Hello, and welcome back to Last Week In Venture, the weekly rundown of deals that may have flown under your radar.
There are plenty of companies operating outside the unicorn and public company spotlight, but that doesn’t mean their stories aren’t worth sharing. They offer a peek around the corner at what’s coming next, and what investors today are placing bets on.
Without further ado, let’s check out a few rounds from the week that was in venture land.
Be My Eyes
I don’t know how you’re reading this, but you are. Most of us read with our eyes, but some read with their ears or their fingers. Blind people frequently have options when it comes to reading, but there’s more to life than just reading.
Imagine going to a grocery store and stepping up to the bakery counter. You might be able to read a label with your eyes, but if there’s no label you could still probably figure out what type bread you’re buying based on its color and shape. But what if you couldn’t see (or see well)? What are you going to do, touch all the bread to figure out its size and shape? Get real down low and smell ’em all? (Which, for the record, sounds lovely, if a little unhygienic.)
You’d probably ask someone who can see for some help. That’s the kind of interaction a service like Be My Eyes facilitates. Headquartered in San Francisco, the startup founded in 2014 connects blind people and people with low vision to sighted volunteers over on-demand remote video calls facilitated through the company’s mobile applications for Android and iOS. The sighted person can see what’s going on, and offer real time support for the person who can’t see.
The company announced this week that it raised $2.8 million in a Series A funding round led by Cultivation Capital. In 2018, Be My Eyes launched a feature called “Specialized Help,” which connects blind and low-vision people to service representatives at companies. Microsoft, Google, Lloyds Banking Group and Procter & Gamble are among the companies enrolled in the program.
Be My Eyes initially launched as an all-volunteer effort. The company says it has a community of more than 3.5 million sighted volunteers helping almost 200,000 visually impaired people worldwide. According to Crunchbase data, the company has raised over $5.3 million in combined equity and grant funding.
The environment is, like, super important. It’s the air we breathe and the water we drink. Regardless of your opinion on environmental regulations, most come from a good place: Ensuring the long-term sustainability of life on a planet with finite resources by putting a check on destructive activity. Where there’s regulation, there’s a need to comply with it, and compliance can be kind of a drag. There is a lot of paperwork to do.
Wildnote is a company based in San Luis Obispo, California. It’s in the business of environmental data collection, management and reporting using its eponymous mobile application and web platform. Field researchers and compliance professionals can capture and record information (including photos) on-site using either standard reporting forms or their own custom workflows. The company’s data platform also features export capabilities, which produce PDFs or raw datasets in multiple formats.
The company announced $1.35 million in seed funding from Entrada Ventures and HG Ventures, the corporate venture arm of The Heritage Group. Wildnote was part of the 2019 cohort of The Heritage Group’s accelerator program, produced in collaboration with Techstars, which aimed to assist startups working on problems from “legacy industries” like infrastructure, materials and environmental services.
Encryption uses math to transform information humans and machines can read and understand into information that we can’t. Encrypted data can be decrypted by those in possession of a cryptographic key. To everyone else, encrypted data is just textual gobbledegook.
The thing is, to computers, encrypted data is also textual gobbledegook. Computer scientists and cryptographers have long been looking for a way to work with encrypted data without needing to decrypt it in the process. Homomorphic encryption has been a subject of academic research and corporate research and development labs for years, but it appears a commercial homomorphic encryption product has hit the market, and the company behind it is raising money to grow.
The company we’re talking about here is Enveil. Headquartered in Fulton, Maryland, the company makes software it calls ZeroReveal. Its ZeroReveal Search product allows customers to encrypt and store data while also enabling users to perform searches directly against ciphertext data, meaning that data stays secure. Its ZeroReveal Compute Fabric offers client- and server-side applications which let enterprises securely operate on encrypted data stored on premises, in a large commercial cloud computing platform, or obtained from third parties.
Enveil raised $10 million in its Series A round, which was led by C5 Capital. Participating investors include 1843 Capital, Capital One Growth Ventures, MasterCard and Bloomberg Beta. The company was founded in 2014 by Ellison Anne Williams and has raised a total of $15 million; prior investors include cybersecurity incubator DataTribe and In-Q-Tel, the nonprofit venture investment arm of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency.
Image Credits: Last Week In Venture graphic created by JD Battles. Photo by Daniil Kuzelev, via Unsplash.