Startup Monday: Latest tech trends and startups news happening in the global startup ecosystem (Issue 43–14 June 2021)


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Ten news to follow this week in the global startup ecosystem

1. Productivity analytics startup Time is Ltd. wants to be the Google Analytics for company time. Or perhaps a sort of “Apple Screen Time” for companies. Whatever the case, the founders reckon that if you can map how time is spent in a company, enormous productivity gains can be unlocked and money better spent.

It’s now raised a $5.6 million late-seed funding round led by Mike Chalfen, of London-based Chalfen Ventures, with participation from Illuminate Financial Management and existing investor Accel. Acequia Capital and former Seal Software chairman Paul Sallaberry are also contributing to the new round, as is former Seal board member Clark Golestani. Furthermore, Ulf Zetterberg, founder and former CEO of contract discovery and analytics company Seal Software, is joining as president and co-founder.

The venture is the latest from serial entrepreneur Jan Rezab, better known for founding SocialBakers, which was acquired last year.

2. Cerebral Inc., a startup that provides counseling, medication and other mental-health services, has more than quintupled its valuation to $1.23 billion. The San Francisco-based company raised $127 million in a round led by billionaire Len Blavatnik’s Access Industries, Chief Executive Officer Kyle Robertson said in an interview. Nami Park, an adviser to Access, has joined Cerebral’s board.

New capital will be used to expand services to include group therapy and couples counseling, and to add treatment for PTSD, bipolar disorder, substance abuse, eating disorders, phobias, obesity and diabetes. The company currently treats anxiety, depression, insomnia and ADHD, among other ailments.

Launched in January 2020, Cerebral operates a mobile app and offers monthly subscriptions. It has partnered with insurers such as Cigna Corp. and Anthem Inc. and hopes to be an in-network resource for all insured Americans by the end of 2023. The company has about 1,900 contract and full-time employees, most of whom are clinicians.

3. Atai Life Sciences B.V., backed by billionaire investor Peter Thiel, said on Friday it was looking to raise as much as $214.3 million through a U.S. initial public offering, targeting a valuation of about $2.3 billion.

The Berlin-based biotech startup, which is exploring the use of psychedelic treatments for mental health disorders, said it planned to sell around 14.29 million shares priced between $13 and $15 per share. (https://bit.ly/3iA5ste)

Atai’s co-founder Christian Angermayer is an advocate of the mental health benefits of psychedelics such as psilocybin, the active ingredient in so-called magic mushrooms, for the treatment of depression, anxiety and substance use disorders.

The company has raised $157 million from investors at a valuation of about $2 billion and was considering floating its shares in the U.S. in May, Reuters reported in March, citing a source close to the matter.

4. Blockchain startup Solana Labs Inc. says it has raised $314 million of new funding to develop technology used in the fast-growing area of the cryptocurrency markets known as decentralized finance, or DeFi.

The funding round was led by Andreessen Horowitz, one of Silicon Valley’s most prominent venture-capital firms, and Polychain Capital, a crypto hedge fund that also does VC-style investments.

In a nod to the engineering roots of Solana’s founders, the precise amount raised in the funding round was $100 million.

Solana, whose founding team came together in 2017, launched a blockchain network that supporters say is faster and more energy-efficient than the Ethereum or bitcoin blockchains, which can seize up during periods of heavy transaction volumes.

5. Former Reddit CEO’s New Startup Terraformation Raises $30 Million To Restore Forests And Tackle Climate Change.

In 2017, fresh into the first year of the presidency of Donald Trump, who openly stated he didn’t believe in climate change, Silicon Valley veteran Yishan Wong looked at the future with concern. What would happen if the world failed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, he wondered. And was it possible to find a reasonably priced, deployable solution to at least absorb emissions?

Reforestation could be that solution, Wong imagined. The engineer-turned-entrepreneur calculated how many trees would be needed to offset the world’s emissions. And then, the early employee of PayPal and Facebook who built Reddit into an internet powerhouse during his two and a half year reign as CEO, did nothing. “Because I was not an environmental scientist, I didn’t trust my math. So I just actually just sat on it,” Wong tells Forbes. “I talked to a lot of people about it, but I just really didn’t trust myself—I’m just this computer scientist.”

Four years later, Wong is founder and CEO of Terraformation, a startup which aims to help companies and countries meet the net zero carbon goals of the future through rapid reforestation. The Hawaii-based company just closed a $30 million funding round which will go towards its goal of helping restore 3 billion acres of native ecosystems using technology such as solar panel-powered desalination, which efficiently and affordably hydrates areas grown arid due to climate change or soil degradation from human activities.

6. Raquel Urtasun, the AI pioneer who was the chief scientist at Uber ATG, has launched a new startup called Waabi that is taking what she describes as an “AI-first approach” to speed up the commercial deployment of autonomous vehicles, starting with long-haul trucks. Urtasun, who is the sole founder and CEO, already has a long list of high-profile backers, including separate investments from Uber and Aurora. Waabi has raised $83.5 million in a Series A round led by Khosla Ventures, with additional participation from Uber, 8VC, Radical Ventures, OMERS Ventures, BDC and Aurora Innovation, as well as leading AI researchers Geoffrey Hinton, Fei-Fei Li, Pieter Abbeel, Sanja Fidler and others.

Urtasun described Waabi, which currently employs 40 people and operates in Toronto and California, as the culmination of her life’s work to bring commercially viable self-driving technology to society. The name of the company — Waabi means “she has vision” in Ojibwe and “simple” in Japanese — hints at her approach and ambitions.

Autonomous vehicle startups that exist today use a combination of artificial intelligence algorithms and sensors to handle the tasks of driving that humans do, such as detecting and understanding objects and making decisions based on that information to safely navigate a lonely road or a crowded highway. Beyond those basics are a variety of approaches, including within AI.

Most self-driving vehicle developers use a traditional form of AI. However, the traditional approach limits the power of AI, Urtasun said, adding that developers must manually tune the software stack, a complex and time-consuming task. The upshot, Urtasun says: Autonomous vehicle development has slowed and the limited commercial deployments that do exist operate in small and simple operational domains because scaling is so costly and technically challenging.

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7. Recorded Future, an Insight Partners portfolio company and the world’s largest provider of intelligence for enterprise security, today announced the launch of The Intelligence Fund, a dedicated pool of $20 million to be funded and directed by Recorded Future. The Intelligence Fund will focus on seed and Series A investments in startups that are building novel intelligence data sets, collection platforms, and applications.

The Recorded Future Intelligence Platform is the de-facto standard in intelligence, drawing from the world’s most comprehensive intelligence holdings, collected and curated over 10+ years, and continually enhanced in real-time. By funding companies through The Intelligence Fund, Recorded Future is committed to expanding its leadership position in the Intelligence market.

8. Indian Edtech startup Byju’s becomes India’s most valued startup after $340 million funding.

Education technology company Byju’s has raised close to Rs 2,500 crore (about $340 million) from investors such as the UBS Group, Zoom founder Eric Yuan, Blackstone, Abu Dhabi sovereign fund ADQ and Phoenix Rising–Beacon Holdings, regulatory filings accessed by ET showed.

The latest funding, which people close to the matter said was part of $1.5 billion the company started raising in April, values Byju’s at around $16.5 billion post investment. This makes it the most-valued startup in India.

Byju’s has been on a fundraising spree since last year, when ed-tech companies cornered most of the capital that came to the startup ecosystem, as the pandemic fuelled demand for online education.

In 2020, Byju’s raised around $1 billion. India’s ed-tech startups together raised $2.2 billion in the year compared with $553 million in 2019, according to Venture Intelligence data.

9. Switzerland has long been known as a booming biotech hotspot in Europe that boasts many high-profile companies. Here are the top 15 biotech companies among the new generation of promising startups in Switzerland.

Last year saw a record-breaking amount of money pouring into the Swiss biotech industry. According to a recent report by the Swiss Biotech Association, biotechs in Switzerland raised approximately €3B (CHF 3.4B), more than doubling 2019’s €1.08B (CHF 1.2B) haul. 

Notable Swiss biotech fundraisings included ADC Therapeutics’ €215M IPO on the New York Stock Exchange in May 2020 and CRISPR Therapeutics’ €400M public fundraise the following July. 

Switzerland’s success as a bubbling biotech cauldron is reflected in the steadily growing number of biotech companies that have settled there. In the last ten years, the number of biotechs in Switzerland has grown from 236 in 2010 to 314 in 2020. Swiss biotechs employed more than 16,000 people in 2020.

High-profile companies in Switzerland include CRISPR Therapeutics, ADC Therapeutics, AC Immune, Idorsia, and Basilea. 

Smaller biotech companies and startups in Switzerland are often spun-out and supported by a number of academic institutions, incubators, and accelerators. Examples include the ETH Zurich, the University of Zurich, the University of Basel, the EPF Lausanne, StartLab, and BaseLaunch. 

With helpful tips from local experts, we’ve put together a list of promising biotech startups in Switzerland.

10. Balderton launches $680M ‘early growth’ fund to lure startups looking for a different kind of capital.

It plans to invest between $25 million and $50 million per company through both primary and secondary investments. The fund will be lead by Bernard Liautaud, David Thévenon and Rana Yared.

Since its founding in 2000, Balderton has raised $4 billion to invest in European startups and backed more than 230 companies, primarily at the Series A stage. Its investments include Depop, GoCardless, Infarm, Revolut, THG, Vestiaire Collective and Zego. The firm’s “Liquidity I” portfolio also includes Darktrace, Flywire, Graphcore and Truecaller.

Bernard Liautaud, managing partner said: “I’ve been an investor at Balderton since 2008, and it has been incredible to see the increasing number of ambitious European founders, and to be able to support them financially through those critical first three to five years with our early-stage funds. With this Growth Fund, we can now support them as they scale to become global industry leaders. We predict a $50 billion growth opportunity in Europe in the next three years alone, and we want to be the first choice for those ambitious founders.”

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