From seed to Series A: Scaling a startup in Latin America today

It’s not easy to raise growth-stage capital in Latin America, but it’s getting easier. As startups begin to flourish in the region’s largest markets, available funding is evolving to suit the needs of these maturing companies. However, Silicon Valley-style Series A rounds in Latin America are still rare, especially outside of Brazil and Mexico.

Even in Silicon Valley, only a small percentage of startups can bring together enough pieces to raise a Series A round. Jacob Mullins, a partner at Shasta Ventures, recently published an article on Medium on what it takes to raise a Series A round in San Francisco today, which inspired my take for the Latin American ecosystem.

In the piece, he lays out the table stakes for any startup looking to raise Series A capital, including product-market fit, a strong revenue model, 2x or 3x YOY growth, a data-driven go-to-market strategy, a compelling market opportunity, a great team and a great story. These prerequisites apply to startups anywhere in the world. However, if these requirements are the minimum needed for a Series A in San Francisco, startups outside of the Valley, including in Latin America, will have to work even harder.

Latin America’s exceptional growth in VC funding over the past 12 months speaks to the growing number of later-stage rounds startups are raising across the region. 2018 was Latin America’s inflection point for startups, with four big trends:

Record-breaking rounds: Mexico’s Grin Scooters raised Latin America’s largest seed round, and Brazilian bike and scooter-sharing startup Yellow raised Latin America’s largest Series A round to date (then they merged!). Food delivery startup Rappi became Colombia’s first unicorn, raising $200 million (and then $1 billion from SoftBank shortly thereafter), and Brazil’s iFood also raised $400 million, one of Latin America’s biggest rounds ever.

A closer examination reveals patterns in what it takes to raise scale capital in the Latin American market today.

Soaring Asian investment: Brazil’s most popular ride-hailing app, 99, was acquired by Didi Chuxing, China’s version of Uber . Tencent invested in Brazilian fintech Nubank; Ant Financial invested in Brazilian POS company StoneCo; SoftBank invested in Brazil’s logistics provider Loggi, Brazil’s Gympass and Colombia’s largest hotel chain, Ayenda Rooms. SoftBank also committed a $5 billion fund for Latin America, outstripping all previous funds by an order of magnitude.

Exits to Latin American and U.S. corporates: Chilean-Mexican grocery delivery startup Cornershop went to Walmart for $225 million and e-commerce company Linio was acquired by Falabella for $138 million. These deals reveal a growing concern from large companies in Latin America about competition from startups.

More YC grads: Latin America sent at least 10 startups to the Y Combinator, and many more to other international accelerators, in the past year. These companies include Grin, Higia, Truora, Keynua, The Podcast App, SkyDrop, UBits, Cuenca, BrainHi, Pachama, Calii, Cuanto, Pronto and Fintual.

2018 really was a breakout year for Latin American startups.

So who is raising Series A rounds in the region?

Within the list of 30 or so companies that have managed to raise a Series A in Latin America in the past year, most of the startups fit into a few categories. There is also significant overlap between the investors who are pursuing tickets of this size, most of whom are located in major markets like Mexico and Brazil, or have offices in Silicon Valley. A closer examination of these startups reveals patterns in what it takes to raise scale capital in the Latin American market today.

Copycats

Copycats — or startups that copy a successful business model from another market — are a good business in Latin America. Among those to raise Series A rounds within the past year were:

  • Grin and Yellow (now Grow Mobility): Bird/Lime clones raised $150 million as Grow Mobility from GGV Capital and Monashees.

  • LentesPlus: 1-800-Contacts clone raised $5 million from Palm Drive Capital, with participation from IGNIA and InQLab.

  • Mercadoni: Instacart clone raised $9 million from Movile.

  • Uala and Albo: Monzo/Revolut clones raised $10 million from Soros, Greyhound Capital, Recharge Capital and Point 72 Ventures, and $7.4 million from Omidyar, Greyhound and Mountain Nazca, respectively.

International investors often see copycat models as less risky, because the model has been tested before.

Logistics and last-mile delivery

Brazil’s CargoX, the “Uber for trucks,” is leading the market for logistics solutions in Latin America, receiving international investment from Valor Capital and NXTP Labs starting in their first round. They have also received funding from Soros, Goldman Sachs and Blackstone in later rounds. Recently, logistics startups like Colombia’s Liftit and Mexico’s Skydrop have raised multimillion-dollar rounds from Silicon Valley investors, including IFC, Monashees, MercadoLibre Fund, Variv Capital, Sierra Ventures and Sinai Ventures . Startups like Rappi, Loggi and Mandaê have also raised Series A rounds, and beyond.

Brazilian startups

In many ways, the Brazilian market operates separately from the rest of Latin America, and not only because of the language difference. Brazil has Brazil-centric funds and its startups follow their own rules, because the market is big enough to accommodate companies that only operate locally. Brazil also receives a majority of international VC funding and has produced a significant portion of Latin America’s unicorns.

Brazilian (and some Mexican) startups in edtech, healthtech and fintech, including Neon, Sanar, Mosyle, UnoDosTres and Nexoos, raised Series A rounds in 2018. Key investors included Quona Capital, e.Bricks Ventures, Elephant and Peak Ventures. Brazilian startups tend to scale more quickly at all sizes; Creditas and Loggi were able to raise their Series A in 2016 and 2014 respectively. In 2018, they were already raising $55 million at Series C and $100 million+ Series D from investors such as Vostok Emerging Capital, Kaszek Ventures, IFC, Naspers and SoftBank. However, startups in these industries in other Latin American countries might not find it as easy to raise larger rounds.

How much to raise in a Latin American Series A

Latin American valuations are noticeably lower than their Silicon Valley equivalents. A Series A round in a small or medium Latin American market like Chile or Colombia might end up looking a lot like a San Francisco seed round. Valuations and amount are bifurcated: those that have access to Silicon Valley-style capital can get higher valuations and bigger checks (still lower and smaller than the U.S.), while those that don’t have access have lower valuations.

The startup’s team, story and revenue model should all align to create an unbeatable business.

Outside of Brazil or Mexico, startups should not expect to raise more than $5 million in a Series A, even if they are receiving co-investments from the U.S. The average Series A round in the U.S. hit $11.29 million in 2018; however, the top 10% of deals averaged more than $60 million.

In Latin America, a Series A could range from as little as $1 million to around $10 million in most countries. Brazil and Mexico might break the mold, but startups looking for growth capital in Latin America should not expect to raise more than $5 million if they are not in a massive market. For example, Chile’s Destacame raised $3 million in their Series A from Chilean funds in early 2019. By comparison, Brazil’s Neon raised $22 million in their Series A in the same year. While these are different industries and comparing apples to oranges, the orders of magnitude seem right.

If we compare in the same industry but different years, the results are similar. Nubank’s Series A in 2014, led by Sequoia Capital, was $14.3 million. Neobanks in smaller markets, like albo and Uala, raised $7.4 million and $10 million, respectively, in their Series A rounds.

To date, the largest Series A raised in the region went to Yellow, Brazil’s bike-share and e-scooter company, created by the founders of 99, Ariel Lambrecht, Eduardo Musa, and Renato Freitas. Yellow raised a $63 million Series A within a year after launch, then merged with Mexico’s Grin Scooters.

Where to look for investment: Latin America or USA?

There are still very few entirely Latin American funds investing at Series A. Most of the time, Latin American startups must look to Mexico and Brazil, or beyond the region to Asia and the U.S., to fund rounds beyond the seed stage.

Within Latin America, some of the actors in this investment sector include Brazil’s Monashees and Valor Capital, Argentina’s Kaszek Ventures, Peru and Mexico’s Angel Ventures and Mexico’s ALLVP, MITA Ventures and Ignia. Startups might also find Series A-level investment from major regional tech leaders who are scouting acquisition opportunities, like Movile’s investment in Mercadoni. Movile is Brazil’s leader in mobile technology, with a mission to impact one billion people, following in the footsteps of China’s giant conglomerate, Tencent. Movile has invested in and acquired many Latin American startups to increase their mobile offerings for its customers.

While some funds in Latin America participate in investments of this scale, most Latin American startups target at least a part of their Series A rounds from outside the region. Latin American startups have been able to reach U.S. VCs in one of three ways: through top-tier accelerators, by selling to consumers in the U.S. market or by taking on a copycat model. U.S.-based VCs Accel Partners, Sequoia Capital, Andreessen Horowitz, Base10, Liquid2 Ventures, Quona Capital, QED, IFC and Sierra Ventures have all made multiple contributions to Series A rounds in Latin America within the past year.

Raising a Series A round in Latin America today

Raising a Series A round anywhere means checking a lot of boxes. Beyond bringing a great product to market, the startup’s team, story and revenue model should all align to create an unbeatable business. In Latin America, raising a Series A also means knowing where to look for capital, and which models are receiving funding.

Although there is no instruction manual for raising a Series A anywhere, following in the footsteps of companies that have done so successfully can be a wise way to start. Latin America’s Series A success stories outline a list of investors that are interested in this stage, as well as how much they are investing in Latin American companies. Founders can use this information to structure their fundraising efforts and optimize their time to raise a Series A and continue to scale.

Demo your startup at TC Sessions: Enterprise 2019

Every year hundreds of startups launch with dreams of becoming the next enterprise software unicorn. And it’s no wonder, given the $500 billion market and the rate at which the enterprise giants snap up emerging players. If you’re the founder of an early-stage enterprise startup, join us for TC Sessions: Enterprise in San Francisco on September 5 at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.

Even better, grab the opportunity by the horns and buy a Startup Demo Package. There is limited space available. This is your chance to plant your company in front of some of the most influential enterprise movers and shakers — we’re talking more than 1,000 attendees. Demo tables are reserved for startups with less than $3 million in funding and are available for $2,000, which includes four tickets to the event.

This day-long intensive event features speakers, panel discussions, demos, workshops and world-class networking. Get ready for a head-on, hype-free exploration of the considerable challenges enterprise companies face — regardless of their size.

TechCrunch editors will interview founders and leaders from both established and up-and-coming companies on topics ranging from intelligent marketing automation and the cloud to machine learning and AI. And they’ll question enterprise-focused VCs about where they’re directing their early, middle and late-stage investments.

The full roster of speakers is still to be announced, but here’s a quick hit of who you can expect at TC Sessions: Enterprise.

You’ll hear from Scott Farquhar, co-founder and co-CEO of Atlassian, a company that’s changed the way developers work. Want to hear more about enterprise and the cloud? Snowflake’s co-founder and president of product, Benoit Dageville, will be on hand to talk about the company’s mission to bring the enterprise database to the cloud.

Have someone you want to hear from our stage? Submit your speaker suggestion here.

Pro Tip: For each TC Sessions: Enterprise ticket you buy, we’ll register you for a complimentary Expo Only pass to TechCrunch Disrupt SF on October 2-4.

TC Sessions: Enterprise takes place September 5 at San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. Don’t miss this opportunity to showcase your early-stage enterprise startup in front of leading enterprise software founders, investors and technologists. Buy your Startup Demo Package today.

Looking for sponsorship opportunities? Contact our TechCrunch team to learn about the benefits associated with sponsoring TC Sessions: Enterprise 2019.

Africa Roundup: Yamaha backs MAX, Founders Factory and Norrsken support startups, inside Ethiopia’s tech scene

Competition in Africa’s two-wheel ride-hail market is accelerating. Nigerian motorcycle transit startup MAX.ng was the latest startup to add funding, raising a $7 million funding round in June with participation of Japanese manufacturer Yamaha.

Based in Lagos, the company’s app-based platform coordinates motorcycle taxi and delivery services for individuals and businesses.

With the Series A funding MAX intends to invest in its tech infrastructure, expand to 10 cities and add new vehicle classes — including watercraft and three-wheeled tuk tuk taxis. The company will also use its new funding to pilot e-motorcycles in Africa powered by renewable energy, CFO Guy-Bertrand Njoya told TechCrunch.

MAX.ng’s moves come after competitor Gokada (also based in Lagos) raised a $5.3 million round in May and announced it would expand in East Africa. Uganda-based motorcycle ride-hail company SafeBoda expanded into Kenya in 2018 and recently raised a Series B round. 

Uber’s also gotten into the motorcycle taxi market. It started offering a two-wheel transit option in East Africa in 2018, around the same time Bolt (previously Taxify) launched motorcycle taxi service in Kenya.

The on-demand motorcycle race could make Africa a reference point in the transformation of mobility. If successful, MAX.ng’s pilot to produce electric taxis powered by renewable energy could also become a global use-case.

June also brought announcements of new resources and funding for Africa’s startups. Sweden’s Norrsken Foundation — a co-working space and investment fund based in Stockholm — opened its tech fund and entrepreneurship hub in Rwanda to support ventures across the region.

Operating from a new Kigali campus, Norrsken will offer seed investments of $25,000 to $100,000 for early-stage startups in all sectors starting this year, CEO Erik Engellau-Nilsson told TechCrunch.

The fund size is still being determined, and Norrsken Kigali will extend the fund to larger series-stage investments from $100,000 to $1 million in the future.

Founders Factory Africa and South African healthcare company Netcare launched a new initiative to select 35 African health-tech startups for an acceleration and incubation program.

The partnership includes an investment (of an undisclosed amount) by Netcare in Founder’s Factory Africa, or FFA. The Johannesburg located organization was formed in 2018 as an extension of Founders Factory in London—an accelerator that has graduated 122 startups.

The application process is now open for FFA’s new Africa health-tech program, which will accelerate 5 startups a year and incubate 2, FFA CEO Roo Rogers told TechCrunch.

Criteria for the accelerator startups include that they have a healthcare focus, be post-revenue, and have a Pan-African scope.

Accelerated startups will receive a £30,000 cash investment (≈$38,000) and £220,000 in support services from Founders Factory Africa. Incubator health-tech ventures will receive £60K cash and £100K toward support.

Founders Factory Africa and Netcare will share a 5 to 10 percent equity stake in each startup accepted into the program.

Africa focused fintech startups made up the 75 percent of JP Morgan Backed Catalyst Fund’s 2019 cohort, announced in June.  The organization plans to extend 30 additional slots (open to African startup applicants) for its accelerator program that provides up to $60,000 in non-equity venture support.

IBM launched its Quantum computer program in Africa in June in a partnership with South Africa’s Wits University that will extend to 15 universities across nine countries.

Quantum — or IBM Q, as the U.S.-based company calls it — is a computer that uses quantum bits (or qubits) to top the capabilities of even the most advanced supercomputers and “tackle problems…seen as too complex and exponential in nature for classical systems to handle,” according to an IBM release.

IBM Africa will roll-out Q to Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda.

IBM Q, which operates out of IBM’s Yorktown Heights research center in New York, will be accessed from African universities via the cloud. Researchers in Africa interested in working with IBM Q  can apply online.

TechCrunch was on location in Addis Ababa to attend Startup Ethiopia and meet with entrepreneurs and hubs in the East African nation. The country of 105 million with the continent’s seventh largest economy has the workings of a budding tech scene. The biggest hurdle for Ethiopia’s startup community is the local internet situation, with mobile and IP connectivity managed by a state-owned telecom — which occasionally shuts down the net for the entire country, including last month. The government is taking steps to break up the state mobile and IP monopoly and issue teleco licenses by the end of 2019.

The digital ventures, techies, and angel investors I talked to at Startup Ethiopia were in unison on the need for better internet options. Most agreed this was step one for the country to have any chance of joining the continent’s tech standouts — such as Nigeria, Kenya, and South Africa — who lead on startup formation, VC, and exits in Africa.

More Africa-related stories @TechCrunch

African tech around the ‘net

 

 

 

South African SME finance startup Lulalend raises $6.5M Series A

South African digital lender Lulalend has raised a $6.5 million Series A round co-led by IFC and Quona Capital.

The Cape Town based startup uses an online application process and internal credit metrics to provide short-term loans to small and medium sized businesses that are often unable to obtain working capital.

Lulalend will use the round to build its tech and data team and improve its ability to reach more SMEs in South Africa, according CEO Trevor Gosling—who co-founded the startup in 2014 with Neil Welman.

“The biggest thing is strengthening our balance sheet so we can access traditional debt funding to grow our loan book,” Gosling told TechCrunch on a call.

On the market for Lulalend’s business, Gosling highlighted IFC numbers indicating a $23 billion financing gap for South Africa’s SME’s—which are estimated to contribute 34 percent of the GDP for the country of 56 million.

Lulalend’s loan sizes range from around $1500 (≈ 20,000 South African Rand) up to $70,000, for 6 to 12 month tenors, requiring monthly payments of one-sixth or one-twelfth the total loan with monthly costs of 2 to 6 percent.

The most common loan is around $10,000 (≈ 148,000 Rand) over a 6 month term for a cost over principal of roughly $1700, according to Gosling.

Lulalend loan terms

SMEs can apply online and need a bank account to receive a loan disbursement. A high percentage of Lulalend’s approvals are processed automatically—without requiring manual due diligence—using the company’s proprietary credit scoring tech.

Loans by sector for the startup run pretty evenly across online commerce companies, manufacturing and distribution type businesses, and professional and business services firms.

Lula 197 2Lulalend does not release info on revenue or loan portfolio size, but Gosling said the company has a loss-rate below 4 percent and has reached profitability—something confirmed in the round due diligence process.

The startup has an internal data-base, developer team, and operates on Microsoft’s Azure cloud services. Co-Founder Neil Welman is the company’s CTO and brings previous experience in financial credit risk analysis.

“When we set up the company the biggest piece within the automation that we’ve had to solve for is the underwriting component and ability to score companies,” Gosling said.

That internal ability to assess loan risk and process loan applications (largely) straight through is how Lulalend is able to serve an under-served SME market. For many big South African banks, that require traditional due diligence and collateral, booking small loans doesn’t make economic sense, according to Gosling.

“With a very manual credit process and little automation, it doesn’t make…it….profitable to do $5000 loans,” he said.

As part of the $6.5 million Series A, investor Quona Capital (which is sponsored by fintech organization Accion) will join LulaLend’s board.

On why the fund invested in the startup, “We believe Lulalend’s tech-enabled scoring, combined with their ability to provide funding in a quick and transparent way, has the potential to…catalyze SME growth in South Africa,” said Quona Capital Partner Johan Bosini.

LulaLend co-founder Trevor Gosling said the the startup could consider expansion in the future but will remain focused on South Africa for now.

On long-term performance goals for the startup, he named generating revenue and lending volume as the primary target. “What we’re trying to achieve is building a $100 million loan book as quickly as possible and that’s what this raise is assisting us with,” he said.

“We believe if you build a quality business opportunities will present themselves, whether it’s through a strategic partnership or an IPO or whatever makes sense at that time.”

Gosling said Lulalend is also keeping its door opened to partnerships with big banks or telcos to provide access to finance to greater numbers of South Africa’s SMEs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The changing nature of venture capital

SoftBank and Andreesen Horowitz (a16z) recently announced new funds that reinforce the increasing scale of the venture industry. SoftBank announced its intent to raise a second Vision Fund through a public offering, a first for any venture firm. A16z announced two new funds, an early-stage $750 million fund and a growth-stage $2 billion fund.

A16z is the latest firm to launch a family of funds, four in the past 18 months totaling $3.5 billion, including the earlier announced Bio and Crypto funds. A16z joins GGV, Lightspeed and Sequoia as firms that have raised families of funds that cover specific sectors, stages or countries. In the last 18 months, Sequoia has raised nine funds, with nearly $9 billion committed; Lightspeed four funds for nearly $3 billion; and GGV four funds with $1.8 billion.

These funds and others like them will change the nature of venture capital. Venture is no longer a cottage industry where partners sit around a conference table on Mondays meeting companies and discussing which to support. Venture no longer operates as a collection of individual practitioners like a dental clinic. Venture firms are moving from job shops to scaled organizations with an armada of specialists in human resources, marketing, finance, engineering, legal and investor relations to support their investment and fundraising activity. Once firms with just a few partners, SoftBank, Sequoia and GGV now have teams of hundreds of people working to support continual fund raising, origination and portfolio development in the United States and abroad.

Funding startups is an inherently local business.

Investment banking and private equity firms provide a road map for how the venture capital may develop. The leading investment banks and private equity firms were closely held partnerships for many decades, before increasing capital intensity required a change of corporate structure. Founded in 1914, Merrill Lynch, a securities brokerage firm, was considered an interloper in the cloistered investment banking world. But as more capital entered public securities markets, securities trading houses such as Merrill Lynch encroached on Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Lehman and Kuhn Loeb, which then dominated highly profitable investment banking.

A wave of consolidation followed as partnerships gave way to full-service investment banks armed with capital to backstop their lucrative mergers and acquisition and financing practices. Founded in 1854, Lehman acquired Kuhn Loeb in 1977, which was then acquired by American Express in 1984, combining Lehman’s banking practice with Shearson’s brokerage business. The last bulge bracket investment banking partnerships Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs went public in 1993 and 1999, respectively.

Private equity firms soon followed. Like investment banks, partnerships prevailed in private equity. But as their appetite for capital grew to finance ever-larger acquisitions, private equity tapped the public markets for larger, more stable capital. Today, the five largest private equity firms are all public. Apollo Global Management, a PE firm now with $250 billion under management, went public in 2004. Blackstone, the largest PE firm, with $470 billion under management, followed with an IPO in 2007. Carlyle, KKR and Ares soon followed with public offerings.

Venture capital has been insulated from the capital intensity that fueled consolidation of the investment banking and private equity industries. Funding startups is an inherently local business. Technology innovation has historically been capital-efficient as early technology leaders such as Microsoft and Oracle went public after raising less than $20 million in private funding. And venture is a risky, volatile business, where profits vary substantially, failure rate is high and returns are highly cyclical.

Innovation is costlier as entrepreneurs and investors seek to disrupt rather than enable industries.

But like the investment banking and private equity industries, venture capital is becoming more capital-intensive. Innovation is costlier as entrepreneurs and investors seek to disrupt rather than enable industries.  Startups require more capital to achieve escape velocity with the ever-present, growing threat from technology incumbents. Startups are moving into new industries competing with larger incumbents. And “lean startups” that rely more on company-building services offered by their investors are not “lean” for venture firms that must build out service capacity in talent acquisition, sales, product marketing and finance to accelerate venture growth. Today, staff devoted to supporting startup development often exceeds investment professionals in large venture firms.

The venture industry is highly fragmented, with more than 200 venture firms in Silicon Valley alone. Hundreds of venture firms are starting in cities and countries that were previously considered deserts for technology innovation. The venture industry is likely to consolidate significantly in the next decade as funding confers greater advantage to large venture investors.

A few boutique investment banks and private equity firms have withstood the scale and capital advantages of bulge bracket firms. Similarly, seed and early-stage venture firms will resist SoftBank-style institutionalization. Venture firms with expertise in specific technologies, industry sectors or geographic markets will still produce superior returns. However, capital intensity is rising. The venture industry will ultimately be dominated by a few global venture firms supported by independent seed and early-stage funds with proprietary access to high-potential startups.

VCs are failing diverse founders; Elizabeth Warren wants to step in

Elizabeth Warren, who earlier this year confirmed her intent to run for president in 2020, has an ambitious plan to advance entrepreneurs of color.

In a series of tweets published this morning, the Massachusetts senator proposed a $7 billion Small Business Equity Fund to provide grants to Black, Latinx, Native American and other minority entrepreneurs, if she’s elected president. The initiative will be covered by her “Ultra-Millionaire Tax,” a two-cent tax on every dollar of wealth above $50 million the presidential hopeful first outlined in January.

The fund would be managed by the Department of Economic Development, a new government entity to be constructed under the Warren administration. With a goal of creating and defending American jobs, the Department of Economic Development would replace the Commerce Department and “subsume other agencies like the Small Business Administration and the Patent and Trademark Office, and include research and development programs, worker training programs, and export and trade authorities like the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative,” Warren explained.

The Small Business Equity Fund will exclusively issue grant funding to entrepreneurs eligible to apply for the Small Business Administration’s existing 8(a) program and who have less than $100,000 in household wealth, aiming to provide capital to 100,000 new minority-owned businesses, creating 1.1 million new jobs.

Founders of color receive a disproportionate amount of venture capital funding. There’s insufficient data on the topic, but research from digitalundivided published last year suggests the median amount of funding raised by black women, for example, is $0. According to the same study, black women have raised just .0006% of all tech venture funding since 2009.

Startups founded by all-female teams, despite efforts to level the playing field for female entrepreneurs, raised just 2.2% of venture capital investment in 2018.

VCs are a majority white and male. Plus, they have a proven tendency to invest their capital into entrepreneurs who look like them or who resemble founders that were previously successful. In other words, VCs are continuously on the hunt for the next Mark Zuckerberg .

“Even if we fully close the startup capital gap, deep systemic issues will continue to tilt the playing field,” Warren wrote. “86% of venture capitalists are white, and studies show that investors are more likely to partner with entrepreneurs who look like them. This tilts the field against entrepreneurs of color. So I plan to address this disparity head on too. I will require states and cities administering my new Fund to work with diverse investment managers—putting $7 billion in the hands of minority-and women-owned managers.”

Warren this morning also announced plans to “direct” federal pension and retirement funds to recruit diverse investment managers and to require states and cities administering the Small Business Equity Fund to work with diverse investment managers. Finally, Warren, again, if elected, will triple the budget of the Minority Business Development Agency, which helps entrepreneurs of color access funding networks and business advice .

Warren, throughout her campaign for the presidency, has made a number of critiques of the tech industry.

In March, the senator announced her plan to break up big tech.

“Twenty-five years ago, Facebook, Google, and Amazon didn’t exist,” Warren wrote. “Now they are among the most valuable and well-known companies in the world. It’s a great story — but also one that highlights why the government must break up monopolies and promote competitive markets.”

Flash Sale! Buy a mobility startup package, get one for free at Disrupt SF

Check your calendars, mobility startup fans. It’s only five short weeks until TC Sessions: Mobility 2019 goes down in San Jose. Get ready to dive into the current state of mobility, challenge assumptions, put hyperbole in its place and help shape the future of these rapidly evolving technologies.

And if you want to expose your early-stage mobility startups to mobility’s brightest, most influential founders, technologists and investors, take advantage of this limited-time flash sale. When you buy a demo table at TC Sessions: Mobility you’ll get a free Startup Alley Exhibitor Package at Disrupt San Francisco 2019*. And guess what — in addition to a demo space, both events’ startup packages come with three attendee tickets!

This double-demo opportunity comes to a grinding halt on Friday, June 7 at 11:59 pm (PT) and is exclusively for early-stage mobility startups. Don’t miss your chance to showcase your company to thousands of attendees at Disrupt SF — at substantial savings. Seriously, this deal puts the “expo” in exposure.

As a demo table holder, you’ll also get to enjoy all the programming that it offers — we’re talking speakers, panels, workshops and demos that tackle mobility’s inherent challenges and promises. Our jam-packed agenda covers everything from autonomous vehicles and redefining urban mobility to powering electric cars and whether venture capital can drive it all — and then some. Here’s a quick peek at some of the presentations:

  • Autonomous Robotaxis vs. Shuttles — Karl Iagnemma, Alisyn Malek and Lia Theodosiou-Pisanelli represent some of the top minds trying to bring autonomous vehicle technology to the masses. They’ll debate which approaches makes the most sense and have the best chances for economic viability and which safety and security vulnerabilities and other challenges could throw them off track.
  • Rebuilding the Motor City — Ken Washington, Ford’s CTO and vice president of research and advanced engineering, will discuss how the historic automaker is rapidly changing its culture and processes while it prepares for an electric future.
  • Will Venture Capital Drive the Future of Mobility?  — Three leading early-stage investors, Michael Granoff, Ted Serbinski and Sarah Smith, will debate the uncertain future of mobility tech and whether VC dollars are enough to push the industry forward.

TC Sessions: Mobility 2019 takes place on July 10 in San Jose. Buy a demo table before Friday, June 7 at 11:59 pm (PT) to receive a 100% discount on a Startup Alley Exhibitor Package at Disrupt San Francisco 2019. Don’t miss this opportunity to double your exposure to influential movers and shakers. They might just rock your world.

*This is a limited-time offer and expires on June 7, 2019, at 11:59 pm (PT). Offer open only to early-stage, mobility startups with less than $3 million in funding. Offer cannot be combined with other discounts or promotions.

Where are all the biotech startups raising?

Where are all the biotechnology companies raising these days? We crunched some numbers to arrive at an answer.

Using funding rounds data from Crunchbase, we plotted the count of venture capital funding rounds raised by companies in the fairly expansive biotechnology category in Crunchbase. Click the chart below and you can hover over individual data points to see the number of venture rounds raised in a given metro area between the start of 2018 and late May 2019 (as of publication). Although there are biotechnology companies located throughout the world, we focused here on just the U.S.

USA_Biotech_2018-May2019

Unlike in the software-funding business, where New York City (and its surrounding area) ranks second in overall deal volume, the greater Boston metro area outranks the Big Apple in biotech venture deal volume. The SF Bay Area (which includes both San Francisco and the towns in Silicon Valley north and west of San Jose) outranks Boston in biotech deal volume, but, then again, it’s also a much larger geographic area with a higher density of startups overall.

The bio business model breeds big deals

Crunchbase News recently covered a $120 million round raised by immunotherapy upstart AlloVir. In the software business, a raise that large would be notable; however, in the business of biology, not so much.

Just for reference, the average Series B round raised by U.S. enterprise software startups between 2018 and May 2019 was about $22.7 million. The average Series B for biotech companies from that same time period: just about $40 million on the dot.

Spinning up a cluster of cells at a lab bench is costlier, harder to do and the outcomes of experiments are less certain than the results of implementing a new software framework. Add to that the tremendous cost of performing clinical trials and clearing regulatory hurdles — all before costly sales and marketing campaigns to get treatments in front of doctors and end users — and it’s easy to understand why many biotechnology companies need to raise so much money in the early stages of the startup cycle.

Startups Weekly: Will the real unicorns please stand up?

Hello and welcome back to Startups Weekly, a newsletter published every Saturday that dives into the week’s noteworthy venture capital deals, funds and trends. Before I dive into this week’s topic, let’s catch up a bit. Last week, I wrote about the sudden uptick in beverage startup rounds. Before that, I noted an alternative to venture capital fundraising called revenue-based financing. Remember, you can send me tips, suggestions and feedback to [email protected] or on Twitter @KateClarkTweets.

Here’s what I’ve been thinking about this week: Unicorn scarcity, or lack thereof. I’ve written about this concept before, as has my Equity co-host, Crunchbase News editor-in-chief Alex Wilhelm. I apologize if the two of us are broken records, but I think we’re equally perplexed by the pace at which companies are garnering $1 billion valuations.

Here’s the latest data, according to Crunchbase: “2018 outstripped all previous years in terms of the number of unicorns created and venture dollars invested. Indeed, 151 new unicorns joined the list in 2018 (compared to 96 in 2017), and investors poured more than $135 billion into those companies, a 52% increase year-over-year and the biggest sum invested in unicorns in any one year since unicorns became a thing.”

2019 has already coined 42 new unicorns, like Glossier, Calm and Hims, a number that grows each and every week. For context, a total of 19 companies joined the unicorn club in 2013 when Aileen Lee, an established investor, coined the term. Today, there are some 450 companies around the globe that qualify as unicorns, representing a cumulative valuation of $1.6 trillion. 😲

We’ve clung to this fantastical terminology for so many years because it helps us classify startups, singling out those that boast valuations so high, they’ve gained entry to a special, elite club. In 2019, however, $100 million-plus rounds are the norm and billion-dollar-plus funds are standard. Unicorns aren’t rare anymore; it’s time to rethink the unicorn framework.

Last week, I suggested we only refer to profitable companies with a valuation larger than $1 billion as unicorns. Understandably, not everyone was too keen on that idea. Why? Because startups in different sectors face barriers of varying proportions. A SaaS company, for example, is likely to achieve profitability a lot quicker than a moonshot bet on autonomous vehicles or virtual reality. Refusing startups that aren’t yet profitable access to the unicorn club would unfairly favor certain industries.

So what can we do? Perhaps we increase the valuation minimum necessary to be called a unicorn to $10 billion? Initialized Capital’s Garry Tan’s idea was to require a startup have 50% annual growth to be considered a unicorn, though that would be near-impossible to get them to disclose…

While I’m here, let me share a few of the other eclectic responses I received following the above tweet. Joseph Flaherty said we should call profitable billion-dollar companies Pegasus “since [they’ve] taken flight.” Reagan Pollack thinks profitable startups oughta be referred to as leprechauns. Hmmmm.

The suggestions didn’t stop there. Though I’m not so sure adopting monikers like Pegasus and leprechaun will really solve the unicorn overpopulation problem. Let me know what you think. Onto other news.

Image by Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

IPO corner

CrowdStrike has set its IPO terms. The company has inked plans to sell 18 million shares at between $19 and $23 apiece. At a midpoint price, CrowdStrike will raise $378 million at a valuation north of $4 billion.

Slack inches closer to direct listing. The company released updated first-quarter financials on Friday, posting revenues of $134.8 million on losses of $31.8 million. That represents a 67% increase in revenues from the same period last year when the company lost $24.8 million on $80.9 million in revenue.

Startup Capital

Online lender SoFi has quietly raised $500M led by Qatar
Groupon co-founder Eric Lefkofsky just-raised another $200M for his new company Tempus
Less than 1 year after launching, Brex eyes $2B valuation
Password manager Dashlane raises $110M Series D
Enterprise cybersecurity startup BlueVoyant raises $82.5M at a $430M valuation
Talkspace picks up $50M Series D
TaniGroup raises $10M to help Indonesia’s farmers grow
Stripe and Precursor lead $4.5M seed into media CRM startup Pico

Funds

Maveron, a venture capital fund co-founded by Starbucks mastermind Howard Schultz, has closed on another $180 million to invest in early-stage consumer startups. The capital represents the firm’s seventh fundraise and largest since 2000. To keep the fund from reaching mammoth proportions, the firm’s general partners said they turned away more than $70 million amid high demand for the effort. There’s more where that came from, here’s a quick look at the other VCs to announce funds this week:

~Extra Crunch~

This week, I penned a deep dive on Slack, formerly known as Tiny Speck, for our premium subscription service Extra Crunch. The story kicks off in 2009 when Stewart Butterfield began building a startup called Tiny Speck that would later come out with Glitch, an online game that was neither fun nor successful. The story ends in 2019, weeks before Slack is set to begin trading on the NYSE. Come for the history lesson, stay for the investor drama. Here are the other standout EC pieces of the week.

Equity

If you enjoy this newsletter, be sure to check out TechCrunch’s venture-focused podcast, Equity. In this week’s episode, available here, Crunchbase News editor-in-chief Alex Wilhelm and I debate whether the tech press is too negative or too positive in its coverage of tech startups. Plus, we dive into Brex’s upcoming round, SoFi’s massive raise and CrowdStrike’s imminent IPO.

Diving deep into Africa’s blossoming tech scene

Jumia may be the first startup you’ve heard of from Africa. But the e-commerce venture that recently listed on the NYSE is definitely not the first or last word in African tech.

The continent has an expansive digital innovation scene, the components of which are intersecting rapidly across Africa’s 54 countries and 1.2 billion people.

When measured by monetary values, Africa’s tech ecosystem is tiny by Shenzen or Silicon Valley standards.

But when you look at volumes and year over year expansion in VC, startup formation, and tech hubs, it’s one of the fastest growing tech markets in the world. In 2017, the continent also saw the largest global increase in internet users—20 percent.

If you’re a VC or founder in London, Bangalore, or San Francisco, you’ll likely interact with some part of Africa’s tech landscape for the first time—or more—in the near future.

That’s why TechCrunch put together this Extra-Crunch deep-dive on Africa’s technology sector.

Tech Hubs

A foundation for African tech is the continent’s 442 active hubs, accelerators, and incubators (as tallied by GSMA). These spaces have become focal points for startup formation, digital skills building, events, and IT activity on the continent.

Prominent tech hubs in Africa include CcHub in Nigeria, Pan-African incubator MEST, and Kenya’s iHub, with over 200 resident members. More of these organizations are receiving funds from DFIs, such as the World Bank, and aid agencies, including France’s $76 million African tech fund.

Blue-chip companies such as Google and Microsoft are also providing money and support. In 2018 Facebook opened its own Hub_NG in Lagos with partner CcHub, to foster startups using AI and machine learning.