Top startups news and tech trends to follow this week:
1. Sequoia raises record $2.85 bn to fund Indian startups, others ventures
Venture capital firm Sequoia India and Southeast Asia has raised $2.85 billion – the highest ever in one tranche by any venture capital fund – to fund startups and other ventures in the region.
Of the funds raised, USD 2 billion is dedicated to India across two funds, and the remaining USD 850 million funds is for Southeast Asia.
As per the SEC filings and earlier fundraising announcements, this now takes Sequoia’s total committed capital in India and South East Asia to USD 9 billion over the past 16 years.
“Sequoia India and Sequoia Southeast Asia have collectively raised USD 2.85 billion across a new set of funds, including India venture and growth funds and a USD 850 million Southeast Asian fund – the firm’s first dedicated fund for that region,” the statement said.
2. Vernal Biosciences, a Colchester-based startup specializing in mRNA manufacturing, plans to expand its Vermont facilities and staff using $21 million in new funding.
The company hopes to use that money to construct a laboratory in Essex by the end of 2023 that meets standards for “Good Manufacturing Practice” by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. That designation would allow the company to provide mRNA that their clients can use in clinical trials, founder and CEO Christian Cobaugh said. Currently, Vernal’s mRNA is primarily used for research.
Vernal produces high-purity mRNA to supply to companies that develop mRNA-based health treatments. The development of the Pfizer and Moderna Covid-19 vaccines was a prominent example of these treatments. However, Cobaugh said, the “ship has sailed” for any new vaccine developments, and he plans to keep Vernal’s focus on other uses of mRNA.
“Moderna and Pfizer really dominate the market,” Cobaugh said. “There’s not a ton of room for improvement. They’re doing an awesome job. I like to say that they’re kind of the proverbial tide that’s lifting the ships that represent other opportunities and other use cases for mRNA.”
3. Meta Pharmaceuticals lands $15M to make autoimmune drugs with AI, new immuno-metabolism tech
Biotech startup Meta Pharmaceuticals sets itself an ambitious goal as it secures its initial investment. The Shenzhen-based company, which sets out to develop treatments for autoimmune diseases with the help of artificial intelligence, has raised $15 million from its seed and pre-A rounds.
There is no lack of investor interest in companies applying machine learning to small-molecule drug discovery. New York-based Immunai picked up $215 million last year to create an “atlas” of the human immune system. Insilico from Hong Kong recently landed $60 million despite undergoing what the CEO dubbed a “biotech winter.”
Meta’s technology falls under the emerging field of immuno-metabolism, which studies the relationship between the historically distinct disciplines of immunology and metabolism. Drugs created using this new method are purported to regulate the immune system more effectively with fewer side effects. Originally from southwestern China, Meta’s co-founder and CEO Xu Ke graduated from Weill Cornell Medicine and conducted research at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, one of the top cancer hospitals in the US.
Meta is merely ten months old but is built off the back of an industry incumbent. It’s a project “incubated” by AI-assisted drug discovery and development upstart Xtalpi, which was founded in 2014 and has raised nearly $800 million in funding to date from the likes of Tencent, Softbank Vision Fund, and Sequoia Capital China.
4. Prenda raises $20M led by 776 to build tech to run K-8 microschools
Education took some significant twists and turns when the COVID-19 pandemic descended on the world. We saw a surge of new users, and new tools, around online learning; but we also saw a number of people and organizations more basically start to rethink how to get the best out of learning environments overall. (In fact, education went through many of the same changes as many enterprise verticals facing digital transformation around newly distributed teams, in that regard.)
Today, a startup called Prenda, which has built a platform to enable one permutation of delivering education — by way of tuition-free microschools of 10 students or fewer — is announcing $20 million in funding to expand its business and its vision.
The Series B is being led by Seven Seven Six (776), Alexis Ohanian’s firm, with strong participation from edtech-focused VC Learn Capital, and Modern Venture Partners, Peak State Ventures, and inside angels also participating. Previously, Mesa, Arizona-based Prenda (which operates as a remote company with distributed employees) had raised just over $26 million from investors that included Y Combinator (where it was part of a 2019 cohort), AngelList, Learn Capital, Eric Ries (the “Lean Startup” author), Mango.vc and others.
Prenda says that to date, 3,000 students in the kindergarten through eighth grade range in six states in the U.S. have already been learning by way enrolling in one of 300 microschools powered by its platform and run by hundreds of its so-called guides.
Founder and CEO Kelly Smith came to the idea of Prenda not as someone with years in education behind him, but as someone working in another field who took some time out to consider his next steps after selling a small software business in 2013. During this time, Smith told me he volunteered as a computing tutor at a local library, where he saw kids working on a variety of different skills and projects, each to their own motivation and interest. He was inspired by what he saw, and thought there could be an opportunity to create something deeper around the concept.
5. Echodyne’s compact, steerable radar spots $135M investment and prepares to diversify
When Echodyne showed off its compact but intelligent metamaterial radar system back in 2017, the applications seemed endless… but some, like urban air mobility and autonomous vehicles, we’re still waiting on. Fortunately the defense industry has buoyed the company up during a couple tough years and it is now looking to pursue new opportunities, powered by a $135 million funding round co-led by Bill Gates.
The company’s technology, detailed back then, essentially replaces large, power-hungry, often mechanized radar arrays with a device the size of a hardback book.
The power and weight savings alone would make it attractive enough, but it also adds capabilities like intelligent beam-forming for directing the radar’s ability to resolve details to a small area of interest. It’s made possible by metamaterials, a class of tech lorded over by Intellectual Ventures, and where Echodyne was incubated.
Originally the thought was that this would be a great addition to things like drones, which are quite limited in the sensing hardware they can carry comfortably without affecting range or maneuverability, and autonomous vehicles, on which space is likewise at a premium.
EchoDrive was the company’s first commercial product, put out in January of 2020 and intended for AVs — and as you may recall, that market is still struggling to emerge. Not to mention the pandemic thing.
6. Biotech Startup Raises $60 Million From Top VCs Including B Capital, Qiming reports Forbes
Hong Kong-based biotech startup Insilico Medicine has raised $60 million in Series D funding from investors including Singapore billionaire Eduardo Saverin’s B Capital Group, private equity giant Warburg Pincus and Midas Lister Nisa Leung’s Qiming Venture Partners.
Other investors in the round include Pavilion Capital, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Singapore’s state investor Temasek, and BHR Partners, a Chinese private equity firm that has backed the likes of ride-hailing giant Didi and electric vehicle battery maker CATL.
To date, Insilico Medicine has raised more than $360 million, including a Series C funding round of $255 million in June last year. The Series C round included investors Sequoia Capital China, Baidu Ventures, Korean billionaire Park Hyeon-joo’s Mirae Asset Capital and former Google China chief Kai-Fu Lee’s Sinovation Ventures.
The Series D funding round is “a testament to the strength of our end-to-end AI platform, which has been validated by many partners, and produced our first novel antifibrotic program discovered using AI and aging research, and designed using our generative AI chemistry engine,” Alex Zhavoronkov, founder and CEO of Insilico Medicine, said in a statement on Monday.
Part of the money raised will be used for the continued development of Pharma.AI, Insilico Medicine’s software platform that helps with drug analysis and experimentation. The funds will also be used to develop a fully automated, AI-driven robotic drug discovery laboratory and fully robotic biological data factory, Insilico Medicine said in the statement.
7. The Worldwide Artificial Intelligence in Supply Chain Industry is Expected to Reach $10 Billion by 2027
The Global Artificial Intelligence in Supply Chain Market is estimated to be USD 3.3 Bn in 2022 and is projected to reach USD 10.49 Bn by 2027, growing at a CAGR of 26.02%.
Market dynamics are forces that impact the prices and behaviors of the Global Artificial Intelligence in Supply Chain Market stakeholders. These forces create pricing signals which result from the changes in the supply and demand curves for a given product or service. Forces of Market Dynamics may be related to macro-economic and micro-economic factors. There are dynamic market forces other than price, demand, and supply. Human emotions can also drive decisions, influence the market, and create price signals.
As the market dynamics impact the supply and demand curves, decision-makers aim to determine the best way to use various financial tools to stem various strategies for speeding the growth and reducing the risks.
8. Amsterdam-based TestGorilla raises over €66 million for its pioneering tech making recruitment fairer
On a mission to make hiring bias a thing of the past, Dutch startup TestGorilla has just secured over €66 million for its pioneering platform that is revolutionizing recruitment processes.
Hiring and getting hired are both complicated processes. For HR teams, the process can be time-consuming and is too often reliant on inefficient systems. For the candidate, the process can be unfair and often discriminatory. On a mission to disrupt the status quo with a pioneering platform, TestGorilla has just secured over €66 million in fresh funding.
The investment was co-led by the London-based venture capital firms Atomico and Balderton Capital. It joins previous funding from Notion, Partech, and CapitalT. Luca Eisenstecken from Atomico and James Wise from Balderton Capital will join the board as part of this investment round.
Founded in 2020 by serial entrepreneur Wouter Durville and former Bain & Company partner Otto Verhage, TestGorilla makes the recruitment process more fair, efficient, and data-driven. It enables organizations to use skills assessments as soon as candidates apply for open roles – meaning recruiters can narrow down candidates based on their capabilities, not a subjective opinion or antiquated CV. It also makes the process much faster – removing the need to read hundreds of application forms. TestGorilla featured on our list of Dutch startups to watch this year, catching our eye for its revolutionary recruitment tech.
TestGorilla’s co-founder Wouter Durville, explained: “Too often, the recruitment process requires hiring managers to spend hours screening unreliable, incomplete, subjective CVs. By replacing resumes with more than 220 scientifically validated tests, our platform helps to eliminate hiring bias, creating a level playing field where every candidate can compete on equal terms.”
Hiring and recruitment are going through a major shake-up at the minute. Europe’s economy has changed massively over the past few years, new roles have opened up and skills shortages have left big gaps. It’s left the job market more competitive than ever and something needs to be done to ensure that quality candidates aren’t left by the wayside. Tech is helping to ensure that people find and are hired in the roles they deserve and to ensure that companies arent wasting their time with inefficient processes and poor hiring choices.
9. Berlin-based travel marketplace Distribusion raises €30 million to make it easier to book transport online
Booking ground transportation can be a complicated process for travellers. To make it simple, by connecting travel brands with transport providers, Distribusion Technologies has just raised €30 million.
Travel tech is an incredibly exciting space in 2022. After a couple of years of transport being grounded, this year travel is back and bigger than ever and tech advancements developed over the past couple of years are now coming to fruition. One of the world’s leading ground transportation marketplaces, Distribusion, is certainly getting in on this fast-paced action having just secured €30 million in new funding.
The capital boost for the Berlin-based startup was led by Lightrock, with participation from Creandum and Northzone.
Founded in 2014, Distribusion is a travel tech platform providing access to different ground transportation options worldwide, empowering travellers with an improved travel experience. The B2B booking platform boasts one of the largest networks of carriers and retailers in the industry, connecting global travel brands with hundreds of bus, airport transfer, train and ferry providers.
Today’s ground transportation market is highly fragmented and often subject to bespoke, legacy technology when it comes to supplier schedules and booking systems. It’s meant that planning and booking scheduled journeys online are either not possible or a confusing and time-consuming experience for travellers. As a result, over 100 million ground transportation tickets are purchased offline every day. In today’s digital world, the transportation booking segment is clearly lagging behind.
10. Leading global talent development platform CoachHub raises €191 million to democratise coaching worldwide
As a key player pushing forward the rise of digital coaching in the workplace, Berlin-based CoachHub has just raised over €191 million in new funding. The startup is a pioneering player in the edtech space and quickly becoming a global household name in this sector.
Digital coaching is a rising phenomenon and is regarded as one of the most effective ways to enhance socio-emotional and leadership skills as well as tackle the growing global talent shortage. Based in Berlin, CoachHub has been a revolutionary player in the edtech space with its digital coaching service and it’s now just picked up a massive €191 million.
The new funding was led by Sofina and SoftBank Vision Fund 2, following on from a €67.7 million raise last year. In addition to Sofina and SoftBank Vision Fund 2, existing investors Molten Ventures, Speedinvest, HV Capital, Signals Venture Capital and Silicon Valley Bank/SVB Capital also participated in the round.
Founded in 2018 by entrepreneurs Yannis Niebelschuetz and Matti Niebelschuetz, CoachHub’s vision is to create personalised, measurable and scalable coaching programs for the entire workforce, regardless of department and seniority level. In the process, organisations are able to reap a multitude of benefits, including increased employee engagement, higher levels of productivity, improved job performance and increased retention.
We talked to Yannis in 2020 to learn more about the inspiring vision behind the startup. Yannis also joined us at this year’s EU-Startups Summit where he was able to give an influential keynote on how to grow fast with maximum impact.
Matti Niebelschuetz, Co-founder of CoachHub, commented: “As workplaces continue adapting to the new normal of hybrid and remote models, leaders need individual support and solutions to boost employee performance, engagement and motivation, while keeping wellbeing at the forefront. Digital coaching offers these benefits and more, resulting in spiking global demand for CoachHub’s services.”
Narine Emdjian, MBA
Federal Funding Expert- Helping startups & academic scientists to acquire federal funding / Podcast Host @hyetechminds