On-demand plant food startup Simple Feast raises $33M B round to push its climate credentials

At Greta Thunberg heads back to Europe from the US after radicalizing a generation, entrepreneurs are quickly realizing that there is a zeitgeist to be gotten hold of here. With food production a major contributor to climate change, tt’s no surprise then that on-demand food startups are appearing to cater to this new audience.

Simple Feast launched its plant-based food product in early 2017 and since then has developed a fast-food range which is catching the climate and taste fashion wave.

The company has now raised a total of $33 million in a Series B round led by US-based venture capital firm 14W, with a number of other existing investors, including Europe’s Balderton Capital, which is increasing their investment in the business.

The company was partly self-funded in the beginning, then added Sweet Capital (London/Stockholm) and ByFounders (CPH/SF) as the first VCs. Later, Balderton Capital (London) and 14W (NYC) joined in the Series A and B. The total funding to date is now north of $50M.

The founders are Jakob Jønck and Thomas Ambus and Jønck was co-founder of Endomondo, acquired by MyFitnessPal.

Jønck says: “The future of food does not just belong to plants, but will be both plant-based and unprocessed. This movement is pivotal to save not only our planet, but also human health. With this investment, we can continue our journey and bring our products to more people, in existing as well as new markets, while also strengthening our R&D efforts in new food innovation.”

Simple Feast is ticking the climate agenda boxes, with packaging made solely by FSC-approved cardboard boxes, to the cooling element they use to keep the food fresh (frozen tap water in drinkable cartons) and their use of all-organic produce.

Alex Zubillaga from 14W commented: “Over the past year since first investing in Simple Feast, we have continued to be impressed by the caliber and deep operational experience of the management team that Jakob Jønck has built around him.. We believe Simple Feast has the opportunity to become a global, category-defining brand as they expand to the US early next year.”

Typical customers are meat-eating families in their 30s and 40s who are trying to cut down on their meat consumption. They are well educated, have a middle or high income and demand high quality and transparency in the food they consume. Their main competitors are restaurants, meal-kits and take-away. The idea is not to compromise on taste or quality, nor convenience or packaging.

Cybersecurity company Acronis hits unicorn status after raising $147 million led by Goldman Sachs

Cyber security solutions provider Acronis announced today that it has raised $147 million in funding led by Goldman Sachs, bringing it to unicorn status. The company did not disclose its valuation, but founder and CEO Serguei Beloussov told TechCrunch that it is between $1 billion and $2 billion.

Founded in Singapore as a data backup and recovery company in 2003 and now headquartered in Switzerland, Acronis currently has more than 1,400 employees in 18 countries. Its cyber protection technology is used by 5 million consumers and 500,000 businesses.

Beloussov says this is the first time the company has raised capital. In 2004, Acronis sold part of its business to an outside firm in a secondary transaction for $11 million. Since then it has been profitable, but it is now aiming for very rapid growth, targeting $1 billion in revenue by 2022. The company wants to take advantage of increasing demand for cybersecurity solutions by expanding its research and development teams and making several acquisitions in the cybersecurity space.

In a statement, Holger Staude, the vice president of Goldman Sachs Growth, said “We are excited to invest in Acronis at this stage of rapid growth. The traditional backup and data protection market is being disrupted by Acronis Cyber Protection, an innovative solution delivered efficiently through a vast channel of service providers.”

Acronis’ products include Cyber Protection to safeguard data, a platform that allows third-party developers to integrate Acronis’ technology into their own applications and Cyber Cloud, which enables enterprise IT to deliver Acronis’ cyber protection services to end customers. It plans to grow its product roster by acquiring companies that protect applications it doesn’t already support. Beloussov says that the company will also add long-term protection for applications and data and integrate more data destinations.

“We are growing because we have completely changed the company strategy from being a data protection company to a cyber protection company, from data protection applications to being a cyber protection platform, and being a data protection provider to building a cyber protection infrastructure,” says Beloussov, adding that demand is being driven by three trends.

The first is the increasing adoption of edge computing and end point computing, which means more devices outside of data centers need to be protected. The second is the increasing sophistication of cyber crime. Companies need to protect themselves against attacks, but also be prepared to perform recovery and forensics when they happen. The third is the cost of protecting large amounts of data, meaning providers who are able to offer the lowest pricing gain an advantage.

Beloussov says Acronis differentiates from other data backup and security companies, like Veeam or Carbonite, by providing a comprehensive solution that addresses what Acronis refers to as the “Five Sectors of Cyber Protection”: safety, accessibility, privacy, authenticity and security of data. By being able to rely on one provider for more of their cybersecurity needs, companies can save money. Acronis also has a flexible business model, allowing customers to combine its products in a way that saves on costs, Beloussov adds.

“We have very aggressive plans and hope to provide cyber protection for as many workloads, customers and people as possible,” Beloussov says.

Normative closes a $2.1M seed to help companies automate carbon reporting

Normative, a startup that lets companies automate their carbon reporting — and in turn help them decrease their environmental footprint — has picked up $2.1 million in seed funding.

Backing the Stockholm-based company is ByFounders, with participation from Soundcloud co-founder Eric Wahlforss, Luminar Ventures, and Wave Ventures.

The modest injection of capital will be used by Normative to “accelerate growth” and expand to key markets in the EU and the U.S.

Billed as wanting to become the “Quickbook of carbon reporting,” Normative is a SaaS that plugs into various data — both a company’s internal systems and external databases on the environmental impact of good and services. It then automatically calculates carbon usage and emissions for reporting purposes, which is traditionally a time consuming and costly process. Existing clients include Summa Equity, Bonava and Ikano.

“It is widely recognized that corporate activities are by far the largest contributor to climate change,” Normative co-founder and CEO Kristian Rönn tells TechCrunch. “To use my own country as a case study, H&M, Ericsson and Electrolux reportedly have larger CO2 emissions than the entire population of Sweden put together. This highlights the reality that in order to mitigate climate change, large companies need to mitigate their emissions”.

However, Rönn says that the first step to mitigating climate change is for companies to measure their climate impact, but only around 5,000 companies of an estimated 200 million companies are thought to measure sustainability at all. To make matters worse, even when carbon emissions are measured, companies typically only include emissions that are easy to track, such as electricity and car fuel consumption, which is estimated to be less than 10% of total company emissions. Missing in much of the data is supply chain emissions, transport, travel, and the production of goods and services.

Which, of course, is where Normative steps in.

“Normative helps large companies to go from mapping 10% of their CO2 to mapping 100% of their emissions for every product, service and activity, by reading data directly from their existing business systems e.g. SAP, Oracle, Microsoft, Visma etc.,” explains Rönn. “Moreover, sustainability reporting has been completely inaccessible for the small enterprise segment (who would afford to pay $50k-200k per year?), but Normative makes the whole process 10x times cheaper”.

product report

The timing looks good, too. With movements like Extinction Rebellion and a regulatory, shareholder and consumer push for companies to improve their environmental footprint, carbon reporting is becoming more mandatory. In Europe this includes an EU directive stipulating that all large public companies with more than 500 employees must “disclose certain information on the way they operate and manage social and environmental challenges”. Rönn says similar laws are underway also in the U.S.

Adds the Normative co-founder: “Sustainability reporting is a pain and a huge cost in time and money. However, more and more stakeholders — everything from investors to consumers as well as the legislative sector — demands transparency about companies’ unpaid externalities. Recently many large investors have signed the UN PRI, saying that they will look at sustainability data and comprehensive reporting when they invest”.

Festicket enables group festival bookings with ‘Pay with Friends’

Festicket, the U.K.-headquartered festival booking platform, is launching a new feature that allows users to pay for festival tickets as a group.

Described as removing the the pain of being the lead booker, “Pay with Friends” lets a single user reserve tickets for a whole group while only having to pay for part of the payment up-front. The other members of the group then have 48 hours to pay their individual part, whereby the booking is confirmed.

Notably, however, if this doesn’t happen there is a small non-refundable deposit charged to the lead booker to reserve the booking.

The idea is to avoid a situation that doubtless many of us have found ourselves in when trying to organise a group event or vacation, including attending a festival. This typically sees one person drawing the short straw and having to organise, book and pay for the trip. The new Festicket feature goes someway to mitigating this.

“Pay with Friends aims to reduce pressure on the lead booker by sharing the payment immediately with the rest of the group through a simple, fast and easy-to-use solution,” says Festicket.

The new feature was born out of the popularity of group bookings on Festicket, with around 60% of festival-goers attending as a group of more than three, and 20% more than six, according to a survey carried out by the company.

The macro trend is that festivals have become a popular alternative to group holidays with international festival travel increasing by 400% over the past 5 years, says Festicket.

Adds Jonathan Younes, CPO and co-founder of Festicket, in a statement: “It’s great to be able to offer our fans the option to Pay with Friends finally. We’ve created a fair solution that guarantees fans won’t be left out of pocket just because they’re the organised one out of their friends! We’ll continue to add features like this to the Festicket product to make sure all our customers have the best possible booking experience”.

GoCardless launches U.S. debit payments solution and opens San Francisco office

GoCardless, the London fintech that aims to become the one-stop shop globally for businesses that want to let customers pay via recurring bank payments, has launched a U.S. debit solution.

The company has also opened an office across the pond in San Francisco’s financial district, headed up by Andrew Gilboy, General Manager, North America, who was previously the company’s Chief Revenue Officer.

Specifically, GoCardless’ new U.S. product supports debit payments on the ACH (Automated Clearing House) network. This means that businesses can use the GoCardless platform to offer U.S. consumers the option to pay by recurring bank payments, as an alternative to a credit card, for example. Likewise, companies can use GoCardless for debit payments for B2B transactions, such as relating to SaaS subscriptions, invoices or instalments.

It is the B2B use case where GoCardless thinks there is the biggest opportunity for recurring payments, since, unlike in the U.K., for example, the biggest competitor would be writing cheques. That’s costly and slow by 2019 standards and doesn’t provide anything like the visibility that direct debits and ACH affords.

“By using the ACH debit network on the GoCardless platform, merchants can pull payments directly from their customers’ bank accounts, at a lower cost than credit cards and without the overhead and burden of cash and cheques,” says the U.K.-headquartered company.

GoCardless adds that businesses using the GoCardless ACH debit solution gain increased visibility over payment flow via a “fully automated” collection system. This includes things like due dates, and whether or not a payment was successful or failed and why.

The addition of ACH debit means that GoCardless’ global debit network now covers over 30 countries accessible through a single API and platform.

Meanwhile, the 2011-founded company is no stranger to the West coast of America. In its formative years, the U.K. startup went through Silicon Valley accelerator Y Combinator where it initially struggled to find product-market fit before successfully pivoting to recurring payments.

If you happen to bump into GoCardless CEO Hiroki Takeuchi, ask him about the time he and his co-founders stayed up all night working the phones in a bid to win the startup’s first U.K. customers, lest they have nothing to show at YC Demo Day.

Now backed by the likes of Google Ventures, Salesforce, and Accel, amongst others, the company has come a long way since then.

Macron announces €5 billion late-stage investment pledge from institutional investors

French president Emmanuel Macron announced in a speech ahead of France Digitale Day that the French government has convinced institutional investors to invest more heavily in late-stage VC funds and asset managers in one way or another. Institutional investors have committed to investing $5.5 billion (€5 billion).

“We’ll have €2 billion that will go in so-called late-stage funds and €3 billion for funds managed by asset managers specialized in tech,” Macron said.

In addition to that financial pledge, the French government wants to break down any hurdle that prevents French startups from raising $100 million+ funding round in France, becoming a unicorn and eventually going public.

A couple of years ago, Macron gave a speech at Viva Technology in Paris. It was the first time he addressed the startup community after his election. At the time, I wrote: “Macron wanted to send a message to the startup community — he still cares about technology very much, thank you for asking.”

Since then, the French tech ecosystem has thrived, but without any radical policy change to shake things up. But today marks a departure as it’s all about startups, startups and startups.

“I’m talking about the jobs of tomorrow” Emmanuel Macron

It’s clear that Macron believes that startups represent a huge opportunity when it comes to job creation, competitiveness and reshaping the economic landscape in France. In other words, according to him, if you help startups thrive, it’s going to trickle down all the way and have positive impacts on your neighbor who has never used a computer in her life.

Some will applaud such a move, others will say that it divides society.

“When I talk about startup funding, I talk about the ability to help those startups succeed,” Macron said. “I’m talking about the jobs of tomorrow. And I’m saying that for many French citizens who think that those are only financial numbers.”

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(Photo Credit: Aliocha Boi)

Financing hypergrowth

So here’s Macron’s plan. First, French VC funds have been good when it comes to funding startups at the seed, Series A and sometimes Series B level. But many startups then look for international investors for late-stage rounds. For instance, just last week, Akeneo raised $46 million in a round led by Summit Partners, a Boston-based VC firm.

“Numbers show that we’re getting there, and I want to start from there,” Macron said. “The goal when it comes to technology is that we should be one of the countries that matter. Fundraising from French startups keep setting new records — we had $3.1 billion in fundraising in 2017, $4 billion in 2018 and $5.5 billion in 2019 probably.”

Following a report from Philippe Tibi, the French government has been working on a way to foster late-stage funds and investments in public tech companies in France. “We managed to rally big insurance companies, asset managers and long-term public investment funds,” a source close to Macron told me.

Private companies, such as Axa, Generali and Allianz, as well as public investors, such as EDF, Caisse des Dépôts, the pension reserve fund, are all going to invest in late-stage VC. Overall, two-thirds of them are private companies, one-third of them are public institutions, according to the source.

They’ll have three ways to invest and take part in the initiative:

  • If they have their own VC fund, they can create a new late-stage fund.
  • If they are limited partners in various VC funds, they can invest in late-stage funds managed by third-party teams.
  • If they don’t know anything about venture capital, they can invest in a special fund of funds managed by Bpifrance. Bpifrance will then select various late-stage funds and invest that money in those funds.

Eventually, the French government hopes that there will be at least 10 French VC firms with a late-stage fund above €1 billion. By pushing them to redirect some of their investments in VC, the French government thinks that they’ll invest more regularly in venture capital in the future.

When it comes to going public, the French government wants to make European stock exchanges more attractive. They're hoping the new influx of late-stage cash will convince banks and other financial institutions that manage huge positions in tech companies to create local teams in Paris.

Attracting foreign VCs too

French startups still want to become global players and the French government is well aware of that. And foreign VCs shouldn’t be at odds with French VC firms.

That’s why the French government also invited around 40 partners of venture capital firms and limited partners for a couple of days in Paris this week. They’ll meet key people in the ecosystem as well as promising startups.

I covered the first edition of this tour last year. The message was clear: Foreign VC firms should think about investing in French startups. Some are already doing it while others never thought about it. And the thing is nobody wants to be the first one to invest in something new, but nobody wants to be the last one, either.

This year, the French government is inviting a new batch of foreign investors from Khosla Ventures, Accel, Andreessen Horowitz, etc. There are more Asian investors in the mix this time round.

But Macron said that France should control its own destiny when it comes to startup funding. “When I talk about sovereignty, I deeply believe in that concept. It’s a politically-charged word, but I think it’s at the heart of your approach. I believe in technological and economical sovereignty,” Macron said.

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(Photo Credit: Aliocha Boi)

Transforming La French Tech

The French Tech Mission, also known as La French Tech, is a government-backed initiative that promotes French startups around the world and provides a few services to help startups.

And the government is going to overhaul the French Tech Mission drastically. This is as significant as the late-stage funding news. In addition to the small core team, every French ministry and administration will have a French Tech correspondent — Urssaf, INPI, AFNOR, Banque de France, customs, etc. Eventually, there will be 150 people spread out across the entire government working in some way or another for French startups.

“We’re not alone, we get to coordinate with everyone,” French Tech Mission director Kat Borlongan told me. “The overarching announcement is that France is going all in.”

La French Tech is going to become a one-stop shop for tech startups to overcome any administrative hurdle. La French Tech is going to pick 40 (and later 120) top-performing startups and give them the label Next40 and French Tech 120 — a play on words with the CAC40 and SBF 120 stock indexes. Those companies will automatically be able to access this fast-track administrative system — every startup will get a representative for their particular needs. This special treatment proves that startups have become a center piece of France’s economic policies.

“The coolest thing is that they can ask us for anything: ‘I’m about to do bizdev in China’, ‘I’m launching a rocket and I need to test it on a space facility’ or ‘I’m hiring 50 people and I need them and all their families here’,” Borlongan told me.

All companies that are unicorns or have raised more than €100 million are automatically in the Next40. Then, the government is looking at growth rate and annual turnover to find the most promising 40 and 120 startups.

“I’ll leave you with a goal: there should be 25 [French] unicorns by 2025,” Macron said at the end of his speech.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Holidu raises €40M Series C for its holiday rentals search engine

Holidu, the Munich-headquartered holiday rentals search engine that is now active in 21 country markets, has raised €40 million in Series C funding.

The round was led by Prime Ventures, with participation from coparion and MairDuMont Ventures. Existing investors, including EQT Ventures, Venture Stars, Senovo and business angel Chris Hitchen, also followed on.

Founded in 2014 by siblings Johannes and Michael Siebers after they say they had a frustrating experience trying to book a vacation rental for a surfing trip in Portugal, Holidu’s search engine lets you easily search for and book holiday accommodation.

Claiming to use proprietary image recognition technology, Holidu compares the prices of more than 15 million rental properties across 600 different websites including Airbnb, Booking.com and Homeaway. This enables users to save “up to 55%” on their booking by automatically spotting price differences for the same property across various listings.

“Many of the sites offer the same rentals but at different prices,” Holidu co-founder and CEO Johannes Siebers told TechCrunch back in 2016. “Also, there is a large rate of rejected bookings as the different sites don’t synchronize calendars with each other and properties get double-booked. For consumers it is impossible to gain a transparent overview”.

To help solve this, Holidu has also developed a service for holiday property owners. Dubbed “Bookiply,” it offers a single interface to list properties on the largest travel websites, including synchronizing calendars, creating multilingual descriptions and sourcing professional photography. In addition, Bookiply’s team handles traveler communication.

Holidu says that Bookiply already manages 5,000 properties and claims it is the market leader in several European leisure destinations. “The focus is on property owners who are not yet online or whose digital presence can be optimised,” says the company.

Meanwhile, to boost growth, last year Holidu acquired its Spanish competitor Hundredrooms. The startup now claims 10 million visitors per month and says it will use the Series C funding for product development (both the Holidu website and the Bookiply software). It will also grow its Holidu partners and sign up more property owners to Bookiply. To achieve this, the company says it plans to open multiple regional offices.

Startup Battlefield Berlin applications extended by one week

Missed the deadline to apply for Startup Battlefield at Disrupt Berlin 2019? We get it. Founder life is tough. Well guess what, we’re extending applications by one week. The extension ends September 27th at 11:59pm (PT). It’s time to buckle down and apply to the Startup Battlefield right now!

It’s easy and free to apply. Add your startup name to the mix to see if you are one of the chosen few to launch on the prestigious TechCrunch Disrupt Stage – equity free price money, global exposure and the best place to launch your startup this December. Selected teams will receive intensive pitch coaching from TechCrunch editors and the Startup Battlefield team. They’ll train you, grill you and get you ready for the big competition. All selected teams will gain access to private VIP events, participation in CrunchMatch: TechCrunch’s investor startup matching program, and complimentary exhibition space with event passes. Companies will pitch on stage for six minutes followed by a six minute Q&A in front of a panel of elite judges.

The judges then select the top few companies to compete in a final round where companies will pitch to a new set of judges, followed by an even more intense Q&A. One team will win the coveted Disrupt Cup trophy, the attention of international press and investors and, of course, a $50,000 in equity-free cash prize money..

The Startup Battlefield is one of the best platforms for launching your early-stage startup to the world’s “technorati.” We live-stream the entire event on TechCrunch.com, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. Plus, it’s available later on-demand.

Need more convincing? Consider these stats and you’ll see it’s not hyperbole, people. In 12 years of Battlefields, 857 companies have competed and form the Startup Battlefield alumni community. Those startups, including the likes of JukeDeck, N26, Vurb, Dropbox, Mint, Yammer and more, have collectively raised more than $8.9 billion in funding and generated 112 exits.

Don’t miss out on this reprieve! Apply to the Startup Battlefield before the new deadline expires on September 27th at 11:59pm.

While you’re in application mode, why not apply for our TC Top Picks program, too? TC Top Pick designees receive a free Startup Alley Exhibitor Package, VIP treatment and plenty of media and investor exposure.

Canal+ will bundle Netflix subscriptions in France

Canal+ wants to provide an alternative to the great unbundling of video streaming services. France’s leading pay-TV group announced that it will sell Netflix subscriptions starting on October 15.

Instead of having to subscribe to multiple different services, Canal+ hopes that customers are looking for the ability to pay a monthly subscription for multiple services at once. This strategy is somewhat similar to Amazon Prime Video Channels and Apple TV Channels in the U.S.

People who subscribe to Canal+ for €20 per month (or €10 per month if you’re under 26) will be able to add a package of movies and TV shows for another €15 per month.

This package contains a standard Netflix subscription that lets you stream content in HD on two devices at once, which usually costs €12 per month in France. In addition to Netflix, you can also access OCS, which includes all HBO content and various live TV channels and on-demand content.

Overall, you get a ton of original content from Canal+, Netflix and HBO for €35 per month. But Canal+ already says that the package that includes Netflix won’t cost €15 forever. You can expect a price hike at some point in the coming months.

Canal+ provides its own set-top box and also has distribution deals with all major telecommunications companies in France. But even after launching an over-the-top offering that doesn’t require a set-top box, Canal+ has been steadily losing subscribers over the past few years. Netflix says that it currently has 6 million subscribers in France.

Over the past few years, Canal+ has been operating a shift from live TV to on-demand streaming. In addition to its usual TV channels with a mix of live sports, movies and TV shows, you can now stream movies and TV shows from a popular iOS and Android app called myCanal.

Canal+ customers who have a Canal+ set-top box will also be able to add the new package with Netflix. If you’re an existing Netflix subscribers, you’ll be able to link your Netflix account with your Canal+ account to tell Netflix that you’re already paying through Canal+ and stop Netflix billing. It’s still unclear whether Netflix content will be available in the myCanal app.