Startups Venture

Last Week In Venture: Watching The Water And Two Ways To Track And Discover The World Of Podcasts

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

It seems like for all but the most intractable problems, there’s a company out there trying to solve it. And there are many startups operating outside the big-company spotlight with stories worth sharing. It’s a chance to look around the corner at what investors are making small bets on today and, by proxy, what the future could look like years from now.

So, without further ado, let’s dive into a few rounds from the week that was in ventureland.

Podcasting pitches draw ears of investors

Hate to break it to you, but “VC Twitter” is so 2018. Everybody’s into podcasting now. Starting ’em, guesting on ’em, sharing their Very Important Insights about them on VC Twitter or in their newsletters, which seemingly everyone has these days.

After some financial success in the sector (like Spotify‘s acquisitions of Anchor and Gimlet Media) venture investors aren’t just interested in making podcast content, they see a business opportunity in the sector.

This week saw a couple of deals struck with podcast-related companies.

Podsights

Based in New York, Podsights is building an advertising platform for the podcasting industry. If you’ve listened to a podcast, you’ve probably heard an ad for something like mattresses or a website builder. Those ads implore listeners to use an offer code on the sponsor’s website at checkout. For many reasons, this is an imperfect system. Podsights seems to be trying to close that loop by integrating with a podcast via what the company calls an “analytics prefix” or “hosting provider’s Tracking URL and the brand’s site via our JavaScript SDK.”

The end result? Giving brands competitive intelligence, reporting on their ad campaigns, and purchase attribution. The company says it cares about privacy, but you have to remember they’re adding what’s tantamount to a tracking pixel into podcasts. Podsights raised $1.5 million in a seed round from Betaworks Ventures, Greycroft, media investors BDMI and Rooks Nest Ventures, and several angel investors.

Podchaser

Louisville, Kentucky-based Podchaser is on the discovery side of the business.

Podcasting is (and hopefully will remain) a mostly decentralized industry riding atop an open protocol: RSS. You can think of podcasts as the web before Yahoo began building its Directory in 1994. That’s kinda what Podchaser is doing: creating what it says is the most comprehensive podcast database in the market. Its website features profiles for creators, and the podcasts they host and appear on. Users can create and share their own curated lists of podcasts.

This week, the company announced $1.65 million in a seed round co-led by High Alpha and Hyde Park Venture Partners. Participating investors included Poplar Ventures, Lunsford Capital and individual angels.

Watching where the water goes

There’s that phrase: “When it rains, it pours.” According to analysis of the Spatial Hazard Events and Losses Database for the United States (SHELDUS, which is maintained by Arizona State University), $107.8 billion “in direct property damage from flooding (73 percent of the national total) was incurred in urban areas, affecting 20,141 urban counties, from 1960 to 2016.”

As climate change threatens to intensify future storms, it’s likely that urban flooding will become more common and potentially more severe in some places. Except for when the system is overloaded or fails entirely, most city dwellers take stormwater infrastructure for granted. But for city engineers, figuring out what to do with stormwater is a full-time job and a huge line item in municipal infrastructure budgets.

Headquartered in Seattle—a famously wet city—StormSensor makes and deploys arrays of sensors to monitor flow through a city’s drainage infrastructure. Beyond just stormwater management, the company touts its offerings as a solution for tracking illegal dumping into city sewer and stormwater pipes, and tracking overflows. In addition to the hardware, StormSensor also developed a cloud-based system which automatically gathers data from sensors in the field and displays that information on dashboards.

StormSensor was founded by Anya Stettler and Erin Rothman in 2015. The company was previously backed by a number of incubator and accelerator programs, including some focused on water and green infrastructure, as well as Techstars. This week, StormSensor picked up an additional $1.4 million in funding from Sophia Fund, a Minneapolis-based investor focused on backing and growing technology businesses founded and led by women. A statement announcing the round said Stettler and Rothman have raised $2.6 million to date for their venture.

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

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