Opendoor to Raise $200 Million at $3.7 Billion Valuation

It was announced Friday that real estate startup Opendoor filed paperwork in the state of Delaware indicating its intent to raise $200 million in funding at a $3.7 billion valuation. 

A Huge New Round of Funding

According to the paperwork, the shares are described as ‘Series E-2’, which according to reports, likely means the latest round will be an extension of the company’s latest existing round of funding. That round - which closed in September of last year - initially closed for $400 million and was led by SoftBank’s Vision Fund. The new round will likely be added to that. To date, Opendoor has raised more than $1 billion after six rounds of funding. The announcement comes just months after one of Opendoor's main competitors - Knock - announced it had raised $400 million in its own round of Series B funding.

A New Way of Home-Buying

Opendoor aims to streamline the home-buying process. In order to do this, Opendoor plays the middle-man between buyers and sellers. As the company explains their role, “If you’re selling, sell your home to us to eliminate the hassles of showings and months of uncertainty. If you’re buying, we make it incredibly easy to tour hundreds of Opendoor homes so you can find the perfect one.” This model is similar to Knock, which purchases the house from the seller outright then collects a fee. 

A Company on the Rise

According to reports, more than 800,000 people toured an Opendoor home in 2018. Of those 800,000, Opendoor claims it has served over 30,000 customers. These customers are distributed across 19 metro regions in 20 cities. The company also states it currently has more than 2,000 monthly customers. To date, Opendoor has managed to attract more than 36 investors, including Andreessen Horowitz, SoftBank, GV, and others.

Electric Truck Startup Rivian Raises $700 Million

Electric auto-maker Rivian has announced it closed a $700 million round of equity funding led by Amazon.

The New Company on the Block

Reuters reported last week the company was in talks with GM and Amazon to lead the round of funding. Though GM did not ultimately participate, Amazon led the round. The funding comes just three months after the company announced its first two vehicles: a fully electric pickup, and an electric model SUV. Both vehicles will put the new company in direct competition with Tesla.

Amazon is Impressed

In a statement regarding the recent round of funding, Amazon CEO of Worldwide Consumers Jeff Wilke stated, “We’re inspired by Rivian’s vision for the future of electric transportation. RJ has built an impressive organization, with a product portfolio and technology to match. We’re thrilled to invest in such an innovative company.” Despite the latest equity round of funding led by the internet giant, Rivian insists it will remain an independent company. 

A Proud CEO

In response to the latest round of funding Rivian CEO, RJ Scaringe also remarked, “This investment is an important milestone for Rivian and the shift to sustainable mobility. Beyond simply eliminating compromises that exist around performance, capability and efficiency, we are working to drive innovation across the entire customer experience. Delivering on this vision requires the right partners, and we are excited to have Amazon with us on our journey to create products, technology and experiences that reset expectations of what is possible.”

Amazon's Move Toward Vehicles

Though Amazon led the round, just how much the tech giant invested has not been made public. The move comes mere weeks after Amazon joined Sequoia and Lightspeed Venture Partners in acquiring a stake in the autonomous vehicle startup, Aurora. Whether or not the two companies fit into a larger vision for Amazon remains to be seen. 

Building a Better Pickup

Both of Rivian’s models will feature a 180 kilowatt-hour battery pack. The battery pack - which is nearly twice the size of Tesla’s - boasts a range of more than 400 miles under optimal conditions. Such features may prove Rivian can capture the elusive market of a competitive battery-powered pickup.

Both models are expected to be made available sometime in 2020.  

DoorDash Raising $500 Million at $6 Billion Valuation

The Wall Street Journal reported recently that food delivery startup DoorDash is in the process of raising a $500 million round of funding. 

Terms of the Deal

According to the report, the round would value the company at somewhere between $6 and $7 billion. The news comes just days after one of DoorDash’s main competitors, Postmates, filed confidentially for an IPO. According to the report, the round will be led by Singaporean state investment firm Tamasek Holdings Pte. 

A Solid Track Record

This is not be the only large round of funding closed by DoorDash recently. Last year, DoorDash raised $250 million in Series E funding. At the time that round valued the company at $4 billion and was led by DST Global and Coatue Management. Previous investors in the company have included Kleiner Perkins, SoftBank, Sequoia, and others. To date, DoorDash has raised more than $1 billion after seven rounds of funding. 

Expanding to All 50 States

Earlier this year, DoorDash made news when it
officially entered all fifty states. In a statement regarding the move, company
co-founder and CEO Tony Xu remarked, “In the past year alone we’ve more than
quintupled our geographic footprint from 600 to 3,300 cities across North
America, democratizing access to door-to-door delivery for hundreds of
millions of Americans across the nation.”

A Rising Star in the Food Delivery Space

According to a report by the Wall Street Journal, DoorDash retains an 18% market-share of the food delivery services. GrubHub remains the leader with a 34% market-share. According to the report, DoorDash was also able to grow at a faster rate than any of its competitors over the first-half of last year. Other companies in direct competition in the U.S. food delivery market also include UberEats, and the aforementioned Postmates.

Just how much of the market share the new round of funding will allow DoorDash to gain remains to be seen, but at a $6 billion valuation investors certainly seem willing to let them try.

Reddit Raises $300 Million at $3 Billion Valuation

Reddit, the self-proclaimed ‘front page of the internet’ recently closed at $300 million round of Series D funding at a $3 billion valuation.

The Details of the Deal

The $3 billion post-money valuation comes just after Reddit closed its latest $300 million Series D. As reported, $150 million of the round was raised by Chinese tech giant, Tencent, while the rest came from previous investors including Andreessen Horowitz, Sequoia, and Fidelity. The new round of funding will reportedly be used to transform the platform into more of an advertising vehicle. To date, Reddit has raised over $550 million after four rounds of funding.

An Agreement with Tencent

The new investment doesn't come without controversy however. Reddit users fear the new investment by the Chinese tech company may lead to more censorship. These fears have only exacerbated in light of the fact Reddit itself is currently banned in China due to censorship concerns. As the company behind WeChat and League of Legends, as well as being the largest shareholder in Snapchat’s parent company, and a large stakeholder in the company behind the smash hit, Fortnite, Tencent is no stranger to building tech powerhouses. But, with the Trump administration's anticipated plans to limit Chinese tech investment in American corporations, the future for how the marriage will play out is anyone’s guess. 

Moving into New Territory

Founded in 2006, Reddit currently boasts over 330 million monthly active users, and more than 14 billion monthly screen-views. It was only in the past few years however that the private company began to push to monetize the site. The new effort in transforming the company into an advertising driven-platform now will put Reddit on a collision course with Google and Facebook for advertising dollars. Nonetheless, with a user-base as dedicated as Reddit's, it seems there will be no shortage of opportunities for the company to flourish.

Twilio Acquires SendGrid for $3 Billion

Business communications platform Twilio announced last week it has reached an all-stock deal for email specialist company SendGrid for $3 billion.

The Terms of the Deal

When plans for the acquisition were initially announced four months ago, the original amount of the deal was for $2 billion. However, due to the rising price of both company’s stocks since the initial announcement, that price was raised by an additional $1 billion. In the deal, SendGrid shareholders received $53.99 of aggregate value per share of SendGrid common stock. This number represents an exchange ratio of 0.485 shares of Twilio Class A common stock per SendGrid share based on Twilio’s January 31, 2019 closing price.

Filling a Need

Twilio - which had a reported value of $2 billion at its IPO in 2016 - allows software developers to make and receive phone calls, send and receive texts, and perform other communications via its web services API’s. SendGrid is a customer communications platform specializing in transactional and marketing emails. The merging of the two companies fills a hole in Twilio’s communication offerings. After the acquisition, Twilio will command a platform offering complete phone, text, and email communication capabilities.

A Satisfied CEO

According to Twilio co-founder and CEO Jeff Lawson, “Effective customer engagement is a strategic
imperative for every company. With SendGrid now a part of Twilio, our goal is
to provide a complete platform for every form of customer engagement. Through
our mutual developer-first approach, we empower the builders of the world to
create magical customer experiences unique to every interaction.”

A Mutually Beneficial Merger

Together, the two companies manage more than 140,000 active customer accounts which are responsible for more than 600 billion annualized interactions. According to SendGrid CEO Sameer Dholakia, “As we join forces today, I’m more confident than ever that we can accelerate our vision of creating one unquestioned platform of choice for developers and companies around the world and help them transform the way they engage with their customers.”

NYC Startup Funding, Month-end Wrap-up: January 2019

2019 picked up right where 2018 left off for NYC startup funding. Below are some of the largest rounds of funding closed by NYC-based startups over the the last month.

Kustomer - $35M
Date: 1/24/19
Round: Series C
Industry: CRM, SaaS, Enterprise Software
Lead Investor: Battery Ventures
Company: Founded in 2015, Kustomer is a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software company. Rather than focusing on tickets, Kustomer is a platform which allows users to focus on their customer service and customer relationships. To date, Kustomer has raised over $73.5 million after four rounds of funding.

The Farmer's Dog - $39M
Date: 1/15/19
Round: Series B
Industry: E-commerce, Pet Food Products
Lead Investor: Insight Venture Partners
Company: Founded in 2014, The Farmer's Dog is a high-quality dog food manufacturer that delivers healthy and balanced freshly made dog food. The Farmer's Dog uses only human-grade USDA ingredient and customized its meal plans for each dog based on their individual profile. To date, The Farmer's Dog has raised more than $49.1 million after three rounds of funding.

Stelexis Therapeutics - $43M
Date: 1/8/19
Round: Series A
Industry: Therapeutics, Healthcare
Lead Investor: Deerfield Capital Management
Company: Founded in 2017, Stelexis Therapeutics goal is to develop novel drugs and to utilize its proprietary platform of targeting per-cancerous stem cells in order to become the leading cancer therapeutic company in the world. To date, Stelexis Therapeutics has raised $43 million after one round of funding.

Andela - $100M
Date: 1/23/19
Round: Series D
Industry: Recruiting, Software, Training
Lead Investor: Generation Investment Management
Company: Founded in 2014, Andela aims to address the global tech talent shortage by recruiting Africa's top software developers. Over the past four years, Andela has hired more than 1,000 developers from over 100,000 applicants, and was also named the 'Best Place to Work in Africa'. To date, Andela has raised more than $181 million after six rounds of funding.

Infor - $1.5B
Date: 1/16/19
Round: Private Equity Round
Industry: Cloud Data Service, Enterprise, Information Technology
Lead Investor: Koch Equity Development and Golden Gate Capital
Company: Founded in 2002, Infor provides enterprise software and services worldwide. Infor is the largest privately held technology provider in the world and has acquired over 40 other software companies since its founding in 2002. To date, Infor has raised more than $4 billion in funding.

NYC-based Petal Raises $30 Million Series B

Petal, the NYC-based fintech startup offering credit cards to those just starting out, has closed a $30 million round of Series B funding.

A Peter Thiel-backed Venture

The round was led by Peter Theil’s Valar Ventures and will reportedly be used to expand the company's offerings and bring on more clients. Valar Ventures previously led Petal’s $13 million Series A almost exactly one year ago. To date, Petal has raised more than $80 million in debt and equity financing after five rounds of funding.

A New Approach to Consumer Credit

Unlike traditional banks which rely heavily on an applicants FICO score, Petal primarily considers an applicant’s income streams when determining credit worthiness. The goal of this method is to be able to approve more candidates, especially those without pre-established credit, and to grant candidates higher credit limits. As an added incentive, Petal’s model only charges interest and transaction fees, which allows it eliminate overdraft fees, late fees, international fees, and annual fees.

A Good Time to be in Fintech

The success of Petal can be seen as a reflection of a growing trend in successful fintech startups as the whole. According to CB Insights, fintechs raised a record $39.57 billion in funding last year. This number marks a 120% increase over 2017. In the last quarter of 2018 alone, five fintech startups achieve unicorn status.

Is 2019 the Year of Credit Card Startups?

According to Petal CEO and co-founder Jason Gross, “If you look at the projections for 2019, this is the year where the fintechs break out in the credit card category the same way fintechs revolutionized stock trading, banking, and personal lending. Before the days of Lending Club and Prosper banks controlled nearly 100% of the consumer lending market share. Now we see that online offerings make up 35% of the overall market.”

Petal, which is on the Visa network, typically charges between 15.24% to 26.24% interest with most card limits between $500 and $10,000. The average credit limit is reportedly a few thousand dollars.

Collibra Raises $100 Million at $1 Billion Valuation

Collibra, a leader in enterprise data governance, recently announced it has closed a round of $100 million in Series E funding. The new round of funding gives the catalogue software company a post-money valuation of more than $1 billion.

Big Investors are Bullish

The latest round of funding was led by Alphabet’s growth equity investment fund, CapitalG, and also saw participation from existing investors ICONIQ Capital, Index Ventures, Dawn Capital, and Battery Ventures. The new round of funding brings the total raised by Collibra to more than $233 million after six rounds of funding.

Collibra: A Darling of Big Tech

Collibra is a company which makes sure the data that companies like Facebook and Google collect is stored in a way that complies with legal regulations. In the wake of a $57 million fine levied by the French government against Google, companies like Collibra will become more-and-more valuable to big tech. The fact that Google’s parent company Alphabet led the round which also saw participation from the Zuckerberg/Dorsey/Sanderberg-backed ICONIQ, bares testament to this fact.

A Proud Founder

According to Collibra co-founder and CEO Felix Van de Maele, “Now more than ever, we live in an economy where the most innovative companies are fueled by data. It has become our most valuable asset. This investment is a testament to Collibra’s leadership and our ability to help customers transform their market proposition through data-driven insight. With this latest round, we are well-positioned to leverage our heritage in understanding data to help our customers utilize the most cutting-edge innovation to power their digital transformation journeys.”

New Funding as a Victory Lap

According to the company statement, ‘The funding comes on the heels of a record revenue year, with an 80 percent increase in annualized recurring revenue and rapid expansion across the globe.’ The latest round of funding is expected to be used to expand the company’s product offerings and to extend its reach into machine learning and AI, as well as to fund its own growing in-house data scientist teams.

Currently, Collibra boasts more than 300 global clients across industries as varied as fintech, healthcare, retail, and tech.

Bowery: The Incredible Indoor Farming Startup

Recently, NYC-based indoor farming startup Bowery raised an additional $90 million in Series B funding. The funds will be used to continue Bowery's revolutionary approach to solving the world most pressing agricultural needs.

The Need for Better Farming

According to a recent study conducted by the U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization, by the year 2050 global food production will need to increase by more than 60% to feed with world’s growing population. Couple with this the fact that the world has lost more than one third of its arable land in the past 40 years, and it’s easy to see why indoor sustainable farming startup Bowery is so popular.

A Modern Solution for a Modern Problem

Bowery is a NYC-based indoor farming startup that uses lights, technology, robotics, and carefully controlled environments to grow produce that may be an even healthier option and better tasting option than organic. According to company CEO Irving Fain, "We grow with no pesticides, herbicides or insecticides, no agrochemicals at all. And we're able to grow 365 days a year, independent of weather."

A Better Choice

Bowery also offers opportunity to grow produce in an urban setting where no other such farmland is available. In a statement outlining the benefits of Bowery, the company remarked, “traditional agriculture uses 700 million pounds of pesticides annually, and fresh food takes weeks” and sometimes longer to land on the table. During this long trip from the field to the table, lots of bad things can happen to the food, including contamination. By contrast, if food is grown in a Bowery facility just over the river in New Jersey it’s a much shorter trip in to New York City.

Less Environmental Impact

Along with the potential health benefits, Bowery also comes a plethora of environmental benefits as well. According to Mr. Fain, one square foot of growing space within a Bowery indoor facility is more than one hundred times more productive than one square foot of arable land. Bowery farms also use 95% less water than traditional farms, and cut down on transportation costs, while simultaneously eliminating chemical pesticide use. All of this adds up to a more efficient and environmentally beneficial farming process.

Higher Quality Produce

Along with all these benefits, the food Bowery produces also seems to taste better as well. It’s kale leafs are reportedly softer and its arugula has a more peppery flavor. According to celebrity chef and investor Carla Hall, "I visited the farm and tasted the food. It moved from a concept and an idea that is sustainable to deliciousness." Currently the company grows baby kale, butterhead lettuce, arugula, mixed kales and basil and is available at NYC area Whole Foods, as well as several high-end restaurants including Craft and Temple.

Investors are Interested

For all this investors have taken note. Just last month in December of 2018, Bowery closed a $90 million round of Series B funding led by GGV Capital and GV (Formerly Google Ventures). Previously GGV also led Bowery’s $40 million Series A funding in 2017, that time in collaboration with General Catalyst. This latest round of funding may be in response to SoftBank’s recent $200 million investment in Silicon Valley competitor, Plenty. To date however, Bowery has raised more than $141 million after five rounds of funding.

Whether or not indoor farming will become the standard going forward remains to be seen, but with companies like Bowery that possibility looks all the more promising.

Swarm Technologies Raises $25 Million to Launch 150 Satellites

Startup satellite Swarm Technologies has raised $25 million in Series A funding to launch a constellation of 150 tiny IoT ready satellites.

Launching in a Crowded Space

Swarm Technologies is just one of several company’s currently looking to launch a network of low-earth orbit communication satellites. Just last month, it was reported SpaceX is raising $500 million to launch a Starlink network which would put 11,000 low-earth communication satellites into orbit in order to blanket the world with internet. Ubiquitilink is also pursuing a similar venture in order to eliminate the dread No Service signal on cell phones.

Swarm Technologies' Innovative Approach

Unlike SpaceX however, Swarm Technologies plans to launch 150 of its tiny ‘SpaceBEE’ satellites which are to be used exclusively for the internet of things (IoT) ready devices. Such devices do not require high-speed or low-latency internet and often the data they produce can afford to wait a few minutes or even days before being needed. Such features make Swarm Technologies' inexpensive SpaceBEE's a perfect solution.

The round of Series A was led by SpaceX investor Craft Ventures, as well as Sky Dayton, the founder of internet service providers, EarthLink and Boingo. The round also saw participation from NJF Capital, Social Capital, and 4DX Ventures.

An Optimistic CEO

According to company co-founder and CEO Sara Spangelo, “With 75
billion connected devices coming online around the world over the next six
years, viable and affordable network access will be essential. For this reason,
our technology has caught the attention of dozens of companies — from
early-stage startups to Fortune 100 enterprises — with whom we have completed
successful pilot tests in agriculture, maritime, ground transportation, and
text messaging services.”

Investors Remain Bullish

Despite the fact Swarm Technologies was fined $900,000 by the FCC for launching four rockets last January without authorization, investors remain bullish on the startup. According to investor Sky Dayton, “Swarm has developed something entirely new: a low-bandwidth, latency-tolerant network that is extremely inexpensive, low-power and very easy to integrate for things that need to be connected anywhere in the world.”

The company plans to put all 150 of its satellites into orbit over the next 18 months.