Startups Venture

Last Week In Venture: Weed Bots, Scoot Maps, And The New Sweetness

Hello and welcome back to Last Week In Venture, Crunchbase News’s weekly rundown of venture rounds that may have flown under your radar.

On the tech and venture side, it’s been a bit of a quiet news week, but we on the Crunchbase News team covered 💸 Uber’s plans to raise a billion dollars for its 🧠 self-driving car 🚗 unit, layoffs at scooter unicorn (🛴🦄?) company Bird, the 👵🏼 elder-tech 👴🏾 trend, YC’s SF-bound 🌉 relocation and sudden departure of its president, Sam Altman. We also covered some acquisitions by American Express 💳 and Apple 🍎, as well as an M&A trend in which unicorn companies appear to be acquiring startups earlier in their lifecycle.

This is only part of what we covered, which is, in turn, a small subset of all the stuff that happened last week in venture-land. Let’s dive into the week that was!

Transport Tracking

Shared bikes and scooters wind up in the weirdest places. The big point-to-point transportation platforms, like Uber, Lyft, Bird, Lime, and myriad others know where their hardware is. Cities, as they attempt to track and regulate this emerging form of shared transportation, now have a stake in that knowledge too. Populus is a San Francisco-based company that helps cities monitor shared mobility services, including bikes, scooters, and vehicles, according to its website.

The company’s data and software is used by city planners and transportation officials to ensure compliance with local ordinances and to assess whether platform companies are adequately serving underprivileged communities, among other use cases. Populus also has a data grant program, so researchers can access and analyze new kinds of transportation data. The company raised $3.1 million in a seed round, which was co-led by Relay Ventures and Precursor Ventures. Plug And Play and Castor Ventures participated in the transaction as well.

And Now For Something Sweet

Whether you eat a little or a lot of it, our bodies are programmed to crave sugar. Simple carbohydrates are a form of quick energy. Granulated sugar does more than provide sweetness. For example, in baked goods, it serves as a natural humectant, helping your cakes and cookies hold on to moisture. Though chemists have been able to synthesize sweeteners that are gram-for-gram zillions of times sweeter than sucrose, a speck of sweetener is a poor substitute for a cup of sugar, in many applications.

Nutrition Innovation is a Australia-based company that has developed a process for producing raw sugar, from sugarcane, with a lower glycemic index and more naturally-occurring antioxidants than refined table sugar. Nutrition Innovation branded its product Nucane. The company licenses its technology and processes directly to sugar mills and then facilitates commodity sales to major food and beverage brands. Nutrition Innovation is already working with sugar mills in Australia, Malaysia, and Thailand, according to a press release. Nutrition Innovation raised $5 million in a Series A round led by VisVires New Protein (VVNP), an agriculture and foodtech-focused venture firm.

Other Interesting Rounds From Last Week

  • Kicking off with a bit of agricultural tech, a dash of machine learning, and a dollop of robotics, coming together in a startup called TartanSense. Based in Bangalore, India, the company designs and manufactures small autonomous robots which rove over rows of plants. Its digital camera eye was trained for the task at hand: a no-holds-barred seek-and-destroy mission. The target: weeds. TartanSense’s BrijBot also has an on-board reservoir for herbicide, so, once detected, weeds (and only weeds) get sprayed with autonomous precision. Currently, TartanSense is aiming to gain traction in the cotton-growing industry. To keep developing its tech, the company raised $2 million in seed funding. Omnivore Partners, Blume Ventures, and BEENEXT co-led the deal.
  • Staying in agriculture tech for a sec, there’s been some investment on the other side of the food chain. The fact that, for now, the meat we eat was once walking around in animal form is one many of us choose to ignore (myself included). Until lab-grown meat can accommodate planet-scale protein demand, the process of raising animals for human consumption becomes ever more engineered for efficiency and repeatability. Based in Itchenor, West Sussex, U.K., Breedr is a year-old startup building software for farmers in the meat business. It helps producers track their animals throughout their lifecycle. According to its website, Breedr helps farmers “Know which sires will produce the fastest growing and most profitable offspring,“  as well as monitor growth, health, and time the sale of animals based on when they’re most profitable. LocalGlobe led Breedr’s £2.2 million (roughly USD $2.9 million) seed round, in which a number of individual angel investors also participated.
  • And finally, we’ll close out Last Week In Venture with a company that’s about as far away from the farm as anything could be. In many engineering organizations, the trend is “out with the monolith, in with microservices.” Rather than building software in large, self-contained chunks, some developers are architecting their apps with “microservices” in mind. Meaning: microservices-based systems are composed out of smaller, independent pieces, connected through a service mesh, which are interoperable with the system as a whole. That way, engineers don’t need to disassemble the entire system just to update, say, the event logging functionality, or what have you. San Francisco-based Tetrate raised $12.5 million in a massive seed round to launch and scale its open source software: its Istio network service mesh and distributed proxy service, Envoy. Dell Technologies Capital led the round; Intel Capital, Rain Capital, Samsung NEXT, and 8VC round out the named institutional investors in the deal. Several angel investors participated as well.

And, with that, we’re done for the week. Take care of yourselves.

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

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