Last Week In Venture: Saving The Sea With Plastic From Kelp, A New Kind Of B-School, And Keeping Engineering Spirits Bright

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

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Around the country and, indeed, the world, there are countless startups toiling outside the unicorn and public company limelight, building their version of the future. In their stories, we can spot trends and get a glimpse around the corner to see what’s next.

Without further ado, let’s dive into a few of the deals from the week that was in venture-land.

Plastic From Kelp

Earlier this week, Crunchbase News published some findings about the emerging sector of sustainable packaging and plastics. Though we didn’t mention the following company in that particular article, it’s worth pointing out what Loliware is doing.

The New York-based startup is in the business of making biodegradable replacements for single-use plastics, starting with drinking straws. Its straws are not actually made of plastic, but kelp. Kelp a large species of marine algae, underwater forests of which lie just offshore 25 percent of the world’s coastlines.

The company plans to release a line of kelp-based cups, lids, utensils, and other forms of packaging. To help expand the scope and scale of Loliware’s operations, it raised $6 million in seed funding from Closed Loop Partners, Geekdom Fund, New York Ventures, and Hatzimemos / Libby. James Freeman, founder of Blue Bottle Coffee, also participated in the deal.

Give Your Career A Jolt

Business school is a place where you could end up spending a lot of money to learn about how to make a lot of money. And that’s the problem. Lots of people could benefit from learning about the hows and whys of doing business, but most can’t (or don’t want to) pay tens of thousands of dollars for the (often basic) knowledge and (often priceless) network one could obtain in business school.

Based in Tel Aviv, is an education company aiming to change the model of business education. It currently operates campuses in Tel Aviv and London, but it plans to expand to New York City with the help of €12.7 million (approximately $14.1 million USD) in Series A financing announced this week. Balderton Capital led the deal, which saw participation from Octopus Ventures and Hillsven Capital, which, respectively, led prior seed and pre-seed rounds raised by the company.

Jolt offers the bulk of its coursework in subject areas like management and leadership, personal skills and self development, and marketing, sales, and customer success. Its offerings in more technical fields like data, product, and finance are more limited. The company lists its educational offerings in a brochure on its website. According to coverage in TechCrunch, Jolt’s “NAMBA” (Not an MBA) program costs £175 a month (about $228 USD), or £4,500 (a bit over $5,850 USD) in total. For many, that should be an easier bill to swallow than traditional b-school.

Level Up Your Engineering Team

In the tech industry, the “tech” part is built by engineers. In the part of the tech industry Crunchbase News covers most, that typically means software engineers. Keeping an engineering team happy and productive is a prerequisite for long-term success in this industry.

Uplevel is a Seattle-based startup building tools for engineering managers to measure the factors which contribute to technical employees’ morale and output.

According to coverage in GeekWire: “Uplevel’s technology analyzes a variety of channels including messaging platforms like Slack, collaboration tools like Jira, code repositories like GitHub and calendars to analyze how engineers spend their time. The platform spits out insights analyzing whether engineers are stuck in too many meetings, assigned too many tasks at once or don’t have enough focus time.”

Uplevel raised $7.5 million in an outsized seed round which saw participation from Madrona Venture Group, Norwest Venture Partners, and Voyager Capital.

GeekWire reported that Uplevel has 10 companies and over 4,000 engineers onboard its platform. The upstart company has 16 people on the team and is actively hiring for key roles.

And with that we’re done for the week. See you back here soon.

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

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