Only a few weeks after its SPAC IPO, Porch today announced that it has made four acquisitions, worth a total of $ 122 million. The most important here is probably the acquisition of Homeowners of America for $ 100 million, which gets Porch deeper into the home insurance space. In addition, Porch is also acquiring mover marketing and data platform V12 for $ 22 million, as well as home inspection service Palm-Tech and iRoofing, a SaaS application for roofing contractors. Porch did not disclose the acquisition prices for the latter two companies.
You may still think of Porch as a marketplace for home improvement and repair services — and that’s what it started out as when it launched about seven years ago. Yet while it still offers those services, a couple of years after its 2013 launch, the company pivoted to building what it now calls a “vertical software platform for the home.” Through a number of acquisitions, the Porch Group now includes Porch.com, as well as services like HireAHelper, Inspection Support Network for home inspectors, Kandela for providing services around moving and an insurance broker in the form of the Elite Insurance Group. In some form or another, Porch’s tools are now used — either directly or indirectly — by two-thirds of U.S. homebuyers every month.
As Porch founder and CEO Matt Ehrlichman told me, he had originally planned to take his company public through a traditional IPO. He noted that going the increasingly popular SPAC route, though, allowed him to push his timeline up by a year, which in turn now enables the company to make the acquisitions it announced today.
“In total, we had a $ 323 million fundraise that allows us now to not only be a public company with public currency, but to be very well capitalized. And picking up that year allows us to be able to go and pursue acquisitions that we think make really good fits for Porch,” Ehrlichman told me. While Porch’s guidance for its 2021 revenue was previously $ 120 million, it’s now updating that guidance to $ 170 million based on these acquisitions. That would mean Porch would grow its revenue by about 134% year-over-year between 2020 and 2021.
As the company had previously laid out in its public documents, the plan for 2021 was always to get deeper into insurance. Indeed, as Ehrlichman noted, Porch these days tends to think of itself as a vertical software company that layers insurtech on top of its services in order to be able to create a recurring revenue stream. And because Porch offers such a wide range of services already, its customer acquisition costs are essentially zero for these services.
Porch was already a licensed insurance brokerage. With Homeowners of America, it is acquiring a company that is both an insurance carrier as well as a managing general agent..
“We’re able to capture all of the economic value from the consumer as we help them get insurance set up with their new home and we can really control that experience to delight them. As we wrap all the technology we’ve invested in around that experience we can make it super simple and instant to be able to get the right insurance at the right price for your new home. And because we have all of this data about the home that nobody else has — from the inspection we know if the roof is old, we know if the hot water system is gonna break soon and all the appliances — we know all of this data and so it just gives us a really big advantage in insurance.”
Data, indeed, is what a lot of these acquisitions are about. Because Porch knows so much about so many customers, it is able to provide the companies it acquires with access to relevant data, which in turn helps them offer additional services and make smarter decisions.
Homeowners of America is currently operating in six states (Texas, Arizona, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and Georgia) and licensed in 31. It has a network of more than 800 agencies so far and Porch expects to expand the company’s network and geographic reach in the coming months. “Because we have [customer acquisition cost]-free demand all across the country, one of the opportunities for us is simply just to expand that across the nation,” Ehrlichman explained.
As for V12, Porch’s focus is on that company’s mover marketing and data platform. The acquisition should help it reach its medium-term goal of building a $ 200 million revenue stream in this area. V12 offers services across multiple verticals, though, including in the automotive space, and will continue to do so. The platform’s overall focus is to help brands identify the right time to reach out to a given consumer — maybe before they decide to buy a new car or move. With Porch’s existing data layered on top of V12’s existing capabilities, the company expects that it will be able to expand these features and it will also allow Porch to not offer mover marketing but what Ehrlichman called “pro-mover” services, as well.
“V12 anchors what we call our marketing software division. A key focus of that is mover marketing. That’s where it’s going to have, long term, tremendous differentiation. But there are a number of other things that they’re working on that are going to have really nice growth vectors, and they’ll continue to push those,” said Ehrlichman.
As for the two smaller acquisitions of iRoofing and Palm-Tech, these are more akin to some of the previous acquisitions the company made in the contractor and inspection verticals. Like with those previous acquisitions, the plan is to help them grow faster, in part through integrating them into the overall Porch group’s family of products.
“Our business is and continues to be highly recurring or reoccurring in nature,” said Porch CFO Marty Heimbigner. “Nearly all of our revenues, including that of these new acquisitions, is consistent and predictable. This repeat revenue is also high margin with less than 20% cost of revenue and is expected to grow more than 30% per year on our platform. So, we believe these deals are highly accretive for our shareholders.”
Yo-Kai Express is known for autonomous restaurant technology for venues like office campuses, malls and hotels. As people continue staying home because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the company is introducing a smart home cooking appliance with multiple functions. Called Takumi, it includes a coffee maker, high induction cooktop and a steamer for sanitizing utensils and baby bottles. Takumi is connected by RFID to an app with preprogrammed recipes, which also sends alert when its water container is running low.
The company is currently presenting Takumi at CES’ Taiwan Tech Arena.
If you live in the Bay Area, you might have seen Yo-Kai Express’s Octo-Chef, a vending machine that serves hot noodle dishes (ramen, udon and pho), in venues like the San Francisco International Airport, the Metreon mall in San Francisco and corporate campuses. But the company is adapting as people stay home. In April, it launched a home meal kit delivery service that is now available in all states.
Created for people who want a home-cooked meal but are short on time (and space), the Takumi’s pre-programmed recipes have cooking times of just two to eight minutes. Yo-Kai Express is known for noodle dishes, but the Takumi’s menu will also include rice bowls, dim sum, dumplings and pasta.
For the past three years, the Taiwan Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) has brought startups to CES . This year, its virtual pavilion, organized with Taiwan Tech Arena, is hosting 100 startups, organized into five categories: Smart Living, Tech for Good, Cybersecurity and Cloud, Healthcare and Wellness, and Mobility Tech. During two press events, 24 startups previewed their CES presentations, giving a sneak peek at what the pavilion will showcase.
In a press conference on Sunday, MOST’s head, Wu Tsung-tsong, said the pavilion’s goal is to help startups expand into more markets and find international investors. “Investing in Taiwanese startups means investing Taiwan,” he added.
Startups that presented during Taiwan Tech Arena’s press conference on Sunday:
All Good Energy provides an open platform for electric vehicle batteries that enables IoT functionality and constant communication with the cloud. This allows users to monitor battery performance and how much charge is left. Its open platform provides access to battery data through APIs and has been integrated into cargo fleets in Taiwan.
Aiphas says on average, nurses need to take care of nine patients at once, answering dozens of calls. The startup makes a smart ward solution, with a plug and play smart nurse call system called Aipha Call that helps them respond faster. Another feature, called Aipha-Eye, detects emergencies like fires or falls. The system can be deployed in five days. Aiphas has developed relationships with six top hospitals in Taiwan and is currently used in National Taiwan University Hospital’s Bei-Hu Branch.
Crypto-Arsenal is a cloud-based automatic crypto trading platform that lets users develop, backtest, simulate and live-trade their algorithmic trading strategies. To reduce trader risk, it uses smart contracts on the blockchain so traders only need to pay developers when they get profits. The platform is in public beta, with 700 users so far, who have made $ 10,000 USD in profit in three trading competitons. Crypto-Arsenal is partnered with National Taiwan University and sponsored by Binance, and will officially launch in the second quarter of 2021.
Koup makes performance wear with the aim of “circularity”—in other words, it uses recycled materials that can be recyled back into usable material in the future. Koup launched on Kickstarter with the Cinnamon shirt. Each one uses material from eight plastic bottles that is turned into pellets before being spun into fiber and cinnamon as a natural antimicrobial to eliminate order.
Uniigym provides an interactive fitness service with more than 1,000 fitness classes that can be streamed online, through smart TVs or internet set-top boxes, and community features. It offers two products: Uniihome, fitness classes for home workouts, and Uniicube, which creates virtual environments with a projector. Currently available in Taiwan, it will launch internationally this year.
Startups that previewed during a keynote on Tuesday
3Drens is a data-driven IoT platform for commercial fleet owners, including logistics and vehicle rental. It enables asset management, preventative maintenace, driver behavior optimization and itinerary management. The platform is customizable and includes open data to improve operational efficiency and reduce costs.
GenkiTek offers driver monitoring system that can detect potential distractions like eating, drinking or phone calls and send alerts to companies and drivers to reduce accidents. It has collected hundreds of thousands of driver images to train its AI system’s deep neural net for analyzing driver behavior.
Dartrays’ WHUD II is a windshield HUD (heads up display) with a patented optical path design. It can project images up to two to three meters, and is small enough to be installed as an after-market device. It projects information to help drivers see information without taking their eyes off the road.
Spatial Topology Technology develops location tech for mobile. It claims to have the largest map pool for indoor positioning in the e-commerce industry. Its solutions help brands develop their offline-to-online strategies, since many people go window shopping offline, checking out products before buying them online. The platform analyzes repeating customer behavior and includes brand engagement tools like geotargeted reward programs.
Health care and wellness
CloudMed makes iCare, an 8-in-1 sensor that can detect eight biometrics, including body age, heart rate, pulse wave transit time, dialostic and systolic blood pressure, oxygen saturation and tiredness and stress levels, using PPG optical sensors and ECG electrodes.
OFLO is a cloud-based walkie-talkie created for frontline workers that can’t look at screens while doing their jobs. OFLO is what the company describes as the world’s first dual-bone conduction wearable device, and unlike traditional walkie talkies, covers longer distances, has unlimited channels and is connected to software with auto-logging, transcription and cross-platform communication features.
Pulxion is a “personalized mobile hospital” that detects the warning signs of strokes. Meant as a first-line screening device for patients, it uses motion analysis, monitors pulses and performs neck scans to gauge a user’s risk of stroke.
Cybersecurity and Cloud Solutions
ArcRan’s iSecV box is a vehicle-to-everything (V2X) cybersecurity solution that monitors radio frequency signals, including WiFi, Zigbee, cellular V2X and dedicated short-range communicaitons to detect abnormal behavior. It gives warnings if anything is amiss, and is meant to make smart cities safer without affecting existing infrastructure.
Avalanche Computing offers a performance-optimized workflow for AI experts at SMEs, helping them redesign algorithms and deploy AI models. It can train AI models in parallel or distributed models on multiple GPUs.
I.X R2’s product is a wireless secure ebadge with a cryptokey inside, combining physical keys and software. The 3-in-1 badge features log-in authentication, data encryption and door entrance. Users own their cryptokeys, so they can manage door entrances and security with one platform.
Tresl is an e-commerce analytics platforms for brands on Shopify, designed to give them the same kind of insight as larger retailers so they can increase repeat revenue. It features pre-built segmentation and actionable insights.
TECH FOR GOOD
Ganzin is an AI-based eye tracking solution for integration into AR/VR devices and smart glasses. The lightweight, compact module is powered by Qualcomm XR or Ganzin’s in-house processor.
NUWA Robotics Platform’s Kebbi Air is an AI-based social robot that comes with a development platform to let brands create interactive content for it. Aimed at kids, it is currently used in 600 schools in Taiwan for STEAM and language education. The robot recognizes faces, objects, gestures, sound sources, voice and environmental context.
PlayNitride’s micro LED displays boosts 60% transparency and can be used for automotive displays, wearable devices and monitors.
Honeywld’s MyGuardian is a wearable for automated fall alerts. It is meant to help nurses and personal assistants working with elderly people in nursing homes, care centers or hospitals provide 24-hour monitoring.
FiduciaEdge helps smart cities keep data private by enhancing the security level of edge devices. Use cases include smart city transportation systems and manufacturing.
Eleclean‘s Share disinfectant devices feature replaceable bottles that turn water into disinfectant with hydrogen peroxide and hydroxl radicals. The bottles are paired with an intelligent control base and has built-in NFC so users can check the disinfectant’s expiration date or how many times it can still be used by scanning it with a smartphone app.
Goama allows developers to integrate casual e-sport games into their apps to boost engagement, reduce customer acquisition costs and increase brand awareness.
Interxie creates energy storage systems for homes that integrates with new or existing renewable energy systems to manage power, avoid outages and adjust energy power usage. It can also help reduce energy costs by integrating with battery systems.
Berlin-based tech-driven startup, Kenbi, which is developing software to help nurses as well as fill the gaps in the healthcare system, has raised €7M in its Seed round of funding. The round was led by Redalpine, and existing investors including Heartcore, e.ventures, and Partech.
Use of the raised capital
Kenbi will use the raised capital to grow its care-teams, automate back-office processes and further develop the proprietary care and staff management app.
Everything about Kenbi
The company was founded in 2019 by Bruno Pires, Clemens Raemy, and Katrin Alberding. Kenbi is on a mission to attract more people to the nursing profession by improving the job itself and re-centering patient care.
The company brings professional care services to patients in the comfort of their homes, serving long and short-term patients in Germany. Their services include insurance authorised and covered medical care, household help, basic care, advice, and companionship.
All teams are supported by mobile technologies across their work activities. Bruno Pires, CTO & co-founder of Kenbi explains, “Building a full-stack technology platform is essential to scale a decentralised care model. Our proprietary nurse app helps to connect team-members and team-hubs with each other and allows nurses to focus on their patients instead of paperwork and bureaucracy. It enables efficient care planning, team coordination, documenting, and analysis of data.”
Additionally, Kenbi is known to offer expert help in the areas of diabetes, wound care, and palliative care.
What is it doing differently?
The Kenbi model stands apart from other outpatient care services, as it replaces hierarchies for self-managed teams and empowers caretakers through digitalisation, higher education and decision-making power within their local teams
Explaining the Kenbi model, co-founder Katrin Alberding, says, “A happy nurse means a happy patient. In a market where people make all the difference, we saw the need to re-think home care from the perspective of the nurse. Our solution is a model that combines innovative organisational structures with agile processes and digital tools.”
Instead of creating one big hierarchy, Kenbi grows organically through many small, local and self-organising teams that are more agile and intimately connected within their network.
The company claims to provide home care to over 400 patients through decentralised, local care-teams and is growing rapidly across Germany.
The German out-patient care market is projected to be worth €25B by 2030 due to demographic developments such as an aging western population. The market is largely funded by mandatory insurance and is highly fragmented, with the top 15 players holding less than 3% market share. The sector is still massively “under-digitised” – paper and fax are the standard communication tools even today.
With a shortage of up to 500,000 caregivers in the German care system by 2030, Kenbi is on a mission to make the nurse job attractive again.
Umbrella, the membership platform that connects the elderly to pre-screened and vetted professionals for household services, has been acquired by ANGI Homeservices. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.
Cable or fiber. For the vast majority of American homes, there’s no choice of how customers get their internet access. If you’re lucky to live in some dense urban areas with amenable landlords, that ‘or’ might become an ‘and.’ Yet, as more and more people rely on the internet for more than just cat photos (and after recent events, maybe rely on cat photos as well for sustenance), it seems obvious the market needs more choice and competition.
Utah-based WeLink wants to be that alternative. Taking advantage of advances in 5G in the millimeter spectrum as well as rapidly declining hardware costs, the startup is pioneering a mesh network of wireless base stations that can transmit high-bandwidth signals across entire neighborhoods at relatively cheap infrastructure installation costs.
It’s a paradigm that caught the eye of investors, with Digital Alpha Advisors, a long-time telecom VC with close ties to Cisco, investing $ 185 million into the company in equity as well as a debt facility in exchange for revenue share (sort of the hardware version of SaaS securitization). It dubbed the latter an “outcome-based financial structure.” Rick Shrotri and Neil Sheridan from Digital Alpha will join WeLink’s board.
The startup was founded by CEO Kevin Ross and CTO Ahsan Naim in 2018. Ross had been interested in wireless internet since 2005, but the technology was early — and very expensive. “I was twenty years ahead of my time or [maybe] fifteen years, and so it was an exercise in frustration waiting for the technology to actually commercialize,” Ross said. He built one company in the space, eventually selling it to Vivint, a smart home company that was owned by Blackstone and which went through a reverse merger with a SoftBank unit last year for $ 6.5 billion. The buyer at Vivint was Luke Langford, who left to work on another startup called Lucid Software before joining WeLink more recently as president and COO.
Now, wireless internet has been a story many of us have followed for more than a decade, with few notable success stories. Ross is convinced though that the combination of reliable millimeter-wave 5G (at around 60-70 Ghz) plus dramatically cheaper hardware costs has finally opened the door to high-quality wireless internet for the first time. (It’s probably good to note that TechCrunch is editorially independent from our ultimate parent company Verizon, which obviously has a fiber customer or two).
WeLink’s technology uses a mesh architecture, which means that signals can be bounced between different base stations as necessary throughout a neighborhood in order to reach a “point of presence” station with a fiber connection. For the typical single-family home installation, a small base station (Ross says about four inches by four inches) is installed on the roof “similar to a satellite dish” and a single cable is run down to connect to the home’s router or Wi-Fi station.
Ross says that WeLink doesn’t need a lot of density to reach ubiquity. “We don’t need much — a couple of percentage points in a neighborhood of take rate … and that actually ends up giving us blanket coverage. What happens is we will typically get north of 5% very quickly.” Once a neighborhood has an ever higher rate of, say, 10%, “ There’s so much redundancy there,” Ross said. The company says it offers “Up to 940 Mbps Download/Upload,” although of course, your mileage will vary in reality. That bandwidth is symmetrical unlike cable internet, which should be good for video broadcasting and large file uploads in this remote-work world.
He also noted that the company doesn’t need a lot of approvals from cities in order to launch, which has historically been a large barrier to new internet connectivity startups. “There’s no permitting required other than at our fiber points of presence where we’re broadcasting from, but those are minimal.”
WeLink’s first launch neighborhoods are in Henderson, Nevada outside Las Vegas, and the company is expanding into Arizona with installations in Tucson and Phoenix. The company intends to expand to ten markets in the coming years. Ideal markets tend to be suburban neighborhoods and subdivisions where there is enough density to make the mesh network work but with a built environment that doesn’t prevent line-of-sight between antennas. “We’re kind of primarily focused on bedroom communities, the doughnut around the urban core in big cities,” Ross said.
Pricing is $ 80 per month on a month-to-month plan, and $ 70 per month with a two-year contract. After two years, the price drops $ 10 per month in what Ross described as a “loyalty discount.”
On the investment side, Langford the COO noted Digital Alpha Advisors’ Cisco connections as a key consideration for the company. “There is an affiliation with Cisco, and being an internet service provider, it’s nice to be able to punch above our own weight as a startup and still have dialogue with the leaders in networking technology so certainly that was something that was attractive to us,” he said. “They were comfortable with a business that has atoms, not just bits.” As for the debt model, Langford said that “There’s some advantages to not having as much dilution … but also have capital to make sure that we can go add customers.“
Obviously there are other internet wireless startups out there, the most prominent these days given its backer being satellite-based ISP Starlink. Ross noted that he doesn’t really see the company as a competitor, since WeLink’s bandwidth is significantly higher and more reliable given its 5G mesh architecture. He sees Starlink competing much more heavily for the rural market, where many other internet connectivity technologies like cable and fiber are less viable.
It’s a lot of venture money, a serious bet in the 5G space, and hopefully for families fighting on Zoom for pixels, an opportunity to get more competition for high-bandwidth internet.
Estonian prop-tech startup, Rendin, a long-term home renting service that replaces security deposits and guarantees rental income, has raised €1.2M in a seed round of funding. The round was led by Tera Ventures, a VC firm investing in early-stage global digital startups.
In addition, the round also saw participation from Iron Wolf Capital, Truesight Ventures, Atomico Angel Program and Startup Wise Guys, with a number of angel investors.
Use of the raised funds
The raised capital will help the startup in expanding its core team in Estonia and launch the platform in Poland. Besides, Rendin will also be expanding its operations to Poland, a market with 2.5 million rental homes.
Everything about Rendin
Launched in March this year by Alain Aun, Maiko Saluorg, and Alar Mäerand, Rendin is building a home rental agreement platform that makes the whole process of home renting fair, fast, and flexible. In addition, it also claims to provide a safe and modern rental process for both owners and renters, including a fully digital agreement on its app and no security deposit requirement.
The platform also claims that it provides insurance for renters’ agreement breaches and offers landlords up to 100 times more safety compared to regular deposits.
Explaining about the startup, Alain Aun, CEO and co-founder of Rendin, says, “We want to get rid of outdated practices in long-term renting that may have been useful twenty years ago but not today.”
For example, Aun continues, “the security deposit is a big extra expense for renters while not doing a lot to mitigate the risks for property owners. Recovering rent payments can be an extremely burdensome process for the owner and in case of any damages to property, security deposits rarely cover for them. Rendin allows for up to 100x more protection for owners but also guards renters from owners that may want to keep their deposit maliciously.”
Rendin’s mission is to provide people with an end-to-end home renting solution that significantly reduces unnecessary showings, paperwork, hassle, and risks in the home renting process.
Growth and developments
Aun says, “Even though Rendin first launched just before the Covid-19 pandemic hit, we’ve been able to reach our growth targets. The crisis had a major impact on short-let properties due to the decline in tourism but didn’t change the dynamics of long-term letting that much. In fact, we had to deal with solving cases directly related to the pandemic, e.g. renters losing their income or leaving their properties behind in a rush to leave for their home country, which helped in proving our usefulness to all parties involved in a long-term letting agreement and demonstrating our value for investors.”
With the funding, the startup is looking for expansion in Poland and is already in the process of working out a joint business model with a local insurance company and the largest real estate portal of Poland; a skilled Polish market lead already joined the team.
Currently, the startup has eight members on its team, with tech backgrounds from companies like TransferWise and Kühne+Nagel, and is also looking to double the team. The company is actively looking for product engineers and a growth hacker.