“Interest in MomentFeed has grown significantly as multi-location brands look to influence a purchase decision that often starts with a mobile search, a trend that has accelerated during COVID-19.” — Nick Hedges, MomentFeed CEO
SANTA MONICA, Calif. (PRWEB) July 29, 2020
MomentFeed, the leading provider of Proximity Search Optimization software, today announced it has closed $10 million in funding led by private equity firm Level Equity. Previous investors Signia Venture Partners, Draper Nexus, and DFJ Frontier also participated. To date the company has raised more than $38.3 million in funding.
MomentFeed helps multi-location brand marketers capitalize on the digitally-driven consumer, who turns to their mobile device to research nearly every purchase. This same consumer increasingly prioritizes convenience over brand as demonstrated by the rise in unbranded “near me” searches such as “grocery store near me” on Google and other discovery networks.
To succeed in this new era, the most recognized, multi-location brands have turned to MomentFeed to ensure their brand is visible when nearby consumers search. The company’s Proximity Search Optimization platform helps brands effectively manage local listings, local reviews and ratings, and local social media across hundreds or even thousands of locations.
MomentFeed CEO Nick Hedges credits the success and growth of the company to an obsessive customer focus that has become even more important as the company helps its clients maintain high levels of digital visibility during COVID-19.
“Interest in MomentFeed has grown significantly as multi-location brands look to influence a purchase decision that often starts with a mobile search, a trend that has accelerated during COVID-19,” said Hedges. “Brands want to be the first to show up in mobile search results with accurate, trustworthy information that instills confidence and drives sales. We believe we have the best platform in the industry to help our clients achieve these goals today, but also recognize there is opportunity for innovation to help our clients continue to excel. This funding will help us do just that.”
The capital infusion will fuel MomentFeed’s efforts to meet growing demand for its Proximity Search Optimization platform, helping multi-location brands continue to outperform competitors in proximity discovery, reputation, and loyalty. MomentFeed is committed to being the platform innovation leader and will more than double the size of its research and development team by the end of 2020.
Earlier this month the company unveiled its most recent innovation, a Proximity Search Optimization Dashboard that helps multi-location marketers more easily stay on top of the five key factors needed to target and convert local consumers.
“We are very excited by the direction that MomentFeed is headed in and are delighted to have the opportunity to lead this new round,” said Sarah Sommer, partner at Level Equity. “This is an already large and now accelerating category as MomentFeed becomes business essential. We are really pleased to be able to support MomentFeed in this next wave of innovation and growth.”
“As we look ahead to the next decade, we see massive greenfield opportunities to reimagine how online and offline experiences are connected. We remain steadfast in our mission to unite mobile consumers with brands locally,” said Hedges.
MomentFeed is the leading Proximity Search Optimization platform trusted by many of the largest multi-location brands in the restaurant, retail, automotive, hospitality, and financial services industries. Proximity Search Optimization is gaining significant interest from CMOs of multi-location, national brands and franchises as a way to show up locally, at the precise moment a customer has a need. MomentFeed makes it possible for national brands to execute hyperlocal marketing campaigns at scale – driving local awareness, in-store traffic, and more calls for appointments and orders.
Founded in 2010, MomentFeed is headquartered in Santa Monica, California. An Inc 5000 Fastest Growing Privately Held Company, it was also named a Comparably Best Company.
ABOUT LEVEL EQUITY
Based in New York, NY, Level Equity is a private investment firm focused on rapidly growing software and technology-driven businesses. Level provides long term capital across all transaction types in support of continued growth. The firm has raised $1.7 billion in committed capital. For more information, visit http://www.levelequity.com.
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Serenade snags $2.1M seed round to turn speech into code
Several years ago Serenade co-founder Matt Wiethoff was a developer at Quora when he was diagnosed with a severe repetitive stress injury to his hand and couldn’t code. He and co-founder Tommy MacWilliam decided to use AI to create a tool that let him speak the code instead, and Serenade was born.
Today, the company announced a $2.1 million seed investment led by Amplify Partners and Neo. While it was at it, the startup also announced the first commercial version of the product, Serenade Pro.
“Serenade is an app that you’ll download onto your computer. It will plug into your existing editors like Visual Studio Code or IntelliJ, and then allows you to speak your code,” co-founder MacWilliam told me. At that point the startup’s AI engine takes over and translates what you say into syntactically correct code.
He says that while there are a bunch of generalized speech-to-text engines out there, they hadn’t been able to find anything that was tuned specifically for the requirements of someone entering code. While it may seem that this would have a pretty narrow market focus, the co-founders see this use case as simply a starting point with developers using this kind of technology even when not injured.
“Our vision is that this is just the future of programming. With machine learning, coding becomes faster and easier than ever before, and our AI eliminates a lot of the rote mechanical parts of programming. So rather than needing to remember keyboard shortcuts or syntax details of a language, you can just focus on expressing your idea naturally, and then our machine learning takes care of translating that into actual code for you,” MacWilliam explained.
The startup has five employees today, but has plans to build the company to 15-20 in the next year fueled by the introduction of the commercial product and the new funding. As they build the company, MacWilliam says being diverse is a big part of that.
“Our diversity strategy ranges throughout the process. I think it starts at the top of the funnel. We need to make sure that we’re going out and reaching great people — there are great people everywhere and it’s on us to find them and convince them why working at Serenade would be great,” he said. They are working with a variety of sources to find a diverse group of candidates that stretches beyond their own personal network, then looking at how they interview and judge candidates’ skill sets with the goal of building a more diverse employee base.
The company sees itself as a way to move beyond the keyboard to speaking your code, and it intends to use this money to continue building the product, while building a community of dedicated users. “We’ll be thinking about how we can showcase the value of coding by voice, how we can put together demos and build a community of product champions showing that [it’s faster to code using your voice],” he said.
Why is GoCardless COO Carlos Gonzalez-Cadenas pivoting to become a full-time VC?
Index Ventures, a London- and San Francisco-headquartered venture capital firm that primarily invests in Europe and the U.S., recently announced its latest partner. Carlos Gonzalez-Cadenas, currently COO of London-based fintech GoCardless and previously the chief product officer of Skyscanner, will join Index in January.
Gonzalez-Cadenas is a seasoned entrepreneur and operator, but has also become a prolific angel investor in the U.K. and Europe over the last three years, making more than 50 angel investments in total. Well-regarded by founders and co-investors, his transition to a full-time role in venture capital feels like quite a natural one.
Earlier this week, TechCrunch caught up with Gonzalez-Cadenas over Zoom to learn more about his new role at Index and how he intends to source deals and support founders. Index’s latest hire also shared his insights on Europe’s venture market, describing this era as the “best moment in entrepreneurship in Europe.”
TechCrunch: Let me start by asking, why do you want to become a VC? You’re obviously a well-established entrepreneur and operator, are you sure venture capital is the career for you?
Carlos Gonzalez-Cadenas: I’ve been an angel investor for the last three years and this is something that has basically grown for me quite organically. I started doing just a handful and seeing if this is something I like and over time it has grown quite a lot and so has the number of entrepreneurs I’m partnered with. And this is something I’ve been increasingly more excited to do. So it has grown organically and something that emotionally has been getting closer and closer as time has passed.
And the things I like more specifically are: One, I’m quite a curious person, and for me, investing gives you the possibility of learning a lot about different sectors, about different entrepreneurs, different ways of building businesses, and that is something that I enjoy a lot.
The second bit is that I care a lot about helping entrepreneurs, especially the next generation of entrepreneurs, build great businesses in Europe. I’ve been very lucky, in the past, to learn from great people, like Gareth [Williams, Skyscanner co-founder] and Hiroki [Takeuchi. CEO at GoCardless], in my journey. I feel a duty of helping the next generation of entrepreneurs and sharing all the things that I’ve learnt. I care a lot about setting up founders as much as possible for success and sharing all those experiences I’ve learned [from].
These are the key two motivations that have led me to decide that it would be a great time now to move to the investing side.
How have you managed your deal flow while having a full-time job and where is that deal flow coming from?
It is typically coming in three buckets. A part of it is coming from my entrepreneur and operator network. So there are entrepreneurs and operators I know that are referring other entrepreneurs to me. Another bucket is other investors that I typically co-invest with. Another bucket is venture capitalists. I basically tend to invest quite a lot with VCs and in some cases they are referring deals to me.
In terms of managing it alongside GoCardless, it takes quite a lot of effort. It requires a lot of dedication and time invested during evenings and weekends.
The good thing is that my network typically tends to send me quite highly curated deals so essentially the deal flow I have luckily tends to be quite high quality, which makes things a bit more manageable. But don’t get me wrong, it still takes quite a lot of effort even if the deal flow is relatively high quality.
Presumably you haven’t been able to be all that hands-on as an angel investor, so how are you going to make that transition and what is it that you think you bring with the operational side to venture?
The way I think about this is, the entrepreneurs I typically invest in and their companies tend to be quite capable in their day-to-day perspective. Where they tend to find more value in interactions with me is what I call the “moments of truth.” Those key decisions, those key points in the journey where essentially it can influence the trajectory of the business in a fundamental way. It could be things like, I am fundraising and I don’t know how to position the business. Or I’m thinking about my strategy for the next 18 months and I will basically welcome an experienced person giving me a qualified opinion.
Or I have a big people problem and I don’t know how to solve that problem and I need that third person who has been in my shoes before. Or it could be that I’m thinking about how to organize my team as I move from startup to scale-up and I need help from someone who has scaled teams before. Or could be that I’m hiring three executives and I don’t know what a great CMO looks like. It’s those high-impact, high-leverage questions that the entrepreneurs tend to find helpful engaging with me, as opposed to very detailed day-to-day things that most of the entrepreneurs I work with tend to be quite capable of doing. And so far that model is working. The other thing is that the model is quite scalable because you are engaging 2-3 times per year but those times are high quality and highly impactful for the entrepreneur.
I typically also tend to have pretty regular and frequent communication with entrepreneurs on Slack. It’s more like quick questions that can be solved, and I tend to get quite a lot of that. So I think it’s that bimodel approach of high-frequency questions that we can solve by asynchronous means or high-impact moments a few times per year where, essentially, we need to sit down and we need to think together deeply about the problem.
And I tend to do nothing in the middle, where essentially, it’s stuff that is not so impactful but takes a huge amount of time for everyone, that doesn’t tend to be the most effective way of helping entrepreneurs. Obviously, I’m guided by what entrepreneurs want from perspective, so I’m always training the models in response to what they need.
Portugal’s Faber reaches $24.3M for its second fund aimed at data-driven startups from Iberia
Portuguese VC Faber has hit the first close of its Faber Tech II fund at €20.5 million ($24.3 million). The fund will focus on early-stage data-driven startups starting from Southern Europe and the Iberian peninsula, with the aim of reaching a final close of €30 million in the coming months. The new fund targets pre-series A and early-stage startups in Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning and Data Science.
The fund is backed by European Investment Fund (EIF) and the local Financial Development Institution (IFD), with a joint commitment of €15 million (backed by the Investment Plan for Europe – the Juncker Plan and through the Portugal Tech program), alongside other private institutional and individual investors.
Alexandre Barbosa, Faber’s Managing Partner, said “The success of the first close of our new fund allows us to foresee a growth in the demand for this type of investment, as we believe digital transformation through Intelligence Artificial, Machine Learning and data science are increasingly relevant for companies and their businesses, and we think Southern Europe will be the launchpad of a growing number.”
Faber has already ‘warehoused’ three initial investments. It co-financed a 15.6 million euros Series A for SWORD Health – portuguese startup that created the first digital physiotherapy system combining artificial intelligence and clinical teams. It led the pre-seed round of YData, a startup with a data-centric development platform that provides data science professionals tools to deal with accessing high-quality and meaningful data while protecting its privacy. It also co-financed the pre-seed round of Emotai, a neuroscience-powered analytics and performance-boosting platform for virtual sports.
Faber was a first local investor in the first wave of Portugal’s most promising startups, such as Seedrs (co-founded by Carlos Silva, one f Faber’s Partners) which recently announced its merger with CrowdCube); Unbabel; Codacy and Hole19, among others.
Faber’s main focus is deep-tech and data science startups and as such it’s assembled around 20 experts, researchers, Data Scientists, CTO’s, Founders, AI and Machine Learning professors, as part of its investment strategy.
In particular, it’s created the new role of Professor-in-residence, the first of whom is renowned professor Mário Figueiredo from Lisbon’s leading tech university Instituto Superior Técnico. His interests include signal processing, machine learning, AI and optimization, being a highly cited researcher in these fields.
Speaking to TechCrunch in an interview Barbosa added: “We’ve seen first-time, but also second and third-time entrepreneurs coming over to Lisbon, Porto, Barcelona, Valencia, Madrid and experimenting with their next startup and considering starting-up from Iberia in the first place. But also successful entrepreneurs considering extending their engineering teams to Portugal and building engineering hubs in Portugal or Spain.”
“We’ve been historically countercyclical, so we found that startups came to, and appears in Iberia back in 2012 / 2013. This time around mid-2020, we’re very bullish on what’s we can do for the entrepreneurial engine of the economy. We see a lot happening – especially around our thesis – which is basically the data stack, all things data AI-driven, machine learning, data science, and we see that as a very relevant core. A lot of the transformation and digitization is happening right now, so we see a lot of promising stuff going on and a lot of promising talent establishing and setting up companies in Portugal and Spain – so that’s why we think this story is relevant for Europe as a whole.”
Which emerging technologies are enterprise companies getting serious about in 2020?
Startups need to live in the future. They create roadmaps, build products and continually upgrade them with an eye on next year — or even a few years out.
Big companies, often the target customers for startups, live in a much more near-term world. They buy technologies that can solve problems they know about today, rather than those they may face a couple bends down the road. In other words, they’re driving a Dodge, and most tech entrepreneurs are driving a DeLorean equipped with a flux-capacitor.
That situation can lead to a huge waste of time for startups that want to sell to enterprise customers: a business development black hole. Startups are talking about technology shifts and customer demands that the executives inside the large company — even if they have “innovation,” “IT,” or “emerging technology” in their titles — just don’t see as an urgent priority yet, or can’t sell to their colleagues.
Rather than asking large companies about which technologies they were experimenting with, we created four buckets, based on what you might call “commitment level.” (Our survey had 211 respondents, 62% of them in North America and 59% at companies with greater than $1 billion in annual revenue.) We asked survey respondents to assess a list of 16 technologies, from advanced analytics to quantum computing, and put each one into one of these four buckets. We conducted the survey at the tail end of Q3 2020.
Respondents in the first group were “not exploring or investing” — in other words, “we don’t care about this right now.” The top technology there was quantum computing.
Bucket #2 was the second-lowest commitment level: “learning and exploring.” At this stage, a startup gets to educate its prospective corporate customer about an emerging technology — but nabbing a purchase commitment is still quite a few exits down the highway. It can be constructive to begin building relationships when a company is at this stage, but your sales staff shouldn’t start calculating their commissions just yet.
Here are the top five things that fell into the “learning and exploring” cohort, in ranked order:
- Augmented reality/mixed reality.
- Virtual reality.
- AI/machine learning.
- Wearable devices.
Technologies in the third group, “investing or piloting,” may represent the sweet spot for startups. At this stage, the corporate customer has already discovered some internal problem or use case that the technology might address. They may have shaken loose some early funding. They may have departments internally, or test sites externally, where they know they can conduct pilots. Often, they’re assessing what established tech vendors like Microsoft, Oracle and Cisco can provide — and they may find their solutions wanting.
Here’s what our survey respondents put into the “investing or piloting” bucket, in ranked order:
- Advanced analytics.
- AI/machine learning.
- Collaboration tools and software.
- Cloud infrastructure and services.
- Internet of things/new sensors.
By the time a technology is placed into the fourth category, which we dubbed “in-market or accelerating investment,” it may be too late for a startup to find a foothold. There’s already a clear understanding of at least some of the use cases or problems that need solving, and return-on-investment metrics have been established. But some providers have already been chosen, based on successful pilots and you may need to dislodge someone that the enterprise is already working with. It can happen, but the headwinds are strong.
Here’s what the survey respondents placed into the “in-market or accelerating investment” bucket, in ranked order:
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