The last four years have been a whirlwind for Joey Zwillinger and Tim Brown, the founders of Allbirds. The brand first popped up in March 2016 with a funny-looking sneaker made from sustainably sourced wool, a material that hadn’t been commonly used in footwear before. And remarkably, the shoes were an overnight hit, allowing the Zwillinger and Brown to roll out other designs made from equally unusual materials, like eucalyptus tree fibers (otherwise known as Tencel) and sugarcane-derived soles. Today, the brand has a global presence, selling shoes in London, Germany, China, and soon, Japan. It’s got a dozen stores in these locations and plans to add another 20 to the mix.
Huckleberry raises $18 million to match small businesses with insurance plans using AI
Small businesses are generally unprepared for unforeseen catastrophes, surveys show. A whopping three-fourths of U.S.-based outfits say they don’t have an insurance policy that meets their unique needs, while 40% admit they don’t have coverage of any kind. Of course, the latter are on the hook for incidents like client complaints, contract disputes, and employee injuries, in addition to burglary or theft and customer injury — all of which can amount to hundreds of millions of dollars in repairs and remedial disbursements. That’s why in 2017 former McKinsey business analyst and Morgan Stanley associate Bryan O’Connell founded Huckleberry, a carrier built on a robust cloud-based software and data science and analytics backend. The San Francisco-based company ambitiously aims to digitize the purchase and management of commercial insurance, a category of coverage that’s notoriously slow to acquire and which historically has been wrapped up in layers of bureaucracy. And it’s achieved a measure of success so far, with investments from Great Oaks Venture Capital, Promus Ventures, and others.
The rise of Recess, a New York startup that could be the White Claw of CBD
Recess is a one-year-old, New York-based startup whose product is a canned beverage containing CBD. While the brand has skyrocketed in popularity on social media, the company has been navigating unclear CBD regulations behind the scenes. Recess' Instagram has no shortage of vivid imagery: A cartoon Saturn dips into a warm periwinkle sea, three pink Recess cans spout octopus arms, and a creamsicle-colored Recess can crashes into the moon. "We canned a feeling," Recess founder and CEO Ben Witte told Business Insider.
Lululemon COO to leave for luggage maker Away
Canadian athleisure apparel maker Lululemon’s Chief Operating Officer, Stuart Haselden, will leave in January to head privately owned luggage maker Away. Haselden joined Vancouver-based Lululemon as chief financial officer in 2015 from peer J Crew and became the COO in May 2017. He was part of the team that guided the company after Laurent Potdevin’s exit as chief executive officer in February 2018 until Calvin McDonald took charge in July last year. Haselden, a former U.S. army captain, will join Away co-founders Steph Korey and Jen Rubio on the board in January, with current CEO Korey becoming the executive chairman.
Atom Finance’s free Bloomberg Terminal rival raises $12M
If you want to win on Wall Street, Yahoo Finance is insufficient but Bloomberg Terminal costs a whopping $24,000 per year. That’s why Atom Finance built a free tool designed to democratize access to professional investor research. If Robinhood made it cost $0 to trade stocks, Atom Finance makes it cost $0 to know which to buy. Today Atom launches its mobile app with access to its financial modeling, portfolio tracking, news analysis, benchmarking, and discussion tools. It’s the consumerization of finance, similar to what we’ve seen in enterprise SAAS. “Investment research tools are too important to the financial well-being of consumers to lack the same cycles of product innovation and accessibility that we have experienced in other verticals” CEO Eric Shoykhet tells me. In its first press interview, Atom Finance today revealed to TechCrunch that it’s raised a $10.6 million Series A led by General Catalyst to build on its quiet $1.9 million seed round. The cash will help the startup eventually monetize by launching premium tiers with even more hardcore research tools.
Forbes 30 Under 30 Venture Capital
McNamara has sourced investments in companies including Allbirds, RigUp, Away and Acorns. The Bowdoin College alum joined Great Oaks directly out of undergrad and has since helped invest in seven businesses with valuations greater than $1 billion, across four different states. Outside of VC, McNamara volunteers with Venture for America and serves on the board of Runway for Recovery, a nonprofit supporting breast cancer survivors and their families. Says McNamara: "Nothing in my professional life energizes me more than learning from and having the opportunity to work with ambitious entrepreneurs re-imaging products and services that shape the world around us."
Colugo wants to win the stroller wars with its new $445 design
The Serena Williams-approved, direct-to-consumer baby brand now has a full-size stroller. A year ago, entrepreneur Ted Iobst launched a compact baby buggy under a new direct-to-consumer brand called Colugo, which I dubbed the Warby Parker of strollers. The Colugo stroller was designed to meet the needs of busy parents who want to bring their babies for adventures in the city: It was lightweight, easy to fold or expand with a single hand motion, and equipped with clever accessories like a rain cover that folds into a little bag. While most stroller brands sell through a network of retailers, Iobst built Colugo as a direct-to-consumer brand with no middleman markup, allowing him to sell the stroller for $285, about a third less than comparable models on the market.
Truebill raises $15M to build a comprehensive platform for personal finance
Personal finance startup Truebill announced today that it has raised $15 million in Series B funding. The new funding was led by Eldridge Industries, with participation from Evolution VC and previous investors, including Cota Capital, Lucas Venture Group and YouTube co-founder Jawed Karim. When the Y Combinator-backed startup raised seed funding back in 2016, it was focused on what Chief Revenue Officer Yahya Mokhtarzada now describes as “a single function” — helping users track all their subscriptions and recurring expenses, and then to cancel them when desired. Mokhtarzada said the Truebill team subsequently saw an opportunity, given “the increasing degree of financial complexity in people’s lives,” to take “a more holistic view of personal finance.” Truebill still offers subscription tracking, and Mokhtarzada said that’s usually what brings new users in. But it’s also added capabilities like automated budgeting, automated saving and bill negotiation. And this fall, it plans to launch additional features, including bill pay, credit score monitoring and a rewards program.
Mira marries NLP with computer vision to create a rich, search-powered shopping experience
Empowered by AI technologies, Mira wants to create a more enriching buying experience that combines millions of consumer product reviews, side-by-side comparisons, and click-through purchasing into a single unified interface. For the moment, Mira is centered around shopping for beauty products — giving users a means of asking advice from other consumers who have similar skin types, skin tones, and aesthetic preferences. But the beauty industry isn’t the story; what’s compelling is the process and the technology underneath it all that has broader applications to other markets and verticals. “While we’re laser focused on serving the beauty community today, our technology clearly extends well beyond,” Jay Hack, Mira CEO and cofounder, told VentureBeat in an email interview. “We can do the legwork for the
Andreessen Horowitz Leads $300 Million Investment in RigUp
RigUp Inc., which operates a marketplace for contract workers in the energy sector, surged to a $1.9 billion valuation with a new infusion of capital, according to a person familiar with the situation. Andreessen Horowitz led the $300 million Series D financing in the Austin, Texas-based startup using its recently formed late-stage fund.
Hungryroot Bolsters Online Grocery Store With Popular Plant-Based Brands Like Beyond Meat, Banza And More
Eating vegan gets easier everyday as food companies race to make plant-based products more convenient for consumers. Grocery stores offer Impossible Meat, Blue Apron sends Beyond Meat to subscribers’ homes and today, Hungryroot announced an increase in their variety of plant-based groceries by teaming up with several packaged food brands. Customers will be able to purchase both Hungryroot and partnering products online. And when they are delivered, buyers can make vegan meals within minutes. “More products are becoming available to consumers,” Hungryroot CEO and founder Ben McKean said. The Hungryroot brand more or less remains the same, even with its changing gears. “The change is more partnering,” he said.
Atom Finance Raises $10.6 Million in Series A Round
Atom Finance, a new media and financial technology company, has raised $10.6 million in a Series A round, executives tell Axios. The company had previously raised $1.9 million in an unreported seed round in February. The big picture: The news and analysis market for high-end individual investors has been difficult to corner. While there are pricey solutions for big enterprise companies, like the Bloomberg Terminal, and free solutions for casual investors, like Google Finance, Atom execs argue that there isn't one company that truly owns the middle. Details: The round, led by General Catalyst, brings the company's total funding to $12.5 million. General Catalyst’s Peter Boyce will take a seat on the company's board.