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The Crunchbase News Briefing: Mon., Sept. 21

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Here’s what you need to know today in startup and venture news, updated by the Crunchbase News staff throughout the day to keep you in the know.

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Nikola founder steps down amid regulatory probe, stock plunge

Electric truck startup Nikola Corp.’s shares fell as much as 37 percent in pre-market trading Monday. The plunge took place amid an SEC regulatory probe which has prompted company founder and chairman Trevor Milton to step down, according to reports.

In a statement, Milton wrote, “Nikola is truly in my blood and always will be, and the focus should be on the company and its world-changing mission, not me. So I made the difficult decision to approach the board and volunteer to step aside.”

Milton has been replaced by Stephen Girsky, the former General Motors vice chairman who oversaw Nikola’s stock listing and helped broker their partnership with the Detroit mega-corporation.

Nikola’s falling stocks have impacted General Motors, which took an 11 percent equity stake in Nikola earlier this month. GM officials said the company will continue to finalize its deal with the startup after Milton’s departure.

Playco raises $100M for gaming platform

Playco, a  newly launched developer of  instant games across a variety of platforms, has raised $100 million in a Series A funding round at a reported valuation of just over $1 billion.

The Tokyo-headquartered startup created by Game Closure co-founder Michael Carter and Zynga co-founder Justin Waldron.

Sequoia Capital and Mino Games founder Josh Buckley led the round, which comes as digital gaming sees continued strong growth as people seek more at-home activities amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Other news

TikTok deal gets early nod, but ByteDance will hold as subsidiary: China’s ByteDance said on Monday that TikTok’s global business will become its subsidiary, even as Oracle and Walmart said over the weekend that they and U.S. investors would own the majority of the video app following a deal with the Trump administration.

Funding rounds

  • Mobile Premier League raises $90M: India-based gaming startup Mobile Premier League raised $90 million in a Series C round led by SIG, early-stage tech investor RTP Global, and MDI Ventures.
  • Marco Financial secures $26M: Marco Financial, a Miami-based financing platform built for small and medium-sized Latin American exporters selling to U.S. buyers, announced $26 million in pre-seed funding and credit. The funding includes an equity round, led by Struck Capital and Antler, and a credit facility underwritten by Arcadia Funds, LLC.
  • Ahana raises additional $2.3M: Ahana, the self-service analytics company for Presto, announced an additional $2.3 million in seed funding led by new investor Lux Capital with participation from existing investor GV, bringing total funds raised to $4.8 million. The San Mateo, California-based company raised the first part of the seed round in June led by GV. Presto software is an open-source distributed SQL query engine for big data.

Illustration: Dom Guzman

Gene sequencing firm Illumina plans to buy cancer screening startup Grail in a cash-and-stock deal worth $8 billion.

Markets have been rewarding companies with low carbon footprints, and penalizing those with high fossil fuel consumption.

Source: https://news.crunchbase.com/news/briefing-9-21-20/

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The Briefing: RVShare raises over $100M, Google disputes charges, and more

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Here’s what you need to know today in startup and venture news, updated by the Crunchbase News staff throughout the day to keep you in the know.

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RVShare raises over $100M for RV rentals

RVShare, an online marketplace for RV rentals, reportedly raised over $100 million in a financing led by private equity firms KKR and Tritium Partners.

Akron, Ohio-based RVShare has seen sharp growth in demand amid the pandemic, as more would-be travelers seek socially distanced options for hitting the road. Founded in 2013, the company matches RV owners with prospective renters, filtering by location, price and vehicle types.

Previously, RVShare had raised $50 million in known funding, per Crunchbase data, from Tritium Partners. The company is one of several players in the RV rental space, and competes alongside Outdoorsy, a peer-to-peer RV marketplace that has raised $75 million in venture funding.

Funding news

  • BrightFarms closes on $100M: Indoor farming company BrightFarms said it secured more than $100 million in debt and new equity capital to support expansion plans. The Series E round of funding was led by Cox Enterprises, which now owns a majority stake in the company, and includes a follow-on investment from growth equity firm Catalyst Investors.
  • Anyscale inks $40MAnyscale, the Berkeley-based company behind the Ray open source project for building applications, announced $40 million in an oversubscribed Series B funding round. Existing investor NEA led the round and was joined by Andreessen Horowitz, Intel Capital and Foundation Capital. The new funding brings Anyscale’s total funding to more than $60 million.
  • Klar deposits $15M: Mexican fintech Klar closed on $15 million in Series A funding, led by Prosus Ventures, with participation from new investor International Finance Corporation and existing investors Quona Capital, Mouro Capital and Acrew. The round brings total funding raised to approximately $72 million since the company was founded in 2019. The funds are intended to grow Klar’s engineering capabilities in both its Berlin and Mexico hubs.
  • O(1) Labs rakes in $10.9M: O(1) Labs, the team behind the cryptocurrency Mina, announced $10.9 million in a strategic investment round. Co-leading the round are Bixin Ventures and Three Arrows Capital with participation from SNZ, HashKey Capital, Signum Capital, NGC Ventures, Fenbushi Capital and IOSG Ventures.
  • Blustream bags $3M: After-sale customer engagement company Blustream said it raised $3 million in seed funding for product usage data and digital transformation efforts for physical goods companies via the Blustream Product Experience Platform. York IE led the round of funding for the Worcester, Massachusetts-based company with additional support from existing investors.Pillar secures another $1.5M: Pillar, a startup that helps families protect and care for their loved ones, raised $1.5 million in a seed extension to close at $7 million, The round was led by Kleiner Perkins.

Other news

  • Google rejects DOJ antitrust arguments: In the wake of a widely anticipated U.S. Justice Department antitrust suit against Google, the search giant disputed the charges in a statement, maintaining that: “People use Google because they choose to, not because they’re forced to, or because they can’t find alternatives.”
  • Facebook said to test Nextdoor rival: Facebook is reportedly testing a service similar to popular neighborhood-focused social Nextdoor. Called Neighborhoods, the feature reportedly suggests local neighborhood groups to join on Facebook.

Illustration: Dom Guzman

Venture investors and leaders in the fintech space can visualize a future where such startups will move toward again rebundling services.

Root Inc., the parent company of Root Insurance, launched its initial public offering and is looking at a valuation of as much as $6.34 billion.

Clover Health posted rising revenues and a narrower loss in its most recent financial results, published in advance of a planned public market debut.

Crunchbase News’ top picks of the news to stay current in the VC and startup world.

Source: https://news.crunchbase.com/news/briefing-10-21-20/

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Syte Sees $30M Series C For Product Discovery

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Online shopping has become the norm for most people in 2020, even coaxing traditional retail brands to up their presence to stay competitive. However, now that shoppers can’t see and touch products like they used to, e-commerce discovery has become a crucial element for customer acquisition and retention.

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Enter Syte, an Israel-based company that touts creating the world’s first product discovery platform that utilizes the senses, such as visual, text and voice, and then leverages visual artificial intelligence and next-generation personalization to create individualized and memorable customer experiences, Syte co-founder and CEO Ofer Fryman told Crunchbase News.

To execute on this, the company raised $30 million in Series C funding and an additional $10 million in debt. Viola Ventures led the round and was joined by LG Technology Ventures, La Maison, MizMaa Ventures and Kreos Capital, as well as existing investors Magma, Naver Corporation, Commerce Ventures, Storm Ventures, Axess Ventures, Remagine Media Ventures and KDS Media Fund.

This brings the company’s total fundraising to $71 million since its inception in 2015. That includes a $21.5 million Series B, also led by Viola, in 2019, according to Crunchbase data.

Fryman intends for the new funding to be put to work on product enhancements and geographic expansion. Syte already has an established customer base in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, and will now focus expansion in the U.S. and Asia-Pacific.

Meanwhile, Syte has grown 22 percent quarter over quarter, as well as experienced a 38 percent expansion of its customer base since the beginning of 2020.

“Since we crossed $1 million annual recurring revenue, we have been tripling revenue while also becoming more efficient,” Fryman said. “We can accelerate growth as well as build an amazing technology and solution for a business that needs it right now. We plan to grow further, and even though our SaaS metrics are excellent right now, our goal is to improve them.”

Anshul Agarwal, managing director at LG Technology Ventures, said Syte was an attractive investment due in part to its unique technology.

“They have a deep-learning system and have created a new category, product discovery that will enable online shopping in a way we never had the ability to do before,” Agarwal said. “The product market fit was also unique. We believe in the strong execution by the team and the rapid growth in SaaS. We looked at many different companies, and the SaaS metrics that Syte showed are the strongest we’ve seen in a while.”

Illustration: Li-Anne Dias

Venture investors and leaders in the fintech space can visualize a future where such startups will move toward again rebundling services.

Root Inc., the parent company of Root Insurance, launched its initial public offering and is looking at a valuation of as much as $6.34 billion.

Clover Health posted rising revenues and a narrower loss in its most recent financial results, published in advance of a planned public market debut.

Crunchbase News’ top picks of the news to stay current in the VC and startup world.

Source: https://news.crunchbase.com/news/syte-sees-30m-series-c-for-product-discovery/

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Intellimize Closes $12M Round Of New Funding

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Website optimization startup Intellimize has landed $12 million in new funding, the company announced Wednesday. 

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Intellimize automatically optimizes websites using artificial intelligence. Marketers are able to use the software to try different experiences in parallel and in real time. 

“With A/B testing, all the work is on me,” said CEO Guy Yalif in an interview with Crunchbase News. “With intelligent website optimization, the work is on the machine.”

The company uses machine learning to adjust web pages to respond to a customer’s behavior over time. When a customer goes on a company’s website, Intellimize can give the  customer’s location, time of day, previous website behavior summary, traffic source and other information so marketers can optimize the customer’s experience.

Intellimize says it delivers an average of 46 percent increase in online conversations. And more online conversations can lead to more sales and revenue.

Intellimize, which is based in San Mateo, competes with companies like Granify, accoridng to Owler. 

Addition led the round, with participation from previous investors including Homebrew, Amplify Partners, and Precursor Ventures. The new round brings Intellimize’s total funding to $22 million.

In terms of growth, Yalif said Intellimize had seen its in-target revenue grow 5x in the last year. The company counts Snowflake, Sumo Logic, Tableau, and Unilever Prestige among its customers.

The company plans on using the new funding to significantly expand its team, with a particular focus on people with machine learning expertise, Yalif said.

Intellimize last raised an $8 million Series A led by Amplify Partners in April 2019.

Illustration: Li-Anne Dias

The commerce platform helps direct-to-consumer and B2B brands establish an e-commerce platform designed for their needs.

San Francisco-based Handshake has raised an $80 million Series D led by GGV Capital. 

The SPAC phenomenon is opening the door to the kinds of companies that in recent years have not been tapping public markets.

There’s a lot that’s lost in the clamor to “do something” about the tech industry, namely the impact on smaller companies and the overall innovation…

Source: https://news.crunchbase.com/news/intellimize-closes-12m-round-of-new-funding/

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