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Wonder Dynamics raises $2.5M seed to equip indie filmmakers with AI-powered VFX

Practically every film production these days needs some kind of visual effects work, but independent creators often lack the cash or expertise to get that top-shelf CG. Wonder Dynamics, founded by VFX engineer Nikola Todorovic and actor Tye Sheridan, aims to use AI to make some of these processes more accessible for filmmakers with budgets on the tight side, and they’ve just raised $2.5 million to make it happen.
The company has its origins in 2017, after Sheridan and Todorovic met on the set of Rodrigo Garcia’s film Last Days in the Desert. They seem to have both felt that …

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Mortgage is suddenly sexy as SoftBank pumps $500M in Better.com at $6B valuation

Digital mortgage lender Better.com has raised a $500 million round from Japanese investment conglomerate SoftBank that values the company at $6 billion.
The financing is notable for a few reasons. For one, that new $6 billion valuation,  is up 50% from the $4 billion it was valued at last November when it raised $200 million in Series D financing. It’s also up tenfold from its $600 million valuation at the time of its Series C raise in August 2019.
Secondly, it’s further proof that mortgage – a traditionally “unsexy” industry that has long been in need of disruption – is officially hot. For all its controversy, when …

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Rapid raises $12M for its manufacturing robotics

Bay Area-based Rapid Robotics today announced a $12 million Series A. The new round, led by NEA, brings the company’s total funding up to $17.5 million. It joins a recently closed seed round, announced way back in November of last year. Existing investors Greycroft, Bee Partners and 468 Capital also took part in the round.
We noted at that stage that COVID-19 had a sizable impact on robotics investment. At the very least, the pandemic has served to accelerate interest in automation, as many “non-essential” workers have been unable to travel to their jobs. At present, manufacturing jobs often lack the ability …

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Want to take a road trip with Kevin Costner? Investors are betting you will

Woody Sears has long been interested in storytelling. Following the debut in 2007 of the first iPhone, he founded a storytelling app called Zuuka that built up a library of narrated and illustrated kids’ books for the iPhone and iPad.
Sears later sold that company to a small New York-based outfit. But Sears, who is based in Santa Barbara, California, isn’t done with stories yet. Instead, he just raised $1.6 million in seed funding for his second and newest storytelling startup, HearHere, a subscription-based audio road-trip app that, with users’ permission, pushes information to them as they’re driving, giving them …

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LIVEKINDLY screams its way to the top of new plant brands with the close of a $335 million round

LIVEKINDLY Collective, the shouty parent company behind a family of plant-based food brands, has snagged cash from the global impact investing arm of $103 billion investment firm TPG to close its latest round of funding at $335 million.
The company’s fundraising shows that investors still have high hopes for plant-based food brands and that despite the money that’s flowed to companies like Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods — and the resurgence of older brands in the category like Quorn or Kelloggs’ Morningstar Farms — there’s still a healthy appetite among investors for more brands.
LIVEKINDLY was founded by some heavy hitters …

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Bunch adds $1M to its seed round to flesh out its leadership learning app

This morning Bunch announced that it has closed a total of $4.4 million in seed capital, including a new $1 million infusion this week. The company’s product, a mobile app, focuses on teaching leadership skills to the younger generations more accustomed to learning in smaller chunks, often on the go.
Don’t roll your eyes, all ye who attended business school. The concept has traction.
Earlier this month TechCrunch covered Arist, for example, a startup that provides corporate training delivered to end-users via text. That company added $2 million to its prior raise, bringing its round to a total of $3.9 million. To …

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Jeff Bezos’ investment fund is backing a startup hoping to be the AWS for SMB accounting

One of the biggest pain points for startups and small businesses is keeping up with back office tasks such as bookkeeping and managing taxes.
QuickBooks, it seems, just doesn’t always cut it.
Three-time co-founders Waseem Daher, Jeff Arnold, and Jessica McKellar formed Pilot with the mission of affordably providing back office services to startups and SMBs. With over 1,000 customers, it has gained serious traction over the years. And Pilot has now also received validation from some big-name investors. On Friday, the company announced a $100 million Series C that doubles the company’s valuation to $1.2 billion.
Bezos Expeditions — Amazon founder …

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Social shopping-focused Chums announces $3.5M raise ahead of YC Demo Day

With Y Combinator Demo Day kicking off tomorrow morning, startups in the current batch are hurrying to make a little news before they show off their recent growth to investors. The list includes Runway, Mono, Pangea and Flux.
Add Chums to the mix. Chums is a social shopping service that helps friends suggest products to their pals. And the startup has put together a total of $3.5 million across two pre-seed investments.
TechCrunch spoke with Noah Elion, one of Chums’ founders, about the round. He said that his company closed $1 million in December, later looking to raise another $1.5 million. Interest ran …

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Side raises $150M at $1B valuation to help real estate agents go it alone

Side, a real estate technology company that works to turn agents and independent brokerages into boutique brands and businesses, announced Monday that it has raised $150 million in Series D funding.
Coatue Management led the round, which brings San Francisco-based Side’s valuation to $1 billion and total funding raised to over $200 million since its 2017 inception. Existing backers Matrix Partners, Trinity Ventures and Sapphire Ventures also participated in the new financing.
The round is notable in that the amount raised is significantly higher than the $35 million Side raised in a Series C round in November 2019. Valuation too increased nearly 7x compared to …

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Fortify raises a $20M Series B for its composite manufacturing 3D printer

There’s been quite a bit of movement in the additive manufacturing space in recent months. If I had to pinpoint a reason, I would say that — much like robotics (another space I follow fairly closely) — the category has gotten a boost in interest from the pandemic. Medical applications are understandably of interest lately, as is alternative manufacturing.
Desktop Metal, Markforged and new-comer Mantel have all made pretty big announcements in recent weeks, and now Fortify is making the round with a significant raise. The Boston-based startup announced a $20 million Series B equity round, led by Cota Capital with additional …

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