Plant-based food startup Next Gen lands $10M seed round from investors including Temasek

Singapore is quickly turning into a hub for food-tech startups, partly because of government initiatives supporting the development of meat alternatives. One of the newest entrants is Next Gen, which will launch its plant-based “chicken” brand, called TiNDLE, in Singaporean restaurants next month. The company announced today that it has raised $10 million in seed funding from investors including Temasek, K3 Ventures, EDB New Ventures (an investment arm of the Singapore Economic Development Board), NX-Food, FEBE Ventures and Blue Horizon.

Next Gen claims this is the largest seed round ever raised by a plant-based food tech company, based on data from PitchBook. This is the first time the startup has taken external investment, and the funding exceeded its original target of $7 million. Next Gen was launched last October by Timo Recker and Andre Menezes, with $2.2 million of founder capital.

Next Gen’s first product is called TiNDLE Thy, an alternative to chicken thighs. Its ingredients include water, soy, wheat, oat fiber, coconut oil and methylcellulose, a culinary binder, but the key to its chicken-like flavor is a proprietary blend of plant-based fats, like sunflower oil, and natural flavors that allows it to cook like chicken meat.

Menezes, Next Gen’s chief operating officer, told TechCrunch that the company’s goal is to be the global leader in plant-based chicken, the way Impossible and Beyond are known for their burgers.

“Consumers and chefs want texture in chicken, the taste and aroma, and that is largely related to chicken fat, which is why we started with thighs instead of breasts,” said Menezes. “We created a chicken fat made from a blend, called Lipi, to emulate the smell, aroma and browning when you cook.”

Both Recker and Menezes have years of experience in the food industry. Recker founded German-based LikeMeat, a plant-based meat producer acquired by the LIVEKINDLY Collective last year. Menezes’ food career started in Brazil at one of the world’s largest poultry exporters. He began working with plant-based meat after serving as general manager of Country Foods, a Singaporean importer and distributor that focuses on innovative, sustainable products.

“It was clear to me after I was inside the meat industry for so long that it was not going to be a sustainable business in the long run,” Menezes said.

Over the past few years, more consumers have started to feel the same way, and began looking for alternatives to animal products. UBS expects the global plant-based protein market to increase at a compounded annual growth rate of more than 30%, reaching about $50 billion by 2025, as more people, even those who aren’t vegans or vegetarians, seek healthier, humane sources of protein.

Millennial and Gen Z consumers, in particular, are willing to reduce their consumption of meat, eggs and dairy products as they become more aware of the environmental impact of industrial livestock production, said Menezes. “They understand the sustainability angle of it, and the health aspect, like the cholesterol or nutritional values, depending on what product you are talking about.”

Low in sodium and saturated fat, TiNDLE Thy has received the Healthier Choice Symbol, which is administered by Singapore’s Health Promotion Board. Next Gen’s new funding will be used to launch TiNDLE Thy, starting in popular Singaporean restaurants like Three Buns Quayside, the Prive Group, 28 HongKong Street, Bayswater Kitchen and The Goodburger.

Over the next year or two, Next Gen plans to raise its Series A round, launch more brands and products, and expand in its target markets: the United States (where it is currently recruiting a growth director to build a distribution network), China, Brazil and Europe. After working with restaurant partners, Next Gen also plans to make its products available to home cooks.

“The reason we started with chefs is because they are very hard to crack, and if chefs are happy with the product, then we’re very sure customers will be, too,” said Menezes.

Paramount+ will cost $4.99 per month with ads

ViacomCBS executives held a virtual investor event today where they outlined the strategy for Paramount+, the streaming service set to launch on March 4 that’s basically a rebranded, expanded version of CBS All Access.

In addition to launching in the United States, executives said the service will be available across Latin America and Canada on March 4, with a Nordic launch a few weeks later and an Australian launch also planned for this year.

And they said that Paramount+ will cost $4.99 per month with ads in the U.S. (less than the $5.99 charged for CBS All Access), or $9.99 without ads and with additional sports, news and live TV content. There are also plans to bundle this with the company’s premium subscriptions, such as Showtime.

Yes, it’s yet another streaming service with a plus in its name. But the company’s streaming president and CEO Tom Ryan said research has shown that ViacomCBS brands — not just Paramount and CBS, but Comedy Central, MTV, Nickelodeon and more — are well-known to viewers, and they’ll all be front-and-center in the new service. Plus, it’s worth noting that ViacomCBS already produces a number of hit streaming shows on other services, such as “13 Reasons Why,” “Emily in Paris” and “Jack Ryan.”

ViacomCBS executives also argued that Paramount+ will have a unique combination of live news, live sports and (to use a phrase repeated throughout the event) “a mountain of entertainment.” And from a product perspective, the service will offer originals in 4K, HDR and Dolby Vision, with easy downloads.

On the entertainment side, the service is supposed to have more than 30,000 TV show episodes and 2,500 movies. And the library will expand with new shows like a new version of “Frasier” with Kelsey Grammer returning to the role, as well as a “Halo” TV show that will now debut on Paramount+ instead of Showtime in early 2022. The service is also rebooting a variety of Paramount properties like “Love Story,” “Fatal Attraction” and “Flashdance.”

And like CBS All Access before it, Paramount+ will be home to new Star Trek shows — not just the already launched “Discovery,” “Picard” and “Lower Decks,” but also the upcoming “Strange New Worlds” and the kids animated series “Prodigy.”

On the movie side, Paramount CEO Jim Gianopulos said the company is still a big believer in the theatrical model, but it will be bringing some 2021 releases — including “A Quiet Place Part 2,” the first “Paw Patrol” movie and “Mission Impossible 7” — to Paramount+ in an accelerated fashion, 30 to 45 days after they come to theaters (a much less aggressive strategy than HBO Max, which will stream all Warner Bros. movies this year simultaneously with their theatrical release). And there will be new straight-to-streaming movies as well, starting with reboots of “Paranormal Activity” and “Pet Sematary.”

Spain’s Wallapop raises $191M at an $840M valuation for its classifieds marketplace

Through all of the last year’s lockdowns, venue closures and other social distancing measures that governments have enacted and people have followed to slow the spread of COVID-19, shopping — and specifically e-commerce — has remained a consistent and hugely important service. It’s not just something that we had to do; it’s been an important lifeline for many of us at a time when so little else has felt normal. Today, one of the startups that saw a big lift in its service as a result of that trend is announcing a major fundraise to fuel its growth.

Wallapop, a virtual marketplace based out of Barcelona, Spain that lets people resell their used items, or sell items like crafts that they make themselves, has raised €157 million ($191 million at current rates), money that it will use to continue growing the infrastructure that underpins its service, so that it can expand the number of people that use it.

Wallapop has confirmed that the funding is coming at a valuation of €690 million ($840 million) — a significant jump on the $570 million valuations sources close to the company gave us in 2016.

The funding is being led by Korelya Capital, a French VC fund backed by Korea’s Naver, with Accel, Insight Partners, 14W, GP Bullhound and Northzone — all previous backers of Wallapop — also participating.

The company currently has 15 million users — about half of Spain’s internet population, CEO Rob Cassedy pointed out to us in an interview earlier today, and has maintained a decent No. 4 ranking among Spain’s shopping apps, according to figures from App Annie.

The startup has also recently been building out shipping services, called Envios, to help people get the items they are selling to the buyers, which has expanded the range from local sales to those that can be made across the country. About 20% of goods go through Envios now, Cassedy said, and the plan is to continue doubling down on that and related services.

Naver itself is a strong player in e-commerce and apps — it’s the company behind Asian messaging giant Line, among other digital properties — and so this is in part a strategic investment. Wallapop will be leaning on Naver and its technology in its own R&D, and on Naver’s side it will give the company a foothold in the European market at a time when it has been sharpening its strategy in e-commerce.

The funding is an interesting turn for a company that has seen some notable fits and starts. Founded in 2013 in Spain, it quickly shot to the top of the charts in a market that has traditionally been slow to embrace e-commerce over more traditional brick-and-mortar retail.

By 2016, Wallapop was merging with a rival, LetGo, as part of a bigger strategy to crack the U.S. market (with more capital in tow).

But by 2018, that plan was quietly shelved, with Wallapop quietly selling its stake in the LetGo venture for $189 million. (LetGo raised $500 million more on its own around that time, but its fate was not to remain independent: it was eventually acquired by yet another competitor in the virtual classifieds space, OfferUp, in 2020, for an undisclosed sum.)

Wallapop has for the last two years focused mainly on growing in Spain rather than running after business further afield, and rather than growing the range of goods that it might sell on its platform — it doesn’t sell food, nor work with retailers in an Amazon-style marketplace play, nor does it have plans to do anything like move into video or selling other kinds of digital services — it has honed in specifically on trying to improve the experience that it does offer to users.

“I spent 12 years at eBay and saw the transition it made to new goods from used goods,” said Cassedy. “Let’s just say it wasn’t the direction I thought we should take for Wallapop. We are laser-focused on unique goods, with the vast majority of that secondhand with some artisan products. It is very different from big box.”

Wallapop’s growth in the past year is the result of some specific trends in the market that were in part fuelled by the COVID-19 pandemic.

People spending more time in their homes have been focused on clearing out space and getting rid of things. Others are keen to buy new items now that they are spending more time at home, but want to spend less on them. In both cases, there has been a push for more sustainability, with people putting less waste into the world by recycling and upcycling goods instead.

At the same time, Facebook hasn’t really made big inroads in the country with its Marketplace, and Amazon has also not appeared as a threat to Wallapop, Cassedy noted.

All of these have had a huge impact on Wallapop’s business, but it wasn’t always this way. Cassedy said that the first lockdown in Spain saw business plummet, as people were restricted to leave their homes.

“It was a roller coaster for us,” he said. “We entered the year with incredible momentum, very strong.”

He noted that the drop started in March, when “not only did it become not okay to leave the house and trade locally but the post office stopped delivering parcels. Our business went off a cliff in March and April.”

Then when the restrictions were lifted in May, things started to bounce back more than ever before, nearly overnight, he said. “The economic uncertainty caused people to seek out more value, better deals, spending less money, and yes they were clearing out closets. We saw numbers bounce back 40-50% growth year-on-year in June.”

The big question was whether that growth was a blip or there to say. He said it has continued into 2021 so far. “It’s a validation of what we see as long-term trends driving the business.”

“The global demand for C2C and resale platforms is growing with renewed commitment in sustainable consumption, especially by younger millennials and Gen Z,” noted Seong-sook Han, CEO of Naver Corp., in a statement. “We agree with Wallapop’s philosophy of conscious consumption and are enthused to support their growth with our technology and develop international synergies.”

“Our economies are switching towards a more sustainable development model; after investing in Vestiaire Collective last year, wallapop is Korelya’s second investment in the circular economy, while COVID-19 is only strengthening that trend. It is Korelya’s mission to back tomorrow’s European tech champions and we believe that NAVER has a proven tech and product edge that will help the company reinforce its leading position in Europe,” added Fleur Pellerin, CEO of Korelya Capital.

Daily Crunch: We review the Amazon Echo Show 10

We check out Amazon’s new smart home device, Airbnb adds flexible search and Hopin is raising even more money. This is your Daily Crunch for February 24, 2021.

The big story: We review the Amazon Echo Show 10

Brian Heater spent some time with Amazon’s new smart home device, paying particular attention to the screen that rotates based on the user’s location. He reports that the screen works smoothly and silently, but also feels “unnecessary,” and in some cases “downright unnerving” (especially from a privacy perspective).

Ultimately, Brian concludes that the $249 device is “a well-constructed, nice addition to the Show family and one I don’t mind moving around the old-fashioned way.”

The tech giants

Airbnb plans for a new kind of travel post-COVID with flexible search — The feature will allow users to forgo putting in exact dates when they look to book lodging on the platform.

YouTube to launch parental control features for families with tweens and teens — YouTube announced a new experience for teens and tweens who are now too old for the schoolager-focused YouTube Kids app, but who may not be ready to explore all of YouTube.

Google Cloud puts its Kubernetes Engine on autopilot — This new mode turns over the management of much of the day-to-day operations of a container cluster to Google’s own engineers and automated tools.

Startups, funding and venture capital

VCs are chasing Hopin upwards of $5-6B valuation — According to multiple sources who spoke with TechCrunch, the company may be nearing the end of a fundraise in which it’s seeking to raise roughly $400 million.

Primary Venture Partners raises $150M third fund to back NYC startups — The firm’s portfolio includes Jet.com (acquired by Walmart for $3.3 billion), Mirror (acquired by Lululemon for $500 million) and Latch (which is planning to go public via SPAC).

Joby Aviation takes flight into the public markets via a SPAC merger — Joby has spent more than a decade developing an all-electric, vertical take-off and landing passenger aircraft.

Advice and analysis from Extra Crunch

Four essential truths about venture investing — Observations from Alex Iskold of 2048 Ventures.

Dear Sophie: Which immigration options are the fastest? — The latest edition of “Dear Sophie,” the advice column that answers immigration-related questions about working at technology companies.

Can solid state batteries power up for the next generation of EVs? — For the last decade, developers of solid state battery systems have promised products that are vastly safer, lighter and more powerful.

(Extra Crunch is our membership program, which helps founders and startup teams get ahead. You can sign up here.)

Everything else

Europe kicks off bid to find a route to ‘better’ gig work — The European Union has kicked off the first stage of a consultation process involving gig platforms and workers.

The Equity podcast is growing — More Equity!

Techstars’ Neal Sáles-Griffin will join us at TechCrunch Early Stage 2021 to talk accelerators — Neal has seen this industry from just about every angle — as a teacher, advisor, investor and repeat co-founder.

The Daily Crunch is TechCrunch’s roundup of our biggest and most important stories. If you’d like to get this delivered to your inbox every day at around 3pm Pacific, you can subscribe here.

Pilot CEO Waseem Daher tears down his company’s $60M Series C pitch deck

The pitch deck is just one aspect of the broader fundraising process, but for founders aiming to entice investors, it’s the best way to communicate their startup’s progress and potential.

The decisions founders make regarding what to include on those few slides can be the difference between a quick pass or a first check. As the venture capital market continues to boil over and investors find themselves reviewing more deals remotely across different stages, there’s added need to drill down into the basics for their first look inside the company.

To get an insider’s look into the process, I chatted with Pilot CEO Waseem Daher. Last month, his bookkeeping and financial tools startup wrapped a $60 million Series C round led by Sequoia, bringing the company’s total funding to just north of $118 million. We discussed the different approaches he has taken to crafting the company’s pitch deck to showcase what he knew potential investors were most curious in, something that shifted over time as the company hit new milestones.

Daher took me on a tour of his company’s Series C pitch deck (embedded below) and described the decisions he and his team spent the most time considering as they crafted the deck. During the discussion, he broke down some of the key questions investors ask at each stage and touched on many of the proof points that VCs have started paying more attention to.

“If the Series A was about, ‘Do you have the right ingredients to make this work?’ then the Series B is about, ‘Is this actually working?'”

“If the Series A was about, ‘Do you have the right ingredients to make this work?’ then the Series B is about, ‘Is this actually working?’” Daher tells TechCrunch. “And then the Series C is more, ‘Well, show me that the core business is really working and that you have unlocked real drivers to allow the business to continue growing.’”

What are investors looking for?

Seed

  • Key investor question: Is there significant potential?
  • Proof points to consider: Total addressable market (TAM), team.

Series A

  • Key investor question: Is there proof of product-market fit?
  • Additional proof points to consider: Annual recurring revenues (ARR), cash burn.

Series B

  • Key investor question: Is the flywheel working? Will you be the market winner?
  • Additional proof points to consider: ARR growth, net retention, market share.

Series C/D

  • Key investor question: Are the unit economics compelling?
  • Additional proof points to consider: Gross margin, lifetime value (LTV), Customer acquisition costs (CAC).

IPO

  • Key investor question: Will the business generate significant cash flow?
  • Additional proof points to consider: Free cash flow (FCF), FCF margin, average selling price (ASP) growth, category expansion, earnings per share (EPS).

Check out the full pitch deck below from Pilot’s most recent raise (with illustrative data swapped for actual financial metrics).

Handy co-founder Oisin Hanrahan is taking over as CEO of ANGI Homeservices

A little over two years after ANGI Homeservices acquired his startup Handy, Oisin Hanrahan is becoming CEO of the combined organization and joining its board of directors.

ANGI is a publicly traded subsidiary of IAC, formed from the merger of Angie’s List and HomeAdvisor. In addition to the Angie’s List, HomeAdvisor and Handy brands, the company also operates Fixd Repair, HomeStars, MyHammer, MyBuilder, Instapro, Travaux and Werkspot (most of those are outside the United States).

The company says that nearly 250,000 home service professionals are active across its platforms in a given year, with more than 30 million projects facilitated annually. For the fourth quarter of 2020, it reported revenue of $359 million (up 12% year over year) and a net loss of $14.5 million.

Hanrahan joined the company with the acquisition of Handy in October 2018, becoming ANGI’s chief product officer the next year.

“I’m really excited for the opportunity to lead ANGI at this inflection point,” Hanrahan said in a statement. “As we’ve all spent extra time at home over the last year it’s clearer than ever how important our physical space is in our daily lives, and ANGI’s mission to help people love where they live is more relevant than ever. I’m grateful to the board and energized to work with our talented team to help ANGI become the home for everything home.”

ANGI’s previous CEO, Brandon Ridenour, is stepping down from the role. In the announcement, IAC CEO Joey Levin thanked Ridenour “for his instrumental role in building ANGI Homeservices over the last decade” while praising Hanrahan as “an exceptional product visionary.”

In addition, the company announced appointments to two new positions, with Bryan Ellis, becoming chief revenue officer — Marketplace (he’ll oversee the company’s leads and advertising products) and Handy co-founder Umang Dua becoming chief revenue officer — ANGI Services (where he’ll be in charge of ANGI’s pre-priced product).

 

SpaceX is really just SPAC and an ex

Hello and welcome back to Equity, TechCrunch’s venture capital-focused podcast, where we unpack the numbers behind the headlines.

This is our first-ever Wednesday episode. If you want to learn more about the latest edition of the podcast, head here for more. This week we talked about space, an increasingly active part of the global economy, and a place where we’re seeing more and more young tech companies place their focus.

We were lucky to have TechCrunch’s Darrell Etherington join us for the show. He’s our resident expert, so we had to have him on to chat about the space startup ecosystem. Here’s the rundown:

  • SpaceX has raised a bunch more money, at a far higher valuation. We chat about why it didn’t raise more, and how much capital there is available for the famous rocket company.
  • Starlink came up as well, as the satellite array just put another 60 units into orbit. What is it good for? We have a few ideas.
  • The second crew member of the first all-civilian SpaceX mission is revealed, and of course there is an IPO and startup angle involved. 
  • Which brought us to a side conversation on which one of us are most interested in going to space commercially. It’s the raised hands feature no one asked for, but take your guesses on who wants to go first and see if you’re right.
  • Regardless, Axiom Space raises $130 million for its commercial space station ambitions.
  • And then there was the Astra SPAC. You can read its deck here. What matters is that we get a look into how fast it plans to ramp future launches. And the answer is fast.

As we get more comfortable in our Wednesday episodes, we’ll tinker with the format and the like. As we do, we’re always taking feedback at [email protected], or over on Twitter. Hit us up, we’re having a lot of fun but are always looking for ways to sharpen the show!

Equity drops every Monday at 7:00 a.m. PST, Wednesday, and Friday morning at 7:00 a.m. PST, so subscribe to us on Apple PodcastsOvercastSpotify and all the casts.

The Equity podcast is growing

Equity is celebrating its fourth birthday in a few weeks and closed 2020 with its biggest quarter to date. To celebrate and say thank you to our wonderful listeners who tune into us each and every single week, we’re growing upward and outward!

First, as many of you have noticed, we’ve expanded the Equity team. Grace Mendenhall joined the production crew this year, initially helping cover for Chris Gates while he was out on paternity leave. But now Chris is back and so we’ve doubled our producer team.

In classic startup fashion, a bigger team means we can make more swings at R&D, or in this case, add on a new show to our semiweekly cadence.

Today, the whole Equity team — Chris, Grace, Danny, Natasha and Alex — are super proud to announce that we’re expanding the podcast’s show lineup. We’re going to add a new show each week, which will rotate around a particular theme, geography or supermassive news event. It’s your midweek chance to listen to a show about one trend, whether that’s space tech or the growth of community as a competitive advantage. Sometimes it will be an exact topic you’ve cared about for so long (insert Alex and SaaS joke here) and sometimes it will be about a topic you know nothing about. We’re here to convince you to care anyway. Regardless, you can depend on the Equity trio to give you a trifecta of shows that helps you stay up to date on startup and venture capital news in a consumable way.

Starting, well, now, here’s what Equity looks like:

  • Equity on Monday: Our weekly kickoff show is not changing. Except Alex has promised to learn how to speak with better diction.
  • Equity on Wednesday: Our midweek show focused on a single topic or theme. Expect to hear from other TechCrunch reporters about their beats, investors on what they are seeing in the market and reporting on countries and cities where startup activity is blowing up.
  • Equity, now on Friday: The main Equity episode is not changing, other than that we’re going to tighten it up a little bit and release it Friday mornings like we used to. While it was a blast to get out the door Thursday afternoon, we’re going to give Equity Wednesday a little more time to breathe. And since so many of you listen to this episode on Friday anyway, most folks won’t notice a change.

As COVID-19 fades thanks to the rollout of vaccines around the globe, we’ll eventually get back into our studio. That could mean more video down the pike. And we’ll still do the odd Equity Shot for big events that we can’t help but chat about.

Our goal was to double-down on what we think is the best part of Equity: A group of friends hammering through the news as a group, learning, joking and having fun with the world of startups and venture capital.

So, we’ll see you one more time each week. Cool? Cool. Hugs from here and chat soon. — The Equity Team

Jumia narrows losses, as its payment service grows in financial results

After years of losses, African e-commerce giant Jumia claimed significant progress towards profitability in its Q4 2020. Backing that claim, Jumia reported record gross profit and some improvements to its cost structure.

The company wrote in its earnings release that while “2020 has been a challenging year operationally with COVID-19 related supply and logistics disruption,” it had also proven “transformative” for its business model.

Let’s examine its financial results to see how Jumia fared during the pandemic year and see if we can see the same path to profitability discussed in its written remarks.

The results

Jumia’s core metrics were uneven in 2020. The company saw its user base grow by 12% in 2020, from 6.1 million customers in 2019 to 6.8 million customers. That means the company added 700,000 customers in 2020 compared to the 2 million customers it acquired the year before.

Other metrics were negative. The company’s gross merchandise value (GMV), the total worth of goods sold over a period of time, grew 23% from the previous quarter to €231.1 million. The company said this was a result of the Black Fridays sales in the quarter. However, when compared year-over-year, Q4 GMV was down 21% “as the effects of the business mix rebalancing initiated late 2019 continued playing out during the fourth quarter of 2020,” Jumia wrote.

Image Credits: Jumia

In terms of orders made on the platform, Jumia saw a 3% year-over-year drop from 8.3 million in Q4 2019 to 8.1 million in Q4 2020But while the company’s metrics were mixed during Q4 and the full-year 2020 period, there were encouraging signs to be found.

Last year, Jumia’s Q4 gross profit after fulfillment expense was €1.0 million. We reported at the time that the number’s positivity was commendable if merely another mile of the company’s path to profitability

The company built on that result in 2020, allowing it to report a record gross profit after fulfillment expense result of €8.4 million in the final quarter of last year. From a full-year perspective, the numbers are even starker, with Jumia managing just €1.5 million in 2019 gross profit after fulfillment expense; in 2020, that number grew to €23.5 million.

That Jumia managed those improvements while seeing its 2019 revenues of €160.4 million slip 12.9% in 2020 to €139.6 million is notable.

JumiaPay and improvement in losses and expenses

There are other metrics that are encouraging for Jumia.

Its gross profit reached €27.9 million in 2020, representing a year-over-year gain of 12%. Sales and Advertising expense decreased year-over-year by 34% to €10.2 million, while General and Administrative costs, excluding share-based compensation, came to €21.8 million in the year, falling 36% year-over-year.

In 2019, Jumia incurred a massive €227.9 million in losses, a 34% increase from 2018 figures of €169.7 million. But that changed last year as Jumia reported a smaller €149.2 million in operating losses, representing a 34.5% decrease from 2019

Turning from GAAP numbers to more kind metrics, Jumia’s Q4 2020 adjusted EBITDA loss also decreased. The company recorded an adjusted EBITDA of -€28.3 million in the final quarter of 2020, falling 47% year-over-year from 2019’s €53.4 million Q4 result. For the full 2020 period, Jumia reported €119.5 million in adjusted EBITDA losses, down 34.6% from FY19’s -€182.7 million result.

Jumia lost less money on an adjusted EBITDA basis in 2020 of any of its full-year periods we have the data for. Still, the company remains deeply unprofitable today and for the foreseeable future.

Fintech

Jumia’s fintech product, JumiaPay, has been a factor behind its improving metrics.

In Q1 2020, it processed 2.3 million transactions worth €35.5 million. That number grew to €53.6 million from 2.4 million transactions in Q2 2020. In the third quarter of last year, it recorded 2.3 million transactions with a payment volume of €48.0 million. For Q4, JumiaPay performed 2.7 million transactions worth €59.3 million.

In total, JumiaPay processed 9.6 million transactions with a total payment volume (TPV) of €196.4 million throughout 2020. TPV increased by 30% in Q4 2020 from its 2019 result and 58% in 2020 as a whole.

JumiaPay is a critical part of Jumia’s business, as 33.1% of its orders in Q4 2020 were paid for with the service, up from 29.5% in Q4 2019.

Share price and optimism around profitability

Jumia went public in April 2019. Since opening as Africa’s first tech company on the NYSE at $14.50 per share, the company’s stock has been on a rollercoaster ride.

It traded at $49 per share at one point before battling with scepticism about its business model, fraud allegations, and shorting by Andrew Left, a well-known short-seller and founder of Citron Research. What followed was the company’s share price crashing to $26 before reaching an all-time low of $2.15 on the 18th of March 2020.

Later, Left made a reversal after claiming Jumia had handled its fraud problems. He took long positions at the company and later proposed it would hit $100 per share. That change in market sentiment, coupled with the fact that Jumia changed its business model and halted operations in Cameroon, Rwanda, and Tanzania, enabled its share price to climb back, reaching an all-time high of $69.89 this February 10th.

Before today’s earnings call, Jumia was trading at $48.81. Since dropping its latest data, the company’s share price has expanded by around 10% to just over $54 per share as of the time of writing, indicating investor bullishness despite its continued operating and adjusted EBITDA losses

Bain’s Matt Harris and Justworks’ Isaac Oates to talk through the Series B deal that brought them together

It’s been almost 10 years since Justworks launched. The platform, founded by Isaac Oates, was yet another example of software eating the world; in this particular instance, it was the world of HR. Since, the company has raised nearly $150 million in funding.

All the way back in 2016, Bain Capital Ventures caught a whiff of Justworks’ potential for success. Partner Matt Harris led the company’s $13 million Series B round back when Justworks hadn’t even hit $1 million in annual revenue.

On the next episode of Extra Crunch Live, we’ll sit down with Oates and Harris to discuss how they met, how the deal went down and how they’ve managed their board member/founder relationship over the last five years.

As with any episode of ECL, Oates and Harris will also give live feedback on audience-submitted pitch decks during the Pitch Deck Teardown.

Extra Crunch Live is a members-only series that goes down each Wednesday at 12 p.m. PST/3 p.m. EST. If you’re not yet an Extra Crunch member, you should take a hard look in the mirror and then hit up this link.

Matt Harris started his investing career at Bain Capital private equity in 1995. In 2000, he founded his own firm called Village Ventures where he spent 12 years and invested primarily in fintech startups. In 2012, he returned to Bain Capital Ventures. His portfolio includes Acorns, Finix, Ribbon, and of course, Justworks, among many others.

Oates served for 12 years in the National Guard and Army Reserve as an intelligence officer. He also served as a software engineer at Amazon before starting his first company, Adtuitive, which was acquired by Etsy. Oates led the HR and payments team at both Adtuitive and Etsy, learning firsthand the ways in which the system was fundamentally broken. Justworks was born in 2012 and has gone on to become a household name in enterprise tech.

On Wednesday’s episode, we’ll talk about why Harris felt conviction in making a bet on Justworks and why Oates went with Harris over other investors. We’ll also learn more about how they handle disagreements, build trust, and their broader thoughts on current enterprise trends.

Then, we’ll dive into the Pitch Deck Teardown. Anyone can submit a pitch deck to be featured on an episode of Extra Crunch Live, but EC members will be prioritized in the list. If you want to get in on the action, submit your deck right here.

As with just about everything we do here at TechCrunch, audience members can also ask their own questions.

Extra Crunch Live has left room for you to network (you gotta network to get work, amirite?). Networking is open starting at 2:30 p.m. EST/11:30 a.m. PST and stays open a half hour after the episode ends. Make a friend!

As a reminder, Extra Crunch Live is a members-only series that aims to give founders and tech operators actionable advice and insights from leaders across the tech industry. Here’s yet another chance for you to join.

Harris and Oates join a world-class cast of speakers on Extra Crunch Live. In February alone we spoke to Lightspeed’s Gaurav Gupta and Grafana’s Raj Dutt, Felicis’ Aydin Senkut and Guideline’s Kevin Busque, and Accel’s Steve Loughlin and Ironclad’s Jason Boehmig.

You can check out past episodes of ECL here and upcoming schedule here.

Information on how to register for the Bain + Justworks episode on Wednesday is below.

See you there!

Oak HC/FT closes on $1.4 billion to invest in fintech and healthcare startups

Oak HC/FT general partners Annie Lamont, Andrew Adams and Tricia Kemp invested in healthcare and fintech before the two sectors were mainstream, and today, as a result of that early intuition and a handful of key exits, the trio has over a billion dollars in new fund money to show for it.

The firm announced today that it has secured $1.4 billion for its largest fund to date, an investment vehicle that will exclusively back healthcare and fintech companies. The firm previously raised $500 million, $600 million and $800 million for its other funds, respectively. Doing quick math, Oak HC/FT, which closed its first fund in 2014, has been able to triple its total assets managed in six years.

Over the history of its fund, the team has outlined six notable exits, including Anthem’s acquisition of Aspire Health, Thermo Fisher Scientific’s acquisition of Core Informatics, Diplomat’s acquisition of LDI Integrated Pharmacy Services, AXA Group’s acquisition of Maestro Health, GoDaddy’s acquisition of Poynt and Limeade’s public debut. The firm declined to share any numbers around IRR, or share information on what percent of current portfolio companies are planning to go public and which are best capitalized to do so.

Today’s fund, its fourth to date, will be invested across 20 companies, with average check sizes between $60 million and $100 million. Oak HC/FT invests in both early-stage and growth-stage companies. The fresh capitalization comes during a watershed moment for the two sectors, heavily impacted by the coronavirus pandemic from an innovation and adoption perspective.

For example, digital health funding broke records in 2020, attracting over $10 billion in the first three quarters and increase in deals by investors, compared to the previous year. Fintech, despite an uneven beginning, has been tearing through capital to meet with demand, and valuations continue to skyrocket.

From a healthcare perspective, Adams told TechCrunch that it is looking at startups working on the cost of delivering care and ability to engage with complex patients. Lamont said that “virtualization of [both doctors and patients] has been incredible in the last year,” and that much of the firm’s focus is on startups that rely on providers taking risk. The investor is hinting at the big push of startups that are betting that value-based care will replace fee-for-service care. The former rewards service for money, instead of time for money, placing monetary incentive for doctors more on outcomes than number of visits it takes to get to an outcome.

I asked the team if telehealth was no longer as big of a question mark for them, since the pandemic has accelerated adoption. But Lamont argued that telehealth is still “unbelievably complicated to pull off at scale, which is less obvious to the public.” The firm is looking for startups who can bring a consumer experience to telehealth, taking the place of an in-person receptionist.

The firm is also looking at startups that blend its two expertises, healthcare and fintech, around payments and digitization of billing. Kemp said that the firm is less interested in standalone point-of-sale services for restaurants and bills, and are now looking at items that reduce friction with payments. One of its e-commerce optimization portfolio companies, Rapyd, raised $300 million at a $2.5 billion valuation in January.

Other subsectors of interest include digital consumer payments, as shown by portfolio companies Namogoo and Prove, and fraud and risk identification, as shown by portfolio companies Au10tix and Feedzai.

On the diversity front, Oak HC/FT said that within its portfolio, 26% of C-suite and executive leadership roles are held by women, and 52% of senior management roles are held by women.

The firm has invested in nearly 100 startups to date. Of the 35 investments it made in 2020, 20 of the deals were follow-on rounds.

Dear Sophie: Which immigration options are the fastest?

Sophie Alcorn
Contributor

Sophie Alcorn is the founder of Alcorn Immigration Law in Silicon Valley and 2019 Global Law Experts Awards’ “Law Firm of the Year in California for Entrepreneur Immigration Services.” She connects people with the businesses and opportunities that expand their lives.

Here’s another edition of “Dear Sophie,” the advice column that answers immigration-related questions about working at technology companies.

“Your questions are vital to the spread of knowledge that allows people all over the world to rise above borders and pursue their dreams,” says Sophie Alcorn, a Silicon Valley immigration attorney. “Whether you’re in people ops, a founder or seeking a job in Silicon Valley, I would love to answer your questions in my next column.”

Extra Crunch members receive access to weekly “Dear Sophie” columns; use promo code ALCORN to purchase a one- or two-year subscription for 50% off.


Dear Sophie:

Help! Our startup needs to hire 50 engineers in artificial intelligence and related fields ASAP. Which visa and green card options are the quickest to get for top immigrant engineers?

 And will Biden’s new immigration bill help us?

— Mesmerized in Menlo Park

Dear Mesmerized,

I’m getting this question quite frequently now as more and more startups with recent funding rounds are looking to quickly expand. In the latest episode of my podcast, I discuss some of the quickest visa categories for startups to consider when they need to add talent quickly.

As always, I suggest consulting with an experienced immigration lawyer who can help you quickly strategize and implement an efficient and cost-effective hiring and immigration plan. An immigration lawyer will also be up to date on any immigration policy changes and plans in the event that the Biden administration’s U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021 passes. It was introduced in the House and Senate this month.

That proposed legislation would enable more international talent to come to the U.S. for jobs and clear employment-based visa backlogs, among other things. Given the legislation’s substantial benefits offered to employers, I encourage your startup — and other companies — to let congressional representatives know you support it.

A composite image of immigration law attorney Sophie Alcorn in front of a background with a TechCrunch logo.

Image Credits: Joanna Buniak / Sophie Alcorn (opens in a new window)

Given that most U.S. embassies and consulates remain at limited capacity for routine visa and green card processing due to the pandemic, it is generally quicker to hire American and international workers who are already in the U.S. Although U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is experiencing substantial delays in processing cases due to the coronavirus, as well as an increase in applications, Premium Processing is currently available for most employment-based petitions. We are still able to support many folks with U.S. visa appointment scheduling at consulates abroad using various national interest strategies.

With all of that in mind, here are the visa categories that offer the quickest way to hire international talent.

H-1B transfers

Hiring individuals by transferring their H-1B to your startup can be completed in a couple of months with premium processing. Premium processing is an optional service that for a fee guarantees USCIS will process the petition within 15 calendar days.

What’s more, H-1B transferees can start working for your startup even before USCIS has issued a receipt notice or made a decision in the case. You just need to make sure that USCIS received the petition, which is why I always recommend sending all packages to USCIS with tracking.

Premium processing can help to get a digital receipt as the paper receipts are often backlogged. I stopped suggesting this route during the Trump administration, but am feeling more comfortable providing it as an option under the Biden administration. The H-1B is the only type of visa that allows somebody to start working upon the filing of a transfer application.

Kapor Capital is raising a $125 million fund

Kapor Capital, the venture firm focused on funding social impact ventures and founders of color, is raising a $125 million fund, called Kapor Capital, Fund III, a source familiar with the situation told TechCrunch.

What’s notable about this fund is that it will be the first time Kapor Capital is accepting outside money from investors for a fund. Historically, the capital has come directly from Kapor Capital founders Mitch Kapor and Freada Kapor Klein.

The fund will be led by Kapor Capital partners Brian Dixon and Ulili Onovakpuri. The two will function as co-managing partners.

Onovakpuri was promoted from principal to partner back in 2018. At the time, she told me she was interested in technology that makes access to healthcare more accessible, either through reimbursements to low-income people or through subsidized payments. On the people operations side, Onovakpuri said she was looking at investing in startups that help create inclusive cultures.

“What we have found is that more needs to be done in order to keep [people from diverse backgrounds] in and happy, so that’s what I’ve invested in,” Onovakpuri said.

Her first couple of investments were in mSurvey, which started as a text message platform to identify disparities in the world, and tEQuitable, which aims to help companies be more inclusive.

Her co-manager, Dixon, became one of the first Black investors to be promoted to partner at a venture capital firm in 2015. At the time, Dixon told me he was focused on increasing the number of founders who identify as women and/or an underrepresented person of color in Kapor Capital’s portfolio to above 50%.

“As partner, that’s what I’m trying to continue to do,” Dixon said at the time. “We’re still looking for the best companies. We’re still looking for companies that are going to be impact companies, but also have VC-like returns, so I think that’s what unique about Kapor Capital, is that not many early-stage firms have that focus, and we think we do it pretty well.”

Today, 59% of the companies in Kapor Capital’s portfolio have a founder who identifies as a woman and/or an underrepresented person of color. Kapor Capital has been instrumental in advancing diversity and inclusion in the tech industry. Back in 2016, for example, Kapor Capital began requiring new portfolio companies to invest in diversity and inclusion as part of a Founders’ Commitment.

Kapor Capital has invested in companies like Blocpower, Bitwise, Promise and Aclima.

Kapor Capital declined to comment for this story.

 

 

Can solid state batteries power up for the next generation of EVs?

Lithium-ion batteries power almost every new phone, laptop and electric vehicle. But unlike processors or solar panels, which have improved exponentially, lithium-ion batteries have inched along with only incremental gains.

For the last decade, developers of solid state battery systems have promised products that are vastly safer, lighter and more powerful. Those promises largely evaporated into the ether — leaving behind a vapor stream of disappointing products, failed startups and retreating release dates.

For the last decade, developers of solid state battery systems have promised products that are vastly safer, lighter and more powerful.

A new wave of companies and technologies are finally maturing and attracting the funding necessary to feed batteries’ biggest market: transportation. Electric vehicles account for about 60% of all lithium-ion batteries made today, and IDTechEx predicts that solid state batteries will represent a $6 billion industry by 2030.

Electric vehicles have never been cooler, faster or cleaner, yet they still account for only around one in 25 cars sold around the world (and fewer still in the United States). A global survey of 10,000 drivers in 2020 by Castrol delivered the same perennial complaints that EVs are too expensive, too slow to charge and have too short a range.

Castrol identified three tipping points that EVs would need to drive a decisive shift away from their internal combustion rivals: a range of at least 300 miles, charging in just half an hour and costing no more than $36,000.

Theoretically, solid state batteries (SSB) could deliver all three.

There are many different kinds of SSB but they all lack a liquid electrolyte for moving electrons (electricity) between the battery’s positive (cathode) and negative (anode) electrodes. The liquid electrolytes in lithium-ion batteries limit the materials the electrodes can be made from, and the shape and size of the battery. Because liquid electrolytes are usually flammable, lithium-ion batteries are also prone to runaway heating and even explosion. SSBs are much less flammable and can use metal electrodes or complex internal designs to store more energy and move it faster — giving higher power and faster charging.

The players

“If you run the calculations, you can get really amazing numbers and they’re very exciting,” Amy Prieto, founder and CTO of solid state Colorado-based startup Prieto Battery said in a recent interview. “It’s just that making it happen in practice is very difficult.”

Prieto, who founded her company in 2009 after a career as a chemistry professor, has seen SSB startups come and go. In 2015 alone, Dyson acquired Ann Arbor startup Sakti3 and Bosch bought Berkeley Lab spin-off SEEO in separate automotive development projects. Both efforts failed, and Dyson has since abandoned some of Sakti3’s patents.

Prieto Battery, whose strategic investors include Stout Street Capital and Stanley Ventures, venture arm of toolmaker Stanley Black & Decker, pioneered an SSB with a 3D internal architecture that should enable high power and good energy density. Prieto is now seeking funding to scale up production for automotive battery packs. The first customer for these is likely to be electric pickup maker Hercules, whose debut vehicle, called Alpha, is due in 2022. (Fisker also says that it is developing a 3D SSB for its debut Ocean SUV, which is expected to arrive next year.)

Another Colorado SSB company is Solid Power, which has had investments from auto OEMs including BMV, Hyundai, Samsung and Ford, following a $20 million Series A in 2018. Solid Power has no ambitions to make battery packs or even cells, according to CEO Doug Campbell, and is doing its best to use only standard lithium-ion tooling and processes.

Once the company has completed cell development in 2023 or 2024, it would hand over full-scale production to its commercialization partners.

“It simply lowers the barrier to entry if existing producers can adopt it with minimal pain,” Campbell said.

QuantumScape is perhaps the highest profile SSB maker on the scene today. Spun out from Stanford University a decade ago, the secretive QuantumScape attracted funding from Bill Gates and $300 million from Volkswagen. In November, QuantumScape went public via a special purpose acquisition company at a $3.3 billion valuation. It then soared in value over 10 times after CEO Jagdeep Singh claimed to have solved the short lifetime and slow charging problems that have plagued SSBs.

Canva acquires background removal specialists Kaleido

Kaleido, makers of a drag-and-drop background removal service for images and video, have been acquired by up-and-coming digital design platform Canva. While the price and terms are not disclosed, it is speculated that this young company may have fetched nearly nine figures.

It’s the right product at the right time, seemingly. In 2019, the Vienna-based Kaleido made remove.bg, a quick, simple, free and good-enough background removal tool for images. It became a hit among the many people who need to quickly do that kind of work but don’t want to fiddle around in Photoshop.

Then late last year they took the wraps off Unscreen, which did the same thing for video — a similar task conceptually, but far more demanding to actually engineer and deploy. The simplicity and effectiveness of the tool practically begged to be acquired and integrated into a larger framework by the likes of Adobe, but Canva seems to have beaten the others to the punch.

Animated image showing a stack of books on a table in a room, but the table and room get deleted.

Image Credits: Unscreen

The acquisition was announced at the same time as another by Canva: product mockup generator Smartmockups, suggesting a major product expansion by the growing design company.

We completely bootstrapped Kaleido with no investors involved from day one,” said co-founder and CEO of Kaleido, Benjamin Groessing, in a press release. “It has just been two founders and an incredible team. We’ve been profitable from the start — so this acquisition wasn’t essential for our existence. It just made sense on so many levels.”

The company declined to provide any further details on the acquisition beyond that the brand and name are expected to survive — at least Unscreen, which makes perfect sense as a product name even under another company.

German outlets Die Presse and Der Brutkasten cited sources putting the purchase “reiht sich dahinter ein” or in the same rank as the largest Austrian exits (the largest of which was Runtastic at €220 million), though still in the two-digit millions — which suggests a price approaching $100M.

The team at kaleido celebrating their acquisition - each member has been digitally added.

Image Credits: Kaleido

Whatever the exact amount, it seems to have made the team very happy. And don’t worry — they put that image together using their own product for each person.