Creating Coronahub: how the virus outbreak is catalysing new business ventures- Tempemail – Blog – 10 minute

As business struggles to find a new place for itself in this ‘new normal’ caused by the coronavirus outbreak, the fallout of job redundancies and isolation is paving an unexpected path to new, unexpected, business ventures. Businesses, as such, have been part of the discussion at Tempemail’s Digital Transformation Festival.
Set in response to the outbreak, Coronahub is an online community that is designed to help people through this time, whether it be finding a new job, support or a well-needed laugh over a funny meme.
“Coronahub was a way we could connect people around the world – every country,” explained David Markovich, the founder of the online community. “It’s essentially a virtual conference or virtual party where people are there, they care about you. It’s around it around a common theme.”
Markovich is well versed in setting up communities, as he is the mind behind Slack digital communities Online Geniuses and 18percent. “My background is building community,” he said. “I’ve always been doing, I actually run two right now one for marketing and one for mental health.”
Markovich explained that he noticed that there were a lot of people looking for jobs, and a lot of people looking to hire, and the world needed a platform to link it up.
“People think that there’s just a decrease in jobs all around, there’s actually a huge increase in certain sectors,” he contends. “So we’re trying to mix and match people that are hiring to people that are have been laid off.”
He also spoke of the support component to the community. As a lot of the business world grapple with working from home, getting used to not being around a lively office needs getting used to.
“If you just need to chat with someone, or you need to support the Coronahub links you up with other,” Markovich explained, adding that there is also “a meme section where you could just laugh.
On the fact that Markovich has potentially stumbled across a whole new business – a jobs platform, where people can both socialize with people who have a common issue and find jobs that actually meet their skillset – he said that he doesn’t “want to look at it as a business, but as a way of giving back.”
However, he did admit that “If it turns into something that would be awesome.”
Check out more interviews and insights from Tempemail’s Digital Transformation Festival schedule here.

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Start-Up Shadez raises $100K funding from Inflection Point Ventures- Tempemail – Blog – 10 minute

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Inflection Point Ventures (IPV) has made a seed investment in the Mumbai-based interiors start-up Shadez. It claims to be India’s first paint company to deliver painting job in a day’s time with the liberty to choose paint of your choice. As part of investing at this very early stage in the startup’s journey, IPV will provide incubation support to the team with expertise in business strategy, expansion and risk mitigation.
With current operations across Mumbai, Thane and Navi Mumbai, Shadez aims to soon expand to other metro cities. Shadez was founded in 2018 by Adarsh Anand and Amit Tiwari who intend to utilize the investment raised from IPV to scale up operations. The funds will be invested in M3, i.e. Machinery, Manpower and Marketing. The founders of Shadez have a vast experience and believe in the mantra that “Don’t just deliver, DELIGHT!” While Adarsh has a work experience of more than 10 years in media with companies like TOI Group & Reliance Broadcast, Amit has worked with companies like DNA News & Jagran Group along with being a founder of Slatee Enterprises, a construction material and painting services venture.
Jignesh Kenia, an IPV investor said, “Shadez is changing the game with respect to painting services by considerably reducing the delivery time through efficiency, planning and well-trained labour. They literally take away the pain out of the painting job with their one-day turnaround for repainting jobs. I am excited about the investment considering the impact they can create in this unorganised market.” Further, upon being asked about experience with IPV, Jignesh said, “I have been highly impressed with IPV’s transparent processes, thorough diligence, mentoring provided to start-ups and this has made my couple of years investing experience with IPV an enriching one.”
The paint service market in India is highly unorganized while demands for painting vary significantly – residential spaces prefer day-time and commercial spaces show inclination towards night shifts. Shadez claims to be the only company which delivers both residential & commercial projects 24*7. The smart painting process, latest automatic tools and professional painters make the process faster than any other conventional process of painting.
Founded with the belief that ‘Everyone can grow with Startups’, Inflection Point Ventures is an initiative of accomplished CXOs & angel investors who come with a rich experience in the start-up ecosystem, either as co-founders themselves or by leading their organizations through various stages of funding.

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Telstra Ventures backs Kubernetes player Rancher Labs – Finance – Cloud – Software- Tempemail – Blog – 10 minute

Telstra Ventures has led a US$40 million ($65 million) investment round into Kubernetes management firm Rancher Labs.
The venture capital fund, which is backed by Telstra and HarbourVest and claims to be Australia’s largest, said Telstra had been a Rancher customer “for many years”.
“When Telstra Ventures, who was familiar with Telstra’s success in using Rancher and Kubernetes, approached us for a potential funding round, it was a no-brainer,” Rancher’s CEO Sheng Liang said in a blog post.
“A leading telco like Telstra exemplifies Rancher’s vision to run Kubernetes everywhere.
“We believe Kubernetes will be the standard compute platform from data centre and cloud to the edge.”
Telstra uses Rancher for container orchestration in systems underpinning its “core contact centre, customer network, and services provisioning”, according to Rancher.
“Outside of Google, Rancher was one of the very early companies to recognise the profound impacts that Kubernetes would have on the global IT market,” said Steve Schmidt, an investment partner who leads Telstra Venture’s enterprise investments.  
“During our early investment discussion, I recall Sheng saying that ‘Kubernetes could become the TCP/IP of computing’. That was a very profound statement with a massively attractive vision.”
Rancher said in a statement that the Series D funding round that Telstra Ventures led “also included participation from existing investors Mayfield, Nexus Venture Partners, GRC SinoGreen, and F&G Ventures”.
The company said its total funding raised to date was US$95 million ($155 million).
It said it would use the latest funding “to expand focus on product innovation, increase investment in go-to-market activities, and accelerate market expansion.”

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Language learning Platform Multibhashi raises undisclosed amount of funding from Inflection Point Ventures- Tempemail – Blog – 10 minute

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Inflection Point Ventures (IPV) has invested an undisclosed amount in the Bangalore-based language learning start-up Multibhashi. Mukul Agarwal, Param Capital and Anurag Goel, Cactus Communication have also participated in this round. The Multibhashi app has both audio-visual courses and quizzes to learn English from local languages and vice versa. Founded in 2017, Multibhashi is driven by learning outcomes and has courses that are designed based on learners’ job roles which facilitate effective learning.
Also backed by Japan’s RareJob & angel investor Dr. Aniruddha Malpani, Multibhashi has about 1.6 million users currently and intends to utilize funds raised from Inflection Point Ventures for building new tech features, expanding the team and on marketing to scale the product. Anuradha Agarwal, the founder of the start-up said, “The company aims to become a go-to player for anyone trying to learn English. It also plans to expand to other languages of India and its neighbouring countries.” The idea of Multibhashi to Anuradha emerged when she was helping women in her hometown learn English and it later took shape as a full-fledged product.
Venkatesh Bhat, an IPV investor said, “The start-up is focused on solving a layered problem with a scalable solution. I liked the reliance on repeatable revenue, the team composition and focus on execution.” Further, upon being asked about experience with IPV, Venkatesh said, “Inflection Point Ventures is fast emerging as an important funding and mentoring platform for start-ups with unique business proposition and going through early stage growth.” Inflection Point Ventures is an initiative of accomplished CXOs & angel investors who come with a rich experience in the start-up ecosystem. Formed with the belief that ‘Everyone can grow with Startups’ IPV investor members play an active role in the growth of its portfolio companies.
In 2016, the Language Training Market in India was estimated at USD 1.3Bn. Additionally, between mother tongue, second and third language, the 2011 census recorded that only ~10% of Indians reported were being able to speak some English. Multibhashi seeks to fill this gap with its unique focus on driving real learning outcomes using AI & ML through a combination of in-app activity and intervention from its human tutors. It has also been selected by accelerators like FB Start, Axilor, Gray Matters Capital, AWS Edustart and Google Launchpad and was one of the 10 Finalists shortlisted by WhatsApp for a grant challenge in 2019.
Inflection Point Ventures was founded in 2017 by a group of accomplished CXOs and investors who come with a rich experience in the start-up ecosystem. Formed with the belief that “Everyone can grow with startups”, IPV investor members play an active role in the growth of its portfolio companies.

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The youngest new partner at the venture firm Felicis Ventures, Niki Pezeshki, on how he wins deals – gpgmail


Felicis Ventures has, in its roughly 13 years of existence, established a reputation in venture circles as a smart early-stage investment firm that’s willing to make bets almost anywhere in the world. Founded by ex-Googler Aydin Senkut, the San Francisco-based firm has also demonstrated a knack for attracting talented investors into the fold, including another former Google executive, Wesley Chan; Sundeep Peechu, who held various product roles at Intel before joining the firm in 2010; and Renata Quintini, an investor who Felicis eventually lost to Lux Capital (which more recently lost her to her own firm, Renegade Partners, which is reportedly raising a $300 million debut fund).

We talked this morning with yet another member of Felicis, Niki Pezeshki, who, following several promotions, has just became the youngest partner in the firm’s history. For aspiring VCs out there, we wondered how Pezeshki landed the role — and how he’s managing to win deals. Following is part of that conversation, edited lightly for length.

TC: Everyone wants to work in VC. How did you land this gig?

NP: Out of undergrad [at the University of Southern California], I went to work for [private equity firm] Vista Equity Partners.They hire, like, four people out of undergrad every year at USC. I was in Austin [where the firm is based] for three years. It was amazing. I didn’t know what I was getting into at the time — Vista has blossomed into this incredible fund — but it grounded me in the fundamentals of business and what is a good software investment. I think it made me more numbers-focused than a lot of other venture capitalists. I may get flamed for saying this, but I come to the world of venture with a much more numbers-driven and formulaic approach to understanding business that I think helps me pick good investments.

TC: How did you wind up in the Bay Area?

NP: My family is from LA so I came to California to work for Climate Corp. for a year; I worked in sales strategy and operations. I wanted a bit of operating experience. But I love investing so much; I wanted to go back to it. So I got a job with [PE firm] Summit Partners, where you’re doing hardcore outbound sourcing and learning how to reach out to people and get conversations started and figuring out [who you should be learning more about] out of hundreds of founders.

While there, Felicis randomly reached out to me through a friend of a friend, who said, ‘You should meet Sundeep,’ and they told Sundeep, ‘Sundeep, you should meet Niki,’ and though I hadn’t thought about venture, a lot of what they were doing really resonated with me. In many ways, I’m doing what I was doing at Summit, but with a much wider aperture.

TC: You were just promoted to partner from principal, up from senior associate, where you started in 2016. What does that mean on a practical level?

NP: A lot of the role won’t be much different than in the past year. I think from an external-facing perspective, it gives me more credibility with founders and investors. It’s one more thing that I can use to win great deals.

TC: What’s one competitive deal that you’ve won already?

NP: Modus in Seattle. It’s a [tech-driven] escrow startup that is to the title and brokerage industry what Compass is to real estate. I led the Series A deal for that company and I’m on the board and I got lot of credibility internally for that. I think they were thinking of promoting me next year or the year after, but they were like, ‘Dang, Niki just led a competitive Series A round. Let’s give him ammunition.’ [Laughs.]

TC: How did the deal come together, and what do you think won them over?

NP: I think three things: bonding with the founders, conviction about their company and speed. I’d heard that they were going to be in town for two weeks, fundraising, and I knew their goal was to leave the area with a term sheet. A lot of firms are fairly bureaucratic and it’s hard for them to spin up their team and do due diligence that quickly, but Felicis has a small team and I had conviction about the space already, so when they came through, I told them how excited I was to do something on their timeline.

We also bonded over [an up-and-coming] DJ. It’s also about creating that human connection with founders. I have a bunch of friends who are founders who say it often feels very transactional, their relationship with investors. You want to support these people.

TC: You don’t have tons of operating experience. You aren’t alone in this, but plenty of VCs will argue that to founders that it’s crucial. How do you counter this?

NP: Some founders do want more operational expertise, others don’t care that much unless the VC once ran a multibillion-dollar company. If you’re Martin Casado [of Andreessen Horowitz] and someone really loves Nicira, I’m probably not going to win against him.

But I’m relatively young compared with other partners, and I’m really passionate, and I think that comes across in the fundraising process. I think founders know that I will take a call any time, and help them build an amazing model for their business, and really help them prep for their next fundraising process, and help them with any VP recruits.

I’m still building my track record, so founders know that I care and that my incentives are aligned with theirs. If a founding team is successful, I’ll be successful versus someone who is already sitting on 15 boards and will show up once a quarter and try to own the room and who is less invested in whether or not the company does well because [that investor] has already been successful. I want every single portfolio company to do incredibly well. I want that to come across. And I think it does.


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Work Life Ventures raises $5M for debut enterprise SaaS seed fund – gpgmail


Brianne Kimmel had no trouble transitioning from angel investor to general partner.

Initially setting out to garner $3 million in capital commitments, Kimmel, in just two weeks’ time, closed on $5 million for her debut venture capital fund Work Life Ventures. The enterprise SaaS-focused vehicle boasts an impressive roster of limited partners, too, including the likes of Zoom chief executive officer Eric Yuan, InVision CEO Clark Valberg, Twitch co-founder Kevin Lin, Cameo CEO Steven Galanis, Andreessen Horowitz general partners’ Marc Andreessen and Chris Dixon, Initialized Capital GP Garry Tan and fund-of-funds Slow Ventures, Felicis Ventures and NFX.

At the helm of the new fund, Kimmel joins a small group of solo female general partners. Dream Machine’s Alexia Bonatsos is targeting $25 million for her first fund. Day One Ventures’ Masha Drokova raised an undisclosed amount for her debut effort last year. Sarah Cone launched Social Impact Capital, a fund specializing in impact investing, in 2016, among others.

Meanwhile, venture capital fundraising is poised to reach all-time highs in 2019. In the first half of the year, a total of $20.6 billion in new capital was introduced to the startup market across more than 100 funds.

For most, the process of raising a successful venture fund can be daunting and difficult. For well-connected and established investors in the Bay Area, like Kimmel, raising a fund can be relatively seamless. Given the speed and ease of fund one in Kimmel’s case, she plans to raise her second fund with a $25 million target in as little as 12 months.

“The desire for the fund is to take a step back and imagine how do we build great consumer experiences in the workplace,” Kimmel tells gpgmail.

Kimmel has been an active angel investor for years, sourcing top enterprise deals via SaaS School, an invite-only workshop she created to educate early-stage SaaS founders on SaaS growth, monetization, sales and customer success. Prior to launching SaaS School, which will continue to run twice a year, Kimmel led go-to-market strategy at Zendesk, where she built the Zendesk for Startups program.

“You start by advising, then you start with very small angel checks,” Kimmel explains. “I reached this inflection point and it felt like a great moment to raise my own fund. I had friends like Ryan Hoover, who started Weekend Fund focused on consumer, and Alexia is one of my friends as well and I saw what she was doing with Dream Machine, which is also consumer. It felt like it was the right time to come out with a SaaS-focused fund.”

Emerging from stealth today, Work Life Ventures will invest up to $150,000 per company. To date, Kimmel has backed three companies with capital from the fund: Tandem, Dover and Command E. The first, Tandem, was amongst the most coveted deals in Y Combinator’s latest batch of companies. The startup graduated from the accelerator with millions from Andreessen Horowitz at a valuation north of $30 million.

Dover, another recent YC alum, provides recruitment software and is said to be backed by Founders Fund in addition to Work Life. Command E, currently in beta, is a tool that facilities search across multiple desktop applications. Kimmel is also an angel investor in Webflow, Girlboss, gpgmail Disrupt 2018 Startup Battlefield winner Forethought, Voyage and others.

Work Life is betting on the consumerization of the enterprise, or the idea that the next best companies for modern workers will be consumer-friendly tools. In her pitch deck to LPs, she cites the success of Superhuman and Notion, a well-designed email tool and a note-taking app, respectively, as examples of the heightened demand for digestible, easy-to-use B2B products.

“The next generation of applications for the workplace sees people spinning out of Uber, Coinbase and Airbnb,” Kimmel said. “They’ve faced these challenges inside their highly efficient tech company so we are seeing more consumer product builders deeply passionate about the enterprise space.”

But Kimmel doesn’t want to bury her thesis in jargon, she says, so you won’t find any B2B lingo on Work Life’s website or Instagram.

She’s focusing her efforts on a more important issue often vacant from conversations surrounding investment in the future of work: diversity & inclusion.

Kimmel meets with every new female hire of her portfolio companies. Though it’s “increasingly non-scalable,” she admits, it’s part of a greater effort to ensure her companies are thoughtful about D&I from the beginning: “Because I have a very focused fund, it’s about maintaining this community and ensuring that people feel like their voices are heard,” she said.

“I want to be mindful that I am a female GP and I feel honored to have that title.”




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Kaszek Ventures raises $600 million in two funds as Latin America’s startup market booms – gpgmail


Kaszek Ventures, the investment firm that has been one of the primary architects of the recent boom in startup financing and growth in Latin America, has just raised $600 million across two new funds.

The new commitments (raised in roughly two months) put Kaszek’s total capital under management at roughly $1 billion, making the firm the first local early stage investor to hit that milestone.

In the eight years since Hernan Kazah and Nicolas Szekasy launched Kaszek Ventures in 2011 the startup ecosystem in Latin America has experienced a renaissance, with investments in the region surging to nearly $2 billion in 2018.

Much of that growth has come on the back of Kaszek portfolio companies like Gympass, the provider of corporate-sponsored gym memberships and perks; Konfio, the Mexican small business lending platform; Nubank, the Brazilian consumer credit company now worth roughly $10 billion; and Loggi, the Latin American logistics company with the billion-dollar valuation.

For Kazah and Szekasy, the growth of their nearly eponymous venture fund marks a successful reinvention of two of the most prominent executives of Latin America’s most highly valued tech startup, MercadoLibre.

The former chief operating officer and chief financial officer of the region’s leading e-commerce marketplace, initially launched their firm to see if they could replicate their success as entrepreneurs from the other side of the table and bring the expertise and wisdom they’d amassed from their time running what is now a $29.2 billion dollar company (by market capitalization).

“We thought we could identify many more MercadoLibres and identify teams that were outstanding and would have a very ambitious vision in a very large market,” says Szekasy. “I thought I could have more impact if I moved and started working on the investing side.”

The first fund was a relatively modest $95 million investment vehicle, but one of its first investments would go on to show the potential for outsized returns that existed in the Latin American market. That company would be Nubank, and Kaszek was among the first money into the company (alongside Sequoia Capital) when it was little more than a pitch deck and an entrepreneur — David Velez.

“They had very relevant experience in scaling a tech company to multiple countries in the region,” says Velez of the decision to take cash from Kaszek. In the early days, the firms partners were involved in all stages of the company’s growth, helping recruit talent like country managers in different regions, to localizing the pitch for different countries. “They were very active also and continue to be very active around marketing and product. They helped us develop our first website and craft our pitch to consumers and eventually develop a lot of the digital marketing muscle,” Velez says. 

The local knowledge that Kaszek provided was a great compliment to the global perspective that Sequoia brought to the table, says Velez.

For Matias Muchnick, a co-founder and chief executive of NotCo, the experience of Kaszek’s founders and the breadth of their network provided incalculable help as the company expanded beyond Chile to Latin America more broadly — and as it was fundraising.

From a Kaszek-sponsored retreat at Stanford University, Muchnick was introduced to a professor who became an advisor to the company. The professor then put Muchnick in touch with Bezos Expeditions through a connection and the firm wound up investing.

Nubank may have been the firm’s first success story to come from its portfolio, but Kaszek would notch multiple other wins from its later funds.

Standouts from the firm’s $200 million third investment vehicle include the The Not Co, a new food company working on a range of products from vegetarian ice cream and mayonnaise to replacement meat patties. That company managed to attract the attention of Jeff Bezos and his Bezos Expeditions investment fund. Two other standouts in Mexico are Kavak, a car marketplace and Credijusto, an online lending company which raised $42 million from Goldman Sachs and other investors earlier today. 

Now the firm has added to its firepower with the close of a $375 million main fund and its first “Opportunity Fund” a $225 million investment vehicle that will enable the company to maintain its stakes in later stage companies as they raise increasingly large rounds.

Kazah expects that the firm will invest a bit larger amounts in roughly the same number of companies, with the fund making between 25 and 30 new investments, he said.

And increasingly large rounds are becoming the norm in Latin America just as they’ve done in other rapidly maturing technology ecosystems.

Screen Shot 2019 08 29 at 7.02.31 AM

Chart courtesy of Crunchbase News

That rapid growth has been parlayed into returns that represent an 8x multiple on invested capital for the first Kaszek Ventures fund, a 5x multiple on the second fund, and a 2x return for the firm’s third fund — already, according to a person familiar with the firm. 

“We have been investors in Kaszek Ventures since 2011 and are thrilled to continue this partnership” said Du Chai, Managing Director at Horsley Bridge Partners, in a statement. “Kaszek has been a top performer while building a great platform with talented individuals.”

In part, Kaszek’s success is an extension of broader macroeconomic trends that were bound to transform the region, according to Szekasy.

“We were looking at Silicon Valley and looking at what was happening in China and saw that Latin America was a very large region with a large population and GDP and the right demographics and a fast pace of adoption of new technologies,” says Szekasy.

One of those new technologies that helped speed up the adoption of new technology services across Latin America was the rollout of 4G, says Kazah.

Screen Shot 2019 08 29 at 7.40.18 AM

The mobile internet was always going to be the way that Latin Americans went online, thanks to the penetration of mobile phones across the continent. But high speed internet transformed the types of companies and services that could be on offer, Kazah says.

“In 2011 we had 10% 4G penetration… now more than 90% of the cell phones purchased have been cellphones with 4G access,” according to Kazah. “That really changed the entire ecosystem… companies can aspire to have more sophisticated products… in the last couple of years they started to accelerate their growth.. We finally got to a point where there’s critical mass.”

Not only has the technology improved, but increasing political stability and the rise of a middle class market in countries like Colombia and Mexico mean that there’s more opportunities for new businesses in countries across the continent.

Brazil has always been an economic powerhouse, but now Mexico, Colombia and even countries like Argentina and Chile are showing signs of increasingly vibrant startup ecosystems.

Attention from international investors is also helping to drive the region to new heights. Earlier this year Softbank announced that it would create a new Latin America fund with $5 billion to invest in startup companies. DST and Tiger Global are also active investors in the region.

“One of the reasons Latin America was lagging was that the region was not at a critical mass inflection point technologically, but it was also the lack of capital,” says Kazah. “Softbank on the one hand provides capital but  on the other hand it has opened the eyes of others as well.”

 


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Sweden’s Hedvig raises $10.4M led by Obvious Ventures to build “nice insurance” – gpgmail


Hedvig, a Swedish startup, is following in the footsteps of Lemonade building a new generation of insurance platforms that use AI to help evaluate customers and operate on a policy of using surplus for social good, and today the company announced the next stage of its growth. The startup has closed a SEK100 million ($10.4 million) round of funding to expand from its current offering of property insurance into a wider range of categories, and begin the costly process of expanding its business into more countries beyond its home market.

The funding values the company at SEK342 million ($35.5 million) — a modest figure considering Lemonade’s recent $300 million round, reportedly (per PitchBook) at a $2.1 billion post-money valuation — but helps position the company to set its sights on being a strong regional player (if not an acquisition target for Lemonade if it wants to quickly add on new regions: the latter kicked off its first services in Europe earlier this year, so its global aspirations are clear).

It currently has 15,000 customers in its home market of Sweden, who use it for property insurance on rented or owned apartments, and Lucas Carlsen, the co-founder and CEO, said in an emailed interview with gpgmail that it “definitely” plans to expand that to houses as well as other categories. Home insurance also covers contents such as gadgets and travel, and Carlsen said that the former (gadgets) accounts for the majority of claims at the moment.

The round was led by Obvious Ventures, the venture fund co-founded by Twitter/Medium/Blogger co-founder Ev Williams, with D-Ax, the early stage investment arm of Swedish retail giant Axel Johnson Group, also participating, along with past investor Cherry Ventures.

“We are building a global company. We just started in Sweden since we happened to live here, and it serves as a good test market as we have some of the worlds’ most progressive and demanding consumers. Today, we do not have any news to share about future markets, but stay tuned!” said Carlsen.

“The new funding will mainly be used to fuel growth in Sweden, but we’ll also be looking at extending into new markets and insurance categories. Insurance is capital intensive and our new partners are committed to supporting our long-term vision,” he continued.

Indeed, getting an investor like Obvious (which published its own short announcement about the investment, on Medium) involved could open the door to introductions with a number of other investors down the road.

“Hedvig is harnessing its purpose, the power of AI, and its human-centered product to create a modern, full-stack insurance company. Their incredible team is delivering against the mission – to give people the world’s most incredible insurance experience – and we at Obvious are honored to help scale it further,” said Vishal Vasishth, one of Obvious Ventures’ other co-founders, in a statement.

Hedvig — named, Carlson said, after a legend of “someone who stood up for others and fought for their causes: that’s what we do,” — will sound familiar to you if you know Lemonade.

It follows in a wave of more socially-forward businesses that are being created, which are using technology to help disrupt the status quo but also to bridge the gap between building services that consumers need, and the principles that they would like to adhere to more if possible. (Other examples include the likes of Beyond Meat, which is also backed by Obvious; as well as the plethora of electric and hybrid vehicle makers; and more.)

In the case of Hedvig and the challenge of insurance, the proposition goes like this:

Hedvig uses technology and innovative algorithms to help assess a potential customer, who is then provided with lowest-cost, and often competitively priced, premiums. Then, as a “full-stack” digital company, it also uses its algorithms to help process claims. Then, after Hedvig uses its bigger pot of money to pay out claims, the annual surplus is donated to charities selected by its customers.

“By not pocketing this money ourselves we can focus on providing the best service possible to you and not on making more money from denying claims,” Carlson said.

Hedvig itself makes money by taking a cut off users’ monthly premiums (it doesn’t specify how much). To date, Hedvig has not disclosed how much it has been able to “give back” according to its business model. But the philosophy is that by digitising some of the more mundane processes that are relegated to human adjustors and customer agents at traditional agencies — and by not being inherently greedy — the startup is able to provide a more pleasant, more efficient, and more conscionable service.


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L.A.-based Upfront Ventures has two new general partners, bringing its GP count to eight – gpgmail


Upfront Ventures, the 23-year-old, L.A.-based venture capital firm, is gearing up for far more deal-making.

In addition to filing paperwork with the SEC this summer to raise its third growth-stage investment fund (it is also investing a $400 million early-stage fund and probably announcing another soon), the firm just added two new general partners to its line-up of investors.

One of them, Michael Carney, joined Upfront as a principal in 2015, after working as an editor at the news site Pandodaily, and, before that, working as an investor and analyst at a boutique merchant bank called Worldvest.

The firm’s second new general partner is Aditi Maliwal, who has also circled in and out of investing before, including stints as an associate with Crosslink Capital and, more recently, spending several years with Google, where Maliwal worked in corporate development before becoming a project manager.

We talked with both this week to congratulate them, as well as to learn more about where they’ll be shopping — and from where.

For her part, Maliwal, who begins work at Upfront next month, says the idea is for her to eventually open a San Francisco office, though for now, she’ll be operating from the Bay Area out of a space that’s yet to be determined and spending every Monday or every other Monday down in L.A. with the rest of the team.

She got to know Upfront through another general partner, Kara Nortman, who joined Upfront in 2014 and “we’d continue to see each other at events. I also have family ties in L.A. so would see her there.” Maliwal says she also says she would observe on her trips that the “ecosystem in L.A. has really grown from 2014 to where it is today. I think the Bay Area continues to see how important it is, too.”

As for becoming an investor again, Maliwal says she was always interested in becoming a VC, thanks in part to a class taught at Stanford by renowned venture capitalist Heidi Roizen VC that inspired her. She says spending time with founders in her husband’s business school class at Stanford this past year whet her appetite anew. “There are four or five companies I’m close to and they’re good friends and when I was up at 11 pm working on a company idea with one of them earlier this year, I just realized that this is what gives me a lot of energy and this is a space I want to [get involved in again].”

What she’ll be focusing on, she says it will mostly likely be business to business to consumer models, as well as SaaS applications, fintech, and, when the opportunity arises, consumer products. More broadly speaking, says Maliwal, she hopes to serve as a bridge for Bay Area startups looking for a foothold in the L.A. market and vice versa.

Meanwhile, Carney is, and will remain, more focused on later-stage bets that Upfront funded early on and whose success the firm wants to ensure (to the extent that any firm can). Understandably, he sounds excited — still — about the work.

“In 2012, [when I was at Pandodaily] L.A. was crossing and inflection point, with a number of second- and third-time founders coming out of later-stage marquee companies. When I joined Upfront, it felt similar. It was an incredible platform, it was a year or two after the firm was rebranded [from GRP Ventures] and Kara had been there less than a year and [fellow general partner] Greg [Bettinelli] had been there maybe two years. The team was kind of maturing and I feel lucky to join when I did.”

Carney suggests the opportunities have only grown stronger, in his view of the later-stage world. “We’re definitely seeing [greater bifurcation] between the haves and have nots, with company that can break out as clear leaders tending to have access to larger amounts of capital than in past years. For the best of the best, the conditions remain as favorable as possible, while it’s gotten harder for companies to raise capital that fail to hit those growth rates, even in good times.”

Being able to recruit employees from roles at top companies in the Bay Area is just one reason solid L.A. companies have attained more momentum. “I think that owes to the maturation of the L.A. ecosystem. I think people are drawn to L.A. because Silicon Valley, for all its incredible success in the tech sector, is an industry town and L.A. has a more diverse economy and ecosystem. But also, five years ago, people would ask themselves, ‘If this new role [in L.A.] doesn’t work out, what do I do next?’ And I think the answer to that question is much clearer and more positive today.”

According to Upfront, 40 percent of its initial checks are written to companies based in L.A., though it has bets in other parts of the U.S. and world. Some of the best-known deals in its current portfolio include the scooter company Bird, the sneaker marketplace GOAT, and the online resale store ThredUp. Upfront was also an investor in Ring, the smart doorbell company acquired early last year by Amazon for $1 billion.

In addition to Maliwal, Carney, Nortman and Bettinelli, the firm is managed by general partners Kobie Fuller, Kevin Zhang, Mark Suster and founder Yves Sisteron.


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Flatfair, the ‘deposit-free’ renting platform, raises $11M led by Index Ventures – gpgmail


Flatfair, a London-based fintech that lets landlords offer “deposit-free” renting to tenants, has raised $11 million in funding.

The Series A round is led by Index Ventures, with participation from Revolt Ventures, Adevinta, Greg Marsh (founder of Onefinestay), Jeremy Helbsy (former Savills CEO) and Taavet Hinrikus (TransferWise co-founder).

With the new capital, Flatfair says it plans to hire a “significant” number of product engineers, data scientists and business development specialists.

The startup will also invest in building out new features as it looks to expand its platform with “a focus on making renting fairer and more transparent for landlords and tenants.”

“With the average deposit of £1,110 across England and Wales being just shy of the national living wage, tenants struggle to pay expensive deposits when moving into their new home, often paying double deposits in between tenancies,” Flatfair co-founder and CEO Franz Doerr tells me when asked to frame the problem the startup has set out to solve.

“This creates cash flow issues for tenants, in particular for those with families. Some tenants end up financing the deposit through friends and family or even accrue expensive credit card debt. The latter can have a negative impact on the tenant’s credit rating, further restricting important access to credit for things that really matter in a tenant’s life.”

To remedy this, Fatfair’s “insurance-backed” payment technology provides tenants with the option to pay a per-tenancy membership fee instead of a full deposit. They do this by authorising their bank account via debit card with Flatfair, and when it is time to move out, any end-of-tenancy charges are handled via the Flatfair portal, including dispute resolution.

So, for example, rather than having to find a rental deposit equivalent to a month’s rent, which in theory you would get back once you move out sans any end-of-tenancy charges, with Fatfair you pay about a quarter of that as a non-refundable fee.

Of course, there are pros and cons to both, but for tenants that are cashflow restricted, the startup’s model at least offers an alternative financing option.

In addition, tenants registered with Flatfair are given a “trust score” that can go up over time, helping them move tenancy more easily in the future. The company is also trialing the use of Open Banking to help with credit checks by analysing transaction history to verify that you have paid rent regularly and on time in the past.

Landlords are said to like the model. Current Flatfair clients include major property owners and agents, such as Greystar, Places for People and CBRE. “Before Flatfair, deposits were the only form of tenancy security that landlords trusted,” claims Doerr.

In the event of a dispute over end-of-tenancy charges, both landlords and tenants are asked to upload evidence to the Flatfair platform and to try to settle the disagreement amicably. If they can’t, the case is referred by Flatfair to an independent adjudicator via mydeposits, a U.K. government-backed deposit scheme with which the company is partnering.

“In such a case, all the evidence is submitted to mydeposits and they come back with a decision within 24 hours,” explains Doerr. “[If] the adjudicator says that the tenant owes money, we invoice the tenant who then has five days to pay. If the tenant doesn’t pay, we charge their bank account… What’s key here is having the evidence. People are generally happy to pay if the costs are fair and where clear evidence exists, there’s less to argue about.”

More broadly, Doerr says there’s significant scope for digitisation across the buy-to-let sector and that the big vision for Flatfair is to create an “operating system” for rentals.

“The fundamental idea is to streamline processes around the tenancy to create revenue and savings opportunities for landlords and agents, whilst promoting a better customer experience, affordability and fairness for tenants,” he says.

“We’re working on a host of exciting new features that we’ll be able to talk about in the coming months, but we see opportunities to automate more functions within the life cycle of a tenancy and think there are a number of big efficiency savings to be made by unifying old systems, dumping old paper systems and streamlining cumbersome admin. Offering a scoring system for tenants is a great way of encouraging better behaviour and, given housing represents most people’s biggest expense, it’s only right renters should be able to build up their credit score and benefit from paying on time.”


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