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Coinbase’s bet on Amber Group pays off as it hits a $1B valuation

Cryptocurrency trading firm Amber Group has reached unicorn status with its latest funding round of $100 million today. The Hong Kong-based firm raised money in the Series B round led by China Renaissance. 

Other firms contributing to the $100 million sum included some prominent names, such as Tiger Brokers, Tiger Global Management, Arena Holdings, Tru Arrow Partners, Sky9 Capital, DCM Ventures, and Gobi Partners.

The company — backed by Coinbase in Series A investment round — caters to both individual and institutional cryptocurrency investors. However, its primary focus is to engage with wealthy investors with an aim to provide a “private banking experience to the everyday customer.” Some of its leading products are algorithmic trading, electronic market-making, and high-frequency trading.

[Read: Why entrepreneurship in emerging markets matters]

In a press release, the company’s CEO, Michael Wu, said that its “trading volumes have doubled from $250 billion since the beginning of the year to over $500 billion.” He added that the firm has been profitable since its inception, and is on track to register $500 million in revenue by the end of the year.

Cryptocurrency exchanges and service providers are in high demand in the venture capital world. According to data by Pitchbook, investors have poured in $14 billion into such firms in the second quarter of 2021. With Coinbase IPO in April, and firms reaching unicorn status, there could be more mega investments in the cryptocurrency world.

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AI

SafetyCulture boosts its workplace safety tools, hits $1.6B valuation

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SafetyCulture, a startup developing software for workplace safety and quality management, today announced that it closed a new $73 million round of funding, valuing the company at $1.6 billion. Led by Insight Partners and Tiger Global, SafetyCulture CEO Luke Anear says the funds will support growth as the company evolves from a checklist app into an operations platform for working teams.

Failure to provide a safe atmosphere at work is a costly mistake for both businesses and their employers. The National Safety Council estimates a worker is injured on the job every seven seconds, which equates to 4.6 million injuries a year. And the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health pegs the costs of work-related injuries and illnesses at $170 billion a year.

Queensland, Australia-based SafetyCulture, which was founded in 2004, offers a mobile and web app called iAuditor for workplace safety and quality standards; it’s designed to collect data, standardize operations, and identify problems. The platform enables users to create customized forms from paper checklists, Word documents, and Excel spreadsheets, as well as take and annotate photos, add notes, and assign follow-up remedial actions. With SafetyCulture, managers can have teams share observations outside of regular inspections and generate reports for contracts, clients, and more, which can be exported to third-party platforms and tools. They can also connect to sensors — either SafetyCulture’s own or third-party sensors — to monitor work conditions in real time.

“The SafetyCulture journey started with a simple question: How do we keep people in the workplace safe? After witnessing the tragedy of workplace incidents in my time as a private investigator, I realized something needed to be done when it came to safety in the workplace,” Anear told VentureBeat via email. “I went on to recruit a team to help develop a mobile solution and so, iAuditor was born. When we started out this journey in my garage in regional Australia, we had no idea where it would lead. We’d created the first iteration of a digital platform that went on to revolutionize safety inspections globally. It’s now the world’s largest checklist app — and that’s just the beginning.”

SafetyCulture supports text and email notifications that trigger as soon as sensors detect changes that are out of the normal range. Customers can set alerts for things like local weather and have employees capture test results with barcode scanners, drawing tools, Bluetooth thermometers, and more.

SafetyCulture

Above: SafetyCulture’s mobile app, iAuditor.

Image Credit: SafetyCulture

Last September, SafetyCulture acquired EdApp, a learning management system akin to LinkedIn Learning, for a reported $29 million. At the time, SafetyCulture said that EdApp, which was delivering around 50,000 lessons per day, would enable it to offer “micro-learning” resources to workers in a range of industries.

Market momentum

SafetyCulture claims to host over 1.5 million users across 28,000 companies on its platform in more than 85 countries. It powers 600 million checks per year and millions of corrective actions per day, according to Anear.

“Statistics-wise, we’ve seen inspections within iAuditor grow 108% year-over-year and actions grow 161%. This indicates our customers are using our software across a far broader range of use cases, from safety to quality and customer experience. It also suggests our customers are benefiting strongly from the workflows we have built into iAuditor over the last couple of years,” Anear said. “This additional data makes our analytics functionality all the more powerful. As working teams input more and more data, organizations benefit from increased visibility and a broader base of staff contributing to driving safety, quality, and efficiency improvements.”

With 54% of U.S. employees worried about exposure to COVID-19 at their job, the pandemic has helped to drive SafetyCulture’s growth — even in the face of rivals like Aclaimant. According to a recent Pew Center survey, about 25% of employees say that they’re “not too” or “not at all” satisfied with the steps that have been taken in their workplace to keep them safe from the coronavirus. To address this, SafetyCulture created a number of checklists tailored for companies affected by the crises, including cleaning and disinfection logs as well as employee temperature log sheets.

“We’ve built a reputation globally for helping some of the most dangerous industries digitize and adhere to safety and quality protocols. Unfortunately, everywhere is a high risk in a pandemic, so 2020 saw a major push to ensure retailers, schools, hotels, and many other industries had the right support and tech to manage COVID-19,” Anear said.

SafetyCulture’s most recent funding round — which brings the company’s total raised to roughly $241 million — follows a $36 million tranche contributed by TDM Growth Partners, Blackbird Ventures, Index Ventures, former Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull and his wife Lucy Turnbull, and Atlassian cofounder Scott Farquhar. The company’s employee base grew 2.5 times in the past three years to over 500 people, and SafetyCulture says it plans to continue the same hiring trajectory “for the foreseeable future.”

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Categories
Tech News

Amid the live audio app boom, Clubhouse is reportedly seeking funding with a $4B valuation

Since Clubhouse became the new social media darling in just a few short months, live audio features and platforms have garnered a lot of interest in the tech community. The company now wants to raise more money, which should help it stay ahead of the competition.

According to a report from Bloomberg, Clubhouse wants to start new funding round, with the firm valued at $4 billion.

In January, the live audio platform raised $100 million in funding led by Andreessen Horowitz;the VC giant had valued the app at $1 billion at that time. The new round might quadruple the net worth of the company.

Bloomberg noted that it’s not clear how much money the company wants to raise at the moment, so terms of the deal and final valuation could change.

Clubhouse is facing heated competition from tech companies who are trying to integrate live audio into their platforms. Twitter‘s Spaces feature is already available to many users, and it has ambitions to expand to desktop too.

Discord launched a real-time audio chat feature last month, and LinkedIn and Slack have said they’re building something on similar lines. Last month, Spotify acquired Locker Room, a live conversation apps for discussing Sports, and aims to introduce new experiences in its app. Meanwhile, Facebook is reportedly working on a Clubhouse-like product too.

Amid all this live audio frenzy, Clubhouse might want to solidify its position as the pioneer of the field, and roll out unique features to retain and grow its users. Earlier this week, the company launched a payments feature that lets you send money to creators you like.

Published April 7, 2021 — 05:23 UTC



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Categories
AI

Databricks raises $1 billion funding round at $28 billion valuation

Databricks today announced the close of a $1 billion funding round, bringing the company’s valuation to $28 billion after post-money valuation, a company spokesperson told VentureBeat. News of the funding round — the largest to-date for Databricks — was first reported in late January by Newcomer.

This amounts to a series G funding round for the data analysis and AI company. Based in San Francisco, the $1 billion funding round was led by new investor Franklin Templeton, with participation from Amazon Web Services (AWS), the Canada Pension Plan investment board, Fidelity Management & Research, and Salesforce Ventures. Databricks CEO Ali Ghodsi told VentureBeat that part of the impetus behind the funding round was partnerships with cloud companies, which he called a symbiotic relationship of strategic importance for Databricks.

“Basically, we believe the vast majority of the data in the cloud is going to be in these data lakes, and we are building solutions to drive more of that,” he said.

The $1 billion funding will be used in part to fuel a merger and acquisition strategy with a focus on machine learning and data startups, a subject he told VentureBeat currently occupies 10-20% of his time every week. “I think there’s definitely a lot of interesting things happening, especially in natural language processing. There’s a lot of use cases in enterprise. They have a lot of textual data. Being able to sort of make sense of that can be super helpful for them,” he said.

Ghodsi lists continued advances in machine learning and democratization of data and AI tools to people in business beyond computer scientists major ongoing trends he expects to shape the future of Databricks. “All these other enterprises out there are going to do the same thing: They’re going to be able to use data and AI in a strategic way just like Google did over the past 10 years or they’re going to be replaced. So our job is to democratize that,” he said.

Previous funding rounds have been led by Andreessen Horowitz and New Enterprise Associates (NEA) with participation from investors like Microsoft and Battery Ventures. Previous $250 million and $400 million funding rounds, held in February and October 2019 respectively, focused on development of the Unified Analytics platform, Delta Lake, and optimization of performance with the open source MLFlow platform for performing machine learning experiments and launching models into production. In June 2020, Databricks acquired Redash, the dashboard visualization for data scientists, and turned over control of MLflow to the Linux Foundation.

Databricks was founded in 2013 by the creators of Apache Spark, an open source framework for distributed computation across multiple machines many deep learning projects use today. The group of data and machine learning researchers first met at UC Berkeley.

Alongside companies like C3.ai and Snowflake that filed IPOs in 2020, Databricks is the latest company focused on data analysis and AI to experience rapid growth. That’s despite a drop in gross domestic product in the U.S. economy in the past year the likes of which, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce, has not been seen since the 1940s.

In an unrelated but relevant matter, Databricks cofounder and UC Berkeley professor Ion Stoica talked about reinforcement learning trends as part of VentureBeat’s Transform conference.

Updated 2:30 p.m. to include comment from Databricks CEO Ali Ghodsi and add funding round details.

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