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Venture firm Chapter One, focused on all things web3, draws backing from big-name VC firms

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Venture firm Chapter One, focused on all things web3, draws backing from big-name VC firms

Jeff Morris Jr., founder and managing partner of the L.A.-based venture firm Chapter One, just closed a $40 million early-stage fund to focus on web3 investments, and he’s in the process of raising a separate, $20 million opportunity fund.

Even in this go-go market, where digital assets are suddenly top of mind for everyone, the achievements are notable for someone who hasn’t been a VC for all that long and is a solo general partner.

To learn more about his path in building Chapter One — which is small but growing and counts new hires from both Facebook and Stripe — we talked recently with Morris Jr., who focused on product and revenue at Tinder for four years until leaving in late 2019. We wondered what there is to learn about how an operator transitions into a full-time investing role; he suggested that a lot of it comes down to hustle and luck and social media savvy, both to build an audience and, more than ever, to track down hot deals.

Indeed, like a lot of investors, Morris Jr. got his start by writing checks on the side of his full-time job. Specifically, in 2016, aided in part by the sheen of Tinder, he wound up putting together one of the larger syndicates on the AngelList platform, where he says he went on to raise 15 special purpose vehicles.

Some of those companies have broken out since, including Density, a startup developing people-counting, AI-powered sensors that last month announced $125 million in funding at a post-money valuation of  $1.05 billion.

Deals didn’t automatically find their way to Morris, Jr., he says. He built a network by digging into Twitter to build an online audience (he has nearly 106,000 followers); he also messaged a whole lot of people who he saw were backing other people’s syndicates on AngelList.

Along the way, he began seeing more and more crypto deals that he wanted to fund. There were so many of these, in fact, that at some point, he says, he began to run out of enough capital to invest. By his telling, a role with Index Ventures materialized around that same time and he became a scout for the powerhouse firm, investing in a handful of seed rounds, including Dapper Labs, a blockchain company behind the popular NFT game “NBA Top Shot” that’s currently valued at $7.6 billion, and the centralized finance platform Compound Labs, whose native token has already returned many millions of dollars to early investors in the outfit.

Armed with those wins — he says that particular scout fund for Index wound up being marked up by more than 30x — Morris Jr. set out to raise his own fund. At first, he hopped back on AngelList, raising $1 million from the first related email he sent to prospective investors, he says. Feeling emboldened, he quit his job at Tinder and decided to invest full time.

In retrospect, it very much seems the right move. That debut fund went on to raise $10 million altogether, and the momentum has built from there. In perhaps the most critical development for Morris Jr., Chapter One’s newest fund has garnered commitments from some of the numerous multistage venture firms that now invest substantial dollars in emerging managers in order to get more exposure to founders they might miss otherwise.

In Chapter One’s case, the limited partners that are providing some of capital include Sequoia Capital, Bessemer Venture Partners, Kleiner Perkins, and Bain Capital. Acting in a personal capacity, Marc Andreessen and Chris Dixon of a16z are also investors in Chapter One’s new fund. (Asked why Index is not also an investor, he says they don’t invest directly in other managers’ funds.)

That kind of network certainly helps when Chapter One is in a competitive situation. What bigger boast can a seed-stage manager make than to explain he has inroads into the biggest venture firms in the world?

There is also the potential for conflict, presumably, which is maybe the point. Asked who among Chapter One’s venture backers gets to see its deals first, Morris Jr. says he has structured things in such a way that “everybody gets the same information at the same time.” He then adds that for some deals, he defers to founders who want him to “sequence those intros,” as well as advises them based on what he knows about each firm’s “taste.” It’s very “case by case,” and a “bit of a curation exercise.” he says, “where you know which partners at which funds will be attracted to specific types of companies.”

As for where Chapter One is shopping, because of Morris Jr.’s success to date with companies like Dapper and Compound Labs, the firm is pushing the pedal to the metal on web3 products and platforms, with five bets from the new fund already across DAO infrastructure, NFT experiences, and learn-to-earn games. (The most famous of these types of games is “Axie Infinity,” but a growing number of them is emerging and capturing VC dollars.)

On this front, Morris Jr. says there are numerous reasons founders who are moving into the space might want to talk with Chapter One. He says, for example, that Chapter One intends to spend much of 2022 building out support services, including a media arm focused on web3 education, and resources for developers who are looking to better understand token usability and governance and how to create digital assets that are equitable for the communities to which they cater.

When it comes to finding those founders in the first place, Morris Jr. points back to his use of social media, saying that large Twitter presence helps, but so does logging time elsewhere online.

He’s a member, most importantly, of “hundreds of Discord groups,” noting that “the more you participate in the community, the more you meet interesting people. It’s like going to a great conference.”‘

For web3 investors, he adds, “It’s the new way of networking.”

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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