A year ago, Sunil Mahajan, CEO of Kleeto, approached a few seed funds and venture capitalists to raise working capital for the record management solutions company. Forget funding, many of them did not even give Mahajan a patient hearing.
Kleeto faced an unusual problem — its capital requirement was very small. That made it a pariah for the investors it contacted. The investors were besotted with ecommerce startups, which required bigger capital and ergo, represented bigger ambitions and bigger markets, although they carried bigger risks. "VC funds had no appetite to invest in B-to-B profile like ours," says Mahajan.
Acton RocketSkates are smart motorized skates that fit right over your shoes. Once they’ve been powered on, simply push off and the motors will take over to propel you forward. For accelerating, lean forward and for braking or stopping, put your heel down. This means that the rider has complete control over the motor without the hassle of a remote. With an app and Bluetooth connection, the skater can track their route and mileage as well as the progress of other Acton RocketSkaters in the area.
Launched last month, Tolexo is an online marketplace from India which aims to be the go-to place for buyers of industrial and construction goods. Tolexo already has over 50,000 stock keeping units (SKUs) in seven categories like industrial safety and engineering tools. More than 100 sellers of such things have registered with it and the list is growing fast.
This is a fantastic idea, from entrepreneur David Kariuki who is a small internet service provider currently trying to expand his business by installing Wifi Hotspots and Access Points in various public places like bars, restaurants, hotels, apartments and shopping malls that are located in his small town in Kenya.
His campaign is off to a great start and has already raised its first USD 50.00 dollars of investment on fundedflow. Visit his campaign page below to see this success story and support the campaign! View the campaign here
Oyster, a startup that offers offers unlimited access to its collection of e-books for $9.99 per month, has crossed a nice milestone — it says its library now includes 500,000 books, compared to 100,000 when it launched in September of last year.
The company also said it recently expanded its partnership with HarperCollins, bringing 10,000 more of the publisher’s titles (including Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter, The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin, and American Gods by Neil Gaiman) into Oyster. And it has signed new deals with publishers including McSweeney’s, Chronicle Books, Grove Atlantic, and Wiley.
Singapore startup Giift wants to shake things up with an online platform that supercharges how loyalty programs are done through the efficiency that the internet brings. It has a classic two-sided platform – on one side, merchants have the ability to upload, manage, and measure their loyalty programs in exchange for monthly subscription and referral fees of between four to six percent. On the consumer side of things, users can track the amount of loyalty points they have, make redemptions using the app, and exchange points from one program to another
Rocket Internet, the Berlin-based incubator founded by the Samwer brothers with a number of notable exits and fundings under its belt, is branching further into Asia, and specifically emerging markets.
It’s partnering with Ooredoo, the main carrier in Qatar (formerly known as QTel), in a new joint venture called Asia Internet Holding to build and fund e-commerce startups, especially those focused on mobile services. The pair are not yet revealing how much money they are investing, but you could look to similar projects from Rocket as one marker: Africa Internet Holding, also formed in partnership with carriers, is building and investing in its regional startup portfolio with $410 million to spend.
1. Beatrobo | Japan
Tokyo-based startup Beatrobo is a global, social music service that uses customizable robot avatars as a conduit for sharing songs and discovering new artists. The startup has just received series A investment from Japanese convenience store chain Lawson.
The mysterious red dot is back. All the time.
That’s what your cat will think, but in reality you’ve probably just installed a Kittyo, a new gadget that enables cat owners to play with their cats remotely.
Through the Kittyo app for iOS and Android, you can use the device as a laser pointer, watching your cat go bonkers chasing it. You can also record video, speak to your pet, and dispense treats through the crowdfunded pet gizmo.
Above: The Kittyo
Image Credit: Kittyo
At 7 inches tall, Kittyo attaches to shelves and walls to ensure it’s impervious to your cat’s curious bats. The gadget looks a bit like a coffee machine — but it’s obviously way cooler, because it has a laser.
The eponymous pet-tech startup on Monday launched a Kickstarter campaign, which hit its $30,000 goal in an absurdly fast 36 minutes, according to the company. Five days later, the campaign total stands at $177,119 raised, nearly six times its original goal with four weeks of crowdfunding left.
“We’ve had an incredible week since we launched on Kickstarter just 5 days ago,” the Kittyo team wrote in a Kickstarter update Saturday. “With [over] 1,600 backers and more than $175,000 pledged already, we couldn’t have dreamed of a better launch. We hope we can maintain this incredible momentum for the next 27 days.”
The startup is offering Kittyos to campaign backer who plunk down at least $139 (though there are still some available a lower ‘early bird’ price). The company expects to ship Kittyo to backers in November. To learn more about Kittyo, check out the video below.
If you spent more college mornings nursing a hangover than attending Anthropology 101, good luck getting an Upstart loan.
Founded by Google veterans, the crowdfunding startup today expanded its offerings to include a more traditional, fixed-rate loan product (the site also lets investors back young folks for a portion of their future income).
But “more” is a key word here: These loans are far from traditional. Upstart considers all sorts of unconventional factors, including what school prospective borrowers attended, what they majored in, and how they performed, among other data points.
“Those variables are actually predictive of default rates on loans, and they’re also predictive of earning potential,” Upstart CEO Dave Girouard told website VentureBeat.
The company can measure input from more than 1,000 different U.S. universities, all of which have different majors and grading systems. Upstart verifies that data by requiring documents from the borrower and performing its own due diligence.
That educational data, alongside credit and income history, enables Upstart to predict the likelihood of successful loan payments. Upstart’s algorithm runs simulations measuring expected income against expected expenses. It also considers the likelihood of extended unemployment, which is the primary reason people default on loans.
“What’s really different is we don’t just look at your current income, we actually have built a model for your employability,” said Girouard.
That risk assessment model determines loan interest rates, which fall between 6.5 percent and 20 percent, and the origination fee, the 1 to 5 percent of the loan amount Upstart keeps for itself. The actual loan values range from $5,000 to $25,000.
Young doesn’t always mean risky
Upstart’s loans are crowdfunded and anonymized, which means investors contribute to Upstart-vetted borrowers without ever knowing who they are. Moreover, the three-year loans are targeted at young people, who other lenders typically view as “high risk.”
But Upstart thinks otherwise. The startup pointed to a recent study from the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, which determined young borrowers are the least likely to experience a serious credit card default.
Armed with that knowledge, Upstart set out to make its loans available to recent grads or soon-to-graduate students — a population that has historically struggled to borrow money at reasonable rates.
“We think it’s a really unmet need in the market… for whatever reason, most lenders avoid this part of the market because they don’t know how to underwrite it,” said Girouard. “I don’t come from financial services, nor does the rest of our team, so we figured there must be a better way to determine creditworthiness.”
Upstart’s crowdfunded loans bring the startup into competition with Lending Club and Prosper. But unlike those sites, Upstart allows borrowers to use their loans for educational expenses.
In fact, Girouard initially realized there was demand for a fixed-rate loan product when people signed up for an income share agreement (Upstart’s original product) in order to finance coding bootcamp tuition.
“We started to see a lot of people last fall joining up who were not entrepreneurs, but to go to one of these coding bootcamps,” he said. “When we dug into it, we found that they really didn’t have better options.”
By Wednesday afternoon, just hours after Upstart began offering fixed-rate loans, around 150 people had already applied for one, said Girouard. In contrast, only 330 people have tried to raise money through an Upstart income sharing agreement — and that product has been available for 15 months.
Founded in 2012, Upstart has raised around $7.6 million from several institutional investors, including Google Ventures, Kleiner Perkins, Khosla Ventures, Founder’s Fund, and First Round Capital. It’s based in Palo Alto, Calif., and currently has 15 employees.
AngelList is working on a new project called Maiden Lane. Behind this name is a new experiment in startup investment. Structured as a traditional small VC firm, Maiden Lane will only invest in AngelList syndicates or hand some money to active angels on the platform.
Munchery, a startup that provides same-day delivery for meals prepared by local chefs, announced Thursday that it raised a $28 million Series B round, bringing its total funding to date to about $35 million. The company intends to use the funding to expand its service to new cities beyond the Bay Area.
The majority of the new round — $25 million — was contributed by Sherpa Ventures. Shervin Pishevar, the VC firm's founder, had pitched in for Munchery's seed round and Series A, and believes the company has the potential to be "bigger than Chipotle," a bold statement considering Chipotle generated more than $3 billion in revenue last year.
Our latest selection of startups in Asia to look out for
Thailand Ookbee, an online ebook store from Thailand, which claims to be Southeast Asia’s number one ebookstore startup based on app downloads, has received a series B investment from Tokyo-based IT outsourcing firm Transcosmos.
French native advertising company Adyoulike acquired Content Amp. According to Rude Baguette, the British company was acquired for $2.5 million. Adyoulike appears to be at the same time an advertising technology company and a more traditional advertising network for native content.