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.
Every founder’s biggest fear is dilution — investors constantly carving off chunks of their equity in round after round of venture financing. Founders collectively own 100% of their companies in the beginning, but it isn’t uncommon for them to own single digits after years have gone by and millions of VC dollars have flowed into their startup.
So I was a bit surprised to see the numbers today in Lemonade’s S-1 that showed just how well the company has been able to grow its invested capital and valuation while taking relatively little dilution. If you are a founder looking for a role model, Lemonade may just be the best scenario you can have while raising nearly $ 500 million in preferred equity funding across five rounds.
As protests continue across the U.S. and beyond, there has been chatter this week in Silicon Valley and the venture industry more broadly about race and which venture firms have done a better job of diversifying their ranks and founder bets. There have been mea culpas, promises by firms to hold themselves more accountable, vows to “listen and learn.” SoftBank and Andreessen Horowitz have even announced new funds to invest in startups led by founders of color.
It’s heartening to see, but these efforts will only go so far in leveling the playing field for people who’ve largely been left out of the trillions of dollars of economic value produced by the global startup ecosystem. Let’s face it, the vast majority of VCs, like other business leaders, tend to forget about diversity when they aren’t being questioned about it.
In fairness, inertia is powerful. It’s also the case that venture teams are more fragile than they might appear to outsiders, and because they involve long-term partnerships of highly competitive alphas, changing their composition isn’t an overnight exercise. Still, the bigger obstacle is really perception: investors won’t say so publicly, but many don’t buy the argument that diversity generates returns. They need proof.
Already, most VCs today sign away their rights to invest in firearms or alcohol or tobacco when managing capital on behalf of the pension funds, universities, and hospital systems that fund them. What if they also had to agree to invest a certain percentage of that capital to founding teams with members from underrepresented groups? We aren’t talking about targets anymore but actual mandates. Put another way, rather than wait for venture firms to organically develop into less homogenous organizations — or to invest in fewer founders who share their gender and race and educational background — alter their limited partner agreements.
1/ America is a nation of immigrants, built on its diversity to be the world’s greatest force for freedom but also built on the backs of slaves and the land of Native Americans. Our history with racism is painful and complicated.
Critics might note here that the world of academia is one thing while the business world is another. It’s the very reason we propose legislation that, for starters, would force state pension funds to incorporate diversity-related caveats into their dealings with asset managers, including VCs.
As for the private universities like Stanford and Princeton and Yale that also help fund the venture industry — and which say they are committed to diversity yet refuse to share the demographic data that would prove it — they receive billions of dollars in federal funding each year (and as nonprofit institutions, they don’t pay taxes on investment gains their endowments might make).
In short, if there is a will, there are legal levers that could be applied here, too.
We aren’t talking about funding exclusively or even predominately emerging managers. We’re aware that the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, for example, recently ratcheted back its emerging manager program owing to slipping returns. Think instead of a hybrid approach that sees both new and existing managers required to diversify their teams and their portfolio companies in order to win over future commitments.
It’s seemingly the direction the U.S. needs to move in if it’s ever going to truly eradicate inequality and the conscious or unconscious bias that plagues many money managers. If the approach is codified into law, there might finally be enough data to establish with certainty that investing in more diverse teams pays, especially when investors are forced to make them work.
Some limited partners may lose access to certain venture managers, it’s true. But it wouldn’t be a good look for those managers. On the contrary, you can imagine how such moves would benefit both the institutions that implement them, and every asset manager they fund.
Talking and tweeting and carving out pools of dedicated capital is certainly better than nothing. But black Americans, women, and other underrepresented groups have waited long enough for the powers that be to figure out solutions. It’s time to consider fundamental change within the power structures at the root of the startup world — the money behind the venture firms. It’s time to turn theory into practice.
Beam, a Singapore-headquartered micromobility firm that offers shared e-scooters, has raised $ 26 million in a new financing round as it looks to expand its footprint in Korea, Australia, Malaysia, New Zealand, and Taiwan.
Sequoia India and Hana Ventures led the two-and-a-half-year-old startup’s Series A financing round, while several more investors from Asia Pacific region participated, Beam said without disclosing their names. The startup has raised $ 32.4 million to date, a spokesperson told TechCrunch.
While these vehicles make inroads into various markets, it’s also not uncommon to find these scooters abandoned carelessly in the streets. Beam said unlike other startups, it incentivizes its riders through in-app offers to park the scooters at predetermined spots.
“I’m really excited about our new technology and its ability to reduce the problems associated with randomly scattered scooters around a city. This helps us to further improve our industry-leading vehicle retention rates, reduce operational costs, and most importantly, benefits communities by keeping city streets neater,” said Beam co-founder and chief executive Alan Jiang.
Beam, which did not disclose how many customers it has amassed, will use the fresh capital to grow its operational and engineering focus and grow deeper in its existing markets, it said. It will also “accelerate” the launch of its third-generation e-scooter, the Beam Saturn, which features swappable batteries, improved build, to more markets, it said.
Abheek Anand, Managing Director at Sequoia Capital India, said Beam’s collaboration with regulators, technology, and insights into the transportation landscape stand to give it an edge in the Asia Pacific region.
The startup’s fundraising comes at a time when many young firms, especially those operating in transportation category, in Asia are struggling to raise capital. Beam said it had implemented stringent cleaning and operations practices to limit the possibility of virus transmission to allay riders’ concern.
Some big M&A is afoot in Israel in the world of smart transportation. According to multiplereports and sources that have contacted TechCrunch, chip giant Intel is in the final stages of a deal to acquire Moovit, a startup that applies AI and big data analytics to track traffic and provide transit recommendations to some 800 million people globally. The deal is expected to close in the coming days at a price believed to be in the region of $ 1 billion.
We have contacted Nir Erez, the founder and CEO of Moovit, as well as Intel spokespeople for a comment on the reports and will update this story as we learn more. For now, Moovit’s spokesperson has not denied the reports and what we have been told directly.
“At this time we have no comment, but if anything changes I’ll definitely let you know,” Moovit’s spokesperson.
Sources tell TechCrunch that the startup — which had previously been backed by Intel Capital in a strategic investment — will become part of Intel’s Israeli automotive hub, which is anchored by Mobileye, the autonomous driving company that Intel acquired for $ 15.3 billion in 2017.
It’s not clear yet what Moovit would be doing in that hub, but as a rule, ingesting and actioning reliable, real-time traffic data and intelligent routing — the crux of what Moovit does — are some of the most challenging aspects of getting autonomous vehicle services up and running.
And in fact, Moovit had already been working with Mobileye and Intel: the latter led Moovit’s last round of funding, a Series D of $ 50 million in 2018, and as part of that, Professor Amnon Shashua, Senior Vice President of Intel and CEO / CTO of Mobileye, joined Moovit’s Board of Directors as an observer.
Bringing on talent and integrating it into Intel’s bigger strategy appears to be a big part of the deal. Of the $ 1 billion, employees will get about 10% of the final amount as part of a retention package, a detail both reported by Israeli Hebrew-language newspaper The Marker and passed to us by David Bedussa, an analyst with Wadi Ventures.
At the time of Moovit’s last funding round, the startup was valued at over $ 500 million, but it has grown a lot in the last two years.
It produces a popular, standalone app that people use to figure out the best way to navigate around cities, and it also integrates with the likes of Uber in its efforts to provide multi-modal routes using different forms of transportation from Uber cars and bikes to using public transport and walking.
In 2018, Moovit said its iOS, Android and Web apps were used by 120 million people globally across 2,000 cities in 80 countries. Now in 2020, that figure is over 800 million riders across 3,100 cities in 102 countries and 45 languages.
Other investors in Moovit in addition to Intel include BMW, Sound Ventures, Gemini Israel, Sequoia Israel and LVMH.
The acquisition (if it goes through, but also the M&A interest) comes at a critical moment in the world of transportation. Currently, many people around the world are being asked to curtail their movement to slow down the spread of COVID-19 cases in what has become a global pandemic; and partly as a result of that same public health crisis, the global economy has been in a major downswing. Both have had a direct impact on the automotive world, which is seeing a slowdown in production and some changing courses in ambitious next-generation strategies.
At the same time, those in the world of tech have been working on leveraging their assets in as optimised a way as possible to help keep things moving (so to speak).
So, while consumer usage of Moovit’s app will have drastically dropped off with people moving around less, the company has launched a series of COVID-19 services to help those that still need to keep things operational, and still need to get from A to B.
These have included a special service for transit data managers (which it’s offering for free, unlike its normal B2B products) to both receive updated transit and traffic data and subsequently put in place “thousands of short-term changes quickly, enabling riders to plan their trips with only updated, valid routes.”
It has also started a real-time service for Moovit app users to make sure that they are getting those alerts. Thirdly, it has launched an “emergency mobilisation on-demand” service that lets transportation managers redeploy buses on routes more quickly to better serve essential workers that are still using public transport.
It’s not clear if Moovit had been working on raising more money, or if it had been feeling the same pinch that so many other startups have felt when it comes to closing deals, or if this was just an offer too good to refuse, or even if it was on the table before COVID-19. Given Moovit’s existing size and scope, it’s a business that looks like it will be worth running for some time to come.
A lot of startups have answered the call for more personal protective equipment (PPE) and other essentials to support healthcare workers in their efforts to curb the spread and impact of COVID-19. One of those is direct-to-consumer 3D-printed eyewear brand Fitz, which is employing its custom-fit glasses technology to build protective, prescription specs to frontline healthcare workers in need of the best protection they can get.
Fitz Protect is a version of Fitz’s eyesore that uses the same custom measurement tool Fitz created for use via its iOS app, made possible by Apple’s depth-sensing Face ID camera on newer iPhones and all iPad Pro models. The app allows virtual try-on, and provides millimeter-level accurate measurements for a custom fit. Protect is a version of the glasses that still supports a wide range of prescriptions, but that also extends further like safety glasses to provide more coverage and guard against errant entry of any fluids through the eyes.
Health care professionals are doing what they can to ensure their face, mouth, nose and eyes are protected from any coughs, sneezes or other droplet-spreading activity from COVID-19 patients that could pass on the infection. These measures have more broadly focused on face shields that feature a single transparent plastic sheet, and N95 masks (and alternatives when not available) to protect the mouth and nose.
Fitz CEO Gabriel Schlumberger explained via email that the design for Fitz Protect came from working frontline doctors in nurses from New York, LA and Texas who were all looking for something to source prescription protective eyewear.
“More than 60% of doctors are glasses wearers, and current guidance is for them to stop wearing contact lenses,” Schlumberger explained, adding that Fitz Protect is also designed to be worn in conjunction with a face shield, when that’s an available option, and provide yet another layer of defense.
“We heard from prescription glasses wearers that their standard glasses didn’t provide anywhere near adequate coverage, especially over the eyebrows, and in some cases they were adding cardboard cut-outs,” he said. “We leveraged our existing system to create something much better. ”
Fitz’s model also helps on the pricing side because it’s already designed to be an aggressively cost-competitive offering when compared to traditional prescription eyesore. Their glasses typically retail for just $ 95 including frames, lenses and shipping, and are also offered in a $ 185 per year unlimited frame membership plan. For doctors, nurses and hospital staff, the entire cost of Fitz Protect is being waived, and the company is seeking donations to help offset its own manufacturing costs, which currently stand at around $ 100 per set, though process improvements should bring that down according to Schlumberger as they expand availability.
Already, he said that nearly 3,000 healthcare professionals have signed up to receive a pair in their first week of availability, so they’re working on adding scale to keep up with the unexpected demand.
Crowdfunding platform for startups Republic has acquired crowdfunding platform for gamesFig, 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.”
Per info Guan provided, Rokid’s T1 thermal glasses use an infrared sensor to detect the temperatures of up to 200 people within two minutes from up to three meters away. The devices carry a Qualcomm CPU, 12 megapixel camera and offer augmented reality features — for hands free voice controls — to record live photos and videos.
The Chinese startup (with a San Francisco office) plans B2B sales of its wearable devices in the U.S. to assist businesses, hospitals and law enforcement with COVID-19 detection, according to Guan.
Rokid is also offering IoT and software solutions for facial recognition and data management, as part of its T1 packages.
Image Credits: Rokid
The company is working on deals with U.S. hospitals and local municipalities to deliver shipments of the smart glasses, but could not disclose names due to confidentiality agreements.
One commercial venture that could use the thermal imaging wearables is California based e-commerce company Weee!.
The online grocer is evaluating Rokid’s T1 glasses to monitor temperatures of its warehouse employees throughout the day, Weee! founder Larry Liu confirmed to TechCrunch via email.
On procedures to manage those who exhibit COVID-19 related symptoms, that’s something for end-users to determine, according to Rokid. “The clients can do the follow-up action, such as giving them a mask or asking to work from home,” Guan said.
The T1 glasses connect via USB and can be set up for IoT capabilities for commercial clients to sync to their own platforms. The product could capture the attention of U.S. regulators, which have become increasingly wary of Chinese tech firms’ handling of American citizen data. Rokid says it doesn’t collect info from the T1 glasses directly.
“Regarding this module…we do not take any data to the cloud. For customers, privacy is very important to them. The data measurement is stored locally,” according to Guan.
Image Credits: Rokid
Founded in 2014 by Eric Wong and Mingming Zhu, Rokid raised $ 100 million at the Series B level in 2018. The business focuses primarily on developing AI and AR tech for applications from manufacturing to gaming, but developed the T1 glasses in response to China’s COVID-19 outbreak.
The goal was to provide businesses and authorities a thermal imaging detection tool that is wearable, compact, mobile and more effective than the common options.
Large scanning stations, such as those used in some airports, have drawbacks in not being easily portable and handheld devices — with infrared thermometers — pose risks.
“You have to point them to people’s foreheads…you need to be really close, it’s not wearable and you’re not practicing social distancing to use those,” Guang said.
Rokid pivoted to create the T1 glasses shortly after COVID-19 broke out in China in late 2019. Other Chinese tech startups that have joined the virus-fighting mission include face recognition giant SenseTime — which has installed thermal imaging systems at railway stations across China — and its close rival Megvii, which has set up similar thermal solutions in supermarkets.
On Rokid’s motivations, “At the time we thought something like this can really help the frontline people still working,” Guang said.
The startup’s engineering team developed the T1 product in just under two months. In China, Rokid’s smart glasses have been used by national parks staff, in schools and by national authorities to screen for COVID-19 symptoms.
Source: Johns Hopkins University of Medicine Coronavirus Research Center
The growth rate of China’s coronavirus cases — which peaked to 83,306 and led to 3,345 deaths — has declined and parts of the country have begun to reopen from lockdown. There is still debate, however, about the veracity of data coming out of China on COVID-19. That led to a row between the White House and World Health Organization, which ultimately saw President Trump halt U.S. contributions to the global body this week.
As COVID-19 cases and related deaths continue to rise in the U.S., technological innovation will become central to the health response and finding some new normal for personal mobility and economic activity. That will certainly bring fresh facets to the common tech conundrums — namely measuring efficacy and balancing benefits with personal privacy.
For its part, Rokid already has new features for its T1 thermal smart glasses in the works. The Chinese startup plans to upgrade the device to take multiple temperature readings simultaneously for up to four people at a time.
“That’s not on the market yet, but we will release this very soon as an update,” said Rokid’s U.S. Director Liang Guan .