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The Briefing: BYJU’S Buys Aakash For Nearly $1B, Alkami Plans $2B IPO, And More

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

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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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BYJU’S acquires Aakash for nearly $1B

Indian online learning giant Byju’s has acquired New Delhi-based Aakash, a provider of tutoring and exam prep, in a deal reportedly valued at nearly $1 billion.

Founded in 1998, Aakash is best known for its brick-and-mortar tutoring centers, but it has made inroads in online education in recent years. In 2019, the company raised $184 million from private equity firm Blackstone.

The purchase follows a spate of large fundraising rounds for BYJU’S, which has pulled in over a billion dollars in the past year from multiple investors.

— Joanna Glasner

Public offerings

Alkami eyes $2B valuation in IPO: Plano, Texas-based Alkami, a provider of digital banking software marketed to small and mid-sized banks and credit unions, is seeking a valuation of around $2 billion for its upcoming public offering, according to a Reuters report citing the company’s latest IPO filing. Founded in 2009, Alkami has previously raised at least $385 million in known funding, per Crunchbase data.

— Joanna Glasner

E-commerce

Meesho lands $300M in SoftBank-led round: Indian social commerce startup Meesho has raised $300 million in a new funding round led by SoftBank Vision Fund II. The financing sets a valuation of $2.1 billion for the fast-growing company.

— Joanna Glasner

Health care

Inscripta lands $150M, ships first Onyx platform: Inscripta, a Boulder, Colorado-based digital genome engineering company, closed on $150 million in Series E financing led by Fidelity Management & Research Co. and funds and accounts advised by T. Rowe Price. Including the new funding, Inscripta has raised a total of $459.5 million in known venture capital since it was founded in 2015, according to Crunchbase data.

In addition to the funding, the company announced the first commercial shipment of its Onyx platform, which it touts as “the world’s first benchtop system for scalable digital genome engineering and consists of a benchtop instrument, consumables, software and assays.” Using a CRISPR-based workflow, the Onyx platform enables quick, parallel and trackable editing of single cells. CRISPR stands for “clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats” and enables researchers to more easily identify DNA sequences and modify gene function to develop in vivo therapies that treat the underlying cause of disease, according to Benjamin Oakes, co-founder and CEO of molecular engineering company Scribe Therapeutics, which raised an oversubscribed $100 million round of Series B financing last week to further develop its “CRISPR by design” platform.

StimScience inks $6M for sleep device: Berkeley-based StimScience, a consumer neuroscience startup, said in a blog post that it raised $6 million in seed funding led by Khosla Ventures. The company says it has prototyped its first consumer device, focused on using brain stimulation to improve sleep health, and is planning its first in-home beta trial for later this year.

A number of startups have emerged in the past five years, including StimScience, that aim to inject technology into our sleep routine, a small part of our day that has an outsized impact on the quality of our waking hours and overall health. Since 2016, investors have pumped $1.9 billion into global companies focused on sleep technology and equipment, according to Crunchbase data.

Digital-health funding high again in Q1 2021: Investments into U.S. digital-health companies closed at $6.7 billion in the first quarter of 2021 — the most-funded quarter to date, according to a new report from Rock Health. That was compared to $3.1 billion handed out in the first quarter of 2020. Rock Health counted 25 “mega deals,” meaning $100 million or more, during the quarter, led by telehealth company Ro, which brought in a $500 million Series D round led by FirstMark, General Catalyst and TQ Ventures. In addition to bigger deals, the organization also reported that companies closed them earlier in their life cycles, with the average age of startups receiving mega deals down to six years in the first quarter of 2021 from 12 years in 2017. Meanwhile, special purpose acquisition company deals were also prevalent during the quarter. Rock Health said it knew of at least 10 deals within digital health, including Hims and Hers Health, which went public in January after merging with special purpose acquisition company Oaktree Acquisitions Corp.

— Christine Hall

Knotel co-founder leaves startup

Amol Sarva, co-founder of proptech company Knotel, is leaving the company, and had some harsh words for real estate investor Newmark on the way out.

“Over the last few months, Newmark was a stalking horse on a process that used bankruptcy to take control of Knotel with around $100 million of new capital,” Sarva wrote in an email to Knotel contacts. “This process undermined lots of important relationships and hurt lots of customer and partners. I’m so disappointed that this was the direction pressed.”

Sarva added that Newmark “literally hired a group of Adam Neuman-era (sic) WeWork bros to lead the company forward.”

Knotel was once a unicorn, but the company announced it filed for bankruptcy earlier this year and that its assets were being acquired by Newmark. In the email, Sarva wrote that the company reached nearly $400 million of run rate in early 2020, posted gross profit, and kept more than two-thirds of revenue intact “while doing everything we could to support customer continuity and work with landlord partners amicably.”

Knotel had raised at least $560 million in funding, according to Crunchbase, and was backed by investors including Norwest Venture Partners and Newmark.

Illustration: Dom Guzman

Stay up to date with recent funding rounds, acquisitions, and more with the Crunchbase Daily.

Source: https://news.crunchbase.com/news/briefing-4-5-21/

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Exclusive: Forager Chews On $4M To Digitize Local Food Access

Its platform digitizes and streamlines the discovery of new local food vendors, onboarding and management of those relationships.

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Forager, a startup connecting local farmers with grocery stores to source local food, raised $4 million in a funding round led by a group of backers, including Duncan Saville via ICM and Coastal Enterprises.

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The Portland, Maine-based company was founded in 2015 by David Douglas Stone to develop a platform that digitizes and streamlines the discovery of new vendors, onboarding and management of those relationships.

Joe Blunda took over as CEO in 2019, while Stone is still involved as executive chairman. Local food accounts for 3 to 5 percent of what people buy from stores, and while that number shifted during the global pandemic, it is still in the single digits, Blunda told Crunchbase News

“The original problem is building a supply chain and getting it organized, which is what we are doing,” he added. “Grocers bring the cultural perception of what will resonate with the consumer, and we bring the ability to execute that.”

Blunda intends to use the new funding to expand the company’s sales outreach and product development. Grocers want to invest time in building local supply chains, but have difficulty operating them afterward, he said.

One of the problems they face is that there are so many small vendors, and grocers are trying to layer them on top of their platforms that were made for a small number of large vendors, Blunda added.

“Local food access is such a critical problem and patience is waning,” he said. “Grocers are passionate about fixing the problem, and we have some product development to do.”

The company has 10 employees and Blunda expects to add another two to five people by the end of the year. Forager operates in more than 12 states and works with more than 40 grocers and institutions, as well as 500 local suppliers.

In addition, the company has seen 4x growth since 2018, with nearly 200,000 local products sourced through its platform to date. It has also doubled both its supplier and buyer bases. Blunda expects even faster growth in the second half of 2021.

Saville, ICM’s founder and chairman, said in a written statement that local food is a “market trend that cannot be ignored and is critical to the future health of our planet.”

“I invested in Forager for two reasons, first this is a $40 billion fast growing market that is largely analogue and in desperate need for technology so it can scale and be data driven,” Saville added. “Second, the majority of people I know are interested in buying more sustainably sourced products, especially at the local level. This is an important market trend that cannot be ignored and is critical to the future health of our planet.”

Illustration: Li-Anne Dias

Stay up to date with recent funding rounds, acquisitions, and more with the Crunchbase Daily.

Joe Blunda took over as CEO in 2019, while Stone is still involved as executive chairman. Local food accounts for 3 to 5 percent of what people buy from stores, and while that number shifted during the global pandemic, it is still in the single digits, Blunda told Crunchbase News

Source: https://news.crunchbase.com/news/exclusive-forager-chews-on-4m-to-digitize-local-food-access/

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Exclusive: Boston’s Aryeo Raises $3.65M Seed Round

The Boston-based startup aims to streamline content in the real estate industry, helping agents get photos and other types of content where it needs to go.

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Real estate content platform Aryeo has raised $3.65 million in seed funding, the company told Crunchbase News.

The Boston-based startup aims to streamline content in the real estate industry, helping agents get photos and other types of content where it needs to go. Hyperplane Venture Capital and Amplo led the seed round.

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Aryeo co-founders Brendan Quinlan, Matt Michalski, and Branick Weix.

If you’ve bought or sold a home before or done any late-night Zillow surfing, you know how important photos and videos are to a home listing. Photos and 3D tours are essential to selling a home, especially now, according to Aryeo CEO Branick Weix, given the COVID-19 pandemic and the social distancing guidelines that have come with it.

“It’s very similar to a Dropbox system, but it’s more tailored to the real estate industry,” Weix said in an interview.

Aryeo goes a step further than Dropbox. When content is uploaded into the system, Aryeo automatically makes promotional materials for the property, such as flyers, Facebook ads and a website.

One of Weix’s first jobs in high school was as a photographer taking photos for real estate agents. Most people don’t even realize that’s a job or industry, he added.

The idea for Aryeo came about when drones became more popular and real estate agents were interested in using drone footage to market homes. Aryeo’s co-founders Weix, Brendan Quinlan, and Matt Michalski began a drone photography business in Minnesota, but it wasn’t long before agents began asking for more content, and the team realized all of the pain points involved with getting content where it needed to be.

“How things normally work for many of these agents, they just have content emailed to them and they have to download it to their computer and then they have to go to all these sites separately,” Weix said.

Consolidating content in a “highly fragmented marketplace with multiple data sources” is a pressing need in the real estate industry, and Aryeo’s platform can universally solve the problem, Hyperplane VC managing partner Vivjan Myrto said in a statement.

The company was founded in 2019, and Aryeo processed more than 50,000 homes last year, or about 1 percent of the total annual home sales in the United States. The company works with more than 40,000 real estate agents and photographers and operates in all 50 states and countries including Canada, Belgium, Australia, and South Africa.

The company, which currently has around 15 employees, plans to use the funding to hire, especially in sales and customer support, Weix said. Most of its work so far has been with photographers, but the company is expanding and building out tools to work more with agents and brokers.

Aryeo bootstrapped for the first 1.5 years and grew through word of mouth before raising $3.6 million in outside funding.

Other investors in the company include Contrary, Shutterstock founder Jon Oringer, and WePay founder Bill Clerico.

Illustration: Li-Anne Dias

Photo courtesy of Aryeo.

Stay up to date with recent funding rounds, acquisitions, and more with the Crunchbase Daily.

If you’ve bought or sold a home before or done any late-night Zillow surfing, you know how important photos and videos are to a home listing. Photos and 3D tours are essential to selling a home, especially now, according to Aryeo CEO Branick Weix, given the COVID-19 pandemic and the social distancing guidelines that have come with it.

Source: https://news.crunchbase.com/news/exclusive-bostons-aryeo-raises-3-65m-seed-round/

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Mimicking A Hospital At Home: Huma Brings In $130M Series C

Huma Therapeutics

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Huma Therapeutics is creating digital “hospitals at home” across different disease areas so that the pharmaceutical and research industries can run decentralized clinical trials.

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“Our mission is to create a world where everyone lives longer and has a fuller life,” Dan Vahdat, founder and CEO of Huma, told Crunchbase News. “By using technology, we can do better research, which enables new treatments to come to market faster through virtual clinical trials.”

To continue to do this, the company, based in London, closed on $130 million in Series C financing co-led by Leaps by Bayer and Hitachi Ventures. The firms were joined by Samsung Next, Sony Innovation Fund, Unilever Ventures and HAT Technology & Innovation Fund, as well as from individual investors, including Nikesh Arora and Michael Diekmann.

In addition, the company received a further commitment of $70 million in equity funding that can be exercised at a later date. It brings the total funding raised to more than $200 million since Huma was founded in 2011, Vahdat said. Goldman Sachs acted as lead placement agent, while HSBC Bank and Nomura acted as joint placement agents.

Huma’s digital hospital at home was co-created with clinicians and independently shown to almost double clinical capacity, reduce hospital readmissions by over a third, and has patient adherence levels of over 90 percent, Vahdat said. The service supports governments’ pandemic responses on a not-for-profit basis and is now used for a range of patients including those going through knee- and hip-replacement surgery.

Huma app

The company works with four national governments, including England’s NHS, Wales, Germany and United Arab Emirates. The new funding was driven by its plan to go after additional government contracts and 10-year strategic partnerships with clinical research organizations, health care providers, payers, research organizations and technology companies. However, the company didn’t need the money — Huma still had most of its $25 million Series B funding in the bank, Vahdat said.

“We wanted to bring together strategic investors in the areas and geographies where we want to expand,” he said. “We ended up having more interest, but put certain conditions on the $70 million equity for the investors to achieve so that they would help us get where we need to be. For us, we are selective with partners, and it is most important what we can do with the company, but also how their reach can accelerate the impact for patients.”

Over the past few years, Huma grew 3x, Vahdat said. The new investment will be invested in growth in new markets, including the U.S., Asia and the Middle East. In the last year, Huma was able to build a solid team, and plans to double and triple down in this market. It will also work on R&D with technology aimed at collecting patient data in real-time to make it possible for new insights, predictive care and to make sure the right patients are prioritized, he added.

Juergen Eckhardt, head of Leaps by Bayer, said in a written statement that Huma’s mission to improve health outcomes will be accelerated by those and future new partnerships.

“Aligned with the vision of Leaps by Bayer, Huma’s expertise and technology will help drive a global paradigm shift towards prevention and care and may boost research efforts using data and digital technology,” Eckhardt added. “We invest into the most disruptive technologies of our time that have the potential to change the world for the better. As an early investor into Huma we know how perfectly the company fits into that frame as one of the leading digital innovators in health care and life sciences.”

Feature photo of Huma’s Dan Vahdat and inset screenshot courtesy of Huma.
Blogroll illustration: Dom Guzman

Stay up to date with recent funding rounds, acquisitions, and more with the Crunchbase Daily.

In addition, the company received a further commitment of $70 million in equity funding that can be exercised at a later date. It brings the total funding raised to more than $200 million since Huma was founded in 2011, Vahdat said. Goldman Sachs acted as lead placement agent, while HSBC Bank and Nomura acted as joint placement agents.

Source: https://news.crunchbase.com/news/mimicking-a-hospital-at-home-huma-brings-in-130m-series-c/

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