Hello and welcome to Last Week In Venture, a weekly roundup of funding announcements and venture deals that may have flown under your radar this week.
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Over the past week, we’ve covered some of the biggest VC news to hit the wires: $250 million for Southeast Asian ride-hailing giant Grab, $154 million for corporate travel service TripActions, and a large but still-TBD supergiant round for Chinese unicorn coffee chain Luckin Coffee. On the other side of the capitalization table, we covered the most active Brazilian startup investor’s latest (and largest) VC fund, a new early-stage healthcare technology firm, and an electrical utility’s new quarter billion dollar corporate VC fund run by former Intel Capital VP Lisa Lambert. And that’s just a small part of what happened.
It’s easy to miss what companies outside the 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.
Driven To Interact
Humans are hard-wired to enjoy at least some form of interaction with one another. This week, two companies working with vastly different human-computer interaction problems raised fresh funding. One aims to entertain you on the way home from work, while the other hopes to make you and your team more productive while you’re there.
- Consider DriveTime‘s one-line pitch something of a Rorschach test. “Play games while you drive,” they say. No, this company doesn’t squeeze your gaming PC or console setup into a street-legal vehicle. It’s raised $4 million in seed funding to continue development on a voice-driven, hands-free social trivia game you can play with passengers against other drivers. Considering the car is one of the final unconquered frontiers for interactive entertainment (for obvious safety reasons), DriveTime finds itself in an interesting market position but will have to take steps to ensure it doesn’t become just another flash-in-the-pan quiz app.
- Truly seamless realtime collaboration remains a tangled nest of technical and user experience design challenges. One of the latest companies to run with that baton is RealtimeBoard, a Las Vegas-based software company developing realtime collaborative whiteboarding software for mobile, desktop, and Microsoft Surface Hub platforms. On Thursday, the company announced it had raised $25 million in Series A funding led by Accel. The company claims to have two million users worldwide.
Here are a couple of recently-funded companies working on computationally-intensive problems:
- At 28, I am just barely old enough to remember math teachers telling me that I wouldn’t be able to carry a calculator with me all the time. They were right. I don’t carry a calculator. I carry a supercomputer in my back pocket. And one of the more super computing applications out there is Photomath, a mobile app that scans written or typed math problems and then solves them step-by-step in an interactive user interface. The company claims its iOS and Android apps have been downloaded over 100 million times. This week, Photomath raised $6 million in a Series A round led by Goodwater Capital.
- Turning to actual supercomputing for a second, let’s take a look at Scala Computing, which raised $1.5 million in venture funding to grow its secure, scalable high-performance computing (HPC) platform. This lets organizations harness lots of parallel computing power through cloud-based infrastructure, saving organizations the hassle and overhead of building out and maintaining HPC clusters of their own. Its key customers include Stony Brook University, where researchers used the Scala Compute Platform to do “large scale blood platelet modeling in research efforts to help prevent heart attacks,” according to the company’s website.
Behind all of the security cameras, motion sensors, washroom soap dispensers, and other background electronic minutia there are batteries or wires to power them. Not forever, though. Truly wireless, over-the-air power is one of those Jetsons technologies that’s right around the corner. Well, this company can broadcast wireless electricity around corners, and it does so today.
- Wireless power technology company Reach Labs announced that it raised $9 million in a Series A round led by Data Collective. (To read more about its technology, check out the website.) The Monday announcement came roughly one month after the company (which was incorporated as Supply, Inc.) disclosed via a regulatory filing that it has raised $11.28 million out of a targeted $11.52 million in one of its first rounds of outside funding. The filing says that 39 investors have committed capital. The $2.52 million discrepancy between the filing and the announced Series A raise is likely attributable to convertible securities from a pre-Series A financing. Crunchbase News reached out to Reach Labs and Data Collective at the time of the initial filing but didn’t receive comment.
The Latest In AI Assistant Funding
Although the chatbot craze may have cooled down a bit, some more enterprise-focused startups keep getting funded. One of the latest from this week is based across the pond.
- Aiden.ai, a London-based upstart that’s built an AI assistant for marketing teams. Tailored to customer acquisition teams at mobile app companies, Aiden’s solution ingests and analyzes advertising spend and results data to identify ways to maximize return on investment. Partech led Aiden’s €1.4 million ($1.6 million USD) seed round, which saw participation by individual investors including Atomico partner Sophia Bendz and Nicolas Pinto, a deep learning research lead at Apple. This brings the company’s total funding to $2.3 million USD.
And for those of you who made it to the end, a lagniappe: A gif of a chipmunk practicing its Thanksgiving eating technique a couple weeks early. Go nuts this weekend. You’ve earned it. 🌰🐿️