Nordic challenger bank Lunar raises €40M Series C, plans to enter the ‘buy now, pay later’ space

Lunar, the Nordic challenger bank that started out life as a personal finance manager app (PFM) but acquired a full banking license in 2019, has raised €40 million in Series C funding from existing investors.

The injection of capital follows a €20 million Series B disclosed in April this year and comes on the back of Lunar rolling out Pro paid-for subscriptions — similar to a number of other challenger banks in Europe — personal consumer loans, and the launch of business bank accounts in August.

The latter appears to have been an instant success, perhaps proof there is — like in the U.K. — pent up demand for more accessible banking for sole traders. Just months since launching in Denmark, Lunar Business claims to have signed up more than 50% of all newly founded sole trader businesses in the country.

I’m also told that Lunar has seen “best-in-class” user engagement with users spending €1,100 per month versus what the bank says is a €212 EU average for card transactions. Overall, the bank has 5,000 business users and 200,000 private users across Denmark, Sweden and Norway.

Meanwhile — and most noteworthy — after launching its first consumer lending products on its own balance sheet, Lunar has set its sights on the “buy now, pay later” market, therefore theoretically encroaching on $ 10.65 billion valued Klarna, and Affirm in the U.S. which just filed to go public. Other giants in the BNPL space also include PayPal.

Lunar founder and CEO Ken Villum Klausen says the “schizophrenic” Nordic banking market is the reason why the challenger is launching BNPL. “It’s the most profitable banking landscape in the world, but also the most defensive, with least competition from the outside,” he says. “This means that the traditional banking customer is buying all their financial products from their bank”.

It is within this context that Lunar’s BNPL products are built as “post-purchase,” where Lunar will prompt its users after they have bought something (not dissimilar to Curve’s planned credit offering). For example, if you were to buy a new television, the app will ask if you want to split the purchase into instalments. “This does not require merchant agreements etc, and will work on all transactions both retail and e-commerce,” explains Klausen.

“We do not view Klarna as a direct competitor as they are not in the Nordic clearing system,” he adds. “Hence, you cannot pay your bills, get your salary and use it for daily banking. Klarna is enormous in Sweden, but relatively small in Denmark, Norway and Finland”.

In total, Lunar has raised €104 million from investors including Seed Capital, Greyhound Capital, Socii Capital and Chr. Augustinus Fabrikker. The challenger has offices in Aarhus, Copenhagen, Stockholm and Oslo, with a headcount of more than 180 employees. It plans to launch its banking app in Finland in the first half of 2021.

Startups – TechCrunch

E-bike subscription service Dance closes $17.7M Series A, led by HV Holtzbrinck Ventures

Three months on since the former founders of SoundCloud launched their e-bike subscription service, Dance today is announcing the close of a $ 17.7 million (€15 million) Series A funding round led by one of the larger European VCs, HV Holtzbrinck Ventures.

Founded by Eric Quidenus-Wahlforss (ex-SoundCloud), Alexander Ljung (still at SoundCloud as chairman) and Christian Springub (ex-Jimdo), Dance has ambitions to offer its all-inclusive service subscription package into expanded markets across Europe and eventually the U.S. Dance is currently operating the invite-only pilot of its e-bike subscription in Berlin, with plans for a broader launch, expanded accessibility and availability and new cities next year.

Rainer Märkle, general partner at HV Holtzbrinck Ventures, said in a statement: “The mobility market is seeing a huge shift towards bikes, strongly fueled by the paradigm shift of vehicles going electric. Unfortunately, the majority of e-bikes on the market today have some combination of poor design, high upfront costs, and cumbersome maintenance. We analyzed the overall mobility market, evaluated all means of transport, and crunched the numbers on all types of business models for a few years before we found what we were looking for. Dance is by the far the most viable future of biking, bridging the gap between e-bike ownership and more ‘joyful’ accessibility to go places.”

E-bikes tend to be notoriously expensive to purchase and a hassle to repair. That said, startups like VanMoof and Cowboy have brought an Apple -esque business model to the market, which is fast bringing the cost of full ownership down.

Most commuters are put off cycling the average 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) commute but e-bikes make this distance a breeze. Dance sits in that half-way house between owning an expensive bike and having to hunt down a rentable e-bike or electric scooter close to your location.

Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought individual, socially distanced transport into sharp relief. U.K. sales of e-bikes have boomed, seeing a 230% surge in demand over the summer. This has happened at the same time as EU governments have put in more than 2300 km of bike lanes, with the U.K. alone pledging £250 million in investment.

Quidenus-Wahlforss said the startup has been “inundated with positive responses from around the world since we announced our invite-only pilot program.”

Dance’s subscription model includes a fully assembled e-bike delivered to a subscriber’s door within 24 hours. This comes with maintenance, theft replacement insurance, a dedicated smartphone app, concierge services, GPS location tracking and unlocking capabilities.

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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EU-Startups

Syte, an e-commerce visual search platform, gets $30 million Series C to expand in the U.S. and Asia

Syte’s cofounders, chief executive Ofer Freyman, chief revenue officer Lihi Pinto-Fryman and chief operating officer Idan Pinto

Syte’s cofounders, chief executive Ofer Freyman, chief revenue officer Lihi Pinto-Fryman and chief operating officer Idan Pinto

Tel Aviv-based visual search and product discovery platform Syte, already used by brands like Farfetch and Fashion Nova, plans to expand in the United States and Asia-Pacific region after its latest funding. The startup announced today it has raised a $ 30 million Series C, with an additional $ 10 million in debt.

The round was led by Viola Ventures, with participation from LG Tech Ventures, La Maison, MizMaa Ventures, Kreos Capital, and returning investors Magma, Naver Corporation, Commerce Ventures, Storm Ventures, Axess Ventures, Remagine Media Ventures and KDS Media Fund. Syte’s last round of funding, a $ 21.5 million Series B, was announced in September 2019. The startup has now raised a total of $ 71 million.

Launched in 2015 to focus on visual search for clothing, Syte’s technology now covers other verticals like jewelry and home decor, and is used by brands including Farfetch, Fashion Nova, Castorama and Signet Jewelers. Syte says that its solutions can increase conversion by 177% on average.

The company’s platform includes three main products: Visual Discovery to let brands add camera search, recommendation engines and discovery buttons; “Searchendising,” which automatically generates tags based on visual AI to improve search and recommendation results; and a Discovery Marketplace used by publishers, smart devices manufacturers and social platforms to increase the reach of product advertisements.

Since the beginning of 2020, Syte says its customer base has grown 38%, partly because of the increase in e-commerce traffic caused by COVID-19 movement restrictions.

In the company’s press announcement, chief executive officer and co-founder Ofer Fryman said Syte will focus on developing or acquiring product discovery technology “spanning the full range of our senses—visual, text, voice, and more” to create types of personalized recommendations.

A lot of Syte’s current customers are in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, so its new funding is also earmarked to increase its presence in the U.S. and Asia-Pacific markets.

More social media platforms and e-commerce platforms, including Amazon, Target, IKEA, Walmart, eBay, Snap, and Pinterest, are using visual search and recognition technology to give users an alternative to keyword searches. By simplifying the search process or automatically generating tags, visual recognition technology can help improve search results and product recommendations, resulting in more conversions.

There is a roster of other companies that are also working on AI-based visual recognition and search technology for e-commerce. Other startups in the same space that have raised venture capital funding include Donde Search, ViSenze and Slyce.

Gal Fontyn, Syte’s vice president of marketing, told TechCrunch that it differentiates with visual AI algorithms developed by co-founder and chief technology officer Helge Voss, who previously worked as a physicist at CERN (the European Organization for Nuclear Research).

Voss’ background in neural networks and machine learning allowed Syte to build a visual search solution that can produce results with over 95% accuracy in object-matching within less than a second, Fontyn said. Its algorithms have also been trained on millions of products from vendors around the world, which Syte claims gives it the “largest vertical-specific lexicon in the industry.” This is what allows it to recognize several objects within an image, and assign them detailed tags.

Brands that use Syte see a 423% increase on average on ROI, Fontyn added.

Startups – TechCrunch

Sym raises $9M Series A for its security workflow platform

Sym, a new platform that makes it easier for developers to integrate security and privacy workflows into their process, today announced that it has raised a $ 9 million Series A round led by Amplify Partners. Earlier this year, the company announced its $ 3 million seed round lead by Andy McLoughlin of Uncork Capital and Robin Vasan of Mango Capital. Angel investors include former Google CISO Gerhard Eschelbeck, Atlassian CTO Sri Viswanath and Jason Warner, the CTO of GitHub.

Sym co-founder Yasyf Mohamedali spent the last few years as CTO of health tech company Karuna Health. In that role, he became intimately familiar with working in a high-compliance industry, handling vendor reviews and security audits. To make those processes more efficient, his team built lots of small tools, but he realized that everybody else in the industry was doing the same.

Image Credits: Sym

“As an engineer, it’s frustrating when you see people building the same thing over and over,” Mohamedali told me. “For years, I had this kind of concept in my head of, ‘what if we just built it all once, and then people didn’t have to keep redoing the same thing over and over?’ And so when I stepped away from Karuna to start Sym, originally, what I wanted to do was exactly that — and specifically for HIPAA. It’s kind of a naïve approach where I was like, ‘you know, what, I’m just going to build all the tools, someone needs to do HIPAA and open source it as like a black box thing.”

What he realized, though, is that companies have their own security and governance workflows that tend to share the same core but also a lot of variabilities. So what Sym now does is offer these core tools and lets companies mix and match what they need from this developer-centric toolbox the company has created.

“What we’re building is a set of workflow templates and primitives that map to that shared 20% core — and then a set of integrations that you can use to pull down those workflow templates, and codify that last mile variance by connecting those templates to all your different services,” Mohamedali explained.

What’s interesting about this approach is that Sym offers a Python SDK and lets developers create these workflows and integrations with only a few lines of code. In part, that’s due to the company’s philosophy of putting engineers back into control of security — the same way DevOps allowed them to reclaim control over infrastructure and Q&A. “DevOps is a thing. So now, DevSecOps needs to be a thing. We need to reclaim security. And we want to be the tool to do that with,” he said.

Mohamedali stressed that this was very much an opportunistic round, and for the next few months this raise won’t change anything in the company’s road map. But because Sym started signing up large customers — and had made commitments to them — now was a good time to raise, especially because the right partners came along. That means hiring more engineers, but over time, the company obviously also plans to build out its sales and marketing teams. The product itself, though, will remain in private beta until about the middle of next year. At that time, Sym will also launch a self-serve version of its platform.

Startups – TechCrunch

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

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

Read more here.

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

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Future raises $24M Series B for its $150/mo workout coaching app amid at-home fitness boom

With thousands of gyms across the country forced to close during the pandemic, there’s been an unprecedented opportunity for fitness companies pitching an at-home solution. This moment has propelled public companies like Peloton to stratospheric highs — its market cap is about to eclipse $ 40 billion — but it has also pushed venture capitalists toward plenty of deals in the fitness space.

Future launched with a bold sell for consumers: a $ 150 per month subscription app that virtually teamed users with a real-life fitness coach. Leaning on the health-tracking capabilities of the Apple Watch, the startup has been aiming to build a platform that teams motivation, accountability and fitness insights.

Image via Future

Close to 18 months after announcing a Series A led by Kleiner Perkins, the startup tells TechCrunch they’ve closed a $ 24 million Series B led by Trustbridge Partners, with Caffeinated Capital and Kleiner Perkins participating again.

Amid the at-home fitness boom, Future has seen major growth of its own. CEO Rishi Mandal says that the company’s growth rate has tripled in recent months as thousands of gyms closed their doors. He says shelter-in-place has merely accelerated an ongoing shift toward tech-forward fitness services that can help busy users find time during their day to exercise.

The operating thesis of the company is that modern life is inherently crazy not just during pandemic times but in normal times,” Mandal says. “The idea of having a set routine is a complete fallacy.”

At $ 149 per month, Future isn’t aiming for mass market appeal the same way other digital fitness programs being produced by Peloton, Fitbit or Apple are. It seems to be more squarely aimed at users who could be a candidate for getting a personal trainer but might not be ready to make the investment or don’t need the guided instruction so much as they need general guidelines and some accountability.

As the startup closes on more funding, the team has big goals to expand its network. Mandal aims to have 1,000 coaches on the Future platform by this time next year. Reaching new scales could give the service a chance to tackle new challenges. Mandal sees opportunities for Future to expand its coaching services beyond fitness as it grows, “There’s a real opportunity to help people with all aspects of their health.”

Startups – TechCrunch

Roblox to Go Public with $8 Billion Valuation Following $150 Million Series G Funding at $4 Billion – INVESTORS KING

Roblox to Go Public with $ 8 Billion Valuation Following $ 150 Million Series G Funding at $ 4 Billion  INVESTORS KING
“nigeria startups when:7d” – Google News

Whisper announces $35M Series B to change hearing aids with AI and subscription model

A few years ago, Whisper president and co-founder Andrew Song was talking to his grandfather about his hearing aids. Even though he spent thousands of dollars on a medical device designed to improve his hearing, and in the process his quality of life, he wasn’t wearing them. Song’s co-founders had had similar experiences with grandparents, and as engineers and entrepreneurs, they decided to do something about it, to try and build a better, more modern hearing aid.

Today, the company emerged from stealth with a new hearing aid built from the ground up. It uses artificial intelligence to learn and adjust in an automated way to different hearing situations like a noisy restaurant or watching TV. And you don’t pay thousands of dollars up front, you pay a monthly fee on a three year subscription, and you get free software updates along the way.

While it was at it, the company also announced a $ 35 million Series B investment led by Quiet Ventures with participation from previous investors Sequoia Capital and First Round Capital. The startup has raised a total of $ 53 million to build the hearing aid system that it is announcing today.

Those discussions with his grandfather prior to starting the company led Song to wonder why he wasn’t wearing those hearing aids, what were the challenges he was having and why that wasn’t working for him — and that led to eventually forming launching a startup.

“That really inspired us to build, I think, a new kind of product, one that could get better over time and better support the needs of people who use hearing aids, and be a hearing aid that gets better, but also one that could use artificial intelligence to actually improve the sound that somebody gets,” Song explained.

While the founding team had a background in technology and engineering, they did not have expertise in hearing science, so they brought on Dr. Robert Sweetow from the UCSF audiology department to help them.

The technology they’ve built consists of three main components. For starters you have the hearing aids themselves that fit on the ear along with a pocket-sized external box that they call the Whisper Brain, which the company says, “works wirelessly with the earpieces to enable a proprietary AI-based Sound Separation Engine,” and finally there is a smart phone app to update the software on the system.

It is this AI that Song says separates them from other hearing aids. “In the day-to-day rough and tumble when you encounter a more challenging experience, what we call our sound separation engine, which is the kind of AI model that we’ve built to help with that, and that’s what’s going to be there to help do that signal processing — and we think that’s really unique,” he said.

What’s more, just like a self-driving car learns over time and benefits from the data being fed back to the company from all drivers, Song says that the same dynamic is at work with the hearing aid, which learns how to process signals better over time, based on an individual’s experience, but also all of the other Whisper hearing aid users.

The company is offering these hearing aids through a network of hearing aid professionals, rather than over the counter, because Song said that the company recognized that these are complex instruments and it is important to keep audiologists in the loop to help fit and support the hearing aids and work with Whisper customers over the life of the product.

Whisper offers these hearing aids on a subscription basis for $ 179 per month on a three-year contract, which includes all of the hardware, the software updates, on-going support from the hearing care pro, a 3-year loss and damage insurance and an industry-standard equipment warranty. They are offering an introductory price of $ 139 per month for a limited time.

At $ 179 per month, it comes to a total of $ 6444 over the three year period to essentially rent the aids. At the end of the subscription, customers can renew and get updated hardware or give the hardware back. They do not own the hearing aids.

It’s worth noting that other hearing aid companies also use AI in their hearing aids including Widex and Starkey, neither of which require an external hub. Many hearing aid companies also offer a variety of payment and subscription plans, but Whisper is an attempt to offer a different approach to hearing aids.

Startups – TechCrunch

Alpaca raises $10M Series A for its API-powered equities trading service

This morning Alpaca, a startup that helps other companies add commission-free equities trading to their own products, announced a $ 10 million Series A. The new capital event was led by Portag3, and included prior investors Social Leverage, Spark Capital, Fathom Capital and Abstract Ventures.

The company previously raised a $ 6 million pre-Seed and $ 6 million Seed round that TechCrunch covered last November.

Alpaca is a company that has cropped up in our coverage of the startup and private capital markets recently, adding its perspective to our discussion of API-powered startups and their recent success.

By our math, the new round pushes Alpaca to around $ 22 million in total funding.

It’s done a lot with the pre-existing funds, including driving its transaction volume sharply higher over the last year. As we’ve seen with commission-free broker Robinhood, transaction volume can be robustly lucrative. In a prior interview with Alpaca CEO Yoshi Yokokawa, the startup confirmed that it generates revenues from routing order flow through specific market makers.

So, as Alpaca’s trading volume grows, so too does its revenue. This matters as we have notes on Alpaca’s trading volume in 2020, and how some of those figures compare to its 2019 results. The data helps explain why, and how the startup attracted new capital.

Here’s the startup’s historical trading volume in dollars, generated via customer’ use of its API:

  • January: $ 388.1 million
  • February: $ 591.4 million
  • March: $ 999.0 million
  • April: $ 853.6 million
  • June: $ 1.59 billion
  • July: $ 1.58 billion
  • August: $ 959.3 million
  • September, 2020: ~$ 2 billion

Per the company, that $ 2 billion result in September is up 10x its year-ago performance, implying that revenue at Alpaca has soared in recent quarters. Fast revenue growth, and possible 10x revenue expansion, is investor catnip. The company’s Series A, therefore, is not a surprise event.

What’s next

Off the heels of this growth, Alpaca wants to go after more enterprise customers and double-down on building features into its API so that it can pursue a vision of providing financial services to everyone on the planet, according to Yokokawa. That hope, by the way, is why the company is building infrastructure tech and not consumer-facing tooling. Alpaca wants to sit behind the scenes, the world ’round, powering other players so that it can have maximum reach. (If it powers lots of different companies’ trading tooling, the startup might be able to reach more total end-users than trying to accrete the world’s trading population to a single, first-party service.)

To accomplish its aspirational goal, the startup needs more folks to build more things. Similar to many startups, Alpaca has gone fully remote and is taking its fresh cash to hire around the world. I asked the CEO if he was adding mostly, say, in-market salespeople as Alpaca looks to expand its customer base globally. He responded that most of its distributed hires have been developers, though some have been marketers as well.

After reducing staff to around 10 when COVID-19 arrived, Alpaca is now 35 people strong. Those folks will help Alpaca grow across two vectors, namely geographic expansion and growth into the enterprise, powered by API development. The company’s work on broker-dealer features is part of its international growth plan.

The API-space is hot. The fintech world is on fire. And inside of fintech itself, we’ve seen a savings and investing boom. Alpaca straddles all of three of those worlds. Let’s see how far it can get with $ 10 million more.

 

Startups – TechCrunch