Public health startup Cityblock raises $65M Series B

Redpoint Ventures has led a $65 million Series B in Cityblock, a healthcare company focused on providing improved care to low-income neighborhoods.

The business launched roughly 18 months ago out of Alphabet’s Sidewalk Labs, an urban innovation incubator known for projects like mobility data startup Coord, which itself raised a $5 million round in October.

“We’re a tech-enabled services company focused on caring for a population that has been traditionally overlooked by the innovation community and generally underserved across healthcare,” co-founder and chief executive officer Iyah Romm told TechCrunch. “We believe we can fundamentally redefine the way that health services are built across the country for low-income populations. These are populations that have never been prioritized.”

Romm has spent his entire career in the public health sector. Prior to joining Sidewalk Labs as an entrepreneur-in-residence in 2017, he spent one year as the chief transformation officer of the Commonwealth Care Alliance, a nonprofit medical care delivery organization.

Cityblock provides personalized medical and behavioral health and social services across a growing number of clinics on the East Coast. The company will use the investment to open additional clinics and continue the development of its core platform, Commons. The electronic health record helps care workers collaborate and stay up to date on patients, with real-time hospital admission alerts to tools for tracking treatment progress.

Cityblock opened its first clinic, or “neighborhood hub,” in Brooklyn, New York after forging a partnership with EmblemHealth, a New York neighborhood health insurance business. They’ve since expanded to Connecticut via a partnership with ConnectiCare, a Connecticut insurance provider. Cityblock will open clinics in North Carolina later this year. Cityblock’s services come at no additional costs to members covered by partner insurance businesses.

The startup’s hope is to get these low-income demographics in the doctor’s office more often. Preventative care, after all, is a whole lot cheaper than emergency room visits.

“People end up going to the ER when problems are really bad, for conditions that can be managed,” Redpoint partner and newly appointed Cityblock board member Elliot Geidt told TechCrunch. “There are 75 million people on Medicaid alone and a good portion of these people are living in the inner cities. It’s a problem that has a scope larger than most things that we see in the venture community. The big problem with this population is the existing healthcare system doesn’t work for them, it falls short on so many levels.”

New investors 8VC, Echo Health Ventures and StartUp Health also participated in the latest round, as did existing investors including Sidewalk Labs, Thrive Capital, Maverick Ventures, Town Hall Ventures and EmblemHealth.

This tiny house grows with your family

Tiny houses are all the rage but once you put more than a few people in one you have a problem: Where can you go from there?

Nowhere. Exactly.

What you do is, if you need that extra push over the cliff, you know what you do? Talk to Brian Gaudio. Gaudio is the founder of Module Housing, an incremental building startup from Pittsburgh. Gaudio, formerly of Walt Disney Imagineering, has an architecture background and saw firsthand the need for incremental housing in his work in Biloxi and Latin America. His idea is simple: create a little house that grows with you over time, allowing a single room to turn into a mansion with a few turns of a wrench.

“We think of the home as a recurring revenue stream – buy a starter home today, purchase additions and upgrades in the future. All our homes are designed to change over time – as a homebuyers family grows, income grows, or needs change,” he said. “We are capital light compared to other prefab startups in that we don’t own the manufacturing facilities where our homes are built. We leverage existing network of high-performance prefab manufacturers on the east coast.”

The service does it all: they offer multiple room dwellings and work with you to order the modules, find land that lets you add on over time, and assemble the houses. Like the Craftsman houses of old, you have a few basic styles but in this case you can buy a one bedroom Nook house for $212,000 and then add on over time instead of buying a house with seven rooms and realizing you only needed two.

Additional costs include building a foundation and land preparation. It’s also dead easy to add onto your house when your ready, said Gaudio, thanks to work they’ve done in modularizing the houses.

“We have patents pending on a removable roof and wall system that simplifies the addition process when a customer is ready to add-on,” he said.

The company raised $1.2 million so far and they have prototype houses in Pittsburgh. They already have orders and they’ve created a Tesla-like reservation system for the folks who want to try out their product.

“I moved back to Pittsburgh to start Module with the goal of making good design accessible to everyone,” he said. “Affordable housing is one of the most critical issues our country faces today. Module is a vehicle to promote responsible, equitable development in cities. We are reimagining housing to be more sustainable, adaptable, and better designed.”

Glasswing Ventures closes its artificial intelligence-focused fund with $112 million

One year after receiving a whopping $75 million commitment to invest in early stage companies applying artificial intelligence to various industries, Glasswing Ventures has closed its debut fund with $112 million. 

It’s a significant milestone for a firm that purports to be the largest early stage investor focused on machine learning on the East Coast, and one of the largest early stage funds to be led by women.

Founded by Rudina Seseri alongside her longtime investing partner Rick Grinnell and bolstered by the addition of former portfolio executive Sarah Fay, Glasswing so far has invested in three startups: BotChain (a company spun up from Glasswing’s early investment in the AI management company, Talla); Allure Security, a threat detection company; and Terbium Labs, whose service alerts companies when sensitive or stolen information of theirs appears on the Internet.

For Seseri and Glasswing, the close is actually just the beginning. As she said in a statement:

“Raising an AI-focused fund on the East Coast is just the beginning for Glasswing Ventures. As we embark on a journey to shape the future, we are laser-focused on investing in exceptional founders who leverage AI to build disruptive companies and transform markets. Beyond providing smart capital, we are firmly committed to supporting our entrepreneurs with all facets of building and scaling their businesses.”

The story, for Seseri and her co-founder Grinnell actually begins nearly a decade ago at the venture firm Fairhaven Capital, the rebranded investment arm of the TD Bank Group.

At the time of the firm’s launch in 2016, Glasswing was targeting $150 million for its first fund, with a 2.5% management fee and 20% carried interest (pretty standard terms for a venture fund), according to reporting by Dan Primack back when he was at Fortune.

In a pitchdeck seen by Primack the firm was touting 4.25x return multiple on its investments including 6x realized and 1.8x unrealized in deals like Grinnell’s exit from EqualLogic (which was sold to Dell for $1.46 billion) and Seseri’s investments in Jibo (which is now basically worthless) and SocialFlow (which isn’t).

Fay, who worked at a portfolio investment of Fairhaven’s, was brought on soon after the two partners launched their new venture.

Glasswing definitely benefits from the firm’s proximity to Boston’s stellar universities. And Seseri, a Harvard University graduate maintains close ties with the research community at both Harvard and MIT — tapping luminaries like Tim Berners-Lee to sit on the firm’s advisory council for networking. 

Chase Martin, Marketing and Events Manager, Emma Marty, Operations and Support Coordinator, Rick Grinnell, Founder and Managing Partner, Rudina Seseri, Founder and Managing Partner, Sarah Fay, Managing Director, and Andre Rocha, Investment Associate 

Bolt Threads joins Modern Meadow in the quest to bring lab-grown leather to market

There’s a new world of lab-grown replacements coming for everything from the meat department in your grocery store to a department store near you.

Lab-made leather replacements will soon join vegetable-based meat replacements on store shelves thanks to startups like Bolt Threads, which today announced that it would join companies like Modern Meadow in the quest to bring vegetable-based replacements for animal hides to market.

Earlier this year, the Silicon Valley-based Bolt Threads raised a $123 million financing to expand its business beyond the manufacture of spider silk which had brought the company acclaim — and an initial slate of products.

The announcement today of its new product, Mylo, is the first step on that path.

Working with established partner, Stella McCartney, and using technology licensed from the biomaterials company Ecovative Design, Bolt is bringing Mylo’s mushroom-based leather replacement to the world in a debut of one of McCartney’s Falabella bag designs made from the mushroom material.

The first bag will be available at the Victoria and Albert Museum’s Fashioned from Nature exhibit, open to the public on April 21st in London.

In an interview with Fast Company last year, McCartney discussed her commitment to sustainability. “I don’t think you should compromise anything for sustainability,” McCartney told the magazine. “The ultimate achievement for me is when someone comes into one of my stores and buys a Falabella bag thinking it’s real leather.”

While Bolt Threads is licensing its technology from Ecovative Design, Modern Meadow is choosing to develop its own intellectual property for growing a replacement leather.

Taking a different path to its California-based competitor, Brooklyn’s Modern Meadow model is going for a mass market while Bolt Threads is more bespoke.

The East Coast company partnered with the European chemical giant Evonik — and has raised over $40 million dollars from billionaire backers like Peter Thiel’s Breakout Ventures and Horizons Ventures (financed by Li Ka Shing — one of China’s wealthiest men) — along with the Singaporean investment giant, Temasek.

Both companies are examples of how animal husbandry is being replaced by technology in the search for a more sustainable way to feed and clothe the world’s growing population. It’s a population that’s demanding quality goods without sacrificing sustainable industrial practices — all things that are made possible by new material — and data — science along with novel manufacturing capabilities that show promise in taking things from the laboratory to the heart of the animal industries they’re looking to replace.

This is a pattern that’s not just happening in fashion, but being replicated in food science as well.

How quickly the change will come — and how viable these alternatives will be — depend on them scaling to meet a broad consumer demand. One purse in a museum show isn’t enough. Once there are hundreds of handbags on Target shelves — that’s when the revolution won’t need to be televised, because it will already have been commercialized.