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November 18, 2018
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Venture Capital

Blockchain gaming gets a boost with Mythical Games’ $16M Series A

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Fortnite, the free multi-player survival game, has earned an astonishing $1 billion from in-game virtual purchases alone. Now, others in the gaming industry are experimenting with how they too can capitalize on new trends in gaming.

Mythical Games, a startup out of stealth today with $16 million in Series A funding, is embracing a future in gaming where user-generated content and intimate ties between players, content creators, brands and developers is the norm. Mythical is using its infusion of venture capital to develop a line of PC, mobile and console games on the EOSIO blockchain, which will also be open to developers to build games with “player-owned economies.”

The company says an announcement regarding its initial lineup of games is on the way.

Mythical is led by a group of gaming industry veterans. Its chief executive officer is John Linden, a former studio head at Activision and president of the Niantic-acquired Seismic Games. The rest of its C-suite includes chief compliance officer Jamie Jackson, another former studio head at Activision; chief product officer Stephan Cunningham, a former director of product management at Yahoo; and head of blockchain Rudy Kock, a former senior producer at Blizzard — the Activision subsidiary known for World of Warcraft. Together, the team has worked on games including Call of Duty, Guitar Hero, Marvel Strike Force and Skylanders.

Galaxy Digital’s EOS VC Fund has led the round for Mythical. The $325 million fund, launched earlier this year, is focused on expanding the EOSIO ecosystem via strategic investments in startups building on EOSIO blockchain software. Javelin Venture Partners, Divergence Digital Currency, cryptocurrency exchange OKCoin and others also participated in the round.

It’s no surprise investors are getting excited about the booming gaming business given the success of Epic Games, Twitch, Discord and others in the space.

Epic Games raised a $1.25 billion round late last month thanks to the cultural phenomenon that its game, Fortnite, has become. KKR, Iconiq Capital, Smash Ventures,Vulcan Capital, Kleiner Perkins, Lightspeed Venture Partners and others participated in that round. Discord, a chat application for gamers, raised a $50 million financing in April at a $1.65 billion valuation from Benchmark Capital, Greylock Partners, IVP, Spark Capital and Tencent. And Dapper Labs, best known for the blockchain-based game CryptoKitties, even raised a VC round this year — a $15 million financing led by Venrock, with participation from GV and Samsung NEXT.

In total, VCs have invested $1.8 billion in gaming startups this year, per PitchBook.

News Source = techcrunch.com

Plus-sized clothing startup Dia&Co gets another $70M from Sequoia, USV

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The retail industry has and continues to fail the growing number of American women size 14 or larger, says Nadia Boujarwah, the co-founder and chief executive officer of Dia&Co, a personal styling service for plus-sized women.

According to Plunkett Research, nearly 70 percent of women in the U.S. are plus-sized; Dia&Co wants to expand the options available to that growing demographic. Today, the New York-based startup is announcing that it’s brought in another $70 million in venture capital funding from existing backers Sequoia Capital and Union Square Ventures (USV).

“I’ve been a plus-sized woman my whole life and no one can convince me that this isn’t a failure of retail,” Boujarwah told TechCrunch. “The current state of the plus size market is in no way reflective of how [it] should look going forward. There is so much work ahead of us.”

Dia&Co co-founder and chief executive officer Nadia Boujarwah.

Boujarwah started Dia&Co in 2015 with Lydia Gilbert. To date, the pair have raised $95 million and accumulated 4 million users on the Stitch Fix-like direct-to-consumer marketplace. The latest investment represents a previously unannounced $30 million Series B led by Sequoia and a $40 million Series C led by USV. As part of the Series C, USV partner Rebecca Kaden will join the startup’s board of directors; Sequoia partner Alfred Lin already sits on the board.

Dia&Co has also hired Francis Nzeuton as its chief financial officer. Most recently, Nzeuton led finance for Amazon’s U.S. consumables business.

Boujarwah declined to disclose Dia&Co’s latest valuation.

News Source = techcrunch.com

Home insurance provider Hippo brings in $70M amid a record year in funding for insurtech startups

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Felicis Ventures and Lennar Corporation have co-led the $70 million Series C funding round for Hippo, a tech-enabled home insurance marketplace.

Existing investors in the startup, like Comcast Ventures, Fifth Wall Ventures, Horizons Ventures and GGV Capital, also participated in the round.

Hippo has raised $109 million to date, including a $25 million Series B earlier this year. Co-founder and chief executive officer Assaf Wand declined to disclose Hippo’s valuation.

Wand, who co-founded the startup in 2015 with Eyal Navon, said he spent 14 years imagining the technology that would become Hippo, inspired by his father’s career in the antiquated insurance industry.

Hippo co-founder and chief executive officer Assaf Wand.

“I was born into insurance,” Wand told TechCrunch. “Now, the entire real estate ecosystem is changing and the industry is massive. We are getting a crazy good challenge. We think the sky’s the limit with this thing.”

The Mountain View, California-based company officially launched to consumers in 2017. It plans to use its latest investment to fuel the growth of its product, which sells home insurance plans at lower premiums. So far this year, Hippo has expanded into 10 new states and says its sales have grown 30 percent month-over-month since January.

“Hippo has set the bar for the future of insurance with its fully automated, proprietary policy management and proactive underwriting,” Felicis managing director Victoria Treyger said in a statement. “Insurance is the next big sector to undergo the dramatic transformation of customer experience and improved risk management enabled by access to real time data. We see Hippo’s current growth rate and efficient automated policy management system as just the beginning of driving this transformation.”

Treyger will join Hippo’s board of directors as part of the round.

The insurance industry is indeed undergoing a dramatic transformation as a result of technology companies targeting the sector, which are part of a relatively new category of startups dubbed insurtech.

According to PitchBook, insurtech startups have raised nearly $6 billion in venture capital funding since 2012. This year alone, companies in the space have brought in a record amount of capital at $1.8 billion across 94 deals.

Whether or not the hype for the emerging category will continue into 2019 remains to be seen.

News Source = techcrunch.com

Bain Capital Ventures has a fresh $1B to invest in startups

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Bain Capital Ventures (BCV), the venture capital arm of the private equity giant Bain Capital, has brought in $1 billion to invest in startups across industries and stages.

The capital has been spread across three funds: $650 million for its eighth flagship vehicle, $250 million for a co-investment fund focused on growth-stage investments and an additional $100 million directly from the partners at Bain Capital, which will be deployed on every investment out of the latest fund.

Founded in 1984, BCV is known for its investments in LinkedIn, Rent the Runway, SurveyMonkey, SendGrid and DocuSign. Initially, the firm was more of a growth-stage investor, though it’s warmed to early-stage companies, making a total of 106 early-stage investments, 52 of which were at the seed stage, since 2013. The firm says that’s triple its total volume of seed and Series A investments from previous years, thanks to the members of its West Coast investment team, who are responsible for striking a majority of BCV’s early-stage bets.

The firm opened its first office in San Francisco in 2016. BCV also has offices in New York, Boston and Palo Alto.

BCV’s seventh flagship fund closed on $600 million in 2016; its latest core vehicle is even larger. Ajay Agarwal, one of BCV’s eight managing directors since 2003, said that’s because of the bull market and lack of liquidity in venture capital, which has caused several VC funds to raise larger and larger pools of capital. Just look at Thrive Capital or GGV Capital, for example, VC funds that have surpassed $1 billion with recent fund closes.

Bain Capital Ventures is headquartered in San Francisco.

“We, like many of our peers, have far more demand for our funds than we have the capacity for,” Agarwal told TechCrunch. “Companies are taking longer to go public and therefore require more capital, but we don’t want the fund size to get too large.”

“It’s certainly an environment where lots and lots of capital is coming into the market … It puts even more of an emphasis on firms that have a real competitive differentiation — something unique to offer entrepreneurs.”

BCV invests in 12 to 14 companies per year, not including its seed-stage portfolio companies. Recent investments include Ribbon, a real estate tech startup that brought in $225 million in October; Basis, a cryptocurrency startup that raised $133 million in April; and messaging startup Attentive, which closed a $13 million round in February.

With the three additional funds, BCV has $4.9 billion in assets under management.

News Source = techcrunch.com

Lime is debuting its line of shareable vehicles in Seattle this week

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Lime, the well-funded startup known for its fleet of brightly colored dockless bicycles and electric scooters, has a new way for its customers to get around: cars.

Beginning this week, Lime users in Seattle will be able to reserve a “LimePod,” a Lime-branded 2018 Fiat 500, within the Lime mobile app. There will be 50 cars available to start as part of the company’s initial rollout. Lime plans to increase that number at the end of the month.

“LimePods, Lime’s car-sharing product line, a convenient, affordable, weather-resistant mobility solution for communities,” a spokesperson for Lime said in a statement provided to TechCrunch. “The ease of use of finding, unlocking, and paying for cars will be consistent with how riders use Lime scooters and e-bikes today.”

Lime will roll out 50 “LimePods” in Seattle this week.

Rides in the LimePod will cost $1 to unlock the car and 40 cents per minute of use. The company plans to unleash additional shareable cars in California early next year. Its scooters and e-bikes, for reference, are $1 to unlock and 15 cents per minute and regular pedal bikes are $1 to unlock and 5 cents per minute.

Founded in 2017 by Berkeley graduates Toby Sun and Brad Bao, the startup has raised a total of $467 million to date from GV, Andreessen Horowitz, IVP, Section 32, GGV Capital and more. Reports indicate that Lime is on the fundraising circuit now, targeting a $3 billion valuation, or nearly 3x its latest valuation.

LimePods will be available to order in the Lime mobile app.

The company is expanding rapidly, most recently releasing a fleet of e-scooters and bikes in Australia, as well as making notable hires on what seems like a weekly basis. In the last month, Lime has tapped Joe Kraus, a general partner at Alphabet’s venture arm GV and an existing member of the startup’s board of directors, as its first chief operating officer. Before that, it brought on Uber’s former chief business officer David Richter as its first-ever chief business officer and interim chief financial officer.

In July, the company hired Peter Dempster from ReachNow to lead the LimePod initiative out of Seattle.

News Source = techcrunch.com

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