Dot lets you invest in property without the hassle of a traditional mortgage

Dot, a new U.K. startup de-cloaking today, aims to make it easy to invest in property without the hassle of taking out a traditional ‘buy to let’ mortgage. The company is founded by Gray Stern, who previously co-founded London-based Buy to Let mortgage lender Landbay, and so knows at least a thing or two about investing in property. Namely, that it doesn’t need to be as arduous as it currently is.

In fact, Dot’s headline draw is that it makes property ownership a one-click affair via the “Dot Button” it wants to embed on property listings sites, including estate agents and property developers. Under the hood of the offering is what the startup describes as a “point-of-sale finance and management solution” that can be wrapped around any property that meets Dot’s lending criteria.

If you want to purchase the property as an investment, you simply click the button, pay the required deposit, and Dot will acquire and manage the property on your behalf, advancing 70 percent of the purchase price in the form of its pre-approved or “instant mortgage”. In addition, the property is furnished and Dot takes out buildings, contents and rent guarantee insurance. After those expenses, you receive monthly rent from the property, minus management fees and interest paid on your Dot mortgage.

Technically, once the property is purchased it is moved into a passive investment structure: an SPV known as a “Dot Container”. This structure holds the asset on your behalf (you effectively become the SPV’s beneficial owner/shareholder).

When you’re ready to sell, in theory a Dot Container can move from owner to owner without conveyancing, and can be refinanced without requiring new mortgage documents (via Dot Platform, Dot’s mortgage marketplace). Alternatively, the property can be put on the open market. Either way, as the SPV’s sole shareholder, you benefit from any increase in the valuation of the property, less the remaining balance of the mortgage.

“Dot enables anyone with a 30 percent deposit to become a professional property investor instantly, with none of the hassle of being a landlord,” explains Stern. “We do this by providing U.K. and U.S. estate agents and property developers with a pre-approved finance and management solution — a Dot Container — that can hold any suitable property. The agent can then offer Dot as a payment option (via the embedded Dot Button), turning their previously static listings into turnkey investments that anyone, anywhere can buy online on a fully financed and managed basis.

“Every Dot Container comes complete with a pre-approved mortgage, insurance, legal/conveyancing, tax compliance and reporting, lettings and management, furnishings and everything else required to turn that property into a compliant, well-managed and good-looking rental home. Dot takes care of the entire end-to-end process… and because we are lending a large portion of the total cost we have a vested interest in managing your property well”.

Stern says that Dot differs from property crowd-investing type platforms, such as Property Partner or Bricklane, which typically let you buy shares in a portion of a property or a property portfolio and aren’t coupled with a financing option.

“Dot’s solution is for sole investors or couples looking to build property portfolios that they control, we do not offer fractional ownership,” he adds. “Our clients own the asset and while they give Dot management rights, they can also remove Dot at any time, sell at any time, refinance their loans at any time. Dot’s challenge is to make our offer sufficiently compelling that they won’t want to”.

Meanwhile, Dot has raised $1.5 million in a pre-seed round from Stage Dot O, an L.A.-based venture-build firm run by Roofstock co-founder Devin Wade and ex hedge fund manager Mike Self.

This UK startup thinks it can win the self-driving car race with better machine learning

A new U.K. self-driving car startup founded by Amar Shah and Alex Kendall, two machine learning PhDs from University of Cambridge, is de-cloaking today. Wayve — backed by New York-based Compound, Europe’s Fly Ventures, and Brent Hoberman’s Firstminute Capital — is building what it describes as “end-to-end machine learning algorithms” to make autonomous vehicles a reality, an approach it claims is different to much of the conventional thinking on self-driving cars.

Specifically, as Wayve CEO Shah explained in a call last week, the young company believes that the key to making an autonomous vehicle that is truly just that (i.e. able to drive safely in any environment it is asked to), is a much greater emphasis on the self-learning capability of its software. In other words, self-driving cars is an AI problem first and foremost, and one that he and co-founder Kendall argue requires a very specific machine-learning development skill set.

“Wayve is building intelligent software to decide how to control a vehicle on all public roads,” he tells me. “Rather than hand-engineering our solution with heavily rule-based systems, we aim to build data-driven machine learning at every layer of our system, which would learn from experience and not simply be given if-else statements. Our learning-based system will be safer in unfamiliar situations than a rule-based system which would behave unpredictably in a situation it has not seen before”.

To explain his thinking in laymen’s terms, Shah points to the way a human who is relatively proficient in driving in one city can quickly adapt to the differences in a completely new city, without having to be given extra training or instruction beforehand. It may take around 30 minutes or even a few hours to become fully climatized to new driving conditions or environment, but humans don’t need very much new data to do so.

“Humans have a fascinating ability to perform complex tasks in the real world, because our brains allow us to learn quickly and transfer knowledge across our many experiences,” he says. “We want to give our vehicles better brains, not more hardware”.

To problem, thus far, the pair argue, is that companies like Google and Uber are throwing an engineering mindset at making vehicles autonomous, in the sense of designing rule-based systems that try to pre-empt and deal with every edge case, whilst in tandem adding more sensors and capturing more data. This might produce encouraging results in the specific, narrow setting it has been engineered for, but won’t have maximum payoff longer term.

“Right now, big tech companies have cars with many different sensors of a handful of different types. Their attitude is to have more and more sensors to do more and more difficult driving tasks,” says Shah. “If I ask you to do a difficult athletic obstacle course, something like Ninja warrior, having more eyes isn’t really going to help you much. What you need is better coordination – it’s the mind-muscle connection that’s the limiting factor. In driving, it’s really the way you use your sensory information that’s key (the AI-wheel connection in the car), not the number of cameras and radars and LIDARs”.

But if a more sophisticated machine-learning approach is the correct one, surely Google (which has several AI efforts under its parent company, including being the owner of DeepMind), would already be going down that avenue, too?

“The big teams are distracted by getting something working because they have stakeholders who have been investing for a decade into autonomous driving. They are getting impatient,” the Wayve co-founder pushes back. “How will Alphabet tell their shareholders ‘we’ve invested X billion USD into Waymo and its predecessor with a team of 1,000s, but we are now throwing that approach all down the drain and hiring more AI people to solve driving’. It’s a hard sell having spent billions and when they are close to a simple product. Same reason politicians make bad long-term decisions… their output is only short-term”.

“Wayve has a very differentiated technical approach versus most other autonomous vehicle startups,” echoes Fly Ventures’ Gabriel Matuschka. “It’s a 10x improvement over the rules-based approach taken from legacy robotics to hard-code the driving actions that the vehicle takes once it understands what it sees. Wayve uses end-to-end machine learning to drive cars autonomously, with little data, in novel environments. This means that their software enables a car to drive itself using only understanding of what it can see, just like humans do”.

To that end, the ten-person Wayve is said to be made up of experts in robotics, computer vision and artificial intelligence from both Cambridge and Oxford universities, who have previously worked at the likes of NASA, Google, Facebook, Skydio and Microsoft. Their work ranges from using deep learning for visual scene understanding to autonomous decision-making in uncertain environments. Noteworthy also is that Professor Zoubin Ghahramani, Chief Scientist of Uber, is an investor in Wayve.

“There are very few teams out there with the academic background and technical capabilities to at all have a credible shot at this. Wayve is one of them,” adds Matuschka. “Some people in the industry question if Wayve’s novel approach will work. You only stand a chance to compete against Google, Uber, et al. if you try, and are able to do something that the large players haven’t done so far or don’t believe in yet. Then you can have a head start”.

Whisk, the smart food platform that makes recipes shoppable, acquires competitor Avocando

Whisk, the U.K. startup that has built a B2B data platform to power various food apps, including making online recipes ‘shoppable’, has acquired Avocando, a competitor based in Germany.

The exact financial terms of the deal remain undisclosed, although TechCrunch understands it was all-cash and that Whisk is acquiring the tech, customer base, integrations, and team. Related to this, Avocando’s founders are joining Whisk.

“The team is joining Whisk to help scale a joint global vision to help leading businesses create integrated and meaningful digital food experiences using cutting-edge technology,” says Whisk in a statement.

To that end, Whisk’s “smart food platform” enables app developers, publishers and online supermarkets/grocery stories to do a number of interesting things.

The first relates to making recipes shoppable i.e. making it incredibly easy to order the ingredients needed to cook a recipe listed online or in an app. Specifically, Whisk’s platform parses ingredients in a recipe, and matches it to products at local grocery stores based on user preferences (e.g. “50g of butter, cubed” matched to “250g Tesco Salted Butter”). It then interfaces with the store to fill the users basket with the needed items.

The second is recipe personalisation. Based on user preferences (e.g. disliked ingredients, diet, previous behaviour, deals at a favourite store, and trending recipes based on location), Whisk is able to create personalised recipe feeds, search results, and meal plans.

The third aspect is an Internet-of-Things play. This is seeing Whisk’s data power experiences that connect IoT devices with different parts of a user’s journey. Think: smart fridges connected to recipes.

“As the e-commerce grocery market quickly accelerates across Europe, players are increasingly looking for ways to connect recipe content to grocery retailers and provide consumers with personalized nutrition, planning and purchase options right from the comfort of their kitchen,” says the startup.

Whisk says its platform powers experiences for over 100,000,000 monthly users through the applications of its clients. They include retailers like Walmart, Amazon, Instacart, and Tesco who use Whisk to enable online grocery shopping via recipes. On the IoT front, Samsung is using Whisk to build smart food applications that take user preferences, what’s in their fridge, what offers are in the supermarket, and recommends recipes. Other customers include publishers, such as the BBC, and food brands like McCormick, Nestle, Unilever, and General Mills.

Meanwhile, Whisk says it is currently focused on the U.S., U.K. and Australia, and with today’s acquisition will expand services across Europe. “Together, Germany, France and Spain represent a larger e-commerce grocery market than both the U.S. and U.K. individually, with the largest online recipe usage per capita figures in the world,” adds the company.

AnyDesk scores €6.5M for its remote desktop software

AnyDesk, a startup that offers remote desktop software powered by a bespoke video codec, has scored €6.5 million in Series A funding. Leading the round is EQT Ventures, with participation from angel investors, including Chris Hitchen, and previous backer Andreas Burike.

The Stuttgart, Germany-based company says it will use the injection of cash for further development of the AnyDesk product and to grow the technical and commercial teams.

“AnyDesk’s mission can be summarised as overcoming distances,” co-founder and CEO Philipp Weiser tells TechCrunch. “Today, people need to work with their teams and content just as quickly and effectively when working remotely as they do when in the office. Legacy remote desktop offerings do not enable this — they are complicated, frustrating and slow. At best, you can do a presentation or help a colleague install a printer. Some ideas are born out of frustration and we decided to re-engineer the remote desktop for today’s workplace”.

To that end, as well as modern-day apps for Windows, MacOS, various flavours of Linux/Unix, Android and iOS, the AnyDesk team has created a proprietary video codec called “DeskRT” that has been engineered especially for graphical user interfaces. It transmits 60 frames per seconds and prioritises low latency.

As a result, the startup says users generally experience high quality video and sound, and image transmission that is fast and fluid enough to forget that you are using a different computer. That’s because, unlike traditional screen sharing, AnyDesk is built for collaboration.

“We created AnyDesk so that anyone, anywhere can get their work done,” says Weiser. “More than 50 million users worldwide have downloaded AnyDesk. We have more than 7,000 business customers, including Spidercam, Amedes and Sun Chemical”.

There is a free version of AnyDesk for personal use, and various professional tiers, all the way up to large enterprise use.

Meanwhile, the AnyDesk co-founder concedes that there a number of other players in the rather crowded remote desktop software space. They include LogMeIn, TeamViewer, Splashtop, and Citrix GoTo. However, he claims AnyDesk is better than current offerings as the startup has approached the remote desktop from a “software-design focused angle” and created an architecture and a custom video codec specifically for the purpose of low latency transmission.

“Some competing products use expensive hardware for this, but this is not the case with AnyDesk. We’ve achieved superior performance in a software-only solution. This means AnyDesk provides people with the experience they’ve come to expect when consuming content. When you view a website or video on your devices, chances are you don’t think about the web browser or media player working in the background. You are focused on the content. AnyDesk works in the same way, running behind-the-scenes so you can be productive, creative and get on with your work”.

As an aside, EQT Ventures is talking up the way it discovered AnyDesk, namely via the VC firm’s “Motherbrain” AI platform. The software claims to scan the tech startup ecosystem online for specific signals related to a company’s performance. Based on these digital footprints, it then flags the most promising companies and surfaces the relevant structured and unstructured data to the EQT Ventures team.

Of course, this sort of approach isn’t unique to EQT — most VC firms of a certain size use data tracking as part of their deal discovery and evaluation, and newer VCs such as InReach Ventures and Fly Ventures make a virtue of this — but it is perhaps noteworthy nonetheless.

Online mortgage broker Trussle raises £13.6M Series B

Trussle, the U.K. online mortgage broker that competes most directly with Atomico-backed Habito, has closed £13.6 million in Series B funding.

Notably, the round is led by Goldman Sachs Principal Strategic Investments — a division of Goldman Sachs — and Propel Venture Partners, a fund backed by European banking giant BBVA.

In addition, a number of other investors also participated including Finch Capital, which led Trussle’s Series A fund raise, and Seedcamp, which has backed the fintech startup from the get-go.

Launched in 2016, Trussle moves the entire mortgage process online, bringing with it much-needed transparency. One aspect to this — powered by the data it amassing and machine learning — is making it infinitely easier to ‘switch’ mortgage when a better deal or lower interest rate becomes available. The same technology-driven approach is used for those looking to find and apply for a new or first time mortgage.

In a brief call this morning, Trussle co-founder and CEO Ishaan Malhi told me that the new capital will be used to further scale up the company, noting that the Trussle team has grown from 14 to 70 people since its Series A in February 2017. A significant portion of these are in product development as the fintech startup moves from what Malhi describes as a transactional proposition — where customers use Trussle at the point of taking out a mortgage — to a “lifetime proposition” that supports customers when they first start thinking about owning their own home and then throughout their financed home ownership.

As an example of this, he pointed me towards Trussle’s mortgage monitoring service, which launched last year. It constantly monitors the market and alerts you when money can be saved by switching to another deal.

However, the longer term vision — and presumably part of what attracted investors — is to return more value based on the data Trussle captures. This could include telling you when it may be advantageous to overpay and giving you an easy to understand dashboard that clearly shows where you are at in the repayment process.

More broadly, Trussle wants to play a major role and making home ownership a reality for many for whom is it increasingly prohibitive (think: Generation Rent). To do this, he doesn’t rule out partnerships with other fintech startups aligned to that same mission.

Adds Malhi in a statement: “The backing from two prolific and globally renowned fintech investors recognises the brilliant progress we’ve made, but also the scale of our ambition. The funding will enable us to invest significantly in building our brand and our product, but fundamentally will accelerate us towards our vision of digitising the end-to-end journey to make home ownership more affordable and accessible to all”.

Daniel Jones is said to have left Global Founders Capital to ‘raise his own fund’

Global Founders Capital, the venture capital arm of Rocket Internet, has seen a number of its London investment team leave over the last couple of years, but the most significant departure may have only just happened.

According to multiple sources, Daniel Jones, General Partner at GFC, has left the VC firm and is thought to be planning to raise his own fund. A spokesperson for GFC declined to comment on the record when asked to confirm he is no longer at GFC. Jones couldn’t be reached for comment at the time of publication.

Rumours of Jones’ departure began circulating in late March, and sometime in April portfolio companies were informed by GFC about changes in the U.K. team and specifically that he was leaving. Separately I understand from several sources that the reason being given by GFC is that Jones has decided to take up the challenge of raising a fund of his own.

Perhaps a sign of how depleted the GFC London team is right now — in the last two years, the firm has lost associate Julien Bek to Accel, associate Julia Morrongiello to Point Nine Capital, and principle Nicholas Stocks to White Star Capital — a number of portfolio companies are being told that Rocket Internet co-founder and CEO Oli Samwer is to be their main contact for now going forward. He’s primarily being supported by GFC Partner Levin Bunz, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Meanwhile, Jones’ exit from GFC is bound to be a loss to the U.K. tech startup scene, even if he does go on to eventually raise his own fund. He was and remains a popular figure amongst GFC portfolio companies and as a General Partner was always somebody thought to have the ear of Samwer, and therefore an influential figure at GFC and Rocket Internet.

As one source with knowledge of how GFC operated in the U.K. put it: “Daniel Jones was the most important non-Samwer at Global Founders. He constituted at least half of the decision-making and the majority of the legwork on every term sheet GFC issued.”

According to his LinkedIn profile, Jones’ U.K. GFC investments include Goodlord, Echo and Nested. In the last few years, the stage-agnostic VC firm has also backed U.K. startups Quiqup, OpenRent, and HomeTouch, amongst others.

Zinc, the company builder tackling societal problems, picks up £3M backing from LocalGlobe, Atomico, and LSE

Zinc, the London-based company builder tackling various societal problems, has picked up £3 million in seed investment as it readies its second cohort and mission. Backing the round is LocalGlobe, Niklas Zennström’s Atomico, U.K. university LSE, and a number of angel investors.

Launched late last year, Zinc helps build startups almost from scratch. Somewhat similar to Entrepreneur First, it focuses on recruiting potential founders — in this instance, experts in social science, technology, design and business — who through the 9-month programme form new companies.

Each Zinc cohort is tasked with tackling a specific mission around a broader theme. The debut programme, which was used to prove the model and is currently drawing to a close, set out to create startups that can tackle the problem of women’s mental and emotional health. This saw 55 prospective founders and entrepreneurs participate, resulting in 17 new companies being formed.

They span tech-enabled businesses working on problems as diverse as perinatal mental health, loneliness amongst the elderly, young women discovering sexual pleasure, stress-related physical conditions like IBS, women walking safely in cities, new talking therapies, and more. One criteria of Zinc-founded companies is that the resulting solution needs to be applicable globally, and that the problem being tackled affects a large enough number of people in the developed world ie ~100 million or more.

“We try to solve huge societal issues by mobilising talent, ideas and capital, and by taking a mission-led approach,” Ella Goldner, co-founder and GM of Zinc, tells TechCrunch. “Our programme does so by finding the best talent, surrounding them with smarts experts to help them build new tech-enabled scalable businesses, and help them develop products and services that tackle the issues in the context of the mission”.

Zinc’s second mission, which the company builder is currently recruiting for, will see it focus on the 150 million people living in places that have been hit hard by automation and globalisation over the last 20 or 30 years, as traditional industries in those areas have declined (e.g. coal, manufacturing, textiles, shipbuilding, ports and tourism).

“The founders on the programme are a diverse group of entrepreneurial creative individuals who are driven by the mission, and are keen to set up a new business. They have background in tech, the mission’s focus area, or in ops and marketing. The average age is 34 and they are truly diverse in terms of nationalities… We believe in people’s ability to take control over those issues and solve them, rather than relying on public sector to do that,” explains Goldner.

Suzanne Ashman Blair, partner at LocalGlobe, echoes that sentiment and says that Zinc has got off to a great start with its first mission. “To have an impact on society’s deepest challenges, we need to bring together entrepreneurial talent and capital. Zinc has demonstrated that its approach to addressing social problems through technology is a powerful combination”.

LSE’s investment in Zinc also sees it effectively become a founder of the burgeoning company builder. The London university is leading a new consortium of U.K. universities (Oxford, Manchester, Sussex and Sheffield) who will work with the Zinc programme to “turn research insight into new businesses that have commercial and social impact”.

To that end, in addition to Goldner, Zinc lists it founders as Paul Kirby (a former Head of the No 10 Policy Unit and previously a senior partner at KPMG), Saul Klein (co-founder of LocalGlobe and a serial tech entrepreneur), and Professor Julia Black (Pro-Director for Research at the London School of Economics and Political Science and a Board Member of U.K. Research & Innovation).

Meanwhile, Zinc says the new £3 million funding will enable it to plan future missions and replicate the success of its launch programme.

Digital banking startup Revolut raises $250M at a valuation of $1.7B

Revolut, the London-based fintech that offers a digital banking account and sprawling set of other financial services, is disclosing that it has raised a whopping $250 million in Series C funding, less than three years since launching.

The new round, which gives the company a $1.7 billion post-money valuation — a five-fold increase in under a year, we’re told — was led by Hong Kong based DST Global, along with a group of new and existing investors that includes Index Ventures, and Ribbit Capital. In case you aren’t keeping up, it brings the total amount raised by Revolut to $340 million in less than 36 months.

To put this into context, TransferWise — London’s undisputed fintech darling and on some features a direct competitor to Revolut — recently announced $280 million in Series D investment, giving the company a reported post-money valuation of $1.6 billion. The difference? It took TransferWise seven years compared to Revolut’s three.

That’s testament to how much value investors are now placing on bank-disrupting fintech or perhaps signs of a fintech bubble. Or both. It is also worth remembering that these are private valuations with neither company yet to float on the public markets, even if TranserWise looks increasingly a candidate to do so.

Meanwhile, Revolut says the new round of funding and surge in valuation follows “incredible growth figures to date,” with the fintech now processing $1.8 billion through the platform each month and signing up between 6,000 and 8,000 new customers every day.

It claims nearly 2 million customers in total, of which 250,000 are daily active users, roughly 400,000 are weekly active users and 900,000 are monthly active users. The company says the target is 100 million customers in the next five years.

For a little more context, TransferWise has 3 million customers. I’m also told U.K. challenger bank Monzo now has 630,000 current account customers, of which 200,000 are daily active users, 360,000 are weekly active users and 500,000 are monthly active users. (In both Revolut and Monzo’s case, active users are defined as making at least one financial transaction.)

With the aim of persuading both consumers and businesses to ditch their traditional bank, Revolut offers most of the features you’d expect of a current account, including physical and virtual debit cards, direct debits and money transfer. Its “attack vector” (to borrow Monzo’s Tom Blomfield’s phrase) was originally low exchange fees when spending in a foreign currency, which undoubtedly fuelled much of the startup’s early growth and mindshare, but new features and products are being added at an increasingly fast pace.

Many of these are through partnerships with other fintech companies, and include travel insurance, phone insurance, credit, savings, and cryptocurrency. The latter looks like riding the hype cycle almost perfectly. Revolut is also applying for a European banking license, which would enable it to begin balance sheet lending, too.

To that end, Revolut says the Series C funding will be used to go beyond Europe and expand worldwide, starting with the U.S., Canada, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Australia this year. The company also expects to increase its workforce from 350 to around 800 employees in 2018.

Personably, software that helps on-board new hires at fast-growing companies, gets backing from GFC

As fast-growing companies — or, dare I say, ‘scale-ups’ — add new headcount, the pace at which they are able to on-board new hires doesn’t always keep up. In fact, I’m told it is not unheard of for new employees to turn up on day one apparently unexpected, and to be passed from pillar to post as they attempt to get set up and be shown all of the things you need to be shown to actually start a new role.

Enter Personably, the London startup founded in late 2016 by Katerina Pascoulis and Lewis Blackwood, after the former Crowdcube and GoCardless employees spotted an opportunity to use software to streamline and in some instances automate aspects of the on-boarding process. Bootstrapped until now, the company is disclosing that it recently raised £500,000 in seed funding.

The round was led by GFC, the venture arm of e-commerce behemoth and company builder Rocket Internet’s GFC — which knows more than a thing or two about the teething problems scaling companies have — along with a number of angel investors. The latter includes Matt Robinson, co-founder of GoCardless and Nested (which I’m told are both early customers of Personably), and Caroline Sage, founder at Kea Consultants.

“Right now, on boarding people into fast growing companies is incredibly time-consuming,” Pascoulis tells me. “If you don’t onboard that person properly you’re losing out on the first 6 months of their time at the company. They’ll take longer to get up to speed which is expensive for the company and a poor experience for the individual, especially if they then leave sooner because of it”.

In researching the viability of a solution like Personably, Pascoulis says everyone her and Blackwood spoke to had their own story about something that had gone wrong in their first week that had stuck with them. “What Personably does to solve this is automating away a lot of those manual tasks that need to happen when someone starts,” she says. “Things as simple as sending welcome emails right up to automatically scheduling everything that new starter needs to attend.”

When a company is relatively small, these types of on-boarding tasks and the organisation around it tend to fall to one or two people and happens at a hiring pace that makes it manageable. However, if a company hits hyper-growth mode or simply becomes a much larger organisation with many more moving parts, the on-boarding process itself also needs to scale.

“When you’re hiring one person every couple of months it’s something you can handle. But when you’re hiring one or more people a week, you’re spending a lot of time doing these tasks that should just be handled automatically. We give teams that time back,” says Pascoulis.

As an example, imagine scheduling weeks of training across a company, involving lots of different team members. This might typically be handled through a combination of spreadsheets, email and task manager, but with Personably can be done with a single click and tracked all in one interface.

Meanwhile, the business model is typical SaaS. Companies pay a monthly subscription fee to use the product, and the pricing varies based on the volume of hires a company is making.

Pascoulis cites competitors as newer HR systems like CharlieHR and HiBob that have on-boarding features, but, she argues, don’t scale as well. There’s also traditional enterprise products like Workday that handle on-boarding on an enterprise level.

Mixcloud, the audio streaming platform for long-form content, raises $11.5M from WndrCo

Mixcloud, the London startup that offers an audio streaming platform designed for long-form content, has closed its first-ever funding round, TechCrunch has learned. According to a regulatory filing and since confirmed by co-founder Nico Perez, the ten-year old company has raised approximately $11.5 million led by WndrCo, the media and technology holding company based in Los Angeles and San Francisco.

As part of the investment, WndrCo partners Ann Daly (former president of DreamWorks Animation) and Anthony Saleh (an investor and artist manager of hiphop stars Nas and Future) have joined the Mixcloud board. The injection of capital will be used to scale the service globally and for product development, says the company.

This will include doubling down on the U.S., hence Mixcloud’s new backers, and growing the company’s 22-person team, both in London and New York (where Perez is now based). On the product side, I understand the plan is to “diversify the platform,” which would appear to point to a recent licensing deal with Warner and new paid Mixcloud consumer offerings, making the company less reliant on display advertising and other types of brand sponsorship alone.

That Mixcloud has raised a decent sized funding round isn’t surprising in itself. The music streaming site, which originally wanted to be something akin to ‘YouTube for long-form audio’, has carved out a decent following as a place to house archived radio shows and DJ mixes, and counts more than 1 million “curators” uploading content to the platform. However, aside from a couple of U.K. government grants in its formative years, the fact that the company hasn’t taken any outside funding since being founded in 2008 is no-less than remarkable. As is, perhaps, its survival. The history of consumer-facing music startups is littered with companies that raise significant venture capital, before ultimately crashing and burning or being litigated out of existence.

“We are fairly rare, if not unique,” Perez tells me, in his understated way. “We quit our jobs and incorporated the company in 2008 and then the next two years was the challenge of starting any new company, around building the team, trying to raise funding, and in our case doing these innovate types of [music] licenses. And, being straight up honest with you, we couldn’t fundraise. We couldn’t find anybody to put in money. It was a very different time back then”.

To put that period in context, the term ‘Silicon Roundabout,’ used to describe the emerging tech cluster in East London where Mixcloud would eventually relocate, only entered the public domain in July 2008. And although Spotify was founded the same year, it remained very much under the radar. Meanwhile, the spectacular rise and fall of Napster over the previous decade was still fresh in the memories of investors.

“There had been several major collapses — Napster being the largest but also other services like imeem — that had grown and ultimately failed. Investors were very, very wary of the space, or maybe we were just not very good at pitching. Either way we didn’t manage to raise in the early days… For better or worse, we had to figure out how to survive by ourselves”.

This saw Mixcloud initially set up home in a warehouse in an industrial estate near Wembley, a much less fashionable part of London, in a bid to keep costs low. The team also took on “small jobs on the side,” ploughing any surplus money they earned into keeping the service alive. Aside from bootstrapping and those early government grants, the key to survival was growing Mixcloud’s users at roughly the same speed as advertising revenue, alongside pioneering new content licenses and fingerprinting technology to ensure rights-holders were paid.

“Slowly, over the next few years, it started to get traction amongst users and listeners. Then we started to make a little bit of money from Google Adsense and a few different brand partnerships. And then it took a good five or six years until we could support a small team, and we never raised investment along the way”.

That journey instilled a culture at Mixcloud of “being lean and not splashing out huge amounts of money on launch parties”. This not only ensured the lights could be kept on, but in recent years and somewhat ironically, the same financial discipline and non-reliance on venture capital started to attract the attention of investors. As did the latent potential for Mixcloud to go international.

“The next step for us — and actually part of the fund-raise — is how do we move from bringing this very U.K.-centric streaming platform to being a global player,” adds Perez. “We looked at the wider marketplace and the time we’re in right now… and we kinda felt like if we really wanna go for it then we’re gonna need some firepower behind us. So that’s why we did the deal”.