All posts in “Recent Funding”

Zetwerk, an 18-month-old Indian B2B marketplace for manufacturing items, raises $32M

Zetwerk, an Indian business-to-business marketplace for manufacturing items, has closed a significantly large financing round as it scales its operations in the nation and also helps local businesses find customers overseas.

The 18-month-old startup said on Wednesday it has raised $32 million in a Series B financing round led by Lightspeed and Greenoaks Capital. Zetwerk co-founder and chief executive Amrit Acharya told TechCrunch in an interview that the startup has also raised about $14.2 million in debt from a consortium of banks, and others.

Existing investors Accel, Sequoia India and Kae Capital also participated in the round, which pushes the Bangalore-based startup’s total raise to date to about $41 million. Vaibhav Gupta, co-founder of business-to-business marketplace Udaan, and Maninder Gulati, one of the top executives at budget lodging startup Oyo also participated.

Zetwerk was founded by Acharya, Srinath Ramakkrushnan, Rahul Sharma and Vishal Chaudhary last year. The startup connects OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) and EPC (engineering procurement construction) customers with manufacturing small-businesses and enterprises.

Unlike the more common e-commerce firms we come across every day, Zetwerk sells goods such as parts of a crane, doors, chassis of different machines and ladders. The startup operates to serve customers in fabrication, machining, casting and forging businesses. Currently, Zetwerk works with more than 100 enterprises and 1,500 small and medium-sized businesses. It delivers more than 15,000 parts each month.

“These are all custom-made products,” explained Acharya. “Nobody has a stock of such inventories. You get the order, you find manufacturers and workshops that make them. Our customers are companies that are in the business of building infrastructure.”

“We index these small workshops and understand the kinds of products they have built before. These indexes help bigger companies discover and work with them,” he added.

Once a firm has placed an order, Zetwerk allows them to keep a tab on the progress of manufacturing and then the shipping. This “hand-holding” is crucial, as in this line of business, manufacturing and shipping typically take more than two to three months.

Zetwerk has also enabled manufacturers in India to discover and find clients overseas. Today, manufacturers on the platform export their goods to North America and Southeast Asia, Acharya said. “India has a lot of depth in manufacturing, but much of it has not been tapped well,” he said.

Helping these manufacturing workshops find clients online is still a new phenomenon in the nation. Acharya said Zetwerk largely competes with domain project consultants in the offline work. “They specialize in certain products and geographies. So let’s say someone wanted to buy a machine XYZ in Orissa, they reach out to consultants who help them find workshops and estimate how much time it would take to get the project done.”

According to industry reports, manufacturing today accounts for 14% of India’s GDP. But the nation lacks a supporting ecosystem to execute projects in an efficient manner.

Vaibhav Agarwal, a partner at Lightspeed, said it was unusual to come across a market that is as large as $40 billion to $60 billion in India and global trade-tailwinds that creates opportunity to serve international demand.

The startup plans to infuse portions of the fresh capital into expanding its international operations. Acharya did not share exactly how many clients it has outside of India but said exports currently account for less than 5% of the startup’s GMV, or gross merchandize value.

He said the startup will continue to focus on helping Indian manufacturers find clients outside, as it is better suited to address this, as opposed to helping Indian companies find manufacturers overseas.

The startup will also explore helping its manufacturing workshops access working capital, though Acharya cautioned that it is not something that would happen anytime soon.

In a statement, Prayank Swaroop, a partner at Accel, said, “the use of technology in project planning, procurement, audits, and supply chain transparency is the core offering of Zetwerk which is completely original. Accel is very fortunate to be part of Zetwerk journey since the startup’s inception.”

Baby food delivery startup Yumi spoon fed another $8M in strategic funding

Babies have options these days when it comes to what goes in their mouths. No more is it just the standard mush in a jar. Now they’ve got everything from pouches to organic purees delivered right to their parents’ door — and Yumi is one of several startups cashing in.

The company has just announced that it raised another $8 million from several of Silicon Valley’s household names, including Allbirds, Warby Parker, Harry’s, Sweetgreen, SoulCycle, Uber, Casper and the CEO of Blue Bottle Coffee, James Freeman. That puts the total raised now to $12.1 million.

But it’s a tough and saturated market full of products all vying for mom and dad’s attention, and that’s not a lot of cash to go on, compared to the billion-dollar industry Yumi is up against. According to Zion Market Research, the global baby food market could reach as much as $76 billion by 2021. However, you wouldn’t know Yumi was up against such odds if you ask them and their financial supporters.

The advantage, according to the company, is in providing fresh food alternatives, and that “shelf-stable” competitors like Gerber lack key nutrients parents want for their little ones.

“Our goal is to change the standards for childhood nutrition, and completely upend what it means to be a food brand in America,” Yumi co-founder and CEO Angela Sutherland said. “This group of visionary leaders have all redefined their categories and now we have the opportunity to work together to reimagine early-age nutrition for the next generation.”

Will that bet pay off and help this startup stand out? Sales continue to rise and have risen by 10 times in the last year, according to the company — we’ve asked but don’t know what those sales numbers are, unfortunately. However, Yumi’s bet on fresh and delivered could prove to be just what parents want as the company continues to grow.

“As a parent, Yumi’s mission immediately resonated,” said co-founder and co-CEO of Warby Parker Neil Blumenthal . “As we’ve seen at Warby Parker, and now at Yumi, there is a massive shift happening in the world of retail. There’s now a new generation of consumers who are actively seeking brands that reflect their values and lifestyle — the moat that big, legacy brands once enjoyed has evaporated.”

Investors find a spot for $65 million in Passport’s parking management tech

The big new round of funding for Passport’s ticketing and parking management tech proves that software can even disrupt something as mundane and seemingly low-tech as the parking lot.

The startup, which just raised $65 million in new financing from investors, is a permitting, parking and ticketing management service for cities, office parks and campuses.

The capital commitment more than doubles the North Carolina-based startup’s funding to $125 million and is actually the second big investment round of the year for a parking tech company. SpotHero, the Chicago-based marketplace for parking, raised $50 million earlier in the year, and other services related to auto care and servicing in parking lots or on-demand have raised tens of millions of dollars as well.

“In the future, almost everyone in the world will live in a city, so there’s no more important challenge to work on than how people move throughout communities and transact with cities,” said Bob Youakim, Passport co-founder and chief executive, in a statement. “We envision a world where mobility is seamless. To bring this vision to life, we are creating an open ecosystem where any entity — a connected or autonomous vehicle, a mapping app, or a parking app — can leverage our transactional infrastructure to facilitate digital parking payments.”

Passport’s application interfaces allow any government to set up electronic payments for parking tickets and with mobile readers can scan licenses to check for permits and approvals that car owners have through the company’s management service.

With the close of the new round, Habib Kairouz from Rho Capital Partners and Scott Hilleboe from H.I.G. will both take seats on the company’s board of directors.

The company processes more than 100 million transactions per year and will see $1.5 billion pass through its system this year.

Airbnb invests as Zeus corporate housing raises $55M at $205M

As Airbnb absorbs more and more of the demand for housing, it’s exploring how to monetize opportunities beyond vacation rentals. A marketplace for longer term corporate housing could be a huge business, but rather than build that itself, Airbnb is making a strategic investment in one of the market leaders called Zeus Living and will list its homes on the Airbnb site.

In just four years of redecorating landlords’ homes and renting them for 30+ day stays to relocated workers, Zeus Living has grown to a $100 million revenue run rate. It grew revenue 300% in 2019, and now has 250 employees and over 2000 homes under management. Zeus make money by charging landlords one free month of usage, and marking up the rent charged to customers. It could rent out a $4,000 per month home for $5,000 plus take the extra month to earn $16,000 in a year.

Zeus CEO and co-founder Kulveer Taggar tells me “I fundamentally believe that a lot of human potential is bound by location. At Zeus, we’re deeply committed to making it easier for people to live where opportunity takes them.” It’s already hosted 27,000 residents for a total of 650,000 nights.

Strong margins, swift momentum, and that megatrend of more mobile workforces have earned Zeus Living a new $55 million Series B round it’s announcing today. The funding comes from Airbnb, Comcast, CEAS Investments, and TI Platform Management, plus existing investors Alumni Ventures Group, Initialized Capital, NFX, and Spike Ventures. The funding comes at a $205 million post-money valuation.

“The opportunity here is huge, consumer spend is going toward housing and everyone needs to stay somewhere. But it’s Kulveer and Zeus’s go-to-market strategy that is impressive” says Initialized co-founder and managing partner Garry Tan. “Zeus decided to start with corporate rentals, which we believe is the best go-to-market since it is the highest margin, and capital efficiency wins in a space with many competitors. Corporate needs are longer term, consistent and predictable, and partnering with Airbnb strengthens this approach as they expand to build a platform for every city.”

Zeus co-founder and CEO Kulveer Taggar

Zeus had previously raised a $2.5 million seed and then an $11.5 million Series A led by Initialized, as well as $10 million in debt to cover taking on properties in the San Francisco Bay, Los Angeles, New York, Seattle, and D.C. Now that it’s scaling up, Zeus could add a sizable debt facility to cover the risk of filling apartments with employees from clients like Brex, Disney, ServiceTitan, and Samsara.

Instead of moving into a bland corporate housing block, struggling to find a place themselves, or ending up in expensive long-term Airbnbs, workers moving to new cities can work with Zeus. It takes over apartments, handles maintenance, and fills them with branded comforts like Parachute bedding and Helix mattresses Zeus gets at bulk rates. The startup is betting that as workers move between jobs and cities more frequently, fewer will own furniture and instead look for furnished homes like Zeus offers.

Thanks to the premium stay it offers, Zeus charge can clients a lucrative rates while Taggar claims his service is still about half the price of standard corporate housing. For property owners, Zeus makes it easy to get a consistent rent paycheck with none of the traditional landlord work. Zeus takes care of cleaning and key exchanges so owners don’t need to do any chores like if they were running an Airbnb. Its goal is to get the first renters in within 10 days of taking on a property.

The new funding will help Zeus expand to more neighborhoods and cities while retaining a focus on breadth within each market so clients have plenty of homes to pick from. The startup will be revamping its booking and invoicing tools for enterprise partners, and improving how it sources real estate. Meanwhile it will be investing in customer care to maintain its high 70s NPS scores so relocated workers brag to their colleagues about how nice their new place is.

“Finding housing is stressful and time-consuming for both individuals and employers. As someone who has moved countries four times, I’ve lived through that tension” says Taggar. Zeus Living has built technology to remove complexity from housing, turning it into a service that enables a more mobile world.”

Taggar had gotten into the real estate business early, remortgaging his mom’s house to buy a condo in Mumbai to rent out. After moving to the US, he built and sold Y Combinator-backed auction tool Auctomatic with co-founder and future Stripe starter Patrick Collison. It was while working on NFC-triggered task launcher Tagstand that Taggar recognized the hassle of both finding new corporate housing and reliably renting out one’s home. With Uber, Stripe, and more startups growing huge by simplifying processes that move a lot of money around, he was inspired to do the same with Zeus Living.

“Modern professionals travel more frequently, stay longer, and seek accommodations that feel like home. As more companies look to Airbnb for Work for extended-stay and relocation solutions, this segment remains a key focus for Airbnb,” says David Holyoke, Global Head of Airbnb For Work. “We have great alignment with the Airbnb team in terms of serving the changing needs of business travelers that want the comforts of home when traveling for extended 30-day stays for work or a project” Taggar follows.

Zeus Living’s co-founders

Zeus’ biggest threat is that it could get overextended, misjudge demand, and end up on the hook to pay rent for two-year leases it can’t fill. And now with more funding, there will be added scrutiny regarding its margins, especially in the wake of the WeWork implosion.

Taggar recognizes these threats. “This is a business where we have to be focused on maximizing the gross profit we generate for the investments we make, with the least amount of risk. At Zeus Living, we’re continuously improving the ways we predict and secure demand.” He’s also building out teams on the ground in different markets to ensure regulatory compliance and push for more conducive laws around 30+ day rental stays.

Property tech has become a heated space, though, so Zeus will have heavy competition. There are traditional corporate housing providers, pure marketplaces that don’t deal with logistics, and direct competitors like $66 million-funded Domio, and juggernaut Sonder which has raised a whopping $360 million. Zeus might also see its model copied abroad before it can get there.

At least with Airbnb as an investor, Zeus won’t have to fear a bitter battle with the tech giant over corporate housing. Instead, Airbnb could keep investing to coin off this adjacent market while listing Zeus properties, or potentially acquired the startup one day. For now though, Taggar just wants to prove startups can be accountable in the real world, acknowledging that taking over people’s homes is “a lot of responsibility! Our homes represent hundreds of millions of dollars of assets we manage and we take that very seriously.”

Reelgood raises $6.75 million for its universal streaming guide

Streaming aggregator Reelgood capitalized on the overabundance of streaming services available today by offering consumers a universal dashboard where you can track what you’re watching and discover your next binge. It then translated the activity from its over 10 million users into data it licenses to major companies, including Roku, Microsoft, smart TV makers, NYPost, and even hedge funds. Now the company has closed on $6.75 million in Series A funding to continue to grow its data business.

The round was led by Runa Capital and includes participation from Reelgood’s seed round investor, August Capital. To date, Reelgood has raised $11 million.

The company’s app to some extent competes with those designed to help you keep track of the episodes you’ve watched across streaming services and TV, like TV Time, iTV, JustWatch, and others. But Reelgood’s service stands out for its breadth of catalog — it tracks both movies and TV across some 336 streaming services, the website says. This includes free services like Tubi, Crackle and those from TV networks, plus authenticated “TV Everywhere” services for pay-TV subscribers, and subscription services like Netflix, Hulu, HBO, Amazon Prime, and others. It can also help you compare prices on rental options.

And its robust search and filtering features can help you find titles that are new, coming or leaving services, or by any other filter — like genre, year, Rotten Tomatoes rating, IMDB score and more. The more you use and personalize the service, the better its suggestions for what to watch next then become.

Once you find something to watch, you just press play to launch the streaming service’s app or website.

The work involved in making a simple concept — a universal dashboard for streaming — is fairly complex, Reelgood says.

“Putting together these streaming service libraries involves ingesting massive and unstructured amounts of data from hundreds of different sources for real-time matching and combination using machine learning and human curators,” noted Reelgood’s Head of Data, Pablo Lucio Paredes.

Reelgood also touts the quality of its data (averaging 98% across all 300+ services), which it then licenses to publishers, search engines, media players, TVs, voice assistants, and other smart devices. Currently, the company has around 50 business customers who pay either for the raw data, the insights or both.

Roku, for example, uses Reelgood’s data for its own universal search feature. NYPost displays streaming availability data on their articles via a widget. Hedge funds look at the data to better understand consumer behavior in streaming services and the movement of content between catalogs.

This year, Reelgood hired Nielsen’s former SVP of global measurement, Mark Green, to lead its B2B data licensing business, called Reelgood Insights.

“I sought out and joined Reelgood because they are poised to capture the billions in revenue spent on viewership data as viewing continues to shift towards OTT,” said Green.

The additional funding will be used to expand the number of platforms where Reelgood is offered, including on a range of smart TVs through partnerships. The company has signed five smart TV deals with major brands that will begin to roll out in 2020, but LG is the only name Reelgood can currently disclose.

Reelgood is headquartered in San Francisco. It has 18 employees, both local and remote, and is hiring across a number of roles.