Hello and welcome to Last Week In Venture, Crunchbase News’s weekly roundup of venture deals that may have flown under your radar.
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For being so close to the holidays, this week was chock full of late-breaking venture news. The Crunchbase News crew covered supergiant rounds raised by Vroom, Plaid, Minted, Niantic, and Faire. We chronicled the continuing saga of Grab’s extended Series H round, a software stack-tracking M&A deal, and a deep dive into seed-stage robotics companies. It’s hard to believe that Uber and Lyft filed draft paperwork with the SEC only a week ago, after about a decade of private competition. A lot is happening.
With so much news lately, it’s easy to miss what companies outside the unicorn spotlight are contributing to the global startup ecosystem. But that doesn’t mean their stories aren’t worth sharing.
Let’s dive into the week that was in venture-land!
A Bevy Of Beverage Deals
The $200 million Chinese cafe chain Luckin Coffee raised this week piqued our thirst for more interesting venture deals in the beverage space, and this week they came flooding in. Here are some of the highlights:
- Drizly. Have you ever wanted to have a drink or two but can’t be bothered to leave the house to buy some booze? For total shut-ins and spontaneous lushes alike, there are services like Drizly, which let you get alcohol delivered to your house. The capital-thirsty online liquor store guzzled down $34.5 million in Series C funding led by hedge fund Tiger Global Management; Polaris Partners participated in the deal.
- Zest Tea. For those of you who prefer their not-for-kids drinks to be more on the stimulating side, there’s high-caffeine tea maker Zest Tea. The Baltimore-based beverage company brewed up a million-dollar seed round from the Maryland Momentum Fund, a venture-focused investment vehicle operated by the University System of Maryland (USM). The Lord Baltimore Capital Group and unnamed individual investors participated, according to a USM announcement.
- Roar Organic. Vegan, low-calorie, low-sugar, electrolyte-infused drink-maker Roar Organic raised $5.6 million in venture funding from NY-based food VC fund AccelFoods this week. (For the record, AccelFoods doesn’t appear to have any connection to the other, CA-HQ’d Accel). Breaking the fourth wall for a sec: In the last week, I’ve seen these in airport shops in New York, a grocery store in suburban Chicago, and a couple of D.C. convenience stores. It seems to be everywhere all of a sudden.
Bring Your Own Grid
While part of the world enjoys the privilege of omnipresent access to electricity and (mostly) stable cellular networks that keep us connected at all times, other parts of the world are still getting there.
BuffaloGrid is a London-based company behind a single, portable hardware solution for business owners in rural parts of developing countries to grow revenues and increase foot traffic. The company announced €3.8 million in new funding, led by LocalGlobe, to scale up. The company says it’s currently focused on bringing “its solar-powered mobile charging technology to the 1.9 million villages without power [across] India, giving over 240 million Indians access to free mobile phone charging in local stores.”
The BuffaloGrid Hub combines a solar charging panel, a high-capacity battery, enough ports to charge up to 28 phones at once, and, critically, network connectivity to facilitate mobile payments through SMS or its integration with Paytm.
A Home Away From Home
In the real estate business, a brand new apartment building brings a lot of rental inventory online all at once.
Washington, D.C.-based WhyHotel is a startup that helps new buildings generate revenue during the interstitial period between opening and full occupancy. How? By turning unrented apartment units into rooms in a pop-up hotel, temporarily operated out of the new building. The company raised $10 million in Series A funding this week, just six months after closing a $3.9 million seed round this past June.
WhyHotel currently operates out of Washington, D.C., Baltimore, and Arlington, VA. The company’s website says it is currently expanding across the U.S.
Other Interesting Deals
- As more people opt to work remotely, there’s an opportunity to start new community-driven spaces for people to get stuff done with like-minded folks. The Riveter is “a membership workspace and community platform for women and allies” with multiple locations in Seattle and Los Angeles. The company secured $15 million in Series A funding this week, bringing its total funds raised to over $20 million. The Riveter plans to open more locations nationwide.
- Back in September, we spotted and wrote about an SEC filing indicating that a company called Solo.io had raised around $11.35 million, likely led by either Redpoint or True Ventures, based on the composition of its board. This week, the cloud back-end infrastructure company made it official by announcing an $11 million Series A round. The deal was led by Redpoint; True Ventures participated in the deal.
- Ever see behind-the-scenes footage featuring an actor with bright white foam balls or stickers all over his body? That’s motion-capture tech at work, before all the visual effects are laid down. Wandelbots is a German startup in the industry, but instead of capturing an actor’s expressions for the silver screen, Wandelbots wants to help train industrial robotic systems to perform a set of actions, all without writing a line of code. One demonstration video shows someone using the technology to control a robot while wearing a hooded sweatshirt kitted out with LEDs at the joints. This week the company announced €6 million in Series A funding, co-led by EQT Ventures and Paua Ventures.
Image Credits: Last Week In Venture graphic created by JD Battles.