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.

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.”

 


TechCrunch

Wavecell, a cloud-communications platform for companies in Southeast Asia, announced today that it has been acquired by 8×8 in a deal worth about $ 125 million. The acquisition will help San Jose, California-based 8×8 expand in Asia, where Wavecell already has offices in Singapore, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Hong Kong.

Wavecell’s cloud API platform, which includes SMS, chat, video and voice messaging, is used by companies such as Paidy, Lalamove and Tokopedia. It has relationships with 192 network operators and partners like WhatsApp and claims its infrastructure is used to share more than two billion messages each year.

The terms of the deal includes $ 69 million in cash and about $ 56 million in 8×8 common shares. Founded in 2010, Wavecell’s investors included Qualgro VC, Wavemaker Partners and MDI Ventures.

In a prepared statement, 8×8 CEO Vik Verma said “8×8 is now the only cloud provider that owns the full, global-scale, cloud-native, technology stack offering voice, video, messaging, and contact center delivered both as pre-packaged applications and as enterprise-class APIs. We’re excited to welcome the Wavecell employees to the 8×8 family. We now have a significant market presence in Asia and expect to continue to expand in the region and globally in order to meet evolving customer requirements.”


TechCrunch

Rivigo, a tech startup in India that wants to build a more reliable and safer logistics network, has raised $ 65 million as major investors continue to place big bet on opportunities in overhauling trucking system in the country.

The Series E round, which has not closed, for the five-year-old startup was led by existing investors Warburg Pincus and SAIF Partners.  The startup, which has raised more than $ 280 million to date, said it aims to be profitable by March next year.

Rivigo operates a tech platform that tracks and manages shipments and ensures that drivers are available at all times and trucks are as fully loaded as possible. The platform also automatically rotates drivers so that they can get enough rest and see their family while the trucks keep moving. Drivers use an app to navigate maps and accept assignments.

“Relay trucking is now very well established where relay truck pilots lead better life and customers gets exceptional service. With technology and freight marketplace, we now want to bring relay to every truck in the country,” Deepak Garg, founder and CEO of Rivigo, said in a statement.

Rivigo, which competes with heavily-backed startups such as BlackBuck, owns its own fleet of trucks while also operating a freight marketplace. This separates it from competitors that serve purely as an aggregator — or Uber for trucks, if you will.

The startup, which claims to have the largest reach in India, said it would use the fresh capital to further expand its network and tech infrastructure in the country. Financially, too, Rivigo has driven past many of its competitors. In the financial year that ended in March this year, Rivigo’s revenue jumped to $ 105 million at a 77% year-over-year growth rate. Its losses also widened to $ 35 million, according to disclosures it made to the local regulator.

“From building algorithmically complex models to accurately predicting the life journey of a consignment to creating a dynamic pricing engine for the freight marketplace, the company is working on hundreds of unique problems at scale,” said Garg.

India’s logistics market, despite being valued at $ 160 billion, remains one of the most inefficient sectors that continues to drag the economy.

Last month, Rivigo launched National Freight Index that shows live tariff rates for different lanes and vehicles in the country in a bid to bring more transparency to the ecosystem.

More to follow later today…


TechCrunch

Low code and no code are the latest industry buzzwords, but if vendors can truly abstract away the complexity of difficult tasks like building machine learning models, it could help mainstream technologies that are currently out of reach of most business users. That’s precisely what Microsoft is aiming to do with its latest Power BI platform announcements today.

The company tried to bring that low code simplicity to building applications last year when it announced PowerApps. Now it believes by combining PowerApps with Microsoft Flow and its new AI Builder tool, it can allow folks building apps with PowerApps to add a layer of intelligence very quickly.

It starts with having access to data sources, and the Data Connector tool gives users access to over 250 data connectors. That includes Salesforce, Oracle and Adobe, as well as of course Microsoft services like Office 365 and Dynamics 365. Richard Riley, senior director for Power Platform marketing, says this is the foundation for pulling data into AI Builder.

“AI Builder is all about making it just as easy in a low code, no code way to go bring artificial intelligence and machine learning into your Power Apps, into Microsoft Flow, into the Common Data Service, into your data connectors, and so on,” Riley told TechCrunch.

Screenshot: Microsoft

Charles Lamanna, general manager at Microsoft says that Microsoft can do all the analysis and heavy lifting required to build a data model for you, removing a huge barrier to entry for business users. “The basic idea is that you can select any field in the Common Data Service and just say, ‘I want to predict this field.’  Then we’ll actually go look at historical records for that same table or entity to go predict [the results],” he explained. This could be used to predict if a customer will sign up for a credit card, if a customer is likely to churn, or if a loan would be approved, and so forth.

While Microsoft admits this won’t be something everyone uses, they do see a kind of power user who might have been previously unable to approach this level of sophistication on their own, building apps and adding layers of intelligence without a heck of a lot of coding. If it works as advertised it will bring a level of simplicity to tasks that were previously well out of reach of business users without requiring a data scientist.


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