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LECTEUR FLUX RSS, the predictive sales startup, raises $60M at around $500M valuation

21 mai, par Ingrid Lunden[ —]

The best salespeople like to pride themselves on having both a sixth sense when it comes to closing a deal, and a healthy amount of persuasive magic to get a sale over the line. Now, a startup that says it can help any salesperson be like those top people, and help those top people be even better, has raised a large round of funding to to take its own company to the next level., which has built a platform to ingest all the data that salespeople generate in the course of their work, and then use it to provide guidance to them to help source and close more deals, is today announcing that it has raised another $60 million in funding, which it will use to continue growing the business and building partnerships with new channels such as system integrators to target bigger enterprises.

Alongside this, it is also launching a new product that it calls “The Wire” — a feed of insights that salespeople can access to find leads, pick up tips on how to approach them and ultimately to sell to them.

“Some people say it’s what LinkedIn should have been,” Oleg Rogynskyy,’s founder and CEO, said in an interview. It helps, he said with a little laugh, that had managed to recruit David Flink to lead up project management at the startup. Flink joined earlier this year, having worked for nearly three years at LinkedIn on areas like search and discovery. 

The startup is not disclosing its valuation but sources tell us it is around $500 million — specifically in the “mid-nine-figures”. The big number is partly the result of the startup’s strong growth so far: it has already ingested 350 million sales activities, 40 million contacts, a sales pipeline of $300 billion and $100 billion in closed and won deals. Its revenues have been growing 5X year-over-year with customers squarely so far in the tech camp that surrounds the San Francisco-based startup. They include Red Hat, Lyft, Zoom, New Relic and Splunk.

This latest round is being led by Iconiq, the VC that includes the family office of Marc and Pricilla Zuckerberg, among others, with participation from previous investors Andreessen Horowitz (which led its previous round just seven months ago), Lightspeed Venture Partners, GGV Capital and Y Combinator (where it was in a cohort in 2016).

There have been a number of startups and tech giants (Oracle and Microsoft being just two) that have been applying AI mechanics to the world of sales — specifically to help improve one aspect or another of the process. Startups range from those that use Robotic Process Automation to do some of the mundane work around data entry, to those that analyse conversations to parse them for clues to help close deals, to those that offer predictive analytics, and those that are using AI to replicate sales agents altogether.’s approach, says, is not to replace salespeople but to “supercharge” the teams by using AI to ingest “high value, low volume activity”. Sitting in the background, requiring no active input from the user, it picks up all the “exhaust” produced in the process of a day, and uses it to produce cheat sheets to salespeople so that they can use them when speaking to clients to help them close deals, providing interesting insights, relevant facts and other details.

That is now going to be augmented with The Wire, which takes some cues from social networks like Facebook and LinkedIn, providing a stream of information to the viewer, and tapping into the concept of “graphs” to source names of people and information that is most relevant to the viewer (without the ads, of course).

Rogynskyy points out that his company currently has more than 65 patents (secured and in progress) on intelligent matching, and the plan longer term will be to take the sales model and apply it to a wider range of industry verticals. These are likely to include areas like real estate, financial services and recruitment (areas where the product is already being used in smaller use cases, he noted). 

“This model is applicable to any area where you are building external, complex relationships at scale,” he said.


Future Family launches a $200 membership for fertility coaching

21 mai, par Greg Kumparak[ —]


Future Family is a startup aiming to make fertility services like IVF and egg freezing more accessible. They work with doctors and clinics to make the pricing of these services more predictable and upfront, then offer monthly payment plans to help customers spread the cost (often in the tens of thousands of dollars) over a few years.

In its recent user research, Future Family found that around 70% of their new customers had yet to see a fertility doctor; they were starting the process online, often without the next steps mapped out. With that in mind, today they’re rolling out a new membership plan that offers users a dedicated fertility coach, and helps them to find a doctor in their area.

The membership will cost $200, which gets you:

  • Two and a half hours with a dedicated fertility coach, who will video chat with you on your schedule and platform of choice to help you figure out what’s next. Future Family CEO Claire Tomkins tells me that their coaches are all registered nurses with clinical fertility experience, many of whom the company recruited from top US clinics. The coach can help you figure out the first steps, prep you to meet with your doctor, and to help understand your lab results.
  • Recommendations on doctors/clinics in your area, based on things like distance, cost, and your personal preferences like the doctor’s gender and whether they’re part of a large hospital or a smaller clinic.
  • Upfront service pricing; as Future Family already works with these doctors, they’re able to tell you how much it’ll all cost before you dive in.

The membership will also offer a way for members to sign up for one of Future Family’s financing plans — but Claire Tomkins tells me that there’s no lock in. If a customer does the video coaching and doctor matching and already has the payment side of things figured out, the promised prices will all still apply.

The new membership program will go live today.

Freshworks acquires customer success service Natero

21 mai, par Frederic Lardinois[ —]

Customer engagement service Freshworks, which you may still remember under its old name of Freshdesk, today announced that it has acquired Natero, a customer success service with some AI/ML smarts that helps businesses prevent churn and manage their customers.

The acquisition, Freshworks CEO Girish Mathrubootham told me, will help the company complete its mission to provide its users with a 360-degree view of their customers. As Mathrubootham stressed, Freshdesk started out with a focus on customer support and then added additional functionality for marketers and other roles over time. Today, however, companies want this full 360-degree view of a customer and be able to offer differentiated service to their top customers, for example. In many ways, the acquisition of Natero closes the loop here.

“The acquisition extends our ‘customer-for-life’ vision to all teams, including account and customer success managers who require up-to-date customer usage and health data to proactively engage those accounts at risk of churn or ready to buy more,” Mathrubootham said.

Natero founder and CEO Craig Soules echoed this and noted that the only way to do this is to have a rich customer model at the core of these efforts. “More and more people wanted to take data from Natero and take it to sales tools,” he said when I asked him about how his company will fit into the Freshworks portfolio — and why he sold the company. “We Freshworks, we saw a company that was going into this direction and that was doing customer success for a very long it. […] It felt like a very natural fit to leverage this customer model.”

Mathrubootham also noted that Freshworks was actually a Natero customer so when Natero got to the point where it was looking for more capital to expand this focus on its customer model, the two companies started talking.

Natero will continue to exist as a stand-alone product, but it will also become part of the Freshworks 360 suite, Freshwork’s integrated customer engagement suite.

Ahead of today’s acquisition, Natero had raised a total of $3.3 million. That’s not a lot for a startup that launched back in 2012, but Soules noted how he was able to fund the company’s expansion through revenue. The two companies did not disclose the acquisition price.

Kard is a challenger bank for teens

21 mai, par Romain Dillet[ —]

Meet French startup Kard, a challenger bank that works a lot like N26 or Revolut. But Kard is all about convincing teens that their first bank account is going to be a Kard account — a bit like Step in the U.S.

When I talked with Kard co-founder and CEO Scott Gordon, he kept saying that Kard was a product for the generation Z. While I’m not a fan of that buzzword, it still looks like a well-designed app with some personality.

“Gen Z is a generation that has been forgotten by traditional banks,” Gordon said. “70 percent of their transactions are digital transactions,” he added later. Many teenagers borrow their parents’ card for those expenses.

Kard wants to empower teens with their own bank account, their own IBAN and their own Mastercard debit card. Instead of controlling every expense, parents can just top up the Kard account and let their child spend it however they want — you can top up with a bank transfer or using another card — just like in Revolut. Opening an account is free.

Like other electronic wallet apps, opening a Kard account is much simpler than opening a traditional bank account in France. You can sign up in a few minutes from your phone and confirm your identity later by sending a photo of your ID, etc.

After that, you get an account that you control from a mobile app. You can block and unblock the card, see transactions, send and receive money in real time with other Kard users. It ticks all the right boxes that you’ve come to expect if you have a bank account from a challenger bank.

In a couple of months, you’ll also be able to create money pots, round up your transactions to save some money, donate money to nonprofits, etc.

Kard is also borrowing a few ideas from Venmo. Users will be able to share expenses with their group of friends in the Kard app. Many teens already share a photo of their brand new sneakers on Snapchat for instance. Kard wants you to use their own app for this kind of content.

The startup raised $3.4 million (€3 million) back in January from Kima Ventures, Jean-Pascal Beaufret, Jambu Palaniappan, Francis Nappez, Julien Lemoine, Jason Dorsey and David Amsellem.

While the service is not live yet, you can sign up to the waiting list on the company’s website. Kard’s positioning is interesting. The startup doesn’t need to convince people to open yet another bank account — the company is tapping an endless funnel of new users by focusing on teens.

Like all startups focused on teens, it faces a dilemma. It has to retain its users as their needs become more complex and attract new teens as the product becomes more complex.

Firefox update is all about speed and fingerprinting protection

21 mai, par Romain Dillet[ —]

Mozilla is currently rolling out Firefox version 67 on Windows, macOS and Linux. And the team is detailing a few changes in a blog post. With today’s new version, users should expect better performances across the board.

Firefox is now better at loading essential content first and delaying non-essential scripts, not loading the auto-fill module if there’s no form on the page, etc.

Mobile web browsers usually clear idle tabs from memory so that you get better performances when you’re doing something else. That’s why you sometimes have to reload the page when you switch to an old tab. Desktop browsers are now doing the same thing, including Firefox. If your memory falls below 400MB, some old tabs will get suspended.

If you have a bunch of add-ons and themes, Firefox is now faster to start when you quit and relaunch your browser. Finally, AV1 videos should perform better thanks to dav1d, a new decoder from the VideoLAN, VLC and FFmpeg communities.

On the privacy front, Firefox 67 is adding cryptomining and fingerprinting blocks. Once again, the team is partnering with Disconnect to include lists of rules and domain names that prevent your browser from loading disingenuous content.

Cryptomining and fingerprinting blocks are disabled by default — at least for now. But you can activate them in a couple of clicks in the browser settings under “Privacy & Security.”

When it comes to private browsing, Firefox now lets you enable or disable some add-ons during private sessions. You can also save passwords in your browser from a private tab now.

Finally, Windows users with an Nvidia GPU will now benefit from WebRender, a GPU-based rendering engine for web content written in Rust. That represents a small subset of the user base, but I’m sure Firefox plans to roll it out to more users in the future.

Adobe brings its Premiere Rush video editing app to Android

21 mai, par Frederic Lardinois[ —]

Adobe launched Premiere Rush, its newest all-in-one video editing tool that is essentially a pared-down version of its flagship Premiere Pro and Audition tools for professional video editors, in late 2018. At the time, it was only available on iOS, macOS and Windows. Now, however, it is also finally bringing it to Android.

There is a caveat here, though: it’ll only run on relatively new phones, including the Samsung Galaxy S9 and S10 series, Google’s Pixel 2 and 3 phones and the OnePlus 6T.

The idea behind Premiere Rush is to give enthusiasts — and the occasional YouTube who needs to quickly get a video out — all of the necessary tools to create a video without having to know the ins and outs of a complex tools like Premiere Pro. It’s based on the same technologies as its professional counterparts, but its significantly easier to use. What you lose in flexibility, you gain in efficiency.

Premiere Rush is available for free for those who want to give it a try, though this ‘Starter Plan’ only lets you export up to three projects. For full access, you either need to subscribe to Adobe’s Creative Cloud or buy a $9.99/month plan to access Rush, with team and enterprise plans costing $19.99/month and $29.99/month respectively.

SmileDirectClub plans to 3D print 50,000 teeth-straightening molds a day

21 mai, par Brian Heater[ —]

The medical industry has long been considered one of the most promising sources of growth for industrial 3D printing. It makes sense — getting a good fit requires the sort of exact measurements that can be accommodating by scanning and printing. Dental in particular has been a key driver, perhaps most notably in the case of Invisalign, which houses a warehouse full of printers.

Today at the Rapid 2019 conference in Detroit, SmileDirectClub announced that it’s making a major investment in HP’s industrial Multi Jet Fusion systems.The warehouse of 49 printers marks the largest deployment of the systems in the U.S. They’ll be put work around the clock, churning out teeth straightening molds.

When all is up and running, the systems will be capable of producing up to 50,000 molds a day. If all goes according to plan, that should account for more than 18 million in a year. HP says its machines are currently responsible for around 99 percent of SmileDirect’s 3D printer manufacturing. This latest announcement effectively doubles its investment in the technology.

It’s a space worth watching for anyone with a passing interesting in the technology. After years of experimentation and lofty promises, orthodontics represent a large scale, real world use for the tech.

Payment card startup Marqeta confirms $260M round at close to $2B valuation

21 mai, par Ingrid Lunden[ —]

Startups that are disrupting and unlocking the lucrative world of financial services continue to unlock big fund funding rounds for themselves.

Today, Marqeta — which helps third parties like Square, Affirm, DoorDash, Kabbage and Instacart build and offer card services to their customers — announced that it has raised a Series E of $260 million led by Coatue Management.

Marqeta plans to use this growth round to to continue building out its platform with an emphasis on global expansion, founder and CEO Jason Gardner said in an interview. He added that the funding values the startup at close to $2 billion.

While the company is not yet profitable, it’s growing fast: Gardner said Marqeta has doubled revenues each year for the last three years, and he expects that the next step for the 9 year-old company is likely an IPO in the next 18 months.

The news today confirms our scoop about the funding two months ago. (When it was still raising, the total was $250 million.)

In addition to Coatue, other new investors include Vitruvian Partners, Spark Capital, Lone Pine and Geodesic, with participation also from several of Marqeta’s existing investors: Visa, ICONIQ, Goldman Sachs, 83North, Granite Ventures, CommerzVentures and CreditEase.

“We’re incredibly excited to be partnering with Marqeta,” said Kris Fredrickson, Partner at Coatue Management, in a statement. “We believe that the company has a world class team, industry leading technology, and the ability to bring about profound change in card issuing and the global payments infrastructure. The company’s momentum over the last several years is a testament to the team’s hard work and the scale of the opportunity at hand.”

The growth of the internet and the use of smartphones for e-commerce has had a big impact on financial transactions: less people and businesses are paying and getting paid in cash, and card usage — both physical and virtual — is on the rise. Citing research from Edgar, Dunn & Company, Marqeta estimates the volume of the card issuing industry — that is, transactions made via cards — to be worth around $45 trillion.

“Visa and MasterCard have interconnected every single merchant that accepts cards, and that is still growing significantly,” Gardner said, but that expansion is coming at the same time that banks have been pricey and slow to move to accommodate the long tail of new opportunities for payment services. That is the opportunity that Marqeta is seizing, by providing quick and flexible options to any kind of commerce company that wants to make the move into issuing cards to its customers, along with supporting services around them such as payment reconciliations, real-time fund transfers and customer interactive voice response services. Gardner notes that while credit remains king, alternatives like debit and virtual cards are growing the fastest.

On the international front, the company opened an office in London recently to start to capitalise on building more inroads to providing card-related services to so-called “challenger banks” (examples include N26, Monese, Starling and Revolut) that have emerged with lower fees and app-friendly interfaces to tap into a growing base of younger working people, and older consumers who have grown tired of bank fees and poor options to move their money digitally.

A recent report from Accenture, cited by Reuters, noted that challenger banks collectively now account for 14 percent of the banking market’s revenues in Europe, or €206 billion ($238 billion) compared to just 3.5 percent of the US market (which is worth $1.04 trillion).

Further afield, Gardner said the company has its eye on Asia, where he says growth in the past year has been “stagnant”, largely because its a “cash-centric culture.” However, government efforts to bring more transactions into the digital 21st century will lead to about 30 percent growth next year — an opportunity Gardner said Marqeta will want to try to cash in on.

Generation closes $1B growth fund targeting sustainable startups

21 mai, par Ingrid Lunden[ —]

Generation Investment Management, the firm co-founded by environmentalist and former Vice President Al Gore, was built on the premise of backing sustainable startups. Now, as the idea of sustainability starts to gain wider traction, the firm is doubling down on the concept.

Today, Generation is announcing that it has closed a $1 billion Sustainable Solutions Fund for growth investments. As the name implies, it plans to put the $1 billion to work backing later-stage startups that work on sustainability in at least one of three areas — environmental solutions; healthcare; and financial inclusion, including the future of work — and are creating financially sustainable businesses out of that focus.

Typical investments will range from $50 million to $150 million, and there have already been two made out of the fund before it closed, both indicative of the kinds of investments Generation plans to be making.

Andela — the startup that pairs companies needing engineering talent to work on projects with developers based out of Africa — in January announced a $100 million round. Also that month, Sophia Genetics — the company that applies AI to DNA sequencing to help formulate more accurate medical treatments — raised $77 million led by the firm.

Other companies that Generation has backed include Asana, DocuSign, gogoro, CiBO, M-Kopa, Ocado, Optoro and Seventh Generation.

This is Generation’s third growth fund and the largest raised by the firm to date, which itself is a sign of the swing we’ve seen in the tech world.

In general, founders, workers and investors all remain relentlessly focused on growing new ideas. But along with that there has been a rising conscientiousness of the massive role that tech plays in shaping the world, and so some are now trying to make more of an effort to use that for more meaningful outcomes.

“You are seeing how sustainability is attracting high performing entrepreneurs,” said Lilly Wollman, partner and co-head of the Growth Equity platform, in an interview. “They care about the mission, and that is also driving financial performance.”

“We believe that we are at the early stages of a technology-led sustainability revolution,” said Al Gore, Chairman and Co-Founder, in a statement, “which has the scale of the industrial revolution, and the pace of the digital revolution.”

In the case of Generation, it’s also an indication that the firm — which has $22 billion under management today — is providing impressive enough returns on its mission to drive more interest from LPs to grow the commitment to back it.

“There is a recognition of this momentum,” added Lila Preston, a Partner who is the growth platform’s co-head, of the 15 years the firm has already spent on this concept and the work it’s put into it. “We see this as a movement, but one with a roadmap based on research and understanding.”

It’s also notable to me that the two people leading the growth team are women. Wollman noted that 60 percent of the Generation team is female, with the employee base spanning eight nationalities. “The firm believes more diversity leads to better outcomes,” she said.

Consumers are also playing a big role. Of all the good, bad and ugly that have been wrought by the rise of social media, one of the positives has been how social platforms have been used to raise awareness of issues such as climate change and inclusion. We may be getting into more online fights with our distant cousins (and closer friends and relatives), and sometimes issues like trying to curtail emissions gasses seems like an insurmountable challenge. But some will also use what they read about and watch online as inspiration to try to make a change.

“One of the things that is so interesting in this moment is at we are at an inflection point,” said Wollman. “Sustainability is winning on economics alone. You see sustainable products and solutions that are both efficacious and cheap. People are buying electric vehicles not just because they are green, but because they are starting to become cheap enough, and provide better performance.”

That’s bringing in a new wave of investors to the mix, and it’s interesting to see how some more conventional investors are even starting to take a bigger step into making mission-driven investment decisions. (Just yesterday, in the UK, Balderton co-led a large round for Wagestream, a startup aimed at helping promote financial inclusion by creating a way to easily and cheaply draw down money from monthly paychecks. Generation hinted that it too might be making an investment in a startup working in a similar area in the weeks to come.)

“It helps to have a set of coinvestors to ask questions related not only to ‘what are your growth metrics’ but ‘how does what you are doing affect the wider world,'” said Preston. “We are finding an increase of sophistication, which we think is positive recognition. Given the context of our shift, whether it’s a new economic model or climate change, we are going to need masses of capital to drive sustainable solutions and reframe what is successful.”

ZenHub Workspaces make GitHub easier to use across teams

21 mai, par Frederic Lardinois[ —]

ZenHub, a project management tool for GitHub, today announced the launch of Workspaces, a feature that makes it easier for teams to use its service — and GitHub — by allowing them to tweak the service to the needs of specific teams while still using GitHub as the ground truth for their work.

With Workspaces, teams can create multiple workspaces inside a GitHub repository (ZenHub does this through a Chrome extension) so that a team of developers can get a detailed view of every issue, for example, while other teams only get to see what is relevant to them. This also allows different teams to opt for their own work styles, no matter whether that’s Scrum or Kanban.

“What this will allow teams to do is to work in their own unique ways and build their own unique workflows dependent on how they work,” ZenHub founder and CEO Aaron Upright told me. “So a front end team can have its own board of GitHub issues, that’s more of a Kanban-style of workflow. And the back end team can have its own workflow that’s more of a scrum style.”

Issues are still shared across boards and every team can see what the other teams are working on, which will also allow for more transparency inside the company.

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