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Talkdesk nabs $100M at more than $1B valuation for its smart call centers

Talkdesk, the provider of cloud-based contact center software, has raised $100 million in new funding from Viking Global Investors, a Connecticut-based hedge fund, and existing investor DFJ. The round values the company at north of $1 billion, Talkdesk co-founder and chief executive officer Tiago Paiva confirmed to TechCrunch, but he declined to disclose the exact figure. The company, which uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to improve customer service, targets mid-market and enterprise businesses, counting IBM, Dropbox, Stitch Fix and Farfetch as customers. “Imagine a company has a million customers and they want to reach out for support, what Talkdesk does is allow the customer to connect with a company in the best way possible,” Paiva told TechCrunch. “If you call into Farfetch, they will be using Talkdesk so they can see what products you’ve bought, what your tastes are, what you’ve complained about before. It gives them the history of everything so they can take care of your problem faster.” Talkdesk launched an app store for enterprise call center customers Founded in Portugal in 2011, Talkdesk has offices in San Francisco and Lisbon. With the latest investment, it plans to expand to the U.K., as well as double down on its investment in AI. The company has previously raised about $24 million in equity funding, including a $15 million round in mid-2015. It also was a Startup Battlefield contestant at TechCrunch Disrupt NY in 2012. “Today’s digital-first customers expect immediate and personalized answers, yet the majority of companies have not yet adopted a flexible, cloud-native platform to enable this level of agility and service,” DFJ partner Josh Stein said in a statement. “We believe that 2019 will be the year that cloud-based contact centers become the rule, not the exception.”

uBiome is jumping into therapeutics with a healthy $83 million in Series C financing

23andMe, IBM and now uBiome is the next tech company to jump into the lucrative multi-billion dollar drug discovery market. The company started out with a consumer gut health test to check whether your intestines carry the right kind of bacteria for healthy digestion but has since expanded to include over 250,000 samples for everything from the microbes on your skin to vaginal health — the largest data set in the world for these types of samples, according to the company. Founder Jessica Richman now says there’s a wider opportunity to use this data to create value in therapeutics. To support its new drug discovery efforts, the San Francisco-based startup will be moving its therapeutics unit into new Cambridge, Massachusetts headquarters and appointing former Novartis CEO Joseph Jimenez to the board of directors as well. The company has a healthy pile of cash to help build out that new HQ, too, with a fresh $83 million Series C, lead by OS Fund and in participation with 8VC, Y Combinator, Dentsu Ventures and others. The drug discovery market is slated to be worth nearly $86 billion by 2022, according to BCC Research numbers. New technologies — those that solve logistics issues and shorten the time between research and getting a drug to market in particular — are driving the growth and that’s where uBiome thinks it can get into the game. “This financing allows us to expand our product portfolio, increase our focus on patent assets and further raise our clinical profile, especially as we begin to focus on commercialization of drug discovery and development of our patent assets,” Richman said. Though its unclear at this time which drug maker the company might partner up with, Richman did say there would be plenty to announce later on that front. So far, the company has published over 30 peer-reviewed papers on microbiome research, has entered into research partnerships with the likes of the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and leading research institutions such as Harvard, MIT and Stanford and has previously raised $22 million in funding. The additional VC cash puts the…

Meet the startups in the latest Alchemist class

Alchemist is the Valley’s premiere enterprise accelerator and every season they feature a group of promising startups. They are also trying something new this year: they’re putting a reserve button next to each company, allowing angels to express their interest in investing immediately. It’s a clever addition to the demo day model. You can watch the live stream at 3pm PST here. Videoflow – Videoflow allows broadcasters to personalize live TV. The founding team is a duo of brothers — one from the creative side of TV as a designer, the other a computer scientist. Their SaaS product delivers personalized and targeted content on top of live video streams to viewers. Completely bootstrapped to date, they’ve landed NBC, ABC, and CBS Sports as paying customers and appear to be growing fast, having booked over $300k in revenue this year. Redbird Health Tech – Redbird is a lab-in-a-box for convenient health monitoring in emerging market pharmacies, starting with Africa. Africa has the fastest growing middle class in the world — but also the fastest growing rate of diabetes (double North America’s). Redbird supplies local pharmacies with software and rapid tests to transform them into health monitoring points – for anything from blood sugar to malaria to cholesterol. The founding team includes a Princeton Chemical Engineer, 2 Peace Corps alums, and a Pharmacist from Ghana’s top engineering school. They have 20 customers, and are growing 36% week over week. Shuttle – Shuttle is getting a head start on the future of space travel by building a commercial spaceflight booking platform. Space tourism may be coming sooner than you think. Shuttle wants to democratize access to the heavens above. Founded by a Stanford Computer Science alum active in Stanford’s Student Space Society, Shuttle has partnerships with the leading spaceflight operators, including Virgin Galactic, Space Adventures, and Zero-G. Tickets to space today will set you back a cool $250K, but Shuttle believes that prices will drop exponentially as reusable rockets and landing pads become pervasive. They have $1.6m in reservations and growing. Birdnest – Threading the needle between communal and private, Birdnest is the…

Hacera creates directory to make blockchain projects more searchable

In the 1990s when the web was young, companies like Yahoo, created directories of web pages to help make them more discoverable. Hacera wants to bring that same idea to blockchain, and today it announced the launch of the Hacera Network Registry. CEO Jonathan Levi says that blockchains being established today risk being isolated because people simply can’t find them. If you have a project like the IBM -Maersk supply chain blockchain announced last month, how does an interested party like a supplier or customs authority find it and ask to participate? Up until the creation of this registry, there was no easy way to search for projects. Early participants include heavy hitters like Microsoft, Hitachi, Huawei, IBM, SAP and Oracle, who are linking to projects being created on their platforms. The registry supports projects based on major digital ledger communities including Hyperledger, Quorum, Cosmos, Ethereum and Corda. The Hacera Network Registry is built on Hyperledger Fabric, and the code is open source. (Levi was Risk Manager for Hyperledger Fabric 1.0.) Hacera Network Registry page While early sponsors of the project include IBM and Hyperledger Fabric, Levi stressed the network is open to all. Blockchain projects can create information pages, not unlike a personal LinkedIn page, and Hacera verifies the data before adding it to the registry. There are currently more than 70 networks in the registry, and Hacera is hoping this is just the beginning. Jerry Cuomo, VP of blockchain technologies at IBM, says for blockchain to grow it will require a way to register, lookup, join and transact across a variety of blockchain solutions. “As the number of blockchain consortiums, networks and applications continues to grow we need a means to list them and make them known to the world, in order to unleash the power of blockchain,” Cuomo told TechCrunch. Hacera is solving that problem. This is exactly the kind of underlying infrastructure that the blockchain requires to expand as a technology. Cuomo certainly recognizes this.”We realized from the start that you cannot do blockchain on your own; you need a vibrant community and ecosystem of like-minded innovators…

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