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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

Most Read Posts

Deal: Mindbody Buys Fitness Startup ClassPass

Mindbody , a leading maker of software for managing gyms and fitness studios, is buying one of the hot startups in its industry. It's buying ClassPass , a popular subscription platform for widespread gym access and online fitness classes. Mindbody will buy Classpass for an undisclosed amount . The company, owned by private equity firm Vista, also announced a strategic $500mn investment along with its ClassPass deal. The acquisition was all with privately held shares, Mindbody said. ClassPass is a celebrated startup in the fitness space. It began as a simple website to book fitness classes with registered studios but morphed into a subscription platform for access to such studios and their fitness classes, with many users paying recurring fees as a steady revenue source.  ClassPass was valued at $1bn from a funding round last year. Given the acquisition's pricing terms weren't disclosed, we can't say for sure if it was higher or lower than the $1bn mark, but for a hint,

Tether Fined $41M For Lying About Fiat Reserves

Tether Limited , the organization behind the eponymous Tether (USDT) stablecoin, has been fined a substantial sum for lying about the fiat reserves backing its stablecoin. It was fined $41mn by the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC). According to the CFTC's press release , Tether lied to customers that it had sufficient dollar reserves to back every issued USDT token whereas it did not for a long period of time. Over a 26-month sample period from 2016 through 2018, the CFTC said Tether only had sufficient dollar reserves for all its tokens 28% of the time, whereas it lied that it was "fully-backed" all the time. Also, the CFTC said Tether failed to disclose to customers that it had unsecured receivables and non-fiat assets in its supposed cash reserves. The organization further lied to customers that it would undergo routine, professional audits of its reserves but has failed to do any, the CFTC said. For its violations, the CFTC fined ordered Tether to pay a

Deal: Scopely Buys Sony's GSN Games For $1B

Scopely , a top-ranking mobile gaming startup, is expanding its business with a new major acquisition. It's buying GSN Games , a mobile gaming division of entertainment giant Sony, for the sum of $1bn. GSN Games makes popular social casino games such as Bingo Bash and  Solitaire TriPeaks . Social casino games are a genre where gaming studios can extract much revenue if they do it right, and GSN is one of the top contenders in the genre. Scopely will pay $1bn for GSN Games, half of it with cash and the other half with its shares, making Sony a minority shareholder in the mobile gaming company. It's said that Scopely's valuation has climbed to $5.4bn taking into account the shares it'll hand over to Sony as payment. That compares to a $3.3bn valuation when the company raised funding last year.  With GSN, Scopely is stepping up its business substantially by the way of a strategic acquisition. It's a strategy the mobile gaming startup is used to, having made 5 acqui

Microsoft CEO, Other Execs Bag Annual Pay Raises

Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) has raised the annual pay package of its Chief Executive Officer, Satya Nadella , the company's latest proxy statement reveals. Nadella enjoyed a substantial pay raise along with several other Microsoft executives. For the fiscal year ended June 30, 2021, Nadella's compensation was $50mn , up 13% compared to the previous year. The lucrative pay package was split into a $2.5mn base salary, $33mn of stock awards, a $14mn cash bonus, and $110k in "other" compensation. Nadella's pay raise was in line with other Microsoft executives, including President Brad Smith and CFO Amy Hood. They each got annual pay raises in the 20% ballpark compared to 2020. The reported pay packages of Microsoft's top executives for the fiscal year is as follows; Satya Nadella (CEO) - $50mn. Amy Hood (CFO) - $23.5mn Brad Smith (President and Chief Legal Officer) - $20.5mn Jean-Philippe Courtois (Executive Vice President) - $17mn Christopher Young (Executive Vice

Deal: Instacart Pays $350M For A Smart Grocery Cart Startup

In a bid to expand, grocery delivery giant Instacart is making its biggest acquisition yet. It'll buy   Caper AI , a New York-based startup that makes smart grocery carts and cashier-less payments tech that complement them. Instacart will pay $350mn for the startup in a combination of cash and shares. Caper AI is a startup working on exciting stuff; smart shopping carts to make the grocery buying process at brick-and-mortar stores easier and faster. Its smart carts can recognize items placed in them with the help of cameras and weight sensors, then calculate their total cost without the need for barcodes as used in most grocery stores. Payment at the counter is then made quickly with Caper's own payments platform. Caper's "AI Cart". credit: Caper Also, Caper sells what's called a "Caper Counter," a checkout system for convenience stores that uses cameras and weight-based sensors instead of barcodes to sum the total cost of items. Caper Counter. cre

Apple Unveils New MacBook Pros, AirPods

Tech giant Apple has added a new set of products to its roster, including new MacBook Pro laptops and AirPods unveiled at a Tuesday online event.  Apple also unveiled new chipsets for the new MacBook Pros, the M1 Pro and M1 Max . MacBook Pros Apple unveiled two MacBook Pros, a 14-inch and 16-inch model. Both will come with the first chipsets designed by Apple specifically for a MacBook Pro, delivering high performance, expectedly.  Apple has brought back the HDMI port and SD card reader to the new MacBook Pro, in addition to three Thunderbolt 4 ports to connect peripherals. Removing the HDMI port and SD card reader in MacBooks had generated significant complaints by some Apple users, but it appears they'll be pleased again if they get the new MacBook Pros. Other shared features of the new MacBook Pros include; A 1080p front camera. MagSafe magnetic chargers. Six-speaker sound system. Fast charging - 50% charge in 30 minutes, Apple claims. Touch bar replaced by function keys. One

Deal: Australia's Aristocrat To Buy Playtech For $3.7B

The online gambling industry is hot this year, with billion-dollar deals now a frequent occurrence. The latest billion-dollar deal is Playtech , a London-listed online gambling company, selling to Aristocrat Leisure , an Australian gambling machine manufacturer. Playtech was founded in 1999 by Israeli entrepreneur Teddy Sagi . However, he sold off all his shares  in the company in 2018 and won't profit from this deal. Don't cry for him though, he made other shrewd investments that bestowed him with a net worth nearing $6bn ( Forbes estimate ). Aristocrat (ASX: ALL) has agreed to buy Playtech (LON: PTEC) in a deal worth £2.7bn ($3.7bn). The Australian firm will pay $2.9bn to buy all outstanding Playtech shares and assume $800mn of the firm's debt. It's paying 680 pence in cash per Playtech share, a 58% premium to the company's share price before the announcement. Following the announcement, Playtech's share price jerked up, expectedly. It rose 57% on Monday to

Fast Fashion E-Tailer Lulu's Files For IPO

Lulu's , an online retailer of women's apparel, is headed towards the public markets. It's filed an S-1 document for an initial public offering (IPO), showing its intent to list on the Nasdaq exchange. As expected from S-1 filings, Lulu's has provided great insights into its business, with information not publicly disclosed before. Something very noteworthy is that the online shopping boom of this year emanating from the Covid pandemic has largely favored the company. By The Numbers For its most recent fiscal quarter, the three months ended October 3, 2021, Lulu's brought in between $105mn to $106mn in revenue. Its net income for the same period was at the $3mn-$4mn mark. The estimations are because the final, audited results haven't yet been posted. For the fiscal year ended January 3, 2021, Lulu's posted $249mn in revenue and a net loss of $19mn. It shows that the company has swung from losses to profitability this year, with the net profit of between $3m

Antitrust: Facebook Fined $70M Over Giphy Takeover Probe

The UK's antitrust agency has levied a substantial fine on social media giant Facebook related to its acquisition of Giphy , the popular GIF website. It fined the company  £50.5mn ($69mn) for flouting an order requiring it to supply information related to the agency's investigation of the $400mn acquisition. The UK's  Competition and Markets Authority (CMA)  launched a  formal probe  of the Giphy deal last June. The antitrust agency challenged the deal  after probing it,  arguing that it gave Facebook an unfair advantage over rivals that also used Giphy's GIF database. It appears that Facebook failed to comply with demands from the agency's investigation and has been penalized for it. Apparently, the UK's antitrust agency required Facebook to suspend integrating its operations with Giphy's as the agency was investigating the acquisition, but Facebook had failed to indicate it did so despite multiple warnings. "This should serve as a warning to any com

Deal: Walgreens Invests $5.2B In VillageMD, Now Majority Owner

Walgreens Boots Alliance , the giant American pharmacy chain, is doubling down on its investment in one of its healthcare peers; the primary care chain VillageMD . After a previous investment last year, Walgreens is investing an additional sum in VillageMD that'll make it the primary care chain's majority owner. Walgreens has agreed to invest $5.2bn in VillageMD, upping its stake from 30% to 63%. It'll become the primary care chain's majority owner and guide it under its belt to open hundreds of primary care clinics co-located with Walgreens drugstores across the US. The investment is really strategic, giving Walgreens majority ownership in the firm that'll operate most of the primary care clinics attached to its stores. We can refer to it as "full-stack healthcare", where you visit a Walgreens-owned clinic and get prescriptions to buy drugs at a Walgreens pharmacy, though we're aware not everyone is comfortable with one company having that much cont