All posts in “funding”

India’s Bounce raises $72 million to grow its electric scooters business

Bounce, a Bangalore-based startup that offers more than 5,000 electric scooters for rent in India, has raised $72 million to accelerate its bid to impact how people navigate India’s traffic-clogged urban areas.

The Series C funding round for the five-year-old startup was led by B Capital — the VC firm founded by Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin — and Falcon Edge Capital. Chiratae Ventures, Maverick Ventures, Omidyar Network India, Qualcomm Ventures, and existing investors Sequoia Capital India and Accel Partners India also participated in the round.

This new money means that the startup has raised $92 million to date. The current round valued it at more than $200 million, a person familiar with the matter said.

Bounce, formerly known as Metro Bikes, operates in Bangalore. Its app allows users to pick up a scooter and, when their ride is finished, drop it off at any parking spot. It charges customers based on the time and model of electric scooter they choose. An hour-long ride could cost as little as Rs 15 (21 cents). The startup claims it has already clocked two million rides. 

Vivekananda Hallekere, co-founder and CEO of Bounce, told TechCrunch in an interview that the startup plans to use the fresh capital to add over 50,000 electric scooters to its fleets by the end of the year. Additionally, Bounce, which employs about 200 people, plans to enter more cities in India and invest in growing its tech infrastructure and head count.

“We have about ten metro and non-metro cities in mind. Starting next quarter, we will start to expand in those cities,” he said. The startup also aims to service one million rides in the next one year.

Hallekere said Bounce, which currently offers IoT hardware and design for the scooters, is also working on building its own form factor for scooters.

The rise of Bounce comes as it bets that shared two-wheeler vehicles — already a common mode of transportation in the nation — will play an important role in the future of ride-sharing, with electric vehicles replacing petrol ones.

This bet has gained more momentum in recent years. Startups such as Yulu, which partnered with Uber earlier this year to conduct a trial in Bangalore, Vogo, which raised money from Uber rival Ola, and Ather Energy have expanded their businesses and gained the backing of major investors.

Their adoption, though still in their nascent stages, is increasingly proving that for millions of people rides from Uber and Ola are just too expensive for their wallets. Besides, in jam-packed traffic in Bangalore and Delhi and other cities in India, two wheels are more efficient than four.

Clockwise nabs $11M Series A to make your calendar smarter

Almost every organization, regardless of size, is inundated with meetings, so much so it’s often hard to find dedicated time do actual work. Clockwise wants to change that by bringing machine learning to the calendar to help employees free up time. Today, it announced an $11 million Series A investment, and made the product, which had been in Beta, generally available.

The round was co-led led by Greylock and Accel . Other investors included Slack Fund, Michael Ovitz, Ellen Levy, George Hu, Soraya Darabi, SV Angel and Jay Simons. The company has raised a total of $13 million.

Matt Martin, CEO and co-founder at Clockwise says the company’s mission is to help employees make time for what matters, and they are doing that by applying machine learning to the calendar to free up blocks of time to concentrate on work. Calendars have tended to be pretty static and this provides a way to bring a level of intelligence to automatically shift meetings to a better time when it makes sense.

You download Clockwise and then you can set parameters for which meetings can be moved and which are set in stone and other preferences. As Martin wrote in a blog post announcing the new tool, this gives employees “uninterrupted blocks of time to focus, think and innovate.” For now, it’s available for G Suite users.

Gif: Clockwise

You may think that this is a one-trick pony that will be hard to scale, but Martin says in the past few months, Clockwise has recovered 1000 of hours, and as they gain more data, the tool will get even more intelligent about meeting shifting.

Certainly his investors see the potential. John Lilly, who is leading the investment at Greylock believes Clockwise filling a huge unfilled need inside organizations. “Clockwise is focused on helping individuals and teams retake ownership of their time. This is not an easy feat — building the Clockwise product requires a sophisticated understanding of machine learning, user interaction, and systems design breakthrough,” Lilly said.

Clockwise founders were part of the team at RelateIQ, a company Salesforce bought for $390 million in 2014. Since leaving, RelateIQ they decided to put that experience to work on making the calendar more efficient.

How to negotiate term sheets with strategic investors

Three years ago, I met with a founder who had raised a massive seed round at a valuation that was at least five times the market rate. I asked what firm made the investment.

She said it was not a traditional venture firm, but rather a strategic investor that not only had no ties to her space but also had no prior investment experience. The strategic investor, she said, was looking to “get their hands dirty” and “get in on the ground floor.”

Over the next 2 years, I kept a close eye on the founder. Although she had enough capital to pivot her business focus multiple times, she seemed to be at odds, serving the needs of her strategic investor and her customer base.

Ultimately, when the business needed more capital to survive, the strategic investor didn’t agree with the founder’s focus, opted not to prop it up, and the business had to shut down.

Sadly, this is not an uncommon story as examples abound of strategic investors influencing startup direction and management decisions to the point of harm for the startup. Corporate strategics, not to be confused with dedicated funds focused on financial returns like a traditional venture investor like Google Ventures, often care less about return on investment, and more about a startup’s focus, and sector specificity. If corporate imperatives change, the strategic may cease to be the right partner or could push the startup in a challenging direction.

And yet, fortunately, as the disruptive power of technology is being unleashed on nearly every major industry, strategic investors are now getting smarter, both in terms of how they invest and how they partner with entrepreneurs.

From making strong acquisitive plays (i.e. GM’s purchase of Cruise Automation or Toyota’s early-stage investment in Uber) to building dedicated funds, to executing commercial agreements in tandem with capital investment, strategics are getting savvier, and by extension, becoming better partners.  In some instances, they may be the best partner.

Negotiating a term sheet with a strategic investor necessitates a different set of considerations. Namely: the preference for a strategic to facilitate commercial milestones for the startup, a cautious approach to avoid the “over-valuation” trap, an acute focus on information rights, and the limitation of non-compete provisions.

Why is Andreessen Horowitz (and everyone else) investing in Latin America now?

Investments by U.S. venture capital firms into Latin America are skyrocketing and one of the firms leading the charge into deals is none other than Silicon Valley’s Andreessen Horowitz.

The firm that shook up Silicon Valley with potentially over-generous term sheets and valuations and an overarching thesis that “software is eating the world” has been reluctant to test its core belief… well… pretty much anywhere outside of the United States.

That was true until a few years ago when Andreessen began making investments in Latin America. It’s the only geography outside of the U.S. where the firm has committed significant capital and the pace of its investments is increasing.

Andreessen isn’t the only firm that’s making big bets in companies south of the American border. SoftBank has its $2 billion dollar investment fund, which launched earlier this year, to invest in Latin American deals as well. (Although the most recent SoftBank Innovation Fund investment in GymPass is likely an indicator that the fund, much like SoftBank’s “Vision” fund, has a pretty generous interpretation of what is and is not a Latin American deal.)

“We previously didn’t invest internationally, [because] we weren’t as well set up to help these companies,” says Angela Strange, a general partner at Andreessen Horowitz . “Part of the reason for why LatAm is proximity.”

Neurobehavioral health company Blackthorn pulls in $76 million from GV to treat mental disorders

There are numerous challenges to finding effective treatments for mental disorders. However, Blackthorn Therapeutics, a neurobehavioral health company using machine learning to create personalized medicine for mental health, is betting its technological approach to finding drugs that work will put it ahead of the competition. Lucky for them, GV and other biotech investors have shown they agree by adding another $76 million in Series B financing to the coffers.

Today, Blackthorn announced the close of its $76 million series B round from GV, Scripps Research, Johnson & Johnson Innovation and a bevy of other biotech investment firms, including Polaris Partners, Premier Partners, Vertex Ventures HC, Alexandria Venture Investments, Altitude Life Science Ventures, ARCH Venture Partners, and Biomatics Capita.

Blackthorn has been heads down the last couple of years on a clinical trial for a drug that could potentially treat mood disorders. In April, the company announced positive results from its phase I trial for the drug.

The company plans to use the funding to advance its clinical-stage programs for mood disorders as well as for potential treatment of autism spectrum disorder, advancing towards clinical investigation in 2020.

Brian Chee, a managing partner at Polaris Partners, Lori Hu, a managing director at Vertex Ventures HC, and Julie Sunderland, a managing director at Biomatics Capital have joined Blackthorn’s board as directors in conjunction with the funding.

Blackthorn also recently added two people to its executive team. Jane Tiller has joined as chief medical officer and Laura Hansen as vice president, corporate affairs.

“BlackThorn was founded to bring new therapies to patients by applying advances in computational sciences to address patient heterogeneity, one of the biggest historical challenges in the field of neuropsychiatric drug development,” said Blackthorn’s president and COO Bill Martin, Ph.D. “Three years later, insights from our data-driven approaches are yielding patient enrichment strategies that could increase probability of clinical trial success and improve patient outcomes. We are grateful for our investors’ support to continue advancing our platform and therapeutic pipeline as we build out a world-class team at the intersection of technology and clinical neuroscience.”