Norwegian corporate training startup Attensi raises $26M from NYC’s Lugard Road, DX Ventures

Corporate training startup Attensi — which originally emerged out of Oslo, Norway — has raised $26 million from New York-based Lugard Road Capital, DX Ventures (a VC fund backed by Delivery Hero), and existing shareholder Viking Venture. The new funding will be used to expand in North America and Europe.

Attensi uses a ‘gamified approach to corporate training, putting employees into 3D simulations of their workplace and work processes. Its competitors include companies like GoSkills, Mindflash SAP Litmos Skilljar.

With the pandemic shifting all office work to remote, digital training platforms like this stand to benefit.

This is also yet another recent example of how US VCs are ‘going hunting’ for startups in Europe, putting pressure on local VCs.

Attensi co-founder and co-CEO, Trond Aas said in a statement: “With gamified simulation training, we have combined the best of workplace psychology with our expertise in simulations and gamification to create a new category of training solutions.”

The company claims it’s experienced a 63% CAGR in annual recurring revenue. Its clients include Daimler Mercedes Benz, Circle K, Equinor, BCG, and ASDA.

Doug Friedman, a partner at Lugard Road Capital, said: “We could not be more excited to be investing in the Attensi team as they work to forever change and improve corporate learning and development through their Attensi solutions.”

The Robinhood competitor landscape intensifies as Invstr raises $20M

One of the biggest gripes about investing apps is that they are not acting responsibly by not educating users properly and allegedly letting them fend for themselves. This can result in people losing a lot of money, as evidenced by the number of lawsuits against Robinhood.

Today, an eight-year-old company that has been focused on nothing but financial education is now offering trading and banking services in the U.S..

Over the years, London-based Invstr has built out an educational platform with features such as an investing Academy. It’s created a Fantasy Finance game, which gives users the ability to manage a virtual $1 million portfolio so they can learn more about the markets before risking their own money for real. Via social gamification, Invstr has set out to make the educational process fun.

It has also built a community around users so they can learn from each other (something another Robinhood competitor Gatsby is also doing).

Over 1 million users have downloaded the platform globally.

Invstr, according to CEO and founder Kerim Derhalli, is taking a different approach from competitors by offering education and learning tools upfront. And in addition to giving users the ability to make commission-free stock trades, it’s also giving them a way to digitally bank and invest using their Invstr+ accounts “without ever needing to move money from one place to another.”

Invstr takes it all a step further for subscribers who have access to an “Invstr Score,” performance stats and behavioral analytics among other things.

Derhalli said moving in this direction with the company was part of his business plan from day one.

“I think the most powerful trend in the U.S. is self directed investing,” Derhalli told TechCrunch. “Younger generations have grown up in an app world and they expect to be autonomous and do things for themselves. Many distrust the banking system, and they don’t want to follow in their parents’ footsteps when it comes to banking and finance. We think this is a massive opportunity.”

In the unveiling of its new offerings, Invstr also announced Wednesday that it has closed on a $20 million Series A in the form of a convertible offering. This builds upon $20 million it previously raised across two seed rounds from investors such as Ventura Capital, Finberg, European angel investor Jari Ovaskainen and Rick Haythornthwaite, former global chairman of Mastercard.

Derhalli said he felt compelled to found Invstr after seeing firsthand how a lack of knowledge and confidence can prevent individuals from starting to invest. He worked for three decades in senior leadership roles at Deutsche Bank, Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch and JPMorgan before founding Invstr “so that anyone, anywhere could learn how to invest.”

Invstr is offering its new investing services in partnership with Apex Clearing, which formerly provided execution and settlement services to Robinhood. Its digital banking services are being offered through a partnership with Vast Bank. To address the security piece, Invstr said its user data is also protected by technology from Okta.

The company, which also has offices in New York and Istanbul, plans to use the new capital to launch new brokerage and analytics tools and a portfolio builder.

Kahoot picks up $215M from SoftBank for its user-generated, gamified e-learning platform

After announcing a modest $28 million raise earlier this year, the user-generated gamified e-learning platform Kahoot today announced a much bigger round to double down on the current surge in demand for remote education.

The Norwegian startup — which has clocked 1.3 billion “participating players” since launching in 2013 — has picked up $215 million from SoftBank, specifically by way of a “private placement to a subsidiary of SoftBank Group Corp., through issuance of 43,000,000 new shares.” The placement was made at 46 Norwegian Krone per share, working out to NOK1,978 million (or $215 million), and the funding will be used for acquisitions and also to continue its expansion.

Kahoot is traded on the Merkur Market in Oslo — a stepping stone between being a fully private startup and a publicly-listed company — and today the company is trading more than 15% up on the news. At market open today, it was valued at NOK22.2 billion, or about $2.4 billion — so by the end of the day that market cap is likely to have gone up as a result of today’s investment.

“Kahoot! is experiencing strong momentum and accelerated adoption as enterprises increasingly seek engaging, trustworthy and user-friendly ways to build corporate culture, educate and interact,” the company noted in a statement. “|At the same time, schools and educators are looking to enhance the learning experience, whether virtually or in the classroom. The Company intends to use the net proceeds from the Private Placement to finance accelerated growth through value-creating non-organic opportunities and continue to build a unique platform company.”

We are reaching out to SoftBank for a direct comment on the news — which was announced by Kahoot in the briefest of terms necessary for disclosure as a publicly-traded company — and will update as we learn more.

The startup has been building a two-pronged business: first, a platform aimed at school children to build and use, and browse and use other’s online learning content; and second, a platform where corporates can build, use, and use other’s corporate training materials. The former puts an emphasis on free usage, while the latter is a paid product.

In both cases, Kahoot’s content is built around the idea of gamification — learning designed as games — to make the process more fun and engaging. It has described itself as the “Netflix of Education” — but I think of it a little more like YouTube, because of the user-generated element of a lot of the material.

The company has been hugely successful in its model so far. It says that it has had 1.3 billion participating players, and 200 million games played with 100 million user-generated Kahoots in the last 12 months.

As a point of comparison, last month, when it announced an acquisition to boost its corporate learning business — it bought an enterprise engagement platform called Actimo for about $33 million — it said that it had counted some 1 billion “participating players,” on top of some 4.4 billion users since first launching the platform in 2013.

SoftBank is not the company’s first high-profile investor. Other backers in the company include Microsoft and Disney, as well as the well-known regional VCs Northzone and Creandum.

Headspace appoints former Intuit exec CeCe Morken as president and COO

As it looks to continue along its path of developing clinically validated digital therapeutics for consumer and clinical mental health and wellness, Headspace has bulked up its executive team with the addition of longtime Intuit executive, CeCe Morken.

Morken will become the company’s first president and chief operating officer, joining the Los Angeles based, billion-dollar-valued, mental wellness after spending thirteen years at Intuit .

She previously served as Executive Vice President and General Manager of that company’s strategic partner group.

Morken has spent the past thirty five years at technology companies and will be reporting directly to the company’s co-founder and chief executive, Rich Pierson.

Her operational experience will come in handy as Headspace continues to develop both commercial and clinical products to bring to market, Pierson said.

“We are thrilled to welcome to CeCe, a team-oriented and purpose-driven leader, to the Headspace team,” said Pierson in a statement. “We feel so lucky that the company is in a position to attract someone with the deep experience that CeCE has in scaling world-class organizations.”

While on the surface there may not appear to be much similarity between a massive, decades-old accounting software development behemoth and a ten-year-old startup which has made its name focused on mental wellness, Pierson said that as Headspace expands it would require the skills that Morken developed over decades in operational roles at her previous company.

Headspace is already a giant in the mental wellness category. It counts over 62 million users around the world and its Headspace for work service is being rolled out as a service for employees at companies like Adobe, General Electric, Hyatt, and Starbucks. The company has research underway in over ten clinical trials to move from mental wellness into the digital health category, under its Headspace Health subsidiary, which launched in 2018.

Mental health startup eQuoo joins UK’s NHS app library, closes in on seed round

UK-based mental health startup eQuoo has become the only game in the UK’s National Health Service App Library and is set to shortly close it’s seed funding round. The app is an emotional fitness game that aims to teach healthy psychological skills.

The NHS announcement means a UK doctor can now formally refer eQuoo to their patients to improve their mental health and wellbeing.

The app has also now achieved a top rating at ORCHA, the leading health app assessment platform and now has clients including Barmer, the largest insurance company in Germany.

Founder and CEO Silja Litvin says she created the startup because of the mental health crisis. “While working in an NHS Trust for eating and mood disorders I was dismayed about the fact that many of our young clients had to wait months to see us for a measly 6 sessions. Psychologists are not scalable, but apps are, so I decided to make an app. After developing PsycApps, an evidence-based anti-depression app I learned the hard way that mental health apps all struggle with drop off rates of up to 90% in week 1, so we pivoted towards gamification with the launch of eQuoo, as casual games can have a positive mental health effect and intrinsically get players to stick to them.”

A spokesperson for the NHS said: “Approximately 58% GPs across England now have the ability to refer patients directly to Equoo, as its now live on the EMIS App Library. The EMIS App Library is powered by IQVIA’s AppScript® platform, which enables clinical users of the EMIS Web clinical system to find and recommend high quality digital health apps to their patients via text or email, directly from their existing workflow. All apps listed on the platform (including Equoo) have been evaluated under NHS Digital’s digital assessment questions (DAQ) and assessed for their clinical safety, data protection, security and usability.”

Earlier this year the startup also gained scientific backing for its app, Going through a “three arm”, five-week-long, randomized control trial with over 350 participants, with Bosch UK. By contrast Woebot, a highly lauded mental health chatbot startup, went through only a two-week trial with 70 participants.

Results showed “statistically significant increases in wellbeing metrics” and a significant decrease in anxiety when using the app over a timeframe of five weeks.

Badgeville launches new data analytics to gamify work and improve consumer loyalty

The dashboard for MotivationMetrics.

Badgeville, the company that gamifies work and customer engagement, has launched a new data analytics service dubbed MotivationMetrics. Its purpose is make it easier for companies to gather a huge amount of social data and figure out how to motivate customers and employees to do what a company wants them to do.

The new service helps companies gamify processes, such as making a game out sales or returning to a web site, measure performance, and recognize those who deliver the best performance across an organization. Badgeville calls this digital motivation, but others have called it gamification, or using game mechanics for non-game purposes. The company helps its customers motivate employees to do their best, or improve consumer retention.

“What we are doing MotivationMetrics is helping businesses to engage better with their customers and employess,” said Karen Hsu, vice president at Redwood City, Calif.-based Badgeville, in an interview with VentureBeat.

The company is using a Hadoop big data architecture that allows it to scale out its platform. The platform has 40 prebuilt reports that customers can see in a dashboard. They are designed to help companies get customers or employees to adopt something new, such as going to a web site or getting employees to hit sales goals.

“The first step is adoption, and the next step is to get people to perform at the levels we want them to,” Hsu said. “And finally, what we want to deliver is recognition. That helps managers find out who and where the best talent is. And it recognizes the star performers and motivates them intrinsically.”

MotivationMetrics is designed to keep track of customers and sort them into these different groups. That allows customers to tweak how they motivate the target groups to do something. Hsu said that intrinsic motivation lasts longer than extrinsic motivations such as monetary rewards.

Badgeville's MotivationMetrics dashboard.

Above: Badgeville’s MotivationMetrics dashboard.

Image Credit: Badgeville

Badgeville has tried out the new platform with existing customers such as Booz Allen Hamilton, the global consulting firm, and Melbourne Storm, the pro rugby team in Australia.

The consulting firm saw a 40 percent improvement in its engagement on one particular goal, thanks to Badgeville, Hsu said. The firm wanted to grow its expertise in data science among its consultants. So using Badgeville, it designed a program to motivate employees to go through a data science training program.

“They tapped into some natural competitive instincts, and focused the leaderboards on teams,” Hsu said.

Melbourne Storm is a Badgeville customer that wanted to get fans to buy merchandise and come back even during the off season, early in the year. Badgeville rewards customers for coming back to the web site.

“From January to April, there’s not a lot of activity,” Hsu said. “We want to improve the engagement, and we learn what behaviors matter to us.”

The longer people were on the web site, the more likely they were to make a purchase, Hsu said of the rugby team’s fans. After using Badgeville, the rugby team saw an 80 percent increase in spending on the game day, a 71 percent increase in video views, a 52 percent increase in dwell time, a 30 percent better return rate, and 9 percent increase in retention of customers. That added up to a lot of money.

“There is a wide range of analytics tools that help slice and dice data, but much of it lives within the conventional silos of BI, CRM and other monolithic platforms—there’s no way to see what influences engagement across the systems, nor do these tools tell you how to drive improvement,” said Steve Sims, chief design officer at Badgeville, in a statement. “That’s where MotivationMetrics is different. It not only lets you see that rewards users are achieving on the Badgeville platform, it also visualizes behaviors and who’s performing what to give you definitive recommendations and strategies to help you achieve business outcomes.”

Badgeville has 50 employees, and it was founded in 2010. Other customers include American Express, Samsung, Walmart, and Kendall Jackson. Hsu said the company had more than 300 deployments.

“We find companies can use us across many different use cases, internally with employees or externally with customers,” Hsu said.

Badgeville MotivationMetrics dashboard.

Above: Badgeville MotivationMetrics dashboard.

Image Credit: Badgeville