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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

Cashing Out: Jeff Bezos Sells $2.5B Of Amazon Stock

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos has continued his routine selling of Amazon shares to fund his other escapades. For a few years now, he's had an arranged trading plan that sees him regularly sell Amazon stock worth billions of dollars. Jeff Bezos' latest sell-off is of 739,000 Amazon shares worth around $2.5bn, SEC filings show. Another separate filing indicated that he plans to sell as many as 2 million shares that could net him nearly $7bn at current prices. This latest share sell-off from Bezos is noteworthy as one of his last in his position as Amazon's CEO which he's handing off soon to a top lieutenant named Andy Jassy. Jassy is currently CEO of AWS, Amazon's very profitable cloud computing division. Usually, a CEO offloading large amounts of stock in a company he leads draws some displeasure from investors, but as Jeff Bezos would soon no longer be Amazon's CEO, it opens up opportunities to sell larger amounts of shares than usual if the desires. Amazon's

EVs: Ford, BMW Co-Invest In An EV Battery Startup

It's currently of no doubt that electric vehicles represent the future for the automobile market, and many automakers have taken heed to that. Tens of billions of dollars in spending have been earmarked for the R&D and production of electric vehicles by global automakers, with efforts spanning battery development, building new factories, charging stations et al. Now, two of the world's biggest automakers, BMW and Ford, have jointly invested in a startup working on battery technology for electric vehicles. That startup is Solid Power, a Colorado-based startup developing solid-state batteries for EVs. Details: Solid Power has raised a $130 million Series B round  co-led by Ford and BMW. The two automakers were joined by green-focused venture fund Volta Energy Technologies in the round. As part of the strategic round, Ford and BMW have expanded their joint agreements with Solid Power to develop solid-state batteries for their use. In a way, the two automakers are funding and o

Is Apple Brewing A Major Digital Health Play?

That Apple has high ambitions in the digital health space isn't foreign news to anyone following the moves of the company. In fact, its CEO Tim Cook once referred to health as Apple's “greatest contribution to mankind.” Apple's main health product is the Apple Watch for which health represents a major use case and a selling point. The latest Apple Watch series has key health features including the ability to measure ECG (electrocardiogram) and oxygen saturation level in the blood. With all its grand ambitions, the reality is that Apple is progressing very well in the digital health space but yet hasn't gotten a big foothold in it like it's done in other markets. There still exists a large gap for Apple to conquer to make waves in the digital health market and the company seems much hell-bent on covering that gap. Details: A certain revelation has come out that details Apple's grand plans in the health sector, and it's that of a UK startup working on next-ge

Big Pay: AT&T Shareholders Vote Against Execs Pay

To bring back one of our most favorite sayings, "America is the land of many things, including very enormous executive pay". Executives of publicly-traded companies in the US are familiar with very large compensation packages on a scale not seen in other countries, take recent examples including Palantir CEO Alex Karp landing a $1.1 billion payday  and former T-Mobile CEO John Legere getting a $137 million severance pay . But with all the large executive pay packages flying around, it appears that the shareholders of one public company are not okay with it and that company is telecoms giant AT&T.  Details: AT&T in a statement  revealed that the majority of its shareholders voted not in favor of the compensation of its executive officers in 2020. Just under 49% of votes were cast in favor of the compensation, leaving the remaining majority 51%, not in favor.  Last year, AT&T had large pay packages for its top brass including $21 million for CEO John Stankey and $52

Deal: Verizon Sells Yahoo And AOL To PE Firm For $5B

Telecoms giant Verizon has found a buyer for its Verizon Media Unit which includes veteran internet properties like Yahoo and AOL, and that buyer is a major private equity firm. To note, though Yahoo and AOL have long faded from their glory days, they aren't exactly dead properties but ones still with a great deal of users bringing in a few billion in revenue annually. Details: Verizon has struck a deal to sell 90% of Verizon Media to private equity firm Apollo which will pay $5 billion for it, while Verizon retains a  10%  minority stake in the business. The deal takes off many internet properties off Verizon's hands, including bigger ones like Yahoo and smaller ones like technology news site TechCrunch operating under the AOL umbrella. Though it's selling for a seemingly huge price of $5 billion, Verizon paid a combined $9 billion to buy the web properties making up its Verizon Media unit so it doesn't come out on top financially from the sale.  Verizon paid $4.4bn t

Germany's SAP Fined $8M For Violating Iran Sanctions

SAP, the German software giant, has agreed to pay a fine in the US for violating sanctions imposed by the country on conducting business in Iran. It'll pay over $8 million in fines after admitting to handling thousands of exports of its software to Iran violating US law. Details: SAP admitted to exporting US-origin software to Iran beginning in 2010 up until 2017. The exports including delivering software upgrades and patches more than 20,000 times to Iranian users and offering Iranian users access to US-based cloud services. As charged, executives at SAP were aware that the company didn't have geolocation protections to block downloads of its US-origin software in Iran and turned a blind eye to the situation.  SAP was also charged with neglecting to put in place adequate export control for cloud services made by some US-based companies that it acquired and integrated into its software suite. For the charges, SAP admitted guilt and reached a  Non-Prosecution Agreement with the

IPO: Cybersecurity Startup Darktrace Debuts On UK Markets

A major cybersecurity startup from the UK has held an initial public offering (IPO) and debuted to positive investor fanfare on the domestic public markets. That startup is Darktrace, a fast-growing cybersecurity startup founded by a team of mathematicians in collaboration with British intelligence agencies in 2013. Darktrace sells cyber-defense software that's claimed to harness artificial intelligence in spotting and managing cyber threats. It listed on the London Stock Exchange under the symbol "DARK". By the numbers: Darktrace debuted to positive investor fanfare that saw its shares soar by 40% on its first day of trading. It raised £143 million ($198m) from the public float at a valuation of £1.7 billion ($2.3bn) which soared to almost £2.4 billion ($3.3bn) on its debut trading day. Darktrace's IPO prospectus reports $199 million in revenue in its most recent fiscal year ending June 30, 2020. This was up from $137 million in the previous year, 2019, and $79 mill

Earnings: Pfizer Rakes In Cash From COVID Vaccine

Pfizer, one of the few pharmaceutical companies worldwide to produce an approved Covid-19 vaccine, has unveiled its earnings report for the first quarter of this year. As usual, the report provides a solid peek into the company's financials and with very noteworthy nuggets this time around. One key nugget from Pfizer's earnings report is that the company brought in $3.5bn in revenue from its Covid-19 vaccine in Q1' 21. It made up nearly a fourth of the company's total $14.6bn revenue for the period. The Covid vaccine was the biggest single source of revenue for Pfizer in the quarter. It's definitely a good time for the company in that regard, as it elected to keep the profit from the sale of its vaccines unlike some of its competitors which volunteered to waive off any profit-seeking from their vaccines. Unlike some of its competitors also, Pfizer didn't take money from the US government to fund the development of its vaccine under the Trump administration'

Earnings: Covid Vaccines Deliver Big Sales, Profit For Moderna

Moderna was among the few biotech companies that saved the day with the development of an emergency-authorized vaccine to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic. It was a breakthrough for the company, which was before then a cancer-fighting moonshot with minimal revenues and no working product. Being a publicly-traded company, Moderna is mandated to release quarterly earnings reports to the public and it has done so this time around, releasing its financial results for the first quarter of this year 2021. Moderna's latest earnings report shows that of a company that saw big success from its Covid vaccines, as it reported record revenue and its first-ever net profit as a public company. By the numbers: Moderna made $1.9bn in revenue in Q1' 21, compared to a paltry $8mn for the same quarter in 2020. The revenue came wholly from Covid vaccine sales in the US and foreign markets. Moderna reported a huge net income of $1.2bn in the quarter, compared to a net loss of $124mn for the same perio

Court Docs: Fortnite Maker Epic Made $15B In 2018-2020

Fortnite maker Epic Games is having a court battle with Apple over the latter's App Store practices and that battle has led to several documents coming out of the shadows with valuable information about Epic Games not publicly known before.  Among the information revealed in court proceedings between Epic and Apple is the sheer scale of Epic's revenue largely gotten from its hit game Fortnite . Official documents indicate that Epic Games made respective annual sales of $5.6bn, $4.2bn, and $5.1bn in 2018, 2019, and 2020, summing up to just shy of $15bn. Epic's revenue in 2018 and 2019 was revealed in financial documents made public as part of its court battle with Apple while its revenue for 2020 was separately revealed in a court testimony by Epic CEO Tim Sweeney. The vast majority of Epic's revenue comes from Fortnite while its other products like the Unreal Engine and the Epic Games Store bring in a minority of revenues. Specifically, Fortnite brought in $5.5bn a