Wij willen met u aan tafel zitten en in een openhartig gesprek uitvinden welke uitdagingen en vragen er bij u spelen om zo, gezamelijk, tot een beste oplossing te komen. Oftewel, hoe kan de techniek u ondersteunen in plaats van dat u de techniek moet ondersteunen.

Pale Blue Dot, a newly outed European venture capital firm focused on climate tech, announced this week the first closing of its debut fund at €53 million.

Targeting pre-seed and seed stage startups, the firm says it will consider software and technology investments with a strong positive climate impact. Current areas of focus include food/agriculture, industry, fashion/apparel, energy and transportation, with plans to back up to 40 companies out of fund one.

Founding partners Hampus Jakobsson, Heidi Lindvall and Joel Larsson are stalwarts of the Nordic tech ecosystem and beyond: Jakobsson co-founded TAT (The Astonishing Tribe), which was sold to Blackberry in 2012, and is a prominent angel investor in Europe, most recently a venture partner at BlueYard Capital . Lindvall is the former head of accelerator and investment team at Fast Track Malmö, with a background in human rights and media. Larsson was previously managing director at Fast Track Malmö, with a technical background and prior fund management experience.

I put questions to all three, delving deeper into Pale Blue Dot’s remit and the firm’s investment thesis. We also discussed the macro trends that warrant a fund specializing in climate tech and why Europe is poised to become a leader in the space.

Pale Blue Dot is a new VC fund specializing in climate tech, but in a sense — and to varying degrees — isn’t every venture capital fund a climate tech fund these days?

Heidi Lindvall: We think all funds should be “planet-positive” and working for a better world, but it will take time until it is a focus. Still, most funds look at a potential positive impact late in their assessment and will not decline the deal if the startups wouldn’t be significantly pulling the world in a good direction.

Hampus Jakobsson: Focus has both upsides and downsides.

The negative part with being niche is that we won’t do investments in amazing people or startups that we don’t think are “climate-contributing enough” or that the founders aren’t doing it in a genuine way (as the risk of them to paying attention to the impact might lead them to become a noncontributing company).


TechCrunch

OurCrowd, the Israeli crowdfunding venture investment platform, today announced the launch of its Pandemic Innovation Fund, with plans to raise a total of $ 100 million. The money will be invested in “urgent technological solutions for the medical, business, educational and social needs triggered by global pandemics and other health emergencies.”

The fund will invest in startups that look at developing vaccines and tests, as well as therapeutics, remote monitoring, digital health and personal protection. In addition, it’ll also look at startups that focus on continuity and disruption management that focus on remote working, distance learning, robotic process automation, home exercise and cybersecurity. That gives the fund a pretty broad mandate, but it’ll also allow the partners to spread the investments across a variety of industries.

“The rapid spread of the coronavirus has validated our vision of a connected digital world poised to solve any crisis through global communication and rapid response,” said OurCrowd CEO Jon Medved. “To ensure that we get the world back on track, there is now an urgent need for innovation. Technology can help us overcome many of the problems resulting from the crisis. It’s time for tech to move fast and fix things.”

OurCrowd has already invested in a number of companies that would have been a good fit for the new fund if they came along today, including MigVax, which recently raised $ 12 million for its coronavirus vaccine efforts, as well as Sight Diagnostics, SaNOtize, TytoCare and others.

The principals for the new fund are healthcare exec Dr. Morris Laster, OurCrowd venture partner and chairman of its medical advisory board Dr. Morry Blumenfeld and OurCrowd venture partner David Sokolic.

“Together we must tackle the current pandemic as well as plan for future ones, because this story is just beginning. Entrepreneurs are uniquely skilled to provide fast and effective solutions to some of our greatest challenges. Our new fund will create the bridge between the innovations we need and the far-sighted investors able to provide the resources required to improve our world,” said Laster.


TechCrunch

Founder Collective, a seed-stage fund formed 11 years ago in Cambridge, Ma., has closed its newest fund with $ 85 million.

Earlier today, we talked with the firm’s general partners — Eric Paley, David Frankel, Micah Rosenbloom — to learn more about it. Among our first questions: whether the three are themselves the largest investors in the new vehicle, as was the case with the firm’s third fund, which closed with $ 75 million in capital commitments four years ago. (The three have long prided themselves on their ability to tell founders who they take the firm’s capital that they truly are taking the investors’ money.)

We also talked exits, geography, and investing through the coronavirus, a time when a lot of personal investors are being more cautious with their dollars.

TC: Eric, you wrote a seed check to Uber and I spied you on the Midas list this year. Still, it’s a scary time to be investing one’s capital aggressively. Are you and David and Micah again the biggest investors in this new fund?

EP:  The three of us were the largest investors in [our third fund] and we’re significantly bigger investors in Fund IV. While we’re fortunate to have some of the best LPs in the world, we believe that being our own largest investor allows us to make decisions that better align with our founders.  We also hope it sends a signal to founders that we’re honest brokers. When we were running our startups, it frustrated us when VCs would add a punitive clause to a term sheet citing “fiduciary responsibilities” to their LPs as the justification. We’re principals and stewards of our capital, not agents of LPs.

TC: How many investors are now involved in the day-to-day of the firm and how has this changed at all in the past years? 

DF: We have ten people full-time with offices in Soho in New York and Harvard Square in Cambridge. There are three partners and a principal on the investment team. We also have a Founder Partner program with some of the best entrepreneurs covering a variety of geographies and domains. [Editor’s note: some of these include Raj DeDatta of Bloomreach, Jack Groetzinger of SeatGeek, Andy Palmer of Tamr, Zach Klein of DIY, James Tamplin of Firebase, Nadia Boujarwah of Dia&Co, Elliot Cohen of PillPack and Noah Glass  of Olo.

Caterina [Fake], who was a Founder Partner with us for 10 years, recently founded Yes.vc, and our first principal, Gaurav Jain, started Afore, a pre-seed VC.

TC: What are some of the most recent exits for the firm?

DF: Over the last couple of years, we’ve been fortunate to see Uber go public and PillPack join Amazon. CoverWallet and Hotel Tonight were another pair of outstanding outcomes. We were fortune to have backed ten companies that have either exited or been valued at more than $ 1 billion in our first two funds, but we’re also proud of $ 100 million M&A events. They often go unreported, but because of our fund size, they make a material impact to us – and, more importantly, the founders.

Have seed-stage check sizes changed? I imagine they were getting bigger and now I’d guess they might get smaller again?

EP: From the beginning of Founder Collective, we’ve done two kinds of investing, $ 1 million to $ 2 million checks, where we lead and take a board seat, and around $ 400,000 investments, where we participate. We’ve seen the average valuations rise over the last five years, but we’ve tried to stay disciplined.

MR: So far in the COVID era, check sizes aren’t that different. It’s been more of a binary situation where startups that are deemed as “on-trend” can still command healthy valuations. The companies that are pre-market, or in an out-of-favor category that might have gotten funded in February are having a hard time getting funded. But we try not to be influenced by thematic trends.

DF: One pleasant surprise has been how quickly most of our companies have responded to the “new normal.” Some have reopened rounds to put a little more capital on the balance sheet, while others have found strategic investors to help tide them over. By and large, they’re acting responsibly.

TC: Remind me of where Founder Collective invests — does it have a focus mostly on the Northeast?

MR: We invest primarily in four geographies: New York, Boston, the Bay Area, and Southern California. That said, we’ve invested in startups as far afield as Nigeria, South Korea, and Israel, and genuinely unusual and fun places like Wisconsin, Winnipeg, and Boise.

EP: The reality is that startup geography is changing. For example, the most valuable software startup in the Western world to launch after Facebook is Shopify, which currently has a $ 90 billion market cap and is based in Ottawa. It would be foolhardy for investors not to broaden their view on where great startups can be built.

That said, there are powerful network effects around startup centers. It’s absolutely possible to build a multi-billion dollar tech business anywhere; it’s orders of magnitude easier when there’s a deep talent pool to hire from, local mentors who have seen scale before, and a broad ecosystem of knowledgeable service providers that can provide guidance.

DF: Also, while we invest globally, we feel the East Coast is an undervalued startup hub. Over the past 20 years, Boston has had more billion-dollar exits than any Western city aside from San Francisco, and New York has produced multiple $ 10 billion-plus startups in spaces as diverse as consumer hardware, SaaS, dev tools, and craft marketplaces.

TC: How has the pandemic changed your outlook for the next year?

EP: Over the years, we’ve written a lot about capital efficiency for entrepreneurs and even made warning labels that we send to founders alerting them to the dangers of too much money, too soon. Historically, we’ve pushed this message because capital was overabundant, and it damaged startups. The principles of capital efficiency are even more critical in a tight capital market. We’ll be increasingly focused on helping founders understand efficient entrepreneurship and how to build models that are tuned to scale without burning capital.

We’ll also put a premium on founders who have demonstrated the flexibility to operate amid unprecedented levels of uncertainty. In this environment, companies need to focus on their customers’ needs as they are now and not fixate on their pre-existing strategy. For instance, our portfolio company Formlabs sells 3D printers mostly to engineers and designers. After they started printing a novel nasal swab design for COVID tests, hospitals became an important new customer category. The world is changing rapidly, and founders need to keep pace.

TC: What are a few of the firm’s most recent bets and what do they say about Founder Collective’s investing style?

MR: A few recent examples are TrueWork [which sells HR-focused software-as-a-service), Trusted Health [a nursing marketplace], Lovevery [which makes learning toys] and ULesson [which makes consumer education software for African students].

On the surface, it’s a diverse group of companies, but the common thread is a founding team that is all over it. The founders were obsessed with the problems they were solving, had spent meaningful time in these industries, and proved out a lot before seeking funding. There’s no way we can be experts in all those fields, but we do think we know how to spot the founders who are.

TC: Presumably, you’ve already sorted your startups into these red, yellow, and green groups that VCs like to talk about. What are happening to the startups in the red group? Are you helping them to unwind their businesses? 

MR: It’s still so early, it’s hard to say what the ultimate impact will be, and the longer it goes, the worse it will likely get. So far, COVID was the nail in the coffin for a few of our startups, and we’ve tried to help the founders find soft landings for the teams and assets. Some of our distance-learning companies and our health-oriented companies have benefited due to the growing need for their products.

Most of our startups are somewhere in the middle. We try to help entrepreneurs on a case-by-case basis, sometimes that means organizing peer discussion groups about cash management in a time of crisis. Other times, it takes the form of making introductions to potential acquirers. When possible, we help to catalyze new rounds of funding.

TC: What’s one new area of interest for founder collective and why?

DF: One of our core beliefs is that the best startups are built by founders approaching weird and wonderful spaces.We’ve backed ad tech for the flooring industry, IoT-based offshore oyster farming robots, crypto, cologne, doggy DNA tests, data management tools. We’re proudly anti-thematic, and historically, that’s led to good outcomes.


TechCrunch

African startups have another $ 100 million in VC to pitch for after Novastar Ventures’ latest raise.

The Nairobi and Lagos based investment group announced it has closed $ 108 million in new commitments to launch its Africa Fund II, which brings Novastar’s total capital to $ 200 million.

With the additional resources, the firm plans to make 12 to 14 investments across the continent, according to Managing Director Steve Beck. He spoke to TechCrunch on Novastar Ventures’ plans for the new fund.

A notable update to Novastar’s VC focus is geographic scope. The firm was originally co-founded in Kenya by Beck and British investor Andrew Carruthers and built its first portfolio largely around companies based in East Africa. Novastar Ventures made 15 investments with its first fund, including companies such as Uganda and Kenya focused energy startup SolarNow and agtech venture M-Farm.

“The second fund is basically the same strategy as the first, but…the biggest difference is that we opened up a second front in West Africa — more particularly to be in and around the entrepreneurial system in Lagos,” Beck told TechCrunch on a call.

Before closing its Africa Fund II, Novastar Ventures had already made several investments in West Africa, including leading a round in Nigerian on demand motorcycle transit startup Max.ng and backing Ghanaian health company, MPharma. Novastar opened an office Lagos in 2019.

On the types of startups Novastar will target with its new fund, the focus is more on mission than industry silos, according to co-founder Steve Beck. “We’re sector agnostic. I would describe us more as a segment fund than a sector fund,” he said.

“We really try to look for businesses called breakthrough businesses, [those] that are addressing the biggest problems in the largest markets.”

That has led Novastar Ventures to invest in digital companies in education, information access, agtech, mobility and off-grid energy.

“Essentially what we’re doing is looking for those businesses that are addressing the basic needs, basic goods and services across the true mass markets of the continent,” said Beck.

On whether the firm is a dedicated impact fund, Beck said, “The way we characterize ourselves is we’re a commercial venture fund with an impact screen.”

On investment amounts and types, Novastar Ventures is fairly flexible on ticket size, from seed to later stage.

“We’re gonna…have some portfolio companies where we put to work a million dollars or less or were going to have some where we put $ 8 or $ 9 million dollars in through capital rounds. That’s…the deployment strategy,” Beck said.

Novastar Ventures works closely with its portfolio companies, according to its co-founder.

“We’re very active investors and always take a board seat to be close to the entrepreneurs. We often are the first institutional investor that they have.”

Africa Top VC Markets 2019

Image Credits: TechCrunch

Startups who want to pitch to the company can reach out to the fund’s founders and directors via the website or LinkedIn, according to Beck. He added that Novastar Ventures is recruiting to add another member to its investor team in 2020.

The firm’s latest raise and $ 200 million capital amount creates another high value fund focused on African startups.

On the high end of estimates, the continent’s tech ecosystem reached $ 2 billion in VC to startups in 2019, compared to less than half a billion dollar five years ago.

Other large Africa focused VC shops include TLcom Capital — which closed a $ 71 million fund in February —  and Partech, which doubled its Africa fund to $ 143 million in 2019. The venture arms of major global companies have also become more active in African tech recently, including that of Goldman Sachs and Visa.


TechCrunch

It’s not quite business as usual in the world of business, but in tech, there is still a significant amount of money being raised and invested, both to help sustain the most promising startups, and to help find those emerging despite (or because of) the wider economic and social crises arising from the coronavirus pandemic. Today, one of the biggest names in VC, Index Ventures, announced that it has closed another $ 2 billion in funds –$ 1.2 billion that it plans to use for growth rounds (larger, later stage investments) and $ 800 million that it will put into emerging startups (smaller, earlier rounds, likely for younger companies).

At a time when it’s getting very tough for startups — which are often built not for immediate profit but growth, with big capital infusions to sustain themselves — Index will have its work cut out for it. To date, 70% of its initial investments are at Series A or earlier. Whether that will be a proportion it keeps remains to be seen.

The total amount is larger than Index’s last fund, dating from July 2018, which totalled $ 1.65 billion ($ 1 billion growth, $ 650,000 emerging), but it’s not clear if this was what the firm had intended to raise, or less or more. For some context, another huge VC firm, Insight Partners, last week announced a monster $ 9.5 billion round, which exceeded the company’s original target of just over $ 7 billion.

Like Insight, the focus for Index will be both to fund existing portfolio companies as well as seek out those diamonds in the rough that are being built now, a spokesperson confirmed to us.

Despite all the social distancing and tightening of purse strings due to unemployment and other indicators of economic struggle, there have been pockets of opportunity emerging around areas like delivery services, medical and healthcare technology, and of course anything that helps us live our lives in a more efficient and hopefully diversionary way online (which can come in the form of entertainment, but also better services for doing practical and necessary things, like shopping or have a work videoconference without websites falling over or getting hacked).

“Innovation is often born out of adversity,” said Jan Hammer, Partner at Index Ventures, in a statement. “The path to building a great company is not a straight line, with many obstacles and forks along the way. We take the long view and remain committed to investing in ambitious entrepreneurs at this unprecedented time.”

Yes, it is easy for a VC — who I’m guessing is probably not concerned about his income or health in the same way that a front-line healthcare worker or grocery check-out person might be — to wax lyrical about opportunity right now, but that doesn’t mean it’s not something that should be ignored. In fact, I’d argue that finding ways out of this is just as important as us all getting through it in one piece.

Index has remained one of the very active investors in the last several weeks, as a key backer in some of the biggest deals announced for Notion, Fast, Collibra and Safety Culture, “with more to follow,” the spokesperson said.

Other big startups (scale-ups perhaps being a more apt word) include Deliveroo, Glossier, Confluent, Figma, Revolut and Roblox. IPOs from its portfolio over the last couple of years have included Slack, Adyen and Datadog.

“We believe that entrepreneurs hold the keys to the world’s recovery, and we couldn’t support them without the backing of our investors, our limited partners,” said partner Mike Volpi in a statement. “Many of them have been with us for two decades, and we’re especially thankful for their continued commitment in times like these. The success of our entrepreneurs in turn helps to fund the research organizations, universities, medical institutes and the pension funds our limited partners represent, and we couldn’t be more proud to have them as part of the Index Family.”


TechCrunch

Toggle, a Brooklyn-based robotics startup, announced today that it scored $ 3 million in seed funding. The early-stage round was led by Point72 Ventures’ AI Group, with participation from Mark Cuban and VC Twenty Seven Ventures. The series follows a 2018 pre-seed round of $ 570,000 from its Urban-X accelerator, Urban Us, Accelerate NY / Empire State Development and Perl Street Capital.

The 15-person startup creates robotics that fabricate and assemble rebar. It’s designed to work in tandem with existing robotics and steel fabrication technologies, while speeding up the process up to 15 times, by the company’s count.

Toggle has already begun a soft launch “for a wide range of projects in New York City and the surrounding area,” according to the company. It expects to ramp up toward commercial production over the course of the next year and a half. CEO Daniel Blank tells TechCrunch that the seed round will be used toward R&D and growing the Toggle team.

“This funding will be used to further develop our technology — both the hardware and software — around assembly and fabrication automation, as well as grow the engineering team that supports this development,” Blank tells TechCrunch. “The funding also provides us with a strong foundation for our manufacturing operation which is already supplying services and materials to customers in New York City and the surrounding region.”


TechCrunch

Accion Venture Lab—the seed-stage investment arm of non-profit Accion—has raised $ 23 million for a new inclusive fintech startup fund.

The Accion Venture Lab Limited Partnership, as its called, will make seed-stage investments in inclusive fintech startups, defined as ventures that “that leverage technology to increase the reach, quality, and affordability of financial services for the under-served at scale,” per a company release.

The new fund was raised with capital contributions from a number of participants, including the Ford Foundation, Visa Inc. and Proparco—the development finance institution of the French government.

The additional $ 23 million brings Accion Venture Lab‘s total capital under management to $ 42 million.

The new LP fund will consider startups from any geography, as along as they meet specific criteria. Overall, Accion Venture Lab doesn’t have regional investment quotas, but does look to allocate roughly 25 to 30 percent of its funds to Africa, Accion Venture Lab Managing Director Tahira Dosani told TechCrunch on a call.

“We want to continue to focus on Latin-America, on Sub-Saharan Africa, on Southeast Asia as well as in the U.S. It really is about…where we see the need and the opportunity across the markets that we’re in,” she said.

In line with Accion’s mandate to boost financial inclusion globally, Accion Venture Lab already has a portfolio of 36 fintech startup investments across 5 continents—including 9 in the U.S., 8 in Latin America, and 8 in India.

“Our goal is to really be the that first institutional investor in the companies we invest in. That’s were we see the biggest capital gap. And it’s where we build capability and expertise,” Dosani said. In 2018, Accion Venture Lab successfully exited Indian fintech company Aye Finance, following exits in 2017 and 2016.

Tahira Dosani Accion Venture Lab I

This year Accion Venture Lab supported a $ 6.5 million Series A investment in Lulalend, a South African startup that uses internal credit metrics to provide short-term loans to SMEs that are often unable to obtain working capital.

Accion’s new LP fund will follow past practice and make investments typically in the $ 500,000 range. It will start sourcing startups immediately through its investment leads around the world and already made its first seed financing to U.S. venture Joust—a fintech platform for gig economy workers.

Accion Venture Lab’s LP fund is the first time the organization has pooled third-party investment capital, according to a spokesperson.

On the appeal for those contributing, Dosani named Accion’s geographic reach and experience. “We think that’s our strength, because we’re able to invest in similar business models across different markets. And we’re able to bring that knowledge from one market to another,” she said.

The Ford Foundation contributed $ 2 million, according to an email from Christine Looney, Deputy Director, Mission Investments. Visa didn’t disclose its capital contribution, but told TechCrunch it will play a role in governance through its participation in a Limited Partners Advisory Committee for the new fund.

As a point of observation, Accion Venture Lab stands out as a fund for giving an equal pitch footing to fintech ventures across frontier, emerging, and developed markets from Lagos to London.

Accion’s new LP fund—along with the organization’s commitment to make nearly a third of its investments in Africa—means more capital to digital finance startups on the continent. By a number of estimates, Africa’s 1.2 billion people still represent the largest share of the world’s unbanked and underbanked population.

 

 

 


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