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Finesse Sews Up $4.5M Seed To Predict Latest Fashion Trends

Finesse patterns its styles from proprietary algorithms that scan a variety of sources across the web.

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Finesse is turning that fabulous pair of pants you saw on an Instagram influencer into a limited-run fashion collection. It also now has $4.5 million in pre-seed and seed funding to drop new clothing and accessory items faster.

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Ramin Ahmari, founder and CEO, is behind the Los Angeles-based startup which started in 2019. A queer nonbinary person of color navigating uniquely different identities, Ahmari used fashion to camouflage and fit in when he needed to.

He is blending that experience with knowledge he gained as a computer science major to create a software platform designed to predict and streamline production and manufacturing of the latest fashion trends.

“I call it ‘Zara meets Netflix,’” he told Crunchbase News. “We all love fashion and the beauty industry, but fashion is a huge world largely untouched by technology. There are now new trends in efficiency and data, and Finesse is all about using data to reduce the tons of waste in fashion.”

Finesse patterns its styles from proprietary algorithms that scan a variety of sources across the web, such as social media, Google Trends, online magazines and forum communities. It enables the company to turn “fast fashion” on its head by taking the guesswork out of knowing what fashion items to produce, ensuring the most in-trend are created.

Fast fashion describes designer clothing that moves quickly from the catwalk to stores. However, Ahmari said it often leads to brands blindly mass producing clothing to fill shelves and contributes to an estimated 13 million tons of textile waste per year.

The company is doing its part to reduce the amount of clothing items going into landfills by only producing pre-estimated batches of styles. It is also able to cut production time to 25 days using smart data and 3D development, Ahmari said.

Finesse is now armed with a round that includes $375,000 in pre-seed and $4.2 million in seed for a total of $4.5 million. Backers include a group of investors such as Alex Roetter, Ali Diab, Hoxton Ventures, MaC Venture Capital, Mango Capital and Sam Teller.

Marlon Nichols, managing partner at MaC Venture Capital and Finesse board director, said he met Ahmari and loved both his background and Finesse’s concept.

“We look for areas where there is not much technology innovation, and if you apply technology, you see a resurgence or disruption in the space,” Nichols said in an interview. “Finesse is leveraging data, as well as influencers, into a convergence of team, skill set, product and impact. Instead of guessing and mass producing, they are using real data to produce what they know will sell.”

Ahmari intends to use the funding to build out his team, which now includes Andrea Knopf, a former REVOLVE executive who is Finesse’s vice president of product and is responsible for innovating on product and a sustainable supply chain. The company will also be refining its algorithms so it can reduce production time to under 25 days, as well as expand its voting infrastructure for users to have more say in products and to create a virtual storefront experience.

Finesse launched at the end of October and has already sold out on several clothing and accessory drops.

“We have seen organic channels doing well, so we will double down on that, and we know what influencers we want to work with,” Ahmari said. “Most of our projects are in the pipeline for Q1 and Q2.”

Feature photo courtesy of Finesse
Blogroll illustration: Dom Guzman

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

He is blending that experience with knowledge he gained as a computer science major to create a software platform designed to predict and streamline production and manufacturing of the latest fashion trends.

Source: https://news.crunchbase.com/news/finesse-sews-up-4-5m-seed-to-predict-latest-fashion-trends/

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The Briefing: Visa Acquires Currencycloud, Couchbase Prices IPO, 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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Visa buying Currencycloud at $962M valuation

Visa announced that it will acquire London-based Currencycloud, a global platform for banks and fintechs to provide cross-border payments, in a deal that values the company at £700 million ($962 million).

Currencycloud’s cloud-based platform offers a set of APIs enabling banks and financial services providers to offer currency exchange services, including real-time notifications on foreign exchange transactions, multi-currency wallets, and virtual account management.

Founded in 2012, Currencycloud previously raised at least $160 million in known funding, per Crunchbase data. Visa was the lead investor in its last round, an $80 million Series E in January 2020.

Couchbase raises $200M in upsized IPO

Couchbase, a provider of NoSQL database technology for application developers, raised $200 million in its IPO, setting an initial valuation of around $1.2 billion. The company priced shares at $24 each, above the projected range of $20 to $23.

Enterprise tech

• YOOBIC raises $50M for digital workplaces: YOOBIC, developer of a digital workplace for frontline teams, closed a $50 million Series C funding round led by Highland Europe. The round brings total funding to date to $80 million for YOOBIC, which markets its technology for retail workers, restaurant staff, fieldworkers and other types of frontline employees.

— Joanna Glasner

Health tech

• Woebot Health raises $90M for AI-powered mental health bot: Woebot Health, a San Francisco-based mental health startup, raised $90 million in Series B funding co-led by existing investors JAZZ Venture Partners and Temasek with participation from funds and accounts managed by BlackRock Private Equity Partners and Owl Ventures. Other investors included Mirae Asset Capital, Kicker Ventures, Alumni Ventures, Gaingels, NEA and AI Fund. Woebot operates an AI-powered mental health platform and claims its technology facilitates “a human-level therapeutic bond with users.”

Enterprise software

Interos hits unicorn valuation: Arlington, Virginia-based Interos reached a $1 billion valuation after its $100 million raise led by NightDragon, with Kleiner Perkins and Venrock also participating. Intereos helps companies manage risk and continuously monitor their supply chain and business relationships to avoid disruptions. The company reported a compound annual growth rate of 303 percent in the last two years

Founded in 2005, Interos has raised nearly $130 million to date, according to Crunchbase data.

— Chris Metinko

Illustration: Dom Guzman

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

Currencycloud’s cloud-based platform offers a set of APIs enabling banks and financial services providers to offer currency exchange services, including real-time notifications on foreign exchange transactions, multi-currency wallets, and virtual account management.

Source: https://news.crunchbase.com/news/briefing-7-22-21/

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Black Women Still Receive Just A Tiny Fraction Of VC Funding Despite 5-Year High

Editor’s note:

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Editor’s note: This article is part of Something Ventured, an ongoing series by Crunchbase News examining diversity and access to capital in the venture-backed startup ecosystem. As part of this series on venture funding to Black entrepreneurs, we also look at how venture funding to Black startup founders has grown over the past year and at Georgia, the state that invests the highest percentage of its VC funding into Black entrepreneurs. Access the full Something Ventured project here.

Joanna Smith, the founder of edtech startup AllHere, recently raised an $8 million Series A after bootstrapping her company first. A former middle school math teacher, Smith opted to go through two accelerator programs to learn how to pitch investors and develop a repeatable sales and operational process.

“The hardest part is, honestly, access to the network,” Smith said of building her company. “Prior to when I started my company, my frame of reference was teaching 6th and 8th grade math. I had a strong network of customers, but not a strong network in Silicon Valley. And I didn’t have any personal experience as an investor. And I think sometimes access plays a role in a founders’ capability to raise.”

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Smith is a Black woman and her company is one of a still tiny but growing number of startups led by Black women to raise venture funding.

While Black female startup founders have received just 0.34 percent of the total venture capital spent in the U.S. so far this year — a far cry from being representative — the dollars invested in their companies is on the rise, an analysis of Crunchbase data shows.

Venture funding to U.S. startups led by Black women is on track to outpace the past five years, according to Crunchbase data. Startups with at least one Black woman as a founder have raised around $494 million so far in 2021, already surpassing the $484 million raised in all of 2020, according to our data.

Notably, Black women are better represented in the subset of funded Black founders than women in general are among all the funded startups in the U.S. About one-third of funding to Black startup founders every year goes to companies led by Black women, while funding to female founders overall is consistently in the single-digit percentages.

The data also shows that by funding round count, 40.5 percent of funding to Black founders in 2020 went to Black women. On the flip side, that figure also suggests that the amounts raised by Black women in a funding round tend to be on the smaller side.

The ‘Valley of Death’

Many funding deals to Black women founders happen at the pre-seed or seed level, but there needs to be more investment in subsequent rounds, according to Samer Yousif, chief of staff at BLCK VC, an organization that aims to increase representation of Black investors in venture capital.

“There’s this valley of death between the seed and Series A,” Yousif said.

He added that the investor landscape needs to change before we’ll see significant improvement in the levels of funding to Black women founders. That doesn’t just mean more analysts or associates of color at venture firms, but also more general partners who are able to write larger checks.

Funding to U.S. companies led by Black founders reached $1.8 billion in the first half of 2021, per Crunchbase data. That half-year total already eclipses the total funding to Black founders for all of 2018, which was previously the highest year.

But, it should be noted that the increase in funding to Black entrepreneurs coincides with an increase in venture funding in general. The dollar amount of funding to Black founders is up, but still represents just 1.2 percent of the record $147 billion in venture capital invested in U.S. startups through the first half of this year.

“There’s a combination of efforts to increase access to capital and nonfinancial resources to get Black women and BIPOC founders ready for investment and ready to build and grow their businesses,” said Bahiyah Yasmeen Robinson, founder of VC Include, a community of diverse and woman-led fund managers and limited partners. “Some of the things I think that have supported that acceleration are Black and Brown specific accelerators and incubators like Camelback and Founder Gym and others. I deeply believe there needs to be more of those types of programs that are also supported by capital.”

The number of incubators for minority founders is starting to increase, but it’s not increasing fast enough, Robinson said.

“We don’t have enough best-in-class programs to attack the problem at scale, especially company investments as well as nondilutive capital,” she said, adding that the other component is making sure that fund managers of color are also capitalized to invest in market opportunities.

If there are more well-capitalized fund managers of color, Robinson believes, access to capital for underrepresented founders will increase as well. VC Include’s mission is to increase investment in diverse emerging managers.

For the majority of fund managers of color who don’t have a diversity lens in their strategy, 30 percent to 50 percent include women and people of color in their portfolio — simply because they’re good companies to invest in, Robinson said of the funds VC Include has engaged with.

Relationships matter

At the end of the day, venture is still a relationship-driven industry, according to Fatima Dicko, CEO of proptech startup Sugar, which recently raised $2.5 million in funding.

For more Black women to get funded, established investors need to be advocates for underrepresented founders, she said: “For some of these well-established firms, don’t just write the check, don’t just meet with the founder, be the voice that brings other checks into the round.”

Dicko pointed to an August 2020 DocSend data report that found potential investors spent 50 percent more time scrutinizing the “Traction” section — the slide that details milestones and growth metrics of the company — of all-female teams’ pitch decks than they did of all-male teams’ pitch decks. That could be interpreted to mean that women have to prove more to be given a chance.

Implicit bias is a tricky thing, Dicko noted. And it shows itself in different ways.

“While it is important to have that momentum and come to the table with having done something even without the funding, I do think that the expectations can differ, for sure, of what’s considered early or not,” Dicko said.

“I think it would be interesting to do some research into who gets funded at the idea stage,” she added.

In Smith’s case, accelerators — especially those that don’t take equity — were instrumental in her ability to raise money, she said.

“Definitely programs that focus on that training and that network, I think, are critical,” she said. “I’ve found those programs to be helpful when they’re equity-free for those founders and companies taking part in them. Whenever those programs are partners with commitments to fund companies once they go through those programs, it’s even better.”

Illustration: Dom Guzman

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

Source: https://news.crunchbase.com/news/something-ventured-black-women-founders/

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The Briefing: ManoMano Raises $355M, Pleo Lands $150M, 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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ManoMano raise $355M for home improvements

Paris-based ManoMano, an online marketplace for home improvement, DIY and gardening products, raised $355 million in a Series F round led by Dragoneer Investment Group.

Founded in 2013, the company previously raised $350 million in known funding, per Crunchbase data. ManoMano says its marketplace currently lists more than 4 million products across 6 countries : France, Belgium, Italy, Spain, Germany and the United Kingdom.

Denmark’s Pleo lands $150M for company cards

Copenhagen-based Pleo, a provider of payment cards for companies and employees, raised $150 million in a funding round led by Bain Capital Ventures and Thrive Capital.

The financing sets a valuation of $1.7 billion for the 6-year-old company, which markets its “smart company cards” as a way to automate expense reports and simplify spending. Currently, the company operates in several European countries, with plans to use the funding to boost usage.

Transportation

Didi shares plummet: Shares of Chinese ride-hailing giant Didi Chuxing fell sharply after China announced that new users in the country would not be able to download the app while it conducts a cybersecurity review of the company. Shares were down around 20 percent in pre-market trading Tuesday, less than one week after the company carried out its massive NYSE IPO.

— Joanna Glasner

Illustration: Dom Guzman

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

The financing sets a valuation of $1.7 billion for the 6-year-old company, which markets its “smart company cards” as a way to automate expense reports and simplify spending. Currently, the company operates in several European countries, with plans to use the funding to boost usage.

Source: https://news.crunchbase.com/news/briefing-7-6-21/

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