#USA Extend Fertility banks $15M Series A to help women freeze their eggs


Fertility services are raising venture cash left and right. Last week, it was Dadi, a sperm storage startup that nabbed a $2 million seed round. This week, it’s Extend Fertility, which helps women preserve their fertility through egg freezing.

Headquartered in New York, the business has secured a $15 million Series A investment from Regal Healthcare Capital Partners to expand its fertility services, which also include infertility treatments, such as in vitro and intrauterine insemination. The company has also appointed Anne Hogarty, the former chief business officer at Prelude Fertility and vice president of international business at BuzzFeed, to the role of chief executive officer. Hogarty replaces Extend Fertility co-founder Ilaina Edison, who had held the C-level title since the business launched in 2016. Edison will remain on the startup’s board of directors.

Extend Fertility, in its New York cryopreservation and embryology lab and treatment center, completed 1,000 egg-freezing cycles in 2018.

“A lot of amazing things have happened for women over the last century,” Hogarty told TechCrunch earlier this week. “Now, women are permitted and encouraged to seek higher education, pursue a career, follow their dreams and end up with a partner who’s the right partner, not just any partner. Doing all those things has pushed the window for when women want to start a family from their 20s to their 30s and unfortunately, one thing that has not changed in that time is the biological clock.”

Hogarty explained Extend’s fertility services are more affordable than other options because the lab was built specifically with egg freezing in mind and later expanded to offer infertility treatments, whereas other services were established to provide IFV and other infertility treatments and integrated cryopreservation tools later.

We are really purpose-built to be an egg-freezing-first company, where many legacy institutions that were providing infertility services have legacy costs that come with … inefficiencies bred over decades and outmoded technology in their labs that may not be the most efficient and effective,” she said. “We have a state of the art lab with the latest equipment.”

It’s the classic innovator diploma,” she added. “Infertility services are extraordinarily expensive and reproductive endocrinology is a new area of medicine. There are a lot of people and institutions that have been taking inordinate amounts of money for their infertility services so they weren’t looking to serve this population of women looking to preserve their fertility.”

One egg-freezing cycle with Extend costs women $5,500, and additional cycles come at a sticker price of $4,000. Each cycle includes a fertility assessment, private consultation, anesthesia and any monitoring a patient may need during their cycle. The costs don’t include medication, however. Extend can prescribe medications — which typically cost between $2,000 and $5,000 for fertility patients — but they still need to go through a third party to get their prescriptions filled and paid for. 

For reference, FertilityIQ, an online platform for researching fertility care providers and treatments, says the typical cost per cycle for egg freezing is more than $17,000 in New York City or $15,600 in San Francisco. Most egg-freezing services, including Extend, do not accept insurance, as most insurance providers don’t cover the steep costs of fertility or infertility treatments.

Some companies, however, are beginning to offer benefits that cover these costs. Facebook and Apple, for example, began subsidizing egg-freezing procedures for employees in 2014. Spotify and eBay, for their part, will pay for an unlimited number of IVF cycles.

Hogarty said Extend’s price point makes it one of the lowest-cost players in the market.

“We want as many women as possible to benefit from the advances from egg-freezing technology,” she said.

Extend Fertility, which has previously raised $10 million, plans to use the latest investment to open labs in new markets and expand its infertility services.

from Startups – TechCrunch https://tcrn.ch/2Tz603n

#USA Dixa, the ‘customer friendship’ platform, raises $14M


Dixa, a Copenhagen-based startup that offers a platform to help companies provide better and more consistent customer service across multiple channels, has raised $14 million in Series funding. The round is led by Project A Ventures, with participation from early investor SEED Capital.

Founded in 2015 by Jacob Vous Petersen and Mads Fosselius, Dixa is on mission to end bad customer service with the help of smarter technology to facilitate more personalised customer support. Dubbed a “customer friendship” platform, the cloud-based software works across multiple channels — including phone, chat, e-mail, and Facebook messenger — and employs a smart routing system so that the right support requests reach the right people within an organisation.

“The problem for customer facing support teams today is that tickets, shared in boxes and legacy call center solutions limit brand’s ability to connect to their customers where they want to and add extra administrative burdens that ultimately harms the customer experience,” co-founder and CEO Mads Fosselius tells me.

“Despite companies and brands have promised stellar customer experiences and service the past 5 years based on digital transformation (example chatbots, self-service etc.) and technology vendors has promised even more, the facts are that 75 percent of all customers have had a bad customer experience within the past 6 months, and 70 percent say they will leave a brand after just one bad experience,” he says, citing Salesforce’s recent ‘State of the Connected Customer’ 2018 report.

Dixa’s solution is described by Fosselius as a “next-gen” customer engagement platform built for personal and insightful conversations across all channels. To various degrees, it competes with Zendesk, Freshdesk, Salesforce Servicecloud and Avaya, Cisco, and 8×8. “Dixa is different as it’s a one channel-neutral platform and it works [how[ friends connect and communicate, but for engagement between brands and their customers. We call it a ‘Customer Friendship’ platform”.

This sees Dixa help companies ensure that customers can always get the help they need when they need it and on the channel they prefer. The software’s algorithms smartly re-route requests to the correct human or bot based on a raft of data. This includes past conversations, orders, reviews, and sentiment. Additionally, the context is taken into account, such as the communication channel used, webpage visited, device etc., and the skills plus availability of the relevant customer facing employee.

The result, says Dixa, is a system that makes it possible to deliver a consistent level of personal service, regardless of how the customer reaches out.

To that end, the Dixa platform is targeting “customer-centric” brands with 5-500 customer-facing agents, such as scale-ups and companies in the travel, e-commerce, fintech and transport/delivery sectors. Its current customer base spans 23 countries and includes brands like Bosch, Interflora, Danish design icon Hay, and food waste movement company Too Good to Go.

Adds Fosselius: “We don’t believe in tickets and siloed ‘silver bullet’ customer support solutions doing one thing or one channel very well, the world of customer support is moving towards conversational customer engagement or ‘customer friendship’ as we like to call it, where the strong bond and relation between brands and customers are the center piece”.

from Startups – TechCrunch https://tcrn.ch/2DZc6Vc

#USA Foot Locker invests $100 million in GOAT Group


Foot Locker, the mostly mall-bound retailer of mass market sneakers, has invested $100 million in the sneaker marketplace and retailer of primarily rare and exclusive high-end athletic and lifestyle shoes, GOAT Group.

The companies said that the investment would eventually lead to Foot Locker and Goat Group combining their efforts across their digital and physical retail platforms.

GOAT said in a statement that the company would use the investment to accelerate its global operations and expand its omnichannel experience and its technologies.


IT Manager Clint Arndt, CEO Eddy Lu

In an interview, the GOAT co-founder and chief product officer declined to disclose the company’s valuation, its revenues, how sales break down across geographic regions or how it will work with Foot Locker going forward.

In 2018, several top sellers on GOAT sold more than $10 million worth of sneakers, up from $2 million in 2017, according to the company. GOAT Group now counts more than 600 employees, up from 200 a year ago, with 12 million users currently active on the platform. That figure is up massively from last year, when 2.5 million folks were on the platform.

Over the same period, GOAT boosted its sneaker listings to 750,000 from 200,000, and now has 150,000 vendors selling to more than 12 million customers. With growth like that, it’s no wonder Foot Locker wants a sip of that GOAT stew.

“At Foot Locker we are constantly looking at new ways to elevate our customer experience and bring sneaker and youth culture to people around the world,” said Richard Johnson, Foot Locker, Inc.’s chairman and chief executive officer, in a statement. “We are excited to leverage GOAT Group’s technology to further innovate the sneaker buying experience and utilize their best-in-class online marketplace to help meet the ever-growing global demand for the latest product. Together, Foot Locker and GOAT Group’s shared commitment to trust and authenticity in the sneaker industry will provide consumers with unparalleled experiences and diversified offerings.”

One savvy online observer commented that the deal was the equivalent of Blockbuster investing in Netflix back when that now-defunct video rental service was still in its waning days, before it became obsolete.

“In 2015, we pioneered the ship-to-verify model with a mission to bring a seamless and safe customer experience to the secondary sneaker market,” said Eddy Lu, co-founder and chief executive officer of GOAT Group. “With over 3,000 retail locations, Foot Locker will support our primarily digital presence with physical access points worldwide, bringing more value to our community of buyers and sellers. Having Foot Locker as a strategic partner will also expand our business as we continue to scale our operations both domestically and internationally.”

Last year, GOAT raised $60 million as it announced its largest strategic move to date — acquiring the physical retailer Flight Club to begin pushing into real-world in-store experiences.

Scott Martin is joining the GOAT Group’s board of directors and extends Foot Locker’s investments in startup companies and brands, which already included the women’s luxury activewear brand Carbon38; tactical play and children’s lifestyle brand Super Heroic; and footwear design academy PENSOLE.

GOAT has raised $197.6 million since it was launched it 2015. The company competes with other vendors like Stock X.

In an interview with Highsnobiety, NPD Group senior sports industry advisor Matt Powell said, “The sneaker resale market has been disruptive to the primary market. Foot Locker is investing in that disruption and believes that the resale market will continue to grow and its wants a piece of that growth.”

from Startups – TechCrunch https://tcrn.ch/2MSFLSP

#USA Gametime lets you buy tickets for games and concerts that have already started


Ticketing app Gametime is taking its last-minute approach about as far as it can go, with the launch of a new feature called LastCall. This allows users to purchase tickets through Gametime until 90 minutes after an event has started.

Why would you want to do that? Well, prices usually drop precipitously after the event starts — for example, Gametime said that 48 hours before a game, the median price for a Major League Baseball is (coincidentally?) $48, but it’s dropped to $13 by 90 minutes after the first pitch.

Founder and CEO Brad Griffith acknowledged that most fans probably aren’t interested in just showing up for the fourth quarter or ninth inning of a game, or for the last song in a concert. On the other hand, if you could get a big discount and still catch most of the event, then it might be worth it.

Meanwhile, if you’re a team or a venue with empty seats, or if you’re a ticket-holder who realizes at the last minute that you can’t attend, then it’s good to have one last shot at selling those tickets.

In fact, it sounds like this is one of those “announcements” that’s partly acknowledging what’s already happening, both in the Gametime app and elsewhere. Griffith said the company is “doubling down” on this seriously-last-minute category of tickets, adding that it’s “constantly working through” what it’s actually including under the LastCall umbrella.

LastCall graphic

“The key element is the research that we’ve done, how it relates to the growth of this phenomenon” he said.

That research includes a survey of 287 event attendees, some who use Gametime and some who don’t. Apparently 27 percent said they’ve already purchased tickets after an event’s start time, and 62 percent of those late buyers were either Generation Z or millennials.

And while Gametime started out with a focus on sports, LastCall will include tickets from a variety of live events. In fact, Griffith said concerts are now the app’s fastest-growing category, and he suggested that this approach could help with the declining number of total concert tickets sold.

“We’re starting to see a bifurcation of windows, where the on-sale is still healthy, is strong, and the middle is maybe cratering in terms of transaction volume,” he said. “And then last-minute is vibrant and growing and fast. That is where we aim to do our best work.”

from Startups – TechCrunch https://tcrn.ch/2RQMuOk

#USA Segmented security startup Illumio raises $65M in Series E round


Illumio has raised $65 million in its latest round of funding led by J.P. Morgan Asset Management, the security startup has confirmed.

The news comes just weeks after the company was expected to announce a $50 million Series E round, but was delayed after a late addition pushed the figure up.

The data-center monitoring and cloud security company focuses on network segmentation. By isolating critical applications and data centers from the rest of the network, Illumio makes data leaks and breaches far more difficult to spread. That containment stops hackers from pivoting and navigating through a network in an “Equifax-style” attack.

In just six years, the company has exploded in growth, running through several rounds of funding accumulating more than $330 million to date, amassing huge clients like BNP Paribas, Morgan Stanley, Oracle NetSuite and Salesforce. And, the funding lands just a few months after the company obtained FIPS 140-2 certification, allowing it to run on federal government networks of low classification, opening the company up to another burgeoning market.

“With this latest round of funding, we’re investing more in all parts of the business to meet market demand and continue to enable our customers to prevent the spread of breaches in their global infrastructures,” said Andrew Rubin, Illumio’s chief executive.

Specifically, the company said the $65 million will go across its entire business to grow into Europe, the Middle East and Africa — where its headcount has increased by more than fourfold; as well as Asia, and the U.S. where its headquarters is located.

Illumio neither said now nor previously what its valuation is. At its last Series D round of $125 million in mid-2017, the company was said to be worth upwards of $1 billion. For its part, Illumio self-stylizes as a startup unicorn but wouldn’t comment further when pressed.

Along with its funding news, Illumio added that it’s hired Anup Singh as chief financial officer to focus on the company’s continued growth, and it’s also appointed Jonathan Reiber, a former Pentagon chief strategy officer for cyber policy, as Illumio’s new head of cybersecurity strategy. And, angel investor John Hinshaw was appointed to the company’s board.

After five rounds of funding, Illumio is on a list of anticipated IPOs for later this year. When asked about its plans, the company didn’t comment.

from Startups – TechCrunch https://tcrn.ch/2MSM7li

#USA Hired buys Y Combinator grad Py, launches assessment tool


To better measure aptitude of applicants, online job search engine Hired has acquired Py, which helps companies like Opendoor and Niantic identify talent with app-based interactive courses on Python, iOS development and more.

As part of the deal, Hired will launch a new feature called Hired Assessments, leveraging tools from the Py platform, as well as a tiered subscription model. The base-level package, called Hired Essential, will provide enhanced search functionality, tools to help candidates arrive to interviews as prepared as possible and more. A spokesperson for Py declined to disclose terms of the deal but did say that Py counts 500,000 users who’ve completed 2 million coding assignments. They also offered this little anecdote:

Py’s co-founder, Derek Lo had initial conversations with Hired’s VP of Strategic Development, Andre Charoo back in October of 2018. But it wasn’t until Lo randomly met one of Hired’s co-founders at a Y Combinator networking event that the partnership started to come into fruition. The Hired co-founder that Lo met was Allan Grant — also a part of the Y Combinator community — and he wasn’t aware of the initial conversations but agreed to have Lo over to his house the next day to share advice about running an early-stage startup. Over coffee at Grant’s house, Lo learned a lot about the purpose of Hired and began to understand why Hired would be a great fit for his product and team. From there, the rest was history. 

Derek Lo, founder and chief executive officer of Py, first began building the mobile app in May 2016 before completing Y Combinator’s accelerator program in summer 2017. Lo started the company in his dorm room after becoming frustrated with Yale’s computer sciences courses, which he felt were useless when it came to real business applications.

Lo has joined Hired as its head of product.

In a conversation with TechCrunch while Py was still completing the accelerator, Lo said the company had decided to turn down a $1 million investment offer because it was unnecessary for such an early-stage startup. At the time, the Py team had brought in $20,000 in pre-seed funding from Dorm Room Fund, plus another $100,000 from the Yale Venture Creation Program. In total, Py has raised $615,000.

“With Py founder Derek Lo, we saw a shared vision for making hiring easier for everyone,” Hired’s vice president of strategic development Andre Charoo said in a statement. “For companies, this means helping them hire in-demand talent quickly and predictably, and for job seekers, it is about empowering them to land their dream job. By combining Py’s technical assessment expertise with Hired’s dependable pipeline of first-rate talent, we’re ready to transform today’s hiring standards.”

Hired Assessments will include online coding quizzes, standardized testing, projects and a “live code” environment where hiring managers can “view, rewind, fast forward and save live candidate challenges.” The features are customizable so companies can tweak assessments based on their hiring needs.

Hired Essential will use machine learning to curate lists of candidates for available roles, as well as help candidates arrive at interviews prepared with a clear outline of hiring steps, expectations and tips.

Founded in 2012, San Francisco-based Hired is backed by venture capital firms including Comcast Ventures, Sherpa Capital, Lumia Ventures and Uncork Capital. To date, the business has raised $133 million, most recently at a post-valuation of $550 million, according to PitchBook.

from Startups – TechCrunch https://tcrn.ch/2UOuEgr

#USA Honest Company co-founder Christopher Gavigan has a new, and newly funded, CBD startup called Prima


Christopher Gavigan, sitting in a crisp white shirt inside a small TechCrunch conference room, radiates energy, even in a late-day interview just hours before he’s scheduled to fly home from San Francisco to L.A.

We’re meeting to talk about Prima, a new startup that Gavigan began developing seven months ago with two co-founders. One of them is a former beauty and marketing executive, Jessica Assaf, who was until recently running a company called Cannabis Feminist to sell marijuana wellness products at her L.A. home. The other is Laurel Angelica Myers, who’d spent six years working alongside Gavigan at his last startup, The Honest Company, the now eight-year-old brand that sells nontoxic personal care and household products at Target, Whole Foods, Nordstrom and many other places.

Gavigan is still Honest’s “chief purpose officer” and its most effective evangelist, one quickly gathers. But he’s gotten excited in recent months about a new opportunity that many others are beginning to chase, too: the market for products made with cannabinoids of CBD, a compound that can be derived from both cannabis and hemp plants and which has taken off since industrial hemp cultivation was made legal in the United States last year.

Prima, based in Southern California, is creating a spate of products around hemp cannabinoids that Gavigan manages to make sound magical. He talks of taking the “best organically grown hemp out of Oregon” and using a “very gentle, slow extraction process” to get it into an oil and distillate form that it will then use to create consumer products, starting with “emerging beauty and pain management” for the skin and a “luxurious facial oil,” noting that a “lot of these cannabinoids do a great job with moisture retention and irritation and redness reduction.”

Prima also plans to introduce ingestible products, including a soft gel and mix-in powdered blends that can be used to pour into coffee or tea or water. One will be focused on immunity, another on sleep, another on energy.

None of these products are available for sale today, it’s worth noting. Prima isn’t even sure yet of its packaging, though it sounds like a thicker card stock will be involved.

Still, Gavigan paints a sufficiently compelling picture that the company — which plans to sell directly to consumers via a content-rich site designed to educate while it persuades — has already raised roughly $3.3 million in seed funding. Lerer Hippeau led the round, with participation from Greycroft and other (undisclosed) private and institutional investors.

It’s easy to understand why they are already buying in. Broadly speaking, Prima has a good story as a science-driven plant wellness company that’s championing the strong therapeutic potential of hemp CBD, even if the jury is still out on whether that potential is real or imagined. Given that there is no go-to brand quite yet, its timing actually looks impeccable on this front.

Prima is also registered as a public benefit corporation, which means in addition to its corporate goal of maximizing profit for shareholders, its charter commits the company to spending some of its profits or resources (or both) in support of a specific public benefit. In Prima’s case, that will be invested in cannabis-related research initiatives. Consumers might like this, too.

Yet Gavigan himself may be the company’s best weapon. Having spent much of his career selling natural and “green” products, he understands toxic and questionable ingredients. He also says he loves “very nascent, stigmatized markets” and is well aware of the standards that users expect of them, particularly when the end product is more costly. The Honest Company has fought numerous battles over the years, owing to its marketing, getting sued over its sunscreen (which it later reformulated), its baby formula (the company fought back and a court ruled in its favor) and its laundry detergent and dish soap (it settled a class action lawsuit that claimed it misled buyers about their ingredients).

He also knows how to talk to consumers looking to make better choices on behalf of themselves.

Pictured left to right: Laurel Myers, Christopher Gavigan and Jessica Assaf

The bigger challenge right now for Prima, along with other CBD brands, might simply be convincing regulators that their products are, at a minimum, safe to use. Right now, that’s no small feat.

In New York City, health departments are stopping restaurants from serving CBD-laced foods to their customers. The L.A. County Department of Health similarly said it would ding restaurants for using CBD in their food and drink offerings. As a new story in The Atlantic notes, while CBD can be derived from both cannabis and hemp plants, the FDA has said it will treat CBD the same no matter which plant it comes from, which is to say, it considers both illegal as additives in consumer food products.

Gavigan knows well of this uphill battle, though he also is convinced of the promise of CBD, spending 20 minutes with this reporter outlining the research he has pored over and that suggests promise in numerous areas, including in treating epilepsy. (Last year, the FDA approved an oral CBD drug called Epidiolex for the treatment of seizures associated with two rare and severe forms of epilepsy.)

He points to researchers at Mount Sinai and UCLA and UC Irvine among other places who are currently studying cannabinoids for pain, inflammation, stress, anxiety and insomnia.

Without standards, it could be difficult for any brand to move forward in a meaningful way. In fact, a California-based attorney with whom The Atlantic spoke tells the outlet that the current lack of standardization is what’s making regulatory agencies so nervous about CBD. “If you go buy a CBD beverage and it’s not specially packaged—it just looks like another coffee or whatever—someone might take a sip who doesn’t intend to,” he says.

Still, creams and oils are still on the table while they figure it out. And with the CBD market expected to grow to $22 billion by 2022 — outpacing marijuana — it’s looking smart for Prima and other brands that are barreling forward, hoping theirs is the name that will stick.

from Startups – TechCrunch https://tcrn.ch/2GgiLNk

#USA DataSine raises $5.2M led by Pentech and Propel for its AI content-marketing platform


By now, most of us should be familiar with the concept of the tailored news feed. Right now my Facebook feed (yes, I’m still there, alas) has been messed up because I’ve clicked on too many posts about Brexit, but I digress. My point is that content has long since fallen to the tyranny of tailoring and personalization, and content marketing (that stuff that marketers like to pass off as editorial) is a big business. Making that content so enthralling as to be practically addictive is the aim of this industry, but right now all those poor copywriters have to do a lot of manual heavy lifting. Such is their burden.

This is the problem DataSine is trying to address by tailoring content to the reader’s personality. It does this by applying machine learning to behavioral data they hold about that person, whether it be customer profiles or whatever.

The idea is that marketers then make more informed decisions about what content they push out, and thus can spend more time being creative rather than spending time on writing, tweaking and A/B testing.

DataSine has now raised $5.2 million in a Series A round led by U.K.-based VC Pentech Ventures and Propel Venture Partners. Other investors include C.Entrepreneurs/Cathay Innovation, Twin Ventures and Sistema_VC. Customers include BNP Paribas and the Tinkoff bank. DataSine claims it has helped achieve uplifts of up to 80 percent in engagement and 71 percent in sales.

DataSine’s content-personalization platform is called Pomegranate. The company says it provides an AI-powered content-editing platform to guide marketers in tailoring a range of content elements, including words and images. The idea is that it will personalize everything from emails and landing pages to call center scripts. Pomegranate will launch in March, and it integrates with CRMs like HubSpot and email platforms like MailChimp .

Founder and CEO Igor Volzhanin says he launched DataSine after moving to London to do a PhD in psychology because he believed “that personality can help companies understand their customers as a whole… and move beyond the traditional focus of click optimization.”

According to Boston Consulting Group, personalization is worth an extra $800 billion in business to the 15 percent of companies that manage to get it right.

Marc Moens, a partner at Pentech, commented that “DataSine is particularly well-positioned to bring psychology and AI to address contemporary marketing challenges. The idea that digital communications can be tailored for an individual in the age of Big Data is very appealing and addresses the needs of the market.”

The company’s competitors include Meniga, The Signal Open Data Platform, Adapti, Textio, Crobox VisualDNA and Hello Soda. But Volzhanin says their approach differs from most of these in using a single customer profile, collaborative AI and a psychological approach. “We bring together AI and psychology to provide our recommendations. We do a lot of proprietary, cutting edge research to understand what kind of content different people like and use AI to power Pomegranate to provide these recommendations to marketers,” he told me.

from Startups – TechCrunch https://tcrn.ch/2tawVqA

#USA Africa Roundup: Zimbabwe’s net blackout, Partech’s $143M fund, Andela’s $100M raise, Flutterwave’s pivot


A high court in Zimbabwe ended the government’s restrictions on internet and social media last month.

After days of intermittent blackouts at the order of the country’s Minister of State for National Security, ISPs restored connectivity per a January 21 judicial order.

Similar to net shutdowns around the continent, politics and protests were the catalyst. Shortly after the government announced a dramatic increase in fuel prices on January 12, Zimbabwe’s Congress of Trade Unions called for a national strike.

Web and app blackouts in the southern African country followed demonstrations that broke out in several cities. A government crackdown ensued, with deaths reported.

On January 15, Zimbabwe’s largest mobile carrier, Econet Wireless, confirmed that it had complied with a directive from the Minister of State for National Security to shutdown internet.

Net access was restored, taken down again, then restored, but social media sites remained blocked through January 21.

Throughout the restrictions, many of Zimbabwe’s citizens and techies resorted to VPNs and workarounds to access net and social media, as reported in this TechCrunch feature.

Global internet rights group Access Now sprung to action, attaching its #KeepItOn hashtag to calls for the country’s government to reopen cyberspace soon after digital interference began.

The cyber-affair adds Zimbabwe to a growing list of African countries — including Cameroon, Congo and Ethiopia — whose governments have restricted internet expression in recent years.

It also provides another case study for techies and ISPs regaining their cyber rights. Internet and social media are back up in Zimbabwe — at least for now.

Further attempts to restrict net and app access in Zimbabwe will likely revive what’s become a somewhat ironic cycle for cyber shutdowns. When governments cut off internet and social media access, citizens still find ways to use internet and social media to stop them.

Partech doubled its Africa VC fund to $143 million and opened a Nairobi office to complement its Dakar practice.

The Partech Africa Fund plans to make 20 to 25 investments across roughly 10 countries over the next several years, according to general partner Tidjane Deme. The fund has added Ceasar Nyagha as investment officer for the Kenya office to expand its East Africa reach.

Partech Africa will primarily target Series A and B investments and some pre-series rounds at higher dollar amounts. “We will consider seed-funding — what we call seed-plus — tickets in the $500,000 range,” Deme told TechCrunch for this story on the new fund. Partech is open to all sectors “with a strong appetite for people who are tapping into Africa’s informal economies,” he said.

Partech Africa joined several Africa-focused funds over the last few years to mark a surge in VC for the continent’s startups. Partech announced its first raise of $70 million in early 2018 next to TLcom Capital’s $40 million, and TPG Growth’s $2 billion.

Africa-focused VC firms, including those locally run and managed, have grown to 51 globally, according to recent Crunchbase research.

Andela, the company that connects Africa’s top software developers with technology companies from the U.S. and around the world, raised $100 million in a new round of funding.

The new financing from Generation Investment Management (an investment fund co-founded by former VP Al Gore) puts the valuation of the company at somewhere between $600 million and $700 million—based on data available from PitchBook on the company’s valuation.

The company now has more than 200 customers paying for access to the roughly 1,100 developers Andela has trained and manages.

With the new cash in hand, Andela says it will double in size, hiring another thousand developers, and invest in new product development and its own engineering and data resources. More on Andela’s recent raise and focus here at TechCrunch.

Fintech startup Flutterwave announced a new consumer payment product for Africa called GetBarter, in partnership with Visa.

The app-based offering is aimed at facilitating personal and small merchant payments within and across African countries. Existing Visa  cardholders can send and receive funds at home or internationally on GetBarter.

The product also lets non-cardholders (those with accounts or mobile wallets on other platforms) create a virtual Visa card to link to the app.  A Visa spokesperson confirmed the product partnership.

GetBarter allows Flutterwave  — which has scaled as a payment gateway for big companies through its Rave product — to pivot to African consumers and traders.

The app also creates a network for clients on multiple financial platforms to make transfers across payment products and national borders, and to shop online.

“The target market is pretty much everyone who has a payment need in Africa. That includes the entire customer base of M-Pesa,  the entire bank customer base in Nigeria, mobile money and bank customers in Ghana — pretty much the entire continent,” Flutterwave CEO Olugbenga Agboola told TechCrunch in this exclusive.

Flutterwave and Visa will focus on building a GetBarter user base across mobile money and bank clients in Kenya, Ghana, and South Africa, with plans to grow across the continent and reach those off the financial grid.

Founded in 2016, Flutterwave has positioned itself as a global B2B payments solutions platform for companies in Africa to pay other companies on the continent and abroad. It allows clients to tap its APIs and work with Flutterwave developers to customize payments applications. Existing customers include Uber,  Facebook,  Booking.com and African e-commerce unicorn Jumia.com.

Flutterwave added operations in Uganda in June and raised a $10 million Series A round in October The company also plugged into ledger activity in 2018, becoming a payment processing partner to the Ripple and Stellar blockchain networks.

Headquartered in San Francisco, with its largest operations center in Nigeria, the startup plans to add operations centers in South Africa and Cameroon, which will also become new markets for GetBarter.

And sadly, Africa’s tech community mourned losses in January. A terrorist attack on Nairobi’s 14 Riverside complex claimed the lives of six employees of fintech startup Cellulant and I-Dev CEO Jason Spindler. Both organizations had been engaged with TechCrunch’s Africa work over the last 24 months. Condolences to  family, friends and colleagues of those lost.

More Africa Related Stories @TechCrunch

African Tech Around The Net    

from Startups – TechCrunch https://tcrn.ch/2TBK4ES

#USA Airbnb hires a global head of transportation


Airbnb made it easier for travelers to find a place to crash. Now it wants to make it easier for them to get around.

The $31 billion home-sharing giant has hired Fred Reid as its first-ever global head of transportation. Reid served as the founding chief executive officer of Virgin America from 2004 to 2007 after a three-year stint as the president of Delta Airlines. Most recently, Reid was president of the Cora Aircraft Program, a division of Kitty Hawk focused on the development of an autonomous electric vertical takeoff and landing aircraft.

The hire suggests Airbnb has broad ambitions to further disrupt the travel and hospitality industry and given the 500 million guest arrivals to Airbnb listings the company says it will have recorded by the first quarter of 2019, integrating transportation services to better serve customers is a no-brainer.

“We’re going to explore a broad range of ideas and partnerships that can make transportation better,” Airbnb co-founder and CEO Brian Chesky said in a statement. “We haven’t settled on exactly what those will look like. I’m not interested in building our own airline or creating just another place on the Internet where you can buy a plane ticket, but there is a tremendous opportunity to improve the transportation experience for everyone.”

Founded in 2008, Airbnb has raised a total of $4.4 billion in venture capital funding from investors including Sequoia and Andreessen Horowitz.

from Startups – TechCrunch https://tcrn.ch/2WKx4P8