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February 24, 2019
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series C

Startups Weekly: Squad’s screen-shares and Slack’s swastika

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We’re three weeks into January. We’ve recovered from our CES hangover and, hopefully, from the CES flu. We’ve started writing the correct year, 2019, not 2018.

Venture capitalists have gone full steam ahead with fundraising efforts, several startups have closed multi-hundred million dollar rounds, a virtual influencer raised equity funding and yet, all anyone wants to talk about is Slack’s new logo… As part of its public listing prep, Slack announced some changes to its branding this week, including a vaguely different looking logo. Considering the flack the $7 billion startup received instantaneously and accusations that the negative space in the logo resembled a swastika — Slack would’ve been better off leaving its original logo alone; alas…

On to more important matters.

Rubrik more than doubled its valuation

The data management startup raised a $261 million Series E funding at a $3.3 billion valuation, an increase from the $1.3 billion valuation it garnered with a previous round. In true unicorn form, Rubrik’s CEO told TechCrunch’s Ingrid Lunden it’s intentionally unprofitable: “Our goal is to build a long-term, iconic company, and so we want to become profitable but not at the cost of growth,” he said. “We are leading this market transformation while it continues to grow.”

Deal of the week: Knock gets $400M to take on Opendoor

Will 2019 be a banner year for real estate tech investment? As $4.65 billion was funneled into the space in 2018 across more than 350 deals and with high-flying startups attracting investors (Compass, Opendoor, Knock), the excitement is poised to continue. This week, Knock brought in $400 million at an undisclosed valuation to accelerate its national expansion. “We are trying to make it as easy to trade in your house as it is to trade in your car,” Knock CEO Sean Black told me.

Cybersecurity stays hot

While we’re on the subject of VCs’ favorite industries, TechCrunch cybersecurity reporter Zack Whittaker highlights some new data on venture investment in the industry. Strategic Cyber Ventures says more than $5.3 billion was funneled into companies focused on protecting networks, systems and data across the world, despite fewer deals done during the year. We can thank Tanium, CrowdStrike and Anchorfree’s massive deals for a good chunk of that activity.

Send me tips, suggestions and more to kate.clark@techcrunch.com or @KateClarkTweets

Fundraising efforts continue

I would be remiss not to highlight a slew of venture firms that made public their intent to raise new funds this week. Peter Thiel’s Valar Ventures filed to raise $350 million across two new funds and Redpoint Ventures set a $400 million target for two new China-focused funds. Meanwhile, Resolute Ventures closed on $75 million for its fourth early-stage fund, BlueRun Ventures nabbed $130 million for its sixth effort, Maverick Ventures announced a $382 million evergreen fund, First Round Capital introduced a new pre-seed fund that will target recent graduates, Techstars decided to double down on its corporate connections with the launch of a new venture studio and, last but not least, Lance Armstrong wrote his very first check as a VC out of his new fund, Next Ventures.

More money goes toward scooters

In case you were concerned there wasn’t enough VC investment in electric scooter startups, worry no more! Flash, a Berlin-based micro-mobility company, emerged from stealth this week with a whopping €55 million in Series A funding. Flash is already operating in Switzerland and Portugal, with plans to launch into France, Italy and Spain in 2019. Bird and Lime are in the process of raising $700 million between them, too, indicating the scooter funding extravaganza of 2018 will extend into 2019 — oh boy!

Startups secure cash

  • Niantic finally closed its Series C with $245 million in capital commitments and a lofty $4 billion valuation.
  • Outdoorsy, which connects customers with underused RVs, raised $50 million in Series C funding led by Greenspring Associates, with participation from Aviva Ventures, Altos Ventures, AutoTech Ventures and Tandem Capital.
  • Ciitizen, a developer of tools to help cancer patients organize and share their medical records, has raised $17 million in new funding in a round led by Andreessen Horowitz.
  • Footwear startup Birdies — no, I don’t mean Allbirds or Rothy’s — brought in an $8 million Series A led by Norwest Venture Partners, with participation from Slow Ventures and earlier investor Forerunner Ventures.
  • And Brud, the company behind the virtual celebrity Lil Miquela, is now worth $125 million with new funding.

Feature of the week

TechCrunch’s Josh Constine introduced readers to Squad this week, a screensharing app for social phone addicts.

Listen to me talk

If you enjoy this newsletter, be sure to check out TechCrunch’s venture-focused podcast, Equity. In this week’s episode, available here, Crunchbase editor-in-chief Alex Wilhelm and I marveled at the dollars going into scooter startups, discussed Slack’s upcoming direct listing and debated how the government shutdown might impact the IPO market.

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News Source = techcrunch.com

Moglix raises $23M to digitize India’s manufacturing supply chain

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We hear a lot about India’s e-commerce battle between Walmart, which bought Flipkart for $17 billion, and Amazon. But over in the B2B space, Moglix — an e-commerce service for buying manufacturing products that’s been making strides — today it announced a $23 million Series C round ahead of a bigger round and impending global expansion.

This new round was led by some impressive names that Moglix counts as existing investors: Accel Partners, Jungle Ventures and World Bank-affiliated IFC. Other returning backers that partook include Venture Highway, ex-Twitter VP Shailesh Rao and InnoVen Capital, a venture debt fund affiliated with Singapore’s Temasek. The startup also counts Ratan Tata — the former chairman of manufacturing giant Tata Sons — Singapore’s SeedPlus and Rocketship on its cap table.

Founded in 2015 by former Googler Rahul Garg, Moglix connects manufacturing OEMs and their resellers with business buyers. Garg told TechCrunch last year that it is named after the main character in The Jungle Book series in order to “bring global standards to the Indian manufacturing sector.” The country accounts for 90 percent of its transactions, but the startup is also focused on global opportunities.

“The entire B2B commerce industry in India will move to a transactional model,” Garg told us in an interview this week. He sees a key role in bringing about the same impact Amazon had on consumer e-commerce.

“We think there’s an opportunity to start from a blank sheet and rewrite how B2B transactions should be done in the country,” he added. “The entire supply chain has been pretty much offline and fragmented.”

In a little over three years, Moglix has raced to its Series C round with rapid expansion that has seen it grow to 10 centers in India with a retail base that covers over 5,000 suppliers and supplying SMEs.

Yet, despite that, Garg has kept things lean as the company has raised just $41 million across those rounds, including a $12 million Series B last year, with under 500 staff. However, Moglix is laying the foundations for what he expects will be a much larger fundraising round next year that will see the company go after international opportunities.

“This [new] round is about doubling, tripling, down on India but also establishing a seed in a couple of countries we are looking at,” Garg said.

Moglix aims to make the B2B online buying experience as intuitive and user-friendly as e-commerce sites are for consumers

Adding further color, he explained that Moglix will expand its Saas procurement service, which helps digitize B2B purchasing, to 100 markets worldwide as part of its global vision. While that service does have tie-ins with the Moglix platform, it also allows any customer to bring their existing sales channels into a digital environment, therein preparing them to get their needs online, ideally with Moglix. That service is currently available in eight countries, Garg confirmed.

Beyond making connections on the buying side, Moglix also works with major OEM brands and their key resellers. The basic pitch is the benefits of digital commerce data — detailed information on what your target customers buy or browser — as well as the strength of Moglix’s distribution system, tighter fraud prevention and that aforementioned digital revolution.

“Brands have started to realize [that digital] will be a very important channel and that they need to use both [online and offline] for crafting their distribution,” explained Garg.

Indeed, a much-cited SPO India report forecasts that B2B in India is currently a $300 billion a year market that is poised to reach $700 billion by 2020. Garg estimates that his company has a 0.5 percent market share within its manufacturing niche. Over the coming five years, he said he believes that it can reach double-digit percent.

While it may not be as sexy as consumer commerce, stronger unit economics — thanks to a large part to different buying dynamics of business customers, who are less swayed by discounts — make the space something to keep an eye on as India’s digital development continues. Already, Garg paid credit to GST — the move to digitize taxation — as a key development that has aided his company.

“GST enabled good trust and accelerated everything by 2/3X,” he said.

There might yet be further boons as the Indian government chases its strategy of becoming a global manufacturing hub.

News Source = techcrunch.com

Contentful raises $33.5M for its headless CMS platform

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Contentful, a Berlin- and San Francisco-based startup that provides content management infrastructure for companies like Spotify, Nike, Lyft and others, today announced that it has raised a $33.5 million Series D funding round led by Sapphire Ventures, with participation from OMERS Ventures and Salesforce Ventures, as well as existing investors General Catalyst, Benchmark, Balderton Capital and Hercules. In total, the company has now raised $78.3 million.

It’s only been less than a year since the company raised its Series C round and as Contentful co-founder and CEO Sascha Konietzke told me, the company didn’t really need to raise right now. “We had just raised our last round about a year ago. We still had plenty of cash in our bank account and we didn’t need to raise as of now,” said Konietzke. “But we saw a lot of economic uncertainty, so we thought it might be a good moment in time to recharge. And at the same time, we already had some interesting conversations ongoing with Sapphire [formeraly SAP Ventures] and Salesforce. So we saw the opportunity to add more funding and also start getting into a tight relationship with both of these players.”

The original plan for Contentful was to focus almost explicitly on mobile. As it turns out, though, the company’s customers also wanted to use the service to handle its web-based applications and these days, Contentful happily supports both. “What we’re seeing is that everything is becoming an application,” he told me. “We started with native mobile application, but even the websites nowadays are often an application.”

In its early days, Contentful also focuses only on developers. Now, however, that’s changing and having these connections to large enterprise players like SAP and Salesforce surely isn’t going to hurt the company as it looks to bring on larger enterprise accounts.

Currently, the company’s focus is very much on Europe and North America, which account for about 80% of its customers. For now, Contentful plans to continue to focus on these regions, though it obviously supports customers anywhere in the world.

Contentful only exists as a hosted platform. As of now, the company doesn’t have any plans for offering a self-hosted version, though Konietzke noted that he does occasionally get requests for this.

What the company is planning to do in the near future, though, is to enable more integrations with existing enterprise tools. “Customers are asking for deeper integrations into their enterprise stack,” Konietzke said. “And that’s what we’re beginning to focus on and where we’re building a lot of capabilities around that.” In addition, support for GraphQL and an expanded rich text editing experience is coming up. The company also recently launched a new editing experience.

News Source = techcrunch.com

Chinese WeWork rival Ucommune raises $200M to go after international growth

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China’s Ucommune, the country’s largest rival to WeWork, has been on a busy acquisition spree to build out its domestic business and now it is looking at overseas opportunities after it closed a $200 million Series D funding round.

The new round was led by Hong Kong-based All-Stars Investment with participation from Chinese investment bank CEC Capital and other investors. Ucommune said in a statement that the deal gives it a valuation of $3 billion, that represents a significant jump on its Series C in August which valued it at $1.8 billion. This new round takes Ucommune to around $650 million from investors to date, according to Crunchbase.

Founded in 2015, Ucommune has emerged as WeWork’s main rival in China since the U.S. firm acquired Naked Hub earlier this year in a deal said to be worth $400 million. Ucommune claims to operate more than 200 co-working spaces, most of those are in China but its overall footprint of 37 cities also includes Singapore, New York, Taipei and Hong Kong. Clients include unicorns ByteDance, Ofo and Mobike, as well as streaming service Kuaishou, according to Ucommune. WeWork China, by contrast, has around 40 locations.

Co-working has been a major buzzword in China following the growth of WeWork but as time went on a mixture of competition and China’s slowing economy saw a number of the field struggle. That presented an opportunity for Ucommune, which has aggressively gone after growth in China with a consolidation strategy that has seen it acquire no fewer than seven companies this year.

Its most recent addition was Fountown, which operates 27 spaces in Beijing and Shanghai and was acquired last month, while the others include co-working businesses — Wedo, Workingdom, Woo Space and New Space — an interior design company and a workplace collaboration startup.

Now, Ucommune is looking for ambitious international growth that’s aimed at expanding its reach to 350 cities across 40 countries. The ultimate goal, it explained in an announcement today, is to double its capacity from 100,000 workstations today to 200,000 over the next three years.

Ucommune’s space at Suntec is one of two locations it operates in Singapore

Going global is no easy thing, particularly when WeWork is on the case in many parts of the world with buckets of cash. The U.S. firm is currently making a big push in Southeast Asia — the most logical market for Ucommune to target first — with plans to launch locations in Vietnam, the Philippines and Thailand in the coming months. That would take WeWork to five countries in Southeast Asia, where it got a head start thanks to its acquisition of Singapore’s SpaceMob.

Ucommune has two locations in Singapore already but next time up is Hong Kong, where it says it is on track to open an inaugural space in December with a second slated for the first quarter of next year.

But WeWork is also strong its U.S. home market, Europe, Japan — where it works with SoftBank — and Korea, where it already has more than a dozen spaces. The firm has raised more than $1 billion for its China business and around $500 million for Korea and Southeast Asia.

Beyond a rivalry in China, Ucommune and WeWork have also engaged in a legal spat. WeWork forced its rival to change its name from UrWork after it took the company to court last year over the similarity.

News Source = techcrunch.com

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