LeafLink raises $40M from Founders Fund, others to cultivate its cannabis wholesale market

LeafLink is today announcing it raised a $ 40 million Series C financing round, led by Founders Fund with participation from Thrive Capital, Nosara Capital and Lerer Hippeau. This round of financing brings the total amount raised by the company to more than $ 90 million.

This financing round is Founder Fund’s largest technology investment in the cannabis space.

Since its founding in 2015 LeafLink has become a significant player in legal cannabis. With a 130 employees and operating in 27 markets, the company says it has 32% of the U.S. wholesale cannabis market, resulting in an annualized gross merchandise value of over $ 3 billion. LeafLink sees the Series C in helping grow the business through new processes and services.

“This fundraising round is monumental for a technology company like LeafLink as we continue to define a space that shows no signs of slowing down,” Ryan G. Smith, co-founder and CEO of LeafLink, said in a released statement. “We’re honored to partner with Founders Fund as we scale our marketplace technology across the growing cannabis industry. Our eyes are set on bringing efficiency and innovation to the supply chain, and we’re excited for cannabis to serve as a model for more legacy industries in the future.”

Right now, LeafLink serves as a critical service for the cannabis market by connecting retailers with suppliers and providing supply chain liquidity through its e-commerce marketplace. With the additional $ 40 million, the company expects to expand its offering with new brands and retailers and expand into the new markets opened up by the 2020 election.

“The U.S. appears to be on a path to full federal legalization over the next few years,” said Founders Fund partner Napoleon Ta. “We believe we’ll start to see some massive success stories in the cannabis space as regulations change and that LeafLink will be one of the winners.”

In a statement to TechCrunch, Ta says LeafLink is a tech-enabled wholesale marketplace connecting thousands of wholesalers and retail buyers. He sees the investment as a great opportunity to work with a company he and Founders Fund see has the potential to bring an entire industry onto one platform.

“We invested in LeafLink because the team is merging best practices from e-commerce marketplaces with B2B technology to streamline an entire industry’s supply chain and operations,” said Ta. “We’re excited to make our largest investment in the cannabis space to date in LeafLink.”

Startups – TechCrunch

GoSite snags $40M to help SMBs bring their businesses online

There are 12 million small and medium businesses in the U.S., yet they have continued to be one of the most underserved segments of the B2B universe: That volume underscores a lot of fragmentation, and alongside other issues like budget constraints, there are a number of barriers to building for them at scale. Today, however, a startup helping SMBs get online is announcing some significant funding — a sign of how things are changing at a moment when many businesses have realised that being online is no longer an option, but a necessity.

GoSite, a San Diego-based startup that helps small and medium enterprises build websites, and, with a minimum amount of technical know-how, run other functions of their businesses online — like payments, online marketing, appointment booking and accounting — has picked up $ 40 million in funding.

GoSite offers a one-stop shop for users to build and manage everything online, with the ability to feed in up to 80 different third-party services within that. “We want to help our customers be found everywhere,” said Alex Goode, the founder and CEO of GoSite. “We integrate with Facebook and other consumer platforms like Siri, Apple Maps and search engines like Google, Yahoo and Bing and more.” It also builds certain features like payments from the ground up.

The Series B comes on the back of a strong year for the company. Driven by COVID-19 circumstances, businesses have increasingly turned to the internet to interact with customers, and GoSite — which has “thousands” of SMB customers — said it doubled its customer base in 2020.

This latest round is being led by Left Lane Capital out of New York, with Longley Capital, Cove Fund, Stage 2, Ankona Capital and Serra Ventures also participating. GoSite is clearly striking while the iron is hot: Longley, also based out of San Diego, led the company’s previous round, which was only in August of this year. It has now raised $ 60 million to date.

GoSite is, in a sense, a play for more inclusivity in tech: Its customers are not companies that it’s “winning” off other providers that provide website building and hosting and other services typically used by SMBs, such as Squarespace and Wix, or GoDaddy, or Shopify.

Rather, they are companies that may have never used any of these: local garages, local landscapers, local hair salons, local accountancy firms, local dentists and so on. Barring the accounting firm, these are not businesses that will ever go fully online, as a retailer might, not least because of the physical aspect of each of those professions. But they will need an online presence and the levers it gives them to communicate in order to survive, especially in times when their old models are being put under strain.

Goode started GoSite after graduating from college in Michigan with a degree in computer science, having previously grown up around and working in small businesses — his parents, grandparents and others in his Michigan town all ran their own stores. (He moved to San Diego “for the weather,” he joked.)

His belief is that while there are and always will be alternatives like Facebook or Yelp to plant a flag, there is nothing that can replace the value and longer-term security and control of building something of your own — a sentiment small business owners would surely grasp.

That is perhaps the most interesting aspect of GoSite as it exists today: It precisely doesn’t see any of what already exists out there as “the competition.” Instead, Goode sees his purpose as building a dashboard that will help business owners manage all that — with up to 80 different services currently available — and more, from a single place, and with minimum need for technical skills and time spent learning the ropes.

“There is definitely huge demand from small businesses for help and something like GoSite can do that,” Goode said. “The space is very fragmented and noisy and they don’t even know where to start.”

This, combined with GoSite’s growth and relevance to the current market, is partly what attracted investors.

“The opportunity we are betting on here is the all-in-one solution,” said Vinny Pujji, partner at Left Lane. “If you are a carpet cleaner or house painter, you don’t have the capacity to understand or work with five or six different pieces of software. We spoke with thousands of SMBs when looking at this, and this was the answer we heard.” He said the other important thing is that GoSite has a customer service team and for SMBs that use it, they like that when they call, “GoSite picks up the phone.”

Startups – TechCrunch

Rockset announces $40M Series B as data analytics solution gains momentum

Rockset, a cloud-native analytics company, announced a $ 40 million Series B investment today led by Sequoia with help from Greylock, the same two firms that financed its Series A. The startup has now raised a total of $ 61.5 million, according to the company.

As co-founder and CEO Venkat Venkataramani told me at the time of the Series A in 2018, there is a lot of manual work involved in getting data ready to use and it acts as a roadblock to getting to real insight. He hoped to change that with Rockset.

“We’re building out our service with innovative architecture and unique capabilities that allows full-featured fast SQL directly on raw data. And we’re offering this as a service. So developers and data scientists can go from useful data in any shape, any form to useful applications in a matter of minutes. And it would take months today,” he told me in 2018.

In fact, “Rockset automatically builds a converged index on any data — including structured, semi-structured, geographical and time series data — for high-performance search and analytics at scale,” the company explained.

It seems to be resonating with investors and customers alike as the company raised a healthy B round and business is booming. Rockset supplied a few metrics to illustrate this. For starters, revenue grew 290% in the last quarter. While they didn’t provide any foundational numbers for that percentage growth, it is obviously substantial.

In addition, the startup reports adding hundreds of new users, again not nailing down any specific numbers, and queries on the platform are up 313%. Without specifics, it’s hard to know what that means, but that seems like healthy growth for an early stage startup, especially in this economy.

Mike Vernal, a partner at Sequoia, sees a company helping to get data to work faster than other solutions, which require a lot of handling first. “Rockset, with its innovative new approach to indexing data, has quickly emerged as a true leader for real-time analytics in the cloud. I’m thrilled to partner with the company through its next phase of growth,” Vernal said in a statement.

The company was founded in 2016 by the creators of RocksDB. The startup had previously raised a $ 3 million seed round when they launched the company and the $ 18.5 million A round in 2018.

Startups – TechCrunch

Anyscale adds $40M to bring its Ray-based distributed computing tech to the enterprise masses

The world of distributed computing took on a new profile this year when Folding@home, a 20-year-old distributed computing project, found itself picking up thousands of new volunteers to help COVID-19 researchers generate more computing power to fold proteins and run other calculations needed for screening potential drug compounds to fight the novel coronavirus. Today, a startup that is also tapping the potential and opportunity in distributed computing is announcing a round of growth funding to continue its own work.

Anyscale, a startup founded by a team out of UC Berkeley that created the Ray open-source Python framework for running distributed computing projects, has raised $ 40 million.

It plans to use the capital to continue developing Anyscale, a platform built on Ray that will make Ray usable not just by high-level developers and computing specialists, but any technical people who are looking to run projects that require large amounts of computing power.

Ion Stoica, Anyscale’s executive chairman who co-founded the company with Robert Nishihara, Philipp Moritz and Berkeley professor Michael I. Jordan, said in an interview that the company is tapping into a moment spurred not just by the events of 2020 but by the bigger demand from companies — spurred by the growth of cloud computing, major digital transformation of their systems and a need to go that extra mile to remain competitive. Organizations are becoming more ambitious in their technology strategies and goals, whether they are tech companies or not.

“At a high level, the trend that we see is that all applications are distributed and running on clusters, but building these applications is incredibly hard and requires teams with the right expertise,” said Stoica. “What we are trying to build will make it as easy to build a distributed computing project as it would be to run a program on your laptop. It will mean ordinary developers will be able to build scalable applications just like Google can build today.”

The company’s first build of Anyscale — which will let organizations build multi-cloud applications from a single machine and use serverless architecture that scales up and down to meet application demands — has yet to launch commercially: it is in a private beta and the plan is to launch it fully next year.

There has been interest from financial services, retail and manufacturing companies, Stoica said, with companies working in design, informatics and medical research (and COVID-19 vaccines) also using the private beta.

The Series B is being led by previous investor NEA, with Andreessen Horowitz (a16z), Intel Capital and Foundation Capital also participating. A16z led the company’s Series A less than a year ago (a $ 20 million round in December).

Intel, meanwhile, is a strategic investor. Along with other tech giants like Microsoft, Intel is using Ray’s distributed computing model to run projects.

Stoica — who also co-founded Databricks, Conviva and was one of the original developers of Apache Spark — and Nishihara declined to comment in an interview on Anyscale’s valuation, but Stoica confirmed that the round was oversubscribed. The company has now raised just over $ 60 million.

While the startup continues to build out Anyscale, in the last year it has also been making more headway with Ray, which they also maintain.

At the Ray Summit — Anyscale’s conference for developers run as a virtual event at the end of September —  Anyscale released Ray 1.0, which provides, in addition to a universal serverless compute API, an expanded library to use on Ray 1.0. Nishihara described it as a “huge milestone,” not least because it is one step along the path for the bigger vision they have for Anyscale to be used by non-tech companies for tech work.

A typical example was a recent recommendation algorithm built by Intel for Burger King. “The thing that is hard to do is not making the recommendations but learning from the interactions that users are having, and the choices they are making, and having that experience reflected back very rapidly,” he said. It’s a process that can be done in other ways, but with a far less good user experience due to lags.

This past year Nishihara said that interest in Ray has seen “tremendous growth,” but that it’s hard to say whether that is because of people working from home or just wider computing trends.

“It’s clear if anything that the pandemic is accelerating the transition,” said Stoica. “Ray has good support for the cloud, including Azure, Google Cloud Platform and others, which makes it quite compelling.”

We’ve seen an interesting trend in enterprise IT, where startups are finding an opportunity in the market by making it possible for non-technical organizations to bridge the digital divide, by providing better access to the most technical advances in computing to organizations beyond those that can build and operate such tools themselves. Just as groups like Element AI are working on ways to democratize advances in AI, the same kind of tech built, acquired and used by the likes of Apple, Google and Amazon, so too is Anyscale looking to do the same in enterprise computing.

And the two areas of AI and computing, of course, are interconnected: these days you need vast amounts of computing power to run AI applications, something the average company typically lacks.

“The demand for distributed computing continues to increase with the widespread adoption of AI and machine learning in application development,” said Pete Sonsini, general partner at NEA, in a statement. “Still, scaling applications on clusters remains extremely challenging. Serverless computing is emerging as the preferred platform for developing distributed applications. Unfortunately, today’s serverless offerings support only a limited set of applications, and most of them are cloud-specific—but not Ray and Anyscale. The company’s path thus far bears the hallmarks of a standout technology pioneer, and we’re thrilled to partner with the team through this next phase bridging their open source and commercial offerings.”

Startups – TechCrunch

[Armory in TechCrunch] Armory nabs $40M Series C as commercial biz on top of open-source Spinnaker project takes off

As companies continue to shift more quickly to the cloud, pushed by the pandemic, startups like Armory that work in the cloud-native space are seeing an uptick in interest. Armory  is a company built to be a commercial layer on top of the open-source continuous delivery project Spinnaker. Today, it announced a $ 40 million Series C.

Read more here.

The post [Armory in TechCrunch] Armory nabs $ 40M Series C as commercial biz on top of open-source Spinnaker project takes off appeared first on OurCrowd Blog.

OurCrowd Blog

Armory nabs $40M Series C as commercial biz on top of open-source Spinnaker project takes off

As companies continue to shift more quickly to the cloud, pushed by the pandemic, startups like Armory that work in the cloud-native space are seeing an uptick in interest. Armory is a company built to be a commercial layer on top of the open-source continuous delivery project Spinnaker. Today, it announced a $ 40 million Series C.

B Capital led the round, with help from new investors Lead Edge Capital and Marc Benioff along with previous investors Insight Partners, Crosslink Capital, Bain Capital Ventures, Mango Capital, Y Combinator and Javelin Venture Partners. Today’s investment brings the total raised to more than $ 82 million.

“Spinnaker is an open-source project that came out of Netflix and Google, and it is a very sophisticated multi-cloud and software delivery platform,” company co-founder and CEO Daniel R. Odio told TechCrunch.

Odio points out that this project has the backing of industry leaders, including the three leading public cloud infrastructure vendors Amazon, Microsoft and Google, as well as other cloud players like CloudFoundry and HashiCorp. “The fact that there is a lot of open-source community support for this project means that it is becoming the new standard for cloud-native software delivery,” he said.

In the days before the notion of continuous delivery, companies moved forward slowly, releasing large updates over months or years. As software moved to the cloud, this approach no longer made sense and companies began delivering updates more incrementally, adding features when they were ready. Adding a continuous delivery layer helped facilitate this move.

As Odio describes it, Armory extends the Spinnaker project to help implement complex use cases at large organizations, including around compliance and governance and security. It is also in the early stages of implementing a SaaS version of the solution, which should be available next year.

While he didn’t want to discuss customer numbers, he mentioned JPMorgan Chase and Autodesk as customers, along with less specific allusions to “a Fortune Five technology company, a Fortune 20 Bank, a Fortune 50 retailer and a Fortune 100 technology company.”

The company currently has 75 employees, but Odio says business has been booming and he plans to double the team in the next year. As he does, he says that he is deeply committed to diversity and inclusion.

“There’s actually a really big difference between diversity and inclusion, and there’s a great Vernā Myers quote that diversity is being asked to the party and inclusion is being asked to dance, and so it’s actually important for us not only to focus on diversity, but also focus on inclusion because that’s how we win. By having a heterogeneous company, we will outperform a homogeneous company,” he said.

While the company has moved to remote work during COVID, Odio says they intend to remain that way, even after the current crisis is over. “Now obviously COVID been a real challenge for the world, including us. We’ve gone to a fully remote-first model, and we are going to stay remote-first even after COVID. And it’s really important for us to be taking care of our people, so there’s a lot of human empathy here,” he said.

But at the same time, he sees COVID opening up businesses to move to the cloud and that represents an opportunity for his business, one that he will focus on with new capital at his disposal. “In terms of the business opportunity, we exist to help power the transformation that these enterprises are undergoing right now, and there’s a lot of urgency for us to execute on our vision and mission because there is a lot of demand for this right now,” he said.

Startups – TechCrunch

Papaya Global raises $40M for a payroll and HR platform aimed at global workforces

Workforces are getting more global, and people who work day in, day out for organizations don’t always sit day in, day out in a single office, in a single country, to get a job done. Today, one of the startups building HR to help companies provision services for and manage those global workers better is announcing a funding round to capitalise on a surge in business that it has seen in the last year — spurred in no small part by the global health pandemic, the impact it’s had on travel and the way it has focused the minds of companies to get their cloud services and workforce management in order.

Papaya Global, an Israeli startup that provides cloud-based payroll, as well as hiring, onboarding and compliance services for organizations that employ full-time, part-time, or contractors outside of their home country, has raised $ 40 million in a Series B round of funding led by Scale Venture Partners. Workday Ventures — the corporate investment arm of the HR company — Access Industries (via its Israeli vehicle Claltech), and previous investors Insight Partners, Bessemer Venture Partners, New Era Ventures, Group 11, and Dynamic Loop also participated

The money comes less than a year after its Series A of $ 45 million, following the company growing 300% year-over-year annually since 2016. It’s now raised $ 95 million and is not disclosing valuation. But Eynat Guez, the CEO who co-founded the company in that year with Ruben Drong and Ofer Herman, said in an interview that it’s 5x the valuation it had in its round last year.

Its customers include fast-growing startups (precisely the kind of customer that not only has global workforces, but is expanding its employee base quickly) like OneTrust, nCino and Hopin, as well as major corporates like Toyota, Microsoft, Wix, and General Dynamics.

Guez said Papaya Global was partly born out of the frustrations she herself had with HR solutions — she’s worked in the field for years. Different countries have different employment regulations, varied banking rules, completely different norms in terms of how people get paid, and so on. While there have been some really modern tools built for local workforces — Rippling, Gusto, Zenefits now going head to head with incumbents like ADP — they weren’t built to address these issues.

Other HR people who have dealt with international workers would understand her pain, those who control the purse strings might have been less aware of the fragmentation. All that changed in the last eight months (and for the foreseeable future), a period when companies have had to reassess everything about how they work to make sure that they can get through the current period without collapsing.

“The major impact of Covid-19 for us has been changing attitudes,” said Guez. “People usually think that payroll works by itself, but it’s one of the more complex parts of the organization, covering major areas like labor, accounting, tax. Eight months ago, a lot of clients thought, it just happens. But now they realize they didn’t have control of the data, some don’t even have a handle on who is being paid.”

As people moved into and out of jobs, and out of offices into working from home, as the pandemic kicked off, some operations fell apart as a result, she said. “Payroll continuity is like IT continuity, and so all of a sudden when Covid started its march, we had prospects calling us saying they didn’t have data on, for example, their Italian employees, and the office they were using wasn’t answering the phone.”

Guez herself is walking the walk on the remote working front. Papaya Global itself has offices around the world, and Guez herself is normally based in Tel Aviv. But our interview was conducted with her in the Maldives. She said she and her family decided to decamp elsewhere before Israel went into a second lockdown, which was very tough to handle in a small flat with small children. Working anywhere, as we have found out, can work.

The company is not the only one that has identified and is building to help organizations handle global workforces. In fact, just when you think the unemployment, furlough and layoff crunch is affecting an inordinate number of people and the job market is in a slump, a rush of them, along with other HR companies, have all been announcing significant funding rounds this year on the back of surges in business.

Others that have raised money during the pandemic include Deel, which like Papaya Global is also addressing the complexities of running global workforces; Turing, which helps with sourcing and then managing international teams; Factorial with its platform targeting specifically SMBs; Lattice focused on the bigger challenges of people management; and Rippling, the second act from Zenefits’ Parker Conrad.

“Papaya Global’s accelerating growth is a testament to their top-notch executive leadership as well as their ability to streamline international payroll management, a first for many enterprises that have learned to live with highly manual payroll processes,” said Rory O’Driscoll, a partner at Scale Venture Partners, in a statement. “The complexity and cost of managing multi-region workforces cannot be understated. Eynat and her team are uniquely serving their customers’ needs, bringing an advanced SaaS platform into a market long-starved for more effective software solutions.”

Startups – TechCrunch

Alloy Raises $40M to Manage Financial Identity Verification With a Single API

The pandemic has accelerated digital transformation for countless industries. In fintech, digital institutions are faced with the quandary to buy or build. Alloy is a SaaS platform and integrated API that makes that decision easier with its robust offering that offloads the process of identity verification for neobanks, scaling fintech startups, platform banks, and others. This is critical not only for onboarding but also on an ongoing basis. Cofounder and Chief Revenue Officer Laura Spiekerman shares more on the genesis of Alloy, the company’s experience working with its partners during the pandemic, and the company’s recent funding round from investors that include Canapi Ventures, Felicis Ventures, Avid Ventures, Bessemer Venture Partners, Primary Venture Partners, and Eniac Ventures.
AlleyWatch

After lockdowns lead to an e-bike boom, VanMoof raises $40M Series B to expand globally

E-bike startup VanMoof has raised a $ 40 million investment from Norwest Venture Partners, Felix Capital and Balderton Capital. The Series B financing comes after a $ 13.5 million investment in May. The funding brings VanMoof’s total raised to $ 73 million and furthers the e-bike brand’s ultimate mission of getting the next billion on bikes.

The Series B funding will be used to meet the increased demand, shorten delivery times and build a suite of rider service solutions. It also aims to boost its share of the e-bike market in North America, Europe and Japan.

Partly driven by the switch of commuters away from public transport because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the e-bike craze is taking off.

Governments are now investing in cycling infrastructure and the e-bike market is set to surpass $ 46 billion in the next six years, according to reports.

Ties Carlier, co-founder of VanMoof, commented: “E-bike adoption was an inevitable global shift that was already taking place for many years now but COVID-19 put an absolute turbo on it to the point that we’re approaching a critical mass to transform cities for the better.”

VanMoof says it realized a 220% global revenue growth during the worldwide lockdown and sold more bikes in the first four months of 2020 than the previous two years combined.

Stew Campbell, principal at Norwest said: “Taco, Ties and the VanMoof team have not only built an unparalleled brand and best-selling product, but they’re reshaping city mobility all over the world.”

Colin Hanna, principal at Balderton: “As the COVID-19 crisis hit supply chains worldwide, VanMoof’s unique control over design and production was a key advantage that allowed the company to react nimbly and effectively. Moreover, VanMoof’s direct to consumer approach allows the company to build a close relationship to their riders, one that will be strengthened by new products and services in the years to come.”

VanMoof launched the new VanMoof S3 and X3 in April of this year. I reviewed the S3 here and checked out the earlier X2 version here.

Startups – TechCrunch