Startup Monday: Latest tech trends & news happening in the global startup ecosystem (Issue 45)


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Top startups news to follow this week:

1. BrightChamps, an Indian edtech startup that is attempting to bridge the learning gap left by K12 schools, has raised $51 million in a new financing round and $63 million since launching a year ago as the Goa-headquartered firm looks to expand its footprints in over 10 nations.

The startup, which is valued at nearly $500 million in the new financing round led by Premji Invest (the private investment office of technology billionaire Azim Premji), teaches kids programming and other skills in over 10 markets including several in Southeast Asia, as well as the U.S., and Canada, BrightChamps co-founder and chief executive Ravi Bhushan told TechCrunch in an interview.

The startup — which has amassed over a hundred thousand registered students, and achieved profitability — is “building a ‘weapon of mass instruction’ and is leading the disruptive wave which will make India one of the largest exporters of transformative digital education,” said Deborah Quazo, Managing partner at GSV Ventures, in a statement. TechCrunch reported in July that BrightChamps was engaging with investors to raise money at over $500 million valuations.

Over a thousand teachers across the globe have joined BrightChamps to teach kids, Bhushan said. “Children have the option to learn skills in any local language they prefer,” he said, adding that the startup is working to expand its offerings. It will soon add financial literacy to its curriculum, he said.

2. Indian led online used car marketplace Spinny has raised $285 million in its Series E funding round, led by Abu Dhabi-based ADQ and New York-based investment firm Tiger Global.

The round marks its entry to the unicorn club. Spinny is present in the top 15 Indian cities and is expected to expand to 25 cities by the end of the next calendar year.

3. Mobile marketing firm YellowHead and Facebook/Meta have launched the Meta Startup Hub, which is providing a variety of help to Israeli startups.

Both companies will provide dedicated teams in Israel to help startups with digital marketing, talent recruitment, and training in addition to “day-to-day care” for startups at a hub in Tel Aviv.

New York and Israel-based YellowHead provides digital marketing services, such as providing analytics for creative advertising material for mobile game companies.

Meta’s extensive activities in Israel include a series of unique training programs designed to support Israeli startups and help them acquire the tools to accelerate sales and expand into new markets. Several new programs started in the last year, such as the E-Commerce School and the B2C Bootcamp, which train dozens of businesses every cycle and are a significant step in their growth process. The Meta Startup Hub marks an evolution of these programs, offering long-term support to growing businesses.

4. Volvo Cars Tech Fund invested $2 million into optics and imaging developer Spectralics, funds it will use to accelerate the development of its optical film that the company says could make cars safer and provide a better user experience. While the investment might not seem significant, the relationship with Volvo could prove fruitful, particularly if its tech ends up in production vehicles. 

Spectralics is developing a see-through optical overlay, also known as a “multi-layered thin combiner,” that can be integrated onto a car’s windshield or windows. Spectralics says this creates a wider field of view and, crucially, a sense of distance — both necessary for a safe augmented reality overlay.

Outside of the vehicle, the tech could also be used for smart glasses, optical systems, and other head-up displays. It’s the latest sign that augmented and virtual reality are moving beyond gaming and consumer goods and into the vehicle. It’s arguably part of a wider shift of automotive OEMs distinguishing new cars not by horsepower but by user experiences and technology offerings.

5. Sales of plant-based alternatives, like dairy and meat, are surging in the global market, and Perfeggt wants to do the same for the egg.

The Berlin-based foodtech company is poised to debut its chicken-less egg product in the first quarter of 2022 in Germany, Switzerland, and Austria. Today, the company announced it raised $2.8 million in its first funding round to aid the initial launch and then expand further in Europe later in 2022.

“I really believe we deserve better food,” Bogumil told TechCrunch. “My mother’s family is from an agriculture background in small-scale farming, so I have always been conscious of where the food we eat comes from. I turned vegetarian at 12 when my uncle brought me to a slaughterhouse to show me that the sausages I ate were not made the right way. I didn’t fully get what was happening there, but it didn’t feel right or humane.”

Unlike dairy, where there is already sustainability, she believes the egg is still largely untapped. Sure, there are companies making similar plant-based alternatives, like Simply Eggless and Just Eat, which raised $200 million earlier in the summer, but worldwide, more than 1.3 trillion eggs are produced annually, meaning there is room to grow, and applications are versatile, Bogumil said.

Perfeggt’s first plant-based egg product is a protein-rich liquid alternative made from fava beans. It can be prepared as a scrambled egg or omelet in the pan. The company will initially be launching its product with food service organizations.

6. TabTrader raises $5.8M for a mobile app that aggregates crypto exchange data. Amsterdam-based startup TabTrader has been capitalizing on this search with a platform that aggregates prices and token availability across dozens of exchanges. While other platforms allow users to look at token prices across exchanges, most are desktop-optimized while TabTrader has built up a substantial presence for its mobile app on iOS and Android.

As different exchanges take different approaches toward onboarding new tokens, crypto traders are increasingly signing up for accounts on multiple exchanges and tracking prices across multiple apps with multiple notification types set for each. Many users rely on TabTrader for its cross-exchange price alert feature, notifying users when a particular token has gone above or below a certain value. While plenty of exchanges offer this functionality inside their native apps, the reliability and customizability of these push notifications have often been inconsistent.

CEO Kirill Suslov tells TechCrunch that the TabTrader app has more than 400,000 active users, with particularly strong presences in Europe and Asia.

The startup has adopted a Kayak-like model, aggregating prices for tokens and picking up rebate fees from exchanges when users make a purchase through the app. While users plug their wallet info into the app to easily make purchases through connected exchanges, Suslov says that TabTrader never has access to user funds.

Alongside these rebates, TabTrader also makes money through a $12 monthly subscription for a paid version, as well as advertising. Suslov says his 20-person team has scaled to reach their current audience without any paid marketing.

While tens of millions of users have created accounts on centralized exchanges like Coinbase and Binance, Suslov says that TabTrader’s biggest opportunity may be embracing so-called decentralized exchanges like Uniswap, which allow users to rapidly exchange tokens with other users.

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7. Kodiak Robotics, one of the last privately held autonomous truck outfits in Silicon Valley, has raised $125 million in new capital, funding that will be used to double its workforce as it pursues a path to commercialization.

Like so many startups, the funding will be used to hire more people. Kodiak is aiming to grow from the 90 people it employs today to about 170 by the end of next year.

Founder and CEO Don Burnette said the hiring is across every department in the company. The new funding will be used to expand operations, and pay for the expansion of its fleet. Kodiak plans to add a minimum of 15 new trucks, for a total of at least 25 autonomous vehicles.

“We need to scale and with scale comes growth across the entire company — more drivers, more operations folks, more engineers,” Burnette said in an interview with TechCrunch. “R&D is definitely the primary utilization of the funds. Scaling the fleet is also a really big one, obviously, as you watch the space you see that there’s an ever-growing interest in commercial traction and customers and partners and miles driven and the size of the autonomous freight network. So we’re going to be expanding all of those efforts and that all costs money.”

8. Balderton Capital based in London is a leading venture capital firm in Europe focused exclusively on backing the best technology companies in the region. Now, the company announced that it has raised its second fund of 2021 for $600 million (nearly £450 million).

This new fund is focused on early-stage companies in an attempt to support its mission and be the leading provider of venture capital to support European startups that have global ambitions. So far, the firm has raised four funds totaling close to $2 billion since 2018 and has active investments in more than 100 companies, employing more than 26,000 people in 50 countries around the world.

9. China’s startups hit by 50% drop in Series A deals due to coronavirus. As our world is shaken in the most dramatic way imaginable, it is time for our global startup community to get closer, support, and learn from each other. Some of us remember the crash of 1987 and the dot-com bubble burst of 2000, in addition to the 2007 financial crisis. Not only is its human impact horrible, but the current economic crisis is more sudden and can easily end up being worse.

China’s industrial output already dropped 13.5% in January and February while retail sales decreased by 20.5% year-on-year. Because venture capitalists invest in medium and long-term potential, the impact was much more acute.

Chinese VC deals have contracted between 50 and 57 percentage points since the onset of the crisis. If a drop like that happens globally, even for just two months, approximately $28 billion in startup investment will go missing in 2020, with a dramatic impact on startups.

If a drop like what we saw in China happens globally, approximately $28 billion in startup investment will go missing in 2020, with a dramatic impact on startups. Many startups will be unable to raise a new round of funding. The first to run out of cash will be those who had started to fundraise in the last few months, nearing the end of their runway before the crash. 

10. SoftBank Group Corp. can invest $5 billion to $10 billion in India next year if it finds valuations attractive, said Rajeev Misra, chief executive officer of SoftBank Investment Advisers.

“If we find the right companies, we could invest $5 billion to $10 billion in 2022,” Misra said on Thursday at the Bloomberg India Economic Forum. “If we find the right opportunities at the right valuation.”

India has been a bright spot for SoftBank, whose Vision Fund reported a record loss of 825.1 billion yen ($7.2 billion) for the quarter ended in September, on the decline in value of public holdings such as the Korean e-commerce giant Coupang Inc. and the Chinese ride-hailing giant Didi Global Inc. The Japanese company invested early in the Indian market, taking a stake in ride-hailing giant Ola and e-commerce leader Flipkart, before its acquisition by Walmart Inc.

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