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Date: Wednesday, 16 Apr 2014 22:14

Series A

KeyMe, which helps people keep, distribute and copy real keys via digital technology, has gained $7.8 million in a Series A funding round. White Star Capital, Battery Ventures, Ravin Gandhi and 7-Ventures LLC were among the investors. The locksmith industry stands at $5 billion per year, according to a press release.

Alviso, CA-based Gagein, “Google Alerts on steroids,” has realized a $6.4 million Series A investment round, according to a press release. Private investors backed the company. Gagein’s CEO and co-founder Luosheng Peng said in a statement that the company had 300 percent user growth a month.

Series B

Kinetic Social, which delivers social marketing-solutions, has gained $18 million in a Series B investment round. Blue Chip Venture Company led the funding. The New York-based company expects it will keep expanding at a triple digit growth rate and leverages a 91 percent client retention rate, says a press release.

Global payments company The Currency Cloud has secured $10 million in a Series B round, on top of $9 million pumped in two years ago. The entire funding was invested by Atlas Venture, Notion Capital, Anthemis Group, and XAnge Private Equity. Silicon Valley Bank delivered “a further line of capital,” according to a press release. The London-based company counts Payoneer, Kantoz and Azimo as customers.

Squarespace, which helps people make websites and web stores, has gained $40 million in a Series B round. General Atlantic invested provided the investment. Squarespace, based in New York City, has hundreds of thousands of customers across 121 countries, according to a press release.

Biopharmaceutical company PanOptica, Inc. has secured $45 million in a Series B funding round. Novo Ventures, a new backer, co-led the investment with current funder Third Rock Ventures. Founding investor SV Life Sciences also contributed. Bernardsville, NJ-based PanOptica concentrates on advancing and licensing ophthalmology therapies, according to a press release.

Stockholm-based biopharmaceutical company Wilson Therapeutics has realized a $40 million Series B investment round. Fresh backers Abingworth LLP and MVM Life Science Partners LLP co-led the funding. HealthCap, Wilson Therapeutics’ founding funder, contributed. The company concentrates on bettering the lives of Wilson’s disease patients; Wilson’s disease affects about 1 in 15,000 people globally, according to a press release.

Series E

Secure cloud startup FireHost has raised $25 million in a Series E investment round. The Stephens Group, LLC led the funding. In each of the last three years, the Dallas-based company has increased revenue by 100 percent, according to a press release.

Funding

According to the WSJ, Paperless has gained $25 million in funding led by August Capital. RRE Ventures contributed to the investment. New York’s Paperless Post lets people make paper and online stationery.

According to BetaBoston, online insurance company Consumer United has realized a $14 million funding round. Spark Capital and Thayer Street Partners co-led the investment, which saw contributions from Five Elms and Village Ventures. The company had previously raised $50 million in December of 2012.

Mountain View-based predictive marketing intelligence company AgilOne, Inc. has raised just over $25 million in equity, according to a Form D filed by the company. Investors were not disclosed, though the filing lists that 10 were involved. The company serves customers such as Shazam, UGG, and Liberty.

Kirkland, Washington-based Cardiac Dimensions has finished a $20 million funding round led by Lumira Capital and M. H. Carnegie & Co. as part of a global syndicate of institutional backers from the U.S., Canada, and Australia, according to a press release. The company leverages the CARILLON Mitral Contour System and works on treatment modalities for heart failure and more.

Biotechnology company Iconic Therapeutics, Inc. has realized a $20 million Series B-1 funding round. Fresh backers MPM Capital, Lundbeckfond Ventures and H.I.G. BioVentures invested. The Atlanta-based company concentrates on advancing therapeutics for “serious eye disorders,” according to a press release. “The treatment of AMD is a $6 billion and growing market with few new mechanistic approaches in development.  Based on the biology and the Phase 1 clinical data, we believe Iconic has the most promising early clinical program in the field,” said Todd Foley, managing director at MPM Capital, in a statement.

M&A

Bethesda-based marketing and wealth intelligence company WealthEngine has revealed the acquisition of Arlington, VA data analytics company BrightContext. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

India’s biggest online marketplace, Snapdeal.com, has picked up another marketplace, doozton.com. Both companies are based in New Delhi. As of February of last year, Snapdeal leveraged upwards of 20 million registered users. Snapdeal.com is a 2011 Red Herring Top 100 Asia winner.

 

Author: "Red Herring Editorial Team" Tags: "Finance, Internet, Startups"
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Date: Tuesday, 15 Apr 2014 23:06

Turkey’s hacking community will continue its quest of online disruption despite the country’s constitutional court lifting a controversial ban on Twitter. The embargo was deemed unlawful on April 3 but a block on video-sharing site YouTube remains. RedHack, an Anonymous-affiliated group, tells Red Herring that its online protest will continue to grow.

Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan ordered the Twitter ban on March 21 after leaked tapes showed him ordering his son Bilal to dump millions in cash ahead of a corruption trial. Another tape recorded AKP (the Justice and Development Party) ministers mulling over an invasion of neighbouring Syria. In June of last year, Twitter was used to coordinate anti-government protests at Istanbul’s Gezi Park, where 15 people were killed. Erdogan himself has called social media “the worse menace to society.” Turkey provides Twitter one of the company’s biggest audiences, with 12 million users from a population of 81 million.

However, despite the accusations and violence, the AKP swept to victory at local elections on March 31. Buoyed by the results, Erdogan told supporters in the capital, Ankara, that his enemies would “pay the price.” Most agree that it was a warning to RedHack, whose operatives will not speak in person but only in VPN chatrooms.

The group, formed in 1997 under a Marxist-Leninist banner, has scored several victories during the latest round of scandals. On March 28, it hacked Turkey’s Telecommunications Directorate amid the Twitter ban, broadcasting a message that read: “You forgot the coordinator of everything while calculating things. The ban is meant to be banned.” Recent hacks have also included publishing minibar bills and subscriptions to adult websites for Islamist AKP ministers.

“RedHack was formed…to stand against the brutality of the fascist Turkish State and to stand shoulder to shoulder with the oppressed people,” writes one editor. “We aim to change the system in Turkey along with the struggle in the real life as well as cyber.

“We have a long way to go,” the editor, who did not want to be named, adds. “Struggles in real life have gained a lot over the years. And our infiltrations have given hope to the people when we have surfaced the gov’s corruptions and took direct actions against the government sites when there was a public outcry about the agenda at the time.”

RedHack has been listed a security threat by the Turkish authorities, and its members remain anonymous. “What differs [the core group of] RedHack from any other hacker group is that what happened to [Turkey's] socialists and communists in the past. They disappear, got killed and tortured in terrible ways. That’s what will happen [to us].”

Erdogan’s Twitter ban was widely decried by the international community. But one RedHack editor notes the hypocrisy of the U.S., comparing RedHack’s work in Turkey with that of WikiLeaks: “The U.S. Government tried to construct a picture of an organization which targets “the national security interests”. Erdogan reacted like this, he saw the Gezi protest…as a coup attempt. And if 99% of the media is showing that, nobody is questioning [it].”

RedHack, and many others, have accused the AKP of monopolizing Turkey’s media. Last week state-run outlet Anadolu was highly criticized for biased reporting by liberal newspaper Taraf. Startups and companies have also slammed the AKP’s ban on social media, claiming that it dissuades investment and makes brand management tough.

And the hacker collective claims it will continue pursuing corruption in Turkey, and alerting the world to what it feels are injustices meted out on the Turkish people: “If people cannot create a mindset of “is everything really true?” then you will get [autocratic rule]. If Erdogan leaves this whole system will crash. That’s why in every wiretap they talk about him.”

Author: "Red Herring Editorial Team" Tags: "Internet, Opinions, Staff Picks"
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Date: Tuesday, 15 Apr 2014 20:59

Series A

Gene-therapy startup AAVLife has raised $12 million in a Series A funding round led by Versant Ventures. Inserm Transfert Initiative contributed to the investment. The Paris-based company concentrates on rare diseases.

Car buying and selling company Beepi has gained $5 million in its second round of funding, its Series A. Jeff Brody of Redpoint Ventures led the investment, which was joined by Fabrice Grinda, Jose Marin, Tina Sharkey, Rich Boyle, Brian Sharples and Silicon Valley Bank. The company had earlier secured $1.2 million in seed funding. The company is based in Los Altos, California.

Series C

Mobile Smart Services company ItsOn Inc. has gained $12.5 million in Series C funding. Tenaya Capital led the round, which saw contributions from current backer Andreessen Horowitz. The Redwood City company had raised $15.5 million in its Series B round from Andreessen Horowitz, SV Angel and an investor group led by Jim Davidson, according to a press release. Total VC backing comes to $40 million.

Woburn, MA-based SilverRail, which delivers passenger rail search and distribution technologies, has received $40 million in a Series C investment round, says a press release. Mithril Capital Management led the funding; current backers Canaan Partners, Brook Ventures, and Sutter Hill Ventures contributed. “Today, the SilverRail platform is connected to markets accounting for $60 billion in rail transactions throughout North America and Europe,” according to a press release.

According to reports, Betterment has received $32 million in a Series C funding round. Northwestern Mutual Capital, Globespan Capital Partners, Citi Ventures, Bessemer Venture Partners, Anthemis Group, and Menlo Ventures invested. Total backing comes to $45 million. New York-based Betterment is an online investment account, says its LinkedIn.

Funding

New York-based personal finance company LearnVest has raised $28 million in fresh funding, according to reports. Northwestern Mutual Capital led the investment; American Express Ventures and Accel Partners participated. Total backing behind LearnVest now exceeds $72 million.

Marketing automation company Act-On Software has gained $42 million in a funding round led by Technology Crossover Ventures (TCV). Norwest Venture Partners, US Venture Partners, Trinity Ventures and Voyager Capital contributed. The marketing automation industry will swell to $1.2 billion this year, says Raab Associates Inc. “Act-On grew at almost twice that rate in 2013 and expects this rate of growth to continue,” the Beaverton, Oregon company said in a press release.

Avvo, Inc., the biggest legal marketplace, Q&A forum and directory in the world, has realized a $37.5 million funding round, according to a press release. Coatue Management led the investment; Benchmark Capital, DAG Ventures and Ignition Partners contributed. Total backing behind the Seattle company now reaches $60.5 million. The company rates nearly all, 97 percent, of America’s lawyers.

M&A

Zebra Technologies Corporation will pick up Schaumburg, Illinois-based Motorola’s Enterprise business at a cost of $3.45 billion, with the deal made up entirely of cash. The Enterprise business had around $2.5 billion pro-forma sales last year, excluding sales of its iDEN products, according to a press release. Meanwhile, Zebra Technologies, a Lincolnshire, IL-based “industry leader in barcode and enterprise printing, asset tracking, Internet of Things (IoT) solutions, and motion and location sensing,” did sales of $1.0 billion in the same period.

San Francisco-based Twitter has agreed to pick up its partner, Gnip. The latter company, which has worked with the microblogging platform for four years, has provided upwards of 2.3 trillion Tweets to customers across 42 countries, says Boulder, CO-based Gnip in a blog post.

Titan Aerospace is joining Mountain View-based Google, the company announced on its website. The Moriarty, New Mexico-based drone startup also said in a statement that “it’s still early days for the technology we’re developing, and there are a lot of ways that we think we could help people, whether it’s providing Internet connections in remote areas or helping monitor environmental damage like oil spills and deforestation.”

Bazaarvoice, Inc., which links brands and retailers with real consumers’ voices where they shop, has purchased social media curation venture FeedMagnet, according to a press release. The deal’s value came to $9 million, cash. Both companies are based in Austin, Texas.

Author: "Red Herring Editorial Team" Tags: "Finance, Internet, Startups"
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Date: Monday, 14 Apr 2014 18:45

Series A

Storefront, a San Francisco-based online marketplace enabling merchants to discover locations, has gained $7.3 million in a Series A funding round led by Spark Capital. The company is also debuting in Los Angeles. Storefront had previously raised $1.6 million in seed funding. Mohr Davidow Ventures, 500 Startups, Great Oaks Venture Capital, Box Group, SV Angel, Gary Vaynerchuk, Nas, Troy Carter, Tom Glocer, and Vikram Pandit all contributed.

According to TechCrunch, digital health company Lifesum has raised $6.7 million in Series A funding. Bauer Media Group and SparkLabs Global Ventures led the investment. Lifesum, which is based in Stockholm, leverages 4.5 million members.

Series B

San Carlos food company NatureBox Inc. has gained $18 million in a Series B investment led by Canaan Partners. Current backers SoftBank Capital and General Catalyst Partners also participated. “The company shipped 50K orders in its first year and experienced 20X growth in 2013 with 1 million orders shipped,” according to a press release.

Series C

Julep Beauty has secured $30 million in a Series C funding round from new backers Madrona Venture Group, Azure Capital and Altimeter Capital. Current funders Maveron and Andreessen Horowitz contributed. Total backing behind the Seattle-based beauty company comes to $56 million. Julep’s revenues from e-commerce sales increased by 3x last year, according to a press release.

Rocket Internet’s real estate company Lamudi has raised $7 million in funding, according to Tech in Asia. Tengelmann Ventures invested. According to a recent press release, Lamudi has racked up more than 1 million monthly visitors.

Funding

Wireless network antenna technology company Quintel has received $10 million in funding led by Trillium International. A “key strategic partner” contributed as well. The new funding for the Rochester-based company will help the company speed up growth and escalate delivery competency to hit its 400 percent year over year growth rate, says a press release.

M&A

Ipreo Holdings LLC will be picked up by private equity funds managed by Blackstone and the Goldman Sachs Merchant Banking Division, according to a press release. The seller: Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. L.P., which will keep a minority share of Ipreo. The New York company delivers marketing intelligence and workflow services. Terms of the deal were not revealed.

Author: "Red Herring Editorial Team" Tags: "Finance, Internet, Startups"
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Date: Wednesday, 09 Apr 2014 10:16

The first kick of this year’s FIFA World Cup in Brazil will be performed by a paraplegic teenager, thanks to a robotic exoskeleton that translates brainwaves to actions.

The revolutionary device was developed by a team of scientists around the world called the Walk Again Project. It will debut at Sao Paulo’s Arena Corinthians on June 12 this year, in front of almost 70,000 spectators and a global audience of billions.

That kick will be the crowning glory of over a decade of work for Miguel Nicolelis, a Brazil-born neuroengineer at Duke University. In 2003 he showed that monkeys could control robotic arms with their thoughts. Five years later in Kyoto, a team coordinated by robotics professor Gordon Cheng linked brainwaves with walking.

Now at the Technical Institute of Munich, Cheng has worked with Nicolelis and researchers in France, to build the exoskeleton they hope will consign wheelchairs to museums. Cheng tells Red Herring that the hardest part of the process was linking a myriad functions within one model.

“It’s a huge integration puzzle,” he says. “It’s very difficult to pinpoint what the hardest part is. A year ago we didn’t even know the brain signal would work.”

The exoskeleton is made of lightweight metals, and powered by hydraulics. A cap placed on the patient’s head picks up brain signals and relays them to a computer in the device’s backpack. The computer then decodes the signals and sends them to the legs. A battery, also in the backpack, allows for two hours of use. And airbags are fitted throughout for safety.

The most revolutionary part of the puzzle, however, may not be the movement of the legs, but that they can convey sensory information back to the patient. “Miguel and I knew that to do this seriously we’d need to enable the sensation of touch to the patient,” says Cheng.

“Beyond just visual feedback we’d need tactile feedback. And in Munich we came up with our own sensor network that allows you to sense as a human: forces, pre-touch, temperature, vibration, acceleration. That enabled the subject to feel. The sensation matching the movement is more important because then you can learn, you can adapt. The sensation has meaning.”

One paraplegic patient reportedly told Nicolelis that he felt as if he was walking on the beach, feeling his feet touch the sand.

The exoskeleton is currently being tested in Sao Paulo, where three people will eventually be selected from a group of nine, to walk out on the field in June. One of those three will then have the unique honor of kicking the first ball in the most watched event on Earth.

Nicolelis has described the project as “the moonshot of the 21st century”. Cheng agrees wholeheartedly: “If we succeed we open a whole new avenue. It’s the same as in 2008: nobody knew we could do it. But we did it, and that changes the whole game.”

Cheng adds that the project still requires more clinical trials, to ensure that the needs of all patients can be met. But beyond Brazil he is keen to add modalities to the exoskeleton, and build a suit capable of controlling all bodily movements. “We want to get lighter, faster,” he says. “This is more about societal contribution.

“Robotics is not a field that you see more than most disciplines,” adds Cheng. “Unifying the knowledge between different disciplines is one of the keys to success.”

Author: "Red Herring Editorial Team" Tags: "Features, Hardware, Social, Staff Picks"
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Date: Wednesday, 09 Apr 2014 10:06

Alex Vieux, founder and CEO of Red Herring, has urged European entrepreneurs to seek investment and clients outside the continent – while praising the resilience of the European tech industry.

Vieux, speaking at the Red Herring Top 100 Europe event in Amsterdam, said that the continent is “at an inflection point,” citing an increased amount of M&A activity in 2014. Since January 1st, $65.2 billion has been invested. “This is a huge amount of change for the industry,” he said.

Vieux expects that figure to grow to around $200 billion by the end of the year, which would make it the largest transaction year in the technology sector’s history. “We were born at a time when technology was a sector of the economy,” said Vieux. “Now tech is the economy.”

Vieux pointed to an increase of $100,000 in the size of companies under five years old – from $10.1m in 2012 to $10.2 million last year – as evidence that entrepreneurs worldwide are getting “increasingly proactive.”

But despite positive signs in Europe, Vieux urged attendees to “go west” early in the company life cycle. Increased venture capital in the U.S. and Asia is a major factor. But the emergence of markets such as Turkey, Russia, Israel and Nigeria – which this week became the first African economy to overtake South Africa – are big reasons to diversify away from Europe.

“You must be far more creative in  your sales projects,” said Vieux. “Entrepreneurs will make it, if (Europe) may not,” he added. “You cannot afford to be solely European. If I have one message today: go west.”

The Red Herring Top 100 Europe continues at the Mövenpick Hotel in Amsterdam until Wednesday. For more details visit the event website.

Author: "Red Herring Editorial Team" Tags: "Features, Internet, Startups, Top Storie..."
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Date: Tuesday, 08 Apr 2014 10:11

Series A

Closely, a mobile-first marketing technology company, has secured $3 million in Series A funding. The round was led by Grotech Ventures and Steadfast Venture Capital and CNF Investments also participated. The funds will be used to build out the company’s SMB platform and expand its support for small businesses in North America, according to a press release.

GrabTaxi, a taxi hailing app which claims to be the largest in Southeast Asia, has raised a Series A round by Singapore government-backed Vertex Ventures. The exact amount of funding raised was not disclosed, although TechCrunch reports CEO and founder Anthony Tan revealed it was more than $10 million. The app currently has 250,000 monthly users and over 1 million downloads.

Updater, which offers a complete dashboard for people moving house, has raised $8 million in a Series A round from SoftBank, Second Century Ventures, IA Ventures and Commerce Ventures. The service makes the moving process easier by aggregating the various vendors needed onto one platform. Founder David Greenberg says 45 million Americans will move this year, and will each use between 10 and 15 vendors and services for each move.

Series B

EatStreet, an online and mobile food ordering platform, has raised $6 million in Series B funding. Existing investors Cornerstone Opportunity Partners, Independence Equity, Great Oaks Venture Capital participated, as did CSA Partners, Silicon Valley Bank, and other angels.  The company is enjoying rapid expansion and added 3,000 new restaurants to its service in the past three months, reports TechCrunch.

Panoramic camera maker Altia Systems has raised a Series B funding round worth $10.5 million. The round was led by Intel Capital and will be used to help the Cupertino, California–based company expand its PanaCast Personal Panoramic Video System, which offers a panoramic high-definition video stream.

 Series C

Social writing platform WattPad raised a Series C funding round worth $46 million. The round was led by OMERS Ventures and included August Capital, Raine Ventures and Northleaf Venture Catalyst Fund, as well as all existing investors. Wattpad has around 25 million monthly active users, according to its CEO Allen Lau, and has previously raised a $17.3 million Series B round in 2012.

NetProspex, which provides a business to business contact information solution, has raised a $13 million Series C funding round. Spring Lake Equity Partners and Edison Ventures participated, among others. The company plans to use the funding to boost its product, sales and marketing. NetProspex revealed a 72 percent increase in quarter over quarter bookings for the first quarter of 2014.

Series F

Tel Aviv, Israel-based marketing technology company Kenshoo has raised a $20 million Series F round. The round puts the company’s valuation at between $400 million and $500 million, according to the Wall Street Journal. It was also reported that the company’s annual revenue is between $50 million and $100 million. The round was led by Bain Capital Ventures, Bain partner Deepak Sindwani will join the Kenshoo board. Existing investors Sequoia Capital, Arts Alliancce and Tenaya Capital also participated in the round.

Funding

Internet of Things early stage technology company Neura has attracted $2 million in funding,  led by venture capital firm Greenhouse Capital Partners, alongsideSingTel Innov8 Ventures, Pitango Venture Capital, TriplePoint Ventures, and prominent angel investors, including Ben Narasin and Isaac Applbaum. Research by Gartner has predicted the Internet of Things installed base will grow to 26 billion units by 2020.

Author: "Red Herring Editorial Team" Tags: "Finance, Internet, Startups"
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Date: Monday, 07 Apr 2014 18:56

Seed funding

Wellframe, which aims to connect healthcare providers and patients after they have returned home, has announced $1.5 million in seed funding. Investors include Athenahealth chief executive Jonathan Bush, Draper Fisher Jurvetson’s Tim Draper, Fidelity Biosciences venture partner Carl Byers and Leering Capital founder James Nahirny, among others. The company’s product and services uses mobile apps and artificial intelligence to help patients.

Series B

San Francisco-based Alios BioPharma has completed a $41 million Series B financing round. The biotechnology company develops proprietary therapeutics for respiratory viral diseases.  The round was led by a new, undisclosed, investor, but all previous investors participated. According to Lawrence M. Blatt, PhD, President and Chief Executive Officer of Alios BioPharma: “This funding will allow Alios to retain ownership and control of our novel, first-in-class anti-respiratory virus development programs.”

Series C

Ultracapacitor technology manufacturer Ioxus has completed its Series C funding round, raising a total of $21 million. The company’s tech is used in transportation, industrial and energy applications. Menlo Park, California-based venture capital firm Westly Group led the financing, along with IFC, a member of the World Bank Group. The company will use the funds to focus on China.

 Funding

Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen’s venture capital fund has bet on the future success of online voting, and has invested $40 million into digital voting company Scytl, which is based in Barcelona. Scytl was founded in 2001 and aims to modernize the election process until all countries are comfortable with a fully digital solution. The introduction of online voting has been met with fierce opposition in the past, particularly in the U.S. The company boats clients in 30 different countries, including Canada, Mexico and Australia.

 Pharmaceutical company Kaleo announced it has entered into a $150 million debt facility with PDL BioPharma to help commercialization of its naloxone hydrochloride injection product EVZIO, and develop other products. PDL will provide the amount in cash, and will receive interest on the principal outstanding. The note is backed by royalty payments on Kaleo’s first product to market, the Auvi-Q, and a portion of net sales from EVZIO.

Mobile payment company Square has announced a revolving credit facility to help with growth. The deal will provide Square with approximately $200 million in capital, according to CNBC. Goldman Sachs led the financing, and Morgan Stanley, JPMorgan, Chase, Barclays and Silicon Valley Bank participated.

M&A

Lynda.com, an education platform, has acquired online code editor Compilr for around $20 million. A company press release states the acquisition represents Lynda.com’s recognition of the growing importance of programming language education. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of software developers is projected to grow 22 percent from 2012 to 2022, faster than the average for all occupations.

Twitter has acquired Cover, a lock screen app for Android. Deal terms were not immediately disclosed. Cover displays six apps that users are most likely want to use on the Android lock screen, based on current context and analysis of the smartphone user’s habits.

Author: "Red Herring Editorial Team" Tags: "Finance, Internet, Startups"
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Date: Friday, 04 Apr 2014 22:54

Series A

Burlingame, CA-based medical device company RefleXion Medical has raised $11.6 million in a Series A funding round led by Sofinnova Partners. Pfizer Venture Investments and Venrock contributed to the investment. The company is working on “the first biologically-guided radiation therapy system for cancer treatment,” according to a press release. Last year, Reportbuyer.com gauged the 2013 American medical device market at about $127.1 billion.

According to Silicon Allee, Berlin-based car sharing company CiteeCar has gained €7.3 million ($10 million) in Series A funding. Mangrove Capital Partners led the investment, the report stated. The company’s motto is “Driven by you.”

Series C

Newlight Technologies has received $9.2 million in a Series C funding round from new and current backers. The total amount of capital behind the Irvine, California company comes to $18.8 million. Newlight delivers “cost-effective, carbon-negative AirCarbon plastics,” according to a press release.

Series D

Medical device company Holaira, Inc., has secured $42 million in Series D investment. Vertex Venture Holdings Ltd. led the round, which saw contributions from Windham Venture Partners and two strategic funders. All of the Plymouth, Minnesota company’s current venture backers (Advanced Technology Ventures, Split Rock Partners, Versant Ventures and Morgenthaler Ventures) participated as well. Holaira works on products for the treatment of obstructive lung diseases, according to a press release.

Funding

Educational game company JumpStart has gained $13 million in debt financing. Hercules Technology Growth Capital, Inc. led the investment. The Torrance, California company also goes by the name Knowledge Adventure. “Since 1991, JumpStart…has been designing games under its two flagship brands JumpStart and Math Blaster,” according to a press release.

Oakland, CA-based Sungevity, which operates in the worldwide solar market, has received $70 million in fresh funding. Jetstream Ventures led the round; E.ON and GE Ventures participated. Sungevity increased sales in the U.S. by 100 percent last year. The company serves nine states in America; Washington, D.C.; Australia; and The Netherlands.

Breast tissue expander company AirXpanders Inc. has received a $7 million “senior secured multi-draw term loan credit facility…of which $3.5 million has been funded,” according to a press release. GE Capital, Healthcare Financial Services delivered the credit facility. AirXpanders Inc. is based in Palo Alto, California.

Exeter, New Hampshire-based Vapotherm, which makes advanced respiratory care devices, has realized a $24 million investment round led by Gilde Healthcare Partners, L.P. New backer Adage Capital Management, L.P. joined current ones 3×5 Special Opportunity Fund, Kaiser Permanente, Morgenthaler Ventures, Integral Capital Partners, Cross Creek Capital and QuestMark Partners. The company’s high flow therapy has been used to treat more than 600,000 patients, according to a press release.

Cinematic virtual reality (VR) company Jaunt has raised $6.8 million. The funding comes from backers such as Redpoint Ventures, Blake Krikorian, SV Angel, Peter Gotcher, and British Sky Broadcasting. The Palo Alto company also debuted its VR technology for the first time, according to a press release. MarketsandMarkets forecasts the value of the augmented reality and virtual reality market will hit $1.06 billion by 2018.

Author: "Red Herring Editorial Team" Tags: "Finance, Global, Startups"
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Date: Friday, 04 Apr 2014 19:42

Series A

Burlingame, CA-based medical device company RefleXion Medical has raised $11.6 million in a Series A funding round led by Sofinnova Partners. Pfizer Venture Investments and Venrock contributed to the investment. The company is working on “the first biologically-guided radiation therapy system for cancer treatment,” according to a press release. Last year, Reportbuyer.com gauged the 2013 American medical device market at about $127.1 billion.

According to Silicon Allee, Berlin-based car sharing company CiteeCar has gained €7.3 million ($10 million) in Series A funding. Mangrove Capital Partners led the investment, the report stated. The company’s motto is “Driven by you.”

Series C

Newlight Technologies has received $9.2 million in a Series C funding round from new and current backers. The total amount of capital behind the Irvine, California company comes to $18.8 million. Newlight delivers “cost-effective, carbon-negative AirCarbon plastics,” according to a press release.

Series D

Medical device company Holaira, Inc., has secured $42 million in Series D investment. Vertex Venture Holdings Ltd. led the round, which saw contributions from Windham Venture Partners and two strategic funders. All of the Plymouth, Minnesota company’s current venture backers (Advanced Technology Ventures, Split Rock Partners, Versant Ventures and Morgenthaler Ventures) participated as well. Holaira works on products for the treatment of obstructive lung diseases, according to a press release.

Funding

Educational game company JumpStart has gained $13 million in debt financing. Hercules Technology Growth Capital, Inc. led the investment. The Torrance, California company also goes by the name Knowledge Adventure. “Since 1991, JumpStart…has been designing games under its two flagship brands JumpStart and Math Blaster,” according to a press release.

Oakland, CA-based Sungevity, which operates in the worldwide solar market, has received $70 million in fresh funding. Jetstream Ventures led the round; E.ON and GE Ventures participated. Sungevity increased sales in the U.S. by 100 percent last year. The company serves nine states in America; Washington, D.C.; Australia; and The Netherlands.

Breast tissue expander company AirXpanders Inc. has received a $7 million “senior secured multi-draw term loan credit facility…of which $3.5 million has been funded,” according to a press release. GE Capital, Healthcare Financial Services delivered the credit facility. AirXpanders Inc. is based in Palo Alto, California.

Exeter, New Hampshire-based Vapotherm, which makes advanced respiratory care devices, has realized a $24 million investment round led by Gilde Healthcare Partners, L.P. New backer Adage Capital Management, L.P. joined current ones 3×5 Special Opportunity Fund, Kaiser Permanente, Morgenthaler Ventures, Integral Capital Partners, Cross Creek Capital and QuestMark Partners. The company’s high flow therapy has been used to treat more than 600,000 patients, according to a press release.

Cinematic virtual reality (VR) company Jaunt has raised $6.8 million. The funding comes from backers such as Redpoint Ventures, Blake Krikorian, SV Angel, Peter Gotcher, and British Sky Broadcasting. The Palo Alto company also debuted its VR technology for the first time, according to a press release. MarketsandMarkets forecasts the value of the augmented reality and virtual reality market will hit $1.06 billion by 2018.

 

Author: "Red Herring Editorial Team" Tags: "Finance, Internet, Startups"
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Date: Friday, 04 Apr 2014 18:30

Moldova, a tiny state bordering Ukraine, is crippled by corruption and emigration. Some have even suggested that its weaknesses leave it exposed to a possible annexation by Russia, as Vladimir Putin consolidates control over nearby Crimea. The breakaway Moldovan state of Transnistria has already called on Moscow to annex it. NATO’s supreme allied commander General Philip Breedlove said last week that Russian troops were ready to “run” to Transnistria should the call be made.

But inside Moldova, revolutionary forms of e-governance are helping its government push for economic stability and strength, which may just turn its fortunes around.

Moldova is one of Europe’s poorest nations. Its average salary hovers around $300 per month, and it has a net migration rate of -9.92, which puts it 210th of 222 recorded territories on Earth according to the CIA World Factbook. Almost 55% of Moldova’s people still live in the countryside, a hangover from its days as the Soviet Union’s main exporter of fruits and vegetables.

Nicu Calcea is a Chisinau-born philosophy student and local journalist. He takes a deep pull on his bootleg Marlboro cigarette (most Moldovan brand cigarettes are fakes) and stares into a pint of the local brew. “I’m the only one of my family left,” he says. “The rest are in France. I don’t want to go there, but,” he pauses, “I can’t stay here. There’s nothing.”

He’s not alone. Experts believe that a quarter of the working-age population has fled to destinations like Russia, Turkey and the EU. Over three-quarters of them are aged between 18 and 30, many of whom are educated but undervalued.

However mobile penetration in Moldova is high at 127%, and the rate of mobile Internet is creeping past 30%. Over half of all Moldovans have access to the web, and it is one of the top 20 countries worldwide in terms of Internet speed.

Nowhere are these numbers clearer than in Chisinau’s Stefan cel Mare Park, a tree-lined idyll named after the 15th century king who thwarted repeated Ottoman invasions. In the park old men play chess, families eat popcorn and teenagers breakdance upon makeshift cardboard stages. Most youngsters, however, are glued to their handsets, making use of the free WiFi common to many other public spaces in town. Orange, which dominates the market, offers similar deals across the country – including the breakaway region of Gagauzia. Moldova is poor, but it’s connected.

Chisinau has realized the potential in this mobile saturation, and has made the use of mobile digital signatures (MDSs) one of the foundations of its 2020 strategy. An MDS allows users to authenticate themselves online by receiving a confirmation message to be validated with a PIN code.

Many businesses use MDS, but public services such as e-licensing have also begun to employ it. Citizens can now even file taxes using MDS. By 2016, at least one-quarter of citizens are expected to access public services online or through mobile devices, thanks to GeT-supported programs.

Moldova’s breakthrough Governance e-Transformation (GeT) project hopes to “modernize and improve public sector governance in Moldova, give citizens access to government documents and data for effective public use, improve the investment climate, and increase global competitiveness,” according to a World Bank statement. GeT’s colorful website is modern and easy to use. It’s part of a pledge by the government to have all public services digitized and put online by 2020.

That drive was helped last Friday by a pledge of $30 million by the World Bank, which country manager Abdoulaye Seck claims will help push Moldova’s private sector, and its GDP. “Our support is fully aligned with the country’s national development priorities and aims to address key reforms that can contribute to spurring private-sector led growth, whilst making public investments work better and more equitably to reduce poverty and boost shared prosperity for all Moldovan citizens.”

Speaking at the Presidential Palace in Chisinau, a chasmic former Soviet bureau, Moldovan Prime Minister Iurie Leanca admits that there is still a long way before Moldova can move away from its troubling trends of corruption and emigration. But the centre-right leader, who faces election this November, claims that e-governance is a vital pillar in Moldova’s development.

“Today over 80 services out of over 500 services we offer to our citizens and companies are from e-governance,” he tells Red Herring. “The instances of corruption have diminished, the time in front accruing in front of the bureaucracy has diminished. But today we have a mixture of positive developments, with a good impact on our economic development. But there are still existing areas where we need to improve dramatically. Then we will be able to make our economic growth more sustainable.

Moldova is a small country, and a small size,” adds Leanca. “Maybe we have too many formidable challenges. But I do believe that Moldova can become a success story. And if you look beyond the Baltic states there are not many success stories in the former Soviet space. It will be the result of good investment of our own efforts, but also the result of good investments from the U.S., from Washington. If it works we want to spread the same values east, to Ukraine and other countries who want to embrace these values.”

Author: "Red Herring Editorial Team" Tags: "Global, Internet, Mobile, Top Stories"
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Date: Friday, 04 Apr 2014 18:16

A recent UN report on climate change reminded the world of the reality it is facing. Despite an overwhelming scientific consensus that humanity is to blame for rising temperatures and extreme weather, fossil fuels are still being burned at a frantic pace.

In fact, Earth’s top ten consumers of oil burn over 60 billion barrels a day – that’s enough to drive a Toyota Prius to and from the Sun 675 times, if the traffic was clear.

Buoyed by the 20th century’s manic advances in technology, and apparently a few Frank Herbert novels, some of the world’s best scientific minds have, since the 60s, been devising geoengineering plans, also known as Earth-hacks. That is, to alter the way weather works in order to stave off climate change.

And this field is no longer a fringe one. Despite the fact some of these projects sound like they’ve been lifted straight from a sci-fi movie, they’re no longer portrayed as follies. These are just four of the more extreme environmental ‘saves’ which are likely to enter the mainstream in the future.

Solar Radiation Management 

Solar radiation management attempts to cool the Earth using much the same technique as clouds generated by volcanic eruptions. The 1883 eruption of Krakatoa lowered world climates by as much as 2.2°F. Many of the world’s leading scientific groups have mooted the idea of combatting global warming by throwing sulphur dioxide into the sky to block the sun.

“I’m not in favor of doing it today,” says Rutgers University environmental science professor Alan Robock. “I’m agnostic about whether we should ever do it. We don’t have enough information and, in any case, we don’t have the technology.” Robock claims that no aerial vehicle could currently administer the gas. And that’s not to factor in geopolitics: what if China wanted to block sunlight that hampered American crops?

Carbon Sequestration

Put simply, carbon sequestration (also called carbon capture and sequestration, or CCS), is the process of taking carbon from the sky and putting it in the sea. And it’s not even a new idea: American scientists founded the theory in the 70s, as the notion of global warming gathered pace.

Most CCS projects involve pumping CO2 emissions directly into the Earth, deep down below the seabed and between layers of rock, like a kind of backwards tracking. Japan has begun several CCS projects, as has Norway, whose offshore Sleipner West Field, located between Stavanger and Scotland, has been burying its carbon underwater since 1996. It stashes a million tons of CO2 gas per year, or around the same amount produced by 110,000 Norwegians in the same time.

However CCS is not a permanent solution: the carbon never disappears, of course. And just as with fracking there are concerns that the process can lead to earthquakes. So perhaps it’s not something the world’s superpowers should be doing en masse.

Iron Fertilization

If you can’t bury your bad news underwater, then perhaps it can float along the surface. Experts have studied phytoplankton, tiny photosynthesizing organisms that drift along with ocean currents. Intentionally introducing iron, in powder form, into the sea can stimulate huge blooms of the things, which then draw CO2 out of the air and into the water, sinking with them when they die. The late researcher John Martin observed that the ice-age drop in carbon dioxide (noted in ice cores) synced with a surge in iron-rich dust, aiding the theory.

In 2012 businessman Russ George, unbeknownst to the scientific community, dumped 200,000 pounds of iron sulphate into the North Pacific Ocean. George’s climate change-combating company Planktos Inca called it a “state-of-the-art study.” The University of Maine’s Mark L Wells described it as “Ocean dumping.” George undertook the project to help local British Columbians restore salmon fisheries, and maintains that it increased phytoplankton growth across 10,000 square miles. The jury, however, is still out. And besides, just like CCS, the carbon sinks. It doesn’t vanish.

Mirrors in Space

One of the more ambitious projects on this list, stems back to the mid-60s, when President Lyndon Johnson was advised about climate change in the face of environmental concerns. In the early part of this century U.S. scientist Lowell Wood proposed a giant, 600,000 square-mile mirror, which when ejected into space correctly could corral sun rays and ease global warming.

Constructing a mirror roughly the size of Mongolia was just one of many slight downfalls in Wood’s plan, it would also need a rocket the size of Canada.  But that hasn’t dissuaded some folks from instead  suggesting billions of tiny mirrors, which would reduce sunlight by around 1%. The cost? Around $10,000 per mirror – or about 26 times the U.S. national debt. How strong is a Chinese loan these days?

Author: "Red Herring Editorial Team" Tags: "Clean Tech, Features, Global, Staff Pick..."
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Date: Thursday, 03 Apr 2014 19:08

Series A

Blog aggregation platform Bloglovin has secured $7 million in a Series A funding round led by Northzone. Among current investors contributing: Betaworks, White Star Capital, Lerer Ventures and Bassett Investment Group. The round also saw participation from the founders of Babble and SoulCycle. The company boasts 16 million active users and was founded in Taby, Sweden.

Mountain View-based ElasticBox has realized a $9 million Series A investment round from Intel Capital and Nexus Venture Partners. The company’s seed backers include a16z and Sierra Ventures. ElasticBox simplifies the development, deployment and management of applications for any cloud infrastructure, according to its website. “It brings Dr. Dre-like creativity to enterprise application development,” says the company’s CEO and co-founder, Ravi Srivatsav, in a press release.

Image site Imgur has received $40 million in a Series A funding from Andreessen Horowitz with a small contribution from Reddit, according to WSJ. The New York Times states the site had previously been bootstrapped, with the company’s founder’s sole financial investment in the company coming to $7 –– the cost of registering its domain name. The company is headquartered in San Francisco.

Series C

Peer-to-peer lending company Social Finance, Inc. (SoFi.com) has gained $80 million in a Series C investment. Discovery Capital Management led the funding, while Wicklow Capital, Peter Thiel, and current investors contributed. The San Francisco-based company has backed $450 million in loans to more than 5,000 members since its 2011 launch, according to a press release.

IT infrastructure monitoring services company Boundary has raised $22 million in a Series C funding round led by Adams Street Partners. Triangle Peak Partners joined current backers Scale Venture Partners and Lightspeed Venture Partners in contributing. Total backing behind Boundary comes to $41 million. The Mountain View-based company serves clients such as The Weather Channel, Gilt, Zendesk and Expedia.

Funding

Envelope Tracking (ET) technology company Nujira Ltd has completed a £12.2 million ($20.2 million) funding round. Amadeus Capital Partners, Climate Change Capital, SAM Private Equity, NES Partners and Environmental Technologies Fund invested. Investec Bank also introduced new funders to Nujira including GAM on behalf of GAM Star Technology strategy and Investec, plus clients. “Envelope Tracking is set to be universally adopted across the smartphone industry in 2014, with a potential market of 4 billion units a year,” according to a press release.

San Francisco rideshare company Lyft has raised $250 million in funding. Coatue and Alibaba Group joined existing investors Andreessen Horowitz, Founders Fund and Mayfield in the round. Since the company arrived in its second city last year, Lyft has expanded to 30 cities in the United States, according to a blog post

Munich-based e-commerce company Westwing has gained €72 million ($99 million) in funding. The round counted investors such as Odey, Tengelmann, Fidelity Worldwide Investment and more. The company, which serves the home and living space, has secured €150 million total backing “after 2.5 years on the market,” according to a press release. Last year, Westwing increased net revenues by nearly 3x from €41 million in 2012 to €110 million in 2013.

M&A

U.K.-based customer science company and Tesco PLC subsidiary dunnhumby Ltd. has revealed the acquisition of Berlin’s global advertising technology firm Sociomantic Labs GmbH, according to a press release. Sociomantic drove more than $100 million in revenues last year.

Spredfast, which delivers social relationship platforms, is combining with social marketing experiences facilitator Mass Relevance. Both companies are based in Austin. “The new entity will offer marketers the only seamless solution to manage, monitor and integrate social content across any digital screen,” according to a press release.

Author: "Red Herring Editorial Team" Tags: "Finance, Internet, Startups"
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Date: Wednesday, 02 Apr 2014 20:21

Series A

Cloud application and mobile device compliance company Sookasa has debuted from stealth, deployed Sookasa Cloud Compliance Service, and raised a Series A funding round. Reports put the investment at $5 million. Accel Partners led the round, which saw contributions from existing seed investors; among them: First Round Capital, SV Angel and angel funders. The Mountain View-based company is also backed by Andreessen Horowitz, according to its LinkedIn.

Funding

Somo, called the biggest independent worldwide mobile solutions company, has gained $5.5 million in follow-on funding, according to a press release. MMC Ventures (encompassing the MMC London Fund) and other private backers invested. The London company serves customers such as British Gas, Tesco and De Beers.

New Delhi-based messenger hike has revealed a fresh investment from BSB (Bharti SoftBank) valued at $14 million. “We’ve gone 5M to 15M in just 9 months and over 80% of the app’s users are under the age of 25 and majority of its users are from India,” the company said in a blog post. Hike seeks to end the year as the first-ranked messaging platform for the youth, the post goes on.

San Francisco-based ShopTap has offered nearly $8 million in securities and gained more than $5.8 million. Three investors are listed as participating so far. ShopTap is the company behind The Hunt, a platform for identifying where to purchase products and more that calls itself “the cure for outfit envy.”

M&A

Los Angeles-based AwesomenessTV, a teen-focused media company, will purchase YouTube multi-channel network Big Frame, according to a press release. Big Frame, also based in Los Angeles, leverages 300 channels and garners 3.4 billion views. Together, the companies will serve 80 million subscribers “and close to a billion views a month,” according to a press release.

Norcross, Georgia-based vertical search company RentPath, which serves apartment and home renters, has picked up San Francisco’s rental platform Lovely. The latter company is the “first mobile-powered end-to-end rental marketplace where renters can search, apply and pay rent directly from their mobile device and the web,” according to a release. The deal comes to $13 million in cash. RentPath is part of TPG’s portfolio.

Author: "Red Herring Editorial Team" Tags: "Global, Startups, Top Stories"
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Date: Tuesday, 01 Apr 2014 21:49

This week, two tech titans will clash once again in court. Samsung will fight claims it owes Apple approximately $2 billion in damages, while the Cupertino giant will argue the Galaxy manufacturer copied some of Apple’s patented features to make its products.

“Samsung…has systematically copied Apple’s innovative technology and products, features and designs, and has deluged markets with infringing devices (at least eighteen new infringing products in just the last eight months), all in an effort to usurp market share from Apple using Apple’s own popular and patented technology,” a preliminary statement from a document filed in February of 2012.

The U.S. and South Korean corporations stand at daggers drawn. Both have contended one infringed on patents established by the other. The case involves newer devices — such as the iPhone 5 — and their characteristics, some of which are now embedded in the Android operating platform. And as a result of the involvement of Android in the case, Google, while not a defendant in the trial, will become embroiled in the litigation to a greater extent than before.

The case, which began on March 31, revolves around Apple patents, including those dealing with elements like unified search and word recommendations. CNET reports two Samsung patents are also in play, which concern a means for recording and duplicating digital speech and images, and a video communication system. Reports have Samsung asking for $7 million in damages and Apple seeking $40 per device for the five patents considered.

Precedent weighs against Samsung, which has been ordered in the past to pay nearly $1 billion in damages to the iPhone maker, writes Florian Mueller, author of the FOSS Patents blog. Now, the Korean company could bank on more people like Mueller calling Apple’s remuneration expectations outsized. “Forty dollars per unit. For five software patents,” he writes. “Give me a break. Reality distortion would be a total understatement for this.”

More than money, brand and business are at stake in this trial. So far, Apple has not succeeded in stopping Samsung from selling devices that have infringed on its patents. Such a measure might have provided Apple a bump in global market share, as it currently trails behind the South Korean company. In 2013, Samsung’s stake in the smartphone industry worldwide was more than double that of Apple’s, 31.3 percent to 15.3 percent, according to IDC. And 42.3 percent of mobile devices forecasted to ship in 2014 run on Android, versus the 14.2 percent that operate using Apple’s systems, iOS and MacOS, says Gartner.

In 2013, Samsung’s revenues for its Information technology and Mobile communications segment came to 138.8 trillion KRW ($130.3 billion). Strategy Analytics said the Korean behemoth shifted almost 320 million smartphones in 2013. Meanwhile, that same year, Apple reported selling more than 150 million iPhones, which drove revenues of $91.3 billion. The company’s iPad sales cleared 71 million units and generated $32.0 billion in revenue.

Apple may have won early battles against Samsung in court, but neither side has won the patent war just yet. And if history has anything insight to offer, no company will triumph completely, leaving the two tech giants scrambling in the legal trenches for a while longer.

Author: "Red Herring Editorial Team" Tags: "Features, Global, Staff Picks"
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Date: Tuesday, 01 Apr 2014 21:29

Series A

Mobile games developer Industrial Toys has secured $5 million in a Series A round. Accel Partners led the round. According to a press release, the Pasadena-based company is announcing the debut of its flagship title, Midnight Star, into beta this coming summer. Gartner reports revenues for the mobile games industry will swell to $22 billion in 2015.

Series B

Ann Arbor-based diagnostics company NeuMoDx Molecular, Inc. has gained $21 million in a Series B funding round. Pfizer Ventures led the investment, which saw contributions from Venture Investors, Arboretum Ventures, Wolverine Venture Fund and Baird Capital. The funding will go towards the “development of the NeuMoDx 500 Molecular IVD System, a fully automated, random access platform capable of performing RNA and DNA-based assays,” according to a press release.

Series C

Lafayette, California-based medical device company Providence Medical Technology, Inc. has raised $6.8 million in a Series C investment round led by Stanmore Medical Investments via its MedVest Fund One. RCT Ventures and Aphelion Capital contributed to the funding. The company serves the cervical spine market, a $1 billion opportunity, according to a press release.

Series D

Greenwood Village, Colorado-based carbon-negative technology company Cool Planet Energy Systems has realized a $100 million Series D funding round. Concord Energy and North Bridge Venture Partners led the round. Current backers BP, Energy Technology Ventures, the Constellation division of Exelon and Google Ventures contributed to the investment. Meanwhile, UBS and Goldman Sachs led the private placement together.

Funding

Citizen.VC, the company which is “building a technology platform to match curated startups with value-added investors,” has gained $4 million from a total of 4 investors. The entire offering amount comes to $12 million. Many details with regards to the Palo Alto company remain under wraps; Citizen.VC will debut this month, according to its website.

Buzz Points, Inc., which links local merchants, consumers and community financial institutions, has received a strategic investment from DFS Services LLC, a funding that comes as part of a $19 million round from myriad backers, according to a press release. Austin-based Buzz Points has handled upwards of $1.8 billion in transactions sanctioned by financial institutions it teams with via the merchant offers program, the release states.

Dallas-based SCIenergy has gained $12 million in a funding led by Braemar Energy Ventures. New backers Edison Energy and Mitsui USA contributed joined current investors DFJ Core, DFJ Growth, The Westly Group and Triangle Peak Partners in contributing to the round. SCIenergy is behind the “first energy infrastructure as a service integrated platform,” according to a press release.

San Francisco-based WalkMe, the Enterprise Class Guidance and Engagement Platform, has gained $11 million in fresh funding. Scale Venture Partners led the investment, which saw contributions from Mangrove Capital Partners, Gemini Israel Ventures and Giza Venture Capital. Since its founding, the company has gained $17.5 million in total funding. WalkMe is a 2013 Red Herring Europe Top 100 winner.

M&A

Cupertino-based Apple has bought iFixit, a San Luis Obispo-based company which leverages upwards of 10,000 repair guides. Deal terms were not disclosed. “In the end, Apple gave us a number that we couldn’t refuse,” reads a press release on the company’s website. “As part of the deal, Apple made a commitment to produce the most replaceable electronic devices and personal computers on the market.”

Madrid-based Telefónica has revealed its acquisition of Barcelona cloud computing company eyeOS. The latter company will become a subsidiary of the telecom, according to a press release. Financial terms were not disclosed.

Toronto’s Masstech Group, which serves the media and entertainment markets, has signed a letter of intent to buy PlayBox Technology’s products and technology. The latter company has its commercial headquarters in the U.K. and delivers channel-in-a-box services for TV. Financial terms were not revealed.

WPP member Wunderman, called the world’s biggest digital agency network, has bought London’s FusePump Ltd. FusePump pulls product information from ecommerce sites and more sources, according to a press release. Wunderman is based in New York.

Clearwater, Florida’s AAMP of America has realized its purchase of U.K.-based Armour Automotive Ltd., which serves the in-vehicle entertainment and communication industries. AAMP is Audax Private Equity’s portfolio company; Audax Group leverages more than $5 billion in assets under management, according to a press release.

 

Author: "Red Herring Editorial Team" Tags: "Global, Startups, Top Stories"
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Date: Tuesday, 01 Apr 2014 21:27

Series A

Mobile games developer Industrial Toys has secured $5 million in a Series A round. Accel Partners led the round. According to a press release, the Pasadena-based company is announcing the debut of its flagship title, Midnight Star, into beta this coming summer. Gartner reports revenues for the mobile games industry will swell to $22 billion in 2015.

Series B

Ann Arbor-based diagnostics company NeuMoDx Molecular, Inc. has gained $21 million in a Series B funding round. Pfizer Ventures led the investment, which saw contributions from Venture Investors, Arboretum Ventures, Wolverine Venture Fund and Baird Capital. The funding will go towards the “development of the NeuMoDx 500 Molecular IVD System, a fully automated, random access platform capable of performing RNA and DNA-based assays,” according to a press release.

Series C

Lafayette, California-based medical device company Providence Medical Technology, Inc. has raised $6.8 million in a Series C investment round led by Stanmore Medical Investments via its MedVest Fund One. RCT Ventures and Aphelion Capital contributed to the funding. The company serves the cervical spine market, a $1 billion opportunity, according to a press release.

Series D

Greenwood Village, Colorado-based carbon-negative technology company Cool Planet Energy Systems has realized a $100 million Series D funding round. Concord Energy and North Bridge Venture Partners led the round. Current backers BP, Energy Technology Ventures, the Constellation division of Exelon and Google Ventures contributed to the investment. Meanwhile, UBS and Goldman Sachs led the private placement together.

Funding

Citizen.VC, the company which is “building a technology platform to match curated startups with value-added investors,” has gained $4 million from a total of 4 investors. The entire offering amount comes to $12 million. Many details with regards to the Palo Alto company remain under wraps; Citizen.VC will debut this month, according to its website.

Buzz Points, Inc., which links local merchants, consumers and community financial institutions, has received a strategic investment from DFS Services LLC, a funding that comes as part of a $19 million round from myriad backers, according to a press release. Austin-based Buzz Points has handled upwards of $1.8 billion in transactions sanctioned by financial institutions it teams with via the merchant offers program, the release states.

Dallas-based SCIenergy has gained $12 million in a funding led by Braemar Energy Ventures. New backers Edison Energy and Mitsui USA contributed joined current investors DFJ Core, DFJ Growth, The Westly Group and Triangle Peak Partners in contributing to the round. SCIenergy is behind the “first energy infrastructure as a service integrated platform,” according to a press release.

San Francisco-based WalkMe, the self-proclaimed Enterprise Class Guidance and Engagement Platform, has gained $11 million in fresh funding. Scale Venture Partners led the investment, which saw contributions from Mangrove Capital Partners, Gemini Israel Ventures and Giza Venture Capital. Since its founding, the company has gained $17.5 million in total funding. WalkMe is a 2013 Red Herring Europe Top 100 winner.

M&A

Cupertino-based Apple has bought iFixit, a San Luis Obispo-based company which leverages upwards of 10,000 repair guides. Deal terms were not disclosed. “In the end, Apple gave us a number that we couldn’t refuse,” reads a press release on the company’s website. “As part of the deal, Apple made a commitment to produce the most replaceable electronic devices and personal computers on the market.”

Madrid-based Telefónica has revealed its acquisition of Barcelona cloud computing company eyeOS. The latter company will become a subsidiary of the telecom, according to a press release. Financial terms were not disclosed.

Toronto’s Masstech Group, which serves the media and entertainment markets, has signed a letter of intent to buy PlayBox Technology’s products and technology. The latter company has its commercial headquarters in the U.K. and delivers channel-in-a-box services for TV. Financial terms were not revealed.

WPP member Wunderman, called the world’s biggest digital agency network, has bought London’s FusePump Ltd. FusePump pulls product information from ecommerce sites and more sources, according to a press release. Wunderman is based in New York.

Clearwater, Florida’s AAMP of America has realized its purchase of U.K.-based Armour Automotive Ltd., which serves the in-vehicle entertainment and communication industries. AAMP is Audax Private Equity’s portfolio company; Audax Group leverages more than $5 billion in assets under management, according to a press release.

Author: "Red Herring Editorial Team" Tags: "Finance, Internet, Startups"
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Date: Tuesday, 01 Apr 2014 00:53

By Umang Gupta, Retired Chairman & CEO Keynote Systems

Lately, I’ve met with a lot of young software entrepreneurs that want my advice about their new product or business idea. When I ask them what their sustainable advantage is over the competition, they invariably point to their innovative technology, their first-to-market status and their decision to build out a consumer network via a free software or service. But they don’t all dwell on how and when they intend to monetize their business. 

Many even assume that they will figure out the monetization part of their plan in the future. Clearly this approach worked out spectacularly for WhatsApp when it sold out to Facebook recently for $19 billion! But not all startups have such happy endings. So it’s helpful to get some perspective on how the role of software has evolved over time and how much your startup’s success with a free software strategy depends on your target market, your business model and the prevailing investment climate. 

Early IBM software was free

Computer history buffs will recognize that the approach of giving away free software is neither new nor recent. IBM existed in an era when most corporations paid handsomely for their computer hardware, but they insisted that the software be free. Since its founding in the early part of the previous century, IBM sold expensive “business machines” and employed an army of technicians to help its customers make use of these very complex and finicky early computational systems. 

Those early IBM technicians kept the hardware running (the job of IT operations today), and most of the programming was done by other technicians using archaic “machine language” instructions (what we could call “software development” today). While the hardware and software were all proprietary to IBM, the company’s entire business model was based on charging high prices for hardware bundled with free software and customer service. The reason for giving away software was not to create a consumer network but, in fact, to offset the cost of running the expensive hardware. 

The U.S. government got involved

But a seminal event in the late 1960s caused a change in this preferred business model. An antitrust lawsuit against IBM brought by the U.S. Department of Justice forced the company to unbundle its software from its hardware and to stop giving it away free. This shift to unbundled software favored small startups that previously just could not compete against IBM and its free software. 

Enter Microsoft and Oracle

Microsoft started selling a microcomputer operating system called MS-DOS by mail order for less than $1,000 to power early Intel-based personal computers. Oracle started selling a relational database package for as little as tens of thousands of dollars to run on low-cost minicomputers and workstations. The selling was extremely geek to geek, and the support provided didn’t need to be anything like what IBM provided. There was no reason for Oracle to give software or services away free since prices for the new hardware systems were already so low compared to those from IBM. 

For the next 20 years, this software-license business model prevailed in the independent software industry, which grew phenomenally. As the fortunes of software companies like Microsoft and Oracle rose, IBM’s star dimmed along with a host of other hardware companies. 

By the turn of the century, Microsoft had become a monopoly in its own right by controlling more than 90 percent of the desktop PC operating system market. Like IBM before, it too started to try to cement its monopoly by “bundling” free products with its operating system in order to thwart the competition. Perhaps the most egregious example of this was the bundling of Internet Explorer with Microsoft Windows in order to blunt the spread of Netscape, the first commercial Internet browser. Pretty soon, the government stepped in, took Microsoft to court and forced it to unbundle the browser. 

While it was too late to save Netscape, this legal development along with the spread of the World Wide Web made it possible for young companies to experiment with innovative new business models without fear of being killed off while they were still young. 

During the last decade, free software has been used as a formidable competitive business weapon not only by Google against Microsoft but also by Apple, Amazon and Netflix to rapidly increase the size of their consumer networks against traditional brick-and-mortar industry incumbents. 

But while each of these new upstarts gave away free software, they all started charging quite early for the digital equivalents of the things that they were truly selling (ads, music, books and movies).  

Google sold search advertising

Google was not the first company in Internet search, but it won out decisively over earlier entrants with its uniquely different pricing model for Internet advertising. All Internet search companies figured out early that they had to give away free search capability within a browser in order to attract consumers to whom they could show paid Web advertisements. 

In the early days of the Internet, everyone before Google essentially treated Web pages like a printed page or a TV screen to be interspersed with banner ads.. Advertisers paid for the number of impressions shown to consumers — the same way they did for print pages or TV, with no guarantee of effectiveness.

Google’s genius lay in its early decision to monetize its billions of daily search transactions via pay-for-click pricing instead of “banner ad” pricing. Because Google only charged the advertiser if consumers clicked through, Google’s customers were willing to pay more per ad. As a result, it grew fast in revenues and became profitable quite early in its history (at least compared to today’s startups). Today Google has built a virtual monopoly with its pay-for-click search advertising network, and it enjoys more than 80 percent market share in that lucrative space. 

Meanwhile, banner advertising continues to suffer from excess inventories and declining prices and has caused companies ranging from Yahoo to Facebook to seek other additional ways to monetize their user base beyond just Internet banner ads.  

Apple’s impact on how we consume music

Around the same time as Google was emerging as a force in the Internet software industry, a resurgent Apple under Steve Jobs applied the free software model to reduce prices in the consumer music industry. Jobs’ first insight was in recognizing that older style consumer music products like the Sony Walkman were ripe to be taken out by a low-cost but stylish and purpose-built mobile computer technology called the iPod based on the MP3 standard. 

But this in itself was not entirely new. At that time, there were a lot of MP3 players available on the market. Apple’s genius was in making the iPod a part of an entirely new iTunes proprietary software ecosystem for purchasing music “by the song” instead of requiring consumers to purchase an entire album. Consumers have paid from the very beginning for the hardware and the music they bought. 

Enterprises move from perpetual licenses to SaaS

But what of the enterprise computer technology market pioneered by companies like IBM, Cisco, Microsoft and Oracle? The business models there do not involve selling to consumers, yet that sector has evolved too, albeit not at such a rapid pace. During the early days of the Internet, many enterprise software entrepreneurs (this author among them) branched out to build “software as a service” (SaaS) companies. 

At first the SaaS model worked best for Internet-centric services such as Web hosting and e-commerce deployment, but eventually all kinds of enterprise software solutions ranging from business process management to systems management adopted this model. These companies succeeded because they reduced purchasing complexity for their corporate customers by offering pay-as-you-go subscription pricing and on-demand usage-based models instead of increasingly complex software under a perpetual software license.  

Free-mium to premium 

We’re all familiar with the free-mium model. This usually involves giving away some software free in order to be able to charge for a premium version later. Essentially, the free software is like a lead-generation tool, and it makes it easy for a software company to upsell its product to people that have tried the free version and want more features. 

More enterprise software startups use this approach today, but these companies usually need to be assured of converting enough free customers to paid customers to build a viable business. It’s unlikely that simply building out a large network of corporate customers that use a free trial/sample product will result in meaningful valuations for an enterprise software company. 

What’s up with WhatsApp

In the case of WhatsApp, there is a presumption by Facebook that it is buying a consumer network that it will eventually monetize over time. But whether and how Facebook will actually do so, and at what magnitude, is anybody’s guess. 

Unlike the core Facebook business, which is dependent on advertising (hence the number of eyeballs could be one proxy for future revenues), the WhatsApp market was for communications services, which may or may not have as much advertising value as implied by the Facebook purchase price. In fact, Facebook has indicated it will not necessarily pursue an advertising model for WhatsApp. But if not advertising, then what? 

Some people have pointed to communications services as a possible new source of revenues for Facebook. But just because WhatsApp obliterated (by some industry estimates) $38 billion of text messaging revenues from traditional telecommunications industry players by giving away its own such services free does not mean that it will now be able to replace these with an equivalent amount of its own revenues. 

In this, the example of Skype is instructive. Skype also built up a massive consumer network based on free voice calls and subsequently sold out to eBay at a valuation that was equally stratospheric for its day. But eBay was not able to monetize this business and subsequently sold Skype back to its founders at a substantially lower price, which then turned around and updated Skype’s technology a bit and sold it again – this time to Microsoft, albeit not at the same high price as that which eBay originally paid. 

Skype still does not make enough money for Microsoft to justify its initial or even subsequent valuations. Whether Facebook’s big bet in WhatsApp will pay off better is a stretch to imagine. 

Mark Twain said that history may not repeat itself, but it sure rhymes! The role of software has continued to evolve in different ways through various industries in our economy, and business models have oscillated between giving away free software vs. charging for it vs. giving it away conditionally. 

The occasional spectacular valuation notwithstanding, it is better to know early what to charge for vs. what to give away free and whether a customer network is an eventual revenue-generating asset vs. a costly lead-generating tool. 

In a world where software is no longer the domain of a few geeky Silicon Valley engineers but is the stuff that billion-dollar companies are made of, it still pays to have a viable business model.

Umang Gupta is a well-known Silicon Valley technology visionary, entrepreneur, company founder and public company CEO. After having spent more than 40 years helping to build the enterprise software industry and, among other things being credited with writing the first business plan for Oracle in 1981, Umang now devotes his time exclusively to the fledgling online education industry as an investor, board member and advisor. He can be reached at umangpgupta@gmail.com. 

 

Author: "Red Herring Editorial Team" Tags: "Features, Opinions, Top Stories"
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Date: Monday, 31 Mar 2014 18:36

Series A

New York City’s Handshake, a sales order management platform that serves wholesalers, has received $8 million in Series A funding. Emergence Capital Partners led the round, which saw participation from seed-round backers, MHS Capital, SoftTech VC and High Peaks Venture Partners. The company’s CEO, Glen Coates, reports in a press release that Handshake’s customers have experienced boosts in operational efficiency and average order values, anywhere from 37 percent to 100 percent.

Series B

Russia’s version of Square, 2can, has gained $5 million in a Series B funding led by InVenture Partners. Almaz Capital Partners and the ESN Group invested. The company has secured $7.3 million total funding. In 2013, Gartner reported that global mobile payment transaction values would exceed $235 billion that year.

Intelligence provider ClearStory Data has secured $21 million in a Series B investment round led by DAG Ventures, a new backer. Andreessen Horowitz, Google Ventures, Kleiner Perkins and Khosla Ventures joined the funding. Total backing behind the Palo Alto company comes to $31.5 million.

New York City-based Kitchensurfing has raised $15 million in a Series B funding led by Tiger Global Management. Spark Capital and Union Square Ventures contributed to the round. The investment brings total backing behind Kitchensurfing to $18.7 million. The company leverages a community marketplace for chefs, according to a press release.

Series C

Resistive RAM technology company Crossbar, Inc., has realized an oversubscribed, $25 million Series C investment round. Current backers Artiman Ventures, Kleiner Perkins, Northern Light Venture Capital and the University of Michigan were joined by new funders such as Korea Investment Partners, CBC Capital, Tao Invest. and SAIF Partners. Total backing behind Crossbar, based in Santa Clara, comes to $50 million. The company debuted from stealth in August.

Funding

London’s BIZZBY has gained $10 million from a U.S. investment fund. The company leverages a place to connect with cleaners, plumbers, handymen, man & van, beauty professionals, electricians and more in less than 10 seconds, according to a press release. “Since BIZZBY’s ‘soft’ launch in January 2014 over £1 million of jobs have been placed,” the release states.

Connecticut-based CÜR Media has gained $9.6 million in equity funding via the sale of 9.63 units at $1 per share. The company had originally intended to secure up to $7.0 million as part of its alternative public offering (APO), according to a press release. CÜR Media was known as “Raditaz” in early 2012.

LeapFrog Investments has pumped $29 million into IFMR Capital, a non-banking finance enterprise. The Chennai, India-based company leverages more than $1 billion of financing “enabled across 150+ market transactions,” according to a press release. LeapFrog’s investment in IFMR Capital is its first out of its Fund II.

Alizila, the media outlet Alibaba Group funds, reports Alibaba Group will pour roughly $692 million into Intime Retail Group, a department store chain based in China. Hangzhou-based Alibaba will purchase a 9.9 percent equity stake in Intime for $214 million and subscribe to Intime-deployed convertible bonds valued at $478 million. Should those bonds become stock, Alibaba’s share of Intime could jump to 25 percent at minimum.

Palo Alto-based Cloudera has realized a $900 million financing round. Top tier institutional and strategic backers contributed to the investment. The round counts the $160 million funding announced earlier in March from investors such as T. Rowe Price, Google Ventures and Intel, according to a press release. Intel’s contribution grants the company a stake in Cloudera amounting to 18 percent. Gartner has gauged the data management infrastructure market for 2014 as $74 billion, according to a press release.

Author: "Red Herring Editorial Team" Tags: "Finance, Internet, Startups"
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Date: Friday, 28 Mar 2014 19:17

Series A

Simon Rothman at Greylock Partners has led a Series A investment in Sprig, which provides hand-crafted dinners and their delivery. Battery Ventures and Accel Partners also contributed to the $10 million round. The San Francisco-based company leverages a culinary team spearheaded by Nate Keller, formerly Google’s executive chef, according to a blog post. Sprig had secured $2 million in seed funding.

Funding

Glendale, California-based Gamblit Gaming has secured $12 million in growth capital. American Capital, Ltd. led the round. Total backing behind Gamblit Gaming comes to $20 million. The company is a technology purveyor of real money gaming in mobile games, according to a press release.

French Internet of Things company SIGFOX has gained €15 million ($20.6 million) in funding. Idinvest Partners, the FSN PME and Fonds Ambition Numerérique joined previous investors Intel Capital, Elaia Partner, Partech and Ixo Private Equity. “These funds will be used to accelerate SIGFOX’s growth and international deployment as well as the team needed for it,” according to a press release. The company is a former Red Herring Europe Top 100 winner.

Vancouver’s Enterra Feed has realized a $5 million investment from Avrio Capital. The company delivers renewable food for animals and plants, according to its website. Enterra Feed provides its services to customers such as Overwaitea Food Group, T&T Supermarket Inc., and Star Produce Ltd., and is launching commercial sales of Enterra Natural Fertilizer.

Los Angeles-based SOA Software has received $10 million in venture debt financing from Wellington Financial LP. The company delivers API Management and SOA Governance products. “The market for such application services governance software has been estimated to be in excess of $4 billion,” according to SOA Software’s LinkedIn page. Among the company’s investors: Redpoint Ventures, Palisades Ventures, Paladin Capital Group, Draper Fisher Jurvetson and Navigation Capital Partners.

Canaan Partners has led a $9 million Series A funding round in Realty Mogul. The company provides a platform for crowdfunding properties. The company’s CEO and co-founder, Jilliene Helman, puts the commercial real estate market at $11 trillion in a press release. Individual investors on Realty Mogul have pumped $14.6 million in 58 properties across 14 states.

Author: "Red Herring Editorial Team" Tags: "Finance, Internet, Startups"
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