All posts in “TC”

Bowery, an indoor farming startup, raises $90 million more, including to counter a SoftBank-funded rival

When in July of last year, Softbank’s Vision Fund led a whopping $200 million round in the Silicon Valley startup Plenty, investors behind a competing indoor farming startup across the country, New York-based Bowery, were left reeling. Just one month earlier, they’d closed on a round that brought Bowery’s total funding to $31 million. As one of Bowery’s backers told us in the immediate aftermath of Plenty’s enormous round, SoftBank’s involvement “definitely gives you pause.”

Its involvement has not, however, prompted investors to give up. On the contrary, Bowery just today announced that it has raised $90 million in fresh funding led by GV, with participation from Temasek and Almanac Ventures; the company’s Series A investors, General Catalyst and GGV Capital; and numerous of its seed investors, including First Round Capital.

It’s easy to understand investors’ unwavering interest in the company and the space, given the opportunity that Bowery, and Plenty, and hundreds of other indoor farming startups, are chasing. As Bowery outlined in a post this morning, “traditional agriculture uses 700 million pounds of pesticides annually, and fresh food takes weeks” and sometimes longer to land on the dinner table. Along the way, terrible things sometimes happen, including E.coli outbreaks, like the kind recently linked to the sale of romaine lettuce in the U.S.

Meanwhile, Bowery, which is growing crops inside two warehouses in New Jersey can promise people in New York that their bok choy didn’t travel far at all.

Bowery also appears to be gaining the kind of momentum that VCs want to see. According to the company, it started life with five employees three years ago; today its staff has ballooned to 65 people. It has established a distribution partnership with Whole Foods. It has as partnered with sweetgreen, the fast-food chain known for its farm-to-table salad bowls, and Dig Inn, a New York- and Boston-based chain of locally farm-sourced restaurants.

Unsurprisingly, the company says it plans to partner with new retail, food service, and restaurant partners in the new year, too.

Bigger picture, Bowery says it plans to build a “global distributed network of farms” that are connected to each other through a kind of operating system, and that it has already begun work on the first of these outside of the tristate area.

Whether it succeeds in that vision is anyone’s guess at this point. It’s hard to know how big an impact that Bowery, or Plenty (which plans to build 300 indoor farms in or near Chinese cities) or any of its many competitors will ultimately have. But given that we’ll need to feed two billion more people by 2050 without overwhelming the planet, it’s also easy to understand from a humanitarian standpoint why investors might be keen to write these companies big checks. In fact, the rest of us should probably be rooting them on, too.

Tigera raises $30M Series B for its Kubernetes security and compliance platform

Tigera, a startup that offers security and compliance solutions for Kubernetes container deployments, today announced that it has raised a $30 million Series B round led by Insight Partners. Existing investors Madrona, NEA and Wing also participated in this round.

Like everybody in the Kubernetes ecosystem, Tigera is exhibiting at KubeCon this week, so I caught up with the team to talk about the state of the company and its plans for this new raise.

“We are in a very exciting position,” Tigera president and CEO Ratan Tipirneni told me. “All the four public cloud players [AWS, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud and IBM Cloud] have adopted us for their public Kubernetes service. The large Kubernetes distros like Red Hat and Docker are using us.” In addition, the team has signed up other enterprises, often in the healthcare and financial industry, and SaaS players (all of which it isn’t allowed to name) that use its service directly.

The company says that it didn’t need to raise right now. “We didn’t need the money right now, but we had a lot of incoming interest,” Tipirneni said. The company will use the funding to expand its engineering, marketing and customer success teams. In total, it plans to quadruple its sales force. In addition, it plans to set up a large office in Vancouver, Canada, mostly because of the availability of talent there.

In the legacy IT world, security and compliance solutions could rely on the knowledge that the underlying infrastructure was relatively stable. Now, though, with the advent of containers and DevOps, workloads are highly dynamic, but that also makes the challenge of securing them and ensuring compliance with regulations like HIPAA or standards like PCI more complex, too. The promise of Tigera’s solution is that it allows enterprises to ensure compliance by using a zero-trust model that authorizes each service on the network, encrypts all the traffic and enforces the policies the admins have set for their company and needs. All of this data is logged in detail and, if necessary, enterprises can pull it for incident management or forensic analysis. 

Future Family secures a $100M credit line to help more families with fertility care

West Owens, CFO and Claire Tomkins, CEO

West Owens, Future Family CFO, and Claire Tomkins, CEO

Future Family is a startup (and a Disrupt Startup Battlefield alum!) that helps families more easily afford fertility services like IVF and egg freezing. They work with fertility clinics to get the often unpredictable costs set in stone, then cover said costs and convert them into a more approachable monthly payment plan.

But covering those costs up front isn’t cheap, which lead to long waitlists for those looking to Future Family for help. With that in mind, the company has locked in a $100 million credit line to help them power through their waitlist and immediately offer their services to more people.

The capital is coming from Atalaya, a capital management firm that specializes in funding specialty finance companies like Future Family (or Point, a startup that provides capital to home buyers in exchange for equity in the home, in which Atalaya invested $150 million earlier this year.)

So what does this mean? Most immediately, it means that Future Family will be able to clear up its waitlists before moving on to offering same-day approval/financing to new customers.

Claire Tomkins founded Future Family after seeing for herself just how complicated and expensive the fertility care process could be. After spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on the fertility care involved with having her first child, she set out to make it less complicated and more accessible.

This news comes a little less than two months after Future Family raised $10 million in a Series A round. A few weeks before that, the company adjusted its model to work more like a monthly subscription than a loan, allowing additional costs (like genetic testing and travel) to be wrapped in should the need arise.

AI-powered knowledge sharing platform Guru raises $25 million Series B

Guru, the enterprise-focused information sharing platform, has today announced the close of a $25 million Series B funding led by Thrive Capital, with participation from existing investors Emergence Capital, FirstMark Capital, Slack Fund, and Michael Dell’s MSD Capital.

Guru came on to the scene in 2013 with the premise that organizations are not so great at building out informational databases, nor are they very good at using them. So Guru built a Chrome extension that simply sits as a layer on employees’ computers and surfaces the right information whenever asked.

Specifically, this comes in handy for customer service agents and sales people who need to answer questions from people outside of the organization quickly and accurately.

This summer, Guru revamped the platform to incorporate a new feature set called AI Suggest. The feature simply auto-surfaces relevant information as the employee goes about their business, with no searches or inquiries necessary. The company also unveiled two different versions of the feature, text and voice, so that it is still useful when employees are on the phone.

Companies that are sensitive about their information being shared with Guru can customize the level of access given to Guru, including or excluding certain third-party integrations etc., as well as how long information is stored on Guru. No personally identifying information about end-customers is ever stored on the Guru platform.

Over the past couple years, Guru has brought on big-name clients including BuzzFeed, Glossier, Intercom and Thumbtack.

Guru has signed on 200 new clients since the launch of AI Suggest in July, with a total of around 800 companies on the platform, representing thousands of users.

For now, the company is hyper focused on growth.

“We are not profitable yet,” said cofounder and CEO Rick Nucci .” But we’re intentionally focused on growth. What prompted us to raise this round right now is to continue to execute on the momentum of the business.”

Guru has now raised a total of $27.5 million.

Review: Nomad leather AirPod Rugged Case

In my never-ending quest to wrap everything in brown leather, I’m pleased with this AirPod case from Nomad. It’s simple: just a plastic case covered with brown (or black) leather. But I like it.

This will be short.

The Nomad AirPod Rugged Case adds a little character to the sterile AirPod housing. Instead of medical-grade white, the case covers the AirPods in pleasant leather.

The case does two things. One, it makes your AirPod case stand out from the rest, ensuring a friend doesn’t mistake your AirPods for their AirPods. Two, the leather adds nice texture to the case making it a bit easier to grasp.

That’s it. Short. For $29.99, the Nomad AirPod Rugged Case is a lovely upgrade for the AirPods.