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Showing posts from January, 2020

SoftBank Leads Alto Pharmacy Investment At A $1 Billion+ Valuation

SoftBank's second Vision Fund has led a new funding round for San Francisco-based drug delivery startup Alto Pharmacy, according to a Reuters reportReuters says the new round totaled $250 million and valued Alto Pharmacy (formerly known as ScriptDash) at more than $1 billion. Other existing investors such as Jackson Square Ventures and Greenoaks Capital also participated in the new funding, according to Reuters.

The investment comes at a stormy time for SoftBank, which has seen some of its portfolio companies struggle and recourse to job cuts to stay stable. The most notable of that cohort is WeWork, which pulled out of a planned initial public offering last year and needed a $9.5 billion bailout from SoftBank to stay afloat.

Alto is among a cohort of tech startups challenging traditional pharmacy chains by taking the drug delivery process online. The company was founded in 2015 as ScriptDash and rebranded itself as Alto in 2017 after a $23 million investment from Greenoaks Cap…

Tony Fadell Backs New Orleans Battery Startup

Tony Fadell, the co-founder of smart thermostat maker Nest and acclaimed co-inventor of the iPod, was among the investors in an $18.5 million Series A funding just announced by Advano, a silicon battery startup based out of New Orleans. He invested alongside the likes of Peter Thiel's Thiel Capital, Y Combinator, DCVC, and Japanese battery materials giant Mitsui Kinzoku. As part of his investment, Fadell has been appointed as a board observer at Advano.

Mitsui Kinzoku, which co-led the Series A, has also formed a strategic partnership with Advano that involves it providing its knowledge of manufacturing and access to its distribution channels to the silicon battery startup. Advano, a 2017 graduate of famed accelerator Y Combinator, is building battery components to enable more powerful, smaller, and longer-lasting lithium-ion batteries.

It's already known that adding silicon to lithium-ion batteries can improve their run-time by significant margins. However, doing so creates …

Brief: GM To Invest $2.2 Billion To Create First Dedicated EV Plant

General Motors (GM) has announced it's investing $2.2 billion in its Detroit- Hamtramck assembly plant to utilize it as a facility that'll produce all-electric vehicles alongside its recently unveiled Origin self-driving vehicle. The Detroit, Michigan-based automaker will also invest an additional $800 million in supplier tooling and other projects related to the launch of new electric vehicles.

GM says its investment will create more than 2,200 U.S. manufacturing jobs. The Detroit- Hamtramck plant will serve as the automaker's first fully-dedicated electric vehicle assembly plant. GM plans to begin rolling out its first all-electric truck by late 2021, with the 'Origin' self-driving vehicle to follow suit. The company is betting big on the  Detroit- Hamtramck facility to help facilitate that.

“Through this investment, GM is taking a big step forward in making our vision of an all-electric future a reality,” GM President Mark Reuss said in a statement. “Our electr…

Brief: Monzo In Funding Talks With SoftBank

British fintech Monzo is in funding talks with SoftBank according to a report from British newspaper The Telegraph. The Telegraph says Monzo CEO Tom Blomfield has twice met with senior executives from the SoftBank Vision Fund, citing unidentified sources. The report comes shortly after Monzo, which has already raised more than $400 million in funding, was reported to be readying additional funding.

Monzo's last raise was a £113 million (roughly $148 million) investment led by Y Combinator Continuity in June last year. That investment valued the five-year-old British fintech at £2 billion ($2.5 billion) post-money.

Monzo's last raise coincided with a limited launch in the U.S., where it's looking to as the next frontier for its digital banking service after amassing more than 3.7 million users in the U.K. Its U.S. launch was limited, with only a few thousand slots available in limited areas. This is being done in preparation for a wider rollout.

Monzo has raised funding fr…

Bird Said To Be In Talks To Acquire Rival Circ

According to a report from the Financial Times, Santa Monica-based e-scooter sharing startup Bird is in talks to acquire Circ, a European rival founded by Lukasz Gadowski, an entrepreneur who also co-founded food delivery giant Delivery Hero. However, such a deal may not be on flashy terms, as the Financial Times reports Circ has been seeking a buyer after struggling to court investments required to further its expansion. Circ (formerly called Flash), which raised €55 million in Series A funding a year ago, had a round of layoffs just two months ago. The layoffs, which the startup attributed to a focus on “efficiency and ops excellence”, is said to have affected around 50 persons.

Purchasing a struggling Circ could be a way for Bird to zoom in on its main rival, Lime, which is widely seen as leading in the European e-scooter sharing market. Bird wouldn't be new to such an acquisition, having scooped up a smaller U.S. rival, Scoot, for a price said to be less than the amount of fu…

Soft Robotics Nabs $23 Million "Oversubscribed" Series B

Soft Robotics, a Bedford, Massachusetts-based robotics startup, has announced $23 million in Series B funding. The funding round, which Soft Robotics termed as "oversubscribed", a description entailing a great deal of interest from investors, was co-led by Calibrate Ventures and Material Impact, with participation from Yamaha, Tekfen Ventures, Honeywell, Scale, Hyperplane and FANUC, a well-known maker of industrial robots.

Soft's new funding follows a similarly-sized $20 million round closed in May 2018, a round it also termed as oversubscribed. Not coincidentally, all the participants in Soft's Series B round except FANUC also participated in that previous round. FANUC, a leading manufacturer of industrial robots, happens to be a strategic investor, having partnered with Soft Robotics to create a product that was unveiled in Japan in December 2019.

Soft Robotics builds robotic automation systems for labor-intensive companies, of which good examples are e-commerce, …

Joby Aviation Secures $590 Million Series C

Joby Aviation, a Santa Cruz, California-based startup that develops electric air taxis, has announced $590 million in Series C funding led by Japanese auto manufacturer Toyota, with participation from new investors Baillie Gifford and Global Oryx alongside existing investors Intel Capital, AME Cloud Ventures, JetBlue Technology Ventures, Capricorn Investment Group, and SPARX Group. The new funding brings the total amount raised by Joby to $720 million.

According to a Bloomberg report, Toyota is providing $394 million of the $590 million total. The automaker isn't just bringing money to the table but says it'll also share its expertise in manufacturing, quality, and cost controls to support the development and production of Joby's electric aircraft. Over the past ten years, Joby has assembled a team of engineers and physicists that have developed a quiet all-electric VTOL (vertical takeoff and landing) aircraft. The aircraft is developed in anticipation of an on-demand urb…

Casper Files To Go Public

Not long after a previous report of online mattress retailer Casper working with banks on an initial public offering (IPO), the company has filed an S-1 registration document with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to do exactly that. Its S-1 document was made public just a few hours before this writeup.

Casper's S-1 indicates $312 million in revenue for the first nine months of 2019, up from $260 million in the same period of the previous year. However, the company is not profitable, with losses of $67 million and $64 million in those periods respectively. For the full year 2018, Casper recorded $358 million in revenue but with a $92 million loss.

A substantial portion of Casper's loss stems from high sales and marketing spend after gross profit is accounted for. Sales and marketing make up its highest expense, even surpassing general and administrative expenses in the years 2019, 2018 and 2017. For example, Casper spent $114 million on sales and marketing in …

Uber And Hyundai Debut Flying Taxi Concept

At this year's Consumer Electronics Show (CES), Korean auto manufacturer Hyundai and Uber unveiled a flying car concept that's aimed for use in the "Uber Elevate" initiative, an initiative that's targeted at aerial ridesharing with custom air taxis made by partners to enable that. Hyundai is the first automaker to join Uber Elevate, whose previous partners were all electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft manufacturers. Uber aims to launch an aerial ridesharing network by 2023, and has already partnered with seven aircraft makers to enable that.

Hyundai's new concept air taxi vehicle is dubbed "S-A1" and has specifications similar to that of previous electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft unveiled by other Uber Elevate partners. It'll be 100% electric, be piloted initially but with plans to later make them autonomous, and is designed with four passenger seats to allow riders board and disembark easily. It's des…

Coupang Said To Be Eyeing 2021 IPO

Coupang, a SoftBank-backed South Korean e-commerce startup, is eyeing a 2021 initial public offering (IPO) according to a Bloomberg reportBloomberg says the company, founded in 2010 and said to be valued at $9 billion, has embarked on tax structuring among other changes as it aims for a public listing next year. Another sign Coupang may be eyeing a soon IPO is its appointment of a Chief Financial Officer (CFO) in December last year. The CFO in case was Alberto Fornaro, a seasoned executive who has held senior financial roles for more than two decades at Korean firms.

Coupang's IPO could be a test of the waters for the SoftBank Vision Fund, which has seen some of its portfolio companies struggle and collectively lay off thousands. Coupang appears to be doing good, with 2018 revenues said to have approached $5 billion. Bloomberg also reports the company had more than $10 billion in gross merchandise value as of December 31 and that sales increased more than 60% year-over-year in …

Two SoftBank-Backed Startups Said To Lay Off Hundreds

According to reports from Business Insider and The Information respectively, Zume Pizza and Getaround, two SoftBank-backed startups, are collectively laying off more than 500 staff, the majority coming from Zume Pizza. Zume is said to be planning to lay off up to 400 employees representing 80% of its staff while Getaround is said to be laying off about 150 employees representing about 25% of its staff.

The reported layoffs come on the heels of another SoftBank backed startup, Fair, cutting 40% of its headcount with its CFO and CEO resigning in the process. With respect to the layoffs, Zume Pizza's case seems grimmer being just a year and two months after it snagged $375 million in funding from SoftBank. Originally a pizza-making automation startup, it later pivoted to food-supply-chain management. According to Business Insider, the layoffs are effectively a cost-cutting measure as Zume readies additional funding.

Getaround's layoffs are also reported as a cost-cutting move. I…

Velodyne Appoints New CEO

Velodyne, the world's biggest manufacturer of lidars for self-driving vehicles, has announced the appointment of a new CEO by name of Anand Gopalan. Gopalan, who served as Velodyne's CTO up until this appointment, is taking over the CEO role from Velodyne's founder David Hall, who is, in turn, transitioning to a full-time role as Chairman of the Board. Under that role, Hall will "remain actively involved in directing the company’s technology, product vision and business strategy", a press statement from Velodyne said.

Gopalan joined Velodyne in 2016 to form an advanced R&D team for the company. Since then, he has led technology and product development efforts at Velodyne. His appointment comes amid reports of the company making preparations for an IPO.

As of late, Gopalan has been an active spokesperson for Velodyne, often promoting its lidar products to audiences around the world. Under his leadership alongside Hall, Velodyne has brought to market a series …

One Medical Files To Go Public

San Francisco-based primary care startup One Medical has officially filed for an initial public offering (IPO). Its S-1 registration document with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) was filed less than 24 hours ago, indicating a placeholder amount of $100 million (that is the amount intended to be raised from the IPO albeit one that's subject to change). One Medical intends to trade under the ticker ''ONEM'' on the Nasdaq Global Select Market. Investment banks J.P. Morgan and Morgan Stanley are lead underwriters for its IPO.

For context, One Medical operates several health clinics in the U.S., its specialty lying in its clinics being more tech-inclined than conventional, and with concierge services available. The company operates on a membership model, charging $200 annually both by direct-to-consumer and enterprise sales. As of September 30, 2019, One Medical had 397,000 members across nine markets in the U.S. It also had about 6,000 enterprise cli…

Snap Acquires AI Factory

As first reported by Ukranian publication AIN and later confirmed, Snap has acquired AI Factory, a Ukranian computer vision startup whose technology helped power Snapchat's recently debuted "Cameos" feature, a feature that lets Snapchat users create animated selfie-based videos.

According to AIN, Snap paid around $166 million for AI Factory, which was founded by an entrepreneur who sold his previous company, Looksery, also to Snap. Snap is said to have paid $150 million for Looksery, also a computer vision startup whose technology powers Snapchat's widely used "Lenses" feature. After Looksery's acquisition, co-founder Victor Shaburov took up the role of director of engineering at Snap, a role he held for three years before leaving in 2018 to launch AI Factory.

AI Factory is known to have offices in both Ukraine and San Francisco. According to TechCrunch, the firm has a team of around 70, the majority based out of Ukraine. TechCrunch also reports part o…

Monzo Said To Be Raising New Funding

According to Reuters, U.K. digital bank Monzo is close to raising between £50 million to £100 million ($66 million to $132 million) in new funding "within weeks" to help fund its growth. Reuters, citing an unnamed source close to the company, said funding talks have involved both existing and new investors, and could precede a potentially bigger 'Series G' round next year.

In June last year, Monzo closed £113 million in funding led by Y Combinator Continuity, an investment offshoot of famed startup accelerator Y Combinator. That funding came on the heels of Monzo's launch in the U.S. and valued the company at $2.5 billion post-money. Monzo looking to raise more funding hints of rapid growth and substantial investments to support that.

Since its founding in 2015, Monzo has amassed more than 3.5 million users by offering a user-friendly and mobile-first app that facilitates online spending and money management. The company currently has more than 300 employees wor…

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Velodyne Aims For Reverse Public Listing

Velodyne, the lidar manufacturer backed by among others Ford and Chinese search giant Baidu, is in talks for a reverse listing with Graf Industrial Corp in order to debut on the public markets, according to a source familiar with the matter. Graf is working with an adviser on a possible merger with Velodyne, according to our source. Last year, Velodyne was reported to have hired bankers to spearhead a possible public listing but it seems the company has decided to take the "backdoor" method of going public by merging with a Special Purpose Acquisition Corporation (SPAC). SPACs, in this case, are corporate entities taken public for the sole purpose of merging with another private company.

As a private company, Velodyne has raised some $225 million in funding. The company's last-known private funding gave it a valuation of $1.8 billion, a valuation Velodyne may be seeking to surpass on the public markets. Graf Industrial, the intended SPAC for Velodyne, held an initial pu…

Xpeng Begins P7 Deliveries

Just a short while after unveiling a new electric sports sedan named the P7, Chinese electric vehicle upstart Xpeng has begun making deliveries, notably a few weeks after the company formally opened a new factory to produce the new vehicle. Production has apparently begun at the newly opened plant and Xpeng says it aims to produce 100,000 P7 sedans annually. Xpeng surely moves fast, being a company founded only six years ago. The China-based company launched and begun making deliveries of its first vehicle, the G3 SUV, in 2018, four years after its launch. The P7 sports sedan is the company's second-ever vehicle. A picture below gives an encouraging look of a large number of P7 sedans awaiting delivery into customers' hands;


The Xpeng P7 costs anywhere between $32,000-$49,000 "post-subsidies", quoting Xpeng. It's available in 3 versions and 8 configurations. The vehicle's best feature happens to be its range, which Xpeng pegs at up to 706km on full-charge. T…

Tesla Now World's Most Valuable Carmaker

Electric car maker Tesla has been on a tear as of late, with its share price having shot past $1,100 a pop and given the company status as the world's most valuable automaker. Currently (as of writing), Tesla has a market capitalization hovering around $208 billion, beating the likes of Ford, GM, and Toyota which actually manufacture way more cars and mint much more revenue. Before now, Toyota had been the automaker with the largest public market capitalization. Toyota (as of writing) has a market capitalization hovering around $203 billion, a bit lower than Tesla's.

Investors seem to be drooling for Tesla shares given its valuation despite minting lesser revenue than other traditional automakers. For a quick comparison, Tesla delivered 367,500 vehicles last year while Toyota delivered 10 million, about 27 times Tesla's. Investors seem to have much courage in Tesla's future potential, given it's a company that only debuted on the public markets 10 years ago. The l…

DoJ Indicts VC Michael Rothenberg

The U.S. Department of Justice has announced an indictment of investor Michael Rothenberg, a once high-flying venture capitalist whose wings seemingly got clipped after the U.S. Securities and Exchanges Commission (SEC) accused him of misappropriating $19 million of investors' funds. Rothenberg was slapped with more than $31 million in fines from the SEC as a result, but it appears authorities are still pushing for more, as the Justice Department has filed charges of fraud against him. The DoJ alleges Mike Rothenberg "orchestrated multiple schemes to defraud his victims", victims, in this case, being investors in Rothenberg Ventures, the eponymous venture capital firm Rothenberg founded.

The Justice Department accuses Rothenberg of bank fraud and defrauding investors. As for bank fraud, it's alleged that Rothenberg made false statements about his wealth to his bank while refinancing his home mortgage and obtaining a personal loan. As to allegedly defrauding investor…

Peloton Launches On Roku

Fitness sensation Peloton has formally launched its app on the Roku streaming platform, entailing its live fitness classes can now be streamed by Roku users in the comfort of their homes. The Peloton channel has been made available on the Roku Channel Store, enabling users to stream live fitness sessions for a fee. Payments will be processed on the Roku Pay platform, making signing up much easier for users. Existing Peloton subscribers can also automatically log-in using their credentials and gain access to live fitness sessions.

The coronavirus pandemic has largely driven people away from public gyms towards home fitness activities, and such, online fitness streaming activity has seemingly shot through the roof. According to Roku, streaming on its Health & Fitness category grew more than 130% in May alone. Peloton happens to be a benefit of the large pivot towards home fitness, thanks to its stationary bikes and treadmills with live-streamed fitness sessions that have garnered a…

Uber Reaches To Buy Postmates: Report

Uber is in talks to acquire food-delivery competitor Postmates in a $2.6 billion deal, according to a report from the Wall Street Journal, which notes that a deal could be announced by next week or even sooner. Postmates has been said to be targeting an initial public offering but while also shopping itself around to potential buyers. Uber is notably fresh off an attempt to acquire Grubhub, another food delivery competitor which was, however, sold to British food delivery company Just Eat Takeaway.com.

Postmates has raised about $900 million in funding so far, valued at $2.4 billion as of its last funding round. The company had confidentially filed for a public listing in February of last year but didn't follow up with a public filing. In the past, Postmates is said to have shopped itself to companies including Walmart and food-delivery competitor DoorDash. Postmates is known to be unprofitable, so the public markets may not favor the company as much as a private sale and it seem…

TuSimple Seeks New Funding

Self-driving truck startup TuSimple is seeking up to $250 million in new funding and has hired investment bank Morgan Stanley to help it raise that amount, as first reported by TechCrunch. Morgan Stanley is said to have sent out informational packets to potential investors in a bid to seek funding for TuSimple. Already, TuSimple has raised about $300 million in total funding but happens to be seeking more. The San Diego-based company last raised funding in September of last year.

TuSimple was founded in 2015, at a time when most of the self-driving industry was focused on passenger cars rather than big trucks. The company has managed to secure significant funding and attention since then, with backers including UPS, CDH Investments, and China's Sina Corp. Although based out of San Diego, TuSimple currently tests on public roads in the state of Arizona and also in Shanghai, China. The company is aiming to make a dent in the $800 billion U.S. trucking industry.

As of its last fundi…

Amazon Hands Bonuses To Frontline Workers

The coronavirus pandemic largely boosted the need for e-commerce and, in turn, the fortunes of Seattle-based e-commerce giant Amazon. It's such that Amazon hired 175,000 additional people to keep up with increased demand. Now, Amazon has announced it's doling out $500 million in combined bonuses to its frontline workers, who were employed at the company throughout the month of June. The bonus is divided into various grades, including $500 for full-time warehouse workers, $250 for part-time warehouse workers, $1,000 for warehouse leads, $3,000 for delivery service partners, and $150 for each Amazon Flex driver who drove more than 10 hours in June. The bonuses for warehouse workers also covers Whole Foods employees.

The bonus dole-out was announced by Dave Clark, Amazon's famed logistics chief, who has been instrumental in setting up and overseeing the company's mammoth logistics operations. Amazon dubs the bonus as a "Thank You" bonus for its workers, many of…

Tesla Delivered 90,650 Vehicles In Q2

As anticipated, Tesla just released its production numbers for the second quarter of this year and indicated it delivered 90,650 vehicles, a slight (4.8%) drop from the previous quarter. Tesla actually managed to beat expectations despite a pandemic that led it to suspend operation for weeks at its main production facility. The majority (80,050) of Tesla's deliveries were Model 3 and Model Y vehicles, its less expensive models, while Model S and Model X vehicles, the more expensive ones, accounted for a minority (10,600).

Analysts had anticipated lower delivery numbers as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, with some even forecasting as low as 39,000 deliveries in this quarter. A concord of analysts polled by FactSet indicated an average forecast of 72,000 vehicle deliveries for the quarter.

The release of Tesla's latest production results comes on the heels of the company surpassing Japanese automaker Toyota to become the world's most valuable automaker.





Pharrell Williams Eyes Venture Investing

It seems celebrities across the U.S. have heard of good fortunes being reaped in the world of venture investing and are out to get their own share. Many music, movies, and sports bigwigs, including the likes of Kevin Durant, Lebron James, The Chainsmokers, Snoop Dogg, and Shawn "Jay-Z" Carter, have slightly ventured away from their main business into investing in tech startups, some reaping sizeable returns as a result. Now, it seems another celebrity is about to join, as The Information [paywall] reports that famed musician Pharell Williams is teaming up with Ron Conway, a prominent angel investor, to launch a venture fund that'll mainly target startups led by underrepresented minorities.

The Information reports Pharell Williams and Ron Conway are currently in discussions with limited partners for the new fund, which is notably being planned on the heels of nationwide protests against police brutality and racism across the US. Venture funds that primarily target startup…