Posted on

This former Tesla CIO just raised $150 million more to pull car dealers into the 21st century

“I have to choose my words carefully,” says Joe Castelino of Stevens Creek Volkswagen in San Jose, California, when asked about the management software on which most car dealerships rely for inventory information, marketing, customer relationships and more.

Castelino, the dealership’s service director, laughs as he says this. But the joke has been on car dealers, most of whom have largely relied on a few frustratingly antiquated vendors for their dealer management systems over the years — along with more sophisticated point solutions.

It’s the precise opportunity that former Tesla CIO, Jay Vijayan, concluded he was well-positioned to address while still in the employ of the electric vehicle giant.

As Vijayan tells it now, he knew nothing about cars until joining Tesla in 2011, following 12 years in product development at Oracle, then VMware. Yet he learned plenty over the subsequent four years. Specifically, he says he helped to build with Elon Musk a central analysis system inside Tesla, a kind of brain that could see all of the company’s internal systems, from what was happening in the supply chain, to its factory systems, to its retail platform.

Tesla had to build it itself, says Vijayan; after evaluating the existing software of third-company providers, the team “realized that none of them had anything close to what we needed to provide a frictionless modern consumer experience.”

It was around that time that a lightbulb turned on. If Tesla could transform the experience for its own customers, maybe Vijayan could transform the buying and selling experience for the much bigger, broader automotive industry. Enter Tekion, a now four-year-old, San Carlos, California company that already employs 470 people locally and in Bangalore and just attracted $150 million in fresh funding led by the private equity investor Advent International.

With the Series C round — which also participation from Index Ventures, Airbus Ventures, FM Capital and Exor, the holding company of Fiat-Chrysler and Ferrari — the company has now raised $185 million altogether.

It’s also valued at north of $1 billion. (The automakers General Motors, BMW and the Nissan-Renault-Mitsubishi Alliance are also investors.)

Eric Wei, a managing director at Advent, says that over the last decade, his team had been eager to seize on what’s approaching a $10 billion market annually. Instead, they found themselves tracking incumbents Reynolds & Reynolds, CDKGlobal and Cox Automotive’s Dealertrack — and waiting for a better player to emerge.

Then Wei met Tekion through Jon McNeill, a former Tesla president and an advisory partner to Advent.

Says Wei of seeing how Tekion’s tech compared with its more established rivals: “It was like comparing a flip phone to an iPhone.”

Unsurprisingly, McNeill, who worked at Tesla with Vijayan, also sings the company’s praises, noting that Tekion even bought a dealership in Gilroy, Calif., to use as a kind of lab while it was building its technology from scratch.

It’s nice, such acclaim, but more important is that Tekion is also attracting the attention of dealers. Though Vijayan declines to share how many customers have bought its cloud software — which connects dealers with both manufacturers and car buyers and is powered by machine learning algorithms — he says it’s already being used across 28 states.

One of these dealerships is the national chain Serra Automotive, whose founder, Joseph Serra, is now an investor in Tekion.

Another is that Volkswagen dealership in San Jose, where Castelino — who doesn’t have a financial interest in Tekion — speaks enthusiastically about the time and expenses his team is saving because of Tekion’s platform.

For example, he says customers need only log-in now to flag a particular issue. After that, with the help of an RFID tag, Stevens Creek knows exactly when that customer pulls into the dealership and what kind of help they need, making their arrival far more seamless.

Tekion can also make recommendations based on a car’s history. It might, for instance, suggest a brake fluid flush to a customer without an advisor having to look through that customer’s history, Castelino says.

As crucially, he says, the dealership has been able to cut ties with a lot of other software vendors, while also making more productive use of its time. Says Castelino, “As soon as a [repair order] is live, it’s in a dispatcher’s hand and a technician can grab the car.” It’s like that with every step, he insists. “You’re saving 15 minutes again and again, and suddenly, you have three hours where your intake can be higher.”

With converts like Castelino, it’s easy to image Tekion making serious strides in market share. And yet it does have rivals, some of which have long contracts in place with their customers.

Even steeper competition, should it come, might eventually be from Tesla itself.

In a Tesla earnings call earlier today, Musk told analysts that there are essentially a dozen startups housed inside of Tesla, including one centered on vehicle service. It’s the very business that Vijayan helped to create.

As for whether Musk might spin out any of these, he said Tesla currently has no plans to do so. He suggested it has enough on its plate for the time being. If Tekion takes off, however, that could well change.

Read More

Posted on

London-Based Digital Bank Revolut Raises $500M To Reach $5.5B Valuation






British fintech startup Revolut reportedly raised $500 million in a new round of funding, lifting its valuation to $5.5 billion.

Subscribe to the Crunchbase Daily

The company, which was founded in 2015, is something like a new-age bank: Users can create accounts in the Revolut app and deposit and send money with it. 

Revolut wants to bring in 100 million customers in the next five years and expand outside of Europe, CEO Nik Storonsky told Bloomberg TV on Tuesday.

The new round brings Revolut’s total funding to about $837 million, according to Crunchbase. Its last valuation was $1.5 billion, but with its new $5.5 billion price tag, it’s tied with Swedish payment installment startup Klarna for the title of Europe’s most valuable fintech startup, according to Bloomberg.

TCV led the new round, and the company is also backed by investors like Index Ventures, TriplePoint Capital and DST Global. It last raised a $250 million Series C, led by DST Global, in April 2018. 

Fintech startups are certainly hot right now–they’re getting plenty of funding and a couple have seen high profile exits. Visa announced plans to acquire Plaid for $5.3 billion last month, and just yesterday Credit Karma confirmed rumors that it would be acquired by Intuit for $7.1 billion.

Revolut has more than 10 million customers and has processed more than 350 million transactions, according to the company’s website.

Illustration Credit: Li-Anne Dias







Craft Ventures led the round, which also included participation from AngelList CEO Naval Ravikant and Okta CEO Jon Runyan.

Launched by General Catalyst alumni, the 15-person firm has invested in six businesses in the U.S. and Canada.

The San Francisco-based company has raised a total of $368 million since its 2007 founding by Ken Lin, according to Crunchbase data.

Europe’s ride-sharing startups diversify by adding food and grocery delivery, and scooter and bike rentals to help take them to the top of the…

Source: Crunchbase News

Posted on

London-Based Digital Bank Revolut Raises $500M To Reach $5.5B Valuation






British fintech startup Revolut reportedly raised $500 million in a new round of funding, lifting its valuation to $5.5 billion.

Subscribe to the Crunchbase Daily

The company, which was founded in 2015, is something like a new-age bank: Users can create accounts in the Revolut app and deposit and send money with it. 

Revolut wants to bring in 100 million customers in the next five years and expand outside of Europe, CEO Nik Storonsky told Bloomberg TV on Tuesday.

The new round brings Revolut’s total funding to about $837 million, according to Crunchbase. Its last valuation was $1.5 billion, but with its new $5.5 billion price tag, it’s tied with Swedish payment installment startup Klarna for the title of Europe’s most valuable fintech startup, according to Bloomberg.

TCV led the new round, and the company is also backed by investors like Index Ventures, TriplePoint Capital and DST Global. It last raised a $250 million Series C, led by DST Global, in April 2018. 

Fintech startups are certainly hot right now–they’re getting plenty of funding and a couple have seen high profile exits. Visa announced plans to acquire Plaid for $5.3 billion last month, and just yesterday Credit Karma confirmed rumors that it would be acquired by Intuit for $7.1 billion.

Revolut has more than 10 million customers and has processed more than 350 million transactions, according to the company’s website.

Illustration Credit: Li-Anne Dias







Craft Ventures led the round, which also included participation from AngelList CEO Naval Ravikant and Okta CEO Jon Runyan.

Launched by General Catalyst alumni, the 15-person firm has invested in six businesses in the U.S. and Canada.

The San Francisco-based company has raised a total of $368 million since its 2007 founding by Ken Lin, according to Crunchbase data.

Europe’s ride-sharing startups diversify by adding food and grocery delivery, and scooter and bike rentals to help take them to the top of the…

Source: Crunchbase News

Posted on

UK’s Tiney raises $6.5M to source, train and connect childminders to improve early-years care

A shortage of good teachers and carers is an acute problem in the world of education. Getting smart people into the profession is hard when the pay is not great and the stresses coming from above and below are very real and very persistent. And it turns out that challenge is compounded in the early years, before children even enter school: the pay for nursery teachers and childminders is even less than that for K-12 teachers, a fact not helped by the lack of a cohesive institutional system to bring in and bring up talent in an area that has a wide array of permutations (nursery, nanny, family, etc.).

Now, a startup out of London is announcing some funding to tackle that very large early years challenge with a two-sided marketplace of sorts. Tiney — which sources people interested in being childminders (which in the UK means individuals who take charge usually of up to six children depending on age, who apply for and get licenses from the educational authority to operating childminder schemes in the country), trains them to run childcare services out of their homes, and then helps childcare-seeking parents discover them, all while running the admin underpinning that ecosystem — has raised £5 million ($6.5 million) to scale its idea in earnest.

The funding is being led by Index Ventures, with LocalGlobe (founded by former Index partners Saul and Robin Klein) and JamJar Investments (the investment firm linked to the founders of Innocent Drinks) also participating. Hannah Seal, a principal from Index Ventures, is joining the board with this round.

The startup is the brainchild of Brett Wigdortz, a London-based, American-bred ex-McKinsey consultant who has already started and grown two celebrated non-profit organisations to tackle teacher shortage problems in K-12 public education.

In the UK, he started Teach First, which recruits recent university grads take jobs as teachers in state schools — with a particular focus on disadvantaged school catchments — as their first foray into the job market. (It is now the single biggest employer out of Oxford and Cambridge.) Buoyed by that growth, he then took the idea international with Teach for All, co-founded with Wendy Kopp, who had built a similar teachers corps in the US called Teach For America.

As with Teach for All, Wigdortz, who is the CEO, has a co-founder for his latest effort: Edd Read (CTO), who previously had been the founder of Graze, the healthy snack company that sold to Unilever last year, is Tiney’s other founder, which makes JamJar’s investment an interesting one. Healthy-but-fun foods are essentially focused on products to improve the well-being of families and kids; and in a sense, so is Tiney.

The problem as Wigdortz sees it is one of quality and quantity.

On the quality side, that there has been, relatively speaking, more focus on children once they enter school — a focus he himself cultivated with his previous organisations — with a lot of neglect of the years preceding that time. But when you look closer, you can chart a good part of children’s outcomes starting before they ever entered school. One part of the problem is that early-years care is not often thought of as early-years education, and in keeping with that, the people providing that care are often thought of as more than just babysitters rather than educators, with little in the way of providing ongoing training and support for best practices around fun activities that help with child development.

“The big gap was that kids weren’t getting good preschool educations,” he said in an interview. “We were finding that a lot of kids in year one [kindergarten age in the US] weren’t verbal and just weren’t ready for school. In some cases, parents are working all the time or really struggling.” And on the part of the providers, “they weren’t treated as professionals,” he continued. “They just didn’t get good professional development or support. Realising how broken it was is what got me interested in the sector.”

On the quantity side, well, the numbers speak for themselves. In 2000, there were 100,000 registered childminders in the UK. Today, there are only 40,000.

What caused that massive drop? Apart from having less interest in a field that isn’t respected much and has a lot of stress associated with it, there is the problem of simply proactively recruiting people and making childminders easy to find.

While each local authority (how a lot of social services are administered in the UK) provides directories to parents of childminders in a given region, the system is not ideal for sourcing much information beyond names, contact details and addresses — making it a daunting task to use to find someone to entrust with your young person.

On the part of the childminders themselves, a process does exist today that sits within the public system — you get a paediatric first aid certificate; you complete a short training course approved by your local authority; you join the Ofsted Early Years Register and get a criminal record check for anyone over 16 living with you; you get a home inspection and you get insurance. Childminders subsequently keep journals on each child to communicate progress on early-years targets both to parents and the authorities.

But Wigdortz notes that while that looks like a simple enough list, it’s at the same time actually a long and bureaucratic process and any recruitment of new people is virtually nonexistent because of all the cutbacks local authorities have faced.

Going the usual route is also not ideal in terms of providing any kind of continuous training or monitoring of the childminders once they have completed the final step. 

Tiney is taking a tech approach to solving what is essentially an analogue challenge.

It is trying to “streamline the process,” in his words, while at the same time create a platform for more enriched training — which involves both in-person and online coursework — before people get started as childminders; and subsequent to that, it provides more continuous development, and a way of tracking progress online that is easily monitored by the parent compared to a hand-written journal.

When childminders are ready to work, they get listed on Tiney’s site, are booked through there, and Tiney handles all of the messaging and invoicing between childminders and parents after. While all of the training, onboarding, development and ongoing support are free, Tiney makes a 10% commission on every job/contract booked through its platform. It’s a formula that is currently attracting more people than it has room to handle: only about 20% of applicants to Tiney’s program get accepted to complete the training, Wigdortz said.

The system is not just about bringing in more people into the childminding profession, but about making the whole concept and opportunity more open to more people. The average age today of a Tiney minder is early thirties, with about half of the population classified as “BAME” with a good dose of immigrants, but also white professionals, he said. “We have bankers who are taking career breaks when they have kids, and some have worked in nurseries before and now want to do something more independent,” he said.

Wigdortz came at this problem from the perspective of being able to source more talent and get it into the early-years caregiving and education pipeline. But the reason why it, and other programs like it — which include the likes of nanny service Koru Kids (also coincidentally started by a McKinsey alum) and Wonderschool in the US, which like Tiney also focuses on the ‘home-based childminder’ running small ad hoc nurseries format — are needed and will hopefully succeed is because they are filling a critical gap with parents and guardians.

On that side, three of the issues that Tiney is helping to address are discovery, trust and affordability.

When you are a working parent, securing good childcare can be one of the more stressful aspects of raising your kids when they are young. Choosing from many options (nursery? nanny? au pair? family? quit job and hang with kid yourself because the options are too expensive or scary?), and then finding people who you trust will understand and nurture your kids, is not easy. And throwing money at the challenge doesn’t necessarily help, and if money is an issue, that comes with its own set of problems.

In the UK, the childminder option is one that cuts across those famous British class lines, I’ve found. Those with financial means might opt for it to give their kids a more social experience than a one-per-family nanny or au pair but without the more institutional feeling and class numbers of a full-on nursery. Those with less means will consider childminders because they might be on par with the price of a nursery (and will be coverable by the same vouchers they might use if they’re on income support) but, again, provide more of a home-based environment that will feel more comfortable to a child under the age of 5, or for pre-secondary school aged kids in the after-school hours.

Tiney is currently adding around 25 new childminders per week, Wigdortz said, which is small but growing. The idea is that with this funding, it will be able to onboard more and grow faster.

“After improving primary and secondary education for millions of children through Teach First, Brett is now tackling some of the biggest challenges parents, children and the society face in the very early years,” said Seal at Index Ventures. “For parents of young children, sorting out childcare is often a struggle with limited often-costly and inadequate options. For educators, there is not always an easy path to a career in early years education, which has led to rapidly declining numbers of childminders across the UK. We’re excited to partner with Brett to address this growing crisis and create a system that puts more focus on children during the most critical years of development.”

Source: TechCrunch