Virtual events platform Airmeet raises $12M

Airmeet, a startup that offers a platform to host virtual events, said on Tuesday it has raised $ 12 million in a new financing round as the Bangalore-headquartered firm demonstrates accelerating growth in its user base.

Sequoia Capital India led the $ 12 million Series A financing round in one-year-old Airmeet. Redpoint Ventures and existing investors Accel India, Venture Highway, Global Founders Capital (GFC) and Gokul Rajaram (Caviar Lead at DoorDash) also participated in the round.

The new round values Airmeet at about $ 50 million, more than double of what it was valued in March, when it raised $ 3 million, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Airmeet allows users and businesses to host interactive virtual events. Its platform intuitively replicates aspects of a physical event, offering a backstage, grouping people to a table, allowing participants to network with each other and even enabling event organizers to work with sponsors. Airmeet, currently in public beta, is available through a freemium model where it charges businesses based on their usage.

In an interview with TechCrunch, Lalit Mangal, co-founder of Airmeet, said the usage on the platform has grown 2,000% over the last quarter without any investment in advertisement, he said.

In recent months, Airmeet has worked to expand the use cases of the platform. In addition to hosting large conferences, Airmeet is now also being used for professional meetups at large film festivals, he said. Recently it held university resource fairs and technical industry summits.

“Covid-19 has accelerated a permanent behavioral shift across many industries. With digitization of largely traditional spaces leapfrogging by years, the $ 800+ billion global offline events space is up for grabs. There is massive potential for players who drive the industry’s transition towards online-events,” said Abhishek Mohan, VP at Sequoia Capital India, in a statement.

Airmeet is built on top of WebRTC, a standard that most modern browsers follow. This has enabled Airmeet to be fully accessible through Chrome and Firefox. All the sessions are also end-to-end encrypted, said Mangal. It does not have a mobile app. Mangal said people tend to use their laptop or desktop or their iPads for professional events. (Users can consume a session through their mobile browser, however.)

The startup, which is in the same space as Hopin and Andreessen Horowitz-backed Run The World, will use the fresh capital to add new features to Airmeet and also scale globally, said Mangal.

“Airmeet’s mission is to create a global platform to enable millions of community managers and event organizers across the world to engage with and expand their audience. And with Lalit and team’s focus, execution and innovative thinking, they are strongly placed to achieve their goal,” said Mohan.

Startups – TechCrunch

Data virtualization service Varada raises $12M

Varada, a Tel Aviv-based startup that focuses on making it easier for businesses to query data across services, today announced that it has raised a $ 12 million Series A round led by Israeli early-stage fund MizMaa Ventures, with participation by Gefen Capital.

“If you look at the storage aspect for big data, there’s always innovation, but we can put a lot of data in one place,” Varada CEO and co-founder Eran Vanounou told me. “But translating data into insight? It’s so hard. It’s costly. It’s slow. It’s complicated.”

That’s a lesson he learned during his time as CTO of LivePerson, which he described as a classic big data company. And just like at LivePerson, where the team had to reinvent the wheel to solve its data problems, again and again, every company — and not just the large enterprises — now struggles with managing their data and getting insights out of it, Vanounou argued.

varada architecture diagram

Image Credits: Varada

The rest of the founding team, David Krakov, Roman Vainbrand and Tal Ben-Moshe, already had a lot of experience in dealing with these problems, too, with Ben-Moshe having served at the chief software architect of Dell EMC’s XtremIO flash array unit, for example. They built the system for indexing big data that’s at the core of Varada’s platform (with the open-source Presto SQL query engine being one of the other cornerstones).

Image Credits: Varada

Essentially, Varada embraces the idea of data lakes and enriches that with its indexing capabilities. And those indexing capabilities is where Varada’s smarts can be found. As Vanounou explained, the company is using a machine learning system to understand when users tend to run certain workloads, and then caches the data ahead of time, making the system far faster than its competitors.

“If you think about big organizations and think about the workloads and the queries, what happens during the morning time is different from evening time. What happened yesterday is not what happened today. What happened on a rainy day is not what happened on a shiny day. […] We listen to what’s going on and we optimize. We leverage the indexing technology. We index what is needed when it is needed.”

That helps speed up queries, but it also means less data has to be replicated, which also brings down the cost. As MizMaa’s Aaron Applbaum noted, since Varada is not a SaaS solution, the buyers still get all of the discounts from their cloud providers, too.

In addition, the system can allocate resources intelligently so that different users can tap into different amounts of bandwidth. You can tell it to give customers more bandwidth than your financial analysts, for example.

“Data is growing like crazy: in volume, in scale, in complexity, in who requires it and what the business intelligence uses are, what the API uses are,” Applbaum said when I asked him why he decided to invest. “And compute is getting slightly cheaper, but not really, and storage is getting cheaper. So if you can make the trade-off to store more stuff, and access things more intelligently, more quickly, more agile — that was the basis of our thesis, as long as you can do it without compromising performance.”

Varada, with its team of experienced executives, architects and engineers, ticked a lot of the company’s boxes in this regard, but he also noted that unlike some other Israeli startups, the team understood that it had to listen to customers and understand their needs, too.

“In Israel, you have a history — and it’s become less and less the case — but historically, there’s a joke that it’s ‘ready, fire, aim.’ You build a technology, you’ve got this beautiful thing and you’re like, ‘alright, we did it,’ but without listening to the needs of the customer,” he explained.

The Varada team is not afraid to compare itself to Snowflake, which at least at first glance seems to make similar promises. Vananou praised the company for opening up the data warehousing market and proving that people are willing to pay for good analytics. But he argues that Varada’s approach is fundamentally different.

“We embrace the data lake. So if you are Mr. Customer, your data is your data. We’re not going to take it, move it, copy it. This is your single source of truth,” he said. And in addition, the data can stay in the company’s virtual private cloud. He also argues that Varada isn’t so much focused on the business users but the technologists inside a company.


Startups – TechCrunch

Grid raises $12M Series A to turn spreadsheets into visual ‘narratives’

Grid, a SaaS startup founded in Iceland that lets you turn spreadsheets into visual “narratives,” has closed $ 12 million in Series A funding.

The round is led by New Enterprise Associates (NEA), with participation from existing investors BlueYard Capital, Slack Fund, Acequia Capital and other unnamed “strategic” partners. The injection of capital will be used by the company to bring its product to market and for further product development.

Founded in late 2018 by Hjalmar Gislason — who was previously behind DataMarket, an early mover in the “Data-as-a-Service” space — Grid is on a mission to change the way knowledge workers interact with data, starting with spreadsheets. Opening up its beta today, the SaaS enables you to turn spreadsheet workbooks into visual and interactive websites so that the data residing in them can be better communicated to various audiences.

“Grid provides a way for the everyday spreadsheet user to easily create visual and interactive narratives on top of existing spreadsheets and securely share them using the web,” Gislason explains.

Image Credits: Grid

“Most data tools, even the most accessible ‘self-service’ tools, are power user tools — meaning it takes time and deliberate effort to learn how to use them, and the people that do become the go-to-people within their organizations when it comes to analysis, data-driven decisions and data narratives. The tool everyone else uses to get stuff done in their day-to-day work is the spreadsheet.”

Gislason frames the initial problem the startup is focusing on as the moment when someone has pulled together data or built a model in a spreadsheet and now has to communicate it with someone else. “The most common method, even today, is attaching an Excel file to an email. In doing so the spreadsheet author is giving up control over the spreadsheet, how its read and further distributed,” he says.

Furthermore, that content is painful to consume on mobile devices and it is difficult making sure everyone has the latest version. Sharing spreadsheets in the cloud is an improvement, but is still far from optimum.

To overcome this, people typically copy and paste charts and tables out of spreadsheets into PowerPoints and PDFs and distribute these as static artifacts, which solves the control problem but is difficult to create and maintain as it disconnects the presentation from “the underlying data and models.” Grid aims to change this.

During Grid’s private beta period, the startup saw two core use cases. The first was model presentation, such as a consultant or a business analyst that has built a spreadsheet model and needs to communicate how the inputs affect the outcomes. The second is reporting, seeing Grid used by anyone that needs to regularly report data they’ve pulled together in a spreadsheet.

“And that’s a lot of people!” adds Gislason. “Our users like the combination of text and data visualization that Grid offers, in addition to the fact that the Grid documents are directly linked to the underlying workbooks so that any change in the workbook, even a local Excel file, is immediately reflected in the online report.”

Startups – TechCrunch

Qualified raises $12M make websites smarter about sales and marketing

Qualified, a startup co-founded by former Salesforce executives Kraig Swensrud and Sean Whiteley, has raised $ 12 million in Series A funding.

Swensrud (Qualified’s CEO) said the startup is meant to solve a problem that he faced back when he was CMO at Salesforce. Apparently he’d complaining about being “blind,” because he knew so little about who was visiting the Salesforce website.

“There could be 10 or 100 or 100,000 people on my website right now, and I don’t know who they are, I don’t know what they’re interested in, my sales team has no idea that they’re even there,” he said.

Apparently, this is a big problem in business-to-business sales, where waiting five minutes after a lead leaves your website can result in a 10x decrease in the odds of making contact. But the solution currently adopted by many websites is just a chatbot that treats every visitor similarly.

Qualified, meanwhile, connects real-time website visitor information with a company’s Salesforce customer database. That means it can identify visitors from high-value accounts and route them to the correct salesperson while they’re still on the website, turning into a full-on sales meeting that can also include a phone call and screensharing.

Qualified screenshot

Image Credits: Qualified

Of course, the amount of data Qualified has access to will differ from visitor to visitor. Some visitors may be purely incognito, while in other cases, the platform might simply know your city or what company you work for. In still others (say if you click on a link from marketing email), it can identify you individually.

That’s something I experienced myself, when I decided to take a look at the Qualified website this morning and was quickly greeted with a message that read, “👋 Welcome TechCrunch! We’re excited about our funding announcement…” It was a little creepy, but also much more effective than my visits to other marketing technology websites, where someone usually sends me a generic sales message.

Swensrud acknowledged that using Qualified represents “a change to people’s selling processes,” since it requires sales to respond in real-time to website visitors (as a last resort, Qualified can also use chatbots and schedule future calls), but he argued that it’s a necessary change.

“If you email them later, some percentage of those people, they ghost you, they get bored, they moved on to the competition,” he said. “This real-time approach, it forces organizations to think differently in terms of their process.”

And it’s an approach that seems to be working. Among Qualified’s customers, the company says ThoughtSpot increased conversations with its target accounts by 10x, Bitly grew its enterprise sales pipeline by 6x and Gamma drove over $ 2.5 million in new business pipeline.

The Series A brings Qualified’s total funding to $ 17 million. It was led by Norwest Venture Partners, with participation from existing investors including Redpoint Ventures and Salesforce Ventures. Norwest’s Scott Beechuk is joining Qualified’s board of directors.

“The conversational model is simply a better way to connect with new customers,” Beechuk said in a statement. “Buyers love the real-time engagement, sellers love the instant connections, and marketers have the confidence that every dollar spent on demand generation is maximized. The multi-billion-dollar market for Salesforce automation software is going to adopt this new model, and Qualified is perfectly positioned to capture that demand.”

Startups – TechCrunch

Crisp Raises Another $12M to Solve Inefficiencies in the Global Food Supply Chain

“We have all walked into a grocery store and seen empty shelves, while food is being wasted at alarming levels. This paradox is the result of thousands of food companies being dependent on outdated, siloed infrastructure. Crisp transforms the value chain by providing an open data flow to solve critical problems such as out-of-stock, shrink, on-shelf optimization, and adaptation to changes in consumer demand.” Serial entrepreneur and Founder Are Traasdahl to learn more about how Crisp is helping to manage the food supply chain during the pandemic, the company’s impressive growth, and recent funding round from investors that include FirstMark Capital, Spring Capital, and Swell Partners.

Conversa Health raises $12M Series B for its digital health platform

It’s no surprise that the coronavirus pandemic is accelerating the digital health space and so it’s also no surprise that a lot of the startups in this area are currently getting funded. Conversa Health, a Portland, Oregon-based startup that provides a virtual care and communication platform for personalized healthcare, is among these startups. The company today announced that it has raised a $ 12 million Series B round led by Builders VC and Northwell Ventures, the venture arm of Northwell Health, one of the largest healthcare providers in New York, with 23 hospitals and 800 outpatient facilities.

With this round, which also saw the participation of P5 Health Ventures, Nassau Street Ventures and Ohia’s UH Ventures (the venture arm of Ohio’s University Hospitals), Conversa has now raised a total of over $ 26 million.

In addition, the company also today announced that it has appointed Murray Brozinsky as its new CEO. Conversa co-founder — and now former CEO — West Shell III will become the company’s executive chairman.

“I used to say that virtual health is inevitable,” Brozinsky told me. “And the reason is that we can talk about the economics and how healthcare is moving to a value-based reimbursement system and how we’re gonna break the bank in spending 20% of GDP and our need to improve the patient experience. So you can see how it would become the predominant way that we practice healthcare in this country. And with COVID, that has now become the catalyst for it to become a tipping point. So we’ve seen an acceleration of virtual care and we fully believe that the major health systems are going to implement platforms like this, in many cases, our platform as the first line.”

The goal, Brozinsky told me, is for Conversa’s platform to become the digital front door for a health system. The company’s automated chat-based platform can help triage patients and see if they need a virtual or in-person visit with a doctor, for example. But healthcare systems can also use it to check in on patients and gather data about them, either by asking for it or through connected devices. Indeed, as Brozinsky noted, in many ways, Conversa is a data company.

One new line of business is the company’s Employee HealthCheck services, which allows employers to screen workers before they return to work, using a simple Q&A process. In the current environment, where businesses are very much responsible for creating and maintaining a safe work environment, that’s indeed a very timely launch (and health care providers, too, are using the company’s system to screen patients and their loved ones before they arrive at their facilities).

“We think it’s going to be incumbent on employers to continue to screen their employees for COVID,” said Brozinsky.  “And then on the heels of that, we’re seeing a lot of — and this has been an issue, but now it’s become a bigger issue — which is mental health. So a lot of PTSD, certainly from healthcare workers, stress and anxiety for lots of people in the environment. So we’ve got programs on the heels of COVID that are helping to screen for mental health.”

He also noted that while a lot of employers have launched wellness programs, the activation rates for these have remained very low, all while the nature of work is changing rapidly as people work remotely and are often scared to come in to work.

“Even before COVID-19, we have been expanding our work with Conversa throughout our organization over the last few years as they are a critical component of Northwell Health’s vision for virtual health, further strengthening the provider-patient relationship through personalized, insightful engagement,” said Joseph Schulman, Senior Vice President, Population Health, Business Transformation, for Northwell Health. “We have been successfully using Conversa to scale our communications and care for thousands of COVID-19 patients with programs focused on lab results, quarantine, antibody tests and more. Conversa has been an extraordinary partner.”

Conversa CEO Murray Brozinsky

Startups – TechCrunch

Social network for women Peanut raises $12M Series A amid pandemic

Peanut, an app that began as a tool for finding new mom friends, has evolved into a social network now used by 1.6 million women to discuss a range of topics, from pregnancy and parenthood to marriage and menopause, and everything in between. On the heels of significant growth in online networking fueled by the COVID-19 pandemic, the company is today announcing the close of a $ 12 million Series A round of funding, led by EQT Ventures, a multi-stage VC firm that invests in companies across Europe and the U.S.

Index Ventures and Female Founders Fund also participated, bringing Peanut’s total raise to date to $ 21.8 million.

The round itself closed just weeks ago — arriving at a time when the coronavirus pandemic is impacting the startup world, often drying up venture capital for emerging companies. Some startups, as a result, have laid off employees to self-sustain, while others have sought exits or even folded.

Peanut, on the other hand, has seen rapid growth for its platform as women looked for a supportive online environment to discuss their own concerns over how COVID-19 was impacting their lives.

Many women participating in Peanut’s newer “Trying to Conceive” group, for example, worried about their canceled IVF rounds and how to plan for the future. Current moms-to-be wanted to hear from others about how COVID-19 would impact their hospital delivery plans. And others stuck working at home with kids looked for advice and coping strategies.

Since the outbreak, Peanut has seen engagement across its app increase by 30% and content consumption increase by 40%. Its total community also grew from 1 million users in December 2019 to now 1.6 million, as of April.

“We’re really lucky in that we’re growing and that we are, for the most part, untouched by what’s happening,” says Peanut founder and CEO Michelle Kennedy. “And actually, if anyone needed community more, it’s now,” she added.

Though the pandemic has sent the app’s usage skyrocketing, it has also readjusted Peanut’s priorities with regard to its roadmap.

Most notably, its friend-finding feature needs a rethink.

Peanut originally worked as a sort of “Tinder for mom friends” — an idea that arose from Kennedy’s personal experience with how difficult it was to forge female friendships after motherhood. As the former deputy CEO at dating app Badoo and an inaugural board member at Bumble, she brought her extensive experience in matchmaking apps to Peanut, which uses a similar swipe-based mechanism.

But COVID-19 has up-ended this side of Peanut’s business. Today, Peanut users are meeting in Zoom chat rooms to hangout or play games, but not in person.

Kennedy says the company will try to meet these users where they are with the development of more video networking features, potentially with technology built in-house. Other plans for the new capital include improvements to the social discovery aspects of its app, the development of a web version of Peanut, and the creation of more groups beyond those focused on fertility and motherhood, which have so far been core to the Peanut experience.

Specifically, the company soon plans to launch a new community focused on women living with menopause, an experience that will reach more than a billion women by 2025. Despite the fact that all women with ovaries will go through menopause, there are relatively few online communities dedicated to it — which Peanut sees as an untapped market.

Peanut’s real strength, however, is not in the types of communities it grows on its platform, but how they’re created.

There has not yet been a social network that focused on “building a platform for women, thinking about women’s needs and built by a women,” explains Kennedy. “So what we end up doing is using things that already exist — trying to twist them and mold them into what we need, and never getting it exactly right,” she says. “We can do better than that.”

One small example of this is the recent launch of Peanut’s “Mute Keywords” feature that allows women to remove certain types of discussions from their feeds and notifications. Some women used this to create a coronavirus-free news feed that focused on other aspects of motherhood. Others who were trying to conceive muted conversations around “pregnancy,” which they found emotionally triggering.

With the Series A’s close, Peanut says Naza Metghalchi from EQT Ventures joins the company’s majority-female board, alongside Hannah Seal from existing investor Index Ventures.

“Peanut’s user engagement metrics are a testament to the app’s ability to act as a true emotional companion throughout women’s journeys,” said Naza Metghalchi, venture lead and investment advisor at EQT Ventures, in a statement. “The EQT Ventures team is excited to partner with Michelle and continue to grow Peanut into a platform that serves all women at different life milestones, exploring topics beyond fertility and motherhood which have already seen such huge traction.”

The additional funding allows London-based Peanut to expand its business and hire more engineers to join its current team of just 16.

“I think having closed a round in this climate is great for the team,” says Kennedy. “It’s also great for the community because it means that we can grow the team, build quicker, build faster and develop the product more quickly,” she adds.

Startups – TechCrunch

Codota picks up $12M for an AI platform that auto-completes developers’ code

Thanks to smartphones and their downsized keyboards, autocomplete has become a nearly ubiquitous feature of how we write these days. To save us precious seconds composing and (at least in my fat-thumbed case) correcting words, our keyboards now prompt us with suggestions of what we’re trying to write to get the job done a little bit more easily. But email and messaging composing isn’t the only area where artificial intelligence and semantic analytics are being used in this way. Today, a startup that has built a platform that applies the concept to the world of coding is announcing a round of funding to expand its business.

Codota, an Israeli startup that provides an AI tool to developers to let them autocomplete strings of code that they are writing — intended both to speed up their work (it claims to “boost productivity by 25%”) and to make sure that it’s using the right syntax and ‘spelled’ correctly — has picked up $ 12 million, a Series A led by, with participation also from previous backer Khosla Ventures, along with new investors TPY Capital and Hetz Ventures. The company has now raised $ 16 million in total, and it’s not disclosing its valuation.

The funding comes on the heels of Codota acquiring one of its bigger competitors, TabNine, out of Canada, late last year (announced only in March however) to expand the number of languages that it can support. It now says it supports all major languages, including Python, JavaScript, Java, C, and HTML; and it operates across a major integrated development environments such as VSCode, Eclipse, and IntelliJ.

The funding will be used to expand its reach into that existing range further, as well as to bring on more customers. Today, the list of those that are already using Codota’s tools is impressive. It includes developers from companies like Google and Amazon, as well as Netflix, Alibaba, Airbnb and Atlassian, amongst many others. It says its user base has grown more than 1,000% in the last year, number over 1 million developers using it monthly.

The funding news coincides with Codota launching a new version of its autocompletion for JavaScript that merges Codota’s semantic technology with TabNine’s textual tech.

The first two names in the customer list above list are particularly surprising, but they underscore what Codota has focused on and seems to be doing right. These two tech giants are AI powerhouses in their own rights; both build and ship formidable sets of tools for developers; and Google specifically is one of the names most synonymous with autocomplete by way of the tools it’s built for Gmail.

The reason Codota — which was founded in 2015 — has had traction, said co-founder and CTO Eran Yahav, is because in fact coding has been a tough nut to crack for semantics teams, despite their advances in other languages.

“Up until a couple of years ago it wasn’t feasible,” he said, noting that four streams of technology are coming together when building auto-completion for coding: high-quality open source code availability to feed the algorithms; advances in semantic analysis to extract insights at scale; machine learning advances that essentially bring ML costs down; and computational resources to run everything in the cloud to make it something everyone can use everywhere. With open source really booming, and everything else coming along, it’s been a perfect storm that Codota has seized, even as others are working on this too.

“Others have done this with varying degrees of success,” Dror Weiss, the other co-founder and CEO said. “I’m guessing and also know that others are doing the same.” Others include the likes of Kite, Ubisoft and Mozilla, and a number of others.

One aspect that Codota has been building that is particularly timely now is the ability not just to provide more precise coding assistance to developers, but to “learn” what is best practice in a particular environment or workplace (it offers both individual and enterprise tiers, and it’s the latter that provides this feature). This can be useful in any situation, but particularly today when developers are working at home and on their own, giving them instant help as if they were physically in the same space.

Notably, while so much AI seems bent on the idea of autonomous systems, Weiss said emphatically that this is not the intention short or even long-term.

“I don’t think we would be able to replace developers and I don’t think we would want to,” he said. “Our aim is to take the mundane and repetitive aspects and do that for them.” In that respect not unlike RPA in back-office functions. “It’s not high value to remember the syntax and the best practice. And even if you have smart compose [in consumer services] it may suggest sentences but can’t read your mind and tell you how you want to respond. So it’s very unlikely to replace you and respond how you would want to. That’s not even in our longest-term plan.” last year announced a $ 400 million fund for early-stage investments, and this seems to be coming out of that. With this round, the firm’s general partner Tom Gieselmann is joining the board.

“I’ve been following the developer tools market for over 20 years and believe Codota has distinguished itself as the dominant player in terms of community, product, and technology,” he said in a statement. “We are proud to support Dror and Eran on their mission to transform software development and make coding easier and more efficient for individual developers and teams within the enterprise.”

Startups – TechCrunch

[PRESS RELEASE] OurCrowd Leads $12M Investment in Israeli Covid-19 Vaccine Company MigVax

April 22, 2020 – Kiryat Shemona, Israel – OurCrowd, the world’s largest crowdfunding venture investment platform, based in Jerusalem, today announced that it would lead a $ 12 million investment in the newly formed MigVax Corp., which will develop a novel COVID-19 vaccine. MigVax, an affiliate of The Migal Galilee Research Institute, is pioneering the effort to develop Israel’s human vaccine against COVID-19.

Read more here.

The post [PRESS RELEASE] OurCrowd Leads $ 12M Investment in Israeli Covid-19 Vaccine Company MigVax appeared first on OurCrowd.


[MigVax and OurCrowd in TechCrunch] MigVax raises $12M for its COVID-19 vaccine efforts

MigVax, an Israeli startup that’s affiliated with the Migal Galilee Research Institute, thinks it can speed up this process by quite a bit, in part, because it had already worked on building a framework for the Infectious Bronchitis Virus, a coronavirus that infects chickens, and that has proven to be safe in animals.

Read more here.

The post [MigVax and OurCrowd in TechCrunch] MigVax raises $ 12M for its COVID-19 vaccine efforts appeared first on OurCrowd.