Startups Venture

Last Week In Venture: Produce-Saving Sachets, Freelance Finance, And A Therapy Marketplace For Kids

Hello and welcome back to Last Week In Venture, the weekly roundup of deals which may have flown under your radar over the past couple of days.

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There are plenty of companies outside the unicorn and public market spotlight, and in their stories we can find current trends and signals of what’s to come.

Without further ado, let’s check out some of the rounds from the week that was in venture-land!

Hazel Technologies

Walk into a grocery store’s produce section and chances are you’ll see an employee stocking the assorted shelves, trays, and baskets with fruits and vegetables. If yours is anything like my local grocer, you’ll notice that store employees sometimes appear to throw away as much produce as they place on the shelves. They do this because the produce spoiled or was damaged along the way.

Chicago-based Hazel Technologies is in the business of reducing produce waste at a key link in the food chain: transporting fruits and veggies from where they’re harvested to a grocer near you. The company has developed little packets which contain 1-Methylcyclopropene (1-MCP) and other compounds which slow the ripening process. It’s developed special formulations for different types of produce, ranging from okra to apricots and avocados. Hazel Technologies says its sachets, when placed into boxes of bulk produce ready to ship, can extend “the shelf-life of produce up to three times.”

This week, the company raised $13 million in a Series B round co-led by Pangaea Ventures and S2G Ventures. Several new investors participated in the round, including The Grantham Foundation and Asahi Kasei Ventures. Returning investors Rhapsody Venture Partners, Serra Ventures, Valley Oak Investments, Climate Impact Capital, ImpactAssets, and others followed on from prior rounds. The company says its round was oversubscribed, and brings the company’s total funding to $17.8 million. Hazel Technologies raised its Series A back in March 2018, and, in 2017, received a $600,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Small Business Innovation Research Program.

Joust

For better and worse, independent contracting is booming, and the topic looms large in discussions about the future of work. Self-employed entrepreneurs, freelancers, and 1099’d “gig workers” have different financial needs than their W-2’d counterparts. Independent contractors have different tax considerations, and may not have consistent income from month to month.

Joust is a financial technology platform built with the unique needs of self-employed professionals and freelancers in mind. This week, the Austin-based venture raised $2.6 million in seed funding. PTB Ventures led the deal, which saw participation from Accion Venture Lab, Financial Venture Studio, and TechStars.

Joust currently features an online bank account integration which sets aside money for tax payments automatically, and a service the company calls PayArmour, which lets Joust users access money owed to them on invoices. Joust’s service is currently available on a pay-what-you-want basis and will be adding features like timekeeping, bookkeeping, and contract management “soon,” according to its website.

Enable My Child

Breaking the fourth wall for a moment: I was one of those kids with sensory issues. Disney World fireworks made me cry. I used an abrasive hand soap because the slippery texture of liquid and bar soaps squicked me out too much. I wore sweatpants almost exclusively until about second grade because the constricting nature of regular pants was just too much for my little brain to process. I grew up into a mostly neurotypical adult with the help of a lot of occupational therapy, and having a supremely patient mom who just so happened to run a pediatric physical, occupational, and speech therapy center. These days, I wash with regular soap, wear regular pants, and can watch a fireworks show without jamming my fingers in my ears. I’m lucky.

Lots of kids need similar support, but not everyone lives near a good therapy center. Based in Astoria, NY, Enable My Child is a provider of teletherapy for kids in need of physical, occupational, speech, or psychotherapy services. The company pairs patients (and their parents) with licensed therapists specializing in pediatrics, and provides a video platform and medical record storage system to facilitate treatment in real-time, remotely over the internet.

Founder and CEO Syed Mohammed dealt “with undiagnosed ADHD and other conditions,” according to a page on the company’s website. “Growing up, I had to work harder than the other kids to keep up but didn’t think much of it. It wasn’t until my thirties that I was diagnosed and learned why some tasks were more difficult than others,” Mohammed said in a statement. “I learned first-hand how transformational therapy can but not until later in life. The earlier children get access to the right services, the more opportunities they have to succeed.”

The company just raised $1.2 million in seed funding to expand its platform, which currently has a network of 100 pediatric therapists, and facilitates billing and scheduling reminders automatically. Dallas-based CMI Ventures led the round.

And with that we’re done for the week. See you all back here on Monday!

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

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