Venture Capital – Tags Area Sun, 10 Oct 2021 05:05:32 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Venture Capital – Tags Area 32 32 Countdown to our rapture with AI – TechCrunch Sat, 09 Oct 2021 17:05:05 +0000

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Happy Saturday everyone. Hope you are well, rested and relaxed.

Today we are going to have fun. Of course, at the bottom we have our usual mix of rounds and venture capital ratings and so on. But first, let’s talk about AI.

This week, I got to chat with two different companies who are working to make artificial intelligence a little more concrete. One was for hardware, the other for software.

On the hardware side, I spoke with Peter Chapman from IonQ. IonQ is a quantum computing company that recently went public through a SPAC. However, instead of digging into buyouts and other blank check minutiae, Chapman and I mainly discussed science fiction and what strong AI really means.

Simply put, strong AI is not the way Alexa works today. Alexa, according to Chapman, works by asking engineers to code many possible responses to queries. It evolves for a while. Corn strong AI needs to be able to write its own code, Chapman explained, which makes it fundamentally different from human-generated question-and-answer setups.

This fits the quantum topic because quantum computing, Chapman said, is very good for the kind of code generation that a strong AI will require. And, most importantly, it’s also good enough to analyze a myriad of probabilities at the same time and choose between them.

All this to say that quantum computing is reaching its early commercial stages and that companies like IonQ – named for its use of trapped ions in its technology – are helping usher in this new era of computing. As quantum computing becomes more and more mainstream, we should be able to get closer to the kind of AI that is not limited to ML models at a macro scale.

On the software side, I called Rachel Carpenter, CEO of Intrinio. Her company has built a huge set of financial data that it makes available through an API. As a financial nerd, that’s cool. The amount of time you spend reading the documents filed with the SEC will determine whether or not you care about this part of Intrinio.

But the startup is also building something called Thea, an AI service that works by weaving neural networks into a custom natural language processing machine that can understand text. For people looking to analyze huge amounts of financial reports, this is a great product idea.

What struck me when talking to Carpenter was that Thea was first trained on the larger Internet. It’s not just a financial language analysis tool. He can do more.

Today, the company keeps Thea’s focus on its financial niche, according to the CEO. But if Intrinio can launch something this complex using partially open source services, we could see many more smart systems like Thea hit the market in the years to come. Merge that with increasingly commercial quantum computing technology and it seems, maybe, that we may one day be on our way, perhaps, to getting closer to real artificial intelligence.

Yes, we were both born 50 years too early.

Venture capital this, venture capital which

As expected, the venture capital landscape in the third quarter was completely bonkers. Crazy dish. Historically rich. Choose your phrasing.

So far, Q4 is exactly and exactly the same. A sample :

  • Notion raised a $ 275 million round at a valuation of $ 10 billion, according to Forbes’ Alex Konrad. (Alexis has done a great job lately, I must note.) This is indeed free capital. How? ‘Or’ What? Notion has just sold 2.75% of itself for north of a quarter of a billion dollars. In terms of capital efficiency in terms of dilution, it’s… cheap. Especially for a startup that is still too concerned about its income scale to really share the numbers. Notion still had a bunch of his last round in the bank before this round. Thus, he raised a quarter of a billion dollars on specifications, from investors who had so much capital to bet that the company manages an exit of at least 30 billion dollars in time. Let’s see.
  • And this week Modern treasure has raised an $ 85 million Series C that values ​​the financial technology firm’s “payment transactions” at over $ 2 billion. The company upped its Series B earlier this year, when it was valued at around $ 300 million per PitchBook data. It’s a lot of value creation in a very, very short time period ! But it seems pretty fitting for what we’ve seen in recent months.

All that to say that it doesn’t look like the fourth quarter is slowing down compared to the second and third quarters of this year. If 2022 doesn’t surpass the 2021 venture capital totals, I wonder how long it will take before I revisit this type of investment.

What a time to live.

In other news, I’ve written some other take-out tips this week – here and here – if you want something with more bite.


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Questions Raised about Natural Gas Source for Elon Musk’s Texas Spaceport – TechCrunch Fri, 08 Oct 2021 22:11:01 +0000

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Hello and welcome to the Daily Crunch on October 8, 2021! It’s Friday! We did it! If you’re tired, consider how tired the Instagram team has to be. Their service has even more uptime issues this afternoon. Between that and the news that its users are no longer allowed to sell pieces of the Amazon rainforest, it’s a record week for Zuck’s empire. Now let’s talk about technology! – Alexis

The Top 3 TechCrunch

  • Elon’s mystery gas: SpaceX’s big plans for its biggest rockets lack some details on where the company intends to find the tens of millions of cubic feet of natural gas it will need. Of course, Tesla is gas-free, but SpaceX left some question marks in a Programmatic Environmental Assessment (PEA) project regarding combustible gas that makes us scratch our heads.
  • European startups should receive a pre-seed boost: The early stage founders in Europe are about to have a few new accelerators in their neighborhood, thanks to Techstars. The accelerator collective is opening programs in Paris (again) and Stockholm, in addition to its current efforts on the continent. According to the CEO of Techstars, there are far more founders in Europe today than are served, despite record venture capital totals.
  • Tesla moves its headquarters to Texas: Ah, the taxes. Tesla will be moving its Austin, Texas headquarters from its traditional California home, but it will not stop investing in the West Coast state. Indeed, the company intends to increase “the production of its Fremont gigafactory by 50%”, reports TechCrunch. So, Texas taxes. This is what this movement seems to be.

Startups / VC

  • TechCrunch Annie njanja reports that “economic growth and the rapid expansion of digital and mobile services” in markets like Kenya and Africa as a whole could lead to an insurtech product boom. Insurtech has proven to be fertile ground for founders and investors in North America and Europe. So why not Africa too? African startups have proven to be strong in the fintech market, so maybe the push to insurtech is overdue.
  • Today’s Tiger round is actually the news of an impending round. Namely that the investor impresario can put capital to work in Slice. Slice is an Indian company looking to strengthen the use of credit cards in the country. Tiger could invest $ 100 million in the company, according to TechCrunch reports. Manish Singh writes for the blog that Slice “raised around $ 30 million in previous rounds and was valued under $ 200 million in one round earlier this year.” More soon, I think. (Note: Slice, the American pizza software service, is not the same as Slice above. Also note that startups should come up with more distinct names!)
  • Next step: Alpha Paw, who just raised $ 8 million. If you’re willing to poke fun at a pet welfare startup for venture capital fundraising, I can say you haven’t been to the vet lately. If you are successful in keeping your pets healthy, you may be able to save a lot of money. Alpha Paw “offers pet products for dogs and cats, such as foods and supplements tailored to the breed of pets,” to be precise. Considering that about half of my generation has more dogs than children (the current score is 3-0 in my house), I would expect Alpha Paw to raise over $ 800 million. ‘by December.
  • Closing our startup cover today, Productfy has raised $ 16 million for its Bank as a Service (BaaS) product. I have to admit I lost track of all the different BaaS (pronounced like fish, if you’re wondering) startups out there. They all seem capable of raising capital, so there has to be growth to share. But in the long term, will we see a consolidation of the BaaS? We’re finally seeing a little movement in the hot OKR boot space, and BaaS feels even more crowded. For now, however, Productfy “aims to set itself apart with its mission of building DeFi for traditional finance, according to founder and CEO Duy Vo,” according to our own. Marie-Anne Azevedo.

Private Equity Ready to Take MSP Consolidation to the Next Level

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Managed Service Providers (MSPs) are filling the void and private equity firms are paying attention.

“MSPs have all the ingredients private equity loves,” write Mike McGill and Kevin Jolley of Cowen and Company, LLC.

“Strong demand trend, low risk of obsolescence, ‘sticky’ service that attracts long-term customers and high recurring revenues, high cash margins and relatively ‘asset-light’ activity.”

(TechCrunch + is our membership program, which helps startup founders and teams get ahead. You can register here.)

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Cameroon’s Ejara raises $ 2 million to offer crypto and investment services in Francophone Africa – TechCrunch Thu, 07 Oct 2021 11:08:57 +0000

Africa’s cryptocurrency adoption varies by region. While countries with currently unstable currencies like the naira experience immense use, other regions using the CFA franc have sparse adoption..

A region of more than 200 million inhabitants using the CFA franc, French-speaking Africa is one of the most crypto-friendly markets in Africa. But only a few players are taking advantage of the market, which may be the next frontier for mobile money and investment apps in Africa..

To this end, Ejara, a one-year-old company founded by nelly Chatue-Diop, raised $ 2 million to pioneer the use of crypto and investment services in the region.

CoinShares Ventures and Anthemis Group led the round. They are joined by Mercy Corps Ventures, Lateral Capital, LoftyInc Capital and NetX Fund. Two angel investors – Pascal Gauthier from Ledger and Jason Yanowitz from Blockworks – and a union social fund also participated.

While the founder and CEO Chatue-Diop studied and then held several management positions in Europe in the space of 10 years, she had a helping hand to return to French-speaking Africa to set up a business. This boost was the culmination of past events mixed with present opportunities.

Growing up in Douala, Cameroon, Chatue-Diop’s family had a life-changing experience when France devalued the CFA franc. In 1994. According to her, this has plunged her family (and millions of others) into the financial crisis.

“I was really young and we were part of the middle class. Overnight all our savings decreases and the consequence was that the government couldn’t even pay the salaries, ”she told TechCrunch on a call.. “So even at that tender age, I wondered how we managed to do everything right and end up in this area. So it stuck in my mind. “

In 2015, she learned about blockchain and thought it was the perfect technology to solve the problems she faced growing up. “It helped me understand that people can take back full control of their savings, their income and that they can protect and grow their wealth,” she said..

Thus, she joined forces with a long-time friend and serial entrepreneur, Baptiste Andrieux, to start Ejara in Cameroon and in the greater French-speaking region..

Typically, crypto-currencies in French-speaking Africa are reserved for a few elites who wish to diversify their assets. Ejara wants to level the playing field for the average French-speaking African so that he can invest as little as 5,000 CFA (~ $ 9).

“The built-in transparency and security of blockchain combined with the popularity of mobile banking in Africa has clearly shown me that a blockchain-based mobile investment platform is the key to expanding financial inclusion,” said the CEO.. “But as all of these crypto companies appeared left and right, I felt like very few spoke to French-speaking Africans like me.”

She says crypto was ideal to launch because of what it represents in terms of full control over its assets. A recurring theme that arises during general discussions around cryptocurrencies are made are the wallets to use regarding the custody of private keys.

With custodial wallets, third-party companies hold private keys but not custodians wallets allow users to own and store their keys. And Although the talk around crypto investing and retailing is one of control, custodial wallets, which most crypto platforms in Africa provide, do not offer users as much control.

Ejara said it is important for security, privacy and property, which is why it is taking action to give non-custodial wallets to its users so that they can buy, sell, trade and store securely. their crypto investments.

Yet the company also plans to diversify by providing other assets, including fractional shares, stocks and commodities..

Ejara has more than 8,000 users from Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso, Mali, Guinea and Senegal, as well as French-speaking Africans in the diaspora (Europe, Asia and the United States), and responds to them. via a network partnering with crypto payment infrastructure company MoonPay so they can send money to friends and family in Africa. AIt was all done with zero marketing budget, CEO said.

Speaking of users, Chatue-Diop categorizes them into two groups: the majority who buy crypto to save for future projects and business owners who trade frequently.

“In Africa, most people don’t have the safety net called retirement funds and some clients use Ejara for that. There are users, especially moms, who use the platform to invest in their children’s college education. Then we have a little portion customers who are wholesalers and do a lot of volume; they use crypto to finance and purchase their goods from overseas vendors through this method. ”

Seed investment will see Ejara focus widely on growth, the deployment of features in the company’s roadmap and the expansion of the product and technical team.

Meltem Demirors of CoinShares spoke about the opportunity in Francophone Africa and the lack of funding in the region. Although Francophone Africa represents around 25% of the continent’s population, she says startups in the region have attracted less than 1% of venture capital – but believes that Ejara’s funding cycle offers a silver lining, especially in a largely untapped space like fintech.

“We are excited work with nelly and the Ejara team to provide financial services through non-depository portfolios and offer a new level of trust and transparency to French-speaking savers and investors, ”said Demirors.

For Anthemis and why they invested, Ruth Foxe Blader, partner at Anthemis, said the firm was particularly attentive to how Ejara educates people in Francophone Africa about digital assets and democratizes opportunities for wealth creation..

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NFT game “Fantasy Equity” wants you to spend real money buying fake stocks of real startups – TechCrunch Wed, 06 Oct 2021 21:11:15 +0000

The meme-ification of ownership and the insane acceleration of the valuations of private startups led us to this moment when a former partner of a venture capital firm built a crypto market designed for “investing in fantastic startups ”, where users spend real money to buy fake stocks – in NFT, of course, forms real startups.

The game, which is now coming out of closed beta, is called Visionrare and founders Jacob Claerhout and Boris Gordts see a way to push investment gamification to its maximum, mimicking the allure of fantastic sports leagues and giving users a way to compete with friends by betting on startups they believe will be successful. Users can bid on NFT stocks of hundreds of different startups at auction and compete to create the best performing fake wallet.

At launch, Visionrare’s business database is limited to a handful of Y Combinator startups from some of the newer classes. Before asking, no, for the most part, they don’t have permission from the startups in which they sell fake stocks to use their names and logos, but the founders are hopeful that the playful nature of the platform will discourage these companies. to send cease and desist letters. Startups can verify their profiles and receive a healthy percentage of their NFT shares to distribute as they see fit, or they can contact Visionrare to remove their startup’s profile. Or they can, of course, just ignore it.

The game aims to simplify the complexity of venture capital into an auction format tied to startups’ actual fundraising cycles and their performance in the real world. Visionrare auctions 100 serialized VisionShares per funding round, one at a time for each startup, with bids starting at $ 5. Once a user accumulates a certain number of actions (at least five), they can join a league and compete with other users through a fantastic experience, move up and down a leaderboard while competing for a share. of the collective value of the VisionShares base. on the performance of their own portfolio.

The Visionrare market. Image credits: Visionrare

As the platform moves into the open beta, there are still some important to-do list items left for the company, namely building its aftermarket and supporting the sale of VisionShares on platforms. external like OpenSea. Users are currently purchasing VisionShares with credit cards, but the team is also planning to roll out crypto payments soon.

The subject of the game lacks a few correlations with something like Monday Night Football which can be difficult to scale to a fantasy league, namely the lack of publicly available performance information. If these were state-owned companies, the game could be organized around something concrete like the share price or consistent measures of their quarterly profits, but startups are much more careful with reporting than they are. they publish.

Visionrare obtains startup performance data from Tracxn, which they use to analyze their own “Visionrare score” for businesses on a weekly basis. This score is the fundamental basis for tracking progress and winners in leagues, but in a market where intangibles can often push valuations, treating the market with this kind of cross-industry consistency overindexed on data such as mentions in press, social media followers and app downloads will clearly sometimes lead to a substantial disconnect between private ratings and scores. Claerhout, who previously worked in early-stage investing at Paris-based investment firm Partech, notes that “it’s not an exact science,” but hopes they can access more data feeds at the over time that will improve the performance of their scoring algorithm.

A bigger challenge may be ensuring that richer users don’t consistently win league competitions, as they do in the real world. League winners are determined by which wallets pick up the most Visionrare score points over a given game period, but given the long lead times for companies to succeed, there can be some misalignments when it comes to making long-term bets on an early team versus hitching your wagon to a trending SaaS startup. The founders say they are still playing around with some of the league’s mechanics and note that they will make adjustments as Visionrare evolves to keep things fun and fair.

Ultimately, this is a first project by a couple of young entrepreneurs without funding that captures some of the ridiculousness of the crypto space and startup investment ecosystem of today. Nonetheless, the founders of Visionrare are hopeful that their fake NFT stock market will provide an opportunity for those interested in startups to show their belief in picking the winners, which they hope could one day serve as a signal to research VCs. of their next hires.

“It’s a very difficult industry to establish in and tthere are a lot of people who have neither the access nor the capital, ”Claerhout told TechCrunch. “If you believe in a business, buy a VisionShare.

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The South East now has more than 300 venture capital firms Wed, 06 Oct 2021 09:04:46 +0000

The Southeast region is now home to more than 300 individual venture capital firms, according to data collected by Embarc collective and Build in SE‘s Southeast Capital Landscape Report, a directory of active investors in the region.

That number – 309 at the time of this publication – is up more than 30% in the past three years. This density centers around Georgia, Florida, and Tennessee, as Atlanta has 59 companies in the database, followed by Miami (40), Nashville (34), and Tampa (24).

While 123 companies are independent of the industry in terms of investment criteria, 85 invest specifically in healthcare and 110 focus on business or software startups.

Data captured in the report also suggests that over 40% of start-up VCs in Atlanta alone have a diverse management team or focus on investing in diverse founders, suggesting that access to capital is becoming more accessible. to founders who are generally under-represented.

Allie Felix, vice president of Platform at Embarc Collective, told Hypepotamus that this growth comes from a mix of local transplants and talent investing in the ecosystem.

Felix, herself from the Southeast who returned home after spending time in The Bay and New York, believes the ‘flywheel’ effect is starting to take hold in the region with the arrival of new talents and new investors in the region.

As ‘work from anywhere’ models have become the norm during the pandemic, companies across the country have moved southeast or opened additional offices in the region to capture the awe-inspiring. transaction flow from the region in recent years.

Bigger names in venture capital like Softbank, Founders Fund, Harlem Capital and General Catalyst have all opened offices in the region. These companies are already causing a sensation in the region; Softbank launched a A $ 100 million initiative invest in local Miami startups and General Catalyst has entered the Southeast market to seek to invest in CivicTech startups.

New direction, new growth

It’s no surprise that the Southeast has prompted out-of-town investors to relocate. But as the ecosystem of FinTech, MedTech, and B2B SaaS startups continues to grow in the region, it has helped the region retain graduates from top engineering schools like Georgia Tech, Duke, Virginia Tech, University of Miami. and the state of North Carolina.

This talent pool has ushered in a more diverse pool of founders, many of whom have entered the local venture capital world and are focused on investing in the local startup scene.

Companies that have closed their tours in recent years, such as Highlight, The world in business, Capital of collaboration, and The JumpFund – focus on a hyperlocal or hyperfocused investment thesis.

Founders are encouraged to view the list of potential investors in the region, and investors who are not yet listed are encouraged to add their business to the database here.

Get news like this delivered straight to your inbox by signing up for the Hypepotamus newsletter!

Photo by Jesse Adair on Unsplash

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Stamford-based Point72 Ventures Leads $ 35 Million Funding Round at Chicago FinTech Firm Tue, 05 Oct 2021 18:25:17 +0000 STAMFORD – Point72 Ventures, the venture capital firm founded by billionaire hedge fund investor Steven Cohen, has announced it is leading a $ 35 million Series C funding round in fintech firm Zero Hash.

“Zero Hash has developed a unique platform to help fintechs and financial institutions seamlessly integrate crypto (currency) products and experiences into their applications in a flexible and compliant manner,” said Adam Carson, Partner of Point72 Ventures, in a press release. “We believe that integrated financial solutions, like the Zero Hash crypto API platform, will help play an important role in enabling wider adoption of digital assets by allowing consumers to access crypto through apps. fintech and the financial services brands they already use and trust. ”

The new funding – which also includes contributions from a number of other investors – will help Chicago-based Zero Hash continue to expand its product offerings, which extend into decentralized finance markets ( DeFi) and non-fungible tokens (NFTs), according to company officials.

These funds will also help the company develop its team in the compliance, marketing, products and engineering divisions. The company has almost doubled its number of employees since early 2021 and recently reached profitability.

Additionally, the company said it plans to expand its global licensing framework and make acquisitions.

Zero Hash said it powers some of the biggest “neo-banks,” including MoneyLion and Wirex, as well as brokers such as flavorists and TradeStation. Zero Hash also said it is working with “some of the biggest brands in the fintech and financial services ecosystem” to deliver the next cryptocurrency offerings.

“Zero Hash defines a whole new fintech vertical of ‘digital assets as a service’,” said Edward Woodford, founder and CEO of the company, in a statement. “Zero Hash is a pure B2B embedded infrastructure platform that enables any platform to integrate digital assets natively into their own customer experience quickly and easily. “

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Key Founders and Tech Executives Support New Seed Investment Network by VC Tidal Ventures Tue, 05 Oct 2021 02:16:22 +0000
Venture fund Tidal Ventures has brought together a supergroup of the smartest, most successful tech company founders and senior executives to launch a new investment network called Tidal’s Expert Network (#ten).

Members # 10 invest in Tidal’s seed fund, connect with each other and the VC, and offer support to its founding community.

A pilot program for #ten has been underway for six months, with notable members such as the founders of Instacluster, former Uber product manager Nick burton of Lime & Tonic, Stefan Cordiner, director at Xplor and formerly at Airbnb and Hotel tonight, as good as Callan Schebella and Roger venning of Five9, the founders of Lendi, and ex-CMO International for StubHub, Jess tassel.

Several founders and senior executives in Tidal’s portfolio, which includes Dispatch, PredictHQ, FrankieOne, Mapped, Sajari, Operata, and Aerobic, have also committed to join the network.

Members can determine their own level of contribution, including participating in the community, sharing their expertise, creating operational resources and directly supporting the founders.

General partner of tide Wendell Keuneman, former product manager at Atlassian and founder of the series, said #ten members were overwhelmingly motivated to provide support to start-up founders and give back to the tech industry.

“The network increases our team’s support to our founders portfolio, bringing additional operational capabilities to the table,” he said.

“There is a great diversity of expertise within #ten, particularly in product and marketing, two areas that can generate significant start-up opportunities. ”

Keuneman said that despite the current high levels of technological investment a significant funding and support gap remains at the start-up stage for startups.

Tidal Ventures is an early stage venture capital firm that invests in ANZ founders led by products destined for international markets. It has two main funds: Seed and Follow-on & Opportunity (“FOO Fund”).

The latter fund tracks the best performances of the Seed Fund and invests in international seed opportunities as well as in companies that Tidal missed in the initial seed stage that nonetheless align closely with its mandate. The tide team has collective experience at Atlassian, Yahoo, Inference Solutions, Rackspace, Broadsoft, Bailador Technology Investments and Bain & Company.

Lendi co-founder Mark Kalajzich said he was immediately on board when he heard about #ten.

“A founder’s journey can be fraught with pitfalls and we made many mistakes in Lendi’s early years,” he said.

“We were held back from doing so much more thanks to amazing humans who helped us by giving us advice on strategy, capital raising and product, throughout the process. If I can help just one founder on his journey, I will be very grateful ”.

Founding member #ten Jess Tassell said it was a great opportunity to reconnect with peers and start-ups after a decade abroad.

“I have been fortunate enough to see what ‘big’ looks like in terms of operating and marketing large-scale online businesses in the United States and Europe, and I see an opportunity to share these learnings with the community. Tidal community, ”she said.

One aspect of Tidal that sets it apart from other local VCs is having a general partner, Andrea Kowalski, permanently based in the United States.

Kowalski said #ten aims to reflect this trans-Pacific approach, connecting the Australian and American ecosystems and supporting the founders with international expansion and ideas.

“Our biggest impact on the Seed to A journey is to help our founders develop traction in the market”, she said.

“The network also offers its members the opportunity to access compelling feedback at the Seed Stage, while activating and supporting the ecosystem, and championing Tidal’s mission and vision.

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SoftBank concludes more contracts with fewer staff than ever Mon, 04 Oct 2021 02:27:33 +0000

Masayoshi Son has significantly increased the pace of its investments in its startups this year, quintuple the number of companies in its Vision Fund 2 portfolio in less than nine months.

The founder of SoftBank Group Corp. closed 115 deals this year, according to Bloomberg calculations based on data released by the company. This is more than the combined number of deals made by the first Vision Fund since its launch in 2017, showing that Son remains confident in his ability to invest despite mistakes with office-sharing service WeWork and financier Greensill.

The faster pace of deal making is sure to raise questions about whether His risks similar missteps, especially as a string of high-profile departures is wearing out the best talent at the Vision Fund. Seven managing partners have left since March of last year, and last week Deep Nishar, the only senior managing partner and principal authority on AI, said he would be leaving by the end of the year. .

“Vision Fund’s track record wasn’t great initially, and now they’re doing more with fewer people,” said Amir Anvarzadeh, senior strategist at Asymmetric Advisors, who recommends short selling SoftBank shares. “The potential failure rates are bound to be higher, but you can imagine Son just being cautious and playing the percentages.”

The total workforce at SoftBank Investment Advisers, which oversees the two Vision funds, has grown from around 500 people at the start of last year to around 400 now, according to a person familiar with the matter. Several older people who left became frustrated with Son’s dominant influence, which left them with little real authority, people familiar with the matter said. The Vision Fund’s compensation structure also caused tensions, with executives being limited in their ability to capitalize on the successful startups they presented to Son, people said.

A spokesperson for the Vision Fund declined to comment on the story.

Staff cuts last year focused on reducing Vision Fund’s support and back-office staff, according to another person familiar with the matter. The organization has also hired three managing partners since last March and has added 40 more investors since early April for a total of 145, the person said, asking not to be identified as the details are private.

SoftBank is stepping up its investments just as venture capital activity is reaching its peak. Funding for startups hit a world record of $ 156 billion in the second quarter, according to CB Insights. Son, meanwhile, increased the amount allocated to Vision Fund 2 from $ 10 billion at the start of the year to $ 40 billion in June. The billionaire also plans to invest up to $ 2.6 billion of his own money in the fund.

“One concern is that there is a lot of competition from other investors and valuations are already feeling inflated, which means lower returns for SoftBank down the road,” said Kirk Boodry, analyst at Redex. Research in Tokyo. “Another concern relates to their decision-making process. When you invest in 30 or 40 companies in such a short time frame, due diligence is bound to suffer. “

SoftBank is accelerating in part because of growing competition from venture capital firms, one of the people said. The company was taking up to a month to make investment decisions, hiring large consulting firms like McKinsey & Co., Bain & Co., and Boston Consulting Group Inc. to help with due diligence, the person said.

SoftBank now has a maximum of two weeks and generally does less due diligence, reflecting the smaller transaction size. The founders repeatedly requested a response the next day, prompting SoftBank to call an emergency meeting of its investment committee, the person said.

Its made much smaller bets on a particular company. Vision Fund 2’s average funding round is around $ 330 million, or about half the average investment size of the First Vision Fund, according to Bloomberg calculations based on data from Crunchbase.

The first fund’s transactions have often reached billions – over $ 10 billion in Didi Chuxing, $ 7.7 billion in Uber Technologies Inc. and $ 4.4 billion in WeWork. Vision Fund 2 has only made three investments of over $ 1 billion, including a $ 1.3 billion bet on Chinese company KE Holdings Inc., which operates online real estate service Beike.

In addition to the two Vision funds, SoftBank has set up a $ 5 billion Latin American fund that has invested in 48 companies since its inception in March 2019. Its earlier this month increased dedicated capital for the region of an additional $ 3 billion.

During the last earnings briefing in August, Son said SoftBank’s portfolio totaled more than 300 companies in the three different funds. The investment strategy remains the same, he said, supporting startups that rely on artificial intelligence to disrupt traditional businesses.

“I sincerely believe that AI will revolutionize all industries,” Son said at an earnings briefing in August. “As an investor in this revolutionary space over the past four years, we are in full swing. “

SoftBank began strengthening its Vision Fund staff when Son planned to raise a massive new fund every few years. It was originally intended to raise $ 108 billion for Vision Fund 2 from outside investors, including Apple Inc. and Microsoft Corp. Those plans fell apart after WeWork’s collapse in late 2019.

Vision Fund 2 is still by far the largest actively investing venture capital entity in the world. The fund had already spent $ 19.5 billion at the end of June, or about half of its allocated capital. That’s more than the $ 19.2 billion Sequoia Capital raised in more than 30 different funds and $ 18.2 billion among Andreessen Horowitz’s 20 funds, according to data from Crunchbase. Tiger Global Management, the closest rival, has raised a total of $ 23.4 billion from 8 funds.

While the first fund had a strong focus on carpooling and office sharing, Vision Fund 2 supported a wider range of businesses. In its portfolio of private companies, mainstream startups accounted for 22% of its investments at the end of June, with the business and logistics segments receiving around 20% each. Fintech, which hardly caught the attention of VF1, held a 16% stake.

“It’s hard to imagine that Masa’s methodology has changed so much. And his affinity for entrepreneurs is something that has always worried investors, ”said Bodry. “The hope is that the Vision Fund is more seasoned now and can get through it.”

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Jeff Bezos invests in Indonesian e-commerce Ula – TechCrunch Sun, 03 Oct 2021 07:07:30 +0000

Indonesian e-commerce startup Ula, which has raised more than $ 30 million and wooed many top investors since launching last year, has now won the trust of the richest person in the world.

The founder of Amazon has invested in the new funding round of the one-and-a-half-year startup, sources and others familiar with the matter told me.

The Jakarta-based company – which counts B Capital Group, Sequoia Capital India, Lightspeed Venture Partners and Quona Capital among its existing investors – is at an advanced stage in talks to finalize a new funding round of more than $ 80 million.

Jeff Bezos has agreed to invest in Ula through his family office, Bezos Expeditions, people said, asking for anonymity as the matter is private. B Capital Group, Tencent and Prosus Ventures are positioning themselves to co-lead the cycle, which could end as early as this month.

Bezos’ interest in Ula, which operates a business-to-business e-commerce platform, comes at a time when Amazon has not entered most countries in Southeast Asia – or maintains a limited presence there.

Ula’s public relations representatives did not respond to requests for comment on Saturday.

Ula helps small retailers solve inefficiencies they face in supply chain, inventory and working capital. It operates an e-commerce wholesale marketplace to help store owners stock only the inventory they need and also gives them working capital.

The startup was founded by Nipun Mehra (former executive of Flipkart in India and former partner of Sequoia Capital India), Alan Wong (who previously worked with Amazon), Derry Sakti (who oversaw the operations of consumer goods giant P&G in Indonesia), and Riky Tenggara (formerly at Lazada and aCommerce).

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What a community means in the modern startup world – TechCrunch Sat, 02 Oct 2021 14:08:07 +0000

“We believe this a thriving community is a business’s most valuable asset, ”Community-led wrote in its statement. “Community evolves your business, your resources and your presence in ways that traditional marketing or advertising channels cannot. When done right, the community enables and enhances customer acquisition, streamlines support and success, builds retention, and delivers crucial product information. The community is the beating heart of the business that keeps the rest of the team running.

It is a factual document, aimed at emphasizing the importance of the community in building a future-oriented startup, while emphasizing the elasticity of the concept. But that leaves a lingering question: what exactly do we mean when we use the word “community” in the startup world?

You would think this would be a question that a panel titled “How to Cultivate a Community for Your Business that Actually Lasts” would easily answer during TechCrunch Disrupt 2021 last week. But if I have learned anything by moderating said Disrupt panels, it is that there is no easy answer to the question, in part because of the aforementioned elasticity. So is it just one of those “we know it when we see it” things, to paraphrase a famous Supreme Court decision?

“It depends on the person, the context and the company,” says Alex Angel, Chief Community Officer at Commsor. “But at the end of the day, for me, the grassroots community is a group of people who have come together with a common goal. That common goal could be your product, it could be a business, it could be a topic, it could be anything, but they’re all there intentionally around this thing to come together and talk and learn.

“Community” has become one of those buzzwords of Silicon Valley in recent years, but longtime advocates say the concept is fundamental in entrepreneurship and venture capital investing.

“Last October, when we launched the Community Fund, people were asking investors and industry founders, ‘What is this community thing? “It’s very mellow,” says Lolita Taub, vice president of corporate development at Catalyte, and co-founder and general partner of the Community Fund. “Suddenly we started to see companies like Reddit, Peloton, and Glossier becoming unicorns. You see the real generational wealth that exists in community businesses.

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