All posts in “Startups”

Dot lets you invest in property without the hassle of a traditional mortgage

Dot, a new U.K. startup de-cloaking today, aims to make it easy to invest in property without the hassle of taking out a traditional ‘buy to let’ mortgage. The company is founded by Gray Stern, who previously co-founded London-based Buy to Let mortgage lender Landbay, and so knows at least a thing or two about investing in property. Namely, that it doesn’t need to be as arduous as it currently is.

In fact, Dot’s headline draw is that it makes property ownership a one-click affair via the “Dot Button” it wants to embed on property listings sites, including estate agents and property developers. Under the hood of the offering is what the startup describes as a “point-of-sale finance and management solution” that can be wrapped around any property that meets Dot’s lending criteria.

If you want to purchase the property as an investment, you simply click the button, pay the required deposit, and Dot will acquire and manage the property on your behalf, advancing 70 percent of the purchase price in the form of its pre-approved or “instant mortgage”. In addition, the property is furnished and Dot takes out buildings, contents and rent guarantee insurance. After those expenses, you receive monthly rent from the property, minus management fees and interest paid on your Dot mortgage.

Technically, once the property is purchased it is moved into a passive investment structure: an SPV known as a “Dot Container”. This structure holds the asset on your behalf (you effectively become the SPV’s beneficial owner/shareholder).

When you’re ready to sell, in theory a Dot Container can move from owner to owner without conveyancing, and can be refinanced without requiring new mortgage documents (via Dot Platform, Dot’s mortgage marketplace). Alternatively, the property can be put on the open market. Either way, as the SPV’s sole shareholder, you benefit from any increase in the valuation of the property, less the remaining balance of the mortgage.

“Dot enables anyone with a 30 percent deposit to become a professional property investor instantly, with none of the hassle of being a landlord,” explains Stern. “We do this by providing U.K. and U.S. estate agents and property developers with a pre-approved finance and management solution — a Dot Container — that can hold any suitable property. The agent can then offer Dot as a payment option (via the embedded Dot Button), turning their previously static listings into turnkey investments that anyone, anywhere can buy online on a fully financed and managed basis.

“Every Dot Container comes complete with a pre-approved mortgage, insurance, legal/conveyancing, tax compliance and reporting, lettings and management, furnishings and everything else required to turn that property into a compliant, well-managed and good-looking rental home. Dot takes care of the entire end-to-end process… and because we are lending a large portion of the total cost we have a vested interest in managing your property well”.

Stern says that Dot differs from property crowd-investing type platforms, such as Property Partner or Bricklane, which typically let you buy shares in a portion of a property or a property portfolio and aren’t coupled with a financing option.

“Dot’s solution is for sole investors or couples looking to build property portfolios that they control, we do not offer fractional ownership,” he adds. “Our clients own the asset and while they give Dot management rights, they can also remove Dot at any time, sell at any time, refinance their loans at any time. Dot’s challenge is to make our offer sufficiently compelling that they won’t want to”.

Meanwhile, Dot has raised $1.5 million in a pre-seed round from Stage Dot O, an L.A.-based venture-build firm run by Roofstock co-founder Devin Wade and ex hedge fund manager Mike Self.

And the winner of Startup Battlefield Europe at VivaTech is… Wingly

At the very beginning, there were 15 startups. After a morning of incredibly fierce competition, we now have a winner.

Startups participating in the Startup Battlefield have all been hand-picked to participate in our highly competitive startup competition. They all presented in front of multiple groups of VCs and tech leaders serving as judges for a chance to win €25,000 and an all-expense paid trip for two to San Francisco to participate in the Startup Battlefield at TechCrunch’s flagship event, Disrupt SF 2018.

After many deliberations, TechCrunch editors pored over the judges’ notes and narrowed the list down to five finalists: Glowee, IOV, Mapify, Wakeo and Wingly.

These startups made their way to the finale to demo in front of our final panel of judges, which included: Brent Hoberman (Founders Factory), Liron Azrielant (Meron Capital), Keld van Schreven (KR1), Roxanne Varza (Station F), Yann de Vries (Atomico) and Matthew Panzarino (TechCrunch).

And now, meet the Startup Battlefield Europe at VivaTech winner.

Winner: Wingly

Wingly is a flight-sharing platform that connects pilots and passengers. Private pilots can add flights they have planned, then potential passengers can book them.

Runner-Up: IOV

IOV is building a decentralized DNS for blockchains. By implementing the Blockchain Communication Protocol, the IOV Wallet will be the first wallet that can receive and exchange any kind of cryptocurrency from a single address of value.

Dog-sitting startup Rover just raised $155M

Rover, a dog-walking and dog-boarding service that merged with DogVacay around this time last year, is now the second of such startups this year to raise a massive new round of funding with its announcement of a $155 million financing round.

While competitor Wag has become a juggernaut, there seems room for both room for a second player and the potential to outmaneuver Wag even with its massive influx of capital. Both DogVacay and Rover had a very similar model and eventually merged in an all-stock deal, creating a more substantial competitor for Wag. The round consisted of $125 million in equity financing led by funds and accounts advised by T. Rowe Price Associates, with a $30 million credit facility with Silicon Valley Bank. The Wall Street Journal is reporting that the round values Rover at $970 million.

Wag earlier this year picked up $300 million in a massive funding round led by SoftBank. That was, of course, SoftBank — which is investing massive piles of capital into startups and pretty much altering the calculus of venture capital in the process. But it also signaled a huge interest in various dog-care services, including apparently Rover, as a potential business opportunity for the millions of dog owners in the world. If you’ll walk anywhere in San Francisco, you’re destined to run into a very large number of very good dogs, and it makes enough sense that there should be an opportunity to capitalize on dog-ownership as a whole.

Rover connects dog owners with various users that will walk, board, or generally take care of dogs — a critical service for anyone who might be traveling, or just work in a non-dog friendly office. Users just book a dog walker or sitter through the app, which connects them with area sitters. It’s an area where Wag has faced a lot of criticism following a major Bloomberg report regarding poor service (and losing dogs). There are, of course, many challenges for any service that offloads some kind of daily need to a third party starting in a similar fashion to Uber.

Rover, interestingly, notes on its website that it “accepts less than 20% of potential sitters,” perhaps a dig at the criticism for Wag or the space in general and as an attempt to soothe concerns from potential users. Rover says it has more than 200,000 sitters throughout North America. The company previously raised $156 million, and previous investors include A-Grade Investments, Foundry Group, Madrona Venture Group, Menlo Ventures, OMERS Ventures, Petco, and StepStone Group.

Sinemia, a MoviePass competitor, launches cardless ticketing

Sinemia is further differentiating itself from its main competitor, MoviePass. The moviegoing startup is launching a new feature today that gets rid of the need for people to have a physical card in order to purchase movie tickets. This comes after a number of new Sinemia customers reported long wait times for their debit cards to arrive.

“The Cardless feature was in our product pipeline but we accelerated it due to strong demand and issues that it brought,” Sinemia founder and CEO Rifat Oguz said in a statement to TechCrunch.

Following Sinemia’s launch of new plans that cost as little as $4.99 a month a few weeks ago, interest and demand has skyrocketed, according to the company. That resulted in longer wait times for debit cards.

“We’ve seen incredible demand for our movie ticket subscription service, with many customers wanting to dive right in and buy movie tickets without waiting for a physical card to be shipped to them,” Oguz said in a press release. “At Sinemia, we strive to provide the best moviegoing experience possible while driving the industry forward, and this is just one example of how we’re moving quickly to address our customers’ needs. Sinemia Cardless makes it easier than ever for people to get their movie tickets in advance.”

MoviePass, on the other hand, requires a physical card that you have to use in person at the theater. That means advanced ticketing is not an option with MoviePass. Sinemia’s cardless feature will not just be available to new customers, but to everyone in the U.S., Canada, the U.K. and Australia. Meanwhile, MoviePass is on the struggle bus and might not have enough money to make it through the summer.

UPDATE: WorkFusion adds to its $50 million with strategic investors as it bulks up for acquisitions

WorkFusion, a business process automation software developer, added two new investors to its $50 million April round.

The company’s new strategic investors include the large insurance company, Guardian; healthcare services provider New York-Presbyterian; and the commercial bank, PNC Bank. Venture investor Alpha Intelligence Capital, which specializes in backing artificial intelligence-enabled companies, also participated in the new financing.

Certainly WorkFusion seems to have come a long way since its days hiring crowdsourced workers to train algorithms how to automate the workflows that used to be done manually. The company has raised a lot of money — roughly $121 million, according to Crunchbase — which is some kind of validation, and in its core markets of financial services and insurance it’s attracted some real fans.