Why is Andreessen Horowitz (and everyone else) investing in Latin America now?

Investments by U.S. venture capital firms into Latin America are skyrocketing and one of the firms leading the charge into deals is none other than Silicon Valley’s Andreessen Horowitz .

The firm that shook up Silicon Valley with potentially over-generous term sheets and valuations and an overarching thesis that “software is eating the world” has been reluctant to test its core belief… well… pretty much anywhere outside of the United States.

That was true until a few years ago when Andreessen began making investments in Latin America. It’s the only geography outside of the U.S. where the firm has committed significant capital and the pace of its investments is increasing.

Andreessen isn’t the only firm that’s making big bets in companies south of the American border. SoftBank has its $2 billion dollar investment fund, which launched earlier this year, to invest in Latin American deals as well. (Although the most recent SoftBank Innovation Fund investment in GymPass is likely an indicator that the fund, much like SoftBank’s “Vision” fund, has a pretty generous interpretation of what is and is not a Latin American deal.)

“We previously didn’t invest internationally, [because] we weren’t as well set up to help these companies,” says Angela Strange, a general partner at Andreessen Horowitz. “Part of the reason for why LatAm is proximity.”

Go-Jek doubles down on India with yet another talent acquisition

Go-Jek may be based in Southeast Asia, but the multi-billion-dollar ride-hailing firm continues to tap India for engineering talent. The Indonesia-headquartered firm announced today that it has acquired AirCTO, a recruitment platform based in Gurgaon.

The acquisition, the price of which has not been disclosed, is a talent grab. AirCTO’s platform uses a mix of AI and humans to help companies hire “top” developer talent — that’s of interest to Go-Jek because the company intends to double down on India, which houses a significant number of its R&D workforce already thanks to prior acquisitions.

Indeed, the company said that AirCTO’s entire team will join it to develop “products that accelerate the recruitment of talent” within its ranks.

First up, the deal will see a Gurgaon office opened as part of a wider plan to hire 100 new tech staff this year to increase Go-Jek’s headcount in India to 500. The firm said that some of that hiring could come from other acquisitions — that makes sense given that Go-Jek is the midst of raising a round that it claims has already passed the $1 billion mark at a valuation approaching $10 billion.

It’s challenging to keep up with Go-Jek acquisition spree because many of its deals are not announced at the time, or, indeed, at all.

But we do know there have been many. According to Crunchbase data, AirCTO is its tenth purchase. Three of those came from India — C42 Engineering, Pianta and Leftshift Technologies — to form an offshored R&D division. In addition, the company’s group CTO is Ajey Gore, a hire from India who spends a large chunk of his time at Go-Jek’s Bangalore office.

Go-Jek isn’t alone in setting up R&D centers in India, rival Grab, which is backed by SoftBank’s Vision Fund and valued at $14 billion, is present in the country, too.

Aware of the limits of the talent pool in its native Southeast Asia, Grab has long maintained engineering outposts overseas. These include Beijing, Seattle and — as of 2017 — Bangalore, in addition to various countries in Southeast Asia. Grab has also made an acquisition in India.

Back on the battlefield of Southeast Asia, Grab and Go-Jek are competing to become the region’s ‘super app.’ Since Uber exited more than a year ago, the ride-hailing war has developed into a contest to become the daily go-to app for the region’s 600 million consumers. That’s seen Go-Jek and Grab steadily add new features and services. Those range from the obvious like food and grocery deliveries, to messages, haircuts and other services on demand, and now even games, video streaming and other entertainment.

Grab operates in eight countries while Go-Jek, which finally forayed outside of Indonesia last year, is present in four.

What happens if there’s no Vision Fund II?

While I’d like to recommend panicking as a general response to the world, a smaller or fully neutered Vision Fund II won’t crash everything in the sphere of giant private companies.

Recent headlines describe a world that might never see a Vision Fund II. The Wall Street Journal reported over the weekend, for example, that “SoftBank Faces Challenges Raising Latest $100 Billion Fund.” The Washington Post this morning noted that SoftBank’sMasa Finds Not Everyone Shares His Vision.” And so on.

What matters for tech shops, startups and unicorns alike is that instead of their being an eventual Brady Bunch of Vision Funds, vision-ing around the world like buzzy, cash-laden drones, the franchise might halt after its first installment.

The $100 billion-ish vehicle has caused disturbances of all sorts in the fabric of the private capital markets, deploying cash with hurricane speed. Checks into companies of all sorts have come from the epic capital pool, sourced in large part from theocratic monarchies. (As we learned from SoFi last week, this is de rigueur.)

But as the Vision Fund’s aggression has kept the media enthralled, and founders’ hopes alive, troubles have circled. According to the Journal, raising money from Vision Fund I backers has proved tough:

But several of these [prior] investors plan to make limited or no contributions, people familiar with the matter said. They include Canada Pension Plan Investment Board and Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, whose $45 billion check made it the largest backer of SoftBank’s first tech fund, known as the Vision Fund.

You can read this two ways. First, that quite a lot of private capital is going to sit out the late-stage market. Or, second, that that same capital is instead going to put itself to work. The Journal continues:

Many of the biggest funds already have established programs to invest directly in late-stage startups and aren’t interested in paying fees to another party, people close to them said.

This is why it’s bad news of sorts for founders that the second Vision Fund might never exist, or might be born small. But only bad news to a degree, as it seems a decent percentage of the money that might have gone into the second Vision Fund will still be invested, albeit by folks likely a bit more conservative than SoftBank’s Masayoshi Son.

The Vision Fund era overvalued Uberfunded its competitors, fired too much money into Wag (whose growth has been called into question) and more. Whether that fund is going to pay itself back and provide a sufficient return to make the entire project worthwhile is unclear. It might. But that may not be a good enough reason for investors to promise another $100 billion.

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.

Unraveling the “Secrets of Sand Hill Road” and the VC thought process, with Andreessen Horowitz’s Scott Kupor

Extra Crunch offers members the opportunity to tune into conference calls led and moderated by the TechCrunch writers you read every day. This week, TechCrunch’s Connie Loizos sat down with Scott Kupor, managing director at venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz to dig into his new book Secrets of Sand Hill Road, discuss his advice for new founders dealing with VCs and to pick his brain on the opportunities that excite him most today.

Scott gained inspiration for Secrets of Sand Hill Road after realizing he was hearing the same questions from different entrepreneurs over his decade in venture. The book acts as an updated guide on what VCs actually do, how they think and how founders should engage with them.

Scott offers Connie his take on why, despite the influx of available information on the venture world, founders still view VC as a black box. Connie and Scott go on to shed some light on the venture thought process, discussing how VCs evaluate new founders, new market opportunities, future round potential and how they think about investments that aren’t playing out as expected. 

“[Deciding on the right amount of money to raise] is one of the areas where I think people will rely on convention too much, rather than figuring out what makes sense for them. And what I mean by convention is, they say, “Hey, my friends down the street just raised a $7 million A round, so $7 million must be the right size for an A round.”

The way we try to help entrepreneurs think about it is think about the pitch that you’re going to give at the next round of financing. Let’s say you’re raising a Series A, imagine sitting here 18 or 24 months from now doing the Series B financing, what’s the story you’re going to want to be able to tell the investor then, as to what you accomplished over that last 18 to 24 months?

And then, almost work your way backwards to say, “If that’s the story that I want to tell, and we all agree that’s a compelling story where somebody will come in hopefully, and fund it at a valuation that’s higher to reflect the progress of the business, then let’s work our way back, and say “how do we de risk that?””

Image via Getty Images / Heidi Gutman/CNBC/NBCU Photo Bank

Connie and Scott also dive deeper into Andreessen Horowitz’ investing and post-investing structure, and what the future of the firm and its key investments may look like down the road.

For access to the full transcription and the call audio, and for the opportunity to participate in future conference calls, become a member of Extra Crunch. Learn more and try it for free. 

Connie Loizos: Hi, everyone. It’s time to kick off today’s call with Scott Kupor, a managing partner at the venture firm, Andreessen Horowitz, and more recently, the author of the book, Secrets of Sand Hill Road: Venture Capital and How to Get It. Thank you so much for making time for us today.

Scott, I’m still in the process of reading the book, but I have to say, much like your colleague, Ben Horowitz’s book, and this is really true, I’m really enjoying it.

Scott Kupor: Well, thank you.

Connie: It doesn’t really feel remotely like work, which I find to be true with the vast majority of business books.

Scott: Well, I appreciate that. I had great help from Ben [Horowitz] in terms of inspiration from his book. So I’m glad to hear that. Thank you very much.

China’s Didi kicks off expansion in Latin America with moves into Chile and Colombia

The wheels are turning on Didi Chuxing’s first major expansion in Latin America after the Chinese ride-hailing firm announced moves into Chile and Colombia to double its presence in the region.

Didi said it rolled into Valparaiso, Chile’s third largest metropolis, and Colombian capital city Bogota this week. The company plans to expand beyond those cities over time, and, in terms of services, it said that it will add dedicated licensed taxis in Colombia this year.

Anchored in China, where it is the country’s dominant ride-hailing service, Didi began to place focus on international expansion last year and Latin America is a key part of its global ambitions.

In the region, Didi currently operates in Brazil — where it acquired local player 99 for $1 billion — and Mexico, but recent reports have linked it with more countries in Latin America. In February, Reuters reported that the company was hiring for operational staff in Chile, Peru and Colombia. Other reports have put its total headcount in Latin America at over 1,000 staff, that’s a clear indication of its intent for the region.

In a statement, Mi Yang — who leads Didi’s operations in Central and South America — called Chile and Colombia “two important centers of growth and innovation in the region.”

Outside of Latin America and its homeland, Didi is present in Taiwan and Australia, where it has other global connection through its investment deals. The company owns a significant stake in Southeast Asia-based Grab it doubled down with a $2 billion investment alongside SoftBank in 2017 — as well as Bolt (formerly known as Taxify) across Europe and Africa, Ola in India and Lyft in the U.S.

Didi also has relations with Uber as a mutual investment was part of the deal that saw it acquire the Uber China business in 2016, and it invested in Middle East-based Careem, which is being acquired by Uber.

That’s a pretty complicated web of relationships and, with Didi’s global expansion, it often pits the Chinese company against its investments. In Australia, for example, Didi is up against Uber, Bolt AND Ola.

In Latin America, Uber is again a competitor and others the field include local players Cabify, Easy Taxi and Beat from Greece — companies that Didi hasn’t backed.

On offer is a market with vast growth potential. Latin America is the world’s second-fastest-growing mobile market. In a region of approximately 640 million people, there are more than 200 million smartphone users and, by 2020, predictions say that 63% of Latin America’s population will have access to the mobile Internet.

Didi’s globetrotting comes at a challenging time for its domestic business, where it is still reeling from the murder of two passengers last year.

As TechCrunch reported last month, Didi is revamping its security systems to put an increased focus on passenger security in the wake of those tragic deaths. That’s come at significant cost and it is said to have pushed back plans to take the company. Uber and Lyft have, of course, completed IPO this year, but Didi’s own timeline for doing so is unclear.

More generally, Didi is far from the first Chinese company to head to Latin America with ambitions of dizzying growth. Earlier this decade, Baidu made a major push to own the nascent web and search business in Brazil — which culminated in an acquisition — while Tencent has backed fintech unicorn Nubank and it is trying sniff out other potential giants-in-waiting as the region’s ecosystem matures.

Key Vision Fund investors are reportedly lukewarm on a second fund

SoftBank shook up the venture capital world with its unprecedented $100 billion Vision Fund, and the speculation continues around its follow-up.

The fund hasn’t quite closed $100 billion — it is mighty close… — but that hasn’t stopped reports of a sequel from surfacing for the last 18 months. SoftBank has mown through its allocation at speed, dealmaking increased to a record speed in Q1 despite controversy while its hiring has intensified, but the latest chatter suggests that a number of the fund’s key backers are lukewarm at the prospect of a return act.

The Wall Street Journal this weekend reported that Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), which anchored the Vision Fund with a $45 billion investment (but also provides the controversy), and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board are among those that “plan to make limited or no contributions” to the follow-up vehicle.

Sources told the Journal that a key factor is that many of these funds have disintermediated SoftBank to create their own vehicles that make late-stage investments in a more direct way. That cuts out the management fees to third-parties, and it gives the fund managers total control.

One wonders whether the criticism of PIF, which is controlled by Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, who has been strongly linked with the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, an outspoken critic of the regime, is part of the equation here. It isn’t mentioned in the report. The Vision Fund’s links to Khashoggi death hasn’t bothered startups offered access to billions, at least those in Asia that TechCrunch has probed over the issue.

SoftBank supremo Masayoshi Son has given the outside world a glimpse at the Vision Fund’s performance, which shows impressive gains on paper, but still the Journal reports that some investors are concerned a lack of transparency. Son pledged to provide a public update on the Vision Fund once per year on SoftBank’s annual earnings day; that’s a move that could provide greater transparency and, in the short term, potentially encourage an IPO for the fund itself, which has been rumored.

The Vision Fund refuted the Journal’s claims, calling them “misleading and even inaccurate.”

In the meanwhile, the Vision continues along at speed. In May alone it backed five ventures: India-based grocery startup Grofers, DoorDash, Germany’s GetYourGuide, lender Greensill Capital and GM Cruise.

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.

Slack narrows losses, displays healthy revenue growth

Workplace messaging powerhouse Slack filed an amended S-1 with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on Friday weeks ahead of a direct listing expected June 20.

In the document, Slack included an updated at look at its path to profitability, posting first-quarter revenues of $134.8 million on losses of $31.8 million. Slack’s Q1 revenues represent a 67% increase from the same period last year when the company lost $24.8 million on $80.9 million in revenue.

For the fiscal year ending January 31, 2019, the company reported losses of $138.9 million on revenue of $400.6 million. That’s compared to a loss of $140.1 million on revenue of $220.5 million the year prior.

Slack is in the process of completing the final steps necessary for its direct listing on The New York Stock Exchange, where it will trade under the ticker symbol “WORK.” A direct listing is an alternative approach to the stock market that allows well-known businesses to sell existing shares held by insiders, employees and investors directly to the market, instead of issuing new shares. The method lets companies bypass the traditional roadshow process and avoid a good chunk of Wall Street’s IPO fees.

Spotify completed a direct listing in 2018; Airbnb, another highly-valued venture capital-backed business, is rumored to be considering a direct listing in 2020.

Slack is currently valued at $7 billion after raising $1.22 billion in VC funding from investors including Accel, which owns a 24% pre-IPO stake, Andreessen Horowitz (13.3%), Social Capital (10.2%), SoftBank, T. Rowe Price, IVP, Kleiner Perkins and many others.

Kurly, a grocery e-commerce startup in Korea, closes upsized $113M Series D round

Kurly, a startup that operates a grocery delivery service in Korea, said today that it has closed an upsized Series D round that reached a total of $113 million.

The company announced the round in April when it was $88 million led by investors that include Sequoia China, however it has now increased by $25 million. That’s thanks to an injection from China’s Hillhouse Capital, a firm which counts Tencent, Meituan and JD.com among its most successful investments.

Launched in 2015 by former Goldman Sachs and Temasek analyst Sophie Kim, its Kurly Market service is designed to provide groceries and produce to customers who don’t have the time or interest to visit regular retail stores for their shopping.

Kurly Market delivers orders by 7am each morning with customers given until 11pm the previous day to place their order.

Korea is the place for speedy deliveries, if that’s your thing. Coupang, a company backed by SoftBank’s Vision Fund that’s widely seen as ‘the Amazon of Korea’ — and valued at $9 billion, to boot — has built out an impressive network that allows same- and next-day delivery for its “millions”of customers.

Coupang CEO Bo Kim told TechCrunch last year that his company was “approaching” $5 billion in revenue for 2018 with 70 percent annual growth. Additionally, he said, one in every two adults in Korea have the Coupang app on their phone and, having started out in Amazon-like areas, Coupang is doubling down on fresh produce with its own cold chain logistics network.

That represents a direct challenge to Kurly, which differentiates itself by operating through its own brands, unlike Coupang, which runs using a marketplace model to connect retailers with consumers. Kurly is also focused on convenience over cost savings, indeed its service began in Seoul’s high-end Gangnam neighborhood but has since expanded more widely.

Kurly Market products are focused on quality and convenience over price

Still, investors are bullish on Kurly and its laser focus on produce and groceries.

Kurly said its revenue grew three-fold year-on-year to reach $131 million in 2018, although it did not provide profit/loss figures.

“The latest round of investment is a major endorsement of the progress we’ve made differentiating ourselves in the market through our cold-chain fulfillment infrastructure and unique offering of premium, curated products. Our focus is on further strengthening our relationships with our suppliers, developing our fulfillment infrastructure and continually improving our customer experience,” Kim said in a statement.