Category: Fundings & Exits

Heartbeat Health raises $8.2M to improve cardiovascular care

While you’ve probably spent a lot of today thinking about the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s worth remembering that other health issues aren’t going away — and that heart disease remains the leading cause of death in the United States.

Heartbeat Health is a startup working to improve the way that cardiovascular care is delivered, and it announced today that it has raised $8.2 million in Series A funding.

Dr. Jeffrey Wessler, the startup’s co-founder and CEO, is a cardiologist himself, and he told me that he “stepped off the academic cardiology path” about three years ago because he “saw some of the work being done in digital health space and became incredibly enamored of doing this for heart health.”

Wessler said that the delivery methods for cardiovascular care remain almost entirely unchanged. To a large extent because that’s because the existing model works, but there’s still room to do better.

“As of the last seven or so years, we’re in a new era where we’ve figured out how to treat people well once they get sick,” he said. “But we’re doing a very bad job of keeping them healthy.”

To address that, Heartbeat Health has created what Wessler described as a “digital first” layer, allowing patients to talk with experts via telemedicine, who can then direct them to the appropriate provider — who might be a “preferred Heartbeat partner” or not — for in-person care.

This initial interaction can help patients avoid “a lot of inefficiencies,” he said, because it ensures they don’t get sent to the wrong place, and “kick[s] things off right with evidence-based, guideline-based testing, so that they’re not just falling into the individual practice habits of random doctors.”

In addition, Heartbeat Health tries to collect all of a patient’s relevant heart data (which might come from wearable consumer devices like an Apple Watch or Fitbit) in one place, and to track results about which treatments are most effective.

“Ultimately, we want to be the software, the technology powering it all, but we don’t want to leave any patient behind at the beginning,” Wessler said.

He added that the program works with most commercial insurance and is already involved in the care of 10,000 New York-area patients. And apparently it’s been embraced by the cardiologists, who Wessler said always tell him, “We’ve been waiting for that layer to come in and unify this incredibly fragmented system, as long as it works with us and not against us.”

The funding was led by .406 Ventures and Optum Ventures, with participation from Kindred Ventures, Lerer Hippeau, Designer Fund and Max Ventures.

Bird confirms acquisition of Berlin scooter competitor Circ

If you didn’t see this coming, then clearly you didn’t have your eyes on the road. Bird, the LA-founded e-scooter giant, has confirmed that it is acquiring European competitor Circ, the micromobilty company founded by Lukasz Gadowski of Delivery Hero fame.

The deal, for which terms remain undisclosed, was first reported by the FT late last week. Meanwhile, TechCrunch revealed late November that Circ was facing difficulties and had issued a round of layoffs following so-called “operational learnings”.

At the time, Gadowski put on a brave face, telling TechCrunch that Circ needed to learn how to operate a micromobility service across many European markets simultaneously. “Basically figure out how to be more efficient, how to run a micromobility operation; it’s not optimized yet and we learned over the summer,” he said.

He also conceded that, within the micromobility space more generally, there had been something of a land grab strategy that is now perhaps inevitably shifting toward greater emphasis on capital efficiency. “When we started this there was a focus on time to market but now it is not about time to market but efficiency,” he tells me.

We also understand Circ was also in the midst of trying to raises a Series B, which is what prompted talks with Bird. Early last year, the startup closed a Series A north of $60 million, funding it used to push into 12 countries and 43 cities, a spokesperson tells us.

On the funding front, Bird is also taking this announcement as an opportunity to share that they’ve added to their own funding, tacking on another $75 million onto their Series D, which now sits at $350 million.

Micromobility companies have been hard-pressed to cut spending and push towards profitability. One of Bird’s chief competitors, Lime, announced earlier this month they were laying off 100 employees and leaving 12 markets with the goal of becoming profitable in 2020.

300 employees will be added to Bird’s European operations as a result of the deal, the company says.

One Medical targets IPO valuation of up to $2B as we unpack its Q4 results

Hello and welcome back to our regular morning look at private companies, public markets and the gray space in between.

Today we’re digging into One Medical’s updated IPO filing released this week. The document contains directional pricing information that will help us understand where the tech-enabled medical care startup expects the market to value itself and also details its Q4 2019 Preliminary Estimated Unaudited Financial Results, which gives us a fuller picture of its financial health.

As we’ll see, One Medical’s expected valuation matches secondary-market transactions in the firm’s equity, and, at the upper-end of its proposed IPO range, represents a solid boost to its final private valuation. Afterwards, we’ll dig back through the company’s numbers, figure out its implied revenue multiple and make a bullish and bearish argument for the company’s hoped-for IPO valuation.

It’s going to be fun! (For a general dive into the company’s IPO filing, head here.)

Mobile payment app Lydia raises $45 million round led by Tencent

French startup Lydia is raising a $45 million Series B round (€40 million). Tencent is leading the round with existing investors CNP Assurances, XAnge and New Alpha also participating.

If you live in France, chances are you already know Lydia quite well. The company has become a ubiquitous mobile payment app, especially for people under 30 years old. Think about it as a sort of Square Cash or Venmo, but for France.

“At first, we wanted to raise less but we ended up raising more,” Lydia co-founder and CEO Cyril Chiche told me in a phone interview.

The company has managed to attract 3 million users in France. More impressive, 25% of French people between 18 and 30 years old have a Lydia account — and 5,000 people sign up every day. Lydia currently has 90 employees.

More recently, the company has expanded beyond peer-to-peer payment. First, the company wants to help you manage your money in many different ways with an important value — everything should happen in real time.

You can create multiple Lydia accounts to put some money aside or use money in that sub-account for a specific purpose. That feature alone turns the app into a versatile money management app.

For instance, you can associate a Lydia payment card with a Lydia account and a virtual card with another Lydia account — that virtual card works with Apple Pay, Google Pay, Samsung Pay and more. You can change those settings in real time.

You can share accounts with other Lydia users. And shared accounts are truly shared — everyone can top up and withdraw money from that account. You can spend directly from that account or withdraw money to another account.

You can also turn any Lydia account into a money pot account. In just a few taps, you can generate a link and share it with your friends so that they can add money using their regular payment card or a Lydia account.

More recently, the company has introduced “the market”, a marketplace of other financial products. From the Lydia app, you can borrow up to €1,000 in just a few seconds. You can also insure your phone and other mobile devices. You can get some free credit when you open a bank account, insure your home with Luko, switch to another electricity and gas provider, compare mobile phone and internet providers and more.

And that strategy is going to be key in the future. “We have an ambitious goal, which is turning Lydia into a mobile financial service app,” Chiche said.

He also pointed out that the company that has been the most successful when it comes to creating a mobile marketplace of financial products is Tencent with WeChat.

“Tencent is also the number one player in the video game industry, and there’s no industry with as much user engagement,” Chiche said. Tencent acquired Supercell, bought 40% of Epic Games, acquired Riot Games (League of Legends), invested in Ubisoft, Activision Blizzard, Discord, etc. Lydia hopes that it can learn from Tencent on the user engagement front.

Compared to many fintech startups, Lydia doesn’t want to replace banks altogether — the company says it wants to build a meta-banking app. Peer-to-peer payments represent the top of the funnel and a great user acquisition strategy thanks to networking effects.

You can then connect your Lydia account with your bank account and your debit card. This way, you can send money back and forth between your Lydia accounts and your bank account. As a user, that strategy slowly pays off over time. After a while, you end up spending money directly from your Lydia account and relying more heavily on Lydia’s native payment features, with your bank account acting as a money back end.

At the bottom of the funnel, Lydia hopes that it can turn active Lydia users into paid customers with a handful of in-house and third-party financial products. In other words, Lydia doesn’t want to become a credit institution like a traditional bank, it wants to become a financial hub. Expanding the marketplace will be a big focus for the company going forward.

While Lydia is available in other European countries, Lydia is still massively used in its home market with other markets lagging behind. With today’s funding round, growth in foreign countries is going to be the second key topic.

Sisense CEO Amir Orad explains why he raised $100M

Yesterday, Sisense, a player in the business intelligence space, announced a $100 million investment. As TechCrunch reported, the round pushed the company’s valuation north of the $1 billion mark, making Sisense the world’s newest unicorn.

That moniker will last a day, we’re sure.

TechCrunch caught up with Sisense CEO Amir Orad and CMO Harry Glaser to discuss the company’s business scale just a few days ago; Sisense is a member in our newly-created $100 million ARR club, having first surpassed the threshold after buying Periscope earlier in 2019 and later with its original operations. What follows is an edited transcript that we’ve shortened to the key bits regarding the round that gifted Sisense its horn.

Tech’s biggest companies are worth ~$5T as 2019’s epic stock market run wraps

Look, this is the last post I’m writing in 2019 and I’m tired. But I can’t let the year close without taking stock of how well tech stocks did this year. It was bonkers.

So let’s mark the year’s conclusion with some notes for our future selves. Yes, we know that the Nasdaq has been setting new records and SaaS had a good year. But we need to dig in and get the numbers out so that we can look back and remember.

Let’s cap off this year the way it deserves to be remembered, as a kick-ass trip ’round the sun for your local, public technology company.

Keeping score

We’ll start with the indices that we care about:

  • The tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite rose 35% in 2019
  • The SaaS-heavy Bessemer Cloud Index rose 41% this year

Next, the highest-value U.S.-based technology companies:

  • Microsoft was up around 55% in 2019
  • Apple managed an 86% gain in the year
  • Not be left out, Facebook rose 57%
  • Amazon posted its own gain of 23% in 2019
  • Alphabet managed to grow by 29%, as well

Now let’s turn to some companies that we care about, even if they are smaller than the Big Five:

  • Salesforce? Up 19% this year
  • Adobe was up 46% in 2019, which was astounding
  • Intel picked up 28% in the year, making it no slouch
  • Even Oracle managed to gain 17% in 2019

And so on.

The technology industry’s epic run has been so strong that The Wall Street Journal noted this morning that, powered by tech companies, U.S. stocks “are poised for their best annual performance in six years.” The Journal highlighted the performance of Apple and Microsoft in particular for helping drive the boom. I wonder why.

How long will we live in the neighborhood of Nasdaq 9,000? How long can two tech companies be worth more than $1 trillion at the same time? How long can the biggest tech companies be worth a combined $4.93 trillion (I remember when $3 trillion for the Big Five was news, and I recall when the group reach a collective value of $4 trillion).1

But the worst trade in recent years has been the pessimists’ gambit. No matter what, stocks have kept going up, short-term hiccoughs and other missteps aside.

For nearly everyone, that is. While tech stocks in general did very well, some names that we all know did not. Let’s close on those reminders that a rising tide lifts only most boats.

2019 naughty list

Several of the most lackluster public tech companies were 2019 technology IPOs, interestingly enough. Who didn’t do well? Uber earns a spot on the naughty list for not only being underwater from its IPO price, but also from its final private valuations. And as you guessed, Lyft is down from its IPO price as well, which is not good.

Some 2019 IPOs did well in the middle of the year, but fell a little flat as the year came to a close. Pinterest, Beyond Meat and Zoom meet that criteria, for example. And some SaaS companies struggled, even if we think they will reach $1 billion in revenue in time.

But it was mostly a party. The public markets were good, and tech stocks were great. This helped create another 100+ unicorns in the year.

Such was 2019. On to 2020!

  1. In time, those numbers will look small. But sitting here on December 31, 2019, they appear huge and towering and, it must be said, somewhat perilously stacked.

Helsinki’s Speechly raises €2M seed for its ‘natural language understanding’ API

Speechly, a startup out of Helsinki that boasts an experienced team of speech recognition and “natural language understanding” experts, has raised €2 million in seed funding to make it easier for developers to add a voice UI to their products.

The round is led by Berlin’s Cherry Ventures, with participation from Seedcamp, Quantum Angels, Joyance Partners, Social Starts, Tiny.vc, Juha Paananen (co-founder of Nonstop Games, which exited to King), and Nicolas Dessaigne (founder of Algolia). The funding will be used by Speechly to further develop and open up its API to enable non-experts to create voice-enabled applications.

“Voice has shown real promise over the past few years but a real breakthrough beyond setting kitchen timers and playing Spotify is yet to be seen,” Speechly co-founder and CEO Otto Söderlund tells TechCrunch. “The current fundamental problem of voice assistant platforms is that they tend to fail with more complex user requests and needs”.

He says Speechly’s solution is to combine natural language understanding and speech recognition in a “novel way” that enables developers to a create a “highly reactive and seamlessly multimodal user experience” that better guides the user when expressing complex intents.

“You can think of the difference a little bit like trying to explain something tricky to your friend over the phone [which can be hard] versus face-to-face [which is often a lot easier],” says Söderlund.

To achieve this, Speechly has designed its own proprietary speech recognition technology “from the ground up” to support what it claims is a significantly wider range of voice related user experiences compared to existing products.

As well as helping voice applications better understand complex intent, the other major problem that Speechly wants to solve is the business case for voice. The startup argues current voice assistant platforms, such as Amazon’s Alexa or Apple’s Siri, force businesses “to operate in someone else’s ecosystem” and share valuable user data.

Meanwhile, Speechly says current SDKs and APIs are either too complex or do not offer developers enough control over the end user experience.

“In addition to Google, Amazon, Microsoft and Apple, there are a few smaller companies and startups developing their own spoken language understanding (SLU) technology,” adds Söderlund “These companies, owning their own proprietary SLU technology (as we do), we consider as our main competitors. However, these competitors mainly offer products that we consider a rather straightforward continuation from the classical turn based dialog agent (think of Siri). We want to offer an alternative vision for voice UIs where highly responsive multimodal feedback ‘guides’ the user in real-time to resolve more demanding user tasks. This vision that we are building in our product we consider unique”.

Yubo raises $12.3 million for its social app for teens

French startup Yubo has raised a $12.3 million funding round led by Iris Capital and Idinvest Partners. Existing investors Alven, Sweet Capital and Village Global are also participating. The startup has managed to attract 25 million users over the years — there are currently tens of thousands of people signing up to the platform every day.

Yubo is building a social media app for young people under 25 with one focus in particular on helping teenagers meeting new people and creating friendships. Compared to the most popular social media apps out there, Yubo isn’t focused on likes and followers.

Instead, the app helps you build your own tiny little community of friends. Yubo wants to become a familiar place where you belong, even if high school sucks for instance.

More details in my previous profile of the company:

In addition to meeting new people, you can start conversations and create live video streams to hang out together. Each stream represents a micro-community of people interacting through both video and a live chat.

Since 2015, Yubo users have sent each other 10 billion messages and started 30 million live video streams. Overall, the user base has generated 2 billion friendships.

Soon, users will be able to turn on screensharing to show something on their phones. And at some point in 2020, Yubo should release Yubo Web in order to expand Yubo beyond your smartphone and enable new use cases, such as video game live-streaming.

With today’s funding round, the company wants to attract users in new markets. Yubo is mostly active in the U.S., Canada, the U.K., Nordic countries, Australia and France. Up next, the startup is going to focus on Japan and Brazil. The company plans to hire 35 new people.

When it comes to business model, the company started monetizing its app in October 2018 with in-app purchases to unlock new features. In 2019, the startup has generated $10 million in revenue.

Yubo will also use this funding round to improve safety. It’s a never-ending process, especially when there are young people using your platform. The company already partners with Yoti for age verification. Users will soon be able to create a blocklist of certain words to customize their experience.

In addition to continuous work on flagging tools and live-stream moderation algorithms in order to detect inappropriate content, the company will also increase the size of its moderation team. The company has also put together a safety board with Alex Holmes, Annie Mullins, Travis Bright, Mick Moran, Dr. Richard Graham and Anne Collier.

Wefox, the Berlin-based insurtech, raises $110M Series B extension at a $1.65B pre-money valuation

Wefox Group, the Berlin-based insurtech startup behind the consumer-facing insurance app and carrier One and the insurance platform Wefox, is disclosing $110 million in a second tranche of Series B funding. Sources tell TechCrunch that this gives the company a pre-money valuation of $1.65 billion. WeFox Group declined to comment on the financials.

The Series B extension is led by Omers Ventures, the venture capital arm of Canadian pension fund Omers. Merian Chrysalis and Samsung Catalyst Fund, also participated, along with existing investors.

It follows an earlier Series B of $125 million in March, led by Abu Dhabi government-owned Mubadala Ventures, with participation from Chinese investor Creditease. Wefox’s other existing investors include Target Global, Salesforce Ventures, Seedcamp, Idinvest and Hollywood actor Ashton Kutcher’s investment vehicle Sound Ventures.

In a call, Wefox co-founder and CEO Julian Teicke told me the Wefox Group has grown revenues to over $100 million, and now services more than 500,000 customers, claiming that this makes it Europe’s “leading insurtech”.

He also revealed that the company has grown to 400 employees, which, he says means he can no longer remember every employee’s name. “That sucks,” he tells me, revealing that it was only this summer when the company was smaller that he won a company-wide bet for being able to do just that.

Breaking WeFox Group’s revenue down further, the company’s direct to consumer insurance brand, One Insurance, has increased annual revenues by nearly tenfold this year to $30 million. It also claims to be Germany’s fastest growing provider for household and private liability insurance.

Perhaps more significantly, Teicke says One’s loss ratio (what percentage of premiums earned is subsequently paid out in claims) is below 40%, which is much better than the industry as a whole. He pinned that on WeFox’s use of data, which, he says, enables One to understand risk in a much more technology-driven and granular way.

Meanwhile, Teicke says the new funding will be used to continue ramping up international expansion in 2020. Wefox is active in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Spain, and I understand has quietly launched in Italy.

Adds Henry Gladwyn, principal at OMERS Ventures, in a statement: “We are thrilled to continue our support of Julian and the incredibly ambitious Wefox Group team as they continue to disrupt and re-invent the insurance industry. We believe wefox Group’s approach to revolutionizing insurance – empowering the consumer and prioritizing solutions for secured data-driven experiences – will deliver significant value for the entire trade”.