From food delivery to housing: Former Favor founders raise millions for Sunroom Rentals

Real estate tech startup Sunroom Rentals, which leases units on behalf of property managers and apartment owners, has raised $ 11 million in a Series A round of funding led by Gigafund.

Ben Doherty and Zachary Maurais, former founders of the delivery app Favor, launched Sunroom in May 2018 with the mission of “boosting the profitability” of mid-size property managers and apartment owners by giving them a way to outsource their leasing operations.

The pair sold Favor to Texas grocer H-E-B in 2018 and soon after shifted their focus on building out Sunroom. The Austin-based company has developed an app that it says gives renters a way to tour, apply for and lease a unit “entirely online.” COVID-19 has led to more renters wanting virtual ways to explore and secure rental units. Mobile-first, Maurais noted, is particularly appealing to millennials and Gen Zers.

“Personally, we love to create products that fulfill consumer’s most basic needs,” said Maurais, the company’s president. “With food under our belt, we decided to focus on housing.”

While one might wonder what the parallels between food delivery and housing might be beyond fulfilling consumers’ needs, CEO Doherty said the rental market in 2021 looks a lot like the food delivery market in 2013.

“In 2013, Grubhub had successfully put many restaurant menus online, but most of the transactions and delivery process was still offline,” he told TechCrunch. “We’re in a similar position with the rental market, as the majority of rental listings are online, but touring, applying or leasing units is still done offline.”

Since its launch, Sunroom Rentals has signed more than 2,000 leases and had over 100,000 renters sign up for its services in fast-growing Austin, where it focused its initial efforts.

“According to the U.S. Census, that represents roughly 10% of renters in the greater Austin metro,” Maurais said. “Instead of going shallow and wide nationally, we decided to go deep in markets, in an effort to gain network effects, which was a strategy that worked well for us at Favor.”

Sunroom Rentals claims that it’s leasing units five days faster than the market average. This benefits property managers, Doherty said, because they can grow quicker “while improving leasing performance.”

Looking ahead, the company will use the funding to expand across Texas, including in Houston, San Antonio and Dallas. It will also invest in its partner portal, which aims to give owners and property managers a way to view real-time data on leasing performance.

Sunroom Rentals currently has 18 employees with the goal of more than doubling its headcount this year. It’s in particular looking to hire across its engineering, product and sales departments.

As mentioned above, Gigafund led the Series A financing, which included participation from NextGen Venture Partners, Calpoly Ventures and a slew of angel investors, including Gokul Rajaram (Google & Square) and Homeward’s Tim Heyl, among others. Existing backers include Founders Fund Seed, Draper Associates, Boost VC and Capital Factory (among many others). The round marked Sunroom’s first “priced” round, meaning the first time it’s given up stock.

Jonathan Basset, managing partner at NextGen Venture Partners, believes Sunroom was essentially in the right place at the right time and “on trend with touchless leasing even before COVID hit.”

“I watched them build a profitable consumer marketplace in a competitive market with Favor and was impressed with them as operators,” he said. “These businesses have a surprising amount of similarities and I’m confident they can rise to the challenge.

Last week, TechCrunch reported on the raise of another startup operating in this increasingly crowded space. Seattle-based Knock — a company that has developed tools to give property management companies a competitive edge — raised $ 20 million in a growth funding round led by Fifth Wall Ventures.

Knock’s goal is to provide CRM tools to modernize front office operations for these companies so they can do things like offer virtual tours and communicate with renters via text, email or social media from “a single conversation screen.” For renters, it offers an easier way to communicate and engage with landlords.

Maurais said the two differ in that Knock is a CRM built for leasing agents with a SAAS model where as Sunroom is a marketplace, where renters match, tour and apply with partnered properties.

“Sunroom also provides a suite of leasing & analytics software to its partners and generates both transactional and subscription revenues,” he added.

Startups – TechCrunch

London-based last-mile delivery startup, Gophr, raises €4.6 million 

Gophr, one of the UK’s fastest-growing last-mile delivery providers, has raised around €4.6 million led by Nauta Capital.  Based in London, Gophr was founded in 2015, by former digital comms exec Seb Robert, in response to a long line of particularly frustrating and unremarkable delivery experiences. He was soon joined by the highly experienced Krzys…

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Gophr, the U.K. last-mile delivery company, picks up £4M funding

Gophr, a U.K.-based last-mile delivery provider, has raised £4 million in funding, as it looks to invest in its product off the back of 300% revenue growth during the last 12 months.

Leading the round is pan-European B2B investor Nauta Capital. The company had previously raised £1 million in two rounds, including £500,000 from publicly-listed Auctus Alternative Investments.

Noteworthy, Gophr’s co-founder and CEO, Seb Robert, tells me the 2015-founded company reached monthly net profitability around 3 years ago and was net profitable for the whole of last year. Like other delivery companies, Gophr has benefited from a pandemic bump, but fortitude aside, is aiming to step on the gas.

Gophr says it has completed over 2 million same-day deliveries to-date. Customers include leading consumer brands including HelloFresh, Boots, Co-Op and Selfridges. It claims 5,000 clients in total and operates in most U.K. cities.
On being net profitable and in relation to raising new funding, Robert says he felt it was an important proof point to hit, recalling how, just a few years ago, bar a couple of huge successes, we saw “a generation of delivery startups go up in flames along with their investors cash”. They included Jinn and Valk Fleet, to name just two.

“It was all very predictable to anyone who’d done their homework up front (I remember at the time DM’ing you specifically and naming the ones I thought would no longer be around in a year or two!) and as a result figured that a model that proved it could actually make money would have a better chance to raise going forward,” he says.

Furthermore, Robert notes that we are starting to see a renaissance in VC investment in the last-mile delivery space, but argues that, on the surface at least, these newer delivery startups are taking a similar approach to the previous generation.

“Getting a toothbrush to you in 15 minutes is great. But what do you do with the courier who’s now coming back empty handed? That takes time and it costs money. Only time will tell,” he says.

Though Robert doesn’t say it, that’s likely taking a swipe at a new crop of startups either following the Instacart model, such as Getir in Turkey, or the plethora of delivery-only ‘dark stores’, including Berlin’s much-hyped Gorillas, France’s Cajoo,, and U.K.’s Dija, Zapp, Weezy, and Fancy (currently in talks to be acquired by U.S.-based goPuff).

With all the hype around drones and autonomous vehicles, Robert says that people forget or don’t understand that the delivery business, particularly last-mile, is still a people business. This means building a service that works for the couriers that power it.

“Same day at scale is hard, so most players cut corners,” he says. “Legacy companies can deliver at scale, but the sophistication of the service is poor, and then only make money because they squeeze their couriers. Tech startups have great app experiences and big brand budgets, but they don’t know how to deliver sustainably so they burn through VC cash waiting for robots, drones, autonomous vehicles and bionic duckweed to shore up the bottom line”.

“The way we’ve managed to strip out the compromise is by creating a platform that maximises each individual courier’s ability to make money, in whatever direction they’re traveling in, whilst making sure the end customer gets their stuff on time with no issues”.

Gophr has also built a platform that Robert claims helps couriers “level up”. This required properly understanding the “complexity and variability of the delivery process,” including how individual couriers want to work, and how to best meet customer expectations, which varies per sector.

“I think with most delivery apps and at incumbent carriers the courier is kind of incidental, and seen as replaceable; we try to focus on how we can make them better, and we’re still working on it,” he says. “Being a great courier doesn’t just boil down to being on time — that’s the basics — it’s what works for different types of customer needs and expectations. You might get couriers who aren’t great at multi-drop but very good on the circuit, or that need to work on job management but more than make up for it through excellent communication. Sending or receiving a package is a bit of an emotional purchase when you think about it so we have to do our best to manage that in the best way possible. Having happy couriers is a good start”.

Meanwhile, Robert is not phased by last week’s Uber ruling that saw U.K. courts reclassify the worker status gig economy-style drivers, meaning that they are entitled to additional benefits and worker protections.

“I think it’s great news for shutting down bogus self-employment,” he says. “I don’t see how the incumbent U.K. delivery industry can continue to operate under anything else other than this new worker classification. If operators want to stay on the right side of the law, worker status is the one that’s closest to how they currently do business. In the short term they might be able to mitigate the impact through recent 3rd party solutions that have sprung up that provide cover for the new IR35 rules coming into effect later this year, but I can’t imagine that will last forever.

“Fundamentally, we’ve always considered the courier as ‘the talent’ and not a cost centre or a commodity, and that the important relationship to build is between the courier and client, with our platform as an enabler, not a gatekeeper. And that’s always been key to how we operate”.

This means that Gophr doesn’t penalise or sin-bin drivers for non-acceptance of work. Its app show the driver where they would be picking up and delivering to, what the consignment is and what they’ll get paid so they have all the relevant info before they accept a job”.

However, he says the rate setting aspect of the Uber case is interesting, because centrally imposed rates can actually work in favour of couriers as apposed to an entirely free-market. “We do set the rates they’re paid, but that’s because we looked at other solutions that enabled couriers to set their own price per mile and/or got them to bid for work and all it did was encourage a race to the bottom,” Robert says. “So it’s kind of ironic that that was one of the key parts of the ruling. This could become (quite literally) a law of unintended consequences”.

Startups – TechCrunch

10 investors predict MaaS, on-demand delivery and EVs will dominate mobility’s post-pandemic future

The COVID-19 pandemic didn’t just upend the transportation industry. It laid bare its weaknesses, and conversely, uncovered potential opportunities.

Electric bikes sales spiked as public transit ridership evaporated. The public, and investors, began to recognize the utility of autonomous sidewalk delivery bots, which had once been viewed as mere novelties; the rising popularity of on-demand delivery prompted major retailers like Walmart to put more resources towards meeting consumers needs and was one of the driving forces behind Uber’s decision to dump nearly every business unit and acquire Postmates.

The upshot? The transformation isn’t over. Following up on our May of 2020 survey of the sector and about the impact of COVID-19 in particular, TechCrunch spoke with 10 investors about the state of mobility, which trends they’re most excited about and what they’re looking for in their next investments. They see opportunities within software, particularly around mobility-as-a-service ventures and fleet management, continued demand for delivery and the push for electrification and batteries as well as the financial instrument — SPACs — that so many startups turned to in 2020. But there’s a lot more; they even see tailwinds for eVTOLs.

Here’s who we interviewed:


Clara Brenner, co-founder and managing partner, Urban Innovation Fund

COVID-19 disrupted virtually every sector of the transportation industry. E-bike demand spiked, shared scooters initially struggled with some rebounding, ridership dwindled in ride-hailing and plummeted in public transit as consumers turned to cars and other alternatives. Meanwhile, demand for delivery skyrocketed and the autonomous vehicle industry went through a consolidation. What sectors will recover in 2021 and where are the new and unlikely opportunities to invest?

COVID has exposed how rickety, insolvent and inequitable transit is in the U.S. Tools that empower cities to get compensated for private enterprise monetizing public infrastructure, and that ensure more equitable mobility access are exciting to me. Companies like Ride Report that help cities wrap their arms around all of the various public and private transit happening on their streets are exciting to me.

What are the remaining opportunities for new startups, now that the autonomous vehicle industry is maturing with unprecedented consolidation, billion-dollar funding rounds and even a few low-volume commercial operations kicking off?

Autonomous vehicles still have a long way to go, and there is still lots of room for new startups to make their mark on this space. In particular, we’ve been interested to see new entrants working on software tools to facilitate regulation and parking.

What are the overlooked areas that you want to invest in, now that legacy automakers are shifting their portfolios to electric and new EV manufacturers are preparing to start production?

We are very interested in the emerging fleet management space — and this is reflected in a number of our recent investments, including Electriphi (software to help fleets transition to electric) and Kyte (activating underutilized fleets to deliver a magical car rental experience). There are so many efficiencies that come from the fleet model for transportation — we think this will be an increasingly important area in the coming years.

What is the fundraising model of success for transportation startups of the future? Do you expect early-stage funding in this sector to stay hot indefinitely? Do you see SPACs as the path to liquidity long term for a large number of startups in this sector?

Transportation is important to basically all people and is a real mess, so it will likely continue to be a hot topic and a source of investor interest for years to come. However, for capital intensive transportation companies, the rounds have gotten so huge and expensive that they often make little sense for early-stage funders to participate in (they get diluted down hugely). Not that this seems to be dissuading many investors at the moment.

At the Urban Innovation Fund, we are spending a lot of time looking at software tools that enable larger hardware systems to work more efficiently. In terms of longer-term liquidity, SPACs represent a good option for many companies. That said, consolidation/mergers seems the most logical outcome for most companies in the transportation space — where strategic partnerships and integrations represent critical competitive advantages.

What do you want to see from the Biden administration to accelerate innovation in the transportation sector?

I’d like to see the Biden administration invest in our urban public transit systems — we know those systems can work beautifully. This may not accelerate “innovation,” but it will accelerate progress. This is a fundamental confusion in the VC space — innovation does not always equal progress.

Shawn Carolan, partner, Menlo Ventures

COVID-19 disrupted virtually every sector of the transportation industry. E-bike demand spiked, shared scooters initially struggled with some rebounding, ridership dwindled in ride-hailing and plummeted in public transit as consumers turned to cars and other alternatives. Meanwhile, demand for delivery skyrocketed, and the autonomous vehicle industry went through consolidation. What sectors will recover in 2021, and where are the new and unlikely opportunities to invest?

Pretty much all aspects of transportation will show recovery in 2021 with the population’s strong desire to get closer to normal, daily infections dropping, better mask compliance and increased vaccinations. The slowest will be commute-to-work use cases where the “new normal” for many will be 50%-100% fewer trips to the office on a monthly basis.

Personal above shared movement: The psychological aftermath of the pandemic will persist for some time; people do and will continue to prefer more distance from others. This will lead to an acceleration of personal e-mobility solutions, both outright purchase and subscription models, including scooters and e-bikes (Unagi, where we are investors), asset-sharing models where riders aren’t in close proximity to strangers (GetAround, Turo, Lime, Bird), and single-ridership Ubers and Lyfts over UberPools and the like.

E-commerce supply chain: E-commerce has experienced a step-function in demand that will persist. Many shippers, trucking companies, manufacturers, distributors, etc., are still poorly connected, inefficient, and managed with paper and manual labor. The entire supply chain is ripe for Amazon-like efficiency and clarity; this will be driven by factory/warehouse level automation, robotics, best-of-breed fulfillment, and logistics software like our investments in Alloy, Fox Robotics and ShipBob.

Local delivery: Instacart, DoorDash, UberEats, etc. have brought local delivery mainstream. This trend will continue, and the larger incumbents will be working hard to get their act together for streamlining fulfillment rather than let the delivery fleets capture all of the upsides. Here companies like AnyCart that streamline ordering for grocery and recipes can partner versus compete with large grocery chains to deliver a compelling user experience and more reasonable prices.

What are the remaining opportunities for new startups, now that the autonomous vehicle industry is maturing with unprecedented consolidation, billion-dollar funding rounds and even a few low-volume commercial operations kicking off?

Until there is a teleporter, opportunities will always exist to make transportation better, faster and cheaper for a given distance. The big levers coming are:

Electric propulsion (on ground and air) yields a much lower cost per mile with lower opex motors and lower cost of recharge versus burning fuel. Opportunities exist here mostly for component companies making better batteries, motors and quiet propellers.

Better asset utilization: More efficient routing of vehicles (via routing software), higher capacity utilization (via more efficient marketplaces), and less downtime (through better scheduling and optimization algorithms) bring prices down.

Autonomy: Drivers are a big part of both the cost structure of transportation and also accidents. Human-level autonomy is still several years off, but we see lots of opportunity for autonomy in constrained environments (vehicles moving in repetitive patterns with few obstacles) and through the air.

What are the overlooked areas that you want to invest in? Now that legacy automakers are shifting their portfolios to electric, and new EV manufacturers are preparing to start production, what are the overlooked areas that you want to invest in?

We believe there are many transportation options beyond the car. Electric scooters, bikes, eVTOLs and others will keep growing in popularity for both utility and fun.

What is the fundraising model of success for transportation startups of the future? Do you expect early-stage funding in this sector to stay hot indefinitely? Do you see SPACs as the path to liquidity long term for a large number of startups in this sector?

Transportation will be a perennial sector of opportunity given how large a piece of consumer spend it occupies. Till the late 2000s, Silicon Valley barely touched transportation; this has, of course, changed dramatically since that period, particularly with the rise of Tesla.

It’s often quite capital intensive, though. Proving solid unit economics at a small scale before scaling will become more of a mandate given the machinations in the shared scooter market and how it showed that rapid growth doesn’t solve all woes.

We’d love to see better debt financing for electric vehicle companies. With their much lower operating costs and the low-interest macro environments, we find ourselves in, if there were large pools of clean transportation debt capital that could get more vehicles in consumers’ lives via modest monthly fees that would go a long way in accelerating adoption. For example, Unagi all-access subscription offers a beautiful personal scooter for $ 30-$ 40 per month with great ROI given the usage patterns and reliability. If the debt markets line up to finance these at scale, it could be a nice win-win.

SPACs prove to be a good option for companies with high R&D costs and a long horizon to reach traditional IPO milestones (i.e., >$ 100 million ARR). Some of these projects aren’t going to work out, though and retail investors will be left holding the bag when the stocks crater. This will be the kickstarter “failed launch” phenomenon at a much larger scale, and there will be some nasty fallout.

Corporate venture capital, mainly industrial and automative focused companies, are getting more aggressive as the industry recognizes their need to adapt.

What do you want to see from the Biden administration to accelerate innovation in the transportation sector?

We’d love to see aggressive policies to further the acceleration of clean technology. Aside from the obvious environmental imperative to reduce carbon emissions, it makes good economic sense. Some examples would be personal and corporate tax credits for investing in anything that offers lower environmental impact. Electric vehicles of all sorts (scooters, bikes, cars, boats, etc.), installing solar for home and utility plants, using EVs for materials handling, etc.

Make the U.S. the testing ground for AVs by making regulation more favorable relative to competitors like Europe and China both on the ground and in the air.

Own the future of lithium-ion extraction and manufacturing. This is the “white oil” of our generation.

Aggressive funding of R&D initiatives at universities and commercial research labs that have a shot at changing the cost equations for batteries, motors, propellers, the power grid, etc. that can improve the fundamental building blocks.

Startups – TechCrunch

[Arbe Robotics in DesignNews] Automating the Last Mile With a Delivery Robot

Consumers and businesses alike are expecting goods to be delivered quickly. The movement of parcels from the production facility to the local hub is extensively automated. That last mile of the destination is a gap of inefficiency. Add to this the similar need of moving meals from the restaurant to the consumer. This need to automate this last stretch is prompting the development of automated delivery technologies.

Read more here.

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Expected Massive Growth for Advanced Drug Delivery Market with Detailed Competitor Analysis and Forecast Report to 2026 | Merck & Co, Antares Pharma, F. Hoffmann-La Roche, Novartis – The Courier

Expected Massive Growth for Advanced Drug Delivery Market with Detailed Competitor Analysis and Forecast Report to 2026 | Merck & Co, Antares Pharma, F. Hoffmann-La Roche, Novartis  The Courier
“nigeria startups when:7d” – Google News

Delivery company goPuff is in talks to acquire the UK’s Fancy

GoPuff, the U.S.-based startup that operates its own “microfulfillment” network and promises to deliver items such as over-the-counter medicine, baby food and alcohol in 30 minutes or less, is in talks to acquire the U.K.’s Fancy Delivery, TechCrunch has learned.

According to sources, terms of the acquisition are still being fleshed out, and the deal has yet to get over the line. However, an announcement could come in the next few weeks if not sooner. GoPuff declined to comment. Fancy’s founders couldn’t be reached before publication, either.

Launched late last year, Fancy currently operates in four cities in the U.K. and is a graduate of the Silicon Valley accelerator Y Combinator. It has a strikingly similar model to its potential buyer, leading some to describe it as a mini goPuff. The two companies are fully vertically integrated, meaning they each contract their own fleet of drivers and operate their own microfulfillment centres — sometimes dubbed “dark stores” — designed specifically for online ordering and hyperlocal delivery.

Strategically, the potential acquisition of Fancy looks to be a good fit, and most notably would signal goPuff’s intent to expand to the U.K. via purchasing a nascent local player rather than starting entirely from scratch. Sources tell me Fancy will continue to operate under the Fancy brand and that goPuff intends to invest in its growth, including hiring and opening additional fulfillment centers. One source tells TechCrunch the acquisition will be an all-stock deal.

GoPuff was recently valued at $ 3.9 billion and has raised $ 1.35 billion in funding to-date (backers include Accel, D1 Capital Partners, Luxor Capital and SoftBank Vision Fund). It already operates in 500 U.S. cities, and isn’t shy of making acquisitions, either, most recently purchasing alcohol-focussed BevMo.

Meanwhile, Europe is seeing a slew of startups inspired by goPuff’s vertically integrated model sprouting up. They include Berlin’s much-hyped Gorillas and London’s Dija and Weezy, and France’s Cajoo, all of which claim to focus more on fresh food and groceries, where margins are arguably tighter. There’s also the likes of Zapp, which is still in stealth and more focused on a higher-margin convenience store offering.

Startups – TechCrunch

[The Bouqs in Forbes] The Best Flower Delivery Services For Valentine’s Day

Sending flowers is a lovely gesture to show you care any time of year, but when Valentine’s Day rolls around, finding the best flower delivery services becomes a priority.

Read more here.

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