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Clear gets $13M Series A to build high-volume transaction system on the blockchain

By Ron Miller

Clear is an early-stage startup with a big ambition. It wants to build a blockchain for high-volume transaction systems like payments between telcos. Today it announced a $13 million Series A investment.

The round was led by Eight Roads with participation from Telefónica Innovation Ventures, Telekom Innovation Pool of Deutsche Telekom, HKT and Singtel Innov8.

That the strategic investors were telcos is not a coincidence. The early use case for Clear’s blockchain transaction network involves moving payments between worldwide telcos, a system that today is highly manual and prone to errors.

Clear co-founder and CEO Gal Hochberg says what his company does is to take commercial contracts and turn them into digital representations, often known in digital ledger terms as a smart contract.

“What that lets us do is create a trusted view of the true status of the relationship within the company’s business partners because they’re now looking at the same pricing and usage. They can find any issues in real time, either in commercial information or in service delivery, and they can even actually resolve those inside our platform,” Hochberg explained.

By putting these high-volume, cross-border transactions onto the blockchain with these smart contracts to act as automated enforcer of the terms, it means that instead of waiting until the end of the month to find errors and begin a resolution process, this can be done in real time, reducing time to payment and speeding up conflict resolution.

“We use blockchain technology to create those interactions in ways that it is auditable, cryptographically secure and ensures that both sides are synced and seeing the same information,” Hochberg said.

For starters, the company is working with worldwide telco companies because the number of transactions, and the way they cross borders make this a good test case, but Hochberg says this is only the starting point. They are not in full-blown production yet, but he says they have proven they can process hundreds of millions of billable events.

The money should help the company get into full carrier-grade production some time in the first half of this year, and then begin to expand into other verticals beyond telcos with the help of today’s investment.

Funnel closes $47M Series B to prepare marketing data for better reporting and analysis

By Steve O'Hear

Funnel, the Stockholm-based startup that offers technology to help businesses prepare — or make “business-ready” — their marketing data for better reporting and analysis, has closed $47 million in Series B funding.

Leading the round is Eight Roads Ventures and F-Prime Capital, with participation from existing investors Balderton Capital, Oxx, Zobito and Industrifonden, in addition to Kreos Capital.

Funnel says it will use the injection of capital to accelerate its plans in the U.S., where the company is seeing “strong demand” from enterprises. It also will invest in its technical teams to further its vision of “creating a single source of truth of marketing, sales and other commerce data.”

Founded in 2014 by Fredrik Skantze and Per Made, who are also behind Facebook advertising tool Qwaya, Funnel set out to let marketers automate their online marketing data from multiple platforms in real time, so that they can more accurately analyse their online marketing spend.

Initially that included visualising the marketing data, but now the company has decided to focus solely on collecting the data from all of the disparate marketing channels, and cleaning it up and normalizing it so that it can be imported into popular business intelligence tools to be analysed.

“[We have] shifted away from visualising the marketing data to ‘just’ collecting and making it business-ready as we have seen that to be the real pain point for customers,” Funnel co-founder and CEO Fredrik Skantze tells TechCrunch.

“Visualisation is done well in existing business intelligence tools once the data is properly prepared. Automating the collection and preparation of the data has proven to be a very hard thing to do right and we wanted to make sure we were the best at this which we now confidently can say we are as we hear that again and again from customers.”

To that end, Skantze explains that Funnel has direct connections to tools like Tableau and Google Data Studio. The idea is that customers can instantly visualize the data in the tools they are already familiar with.

Since we last covered Funnel mid 2017, the overarching trend has been an explosive growth in digital marketing. Skantze says that in 2017, 39% of worldwide marketing spend was digital and mostly e-commerce, gaming and app companies that were putting the majority of their budgets online. Since then, forecasts have been repeatedly adjusted upwards, and in 2020, leading markets like the U.K. are now approaching 70% for digital marketing.

“That means the big brands are putting their big budgets online,” he says. “These brands are moving their marketing online because of the performance promise of digital marketing. But delivering on that performance promise requires being data-driven. This is a huge shift for these organizations that they are gradually coming to grips with as they are traditionally more branding focused. It requires creating new roles like marketing analytics, marketing technologists and putting in place a data infrastructure. This is complex.”

That, of course, plays nicely into the hands of Funnel, which is seeing enterprises far beyond e-commerce and apps utilise its wares. “We have spent the last year building out the enterprise readiness of our product and offering [features] like security certifications and enterprise features to be ready to take on these customers,” adds Skantze.

Meanwhile, during the last year, the Funnel team has grown from 73 to 140, and the company signed new office space for a total of 400 people across Stockholm and Boston, ready for further expansion.

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