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India’s WareIQ raises $1.65M for its Amazon-like delivery platform for sellers

Despite e-commerce firms Amazon and Walmart and others pouring billions of dollars in India, offline retail still commands more than 95% of all sales in the world’s second largest internet market.

The giants have acknowledged the strong hold neighborhood stores (mom and pop shops) have in the country, and in recent quarters scrambled for ways to work with them. Mukesh Ambani, India’s richest man, has made the dynamics more interesting in the past year as he works to help these neighborhood stores sell online.

But the market opportunity is still too large, and there are many aspects of the old retail business that could use some tech. That’s the bet WareIQ, a Bangalore-headquartered, Y Combinator-backed startup is making. And it has just raised a $1.65 million Seed financing round from YC, FundersClub, Pioneer Fund, Soma Capital, Emles Venture Advisors, and founders of Flexport.

The one-year-old startup operates a platform to leverage the warehouses across the country. It has built a management system for these warehouses, most of which largely engage in offline business-to-business commerce and have had little to no prior e-commerce exposure.

“We connect these warehouses across India to our platform and utilize their infrastructure for e-commerce order processing,” said Harsh Vaidya, co-founder and chief executive of WareIQ, in an interview with TechCrunch. The company offers this as a service to retail businesses.

Who are these businesses? Third-party sellers, some of whom sell to Amazon and Flipkart and use WareIQ to speed up their delivery, e-commerce firms, social commerce platforms as well as neighborhood stores, and social media influencers.

Any online store, for instance, can send its products to WareIQ, which has integrations with several popular e-commerce platforms and marketplaces. It works with courier partners to move items from one warehouse to another to offer the fastest delivery, explained Vaidya.

The infrastructure stitched together by WareIQ also enables an online seller to set up their own store and engage with customers directly, thereby saving fees they would have paid to Amazon and other established e-commerce players.

“The sellers were not able do this on their own before because it required them to talk directly to warehousing companies that maintain their own rigid contracts, and high-security deposits, and they still needed to work with multiple technology providers to complete the tech-stack,” he said. WareIQ also offers these sellers last-mile delivery, cash collection, and fraud detection among several other services.

“In a way, we are building an open source Amazon fulfilment service, where any seller can send their goods to any of our warehouses and we fulfil their Amazon orders, Myntra orders, Flipkart orders, or their own website orders. We also comply with the standard of these individual marketplaces, so our sellers get a Prime tag on Amazon,” he said.

WareIQ is free for anyone to sign up with any charge and it takes a cut by the volume of orders it processes. The startup today works with over 40 fulfilment centres and it plans to deploy the fresh capital to expand its network to tier 2 and tier 3 cities, he said. It’s also hiring for a number of tech roles.

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Donut launches Watercooler, an easy way to socialize online with coworkers

If you miss hanging out with your coworkers but don’t want to spend a single second more on Zoom, the latest product from Donut might be the answer.

The startup is launching its new Watercooler product today while also announcing that it has raised $12 million in total funding, led by Accel and with participation from Bloomberg Beta, FirstMark, Slack Fund and various angel investors.

Co-founder and CEO Dan Manian told me that this is actually money that the startup raised before the pandemic, across multiple rounds. It just didn’t announce the fundraising until now.

The startup’s vision, Manian said, is “to create human connection between people at work.” Its first product, Intros, connects teammates who didn’t already know each via Slack, often with the goal of setting up quick coffee meetings (originally in-person and now virtual).

Donut says it has facilitated 4 million connections across 12,000 companies (including The New York Times, Toyota and InVision), with 1 million of those connections made since the beginning of the pandemic.

However, Manian said customers have been asking Donut to facilitate more frequent interactions, especially since most people aren’t going to have these coffee meetings every day. At the same time, people face are the duelling issues of isolation and Zoom fatigue, where “the antidote to one thing makes the other pain worse.” And he suggested that one of the hardest things to recreate while so many of us are working remotely are “all the little microinteractions that you have while you’re working.”

That’s where Watercooler comes in — as the name suggests, it’s designed to replicate the feeling of hanging out at the office watercooler, having brief, low-key conversations. Like Intros, it integrates with Slack, creating a new channel where Watercooler will post fun, conversation-starting questions like “‘What’s your favorite form of potato?” or “What’s one thing you’ve learned in your career that you wish you knew sooner?”

Talking about these topics shouldn’t take much time, but Manian argued that brief conversations are important: “Those things add up to friendship over time, they’re what actually transform you from coworker to friend.” And those friendships are important for employers too, because they help with team cohesion and retention.

I fully endorse the idea of a Slack watercooler — in fact, the TechCrunch editorial team has a very active “watercooler” channel and I’m always happy to waste time there. My big question was: Why do companies need to purchase a product for this?

Donut Watercooler

Manian said that there were “a bunch of our early adopters” who had tried doing this manually, but it was always in the “past tense”: “It got too hard to come up with the questions, or it took real work coming up with them, whoever was doing it already had a it full time job.”

With Watercooler, on the other hand, the company can choose from pre-selected topics and questions, set the frequency with which those questions are posted and then everything happens automatically.

Manian also noted that different organizations will focus on different types of questions. There are no divisive political questions included, but while some teams will stick to easy questions about things like potatoes and breakfast foods, others will get into more substantive topics like the ways that people prefer to receive feedback.

And yes, Manian thinks companies will still need these tools after the pandemic is over.

“Work has fundamentally changed,” he said. “I don’t think we’ll put remote work back in the bottle. I think it’s here to stay.”

At the same time, he described the past few months as “training wheels” for a hybrid model, where some team members go back to the office while others continue working remotely. In his view, teams will face an even bigger challenge then: To keep their remote members feeling like they’re connected and in-the-loop.

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One-click housing startup Atmos raises another $4M from Khosla, real estate strategics, and TikTok star Josh Richards

Atmos wants to make designing a house as simple as a single click. Well, that vision is now getting a double click from VCs.

The company, which we profiled back in July, announced today that it raised another $4 million, this time from Evan Moore at Khosla Ventures, real estate strategic investors like David Gerster at JLL Spark and Lennar board member Scott Stowell as well as individuals like Adam Nash of Dropbox and TikTok star Josh Richards, who I guess has turned that whole concept of hype houses into a real estate investment thesis. Or something.

That’s on top of the company’s earlier $2 million seed round, bringing the total fundraised to $6 million if this desk calculator is functioning.

Atmos has made even more progress since they graduated from YC earlier this year. According to CEO Nick Donahue, users have started designing the “first dozen homes” on the platform, and the first home designed through Atmos has now broken ground on construction.

The company has also done an acquihire to expand its team, and it is growing its technology to allow users to more easily visualize their housing designs within the context of specific property lots.

If you’re curious about the company’s founding story and more of what they are doing, definitely read more from our story just a few weeks ago.

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Robust.AI raises a $15M Series A to improve problem solving for collaborative robots

Robust.AI today announced that it has raised a $15 million Series A, led by Jazz Venture Partners. Existing partners Playground Global, Liquid2, Fontinalis, Jaan Tallinn and Mark Leslie also participated in the round, which brings the Bay Area-based robotics AI startup’s funding up to $22.5 million.

Founded mid-2019, the company counts Rodney Brooks among its C-level executives. The iRobot co-founder serves as the startup’s CTO, following the unexpected closure of the promising (but financially untenable) Rethink, which gave the world the Baxter and Sawyer robots. (Fellow iRobot co-founder Helen Greiner also notably landed at a new venture in recent months). CEO Gary Marcus, meanwhile, is also the co-founder of Geometric Intelligence, which was acquired by Uber, back in 2016.

At the core of Robust.AI are plans to build “the world’s first industrial-grade cognitive engine for robots,” essentially providing collaborative robots sufficient problem-solving capacity to effectively work alongside humans.

The company is still quite new, but many robotics and automation investments have seemingly been fast-tracked by a pandemic that has hamstrung much of the human workforce. Robust’s stated mission is to overhaul the software stack that runs many of these machines, in order to to make them function better in often complex environments.

“Finding market fit is as important in robots and AI systems as any other product,” Brooks said in a statement. “We are building something we believe most robotics companies will find irresistible, taking solutions from single-purpose tools that today function in defined environments, to highly useful systems that can work within our world and all its intricacies.”

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Hebbia wants to make Ctrl-F (or Command-F) actually useful through better AI

Deep learning has made tremendous strides in recent years, with new systems and models like GPT-3 offering higher quality interpretations of human language, empowering developers to use these concepts in more diverse applications. We can see these developments in our text-to-speech voice recorders and dual language translation apps, which have gotten shockingly good these days.

But what is the next wave of functionality that this AI infrastructure can empower? Hebbia wants to find out.

Hebbia today is a startup but really a product studio, a sort of sketchpad for AI ideas founded by George Sivulka, a PhD student from Stanford (currently on leave) and a mélange of three other Stanford AI researchers and engineers. The group, using the new deep learning techniques and models available today, is trying to push the boundaries of what knowledge graphs, semantic analysis, and AI can ultimately do for human productivity.

Sivulka was inspired to focus on this domain from witnessing his friends’ experiences working in the knowledge economy. “A lot of my peers … everyone goes into these white-collar jobs where they’re sitting down and just reading immense quantities of information all day,” Sivulka said. “People become banking analysts and dig through SEC forms for one or two lines of information, or go to law school or become legal analysts and do the same thing… [They’re] just bogged down by these walls of text, by this like avalanche of information that is impossible to make sense of.”

(Tell me about it).

What he and his team want to do is supercharge human productivity by building search, analysis, and summarization tools that can help you make sense of your own, personal universe of knowledge. “The idea is that Hebbia is building these productivity tools for thought that augment the way that you do work. They’re things that actually control the information input and outputs that you have to deal with every day,” Sivulka said.

It’s an ambitious vision, so they had to start somewhere. Their first product, which is what got me excited about the vision, is a Chrome plugin that’s been in private beta and is being released to the world more broadly today (note: it’s still unlisted in the Chrome Store for now). The plugin upgrades the search functionality in Chrome to go beyond mere text pattern matching to begin to comprehend what your query actually is and how it might be answered given the text on a page. Here’s a demo of the plugin on TechCrunch:

Hebbia’s Ctrl-F product on TechCrunch. Photo via Hebbia.

So, for instance, you could Ctrl-F on a Wikipedia page and ask “Where did this person live?” and the plugin can determine that you are asking for locations and begin to highlight text on that page with relevant information. It’s AI, and pretty beta AI at that, so of course, your experience can and will be inconsistent right now. But as Hebbia tunes its models and improves its understanding of text, the hope is that browser search can be completely transformed and become a massive productivity boost.

Sivulka is something of an early wunderkind. He worked at NASA as a teenager, and graduated from his bachelor’s at Stanford in 2.5 years, finishing his master’s a bit more than a year later, and started a PhD before getting waylaid by Hebbia.

Hebbia’s vision has already attracted the notice of VCs in just its early months. Ann Miura-Ko at Floodgate led a $1.1 million pre-seed round that was joined by Naval Ravikant, Peter Thiel, Kevin Hartz, Michael Fertik and Cory Levy.

Sivulka notes that their Ctrl-F product is the main focus for the company right now, and acts as a sort of gateway into the larger potential that knowledge graphs and personal productivity offer. “This is one of the final frontiers of what computers can do,” Sivulka said, noting that computation has already revolutionized many fields by digitizing data and making it easier to process. With Ctrl-F, “this is a baseline technology, [we’re] just scratching the surface of what we can do with this.”

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Stark raises $1.5M for a toolkit that helps developers and others create more inclusive design

Diversity and inclusion are slowly, slowly moving away from being an afterthought (or worse, a no-thought) in the tech world. And to underscore the new attention the area is getting — in every aspect of the concept — today a startup that’s building tools to help designers and developers make their end products more accessible to people with visual impairments is announcing some funding.

Stark, a New York-based startup that lets designers others building with design software run their files through an integrated tool that checks it and provides color edits and other suggestions to help them meet guidelines for people who see less well, has picked up $1.5 million.

Stark plans to use the funding to continue building integrations into commonly-used design apps and create integrations for developers (where it will read and provide guidance on code: next up is a Github integration), and continue building out its business with expanded pricing and usage tiers.

Currently, users can use plugins of Stark on Figma, Sketch & Adobe XD that let them access a Contrast Checker, Smart Color Suggestions, 8 Colorblind Simulations, a Colorblind Generator, and Rapid Contrast Checking (on Adobe XD).

Longer term, the plan is to build and end-to-end platform and to address inclusivity for other kinds of needs beyond visual impairments, and, since accessibility can come in physical forms, too, to consider more than just software, and to create more ways to automatically correct details.

As Cat Noone — the now-European-based CEO who co-founded the company with Michael Fouquet (the team is working remotely, she said) — describes it, the ambition is to “become the Grammarly for accessibility in software.”

The funding, a pre-seed round, is coming from a wide and interesting group of backers. It was led by Daniel Darling and Pascal Unger from Darling Ventures, with participation also from Jason Warner, the CTO of Github; Indicator Ventures; Kleiner Perkins’ Scout Fund; and Basecamp Ventures. Individual backers include the product lead for accessibility at Atlassian, the director of equitable design & impact at Culture Amp, a director of design at DuckDuckGo, a former VP of software development at Oracle, and more.

Part of the reason that Stark has gotten attention from all of these investors is because of its traction.

Early versions of the software have been out for eight months now, in the form of the plugins for Sketch, Adobe XD and Figma, and in that time it’s clocked up 300,000 users, mostly designers, engineers, and product managers across those three design platforms, with current customers including people from Microsoft, Oscar Health, US Bank, Instagram, Pfizer, Volkswagen, Dropbox and more.

It also has 10,000 people in its “community”, which includes people engaging with Stark more directly (rather than just using its plugins), on platforms like Slack, getting its newsletter and more.

Diversity and inclusion have been in the headlines this year, which is good news, even if the reason for it has been not so good — the sorry state of how minorities are treated by law enforcement. Partly because of the profile of those incidents and the subsequent protests, much of the world has associated the concept of D&I very closely with racial inclusion. While that story continues to unfold (and we hopefully continue see more positive and sustained efforts to address it), the kind of diversity and inclusion Stark is addressing is of a different sort.

It’s a logical, if often overlooked area: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that (as of 2018) around one in every four adults in the U.S. alone live with some form of disability (a figure that doesn’t count children), with the biggest of these being cognitive disabilities. This essentially means that while a lot of design (and tech in general) is not really built to address this wider group, it’s a very sizable market.

At a time when technology is regularly made out to be the bad guy — and the reasons are many, touching on mental health; physical health; and economic, environmental, civil and legal impacts — designing software and hardware that is more inclusive could go a very long way in bridging some of those gaps that tech has created with (and within) society.

“We’re talking about the largest minority group in the U.S.,” Noone said. “You wouldn’t build a building today without a wheelchair ramp, so why aren’t we accounting for those individuals in our software design?”

Noone said that she and Fouquet originally landed on the idea of Stark when they were doing some work for another firm, building an emergency services app that would get used by the elderly. They built a very early version of the tool for themselves to use in that work. Showing it to others, they found people asking if they could use it, too. “And then it just kind of snowballed,” she said.

She then said that she found herself going down a “rabbit hole into the world of design and accessibility” and realised that not only were there no tools really built to address this out there, but that there was “so much more to the problem than colors.” (Colors was where Stark started, hence the great name.)

There is an interesting stick and carrot in the bigger market with things like inclusive design: for some it might be an issue of having to comply, others simply believe it’s the right thing to do, while yet others may not care but (rather cynically) believe being inclusive is a good look. Whatever the motivation is, the trick with Stark is that it’s making it easy to be inclusive for more people, and lowering the barrier at the end of the day can only be a good thing.

“No software product should exclude a disadvantaged minority of their users. It’s bad for business and bad for society,” said Darling in a statement. “We’re seeing dramatic increasing awareness amongst software designers, developers and executives to ship products that are universally accessible. Stark has quickly earned the trust of the industry and is on a path to become an important part of software infrastructure. We’re thrilled to partner with such a mission driven company that is already improving how software is produced around the world.”​

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ShopUp raises $22.5 million to digitize millions of mom-and-pop shops in Bangladesh

A startup that is aiming to digitize millions of neighborhood stores in Bangladesh just raised the country’s largest Series A financing round.

Dhaka-headquartered ShopUp said on Tuesday it has raised $22.5 million in a round co-led by Sequoia Capital India and Flourish Ventures. For both the venture firms, this is the first time they are backing a Bangladeshi startup. Veon Ventures, Speedinvest, and Lonsdale Capital also participated in the four-year-old ShopUp’s Series A financing round. ShopUp has raised about $28 million to date.

Like its neighboring nation, India, more than 95% of all retail in Bangladesh goes through neighborhood stores in the country. There are about 4.5 million such mom-and-pop stores in the country and the vast majority of them have no digital presence.

ShopUp is attempting to change that. It has built what it calls a full-stack business-to-business commerce platform. It provides three core services to neighborhood stores: a wholesale marketplace to secure inventory, logistics (including last mile delivery to customers), and working capital, explained Afeef Zaman, co-founder and chief executive of ShopUp​, in an interview with TechCrunch.

Image Credits: ShopUp

These small shops are facing a number of challenges. They are not getting inventory on time or enough inventory and they are paying more than what they should, said Zaman. And for these businesses, more than 73% (PDF) of all their sales rely on credit instead of cash or digital payments, creating a massive liquidity crunch. So most of these businesses are in dire need of working capital.

Zaman declined to reveal how many mom-and-pop shops today use ShopUp, but claimed that the platform assumes a clear lead in its category in the country. That lead has widened amid the global pandemic as more physical shops explore digital offerings to stay afloat, he said.

The number of neighborhood shops transacting weekly on the ShopUp platform grew by 8.5 times between April and August this year, he said. The pandemic also helped ShopUp engage with e-commerce players to deliver items for them.

“Sequoia India has been a strong supporter of the company since it was part of the first Surge cohort in early 2019 and it’s been exciting to see the company become a trailblazer facilitating digital transformation in Bangladesh,” said ​Klaus Wang, VP, Sequoia Capital, in a statement.

The startup has no intention to become an e-commerce platform like Amazon that directly engages with consumers, Zaman said. E-commerce is still in its nascent stage in Bangladesh. Amazon has yet to enter the country and increasingly Facebook is filling that role.

ShopUp sees immense opportunity in serving neighborhood stores, he said. The startup plans to deploy the fresh capital to deepen its partnerships with manufacturers and expand its tech infrastructure.

It opened an office in Bengaluru earlier this year to hire local tech talent in the nation. Indian e-commerce platform Voonik merged with ShopUp this year and both of its co-founders have joined the Bangladeshi startup. Zaman said the startup will hire more engineering talent in India.

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SAIF Partners rebrands as Elevation Capital, secures $400 million for its new India fund

SAIF Partners has raised $400 million for a new fund and rebranded the 18-year-old influential venture capital firm as it looks to back more early-stage startups in the world’s second largest internet market.

The new fund is SAIF Partners’ seventh for early-stage startups in India. Its previous two funds were each $350 million in size, and the firm today manages more than $2 billion in assets.

SAIF Partners started investing in Indian startups 18 years ago. The firm began as a joint venture with SoftBank and its first high-profile investment was Sify. But the two firms’ joint venture ended more than a decade ago, so the firm is now getting around to rebranding itself, Ravi Adusumalli, the managing partner of SAIF Partners, told TechCrunch in an interview.

The firm — which has five unicorns in its portfolio, including Paytm’s parent firm One97 Communications, food delivery startup Swiggy and online learning platform Unacademy — is rebranding itself as Elevation Capital.

“Elevation reflects our investment ethos and re-emphasises our commitment to the founders who help redefine our future. For our existing partners, it is a commitment of continued collaboration on our path-breaking journeys together. For our new partners, it is a promise to do all we can to achieve great heights together, from day one,” said Adusumalli.

SAIF Partners has backed more than 100 startups to date. The venture firm makes long-term bets on founders and backs young firms beginning their early years when they are raising their seed, pre-Series A and Series A financing rounds.

The venture firm invests in startups operating in a wide-range of sectors and plans to continue this strategy and add more areas of interest, said Deepak Gaur, a managing director at Elevation Capital, in an interview with TechCrunch.

“Enterprise SaaS is one area where we are spending a lot of resources,” he said. “We believe the time has come for this sector and we will see many global companies emerge from India.”

More than 15 startups in Elevation Capital’s portfolio are projected to become a unicorn in the next few years, according to Tracxn, a firm that tracks startups and investments in India. These include healthcare booking platform PharmEasy, app-based platform to book home services Urban Company, insurance tech startup Acko, digital loan platform Capital Float, real estate property marketplace NoBroker and online marketplace for gold Rupeek.

A number of SAIF Partners-backed startups, including IndiaMART, MakeMyTrip and Justdial, have become publicly listed companies, too.

Mukul Arora, a managing partner at SAIF Partners, said that the state of the Indian startup ecosystem has changed for the better in the past decade. “A few years ago, we were seeing many startups replicate a foreign company’s play in India. Today, we are seeing our ideas being replicated outside of the country. Someone is building a Meesho for Brazil,” he said.

The founders have also grown more sophisticated, said Mayank Khanduja. Elevation Capital has over three dozen employees, with about two-dozen focused on the investment size.

Elevation Capital’s new fund comes at a time when many established venture capital firms have also closed their new funds for India in recent months. In July, Sequoia Capital announced two funds — totaling $1.35 billion in size — for India. A month later, Lightspeed raised $275 million for its third Indian fund. Accel late last year closed its sixth fund in India at $550 million.

All of the LPs participating in Elevation Capital’s new fund, as was the case with previous funds, are U.S.-based, and the vast majority of them are nonprofits, said Adusumalli. Without disclosing any figures, he said the firm’s previous funds have performed very well.

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Lee Fixel is already raising a massive second fund

On Friday, former Tiger Global Management investor Lee Fixel registered plans for the second fund of his new investment firm, Addition, just four months after closing the first. According to a report on Friday by the Financial Times, the outfit spent last week finalizing the fundraising for the $1.4 billion fund, which Addition reportedly doesn’t plan to begin investing until next year.

Now a source close to the firm says the capital has not been raised. That’s perhaps good news for investors who were shut out of Addition’s $1.3 billion debut fund and who might be hoping to write a check this time around.

The mere fact that Fixel is back in the market already has tongues wagging about the dealmaker, one whose reluctance to talk on the record with media outlets seems only to add to his mystique. Forbes published a lengthy piece about Fixel this summer, in which Fixel seems to have provided just one public statement, confirming the close of Addition’s first fund and adding little else. “We are excited to partner with visionary entrepreneurs, and with our 15-year fund duration, we have the patience to support our portfolio companies on their journey to build impactful and enduring businesses,” it read.

According to Forbes, that first fund — which Fixel is actively putting to work right now — intends to invest one-third of its capital in early-stage startups and two-thirds in growth-stage opportunities.

Whether that includes some of the special purpose acquisition vehicles, or SPACs, that are coming together right and left, isn’t yet known, though one imagines these might appeal to Fixel, who has long seemed to be at the forefront of new trends impacting growth-stage companies in particular. (A growing number of SPACs is right now looking to transform into public companies some of the many hundreds of richly valued private companies in the world.)

Clearer is that Addition is wasting little time in writing some big checks. Among its announced deals is Inshorts, a seven-year-old, New Delhi, India-based popular news aggregation app that last week unveiled $35 million new funding led by Fixel.

The deal represents Addition’s first India-based bet, even while Fixel knows both the country and the startup well. He previously invested in Inshorts on behalf of Tiger; he’s also credited for snatching up a big stake in Flipkart on behalf of Tiger, a move that reportedly produced $3.5 billion in profits when Flipkart sold to Walmart.

Addition also led a $200 million round last month in Snyk, a five-year-old, London-based startup that helps companies securely use open-source code. The round valued the company at $2.6 billion — more than twice the valuation it was assigned when it raised its previous round 10 months ago.

And in August, Addition led a $110 million Series D round for Lyra Health, a five-year-old, Burlingame, California-based provider of mental health care benefits for employers that was founded by former Facebook CFO David Ebersman.

A smaller check went to Temporal, a year-old, Seattle-based startup that is building an open-source, stateful microservices orchestration platform. Last week, the company announced $18.75 million in Series A funding led by Sequoia Capital, but Addition also joined the round, having been an earlier investor in the company.

According to PitchBook data, Addition has made at least 17 investments altogether.

Fixel — whose bets while at Tiger include Peloton and Spotify — isn’t running Addition single-handedly, though according to Forbes, he is the single “key man” around which the firm revolves, as well as the biggest investor in Addition’s first fund.

He has also brought aboard at least three investment principals from Wall Street and a head of data science who worked formerly for Uber (per Forbes). Ward Breeze, a longtime attorney who worked formerly in the emerging companies practice of Gunderson Dettmer, is also working with Fixel at Addition.

(Correction: An earlier version of this story reported that Fixel’s newest fund was already raised, per the FT.)

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Lawmatics raises $2.5M to help lawyers market themselves

Lawmatics, a San Diego startup that’s building marketing and CRM software for lawyers, is announcing that it has raised $2.5 million in seed funding.

CEO Matt Spiegel used to practice law himself, and he told me that even though tech companies have a wide range of marketing tools to choose from, “lawyers have not been able to adopt them,” because they need a product that’s tailored to their specific needs.

That’s why Spiegel founded Lawmatics with CTO Roey Chasman. He said that a law firm’s relationship with its clients can be divided into three phases — intake (when a client is deciding whether to hire a firm); the active legal case; and after the case has been resolved. Apparently most legal software is designed to handle phase two, while Lawmatics focuses on phases one and three.

The platform includes a CRM system to manage the initial client intake process, as well as tools that can automate a lot of what Spiegel called the “blocking and tackling” of marketing, like sending birthday messages to former clients — which might sound like a minor task, but Spiegel said it’s crucial for law firms to “nurture” those relationships, because most of their business comes from referrals.

Lawmatics’ early adopters, Spiegel added, have consisted of the firms in areas where “if you need a lawyer, you go to Google and start searching ‘personal injury,’ ‘bankruptcy,’ ‘estate planning,’ all these consumer-driven law firms.” And the pandemic led to accelerated the startup’s growth, because “lawyers are at home now, their business is virtual and they need more tools.”

Spiegel’s had success selling technology to lawyers in the past, with his practice management software startup MyCase acquired by AppFolio in 2012 (AppFolio recently sold MyCase to a variety of funds for $193 million). He said that the strategies for growing both companies are “almost identical” — the products are different, but “it’s really the same segment, running the same playbook, only with additional go-to-market strategies.”

The funding was led by Eniac Ventures and Forefront Venture Partners, with participation from Revel Ventures and Bridge Venture Partners.

“In my 10 years investing I have witnessed few teams more passionate, determined, and capable of revolutionizing an industry,” said Eniac’s Tim Young in a statement. “They have not only created the best software product the legal market has seen, they have created a movement.”

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