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Showing posts from January, 2020

SoftBank Leads Alto Pharmacy Investment At A $1 Billion+ Valuation

image: Alto SoftBank's second Vision Fund has led a new funding round for San Francisco-based drug delivery startup Alto Pharmacy, according to a Reuters report .  Reuters says the new round totaled $250 million and valued Alto Pharmacy (formerly known as ScriptDash) at more than $1 billion. Other existing investors such as Jackson Square Ventures and Greenoaks Capital also participated in the new funding, according to Reuters . The investment comes at a stormy time for SoftBank, which has seen some of its portfolio companies struggle and recourse to job cuts to stay stable. The most notable of that cohort is WeWork, which pulled out of a planned initial public offering last year and needed a $9.5 billion bailout  from SoftBank to stay afloat. Alto is among a cohort of tech startups challenging traditional pharmacy chains by taking the drug delivery process online. The company was founded in 2015 as ScriptDash and rebranded itself as Alto in 2017 after a $23 million inv

Tony Fadell Backs New Orleans Battery Startup

Tony Fadell. Photograph by Kevin Moloney/Fortune Brainstorm Tech, under  CC BY-ND 2.0 license Tony Fadell, the co-founder of smart thermostat maker Nest and acclaimed co-inventor of the iPod, was among the investors in an $18.5 million Series A funding just announced by Advano, a silicon battery startup based out of New Orleans. He invested alongside the likes of Peter Thiel's Thiel Capital, Y Combinator, DCVC, and Japanese battery materials giant Mitsui Kinzoku. As part of his investment, Fadell has been appointed as a board observer at Advano. Mitsui Kinzoku, which co-led the Series A, has also formed a strategic partnership with Advano that involves it providing its knowledge of manufacturing and access to its distribution channels to the silicon battery startup. Advano, a 2017 graduate of famed accelerator Y Combinator, is building battery components to enable more powerful, smaller, and longer-lasting lithium-ion batteries. It's already known that adding s

Brief: GM To Invest $2.2 Billion To Create First Dedicated EV Plant

General Motors CEO Mary Barra. image: General Motors General Motors (GM) has announced it's investing $2.2 billion in its Detroit- Hamtramck assembly plant to utilize it as a facility that'll produce all-electric vehicles alongside its recently unveiled Origin self-driving vehicle. The Detroit, Michigan-based automaker will also invest an additional $800 million in supplier tooling and other projects related to the launch of new electric vehicles. GM says its investment will create more than 2,200 U.S. manufacturing jobs. The Detroit- Hamtramck plant will serve as the automaker's first fully-dedicated electric vehicle assembly plant. GM plans to begin rolling out its first all-electric truck by late 2021, with the 'Origin' self-driving vehicle to follow suit. The company is betting big on the  Detroit- Hamtramck facility to help facilitate that. “Through this investment, GM is taking a big step forward in making our vision of an all-electric future a

Brief: Monzo In Funding Talks With SoftBank

Monzo CEO Tom Blomfield. Photo by Noam Galai/Getty Images for TechCrunch, via  CC BY 2.0 license British fintech Monzo is in funding talks with SoftBank according to a report from British newspaper  The Telegraph . The Telegraph says Monzo CEO Tom Blomfield has twice met with senior executives from the SoftBank Vision Fund, citing unidentified sources. The report comes shortly after Monzo, which has already raised more than $400 million in funding, was reported to be readying additional funding. Monzo's last raise was a £113 million (roughly $148 million) investment led by Y Combinator Continuity in June last year. That investment valued the five-year-old British fintech at £2 billion ($2.5 billion) post-money. Monzo's last raise coincided with a limited launch in the U.S., where it's looking to as the next frontier for its digital banking service after amassing more than 3.7 million users in the U.K. Its U.S. launch was limited, with only a few thousand sl

Bird Said To Be In Talks To Acquire Rival Circ

Circ founder Lukasz Gadowski. image: Adam Tinworth on Flickr, via  CC BY-ND 2.0 license According to a report from the Financial Times , Santa Monica-based e-scooter sharing startup Bird is in talks to acquire Circ, a European rival founded by Lukasz Gadowski, an entrepreneur who also co-founded food delivery giant Delivery Hero. However, such a deal may not be on flashy terms, as the Financial Times reports Circ has been seeking a buyer after struggling to court investments required to further its expansion. Circ (formerly called Flash), which raised  €55 million in Series A funding a year ago, had a round of layoffs just two months ago. The layoffs, which the startup attributed to a focus on “efficiency and ops excellence”, is said to have affected around 50 persons. Purchasing a struggling Circ could be a way for Bird to zoom in on its main rival, Lime, which is widely seen as leading in the European e-scooter sharing market. Bird wouldn't be new to such an acquis

Soft Robotics Nabs $23 Million "Oversubscribed" Series B

Soft Robotics CEO Carl Vause. Image by World Economic Forum / Sikarin Thanachaiary, via  CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 license. Soft Robotics, a Bedford, Massachusetts-based robotics startup, has announced $23 million in Series B funding. The funding round, which Soft Robotics termed as "oversubscribed", a description entailing a great deal of interest from investors, was co-led by Calibrate Ventures and Material Impact, with participation from Yamaha, Tekfen Ventures, Honeywell, Scale, Hyperplane and FANUC, a well-known maker of industrial robots. Soft's new funding follows a similarly-sized $20 million round closed in May 2018, a round it also termed as oversubscribed. Not coincidentally, all the participants in Soft's Series B round except FANUC also participated in that previous round. FANUC, a leading manufacturer of industrial robots, happens to be a strategic investor, having partnered with Soft Robotics to create a product that was unveiled in Japan in Decembe

Joby Aviation Secures $590 Million Series C

image: Joby Aviation Joby Aviation, a Santa Cruz, California-based startup that develops electric air taxis, has announced $590 million in Series C funding led by Japanese auto manufacturer Toyota, with participation from new investors Baillie Gifford and Global Oryx alongside existing investors Intel Capital, AME Cloud Ventures, JetBlue Technology Ventures, Capricorn Investment Group, and SPARX Group. The new funding brings the total amount raised by Joby to $720 million. According to a Bloomberg report , Toyota is providing $394 million of the $590 million total. The automaker isn't just bringing money to the table but says it'll also share its expertise in manufacturing, quality, and cost controls to support the development and production of Joby's electric aircraft. Over the past ten years, Joby has assembled a team of engineers and physicists that have developed a quiet all-electric VTOL (vertical takeoff and landing) aircraft. The aircraft is developed in an

Casper Files To Go Public

Casper CEO Philip Krim. Photo by Kimberly White/Getty Images for TechCrunch Not long after a previous report of online mattress retailer Casper working with banks on an initial public offering (IPO), the company has filed an S-1 registration document with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to do exactly that. Its S-1 document was made public just a few hours before this writeup. Casper's S-1 indicates $312 million in revenue for the first nine months of 2019, up from $260 million in the same period of the previous year. However, the company is not profitable, with losses of $67 million and $64 million in those periods respectively. For the full year 2018, Casper recorded $358 million in revenue but with a $92 million loss. A substantial portion of Casper's loss stems from high sales and marketing spend after gross profit is accounted for. Sales and marketing make up its highest expense, even surpassing general and administrative expenses in the ye

Uber And Hyundai Debut Flying Taxi Concept

Hyundai's "S-A1" air taxi concept. image: Hyundai At this year's Consumer Electronics Show (CES), Korean auto manufacturer Hyundai and Uber unveiled a flying car concept that's aimed for use in the "Uber Elevate" initiative, an initiative that's targeted at aerial ridesharing with custom air taxis made by partners to enable that. Hyundai is the first automaker to join Uber Elevate, whose previous partners were all electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft manufacturers. Uber aims to launch an aerial ridesharing network by 2023, and has already partnered with seven aircraft makers to enable that. Hyundai's new concept air taxi vehicle is dubbed "S-A1" and has specifications similar to that of previous electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft unveiled by other Uber Elevate partners. It'll be 100% electric, be piloted initially but with plans to later make them autonomous, and is designed with fou

Coupang Said To Be Eyeing 2021 IPO

Coupang CEO Bom Kim. image: Coupang Coupang, a SoftBank-backed South Korean e-commerce startup, is eyeing a 2021 initial public offering (IPO) according to a Bloomberg report .  Bloomberg says the company, founded in 2010 and said to be valued at $9 billion, has embarked on tax structuring among other changes as it aims for a public listing next year. Another sign Coupang may be eyeing a soon IPO is its appointment of a Chief Financial Officer (CFO)  in December last year. The CFO in case was Alberto Fornaro, a seasoned executive who has held senior financial roles for more than two decades at Korean firms. Coupang's IPO could be a test of the waters for the SoftBank Vision Fund, which has seen some of its portfolio companies struggle and collectively lay off thousands. Coupang appears to be doing good, with 2018 revenues said to have approached $5 billion.  Bloomberg  also reports the company had more than $10 billion in gross merchandise value as of December 31 and th

Two SoftBank-Backed Startups Said To Lay Off Hundreds

Zume Pizza co-founder Julia Collins. Photo by Steve Jennings/Getty Images for TechCrunch According to reports from Business Insider and  The Information  respectively, Zume Pizza and Getaround, two SoftBank-backed startups, are collectively laying off more than 500 staff, the majority coming from Zume Pizza. Zume is said to be planning to lay off up to 400 employees representing 80% of its staff while Getaround is said to be laying off about 150 employees representing about 25% of its staff. The reported layoffs come on the heels of another SoftBank backed startup, Fair, cutting 40% of its headcount  with its CFO and CEO resigning in the process. With respect to the layoffs, Zume Pizza's case seems grimmer being just a year and two months after it snagged $375 million in funding from SoftBank. Originally a pizza-making automation startup, it later pivoted to food-supply-chain management. According to Business Insider , the layoffs are effectively a cost-cutting measure

Velodyne Appoints New CEO

Anand Gopalan, Velodyne's new CEO. image: Velodyne Velodyne, the world's biggest manufacturer of lidars for self-driving vehicles, has announced  the appointment of a new CEO by name of Anand Gopalan. Gopalan, who served as Velodyne's CTO up until this appointment, is taking over the CEO role from Velodyne's founder David Hall, who is, in turn, transitioning to a full-time role as Chairman of the Board. Under that role, Hall will "remain actively involved in directing the company’s technology, product vision and business strategy", a press statement from Velodyne said. Gopalan joined Velodyne in 2016 to form an advanced R&D team for the company. Since then, he has led technology and product development efforts at Velodyne. His appointment comes amid reports of the company making preparations for an IPO. As of late, Gopalan has been an active spokesperson for Velodyne, often promoting its lidar products to audiences around the world. Under hi

One Medical Files To Go Public

One Medical CEO Amir Rubin. image: One Medical San Francisco-based primary care startup One Medical has officially filed for an initial public offering (IPO). Its S-1 registration document  with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) was filed less than 24 hours ago, indicating a placeholder amount of $100 million (that is the amount intended to be raised from the IPO albeit one that's subject to change). One Medical intends to trade under the ticker ''ONEM'' on the Nasdaq Global Select Market. Investment banks J.P. Morgan and Morgan Stanley are lead underwriters for its IPO. For context, One Medical operates several health clinics in the U.S., its specialty lying in its clinics being more tech-inclined than conventional, and with concierge services available. The company operates on a membership model, charging $200 annually both by direct-to-consumer and enterprise sales. As of September 30, 2019, One Medical had 397,000 members across nine

Snap Acquires AI Factory

Snap CEO Evan Spiegel. Photo by Steve Jennings/Getty Images for TechCrunch As first reported by Ukranian publication AIN and later confirmed, Snap has acquired AI Factory, a Ukranian computer vision startup whose technology helped power Snapchat's recently debuted "Cameos" feature, a feature that lets Snapchat users create animated selfie-based videos. According to AIN, Snap paid around $166 million for AI Factory, which was founded by an entrepreneur who sold his previous company, Looksery, also to Snap. Snap is said to have paid $150 million for Looksery, also a computer vision startup whose technology powers Snapchat's widely used "Lenses" feature. After Looksery's acquisition, co-founder Victor Shaburov took up the role of director of engineering at Snap, a role he held for three years before leaving in 2018 to launch AI Factory. AI Factory is known to have offices in both Ukraine and San Francisco. According to TechCrunch , the firm h

Monzo Said To Be Raising New Funding

Monzo co-founder and CEO Tom Blomfield. image: Monzo According to Reuters , U.K. digital bank Monzo is close to raising between £50 million to £100 million ($66 million to $132 million) in new funding "within weeks" to help fund its growth.  Reuters , citing an unnamed source close to the company, said funding talks have involved both existing and new investors, and could precede a potentially bigger 'Series G' round next year. In June last year, Monzo closed  £113 million in funding  led by Y Combinator Continuity, an investment offshoot of famed startup accelerator Y Combinator. That funding came on the heels of Monzo's launch in the U.S. and valued the company at $2.5 billion post-money. Monzo looking to raise more funding hints of rapid growth and substantial investments to support that. Since its founding in 2015, Monzo has amassed more than 3.5 million users by offering a user-friendly and mobile-first app that facilitates online spending and m

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Okta Buys Cloud Security Startup Auth0 For $6.5B

A very big new acquisition has happened in the tech industry, with Okta (NASDAQ: OKTA), the publicly-traded cloud identity and access management software provider, announcing an agreement to buy Auth0, a fellow cloud identity software provider, for a price of $6.5 billion to be paid all with shares. A $6.5 billion exit for Auth0 marks a major win for the startup scene in Seattle, the tech hub where Auth0 is based and also a major win for the company's backers and investors. Auth0 last raised venture funding last year in July with a $120 million Series F round that valued the company at $1.9 billion. Now, it's about to sell for more than triple that amount. Auth0 has raised more than $330 million in total venture funding, with investors including the likes of Salesforce Ventures, Bessemer Venture Partners, Telstra Ventures, Sapphire Ventures, and DTCP. Salesforce Ventures led Auth0's most recent $120 million Series F round. With its acquisition of a fellow cloud identity a

John McAfee Indicted For $13M Crypto "Pump And Dump" Scheme

In October last year, John McAfee who's a controversial entrepreneur best known for founding the cybersecurity powerhouse bearing his last name McAfee was indicted for tax evasion by US authorities  with accusations of earning millions of dollars from cryptocurrency schemes and failing to report income and pay taxes as required to the US government. Now, it appears that McAfee is facing even more charges from US authorities, with the District Court for the Southern District of New York (SDNY) having just announced  further indictments of him for fraud and money laundering coming from alleged crypto "pump and dump" schemes. McAfee along with an associate, Jimmy Watson, are accused of hyping and promoting certain cryptocurrencies on social media in order to artificially inflate their prices without disclosing that McAfee owned large quantities of the promoted crypto and intended to profit from his promotion. McAfee, Watson, and other unnamed associates are alleged to have p

Peter Thiel Cashes Out Big From Palantir

After taking his data analytics and mining company, Palantir, public last year, it seems that Peter Thiel is keen on cashing out significantly from his stake in the company after getting an opportunity to do so on the public markets.  Thiel founded and helped build Palantir from the ground up into a data analytics powerhouse with annual sales of over $1 billion.   Palantir stayed as a private company for 17 years before hitting the public markets. According to regulatory filings and records , Peter Thiel has sold over $780 million of Palantir shares since the company began trading on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in September 2020.  Thiel's largest single sale transaction was an offloading of 20 million shares for $504.8 million on the 19th of February, 2020. His second-largest was the sale of 23 million shares in a transaction netting around $236 million on the 30th of September, 2020, which was the very day Palantir began trading on the NYSE. Altogether, Thiel has netted mor

New SPAC Deal: Bitcoin Mining Startup Cipher

The latest technology company to join the flurry of SPAC mergers is Cipher Mining, a newly-formed US-based bitcoin mining startup that's an offshoot of Bitfury, a leading maker of bitcoin mining hardware that's based in the Netherlands. Cipher Mining Inc will merge with Good Works Acquisition Corp (Nasdaq: GWAC) in a deal valuing the bitcoin mining startup at $2 billion. The SPAC will be anchored by a $425 million PIPE round committed by investors including Fidelity, Morgan Stanley (via its subsidiary Counterpoint Global), and Cipher's parent Bitfury. Bitfury will contribute a $50 million investment to the PIPE round that's structured as purchase credits for equipment and services from it for Cipher Mining. The SPAC merger will hand over $595 million in gross proceeds to Cipher Mining, consisting of the $425 million PIPE round and $170 million of cash held in trust by Good Works Acquisition Corp. Upon completion of the SPAC merger, the investors in Cipher's PIPE rou

Deal: Twilio Bets $750M On Mobile Comms Provider Syniverse

Twilio, the publicly-traded cloud communications company, has sought to strategically team up with an old-guard provider of mobile and wireless communications technology named Syniverse, with a formal business partnership just  announced between both parties that'll see Twilio invest up to $750 million for a minority stake in Syniverse under its terms. Twilio has agreed to invest up to $750 million in cash for a minority stake in Syniverse, buying the stake from the company's current owner which is the private equity firm Carlyle Group. The partnership between Twilio and Syniverse will see both companies enter into a major business partnership that entails a wholesale agreement whereby Syniverse will process, route and deliver application-to-person (A2P) messages originating and/or terminating between Twilio’s customers and mobile network operators. On Syniverse's end of the deal, the company is getting a business boost by providing services for Twilio which is one of the

American Drone Maker Skydio Raises $170M, Valued At $1B+

Skydio, an American startup that makes autonomous drones, has closed a new funding round of $170 million that values it above $1 billion. The round was led by the famous venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, with participation from existing backers Next47, IVP, and Linse Capital, plus a new investor UP.Partners. Andreessen Horowitz led the new Series D round for Skydio from its Growth Fund, and with it, Skydio has now raised a total of over $340 million in external funding and then with a $1 billion+ valuation that makes it the highest-valued drone startup in the US. It seems that Skydio has drawn wide investor attraction after the US government placed China's DJI on a blacklist last year. DJI made its mark as the biggest drone maker globally and the largest in the US market but got placed on a government Entity List last year that barred American companies from supplying it with components. The blacklist was instituted by the former Trump administration due to alleged ties to

Carmaker Volvo To Go Fully Electric By 2030

The latest global automaker to commit to transitioning to a fully-electric production output in the future is Swedish carmaker Volvo, which has announced plans to become a fully electric car company by 2030. By then, the company says it intends to have phased out any car in its portfolio with an internal combustion engine, including hybrids, and transition to producing fully electric cars. The announcement of Volvo's grand plan comes a year after the company launched its first fully electric car, the XC40 Recharge , around the globe, and with just one fully electric car in its product portfolio now, it's apparent that the automaker would need to put in hard work to achieve a fully-electric portfolio in nine years time. To work towards its goal, Volvo has announced that it'll roll out 'several' additional electric car models in the coming years, the word several making the number indistinct. The Swedish automaker is aiming for fully electric cars to make up half of

Jay-Z's Tidal Sells To Payments Company Square In $300M Deal

It seems that this is the season of deals for rapper-cum-businessman Shawn "Jay-Z" Carter as just barely two weeks after he reached a deal to sell half of his premium champagne brand to luxury goods giant LVMH, he's reached yet another deal to sell one of his main business ventures, the music streaming app Tidal. Tidal has agreed to be taken over by Square, the payments company led by Jack Dorsey who's more popular for his role as the CEO of Twitter. In a statement , Square said it'll pay the sum of $297 million in a mix of cash and stock to acquire a "significant majority ownership" stake in Tidal leaving the remaining minority stake will be held by Tidal's artist shareholders. The exact percentage that Square is buying in Tidal isn't disclosed but it's definitely over 50% given it's a majority stake. With Square's statement of acquiring a "significant majority ownership", one can guess somewhere between 50%-80% of the com

Smart TV Maker Vizio Files To Go Public

Vizio, a well-known maker of smart TVs and other complementary equipment such as soundbars, has filed an S-1 with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for a public listing, seeking to do so for the second time after having previously filed to go public in 2015 but later withdrew its plan in lieu of a $2 billion sale agreement to a Chinese company that unfortunately didn't pan out. The market for technology IPOs has been very hot as of late and it seems that Vizio is coming in at the right time to capitalize on that hotness. A popular maker of smart TVs, Vizio has sold over 80 million TVs and 11 million soundbars since the company's inception, as indicated in its S-1 filing. The company sold 7.1 million TVs in 2020 alone. Vizio has strong revenues and is profitable, reporting $102 million in net income on over $2 billion in revenue in 2020. In the previous year, 2019, Vizio reported a net income of $23 million on $1.8 billion in revenue. Most of Vizio's revenue c

New SPAC Deal: Home Insurance Startup Hippo

Amid a flurry of SPAC mergers as of late, the latest technology company to tap into the boom and reach a deal to merge with a special-purpose acquisition company (SPAC) is Hippo, a home insurance startup that makes use of satellite imagery and smart home sensors to gauge and offer better home insurance policies. Hippo will merge with Reinvent Technology Partners Z (NYSE:RPTZ), a SPAC formed by the respective founders of LinkedIn and gaming company Zynga, Reid Hoffman and Mark Pincus. Hippo will merge with  Reinvent Technology Partners Z in a deal that'll hand it over $230 million of cash held in trust by the SPAC, plus a $550 million PIPE round to be led by existing investors  Dragoneer, Lennar, and Ribbit Capital. The PIPE round will value Hippo at $5 billion. Following the merger's completion, Hippo expects to have $1.2 billion of cash at hand, fueled by the funds from its SPAC deal plus venture funding that it's already raised. A hot insurance startup, Hippo has raised o