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Main article: Coatue Management

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Topics from 1 to 10 | in all: 21

Keith Rabois, BoxGroup back New York-based Brex competitor

19:46 | 8 August

Considering its unparalleled success, it was only a matter of time before a Brex copycat emerged.

Ramp Financial, a new startup led by Capital One-acquired Paribus founders Eric Glyman and Karim Atiyeh (pictured), has raised $7 million, TechCrunch has learned. The capital came from Keith Rabois of Founders Fund, BoxGroup’s Adam Rothenberg and Coatue Management, a hedge fund that recently launched a $700 million early-stage investment vehicle.

Ramp Financial, Founders Fund, BoxGroup and Coatue Management declined to comment.

Ramp Financial is in the very early stages of product development, though we’re told, “It’s the same as Brex .” Other details available on the new startup, which raised on a pre-money valuation of $25 million, according to sources, are slim. Even its name may be subject to change.

Brex, founded in 2017 by a pair of now 23-year-olds, created a corporate charge card tailored for startups. The Y Combinator graduate doesn’t require cardholders to submit Social Security numbers or credit scores, granting entrepreneurs a new avenue to credit and method of protecting their credit scores. Brex’s software also expedites the time-consuming expense management, and accounting and budgeting processes for employees. Quickly, it has become essential to the company-building process in Silicon Valley.

It helps that VCs are wild for Brex. The startup has raised more than $300 million in VC funding in only two years. Most recently, it closed a $100 million round led by Kleiner Perkins at a valuation of $2.6 billion.

Given Brex’s rapid growth and the uptick in venture capital investment in challenger banks, or new financial services competing with incumbent financiers, we’re guessing Ramp Financial didn’t have a tough time pitching VCs. Plus, its founders Glyman and Atiyeh have a clear track record of success.

The duo previously built Paribus, a startup acquired by Capital One roughly one year after launching onstage at TechCrunch Disrupt New York 2015. Paribus, which raised just over $2 million from Slow Ventures, General Catalyst, Greylock and others before the M&A transaction, helps online shoppers get money back when prices drop on items they’ve purchased. Terms of Capital One’s acquisition were not disclosed.

Paribus is also a graduate of Y Combinator, completing the startup accelerator in the summer of 2015.

Aside from both completing Y Combinator, the founders of Brex and Ramp Financial share connections to the PayPal mafia. Rabois, a general partner at Founders Fund, was an executive at the business in the early 2000s. PayPal co-founders Peter Thiel and Max Levchin are Brex investors.

 


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Rebel Foods, which operates more than 235 ‘internet restaurants’ in India, quietly raised $125 million this month

07:09 | 1 August

In May, venture capitalist Michael Moritz of Sequoia Capital warned in a Financial Times column that Amazon’s recent $575 million investment in the London-based delivery service Deliveroo could prove ominous for local restaurants. Wrote Moritz: “Amazon is now one step away from becoming a multi-brand restaurant company — and that could mean doomsday for many dining haunts.”

Moritz was right to attract more attention to the deal. Deliveroo has begun operating shared kitchens from which it will not simply transport food to customers but eventually prepare it, too. His warning may even have played a role in this recent decision of Britain’s competition regulator to halt work on Amazon’s investment so it can first investigate whether the deal poses competitive concerns.

Moritz knows the playbook because of Sequoia’s early investment in Rebel Foods, formerly known as Faasos, a once-small Pune, India-based company that now prepares a variety of foods in its cloud kitchens. As he says in the same column, Faasos largely pioneered the trend. Still, the growth of the nine-year-old company is a bit breathtaking.

According to Bloomberg, Rebel — which this month raised $125 million in fresh capital from the Indonesian delivery service Go-jek, Coatue Management, and Goldman Sachs — now operates 235 kitchens across 20 Indian cities. And it’s processing two million orders a month. (It calls itself the “world’s largest internet restaurant company.”)

It began life as a chain of kebab restaurants, but that original concept, Faasos, is now just one of eight other brands that Rebel operates, including a tea brand called Kettle & Kegs, a Chinese concept called Mandarin Oak; a pizza brand called Oven Story; and a brand called Behrouz through which it makes and sells slow-cooked rice dishes known as biryani.

Most people ordering food might think each is individually operated and run; they aren’t.

Rebel Foods isn’t the only fast-moving operator using cloud kitchens to offer every kind of cuisine imaginable under one roof.

The company — which tells Bloomberg it is now valued at $525 million — has plenty of competitors, including UberEats and the food delivery company Zomato, which itself has plans to open more than 100 cloud kitchens by the end of this year.

Zomato says it isn’t getting into the food preparation business — yet — but rather renting out facilities, kitchen equipment, and software to restaurants.

Little wonder that Rebel is racing headlong into new markets as fast as it can. According to Bloomberg, the company is now planning to build 100 cloud kitchens in Indonesia over the next 18 months with Go-Jek’s help. It also plans to open 20 cloud kitchen facilities in the United Arab Emirates by December.

Rebel was founded by Jaydeep Barman, a native of Mumbai with an MBA from INSEAD who spent nearly four years with McKinsey before joining forces with business school classmate Kallol Banerjee to launch Faasos.

Despite raising money early on from Sequoia, the company was once at risk of going out of business, in part owing to high rents and employee turnover. But as Moritz tells it, things turned around dramatically when the duo closed their restaurants and opened their first centralized kitchen.

In fact, today, the company tells Bloomberg, the entire operation runs the equivalent of 1,600 restaurants.

 


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Fresh off a $2.65B valuation, Plaid co-founder William Hockey is leaving

21:28 | 18 June

William Hockey, co-founder, chief technology officer and president of the fast-growing fintech business Plaid, will step down next week, TechCrunch has learned.

The former Bain Capital associate (pictured above left) co-founded the startup in 2012 alongside chief executive officer Zach Perret. Today, the San Francisco-based company employs 300 with additional offices in Salt Lake City and New York.

Plaid has confirmed the news, stating that Hockey will remain on the company’s board of directors.

“This conclusion was neither a rash nor a recent decision,” Hockey writes in a blog post shared with TechCrunch. “Over the past couple of years I have known that there would come a point at which I would choose to move to a purely strategic and advisorial role.”

Plaid builds infrastructure that allows consumers to interact with their bank account on the web, powering a number of third-party applications, like Venmo, Robinhood, Coinbase, Acorns and LendingClub. It rose to prominence recently, closing a $250 million Series C investment at a $2.65 billion valuation late last year. The deal was led by famed venture capitalist and author of the Internet Trends report Mary Meeker, who’s joined the startup’s board of directors.

In total, Plaid has secured $310 million in venture capital funding from Andreessen Horowitz, Index Ventures, Norwest Venture Partners, Coatue Management, Goldman Sachs, NEA, Spark Capital and others.

Plaid has integrated with 10,000 banks in the U.S. and Canada and says 25% of people living in those countries with bank accounts have linked with Plaid through at least one of the hundreds of apps that leverage Plaid’s application program interfaces (APIs) — an increase from 13% last year. Last month, the company launched its fintech platform in the U.K.

“As we’ve done in the U.S., Plaid will become the foundation for that growth by providing access to a financial network that allows developers to deliver the experience users expect from their financial apps,” the company wrote in a blog post.

TechCrunch participated in a panel discussion with Hockey and Brex CEO Henrique Dubugras last month, in which Hockey gave no indication of impending plans to leave the business. In fact, taking off just as Plaid amps up its global expansion efforts and accelerates growth is strange timing for a founder to leave.

Oftentimes, when a startup co-founder steps down from the C-suite, it’s to make room for a more experienced executive to lead the company through periods of fast growth. Recently, for example, Lime announced its co-founder Toby Sun would transition out of the CEO role to focus on company culture and R&D. Brad Bao, a Lime co-founder and longtime Tencent executive, assumed chief responsibilities.

Other times, it comes amid turmoil. Mike Cagney’s departure from SoFi, of course, is an example of this. One month after reports of a sexual harassment and wrongful termination lawsuit against the online lending business surfaced, SoFi announced Cagney would step down.

In Hockey’s case, the move was planned and calculated, he said.

“In tech, it has historically been taboo to talk about founders or executives transitioning to different roles inside companies,” Hockey writes. “Leadership transitions need to become a bedrock of any company that desires to endure across decades.”

 


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Machine learning startup Weights & Biases raises $15M

17:31 | 30 May

Weights & Biases, a startup building development tools for machine learning, has raised $15 million in its second round of funding.

The company was started by CrowdFlower founders Lukas Biewald and Chris van Pelt, along with former Google engineer Shawn Lewis. (Under its new name Figure Eight, CrowdFlower was acquired by Appen for up to $300 million in March.)

When Weights & Biases launched last year, Biewald (who I’ve known since college) said he wanted to create the tools needed to “build and deploy great deep learning models.” Its initial product allows companies to monitor those models as they develop and train them.

“When people build machine learning models they need to track everything that happens — the code that went into the model, the hyperparameters that go into the model and then basically how well the model does,” Biewald told me this week. “You add a couple lines of code to your … training code and then every time your model runs, it reports what happens to the server.”

Customers include OpenAI, Github, Qualcomm and Toyota Research Institute, as well as research institutions like Stanford and Columbia. The new round — led by Coatue Management, with participation from angels including GitHub CEO Nat Friedman and Salesforce Chief Scientist Richard Socher — brings Weights & Biases’ total funding to $20 million.

Weights & Biases

The company has also launched Benchmarks, a new product that allows practitioners to collaborate on the same machine learning models. Biewald acknowledged that commercial enterprises probably won’t want to take this approach, but he suggested that researchers can use this so they “don’t have to rerun lots of training examples” and “just to move the state of the art forward.”

Looking at how the industry has evolved, Biewald said, “It’s gone really mainstream. What people don’t realize is how much machine learning is actually used in real companies today … Almost any company of reasonable size is doing machine learning. A lot of the applications are kind of boring but important to the company that’s doing them.”

Nor does Biewald think we should be discouraged by headlines like the news that Google’s Duplex service for restaurant reservations often relies on humans rather than bots.

“I don’t think it’s smoke and mirrors to combine humans and machine learning algorithms,” he said. “Every credit card company is using machine learning to prevent fraud, or whatever do, they have humans check a lot of it … I don’t know why people feel it needs to be so binary, like we either automate everything or nothing. If you can automate half of it, that’s pretty good.”

 


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DoorDash, now valued at $12.6B, shoots for the moon

19:38 | 23 May

More than five years ago, Sequoia partner Alfred Lin called Tony Xu, the founder of a small on-demand delivery startup called DoorDash, to say he was passing on the company’s seed round.

This was, of course, before venture capital funding in food delivery startups had taken off. DoorDash, launched out of Xu’s Stanford graduate school dorm room, wasn’t worth Sequoia’s capital — yet.

Today, venture capitalists are valuing the San Francisco-based company at a whopping $12.6 billion with a $600 million Series G. New investors Darsana Capital Partners and Sands Capital participated in the deal, which nearly doubles DoorDash’s previous valuation, alongside existing backers Coatue Management, Dragoneer, DST Global, Sequoia Capital, the SoftBank Vision Fund and Temasek Capital Management.

As for Sequoia’s Alfred Lin, he realized his mistake years ago and jumped in on DoorDash’s 2014 Series A and has participated in every subsequent round since. DoorDash, a graduate of Y Combinator’s Summer 2013 cohort, is also backed by Kleiner Perkins, CRV and Khosla Ventures, among others. In total, the company has raised $2.5 billion in VC funding, making it one of the most well-capitalized private companies in the U.S.

SoftBank, via its prolific dealmaker Jeffrey Housenbold, was responsible for making DoorDash a unicorn in early 2018. The nearly $100 billion Vision Fund led DoorDash’s $535 million Series D, valuing the business at $1.4 billion. Just three months ago, the SoftBank Vision Fund, DST Global, Coatue Management, GIC, Sequoia and Y Combinator put an additional $400 million in DoorDash.

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – SEPTEMBER 05: DoorDash CEO Tony Xu speaks onstage during Day 1 of TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2018 at Moscone Center on September 5, 2018 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Kimberly White/Getty Images for TechCrunch)

Xu told TechCrunch the company’s Series F financing was “a reflection of superior performance over the past year.” DoorDash was currently seeing 325 percent growth year-over-year, he said, pointing to recent data from Second Measure showing the service had overtaken Uber Eats in U.S. coming in second only to GrubHub.

“I think the numbers speak for themselves,” Xu said at the time. “If you just run the math on DoorDash’s course and speed, we’re on track to be number one.”

At a venture capital-focused summit hosted in April, Xu added that DoorDash was the largest delivery platform in America by “pretty wide margins,” explaining that it was, in fact, growing 4x faster than its next closest peer. In this morning’s announcement, the company said it’s grown 60 percent since its late February Series F, with its annualized total sales hitting $7.5 billion in March, an increase of 280 percent year-over-year. 

Still, one wonders what kind of growth metrics DoorDash might be sharing to attract that kind of valuation multiple. The company has yet to disclose revenues and is not yet profitable but has seen its price tag grow astronomically in just two years. Since March 2018, DoorDash’s valuation has skyrocketed from $1.4 billion to $4 billion with a $250 million Series E to $7.1 billion with a $350 million Series F and finally, to nearly $13 billion with its Series G.

The $12.6 billion valuation makes DoorDash one of the 10 most valuable venture-backed companies in the U.S., surpassing Coinbase, Instacart and even Slack, according to PitchBook.

DoorDash is currently active in more than 4,000 cities in the U.S. and Canada, with hundreds of partners including both restaurants and supermarkets (Walmart is using DoorDash for grocery deliveries). The company also operates DoorDash Drive, which allows businesses to use the DoorDash network to make their own deliveries.

 

 


0

In-car commerce startup Cargo extends Uber partnership to Brazil

22:48 | 20 May

Cargo, the startup that brings the convenience store into ride-hailing vehicles, is making its first international expansion through an exclusive partnership with Uber in Brazil.

Uber drivers in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro will now be able to sign up for Cargo and potentially earn additional income by products to passengers during their ride.

Cargo, which launched in 2017, provides qualified ridesharing drivers with free boxes filled with the kinds of goods you might find in a convenience store, including snacks and phone chargers. Riders can use Cargo’s mobile web menu on their smartphones (without downloading an app) to buy what they need.

The expansion into Brazil includes a relationship am/pm convenience stores. In Brazil, about 2,500 am/pm stores are operated and located Ipiranga gas stations. Uber drivers that sign up with Cargo will collect their boxes of products at these stores.

The announcement is an extension of a partnership with Uber that began last July in San Francisco and Los Angeles. Cargo and Uber have added more U.S. cities to the partnership, including Boston, Miami, New York and Washington D.C.

The move will give Cargo access to the more than 600,000 Uber drivers in Brazil. It also signals the beginning of what will be a broader global expansion for the company. Some 20,000 U.S. drivers have used the Cargo service. 

In October, Cargo announced it had raised $22 million in a Series A round led by Founders Fund. The Series A round included additional investment from from Aquiline Technology Growth, Coatue Management and a number of high-profile entertainment, gaming and technology executives such as Zynga  founder Mark Pincus, Twitch’s former CSO Colin Carrier, media investor Vivi Nevo, former NBA commissioner David Stern, Def Jam Records CEO Paul Rosenberg, Steve Aoki, Maria Shriver and Patrick and Christina Schwarzenegger.

To date, Cargo has raised $30 million in venture funding.

 


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Proxy raises $13.6M to unlock anything with Bluetooth identity

20:20 | 27 March

You know how kings used to have trumpeters heralding their arrival wherever they went? Proxy wants to do that with Bluetooth. The startup lets you instantly unlock office doors and reserve meeting rooms using Bluetooth Low Energy signal. You never even have to pull out your phone or open an app. But Proxy is gearing up to build an entire Bluetooth identity layer for the world that could invisibly hover around its users. That could allow devices around the workplace and beyond to instantly recognize your credentials and preferences to sign you into teleconferences, pay for public transit, or ask the barista for your usual,

Today, Proxy emerges from stealth after piloting its keyless, badgeless office entry tech with 50 companies. It’s raised a $13.6 million Series A round led by Kleiner Perkins to turn your phone into your skeleton key. “The door is a forcing function to solve all the hard problems — everything from safety to reliability to the experience to privacy” says Proxy co-founder and CEO Denis Mars. “If you’re gonna do this, it’s gonna have to work right, and especially if you’re going to do this in the work place with enterprises where there’s no room to fix it.”

But rather than creepily trying to capitalize on your data, Proxy believes you should own and control it. Each interaction is powered by an encrypted one-time token so you’re not just beaming your unprotected information out into the universe. “I’ve been really worried about how the internet world spills over to the physical world. Cookies are everywhere with no control. What’s the future going to be like? Are we going to be tracked everywhere or is there a better way?” He figured the best way to reach the destiny he wanted was to build it himself.

Mars and his co-founder Simon Ratner, both Australian, have been best buddies for 10 years. Ratner co-founded a video annotation startup called Omnisio that was acquired by YouTube while Mars co-founded teleconferencing company Bitplay which was bought by Jive Software. Ratner ended up joining Jive where the pair began plotting a new startup. “We asked ourselves what we wanted to do with the next 10 or 20 years of our lives. We both had kids and it changed out perspective. What’s meaningful that’s worth working on for a long time?”

They decided to fix a real problem while also addressing their privacy concerns. While experimenting with Internet Of Things devices, Mars found every fridge and lightbulb wanted you to download an app, set up a profile, enter your password, and then have to hit a button to make something happen. He became convinced this couldn’t scale and we’d need a hands-free way to tell computers who we are. The idea for Proxy emerged. Mars wanted to know, “Can we create this universal signal that anything can pick up?”

Most offices already have infrastructure for badge-based RFID entry. The problem is that employees often forget their badge, they waste time fumbling to scan it, and they don’t get additional value from the system elsewhere.

So rather than re-invent the wheel, Proxy integrates with existing access control systems at offices. It just replaces your cards with an app authorized to constantly emit a Bluetooth Low Energy signal with an encrypted identifier of your identity. They connect to signal readers that fit onto the existing fixtures. Employees can then just walk up to a door with their phone within about 6 feet of the sensor, and the door pops open. Meanwhile, their bosses can define who can go where using their same software as before, but the user still owns their credentials.

“Data is valuable, but how does the end user benefit? How do we change all that value being stuck with these big tech companies and instead give it to the user?” Mars asks. “We need to make privacy a thing that’s not exploited.”

Mars believes now’s the time for Proxy because phone battery life is finally getting good enough that people aren’t constantly worried about running out of juice. Proxy’s Bluetooth Low Energy signal doesn’t suck up much, and geofencing can wake up the app in case it shuts down while on a long stint away from the office. Proxy has even considered putting inductive charging into its sensors so you could top up until your phone turns back on and you can unlock the door.

Opening office doors isn’t super exciting, though. What comes next is. Proxy is polishing its features that auto-reserve conference rooms when you walk inside, and that sign you into your teleconferencing system when you approach the screen, and workstations that personalize themselves. It’s also working on better guest checkin to eliminate the annoying iPad sign-in process in the lobby. Next, Mars is eyeing “Your car, your home, all your devices. All these things are going to ask ‘can I sense you and do something useful for you?'”

After demoing at Y Combinator, thousands of companies reached out to Proxy from hotel chains to corporate conglomerates to theme parks. Proxy charges for its hardware plus a monthly subscription fee per reader. Employees are eager to ditch their keycards, so Proxy sees 90% adoption across all its deployments. Customers only churn if something breaks and it hasn’t lost a customer in two years, Mars claims.

The status quo of keycards, competitors like OpenPath, and long-standing incumbents all typically only handle doors, while Proxy wants to build an omni-device identity system. Now Proxy has the cash to challenge them, thanks the to the $13.6 million from Kleiner, Y Combinator, Coatue Management, and strategic investor WeWork. In fact, Proxy now counts WeWork’s headquarters and Dropbox as clients. “With Proxywe can give our employees, contractors, and visitors a seamless smartphone-enabled access experience they love, while actually bolstering security,” says Christopher Bauer, Dropbox’s Physical Security Systems Architect.

The cash will help answer the question of “How do we turn this into a protocol so we don’t have to build the other side for everyone?” Mars explains. Proxy will build out SDKs that can be integrated into any device, like a smoke detector that could recognize what people are in the vicinity and report that to first responders. Mars thinks hotel rooms that learn your climate, shade, wake up call, and housekeeping preferences would be a no-brainer. Amazon Go-style autonomous retail could also benefit from the tech.

When asks what keeps him up at night, Mars says “the biggest thing that scares me is that this requires us to be the most trustworthy company in the planet. There is no ‘move fast, break things’ here. It’s ‘move fast, do it right, don’t screw it up.'”

 


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Startups Weekly: Flexport, Clutter and SoftBank’s blood money

16:00 | 23 February

The Wall Street Journal published a thought-provoking story this week, highlighting limited partners’ concerns with the SoftBank Vision Fund’s investment strategy. The fund’s “decision-making process is chaotic,” it’s over-paying for equity in top tech startups and it’s encouraging inflated valuations, sources told the WSJ.

The report emerged during a particularly busy time for the Vision Fund, which this week led two notable VC deals in Clutter and Flexport, as well as participated in DoorDash’s $400 million round; more on all those below. So given all this SoftBank news, let us remind you that given its $45 billion commitment, Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) is the Vision Fund’s largest investor. Saudi Arabia is responsible for the planned killing of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Here’s what I’m wondering this week: Do CEOs of companies like Flexport and Clutter have a responsibility to address the source of their capital? Should they be more transparent to their customers about whose money they are spending to achieve rapid scale? Send me your thoughts. And thanks to those who wrote me last week re: At what point is a Y Combinator cohort too big? The general consensus was this: the size of the cohort is irrelevant, all that matters is the quality. We’ll have more to say on quality soon enough, as YC demo days begin on March 18.

Anyways…

Surprise! Sort of. Not really. Pinterest has joined a growing list of tech unicorns planning to go public in 2019. The visual search engine filed confidentially to go public on Thursday. Reports indicate the business will float at a $12 billion valuation by June. Pinterest’s key backers — which will make lots of money when it goes public — include Bessemer Venture Partners, Andreessen Horowitz, FirstMark Capital, Fidelity and SV Angel.

Ride-hailing company Lyft plans to go public on the Nasdaq in March, likely beating rival Uber to the milestone. Lyft’s S-1 will be made public as soon as next week; its roadshow will begin the week of March 18. The nuts and bolts: JPMorgan Chase has been hired to lead the offering; Lyft was last valued at more than $15 billion, while competitor Uber is valued north of $100 billion.

Despite scrutiny for subsidizing its drivers’ wages with customer tips, venture capitalists plowed another $400 million into food delivery platform DoorDash at a whopping $7.1 billion valuation, up considerably from a previous valuation of $3.75 billion. The round, led by Temasek and Dragoneer Investment Group, with participation from previous investors SoftBank Vision Fund, DST Global, Coatue Management, GIC, Sequoia Capital and Y Combinator, will help DoorDash compete with Uber Eats. The company is currently seeing 325 percent growth, year-over-year.

Here are some more details on those big Vision Fund Deals: Clutter, an LA-based on-demand storage startup, closed a $200 million SoftBank-led round this week at a valuation between $400 million and $500 million, according to TechCrunch’s Ingrid Lunden’s reporting. Meanwhile, Flexport, a five-year-old, San Francisco-based full-service air and ocean freight forwarder, raised $1 billion in fresh funding led by the SoftBank Vision Fund at a $3.2 billion valuation. Earlier backers of the company, including Founders Fund, DST Global, Cherubic Ventures, Susa Ventures and SF Express all participated in the round.

Here’s your weekly reminder to send me tips, suggestions and more to kate.clark@techcrunch.com or @KateClarkTweets

Menlo Ventures has a new $500 million late-stage fund. Dubbed its “inflection” fund, it will be investing between $20 million and $40 million in companies that are seeing at least $5 million in annual recurring revenue, growth of 100 percent year-over-year, early signs of retention and are operating in areas like cloud infrastructure, fintech, marketplaces, mobility and SaaS. Plus, Allianz X, the venture capital arm attached to German insurance giant Allianz, has increased the size of its fund to $1.1 billion and London’s Entrepreneur First brought in $115 million for what is one of the largest “pre-seed” funds ever raised.

Flipkart co-founder invests $92M in Ola
Redis Labs raises a $60M Series E round
Chinese startup Panda Selected nabs $50M from Tiger Global
Image recognition startup ViSenze raises $20M Series C
Circle raises $20M Series B to help even more parents limit screen time
Showfields announces $9M seed funding for a flexible approach to brick-and-mortar retail
Podcasting startup WaitWhat raises $4.3M
Zoba raises $3M to help mobility companies predict demand

Indian delivery men working with the food delivery apps Uber Eats and Swiggy wait to pick up an order outside a restaurant in Mumbai. ( INDRANIL MUKHERJEE/AFP/Getty Images)

According to Indian media reports, Uber is in the final stages of selling its Indian food delivery business to local player Swiggy, a food delivery service that recently raised $1 billion in venture capital funding. Uber Eats plans to sell its Indian food delivery unit in exchange for a 10 percent share of Swiggy’s business. Swiggy was most recently said to be valued at $3.3 billion following that billion-dollar round, which was led by Naspers and included new backers Tencent and Uber investor Coatue.

Lalamove, a Hong Kong-based on-demand logistics startup, is the latest venture-backed business to enter the unicorn club with the close of a $300 million Series D round this week. The latest round is split into two, with Hillhouse Capital leading the “D1” tranche and Sequoia China heading up the “D2” portion. New backers Eastern Bell Venture Capital and PV Capital and returning investors ShunWei Capital, Xiang He Capital and MindWorks Ventures also participated.

Longtime investor Keith Rabois is joining Founders Fund as a general partner. Here’s more from TechCrunch’s Connie Loizos: “The move is wholly unsurprising in ways, though the timing seems to suggest that another big fund from Founders Fund is around the corner, as the firm is also bringing aboard a new principal at the same time — Delian Asparouhov — and firms tend to bulk up as they’re meeting with investors. It’s also kind of time, as these things go. Founders Fund closed its last flagship fund with $1.3 billion in 2016.”

If you enjoy this newsletter, be sure to check out TechCrunch’s venture capital-focused podcast, Equity. In this week’s episode, available here, Crunchbase News editor-in-chief Alex Wilhelm and I discuss Pinterest’s IPO, DoorDash’s big round and SoftBank’s upset LPs.

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J&J spends $3.4 billion in cash for Auris Health’s lung cancer diagnostics and surgical robots

18:40 | 13 February

Johnson & Johnson’s robotic surgery and medical device division, Ethicon, is dropping $3.4 billion in cash to pick up Auris Health, a developer of robotic diagnostics and surgical devices initially focused on detecting and treating lung cancer.

The healthcare giant said an additional $2.35 billion in payouts may be possible if Auris hits certain milestones.

Auris’ acquisition is likely a windfall for investors including Lux Capital and Coatue Management, which both invested as part of a whopping $280 million round the company closed two years ago.

Founded by serial entrepreneur Fred Moll, whose previous companies included the 22-year-old, publicly traded Intuitive Surgical, a robotic surgical systems manufacturer now worth around $61.4 billion, and Hansen Medical, a company that developed tools to manipulate catheters; Auris recently received approval from the Food and Drug Administration for its novel, robotic approach to surgery.

Last year, the company unveiled its Monarch platform, which takes an endoscopic approach to surgical procedures that is less invasive and more accurate to test for — and treat — cancer.

“A CT scan shows a mass or a lesion,” Dr. Moll said in an interview at the time. “It doesn’t tell you what it is. Then you have to get a piece of lung, and if it’s a small lesion. It isn’t that easy — it can be quite a traumatic procedure. So you’d like to do it a very systematic and minimally invasive fashion. Currently it’s difficult with manual techniques and 40-percent of the time, there is no diagnosis. This is has been a problem for many years and [inhibits] the ability of a clinician to diagnose and treat early-stage cancer.”

Monarch uses an endoscopy procedure to insert a flexible robot into hard to reach places inside the human body. Doctors trained on the system use video game-style controllers to navigate inside, with help from 3D models.

“In this new era of health care, we’re aiming to simplify surgery, drive efficiency, reduce complications and improve outcomes for patients, ultimately making surgery safer,” said Ashley McEvoy, Executive Vice President, Worldwide Chairman, Medical Devices, Johnson & Johnson, in a statement. “We believe the combination of best-in-class robotics, advanced instrumentation and unparalleled end-to-end connectivity will make a meaningful difference in patient outcomes.”

As part of the deal, J&J is bringing Dr. Moll in-house (which may be as much of a coup for the company as the acquisition of Auris and its patent portfolio.

“We’re thrilled to be joining Johnson & Johnson to help push the boundaries of what is possible in medical robotics and improve the lives of patients across the globe. Together, we will be able to dramatically accelerate our collective product innovation to develop new interventional solutions that redefine optimal patient outcomes,” said Dr. Moll, in a statement. “This combination is a testament to the incredible work of the Auris Health team and the innovation engine behind the Monarch Platform, which represents a huge step forward in endoluminal technology. We look forward to continuing to shape the future of intervention with the added expertise and resources of the world’s largest healthcare organization.”

J&J says that the Monarch robotics platform will play an important role within the Lung Cancer Initiative within the company, and, more broadly, will be used to support the company’s approach to open, laparoscopic, robotic, and endoluminal surgeries.

Other robotics initiatives are underway at J&J through work with Verb, the partnership it has with Verily, a subsidiary of Google’s parent company, Alphabet, and through its acquisition of Orthotaxy, a robotics company focused on knee surgeries.

“We are very committed to our partnership with Verily on the development of the Verb Surgical Platform. Collectively, these technologies, together with our market-leading medical implants and solutions, create the foundation of a comprehensive digital ecosystem to help support the surgeon and patient before, during and after surgery,” said Ms. McEvoy, in a statement.

 


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DoorDash poaches Uber Eats engineering boss

18:00 | 23 January

One way to gain ground on a competitor is to poach their best executives. We’ve seen it time and time again, from high-level Tesla employees fleeing for Lyft or Apple stealing Google’s AI talent.

DoorDash, a well-funded food delivery unicorn, is familiar with this method of staffing. The company announced this morning that it has poached its second Uber employee in the last year to join its growing business. Ryan Sokol, credited with leading and scaling Uber Eats, Uber’s food delivery arm, from its inception, has joined DoorDash as its vice president of engineering.

The news comes shortly after the San Francisco-based company hired Prabir Adarkar, Uber’s former head of strategic finance, as its chief financial officer. The company also recently hired chief people officer Sarah Wagener from Pandora, where she was VP of human resources.

Reporting to co-founder and chief executive officer Tony Xu, Sokol will lead the product, infrastructure and data science teams within DoorDash’s engineering department.

“Ryan comes to DoorDash at a critical inflection point in our business following a breakout year,” DoorDash wrote in an announcement. “In 2018 we 5xed our geographic footprint from 600 to 3,300 cities and tripled our valuation to more than $4 billion.”

“We doubled the engineering team to 200+ last year, working on a variety of problems from machine learning applications to logistics to personalizing consumer experiences,” they added. “This year, we plan to double our team again and continue on our trajectory as the fastest growing last-mile logistics company in the space.”

Six-year-old DoorDash has raised nearly $1 billion in venture capital funding, most recently at a $4 billion valuation, from SoftBank, Sequoia, Coatue Management, DST Global,  Kleiner Perkins, Khosla Ventures, CRV and several others.

 


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