Startup Monday: Latest tech trends & news happening in the global startup ecosystem (Issue 47)

Episode 40


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Top startups news to follow this week:

1. Many of us are moving around these days a lot less than we used to — because of COVID, we’re working from home instead of an office; and we are traveling and going out less. Now, as we shift back into more “normal” behavior, a startup that’s helping to better understand where and how we are getting around has picked up a significant round of funding.

Placer.ai, which has built a platform to track and understand footfall in a variety of venues, has raised $100 million, funding that it will be using to continue expanding its platform. Placer has confirmed that the round values it at $1 billion.

Today, Placer has around 1,000 customers across real estate and property, retail, consumer packaged goods and municipalities — some of the names include JLL, Regency Centers, Taubman, Planet Fitness, BJ’s Wholesale Club and Grocery Outlet — which are using it to determine anonymized crowd movement, size and sentiment to help with their decision making and strategic planning.

2. Fractal has raised $360 million from TPG in a new financing round and entered the unicorn club as the Mumbai and New York-based AI startup, which counts Google and Wells Fargo among its customers, scales its offerings and begins preparation for an IPO.

Fractal Analytics provides artificial intelligence and analytics solutions to scores of Fortune 100 firms. (A typical customer of Fractal generates at least $10 billion in revenue.) The startup’s offerings include Qure.ai, which assists radiologists in making better diagnostic decisions. Theremin.ai helps firms improve investment decisions, Eugenie.ai assists in finding anomalies in high-velocity data, Samya.ai is fuelling next-generation enterprise revenue growth management and Senseforth.ai helps automate customer interactions at scale to grow top-line and bottom-line.

3. 2021 was a record-breaking year in terms of investments in Israeli tech, and it was revealed on Sunday that Japanese investments played no small part in that. According to research conducted by the Harel-Hertz Investment House Ltd., Japanese investments in Israeli companies in 2021 reached an all-time record high of $2.945 billion, showcasing a rise of 190% compared to the year prior. The number of investments also rose dramatically, leaping from 63 in 2020 to 85 in 2021, while in 2019, that number stood at 70. Japanese investments accounted for 12% of all investments in Israeli companies, and 15.8% of all foreign investments.

An additional positive statistic was the diversity of investments across different fields. In 2015, most investments (61%) focused on telecommunications and internet, but the share of such investments dropped to 13% in 2021, with growth being seen in life sciences, medicine, foodtech, cybersecurity, fintech, cleantech, and the automotive industry.

4. A study compiled by Ilya A. Strebulaev, professor of finance at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business, shows that out of 1,078 founders across 500 US unicorns, 90 entrepreneurs were born in India, signalling the significant presence of Indian Americans in the country’s startup and tech economy.

India-born founders were followed by the ones from Israel and Canada.

5. Blockchain stocks have been gaining significant traction in the stock market lately. For better or worse, it is a technology that is gaining adoption among dozens of publicly traded companies. Some utilize the blockchain to supplement their existing businesses while others are capitalizing on the trend by supporting the technology. For instance, NVIDIA is a leading manufacturer of graphics processing units (GPUs) that play a significant role in cryptocurrency mining. GPUs are important hardware components that cryptocurrency miners use to process transactions on the blockchain. 

Here are blockchain stocks to watch in 2022

  • Block Inc 
  • Coinbase Global Inc 
  • Silvergate Capital Corp 
  • Shopify Inc 
  • CME Group Inc 

6. Singapore-based industrial robotics firm Sesto this week announced a $5.7 million raise, featuring TRIVE, WTI GmbH and SEEDS Capital (Enterprise Singapore’s VC wing). The round follows a similarly sized $4 million Series A, back in 2018.

Sesto has had a busy few years since that round — as have many in the industrial robotics category, as more companies have looked toward automation during the pandemic. In May 2020, the firm launched HealthGUARD, a disinfecting robot that was ahead of the curve of UV-C systems we’ve seen over the past few years.

Last May, Sesto expanded operations to Europe — specifically Austria, Germany and Switzerland. That no doubt explains investment interest this round from EU-based firms. Citing research from GMD, CEO Chor-Chen Ang notes of the round, “We are excited to tap into the growth of Autonomous Mobile Robots in Europe which is projected to expand at a CAGR of 11.8% over the next 4 years from US $4.40B currently.”

Funding will go toward expanding these sorts of international partnerships, market, as well as building out the company’s product offerings and the versatility of its existing robots.

Looking for Funding?

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7. FinDev Canada has injected $13 million into Energy Entrepreneurs Growth Fund (EEGF), which invests in early and growth-stage energy startups in sub-Saharan Africa. Part of the funding will go toward increasing access to clean energy for off-grid households and businesses in the region.

The $120 million EEGF, which was founded in 2019 by the Shell Foundation — and co-funded by UKaid and the Dutch Entrepreneurial Development Bank FMO, extends financing in the form of debt (catalytic or mezzanine) or equity to businesses in the energy sector. The EEGF is managed by Triple Jump; an impact investment manager and advised by Persistent; and a climate venture builder.

“The pandemic has slowed down electrification in Africa, which was already behind before the health crisis. By increasing EEGF’s capacity to invest in this sector, FinDev Canada and its 2X Canada facility support energy companies committed to expanding access to clean and reliable energy for African households and businesses, leading to inclusive and sustainable growth and the improvement of millions of lives,” he said.

The fund invests in at least half of companies that explicitly address the energy needs of women consumers and entrepreneurs in Africa, and those offering renewable energy solutions to businesses and households. It is estimated that sub-Saharan Africa accounts for 75% of the world’s population without access to electricity and renewable energy solutions could be taken up to bridge that gap.

“A just and inclusive energy transition, one that alleviates energy poverty and mitigates climate change, requires an understanding of the financing needs of entrepreneurs, who we are depending on to deliver the world’s energy access goals,” said Shell Foundation’s operations director, Gareth Zahir-Bill.

8. Medtech startup from Copenhagen, Hedia, has just raised an additional €3 million for its technology to manage diabetes. The company is backed by Novo-heirs, and we reckoned it was one to watch back in 2019.

Founded in 2016 by husband-and-wife duo Peter Lucas and Christina Kildentoft, alongside business partner Andreas Jespensgaard, Hedia has developed a piece of medical software that aims to improve the management of insulin-requiring diabetes. Lucas, who is himself a type 1 diabetic, came up with the idea as a way to improve health outcomes for diabetes patients, such as stabilising blood glucose levels. 

The Hedia app contains a CE-marked insulin calculator, giving personalized insulin doses recommendations for its users. The recommendations are based on the user’s meals, physical activities, and current blood sugar level. By assisting with this difficult and time-consuming everyday task for the user, the hope is to give the user a stable blood sugar level for a longer period of time. This is a regulated medical device.

Peter Lucas said: “My father also had type1 diabetes, and I got the diagnosis in my twenties. This is a very time-consuming disease if you don’t get the right help of managing it.”

The fresh funding injection will help the company expand in its key European markets of the UK and Germany, and support work on clinical studies – these studies are crucial for the company’s future international growth plan. 

9. Globally, more than 20 million people report some kind of mobility difficulty each year. The mean age of individuals with minor, moderate, or major difficulty ranged from 59 to 67 years. However, this problem is not uncommon in young adults. People with mobility disability experience many transportation barriers, which hinders their participation in various events. Especially, a staircase is an insurmountable challenge for those who use a wheelchair.

At this juncture, using unexplored technology to great effect, the stair-climbing power wheelchair Scewo BRO has emerged as a savior for many, having won several notable design awards for its efficiency. It has already attracted a lot of users across Germany, Austria and Switzerland, among other nations. The founders of Scewo have brought this technologically sophisticated product to the market in just three years, demonstrating their outstanding talent.

From July-November, 2021, Switzerland-based company Scewo raised a total of CHF 11.5 million in Series A funding round to advance its growth and expansion. With this capital, the startup intends to accelerate company growth as well as international expansion. Verve Ventures, Rajat Khare-led European investment firm Boundary Holding and three more private investors took part in the funding round.

10. Account-Based Marketing (ABM) disruptors, Ocean.io, have just raised €6 million to fuel its US expansion. The funding was led by Peak alongside existing investors.

Founded in 2017, Ocean.io is an account-based data platform that harnesses AI to help sales and marketing teams better focus their time, money and efforts on the accounts that are most likely to buy. With fast, tailored searches, the platform carves through the plethora of information available to focus on accounts that are a perfect fit for a business’s Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) – revolutionising the process for sales and marketing teams. 

According to Salesforce, 92% of B2B marketers use an ABM programme, but, countless businesses are failing to capitalize on the potential of ABM due to inefficient processes and irrelevant prospects. Finding the ICP is a lot more complicated and time-consuming than it might seem.

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