Uber Freight co-founders and top dealmakers join logistics startup Turvo

Uber Freight co-founders Charlie Bergevin and Brian Cristol have left for Turvo, a venture-funded collaborative logistics platform.

Last year, Charlie Bergevin and Brian Cristol, co-founders of Uber’s trucking logistics business Uber Freight, heard Reid Hoffman say Turvo had some of the best technology he had ever seen. Frustrated with the direction Uber Freight had taken, they called up Turvo’s founder and chief executive officer Eric Gilmore.

It wasn’t long before offers were on the table and now, they’ve joined Turvo full-time. Cristol as head of enterprise partnerships and Bergevin as an enterprise partnerships executive. Bin Chang, a founding engineer at Uber Freight, is joining Turvo, too, a move I’m told Cristol and Bergevin were unaware of until they’d already accepted roles at the venture-funded startup. Chang begins Feb. 11.

“Brian and Charlie … have contributed so much to incubate this business and scale it to where we are today,” Uber Freight chief Lior Ron wrote in an internal email to employees shared with TechCrunch. “They were always on the forefront of exploration and innovation and were able to constantly push themselves, and all of us, to the next frontier.”

Cristol and Bergevin were Uber’s first B2B sales hires when they joined the ride-hailing firm in 2016. Tasked with finding product market fit for Uber’s final-mile businesses under the ‘Uber Everything’ initiative, they began learning about the truckload transportation and logistics industry. That’s when they linked up with Curtis Chambers, Uber’s long-time director of engineering. Together, the trio pitched their idea for a logistics business unit within Uber to then CEO Travis Kalanick.

Turvo’s real-time logistics platform.

Today, Uber Freight has roughly 750 employees and $1 billion in revenue. While the loss of two of its key dealmakers, who established relationships with Uber Freight’s Fortune 1000 customers, is cause for concern, Cristol and Bergevin suggested the unit is a rocket ship waiting to take off. 

“Uber Freight has by far the biggest market size and is by far the newest and it was made from scratch,” Bergevin told TechCrunch in reference to other Uber-branded businesses. “Sure we had the brand but with Uber Eats we had drivers, too, this was starting from scratch.”

So why are they leaving? The pair told TechCrunch they simply don’t feel like they are solving enough of the key issues plaguing the industry, particularly legacy systems. Uber Freight, for its part, focuses on freight brokerage, optimizing for top-line revenue. The business automates the backend operations that exist in transportation and truckload brokerage today, aggregating trucking fleets via the Uber Freight app and connecting drivers with shippers.

Turvo, on the other hand, works across the supply chain. The company, which has raised a total of $88.6 million at a $435 million valuation, according to PitchBook, helps shippers, brokers and carriers work together in real time using a software interface on their desktops and mobile phones. Turvo emerged from stealth two years ago with a $25 million Series A led by Activant Capital, with participation from Felicis Ventures, Upside Partnership, Slow Ventures and more. In November, the startup closed a Series B funding of $60 million led by Mubadala Ventures.

“Turvo’s platform is providing this solution to legacy logistics platforms and really maximizing all parts of the supply chain, not just pieces of it, which we were accustomed to at Uber,” Cristol told TechCrunch. “We were excited about how Turvo was innovating around the nucleus of logistics.”

Cristol and Bergevin officially began work at Turvo last week.

HyperScience, the machine learning startup tackling data entry, raises $30 million Series B

HyperScience, the machine learning company that turns human readable data into machine readable data, has today announced the close of a $30 million Series B funding round led by Stripes Group, with participation from existing investors FirstMark Capital and Felicis Ventures, as well as new investors Battery Ventures, Global Founders Fund, TD Ameritrade and QBE. […]

HyperScience, the machine learning company that turns human readable data into machine readable data, has today announced the close of a $30 million Series B funding round led by Stripes Group, with participation from existing investors FirstMark Capital and Felicis Ventures, as well as new investors Battery Ventures, Global Founders Fund, TD Ameritrade and QBE.

HyperScience launched out of stealth in 2016 with a suite of enterprise products focused on the healthcare, insurance, finance and government industries. The original products were HSForms (which handled data-entry by converting hand-written forms to digital), HSFreeForm (which did a similar function for hand-written emails or other non-form content) and HSEvaluate (which could parse through complex data on a form to help insurance companies approve or deny claims by pulling out all the relevant info).

Now, the company has combined all three of those products into a single product called HyperScience. The product is meant to help companies and organizations reduce their data-entry backlog and better serve their customers, saving money and resources.

The idea is that many of the forms we use in life or in the workplace are in an arbitrary format. My bank statements don’t look the same as your bank statements, and invoices from your company might look different than invoices from my company.

HyperScience is able to take those forms and pipe them into the system quickly and easily, without help from humans.

Instead of charging by seat, HyperScience charges by documents, as the mere use of HyperScience should mean that fewer humans are actually “using” the product.

The latest round brings HyperScience’s total funding to $50 million, and the company plans to use a good deal of that funding to grow the team.

“We have a product that works and a phenomenally good product market fit,” said CEO Peter Brodsky. “What will determine our success is our ability to build and scale the team.”

Juniper Square lines up $25M for its real estate investment platform

Juniper Square, which operates an enterprise software platform for commercial real estate investment firms, raised the funds from Ribbit Capital.

Juniper Square, a four-year-old startup at the intersection of enterprise software, real estate and financial technology, has brought in an additional $25 million in Series B funding to fuel the growth of its commercial real estate investment platform. Ribbit Capital led the round, with participation from Felicis Ventures.

Founded in 2014 by Alex Robinson, Yonas Fisseha and Adam Ginsburg, the startup’s chief executive officer, vice president of engineering and VP of product, respectively, Juniper has raised a total of $33 million to date.

The company operates a software platform for commercial real estate investment firms — an industry that has been slower to adopt the latest and greatest technology. Robinson tells TechCrunch those firms raise money from pension funds, endowments and elsewhere to purchase and then manage commercial real estate, using Juniper’s software as a tool throughout that process. Juniper supports fundraising and capital management with a suite of customer relationship management (CRM) and productivity tools for its users.

The San Francisco-based company says it currently has hundreds of customers and manages half a trillion dollars in real estate.

“The private markets are just as big as the public markets … but the private markets have typically not been accessible to everyday investors, and that’s part of what we are trying to do with Juniper Square,” Robinson told TechCrunch. “It’s a tremendously large market that almost nobody knows anything about.”

Juniper will use its latest investment to double headcount from 60 to 120 in the year ahead, with plans to beef up its engineering, product and sales teams specifically as the company expects to continue experiencing massive growth. Robinson said it’s grown between 3x and 4x every year for the last three years.

Felicis Ventures managing director Sundeep Peechu said in a statement that Juniper “is one of the fastest growing real estate tech companies” the firm has ever seen: “They are building technology for an industry that touches nearly every human and every corner of the economy. It’s a hard problem that takes time to solve, but the benefits of making these huge markets work better are tremendous.”

Existing in a relatively niche intersection, Juniper’s job now is to prove itself more efficient and user-friendly than Microsoft Excel spreadsheets, which, Robinson says, are still its biggest competitor.

“Our goal is to be the de facto platform for real estate investment and we are well on our way to becoming that.”

Former eBay product chief RJ Pittman takes the reins at 3D capture company Matterport

Matterport, a provider of 3D image capture technology, has named former eBay chief product officer RJ Pittman as its new chief executive. Pittman will take the reins from former chief executive Bill Brown, who will continue to advise Matterport as the company looks to capitalize on its library of three dimensional scans. The company currently […]

Matterport, a provider of 3D image capture technology, has named former eBay chief product officer RJ Pittman as its new chief executive.

Pittman will take the reins from former chief executive Bill Brown, who will continue to advise Matterport as the company looks to capitalize on its library of three dimensional scans.

The company currently has a library of 1.4 million three dimensional models that have been viewed at least 600 million times since the company launched.

According to Silicon Valley Business Journal, the company had revenue in 2017 of $33 million from selling its camera equipment and software services to businesses.

The company was launched when founders Matt Bell and David Gausebeck realized the commercial potential of the motion capture and sensor technology that Microsoft had unveiled with their Kinect camera back in 2010.

At the time, the company’s several thousand dollar pieces of hardware were the cutting edge for capturing images — now it can be done with software and a cell phone camera. The march of technology has put Matterport in a somewhat precarious position, but the company continues to lock in deals with companies like Donan, an investigation service for insurers and others that looks at fire damage.

The company has inked deals with a number of different enterprise customers — and even brought on State Auto Labs as a strategic investor earlier this year.

“Matterport has the opportunity to revolutionize how property risks are underwritten and claims are handled in the insurance industry,” said Kim Garland, Senior Vice President, Commercial Lines & Managing Director of State Auto Labs said in a statement at the time.

In all, Matterport has raised around $77 million from investors including State Auto Labs, Lux Capital, DCM Ventures, Qualcomm Ventures, Ericsson Ventures, AMD Ventures, AME Cloud Ventures, CBRE, Felicis Ventures, GIC, Crate and Barrel founder Gordon Segal, iGlobe Partners, Navitas Ventures, News Corp, and Sound Ventures.

Matterport’s hardware can digtially capture, document, visualize and collaborate around properties in 3D on web, mobile and in VR. And its hosted Matterport Cloud service automates the creation of state-of-the-art 3D models, high-quality 4K 2D photography, floorplans and other assets and stores them in easily accessible formats.

There’s still a lot of contested space in the collection and capture of the real world for use in augmented and virtual reality and the addition of Pittman should help Matterport as it looks at a much more crowded competitive landscape.

“RJ’s operating experience at scale, paired with his entrepreneurial DNA and deep product vision will be instrumental to unlocking the full potential of our breakthrough technology and unparalleled 3D media and data,” said company co-founder and chief technology officer David Gausebeck, in a statement.

Indeed, Pittman discussed the importance of Matterport’s library when he spoke of the opportunity he saw for the company. “Matterport Cloud is an unrivaled dataset of precision 3D environments that represents an enormous opportunity to scale the company’s data services business exponentially. This will open up new strategic partnerships and investments as we realize the full value of this data,” Pittman said in a statement.

As an entrepreneur, product developer and real estate investor, Pittman is uniquely qualified to take charte at Matterport.

He previously worked on product, design, engineering and mobile payments at eBay and held roles at Apple and Google. In addition, he had also co-founded and served as the chief executive for the search engine that created the industry’s first graphical information interface, Groxis.

Finally, Pittman worked on a number of real estate projects in the U.S. and UK, giving him insight on the role that technology can play in the new architectural landscape.

 

Insurance startup Bright Health raises $200M at ~$950M valuation

Bright Health, another startup seeking to disrupt an antiquated industry, has raised $440 million since 2016.

A flurry of digital-first insurers are betting they can surpass industry incumbents with a little help from technology and a lot of help from venture capitalists.

The latest to land a massive check is Bright Health, a Minneapolis-headquartered provider of affordable individual, family and Medicare Advantage healthcare plans in Alabama, ArizonaColoradoNew York CityOhio and Tennessee. The company, founded by the former chief executive officer of UnitedHealthcare Bob Sheehy; Kyle Rolfing, the former CEO of UnitedHealth-acquired Definity Health; and Tom Valdivia, another former Definity Health executive, has brought in a $200 million Series C.

The funding values Bright Health at $950 million, according to PitchBook — more than double the $400 million valuation it garnered with its $160 million Series B in June 2017. Sheehy, Bright Health’s CEO, declined to comment on the valuation. New investors Declaration Partners and Meritech Capital participated in the round, with backing from Bessemer Venture Partners, Greycroft, NEA, Redpoint Ventures and others. Bright Health has raised a total of $440 million since early 2016.

VCs have deployed significantly more capital to the insurance technology (insurtech) space in recent years. Startups in the industry, long-known for a serious dearth of innovation, have raked in nearly $3 billion in private capital this year. U.S.-based insurtech startups have raised $2 billion in 2018, a record year for the sector and more than double last year’s total.

Deal count, meanwhile, is swelling. In 2016, there were 72 deals conducted in the space, followed by 86 in 2017 and 94 so far this year, again, according to PitchBook’s data.

Oscar Health, the health insurance provider led by Josh Kushner, is responsible for about 25 percent of the capital invested in U.S. insurtech startups this year. The company has raised a total of $540 million across two notable deals in 2018. The first saw Oscar pulling in $165 million at a $3 billion valuation and the second, announced in August, had Alphabet investing a whopping $375 million. Devoted Health, a Waltham, Mass.-based Medicare Advantage startup, followed up with a massive round of its own. The company nabbed $300 million and announced that it would begin enrolling members to its Medicare Advantage plan in eight Florida counties. Devoted is led by Todd Park, the co-founder of Athenahealth and Castlight Health.

Bright Health co-founders Bob Sheehy, CEO; Tom Valdivia, chief medical officer; and Kyle Rolfing, president

VC’s interest in insurtech isn’t limited to healthcare.

Hippo, which sells home insurance plans at lower premiums, officially launched in 2017 and has brought in $109 million to date. Earlier this month the company announced a $70 million Series C funding round led by Felicis Ventures and Lennar Corporation. Lemonade, which is similarly an insurer focused on homeowners, raised $120 million in a SoftBank-led round late last year. And Root Insurance, an app-based car insurance company founded in 2015, itself raised a $100 million Series D led by Tiger Global Management in August. The financing valued the company at $1 billion.

Together, these companies have raised well over $1 billion this year alone. Why? Because building a health insurance platform is incredibly cash-intensive and particularly difficult given the breadth of incumbents like Aetna or UnitedHealth. Sheehy, considering his 20-year tenure at UnitedHealthcare, may be especially well-positioned to disrupt the industry.

The opportunity here for investors and startups alike is huge; the health insurance market alone is forecasted to be worth more than $1 trillion by 2023. Companies that can leverage technology to create consumer-friendly, efficient and, most importantly, reasonably priced insurance options stand to win big.

As for Bright Health, the company plans to use its $200 million infusion to rapidly expand into new markets, planning to triple its geographic footprint in 2019.

“Bright Health has continued to execute at a fast pace towards our goal of disrupting the old health care model that places insurers at odds with providers,” Sheehy said in a statement. “[Its] current high re-enrollment rate shows that consumers are ready for this improved healthcare experience – especially when it is priced competitively.”

Home insurance provider Hippo brings in $70M amid a record year in funding for insurtech startups

Insurtech startups have raised a total of $1.8 billion in venture capital this year.

Felicis Ventures and Lennar Corporation have co-led the $70 million Series C funding round for Hippo, a tech-enabled home insurance marketplace.

Existing investors in the startup, like Comcast Ventures, Fifth Wall Ventures, Horizons Ventures and GGV Capital, also participated in the round.

Hippo has raised $109 million to date, including a $25 million Series B earlier this year. Co-founder and chief executive officer Assaf Wand declined to disclose Hippo’s valuation.

Wand, who co-founded the startup in 2015 with Eyal Navon, said he spent 14 years imagining the technology that would become Hippo, inspired by his father’s career in the antiquated insurance industry.

Hippo co-founder and chief executive officer Assaf Wand.

“I was born into insurance,” Wand told TechCrunch. “Now, the entire real estate ecosystem is changing and the industry is massive. We are getting a crazy good challenge. We think the sky’s the limit with this thing.”

The Mountain View, California-based company officially launched to consumers in 2017. It plans to use its latest investment to fuel the growth of its product, which sells home insurance plans at lower premiums. So far this year, Hippo has expanded into 10 new states and says its sales have grown 30 percent month-over-month since January.

“Hippo has set the bar for the future of insurance with its fully automated, proprietary policy management and proactive underwriting,” Felicis managing director Victoria Treyger said in a statement. “Insurance is the next big sector to undergo the dramatic transformation of customer experience and improved risk management enabled by access to real time data. We see Hippo’s current growth rate and efficient automated policy management system as just the beginning of driving this transformation.”

Treyger will join Hippo’s board of directors as part of the round.

The insurance industry is indeed undergoing a dramatic transformation as a result of technology companies targeting the sector, which are part of a relatively new category of startups dubbed insurtech.

According to PitchBook, insurtech startups have raised nearly $6 billion in venture capital funding since 2012. This year alone, companies in the space have brought in a record amount of capital at $1.8 billion across 94 deals.

Whether or not the hype for the emerging category will continue into 2019 remains to be seen.

Investors are waking up to the emotional struggle of startup founders

Mahendra Ramsinghani Contributor Mahendra Ramsinghani is the founder of Secure Octane, a Silicon Valley-based cybersecurity seed fund. More posts by this contributor Lessons from cybersecurity exits Is Symantec getting ready to buy Splunk? As the Gartner Hype Curve goes, from the peak of inflated expectations to the trough of disillusionment, so goes the founder’s emotional […]

As the Gartner Hype Curve goes, from the peak of inflated expectations to the trough of disillusionment, so goes the founder’s emotional journey.

Most founders hit the trough sooner or later, the proverbial nadir of their startup life.

The company’s business model undergoes the dreaded pivot. Teams dissipate and the foundation starts to fall apart. Startups die. Investors cut their losses and move on to the rosier pastures of their portfolio.

And what is often left is a depressed broken founder, dealing with the consequences of ‘crushing it’. But too often, its the founders psyche that gets crushed. Not much can be done about it but that’s changing.

Gartner Hype Curve: No emotional support needed

Several venture capitalists have now stepped in to address this challenge. The Felicis Ventures pledge to set 1% of investments aside to support founders development is a start. Brad Feld has been writing about his journey for years. Former investor Jerry Colonna founded Reboot to find a way to help founders establish their own path of radical self inquiry.

When I reached Jerry to discuss founders emotional challenges, he invoked the compassionate kindness of a zen monk who has been dealing with wayward children for way too long. “A lot can be done but we need to start with changing the language around this subject,” he said.

From depression to dark angels

A prominent VC told me that “we are a blend of the dark and the light’ and we need to respect both parts. I was not quite sure what he meant till I dug around and found the works of Carl Gustav Jung. Jung describes these are forces inside us – the light being the benevolent and the dark forces of greed, arrogance, self-delusion and hubris.

Jung pointed out that “the word “happy” would lose its meaning if it were not balanced by sadness.” As we are forced to face our dark side, we begin to come to terms with our challenges. And it’s only then we can build our own compassion.

Those who have experienced the dark nights are able to emotionally empathize with founders, and help them become resilient. Just as a founder who has taken a company public can help a startup scale their business. Because Jung correctly said that “Knowing your own darkness is the best method for dealing with the darknesses of other people.”

 

This man of matter ……rose up too far in the world….(image and caption by Carl Jung. Source: “The Red Book”, circa 1930)

When we start to change the language around this subject, it can become safer and easier for founders to discuss their situation. Instead of saying “I am depressed” a different way could yet be “I’m facing dark times”. The goal is to not trivialize the magnitude of the problem, but to make it gentler in self expression and social acceptance. We are too sold on sunshine, but that’s only half of the equation.

With co-author (and friend) Brad Feld’s guidance, I am working on my third book tentatively titled “Depression: A Founders Companion” and am looking at ways of how (a) founders reflect and identify their dark nights (b) how founders endure these times and (c) how can society respond and serve them when they are at their emotional nadir.

Only if we understand these issues can we can serve each other well. If you know any founders who can share their anonymized insights with dark nights, please request them to fill this survey. It will take less than 10 minutes and can help us to collectively address these challenges.

So far, several founders have shared that the primary cause of concern is social stigma. VCs will abandon the investment, team members will see the CEO as a weak person or worse, they will try to behave differently. Even if someone musters up the courage to discuss their mental health, we as a society do not know how to handle this information. We run, hide or escape.

Often, we try to cheer up people with lame sentences or hijack the conversations by discussing our own stories. (Hint: Neither of these are effective). Not only do we need a new language, we need a new social framework. In this case, the overused VC cliche of “how can I help” is like a doctor asking the wounded patient, “so how can I treat you today”. I’ll let you guess how effective that approach can be.

Feel those feels – be vulnerable

Catherine Shu wrote in a post  that asking for help when you are depressed is one of the bravest things you can do. Asking for help makes you vulnerable, but it does not mean you are weak. It does not mean you are deficient.

Brad Feld writes that  “I encourage you to let yourself feel the emotions you are feeling.”

It’s a line his wife Amy uses with him all the time: “Brad, feel your emotions. Don’t suppress them. Just feel them. Process them. And then reflect on what you are feeling. Any, more importantly, explore why you felt them. It’s probably uncomfortable. But it’s part of being human. And, while tragic, we can learn from it to help ourselves, and help others.”

And Sam Altman, the former head of Y Combinator  has weighed in on the subject, writing:

“… a lot of founders end up pretty depressed at one point or another, and they generally don’t talk to anyone about it.  Often companies don’t survive these dark times.

Failing sucks—there is no way to sugarcoat that.  But startups are not life-and-death matters—it’s just work.

Most of the founders I know have had seriously dark times, and usually felt like there was no one they could turn to.  For whatever it’s worth, you’re not alone, and you shouldn’t be ashamed.

You’ll be surprised how much better you feel just by talking to people about the struggles you’re facing instead of saying “we’re crushing it”.  You’ll also be surprised how much you find other founders are willing to listen.”

These struggles are not unique, but they are individual. That said, the best way to overcome them is as a community and these early steps from investors should go a long way toward building that community.

Felicis Ventures has a new, $270 million fund, and a new managing director: Victoria Treyger

Felicis Ventures, the early-stage, San Francisco-based venture firmed founded a dozen or so years ago by former Googler Aydin Senkut, has closed its sixth fund with $270 million. It’s Felicis’s biggest vehicle to date (the firm closed its last fund with $200 million in 2016). Yet even bigger news for the team may be its […]

Felicis Ventures, the early-stage, San Francisco-based venture firmed founded a dozen or so years ago by former Googler Aydin Senkut, has closed its sixth fund with $270 million.

It’s Felicis’s biggest vehicle to date (the firm closed its last fund with $200 million in 2016). Yet even bigger news for the team may be its new managing director, Victoria Treyger, who spent the last six-plus years as the chief revenue office of the online lending company Kabbage and before that, spent a couple of years as the chief marketing officer of RingCentral, the cloud phone system company.

It’s easy to understand the attraction on both sides. Treyger gives the firm greater strength when it comes to marketing and fintech know-how. According to Senkut, Treyger is also acutely interested in health-related opportunities, which, not coincidentally, is a growing area of interest for the firm.

Indeed, he argues, persuasively, Treyger was being courted aggressively from operating companies wanting to tap her experience as a C-level executive at two separate but fast-growing companies.

That Treyger decided to pursue venture capital surely speaks to an interest in the industry broadly. But Felicis seems like a particularly good fit for her, too. For one thing, Treyger “basically has an equal spot at the table,” according to Senkut. This isn’t always the case with a new hire into a venture firm, even at the most senior level.

Treyger also joins a now four-person leadership team — including Senkut, Sundeep Peechu, and Wesley Chan — that has, in the parlance of the startup world, been crushing it.

Already in 2018, the firm has seen three major exits, including when Adyen, the Amsterdam-based payments platform, went public in June (it currently boasts a $16.3 billion market cap); when Pluralsight, the corporate learning platform, went public on the Nasdaq in May (it’s currently valued at just north of $3 billion); and when Ring, the video doorbell maker, was acquired in March by Amazon for $1 billion.

Felicis can — and does — further brag that has enjoyed a $1 billion(ish) exit in each of the last seven years. The full list includes: Meraki (acquired for $1.2 billion by Cisco in 2012); Climate Corp (which sold in 2013 to Monsanto for roughly $930 million); Twitch (acquired for $970 million in 2014 Amazon); Shopify (it went public in 2015); Fitbit (it also went public in 2015); Cruise (it was acquired by General Motors for reportedly more than $1 billion in 2016); Dollar Shave Club (acquired for $1 billion by Unilever in 2016); and Rovio (which went public last year).

How was the firm pulled off what seem like an outsize number of hits for a small and relatively young organization? Senkut says one central tenet for the firm is resiliency, meaning Felicis works to ensure that it’s portfolio is “anti fragile,” as described by essayist, scholar, and risk analyst Nassim Taleb, in his 2012 book about “things that gain from disorder.”

As it pertains to Felicis, Senkut says, “We basically want to have many uncorrelated bets — across stages, sectors and geographies — so that no matter what happens in the world, some part of our portfolio is always poised to win.”

The strategy, which has since the firm invest everywhere from Canada to Australia and in between, has certainly paid off so far.

Though early last year Felicis lost its first female general partner, Renata Quinitini, to venture peer Lux Capital (she said her interests and Lux’s began to align better over time),  Felicis describes its newest fund as “oversubscribed.” It’s an easy claim to believe, given the amount of money that investors are looking to park with venture firms, and the performance to date of Felicis in particular.

Still, taking on more investing capital was not a consideration, says Senkut. Asked why not, he laughs. “We know our strike zone,” he says.