It’s my first year making the trek down here for the event, which I did to interview sextech entrepreneur Lora DiCarlo founder Lora Haddock, whose robotics innovation reward was infamously revoked at this year’s CES.It’s all normal,” she said, addressing the stigma surrounding female-focused pleasure tech.Haddock, during our chat, also announced the first-ever government grant for a sextech startup, a $99,637 funding for Lora DiCarlo from the state of Oregon.Uber dominated the news cycle this week; here’s the TL;DR.The ride-hailing company is probably, most likely going to unveil its S-1 next month and it’s tying up some loose ends ahead of its big IPO.HotelTonight and Slack stakeholder Accel raised $2.525 billion, sources confirm to TechCrunch; $525 million for its fourteenth early-stage fund, $1.5 billion for its fifth growth fund and $500 million for its second Leaders Fund, or a dedicated pool of capital meant to help the firm strengthen its positions on particularly competitive bets.
Don’t buy logos or chase unicorns.At 35 years old, it has served them well, bagging the firm dozens of high-profile exits, including nine IPOs and 12 acquisitions in the last four years.Now, sources confirm to TechCrunch, the respected venture capital firm has nabbed $2.525 billion — its largest pool of capital yet — for three new funds: $525 million for its fourteenth early-stage fund, $1.5 billion for its fifth growth fund and $500 million for its second Leaders Fund, or a dedicated pool of capital meant to help the firm strengthen its positions on particularly competitive bets.Accel, which operates offices in Palo Alto, San Francisco, London and Bengaluru, is hot off the heels of a big exit.Its portfolio company HotelTonight, in which it was the very first institutional investor, is selling to Airbnb in what is the home-sharing company’s largest acquisition yet.In February, the San Francisco-based unicorn filed confidentially with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to make its public market debut; whether that be via a traditional initial public offering or a direct listing, a newfangled approach to going public, is still up in the air.
Ada, a Canada-based startup that is setting out to help companies develop their own automated customer service tools, has raised CAD$19 million (USD$14 million) in a series A round of funding led by New York-based VC firm FirstMark Capital, with participation from Leaders Fund, Burst Capital, Bessemer, Version One, and computer scientist Barney Pell.Founded out of Toronto in 2016, Ada develops chatbots and related artificial intelligence (AI) software to help companies manage inbound customer queries.The company shouldn’t be confused with Berlin-based Ada Health, which also works in the chatbot realm.Users can create new question-and-answer templates, so if any similar questions come in over live chat, responses can be dispatched immediately.In its two short years, Ada said it has already claimed big-name clients like Telus, Upwork, Shopify, Medium, and Coinbase.Indeed, chatbots are now permeating many facets of industry, and customer contact centers are an obvious conduit for such technology to thrive.
Spotinst, a startup that helps companies pay less for their cloud services by accessing excess capacity from cloud computing providers, has raised $35 million in a series B round of funding led by Highland Europe, with participation from Intel Capital, Vertex Ventures, and Leaders Fund.Founded out of Israel in 2015, the now San Francisco-based Spotinst claims it can help businesses save up to 80 percent on their cloud computing spend by leveraging artificial intelligence (AI) to predict when excess capacity may be made available across major providers, including Amazon’s AWS, Microsoft’s Azure, and Google Cloud.For context, cloud computing providers offer low-priority virtual machines (VMs) or “spot instances” that basically make it easy for the likes of Microsoft and Amazon to sell their excess capacity at steep discounts.While the savings is of course a major perk for businesses, the arrangement also comes with major downsides — cloud computing providers can shut down access at any time, and it’s not easy to predict when the capacity will be made available.This is not an ideal scenario for most businesses that rely on the cloud.Spotinst helps by clustering excess capacity across public cloud services provided by Microsoft, Amazon, and Google, and when capacity becomes available Spotinst can automatically migrate cloud-dependent applications over so businesses benefit from the reduced costs.
Fast-growing Atlanta software startup CallRail announced today that it has raised a $75 million growth capital round from Sageview Capital and Leaders Fund.CallRail’s software helps companies determine which marketing campaigns and keywords are driving customers to their business.For example, CallRail’s software assigns each source — say, Yelp or Facebook — a unique tracking number.That number is then automatically displayed when a customer calls the business after visiting the source on their mobile phone.CallRail also offers call transcription and keyword analysis so the sales team can go back and see which keywords drove the customer to call the business.This is similar to what companies are able to do with Twilio APIs.
What it launched back in 2012, Toronto-based Top Hat (or “Top Hat Monocle,” as it was still known then) offered a phone-based classroom response system but little else in terms of content for teachers to use in their classes.It gave the company a foothold in the academic market and now that it has this, with teachers and students at over 750 of the top 1,000 colleges and universities using it at this point, it’s looking to expand its product portfolio.To do so, the company announced a $22.5 million Series C round earlier this year and as Top Hat CEO Mike Silagadze told me, it has now raised a $7.5 million in follow-on funding from Toronto-based Leaders Fund.The idea here is to challenge the massive textbook industry that doesn’t have any qualms about charging students hundreds of dollars for a book and a few (generally disappointing and hard to use) online tools and addenda.The Top Hat Marketplace wants to (for lack of a better word) disrupt this scheme by making it easier for teachers to collaborate with each other and publish their books on Top Hat’s site.To do this, Top Hat gives teachers all the editing tools they need to build modern, interactive online textbooks and publish additional materials for teachers (think PowerPoint slides, test banks, etc.).
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