Startups Venture

Last Week In Venture: Sky Watchers, Afro-Beat Streaming, And Gene Data Privacy

Hello and, after the briefest of hiatuses, welcome back to Last Week In Venture, the weekly rundown of venture rounds that may have flown under your radar.

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Before getting to those, though, here’s some of the stuff we did write about. On Thursday, all eyes were on Uber’s S-1 filing, and we covered who owns what and what the numbers show about the health of its business. Earlier, we covered lexical innovations in startup terminology, IPO pricing news from Pinterest, PagerDuty, and Zoom, and big new rounds raised by the likes of Lemonade and Klook.

On Monday we published our quarterly VC report, and even more supplementary charts that suggest a downturn, or at least a reversion to the mean. The market still seems healthy, even if it’s not at the fever-pitch pace of prior quarters.

It’s been a heck of a week, and we only scratched the surface of all the news in the world of VC and startups. There are a lot of companies outside the spotlight that are raising cash to solve problems and grow their business.

Let’s take a look at what you may have missed in the week that was in ventureland!

The Booming African Music Market

Based in Lagos, Nigeria, Boomplay is the fastest-growing music streaming service in the pan-African market, and it’s co-owned by two Chinese companies. One corporate parent is Transsion Holdings, which, with nearly 35 percent of the broader African smartphone market, leads the space. The other is NetEase, a China-based internet conglomerate with a music streaming service that serves over 400 million Chinese customers. The opportunity they’re collectively chasing: an increasingly online continent of over a billion people with diverse musical preferences, and the chance to build a unique catalog of tracks.

“In Europe or elsewhere in the world, Spotify or Apple music can sign with Universal and they’ll have access to a lot of their artists. But in Africa, a lot of artists work on their own or with labels that have just one or two artists,” said Phil Choi, Boomplay’s head of international content acquisition, in an interview with Quartz Africa. Continuing, “[At] the moment there isn’t a big label [structure] that represents a lot of artists so for Spotify or Apple Music to have the kind of African catalog that we have, they will need to go for a long period of time through discussing agreements with many individual artists.”

This week, Boomplay announced it raised $20 million in Series A funding from Seas Capital and Cayman Islands-domiciled Maison Capital. TechCrunch reports that the capital will be used to scale its customer base and track catalog in more sub-Saharan countries. 42 million people use the service every month, and the company says it is adding two million new users per month.

Whatever The Weather, Knowing It Matters

A lot of places are defined by “microclimates.” Don’t like the weather in San Francisco? Walk about a dozen blocks in any direction. Lake Michigan blankets Chicago in cooler air in the summer, and warmer air in the winter. In general, it’s milder in the valleys than it is in the mountains.

This is all to say that the only proper follow up to “What’s the weather?” is “Where, specifically?” Boston-based ClimaCell is in the business of tracking and forecasting low-altitude “microweather” with high precision. The company integrates data from a number of sources, including traditional sensors and wireless networks. This week, ClimaCell closed $7 million in a Series C round led by Japanese telecoms conglomerate SoftBank. (Note that this was not a deal from the SoftBank Vision Fund, which typically invests in rounds of $100 million or more.)

Weather presents a public safety risk and affects up to $3 trillion (with a T) of the U.S. economy, according to the company. With climate change pushing weather to ever-farther extremes, demand for greater certainty about the immediate future is likely to grow going forward.

Other Interesting Rounds

  • To bring about a future of personalized medicine, researchers and drug discoverers will need access to a lot of genetic data. Cambridge, U.K.-based Sano Genetics (formerly known as Heterogeneous) aims to enable large-scale genetic research while protecting the privacy and underlying data of genetic material donors. People are able to opt their data out of use in specific types of tests. In turn, people receive copies of the research reports their genetic data enabled. Sano Genetics closed £500,000 in seed funding from University of Cambridge Enterprise and a number of individual investors.
  • The coordination game is a pain to play. Scheduling, like death and taxes, is unavoidable, and it only gets more complicated when there’s multiple people involved. Based in Boston, Robin streamlines scheduling for open-plan offices (and all the resources within them). The company raised $18 million in a Series B round from unspecified investors.
  • Berkeley, CA-based life sciences upstart Fauna Bio raised $4.1 million in a seed round led by True Ventures; The Longevity Fund, among others, participated in the deal. Fauna Bio intends to use the science of hibernation to improve human healthcare. According to the press release for the round, “The first version of Fauna Bio’s drug-discovery platform focuses on hibernating mammals, a particularly attractive opportunity for adaptation-inspired therapeutics. Hibernating animals have natural adaptations, providing insights into critical human health problems such as Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease, osteoporosis, obesity/diabetes and traumatic injury.” That restorative snooze may be the ticket to better healthcare.

And with that, we’re done for the week! Here’s hoping the first taste of springtime weather finds its way to you. 🌺🏵️🌼🌸

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

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