Backed by Electrolux, Mila raises at a $52M valuation to add smarts to fresh air

Three years ago, Mila showed up on Kickstarter with its smart air purifier. The company created an air cleaner with a choice of different filters to suit the use case (and price point) customers were interested in, along with an impressive array of sensors built into the device itself. Today, the San Francisco-based company announced it closed a $10 million Series A to scrub the nasties out of the air for more people.

The company’s seed round was led by no other than Electrolux. Mila claims it was Electrolux’s first startup investment. The appliance giant also participated in the current round. Mila’s $10 million Series A was led by returning partner Cercano Management (the former venture arm of the late Paul Allen’s investment firm) and “an undisclosed global consumer goods brand.” The company says it’ll spend the money to hire, scale operations, expand its product portfolio and work toward its ultimate goal of meeting the global need for better indoor air quality. The company is also planning to launch Mila Halo, a smart humidifier.

The company raised its $10 million round in an all-equity deal at a $52 million post-money valuation, the company tells me. It says the new valuation represents a 3x value increase over its seed round the year prior.

“We’re at the cusp of a great ‘air awakening’ as the quality of the air we breathe becomes more top of mind for families. But the products families typically turn to provide little to no insight on whether or not they’re actually working. With Mila, families can finally monitor and control their indoor air quality effortlessly,” Grant Prigge, CEO and co-founder at Mila said in an interview with TechCrunch. “This investment
will allow us to meet growing demand while continuing to build thoughtful, beautiful experiences that improve the health of our homes.”

The company is operating in a fiercely competitive market — it isn’t like there is a shortage of air purifiers to choose from — but the company’s clever, cute design and the ability to use a number of different filters depending on the need sets it apart from its competitors. The app is also outstanding, reporting particulates (PM1, PM2.5, PM10), humidity, temperature, volatile compounds (TVOC), CO2 and CO. The purifier uses this data to scrub the air more intelligently — running the fans slowly if they’re not really needed, or running at full blast if nasties need to be scrubbed from the air.

Mila has seven hilariously named filters to choose from, which all have slightly different characteristics, depending on what customers are looking for. Image Credits: Mila

We spoke with Grant Prigge, the company’s CEO and co-founder, to learn a bit more. The interview is edited for clarity and length.

TC: Who are the lead investors, and what has it been like to work with them so far?

Grant Prigge: Mila went from a small passion project with a couple hundred thousand dollars of angel funding from friends, to having Electrolux, one of the largest consumer appliance manufacturers in the world, as its first institutional investor. Mila was Electrolux’s first venture investment in the company’s 100 years of existence.

After launching what became the largest air purifier launch in crowdfunding history, with more than $1.5 million in preorders, Paul Allen’s Vulcan Capital led Mila’s second round. Our Series A was led by Cercano Management, the venture spinoff of Vulcan Capital, and one of the largest consumer goods manufacturers in the world.

Most people cautioned us against working with big corporate investors, but they’ve been some of the best partners we could ask for, providing thoughtful feedback and lending their support along the way. With Electrolux’s support, we’ve been able to punch well above our weight, especially when it comes to navigating the supply chain challenges of the past few years. And with our newest investor, we see the same synergy in marketing and branding as we bring Mila to millions of homes across the globe.

What is the goal with the fundraise? What does the money unlock?

This fundraise enables us to expand our team and meet the growing demand for Mila’s award-winning air purifier. Additionally, it’ll allow us to expand our product portfolio with additions that work to enhance the health of our homes and indoor environments. In the new year, we’re incredibly excited to release Mila Halo, which is the first humidifier of its kind that actually makes it safe to use tap water, thanks to Halo’s proprietary water filtration system. Halo was the recipient of a CES Innovation Award in 2022.

It is the convergence of a growing portfolio of hardware solutions with an air quality control system that is becoming more intelligent by the day. We believe Mila will become the Home Health Operating System of the future.

What’s the long-term vision?

Our mission is to bring every family back from airblivion to shape the healthy home of the future. The quality of the air we breathe is now recognized as the single largest environmental threat to human health. Around the world, dirty air is behind 7 million early deaths annually — more than AIDS, diabetes and traffic accidents combined.

These past two years have only highlighted how little we know about the air we breathe. Consumers are becoming more aware of how critical their home environment is to their health — they just lack the tools to do something about it. In fact, 91% of consumers say they now understand how air quality impacts their health, but 69% say they don’t know what to do about it.

Mila intends to solve that. Indoor air quality (IAQ) is a $16 billion market ripe for disruption. We aim to be the dominant brand, making every home a healthier place to breathe.

What is the Mila Cares program, and why are you giving away purifiers for free? 

One of the things that blew us away during our original Kickstarter campaign was the letters we got from our customers about who they were buying their Mila for. Spouses were buying it for their hubby who suffered from allergies, girlfriends were buying it to save the relationship between the cat and boyfriend, dads were buying it for their young kids who suffered from asthma and suffering from an autoimmune issue. These thoughtful notes and stories inspired and humbled us, and clearly showed that people were buying our products for the health of their loved ones, and we vowed to take that responsibility seriously in everything we do. It reinforced that compassion and care should always be a core pillar of our brand (hence, the name “Mila Cares”).

One way we do this is through the Mila Cares Program. Any customer can nominate someone in need of clean air, and any member of the Mila team can give out a Mila Cares Package. The only requirement is that it touched them in some way. Sometimes a laugh, sometimes a cry. The nominee then gets a surprise Mila Cares Package, almost always containing a Mila air purifier, with a personal letter from us.

To date, we’ve given out more than 100 Mila Cares Packages, and it allows us to celebrate deserving air breathers in the communities we’re lucky to be a part of in a meaningful way.

Backed by Electrolux, Mila raises at a $52M valuation to add smarts to fresh air by Haje Jan Kamps originally published on TechCrunch

Xeneta makes a splash with $80M on a $265M valuation to scale its crowdsourced sea and air freight analytics

The wheels of global commerce continue to turn, through wars, pandemics and economic downturns; and today a startup taking a new tech approach to improve the workings of one of the more antiquated aspects of that industry — shipping — is announcing a big round of funding to double down on growth.

Xeneta — a startup out of Oslo, Norway, that applies innovations in crowdsourcing to the fragmented and often murky world of shipping to build transparent data and analytics for the industry — has raised $80 million, money that it will be using to build out its datasets and customers across more global routes.

Xeneta has already amassed 300 million data points from “several hundred” of the world’s biggest shipping companies, which contribute and subsequently source source data from the Xeneta platform to figure out if they are paying market prices for their shipping on particular routes. And more than $40 billion in procurement sitting on the platform to date. This is all just the tip of the iceberg, however: Patrik Berglund, Xeneta’s CEO and co-founder, said in an interview with TechCrunch that combined procurement across air and sea (the two channels Xeneta covers today) totals between $600 million and $900 million depending on the season; and there are thousands more shipping companies and other shipping players out there.

“We believe we will have 1,000 of them on Xeneta in the near future,” he said. It has aimed for the biggest first: current customers include Electrolux, Unilever, Nestle, Zebra Technologies, Thyssenkrupp, Volvo, General Mills, Procter & Gamble, and John Deere.

The funding values Xeneta at $265 million, the company has confirmed.

Apax Digital, the growth equity arm of PE firm Apax, is leading the round, with Lugard Road Capital also participating. Lugard is an affiliate of a previous backer of the company, Luxor, and other existing investors include Creandum, Point Nine and Smedvig. Prior to this round, the company had raised around $55 million over a series of rounds starting in 2013.

Innovations in e-commerce and fintech have sped up how the world finds and pays for goods and services, but when it comes to getting items from A to B to turn the wheels of that ecosystem, the journey is a little less zippy: shipping remains a fragmented and — subject to economic, climate and social changes — often unpredictable ecosystem. 

There have been a number of tech startups emerging over the last several years targeting opportunities to bring more modern approaches to the antiquated and un-streamlined world of shipping. PayCargo is building new payment products; companies like sennder, Zencargo and Flexport have zeroed in on freight forwarding; Flock Freight is applying a carpooling ethos to trucking; Convoy is also applying a new touch to logistics; Fleetzero believes there’s mileage in electric freight ships; and so on.

Xeneta is in yet another distinct category of freight and shipping services: business intelligence for the companies working within the industry.

As Berglund explained it, it’s a somewhat ranging and unstructured market: for starters, you have thousands of small and big shipping companies and the partners they use to carry out their work, as well as hundreds of thousands of businesses using those services. Added to that, those interactions are often analogue and impacted by a multitude of factors that can affect pricing and overall operations. Those who are looking to book a shipping job might not know what the going price might be for a particular route, or whether it can be approached in a different way more cheaply. Those with space on freighters don’t know the best prices to offer potential customers. 

Xeneta’s breakthrough was to build a platform where all of those players could essentially share what prices they are paying at any given moment for a particular route. Its system then orders that data and applies analytics around it to model how pricing is moving, and what it might mean for related routes elsewhere.

As with other crowdsourced logistics platforms (Waze is an apt example here), the more data that is fed into the system, the more powerful it becomes. Today, Xeneta has most definitely crossed over into the self-feeding category in that regard, although earlier years when the company was just starting out were definitely more challenging.

Initially, the company covered just one route — from a port in Norway to a port China. But getting its first customers to make the leap to provide data for that one passage to prove Xeneta’s value turned out to be a winner: Berglund said that things quickly picked up as those customers input more data, and others started to as well, in order to get better insights into how much they were paying, what routes they were using and so on. The data now is based on a 70/30 split between sea and air shipping (it doesn’t cover ground routes at this point) and the data feed is active enough that when you visit Xeneta’s site, you see it passing ticker-style as it gets updated, more like a stock exchange. Interestingly, it seems that those who are submitting data are less concerned about the competitive aspect of divulging their own data to would-be rivals: the value gained from knowing the bigger picture seems to outweigh this fact.

The company, interestingly, isn’t in the business of booking shipping routes, nor does it want to be, Berglund said.

“My background is in freight forwarding,” he said, and so he knows the benefit of being someone that can provide that group with more data to do the job better. “Whether its a new digital freight forwarder, or a legacy player, they are all in need of better data to run their businesses more efficiently.” He added that 95% of the market still mainly uses Excel spreadsheets to parse historical and current data.

“I’m just flabbergasted that they still use that, and fax machines.”

And just to be clear, it’s not the only one that has realized the potential of offering more intelligence tools to this eventually modernizing industry. Others like Freightview are also building tools to make it easier for those booking shipping to get a sense of market pricing.

“Buyers and sellers of freight have been flying blind in a complex and opaque market. Xeneta’s world-leading dataset and cutting-edge platform provide unique access to granular real-time information and insight, enabling data-driven freight sales and purchases,” said Mark Beith, a partner at Apax Digital, in a statement. “This delivers compelling value for their blue-chip customer base – not just in sales or procurement, but also in budgeting and reporting, and increasingly in ESG monitoring. We’re thrilled to partner with Patrik and the Xeneta team and help deliver their vision.” Beith is joining Xeneta’s board with this round.

Xeneta makes a splash with $80M on a $265M valuation to scale its crowdsourced sea and air freight analytics by Ingrid Lunden originally published on TechCrunch

ChannelEngine raises $50M for an operating system that helps retailers sell through marketplaces

Marketplaces are the order of the day when it comes to selling online, providing a one-stop shop for shoppers, and for retailers looking to target as many would-be buyers as possible, while also creating more economies of scale in areas fulfillment and delivery. Amazon has become the name synonymous with marketplace selling, but it’s far from the only player in town. Today, a startup called ChannelEngine, which helps retailers connect with and sell through more than 200 marketplaces, is announcing a growth round of funding to continue building out its business amid strong demand. The startup — based out of Leiden, Netherlands — has raised $50 million, funding that it will be using both to continue expanding the number of marketplaces it works with, the number of retailers that it connects to them, and to work on building out what the next generation of e-commerce will look like for all of them.

Atomico is leading the round, with new investor General Catalyst, plus previous backers Inkef and Airbridge Equity Partners, also participating; along with Stephan Schambach, the founder of Demandware, Intershop and NewStore, coming on as an angel investor.

Valuation is not being disclosed but as a marker of how the company has been growing at a profit up to now, it was founded in 2013 raised only around $7 million before this round, most recently doubling revenues in the last year on a base of over 450 retailer customers, with the list including the likes of Bugaboo, Staples, JBL, Polaroid, Hunkemöller, Brabantia, Reckitt Benckiser, Bosch, JDE, Electrolux, Philips Domestic Appliances, Signify, Diadora, Glanbia, Oneill, and Safavieh. (It’s not disclosing revenues, or valuation, with this round.)

The rise of ChannelEngine comes not just at a time when e-commerce has really come into its own — the pandemic drove many companies and people to selling and buying online — but specifically the rise of the marketplace as a key component of that online buying experience. Amazon has made a killing in the world of e-commerce by way of its Marketplace: aggregating millions of retailers in one place creates a one-stop shop for those looking for goods, and retailers can lean on Amazon’s economies of scale not only to sell to those shoppers, but to distribute and deliver those products, too.

But Amazon is just the tip of the marketplace iceberg. eBay, Walmart, Zalando, Mercado Libre, AliExpress, Back Market, Shopee, Lazada, Mirakl,, Allegro, CDON, Cdiscount, Catch are examples of the many other generalist and more localized storefronts out there for retailers to leverage when targeting consumers. Even Macy’s has moved into the marketplace model.

“They are all becoming marketplaces,” said ChannelEngine founder and CEO Jorrit Steinz.

The challenge up to now has been trying to set up relationships with each and every marketplace, and that is what ChannelEngine tackles with its platform, providing a set of tools that will help retailers adjust pricing based on the site and audience and what’s selling for what (automated repricing in the parlance of the trade); handle their content, stock and order management; and connect with third parties to handle further analytics and delivery.

The company currently manages distribution for some 6 million products from 8,100 brands across more than 200 sales channels.

There have been other approaches in the world of e-commerce to help smaller retailers navigate growth amid the choppy waters of marketplaces. One of the most ubiquitous from a funding perspective at least has been the rise of Thrasio-style aggregators, e-commerce roll-up plays that promise better economies of scale to smaller brands by way of scooping them up and working with them as a more cohesive, scaled-up group to better leverage sales data, as well as manufacturing and distribution networks. Interestingly, Steinz tells me that a number of these are actually ChannelEngine’s customers: many promise to help their brands sell better on marketplaces, but in a lot of cases, their expertise is more in identifying the most successful retailers and helping them on specific marketplaces like Amazon, not actually working across multiple platforms: that is technology they often buy in, working with the likes ChannelEngine to fill out that business opportunity.

Interestingly, that also potentially makes a company like ChannelEngine, combined with other tools like headless commerce builders and those that help companies design and run their own storefronts, an alternative to selling up to a bigger brand.

Longer term, Steinz noted that other opportunities on the horizon will likely include not just more marketplaces but more non-commerce platforms for selling that become de-facto marketplaces, such as Instagram and TikTok, as they integrate more direct selling tools and better ways to discover what is being sold on their platforms beyond algorithmic inline ads. Altogether, the e-commerce market is being projected to reach $5.9 trillion by 2023.

“The COVID-19 pandemic dramatically accelerated the adoption of e-commerce, which now accounts for 20% of all global retail sales. The global e-commerce market is expected to grow by over $500 billion between 2022 and 2023 alone,” said Atomico principal Luca Eisenstecken in a statement. “By building the largest e-commerce operating platform, ChannelEngine is set to capitalize on this opportunity by giving brands and retailers instant access to the global marketplace.” She is joining the board with this round.

“As the use of e-commerce continues to accelerate, retailers and brands have to meet consumers where and how they shop. ChannelEngine has built out a complete, tech-first platform that’s both robust and global. General Catalyst is excited to invest in ChannelEngine as they help leading e-commerce companies sell on marketplaces worldwide,” added Larry Bohn, managing director, General Catalyst, who is also joining the board, along with GC’s Max Rimpel.

Stravito raises $14.6M to create a ‘Netflix for enterprise market research’

Market research and insights are often underutilized assets for enterprises but it’s usually too hard to find content and there’s a lot of duplication, or information isn’t used well.

Swedish startup Stravito says it can centralize internal and external data sources and create something more akin to a ‘Spotify or Netflix’ for these kinds of assets, making them far more usable and consumable, they say.

It’s clearly onto something, since it’s now raised a €12.4million ($14.6million USD) series A funding round led by Endeit Capital, with additional investment from existing investors HenQ, Inventure and Creades. To date, Stravito has raised €20.1million ($23.7million USD).

Founded in 2017 by market research veterans and former iZettle employees, Stravito counts among its customers Carlsberg, Edwards Lifesciences, Pepsi Lipton, Danone, Electrolux and Comcast.

Thor Olof Philogène, CEO and co-founder at Stravito said: “It has never been more important for the world’s largest enterprises to understand and react to their customer’s changing behaviors using centralized, vetted company insights. Stravito’s technology and platform makes it fast and easy for companies to use research to make better decisions.”

On a call with me he added: “We provide a search technology, and a great design, all combined to deliver an intuitive, highly automated cloud service that allows these big companies to centralise internal and external data sources so they can pull out the nuggets they need.”

Jelle-Jan Bruinsma, Partner at Endeit Capital, added: “Endeit Capital is always looking for the next generation of international software scale-ups, and Stravito stood out in the Nordics through its impressive work to raise the bar in the multibillion dollar market research and data industry.”
Stravito also appointed Elaine Rodrigo, Chief Insights & Analytics Officer at Reckitt Benckiser, to its board of directors.