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N26 launches mid-tier subscription plan for €4.90 per month

4 hours 46 min ago

Challenger bank N26 is adding a third subscription product called N26 Smart. N26 Smart is designed to be a mid-tier subscription plan with advanced banking features but without a travel insurance package.

In Europe, in addition to the free plan, N26 already provides two subscription tiers called N26 You and N26 Metal. N26 You costs €9.90 per month and comes with higher limits, such as five free ATM withdrawals instead of three and free withdrawals in foreign currencies.

With an N26 You account, you can create sub-accounts (N26 Spaces), share them with other N26 users or use them to save money. As an N26 You subscriber, you also get a travel insurance package with medical travel insurance, trip and flight insurance and more. You can also access some partner offers.

N26 Metal is the most expensive plan and costs €16.90 per month. In addition to everything in N26 You, you get car rental insurance when you’re abroad and phone insurance. As the name suggests, you also get a metal card.

The new N26 Smart subscription costs €4.90 and works well for people who don’t need travel insurance. With an N26 Smart subscription, you can create up to ten sub-accounts. You get five free ATM withdrawals per month. You can also call N26 support directly in addition to in-app support chat.

N26 is launching a new round-up feature for N26 Smart users. It lets you round each purchase up to the nearest Europe and save it in a separate sub-account. N26 Smart account also access colorful debit cards — the same colors as N26 You.

This is just a first step as N26 plans to revamp its subscription products altogether. In the near future, N26 You will become N26 International. There will be more features focused on borderless banking. N26 Metal will become N26 Unlimited.

As for the free N26 Standard account, the company wants to focus on digital cards. Some users are going to switch to the N26 Smart plan to keep some of the features that they’ve been using with a free account. That move should help the company’s bottom line.

Image Credits: N26

Categories: Business News

YC-backed Cashfree raises $35.3 million for its payments platform

7 hours 16 min ago

Cashfree, an Indian startup that offers a wide-range of payments services to businesses, has raised $35.3 million in a new financing round as the profitable firm looks to broaden its offering.

The Bangalore-based startup’s Series B was led by London-headquartered private equity firm Apis Partners (which invested through its Growth Fund II), with participation from existing investors Y Combinator and Smilegate Investments. The new round brings the startup’s to-date raise to $42 million.

Cashfree kickstarted its journey in 2015 as a solution for restaurants in Bangalore that needed an efficient way for their delivery personnel to collect cash from customers.

Akash Sinha and Reeju Datta, the founders of Cashfree, did not have any prior experience with payments. When their merchants asked if they could build a service to accept payments online, the founders quickly realized that Cashfree could serve a wider purpose.

In the early days, Cashfree also struggled to court investors, many of whom did not think a payments processing firm could grow big — and do so fast enough. But the startup’s fate changed after Y Combinator accepted its application, even though the founders had missed the deadline and couldn’t arrive to join the batch on time. Y Combinator later financed Cashfree’s seed round.

Setu raises $15M to help developers connect with banks to offer Indians ‘sachet-sized’ financial products

Fast-forward five years, Cashfree today offers more than a dozen products and services and helps over 55,000 businesses disburse salary to employees, accept payments online, set up recurring payments and settle marketplace commissions.

Some of its customers include financial services startup Cred, online grocer BigBasket, food delivery platform Zomato, insurers HDFC Ergo and Acko and travel ticketing service provider Ixigo. The startup works with several banks and also offers integrations with platforms such as Shopify, PayPal and Amazon Pay.

Based on its offerings, Cashfree today competes with scores of startups, but it has an edge — if not many. Cashfree has been profitable for the past three years, Sinha, who serves as the startup’s chief executive, told TechCrunch in an interview.

“Cashfree has maintained a leadership position in this space and is now going through a period of rapid growth fuelled by the development of unique and innovative products that serve the needs of its customers,” Udayan Goyal, co-founder and a managing partner at Apis, said in a statement.

The startup processed over $12 billion in payments volumes in the financial year that ended in March. Sinha said part of the fresh fund will be deployed in R&D so that Cashfree can scale its technology stack and build more services, including those that can digitize more offline payments for its clients.

India’s Razorpay becomes unicorn after new $100 million funding round

Cashfree is also working on building cross-border payments solutions to explore opportunities in emerging markets, he said.

“We still see payments as an evolving industry with its own challenges and we would be investing in next-gen payments as well as banking tech to make payments processing easier and more reliable. With the solid foundation of in-house technologies, tech-driven processes and in-depth industry knowledge, we are confident of growing Cashfree to be the leader in the payments space in India and internationally,” he said.

Categories: Business News

Will Brazil’s Roaring 20s see the rise of early-stage startups?

11 hours 54 min ago
Matheus Tavares Dos Santos Contributor Share on Twitter Matheus is a hedge funds investment analyst for a major global investment manager and technology provider. In prior roles, he was an associate at a LatAm-focused venture capital firm and worked in corporate venture with regional banks and the Brazilian stock exchange.

Since 2007, the number of publicly listed companies in Brazil has decreased from 400 to just a little over 300.

In the past six years there were only 21 IPOs — an average of just 3.5 public exits per year; by 2019, even Iran had more listed companies than Brazil. Global capital markets are heated given pandemic stimulus packages and low interest rates worldwide, but in Brazil the boom comes with a special feature: in Q3 2020, there were 25 primary and secondary equity offerings, and this year is on track to be the most active in history both in number of deals and dollar volume.

The most important event, however, is not necessarily the reversal of a shrinking public market but the fact that startups are issuing stocks for the first time, a dramatic change for a market previously dominated by industries like commodities and utilities.

Growth versus value: Revert the shrinking market and internet companies

Not only is Brazil’s IPO market roaring, the waitlist is even more impressive: More than 47 companies have filed at CVM (equivalent to the the Securities and Exchange Commission) to issue equity and are waiting for approval. In other words, the IPO is equivalent to more than 15% of the number of publicly listed companies. In the first half of October, six companies were approved to issue equity. Obviously construction and retail names are still predominant as they take advantage of the lower rates, but the main novelty are new entrants in internet and technology.

In the past decade, there were 56 IPOs in Brazil and only two were in the software space, both in 2013. That is a reflection of the profile of the investors who dominate local markets, which are used to allocating assets to companies in sectors like oil, paper and cellulose, mining or utilities. Historically, publicly listed companies in the country were value plays, as few of them had significant exposure to the domestic market and derived a significant share of revenue from commodities and exports.

As a result, companies that focused on the domestic market or on growth were never quite embraced by local investors. Many investors deploying capital in Brazil were mostly foreign and very risk-averse to the dynamics of the domestic market; in 2007, when Brazil went through a similar IPO boom, 70 percent of the demand for equity offerings came from foreign investors.

Along with an undervalued currency, growth companies struggled to find attractive valuations on the local exchange. As a result, growth companies such as Stone Payments, Netshoes, PagSeguro, Arco Educação and XP Investimentos did their IPOs in New York where they attained higher valuations. It’s ironic that there were three times more IPOs of Brazilian growth companies in the U.S. in the past five years than there were in the domestic market in the last decade.

Roaring 20s: New investors and massive portfolio relocations
Categories: Business News

7 things we just learned about Sequoia’s European expansion plans

13 hours 52 min ago

Sequoia Capital, the renowned Silicon Valley venture capital firm that has backed companies like Apple, Google, Dropbox, Airbnb and Stripe, recently disclosed that it had opened its first office in Europe. To staff up, it hired partner Luciana Lixandru away from rival Accel Partners.

Even without an official European presence, Sequoia has quietly operated in the region for more than a decade, first investing in Klarna in 2010. Other Europe-founded companies in its portfolio include Baaima, CEGX, Charlotte Tilbury, Dashlane, Evervault, FON Wireless, Front, Graphcore, Mapillary, Metaswitch Networks, n8n, Remote, Skyscanner, Songkick, Tessian, Tourlane, UiPath, Unity and 6Winderkinder (Wunderlist).

Yet, it is only now that the VC firm is putting people on the ground here in Europe, starting with an office in London that has a remit to invest across the continent.

Working alongside Lixandru is junior investor George Robson, who joined from Revolut. Most recently, Sequoia recruited Zoe Jervier Hewitt from EQT as head of talent in Europe. And finally, Matt Miller, a Sequoia U.S. veteran, is also part of the European efforts and plans to relocate next year, while I also understand that Sequoia’s Doug Leone will be spending a lot of his time in Europe.

Last week at the virtual “Node by Slush” event, I interviewed Lixandru and Miller and teased out some important details about Sequoia’s plans.

1. Sequoia now believes Europe is producing market leaders ahead of Silicon Valley

“There has been this evolution and maturity of the tech ecosystem that has been really meaningful, that has attracted us to want to put down boots on the ground and be more invested in Europe than ever before,” said Sequoia partner Matt Miller.

“One change is in the attitudes of young people. Europe has always been this place where there’s been incredible talent coming out of the computer science programs, across the universities across the continent and the U.K., and these young people previously, were going into careers in investment banking and consulting are bigger conglomerates. And now that those young people are interested in startups and technology careers, that’s fueling a lot of great ideas and a lot of great talent.

“There was a long time this question of, when will there be a $10 billion plus startup, and now there’s multiple of them across the continent. And now the question has really changed: When will there be the next hundred billion dollar startup in Europe, and I think it’s just an evolution over time.

“We find ourselves getting pulled more and more. So when … we want to invest in the best AI semiconductor company in the world, we looked at them in China, Israel and Europe. And the one we wanted to invest in was Graphcore, in Bristol [in the U.K.]. And when we looked … [to] invest in the best process automation company in the world, we looked at automation anywhere in California … and we looked at companies all over the world, and the one we wanted to invest in was UiPath in Romania. And that is increasingly becoming the case.”

“To some extent, success breeds success, too,” said Lixandru. “I think role models are really powerful. And the fact that there have been these category-leading companies created out of Europe, but that are winning on a global scale, like Spotify, Adyen and UiPath … I think that’s really inspirational to the next generation of founders. And I think that has helped a lot.”

2. The firm will make investments out of the same fund as the U.S. and Canada

“We work as one partnership across two geographies, and we invest from the same pool of capital across both geographies,” explained Lixandru. “And the rationale behind that is exactly what Max talked about. We want to be able to partner with category leading companies, and if they start in Paris, or in Stockholm, or in San Francisco, for us, it does not make a difference. We want to partner with them early. And we want to be able to help them on the ground early … whether they start here in Europe or in the U.S.”

Related to this, Sequoia will share carry — the fund’s profits — with partners across the U.S. and Europe, regardless of where partners reside or where the deal was sourced.

“One of the things that I love the most about Sequoia having been here close to nine years now is the way that we operate is very, very team centric, and that everybody is compensated the same amount in a fund, whether or not it is the investment that they lead or the investment that their partner led,” said Miller. “So when we make an investment, we lock arms together as a team, and we work collectively to help that company be successful.”

Miller said portfolio companies in Europe also get to work with Sequoia’s operational supporting partners in the U.S., too. “And the economic model is one that supports that,” he said.

3. Sequoia will continue building out a team on the ground in Europe
Categories: Business News

Founders seeking their first check need a fundraising sales funnel

15 hours 34 min ago
Nathan Beckord Contributor Share on Twitter Nathan Beckord is CEO of Foundersuite.com, a software platform for raising capital and managing investors that has helped entrepreneurs raise over $2 billion since 2016. He is also the host of Foundersuite’s How I Raised It podcast. More posts by this contributor

Milana Lewis, CEO and co-founder of music tech startup Stem, started the fundraising process long before she actually asked any investors for money (dig the well before you’re thirsty — it’s the best way). She recommends that other founders do the same.

Ten years ago, Milana started working at United Talent Agency (UTA), one of the world’s leading talent agencies. When tasked with finding the best tools and technologies that UTA’s clients could use to self-distribute their work, she discovered a glaring gap.

“There were all these tools built for the distribution of content, monetization of content and audience development,” she says. “The last piece missing was the financial aspect.” The entertainment industry desperately needed a platform that would help artists manage the financial side of their business — and that’s how the idea for Stem was born.

Because UTA had its own investment branch, called UTA Ventures, Milana’s job also introduced her to some brilliant investors. Years later, when it was time to fundraise for Stem, those connections played a pretty big role.

In an episode of How I Raised It, Milana shared how Stem has landed some superstar investors and raised a little under $22 million.

1. Bring investors along for the ride — from the very start

Milana’s involvement with UTA Ventures exposed her to the investor experience and put her in the same room as people like Gary Vaynerchuk, Jonathon Triest from Ludlow Ventures, Anthony Saleh from Wndrco and Scooter Braun.

After meeting them the first time, she made sure to nurture those relationships, and she was “honest and vulnerable” about the fact that she wanted to be an entrepreneur one day.

“It’s amazing how much people will help and support you along in that journey,” Milana says. Investors “get excited about making early-stage investments because they want to identify that person before anyone else does.”

As her idea for Stem came together, she shared that with them, too. Over the course of a year, she provided regular updates on her vision, like how she was building out her team, and she also called them for occasional advice.

By the time she approached some of them for funding, she didn’t even need to present a full pitch. By then, they already knew enough about Stem, and about Milana as a businesswoman. Her pitch meeting with Gary Vaynerchuk — the first person to invest — ended up being just 15 minutes long.

“I brought people on my entrepreneurial journey in the beginning,” Milana says. “The biggest piece of advice I could give is to start raising a year before you start raising. Start building relationships and data points.”

Image Credits: Nathan Beckord (opens in a new window)

2. Become best friends with systems and deadlines

For each round, Milana put together a lead list — a list of potential investors who she either met socially or through business. Each time, she wanted to have at least 100 names on this list.

Categories: Business News

Mental health startups are raising spirits and venture capital

16 hours 58 min ago

A spate of startups focused on mental health recently made enough noise as a group that they caught the eye of the Equity podcast crew. Sadly, the segment we’d planned to discuss this topic was swept away by a blizzard of IPO filings that piled up like fresh snow.

But in preparation, I reached out to CB Insights for new data on the mental health startup space that they were kind enough to supply. So this morning we’re going to dig into it.

Regular readers of The Exchange will recall that we last dug into overall wellness venture capital investment in August, noting that it was mental health startups inside the vertical that were seeing the most impressive results.

The Exchange explores startups, markets and money. Read it every morning on Extra Crunch, or get The Exchange newsletter every Saturday.

I wanted to know what had happened even more recently.

After all, Spring Health recently raised $76 million for its service that helps companies offer their workers mental health benefits, Mantra Health disclosed that it has raised $3.2 million to help with college-age mental health issues and Joon Care announced $3.5 million in new capital to “grow its remote therapy service for teens and young adults,” per GeekWire.

Sticking to theme, Headway just raised $32 million to build a platform that “helps people search for and engage therapists who accept insurance for payments,” according to our own reporting, and online therapy provider Talkspace is pursuing a sale — it looks like an active time in the mental health startup realm.

So, let’s shovel into the latest data and see if the signals that we are seeing really do reflect more total investment into mental health startups, or if we’re overindexing off a few news items.

The state of mental health venture investing

To prepare the ground, let’s talk about the general state of healthcare investing in the venture capital world. Per CB Insights’ Q3 healthcare VC report, venture capital deal volume and venture capital dollar volume reached new record highs in the sector during Q3 2020.

The quarter’s 1,539 rounds and $21.8 billion in invested capital were each comfortably ahead of prior records set in Q2 2018 for round volume (1,431) and Q2 2020 for dollar volume ($18.4 billion) for healthcare startups.

Categories: Business News

Video mentoring platform Superpeer raises $8M and launches paid channels

17 hours 3 min ago

Superpeer, a startup that helps experts share and monetize their knowledge online, is announcing that it has raised $8 million in additional funding.

As I wrote in March, the Superpeer platform allows experts to promote, schedule and charge for one-on-one video calls with anyone who might want to ask for their advice.

In addition to announcing funding, the startup is also moving beyond one-on-one sessions by launching paid channels, where experts can charge a subscription fee for access to larger group sessions with video and chat. Co-founder and CEO Devrim Yasar suggested that channels allow Superpeer experts to be more accessible, reaching a larger audience by hosting sessions that cost less money to watch.

“It can be hard to say, ‘Hi, I’m Anthony Ha, if you want to talk to me, my hourly rate is $500,’ ” Yasar said. (To be clear: I would never say that.) “But if you have a channel where anyone can subscribe for $1 or $5, that makes you feel better that you are accessible.”

Plus, you can still offer (and charge more for) one-on-one meetings, say for subscribers who still have “burning questions” after a channel session.

Superpeer raises $2M to help influencers and experts make money with one-on-one video calls

In the midst of the pandemic, we’re seeing a widespread embrace of online mentoring and content as a new source of revenue. Last week, for example, Squarespace launched a new paywall feature called Member Areas, and I’ve also written about another video mentoring platform called Prox.

Yasar acknowledged that things are getting pretty competitive, but he said that Superpeer is trying to build the most attractive brand for public intellectuals and thought leaders — he described the vision (half-jokingly, half-proudly) as “OnlyFans for brains.”

“If you are an intellectual, if you have an audience, if you are a TED speaker with 30 million views on your video, you’ve never had a platform to really monetize that audience,” Yasar said. “All you could do is maybe write a book and sell that, you could be a guest at someone else’s event [but not much else]. Those people don’t want to go to YouTube or Instagram, that’s not the brand that they associate themselves with.”

Beyond branding, Yasar said that Superpeer has also worked hard on the technology side to create a lightweight video experience in the browser.

The new round comes from Acrew Capital, Audacious Ventures, Homebrew, Moxxie Ventures, Brianne Kimmel, Scott Belsky and OnDeck, and it brings Superpeer’s total funding to $10 million.

Yasar said the startup will be expanding its growth, partnership and revenue teams. It also will be offering financial support for experts through a brand ambassador program, though the company is still working out the details.

And if you’d like to see the platform in action, I’ll also be talking to Yasar and his investors at Eniac Ventures tomorrow in a free session at noon Eastern.

Prox helps influencers and experts make money by connecting with fans

Categories: Business News

Gatik’s self-driving box trucks to shuttle groceries for Loblaw in Canada

17 hours 5 min ago

Gatik, the autonomous vehicle startup focused on the “middle mile,” is already using its self-driving box trucks to deliver customer online grocery orders for Walmart. Now, the company — freshly stocked with $25 million in Series A funding — is expanding up into Canada with a partnership with retail giant Loblaw.

Gatik said Monday that five autonomous box trucks in Toronto will be used to deliver goods for Loblaw starting in January 2021. The fleet will be used seven days a week on five routes along public roads. All vehicles will have a safety driver as a co-pilot. This deployment, which follows a 10-month pilot in the Toronto area, marks the first autonomous delivery fleet in Canada.

“As more Canadians turn to online grocery shopping, we’ve looked at ways to make our supply chain more efficient. Middle-mile autonomous delivery is a great example,” Loblaw Digital senior vice president Lauren Steinberg said in a statement. “With this initial rollout in Toronto, we are able to move goods from our automated picking facility multiple times a day to keep pace with PC Express online grocery orders in stores around the city.”

Unlike other autonomous delivery companies, Gatik isn’t targeting consumers. Instead, the startup is using its autonomous trucks to shuttle groceries and other goods from large distribution centers to retail locations. For Loblaw, the company will equip Ford Transit 350 box trucks with refrigeration units, lift gates and its autonomous self-driving software.

Gatik adds autonomous box trucks to its ‘middle mile’ game plan

“Retailers know the biggest inefficiencies in their logistics operations often exist in the middle-mile, typically between automated picking facilities and retail locations,” Gatik CEO and co-founder Gautam Narang said in a statement. “This is where Gatik lives and succeeds, and is the reason we’re able to offer immediate value to our customers. We are delighted to partner with Loblaw in addressing this critical piece of their supply chain.”

Gatik’s “middle mile” B2B focus has attracted customers like Walmart, as well as investors, including Wittington Ventures and Innovation Endeavors, which co-led the company’s Series A round. FM Capital and Intact Ventures, along with existing investors Dynamo Ventures, Fontinalis Partners and AngelPad also participated in the round that was announced alongside the Loblaw partnership. Gatik has raised $29.5 million to date.

The company said it plans to use the funding to build out operations across North America and hire more employees at its Palo Alto, California and Toronto facilities. Narang said Gatik is also pushing to expand its retail partnerships and fleet deployments.

Quarantine drives interest in autonomous delivery, but it’s still miles from mainstream

“Throughout the year we saw an increase of 30% to 35% in orders from our customer base, and we expect this trend to continue,” Narang said. “We will continue to bring autonomous delivery into the mainstream, driving substantial efficiencies in supply chain logistics for retailers across North America and beyond.”

Gatik said it has completed more than 30,000 revenue-generating autonomous orders for multiple customers across North America.

Categories: Business News

TC Sessions: Space Black Friday ticket sale starts today

17 hours 34 min ago

Nothing signals the start of the holiday shopping season like a Black Friday sale. It’s been an incredibly challenging year for everyone on every level. We can’t change that, but we can make attending TC Sessions: Space 2020 more affordable a bit longer.

Starting today, we’re offering a BOGO deal. Buy one Late Registration ticket for $175 and get one free. You and a colleague pay just $87.50 each — that’s less than the early-bird price. Booyah! We’re here all week folks…and this deal ends on Sunday, November 29, at 11:59 p.m. PST. Buy your pass before the deadline and put your savings to good use. And then get ready for two days of learning, networking and discovering opportunities to move your business forward.

TechCrunch attracts the top experts, and you’ll hear from and engage with leading founders, investors, technologists and government and military officials across private, public and defense sectors. Our agenda is packed with panel discussions, interviews, breakout sessions and interactive Q&As.

Topics include 3D-printed rockets, earth observation data, orbital operations, ground station networks, launch services, broadband communications, defense operations and manufacturing in space, sources of access to grant money and info on space accelerator programs. Read the event agenda and start planning your schedule now.

But wait, there’s more: Buy a pass and receive a free annual membership to Extra Crunch, our membership program focused on startups, founders and investors with more than 100 exclusive articles published per month (learn about the benefits).

More ways to save: We offer discounts for groups of four or more, students and current government, military and nonprofit employees. Extra Crunch subscribers get a 20% discount.

We’ve hosted many TC Sessions events over the years, and this is the first one dedicated to space technology. If you’ve never attended any TC Sessions event, listen to what these founders say about the experience:

People want to be around what’s interesting and learn which trends and issues they need to pay attention to. They want to learn from the experts, and TC Sessions has all the experts. — Melika Jahangiri, vice president at Wunder Mobility

TC Sessions is definitely worth your time, especially if you’re an early-stage founder. You get to connect to people in your field and learn from founders who are literally a year into your same journey. Plus, you can meet and talk to the movers and shakers — the people who are making it happen. — Jens Lehmann, technical lead and product manager, SAP

“TC Sessions offers several big benefits. First, networking opportunities that result in concrete partnerships. Second, the chance to learn the latest trends and how technology will evolve. Third, the opportunity for unknown startups to connect with other companies and build brand awareness.” — Karin Maake, senior director of communications at FlashParking

Take advantage of our week-long Black Friday sale. Buy a Late Registration pass for $175 by Sunday, November 29, at 11:59 p.m. (PST), and you get a second one f-r-e-e. Now, take that money you saved and do some good with it.

Is your company interested in sponsoring TC Sessions: Space 2020? Click here to talk with us about available opportunities.

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Categories: Business News

AvePoint to go public via SPAC valued at $2B

17 hours 39 min ago

AvePoint, a company that gives enterprises using Microsoft Office 365, SharePoint and Teams a control layer on top of these tools, announced today that it would be going public via a SPAC merger with Apex Technology Acquisition Corporation in a deal that values AvePoint at around $2 billion.

The acquisition brings together some powerful technology executives, with Apex run by former Oracle CFO Jeff Epstein and former Goldman Sachs head of technology investment banking Brad Koenig, who will now be working closely with AvePoint’s CEO Tianyi Jiang. Apex filed for a $305 million SPAC in September 2019.

Under the terms of the transaction, Apex’s balance of $352 million plus a $140 million additional private investment will be handed over to AvePoint. Once transaction fees and other considerations are paid for, AvePoint is expected to have $252 million on its balance sheet. Existing AvePoint shareholders will own approximately 72% of the combined entity, with the balance held by the Apex SPAC and the private investment owners.

Jiang sees this as a way to keep growing the company. “Going public now gives us the ability to meet this demand and scale up faster across product innovation, channel marketing, international markets and customer success initiatives,” he said in a statement.

AvePoint was founded in 2001 as a company to help ease the complexity of SharePoint installations, which at the time were all on-premise. Today, it has adapted to the shift to the cloud as a SaaS tool and primarily acts as a policy layer enabling companies to make sure employees are using these tools in a compliant way.

AvePoint lands $200M investment to expand market for Microsoft cloud governance tools

The company raised $200 million in January this year led by Sixth Street Partners (formerly TPG Sixth Street Partners), with additional participation from prior investor Goldman Sachs, meaning that Koenig was probably familiar with the company based on his previous role.

The company has raised a total of $294 million in capital before today’s announcement. It expects to generate almost $150 million in revenue by the end of this year, with ARR growing at over 30%. It’s worth noting that the company’s ARR and revenue has been growing steadily since Q12019. The company is projecting significant growth for the next two years with revenue estimates of $257 million and ARR of $220 million by the end of 2022.

Image Credits: AvePoint

The deal is expected to close in the first quarter of next year. Upon close the company will continue to be known as AvePoint and be publicly traded on Nasdaq under the new ticker symbol AVPT.

Categories: Business News

Cure Hydration raises $2.6M for its healthy sports drink alternative

17 hours 45 min ago

Cure Hydration is announcing that it has raised $2.6 million in seed funding as it brings a healthier approach to the sports beverage market.

Founder and CEO Lauren Picasso, whose past roles include serving as director of marketing at Jet.com, told me that she became interested in the market after training for a triathlon; she’d often feel dehydrated even after drinking lots of water. (This is something I also struggled with while training for a marathon last year — yes, I’m only mentioning this because I really want you to know that I ran a marathon.)

The obvious solution was to drink Gatorade or something similar to replenish her electrolytes, but Picasso said, “When I started looking for electrolyte products that were healthy and effective, I realized everything on the market still uses a base of sugar.” For example, 20 ounces of Gatorade’s Thirst Quencher contains 36 grams of sugar.

So Picasso and the Cure team developed a new beverage based on the World Health Organization’s Oral Rehydration Solution, which Picasso said is “primarily used to help people suffering from diseases like cholera,” and which has saved “millions of lives and is proven to hydrate as effectively as an IV drip.”

Cure uses the ORS as a foundation to create a range of flavored beverages (it’s adding the new flavors Ruby Riot Grapefruit and Laser Focus Matcha). The core ingredients include coconut water and pink Himalayan salt, while everything is organic and vegan, with no added sugars.

Image Credits: Cure Hydration

The startup sells these drinks in the form of powders that you mix with water. On its website, they cost $20.99 for a pack of 14, or $16.79 if you subscribe. (The company donates 1% of proceeds to the women’s sports nonprofit SheIS.) Picasso said early customers have tended to be amateur athletes and people who need help staying hydrated due to chronic illnesses and other health conditions.

The product is also available in stores like CVS, Walmart and Whole Foods. Picasso said that one of her goals with the funding is to continue expanding Cure’s retail footprint beyond its current 4,200 locations across the United States.

She also plans to develop new products beyond hydration, though she said they will stay true to the company’s “guiding principles” that all its products are “backed by science” and “taste delicious.” The company has a medical advisory board that includes Dr. Roshini Rajapaksa, a gastroenterologist; Dr. Dana Cohen, the author of “Quench”; and nutritionist Brooke Alpert, author of “The Sugar Detox.”

The round was led by Lerer Hippeau, with participation from M3 Ventures, Litani Ventures, Andy Roddick, Nas, Matthew Dellavedova, Casper CEO Philip Krim, mParticle CEO Michael Katz, Thrive Market CEO Nick Green and others.

“Now, more than ever, consumers are prioritizing health in their daily lives and looking for products that are not only effective, but better-for-you,” said Lerer Hippeau principal Caitlin Strandberg in a statement. “Lauren is an exceptional operator and we’ve been impressed with her ability to bring a WHO-approved formulation to market without compromising on product quality or efficacy. With this cash infusion and retail expansion, we’re excited to see Cure get into even more hands.”

The joke is on consumers as Liquid Death raises $23 million more

Categories: Business News

LA-based Boulevard raises $27 million for its spa management software

17 hours 45 min ago

Boulevard, a spa management and payment platform, has raised $27 million in a new round of funding despite a business slowdown caused by the COVID0-19 pandemic.

Founded four years ago by Matt Danna and Sean Stavropoulos, Boulevard was inspired by Stavropoulos’ inability to book a haircut and Danna’s hunch that the inability of salons and spas to cater to customers like the busy programmer could be indicative of a bigger problem.

The two spent months pounding the pavement in Los Angeles pretending to be college students doing research on the industry. They spoke with salon owners in Beverly Hills, Hollywood and other trendy neighborhoods trying to get a sense of where software and services were falling short.

Through those months of interviews the two developed the booking management and payment platform that would become Boulevard. The inspiration was one part Shopify and one part ServiceTitan, Danna said.

The idea was that Boulevard could build a pretty large business catering to the needs of a niche industry that hadn’t traditionally been exposed to a purpose-built toolkit for its vertical.

Investors including Index Ventures, Toba Capital, VMG Partners, Bonfire Ventures, Ludlow Ventures and BoxGroup agreed.

Dallas’ ShearShare has a marketplace connecting stylists with available seats at salons and $2.3 million in funding

That could be because of the size of the industry. There is more than $250 billion spent per year across roughly 3 million businesses in the salon and spa category, according to data provided by the company. By comparison, fitness attracts roughly $34 billion in annual spending from 150,000 businesses.

“With limited access to the professionals that help us look and feel our best, I think the world has realized something that our team has always recognized: Salons and spas are more than a luxury, they are essential to our well-being,” said Danna, in a statement. “We are humbled that so many businesses are placing their trust in us during such a turbulent time. This new capital will help accelerate our mission and deliver value to salons and spas that they never imagined was possible from technology.”

According to data provided by the company, Boulevard is definitely giving businesses a boost. On average, businesses increase bookings by 16%, retail revenue jumps by 18% and gratuity paid out to stylists jumps by 24% for businesses that use Boulevard, the company said. It also reduces no-shows and cancellations, and halves time spent on the phone.  

“Boulevard is revitalizing the salon and spa industry, as evidenced by the company’s sustained 300-400% revenue growth over the last three years,” said Damir Becirovic of Index Ventures, whose firm led the company’s Series A round and has doubled down with the new capital infusion. 

Customers using the company’s software include: Chris McMillan the Salon, Heyday, MèCHE Salon, Paintbox, Sassoon Salon, SEV Laser, Spoke & Weal and TONI&GUY.

Los Angeles-based Boulevard has raised $11 million for its software to manage salons and spas

Boulevard now has 90 employees and will look to increase that number as it continues to expand across the country.

Investors have taken a run at the spa market in the past, with company’s like MindBody valued at over $1 billion for its software services. Indeed, that company was taken private two years ago in a $1.9 billion transaction by Vista Equity Partners.

As Boulevard expands, the company may look to get deeper into financial services for the salons and spas that it’s already working with. Given the company’s window into these businesses’ financing, it’s not impossible to imagine a new line of business providing small business loans to these companies.

It’s something that the founders would likely not rule out. And it’s a way to provide more tools to entrepreneurs that often fall outside of the traditional sweet spot for banks and other lenders, Danna said.

 

Categories: Business News

Former Sequoia partner Amy Sun has already raised millions for her stealthy startup

17 hours 49 min ago

Former Sequoia partner Amy Sun, who left the famed venture capital firm just months ago, has already raised $3.8 million for her new startup, Daylight Labs, SEC filings show.

Daylight Labs will be creating a solution to help gig economy workers make more money, Sun hints to TechCrunch. Still in the early product development stages, the startup began during the pandemic when Sun noticed how many industries were “completely decimated” by the crisis.

“How can you leverage technology to create new ways for people to earn to make a living,” she said. “We’re innovating on the actual format and product.”

There is no site or information available online about Daylight Labs, and Sun declined to comment on more specifics of the business, saying that the company is still iterating on its final product. What we do know, however, is that the company is a combination of all of Sun’s experiences in her career so far, from product management at Uber, to working on the Stories team at Facebook, to, most recently, investing in consumer companies on behalf of Sequoia Capital, which she joined in 2018.

Image Credits: Amy Sun

The Harvard grad started her career in product marketing at Microsoft, where she helped launch the Surface tablet. Sun then spent more than three years at Uber as a founding member of the ridesharing company’s growth marketing team, which included getting drivers to join the platform.

“Through that experience I got to build really strong relationships with drivers,” she said. “Seeing that you’re able to come into a city with a technology and people can start earning money, instantly — that’s really eye-opening for me.” Notably, in California, the Uber and Lyft -backed Prop 22 bill passed, which allows gig workers to remain classified as independent contractors instead of full-time workers.

At Facebook, Sun worked on the company’s Stories product as a product manager. It’s unclear how her experience with consumer cameras and AR will be used within Daylight Labs, but that will definitely be interesting to track. During her tenure, users of Facebook Stories swelled from 2 million to 100 million.

Human Capital: The gig economy in a post-Prop 22 world

Most recently, Sun worked at Sequoia Capital as the first woman on the firm’s growth-stage team. Her portfolio included Noom, Aurora, Glossier and The Wing, although she says she has transitioned “most responsibilities” from her tenure, including board seats, to the rest of the Sequoia team.

As for why leave the firm so soon after joining, Sun simply said that starting a company has “always been a dream” since the beginning of her career.

Since leaving Sequoia, Sun has lived a “nomadic lifestyle,” with time in San Francisco, Boston, North Carolina and, more recently, Austin, Texas. Daylight Labs is based out of Austin, and Sun joins troves of entrepreneurs who have been moving to the area for years.

More to come on Daylight Labs when Sun is ready to share.

Categories: Business News

6 reasons why reporters aren’t interested in your content marketing

18 hours 12 min ago
Amanda Milligan Contributor Share on Twitter Amanda Milligan is the marketing director at Fractl, a prominent growth marketing agency that’s helped Fortune 500 companies and boutique businesses alike earn quality media coverage, backlinks, awareness and authority. More posts by this contributor

Digital PR is an excellent strategy to pair with content marketing, especially if your goals include increasing your brand awareness and improving your backlink portfolio.

When you create excellent content and pitch it to writers, you not only get great media coverage, but you get the link back to your project and the authority that comes with being mentioned in a trusted publication.

This earned media tactic is very effective — but it isn’t easy.

If you get any part of it wrong, your chances of success decrease dramatically. If you’ve run into roadblocks, make sure you’re not making any of these mistakes with your content or your pitching.

1. It’s not newsworthy

Sure, it’s easy to say the news only wants to cover material that is, well, news worthy.

But what does that actually mean?

For content marketers, it usually refers to three criteria: timeliness, relevance and significance.

But there’s a catch: Most content marketing programs don’t have journalists devoted to breaking news like actual media outlets do. So how can you create content that is truly newsworthy without the resources of a newsroom?

By creating and analyzing your own data.

If your brand provides a fresh data set or a new analysis of existing data, then you’re the sole owner of information, and you can offer it exclusively to publications. This makes your pitch much more interesting.

This tactic is a combination of original content marketing and digital PR.

But the content can’t just be timely. It also has to be relevant to the writer you’re pitching and that writer’s audience. I’ll explain more on that in #4.

Finally, significance, which refers to the impact it has on the audience. When you think of local news, this is why they report on things like traffic jams and school closures: It directly affects the daily lives of the people watching and listening.

Alternatively, your data can be significant to writers covering specific beats. For example, for our client ZenBusiness, we surveyed Americans and asked what they thought about the government’s relief packages for COVID-19.

While ZenBusiness operates in the office/work niches, this new insight into American perspective was appealing to the political publication The Hill.

Image Credits: Fractl (opens in a new window)

Significance is tough criteria from a brand perspective, but if you’re able to offer brand-new insights, it’s certainly not impossible.

2. The significance isn’t clear

Imagine a stranger handing you a book with a blank cover and saying, “Here, you’ll find this interesting.” Would you read the whole book?

Categories: Business News

Equity Monday: Good vaccine news, three rounds and why IPOs are trending

18 hours 41 min ago

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

This is Equity Monday, our weekly kickoff that tracks the latest big news, chats about the coming week, digs into some recent funding rounds and mulls over a larger theme or narrative from the private markets. You can follow the show on Twitter here and myself here — and don’t forget to check out last Thursday’s main ep, and our bonus episode that went out on Saturday.

All IPOs should be paid for in Robux

If you like Equity, your cup runneth over.

So, what did we get into this morning? A grip of things, which I’ve listed below in order:

Please stay safe this week, America. Do something boring and unfun, so that we can keep more of us alive into next year.

Equity drops every Monday at 7:00 a.m. PDT and Thursday afternoon as fast as we can get it out, so subscribe to us on Apple PodcastsOvercastSpotify and all the casts.

How the pandemic drove the IPO wave we see today

Categories: Business News

Serenade snags $2.1M seed round to turn speech into code

18 hours 46 min ago

Several years ago Serenade co-founder Matt Wiethoff was a developer at Quora when he was diagnosed with a severe repetitive stress injury to his hand and couldn’t code. He and co-founder Tommy MacWilliam decided to use AI to create a tool that let him speak the code instead, and Serenade was born.

Today, the company announced a $2.1 million seed investment led by Amplify Partners and Neo. While it was at it, the startup also announced the first commercial version of the product, Serenade Pro.

“Serenade is an app that you’ll download onto your computer. It will plug into your existing editors like Visual Studio Code or IntelliJ, and then allows you to speak your code,” co-founder MacWilliam told me. At that point the startup’s AI engine takes over and translates what you say into syntactically correct code.

He says that while there are a bunch of generalized speech-to-text engines out there, they hadn’t been able to find anything that was tuned specifically for the requirements of someone entering code. While it may seem that this would have a pretty narrow market focus, the co-founders see this use case as simply a starting point with developers using this kind of technology even when not injured.

“Our vision is that this is just the future of programming. With machine learning, coding becomes faster and easier than ever before, and our AI eliminates a lot of the rote mechanical parts of programming. So rather than needing to remember keyboard shortcuts or syntax details of a language, you can just focus on expressing your idea naturally, and then our machine learning takes care of translating that into actual code for you,” MacWilliam explained.

Google Cloud’s speech APIs get cheaper and learn new languages

The startup has five employees today, but has plans to build the company to 15-20 in the next year fueled by the introduction of the commercial product and the new funding. As they build the company, MacWilliam says being diverse is a big part of that.

“Our diversity strategy ranges throughout the process. I think it starts at the top of the funnel. We need to make sure that we’re going out and reaching great people — there are great people everywhere and it’s on us to find them and convince them why working at Serenade would be great,” he said. They are working with a variety of sources to find a diverse group of candidates that stretches beyond their own personal network, then looking at how they interview and judge candidates’ skill sets with the goal of building a more diverse employee base.

The company sees itself as a way to move beyond the keyboard to speaking your code, and it intends to use this money to continue building the product, while building a community of dedicated users. “We’ll be thinking about how we can showcase the value of coding by voice, how we can put together demos and build a community of product champions showing that [it’s faster to code using your voice],” he said.

AWS’ new text-to-speech engine sounds like a newscaster

Categories: Business News

Friday app, a remote work tool, raises $2.1 million led by Bessemer

18 hours 46 min ago

Friday, an app looking to make remote work more efficient, has announced the close of a $2.1 million seed round led by Bessemer Venture Partners. Active Capital, Underscore, El Cap Holdings, TLC Collective and New York Venture Partners also participated in the round, among others.

Founded by Luke Thomas, Friday sits on top of the tools that teams already use — GitHub, Trello, Asana, Slack, etc. — to surface information that workers need when they need it and keep them on top of what others in the organization are doing.

The platform offers a Daily Planner feature, so users can roadmap their day and share it with others, as well as a Work Routines feature, giving users the ability to customize and even automate routine updates. For example, weekly updates or daily standups done via Slack or Google Hangouts can be done via Friday app, eliminating the time spent by managers, or others, jotting down these updates or copying that info over from Slack.

Friday also lets users set goals across the organization or team so that users’ daily and weekly work aligns with the broader OKRs of the company.

Plus, Friday users can track their time spent in meetings, as well as team morale and productivity, using the Analytics dashboard of the platform.

Friday has a free-forever model, which allows individual users or even organizations to use the app for free for as long as they want. More advanced features like Goals, Analytics and the ability to see past three weeks of history within the app are paywalled for a price of $6/seat/month.

Thomas says that one of the biggest challenges for Friday is that people automatically assume it’s competing with an Asana or Trello, as opposed to being a layer on top of these products that brings all that information into one place.

“The number one problem is that we’re in a noisy space,” said Thomas. “There are a lot of tools that are saying they’re a remote work tool when they’re really just a layer on top of Zoom or a video conferencing tool. There is certainly increased amount of interest in the space in a good and positive way, but it also means that we have to work harder to cut through the noise.”

The Friday team is small for now — four full-time staff members — and Thomas says that he plans to double the size of the team following the seed round. Thomas declined to share any information around the diversity breakdown of the team.

Following a beta launch at the beginning of 2020, Friday says it is used by employees at organizations such as Twitter, LinkedIn, Quizlet, Red Hat and EA, among others.

This latest round brings the company’s total funding to $2.5 million.

Work From Home is dead, long live Work From Anywhere

Categories: Business News

Corporate services platform Sleek lands $4 million in new funding

2020, November 23 - 11:01pm

Sleek, the corporate services platform that helps entrepreneurs launch and run new companies in Singapore and Hong Kong, has raised $4 million.

The new funding was led by SEEDS Capital, the investment arm of government agency Enterprise Singapore. Returning investors MI8 Limited and Pierre Lorinet also participated, along with Singapore Fintech Association co-founder Varun Mittal as part of Sequoia Capital’s scout program.

Sleek co-founder and chief growth officer Adrien Barthel told TechCrunch that the funding is part of Sleek’s seed round and brings the startup’s total raised so far to $7 million. It will start raising a Series A next year.

Founded three years ago by Barthel and Julien Labruyere, Sleek first began offering online corporate services, including company incorporation, compliance, digital accounting and tax filing, in Singapore before expanding into Hong Kong. Sleek now serves more than 3,000 companies, ranging from individual consultants to SMEs, startups and investment vehicles for funds, Barthel said.

Sleek is one of several cloud-based corporate services platforms focused on Singapore and/or Hong Kong, where regulations make it easier to incorporate companies and file taxes online, that have recently raised new venture capital funding. Others include Lanturn, Osome and Bluemeg. These startups were originally launched to reduce the amount of time and money spent on performing operational tasks, but the COVID-19 pandemic has increased demand for their services.

Lanturn, a Singaporean tech-enabled corporate services provider, raises $3 million seed round

“We are happy to see other digital initiatives coming up around us,” Barthel told TechCrunch. “The market is wide enough for us to evolve on different positioning, and we’re only starting to see traditional firms looking at embracing the use of technology.”

While Sleek’s peers also offer secretarial, accounting and tax services, Barthel said his company’s vision “is to become the entrepreneur’s operating system, by going beyond that common service ground and building a range of services that are here to fit all entrepreneurs’ needs.”

For example, it recently released an electronic signature app called SleekSign that has digitized 145,000 signatures so far, added payroll services and launched a corporate insurance desk. Barthel said more product releases are planned for the end of this year and the first quarter of 2021.

In addition to growing its roster of services for entrepreneurs, Sleek also plans to expand into new markets where regulations also mesh well with its digital services.

“Our platform being common law friendly, we’re looking at such jurisdictions with attention, such as Australia, the United Kingdom and North America,” said Barthel. “We are also closely looking at a few regional markets in Southeast Asia where regulatory frameworks are evolving and accepting progressively the use of technology for governance management and accounting.”

Singapore-based digital business assistant Osome raises $3 million

Categories: Business News

Metigy gets $20 million AUD to make online marketing easier for SMEs

2020, November 23 - 11:01pm

David Fairfull, CEO and co-founder of Metigy

Metigy, a marketing platform created to help small businesses automate more of the decision making in their online ad campaigns, has raised a Series B of $20 million AUD (about $14.6 million USD). The new funding, led by returning investor Cygnet Capital, will be used to grow the Sydney, Australia-based startup’s international customer base, especially in the United States and Southeast Asia. Other participants in the round included Regal Funds Management, OC Funds, Five V Venture Capital and Thorney, plus returning

Founded in 2015, Metigy is currently used by about 26,000 businesses and has channel partnerships with Google and Optus. About 44% of its customers are in Australia and New Zealand, while 26% are in Southeast Asia, and 22% are in the United States. The startup has raised AUD $27.1 million (about USD $19.9 million) in total.

Co-founder and chief executive officer David Fairfull told TechCrunch Metigy was created because “half of SMEs fail in the first two years and marketing is one of the top two reasons for this. It’s a global issue and a paradigm that can be changed by harnessing technology.”

Fairfull and other members of Metigy’s founding team previously worked at We Are Social, a global creative agency. While there, they “spotted an opportunity to give small businesses access to the same data and strategic insights” as larger marketing teams.

Marketing platform Metigy’s Command Center

Metigy’s platform gives more support to small or inexperienced marketing teams by using real-time data from their online advertising channels to create a livestream of recommendations. For example, it will tell marketing teams if they should start posting more content right away, use more hashtags or schedule more posts. The platforms also predicts what posts will result in the most conversions, helping companies decide how to spend their advertising budget.

For example, one of Metigy’s customers, parking app Share with Oscar, used Metigy to analyze what was trending on social media when members of the Royal Family visited Sydney. As a result, Fairfull said they were able to generate 2,700 customer engagements by spending about AUD $10 (about USD $7).

Other social marketing platforms like Hootsuite and Sprout Social are “essentially process solutions that help make the marketer more efficient,” said Fairfull. “However, if you don’t understand marketing, then all this process efficiency won’t help you gain results.”

Metigy is focusing on the United States and Southeast Asia because of the large number of SMEs there. By 2022, there is expected to be 30 million SMEs in the U.S. “On top of this, success in marketing technology is often benchmarked by success in the U.S., so expanding in this region adds credibility,” Fairfull added.

But in terms of volume, Southeast Asia offers a more promising market. “The real growth opportunity for us though is in Southeast Asia, where there is expected to be 150 million SMEs across the 11 markets by 2022,” Fairfull said. But the majority of them don’t have large marketing teams or access to the kind of ad technology that larger companies do. Companies in the region also tend to be more price sensitive, Fairfull added, so artificial intelligence and machine learning-based technology helps lower the cost of software like Metigy to an attractive price.

 

Categories: Business News

Resilience raises over $800 million to transform pharmaceutical manufacturing in response to COVID-19

2020, November 23 - 10:26pm

Resilience, a new biopharmaceutical company backed by $800 million in financing from investors including ARCH Venture Partners and 8VC, has emerged from stealth to transform the way that drugs and therapies are manufactured in the U.S.

Founded by ARCH Venture Partners investor Robert Nelsen, National Resilience Inc., which does business as Resilience, was born out of Nelsen’s frustrations with the inept American response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to a statement, the company will invest heavily in developing new manufacturing technologies across cell and gene therapies, viral vectors, vaccines and proteins.

Resilience’s founders identified problems in the therapeutic manufacturing process as one of the key problems that the industry faces in bringing new treatments to market — and that hurdle is exactly what the company was founded to overcome.

“COVID-19 has exposed critical vulnerabilities in medical supply chains, and today’s manufacturing can’t keep up with scientific innovation, medical discovery, and the need to rapidly produce and distribute critically important drugs at scale. We are committed to tackling these huge problems with a whole new business model,” said Nelsen in a statement.

The company brings together some of the leading investment firms in healthcare and biosciences, including operating partners from Flagship Pioneering like Rahul Singhvi, who will serve as the company’s chief executive; former Food and Drug Administration commissioner Scott Gottlieb, a partner at New Enterprise Associates and director on the Resilience board; and Patrick Yang, the former executive vice president and global head of technical operations at Roche/Genentech .

Flagship Pioneering raises $1.1 billion to spend on sustainability and health-focused biotech

“It is critical that we adopt solutions that will protect the manufacturing supply chain, and provide more certainty around drug development and the ability to scale up the manufacturing of safe, effective but also more complex products that science is making possible,” said Dr. Gottlieb, in a statement. “RESILIENCE will enable these solutions by combining cutting edge technology, an unrivaled pool of talent, and the industry’s first shared service business model. Similar to Amazon Web Services, RESILIENCE will empower drug developers with the tools to more fully align discovery, development, and manufacturing; while offering new opportunities to invest in downstream innovations in formulation and manufacturing earlier, while products are still being conceived and developed.”

Other heavy hitters in the world of medicine and biotechnology who are working with the company include Frances Arnold, the Nobel Prize-winning professor from the California Institute of Technology; George Barrett, the former chief executive of Cardinal Health; Susan Desmond-Hellmann, the former president of product development at Genentech; Kaye Foster, the former vice president of human resources at Johnson and Johnson; and Denice Torres, the former president of Johnson & Johnson Pharmaceutical and Consumer Companies.

Categories: Business News

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