Startup Monday Issue: 10 news to follow this week in the global startup ecosystem (Issue 36–19 April 2021)


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  1. Business Insider identified the top venture-capital firms making deals in the cannabis industry based on how many investments they made in 2019.

Despite a challenging year in the cannabis industry, venture investors poured over $2.3 billion into cannabis startups in 2019, up from $1.5 billion in 2018.

The industry was hit with a number of headwinds, including slower-than-expected retail sales in Canada and legal jurisdictions in the US, as well as a spate of vaping-related illnesses in the US that prompted some states to introduce bans on the sale of vaping products.

2. Interesting development happening in regard Clubhouse. Along with new offers for users, the audio-only app Clubhouse is having a successful fundraising round

This month it partnered with Stripe to let users send money to creators via their profiles, perhaps signaling a way to bring in revenue. On top of this, it is reportedly being valued at $4 billion in a fresh round led by venture-capital firm Andreessen Horowitz. 

The Information on Friday reported the fundraising round, saying it would include investments from Tiger Global Management and DST Global. Both are newcomers to Clubhouse. 

The Information didn’t detail the amount the firms planned to invest. The outlet did report, however, that it was likely more than the $100 million Clubhouse raised in a previous round. 

In January, the app had been valued at about $1 billion.

3. Sajith Wickramasekara was just 24 when he made the cut for the Forbes 30 Under 30 list for his biotech R&D startup, Benchling. Today, Wickramasekara joins the ranks of unicorn founders as Benchling hits a $4 billion valuation. That valuation—nearly five times what it was worth last May—comes as the company raised $200 million led by Sequoia Capital Global Equities.

Benchling is the first R&D cloud platform powering the life science industry and helping the next generation of scientists make breakthrough discoveries and bring them to market faster than ever before

Since launching in 2012, more than 300,000 scientists and 1,000 R&D organizations around the globe have adopted Benchling’s cloud platform to manage massively complex experimental datasets and optimize R&D processes. Benchling customers — including Gilead Sciences, Sanofi, Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, Corteva Agrisciences, Sana Biotechnology and more — rely on the company’s suite of cloud applications to design DNA, collaborate on experiments, automate data capture, manage research workflows and enable rapid decision-making, all with the aim of bringing products to market faster.

4. Artificial Intelligence industry continues booming.

Investors poured over $13 billion into just 56 AI startups in the first four months of 2021.

Scale AI, a San Francisco-based startup that specializes in helping companies label and curate data for artificial intelligence applications, has been valued at $7.3 billion in its latest funding round, announced Tuesday.

The company said it has raised $325 million in the latest investment round. The new financing brings the total amount of venture capital it has raised since its founding in 2016 to more than $600 million.

The latest valuation figure more than doubles the one the company received during its last $155 million funding round in December 2020. Alexandr Wang, the company’s chief executive officer, told Fortune that “there are no current timelines or current plans” to take the company public, but that “we are always paying attention to the market.”

The latest investment round was led by Dragoneer and Greenoaks Capital, both San Francisco-based investment firms, and Tiger Global, the prominent technology-focused investment company based in New York.

Jeff Wilke, a former top Amazon executive, will join the company as a special advisor to the CEO, Scale said.

5. Investment into cybersecurity startups hit a record high of $7.8 billion in 2020, according to new data published last week by Crunchbase.

The increase was led by the U.S., with investments into the sector increasing 22% in 2020 over 2019, higher than the 15% growth seen in overall venture capital investment over the same time period.

In contrast to the overall venture capital market, 39% of funding into cybersecurity startups went into angel, seed and early stage. Globally that figure rose to 45%.

Diversity of geography isn’t exactly high on the list, however, since the U.S. and Israel combined accounted for nearly 90% of all venture funding for cybersecurity companies in 2020. The U.S. recorded 76% of all global cybersecurity funding in 2020, at $5.9 billion.

The U.K. captured a little over 3% ($262 million) of venture capital investment into cybersecurity in 2020, largely thanks to an $80 million Series C round for data privacy company Privitar Ltd. SiliconANGLE previously reported on Privitar when it raised $16 million in 2017.

The numbers for the cybersecurity startup sector continue to improve, as the Crunchbase report said 2020 saw six new cybersecurity unicorns, or startups with a valuation of more than $1 billion, the highest on record. Five were from the U.S. and the last one, Cato Networks Inc., is based in Israel. In 2021 to date, the number of new cybersecurity unicorns has already hit nine.

The top investor in cybersecurity startups in 2020 was Accel, followed by Insight Partners, Techstars and Y Combinator, the last two particularly investing in early-stage companies. Israel-based OurCrowd and Singapore-based Singtel Innov8 also made the list.

“Clearly we have had an unprecedented, rapid and unexpected experiment, quickly turned movement, to a decentralized workforce,” Hank Thomas, chief executive officer at venture capital firm Strategic Cyber Ventures LLC, told SiliconANGLE. “This has forced cybersecurity strategists and operators to move and create new security controls that protect these now more heavily used communications paths, as well as the places people are increasingly storing data and running analytics.”

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6. Israeli startups continue dominating the cybersecurity industry. Israel’s cybersecurity industry accounted for 31% of global investments in the sector in the last year, second only to the United States.

Last week, there were rumors that the Former Starbucks Corp. chief Howard Schultz is among the new investors in Israeli cybersecurity startup Wiz.

The American billionaire invested in the last funding round, which valued the company at $1.7 billion a year after its founding, the people said, asking for anonymity because the information isn’t public. Representatives for Schultz and Wiz declined to comment.

Demand for cybersecurity for cloud-based services is booming as companies seek to bolster their digital defenses against increasingly sophisticated hacks, according to MarketsandMarkets. The global market is expected to double to $68.5 billion by 2025, the research firm wrote in July.

Another Israeli cybersecurity startup Talon that’s promising to solve the problems that come with the pandemic-era workforce, has raised a $26 million seed round. That’s the biggest ever seed round in Israel, according to Crunchbase data provided by the company, despite Talon being months away from releasing a product.

7. Interesting startup news comes from India.

SoftBank, one of the most influential tech investor plans to invest close to $1.2 billion in Indian startups in the first quarter of the current financial year.

This is in line with SoftBank’s global approach where it made several big ticket investments in startups last week.

Among its bets, it is finalising an investment of around $200-250 million in ride-hailing firm Ola’s electric unit-Ola Electric while it will put at least $250 million in neo-banking startup Zeta making it a unicorn, a moniker for startups valued at $1 billion or more.
SoftBank, which counts top-tier local startups like logistics firm Delhivery, payments platform Paytm, financial services major Policybazaar in its India portfolio, is also putting anywhere between $400-$500 million in online food delivery startup Swiggy.


It has already invested $250 million in social commerce firm Meesho making it a unicorn and tripling its valuation to little over $2 billion.

8. With the remote interviews and job hiring on a raise, more startups getting big funds.

One of the last ones is the Recruitment software startup RecruitLab that raises €300K to expand to new markets and grow its team. The team is supported by founders Urmas Purde and Timo Rein, Pipedrive’s first investor Peep Vain, and top European angel investors from the investment fund Superangel.

Founded in Estonia is 2020, RecruitLab is a recruiter-centric marketing and applicant tracking software. Its clear user interface, and integrations with recruitment channels (like job boards or social media) give recruiters complete control over their recruitment projects. The platform includes features such as tools for building attractive job adverts, automated interview scheduling, video interviewing. The upside is that these features improve communication with candidates, and cooperation between recruitment teams.

9. Another European startup Lingoda, a leading online language school, last week announced it has raised €57 million in growth equity led by global growth investor Summit Partners, with participation from existing investor Conny Boersch, founder of Mountain Partners, which first invested in Lingoda in 2015.

The new funding will support Lingoda’s expansion into new markets, further enhance the company’s live classroom experiences, and accelerate the company’s already robust growth. Including this latest round of funding, Lingoda has raised more than €70 million since 2013. Previous recent rounds were led by investor Grazia Equity, which has played a key role in the company’s growth journey to date.

Founded in 2013 by entrepreneurs Fabian and Felix Wunderlich, Lingoda is a leading online language school offering live small group and private classes available 24/7 in four languages – English, German, French and Spanish. Lingoda teaches more than 450,000 classes each year through a community of over 1,400 certified, native-speaking teaching professionals. The company’s structured curriculum includes over 2,000 digital lessons produced in-house by linguistic experts. Courses are designed to empower language fluency, and 97% of Lingoda learners confirm that the platform is more effective than using language apps alone.

10. Renewable energy company CleanMax has signed a deal with social media giant Facebook for co-running a portfolio of wind and solar projects across India that will supply clean energy into the electrical grid.

Under the agreement, both the companies will assemble a portfolio of wind and solar projects where Mumbai-based CleanMax will own and operate these facilities, and Facebook will commit to long-term support of the projects by buying power off the grid using environmental attribute certificates.

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