Connect with us

Technology

8 investors discuss Stockholm’s maturing startup ecosystem – TechCrunch

Published

on


In the realm of European startup ecosystems, Sweden — largely Stockholm — ranks very close to the behemoths of London, Paris and Berlin. And with 10 million people, the nation certainly punches above its weight, having produced unicorns such as Spotify and Klarna, to name only two.

As a result, the eight investors we surveyed are characteristically bullish about the future, despite a pandemic strategy that became more restrictive in the second half of last year.

Sweden’s initially laissez-faire approach to controlling COVID-19 might have helped its tech ecosystem ride out the uncertainty. “Sweden is more open and is ahead of the pandemic curve, so more people are coming here than the other way around,” said Jacob Key, founding partner with Luminar Ventures.

Several people we spoke to said they saw green shoots regarding revenue growth and retention in their portfolio companies as founders adapted to the pandemic. Areas that are benefitting include digital health and remote work for obvious reasons, but given Sweden’s strength in fintech and gaming, those sectors are both well positioned to thrive.

As consumers become more desirous of sustainability, responsible shopping, green travel and plant-based food alternatives “will likely contribute to a surge in companies in this space,” said Sofia Dolfe of Index Ventures.

Oversaturated areas are media/adtech and wellness/fitness apps.

Some of the trends these investors are excited about include deep tech, AI, machine learning, healthcare/medtech, industrial IoT, energy storage and energy-efficient power generation, robotics, intelligent production and additive manufacturing.

“I think there is a lot of interesting stuff coming out of Stockholm and accelerating with all recent success stories,” said VNV Global’s Bjorn von Sivers.

Here’s who we spoke to:


Use discount code SWEDISHCRUNCH to save 25% off a 1-year Extra Crunch membership
This offer is only available to readers in Europe and expires on April 30, 2021


Jacob Key, founding partner, Luminar Ventures

What trends are you most excited about investing in, generally?
AI automation, democratization, SMB SaaS.

What’s your latest, most exciting investment?
Hiberworld.

Are there startups that you wish you would see in the industry but don’t? What are some overlooked opportunities right now?
Real-time sustainability health trackers for both consumers and businesses.

What are you looking for in your next investment, in general?
Super dedicated and talented team going after major problems.

Which areas are either oversaturated or would be too hard to compete in at this point for a new startup? What other types of products/services are you wary or concerned about?
Adtech companies, consumer lending companies, e-commerce retail, niche problems.

How much are you focused on investing in your local ecosystem versus other startup hubs (or everywhere) in general? More than 50%? Less?
100% in the broader Swedish ecosystem.

Which industries in your city and region seem well positioned to thrive, or not, long term? What are companies you are excited about (your portfolio or not), which founders?
Gaming, fintech, applied AI, security, e-health. Mindler, Insurello, Hiberworld, Greenely, Normative, Marcus Janback, Tanmoy Bari.

How should investors in other cities think about the overall investment climate and opportunities in your city?
Strong momentum, more and more serial founders and experienced founders, strong broader ecosystem, product and tech-led founders with a global view.

Do you expect to see a surge in more founders coming from geographies outside major cities in the years to come, with startup hubs losing people due to the pandemic and lingering concerns, plus the attraction of remote work?
Sweden is more open and is ahead of the pandemic curve so more people coming here than the other way around.

Which industry segments that you invest in look weaker or more exposed to potential shifts in consumer and business behavior because of COVID-19? What are the opportunities startups may be able to tap into during these unprecedented times?
Travel, mobility, nice-to-have SaaS, recruiting. They should focus on work, event, travel 2.0 security, sustainability, e-health and entertainment.

How has COVID-19 impacted your investment strategy? What are the biggest worries of the founders in your portfolio? What is your advice to startups in your portfolio right now?
Not really. Focus on resourceful execution, digital-first sales, extend runway. Biggest worry is a much cooler investment climate.

Are you seeing “green shoots” regarding revenue growth, retention or other momentum in your portfolio as they adapt to the pandemic?
E-health, gaming, remote work, fintech.

What is a moment that has given you hope in the last month or so? This can be professional, personal or a mix of the two.
Founders seem even more dedicated, digital transformation happens much faster.

Bjorn von Sivers, partner, VNV Global

What trends are you most excited about investing in, generally?
Business models with strong network effects. Mobility and micromobility services, Digital health, online marketplaces.

What’s your latest, most exciting investment?
SWVL, Babylon Health, Voi Technology.

Are there startups that you wish you would see in the industry but don’t? What are some overlooked opportunities right now?
Startups addressing climate change, either indirect or direct. I think it will grow immensely over the coming years.

What are you looking for in your next investment, in general?
Business models with strong network effects.

How much are you focused on investing in your local ecosystem versus other startup hubs (or everywhere) in general? More than 50%? Less?
VNV Global has a global mandate. Approximately 10% of the portfolio is Sweden/Stockholm based.

Which industries in your city and region seem well positioned to thrive, or not, long term? What are companies you are excited about (your portfolio or not), which founders?
Any consumer service coming out of Stockholm eco system. In the portfolio I would highlight Voi Technology and Fredrik Hjelm (micromobility) and Grace Health founded by Estelle Westling and Thérèse Mannheimer that is building a digital health clinic for women in emerging markets.

How should investors in other cities think about the overall investment climate and opportunities in your city?
I think there is a lot of interesting stuff coming out of Stockholm and accelerating with all recent success stories. Spotify, iZettle, etc.

Do you expect to see a surge in more founders coming from geographies outside major cities in the years to come, with startup hubs losing people due to the pandemic and lingering concerns, plus the attraction of remote work?
It will probably increase a bit, but not significantly.

Which industry segments that you invest in look weaker or more exposed to potential shifts in consumer and business behavior because of COVID-19? What are the opportunities startups may be able to tap into during these unprecedented times?
International travel still has a lot of uncertainty and low visibility. Digital health and micromobility is defiantly seeing unprecedented demand.

How has COVID-19 impacted your investment strategy? What are the biggest worries of the founders in your portfolio? What is your advice to startups in your portfolio right now?
Not really impacted our strategy. I would say founders think a lot about the funding climate and how to best plan in this lower visibility environment.

Are you seeing “green shoots” regarding revenue growth, retention or other momentum in your portfolio as they adapt to the pandemic?
Yes, all across the portfolio.

What is a moment that has given you hope in the last month or so? This can be professional, personal or a mix of the two.
The fast recovery in our mobility businesses, which essentially saw activity drop significantly in late March/early April and has rebounded strongly since May

Ashley Lundström, partner, EQT Ventures

What trends are you most excited about investing in, generally?
I’m personally excited about investing in teams solving important problems — the ones that affect disadvantaged populations, society at large, the environment, etc. And the exciting part is that we’re seeing more and more of this — especially from serial entrepreneurs who have built companies, maybe even had good exits and now want to dedicate their skills to meaningful journeys.

What’s your latest, most exciting investment?
It actually hasn’t been announced yet as we literally closed a few days ago and it’s one that our AI platform Motherbrain pointed us to. It’s one of those companies that when you hear about what they’re building you just say, “Oh of course, that’s a no-brainer.” It’s a great example of a product-led company seeing strong organic growth from a global user base and we’re chomping at the bit to start working together. Prior to this, my latest most exciting investment is Anyfin. Anyfin is a prime example of the potential of Stockholm’s second generation teams, coming out of the Swedish unicorns iZettle, Klarna and Spotify. They’re a fintech building financial wellness products for users who need it the most. They’ve started with targeting interest rates head-on via a refinancing product and are launching more products and markets with the Series B funding raising they secured this spring.

Are there startups that you wish you would see in the industry but don’t? What are some overlooked opportunities right now? What are you looking for in your next investment, in general?
I’m keen to see teams who combine market experience with startup experience. All too often teams are either one or the other and I’d love to see a team come together where one co-founder says, “I know this problem inside-out because I’ve lived it” and another co-founder who says, “I know how to build and bring ideas to life.” This combo would be really powerful. Over and above that, I’m generally focused on investing in teams solving problems that are shared by huge bases — either consumers or the long tail of B2B. One must in my book is that the product has to be consumer grade. This is obvious for consumer (although not always a given), but it’s something that we’ve become religious about in B2B too.

Which areas are either oversaturated or would be too hard to compete in at this point for a new startup? What other types of products/services are you wary or concerned about?
We’re in the business of exceptions so I find it hard to rule out a category altogether due to competition. That being said, there are always sectors where it’s tricky to envision a winner-takes-all or winner-takes-most, for structural reasons, such as some types of recruiting or staffing, D2Cs or digital health services.

How much are you focused on investing in your local ecosystem versus other startup hubs (or everywhere) in general? More than 50%? Less?
Our strategy is to be local with locals and we invest broadly across Europe and, in specific cases, in the U.S. So, while personally my time’s spent somewhat weighted toward the Nordics, more than 50% of the companies I work with are outside the Nordic countries. Motherbrain has helped us flatten geographies further, discovering great startups regardless of where they’re located, and we regularly invest in great teams outside our local ecosystems.

Which industries in your city and region seem well positioned to thrive, or not, long term? What are companies you are excited about (your portfolio or not), which founders?
There’s a lot of talent for consumer products coming out of the Nordics — particularly fintech in Stockholm (Tink, Anyfin, Brite), gaming in Finland (Small Giant Games, Reworks, Traplight), and a range of products out of Copenhagen including edtech and health tech (Eduflow, Corti). The great engineering talent we have in this region is also producing incredibly strong tech teams — particularly in Finland, such as Varjo, Speechly and Robocorp. We’re even starting to see some interesting activity in quantum computing (e.g., IQM) in the region. There are also some moonshot companies coming out of the Nordics that we’re excited about long term, such as Solein, Einride, Heart Aerospace and Northvolt.

How should investors in other cities think about the overall investment climate and opportunities in your city?
The Nordic countries continue to punch above their weight and I am confident that this trend will continue — meaning the investment opportunities will be many. As the ecosystems mature, the quality will continue to improve, which also speaks to this trend over time. Historically, downturns have produced strong tech companies, so I wouldn’t be surprised if investors are keeping a close eye on the region to make sure they get the chance to back some of the most seasoned entrepreneurs who will most certainly be looking for ways to make the most of the current climate.

Do you expect to see a surge in more founders coming from geographies outside major cities in the years to come, with startup hubs losing people due to the pandemic and lingering concerns, plus the attraction of remote work?
I believe we’ll see more remote teams, absolutely. However, I still think the hubs will be strong and important pieces of the ecosystem and I don’t think we’ll see these cities shrinking by material numbers. Though if people leave the most expensive cities, who could blame them? I do, however, think we’ll see a more sharp trend of teams that were fairly local in the past, expanding to new geographies. And what may happen is that in itself will reveal new talent pools, which over the long term could create more hubs.

Which industry segments that you invest in look weaker or more exposed to potential shifts in consumer and business behavior because of COVID-19? What are the opportunities startups may be able to tap into during these unprecedented times?
Tech is in a great position overall because businesses are generally either working on digitization, which is seeing acceleration out of COVID-19 … so tech falls clearly on the right side of that line, or green field modern or even futuristic ideas. Of the latter, of course, some of these ideas are nice-to-haves, which struggle when consumers are facing tough financial situations, but plenty are services that we believe we’ll see working out long term. Of course anything physical, where the team isn’t able to adapt the product quickly, like events or exercise services, will face temporary dips, but if these companies were originally betting on long-term trends, we believe that they’ll still be in good positions going forward.

How has COVID-19 impacted your investment strategy? What are the biggest worries of the founders in your portfolio? What is your advice to startups in your portfolio right now?
COVID-19 hasn’t affected our strategy, but it has helped us keep our eye on the ball in terms of making sure we stick to our strategy and stay mindful of our own runway — funds have that too! The advice to our founders has been the following: (1) Extend the runway so you keep your options open, and then (2) be as aggressive as you possibly can. We’re encouraging teams to act quickly — both in terms of making internal decisions and in getting products to market to test them out. Our founders’ biggest worries are uncertainties around how long “this” will all last — and our advice here is that they should operate as they always do and not wait for things to change, rather be ultrarelevant in the market you’re in.

Are you seeing “green shoots” regarding revenue growth, retention or other momentum in your portfolio as they adapt to the pandemic?
Yes! We’ve got a couple companies who are really well positioned — particularly Wolt (food delivery) and the mobile games companies we’ve backed (Popcore, Reworks, Traplight, etc.). The current climate is especially favorable for these types of companies, and we’ve got great founders at the wheels who have been able to take advantage of the opportunities presented and who have seen tremendous growth as a result.

What is a moment that has given you hope in the last month or so? This can be professional, personal or a mix of the two.
The efforts by the public sector, including healthcare providers, to accelerate digitization has been refreshing. Sectors who have all too often had plenty of excuses for being slow and conservative have suddenly made big leaps — and they’re proud of themselves for having done so! This gives me hope that there will be new or renewed appetites even as things go back to normal.

Any other thoughts you want to share with TechCrunch readers?
The Nordic countries have many great examples of digital tools used by the general public to conduct their everyday lives digitally. I would encourage founders and business leaders to look to these examples and see if there are opportunities to build for other geographies. Scandinavian trendsetting isn’t just for fashion and interior design!

Ted Persson, partner, EQT Ventures

What trends are you most excited about investing in, generally?
My main passion lies in backing ambitious teams solving real problems with real technology. So, pretty deep tech sometimes — the anti-thesis of “yet another B2B SaaS company solving almost the same problem in almost the same way.” I’m also interested in product and design-centric teams using superior UX to democratize something that previously was limited to a privileged few. Currently, I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about and doing research into the future of the creative industries, marketing, product design, etc.

What’s your latest, most exciting investment?
This spring, I’ve led or been involved in four investments across quantum computing, group collaboration and two in the design and development tooling space. None of these have been announced yet though. The last announced investments were Sonantic and Frontify — both very cool companies.

Are there startups that you wish you would see in the industry but don’t? What are some overlooked opportunities right now?
Edtech is certainly one.

What are you looking for in your next investment, in general?
As we’re looking for outliers, it’s hard to generalize. But I get more excited about companies tying to solve hard problems rather than just piecing together a few APIs (which anyone can do).

How much are you focused on investing in your local ecosystem versus other startup hubs (or everywhere) in general? More than 50%? Less?
I personally don’t have a geographical focus and enjoy working with our teams across Europe and the world, but since I live in Sweden, my network is slightly stronger here. Our proprietary AI platform Motherbrain also ensures we find rapidly growing or under-the-radar startups outside of our local ecosystems and networks.

Which industries in your city and region seem well positioned to thrive, or not, long term? What are companies you are excited about (your portfolio or not), which founders?
We’re pretty good at gaming, entertainment, music and fintech in the Nordics. It’s also easier to find really great designers here than in other parts of Europe.

Do you expect to see a surge in more founders coming from geographies outside major cities in the years to come, with startup hubs losing people due to the pandemic and lingering concerns, plus the attraction of remote work?
Yes, for sure. It’s too early to tell, but a couple of portfolio companies have given up on their physical offices and a lot of startup people I know are working from across the country. I for sure think this will lead to a more international climate.

Which industry segments that you invest in look weaker or more exposed to potential shifts in consumer and business behavior because of COVID-19? What are the opportunities startups may be able to tap into during these unprecedented times?
A lot has been written about this already and, just like every other investor, we’ve spent a fair share of the spring mapping this out. All in all, tech is in a good position.

How has COVID-19 impacted your investment strategy? What are the biggest worries of the founders in your portfolio? What is your advice to startups in your portfolio right now?
There’s been no change in our strategy. There was some initial confusion for obvious reasons and we took a short break to make sure our portfolio was in a good position to endure. Now, we’re back to normal and have made our first investments where we haven’t met the teams physically.

Are you seeing “green shoots” regarding revenue growth, retention or other momentum in your portfolio as they adapt to the pandemic?
Yes, certainly in a couple of areas, such as food delivery, gaming, remote working and collaboration.

What is a moment that has given you hope in the last month or so? This can be professional, personal or a mix of the two.
When people around myself, parents, older relatives, all of a sudden embrace digital tools and ways of working fully.

Sofia Dolfe, principal, Index Ventures

What trends are you most excited about investing in, generally?
I love products that give people a strong feeling of community, of belonging to a group of like-minded people, and a sense of being invested in its success. Users are so passionate about the product that they can’t stop themselves from recommending it to their friends, and their affinity with the brand grows over time. Search for these types of businesses often leads me to consumer businesses and marketplaces that are customer-centric and bring communities together.

Are there startups that you wish you would see in the industry but don’t? What are some overlooked opportunities right now?
I am interested to hear about new takes on education in a post-COVID world in which people may be more open to challenge the traditional ways of learning.

What are you looking for in your next investment, in general?
I am looking for founders who are inspiring storytellers. So much of building a business is about getting everyone to come along for the ride, from the senior execs joining you, to the customers taking a chance on a young yet unproven business, to investors taking a leap of faith and sharing in your ambition. Founders who are great storytellers, are hungry and dream big from the get-go, and have the humility to know what they don’t know, will be in my view those who have the best chance at making it big.

Which industries in your city and region seem well positioned to thrive, or not, long term? What are companies you are excited about (your portfolio or not), which founders?
Stockholm has historically been at the forefront of both fintech and gaming, and I do think these sectors are well positioned to thrive. Financial services will continue to be transformed, and the modern banking infrastructure in the Nordics makes this an attractive place to start a fintech business. As for gaming, the region has a strong track record and a high concentration of both studios and developer talent, making it a particularly fertile ground for breakout successes. A newer, fast-growing theme in the region is conscious consumption. Stockholm has a long history of eco-friendliness, and the maturity of CSR, responsible shopping, green travel and plant-based food alternatives will likely contribute to a surge in companies in this space. I’m excited to meet with founders who care deeply about this endeavor.

How should investors in other cities think about the overall investment climate and opportunities in your city?
Stockholm has proven itself to be a strong tech hub, and it has many of the necessary ingredients for continued successes. For one, founders think big and global from the start. Sweden has a population of 10 million, and founders creating category-defining companies know that they must enter other markets to dominate. The scale of companies such as King, Spotify and iZettle has also shown that success is within reach and cultivated a sense of courage among aspiring entrepreneurs. Sometimes the world risks underestimating the Swedes because they tend to be understated but as the track record of Sweden shows, they overdeliver.

What is a moment that has given you hope in the last month or so? This can be professional, personal or a mix of the two.
A few weeks ago I saw a handwritten note in the entrance of an apartment building in Stockholm. One of the residents was offering to purchase groceries, medication and other essential items to those unwell or at risk in the building. I’m hopeful that in times of difficulty, we are reminded of the importance of our local communities, of taking responsibility for others, and of how valuable a simple act of kindness can be to building relationships.

Staffan Helgesson, partner, Creandum

What trends are you most excited about investing in, generally?
Transformation of old and large industries such as transportation, construction, real estate, etc. Digital health — we will need to transform current health industry.

What’s your latest, most exciting investment?
Mavenoid. Automating tech support globally. Ex-Palantir founders.

Are there startups that you wish you would see in the industry but don’t? What are some overlooked opportunities right now?
Insurance markets have not yet seen the wave of startups that the general fintech industry has seen.

What are you looking for in your next investment, in general?
Crazy ambitious entrepreneurs with their eyes set on disrupting a global market.

Which areas are either oversaturated or would be too hard to compete in at this point for a new startup? What other types of products/services are you wary or concerned about?
Many consumer verticals are tough to penetrate given big tech and related oligopoly. But every time I say that new phenomenal companies emerge. Such as Creandum’s portfolio company Kahoot that just listed in Oslo for $1.5 billion.

How much are you focused on investing in your local ecosystem versus other startup hubs (or everywhere) in general? More than 50%? Less?
Creandum invests all across EU. No set targets — we just want to find the best entrepreneurs.

Which industries in your city and region seem well positioned to thrive, or not, long term? What are companies you are excited about (your portfolio or not), which founders?
If picking one industry we’re very excited about digital health with Stockholm-based Firstvet and Kry/Livi. (telemedicine for humans and pet owners).

How should investors in other cities think about the overall investment climate and opportunities in your city?
Stockholm/Nordics is a very sophisticated ecosystem that consistently keep producing global winners on a regular basis.

Do you expect to see a surge in more founders coming from geographies outside major cities in the years to come, with startup hubs losing people due to the pandemic and lingering concerns, plus the attraction of remote work?
Great companies will increasingly be built anywhere and we as an industry need to adapt. Those venture firms adapting best and fastest will be the winners going forward. I foresee a second green wave, like in the 70s, where people will move out from cities and/or have a dual-home setup.

Which industry segments that you invest in look weaker or more exposed to potential shifts in consumer and business behavior because of COVID-19? What are the opportunities startups may be able to tap into during these unprecedented times?
Travel and entertainment obviously. But even in these industries there will be winners going forward if they can ride the wave of digitizing (for example, tickets and events).

How has COVID-19 impacted your investment strategy? What are the biggest worries of the founders in your portfolio? What is your advice to startups in your portfolio right now?
It’s all about access to long-term capital and track record. Creandum’s strategy has not changed at all.

Are you seeing “green shoots” regarding revenue growth, retention or other momentum in your portfolio as they adapt to the pandemic?
Yes, especially in digital health.

What is a moment that has given you hope in the last month or so? This can be professional, personal or a mix of the two.
Closing a fully remote investment. Company called Meditopia — in Turkey of all places :-).

Tanya Horowitz, partner, Butterfly Ventures

What trends are you most excited about investing in, generally?
Deep tech, AI, machine learning, healthcare/medtech, industrial IoT and related cloud services and communication solutions, Energy storage and energy-efficient power generation, robotics, intelligent production, and additive manufacturing.

What’s your latest, most exciting investment?
Uute Scientific has created a natural product containing a specific mixture of microbes, which can be applied to various consumer products. These products decrease the probability of getting immune-mediated diseases, like asthma or Type 1 diabetes and consequently improve quality of life.

Are there startups that you wish you would see in the industry but don’t? What are some overlooked opportunities right now?
In the region (Nordics), would like to see more in energy storage, power generation and energy/carbon reduction technologies. Food tech and agtech are an area to look toward given the world’s increasing population. Edtech due to the COVID crisis.

What are you looking for in your next investment, in general?
We are looking for a strong team with unique tech aimed toward a global market.

Which areas are either oversaturated or would be too hard to compete in at this point for a new startup? What other types of products/services are you wary or concerned about?
Media/adtech unless truly unique seem to be oversaturated; also wellness/fitness apps, etc.

How much are you focused on investing in your local ecosystem versus other startup hubs (or everywhere) in general? More than 50%? Less?
Finland 40%-50%, Sweden 30%+, Norway, Denmark, Iceland and Baltics remaining 20%.

Which industries in your city and region seem well positioned to thrive, or not, long term? What are companies you are excited about (your portfolio or not), which founders?
Industries: Health/medical.

How should investors in other cities think about the overall investment climate and opportunities in your city?
I think in Finland and the entire Nordics there is ample opportunities to invest in stellar teams and technologies that have a global market. The talent pool and support of the startup ecosystems are top notch.

Do you expect to see a surge in more founders coming from geographies outside major cities in the years to come, with startup hubs losing people due to the pandemic and lingering concerns, plus the attraction of remote work?
I do not see startup hubs losing people in the Nordics. I do however see founders coming from geographies outside major cities.

Which industry segments that you invest in look weaker or more exposed to potential shifts in consumer and business behavior because of COVID-19? What are the opportunities startups may be able to tap into during these unprecedented times?
Obvious is retail, restaurants, service industry. Also education (edtech) should be an area to really look into. Online entertainment (OTT), logistics (food, goods delivery), etc.

How has COVID-19 impacted your investment strategy? What are the biggest worries of the founders in your portfolio? What is your advice to startups in your portfolio right now?
It has only affected it slightly, we were lucky that we were almost at the end of our investment period and our portfolio of companies are set for this current fund vintage. We are the leading seed-stage deep tech investor in the Nordics and therefore most of our companies have fared OK.

Are you seeing “green shoots” regarding revenue growth, retention or other momentum in your portfolio as they adapt to the pandemic?
Yes, some of our portfolio has benefited from the pandemic, while others suffered with customers initially but seem to be recovered now.

What is a moment that has given you hope in the last month or so? This can be professional, personal or a mix of the two.
We are raising Butterfly Ventures Fund IV and started before the pandemic hit. While this has slowed us down slightly, our anchor and other LPs are rock solid and we as a team are committed to getting the first close done ASAP to capitalize with that dry powder in early 2021. While my heart goes out to those who have not been so lucky, personally we have been blessed to not have had direct tragedies related to the pandemic … and my son is happy and healthy and that alone gives me hope everyday.

Any other thoughts you want to share with TechCrunch readers?
Global LPs should really explore Europe more, especially the Nordics!

Sanna Westman, principal, Creandum

What trends are you most excited about investing in, generally?
Well, we typically say that if you invest in trends you’re late to the party … but of course there are some macro movements that are exciting and we monitor closely. For me personally digital health is one of those areas, it’s not new but constantly developing and has of course been further accelerated the past year. Another area that is really interesting are products that help you be a better leader/manager/company. I’m not sure how to productize this but there’s a huge opportunity in amplifying leadership. We’ve seen success with companies giving the individual user superpowers (no-code tools, productivity tools, etc.) but how about helping people scaling themselves and their teams? Remote work has a lot of benefits, but puts new challenges on managers. I also believe we’ll see more quality companies battling climate change in different ways.

What’s your latest, most exciting investment?
SafetyWing — on the intersection of social security and remote work.

Are there startups that you wish you would see in the industry but don’t? What are some overlooked opportunities right now?
There’s plenty more to do within B2B commerce: marketplaces, e-commerce enablers, new ways of financing, etc. Sure there are companies, but no way near as many (good) ones as it should be.

What are you looking for in your next investment, in general?
A short time to “Wow.” Solutions that can give the user an instant value and then continue to add to that value they more they use the product

Which areas are either oversaturated or would be too hard to compete in at this point for a new startup? What other types of products/services are you wary or concerned about?
Mobility and delivery in general is quite crowded. Also open-banking payment solutions has seen a huge surge.

How much are you focused on investing in your local ecosystem versus other startup hubs (or everywhere) in general? More than 50%? Less?
The Nordics is along with DACH one of the key focus markets for Creandum, though there’s no set allocation for any certain geography. We strive to back the best companies regardless of where they’re located.

Which industries in your city and region seem well positioned to thrive, or not, long term? What are companies you are excited about (your portfolio or not), which founders?
Compared to other hubs there is a very high product focus in general, and given that Sweden is a small market the mindset is also international from day one. I think that makes more of a difference than a certain vertical. In terms of exciting companies Kive and Depict are worth keeping eyes on for the very early stages. For the more mature startups Kry and Firstvet are doing great as early enablers of digital health.

How should investors in other cities think about the overall investment climate and opportunities in your city?
Increasingly competitive but also a lot of strong talent.

Do you expect to see a surge in more founders coming from geographies outside major cities in the years to come, with startup hubs losing people due to the pandemic and lingering concerns, plus the attraction of remote work?
Even before the pandemic very few startups in Stockholm had 100% of their workforce in one location anyway, a hybrid setup was and continue to be very common.

Which industry segments that you invest in look weaker or more exposed to potential shifts in consumer and business behavior because of COVID-19? What are the opportunities startups may be able to tap into during these unprecedented times?
As the fund invests with a very long time horizon, +10 years, the short-term impact is not a key concern but of course we think about the long-term effects on e.g., business travel. We tend to look for the opportunities more than the drawbacks though, and there will be opportunities for new companies in industries that have been heavily impacted. It might actually prove to be good timing to disrupt.

How has COVID-19 impacted your investment strategy? What are the biggest worries of the founders in your portfolio? What is your advice to startups in your portfolio right now?
Initially we were cautious around runway and worked closely with the portfolio to make sure they could survive for a longer time should revenues decline and funding not be available. Summing up 2020 though, we were fortunate to look back on a year where many companies had overperformed and were able to raise significant up rounds. Great companies are created in all times and were committed to find the best seed and Series A companies.

Are you seeing “green shoots” regarding revenue growth, retention or other momentum in your portfolio as they adapt to the pandemic?
Definitely. We’ve seen several examples of V-shaped recovery, with revenues bumping back above pre-COVID levels and continuing on that trajectory.

What is a moment that has given you hope in the last month or so? This can be professional, personal or a mix of the two.
The hustle and optimism among entrepreneurs we meet. The “impossible is nothing” attitude is really inspiring.

Who are key startup people you see creating success locally?
I’d say some of the active “stay in the background” angels/mentors that are supporting a new generation such as Joachim Hedenius (Kry, CTO) or Johan Crona. And Susanna Campbell/Cristina Stenbeck who have been very active in their joint investments, often finding opportunities the VCs miss.



Source

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Technology

No-code Bubble raises $100M to make technical co-founders obsolete – TechCrunch

Published

on


Among Silicon Valley circles, a fun parlor game is to ask to what extent world GDP levels are held back by a lack of computer science and technical training. How many startups could be built if hundreds of thousands or even millions of more people could code and bring their entrepreneurial ideas to fruition? How many bureaucratic processes could be eliminated if developers were more latent in every business?

The answer of course is on the order of “a lot,” but the barriers to reaching this world remain formidable. Computer science is a challenging field, and despite proactive attempts by legislatures to add more coding skills into school curriculums, the reality is that the demand for software engineering vastly outstrips supply available in the market.

Coding is not a bubble, and Bubble wants to empower the democratization of software development and the creation of new startups. Through its platform, Bubble enables anyone — coder or not — to begin building modern web applications using a click-and-drag interface that can connect data sources and other software together in one fluid interface.

It’s a bold bet — and it’s just received a bold bet as well. Bubble announced today that Ryan Hinkle of Insight Partners has led a $100 million Series A round into the company. Hinkle, a long-time managing director at the firm, specializes in growth buyout deals as well as growth SaaS companies.

If that round size seems huge, it’s because Bubble has had a long history as a bootstrapped company before reaching its current scale. Co-founders Emmanuel Straschnov and Josh Haas spent seven years bootstrapping and tinkering with the product, before securing a $6.5 million seed round in June 2019 led by SignalFire. Interestingly according to Straschnov, Insight was the first venture firm to reach out to Bubble all the way back in 2014. Seven years on, the two have now signed and closed a deal.

Since the seed round, Bubble has been expanding its functionality. As a no-code tool, any missing feature could potentially block an application from being built. “In our business, it’s a features game,” Straschnov said. “[Our users] are not technical, but they have high standards.” He noted that the company introduced a plugins system that allows the Bubble community to build their own additions to the platform.

Bubble’s editor offers a clickable interface for designing dynamic web applications. Image Credits: Bubble.

As the platform matured, it happened to nail the timing of the COVID-19 pandemic last year, which saw people scrambling for new skills and improving their prospects for what was then a gloomy job market. Straschnov says that Bubble saw an immediate bump in usage in March and April 2020, and the company has tripled revenue over the past 12 months.

Bubble’s focus for the past eight years has been on helping people turn their ideas into startups. The company’s proposition is that a large number of even venture-backed companies could be built using Bubble without the expense of a large engineering team writing code from scratch.

Unlike other no-code tools which focus on building internal corporate apps, Straschnov says that the company remains as focused today on these new companies as it has always been. “[We’re] not trying to move upmarket just yet — we are trying to do the same thing that AWS and Stripe did five years ago,” he said. Instead of trying to dominate the enterprise, Bubble wants to grow with its nascent customers as they expand in scale.

The company today charges a range of prices depending on the performance and scale requirements of an application. There’s a free tier, and then professional pricing starts at $25/mo all the way to $475/mo for its top-listed offering. Enterprise pricing is also available, as is special pricing for students.

On the latter point, Bubble is looking to invest heavily in education using its newly-raised capital. While the platform is easy to use, the reality is that any design of a web application can be intimidating for a new user, particularly one who isn’t technical. So the company wants to create more videos and documentation while also heavily investing in partnerships with universities to get more students using the platform.

While the no-code space has seen prodigious investment, Straschnov said that “I don’t look at all the no-code players as competition … the true competition we have is code.” He noted that while the no-code label has been assumed by more and more startups, very few companies are focused on his company’s specific niche, and he believes he offers a compelling value proposition in that category.

The company has doubled head count since the beginning of the pandemic, growing from around 21 employees to about 45 today. They are lightly concentrated in New York City, but the company operates remotely, and has folks in 15 states as well as in France. Straschnov says that the company is looking to aggressively hire technical talent to build out the product using its new funds.



Source

Continue Reading

Technology

Nium crosses $1B valuation with $200M Riverwood Capital-led round – TechCrunch

Published

on


Business-to-business payments platform Nium announced Monday that it raised more than $200 million in Series D funding and saw its valuation rise above $1 billion.

The company, now Singapore-based but shifting to the Bay Area, touted the investment as making it “the first B2B payments unicorn from Southeast Asia.”

Riverwood Capital led the round, in which Temasek, Visa, Vertex Ventures, Atinum Capital, Beacon Venture Capital and Rocket Capital Investment participated, along with a group of angel investors like DoorDash’s Gokul Rajaram, FIS’ Vicky Bindra and Tribe Capital’s Arjun Sethi. Including the new funding, Nium has raised $300 million to date, Prajit Nanu, co-founder and CEO, told TechCrunch.

The B2B payments sector is already hot, yet underpenetrated, according to some experts. To give an idea just how hot, Nium was seeking $150 million for its Series D round, received commitments of $300 million from eager investors and settled on $200 million, Nanu said.

“This is our fourth or fifth fundraise, but we have never had this kind of interest before — we even had our term sheets in five days,” he added. “I believe this interest is because we’ve successfully managed to create a global platform that is heavily regulated, which gives us access to a lot of networks. This is an environment where payment is visible, and our core is powering frictionless commerce and enabling anyone to use our platform.”

Nium’s new round adds fuel to a fire shared by a number of companies all going after a global B2B payments market valued at $120 trillion annually: last week, Paystand raised $50 million in Series C funding to make B2B payments cashless, while Dwolla raised $21 million for its API that allows companies to build and facilitate fast payments. In March, Higo brought in $3.3 million to do the same in Latin America, while Balance, developing a B2B payments platform that allows merchants to offer a variety of payment methods. raised $5.5 million in February.

Nium’s approach is to provide access to a global payment infrastructure, including card issuance, accounts receivable and payable, and banking-as-a-service through a single API. The company’s network enables customers to then send funds to more than 100 countries, pay out in more than 60 currencies, accept funds in seven currencies and issue cards in more than 40 countries, Nanu said. The company also boasts money transfer, card issuances and banking licenses in 11 jurisdictions.

Francisco Alvarez-Demalde, co-founding partner and managing partner at Riverwood, said in an email that the combination of software — plus regulatory licenses — and operating a fintech infrastructure platform on behalf of neobanks and corporates is a global trend experiencing hyper-growth.

Riverwood followed Nium for many years, and its future vision was what got the firm interested in being a part of this round. Alvarez-Demalde said that “Nium has the incredible combination of a great market opportunity, a talented founder and team, and we believe the company is poised for global growth based on underlying secular technology trends like increasing real-time payment capabilities and the proliferation of cross border commerce.

“As a central payment infrastructure in one API, Nium is a catalyst that unlocks cross-border payments, local accounts and card issuance with a network of local market licenses, partners and banking relationships to facilitate moving money across the world,” he added. “Enterprises of all types are embedding financial services as part of their consumer experience, and Nium is a key global enabler of this trend.”

Nanu said the new funding enables the company to move to the United States, which represents 3% of Nium’s revenue. He wants to increase that to 20% over the next 18 months, as well as expand in Latin America. The investment also gives the company a 12- to 18-month runway for further M&A activity.  In June, Nium acquired virtual card issuance company Ixaris, and in July acquired Wirecard Forex India to expose it to India’s market. He also plans to expand the company’s payments network infrastructure, invest in product development and add to Nium’s 700-person headcount.

Nium already counts hundreds of enterprise companies as clients and plans to onboard thousands more in the next year. The company processes $8 billion in payments annually and has issued more than 30 million virtual cards since 2015. Meanwhile, revenue grew by over 280% year over year.

All of this growth puts the company on a trajectory for an initial public offering, Nanu said. He has already spoken to people who will help the company formally kick off that journey in the first quarter of 2022.

“Unlike other companies that raise money for new products, we aim to expand in the existing sets of what we do,” Nanu said. “The U.S. is a new market, but we have a good brand and will use the new round to provide a better experience to the customer.”



Source

Continue Reading

Technology

I get it, Elizabeth Holmes – TechCrunch

Published

on


Elizabeth Holmes’ raspy, deep voice helped her raise more than $700 million for her now-defunct company, Theranos. When I step into any boardroom for a pitch, I can hear her croaking her favorite line: “I hope that less people will have to say goodbye too soon to people that they love.”

Sitting across from a venture partner, I wonder if they might feel more compelled by my words if I cut my hair short (really short), or grew a beard, or removed my pregnant belly. Would they take out their checkbook if I were more aggressive in what I promised? Would they be more interested in getting to know my business and me better if I passionately slammed the table?

Actually, very likely.

Holmes adopted a ridiculously low voice to get her startup off the ground in a world full of men. She promised impossible pinprick tests to detect hundreds of diseases and collected influential investors like Henry Kissinger, George Shultz, James Mattis and Betsy DeVos. She wore a Steve Jobs uniform — including the Issey Miyake turtleneck — and built a team of 800 brilliant people. Did she go overboard with her lies? Yes. But she’s not the only one. The Silicon Valley and venture landscape only exacerbated whatever beliefs she already had in her company and inclinations to promise the moon.

Last week at a virtual hearing, she pushed to keep a huge database of information protected from the government. Before that, she claimed to have made $100 million in revenue in 2014, when it was really $100,000. These things, among others, are hands-down inexcusable. But I still believe that she thought she was doing the right thing taking the universal advice of Silicon Valley: “Fake it till you make it.”

She once said, borrowing from previous thought leaders: “This is what happens when you work to change things, and first they think you’re crazy, then they fight you and then all of a sudden you change the world.” I wonder if she just thinks she’s now on part two.

Raising money to start a company is about two things: having connections and making an appearance. Connections are difficult to make when you’re a woman: “Only about 12% of decision-makers at VC firms are women, and most firms still don’t have a single female partner.”

And even if you have connections, building relationships can be a bit weird: My cofounders end up being text buddies with our investors, while I hear news of things in passing. We hit a peak of 2.8% of funding going to women-led startups in 2019, but in 2020, that dropped again to 2.3%, possibly because investors reverted to their standard habits of keeping their cards close during uncertain times. Furthermore, investors generally have expectations that are aligned with male tendencies. For example, identical slides and scripts that are read by men and women are judged very differently, with men overwhelmingly rated higher. Holmes’ deep voice, although off-putting, probably made her more convincing.

It’s not easy to replicate the fundraising success that Holmes had, though. If other women tried to emulate this, they’d likely be penalized: In general, forward men are viewed positively as assertive, while forward women are viewed as emotionally unstable. This is confusing because, inversely, if women retreat to stereotypically feminine behaviors, they are viewed as weak. Hillary Clinton got stuck in this during her presidential race — criticized for being aggressive and cold when stereotypically masculine traits and pegged as weak when showing stereotypically feminine traits.

To make matters worse, it turns out that in pitches, women are asked more preventative questions about potential loss and risk, while men are asked more promotional questions about upside and gains. Women can work around this by answering any preventative question in the positive. Holmes knew this deep down and played into it. That was the only way for her to win.

I am absolutely no “holmie,” but I do understand firsthand her need to role-play. I’ve been overlooked; hell, I’ve even been told to change my product line (bras) because venture capitalists won’t get it. And they didn’t. I gave in.

I don’t want to defend her, and I can’t. It’s so easy to drop a line at a party or a board meeting about how obnoxious she was in her venture, but what irks me is that we focus on her specifically as the problem, completely bypassing the environment that created her. I remember soaking up John Carreyrou’s tantalizing book thinking, “Wow, I’ll never do that,” as I started my company. But as I have seen the pressures and the biases, I can see how the system shaped Holmes.

Why don’t we judge the biased system we created as much as we judge the person it destroyed? She sticks out like a sore thumb because, well, how many Elizabeth Holmeses are there out there? These problems are so ingrained in the system itself, though, that as David Foster Wallace alluded to in the water speech, we can’t see them and we probably aren’t ready to repair them.

The next time someone jokes at a cocktail party about Holmes’ baritone voice, just remind them how dumb is it that we give more money to people with deep voices.

Former TechCrunch COO Ned Desmond is now Senior Operating Partner at SOSV, which has invested in unspun.



Source

Continue Reading

Technology

Sproutl is an online marketplace for gardeners founded by former Farfetch executives – TechCrunch

Published

on


Meet Sproutl, a marketplace for gardeners living in the U.K. The startup founded by former Farfetch executives has raised a $9 million seed round. It wants to make gardening more accessible by providing a curated list of items, relevant advice as well as inspiration.

Index Ventures is leading the round in the startup with Ada Ventures and several business angels also participating. The funding round originally closed in April of this year.

“A few years ago, we bought a flat in London with a tiny little garden. We were both working full time in quite intense jobs with young kids. I went online assuming that I would be able to sort out this garden space. And I didn’t know a lot about gardening. And I just didn’t find anything that spoke to me as a new gardener. It felt like what was available was more for more knowledgeable people,” co-founder and CEO Anni Noel-Johnson told me.

If you’ve ever tried to search for gardening videos on YouTube, you may have end up on long-winded videos with instructions that don’t make any sense to you. Similarly, there are not a lot of e-commerce websites focused on gardening specifically.

And yet, the market opportunity is quite big. There are millions of gardeners in the U.K. There are also quite a few independent garden centers, nurseries and shops with a turnover of several millions of pounds per year. More importantly, they generate the vast majority of their sales in store. Some of them have never sold anything online.

Sproutl is teaming up with those businesses so that they can find new customers across the U.K. Those third-party sellers list their items on Sproutl while the startup takes care of logistics, packaging sourcing and delivery.

On the marketplace, customers can buy indoor and outdoor plants, pots, gardening essentials and outdoor living products. Partners currently include Rosebourne, Polhill, Millbrook, Middleton, Bellr, Fertile Fibre and Horticus.

Anni Noel-Johnson, the CEO of the company, was the VP of Trading and Strategy at Farfetch. Sproutl CTO Andy Done also worked at Farfetch at some point as Director of Data Engineering.

Hollie Newton is also going to be a key team member at Sproutl. She previously wrote a best-selling gardening book called ‘How to Grow’. She’s now the Chief Creative Officer at Sproutl.

This is key to understanding Sproutl’s growth strategy. The company plans to provide a ton of content on all things related to your garden — the startup has already released a jargon buster. You might end up on Sproutl the next time you’re looking for gardening advice on Google.

And it’s also going to differentiate the platform from all-encompassing e-commerce platforms, such as Amazon. Other e-commerce companies focused on one vertical in particular, such as ManoMano, have been quite successful. With the right focus, Sproutl could quickly build a loyal customer base as well.



Source

Continue Reading

Technology

Data-driven iteration helped China’s Genki Forest become a $6B beverage giant in 5 years – TechCrunch

Published

on


China’s e-commerce and industrial ecosystem is as different from the Western world as its culture. The country took decades to earn its reputation as the Factory of the World, but it now boasts a supply chain and manufacturing ability that few countries can match.

Creative use of the country’s networked manufacturing and logistics hubs make mass production both cheap and easy. Clothing, electronics, toys, automobiles, musical instruments, furniture — you name it and you’ll find a manufacturer in China who can turn your intangible concept into mass-manufacturable reality in mere days. And they’ll do it for cheaper than anywhere else in the world.

It was just a matter of time until an intrepid Chinese entrepreneur with a tech background decided to take on Coca-Cola and PepsiCo.

China is also home to one of the world’s largest e-commerce and tech ecosystems. Hundreds of startups dot the landscape, and the amount of money being raised and spent on innovating around the country’s industrial heft is mind-boggling.

So it was just a matter of time until an intrepid Chinese entrepreneur with a tech background decided to take on Coca-Cola and PepsiCo. The tech revolution hasn’t yet affected the bottled beverage industry quite as much as it has others. Incumbent giants therefore could lose a sizable chunk of market share if a company could just manage to weave together China’s manufacturing proficiency and agility with the modern tech startup philosophy of “moving fast and breaking stuff.”

Genki Forest, a Chinese direct-to-consumer (D2C) bottled beverage startup, is one such contender. A philosophy centered around iteration informed by data, quick turnarounds and a laser focus on taking advantage of China’s huge e-commerce ecosystem has helped this company’s revenues rise rapidly since it started five years ago. Its sugar-free sodas, milk teas and energy drinks sell in 40 countries and generated revenue of about $450 million in 2020. The company aims to reach $1.2 billion this year.

If anything, Genki Forest’s valuation has shot up even faster. It recently completed its fourth VC round that values it at a whopping $6 billion, triple the price it fetched a year earlier, and it has so far raised at least half a billion dollars.

It’s striking how closely Genki Forest’s operations resemble that of a tech startup. So we thought we should take a closer look and see what this company’s graph can tell us about the new wave of Chinese D2C entrepreneurship looking to take over the globe.

Finding a bigger wave to ride

The bottled beverage industry wasn’t what Genki Forest’s founder, Binsen Tang, initially set out to tackle. His first startup was a successful casual, mostly mobile gaming outfit known as ELEX Technology. It was nowhere near record-breaking, though — some 50 million users logged on to a few popular games in over 40 countries worldwide, including one of the first versions of Happy Farm, a predecessor to Zynga’s Farmville. But Tang wasn’t satisfied and eventually sold ELEX Technology to a publicly listed company for about $400 million in 2014.

Tang would walk away with a few important lessons. He’d learned by now that Chinese products were already competitive globally, whether people realized it or not, and that and geographic arbitrage was real, Happy Farm being the perfect example of this. Lastly, he now knew that it was far more important to choose the right “racetrack” (as Chinese investors and entrepreneurs like to put it) than to have a great product.

Picking the right race to win was perhaps the most important takeaway. It’s also an idea that sets Chinese entrepreneurs apart from their Western counterparts — the most worthwhile endeavors are in identifying the largest and most rewarding market at hand, regardless of one’s previous expertise. It was what led Zhang Yiming to create ByteDance, and Lei Jun to found Xiaomi.

That very philosophy led Tang to build Genki Forest. After selling ELEX Technology, Tang didn’t go back to the business that netted him his first pot of gold. As much as he had benefited from the rise of the mobile internet, he thought there was a far bigger opportunity building a consumer brand and applying the lessons he learned from programming to the manufacture of tangible products.

He soon set up his own investment fund, Challenjers Capital, convinced that the next big tech opportunity in China was in tech’s application to everyday consumer products. He soon began to invest in everything from ramen and hotpots to bottled beverages.

China’s quickly expanding e-commerce ecosystem and the plethora of D2C businesses flourishing on Alibaba and JD.com would also influence his decision to sell directly to his target audience rather than take the traditional route. But to truly understand his motivations, we need to take a look at the extremely unique D2C environment in China and how it has changed over the years.

What’s different about Chinese D2C?

“China doesn’t need any more good platforms,” Tang told his team in an internal email in 2015, “but it does need good products.” Tang was talking about how the age of building infrastructure for e-commerce in China was largely over; it was now time to create brands that could take advantage of the advanced distribution network that had been laid out.

Other investors noticed as well. Albus Yu, principal at China Growth Capital, told me that his fund had stopped making investments in independent consumer-facing platforms or marketplaces for a while. “2014 might have been the last year it was economically feasible to start such a business due to the soaring cost of acquiring customers and the strength of incumbents,” he said.

Indeed, 2015 was the year when CACs began to exceed or at least rival ARPUs for Alibaba and JD.com.

In China, that distribution network was present across the digital and physical worlds. Online, there was immense market power concentrated in the hands of just two players: Alibaba and JD.com, which used to have, and still maintain, 80% or above in market share.

In fact, the dominance of Alibaba, in particular, was so overwhelming that for years, VCs invested not in D2C, but in “Taobao brands,” since that was the only channel one needed to conquer in order to make it.

Customer acquisition was therefore straightforward — throw everything into advertising on Alibaba’s Tmall platform, especially during its annual flagship shopping festival, Singles’ Day. Even today, garnering a top spot in one of the category leaderboards remains a surefire way to build brand awareness, investor interest, as well as sales records.

Physically, the Chinese market also differs greatly from much of the developed West. Years of heavy investment in logistics by the private sector, accelerated by government support and infrastructure buildout, means that delivery costs have come down significantly over the years, even dipping below $0.40 per package wholesale as of this year. Innovations such as return insurance have also sped up customer adoption.

By 2016, China was shipping 30 billion packages a year, already accounting for 44% of global shipments. That number has been doubling every three years and is expected to exceed 100 billion this year. And the low cost of delivery is one of the biggest reasons for China’s outsized e-commerce market — the largest globally and estimated to reach $2.8 trillion in 2021, more than triple that of the No. 2, the U.S.

Express parcels sit stacked at a logistic base of e-commerce giant Suning before the 618 Shopping Festival. Image Credits: VCG

Present-day China also presents another edge: Proximity to an advanced, flexible manufacturing network and supply chain for the vast majority of consumer products, and the ability to outsource almost everything to them.

The original equipment manufacturers of years past have long since evolved into original design manufacturers. An expected consequence of being “the Factory of the World” for so many years, making goods for some of the best brands in the world, is that some of the knowledge was bound to transfer.

It may be difficult for outsiders to understand just how strong China’s networked manufacturing hubs are these days. What used to take weeks now takes mere days, the lead times shortened drastically by software, robots and other advancements. For example, Chinese cross-border ultra-fast-fashion company Shein has compressed design-to-ship timelines to as little as seven days.

And it’s definitely not just for making crop tops. The turnaround can be astonishingly fast even when manufacturing completely unfamiliar goods, such as when electric vehicle maker BYD turned its factory into the world’s largest face mask plant in just two weeks when the COVID-19 pandemic struck last year.

Companies leverage this manufacturing flexibility and agility for more than just speed. Chinese cosmetics upstart Perfect Diary uses it to launch twice as many SKUs as foreign competitors. In addition, the quick turnaround allows agile brands to take advantage of that most ephemeral of IP, memes.

It’s not to say that the Chinese supply chain is inaccessible to foreign entrepreneurs. Best-selling mattress maker Zinus, for example, is founded by a South Korean, but its products are manufactured in China and sold mostly on Amazon to U.S. customers.

It’s just that very few non-Chinese companies have figured out how to tap as deeply into the supply chain as this new crop of Chinese D2C brands, which can require years of working not just alongside but physically inside the factories, building trust and know-how. Shein, for example, watches carefully what other brands are making by staying close to the factories.

The China opportunity

Before global sensations such as TikTok weakened the mantra, “copy to China” used to be a dominant characterization of Chinese startups. In December 2015, when Tang registered the Genki Forest trademark, that was still very much a relevant strategy.



Source

Continue Reading

Technology

Should we be worried about insurtech valuations? – TechCrunch

Published

on


Welcome back to The TechCrunch Exchange, a weekly startups-and-markets newsletter. It’s inspired by what the weekday Exchange column digs into, but free, and made for your weekend reading. Want it in your inbox every Saturday? Sign up here.

Hello everyone, I hope you had a lovely week. I turned 32 after experiencing sleep-destroying heartburn. So, a little good and a little bad. But that didn’t stop the markets. Nope. Not a bit. Which means we have a lot to talk about, including falling insurtech stocks and what the situation might mean for startups, and a raft of IPOs. This will be fun!

Before we get into the nitty-gritty of our chats with newly public companies Kaltura, Couchbase and Enovix, let’s talk insurtech.

In the last year or so we’ve seen a number of insurtech startups go public, including Root (auto insurance), Metromile (car insurance), and Lemonade (rental insurance). Here’s a quick digest of how their performance looks today:

  • Root: $7.72 per share, 71.4% down from its $27 per share IPO price.
  • Metromile: $7.26 per share, down 64.4% from its post-combination highs.
  • Lemonade: $86.97 per share, up 199.9% from its IPO price of $29 per share.

Recall that Root and Metromile began to trade after Lemonade, so their declines are not over a longer time horizon, but a shorter interval. Which makes the situation all the more interesting.

What’s going on? Well, two of the three insurtech public offerings (SPACs, IPOs, etc.) are sharply underwater. That doesn’t bode incredibly well for Hippo, which is pursuing its own SPAC-led combination that should be wrapping up in short order. The huge declines don’t seem bullish for insurtech startups, who will have to answer private-market investor doubts concerning their value.

Does Lemonade’s strong post-IPO performance allay concerns? It’s tricky. The company has been busy expanding into new markets, including auto insurance. The company did take a somewhat material hit from the Texas freeze earlier this year — per its most recent earnings report — but past those two data points it’s not entirely clear what the company is doing that the other two are not. But investors are stoked about Lemonade, and not Root and Metromile. Figuring out why that’s the case, and why their startup is more Lemonade than the other two, is going to be key for the many insurtech startups still scaling toward their own IPOs.

It’s IPO season

The Exchange has been busy on the phones these last two weeks, talking to CEOs of companies going public to try and learn from their recent experiences. So, what follows are notes from calls with folks at Kaltura, Couchbase and Enovix. Enjoy!

Kaltura

  • Reminder: Online-video-focused Kaltura filed to go public earlier this year before delaying its IPO and taking another run at the funding event.
  • The Exchange spoke with Kaltura CEO Ron Yekutiel, who said that the company’s IPO’s timing was impacted by the early-2021 public market turmoil. That was not a surprise, but it was good to get confirmation regardless.
  • That freeze was partially caused by the Archegos implosion, per Yekutiel. That makes sense, but was news to us.
  • Yekutiel said that his company wasn’t thrilled about the delay — going public is the only fundraise that you pre-announce, he noted — but added that investors his company had already spoken to the first-time around were still enthused about Kaltura on its second run at an IPO.
  • Per the CEO, Kaltura’s preliminary Q2 results showed investors that what it was talking about earlier in the year was coming true. He also stressed uptake in new products as key to the company’s continued growth.
  • The CEO was happy with how his company priced and traded during its first day, snagging a flat 20% uptick in value upon trading. He noted that more would have been excessive, and less would have been un-good.
  • Regarding the lower valuation that Kaltura priced at compared to its March-era IPO price range, Yekutiel said that you don’t get a third chance to make a first impression and that his company wanted to get the offering done. So they did. Points for not getting lost in their own head.
  • Kaltura is up 17.5% from its $10 per-share IPO price as of the time of writing.

One anecdote, if I may. Kaltura won an early TechCrunch40 — the precursor to the TechCrunch50 event, itself a predecessor to today’s TechCrunch Disrupt conference series — thanks to a single vote cast via physical token. Yekutiel still has that token, and showed it to us during our chat. Neat!

Couchbase

  • The Exchange spoke with noSQL database company Couchbase’s CEO Matt Cain. Couchbase priced at $24 per share, above its $20 to $23 per-share IPO price range.
  • Today it’s worth $33.20, rising 9.2% in today’s trading as of the time of writing.
  • Cain was talking from a pretty strict script — a pretty standard situation amongst newly public CEOs worried about fucking up and going to jail — so we didn’t get the precise answers we were looking for. But we still managed to learn a few things, including that Couchbase was yet another company that found the meeting density made possible by remote roadshows to be accretive.
  • The CEO was focused on discussing the scale of the opportunity ahead of Couchbase, namely the world of operational databases. It’s hard to find a bigger market, he argued, which made investors excited about what his company might be able to accomplish. Our read here is that there’s probably plenty of surface area for startups in the database world, if the market is as big as Cain reckons it is.
  • We wanted to learn a bit more about how public-market investors view open-source powered companies, but didn’t get too much from him on the matter. Still, the company’s IPO is a pretty damn strong one, implying that being OSS-built isn’t exactly a detriment to a company hoping to exit.

Enovix

  • The Exchange wanted to chat with newly public company Enovix because it debuted via a SPAC. Why does that matter? Because there are other battery-focused companies looking to go public via SPACs. So, the chat was good background for later work.
  • And we love talking to public companies. Who doesn’t?
  • Asked if combination-and-trade-under-new-ticker-symbol day was like an IPO to his firm, Rust said that it was. Fair enough.
  • The company’s combination date for its SPAC slipped from Q2 to Q3, we noticed. Why was that? Some SEC changes regarding accounting, in short. Not a big deal was our impression from the chat, but one that did cause a slight delay to Enovix’s trading date.
  • Why go public via a SPAC? Cash, but also the particular sponsor of their combination, which Rust said was a key resource in terms of operational knowledge. The company has also hired from its SPAC sponsor’s network, which felt notable. (Hey look, actual investor value-add!)
  • Asked why his company is worth less than the impending SES SPAC, another battery company that has yet to generate revenue, Rust said that the value of his company in its SPAC deal was a negotiation, and that if the company is successful, whether it was valued at $1.1 billion or $1.4 billion wouldn’t really matter.
  • What’s fun about Enovix is that it is not starting with its impending battery tech aimed at EVs. Instead, it’s targeting high-end electronics. Why? Quick cycles to get batteries into hardware and possible pricing power. It does intend to get into EVs in time, however.
  • The company is worth $17.33 per share, giving it what Yahoo Finance describes as a $2.5 billion valuation. That’s a good markup from what it expected and could bode well for SES’s own, future debut.

Yo, that was a lot. Thanks for sticking with me. And thanks for reading The Exchange’s little newsletter. You can catch up on all our work here if you want some long-form reads on the global venture capital market, edtech and other topics. Stay cool!

Your friend,

Alex



Source

Continue Reading

Technology

The DL on CockroachDB – TechCrunch

Published

on


As college students at Berkeley, Spencer Kimball and Peter Mattis created a successful open-source graphics program, GIMP, which got the attention of Google. The duo ultimately joined Google, and even personally got kudos from Sergey Brin and Larry Page. Kimball and Mattis quickly rose to prominence within the company, and then chose to leave it all behind to start what would eventually become CockroachDB. Years later, Cockroach Labs has over 250 employees and has received investments from the likes of Benchmark, GV, Index Ventures and Redpoint totaling more than $350 million, according to Crunchbase. The company is now on route to what some think is an “inevitable IPO.”

The story of CockroachDB, from its origin to its future, was told in a four-part series in our latest EC-1: 

I’m biased, but it’s a must-read that gets into tensions that any startup founder can relate to: from navigating heavyweight competitors, to growing past free tiers, to maintaining your users’ attention. It’s the eighth EC-1 we’ve published to date, which my colleague and TC Managing Editor Danny Crichton estimates puts us at 90,000 words all about startup beginnings, product development, marketing and more.

In the rest of this newsletter, we’ll get into that WeWork book, bite-sized entrepreneurship and some SPACs. Follow me on Twitter @nmasc_. Or don’t, it’s your choice!

The Cult of We

Adam Neumann (WeWork) at TechCrunch Disrupt NY 2017. Image Credits: TechCrunch

This week on Equity, Alex and I interviewed Eliot Brown, who wrote “The Cult of We” along with Maureen Farrell. Our conversation riffed on some of the book’s eyebrow-raising details and anecdotes, but mainly focused on what WeWork’s rise and fall did to the state of startups and tech journalism more broadly.

Here’s what to know: Not much has changed. Jokes aside, Brown shared his notes on how the current boom in startup financings has a worrisome air of frenzy and fluff. He also chatted about how sometimes the most illuminating question can be a simple one: What makes you a tech company?

More money, more problems?

TikTok what again?

tiktok glitch

Image Credits: TechCrunch

TikTok kept popping up throughout the week. Index Ventures, for example, noted how the firm’s TikTok account has amassed an impressive following and is a channel to talk to the younger generations. Nothing like some short-form videos to stay hip and relatable while raising $3 billion in one go. 

Here’s what to know: While TikTok has certainly changed the world, I worry when I see the allure of bite-sized content get edtech’d. Bite-sized content can be a nifty way to spread content, but it isn’t one-size-fits-all. Duolingo, which priced its IPO this week, still struggles to show meaningful learning outcomes and optimizes more for motivation than comprehension. This tension is a key note for companies like Numerade and Sololearn, which both raised this week, to not overly TikTok learning materials.

Other edtech content for your eyes:

So, SPACs

hands signing check 1

Image Credits: Bryce Durbin / TechCrunch

It’s been awhile since I’ve used that acronym in Startups Weekly. That said, special purpose acquisition vehicles are still very much a thing and are still very much worth paying attention to.

Here’s what to know: Lucid Motors’ SPAC merger was just approved. Reporter Aria Alamalhodaei  writes that the move came after executives extended the deadline to vote to merge by one day after not enough investors showed up. “The issue is unusual but could become more common as more companies eschew the traditional IPO path to public markets and instead merge with SPACs,” she writes.

Also special:

Around TC

If you haven’t already, please fill out TC’s ongoing growth marketing survey. We’re using these recommendations of top-tier growth marketers around the world to shape our editorial coverage and to build out TechCrunch Experts.

Across the week

Seen on TechCrunch

Seen on Extra Crunch

Same time, same place next week? Bring a friend!

N



Source

Continue Reading

Trending