Author: Kate Clark

Ritual raises $25M for its subscription-based women’s daily vitamin

In the era of #spirtual and #physical #wellness, everything needs to be Instagrammable, even dietary supplements. Ritual, a subscription-based service that charges customers $30 per month for shipments of its women’s daily or prenatal vitamins, has effectively tapped into that Instagram crowd. The company admits its social media strategy has been key to harnessing a cult following of wellness enthusiasts. Since it was founded in 2015, the business has sold 1 million bottles of vitamins; today, it’s announcing a $25 million Series B funding led by Lisa Wu at Norwest Venture Partners, with participation from Kirsten Green at Forerunner Ventures and Brian Singerman at Founders Fund. Wu, as part of the round, will join Ritual’s board of directors. “We were the first to market in our space to have really built a direct-to-consumer brand in the vitamin supplement industry,” founder and chief executive officer Katerina Schneider told TechCrunch. “For us, that was about having direct touch points with customers online and, for instance, responding to every single question and statement on platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter with depth and purpose … There’s no comparing our product to any product out there. We have reimagined the formulation.” The Los Angeles-based company, which launched during TechCrunch Disrupt New York three years ago, brought in a $10 million Series A financing in 2017. Including a seed round, Ritual has raised $41.5 million to date....

Read More

Workplace messaging platform Slack has confidentially filed to go public

Slack, the provider of workplace communication and collaboration tools, has submitted paperwork with the Securities and Exchange Commission to go public later this year, the company announced on Monday. This is its first concrete step toward becoming a publicly-listed company, five years after it launched. Headquartered in San Francisco, Slack has raised more than $1 billion in venture capital investment, including a $427 million funding round in August. The round valued the business at $7.1 billion, cementing its position as one of the most valuable privately-held businesses in the U.S. The company counted 10 million daily active users around...

Read More

Spotify, eBay set standard for fertility benefits, study finds

The technology sector awards women and same-sex couples the most comprehensive fertility benefit packages, according to a survey by FertilityIQ, an online platform for fertility patients to review doctors and research treatments. The company asked 30,000 in vitro fertilisation (IVF) patients across industries about their employers’ — or their spouse’s employer’s’ — 2019 fertility treatment policy, and allocated points based on their support for IVF procedures and egg freezing, among other services. Silicon Valley semiconductor business Analog Devices and eBay led the ranking. The two companies offer employees unlimited IVF cycles with no pre-authorization requirement, meaning employees do not need permission from insurance providers before seeking certain medical services. Pre-authorization has historically impacted lesbian, gay or unpartnered employees from accessing care quickly or at all, FertilityIQ co-founder Jake Anderson explained Spotify, Adobe, Lyft, Facebook and Pinterest were amongst the highest-ranked technology businesses, too. “I think a lot of people see the tech sector as being unenlightened when it comes to family values but it’s still the sector that makes the fertility benefits the most widely acceptable,” Anderson, a former consumer internet investor at Sequoia Capital, told TechCrunch. FertilityIQ’s fertility benefits survey results. Despite an initial outpouring of skepticism, Facebook and Apple became leaders in the fertility benefit category when they began paying for their female employees to freeze their eggs in 2014. Since then, smaller firms have opted to beef up those...

Read More

Bird CEO on scooter startup copycats, unit economics, safety and seasonality

Bird’s electric scooters were on full display at the Upfront Summit in Malibu last week, a two-day event that brings together the likes of Hollywood, Silicon Valley and Washington, DC’s elite.  Not only were a dozen or so brand spanking new scooters available to ride throughout the event but Upfront general partner Mark Suster, an investor in the startup, was seen riding a Bird on stage to the tune of Chamillionaire’s ‘Ridin’ Dirty.’ Plus, Bird founder and chief executive officer Travis VanderZanden was on site to mingle with attendees before closing the summit with a fireside chat with Suster himself. The pair hit on a number of topics, including the unit economics, safety and seasonality of the scooter business. Neither confirmed Bird’s latest raise; the startup is said to be in the process of securing another $300 million at a $2.3 billion valuation, according to PitchBook. In a 12-month period, the company brought in more than $250 million at a roughly $1 billion valuation. On unit economics: When Bird bursted onto the scene in 2017, VanderZanden knew he had to move quickly to beat copycats, he explained. Operating under Reid Hoffman’s ‘Blitzscaling’ philosophy, he dispersed hundreds of Alibaba-imported electric scooters that were, well, pretty shitty. “Those things were fragile,” VanderZanden told Suster. “Clearly the unit economics didn’t work on those scooters but that was a test anyway … Once we knew people...

Read More

Startups Weekly: Even Gwyneth Paltrow had a hard time raising VC

I spent the week in Malibu attending Upfront Ventures’ annual Upfront Summit, which brings together the likes of Hollywood, Silicon Valley and Washington, DC’s elite for a two-day networking session of sorts. Cameron Diaz was there for some reason, and Natalie Portman made an appearance. Stacey Abrams had a powerful Q&A session with Lisa Borders, the president and CEO of Time’s Up. Of course, Gwyneth Paltrow was there to talk up Goop, her venture-funded commerce and content engine. “I had no idea what I was getting into but I am so fulfilled and on fire from this job,” Paltrow said onstage at the summit… “It’s a very different life than I used to have but I feel very lucky that I made this leap.” Speaking with Frederic Court, the founder of Felix Capital, Paltrow shed light on her fundraising process. “When I set out to raise my Series A, it was very difficult,” she said. “It’s great to be Gwyneth Paltrow when you’re raising money because people take the meeting, but then you get a lot more rejections than you would if they didn’t want to take a selfie … People, understandably, were dubious about [this business]. It becomes easier when you have a thriving business and your unit economics looks good.” In other news… 1. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is an entrepreneur, too The actor stopped by the summit to promote his startup,...

Read More

Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s artist-collaboration platform HitRecord raises $6.4M

In the early 2000s, actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt was frustrated with the roles he was being offered. Instead of starring in critically acclaimed indies, he was typecast as “the funny kid on TV” due to roles like Tommy from “3rd Rock from the Sun.” So like anyone who matured alongside the internet, he created a website where he could ideate, produce and share his work. More than 10 years later, he wants to turn that pet project, called HitRecord, into a full-fledged technology company. Onstage at Upfront Venture’s annual summit outside of Los Angeles, Gordon-Levitt announced a $6.4 million Series A funding to do just that. Javelin Venture Partners has led the round, with participation from Crosslink Capital, Advancit Capital, YouTube co-founder Steve Chen, Twitch co-founder Kevin Lin and MasterClass co-founder David Rogier. Gordon-Levitt, known for starring in “Inception,” “Snowden” and, my personal favorite, “10 Things I Hate About You,” tells TechCrunch that HitRecord has a team of 24 employees, with himself at the helm as chief executive officer, co-founder Jared Geller serving as president and co-founder Marke Johnson as creative director. The trio plan to use the investment to transform HitRecord from a traditional production company to a new collaborative media platform. The company provides an online portal for artists to work together on projects, “building off of each other’s contributions, to create things [they] couldn’t have made on [their] own.”...

Read More

Dadi brings in $2M to democratize sperm storage

The founders of Dadi — pronounced daddy — think men are in need of a wake-up call. “Men [have] a biological clock just like women, which is something that people don’t talk about,” Dadi co-founder and chief executive officer Tom Smith told TechCrunch. “Infertility isn’t a women’s issue; It’s both a men’s and women’s issue.” Smith believes Dadi, the provider of a temperature-controlled at-home fertility test and sperm collection kit, will encourage men to contribute to family planning conversations and become more aware of their reproductive health. The startup is officially launching its kit and long-term sperm storage service today with nearly $2 million in venture capital funding from London-based seed fund firstminute capital and New York-based Third Kind Venture Capital. “Our mission is to normalize the conversation around male fertility and reproductive health, and empower men with knowledge of fertility so they can have that conversation with their family,” Smith said. Here’s how it works: Dadi customers order a kit online, masturbate and collect their sperm within the comfort of their own homes, drop it off with FedEx and wait for a full fertility report, which comes with a microscopic video of the each man’s actual sperm. To survive the trip to the startup’s laboratory — the New England Cryogenic Center — the Dadi-designed container injects preservatives, which are nested in the lid of the cup, into the sperm sample....

Read More

Alphabet-backed Medicare Advantage startup Clover Health raises $500M

Despite a number of well-publicized hiccups, venture capitalists are betting another $500 million on health insurance provider Clover Health, TechCrunch has learned. Existing investor Greenoaks Capital led the round, according to the startup, which confirmed it was closing a new round of capital in the coming weeks. Clover Health has raised a total of $925 million to date, garnering a valuation of $1.2 billion with a $130 million Series D funding in 2017. The company, backed by Alphabet’s venture arm GV, Sequoia Capital, Floodgate, Bracket Capital, First Round Capital and more, declined to disclose its latest valuation. San Francisco-based Clover Health was founded in 2012 by chief executive officer Vivek Garipalli, the former founder of New Jersey healthcare system CarePoint Health; and Kris Gale, who served as the startup’s chief technology officer until transitioning into an adviser role in December 2017. As part of its latest funding round, the company told TechCrunch it’s promoting Andrew Toy, its chief technology officer since early 2018, to the role of president and CTO. He will also join its board of directors. Varsha Rao, Airbnb’s former chief operating officer, joined the company in September 2017 as COO. The tech-enabled health insurer differentiates itself from incumbents by collecting and analyzing health and behavioral data to lower costs and improve medical outcomes for its members. It’s part of a new cohort of heavily funded insurtech startups, including...

Read More

Right Now in Politics and Business