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Last Week In Venture: Eyes As A Service, Environmental Notes And Homomorphic Encryption

Hello, and welcome back to Last Week In Venture, the weekly rundown of deals that may have flown under your radar. 

There are plenty of companies operating outside the unicorn and public company spotlight, but that doesn’t mean their stories aren’t worth sharing. They offer a peek around the corner at what’s coming next, and what investors today are placing bets on. 

Without further ado, let’s check out a few rounds from the week that was in venture land.

Be My Eyes

I don’t know how you’re reading this, but you are. Most of us read with our eyes, but some read with their ears or their fingers. Blind people frequently have options when it comes to reading, but there’s more to life than just reading. 

Imagine going to a grocery store and stepping up to the bakery counter. You might be able to read a label with your eyes, but if there’s no label you could still probably figure out what type bread you’re buying based on its color and shape. But what if you couldn’t see (or see well)? What are you going to do, touch all the bread to figure out its size and shape? Get real down low and smell ’em all? (Which, for the record, sounds lovely, if a little unhygienic.)

You’d probably ask someone who can see for some help. That’s the kind of interaction a service like Be My Eyes facilitates. Headquartered in San Francisco, the startup founded in 2014 connects blind people and people with low vision to sighted volunteers over on-demand remote video calls facilitated through the company’s mobile applications for Android and iOS. The sighted person can see what’s going on, and offer real time support for the person who can’t see.

The company announced this week that it raised $2.8 million in a Series A funding round led by Cultivation Capital. In 2018, Be My Eyes launched a feature called “Specialized Help,” which connects blind and low-vision people to service representatives at companies. Microsoft, Google, Lloyds Banking Group and Procter & Gamble are among the companies enrolled in the program. 

Be My Eyes initially launched as an all-volunteer effort. The company says it has a community of more than 3.5 million sighted volunteers helping almost 200,000 visually impaired people worldwide. According to Crunchbase data, the company has raised over $5.3 million in combined equity and grant funding.

Wildnote

The environment is, like, super important. It’s the air we breathe and the water we drink. Regardless of your opinion on environmental regulations, most come from a good place: Ensuring the long-term sustainability of life on a planet with finite resources by putting a check on destructive activity. Where there’s regulation, there’s a need to comply with it, and compliance can be kind of a drag. There is a lot of paperwork to do.

Wildnote is a company based in San Luis Obispo, California. It’s in the business of environmental data collection, management and reporting using its eponymous mobile application and web platform. Field researchers and compliance professionals can capture and record information (including photos) on-site using either standard reporting forms or their own custom workflows. The company’s data platform also features export capabilities, which produce PDFs or raw datasets in multiple formats.

The company announced $1.35 million in seed funding from Entrada Ventures and HG Ventures, the corporate venture arm of The Heritage Group. Wildnote was part of the 2019 cohort of The Heritage Group’s accelerator program, produced in collaboration with Techstars, which aimed to assist startups working on problems from “legacy industries” like infrastructure, materials and environmental services.

Enveil

Encryption uses math to transform information humans and machines can read and understand into information that we can’t. Encrypted data can be decrypted by those in possession of a cryptographic key. To everyone else, encrypted data is just textual gobbledegook. 

The thing is, to computers, encrypted data is also textual gobbledegook. Computer scientists and cryptographers have long been looking for a way to work with encrypted data without needing to decrypt it in the process. Homomorphic encryption has been a subject of academic research and corporate research and development labs for years, but it appears a commercial homomorphic encryption product has hit the market, and the company behind it is raising money to grow. 

The company we’re talking about here is Enveil. Headquartered in Fulton, Maryland, the company makes software it calls ZeroReveal. Its ZeroReveal Search product allows customers to encrypt and store data while also enabling users to perform searches directly against ciphertext data, meaning that data stays secure. Its ZeroReveal Compute Fabric offers client- and server-side applications which let enterprises securely operate on encrypted data stored on premises, in a large commercial cloud computing platform, or obtained from third parties.

Enveil raised $10 million in its Series A round, which was led by C5 Capital. Participating investors include 1843 Capital, Capital One Growth Ventures, MasterCard and Bloomberg Beta. The company was founded in 2014 by Ellison Anne Williams and has raised a total of $15 million; prior investors include cybersecurity incubator DataTribe and In-Q-Tel, the nonprofit venture investment arm of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency.

Image Credits: Last Week In Venture graphic created by JD Battles. Photo by Daniil Kuzelev, via Unsplash.







Source: Crunchbase News

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Last Week In Venture: This Week In Fleets And Fancy-Pants Convenience Stores






Hello and welcome back to Last Week In Venture, the weekly roundup of deals which may have flown under your radar.

Subscribe to the Crunchbase Daily

There are plenty of companies operating outside the unicorn and public company spotlight, but their stories are worth sharing. In them, we find current trends and get a glimpse of the future.

Without further ado, let’s take a look at some stories from the week that was in venture-land.

Not Your Average Mini Mart

If it weren’t for the fact that I had to buy cilantro and green onions for some chicken meatballs I plan to make for dinner tonight, I’d have bopped into the Foxtrot near the Merchandise Mart before starting work today.

Foxtrot is a convenience store company based in Chicago. But it’s not like the kind with hot dogs on greasy rollers and the only sometimes-functional blue raspberry slush machines. It’s a convenience store for the urban brunching class. It’s got taps: for cold beer, cold-brewed coffee, and kombucha. It carries good if premium-priced prepared salads and snacks, an absurd array of fancy canned coffees and soft drinks, premium brands of personal care items, and at least at my local store, a small gift and knickknack section in the back corner near all the wines. All that and a couple bags of chips.

It does not, however, carry fresh herbs. Which is why I went to Jewel-Osco in River North. Chicagoans reading this will understand.

Back to the news: besides operating physical locations in Chicago and Dallas, Texas, the company serves those markets with one-hour delivery. And to grow its footprint in its home markets, as well as expand its operations to Washington, D.C., the company raised $17 million in Series B financing co-led by Imaginary Ventures and Wittington Ventures. Participating investors include The University of Chicago, Revolution, M3 Ventures, Lerer Hippeau, Fifth Wall (which led Foxtrot’s Series A round in March 2018), and others.

The company told TechCrunch that it doubled its overall revenue from last year, and that it grew e-commerce revenue by 150 percent year-on-year. Foxtrot says its revenue is currently split roughly 50-50 between e-commerce and brick-and-mortar.

The company was founded in 2013 and, with the new round announced this week, has raised just under $25 million to date.

This Week In Fleets

Managing a fleet of vehicles can sometimes feel like herding cats. It’s difficult to imagine a time before modern tracking and telematics. Truckers and logistical workers would have to log everything themselves. By hand. On paper. A lot of folks in the business still do, but that’s changing as software companies seek to automate the monitoring and compliance work around fleet management.

We bring this up because this week saw (at least) two Series A deals raised by companies in the fleet management sector.

We’ll start international. Headquartered in Gurugram, India, Fleetx.io is building a suite of tools for logistics companies to manage their fleets. These include tools for asset tracking, operations and financial monitoring, route management, and integrations with India-certified GPS and tolling systems. This week, the company closed $2.8 million in Series A funding led by Singaporean venture firm BEENEXT. India Quotient, a couple C-suite executives from Indian e-commerce company Snapdeal investing in an individual capacity, and others participated in the round.

And then, on the U.S. side, there’s Maven Machines. The Pittsburgh, PA-based company also closed a Series A round, which was led by Allos Ventures. (Allos Ventures recently closed $52 million for its third VC fund, as Crunchbase News reported.) Participating investors from the round include Great Oaks Venture Capital, Hearst Ventures, and Riverfront Ventures. Similar to Fleetx.io, Maven Machines offers a couple products, including its main fleet management solution and its own telematics platform, which helps fleet operators monitor the use and location of their assets.

Image Credits: Last Week In Venture graphic created by JD Battles. Photo by Frank McKenna, via Unsplash.







When Ezra Galston was spinning up Starting Line, a Chicago-based venture capital fund, the pressures of raising “almost broke” him. And that was with…

If you’ve forgotten what it feels like to have a good night’s sleep, there is a new batch of companies that want to remind you how much their…

Mattress startup Casper’s stock opened this morning at $14.50, about 21 percent higher than its IPO price, on its first day of trading.

Netskope, a cloud security company, has raised $340 million in a Series G round led by Sequoia Capital Global Equities.

Source: Crunchbase News

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Last Week In Venture: Watching The Water And Two Ways To Track And Discover The World Of Podcasts

Hello, and welcome back to Last Week In Venture, the weekly rundown of deals which may have flown under your radar.

It seems like for all but the most intractable problems, there’s a company out there trying to solve it. And there are many startups operating outside the big-company spotlight with stories worth sharing. It’s a chance to look around the corner at what investors are making small bets on today and, by proxy, what the future could look like years from now.

So, without further ado, let’s dive into a few rounds from the week that was in ventureland.

Podcasting pitches draw ears of investors

Hate to break it to you, but “VC Twitter” is so 2018. Everybody’s into podcasting now. Starting ’em, guesting on ’em, sharing their Very Important Insights about them on VC Twitter or in their newsletters, which seemingly everyone has these days.

After some financial success in the sector (like Spotify‘s acquisitions of Anchor and Gimlet Media) venture investors aren’t just interested in making podcast content, they see a business opportunity in the sector.

This week saw a couple of deals struck with podcast-related companies.

Podsights

Based in New York, Podsights is building an advertising platform for the podcasting industry. If you’ve listened to a podcast, you’ve probably heard an ad for something like mattresses or a website builder. Those ads implore listeners to use an offer code on the sponsor’s website at checkout. For many reasons, this is an imperfect system. Podsights seems to be trying to close that loop by integrating with a podcast via what the company calls an “analytics prefix” or “hosting provider’s Tracking URL and the brand’s site via our JavaScript SDK.”

The end result? Giving brands competitive intelligence, reporting on their ad campaigns, and purchase attribution. The company says it cares about privacy, but you have to remember they’re adding what’s tantamount to a tracking pixel into podcasts. Podsights raised $1.5 million in a seed round from Betaworks Ventures, Greycroft, media investors BDMI and Rooks Nest Ventures, and several angel investors.

Podchaser

Louisville, Kentucky-based Podchaser is on the discovery side of the business.

Podcasting is (and hopefully will remain) a mostly decentralized industry riding atop an open protocol: RSS. You can think of podcasts as the web before Yahoo began building its Directory in 1994. That’s kinda what Podchaser is doing: creating what it says is the most comprehensive podcast database in the market. Its website features profiles for creators, and the podcasts they host and appear on. Users can create and share their own curated lists of podcasts.

This week, the company announced $1.65 million in a seed round co-led by High Alpha and Hyde Park Venture Partners. Participating investors included Poplar Ventures, Lunsford Capital and individual angels.

Watching where the water goes

There’s that phrase: “When it rains, it pours.” According to analysis of the Spatial Hazard Events and Losses Database for the United States (SHELDUS, which is maintained by Arizona State University), $107.8 billion “in direct property damage from flooding (73 percent of the national total) was incurred in urban areas, affecting 20,141 urban counties, from 1960 to 2016.”

As climate change threatens to intensify future storms, it’s likely that urban flooding will become more common and potentially more severe in some places. Except for when the system is overloaded or fails entirely, most city dwellers take stormwater infrastructure for granted. But for city engineers, figuring out what to do with stormwater is a full-time job and a huge line item in municipal infrastructure budgets.

Headquartered in Seattle—a famously wet city—StormSensor makes and deploys arrays of sensors to monitor flow through a city’s drainage infrastructure. Beyond just stormwater management, the company touts its offerings as a solution for tracking illegal dumping into city sewer and stormwater pipes, and tracking overflows. In addition to the hardware, StormSensor also developed a cloud-based system which automatically gathers data from sensors in the field and displays that information on dashboards.

StormSensor was founded by Anya Stettler and Erin Rothman in 2015. The company was previously backed by a number of incubator and accelerator programs, including some focused on water and green infrastructure, as well as Techstars. This week, StormSensor picked up an additional $1.4 million in funding from Sophia Fund, a Minneapolis-based investor focused on backing and growing technology businesses founded and led by women. A statement announcing the round said Stettler and Rothman have raised $2.6 million to date for their venture.

Image Credits: Last Week In Venture graphic created by JD Battles. Photo by Pan Xiaozhen, via Unsplash.







Source: Crunchbase News

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Last Week In Venture: Insectivore Suppliers, Carbon Markets, And Data Footprint Discoverers






Hello and welcome back to Last Week In Venture, the weekly rundown of deals which may have flown under your radar.

There are zillions of startups working on interesting problems, and the overwhelming majority of them do so outside the public market or unicorn company spotlight. Their stories are still worth sharing, because they can provide a peek into where investors think the world is going. The small upstarts of today could be behemoths in the future.

So, without further ado, let’s check out a sample from the week that was in venture-land.

SENS Foods

Crickets are the pleasant sound of warm summer nights and the soul-crushing silence of a joke fallen flat. Dried, fried, or eaten whole, the sound is less a chirp and more a crispy crunch. (Tasty, right?) Ground into flour, mixed with other ingredients, and baked into bars, the idea of eating crickets might sound a little less gross, at least to some.

SENS Foods is a Czech manufacturer and distributor of cricket protein products including snack bars, powders, and crackers. The company raised €1.9 million (a little under $2.1 million USD) in Series A funding to help scale commercialization efforts. The round was co-led by Reflex Capital and Presto Ventures (formerly known as Bohemia Venture Capital).

The company says it operates the largest cricket farm in the world, in Thailand. The company says it wants to make cricket protein “cheaper than chicken.”

Nori

Left unabated, global carbon emissions and the climate change they catalyze threaten to turn life into something decidedly more solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short, for all but the most privileged on our planet.

The most effective way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is ultimately going to involve moving the industrial energy mix off of fossil fuels. But once the cat is out of the bag, or the gas is already in the atmosphere, some of it can be sequestered.

Soil is the world’s largest carbon sink. And Nori, a Seattle-based startup, aims to continue building a marketplace which aims to help individuals and businesses offset some of their carbon footprint by incentivizing farmers to use sustainable practices which support bacteria in the top layer of soil which absorb and sequester carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

This week, Nori announced $1.3 million in pre-seed funding. The company did not disclose who invested. Nori’s co-founder and CEO Paul Gambill told Geekwire that the capital will last the company through mid-2020 and that they intend to raise additional capital to further scale out its team of ten.

Mine

Chances are, if you’re reading this, you probably use the internet. And you probably use a lot of different services, many of which have collected at least some personal data about you. Traipse around online long enough, and you’ll probably leave a big data footprint somewhere.

Mine is a London-based startup aiming to help people discover where their data is located, understand how it’s being used, and, if they want, ensure its removal from platforms. For those people living in a jurisdiction where the GDPR is enforceable (e.g. the EU), takedown requests come with some legal teeth.

To help scale the service and its business, the company, founded in 2019, raised $3 million in seed backing from Saban Ventures and Battery Ventures.

In coverage of the round, EU-Startups.com reported that “Mine discovered that the average users have 400 companies in their footprint, out of which, more than 80% of the services are unused and can be deleted.”

Image Credits: Last Week In Venture graphic created by JD Battles. Photo by Wolfgang Hasselmann, via Unsplash.







Travel-tech focused Thayer Ventures led the round, which included participation from Tiger Global, JLL Spark, Ashton Kutcher, and others.

27 Shares Email Facebook Twitter LinkedIn The day before Alicia Ostarello was laid off, she received a cryptic verbal message from her manager…

Bangalore-based bike rental startup Bounce raised $105 million in its Series D round of funding, according to a new report from TechCrunch.

The Indianapolis-based firm has already made 8 investments out of its new fund.

Source: Crunchbase News

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Last Week In Venture: Saving The Sea With Plastic From Kelp, A New Kind Of B-School, And Keeping Engineering Spirits Bright

Hello and welcome back to Last Week In Venture, the weekly roundup of deals which may have flown under your radar.

Subscribe to the Crunchbase Daily

Around the country and, indeed, the world, there are countless startups toiling outside the unicorn and public company limelight, building their version of the future. In their stories, we can spot trends and get a glimpse around the corner to see what’s next.

Without further ado, let’s dive into a few of the deals from the week that was in venture-land.

Plastic From Kelp

Earlier this week, Crunchbase News published some findings about the emerging sector of sustainable packaging and plastics. Though we didn’t mention the following company in that particular article, it’s worth pointing out what Loliware is doing.

The New York-based startup is in the business of making biodegradable replacements for single-use plastics, starting with drinking straws. Its straws are not actually made of plastic, but kelp. Kelp a large species of marine algae, underwater forests of which lie just offshore 25 percent of the world’s coastlines.

The company plans to release a line of kelp-based cups, lids, utensils, and other forms of packaging. To help expand the scope and scale of Loliware’s operations, it raised $6 million in seed funding from Closed Loop Partners, Geekdom Fund, New York Ventures, and Hatzimemos / Libby. James Freeman, founder of Blue Bottle Coffee, also participated in the deal.

Give Your Career A Jolt

Business school is a place where you could end up spending a lot of money to learn about how to make a lot of money. And that’s the problem. Lots of people could benefit from learning about the hows and whys of doing business, but most can’t (or don’t want to) pay tens of thousands of dollars for the (often basic) knowledge and (often priceless) network one could obtain in business school.

Based in Tel Aviv, Jolt.io is an education company aiming to change the model of business education. It currently operates campuses in Tel Aviv and London, but it plans to expand to New York City with the help of €12.7 million (approximately $14.1 million USD) in Series A financing announced this week. Balderton Capital led the deal, which saw participation from Octopus Ventures and Hillsven Capital, which, respectively, led prior seed and pre-seed rounds raised by the company.

Jolt offers the bulk of its coursework in subject areas like management and leadership, personal skills and self development, and marketing, sales, and customer success. Its offerings in more technical fields like data, product, and finance are more limited. The company lists its educational offerings in a brochure on its website. According to coverage in TechCrunch, Jolt’s “NAMBA” (Not an MBA) program costs £175 a month (about $228 USD), or £4,500 (a bit over $5,850 USD) in total. For many, that should be an easier bill to swallow than traditional b-school.

Level Up Your Engineering Team

In the tech industry, the “tech” part is built by engineers. In the part of the tech industry Crunchbase News covers most, that typically means software engineers. Keeping an engineering team happy and productive is a prerequisite for long-term success in this industry.

Uplevel is a Seattle-based startup building tools for engineering managers to measure the factors which contribute to technical employees’ morale and output.

According to coverage in GeekWire: “Uplevel’s technology analyzes a variety of channels including messaging platforms like Slack, collaboration tools like Jira, code repositories like GitHub and calendars to analyze how engineers spend their time. The platform spits out insights analyzing whether engineers are stuck in too many meetings, assigned too many tasks at once or don’t have enough focus time.”

Uplevel raised $7.5 million in an outsized seed round which saw participation from Madrona Venture Group, Norwest Venture Partners, and Voyager Capital.

GeekWire reported that Uplevel has 10 companies and over 4,000 engineers onboard its platform. The upstart company has 16 people on the team and is actively hiring for key roles.

And with that we’re done for the week. See you back here soon.

Image Credits: Last Week In Venture graphic created by JD Battles. Photo by Marek Okon, via Unsplash.







Source: Crunchbase News