Sequoia leads $40M investment in mobile messaging startup Attentive

Attentive, a startup helping retailers personalize their mobile messages, is announcing that it has raised $40 million in Series B funding.

The startup was founded by Brian Long and Andrew Jones, who sold their previous startup TapCommerce to Twitter. When they announced Attentive’s $13 million Series A last year, Long told me the startup is all about helping retailers find better ways to communicate with customers, particularly as it’s harder for their individual apps to stand out.

Attentive’s first product allowed for what it calls “two-tap” sign-up, where users can tap on a promotion link from a brand’s website, creating a pre-populated text that opts them in to for SMS messages from that retailer.

Since then, it’s built a broader suite of messaging tools, with support for cart abandonment reminders, A/B testing, subscriber segmentation and other features that allow retailers to get smarter and more targeted in their messaging strategy.

The startup says mobile messages sent through its platform are seeing click-through rates of more than 30%, and that it now works with more than 400 customers, including Sephora, Urban Outfitters, Coach, CB2 and Jack in the Box.

The Series B was led by Sequoia, with participation from new investors IVP and High Alpha, as well as previous backers Bain Capital Ventures, Eniac Ventures and NextView Ventures. The plan for the new funding is to grow the entire team, especially sales and engineering.

“CRM is changing,” Long said in a statement. “Businesses can’t build a relationship with the modern consumer through email alone. Email performance, as measured by how many subscribers click-through on a message, is down 45% over the last five years. Rather than continuing to shout one-way messages at consumers, smart brands will stay relevant by embracing personalized, real-time, two-way communication channels.”

India’s Awfis raises $30M to grow its co-working spaces business

Speaking of businesses that operate co-working spaces in India, New Delhi-based startup Awfis announced today that it has raised $30 million in a new financing round to expand its footprint in the country.

The Series D round for the four-year-old startup was led by ChrysCapital. Existing investors Sequoia Capital India and The Three Sisters Institutional Office also participated in the round, the startup said. Awfis has raised $81 million to date.

Awfis operates in nine cities in India and has 63 centers. It currently has the capacity to accommodate 30,000 people across its centers. In an interview with TechCrunch, Amit Ramani, founder and CEO of Awfis, said the startup will use the capital to add about 340 centers to accommodate 170,000 more people in the next one year and a half.

The startup currently operates two models: It works with landowners to use their workspaces and splits profits with them, and second, it serves as a management operator where it takes a cut of the revenue as its fee. Ramani did not disclose the financial performance of Awfis, but said the startup is aiming to go public in 2022.

Most of its customers today are either small businesses or corporate clients. Some of its customers include Vodafone, Reliance, Hitachi, Zomato, and Practo . It also offers a mobility solution for individuals who want to work from Awfis’ workspaces.

Kshitij Sheth, VP of ChrysCapital, told TechCrunch in an interview that India is finally beginning to see a major boom in the co-working spaces culture. He said his team was impressed by Awfis’ quality services, business model, and ratings from customers.

India’s co-working space, still a relatively new business category in the nation, is worth $390 million — a fraction of the $30 billion office and commercial real estate business. Awfis today competes with a number of startups including GoWork, which announced $53 million in a debt financing round earlier today, 91Springboard, GoHive, and the global giant WeWork.

Fast-growing hotel lodging startup Oyo also recently entered the co-working spaces business with the launch of Oyo Workspaces. For the expansion, it acquired local player Innov8 for a sum of about $30 million to immediately establish presence in 10 cities in India with more than 20 centers.

But the competition does not necessarily worry Ramani, who said the market today remains largely untapped. “Competition is great. It helps educate the market. People have more choices.” Ramani is happy to compete with others on quality and service front, he said.

The “world’s largest internet restaurant company” quietly raised $125 million this month

In May, venture capitalist Michael Moritz of Sequoia Capital warned in a Financial Times column that Amazon’s recent $575 million investment in the London-based delivery service Deliveroo could prove ominous for local restaurants. Wrote Moritz: “Amazon is now one step away from becoming a multi-brand restaurant company — and that could mean doomsday for many dining haunts.”

Moritz was right to attract more attention to the deal. Deliveroo has begun operating shared kitchens from which it will not simply transport food to customers but eventually prepare it, too. His warning may even have played a role in the recent decision of Britain’s competition regulator to halt work on Amazon’s investment so it can first investigate whether the deal poses competitive concerns.

Moritz knows the playbook because of Sequoia’s early investment in Rebel Foods, formerly known as Faasos, a once-small Pune, India-based company that now prepares a variety of foods in its cloud kitchens. As he says in the same column, Faasos largely pioneered the trend. Still, the growth of the nine-year-old company is a bit breathtaking.

According to Bloomberg, Rebel — which this month raised $125 million in fresh capital from the Indonesian delivery service Go-jek, Coatue Management, and Goldman Sachs — now operates 235 kitchens across 20 Indian cities. And it’s processing two million orders a month. (It calls itself the “world’s largest internet restaurant company.”)

While it began life as a chain of kebab restaurants, that original concept, Faasos, is now just one of eight other brands that Rebel operates, including a tea brand called Kettle & Kegs, a Chinese concept called Mandarin Oak; a pizza brand called Oven Story; and a brand called Behrouz through which Rebel makes and sells slow-cooked rice dishes known as biryani.

Rebel Foods isn’t the only fast-moving operator using cloud kitchens to offer every kind of cuisine imaginable under one roof. Competitors of the company — which tells Bloomberg it is now valued at $525 million — include UberEats and the food delivery company Zomato, which itself has plans to open more than 100 cloud kitchens by the end of this year.

Zomato says it isn’t getting into the food preparation business — yet — but rather renting out facilities, kitchen equipment, and software to restaurants.

Still, it’s little wonder that Rebel is racing headlong into new markets as fast as it can. According to Bloomberg, the company is currently planning to build 100 cloud kitchens in Indonesia over the next 18 months with Go-Jek’s help. It also expects to open 20 cloud kitchen facilities in the United Arab Emirates by December.

Rebel was founded by Jaydeep Barman, a native of Mumbai with an MBA from INSEAD who spent nearly four years with McKinsey before joining forces with business school classmate Kallol Banerjee to launch Faasos.

Despite raising money early on from Sequoia, the company was once at risk of going out of business, in part owing to high rents and employee turnover. As Moritz tells the story, things turned around dramatically when the duo closed their restaurants and opened their first centralized kitchen.

That decision would prove pivotal. Not did Rebel survive, but today, the company tells Bloomberg, the entire operation runs the equivalent of 1,600 restaurants.

A91 Partners, a new VC fund from former Sequoia Capital India execs, closes $351M maiden fund

India’s growing number of startups now have one additional VC fund that will listen to their business ideas. A91 Partners, a new VC fund founded by former partners at Sequoia Capital India, has closed their maiden fund at $351 million.

A91 Partners will focus on high growth startups in consumer, technology, financial services, and healthcare sectors in India, Abhay Pandey, a partner at A91 told TechCrunch in an interview.

A91, whose maiden fund is one of the largest for any VC funds in India, will focus on early as well mid-stage startups that are looking to raise between $10 million and $30 million, Pandey said. Earlier this year, it invested about $14.2 million in Sugar, a cosmetics brand.

“In our experience, some companies get to this stage after having raised capital and some bootstrap their way into that position,” he added. Other than him, V.T. Bharadwaj, Gautam Mago, Prasun Agarwal — all former partners at Sequoia Capital India, and Kaushik Anand, formerly of CapitalG are also partners at A91. They founded the fund late last year.

The inspiration of the name comes from the country code of India, which is 91. The letter A is inspired from Ashoka, India’s greatest emperor.

“We are excited about the opportunity ahead of us and look forward to partnering with founders building enduring businesses for tomorrow’s India,” the founding members said in a statement.

“Our role in this development and growth is to partner with exceptional founders to build the next generation of enduring Indian businesses. While fulfilling this role, we aspire to build an enduring, excellent, uniquely Indian investment firm,” they said.

A91 raised about 80% of the $351 million capital from overseas investors that include foundations, endowments, family offices and fund of funds, Pandey said. Some of these include the International Finance Corporation and Asia Alternatives, as well as Adams Street and Swiss-based LGT Capital Partners.

India’s tech startups have raised more than $20 billion in the last two years. The country’s growing startup ecosystem is increasingly attracting major VC firms in the nation. SoftBank and Tiger Global, two large global VC funds, count India as one of their biggest markets.

In recent years, Google, Microsoft, Amazon, and Facebook have also begun to infuse money in India’s startup space. Google has invested in delivery startup Dunzo, while Amazon has taken stake in more than half a dozen local companies. Facebook invested in social commerce app Meesho last month.

Earlier this year, Microsoft expanded its M12 corporate venture fund (formerly known as Microsoft Ventures) to India with an investment in Innovaccer, a six-year-old SaaS startup. Samsung Venture, the investment arm of the South Korean technology conglomerate, made its debut investments in Indian startups on Wednesday.

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.

Snowflake co-founder and president of product Benoit Dageville is coming to TC Sessions: Enterprise

When it comes to a cloud success story, Snowflake checks all the boxes. It’s a SaaS product going after industry giants. It has raised bushels of cash and grown extremely rapidly — and the story is continuing to develop for the cloud data lake company.

In September, Snowflake’s co-founder and president of product Benoit Dageville will join us at our inaugural TechCrunch Sessions: Enterprise event on September 5 in San Francisco.

Dageville founded the company in 2012 with Marcin Zukowski and Thierry Cruanes with a mission to bring the database, a market that had been dominated for decades by Oracle, to the cloud. Later, the company began focusing on data lakes or data warehouses, massive collections of data, which had been previously stored on premises. The idea of moving these elements to the cloud was a pretty radical notion in 2012.

It began by supporting its products on AWS, and more recently expanded to include support for Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud.

The company started raising money shortly after its founding, modestly at first, then much, much faster in huge chunks. Investors included a Silicon Valley who’s who such as Sutter Hill, Redpoint, Altimeter, Iconiq Capital and Sequoia Capital .

Snowflake fund raising by round. Chart: Crunchbase

Snowflake fund raising by round. Chart: Crunchbase

The most recent rounds came last year, starting with a massive $263 million investment in January. The company went back for more in October with an even larger $450 million round.

It brought on industry veteran Bob Muglia in 2014 to lead it through its initial growth spurt. Muglia left the company earlier this year and was replaced by former ServiceNow chairman and CEO Frank Slootman.

TC Sessions: Enterprise (September 5 at San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Center) will take on the big challenges and promise facing enterprise companies today. TechCrunch’s editors will bring to the stage founders and leaders from established and emerging companies to address rising questions, like the promised revolution from machine learning and AI, intelligent marketing automation and the inevitability of the cloud, as well as the outer reaches of technology, like quantum computing and blockchain.

Tickets are now available for purchase on our website at the early-bird rate of $395.

Student tickets are just $245 – grab them here.

We have a limited number of Startup Demo Packages available for $2,000, which includes four tickets to attend the event.

For each ticket purchased for TC Sessions: Enterprise, you will also be registered for a complimentary Expo Only pass to TechCrunch Disrupt SF on October 2-4.

India’s Bounce raises $72 million to grow its electric scooters business

Bounce, a Bangalore-based startup that offers more than 5,000 electric scooters for rent in India, has raised $72 million to accelerate its bid to impact how people navigate India’s traffic-clogged urban areas.

The Series C funding round for the five-year-old startup was led by B Capital — the VC firm founded by Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin — and Falcon Edge Capital. Chiratae Ventures, Maverick Ventures, Omidyar Network India, Qualcomm Ventures, and existing investors Sequoia Capital India and Accel Partners India also participated in the round.

This new money means that the startup has raised $92 million to date. The current round valued it at more than $200 million, a person familiar with the matter said.

Bounce, formerly known as Metro Bikes, operates in Bangalore. Its app allows users to pick up a scooter and, when their ride is finished, drop it off at any parking spot. It charges customers based on the time and model of electric scooter they choose. An hour-long ride could cost as little as Rs 15 (21 cents). The startup claims it has already clocked two million rides. 

Vivekananda Hallekere, co-founder and CEO of Bounce, told TechCrunch in an interview that the startup plans to use the fresh capital to add over 50,000 electric scooters to its fleets by the end of the year. Additionally, Bounce, which employs about 200 people, plans to enter more cities in India and invest in growing its tech infrastructure and head count.

“We have about ten metro and non-metro cities in mind. Starting next quarter, we will start to expand in those cities,” he said. The startup also aims to service one million rides in the next one year.

Hallekere said Bounce, which currently offers IoT hardware and design for the scooters, is also working on building its own form factor for scooters.

The rise of Bounce comes as it bets that shared two-wheeler vehicles — already a common mode of transportation in the nation — will play an important role in the future of ride-sharing, with electric vehicles replacing petrol ones.

This bet has gained more momentum in recent years. Startups such as Yulu, which partnered with Uber earlier this year to conduct a trial in Bangalore, Vogo, which raised money from Uber rival Ola, and Ather Energy have expanded their businesses and gained the backing of major investors.

Their adoption, though still in their nascent stages, is increasingly proving that for millions of people rides from Uber and Ola are just too expensive for their wallets. Besides, in jam-packed traffic in Bangalore and Delhi and other cities in India, two wheels are more efficient than four.

Hyundai takes minority stake in self-driving car startup Aurora

Hyundai Motor Group has invested in Aurora, the latest sign that the scope of the year-old partnership between the automaker and self-driving car startup has expanded.

Aurora and Hyundai didn’t disclose terms of the investment. However, picking part new details of its Series B funding round and speaking to sources within the industry, Hyundai’s investment is below $30 million.

Aurora announced in February that it had raised more than $530 million in a Series B round that was led by Sequoia Capital and included “significant investment” from Amazon and T. Rowe Price Associates. Since then, that Series B round has expanded to more than $600 million with new investment from Hyundai, Baillie Gifford and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, TechCrunch has learned.

To date, Aurora has raised more than $700 million, a figure that includes its seed round Series A round of $90 million.

Hyundai’s stake in Aurora is an affirmation of the company and their working relationship. But it’s just one measure. What Aurora is actually doing matters as much.

When the partnership was first announced in January 2018, the details of the relationship were scant. New information reveals that Aurora has been working with Hyundai and Kia for the last year to integrate its “Driver” into Hyundai’s flagship fuel cell vehicle NEXO.

Aurora says it will expand research and development of a self-driving platform for a wide range of Hyundai and Kia’s models.

Aurora, which launched in January 2017, works with companies like Hyundai, Byton, and until more recently Volkswagen, to design and develop a package of sensors, software, and data services needed to deploy autonomous vehicles. The company describes this “full stack,” (an industry parlance) the Aurora Driver.

Aurora, like many of its competitors, are focused on Level 4 autonomous systems with an eye toward Level 5. Level 4 is a designation by SAE, the automotive engineering association, for autonomous vehicles that take over all driving in certain conditions. In Level 5 autonomy, the vehicle is self-driving in all situations.

About a year after Aurora’s official launch date, the company announced partnerships with Hyundai and Volkswagen, followed by a Series A funding raise that resulted in two new board members — LinkedIn co-founder and Greylock partner Reid Hoffman and Mike Volpi, former chief strategy officer at Cisco and general partner at Index Ventures.

Volkswagen has since ended its partnership with Aurora. Meanwhile, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has announced a collaboration with Aurora to to develop self-driving commercial vehicles. The partnership with FCA will focus on integrating Aurora’s technology into the automaker’s line of Ram Truck commercial vehicles, a portfolio that includes cargo vans and trucks. The deal could extend to FCA’s Fiat Professional brand as well, TechCrunch has learned.

Fiat Chrysler partners with Aurora to develop self-driving commercial vans

Aurora, the autonomous vehicle technology startup backed by Sequoia Capital and Amazon, has struck a deal with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles to develop self-driving commercial vehicles.

The partnership will focus on integrating Aurora’s technology into FCA’s line of Ram Truck commercial vehicles, a portfolio that includes cargo vans and trucks. The deal could extend to FCA’s Fiat Professional brand as well, TechCrunch has learned.

The deal with Aurora aims to specifically develop and deploy self-driving commercial vehicles that could be used by any third party with a delivery-to-consumer need. For instance, once Aurora’s technology is integrated into its commercial vans, FCA could sell them to a third-party logistics company — like say, Amazon — that intends to use autonomous vehicles for deliveries.

Neither company disclosed financial terms of the deal.

The high cost of developing and bringing technology such as electrification and autonomous vehicles to market has prompted automakers, including FCA, to seek out partnerships and alliances, sometimes even with competitors.

In May, FCA proposed a 50-50 merger with French automaker Renault, arguing that it would create a more capital efficient enterprise that could develop global vehicle platforms, architectures, powertrains and technologies.

FCA has since withdrawn its merger offer. However, more partnerships are likely to emerge.

“As part of FCA’s autonomous vehicle strategy we will continue to work with strategic partners in this space to address the needs of consumers in a rapidly changing industry,” FCA CEO Mike Manley said in a statement.

FCA has an existing partnership with autonomous vehicle technology company Waymo, the former Google moonshot project that is now a business under Alphabet. These two relationships are tackling different aspects of autonomous vehicle technology — at least for now.

Two years ago, FCA said it would produce about 100 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans integrated with Waymo’s suite of self-driving hardware and software. Waymo uses these self-driving minivans for testing as well as for its Waymo One autonomous ride-hailing business in the Phoenix area. The autonomous vehicles used in the Waymo One service still have a human safety driver behind the wheel.

FCA and Waymo expanded on their relationship in 2018 with FCA announcing it would supply Waymo with up to 62,000 more Chrysler  Pacifica minivans.

Unlike Waymo, Aurora has never indicated plans publicly to launch a robotaxi service. Instead, it’s focused on supplying and then integrating its full self-driving stack to companies hoping to deploy autonomous vehicles or services.

Aurora, founded in early 2017 by Sterling Anderson, Drew Bagnell and Chris Urmson, has integrated its technology into six vehicle platforms, including sedans, SUVs, minivans, a large commercial vehicle and a Class 8 truck.

Aurora is just a few months removed from announcing its hefty $530 million Series B round that was led by Sequoia Capital and included “significant investment” from Amazon and T. Rowe Price Associates. The round pushed Aurora’s valuation to more than $2.5 billion. Aurora announced a $90 million Series A round last February from Greylock Partners  and Index Ventures, bringing its total raised to date to more than $620 million.

The company has offices in Palo Alto, San Francisco and Pittsburgh and previously announced partnerships with Volkswagen Group, Hyundai and Chinese electric vehicle startup Byton.

Startups Weekly: The Peloton IPO (bull vs. bear)

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 proliferation of billion-dollar companies. Before that, I noted the uptick in beverage startup rounds. Remember, you can send me tips, suggestions and feedback to [email protected] or on Twitter @KateClarkTweets.

Now, time for some quick notes on Peloton’s confirmed initial public offering. The fitness unicorn, which sells a high-tech exercise bike and affiliated subscription to original fitness content, confidentially filed to go public earlier this week. Unfortunately, there’s no S-1 to pore through yet; all I can do for now is speculate a bit about Peloton’s long-term potential.

What I know: 

  • Peloton is profitable. Founder and chief executive John Foley said at one point that he expected 2018 revenues of $700 million, more than double 2017’s revenues of $400 million.
  • There is strong investor demand for Peloton stock. Javier Avolos, vice president at the secondary marketplace Forge, tells TechCrunch’s Darrell Etherington that “investor interest [in Peloton] has been consistently strong from both institutional and retail investors. Our view is that this is a result of perceived strong performance by the company, a clear path to a liquidity event, and historically low availability of supply in the market due to restrictions around selling or transferring shares in the secondary market.”
  • Peloton, despite initially struggling to raise venture capital, has accrued nearly $1 billion in funding to date. Most recently, it raised a $550 million Series F at a $4.25 billion valuation. It’s backed by Tiger Global Management, TCV, Kleiner Perkins and others.

 

A bullish perspective: Peloton, an early player in the fitness tech space, has garnered a cult following since its founding in 2012. There is something to be said about being an early-player in a burgeoning industry — tech-enabled personal fitness equipment, that is — and Peloton has certainly proven its bike to be genre-defining technology. Plus, Peloton is actually profitable and we all know that’s rare for a Silicon Valley company. (Peloton is actually New York-based but you get the idea.)

A bearish perspective: The market for fitness tech is heating up, largely as a result of Peloton’s own success. That means increased competition. Peloton has not proven itself to be a nimble business in the slightest. As Darrell noted in his piece, in its seven years of operation, “Peloton has put out exactly two pieces of hardware, and seems unlikely to ramp that pace. The cost of their equipment makes frequent upgrade cycles unlikely, and there’s a limited field in terms of other hardware types to even consider making. If hardware innovation is your measure for success, Peloton hasn’t really shown that it’s doing enough in this category to fend of legacy players or new entrants.”

TL;DR: Peloton, unlike any other company before it, sits evenly at the intersection of fitness, software, hardware and media. One wonders how Wall Street will value a company so varied. Will Peloton be yet another example of an over-valued venture-backed unicorn that flounders once public? Or will it mature in time to triumphantly navigate the uncertain public company waters? Let me know what you think. And If you want more Peloton deets, read Darrell’s full story: Weighing Peloton’s opportunity and risks ahead of IPO.

Anyways…

Public company corner

In addition to Peloton’s IPO announcement, CrowdStrike boosted its IPO expectations. Aside from those two updates, IPO land was pretty quiet this week. Let’s check in with some recently public businesses instead.

Uber: The ride-hailing giant has let go of two key managers: its chief operating officer and chief marketing officer. All of this comes just a few weeks after it went public. On the brightside, Uber traded above its IPO price for the first time this week. The bump didn’t last long but now that the investment banks behind its IPO are allowed to share their bullish perspective publicly, things may improve. Or not.

Zoom: The video communications business posted its first earnings report this week. As you might have guessed, things are looking great for Zoom. In short, it beat estimates with revenues of $122 million in the last quarter. That’s growth of 109% year-over-year. Not bad Zoom, not bad at all.

Must reads

We cover a lot of startup and big tech news here at TechCrunch. Sometimes, the really great features writers put a lot of time and energy into fall between the cracks. With that said, I just want to take a moment this week to highlight a few of the great stories published on our site recently:

A peek inside Sequoia Capital’s low-flying, wide-reaching scout program by Connie Loizos

On the road to self-driving trucks, Starsky Robotics built a traditional trucking business by Kirsten Korosec

The Stanford connection behind Latin America’s multi-billion dollar startup renaissance by Jon Shieber 

How to calculate your event ROI by Sarah Shewey

Why four security companies just sold for $1.5B by Ron Miller 

Scooters gonna scoot

In case you missed it, Bird is in negotiations to acquire Scoot, a smaller scooter upstart with licenses to operate in the coveted market of San Francisco. Scoot was last valued at around $71 million, having raised about $47 million in equity funding to date from Scout Ventures, Vision Ridge Partners, angel investor Joanne Wilson and more. Bird, of course, is a whole lot larger, valued at $2.3 billion recently.

On top of this deal, there was no shortage of scooter news this week. Bird, for example, unveiled the Bird Cruiser, an electric vehicle that is essentially a blend between a bicycle and a moped. Here’s more on the booming scooter industry.

Startup Capital

WorldRemit raises $175M at a $900M valuation to help users send money to contacts in emerging markets 

Thumbtack is raising up to $120M on a flat valuation

Depop, a shopping app for millennials, bags $62M

Fitness startup Mirror nears $300M valuation with fresh funding

Step raises $22.5M led by Stripe to build no-fee banking services for teens

Possible Finance lands $10.5M to provide kinder short-term loans

Voatz raises $7M for its mobile voting technology

Flexible housing startup raises $2.5M

Legacy, a sperm testing and freezing service, raises $1.5M

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 discuss how a future without the SoftBank Vision Fund would look, Peloton’s IPO and data-driven investing.