Apple gives up some control, Binance plots a U.S. IPO (still), and a look at the athletes jumping into NFTs

September 1, 2021
 
Hello! We're thinking tonight about our Louisiana readers and also our friends in New York, who were hit by the same storm.
Top News
 
Apple said today it would allow media apps to create in-app links to sign-up pages on those companies’ websites, allowing the likes of Spotify and Netflix to bypass Apple's cut of subscriptions. Tech companies for years have said Apple’s restrictions were anticompetitive. Apple says the change is among other adjustments made to close an investigation by the Japan Fair Trade Commission and that it will apply globally. More here.
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Bright Cellars Lands More Funding to Personalize its Subscription-Based Wines
 
Bright Cellars, a six-year-old subscription-based wine seller has, like many upstarts, evolved over time. While it once sent its club members third-party wines that fit their particular profiles, Milwaukee, Wisconsin-based Bright Cellars says it's now amassing enough data about its customers that it no longer sells wines made by other brands. Instead, while some of its "original" offerings are admittedly sold by other labels under different names, it is increasingly finding success by directing its winemaker partners to tweak the recipe, so to speak.
 
"We're optimizing wine like you might optimize a more digital product," says co-founder and CEO, Richard Yau, a San Francisco native whose startup entered into a regional accelerator program early on and stayed, though the company is now largely decentralized.
 
We talked earlier today with Yau about that shift, which investors are supporting with $11.2 million in Series B funding, led by Cleveland Avenue, with participation from earlier backers Revolution Ventures and Northwestern Mutual. (The company has now raised roughly $20 million altogether).
 
Yau also talked about industry trends that he's seeing because of all that data collection.
 
Massive Fundings
 
Alma, a New York-based membership based network for therapists (that originally incorporated co-working spaces but has since jettisoned that part of the business), has raised $50 million in Series C funding led by earlier backer Insight Partners. A mix of new and earlier backers also joined the round, including Optum Ventures, Tusk Venture Partners, Primary Venture Partners, Sound Ventures, BoxGroup, and Rainfall Ventures. The company has now raised $90.5 million altogether. Forbes has more here.
 
Berlin Brands Group, a nearly two-year-old, Berlin-based outfit that's part of the new wave of e-commerce startups hoping to build lucrative economies of scale through buying up smaller brands that sell on marketplaces like Amazon and using tech to run and scale them, has raised $700 million in equity and debt led by Bain Capital. Bain is also buying out a previous investor, Ardian, for an undisclosed amount that is separate to the company's new capital raise. TechCrunch has more here.
 
Carsome Group, a six-year-old, Malaysia-based used car marketplace, has raised $170 million at a $1.3 billion valuation from semiconductor maker MediaTek, tycoon Patrick Grove’s investment company Catcha Group and the Malaysian government fund Penjana Kapital, among others. Carsome said one of the largest sovereign wealth funds in the region also joined the round, without disclosing its name, and that it separately secured $30 million in debt facilities. Forbes has more here.

CoachHub, a three-year-old, Berlin-based digital coaching platform that matches individuals to business coaches, just raised $80 million in extended Series B funding, including from Draper Esprit, RTP Global, HV Capital, Signals Venture Capital, Partech, and Speedinvest. VentureBeat has more here.
 
Code Climate, a 10-year-old, New York-based automated code platform that aims to help companies to ship better quality code, faster, by plugging into DevOps and project management tools such as GitHub and Jira, has raised $50 million in Series C funding. PSG led the round, joined by Union Square Ventures, Foundry Group, Lerer Hippeau Ventures, and NextView Ventures. VentureBeat has more here.
 
DnaNudge, a six-year-old, London-based developer of a lab-free coronavirus PCR test that its founder says can diagnose Covid in roughly an hour, raised $60 million in Series A funding led by Ventura Capital, with participation from Bank Julius Baer. Bloomberg has more here.
 
Heroes, a year-old, London-based Amazon merchant roll-up platform founded by three brothers, has raised $200 million in largely debt from Crayhill Capital Management. TechCrunch has more here.

Humane, a four-year-old, Bay Area-based stealthy startup co-founded by a former senior designer from Apple and one of its ex-senior software engineers (they happen to be married), has raised $100 million in Series B funding led by Tiger Global Management. Other participants in the round included SoftBank Group, BOND, Forerunner Ventures, Kindred Ventures, and Qualcomm Ventures, among others. TechCrunch has more here.

Oviva, an eight-year-old, Zurich, Switzerland-based diet and lifestyle coaching company that says it pairs users with professional dieticians, has raised $80 million in Series C funding. Sofina and Temasek led the round, joined by AlbionVC, Earlybird, Eight Roads Ventures, F-Prime Capital, and MTIP. TechCrunch has more here.
 
Vic.ai, a five-year-old, New York-based accounting automation platform, has raised $50 million in Series B funding led by ICONIQ Growth. Other investors in the round include GGV Capital, Cowboy Ventures, and Costanoa Ventures. VentureBeat has more here.
 
Big-But-Not-Crazy-Big Fundings
 
Borzo, a nine-year-old, Amsterdam-based "crowdsourced" same-day delivery startup that began in Moscow, has raised $35 million in Series C funding. Mubadala led the round, joined by VNV Global, RDIF, and Flashpoint Venture Capital. TechCrunch has more here.
 
Blueprint, a four-year-old, Nashville, Tn.-based insurtech startup working in the title insurance space, has raised $16 million in Series B funding led by Forté Ventures, with participation from  Avanta Ventures, Bull City Venture Partners, Greenlight Re Innovations and Gaingels, along with earlier backers.The company had previously raised $8.5 million in Series A funding in 2019. TechCrunch has more here.
 
Fieldin, an eight-year-old, Fresno, Ca.- and Yokne'am, Israel-based agtech startup whose platform monitors agricultural activity in real-time and identifies anomalies that may impair crops and operational efficiency, has raised $30 million in Series B funding. Fortissimo Capital led the round; other participants include Zeev Ventures, Icon Ventures, Maor Investments, and Akkadian Ventures. Calcalist has more here.
 
Flat.mx, a two-year-old, Mexico City, Mexico-based that wants to build a real estate “super app” for Latin America, has raised $20 million in Series A funding co-led by Anthemis and 500 Startups, with participation, ALLVP, Expa, and a number of notable individual investors. Among them is Opendoor CEO and co-founder Eric Wu, Flyhomes co-founder and CEO Tushar Garg and Divvy Homes’ co-founder Brian MaPreviously, Flat.mx had raised a total of $10 million in equity and $25 million in debt. TechCrunch has more here.
 
Oddup, a six-year-old, Hong Kong-based research platform that provides analytical information on startups, their trends, and both their current and expected future valuation, has raised $12.8 million in Series C funding, including from IRO Capital, Elliot Capital, and what looks to be a new outfit called Jervois Hillier. More here.

Osana Salud, a 2.5-year-old, Buenos Aires, Argentina-based healthcare infrastructure company, ha raised $20 million in Series A funding led by General Catalyst. TechCrunch has more here.

PayEm, a 2.5-year-old, Tel Aviv, Israel- and New York-based maker of a spending platform for global finance teams, has raised $20 million in Series A funding led by Glilot+. The company is also revealing for the first time that it earlier raised $7 million in seed funding led by Pitango First and NFX. TechCrunch has more here.
 
Plantible Foods, a five-year-old, San Diego-based startup that's making plant-based protein ingredients through aquaculture by cultivating lemna, also known as duckweed, has raised $21.5 million in Series A funding. Astanor Ventures led the round. More here.
 
Rafay Systems, a four-year-old, Sunnyvale, Ca.-based platform for Kubernetes operations, has raised $25 million in Series B funding. ForgePoint Capital led the round, joined by Ridge Ventures, Costanoa Ventures, and Moment Ventures. More here.
 
Skit, a five-year-old, Bengaluru, India-based artificial intelligence SaaS voice automation company formerly known as Vernacular.ai, has raised $23 million in Series B funding. WestBridge Capital led the round, joined by earlier investors Kalaari Capital, Exfinity Ventures, IAN Fund, LetsVenture and Sense AI. Angel investors, including Prophetic Ventures’ Aaryaman Vir Shah, also participated. The company has now raised $30 million altogether. TechCrunch has more here.
 
Trengo, a four-year-old, Utrecht, Netherlands-based startup combines multiple internal and external communication channels on a single screen, has raised $36 million in Series A funding co-led by Insight Partners and Peak. VentureBeat has more here.

Walnut, a year-old, New York-based no-code platform for sales teams to create customized product demonstrations quickly, haw raised $15 million in Series A funding led by Eight Roads Ventures. TechCrunch has more here.
 
Smaller Fundings
 
Anima, a 4.5-year-old, Tel Aviv, Israel-based startup whose platform turns design elements (for websites, apps, platforms) into code, has raised $10 million in Series A funding. The round was led by MizMaa Ventures, with participation from INcapital and Hetz Ventures. TechCrunch has more here.
 
EveryDay Labs, a six-year-old, Redwood City, Ca.-based maker of behavioral-science-driven intervention software that sends nudges to families about school attendance in an effort to counter absenteeism, has raised $8 million in Series A funding led by Rethink Impact. Other participants in the round include Reach Capital, Gary Community Ventures, City Light Capital, RedHouse Education, Edovate Capital Bonsal Capital, and Copper Wire Ventures. More here.
 
Goodcall, an eight-month-old, Cupertino, Ca.-based free cloud-based conversational platform that aims to manage incoming phone calls and boost customer service for businesses of all sizes, has raised $4 million in seed funding. Its many backers include Neo, Foothill Ventures, Merus Capital, Xoogler Ventures, Verissimo VenturesVSC Ventures, and angel investors, including Pipe founder and co-CEO Harry Hurst and Zillow co-founder Spencer Rascoff. TechCrunch has more here.
 
Octane, a year-old, New York-based maker of pay-as-you-go billing software, just raised $2 million in seed funding led by Basis Set Ventures. Numerous notable individual investors also joined the round, including Dropbox co-founder Arash Ferdowsi and Github CTO Jason Warner. TechCrunch has more here.
 
OneRail, a 3.5-year-old, Austin, Tx.-based last-mile software-as-a-service platform that says it connects point-of-sale order information directly to a network of 7.5 million couriers, has raised $9 million in Series A funding led by Ironspring Ventures. FreightWaves has more here.
 
Rattle, a 10-month-old, San Francisco-based startup that's developing friendlier enterprise sales tools, has raised $2.8 million from Lightspeed Venture Partners and Sequoia Capital India. TechCrunch has more here.
Exits
 
Drift, a 6.5-year-old, Boston-based conversational marketing and sales platform that helps businesses connect now with the customers and was founded by serial entrepreneur David Cancel, has sold a majority stake in the business to Vista Equity Partners. Terms of the deal aren't being disclosed; prior to this financing, Boston-based Drift had raised $107 million in funding, including from Sequoia Capital, CRV and General Catalyst. TechCrunch has more here.
 
Ageras, a nine-year-old, Copenhagen, Denmark-based online platform that matches small and medium-sized businesses with professional services people like accountants and lawyers, has acquired Zervant, an 11-year-old, Finland-based invoicing software company. Terms of the deal aren't being disclosed. Earlier in summer, Ageras had acquired Tellow, a developer of an accounting tool for freelancers. More here.
Going Public
 
Binance, the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange, has run into a stream of regulatory and legal problems. But founder and CEO Changpeng Zhao tells The Information that he's confident the exchange can overcome these recent setbacks—and that its affiliate in the U.S. will move toward a public listing there.
People
 
The SEC today sued Satish Kumbhani, the founder of the now-defunct cryptocurrency exchange platform BitConnectm over his alleged role in fraudulently raising about $2 billion from thousands of retail investors. Reuters has more here.
 
Telstra Ventures, a 10-year-old, Sydney, Australia-based venture fund with an office in San Francisco, has promoted Saad Siddiqui to general partner.  Siddiqui, who worked previously in corporate development for both Cisco Systems and Informatica, had joined Telstra in 2016 as a senior associate. More here.
 
Verizon Ventures has brought aboard  Eyal Mamistvalov, a former member of Amazon Web Services' business development team, as a principal based in Tel Aviv. More here.
 
Elon Musktweeting today about Jeff Bezos: "Filing legal actions against SpaceX is *actually* is full time job."
 
A look at the NBA and NFL stars buying into trendy NFT collections, like Bored Ape Yacht Club, a site that officially launched on April 30, offering ten thousand unique iterations of cartoon primates for sale (one of which sold last weekend to Steph Curry). 
Sponsored By ...
 
SaaStr Annual 2021, the world's largest non-vendor B2B software event, is almost at capacity! Don't miss this year's Annual on Sept 27-29 at the San Mateo County Event Center. The three-day conference will bring together more than 10,000 global SaaS founders, executives, and venture capitalists for a series of high-quality content sessions and networking opportunities. Across five stages more than 300 SaaS leaders will share their hard-earned learnings and actionable insights to help you scale up and grow your company faster. Readers can grab 20% off tickets with code StrictlyVC. 
Data
 
All the companies from Day 2 of Y Combinator's summer 2021 Demo Day.
Essential Reads
 
Twitter is starting to roll out Super Follows, its new feature that lets users charge for subscriber-only tweets that will appear in the timelines of just those subscribers.
 
U.S. auto safety regulators say they've identified a 12th crash involving Tesla vehicles using advanced driver assistance systems in incidents involving emergency vehicles. 
 
The red warning light on Richard Branson's space flight.
Detours
 
The cold war over hacking McDonald's ice cream sandwiches.
 
Battling a $45 billion crime spree at CVS.
 
A puppy and ducklings🐣🐶🐣
Retail Therapy
 
Indestructible, indiscernable, mobile safes
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Affinity is a CRM designed to manage complex deal flow pipelines by automating manual processes like data entry and contact management. Learn how investment teams around the world use Affinity to get the most from their CRM to close more quality deals faster.
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