Remagine secures $35M fund backed by media giants to focus on entertainment and media tech

Remagine Ventures is a relatively new European VC fund which focuses on investments in entertainment tech, including AI, gaming, sports & eSports, AR/VR, consumer and commerce. It’s now completed $35 million in funding from a number of entertainment and media corporations, including Axel Springer and ProsiebenSat1, Japanese Adways and American Liontree LLC. Last year global media group Sky put $4 million into the fund as part of the launch of its new innovation office in Berlin.

To date, the fund has invested in six entertainment start-ups, including: Minute Media, a user-generated content platform for sports, Syte.ai a visual search startup, Novos, a gamer training platform, HourOne, which operates in the world of synthetic media, Vault-ai.com, predictive analytics for film and television and Madskil, an eSports company in stealth.

Started by investor/entrepreneurs Kevin Baxpehler and Eze Vidra, Remagine focuses on early-stage (seed and pre-seed) investments in Israel and UK, with synergies between the two territories.
Traditionally, Israel has been better know for it’s ‘deep tech’capabilities but there’s a growing ecosystem of entertainment tech and consumer startups looking to disrupt traditional traditional industries.

Vidra established Campus London, Google’s first physical hubs for startups and later expanded the Campus model internationally. He was also a general partner Google Ventures (GV), the company’s investment arm in Europe.

Baxpehler, is a former entrepreneur and investment banker from in Germany. He most recently led the investment activity of German entertainment giant ProSiebenSat.1 in Israel, investing in Dynamic Yield (which recently sold for $300 million to McDonalds) and Magisto, which was acquired by Vimeo for $200 million.

Vidra said: “We operate in a relatively new market in the Israeli ecosystem. The Entertainment-tech sector has tremendous momentum, and Israeli founders are expanding at a rapid pace in this world and we recognize huge potential in it.” Baxpehler added: “Eze and I have experience in the investment world, the entrepreneurial world and the corporate world. We want to meet startups very early, to accompany and guide them even before investing.”

Adarga closes £5M Series A funding for its Palantir-like AI platform

AI startup Adarga has closed a £5 million Series A fundraising by Allectus Capital. But this news rather cloaks the fact that it has been building up a head of steam since its founding in 2016, building up what they say is a £30 million-plus sales pipeline through strategic collaborations with a number of global industrial partners and gradually building its management team.

The proceeds will be used to continue the expansion of Adarga’s data science and software engineering teams and to roll out internationally.

Adarga, which comes from the word for an old Moorish shield, is a London and Bristol-based startup. It uses AI to change the way financial institutions, intelligence agencies and defence companies tackle problems, helping crunch vast amounts of data to identify possible threats even before they occur. The startup’s proposition sounds similar to that of Palantir, which is known for working with the U.S. military.

What Adarga does is allow organizations to transform normally data-intensive, human knowledge processes by analyzing vast volumes of data more quickly and accurately. Adarga clients can build up a “Knowledge Graph” about subjects and targets.

The U.K. government is a client as well as the finance sector, where it’s used for financial analysis and by insurance companies. Founded in 2016, it now has 26 employees — including data scientists from some of the U.K.’s top universities.

The company has received support from Benevolent AI, one of the key players in the U.K. AI tech scene. Benevolent AI, which is worth $2 billion after a $115 million funding round, is a minority shareholder in Adarga. It has not provided financial backing, but rather support in kind and technical help.

Rob Bassett Cross, CEO of Adarga, commented: “With the completion of this round, Adarga is focused on consolidating its competitive position in the U.K. defence and security sector. We are positioning ourselves as the software platform of choice for organisations who cannot deal effectively with the scale and complexity of their enterprise data and are actively seeking an alternative to knowledge intensive human processes. Built by experienced sector specialists, the Company has rapidly progressed a real solution to address the challenges of an ever-growing volume of unstructured data.”

Bassett Cross is an interesting guy, to say the least. You won’t find much about him on LinkedIn, but in previous interviews, he has revealed that he is a former army officer and special operations expert who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan, and was awarded the military cross.

The company recently held a new annual event, the Adarga AI Symposium, at the The Royal Institution, London, which featured futurist Mark Stevenson, Ranju Das of Amazon Web Services and General Stanley A. McChrystal.

Matthew Gould, head of Emerging Technology at Allectus Capital, said: “Adarga has developed a world-class analytics platform to support real-time critical decisioning by public sector and defence stakeholders. What Rob and the team have built in a short time is a hugely exciting example of the founder-led, disruptive businesses that we like to partner with – especially in an ever-increasing global threat landscape.”

Allectus Capital is based in Sydney, Australia and invests across Asia-Pacific, the U.K. and the U.S. It has previously invested in Cluey Learning (Series A, AUS$20 million), Everproof, Switch Automation and Automio.

Wikipedia blames malicious DDOS attack after site goes down across Europe, Middle East

Wikipedia was forced offline in several countries Friday after a cyber attack hit the global encyclopedia.

Users across Europe and parts of the Middle East experienced outages shortly before 7pm, BST, according to downdetector.com.

Wikimedia’s German Twitter account posted: “The Wikimedia server…is currently being paralysed by a massive and very broad DDOS [distributed denial of service] attack.”

The site issued the following statement:

Today, Wikipedia was hit with a malicious attack that has taken it offline in several countries for intermittent periods. The attack is ongoing and our Site Reliability Engineering team is working hard to stop it and restore access to the site.

As one of the world’s most popular sites, Wikipedia sometimes attracts “bad faith” actors. Along with the rest of the web, we operate in an increasingly sophisticated and complex environment where threats are continuously evolving. Because of this, the Wikimedia communities and Wikimedia Foundation have created dedicated systems and staff to regularly monitor and address risks. If a problem occurs, we learn, we improve, and we prepare to be better for next time.

We condemn these sorts of attacks. They’re not just about taking Wikipedia offline. Takedown attacks threaten everyone’s fundamental rights to freely access and share information. We in the Wikimedia movement and Foundation are committed to protecting these rights for everyone.

Right now, we’re continuing to work to restore access wherever you might be reading Wikipedia in the world. We’ll keep you posted.”

The site was reported to be down in large parts of the UK as well as Poland, France, Germany and Italy.

Uber has surveyed some drivers on small loans, suggesting financial products are coming

Back in June Uber went on a hiring spree in New York, hiring at least 100 fintech-oriented tech workers to ostensibly look at creating products to increase loyalty and engagement among users and drivers, including things like banking. Cue a flurry of speculation. It now looks like Uber is taking baby-steps towards building such a raft of products out, potentially by offering loans directly to drivers, according to a report from Recode/Vox.

The story is based on the emergence of an in-app survey which was sent to some drivers talking about a “new financial product” aimed at drivers “in a time of need.” The survey then went on to question drivers’ use of financing loans of $1,000 or less in the last three years. It asked “what amount are you most likely to request?” It then gave them options top pick from “Less than $100,” “Between $100 and $250,” “Between $250 and $500” and “More than $500.”

At this time there’s no indication of timing on a small loans product offering to drivers, and Uber has not publicly commented on the emergence of the survey’s existence.

However, Uber already has form in this space. It has offered cash advance programs to drivers in California and Michigan, although the company was criticised for what some called “pay-day loans”. It’s also offered leases on new cars to drivers in the past and currently offers a co-branded credit card with Visa and an Uber Cash digital wallet for riders.

Uber would not be alone in rolling out small cash loans to its workers, given given that large companies such as Walmart and others already offer lucrative payroll advances and loans to employees.

But the fact that it now has a very large FinTech team suggests this won’t the end of us hearing about Uber’s tentative moves into this space.

PrimaryBid closes $8.6M round for its platform aimed to help retail investors

PrimaryBid, a UK-regulated platform connecting publicly listed companies with everyday investors for discounted share issuances has previously raised $3M. It’s now upped those stakes with an $8.6M funding round, led by UK VCs Pentech and Outward VC with participation from new and existing investors. Craig Anderson, a partner at Pentech, will join the PrimaryBidBoard of Directors with Outward VC having a Board Observer seat.

This investment is representative of the trend towards unpacking complex financial investment products for the average person, especially in the UK.

The FCA-regulated platform recently made a long-term commercial agreement with Euronext, the leading pan-European exchange in the Eurozone. The partnership gives the company access to nine new geographies, with the first new site launching in France later this year.

Commenting, Anand Sambasivan, co-founder and CEO of PrimaryBid, said: “Everyday investors are a vital part of the stock market and yet unable to buy discounted share deals – a longstanding imbalance in the public markets. This is true whether it is a government selling down its holding in a large company or a quoted company is raising growth capital. Our platform addresses this challenge, giving small investors the same access as traditionally afforded to large institutional investors.”

Investors can tap into PrimaryBid’s centralizing infrastructure that allows access to everyday investors as part of a share issuance, including block sales. The inclusion of retail investors can improve pricing and liquidity outcomes for their clients. The company’s solution allows private investors to participate, at the same time and the same price, delivering open access regardless of the size of their investment. The service is free of charge for investors, from £100 upwards.

PrimaryBid doesn’t have competitors because Retail investors have not previously had access to discounted equity offerings run by investment banks. This is because the retail investment market is too fragmented, and these deals are highly time-sensitive. As a result, only clients of Investment Banks (i.e. institutional investors) could previously access these attractive deals.

So now, listed companies that want to raise more capital on the stock exchange by issuing new shares can now connect with retail investors and offer these retail investors these shares at the same discounted rates as those offered to institutional investors. “In the past, these retail investors just couldn’t access these attractive deals for these new shares,” explains Sambasivan.

Craig Anderson of Pentech said: “We believe equity capital markets infrastructure is dominated by an institutional focus and is not geared for retail investors, which unfairly restricts consumer access to the primary equity markets. PrimaryBid addresses this problem by using technology to democratize the equity capital markets to provide a new asset class to retail investors.”

Kevin Chong of Outward VC said: “By bringing publicly listed companies directly to ordinary investors, PrimaryBid addresses increasing frustrations felt by equity issuers and potentially expands global equity markets to the benefit of all players – investors, issuers and investment bank advisers.”

Pentech previously invested in Nutmeg (which recently closed a £45m funding round led by Goldman Sachs) . Outward VC has previously backed Monese, Curve and Bud.

Endurance events startup Let’s Do This raises seed cash from Serena Williams, Usain Bolt

Let’s Do This is a YC alumni startup form 2018 which is a marketplace for endurance events, from a 5k fun run or an IronMan triathlon. It’s now raised a $5M seed round with Serena Williams and Usain Bolt participating. The round was led by Pete Flint (Partner at NFX, formerly Trulia, LastMinute).

Other investors include YCombinator, Shasta, Index, and FJ Labs. Other angels were Paul Buchheit (YC, Gmail), Yuri Sagalov (YC, AeroFS), Simon Nixon (MoneySupermarket), Tim Thackrah (Elmsleigh), Paul Radcliffe (Marathon World Record Holder) and Andy Philips (Booking.com).

The platform lists 30,000 races of all distances and disciplines and claims to be the largest marketplace for endurance events in the world, offering key information about the races and exclusive booking perks for members such as free cancellation protection.

They have recently agreed a partnership with Hearst to power all race listings across Runner’s World, Men’s Health and Women’s Health in the US and the UK.

Serena Williams, the 22 time Grand Slam Champion, said in a statement: “I’ve seen first-hand the incredible impact these events can have on making people fitter, healthier and happier. I love that Let’s Do This is not only making events like these more accessible but also helping to support athletes of all different fitness levels. Women are especially less likely to participate in marathons and obstacle races, so it’s really important there’s a platform encouraging people to step out of their comfort zones and make a positive difference in their lives.”

In a statement Flint said: “This is a $30bn global market with enormous growth potential and already 100 million people crossing a finish line in the US each year. In just 18 months they’ve gone from launch to building the world’s best online marketplace to find, learn about, and book your next race. With over 30,000 events across the US, UK, and Australasia, this team is just getting started.”

Usain Bolt, World Record holder in the 100m, 200m and 4 x 100m, said: “Throughout my career I’ve been lucky enough to inspire people to follow their dreams, get off the couch and get exercising. That’s what attracted me to Let’s Do This. It’s a company that is totally committed to changing the world and inspiring more people to get out there. Like me, their team doesn’t believe in limits and is totally committed to being the best in the world. It’s a really natural fit with what I care about and what I believe in so I am very happy to be supporting their mission to inspire more people to have epic experiences.”

The company was founded by childhood friends Alex Rose and Sam Browne who got into the space at University. Their team consists of people from Facebook, Google, Oracle, Deliveroo or SkyScanner.

Is Knotel poised to turn WeWork from a Unicorn into an Icarus?

The day of reckoning for the ‘flexible office space as a startup’ is coming, and it’s coming up fast. WeWork’s IPO filing has fired the starting gun on the race to become the game-changer both in the future of property and real estate but also the future of how we live and work. As Churchill once said, ‘we shape our buildings and afterwards our buildings shape us’.

Until recently WeWork was the ruler by which other flexible space startups were measured, but questions are now being asked if it deserves its valuation. The profitable IWG plc, formerly Regus, has been a business providing serviced offices, virtual offices, meeting rooms, and the rest, for years and yet WeWork is valued by ten times more.

That’s not to mention how it exposes landlords to $40 billion in rent commitments, something which a few of them are starting to feel rather nervous about.

Some analysts even say WeWork’s IPO is a ‘masterpiece of obfuscation’

How about earning crypto tokens to carbon-offset your Uber rides?

Most of us, by now, are aware that all sorts of crazy stuff is happening to the planet’s climate and the blame is pretty much universally recognized as lying with humans, pumping more and more carbon into the atmosphere. Scientists are now saying tree planting, for instance, has to happen very, very quickly if we are to avert disaster.

A few startups, such as Changers, have tried to incentivize us to do things like walk instead of taking the car, with mixed results.

Now a blockchain startup things it may have the making of one solution, rewarding us with crypto tokens for making the right choices for the planet. Now, before you roll your eyes, hear me out…

Imagine rewarding people for taking the bus instead of their car – and them exchanging that token to offset their carbon by planting a tree? Or incentivizing passengers for sharing their travel data – helping companies to improve their experience in the future? That’s the big idea here.

Here’s how it works: The DOVU platform offers a token, wallet, and marketplace and allows users to earn tokens and spend them to carbon offset their activity and on rewards within the mobility ecosystem, starting with their Uber rides.

Users link their Uber account to their Dovu wallet, enabling them to earn DOV tokens for every journey taken. The startup has connected to Uber APIs, meaning that, once authenticated, the user has to do nothing other than take the journey.

The Dovu CO2 calculator then automatically rewards the value of tokens depending on the length of the journey. The DOV tokens can then be spent within the Dovu Action, and the user can choose the project to back or the user can ask Dovu to choose the project on their behalf to ensure the carbon offsetting happens.

The platform can connect to any published API, meaning it is in a notional position to have an immediate impact on all the new mobility solutions globally.

With Jaguar Landrover as shareholders, Dovu potentially has the backing to try and make this happen.

Mobility-related organizations often have a need to reward, incentivize or nudge their users to do the right thing. It might be sharing their data for better service planning, taking an alternate route to help ease traffic congestion, or charging electric batteries at times that are best for the grid. Whether it’s influencing consumer behavior or encouraging data sharing, the DOVU platform could, in theory, provide a solution that meets the needs of both the mobility provider and the end-user. That at least is their pitch.

Hell, given the state of the planet, it might be worth a shot…

Launching out of YC, Blair is aiming to reshape the financing of college tuition

It’s generally agreed that Higher Education in the United States has gradually become more and more unaffordable. Students are dependent on external financial resources for which many of them do not even qualify. Students that are able to secure a loan, often have to take on debts they can’t really afford. And if they don’t eventually land a job with enough income, they are saddled with debt for a very long time.

Much of the problem is that most student loan companies are not concerned with the overall financial well-being of their students, who often feel stuck, trying to repay a loan they cannot afford, without a backup organization that will help them figure it all out. We can see that in the figures. The student loan debt in the US has just reached $1.6 trillion dollars and more than quadrupled in the last 15 years.

With the student debt crisis getting out of hand, the topic has become a semi-permanent issue in the news.

Launching next week is a new startup under the Ycombinator accelerator called Blair which aims to address this seemingly intractable problem.

Blair finances college students through what’s called “Income Share Agreements” (ISA). Students receive funding for their tuition or costs of living and in turn pay back a percentage of their income for a fixed period of time after they graduate. Repayments adjust to individual income circumstances and by deferring payments in times of low income we protect the downside of the students.

It thus provides students with an alternative to debt which is tailored to their individual circumstances to ensure affordability. Blair’s underwriting process is based on the future potential of a student and not their credit score or co-signer, which could be a deal-breaker in traditional settings. Blair’s competitors are traditional student lenders: Sallie Mae, Sofi, Earnest, Wells Fargo, Citizen Bank, other banks. ISA companies include Vemo Education, Leif, Almapact, Lumni and Defynance.

In contrast to traditional student loan companies, Blair relies on being more aligned with the financial incentives of students, the idea being that it supports students in improving their employability by placing them in internships early, giving them access to industry mentors and coaching them individually on their career prospects.

The founders came up with the idea from personal experience. Constantin, one of the co-founders, is on an ISA himself, as are a lot of the company’s friends. They stumbled across the problem of student debt over and over again while studying in the US and noticed a stark difference between their friends in the US and their friends in Germany. The main reason is that 40% of the students at their alma maters in Germany use Income Share Agreements to finance their studies. They plan to use their experience from Europe and make ISAs more widespread in the US.

Students apply for funding on the website, and within minutes and get a personal quote shortly after. If they accept the quote, they receive their funding within a couple of days which they can use to pay for their tuition or cost of living. Once Blair issues the funding, it crafts a holistic career plan for each individual student and starts supporting them in landing the internships and jobs they want. This includes, for example, optimizing their application documents, preparing them for interviews or connecting them to mentors in their target industry. For context, they batch students together in funds and let external investors invest in the funds.

It receives a cut of the student repayments and carried interest if a student fund performs better than the target return. Additionally, it partners with companies that hire talent through the platform.

Blair has raised the first fund for 50 students and disbursed money for the first ten. The rest of the students will receive their money within the next weeks. After YC’s Demo Day the company will deploy a larger fund that will support 200 additional students.

“Our underwriting model is unique since we have based it on data from concluded ISA funds in European countries,” says cofounder Mike Mahlkow.

“In the last two weeks, we received applications for funding totaling over 4 million dollars. Many of our students come from underprivileged backgrounds, often without any support network. Our goal is to build a human capital platform where individuals can access capital based on their future potential instead of their past and investors can participate in the upside potential of individuals in an ethical way” he adds.

Can a radical new event disrupt how VCs raise funds, unlocking cash for Europe?

For many years there’s been an accepted way to raise capital as a venture capital fund. Essentially, GPs (General Partners who set up and run venture capital firms) go ‘cap in hand’ to LPs (Limited Partners who invest into their VC firms) in pension funds, privately run ‘family offices’, ‘ultra-high net worths’ and other such oddly-named financial institutions. These meetings are always private and often VCs don’t even reveal who, specifically, has invested in their fund.

Because it’s so private, it favors fund managers who have been in the business for many years and already have a bulging contact book.

In recent years part of this process has begun to be unpacked by events organizers, recognizing the hearty profits to be made from match-making these two groups. The tickets to attend these events are eye-wateringly expensive, especially for the VCs trying to raise funds.

But in Europe, the VC market has suffered from a certain amount of out-dated practices, plenty of behind-closed-doors negotiations and certain lack of ‘energy’. Europe is a rich mine of startups, and there really ought to be a more competitive environment, but the lack of big exits and large markets (like the US or China) means things tend to only go so far.

Now a new initiative hopes to disrupt this rather cozy state of affairs with an event which will be – comparatively speaking – cheap to attend for VCs in fund-raising mode. But there’s a twist. They will have to pitch ‘on stage’ to the LPs attending.

Yes reader, suddenly they will be put in the exact same shoes as those poor entrepreneurs…

Alloccate which takes place on 19th September in London – is focused on connecting GPs in Europe, with LPs. But, in particular, the newer VC funds and the many sources of finances who would like to invest in VCs but don’t have the contacts. The aim is to accelerate the growth of the next generation of VC funds, which in turn will invest into Europe’s technology startups of the future.

Up to 30 emerging VC fund managers will be chosen by the Allocate selection committee to present their fund in a five-minute pitch to a room full of LPs, in, what appears to be, the first event of its kind in Europe. Speakers at the one-day event will include Simon Cook, CEO and co-founder of Draper Esprit; Lisa Edgar, Managing Director US fund of funds Top Tier Capital Partners and Katie Martin, Chairwoman of Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati.

This unusual event is being put together as a non-profit venture by two early-stage VC firms: 7Percent Ventures and Luminous Ventures. The lower prices will reflect the fact that the tickets and sponsorship sold will cover the event costs, and not be a venture in its own right.

Andrew J. Scott, Founder Partner at 7percent Ventures tells me: “The cash-raising process for a venture capital firm has traditionally been pretty opaque. University endowments or ‘family offices’ who look after private wealth and sometimes invest into VC firms, can be hard to reach.” He hopes, in particular, to help emerging VC’s “close the investment gap between Europe and the USA”.

Inspired by a VC pitch event in the US and the ‘pay it forward’ attitude of Silicon Valley, Allocate aims to cut out the middleman and make things more efficient for LPs and fund managers, and without paying £2,000+ for a conference ticket to do so.

“There are various PE, profit-led events which are crazy expensive and also just very corporate/PE focused, but not early-stage VC-focused. So we thought we’d do this! I was inspired by an event I saw SF which I pitched at. Our event will not be profit-led but about expanding the new VC industry,” he tells me.

Emerging fund managers are defined as people with up to three to four funds. So this is targeted at those who have not raised before: very much like a startup event.

“Other events in the industry are free for LPs, but this is like the bad old days when founders used to have to pay to pitch investors. These days investors pay more to attend conferences than startups to do, and pitching is often free – that’s how it should be,” says Scott

“But the GP/LP world, is still the wrong way round. VCs pay thru the nose, and LPs go free. Institutional government-backed funds, or an insurance or pension fund, have billions in the bank, yet a GP trying to raise a first fund will have to pay thousands to go to an event which is free for the LPs? That’s at best peculiar,” he says.

It seems like, at the very least, Allocate is trying to level the playing field, and make it accessible for all, and the same price for everyone. For emerging VC fund managers at least, this seems fairer. LPs always want to see low fees with a fund, so it seems better that VCs are not paying £3,000GBP a ticket to go to events to meet them.

“Raising money for a VC firm can be a who-knows-who business, much like raising venture capital money for a startup was 15 years ago. Raising startup investment is now very different, much more democratized, and we feel the European VC/LP investment world needs to catch up and be the same,” says Scott.

“We definitely want to encourage LPs who have or haven’t invested in VCs before. So much less money goes into VC here than in the US from sources like endowment funds and family offices” he says.

Lomax Ward, Partner at Luminous Ventures, adds: “We need to support and work with new and emerging fund managers and investors in a collaborative environment. The start-up scene in Europe is getting great momentum, evidenced by more and more success stories. But, the fact remains that launching an early-stage venture capital fund is very tough and we have founded Allocate to make it that little bit easier. Also, for LPs it will be a fantastic showcase of Europe’s leading emerging funds.”

Commenting on the idea, Raph Crouan, formerly of Apple and Startup Bootcamp tells me it’s a “Great idea and quite well apparently.”

Speaking off the record another VC tells me “It looks like it’s geared towards newer funds, particularly those raising Fund I maybe II, as opposed to the more established VCs and Seed funds. That’s a good idea.”

Another says: “It’s a good format in principle. It’s clever of 7 percent and Luminous to organise this to help their and other early-stage VCs with fund-raising, provided of course they succeed in getting lots of LPs to attend.”

Allocate chose London because, despite the uncertainty of BREXIT, the team says it remains at the center of the European startup sector. Though America still leads the world, its share of the global VC market has decreased significantly from 79% in 2008 to 53% last year, with the UK’s share of European VC having increased from 31% to 42% over the same period.

In comparison, until recently China was in the ascendant, VC investments in China in Q2 2019 are down nearly 77% year-on-year, while European investment continues to go from strength to strength. A third of the world’s top start-up cities are in Europe.

It seems therefore like it’s really time to put booster-rockets on the European VC scene. And hopefully and events like this can help it along.