Venture

Last Week In Venture: Buying Grains, Zapping Brains, And Hugging Face

Hello and welcome back to Last Week In Venture, the weekly roundup of deals that may have flown under your radar.

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Plenty of ventures are operating outside the unicorn and public company spotlight, but their stories are still worth sharing. In them we find the opportunity to peek around the corner, to see what’s next, and to suss out what’s happening close to the economic metal.

Let’s take a look at some deals from the week that was in venture-land.

Bushel

So let’s say you’re a grain farmer. You’ve got a lot of acreage, a lot of equipment, and, presuming the season ain’t a bust, a lot of grain come harvest time. How are you going to turn that grain into money to pay operating costs and, ultimately, feed your family?

Time was once when you’d harvest your crop, haul it to a grain elevator, and haggle with the buyer there based on prevailing market prices. As you can imagine, that’s a somewhat cumbersome process. A new generation of grain producers, however, are active mobile phone and desktop web users, and they’re looking for better ways to connect with the elevators buying their harvests.

Headquartered in Fargo, North Dakota, Bushel is a startup behind white-labeled mobile and web software that integrates directly with grain elevator operator’s market data and accounting systems, creating a smoother interface between grain buyers and grain producers. Rather than centralizing the exchange on one marketplace platform, like some of its competitors, Bushel spins up branded instances of its platform software based on the particular needs of its grain elevator clientele. This decentralized approach helps Bushel touch over 15 percent of U.S. grain volume.

This week, the company announced $19.5 million in Series B funding led by Continental Grain Company. Germin8 Ventures, Lewis & Clark Ventures, and unnamed others, including prior investors, participated in the round.

Hugging Face

Some people write like robots, and others use robots to help them write. Hugging Face doesn’t make robots per se, but it does make Transformer, an open source framework for natural language processing and text generation, including implementations of OpenAI’s GPT and GPT-2 models. Its framework has received over 19,000 stars on Github at time of writing.

To fund continued scaling and commercialization, the company raised $15 million in Series A financing led by Lux Capital, with participation from Betaworks, Kevin Durant’s Thirty Five Ventures, and A.Capital Ventures, alongside OpenAI CTO Greg Brockman and MetaMind CEO Richard Socher.

Humm

Your brain is a wrinkly mass of fat and protein, sparkling with electricity. Add a little more electrical stimulation to the mix, and get a better memory. Or so suggests Humm Technologies, makers of a forehead-applied patch which it claims enhances working memory.

According to coverage in TechCrunch, the company conducted its own study of 40 people and found that working memory was improved by 20 percent in specific types of memory tests, as compared to a control group. To commercialize its brain-zapping headbands, the company raised $2.6 million in seed funding led by BlueYard Capital. CRCM Ventures and Berkeley SkyDeck Fund participated in the deal.

And with that we’re done for the week! For those traveling for the holidays, enjoy and be safe!

Image Credits: Last Week In Venture graphic created by JD Battles. Photo by David Clode, via Unsplash.

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