Ophelia Brown’s Blossom Capital raises new $185M European early-stage fund

Blossom Capital, the early-stage VC firm co-founded by ex-Index Ventures and LocalGlobe VC Ophelia Brown, is announcing a second fund, less than 12 months since fund one was closed.

The new fund, which is described as “heavily oversubscribed,” sits at $185 million. That’s up from $85 million first time around.

Blossom’s remit remains broadly the same: to be the lead investor in European tech startups at Series A, along with doing some seed deals, too. In particular, the VC will continue to focus on finance, design, marketplaces, travel, developer-focused tools, infrastructure and “API-first” companies.

Its differentiator is pitched as so-called “high conviction” investing, which sees it back fewer companies by writing larger cheques, along with claiming to have close ties to U.S. top tier investors ready to back portfolios at the next stage.

And whilst a “bridge to the valley” is a well worn claim by multiple European VCs, Blossom’s track record so far bares this is out somewhat, even if it nascent. Of the firm’s portfolio, travel booking platform Duffel has received two follow-on investment rounds led by Benchmark and Index Ventures; cybersecurity automation platform Tines received follow-on investment led by Accel Partners; and payments unicorn Checkout.com is also backed by Insight Partners.

In addition, I understand that about half of Blossom’s LPs are in the U.S., and that all of the firm’s original LPs invested in this second fund, which Brown concedes was a lot easier to raise than the first. That’s presumably down to the up round valuations Blossom is already able to tout.

Citing benchmark data from Cambridge Associates and Preqin, Blossom says it sits in the top 5% of funds of 2018/2019 vintage in the U.S. and EU. Although, less than a year old, I would stress that it is still very early days.

More broadly, Brown and Blossom’s other partners — Imran Gohry, Louise Samet and Mike Hudack — argue that the most successful European companies historically are those that were able to attract U.S. investors but that companies no longer need to relocate to the U.S. to seize the opportunity.

“When we looked at the data it was very clear at the growth stage that, outside of Index and Accel, the most successful European outcomes were driven by the combination of European early-stage investors and top-tier U.S. growth investors,” explained Blossom Capital partner, Imran Ghory, in a statement. “From day one we prioritised building those relationships, both to share knowledge but also provide a bridge for European founders to access the best growth capital as they scale”.

LumApps raises $70M Series C led by Goldman Sachs

LumApps, the cloud-based social intranet for the enterprise, has closed $70 million in Series C funding. Leading the round is Goldman Sachs Growth, with participation from Bpifrance via its Growth Fund Large Venture.

Others participating include Idinvest Partners, Iris Capital, and Famille C (the family office of Courtin-Clarins). The round brings the total raised by the French company to around $100 million.

Founded in Paris back in 2012, before launching today’s proposition in 2015, LumApps has developed what it describes as a “social intranet” for enterprises to enable employees to better informed, connect and collaborate. The SaaS integrates with other enterprise software such as G Suite, Microsoft Office 365 and Microsoft SharePoint, to centralize access to corporate content, business applications and social features under a single platform. The central premise is to help companies “break down silos” and streamline internal communication.

LumApps customers include Airbus, Veolia, Valeo, Air Liquide, Colgate-Palmolive, The Economist, Schibsted, EA, Logitech, Toto, and Japan Airlines, and the company claims to have achieved year-on-year revenue growth of 100%.

“Our dream was to enable access to useful information in one click, from one place and for everyone,” LumApps founder and CEO Sébastien Ricard told TechCrunch when the company raised its Series B early last year. “We wanted to build a solution that bridged [an] intranet and social network, with the latest new technologies. A place that users will love.”

Since then, LumApps has added several new offices and has seven worldwide: Lyon, Paris, London, New York, Austin, San Francisco, and Tokyo. Armed with additional funding, the company will continue adding significant headcount, hiring across engineering, product, sales and marketing. There are also plans to expand to Canada, more of Asia Pacific, and Germany.

“We’re actually looking at hiring 200 people minimum,” Ricard tells me. “We’re growing fast and have ambitious plans to take the product to new heights, including fulfilling our vision of making LumApps a personal assistant powered by AI. This will require a significant investment in top engineering/AI talent globally”.

Asked to elaborate on what machine learning and AI could bring to a social intranet, Ricard says the vision is to make LumApps a personal assistant for all communications and workflows in the enterprise.

“We see a future where this personal assistant can make predictive suggestions based on historical data and actions. Applying AI to prompt authors with suggested content, flagging important items that demand attention, and auto-archiving old content, are a few examples. Managing the massive troves of content and data companies have today is critical”.

Ricard also sees AI playing a big role in data security. “Employees have a high-degree of control with regard to data sharing and AI can help manage what employees can share in the workplace. This is more long-term but it’s where we’re headed,” he says.

“In the short-term, we’re making investments in automating as many workflows as possible with the goal of reducing or eliminating administrative tasks that keep employees from more productive tasks, including team collaboration and knowledge sharing”.

Meanwhile, LumApps says it may also use part of the Series C for M&A activity. “We’re growing fast and we’re looking at different areas for expansion opportunities,” Ricard says. “This includes retail and manufacturing and some business functions like HR, marketing and communications. We don’t have concrete plans to acquire any companies at the moment but we are keeping our options open as acquiring best-in-breed technologies often makes more sense from a business perspective than building it yourself”.

Stasher, the luggage storage app for travellers, raises $2.5M additional funding

Stasher, the luggage storage app for travellers, has raised $2.5 million in additional funding. Leading the round is Venture Friends, along with various angels including Johan Svanstrom, former president of Expedia-owned Hotels.com.

Launched in 2015, and now calling itself a “sharing economy solution” to luggage storage, the Stasher marketplace and app connects travellers, event attendees and vacation rental guests with local shops and hotels who can store their luggage on a short-to-medium term basis.

Insurance is included with each booking, and items stored at a StasherPoint are covered for damage, loss and theft up to the value of £1,000.

Meanwhile, the revenue share for hosts is roughly 50% of the storage fee. The idea is that brick and mortar shops can access an additional revenue stream, thanks to the so-called sharing economy.

More broadly, the problem Stasher wants to solve is that having to carry around luggage can often stop you enjoying part of your day when travelling, time that is otherwise wasted. “If you’ve ever been forced out of your Airbnb at 10am, you may be familiar with the issue,” co-founder Anthony Collias told me back in 2018.

To that end, the Stasher network has grown a lot since then and now has a presence in 250 cities, up from 20. This has included bringing the luggage storage app to the U.S. and Australia.

This has seen the startup partner with the likes of Klook, Sonder, Marriott, and Hotels.com, along with brands such as Premier Inn, Expedia, Holiday Express, OYO and Accor.

Personio, the German HR platform for SMEs, raises $75M Series C at a $500M valuation

Personio, the Germany-founded HR platform for SMEs, has raised $75 million in Series C funding in a round led by Accel. I understand the investment values the company at around $500 million.

Also joining is Lightspeed Venture Partners, alongside Lars Dalgaard (the founder and former CEO of SuccessFactors). Existing investors Index Ventures, Northzone, Rocket Internet’s Global Founders Capital, and Picus Capital followed on.

The Series C brings Personio’s total funding to $130 million since launching in 2015. The additional capital will help support the company’s expansion into the U.K. and Ireland, which is also being announced today. This will see Personio establish a new office in London to better serve clients in the U.K. and Ireland.

Combining human resources, recruiting and payroll into a single platform, Personio bills itself as a “HR operating system” for small and medium-sized companies (SMEs) ranging from 10 to 2,000 employees.

The cloud-based software is designed to power all of a company’s people processes via the product’s own growing functionality or through its ability to integrate with third-party software.

To that end, Personio says its customer base has tripled in the past twelve months, and says it now serves almost 2,000 customers in more than 40 countries. In the same period, the number of employees at Personio has more than doubled to over 350. That figure is set to reach 700 employees by the end of 2020.

Along with traditional SMEs, Personio has naturally found a home amongst startups. “The strong growth of the last four years in German-speaking countries has shown that there is a great demand for HR software in SMEs,” Personio co-founder and CEO Hanno Renner tells me.

“42% of their time is currently spent on administrative tasks, according to a recent, as yet unpublished study from Germany. Personio automates repetitive tasks and thus gives HR staff time for value-adding tasks. This is an invaluable advantage that has already convinced several U.K. customers such as Raisin and millimetric.”

Open banking platform Tink raises €90M at a post-money valuation of €415M

Tink, the European open banking platform, is disclosing €90 million in new funding, just 11 months after the Sweden-headquartered company announced a €56 million round of funding.

Co-leading this new round is Dawn Capital, HMI Capital and Insight Partners. The round also includes the incumbent postal operator and Italy’s largest financial services network Poste Italiane as a new investor, along with existing investors Heartcore Capital, ABN AMRO Ventures and BNP Paribas’ venture arm, Opera Tech Ventures.

The injection of capital will enable Tink to accelerate its European expansion plans and further develop its product accordingly.

“During 2020, we are committed to building out our platform with more bank connections and, on top of that, expand our product offering,” Tink co-founder and CEO Daniel Kjellén tells me. “Our aim is to become the preferred pan-European provider of digital banking services and increase our local presence across the region”.

Originally launched in Sweden in 2013 as a consumer-facing finance app with bank account aggregation at its heart, Tink has long since repositioned its offering to become a fully-fledged open banking platform, requisite with developer APIs, to enable banks and other financial service providers to ride the open banking/PSD2 train.

Through its various APIs, Tink provides four pillars of technology: “Account Aggregation,” “Payment Initiation,” “Personal Finance Management” and “Data Enrichment.” These can be used by third parties to roll their own standalone apps or integrated into existing banking applications.

“We have grown significantly, both in terms of our platform’s connectivity and as an organisation,” says Kjellén, when asked what has changed in the last 11 months. “We have during the year launched our platform in Belgium, Austria, the U.K., Germany, Spain, the Netherlands, Portugal and Italy. In total, our open banking platform is right now live in twelve European markets and connects to more than 2,500 banks that reach more than 250 million bank customers across Europe”.

The company’s headcount has also grown a lot, too. In the beginning of 2019 it sat at around 120, but is now at 300 employees. Most but not all are based in its headquarters in Stockholm, alongside local offices including recently opened sites in Paris, Helsinki, Oslo, Madrid, Warsaw, Milan and Copenhagen.

Perhaps better positioned than most, I asked Kjellén what types of use cases are really resonating with open banking, given that many industry commentators don’t think it has quite yet lived up to the hype.

“Many of our customers are seeing the advantage of being able to build smart multi-banking products with the data that they are now able to fetch and use to add value for their end users,” he says. “The use cases that really show the potential of open banking that we see our customers thriving with are those that leverage the full value of the financial data to deliver truly personalised experiences at scale, or remove friction in the user journey to a minimum, such as proactive price comparison, enhanced credit scoring and onboarding. Use cases such as these show that the consumer’s data can really work for them and bring improvements to their everyday interactions”.

One example Kjellén gives me is Klarna, the checkout credit provider, which he says is using open banking to provide a “wonderful” in-app experience. “I love that I as a consumer can now choose to change my mind and slice up the payments for a purchase I have already paid in full with my bank card,” he explains. “This shows how the potential of open banking goes way beyond just accessing a transaction history and allows the most innovative players, such as Klarna, to create a new standard in consumer experience”.

Kjellén says another standout use-case is using PSD2 APIs to verify identity to complete any type of customer registration completely automatically. “[That is] something that I find very innovative. It automates the previously time-consuming administration on the business side and delivers a completely seamless digital service on the end user side,” he says.

Meanwhile, Tink says its customer numbers have “quadrupled” in the past year, and includes PayPal, Klarna, NatWest, ABN AMRO, BNP Paribas Fortis, Nordea and SEB. “More than 4,000 developers are currently using Tink to build and power new innovative financial services and products,” adds Kjellén.

Funnel closes $47M Series B to prepare marketing data for better reporting and analysis

Funnel, the Stockholm-based startup that offers technology to help businesses prepare — or make “business-ready” — their marketing data for better reporting and analysis, has closed $47 million in Series B funding.

Leading the round is Eight Roads Ventures, and F-Prime Capital, with participation from existing investors Balderton Capital, Oxx, Zobito, and Industrifonden, in addition to Kreos Capital.

Funnel says it will use the injection of capital to accelerate its plans in the U.S. where the company is seeing “strong demand” from enterprises. It will also invest in its technical teams to further its vision of “creating a single source of truth of marketing, sales and other commerce data”.

Founded in 2014 by Fredrik Skantze and Per Made, who are also behind Facebook advertising tool Qwaya, Funnel set out to let marketers automate their online marketing data from multiple platforms in real-time, so that they can more accurately analyse their online marketing spend.

Initially that included visualising the marketing data, but now the company has decided to focus solely on collecting the data from all of the disparate marketing channels, and cleaning it up and normalizing it so that it can be imported into popular business intelligence tools to be analysed.

“[We have] shifted away from visualizing the marketing data to ‘just’ collecting and making it business-ready as we have seen that to be the real pain point for customers,” Funnel co-founder and CEO Fredrik Skantze tells TechCrunch.

“Visualization is done well in existing business intelligence tools once the data is properly prepared. Automating the collection and preparation of the data has proven to be a very hard thing to do right and we wanted to make sure we were the best at this which we now confidently can say we are as we hear that again and again from customers”

To that end, Skantze explains that Funnel has direct connections to tools like Tableau and Google Data Studio. The idea is that customers can instantly visualize the data in the tools they are already familiar with.

Since we last covered Funnel mid 2017, the overarching trend has been an explosive growth in digital marketing. Skantze says that in 2017, 39% of worldwide marketing spend was digital and was mostly e-commerce, gaming and app companies who were putting the majority of their budgets online. Since then, forecasts have been repeatedly adjusted upwards, and in 2020, leading markets like the U.K. are now approaching 70% for digital marketing.

“That means the big brands are putting their big budgets online,” he says. “These brands are moving their marketing online because of the performance promise of digital marketing. But delivering on that performance promise requires being data-driven. This is a huge shift for these organizations that they are gradually coming to grips with as they are traditionally more branding focused. It requires creating new roles like marketing analytics, marketing technologists and putting in place a data infrastructure. This is complex”.

That, of course, plays nicely into the hands of Funnel, which is seeing enterprises far beyond e-commerce and apps utilise its wares. “We have spent the last year building out the enterprise readiness of our product and offering [features] like security certifications and enterprise features to be ready to take on these customers,” adds Skantze.

Meanwhile, during the last year, the Funnel team has grown from 73 to 140, and the company signed new office space for a total of 400 people across Stockholm and Boston, ready for further expansion.

Grover tops up debt facility to €250M to scale its renting model for consumer electronics

Grover, the Berlin-based startup that offers “pay-as-you-go” subscriptions to the latest consumer tech, including e-scooters, has closed a new “asset-backed” financing deal, topping up an existing debt facility with Varengold Bank to a total of €250 million.

The additional capital will fuel the next phase of growth as the German company has entered scale-up territory. Specifically, it is an increase of an existing €55 million debt facility with Varengold, via an unnamed supporting debt investor, and will be used to expand Grover’s product range and for the purchasing of assets. Buying the latest gadgets to then rent them out is pretty capital intensive, after all.

Operating in Germany and Austria, with other markets to be launched in 2020, Grover pitches itself as part of the so-called “circular economy” whereby people rent things rather than outright own them. The idea is that it offers a more sustainable form of consumption, since items can have several owners during their lifespan, and can be more cost effective, depending on your penchant for the latest consumer electronics.

As well as targeting consumers direct, offering subscriptions via its own website, Grover also partners with major electronics retailers. This sees it essentially become a form of point-of-sale finance by letting consumers rent the item they were considering buying, with the option to purchase it outright later.

The company says it is currently present in the online-channels of eight leading European electronics retailers and in more than 500 brick-and-mortar stores across Germany. It is hoping to build on this go-to-market strategy in 202.

In addition, Grover plans to expand its B2B offering to meet continued demand from business customers. It also says it will continue to develop its e-mobility category, with the aim of making future micro-mobility vehicles accessible to consumers on a flexible monthly basis.

Anyline, the Austrian startup that provides OCR tech, picks up $12M Series A and heads to the US

Anyline, the Vienna-based provider of optical character recognition (OCR) technology that developers use to build OCR functions into their websites and apps, has raised $12 million in Series A funding. The company has also unveiled plans for a U.S. expansion.

Leading the round is Berlin-based VC firm Project A, with participation from Anyline’s existing investors, including Johann “Hansi” Hansmann, Senovo, and the Gernot Langes-Swarovski Foundation.

Founded in 2013, Anyline offers specialised OCR solutions that it says the big tech vendors are not set up to supply. This has seen the Austrian startup pick up a portfolio of international clients such as Canon, Porsche and E.On, as well as national governments and the United Nations.

Its OCR functionality can be built into any modern website or app and is being used by businesses to scan and collect various “analogue” information, such as identity documents, serial numbers and utility meters, using any standard mobile device.

The upside of such an approach is obvious: by using proven OCR tech that actually works, businesses can make considerable savings in terms of time and resources by eliminating manual data entry, which is prone to costly mistakes.

From a customer point of view, anybody who has used OCR to add a debit card to an app or submit a meter reading knows it provides an infinitely less painful experience than having to manually type long numbers on a phone.

Anyline says the new capital will primarily be used to double its headcount, and to open a first U.S. headquarters in Boston in early 2020. This will enable Anyline to bring its mobile OCR solutions to new international markets and industries, including smart manufacturing, KYC services and fintech, says the company.

“As businesses move to an increasingly virtual world, it is vital they have access to advanced technologies that enable them to digitise previously analog mediums,” says Lukas Kinigadner, CEO and co-founder of Anyline, in a statement.

“We are proud to say European-born technology is helping businesses across the world to reduce the errors, inefficiencies and frustrations that come with manual input. By becoming the market leader in mobile OCR, Anyline plans to be the technology partner businesses need to meet these challenges on the horizon”.

Meanwhile, Anyline’s planned U.S. launch as seen the company found Anyline Inc., and hire Bryan Boatner, the former Global Sales Director of Cognex Corporation, as its new VP of Sales and Business Development.

Oviva scores $21M Series B to bring its digital diabetes treatment to more of Europe

Oviva, the health tech startup that provides a digital solution for Type 2 diabetes treatment in Europe, has raised $21 million in Series B funding.

Leading the round is MTIP, with participation by new investor Earlybird, and existing investors AlbionVC, F-Prime Capital, Eight Roads Ventures and Partech.

Oviva says the new capital will be used to further develop its technology, and continue expanding in Europe to serve more patients not able to currently aaccess treatment. It brings the total raised by Oviva to date to $34 million.

Claiming to have treated 90,000 patients in the last three years across the U.K., Germany, France, Switzerland and the UAE, Oviva offers an “evidence-based” digital solution to stop the progression of and reverse Type 2 diabetes and obesity-related conditions. Patients receive tailored nutrition advice and personalised coaching via their phone, at lower costs and better outcomes compared to face-to-face therapy, says the startup.

“With your consent, your doctor sends Oviva your diagnosis, relevant lab reports, background and contact details,” explains Oviva co-founder and CEO Kai Eberhardt. “We then contact you, either directly to ask you to download our app or via phone, onboard you and initiate treatment. You are then treated typically for four to nine months, depending on your condition and local reimbursement. After that time you can continue, paying yourself, or get another referral (typically annually, as our behaviour-change treatment is recommended in most guidelines each year and reimbursement is provided each year)”.

Eberhardt says that in most of the countries Oviva currently operates in, it is the patients’ health insurance that pays for the service, and in the U.K. the NHS pays for access. “Typically for patients to access our treatment requires a doctors’ prescription,” he says. “Most referrals are made by the patient’s general practitioner, or in some cases also specialists, e.g, an endocrinologist. A typical scenario is that the patient’s doctor makes a referral when they are diagnosed, or as part of a regular check up for their chronic condition”.

Once Oviva has been sent the patient “goal,” such as losing weight, better blood sugar control etc., and the patient has been on-boarded, they start logging anything that is important related to their lifestyle and disease. This includes photos of meals, activity, weight and symptoms. They can also connect a step counter, weight scale or blood glucose meter to the app to complete most of the data collection automatically.

“You will agree specific behaviours you want to change over the course of the treatment with your dietitian (e.g. more vegetables and fruits, portion control, activity levels),” says Eberhardt. “Your dietitian and a group of peers will support you in achieving those goals. On the one hand that is motivation and emotional support, on the other hand with specific pointers targeted to your needs, e.g. around how you time meals and portion sizes over the day to avoid lows or hunger periods”.

Over the course of treatment, a patient can also have video-call appointments with their dietitian, and review a curriculum of videos and other content supporting the management of their condition, as part of a “behaviour change journey”.

Meanwhile, Christoph Ruedig, Partner at AlbionVC, says that despite compelling evidence that digital treatments improve patient access and outcomes while reducing costs for health systems, “Europe is investing a fraction” in digital health compared to the U.S. “We’re excited to continue to support Oviva’s accelerated roll out across Europe,” he says.

Just Spices, the German spice mix startup, raises €13M Series B

Just Spices, the German-founded spice mix brand, is disclosing €13 million in Series B funding. The round is led by Five Seasons Ventures and Coefficient Capital, with Bitburger Ventures also joining.

A direct to consumer play, Just Spices offers two main product lines: Spice Mixes and “IN MINUTES”.

The first consists of various spice blends, with new blends being developed based on the sales and customer feedback data the startup is amassing.

The second, launched in 2018, is recipe-driven, offering 27 “fix” meal preparations that sees Just Spices provide the recipe and spice mix needed to prepare a quick meal, with only a few additional fresh ingredients required to complete the dish. It appears to share some similarities with SimplyCook in the U.K.

“The need for innovative, fast and still balanced solutions in the food sector is greater than ever,” says Just Spices co-founder and CEO Florian Falk. “On the one hand, people have less time available so food has to be as uncomplicated as possible, but on the other, we still have wants and needs… With Just Spices, and especially with IN MINUTES, we offer a carefree alternative, which consumers can be confident is fast and tasty whilst still fitting into a conscious, healthy diet.”

As part of its customer acquisition strategy and to power a product development feedback loop, Just Spices says it has built a vibrant, active digital community of home cooks. More than 60% of its sales are generated online, and the company claims to be one of the most followed spices brands in Europe (on social media). And certainly the startup is investing in content, including operating its own in-house studio and producing podcasts.

“We want to become the world’s largest lifestyle spice brand,” adds Falk. “To achieve this, we have not only built a fantastic partnership network, we have brought together an amazing team. We want to bring the joy and fun of cooking to many more people.”