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Summersalt raises $6M for its direct-to-consumer line of eco-friendly swimsuits

Founders Fund has led the $6 million Series A for Summersalt, an early-stage e-commerce startup embracing the next-gen consumer’s penchant for inclusivity and affordability. Headquartered in St. Louis, the 1-year old company sells swimsuits designed in-house with eco-friendly fabrics directly to consumers. Like other D2C brands, Summersalt cuts out the middlemen to give its customers access to its swimsuits for $95 or less. What sets it apart is its data-focused fit system. With a patent on recommending garments based on body type and consumer preference, it uses more than 10,000 scans of real women’s bodies and some 1.5 million measurements to create what it says are designer-quality garments. Co-founder and chief executive officer Lori Coulter and her team design all the swimsuits and source the fabrics directly with factories in the U.S. and Asia. With the latest investment, Coulter says the company will launch a line of travel wear and expand its inventory to offer more sizes. “A core value of the brand really is inclusivity and we know from an economic perspective that by moving up to size 22, we really can acquire a broader set of consumers,” Coulter told TechCrunch. Reshma Chattaram Chamberlin, co-founder and chief brand officer, said their strategy is to cater to women like them. Chamberlin herself is an immigrant, originally from Mumbai, while Coulter, a mother of two, was born and raised in Missouri. “We were both tired of seeing the oversexualized approach to swimwear,” Chamberlain told TechCrunch. “We wanted a brand to appeal to women like us so we could feel sexy on our own terms. We wanted to appeal to women across the country, whether that’s a mom in Missouri or a stylish girl in Brooklyn.” “Women like us are immigrants. Women like us are moms. Women like us are size 2 and women like us are size 22,” she added. The pair said the move to incorporate a travel line is in keeping with their wanderlust-themed brand, which appeals to younger consumers. “It’s a unique time in retail; women prefer experiences over things,” Coulter said. “We really see this as the next frontier in retail.…

Adzuna acquires job board Work In Startups

Armed with new capital (following a recent £8 million Series C round) and now doing £1 million per month in revenue, job meta-search engine Adzuna has acquired the U.K. tech startup job board Work In Startups. Terms of deal aren’t being disclosed. However, it will see Adzuna take over operation of the Work In Startups website but continue to run it as an independent brand and community. Notably, the site will remain free to post jobs. Launched in 2011 by Diana Ilinca and Alex Borbely, Work In Startups set out to create a way for startups to more easily find tech and creative talent, without having to go through recruiters or use more generic job sites. It is said to have become an important tool in U.K. startup hiring over the past few years, and, I understand, has been used by Adzuna itself. “As we continue to grow and learn more and more about the market, we’ve realised that ‘generalist’ search is not always the best solution for all jobseekers/employers, and sometimes a focussed, niche site can offer a more tailored experience and build a stronger community,” Adzuna co-founder Andrew Hunter tells me. “Tech startup jobs and companies are cutting-edge, early adopters and have very particular needs… and this is truly a really strong but underdeveloped market-leading community asset with a freemium model like Adzuna. So it’s a great way for us to learn better how we can take what we’re good at — tech, traffic acquisition, data etc. — and apply it to create more value for a site like this and its users.” Related to this, Adzuna’s data shows there are currently 1.1 million open job roles in the U.K. and that 90,000 (more than 8 percent) are in tech. “On a personal note, I want to make hiring great people easier and less expensive for U.K. startups,” continues Hunter. “I’ve been through ‘the struggle’ and it’s f***ing hard to attract the best talent when your company is just getting going (let alone having to compete with big banks and established tech companies for talent!). We’d like to…

Amazon backs German smart heating and AC company Tado in new $50M funding round

Tado, the smart thermostat and AC control maker, has raised a further $50 million in funding from an array of noteworthy and strategic investors. Backing the Munich-headquartered company this time around is Amazon, E.ON, Total Energy Ventures, Energy Innovation Capital, Inven Capital, and the European Investment Bank. It brings total funding to $102 million since being founded in 2011, while the new capital will be used to develop new products and to extend its service offerings. The latter already includes “proactive” boiler maintenance via data the app collects and analyses and Tado’s 40,000 strong network of heating engineer partners. That Amazon has chosen to invest is probably the most interesting aspect of this new financing round. The e-retail and technology giant has made multiple moves into the smart home space over the last few years, including acquisitions such as Ring (smart doorbell and security), and Blink (more smart doorbell and security cameras). Prior to buying Ring it was an investor via its Amazon Alexa Fund, and has also backed U.S. focussed smart thermostat company Ecobee. Zooming out further, Amazon’s Echo powered by Alexa has positioned itself as the device that can bring the disparate smart home ecosystem under a single voice interface, alongside competitors Apple (Siri) and Google (Google Home), of course. (Tado supports all three digital assistants and is sold by Amazon and in Apple retail stores). Amazon has also ventured into smart home device installation and other home services, and given that Tado has a strong services component, the strategic fit looks even stronger. In a call with Tado co-founder Christian Deilmann, he reiterated the three pillars of the company’s offering. The first is helping you manage your home’s climate to make it more comfortable and convenient/cost-effective. This includes being able to connect your existing central heating or air conditioning to the internet for remote and smartphone control, but also geo-location and other “smart” features that detect when residents are leaving or approaching home, the weather is changing, or when windows are opened. However, as we’ve noted before, Tado’s engineering play goes deeper than simply smart phone and location-based…

Voting is a social experience

If your Instagram followers aren’t aware that you’ve voted, did you really even vote? In 2018, the act of voting is great social media fodder. People want their friends to know they’ve registered to vote, or that they’ve just mailed in their absentee ballot or even that they’ve bought some sort of “look, I voted” t-shirt. These announcements are being shared across social platforms like it’s a required part of the voting process. Whether or not those people only voted for the likes doesn’t really matter, the important thing is that they voted. Social media, because of the unprecedented access it grants people to the lives of their peers and influencers, is an effective strategy of pushing eligible voters to the polls. Why? Because people care about their friends and often even more about what their friends think of them. No one wants to be that friend that didn’t vote. Vote.org and Outvote, a texting app for political campaigns, have taken note. The nonprofit platform for voter registration, information and advocacy has teamed up with the Y Combinator graduate to launch a new nonpartisan social media app that syncs with a user’s address book to help them quickly and efficiently remind their friends to check their registration status, find their polling place location and vote. According to Outvote’s research, one text message from a known contact made people 10 percent more likely to vote versus 8 percent from a typical conversation with a political canvasser. Using the app, you can essentially perform 2 hours of canvassing in 5 minutes, from the comfort of your own bed. “This November, reminding your friends is your new civic duty,” Outvote co-founder Naseem Makiya said in a statement.  Outvote’s flagship app is tailored for Democrats and is meant to inspire and personalize grassroots-style campaigning. Using that app, you can send messages to your friends using Facebook Messenger, too, though the app doesn’t sync with any contacts outside of your phone’s address book. In addition to YC backing, Outvote has raised $300,000 in seed funding. The startup was founded by Makiya, formerly of startups Moovweb and DataCamp, as well…

Hear how Threads makes fashion social at Disrupt Berlin

TechCrunch Disrupt Berlin is right around the corner, and I’m excited to announce that we invited Threads founder Sophie Hill to talk about her innovative vision of luxury shopping. Threads is like nothing out there. It isn’t an e-commerce website with warehouses and suppliers. It isn’t a marketplace website for second-hand luxury goods. It isn’t a marketplace website for other brands. In fact, it’s not a website at all. The startup combines a strong editorial strategy with a distribution method that is quite novel. You get recommendations through your favorite chat app on your phone. It works on services like WeChat, WhatsApp, Snapchat, Instagram and iMessage. On the other end of the conversation, you interact with human shopping assistants. This is what makes the experience so great. You don’t receive a newsletter, you don’t have to download an app. It integrates directly with apps that you were already using. This way, if you feel overwhelmed and think you’re falling behind on the fashion front, Threads is much more efficient. Chances are you often browse your conversation list anyway. Accessing Threads is just a tap away. And it’s working. The company recently raised a $20 million round and people spend $3,000 on average per shopping session. Big fashion houses, such as Dior, Fendi and Chopard started working with the startup. By adopting a WeChat-first approach, the company managed to attract quite a few Chinese customers in particular. But Threads currently has customers in over 100 countries. If you think you knew everything about e-commerce, come to Disrupt Berlin to listen to Hill’s novel strategy. The conference will take place on November 29-30 and you can buy your ticket right now. In addition to fireside chats and panels, like this one, new startups will participate in the Startup Battlefield Europe to win the highly coveted Battlefield cup. Sophie Hill Founder, Threads Sophie is founder and CEO of Threads, with a mission to pioneer the best luxury shopping experience in the world. By leveraging social media and messaging platforms, Sophie has built a £multi­million global fashion tech business, and is setting the rules…

A closer look at Mirror

At Disrupt SF, CEO Brynn Putnam demoed and launched Mirror, a smart gadget that sits on your wall and offers virtual fitness classes. The $1500 device can be paired with a monthly subscription to let the user browse fitness classes, mark their progress, and follow along with other Mirror users. The idea here is that people spend thousands of dollars on gym memberships and/or huge fitness machines like the Peloton, but that Mirror offers a way to get a similar experience at home without taking up all that space. We caught up with Putnam at the Mirror offices in NYC to check out the product and get more info. Enjoy the video!

Subscription management startup RevenueCat raises $1.5M

RevenueCat, a startup that helps developers manage their in-app subscriptions, has raised $1.5 million in new funding. The company was part of the most recent batch at Y Combinator, and CEO Jacob Eiting said growth has been “a rocket ship” for the past few months. As of this week, RevenueCat is working with 100 live apps, and it’s crossing $1 million in tracked revenue. The startup offers an API to address what sounds like a straightforward task, supporting in-app subscriptions in iOS and Android. As Eiting put it when I first interviewed him a few months ago, it’s “boring work” solving a “boring problem” — but that’s one of the reasons why developers don’t want to deal with it. It also means they don’t have to spend time dealing with bugs and updates on the subscription side of either platform. And RevenueCat continues to add new features, like allowing developers to bring their revenue data into analytics and attribution services. That, in turn, makes it easier for them to see which ads are driving real revenue. The long-term goal is to build what Eiting (who’s pictured above with his co-founder Miguel Carranza) calls a “revenue management platform.” “Our mission as a company is to help developers make more money,” he said. “I think we do become this one-stop shop, a service that you integrate with all the payment touch points in your app to help you track your revenue and help you understand how customers are spending.” The new funding (which is on top of the $120,000 RevenueCat received from YC) was led by Jason Lemkin of SaaStr. Eiting said it’s “an obvious fit,” since the software-as-a-service entrepreneurs who read SaaStr articles, listen to its podcasts and attend its events form “this huge community of companies that are potential customers for us.” FundersClub, Oakhouse Partners, Buckley Endeavours, Josh Buckley and OneSignal CEO George Deglin also invested.

China is funding the future of American biotech

Silicon Valley is in the midst of a health craze, and it is being driven by “Eastern” medicine. It’s been a record year for US medical investing, but investors in Beijing and Shanghai are now increasingly leading the largest deals for US life science and biotech companies. In fact, Chinese venture firms have invested more this year into life science and biotech in the US than they have back home, providing financing for over 300 US-based companies, per Pitchbook. That’s the story at Viela Bio, a Maryland-based company exploring treatments for inflammation and autoimmune diseases, which raised a $250 million Series A led by three Chinese firms. Chinese capital’s newfound appetite also flows into the mainland. Business is booming for Chinese medical startups, who are also seeing the strongest year of venture investment ever, with over one hundred companies receiving $4 billion in investment. As Chinese investors continue to shift their strategies towards life science and biotech, China is emphatically positioning itself to be a leader in medical investing with a growing influence on the world’s future major health institutions. Chinese VCs seek healthy returns We like to talk about things we can interact with or be entertained by. And so as nine-figure checks flow in and out of China with stunning regularity, we fixate on the internet giants, the gaming leaders or the latest media platform backed by Tencent or Alibaba. However, if we follow the money, it’s clear that the top venture firms in China have actually been turning their focus towards the country’s deficient health system. A clear leader in China’s strategy shift has been Sequoia Capital China, one of the country’s most heralded venture firms tied to multiple billion-dollar IPOs just this year. Historically, Sequoia didn’t have much interest in the medical sector.  Health was one of the firm’s smallest investment categories, and it participated in only three health-related deals from 2015-16, making up just 4% of its total investing activity.  Recently, however, life sciences have piqued Sequoia’s fascination, confirms a spokesperson with the firm.  Sequoia dove into six health-related deals in 2017 and has already participated in 14 in 2018 so far.  The firm…

Domio just raised $12 million in Series A funding to build ‘apart hotels’ across the US

Hotels can be pricey, and travelers are often forced to leave their rooms for basic things, like food that doesn’t come from the minibar. Yet Airbnb accommodations, which have become the go-to alternative for travelers, can be highly inconsistent. Domio, a two-year-old, New York-based outfit, thinks there’s a third way: apartment hotels, or “apart hotels,” as the company is calling them. The idea is to build a brand that travelers recognize as upscale yet affordable, more tech friendly than boutique hotels and features plenty of square footage, which it expects will appeal to both families as well as companies that send teams of employees to cities and want to do it more economically. Domio has a host of competitors, if you’ll forgive the pun. Marriott International earlier this year introduced a branded home-sharing business called Tribute Portfolio Homes wherein it says it vets, outfits and maintains to hotel standards homes of its choosing. And Marriott is among a growing number of hotels to recognize that customers who stay in a hotel for a business trip or a family vacation might prefer a multi-bedroom apartment with hotel-like amenities. Property management companies have been raising funding left and right for the same reason. Among them: Sonder, a four-year-old, San Francisco-based startup offering “spaces built for travel and life” that, according to Crunchbase, has raised $135 million from investors, much of it this year; TurnKey, a six-year-old, Austin, Tex.-based home rental management company that has raised $72 million from investors, including via a Series D round that closed back in March; and Vacasa, a nine-year-old, Portland, Ore.-based vacation rental management company that manages more than 10,000 properties and which just this week closed on $64 million in fresh financing that brings its total funding to $207.5 million. That’s saying nothing of Airbnb itself, which has begun opening hotel-like branded apartment complexes that lease units to both long-term renters and short-term visitors in partnership with development partner Niido. Whether Domio can stand out from competitors remains to be seen, but investors are happy to provide it the financing to try. The company is today announcing it has…

Alumni Ventures Group is the most active venture fund you’ve never heard of

Alumni Ventures Group’s (AVG) limited partners aren’t endowment or pension funds. Its typical LP is a heart surgeon in Des Moines, Iowa. The firm has both an unorthodox model of fundraising and dealmaking. Across 25 micro funds, AVG is raising and investing upwards of $200 million per year for and in tech startups. Tucked away in Boston, far from the limelight of Silicon Valley, few seem to be paying attention to AVG. There are a few reasons why, and those seem to be working to the firm’s advantage. Today, AVG is announcing a close of roughly $30 million for three additional funds: Green D Ventures, Chestnut Street Ventures and Purple Arch Ventures, which represent capital committed by Dartmouth, the University of Pennsylvania and Northwestern alums, respectively. “People don’t really know what to make of us” AVG walks and talks like a venture fund, but a peek under the hood reveals its unconventional fundraising mechanisms. Rather than collecting $5 million minimum investments from institutional LPs, AVG takes $50,000 directly from individual alums of prestigious universities. The firm pools the capital and creates university-specific venture funds for graduates of Duke, Stanford, Harvard, MIT and several other colleges.  “People don’t really know what to make of us because we’re so different,” said Michael Collins, AVG’s founder and chief executive officer. Collins started AVG to make venture capital more accessible to individual people. He’s been a VC since 1986, formerly of TA Associates, and had grown tired of the hubris that runs rampant in the industry. In 2014, he started a $1.5 million fund for alums of his alma mater, Dartmouth. Since then, AVG has grown into 25 funds, each of which fundraise annually and are seeing substantial growth over their previous raises. “What we observed is VC is a really good asset class but it’s really designed for institutional investors,” Collins (pictured below) said. “It’s really hard for individual people to put together a smart, simple portfolio unless they do it themselves. That’s why we created AVG.” AVG and its team of 40 investment professionals make 150 to 200 investments per year of roughly $1 million each…

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