Zurich-based RaiseNow lands €5 million for its fundraising tools

Swiss startup RaiseNow has landed around €5 million in a Series A+ investment round, led by SIX Fintech Ventures with PostFinance and other individual investors. The fresh funds will go towards enhancing its product suite and helping its user community of ‘changemakers’ find supporters, raise funds, and create impact. Founded in 2016, headquartered in Zurich,…

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Here.fm raises $2.9 million to reimagine video chat

Here.fm, a new web-based communication platform founded by Jesse Boyes and Seth Harris, has today announced the close of a $ 2.9 million seed round from FirstMark with participation by Y Combinator and a group of angel investors.

Here is all about giving people the chance to create personal, shareable and flexible video chat rooms. Boyes and Harris, like the rest of us, moved to Zoom to collaborate when the pandemic hit and felt that there were several shortcomings.

Harris explained that it felt very impersonal and formal to switch into presentation mode with his co-founder and buddy, and that notes and other content in those meetings disappeared when the meeting ended, “like a wormhole.”

They set out to add more layers to virtual communication.

“There are four main components to communication,” said Harris. “What you’re saying, where you are, what you’re doing and how you move. Everything we use today almost exclusively focuses on what you say, and very little on what you do. Zoom is a phone call with pictures.”

Here, in contrast, is a fully customizable room with video chat built on top of it, giving users the ability to decorate their room with virtual items, gifs, backgrounds, notes, pictures, etc. And, of course, these users can also customize their own video chat window and those of others, arranging them in the room in the size and shape that they prefer.

As with any other video chat software, users can also share their screen.

Image Credits: Here.fm

Harris and Boyes aren’t ready to commit to a certain business model or even use case, but would rather prefer to see how users approach the platform. Some have built out product war rooms, while others have set up their own virtual Blue Bottle shop to have coffee with each other. Others have set up Pilates classes that look and feel more like an actual Pilates studio than a Zoom call would.

That’s not to say they haven’t started thinking about revenue at all. There is potential here to offer payments processing for folks hosting classes or paid events, and there are also options to paywall persistence of the room and the items inside it, or even to charge for premium virtual objects or goods.

Here launched two months ago and thousands of rooms have been created since, with the average user session being 41 minutes.

Competition in this space is heating up. Mmhmm offers similar tools to customize the video chat room, but focuses more on presenting than hanging out. Macro is a tool that sits on top of a Zoom call to help ensure meetings are productive and efficient. And then there are the dozens (if not more) of startups that sprung to action at the onset of the pandemic to build out the next-generation of video chat.

But Boyes and Harris don’t see competition as the greatest challenge to the company.

“Here is a product problem, it is not an execution problem,” said Harris. “It is about generating a very strong emotional response in our users when they come in.”

Image Credits: Here.fm

Startups – TechCrunch

Munich-based hospitality startup Limehome expands its Series A to €31 million, with an additional €10 million

Munich-based hospitality startup Limehome has secured additional €10 million in an add-on financing round, bringing its Series A funding to a total of €31 million. The current investors HV Holtzbrinck Ventures, Lakestar, Global Growth Capital and Picus Capital have increased their investment under the leadership of HV Holtzbrinck Ventures. Founded in 2018, Limehome is leading…

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Dutch fintech Silverflow nabs €2.6 million to launch its cloud-native card payments platform in early 2021

Silverflow, a global payment technology company, is announcing a €2.6 million seed funding round, led by UK-based seed-stage investor Crane Venture Partners, with participation from INKEF Capital and notable angel investors and industry leaders from Pay.On, First Data, Booking.com and Adyen. With this seed round, Silverflow has now raised €3 million in total funding. Founded…

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Road trippers can rejoice as RVshare raises over $100 million to grow its RV rental business

As continentally confined Americans look for domestic vacation options that won’t expose them to too much risk of infection from the pandemic that’s still raging across the country, the RV rental company RVshare has raised more than $ 100 million to capitalize on its historic opportunity.

The company’s new cash has come from the private equity firms KKR and Tritium Partners, and is intended to provide operational support to meet the booming demand for RVs as Americans hit the road in unprecedented numbers.

Growth for the Akron, Ohio-based company can only be described as absurd. The company saw a 650% increase in bookings from April to May of 2020, according to a report in The Drive.

The resurgence of the RV industry isn’t just pandemically driven, but there’s no doubt that the outbreak of Sars-Cov-2 has played a role in the dramatic surge in demand for campers. Vacationers just don’t have many other options, given travel restrictions and risk.

And RVshare certainly isn’t alone in reaping the benefits.

There’s Outdoorsy, a peer-to-peer RV rental company that was founded in 2015; bootstrapped by its founders for a couple of years, it has more recently attracted $ 88 million in venture funding. That funding included a $ 13 million extension to a $ 50 million Series B round that it quietly closed early this year, as TechCrunch reported. Cabana, another startup, launched by a former Lime executive, is merging the RV rental market with hotels. Then there’s Kibbo, which is turning RV parks into a photo-worthy version of the hashtag vanlife.

Founded in 2013, RVshare connects RV owners with people who want to rent an RV. Since 2013, the company has amassed a network of more than 100,000 recreational vehicles or trailers, ranging from deluxe motorhomes to camper vans to trailer attachments. Led by chief executive Jon Gray, RVshare has seen bookings for the fall rising 166% year-on-year from 2019.

“As a result of the pandemic, RVshare has seen an acceleration of growth as consumers have sought out RVs as a way to travel during these challenging times. Tritium is excited to continue investing in this team, business, and a category that is just getting started. Adding the KKR team, with their fantastic set of experiences and resources, will help take RVshare to much greater heights.”

KKR made the investment through its Next Generation Technology Growth Fund II, which closed with $ 2.2 billion in January 2020. The investment in RVshare is actually the tenth commitment from the fund. Earlier investments include Zwift, ReliaQuest, Artlist, Darktrace, o9 Solutions and Slice.

GCA Global served as financial advisor to RVshare on the deal, according to a statement.

“RVs are the preferred accommodation for the more than 40 million US households that go camping each year,” said Ben Pederson, a Principal with KKR’s Technology Growth team. “Younger generations of travelers are discovering and embracing domestic travel and RVshare is providing a seamless marketplace experience where RV owners can share their passion for camping and unlock the value of their assets.”

Startups – TechCrunch

Berlin-based DANCE raises €15 million for its purpose-driven e-bike subscription service

Less than three months since launching its pilot programme, German startup DANCE closes a €15 million Series A funding round led by HV Holtzbrinck Ventures, with the goal of bringing its joyful, sustainable and frictionless e-bike subscription service to the world. Founded by Eric Quidenus-Wahlforss, Alexander Ljung and Christian Springub, DANCE has ambitions to offer…

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This former Tesla CIO just raised $150 million more to pull car dealers into the 21st century

“I have to choose my words carefully,” says Joe Castelino of Stevens Creek Volkswagen in San Jose, Ca., when asked about the software on which most car dealerships rely for inventory information, to manage marketing, to handle customer relationships and to otherwise help sell cars.

Castelino, the dealership’s service director, laughs as he says this. But the joke has apparently been on car dealers, most of whom have largely relied on a few frustratingly antiquated vendors for their dealer management systems over the years — along with many more sophisticated point solutions.

It’s the precise opportunity that former Tesla CIO, Jay Vijayan, concluded he was well-positioned to address while still in the employ of the electric vehicle giant.

As Vijayan tells it, he knew nothing about cars until joining Tesla in 2011, following a dozen years of working in product development at Oracle, then VMWare. Yet he learned plenty over the subsequent four years. Specifically, he says he helped to build with Elon Musk a central analysis system inside Tesla, a kind of brain that could see all of the company’s internal systems, from what was happening in the supply chain to its factory systems to its retail platform.

Tesla had to build it itself, says Vijayan; after evaluating the existing software of third company providers, the team “realized that none of them had anything close to what we needed to provide a frictionless modern consumer experience.”

It was around then that a lightbulb turned on. If Tesla could transform the experience for its own customers, maybe Vijayan could transform the buying and selling experience for the much bigger, broader automotive industry. Enter Tekion, a now four-year-old, San Carlos, Ca., company that now employs 470 people and has come far enough along that just attracted $ 150 million in fresh funding led by the private equity investor Advent International.

With the Series C round — which also included checks from Index Ventures, Airbus Ventures, FM Capital and Exor, the holding company of Fiat-Chrysler and Ferrari — the company has now raised $ 185 million altogether. It’s also valued at north of $ 1 billion. (The automakers General Motors, BMW, and the Nissan-Renault-Mitsubishi Alliance are also investors.)

Eric Wei, a managing director at Advent, says that over the last decade, his team had been eager to seize on what’s approaching a $ 10 billion market annually. Instead, they found themselves tracking incumbents Reynolds & Reynolds, CDKGlobal and Dealertrack, which is owned by Cox Automotive, and waiting for a better player to emerge.

Then Wei was connected to Tekion through Jon McNeill, a former Tesla president and an advisory partner to Advent.

Says Wei of seeing its tech compared with its more established rivals: “It was like comparing a flip phone to an iPhone.”

Perhaps unsurprisingly, McNeill, who worked at Tesla with Vijayan, also sings the company’s praises, noting that Tekion even bought a dealership in Gilroy — the “garlic capital” of California — to use as a kind of lab while it was building its technology from scratch.

Such praise is nice, but more importantly, Tekion is attracting the attention of dealers. Though citing competitive reasons, Vijayan declined to share how many have bought its cloud software —  which connects dealers with both manufacturers and car buyers and is powered by machine learning algorithms — he says it’s already being used across 28 states.

One of these dealerships is the national chain Serra Automotive, whose founder, Joseph Serra, is now an investor in Tekion.

Another is that Volkswagen dealership in San Jose, where Castelino — who doesn’t have a financial interest in Tekion — speaks enthusiastically about the time and expenses his team is saving because of Tekion’s platform.

For example, he says a customers need only log-in now to flag a particular issue. After that, with the help of an RFID tag, Stevens Creek knows exactly when that customer pulls into the dealership and what kind of help they need, enabling people to greet him or her on arrival. Tekion can also make recommendations based on a car’s history. It might, for instance, suggest to a customer a brake fluid flush “without an advisor having to look through a customer’s history,” he says.

As important, he says, the dealership has been able to cut ties with a lot of other software vendors, while also making more productive use of its time. Says Castelino, “As soon as a [repair order] is live, it’s in a dispatcher’s hand and a technician can grab the car.”

It’s like that with every step, he insists. “You’re saving 15 minutes again and again, and suddenly, you have three hours where your intake can be higher.”

Startups – TechCrunch