startups can challenge incumbents.

These investors noted that the pandemic is bringing overnight change in the manufacturing world; old rules are being rewritten in the face of worker safety, remote work and the need for increased automation. According to Eclipse Ventures founder Lior Susan, “COVID-19 has exposed the systemic vulnerabilities inherent to manufacturing and supply chain and, as such, significant opportunities for innovation. The market was lukewarm for a long time — it’s time to turn up the heat.”

Lior Susan, Eclipse Ventures

What trends are you most excited about in manufacturing from an investing perspective?

Digital solutions that offer manufacturers greater agility and resilience will become major areas of focus for investors. For example, manufacturers still reliant on manual assembly were unable to build products when factories closed due to the coronavirus lockdown. While nothing would have kept production at 100%, the ability to quickly pivot and engage software-defined processes would have allowed manufacturing lines to continue building with a skeleton crew (especially important for any facility required to implement social distancing). Such systems have remote monitoring capabilities and computer vision systems to flag defeats in real-time and halt production if necessary.

Categories: Business News

Spectrm raises $3M Series A from Runa Capital for its conversational marketing platform

2020, May 27 - 12:15am

In the “Age of Corona” — as some like to call it, the roboticization of industry and business has been super-charged by the pandemic. So while companies using messaging platforms to drive customers toward purchases was always on a long-term trend, the sheer volume of people staying online 24/7 during global lockdowns has led to this tactic also being boosted.

So it’s therefore understandable that Spectrm, an AI-powered conversational marketing platform that does just this, has raised $3 million in Series A funding from international VC fund Runa Capital.

Spectrm automates conversations to engage and convert customers online via an AI-driven algorithm. Then marketers use that data to segment the customer base and build stronger customer relationships. The platform is used by companies like eBay, Ford, Groupon, Renault, KLM and more.

According to Global WebIndex research, social media users are now spending an average of 2 hours and 24 minutes per day across eight social networks and messaging apps. And during COVID-19-driven lockdowns, that would have been much more.

Conversational marketing is a hot area. Facebook Messenger marketing has 10-80 times better engagement than email, for instance.

Max Koziolek, co-founder and CEO of Spectrm, said in a statement: “Our vision is to combine the power of conversations with the reach of the largest platforms in the world… we believe conversation is a deeply human experience that is more effective and more insightful than any other format in marketing.”

Dmitry Galperin, partner at Runa Capital said: “Instead of trying to cover all marketing communication channels, it is much more effective to direct efforts to those that generate the most customer insights and highest ROI. Conversational marketing is one of those channels.”

Spectrm’s competitors include LivePerson (Nasdaq-listed), ManyChat (raised $19.1 million), Snaps.io ($11.3 million), Automat.ai ($10.9 million), and Chatfuel ($120,000).

Categories: Business News

Omidyar-backed Spero Ventures invests in Mexico City’s Mati, a startup pitching ID-verification

2020, May 26 - 11:48pm

Spero Ventures, the venture capital firm backed by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar, has gone to Mexico City for its latest investment, backing the identity verification technology developer Mati.

Launched in San Francisco, the two co-founders Filip Victor and Amaury Soviche, decided to relocate to Mexico because of its proximity to big, untapped markets in Mexico, Brazil and Colombia.

“After developing the technology in San Francisco, we chose to start commercially in Latin America. It has been the perfect petri dish for us: the markets here, especially in Mexico, Brazil and Colombia, are very exciting. These countries have the highest payments fraud rates in the world, which makes their identity issues the most interesting,” said Victor in a statement.

The rise of a new generation of fintech startup across Latin America creates a unique opportunity for Mati in a number of markets — and so does a new generation of financial services regulations, the company said. “We view the fintech regulations sweeping across LatAm as an opportunity to help a lot of promising fintechs and marketplaces get to the next level,” Victor said.

Already working across three countries, with operations in Mexico City, St. Petersburg and San Francisco, Mati is an example of the global scope that even very early-stage companies can now achieve.

Identity verification is at the core of much of the modern gig economy and much of the social networking defining life during a pandemic.

The company said it will use the capital investment — it would not disclose the amount of money it raised — to continue product development and expand its geographic footprint.

The scope of the identity verification problem is what brought Spero to the table to discuss an investment, according to a statement from Shripriya Mahesh, the founding partner at Spero.

“For us, identity is foundational to scaling the vast array of gig economy, fintech, social and commerce platforms that represent our collective future of work,” Mahesh said. “The ability to have safe and trusted interactions at an unprecedented scale, especially with people in places where national identity infrastructure is limited, will create opportunities and global connections we can’t yet even forecast.”

Categories: Business News

Baton raises $10M Series A to organize post-sale implementation

2020, May 26 - 11:00pm

Baton, an early-stage startup that wants to help customers organize the post-sales implementation process, emerged from stealth today with a $10 million Series A investment.

Activant Capital led the round, with help from Global Founders Capital and Hybris founder Carsten Thoma.

Like so many startups, the idea for Baton stemmed from a pain point that founder and CEO Alex Krug experienced first hand. He was co-founder at Behance, which was later sold to Adobe, and he saw that there were tools to organize your customers and get you through the sale, but there was something distinctly lacking when it came to implementation post-sale.

Krug said that most companies hacked together a solution consisting of general project management tools, spreadsheets and email, but what was missing was a dedicated platform to help with this part of the process. He put his team to work to build it.

“We reconfigured a lot of the team that I worked with at Behance and Adobe and really started to build a platform around optimizing the implementation, what happens in between your presale and post-sale and how customers get on boarded through a platform,” Krug told TechCrunch.

He says where project management tends to be internally focused, Baton is designed to bring all the parties — from vendor to client to systems integrator — together in one tool, so everyone knows their responsibilities and targets.

While Krug understands that this may not be an optimal time to launch a startup out of stealth, in the middle of a pandemic and corresponding economic crisis, he still sees a real need for a tool like Baton.

“This era of top line growth is gone. Efficient growth is here to stay and Baton really optimizes processes and standardizes a toolset that allows you to grow efficiently from your fifth customer to your thousandth customer, whereas previous iterations of implementation have been these static spreadsheets and chasing people for manual updates.”

He believes his company is offering a reasonable alternative to that, as does his lead investor Peter McCoy at Activant Capital. “The best SaaS companies are built off of product-led growth, that can be network effects, novel go-to-market strategies or some other distribution advantage. The problem I kept seeing was even companies that had one or a couple of these attributes created operational debt, when they bloated up their services teams to keep up with top line growth. The need for a platform like Baton was super clear to me,” McCoy said in a statement.

Beginning today, the company will set forth on its startup journey as it attempts to carve out a market in difficult times, and help customers with this crucial part of the selling cycle.

Categories: Business News

Equity Morning: Remote work startup fundings galore, plus a major court decision

2020, May 26 - 10:36pm

Good morning and welcome back to TechCrunch’s Equity Monday, a brief jumpstart for your week.

This is a messed-up edition, because we are both hosting Equity Monday on Tuesday (because that makes sense) and our normal host Alex Wilhelm is on vacation, leaving (editor’s note: poor and massively underpaid) managing editor Danny Crichton to wake up early on the first day of the workweek to talk to himself in front of a microphone.

Here’s what we (okay I) talked about this morning:

Equity will be back Friday morning with more. Welcome to the week!

Equity drops every Monday at 7:00 AM PT and Friday at 6:00 am PT, so subscribe to us on Apple Podcasts, Overcast, Spotify and all the casts.

Categories: Business News

Preventing food waste nets Apeel $250 million from Singapore’s government, Oprah and Katy Perry

2020, May 26 - 10:00pm

Food waste and the pressures on the global food supply chain wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic have captured headlines around the world, and one small startup based in the coastal California city of Santa Barbara has just announced $250 million in financing to provide a solution.

The company is called Apeel Sciences, and over the past eight years it has grown from a humble startup launched with a $100,000 grant from the Gates Foundation to a giant, globe-spanning company worth more than $1 billion and attracting celebrity backers like Oprah Winfrey and Katy Perry, as well as large multi-national investors like Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund.

What’s drawn these financiers and the fabulously famous to invest is the technology that Apeel has developed, which promises to keep food fresh for longer periods on store shelves, which prevents waste and (somewhat counterintuitively) encourages shoppers to buy more vegetables.

At least, that’s the pitch that Apeel Sciences founder and chief executive James Rogers has been making for the last eight years. It has netted his company roughly $360 million in total financing and attracted investors like Upfront Ventures, S2G Ventures, Andreessen Horowitz and Powerplant Ventures.

“The [food] system is taxed beyond its limit,” says Rogers. “We view our job at Apeel to build the food system and support the weight of a couple of more billion people on the planet.”

Rogers started working on the technology that would become the core of Apeel’s product while pursuing his doctorate at the University of California, Santa Barbara. The first-time entrepreneur’s epiphany came on the road from Lawrence Livermore Laboratory where he was working as an intern.

Driving past acres of California cropland, Rogers surmised that the problem with the food supply network that exists wasn’t necessarily the ability to produce enough food, it was that much of that food is spoiled and wasted between where it’s grown and where it needs to be distributed.

In the past, farmers had turned to pesticides to prevent disease and infestations that could kill crops, and preservative methods like single-use plastic packaging or chemical treatments that had the seeds of other environmental catastrophes.

“We’re out of shortcuts,” says Rogers. “Single-use plastic had its day and pesticides had their day.” For Rogers, it’s time for Apeel’s preservative technologies to have their day.

With all the new cash in Apeel’s coffers, Rogers said that the company would begin expanding its operations and working with the big farming companies and growers in Africa, Central America and South America. “To maintain 52 weeks of supply on shelves we need to have operations in the Northern and Southern hemispheres,” Rogers said.

For all of the company’s lofty goals, the company is working with a relatively limited range of produce — avocados, asparagus, lemons and limes. Still, the pitch — and Rogers’ vision — is much broader. “Let’s take what the orange knows and teach it to the cucumber so that it doesn’t have to be wrapped in plastic,” says Rogers. “When you reduce that waste there’s a ton of economic value that is unlocked.”

Right now, the way the business works is through convincing retailers about all that economic value that’s waiting to be unlocked.

In practice, once a company agrees to try out Apeel’s technology, it installs the company’s treatment systems at the back end of its supply chain where all of their vegetable deliveries come in to be shipped to various locations, according to Rogers.

A single run of Apeel’s system can treat 10,000 kilograms of food in an hour, Rogers said. So far this year, Apeel is on track to treat 20 million pieces of fruit with its coatings, the company said. 

Apeel Sciences is already working with food retailers in the U.S. and Europe. On average, grocers that use Apeel have experienced a 50% reduction in shrink, a 5-10% growth in dollar sales and an incremental 10% growth in dollar sales when sold in conjunction with in-store marketing campaigns, the company said.

“Food waste is an invisible tax imposed on everyone that participates in the food system. Eliminating global food waste can free up $2.6 trillion annually, allowing us to make the food ecosystem better for growers, distributors, retailers, consumers and our planet,” said Rogers in a statement. “Together, we’re putting time back on the industry’s side to help deal with the food waste crisis and the challenges it poses to food businesses.”

 

Categories: Business News

Benepass raises $2.4 million to help employees get the most out of their tax-advantaged benefits

2020, May 26 - 10:00pm

Tax-advantaged benefits, like flexible spending accounts, can save employees in the United States thousands of dollars annually, and reduce the amount of payroll taxes companies pay. But those benefits are often underutilized, simply because they can be confusing to navigate. Benepass wants to make the process easier with a mobile app that centralizes all of an employee’s tax-advantaged accounts, and is linked to physical and virtual payment cards. The startup announced today that it has raised a $2.4 million seed round.

The funding was led by Gradient Ventures, Google’s AI-focused venture fund, with participation from Global Founders Capital, Y Combinator, Soma Capital, Amino Capital, AltalR, Elysium Ventures and Polymath. It will be used on hiring, product development and customer acquisition. Benepass recently completed Y Combinator’s winter 2020 program.

Benepass was founded last year by CEO Jaclyn Chen, CTO Kabir Soorya and COO Mark Fischer. Part of its mission is enabling small- to medium-sized companies to offer benefit packages that can compete with ones at larger employers. In addition to its tools for tax-advantaged benefits, Benepass also enables clients to offer company stipends for perks like wellness programs.

In a statement, Gradient Ventures general partner Darian Shirazi said, “Quality employee benefits are essential in today’s economy to hire and retain the best teams, but most tools for distributing and managing these benefits are difficult to use, confusing and poorly designed. We’re excited to partner with the Benepass team as they reimagine the pre- and post-tax employee benefits product suite and automate the processes that maximize team health and well-being especially during this uncertain time.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted how important it is for companies to have flexibility when creating their benefits packages.Before the pandemic, Benepass was building additional features for commuter benefits, but is now focused on health and dependent care flexible savings accounts instead.

New legislation related to the crisis, including the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES), have also impacted many benefits. For example, health flexible spending accounts can be used for more things, including over-the-counter medications, menstrual products and telehealth services, and mid-year changes to them are also now allowed.

In addition, many companies have also started redirecting budget originally used for in-office perks to help their employees set up home offices instead. Chen said Benepass was able to immediately adjust approvals for eligible spending.

Tax-advantaged benefits mean employees can set aside part of their paycheck, up to a certain amount, for health flexible and dependent care flexible spending accounts, student loan repayments, transportation and other programs. Companies can also contribute, and employee and company contributions are exempt from income and payroll taxes, respectively. But Chen told TechCrunch that the average employee currently deducts only about 3% of the total they are eligible for, meaning they are potentially missing out on thousands of dollars in savings.

Based on interviews done by the startup, Chen said low utilization is often because existing solutions are difficult to use, and there is little awareness or confusion about the benefits. For example, debit cards linked to pre-tax benefits are often denied, making employees less likely to use them again. Sometimes employees simply forget about their benefits, because their company’s intranet portals and expense software make them hard to navigate.

The combined work history of Benepass’ founding team include positions at Sidewalk Labs, Google X, Goldman Sachs and TPG Capital. Working for large companies meant they had generous benefit packages, but those were often tricky to navigate.

“There were intranet pages full of logos of benefits that we never used,” Chen said. “A lot of them were really great deals, but most of them didn’t really fit my individual needs.” Figuring out tax-advantaged benefits could also be a headache. For example, Chen lost a commuter card with money and couldn’t get it replaced because she didn’t have the right log-in information.

“None of these experiences made us particularly excited to continue engaging with benefits, and we were effectively leaving lots of money on the table,” Chen said.

But Benepass’ founders believed many of these issues could be solved with things that already familiar to most smartphone users, like mobile payments, digital sign-ups, push notification and reminders. “Benefits should be no different, but today tax-advantaged cards are woefully behind,” Chen added.

Benepass replaces outdated tools with its app, which makes it easier for employees to discover new benefits. The app also notifies them when a transaction is approved and keeps track of spending history. All benefits are managed through the same platform, so companies can see monthly analytics on employee engagement and utilization, and it also handles claims and compliance.

There is a growing roster of startups that want to make it easier for employees to take advantage of benefits. These include companies centered on flexible benefits like Zestful and Compt.

Benepass differentiates by focusing on tax-advantaged benefits, as well as company-funded stipends. Chen said Benepass took on tax-advantage benefits because “they are the only benefit that saves companies money immediately, through direct payroll savings, not ROI studies. They’re essential benefits for employees, so it’s a win-win.”

“We are unique in that we are a card-first product,” she added. “We think it provides a differentiated experience and enables us to have real-time feedback with the employee as they are purchasing their benefits. We are really focused on consumer education of their benefits, making sure onboarding is smooth and people really understand the selections that are right for them. We’re ultimately trying to solve a distribution and communications challenge within benefits and think our platform is uniquely positioned to do that.”

Categories: Business News

Cloud canteen startup Feedr has been acquired by Compass Group for ~$24M

2020, May 26 - 8:15pm

Feedr, the food tech startup that delivers personalised meals to office workers as an alternative to companies setting up their own canteens, has been acquired by Compass Group, the publicly-listed foodservice company.

The price is described as “in the region” of $24 million, while I understand the the deal between the two companies was completed in early March 2020.

Compass Group says the purchase of Feedr will help accelerate its digital transformation, and — amidst the coronavirus crisis — form part of its “return to work” strategy. Specifically, it plans to utilise Feedr’s software across its portfolio of corporate clients in the U.K. and Ireland, with further potential applications of the technology in education and healthcare sectors.

“Feedr’s mobile ordering and pre-pay technology will enable Compass to transform the way people interact with on-site restaurants, so employees can browse menus, pay and collect more flexibly, enhancing their food at work experience,” explains Compass Group UK and Ireland.

Launched in 2016 by Riya Grover and Lyz Swanton, Feedr pitched itself as a “cloud canteen”. This sees it operate a two-sided marketplace that connects healthy food suppliers with office workers at companies, in addition to arranging delivery.

To do this, Feedr publishes a “unique rotating menu” every day and asks workers to choose what they want to eat by 10.30am. It then pools those orders and sends them to the food suppliers it works with, which are mostly artisan and independent food producers, to have ready for delivery at lunch time.

However, the technology behind Feedr handles logistics planning, in terms of predicting and helping to manage demand for each meal on offer from specific suppliers. There is also a large emphasis on personalised recommendations based on the preferences of individual customers and their order history. And it’s this aspect of Feedr’s offering that Compass Group thinks has utility when applied to on-site restaurants and canteens, too.

With that said, in addition to adopting Feedr’s technology, Compass says it will also invest in growing Feedr as an independent brand that will continue to operate in the delivery market with its cloud canteen product.

Riya Grover, co-Founder and CEO of Feedr comments: “We are thrilled to be part of Compass Group and to integrate our ordering, payments and health technology across their portfolio. Operating at new levels of scale will allow us to accelerate our product innovation, and to support our marketplace of restaurant partners with new opportunities.”

Meanwhile, Damien Lane, partner at Episode 1, and early backer of Feedr, adds: “We invested in Feedr because we bought in to Riya and Lyz’s vision of using technology to deliver healthier meal options to the workplace, and have been hugely impressed with the progress made since our investment. I’m sure that Feedr will prove to be a hugely successful acquisition for Compass, who will be able to deploy Feedr’s technology platform into its worldwide network and accelerate Feedr’s mission of bringing healthy food choices to consumers and employees”.

Alongside Episode 1, which led Feedr’s £1.5 million pre-Series A funding in 2018, other investors include Founders Factory, and angel investors Errol Damelin (Wonga founder and renowned fintech investor), Richard Glynn (former Ladbrokes CEO and founder of Alinsky Partners) and David Pritchard (founder of OpenTable Europe). The company had raised £2.7 million in total.

Categories: Business News

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