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VC Joe Lonsdale’s tweets about ‘woke’ tech diversity spark investor pushback

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VC Joe Lonsdale’s tweets about ‘woke’ tech diversity spark investor pushback

Last week, in response to someone who tweeted that VCs were racist, venture capitalist and entrepreneur Joe Lonsdale attributed disparities in venture capital investing to “average black culture.”

“A real view: average black culture needs to step it up and stop having as many kids born out of wedlock (statistical indicator of underperformance) / who don’t value education or spend as much time on homework,” wrote Lonsdale in the now-deleted series of tweets.

The opining of Lonsdale, who co-founded Palantir and runs the early-stage venture firm 8VC, prompted swift criticism from a number of tech investors, many of whom called on Lonsdale’s advisors and limited partners — which include the likes of Yahoo founder Jerry Yang, Box CEO Aaron Levie and actor Leonardo DiCaprio — to speak out against the entrepreneur’s actions.

In one tweet with a screenshot of Londsale’s tweets, Bessemer partner Elliott Robinson wrote, “[I]t’s not VCs like [Joe Lonsdale] that hold the tech ecosystem and society back. It’s the hundreds of LPs, co-Investors, Founders, and decision makers that remain silent because: they do not care, they are scared [or] they agree. I feel bad for him/them to live like that. Its sad.”

Stealth-mode general partner Lolita Taub, who formerly invested via Backstage Capital and the Community Fund, told anyone who agrees with Londsale’s “racist commentary” to unfollow her.

Lightship Capital GP Brian Brackeen meanwhile said in a tweet that “any LP of his is complicit” and that “there is no shame in being him in SF. The culture there is to accept people like him. Diversity in tech can’t improve until we diversify the geography.”

Lonsdale responded to a request for further context, saying to TechCrunch via e-mail that he was “jumping on a flight” but that “somebody edited a screenshot and took a tweet totally out of context in order to cause outrage.” He further added that “the people attacking me have political motivations. You will note they are almost entirely on the far left and prefer divisive attacks vs working towards positive solutions together.”

He insists that context surrounding the statements was lost from his original thread.

“I commented how past racism likely caused issues with some cultures today that we need to discuss and address, and given how terrible some of the things these communities experienced in the past were – red lining, Jim Crow, and so many terrible past issues – it isn’t necessarily fair to blame 100% of problems today on racism.”

Lonsdale also added that he has “invested millions of dollars in black founders and in relevant philanthropic causes and proudly work with a lot of advisors from these communities and we continue to do more to reach out to talent from these backgrounds and to partner. As i have stated, it’s not only dumb to discriminate, but if anything if somebody comes from a tough background and still manages to succeed – that means they are likely to be resilient, which means they are an even better founder to back. I am eager to continue to back talented black founders.”

When asked about the Black founders that Lonsdale has invested in, a spokesperson for Lonsdale responded saying it “doesn’t seem appropriate to list names and force [anyone] to answer questions” given how Lonsdale’s “notes were taken out of context.”

Lonsdale has a highly successful business track record, but a record, too, of troubled personal dealings. In addition to Palantir and 8VC, Lonsdale has co-founded a line of companies, including Addepar, OpenGov, Affinity, Epirus, Esper, Swiftscale Bio, Resilience Bio, Hearth and LIT, which recently received a $50 million investment from Tiger Global.

He has been the main character in a number of controversies, including a breakup with earlier investing partners and a high-profile lawsuit filed by a former Stanford student that was later dropped.

More recently, he called “any man in an important position who takes 6 months of leave for a newborn…a loser.”

Lonsdale — whose venture firm has been successful in its fundraising efforts despite public controversy — has been attempting to clarify his earlier position since taking it last Friday. Later that same day, for example, he tweeted: “Worth clarifying: you can be against divisive and ‘woke’ nonsense, and I am. But we should still appreciate the positive parts of our culture and wisdom of the 21st century – that it’s important to be aware of past racism, kind, inclusive, and against actual racism of all sorts.”

“I don’t necessarily expect TC to give me a fair hearing – a sensational article attacking and making [people] think somebody is racist and getting angry is what you are taught to do in journalism these days – but I hope you’ll consider representing this view fairly,” Lonsdale said in an e-mailed statement to TechCrunch.

In a competitive and cash-rich fundraising market, Lonsdale’s controversial comments could attract negative attention to his venture firm and make founders less inclined to accept his money. Indeed, Blockparty founder Tracy Chou claimed on Twitter that even before making his latest comments, Lonsdale had spoken to her Y Combinator batch and she described his comments on stage as “terribly distasteful.”

“It sucks that even after everything he’s trotted out by the establishment as an exemplar and to give advice,” she tweeted.

In the meantime, Lonsdale may find it harder to partner with the venture industry’s small but growing number of Black investors. Fund manager Del Johnson and Spencer Tyson, an associate at Revere VC, are among many investors who took to Twitter to dissect Lonsdale’s comments in the aftermath, and their frustration was plain. Tyson tweeted: “What you, and many others, fail to realize is that there is a difference between ‘woke’ culture and BLACK culture,” he said. “We’re not your rich liberal friends you argue with at dinner parties… You attacked BLACK culture.”

For now, Lonsdale is continuing in his efforts to recontextualize his earlier statements. “The data suggests that there are structural issues (likely caused by past racism) holding people back and causing disparity, not racism by VCs,” Lonsdale tweeted in a separate response.

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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