All posts in “Recent Funding”

GoTrendier raises $3.5 million to take on Spanish-language fashion marketplaces

Thanks to environmentally conscious young buyers, throwaway culture is dying not only in the U.S., but also in Latin America — and startups are poised to jump in with services to help people recycle used clothing.

GoTrendier, a peer-to-peer fashion marketplace operative in Mexico and Colombia, has raised $3.5 million USD to do just that. And investors are eyeing the startup as the digital fashion marketplace growth leader in Spanish-speaking countries. 

GoTrendier, founded by Belén Cabido, is a platform that lets users buy and sell secondhand clothing. Cabido tells me that the new capital will enable GoTrendier to expand deeper into Mexico and Colombia, and launch in a new country: Chile. 

GoTrendier enables users to buy and sell used items through the GoTrendier site and app. The platform categorizes users as either salespeople or buyers. Salespeople create their own stores by uploading photos of garments along with a description and sale price. Buyers browse the platform for deals and once a buyer bites, the seller is given a prepaid shipping label. 

Sound familiar? Businesses like Poshmark and GoTrendier have no actual inventory, which allows the companies to take on less of a risk by having smaller overhead costs. In turn, the company acts as more of a social community for fashion exchanges.

In order to make money, Poshmark takes a flat commission of $2.95 for sales under $15. For anything more than that, the seller keeps 80 percent of their sale and Poshmark takes a 20 percent commission. Poshmark also owes its success to the socially connected shopping experience it created and the audience building features available to sellers — as detailed in this Harvard Business School study. GoTrendier has a similar commission pricing strategy, taking 20 percent off plus an additional nine pesos (about 48 cents in U.S. currency) for all purchases. The service also takes advantage of social media and sharing features to help connect and engage its fashion-loving community. 

But these companies are also largely venture-backed. In the case of GoTrendier, the round gave shareholder entry to Ataria, a Peruvian fund that invests in early-stage tech companies with high earning potential. Existing investors Banco Sabadell and IGNIA reinforced their position, along with Barcelona-based investors Antai Venture Builder, Bonsai Venture Capital and Pedralbes Partners.

GoTrendier amassed a user base of 1.3 million buyers and sellers throughout its four years of existence. The service operates in Mexico and Colombia, and will use its newest capital to launch in Chile — another market Cabido says is experiencing high demand for a secondhand fashion buying and selling service.

Online marketplace companies are growing in Latin America as smartphone adoption and digital banking services multiply in the region. But international expansion has proven to be an issue. Enjoei, a similar fashion marketplace that owns the market share in Brazil, had a botched attempt at expanding to Argentina due to Portugese-Spanish language barriers and eventually determined that Brazil was a large enough market in which to build its business — thus carving out an opportunity for companies like GoTrendier that offer the same services to dominate the surrounding Spanish-speaking markets in Latin America.

Many have remarked that Latin America’s tech scene is filled with copycats — or companies that emulate the business models of American or European startups and bring the same service to their home market. In order to secure bigger foreign investment checks, founders from growing tech regions like Latin America certainly must invent proprietary technologies. Yet there’s still value — and capital — in so-called copycat businesses. Why? Because the users are there and in some cases it’s just easier to start up.

According to investor Sergio Pérez of Sabadell Venture Capital, “The volume of the market for buying and selling second-hand clothes in the world was 360 million transactions in 2017 and is expected to reach 400 million in 2022.” A 2018 report from ThredUp also claimed that the size of the global secondhand market is set to hit $41 billion by 2022. The “throwaway” culture is disappearing thanks to environmentally conscious millennial buyers. As designer Stella McCartney famously said, “The future of fashion is circular – it will be restorative and regenerative by design and the clothes we love never end up as waste.” By buying on GoTrendier, the company claims its users have been able to save USD $12 million and have avoided more than 1,000 tons of CO2 emissions.

Founders building companies in Latin America aren’t necessarily as capital-hungry as Silicon Valley-based founders, (where a Series A can now equate to $68 million, apparently). Cabido tells me her company is able to fulfill operations and marketing needs with a lean staff of 30, noting that there’s a lot of natural demand for buying and selling used clothing in these regions, thus creating organic growth for her business. She wasn’t looking to raise capital, but investors had their eye on her. “[Investors] saw the tension of the marketplace, and we demonstrated that GoTrendier’s user base could be bigger and bigger,” she says. With sights set on new markets like Chile and Peru, Cabido decided to move forward and close the round.  

Poshmark, which benefits from indirect and same-side network effects, has raised $153 million to date from investors like Temasek Holdings, GGV and Menlo Ventures. Just like GoTrendier, Poshmark’s Series A was also a $3.5 million round.

Who’s to say that that amount of capital can’t boost a network effects growth model in Latin America too? The users are certainly waiting. 

Peltarion raises $20M for its AI platform

Peltarion, a Swedish startup founded by former execs from companies like Spotify, Skype, King, TrueCaller and Google, today announced that it has raised a $20 million Series A funding round led by Euclidean Capital, the family office for hedge fund billionaire James Simons. Previous investors FAM and EQT Ventures also participated, and this round brings the company’s total funding to $35 million.

There is obviously no dearth of AI platforms these days. Peltarion focus on what it calls “operational AI.” The service offers an end-to-end platform that lets you do everything from pre-processing your data to building models and putting them into production. All of this runs in the cloud and developers get access to a graphical user interface for building and testing their models. All of this, the company stresses, ensures that Peltarion’s users don’t have to deal with any of the low-level hardware or software and can instead focus on building their models.

“The speed at which AI systems can be built and deployed on the operational platform is orders of magnitude faster compared to the industry standard tools such as TensorFlow and require far fewer people and decreases the level of technical expertise needed,” Luka Crnkovic-Friis, of Peltarion’s CEO and co-founder, tells me. “All this results in more organizations being able to operationalize AI and focusing on solving problems and creating change.”

In a world where businesses have a plethora of choices, though, why use Peltarion over more established players? “Almost all of our clients are worried about lock-in to any single cloud provider,” Crnkovic-Friis said. “They tend to be fine using storage and compute as they are relatively similar across all the providers and moving to another cloud provider is possible. Equally, they are very wary of the higher-level services that AWS, GCP, Azure, and others provide as it means a complete lock-in.”

Peltarion, of course, argues that its platform doesn’t lock in its users and that other platforms take far more AI expertise to produce commercially viable AI services. The company rightly notes that, outside of the tech giants, most companies still struggle with how to use AI at scale. “They are stuck on the starting blocks, held back by two primary barriers to progress: immature patchwork technology and skills shortage,” said Crnkovic-Friis.

The company will use the new funding to expand its development team and its teams working with its community and partners. It’ll also use the new funding for growth initiatives in the U.S. and other markets.

Figma gets $40 million Series C to put design tools in the cloud

With more industries and organizations recognizing design as a pillar of business, a battle is brewing among makers of design tools. And with a fresh $40 million in Series C funding, Figma is ready to fight.

Co-founder and CEO Dylan Field explains that when he and co-founder Evan Wallace started the company, in 2012, IBM employed one designer for every 72 engineers. Today, IBM has eight engineers to every designer, and that ratio goes to 3:1 on mobile.

This shift, which is reflected more broadly across various industries, has led more people within their organizations to want to be involved in the design process. Which means that tools that once “got the job done” for small design teams and individual freelancers working in a silo stopped being useful.

Field saw the need for real-time collaborative design tools, and dropped out of Brown to join the Thiel fellowship to build Figma . Since launch, the company has grown to 1 million sign-ups, with a total of $82.9 million raised on a $440 million post-money valuation.

Figma offers a freemium model, with the product remaining free up to three editors. From there you bump into the Pro tier, which offers unlimited version history and the ability to create a Design System for $15/month/editor. The org tier bundles in an extra layer of security and content control for $45/month/editor.

A big part of what sets Figma apart is its home on the web. Figma allows designers and collaborators to take care of every part of the process — from initial design to collaboration to storage to prototyping — right within a web app.

“We set out to make a cloud version of these traditional design tools,” said Field. “And what we realized is that once you put it all in the cloud, and make it so that the entire workflow across design and storage and prototyping and developer hand-off and version control… once you connect all that, you’re not actually creating all those different products. You’re creating one integrated system.”

Because of this, common design problems like file versioning and real-time collaboration aren’t really an issue for Figma. Designers can work together, or make changes on their own, and those changes are reflected across the file in real time with a complete revision history. To share something new, they can simply send over a link.

Adobe and InVision, the two other big players in the ring, have both built native apps to handle the same full-stack problem of bundling design tools, collaborative prototyping and file versioning. Adobe has addressed its growing competition through its collaborative design tool Adobe XD. InVision, which started as a collaborative prototyping platform in 2011, has either built or bought its products that expand up and downstream in the workflow.

And it seems that, for some big design teams, Figma’s web app has prevailed — which explains why Sequoia partner Andrew Reed changed his mind. Figma actually went to Sequoia when raising their Series B in 2018, and the VC firm passed up the opportunity.

“At the time, the product was interesting but the people we talk to about these products weren’t pointing to Figma as transforming their companies,” said Reed. “Over the past 12 months, things changed. We called people to ask their opinions and people were calling us proactively and telling us how impactful it was in their companies.”

After looking at the data, Reed said he discovered there were Figma users at half of Sequoia’s portfolio companies. He reached out to Field, sent over a cap table in Figma and within a week Figma closed on what could be seen as an opportunistic round, considering how recently Figma picked up its Series B.

But one perk of the deal is Reed’s experience from investing in GitHub, which is a great exemplar for design tool companies looking to bring some level of cohesiveness to a fragmented landscape.

“Collaboration is going to be embedded in the future of software,” said Reed.

Biotech AI startup Sight Diagnostics gets $27.8M to speed up blood tests

Sight Diagnostics, an Israeli medical devices startup that’s using AI technology to speed up blood testing, has closed a  $27.8 million Series C funding round.

The company has built a desktop machine, called OLO, that analyzes cartridges manually loaded with drops of the patient’s blood — performing blood counts in situ.

The new funding is led by VC firm Longliv Ventures, also based in Israel, and a member of the multinational conglomerate CK Hutchison Group.

Sight Diagnostics said it was after strategic investment for the Series C — specifically investors that could contribute to its technological and commercial expansion. And on that front CK Hutchison Group’s portfolio includes more than 14,500 health and beauty stores across Europe and Asia, providing a clear go-to-market route for the company’s OLO blood testing device.

Other strategic investors in the round include Jack Nicklaus II, a healthcare philanthropist and board member of the Nicklaus Children’s Health Care Foundation; Steven Esrick, a healthcare impact investor; and a “major medical equipment manufacturer” — which they’re not naming.

Sight Diagnostics also notes that it’s seeking additional strategic partners who can help it get its device to “major markets throughout the world”.

Commenting in a statement, Yossi Pollak, co-founder and CEO, said: “We sought out groups and individuals who genuinely believe in our mission to improve health for everyone with next-generation diagnostics, and most importantly, who can add significant value beyond financial support. We are already seeing positive traction across Europe and seeking additional strategic partners who can help us deploy OLO to major markets throughout the world.”

The company says it expects that customers across “multiple countries in Europe” will have deployed OLO in actual use this year.

Existing investors OurCrowd, Go Capital, and New Alliance Capital also participated in the Series C. The medtech startup, which was founded back in 2011, has raised more than $50M to date, only disclosing its Series A and B raises last year.

The new funding will be used to further efforts to sell what it bills as its “lab-grade” point-of-care blood diagnostics system, OLO, around the world. Although its initial go-to-market push has focused on Europe — where it has obtained CE Mark registration for OLO (necessary for commercial sale within certain European countries) following a 287-person clinical trial, and went on to launch the device last summer. It’s since signed a distribution agreement for OLO in Italy.

“We have pursued several pilots with potential customers in Europe, specifically in the UK and Italy,” co-founder Danny Levner tells TechCrunch. “In Europe, it is typical for market adoption to begin with pilot studies: Small clinical evaluations that each major customers run at their own facilities, under real-world conditions. This allows users to experience the specific benefits of the technology in their own context. In typical progress, pilot studies are then followed by modest initial orders, and then by broad deployment.”

The funding will also support ongoing regulatory efforts in the U.S., where it’s been conducting a series of trials as part of FDA testing in the hopes of gaining regulatory clearance for OLO. Levner tells us it has now submitted data to the regulator and is waiting for it to be reviewed.

“In December 2018, we completed US clinical trials at three US clinical sites and we are submitting them later this month to the FDA. We are seeking 510(k) FDA clearance for use in US CLIA compliant laboratories, to be followed by a CLIA waiver application that will allow for use at any doctor’s office. We are very pleased with the results of our US trial and we hope to obtain the FDA’s 510(k) clearance within a year’s time,” he says.

“With the current funding, we’re focusing on commercialization in the European market, starting in the UK, Italy and the Nordics,” he adds. “In the US, we’re working to identify new opportunities in oncology and pediatrics.”

Funds will also go on R&D to expand the menu of diagnostic tests the company is able to offer via OLO.

The startup previously told us it envisages developing the device into a platform capable of running a portfolio of blood tests, saying each additional test would be added individually and only after “independent clinical validation”.

The initial test OLO offers is a complete blood count (CBC), with Sight Diagnostics applying machine learning and computer vision technology to digitize and analyze a high resolution photograph of a finger prick’s worth of the patient’s blood on device.

The idea is to offer an alternative to having venous blood drawn and sent away to a lab for analysis — with an OLO-based CBC billed as taking “minutes” to perform, with the startup also claiming it’s simple enough for non-professional to carry out, whereas it says a lab-based blood count can take several days to process and return a result.

On the R&D front, Levner says it sees “enormous potential” for OLO to be used to diagnose blood diseases such as leukemia and sickle cell anemia.

“Also, given the small amount of blood required and the minimally-invasive nature of the test when using finger-prick blood samples, there is an opportunity to use OLO in neonatal screening,” he says. “Accordingly, one of the most important immediate next steps is to tailor the test procedures and algorithms for neonate screening.”

Levner also told us that some of its pilot studies have looked at evaluating “improvements in operator and patient satisfaction”. “Clearly standing out in these studies is the preference for finger-prick-based testing, which OLO provides,” he claims. 

One key point to note: Sight Diagnostics has still yet to publish peer reviewed results of its clinical trials for OLO. Last July it told us it has a publication pending in a peer-reviewed journal.

“With regards to the peer-reviewed publication, we’ve decided to combine the results from the Israel clinical trials with those that we just completed in the US for a more robust publication,” the company says now. “We expect to focus on that publication after we receive FDA approval in the US.”

Medivis has launched its augmented reality platform for surgical planning

After two years of development, Medivis, a New York-based company developing augmented reality data integration and visualization tools for surgeons, is bringing its first product to market.

The company was founded by Osamah Choudhry and Christopher Morley who met as senior residents at NYU Medical Center.

Initially a side-project, the two residents roped in some engineers to help develop their first prototypes and after a stint in NYU’s Summer Launchpad program the two decided to launch the company.

Now, with $2.3 million in financing led by Initialized Capital and partnerships with Dell and Microsoft to supply hardware, the company is launching its first product, called SurgicalAR.

In fact, it was the launch of the HoloLens that really gave Medivis its boost, according to Morley. That technology pointed a way toward what Morley said was one of the dreams for technology in the medical industry.

“The Holy Grail is to be able to holographically render this a,” he said.

For now, Medivis is able to access patient data and represent it visually in a three dimensional model for doctors to refer to as they plan surgeries. That model is mapped back to the patient to give surgeons a plan for how best to approach an operation.

“The interface between medical imaging and surgical utility from it is really where we see a lot of innovation being possible,” says Morley.

So far, Medivis has worked with the University of Pennsylvania and New York University to bring their prototypes into a surgical setting.

The company is integrating some machine learning capabilities to be able to identify the most relevant information from patients’ medical records and diagnostics as they begin to plan the surgical process.

“What we’ve been working on over this time is developing this really disrupt 3D pipeline,” says Morley. “What we have seen is that there is a distinct lack of 3D pipelines to allow people to directly interface… very quickly try to automate the entire rendering process.”

For now, Medivis is elling a touchscreen monitor, display and a headset. The device plugs into a hospital network and extracts medical imaging to display from their servers in about 30 seconds, according to Choudhry.

“That’s where we see this immediately being useful in that pre-surgical planning stage,” Choudhry says. “The use in surgical planning and being able to extend this through surgical navigation.. Streamline the process that requires a large amount of pieces and components and setups so you only need an AR headset to localize pathology and make decisions off of that.”

Already the company has performed 15 surgeries in consultation with the company’s technology.

“When we first met Osamah and Chris, we immediately understood the magnitude of the problem they were out to solve. Medical imaging as it relates to surgical procedures has largely been neglected, leaving patients open to all sorts of complications and general safety issues,” said Eric Woersching, General Partner, Initialized Capital, in a statement. “We took one look at Medivis platform and knew they were poised to transform the operating room. Not only was their hands-free approach to visualization meeting a real need for greater surgical accuracy, but the team has the passion and expertise in the medical field to bring it all to fruition. We couldn’t be more thrilled to welcome Medivis to the Initialized family.”