Laundryheap, the ‘Uber of Laundry’, expands into new markets amid COVID-19 pandemic

With limited time and more work to do, people these days prefer simpler ways to get their daily tasks done. Laundry is surely one of them. From washing clothes at home to going to coin-operated laundry services, the laundry and dry cleaning sector have evolved so much over the years. 

According to a report, the dry-cleaning and laundry services market worldwide is projected to grow by $ 18.9 billion (approx €17 billion), driven by a compounded growth of 4.2%. Within Europe, Germany will add over $ 925.4 million (approx €825 million) to the region’s size and clout in the next 5 to 6 years. Over $ 1 billion (approx €891 million) worth of projected demand in the region will come from the rest of Europe markets.

Going strong amid the pandemic

In this regard, Europe has produced several on-demand laundry startups over the past few years. Laundryheap, the UK’s largest on-demand laundry and dry cleaning service, has recently announced its expansion into five new international markets: New York, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, and Singapore. 

The expansion comes as a result of solid performance in 2020 even during COVID-19 pandemics. Furthermore, the London-based startup is looking to capitalise on competitor’s withdrawal from the market and an increased appetite for on-demand cleaning services as well. It’s worth mentioning that the expansion follows a year of planning! 

Laundryheap taking the leap 

The UK startup enables customers to have their laundry collected, washed, and delivered back to them in a guaranteed 24 hours – a turnaround no competitor offers. 

In the wake of the pandemic and other environmental concerns, the app also allows customers to opt for: contactless collection and delivery; a virus-targeting, high-temperature wash; and a green travel route for their delivery drivers. 

Sticks with sustainable revenue models

Founded by Deyan Dimitrov in 2014, Laundryheap is now focused on translating their successful model into a vastly augmented global presence, with plans to expand to at least 12 additional cities before the end of the year.

In its existing markets – the UK, Ireland, the Netherlands, and the UAE, the startup focuses on building sustainable revenue models. Bootstrapped initially for 3 years, the company secured its first funding of £2.9 million (approx €3.2 million) in VC investment in 2017. 

Temporary accommodations, a 30% discount and more

To ensure their service reached those who needed it most during the lockdown, the company introduced numerous initiatives. This includes a partnership with UnderTheDoormat to service the free temporary accommodation of NHS workers, the distribution of care packages of cleaning and hygiene essentials for the elderly (with Age UK signed up to help distribute), a pay-it-forward scheme with matched gifting, and a 30% NHS workers discount across all Laundryheap services. 

Speaking on the international expansion, Laundryheap’s CEO, Deyan Dimitrov, comments: “Since launching, we’ve been focused on steady growth. With on-demand products, you cannot blitz into new markets until you’ve perfected your operations and figured out a realistic route to revenue – your burn rate will simply be unsustainably high. While others have stumbled, we’ve been focused on perfecting the product. Now, having expanded so exponentially during such an uncertain time, it’s clear that those years of groundwork were instrumental to our growth. We’re delighted to be increasing our global footprint and I look forward to bringing Laundryheap to more communities across the world.”

Main image credits: Laundryheap

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Startups – Silicon Canals

Running a queer dating startup amid a pandemic and racial justice uprising

The events of the past few months have shaken the lives of everyone, but especially Black people in the U.S. COVID-19 has disproportionately impacted members of the Black community while police violence has recently claimed the lives of George Floyd, Tony McDade, Breonna Taylor, Rayshard Brooks and others. 

Two weeks ago, two Black transgender women, Riah Milton and Dominique “Rem’mie” Fells were murdered. In light of their deaths, activists took to the streets to protest the violence Black trans women face. Two days after Floyd’s killing, McDade, a Black trans man was shot and killed by police in Tallahassee, Florida. 

In light of Pride month coinciding with one of the biggest racial justice movements of the century amid a pandemic, TechCrunch caught up with Robyn Exton, founder of queer dating app Her, to see how her company is navigating this unprecedented moment. 

Exton and I had a wide-ranging conversation including navigating COVID-19 as a dating startup, how sheltering in place has affected product development, shifting the focus of what is historically a month centered around LGBTQ people to include racial justice work and putting purpose back into Pride month.

“Pride exists because there is inequality within our world and within our community and still there is no clear focus on what it is we should be fighting for as a community,” Exton says. “It almost feels like since equal marriage was passed, there’s a range of topics but no clear voice saying this is what everyone should focus on right now. And then obviously everything changed after George Floyd’s murder. Over the course of the following weekend, we canceled pretty much everything that was going out that talked still about Pride as a celebration. Especially for Black people within our community, in that moment of so much trauma, it felt completely wrong to talk about Pride just in general.”

Worldwide, Pride events have been canceled as a result of the pandemic. But it gives people and corporations time to reflect on what kind of presence they want to have in next year’s Pride celebrations.

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Even amid the pandemic, this newly funded travel startup is tackling the stodgy timeshare market

The world is rife with me-too startups, which makes it all the more refreshing when a founder comes along that manages to find a broken market that’s hiding in plain sight.

That’s what Mike Kennedy appears to be doing with Koala, a young outfit determined to update the stodgy world of property time-share management, wherein people acquire points or otherwise pay for a unit at a timeshare resort that they intend to regularly use or swap or rent out (or all three).

It’s a big and growing market. According to data published last year by EY, the U.S. timeshare industry grew nearly 7% between 2017 and 2018 to hit $ 10.2 billion in sales volume.

It’s a market that Kennedy became acquainted with first-hand as a sales executive at the Hilton Club in New York, which, at least in 2018, was among 1,580 timeshare resorts up and running, representing approximately 204,100 units, most of them with two bedrooms or more.

Despite this growth, timeshares don’t jump to travelers’ minds as readily as hotel rooms or Airbnb stays, and therein lies the opportunity.

Part of the problem, as Kennedy see it, is that timeshares are harder to rent out than they should be. If a timeshare owner wants to reserve a week outside of the week that he or she purchased, for example, that person has to go through an antiquated exchange system like RCI (owned by Wyndam) or Interval International (owned by Marriott). Kennedy, who spent 10 years with Hilton, says he saw a number of his customers grow frustrated over time with their inability to better control their units’ usage.

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Amsterdam’s medical messenger app Siilo reveals surge in usage amid pandemic chaos

The messenger of Amsterdam-based startup Siilo was created with an aim to make normal days for healthcare workers easier and better. But it turns out during these extraordinary days when the COVID-19 pandemic peaked, it really proved its worth. For co-founder and CEO Joost Bruggeman, the pandemic emphasised the use for his product. But it also made clear which parts were neglected and where there is work to be done.

‘Networked medicine’

The free messenger app Siilo was specifically created for healthcare professionals. The medtech startup was founded in 2016 by Arvind Rao, Jan-Joost Rueb, Joost Bruggeman, and Onno Bakker and aims to connect medical professionals with relevant colleagues or experts, while safeguarding patient privacy and online security. A quick way for people working in health care to connect, share knowledge or ask questions. It enables ‘networked medicine’, as CEO Joost Bruggeman describes it. During his time as a medical professional, he found out communication is bound by invisible silo’s. In a time when hospital workers are working frantically to battle an unknown virus, communication is key. 

Siilo raised a significant amount of money in a seed-funding round two years ago. In October 2018 they got €4.5 million in a round led by EQT Ventures. This set them up for success, but now it is time to take it to the next level. Bruggeman: “Investors see that our technology is very promising. Their question then is: ‘can you scale it?’ In 2018, we were very focused on our home country, while also trying to create the playbook for our growth. Now, we figured that out.” 

Surge in users

But then the pandemic struck. And while many entrepreneurs could toss their playbooks in the bin, for Bruggeman the crisis meant everything accelerated. Siilo seemed to be made for a pandemic. According to Bruggeman, they had already tripled their user base since the last investment. But in the hectic days during the peak of the pandemic, their messenger turned out to be healthcare professionals’ tool of choice, as they saw a huge influx of new users. 

“In the Dutch healthcare sector our app is already on the phone of 75 percent of the professionals”, he says. But the real growth is across the border from Siilo’s homeland. Bruggeman says he has seen enormous spikes in usage in Ireland, where they claimed a growth rate of 500 percent over the past couple of months. Usage in Germany, the UK and Belgium nearly doubled. And in The Netherlands, the app quickly proved its worth. 

“During the crisis, we helped ‘GGD’ public health regions form communication platforms for free crisis management. They had a lot of organiszing to do, but lacked the communication tools. Many of them did everything by phone, which was impossible most of the time. Siilo created curated networks in which healthcare professionals connect to all the relevant professionals in their region.” 

Joost Bruggeman, CEO and co-founder of Siilo

Bruggeman says their networked medicine approach sees three different types of groups emerge on their platform. Hospital groups saw all staff of hospitals organize and allowed administrators in the building to quickly broadcast important messages. Peer-to-peer networks gathered specialists to discuss insights relating their field of expertise. And regional networks, such as the above mentioned GGD-ones, gather decisionmakers in a certain area to coördinate how to best tackle the problem. Bruggeman: “We could quickly form these groups and jump through the silo’s that normally exist in health care.”

Perfect tool for a pandemic

Siilo was always built to bring health care into this century. It is to enable quick and easy communication in a professional environment where the fax machine is still a common sight. It has to be safe, compliant with regulations like GDPR and privacy friendly, unlike email is. Last but not least, it needed to break down the invisible silos in healthcare communications, so that relevant specialists can always find each other and communicate. Even when other communication lines, such as the phone, are overburdened. Bruggeman seemed to have built the perfect communication tool for health care professionals to deal with a global pandemic, without even realizing it at the time. “It never rose in my mind that we would be dealing with a pandemic like this. No, never. But this pandemic has made it super clear that all teams in health care need to be able to work together.” 

Connect and Prisma

The fact that Siilo is free to use, is without doubt a big part of its success. Running a messenger is not free though. Siilo has several paid products that tie into the messenger service to provide extra functionality. The first one is called Connect, which offers extra features and an even more robust security. It enables access control and offers remote wipe in case a device is gone missing. Bruggeman says this is a product they mostly sell to hospitals that want all their employees on board. 

Siilo-based news portal at the KRH hospital in Hannover

One of the latest hospitals on board is the Klinikum Region Hannover (KRH) in Germany, with 8500 employees that treat 135,000 inpatients and 160,000 outpatients every year. They were working with print newsletters and intranet that was only accessible through desktop. Siilo jumped in to create an organisational network that could be accessed anywhere, whenever needed. According to Siilo, within just three months of usage, the staff at KRH have already exchanged 178.300 messages sharing critical information like hygiene guidelines and numbers of COVID-19 patients.

Stay up-to-date: Read all our COVID-19 coverage here

The second product is Prisma, which offers a network of medical specialists available for general practitioners in The Netherlands. Bruggeman describes it as a virtual hospital in your pocket. By giving general practitioners direct access to the vast knowledge of medical specialists, they won’t have to refer patients to a hospital as often. Decreased referrals save a lot of money in health care costs, which justifies the price for Prisma. Bruggeman: “It’s like a Quora for medical professionals.”

‘New product offerings’

These features are extra, as the main messenger is free to use. And it is not a finished product, but keeps on developing, as Bruggeman says. “There were some parts of the app that we neglected, but that surged during the pandemic. For instance, when you look at the profile of a Siilo-user, you can send a message or start a voip call. We saw a massive rise in voip calls, because normal phones were regularly overburdened. We didn’t expect this to be so big all of sudden, so we really need to invest in this feature.” 

Adding new features and improving existing ones should keep the startup growing, says Bruggeman: “The ideal situation is that we reach in Germany, Ireland, the UK and Belgium what we’ve already accomplished in the Netherlands. At the same time we will develop new product offerings. In The Netherlands we will expand on Connect and Prisma, but are looking at similar products for other countries to bring in revenue and help medical professionals to do their job better.”

This article is produced in a collaboration with StartupAmsterdam. Read more about our partnering opportunities.

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What are your thoughts on a product company launching amid the pandemic?

Hello everybody!

Quick background and thoughts:

I have been working on a mid-high end luxury sportswear apparel brand the last 3 year’s and am finally expected to launch late this summer. I personally believe entry to market is crucial in this business, and most apparel brands that I have followed have a 2-5 year make it or break it point. With the most growth coming in through the first 2 years.

What I’m curious of is, if this was in your hands, would you launch the brand amid the pandemic, or bide your time until the next summer season?

The cons of waiting means current products will likely be phased out and at least a partial redesign will be mandatory for most products.

The pros I’ve weighed are; more spending in the market/demographic. More ability for organic growth through social media.

I would love/appreciate any insight, and hopefully a point or two I haven’t thought of.

Thank you!

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[WayUp in Yahoo] How WayUp is helping recent graduates find jobs amid COVID-19

Job site WayUp matches college students and recent graduates with employers based on the candidate’s interests and skills. WayUp Co-Founder and CEO Liz Wessel joins Yahoo Finance’s On The Move panel to discuss.

Read more here.

The post [WayUp in Yahoo] How WayUp is helping recent graduates find jobs amid COVID-19 appeared first on OurCrowd.


London-based edtech platform MyTutor raises €4.4M to bring private tutoring to more students amid COVID-19

Based out of London, MyTutor offers affordable 1-to-1 tutorials online by connecting tutors from the UK’s best unis with pupils at home and in schools. Recently, the startup has secured £4 million (approx €4.4 million) in investment, led by existing investor Mobeus Equity Partners and bringing total funding to date to £14 million (approx €15.6 million).

Bertie Hubbard, Co-founder, and CEO of MyTutor comments: “Through our consumer-facing platform and partnerships such as the EEF’s online tuition pilot, we know that we can make a difference and reduce learning gaps despite these unprecedented circumstances – and we’re delighted by the continued support of our investors. While the pandemic has seen a whole generation of parents experience the benefits of online tuition we believe this is just the start of a more permanent shift.”

Availability of MyTutor’s platform!

As per the company claims, the funding will be used to further develop and increase the availability of MyTutor’s platform. The online tuition platform is one of the four tutoring companies working with The Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) on its initiative to launch a new online tuition pilot to help disadvantaged pupils as schools begin to reopen. 

Founded by Bertie Hubbard, James Grant, and Robert Grabiner in 2013, its online network of tutors has facilitated over 1 million bookings, with 100,000 families in the UK relying on MyTutor for one-to-one tuition. Amid COVID-19 pandemic, MyTutor has seen demand more than double since school closures began, as families embraced online one-to-one learning to ensure the educational progress of their children.

Aims to bring life-changing tuition to all!

MyTutor was established with a mission to bring life-changing tuition to all. Notably, each tutor is personally interviewed to ensure they can explain topics in a way teens can understand. In 2018, Bertie and James were featured in ‘Forbes 30 under 30’ list of the world’s top social entrepreneurs. The company is headquartered in London and employs a team of 50.

Matt Mead, Venture Partner at Mobeus Equity Partners comments: “Since the early days of MyTutor it has been clear to us that Bertie and the team have created a service that has a real, positive impact, with great potential to reduce inequality of opportunities for UK school children. With this capital injection, we will ensure that MyTutor can keep up with demand at a time when online one-to-one tuition has become more important than ever to prevent the widening of an already existing learning gap. We know that the company’s potential to have a real impact on our schooling system and wider society reaches far beyond the current pandemic. MyTutor is setting the precedent for a new normal for tuition and we are excited to continue on this journey together.”

Main image: MyTutor

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Startups – Silicon Canals

French startup Alkemics bags €21M amid COVID-19 crisis as online grocery sales soar

In a fast-paced environment, every industry needs to realign according to the trend including the biggest industry in the world – consumer products. A lot of manufacturers and retailers face challenges to meet evolving consumer needs including matching supply and demand, achieving operational excellence to accelerate time-to-market, and providing customers with an omnichannel and personalised shopping experience.

Raised €21 million!

Based out of Paris, Alkemics is a collaboration platform that helps brands and retailers to digitise, collect, and share product data in one single secured place. The supplier-retailer collaboration platform has raised €21 million in a Series C funding round led by the Growth stage fund Highland Europe. Other investors including Cathay Innovation, Index Ventures, SEB Alliance, and Serena Capital have participated in the round. 

The company raised funds as it experiences soaring demand from grocers and suppliers responding to the rapid shift to omnichannel shopping. Back in September 2016, Alkemics raised €20 million from Cathay Innovation and Serena. Alkemics will use the new funds raised to launch in other parts of Europe, beginning with Germany, Benelux, and Scandinavia.

Antoine Durieux, Co-founder and CEO of Alkemics, explained, “Our aim is to make B2B business quick, easy and interactive. Any manufacturer should be able to put a product on the market as easily as if they were posting a message on a social network, and any store should be able to find the products that consumers are looking for by simply searching through an app. The Alkemics platform is helping thousands of suppliers and retailers across Europe to work closely together, to simplify their collaboration, to speed up products go-to-market and to ensure that product data is always as transparent and up to date as possible”.

Worked with France and the UK’s largest grocery retailers

Since then, they worked with France and the UK’s largest grocery retailers (including E.Leclerc, Intermarché, Casino, Tesco, and Ocado) to digitise their commercial processes with more than 17,000 brands. The platform has digitised the different stages of supplier-retailer relations: product discovery, listing, and sales across all channels.

The platform connects retailers like Intermarché and Tesco to multinational suppliers such as Nestlé, as well as small local producers. In 2019, more than 7.5 million messages were exchanged through the platform.

According to the company, many retailers were able to rapidly source substitutes for out-of-stock products and secure new lines of supply using the platform amid the COVID-19 crisis. As pressure grew on supply chains, exacerbated by remote working, many suppliers began using the platform to start conversations with retailers and to sell their excess products.

Tony Zappala, Partner at Highland Europe, said: “The last two months have demonstrated to everyone how retail technology is a critical part of our infrastructure. Alkemics’ high level of technological functionality and ultra-flexible data model can tackle all different verticals in the retail industry and is, therefore, able to respond rapidly and effectively to unprecedented levels of demand, at the outset of the coronavirus pandemic in Europe. As things start to return to normal, retailers and suppliers will want to continue with this new digitized collaboration through the platform, which has helped to increase their productivity as well as ensuring that the shopper has all the information they need to make an informed purchase.”

Main image credits: Alkemics

Stay tuned to Silicon Canals for more European technology news

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Amsterdam-based edutech startup StudDocu expands to high schools amid COVID-19 lockdown

Based out of Amsterdam, StuDocu (locally known as StudeerSnel), an online platform where students can share knowledge is expanding into a new market and makes the platform available to all students at HAVO and VWO. 

According to the Dutch startup, this is only the beginning of the expansion, partly brought about by COVID-19, distance learning, and the research. Amid the coronavirus lockdown, the edutech startup has witnessed a doubling in the use of the platform. As a result, it is now ready to make the step to secondary education.

Apart from the extension to secondary schools, StuDocu now also offers a chat group function to share their study material. Furthermore, the company also claimed that a large number of students do not receive sufficient guidance from the educational facilities themselves while studying remotely and feel very unproductive. 

In an attempt to make it more productive, the company has added Study Experts on the platform. These experts are experienced teachers at (market leader in NL in the field of exams and decentralized selection training). These teachers will be involved in the chat groups so that they can answer all questions of students and students in a qualitative way. Studocu hopes in this way to make up for the shortage of guidance during distance learning.

Founded in 2013, Studocu was founded by four students -Jacques Huppes, Lucas van den Houten, Marnix Broer, Sander Kuijk, to exchange study documents with each other and to strive for better grades together. At present, more than 12.5 million students use StuDocu to access high-quality study material. To date, StuDoc has raised around €1.4 million funding. The Dutch startup is also active in Belgium, Germany, Spain, Canada, Australia, and more.

Main image credits: Studocu

Stay tuned to Silicon Canals for more European technology news

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Startups – Silicon Canals

Swiss hot financial software startup Appway secures €33M amid coronavirus outbreak

Swiss startup Appway is a global leader providing business process automation software with a focus on customer onboarding and customer lifecycle management for financial institutions. The company recently announced that it secured $ 37 million (nearly €33 million) investment from global growth equity firm Summit Partners, which represented the startup’s first-ever external capital raise so far.

Keen on expansion in global markets

Appway will use this investment to expand its product portfolio. Also, it will accelerate international growth while maintaining the entrepreneurial spirit that drives the company’s advancement since its debut. Already, the startup has eight offices across the world with its headquarters in Switzerland. The startup has announced that it will use the funding to support its global expansion initiatives in core markets such as Europe, the APAC region and North America. It will invest in its software, leverage cloud economies and flexibility to support customers and partners in real-time.

What does Appway do?

Appway is involved in providing software that is designed to support the digital transformation of customer-focused organisations across the financial services industry. The company’s award-winning software suite is used by ten out of 25 of the largest wealth managers in the world as it aids the digitisation, automation, and acceleration of core business processes including managing changing client circumstances, onboarding of new clients, and regulatory reviews. The Zurich-based startup provides access to a comprehensive ecosystem to support the digitisation of organisations all over the world.

Industry-leading clientele

The company’s business process automation software is used by industry-leading institutions including Credit Suisse, J.P. Morgan, HSBC, LGT, Deutsche Bank, and LPL Financial. These companies rely on Appway’s software to improve customer experience, boost internal efficiencies and help maintain compliance with complex industry regulations.

Appway helps businesses automate and adapt complex customer-centric workflows across channels and touchpoints. In the current scenario where customer service is a key competitive differentiator, Appway lets its customers reduce their client onboarding by 90% and have driven measurable and meaningful uplift in customer lifetime.

“Since its very first day, the Appway team has been driven by our mission to connect people, systems and data to automate workflows across teams and touchpoints,” said Hans Peter Wolf, Appway’s founder and CEO. “We look forward to leveraging Summit’s extensive experience scaling global software businesses in the financial services industry to expand our vision of ’Connecting the Disconnected’ and help more institutions embrace their digital future.”

“Over the past decade, financial institutions have had to adapt core business processes to comply with increasingly rigorous regulations and oversight related to customer identity verification (e.g., KYC), onboarding, risk and compliance,” said Steffan Peyer, a Principal at Summit Partners who will join the Appway Board of Directors. “We believe that Appway has developed a versatile and scalable platform, helping its customers to onboard clients faster, automate regulatory compliance processes and reduce costs.”

“Unlike general-purpose low-code development platforms, Appway seeks to address core pain points in the financial services industry by automating the flow of work to revolutionize the customer experience and drive digital transformation across organizations,” added Dr. Matthias Allgaier, a Managing Director at Summit Partners who will also join the Appway Board of Directors. “We believe the company has delivered impressive, consistent capital-efficient growth, and we are thrilled to partner with Hans Peter Wolf, his co-founder Oliver Brupbacher and the entire Appway team.”

Main image picture credits: Appway

Stay tuned to Silicon Canals for more European technology news.

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