Startups Weekly: Even Gwyneth Paltrow had a hard time raising VC

This week in startups: Celebrities mingle with VCs at the Upfront Summit, Pinterest preps banks for IPO and Sam Altman has a grand new idea.

I spent the week in Malibu attending Upfront Ventures’ annual Upfront Summit, which brings together the likes of Hollywood, Silicon Valley and Washington, DC’s elite for a two-day networking session of sorts. Cameron Diaz was there for some reason, and Natalie Portman made an appearance. Stacey Abrams had a powerful Q&A session with Lisa Borders, the president and CEO of Time’s Up. Of course, Gwyneth Paltrow was there to talk up Goop, her venture-funded commerce and content engine.

“I had no idea what I was getting into but I am so fulfilled and on fire from this job,” Paltrow said onstage at the summit… “It’s a very different life than I used to have but I feel very lucky that I made this leap.” Speaking with Frederic Court, the founder of Felix Capital, Paltrow shed light on her fundraising process.

“When I set out to raise my Series A, it was very difficult,” she said. “It’s great to be Gwyneth Paltrow when you’re raising money because people take the meeting, but then you get a lot more rejections than you would if they didn’t want to take a selfie … People, understandably, were dubious about [this business]. It becomes easier when you have a thriving business and your unit economics looks good.”

In other news…

1. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is an entrepreneur, too

The actor stopped by the summit to promote his startup, HitRecord . I talked to him about his $6.4 million round and grand plans for the artist-collaboration platform.

  1. Deals of the week

Backed by GV, Sequoia, Floodgate and more, Clover Health confirmed to TechCrunch this week that it’s brought in another round of capital led by Greenoaks. The $500 million round is a vote of confidence for the business, which has experienced its fair share of well-publicized hiccups. More on that here. Plus, Clutter, the startup that provides on-demand moving and storage services, is raising at least $200 million from SoftBank, sources tell TechCrunch. The round is a big deal for the LA tech ecosystem, which, aside from Snap and Bird, has birthed few venture-backed unicorns.

  1. The Pinterest IPO is really, actually happening

Pinterest, the nine-year-old visual search engine, has hired Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase as lead underwriters for an IPO that’s planned for later this year. With $700 million in 2018 revenue, the company has raised some $1.5 billion at a $12 billion valuation from Goldman Sachs Investment Partners, Valiant Capital Partners, Wellington Management, Andreessen Horowitz, Bessemer Venture Partners and more.

  1. Fundraising efforts

Kleiner Perkins went “back to the future” this week with the announcement of a $600 million fund. The firm’s 18th fund, it will invest at the seed, Series A and Series B stages. TCV, a backer of Peloton and Airbnb, closed a whopping $3 billion vehicle to invest in consumer internet, IT infrastructure and services startups. Partech has doubled its Africa VC fund to $143 million and opened a Nairobi office to complement its Dakar practice. And Sapphire Ventures has set aside $115 million for sports and entertainment bets.

  1. Sam Altman has a new idea

The co-founder of Y Combinator will throw a sort of annual weekend getaway for nerds in picturesque Boulder, Colo. Called the YC 120, it will bring toget her 120 people for a couple of days in April to create connections. Read TechCrunch’s Connie Loizos’ interview with Altman here.

  1. Hims gets unicorn status

Consumer wellness business Hims has raised $100 million in an ongoing round at a $1 billion pre-money valuation. A growth-stage investor has led the round, with participation from existing investors (which include Forerunner Ventures, Founders Fund, Redpoint Ventures, SV Angel, 8VC and Maverick Capital) . Our sources declined to name the lead investor but said it was a “super big fund” that isn’t SoftBank and that hasn’t previously invested in Hims.

  1. a16z bets on VR — again

Five years after Andreessen Horowitz backed Oculus, it’s leading a $68 million Series A funding in Sandbox VR. TechCrunch’s Lucas Matney talked to a16z’s Andrew Chen and Floodgate’s Mike Maples about what sets Sandbox apart.

Here’s your weekly reminder to send me tips, suggestions and more to kate.clark@techcrunch.com or @KateClarkTweets

  1. More startup cash:

  1. An update on the Munchery fiasco

In a new class-action lawsuit, a former Munchery facilities worker is claiming the startup owes him and 250 other employees 60 days’ wages. On top of that, another former employee says the CEO, James Beriker, was largely absent and is to blame for Munchery’s downfall. If you haven’t been keeping up on Munchery’s abrupt shutdown, here’s some good background.

  1. Scooter consolidation

Consolidation in the micromobility space has arrived — in Brazil, at least. Not long after Y Combinator-backed Grin merged its electric scooter business with Brazil-based Ride, it’s completing another merger, this time with Yellow, the bike-share startup based in Brazil that has also expressed its ambitions to get into electric scooters.

  1. Listen to me talk

If you enjoy this newsletter, be sure to check out TechCrunch’s venture-focused podcast, Equity. In this week’s episode, available here, Crunchbase editor-in-chief Alex Wilhelm, TechCrunch’s Silicon Valley editor Connie Loizos and Jeff Clavier of Uncork Capital chat about $100 million rounds, Stripe’s mega valuation and Pinterest’s highly anticipated IPO.

Startups Weekly: Even Gwyneth Paltrow had a hard time raising VC

This week in startups: Celebrities mingle with VCs at the Upfront Summit, Pinterest preps banks for IPO and Sam Altman has a grand new idea.

I spent the week in Malibu attending Upfront Ventures’ annual Upfront Summit, which brings together the likes of Hollywood, Silicon Valley and Washington, DC’s elite for a two-day networking session of sorts. Cameron Diaz was there for some reason, and Natalie Portman made an appearance. Stacey Abrams had a powerful Q&A session with Lisa Borders, the president and CEO of Time’s Up. Of course, Gwyneth Paltrow was there to talk up Goop, her venture-funded commerce and content engine.

“I had no idea what I was getting into but I am so fulfilled and on fire from this job,” Paltrow said onstage at the summit… “It’s a very different life than I used to have but I feel very lucky that I made this leap.” Speaking with Frederic Court, the founder of Felix Capital, Paltrow shed light on her fundraising process.

“When I set out to raise my Series A, it was very difficult,” she said. “It’s great to be Gwyneth Paltrow when you’re raising money because people take the meeting, but then you get a lot more rejections than you would if they didn’t want to take a selfie … People, understandably, were dubious about [this business]. It becomes easier when you have a thriving business and your unit economics looks good.”

In other news…

1. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is an entrepreneur, too

The actor stopped by the summit to promote his startup, HitRecord . I talked to him about his $6.4 million round and grand plans for the artist-collaboration platform.

  1. Deals of the week

Backed by GV, Sequoia, Floodgate and more, Clover Health confirmed to TechCrunch this week that it’s brought in another round of capital led by Greenoaks. The $500 million round is a vote of confidence for the business, which has experienced its fair share of well-publicized hiccups. More on that here. Plus, Clutter, the startup that provides on-demand moving and storage services, is raising at least $200 million from SoftBank, sources tell TechCrunch. The round is a big deal for the LA tech ecosystem, which, aside from Snap and Bird, has birthed few venture-backed unicorns.

  1. The Pinterest IPO is really, actually happening

Pinterest, the nine-year-old visual search engine, has hired Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase as lead underwriters for an IPO that’s planned for later this year. With $700 million in 2018 revenue, the company has raised some $1.5 billion at a $12 billion valuation from Goldman Sachs Investment Partners, Valiant Capital Partners, Wellington Management, Andreessen Horowitz, Bessemer Venture Partners and more.

  1. Fundraising efforts

Kleiner Perkins went “back to the future” this week with the announcement of a $600 million fund. The firm’s 18th fund, it will invest at the seed, Series A and Series B stages. TCV, a backer of Peloton and Airbnb, closed a whopping $3 billion vehicle to invest in consumer internet, IT infrastructure and services startups. Partech has doubled its Africa VC fund to $143 million and opened a Nairobi office to complement its Dakar practice. And Sapphire Ventures has set aside $115 million for sports and entertainment bets.

  1. Sam Altman has a new idea

The co-founder of Y Combinator will throw a sort of annual weekend getaway for nerds in picturesque Boulder, Colo. Called the YC 120, it will bring toget her 120 people for a couple of days in April to create connections. Read TechCrunch’s Connie Loizos’ interview with Altman here.

  1. Hims gets unicorn status

Consumer wellness business Hims has raised $100 million in an ongoing round at a $1 billion pre-money valuation. A growth-stage investor has led the round, with participation from existing investors (which include Forerunner Ventures, Founders Fund, Redpoint Ventures, SV Angel, 8VC and Maverick Capital) . Our sources declined to name the lead investor but said it was a “super big fund” that isn’t SoftBank and that hasn’t previously invested in Hims.

  1. a16z bets on VR — again

Five years after Andreessen Horowitz backed Oculus, it’s leading a $68 million Series A funding in Sandbox VR. TechCrunch’s Lucas Matney talked to a16z’s Andrew Chen and Floodgate’s Mike Maples about what sets Sandbox apart.

Here’s your weekly reminder to send me tips, suggestions and more to kate.clark@techcrunch.com or @KateClarkTweets

  1. More startup cash:

  1. An update on the Munchery fiasco

In a new class-action lawsuit, a former Munchery facilities worker is claiming the startup owes him and 250 other employees 60 days’ wages. On top of that, another former employee says the CEO, James Beriker, was largely absent and is to blame for Munchery’s downfall. If you haven’t been keeping up on Munchery’s abrupt shutdown, here’s some good background.

  1. Scooter consolidation

Consolidation in the micromobility space has arrived — in Brazil, at least. Not long after Y Combinator-backed Grin merged its electric scooter business with Brazil-based Ride, it’s completing another merger, this time with Yellow, the bike-share startup based in Brazil that has also expressed its ambitions to get into electric scooters.

  1. Listen to me talk

If you enjoy this newsletter, be sure to check out TechCrunch’s venture-focused podcast, Equity. In this week’s episode, available here, Crunchbase editor-in-chief Alex Wilhelm, TechCrunch’s Silicon Valley editor Connie Loizos and Jeff Clavier of Uncork Capital chat about $100 million rounds, Stripe’s mega valuation and Pinterest’s highly anticipated IPO.

Dadi brings in $2M to democratize sperm storage

Backed by firstminute capital and Third Kind Ventures, Dadi wants men to be more aware of their biological clock.

The founders of Dadi — pronounced daddy — think men are in need of a wake-up call.

“Men [have] a biological clock just like women, which is something that people don’t talk about,” Dadi co-founder and chief executive officer Tom Smith told TechCrunch. “Infertility isn’t a women’s issue; It’s both a men’s and women’s issue.”

Smith believes Dadi, the provider of a temperature-controlled at-home fertility test and sperm collection kit, will encourage men to contribute to family planning conversations and become more aware of their reproductive health. The startup is officially launching its kit and long-term sperm storage service today with nearly $2 million in venture capital funding from London-based seed fund firstminute capital and New York-based Third Kind Venture Capital.

“Our mission is to normalize the conversation around male fertility and reproductive health, and empower men with knowledge of fertility so they can have that conversation with their family,” Smith said.

Here’s how it works: Dadi customers order a kit online, masturbate and collect their sperm within the comfort of their own homes, drop it off with FedEx and wait for a full fertility report, which comes with a microscopic video of the each man’s actual sperm. To survive the trip to the startup’s laboratory — the New England Cryogenic Center — the Dadi-designed container injects preservatives, which are nested in the lid of the cup, into the sperm sample.

Headquartered in Brooklyn, Dadi’s service is FDA-licensed in all 50 states and costs a total of $198, including a test and one-year of sperm storage.

Dadi’s co-founding team includes Mackey Saturday, a graphic designer who created Instagram’s logo, and Gordon von Steiner, a former creative director in the fashion industry. The team has prioritized design and messaging of the product, in addition to security, privacy and high medical standards.

“We aren’t trying to sell hair pills, we are actually interacting with customers at a very vulnerable part of their life,” Smith said. “We feel like our value set, approach and thoughtfulness really differentiate us from anyone else in the space.”

One in 6 U.S. couples struggles with fertility, with male factor infertility a cause of 30 percent of those cases, per ReproductiveFacts.org. Startups want to improve these statistics, targeting an industry that’s trapped in the 1980s.

“We are in the direct-to-consumer era,” Smith said. “We reached peak app a couple years ago and I think a lot of the innovation that’s happening in the space comes down to individualized services.”

Dadi joins a cadre of privately-funded male fertility or men’s health businesses. Hims, the provider of direct-to-consumer erectile dysfunction (ED) and hair loss medication, leads the pact. The 2-year-old business entered the unicorn club last week with a $100 million investment. Ro, formerly known only as Roman, sells ED medication online, too, and has raised a total of $91 million. Legacy, which freezes men’s sperm, recently won TechCrunch’s very own Startup Battlefield competition in Berlin. And Manual, an educational portal and treatment platform for men’s issues, raised a £5 million seed round earlier this month from Felix Capital, Cherry Ventures and Cassius Capital.

It’s clear that VCs have woken up to the opportunity to disrupt fertility with tech-enabled solutions to age-old issues and now, entrepreneurs passionate about helping men broach sensitive topics, from infertility to erectile dysfunction to hair loss and more, are able to gain ground.

Here’s to more funding for women’s health businesses, which are in dire need of innovation, too.

Dadi brings in $2M to democratize sperm storage

Backed by firstminute capital and Third Kind Ventures, Dadi wants men to be more aware of their biological clock.

The founders of Dadi — pronounced daddy — think men are in need of a wake-up call.

“Men [have] a biological clock just like women, which is something that people don’t talk about,” Dadi co-founder and chief executive officer Tom Smith told TechCrunch. “Infertility isn’t a women’s issue; It’s both a men’s and women’s issue.”

Smith believes Dadi, the provider of a temperature-controlled at-home fertility test and sperm collection kit, will encourage men to contribute to family planning conversations and become more aware of their reproductive health. The startup is officially launching its kit and long-term sperm storage service today with nearly $2 million in venture capital funding from London-based seed fund firstminute capital and New York-based Third Kind Venture Capital.

“Our mission is to normalize the conversation around male fertility and reproductive health, and empower men with knowledge of fertility so they can have that conversation with their family,” Smith said.

Here’s how it works: Dadi customers order a kit online, masturbate and collect their sperm within the comfort of their own homes, drop it off with FedEx and wait for a full fertility report, which comes with a microscopic video of the each man’s actual sperm. To survive the trip to the startup’s laboratory — the New England Cryogenic Center — the Dadi-designed container injects preservatives, which are nested in the lid of the cup, into the sperm sample.

Headquartered in Brooklyn, Dadi’s service is FDA-licensed in all 50 states and costs a total of $198, including a test and one-year of sperm storage.

Dadi’s co-founding team includes Mackey Saturday, a graphic designer who created Instagram’s logo, and Gordon von Steiner, a former creative director in the fashion industry. The team has prioritized design and messaging of the product, in addition to security, privacy and high medical standards.

“We aren’t trying to sell hair pills, we are actually interacting with customers at a very vulnerable part of their life,” Smith said. “We feel like our value set, approach and thoughtfulness really differentiate us from anyone else in the space.”

One in 6 U.S. couples struggles with fertility, with male factor infertility a cause of 30 percent of those cases, per ReproductiveFacts.org. Startups want to improve these statistics, targeting an industry that’s trapped in the 1980s.

“We are in the direct-to-consumer era,” Smith said. “We reached peak app a couple years ago and I think a lot of the innovation that’s happening in the space comes down to individualized services.”

Dadi joins a cadre of privately-funded male fertility or men’s health businesses. Hims, the provider of direct-to-consumer erectile dysfunction (ED) and hair loss medication, leads the pact. The 2-year-old business entered the unicorn club last week with a $100 million investment. Ro, formerly known only as Roman, sells ED medication online, too, and has raised a total of $91 million. Legacy, which freezes men’s sperm, recently won TechCrunch’s very own Startup Battlefield competition in Berlin. And Manual, an educational portal and treatment platform for men’s issues, raised a £5 million seed round earlier this month from Felix Capital, Cherry Ventures and Cassius Capital.

It’s clear that VCs have woken up to the opportunity to disrupt fertility with tech-enabled solutions to age-old issues and now, entrepreneurs passionate about helping men broach sensitive topics, from infertility to erectile dysfunction to hair loss and more, are able to gain ground.

Here’s to more funding for women’s health businesses, which are in dire need of innovation, too.

Moonbug nabs $145M to buy up kids’ digital media brands

The entertainment business was founded by former Disney and Paramount executives.

Moonbug, a kid-focused media business founded by a pair of entertainment executives, has brought in a $145 million Series A investment led by The Raine Group, a merchant bank that supports technology, media and telecom efforts.

Venture capital firms Felix Capital and Fertitta Capital also participated in the financing.

Moonbug, headquartered in London, acquires and distributes media content made for kids. Recently, the company completed its first IP acquisition of Little Baby Bum, a children’s sing-along show popular on YouTube, Amazon and Netflix. According to a Los Angeles Times report, one of the show’s videos is the 20th most popular video in YouTube history, boasting 2.1 billion views. In total, Moonbug says Little Baby Bum has clocked in 23 billion views across multiple platforms.

With its Series A investment, Moonbug will amp up its M&A activity to expand its portfolio of content that “helps children build essential life skills.” Moonbug chief executive officer René Rechtman, who spent the last three years as the head of digital studios at The Walt Disney Co., says they plan to acquire eight media businesses.

Rechtman and John Robson, a former senior vice president of digital distribution at Paramount Pictures and vice president of global content at HTC, launched Moonbug earlier this year.

“I see an independent creator and I put them in very simple brackets: one is high viewership and engagement and one is quality of IP,” Rechtman told TechCrunch. “If they have both of those, I am very interested.”

TravelPerk grabs $44M to take its pain-free SaaS for business travel global

Only six months ago Barcelona-based TravelPerk bagged a $21M Series B, off the back of strong momentum for a software as a service platform designed to take a Slack-like chunk out of the administrative tedium of arranging and expensing work trips. Today the founders’ smiles are firmly back in place: TravelPerk has announced a $44M Series […]

Only six months ago Barcelona-based TravelPerk bagged a $21M Series B, off the back of strong momentum for a software as a service platform designed to take a Slack-like chunk out of the administrative tedium of arranging and expensing work trips.

Today the founders’ smiles are firmly back in place: TravelPerk has announced a $44M Series C to keep stoking growth that’s seen it grow from around 20 customers two years ago to approaching 1,500 now. The business itself was only founded at the start of 2015.

Investors in the new round include Sweden’s Kinnevik; Russian billionaire and DST Global founder Yuri Milner, and Tom Stafford, also of DST. Prior investors include the likes of Target Global, Felix Capital, Spark Capital, Sunstone, LocalGlobe and Amplo.

Commenting on the Series C in a statement, Kinnevik’s Chris Bischoff, said: “We are excited to invest in TravelPerk, a company that fits perfectly into our investment thesis of using technology to offer customers more and much better choice. Booking corporate travel is unnecessarily time-consuming, expensive and burdensome compared to leisure travel. Avi and team have capitalised on this opportunity to build the leading European challenger by focusing on a product-led solution, and we look forward to supporting their future growth.”

TravelPerk’s total funding to date now stands at almost $75M. It’s not disclosing the valuation that its latest clutch of investors are stamping on its business but, with a bit of a chuckle, co-founder and CEO Avi Meir dubs it “very high”.

Gunning for growth — to West and East

TravelPerk contends that a $1.3tr market is ripe for disruption because legacy business travel booking platforms are both lacking in options and roundly hated for being slow and horrible to use. (Hi Concur!)

Helping business save time and money using a slick, consumer-style trip booking platform that both packs in options and makes business travellers feel good about the booking process (i.e. rather than valueless cogs in a soul-destroying corporate ROI machine) is the general idea — an idea that’s seemingly catching on fast.

And not just with the usual suspect, early adopter, startup dog food gobblers but pushing into the smaller end of the enterprise market too.

“We kind of stumbled on the realization that our platform works for bigger companies than we thought initially,” says Meir. “So the users used to be small, fast-growing tech companies, like GetYourGuide, Outfittery, TypeForm etc… They’re early adopters, they’re tech companies, they have no fear of trying out tech — even for such a mission critical aspect of their business… But then we got pulled into bigger companies. We recently signed FarFetch for example.”

Other smaller sized enterprises that have signed up include the likes of Adyen, B&W, Uber and Aesop.

Companies small and big are, seemingly, united in their hatred of legacy travel booking platforms. And feeling encouraged to check out TravelPerk’s alternative thanks to the SaaS being free to use and free from the usual contract lock ins.

TravelPerk’s freemium business model is based on taking affiliate commissions on bookings. While, down the road, it also has its eye on generating a data-based revenue stream via paid-tier trip analytics.

Currently it reports booking revenues growing at 700% year on year. And Meir previously told us it’s on course to do $100M GMV this year — which he confirms continues to be the case.

It also says it’s on track to complete bookings for one million travellers by next year. And claims to be the fastest growing software as a service company in Europe, a region which remains its core market focus — though the new funding will be put towards market expansion.

And there is at least the possibility, according to Meir, that TravelPerk could actively expand outside Europe within the next 12 months.

“We definitely are looking at expansion outside of Europe as well. I don’t know yet if it’s going to be first US — West or East — because there are opportunities in both directions,” he tells TechCrunch. “And we have customers; one of our largest customers is in Singapore. And we do have a growing amount of customers out of the US.”

Doubling down on growth within Europe is certainly on the slate, though, with a chunk of the Series C going to establish a number of new offices across the region.

Having more local bases to better serve customers is the idea. Meir notes that, perhaps unusually for a startup, TravelPerk has not outsourced customer support — but kept customer service in house to try to maintain quality. (Which, in Europe, means having staff who can speak the local language.)

He also quips about the need for a travel business to serve up “human intelligence” — i.e. by using tech tools to slickly connect on-the-road customers with actual people who can quickly and smartly grapple with and solve problems; vs an automated AI response which is — let’s face it — probably the last thing any time-strapped business traveller wants when trying to get orientated fast and/or solve a snafu away from home.

“I wouldn’t use [human intelligence] for everything but definitely if people are on the road, and they need assistance, and they need to make changes, and you need to understand what they said…” argues Meir, going on to say ‘HI’ has been his response when investors asked why TravelPerk’s pitch deck doesn’t include the almost-impossible-to-avoid tech buzzword: “AI”.

“I think we are probably the only startup in the world right now that doesn’t have AI in the pitch deck somewhere,” he adds. “One of the investors asked about it and I said ‘well we have HI; it’s better’… We have human intelligence. Just people, and they’re smart.”

Also on the cards (it therefore follows): More hiring (the team is at ~150 now and Meir says he expects it to push close to 300 within 18 months); as well as continued investment on the product front, including in the mobile app which was a late addition, only arriving this year.

The TravelPerk mobile app offers handy stuff like a one-stop travel itinerary, flight updates and a chat channel for support. But the desktop web app and core platform were the team’s first focus, with Meir arguing the desktop platform is the natural place for businesses to book trips.

This makes its mobile app more a companion piece — to “how you travel” — housing helpful additions for business travellers, as nice-to-have extras. “That’s what our app does really well,” he adds. “So we’re unusually contrarian and didn’t have a mobile app until this year… It was a pretty crazy bet but we really wanted to have a great web app experience.”

Much of TravelPerk’s early energy has clearly gone into delivering on the core product via nailing down the necessary partnerships and integrations to be able to offer such a large inventory — and thus deliver expanded utility vs legacy rivals.

As well as offering a clean-looking, consumer-style interface intended to do for business travel booking feels what Slack has done for work chat, the platform boasts a larger inventory than traditional players in the space, according to Meir — by plugging into major consumer providers such as Booking.com and Expedia.

The inventory also includes Airbnb accommodation (not just traditional hotels). While other partners on the flight side include include Kayak and Skyscanner.

“We have not the largest bookable inventory in the world,” he claims. “We’re way larger than old school competitors… We went through this licensing process which is almost as difficult as getting a banking license… which give us the right to sell you the same product as travel agencies… Nobody in the world can sell you Kayak’s flights directly from their platform — so we have a way to do that.”

TravelPerk also recently plugged trains into its directly bookable options. This mode of transport is an important component of the European business travel market where rail infrastructure is dense, highly developed and often very high speed. (Which means it can be both the most convenient and environmentally friendly travel option to use.)

“Trains are pretty complex technically so we found a great partner,” notes Meir on that, listing major train companies including in Germany, Spain and Italy as among those it’s now able to offer direct bookings for via its platform.

On the product side, the team is also working on integrating travel and expenses management into the platform — to serve its growing numbers of (small) enterprise customers who need more than just a slick trip booking tool.

Meir says getting pulled to these bigger accounts is steering its European expansion — with part of the Series C going to fund a clutch of new offices around the region near where some of its bigger customers are based. Beginning in London, with Berlin, Amsterdam and Paris slated to follow soon.

Picking investors for the long haul

What does the team attribute TravelPerk’s momentum to generally? It comes back to the pain, says Meir. Business travellers are being forced to “tolerate” horrible legacy systems. “So I think the pain-point is so visible and so clear [it sells itself],” he argues, also pointing out this is true for investors (which can’t have hurt TravelPerk’s funding pitch).

“In general we just built a great product and a great service, and we focused on this consumer angle — which is something that really connects well with what people want in this day and age,” he adds. “People want to use something that feels like Slack.”

For the Series C, Meir says TravelPerk was looking for investors who would be comfortable supporting the business for the long haul, rather than pushing for a quick sale. So they are now articulating the possibility of a future IPO.

And while he says TravelPerk hadn’t known much about Swedish investment firm Kinnevik prior to the Series C, Meir says he came away impressed with its focus on “global growth and ambition”, and the “deep pockets and the patience that comes with it”.

“We really aligned on this should be a global play, rather than a European play,” he adds. “We really connected on this should be a very, big independent business that goes to the path of IPO rather than a quick exit to one of the big players.

“So with them we buy patience, and also the condition, when offers do come onto the table, to say no to them.”

Given it’s been just a short six months between the Series B and C, is TravelPerk planning to raise again in the next 12 months?

“We’re never fundraising and we’re always fundraising I guess,” Meir responds on that. “We don’t need to fundraise for the next three years or so, so it will not come out of need, hopefully, unless something really unusual is happening, but it will come more out of opportunity and if it presented a way to grow even faster.

“I think the key here is how fast we grow. And how good a product we certify — and if we have an opportunity to make it even faster or better then we’ll go for it. But it’s not something that we’re actively doing it… So to all investors reading this piece don’t call me!” he adds, most likely inviting a tsunami of fresh investor pitches.

Discussing the challenges of building a business that’s so fast growing it’s also changing incredibly rapidly, Meir says nothing is how he imagined it would be — including fondly thinking it would be easier the bigger and better resourced the business got. But he says there’s an upside too.

“The challenges are just much, much bigger on this scale,” he says. “Numbers are bigger, you have more people around the table… I would say it’s very, very difficult and challenging but also extremely fun.

“So now when we release a feature it goes immediately into the hands of hundreds of thousands of travellers that use it every month. And when you fundraise… it’s much more fun because you have more leverage.

“It’s also fun because — and I don’t want to position myself as the cynical guy — the reality is that most startups don’t cure cancer, right. So we’re not saving the world… but in our little niche of business travel, which is still like $1.3tr per year, we are definitely making a dent.

“So, yes, it’s more challenging and difficult as your grow, and the problems become much bigger, but you can also deliver the feedback to more people.”

Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop to pay for making unsubstantiated claims about vaginal Jade eggs

Goop, the lifestyle and e-commerce site startup up by Hollywood darling Gwyneth Paltrow, has settled a $125,000 lawsuit connected to false advertisements of a $66 Jade egg the company claimed balanced hormones and more.

Goop, the lifestyle and e-commerce site startup up by Hollywood darling Gwyneth Paltrow, has settled a $125,000 lawsuit connected to false advertisements of a $66 vaginal Jade egg, which the company said balanced hormones, prevented uterine prolapse and more.

Scientists begged to differ. According to the lawsuit, filed with the Santa Clara County District Attorney, the “wellness empire sold a series of women’s health products whose advertised medical claims were not supported by competent and reliable science.”

“The health and money of Santa Clara County residents should never be put at risk by misleading advertising,” District Attorney Jeff Rosen said in a statement. “We will vigilantly protect consumers against companies that promise health benefits without the support of good science…or any science.”

We’ve reached out to Goop for comment.

Among the false claims made by Goop were that the Jade and Rose Quartz egg-shaped stones were capable of balancing hormones, regulating menstrual cycles and increasing bladder control. None of those claims were substantiated.

The company is known for selling bizarre products with hefty products, including a $2,400 spirit-animal ring and 18k gold dumbells priced at $125,000.

The good news is, if you were among the buyers of the falsely advertised Jade Egg, Goop is now willing to refund the full purchase.

Actress-turned-entrepreneur Gwyneth Paltrow has raised $82 million in venture capital funding for Goop to date from NEA, Lightspeed Venture Partners, Felix Capital and others.