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Clumio, a 100-people startup that offers a SaaS-like service for enterprise backup, today announced that it has raised a $ 135 million Series C round, led by existing investor Sutter Hill Ventures and new investor Altimeter Captial. The announcement comes shortly after the company’s disclosure in August that it had quietly raised a total of $ 51 million in Series A and B rounds in 2017 and 2018. The company says it plans to use this new funding to “accelerate its vision to deliver a globally consolidated data protection service in and for the public cloud.”

Given the amount of money invested in the company, chances are Clumio is getting close to a $ 1 billion valuation, but the company is not disclosing its valuation at this point.

The overall mission of Clumio is to build a platform on public clouds that gives enterprises a single data protection service that can handle backups of their data in on-premises, cloud and SaaS applications. When it came out of stealth, the company’s focus was on VMware on premises. Since then, the team has expanded this to include VMware running on public clouds.

“When somebody moves to the cloud, they don’t want to be in the business of managing software or infrastructure and all that, because the whole reason to move to the cloud was essentially to get away from the mundane,” explained Clumio CEO and co-founder Poojan Kumar.

The next step in this process, as the company also announced today, is to make it easier for enterprises to protect the cloud-native applications they are building now. The company today launched this service for AWS and will likely expand it to other clouds like Microsoft Azure, soon.

The market for enterprise backup is only going to expand in the coming years. We’ve now reached a point, after all, where it’s not unheard of to talk about enterprises that run thousands of different applications. For them, Clumio wants to become the one-stop-shop for all things data protection — and its investors are obviously buying into the company’s vision and momentum.

“When there’s a foundational change, like the move to the cloud, which is as foundational a change, at least, as the move from mainframe to open systems in the 80s and 90s,” said Mike Speiser, Managing Director at Sutter Hill Ventures . “When there’s a change like that, you have to re-envision, you have to refactor and think of the world — the new world — in a new way and start from scratch. If you don’t, what’s gonna end up happening is people make decisions that are short term decisions that seem like they will work but end up being architectural dead ends. And those companies never ever end up winning. They just never end up winning and that’s the opportunity right now on this big transition across many markets, including the backup market for Clumio.”

Speiser also noted that SaaS allows for a dramatically larger market opportunity for companies like Clumio. “What SaaS is doing, is it’s not only allowing us to go after the traditional Silicon Valley, high end, direct selling, expensive markets that were previously buying high-end systems and data centers. But what we’re seeing — and we’re seeing this with Snowflake and […] we will see it with Clumio — is there’s an opportunity to go after a much broader market opportunity.”

Starting next year, Clumio will expand that market by adding support for data protection for a first SaaS app, with more to follow, as well as support for backup in more regions and clouds. Right now, the service’s public cloud tool focuses on AWS — and only in the United States. Next year, it plans to support international regions as well.

Kumar stressed that he wants to build Clumio for the long run, with an IPO as part of that roadmap. His investors probably wouldn’t mind that, either.


TechCrunch

Playbuzz, a startup that helps publishers to add things like polls and galleries to their articles, has rebranded itself as Ex.co.

Co-founder and CEO Tom Pachys told me the name stands for “the experience company,” and he said it reflects the company’s broader content marketing ambitions. Ex.co will continue working with news publishers, but Pachys said there’s a bigger market for what the company has built.

“We’re seeing businesses wanting to become publishers in a way, to interact with their users in a way that’s very similar to what a publisher does,” Pachys said.

Playbuzz/Ex.co is hardly the first publishing startup realize that there may be more money in content marketing, but Pachys argued that this isn’t just a sudden pivot. After all, the company is already working with clients like Visa, Red Bull and Netflix (as well as our corporate siblings at The Huffington Post).

“The previous name does not reflect the values that we stand for today — not even future values,” he said.

Tom Pachys

Tom Pachys

Pachys also suggested that existing content marketing tools are largely focused on operations and workflow — things like hiring the right freelancer — while Ex.co aims at making it easier to actually create the content.

“We’re the ones innovate within the core — not around it, but the core itself,” he said. “And rather than trying to call them competition, we want to integrate with as much players in the ecosystem as possible.”

In addition to announcing the rebrand, Ex.co is also relaunching its platform as a broader content marketing tool, with new features like content templates, real-time analytics and lead generation.

Pachys, by the way, is new to the CEO role, having served as COO until recently, while previous Playbuzz CEO Shaul Olmert has become the company’s president. Pachys said the move wasn’t “directly correlated” with the other changes, and instead allows the two of them to focus on their strengths — Pachys oversees day-to-day operations, while Olmert focuses on investor relations and strategic deals.

“I co-founded the company with Shaul, who’s a very good friend of mine, we’ve known each other 20 years,” Pachys said. “Shaul is very much involved in the company.”


TechCrunch

Gradeup, an edtech startup in India that operates an exam preparation platform for undergraduate and postgraduate level courses, has raised $ 7 million from Times Internet as it looks to expand its business in the country.

Times Internet, a conglomerate in India, invested $ 7 million in Series A and $ 3 million in Seed financing rounds of the four-year-old Noida-based startup, it said. Times Internet is the only external investor in Gradeup, they said.

Gradeup started as a community for students to discuss their upcoming exams, and help one another with solving questions, said Shobhit Bhatnagar, cofounder and CEO of Gradeup, in an interview with TechCrunch.

While those functionalities continue to be available on the platform, Gradeup has expanded to offer online courses from teachers to help students prepare for exams in last one year, he said. These courses, depending on their complexity and duration, cost anywhere between Rs 5,000 ($ 70) and Rs 35,000 ($ 500).

“These are live lectures that are designed to replicate the offline experience,” he said. The startup offers dozens of courses and runs multiple sessions in English and Hindi languages. As many as 200 students tune into a class simultaneously, he said.

Students can interact with the teacher through a chatroom. Each class also has a “student success rate” team assigned to it that follows up with each student to check if they had any difficulties in learning any concept and take their feedback. These extra efforts have helped Gradeup see more than 50% of its students finish their courses — an industry best, Bhatnagar said.

Each year in India, more than 30 million students appear for competitive exams. A significant number of these students enroll themselves to tuitions and other offline coaching centers.

“India has over 200 million students that spend over $ 90 billion on different educational services. These have primarily been served offline, where the challenge is maintaining high quality while expanding access,” said Satyan Gajwani, Vice Chairman of Times Internet.

In recent years, a number of edtech startups have emerged in the country to cater to larger audiences and make access to courses cheaper. Byju’s, backed by Naspers and valued at over $ 5.5 billion, offers a wide-ranging self-learning courses. Vedantu, a Bangalore-based startup that raised $ 42 million in late August, offers a mix of recorded and live and interactive courses.

Co-founders of Noida-based edtech startup Gradeup

But still, only a fraction of students take online courses today. One of the roadblocks in their growth has been access to mobile data, which until recent years was fairly expensive in the country. But arrival of Reliance Jio has solved that issue, said Bhatnagar. The other is acceptance from students and more importantly, their parents. Watching a course online on a smartphone or desktop is still a new concept for many parents in the country, he said. But this, too, is beginning to change.

“The first wave of online solutions were built around on-demand video content, either free or paid. Today, the next wave is online live courses like Gradeup, with teacher-student interactivity, personalisation, and adaptive learning strategies, deliver high-quality solutions that scale, which is particularly valuable in semi-urban and rural markets,” said Times Internet’s Gajwani.

“These match or better the experience quality of offline education, while being more cost-effective. This trend will keep growing in India, where online live education will grow very quickly for test prep, reskilling, and professional learning,” he added.

Gradeup has amassed over 15 million registered students who have enrolled to live lectures. The startup plans to use the fresh capital to expand its academic team to 100 faculty members (from 50 currently) and 200 subject matters and reach more users in smaller cities and towns in India.

“Students even in smaller cities and towns are paying a hefty amount of fee and are unable to get access to high-quality teachers,” Bhatnagar said. “This is exactly the void we can fill.”


TechCrunch

PrimaryBid, a UK-regulated platform connecting publicly listed companies with everyday investors for discounted share issuances has previously raised $ 3M. It’s now upped those stakes with an $ 8.6M funding round, led by UK VCs Pentech and Outward VC with participation from new and existing investors. Craig Anderson, a partner at Pentech, will join the PrimaryBidBoard of Directors with Outward VC having a Board Observer seat.

This investment is representative of the trend towards unpacking complex financial investment products for the average person, especially in the UK.

The FCA-regulated platform recently made a long-term commercial agreement with Euronext, the leading pan-European exchange in the Eurozone. The partnership gives the company access to nine new geographies, with the first new site launching in France later this year.

Commenting, Anand Sambasivan, co-founder and CEO of PrimaryBid, said: “Everyday investors are a vital part of the stock market and yet unable to buy discounted share deals – a longstanding imbalance in the public markets. This is true whether it is a government selling down its holding in a large company or a quoted company is raising growth capital. Our platform addresses this challenge, giving small investors the same access as traditionally afforded to large institutional investors.”

Investors can tap into PrimaryBid’s centralizing infrastructure that allows access to everyday investors as part of a share issuance, including block sales. The inclusion of retail investors can improve pricing and liquidity outcomes for their clients. The company’s solution allows private investors to participate, at the same time and the same price, delivering open access regardless of the size of their investment. The service is free of charge for investors, from £100 upwards.

PrimaryBid doesn’t have competitors because Retail investors have not previously had access to discounted equity offerings run by investment banks. This is because the retail investment market is too fragmented, and these deals are highly time-sensitive. As a result, only clients of Investment Banks (i.e. institutional investors) could previously access these attractive deals.

So now, listed companies that want to raise more capital on the stock exchange by issuing new shares can now connect with retail investors and offer these retail investors these shares at the same discounted rates as those offered to institutional investors. “In the past, these retail investors just couldn’t access these attractive deals for these new shares,” explains Sambasivan.

Craig Anderson of Pentech said: “We believe equity capital markets infrastructure is dominated by an institutional focus and is not geared for retail investors, which unfairly restricts consumer access to the primary equity markets. PrimaryBid addresses this problem by using technology to democratize the equity capital markets to provide a new asset class to retail investors.”

Kevin Chong of Outward VC said: “By bringing publicly listed companies directly to ordinary investors, PrimaryBid addresses increasing frustrations felt by equity issuers and potentially expands global equity markets to the benefit of all players – investors, issuers and investment bank advisers.”

Pentech previously invested in Nutmeg (which recently closed a £45m funding round led by Goldman Sachs) . Outward VC has previously backed Monese, Curve and Bud.


TechCrunch

LinkedIn, with 645 million users in 200 countries, is the undisputed leader when it comes to being the world’s biggest network of professionals, a position that it uses to leverage products in areas like recruitment and e-learning. But in achieving that size, it hasn’t really developed products for a more targeted approach for specific verticals or audiences. And that has opened the field of a wide variety of startups to fill in the gaps and compete with it. Today, one these hopefuls — a startup called RippleMatch that has built a recruitment platform to help organizations specifically to connect with recent graduates from more diverse backgrounds that match their needs — is announcing a Series A of $ 6 million to do just that.

The funding — which will be used to expand the platform as well as for business development — is being led by G20 Ventures, with Work-Bench, and previous investors Accomplice, Bullpen Capital, and AlleyCorp. also participating.

The company is not disclosing its valuation but from what I understand is that it’s a “material step up”, as it has been on a steady growth curve and counts companies like Pfizer, TripAdvisor, and Qualtrics among its customer base. This is also the first significant outside money that it has raised. RippleMatch’s very first funding, in fact, was the signing bonus that co-founder Eric Ho had received when he once got a job at Facebook. “It was the need to pay that back that led us to raising this Series A,” joked Andrew Myers, the other co-founder who is also the CEO.

Myers and Ho met and started the company when they were still students at Yale University. Ho was about to graduate, but Myers was still in the thick of his undergrad degree, which he still has yet to complete (and, as is the way of tech founders, may never finish).

The idea for the company came when Myers — who studied history and political science — was thinking about the predicament that a lot of his friends from back home in Colorado were facing in the working world.

Like Myers, they were also undergraduates. But unlike him, they were not at Yale nor any other top-shelf school that has the benefit not only of prestigious name recognition, but typically strong recruiting pipelines to some of the most competitive companies hiring graduates for lucrative entry-level positions.

“I was very cognisant of the divide coming from different socio-economic backgrounds,” Myers said in an interview. “I could see that a lot of my friends from home would be better hires for places than some of the people I knew at Yale. They just didn’t have the same opportunities. We didn’t think of this as a business venture in the early days: it was a problem that our friends had that I wanted to solve.”

Using AI to cut out the recruiter

RippleMatch’s approach is relatively straightforward: the company has built a platform that takes a potential candidate through a relatively quick set of questions about his/her career and geographical ambitions, interests and so on, along with a copy of the candidate’s resume.

It then combines these with basic information about a candidate’s GPA and test scores. Taking all that and combining it with more information sources outside of the candidate’s own input, it comes up with some 300 data points that it crunches that together to match candidates with job and internship opportunities. On the employer side, it not only sources job vacancies of the moment, but also works on matching up an employer’s wider hiring strategy with this trove of people — the idea being that it’s bringing up possibilities that the employer might have otherwise passed over, or even seen to begin with.

Myers says that the matching algorithms, which include the ability to ascertain what people might directly and indirectly be best suited to do, that RippleMatch has built essentially cut out the “middle man” in the process — that is, the recruiter, but also potentially of the relationships and pipelines that may already exist, and as a result level the playing field for everyone, making it just as likely that an employer will discover their next star hire from a small college in the midwest as from Stanford.

As Mike Troiano, the partner at G20 who led the firm’s investment in RippleMatch, describes it, a school’s name recognition and networking prowess aren’t the only things standing in the way of qualified candidates getting a look in the door. His daughter was having a hard time getting a response from a company she contacted for an internship and when they put together her LinkedIn profile, they realised that she simply lacked the professional network to figure out if there was someone to contact and help.

“College hiring is kind of a black box through traditional channels. The surveys RippleMatch uses to collect info from students and employers about who they are and what they want create this proprietary data set,” said Troiano. “LinkedIn is about relationships more than attributes. The college market is a niche they’re ill suited to, and one I think they’ll leave alone for now.”

Indeed, while LinkedIn has proven to be a strong starting point for many professionals in their career progression, its shortcomings are most obvious in more specific examples like these. (It was one reason that LinkedIn made a big push some years ago to start trying to bring younger users on to the platform, to work on ways of getting them to start building up their profiles and networks.)

RippleMatch is part of a growing number of startups that have been identifying and (for their purposes) exploiting these kinds of holes in LinkedIn’s wider platform. Another startup that has been building a platform also aimed at graduates and specifically at trying to help source more diverse pools of candidates is Handshake (which itself raised $ 40 million less than a year ago).

Handshake takes a different approach in that it offers job boards and proactively works with universities and recruitment organizations and offers users a social network / community of sorts from which to source advice and exchange information. All this has helped boost that company’s database to 14 million people as of last year, likely more now that it’s opened up access to all university students in the US.

Others that have been pecking away at the LinkedIn hegemony include the likes of Triplebyte, another well-capitalised recruitment startup that targets specifically software engineers. The startup has built its own assessment platform (used by RippleMatch to recruit, incidentally) which its CEO and co-founder Harj Taggar also believes can help level the playing field between those who are coming from big-name companies and schools and those who are not, focusing solely on a person’s ability to code. LinkedIn might have millions of profiles of engineers to Triplebyte’s thousands, but the key with the smaller company is that it has profiles of people “who are actively job searching,” which he notes stands in contrast to the unsolicited contacts that many people get on LinkedIn, just by virtue of being there. “We’re getting two times the rate of responses that recruiting teams see on LinkedIn,” Taggar claimed. It’s now ramping up with a premium tier aimed at those recruiting at scale.

RippleMatch is still at a relatively small and early stage of its life in comparison to these two. While it has partnerships with some 1,200 diversity focused organizations on campuses to bring in more candidates, and today some 60% of its candidate pool are from underrepresented backgrounds, the company today only has about 100,000 candidates in total on the platform and agreements with 60 companies who tap RippleMatch to find them. But, at a time when the economic, societal and geographic rifts seem insurmountable in countries like the US, it’s more important than ever to work on ways to help close those gaps, paving the way for a big opportunity for tech-based solutions like RippleMatch’s.


TechCrunch

A pair of digital news companies are teaming up, with PressReader acquiring News360.

PressReader was founded back in 1999 as Newspaper Direct. It now operates a platform that converts newspapers and magazines into digital formats, while offering a $ 29.99 monthly subscription that provides unlimited access to more than 7,000 of those titles.

News360, meanwhile, is relatively youthful, having been founded in 2010. It’s also created a news aggregation app, but the announcement makes it sound like PressReader was particularly interested in the company’s NativeAI technology for analytics and personalization.

In a statement, PressReader CEO Alex Kroogman suggested that News360’s technology will be used to improve PressReader’s consumer experience and publisher tools:

In a world where news fatigue is a real and growing problem, and media literacy a global concern, it’s more important than ever for people to have access to the trusted content they need in an engaging environment. By understanding each person’s interests, and building advanced data science systems around content analytics, we will be able to give our millions of readers the trusted media they want, how they want it, when they want it, and where they want it, while building more audience intelligence into the data that drives our publisher and brand partnerships.

The News360 team will be joining PressReader and working out of the acquiring company’s Vancouver headquarters.

News360 CEO Roman Karachinsky told me via email that the combined company will continue to support the News360 app and “develop it alongside the PressReader apps,” but he added, “In the short-term[,] the team will be focused on adding News360 tech into PressReader, so I wouldn’t expect big changes to the News360 app until we’re done with this.”

The financial terms of the acquisition were not disclosed. According to Crunchbase, News360 has raised a total of $ 7.5 million from investors including Ordell Capital.


TechCrunch

Zhihu, the largest question and answer platform in China, has raised a $ 434 million Series F. This is not only the company’s biggest round since it launched in 2011, but also one of the largest secured over the past two years by a Chinese Internet culture and entertainment company, said China Renaissance, which served as the funding’s financial advisor.

The Series F was led by Beijing Kuaishou, the video and live-streaming app, with participation from Baidu . Existing investors Tencent and CapitalToday also returned for the round, which Zhihu will use for technology and product development. Baidu told Bloomberg that it will add 100 million Zhihu posts to its main app.

While Zhihu has downplayed reports that it is planning an IPO, it embarked on plans to hire a CFO and restructure last year.

Zhihu users tend to be educated with relatively high incomes and the platform has developed a reputation for hosting experts and organizations that are knowledgeable in tech, marketing and professional services like education. Like Quora and other Q&A platforms, Zhihu lets users post and answer text-based questions. But it also has other features, including discussion forums, a publishing platform and live videos for brands and companies to answer questions in real-time. Instead of making its streaming video feature, called Zhihu Live, open to all users, it is available to only to experts and organizations, differentiating it from other streaming apps like Douyin, the domestic version of TikTok (ByteDance is an investor in Zhihu but did not participate in this round).

In a post about the round on his Zhihu page, founder and CEO Victor Zhou wrote the company plans to keep up with rapid changes in China’s media and Internet landscape. “Over the past 8 years, users have gone from expecting simple entertainment to using the Internet to deal with real-life and work problems. The focus of competition has also shifted from traffic to traffic + quality.”

 


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