In just the past few days, we’ve had Foxconn renege on Wisconsin, Amazon renege on NYC, and GE renege on Boston.Each followed the Anna Karenina principle that every unhappy economic development deal is unhappy in its own way: for Foxconn, it was trade tariffs and slowing iPhone sales; for Amazon, it was populist protests plus the usual NYC corruption; for GE, it was the reality of looking at a mirror and finding that you’re staring at a dumpster fire.Seeing their legacies secured, politicians latch on to these projects, negotiating with alacrity and without due process because — wow — the company with suicide nets or the company where employees pee in bottles (undercover!)As I wrote about Amazon HQ2 a few weeks ago:These spillover effects are at the heart of agglomeration economies.They will start companies, join other tech firms and expand the vitality of the community.
Self-driving tractor-trailer start-up TuSimple achieves unicorn status in funding round that values it at $1 billion – CNBCWhat happened: Self-driving truck startup TuSimple, founded in 2015 with headquarters in the US and China, has reached unicorn status following its $95 million Series D. The funding round was led by Chinese tech giant Sina and Hong Kong-based investment firm Composite Capital.The money will help the company expand its fleet of test vehicles and fund joint production programs with truck manufacturers.Why it’s important: As autonomous driving systems develop, self-driving cars have received most of the attention.However, the logistics industry could see drastic improvements in efficiency should companies adopt self-driving trucks, especially given the size of China’s e-commerce market.TuSimple has been testing its trucks in Arizona, making three to five autonomous trips per day.
By CB Insights lists the 50 startuper who may be on the way to a valuation of one billion u.s. dollars.Vårdtjänsten Tee on the list as the only Swedish company.the So-called ”enhörnings companies”, the next one has had a mythical significance for the startup world.With a unicorn, in this context, refers to technology companies that are valued at least a billion dollars within ten years from its start.As an example, on the Swedish companies that have reached the status may be mentioned, Mojang, Clear and Spotify.Now, yet another Swedish company to be on the road to join the crowd.
Starling Bank, one of fintech's Big Three digital banking stalwarts, has closed a £75m funding round led by Merian Global Investors.The challenger bank said £60m was provided by Merian, formerly known as Old Mutual, which included a £19m injection from Merian's equity investment firm Chrysalis.The round was closed out with £15m from Starling's sole existing investor Harald McPike.There was no valuation disclosed as part of the funding, though the pressure is on after both of Starling's biggest competitors, Monzo and Revolut, were named so-called unicorn startups last year with valuations of more than £1bn.Starling said the raise will fund further growth of the bank's retail and business banking products, as well as its expansion into Europe.City A.M. revealed last week that Starling Bank's chief executive Anne Boden had begun courting an Irish banking licence, starting up conversations with authorities in Dublin.
A long-time London-based entrepreneur re-surfaces today with the launch of Numan a new kind of subscription business, with a rather unusual approach to a very old problem.Sokratis Papafloratos (pictured) is one of the more ‘serial of serial’ European entrepreneurs.He was one of the first investors in Calm.com the mindfulness sleep and meditation site and app which recently attained Unicorn status.He also founded TrustedPlaces, the UK’s earliest and oldest local reviews site, which was Acquired by Yell Group Plc; family-photo-sharing platform, Togethera (which shuttered) and Secret Escapes, one of the UK’s first members-only travel company.This online platform will aim to promote accessible medical remedies for ED whilst also building a brand and story-telling around health issues affecting men’s self-esteem and the lifestyle choices they make that might affect their condition.While the early strategy will involve pharmaceuticals on subscription, the longer term play, says Papafloratos, will be the offer of direct-to-consumer medical products to help control the symptoms of ED, along with online support from healthcare professionals.
Bangalore-based fintech startup Open announced the close of its US$5 million series A round led by Beenext, Speedinvest, and 3one4 Capital.Existing investors Unicorn India Ventures and AngelList Syndicate also participated in the round.Open plans to use the money to launch new products, scale up its team, and expand in other Asian countries by Q3 2019.The startup, which began operations in 2017, helps small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) solve business banking challenges, from opening a business bank account to automating and managing financial processes.It supports over 30,000 SMEs and processes more than US$2 billion in transaction run rate.Open is looking to on board 1 million small businesses into its platform in the next two years.
Another autonomous-vehicle unicorn has joined the herd.Sina, operator of China’s biggest microblogging site Weibo, is one of TuSimple’s earliest investors.TuSimple launched when the burgeoning AV ecosystem of investors, academics turned entrepreneurs and early self-driving tech pioneers were focused more on the development of autonomous passenger vehicles, namely robotaxis.Then came the reveal of the Tesla Semi and the founding of several autonomous trucking startups, including Starsky Robotics and Embark.In late 2017, TuSimple raised $55 million with plans to use those funds to scale up testing to two full truck fleets in China and the U.S. By 2018, TuSimple started testing on public roads, beginning with a 120-mile highway stretch between Tucson and Phoenix in Arizona and another segment in Shanghai.After three years of intense focus to reach our technical goals, we have moved beyond research into the serious work of building a commercial solution,” TuSimple founder, president and CTO Xiaodi Hou said.
If you’re looking for the next unicorn in Southeast Asia, Zilingo might just be it.The 3.5-year-old e-commerce company announced today that it has raised a Series D round worth $226 million to go after the opportunity to digitize Asia’s fashion supply chain.The Series D is provided by existing investors Sequoia India, Singapore sovereign fund Temasek, Germany’s Burda and Sofina, a European backer of Flipkart -owned fashion site Myntra.CEO Ankiti Bose — formerly with Sequoia India and McKinsey — and CTO Dhruv Kapoor first built a service that capitalized on Southeast Asia’s growing internet connectivity to bring small fashion vendors from the street markets of cities like Bangkok and Jakarta into the e-commerce fold.Zilingo still operates its consumer-facing online retail store, but its key move has been to go after b2b opportunities in the supply chain by digitizing its network to give retailers and brands gain access.She declined to provide raw figures but did say net income is in “the hundreds of millions” of U.S dollar.
Pinterest just might be the internet’s most undervalued platform.The company, once grouped together with other social media giants like Facebook and Twitter, has managed to forge its own path and remain a place where people go to be inspired.While other platforms are plagued by ongoing harassment or data breach issues, Pinterest isn’t—which the company’s new CMO, Andréa Mallard, attributes to the founders who knew growth at any cost wasn’t the right path for them.“There are plenty of levers that we could’ve pulled to juice growth or to juice addictiveness [but] we chose not to because that’s not what the founders were all about, it’s never been what the company’s about,” Mallard said.“This is the one place where we say it’s about yourself, not your selfie.”Since joining, Mallard said the office atmosphere is relatively calm, despite the company’s unicorn status.
More than half of world’s AI unicorns are in China, says report – SCMPWhat happened: China is home to the greatest number of artificial intelligence (AI) unicorns in the world, according to a report by research company CB Insights.Facial recognition startup Sensetime, valued at $4.5 billion, tops the list.Other companies include Yitu Technology, 4Paradigm, Face++, and self-driving firm Pony.ai.Why it’s important: Artificial intelligence has been dubbed the fourth industrial revolution, and China has set ambitious goals for its development.The country hopes to catch up with the US’ AI capabilities by 2020, make breakthroughs by 2025, and become a world leader by 2030.
On top of that, Himalaya, a free podcast app I’d never heard of until this week, raised a whopping $100 million in venture capital funding to “establish itself as a new force in the podcast distribution space,” per Variety.The podcasting business definitely took center stage, but Lime and Bird made headlines, as usual, a new unicorn emerged in the mental health space and Instacart, it turns out, has been screwing its independent contractors.As mentioned, Spotify, or shall we say Spodify, gobbled up Gimlet and Anchor.This week’s biggest “yikes” moment was when reports emerged that Instacart was offsetting its wages with tips from customers.Instead, it will sell existing shares held by insiders, employees and investors, a move that will allow it to bypass a roadshow and some of Wall Street’s exorbitant IPO fees.It was particularly tough to decide which deal was the most notable this week… But the winner is Reddit, the online platform for chit-chatting about niche topics — r/ProgMetal if you’re Crunchbase editor Alex Wilhelm .
Things have become worse in general for banking app Revolut, you might be amused to hear.The startup/challenger/unicorn bank app thing was already facing a backlash over its apparent singles-shaming Valentine's Day advert; now it's been referred to the Financial Conduct Authority because the numbers it used to make its clumsy point were entirely made-up.Revolut pulled the ad that mocked people who eat dinner by themselves sometimes and made a sort of apology for it, but not soon enough to halt angry people complaining to the Advertising Standards Authority.The ASA said it's outside of its remit to cover made-up stats, but instead referred the matter to the FCA, which wields significantly stronger regulatory powers over members of the banking industry and could cause Revolut much larger problems than the lame wrist-slaps usually offered by the ASA.
Hello, and welcome back to Equity, TechCrunch’s venture capital-focused podcast, where we unpack the numbers behind the headlines.This week Kate Clark and I sat down to get through the biggest news in the venture and startup world.This is our regular episode of the week after a shot focused on the Slack IPO, and an interview concerning Facebook.So, back to our roots.And as has been the case for months and months now, there was a lot to get through.Podcasting took center stage this week, with music giant Spotify snapping up podcasting tool startup Anchor and podcast production company Gimlet.
Japanese ecommerce startup Mercari, which went public last year with great fanfare, booked a quarterly loss of 1.1 billion yen (US$10 million) and warned of more losses ahead as it spends heavily to expand in the US market.Mercari’s smartphone app, which allows people to trade used items online, is well-known in Japan but has made only a small headway in the US market where it faces tough competition from established sites such as eBay and Craigslist.The operational loss was more than double what Mercari had reported the previous year.The company said that spend on its overseas expansion plans could lead to even bigger losses in the coming quarters.Mercari clocked 138.9 billion yen (US$1.26 billion) in merchandise sales between October and December last year, up 50 percent from the same period a year earlier.The Japanese startup achieved unicorn status in March 2016 following a US$74 million series D round.
Tink, the European open banking platform headquartered in Sweden, has deposited €56 million in new funding.Leading the round is U.S.-based Insight Venture Partners.Existing backers Sunstone, SEB, Nordea Ventures and ABN AMRO Digital Impact Fund also participated.They include Christian Clausen, former Chairman of the European Banking Federation, and — most notably — Nikolay Storonsky, co-founder of banking app and fintech ‘unicorn’ Revolut.According to sources, the new round of funding gives Tink a post-money valuation of €240 million.Originally launched in Sweden in 2013 as a consumer-facing finance app with bank account aggregation at its heart, Tink has since repositioned its offering to provide the same underlying technology and more to banks and other financial service providers who want to ride the open banking/PSD2 train.
The Daily Crunch is TechCrunch’s roundup of our biggest and most important stories.If you’d like to get this delivered to your inbox every day at around 9am Pacific, you can subscribe here:Spotify buys Gimlet and Anchor in podcast push, earmarks $500M for more dealsThe music streaming service confirmed that it has snapped up two podcast networks — Gimlet and Anchor — in undisclosed deals.But that’s not all: Spotify also said it has plans to spend a further $400 to $500 million “on multiple acquisitions in 2019” to get even deeper into the space.Meditation app Calm hits unicorn status with fresh $88 million funding
Calm, the meditation and wellness app that launched back in 2012, has today announced the close of an $88 million Series B financing with a valuation of $1 billion.(We have not been able to clarify whether the valuation was post- or pre-money.)The funding was led by TPG Growth, with participation from CAA and existing investors Insight Venture Partners and Sound Ventures.As meditation grows in popularity across the U.S. — the CDC says it tripled from 4.1 percent in 2012 to 14.2 percent in 2017 — Calm has capitalized on the craze by offering a suite of mindfulness and wellness tools, from guided meditation sessions to a product called “Sleep Stories,” via a subscription.For example, the company invested $3 million in XPresSpa late in 2018.XPresSpa is a chain of quick spa stores found in airports.
This article by Violet Tang originally appeared on China Money Network, the best data intelligence platform tracking China’s tech and venture capital markets (access requires subscription).China continued to be a breeding hotbed for tech unicorns in 2018, with 25 private companies receiving a valuation of $1 billion or more for the first time.The total number of Chinese unicorns represents a modest increase over the 22 in 2017, but is still a slowdown over 2016 and 2015, which saw 33 and 31 new Chinese unicorns, respectively.China produced the second largest number of new unicorns this year globally, as the United States grew a bumper crop of unicorns this year: Around 37 start-ups worth at least $1 billion originated in America, out of 79 new unicorns start-ups worldwide-up in 2018, according to the research institute PitchBook.As of December 2018, China has accounted for more than a third of the total new unicorns worldwide, and 22% in terms of valuation, China Money Network‘s data shows.Sequoia Capital China has become the investment institution involved with the most unicorns, followed by Internet giant Tencent and IDG Capital.
This article is from an episode on The Jay Kim Show.This is heavily revised from the original show transcript.For the full interview, go here.For this episode, I sat down with James Giancotti, CEO of insights platform Oddup.He is a lawyer by training, a former investment banker at Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase & Co., and a successful investor.I worked at JPMorgan during the 2008 financial crisis, then I moved to the research department of Goldman Sachs.
In China, the U.S. coffee giant is being pushed by Luckin Coffee, a $2.2 billion challenger surfing China’s on-demand wave, and on the real estate side, where WeWork China has just unveiled an on-demand product that could tempt people who go to Starbucks to kill time or work.That trend is picking up in Indonesia, the world’s fourth largest country and Southeast Asia’s largest economy, where an on-demand challenger named Fore Coffee has fuelled up for a fight after it raised $8.5 million.That means it taps into unicorn companies like Grab, Go-Jek and Tokopedia and their army of scooter-based delivery people to get a hot brew out to customers.Incidentally, the name ‘Fore’ comes from ‘forest’ — “we aim to grow fast, strong, tall and bring life to our surrounding” — rather than in front of… or a shout heard on the golf course.The company has adopted a similar hybrid approach to Luckin, and Starbucks thanks to its alliance with Alibaba.Fore operates 15 outlets in Jakarta, which range from ‘grab and go’ kiosks for workers in a hurry, to shops with space to sit and delivery-only locations, Fore co-founder Elisa Suteja told TechCrunch.