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Exclusive: Forager Chews On $4M To Digitize Local Food Access

Its platform digitizes and streamlines the discovery of new local food vendors, onboarding and management of those relationships.

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Forager, a startup connecting local farmers with grocery stores to source local food, raised $4 million in a funding round led by a group of backers, including Duncan Saville via ICM and Coastal Enterprises.

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The Portland, Maine-based company was founded in 2015 by David Douglas Stone to develop a platform that digitizes and streamlines the discovery of new vendors, onboarding and management of those relationships.

Joe Blunda took over as CEO in 2019, while Stone is still involved as executive chairman. Local food accounts for 3 to 5 percent of what people buy from stores, and while that number shifted during the global pandemic, it is still in the single digits, Blunda told Crunchbase News

“The original problem is building a supply chain and getting it organized, which is what we are doing,” he added. “Grocers bring the cultural perception of what will resonate with the consumer, and we bring the ability to execute that.”

Blunda intends to use the new funding to expand the company’s sales outreach and product development. Grocers want to invest time in building local supply chains, but have difficulty operating them afterward, he said.

One of the problems they face is that there are so many small vendors, and grocers are trying to layer them on top of their platforms that were made for a small number of large vendors, Blunda added.

“Local food access is such a critical problem and patience is waning,” he said. “Grocers are passionate about fixing the problem, and we have some product development to do.”

The company has 10 employees and Blunda expects to add another two to five people by the end of the year. Forager operates in more than 12 states and works with more than 40 grocers and institutions, as well as 500 local suppliers.

In addition, the company has seen 4x growth since 2018, with nearly 200,000 local products sourced through its platform to date. It has also doubled both its supplier and buyer bases. Blunda expects even faster growth in the second half of 2021.

Saville, ICM’s founder and chairman, said in a written statement that local food is a “market trend that cannot be ignored and is critical to the future health of our planet.”

“I invested in Forager for two reasons, first this is a $40 billion fast growing market that is largely analogue and in desperate need for technology so it can scale and be data driven,” Saville added. “Second, the majority of people I know are interested in buying more sustainably sourced products, especially at the local level. This is an important market trend that cannot be ignored and is critical to the future health of our planet.”

Illustration: Li-Anne Dias

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Source: https://news.crunchbase.com/news/exclusive-forager-chews-on-4m-to-digitize-local-food-access/

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The Briefing: Hailo Lands $136M Series C, SupportLogic Closes $50M Series B, and more

Crunchbase News’ top picks of the news to stay current in the VC and startup world.

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Here’s what you need to know today in startup and venture news, updated by the Crunchbase News staff throughout the day to keep you in the know.

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Hailo lands $136M for AI chips

Tel Aviv-based Hailo, a startup developing AI accelerator chips for edge devices, announced that it raised $136 million in a Series C funding round led by Poalim and entrepreneur Gil Agmon. The round brings Hailo’s total funding to $224 million.

— Joanna Glasner

SupportLogic raises $50M Series B

San Jose -based SupportLogic closed a $50 million Series B funding round led by WestBridge Capital Partners and General Catalyst. Existing investors Sierra Ventures and Emergent Ventures also participated in the round.

SupportLogic’s AI-based platform allows businesses to act on customer communications in real-time in order to offer better customer service and support.

Founded in 2016, the company has raised approximately $62 million to date, according to Crunchbase data.

— Chris Metinko

SaaS

GitLab raises IPO range: San Francisco-based GitLab, a provider of development and collaboration tools for programmers, raised the proposed share price range for its upcoming IPO. The company now plans to raise around $700 million by offering 10.4 million shares at a price range of $66 to $69, up from the prior range of $55 to $60.

— Joanna Glasner

Illustration: Dom Guzman

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Source: https://news.crunchbase.com/news/briefing-10-12-21/

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Under The Hood: Plug and Play Ventures Sheds Light On Investing As The World’s Largest Startup Accelerator

Plug and Play

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Plug and Play Tech Center is the world’s largest startup accelerator, with more than 2,000 startups going through the organization’s programs last year. It’s also one of the most active investors in the world, investing in early-stage companies globally, according to Crunchbase data.

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Given the rapid pace at which the Sunnyvale, California-based firm invests and the global reach of Plug and Play, we thought we’d take a closer look at the firm’s investment strategy and recent bets. The firm in 2021 has already surpassed the record number of exits it set last year, with still about a quarter of the year left.

Crunchbase News talked with Ivan Zgomba, a partner at Plug and Play Ventures, to learn more about the firm’s recent investing pace.

“We do have 15 different industries that we’re very active in,” Zgomba said. “What makes us unique is we have built ecosystems around each industry.”

Plug and Play Ventures is the investment arm of the Plug and Play Tech Center. Its “bread and butter” is pre-seed and seed-stage investing out of a technology-agnostic global fund. Check sizes tend to be between $100,000 and $150,000.

The firm’s investments this year will be split 50/50 between U.S.-based and international companies, Zgomba said.

The firm’s international investments tend to be near Plug and Play’s offices, which number more than 30 worldwide. Lately, it’s had a big presence in areas like France, Germany and the Asia Pacific region.

While the Plug and Play Tech Center is known for its industry-focused and stage-agnostic accelerator programs, it’s unlike typical accelerators where companies go through the program and then receive an investment at the end.

Rather, Plug and Play Ventures makes investments and runs startup programs, but doesn’t invest in all the companies that go through those programs.

“It’s almost separate in the sense that these programs are designed to bring as much value to our companies, whether it’s synchronous or asynchronous, it doesn’t matter,” Zgomba said.

The Plug and Play Tech Center was founded in 2006, but 2013 or 2014 or so was when it began to “roll up its sleeves” when it came to investing in startups. That’s clear in its investment count, which shot up around 2014.

Investment pace

Plug and Play has invested in 146 funding rounds so far this year, with more than a third of them being seed rounds, according to Crunchbase data. Among its most recent investments were the seed rounds for user behavior analysis platform ForMotiv, women-focused social bank Oraan, and edtech startup T-Lab.

Last year, the firm invested in 162 companies with an average check size of $108,000, per its website. According to Crunchbase data, 2018 was the firm’s most active year of the past decade in terms of investing, with Plug and Play participating in 167 funding rounds.

The firm actively invests in around 15 different industries, including smart cities, fintech, insurance, supply chain and logistics, retail, and food and beverage.

About 40 percent of Plug and Play Ventures’ deals are in what they call the “smart money and health” sectors, which includes fintech, insurance, health and wellness. Smart cities, which includes mobility startups, the Internet of Things, and real estate, make up about 25 percent of its investments. The firm also actively invests in supply chain and logistics companies.

Part of the Plug and Play Tech Center is its corporate ecosystem, which currently has about 450 members. Those partners come to Plug and Play when looking for pilot programs, investments, or event M&A activities, according to Zgomba. The Plug and Play Tech Center connects those corporations with startups.

“When it comes to the access to the largest global brands, largest corporations in the world, getting those customers, the B2B side, that’s definitely by far one of our biggest strengths (for helping startups),” Zgomba said.

Exits

Plug and Play Ventures has seen 21 of its portfolio companies exit so far this year, making 2021 the most active year in at least a decade for the firm in terms of number of exits, per Crunchbase data. Over the course of the firm’s history, it’s invested in companies that exited at billion-dollar-plus price valuations, including fintech unicorn Honey and insurtech company Hippo Insurance.

Of this year’s exits, the majority happened through an acquisition. Hippo and biotech company RenovoRx both had public market exits, but the other 19 exits so far this year were all acquisitions. That makes sense, given the increased activity in the M&A market in 2021, particularly for startups.

Plug and Play Ventures

Some notable acquisitions this year of Plug and Play portfolio companies include gaming company Skillz’ $150 million acquisition of Aarki, and Pluralsight’s acquisition of Next Tech.

Plug and Play Ventures generally takes minority stakes in businesses, around 1 percent to 5 percent, according to Zgomba. Its stakes in the acquired companies is unclear, and the firm wasn’t listed as one of the largest shareholders in Hippo Insurance or RenovoRx in regulatory documents filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

This year’s activity has already broken the record Plug and Play Ventures set last year in terms of number of exits, when 19 of its portfolio companies exited. The firm saw around a dozen of its companies reach the coveted—though increasingly common—unicorn status of a valuation of $1 billion or above in the past 12 months, bringing its unicorn count to 24 companies.

While Plug and Play Ventures usually invests at the earliest stages, the firm stays with its companies until they exit, according to Zgomba.

“We tend to move quickly,” he said. “We do have a process, but that process depends on how quick the round is coming along on the startup’s side. I would say our ecosystem is our biggest strength, our ability to help those companies.”

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Plug and Play Tech Center Funding Rounds

Plug and Play Tech Center Exits

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Source: https://news.crunchbase.com/news/under-the-hood-plug-and-play-startup-investor/

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The Briefing: NerdWallet Files For IPO, Bitkraft Raises Blockchain Game Fund, And More

Crunchbase News’ top picks of the news to stay current in the VC and startup world.

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Here’s what you need to know today in startup and venture news, updated by the Crunchbase News staff throughout the day to keep you in the know.

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NerdWallet files for IPO

San Francisco-based NerdWallet filed its S-1 with the SEC today for an IPO that is set to raise up to $100 million. The company, founded in 2009, helps consumers find the right credit card as well as products to refinance mortgages and student loans. The company reached an average of 21 million unique users per month in 2021 according to its filing.

NerdWallet notes in its risk factors the dual class structure of its stock with “the effect of concentrating voting control with our Co-founder and CEO, Tim Chen.” Institutional investors Innovius Capital, IVP, RRE Ventures and iGlobe Partners all own more than 5 percent of the company’s class A common stock per the filing.

— Gené Teare

Bitkraft reportedly raises $75M token fund for blockchain games

Bitkraft Ventures, an investor in gaming and esports startups, reportedly launched a $75 million token fund for blockchain gaming and digital entertainment deals.

Founded in 2016, the firm focuses on Seed and Series A and B investments in gaming content and IP interactive platforms, with a particular interest in synthetic reality. The firm was founded by gaming serial entrepreneur Jens Hilgers.

— Joanna Glasner

Truecaller rises in market debut

Stockholm-based Truecaller, provider of a caller ID and spam-blocking app, saw shares rise in first-day trading on Nasdaq Stockholm. The offering reportedly set an initial public valuation of around $2.5 billion for the 12-year-old company.

— Joanna Glasner

Tesla announces plans to move HQ from California to Austin

Tesla CEO Elon Musk said at a shareholders meeting Thursday that the company plans to move its headquarters from Palo Alto to Austin, Texas. The company still intends to ramp up production at its California plant, despite the official move to Texas, where Tesla has a vehicle assembly plant under construction near Austin, CNBC reported. Musk expressed his frustrations with doing business in California in the past, particularly amid the COVID-19 restrictions last year. He also lives in Austin, moving from Los Angeles in 2020, according to CNBC. Tesla joins large tech companies including Oracle and Hewlett Packard in moving their headquarters from California to Texas’ capital.

–Sophia Kunthara

Proptech

LandTech picks up $57M: U.K.-based LandTech, a provider of tools for property developers to find and plan projects, reportedly raised £42 million ($57 million) in a funding round led by Updata Partners.

— Joanna Glasner

Illustration: Dom Guzman

Stay up to date with recent funding rounds, acquisitions, and more with the Crunchbase Daily.

NerdWallet notes in its risk factors the dual class structure of its stock with “the effect of concentrating voting control with our Co-founder and CEO, Tim Chen.” Institutional investors Innovius Capital, IVP, RRE Ventures and iGlobe Partners all own more than 5 percent of the company’s class A common stock per the filing.

Source: https://news.crunchbase.com/news/briefing-10-8-21/

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