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Investors in LatAm get bitten by the hotel investment bug as Ayenda raises $8.7 million

Startup News - 13 hours 39 min ago

Some of Latin America’s leading venture capital investors are now backing hotel chains.

In fact, Ayenda, the largest hotel chain in Colombia, has raised $8.7 million in a new round of funding, according to the company.

Led by Kaszek Ventures, the round will support the continued expansion of Ayenda’s chain of hotels in Colombia and beyond. The hotel operator already has 150 hotels operating under its flag in Colombia and has recently expanded to Peru, according to a statement.

Financing came from Kaszek Ventures and strategic investors like Irelandia Aviation, Kairos, Altabix and BWG Ventures.

The company, which was founded in 2018, now has more than 4,500 rooms under its brand in Colombia and has become the biggest hotel chain in the country.

Investments in brick and mortar chains by venture firms are far more common in emerging markets than they are in North America. The investment in Ayenda mirrors big bets that SoftBank Group has made in the Indian hotel chain Oyo and an investment made by Tencent, Sequoia China, Baidu Capital and Goldman Sachs, in LvYue Group late last year, amounting to “several hundred million dollars”, according to a company statement.

“We’re seeking to invest in companies that are redefining the big industries and we found Ayenda, a team that is changing the hotel’s industry in an unprecedented way for the region”, said Nicolas Berman, Kaszek Ventures partner.

Ayenda works with independent hotels through a franchise system to help them increase their occupancy and services. The hotels have to apply to be part of the chain and go through an up to 30-day inspection process before they’re approved to open for business.

“With a broad supply of hotels with the best cost-benefit relationship, guests can travel more frequently, accelerating the economy,” says Declan Ryan, managing partner at Irelandia Aviation.

The company hopes to have more than 1 million guests in 2020 in their hotels. Rooms list at $20 per-night, including amenities and an around the clock customer support team.

Oyo’s story may be a cautionary tale for companies looking at expanding via venture investment for hotel chains. The once high-flying company has been the subject of some scathing criticism. As we wrote:

The New York Times  published an in-depth report on Oyo, a tech-enabled budget hotel chain and rising star in the Indian tech community. The NYT wrote that Oyo offers unlicensed rooms and has bribed police officials to deter trouble, among other toxic practices.

Whether Oyo, backed by billions from the SoftBank  Vision Fund, will become India’s WeWork is the real cause for concern. India’s startup ecosystem is likely to face a number of barriers as it grows to compete with the likes of Silicon Valley.

Categories: Business News

Global Telephony/<b>VOIP</b> Software Market 2026 Trends Forecast Analysis by Manufacturers ...

Google News - VoIP - 15 hours 20 min ago
A new research study from Acquire Market Research with title Global 'Telephony/VOIP Software Market' Research (2015-2020) and Future Forecast ...
Categories: VoIP News

Report: Outdoor Voices founder Tyler Haney is stepping down as CEO as growth slows

Startup News - 17 hours 11 min ago

Tyler Haney, the founder and chief executive of activewear label Outdoor Voices, has stepped down, according to the Business of Fashion.

We’ve reached out to Haney directly, as well as board members from the venture firms that have backed the company, including General Catalyst and Forerunner Ventures, and we hope to update this story accordingly.

According to BoF, the transition follows a previously unreported capital injection from Outdoor Voices’ investors at a lower valuation than previous rounds. It says the company tried raising new funding late last year but “had difficulty.”

It cites mismanagement as one overriding reason that Nike and Under Armour veteran Pamela Catlett joined the company a year ago as president but left months later.

Retail legend Mickey Drexler, formerly of J.Crew fame — who was named chairman of Outdoor Voices’ board in the summer of 2017 as part of a $9 million convertible debt round led by Drexler’s family office — also resigned his position last year, though he maintained a director’s seat.

According to BoF, operational challenges aside, Outdoor Voices has had trouble replicating the kind of excitement that met its earliest offerings, including flattering, color-blocked athleisure wear, like leggings, sports bras, tees and tanks.

The company has since rolled out an exercise dress that has gained traction with some consumers, but newer offerings meant to extend the brand’s reach, including solidly colored hoodies and terrycloth jogging pants that are less distinguishable from other offerings in the market, have apparently failed to boost sales.

Indeed, according to the BoF report, the brand was losing up to $2 million per month last year on annual sales of around $40 million.

The BoF story doesn’t mention the company’s brick-and-mortar locations and how they factor into the company’s narrative. But certainly, as with a growing number of direct-to-consumer brands that have been encouraged by their backers to open real-world locations, they’ve become a major cost center for the outfit. Outdoor Voices now has 11 locations around the U.S., including in Austin, LA, Soho in New York, Boston, Nashville, Chicago and Washington, D.C.

Even with (at least) $64 million in funding that Outdoor Voices has raised from investors over the years, it’s also going head-to-head with very powerful, very entrenched and endurably popular brands, including Nike and Adidas. While Outdoor Voices is still in the fight, the shoe and apparel giants have vanquished plenty of upstarts over the years.

What happens next to Haney — a former track athlete from Boulder who first launched the business with a Parsons School of Design classmate — isn’t yet clear. Still, she isn’t going far, reportedly. BoF says she still owns 10% of Outdoor Voices and will remain engaged with the company in some capacity.

Featured above, left to right, Emily Weiss of Glossier and Tyler Haney of Outdoor Voices at a 2017 Disrupt event.

Categories: Business News

Do AI startups have worse economics than SaaS shops?

Startup News - 17 hours 29 min ago

A few days ago, Andreessen Horowitz’s Martin Casado and Matt Bornstein published an interesting piece digging into the world of artificial intelligence (AI) startups, and, more specifically, how those companies perform as businesses. Core to the argument presented is that while founders and investors are wagering “that AI businesses will resemble traditional software companies,” the well-known venture firm is “not so sure.”

Given that TechCrunch cares a lot about startup business fundamentals, the notion that one oft-discussed and well-funded category of venture-backed startup might sport materially less attractive economics than we expected captured our attention.

The Andreessen Horowitz (a16z) perspective is straightforward, arguing that AI-focused companies have lesser gross margins than software companies due to cloud compute and human-input costs, endure issues stemming from “edge-cases” and enjoy less product differentiation from competing companies when compared to software concerns. Today, we’re drilling into the gross margin point, as it’s something inherently numerical that we can get other, informed market participants to weigh in on.

If a16z is correct about AI startups having slimmer gross margins than SaaS companies, they should — all other things held equal — be worth less per dollar of revenue generated; or in simpler terms, they should trade at a revenue multiple discount to SaaS companies, leaving the latter category of technology company still atop the valuation hierarchy.

This matters, given the amount of capital that AI-focused startups have raised.

Is a16z correct about AI gross margins? I wanted to find out. So this week I spoke to a number of investors from firms that have made AI-focused bets to get a handle on their views. Read the full a16z piece, mind. It’s interesting and worth your time.

Today we’re hearing from Rohit Sharma of True Ventures, Jeremy Kaufmann of Scale Venture Partners, Nick Washburn of Intel Capital and Ben Blume of Atomico. We’ll start with a digest of their responses to our questions, with their unedited notes at the end.

AI economics and optimism

We asked our group of venture investors (selected with the help of research from TechCrunch’s Arman Tabatabai) three questions. The first dealt with margins themselves, the second dealt with resulting valuations and, finally, we asked about their current optimism interval regarding AI-focused companies.

Categories: Business News

DSP Concepts raises $14.5M for its Audio Weaver platform

Startup News - 19 hours 31 min ago

DSP Concepts — a startup whose Audio Weaver software is used by companies as varied as Tesla, Porsche, GoPro and Braun Audio — is announcing that it has raised $14.5 million in Series B funding.

The startup goal, as explained to me by CEO Chin Beckmann and CTO Paul Beckmann (yep, they’re a husband-and-wife founding team), is to create the standard framework that companies use to develop their audio processing software.

To that end, Chin told me they were “picky about who we wanted on the B round, we wanted it to represent the support and endorsement of the industry.”

So the round was led by Taiwania Capital, but it also includes investments from the strategic arms of DSP Concepts’ industry partners — BMW i Ventures (which led the Series A), the Sony Innovation Growth Fund by Innovation Growth Ventures, MediaTek Ventures, Porsche Ventures and the ARM IoT Fund.

Paul said Audio Weaver started out as the “secret weapon” of the Beckmanns’ consulting business, which he could use to “whip out” the results of an audio engineering project. At a certain point, consulting customers started asking him, “Hey, how about you teach me how to use that?,” so they decided to launch a startup focused on the Audio Weaver platform.

Paul described the software as a “graphical block diagram editor.” Basically, it provides a way for audio engineers to combine and customize different software modules for audio processing.

“Audio is still in the Stone Ages compared to other industries,” he said. “Suppose you’re building a product with a touchscreen — are you going write the graphics from scratch or use a framework like Qt?”

Similarly, he suggested that while many audio engineers are still “down in the weeds writing code,” they can take advantage of Audio Weaver’s graphical interface to piece everything together, as well as the company’s “hundreds of different modules — pre-written, pre-tested, pre-optimized functions to build up your system.”

For example, Paul said that by using the Audio Weaver platform, DSP Concepts engineers could test out “hundreds of ideas” for algorithms for reducing wind noise in the footage captured by GoPro cameras, then ultimately “hand the algorithms over to GoPro,” whose team could them plug the algorithms into their software and modify it themselves.

The Beckmanns said the company also works closely with chip manufacturers to ensure that audio software will work properly on any device powered by a given chipset.

Other modules include TalkTo, which is designed to give voice assistants like Alexa “super-hearing,” so that they can still isolate voice commands and cancel out all the other noise in loud environments, even rock concerts. (You can watch a TalkTo demo in the video below.)

DSP Concepts has now raised more than $25 million in total funding.

 

Categories: Business News

Assembly Panel Advances DeAngelo, Wimberly &amp; Danielsen Consumer Bill to Provide <b>VoIP</b> ...

Google News - VoIP - 19 hours 38 min ago
The measure (A-229) would direct the Board of Public Utilities to require telecommunications companies that offer Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) ...
Categories: VoIP News

<b>VoIP</b> ServicesMarket to Witness Comprehensive Growth by 2017 – 2024

Google News - VoIP - 20 hours 16 min ago
Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) is considered as the most efficient way to communicate across the globe. With the internet as a signal, it uses digital ...
Categories: VoIP News

Equity is not always the answer

Startup News - 2020, February 21 - 11:02pm

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

This week was a fun combination of early-stage and late-stage news, with companies as young as seed stage and as old as PE-worthy joining our list of topics.

Danny and Alex were back on hand to chat once again. Just in case you missed it, they had some fun talking Tesla yesterday, and there are new Equity videos on YouTube. Enjoy!

Here’s what the team argued about this week:

  • HungryPanda raises $20 million from 83North and Felix Capital. With a focus on Chinese food, Chinese language users and Chinese payment options like Alipay, it’s a neat play. According to TechCrunch, the service is live in 31 cities in the U.K., Italy, France, Australia, New Zealand and the U.S and is targeting $200 million in GMV by early Summer.
  • The Org raises $8.5 million, ChartHop raises $5 million. Hailing from two different product perspectives, these two org chart-focused companies both raised capital Thursday morning. That made them interesting to Alex as they formed yet another startup cluster, and Danny was transfixed by their differing starting points as businesses, positing that they will possibly move closer to each other over time.
  • DigitalOcean’s $100 million debt raise. The round — an addition of capital to a nearly profitable, SMB-focused cloud infra provider — split our hosts, with one leaning more toward a PE-exit and the other an IPO. Whether it can drive margins in the smaller-spend cloud customer segment will be critical to watch in the coming months.
  • (For more on venture debt writ large, head here.)
  • And finally, the E-Trade sale to Morgan Stanley, and what it might mean for Robinhood’s valuation. As Danny points out, the startup has found a good business in selling the order flow of its customers. Alex weighed in that the company has more revenue scaling to do before it grows into its last private valuation. So long as the market stays good, however, Robinhood is probably in good shape.

Equity is nearly three years old, and we have some neat stuff coming up that you haven’t heard about yet. Stay tuned, and thank you for sticking with us for so long.

Equity drops every Friday at 6:00 am PT, so subscribe to us on Apple PodcastsOvercastSpotify and all the casts.

Categories: Business News

Where top VCs are investing in manufacturing and warehouse robotics

Startup News - 2020, February 21 - 11:00pm

Robotics and automation tools are now foundational parts of warehouses and manufacturing facilities around the world. Unlike many other robotics and AI use cases, the technology has moved well beyond the theoretical into practice and is used by small suppliers and large companies like Amazon and Walmart.

There’s no doubt that automation will transform every step of the supply chain, from manufacturing to fulfillment to shipping and logistics. The only question is how long such a revolution will take.

There’s still plenty of market left to transform and lots of room for new players to redefine different verticals, even with many of the existing leaders having already staked their claim. Naturally, VCs are plenty eager to invest millions in the technology. In 2019 alone, manufacturing, machinery and automation saw roughly 800-900 venture-backed fundraising rounds, according to data from Pitchbook and Crunchbase, close to two-thirds of which were still early-stage (pre-seed to Series B) investments.

With our 2020 Robotics+AI sessions event less than two weeks away, we’ve decided to perform temperature checks across some of the hottest robotics sub-verticals to see which trends are coming down the pipe and where checks are actually being written. Just as we did with construction robotics last week, this time, we asked seven leading VCs who actively invest in manufacturing automation robotics to share what’s exciting them most and where they see opportunities in the sector:

TC Sessions: Robotics + AI 2020

Rohit Sharma, True Ventures

Which trends are you most excited about in manufacturing/warehouse automation robotics from an investing perspective?

Categories: Business News

Global <b>VoIP</b> Provider Services Market to Deliver Prominent Growth &amp; Striking Opportunities ...

Google News - VoIP - 2020, February 21 - 10:52pm
A report titled Global VoIP Provider Services Market was recently added by Market Research Inc to gain a strong and effective business outlook.
Categories: VoIP News

Volocopter extends Series C funding to $94M with backing from logistics giant DB Schenker and others

Startup News - 2020, February 21 - 10:32pm

Autonomous air mobility company Volocopter has added to the Series C funding round it announced in September 2019. The German electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft maker announced €50 million ($54 million at today’s exchange rate) in funding at the time, and the C round has now grown to €87 million ($94 million) thanks to new lead investor DB Schenker, a German logistics company with operations all over the world.

This round also includes participation by Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance Group, as well as the venture arm of its parent MS&AD, along with TransLink Capital . Existing investors, including Lukasz Gadowski and btov, also participated in this round extension.

With this new funding, Volocopter brings its total raised to around $132 million, and it says it will use the newly acquired capital to help certify its VoloCity aircraft, its air taxi eVTOL designed to transport people, which is on track to become the company’s first-ever vehicle licensed for commercial operation. Meanwhile, Volocopter will also use the new funds to help continue development of a next-generation iteration of its VoloDrone, which is the cargo-carrying version of its aircraft. It aims to use VoloDrone to expand its market to include logistics, as well as construction, city infrastructure and agriculture.

Already, Volocopter has formed partnerships with companies including John Deere for pilots of its VoloDrone, but it says that a second-generation version of the vehicle will help it commercialize the drone. On the VoloCity side, the company recently flew a demonstration flight in Singapore, and then announced they’d be working with Grab on a feasibility study about air taxi services for potential deployment across Southeast Asia in key cities.

Alongside this round extension, Volocopter adds two advisory board members — Yifan Li from Geely Holding Group, which led the first tranche of this round closed in September, and DB Schenker CEO Jochen Thewes. Both of these are key strategic partners from investors who stand to benefit the company not only in terms of funding, but also in terms of supply-side and commercialization.

Categories: Business News

HD Voice Market Growth Opportunities Analysis to 2028 | Ericsson, At &amp; T, Orange, Verizon ...

Google News - VoIP - 2020, February 21 - 10:26pm
HD voice refers to the use of wideband technology to give VoIP communications more clarity and better audio experience. It is also known as ...
Categories: VoIP News

Global <b>VoIP</b> Providers Market 2020 Industry Key Players, Trends, Sales, Supply, Demand, Analysis ...

Google News - VoIP - 2020, February 21 - 9:45pm
VoIP Providers Market 2020 Global Industry Research report provides a detailed analysis of market size, share, growth, trends, definition, applications, ...
Categories: VoIP News

<b>VoIP</b> Monitoring Software Market to Eyewitness Massive Growth by 2025: Leading Key Players IBM ...

Google News - VoIP - 2020, February 21 - 9:45pm
In a recent S&R Research publish Global VoIP Monitoring Software Market Insights, Forecast to 2025, analysts provide an in-depth analysis of the ...
Categories: VoIP News

A quick roundup of the news in Telecoms | Week #8

Google News - VoIP - 2020, February 21 - 8:48pm
The European Commission has proposed its new European digital strategy “Europe Fit for the Digital Age” that puts a target on all the biggest US tech ...
Categories: VoIP News

KVH offering free calls to seafarer help hotline

Google News - VoIP - 2020, February 21 - 8:26pm
Communications service provider KVH has announced that seafarers on vessels with KVH VSAT service may place free VoIP calls to ISWAN's ...
Categories: VoIP News

<b>VoIP</b> Providers Market 2020 | Outlook, Growth By Top Companies, Regions, Types, Applications ...

Google News - VoIP - 2020, February 21 - 8:03pm
Market Study Report, LLC, has expanded its reports' database with a new research study on ' VoIP Providers market' which features a precise ...
Categories: VoIP News

Voice over Internet Protocol Services Market Projected to Register 8.8% CAGR to 2025 | 8×8, Inc ...

Google News - VoIP - 2020, February 21 - 8:03pm
The global Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) Services market size is expected to gain market growth in the forecast period of 2020 to 2025, with a ...
Categories: VoIP News

Global Mobile <b>VoIP</b> Market 2020 by Manufacturers – BigAnt Office Messenger, Skype, IBM

Google News - VoIP - 2020, February 21 - 6:33pm
A pre-eminent research firm, Fior Markets added a fresh report titled Global Mobile VoIP Market 2020 by Company, Regions, Type and Application, ...
Categories: VoIP News

Tier Mobility, the European e-scooter rentals startup, adds another ~$40M to its Series B

Startup News - 2020, February 21 - 6:00pm

Tier, the European e-scooter rentals startup that operates in 55 cities across 11 countries, has topped up its funding for the second time in four months.

The Berlin-based company has extended its Series B round to over $100 million, up from $60 million disclosed in October. The additional capital is a mix of equity and debt financing provided by Moscow’s RTP Global, London’s Novator, and an unnamed U.S. debt fund. Part one of the Series B was co-led by Mubadala Capital and Goodwater Capital.

Tier says the additional funds will be invested in R&D in order to create further efficiency and for vehicle development. The so-called “micro-mobility” startup will also continue to strengthen its management team — the company recently recruited a new CCO and COO — and pursue M&A activities.

In addition, Tier says it will expand its vehicle fleet — perhaps with new micro-mobility product categories — in order to bring “sustainable mobility to more people and more cities across Europe”.

Meanwhile, in January, Tier quietly acquired U.K. startup Pushme Bikes, a manufacturer of replaceable batteries and other mobility-related hardware. The company was thought to be developing a network of battery change stations for “last mile” transport, which would seem to tie directly into Tier’s recent move to upgrade its scooter fleet with new scooters that use swappable batteries.

In a brief WhatsApp call with Tier co-founder and CEO Lawrence Leuschner, he framed the purchase of Pushme Bikes as an “acqui-hire” based on the team’s design and development expertise, which he said will give Tier a needed boost in its future hardware plans.

He also said that Tier’s move to swappable battery-based e-scooters has already seen 80% of its fleet replaced with scooters using swappable battery technology, which in turn is helping drive much better unit economics. That’s because the scooters no longer need to be taken off the streets and driven by van to a central location for charging and maintenance, only to be driven back several hours later. Instead, on-location maintenance where possible is carried out and dead batteries are simply swapped out and taken by cargo e-bike (pictured) to a central charging warehouse or, in some instances, nearby charging “hub”.

Noteworthy, unlike the majority of e-scooter rental companies, Tier shunned gig economy workers for charging from the get-go, preferring to use a centralised system in order to maintain quality of service. “The gig economy is dead [in relation to e-scooter rentals],” Leuschner says emphatically, noting that swappable battery tech means a centralised system makes even greater sense.

And in case you’re wondering what Tier did with its old e-scooters after replacing most of its fleet with newer hardware, Leuschner explained that the Okai manufactured devices are being re-sold directly to German consumers for private use via MyTier app. Perhaps that’s unsurprising given that the Tier CEO previously founded reBuy, a European market leader in used electronics.

Cue statement from Anton Inshutin, Partner at RTP Global: “We were impressed by the team’s meticulous focus on capital efficiency and enhancing operational excellence. They have managed to deliver class-leading unit economics, enabling them to expand profitably in the winter. We are very much looking forward to partnering with this impressive team that is unrivalled in its execution as the company continues to scale”.

Bird confirms acquisition of Berlin scooter rival Circ

Categories: Business News

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