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Calling Bucharest VCs: Be featured in The Great TechCrunch Survey of European VC

TechCrunch is embarking on a major project to survey the venture capital investors of Europe, and their cities.
Our survey of VCs in Bucharest and Romania will capture how the country is faring, and what changes are being wrought amongst investors by the coronavirus pandemic.
We’d like to know how Romania’s startup scene is evolving, how the tech sector is being impacted by COVID-19, and, generally, how your thinking will evolve from here.
Our survey will only be about investors, and only the contributions of VC investors will be included. More than one partner is welcome to fill …

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Color raises $167 million funding at $1.5 billion valuation to expand ‘last mile’ of U.S. health infrastructure

Healthcare startup Color has raised a sizeable $167 million in Series D funding round, at a valuation of $1.5 billion post-money, the company announced today. This brings the total raised by Color to $278 million, with its latest large round intended to help it build on a record year of growth in 2020 with even more expansion to help put in place key health infrastructure systems across the U.S. – including those related to the “last mile” delivery of COVID-19 vaccines.
This latest investment into Color was led by General Catalyst, and by funds invested by T. Rowe Price, along with participation from Viking …

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December: Despite Pandemic, Opportunity in Retail Remains ‘Exceptional’

The second trend, according to Stewart, is consumer/retailer emphasis on physical health. “COVID-19 brought fear and panic to the retail landscape. The closure of non-essential retail stores to stop the spread of the virus, while mandated for public health, brought intense financial ramifications,” Stewart explains. “At the same time, the focus on health accelerated the development and application of technologies to allow consumers to shop safely. While many innovations were in the development pipeline, the pandemic greatly compressed the application timeline. In part, these technologies include those that facilitate touchless retail, including customer interfaces, virtual testing and try-on of …

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Russia Ready to Trial Combined AstraZeneca, Sputnik V Vaccine in Ukraine

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Russia is ready to conduct clinical trials in Ukraine of a COVID-19 vaccine combining its Sputnik V with a vaccine developed by AstraZeneca together with Oxford University, the head of Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) said on Saturday, Reuters reported.
Russia’s sovereign RDIF, which is marketing the Sputnik V vaccine abroad, announced in December trials to test a combination of the AstraZeneca vaccine with the Sputnik V shot to see if this can boost the efficacy of the British drugmaker’s vaccine.








Previous articleThe Kremlin Need Have No Fear of Mass Economic Protests

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Law on Tax Relief for Russian It Companies Comes Into Force on January 1

The law enabling Russian IT companies – software developers to enjoy tax relief comes into force on Friday, January 1. Particularly, it lowers the rates of insurance premiums for the industry and income tax rates, TASS reported.
A respective bill was signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin into law in late July. The tax maneuver envisions a reduction starting January 1, 2021 of the rate of insurance premiums for the industry from 14% to 7.6%, and of the income tax rate – from 20% to 3%.

The reduced taxation rate is only applicable to software developers and does not apply in respect of distributors and companies, whose revenue from …

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Austin-based ReturnSafe raises $3.25 million for its employee health management tools

ReturnSafe, a symptom checking and contact tracing employee health management toolkit for businesses, has raised $3.25 million in financing from investors including Fifty Years and Active Capital. 
With companies looking to reopen operations and have their employees return to work safely, management toolkits that track employee health are piling into the market offering all sorts of strategies to maintain a safe work environment.
These include offerings from companies like WorkSafe; or the ProtectWell tool from Microsoft and UnitedHealth; or NSpace, which has similar features and a scheduling tool for booking office space safely.
For its part, ReturnSafe is boasting six figure …

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Lt. Gen. John Thompson explains how startups can interact with the Space Force

Space Force’s Lt. Gen. John Thompson spoke at TechCrunch Session: Space earlier this week. Throughout the wide-ranging interview, General Thompson explained the various ways and means for private companies like startups should interact with Space Force.
Thompson knows what he’s talking about. As the Commander of the Space and Missiles Systems Center, he oversees research, design, development, and acquisition of satellites and their associated command and control systems for the U.S. Space Force. His role puts him in direct contact with some of the most ambitious and innovative startups.

He pointed to three things when asked what’ …

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Bristol entrepreneur who exited for $800M doubles-down on the city with deep-tech incubator and VC fund

Harry Destecroix co-founded Ziylo while studying for his PhD at the University of Bristol. Ziylo, a university spin-out company, developed a synthetic molecule allowing glucose to bind with the bloodstream more effectively. Four years later, and by then a Phd, Destecroix sold the company to Danish firm Novo Nordisk, one of the biggest manufacturers of diabetes medicines, which had realized it could use Ziylo’s molecule to develop a new type of insulin to help diabetics. He walked away with an estimated $800m.
Destecroix is now embarking on a project, “Science Creates”, to repeat the exercise of creating deep-tech, science-based …

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MSCHF’s Push Party raises an unconventional seed round at a $200 million valuation

As part of its latest stunt, MSCHF, a venture-backed creative studio that’s smarter and more audacious than most, is poking a little fun at the venture industry itself and perhaps publications like TechCrunch too. The startup has spun out a rather simplistic app into a separate company and raised an undisclosed amount of seed funding from a very real venture capital firm at an eye-popping $200 million valuation.

For the time being, the actual completion of the legal paperwork to cement this valuation seems like a more complex hurdle than the technical challenges of building the app itself. Push Party is by all means a Gen-Z Yo, it does one thing and one thing only, allows people to push a button which sends a push notification to every user of the app. There are no friends, no groups, no influencers. It’s a big button that fires off an awful lot of notifications.

Image via MSCHF

Like everything else MSCHF does, the app is designed with virality in mind. The startup’s last application they shipped, “Finger on the App” launched a huge online contest that ended after multiple winners who spent several days with their finger sitting on their phone screen. The fun with this rollout is that there’s no telling who pushed the button especially when users can set their own user names and unsurprisingly seem keen to pick celebrity names.

If the app Push Party takes some heavy inspiration from Yo, it’s also taking a page from what helped make it famous, namely a quizzically high early valuation for a product that did almost nothing. Back in simpler times, 2014, Yo raised $1.5 million on $10 million. But fast forward to 2020 and earning a $10 million valuation for a half-baked conceptual take doesn’t mean quite as much, it’s been normalized to a degree. As a result, MSCHF upped the ante and banked a $200 million valuation for Push Party in this raise.

It used to be that a $200 million valuation was a sign of late-stage traction rather than early-stage hype, but high valuations have grown increasingly common for investors racing to win the most competitive deals. Earlier this summer, audio startup Clubhouse raised eyebrows when it banked a $100 million early valuation, and just a few months ago, Roam, a note-taking app with a cult following raised a seed round on $200 million.

Push Party’s round was financed by Founders Fund with Principal Trae Stephens driving the deal. If you’re puzzled how the MSCHF team bagged a real investor from a real firm for a dubiously real project, the mystery fades when you find Stephens is unsurprisingly a backer of MSCHF itself. Stephens is by all means, in on the joke.

In a tongue-in-cheek press release, Stephens notes that, “We were a bit concerned by the valuation at first, but I told my people to run toward gunfire for anything less than $250 million.”

Is any of this real? Well, MSCHF insists that they went through all of the legal steps of incorporating Push Party and raising this round. How much the startup actually raised is perhaps more suspect, it’s unclear whether this was a $10 million investment or $1 million or $10,000, the team wasn’t too keen to go into details there, though I did ask someone from MSCHF whether the round was more than $100, and they confirmed that it was definitely more than $100.

Though the company refused to dissect what exactly it’s trying to communicate here, I think a good part of it is just poking at the idea that in today’s climate of ridiculous valuations there’s a tendency for some fairly nebulous numbers to signal value or innovation where this isn’t quite as much. And that often times a high valuation from a prestigious firm is a vote of confidence that drives Silicon Valley watchers to drive downloads while other investors toss in checks, engineers send in job applications and, yes, journalists write stories.

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Funded by Connect Ventures, Purple Dot plans to take on Klarna-style purchase debt

In recent times startups have appeared offering credit at an e-commerce basket checkout so that a customer can buy a product without needing to pay right away. Klarna or Clearpay are the two most notable in this field. But what if you flipped the model around so that consumers could buy the item at a lower price later on, and the retailer could reduce waste? This is the model of Purple Dot, which bills itself as a ‘worth-the-wait’ payment option for fashion brands.

It’s now raised a seed round of £1.35 million, led by Connect Ventures, with support from AI Seed, Moxxie Ventures, Andy Chung and Philipp Moehring from AngelList, Alex Roetter former SVP of Engineering at Twitter and the family office of Paul Forster, co-founder of Indeed.com.

Founded in August 2019 by senior Skyscanner employees Madeline Parra (CEO) and John Talbott (CTO), Purple Dot allows consumers to request a ‘worth-the-wait’ lower price. The advantage for retailers is that they can then decide whether or not to release a fashion product mid-season at a slightly reduced rate in order to secure the sale.

“Unlike Klarna, we don’t encourage consumers to buy stuff they can’t afford.”

The customers still pays upfront and then waits to have the item confirmed, receiving a full refund if not. The Purple Dot payment method sits alongside ‘buy now, pay later’ finance options.

This ‘worth-the-wait’ price does not usually fall below a 10-20% reduction from the recommended retail price, thus reducing losses from end-of-season discounting, where discounts are much deeper. The advantage for the consumer is that they don’t then rack up debt on their purchases.

The startup says it’s already in talks with a number of major UK and US high street brands but has already secured menswear retailer Spoke, which will also use the tech for ‘pre-ordering’. This means they can test out new styles, designs and fabrics in a limited manner, thus reducing waste (and therefore carbon emissions) when they commit to a new line of clothing.

Madeline Parra, CEO of Purple Dot, commented: “When shopping online today, customers can either pay the retail price or walk away. When they do walk away, the item goes through the discounting process, becomes unprofitable for the merchant and is resigned to landfill. This binary system isn’t working for anyone – the customer loses out on the item, because it may go out of stock in their size before they attempt to purchase it again, and the merchant loses the sale. Purple Dot tackles this problem head-on by providing a new way to shop, taking on unsustainable, unrelenting consumerism, poor pricing tactics and profit-crunching sales at the same time.”

Speaking to TechCrunch she also added that “Unlike Klarna, we don’t encourage consumers to buy stuff they can’t afford.”

Pietro Bezza, General Partner at Connect Ventures, commented:  “Purple Dot’s innovative proposition benefits retailers by creating a solution to their inventory problems. End of season ‘panic sales’ have long caused financial uncertainty for retailers and a negative impact on the environment in equal measure.”

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