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BlaBlaCar partners with scooter startup Voi to launch new BlaBla Ride app

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Long-distance ridesharing startup BlaBlaCar announced that it is expanding to scooter sharing. But the company isn’t going to operate its own fleet of scooters. Instead, BlaBlaCar is partnering with Voi, a European e-scooter service that has raised $136 million over multiple rounds.

Voi operates in dozens of European cities, including Paris, Marseille and Lyon. Over the next few weeks, Voi scooters will feature three different brands — Voi, BlaBlaCar and BlaBla Ride.

Existing Voi members will still be able to use the Voi app. But BlaBlaCar also plans to launch its own app, BlaBla Ride. Existing BlaBlaCar users will be able to log in with their BlaBlaCar accounts.

According to AFP, BlaBlaCar says it isn’t a financial transaction — it’s just a partnership that could benefit users of both platforms.

BlaBlaCar has launched several new services over the past couple of years. It has acquired Ouibus and rebranded it to BlaBlaBus. And, it operates a carpooling marketplace for daily commutes between your home and your workplace called BlaBlaLines.

Interestingly, unlike Grab, Gojek and Uber, BlaBlaCar isn’t building a super app to access several different services. BlaBlaLines is still a separate app, for instance. It creates some friction for users that could be interested in multiple services.

The company thinks BlaBla Ride could be a great solution for the last mile of your ride. A bus or carpooling driver could drop you off in the city center and you could then unlock a scooter to reach your destination.

Source: https://techcrunch.com/2020/05/26/blablacar-partners-with-scooter-startup-voi-to-launch-new-blabla-ride-app/

Private Equity

K Fund’s Jaime Novoa discusses early-stage firm’s focus on Spanish startups

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Earlier this month, Spanish early-stage venture capital firm K Fund officially launched its second fund, which sits at €70 million, up from €50 million the first time around.

Targeting Spanish startups with an international outlook, the seed-stage firm plans to invest from €200,000 to €2 million, writing first checks in 25-30 companies. Meanwhile, a portion of the fund will also be set aside for follow-on funding for the most promising of its portfolio.

Described as business model- and sector-agnostic, K Fund currently has a mix of B2B and B2C companies in its portfolio across a wide variety of sectors, such as travel, fintech, insurtech and others. They include online travel agency Exoticca, HR software Factorial, insurtech startup Bdeo and Hubtype, a conversational messaging tech provider.

I caught up with K Fund’s Jaime Novoa to delve deeper into the firm’s investment remit, how the Spanish startup and tech ecosystem has developed over the last few years and to learn more about “K Founders,” the VC’s new pre-seed funding program.

TechCrunch: K Fund’s first fund was announced in late 2016 to back startups in Spain with an international outlook at seed and Series A. At €70 million, this second fund is €20 million larger but I gather the remit remains broadly the same. Can you be more specific with regards to cheque size, geography, sector and the types of startups you look for?

Jaime Novoa: We’re both agnostic in terms of business models and industries. Since our focus is, for the most part, Spain, we do not believe that the Spanish market is big enough to build a vertically focused fund, either in terms of business model or sector.

With our first fund we invested in 28 companies, with a slightly larger number of B2B SaaS companies than B2C ones, and across a wide variety of sectors. We do have a bit of exposure to travel and fintech/insurtech, but that’s because we’ve found several interesting companies in those spaces, not because we proactively said, “let’s invest in fintech/travel.”

In terms of check sizes, the core of the fund will be to make the same type of investments as in our first fund: first cheques from €200k to €2m and then sufficient capital for follow-on rounds. We’ll probably do a similar number of deals compared to the previous fund, but we want to have additional capital for follow-on purposes.

Source: https://techcrunch.com/2020/07/09/k-funds-jaime-novoa-discusses-early-stage-firms-focus-on-spanish-startups/

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Creandum backs Amie, a new productivity app from ex-N26 product manager Dennis Müller

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Amie, a new productivity app from ex-N26 product manager Dennis Müller, has picked up $1.3 million in pre-seed funding to “kickstart” development and hiring.

Backing 23 year-old Müller is Creandum — the European VC best known for being an early investor in Spotify — along with Tiny.VC and a plethora of angels. They include Laura Grimmelmann (Ex-Accel), Nicolas Kopp (CEO, N26 U.S.), Roland Grenke (Dubsmash co-founder) and Zachary Smith (SVP of product at U.S. challenger bank Chime).

Founded early this year and with a planned launch in early 2021, Berlin-based Amie is developing a productivity app that combines a person’s calendar and to-dos in one place. Previously called coco, it promises to work across all devices, with an interface that “works just like you think”.

“Back in the day, you had a calendar on your office wall, and a to-do list on a notepad,” Müller tells me. “You could take your list with you elsewhere, but not your calendar. Those were digitized instead of rethinking the flow. Most productivity apps solve very specific problems, creating a new one, [and] users need too many tools”.

Amie pre-release app screenshot

Müller says Amie is built on the principle that “to-dos, habits and events all take time, and all belong in the same place”. Many people already schedule to-dos and the startup wants offer the fastest way to create to-dos, schedule events, check your calendar “and even jump into Zoom calls”.

As a glimpse of what’s to come, Amie promises to let you drag ‘n’ drop to-dos into your day, or turn links and screenshots into to-dos. “With Amie’s Alfred-like app, you can create an event and invite people in a different timezone, all while other apps are still loading,” says the young company.

More broadly, Amie wants to act as a central workspace, letting you also do things like join video calls, take notes, and do email, without the need to open extra browser tabs and therefore avoid “context switching”.

“Amie will target professionals who are currently using Google Calendar, due to our integration,” adds Müller. “The waitlist already counts thousands of users, who are mostly professionals working in the tech industry e.g. designers, developers, bizdevs, etc”.

Source: https://techcrunch.com/2020/07/09/amie/

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As pandemic drags on, interest in automation surges

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Today, the U.S. exceeded three million COVID-19 cases and 132,000 deaths. In several states, new hotspots have rolled back plans to reopen businesses. The novel coronavirus has — and will continue — to profoundly impact the way we live and work.

For the moment, that includes a shift in the employment status of many Americans. More than 50 million people have filed for unemployment since mid-March. And while many states have made efforts to reopen businesses and return some sense of normality, these moves have led to a spike in cases and may prolong the pandemic and its ongoing economic impact.

Technology has been a lifeline for many, from food delivery to the 3D printing I highlighted last week, which has worked to address a nation suffering from personal protective equipment shortages. Automation and robotics have also been a constant in conversations around tech’s battle against COVID-19.

Robots don’t get sick, tired or emotionally burnt out, and unlike us, they aren’t walking, talking disease vectors. Automation advocates like to point to the “three Ds” of dull, dirty and dangerous jobs that will eventually be replaced by a robotic workforce, but in the age of COVID-19, nearly any essential job qualifies.

The robotic invasion has already begun in earnest. The service, delivery, health care and sanitation industries in particular have all opened a massive gap over the past several months that automation has been more than happy to roll right through. A recent report from The Brookings Institute notes that automation arrives in the workforce in fits and starts — most notably, during times of economic downturn.

“Robots’ infiltration of the workforce doesn’t occur at a steady, gradual pace. Instead, automation happens in bursts, concentrated especially in bad times such as in the wake of economic shocks, when humans become relatively more expensive as firms’ revenues rapidly decline,” the study found. “At these moments, employers shed less-skilled workers and replace them with technology and higher-skilled workers, which increases labor productivity as a recession tapers off.”

Source: https://techcrunch.com/2020/07/09/as-pandemic-drags-on-interest-in-automation-surges/

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