Robin picks up $20 million Series B to optimize the office

Robin Powered, a startup looking to help offices run better, has today announced the close of a $20 million Series B funding. The round was led by Tola Capital, with existing investors Accomplice and FirstMark participating in the round, along with a new strategic Allegion Ventures.

Robin started as part of an agency called One Mighty Roar, where Robin Powered cofounder Sam Dunn and his two cofounders built out RFID and beacon tech for clients’ live events. In 2014, they spun out the tech as Robin and tweaked the focus on the modern office.

The office stands to be one of the least efficient pieces of any business. As a company grows, or even if it doesn’t, it’s particularly difficult to understand the ‘inventory’ of the office and how it is used by workers throughout the day.

“Before, if I asked you what you needed out of your next office, you might go around and survey employees or hire an architecture firm,” said Dunn. “I heard a story where a manager sent around an intern every Thursday at 3pm to talk to employees about the office, and that was one of two pieces of information handed over to the architecture firm. At the end of the day, it’s hard to know if there’s a shortage of meeting rooms, or teleconference-enabled rooms, or collaborative workspaces.”

That’s where Robin comes in. Robin hooks into Google Calendar and Outlook to help employees get a sense of what meeting rooms and activity spaces are available in the office, complete with tablet signage out front. Meetings are the starting point for Robin, but the company can also offer tools for seating charts and office maps, as well as insights. The company wants to offer insights about how the space in this or that office is being used — what they lack and what they have too much of.

Robin charges its clients per room ($300) and per desk ($24 – $60). The hope is to build out the same technological backbone for clients’ offices as WeWork provides alongside its physical space, giving every business the opportunity to optimize one of their biggest investments: the office itself.

Robin has raised a total of $30 million.

American Express is acquiring Resy

American Express has today announced its intentions to acquire Resy, the CRM and reservation platform based out of New York. The terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Resy launched back in 2014 as a platform that allowed users to buy reservations from restaurants in situations where they’d usually have to book months in advance. For restaurants, it allowed them to offload unused inventory.

Over time, Resy realized the opportunity to provide software to restaurants. About a year ago, the company unveiled a new suite of tools for restaurant partners, including Resy Fly, Business Intelligence, and Resy Surveys.

Resy Fly uses data to help restaurants understand how to manage their inventory, looking at signals like date, time, weather, and the average time spent eating at a restaurant. Using this data, restaurants can be more agile in the way they offer their reservations and tables on an ongoing basis.

Business Intelligence lets restaurants take a look at information like KPIs, revenue and ratings from third-party sources like Foursquare. Resy Surveys, in a similar vein, gives restaurants an easy tool to send out surveys to existing customers to learn more about what they want.

In November, Resy acquired its smaller competitor Reserve for an undisclosed amount. As a result of the acquisition, Resy now serves approximately 4,000 restaurants across the U.S., and through partnerships with other reservation platforms, the company serves 10,000 restaurants worldwide.

The Amex deal will allow American Express to offer further benefits and experiences to its cardmembers that aren’t your standard points and rewards.

“Five years ago we set out to change the way the restaurant industry thinks about technology,” said Ben Levanthal, cofounder and CEO at Resy. “We have focused on delivering world-class hospitality software, thrilling diners with access and amazing experiences at great restaurants, and imagining and building the future of restaurant technology. These are the things we think about everyday and we believe joining Amex will provide us an opportunity to peruse these fundamentals with greater scale and deeper resources. It is a step-change moment for the hospitality industry as we bring the collective resources of American Express and Resy together.”

According to Crunchbase, Resy has raised a total of $15 million from investors such as Vayner RSE, Lerer Hippeau Ventures, and Airbnb. Resy says that its full staff of full-time and part-time employees, including cofounder and CTO Michael Montero and cofounder and CEO Ben Levanthal, will move over to Amex. The company also says that the Resy brand name will live on.

American Express has been on a slight shopping spree of late. In March, the company announced it would be acquiring LoungeBuddy to make the travel experience less hellish for cardmembers. Amex also acquired a Japanese restaurant platform called Pocket Concierge in January. Last year, Amex also quietly acquired a UK-based, restaurant fintech startup called Cake for a reported $13.3 million.

“Resy is a company that we at American Express have always admired and have always wanted to partner with,” said Chris Cracchiolo, SVP of Global Loyalty and Benefits at American Express. “In just 5 years Resy has become an essential part of consumers and restaurants dining experiences, connecting diners with the most sought-after restaurants across the world, and helping your restaurants partners grow. They share our passion for dining and also our commitment to helping restaurants thrive.”

D2C underwear brand TomboyX raises $18 million from Craftory

TomboyX, a direct to consumer, gender-neutral underwear brand, has today announced the close of an $18 million Series B funding round led by Craftory. With this deal, Craftory becomes TomboyX’s majority shareholder.

TomboyX develops gender-neutral, size-inclusive underwear at a relatively affordable price point.

The company started when co-founder Fran Dunaway struggled to find herself a Robert Graham-style button-down shirt. Tomboy X originally started selling fun, dress shirts that fit all body types, and eventually transitioned to underwear and swimwear.

The D2C startup offers sizes from XS to 4XL; the classic TomboyX briefs start at $20/pair.

The company raised $4.3 million in Series A financing last year, which brings total funding to more than $25 million.

Here’s what co-founders Fran Dunaway and Naomi Gonzalez had to say in a prepared statement:

We are very excited to collaborate with the team at The Craftory as we continue in our mission to design inclusive and gender-neutral underwear for our diverse global audience. We are confident that their expertise in branding and consumer goods will complement our own creativity and disruption of traditional products.

As part of the deal, Craftory directors will join the board of directors alongside Pauline Brown, lead investor for TomboyX’s Series A round.

Small Door raises $3.5 million in seed funding to rethink veterinary care

Millennials are opting out of marriage and kids and instead opting for pet ownership, opening the door for pet-centric businesses to grow.

Small Door is one such company. The startup has raised $3.5 million in seed funding to rethink veterinary services from the ground up. The funding was led by Lerer Hippeau Ventures and Primary Venture Partners, with participation from Foundry Ventures, Flatiron Health cofounders Nat Turner and Zach Weinberg, Warby Parker cofounders Dave Gilboa and Neil Blumenthal, among others.

Small Door operates on a membership model, not unlike OneMedical. The company gives members a certain number of annual check-ups, priority access to specialists, and virtual access to vets based on their membership tier.

By generating revenue through a membership model, the company can ensure that vets have enough time with each patient and simultaneously minimize wait times in the waiting room.

Moreover, Small Door was founded as a Public Benefit Corporation, identifying Small Door vets and pets as key stakeholders in the business. Suicide is a growing problem among vets, who often deal with mounting debt, compassion fatigue, difficult hours and even more difficult customers.

Small Door is looking to build a business that invests in the success and wellbeing of the vets as well as the shareholders.

The company plans to use the new funding to further build out the team and the product. Small Door also has plans to open its first Small Door clinic in the fall in NYC. (The above pic is a 3D rendering of the new clinic.)

Managed By Q launches a new task management feature for office managers

Managed By Q, the office management platform recently acquired by WeWork, has today announced the launch of Task Management.

The feature comes to Managed By Q by way of Hivy, a startup acquired by MBQ back in 2017, that focuses on connecting a company’s employees to the office manager that handles their requests.

Pre-Hivy, collecting requests and tracking projects across a large number of employees was a tedious, fragmented process. Hivy created a dashboard that organizes all those requests in a single place.

Since the acquisition, Managed By Q and Hivy have been working to integrate their respective platforms. Where Managed By Q connects office managers to the right vendor or MBQ operator to handle the job, the new Task Management system will connect office managers with the employees making the requests in the first place, essentially putting the entire pipeline in a single place.

Obviously, the path to full integration was a long one.

“What I think matters most,” said Hivy cofounder Pauline Tordeur, speaking about the process of intertwining two separate products, “is that we knew why we were doing this and what the future would look like when we integrate. Having this vision and outlook from the very beginning is important.”

The timing is interesting in that this is the first product announcement Managed By Q has made since it was acquired by WeWork.

“It’s hard to describe the feeling,” said Managed By Q cofounder and CEO Dan Teran of being acquired by The We Company. “There is a perception of WeWork from the outside, but since I’ve been spending a lot of time getting to learn the business firsthand, I think there is just so much potential.”

He noted that Managed By Q is indeed setting out to do with WeWork what it just completed with Hivy.

“We set out to build the operating system for space, and one of the biggest things we missed is the space itself,” said Teran. “That’s actually the hardest part for most people. So now that becomes another ingredient we can deliver to our customers.”

Confirmed: Pax Labs raises $420 million at a valuation of $1.7 billion

Pax Labs, the popular vape maker, has today confirmed the close of a $420 million equity round, including from existing investors Tiger Global Management and Tao Capital Partners, and new investors including Prescott General Partners.

A Pax Labs spokesperson confirmed to TechCrunch that the post-money valuation for Pax Labs is $1.7 billion.

The Information first reported the round but we’ve confirmed the specific details, including funding amount and valuation.

Pax Labs launched in 2007 with the hopes of creating a cannabis vaporizer. Since, the company has created vaporizers for just about every corner of the space, including the PAX Era for concentrates and the PAX 3 for flower.

Here’s what CEO Bharat Vasan said in a prepared statement:

PAX is investing heavily in growing its brand as well as developing innovative new products to scale and capture an enormous opportunity. This financing round allows us to invest in new products and new markets, including international growth in markets like Canada and exploring opportunities in hemp-based CBD extracts. We aspire to be the gold standard for safety and good stewards of a product that enhances many people’s lives. We are hiring and investing heavily in our people, who power PAX’s mission of establishing cannabis as a force for good.

It’s worth noting that Juul, the popular e-cigarette brand, and Pax Labs used to live under the same corporate umbrella before Pax Labs spun out of Juul in 2017.

Looking forward, Pax has plans to give users more insight into taking the guesswork out of cannabis. As cannabis becomes legal in more areas, the demographic seeking products in the space continues to grow. Pax wants to help, and believes it can do so through a combination of hardware and software, though Vasan wasn’t willing to go into details on the company’s forthcoming products and features.

“People know about different kinds of alcohol,” said Vasan. “They may know that they’re a beer person or a wine person. But none of that exists within cannabis. They see names like ‘Lemon Haze’ and ‘Cherry Fizz’ and they don’t know what that is. These are all really awesome names for a band but not great to let you know what you’re consuming. We want to provide more clarity around what that means.”

As I said, Vasan was not keen on offering more, but this sounds like more of a data play than a combo software/hardware play, which leads me to believe that we may see an acquisition in Pax Labs’ future. (To be clear, this fictional acquisition is based strictly on my conjecture and not based on any evidence at all.)

“Our biggest challenge is safe consumer access,” said Vasan. “Regulation is a good thing in this space. It makes standards higher and products more transparent.”

Uber, Lyft implement new safety measures

Uber and Lyft instituted new safety features and policies this week.

The move follows the death of Samantha Josephson, a student at the University of South Carolina, who was kidnapped and murdered in late March. She was found dead after getting into a vehicle that she believed to be her Uber ride. The murder, which has garnered nationwide media attention, seems to have spurred action by the ride sharing behemoths.

In response, Uber is launching the Campus Safety Initiative, which includes new features in the app. Currently, the features are in testing, and they remind riders to check the license plate, make, and model of the car, as well as the driver’s name and picture, before ever entering into a vehicle. The test is running in South Carolina, in partnership with the University of South Carolina, with plans to roll out nationwide.

Lyft, which went public on March 29, has implemented continuous background checks for drivers this week. (Uber has had in place since last year.) Lyft also enhanced its identify verification process for drivers, which combines driver’s license verification and photographic identity verification to prevent driver identify fraud on the platform.

Uber, prepping to debut on the public market, is taking the safety precautions seriously. The new system reminds riders about checking their ride three separate times: the first is a banner at the bottom of the app once the ride has been ordered, the second is a warning to check license plate, car details and photo, and the third is an actual push notification before the driver arrives reminding riders to check once more.

Alongside the reminder system, Uber told is also working to build out dedicated pickup zones in the Five Points district of Columbia, with plans to roll out dedicated pick-up zones at other U.S. universities.

That said, Uber has also warned investors ahead of its IPO about a forthcoming safety report on the company, which could be damaging to the brand. The report is supposed to be released sometime this year, and will give the public its first comprehensive look at the scale of safety incidents and issues that occur on the platform.

“The public responses to this transparency report or similar public reporting of safety incidents claimed to have occurred on our platform … may result in negative media coverage and increased regulatory scrutiny and could adversely affect our reputation with platform users,” said Uber in its April 14 IPO paperwork.

Indeed, the issue of safety on platforms like Uber and Lyft, or really any app that asks you to be alone with total strangers, goes well beyond any single incident. A CNN investigation found that 103 Uber drivers had been accused of sexual assault or abuse in the last four years.

Adobe launches an Adobe XD accelerator to woo developers

The design world is in a state of full-fledged competition. Never in history have designers and their respective teams had so many options to choose from. As both demand and supply grow, design players are working to build out the most comprehensive experience possible for their users.

Adobe, the incumbent in the space, is today launching the Adobe Creative Cloud Plugin Accelerator. Essentially, individuals and teams interested in taking some time to build out plugins for Adobe XD can get themselves three months at Adobe’s HQ, access to Adobe’s product, design and engineering team, as well as a $20K per person stipend to offset expenses.

To be clear, Adobe is not taking equity in these projects and participants will leave Adobe HQ with 100 precent ownership over their built IP.

The Adobe Creative Cloud Plug-in Accelerator is supported by Adobe’s Fund for Design, a $10 million venture fund launched in May 2018. Both the fund and the accelerator are meant to open up Adobe, which has historically been a more closed ecosystem.

“For a company like Adobe, we’re flexing a new muscle by working with outside parties, in house, at Adobe Headquarters,” said Design Principal at Adobe Khoi Vinh. “It’s a real change of thinking from the Adobe of five or ten years ago, but we’re embracing the community’s energy here.”

It was less than a year ago that Adobe opened up Adobe XD to integrate with other tools, such as UserTesting and Airtable, among others.

Vinh says that, for now, Adobe isn’t sure exactly how many teams or individuals it will accept into the accelerator. As it’s the first time the company has done something like this, it’s not adhering to a specific number of participants or a rigid curriculum. Vinh says that some teams might have a clear vision of what they’re building and simply seek one-to-one advice from the engineering or product teams, whereas others might want a more collaborative environment to brainstorm and build out the idea itself.

One thing that is clear, however, is that Adobe is looking for hyper early-stage projects.

“What ended up happening with the Fund for Design is that the grants and investments made a lot of sense for people who were founders and already had companies,” said Vinh. “The Plug-In Accelerator is meant to target people who are even earlier stage than a founder and maybe not ready to start their own company.”

The hope is that teams of one to three will have the chance to build great plug-ins for Adobe XD, making the platform more attractive to clients as Figma and InVision make a run for those same users.

Adobe isn’t the first design tool firm to launch a venture fund. InVision launched the $5 million Design Forward Fund in late 2017.

Folks interested in the Creative Cloud Plugin Accelerator can apply here.

Juul launches a pilot program that tracks how Juul devices get in the hands of minors

Juul Labs is today launching a pilot for its new Track & Trace program, which is meant to use data to identify exactly how Juul devices wind up in the hands of minors.

Juul vaporizers all have a serial number down at the bottom, by the Juul logo. However, it wasn’t until recently that Juul had the capability to track those serial numbers through every step of the process, from manufacture to distribution to retail to sale.

With Track & Trace, Juul is calling upon parents, teachers and law enforcement officials to come to the Juul Report web portal when they confiscate a device from a minor and input the serial number. Each time a device is input in the Track & Trace system, Juul will open an investigation to understand how that minor wound up with that device.

In some cases, it may be an issue with a certain retail store knowingly selling to minors. In others, it may be a case of social sourcing, where someone over 21 years of age buys several devices and pods to then sell to minors.

Juul will then take next steps in investigating, such as talking to a store manager about the issue. It may also enhance its secret shopper program around a certain store or distributor where it sees there may be a spike in sale/distribution to youth to identify the source of the problem. To be clear, Track & Trace only tracks and traces the devices themselves, and does not use personal data about customers. It’s also worth noting that Juul Labs has increased

Juul isn’t yet widely publicizing Track & Trace (thus, the “Pilot” status), but it is focusing on Houston as a testing ground with banner ads targeted at older individuals (parents, teachers, etc.) pointing them to the portal. Of note: the ad campaign is geofenced to never be shown in or around a school, hopefully keeping the program a secret from young people illegally using Juul.

The company wants to learn more about how people use the portal and test the program in action before widening the campaign around Track & Trace. That said, the Report portal is not limited to Houston residents — anyone who confiscates a Juul can report it through the portal and trigger an investigation.

“It’s important to note that the pilot is an opportunity for us to learn how the technology is working and optimize the technology,” said Chief Administrative Officer Ashley Gould. “It’s not just at the retailer level. It’s a whole process through the supply chain to track that device and find out if everyone who is supposed to be scanning it is scanning it, and the software that we’ve created to track that serial number through the supply chain to the retail store is working. The only way we’re going to know that is when someone puts in the serial number and we see if we have all the data we need to track it.”

According to Juul, every device in production will be trackable in the next few weeks. In other words, Juul vapes that are years old are likely not fully traceable in the program, but those purchased more recently should work with the system.

Juul has been under scrutiny from the FDA and a collection of Republican Senators due to the device’s rise in popularity among young people. Outgoing FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb has called it “an epidemic” and enforced further restrictions on sales of e-cig products.

Juul has also made its own effort, removing non-tobacco and non-menthol flavored pods from all physical retail stores, enhancing their own purchasing system online to ensure online buyers are 21+ and not buying in bulk, going after counterfeits and copycats posing as Juul products, and exiting its Facebook and Instagram accounts.

But Juul Labs also committed to build technology-based solutions to prevent youth use of the product. Cofounder and CPO James Monsees told TechCrunch at Disrupt SF that the company is working on Bluetooth products that would essentially make the Juul device as smart as an iPhone or Android device, which could certainly help lock out folks under 21.

However, the Track & Trace program is the first real technological step taken by the e-cig company. And it’s been an expensive one. The company has spent more than $30 million to update its packaging, adjust printing standards, changing manufacturing equipment, and integrate the data and logistics software systems.

For now, Track & Trace is only applicable to Juul vaporizers, but it wouldn’t be shocking to learn that the company was working on a similar program for its Juul Pods. 

Lemonade picks up $300 million Series D led by SoftBank Group

Lemonade, the insurance startup founded by Daniel Schreiber and Shai Wininger, has today announced a $300 million Series D financing led by the SoftBank Group, with participation from Allianz, General Catalyst, GV, OurCrowd and Thrive Capital.

Lemonade uses an AI-powered bot to digitize the insurance buying experience for renters and home owners. Users simply download the app and answer a few questions before getting a quote, which starts at $5/month but can surely go up based on a number of factors including how much personal property one owns.

The company has also differentiated itself from traditional insurance providers by integrating a giveback system directly into the product. Lemonade takes a fixed slice of users’ monthly payment as revenue, and sets the rest aside for claims. Unclaimed premiums go to the user’s charity of choice.

The company has grown significantly since launch, last year hitting $57 million in revenue. Cofounder and CEO Schreiber says that the company is on track to do $100 million in revenue this year, and that they’ve sold 500,000 policies to date.

The investment is meant to help Lemonade expand beyond the U.S., with sights set on Europe as a first step. Schreiber says that the company is also looking to hire in customer support, claims, engineering and data science.

“Our biggest challenge is managing the growth,” said Schreiber. “How do you create an organization that has to constantly morph? The organization we were two years ago and the one we are now have very little in common. We went from one product in one state to now thinking about multiproduct across continents and five office locations. How do you do that without straining the system and continue to provide good, high quality service?”

This latest round of funding brings total financing for Lemonade to $480 million.