Monday, March 4, 2019

startup news

startup news

Crypto Finance Startup Circle Seeking Further $250 Million in Funding: Report - CoinDesk

Posted: 04 Mar 2019 02:10 AM PST

Crypto finance startup Circle Internet Financial is reportedly looking to raise a further $250 million in funding.

A report from The Information on Saturday, citing a source with knowledge of the matter, said that Circle is seeking to raise the funding via a combination of equity and debt financing.

They added that the reason for the move is that the firm's business has been affected by the prolonged cryptocurrency bear market. Circle has not confirmed the source's claim, The Information said.

The Goldman Sachs-backed firm has previously raised at least $246 million, according to Crunchbase.

Circle raised $110 million in a Series E funding round last spring that effectively valued the startup at nearly $3 billion. The round was led by Chinese crypto mining giant Bitmain, with Accel, Blockchain Capital, Digital Currency Group, IDG, Pantera and others also participating.

Jeremy Allaire, the firm's CEO, told CoinDesk at the time that the round would help the firm position itself as a conglomerate of cryptocurrency services.

The company offers several services, including crypto buying via its Circle Invest app, an over-the-counter (OTC) trading desk launched for institutional clients last September and cryptocurrency exchange Poloniex, which it acquired in February 2018.

Circle also has a dollar-pegged stablecoin called USD Coin (USDC) that it developed with help from the CENTRE affiliate consortium. It was seeking to register as a federally licensed bank in the U.S. back in June.

With its March investment round, Circle became a part of the "crypto unicorn" club, alongside U.S.-based cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase.

Circle image via CoinDesk archives 

A report describes high turnover and toxic workplace culture at finance startup Revolut - The Verge

Posted: 03 Mar 2019 11:08 AM PST

A pair of reports last week painted a negative picture of UK-based finance startup Revolut. Wired described a workplace where turnover and toxic behavior is rife, while The Telegraph says that the company had turned off a system designed to prevent money laundering for three months in 2018, something that Revolut denies.

Revolut is the company behind a finance app that allows users to transfer money to one another, exchange different types of currencies and cryptocurrencies, and issues a debit card. Founded in 2015 in London, it describes itself as an alternative to traditional banking by doing away with fees, and says that it has more than 4 million customers who have transferred more than £25 billion across 250 million transactions. The service hasn't launched yet in the US — the company says on its website that that's coming, and has a waitlist for interested users.

Wired's report outlines some of the growing pains that seems too familiar with startups working to grow at all costs. It details a company with a 24/7 work mentality and managers who set exceedingly high goals for its staff — and which will abruptly fire employees who fall below expectations. The report details a culture of work-at-all costs and burnout, and notes that a survey of former employees revealed that most didn't last more than a year.

The report also detailed how prospective employees were presented with a test — sign up 200 people in a week, in order to be considered for a followup interview, which Wired notes "might go against governmental recommendations." Revolut didn't answer Wired's questions about its workplace culture, but did say in a statement that its "culture is evolving as rapidly as our business."

More damning is a pair of reports from The Telegraph, which says that the company turned off automated systems that worked to stop money laundering and illegal transfers between July and September last year. The company launched an investigation last year when a whistleblower notified the board of directors, which concluded that the "original decision to turn off the transaction-halting mechanism was erroneous and implied a remediable systems and controls failing." The Telegraph also says that the company's CFO resigned in January, although Revolut says that it was unconnected to the incident.

In a blog post on its website, Revolut CEO Nikolay Storonsky pushed back against The Telegraph's report, saying that it had rolled out a "more advanced sanctions screening system," which didn't work as expected. He also says that the company has reviewed all of the transactions that occurred during that period, and that no money laundering had occurred.

Voi Technology, the European e-scooter rentals startup, raises an additional $30M - TechCrunch

Posted: 03 Mar 2019 03:00 PM PST

Well, that didn't take long. Just three months after raising $50 million in Series A funding, e-scooter rentals startup Voi Technology has added another $30 million to its balance sheet. The new round sees existing investors Vostok New Ventures, Balderton Capital, LocalGlobe and Raine Ventures participate again, alongside new investors Project A and Creandum.

The inclusion of Project A won't be entirely new news to close readers of TechCrunch. Based on my own sources, I reported that the Berlin-based early-stage VC was in the running in late October, and it was a surprise not to see the firm on the list of backers when VOI announced its Series A a month later. This new round sees those loose ends tidied up nicely.

A number of angel investors also participated. They include Cristina Stenbeck (Kinnevik), Justin Mateen (co-founder of Tinder), Keith Richman (board member, Grubhub), Jeff Wilke (Amazon), Sujay Jaswa (founder of WndrCo), Sujay Tyle (CEO Frontier Car Group), Diego Piacentini (Former Head of International Business, Amazon) Christian Leone (founder of Luxor Capital) and Spencer Rascoff (ex-CEO of Zillow).

Voi says the new capital will be used to ramp up expansion across Europe and invest in R&D. The company is also now claiming to be the leading "home-grown" e-scooter rentals company in Europe — as opposed to U.S.-founded Lime and Bird. In seven months, Voi says it has garnered a customer base of over 400,000 riders, who have taken a total of more than 750,000 rides.

Other competitors operating in various parts of Europe include Flash — the stealthy mobility startup from Delivery Hero and Team Europe founder Lukasz Gadowski that recently raised €55 million in Series A funding — as well as Berlin's Wind Mobility ($22 million) and Tier (€25 million).

Taxify has also announced its entrance into e-scooter rentals, and Silicon Valley's Bird and Lime not only operate in Europe but have received substantial investment from three of Europe's top venture capital firms. Index and Accel have backed Bird, and Atomico has backed Lime.

Staying on message, Voi says that key to its success to date is working collaboratively with city authorities across the continent, including developing a Code of Conduct in Stockholm "to help the city's multiple scooter-sharing operators work more safely and efficiently together". However, that didn't stop Voi having its license temporarily revoked in Madrid, alongside Lime and Wind after a change in the law required a change in the way e-scooter firms operate. It returned to the Spanish city in February.

Meanwhile, the company says its strongest markets so far are in the Nordics. Namely, Stockholm, Gothenburg, Malmö, Lund, Uppsala and Copenhagen, most of which it says will reach profitability in Q1. The e-scooter rental service is also live in Paris, Lyon, Madrid, Malaga, Zaragoza, Murcia, Lisbon and Faro. Today also sees a launch in Oslo, with Helsinki and other cities launching later this month. Italy, Germany, Norway and France are named as near-future expansions.

Ridesharing App Lyft Partners With Blockchain Startup to Tokenize Healthcare Transport - Cointelegraph

Posted: 04 Mar 2019 10:42 AM PST

Ridesharing app Lyft has partnered with blockchain startup Solve.Care to tokenize healthcare-related transport arrangements. The development was announced in a press release from Solve.Care on March 4.

Estonia-based Solve.Care is a decentralized, blockchain-powered platform that focuses on enhancing healthcare administration and access to healthcare services for users and insurers.

The partnership with Lyft will allow Solve.Care users to schedule Lyft rides to doctors' clinics, hospitals, and pharmacies, with automated payments using native utility token SOLVE via their Solve.Care digital wallets.

Payment for rides can be shared with family, employers, insurers or other parties. The service will also allow patients to flexibly coordinate their trips, arrival times, and any needed assistance with their contacts. Solve.Care CEO Pradeep Goel said the partnership with Lyft can help the blockchain healthcare platform to:

"[I]mprove patient satisfaction through timely access to care, reduced wait times, and simpler cost-sharing and access to transportation subsidies."

Blockchain technology continues to gain traction in the global healthcare sector, as hospitals, insurers, and other industry professionals continue to explore its benefits for sharing, securing and streamlining sensitive clinical and other health-related information.

Recent developments include a partnership between tech giant IBM and Canadian pharmaceutical firm Boehringer Ingelheim to use blockchain for clinical recordkeeping, as well as a project to create a blockchain network tailored to the healthcare industry from IBM and health insurance giant Aetna.

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