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.

Propzy, a Vietnam-based startup that guides consumers through the entire process of a real estate transaction, announced it has raised a $ 25 million Series A led by Gaw Capital and SoftBank Ventures Asia, the early-stage venture arm of SoftBank Group. Other investors included Next Billion Ventures, RHL Ventures, Breeze, FEBE Ventures, RSquare and Insignia.

Instead of proptech, Propzy founder and CEO John Le prefers the term “firetech” to describe the startup, using “fire” as an acronym for financial, insurance and real estate technology. Founded in 2016, Propzy’s technology covers almost every stage of a real estate transaction, from brick-and-mortar sales centers to an online marketplace for listings, financial products like mortgage lending and, finally, enterprise software for property managers and tenants.

The company’s Series A will be used to grow its product line and provide a balance sheet for its expansion into direct mortgage financing. Most of Propzy’s current operations are in Ho Chi Minh City. It plans to expand into Hanoi through the rest of this year and 2021, before exploring other Southeast Asian markets, including potentially Thailand, Malaysia and the Philippines.

Propzy currently has 30 brick-and-mortar sales centers, with a total of 400 sales staff. Over the 18 months, it expects to increase those numbers to 70 sales centers and 1,300 sales staff.

The sales centers complement Propzy’s online marketplace, with tens of thousands of properties pre-screened by its staff before they are entered into listings. Le said Propzy has handled more than $ 1 billion in property transactions since its launch, making it the largest offline-to-online real estate network in Vietnam.

Le is a serial entrepreneur and his past startups include LoanTrader, a mortgage trading platform that was backed by Goldman Sachs, Citigroup and GE Capital. In 2009, he went to Vietnam to launch an international credit bureau with TransUnion. During that time, he realized how burdensome the process of renting or buying property can be there.

In the United States, consumers benefit from listing platforms like Zillow and Trulia, licensed real estate agents and escrow offices. In Vietnam, however, Le said many listings are on classified sites, similar to Craigslist, and are often not handled by licensed agents. There is also no standardized listing data, which makes comparing multiple properties difficult for consumers.

To replicate the U.S. experience in Vietnam, “you can’t just launch a website and put properties on it,” Le said. “We built an offline agency, but you need to utilize tech to increase its efficiency and performance, so we are an offline-to-online platform. That high-touch customer service needs to go all the way, not just for property matchmaking but to help both parties successfully close and settle transactions.”

Propzy built an automated valuation model using data it has gathered over the last four years to assess homes, help recommend prices and show customers comparable properties. On the financing side, the model is also used by Propzy’s partner banks to help customers get pre-approved for loans based on property value.

After buyers move into an apartment unit, they can use Propzy’s tenant software to report issues or book maintenance services and amenities. If they decide to sell or rent the property, they can also do so through the platform.

The pandemic has put downward pressure on Vietnam’s real estate market, with a 70% reduction in Propzy’s business during the country’s nationwide lockdown in April. On the other hand, more people were doing searches online and inquiring about selling property, Le said.

“We’re carrying an all-time high pipeline of deals, as consumers start to have more confidence and know where the market will be in two to three months,” Le added. “People still need houses, so deals in the pipeline are three times over the fourth-quarter average. We expect them to close quickly, so we are on a good path to hitting our numbers at the end of the year.”

In a press statement about the investment, Gaw Capital managing partner Humbert Pang said, “Given the favorable macroeconomics exhibited by Vietnam and Gaw’s conviction in offline-to-online business models in real estate, we are excited by our investment into Propzy. We see the value proposition and steadfast vision that Propzy and its management team brings to the table and are therefore very optimistic in Propzy’s business and the market within which it operates.”


TechCrunch

Automation is the name of the game in enterprise IT at the moment: we now have a plethora of solutions on the market to speed up your workflow, simplify a process, and perform more repetitive tasks without humans getting involved. Now, a startup that is helping non-technical people get more directly involved in how to make automation work better for their tasks is announcing some funding to seize the opportunity.

Bryter — a no-code platform based in Berlin that lets workers in departments like accounting, legal, compliance and marketing who do not have any special technical or developer skills build tools like chatbots, trigger automated database and document actions and risk assessors — is today announcing that it has raised $ 16 million. This is a Series A round and it’s being co-led by Accel and Dawn Capital, with Notion Capital and Chalfen Ventures also participating.

The funding comes less than a year after Bryter raised a seed round — $ 6 million in November 2019 — and it was oversubscribed, with term sheets coming in from many of the bigger VCs in Europe and the US. With this funding, the company has now raised around $ 25 million, and while the valuation is considerably up on the last round, Bryter is not disclosing what it is.

Michael Grupp, the CEO who co-founded the company with Micha-Manuel Bues and Michael Hübl (pictured below), said that the whole Series A process took no more than a month to initiate and close, an impressive turnaround considering the chilling effect that the COVID-19 health pandemic has had on dealmaking.

Part of the reason for the enthusiasm is because of the traction that Bryter has had since launching in 2018. Its 50 enterprise customers include the likes of McDonalds, Telefónica, banks, healthcare and industrial companies, and professional services firms PwC, KPMG and Deloitte (who in turn use it for themselves as well as for clients). (Note: because of its target users being large enterprises, the company doesn’t publish per-person pricing on its site as such.)

Bryter’s been seeing a lot of attention from customers and investors because its platform speaks to a big opportunity within the wider world of software today.

Enterprise IT has long been thought of as the less-fun end of technology: it’s all about getting work done, and a lot of the software used in a business environment is complex and often requires technical knowledge to implement, use, fix and adapt in any way.

This may still the case for a lot of it, especially for the most sophisticated tools, but at the same time we have seen a lot of “consumerization” come into IT, where user-friendly hardware and software built for consumers — specifically non-technical consumers — either inspires new enterprise services, or are simply directly imported into the workplace environment.

No-code software — like automation, another big trend in enterprise IT right now — plays a big role in how enterprise tools are becoming more user-friendly. One of the biggest roadblocks in a lot of office environments is that when workers identify things that don’t work, or could work much better than they do, they need to file tickets and get IT teams — also often overworked — to do the fixing for them. No-code platforms can help circumvent some of that work — so long as the roadblock of IT approves the use, that is.

Bryter’s conception and existence comes out of the no-code trend. It plays on the same ideas as IFTTT or Zapier but is very firmly aimed at users who might use pieces of enterprise software as part of their jobs, but have never had to delve into figuring out how they actually work.

There are already a lot of “low-code” (minimal coding) and other no-code on the market today for business (not consumer) use cases. They include Blender.io, Zapier, Tray.io (a London-founded startup that itself raised a big round last autumn), n8n (also German, backed by Sequoia), and also biggies like MuleSoft (acquired by Salesforce in 2018 at a $ 6.5 billion valuation).

Bryter’s contention is that many of these actually need more technical know-how than they initially claim. Grupp pointed out that the earliest automation tools for enterprise have been around for decades at this point, but even most of the very modern descendants of those “will require some coding.” Bryter’s toolbox essentially lets users create dialogues with users — which they can program based on the expertise that they will have in their particular fields — which then sources data they can then plug into other software via the Bryter platform in order to “perform” different tasks more quickly.

Grupp’s contention is that while these kinds of tools have long been used, they will be in even more demand going forward.

“After COVID-19 workers will be even more distributed,” he said. “Teams and individuals will need to access information in a faster way, and the only way for big organizations to distribute that knowledge is through more digital tools.” The idea is that Bryter can essentially help bridge those gaps in a more efficient way.

Bryter’s target user and its approach underscores why investors like Accel see accessible, no-code solutions as a big opportunity.

“No-code software is really reducing the barriers of adoption,” Luca Bocchio, a partner at Accel, said in an interview. “If people like you and I can use the software, then that means demand can multiply by big numbers.” That’s in contrast to a lot of enterprise software today, which very limited in how it can grow, he added. “Plus, enterprises these days want to see more future visibility in terms of the products they adopt. They want to make sure something will stick around, and so they tend not to want to work with super young startups. But it’s happening for Bryter, and the is a testament to Bryter and to the market potential.”


TechCrunch

Acorns, which helps millions of people invest their spare change in the stock market, has laid off between 50 to 70 people, TechCrunch has learned from multiple sources.

The Irvine, Calif.-based company would not confirm the total number of people laid off, but did confirm that there were cuts at the company as a result of broader business changes.

The news emerged days after the fintech company closed its Portland office earlier this week, one of four offices the company maintained. While Acorns offered Portland employees an opportunity to relocate to its Irvine headquarters, some roles were terminated as part of the relocation, the company said.

Employees laid off largely were members of Acorns’ support team. And the internal cuts are related to an external partnership with TaskUs, which out-sources customer care and support needs for other businesses. Acorns will bring on roughly 80 new TaskUs support roles in the next year, which the company said would grow its support team, just not its internal staff.

The internal Acorns support team will handle high-touch customer care situations via phone, while external roles will handle email support.

Beyond support roles, Acorns cut some people from various teams across the company.

Acorns has found unprecedented growth as the coronavirus brings new users into its world of investing and saving money. The company recently hit a milestone of 7 million sign-ups, continuing the trend that trading apps are benefiting from a down market.

At the same time, Acorns also launched a debit card that depends on users spending in order to make sense as a business product. Payment processing is a risky space to play in right now because consumer spending has nosedived due to shelter in place orders. It could be a weak spot for the company at the moment. Earlier today, Brex laid off 62 staff members, just one week after raising $ 150 million in venture capital money.

So, why does a company like Acorns, that is facing immense growth, need to do layoffs? Even if you’re winning right now, the pandemic and potential of an extended recession is forcing businesses to reevaluate the way they’re spending money. In Acorns’ case, it will have more headcount next year than it does right now. But dig a little deeper, and its choice to outsource roles and shut down an office means that growing right now can come at the cost of slimming down.

Investors in Acorns include PayPal, DST Global, Rakuten, Greycroft and Bain Capital.


TechCrunch

Global investment firm KKR is betting on the pizza business — it just led a $ 43 million Series C investment in Slice.

Formerly known as MyPizza, Slice has created a mobile app and website where diners can order a custom pizza delivery from their local, independent pizzeria.

And for those pizzerias, CEO Ilir Sela said Slice helps to digitize their whole business by also creating a website, improving their SEO and even allowing them to benefit from the “economies of scale” of the larger network, through bulk orders of supplies like pizza boxes.

Sela contrasted his company’s approach with other popular food delivery apps that he characterized as aggregators. For one thing, Slice “anchors” your favorite pizzerias in the app, giving them the top spots and making it easy to place your regular order with just a few taps. And it will be adding more loyalty features soon.

“Our job is to make loyal customers even more loyal,” he said.

In addition, while there’s been increased criticism of the high fees charged by services like Grubhub, Sela said Slice’s fee is capped at $ 2.25 per order, allowing pizzerias to get all the upside from large orders.

Of course, the environment for restaurants has changed dramatically in the last few months, thanks to COVID-19. But most pizzerias are already set up for takeout and delivery, and Sela said that more than 90% of the 12,000-plus pizzerias that work with Slice have stayed open.

He also pointed to the company’s Pizza vs Pandemic initiative, which raises funds for pizzerias to feed healthcare workers. The program has raised more than $ 470,000 and fed an estimated 140,000 workers.

“Local independent pizzerias have been feeding Americans across communities for decades and we are excited to put our resources behind Slice as they help to move these businesses online,” said KKR Principal Allan Jean-Baptiste in a statement. “Slice charges small business owners a fraction of the fees charged by food delivery apps and offers a suite of vertical specific solutions to solve the challenges faced by independent pizza makers.”

Slice had previously raised $ 30 million, according to Crunchbase. Sela said he’ll be using the new funding to bring on more pizzerias and continue building a “vertically integrated solution for the small businesses, in order to solve more and more of their challenges.”


TechCrunch

The current state of our COVID-19 world has underscored more than ever before the need for reliable delivery and e-commerce services: consumers sheltering in place are shopping more than ever online and getting items brought directly to their homes; and retailers urgently need platforms that can help them manage, sell and bring their goods to those people via the web — for many now the only way they can do business. And businesses that are helping make those transactions work are doubling down.

DispatchTrack, which provides a platform for last-mile deliveries, specifically to help companies mimic Amazon-like experiences for themselves by planning and tracking deliveries more easily, has closed a $ 144 million investment, its first-ever funding after scaling up as a bootstrapped startup to support more than 60 million deliveries per year.

The funding is coming from a single, high-profile investor, Spectrum Equity. It is being termed by the company as an investment rather than an acquisition, although I’ll note here that PitchBook has also described it alternately as a leveraged buyout in its database.

DispatchTrack was founded in 2010 in San Jose by a husband and wife team — Satish Natarajan (now CEO) and Shailu Satish (now COO) — who also happened to work in tech, after the pair grew frustrated with how badly home delivery services worked for themselves.

DispatchTrack today works with retail and wholesale companies across a number of verticals including furniture and appliance businesses, food distributors, healthcare companies, consumer retailers, and building suppliers, as well as field service businesses and third-party logistics (3PL) providers that use DispatchTrack to power their services. The company equips its customers – including retailers, wholesalers, grocers, restaurants, food and beverage distributors, field service businesses, third-party logistics (3PL) companies and others

The platform itself is a kind of all-in-one logistics and delivery toolkit designed for ecosystems that include  physical storefronts, warehouses, drivers and end customers, which have a common thread running through them: the businesses are not fundamentally tech companies, yet may have staff who handle logistics; and they need technology to do their jobs — but don’t necessarily want to bring in more costly system integrators to develop or operate those systems on their behalf.

It includes features for managing routing and planning (including telematics and compliance), customer communication (including reservation systems for delivery slots), driver communication (via a mobile app), billing, social reviews, and omnichannel order tracking.

These services may not be the first that you think of when you consider products that you might buy to get delivered — you as a consumer are considering the product and its price and how fast you can get it, most likely — but they collectively constitute a huge part of the cost of providing the product, and typically are not done very well. (DispatchTrack cites CapGemini Research Institute that estimates that together they account for 41% of all supply chain costs.) It’s not the only company providing tools to fill these needs. Oracle, Salesforce, SAP, Amazon and many others also provide software to retailers, but DispatchTrack would argue that its solution is the more comprehensive and focused solely on delivery and logistics.

“We are thrilled to partner with Spectrum Equity in this new stage of our growth,” said Natarajan in a statement. “We built DispatchTrack to help businesses large and small provide superior delivery experiences, streamline operations and maintain coordination and transparency across all constituents in the last mile. With Spectrum’s support, we will continue our rapid pace of innovation and be able to bring best-in-class solutions to more businesses, industries and geographies.”

Choosing to pick up investment happened ahead of COVID-19 — it seems the first tranche of the funding was secured back in December 2019 — but it comes at a timely moment, when companies like Instacart are seeing all-time peaks of usage from customers who are no longer doing grocery shopping in physical stores because of the coronavirus outbreak. While DispatchTrack’s own trajectory was in place before now, this gives it an even stronger mandate to invest in growth.

“We look forward to supporting DispatchTrack’s commitment to solving complex problems by building elegant, powerful products that are easy to adopt, configure and scale,” said Vic Parker, MD at Spectrum Equity, in a statement. “The DispatchTrack platform is an exceptionally valuable solution for businesses that recognize the strategic imperative to optimize the delivery experience. We look forward to helping DispatchTrack transform the last mile for more businesses across categories and around the world.” Parker and Spectrum VP Adam Gassin are joining DispatchTrack’s board of directors with this investment.


TechCrunch

Crowdfunding platform for startups Republic has acquired crowdfunding platform for games Fig, joining forces to help creators get their ideas off the ground. Users of each service will be happy to know they’ll continue as-is for the foreseeable future.

The model of publicly accessible micro-equity has proven an effective one, and both platforms have recent successes under their belts. Startups of a wide variety have raised hundreds of thousands on Republic, while Fig has had a great year with games like the critically acclaimed (and popular) Outer Wilds and What the Golf.

The scale of the sites is small compared with Kickstarter and Indiegogo, but the projects are more carefully curated and, although they are all crowdfunding platforms, the Republic/Fig model is different, awarding equity rather than product. Or in addition to product — who can resist wanting to have their own weird new Intellivision console?

The terms of the acquisition were not disclosed, but the general idea is to merge the two sites without compromising either. Ideally both will see an increased audience, and users will see an increased variety of projects to potentially back. Gaming is a growing area of investment, especially niche indie games that might be the next big unexpected hit, so Republic saw Fig as a natural extension of its existing platform.

“One of the best things going for Fig is how successful they’ve been in making positive returns for investors. Capital raised is used to develop the game, games are sold, and sales revenue is shared with investors,” said Republic Funding Portal CEO Chuck Pettid in a statement sent to TechCrunch. “Most private investments take 7-10 years for investors to get meaningful returns. Fig has accelerated that outcome and even boasts 3 straight years (2017, 2018 and 2019) of positive returns for investors. There isn’t another crowdfunding platform in the world that can say that.”

Fig’s CEO, Justin Bailey, will stay on as a board member at Republic and help guide the intelligent integration of the two sites.

“Fig will continue on and over time will slowly become a part of Republic,” he said. “Republic will keep the core parts of Fig’s community publishing platform and then add in its ingredients such as its commitment to diversity which will create an even stronger platform for indie game developers. In the end, Fig’s mission is to help support independent developers and making games possible that wouldn’t be.”

Both CEOs went out of their way to mention that the sites especially value underserved and underrepresented groups, which may find crowdfunding the only way to collect enough capital to pursue an idea. “More than half of the campaigns featured on Republic have come from underrepresented founders,” said Pettid. “In the past few years, the tech and video game industry has pushed the diversity message, but not enough is being done.”

Bailey noted that the pandemic has led to a major disruption of traditional investment methods. Crowdfunding is already successful, but in the modified post-coronavirus world it may be even more valid.

“Developers should always be rethinking how to raise funding,” he said. “Innovation and creative thinking leads to the best campaigns, and we will be there to assist them.”


TechCrunch

“The Platform” is not a subtle movie.

That’s true of its approach to horror, with intense, bloody scenes that prompted plenty of screaming and pausing from your hosts at the Original Content podcast. It’s also true of its thematic material — right around the time one of the characters accuses another of being communist, you’ll slap yourself on the forehead and say, “Oh, it’s about capitalism.”

The new Netflix film takes place in a mysterious prison, with two prisoners on each level (they’re randomly rotated each month). Once each day, a platform laden with delicious food is lowered through the prison. If you’re on one of the top levels, you feast. If you’re further down, things are considerably more grim, and can become downright gruesome as the month wears on.

“The Platform” is a hard movie to sit through, and it has other faults, like an irritatingly mystical ending. But it’s certainly memorable, and even admirable in its dedication to fully exploring both the logistical and moral dimensions of its premise.

You can listen to our review in the player below, subscribe using Apple Podcasts or find us in your podcast player of choice. If you like the show, please let us know by leaving a review on Apple. You can also send us feedback directly. (Or suggest shows and movies for us to review!)

And if you’d like to skip ahead, here’s how the episode breaks down:
0:00 Intro
0:27 “The Platform” review
17:29 “The Platform” spoilers


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