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Who are the major revenue-based investing VCs?

By Arman Tabatabai
David Teten Contributor
David Teten is a Venture Partner with HOF Capital. He was previously a Partner for 8 years with HOF Capital and ff Venture Capital. David writes regularly at teten.com and @dteten.
More posts by this contributor

This guest post was written by David Teten, Venture Partner, HOF Capital. You can follow him at teten.com and @dteten. This is part of an ongoing series on Revenue-Based Investing VC that will hit on:

So you’re interested in raising capital from a Revenue-Based Investor VC. Which VCs are comfortable using this approach?

A new wave of Revenue-Based Investors (“RBI”) are emerging. This structure offers some of the benefits of traditional equity VC, without some of the negatives of equity VC.

I’ve been a traditional equity VC for 8 years, and I’m now researching new business models in venture capital.

(For more background, see the accompanying article “Revenue-based investing: A new option for founders who care about control” published on Extra Crunch.

RBI normally requires founders to pay back their investors with a fixed percentage of revenue until they have finished providing the investor with a fixed return on capital, which they agree upon in advance.

I’ve listed below all of the major RBI venture capitalists I’ve identified. In addition, I’ve noted a few multi-product lending firms, e.g., Kapitus and United Capital Source, which provide RBI as one of many structural options to companies seeking capital.


The guide to major RBI VCs

Alternative Capital: “You qualify if you have $5k+ MRR. We have a special program if you are pre-seed and need product development. Since 2017 we’ve managed $3 million in revenue-based financing, which helps cash-strapped technology companies grow. In 2019 we partnered with several revenue-based lending providers, effectively creating a marketplace.”

Bigfoot Capital: According to Brian Parks, “Bigfoot provides RBI, term loans, and lines of credit to SaaS businesses with $500k+ ARR. Our wheelhouse is bootstrapped (or lightly capitalized) SMB SaaS. We make fast, data-driven credit decisions for these types of businesses and show Founders how the math/ROI works. We’re currently evaluating about 20 companies a month and issuing term sheets to 25% of them; those that fit our investment criteria. We’re also regularly following-on for existing portfolio companies.”

Investment Criteria:

  • B2B SaaS or tech-enabled services with proven, recurring contracts
  • ARR of $500K+
  • At least 12 months of customer history, generally 20+ enterprise customers or 200+ SMB customers
  • Rational burn profile, up to 50% of revenue at close, scaling down
  • Capital need of up to $1.5M over next 12 months

Benefits:

  • Non-dilutive, flexible credit offerings that fit SMB or enterprise SaaS
  • Facility sizes of 2-5x MRR
  • Repaid 12-36 months with ability to prepay at reduced cost
  • For RBI, return caps of 1.2x-1.8x and cash share rates of 3-10%
  • Multiple draws available once history established
  • Ability to scale payments to provide initial cash flow relief
  • No board seats or personal guarantees
  • Success fee on M&A can be traded for lower payments

Corl: “No need to wait 3-9 months for approval. Find out in 10 minutes. Corl can fund up to 10x your monthly revenue to a maximum of $1,000,000. Payments are equal to 2-10% of your monthly revenue, and stop when the business buys out the contract at 1-2x the investment amount.”

  • Investment amount of up to 10x monthly revenue, to a maximum of $1,000,000.
  • Payment is 2-10% of monthly revenue, until a Contract Buyout.
  • The Contract Buyout Rate is 1-2x the Investment Amount, depending on the risk of the business.
  • To be eligible, a business must have at least $10,000 in monthly revenue, at least 30% gross margins, and post-revenue for at least 6 months.

According to Derek Manuge, Corl CEO, “Funds are closed significantly quicker than the industry average at under 24 hours. The majority of businesses that apply for funding with Corl are E-commerce, SaaS, and other digital businesses.”

Manuge continues, “Corl connects to a business’ bank accounts, accounting software, payment processors, and other digital services to collect 10,000+ historical data points that are analyzed in real-time. We collect more data on an individual business than, to our knowledge, any other RBI investor, through our application process, data partners, and various public sources online. We have reviewed the application process of other RBI lenders and have not found one that has more API connections that ours. We have developed a proprietary machine learning algorithm that assesses the risk and return profile of the business and determines whether to invest in the business. Funding decisions can take as little as 10 minutes depending on the amount of data provided by a business.”

In the past 12 months, 500+ companies have applied for funding with Corl. The following information is based on companies funded by us and/or our capital partners:

  • The average most recent monthly revenue is $331,229
  • The average most recent annual revenue is $1,226,589
  • The average most recent annual profit is $237,479
  • The average gross profit margin is 55%.
  • The average monthly operating expenses is $70,335
  • The average cash balance is $191,164
  • The mode purpose for funding is (in order of frequency) Sales, Marketing, Market Expansion, Product Development, and Hiring Employees.
  • 30% have been operated by females, 70% have been operated by males.
  • 40% have been operated by “visible minorities”, 60% have been operated by “non-visible minorities”.

Decathlon Capital: According to John Borchers, Co-founder, Decathlon is the largest revenue-based financing investor in the US. His description: “We announced a new $500 million fund in Q1 of 2019, in our 10th year. Unlike many RBI investors, a full 50% of our investment activity is in non-tech businesses. Like other RBI firms, Decathlon does not require warrants, governance involvement, or the types of financial covenants that are often associated with other venture debt type solutions. Decathlon typically targets monthly payment percentages in the 1% to 4% range, with total targeted multiples of 1.5x to 3.0x.”

Earnest Capital: Earnest is not technically RBI. Tyler Tringas, General Partner, observes, “Almost all of these new [RBI] forms of financing really only work for more mature companies (say $25-50k MRR and up) and there are still very few new options at the stage where we are investing.” From their website: “We invest via a Shared Earnings Agreement, a new investment model developed transparently with the community, and designed to align us with founders who want to run a profitable business and never be forced to raise follow-on financing or sell their business.” Key elements:

  • “We agree on a Return Cap which is a multiple of the initial investment (typically 3-5x)
  • “We don’t have any equity or control over the business…”
  • “As your business grows we calculate what we call “Founder Earnings” and Earnest is paid a percentage. Essentially we get paid when you and your co-founder get paid.”
  • “Founder Earnings = Net Income + any amount of founders’ salaries over a certain threshold. If you want to eat ramen, pay yourselves a small salary, and reinvest every dollar into growth, we don’t get a penny and that’s okay. We get earnings when you do.”
  • “Unlike traditional equity, our share of earnings is not perpetual. Once we hit the Return Cap, payments to Earnest end.”
  • “In most cases, we’ll agree on a long-term residual stake for Earnest if you ever sell the company or raise more financing. We want to be on your team for the long-term, but don’t want to provide any pressure to “exit.”
  • “If you decide you want to raise VC or other forms of financing, or you get an amazing offer to sell the company, that’s totally fine. The SEA includes provisions for our investment to convert to equity alongside the new investors or acquirers.”

Feenix Venture Partners: Feenix Venture Partners has a unique investment model that couples investment capital with payment processing services. Each of Feenix’s portfolio companies receives an investment in debt or equity and utilizes a subsidiary of Feenix as its credit card payment processor (“Feenix Payment Systems”). The combination of investment capital and credit card processing (CCP) fees creates a “win-win” partnership for investors and portfolio companies. The credit card processing data provides the investor with real-time sales transparency and the CCP fee margin provides the investor high current income, with equity-like upside and significant recovery for downside protection. Additionally, portfolio companies are able to access competitive and often non-dilutive financing by monetizing an unavoidable expense that is being paid to its current processors, thus yielding a mutual benefit for both parties.

Feenix focuses on companies in the consumer space across a number of industry verticals including: multi-unit Food & Beverage operators, hospitality, managed workspace (office or food halls), location-based entertainment venues, and various direct to consumer online companies. Their average check size is between $1-3 million, with multi-year term and competitive interest rates for debt. Additionally, Feenix typically needs fewer financial covenants and can provide quicker turnaround for due diligence with the benefit of transparency they receive by tracking credit card sales activity. 10% of Feenix’s portfolio companies have received VC equity prior to their financing.

Founders First Capital Partners: “Founders First Capital Partners, LLC is building a comprehensive ecosystem to empower underrepresented founders to become leading premium wage job creators within their communities. We provide revenue-based funding and business acceleration support to service-based small businesses located outside of major capital markets such as Silicon Valley and New York City.”

“We focus our support on businesses led by women, ethnic minorities, LGBTQ, and military veterans, especially teams and businesses located in low to moderate income areas. Our proprietary business accelerator programs, learning platform, and growth methodologies transition these underserved service-based businesses into companies with $5 million to $50 million in recurring revenue. They are tech-enabled companies that provide high-yield investments for fund limited partners (LPs) that perform like bonds but generate returns on par with equity investments. Founders First Capital Partners defines these high performing organizations as Zebra Companies .”

“Each year, Founders First Capital Partners works with hundreds of entrepreneurs. Three tracks of pre-funding accelerator programs determine the appropriate level of funding and advisory support needed for each founder to achieve their desired expansion: 1) Fastpath for larger companies with $2 million to $5 million in annual revenue, 2) Founders Growth Bootcamp program for companies with $250,000 to $2 million in annual revenue, and 3) Elevate My Business Challenge for companies with $50,000 to $250,000 in annual revenue.”

“Founders First Capital Partners (FFCP) runs a 5-step process:

  1. Attend the Appropriate Pre-Funding Accelerator Program. Programs are offered in both online, in-person, and hybrid format with cohorts of leadership teams for an average of 10 companies. Most programs culminate with a Pitch Day and Investor Networking Event where the companies present their newly defined and expanded growth playbook.
  2. Apply for funding. After completion of the relevant pre-funding program, FFCP will review company funding applications and conduct due diligence.
  3. Get Funding. FFCP-approved companies receive revenue-based loans of up to $1 million to support the implementation of a customized 5-year growth playbook for their businesses.
  4. Growth support. FFCP uses its proprietary performance technology platform, structured growth program curriculum, and executive-level coaching operations to assist funded companies with the development, implementation, and iteration of their custom 5-year growth playbook.
  5. Graduate. Companies repay loans with growth revenue generated over a 5-year term, capped at 2x the amount financed. Companies gain predictable revenue streams with significant and measurable increases in revenue and profits to graduate to either traditional debt or equity sources of growth capital.”

According to Kim Folson, Co-Founder, “Founders First Capital Partner (F1stcp) has just secured a $100M credit facility commitment from a major institutional impact investor. This positions F1stcp to be the largest revenue-based investor platform addressing the funding gap for service-based, small businesses led by underserved and underrepresented founders.”

GSD Capital: “ GSD Capital partners with early-stage SaaS founders to fund growth initiatives. We work with founding teams in the Mountain West (Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming) who have demonstrated an ability to get sh*t done… We empower founders with a 30-day fundraising process instead of multiple months running a gauntlet. ”

“To best explain the process of RBF funding, let’s use an example. Pied Piper Inc needs funding to accelerate customer acquisition for its SaaS solution. GSD Capital loans $250,000 to Pied Piper taking no ownership or control of the business. The funding agreement outlines the details of how the loan will be repaid, and sets a “cap”, or a point at which the loan has been repaid. On a 3-year term, the cap amounts typically range from 0.4-0.6x the loan amount. Each month Pied Piper reviews its cash receipts and sends the agreed upon percentage to GSD. If the company experiences a rough patch, GSD shares in the downside. Monthly payments stop once the cap is reached and the loan is repaid. In a situation where Pied Piper’s revenue growth exceeds expectations, prepayment discounts are built into the structure, lowering the cost of capital.”

“Requirements for funding consideration:

  • Companies with a minimum of $50k in MRR
  • We can fund to 4x MRR (Monthly Recurring Revenue)
  • Companies seeking funding of $200k to $1mm
  • Limited amount of existing debt and a clean cap table”

Indie.VC: Part of the investment firm O’Reilly AlphaTech Ventures. See Indie VC’s Version 3.0 . “On the surface, our v3 terms are a fairly vanilla version of a convertible note with a few key variables to be negotiated between the investor and the founder: investment amount, equity option, and repurchase start date and percentage.”

  • Investment amount “is what it is”.
  • Equity option is, ” a simple fixed percentage which converts into that % of shares at the time of a sale OR into that % shares prior to a qualified financing.”
  • Repurchase start date and percentage is, “We chose 24 months from the time of our investment (but can be whatever date the founders and investors agree upon) and a % of gross revenue shared to repurchase the shares. With each revenue share payment, our equity option decreases and the founder’s equity increases. With v3, a team can repurchase up to 90% of the original equity option back at any point prior to a qualified financing through monthly revenue share payments, a lump or some combination of both until they reach a 3x cap. “

Kapitus: Offers RBI among many other options. “Because this [RBI] is not a loan, there is no APR or compounded interest associated with this product. Instead, borrowers agree to pay a fixed percentage in addition to the amount provided.”

Lighter Capital: “Since 2012, we’ve provided over $100 million in growth capital to over 250 companies.” Revenue-based financing which “helps tech entrepreneurs get to the next level without giving up equity, board seats, or personal guarantees… At Lighter Capital, we don’t take equity or ask you to make personal guarantees. And we don’t take a seat on your board or make you write a big check if you’re having a down month.”

  • “Up to 1/3 of your annualized revenue run rate”
  • “Up to $3M in growth capital for your tech startup”
  • “Repaid over 3–5 years”
  • “You pay between 2–8% of monthly revenue”
  • “Repayment caps usually range from 1.35x to 2.0x”

Novel Growth Partners: ” We invest using Revenue-Based Investing (RBI), also known as Royalty-Based Investing… We provide up to $1 million in growth capital, and the company pays that capital back as a small percentage (between 4% and 8%) of its monthly revenue up to a predetermined return cap of 1.5-2.2x over up to 5 years. We can usually provide capital in an amount up to 30% of your ARR. Our approach allows us to invest without taking equity, without taking board seats, and without requiring personal guarantees. We also provide tailored, tactical sales and marketing assistance to help the companies in our portfolio accelerate their growth.” Keith Harrington, Co-Founder & Managing Director at Novel Growth Partners, observes that he sees two categories of RBI:

  • Variable repayment debt: money gets paid back month over month, e.g., Novel Growth Partners
  • Share buyback structure, e.g., Indie.vc. Investors using this model typically can ask for a higher multiple because they wait longer for cash to be paid back.

He said, “We chose the structure we did because we think it’s easier to understand, for both LPs and entrepreneurs.”

Podfund: Focused on podcast creators. “We agree to provide funding and services to you in exchange for a percentage of total gross revenue (including ads/sponsorship, listener support, and ancillary revenue such as touring, merchandise, or licensing) per quarter. PodREV terms are 7-15% of revenue for 3-5 years, depending on current traction, revenue, and projected growth. At any time you may also opt to pay down the revenue share obligation in full, as follows:

  • 1.5x the initial funding in year 1
  • 2x the initial funding in year 2
  • 3x the initial funding in year 3
  • 4x the initial funding in year 4 “

RevUp: “Companies receive $100K-250K in non-dilutive cash… [paid back in a] 36-month return period with revenue royalty ranging from 4-8%, no equity .”

Riverside Acceleration Capital: Closed Fund I for $50m in 2016. Fund II has raised over $100m as of mid-2019.

Investment size : $1 – 5+ million, significant capacity for additional investment.
Return method: Small percentage of monthly revenue. Keeps capital lightweight and aligned to companies’ growth.
Capped return: 1.5 – 2x the investment amount. Company maximizes equity upside from growth.
Investment structure: 5-year horizon. Long-term nature maximizes flexibility of capital.”

Jim Toth writes, “One thing that makes us different is that we live inside of an $8Bn private equity firm. This means that we have a tremendous amount of resources that we can leverage for our companies, and our companies see us as being quite strategic. We also have the ability to continue investing behind our companies across all stages of growth.”

ScaleWorks: “We developed Scaleworks venture finance loans to fill a need we saw for our own B2B SaaS companies. No personal guarantees, board seats, or equity sweeteners. No prepayment penalties. Monthly repayments as a percentage of revenue.”

United Capital Source: Provides a wide structure of loans, including but not limited to RBI. The firm has provided more than $875 million in small business loans in its history, and is currently extending about $10m/month in RBI loans. Jared Weitz, Founder & CEO, said, “[Our] typical RBF client is $120K-$20M in annual revenue, with 4-200 employees. We only look at financials for deals over a certain size.

For smaller deals, we’ll look at bank statements and get a pretty good picture of revenues, expenses and cash flow. After all, since this is a revenue-based business loan, we want to make sure revenues and cash flow are consistent enough for repayment without hurting the business’s daily operations. When we do look at financials to approve those larger deals we are generally seeing a 5 to 30% EBITDA margin on these businesses.” United Capital Source was selected in the 2015 & 2017 Inc. 5000 Fastest Growing Companies List.

Note that none of the lawyers quoted or I are rendering legal advice in this article, and you should not rely on our counsel herein for your own decisions. I am not a lawyer. Thanks to the experts quoted for their thoughtful feedback. Thanks to Jonathan Birnbaum for help in researching this topic.

Ally raises $8M Series A for its OKR solution

By Frederic Lardinois

OKRs, or Objectives and Key Results, are a popular planning method in Silicon Valley. Like most of those methods that make you fill in some form once every quarter, I’m pretty sure employees find them rather annoying and a waste of their time. Ally wants to change that and make the process more useful. The company today announced that it has raised an $8 million Series A round led by Access Partners, with participation from Vulcan Capital, Founders Co-op and Lee Fixel. The company, which launched in 2018, previously raised a $3 million seed round.

Ally founder and CEO Vetri Vellore tells me that he learned his management lessons and the value of OKR at his last startup, Chronus. After years of managing large teams at enterprises like Microsoft, he found himself challenged to manage a small team at a startup. “I went and looked for new models of running a business execution. And OKRs were one of those things I stumbled upon. And it worked phenomenally well for us,” Vellore said. That’s where the idea of Ally was born, which Vellore pursued after selling his last startup.

Most companies that adopt this methodology, though, tend to work with spreadsheets and Google Docs. Over time, that simply doesn’t work, especially as companies get larger. Ally, then, is meant to replace these other tools. The service is currently in use at “hundreds” of companies in more than 70 countries, Vellore tells me.

One of its early adopters was Remitly . “We began by using shared documents to align around OKRs at Remitly. When it came time to roll out OKRs to everyone in the company, Ally was by far the best tool we evaluated. OKRs deployed using Ally have helped our teams align around the right goals and have ultimately driven growth,” said Josh Hug, COO of Remitly.

Desktop Team OKRs Screenshot

Vellore tells me that he has seen teams go from annual or bi-annual OKRs to more frequently updated goals, too, which is something that’s easier to do when you have a more accessible tool for it. Nobody wants to use yet another tool, though, so Ally features deep integrations into Slack, with other integrations in the works (something Ally will use this new funding for).

Since adopting OKRs isn’t always easy for companies that previously used other methodologies (or nothing at all), Ally also offers training and consulting services with online and on-site coaching.

Pricing for Ally starts at $7 per month per user for a basic plan, but the company also offers a flat $29 per month plan for teams with up to 10 users, as well as an enterprise plan, which includes some more advanced features and single sign-on integrations.

Shell’s first Greenlots electric vehicle fast charger lands in Singapore

By Kirsten Korosec

Royal Dutch Shell, the energy giant known for its fossil fuel production and hundreds of Shell gas stations, is creeping into the electric vehicle-power business.

The company’s first DC fast charger from its newly acquired company Greenlots launched Monday at a Shell gas station in Singapore. Greenlots, an EV charging startup acquired by Shell in January, installed the charger. This is the first of 10 DC fast chargers that Greenlots plans to bring to Shell service stations in Singapore over the next several months.

The decision to target Singapore is part of Greenlots’ broader strategy to provide EV charging solutions across all applications throughout Asia and North America, the company said. Both Shell and Greenlots have a presence in Singapore. Greenlots, which is based in Los Angeles, was founded in Singapore; and Shell is one of Singapore’s largest foreign investors.

Singapore has been promoting the use of electric vehicles, particularly for car-sharing and ride-hailing platforms. The island city-state has been building up its EV infrastructure to meet anticipated demand as ride-hailing drivers and commercial fleets switch to electric vehicles.

Greenlots was backed by Energy Impact Partners, a cleantech investment firm, before it was acquired by Shell. The company, which combines its management software with the EV charging hardware, has landed some significant customers in recent years, notably Volkswagen. Greenlots is the sole software provider to Electrify America, the entity set up by Volkswagen as part of its settlement with U.S. regulators over its diesel emissions cheating scandal.

Clarification: Shell has other EV chargers. These are the first through its newly acquired company Greenlots.

Simon Data hauls in $30M Series C to continue building customer data platform

By Ron Miller

As businesses use an increasing variety of marketing software solutions, the goal around collecting all of that data is to improve customer experience. Simon Data announced a $30 million Series C round today to help.

The round was led by Polaris Partners . Previous investors .406 Ventures and F-Prime Capital also participated. Today’s investment brings the total raised to $59 million, according to the company.

Jason Davis, co-founder and CEO, says his company is trying to pull together a lot of complex data from a variety of sources, while driving actions to improve customer experience. “It’s about taking the data, and then building complex triggers that target the right customer at the right time,” Davis told TechCrunch. He added, “This can be in the context of any sort of customer transaction, or any sort of interaction with the business.”

Companies tend to use a variety of marketing tools, and Simon Data takes on the job of understanding the data and activities going on in each one. Then based on certain actions — such as, say, an abandoned shopping cart — it delivers a consistent message to the customer, regardless of the source of the data that triggered the action.

They see this ability to pull together data as a customer data platform (CDP). In fact, part of its job is to aggregate data and use it as the basis of other activities. In this case, it involves activating actions you define based on what you know about the customer at any given moment in the process.

As the company collects this data, it also sees an opportunity to use machine learning to create more automated and complex types of interactions. “There are a tremendous number of super complex problems we have to solve. Those include core platform or infrastructure, and we also have a tremendous opportunity in front of us on the predictive and data science side as well,” Davis said. He said that is one of the areas where they will put today’s money to work.

The company, which launched in 2014, is based in NYC. The company currently has 87 employees in total, and that number is expected to grow with today’s announcement. Customers include Equinox, Venmo and WeWork. The company’s most recent funding round was a $20 million in July 2018.

Cloudflare files for initial public offering

By Jonathan Shieber

After much speculation and no small amount of controversy, Cloudflare, one of the companies that ensures that websites run smoothly on the internet, has filed for its initial public offering.

The company, which made its debut on TechCrunch’s Battlefield stage back in 2010, has put a placeholder value of the offering at $100 million, but it will likely be worth billions when it finally trades on the market.

Cloudflare is one of a clutch of businesses whose job it is to make web sites run better, faster and with little to no downtime.

Recently the company has been at the center of political debates around some of the customers and company it keeps, including social media networks like 8Chan and racist media companies like the Daily Stormer.

Indeed, the company went so far as to cite 8Chan as a risk factor in its public offering documents.

As far as money goes, Cloudflare is — like other early-stage technology companies — losing money. But it’s not losing that much money, and its growth is impressive.

As the company notes in its filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission:

We have experienced significant growth, with our revenue increasing from $84.8 million in 2016 to $134.9 million in 2017 and to $192.7 million in 2018, increases of 59% and 43%, respectively. As we continue to invest in our business, we have incurred net losses of $17.3 million, $10.7 million, and $87.2 million for 2016, 2017, and 2018, respectively. For the six months ended June 30, 2018 and 2019, our revenue increased from $87.1 million to $129.2 million, an increase of 48%, and we incurred net losses of $32.5 million and $36.8 million, respectively.

Cloudflare sits at the intersection of government policy and private company operations and its potential risk factors include a discussion about what that could mean for its business.

The company isn’t the first network infrastructure service provider to hit the market. That distinction belongs to Fastly, whose shares likely have not performed as well as investors would have liked.

Screen Shot 2019 08 15 at 10.10.17 AM

Cloudflare has raised roughly $332 million to date from investors, including Franklin Templeton Investments, Fidelity, Union Square Ventures, New Enterprise Associates, Pelion Venture Partners and Venrock. Business Insider reported that the company’s last investment gave Cloudflare a valuation of $3.2 billion.

The company will trade on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol “NET.” Underwriters on the company’s public offering include Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, JP Morgan, Jefferies, Wells Fargo Securities and RBC Capital Markets.

Flower delivery startup UrbanStems raises $12M to fund national expansion

By Anthony Ha

UrbanStems is announcing that it has raised $12 million in Series B funding.

CEO Seth Goldman told me the startup has already been using the money to expand nationally. He explained that UrbanStems now has two delivery models — there are bike couriers who deliver plants and flowers within two hours in New York City and Washington, D.C. (where the company is headquartered), and then there’s a third-party shipping partner that offers next-day delivery to anywhere else in the United States.

The company started out with bike couriers, and Goldman said it’s not abandoning that strategy: “We will find areas where there’s enough demand to warrant jumping in, boots on the ground.”

At the same time, he said next-day shipping has allowed the company to “grow a lot faster in the short term.” (Regardless of method, UrbanStems does not charge an extra delivery fee.)

Recent initiatives include a partnership with Vogue, with bouquets created by Vogue editors. In addition, the company has been expanding beyond flowers (where prices start at $35) and plants ($50) by offering curated gift boxes ($55). It sounds like Goldman has plans to do more in this area, too.

“The gifting market is far bigger than just the flower market,” he said. “We are providing more than a product … Gifting itself is a highly emotional, vulnerable experience. [You want to] make sure it gets there successfully, make sure it gets there on time, make sure they love it, it’s packaged well, every little detail feels personal and special.”

The round was led by SWaN & Legend Venture Partners (who also led the startup’s $6.8 million Series A) and Motley Fool Ventures, with participation from Middleland Capital, NextGen Venture Partners and Sagamore Ventures.

“We are excited to continue to invest in the growth of UrbanStems,” said SWaN & Legend Managing Director David Strasser in a statement. “We continue to be impressed with the team led by Seth Goldman, as he builds on the strong foundation the cofounders laid out in building the pre-eminent gifting platform of the future.”

The funding came after a leadership change at the company, with Goldman (who joined as COO in 2017 after serving as CEO for HelloFresh USA) taking over the chief executive role from co-founder Ajay Kori in May of last year.

When asked about the transition, Goldman noted that Kori remains involved as chairman of the board, and he said, “We partnered a lot on this and kept our team from making it feel like it was a huge deal — which is a weird thing to say, even though it is a huge deal. But I was already managing more than half of the headcount of the entire team across the company … so they knew what they were getting with me as a leader.”

Southern California athletic brand, Vuori, raises $45 million from Norwest Venture Partners

By Jonathan Shieber

The four-year-old, Southern California athletic brand Vuori has picked up a $45 million growth equity investment from the investment firm Norwest Venture Partners.

The company, which says it’s profitable, will now join a stable of consumer startup brands that includes Birdies, Casper Sleep, Grove Collaborative, Jolyn, Kendra Scott, Madison Reed and Topo Athletic.

Founded by Joe Kudla, Vuori began as an athletic wear company focused on selling shorts, sweatshirts, hoodies, and t-shirts to men in a more muted palette than other options.

Focused on retailers like REI, Nordstrom, Equinox and Core Power Yoga, the company’s clothes retail from anywhere between $32 for shirts and hats and $188 for its most expensive jacket. 

“As devoted customers, it was apparent to us that Vuori had built versatile products with tremendous energy and soul,” said Jon Kossow, managing partner at Norwest. “This is exactly the type of positive brand experience we search for in our consumer investments, and we look forward to supporting Joe and the team as they continue to bring new products to market and delight their customers.”

Group dating app 3Fun exposed sensitive data on 1.5 million users

By Zack Whittaker

More than 1.5 million users of a group dating service had their personal data exposed — including their real-time location — because of a vulnerability in the app.

The dating site, 3Fun, bills itself as a “private space” where you can meet “local kinky, open-minded people.” But the data wasn’t private at all. Ken Munro, founder of Pen Test Partners, which carried out the research Thursday and shared its findings with TechCrunch, said it was “probably the worst security for any dating app we’ve ever seen.”

Pen Test Partners researchers found the app was leaking the precise location, photos and other personal details of any nearby user.

Worse, because the app wasn’t properly secured, the researchers found they could plug in any coordinates they wanted to spoof their location, revealing sensitive information on anyone within any location of their choosing, including government buildings, military bases and even intelligence agencies.

TechCrunch ran the same tests as Pen Test Partners and confirmed its findings. We were able to modify our current geolocation to any set of coordinates we wanted — including the White House and the headquarters of the CIA.

Using a man-in-the-middle tool like Burp Suite, we could capture our real location, manipulate it in transit on the way to the server and receive a batch of data for that location.

Screen Shot 2019 08 06 at 1.19.56 PM

One of the exposed user records (left) and an approximate representation of several users (right)

We found profiles of users at both locations, including their sexual preferences — including sexual orientation and their preferred matches; their age; username and their partner’s username; their bio — many of which included expansive, specific and personal information on the user; and their full-resolution profile picture. In some cases, dates of birth were also exposed.

None of the data was encrypted. The researchers called the app a “privacy train wreck.”

The researchers contacted 3Fun on July 1 to report the bugs. Munro said the app maker took weeks to fix the issues.

We emailed 3Fun with several questions, but spokesperson Jennifer White did not respond to a request for comment.

It’s the latest app to fall foul of proper security standards in recent months. Jewish dating app JCrush left 200,000 user records exposed in June following a security lapse. Last year on its launch day, conservative dating app Donald Daters exposed its entire user base — at the time some 1,600 users — after leaving a set of hard-coded keys in its app, which was quickly found after a security researcher decompiled the app.

Another dating app, Coffee Meets Bagel, was breached on Valentine’s Day, no less.

Well, that’s one way to a person’s heart — hacking their dating profile.

Self-driving truck startup Kodiak Robotics begins deliveries in Texas

By Kirsten Korosec

A year after coming out of stealth mode with $40 million, self-driving truck startup Kodiak Robotics will begin making its first commercial deliveries in Texas.

Kodiak will open a new facility in North Texas to support it freight operations along with increased testing in the state. The commercial route

There are some caveats to the milestone. Kodiak’s self-driving trucks will have a human safety driver behind the wheel. And it’s unclear how significant this initial launch is; the company didn’t provide details on who its customers are or what it will be hauling.

Kodiak has eight autonomous trucks in its fleet, and according to the company it’s “growing quickly.”

Still, it does mark progress for such a young company, which co-founders Don Burnette and Paz Eshel say is due to its talented and experienced workforce. 

Burnette, who is CEO of Kodiak, was part of the Google self-driving project before leaving and co-founding Otto in early 2016, along with Anthony Levandowski, Lior Ron and Claire Delaunay. Uber would acquire Otto (and its co-founders). Burnette left Uber to launch Kodiak in April 2018 with Eshel, a former venture capitalist and now the startup’s COO.

In August 2018, the company announced it had raised $40 million in Series A financing led by Battery Ventures . CRV, Lightspeed Venture Partners and Tusk Ventures also participated in the round. Itzik Parnafes, a general partner at Battery Ventures, joined Kodiak’s board.

Kodiak is the latest autonomous vehicle company to test its technology in Texas. The state has become a magnet for autonomous vehicle startups, particularly those working on self-driving trucks. That’s largely due to the combination of a friendly regulatory environment and the state’s position as a logistics and transportation hub.

“As a region adding more than 1 million new residents each decade, it is important to develop a comprehensive strategy for the safe and reliable movement of people and goods,” Thomas Bamonte, senior program manager of Automated Vehicles for the North Central Texas Council of Governments, said in a statement. “Our policy officials on the Regional Transportation Council have been very forward-thinking in their recognition of technology as part of the answer, which is positioning our region as a leader in the automated vehicle industry.”

Self-driving truck startup TuSimple was awarded a contract this spring to complete five round trips, for a two-week pilot, hauling USPS trailers more than 1,000 miles between the postal service’s Phoenix and Dallas distribution centers. A safety engineer and driver will be on board throughout the pilot.

Other companies developing autonomous vehicle technology for trucks such as Embark and Starsky Robotics have also tested on Texas roads.

Nyca Partners raises $210M to invest in fintech startups

By Kate Clark

Nyca Partners, a firm with investments in financial technology businesses including PayRange, Trellis, Affirm and Acorns, has collected another $210 million for its third venture capital fund.

Located in New York, Nyca’s debut fund closed on $31 million in 2014. Its second fund, a similarly focused fintech effort, raised $125 million in 2017.

Venture capital investment in fintech is poised to reach new heights in 2019, according to PitchBook. So far this year, investors have bet $8.6 billion on U.S.-based fintech upstarts. Last year, investment in the space reached an all-time high of more than $12 billion, with Robinhood, Coinbase and Plaid all raising multi-hundred-million-dollar rounds.

“Much has changed since we launched Nyca,” the firm wrote in a blog post announcing the fund. “In 2014 the fintech landscape was still a relatively small community of investors and several hundred companies, dominated by credit and payments strategies, and incipient crypto enthusiasts. Most regulators around the world were generally uninformed about the dramatic changes taking place in financial technology and with it the potential impact on banking, investing and insurance practices. In mid-2019, we estimate there are fifteen thousand funded fintech start-ups. Some have become very large companies extremely quickly, and entrepreneurs are creating new models and ideas with breathtaking speed.”

Nyca managing partner Hans Morris has a long history in the financial space. Most recently, he was managing director at General Atlantic; before that, he served as president of Visa and spent nearly three decades at Citigroup in roles including chief financial officer and head of finance.

The firm is also led by Ravi Mohan, partner and chief operating officer, who spent 25 years at Citigroup and JP Morgan Chase .

As part of the new fundraise, Nyca has promoted David Sica to partner. Prior to joining Nyca, Sica was a director at Visa.

Nyca announces its new fund just days after Oak HC/FT, another fintech-focused fund, raised $800 million to invest in the space.

Early-bird pricing ends next week for TC Sessions: Enterprise 2019

By Emma Comeau

Here are five words you’ll never hear spring from the mouth of an early-stage startupper. “I don’t mind paying more.” We feel you, and that’s why we’re letting you know that the price of admission to TC Sessions Enterprise 2019, which takes place on September 5, goes up next week.

Our $249 early-bird ticket price remains in play until 11:59 p.m. (PT) on August 9. Buy your ticket now and save $100.

Now that you’ve scored the best possible price, get ready to experience a full day focused on what’s around the corner for enterprise — the biggest and richest startup category in Silicon Valley. More than 1,000 attendees, including many of the industry’s top founders, CEOs, investors and technologists, will join TechCrunch’s editors onstage for interviews covering all the big enterprise topics — AI, the cloud, Kubernetes, data and security, marketing automation and event quantum computing, to name a few.

This conference features more than 20 sessions on the main stage, plus separate Q&As with the speakers and breakout sessions. Check out the agenda here.

Just to peek at one session, TechCrunch’s Connie Loizos will interview three top VCs — Jason Green (Emergence Capital), Maha Ibrahim (Canaan Partners) and Rebecca Lynn (Canvas Ventures) — in a session entitled Investing with an Eye to the Future. In an ever-changing technological landscape, it’s not easy for VCs to know what’s coming next and how to place their bets. Yet, it’s the job of investors to peer around the corner and find the next big thing, whether that’s in AI, serverless, blockchain, edge computing or other emerging technologies. Our panel will look at the challenges of enterprise investing, what they look for in enterprise startups and how they decide where to put their money.

Want to boost your ROI? Take advantage of our group discount — save 20% when you buy four or more tickets at once. And remember, for every ticket you buy to TC Sessions: Enterprise, we’ll register you for a free Expo Only pass to TechCrunch Disrupt SF on October 2-4.

TC Sessions: Enterprise takes place September 5, but your chance to save $100 ends next week. No one enjoys paying more, so buy an early-bird ticket today, cross it off your to-do list and enjoy your savings.

Is your company interested in sponsoring or exhibiting at TC Sessions: Enterprise 2019? Contact our sponsorship sales team by filling out this form.

CRV hires Anna Khan as a general partner focused on enterprise

By Kate Clark

CRV, formerly known as Charles River Ventures, has hired Anna Khan as its 10th general partner. Khan joins from Bessemer Venture Partners where she’s served as a vice president since 2016.

CRV invests across industries, with a portfolio that includes Bird and Airtable, among others. The venture capital firm is currently investing out of its 17th fund, a $600 million vehicle that closed in 2018.

Founded in 1970, CRV is amongst the older VC firms. While Khan isn’t the firm’s first female GP — Annie Kadavy, now a general partner at Redpoint Ventures, joined CRV as a GP in 2012 — she will be the firm’s only current female GP.

Despite, an increasing number of firms tapping female talent, less than 10% of “decision-makers” at U.S. venture capital firms are female, according to Axios. Female founders, meanwhile, attract just over 2% of venture capital dollars.

Khan joins CRV alongside another new hire, former Social Capital partner Kristin Baker Spohn, who’s been hired as a venture partner. Both Khan and Spohn will focus on CRV’s enterprise practice, where they’ll work with Airtable, Drift, Iterable, SignalFx and more.

Kristin Baker Spohn

CRV’s newest venture partner Kristin Baker Spohn

“As is often the case, we were introduced to both [Khan and Spohn] through friends of CRV, and from our earliest conversations knew they would add tremendously to the firm,” CRV general partner Murat Bicer said in a statement. “Kristin brings an impressive depth of knowledge in healthcare and a charisma that speaks to early entrepreneurs and seasoned executives alike, while Anna has an immense understanding of the SaaS world and an energy that has seen her accomplish so much in a relatively short period of time.”

Khan, an investor in ScaleFactor, NewVoiceMedia and Intercom, previously founded Launch X, an accelerator that helps female entrepreneurs learn how to raise capital for their businesses.

Spohn’s been an active angel investor since leaving Social Capital. She exited the once high-flying venture capital fund last year following Social Capital co-founder Chamath Palihapitiya’s decision to no longer raise outside capital.

Visa pitches a program offering fintechs faster market access through an ecosystem of partners

By Jonathan Shieber

Visa is pitching a new way for startups in the fintech space to get to market faster by using its rails and a group of pre-approved partners.

The Fast Track program, a variant of an investment commitment and ecosystem of services the company has already launched in other geographies around the world, comes to the U.S. without an investment commitment, but with a pre-defined list of partners that will help new financial services startups launch more quickly, the company said.

Chiefly, the process makes it easier to integrate with Visa . It’s an attempt to put the payment processor’s network, VisaNet, at the center of a vast array of services ranging from payroll to business to business payments and online banking, online lending and even digital wallets.

“There’s about $17 trillion in cash and checks today that hasn’t gone digital and $20 trillion in business to business that’s happening over wires and check… those are all opportunities for Visa,” says Terry Angelos, a former fintech entrepreneur who now serves as a senior vice president at Visa and the company’s global head of fintech. 

“To some degree Visa has been the original fintech,” says Angelos. “Today, you would  pitch it as a SaaS platform for payment and commerce.”

For its new service, Visa has come up with a list of partners to provide the array of compliance services and infrastructure that a startup in the financial services space would need to get up and running quickly.

“These are vetted partners that are providing a fast track process and a concierge service so we can track the companies in the program,” says Angelos. 

What the program won’t include, Angelos said, is a commitment to invest in startups in the U.S. that would be equivalent to the $100 million investment fund the company has carved out for European investments as part of the fast track program there.

“We have investments that are happening that are in parallel,” Angelos says. “We don’t have a separate fund.”

Companies that are partnering with Visa on this program represent a different service offering for the ecosystem, including: Alloy, BBVA Open Platform, Cross River Bank, Galileo, Green Dot, Marqeta, Netspend (TSYS’ Consumer Segment), Stripe, TabaPay, TSYS, Q2 and Very Good Security. The company said its debit processing service will support some of the partners’ participation in the program.   

Last year, fintech companies raised $39.5 billion from investors globally, up 120% from the previous year, according to data provided by Visa. And as part of their outreach to this startup community, Visa is pre-qualifying for its program portfolio companies from investment firms like Andreessen Horowitz, Nyca Partners, Ribbit Capital and Trinity Ventures

“We see many entrepreneurs with big ideas that can add real value and solve problems in the global payments system; the problem can be the difficulty of distribution and connectivity to the essential infrastructure,” said Hans Morris, managing partner, Nyca Ventures, in a statement. “Fast Track solves for this, enabling some of our best companies to start working with Visa right away.”

Many of the firms’ portfolio companies are already partnering with Visa in some capacity. The company has already announced agreements (of an undefined and undisclosed nature) with startups like Currencycloud, Flutterwave, Ininal, N26, PayActiv, Rappi, Razer and Remitly

Visa has also invested in startups. In 2019 alone, the company added Anchorage, Bankable, Branch, Finix, Minna Technologies and Paymate to its stable of startups. 

The main thing that startups would get from the Visa Fast Track program is mentorship and access to the company’s experts in payments and fintech. And its effort to tie itself more closely to a financial services ecosystem comes as Visa finds itself under threat from some of the very startup technologies that the company may look to co-opt.

Cryptocurrencies and blockchain technologies offer the possibility of alternative payment mechanisms that don’t rely on the traditional money transfer systems developed decades ago by companies like Visa and Mastercard, and can offer potentially faster transaction times and charge lower fees.

To combat that threat, Visa has been aligning with some of the largest technology companies to head off challengers at the pass. The company (along with its largest rival, Mastercard) is collaborating with Facebook on its controversial proposed cryptocurrency, Libra, in an effort to head off any challengers with a new transaction system of its own.

Angelos insists that there’s nothing nefarious in Visa’s efforts to engage with startups, and says that the company is merely another actor supporting the movement of trillions of dollars into a digital economy.

“If you look at what’s happening in the fintech ecosystem… Fintechs are reducing friction and adding consumers that are underbanked,” Angelos says. “They can work on any payment rails they choose. [But] all those fintechs… are choosing to build at least part of their products on top of the rails that we built… if you look around the world, fintechs are probably leveraging the existing payment  rails to provide a lot of innovation and remove friction.”

The maker of popular selfie app Facetune just landed $135 million at a unicorn valuation

By Connie Loizos

Facetune, a photo editing app that empowers users to cover their gray hairs, refine their jaw lines, and reshape their noses, was first introduced around six years ago, and it quickly climbed to the top of the download charts, becoming Apple’s most popular paid app of 2017. Despite stiff competition, it has remaining highly popular, too.

That staying power hasn’t been lost Goldman Sachs Private Capital Investing, Insight Partners or ClalTech, which just gave Facetune’s parent company, Lightricks, $135 million in Series C funding at a post-money valuation of $1 billion.

The investment firms — two of which led a $60 million round in the company less than a year ago —  are getting much more than Facetune in the deal.

Lightricks, based in Tel Aviv, has 260 employees supporting six products across three divisions, including Facetune, whose second version was rolled out this year; Enlight, a line of mobile photography and editing tools that aims to make photo editing more accessible to amateurs; and the startup’s newest, enterprise-focused brand, Swish, a marketing video editor that helps companies tell their story with video ads.

The separate divisions each come with meaningful mind share. According to cofounder and CEO Zeev Farbman, Lightricks has seen 180 million downloads across it paid apps, which generally cost $3.99 to download. Since the company began offering subscription layers to users who want premium bells and whistles in 2017, it has amassed a respectable number of subscribers, as well. According to Farbman, Facetune now has more than 1 million subscribers; Enlight has roughly 1 million subscribers, and Swish’s subscribers brings the total to roughly 3 million subscribers altogether.

More subscription-based content-creation apps are on the way, says Farbman, who hints they may be coming shortly. (Other developments might take a while, he adds, explaining that Lightworks, originally founded by five PhDs, is “constantly working on things that will be out two or three years down the line.”)

Reshaping features

If it it has been mostly smooth sailing for the company, there have been headwinds from time to time.

Facetune has been accused of taking photo brushing too far, for example, with celebrity model Chrissy Teigen tweeting about the app last year, “I don’t know what real skin looks like anymore . . . everyone looks like an oil painting.”

Asked what he thought of the body image debate the app had prompted, Farbman says the company sees itself as “democratizing retouching, and [educating users about] how powerful image processing can be.

“If you go back 10 years,” he notes, before mobile image processing software was available to everyone, “people didn’t understand that the people they were seeing on magazine covers had undergone the photoshopping process.”

Facetune users have also long grumbled about the second release of the app, not realizing that when they update the app, they lose some of the features that were previously available to them. (You have to subscribe in order to continue using them.)

Lightricks

 

Clearly, Lightricks and its backers — and one million users — think the company’s products are worth the monthly expense, which ranges depending on the features a user wants to unlock.

A team that includes experts across a number of relevant domains is the reason, says Farbman, who himself previously spent most of his time in academia, studying computer graphics, computer vision, and computational photography.

After the photo editing app Snapseed made its debut and was quickly scooped up by Google, he and four PhD friends “realized that nobody is becoming a great platform for content creation.” They quickly got to work developing their first product — Facetune — and by 2015, the bootstrapped company, which had also by then introduced Enlight, was seeing $10 million in annual revenue.

Still, we “thought we could do better,” says Farbman. Toward that end, Lightricks raised money, and we “started to grow way faster as a company,” he recalls.

It also began rolling out its subscription offerings, and despite continued complaints from some corners (Facetune 2 came out in 2016), Farbman says more people are signing up — and agreeing to pay more — than he initially imagined would be the case.

It makes sense to him now, he suggests. “Our founding team includes PhDs who were at the top of their fields, which allowed us to attract a strong team at the beginning. And once you’re hiring the best people, you’re probably going to build the best software. And if you’re building the best software, you can charge premium prices for that.”

Lightricks’s latest financing brings its total funding to $205 million to date. The new funding will be used to crate more tools, says Farbman. He adds that his team also plans to begin acquiring companies strategically.

Confluera snags $9M Series A to help stop cyberattacks in real time

By Ron Miller

Just yesterday, we experienced yet another major breach when Capital One announced it had been hacked and years of credit card  application information had been stolen. Another day, another hack, but the question is how can companies protect themselves in the face of an onslaught of attacks. Confluera, a Palo Alto startup wants to help with a new tool that purports to stop these kinds of attacks in real time.

Today the company, which launched last year, announced a $9 million Series A investment led by Lightspeed Venture Partners . It also has the backing of several influential technology execs including John W. Thompson, who is chairman of Microsoft and former CEO at Symantec, Frank Slootman, CEO at Snowflake and formerly CEO at ServiceNow and Lane Bess, former CEO of Palo Alto Networks.

What has attracted this interest is the company’s approach to cyber security. “Confluera is a real-time cyber security company. We are delivering the industry’s first platform to deterministically stop cyber attacks in real time,” company co-founder and CEO Abhijit Ghosh told TechCrunch.

To do that Ghosh says, his company’s solution watches across the customer’s infrastructure, finds issues and recommends ways to mitigate the attack. “We see the problem that there are too many solutions which have been used. What is required is a platform that has visibility across the infrastructure, and uses security information from multiple sources to make that determination of where the attacker currently is and how to mitigate that,” he explained.

Microsoft chairman John Thompson, who is also an investor, says this is more than just real-time detection or real-time remediation. “It’s not just the audit trail and telling them what to do. It’s more importantly blocking the attack in real time. And that’s the unique nature of this platform, that you’re able to use the insight that comes from the science of the data to really block the attacks in real time,” Thompson said.

It’s early days for Confluera as it has 19 employees and 3 customers using the platform so far. For starters, it will be officially launching next week at Black Hat. After that, it has to continue building out the product and prove that it can work as described to stop the types of attacks we see on a regular basis from happening.

Monday.com raises $150M more, now at $1.9B valuation, for workplace collaboration tools

By Ingrid Lunden

Workplace collaboration platforms have become a crucial cornerstone of the modern office: workers’ lives are guided by software and what we do on our computers, and collaboration tools provide a way for us to let each other know what we’re working on, and how we’re doing it, in a format that’s (at best) easy to use without too much distraction from the work itself.

Now, Monday.com, one of the faster growing of these platforms, is announcing a $150 million round of equity funding — a whopping raise that points both to its success so far, and the opportunity ahead for the wider collaboration space, specifically around better team communication and team management.

The Series D funding — led by Sapphire Ventures, with Hamilton Lane, HarbourVest Partners, ION Crossover Partners and Vintage Investment Partners also participating — is coming in at what reliable sources tell me is a valuation of $1.9 billion, or nearly four times Monday.com’s valuation when it last raised money a year ago.

The big bump is in part to the company’s rapid expansion: it now has 80,000 organizations as customers, up from a mere 35,000 a year ago, with the number of actual employees within those organizations numbering as high as 4,000 employees, or as little as two, spanning some 200 industry verticals, including a fair number of companies that are non-technical in their nature (but still rely on using software and computers to get their work done). The client list includes Carlsberg, Discovery Channel, Phillips, Hulu and WeWork and a number of Fortune 500 companies.

“We have built flexibility into the platform,” Roy Mann, the CEO who co-founded the company with Eran Zinman, which is one reason he believes why it’s found a lot of stickiness among the wider field of knowledge workers looking for products that work not unlike the apps that they use as average consumers.

All those figures are also helping to put Monday.com on track for an IPO in the near future, said Roy Mann, the CEO who co-founded the company with Eran Zinman.

“An IPO is something that we are considering for the future, he said in an interview. “We are just at 1% of our potential, and we’re in a position for huge growth.” In terms of when that might happen, he and Zinman would not specify a timeline, but Mann added that this potentially could be the last round before a public listing.

On the other hand, there are some big plans up ahead for the startup, including adding in a free usage tier (to date, the only free on Monday.com is a free trial, all usage tiers have been otherwise paid), expanding geographically and into more languages, and continuing to develop the integration and automation technology that underpins the product. The aim is to have 200 applications working with Monday.com by the end of this year.

While the company is already generating cash and it has just raised a significant round, in the current market, that has definitely not kept venture-backed startups from raising more. (Monday.com, which first started life as Dapulse in 2014, has raised $234.1 million to date.)

Monday.com’s rise and growth are coming at an interesting moment for productivity software. There have been software platforms on the market for years aimed at helping workers communicate with each other, as well as to better track how projects and other activity are progressing. Despite being a relatively late entrant, Slack, the now-public workplace chat platform, has arguably defined the space. (It has even entered the modern work lexicon, where people now Slack each other, as a verb.)

That speaks to the opportunity to build products even when it looks like the market is established, but also — potentially — competition. Mann and Zinman are clear to point out that they definitely do not see Slack as a rival, though. “We even use Slack ourselves in the office,” Zinman noted.

The closer rivals, they note, are the likes of Airtable (now valued at $1.1 billion) and Notion (which we’ve confirmed with the company was raising and has now officially closed a round of $10 million on an equally outsized valuation of $800 million), as well as the wider field of project management tools like Jira, Wrike and Asana — although as Mann playfully pointed out, all of those could also feasibly be integrated into Monday.com and they would work better…

The market is still so nascent for collaboration tools that even with this crowded field, Mann said he believes that there is room for everyone and the differentiations that each platform currently offers: Notion, he noted as an example, feels geared towards more personal workspace management, while Airtable is more about taking on spreadsheets.

Within that, Monday.com hopes to position itself as the ever-powerful and smart go-to place to get an overview of everything that’s happening, with low-chat noise and no need for technical knowledge to gain understanding.

“Monday.com is revolutionizing the workplace software market and we’re delighted to be partnering with Roy, Eran, and the rest of the team in their mission to transform the way people work,” said Rajeev Dham, managing partner at Sapphire Ventures, in a statement. “Monday.com delivers the quality and ease of use typically reserved for consumer products to the enterprise, which we think unlocks significant value for workers and organizations alike.”

Mobile messaging financial advisory service Stackin’ adds banking features and raises cash

By Jonathan Shieber

When Stackin’ initially pitched itself as part of Techstars Los Angeles accelerator program two years ago, the company was a video platform for financial advice targeting a millennial audience too savvy for traditional advisory services.

Now, nearly two years later, the company has pivoted from video to text-based financial advice for its millennial audience and is offering a new spin on lead generation for digital banks.

The company has launched a new, no-fee, checking and savings account feature in partnership with Radius Bank, which offers users a 1% annual percentage yield on deposits.

And Stackin has raised $4 million in new cash from Experian Ventures, Dig Ventures and Cherry Tree Investments, along with supplemental commitments from new and previous investors including Social Leverage, Wavemaker Partners, and Mucker Capital.

“Stackin’ has a unique and highly effective approach to connect and communicate with an entire generation of younger consumers around finance,” said Ty Taylor, Group President of Global Consumer Services at Experian, in a statement.

Founded two years ago by Scott Grimes, the former founder of Uproxx Media, and Kyle Arbaugh, who served as a senior vice president at Uproxx, Stackin initially billed itself as the Uproxx of personal finance.

It turns out that consumers didn’t want another video platform.

“Stackin’ is fundamentally changing the shape and context of what a financial relationship means by creating a fun, inclusive and judgement free environment that empowers our users to learn and take action through messaging,” said Scott Grimes, CEO and co-founder of Stackin’, in a statement. “This funding allows us to build out new features around banking and investing that will enhance the relationship with our customers.”

Later this fall the company said it would launch a new investment feature that will encourage Stackin users to participate in the stock market. It’s likely that this feature will look something like the Acorns model, which encourages users to invest in diversified financial vehicles to get them acquainted with the stock market before enabling individual trades on stocks.

According to Grimes, the company made the switch from video to text in March 2018 and built a custom messaging platform on Twilio to service the company’s 500,000 users.

“In a short time, we have built a large customer base with a demographic that is typically hard to reach. Having financial institutions like Experian come on board as an investor is a testament that this model is working,” Grimes wrote in an email.

Ordermark, the online-delivery order management service for restaurants, raises $18 million

By Jonathan Shieber

Los Angeles-based Ordermark, the online delivery management service for restaurants founded by the scion of the famous, family-owned Canters Deli, said it has raised $18 million in a new round of funding.

The round was led by Boulder-based Foundry Group. All of Ordermark’s previous investors came back to provide additional capital for the company’s new funding, including: TenOneTen Ventures, Vertical Venture Partners, Mucker Capital, Act One Ventures, and Nosara Capital, which led the Series A funding.

“We created Ordermark to help my family’s restaurant adapt and thrive in the mobile delivery era, and then realized that as a company, we could help other restaurants experiencing the same challenges. We’ve been gratified to see positive results come in from our restaurant customers nationwide,” said Alex Canter, in a statement.

A fourth generation restauranteur, Canter built the technology on the back of his family deli’s own needs. The company has integrated with point of sale systems, kitchen displays, and accounting tools, and with last mile delivery companies.

As the company expands it’s looking to increase its sales among the virtual restaurants powered by cloud kitchens and delivery services like Uber Eats, Seamless/Grubhub and others, the company said in a statement.

Although the business isn’t profitable, Ordermark is now in over 3,000 restaurants. The company has integrations with over fifty ordering services.

Microsoft acquires data privacy and governance service BlueTalon

By Frederic Lardinois

Microsoft today announced that it has acquired BlueTalon, a data privacy and governance service that helps enterprises set policies for how their employees can access their data. The service then enforces those policies across most popular data environments and provides tools for auditing policies and access, too.

Neither Microsoft nor BlueTalon disclosed the financial details of the transaction. Ahead of today’s acquisition, BlueTalon had raised about $27.4 million, according to Crunchbase. Investors include Bloomberg Beta, Maverick Ventures, Signia Venture Partners and Stanford’s StartX fund.

BlueTalon Policy Engine How it works

“The IP and talent acquired through BlueTalon brings a unique expertise at the apex of big data, security and governance,” writes Rohan Kumar, Microsoft’s corporate VP for Azure Data. “This acquisition will enhance our ability to empower enterprises across industries to digitally transform while ensuring right use of data with centralized data governance at scale through Azure.”

Unsurprisingly, the BlueTalon team will become part of the Azure Data Governance group, where the team will work on enhancing Microsoft’s capabilities around data privacy and governance. Microsoft already offers access and governance control tools for Azure, of course. As virtually all businesses become more data-centric, though, the need for centralized access controls that work across systems is only going to increase and new data privacy laws aren’t making this process easier.

“As we began exploring partnership opportunities with various hyperscale cloud providers to better serve our customers, Microsoft deeply impressed us,” BlueTalon CEO Eric Tilenius, who has clearly read his share of ‘our incredible journey‘ blog posts, explains in today’s announcement. “The Azure Data team was uniquely thoughtful and visionary when it came to data governance. We found them to be the perfect fit for us in both mission and culture. So when Microsoft asked us to join forces, we jumped at the opportunity.”

Gatik’s self-driving vans have started shuttling groceries for Walmart

By Kirsten Korosec

Gatik AI, the autonomous vehicle startup that’s aiming for the sweet middle spot in the world of logistics, is officially on the road through a partnership with Walmart .

The company received approval from the Arkansas Highway Commissioner’s office to launch a commercial service with Walmart . Gatik’s autonomous vehicles (with a human safety driver behind the wheel) is now delivering customer online grocery orders from Walmart’s main warehouse to its neighborhood stores in Bentonville, Arkansas.

The AVs will aim to travel seven days a week on a two-mile route — the tiniest of slivers of Walmart’s overall business. But the goal here isn’t ubiquity just yet. Instead, Walmart is using this project to capture the kind of data that will help it learn how best to integrate autonomous vehicles into their stores and services.

Gatik uses Ford transit vehicles outfitted with a self-driving system. Co-founder and CEO Gautam Narang has previously told TechCrunch that the company can fulfill a need in the market through a variety of use cases, including partnering with third-party logistics giants like Amazon, FedEx  or even the U.S. Postal Service, auto part distributors, consumer goods, food and beverage distributors as well as medical and pharmaceutical companies.

The company, which emerged from stealth in June, has raised $4.5 million in a seed round led by former CEO and executive chairman of Google Eric Schmidt’s Innovation Endeavors. Other investors include AngelPad, Dynamo Fund, Fontinalis Partners, Trucks Venture Capital and angel investor Lior Ron, who heads Uber Freight.

Gatik isn’t the only AV company working with Walmart. Walmart has partnerships with Waymo and Udelv. Both of these partnerships involve pilot programs in Arizona.

Udelv is testing the use of autonomous vans to deliver online grocery orders to customers. Last year, members of Waymo’s early rider program received grocery savings when they shopped from Walmart.com. The riders would then take a Waymo car to their nearby Walmart store for grocery pickup.

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