VENTURE CAPITAL MARKET REVIEW, ISSUE 19 (JANUARY 5-11)
Venture capital and startup markets start acting after Christmas and New Year holidays: first M&A deals are closed, investment rounds are announced and other activities are held
M&A. Facebook Acquires Wit.ai
Facebook acquired Wit.ai, a Y Combinator startup founded 18 months ago to create an API for building voice-activated interfaces. Wit.ai already has 6,000 developers on its platform who have built hundreds of apps.
Wit.ai’s platform will remain open and free, which makes it seem that Facebook wants to use the technology to draw developers into its Build-Grow-Monetize loop where they get help building apps, but eventually pay Facebook for ads to grow or monetize by splitting revenue with Facebook from hosting its ads.
As part of Facebook, Wit.ai could help the company offer voice control development tools alongside its Parse development platform, aid with voice-to-text input for Messenger, improve Facebook’s understanding of the semantic meaning of voice, and create a Facebook app you can navigate through speech.
“Wit.ai has built an incredible yet simple natural language processing API that has helped developers turn speech and text into actionable data,” tells Facebook. “We’re excited to have them onboard.”
M&A. 3D Systems Acquires 3D Printer Startup BotObjects
Publicly listed and South Carolina, U.S.-based 3D Systems has announced it’s acquired the London-based 3D colour printer startup BotObjects.
Terms of the acquisition remain undisclosed, but 3D Systems, a very early player in 3D printing, says it expects the acquisition to be accretive to its 2015 results — looking in from the outside, however, this looks a lot like an acqui-hire and patent/technology acquisition, rather than a home run for BotObjects’ founders and backers.
To that end, 3D Systems has also announced that BotObjects’ ‘ProDesk3D’ full colour 3D printer is being folded into its new CubePro C printer line to deliver a “true full-color experience at the affordable price of $4,990″, offering greater accuracy and speed than competitors. That claim, however, should be tempered with BotObjects’ (and to a lesser extend, 3D Systems’) recent track record of actually shipping product.
The London startup’s ProDesk3D, as innovative as the full colour 3D printing technology appeared, has faced many delays, leading some to colour it vapourware.
M&A. Indian Real Estate Search Engine Acquires Anonymous Gossip App
Indian real estate search engine and listings site CommonFloor, which last January raised $10.4 million from Tiger Global and Accel to expand beyond property listings, has acquired mobile local social app Bakfy, an anonymous gossip app for students.
The value of the acquisition is not being disclosed but Bakfy co-founder and CEO Ashutosh Garg confirmed the deal is a mix of cash and equity. The startup was founded around February last year. It had raised a small seed round and rolled out its service to around 60 colleges in India, gaining some 5,000 users.
Bakfy will now be shut down, Garg confirmed, as CommonFloor is not about to branch into anonymous student gossiping. Rather it has its own groups feature which Garg characterized as a social network for apartment buildings.
On the CommonFloor side, the acquisition is a talent acqui-hire with all three Bakfy co-founders joining as “entrepreneurs in residence” to help it build social and mobile products.
Garg conceded anonymous social networking is a difficult space to monetize, but also talked up the growth potential for real estate market he and his co-founders are now jumping into. “We were much more excited about the fact that the Indian real estate industry is one of the fastest growing industry’s in India after e-commerce,” he added.
STARTUP. Lalamove Lands $10M For Regional Expancion
Lalamove, an Uber-like service for logistics, has raised $10 million to expand its presence across Asia, where it already operates in six cities.
The company, which began life in Hong Kong in December 2013, offers iOS and Android apps that allow customers to move items across a city using its network of ‘regular’ drivers. Its business model is basically akin to an ‘Uber for logistics’ since anyone with a valid license and car can sign up to be a driver.
The $10 million round is led by China’s Crystal Stream Capital, and it includes participation from Geek Founders, Mindworks Ventures, Sirius Venture Capital and Aria Group. Lalamove said a number of unnamed individual investors also took part.
Executive Blake Larson told that the money will be used to strengthen its position in its existing markets: Hong Kong, Singapore, Bangkok, Taipei and — as of last week — Guangzhou and Shenzhen. The capital will also be used to “further penetrate” China and enter more parts in Southeast Asia.
Lalamove, which is known by its original name EasyVan in China and Hong Kong and has over 60 staff, is rivaled fellow Hong Kong startup GoGoVan. GoGoVan raised $6.5 million round and took an additional $10 million investment from Chinese social network Renren last year.
STARTUP. Glassdoor Closes $70M Funding Round
Glassdoor, the site that lets employees rate their companies’ work environment and anonymously disclose their salary information, announced that it has raised a $70 million funding round led by Google Capital, the search engine’s late-stage growth equity fund, and Tiger Global. Other participants include current investors Battery Ventures and Sutter Hill Ventures. This new round brings Glassdoor’s total funding to just over $160 million.
While Glassdoor may be best known for its rankings, the company also runs one of the largest job search and recruiting platforms with 27 million members. About 2,000 companies now use the service’s branding and recruiting tools. In total, over 31,500 companies also use Glassdoor’s Free Employer Accounts to respond to reviews, and its users have generated over 7.5 million reviews, rating and salary reports that now cover more than 340,000 companies in over 190 countries and territories. The company recently launched its first non-English site and apps in France.
The company tells it doesn’t have any specific plans for the new funding. Instead, the capital is mostly meant to provide Glassdoor with the flexibility to continue to grow and expand internationally. It’s worth noting that Glassdoor has been investing heavily in its meta-search engine for jobs and other employer-focused products.
Chances are, then, that at least some of its new funding will also go toward expanding that site of its business, too. In addition, a Glassdoor spokesperson told that the company also continues to hire, with plans to add over 100 people to its roster this year alone.
STARTUP. Singaporean Data Analytics Startup TookiTaki Raises $1M To Expand In Asia-Pacific
TookiTaki, a Singaporean data analytics startup, announced that it has raised $1 million in seed funding led by Jungle Ventures, with participation from Rebright Partners and Blume Ventures. The capital will be used to expand its software platform into new markets in Southeast Asia, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand.
TookiTaki started out as an ad tech company that helped users figure out where to place advertisements on social media networks and other online platforms. Eventually, TookiTaki expanded its services to provide data analysis and predictions about customer behavior, marketing, and product sales for companies.
Founder and CEO Abhishek Chatterjee says that his company’s competitors include Quantifand, which interprets social media data for companies, and Taykey, which automates the purchase of targeted online ads. Chatterjee says TookiTaki differentiates by focusing on gathering multiple data sets from different sources—including publicly available data and offline data—and using them to produce predictions about customer behavior that can help companies more effectively plan marketing and sales campaigns.
In addition to expanding into new markets, part of TookiTaki’s seed funding will also be used for research and development. The company is currently working on a platform that will give predictions about how consumers find out about specific brands or products.
STARTUP. Fitmob Raises An Additional $5 Million
Fitness startup Fitmob recently began partnering with gyms and launching a monthly subscription plan, which has led to a huge jump in revenue. To accelerate that growth and expand into new cities, the company raised $5 million in funding.
Fitmob saw 5x revenue growth in the month from November to December, according to founder Raj Kapoor. That growth was due in part to its new subscription model and also its new business model, built around providing unlimited classes and gym trips for a flat $99 fee each month.
But the subscription model only really works if customers have tons of things to do. So Fitmob has been rapidly adding new gym and training studios. In the last three months, Fitmob has added more than 400 partners across seven cities, which includes the San Francisco Bay Area, San Jose, Austin, Dallas, Portland, Seattle, and Philadelphia.
The new funding was catalyzed by an AngelList Syndicate led by Paige Craig that raised $750,000 for the company from a total of 92 individual investors.
Fitmob also received a fair amount of institutional interest, which allowed it to raise a total of $5 million.
According to Kapoor, the new money will be used to expand into even more cities over the coming year. After working out the model in its home market, it’s now able to carry it forward as it seeks out and adds gyms and trainers to its marketplace.
Previously, Fitmob had raised a $9.75 million Series A round led by Mayfield, where Kapoor had previously been a VC, with Silicon Valley Bank and other angels investing.