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Daily Crunch: Bitcoin is religion; web3 is greed

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Hello and welcome to Daily Crunch for December 21, 2021. This is my final Daily Crunch with you for the year. So, let me just say thanks for reading since I took over writing the newsy bits of this newsletter. It could have gone horribly, frankly, given how much folks hate change in their inboxes. But, with open rates at an all-time high, y’all have welcomed the New Daily Crunch Crew with open arms, and we’re grateful. Here’s to an even better 2022 — and more jokes. —Alex

P.S. You should follow Miranda (Experts), Walter (TC+), Annie (editing) and Richard (editing) as they make this newsletter sing. Richard declined to share a link. He’s a ghost! But a friendly one.

The TechCrunch Top 3

  • Bitcoin is religion; web3 is greed: After Jack Dorsey kicked up a firestorm by inveighing against web3 and the current wave of crypto projects, TechCrunch dug into the debate because how could we not. Whether you are a bitcoin maximalist or a big NFT stan, we have something that will annoy you!
  • EU clears the Microsoft-Nuance deal: The $19.7 billion deal in which the Redmond tech giant will buy the medical transcription company has a green light from the European market. See, not all major tech deals are getting cut down to the nubbin with regulatory concerns and then canceled!
  • Via shuttles toward the public markets: Public transit software and shuttle company Via is going public in early 2022. The company announced today that it has filed privately for its IPO. We’ll know a lot more when we actually get the S-1 document, but the company joins Reddit on our list of public debuts that we anticipate in Q1 of next year.

Startups/VC

But wait, there’s even more public market news! Yes, Snapdeal filed to go public, and our own Manish Singh (follow him; he’s amazing!) has the details. SoftBank is a backer of the New Delhi-based startup. Per its prospectus, the company anticipates raising around $165 million in its public-market debut. Recall that Snapdeal “once competed with Amazon and Flipkart in India [but] has lost considerable market share in recent years,” we wrote.

And speaking of companies going public, remember the Better.com fiasco in which the company’s CEO went viral for firing a bunch of staff on Zoom? And then a bunch of whacko stuff from the company came out? Well, we’re curious why Vishal Garg still has a job, so we did a little digging. There’s more to come on this story.

Next, a few new funds:

  • Array Ventures raises $56M to back really hard enterprise tech: Shruti Gandhi’s fund intends to invest its new capital pool on 30 startups “working on technical, back-bone enterprise tech.” Given the fund size and number of checks, we’re talking very early money in the case of Array.
  • Targeting AI automation, Calibrate Ventures raises $97M: With 25% more capital than in its first fund, Calibrate has reloaded its wallet. The firm previously invested in Built Robotics, Embodied, FarmWise, Soft Robotics, Talage and TruckLabs, TechCrunch reports.
  • Chapter One raises capital to invest in web3: Don’t tell Jack, but there’s even more money on tap for web3 projects. The $40 million fund will be joined by a $20 million “opportunity” fund, provided that that latter vehicle closes on target. Notably, Chapter One’s Jeff Morris Jr. is a solo investor.

And a few rapid-fire pieces of startup news:

Demand Curve: How Ahrefs’ homepage educates prospects to purchase

Image Credits: PM images (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

If you’re building a homepage, the goal should be to increase desire while eliminating labor and confusion in order to increase conversions.

“People have short attention spans, so if your homepage is confusing, they’re going to leave,” Demand Curve’s Joey Noble writes in a guest post.

He tears down SEO platform Ahrefs’ homepage, providing actionable strategies you can use at your startup, including how to handle objections, use social proof to build urgency and establish credibility, and catering to your audience.

(TechCrunch+ is our membership program, which helps founders and startup teams get ahead. You can sign up here.)

Big Tech Inc.

  • Tracking Microsoft’s retreat from China: Managing to simultaneously keep the Chinese Communist Party happy and your international business in good standing is increasingly difficult. Microsoft struggled to make it work, TechCrunch notes by tracing both LinkedIn and Bing’s histories in the country.

TechCrunch Experts

Image Credits: SEAN GLADWELL / Getty Images

We’re reaching out to startup founders to tell us who they turn to when they want the most up-to-date growth marketing practices. Fill out the survey here.

Read one of the testimonials we’ve received below!

Marketer: Brent Payne, Loud Interactive SEO

Recommended by: Brad Schnitzer, Techstars Chicago

Testimonial: “He’s the best SEO in the Midwest. He ran SEO for the Tribune and has now taken those skills to help early-stage founders achieve the same success. He’s honestly changed the trajectory of so many of the ~42 startups I have invested in at Techstars Chicago over the past four years.”

Source: Tech

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Paack pulls in a $225M Series D led by SoftBank to scale its E-commerce delivery platform

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By now, many of us are familiar with the warehouse robots which populate those vast spaces occupied by the likes of Amazon and others. In particular, Amazon was very much a pioneer of the technology. But it’s 2021 now, and allying warehouse robots with a software logistics platform is no longer the monopoly of one company.

One late-stage startup which has been ‘making hay’ with the whole idea is Paack, an e-commerce delivery platform which a sophisticated software platform that integrates with the robotics which are essential to modern-day logistics operations.

It’s now raised €200m ($225m) in a Series D funding round led by SoftBank Vision Fund 2. The capital will be used for product development and European expansion.

New participants for this round also include Infravia Capital Partners, First Bridge Ventures, and Endeavor Catalyst. Returning investors include Unbound, Kibo Ventures, Big Sur Ventures, RPS Ventures, Fuse Partners, Rider Global, Castel Capital, and Iñaki Berenguer.

This funding round comes after the creation of a profitable position in its home market of Spain, but Paack claims it’s on track to achieve similar across its European operations, Such as in the UK, France, and Portugal.

Founded by Fernando Benito, Xavier Rosales and Suraj Shirvankar, Paack now says it’s delivering several million orders per month from 150 international clients, processing 10,000 parcels per hour, per site. Some 17 of them are amongst the largest e-commerce retailers in Spain.

The startup’s systems integrate with e-commerce sites. This means consumers are able to customize their delivery schedule at checkout, says the company.

Benito, CEO and Co-founder, said: “Demand for convenient, timely, and more sustainable methods of delivery is going to explode over the next few years and Paack is providing the solution. We use technology to provide consumers with control and choice over their deliveries, and reduce the carbon footprint of our distribution.” 

Max Ohrstrand, Investment Director at SoftBank Investment Advisers said: “As the e-commerce sector continues to flourish and same-day delivery is increasingly the norm for consumers, we believe Paack is well-positioned to become the category leader both in terms of its technology and commitment to sustainability.”

According to research from the World Economic Forum (WEF), the last-mile delivery business is expected to grow 78% by 2030, causing a rise in CO2 emissions of nearly one-third.

As a result, Paack claim it aims to deliver all parcels at carbon net-zero by measuring its environmental impact, using electric last-mile delivery vehicles. It is now seeking certification with The Carbon Trust and United Nations.

In an interview Benito told me: “We have a very clear short term vision which is to lead sustainable e-commerce delivers in Europe… through technology via what we think is perhaps the most advanced tech delivery platform for last-mile delivery. Our CTO was the CTO and co-founder of Google Cloud, for instance.”

“We are developing everything from warehouse automation, time windows, routing integrations etc. in order to achieve the best delivery experience.”

Paack says it is able to work with more than one robotics partner, but presently it is using robots from Chinese firm GEEK.

The company hopes it can compete with the likes of DHL, Instabox, and La Poste in Europe, which are large incumbents.

Source: Tech

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Infermedica raises $30M to expand its AI-based medical guidance platform

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Infermedica, a Poland-founded digital health company that offers AI-powered solutions for symptom analysis and patient triage, has raised $30 million in Series B funding. The round was led by One Peak and included participation from previous investors Karma Ventures, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, Heal Capital and Inovo Venture Partners. The new capital means the startup has raised $45 million in total to date.

Founded in 2012, Infermedica aims to make it easier for doctors to pre-diagnose, triage and direct their patients to appropriate medical services. The company’s mission is to make primary care more accessible and affordable by introducing automation into healthcare. Infermedica has created a B2B platform for health systems, payers and providers that automates patient triage, the intake process and follow-up after a visit. Since its launch, Infermedica is being used in more than 30 countries in 19 languages and has completed more than 10 million health checks.

The company offers a preliminary diagnosis symptom checker, an AI-driven software that supports call operators making timely triage recommendations and an application programming interface that allows users to build customized diagnostic solutions from scratch. Like a plethora of competitors, such as Ada Health and Babylon, Infermedica combines the expertise of physicians with its own algorithms to offer symptom triage and patient advice.

In terms of the new funding, Infermedica CEO Piotr Orzechowski told TechCrunch in an email that the investment will be used to further develop the company’s Medical Guidance Platform and add new modules to cover the full primary care journey. Last year, Infermedica’s team grew by 80% to 180 specialists, including physicians, data scientists and engineers. Orzechowski says Infermedica has an ambitious plan to nearly double its team in the next 12 months.

Image Credits: Infermedica

“We will invest heavily into our people and our products, rolling out new modules of our platform as well as expanding our underlying AI capabilities in terms of disease coverage and accuracy,” Orzechowski said. “From the commercial perspective, our goal is to strengthen our position in the US and DACH and we will focus the majority of our sales and marketing efforts there.”

Regarding the future, Orzechowski said he’s a firm believer that there will be fully automated self-care bots in 5-10 years that will be available 24/7 to help providers find solutions to low acuity health concerns, such as a cold or UTI.

“According to WHO, by 2030 we might see a shortage of almost 10 million doctors, nurses and midwives globally,” Orzechowski said. “Having certain constraints on how fast we can train healthcare professionals, our long-term plan assumes that AI will become a core element of every modern healthcare system by navigating patients and automating mundane tasks, saving the precious time of clinical staff and supporting them with clinically accurate technology.”

Infermedica’s Series B round follows its $10 million Series A investment announced in August 2020. The round was led by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and digital health fund Heal Capital. Existing investors Karma Ventures, Inovo Venture Partners and Dreamit Ventures also participated in the round.

Source: Tech

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KKR invests $45M into GrowSari, a B2B platform for Filipino MSMEs

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A sari-sari store owner who uses GrowSari

GrowSari, the Manila-based startup that helps small shops grow and digitize, announced today that KKR will lead its Series C round with a $45 million investment. The funds will be used to enter new regions in the Philippines and expand its financial products. The Series C round is still ongoing and the startup says it is already oversubscribed, with the final composition currently being finalized. 

Before its Series C, GrowSari’s total raised was $30 million. TechCrunch last wrote about GrowSari in June 2021, when it announced its Series B. Since then, it has expanded the number of municipalities it serves from 100 to 220, and now has a customer base of 100,000 micro, small and mid-sized enterprise (MSME) store owners. 

Founded in 2016, GrowSari is a B2B platform that offers almost every kind of service that small- to medium-sized retailers, including neighborhood stores that carry daily necessities (called sari-saris), roadside and market shops and pharmacies, need.

For example, it has a wholesale marketplace with products from major fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) brands like Unilever, P&G and Nestle. It partners with over 200 providers, like telecoms, fintechs and subscription plans, so sari-saris can offer services like top-ups and bill payments to their customers. 

Sari-sari operators can also use GrowSari to launch e-commerce stores and access short-term working capital loans to buy inventory. The startup’s other financial products include digital wallets and cash-in services, and it is looking at adding remittance, insurance and loans in partnership with other providers. 

The new funding will be used to expand into the Visayas and Mindanao, the two other main geographical regions in the Philippines, with the goal of covering all 1.1 million “mom and pop” stores in the Philippines. 

Source: Tech

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