Tillit, a fintech startup that is building something akin to buy now, pay later for B2B purchases , looks set to become Sequoia’s next European investment, TechCrunch has learned.
According to multiple sources, the Silicon Valley VC — which recently expanded to Europe with an office in London — is backing a €2.5 million round in the Oslo, Norway-based company, alongside seed investors LocalGlobe and Visionaries Club. Sequoia and LocalGlobe declined to comment.
With the tagline, “Making b2b purchases a breeze” and yet to launch, Tillit appears to combine invoice financing with a buy now, pay later model, meaning that credit is offered at the point of checkout (or invoice), with a number of payment options, including instalments. In addition, Tillit offers expenses management, with a range features to make it easier for employees to make B2B purchases.
In other words, the premise is that sellers get better conversions through offering instant credit, and buyers can defer or spread out payments and have greater control and visibility over purchases.
Meanwhile, Tillit isn’t the first investment in Europe by Sequoia since it revealed that it was doubling down on Europe with a dedicated team on the ground. Most recently, the firm led a $ 20 million round in Xentral, a German startup that develops enterprise resource planning software covering a variety of back-office functions for online small businesses. That speaks to Sequioa’s remit to “invest throughout the journey,” from pre-seed/seed all the way to IPO and beyond.
The backbone of Indonesia’s economy are small- to medium-sized businesses, which account for 60% of its gross domestic product. Many still rely on manual bookkeeping, but the impact of COVID-19 has driven small businesses to digitize more of their operations. BukuKas, one of several startups helping SMEs go online, announced today it has raised a $ 10 million Series A led by Sequoia Capital India.
BukuKas launched in December 2019 as a digital bookkeeping app, but is growing its range of services with the goal of creating an “end-to-end software stack” for small businesses. Eventually, it wants to launch a SME-focused digital bank.
The funding, which brings BukuKas’ total raised so far to $ 22 million, included participation from returning investors Saison Capital, January Capital, Founderbank Capital, Cambium Grove, Endeavor Catalyst and Amrish Rau.
As of November 2020, BukuKas had a registered user base of 3.5 million small merchants and retailers, and had crossed 1.8 million monthly active users. During that month, the platform also recorded $ 17.4 billion worth of transactions on an annualized basis, a figure corresponding to more than 1.5% of Indonesia’s $ 1.04 trillion GDP.
BukuKas was founded by chief executive officer Krishnan Menon and chief operating officer Lorenzo Peracchione, who met eight years ago while working at Lazada Indonesia.
Menon’s previous startup was Fabelio, an Indonesian online home furnishings store. Every two months, he would visit smaller small cities in Indonesia, like Jepara and Cirebon, to source furniture.
“One of the things that stood out was how different the Jakarta bubble is from the rest of Indonesia, all the way from the penetration of software to financial services,” he told TechCrunch. While talking to merchants and suppliers, Menon realized that “no one is building products with them as the center of the universe,” despite the fact that there are 56 million small businesses.
Peracchione said he and Mebon had been brainstorming startup ideas for a while. “When he told me about the idea of solving cash flow visibility to SMEs, it immediately struck me,” Peracchione said. “My dad used to be a SME owner himself and during my childhood I experience first hand the struggles and ups and downs connected to running a small business.”
The two decided to start with digital bookkeeping after speaking to 1,052 merchants because helping them keep track of their business performance would generate data that would in turn enable access to more financial services.
“Our vision expanded into providing an end-to-end software stack to digitize SMEs and help them across a wide range of activities as a prequel to building an SME-focused digital bank down the line,” Menon said.
In addition to digital ledger features, BukuKas also sends payment reminders to buyers through WhatsApp and automatically generates invoices, includes an an inventory management module and analyzes expenses to help businesses understand what is impacting their profit. The company plans to add digital payments this month. During the rest of 2021, it will also introduce more features to help businesses sell online, including tools for online store fronts, a promotions engine and social sharing.
“With COVID-19, SMEs are rushing to get digitized, but they lack the right mobile-first tools to sell online as well as to manage their business,” said Menon.
The app focuses on smaller Indonesian cities and towns, since about 73% of the merchants who use BukuKas are located outside of tier 1 cities like Jakarta. Its users represent wide range of sectors, including retailers, food vendors, grocery markets, mobile and phone credit providers, social commerce sellers, wholesalers and service providers. BukuKas acquired digital ledger app Catatan Keuangan Harian, which has 300,000 monthly active users, in September 2020 to expand its market share in Indonesia.
With its large number of SMEs, Indonesia is seen as a desirable market for companies helping the drive toward digitization. For example, India’s Khatabook, which was valued between $ 275 million to $ 300 million after its last round of funding in May 2020, recently launched BukuUang in Indonesia. Other startups in the same space include Y Combinator-backed BukuWarung, Moka and Jurnal, all of which offer tools to help SMEs bring more of their operations online.
Menon said BukuKas’ advantage is its team’s experience building businesses in Indonesia over the past seven years. For example, it launched a “Know Your Profits” module based on user feedback. It also offers a self-guided onboarding process, a simple user interface and an offline mode for users in areas with poor network connections.
“In general, individual features can be copied but we believe our ‘integrated end-to-end software stack approach,’ coupled with our obsessive focus on simplicity, deep understanding of our users and a superior level of service will be key in differentiating BukuKas from competing offerings,” he added.
BukuKas’ Series A will be used on user acquisition, its engineering and product teams in Jakarta and Bangalore and to introduce new services for merchants. The company may eventually expand into other Southeast Asia markets, but “in the short term consolidating and further expanding our leadership in the SME space in Indonesia is our top priority,” said Menon.
Bibit, a robo-advisor app that wants to make investing more accessible in Indonesia, has raised $ 30 million from Sequoia Capital India. Returning investors East Ventures, EV Growth, AC Ventures and 500 Startups also participated.
This funding is a growth round and comes after Bibit’s May 2019 Series A. It brings the company’s total funding so far to $ 45 million, chief executive officer Sigit Kouwagam told TechCrunch.
Part of Stockbit Group, about 90% of Bibit’s users are millennials and first-time investors. Like other robo-advisors, the aim of Bibit is to make it easier to create a portfolio tailored to each person’s risk profile and investment goals. Other investment apps in Indonesia tapping into growing demand for retail investment producgts include Bareksa and SoftBank Ventures-backed Ajaib.
Bibit claims that over the past year, it has registered more than one million first-time investors. As an example of market potential, the company cites data from the Indonesian Stock Exchange and Indonesia Central Securities Depository that showed the number of retail investors in the country grew 56% year-over-year in 2020, with about 92% of new investors aged between 21 to 40. But only about 2% of Indonesians have participated in the stock market.
Kouwagam said most Indonesians invest their money in term deposit bank accounts or leave it in low-yield checking accounts.
“Traditionally, they also invest real estate or physical godl bars,” he added, but millennial and Gen Z investors are shifting toward “higher-yielding liquid investments that are also convenient to manage and can be started with a lower ticket size.”
The pandemic has also prompted more users build an emergency fund, with more Indonesians looking at the capital market for higher-yielding assets as an alternative to low-interest bank accounts.
The Princeton undergraduate saw the film in 2011, and it started her on the journey that would lead her to launch Joro, the Sequoia-backed startup that monitors consumer spending to offer tips on how to offset and reduce a user’s carbon footprint.
After scoring a job at the development firm Dalberg, then working in India and Ethiopia, Pal returned to the U.S. to pursue an MBA at Harvard Business School. She initially thought she’d focus on transportation, but her mind kept returning to consumer consumption habits and the potential to reduce CO2 emissions by targeting consumer behavior.
“I started thinking about it in the fall of my first year at business school, and I kind of put it on the back burner because I didn’t know how to do it from a practical stand. I wasn’t a technology person. I didn’t build software myself,” Pal told Jason Jacobs, the host of the My Climate Journey podcast. “I didn’t know how we would capture the data to show someone their carbon footprint and help them reduce it until I met my co-founder [J. Cressica Brazier], and I met her at an MIT event in the spring of that year two years ago, and the wheels started turning, maybe there’s a tool here that we could build together.”
The Joro app uses consumer spending data culled from integrations with Plaid to identify changes in users’ personal habits that can make an impact on their overall carbon footprint — based on their personal spending.
The app also has a community component, connecting users with sustainability challenges, classes and other educational tools, along with a social network to communicate with peers to track relative progress.
Consider it a version of keeping up with the Joneses, but for planetary health and eco-consciousness.
To date, the app’s community of users have reduced nearly 6 million kilograms of carbon dioxide emissions in 2020. Which sounds impressive, but given reductions in travel due to COVID-19 mitigation restrictions, the largest contribution that a consumer can make is reducing their meat consumption. While that only leads to roughly 4% reductions in global carbon emissions, it reduces about 1,200 pounds of carbon emissions. Over the 6 million kilograms that would mean a little bit over 10,000 people may be using the app.
Pal would not comment on the number of users her company’s app has managed to attract.
What the company does have now is $ 2.5 million in seed funding from investors including Sequoia Capital, which doubled down on its $ 1 million pre-seed commitment made when Joro was part of the firm’s early-stage founder program.
Other investors and advisors include the venture firms Expa and Amasia, and angel investors and advisors like James Park, the co-founder of Fitbit; Rich Pierson, the co-founder of Headspace; Sebastian Knutsson, the chief creative head and co-founder of King; the actress Maisie Williams; Philian, the private investment company of Karl-Johan Persson, chairman of H&M; Tom Baruch; and Anjula Acharia, a partner at Trinity Ventures.
“At Expa we are focused on backing remarkable founders that are passionate about the product they are building,” said Expa founder Garrett Camp in a statement. “We saw that in Sanchali – she had a big vision and conveyed it very strongly to us. We have conviction that Joro can build a great product and a great business. The world will be a better place because of what Joro will bring to market.”
Pal estimates that behavioral changes and better consumer choices can reduce an individual’s carbon footprint by up to 30%.
It’s a bet that other companies are making too. For instance, the Los Angeles challenger bank Aspiration, founded by Andrei Cherny, has a tool that can measure the “social impact” of a consumer’s monthly spending — that includes the climate impact of daily consumption.
Pal hopes that through the education and community components of the app, consumers can put pressure on the systems and industries that are the primary producers of greenhouse gas emissions to change their ways.
“Systems are made of people. Like us,” Pal wrote in a blog post. “Companies and governments change when enough people demand it through their actions and behaviors. No, we’re not a silver bullet — we need policymakers and businesses to take sweeping action. But we’re not powerless either. Together we can accelerate the pace of change by demonstrating our demand for a cleaner society.”
Daylight Labs will be creating a solution to help gig economy workers make more money, Sun hints to TechCrunch. Still in the early product development stages, the startup began during the pandemic when Sun noticed how many industries were “completely decimated” by the crisis.
“How can you leverage technology to create new ways for people to earn to make a living,” she said. “We’re innovating on the actual format and product.”
There is no site or information available online about Daylight Labs, and Sun declined to comment on more specifics of the business, saying that the company is still iterating on its final product. What we do know, however, is that the company is a combination of all of Sun’s experiences in her career so far, from product management at Uber, to working on the Stories team at Facebook, to, most recently, investing in consumer companies on behalf of Sequoia Capital, which she joined in 2018.
The Harvard grad started her career in product marketing at Microsoft, where she helped launch the Surface tablet. Sun then spent more than three years at Uber as a founding member of the ridesharing company’s growth marketing team, which included getting drivers to join the platform.
“Through that experience I got to build really strong relationships with drivers,” she said. “Seeing that you’re able to come into a city with a technology and people can start earning money, instantly — that’s really eye-opening for me.” Notably, in California, the Uber and Lyft -backed Prop 22 bill passed, which allows gig workers to remain classified as independent contractors instead of full-time workers.
At Facebook, Sun worked on the company’s Stories product as a product manager. It’s unclear how her experience with consumer cameras and AR will be used within Daylight Labs, but that will definitely be interesting to track. During her tenure, users of Facebook Stories swelled from 2 million to 100 million.
Most recently, Sun worked at Sequoia Capital as the first woman on the firm’s growth-stage team. Her portfolio included Noom, Aurora, Glossier and The Wing, although she says she has transitioned “most responsibilities” from her tenure, including board seats, to the rest of the Sequoia team.
As for why leave the firm so soon after joining, Sun simply said that starting a company has “always been a dream” since the beginning of her career.
Since leaving Sequoia, Sun has lived a “nomadic lifestyle,” with time in San Francisco, Boston, North Carolina and, more recently, Austin, Texas. Daylight Labs is based out of Austin, and Sun joins troves of entrepreneurs who have been moving to the area for years.
More to come on Daylight Labs when Sun is ready to share.
Code is the lifeblood of the modern world, yet the tooling for some programming environments can be remarkably spartan. While developers have long had access to graphical programming environments (IDEs) and performance profilers and debuggers, advanced products to analyze and improve lines of code have been harder to find.
These days, the most typical tool in the kit is a linter, which scans through code pointing out flaws that might cause issues. For instance, there might be too many spaces on a line, or a particular line might have a well-known ambiguity that could cause bugs that are hard to diagnose and would best be avoided.
What if we could expand the power of linters to do a lot more though? What if programmers had an assistant that could analyze their code and actively point out new security issues, erroneous code, style problems and bad logic?
Static code analysis is a whole interesting branch of computer science, and some of those ideas have trickled into the real-world with tools like semgrep, which was developed at Facebook to add more robust code-checking tools to its developer workflow. Semgrep is an open-source project, and it’s being commercialized through r2c, a startup that wants to bring the power of this tool to the developer masses.
The whole project has found enough traction among developers that Satish Dharmaraj at Redpoint and Jim Goetz at Sequoia teamed up to pour $ 13 million into the company for its Series A round, and also backed the company in an earlier, unannounced seed round.
The company was founded by three MIT grads — CEO Isaac Evans and Drew Dennison were roommates in college, and they joined up with head of product Luke O’Malley. Across their various experiences, they have worked at Palantir, the intelligence community, and Fortune 500 companies, and when Evans and Dennison were EIRs at Redpoint, they explored ideas based on what they had seen in their wide-ranging coding experiences.
“Facebook, Apple, and Amazon are so far ahead when it comes to what they do at the code level to bake security [into their products compared to] other companies, it’s really not even funny,” Evans explained. The big tech companies have massively scaled their coding infrastructure to ensure uniform coding standards, but few others have access to the talent or technology to be on an equal playing field. Through r2c and semgrep, the founders want to close the gap.
One unique focus for r2c has been getting developers onboard with the model. The core technology remains open-sourced. Evans said that “if you actually want something that’s going to get broad developer adoption, it has to be predominantly open source so that developers can actually mess with it and hack on it and see whether or not it’s valuable without having to worry about some kind of super restrictive license.”
Beyond its model, the key has been getting developers to actually use the tool. No one likes bugs, and no developer wants to find more bugs that they have to fix. With semgrep and r2c though, developers can get much more immediate and comprehensive feedback — helping them fix tricky errors before they move on and forget the context of what they were engineering.
“I think one of the coolest things for us is that none of the existing tools in the space have ever been adopted by developers, but for us, it’s about 50/50 developer teams who are getting excited about it versus security teams getting excited about it,” Evans said. Developers hate finding more bugs, but they also hate writing them in the first place. Evans notes that the company’s key metric is the number of bugs found that are actually fixed by developers, indicating that they are offering “good, actionable results” through the product. One area that r2c has explored is actively patching obvious bugs, saving developers time.
Breaches, errors and downtime are a bedrock of software, but it doesn’t have to be that way. With more than a dozen employees and a hefty pool of capital, r2c hopes to improve the reliability of all the experiences we enjoy — and save developers time in the process.
No matter what you think of Sequoia Capital, the firm doesn’t rest on its laurels. Though it’s now managing ungodly amounts of money and has for decades been considered among the top venture firms in the world, it routinely finds new ways to stay relevant and to ensure that it gets a first look at the most promising founders.
It was the first firm to employ scouts, for example. Recently, to create more room between itself and its ever-growing number of competitors, the firm has also begun fine-tuning a curriculum for the founders of both the pre-seed and seed-stage startups it has funded, as well as its Series A and B-stage founders.
According to Roelof Botha — the U.S. head of the venture firm since 2017 — and Jess Lee, a partner at Sequoia for nearly four years, the idea is to arm the individuals it backs with Sequoia’s vast “tribal knowledge” so they can not only compete with their rivals but, hopefully, outperform them. “We were already delivering this on an on-demand basis,” says Botha, “so we figured why not [institutionalize it]?”
How do they work? Much as you might imagine. The pre-seed and seed-stage program is shorter but more intensive than the later-stage program. Think three weeks of between three to six hours of programming a day, versus up to 10 weeks of more occasional programming for founders whose companies are more mature and who maybe can’t drop in for quite as much hands-on education.
The content differs meaningfully, too. The seed-stage modules are about creating a foundation that won’t crumble under pressure, whereas the later-stage sessions center more around metrics, building out a sales organization, and other aspects of more mature company building.
Both programs are entirely opt-in, and so far, over the last three years, 80 founders have participated, with another 20 engaged in a seed-stage program that kicked off virtually this week. Both are highly interactive and involve enough workshopping that founders are “walking out with deliverables,” says Lee. “Everyone does show-and-tell demos. You see sausage-making that you wouldn’t typically get to see.”
Lee happens to lead programming around storytelling with Sequoia’s in-house design partner, James Buckhouse. (They presented one small part of that module at our recent Extra Crunch event, which you can watch below.) But many of the firm’s partners are involved in the program.
Longtime partner Alfred Lin, who was formerly the COO and chairman of Zappos, teaches a module on culture, for example. Partner Bryan Schreier, long ago a senior director at Google, talks with founders about category creation and how to sell their products. Carl Eschenbach, the former president and COO of VMware (who, notably, persuaded Sequoia to invest nearly $ 100 million in Zoom in early 2017), separately coaches founders on their go-to-market strategies.
As a result, founders are exposed to many of the firm’s partners beyond the one who may have a seat on their board. They’re also exposed to founders like Julia Hartz and Tony Xu who’ve been backed by Sequoia over time and who drop in to help mentor their peers. Combined, the two prongs go a long way toward fostering community, says Lee.
In fact, “Community is really the core element” of the programs, she says, adding that each “cohort really bonds with each other.”
Of course, the programming — first launched in 2018 — was happening in-person until earlier this year. Now and for the foreseeable future, it will be happening online, suggests Botha, who says he “emcees the entire Series A-stage program,” while Lee plays master of ceremonies to its earlier-stage founders.
They insist that transition to a virtual setting isn’t slowing anyone down and that on the contrary, it has enabled the growing number of Sequoia-backed founders elsewhere in the world to participate. (According to Lee, some actually used to fly in to join these sessions.)
In fact, a bigger change that Botha can foresee right now is layering in more education around “how to deal with a culture with a remote workforce.”
As he says, in a future where people may be working in smaller hubs, taking turns at the office, or working remotely entirely, “it will be interesting to see what it means for young founders who are first-time managers and who have to manage a distributed team.”
It will most certainly be “more taxing on [their] people skills,” he notes.
Incomlend, a Singapore-headquartered startup that operates a trading platform to connect exporters and importers with investors, has raised $ 20 million in a new financing round, it said on Tuesday.
Sequoia India, the India and SEA investment arm of the storied U.S.-headquartered venture firm, led the Series A round in four-year-old Incomlend. The CMA CGM Group, one of the world’s largest shipping and logistics firms, also participated in the round.
Incomlend’s invoice trading platform is solving three pain points. Exporters typically get paid weeks or months after shipping goods and lack working capital to move to service other orders until they have received their due. Incomlend says its platform employs AI-powered underwriting technology to enable exporters to receive early payment.
Similarly, the startup says importers on its platform are able to minimize the risk of supply chain disruption and set more favorable payment terms. And investors have found a new alternative asset class to invest in through Incomlend that offers returns in shorter durations.
These roadblocks have prompted traditional banks to pull back from financing such deals, creating a cash crunch among cross-border trading firms worldwide. “This has led to a $ 1.5 trillion trade finance gap, hitting mid-cap companies hard. This gap has worsened with Covid-19,” the startup said, citing its own research.
“The impact is acute in high-growth Asia where SMEs — which account for more than 95% of all businesses and provide two out of three private-sector jobs in the region — need more financing options to meet their growing demand. Further, low-interest rates in Asia — and negative rates in Europe — are prompting many global investors to seek alternative asset classes,” the startup said.
Morgan Terigi, co-founder and chief executive of Incomlend, said the startup’s trading platform is able to onboard clients and process deals in a more timely fashion with higher flexibility. Incomlend has facilitated more than $ 330 million in financing and covered invoice finance trades across 50 countries to date.
“The massive trade finance gap, combined with declining global interest rates and the high credit quality of Incomlend’s customers, has helped them create a compelling business that helps solve one of the most important challenges faced by global SMEs,” said Abheek Anand, managing director at Sequoia Capital India, in a statement.
Terigi said the startup will deploy the fresh capital to expand into Europe, Southeast Asia and North Asia and bulk up its technology stack.