Kumo aims to bring predictive AI to the enterprise with $18M in fresh capital

Kumo, a startup offering an AI-powered platform to tackle predictive problems in business, today announced that it raised $18 million in a Series B round led by Sequoia, with participation from A Capital, SV Angel and several angel investors. Co-founder and CEO Vanja Josifovski says the new funding will be put toward Kumo’s hiring efforts and R&D across the startup’s platform and services, which include data prep, data analytics and model management.

Kumo’s platform works specifically with graph neural networks, a class of AI system for processing data that can be represented as a series of graphs. Graphs in this context refer to mathematical constructs made up of vertices (also called nodes) that are connected by edges (or lines). Graphs can be used to model relations and processes in social, IT and even biological systems. For example, the link structure of a website can be represented by a graph where the vertices stand in for webpages and the edges represent links from one page to another.

Graph neural networks have powerful predictive capabilities. At Pinterest and LinkedIn, they’re used to recommend posts, people and more to hundreds of millions of active users. But as Josifovski notes, they’re computationally expensive to run — making them cost-prohibitive for most companies.

“Many enterprises today attempting to experiment with graph neural networks have been unable to scale beyond training data sets that fit in a single accelerator (memory in a single GPU), dramatically limiting their ability to take advantage of these emerging algorithmic approaches,” he told TechCrunch in an email interview. “Through fundamental infrastructural and algorithmic advancements, we have been able to scale to datasets in the many terabytes, allowing graph neural networks to be applied to customers with larger and more complicated enterprise graphs, such as social networks and multi-sided marketplaces.”

Using Kumo, customers can connect data sources to create a graph neural network that can then be queried in structured query language (SQL). Under the hood, the platform automatically trains the neural network system, evaluating it for accuracy and readying it for deployment to production.

Josifovski says that Kumo can be used for applications like new customer acquisition, customer loyalty and retention, personalization and next best action, abuse detection and financial crime detection. Previously the CTO of Pinterest and Airbnb Homes, Josifovski worked with Kumo’s other co-founders, former Pinterest chief scientist Jure Leskovec and Hema Raghavan, to develop the graph technology through Stanford and Dortmund University research labs.

“Companies spend millions of dollars storing terabytes of data but are able to effectively leverage only a fraction of it to generate the predictions they need to power forward-looking business decisions. The reason for this is major data science capacity gaps as well as the massive time and effort required to get predictions successfully into production,” Josifovski said. “We enable companies to move to a paradigm in which predictive analytics goes from being a scarce resource used sparingly into one in which it is as easy as writing a SQL query, thus enabling predictions to basically become ubiquitous — far more broadly adapted in use cases across the enterprise in a much shorter timeframe.”

Kumo remains in the pilot stage, but Josifovski says that it has “more than a dozen” early adopters in the enterprise. To date, the startup has raised $37 million in capital.

Kumo aims to bring predictive AI to the enterprise with $18M in fresh capital by Kyle Wiggers originally published on TechCrunch

Pomelo exits stealth mode with $20M seed to rethink international money transfer

Eric Velasquez Frenkiel had a seemingly simple thought when visiting his family in the Philippines, impressed by the cashless economy that had formed. Instead of sending money to his family once a year — a costly, fee-heavy affair — why can’t he just leave his credit card there?

As with many things in fintech, it wasn’t that simple. But the seed of the idea made the former enterprise chief executive turn his career into a bet on one of fintech’s most elusive problems.

Pomelo, Frenkiel’s new startup launching out of stealth today, wants to make it easier to send remittance payments and conduct international money transfers, with a credit twist.

To execute on that vision, Pomelo has raised a $20 million seed round led by Keith Rabois at Founders Fund and Kevin Hartz at A* Capital, with participation from Afore Capital, Xfund, Josh Buckley and The Chainsmokers. The round also included a $50 million warehouse facility, which will allow Pomelo to give upfront cash to people who want to make transfers.

Venture investors are not the only cohort showing interest; more than 120,000 people have joined Pomelo’s waitlist over six months, according to Frenkiel. (It’s important not to confuse this Pomelo with another Pomelo, a fintech-as-a-service platform for Latin America that has raised $9 million in funding.) Oh, fintech.

Here’s how the startup works: If someone wants to send money overseas, they make a Pomelo account, which comes with up to four credit cards. The creator of the account — let’s just assume that they’re the one that is sending the money — can set limits, pause cards and view spending habits.

Pomelo’s key tweak is around credit. 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.

Challenges still await any fintech, whether traditional or scrappy upstart, that is betting its business on backing potentially risky individuals. For example, Pomelo doesn’t want to rely on credit scores when deciding whether or not to trust a sender, because the metric historically leaves out those who don’t have a bounty of access to financial literacy or spending.

Image Credits: Pomelo

“If you do have a credit score and you have enough credit history, you would get up to $1,000 a month,” Frenkiel said. “But if you don’t have credit or wish to improve your credit, we give you a credit builder.” Customers are invited to supply a secure deposit, so that there’s a way to prove creditworthiness down the road, and Pomelo is able to “actually balance the need to extend credit but also ensure we stay in business long term.”

International money transfer continues to be an expensive affair for senders. Unsurprisingly, that pain point has led to a plethora of startups. Startups offer a sliding scale proposition, meaning it costs more to send more money, or a flat-fee value proposition, with a $5 fee for all transfers regardless of size. Per the World Bank, around 6% of a total check is removed via fees and exchange rate markups.

Rethinking remittance thus feels like a common pitch. Frenkiel says that Pomelo’s closest competitors are Xoom and Remitly, although he thinks they differentiate in two keys ways: the focus on credit, and a “fundamentally new revenue model.”

Pomelo doesn’t make money from senders via transfer fees, instead leaning its business on interchange fees paid by merchants. “You shouldn’t have to pay money to send money,” Frenkiel adds.

While interchange fees have their own slew of issues as a business model, let’s end with some insurance: both Visa and Mastercard were interested in partnering with the startup, but the latter won the deal.

“Mastercard allows us to work in more than 100 countries,” Frenkiel said. “Obviously, we’re starting off with a few, but the idea is that there’s far more endpoints to take Mastercard or Visa than having banking as a prerequisite to send money… we hope we can eventually deliver a product to wherever MasterCard is accepted around the world. ”

The startup is servicing the Philippines, but soon plans to expand to Mexico and India as well as other geographies.

Inventa poised to enter Mexico, Colombia with its supplier marketplace

When Inventa sees a good opportunity to grab some extra capital, it takes it. However, as you will see, it is on a trajectory of fast growth, and not unlike other startups, the new capital is to pave the way for that to continue.

The Brazil-based company offers a digital marketplace to connect small and medium-sized companies with suppliers to discover and purchase new inventory. Its technology aims to provide an easier purchasing process for small businesses by recommending products based on actual transaction data and then also providing credit, in 30-, 60- and 90-day increments, to retailers. On the supplier side, they can upload products, manage pricing and see what is selling and what isn’t.

We first profiled Inventa, co-founded by Marcos Salama, Fernando Carrasco and Laura Camargo, in January when it raised $20 million in Series A financing, led by Andreessen Horowitz and Monashees. That capital had come just three months after a $5.5 million seed round.

At the time of the Series A, CEO Salama told TechCrunch Inventa was growing 100% month over month. Since January, he revealed that Inventa essentially doubled its metrics, going from 400 brands, 7,000 products and 20,000 stores to 800 brands, 18,000 products and more than 40,000 stores.

It also grew its headcount from around 100 to over 250 people, and brought on some key executives, including a head of data, head of engineering and head of product.

“We have doubled down on both the company and our engineering team; we now have around 90 people, many of whom have done this before,” Salama said. “We are going to maintain our strategy of helping suppliers and retailers have a better life.”

Looking to leverage that growth, Inventa has now completed a $55 million Series B round — its third round in the 12 months since Inventa was founded in 2021. Greylock led the round and was joined by Greenoaks, Andreessen Horowitz, Monashees, Founders Fund, Tiger Global, NXTP, ONEVC, MAYA, Pear VC, Avenir Growth and A* Capital. This brings the company’s total fundraising to date to $80 million.

Inventa currently focuses on the categories of cosmetics, healthy foods and home decor, but the new funding enables it to add some new categories that customers have been asking for, including accessories, jewelry and pets. And, after establishing a footprint in Brazil, the company is accelerating its international expansion to Mexico and Colombia later this year.

Much of the company’s growth is organic, driven in part by the company’s referral program where brands can recommend their customers to the site and earn $50 for every customer that makes their first purchase, Salama says. Referrals are also how new suppliers are added — a retailer will recommend a supplier they use, and after the supplier is brought on board, the supplier is introduced to new retailers using Inventa.

Next up, Salama wants to bring on a head of credit in the next six months to round out the leadership team.

“At the end of the day, most retailers in Latin America don’t have a credit card, and we are already giving them a flexible payment option, but as we grow, there is a lot more to be done there and done better,” he added. “We play an important role to offer better solutions to our stores.”

Web3 ‘Proof of attendance’ startup raises $10M to mint shared memories as NFTs

If blockchains are immutable records of our digital history, what kinds of history do we want to inscribe on them? Predictably, most records thus far have been transaction data, but as entrepreneurs expand their ambitions for NFTs, startups are aiming to tie those asset transactions to real world events and interactions.

POAP, which stands for Proof Of Attendance Protocol, wants to dial deeper into the idea of using NFT’s to create internet communities, with a protocol that helps build more active communities and award individual participation like taking part in an event. POAP is organized around badges as the visual signifier of their protocol. In the real world, a user could scan a QR code to received an NFT memento that could unlock admission to an online community and earn them future drops.

Plenty of this functionality exists elsewhere across Ethereum projects made possible by some of the underlying features of the blockchain which allows developers to create “snapshots” of active wallets which have been linked to the project at a given time. The POAP ecosystem also includes a number of other tools including Etheruem-backed polling, raffle contest mechanics and private chat verification tech.

The startup announced this week that they’ve raised a $10 million Seed round led by Archetype and Sapphire Sport with additional participation in the funding from Sound Ventures, The Chernin Group and Advancit Capital. A host of crypto native funds also invested including Collab Currency, 1KX, Libertus Capital, Red Beard Ventures, 6th Man Ventures, Delphi Digital and A Capital.

POAP met some challenges in 2021 as NFT community growth accelerated and the number of people looking to tap into their platform created an overwhelming influx of spam that brought the platform to a crawl. In a blog post, the company says it plans to use its new funding to invest in its application and platform layers.

Walnut snaps up fresh capital after growing 700% in four months

After securing a $15 million Series A in August, Walnut, a company that creates sales and marketing demo experiences, is back to announce its new round of $35 million in Series B financing.

Walnut’s no-code platform enables teams to create customized product demonstrations quickly, be able to integrate them into their sales and marketing processes and then generate insights from the demos.

Since the Series A, the company grew a staggering 700% in annual recurring revenue, co-founder and CEO Yoav Vilner told TechCrunch. It is now working with nearly 100 SaaS customers, including Adobe, Dell, Medallia, NetApp, Treasure Data, Funnel, People AI and ContractBook.

“Right after we published the announcement, we got a lot of interest from investors,” Vilner added. “We had been trying to cope with the demand that we had, and so my original plan was to raise later on, but with the way we were continuing the pace, felt that this could be the right timing. Three months between rounds is unusual, but what we were building was definitely ready for more money.”

Felicis Ventures is leading the latest round that gives the company $56 million in total funding to date. Vilner says the firm’s name was one he kept hearing over and over, and he and co-founder Danni Friedland were interested in Felicis’ fund for SaaS and software, thinking it would be the right fit.

Joining Felicis are existing investors NFX, Eight Roads Ventures and A Capital and a group of strategic angel investors, including Salesforce president and CMO Sarah Franklin, Okta co-founder Frederic Kerrest, TripActions co-founder and CEO Ariel Cohen and Papaya Global co-founder and CEO Eynat Guez.

The new funding will enable Walnut to grow its team in the U.S., Europe and Israel from 55 to closer to 100, Vilner said. In addition, the company will focus on technology and product development.

“We will finally be able to meet the demand and grow our manpower across countries and build a wider platform to help the sales funnel at different touchpoints,” he added. “We are building a new category that doesn’t really even have a name yet, but our goal is revolutionizing the sales space.”

Felicis general partner Viviana Faga and vice president Jake Storm are lead investors in the round and say they are calling what Walnut is doing “sales experience,” and that the company is helping go-to-market teams interact with customers. That became harder during the global pandemic when people weren’t as interested in speaking with sales people, Faga said.

She believes it was the right time for a tool, like Walnut’s, so that companies could ramp up their demos. And, rather than just sales teams using it, the company saw marketing and customer success teams adopt the technology. As a result, Storm sees Walnut riding two waves: a push for more efficient sales enablement and bottom-up growth.

“When we met Yoav and Danni, we knew that they were going to build a huge team, and after we saw the waitlist of users begging to use Walnut, we knew it was the solution needed in the world,” Faga added.

CodeSignal secures $50M for its tech hiring platform

In less than a year after raising $25 million in Series B funding, technical assessment company CodeSignal announced a $50 million in Series C funding to offer new features for its platform that helps companies make data-driven hiring decisions to find and test engineering talent.

Similar to attracting a big investor lead for its B round — Menlo Ventures — it has partnered with Index Ventures to lead the C round. Menlo participated again and was joined by Headline and A Capital. This round brings CodeSignal’s total fundraising to $87.5 million.

Co-founder and CEO Tigran Sloyan got the idea for the company from an experience his co-founder and friend Aram Shatakhtsyan had while trying to find an engineering job. Both from Armenia, the two went in different paths for college, with Shatakhtsyan staying in Armenia and Sloyan coming to the U.S. to study at MIT. He then went on to work at Google.

“As companies were recruiting myself and my classmates, Aram was trying to get his resume picked up, but wasn’t getting attention because of where he went to college, even though he was the greatest programmer I had ever known,” Sloyan told TechCrunch. “Hiring talent is the No. 1 problem companies say they have, but here was the best engineer, and no one would bring him in.”

They, along with Sophia Baik, started CodeSignal in 2015 to act as a self-driving interview platform that directly measures skills regardless of a person’s background. Like people needing to take a driver’s test in order to get a license, Sloyan calls the company’s technical assessment technology a “flight simulator for developers,” that gives candidates a simulated evaluation of their skills and comes back with a score and highlighted strengths.

The need by companies to hire engineers has led to CodeSignal growing 3.5 times in revenue year over year and to gather a customer list that includes Brex, Databricks, Facebook, Instacart, Robinhood, Upwork and Zoom.

Sloyan said the company has not yet touched the money it received in its Series B, but wanted to jump at the opportunity to work with Nina Achadjian, partner at Index Ventures, whom he had known for many years since their time together at Google. To work together and for Achadjian to join the company’s board was something “I couldn’t pass up,” Sloyan said.

When Achadjian moved over to venture capital, she helped Sloyan connect to mentors and angel investors while keeping an eye on the company. Hiring engineers is “mission critical” for technology companies, but what became more obvious to her was that engineering functions have become necessary for all companies, Achadjian explained.

While performing due diligence on the space, she saw traditional engineering cultures utilizing CodeSignal, but then would also see nontraditional companies like banks and insurance companies.

“Their traction was undeniable, and many of our portfolio companies were using CodeSignal,” she added. “It is rare to see a company accelerate growth at the stage they are at.”

U.S. Department of Labor statistics estimate there is already a global talent labor shortage of 40 million workers, and that number will grow to over 85 million by 2030. Achadjian says engineering jobs are also expected to increase during that time, and with all of those roles and applicants, vetting candidates will be more important than ever, as will the ability for candidates to apply from wherever they are.

The new funding enabled the company to launch its Integrated Development Environment for candidates to interact with relevant assessment experiences like codes, files and a terminal on a machine that is familiar with them, so that they can showcase their skills, while also being able to preview their application. At the same time, employers are able to assign each candidate the same coding task based on the open position.

In addition, Sloyan intends to triple the company’s headcount over the next couple of months and expand into other use cases for skills assessment.


Sales experience platform Walnut raises $15M to improve product demonstrations

Walnut raised $15 million in Series A funding, led by Eight Roads Ventures, to continue developing its sales experience platform.

Founders Yoav Vilner and Danni Friedland started the company in July 2020. Vilner told TechCrunch that while at a previous company, he was building a category called technology marketing in Israel. He realized that company sales people often ran into problems when it was time to demonstrate their product — the product would break, or they would have to ask another department to open something or add a feature, none of which happened instantaneously, Vilner added.

He and Friedland’s answer to that problem is a no-code platform for teams to create customized product demonstrations quickly, be able to integrate them into their sales and marketing processes and then generate insights from the demos.

Walnut engagement example. Image Credits: Walnut

“We let the sales and marketing teams replicate the SaaS product in our cloud environment, which is disconnected from the back end,” Vilner explained. “They can create a storyline to fit their customer and the demonstration, and then following the demo, sales leaders can get insight on what was good or bad. It encourages the sharing of knowledge and what story worked best for which kind of company.”

The company’s latest round gives it $21 million raised to date, and follows a $6 million seed round that included NFX, A Capital, Liquid2 Ventures and Graph Ventures, Vilner said.

Walnut serves over 60 business-to-business clients, including Adobe, NetApp, Varonis and People AI. In addition to Tel Aviv, the company has offices in New York and London.

Vilner intends to use the new funding to grow the team across the U.S, Europe and Israel and continue developing its technology and platform, including tools to embed demos into a website for product-led growth. He also expects to double the team of 25 over the next year.

Eyal Rabinovich, an investor at Eight Roads Ventures, said his brother is a Walnut customer, and the company fits with one of the firm’s theses around broad vertically integrated brands in SaaS and deep technology.

Rabinovich was tracking the sales enablement space for a while and said many companies claim to provide something unique, but it is usually workflow and processes. In Walnut’s case, it is solving something at the core of sales.

“They make everything measurable, and the ‘holy grail’ is conversion, and even just 1% conversion could mean millions of dollars,” he added. “Every company we spoke to wanted to use this product. Customers were telling us they closed the sales cycle within two weeks.”


Tiger Global leads $34M investment into Unit21, a no-code fraud prevention platform

Unit21, a startup that helps businesses monitor fraudulent activities with its no-code software, announced today it has raised $34 million in a Series B round of funding led by Tiger Global Management.

The round values San Francisco-based Unit21 at $300 million and comes nine months after the startup raised a $13 million Series A that included investments from the founders of Plaid, Chime and Shape Security as well as former Venmo COO Michael Vaughan.

ICONIQ Capital and existing backers Gradient Ventures (Google’s AI venture fund), A.Capital and South Park Commons participated in the latest funding event. 

Former Affirm product manager Trisha Kothari and Clarence Chio founded Unit21 in 2018 with the goal of giving risk, compliance and fraud teams a way to fight financial crime via a “secure, integrated, no-code platform.” 

Image Credits: Unit21

The pair say they started Unit21 based on the belief that the existing model of “black box” machine learning used for fraud prevention and detection was flawed. Their idea was to develop an alternative system to provide risk and compliance teams with more control over their operations. Unit21 describes its core technology as a “flag-and-review” toolset designed to give non-technical operators and anti-money laundering (AML) teams the ability to “easily” write complex statistical models and deploy customized workflows without having to involve their engineering teams. Unit21 says it provides this toolset to companies with the aim of helping them mitigate fraud and money laundering risks through Know Your Customer (KYC) verification, transaction monitoring detection and suspicious activity report (SAR) case management. 

Unit21 has built up an impressive customer base of over 50 enterprise clients, including Chime, Intuit, Coinbase, Gusto, Flywire, Wyre and Twitter, among others. The company says it has monitored more than $100 billion in activity via its API and dashboard since its 2018 inception. It also says that it has saved more than 20 million users over $100 million in fraud loss/suspicious activity. The company declined to reveal hard revenue figures, saying only revenue grew by “12x” in 2020 compared to 2019.

“Data is the most important weapon in the fight against fraud and money laundering,” Kothair said. “This funding will support our mission to democratize data and make it more accessible to  operations teams.”

The company will also use its new capital in part toward expanding its engineering, research & development and go-to-market  teams. As of late June, Unit21 had 53 employees, up from 12 at the same time last year. The startup also plans evolve its platform for generalized flag + review use cases beyond financial crimes and fraud. It’s also eyeing expansion in the Asia-Pacific (APAC) and Europe/Middle East (EMEA) markets.

Tiger Global Partner John Curtius said Unit21 is transforming organizations’ ability to “analyze data to its advantage for risk management and compliance.”

The space is a hot one with a number of other fraud-prevention companies raising capital in recent months including Sift, Seon and Feedzai. According to Compliance Week (citing analysis by Fenergo), financial institutions were hit with an estimated $10.4 billion in global fines and penalties related to anti-money laundering (AML), know your customer (KYC), data privacy, and MiFID (Markets in Financial Instruments Directive) regulations in 2020, bringing the total to $46.4 billion for those types of breaches since 2008. The report, spanning up to its release date of Dec. 9, said there has been 198 fines against financial institutions for AML, KYC, data privacy, and MiFID deficiencies, representing a 141% increase since 2019.

Walnut raises $3.5M from Ron Conway and others to stop remote sales pitches breaking

Amid the rise of remote selling due to the pandemic, Walnut, billing itself as a ‘Wix for Sales teams,’ has raised $3.5m from SV Angel (Ron and Topher Conway) and A.Capital by Ronny Conway and former a16z partners. This brings its total amount raised to $6m. Other investors include NFX, Joe Montana, Wix CEO, Immad Akhund and Kenny Stone.

Walnut is solving the friction between sales and back-end teams and the problem of sales demos that break during calls. A sales rep logs in to the main dashboard/product they are trying to sell and uses Walnut to choose pages and features that will be disconnected from the backend and appear as front-end in Walnut’s cloud, then edit to match it to the specific client. It’s like building web pages but for sales pitches.

It’s currently working with enterprise clients like Varonis and Adobe. While it competes with Gong.io, Walnut is hoping that its more technical approach of disconnecting front-end and back-end will aid its progress.

A.Capital Partners, founded by Ronny Conway, targets $140 million for its third fund

Silicon Valley investor Ronny Conway is raising his third early-stage venture fund, shows a new SEC filing that states the fund’s target is $140 million and that the first sale has yet to occur.

The now six-year-old firm, A.Capital, focuses on both consumer and enterprise tech, and has offices in Menlo Park and San Francisco.

Among the many brand-name companies in its portfolio are Coinbase, Airbnb, Pinterest, and Reddit. (You can find its other investments here.)

Conway led the seed-stage program of Andreessen Horowitz (a16z) for roughly four years in its earliest days and left in 2013 to raise his debut fund, which closed with $51 million in capital commitments. He also raised two, smaller parallel funds at the time.

According to SEC filings, he sought out $140 million for his second fund, though he never announced its close.

A.Capital is today run by Conway, along with General Partner Ramu Arunachalam (also formerly of a16z) and Kartik Talwar, who worked previously with Conway’s brother, Topher, and his famed father, Ron, at their separate venture firm, SV Angel.

Conway maintains a far lower profile than his father in particular, who throughout his venture career has nurtured relationships not only with founders but with tech reporters and local politicians.

Though now ancient history in Silicon Valley years, Ronny Conway was credited with introducing Andreessen Horowitz to Instagram during its earliest days.

Conway, a former Googler, met Instagram cofounder Kevin System in the several years when he, too, worked for the search giant, beginning in 2006. It turned out to be a highly worthwhile introduction, though it could have been even lucrative for a16z.

Though the firm made a seed-stage bet on the what was then a far simpler mobile photo-sharing app, a16z never followed up with another check because of investment in another photo-sharing startup that would eventually flounder (PicPlz).

It was a sensitive issue at the time for a16z, with some noting its missed opportunity. In fact, Ben Horowitz later felt compelled to write in a blog post that Andreessen Horowitz made $78 million from its $250,000 seed investment in Instagram when Facebook acquired it $1 billion in 2012.