[Sight Diagnostics in The New York Times] Israel’s Sight Diagnostics Raises $71 Million for Its Blood Analyzer

Israel’s Sight Diagnostics said on Wednesday it raised $ 71 million in private funding to expand sales of its finger-prick blood analyzer and support research and development. Koch Disruptive Technologies, Longliv Ventures, which is part of the CK Hutchison Group, and Israel’s OurCrowd participated in the round, which brings Sight’s total funding to more than $ 124 million.

Read more here.

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OurCrowd Blog

Direct-to-consumer cat food startup Smalls raises $9M

While dog owners have plenty of direct-to-consumer options if they want to order pet food online, we haven’t seen a similar wave of startups for cats. But that may be starting to change.

Earlier this year, I wrote about Cat Person, a startup backed by Harry’s Labs offering a variety of cat care products, including food. And Smalls, a cat food startup that launched in 2018, is announcing today that it has raised $ 9 million in Series A funding.

Co-founders Matt Michaelson (CEO) and Calvin Bohn (COO) said that it’s not simply a matter of taking the D2C dog food model and applying it to cats.

“The traditional sort of MO for companies in the pet care space is to do everything for dogs first,” and then expand into cat products, Bohn said.

Michaelson argued that this means companies “often overlooked the nutritional needs of cat.” In particular, he said, “We found that we needed a much broader range of products to really succeed. Cats are picky because they’re apex predators.”

So Smalls offers a variety of food options, including what it says is fresh, human-grade chicken and beef; freeze-dried chicken, turkey and duck; plus other treats (and non-food products like litter and toys).


Image Credits: Smalls

Michaelson and Bohn started out by cooking the food in the kitchen of their New York City apartments, then moved into what was then known as Brooklyn Foodworks. Smalls now manufactures its cat food in a facility in Chicago.

They acknowledged that the cost can be a bit higher than what cat owners are used to paying — the exact comparison will depend on the brand and quality you currently buy, but after taking a quick quiz on the Smalls website, I was offered subscription plans that cost around $ 3 or $ 4 per cat per day. Michaelson noted that “retention is not correlated to income” (so Smalls customers aren’t just wealthy cat owners), and he argued that investing healthy food for your cat could save money down the road

“We don’t have studies to say that yet, but at the same time, you would naturally assume eating better food is going to be a good investment in yourself,” he said.

Bohn added that when cat owners switch to Smalls, they quickly notice the difference: “Within weeks, their cats were sleeping better at night, their coats were more lustrous, their stool smelled better.” (Journalists who tried it out seem to agree.)

The Series A brings Smalls’ total funding to $ 12 million. It was led by Left Lane Capital (whose partner Jason Fiedler previously invested in The Farmer’s Dog), with participation from Founder Collective and Companion Fund.

“While we’ve seen a proliferation of highly successful healthy dog food brands, the cat food market has remained completely ignored,” Fiedler said in a statement. “Smalls has successfully developed a brand, product mix, supply chain and customer experience that is specifically optimized for cats that no one else has.”

Michaelson said Smalls currently has “several thousand” active subscribers, up 4x year-over-year. And while the pandemic has created some supply chain challenges, it also led to “a huge rise in pet adoption,” as well as convincing some owners that they should look for alternatives to their local pet store.

“Because we’re seeing this big movement towards the direct-to-consumer side of things with COVID, it’s really an opportunity to lean into that and grow faster,” he said.

Startups – TechCrunch

[Sight Diagnostics in Tech Crunch] Sight Diagnostics raises $71M Series D for its blood analyzer

Sight Diagnostics, the Israel-based health-tech company behind the FDA-cleared OLO blood analyzer, today announced that it has raised a $ 71 million Series D round with participation from Koch Disruptive Technologies, Longliv Ventures (which led its Series C round) and crowd-funding platform OurCrowd. With this, the company has now raised a total of $ 124 million, though the company declined to share its current valuation.

Read more here.

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OurCrowd Blog

Zencity that uses AI to help government better understand citizens’ needs raises €11.4M

We are exponentially increasing the use of Artificial Intelligence or AI in our daily lives. From discovering new life-saving drugs to helping driverless cars become a reality, AI is being used almost everywhere. The Tel Aviv-based startup Zencity has also found a new way to use AI for our benefit, which includes helping the local government leaders make decisions that are based on real data. The company has now secured €11.43 million in a new funding round. In a conversation with Silicon Canals, the company’s CEO and co-founder, Eyal Feder-Levy, talks about Zencity’s workings, future plans and more.

Helping local governments make data-driven decisions 

Zencity is an AI-powered data analytics tool that helps local governments take data-driven decisions for their community. “The Zencity platform gathers and analyzes millions of anonymised, aggregated data points of community feedback from various channels such as social media, local broadcast media and government customer service channels (such as 311 and call centers),”  says Levy. 

The data is then transformed into actionable insights about trends in the community. They also highlight resident priorities for decision makers in local government. “As governments are alerted to these trends in real-time, officials can act immediately, allowing for a more proactive approach to governing that’s in line with their constituents.” Levy adds.

With its offering, Zencity is trying to solve the problem of local governments lacking necessary resources. These resources are indispensable for gaining a complete picture of how residents view and talk about relevant municipal issues, especially in a timely way. Currently cities worldwide rely on limited resident feedback via official channels, such as town halls or official feedback forums. Only a handful of people use these channels but based on this feedback, policies are influenced and shaped. 

“Governments don’t have the bandwidth, or resources to monitor the myriad of channels where citizens are talking about issues that matter to them or understand how to translate that into smart policymaking,” notes Levy. “The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated this challenge even further. Local governments are in need of real-time data about public sentiment during the pandemic. Closing this communication gap enables officials to create unified, pragmatic policies that will slow the spread of the virus while tending to the pressing needs of their citizens.”

Using AI to eliminating guesswork in policymaking 

With data collection and simultaneously turning that raw data into actionable insight, Zencity is helping governments better connect with their communities. As per Levy, “Zencity offers governments actionable insights based on trending topics in citizens’ conversations, helping local governments with policy shaping, messaging priorities and budgetary allocation to govern with citizens’ concerns more effectively in mind. Zencity’s platform eliminates the guesswork in policymaking and empowers city officials to make more effective decisions regarding the most pressing issues within their communities.”

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Zencity platform was used by cities and counties to understand top priorities for their citizens. “Difficult decisions such as deciding when and how to reopen cities, have been informed by insights produced by Zencity about what residents are most concerned about. Zencity has been able to assist governments in successfully navigating through the pandemic,” Levy notes. 

There is also an interesting story behind how the idea of Zencity came to be. “My co-founder and I have been passionate about this problem for years, working in and with local government agencies for a big part of our career. We were surprised to see the gap between the importance of resident input for governments, and the tools they had on hand to measure that,” notes Levy. 

“Governments were using tools which were anecdotal, limited in scope, and not data-driven, such as surveys and town hall meetings, to collect residents’ feedback, despite the fact that extremely important decisions had to be made based on them. We understood that good decisions had to be based on residents’ feedback on the one hand, but data on the other. We wanted to find a way to combine the two in a way that was suitable and usable for local governments, and thus came about Zencity,” Levy adds. 

Zencity is currently working with 150 cities across four countries and 29 US states. The company’s offering breaks down trending topics in the city, which users can filter according to date, source, and sentiment. There are also daily and weekly reports from Zencity that provide users with a summary of discourse in their city to help pick up on trending topics easily, and address them proactively. Zencity also has no direct competition even though there are some Social Media monitoring companies that offer a partially comparable solution. These competitors are also geared towards big brand management and not governance. 

Expanding Zencity’s capabilities further

Zencity has closed its €11.43 million Series B funding round, which was led by venture capital firm TLV Partners and joined by strategic investor Salesforce Ventures. Additionally, company’s existing investors  Canaan Partners Israel (CPI), Vertex Ventures, M12 – Microsoft’s Venture Fund, and i3 Equity Partners also participated in the funding round.

The freshly raised funds will be utilised by the company to grow and expand its product’s ability. It will focus on serving the unique needs of state and local government agencies, especially during the current times of uncertainty. The funding will also help the company build out new strategic partnerships and further expand their market presence. Zencity has raised a total of €17.94 million funding so far. 

Founded back in 2015 by Eyal Feder-Levy and Ido Ivri, Zencity is a Tel Aviv, Israel, based startup. The company is also currently hiring and you can check out the open positions here. 

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Startups – Silicon Canals

Censys, a search engine for internet devices, raises $15.5M Series A

Internet device search engine Censys is one of the biggest search engines you’ve probably never heard of.

If Google is the search engine for finding information sitting on the web, Censys is the search engine for finding internet devices, like computers, servers, and smart devices, that hosts the data to begin with. By continually mapping the internet looking for connected devices, it’s possible to identify devices that are accessible outside a company’s firewall. The aim is to help companies keep track of which systems can be accessed from the web and know which devices have exploitable security vulnerabilities.

Now, Censys has raised $ 15.5 million in a Series A fundraise, led by GV and Decibel with participation from Greylock Partners.

David Corcoran, chief executive and co-founder of the Ann Arbor, Mich.-based internet security startup, said the company plans to “aggressively” invest in top security talent and plans to double its headcount from about 50 to 100 in the next year, including expanding its sales, engineering, and leadership teams.

“We’re thrilled to have the support of world-class investors as we keep the momentum building and continue to revolutionize how businesses manage their security posture in an ever-changing environment,” said Corcoran.

The fundraise couldn’t come at a more critical time for the company. Censys is not the only internet device search engine, rivaling Binary Edge and Shodan. But Censys says it has spent two years on bettering its internet mapping technology, helping it see more of the internet than it did before.

The new scan engine, built by the same team that developed and maintains its original open-source ZMap scanner, claims to see 44% more devices on the internet than other security companies. That helps companies see new vulnerable systems as soon as the come online, said Censys’ chief scientist Zakir Durumeric.

Censys is one of a number of growing security companies in the Ann Arbor area, alongside NextHop Technologies, Interlink Networks, and Duo Security, co-founded by Dug Song, who also sits on Censys’ board.

“You can’t protect what you can’t see — but in today’s dynamic IT environment, many organizations struggle to find, much less keep track of, every system and application at risk before the attackers do,” said Song. “Censys empowers defenders with the automated visibility they need to truly understand and to get ahead of these risks, enabling even small security teams to have an outsized impact.”

Startups – TechCrunch

ChargePoint raises €108M to expand electric vehicle charging network in North America and Europe

Gone are the days where electric cars used to be too slow, flimsy, and kind of embarrassing to own. Everything is changed now, for good! With electric vehicles gaining explosive popularity, the entire auto industry is poised to make a drastic shift in the coming years. However, the lack of infrastructure is one of the biggest roadblocks to faster adoption of electric vehicles. 

One of the startups that have been committed to making it easy for businesses and drivers to go electric since 2007 is none other than the ChargePoint

Raised €108 million 

Recently, the company closed $ 127 million (approx €108 million) in Series H to accelerate the transition to electric fleets ahead of the onslaught of new EV models expected in the coming years. This additional investment brings the Series H total to $ 667M (approx €558 million). 

This funding will accelerate the company’s expansion plan and fleet businesses in North America and Europe and continue to scale policy, marketing, and sales efforts.

Pasquale Romano, President, and CEO, ChargePoint, said, “The shift to electric drive is intensifying for mainstream businesses and fleet operators and is poised to be one of the most significant transformations in modern history. The additional $ 127 million in funding provides capital to expand investment on pace with the market, underscoring investor confidence in the unprecedented potential of electric mobility and ChargePoint’s leadership across continents. With more than a decade of category leadership, ChargePoint is well-positioned to continue the buildout of 21st-century mobility infrastructure that will pave the way to the mass adoption of EVs.”

Now in 114,300 places

To date, ChargePoint’s network has grown to more than 114,300 places to charge with drivers plugging in approximately every two seconds while delivering more than 80 million charges. 

With the UK aiming to be net zero emissions by 2050, electrifying transport is critical, especially fleets, as businesses are one of the largest contributors to carbon emissions. 

Offers a comprehensive portfolio of solutions

According to the company, the latest funding mirrors unprecedented interest in the EV market and underscores ChargePoint’s position as the provider with the most comprehensive portfolio of solutions in the industry. 

The company was backed by investors including American Electric Power, Braemar Energy Ventures, Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB), Chevron Technology Ventures, Clearvision, GIC, Linse Capital, and Quantum Energy Partners.

Main image credits: ChargePoint

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Startups – Silicon Canals

Bucharest-based Innoship raises €550K to lead last-mile delivery for e-commerce in Romania and CEE

Romanian startup Innoship, the SaaS solution that enables e-commerce businesses to integrate and orchestrate multiple last-mile delivery options, has announced a seed investment from GapMinder VC. The investment of €550K comes just six months after the commercial launch of its solution.

Founded in 2019, Innoship is an aggregator of multiple fast delivery options for retail and e-commerce companies. Its platform democratizes access to advanced technology for retailers of all sizes, helping them to efficiently manage their courier contracts, and offer customers multiple delivery options and shipping services, at a minimal cost. Overall, Innoship streamlines the costs of courier services by up to 25%, and increases delivery performance by up to 15%.

Innoship implemented its solution for its first customers at the beginning of 2020 and currently manages approximately 20,000 daily orders. The Innoship solution can be integrated with all large e-commerce platforms, warehouse management systems, ERP (enterprise resource planning), fulfillment and marketplaces active in Romania and regionally. So far its client portfolio includes well-known names in the local e-commerce and distribution ecosystem, such as Miniprix, Kalapod, OLX, Depanero, Network One Distribution, Dentstore, Oralix, Topline, xpertbeauty.ro, Arco Expert, Algernon, green-future.ro, mezoni.ro, Generalmotor, and many others.

Founding partners – Daniel Nicolae, Andrei Paul, Dan Ungureanu and Robert Tănase – have long experience in companies such as Orange, Penny and Urgent Cargus. Cătălin Grigorescu, a well-known lawyer specialized in technology in the region, joined the team in 2020, as an investor and strategy and business advisor.

Daniel Nicolae, CEO and co-founder of Innoship, stated: “Consumer demand for multiple delivery options and better quality of shipping services poses huge challenges for retailers and ecommerce companies to manage the last-mile delivery efficiently. We created the Innoship platform as an advanced aggregator and orchestrator of multiple last-mile delivery options to help ecommerce businesses gain consumer confidence, increase conversions, and drive repeat buying by building loyalty. Most importantly, Innoship is fast and easy to adopt by retailers and ecommerce companies, being, one the one hand, integrated with all delivery companies and, on the other hand, with the most important ecommerce platforms, ERP, WMS, already used in existing processes.”

The startup’s recent seed round will be used to accelerate the growth of Innoship adoption among retailers in the Romanian market and boost its first steps towards internationalization, all the while speeding up the development of new functionalities on its platform. 

Cosmin Ochișor, Partner at GapMinder Venture Partners, said: ”By using Innoship, online retailers can benefit of a machine-learning powered solution which fits their current workflow, a solution that is very easy to integrate and creates immediate benefits by both boosting the customer satisfaction and optimizing the shipping related costs. The €550K seed round for Innoship is a new step in implementing our investment strategy focusing on companies that immediately and pragmatically use technology to optimize existing business models.”


TaxScouts raises £5M Series A to expand to Europe, first stop Spain

TaxScouts, the U.K. tax preparation startup founded by TransferWise and MarketInvoice alumni, has raised £5 million in Series A funding for European expansion.

Leading the round is Octopus Ventures, with previous investors SpeedInvest, Seedcamp and Finch Capital following on. Also participating is Clocktower Technology Ventures, the U.S. venture capital firm specialising in financial technology.

Aiming to build a “pan-European” tax filing service, first stop outside the U.K. is Spain, with TaxScouts having already appointed a Madrid-based country manager. It says it has chosen Spain based on the size of the market and the complexity of the local tax system, and will expand to further European markets in the near future.

Image Credits: TaxScouts

Combining “automation” with a network of human accountants, TaxScouts’ service is designed to support you through your annual tax filing preparation and submission. The company charges a simple flat fee — currently £119 in the U.K. — and promises a quick turnaround, typically just 1-2 days.

To achieve this, the web app walks you through your tax status, income and expenses without assuming too much prior knowledge. This includes asking you to upload or take a photo of any required documents, such as invoices or dividend certificates. The idea is that all of the admin is captured digitally and packaged up ready for an assigned accountant to check.

TaxScouts says the new Series A investment will be used to develop the company’s Spanish service and make key hires across its engineering, product and marketing teams.

Mart Abramov, co-founder and CEO of TaxScouts, comments: “We see a huge amount of potential in launching TaxScouts into Spain. Naturally, the weather and the wine were considered when picking the market, but having successfully built a solution for one of the trickiest tax systems in Europe, we are confident that we can deliver another great product for Spain’s complex tax structure. The market is double that of the U.K., and this is the first step to us building a pan-European tax service.”

Startups – TechCrunch

AgentSync raises $4.4M for its insurtech compliance service

Today AgentSync announced that it has closed a $ 4.4 million seed round, co-led by Elad Gil and Caffeinated Capital. Other well-known names from the Silicon Valley scene took part in its funding round, including Affirm’s Max Levchin and the podcaster turned VC Harry Stebbings, among others.

The round caught our eye because AgentSync is working in a space that has seen a notable wave of venture interest in 2020 — insurtech, which we’ve covered somewhat extensively — and because it shared hard revenue numbers, which we love.

So let’s talk about how the company’s co-founders Jenn Knight and Niji Sabharwal wound up building software for the insurance market.

From Zenefits to new beginnings

AgentSync offers what it describes as “compliance as a service,” helping insurance carriers and insurance agencies track insurance broker licensing data. For companies accustomed to doing this work with spreadsheets, AgentSync offers a faster method, built on top of Salesforce’s platform, saving time and lowering the chance of error.

(Tech firms building on top of Salesforce are having a good year, incidentally.)

The idea for the company was born from Sabharwal’s time at Zenefits.

Sabharwal was an early employee at the infamous startup. To hear the AgentSync co-founder tell the story, Zenefits grew at an inhuman clip, scaling from 100 employees when Sabharwal joined to more than 1,700 a year later.

During its period of hyper-growth, reporting later uncovered, Zenefits did not sufficiently appreciate that it operated in a highly regulated industry. The resulting compliance mess forced co-founder Parker Conrad from the company, with former Yammer boss David Sacks taking the reins to clean house.

At the time of his takeover, TechCrunch reported that Sacks wrote to Zenefits staff that “compliance is like oxygen,” and that without the company would “die.”

Conrad got fined by the SEC, and Zenefits cut staff and had to re-value itself. Sacks eventually left the company. But behind the headlines Sabharwal described work to rebuild Zenefits in a more compliant fashion from the inside-out. Part of those efforts, he said in an interview, was building software that helped track agent compliance, a project that Zenefits later open-sourced and released.

TechCrunch covered the release at the time, writing that Zenefits had built “a licensing compliance app it created in-house to ensure its sales people are properly licensed to sell insurance in a given state available for free to anyone to download from the Salesforce App Exchange.”

The software integrated with National Insurance Producer Registry (NIPR) data, which the co-founder describes as a source of truth in the insurance market. The software allowed users to confirm that individual agents were compliant. The effort bought Zenefits some kudos with regulators, and, according to Sabharwal, other companies looking to use the software.

From the meeting point of internal software project and external demand, AgentSync was formed, with Sabharwal leaving Zenefits to start his company with his partner, Knight. Knight, who has done stints at Dropbox (head of Business Technology) and Stripe (head of Internal Systems), worked part-time at AgentSync before joining the startup full-time this year.

Zenefits signed the IP from the earlier project over to Sabharwal before his team wrote any code for AgenySync, allowing the company to get a clean start.

The insurance market is enormous, lucrative and old-fashioned. That makes it a prime space to attack. The software also helps groups onboard agents, execute what the startup calls “automatically generated compliance analysis” to help spot gaps and other data errors.

And AgentSync is seeing traction, scaling to $ 1.9 million annual recurring revenue (ARR) at the time of publication. The company charges per active agent a customer has, with some price tiering based on scale.

Today the startup has 17 people, and is targeting 22 by the end of the year. (It’s investing in its go-to-market functionality post-fundraising.)

On the personnel side, Knight, the company’s CTO, has built a technical team that is majority women, unfortunately a rarity in the industry. She also said that she’s “acutely aware of the equity and pay gaps that exist for women and underrepresented groups across the industry.”

I haven’t had the chance to talk to too many denizens from the Zenefits alumni, but what’s fun about AgentSync is that it was born effectively out of an effort to fix what went wrong at the unicorn. And, it’s found a market for that fix. Let’s see how far it can get on $ 4.4 million.

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