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SoftBank’s debt, Ford buys Spin, and Chinese coffee is huge money

Hello and welcome back to Equity, TechCrunch’s venture capital-focused podcast, where we unpack the numbers behind the headlines. This week was a blast. Connie and I were in the studio with our guest, True Ventures’s Tony Conrad, while Danny repped the other side of the country, dialing in from New York. It was another week shaped by news from Asia. Once we had sorted the sartorially expedient, we first turned to the world of SoftBank, this time taking a close look at its debt load. While SoftBank is currently famous for its investments through its Vision Fund, the company is picking up some notable, debt-powered investments into its vehicle that could add to its risk profile. After all, who doesn’t want more risk as 2018 comes to a close? Moving on, Ford is doubling-down on it...

AdRoll expands its B2B data and tech by acquiring Growlabs

AdRoll Group announced today that it has acquired Growlabs, a two-year-old startup with business-to-business sales tools and data. While AdRoll is best known for its retargeting technology for consumer advertising, it’s been building out a suite of B2B marketing technology under its RollWorks business unit, which launched earlier this year. The company says that by marrying its artificial intelligence technology with Growlabs’ database of 12 million companies and 320 million business identities, as well as the startup’s lead generation and sales automation tools, it can help customers run multi-channel campaigns with messages that are automatically sequenced to the sales stage. Asked why Growlabs was an appealing acquisition target, CEO Toby Gabriner (who joined AdRoll la...

Olho do Dono is the winner of Startup Battlefield Latin America

Fifteen startups spent the day presenting onstage in São Paulo, Brazil. For the finalists, that meant presenting twice — once in the initial rounds, then again for our finalist judges. This was all part of Startup Battlefield Latin America, an event that we put on in partnership with Facebook’s FB Start program. After a full day of pitches and panels, the judges have chosen a winner, who will receive $25,000 (equity free) and a trip for two to TechCrunch Disrupt San Francisco 2019. Check back on TechCrunch tomorrow to watch the full videos of the presentation. In the meantime, our winner (all descriptions provided by the companies): Olho do Dono Olho do Dono offers software that uses a portable 3D camera to estimate cattle weight, allowing cattle owners to monitor livestock weight ev...

Datacoral raises $10M Series A for its data infrastructure service

Datacoral aims to make it easier for enterprises to build data products by abstracting away all of the complex infrastructure to organize and process data. The company today announced that it has raised a $10 million Series A financing round led by Madrona Venture Group, with participation from Social Captial, which also led its $4 million seed round in 2017. Datacoral CEO Raghu Murthy tells me that the company plans to use the new funding to grow its business team in order to be able to reach more potential customers and to expand its engineering team as well. The promise of Datacoral is to offer enterprises an end-to-end data infrastructure that will allow businesses and their data scientists to focus on generating insights over having to manage and integrate their data sources. Since no...

Japan is cracking down on SoftBank’s revenue

First, a couple of quick follow-ups to our coverage of Form Ds yesterday, and then a deeper dive into the challenges SoftBank is facing with regards to its revenue in Japan. Finally, some notes on recent articles we have read. We are experimenting with new content forms at TechCrunch. This is a rough draft of something new – provide your feedback directly to the authors: Danny at danny@techcrunch.com or Arman at Arman.Tabatabai@techcrunch.com if you like or hate something here. Form D(isappearing) Form Ds are (usually) filed by startups to the SEC when they take on venture capital. However, there appears to be an increasing pattern of startups foregoing the filing, which has implications for both reporters (we have less info about what’s happening in the venture world) as well as wit...

Bonobo AI raises $4.5M seed round to help companies turn interactions with customers into valuable data

Bonobo AI, an AI-based platform that helps companies get insights from customer support calls, texts, and other interactions, announced today that it has raised $4.5 million in seed funding led by G20 Ventures and Capri Ventures. Founded in 2016 and led by co-founder and CEO Efrat Rapoport, the Tel Aviv-based startup claims that its technology has been used to analyze more than a billion interactions so far and that it has signed up a “few dozen” clients including DreamCloud and Honeybook. The idea behind Bonobo is that even though customer service texts and voice calls can provide companies with a trove of valuable information, these data points are difficult to aggregate and analyze at scale. Bonobo’s technology integrates into the platforms that its clients use to communicate with custo...

The scooters arrive in Australia

The scooter startups are taking over the world — or trying to. Earlier this week, Bird debuted its electric scooters in London’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park; today, Lime is announcing its foray into the land down under with the launch of a three-month scooter pilot at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia. Lime has also released several hundred of its dockless electric bikes in Sydney and plans to introduce its scooters there, as well as in Brisbane, soon. “Sydney’s need for innovative transport solutions, which cater to the first and last mile, gives us confidence we will see high uptake of Lime electric bikes within the community,” said Mitchell Price, Lime’s director of government affairs and strategy in Australia and New Zealand. The company is also announcing th...

RealtimeBoard, a visual collaboration platform for companies, raises $25M led by Accel

RealtimeBoard, a visual collaboration tool particularly suited to distributed teams, has picked up $25 million in Series A funding. Accel led the round, with participation from existing investor AltaIR Capital. The 150 person-strong company — which itself is distributed across offices in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Amsterdam, and Perm — says it will use the additional capital to continue to scale, including building out its customer acquisition capabilities by bolstering sales and marketing teams, and growing its user community. To that end, RealtimeBoard counts the likes of Hubspot, Skyscanner, Qlik, Autodesk, Netflix, and Twitter as customers, and claims 2 million users worldwide. The startup generates revenue by charging for use of its SaaS on a per seat basis for teams or c...

Corporate travel startup TripActions raises $154M at $1B valuation

TripActions, one of the most well-capitalized travel startups in Silicon Valley, has raised yet another round of capital valuing the corporate travel manager at more than $1 billion. Andreessen Horowitz co-founder Ben Horowitz will join TripActions’ board of directors as part of the startup’s $154 million in Series C funding. Lightspeed Venture Partners, Zeev Ventures and SGVC also participated in the round. Co-founders Ariel Cohen and Ilan Twig said TripActions’ $236 million raised to date, as well as its new “unicorn” valuation, is justified by its 700 percent annual growth rate and more than 1,000 customers. “We mean it when we say our solution is so good we want to make sure we are bringing it to as many companies, as many employees as possible,̶...

Here are the startups and the agenda for the TC’s first Startup Battlefield Latin America

In just a half hour, we’ll be starting Startup Battlefield LATAM in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Along with interviews with Nubank, Movile, Yellow, and a keynote from Facebook (TC’s partner for the event through FB Start), 15 startups from all across Latin America will be pitching their innovative companies on the TechCrunch stag for the first time. We will be posting videos of the pitches, panels, and the competition winner on TechCrunch later today, so if you can’t be here in person check back. In partnership with FB Start, this is the first year that TechCrunch is hosting Startup Battlefield in Latin America. TechCrunch reviewed hundreds upon hundreds of startups from all across the region, finally selecting 15 of the companies most promising startups to compete for Startup Batt...

Infarm expands its ‘in-store farming’ to Paris

Infarm, the Berlin-based startup that has developed vertical farming tech for grocery stores, restaurants and local distribution centres to bring fresh and artisan produce much closer to the consumer, is expanding to Paris. Once again, the company is partnering with Metro in a move that will see Infarm’s “in-store farming” platform installed in the retailer’s flagship store in the French capital city later this month. The 80 metre square “vertical farm” will produce approximately 4 tonnes of premium quality herbs, leafy greens, and microgreens annually, and means that Metro will become completely self-sufficient in its herb production with its own in-store farm. Founded in 2013 by Osnat Michaeli, and brothers Erez and Guy Galonska, Infarm has developed a...

Zopa, the UK P2P lending company, closes £60M round on path to launching a bank

Obtaining a banking license and then launching an actual new retail bank requires capital. A lot of capital. Enter Zopa, the U.K. peer-to-peer lending company that wants to become a bank, which today is announcing that it has closed £60 million in further funding. Only £16 million is actually new new money, having already disclosed £44 million in August, so this is effectively an extension of that earlier fund-raise. The purpose remains the same, however: Zopa says it will use the latest round of investment toward the capital needs for its yet-to-launch “next generation bank.” The company began applying for a bank license with the U.K. regulators in 2016. The new funding also comes off the back of what the fintech claims is its sustainable and profitable peer-to-peer business, ...

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