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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…

Deliverr raises $7M to help e-commerce businesses compete with Amazon Prime

When Amazon rolled out its membership-based two-day shipping service in 2005, e-commerce and customer expectations around fulfillment speed changed forever. Today, more than 100 million people use Amazon Prime. That means, 100 million people are fully accustomed to two-day shipping and if they can’t have it, they shop elsewhere. As The Wall Street Journal’s Christopher Mims recently put it: “Alongside life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, you can now add another inalienable right: two-day shipping on practically everything.” Only recently have Amazon’s competitors begun to offer similar fast delivery options. About two years ago, Walmart launched its own free two-day delivery service for its owned-inventory; eBay followed suit, establishing a three-day or less delivery guaranteed option for shoppers in March 2017. To power these Prime-like delivery options, Walmart, eBay and the Canadian e-commerce business Shopify are relying on a little upstart. One-year-old Deliverr helps businesses offer rapid delivery experiences to their customers. Today, the company is announcing a $7.1 million Series A led by Joe Lonsdale’s 8VC, with participation from Zola founder Shan-Lyn Ma, Flexport chief executive officer Ryan Peterson and others. The San Francisco-based startup uses machine learning and predictive intelligence to determine which of its warehouses to store its client’s goods. Walmart launches free, 2-day shipping without a membership on purchases of $35 or more Currently, Deliverr operates out of more than 10 warehouses in Texas, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Ohio and New Jersey, among other states, though co-founder Michael Krakaris says that number is growing every week. Its customers typically store inventory in three to five different locations based on Deliverr’s predictive algorithms. Unlike Amazon, which owns more than 75 fulfillment centers, Deliverr doesn’t own its warehouses. Krakaris describes the company’s strategy as a sort of Uber for fulfillment. “Uber didn’t change the physical infrastructure of cars. They didn’t build their own taxis. What they did was create software that could connect excess capacity drivers,” Krakaris told TechCrunch. “Most warehouses aren’t going to be full. We are going in and filling that extra space they wouldn’t otherwise fill.” One of the startup’s tricks is to use brand-neutral packaging so any and all marketplaces could theoretically power fulfillment through Deliverr. Amazon,…

Ne-Yo wants to make Silicon Valley more diverse, one investment at a time

Dressed in a Naruto t-shirt and a hat emblazoned with the phrase “lone wolf,” Ne-Yo slouches over in a chair inside a Holberton School classroom. The Grammy-winning recording artist is struggling to remember the name of “that actor,” the one who’s had a successful career in both the entertainment industry and tech investing. “I learned about all the things he was doing and I thought it was great for him,” Ne-Yo told TechCrunch. “But I didn’t really know what my place in tech would be.” It turns out “that actor” is Ashton Kutcher, widely known in Hollywood and beyond for his role in several blockbusters and the TV sitcom That ’70s Show, and respected in Silicon Valley for his investments via Sound Ventures and A-Grade in Uber, Airbnb, Spotify, Bird and several others. Ne-Yo, for his part, is known for a string of R&B hits including So Sick, One in a Million and Because of You. His latest album, Good Man, came out in June. Ne-Yo, like Kutcher, is interested in pursuing a side gig in investing but he doesn’t want to waste time chasing down the next big thing. His goal, he explained, is to use his wealth to encourage people like him to view software engineering and other technical careers as viable options. “Little black kids growing up don’t say things like ‘I want to be a coder when I grow up,’ because it’s not real to them, they don’t see people that look like me doing it,” Ne-Yo said. “But tech is changing the world, like literally by the day, by the second, so I feel like it just makes the most sense to have it accessible to everyone.” Last year, Ne-Yo finally made the leap into venture capital investing: his first deal, an investment in Holberton School, a two-year coding academy founded by Julien Barbier and Sylvain Kalache that trains full-stack engineers. The singer returned to San Francisco earlier this month for the grand opening of Holberton’s remodeled headquarters on Mission Street in the city’s SoMa neighborhood. Holberton, a proposed alternative to a computer science degree, is free to students until they graduate and land a job,…

VCs say Silicon Valley isn’t the gold mine it used to be

In the days leading up to TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2018, The Economist published the cover story, ‘Why Startups Are Leaving Silicon Valley.’ The author outlined reasons why the Valley has “peaked.” Venture capital investors are deploying capital outside the Bay Area more than ever before. High-profile entrepreneurs and investors, Peter Thiel, for example, have left. Rising rents are making it impossible for new blood to make a living, let alone build businesses. And according to a recent survey, 46 percent of Bay Area residents want to get the hell out, an increase from 34 percent two years ago. Needless to say, the future of Silicon Valley was top of mind on stage at Disrupt. “It’s hard to make a difference in San Francisco as a single entrepreneur,” said J.D. Vance, the author of ‘Hillbilly Elegy’ and a managing partner at Revolution’s Rise of the Rest Fund, which backs seed-stage companies based outside Silicon Valley. “It’s not as a hard to make a difference as a successful entrepreneur in Columbus, Ohio.” In conversation with Vance, Revolution CEO Steve Case said he’s noticed a “mega-trend” emerging. Founders from cities like Pittsburgh, Detroit or Portland are opting to stay in their hometowns instead of moving to U.S. innovation hubs like San Francisco. “The sense that you have to be here or you can’t play is going to start diminishing.” “We are seeing the beginnings of a slowing of what has been a brain drain the last 20 years,” Case said. “It’s not just watching where the capital flows, it’s watching where the talent flows. And the sense that you have to be here or you can’t play is going to start diminishing.” J.D. Vance says that most entrepreneurs don’t need to move to Silicon Valley. Here’s why. #TCDisrupt pic.twitter.com/0mFPeTuHLe — TechCrunch (@TechCrunch) September 6, 2018 Farewell, San Francisco “It’s too expensive to live here,” said Aileen Lee, the founder of seed-stage VC firm Cowboy Ventures, amid a conversation with leading venture capitalists Spark Capital general partner Megan Quinn and Benchmark general partner Sarah Tavel . “I know that there are a lot of people in the Bay…

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…

Lime is pissed at San Francisco for denying it an e-scooter permit, claims ‘unlawful bias’

Lime is waging a war against the San Francisco Municipal Transporation Agency (SFMTA), claiming the organization acted with “unlawful bias” and “sought to punish Lime” when it chose not to award the e-scooter and dockless bike startup a permit to operate in San Francisco last month. Lime has sent an appeal to the SFMTA, requesting an “unbiased hearing officer” reevaluate its application to participate in the city’s 12-month pilot program for e-scooter providers. The SFMTA, however, says they are “confident” they picked the right companies in Scoot and Skip. “After a thorough, fair and transparent review process, we are confident we selected the strongest applicants to participate in the one-year scooter pilot,” a spokesperson for SFMTA said in a statement provided to TechCrunch. “Scoot and Skip demonstrated the highest level of commitment to our city’s values of prioritizing public safety, promoting equity and ensuring accountability. Lime’s appeal will go to an independent hearing officer for further consideration.” San Francisco’s permit process came as a result of Lime and its competitors, Bird and Spin, deploying their scooters without permission in the city this March. As part of a new city law, which went into effect in June, scooter startups are not able to operate in San Francisco without a permit. Lyft, Skip, Spin, Lime, Scoot, ofo, Razor, CycleHop, USSCooter and Ridecell all applied for permits. Now, Lime is arguing the selection process was unfair and that because it deployed scooters in the city without asking permission — the Uber model of expansion — the SFMTA intentionally rejected its application despite its qualifications. “The SFMTA ignored the fact that Scoot’s price is twice that of other applicants, including Lime, and that Scoot declined to offer any discounted cash payment option to low-income users, as required by law,” Lime wrote in a statement today. “SFMTA inexplicably avoided inclusion of these factors as evaluation criteria and instead deemed Scoot ‘satisfactory’ because they ‘agreed to comply.’” When Lime learned of its rejection on Aug. 30, CEO Toby Sun said he was disappointed and planned to appeal the decision. “San Franciscans deserve an equitable and transparent process when it comes to transportation and…

‘Brotopia’ inspired OODA Health to raise its $40.5M round only from firms with female partners

It’s never particularly easy to raise a round of venture capital — but I think most experienced founders will tell you it’s not quite as bad the second or third time around, when you’ve got some experience under your belt and a track record to present to VCs. It helps if you’re male too, at least according to all the data out there on the gender funding gap in VC. The leadership team at OODA Health, a startup developing technology to make the U.S. healthcare payment system more efficient, is both male and experienced. But unlike most companies of that nature, OODA decided to raise money for the business only from VC firms that have at least one female leader, a solution to one of tech’s greatest problems that is oft suggested and rarely executed. “‘Brotopia’ really hit me hard,” OODA Health co-founder and CEO Giovanni Colella told TechCrunch. In “Brotopia,” sex parties are the least of Silicon Valley’s problems Colella is the founder and former CEO of Castlight Health, which raised nearly $200 million in VC funding before going public on the NYSE in 2014. Co-founder, COO and president Seth Cohen is Castlight’s former VP of sales and alliances and co-founder and CTO Usama Fayyad is the former global chief data officer at Barclays and Yahoo. The trio ultimately landed on lead investors Annie Lamont of Oak HC/FT and Emily Melton of DFJ, both of which have joined the company’s board of directors. “We have a responsibility of setting an example,” Colella said. “There is no machismo in what we’ve done. We are not better than you because we did it. We were blessed. We had more investors that wanted to invest than we could accommodate.” Though the company’s C-suite is occupied by men, Cohen and Colella were quick to clarify that other members of their founding team, head of operations Julie Skaff, head of product Sophie Pinkard and director of product strategy Midori Uehara, are women. The team began working on OODA Health last year after Colella and Cohen agreed to build something that would upend the healthcare…

MasterClass raises $80M after doubling sales last year

MasterClass, the website that brings celebrity-taught classes to the public, like tennis lessons from Serena Williams and photography instruction from Annie Leibovitz, has raised $80 million to expand internationally. The Series D funding, led by IVP, with participation from Javelin Ventures, NEA, Advancit Capital, Atomico and Evolution Media, will also be used to bring more celebrities to MasterClass. The company currently offers 39 classes, with plans to exceed 50 by the end of the year. In the last year, MasterClass has added a writing class with Margaret Atwood, a comedy lesson from Judd Apatow and more. Co-founder and CEO David Rogier told TechCrunch this morning that he hopes to bring Elon Musk, LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman and J.K. Rowling on board one day. MasterClass’ sales more than doubled from 2016 to 2017 and are on track to do the same this year. That puts the company on pace to match Udacity and Coursera — a pair of edtech heavyweights — in revenue, according to Rogier, who would not disclose MasterClass’ financials but made the comparison. Udacity has said publicly that it increased revenue to $70 million last year, up from $29 million in 2016. Coursera, for its part, is reportedly “within striking distance of $100 million dollars in annual revenue.” Udacity was founded in 2011 and garnered a $1 billion valuation in 2015. Coursera, founded in 2012, was valued at $800 million last year. Three-year-old MasterClass declined to disclose a valuation. To thrust itself ahead of its competitors, MasterClass also recently rolled out a new subscription model that allows customers to pay an annual fee of $180 for access to all MasterClass lessons, which are otherwise $90 each. It’s been a huge success so far, counting for 80 percent of the company’s revenue. On top of that, MasterClass released its first-ever mobile app this April. Before that, all the company’s growth came from desktop. “To our investors, that was a shock and a surprise,” Rogier said. “It’s really rare and amazing that you could drive that amount of growth without being on those platforms.” San Francisco-based MasterClass previously raised $54.5 million…

Peep the future of distributed ledgers with the leaders of Hyperledger, Parity Technologies and Tradeshift

As cryptocurrencies emerge from the speculative bloodletting of the past months, believers in the promise of distributed ledger technologies for business and consumer applications are casting about for what comes next. On our stage at Disrupt San Francisco we’ll be welcoming some of the leading thinkers in how distributed ledgers can create an entirely new architecture for computing and new processes for almost every conceivable transaction framework. For Brian Behlendorf, the executive director of Hyperledger, distributed ledger technologies represent a powerful path for the future of networked computing — no matter the underlying technology.  That’s why Behlendorf –through the Linux Foundation — is investing resources in ensuring that viable open source distributed ledger projects are supported and coming to market for any number of applications for businesses and consumers. One of the leading lights of the internet revolution, Behlendorf’s career shaping the future of the networked world began in 1993 when he co-founded Organic Inc. — the first business dedicated to building commercial websites. Going on to become one of the foundational architects of the Apache http protocol, Behlendorf has served as the chief technology officer of the World Economic Forum and as an executive director for the technology investment fund, Mithril Capital. Meanwhile, Parity Technologies is attempting to ensure that businesses don’t need to worry about the underlying technologies at all. Selling a suite of services that are all enabled by distributed ledger technologies and cryptographic computing, Jutta Steiner is giving businesses a way through the maze of competing protocols with a service that can enable the creation and adoption of distributed apps for businesses. “We see it as a way for people to build blockchains that fulfill their particular needs,” Steiner told our own Samantha Stein at our Blockchain event earlier this year in Zug. “One of the challenges we’re addressing in this is to come up with a scalable framework.” Before Parity, Steiner was responsible for security and partner integration within the Ethereum Foundation when the public blockchain first launched in 2015. Steiner also co-founded Project Provenance — a London based start-up that employs blockchain technology to…

Boston-area startups are on pace to overtake NYC venture totals

Joanna Glasner Contributor More posts by this contributor Home run exits happen stealthily for biotech While tech waffles on going public, biotech IPOs boom Boston has regained its longstanding place as the second-largest U.S. startup funding hub. After years of trailing New York City in total annual venture investment, Massachusetts is taking the lead in 2018. Venture investment in the Boston metro area hit $5.2 billion so far this year, on track to be the highest annual total in years. The Massachusetts numbers year-to-date are about 15 percent higher than the New York City total. That puts Boston’s biotech-heavy venture haul apparently second only to Silicon Valley among domestic locales thus far this year. And for New England VCs, the latest numbers also confirm already well-ingrained opinions about the superior talents of local entrepreneurs. “Boston often gets dismissed as a has-been startup city. But the successes are often overlooked and don’t get the same attention as less successful, but more hypey companies in San Francisco,” Blake Bartlett, a partner at Boston-based venture firm OpenView, told Crunchbase News. He points to local success stories like online prescription service PillPack, which Amazon just snapped up for $1 billion, and online auto marketplace CarGurus, which went public in October and is now valued around $4.7 billion. Meanwhile, fresh capital is piling up in the coffers of local startups with all the intensity of a New England snowstorm. In the chart below, we look at funding totals since 2012, along with reported round counts. In the interest of rivalry, we are also showing how the Massachusetts startup ecosystem compares to New York over the past five years. Who’s getting funded? So what’s the reason for Boston’s 2018 successes? It’s impossible to pinpoint a single cause. The New England city’s startup scene is broad and has deep pockets of expertise in biotech, enterprise software, AI, consumer apps and other areas. Still, we’d be remiss not to give biotech the lion’s share of the credit. So far this year, biotech and healthcare have led the New England dealmaking surge, accounting for the majority of invested capital. Once again, local investors…

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