From Digital Age to Nano Age. WorldWide.

Tag: fund

Robotic Automations

'Send now, pay later' startup Pomelo lands $35M Series A from secretive Vy Capital, Founders Fund | TechCrunch

Pomelo, a startup that combines international money transfer with credit, has raised $35 million in a Series A round led by Dubai venture firm Vy Capital, TechCrunch has exclusively learned. Additionally, the company is announcing a $75 million expansion of its warehouse facility.

Founders Fund and A* Capital also participated in the financing, along with early investor Afore Capital, and others.

The deal brings total funds raised to date to $55 million in equity capital and $125 million for its warehouse facility. TechCrunch covered Pomelo’s Founders Fund-led $20 million seed funding in 2022.

New backer Vy Capital is an under-the-radar investment firm that has grown to over $5 billion in assets and made headlines for backing Elon Musk in his purchase of Twitter.

Pomelo’s new round was among Keith Rabois’ last deals before recently leaving Founders Fund for Khosla Ventures, and he continues to sit on its board.

“Both Keith Rabois and Kevin Hartz went super pro rata on this round,” Pomelo founder and CEO Eric Velasquez Frenkiel said in an interview with TechCrunch, describing the Series A round as “preemptive.” He declined to reveal valuation, saying only it was an “up round.”

Hartz serves as the co-founder and general partner at A*. Previously, he also co-founded Eventbrite and Xoom, an online money transfer service that went public in 2013 and was acquired by PayPal for $1.1 billion in 2015.

In a written statement, Rabois said that “Pomelo stands out through a fundamentally different approach to remittance transfer by using credit as its foundation.”

Remittance product on credit card rails

Pomelo launched in the Philippines in 2022, allowing people in the United States to send money to the country while at the same time building their credit. In other words, Pomelo has built a remittance product on credit card rails.

Specifically, the startup has struck up an agreement with Mastercard to create what it describes as a product category called “Send Now, Pay Later” (SNPL), which it claims is “faster and with no transfer fees” as compared to traditional cross-border money movement.

Image Credits: Pomelo

Pomelo works by allowing a user to set up an account that comes with credit cards. The creator of the account can set limits, pause cards and view spending habits.

Senders can give cash, in the form of credit, to family members — which the startup thinks will help with instant access to funds, fraud and chargeback protection and, for potential immigrants that may use this to send money back home, a way to boost one’s credit score with more transaction history.  In the event that someone cannot pay, Pomelo charges a late fee, “so there is no interest on the product,” Frenkiel said. The company makes money mostly through interchange revenue, and foreign exchange is a smaller component.

Since its 2022 launch, Pomelo has added new payment options including most recently, the ability for users to send funds to GCash, a popular e-wallet (similar to Venmo in the U.S.) in the Philippines, in addition to cards. (According to a recent article by STL Partners, 67% of Filipinos use GCash.)

This ability is particularly important in a country like the Philippines where proof of ability to pay can be required before medical treatment, Frenkiel said. He relates the story of customer Danette Flores, a nurse who sends money to two family members in the Philippines with Pomelo. 

“My mom had suffered a heart attack, and she needed to be transferred to the ICU, but the hospital required proof of payment for that. My brother used his Pomelo Card to get her admitted,” Flores said.

Pomelo offers customers two options: either an unsecured credit line or a secured credit line based on its underwriting criteria at this time. The non-revolving credit line for unsecured customers gives them the ability to transfer up to $1,000 a month. On the secured side, a customer can put in a security deposit. In other words, Pomelo can hold funds in the app that effectively can be used to open a credit line.

The startup’s new capital will go toward product and market expansion. Pomelo’s next target country is Mexico.

“Mexico is certainly the largest corridor for the United States — something close to $40 billion is sent over to Mexico every year,” Frenkiel said.

Presently, Pomelo has 55 employees in the U.S. and Philippines.

As Christine Hall recently reported, cross-border fintech is hot right now. The cross-border payments market is forecasted to reach over $250 trillion by 2027, according to the Bank of England. And experts say fintechs are giving banks a run for their money (pun intended) here, especially in the business-to-business sector where artificial intelligence, machine learning and blockchain come into play — all emerging technologies fintechs love.

But there are other startups focused on the consumer market, including Alza, a startup aimed at helping meet the various banking needs of Latin or Central Americans who have moved to the U.S. With Alza, users get an FDIC-insured checking account and debit card. They also get the ability to send cross-border remittances to more than 20 countries in Latin or Central America embedded in its app via three methods, depending on the recipient country: bank transfer, cash pickup or transfer to a debit card. That company quietly raised $6.6 million in a round led by New York-based Thrive Capital in late 2021.

Want more fintech news in your inbox? Sign up for TechCrunch Fintech here.

Want to reach out with a tip? Email me at [email protected] or send me a message on Signal at 408.204.3036. You can also send a note to the whole TechCrunch crew at [email protected]. For more secure communications, click here to contact us, which includes SecureDrop (instructions here) and links to encrypted messaging apps.

Software Development in Sri Lanka

Robotic Automations

TLcom Capital closes second fund at $154M to back early-stage startups across Africa | TechCrunch

Venture capital activity in Africa has shown resilience over the past six months, with major firms backing startups on the continent closing their funds despite the ongoing funding winter. 

In the latest development, TLcom Capital, an African VC firm with offices in Lagos and Nairobi and a focus on early-stage startups, has concluded fundraising for its second fund, TIDE Africa Fund II, totaling $154 million. The final close positions the firm as Africa’s largest investor across seed and Series A.

The oversubscribed fund, initially targeted to close at $150 million, attracted participation from over 20 limited partners. Notable investors include the European Investment Bank (EIB), Visa Foundation, Bertelsmann, and AfricaGrow, a joint venture between Allianz and DEG Impact.

This news comes two years and a few months after TLcom Capital announced the first close of the second fund at $70 million, matching the size of its first fund, TIDE Africa Fund I. While the broader slowdown affecting venture capital and startups globally contributed to the prolonged fundraising period, the VC firm can count a few positives, managing partner Maurizio Caio told TechCrunch in an interview. 

Notably, TLcom Capital closed the second fund in a shorter timeframe than its preceding fund despite being twice its size. Caio attributes this success to an improved understanding and acceptance of venture capital in Africa among limited partners as a legitimate asset class. Additionally, a portfolio of companies exemplifying the firm’s investment strategy played a pivotal role in garnering investor confidence and support.

Unlike many VC firms that progress from backing startups in pre-seed and seed stages to later-stage investments with subsequent funds, TLcom Capital maintains a consistent strategy. The London-based firm continues to prioritize early-stage opportunities, particularly at the seed and Series A stages, while also considering opportunistic deals at growth and later stages. For example, the investor backed 10 out of the 11 companies from its first fund at seed or Series A. Yet, it has deployed capital in follow-on rounds at later stages across both funds (a Series C investment in Andela, a unicorn provider of global job placement for software developers, and a Series B round in FairMoney, a Nigerian digital bank.)

“We like to start early when the entrepreneur is raising seed or Series A and then to be with the entrepreneur along the journey and continue to invest if we think that the company deserves more capital deployed,” remarked Caio. “The reason is that we build our portfolio such that we back 20 to 25 companies that ‘if everything works out’ can return the fund individually.”

The managing partner emphasizes that when TLcom evaluates early-stage opportunities, it assesses the potential of its portfolio companies to generate 10-20x returns. The approach, he says, is to ensure that successful companies compensate for losses and allow the firm to achieve 3-4x return on an aggregate basis.

One way the firm is bettering its risk in this regard is by backing repeat founders. Sim Shagaya (of uLesson and Konga), Etop Ikpe (Autochek and Cars45), and Grant Brooke (Shara and Twiga) are a few examples. Despite past ventures not achieving desired success, Caio says these founders gained valuable insights to avoid repeating past mistakes in their new ventures. “When things don’t go as planned, it’s important to act swiftly, pivot, and move on to the next venture, knowing that lessons learned will pave the way for future success,” he noted. 

Another is by investing earlier in deals, at the pre-seed stage. In 2020, TLcom Capital invested in Autochek and Okra at the pre-seed stage and has since followed up in subsequent rounds. Two years later, the firm launched a pre-seed strategy that involved allocating $5 million to be disbursed in small check sizes and a low-touch approach to create a pipeline to its primary strategy at seed and Series A (Upskilling platform Talstack is its first recipient). A portion of this fund, $2 million, was dedicated to co-investing in female-led startups through FirstCheck Africa, a female-focused pre-seed fund. The firm says its commitment to gender balance is evident in its majority-female partnership and investment committee, where three out of five partners are women.

TLcom Capital, which focuses on traditional sectors like fintech, mobility, agriculture, healthcare, education, and commerce, has already backed six companies from its new fund, making initial investments ranging from $1 million to $3 million. They include SeamlessHR, FairMoney, Zone, and Vendease. Additionally, the firm has expanded its portfolio to include ILLA, a middle-mile logistics platform, and Littlefish, which enable payments and banking products for SMEs, marking its first investments in Egypt and South Africa, respectively.

“For us, the Big Four markets always continue to produce the most valuable companies, so it was important to add Egypt and South Africa as destinations of our capital,” said Caio, noting that TLcom’s portfolio before now has primarily been startups based in Nigeria and Kenya, countries where the firm has since expanded its operational capacity and expertise. 

The multi-sector-focused firm and other notable venture capital firms like Norrsken22, Al Mada, Novastar’s Africa People + Planet, and Partech Africa have raised significant funds to back African startups from pre-seed to Series C. However, as these funds are deployed across various stages of startup growth, attention will turn to the exit opportunities they facilitate and the tangible returns they deliver to their LPs, as these outcomes play a crucial role in driving the overall growth of the African tech ecosystem.

“Africa shouldn’t just be about how much money is going in but also about returns,” emphasizes Caio. “We need global capital to look at Africa and think of a place where good investments can be made and technology can generate much value. That’s still to be achieved at scale, so that’s our primary target.”

Software Development in Sri Lanka

Robotic Automations

Seraphim Space launches second VC fund with nine investments already under its belt | TechCrunch

Seraphim Space, the UK-based space tech investment group is formally launching its second VC fund following its first close with limited partners including Airbus, TechCrunch learned exclusively. The early stage fund will build a global portfolio of 30 startups that will be backed at the seed and Series A stages.

CEO and manager Mark Boggett declined to disclose the percentage reached and fund’s targeted size, but said it should be larger than Seraphim Space’s 2017 £70 million VC fund (around $90 million at the time.)

Like its predecessor, Seraphim’s second VC fund, SSV II, is backed by major players from the aerospace sector looking to keep up with innovation.

This time around, Seraphim will also be operating in a busier and more competitive market.

Investors have become increasingly aware of space startups and the broader market, which could be worth $1.8 trillion by 2035, up from $630 billion in 2023, according to a recent report by the World Economic Forum and McKinsey. The number of funds willing to invest in space tech has increased compared to 2017, including both generalists and specialists such as Space Capital, SpaceFund, Starbridge Venture Capital and Starburst Aerospace.

Seraphim Space hopes to stand out with its track record.Its first fund returned three times the original investment, which helped dispel the cliché that space investment is “super high risk and super long term,” Boggett said.

Returns from its last fund were partly fueled by five exits — the trade sale of chip company UltraSoC to Siemens and four IPOs: Arqit, AST SpaceMobile, Nightingale and Spire Global.

However, today’s public market is a different world compared to 2021, especially for tech listings. This affects both Seraphim Space’s portfolio companies that went public and the investment group itself.

The firm’s growth fund Seraphim Space Investment Trust (SSIT) listed on the London Stock Exchange in July 2021 with £250 million in gross proceeds (some $300 million at the time.) After an all-time low in July 2023, its market cap is now £130 million, or $162 million, despite the fact that SSTI’s largest holding, ICEYE, became EBITDA profitable last year.

These market conditions forced the cash-strapped SSTI to focus on follow-on investments rather than new deals, and suggested that getting funding through the LSE for early-stage, non-profitable bets would be even harder.

“With VC funds, we’re able to make mistakes and have failures and high levels of risk over a longer period of time than the public market is comfortable with,” Boggett told TechCrunch. And while it didn’t help that SSIT was trading at a markdown, its existence has been helpful in other ways.

Through an approach known as a warehouse arrangement, SSIT funded the nine investments that SSV II already made before its first close. This helped show prospective limited partners that its investment thesis goes beyond what space is usually conflated with such as. launching rockets and satellites.

Wide space

The market growth anticipated by the World Economic Forum reflects that space tech has applications in other industries.

“All of the big trends that are underway are really being enhanced by space,” Boggett said, likening it to AI in the sense that “it’s really an enhancing capability, a facilitating capability for every other sector.”

The application of AI to space data is one of main themes SSV II will invest in. In fact, it already has done so by backing insurtech startup Delos and carbon credit verification platform Renoster. Both companies use large troves of data and modeling to address issues related to climate change.

Seraphim Space’s enthusiasm for companies like Delos is two-fold: the tech could have a real impact beyond monitoring and they have the potential for high valuations (and returns).

“They’re addressing some of the biggest problems that we are faced with.”

The fund’s third area of focus will be in-orbit computing. It sounds a bit more abstract, but also has the potential to have an impact on sectors such as agriculture and infrastructure. For instance, this category includes Aethero, a company that develops edge computers that would eventually support autonomous decision-making on orbit.

SSV II is also targeting space-enabled communications, with one portfolio company so far: Hubble Network, which wants to connect a billion devices through a space-based Bluetooth network. Its CEO, Alex Haro, knows a thing or two about locators: He previously co-founded Life360, which acquired Tile in 2021.

SSV II’s fourth theme, microgravity for science, reminded us of a company outside of its portfolio: Varda Space Industries, which is making orbital drug manufacturing a reality, and raised a $90 million Series B round a few weeks after its first capsule returned from orbit. Biopharma aside, other applications include research around new materials, Boggett said.

Defense isn’t highlighted as an investment theme, despite its recent tailwinds among funds, but Boggett acknowledged its ubiquity in space tech.

“The vast majority of space companies are dual use companies,” he said. But, he quickly added, “the bigger market opportunity is in the commercial market as they move into the broader underlying sectors.”

Software Development in Sri Lanka

Robotic Automations

Peak XV's Piyush Gupta leaves firm to start own secondary-focused VC fund | TechCrunch

Piyush Gupta, one of the operating leaders at Peak XV Partners, is leaving the firm at the end of this month to start his own fund, four people familiar with the matter told TechCrunch.

Gupta joined Peak XV (called Sequoia India and SEA then) in 2017, leading the influential venture firm’s strategic development team. Before joining Peak XV, he focused on similar things – mergers, acquisitions, and IPOs – at Morgan Stanley and Deutsche Bank for more than a decade.

Though Gupta didn’t serve as an investing partner at Peak XV, he played an important role at some of its programs including Pitstop, where investors from across the globe liaison with Peak XV’s portfolio startups each year.

“For early-stage companies, we take a more programmatic approach, such as UpSurge, where we provide a platform for multiple companies to meet with multiple investors over a few days. At later stages, M&A can be a crucible moment in the journey to becoming a large, enduring company,” his bio on Peak XV reads. “Where our job gets incredibly interesting is when we help companies through the journey from pre to post IPO. Going public is an event and a milestone, but the work continues long after that and preparation is key.”

News of Gupta’s departure was relayed by Peak XV Partners to its limited partners at its annual gathering last month, one person familiar with the matter said, where the fund also unveiled plans to launch a perpetual fund that will be bankrolled by its investment partners and extended team.

The two are parting ways on cordial terms, two people familiar with the matter said. Gupta plans to launch a secondary-focused fund and Peak XV intends to work closely with him to facilitate transactions at its portfolio firms.

Peak XV declined to comment and Gupta didn’t respond to a text.

Secondary transactions are on the rise in India. Peak XV itself has seen some exits — Pine Labs, K12 — through secondary transactions in the past two years. The firm’s holding in Mamaearth, Zomato, K12 Techno Services, Go Colors stood at a 10x-plus multiple as of last November, TechCrunch reported at the time.

SentinelOne acquired PingSafe, an early-stage startup in India, earlier this year for more than $100 million, TechCrunch reported earlier. PingSafe, which counted Peak XV’s Surge among its backers, had raised less than $4 million before the acquisition deal.

Software Development in Sri Lanka

Robotic Automations

Exclusive: Airtree Ventures already returned its first fund thanks to Canva while maintaining the majority of its stake

Venture secondaries has exploded over the last couple of years. While some firms have used the increase in activity to build up their positions in their most promising portfolio companies, Airtree Ventures is taking advantage of the momentum a little differently.

The Sydney-based venture firm, founded in 2014, has been using company-led secondary sales to slim down its equity stakes and get liquidity from some of its most promising bets. The company’s portfolio is made up of Australian unicorns including Canva, last valued at $40 billion, Immutable ($2.4 billion) and LinkTree ($1.3 billion), among others.

Craig Blair, a co-founder and partner at Airtree, told TechCrunch that not unlike other venture firms, Airtree’s goal is to deliver the maximum level of returns to its investors. But unlike many other firms, Airtree generates returns throughout the whole lifecycle of an investment, rather than just when the company exists.

“Right from the start, we want to put as much energy and thought into the exit process that we do for the funding process,” Blair said. “We look at the lifecycles of the fund, we look at businesses themselves, and think about when could be a good time to exit that business.”

Airtree backs companies at the pre-seed and seed stage; as companies stay private longer, they aren’t returning money as often during the traditional fund lifecycle. So in 2021, Airtree started seeking alternative ways to get liquidity for some of their earliest stakes, Blair said.

One of which was Canva. Airtree originally invested in Canva’s $6 million Series A round in 2015. Blair said the firm slimmed down its stake in the startup in 2021 when the company was valued at $39 billion. Airtree got a 1.4x return on Fund I from a recent Canva sale and was able to maintain the majority of their original stake.

“There is no hard and fast rule,” Blair said on how the firm decides when to slim down its stakes. “We look at the position of the fund and the role of that company in that fund [and think], ‘If we sold today at that price, what sort of future value are we giving up that we could hold? [What is] the value of liquidity versus long-term TVPI and the effect on the fund?’”

Each time Airtree has done this, it’s purposefully maintained a majority of their stake, Blair said. He said the firm still wants to get that huge win at the end, but doesn’t want to put “all their eggs into that final basket.”

This strategy makes a lot of sense looking at how far some of the valuations for late-stage startups have fallen over the last few years. While some companies are working to grow into their last valuation, many have a long way to go and may still exit for lower than they raised their last primary round.

But Airtree’s strategy isn’t foolproof. Blair acknowledges that when a company does eventually exit, Airtree makes less money off of it because of this strategy — though the final exit isn’t guaranteed to be strong, either, he said.

Blair said Airtree wouldn’t rule out raising a continuation fund — the venture industry’s current liquidity vehicle of choice — and said it may make sense if the firm wants to start selling a bundle of its shares at once. But its current secondary strategy of raising its hand when companies look to run secondary tender sales has worked out well for them thus far.

“I’d say our responsibility as investors is to return money to our LPs at the right time,” Blair said. “Selling too early can be bad, for sure. There isn’t a single answer but rather having a process about having active decisions and not passive decisions [about liquidity]. Don’t just sit back and wait for [exits] to happen to you.”

Software Development in Sri Lanka

Robotic Automations

Exclusive: A16z promotes Jennifer Li to help lead the new $1.25B Infrastructure fund

Powerhouse venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz is promoting Jennifer Li to general partner after six years at the firm. She’s being tapped to help invest the new $1.25 billion Infrastructure fund managed by longtime a16z general partner Martin Casado.

The Infrastructure fund is part of the fresh $7.2 billion that the Silicon Valley VC giant just raised. Li has been an investing partner on the Infrastructure team for a while, which means she was already writing checks and taking board seats. But her promotion puts her in rarified air: making her the 27th general partner at the firm, and she’s hit this career milestone while in her early 30s.

While that may sound like a lot of GPs, a16z currently has over 500 employees. Plus she’s one of only four GPs on the Infrastructure team. The others are Anjney Midha who joined the firm last summer; Zane Lackey, who joined two years ago; and Casado.

“Promoting Jennifer to general partner means that much more autonomy in deal making and, as importantly, that much more influence on the team’s culture, investment philosophy, and operating model,” Casado told TechCrunch over email.

In Casado’s blog post announcing her promotion, he also mentioned that she and he were the two people largely responsible for building the infrastructure investing team. He described her as “a low ego, incredibly reliable and generous partner to work with. No detail escapes her notice, and no challenge too daunting for her to tackle. As Ben Horowitz has said many times, ‘She embodies the a16z culture.’”

In her time at a16z, Li helped the firm find data connectivity startup Fivetran, valued at $5.6 billion in 2021; and data analytics developer tool startup dbt, which hit a $4.2 billion valuation in 2022 (both of those deals were led by Casado). She led the firm’s investments in developer-focused video platform Mux, a unicorn as of 2021; database startup Motherduck, valued at $400 million earlier this year; and AI voice startup Eleven Labs, a unicorn as of January, where she serves on the board.

Prior to joining a16z in 2018, she led product at AI startup Solvvy, acquired by Zoom in 2022; led self-service and analytics products at AppDynamics, acquired by Cisco for $3.7 billion; and was a Kleiner Perkins Product Fellow in 2016.

Software Development in Sri Lanka

Robotic Automations

A $60M venture fund with a twist, and more startup-on-startup acquisitions | TechCrunch

Ah, spring has sprung here in the Northeast United States, and it’s not only flowers that are blooming. No, startup-on-startup deals are the crop this season!

Today on Equity’s startup-focused Wednesday show, we dug into the Multiverse-Searchlight deal, which reminded us of the Wonderschool-Early Day transaction that we covered on the show a few weeks ago.

We also talked about the latest Guesty round, which was both large and interesting; the Monad Labs transaction that led to us trying to explain the difference between L1 and L2 blockchains; and Cyera’s quick recent mega-round. Startup Land is feeling quite busy and high-dollar again, and that’s a lot of fun!

We wrapped up the show with a cool discussion of this new venture capital fund that’s targeting growth-rounds in Africa.

Equity will be back on Friday to review the week’s headlines, so stay tuned!

Equity is TechCrunch’s flagship podcast and posts every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and you can subscribe to us on Apple Podcasts, Overcast, Spotify and all the casts.

You also can follow Equity on X and Threads, at @EquityPod.

For the full interview transcript, for those who prefer reading over listening, read on, or check out our full archive of episodes over at Simplecast.

Software Development in Sri Lanka

Robotic Automations

Ramp raises another $150 million co-led by Khosla and Founders Fund at a $7.65B valuation | TechCrunch

Spend management startup Ramp has raised another $150 million at a post-money valuation of $7.65 billion, the company confirmed to TechCrunch today.

New investor Khosla Ventures and existing backer Founders Fund co-led the raise, which also included participation from new backers Sequoia Capital, Greylock and 8VC. Other existing investors Thrive Capital, General Catalyst, Sands Capital, D1 Capital, Lux Capital, Iconiq Capital, Definition Capital, Contrary Capital also put money into the latest round.

The raise is characterized as an extension of Ramp’s Series D, in which the fintech company raised $300 million at a 28% lower valuation of $5.8 billion. The latest capital infusion brings it back closer to the $8.1 billion valuation it had achieved in March of 2022.

With this raise, Ramp has secured $1.2 billion in equity financing and $700 million in committed debt funding since its 2019 inception.

In March 2023, co-founder and CEO Eric Glyman told TechCrunch that the company saw its revenue grow by 4x in 2022 — led by its fastest-growing segment of bill pay — but was not yet profitable. The company had crossed $100 million in annualized revenue before its third birthday in March 2022, and said last summer that it had passed $300 million in annualized revenue.

While the company declined to reveal updated revenue figures, Glyman told TechCrunch today that in the first quarter of this year, Ramp’s total purchase volume and revenue growth increased “faster quarter over quarter than it did over the same period in 2023, on a much larger base.”

Notably, Keith Rabois led the investment for new backer Khosla, having recently moved to the firm from Founders Fund. Apparently, there were no hard feelings on the part of Founders Fund, which still participated in the financing, even without Rabois. 

The relationship with Founders Fund “runs so deep,” Glyman said, as the company was its first institutional investor since its “very early days.” While they work with the whole team there, Glyman pointed to partners Napoleon Ta and Delian Asparouhov as being the “most involved” since Rabois’ departure. (It’s worth noting that Rabois originally represented Founders Fund and has sat on Ramp’s board since 2019.) 

Glyman said he believes that Ramp’s continued emphasis on artificial intelligence (AI) also helped attract Khosla’s interest. (Khosla is an early investor in OpenAI).

“They were so ahead of the curve in investing with OpenAI and in what’s happening in the AI world that of course, so we were thrilled,” he added.

Ramp counts over 25,000 companies across a variety of industries as customers. Interestingly, venture-backed startups represent a “minority” of its customer base, which a includes farms, shops, hospitals and nonprofits.

Glyman told TechCrunch that the new funding will be used to “triple down” on innovation including using AI capabilities “to automate cumbersome processes, provide deeper insights into spending, enhance decision-making capabilities, and more.” Last November, Ramp announced a new integration with Microsoft Copilot as part of its efforts to incorporate AI into its offering.

“I think there’s this this shift in AI investment from primarily being on these large infrastructure models to the application layer,” Glyman said.

Ramp will also use the money towards acquisitions. In January, the company announced it had acquired AI-powered startup Venue as it expanded its procurement offering. Generally, in the past few years, Ramp has been on what might look like a buying spree. In August of 2021, Ramp purchased Buyer, a “negotiation-as-a-service” platform that claimed to save its clients money on big-ticket purchases such as annual software contracts. Then last year, Ramp acquired, (not to be confused with OpenAI competitor Cohere). was a startup that built an AI-powered customer support tool.

Presently, Ramp has about 730 full-time employees, up from 495 a year ago.

Want more fintech news in your inbox? Sign up for TechCrunch Fintech here.

Want to reach out with a tip? Email me at [email protected] or send me a message on Signal at 408.204.3036. You can also send a note to the whole TechCrunch crew at [email protected]. For more secure communications, click here to contact us, which includes SecureDrop (instructions here) and links to encrypted messaging apps.

Software Development in Sri Lanka

Robotic Automations

Pan-African VC Verod-Kepple closes its first fund at $60M | TechCrunch

Verod-Kepple Africa Ventures (VKAV) plans to back up to 21 growth-stage companies across the continent after closing its first fund at $60 million. The pan-African VC hit the milestone following fresh backing from new investors including Nigeria’s SCM Capital (formerly Sterling Capital Markets Limited), Taiyo Holdings and C2C Global Education Japan.

The latest capital injection follows the fund’s first and second close in 2022 and last year, respectively, backed by several investors, among them Japanese institutional investors including SBI Holdings, Toyota Tsusho Corporation, Sumitomo Mitsui Trust Bank, Japan International Corporation Agency and the Japan ICT Fund.

Verod-Kepple is the latest African VC to get capitalized, amid an ongoing investment downturn, allowing it to provide much-needed capital to Series A and B startups even as local capital pools for growth-stage companies remain limited.

“Over the last few years, we have seen a growth in pre-seed and seed funds, and we felt there are not enough funds at the growth stage of investing to get these companies to the next level in terms of scale, exits or even being around as sustainable profitable businesses,” VKAV partner Ory Okolloh told TechCrunch.

“Our focus is Series A and B but we have the ability to go earlier to pre-Series A if we think it is a good opportunity. We think there’s still a need for more growth-stage capital with locally based investors,” she said.

Okolloh, Ryosuke Yamawaki and Satoshi Shinada launched the VC firm in 2022, as a joint venture between Verod Capital, a private equity firm and Kepple Africa, a Tokyo-based venture capital firm.

The VC firm says the collaboration was needed for the fund to offer meaningful hands-on support, including bringing operational best practices, improving the governance structures and navigating the complex macroeconomic environment in Africa, to portfolio companies in their scale-up phase. Verod-Kepple made this case after noticing that as more startups moved from pre-seed and seed stage to Series A and B and later stages, the success of their transition and scaling required a more institutional approach.

How VKAV makes investments

The VKAV fund backs startups that are building infrastructure for the digital economy, solving inefficiencies encountered by businesses and market creators for the emerging consumer population. Okolloh says their focus on the latter is about backing companies targeting shifts in consumer trends.

The VC fund invests between $1 million and $3 million, with the ability to follow on, having already deployed $17.5 million, and investing an average of $1.5 million in 12 companies from Nigeria, Egypt, Kenya, Morocco, Ivory Coast and South Africa. The investees span the fintech, mobility, e-commerce, proptech, deep tech, insurtech, energy and healthcare sectors, and include Uber-backed Moove, climate tech scale-up KOKO Networks, Nigerian shared mobility startup Shuttlers, aerospace startup Cloudline, Morocco’s B2B e-commerce and retail startup Chari, and insurtech mTek-Services.

And while the fund is sector-agnostic, it is paying attention to vertical ERP startups and those offering embedded financial services and players in the future of work space. They are also “increasingly applying the AI lens to understand how GenAI as a fundamental infrastructure is going to change the production and distribution of tech-enabled businesses.”

Okolloh said the fund plans to continue exploring other ecosystems, including Angola, Zambia, DRC and Tunisia, through its team or partner investors, in search of new investment opportunities especially in underserved markets, and as it continues its push to be pan-African.

“Given the diversity of markets, shifting macros, markets that are underserved in terms of investors, we think taking a pan-African and a sector-agnostic approach is important,” said Okolloh, who has experience in tech and investment after previously serving as an executive at Omidyar Network and Google Africa.

“We definitely look out for a diversity of portfolio, not just in terms of gender and founders, but sector and market as well.”

The Verod-Kepple fund joins the growing number of African VC funds that are receiving backing from Japanese institutional investors looking to diversify their risks. Recently, Novastar Ventures also got capital commitments from the MOL Group and SBI Holdings.

“As an investor, the Japan connection is important and we hope to expand that later on to even a more broader Asia connection. I think, being immersed in stories and experiences and collaborating with investors and other partners from a market where you can see economic transformation in your lifetime is critical,” said Okolloh.

“I’m excited about the opportunity to learn, partner, share and even exchange with a different part of the world where their experiences are much more relatable. And most important of all, backing exceptional founders in a meaningful way that allows them to thrive.”

Software Development in Sri Lanka

Robotic Automations

Avendus, KKR-backed top India venture advisor, in talks to raise $300 million for new fund | TechCrunch

Avendus, India’s leading investment bank for venture deals, is looking to raise about $300 million for its private equity unit, according to three sources familiar with the matter.

The Mumbai-based firm, backed by U.S. private equity giant KKR, has established itself as the top financial advisor in India, working with popular growth-stage startups including Zepto, Lenskart, Xpressbees, CaratLane and Atomberg on their funding rounds last year.

With its third private equity fund, Avendus plans to write larger checks more frequently, one of the sources said. The firm raised its second fund, amounting to around $185 million, in 2021. Its maiden fund was $50 million in size.

The sources requested anonymity to discuss private matters. An Avendus spokesperson declined to comment.

Avendus first gained prominence as India’s startup ecosystem first started to take shape, capitalizing on the fact that many of its well-known rivals — including Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and JP Morgan — initially paid less attention to the Indian market. That was partly due to deal sizes in the early days: Typically they were less than $30 million, not substantial enough to generate significant fees, making it less attractive for many banner names to engage.

But as the Indian startup ecosystem flourished in the past decade, becoming the third-largest in the world, it has attracted global giants, including SoftBank, Tiger Global and General Atlantic, as well as sovereign wealth funds like Temasek, GIC, ADIA, Khazanah, PIB and Mubadala, which have collectively poured tens of billions of dollars into startups small and large in India.

Avendus employs more than 150 bankers and was the top financial advisor in India last year. It provided services in over 30 deals, including merger and acquisition transactions, according to Venture Intelligence, a private market insight platform.

In the past decade, similar to financial advisors in other regions, Avendus has diversified its offerings, venturing into wealth management, credit financing and private equity. Last year, the firm also expanded its financial advisory services to the Southeast Asian region.

Software Development in Sri Lanka