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With $50M in fresh funding, Allbirds will open new stores in the US, UK and Asia

The quintessential venture capitalist’s uniform consists of a pair of designer jeans, a Patagonia fleece vest and $95 wool sneakers. The company behind the shoes, Allbirds, entered the unicorn club this morning with the announcement of a $50 million Series C from late-stage players T. Rowe Price, which led the round, Tiger Global and Fidelity Investments. The 3-year-old startup founded by Joey Zwillinger and Tim Brown has raised $75 million to date, including a $17.5 million Series B last year. It’s backed by Leonardo DiCaprio, Scooter Braun, Maveron, Lerer Hippeau and Elephant, the venture capital firm led by Warby Parker founder Andrew Hunt. The Wall Street Journal is reporting the round values Allbirds at $1.4 billion. The company would not confirm that figure to TechCrunch. Like Warby Parker, San Francisco-based Allbirds began as a direct-to-consumer online retailer but has since expanded to brick-and-mortar, opening stores in San Francisco and New York. It currently ships to locations across the U.S., New Zealand, Australia and Canada. Next week, the company plans to open its first storefront in the U.K. in London’s Covent Garden neighborhood. It will begin shipping throughout the U.K. In 2019. Using its latest investment, Allbirds will double down on its brick-and-mortar business. In addition to the U.K., the company says it will open even more locations in the U.S., as well as open doors in Asia in the coming months. Tiger Global, which has backed Allbirds since its Series B, may be of help. The firm has offices in Hong Kong and Singapore, as well as partners across Asia. Allbirds makes eco-friendly wool shoes for men, women and kids via its kid’s line, aptly named Smallbirds. The shoes are made of sustainable materials, including merino wool, a fabric made from eucalyptus fiber that the company has dubbed “Tree” and “SweetFoam,” a shoe sole made from sugarcane-based, carbon-negative foam rubber. “Climate change is the problem of our generation and the private sector has a responsibility to combat it,” Zwillinger, Allbirds’ chief executive officer, said in a statement. “This injection of capital will help us bring our sustainable products to more people around the globe, demonstrating that comfort, design…

Study says the US is quickly losing its entrepreneurial edge

Photographer: Daro Sulakauri/Bloomberg According to a new study conducted by the Center for American Entrepreneurship and NYU’s Shack Institute of Real Estate, the US may be losing its competitive advantage as the dominant nucleus of the startup and venture capital universe.  The analysis, led by senior Brookings Institution fellow Ian Hathaway and “Rise of the Creative Class” author Richard Florida, examines the flow of venture capital over 100,000 deals from 2005 to 2017 and details how the historically US-centric practice of venture capital has become a global phenomenon. While the US still appears to produce the largest amount of venture activity in the world, America’s share of the global pie is falling dramatically and doing so quickly. In the mid-90s, the US accounted for more than 95% of global venture capital investment.  By 2012, this number had fallen to 70%. At the end of 2017, the US share of total venture investment had fallen to just 50%.    Over the last decade, non-US countries have propelled growth in the global startup and venture economy, which has swelled from $50 billion to over $170 billion in size.  In particular, China, India and the UK now account for a third of global venture deal count and dollars – 2-3x the share held ten years ago.  And with VC dollars increasingly circulating into modernizing Asia-Pac and European cities, the researchers found that the erosion in the US share of venture capital is trending in the wrong direction. Growth of global startup cities and the myth of the American “rise of the rest” We’ve spent the summer discussing the notion of Silicon Valley reaching its parabolic peak – Observing the “rise of the rest” across smaller American tech hubs.  In reality, the data reveals a “rise in the rest of the world”, with startup ecosystems outside the US growing at a faster pace than most US hubs. The Bay Area remains the world’s preeminent beneficiary of VC investment, and New York, Los Angeles, and Boston all find themselves in the top ten cities contributing to global venture growth.  However, only six of the top 20 cities are located in the US, while 14 are in Asia or Europe.  At the…

China’s secret startup advantage: liquidity

This year’s rush of IPOs from Chinese tech companies has dominated headlines, but what’s more interesting is how quickly they got there. Traditionally, “going public” represented the gratifying culmination of sleepless nights and missed birthdays that went into building a company. The peak of a lengthy climb, where founders and VCs would finally see the fruits of their labor.  However, Chinese companies appear to be reaching that peak much quicker than their American peers, heading to the public markets only a few years after initial venture investments, and often with little operating history.  Analyzing twenty of the most high profile Chinese tech IPOs this year, the average time from first venture investment to IPO was only around three to five years. Take e-commerce platform Pinduoduo, which pulled in $1.6 billion less than three years after its Series A.  Or the recent IPO of EV-manufacturer NIO, which raised a billion dollars just three-and-a-half years after its Series A and having just delivered its first car in June. China IPO data for 2018 compiled from NASDAQ, Pitchbook, and Crunchbase That’s less than half the average 10-year timeline for venture-backed US tech companies that went public in 2018, including Dropbox, Eventbrite, and DocuSign, which all IPO’d more than a decade after their initial investments. Differences in market maturity, government involvement, and support from large tech incumbents all undoubtedly play a factor, but the speed to liquidity for the Chinese companies is still astounding. Faster liquidity can push cycle of returns, fundraising, reinvestment Speed to liquidity is a critical metric for the health of a startup ecosystem. It creates a positive cycle where faster liquidity can drive faster fundraising, faster reinvestment, faster startup building, and faster public liquidity again.  An accelerated cycle could be especially appealing for funds with LPs that require faster returns due to cash commitments or otherwise. It’s important to note that venture returns are a function of capital and time, so quicker exits will also drive higher returns for the same amount invested.  For example, a $1 million investment with a $5 million exit after ten years would generate an Internal Rate of…

Taiwan startup FunNow gets $5M Series A to help locals in Asian cities find last-minute things to do

“Instant booking” apps that let tourists sign up for activities on very short notice have been in the news a lot lately, partly because of Klook’s new unicorn status, but also because of the proliferation of startups in the space, especially in Asia. With so many instant booking apps, are there any niches left to fill? FunNow thinks so. Instead of targeting tourists, FunNow serves locals who want to find new things to do in their cities. The Taipei, Taiwan-based startup announced today that it has raised a $5 million Series A led by the Alibaba Entrepreneur Fund, with participation from CDIB, a returning investor, Darwin Venture and Accuvest. The capital will be used to expand FunNow into Southeast Asian and Japanese cities. Along with a pre-A round closed last July, its newest funding brings FunNow’s total raised since its launch in November 2015 to $6.5 million. FunNow currently claims 500,000 members and 3,000 vendors, who provide more than 20,000 activities and services daily. Co-founder and CEO T.K. Chen says the startup will focus on building its presence in Hong Kong, Okinawa, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, Osaka and Tokyo. One noteworthy fact about its Series A is the participation of Alibaba, which is beefing up its online-to-offline (or O2O, the business of enabling users to book and pay for offline services) offerings as competitor Meituan-Dianping prepares to go public in Hong Kong. A roster of Alibaba apps, including Koubei for local bookings, food delivery platform Ele.me and travel app Feizhu, compete against Meituan-Dianping, which describes itself as a “one-stop super app” because it offers all those services. A not-for-profit initiative, the Alibaba Entrepreneurs Fund supports startups that might eventually contribute to the tech giant’s ecosystem. While Alibaba’s O2O apps are focused on capturing a bigger share away from Meituan-Dianping in China, Chen says future synergies may include listing FunNow’s activities on Koubei so Chinese tourists can continue using the app when they travel. (Chen added that Alibaba wants FunNow to expand in Southeast Asia as soon as possible.) Even with a backer like Alibaba, however, the obvious question is how does…

Airwallex raises $80M for its international payment service for businesses

Airwallex, a three-year-old fintech startup focused on international payments for SMEs and businesses, is putting itself on the map after it raised an $80 million Series B round. Based out of Melbourne, but with six offices in Asia and other parts of the world, Airwallex’s new funding round is the second-largest financing deal for an Australian startup in history. The round was led by existing investors Tencent, the $500 billion Chinese internet giant, and Sequoia China. Other participants included China’s Hillhouse, Horizons Ventures — the fund from Hong Kong’s richest man, Li Ka-Shing — Indonesia-based Central Capital Ventura (BCA) and Australia’s Square Peg, a firm from Paul Bassat, who took recruitment firm Seek to IPO and is one of Australia’s highest-profile founders. The financing takes Airwallex to $102 million raised. Tencent led a $13 million Series A in May 2017, while Square Peg added $6 million more via a Series A+ in December. Mastercard is also a backer; the finance giant uses Airwallex to handle its “Send” product, while Tencent uses the service to power an overseas remittance service for its WeChat app. Airwallex handles cross-border transactions for companies that do business in multiple countries using international currencies. So it’s not unlike a TransferWise-style service for SMEs that lack the capital to develop a sophisticated (and expensive) international banking system of their own. The service uses wholesale FX rates to route overseas payments back to a client’s domestic bank and is capable of processing “thousands of transactions per second,” according to the company. A use case example might include helping a China-based seller return money earned in the U.S. or Europe via Amazon or other e-commerce services, or route sales revenue back directly from their own website. Airwallex CEO Jack Zhang (far right) onstage at TechCrunch Shenzhen in 2017 China is a key market for Airwallex — which was started by four Australian-Chinese founders — as well as the wider Asian region, and in particular Australia, Hong Kong and Southeast Asia. With this new capital, Airwallex co-founder and CEO Jack Zhang said the company will increase its focus on Hong Kong and Southeast…

India’s Cashify raises $12M for its second-hand smartphone business

Cashify, a company that buys and sells used smartphones, is the latest India startup to raise capital from Chinese investors after it announced a $12 million Series C round. Chinese funds CDH Investments and Morningside led the round, which included participation from Aihuishou, a China-based startup that sells used electronics in a similar way to Cashify and has raised more than $120 million. Existing investors, including Bessemer Ventures and Shunwei, also took part in the round. This new capital takes Cashify to $19 million raised to date. The business was started in 2013 by co-founders Mandeep Manocha (CEO), Nakul Kumar (COO) and Amit Sethi (CTO) initially as ReGlobe. The business gives consumers a fast way to sell their existing electronics; it deals mainly in smartphones but also takes laptops, consoles, TVs and tablets. “When we began we saw a lot of transaction for phone sales moving from offline to online,” Manocha told TechCrunch in an interview. “But consumer-to-consumer [for used devices] is highly opaque on price discovery and you never know if you’re making the right decision on price and whether the transaction will take place in the timeframe.” These days, the company estimates that the average upgrade cycle has shifted from 20 months to 12 months, and now it is doubling down. With Cashify, sellers simply fill out some details online about their device, then Cashify dispatches a representative who comes to their house to perform diagnostic checks and gives them cash for the device that day. The startup also offers an app which automatically carries out the checks — for example ensuring the camera, Bluetooth module, etc. all work — and offers a higher cash payment for the user since Cashify uses fewer resources. A sample of the Cashify Q&A for selling a device Beyond its website and app, Cashify gets devices from trade-in programs for Samsung, Xiaomi and Apple in India, as well as e-commerce companies like Flipkart, Amazon and Paytm Mall. Used device acquired, what happens next is interesting. The startup has built out a network of offline merchants who specialize in selling used phones. Each phone it acquires is then sold (perhaps…

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