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Fresha, a business platform for salons, spas and beauty and wellness pros, extends Series C by $52.5M at a $640M+ valuation

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Fresha, a business platform for salons, spas and beauty and wellness pros, extends Series C by $52.5M at a $640M+ valuation

The beauty and wellness industry, annually worth some $4 trillion, is underpinned by tens of thousands of businesses and millions of professionals carrying out haircuts, treatments and workouts. Today, a company called Fresha, which provides a software stack to help them run those operations, is announcing new funding of $52.5 million to continue building out its own business.

Fresha got its start, and is best known among its 60,000 customers, for its booking software, which it provides on a subscription-free basis, charging instead based on taking a cut on payments, or first-time bookings and marketing messages (if a customer chooses those latter two options). But its ambitions, co-founder and CEO William Zeqiri said in an interview, are to be the go-to destination for any digital tool that a salon or independent professional might need to run a business: like Shopify, LinkedIn, Wix, Square or QuickBooks, but tailored for the specific demands of beauty and wellness professionals.

“Stylists [and other beauty and wellness professionals] are not really trained in business management,” he said. “Our goal is to free that up and automate all aspects of their business.”

Michael Lahyani and BECO Capital co-led the round, with previous backers General Atlantic, Partech, Target Global and FMZ Ventures also participating. Fresha has raised $182 million overall.

This latest funding is coming in the form of a Series C extension — Fresha raised the first $100 million in June of this year — and with it, the startup’s valuation has shot up to over $640 million. For context, the company previously had not disclosed its valuation, but Zeqiri confirmed that it increased significantly in the extension due to the company’s own growth in the last six months.

Beauty and wellness had a mixed bag of luck as the pandemic took hold across the world. People overall were going out a lot less, or not at all, and thus spending significantly more on products to treat themselves at home. But on the other hand, Covid-19 led to a lot of municipalities shutting down salons to help curb the spread of the virus; and in cases where they were open follow more restrictive protocols for the customers who did show up.

That presented an obvious challenge to a company like Fresha, built around the premise of providing appointment booking and payments for in-person, very physical businesses. However, like other tech companies that have carved out a niche for themselves in providing tools specifically catering to and mastering the needs of a specific service-industry vertical — Toast being on strong example — Fresha’s focus helped it identify the opportunity inherent in that challenge.

Today, Fresha’s tools include booking and point-of-sale payment software — used in some 120 countries with its biggest markets the U.S., the U.K., Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Europe, where it sees tens of millions of appointments booked monthly and has processed $15 billion in transactions to date.

But Zegiri said that with the big shift among Fresha’s customers to move more interactions and services online in the wake of Covid-19, Fresha has built a “Shopify” for beauty and wellness websites to sell goods and services (this is launching in the coming days). It’s now in the process of finishing up its “Wix” for designing sites.

“We want to build the Amazon of the beauty and wellness industry, with a full suite of services that compete at every level, and in all markets,” he said. That will include marketing, and marketing automation tools, and more down the line, he said. It will in the meantime face a pretty big army of competitors, from Square through to Booksy, Phorest, Treatwell, SalonIQ and many others.

There has also been an interesting shift in the business models around beauty and wellness that has also played into Fresha’s hand, said Nick Miller, the company’s other co-founder and chief product officer.

Specifically, the pressures of the pandemic forced a lot of salons and brick and mortar businesses to downsize; or sometimes shut down altogether and “go mobile” where pro’s paid people home visits to carry out services.

Or, in cases where they were willing to stick it out and continue paying rent on premises, increasingly there was a move to models where pros were no longer directly employed by salons and spas, but rather hired out space within them to serve their own client lists; or some variation on that theme, for example staying on the books as contractors and sharing a common appointment book, but still “renting” the space to carry out work.

All of this presents a complex mix of new use cases, and customers, to sign on to a platform like Fresha’s, Miller noted.

“That’s been one of the Covid effects,” he said. And because its users are not tech-interested in the main, the idea of using multiple services for different aspects of running their businesses, and “jumping to different platforms,” in his words, they appealed to Fresha to bring in the functionality that they wanted to have. “It was great timing for us,” Miller said.

Sadly, one of the other consequences of the pandemic has been the closure of a lot of small and independent businesses. Zeqiri noted that Fresha has had multiple offers from its customers to buy them up, but that’s not the core of how the startup sees itself growing: its aim is instead to build tools to make those businesses viable again, he said.

“Fresha has positioned itself as a major player in the beauty and wellness industry with a large and loyal customer base,” said Aaron Goldman, global co-head of financial services and MD of General Atlantic, in a statement. “We strongly believe in Fresha’s balanced strategy of providing one of the best products in the market at no cost to salons and then driving monetization via payments and value-added services.”

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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