Startups Venture

Last Week In Venture: Space Street Sweepers, Egg Sorters, Deep Maps, & Big Data Visualization

Hello and welcome to Last Week In Venture, a weekly roundup of funding announcements that may have flown under your radar.

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The Crunchbase News team has been hard at work covering some of the biggest rounds of the week. Examples include a cool $200 million for ridesharing giant Grab, $80 million for graph database Neo4j, Hashicorp’s unicorn-making Series D, and other rounds raised by Monzo, Molekule, and Coinbase. On the investor side of the table, we covered big new funds from ARCH Venture Partners and True Ventures, and explained why one VC firm moved its HQ from NYC to Austin, TX. And there was so much more beyond even this.

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.

The Space Street Sweeper

There’s a dark side to the boom in micro-satellites. As if this planet wasn’t scary enough these days, allow us to share the following terrifying notion with you.

Kessler syndrome describes a situation where a sufficiently high density of debris in low Earth orbit causes a chain reaction of collisions which results in even smaller shards of space junk hurtling around the earth at thousands of miles an hour. So an eventual escape from this planet (or, like, just launching a satellite) could be even more fraught with risk than before.

Spooky stuff. It’s fitting then that a company like Astroscale announced it raised $50 million in a Series D round on Halloween. Astroscale is developing solutions to sweep space of junk. These missions include a retrieval system for satellites ready to be decommissioned, among others. That program is set to launch in 2020.

Top Of The Food Chain

Here in Last Week In Venture, we’ve highlighted some interesting food deals. But most of those companies were working on food preparation and delivery. (The deal between robotic pizza-making delivery truck company Zume and, reportedly, SoftBank’s Vision Fund, would fit right into that theme.)

This week though, we wanted to focus our attention on a couple of rounds from further up the food supply chain. (If you’re sensitive to topics involving the protein industry, skip this section.)

  • In Ovo is a Dutch company developing a technology that can determine the biological sex of chickens before they hatch. Why does this matter? Because every year, around 3.2 billion (with a “b”) male chicks are killed shortly after hatching because they don’t lay eggs and don’t produce as much meat as female birds. Being able to divert eggs that will develop into male birds before they develop could prevent at least one ethically fraught interaction between humans and animals. The company raised an unspecified amount of money in Series A funding from VisVires New Protein, the venture arm of chemical company Evonik, and Leiden University. The funding will be used to develop a prototype that can that “can rapidly and accurately analyze and sort large quantities of eggs,” according to a statement from VisVires.
  • Clear Labs is a food analytics company. Founded in 2014 and based in Menlo Park, CA, Clear Labs is developing a food safety testing protocol based on gene sequencing to screen for pathogens and authenticate ingredients. On Tuesday, the company announced it had raised $21 million in a Series B round led by Menlo Ventures. Felicis Ventures, Dentsu Ventures, and Khosla Ventures also invested in the round. Clear Labs has raised $45.5 million in known venture funding to date.

Other Interesting Rounds

  • Quid, which ingests, analyzes, and visualizes the connections in complex data, raised $37.5 million in a Series E round this week. The deal was led by REV (the investment arm of LexisNexis), which is apparently still around). Palantir co-founder and political gadfly Peter Thiel, KKR co-founder Henry Kravis, and Salesforce Ventures, among others, participated in the round.
  • DeepMap is a company that helps fleet operators aggregate data to build simulation data and mapping solutions, with an eye on eventually enabling autonomous vehicle technology. The company raised $60 million at a $475 million valuation in a Series B round led by Robert Bosch Venture Capital (RBVC). Andreessen Horowitz, Accel, Nvidia GPU Ventures, and others participated in the deal. DeepMap’s round fits thematically with our prior coverage of companies like Comma and Ghost Automation, which are both aggregating driving and geospatial data from users of free dashcam apps.
  • And finally, proving that hype in the cryptocurrency space may be largely gone but not forgotten, there’s blockchain foundry Dapper Labs. Perhaps most famous for making the blockchain cat-breeding and trading game CryptoKitties, Dapper Labs has raised $15 million in a new round of funding from some big-name investors. According to the company’s initial announcement, the funding will help the Canadian company drive consumer adoption of blockchain technology, and to open a U.S. subsidiary “led by former executives from Unity and Disney.” Venrock (which led the round), Union Square Ventures, GV (formerly Google Ventures), entertainment holding company WndrCo, and Reddit co-founder Steve Huffman, among others, invested in the round.

And for those of you who made it to the end, a lagniappe: We’re all juggling a lot of stuff these days. Here’s to knowing you can adapt even when a lot is up in the air and more gets tossed at you. 🤹

Image Credits: Last Week In Venture graphic created by JD Battles. Photo by Greyson Joralemon on Unsplash